Author's Note and Disclaimer: First of all, you know I don't own these characters. But don't I wish I did? Secondly, this is another of the series of one-shots I wrote about a year ago. This one is rather dark and has to do with nuclear war, so please don't read it if that upsets or disturbs you. Thanks for reading.
The voice booming on the hospital loudspeaker scared the shit out of Cameron. We have entered a state of emergency. Please refer to your department heads for proper HAZMAT wear. Be prepared for a large influx of patients. All televisions are set to CNN. We have entered a state of emergency…
The bomb was dropped in California, so the east coast of the US was safe. For the most part. They'd get very little of the radioactive material, if any. And that was definitely a good thing for the people. For the doctors? Not so much. Anyone affected by the blast was being sent to the east coast hospitals … and that was a lot of people.
Nurses were busy calming current patients. Cell phone lines were down… No one could get a hold of anyone else. It was pandemonium. And Cameron sat at the table in the diagnostics room, wringing her hands with wide eyes as she watched the newscast on CNN, replaying the blast over and over and over again.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Foreman, who was also looking at the television. "We shouldn't watch this," he told her quietly. "We need to suit up."
"They won't be here for at least an hour," she whispered, eyes moving back to the screen, where the bomb went off again and again. "I'll suit up when they start trickling in."
"Cameron…" Foreman sighed and sat next to her, keeping a brotherly arm around her shoulders. "This is for our safety."
"I know." She looked down at her hands. "I … don't want to believe that it's happened. Maybe, if I don't suit up…" She shook her head and gave a small laugh. "It's childish, but I hope that it won't be real."
"It's childish," Foreman agreed. "But we do what we need to in order to get through this." He stood and went to the television, shutting it off. "Come on," he told her gently, holding a hand out. "Let's go suit up and wait for the fallout."
She nodded and took his hand, glad to have someone here to support her. For some odd reason, Foreman understood why she was so seriously bothered by this. She didn't even understand precisely why… She hated that things had gotten to this magnitude, and she worried that maybe, Washington, DC would be next. And then where could they run to? What about all of the stories she'd heard about nuclear winter?
But she shook off the thoughts and got into her HAZMAT suit, almost panicking as she put the top on. How scary must it be for the people on their way here for treatment? They weren't going to see doctors; they were going to see people in huge suits. They weren't going to be treated; they were going to be dissected. It wasn't fair to them, not in the least. And Cameron had to remind herself not to cry, because she couldn't wipe her eyes now.
She headed back to diagnostics with Foreman, and they saw Chase there, zipping up his suit. "House just got in," Chase informed them. "He's suiting up and they're giving him a different cane."
"He's early," Cameron said dully. "He's not usually here until noon."
"Even House isn't heartless enough to not show up when he's absolutely needed," Foreman said logically. He noticed Chase struggling with the head of the suit and stepped in to help.
"We'll have to keep these on all day," Cameron thought out loud. "Can we even take them off once we're out of the hospital? What about all of the people who aren't doctors? What are we doing for the other patients?"
"All of the patients have been locked in their rooms. One nurse per room," Chase answered, adjusting his HAZMAT suit. "If a doctor's needed, they have to page and hope that someone's available."
"I can't believe this is happening," she whispered.
Chase shot a concerned look at her. "Hey," he said, getting her attention. "It's going to be alright. Things look like hell right now, but we have enough people here to treat the influx. Every doctor, nurse, and tech has been called in, and they're all coming."
"They even called in the aides and volunteers," Foreman added. "We'll be able to go home and sleep at the end of the night."
"We'll be able to go home," House's voice came from the doorway. "But I wouldn't count on sleep. Haven't you researched the aftereffects of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?"
Foreman shot an angry look at House. "Your immunologist is two steps away from freaking out and you come in with something like that?"
House looked over at Cameron and gave her a small frown. "Stay with it," he told her. "The last thing we need is a panicking doctor."
Cameron glared at him. Was that supposed to make her feel better? She was worried that the end of the world might be upon them and the only thing he had to tell her was 'Stay with it?' Asshole.
She stood and walked to the window, looking out and crossing her arms as best she could in her annoying HAZMAT suit. "What are they going to look like?" she asked in a voice that was barely above a whisper. "Is their skin going to be falling off? Will they just have burns? How much pain are they going to be in? How much pain are we going to have to cause them in order to treat them? Will it be more merciful to just kill them as they come?"
Foreman and Chase exchanged worried looks, and House slowly walked until he stood behind Cameron. "Close your eyes," he told her quietly. "And breathe. In and out … deep breaths. And remember that this is why you became a doctor. You wanted to save lives; here's your chance. Don't blow it."
She did as he'd told her; closed her eyes, breathed deeply and evenly. And somehow, someway, his words calmed her. "Are they going to die anyway?"
"Most of them."
"Why bother?" she asked brokenheartedly.
"Because at least one of them won't." He moved away from her and looked at Chase and Foreman. "Get a few carts together for basic first aid and burn aid. Make sure we have at least three gurneys in our hallway. I have the three best Fellows on my team; I'm expecting a lot of patients."
Foreman and Chase nodded and did as they were told, and House turned back to Cameron. "Come on," he told her. "We need to get ready. Patients are entering through the ER entrance and their names are being taken there. We'll get the charts as they come. Be ready for shock and be ready to treat it."
"How can you be so calm?" she asked helplessly.
He moved to the table and set his new, easily disposable cane on it, studying the object. "I lived in Japan for a while," he said simply. "I saw some of the people who survived Nagasaki and Hiroshima. They're the most thankful people in the world."
"Thankful? They were bombed."
"They lived," House shot back quickly. "With health problems and disfigurement, yes. But they lived."
