So, this is the end of We Are Family/I'll Stand By You… unless I decide to write another, which probably won't happen. I've become attached to this family though, so you never know. I'm sorry it took so long, but the final chapter is ten pages, so I hope that helps you forgive me. Thanks to MissingCanceledShows for betaing, as always.
Chapter 7: The End
Six Months Later
She stood knee deep in the ocean, the paper she held fluttering in her hands.
"I'm almost ready." Her voice was a whisper, and she stared down at the neatly typed words, until they swam ever so slightly.
When the words were clear again she began to read.
"Dear Adam, Steven and Dad-" Her voice quavered ever so slightly, chocking on the words. House wrapped an arm around her shoulders. His cane and ocean didn't exactly mix, so she wasn't sure if it was all for moral support or also because he needed a crutch. She could do this. It was just an exercise after all. A way to let those that she would never see again for various reasons know what she thought about them.
"- I want you to know that I was not the one who was broken by this. That Shi and I were not the damaged party here. We always had people who loved us unconditionally. We are not the broken ones. It was really the three of you who lost out on relationships with us. Real, actual, relationships – not the kind that involved forcing yourselves on us or ignoring us and pretending we didn't exist. We survived it. We rode through the pain and the hurt and not being able to understand. And it was tough, and it hurt, but we got by. We survived. Because we were stronger then that."
She dug through her purse until she found the lighter that she had thrown in there.
The letter burned slowly, the wind blowing the ashes into the ocean.
It was all about letting go, and moving on. Forgiving maybe, but not forgetting. All the clichés that she had grown up hearing.
Well, she was living them now. Getting to a place in her life where Steven and Adam couldn't touch her. Where her father and Kimberly couldn't touch her.
She sighed and then turned to face Greg.
"Okay. I'm ready."
It had been a long eight months since Shi had first stumbled into the hospital, bruised, broken, beaten and nearly dead.
Steven had been convicted and was sentenced to life in prison. Cameron didn't think that he would last long; but he was in solitary confinement 23 hours a day so that he wasn't killed by the general population, half of who he had helped put away.
Shi had finished her high school year and was going to move to Princeton, starting college a year later then her grade had. The recovery had taken time though, and Siobhan would deal with being older then everyone else just fine.
The hospital stay and then the trial had put the family's personal life at a slight stand still, and it was only now recovering slowly.
Nicky and Anna had been engaged since House had first met them, and now they were finally getting married. It was to be a small wedding with family and friends.
Allison was bouncing in her seat, looking out the plane window.
It was weird, being in Chicago but House figured he would get used to it. Even if no one really lived there anymore it was still their home.
"You're going to bounce so much that you're going to go flying out of the seat and smack your head."
"But at least I'll have had a good time doing it."
"Always the optimist."
"Just because I see the glass half full most of the time doesn't mean I'm going to suddenly go flying upwards and give myself a concussion." She argued before grinning. "Besides, I'm excited I can't help it. My baby brother is getting married!"
"He's older then you."
"And younger then you so don't be a pain about it." The pilot announced that they needed to buckle their seatbelts and Allison snuggled up against him, a serene smile on her face.
"What's this about?" He teased.
"Right back at'cha."
The wedding was at a place called 'Café Brauer', right next to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
"It's where Mom and PJ got married." Allie had explained earlier. "So, it's very special to us." The rehearsal dinner was that night, and she walked from place to place, remembering the night of their wedding.
"The entire place was covered in candles. And mom wanted it to be special so we went to Salvation Army stores and found votives that didn't match. Some of them mom had engraved and gave away as presents."
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Did you wear a frilly pink dress that was itchy and frown the whole time?"
"I was ten Greg." She laughed. "But no, my mother knew better then to have us wear pink frills. We wore orange and carried yellow flowers. The boys' ties matched our dresses. And every time I spun around," Cameron did a twirl to demonstrate her point, "my dress flared out. We didn't even wear them for very long. We changed to perform."
"We sang at the wedding, rocked out. So, of course, we had to put jeans and t-shirts on. Never changed back."
