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Bad Company

1.6: Communication Breakdown



1.6: Communication Breakdown

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dark barn
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.
  • I really don't like this part - it's all too real.

    I do like the ending, though *partially contradicts self* because it's so House.
  • That was so disturbingly real.

    Had me going in the beginning.
  • Greetings!

    Yeah, there are times you just give up on sleep. The exhausted wakefullness is far better than the nightmares.

    I can understand the haunting of hospital hallways... but does he truly think they will let him? And/or is he willing to finally let slip a secret to possibly save his friend's life?

    Ntm... how is he getting there? In my experience, cabbies are not always known for promptness, the bike is at the hospital, and in any case, he is in no fit condition to be operating a moving motor vehicle. Ah, the joys of forced movement, far beyond logic or reason....

    • PS - I love the way you are getting us all trained.... ;->
      • Trained? As in, we have you trained to visit our LJ every day? :)

        Thank you so much for reading and commenting! Any guesses as to who wrote this part?
    • Well I'll take a stab. I think it's blackmare only because I ruled out nightdog, Dee, and pers.
    • Greetings!

      Every day, same bat-time, same bat-LJ.... :lol Y'all are good! Pavlov himself would have been proud... :D

      As to the who-committed-what... I think that, after much perusing of stories, I will go with Blackmare as well for this bit. Close call between Nightdog and Blackmare, but I think that Blackmare's style is slightly closer to this. Presuming of course that it's one author per section, which of course it may or may not actually be. The blending is so well done, it's really hard to differentiate between the different writing styles.


  • *shiver*

    And the worst (best) part? "He's looking at me right now, Greg. He tried to press the call button but I moved it out of reach." Control and vulnerability. Wilson's helpless, watching Martin with wide eyes, unable to move; House is helpless, too far away to save him; and Martin can do whatever he wants, and taunt them both about it. Just like at the barn.

    And so House already suspects that Martin did something to Wilson besides beat him up...
  • Wow. So incredibly real, and horrifying, but so superb. What a way to flesh out House's guilty conscience.
  • I love this image for how deftly it indicates the passing of time: The ice in his drink has melted. A tiny moat of condensation has formed around the bottom of the glass. And the "dead-level" hands on the clock is a great turn of phrase, for in this horrible dream, House has been completely helpless , so beyond the dead-level best he could do for any other patient.

    Martin has to be one of the most terrifying characters ever created. That detail about moving the call button made the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
    • Oh, yes, Martin is chilling, isn't he?

      He was scary when nightdog_barks wrote him in Bad Company. Imagine how frightening it was when he decided to start talking to the rest of us.
      • Chilling? Anthony Hopkins wasn't this chilling when he whispered into Clarese's ear in Silence of the Lambs! This guy isn't chilling, he's absolutely inhuman. Kind of reminds me of a comment I heard about Jeffery Dalmer earlier today...about him just being a guy with "an eating disorder".

  • Awesome!!! once again. House is so overwhelmed by fear and guilt, his waking and dream worlds are colliding. I loved this line Go in. Walk the hallways, watch who comes and goes in the ICU. Just in case. . These words capture so beautifully House's navigation of his two worlds - very much a struggle between the subconscious - conscious realms. Very, very rich imagery. Beautiful prose. This piece has different tempos that alternate between an adagio and allegro, i. e. the death notice conversations, and searching for his shoes and keys.

  • i made horrible noises whilst reading this. i think the neighbors think i've been murdered.
  • Damn, this part gave me the chills (not that the whole series hasn't been doing that), it was just so real and overwhelming.
  • "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."

    Oof. That part just killed me.
  • I like not the paranoia, but the reaction House has to the paranoia. That's what's all too real for me. There's House on drugs, and there's House on emotion, and the only emotions he really gets are anger and paranoia, and paranoia is to note here.
  • Wow. Even House's subconscious is rebelling against him. Won't let him sleep through 7 am. And he thought he needed 2 alarms to ensure that he will wake up. I'd be surprised if he ever gets to sleep without the help of meds or alcohol.
  • Damn, that last one freaked me out. I was thinking that for surely House would be awake that time. And, actually, I was kinda hoping he was. And I feel bad for wishing more torture on Wilson lol
  • I really liked the dream sequences (while still hoping that one with Martin really was a dream and not clairvoyance) because I felt we really got inside House's brain and felt his fear and terror, as opposed to just watching him suffer so dreadfully. Brrr, glad I am reading this in the bright light of morning and not late at night!
  • This feels like real suffering where not even sleep is inviolable and that roach Martin taunting him still.
  • wow... this is an amazing story :)

    i was going to wait until i finished it to comment, but the dream sequences in this chapter were so utterly amazing that i couldn't wait... so very realistic, just like an actual dream, with some things that make sense and some things that sort of do but not quite, and then the random parts that are somehow tied in with your waking life but give it away to those *not* dreaming that it *is* in fact a dream...

    i can't believe i haven't found you and this amazing fic before, it's quite beautifully written and emotionally devastating... usually i like my h/c with house as the one who's hurt, but this has me thoroughly enthralled :)
  • I didn't believe any of these dreams were truly happening for a minute, particularly the second since Chase would never say those things even though the voice is spot-on, but they all make perfect sense in dream-logic and in the context of House's terror and guilt. "All the lamps have gone out and it's so, so dark." Very, very good. Taking a deep breath and setting this story aside again for a bit.
    • Exactly. We couldn't have written these things as being exactly real; dreams almost always distort reality in a way that's recognizable when we're awake, but not when we're sleeping.

  • Reading this, I feel like my heart stopped. Seriously. Even though I know Wilson lived, I still...

    Heart. Stopped. So much.
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