Title: Never and Always
Series: High Lonesome
Chapters: Prologue and Chapter One – "Get In Line"
Rating: R for Graphic Language
Spoilers: minor ones for House's Head/Wilson's Heart
Archive: An Archive of Our Own, and my Livejournal.
This tale would probably make a lot more sense if you've read the first of the series, The Touch. It kinda stands alone, but if you have questions don't say I didn't tell you so.
Take conservative, tie-wearing James Wilson and pair him with the female lead singer of a symphonic metal band and the outcome is sure to be… unusual at best. Throw that combination into High Lonesome 'verse and the outcome is going to take some really odd shifts. ;-)
Disclaimer: I own a 2013 Hyundai Elantra. I also own this computer, a shiny DSLR camera, and a large collection of vinyls. Do you see the House Cast in there anywhere? Nope, didn't think so. They'd make great stocking-stuffers for Yule, though. Especially either Hugh Laurie or Robert Sean Leonard. Or both. Naked.
Mike Pinder, formerly of The Moody Blues, makes a cameo appearance. This is *not* RPF by any means.
The fictional bands Night's Desire and Sabrina Wallace & Whistle Stop, however, do belong to me and my twisted mind. Not that anybody in their right mind would actually steal them, but I love threatening people with my cane. ;-)
"Old loves they die hard
Old lies they die harder…"
"I Wish I Had An Angel" - Nightwish - Once
The halls were semi-dark, the barest reflection of subdued overhead lighting reflecting off of immaculately polished linoleum. Letting out a long sigh, she stepped across the nurses' station and let herself into the dimly-lit waiting room. There she sank onto a recliner and bent forward to cradle her head in her hands.
So tired. So damned tired.
The masculine warmth surged through her and she sighed, feeling herself mentally sag against it.
Last I checked.
Funny. Funny guy.
You should go and get some rest.
I am getting rest.
Disbelief greeted her and she gave a mental wry grin. She could practically hear the snort.
Well, as much rest as I need, anyway. I'm not leaving you.
God, you're stubborn.
Came by it honestly.
Amusement swept through her this time and she allowed herself a small chuckle as she retrieved a blanket from the waiting room cabinet. Almost as soon as her head settled against the recliner cushion exhaustion got the better of her and she slid off into sleep.
Sadness overwhelmed her and she shivered. Was it possible to be cold in one's dreams? she wondered.
Please, help him to forgive.
Blonde hair fluttered past her field of vision, shifting slightly to give her a glimpse of ivory skin and expressive blue eyes.
You will. Please, help him to forgive.
Immediately the dream was snatched away from her and she shifted into the next one, forgetting the first even existed.
"The days departed
This frail world
My only rest?"
"Away" – Nightwish – Over The Hills and Far Away EP
Chapter One – "Get In Line"
James Wilson was, by nature, a soul who had learned to roll with the flow over the years. Or maybe more like not knowing when the next blast would come from his once-best friend had taught him to at least learn how to bend and duck from the figurative punches. More than once he admitted to himself that at least being close (as close as one could ever get excepting House's woman, he supposed) to Greg House over the years had taught him to expect the unexpected.
However, he wasn't prepared for the memo that came across his desk, one that made his brows shoot up under his bangs, then lower with irritation. Damn Cuddy and her ass-kissing to get the hospital any funds she could manage, he thought dourly as he pushed himself up from his desk and stalked out of his office, neatly dodging House and one of the fellows… Taub, he thought vaguely as he continued on his mission, barely missing stride.
"Christ, Wilson," he heard House call after him. "Cripple, here!"
The elevator door effectively silenced House's mocking voice, giving him time to catch his breath and try, just try to unclench his fists. Just shut the fuck up, House, he thought, pretending that he hadn't heard just the tiniest bit of hurt in House's tone. Calm, he told himself firmly. He had more important things to address, and being angry would get him nowhere with his boss. You catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Still…
He swung open the double-glass doors into Cuddy's office and advanced towards her desk, trying and failing miserably to crack a grin. Behind the desk Lisa Cuddy, Dean of Medicine, glanced up at him once, shrugged, then went back to perusing over what appeared to be a patient's folder.
"Can I do anything for you, Dr. Wilson?" she asked pleasantly, seemingly unruffled by the man standing in front of her who brimming with irritation. Immediately the memo Wilson had in his hand fluttered onto her desk, causing her to merely glance at it, then up at him, an all-too-familiar "you can yell at me all you want, but you're screwed and you know it" smile on her face. Most of the time that was directed at House, but then again Wilson rarely picked battles with his boss.
"Since when do you go shuffling all of my patients around to other doctors so I can focus on just one?" he asked angrily, stabbing his finger at the memo. As Cuddy opened her mouth to speak he added, "I don't care if his relatives can buy a whole new wing for the hospital. There is no way you have the right..."
"Maybe not an entire wing, but is it wrong to want the best for Dad?"
Wilson spun on his heels to see what he'd overlooked in anger - a female figure rising from Cuddy's sofa. As she advanced towards him he took in the long black hair tied in a ponytail that hung down her back, the ice-blue eyes, and the dark eyeliner that went well with the snug black top and black jeans she was wearing. Early thirties, he thought, forcing his hormones into check as he realized she was attractive. If you liked the Goth look, anyway, he reminded himself.