"We couldn't exactly buy them a present -" Cameron closed her eyes, trying to remember the way the speech they had given had gone.
"- so, we decided to give you one instead." Ellie's voice cut through. "I Will Be Here with Ellie and Allie on vocals, Nicky on piano and Matt on guitar."
"A recreation?" Allison guessed, resting her head on her sisters shoulder as the embraced tightly.
"Of some sort. But you already knew that. We talked to Anna. Hi Greg."
"Hi Ellie." Ellie let go of her sister to hug House and it was then that he remembered his one pet peeve about the family.
They were touchy feely.
It took another half hour to get the family and the various people in the wedding assembled.
Siobhan, Ellie, and Allison were serving as bridesmaids as well as Anna's two sisters. Nicky was Best Man as well as Anna's brother. Allison's niece, Melanie, was the flower girl and her nephews Brendan and Elliot, were ring bearers.
Matt's wife Stephanie, Ellie's boyfriend Jack, House, and PJ weren't in the wedding.
"Get ready for a long night," PJ warned House.
"It's a wedding," he scoffed. "Of course it's going to be long."
"But you've never been to one of my kids weddings. They like to stay long and not sleep."
House smirked slightly at the 'my kids'. It did not escape his attention that Thomas Cameron was not at his youngest sons wedding.
Rory and Erin were, but they seemed to float around, slightly awkward, not knowing how to act. It was true that the siblings loved them, but at the same time they had not been through half of what Allie and Shi had dealt with. And they had never been as close as Shi was with the older siblings.
It might not have escaped other people's attention either, but House was pleased about it.
The wedding was medium sized. Family and friends about two-hundred people in all.
After a short, sweet ceremony, it was time to eat.
House sat at the main table with the rest of the family and traded jokes with PJ.
As the night proceeded, dinner ended, and the three Cameron siblings went up to give a speech, PJ slightly in front.
"I'm Joseph, also known as PJ. Nicky's my stepson, as well as my godson, but I like to think that we're closer then that. "He gave a soft smile. It did not escape any of the guests who knew who he was, that he refrained from using his last name, as if to keep the attention away from him even more. "I've known Nicky since he was a baby, and together we've been through good times and bad. There have been many days of laughter. Over the years I've watched Nicky grow from a tiny baby to gawky teenager and finally to the strong man that he is today. I'm proud to call him my son and if his mother were here today, I'm sure that she would say the exact same thing. I wish him the best with Anna, who is a wonderful lady in her own right."
Matt took the mike from PJ as the crowd toasted the happy couple. "When I found out that my mother was pregnant with Nicky, I asked her if we could get a dog instead." Chuckles rippled through the crowd. "She said no, and Nicky asked her the same thing when we found out that she was pregnant with Ellie. Ellie wanted to be a big sister though, so she never tried to exchange Allie for anything. Nicky and I are the closest in age, but somehow he always ends up ganging up on me. Thank you Anna for coming around." Matt waved at his sister-in-law. "She's mellowed him out a lot and I'm no longer getting woken up on family reunions with my hand in water and silly string everywhere."
He passed off the microphone to Ellie who grabbed it eagerly.
"I'm the one that Nicky wanted to get rid of," she informed the audience with a dramatic wave. "Aren't you glad you didn't?" The question was directed at Nicky, and when he called back,
"I'd try again in an instant!" there was a general explosion of laughter.
"Thanks Nicky, love you too." Her voice was dry. "Now, Nicky and I don't always get along as you all may or may not know. But, he has to love me forever, because I was the one who introduced him to Anna. When we were first starting off as psychiatrists, we did rounds together. After working long shifts at the hospital ward, we would go back to my apartment and crash. Nicky had been visiting me and was crashing at my place. Due to exhaustion I completely forgot. We crashed and I woke up the next morning to shrieking, because Anna had been so exhausted she hadn't seen the other person in the spare bedroom." Ellie shook her head. "That was an awkward first meeting, but as you can tell that it all worked out and I'm so excited to have another sister in the family."
