a/n: This is a departure for me, but hopefully it proves to be a pleasant one. Spoilers for season 4 (nothing that hasn't already been in TV Guide) and this might prove to be a bit of a brain twister given the medical stuff. Written from the finallytuesday challenge on livejournal, the first challenge I've ever participated in. This is very long at 6700 words.
House got the pronouncement five minutes ago. Hastily he rustled through the filing cabinet, grabbing the instruments needed to continue the fact finding mission. The answers were waiting for him, and he wasn't about to leave them cold.
He spun around toward the door with supplies in hand, startled to find the blond doctor standing right in his path.
"Out of my way, Chase."
"I'm coming too."
"Sorry, but I'm on the mound tonight and you play for the other team."
"I won't get in the way. There's some specific I'm looking for."
House cocked his head to the side, giving him a scrutinizing look. Reading Chase was always difficult, and this time was proving to be no different. "You can have a turn when I'm done."
"Timing is important."
"What are you up to?"
"A hunch. All I need is a sample of heart and brain cells. One now, another in an hour, another in two hours."
House lowered his head and thought about the best way to get Chase to defer. He wasn't about to share his project, but when Chase was persistent, a simple no wouldn't suffice. "We don't know what killed the patient. You can do what you need once I find that out."
Chase wouldn't back down. "He died of sudden cardiac arrest. I know because I was there. You want to find the cause. I want to examine the condition."
House didn't have time to argue, and could tell Chase wasn't taking no for an answer. "Fine, come along. If you get in the way or compromise my results, I'll be doing your autopsy next."
A satisfied smile crept on the young doctor's face. He wasn't one to gloat, but he always appreciated House's sense of humor. He nodded and trailed behind the other doctor, for even though he didn't work for him anymore, he was always destined to follow House's lead.
The lights in the lab were dim and the air was blowing cold, but their minds were in too much of a flurry to notice. Chase and Cameron were so absorbed in their tests they didn't mutter a word to each other. Their first words came only when the moment of discovery finally arrived.
"You should see this," Chase said, never looking up from the electron microscope.
Cameron came over immediately, recognizing that tone in her colleague's/lover's voice. It had to be important. She peered into the lenses gasped with excitement, but immediately toned it down when she realized this was from an autopsy. "What set is this?"
"Two hours." His careful smile beamed the hope he let emerge from deep inside.
"Really? There's no necrosis."
"That means we can try this."
"It looks that way."
She jumped forward in excitement. He caught her and they grasped onto each other in a big bear hug, him picking her off her feet, but avoiding the urge to swing her around.
"We shouldn't get too excited." He knew this was the break they were looking for, but they had so far to go. "Remember, this is only support for a hypothesis."
"I know, but think of what could happen if we're right."
"I'm being cautiously optimistic. Finding a subject from our laundry list of requirements will be tough."
Cameron pulled away from their embrace and started pacing, making sure she carefully considered all the possibilities. "Not impossible though. I'll keep an eye out in the ER when I'm on shift. When someone comes in, I'll make sure that person is ready for you."
"For us," he clarified, grabbing her hand.
"I know we said we wouldn't do this at the hospital, but it's not everyday I get to share something big like this with other research partners." She leaned in and gave him a huge kiss. He accepted her gesture, not minding at all.
Ideas flew left and right, House deflecting each proposal like he was repelling bullets with a shield. They all paused to regroup, taking a rest before beginning the next barrage.
Chase rubbed his temples, trying to figure out how he got hauled into this mess. Sure he was called for consults from time to time, but a differential with this many people was crazy. He counted thirty-six people in the room plus House and himself. He should have known this would be bad when he was summoned to the lecture hall instead of the diagnostics conference room.
After hearing all the ideas tossed around, he had to admit life in surgery was different. He was learning many new things, but missed the old team. He missed House's unpredictable genius and Cameron being there all the time. He even missed his high spirited competition with Foreman, although he didn't miss the man himself. If Cameron hadn't mentioned he was working at Mercy, he wouldn't have known at all what happened to Foreman.
