WARNINGS: Um, mild language and mild discussions of sex?
NOTES: Long final chapter is long! I assume that's not a problem with any of you, though? :-) This is it, kids - the end of the road, the final installment of this story. I've really loved taking this journey with our lovers, and I hope you all enjoy the way it all wraps up and comes to an end. Don't forget to comment/review and let me know what you think! Beta'd by enigma731.
Cameron reaches the doorway to his room within minutes, having raced up the stairs and down every hallway in anticipation of seeing for herself whether or not what House told her is actually true. At the sight of all of the doctors, including Foreman, crowded around Chase's bed and laughing in his direction, Cameron's heart swells with indescribable relief. She leans quietly against the doorway, taking a few moments to gather her emotions and simply watching the scene before her, waiting for the crowd to part so that she can finally see Chase's newly alert face for herself.
"Well, I'm glad you finally decided to return to the living, man," Foreman chuckles, reaching out a hand to grasp Chase's shoulder tightly, before stepping away from the bed and moving to grab his chart.
Somewhere in the back of Cameron's mind, she registers that Foreman is still talking, that he's delivering information to Chase that is probably quite important. But none of it matters now, because the space left open by Foreman's movement has provided Cameron with a direct line of sight toward Chase's head. He's sitting up, she notices, propped up by several pillows and gripping the thick, gray blanket she brought for him in his lap. Chase hasn't noticed her presence yet, still focused on Foreman's instructions and the anectdotal tales from all of the other doctors and nurses in the room. The emotions flooding through Cameron's body run the gamut from joy to relief to anger and back around again, as she stares breathlessly, almost disbelieving that he is finally okay.
And just as the tears begin to form in Cameron's eyes, Chase seems to momentarily still, as if sensing her energy in the room before even realizing that she's actually there. Slowly, he turns his head to the doorway, eyes instantly locking with hers. For several seconds, they both simply gaze. She knows he's been brought up to speed on his condition by now, and is therefore completely aware of how close he came to death, the pained look in his eyes telling her that it's terrified him, too.
"Sorry, can you…" Chase speaks to the occupants of his room tiredly, never taking his eyes from Cameron's. "Could you give us a few minutes, please?"
Everyone in the room follows Chase's gaze, immediately understanding his wishes when they see Cameron waiting fragilely at the entrance. With a few hasty, quiet farewells, the room begins to clear, and soon there is nothing but quiet and two pairs of eyes that refuse to part.
"Hi," Chase finally whispers softly, the slightest hint of a smile on his lips.
"Hi, yourself," Cameron responds with a swipe at the tears now falling down her cheeks. "Are you – how are you?" She ventures a few steps into the room, stopping just short of his bedside and barely out of reach as Chase studies her actions carefully.
"Tired, if you can believe it. Foreman and Pearson say I'm practically good as new, though, so… and now you're here. I'd say I'm doing pretty well, all things considered."
"Good. I'm glad," she says tightly, chewing on her bottom lip. "You – you almost died."
"I know," Chase answers, tilting his head just a little in an effort to get a better view of her down-turned face.
"No," Cameron suddenly barks, snapping her head up and glaring across the small distance into the baby-blues she's been neglected of for nearly a week. "No, you almost died! Over a wallet! A fucking wallet, and your ridiculous need to protect me all the time!"
Eyes narrowing, Chase remains silent but reaches out for her, unable to make contact due to the space she's left between.
"You're so goddamn irresponsible that you didn't even realize you dropped your wallet in your disaster of a locker, and then – and then you couldn't just ask me to bring it home, could you? You just had to drive all the way back here and get it! You just had to try to protect me by thinking you could drive me home safely! But you know what, Chase? I don't feel very fucking protected after spending the past several days watching you slowly die on me," she screams, stepping closer as she lightly shoves him in the shoulder, face reddened with anger and residual fear. "You convinced me to count on you, but you're not worth anything to me dead, you jackass!"