Allie took the microphone last and smiled sweetly. "I don't have a lot to say, but I'm so happy for Nicky and Anna. It'll be nice to have another sister to gang up on Nicky with. There's a tradition in my family, that when someone gets married, or a baby is born, or there is another big happy event, you don't just buy them a present, you do something artistic as well." Ellie and Matt laughed as Nicky buried his head in his hands. "We promise not to do anything super embarrassing Nicky, and we already talked this over with Anna and she agreed."
"That makes me feel better. She likes you better then she likes me." Anna smacked him on the back of the head cheerfully. "If I liked Allie more I would've married her you idiot."
"Children! At least wait until after the party to fight," Allison scolded. She moved over to stand next to the piano and Matt picked up the guitar as PJ settled himself onto the piano bench.
Anna stood up and grabbed her husbands' hand. "Our first dance, Mister. You said I could pick the song."
Nicky nodded meekly. "Yes ma'am."
The song started, the girls building their voices to reach a crescendo.
"I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world."
They finished and were greeted with thunderous applause.
Allison walked back to the table and sat next to Greg, a bright smile on her face.
"You just like to sing," he accused, eyes amused.
"Yep. But we figured that 'Broken' might be a little inappropriate for tonight." It was the song that House most frequently heard her sing and he chuckled.
"Wait until we have to do the chicken dance. You won't be laughing then."
House widened his eyes dramatically. "No!"
The wedding was fun, and House and Cameron had collapsed, exhausted into the hotel bed later that night.
He was startled awake by a cold hand on his shoulder.
House shot up, "what?"
"Sorry." Allison chuckled quietly. "I didn't mean to scare you. Get dressed."
"Because I said so." Her smile was practically devious. Allison handed him a pair of dark jeans and a black t-shirt. She was dressed similarly, a hoodie covering her hair.
"Are we robbing a bank?" House cracked, even as he slowly swung over to the side of the bed, the bitter Vicodin not kicking in yet.
"Why would we do something like that?" She shook her head. "I lived with a bunch of night owls Greg, this is what we do."
"PJ said that he had something for us. Just the four of us, but we could grab Siobhan and our significant others. I figured you'd be pissed to miss the surprise."
"But what's with the black?"
Cameron handed him her cell phone.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make it to 'our OTHER spot' by five.
House glanced at the clock. It read four. "And what exactly is your other spot?"
Cameron hailed two taxis – one for her, House, Matt and Stephanie, and another for Ellie, Jack, Nicky and Anna. It was now four fifteen. All were wearing black, and House realized that the black clothes were just for fun. Siobhan had chosen to stay behind and watch Stephanie and Matt's three sleeping children.
"What's so important that the lovely new couple could be dragged away from their honeymoon bliss?" House cracked.
"PJ never pulls anyone away from anything without reason, so they chose to come with. Besides, they have brunch with all of us tomorrow before they leave for their honeymoon tomorrow."
House watched the streets aimlessly. He didn't know the city of Chicago well at all, and he had no idea where they were going.
Finally, the taxi stopped in front of an apartment complex, and the family filed out of their cabs silently.
"Where are we?"
"This is where mom was a starving singer. After she became famous she never had the heart to sell it."
Ellie entered a code into the keypad, which let them into the building so they could take an elevator to the fourth floor.
A projection screen was set up when the entered the small apartment complex.
The siblings all exchanged confused looks.
"PJ?" Matt finally called out.
He emerged and smiled at them before turning directly to Anna and Nicky. "Sorry to do this tonight."
"It's okay PJ; we're all curious, so spill."
He wrung his hands. "You guys all know that your mother was superstitious."
The four nodded. Lizzie Kramer had not been overly-superstitious, but had a faith in things unknown.
"Right after she and Tom divorced, she went to get her palm read and her fortune told with me. The reader told her that she would live a strong life, be successful and happy. Her death would be sudden and cause great pain to those around her. She would have no time to make plans for anyone around her and that there would be a lot unfulfilled. Lizzie pressed her for more, and all she would say was that Bird wouldn't have flown the nest yet, but the rest had."
Allison let out a soft gasp as did the other three siblings. No one besides their small, immediate family had ever heard their mother call Allison 'Bird'. Likewise with Ellie's nickname of Monkey, Nicky's of Shark and Matt's of Cheetah. Not even Siobhan knew about them.
