WARNINGS: spoilers through 5.22 House Divided
The phone sends a burst of adrenaline through Cameron's veins like a deluge of cold water, shattering anxiety-filled dreams and waking her into a reality that isn't any better. She knows something is wrong the second she sees Foreman's number on the display, heart pounding loudly in her ears as she listens to his slurred explanation. She's been half expecting a call all night, she thinks as she scrambles to get dressed, fingers shaking and clumsy. She'd thought there might be a fight, or some sort of accident given House's antics.
Typical, thinks Cameron, that the real disaster has come completely out of left field, never even crossing her mind as a possibility. Two years in the ER have taught her that the danger you plan for is rarely the one worth worrying about.
She makes it all the way out to her car before realizing she's still barefoot, and is forced to run back inside for shoes.
The ER is loud and crowded; it's a good night for chaos and thoughtless accidents everywhere. This is the shift Cameron tries hardest to avoid, and though she's not working tonight, the atmosphere still gives her a headache, exhaustion and frustration throbbing in her temples.
Chase is looking around bewilderedly on the gurney when she makes her way back from talking to Cuddy, and she feels a swell of annoyance over the fact that he's taken off the oxygen mask. But he grins upon seeing her, and for the moment relief over disaster averted gets the better of her anger.
"Where'd you go?" he asks too loudly, obviously still drunk, and the mother of a sick toddler in the next curtain area turns to give them a look.
"Had to talk to Cuddy," she answers, though she's told him twice already before.
"Oh." Chase ponders this for a moment, then shakes his head and winces. "So we can go home now?"
"No," answers Cameron, more harshly than she's really intended. Sighing, she slips on a pair of exam gloves and tries to ignore how disappointed he looks. "Cuddy's admitting you for the night."
"What?" He sits up so quickly he nearly falls off the gurney, and Cameron catches him by the shoulders. "I'm fine!"
"You went into anaphylactic shock," she says patiently, guiding him to lie back down. "And you're dehydrated. At the very least, you need a few hours of fluids. Unless you want to be even more miserable tomorrow."
"You can give me those at home," Chase protests, still trying to resist her efforts. "'m fine. Really."
"You could have a secondary reaction," Cameron insists. "I'm not going to risk you going into shock at home. Lie down."
"Won't happen," he answers petulantly, and tries to squirm away from her when she swabs his hand in preparation for the IV.
"Chase," she interrupts firmly, done fighting with him. "You're arguing with an immunologist. And you're too drunk to sign yourself out of here, so you're stuck for the night. Lie down and let me give you the fluids so they can start working before you feel any worse."
It takes just under an hour for Chase to be moved to a real room, a sure sign that Cuddy has pulled strings in their favor. Besides which, Cameron thinks, it doesn't reflect well on the hospital to have drunk staff members on display. Settling in the chair beside Chase's bed, she carefully laces their fingers, avoiding the dual IV ports in his hand and wrist. She keeps her head down, her eyes away from the monitors, not wanting to think about the fact that his vitals have even been in question tonight. The bags of fluid and diphenhydramine hanging from the pole next to the bed stir the decade-old ghosts of dread in her, though this time she's hooked the IV up herself.
"What happened?" Cameron repeats gently, once they're truly alone in the room. She's avoided questioning him since leaving the ambulance, gathering from Foreman's response that the answer will upset one or both of them.
"There was this girl," Chase starts again, then frowns a little. "Well, actually there were a lot of girls at the party. Foreman and Thirteen picked them out."
"Do you really want to be telling me this?" asks Cameron, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.
"You asked." Chase gives her a hint of a pout, then takes off rambling drunkenly again. "And we all got wasted. And there was ice cream. Well—not really ice cream. It was really frozen booze. There was a strawberry one of those, but I didn't have any of that."
Cameron sighs, trying to swallow the annoyance that's beginning to overtake her sympathy for him. "Then what did you eat?"
"Nothing!" Chase protests, too loudly. "I wanted to stop, take a break, but Foreman—there was this girl, and he said that I should—and she had strawberry stuff on her stomach."
For a moment Cameron just blinks at him, feeling as confused as he sounds while her brain tries to piece together the story he's telling her. "You licked her stomach?"