Chase freezes at her words, simultaneously stung by the tone and moved by their meaning. He understands that it's the fear causing her to momentarily lash out. Cameron has just confessed his importance in her life right along with those fears, and the confirmation of his heightened status in her heart causes a grin to slowly spread from ear to ear.
"Why are you smiling?" Cameron growls, ripping her hand away when Chase reaches out again and manages to take hold this time.
"Allison," he breathes her name reverently, carefully grabbing her wrist once more and slowly pulling her onto the bed when she doesn't resist anymore. He brings his free hand up to her face and tenderly wipes a tear from her averted eyes, moving to her chin to tilt it toward him until he can gaze into the emerald pools once more. "Ally. It's okay. I missed you, too."
Cameron loses herself in his adoration for several moments, shaky breath hitching in her throat before she finally collapses into his arms, wrapping her own desperately around his neck and squeezing tightly as she cries.
"Thank you," she sobs into his ear. "But don't ever scare me like that again."
December 31st – New Years Eve
The unnecessarily loud rattling of carts being pushed down the hallway stirs Cameron into a state of mild awareness, and the soft sounds of several footfalls coupled with murmurs of discussion bring her to the conclusion that morning rounds are in progress. As soon as that realization hits her, though, Cameron remembers where she is – and why. Waking up in Chase's hospital bed has been a constant for nearly a week, and suddenly she finds herself questioning whether or not his awakening was all a fabulously cruel dream. He remains still beneath her, chest rising and falling evenly beside the spot where her face rests upon his shoulder, and Cameron swallows hard in preparation for what she fears she'll find upon looking up.
With a slow hesitation, she pushes herself up a few inches with her elbows and tilts her head in the direction she knows his will be resting. The sounds of the ventilator are noticeably gone this quiet morning, but Cameron doesn't trust herself enough yet to honestly believe what she hopes that means. She needs visual confirmation that the machine is no longer attached to his body, breathing for him and keeping him forcibly alive, but her eyes refuse to look in that precise direction despite the fact that her head is aimed almost entirely toward his now.
The sound of his voice is all the confirmation she requires, and Cameron's gaze instantly shifts to meet his gorgeously open blue eyes. Chase is wide awake, alive and watching her with so much adoration that her heart nearly bursts through her chest.
"Good morning, beautiful," he whispers, a loving smile playing across his lips.
Cameron heaves a deep sigh of incredible relief, almost crying all over again at the joy of finding him awake, then dips her forehead to rest it happily against his. "You – it wasn't a dream. You're really back." she breathes softly, face glowing as she stares unblinkingly into his eyes.
Chase nods gently, reaching up to caress her cheek softly. "I'm back. This is real, don't worry."
"I'm not worried, I'm just so – I'd kiss you right now if your breath wasn't so awful," she laughs quietly, placing her hand over his on her face and smiling wider when he chuckles in return, pulling her tightly against him for a hug.
"Thank you for catching me," Chase whispers in her ear, running his fingers through her long, blonde locks.
"What?" asks Cameron distractedly, not yet ready to pull away from the embrace.
"Catcher in the Rye. You didn't let me go over the cliff."
Cameron moves back quickly, arms still wrapped loosely around his neck, and stares into his eyes disbelievingly. "You – you knew I was – you heard me?"
"I don't know, I mean – I remember bits and pieces. I remember knowing you were holding my hand, and trying to find a way to tell you that I was…" He drifts off quietly, looking over her shoulder and smiling softly at the sight of their anniversary photo propped delicately on the bedside table, before returning to her gaze and searching deeply for some unknown answer. "Where were you when I woke up?"
She freezes momentarily, eyes darting away from his, and takes a deep breath. "It doesn't matter," she whispers, looking up again and smiling confidently. "What else do you remember? What… was it like? The coma, I mean."
"It was," Chase pauses, inhaling slowly and deeply, attempting to gather his thoughts. "I don't know how to describe it. Everything is still kind of fuzzy, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. It's just going to take a few more hours. You're still healing," Cameron reassures him with a sweet smile. "Just… tell me anything you can remember. I just want to hear your voice."
