Tell Me How the Story Ends
In retrospect, he should have known it was a bad idea. Ominous clouds follow their car as they drive towards the park. It's further than they'd normally go on an afternoon outing, but this is a special
occasion, or so Cameron says. And when she gets that look on her face, the one that is at once adorable and stern, Chase can't say no, regardless of what he's told House. That's how they ended up with the cat, after all.
"It's going to rain," Chase says absently, thinking that just maybe this will change Cameron's mind, or at least make her decide that they ought to go to a restaurant instead. That would have the advantage of being faster, at least, and with less hard ground and more distractions.
"It's not raining now," Cameron insists, opening her window a crack to let in the grass-scented air as they round the bend and the park entrance comes into view. "And the forecast said not until tonight, if then."
"Oh, good," Chase answers dryly, beginning the search for a parking spot.
Cameron sighs. "Be nice."
Chase pulls into the nearest empty spot, a good five minute walk from the park gate. He puts his hands in the air in surrender. "I'm always nice. I make it a point to be as nice as possible," he says carefully.
Cameron rolls her eyes, with a hint of a smile. "Like you were at Sophie's housewarming? Or her graduation party?"
Chase leans back in his seat, his face falling as the clouds part and it becomes obvious that today, regardless of the company, will be a beautiful day. He turns to Cameron. "Nobody has endless patience and I have a right to defend myself. Besides, she graduated from a medical assistance
course. What person caters a dinner for that?"
"She worked very hard to get where she is!" Cameron protests. "Everyone deserves to be proud of their achievements. And besides, it was an excuse to have a party. Since when do people need a logical reason to be happy?"
Chase shakes his head, cringing inwardly as he recognizes Sophie's car pulling into a space in the row behind them. Soon the real fun will begin, he thinks. "They don't, generally. But when someone is as unrelentingly happy as she is, it gets annoying to the outside world. Like I'm supposed to feel shallow for being fed up with paperwork, or--I don't even know, okay? But it's a pain in the ass."
Cameron puts her hand on his arm and leans over to kiss his cheek. "Just one day, okay? Sophie's really been looking forward to this. And so have I."
He nods. "One day," he murmurs as he takes her hand, still amazed by the feel of his ring against hers. "I'll be good," he promises as he moves her hair off her neck and pulls her closer for a real kiss.
Cameron laughs, her arms going around his neck as much as they can with the seatbelt still on. "Excellent," she whispers as she puts her forehead against his. He wants to be closer, he wants to take this further, but there's the seatbelts and the gearshift and the armrest, and, ah yes, of course, Sophie knocking on the window.
The ground, it seems to Chase, must be absolutely covered in rocks beneath the deceptively feathery green grass. Sophie has brought an obnoxiously fluffy, fuchsia blanket, which looks like she's murdered and skinned at least one children's TV character to make it. Yet, despite multiple rearrangements of it, and repeated protests from the women that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this picnic spot, Chase can't seem to find a decent way to sit without getting jabbed by some unseen piece of debris.
"Chase?" Cameron's voice breaks through his thoughts, and he shakes himself in time to notice both of them staring at him.
"I asked if you wanted any watermelon, Robbie," Sophie chimes in immediately. "But you seemed very far away."
"Oh," he says, scooting over a little to the left only to find another rock under his tailbone. "Not now."
Sophie nods and then proceeds to chatter away about one thing after another without interruption for the next ten minutes. It's all Chase can do to follow the train of conversation, but it keeps getting derailed when Sophie abruptly changes the topic. Somewhere around the third time she mentions the new Twilight movie, Chase focuses elsewhere, to the small, inviting trailhead across the way, beyond the swingset.
"Babe?" Cameron asks, her eyebrows raised expectantly. "Sophie asked if you'd considered the email she forwarded you."
Chase starts to bite his lip but then stops himself, not willing to admit Sophie's emails have been filtered out since the deluge of forwards in the early fall. How did he get on her list anyway? He looks to Sophie. "Remind me."
