AN: Following on to the end of the drabble challenge, using random song titles as prompts for drabbles of 100 words each. This uses the same prompts as "Too Long In the Wasteland" and "The Boxing Mirror."

Orphan Girl

"Give your Grandma a kiss, Eric."

Eric is four, old enough to know the woman in the bed isn't his grandma. Grandma's back in Chicago. But Mama insists, so he steps forward.

"I can't believe you put her in a home," Mama whispers to Aunt Bev.

"You aren't here. You don't know how bad she was getting. I couldn't take care of her anymore."

Eric is glad when they leave the building with its bad smells and the strange woman who doesn't know his name. A month later, when Aunt Bev calls, he doesn't know why Mama can't stop crying.


All My Loving

"You've got to talk to him." Eric can hear his parents arguing in the kitchen from his spot at the top of the stairs. "He has to know that he can't wrap you around his little finger and get anything he wants."

"He's my baby," Mom says. "I don't want to see him hurt."

"He's going to be hurt even more if you don't set limits and stick to them," Dad says. "He needs to learn right from wrong."

Paul walks up to him and sits next to Eric. "What are they arguing about now?"

Eric looks over. "You. Again."


Poor Lost Soul

Eric begins singing in the children's choir when he's eight. When he's nine, Dad says he's old enough to be baptized.

Mom was baptized on a hot summer day in a river back in Tennessee. Dad is a city boy but still had his baptism outside, in Lake Michigan's waves. Eric feels disappointed that his will be indoors, in the big plastic tank at the front of the church.

He's dressed in a white robe and holds his breath as the preacher tilts him back, lowers him under the water. When he emerges he's wet, but doesn't feel any different.


The Path of Thorns

"You're the oldest brother. You're supposed to set an example." Eric can hear Dad yelling at Paul from the other side of the house.

"I didn't ask to be born first." Paul falls back on his usual response. "And I told him to go home. Can I help it if he tags after me everywhere?"

"You can help it if he ends up hanging out with those criminal friends of yours."

"They're not ..."

"Yes. They are. I thank God you don't do everything they want you to do, but he's not old enough to know how to tell them 'no.'"


Free Money

"Grab the TV."

Eric does what Ty says. Ty planned the break-in, has been there before. He knows what is in each room. Knows what is easy to sell.

There's the television, where he'd said it would be. On the way out, a wad of cash catches Eric's eye. He opens a drawer, takes the bills and shoves them in his pocket. When he turns back to the door, he sees a photo on a shelf: parents and children happy, smiling at a graduation.

He stops for a moment, looks at it, then picks up the set and heads out.


One True Love

Eric stares at the floor while his mother pleads with the judge for a second chance.

"He's a good boy," she says.

"With all due respect, ma'am, this wasn't his first crime -- just the first time he was caught. You may be seeing what you want to see, because you love him."

"I do love him," Mom says, and takes Dad's hand. "We both do. That's why we'll make sure it never happens again."

The judge orders Eric to look at him, then sentences him to probation. "Don't make me regret this," he says. "Don't make them regret it either."


Settle For Me

Someone at church helps Dad finds the camp which promises tough love, hard work and Bible teaching, and is supposed to help wayward youths find their moral compass.

Eric can't sleep the night before he's supposed to leave. He sits on the back steps, listening to the sounds of the city. Mom steps outside, sits next to him.

"I know you're anxious, but you should go to bed, try to get some sleep," she says. "You've got an early start tomorrow."

Eric can only nod.

Mom wraps an arm around his shoulder, pulls him close. "I'll miss you," she says.


Are We Almost There?

It takes almost an hour to get to the new school, taking a combination of buses and trains. Eric doesn't know anyone there, but they all know about him. One of the counselors leads him into an office.

The man doesn't say anything about the camp, about where Eric spent the past three months. He just hints at it, which seems even worse.

"We have high standards here," the man says. "We expect our students to live up to those standards."

