Above All, Honor
See part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.
Someone far away screamed her name, an agonized, animal scream of pain. Then nothing.
"We need another line here ... Hang more fluid Son of a bitch! I can't get a blood pressure ... Where the fuck is the O neg... Push the intracardiac epi again... Here we go-- crack her chest ... Anything? ... I've got a rhythm... Shit, still no pulse ... Keep up the compression ... Nothing ... Pump more blood ... Come on, come on Normal sinus rhythm... Oh, man tell them to move it "
Cam had no memory for the trip, or the frantic 40 minutes in the emergency room before she was transported to the operating room. For the first few days, she was kept sedated in the intensive care unit, a tube in her trachea delivering oxygen, larger tubes in her chest removing blood and tissue fluids. A machine breathed for her; she could neither move nor talk. Occasionally some stimulus would penetrate her consciousness, and she would register some small sensation - sound, a light, someone touching her. Always, there would be a soft voice, murmuring words of consolation that had no meaning, but were strangely soothing. Pain was a distant thunder, rolling slowly through the landscape of her awareness, ever present.
"I know, darling, I know ... Can't you give her something, for god's sake!"
"Cameron, you're going to be all right. Hold on please. I need you to live."
The voice was so familiar, yet the face so elusive. Once, Cam opened her eyes and was certain that the tear-stained face bending near her own was Blair's. But that couldn't be right, could it? The next time she opened her eyes, she was lucid enough to realize it was only a nurse.
Cam listened to snippets of conversation, desperately trying to make sense of what was happening to her. Unfortunately, there were huge gaps in her consciousness, destroying any sense of reality.
A man's voice, "Let me drive you home. You need to get some rest."
"No. Not yet. They said another 24 hours before they were sure..."
"Please, it won't help..." The man again, insistent, but gentle.
"It helps me."
Cam was aware of people touching her. Turning her, covering her, bathing her. The single touch that anchored her the most, however, was a gentle hand that seemed to enclose hers for hours on end. Whenever she could summon the will, Cam squeezed the fingers clasping hers, and the voice would come again, murmuring tender words of love and encouragement in her ear.
"It's all right, love, don't try to talk now."
Cameron lay quietly, eyes closed, taking stock of her situation. Most of the tubes she had been dimly aware of the last few days were gone. The noise level around her had also decreased, and she sensed that she wasn't in the intensive care unit anymore. A hand slowly stroked her hair. She opened her eyes and focused on the woman beside her. She was surprised at how bright the sunlight filtering through the window appeared.
Cameron reached for the fingers softly brushing her cheek. She was amazed, and not a little frightened, at how difficult a task that was. She hoped she didn't looked as weak as she felt. "Hello, mother."
Her memories converged all at once, and panic ripped through her.
"Blair Powell! Is she all right? Was she hurt?"
She actually tried to sit up, and found that she was unable to raise her shoulders more than a fraction of an inch. The pain she had been living with for days suddenly coalesced into a bright hot lance of fire searing through her chest. "Oh oh--," she gasped involuntarily, collapsing against the pillows.
"Lie still, Cameron," her mother admonished firmly. "Ms. Powell is fine. She wasn't injured. In fact, you were the only one--" she hesitated for a moment, steadying her voice. "You were the only one who was shot."
Cam closed her eyes briefly, sapped by the effort to sit up. Despite her fatigue, she felt peaceful and content. Sleep was coming quickly, but she needed to know, "Who is in charge? Who is looking after her?"
"I believe it's a gentleman named Macintosh, or something like that."
Cam nodded faintly, reassured. Mac would not let anything happened to Blair. Secure in that thought, she slept and healed.
Marcea Cassells looked down at her sleeping child. She thought of the other young woman who had spent so many hours beside this bed, holding her daughter's hand, stroking her hair, whispering to her in low loving tones. She knew whatever battles her daughter had been waging, those long dark hours had been made lighter by this woman's presence.
Marcea wondered if either of them understood the depth of their connection, which perhaps could only be appreciated by someone standing outside the circle of their intimacy. She knew her daughter's sense of duty well enough to know that Cameron would not have allowed anything to transpire between them. It was just as clear to her that despite their best intentions, something very significant had.
Marcea walked down the hall to the pay phone, and held the slip of paper in her hand as she punched in the numbers that had been written there for her.
"This is Marcea Cassells," she began when a male voice answered. She was told to wait a moment, and then a woman spoke anxiously into the phone.
"Yes? Is she--"
"She's awake. Weak, but otherwise she seems to be quite all right."
A moment of silence, then a voice that shook slightly. "Thank you so much for calling me."
Marcea hesitated a second, then continued, "She asked about you immediately."
Blair took a sharp breath. God how I wanted to be there when Cameron awoke When it was clear that the Secret Service agent was out of danger, the White House and Secret Service had put unbearable pressure upon her to be sequestered in a safe house until the investigation could be carried out. She hadn't wanted to leave Cam's side, but she could not fight everyone alone. Even Mac had gently told her that Cameron would have wished for her to go. It was when he reminded her that Cameron had nearly died trying to keep her safe, that Blair finally relented. Nevertheless, leaving Cameron had been the hardest thing she had ever done. She felt like she was leaving her heart behind.