Sophie brightens, her smile deceptively wide. "About the yoga studio for men my cousin is opening. If you'd be interested in being a partner."
"The--what?" Chase asks, shaking his head again and willing this to be a figment of his imagination. What he would give right now to be at home, having fallen asleep on the couch, or even in the on-call room between surgeries. Anywhere but here, with this incessantly peppy conversation and this mockingly beautiful day. But he can't do that to Cameron; he wants her to have friends, and to do things that make her smile like she has been today.
"Yoga studio," Sophie repeats, wilting just a little.
"Yoga studio?" Chase parrots stupidly, his brain still refusing to compute the idea.
"For men," Sophie says quietly, her lower lip shaking almost imperceptibly. "He's looking for investors and I thought--because of Allison, you might be interested," she says, her eye big. Chase frowns before he can stop himself and Sophie turns to Cameron. "He always does this. He's so self-involved, how can you even stand it? I told you when you got engaged, he's never going to listen."
"He is right here, listening to every word you say! I'm sorry I didn't remember your email, but I have more important things to do than spend money on a men's yoga studio. You don't even like me, so why would you do that to your cousin?" Chase snaps back, pushing himself up and over onto another pile of rocks. Sophie always does this and he always ends up like this, breathing hard and restraining himself from saying something he might not be able to take back. He knows by now that Cameron is angry, furious even, but if he asked, she would side with him.
"You two need to calm down. I'm going for a walk," she says quietly, surprising him. "Work this out."
"Allison!" Chase jumps up, his legs protesting a little after sitting on the ground, a sudden surge of adrenaline going through him. Annoyed as he is, the last thing he wants to do today is fight with her, especially in front of her friend. Regretfully, he thinks that he would rather put up with a week's worth of awkward conversation than have her stalk off in a huff. "Don't go. We haven't even finished lunch yet."
"We'll finish it when I get back," she says quietly, and Chase can't tell how she's feeling. Impassivity is his least favorite reaction from her; it can spell either mundanity or disaster.
"Where're you going?" he insists, taking her hand. "I'm coming with you."
Cameron smirks. "Not unless you're planning to come into the women's restroom with me. You're stuck here."
She's smiling, and that's a good sign, so he reluctantly lets go of her hand and steps backward towards the blanket. "I'll wait for you."
"Don't," Cameron insists, turning back for just a moment. "You're hungry. Eat."
Chase watches her leave before sighing and turning back to a red-faced Sophie. "I don't know what she sees in you," Sophie snots before stuffing her mouth with watermelon.
"I don't either," Chase says softly, moving over to the warm spot where Cameron had been sitting. "Ask myself that everyday."
Sophie eyes him suspiciously. "Is my food not good enough for you? I spent hours preparing it and neither of you have eaten a single bite. It's not poisoned." And the food does look good. Especially the watermelon and pieces of orange.
Chase smiles and swallows his pride. "Thank you. It is a nice day to be out. I'll look through that email when I get home okay? It's just been a really busy week. Lots of surgeries." He's pleased to see Sophie placated and reaches for a slice of watermelon.
The next goes the way it always does. He doesn't realize his mistake until he's too late, sinking his teeth into a bite of the fruit salad, and enjoying the warm sweetness of it in his mouth. The first thing he feels is the tang of orange against his tongue, and when it tingles a little he thinks he must have bitten his lip in his sleep and not realized until now. But the tingling doesn't stop. Instead it spreads, all around his lips until he can barely feel how to chew anymore, panic unfurling in his stomach as he suddenly knows what's coming. His first instinct is to gasp for breath, in anticipation of the coming tightness in his throat. But inevitably it's already there, and the harder he tries to fill his lungs, the more futile the battle seems to become. It takes only seconds for him to be clawing at his throat.
He can hear the desperate gasps, horrible in their uselessness until finally even that starts to slow and everything gets fuzzy. Fuck. Where is Cameron? He wants his wife and he wants to breathe and he wants that annoying pressure on his forehead to go away.
