Disclaimer: Not mine
I see monsters
House and Cameron made it back to the farmhouse just before 9 p.m. It felt much later to Cameron. It felt as though she'd been walking for days. House had been trying to put some sort of elaborate plan together as they'd neared home, muttering something about them walking around the plot so they could come at the house from a different angle, and hadn't she ever seen The Shining? But by the time the house came into view he just wanted to get inside and get warm and Cameron was in full agreement. Once inside Cameron sat down on the sofa while House gathered what he needed to tend to her arm. He'd had the medical kit with him and had managed to put on a clean dressing, but he'd done nothing more. He carefully removed the tourniquet and together they got her out of her jacket. House cut away the sleeve of her sweater and then handed Cameron two pills.
"Take them, now. You know this is going to hurt so stop trying to punish yourself because your plan backfired."
Cameron took the pills from him and swallowed them down with a gulp of Cola. She'd found a tin in her pocket from the store. She tried to hand the rest to House but he wouldn't take it.
"You need the sugar more than I do."
He disappeared outside for a moment. She could feel the wind stealing inside. It was only a moment but it felt like a lifetime. What if Al had been following them? What if he jumped House now? Her heart raced until House was safely inside again with the door locked behind him. He'd gone to collect some snow, which he melted down on their little camping stove. When it had turned to water he soaked a clean bandage in it. He then tipped some of the boiling water into a clean mug and then tipped some salt he'd found in the kitchen into that.
House's movements were stiff and slow. His stomach had been growling hungrily for hours. Cameron felt awful - for making him walk through the snow and for failing. She'd been so close. They would have had enough to see them through until the snow had cleared. Then they'd have been able to take the truck and move on. Now they'd probably need to go on foot before the snow had melted. And after the trek they'd just endured, she doubted House's leg would be able to take it.
House stuck the little torch in his mouth and had a good look at the wound. He lifted her arm carefully to see if the knife had gone all the way through. It hadn't. He handed her the torch.
"Too deep to suture, safer to leave it open. You're going to have to hold that for me."
She shone the light on her arm and they waited for the salt water to cool. When it had, House retrieved some disposable gloves from the medical kit and rubbed some scotch between his palms and over each hand, sterilising them the best he could. He then took hold of Cameron's arm and tipped his homemade saline right into the wound.
Cameron tensed and jerked her arm back a little.
"Keep still," House complained.
She closed her eyes and muttered a few quick expletives under her breath. The torch in her good hand faltered, and House lost his light. Water spilled over the sides of her arm and onto the wood floor. He dodged back a little to avoid getting wet, trying not to drop her arm in the process. House sighed and then slipped the light from her hand and jammed it back into his mouth. "Bon't be a baby iffs ot dat bad," House mumbled around the torch.
"Your bedside manner is a constant marvel," Cameron muttered.
House dried the wound with a wad of clean bandage and then, still holding Cameron's arm, rooted through their medical supplies with his free hand until he felt the small tube of Neosporin that he knew was in there. Cameron had picked it up back at the teaching hospital and they'd had it ever since. That had been a good call.
He smeared it carefully into and around the wound and then secured a light dressing around it.
"I told you we'd need more than Vicodin," she said when he was done. But she was glad they had some of that too. Her arm felt numb now.
- - -
With Cameron's arm bandaged, House did his best to secure the main doors to the farmhouse. He nailed planks over the front and then did the same with the back door. He wedged a chair under the handle of the door that lead to the basement.
"Are you going to start listening to me now?" he called out to Cameron.
"I'm sorry." She called back.
"I'll bet you are," he said to himself, two nails sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he made the front door a little more secure.
They'd taken to using the downstairs spare room as their bedroom. Cameron was in bed trying to get warm. He was exhausted, cold and hungry, but sleep, heat and food were a distant hope for him. Someone had to take the first nightshift and keep watch. He'd have made Cameron do it but she was as high as a kite now, and would probably just fall asleep. She needed to sleep some of her buzz off first.
"Where the hell did that guy come from, anyway?" House called out to her. The door would hold for now. He'd have to take the planks off and come up with a better plan in the morning.
"I never saw him in town," she mumbled, her words slurring and dipping out of his range. "He just came out of nowhere. I'd collected all this food. I had to hit him with it; such a waste."
House tuned out and finished his job. She was making little sense now.
When he was done nailing up boards, he went into the bedroom and pulled on an extra sweater. He removed his boots and jeans and stood shivering in his underwear as he changed into some dry clothing. Once he'd done that he shoved the small leather sofa up to the corner window and turned it so he could sit and watch the woodland and the road in relative comfort. He placed his loaded rifle against the wall by the window and sat down. Cameron came over to him with two blankets wrapped around her. He stole one of the blankets and she curled up beside him on the sofa, placing her head in his lap.
He wondered where all his anger had gone? He'd been so mad at her before, but now, as he looked down at her, stoned and sleepy, he realised she'd been right to do what she'd done. Someone had needed to do something.
"Thank you for coming after me," Cameron mumbled.
"I'm not doing it again. Next time you're on your own."
"There won't be a next time. I promise."
For a long time there was nothing but silence, wind, and the barely audible sound of Cameron's breathing. Occasionally the farmhouse would cough up a creak or a bump, but nothing House hadn't heard every night since they'd been there. Nothing that suggested they might have an intruder with an axe and a vendetta. At around 2a.m, Cameron sat up on the sofa, yawning and pulling her blanket around her shoulders.
"I can't sleep."
"Try the bed then," House said, still scanning the woodland that took over where the wasted farmland ended.
"I can't sleep because I can't stop thinking, not because I'm uncomfortable."
