NOTE: Sorry for the long update interval on this one. Unfortunately, I'm now in the midst of moving out of state, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to update again. If you don't already follow me on Twitter, that's the best way to keep up on what's going on with me/fic updates. Thanks for understanding!
February 15, 2013
Grady Memorial Hospital
Chase's sudden outburst seems to make time stand still, as though the unexpected sound of his voice has somehow highlighted the relative silence which follows. Cameron stands stunned; she has not considered that he might be conscious now, witnessing her confrontation with Foreman. She feels sickened, like a guilty child caught in the midst of her worst behavior.
She feels blindsided by the raw anger conveyed by two simple words, unbridled disgust she has never before experienced from Chase. Always before he has been understated in his negative emotions, choosing to withdraw rather than explode. But now his hurt has been unveiled by the honesty of injury. After a moment, Foreman seems to snap into action, grabbing her arm and steering her toward the door. Cameron allows herself to be directed, still too shocked to protest.
But the moment they step into the hall, she feels as though she has found clarity again, hurt turning aboutface. Suddenly she feels betrayed beyond a doubt by Foreman; he is unquestionably correct in his criticism of her weaknesses, but there is absolutely no excuse for having shared this with Chase, upsetting him beyond the misery already inflicted by his injuries. And she is certain now that Foreman must have given a report of her failure, her flight first from his bedside and later the hospital itself. She can find no other explanation for Chase's sudden venom toward her when he has so clearly been unaware of the events leading up to this moment.
"You told him," she spits at Foreman, her voice low and hot with threats. The hallway outside of the ICU is lined with thin plastic chairs, and some of those chairs are occupied by family members who appear to be equally brittle.
"Told him what?" asks Foreman, not backing down. He has not so much as glanced at their surroundings, seeming entirely unfazed at having this argument in the midst of so many strangers' tragedies. He is completely unaware of this irony, though Cameron is painfully aware that while he will go to untold lengths to protect a friend, he remains oblivious to his impact on the others around him.
"You told him I left," Cameron insists. "I'm not actually an idiot, Eric. Contrary to what you might believe right now."
Foreman frowns, his expression deepening into something she cannot quite read. "Why the hell would I do that? Contrary to what you might believe right now, I'm here to help. As a friend. I'm not playing games."
"Come off it," she presses, taking a step closer to Foreman and attempting once more to lower her voice. "I saw the way he looked at me. The way he talked. The only way he'd be that upset at me is if he knew—And how could he know if you didn't tell him? He was unconscious in the ER that night. He was barely even breathing on his own! Admit it, Eric. Your opinion of me has been lower than dirt for the past two days. You said it yourself. You think that Chase needs to be protected from me. So that's what you did. You told him all the bad things I did, and now he wants nothing to do with me. Which is exactly what you wanted. Congratulations." Cameron takes a shaky breath, trying desperately to bite back the bitter tears threatening to spill over and ruin every last shred of her composure now. She is aware that she sounds like a petulant child, but cannot muster the restraint.
Foreman takes a breath as well, then reaches out slowly and lays a hand on her arm once more, as much to keep her here as to comfort her. "Allison. I didn't tell him anything about you. I had just gotten there when you came in. Whatever he's upset about, it has nothing to do with me. So maybe you should be asking yourself what happened before the accident."
Cameron blinks, taken aback. She has expected a confession from him, and yet now she cannot doubt his sincerity. Foreman has been many things to her in the time that she has known him, but he has never been an outright liar. Suddenly she thinks again of her fear at the airport, her inability to simply be happy for Chase's presence here. Her doubt of his intentions in moving. She had practically interrogated him when he'd deserved her deepest gratitude. And now, she remembers for what seems the hundredth time already, he may yet be injured beyond recovery, beyond comprehension. Trapped with her coldness as his last real memory.
"Fuck," breathes Cameron, and bites her lip until she tastes the metallic tang of blood. For the first time, she feels ready to truly face the selfishness of her actions over the past several days, to really accept her failures where before she has only lamented them from a safe distance.
Foreman says nothing, offers her no distraction, no excuse. He simply stands, silent at last, allowing her to be alone with her actions.
"I think I should go," she says at last, unable to find any other response in the face of the choices she has made, so very clearly unforgivable.
At this Foreman tenses again, clearly inflamed once more by her conclusion. "Allison. If you honestly think that's what anyone wants, then you've missed the point entirely."
Cameron flinches; it feels like one more blow when she already seems helpless to make any of the right decisions. "Chase deserves better than what I can give him. You're the one who said that. You were right."
"Yes, I did!" Foreman throws up his hands in exasperation. "He deserves better than what you've been giving him. You see that now. But that doesn't mean that you just keep running away! Making the same mistake over and over again is never going to lead to the right decision!"
"Then what are you trying to say?" Cameron demands at last; she feels raw, stripped bare of any last defenses. "You're obviously trying to prove a point. I'm trying to listen. If this isn't just about making me feel awful, then what is it you think I should do?"
"Do better," says Foreman, firmly. "They're going to start with the thrombolytics soon. Go back in there, and be with him. Really be there. Don't treat him like he's already dead."
"And what if I can't do that?" asks Cameron, biting her lip in the place where it is already bruised. She knows better than to trust herself in this moment.
"I don't accept that," Foreman insists. "And neither does Chase."
"And how would you know?"