"Oh my god, Robbie! You sound awful. What happened?" Sophie says, her voice sounding like she's underwater. Obviously he can't respond, he can't even move, but he tries to look at her, convey the seriousness of the situation because oh, god, he's going to die if she doesn't move now. "Robert!" she yells again, pushing him down and listening to his breathing or lack thereof.
"Shit," Sophie manages, before looking at him once more, her face obviously conflicted about staying or going to get Cameron. Chase weakly gestures in the direction Cameron left and Sophie, to her credit, takes off in a dead run.
It's getting harder to see and all he can hear now is his heartbeat as it beats too fast, jumping every few seconds as he struggles against unconsciousness.
Cameron doesn't actually go to the bathroom. Instead, she walks around the building, far enough so that if Chase is watching, he'll think she's gone in and not get suspicious. She ought to feel bad about this, she thinks, since she's dragged him out here when she's known all along that he didn't want to come. And now she's abandoned him in a ploy that is admittedly a little bit manipulative. But she's so tired of finally feeling like she has friends outside her immediate colleagues, feeling like she has time and energy and impetus to go out and do things, only to be thwarted by a whining husband.
There's a short bench a little walk away from the building, still out of sight. She knows Chase is tired from work and he doesn't like Sophie. She has her faults, but she's a perfectly nice woman and Chase needs to learn to get along with her, Cameron decides, leaning back and closing her eyes while the sun warms her shoulders.
She stays there, trying to clear her mind of the lingering annoyance and just enjoy this perfect day.
It isn't until she wakes with a start that she realizes she's fallen asleep, lulled by the warm breeze and the sun on her face. It's been an equally exhausting week for her, and sometimes she doesn't even realize how tired she is until it physically catches up to her. Now she finds herself blinking in the too-bright light, and wondering how much time she's lost.
At least, until she realizes what it is that's woken her.
"Allison!" Sophie is running up the path, blonde curls flying wildly around her face, screaming Cameron's name at the top of her lungs. Sitting up, Cameron frowns, wondering blearily why Chase isn't with her.
There's something in Sophie's tone and panicked demeanor that belies the gravity of the situation. Cameron pushes herself up off the bench, still slightly heavy with sleep, and starts towards Sophie. When she's close enough to speak, she asks, "What is it? What's wrong?"
Sophie is out of breath and tugging at Cameron's arm for her to follow. "It's Robert. He--he's not breathing. I think he's having a reaction to something. You have to come. Right now. You have to fix him."
Cameron doesn't wait for Sophie to finish, but runs as fast as she can, reaching the blanket and falling to her knees, rocks cutting into her bare skin that she won't notice until later, after, when there's time. Chase is still conscious through some miracle, but only barely, and his eyes have the wide look of panic she's seen in patients in the ER when they realize that they really are in danger. She puts her hand along his neck, comforted and frightened by the strength and speed of his pulse. It's only a second before she realizes she needs to move, she has to get his epi pen or that fluttering pulse with weaken and still forever.
"Chase, Chase, look at me. Okay? I need the epi. Is it in your pocket?" Cameron asks, not waiting for his indication before reaching into his jean pockets, finding nothing. "Fuck. Where is it? Where is the pen?"
Chase doesn't answer her, can't answer her, and Cameron feels the utter helplessness of their location settle in the pit of her stomach like a cold fist. She grabs his bag and dumps the contents unceremoniously onto the picnic blanket, slapping Sophie's hands away when the other woman tries to help sort through the mess. The pen isn't there. She knows it instantly, but keeps searching in vain for a few seconds before cursing herself for the wasted time.
"Chase! Focus! Where is it?"
But Chase only blinks at her, fading fast, and Cameron isn't sure that he's comprehended her question at all. Pressing her cell phone into Sophie's palm, she scrambles to her feet again. "Call an ambulance. Now." Then she turns, and runs for the car, feeling as though this is her last hope. Even with the ambulance coming, she knows that if the pen is not in the car, Chase will probably die.
