AN: Written for the random song title 100-word drabble challenge on the LJ community HouseficPens. The inspiration for each drabble comes from the first 13 songs that showed up on my iTunes shuffle play. The title of the fic itself comes from the fact that two of the random songs were from James McMurtry's album "Too Long In The Wasteland."


All My Loving

"If you don't tell your parents, I will." Julie's voice sounded harsh over the phone line. "I'm tired of making excuses when they call."

Wilson planned to call his parents when he moved out, but he didn't want to spoil their anniversary plans. After the shooting he'd canceled his visit home. He'd meant to call a few other times since then, but never did.

They'd been sympathetic when his first two marriages fell apart. But he'd seen disappointment in his father's eye last time, seen his mother sigh and shake her head. He was afraid of what he'd see now.


Dancing With the Women At the Bar

She'd meant it as a joke, to celebrate the decision by going to the strip club. But there they were ... two men and five women in conservative suits, surrounded by poles, flashing lights and a two drink minimum.

They'd ordered tequila, and downed the shots together. Then it was Jack Daniels. Stacy ordered a round of ouzo, and found herself swaying in time to the music along with one the firm's partner's and a legal secretary. She twirled away from the bar, and bumped against a tall man.

"You're overdressed," he said. "But luckily I have a very good imagination."


The Path of Thorns

Greg complained about the food the hospital served, then said he was too tired to eat the food Stacy brought from home.

It was too bright in the room to sleep, he said, then it was too dim to read.

"He's in pain," James noted with a shrug. "If they can find the right meds ..."

"Then he'll go back to the sunny disposition he's always had?" Stacy smiled at her own small joke. Greg had never been easy. He'd warned her about that from the night they met. He'd fought every compromise. She should have known nothing would change now.


The Dress Looks Nice On You

Allison's wedding gown came from her mother-in-law. The wedding was planned quickly, to take advantage of the good weeks Brad still had. There wasn't time to order a new dress. Those on the rack didn't seem right.

"I always wanted daughters," Shirley said. "I saved this for them, but I ended up with sons instead."

Allison hugged her and said she loved it, though it wasn't quite her style. But Brad smiled when he saw her walk down the aisle. Allison's father put her hand in Brad's and stepped back.

"You're beautiful," Brad whispered, and they turned toward the preacher.


The Sun Comes Through

Allison had been asleep. She had meant to be there, to be by his side. Instead her father-in-law called just before 5 a.m.

"He's passed," Louis said. "It was very peaceful."

Louis would be there soon to drive her to the funeral home. They'd already selected Brad's clothes. Allison hadn't wanted an open casket, but his parents' had, and it wasn't worth fighting about.

She looked east out past the balcony. The first rays of the morning sun were fighting their way through the dark. Their shafts of pure light spread across the horizon as far as she could see.


Poor Lost Soul

"So what did you people do with all those souls anyway?" Foreman shoved the newspaper across the conference table toward Chase.

"We didn't do anything." Chase ignored the paper.

"All those poor babies," Foreman said. "One minute they're in limbo, the next ... 'poof.' No more limbo."

"First off, I'm not the pope. Second, the Catholic church never claimed there was a limbo. Just a few people used to teach that there was one."

"Which brings us back to those poor babies."

"You know, you were a lot easier to deal with back when you ignored religion to spite your father."



Lisa used to watch her mother put on makeup. Foundation, blush, eyeliner, mascara, shadow, lipstick.

When she was six and her sister Rachel was eight, they'd snuck into her mother's bedroom. Lisa frowned at the face in the mirror. Her lips were red and uneven, the mascara had clumped on the brush and on her eyelashes. She knocked over the perfume bottle and watched it spill across the bureau and onto the floor.

Her mother hadn't punished them. "Don't worry," she said. "I'll get even with you when you have your own girls, and I tell them all about this."


Orphan Girl

Cuddy wants to scrub her mother's face clean, start over. The funeral home had given her a heavy coat of makeup which makes her look cheap, common. Her pale skin is too dark, her lips too bright, the shadow too thick.

She wants to reach into the coffin, fix her mother's hair, but doesn't. She sees the dead every day. She's learned how to heal the living by cutting into the dead. She reminds herself that the body in the coffin is just a shell.

Her sister steps up next to her, takes Cuddy's hand in hers, and squeezes tight.



"You'll call me Coach, or Mr. Andrews," the man said. "And I'll call you Mr. Foreman. Titles are a sign of respect, and I expect you to show me the same respect I show you."

Eric held his tongue and remembered what his father had said about his second chance at the new school.

Coach made him run wind sprints when he was late, made him work with a tutor when his grades dropped.

"You can call me Terry, you know," he said the last time Foreman saw him.

"I'll call you Coach," Foreman said. "It's a sign of respect."

One True Love

Blythe fell in love with John House the day they met. It wasn't the way he looked, or how his dress uniform fit him. It was the way he smiled at her, as if she was the only girl in the room.

"But the Corps always comes first to him," Greg pointed out. "You always have to go where he's going. You never get to make any of the choices."

"Sweetheart, love sometimes means doing things you don't want to." She handed her son a book to pack for their next move to a new base. "Someday, you'll understand that."


Settle For Me

House always expected Stacy to leave. She was beautiful, brilliant, could have anyone she wanted. But she surprised him, and stayed.

"I don't believe in compromise," he warned her.

"Neither do I," she said.

"I'm not going to change, just to make you happy," he said. "Don't expect me to do something just because you want it."

"I'm not asking for that," she said.

He shouldn't have been surprised when she finally did leave, but he was. Sometimes he wondered if it would have been worth it to compromise just once, and if that would have convinced her to stay.


Are We Almost There?

Just before the divorce, Robert's parents took him to Prague. The Communist government had collapsed, and his father wanted to show his new family to the one he left behind at the end of the Prague Spring, when he'd fled just before the Soviet tanks arrived.

Robert studied the sights wondering if the buildings themselves could offer up some secret to help him understand his father. They were silent.

He wondered if Rowan would decide to stay, but Rowan just shook his head.

"There's nothing here for me now," he said. "I had to leave to become who I am."


Free Money

"Left my wallet at my desk," House said to Wilson. "You'll cover for me, won't you?"

"I don't have any change," House said at the vending machine. Chase reached into his coat and pulled out three quarters.

"I thought free coffee was part of my compensation package," he said, and Cuddy pulled a dollar from her own pocket for the cashier.

"I don't have a free hand," House said, indicating the cup in one hand and the cane in the other. "Help me out?" Cameron paid his bill.

"I'll bet you $20 that it's not lupus."

Foreman nodded. "You're on."