|After the Deluge
Author: Hikaru8 PM
After a near fatal sailing accident, Suellen Wilson is forced to confront her estranged father and herself with a little help from Doctor House if she is to save the both of them.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - J. Wilson - Chapters: 11 - Words: 81,056 - Reviews: 30 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 14 - Updated: 02-18-07 - Published: 04-19-06 - id: 2900745
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The potent liquid shot down House's throat hitting his stomach with power as he finished his third scotch for the late evening, or technically the early morning. He made a small smack of satisfaction with his lips and squeezed his eyes shut to steady the swirling kitchen before his eyes.
In the kitchen lit only by the faint glow of the overhead stove light House and Wilson sat on opposite ends of the kitchen table with a near empty bottle of scotch between them. House sat straight and confidently enjoying their little inebriating cahoots with his right foot perched on a spare chair to alleviate the strain on his leg. Wilson meanwhile was the image of devastation slumped over the table holding his head in his hands ignoring the watery glass of scotch in front of him.
The ice in House's glass clinked together as he slammed it down on the table and looked across at his inactive drinking buddy.
"Come on Wilson," he said challengingly to the broken figure. "You're two drinks down and I'm wiping the floor with you. Loser has to wash the glasses."
House's comments failed to provoke Wilson into responding so he tried again. This time speaking in his familiar cantankerous tone.
"Get over it," he said gruffly and poured himself a considerably large fourth glass. "You didn't know the kid. None of it has any relevance to you. What you saw means nothing."
Wilson lifted his face to glare at the empathically immune cripple leaving tracks in his hair where his fingers had been.
"You have to know someone to feel pathos?" he asked flatly. "Were you watching the same video I was? Did we not see the same thing?"
"I saw Suellen slice her hands open on a chain," House said in a matter of fact tone lifting his glass to his lips. "You might want to talk to a plastic surgeon about those scars but I doubt there can be much done. Palms are a tricky area to work on, lots of strain."
Wilson scrunched his face up and waved his arms to overemphasise his frustration and complete lack of belief in what House was saying. For over an hour now he'd been attempting to digest the horrors of the Albatross' final moments and House's flippant attitude was like a clown on a battlefield.
Absurd and desecrating.
"That boy died!" Wilson bellowed out releasing all of the repressed wrath that had been building in his chest. "That doesn't bother you?"
House tilted his head to the side then with a complacent expression lifted his finger off of his cold glass and pointed it at Wilson.
"He drowned which I won't deny is very sad," he began, "but people die Wilson, it's a fact of life. We of all people should know that. I know you know that because if you didn't accept it you wouldn't be the brilliant oncologist that you are. But the death of that boy, Grant, is not our problem and it's not what's really bothering you. Beguiling yourself with his death to spare yourself the difficulty of sorting out your own mess only cheapens his end. "
"What are you getting at?" Wilson asked suspiciously taking care not to openly recognise House's compliment. House didn't enjoy being thanked so Wilson just took it gratefully and proceeded straight to the attack.
"You're thinking about what a bad Daddy you've been," House said and finished his glass in one motion of the arm.
"I am not!" Wilson spluttered and straightened in his chair. "Why do say that? My only thoughts are for Grant's family and Suellen. I can't believe she's been sitting on this for so long she must be…"
"There you go," House cut in with glee. "You're punishing yourself for not helping Suellen more. For not being the kind of parent she can discuss this with." Then after pulling a comical face, "Gee between you and Martha Suellen could create her own branch of psychology."
"You're wrong," Wilson tapped his index finger on the tabletop impatiently. "My concern is for Suellen. There is no way that she can be taking this as well as she claims to be. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome can be very dangerous if it is not properly treated. If she keeps going like this she'll wind up in real trouble!"
"And you the only reason you know that is because some shabby punk kid knows your daughter better than you do!" House said loudly. His tone wasn't dangerous or angry just thunderous in octave to cement his point.
Wilson held strong eye contact with House for a few seconds but broke it off when he couldn't support his rebuttal against House's argument. House was right.
Once more he'd been shown inside Suellen's word, giving him a chance to understand her but yet again he'd turned the focus around on himself. Instead of thinking about how Suellen felt, he'd been thinking of how her feelings would make him feel. How her actions would affect his, if all of Suellen's difficulties were ones he'd created, and whether they'd be difficult for him to resolve.
"Ok," Wilson said with a flick of his fingers after the fallout of House's words had settled and reverted to sarcasm to support himself. "I'm a lousy Dad, Suellen should hate me, Dean's a wisdom guru and I don't know didly about schooners. Is that all?"
"I believe the expression was 'Deadbeat Dad'," House responded with one of his regular rudely irrelevant remarks. "Just quoting here."
Wilson made a small untruthful smile to convey his antipathy and looked around the kitchen for any sign of assistance or useful distraction. Finding nothing he returned to his present worries and felt the yoke of onus on his shoulders again. With old weights lifted new ones had been heaped on him to hold him down. Only this time he didn't know if he'd be able to cast them off easily. To do so would involve both him and Suellen together with a lot of courage on his part.
"It's not all bad though."
That got Wilson's attention. House being optimistic was so uncommon it was almost unbelievable. What was next, voluntary clinic duty?
"Admittedly the camera angles were worse than a Tarantino," House said slowly, weaving his story along gradually to keep Wilson's interest. "But it did manage to capture her better side."
"Enough with the games," Wilson groaned listlessly.
"She knew she was about to die, but she stayed anyway. It didn't matter what her friend said to her, she was willing to give up her own life to save the boy's. I can't help wondering that if I were in that situation would I do the same thing? Probably not. Would you Wilson?"
"I'm fine Mum," Suellen said tightly and concentrated hard on staying perpendicular.
The recovering Suellen had recently left the slower block where she'd independently washed the sweaty shine from her skin with hypoallergenic soap and had removed the dirt build-up out of her pores. Her blonde hair was still damp despite Martha's rigorous efforts to towel dry it that had pushed Suellen's spine in several different directions before she'd plead for mercy.
Now with Martha standing behind set to catch her in case her legs gave out, Suellen steady made her way back to her room in her loose jeans and hospital gown. Above her head the bag of chloroquine swung back and forth as she rolled the IV stand in front using the metal pole for support like a Wizard's staff.
Doctor Cameron was checking a report at the nurse's station when she saw the two blondes cautiously shuffling towards the ICU. Closing the folder with a quick flick she passed it to the attending nurse and gave her thanks before she went to meet her patient.
"Hey good morning," she said with a benevolent smile as she entered the room right as Suellen was lowering herself onto the bed.
Cameron pulled her stethoscope out from under her coat collar then placed the round hearing pieces in her ears and approached Suellen who pulled her shirt down after pushing aside the mother's hand who'd tried to do that for her.
"Morning," Suellen said and returned Cameron's smile. Her smile wasn't nearly as luminous or as stunning and her voice was still weary from the overburdensome infection and taxing tests but there was a clear note of comfort and verve that had been missing in recent times.