The pleasant walk from the car now seems like folly. "Why did we park so far away?" she thinks as she sprints towards their car. A small part of her mind wonders if she has her keys, but the answering voice replies she'll break that window with her bare hands if it means that epi pen is back soon enough for Chase to keep breathing. When she reaches the car, the keys are already in her hand and she doesn't remember taking them out of her pocket.
It takes seconds to get the spare epi pen from the glovebox, but it's seconds she doesn't have; that Chase doesn't have and it's his face she sees when she starts with breakneck speed back down the path, not even closing the car door behind her.
Chase has gone completely still on the blanket when Cameron makes it back. Her lungs are burning, the muscles in her legs on fire for all of her weekly jogging, and she thinks sickly how he must be feeling if it seems that she can't breathe right now. Falling to her knees, Cameron fumbles with the cap on the pen, cursing loudly when her hands shake too hard to get it off.
"Allison!" Sophie yells, grabbing for it, and this time Cameron lets her. Sophie pulls the top off, uncaps the needle and pulls back the plunger with such a quick practiced ease that shocks Cameron. "You do it," she breathes, pushing the pen back into Cameron's hand now that it's ready.
The pen feels too small to do the job when Chase is so still beneath her hand, but she has to try. With all the strength she can muster she holds the pen against his thigh and pushes the plunger, her whole body jumping when the internal trigger snaps. She can't make herself look at his face, his grey, too-still face. It's probably seconds, but feels like hours before she hears a stuttered gasp and cough. It's just too much and she bursts into tears when she looks back and sees him breathing, his eyes fluttering open slowly.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she sees Sophie heading towards the gate to show the paramedics to their blanket. It's all Cameron can do to lean forward, touching Chase's cheek as he gains awareness. "It's all right, babe. You're going to be okay. You're going to be--okay," she manages, through her tears.
Chase's eyes are focused on her and he's trying to talk, but all that comes out is a wispy hiss.
Cameron leans forward and whispers, "What is it, babe? What are you trying to say?"
Chase tries harder, but he's still out of breath, and the amount of energy his efforts are taking make Cameron's heart beat faster again. She knows the paramedics are only seconds away by now, but she shifts on the blanket anyway, guiding his head to her lap and stroking his hair very gently. "It's okay. Whatever it is, it's okay. Don't worry about it right now, just rest."
He nods, giving up trying to talk and resting his head heavily against her thigh. He wraps his hand around her knee, squeezing lightly, and Cameron bites her lip, almost overcome again by the fact that he's trying to reassure her when he's just almost died.
But then Sophie comes running back up to the edge of the blanket, eyes wide and voice loud as ever. The paramedics are with her, and Cameron is more than willing to let them do their jobs for the moment.
It had been a tense ride in the ambulance, with Chase refusing to let go of Cameron's hand and the thinly veiled resentment of the paramedic in the back when she'd ordered another shot of epi. Cameron hadn't hesitated to play the doctor card though, not when Chase was back to that stuttered, rasping breathing pattern, his eyes wild with panic. It was a long way to the hospital. It had turned out to be the right decision, as Chase's anaphylaxis was worse than she thought it could ever be.
Cameron jumps a little, and looks up to see Sophie regarding her cautiously from the edge of their curtain area. She's almost forgotten about the other woman in her haste to make sure that Chase is all right, and now she feels a stab of guilt, remembering that she wouldn't have been able to get the epi pen to work if Sophie hadn't been there. Still, all she really wants right now is to be alone with Chase, to make sure he gets the best possible care. "What?"
"I--I brought your car. You left the keys in the door. Luckily nobody noticed. It's in the garage now."
"Oh." Cameron nods absently. Then suddenly another thought occurs to her, and her guilt is replaced by a wave of sudden anger. "What were you thinking bringing strawberries? You know he's allergic. I know I've told you before!" Chase stirs ever so slightly in his sleep, and Cameron feels bad for yelling, if only for his sake.
"I didn't!" Sophie protests in a harsh whisper. "I know better than that! It must have been something else. Maybe he's developing other allergies."