"It was… incredible." Chase watches her for a reaction, but continues carefully when she makes no movement to question his usage of that descriptor. "I felt so peaceful, you know? And there were times when I could swear it was like I was actually experiencing the afterlife. I've always been curious about Heaven, and whether or not people actually get glimpses of God during near-death experiences, but – but now I know. They do. I did. There were times when I think I was aware of you being here, talking to me, and I think – I think maybe…"
"What?" Cameron interjects when he fails to complete his thought after several seconds.
"You'll think it's ridiculous," he tells her, giving her a look that says he knows her better than she believes.
"Tell me. Please?"
"The Bible teaches us a lot about the power of faith, and that those who believe will be rewarded in miraculous ways. What I went through – everything that Foreman and Pearson told me about my condition? – I shouldn't be here, Ally. It's a miracle that I survived. That I woke up. And I think maybe it was–because I still have more to accomplish… with my faith, with my career, with – with you…"
Cameron's eyes are filled with tears now, she's so deeply moved by not only his implications of their future together but also the strength of his religious convictions. Atheist or not, Cameron has a great deal of respect for this faith that means so much to Chase and that has helped shape him into the amazing person she feels lucky enough to call her own. What's more, she finds herself thinking that perhaps this past week of trials and tribulations has been more than enough to make her reconsider her own status as a non-believer.
"It's like maybe God planned all of this," Chase continues quietly, cupping her face with both of his hands. "Like maybe you're my guardian angel. Even if you don't actually believe in any of that prayer stuff."
Squeezing her eyes shut tightly and allowing several tears to escape, Cameron bites her lip quickly out of nervousness and then forces herself to meet Chase's eyes once more. "I was in the chapel."
Chase's smile widens again as the meaning of her confession sinks in, and he slowly lowers her back to the bed until she is once again resting safely against his chest. "Thank you," he murmurs, kissing the top of her head tenderly before giving in to the pull of sleep once more and reluctantly letting his eyelids fall closed.
"Might want to rinse with some Listerine when you're done there, babe," Cameron laughs lightly as Chase sits upright in bed, brushing his teeth and spitting every twenty seconds into the basin she's placed in his lap.
"You're funny," he snarks back in reply. "See if I'm nice to you the next time you come home smelling like an ER full of vomit."
Cameron turns from where she's digging through a duffle bag and smiles mischievously as Chase sips from the water glass, rinsing out the last of the toothpaste. "Oh, you will be. Not only can you not resist me, but I've got the good stuff," she assures him, holding up a pile of his clothes from home, "and you can't have it without my help."
"Is that my rugby sweatshirt?" Chase asks excitedly.
"It is," she giggles, walking toward him and setting the pile at the foot of the bed. "Since Foreman says you have to be here for a few more days, I thought you'd be more comfortable in some of your favorites. You know, instead of that hospital gown that leaves your bare ass easily accessible – not that I mind, personally."
"You're the best," he says with a genuine smile. "For bringing all of this."
After waking up a second time earlier this morning, Cameron decided to let Chase rest as much as possible while she ran home to grab more necessities from their apartments – all of these items on the list of things he'll need now that he is finally awake.
"I know," Cameron winks playfully. "C'mon, let's get you cleaned up."
She leans over him to reach behind and untie the strings on his gown, removing it carefully and slowly beginning a routine of bathing his skin with a sponge. The tension between them builds stronger and stronger, both desperate for more physical contact after such trying times, but Cameron remains steadfast in her caretaker duties as she tries to make small talk to pass the time.
"Foreman and Pearson were right. You're much stronger than you probably should be this soon after coming out of it. It's like nothing bad even happened at all. Like you've just been sleeping." She pauses to take a deep breath, knowing he probably understands just how much she wishes that were the truth. Determined to keep the mood light and fun for now, though, she dips the sponge back into the soapy basin on the table and forges on. "And they're letting you come home in a couple of days. I cleaned up when I was home so it'll be a little easier for you to get around. I even brought your Xbox over and hooked it up in my living room, so you won't have to be so bored."
