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Fic: Down the Shore

Title: Down the Shore
Author: Mer
Characters: The Wilsons
Rating: G
Word Count: 826
Summary: The trick is to stay afloat.
Disclaimer: James Wilson was created by David Shore. The rest I've extrapolated.
Author's Notes: Written to wish purridot a very happy birthday, from myself and her future husband, Peter.


Peter Wilson learned to swim in salt water, holding tightly to his father's hands as the waves lapped around them. Each time he let go, he thrashed his arms and legs before sinking to the soft sand below, only to be pulled back by the waistband of his swim trunks and tossed into his father's arms. He watched his older brothers dive into the surf, their sleek, dark heads bobbing to the surface like the seals that frolicked by the breakwater. Peter couldn't wait until he was big enough to swim like a seal. But even after he learned to let go of his father's hands and paddle on his own, he could never keep up with his brothers.

"They're older than you," his mother reminded him, when he trudged back to the blanket, exhausted and disappointed. "You'll catch up to them soon." But he never did.

The year Peter turned seven, his father started teaching a new course in the summer session. The boys, he said, were old enough to look after themselves when school was out. They still took family trips on the weekends, to the park or the river for a picnic or sailing, but on the hottest summer days, when the sun bleached the grass beige and the rattle of the air conditioner drove everybody to distraction, his mother piled them into the station wagon and they drove down the shore. After they staked out their spot on the beach, she sent them off to run wild on the boardwalk and splash into the surf, while she read in peace or played cards with the other mothers, now and then scanning the shore for danger.

James was a natural swimmer, strong and fast enough to keep up with Michael, but he hung back with Peter, gliding effortlessly alongside Peter's awkward, flailing crawl. They stayed close to the shore, because Peter was frightened of the deep water. He liked knowing the ocean floor was just beyond reach of his tiptoes.

"You need to learn how to float," James told him. "If you can float forever, it doesn't matter how deep the water is." He taught Peter to tread water, to sit suspended in the ocean, only the occasional sweep of hands and slow, circling kicks keeping them buoyant. He showed Peter how to conserve energy with the dead man's float, how to swim with the rips instead of struggling to escape, how to dive deep and lessen the pull of the surface currents. "I won't let you drown," he promised, leading Peter further and further out until he was no longer afraid.

But when Peter tired and turned back to shore, James dove under the next wave and swam after Michael, beyond the breakwater.

Peter always returned first to the blanket, sun and salt-streaked, and searching for the shade cast by their faded beach umbrella. He rubbed suntan lotion on his mother's back so she could lie on her stomach and sleep until James and Michael raced up, looking for dinner. Michael would shake himself like a dog, spraying drops of water over their mother's back to wake her up. She'd pretend to be mad, hiding her laughter as she searched in the cooler for his favourite drink.

After dinner, they played Skee-Ball in the arcade by the pier or dragged their mother on the Tilt-a-Whirl until they staggered dizzily into each other like human bumper cars. Michael would run off to join the teenagers slouching in the shadows, promising to return before it was dark, though James always had to go and drag him back when it was time to drive home. James would watch wistfully as Michael disappeared into a world where he wasn't welcome, and Peter realized that he was trying to catch up as well. Except James always stopped and waited when Peter called after him, while Michael never did.

Years later, after everybody stopped trying to drag Michael back, Peter would see that same wistful expression on James's face and wonder if James wished Michael would come home, or if he wished he could follow Michael into the shadows.

When he grew up, he moved to the other coast where there were beachside cafés instead of run-down boardwalks, and he could swim in the ocean twelve months a year if he wanted. He didn't. He rollerbladed and biked and jogged on the hard-packed sand at low tide, but he swam in pools and saved the ocean for sailing. And every time he returned home for a family gathering or holiday, his brother James, who could float better than anyone, was just a little more weighed down and waterlogged.

He flew back to Jersey for the funeral of a woman he'd never met, and found James submerged by a grief so strong he could barely keep his head above water. "I won't let you drown," Peter promised and held his brother's hand as the waves crashed down around him.

