SUMMARY: Some dreams are darker than others.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, House
RATING: R for language and themes (gen fic).
WARNINGS: This is a very alternate universe. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The stories from this ficverse are numbered by chapter and scene, rather than by day as we did before.
"James," Dr. Ulman says. "It's so good to see you again."
And that should be the giveaway, the big clue that this is all a dream, him falling asleep on the spare infirmary bed he's maneuvered into place beside House's, because before her untimely death Sarah Ulman had probably spoken all of two dozen sentences to Wilson, and none of them had included his first name. This isn't so bad, though, and he allows himself to relax into the flow -- it's so pleasant to have her attention, to hear her talk to him this way. He smiles at her, murmurs that it's good to see her, too. Here in the hybercell chamber, it's peaceful, a whole world away from House's poking and prodding and cryptic statements. It's a welcome change, this time to himself.
"We're glad you're here," she says, and Wilson blinks at her. There's no one else here. No one but himself and Sarah. Sarah, with a white shroud draped across her beautiful, bare shoulders.
"We've been so lonely," she says, and too late Wilson realizes the danger.
He gasps as icy hands suddenly grip his elbows and wrists, twisting his arms behind his back. He doesn't have to look around to know that it's Norfolk and Sutherlin, pinning him in a frozen, unbreakable hold. Dr. Ulman leans closer, baring her teeth in an inhuman rictus of a grin.
"We want you to stay with us," she hisses, and whatever Wilson's objections might be, they're quickly muffled as Norfolk and Sutherlin force him face-down into a waiting hybercell. He tries to shout, to fight back, but the other two are too strong for him. They press his face into the cushions, wrap him tight in the straitjacket of cell shrouds and strap him in. He feels the telltale prick of the needle -- they've hooked him up to life support, but he's smothering, unable to move as he hears the hybercell shield slide inexorably shut, trapping him here forever in this room of the dead.
"No!" he yells, but that doesn't do any good -- he's not even going to die here, he's just going to exist, slowly going mad as the hours and days and months and years pass. "No!" he yells again, but this time it's a full-throttled scream of utter panic. He can see Dr. Ulman, a vague blur through the Novaglas of the hybercell shield.
"Forever," she says, and he screams again and again, trying frantically to turn over, to free his hands, to pound at the unyielding walls of his prison --
"Wilson!" someone yells, right in his ear, and it's not Ulman, or Norfolk or Sutherlin, or anyone else who's dead. It's ...
"Wilson! You idiot! Wake up!"
And finally Wilson gets a hand loose and thrusts the sheets away -- for that's all it is, he's become entangled in the sheets and they'd wrapped themselves around him just like -- just like --
"Oh, God," Wilson gasps, trying to catch his breath. He scrubs a hand over his face; it's trembling, and he wills it to stop.
"Whose turn is it now for nightmares?" House asks, but the curiosity in his eyes belies his gruff tone.
"Jettison the stiffs," House says bluntly.
Wilson grimaces. It's been over an hour since he'd awakened both himself and his patient, and despite the cup of hot tea he's made himself, his nerves are still jangling with the remembered horror.
"They're people, House," he growls.
"Not anymore," is the immediate retort. "At best, they're human meatsicles. At worst, they're weighing on your conscience -- ridiculous in and of itself -- and you should get rid of them."
"It's not that easy."
"Are you always this helpless? It is that easy -- you shove 'em out the airlock. The escape hatch. The garbage chute. Whatever's on this rustbucket. Wave bye-bye as they drift away. Problem solved."
"That's not what I'm talking about! I knew these people -- I ate with them, they talked about their work, about their families!"
"Boring and immaterial."
"It is not! They were human beings, House, and they deserve some respect!" Suddenly aware that his voice has risen to a near-shout, Wilson falls silent. He shakes his head and takes a deep breath. "Sorry. I'm sorry. I know it's not your -- "
House doesn't let him finish. "You said you didn't know what's-his-name, the captain, at all. Norfolk, you said, was a pompous ass that someone probably wanted to kill. Not exactly your buddy, was he?"
Wilson doesn't answer; he doesn't have to.
"So the only reason you're being stupid is because of the woman. Please don't tell me you're one of those white knights, always on the lookout for some helpless damsel -- "
"They were people, House. It doesn't matter if I knew or liked them."
"So give them a funeral," House snaps. "Say some meaningless words to make yourself feel better as you push 'em off the plank." His hard eyes burn into Wilson's for a moment, and then he shuts them and rests his head back against his pillow.
"Just don't expect me to help."
In the end Wilson does say some words over the three lifeless shells in the airlock. He doesn't know if they're meaningless, but it's what people have been doing for thousands of years and he figures it can't hurt.
He trips a little over the first litany -- he's never recited it himself, and if he wants to get technical about it, it's not even his prayer. The last time he heard it spoken was on the vid chips of the Argo King disaster off Lupinus Nine two years ago. Nonetheless, it's the universal supplication for those lost in the oceans of space, and so he reads the words off the printed card slowly and carefully. He thinks Captain Sutherlin would have appreciated it, and Norfolk ... well, if there really is an afterlife of some kind out there, that asshole is going to need all the help he can get.
"We therefore commit their bodies to the deep, to be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrection of the body (when the sea shall give up her dead,) and the life of the world to come ... "
The second prayer is easier, and he doesn't need a card to remind him of the words. They flow naturally, and a memory rises unbidden in his mind of the first time he'd seen her, at some stupid diplomatic mixer on Delphus. Tall and lithe, her green eyes cat-tilted, the gleam of a tiny silver Star of David on a thin chain at her throat.
"Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba ... "
He thinks he hears a soft chime at the edge of his awareness, and wonders if House is listening, there in the infirmary, as he says Kaddish for the soul of Sarah Ulman.