"Get in line, Miss..."
"Connors. Bridgette Connors, my friends call me Brid. And for the record, where my father is concerned, I don't care to stand in line, Doctor..."
"Wilson," he snapped. When she lifted a brow at him he added, "James Wilson."
Now why on earth did her eyes suddenly widen a fraction? He blinked against a sudden, spinning feeling, feeling odd tendrils in his mind seeking... forgive... then withdrawing. He hadn't felt anything like that since... Sabrina? His mind barely registered as Connors went into reverse, then stopped, took a deep breath, and stilled for a moment, her eyes never leaving his.
"A year is a long time to withhold forgiveness," she murmured, blinking as if dazed. Behind him he heard Cuddy's indrawn breath, just audible over the slamming of his heartbeat. How did she know? As he opened his mouth to reply she staggered, then sagged against the door as he rushed to assist her. Immediately she fended him off, rubbing her hand across her eyes.
"Fatigue," was all she said as she brushed Wilson aside. He detoured her hand and grasped her elbow, cautiously lowering her back to Cuddy's sofa. "Oh, good grief," she muttered when Cuddy pushed Wilson aside, snatched his stethoscope from his pocket and began giving her a quick check-over. "I'm fine, dammit. Just too many nights with not enough sleep."
Cuddy lifted a brow at her as she pulled back and dumped the stethoscope back into Wilson's coat pocket. "I'll take your word for it this time, Miss Connors," she said firmly, "but if it happens again..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," was the other woman's reply as she stretched, then got back to her feet. "So, care to show me around the cancer ward, Dr. Wilson?"
"As a matter of fact..."
"He'd love to," Cuddy finished for him. "Wouldn't you, Dr. Wilson?" The look she gave him was one that plainly said he might as well give up and play nice. He drew in a breath, slowly let it out and nodded. He'd give the woman a quick run-through of the ward and let her have her "feel good" moment.
"You know, Dr. Wilson," she commented softly as they walked side-by-side from the elevator to the ward, "resentment doesn't become you."
He snorted and lifted one brow at her. "Last I checked, resentment never became anyone."
"And yet you continue to be resentful." She gave an eloquent shrug of her shoulders. "Be it far from me, though, to tell you how to live your life."
"Trust me, you won't," he interjected, getting that infuriating shrug in response. "So, what did you promise Cuddy? A new wing with your name in a shiny new plaque above the entrance?"
It was her turn to snort. "Well, that would take money, and currently I'm unemployed. Grant you, I have residuals coming in. Tommy couldn't put a stop to that no matter how hard he..." Her voice trailed off at the blank expression on his face. "But you don't recognize me, do you? Not that it matters to me one way or another. I'm kinda enjoying the anonymity for a change."
Connors froze in her tracks and turned slowly to gaze across the hall as the sound of a feminine voice singing wafted from one of the doors. "Is that who I think it is?" Before Wilson had time to react she had the door open and was standing in the entrance, transfixed at the sound of the woman strumming a guitar and singing. Wilson touched her elbow in an attempt to pull her away from the room and she yanked away, glaring at him as the singing stopped mid-verse.
"Jimmy, leave her be," Sabrina Wallace said softly. Suddenly it was her turn to stop and stare, breaking into a wide grin as she rose to her feet. "Bridgette Connors, right?" she said as she extended her hand to the younger woman. "My husband is such a huge fan of yours."
"And my dad's a big fan of yours, so we're even." She accepted the handshake and froze, her gaze locking with Sabrina's.
We are much alike, you and I.
I thought I was alone.
Oh, great, another one.
Wilson stepped back as he felt the air shift around him, taking in the sight of the two women grasping each other's hands, eyes closed. Suddenly the women began hugging and giggling, with Sabrina occasionally rolling her eyes in the direction that Wilson knew for a fact was House's office. Meanwhile, the young girl Sabrina had been singing for was sitting upright in her hospital bed, her eyes like saucers.
"Oh, man, wait'll I tell my brother this one. He's gonna shit."
Immediately they broke apart, laughing and shaking their heads. "Come on," Sabrina urged, indicating another visitor's chair. "Oh, and James?"
Wilson couldn't look away from the cool expression in her eyes. "Yeah?"
"There's nothing keeping you from leaving, if you want."
Ouch. He swallowed, then shrugged.
"I was… showing Miss Connors around. Cuddy-ordered, in fact," he replied, knowing how lame he sounded.
"Oh, well, you wouldn't want to piss Cuddy off, now would you," she stated. No more than you already have was left unsaid, but felt. "Later, Brid? Lunch? All we have is the usual crap in the cafeteria. If we get there early enough I can keep Greg from smuggling a steak under his salad." When Brid stared at her she added, "He doesn't like to spend money on food. Toys, now that's another matter entirely."
"One Flying-V later," Wilson muttered without thinking, getting that same look from Sabrina again.
"One repaired Flying-V later," she corrected, a faint smile tugging at her lips when he turned bright red with embarrassment.