"I see you're feeling better already," Cameron noted the wet hair and change of apparel. "Not bad considering we only started the chloroquine yesterday. If you keep this up we might be able to move you out of the ICU this afternoon."
"I can have more visitors then can't I?" Suellen peeked through the hair on her face to catch eye contact with Cameron as she listened to lungs from the back.
"Sure," she said looping her stethoscope back around her neck and stood up to check the medication dosage.
"How much longer until she can be released?" Martha asked and Cameron was disappointed to hear that her tone had changed back to its original demanding ring. "We go to Boston in a little over three weeks and I have to know if she'll be right to fly."
Suellen stopped the sigh she was about to breathe so the two women wouldn't inquire about her thoughts and instead let the air exit through a heavy exhale. Her face did jerk slightly with some dismay but the expression was too fleeting for either of the women to catch.
"We'll have to monitor her condition for a few more days then she'll need to take prescribed medicine with plenty of rest in the coming weeks," Cameron told Martha in her best understanding voice and kept the medical details to a minimum. "But there shouldn't be a problem."
"And will the rest of my children need to take anything to prevent the malaria from spreading to them?"
"Mum!" Suellen indignantly cried with an expression to match. She didn't particularly appreciate being sketched out as some class of contagious leper or compared to a virulent pandemic.
"Malaria's not passed between humans, she's not contagious."
Cameron had opened her mouth, but the answer was not in her voice. Turning the three of them saw Wilson at door in fresh casual clothes and his hair neatly combed but his physical appearance was only a slight improvement on yesterday's worn and weary man. His eyes were red and saggy from sleep deprivation and his posture effete but it was his fingers that gave his feelings away.
Suellen spied his hand fidgeting from his sport's jacket sleeve and became slightly concerned when she saw his fingers flexing and curling repeatedly. Lately Suellen had become aware of her father's persistent habit as well as what the different movements could mean.
For a second she thought perhaps there was some news about her health, that he'd run another test and that everything was about to get worse. That would have made sense as Cameron wouldn't have told her anything frightening and given her some false hope to blindside her but then she remembered that House would have come himself to force the truth on her had that been the case.
Next she worried that something had happened to Wilson like Julie destroying his possessions or a death in his family but Martha cut in before she could ask.
"You look terrible James," she told him without sympathy. "Maybe you should go home for a while. See Suellen in the afternoon or maybe tomorrow both of us don't need to be here and, why do you stink of booze?"
Martha had changed the end of her speech the instant Wilson came alongside her and caught a whiff of the scent wafting off his breath.
"Does it really matter?" Wilson asked with a pained expression and a lot of exasperation.
Cameron took this as a sign to leave and quickly signed her name and time on the chart before hastily exiting the room. Her enchanting eyes met Suellen's for a moment as she passed the bed and the tiny nod she saw told her she had made the right decision. She wanted to stay and support Suellen out of morality but Suellen seemed to believe that this was an issue for only her and her parents so Cameron left.
"Yes it does matter!" Martha whined in that grating voice of hers. "Your daughter is recovering from near death and you go on a bender with the miserable jerk! What sort of behaviour is that?"
"Perhaps precautionary," Wilson grunted. "To soothe the pain just in case you were here."
Martha's jaw dropped and her lungs expanded as she took in the air needed for screaming an insult at her ex-husband. Suellen cringed and put a hand to her face with misery. This position of hung head and holding her face with torso hunched forward was routine posture used every time her parents had to share the same space.
"Drop the attitude James!" Martha snarled to Wilson who wasn't even looking at her.
Instead he was gazing out the window and wondering what it was that had ever attracted him to Martha. It sure as hell wasn't her voice, or her personality so it was probably her figure. In the late eighties she'd had a stunning body she hadn't been afraid to show off. Wilson knew now that no relationship based only on physical attraction could ever last, but he'd needed two more affairs to confirm it.
"Could you two refrain from making malarky just this once?" Suellen pleaded. She ran her hands down on her face and spread her fingers so now her eyelids were pulled down and her cheeks taut. A true face of despair.
It didn't do much good though.
"Suellen don't interrupt," her mother took no notice of her obviously grotesque expression. "You're father and I are having an important conversation. Please be civilised."
Suellen threw her hands off her face letting the skin snap back into place so she could give Martha a look of disbelief that would support her coming statement of deprecation.
"Yeah, civilised, right. I'll call Stockholm to make sure you two have seats for the next Noble Prize ceremony," she said sarcastically. "I think they have conversations on your level of civilisation in a barn around back."
"Hey shut up!" Wilson snapped instantly, too taken aback from the spiking insult to say something more appropriate for his teenage daughter. His father skills were sub-par but he was pretty sure that 'shut up' wasn't the proper way to discourage sassy comments.
Instead of being wounded like he'd anticipated, she tipped her head to the side much like the way a rooster does when it's discovered another rooster in its yard and prepares an assassination strategy.
"Back up boozehound. The best thing you two ever did for me was get divorced, and being a divorced couple with a mutual child that means I only have to take crap from one parent at a time. So either you take it in turns and one of you disappears right now to go badmouth the other to whoever will listen or I'll buzz in a nurse to have you both thrown out. Take your pick."
Her commandment final Suellen crossed her arms and watched her parents with a satisfied smile. With her body improving her regular attitude was returning and that meant James and Martha would have to fight to get their way. Fight and lose.
"You can't do that," Martha said in the voice Suellen had grown to dislike in her early years and met Suellen's eyes with a lofty expression.
"Actually she can. Patients have the right to refuse visitors." Wilson proved Martha wrong but for once he didn't receive any gratification. He knew that Suellen had conquered yet another conversation and that he must comply with her orders.
"And on that point," Suellen said on a bouncy note, "you are dismissed Mother."
Martha spluttered when she heard that. "Why me? What's he done lately to earn your favouritism?" She jerked her thumb at Wilson and he felt his self worth drop a little lower.
As he stood there hung over and scruffy with Martha hissing beside him Wilson thought it fortunate that House was trapped in the clinic. If he'd been present Wilson would have been bombarded with insults from a triangle of abuse. When he'd left last night he'd been positive that things would be on the improve and the maelstrom of emotion that had swept him up these past few weeks would clear. But now he wasn't so sure.
In some ways he felt that he'd overcome the obstructions hindering his efforts and was making progress. The frequency of open hostility had drastically lessened in his time with Suellen and her temperament towards him was far more hospitable and affectionate. He too found more pleasure in her company and now possessed a sense of entirety previously absent in his mind.
Still, after watching the film and his conference with Dean Wilson couldn't help but think that there was still a wall dividing him from Suellen. The horror she'd witnessed wasn't something he believed she could handle alone and was certain if he couldn't make Suellen confess then console her she could never truly feel comfortable around him.
"I got a kiss," Suellen said proudly lifting her head and tapped the cheek that had received the gift.