"Needless to say, Lizzie was worried. She made me promise not to tell anyone, and I didn't. When she passed I found a tape that she had made. The instructions were specific. I was to wait twenty years to show it to you. I figured that now was the last time we would see each other for a little while, and it would be the best time. I have never seen it either, so if you guys are up for it, we can watch it now."
House was pulled behind Allison as she practically bounded onto the couch.
The other siblings followed suit and PJ settled down, hitting play. The old screen cackled to life.
Lizzie Kramer sat staring directly into the camera.
"I guess I should start with, if you're watching this, I'm dead." She paused and sighed. "Okay, I know, I know, it wasn't funny. Well kids, that's why I'm a singer, not a comedian. And no Nicholas, I won't quit my day job." This granted a chuckle from her children.
"I guess Joe got my note, and if he did you all better be older then the last time I saw you." She narrowed her eyes and wagged a finger. "And I mean it."
Lizzie straightened. "Birdie Lee is at school and the rest of my babies have gone off to college. Joeys off filming today, so I decided to do this today. I just have a bad feeling…" She trailed off and House glanced at the time stamp on the corner, his breath catching in his throat. If it was right, Lizzie Kramer had died less then a day later.
"But that is not the point." She lifted her chin. "If something does happen, I want to be prepared. So I'll start with you, Cheetah. Don't be a bear to your siblings. They love you and you'll need them later. Don't forget to do your homework. Go to bed early and sleep late, not the other way around. You chase those dreams no matter how many times your daddy shoots you down. Don't worry about your future. It will all work out. You can worry, but remember: worrying about the future is as effective as trying to solve and algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. I want you to marry a nice girl and settle down. Have lots of babies. And if you so much as give one of them my name I will come back and haunt you goddamnit!" Matt wiped his eyes.
"Nicky. Nicky, Nicky, Nicky. My youngest baby boy. You keep that wandering up, you hear me? Travel. To every state, to every country, to the moon and back." She spread her arms. "I know right now you don't know what you want to do with your life, and that's okay. You don't have to decide at ten like those two weirdos of mine. And if they harass you, just tell them that Ellie doesn't know either. Keep on messing with that camera I got you. And for the love o god, don't take pictures of Ellie that will make her want to kill you," her voice caught. "I may not be there, and then who will you be able to hide behind?"
"Ellie-Bel, I hope you keep that mind of yours open. There's so much to learn, and I know that you're just going to drink it all in. Read all of those books, and dispense your advice when needed. I never wanted to push you, but you'd make a damn fine therapist or psychiatrist. If that's not what you are, don't worry. Keep everyone laughing, like you always do." Her smile brightened. "You were always the comedian of the family, and I want you to keep them all smiling. Go find some nice Jewish doctor," her eyes were twinkling. "And don't give me that look Eleanor Rigby; I'm still your mother no matter what. I want you to grow up to be the lady you never thought you were. I'll be watching you, and I'll come down and smite you."
"And last, but never least, Birdie Lee." Allison straightened in House's grip ever so slightly. "It may be hardest for you, my baby bird. You might have to go live with your daddy. PJ will always be there, I don't care if I'm not. Keep dreaming, and keep your heart open like you always do. Spread those wings of yours and fly. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. Be the world class doctor that you always bragged that you would be. Keep those grades up even if your teachers are bitches. And Birdie Lee, don't keep everything locked up inside. I know you. Let it out or else." She shook a finger scolding mockingly. "I have complete and utter faith in you. And remember that I will always love you, no matter what happens."
She pulled out a guitar and the siblings and PJ let out a gasp in unison.
"I have two songs for you. I wrote one the other day, so excuse me if the chords are wrong." She started with Broken, and House held Cameron close as she shook in silent sobs. The song had never been recorded, and they had no tapes of their mother singing it.
"The second one I don't have a name for yet."
The chords started and she began to sing, voice husky with a bit of tears.