Through the quiet pondering that swarmed over the crowd came a loud grating sound of a pager. The entire room looked to see the excited reaction from the recipient. Chase got up and ran out without saying a single word.
House took particular interest in the reaction. Chase was usually calm and professional when he answered such calls. This time he was a bundle of nerves. He shook it off, recognizing he was still working on his dilemma with a large audience. "Back to work." House grabbed the marker and prepared for round two with his contestants.
"Reiter's syndrome," one spouted.
"No, the..." House froze in his tracks. His curious mind wouldn't let him ignore what just happened. "Excuse me." He left the room, leaving the bunch to wonder whether they should go on or wait.
Chase arrived in the ER, out of breath and slightly sweating. Cameron was in the hall waiting for him while the crash team worked behind the glass wall to revive a patient. She handed him fresh blue file that was clutched in her hand.
"How long have they been working?"
"Thirty minutes. A co-worker started CPR immediately."
"Clear!" They heard another doctor yell behind the wall. The frustration from the team was evident by the flat line.
Chase went back to the file. He was floored how this person fit every criteria. "Family approves heroic measures?"
"Her mother told me do whatever we have to. She's flying in from Florida and would like her daughter to still be alive when she gets here."
"No prior history of heart trouble?"
"Perfectly healthy. Her heart just stopped. The same thing happened to her father. She's the perfect age for this." Cameron took the file back, needing to hold onto something to contain her nervous energy. She didn't think this moment would happen so quickly. She glanced up at the action on the otherside. "It's troubling that they can't revive her though."
"Not a problem. We have a way to address that. Of course if we aren't successful, this will be a short case study."
Cameron pulled three syringes from her pocket and handed them to him. "There's a liter of solution already in there."
His gracious smile gave his approval for her thorough thinking.
"I'm calling it!" They heard the doctor declare.
"Come on, it's showtime." Chase said with eyebrows raised, ready to spring into action.
"No, we have another option!" Cameron ordered, sliding open the door with Chase following behind. "Keep doing CPR and reduce the pure oxygen."
Chase moved to the patient's side, injecting a syringe into the IV.
The team froze in shock, wondering why these two respected doctors were commandeering their dead patient. "How do you exactly plan to revive her? She's gone."
Chase inserted two tubes into different places of the myocardium and injected two more syringes in each of those tubes before hooking in a different liter of solution to the IV. "Revival right now will lead to reperfusion since she's been down too long."
Cameron got on the phone. "We're sending up someone for bypass stat!"
"Tell them I've started cardioplegic blood infusion." Chase added.
"If you can't revive her, what in the world will putting her on bypass do?" The doctor had only worked with Dr. Cameron a short while and met Dr. Chase once, so he was not at all pleased with this unusual situation.
Cameron took over compressions and Chase pushed the gurney with still dead patient out of the room. "Sorry, can't explain right now."
The ER team remained in their spots, processing what just happened. "Did they just steal a patient?"
"I'm on it." The doctor headed for Cuddy's office.
Cuddy wasn't at all surprised to find House sitting outside the procedure room, watching the spectacle unfold. After all, when she heard the names of the doctors responsible, she was shocked that the name 'House' didn't go with it. Considering they were his former subordinates, it was close enough.
"What are Chase and Cameron doing?"
"This woman has ischemia? Doesn't that require a beating heart?"
"Who needs a heartbeat when there's something cooler like putting her heart into suspended animation? Reperfusion has to be the least of her worries though if her heart won't start."
Cuddy watched Chase inject something into the IV. "What's he doing?"
"Giving her cardioplegic solution. He's supposed to do that every twenty minutes."
"I know how cardioplegic blood infusion works. The question is why? Even if they do bring her back, chances of her surviving beyond that is almost none."
"There's always hope, right?" House mocked with an overemotional outcry. Once he saw Cuddy wasn't buying it, he went on. "That's why I'm here. I have a feeling they know the odds and have a plan. This is better than watching a murder mystery."
