It was a perfect Saturday morning. I had the day off work, no plans except to sleep all day, and maybe watch the LOST marathon on TV that afternoon; when my plans and sleep were rudely interrupted by a knock on the door at nine o'clock that morning.
When I reluctantly got out of bed, intending to simply open the door to tell this unwelcome visitor to piss off; I paused when I revealed it was Wilson on my doorstep, dressed in his best suit and looking sadder than I had ever seen him, even after each of his failed marriages.
"Bit overdressed for running errands, aren't you?" I asked sleepily, leaning against the doorframe.
Wilson just gave me a look as though as I was stupid, which admittedly, I had just woken up, and I'm not exactly a morning person.
"House, today's the day. I said I'd come at nine to get you. The service starts in an hour."
I hesitated. "I-I don't think I'm gonna go."
He stared at me sympathetically. "House, I told Rob we'd go. He can use all our support right now."
"Yeah, because I've given him so much support over the years," I said sarcastically.
"That doesn't matter. "
"I went to the last thing, do I have to go to this? More relatives, more awkward conversations, more sitting around for an appropriate length of time until you find an excuse to leave."
"More free food, more open bar, and a last chance to say anything you need to say," Wilson retorted as though he thought there was something I'd been needing to get off my chest in the past ten years.
"No thanks, big plans. I'll send flowers," I lied, making hastily to close the door in my friend's face.
"She'd go if it was you. You owe her that much," Wilson replied quietly, making me stop and freeze, knowing he was right and hating it.
"Give me ten minutes," I said finally, allowing him into the townhouse.
I reluctantly pulled a suit out of the closet in my bedroom, and suddenly paused in thought. She worked for me for three years, had seen me in a virtually everything from a bath towel to a tux. She, of all people, wouldn't expect me to wear a suit. She knew me.
So, I put the suit back, and threw on dark pants and a jacket, with my favourite black T-shirt underneath. It was a Rolling Stones shirt, but no-one would know but me, as long as I kept the jacket on. Wilson said nothing as I grabbed my cane and we headed out to his car, but I knew he would have been making comments if today was any day but this day.
On the way to the church, I couldn't help but let my mind drift backwards through those three years. All those hidden looks, comments purposefully intended to make her blush. Those many mornings of coffee, sorted mail and her discreet way of letting me know she cared.
It had been two years after she first walked into my office for the fellowship interview, That Day. The Day that changed everything. It was my idiot stalker, Ken, Kelvin, Kevin, Kalvin whatever the guy's name had been, it was all his fault.
He came to me, he asked for treatment, then coughs infected blood in her eyes and mouth. Ok, technically that was accidental, beyond his control, but the blame had to go somewhere. The bad karma isn't just gonna hang around in the universe forever. While everyone hovered around her like a mother hen, I remained nonchalant, distant, professional.
Which is more than I can say more her and Chase. Last thing you do after a STD scare is sleep with a co-worker. Even if she was stoned. Even that changed everything. To a degree. In the days leading up to each check-up to see if she had contracted the virus, he became her rock. I guess, looking back, it was inevitable they'd fall in love.
At the time, I realised (admittedly rudely, and regrettably so) and commented it was ironic. Unexpected, but I did pick up the irony, maybe to cover my shock. That one who had, at such a young age, fallen in love with a dying man; could now be dying and fall in love.
They didn't see the irony of course, but once it was pointed out, it hung over the office like a black cloud.
When it had come out, that the anti-viral had failed and she was, in fact, HIV-positive; the entire hospital was stunned. Like I'd always told her, everyone liked her. She was polite, charming, gorgeous and intelligent. And now she was dying.
I think, at first, knowing she would inevitably die, and not wanting someone to endure the process of which she herself had endured, she had turned Chase away. But he was persistent, and they were married within two years. I attended, not exactly willingly, but not against my will.
I'd be lying if I said that Allison Cameron wasn't the most gorgeous bride I'd ever seen that day. Chase, beaming, obviously thought so too, which made the day even more tragic. The worst thing about marrying a dying person, is marrying a dying person when you have no idea how much time you'll have together.
At times, we could even forget she was sick, she was so vibrant and strong, and determined to live. Of course, her immune system was shot, and winter wasn't the best season to be a HIV-positive doctor working in a New Jersey hospital, but her determination and dedication to her job and our patients, never wavered.
After another year of married life, the newlyweds decided to go one step further in their fight for life. Knowing there was little chance of any baby contracting the virus, and Cameron refusing to die before experiencing childbirth, they spent six months doing rounds of IVF to conceive.
Let me tell you, you haven't seen a beautiful woman, until you've seen a beautiful woman living, in love, and pregnant. One day I even asked her if the "I'm HIV-positive" story was just a line to pick up. Her glare and the pain in her eyes reassured me it wasn't.