"I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between 10 and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are…"
She finished and cleared her voice. "If I don't get around to it, someone better publish this song. If it's good enough." Her eyes twinkled. "I love you all. I love you forever and for always. Don't ever forget it." She stood and disappeared from the frame. "Now how do you turn this dame thing of-?" was heard, slightly muffled, as it cut her off.
None of the Cameron children could form worlds. House just held Cameron tightly. Lizzie Kramer had strength, and she had given her children a gift. A gift that seemed to lighten Allison a little bit.
When they stood to hug (because that was all the family did) Allison had seemed to stand up straighter.
It was the beginning of November, and House watched Cameron as she moved around the office making him coffee. She had transferred to immunology two months ago at the boards insistence, but she was still down stairs every morning, making him coffee.
There was an unusual weight in his pocket, but he didn't know what to do with the box and silver ribbon. He had permission now. Any day he could do it.
"PJ?" Even House had taken to using the nickname.
"Greg! What can I do for you? Is everything okay?"
"Yes. I just have a question…" House trailed off and PJ understood. "I'm in New York right now, are you busy, because I can be down there in less then an hour."
"No, now would be perfect."
And it had been perfect.
"Greg, is everything okay? You're awfully quiet."
"Okay." House caught her wrist as she stepped into his office to hand him the coffee.
"What's up?" Allison propped herself up on his desk and smiled.
He fingered the box again and finally held out his hand. "Give me your hand."
"What?" But he had already taken her hand and stared at her expectantly.
"Close your eyes." She obeyed, mostly out of confusion.
House slipped the box from his pocket and opened it. He smiled, satisfied and looked at her. "Okay, open them."
She did and glanced down to stare at her hand. House had taken her bracelet; the one PJ had given her, and added a charm.
A silver cane winked back at her in the room, sparkling brightly. She gasped – she couldn't help it, because next to it was a diamond ring that he had somehow hooked onto her bracelet.
"Greg -" He still held both her hands. "I'm asking you to marry me woman, because I want this to last forever. And you're mine." He kissed her. "You're mine, and the cane is to make a point. I have a place on your bracelet now. That's PJ's way of saying yes."
She couldn't help it, it was to easy. "You're marrying PJ?"
"I'm marrying you, if you put that ring on your finger and say yes. The charm is PJ's way, and my way is that fancy diamond ring."
"Yes!" She laughed and kissed him. "Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I love you." House slipped his hand back around her wrist, and unhooked the ring so it was no longer a charm, instead sliding it onto her finger.
"I love you too." They were making out steadily and were interrupted by a slight cough.
"Ummm…" Wilson stood awkwardly. "I have a case from Cuddy."
"How bad would it be if I took the day off to go have hot and steamy sex with my fiancée?"
"House," Wilson scolded "you can't just leave because you want to have sex with -" he paused and looked up. "What?"
Cameron held out her hand. "His fiancée."
Wilson strode across the room to hug her and give House a manly pat on the back. "I think it'd be a bad idea, but, hey, you're engaged!"
House stood. "My fellows can handle it. Cameron's sick, and I have to take care of her." Allison didn't even bother to correct him, just wrapped an arm around his waist.
"You are so getting years of clinic duty."
"But right now I'm going to be having sex with my fiancée so I'll at least have gotten something good out of it."
House dragged her out of the room before she could reply, Cameron not voicing any protests. There was no way that he was going to stop.
Wilson just shook his head. Those two were made for each other.
They were laying lazily on the bed hours later, House stroking Cameron's bare back. She was staring at her hand, admiring the ring.
"They're going to flip," she murmured.
"Of course they are. But they love me, so it's all good."
Cameron chuckled. "You got that right."
"It'll be a crazy ride, but at least it'll be interesting."
Cameron thought of all that they had gone through over the past almost two years. To think, that it had all started with a conference. There had been bad times, but there had also been good. And through it all – even through their fights – they stuck together.
"It will be," she agreed, reaching up to kiss him. "And I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. – Everyone's Free To Wear Sunscreen (Various Artists)
What A Wonderful World – Bob Thiele and George David Weiss
100 Years – Five For Fighting
Broken - Lindsey Haun