"I'm going home to your place?" Chase asks in pleasant surprise. "Really?"
Cameron's heart simultaneously leaps and sinks at the sound of his reaction, thrilled that he's so happy to be completing his recovery in her apartment but sickened with herself that he still even partially questions whether or not that would be an option. "Of course. You're not going home by yourself. Half of your stuff is at my house now, anyway. I want you there, Chase."
His only response is a silent, trusting nod as she finishes the sponge bath and helps him dry off with a towel, moving to redress him in an oversized t-shirt, his favorite hoodie, and a pair of boxers from his drawer in her bedroom dresser.
"Now you'll at least be a bit more comfortable," she continues, maneuvering carefully around his broken ankle as she works to pull a pair of black track pants over his cast and up around his waist.
"Yeah. I just wish I didn't have to be out of work for so long," Chase sighs heavily. "I hate the idea of putting the department in someone else's hands without me around to run interference whenever House comes demanding a procedure."
Cameron smiles sympathetically, sitting on the bed beside him once she's finished with the pants. "It's just the ankle, so you should be able to put on a walking cast and a boot pretty quickly. You'll be ready to be back on your feet long before you're physically and mentally ready to be back in the OR at all. And in the meantime, you'll have me to keep you company."
"And to steal my clothes," he adds, reaching out to pull her closer and grabbing onto the sleeve of the fleece jacket she's still wearing. "I've been meaning to ask you since last night, but – I'm never getting this back now, am I?"
Blushing deeply, Cameron pulls the fleece tighter around her and shakes her head sharply. "I've bonded with it pretty tightly over the past week."
"I suppose I can let it go, then," says Chase with a soft chuckle, moving his hand slowly down her fleece-covered arm and taking hold of her hand tightly. "Thank you, Allison. I'm not – I don't really know how to let someone else take care of me. I'm not used to – you didn't have to do all of this. But thank you."
Cameron stares into his eyes with complete sincerity, wishing she could will away all of the things in his past that have made him so unable to depend on another human being and trust that their intentions are inherently good. "You don't have to thank me, Chase. Of course I'll take care of you. I mean, I – I love you, you know that, right?"
The smile returns to Chase's lips, wider now than it's ever been before.
"I do now."
"How's that?" Cameron asks, massaging the stiff muscles of Chase's inner thigh as she stands steadily at the edge of his hospital bed.
Chase moans slightly at the magic emanating from her fingertips. "Feels great. But if you're not careful, we're going to have a situation here soon," he tells her with a tantalizing glint in his eye, winding an arm around her waist and pulling her closer.
"Chase! We're in the hospital!" Cameron protests with a laugh, rolling her eyes and playfully trying to push away from his grip.
"Yeah, because that's always stopped us before," he responds with a pointed and sarcastic look. "The blinds are closed. No one will ever know…"
"Right," she tosses back, "forget the fact that you just came out of a week-long coma less than twelve hours ago and are still healing from internal injuries that almost cost you your life. That's all forgotten when you want sex, huh?"
Chase slowly rolls his eyes toward the ceiling in that classic gesture she's come to know as his dramatic way of pretending to consider a thought quite seriously. "Um – yeah, pretty much," he finally answers, giving her an incredible smile that nearly breaks her resolve.
"Stop it," she chortles, playfully smacking Chase in the back of the head and pulling away from his hold on her to continue her physical therapy on his legs. "You're ridiculous."
"And you love me."
Cameron looks up from the foot of the bed where she's rubbing the calf of his uninjured leg and smiles with an almost embarrassed sweetness. "Yeah."
She lifts his leg in her hands, working to exercise his lethargic knee joint, as he continues to stare at her adoringly for several silent minutes before speaking again, breaking the emotional tension that surrounds her recent confession of love. "So – still no sex, then?"