Cameron went through everything you'd expect her to go through. Morning sickness, paranoia that the baby would in fact contract the virus, tears and the showing off of endless sonograms, mood swings (not the time to make fat jokes at her expense), that annoying mother-to-be-I-have-a-life-inside-of-me-glow (this glow can be temporarily removed by said fat jokes), the touching of the ever-growing baby bump, debates and bets placed on the baby's sex (I used my winnings to buy the new PSP racing game), strange food cravings (hot chips and maltesers, and salt and vinegar potato chips with chocolate sauce), and false labour (kinda inconvenient when you're in the middle of saving lives); but eventually, the kid was born.
The kid was gorgeous. It'd have to be with Cameron as a mother, and with Chase's hair. And to Cameron's relief, no, no, wait for it... Chloe Allison Chase... Chloe Chase, you hear it right, was perfectly healthy. The big shock was, when we're all gathered around the hospital bed (and by all I mean, Momma, Daddy, Baby, Goddaddy Eric, Wilson, Cuddy and me), and Cameron announces she's not coming back from maternity leave.
She gave the excuse of wanting to spend as much time with the baby as possible before... you know... but I reckon she just got addicted to Days of Our Lives and had to make sure Belle and Shawn escaped whoever they've been running from for the past six months. (I will deny any knowledge of DOOL plots in future.)
Cuddy kept nagging me to, but I just couldn't bring myself to fill Cameron's empty spot on the team. Besides, she was there most days anyway, bringing Chloe down for lunch with Daddy and to visit, so I did steal a few free consults. I thought (stupidly) this new arrangement would work out. Still three fellows, only paying two salaries, and only sacrificing my coffee and mail sorter, but of course, that couldn't last forever.
About two years ago, just after Chloe's fourth birthday, Cameron got pretty sick. And the doctors knew she was giving up. They gave her maybe a year, but Cameron was determined to see as much of her daughter's childhood as possible.
The last time I saw her, was about two weeks ago. Cameron had asked Foreman, Cuddy, Wilson and me over for dinner. I called it the Last Supper. (Advice: don't.) End result usually tears (Cameron, Cuddy and Chase), glares (Foreman and Wilson) and an awkward silence like the death has already occurred.
Chase cooked, Cameron didn't have the energy or the appetite for it anymore, and she talked quietly with us as Chloe sat on her lap, clinging desperately to her mother, as though she knew what was happening.
"My parents are coming out with my siblings next week," she said as we ate, and she picked at her serve.
"That'll be good for you," Cuddy replied gently.
Cameron nodded. After dinner, Chase cleaned the kitchen, while Cameron wearily took Chloe to bed. When she returned, we all moved to the living room and sat talking. Cuddy and Wilson had to leave first, and Cameron insisted on walking them out. I watched (okay, spied) as she hugged them hard and long and Wilson and Cuddy both whispered something to her as they left. Then it was just the four of us. The old team.
Foreman left, very reluctantly, and seemed determined not to cry, and seemed to be lost for words. She came back from seeing him out with red eyes, and extremely pale. A cry came from upstairs, and as Chase left the room, Cameron explained that Chloe was having nightmares frequently.
"She senses what's happening," I answered quietly. "It's good. She's a smart kid."
Cameron smiled gratefully, and I rose quickly, hoping to get my goodbyes over and done with before Chase came back. I hesitated at the doorway and Cameron, smiling faintly, came and hugged me.
"Thanks for everything, House," she said softly. "I mean it."
I felt a tingle of guilt. She was thanking me, when if she wasn't working for me, she never would have gotten infected in the first place.
"Yes, but I also wouldn't have Chase or Chloe, or Foreman, Wilson or Cuddy. Or you," she added when I told her that.
I shrugged. "True. I... I'll miss you," I mumbled, avoiding her gaze. Cameron nodded.
"Thanks. Do me a favour?" she asked as I made to leave.
I looked back at her and there were tears in her eyes. "As long as Chase is here... watch Chloe for me? Make sure... make sure she's ok."
My heart melted, and I returned to her and embraced her again. "I will. She'll be fine though. She's strong. Just like her mother."
Cameron shook with silent sobs as I held her, for what I somehow knew would be the last time.
"I'm scared," she murmured, so faintly I could barely hear her.
"I know," I replied. "Been there, done that remember? It's nothing to be afraid of."
Cameron chuckled tearily and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, okay."
"If you can pull some strings and arrange for me to win Lotto, I'd appreciate it," I added, trying to lighten the moment.
She laughed, and pulled away. "Sure. Just... make sure Chloe is strong enough in her beliefs. Make sure she's not gonna be some guy's lobby art."
I winced slightly, remembering that conversation. "No danger of that." I assured her. "And I'll warn her of the dangers of falling for assholes."
She even grinned at me then. I hugged her one last time, then opened the door. "I'm... I'm always gonna love you, you know."
Cameron nodded and softly kissed my cheek. "I love you too. Take care of yourself, House."