Cuddy still wasn't buying it. "Did you put them up to this?"
"Once kids grow up they never listen to their parents anymore." That spurned another un-amused reaction from Cuddy. "I had nothing to do with this, I swear, although it makes sense now why Chase burst into my autopsy last week."
Cuddy pushed her palm to her forehead, not expecting these two to play renegade doctors. She thought she was playing it safe by hiring them back. Since they worked for House for over three years though, she should have known better. "Okay, there can't be too much harm since the patient is already dead and the family wants this." She turned away.
"You don't want to stay and see what's going on here?" House's disbelief sparked a shocked smile. "They might actually be coming up with a cure for death."
Cuddy shrugged and took a seat next to House. He had a point there.
Chase poured over the lab results. "CHEM labs are promising, or as promising as they can be for a dead person."
Cameron wasn't surprised. "We've been adjusting the blood chemistry constantly the last hour. I should think so."
Chase took a long hard glance at the motionless body in front of him. He couldn't take time to think about how absurd an idea this was. This grand experiment was actually working, and considering the critical objective was to keep the patient alive, it was miraculous it had gone this far. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, going through all processes in his mind, making sure they hadn't forgotten anything. He glanced at Cameron, who looked like she was running a similar checklist in her mind.
"It's been an hour. I think we can try to restart the heart now."
Cameron nervously smiled, reading him carefully to see if his declaration was confident. He nodded to answer her silent concern. They moved into their places, him at the bypass machine, while Cameron warmed up the paddles. They shared once last glance before going on, each mouthing their own wishes of luck.
"Okay, now." Chase ordered. She fired the paddles held her breath in anticipation. The heart skipped a beat or two, then went back to flat line.
They both smiled. "That's a good sign. Try again," he said.
She gave it one more charge and applied the paddles again. The heart started beating with erratic beats, sinus waves on the monitor in a scattered pattern like a game of connect the dots.
"She needs one more shock," he said, hoping that would correct the tachycardia. Cameron charged the panels one more time and fired. An improved heartbeat soon displayed on the screen. They both froze like statues, eyes glued to the monitor, aware that any changes were the margin between life and death.
After a few minutes of consistent yet still erratic rhythm, the pair were overcome with happiness and fell into each other's arms for a congratulatory embrace. Their tight grasp of each other allowed them to share their confused feelings of ambivalence and relief. Both were glad they could be doctors together again. They always made a great team.
"Okay, it's not pretty, but she's alive." Chase's heart was beating as wildly as the patient's. "We'll give her another hour to stabilize, and then we can go onto the next step."
Slow applause rang out from behind them. "I knew you had a dastardly plan. Care to share what happens next? I love hearing spoilers."
"There might not be a next if she doesn't survive the next hour. You're just going to have to see the show like everyone else." Cameron already knew House was watching, and expected him to but in as soon as he could.
"A show? Can I bring an audience?"
"Ask us again in an hour," Chase replied.
"Great. I'll go assemble the crew."
Chase and Cameron watched House go away, sadly accepting it was only temporary. Chase moved back to the patient. "We better get ready before he gets back. The last thing we need is him coming back and telling us what to do."
If they weren't feeling the pressure before, they certainly were now. A large collection of eyes peered on them through the window, watching their next move.
"Standing room only," Chase said while he got the equipment ready.
"What, you've never performed in front of an audience before?" Cameron smirked, actually enjoying the attention.
"I don't need stage fright to go along with everything else we have to remember. We only have one chance here."
"Oh, you just love fussing. You've always been good under pressure."
His un-amused face delivered the message that he didn't need her teasing either. "Okay, I think we're ready."
Chase changed the IV bag and hooked in the chilled saline. Cameron applied the cooling pads on the legs, abdominal area and chest. "Okay, starting the pump."
They watched intently as the internal temperature creep down one degree. "Ninety-two degrees ought to do the trick."
"Of course, they're inducing hypothermia." One of the observers said, watching from outside with complete fascination. "I read about similar studies at Penn."