Wilson stopped brooding for a moment and smiled. He couldn't help himself, he knew that it wasn't proper formality for the forthcoming conversation but something about the way Suellen was behaving tickled his humour. With all the harsh words and cruel truths she'd forced upon him and tortured him into confessing, she had also given him back his smile. He missed feeling that way.
"Big deal," Martha drawled ineloquently and rolled her blue eyes. "He kisses every female who'll get near him. Like a dog in heat."
"I resent that remark!" Wilson snapped back with conviction and started to think of excuses quickly to cover his past actions.
"Have you ever kissed Doctor Cameron?" Suellen asked curiously.
"Probably," Martha grunted.
"Now who's being rude?" he jeered. "And as usual Martha you are wrong. I have only had one date with Doctor Cuddy and I have no interest in Doctor Cameron."
"Did you kiss Doctor Cuddy on the date?" Suellen asked keenly.
"No kissing," Wilson said firmly and waved his arms wide in the air before his chest and opened his palms to symbolise his innocence.
"Did Doctor Cameron get a date with you?"
"Nope. But she did get one with House though," Wilson told her and was glad for the opportunity to direct the flames of interrogation away from himself.
"Really?" Suellen asked incredulously and scrunched her face up in disgust. "Did she have 'Old Man' listed on her Girl Guide scavenger hunt list or something?"
An intangible force surged upwards from his ribs, inflated his lungs, rattled up his throat and escaped through his mouth before he could think. Wilson had to grasp his knees as he doubled over with laughter to stop himself from crashing to the floor. He knew he shouldn't have found that funny and should have reprimanded Suellen for defaming his co-workers but in a building where the staff feared House and adored Cameron it was rare to hear someone say something so crudely shrewd.
It was Martha's sigh that slowed his laughs and diverted his focus. Standing straight he saw Martha shake the blonde cascade of her hair with disapproval and turned to leave.
"I blame you for this James," she said in a dramatically defeated voice then stepped out into the corridor and walked towards the sitting area.
Wilson didn't concur with her words but didn't find them worthy enough to protest. Now that Suellen had brightened his mood for a few moments he was less agitated and rather than shout Martha down, dismissed her attack with a small wave of his hand.
His laughter finished with a sigh then Wilson rubbed his forehead in an attempt to alleviate the sudden shooting pain in his head. Suellen recognised the cause of the symptoms and poured a cup of water from her meal table. She held the cup out to Wilson who took it with thanks and settled himself into the bedside chair he'd become very familiar with in the recent days.
Suellen watched him pull a peculiar face of discomfort as he sat down and released a small groan. Sleeping on a couch was bad for the spine and the flighty state Wilson had been in every night since House had pulled his prank with the warm water made him wake up four or five times a night fearing the dastard doctor was hovering over him.
Suellen put her hand on his closest knee and pushed her weight onto it so she could pull herself into his grasp. Wilson was too quizzical to complain and watched closely to discover what she was doing. She tilted her head back making her nose nudge his chin accidentally for a second then took a deep breath.
"You went drinking with Greg," Suellen declared and landed back on the bed after a hard push on his knee.
"How can you tell?" he asked still wearing the baffled face and holding the water at a distance.
"You smell like cheap scotch," she concluded and moved the books around on her table to retrieve her newspaper. "Any half decent human being would provide their guest with quality alcohol to maintain their social image. And since Greg is neither decent, social, particularly concerned with his image and a colossal cheapskate, it sort of narrowed down the list of suspects."
"And since when did you become a connoisseur of alcohol?" Wilson asked suspiciously with a drilling gaze.
"Ah, no, no," Suellen waved her finger and smiled sneakily. "I may be drugged up but I'm not about to spill all my secret stories. You're going to have to try a little harder if you want details."
"Why do I see blackmail as being the only way?" Wilson sighed over his cup and took a sip of the tepid water.
"Because you have no imagination for dastardly schemes?" Suellen said and folded her newspaper over in a quick swish of her hands and held the page out for him to see. "I'm open to suggestions."
Wilson cleared his hazy vision with a tight squeeze of his eyelids then focused his eyes on the word puzzle Suellen had scrawled over with pen. His eyes were so desperately in want of rest they felt hot inside in his head as if they'd had power running through them for too long.
"Flood," he said after moment to jumble the letters a word.
"No you need to used the R," Suellen said shaking her head. "The word must have the Target Letter and you can't make plurals either. That's cheating."
"Right, right," Wilson pushed her instructions aside and took the newspaper from her hand. He folded it up into quarters then put it on the food table. Suellen watched him move her paper with silent bafflement then turned to him with a blank face once he'd laid it to rest.
"I just need to talk to you for a second sweetheart," he said sounding hurried and fidgeted in his seat.
"Ok sure," Suellen said with a shrug ready to listen but without a keen interest.
Wilson took a breath, stopped his fidgeting and tried to put his thoughts in coherent order. He knew what it was he had to say but couldn't find a way to approach the subject with the care necessary. It wasn't like breaking bad news to a patient because after so long their reactions and repercussions had become almost predictable. Talking to Suellen was difficult to begin with and he was without prior experience in this situation.
"It's about your friend Grant," Wilson started and immediately Suellen stiffened. Her dull expression had shifted to alarm and her laxed aura dispersed assuring Wilson that this talk would be a trial.
"What about him?" Suellen asked coolly but the flicker that flashed past her eyes told Wilson to be wary. One wrong step and she could snap.
"I saw the," then Wilson stopped. Suellen didn't know about the video nor that Dean had given it to him. In a second he remembered the fight the two had last night and how Dean had sought him out in secret. If Suellen thought the two of them were conspiring behind her back then it would be impossible to gain her trust.
"I was recently told about how he died," he started again keeping a close watch on her reaction.
Suellen turned away and looked down at her hand resting on the white sheets covering her legs. She twisted it towards her a tiny way and looked at the red lines that glowed furiously against her white palm. Using her opposite hand she gently touched the tip of the jagged line and followed it town to her wrist.
"Oh," she said quietly without looking up. "What did they say?"
"That you tried to help," Wilson said gently. He didn't realise it but that was the best thing he could have said. To describe the boy's demise would have had a disastrous effect.
Wilson lent forward a fraction to try and re-establish eye contact but Suellen had her gaze set. When she spoke next Wilson didn't need to see her face to tell how she felt.
"Didn't do any good," she said on a wobbly reply. "I couldn't help him."
"No, no, no sweetheart," Wilson's large hand cupped her shoulder as he moved her around to look at him. "You did everything you could. You tried your best."
"Yeah and he drowned," Suellen's voice quivered before she gulped down a large lump in her throat.
"You gave him peace before he did Suellen." Wilson knew he was close to loosing her so used her name to anchor his argument. Except this conversation was cracking from near crying rather than the tantrum he'd anticipated.