"Could you tell her--tell her--I--," Blair halted in confusion. Cameron would never believe her.
"I think you'll have to tell her that yourself, when the time is right," Marcea said gently.
"Yes, of course," Blair said swiftly, her emotions now firmly under control. She thanked Cameron's mother, and hung up the phone. She turned away, knowing that there would never be a time when she could share with Cameron what was in her heart.
"How did she take it?" Mac asked.
Assistant Director Stewart Carlisle studied Mac carefully, wondering how much he could disclose. What he saw was a look of genuine concern and something more, something that looked a lot like sympathy.
"She took it well-- she didn't argue, or put up a fight."
"Uh oh," Mac said hollowly.
"Yeah. Worries me too." Stewart didn't know what to make of the look on Cameron Roberts' face when he informed her that she would not be returning to the security detail assigned to Blair Powell when she had recovered. Her face had been a careful blank, but he thought he saw something dark pass through her eyes.
"Did the doctors say I wouldn't recover fully?" she had asked at length.
Carlisle had looked out the window, searching for words, wishing he had a different answer. He didn't understand it, but it wasn't his call. Cameron Roberts was a hero throughout the agency, and had been publicly commended by the President. She had done, without hesitation, what each of them had secretly asked themselves if they could do. She had been willing to die in the line of duty. They didn't come any better than her. What he had to say didn't make any sense.
"The doctors said youll be fine. Blair Powell requested that you be removed from the position."
Cameron's right hand gripped the covers tightly, but otherwise she lay without moving. "I see," she said in a voice devoid of emotion. She had been hoping What you were hoping doesn't matter anymore. You were wrong.
He had tried to make light of the situation, assuring her that once she had made a full recovery she could have her pick of assignments. Hell, he reminded her, after what you did, you could sit out your days until your pension on a desert island for all anyone would care. She had let him go on, but he knew that she did not hear him. He felt like a fraud, but he did what he had to do. When he left the room, Cameron was staring at some distant point, her face and body so still he could barely see her breathing.
"Yeah, well, she'll be fine. She always is," Carlisle said sadly.
Mac wasn't nearly so sure.
Nine months later, she was fully recovered, and back at work. It was almost as if the last year had never happened. She finished rehab, she completed her mandatory psychiatric counseling, and she sat in front of Stewart Carlisle discussing her newest assignment. She had been reassigned to the investigative division, where her true instincts and abilities lay.
It was deja vu, but everything was different, including her. She was more alone than ever. Once, as she was sorting through her things after being released from the hospital, she came across the note Claire had left that night a lifetime ago.
I have a feeling I won't be hearing from you for a while.
I'll miss you more than you know. If ever you need anything, call me.
Cam had never called.
She brought her attention back to what Carlisle was saying. He briefed her on the counterfeiting/money laundering operation her team would be investigating. She told him she had no problem with any of the agents assigned to her. Her field exposure would be limited, although she was perfectly fit for the duty. When she pointed this out, Stewart made it clear that he did not want her taking any risks.
"Being shot twice in the line of duty is enough for any agent," he commented dryly. "Despite the fact that you're a hero, you'll give us a bad name."
"Heaven forbid," Cam said with a perfectly straight face.
"Well, just keep your ass out of the line of fire," Stewart said roughly. He looked to the papers on his desk, indicating that their obligatory meeting was over. He was surprised when she spoke.
"How is Mac handling the other detail?" she said quietly.
He was almost successful in hiding his surprise. This was the first time she had referred in any way to her previous experiences. He contemplated issues of security for a few seconds, and then thought, What the hell, she deserves an answer.
"No major security breaches, if that's what you mean. He's very circumspect with his reports, but I gather that the subject is still throwing up roadblocks whenever possible." He regarded her intently for moment. "As a matter of fact, I can use a straight briefing about what's going on up there. You're not due to report to this new post for a week or so. How about dropping in on Mac and getting the the real story?"
Cam stiffened, her displeasure clear. "I'm not going to spy on another agent. Mac is perfectly capable, and I'm sure if you speak with him, he'll tell you whatever you need to know."
"I'm not doubting Mac's ability. But I'm no fool either. I know damn well that he is soft-peddling the details of the reports to protect Blair Powell. Remember, the guy who tried to kill her is still out there, and we couldn't keep her secluded forever. She is still in real and imminent danger. Any information can only help us. If you don't want talk to Mac, talk to her."
Cameron stood abruptly. "No way." She turned and strode purposely toward the door.
"Roberts," he said in that soft deadly tone that meant he was completely serious. "Don't make me pull rank. Just find a way to do it that you can live with. Five days. Then I'll expect to hear from you."
She didn't answer. She didn't trust her voice not to tremble.
Continue to Part 9
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