black_cigarette (black_cigarette) wrote,

1.6: Communication Breakdown

TITLE: Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces
SUMMARY: "Can you identify the body, sir? We'll need for you to do that."
R for language and themes.
WARNINGS: Details the aftermath of events in Bad Company, a rough, violent story. Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The pieces of this shattered story are numbered. The first number signifies the number of days that have elapsed since the original event in Bad Company; the second number signifies when the fic occurs during that day.

Communication Breakdown

"Dr. House?"

The voice cuts through the thick fog that is House's brain on scotch. No, strike that. House's brain on sheer fucking exhaustion. Sheer fucking adrenaline. Sheer fucking utter paralyzing fear.

Well, no. Strike all those too. Strike them through with a big black marker, crumple up the paper and throw it away, because it's not any one of these. It's all of them.

"Dr. House?"

Who the hell is this?

"Dr. House, I'm the duty nurse tonight. I wanted to let you know that Dr. Wilson passed away and you'll need to collect his things tomorrow."

Wait ... what?

"Dr. James Evan Wilson? He passed away tonight and you'll need to collect his things—"


"I'm sorry, Doctor, but—"

No. When I left the hospital he was alive. He was alive.

"Doctor, I don't know anything about that. You'll need to fill out several forms, of course, and identify the body personally—"

No. He was alive! What the fuck happened? Who is this?

"I told you, sir, I'm the duty nurse."

Oh, God. God. No.

"Can you identify the body, sir? We'll need for you to do that."

Oh, Christ.

"Sir, I need a yes or a no answer. Can you identify your friend's body?"

My ...

"After all, sir—it's not like you were treating him like one."

House's eyes flash open and he bolts upright on the sofa. He's panting—panting—like he's just run a goddamn marathon, and the nurse's voice is still echoing in his ears, mixing in with the low-pitched, brainless chatter from the TV.

"Oh crap," he breathes. "Oh shit. Oh crap. What the fuck ..."

Quick—what's the last thing he remembers?

Cuddy, throwing him out of the hospital. Making him take a cab. Before that. She'd sent Chase to his office ... what had Chase said? God damn it, think!

Chase had said Wilson had made it through surgery—he was going to be okay. And before that? House lay back down slowly.

He'd been in a fight. One of the EMTs. Some skinny guy, a beanpole. He'd wanted to strangle him, pound his face in, crack his skull open all over the clean hospital floor.

He'd wanted to kill him.


House stares at the phone in his hand. Wasn't he just talking to someone? The deep amber liquid in the half-empty bottle winks at him, reflecting the flickering light from the television.

"Hey! House!" The accent registers at last.


"Thought you'd never wake up," the voice on the phone grumbles. "Cuddy wants to know when you want to schedule the memorial service."

The what?

"Memorial service. For Wilson."


"Yeah, apparently the whole hospital'll be there. So can you pick a day? 'Cause I really need to get back to Melbourne but I have to know when the service is first."

No—you said—

"I said what?"

You said he was alive.

"Really? Nah, he died on the table. Threw one hell of a clot and stroked out. How's Wednesday for you?"

... Wednesday?

"For the memorial service."

No. No, there can't be a memorial service because he's not dead! You said he came through all right!

"Well, I made a mistake, then, didn't I? Yeah, I'm always making mistakes like that. You know one time I thought you had brain cancer? And I cared? You fooled everybody with that one, House. Except Wilson, of course."

Wait ...

"Look, let me or Cuddy know whatever you decide. We've got the whiteboard all prepared."

Chase, what—

"Yep, we've drawn all the lines and connected all the dots, and you know where they all lead?"

— —

"You, House. They all lead back to you."


The voice is calm and urbane and pleasant, and House knows this voice immediately. After all, he's just heard it, less than twenty-four hours ago when it came with a side accompaniment of Wilson being beaten to death.

No, wait a minute. Wilson's not dead. He's been dreaming. All night. Hasn't he?

The ice in his drink has melted. A tiny moat of condensation has formed around the bottom of the glass.


And House wants to slam the phone down, throw it against the wall, smash it with his cane until it's in a million tiny pieces so that his voice can never come through it again.

But he can't seem to do any of those things.

"I wanted to let you know I'm here," the voice continues, apparently unperturbed at House's silence. "In the ICU."

House sits straight up.

"You know, Greg, you really should speak to Security about how easy it is for a complete stranger to put on a set of surgical scrubs and walk right in. Procedures are truly quite lax here—unforgivably so, one might say."

House is up, fumbling for his Nikes, his leather jacket, his bike keys. Leave the helmet—got to go now. Still the voice goes on, silken tones with a steel edge cutting through the fog in his brain.

"He's looking at me right now, Greg. He tried to press the call button but I moved it out of reach."

The bike keys aren't where House left them. Where are they? Where are they? No timeI have to hang up and call the hospitalwarn them

"Ah, well," the voice sighs. "I wish we could talk more, reminisce about some of the old times. I really did enjoy entertaining your friend, but I'm afraid that I must now finish what I started."

Somehow House has ended up on the floor beside the piano bench. He can't find his shoes. He can't find his jacket. The bike keys have disappeared. All the lamps have gone out and it's so, so dark. There's only the maddening, familiar voice inside his head.

"But the best part, Greg?" the voice purrs. "The best part was how intimately James and I got to know each other."

There's a deafening click! as Martin hangs up.

House screams, and falls off the sofa.

The pain shoots up House's spine; he clutches at his thigh, scrambling to rise, to get up, to reach the phone and warn the ICU staff to get to Wilson's room now, because—

Because what?

The TV still babbles softly in the background, otherwise the living room is dark and quiet. The phone is on the coffee table, just where he left it when he sat down. Slowly, gingerly, he pushes himself to his knees and stretches across the table to reach it. He flips it open.

No calls.

House eases himself back down onto the floor and rests against the sofa. He scrubs a hand across his face, realizes he's breathing in harsh, panting gasps, and forces himself to a calm he doesn't really feel.

None of it happened. No one called. Wilson's not dead. Martin's not in the ICU.

All of those statements are true.

Aren't they?

The hands on the small square face of the travel alarm are just a few degrees shy of dead level, pointing east and west. 3:45.

House groans. Obviously he's not going to be able to get back to sleep, so he gets up and hobbles into the bathroom.

He'll take a shower, clear his head.

Go in. Walk the hallways, watch who comes and goes in the ICU.

Just in case.

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