Suellen pulled her shoulder out of his hold and rocked her body side to side like an agitated herd animal before it stampedes. She covered her face with her hands and shook it in tandem with her waving body. Then after a moment more she cleared her face of the mucus and tears that had threatened to spill out a second ago.
"No," she said firmly after pulling her hands off of her face sharply. "I couldn't help him and I couldn't help Simon. It was my fault. I couldn't save them."
Wilson examined her profile and twitched his fingers rapidly as he felt a cold icicle stab him in the stomach. Suellen was had defensive posture now, using it to guard a terrible secret that had haunted her all this time and would continue to plague her thoughts and dreams if Wilson didn't wheedle it out of her now.
"Suellen," Wilson spoke as if to a statue. "What happened to Simon?"
"Simon?" the side of he mouth twitched upwards but made no other movement.
"What happened to him Honey?" Wilson could feel he was close. He had his finger on the button that would release the pressure in the dam and return the waters to their regular level. All the answers to the questions that had robbed his sleep were only an inch away.
The unexpected entrance of a third voice made both of them jump, bringing some animation back to Suellen's inert body. Silently Wilson cursed the interruption and vented his frustration by forming his fingers into fists. Both generations of Wilsons looked towards the door and saw a man standing there with a bristly haircut and a cap tucked smartly under his arm.
Wilson thought he was a naval officer or a marine by the bars of gold and patches sewn on his uniform but Suellen with her better naval knowledge knew he was an officer of the Maritime Court and immediately dreaded the worst.
"Can I help you?" Wilson said formally and got to his feet. He didn't introduce himself thinking it might be necessary to present himself as a doctor rather than a parent if he needed to dismiss the man.
"Lieutenant Morgan of Maritime Affairs," the man said and thrust his hand out at Wilson with a sharp movement of his rigid arm. "I'm here to interview the patient Suellen Wilson about the incident regarding the school sailing ship Albatross. Her verbal testimony is to be used as material evidence for the inquiry trial if necessary."
When Suellen spoke Wilson remembered that he and the Lieutenant weren't the only ones in the room. Rolling his head over his shoulder Wilson saw her IV bag wobble above her head as she erected herself into posture proper for the intruder. For the first time that morning Wilson was aware of the medical equipment and medicines surrounding Suellen working to cure her. He'd been so hasty to talk about the tape he'd almost forgotten how sick she was.
Walking through the hospital was nothing exceptional from his daily process and when he'd spoken to Suellen minutes before it hadn't been any different from how he would have spoken in her own bedroom.
"I must object," Wilson stepped into the officer's path and spoke with medical authority. "She's not currently in any condition to discuss such matters. Perhaps you could take care of this after her discharge from the hospital's care?"
Lieutenant Morgan, standing a foot taller than the oncologist had his chest puffed out like a rooster ready to crow forcing him to look down at Wilson over his robust torso.
"I received orders to question Miss Wilson after the Judge assigned to the upcoming hearing was informed of her present illness. This interview will pardon Miss Wilson from appearing in court next week with her crewmates and Captain Sheldon. Approval was given by the hospital's administrator beforehand I assure you," he told Wilson lucidly and stiffly without a hint of worry. If Wilson was going to argue then he had all the answers needed to thwart his arguments.
Wilson's lips tightened and he made a mental note to have a very loud conversation with Cuddy later. For a spilt second he wished for House's nerve so he could remove this irritating blockage without feeling the intimidation Morgan radiated.
"I must protest," he continued, "my daughter is very sick and I cannot allow you to bother her while she is in such an important stage of her recovery."
"It's ok Dad," Suellen piped up behind him.
Like the bell at the end of a boxing round her voice made both men break off their rough engagement temporarily and they turned to Suellen who was watching them from her bed.
She'd smoothed out the bed sheets covering her legs and pelvic area folding the top over neatly like a seal. The low allergenic cotton gown she wore as a top that had been hanging off her bony frame moments ago had been adjusted to pass for a proper garment and her visage said she was collected and unemotional.
"Let Lieutenant Morgan ask his questions," she said moving her head in the said man's direction. "The sooner he has his trial material the sooner the Maritime Court will know that Skipper isn't at fault."
Her sentences were so well composed and fluent Wilson almost missed the spiking challenge contained within them. He looked quickly between the officer and girl and saw that both hid behind an unemotional guise as they held eye contact. Morgan stood with the placidness of a man who'd done this many times before while Suellen's jaw bulged inside her mouth, keeping her teeth clenched tight to master the onslaught of words she wanted to say.
Wilson offered Morgan a seat before sitting after Morgan politely refused. He crossed his arms and held his biceps in his fingers to stop any digit movements that would give away his stirring distress.
"To begin Miss Wilson," Morgan began his interrogation in a professional tone from the end of the bed where he stood in soldier's stance. With the distance between he and the witness their conversation could have passed for a cross-examination at an occupied witness box. "You were on deck the morning of December Twelfth when the Albatross was in distress?"
"Yes I was in Skipper's team and we had the day watch. I would stay on deck until six PM and we'd rotate with Mcrea's team. They had the night watch."
"Very well," Morgan continued with a chime of irritation at her elaborate answer. "I believe it was you who acted when the foresail split?"
"Yes I was going to lower it before Robyn pulled me out of the rigging."
"Why did she do that Miss Wilson?"
"Skipper ordered her to."
"Captain Sheldon didn't see it in his interest to lower a broken sail? A potential hazard that could have lead to navigational difficulties?"
"Skipper saw it in our best interest not to get any of us electrocuted," Suellen said in a matter of fact tone with a hint of pride. For a second her face loosened long enough to show pleasure in severing Morgan's lead.
When Wilson saw that he knew Suellen wasn't blindly believing Sheldon's innocence out of endearment developed in six months at sea. The fierce loyalty present in her answers and beliefs had developed from respect and admiration. She would defend his name and fight for his honour because she revered him and agreed with his command. He had earned her steadfast trust and now she would prove to Morgan he was worthy to captain any ship bound for open water.
"Electrocuted?" Morgan had heard Suellen perfectly but repeated her last word to form a new argumentative angle. "Had he guided the Albatross into dangerous waters? Knowingly sailed into unfavourable conditions?"
"No," Suellen choked on the objection and lost her composure for a moment. Wilson shifted in his seat but Suellen was looking Morgan in the eye before he could ask if she was ok. "It was a white squall. That's why we went over. Because we hit a white squall."
Her icy exterior had cracked when she said the words 'white squall' shattering her protection and exposing her genuine emotions. Suellen was scared.
Wilson felt a shiver run up his spine and the now familiar sense of dread that had been dominating his thoughts the past few days return to his abdomen with intensity. If Suellen was frightened she would become defensive and crash into the encroaching final stage of Post Traumatic Stress.
"The Bureau of Meteorology says that white squalls are an impossibility. A trick of the imagination in sailors who make poor decisions leading to crisis. What do you say to that Miss Wilson?" Morgan allowed his neck to move a fraction so he could tilt his head in a condescending manner.