"I can see why they want to inhibit the apotosis, but aren't there huge unknowns about brain function since the patient was down so long? What kind of life could this give her?" The candidate didn't see why the desperate actions were necessary.
"Unknowns that are not our concern," House explained. "We as doctors need to do everything we can to keep the patient alive. We don't have guarantee quality of life. Given that the family wanted this, I doubt they're asking for one either."
Another person was in awe over what they were witnessing. "The hospitals doing these studies are very choosy about the candidates that qualify. This patient would have been allowed to die anywhere else. It's great they were willing to give her a fighting chance."
"Yeah, well don't sing their praises yet," House replied. "The patient's got a long way to go to come back. She's going to have to stay in hypothermia for the next twenty four hours. If she survives that long, chances of ever waking from the coma are still only fifty percent. The odds get worse when looking at total recovery."
House's dose of realism dampened the crowd, but their eyes stayed fixed on the thermometer as it crept downward toward ninety-two. They could be witnessing history, and didn't want to miss any minute of it.
Chase couldn't sleep, despite the heavy eyelids and fuzzy brain. Both he and Cameron felt they had to stay. Everything was touch and go with their patient, and they personally wanted to hold their vow of keeping her alive long enough for her mother to get there. Judging that she was remaining stable in hypothermia, they might be able to deliver that promise.
To think this all started with pillow talk one evening. Chase remembered Cameron's surprise after being in the ER a week over how the death rate from sudden cardiac arrest cases was still ninety-five percent, despite all the technological advances. He told her about recent studies where inducing hypothermia slowed the cell death that often killed patients after revival. She instantly demanded to know more.
So there they were, a life hanging in the balance because of their whim. It was too surreal. He wondered if this was their life now, sharing a bed, their time, and an ingrained obsession for the truth. Together they could save others, but what would become of them in the process?
"I'm going to get some coffee." Chase nudged Cameron, who nodded off in the chair next to him. He needed to stop the swirl in his tired mind.
She shook herself awake and sat up. "What time is it?"
Her face stretched from a big yawn, eyes looking at the monitor to see if anything was different. "No change is good news."
He smiled in agreement, projecting that he was haggard as she was.
"This is strange for us," she said with her half-coherent mind. "It's the middle of the night, and we're trying to fix a critically ill patient by addressing the problem instead of the root cause. That goes against everything House taught us."
"Despite what House says, sound medicine isn't always about solving the puzzle. Having a live subject is always the better option."
"A healthy thirty-five year old woman's heart stopped for no reason. She's going to fear it happening again."
"Then why are you letting her go through this?"
Cameron sank her head, realizing she wasn't thinking rationally. "You need to be alive to experience fear."
Chase felt the fatigue adding to her distress. He reached his arms around her and pulled her head into his chest. "You can sleep on me for a while."
"Robert, we still have an audience." She tilted her head toward the few remaining observers of House's team. Apparently, some were taking shifts.
"How much do you want to bet our relationship ends up being the butt of many House jokes?"
"I suppose denial is pointless." Cameron let out another long yawn. "I think some coffee would be great."
"I'm too comfortable to get up now." He loved the way she felt next to him. These simple moments between them were so rare.
"Let's make one of them go get us some. Take advantage of our higher status."
Chase smiled. "I've always adored your problem solving abilities."
"Rise and shine you lovebirds."
House's abrupt awakening wasn't too traumatic since they weren't sleeping soundly.
"Sod off," Chase said, eyes remaining closed while clutching onto Cameron tighter. They only had been napping for an hour or two, he thought.
"It's ten o'clock. You only get to sleep in on the weekends."
Okay, three hours. Chase gave Cameron a slight shake. "Time for another biopsy."
Cameron opened her eyes only to see two annoying blue ones looking down at her. "I'm having a nightmare."
"You need to get to the lab," Chase urged.
Cameron sighed and got up, adjusting her rumpled clothes. She went to the instruments tray next to the bed and did her required tests. Every four hours they were checking cell activity. So far the cells were showing no signs of advancing apotosis, which was very encouraging.