It's entirely plausible, Cameron knows, but that thought is too scary to fully consider right now. If that's the case, there's no way she'll be able to keep him entirely safe.
Sophie approaches the foot of the bed. "I'm sorry. You left and he wouldn't eat anything so I asked why and he got angry and took a slice of watermelon. When he--started struggling, I thought at first that he might have been making fun of me," Sophie says quietly, hiding behind her hair, like she's afraid of what she's saying. "But then he couldn't breathe. I didn't know what to do."
Cameron sighs, almost too exhausted by this point to think about comforting Sophie. "You did the right thing," she manages, trying not to remember the panic on Sophie's face. "Did you--I know you didn't bring any strawberries, but was there anything in your kitchen that might have gotten on the watermelon?"
Sophie is quiet for a few moments and Cameron looks up to watch Sophie's face as she contemplates Cameron's question. It's one of the qualities that amuses Cameron under normal circumstances, how absentminded and free-spirited her friend can be, but now she sees how Chase can be so frustrated and annoyed.
"Oh. I did have strawberries for breakfast. And I used the same knife and cutting board. But that can't be it, can it? I mean, it was just a tiny amount," Sophie manages.
Cameron closes her eyes and sighs again. "A tiny amount is enough. He can't--it only takes a trace to set off a reaction. Just—be more careful. More responsible."
Sophie nods and steps away from the bed. "I'm sorry. I really am. And you know, he's not such a bad guy. You're lucky. Call me if you need anything," she says before she turns and sweeps out of the room.
Cameron sighs, turning back to take Chase's hand as soon as Sophie is out of sight, and jumping a little when she notices that he's awake and looking at her.
"When did you wake up?" she asks, surprised, and Chase shrugs, swallowing visibly. Letting go of his hand for a moment, Cameron pours a cup of water from the pitcher the nurse has left on the bedside table, and moves over to the edge of the bed to help him hold it. Chase takes a small, careful sip, his hands still shaking badly.
"Few minutes ago," he manages finally. "Your friend is an idiot."
Cameron sighs, having a hard time not vehemently agreeing with him at the moment. Still, that doesn't seem entirely fair. "Sometimes. I guess."
It's quiet then except for the steady beep of the heart monitor and the light rustling of sheets as Chase tries to find a comfortable position. It's almost painful to watch him, Cameron thinks, as he pulls against the sheets and tries to sit up. She finds the remote for the bed and raises the back.
"Thanks," he says. Though he's lucky enough not to have the hives that some people get, his face is still flushed which is strange considering how pale the rest of his body is.
"How are you feeling?" Cameron asks quietly, though she knows the answer already. She has the irrational need to keep him talking, like if he can continue to have a conversation with her, that alone will ensure that he's all right. Really he probably ought to be resting, she knows, but tells herself that it won't do any harm.
"Like shit," Chase mumbles, twisting the top of the sheet in his hands. He's sweating, Cameron notices, and his forehead is hot beneath her palm when she brushes damp hair off of it.
"Do you want some more water?" She doesn't wait for his answer before pouring him another glass. "It feels like you might have a fever."
He pushes her hand away. "No. No water," he manages, curling away from her, his hand on his stomach. Cameron puts down the cup on the side table and moves to the other side of the bed, bending down a little so she can see his face. He's fighting against something, she can tell, his eyes closed and jaw clenched. She's just about to ask him what it is, what she can do when his eyes fly open and he loses the flush of color in his face. Chase pushes himself up and hangs over the side of the bed, emptying his stomach on the floor in a horrible rush.
"Oh," Cameron says, moving out of the way and looking around the room for a basin. She finds one quickly, grabbing it off a supply cart, and waving over one of the housekeeping staff to clean up the floor. Mentally, she kicks herself for not remembering this part--she ought to know better, being both his wife and an immunologist. But everything still seems to be happening to quickly, and she can't seem to get her brain to keep up.
When she gets back to the curtain area, Chase is curled on his side again, head in his hands, and she can't quite tell whether he's crying. Without hesitation, she sits on the edge of his bed and lays her palm flat against his back, keeping the basin in her lap for the moment.