Suellen made a noise that Wilson mistook for a trapped sob but corrected as a mirthless laugh when he saw the thin smile her lips had formed.
"Do you find something about this amusing Miss Wilson?" Morgan asked with a raised eyebrow and readied himself to find her next statement contemptible.
Slowly Suellen raised her head to look the Lieutenant in the face with sharp eyes and a hard face. The last icicles of her cool exterior had melted now with Morgan's last remark fanning the fire underneath a boiler.
"I don't think a single second of this is funny sir," she pushed out through the tiny gap between her gritted teeth and endowed distain on the title to mark her disrespect. "What happened to our ship was not imagined. It was not a dream. It was a nightmare."
The conversation that had begun balancing precariously on a set of scales had now tipped to the dark side and Wilson could sense danger nearby. It was clear now that this kind of heated state was exactly what Morgan had intended to lure Suellen into from the start. Her answers would rush out fortuitously and unprepared, stripping away any gloss she may have added to conceal anything incriminating.
"So it would seem," Morgan continued as if he hadn't noticed Suellen's change. "According to Captain Sheldon he called for everyone to abandon ship after Albatross' starboard side was lifted from the water and the loss of the central mast. Is that correct?"
"Yes," Suellen said immediately. "It was all we could do. The squall hit too suddenly and we couldn't right her to stay afloat."
"So you don't believe that the schooner could have been saved? You had complete faith in Captain Sheldon's orders?"
"Look Lieutenant," Suellen said boldly changing her tone from grudging politeness to indignity. "I'm really tired of answering the same questions here. Everything Skipper did was right and I will deny any allegation that contradicts that. If you're looking for someone to discredit or incriminate the crew of the Albatross then go and find someone else."
Wilson moved back in his seat wide eyed and took the final breath before the impending fallout. There was no way a man of Morgan's statute and authority would take the brunt of a teenager's insults. To Wilson's surprise though, there was not explosion of temper or any start to conflict.
"Miss Wilson," Morgan spoke coolly but implanted caution in her name. "That was not what I asked. Please answer the question."
"I didn't doubt him for a second," Suellen hissed.
"Was proper evacuation protocol kept by you Miss Wilson?" Morgan slipped easily from one subject to the next with such stealthy ease Suellen was shocked by his question. "Did you release the lifeboats from the deck then abandon ship like you'd been ordered too? As you had been trained to do prior?"
Suellen's bottom lip folded over her bottom teeth and bit down on the puffy skin anxiously with her incisors. She was still looking directly at Morgan but now rather than watching him with a reserved predatory gaze she had the stare of a catatonic person watching events replay in her mind. Her breathing had increased in both speed and noise which all made Wilson worry.
First his brown eyes flicked over to the monitors for any indication of danger then after finding none he moved from the sidelines and trespassed into the area that Suellen and Morgan had dominated from the beginning of his interrogation.
Wilson let go of his arms and stretched his left hand out to hold Suellen's. His warm fingers closed around her sweaty palm for a brief second before she pulled it away hastily and shook her head.
"Don't!" she said on a fast breath snapping out of her daze. She watched Wilson's shocked face for a second then turned back to Morgan standing stoically at the bed's end.
"No," her voice was an octave higher now and had lost its sedate sound. "I didn't."
"Why is that Miss Wilson?" Morgan asked simply but wanted an answer. "Weren't you suppose to help with the lifeboats like Simon Fitzgerald was ordered to? Wasn't that one of your responsibilities as a student and crewmember? Why did you defy regulation? Did you see an error in the Captain's judgement? Why did you not perform your duty as expected?"
"Dean fell!" Suellen threw out. She had to force her words around the lump in her throat and her expression was desperate, her speech becoming more and more turbulent with every new word.
"The mast broke off and he fell into the water," she puffed out on air that didn't reach her lungs. "He was trapped under the sail and I went after him. I pulled him out."
"That was not what you ordered to do. He was not your responsibility."
"He would have drowned!"
The mystery of Dean Prescot was solved in those four words. The unlikely friendship between them had been forged in gold by the debt he owed her. Suellen had saved him from certain death by placing her own life in jeopardy consequently tying the two of them together forever with the strongest bond possible.
Wilson was bewildered beyond all extremes struck still and dumb by the revelation that he nearly missed the next part of Morgan's questioning.
"Which is what happened to Simon Fitzgerald," he said. "According to reports you were the last person to see him alive Miss Wilson. What were the circumstances of his death exactly?"
Suellen folded forwards as if struck by a sudden abdomen pain pulling Wilson out of his seat and into her personal zone. With one of his large hands placed on her back for reassurance he lent in to see her face.
Suellen had her teeth clamped together tightly with her lips pursed white from pressure. In her cheeks a red colour was rising and from the corners of her shut eyes the first two large salty tears of many escaped. They rolled down her smooth face unstopped and fell onto the bed sheets below darkening the colours in the material.
"You need to leave," Wilson slipped his arms around Suellen's shaking shoulders and looked up at the unfazed Lieutenant. It was not a request or an objectionable statement. It was an order that he would comply with.
"Very well," Morgan obeyed simply and clicked his heels together. "I have all I need. Thank you for time Doctor Wilson, Miss Wilson."
In exactly even steps Morgan walked out of the room swinging one arm in tandem with the pace of his feet. Wilson watched him go for a moment then dedicated his focus on Suellen who refused to listen to his coaxing and uncurl.
"Sweetheart it's ok," he said soothingly and tried to push her hands away from her face. "It's over now. We can talk about this."
Suellen shook her head and forced negative whimpering noises through her closed mouth. Wilson heard the door slide open and saw an orderly leaning through the threshold.
"Doctor Wilson you need to call Doctor Brown on extension two. It's about one of your patients," he said deliberately not noticing the family scene occurring that could be used as gossip between the nursing staff.
"Can it wait?" Wilson asked rudely with obvious frustration.
"He said it was important."
Wilson gave an unwilling nod and promised Suellen he'd be back almost instantly. He kissed her hair and hurried out of the room and down the hall towards the nurse's station. On the way he saw Martha in the waiting room sitting beside her handbag reading a hard covered novel. Her blue eyes spotted him when they glanced over the book momentarily as she turned the page over.
"I need you in there," he said sliding to halt. "I'll be right back."
"Fine," Martha said on a sigh but thankfully didn't try to stir up some commotion. Just placed her bookmark at the stopping point and reached for her bag.
Wilson avoided a gurney heading his way and pulled the closest phone out of its cradle once he was at the nurse's station. After rapidly punching in the numbers he had memorised he listened to the phone ring before Doctor Brown answered on the other end. Wilson urged him to hold the chatter and after hearing Brown's succinct patient information advised a change in pain medication then hung up.
He turned around ready to go but unexpectedly jerked backwards when he saw Martha standing right in front of him.
"What's the matter?"
"Have they moved her out of Intensive Care?" Martha asked with a small frown developing in the corners of her face.