With a loud snort, Cameron carefully places his leg back onto the bed and rolls her eyes when she notices the exaggerated pout playing on his lips. "Don't be such a baby. I'm taking the next three weeks off to be home with you, and you've already been healing for a week, so… maybe you'll get lucky on your first night out of here."
"Just maybe?" Chase prods teasingly, enjoying the return of the easy banter in place of so much serious discussion.
"Okay," Cameron sighs, smiling, "you will. I still have the Christmas tree up in my living room, and I'm not taking it down until we do it under those lights like we'd planned."
"Oh, fuck!" Chase suddenly shouts, and Cameron freezes her motions out of fear that she's managed to hurt him somehow. When she meets his eyes, though, they're filled with guilt instead of pain. "Christmas. I'm sorry – I ruined everything, we – we missed Christmas."
Cameron breathes a sigh of relief that she hasn't harmed him with her attempts at helping, then slowly moves to sit upon the bed, arm around his neck and fingers running through his hair tenderly. "It's okay. You're alive, and you're awake, and you're – you're perfect. That's the best present I could ever get."
"I'll make it up to you," he whispers softly, guilt still lingering in the depths of his gaze, "I promise."
"We'll make it up to each other," Cameron corrects him. "But if you want to get a head start," she continues, turning to reach into the bedside drawer and pulling out the mistletoe he had left hanging in her locker, shifting back into place against him and dangling it in front of his eyes, "I'm pretty sure you're the one who owes me a kiss, now."
His smile returns, realizing she found and kept his locker room surprise, and Chase licks his lips in preparation for their first real kiss since his awakening. Leaning forward just slightly, Cameron lowers her head to close the remaining distance when a loud knock on the blinds-covered glass shatters the moment just seconds before contact. Cameron and Chase pull back, disappointment and frustration evident on both of their faces, as the sound of the opening sliding door fills the room and a hand reaches through the blinds to push them aside.
"Dr. Cameron? Dr. – Dr. Chase?"
The voice travels to their ears several moments before the figure it belongs to manages to step through the tangled entryway, stopping just over the threshold and looking across the room with a nervous fear in her eyes.
"Kassie," Cameron starts, moving instinctively closer to Chase on the bed and setting the mistletoe in his lap, hand now resting territorially on his chest. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm sorry," the young nurse whispers, a far cry from the audacious loudmouth Cameron had confronted in the ER locker room a full week before. "I didn't mean to interrupt, I just – I wanted to apologize. I'm sorry, Dr. Chase, for… for being so aggressive the other week. I didn't realize you were already in love," she smiles knowingly. "You two look – you look like you complete each other. I don't know how I didn't figure it out right away, and I'm sorry – Dr. Cameron, I'm just so sorry for what happened that night. I didn't know, and I never meant to – I'm really, really sorry. I've been wanting to tell you that all week, but I didn't think you'd want to hear it when he was still – but he's okay now, right? You're okay?" Kassie asks, finally, looking toward Chase once more.
He nods softly, brow furrowed in clear confusion about exactly who she is or what it is that she's apologizing for in the first place.
Cameron clears her throat quickly to grab Kassie's attention again, reassuring her with a gentle smile. "It's alright, Kassie. But thank you for coming up here to say that. I appreciate it. Listen," she continues, hoping to put an end to the conversation so that she and Chase can be alone again, "I'll be back at work in a few weeks, and maybe you and I can grab a coffee together, okay?"
Kassie's face lights up instantly, her body visibly relaxing at once. "I'd love that, Dr. Cameron. I'll, um – I'll just see you in a few weeks then. I'm gonna leave you two alone – sorry, again, for interrupting… whatever you were doing. I'm really glad you're okay, Dr. Chase," she tells him sweetly, then glances between the two of them with a smile before finishing as she turns to leave, "I'm happy for you both. You deserve the best."
Cameron and Chase watch silently as Kassie makes her exit, closing the door behind her but forgetting to pull the blinds in the process. "What was that about?" Chase asks, completely baffled.
"Doesn't matter right now," Cameron tells him, reaching for the mistletoe again and pulling on his neck gently with a desperate smile. "Where were we?"