Eric holds his head up, thanks the man for his time and follows a map to his first class.


The Sun Comes Through

The scholarship means that Eric can go to college anywhere, and he picks somewhere far away, where no one knows him.

His bags are heavy when he loads them in the car, but he feels lighter, feels the weight of his past dropping off his shoulders with each step he takes away from home, away from his history.

He feels a tug on his coat before he steps into the car, and turns to see his mother smiling even as she fights back tears, pulling him back for one last hug. He squeezes her tight. "I'll miss you," he says.



Foreman is used to finishing first in his classes: math, science even English. The A minus in history feels like a blow.

"It's all about context," the professor says. "I didn't feel like you fully understood the implications of Homer's writings on Greek civilization as a whole."

She points him to another student and suggests that Foreman work with him on the next project. The other student is tall, blond, blue-eyed. White. Foreman can't say for certain that the color of his skin had anything to do with his grade, but the thought settles into the back of his mind.


Dancing With The Women At The Bar

California is everything Foreman hoped it would be: sunny, warm, beautiful.

Marty praises him at every opportunity, pointing out to others how well Foreman works with patients, how quickly he grasps the nuances of every new case.

"You're going places, Eric," he says one night after the lecture as they sit sipping Marty's favorite martinis at Marty's favorite bar.

Marty is rich, famous, respected. Foreman should be happy, but keeps thinking there's more than he doesn't know -- more that he needs to know. Even before his fellowship ends, he writes a letter, sends his CV east and asks about openings.



House is pushing. House is always pushing.

"Steal a car," he says. "Get me one of those," he says. "Dr. Mandingo," he says.

Foreman knows what he wants, knows House is looking for a reaction, any reaction. He refuses to give it to him. He responds only with a joke or says nothing at all. He puts up with the mind games, with the bets, with the addiction, with the attitude. He's not sure why.

House looks him in the eye and every sound in the operating room goes silent. "Good enough for me," House says, and Foreman knows why.


The Dress Looks Nice On You

Dad tried to clean out the closet once, but Mom didn't recognize her own clothes, kept looking for something she'd last worn a decade ago. The dress she's wearing today hasn't seen the light of day since he was in junior high, and she doesn't know him when she comes into the kitchen.

"Maybe," Dad says the next day, "maybe next time you should stay somewhere else. It's getting harder for her to adjust, especially in the morning."

Foreman nods, promises they'll talk about that before his next visit. He gives his mother a hug. "I miss you," he says.


Poor Lost Soul

Mum used to read to him about the lives of the saints. Now Robert reads them on his own when it rains.

There was St. Gerard, the one she prayed to before he was born, and Adelbert, the patron saint of Prague, whose picture hangs in Dad's office. Robert likes Patrick because he's the patron saint of Melbourne. And because of the snakes.

Mum says her new favorite is Francis of Assisi. He guesses that it's because she loves animals, but the book says he's also the patron saint against dying alone. Robert laughs at that, and turns the page.


Orphan Girl

The family tree Robert has to do for school tilts to one side. Dad helps him fill in the boxes with names going back four generations. Mum can't recall her grandmother's maiden name, isn't certain if "Ace" was her grandfather's real name or a nickname.

She rarely mentions her sister in Perth, and won't say what happened between them.

"It doesn't matter," she says. "We've got each other now, and that's all we need."

When Robert finds a photo of his mother as a little girl, holding her mother's hand, he holds it tight, and tries to imagine what happened.


Free Money

Allowance comes with a lecture, Dad handing out unwanted advice along with every dollar, shaking his head as he counts them out.

"You don't know how good you have it, but someday you will," he says. "When I was a boy I had to work for everything."

Robert nods and thanks him for the cash. The ten dollars will be enough to get three of them into the movies -- four if they don't buy popcorn. He walks down the street to where his friends are waiting on the corner. They cheer when he smiles and waves the bills at them.