"No why?" Wilson asked confused.
"She's not there."
It took Wilson a second before he believed that. Only two minutes ago he'd been holding Suellen's crumbling body on the bed having sent Morgan out the door. Now Martha said she'd vanished and it was too fast and unexpected for him to comprehend.
"James!" Martha screeched when she received no answer. Wilson could only blink at his name so she took the next step and smacked his arm. "Snap out of it!"
That strategy worked perfectly.
Wilson twisted back around to the staff behind the counter who'd been surreptitiously watching since Martha had said the word 'missing'. Leaning over he caught the attention of the closest nurse and spoke in a rush.
"I need security to search the building. We have an Intensive Care patient missing. Have them look everywhere, she's still very sick."
The nurse nodded and Wilson turned back to Martha to give his next instructions.
"I'll look around here, you go outside. She might be trying to go home."
Martha nodded with agreement and hastily stepped around Wilson moving in the direction of the front entrance. Wilson had walked two paces when he remembered something else.
"Martha!" he called out getting her attention and many others. "Be careful if you find her. She's very upset."
Martha nodded again to answer as she was too far away for a confidential answer. Wilson then ran down the hall back to Suellen's room and saw for himself that the room was empty. The sheets on the bed hung over the end and the Intro Venus cord hung from its stand dripping chloroquine on the tiles.
Wilson moved off and looked frantically in every room he passed. At the opposite end of the hall he saw a security guard walking at a brisk pace speaking into his hand radio. Knowing that his search of the floor had been unsuccessful too Wilson made a sharp left and entered the stairwell.
"Sue!" he called out and waited for his unanswered echo to stop before he grabbed the nearby hand railing and propelled himself up the stairs.
His runners dashed up two flights of stairs before he exited on his office level with a hunch Suellen may have gone to see House. House wasn't someone she would find comfort in but he was someone familiar. Also her current mindset was to flee so she might not logically head for the best place.
Puffing and panting Wilson fell out of the stairwell taking a moment to catch his breath and admit how unfit he'd let himself get recently. His current dietary habits had been appalling and he'd been too preoccupied lately with his personal issues to give exercise any consideration.
Wilson wiped the sweat from his brow with a movement of his hand and looked up to see House leaning against the wall casually playing with his yoyo.
"Lost something?" he asked in a laxed voice keeping his eye on the spinning toy.
"Suellen's gone. I thought she might have come here. I need you to help me find her," Wilson puffed his segregated sentences and staggered over to him.
"No problems," House caught the yoyo and looked up to see Wilson's flushed face. "I sent my emissaries out to join the search party. You'll be happy to know they're all quite concerned. I would have gone scouring high and low myself but you know, my leg hurts."
"Thanks," Wilson grunted sarcastically and moved to go but stopped when he felt the cane across his shins.
Looking up Wilson saw that House was now completely serious having lost his facetious face. As this was a rare marvel Wilson didn't attempt to leave again and blessed House with his patience to hear his explanation.
"You're doing the right thing by being worried, it shows you care," House's voice was sombre. "But maybe you should go to your office before you run off."
Wilson showed a quizzical frown and scanned House's face to find the meaning of his suggestion. House didn't explain but jerked his head towards Wilson's office. The two men held a mutual gaze for a small time before Wilson walked cautiously to his office grabbing the handle then stopping to look at House again. When he nodded Wilson proceeded, closing the door behind him quietly.
He heard her before he saw her.
The painful sobs and cries came loud and freely so Wilson found her quickly. The noise guided him to his to the desk where he rolled his leather chair away before crouching down to see Suellen hidden under the desk crying onto her knees.
"Hey Honey," he said gently and put his hand on her shoulder slowly.
Suellen pulled out of his grip so quickly Wilson snapped his hand back in fear. When she looked at him Wilson saw Suellen's eyes had turned scarlet and her face was covered in tears. She sniffed repeatedly in a vain attempt to control the flowing mucus from her noise and bared her teeth threateningly.
"Keep the fuck away from me!" she snarled viciously and retreated further under the desk.
"Keep the fuck away!"
Wilson wasn't insulted by her profanities knowing that things said in any emotional state were seldom meant but seeing her in such distress upset him to the point where he would end her anguish any way possible.
"It's ok Honey," he said understandingly and closed his hand around her arm. "Just come on out."
"No!" Suellen shouted pulling her arm away but found she couldn't break his grip. She gave an agitated yell but when she was unable to free herself by struggling she surrendered and cried harder, her arm going limp in his hand.
Wilson averted his eyes for a moment and for the first time noticed the blood drying on the back of Suellen's hand where she'd brutally ripped the IV out tearing the skin.
"Come on Honey tell me what's wrong," Wilson tried soothingly and crawled closer so his head and shoulders were shadowed by the darkness under the desk. He'd never feel the same sitting there again.
"No go away!" Suellen wailed and shook her head. With her father so close she knew there wasn't any way she could escape.
Wilson didn't move for a little while after she said that. He sat on the floor with his head ducked under the table watching Suellen cry and let the time go by without unmarked. But as ineffective and unconfident as he felt having his daughter reject his consolations he knew that this was this it.
He'd never imagined that he would say it in this situation but he knew that if he couldn't muster the courage to tell her now, trying at any other time would only make the words seem half-hearted and insincere.
"I'm not going anywhere Suellen."
Wilson's voice was neither strong nor dictatorial but his words gained her attention and hooked into Suellen. She stopped her next sob by smacking her lips closed and swallowed hard. She couldn't bring herself to look up at his face but she listened for what was to follow.
"I'm tired of running away," Wilson started. He was quiet and extremely nervous but found that for something so hard to say, the words came to his mouth almost naturally.
"I've spent my life avoiding you, avoiding the problems we've had and I haven't been fair to you. I'm sorry for that, I truly am."
Wilson stopped and waited. Suellen's reaction would decide whether he could keep talking or would abandon the whole effort. There would be no point in trying to speak with candour to someone who had already rejected your words and Wilson would have to deal with his feelings alone for the rest of his life.
Ever so slowly, her sobs now silenced, Suellen lifted her head to look at Wilson. Tears still fell as fast as rain from her eyes and her quivering lips threatened to release more cries but she held herself together to listen to her father, giving him permission to continue.
"I can't make up for what I've done and there's no excuse for it," Wilson went on solemnly. "I'm not going to ask that you forgive me Sue because I don't deserve it. But I promise you, I'm going to do better. I won't run away any more."
With jittering anxiety Wilson waited for Suellen's response, for her rejection or her acceptance, he didn't know which to expect. But Suellen was so astounded by what her father had just told her she wouldn't have known how to react, even if she'd been capable of response.
All she did was stare at him with her watery brown eyes framed by a stupefied face. The lump in her throat bobbed down and up again as she swallowed then opened her mouth to speak.