But before their mutual longing for a kiss can be fulfilled, the door quickly slides open again and their best friends, Abby and Will, enter with armfuls of flowers, balloons and gifts, followed immediately by the rest of their non-hospital friends, and Chase and Cameron both know the moment is now decidedly lost.
Looking to Chase in annoyance and mild upset, Cameron drops the mistletoe yet again and he laughs lightly, reaching up to caress her face.
"So, what should we do for three whole weeks at home?"
Chase eyes her sharply, as if the answer should be more than obvious.
"I mean, other than that," she laughs, snuggling in tighter against him and trailing a finger up and down the palm of his hand.
"Well," he says, seriously pondering the question now, "I guess I'll finally have to teach you how to play Guitar Hero, huh? That'll get us through several hours a day."
"I don't know," Cameron replies reluctantly. "I brought the Xbox over for you in case I needed to run some errands and leave you there alone. Not to distract us from each other all day."
"No, it's not like that," Chase promises adamantly. "It's Guitar Hero! It's interactive! It'll be like we're in a band together – it'll be fun, you'll love it."
She eyes him uncertainly, clearly still nervous about the idea, until suddenly the look on Chase's face shifts to one of mischief and mocking.
"You told that Jasper kid a few years ago that you love video games. Were you lying, Dr. Cameron?"
"I wasn't lying, I was just – I can't believe you even remember that!"
"That kid was trying to steal my girl," he tells her teasingly. "And he bit me in a fight for your honor. Of course I remember the little brat."
"Excuse me, but I was not your girl yet," Cameron shoots back in mock seriousness, "and maybe – maybe I was just trying to get under your skin with the video game thing. Make you crazy by bonding with the kid."
Chase turns his head and pulls back slightly to stare at her with wide eyes, shock written across his face. "I knew it! You little sneak," he replies, reaching down to tickle her quickly on her side. She squirms with laughter, but they both settle down once again before his actions and her movements can cause him any unnecessary pain.
As she sits up just slightly so that she can wrap an arm around his shoulders and lean her head softly against his temple, the noise from the TV on the wall grows louder and they both look toward it to realize that only one minute remains until the stroke of midnight and the start of a brand new year.
"Great," Chase sighs sullenly, causing Cameron to pull away and examine the sudden disappointment in his eyes. "New Years Eve in a hospital bed. You know, they say one of the main superstitions of New Years Eve is that you spend the entire next year of your life doing whatever it is that you're doing at midnight," he tells her, attempting to explain. "And this is what I'm doing at midnight: lying in the ICU with internal injuries and a broken ankle. Not the best omen for 2009, really."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Cameron comforts him with a knowing smile, hearing the people in Times Square start to count down the remaining thirty seconds of the year. "If that's how the superstition works, then I'd say it's going to be a pretty great year."
"Oh yeah?" he replies, eyes twinkling with intrigue. "And why's that?"
"Because lying here isn't the only thing you'll be doing at midnight."
And as the crowd on television shouts out the final countdown of 2008, Cameron places her free hand upon his cheek and wraps the other around his neck tightly, pulling him toward her and finally, hungrily crashing her lips against his in a passionate kiss. Lips parting in desperation, their tongues begin a brilliant dance of aching need that's been eluding them all day, not to mention all week, and the fireworks exploding behind their eyes are far more memorable than any celebration taking place around the world right now. This is the moment they've both been waiting for, and finally experiencing the passion again is the last piece of reassurance that they will, in fact, be more than just okay.
By the time they both reluctantly pull away, gasping for breath and gazing at one another with tears in their eyes, the clock now reads 12:01AM. They have successfully crossed over into the new year lost in each other's touch, setting a superstitious precedent for a year filled with indescribable passion.
"I love you," Chase eventually manages, choking back the lump in his throat. "I love you so much."
"Me too," smiles Cameron, a tear rolling down her cheek as she leans forward to quickly kiss him once more. "Happy New Year, babe."