"Cameron, take #15 and #32 with you. They're a little inexperienced in lab work," House ordered.
Cameron gave him a disdainful glare through the messed up bangs hanging down her face and left. They saw through the glass her waving over the two people to follow.
"Good, I'd thought she'd never leave," House said. "You're presenting your case in the lecture hall tomorrow afternoon. Bring your notes."
"So that's why you waited until Cameron left. You think I won't say no."
"You just called her Cameron. Don't you have pet names by now? Pookie is nice."
Chase turned away, for saying no to his former mentor was never easy. "Tomorrow is too soon. There's no outcome yet."
"They're hounding me with questions that I don't feel like answering, nor should I. Not my case. You've already done all the hard work, and the end result is irrelevant."
"I think end result matters to Miriam over there."
A nurse came in, interrupting their talk. "Dr. Chase, the mother is here."
"Thanks, let her know I'll be with her in a few minutes."
House went for the exit. He wasn't about to be part of family reunions. "Two o'clock. Prepare to shine." He said over his shoulder.
"I always shine!" Chase shouted back to House. That got him some strange looks from the peanut gallery. He shook his head, and went back to wondering how he managed to get himself into this mess.
"How's the patient?" That was the first question asked to Chase and Cameron in the lecture hall. House rolled his eyes, marking that person as the next to get bumped.
"She's stable," Cameron said, "and body temperature is heading back to normal after stopping hypothermia early this morning. She's still comatose though."
"Enough small talk," House ordered. "Chase, start talking, and use small words for the less talented people in the room."
Chase tried not to laugh, since it wasn't too long ago that House was calling him the slow one. How times had changed. "Thirty-five year old female, collapsed at work from sudden cardiac arrest without any obvious signs or symptoms. A co-worker immediately started CPR, and upon transportation to the ER she was unresponsive. After thirty minutes of unsuccessful resuscitation attempts, the doctor on call was ready to pronounce her dead. That's when Dr. Cameron and I intervened and started cardioplegic blood infusion."
"Why did you start with that?" Someone from the back shouted. "Why would infusion and bypass be enough to get her heart started?"
Cameron took that question. "While we don't know for sure, a study at the University of California had successful instances where suspending the heart for an hour using cardioplegic blood infusion and heart/lung bypass gave the heart cells enough time to recover from the shock of oxygen loss before restarting. These studies had a success rate of eighty percent."
"Yes, but wasn't the patient resuscitated first in those cases?"
"We didn't think that resuscitation was a requirement in this case. We did our own tests of cells of patients that died from SCA and found that after several hours the heart and brain cells were still very much alive. The only requirement was if there was still uninterrupted circulation to the brain. Given that CPR was started right away, that requirement was met."
"Studies like to stress their success rate," Chase added, "and most studies exclude patients that had been down for a long period of time. We weren't restricted by such boundaries."
Chase paused for any further questions before going on. "Anyway, we continued the infusion and made several adjustments to improve blood chemistry before restarting the heart an hour later."
"Were you shocked that it started?" A person in the front row asked.
Chase smiled. "After working for House for almost four years, nothing shocks us anymore." Laughter spread through the room. "We knew that odds weren't in our favor though, and were pleased to see our idea work. I think the patient's age and prior good health played a key role in that success though. All we did was follow a theory."
"So why do hypothermia next?" Chase and Cameron could see the number twenty-eight on that person. "The studies out there usually do either blood infusion or induce hypothermia. I've never heard of anyone trying both."
Chase sat on the edge of the desk, preparing for a deeper explanation. "This was not a usual case, and we wanted to give her the best possible chance. As many of you know, when a heart is restarted after an SCA, the cells that were oxygen starved are now suddenly flooded with oxygen. The body mistakes the re-oxygenated cell for an abnormal cell and apotosis begins, where the cell shrinks and the nucleus and DNA start to break down. The cardioplegic blood infusion was one step to stop that cell death, but the flat and downsloping ST segments from her ECG told us that ischemia had started, so hypothermia became the best recourse for reversing that process."