"Everyone was doing it!" Chase turns bright red, evidently realizing exactly what he's just told her. When he speaks again, he sounds decidedly chastised. "Please don't be mad."
Cameron grimaces; working in the ER has made her immune to a large number of disgusting things, but this image still twists her gut. "Remind me not to kiss you for at least a week."
"'kay," Chase agrees, wilting visibly, and pulling his hand away from hers to toy with the top of the blanket.
Cameron crosses her arms and sits back in the chair, trying to make sense of her own reactions to the events of this night. She's torn between wanting to be annoyed by the whole thing and wanting to brush it off; she trusts him completely, after all, and if nothing had gone wrong, she wouldn't have given the party a second thought. But behind it all are the stirrings of fears she's worked long and hard to banish to a forgotten corner of her mind.
"The paramedics said one of the residents had an epi pen," she says after a moment, finally voicing the thought that's been eating away at her since getting Foreman's call.
"Yeah," Chase agrees without looking up.
"Why didn't you have one?"
Chase shrugs, looking increasingly uncomfortable as he continues to twist the sheet.
"Last year you told me you always carry one," she insists, disapproval edging into her voice. "Did you stop, or was that a lie to make me stop asking?"
"'s in my bag," Chase mumbles, running a hand through sweaty hair and nearly knocking the pulse-ox off his finger. The monitor beeps angrily before evening out again.
"Oh, good," Cameron snaps, anger finally winning out. "It's really helpful there. Especially if nobody knows it's there. That's going to save your life."
Swallowing visibly, Chase shrugs again, and busies himself smoothing wrinkles out of the blanket.
"You should have it accessible at all times," she continues, his lack of response fueling her frustration. "Someone other than you should always know where it is. And you should have a Medic Alert bracelet in case you decide to do something stupid like get drunk off your ass and lick strawberry cream off a stripper!"
"Allison," Chase says quietly, but she ignores him, too invested now to stop.
"This is not up for debate! These are precautions you need to take to protect your life!"
"Allison—" he tries again.
"And I'm not just saying this as your fiancée," Cameron insists, though she knows that isn't entirely true. "I'm saying it as a doctor."
"Gonna puke," Chase manages to reply before leaning over and vomiting into the basin the nurse has left on the bedside table.
Sighing, Cameron moves over to sit heavily on the edge of the bed, hand shaking as she rubs his back supportively.
A good while after Chase has finally fallen into an uneasy sleep, Foreman appears at the door, holding a stuffed kangaroo which sports a pair of red boxing gloves. Under any other circumstances, Cameron thinks she would be forced to laugh at the image. Now, however, it only increases the tension in the back of her neck, and the headache she thinks she'll probably have for the next week.
"Why are you here?" she asks the second he's in the door, careful to keep her voice low so as not to wake Chase. He'd been in enough discomfort earlier that she can only hope he'll sleep through the rest of the night.
"Came to return this," says Foreman, holding out the kangaroo. Cameron stares at him for a moment before taking it, and immediately putting it on the floor beside her chair. The thing smells like alcohol and week-old laundry, and she decides instantly that it won't be allowed in her apartment until it gets a good thorough washing.
"Okay," she says flatly. "Now you can go."
"Cameron." Foreman sighs, looking contrite.
"You've helped enough for one night," Cameron snaps, keeping her voice low and dangerous.
"How's he doing?"
Getting out of her chair, Cameron backs him into the far corner of the room, glancing over her shoulder at Chase to make sure they haven't disturbed him. Foreman raises his eyebrows, and Cameron forces herself to keep her tirade to barely above a whisper.
"Well, let's see. He's drugged to the gills, he spent half an hour vomiting, his BP is still low, and tomorrow he's going to have the worst headache of his life. Thanks so much for your concern!"
"I'm sorry this happened," Foreman says lamely, holding up his hands as if in surrender. "None of us saw it coming."
"Well, you should have!" Cameron accuses, though the little voice of rationality in the back of her mind is screaming that she's being ridiculous. "I told you to keep him out of trouble! He almost died because of you!"