I knew she meant it, and I knew I would as I sincerely promised her to do so.
Then five days ago, Chase didn't come in. Naturally, we were concerned, so Foreman went over during lunch to investigate. I was in Wilson's office when he returned, and his eyes were wet. We both knew immediately what had happened. After all these years of fighting, Cameron was gone.
I jerked out of my memories suddenly when I realised we were at the church. Wilson parked and we stepped out of the car. The sun was shining brightly and it killed me to realise that if this was any other day, Cameron would have been out playing with Chloe, relaxing with Chase, talking with us. Living.
As I slowly walked towards the church, I recognised a lot of people. Former patients, nurses and other doctors from the hospital, Stacy and Marc... Stacy met my eyes as I passed and she smiled sympathetically. I nodded briefly and moved forward. I exchanged short, painful conversations and condolences with her parents, brothers and sister, and reached the church door where Chase and Chloe were greeting people.
"Thanks for coming," he said to me quietly when I reached him.
I nodded and shook his hand. Chloe was standing next to him, clinging to his pant leg, dressed in black. An exact image of Cameron, as I bent down to talk to her.
"How are you doing, kid?" I asked. I knew Cameron had spent the last few weeks carefully planning ahead in her daughter's life, and leaving carefully written cards, letters and recording's in her husband's care for the next years to come. Every birthday, Christmas, and event she would miss was replaced with a letter, card or message.
"Mommy's gone to heaven," she informed me sadly, her big blue-grey eyes sad.
I nodded in agreement, picturing Cameron as one of those angels you always see in pictures and in the movies.
"Yep. You miss her, huh?"
Chloe nodded. "Yeah."
"Me too. Your mom's gonna make a good angel though." I leaned in to whisper to her as Chase talked to Foreman.
"I promised your mom I'd help your dad look after you. But I also promised I'd look after me. You reckon you can help me with that?"
Chloe smiled proudly and nodded and stepped forward to hug me. I was surprised, (okay shocked) but then I realised, this was Cameron's daughter. The service was a closed casket, and the front of the church covered in flowers.
Everyone said really nice things. Chloe made everyone cry of course, who could not when a little 6 yr old girl gets up and says how perfect her mom was? (I may have cried, but if Wilson asks, I had dust in my eyes.) Aside from her family, only Cuddy, Wilson, Foreman and I stayed for the burial. Everyone else was already on their way to the wake. No-one said much, but just watched as the casket was lowered into the ground. I focused my gaze onto the headstone, instead of watching the undertaker begin to fill in the hole.
Allison Elizabeth Cameron
Loving Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend.
An Angel in life and in death.
I don't know who picked the words, but they were truthful for once. People write all sorts of crap on tombstones. An alcoholic, abuser, jerk who gets hit by a bus; suddenly becomes The love of my life, a wonderful man. Idiot. But Cameron was... okay maybe not an angel, but she was pretty damn close. She fell for me didn't she?
I made Wilson swear we'd only attend the wake for half an hour. There was that LOST marathon on, after all. There was a book, where people could write stuff to Cameron. I don't know how it was supposed to work, but it was a nice gesture. It was a big book, and three quarters full. When I recognised someone's handwriting I stopped to read.
Cameron, you were my first friend from work. You are the strongest person I know, and I'm proud and changed forever to say I knew you. Stay strong, Foreman.
It's not easy being a young female in our profession. You managed to stay focused, achieve dreams, and keep connected with your patients. You have an amazing daughter who will grow up knowing of you, loving you, remembering you, and being proud of you. All my love, Lisa Cuddy.
Allison, You fought a fight that you knew was unwinnable. I've seen many people do this over the years, but no-one has fought it with as much determination, courage and grace as you. I'm going to miss you, but remember you always. J. Wilson.
Dear Dr. Cameron,
You have such a strong life behind you, and kept focused on your daughter's future through all of it. With any luck, she will be half the woman her mother was. Our prayers are with you and your family. Stacy and Marc Warner.
I love you heaps. I know you didn't want to leave me and Daddy and I know that you are in heaven, watching over me. I love you, and I'll miss you always. Love from, Chloe.
When we first met, I never dreamed I'd fall in love with you. I watched you fight, live and die, all with strength and elegance. These past ten years have been the best of my life. I'll always love you, and our daughter will always remember you and love you. All my love, Rob.
I flicked to the very last page at the back of the book and picked up the pen.
Cameron, you entered my life and taught me to love and trust again. I promise to keep your memory alive in your daughter, and in me. I love you. House.
"House, you ready?" Wilson asked me, coming up from behind as I closed the book.
I sighed and looked around then nodded. "Yeah."
I said my goodbyes and left the house. As I reached Wilson's car, I could almost feel Cameron's pointed gaze baring into my neck. I smiled to myself. I knew she was watching Chloe and me. To make sure we kept our promises.