Cameron stared blankly at the table before blinking her eyes and snapping into action. "Should we keep them out of the diagnostics department and keep them in the hallway?"
"That would be best. We'll have to replace anything they touch. And anything we touch when we're in our suits, for that matter. We don't know how the radiation's going to affect us."
"I'll grab extra pens and pads of paper to take notes on conditions."
"What about name tags? To know who we're treating."
"Cuddy's got that covered at the entrance."
They both stopped as they heard a helicopter overhead. House's eyes snapped to Cameron's, as if testing her resolve. "First batch is in," he said, his voice stone. "You ready?"
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm ready."
Their first case arrived, and Cameron almost vomited on sight. It was a woman. At least … Cameron thought it was a woman. Her face was… Her nose was in her hand, not on her face. She looked at Cameron with wide, shocked eyes. How bad is it, doctor? How the hell was she supposed to answer that? She opened her mouth to answer, but all that came out was a gag, and House stepped in and told Cameron to go into his office and pull the curtains.
She did as he ordered her to do, pulled off her face mask, and promptly vomited into the trash can. How was she going to handle this all day? How the hell was she going to see people like that!? She shook and she sobbed, and she continued to get sick. Nothing was staying down, nothing. Maybe she never should have gone into medicine. Maybe this was a horrible idea, a horrible mistake on her part. What was she doing here if she couldn't handle it?
The office door flew open and House entered in a rage, yanking his own mask off. "What the hell was that?" he yelled at her. "That woman needed your famous comfort and all you can offer her is a look of horror!"
"I'm sorry," she apologized through her tears, bending over the trash can once more. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be sorry!" he continued to scold her. "Be better! Finish chucking up your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then get your scrawny ass back out there and heal people! That's your job, Cameron."
"I know it!" she sobbed. "I know it is! I can't… I can't do this."
He walked up behind her and grabbed the back of her neck, pulling her face up in line with his. "You've treated kids with cancer," he spat at her. "You've treated AIDS victims and poison victims and Legionnaire's victims. You put that damned mask back on and you get your ass back out there and you help those people. Do you understand me?"
"I can't…" she repeated weakly.
"You can and you're going to, whether I have to drag you back out there or not."
He snapped her face mask back into place. "You're ready."
"I'm not…!" she protested.
He pulled her out of her seat. "You said you were ready before, and now I'm telling you that you're ready. Let's go." He dragged her to the door and opened it, pushing her out. "Treat the third person," he ordered, pointing to the only person without a doctor. "He's not as bad as the rest."
She went toward the patient, but only because House literally pushed her. She stumbled over and examined the man. He had horrible burns on his face and hands, and there were hand-shaped marks over his eyes. He'd covered them. "Can you see?" she asked him gently.
"Barely," the man responded in a raspy voice. "I'm so thirsty… Can I have some water?"
"Of course." She grabbed a cup of cool water off of the cart that Chase had prepared and handed it to her patient. "What's your name?"
"I'm Dr. Cameron," she replied, continuing to use a gentle tone. "Can you tell me where you were and what you remember?"
"I was at home. My mom saw planes dropping things in the sky and she told me to cover my eyes and duck, so I did."
"Your mom?" Cameron asked, brow furrowed. "How old are you, Matt?"
"Sixteen." He paused and looked around the hallway with narrowed eyes. "Is she here?" he asked hopefully. "Is my mom here?"
"I don't know," she answered honestly. "But let's get you cleaned up, okay?"
"I want to see my mom…" Matt replied tearfully.
"I know, Matt, but we need to take care of you."
"It burns!" he shouted suddenly.
Cameron looked around in a slight panic. "What burns?" she asked hurriedly. "Does the light burn your eyes? Are you-?"
"The crying!" he exclaimed, hands going to his eyes. "It burns!"
Cameron did what she could for the boy, and she sent him to the ER once she was done. That's how it went for the rest of the day. Patients came to them with various problems, varying states of burn and devastation, and they treated what they could before ushering the people off to the ER.
At the end of the day, their shift was over. They had ten hours to sleep, eat, rest… Whatever they could do. All four of them opted to sit in House's office. No one was going home tonight, even if they had the opportunity. They ordered out. Chinese. They'd have to tell one of the ER nurses to have their food brought up, and it had to be brought up in a HAZMAT bag, but it was worth it.
They changed out of their suits and washed according to their new standards, changed into new scrubs, and met in House's office. Their food was waiting for them. And somehow, they managed to dig in.
"You three surprised me today," House admitted, pushing his food around before taking another bite. "You made me proud."
Foreman smirked. "He's only saying that because it's the end of the world." He realized that the joke was horribly misplaced and looked extremely ashamed for a moment.
But Cameron smiled. She quirked an eyebrow and looked at House. "Since it's the end of the world, will you fuck me?"
Foreman's eyes widened, Chase spit his Pepsi out of his nose, and a slow smirk formed on House's face. "If we're alive in a week, I'll date you."
Cameron laughed, for the first time that day, and she looked at the three of them. This brought them together, she realized. It would make them a stronger team. And she attempted not to dwell on tomorrow, but on today instead. On right now. Because right now was definitely more important. "I'm keeping you to your word on that," she told House, pointing her fork at him as though that made the threat so much more threatening.
A week later, they were still alive. Still healthy. Foreman pointed out, while bandaging a cut above a patient's eye, that House owed Cameron a relationship. Chase stopped working on his patient altogether and looked over at House, who was testing the reflexes of a patient. Cameron was next to him, applying salve to another patient's burns.
House didn't even look up from his work. "Hey, Cameron," he said plainly. "Dinner tomorrow."
"I'm washing my hair."
"Treating sick and dying people."
She laughed and applied a bandage. "Dinner tomorrow."