The room erupted in chatter over the outside the box thinking. "Can the process be reversed?"
"The studies at Penn indicate with induced hypothermia it can."
Cameron elaborated further. "We found in examining clinical results, no method used was foolproof. At Penn, their hypothermia studies in survivors showed a reversal, but still almost half of their patients died after the treatment. At California, putting the patient on bypass and cardioplegic solution had better survival results, but in cases where ischemia was already present results weren't as good and brain damage was more prevalent. In this case, we were giving the latitude to try both."
"What are the chances of short-term memory loss if the patient wakes up?"
"Very high," Cameron replied. "One thing that is known is that the hippocampus is sensitive to ischemia, so the most common problem with SCA survivors has been memory loss."
A wave of silence hit the room, leaving Chase and Cameron to wonder if they had satisfied curiosities or if they were blowing minds.
"What did you tell the family?" Someone finally asked.
"Excuse me?" Chase didn't understand the question.
"The parents. Did they think this had a good chance of working, were they clinging to false hope, or did they know the prospects were very grim?"
"We've never been dishonest with her mother," Chase replied. "However, when families cling to hope like this, a bad result tends to be very disappointing, no matter what warnings we give them."
"Then why encourage them to go through this?"
"You'd be surprised how many family members console themselves with the idea that if we are not successful with their loved one, that maybe what we learn will help others in the future. They actually have faith in human ingenuity and believe that all things happen for a reason."
"You really don't know how you are impacting a family though. There could be issues that surface that you never anticipated before."
Chase tried to immediately answer, but stumbled on his initial reaction. "Yeah, I'm sure that's possible."
"Several people that survive SCA's report life after death experiences. Would you say that as more people are revived like this, more accounts of such experiences will be recorded and sensationalized?"
"Yes." Chase said. Light laughter hit the room over the short answer.
"Blah, blah, blah," House interrupted. "These questions are getting too boring." He handed Chase a whiteboard marker. "Start showing off the cool technical details before I fall asleep."
The peaceful nature of the deep sleep was one reason why Chase chose a specialty in Intensive Care. A comatose patient was a constant reminder about how thin the line was between life and death, and by straddling that line they were waiting for an outcome that would only be determined by God. Such phenomenon was hard to ignore.
He also knew the struggle was far easier for the patient than those who had to watch.
"Why did you try it?" Her mother asked, noticing Chase pour through the latest information on her chart.
"As doctors, we've been trained to do better."
"They gave up on her."
She let out a huge sob, then reeled it in quickly. She had to be brave, even if she didn't want to be. "She would say she didn't deserve this."
"Everyone deserves a chance at life."
Her next long deep breath came with a wet sniffle, while she dried her eyes with a crumpled and worn tissue. "When my husband died, they told me there was no hope. I believed them. Now I don't know what to believe."
Chase didn't know how to answer that. He and Cameron were fortunate enough to believe in the impossible, and it was their duty to do something with that knowledge. Prices had to be paid for chances at life.
Chase went back to work while the mother gazed further on her fallen child. "Dr. Cameron, is she your special lady friend?"
"We're close, yes."
"Hang onto her and never let go. No matter what you do, remain true to each other first. Otherwise, you'll have to live with regret, and that's worse than no life at all."
Chase didn't think they knew how. Only time would teach them. "Get some rest Mrs. Johnson. I'll be back later."
He stopped to look through the glass at the broken woman agonizing over a drifting soul. Their actions impacted more than just the patient's life. That was another fine line they crossed.
Cameron was coasting on fumes, her neck ached and when she saw the dim shadows from the obstructed sunlight she couldn't tell if it was day or night without looking at her watch. She had fallen asleep at a table with test results, notes, and CT scans scattered in front of her. Once she got her bearings about her, she realized it had been several hours since she had seen Chase. He wasn't with Miriam and he wasn't answering her page.