"Cameron!" Foreman interrupts, voice rising. "He did not almost die. We gave him the epi immediately. He was out for all of thirty seconds!"
Seething, Cameron closes the distance between them until she can smell the alcohol on his breath. "Do not minimize this. The fact that he got lucky does not change the seriousness of what happened. Don't you dare try to tell me that—"
"Allison," Chase interrupts from the bed, and she whirls around to find him looking blearily at her. He is still flushed, face lined with pain, and she wonders suddenly how much of this exchange he's overheard. "Please stop. Foreman's right, it's not going to help being angry about it now. Just—let me sleep."
The words hit her like a punch to the gut, and Cameron exhales, suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that she's doing more harm than good. Foreman nods once at both of them, then turns and exits the room in silence. By the time she's composed herself enough to return to his bedside, Chase is fast asleep again.
The night stretches into early morning hours, and Cameron finds herself still unable to sleep, her eyes glued to the monitors which guard Chase's vitals. The room feels uncomfortably full of ghosts, her body weighed down by fear and guilt instead of tiredness. She's spent the past ten years trying to escape the image of a husband on his deathbed, and though the readouts show nothing but pictures of health now, she can't shake the memories it's dredged up.
She's lost track of what time it is when Chase stirs, squeezing her hand just enough to make her jump. Shaking herself to attention, Cameron realizes that he's awake, and looking at her intently, eyes more alert than she's seen all night.
"You okay?" she asks softly, and Chase nods, though his brow remains furrowed.
"Have you been crying?" he asks after a moment, voice painfully hoarse.
"I—" Cameron breaks off and shrugs, the shredded tissue in her lap irrefutable evidence.
Chase sits up with a grunt of effort, studying her intensely, like the shattered fragments of the evening are finally falling into place.
"Allison," he breathes, as though he's managed to read her mind. "Oh, god, I didn't even think about—I'm sorry. Fuck."
Cameron swallows, trying to keep the tremor out of her voice. "You almost died tonight, and you're more worried about upsetting me?"
"I—told you I'd never—and now—"
Cameron nods and bites her lip, the relief at finally having her fears acknowledged instead of brushed aside nearly overwhelming. Taking a shaky breath, she lets it out slowly. "I know—it's stupid. It was a freak accident, and nothing happened, but—"
"Come here," Chase interrupts, moving over and tugging her hand toward the bed.
Cameron hesitates, stalled by too many memories of bedside vigils, of finding closeness under a hospital-issue blanket and wondering if it would be the last time.
"Please?" he asks softly, stroking his thumb over the back of her hand. "I'm fine. I promise."
Steeling herself, Cameron moves over and sits on the bed again, relaxing further when his arms wind around her waist, comfort coming in the firmness of his grasp.
"I am so sorry, love," he breathes against her hair, and Cameron allows herself to lean against him a little as she returns his embrace.
"I'm not angry at you," she admits at last, knowing despite everything that it's the truth. "I'm just—I'm angry that things like this could happen. Do happen. Always might happen. I hate living with that."
"We can't ever know," Chase says gently, and somehow hearing it in his voice is soothing. "Nothing's going to happen tonight. You should get some rest."
"I can't." The words come reflexively, accompanied by a residual wave of anxiety.
"You need to," Chase insists, one hand rubbing little circles against her back. "It's late. And we'll be out of here in a few hours."
"Then I'll sleep when we get home," she insists, though exhaustion is starting to win out over paranoia.
Chase pulls away just enough to meet her eyes, hand cupping her cheek gently. "I'm fine. It's been hours. Nothing is going to happen, and even if it did, there're people here to take care of me. I need you to be okay too."
Hesitating only a second longer, Cameron slips her shoes off and curls up in his arms, careful to avoid the two IV lines.
"Thank you," Chase breathes, breath tickling the back of her neck.
"For what?" Cameron glances at him over her shoulder, confused.
"Being worried about me." He runs his fingers down her arm until they find her hand. "And not killing me for the strippers."
Cameron snorts softly. "Just be glad the wedding isn't tomorrow. Then I would kill you."
Laughing, Chase tightens his arms around her, growing quiet again. A long while later, Cameron falls asleep to the sound of his pulse on the monitor.