He doesn't wear a collar, and at first Robert doesn't realize that the new teacher in religion class is a priest. His name hasn't been borrowed from a saint.

"Times change," Terry says. "The church is changing too."

He talks about missions in Africa and in Asia. He talks about all the good that he's done -- that others have done -- in God's name.

"The church isn't just a building, it's everywhere," he says, and Robert listens. "God has work for you. He has a plan. You -- all of you -- can do something good in this world. It's up to you."


All My Loving

Robert stays, because she asks him to.

Robert takes over the cooking, because she'll eat a few bites, if only to make him happy.

Robert cleans up, because he doesn't want anyone to get the wrong idea.

Robert quits rugby, because she's lonely if he's not there.

Robert walks with her to mass on Sundays, because she doesn't want to miss communion.

Robert takes the bus to another church, because he doesn't want to give confession to someone who knows him, knows his mother.

Robert won't leave, because he knows she still loves him.

Robert believes that she'll remember that.


The Dress Looks Nice On You

Chase has the closet doors open. He sits on the bed and stares at the mixture of colors, fabrics and textures.

There's the dark blue suit Mum wore to his graduation next to the red dress he last saw during his parents' final anniversary dinner. There's a black and white checked blazer, from back when she still bothered to go to the club.

"Pick one, Robert," Dad says. Chase faintly remembers calling him that morning, telling him that Mum had finally done it, asking him what to do. "They're waiting at the funeral home."

He reaches in, makes a choice.


One True Love

Chase has started going to mass every morning. He'd hated the daily routine when he was in school, but now he finds comfort in the words and the ritual.

He stands with the rest of the congregation. He listens to the scriptures, bows his head in prayer, steps into line to take communion. He knows what to do when he's here, inside these walls. There are no questions. Everything seems certain. Everything has a reason.

Outside the church nothing makes sense. There are no rules. He has only questions and no answers, and Chase wants answers. He wants something certain.


Settle For Me

Chase finds a quiet corner and begins praying before dawn. He continues as the bell rings for breakfast. He waits for the quiet, still voice of God that will give him direction. The only thing he hears is his stomach rumbling.

"Sometimes you have to wait for an answer," the monsignor tells him later that day. "Sometimes, the only answer is that there is no answer."

"That doesn't help," Chase says.

"I know. I'm sorry. But not everyone is suited for the church. This is a choice you have to make for yourself. No one said it would be easy."


The Path of Thorns

Everyone expects him to be just like his father. They think he went into medicine because it was the easiest choice. The simple choice.

"I expect you'll go into practice with him," one of the doctors says during the first days of his internship. Chase shrugs and doesn't answer. He's found it's easier just to let people think whatever they want to think. He doesn't want to argue anymore with anyone. It's not worth the energy.

But he still isn't certain he belongs here. He feels like he's wearing someone else's clothes -- his father's clothes -- and they don't quite fit.


The Sun Comes Through

Twenty-four hours later, and Chase is still awake. He closes his eyes and still sees the man as he was brought into the ER, bleeding and unconscious. He can still smell the faint copper of the man's blood.

Only twenty-four hours since the surgeon placed Chase's hand over the hole in the man's thigh pumping out arterial blood, told him to hold tight and hang on as they rushed into the operating room.

Less than twenty-four hours since the man opened his eyes in intensive care and squeezed his wife's hand.

Barely twenty-four hours since Chase realized where he belonged.



Chase fights to stay calm when he talks to his father. He needs Rowan on his side to make this work.

"It's a fellowship. In America."

Rowan knows of House, knows of his reputation.

"If you think I'm tough, wait until you meet him. You won't last ..."

"I will," Chase says. "I can do this. I was just hoping you'd make a call, lay the groundwork."

"It's a long way from home, but I had to go a long way from home when I was your age." Rowan taps his fingers on his desk. "You're sure?"

Chase nods.

"All right."