"You want more drugs?" House said. "They'll cost you. I'm into my emergency, emergency stash now."
"No, House." She shifted back a little and settled on the other side of the sofa. House regarded her. "I know you can see Wilson."
House glanced back out at the road. He'd been thinking about this too. He shrugged. "I know you can see Chase. Don't tell me you're a 'Believer' now?"
"No. It's just, in the forest today when I saw him, it was right before Al appeared and Chase warned me; he told me something I couldn't have known."
"He told me that Al had a knife, and he did. That's a very specific detail. How could I have known that?"
"Something you saw in town tipped you off." House dismissed her and then turned back to the window, twitching the curtains and scanning the endless white for any sign of life. "Wait, how did you know his name was Al?" He frowned.
"He introduced himself before he tried to stab me. Courteous, I know. There was nothing in town to tip me off about the knife. I collected some food, and then I went to the book store and the clinic – that's it."
House looked at her expectantly. "You got drugs?"
"I did," she said sheepishly, "but I lost them along with everything else."
He rolled his eyes and went back to his surveillance. "You must have sensed something when you got to Gorham? Felt like someone was watching you while you were there? Or a noise?"
"No, I -" she thought about it for a second, "-well, there was a moment, yes. I got a very fleeting sense of something. But anyone would have felt like that alone in a ghost town. I didn't see anything specific."
"There's a gun store. You didn't go in there, notice something was missing?"
House thought about it for a moment. "But you went into the grocery store?"
"Yes, but they don't sell knives at the store. Not the kind Al had."
House smiled. He had it. "No, but when we went there months ago, there was a stack of camping gear behind the counter, do you remember?"
Cameron thought back. So much had happened since then. She hadn't exactly burned the moment they gathered tins at the store into her memory. She shook her head. "Not really?"
"You do. You just don't remember you do clearly enough, which is exactly why you remembered it today, in the form of Chase doing a Patrick Swayze impression." House frowned. "Does that make me Whoopi Goldberg?"
"No, it makes you the evil guy who gets killed by a window at the end. Anyway, confusing digression much?"
House pulled a false 'worried' face. "Is the fake Chase in your brain mad at you for having sex with me?"
Cameron rolled her eyes and House grinned but returned his attention to overseeing the security of their rickety stronghold.
"Think about it. There was a hunting knife on the top of that camping gear. I remember it. I remember thinking the folks who'd owned the store had been planning to leave before the virus had hit, but it had obviously got them anyway. I also remember I chose not to take it because we have a better one. You saw it too, or at least you glanced at it, but it wasn't until you noticed that the knife was gone on a subconscious level today that it meant anything to you."
"Dr. House, Mr. Armstrong would like his stretch back," Cameron said.
"Of course it's a stretch! It's exactly that." House got up. She shuffled over on the sofa and peered out of the window he'd been guarding for the last few hours. House began to pace the room.
"That's what these hallucinations - or whatever they are - do. They're like a product of our instincts, or something." He grinned at her.
"Or products of grief," she said. "Which is much more likely, Al has been seeing things too. He mentioned something about me being the only 'real' person he'd seen in months. He lost his family to the virus and he's been on his own for months. Grief is all he's got."
House paced back across the room, his hand carefully kneading the knot of tension in his thigh.
"No, he has the same thing we have - the virus. It's got to be. We can't all be having the same grief experience. Is it so hard to believe that something that wiped out humanity in a few weeks didn't change something in the people it left behind?"
"We didn't catch the virus. Where am I supposed to be looking?"
"The road and the line of woodland to the north; if he's coming, he'll surface there; it's too cold for him to go around the whole property."
House stopped pacing for a moment and pointed at something only he could see. "And we did catch the virus, Cameron. We must have, we just didn't become symptomatic. It doesn't mean we didn't get it. I had a natural resistance. You took something that managed to fight it off. Our bodies fought off the virus at different rates, which would explain why you're only just seeing things now, and I've been seeing them for months."
"I don't see how that would affect a shared symptom?"
"Artillery; my resistance was old school, natural. It wasn't as complex as yours. My body fought World War One, all trenches and mud, but you had World War Two and some cool new shit, spitfires and M10 Wolverines."
Hearing House chatter in metaphors and riddles was something she'd missed. She'd longed for this energy and excitement to return. House on this level was creative and useful.
"You mean you took more damage?"
"No, I took different damage," he frowned. "Have you completely lost the ability to work out a simple metaphor?"
"Forgive me, after spending the day fraught, cold, injured and terrified it takes me a little longer to decipher 'House' speak."
"I'll forgive you this once."
"You're just happy because this means you're not crazy."
He shrugged. "Is that a bad thing?"
She shook her head. "No, it's not."
"The interesting question is, if we see loved ones and people we miss, what or who does Al see?"
"Does it matter?"
"Not particularly, but I think it's interesting."
"You would, but it's not interesting it's typical. He sees what he's always seen, he's a psychopath."
"But he knows what he has seen isn't real. A psychopath wouldn't know the difference. Ergo, he's not a psychopath."
"Why is that a good thing?"
"It's not, it's merely interesting. But if we do meet him again, we might be able to reason with him. You can't reason with a psychopath."
"Get some sleep. Textbook crazy or a whole new kind of crazy, it doesn't matter to me. Al isn't right in the head."
"No he's not. So don't fall asleep."
House sat down beside her and got comfy on the sofa, taking his turn to use her lap as a pillow. It was warmer here than in bed on his own.
"Do you want to get naked and make a clay pot? I definitely have some Richeous Brothers on my iPod."
"Enough with the Ghost references," Cameron said. "Sleep, or be shot, your choice."
House fell asleep with ease. He was content; he had a puzzle.