"Oh, there you are," she exclaimed with relief when she found him stretched on the couch in the doctor's lounge. Judging by the glassy look in his eyes, his time alone involved reflection.
"What's on your mind?"
"The antiseptic smell that waffles through every inch of this place. It hasn't changed much since I was a child. I remember visiting my dad at work and the odor just tickled the senses. I knew then I always wanted to be around it."
Cameron's face crunched in concern. "What's wrong, Robert?"
"Nothing, I'm tired."
"We both are, but I'm not moping around reminiscing about sterile fragrances. You're supposed to be able to talk to me."
Chase was still entranced by the small random holes dotting the drop down ceiling. He was definitely too punchy right now for clear thought. "You ever think that we're playing God?"
"We saved her."
"Did we? There could be a higher power at work here. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled with the idea when we first found out it could be done. Have we gone too far?"
"You need rest. We both do. How about we go to my place, crawl into bed together and come back as normal human beings with fresh minds? They'll page us if anything changes."
Chase puffed a quick breath, recognizing that beating himself up mentally wasn't doing any good. "If you don't mind, I'd rather stay here for a while. I promise I'll get some sleep."
She smiled, leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. "You're just tired, that's all. Everything will make sense when you wake up."
That's exactly what he was afraid of. He closed his eyes and settled into sleep, never hearing Cameron go through the door.
The flicker of her eyes had them hanging by her side in a tense vigil. For the last three days she lingered, showing no signs of hope or decline, so this change was welcome.
"It's okay Miriam. Take it slow," Chase said. Waking was the most alarming part.
"I'm here for you sweetheart," her mother said.
She took several more minutes to rouse, opening her eyes only to quickly shut them. "Mom?"
Her mother burst into tears, accepting Cameron's hand of support. "Yes, it's me."
The overjoyed woman leaned over and embraced Cameron with a grateful hug, then stood up and did the same with Chase. Chase and Cameron looked at each other and smiled. They rarely got thank yous like that.
"What happened?" Miriam asked, eyelids still heavy and half open.
"You collapsed at work." Her mother answered, sitting back down.
"Miriam, I'm Dr. Chase. You're at Princeton Plainsboro Hospital. How are you feeling?"
"Tired. How was I at work? I was home watching TV."
Her mother looked at Chase for an answer, remembering the warning about the memory loss.
"We'll explain all that later," Chase told the still confused young woman.
Her eyes fluttered for a few more minutes, before fixing on the back wall. "Why are all those people watching me?"
Everyone turned around to see the gathering of House's crew. "You're a celebrity around here," Chase answered.
"I'm closing my eyes again," Miriam said. "This has got to be the craziest dream I've ever had."
Everyone laughed as Cameron walked over to the glass wall and shut the blinds.
"She can't fire us. We've seen House get away with far worse." Cameron said as she and Chase headed to Cuddy's office by request.
"She won't fire us, but she might not exactly give us kudos for barging into the ER and stealing patients."
"We brought her back from the dead. That's got to count for something."
He swiped his hand through his disheveled hair, trying again to remember the calmer days of Arizona and why he came back. Oh yeah, it was the calm days of Arizona. Not a perfect place for an adrenaline junkie. "We did more than bring her back. All signs point to a full recovery."
"Then Cuddy can't fire us." She smiled at him while they stood outside Cuddy's closed door, who motioned them to come on.
"Good luck, Dr. Chase."
"Good luck, Dr. Cameron." Chase opened the door, letting Cameron go in first before following her.
Wilson came into House's office grinning from ear to ear. He took his place opposite his friend at the desk, slouching in the chair. "Somehow, you surprised me."
"I always surprise you."
"No, you don't. Shock me, yes, surprise me, no. How did you not butt in and put the Dr. House signature all over this case? Why aren't you in there right now trying to figure out why her heart stopped?"
"Not my patient."
"That's never stopped you before. I have a hunch it's because of the doctors involved."
"I'm not interested in their case."