Are We Almost There?

Chase pays extra for a short-term lease on his first apartment in Princeton. He keeps expecting House to tell him he's not wanted anymore.

Richardson walked away from his fellowship without even saying goodbye, just a note wishing Chase luck.

"You don't need luck." Chase jumps at the sound of House's voice behind his shoulder and crumples up the note. "Richardson was a moron. He needed luck, didn't have any. I have some hope you're not a moron,"

House walks into his office. "Of course allowing a cripple to sneak up on you isn't exactly a sign of intelligence either."


Settle For Me

Rowan's second wife faxes him a copy of the will, though he says he believes her. Dad owned the house and beach cottage with her. He shouldn't be surprised the money went to her as well.

"There are some things he wanted you to have," she tells him, and the package arrives two weeks later.

There are photos, Rowan's watch, his stethoscope.

And there are letters and cards, some Chase made in school, some sent from the seminary, others from the states.

"He always kept these with him," Rowan's wife says in a note. "He read them, over and over."


Dancing With The Women At The Bar

Chase folds the paper in half and tucks it into his pocket. He gives the woman a smile.

"Talk to you later, Susan," he says. He picks up the glasses and heads back to the table.

Foreman reaches for his beer and shakes his head. "I do not believe you, man," he says. "Please tell me House is wrong. No way were you ever going to become a priest. Not with that smile and that ..." he gestures toward Chase's hair.

"All true," Chase says.

"No way."

"Different time," Chase says. "Different place."

"Different person, maybe," Foreman says.

Chase shrugs. "Maybe."


Orphan Girl

Mommy tells Allison that her friend Christy won't be visiting any more because her Mommy and Daddy died in a car accident, and Christy will be going to live with her uncle in New York.

"I don't want her to leave," Allison says. "Why can't she live here, with us? Then she won't have to go."

Mommy says that it wouldn't be possible.

"Why not? I'll share my room and my toys and everything."

"I'm sorry, honey but things just don't work that way," Mommy says. "Sometimes people have to go away."

"But I don't want her to go away."


Dancing With The Women At The Bar

"One and two and three and ... stop looking at your feet Allison ..."

Allison jerks her head up, turning her attention away from her toes and instead looks at Melissa's back, seeing how Melissa's shoulders are straight, not slumped.

She tries to mimic Melissa's posture, tries to keep her right hand light on the barre as her left

follows the familiar patterns for each position.

This isn't the type of dancing she wants to do, but Mom had said it was important, that ballet is the base of everything else, and it was the right way to learn, so Allison learns.

One True Love

Allison feels the satin cloth under her fingers. It's pink, her favorite color, and she has pink ribbons in her hair.

Aunt Kathy is at the center of the room, wearing a long white dress that falls in waves onto the floor. She's wearing gloves reaching past her elbows. Allison's gloves are short, going only past her wrists.

Her mother hands Allison her flower basket and reminds her to walk slowly down the aisle.

"She's beautiful," Allison says, and points to her aunt.

"All brides are beautiful," Mom says. "Someday you'll be a bride, and you'll be even more beautiful."


The Sun Comes Through

Mom and Dad tell the girls they can be anything they want to be, but that doesn't help. Allison doesn't know what she wants to do.

All she knows is that she wants to help others, to do something that'll make a difference.

"You could be the first female president," Dad teases, but she tells him the one thing she's certain of is that she hates politics.

When she's left waiting in the doctor's office before her regular checkup, Allison studies the diplomas, noting the names of the colleges, the degrees, the honors, and finally her imagination begins to soar.


Settle For Me

Allison volunteers at the hospital, hoping exposure to its hallways, its patients and its doctors will help her prepare for the MCAT. She studies during breaks at the cafeteria, her books spread out on the table.

"Do you mind?" The voice is soft but masculine, and she looks up to see a young man standing there. "All the other tables seem to be occupied."

She apologizes and stuffs her books back into her bag.