Comments

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topaz_eyes
Jul. 22nd, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
That is gorgeous--I love the wave and sea metaphors, and Peter and James both trying to keep up. The end is especially poignant.
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:53 am (UTC)
Thank you!

This one started out as a quick little memory piece, but I kept flashing on the idea of Wilson being pulled under by all the pain and loss in his life and the metaphors grew from there. If I'd spent less time deciding on POV and more writing the actual story, it might have developed even further...
deelaundry
Jul. 22nd, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, Peter. Wilson needs this, so much.

Beautiful imagery, beautiful storytelling.

*mems*
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:55 am (UTC)
Thanks! I like the idea of Wilson having one brother who's there for him, at least some of the time.
nightdog_barks
Jul. 22nd, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
Mer, I think this is one of the best pieces you've ever done.

*mems*
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:58 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you. I was pleased by how it turned out - and I really liked writing from Peter's POV. I'll have to give him a voice again.
valn
Jul. 22nd, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
I'm all teary!
Wonderfully done.
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:58 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad I could make an impression with it.
elynittria
Jul. 22nd, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
Beautiful! *envies purridot for snagging Peter*
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 07:00 am (UTC)
Thank you! Peter's a good catch. Wilson helped raise him well!
jdr1184
Jul. 22nd, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
Except James always stopped and waited when Peter called after him, while Michael never did. I love how devoted James is to Peter and it makes me so mad that Michael isn't. Michael and House share the selfish trait, but at least with House, we see moments of caring. I hope Peter can save him, because James needs someone to keep him from drowning.

I hope we never find about the long lost brother in canon, because I'll never accept a version that isn't yours. :)
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 07:03 am (UTC)
I kind of hope we don't find out about LLB either, because I don't think I could keep writing something that was definitely outside of canon. I like my grey area!

I'm sure James had his horrible older brother moments, but he comes off pretty good in comparison to Michael, so Peter is pretty biased in his favour. It's all about the filter.

Thanks for reading!
perspi
Jul. 22nd, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
Oh God, mer, this is FANTASTIC. *flails*
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was an interesting experiment writing a different Wilson, so I'm glad it worked for you.
talktidy
Jul. 22nd, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC)
Exquisite
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
(Anonymous)
Jul. 23rd, 2008 12:39 am (UTC)
If season 5 doesn't open with Amber's funeral, I'm going to take this as canon. I love seeing Wilson through his brother's eyes. Thank you for a lovely story! Taiga
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading! I thought it would be interesting to look at the Wilsons from a different perspective. God knows, I wish the show would allow for Wilson to have some kind of support network from the family that's not missing.
purridot
Jul. 23rd, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
The last line got me all teary again! *hugs you, Peter, and James*

And I can feel the hot sun, the crackly sand and the warm/cool water of the ocean when I read this, I swear!

Thank you, thank you, thank you... I am so touched. <3
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it. Peter can't always be there, but he tries to be a good brother.

I started playing with ideas for it while I was sitting in a park by the ocean on a sunny day, so I guess some of the surroundings bled into the story!
angelcat2865
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:27 am (UTC)
very Nice
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
(Anonymous)
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:10 am (UTC)
Wonderful story!
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you - I'm glad you liked it!
srsly_yes
Jul. 23rd, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
That was powerful. This one brought tears to my eyes.
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm always thrilled when a story has an emotional impact.
jtsbar
Jul. 23rd, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
Wonderful, wonderful. Beautifully structured, and one clear-eyed insight after another.

Peter would see that same wistful expression on James's face and wonder if James wished Michael would come home, or if he wished he could follow Michael into the shadows
Is this part of the pull of House on him, to bring him home, or to follow him?

mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
Hmm - the internet ate my first response.

That's an interesting question. I think Wilson does want to save House, in whatever way he can, but I also think part of him longs for the shadows, or whatever escape hanging out with House offers.

Thanks for reading - I'm glad you liked it!
cindy_lou_who8
Jul. 23rd, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
Wow. :)
mer_duff
Jul. 23rd, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
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