"You broke his guitar?" Now Brid was giving him a look of disbelief. When he remained silent she added, "An expensive guitar, to boot?" Christ, she was looking at him like he'd sprouted horns.
"Fortunately we have our home child-proofed, or no telling what other kind of mischief he could have gotten into," was Sabrina's dry comment. Brid snorted and rolled her eyes. "Tell you what. You go do the 'grand tour' thing and we'll meet you in the cafeteria, say, at 11:30? Greg's in the middle of a case but if I know him well enough he'll make the time."
"Hey, wait," the girl spoke up, finally having gotten over her initial shock. "Can you sing something for me, too? My brother…"
"Sure." She sat on the edge of the girl's bed. "Something short, but enough to make your brother jealous?"
"Yeah, and besides I wanna hear you sing."
Connors looked over at Wilson. "Could I trouble you for a glass of water?"
"Better yet," he backed out into the hallway, strode over to the nearest vending machine and popped in a dollar bill and some change, then pushed a button and retrieved a bottle of water. Once back in the room she gave him a pleased smile before taking a few sips, then closing her eyes and relaxing for a moment.
"She didn't have the time to prepare like I did," Sabrina explained softly. "That's why the song has to be short."
"No chance to warm up," Brid agreed, taking another sip. "Sabrina, I could use some accompaniment."
"Sure. I'm familiar with your catalog," the other woman replied. "And, what I don't know I'll just wing."
She started off soft, a bit breathy, and Wilson's first thought was, Nice, but not worth the fuss.
"The days were brighter
Gardens more blooming
The nights had more hope
In their silence."
Good lyrics, he admitted to himself when she went into the second stanza. Suddenly she held herself slightly more erect as she went into the chorus.
"Away, away, away in time
Every dream's a journey away
Away, away to a home away from care
Everywhere's just a journey away."
Opera? She was an opera soprano? His eyes grew wide at the pure notes that ran directly opposite with the dark makeup and black clothing. No wonder House was crazy about her, he thought. The contrast itself was intriguing.
As she finished the girl applauded, causing Brid to smile, then shrug at Sabrina. "Now, hopefully Tommy won't get wind of it and sue me for singing one of his songs," she said wryly, getting an eye roll from Sabrina.
"Yeah, well, I thought Greg was gonna drive clear to Seattle and wrap his cane around Tommy's head for firing you," she said with a soft chuckle. "Besides, if Tommy does sue, I've been in the business for almost thirty years. I know more people and I probably have more money. Never mind Greg has a few less than savory connections," she added with a wink. "Now, go. You're keeping Dr. Wilson waiting."
"I-I don't … I mean, I didn't mind, I…"
"Stuttering doesn't become you any more than resentment, Dr. Wilson," Brid said sweetly as she swept past him and out into the hall. He blinked and stood for a moment, trying to regain his composure. Between Sabrina's chilly reception and Brid's not turning out to be what he thought she was, off-balance didn't begin to describe the way he felt. House would be mocking him to no end right about now. The thought came up unbidden and he winced inwardly.
"Coming, Dr. Wilson?"
He started, then hurried down the hall after her, still wondering what the hell he'd gotten himself into.
The cafeteria was noisy as usual, but no one sitting in the corner table even noticed. Hell, they didn't even make any noise, Wilson thought, glancing from one person to another, then another. Occasionally one would laugh out loud, then the silence came back. Fucking creepy, but equally cool, he realized, a small sigh escaping him. Even sitting with four people he felt adrift and left out.
Once he glanced up to see House gazing sadly at him, only to turn away swiftly at being caught. Sabrina traced her fingertip lightly down the back of her husband's hand, then turned to raise a brow at Wilson. See what you're doing to him, her expression seemed to say. Suddenly a rush of emotions filled him and he squeezed his eyes shut. Hard.
"Dr. Wilson?" Brid reached for him and he wrenched away, his eyes flying wide open with pain and astonishment all mixed in together.
"What the hell is going on?" he hissed, shuddering at another wave. "What…"
"Easy, Jimmy," Sabrina moved down a seat next to him, her expression troubled. "What's going on?"
"So much emotion. So much pain," he rasped out, allowing her to rest a hand on his shoulder. "Death, pain, loss…"
Sabrina closed her eyes and seemed to concentrate for a moment, reopened them to give Brid a sympathetic gaze. "You're projecting, hon," she said quietly. Immediately Brid went pale, then still as her father reached across the table to cradle her hand in his.
"It's okay, sweet," he said aloud, his voice a rasp from all the oxygen that he'd been breathing in for the past several weeks. He looked so tired, so worn, Wilson thought, taking in the spare frame, the silvery-white hair thinning from chemotherapy, the pallor from anemia brought on by all the chemicals that ravaged not only the cancer, but his body. Brid smiled wanly at him, then squeezed his hand in return.
"It's not okay," was her quiet reply. "It'll never be okay until you're whole again."
"It has to be, sweetie," he replied, leaning forward to kiss his daughter's forehead.
He's all I have left.
Wilson didn't flinch that time. The rush had been less intense, more of a gentle wave of sadness than the intensity of fear.
He's all I have left and now he's leaving me. They always leave. What will I do?