"You've had people staking them out non-stop. Don't tell me you aren't interested. Admit it, you actually respect Chase and Cameron and trust what they're doing."
"What's there to respect? It was hard for them to kill a patient that was already dead."
Wilson's face lit up in a prodding smile. "You're proud of them."
"What for? They did exactly what they were supposed to do."
"Their success certainly has to be a reflection on your superior mentoring skills. Someone actually learned something from you."
"I never encouraged them to do this."
"Humility is so unlike you. I bet you're jealous that they've finally come up with enough initiative to step out of your shadow."
"They did this to better humanity while boosting their own egos. Okay, Cameron did. Chase followed along because she's still got him by the shorthairs and actually believes they're trying to make this world a better place. Sap."
Wilson scoffed and leaned back, never tired of seeing his friend's defense mechanism kick in. "You know about their grant?"
"They get to now run a fully funded Emergency Medicine study in alternative methods for resuscitation."
"Good for them."
"Good for them? They're rock stars now. You have a great opportunity to ride their coattails."
"Will it mean less work for me?"
"Then I'm not interested."
Wilson smiled and got up, realizing he had gotten enough fun out of this. "Think about it this way House. Chase and Cameron have done the one thing no one else has done before them."
"Live up to the Gregory House unattainable expectations. Considering how high you set the bar, what they did was an impossible feat." Wilson slowly made his way out, waiting for House to bark a quip as the last word.
"Almost impossible!" He shouted.
House waited until Wilson was out of sight to crack a small smile of pride. No one would ever see it.
"Moment over," he said out loud, preparing to get back to his new group. There were new people to train.
"Ready to go home?" Their fully dressed patient anxiously waited next to her mother, pleased to see them finally arrive.
"More than ready." Her pretty smile had been lighting up their moods for the last few days. Both Chase and Cameron were sad to see it go.
"Did someone from legal already talk with you?" Cameron asked.
"Yes, and I allowed the hospital full disclosure to discuss the details of my case. Feel free to talk about how well I'm doing with your media requests. The world needs more uplifting stories."
Miriam got up and wrapped her arms around Chase first, then Cameron. "Thank you both for another chance." That prompted Cameron's eyes to mist.
"So we'll see you in two weeks for a follow up?" Chase asked.
"I'll be there." She climbed into the wheelchair by the door that the nurse had delivered for her exit. "It's strange, but before this, I never thought my life had a purpose. Now what happened is going to help countless others in the future. Is it wrong of me to say that dying was the best thing that ever happened to me?"
Chase and Cameron both smiled over the question. "It's a second chance," Chase responded. "I hope you'll get the most of it."
Her soft smile told them she hoped so too. "I'll see you later." They waved goodbye as the nurse took her away.
A collective sigh of relief hovered in the air, the impact of all they had done now hitting them full force. "What would you do with a second chance?" Cameron asked.
"I don't know. Probably the same thing I'm doing now, because I'm so damn good at it."
Cameron laughed. "Me too. We've earned an afternoon off. How do you want to celebrate?"
"You, me, a couch, pizza, rented movies, and no doctor talk. It gets hard again tomorrow."
"That sounds like the perfect plan to me."
Side by side they took their leave, savoring the idea that at least for today, they could go home knowing that they won one. They accepted graciously congratulations from passers by, feeling that the credit wasn't all theirs, but taking the praise all the same. If they had learned anything from House, victories were short lived and new challenges would face them tomorrow.
In the end, they couldn't explain why they did it; it was just ingrained in them to do better. That was both the blessing and the curse of their training, a passion defined who they were but could also end up being their doom as well.
Their path out took them by the empty rooms of diagnostics, rooms that would hold the next team. Soon the chosen few would give their time, their lives, their souls just to become better doctors in hopes they too in some way could make a difference. They may have moved on, but if they ever needed a sober reminder of how fragile the balance of life and death was, how there wasn't much difference between right and wrong, or how the quest for the truth sometimes comes at personal sacrifice, they didn't have to look any further than Greg House.