He says his name is Brian, and she asks if he's visiting a patient. He shakes his head, looks down, gives a slight smile. "Afraid not."


Are We Almost There?

Brian talks about how he'd planned to become a lawyer. He talks about how he planned to travel. He talks about how he wanted a wife, children.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I don't know why I'm telling you all this. I haven't even said this to my parents."

"It's all right," Allison says, and puts her hand on his arm.

"I'm not angry," Brian says. "Not really. Not anymore. But sometimes it feels like I've been ... cheated. Like there are all these things that we're supposed to do before we die, and I'll never get a chance to do them."


All My Loving

"I love you," Brian says, and Allison smiles and repeats his words back to him.

She knows that it's true, that she isn't lying when she tells him she loves him.

But at the same time, she's confused. Love, pity, remorse, fear, sympathy, compassion -- deep inside all her emotions tangle around each other in a jumble and some days it's hard to separate out which one she's feeling.

She puts her hand against his head and feels new hair growing out from pale skin. She fights back tears, but doesn't know if it's because she's happy or because she's sad.



When he was healthy, when he was happy, when he was excited, when he had good days, Brian always had a faint rosy hue to his cheeks. Allison saw it a few times when he was feeling good, and saw it even more often in the photos at his parents' house.

But the funeral home has been conservative with the makeup, and he looks only slightly tanned as he lies there, the glow that came to him naturally no longer in view.

Allison turns away, unable to do anything more than nod whenever someone comments that he looks so "natural."


Free Money

After paying all the bills for the hospital, for the doctors, for the funeral, there are still a few thousand dollars left over from Brian's insurance. Brian's parents make out a check and give it to Allison.

"No," she says. "You should keep it."

"It's yours," Shirley says. "He'd want you to have it. We want you to have it."

Allison shakes her head. "This isn't why I married him. This isn't why ... "

"We know," Louis says. "But Brian used to wish he'd be able to help you with medical school. This way, in his own way, he still can."


Poor Lost Soul

Cameron loses her faith in God sometime after Brian dies. She feels the anger that Brian never did and it channels through her until it spills over and she wants to strike out, hit something, make God as angry as she is.

But anger takes too much energy. She's got med school to deal with now. More pressures. More work. More studying. Less sleep.

Cameron decides it would be easier just to forget God exists. She reasons that she can't be angry at something that isn't there, so she dismisses him from her life, shuts him out and moves on.


The Dress Looks Nice on You

Cameron knows she's pretty, but not the prettiest girl in any room. Knows she's graceful, but never the best dancer. Knows she's smart, but there's always someone smarter.

That's been good enough. She never wanted the spotlight.

But when her team wins honors, Roberts rushes to the podium to accept them, before she makes a move. Roberts who has his photo taken with the dean, although he missed half the sessions. Roberts who shakes everyone's hand at the head table, though his work was always late.

Cameron doesn't say anything, but knows that this time, being good enough, isn't enough.



"Are you sure this is what you want?" Dr. Newman asks.

Cameron nods. She knows there are dozens of hospitals that would be happy to have her on staff after her time at the Mayo clinic, but she doesn't want to be just another M.D. in the crowd.

"All right," Newman says, and agrees to give her a reference. "But you realize that there's no guarantee House will hire you. And even if he does, there's certainly no guarantee you're going to be happy."

But Cameron doesn't care about being happy. This time she just wants to be the best.


The Path Of Thorns

"You're pathetic," House says. Cameron doesn't look up to see who he's talking to. It could be all three of them.

Cameron studies the test results while Chase and Foreman look at the films hanging on the light board.

"If we do a lumbar puncture, we could ..." she begins.

"If we do a lumbar puncture, we'll just add another unnecessary hole in this guy, and you still won't see the answer that's right in front of your nose."

House raps his knuckles on the paper in front of Cameron. She re-reads the results and reminds herself that she wants this.