Wilson focused all his attention on the coming response but just as the start of a sound was said Suellen's lips wobbled and her voice changed to a sob. She squeezed her eyes closed blocking the fresh tears and fell forwards into Wilson's wide chest.
Wilson welcomed her warmly wrapping his thick arms around her fragile frame and spread his hands wide to hold as much of her as possible as she cried.
This was the last stage of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Suellen would have to share the memories that caused her pain to gain control over them. For her to recover she must master the past before she could move into the future.
"What's the matter Suellen?" Wilson asked as rocked her back and forth like a small child. "Tell me."
Suellen's forehead rubbed against the soft cotton of Wilson's T-shirt as she shook her head. Her arms wrapped around her father clinging to him like a lifeline she felt weak and afraid. This was too much, too many question being asked, too many demands being made. It was too heavy a burden to overthrow herself.
Suellen stopped crying when she felt Wilson's hands leave her back. Their sudden absence came as a great surprise after depending on them so much. A moment later the familiar grip returned, this time on her shoulders where they pushed her back so she was forced to look up at Wilson's compassionate expression.
"Trust me and tell me."
It wasn't until much later that they realised how much Wilson had asked of her in those five words. There was nothing in their history that would rationalise receiving Suellen's trust. He'd let her down countless times in her early life and had continued to do so until this point in time. Even with the founding of a new relationship from the past month Wilson was not exonerated. The divide between them still existed.
When he brought her to the clinic wet and bleeding she'd attacked him. She'd yelled at him about his wife without any regard for his feelings. Then to make her thoughts absolutely clear she'd thrashed him in the hallway. There wasn't a precedent to trust him.
"It's too much," she croaked and rubbed her eyes with the bottom of her hand.
"We're going to get through this together," Wilson stooped his neck so she couldn't avoid his eyes. "If you bottle this up it'll only get worse. Do you really want to remember Simon for something this terrible for the rest of your life? Because that's what's going to happen Sue."
"I don't, I don't want," Suellen shook her head and sniffed a few times in quick succession.
"Then you have to get this out of you Honey or you'll never heal," her father told her with honesty and with three fast nods of her head victory was Wilson's.
He didn't rush her to start giving her the distance and relaxed ambience she needed to calm herself. Their time was unlimited and everything had to be left to Suellen, she had to do this for herself.
Taking deep breaths to cut the continuing sobs off Suellen cleaned her face with her petite hands that were now clammy from being clenched into tight balls of aggression and mopping up salty tears.
With a final sniff she lowered her hands and tucked her legs underneath her and lent against Wilson's chest for support her ear over his heart. She felt his large hand stroking her hair rhythmically and focused her brown eyes on the floor beside her knees. It would be too hard to tell this story to Wilson's face, his expressions would unsettle her and shake the story off track.
"The Albatross was sinking," Suellen began holding her voice steady. "Skipper gave the order for Simon to release the boats and everyone to abandon ship. I was meant to help but I thought I could see something moving under the sail that had fallen in the water."
"Dean," Wilson supplied specific detail at the appropriate pause and Suellen's head shifted up and down on this t-shirt nodding. His interruption wasn't meant to disrupt her, only to stop her from getting sidetracked or taking the chance to change the subject.
Suellen had chosen to nod rather than answer for fear of her voice cracking as she thought of Dean futilely pushing the cover of his water prison and kicking his feet against the rip trying to pull him down. By the time Suellen had seen his distant silhouette through the dark salt water he'd already started sinking.
"I know I was suppose to get the lifeboats first but I couldn't just leave him under there," she spoke in fast patches of detail hoping to race the pounding in her throat that wanted her to sob rather than speak.
"But I couldn't leave him down there, I mean I didn't know then it was Dean, or somebody else, I couldn't have know but I thought, maybe there was, I wasn't really sure but I," Suellen rambled in a hurry.
"You thought that someone might be in trouble so you dived in to see instead of helping Simon," Wilson said for her calmly.
Wilson stretched his neck in a funny downwards half circle way to see that her face was still dry. Relived to see there were no new tears he took one of the arms he had wrapped around her away and relocated his comforting hand on her back where he rubbed the behind of her heart and lungs soothingly.
"Mmm," Suellen made a noise of agreement then sniffed before continuing, steading her breathing to the pace of Wilson's rubbing hand.
"I pulled him to the surface," she went on. "I couldn't see much it was so dark. The water was wild I could hardly keep us afloat, Dean was breathing but he couldn't move much he was so exhausted. I needed air so badly I didn't hear them calling at first."
Suellen wiggled uncomfortably on the floor and he loosened his hold so she could move without feeling confined. He wanted Suellen to fell safe beside him, not imprisoned or she'd close up and never speak to him of her ordeal.
"One of the lifeboats was in the water close by," she elaborated when she was comfortable again. "I swam over to them."
Suellen squeezed her eyes closed for a second and spoke next with such despondency that Wilson knew she was recalling the account with vivid clarity.
"He was so heavy," she whispered sounding far away and her right arm jerked involuntarily. "My arm was so sore and my legs were frozen. I could feel them prickling each time I kicked and I remember thinking that they would snap off any second like ice but I kept going."
Her hand came to her lips and her jaw shifted back and forth as her tongue squirmed in her mouth trying to evade a disgusting taste. Wilson again looked at his daughter's expression but saw that she was not perturbed. Instead she had a certain vacancy about her as if she wasn't conscious of her mouth's movements.
A common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress was involuntarily making movements related to the incident without realising it.
"The water tasted terrible," she said with distain and poked her pink tongue out of her mouth before returning it to talk again. "I had to keep my mouth open to breathe but the waves were so high they threw us all over the place. I don't know how long it took but it seemed like a year before I got us to the lifeboat. I can't remember who was in there but I know as soon as I grabbed a hold that Skipper wasn't there."
"Where was he?"
Immediately after he said the words Wilson regretted them. After encouraging Suellen this far to the point of near reliving her memories tasting seawater he had butted in breaking the smooth course of the story.
"With Alice," Wilson thankfully hadn't broken her trace but her voice changed notably. Mention of Skipper had transferred her thoughts from herself to another who she cared for greatly.
"With Alice," she repeated on a short hushed whisper. "He was looking for her. I don't know what happened. He cried so much."
Without realising Suellen put her head back against her father's heart, resting against the steady sound that anchored her to the present and blended with the sound of Skipper's lamenting sobs in her head.
"And did you look for Simon?"
"No he found me," Suellen sighed and closed her eyes to re-watch the following episode of events. "The boys pulled Dean out of the water but the boat nearly capsized when they hauled him aboard. It was too heavy. It wasn't going to stay afloat. They're were too many in it. The sea would overturn it soon."
Suellen continued to retell her story in truncated particles but what exacerbated Wilson's sense of unease was how she now spoke in two different frames. Exhuming the happenings privately with a vision only she had then after a momentary lapse elaborated for Wilson's understanding. She spoke on.
"Simon called out to me, he was a little ways off. He told me the other lifeboats were still on board the Albatross. We had to get them or we'd drown."