Foreman crosses his arms. "Because you're the woman I trusted with my life when I was dying. Because you came through for me then, even when you had no reason to. And now you're going to do it for Chase."
Cameron finds herself shocked once more into silence, thrown back all those years to watching Foreman suffer behind glass walls. She'd felt weak then, but in an entirely different way: helplessly deferent to those around her, to the ghosts of her past, to the injustice of disease. But she had managed to surmount those obstacles that day, she realizes. Now, she is running from her own impending failure, a predetermined fate so long as she continues to give it ownership over her actions.
Taking a breath, she nods once. "What are you going to do?"
"I am going to find a hotel," says Foreman. "Call me if anything changes." The look in his eyes says that there will not be another chance should she fail once more.
Chase is vaguely conscious of the white-coated doctor standing over him, though this is a man he has never seen before. Since Foreman's leaving, he has fallen back into a state of semi-awareness, feeling untethered from his physical existence once more. He cannot say how much time has passed, but surmises from the earlier argument that this must be their attempt at giving him thrombolytics, the last hope of breaking up the clot in his brain and restoring some life to the injured area.
The sensation of the IV needle sliding into the back of his right hand is a shock. It begins as a prickle, scarcely stronger than an itch, then blossoms into a sharp burning sensation which emerges from the dull ache which has seemed to envelope his entire existence in the time since the accident. This pain is an oddly specific reminder, indisputable proof that this inert limb is still a part of his body, still alive, though it feels so wholly removed from the rest of him. He remembers Foreman's mention of right-sided paralysis, and wonders if this is what the rest of his life will be like, complete unawareness which might as well leave half of his body stripped away.
The sting of the drug beginning to infuse brings another realization as he recalls Cameron's fears about this procedure. He could develop a bleed in his brain, or another in his abdomen, he remembers now. This odd little fountain of fire spilling into his veins could spell his death. The thought brings a strange rush of emotion with it; it seems almost absurd that he could still have anything left to lose after this period of complete disembodiment.
The doctor double-checks the IV, then says a few words which Chase cannot make out, and leaves. It is only then that he becomes aware of Cameron standing at the side of the bed as well, near the chair which Foreman has vacated. Her presence here seems to upset the balance of his world once more, every bit as painful as the IV needle. He still cannot decide whether to be furious with her for leaving so many times before, or terribly relieved at her presence here now.
"Hi," she says softly, a little hesitantly, taking a seat and resting her elbows on the edge of the bed as she leans forward. "Foreman was right. I—should have been here a lot sooner. I'm sorry."
Chase does not attempt to answer, though he hears her voice clearly. As he struggles to listen, a peculiar sensation begins, a deep chill settling in the bones of his feet, as though slowly highlighting the existence of each tiny, individual joint. For a moment, he thinks it must be a fleeting trick of his injured body, but the feeling does not stop, instead spreading up his ankle and beyond. It feels as though he is falling back into his own skin, slowly beginning to truly inhabit it once more, though he is still uncertain whether he can control it at all. This must be the drug taking effect, he realizes.
"I was just—scared, I guess," Cameron continues, oblivious to the transformation that is slowly taking place within him. "I was afraid that you might—Or that you were already too far away to understand me. I shouldn't have assumed."
As the odd, bright chill reaches the top of his scalp, Chase feels filled with life, almost overwhelmed by it. He becomes aware of the thin blanket which covers his body, the rough sheet beneath him, the many tubes and wires which have been sustaining him. Suddenly he cannot stand to be so helpless, so utterly out of control. His legs still feel too heavy to move, so taking a breath, he attempts to curl his fingers into a fist. He begins with his right hand, and finds himself unable to accomplish anything. It is as though his arm is no longer connected to his body, though he can still feel the IV burning in the back of it. But the need to do something is far too strong to be outweighed by this failure. His left hand moves with surprising ease, and he finds himself holding a handful of the blanket before he has fully had time to register what is happening.
Cameron catches her breath audibly, bringing his attention back to her presence at the bedside; he turns toward her for the first time almost without a thought, instinct once more beginning to take hold. Only now does he notice the bruising which darkens the side of her jaw, the sharp line of tiny stitches just above her temple. Somehow, in his anger, it has not occurred to him that she might be suffering as well, that her absence might be due to more than fear and selfishness. Of course this only makes sense, knowing that she was in the car beside him, remembering suddenly that she had been in a hospital gown the first time she had come to him before surgery. He feels sickened by an unexpected rush of emotion, still angry with her for a decade of turbulence, of turning his life upside down. But looking at her now, shaken and vulnerable, obviously injured, he knows that he can never express these feelings to her. His need for her now overwhelms his sense of betrayal, though it does nothing to dampen the fear that she will find herself once more unable to stay.
"Allison," he whispers after a moment, surprised to feel the scrape of speech against the dryness of his throat. Speaking is still difficult; it feels as though a storm of words is whirling just on the edge of his reach. It is an effort to catch one and force it to succumb to his influence. But it is possible now, where before it has not been except under the pressure of anger.
"Hey," Cameron breathes, tears spilling over onto her cheeks. "Are you—Okay?"
"Yeah," Chase whispers, with effort. "I think—I was gone for a while. But I'm here now."
Cameron takes his hand in both of hers, leaning over to lightly rest her forehead against his. The heat of her tears is a shock, another reminder that he is alive within this body.