He flinches ever so slightly at her touch. "I'm sorry," he mumbles, the words muffled into his hands. "I'm so sorry."
She shouldn't be angry still, not when he's like this, but she is. Anger is for later though, Cameron tells herself. "Ssh, it's okay. Just part of the reaction. You'll feel better soon." Chase uncurls slowly, turning towards her, his face still ghostly white. Cameron touches his cheek and remembers how she thought he would still die after the frenzied run toward the car for the epi pen he said he would always keep with him. "Why didn't you have it, Chase? We talked about this."
Chase flinches, looking away from her again and twisting the sheet in his hands so hard Cameron thinks he might rip it. She feels instantly guilty again, and yet the anger is still there, a war within her between the need to protect her husband from any possible pain, and the knowledge that this is at least partially his fault.
"I just--I didn't think--I forgot," he admits at last, and Cameron tenses again, feeling a fresh wave of panic wash over her.
"You forgot? Does that mean you've been forgetting a lot lately? God, Chase, if this had happened and I wasn't there--"
"But you were there!" he protests, then coughs hoarsely. "I don't usually forget, I just--"
"What?" Cameron snaps.
"I feel safe with you," he says, barely audible. "Like I don't--need to think about that."
There's a small part of her that wants to melt at his words, but the larger part is the one that speaks. "Newsflash, you're not safe. I'm not a magician. If there hadn't been a pen in the car, you'd be dead and I would have had to watch. You can't forget, not even once!" By the time she's finished, her heart is racing and her hands are shaking. How could he possibly be so stupid? Chase can't even look at her and she just wants to take him by the shoulders and make him promise. It's when she notices the slight tension in his face and his hand curled around his stomach again that her anger dissipates slightly. "Are you okay?"
Chase shakes his head, and Cameron hurries to help him sit up, positioning the basin just in time for him to vomit into it. This wave lasts longer than the last, until he's dry heaving, still unable to catch his breath. Anger forgotten for the moment, Cameron rubs his back, making soothing noises against his ear. Finally he manages to relax a little, collapsing back against the pillows, exhausted.
"Fuck," he breathes softly.
When the basin is taken care of, Cameron comes back and crawls up on the bed, taking him in her arms and resting her head on his shoulder. "We can talk about it later, okay? When you're feeling better. You just need to feel better," she whispers, running her fingers through his hair. It's true, this could have been avoided, or mostly avoided if he'd had the pen close enough to stop the reaction earlier, but that's cold comfort when he's suffering so much.
Chase snorts softly, a testament to just how miserable he's feeling. "Yeah? When's that going to happen? 'Cause I'm ready for it anytime now."
Cameron sighs, gently massaging the back of his neck and wishing she had more control of the situation. But the truth is, even if she was allowed to be the doctor in charge of his case, she would not really be able to do much to make him feel better right now. It's hard, but she knows they just need to wait this out. "Soon," she promises, though she's fully aware it might not be true. "They're going to admit you. We should have a private room soon."
Chase exhales slowly, shivering as he turns towards her. "A room? I have to stay?" he asks. Cameron nods, biting her lip.
"You know we can't take the risk," she adds. It's rare, she knows, that the reaction will re-intensify, but she wants to be here, where they can intervene quickly and there's not the breathless panic of this afternoon's incident. "You should try to sleep, babe. Maybe you'll feel better when you wake up."
"Don't know if I can," Chase whines. "You know I hate being here."
Cameron smiles fondly, trying to cheer him up just a little. "You do not hate the ER. You come down here to be with me every free minute you get. How is this so different? You even have a bed. Normally you just steal the empty ones."
Chase pouts. "I want to go home. Why can't we just go home?"
"You know why we can't go home. And it doesn't matter how much you whine, we're not leaving until you're feeling better. Besides, I don't think you want to drive when your stomach is doing loops," Cameron responds.
Chase blanches, his face dropping. "Oh, right. About that. Can't they give me something for that?"