Suellen stopped for a moment when an image without warning or conscious command invaded her story and forced her to study it. She could see the titanic sight of The Albatross, her once home and safe haven transmogrified to a dangerous menace being swallowed by the vicious sea. The front of the ship pointed to the dark skies in goodbye while it's bow resigned itself to the sea. Broken and emasculated bearing only some semblance of the proud schooner she'd once been she was pulled into the vacuous waters without a struggle.
"Suellen?" Wilson asked when the silence had gone for too long.
At hearing her voice Suellen's brain sent a message throughout her body to remind it where it was while the mind hopped back and forth over the border of memory and reality. Her limbs flinched and she took a required breath.
"We swam over to the ship it had nearly sunk by then," Suellen rushed on. Her story was reaching its painful climax. "The boats were still strapped tight to the decking but we couldn't untie the knots underwater. The currents had pulled them tight and our hands wouldn't hold. Mine were, my hands were bleeding."
A ghost feeling of harsh sailing rope thick and fat from water absorption passed over Suellen's palm and for a moment she saw her scar spit open and bleed. After a blink the same hand was healed but she remembered the way the red line of blood had slithered through the water before it was spread into unseen fragments disbursed by the dominating liquid around them.
"I went up for air twice, each time the distance was longer. It was harder to get back each time it was sinking so fast and my chest hurt so much. Simon was cutting the ropes with his knife; it had been his father's boy scout knife he took it everywhere. We freed two of them and they just shot up to the surface in seconds but when we went for the third…"
The body Wilson held convulsed in his arms and attempted to retreat into a foetal position prevented by the muscular arm wrapped around her middle.
"I don't want to talk about it any more!" Suellen yelled with unexpected hostility and stomped her feet on the ground. Her fingernails clawed at Wilson's restraining arm digging down on the skin until the protective layer broke.
Wilson gave an unexpected cry of pain and twisted his arm away removing her sharp nails from the divots they'd dug but still he didn't let go. His reaction consequently knocked Suellen back against his collar bone and he seized the opportune moment of her present disorientation to tighten his hold on her.
"That's enough!" he growled with some ferocity to seise her hysteria. "Don't ever do that again Suellen! You understand?"
He couldn't decipher anything from her expression because of the fallen hair shielding her face that had been rearranged from her retaliation. But holding tightly Wilson watched the forelock hanging directly over the centre of her face fly back and forth rapidly on breathed air until it slowed to a tiny flicker.
"Fighting me wont change anything," Wilson said tensely through tight teeth quelling the distemper that could have destroyed the therapy session. There was an odd tingling feeling on his injured arm and he knew it was blood rising in the punctures but he ignored it, lowering its importance to a lower echelon of the scale.
"You're so close Suellen," he said after he'd recovered his tender tone. "You feel as though you can't say any more because it hurts so much but listen. Right now, right here, is the worst you'll ever feel about all of it. After this it'll still hurt but it will get better. It all depends on what you do now."
There was a long silence as they sat waiting. There was nothing else Wilson could say, he was right, this all depended on Suellen. Her choice would either finish the story and let Wilson help her or she'd rebury the pain deeper than before and leave the thoughts and images to fester in an abandoned corner of her mind.
There was a rattly flow of air and Wilson replaced his comforting hand on her back to remind her she wasn't alone. For the first time he was there for her.
"He got tangled in the ropes."
Suellen's rib cage rose when she filled it with oxygen and lifted her spine into a straight position. Like a composer her hands made a bowl shape in the air then came together with her palms opened flat but the gesture lost its orchestral grace when she curled her fingers inwards. Wilson observed the motion and thought absently for a moment that she appeared to be trying to grasp something intangible that was simply too much for her to hold.
"When he was cutting the third boat free they twisted around him and he couldn't get free. I pulled at them but they were so tight and I was so tired. Every time I loosened one thing another would tighten. It was impossible. He was so scared."
Suellen's narration had snapped into a faster gear but Wilson didn't attempt to hamper. He just held her steady and illustrated his own images of the drowning children in his mind and prepared himself for the unhappy ending.
"I kept trying and trying," Suellen's head sank slowly down from its high position as her voice became heavier with lament. "But I couldn't get him loose. I couldn't help him Daddy. Then he, he pushed me away."
A single tear slid down her jaw line to her chin before it fell and shattered on her leg after it had clung to her face vainly before letting go.
"He pushed me off him," Suellen said with a wobbly tone remembering the last image she had of her best friend. "He looked so calm, like he was defeated but didn't mind. As if he didn't care about what would happen. He wasn't afraid to die but I was. That's why I didn't fight the current and went to the surface. I was so weak."
The last bind to her restraint snapped and Suellen let herself cry. She didn't care how loud her howls were or how much her eyes stung from the saline tears or how violently she shook with each sob. Her only thought was of Simon.
"I'm sorry Simon!" she croaked out in between cries. "I'm sorry Simon it was my fault! It was all my fault!"
Around her she heard the howling wind and broken words of her distant shipmates scrambling to the new lifeboats and her unrecognisable voice calling to Simon but all those sounds were second to what she heard being bellowed into her left ear.
"It's too late! It's too late!" Mr Mcrea screamed as he and two other boys pinned her down in the rocking lifeboat while she fought for liberty. "It's too late!"
Suellen was in such a mental flurry being thrust between the painful past and unbearable present she was too confused to comprehend anything. Too much was happening at once for her to apply any logic. She felt anger, remorse, grief and regret in a colossal jumble but dominating all of this hopelessness was an engulfing feeling of being lost.
Mr Mcrea's pirate voice and the screams of the boys in a high pitch of terror dominated her eardrums. All of them yelled at her while they combined their strength to hold her down in the rocking lifeboat.
"Suellen! Suellen!" they called trying to calm her and dominate her will but all she could think of was Simon. Of going back into the water and bringing him up. She was sure she could still save him.
"Suellen, Suellen." Through the commotion and babel that swirled around her head Suellen heard another voice saying her name. This one didn't scream or roar into her ear, but instead spoke softly and for the first time Suellen became conscious of the person hugging her tightly.
Wilson was holding Suellen as she cried providing the support she needed to find her way out of the maelstrom and back to the present day where he was looking after her.
"It wasn't your fault Suellen there wasn't anything you could have done. Simon wanted you to live, not die with him. I think that's what you need to do now, live for Simon and live for yourself. You've suffered long enough."
He said her name gently to see if she would answer then saw her arm reach out and wrap around his side holding him tight. Her hands met together on his back and she rested her head on his shoulder just by his neck.
She was back.
Wilson heaved a great sigh of relief and tilted his head back to see the ceiling. Suellen was crying steadily and loudly but he didn't try to stop her. Today Suellen would cry, tomorrow they would talk and then the day after they would talk some more. They would do this together.
Unseen to Suellen Wilson did the thing she had the unique ability to make him do. He smiled.