"I'm sorry, babe," Cameron says tenderly. "They're doing all they can." The fight seems to drain out of him. "It's just a little bit longer," she lies, gently rubbing his shoulder. "Is there anything I can
do, to make it easier?"
Chase shakes his head gently, "I'll be okay. Just stay. Stay with me."
Cameron pulls him a little closer and whispers, "Okay. You just try and sleep. Okay, babe? I'll be right here." Chase's eyes are already closing and she continues her motion of her hand on his arm until his breathing finally evens out.
Chase supposes he must have managed to fall asleep after all, because the next thing he knows, he's waking up in a private room. Glancing at the clock on the wall, he sees that it's now well past dinnertime, and Cameron is asleep in the chair next to the bed. She looks exhausted, her face tear-stained and pale even in sleep. He feels instantly ashamed for upsetting her so badly, knowing how easily this could have been prevented.
While his stomach has settled, he's still left with an uneasy sense of how little it would take to push him back into the misery in which he'd fallen asleep. He wants some water and to sit up, but he doesn't want to wake Cameron, since he's given her more than enough to worry about today. She's completely right, of course, about everything. How irresponsible he was, how he could have died, how he would have died and she would have been there to watch it happen.
Trembling, Chase fumbles for the bed controls, unaccustomed to trying to find them on the railing from this side of the bed. He's done this for patients thousands of times, yet it seems an impossibly difficult task now. Feeling along the cold metal, he finds them at last, and manages to raise the head of his bed, but the television remote goes tumbling in the process, swinging from the cord that anchors it to the bed and clattering along the floor noisily.
He holds his breath in the vain hope that maybe it won't wake Cameron up, but sure enough, it's only a few seconds before she's standing at the side of his bed, reaching for his hand. "Sorry," he says quietly, "I didn't mean to wake you up."
Cameron shakes her head. "It's no problem. How are you feeling?"
Chase swallows before answering. "Better. Still sort of--well, a lot weak."
"Yeah?" Cameron sits on the edge of the bed where the siderail isn't blocking her, and puts her hand on his arm. "Can I get you anything? How's your stomach? You've been asleep for a really long time."
"Water," he says, coughing once. "And--I'd really like to brush my teeth, if that's possible. Do I have a toothbrush?" Then a thousand other questions come flooding into his mind, things he's been ignoring while pure physical misery took precedent. "What about the car? Is it okay? Did you eat dinner? You have work tomorrow, right?"
Cameron turns back with a glass of water. "Don't worry about me. I called in. And I'm fine. Do you want anything to eat?"
He takes the water and drinks it slowly, his hands less shaky than before, but still with a slight tremor. "I don't know if food would be a good idea. But if you think I should try, I'll try. Anything you want."
Cameron has crossed the room to get one of the disposable toothbrushes from the bathroom and a basin for him to use for brushing. He gets a little worried when she doesn't immediately turn around. Finally she does, coming back to the bed, her face inscrutable.
"I want you to be prepared. I want you to stay well. I want you to just--not scare the hell out of me," she manages, handing over the toothbrush. "That's what I want. You need to be prepared. Always. I'm glad I make you feel safe. You make me feel safe too. But I want you to stay well."
Chase nods once, then quickly starts brushing his teeth so as not to have to look at her face again. They've had plenty of rough spots in their relationship, plenty of fights and plenty of anger. And yet, the one emotion he still can't take from her is disappointment. That is the ghost that seems to have haunted him all his life. He's been a disappointment to so many people. This marriage feels like a new beginning--finally a chance at the happiness and family he's never been able to have. And yet, even now, he's failed again.
"Chase," Cameron says sharply, and he realizes with a start that she's been talking to him this whole time.
"What?" he asks, toothbrush still in his mouth.
"I said, I got your pajamas from home. Do you want to change?"
"Oh, yes. Thank you," he manages before quickly rinsing out his mouth. Cameron brings over the bag of pajamas and sits on the edge of his bed. She hands him a shirt and then helps him put on the sweatpants. Newly clad in soft familiar clothes, it's easier for him to settle back against the pillows. Cameron isn't so quick to move back to the chair afterward, her movements slow and exhausted and Chase reaches out for her, his fear over her disappointment overtaken by a fresh gratitude for this amazing woman and her place in his life. He lifts the covers and she curls up next to him.
"I shouldn't be doing this, you know," she whispers, her arm circling his waist. "I'm still mad at you."
"Yeah?" Chase puts an arm around her shoulders cautiously, careful to keep the IV lines from getting tangled, and kisses the top of her head. She gives him a look of disapproval, but doesn't say anything, and he senses that the conviction behind her anger is fading rapidly, as his own does after a fight with her. "You can yell at me if you want."
Cameron pouts ever so slightly, looking cute despite the fact that he knows she's trying to stay stern. "Kind of defeats the purpose if you give me permission."
"Just trying to be helpful," he says quietly, feeling comfortable for the first time in hours. When he thinks about what almost happened today, what he almost caused with his lack of preparation, his chest tightens. "I'm really sorry, babe. Really."
Cameron's hand is splayed against his chest, her fingertips drawing small circles against his t-shirt. She slowly lifts her head to look in his eyes. "I know," she says softly.
"I wouldn't--I don't ever want to hurt you like that," he says, reaching up to touch her cheek and winding his fingers into her hair. Cameron looks away again, and he knows instantly what she's thinking--he's convinced her to let him in, to love him after being hurt so badly by loss before. He
owes it to her to try harder, to protect both of them better than he has today. "It won't happen again. I swear."
"Don't promise me that," Cameron whispers, surprising him.
"Why? Isn't that what you want?"
But she shakes her head. "No. I don't--You can't be certain that nothing will ever happen. That's not realistic. I just--I want to know that you'll take steps to protect yourself. All the time. Not just when you remember, or think there's something to worry about."
After a moment, Chase nods. "I can do that, I think," he says and then, risking renewed wrath, he playfully adds, "Some of those belt cases for epi are very fashionable. I was looking at that new catalog the drug rep left last month? One of the cases is purple. And sparkly. And I think there were some with cartoon characters. I could definitely get one of those."
Cameron stares at him for a second, laughing softly before turning serious again. "Those are for children, and you know it."
"What do you want me to do? Say the word. I'll do it," Chase insists, in all seriousness.
"I want you to remember your pen. I want you to think for one minute about how close you came to dying. About how much you scared me. About how that can happen even when you're careful about what you're eating. Because other people aren't," Cameron states carefully, and he knows it's taking a major effort to keep the accusatory tone out of her voice.
"I can do that," Chase says softly. "I can do anything you want. You can even remind me ten times a day, and I promise I won't get annoyed."
Cameron raises her eyebrows, leaning in to kiss his cheek very softly. "Yeah, right. You'd be calling me 'mom' before the end of the first day. But I might take you up on the offer anyway."
Groaning, Chase leans further back in the bed and very carefully shifts to sit behind her, so he can wrap his arms fully around her waist.
Cameron's weight on his chest is a welcome distraction from their current location. She turns toward him, pulling her feet up and over his. "It was a nice park," she whispers. "I was going to ask you to take a walk with me later--before this happened. Maybe we can go back next weekend, if you're feeling better."
"Babe," Chase says reassuringly, knowing that she knows better, and also that it will help to hear the words straight from him. "I'm going to be better by next weekend. I'm going to be better by tomorrow, even. What happened--it was really scary, and I'm sorry for that, but-it's over now. You saved my life."
"Don't think this gets you out of Sophie's Midsummer Night's Dream party," Cameron says playfully. "Although you're excused from eating anything of hers. Ever." She turns over, curling up next to him, her head on his shoulder. "I love you," she says, yawning.
Chase nods again, yawning too. "Love you too," he manages. "But now I think we should sleep."
"Yeah," she whispers and he can tell when she finally lets go, her body relaxed against his. An ominous day, he'd thought before everything happened, but now, the danger past, nothings seems quite that bad.