PAIRING: House, Stacy, OMC
RATING: R for mature themes. Gen fic.
SUMMARY: When Stacy met Martin.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
AUTHOR NOTES: In Aftershocks 37.2: Fallout, House told Wilson that Martin had actually met Stacy, and that he had told her his name was Adrian Black. This is the story of that meeting.
BETA: The Aftershocks writing and beta crew.
House stands under the hot shower. The hot water sluices the dried sweat and grime from his body, and he stretches for a moment, enjoying the play of muscles beneath his own skin.
Good run, he thinks. He can still feel the pull in his quads, the pounding rhythm of the pavement in his heels. Pace myself next time -- don't want to end up with shin splints.
He tips his head back, letting the water rush over his face. He scrubs at his eyes, then allows his right hand to drift lazily down his stomach.
Run with Stacy tomorrow morning, before breakfast.
He strokes idly for a few moments, imagining Stacy's dark eyes, Stacy's strong fingers. His breathing quickens. Stacy's long legs, Stacy's smile, Stacy laughing at him for jerking off in the shower when the two of them could be --
The bathroom door opens. The shower curtain puffs inward, and the whisper of cooler air causes the hairs on House's forearms to raise in instant prickles.
"Greg? Aren't you ready yet?"
House sticks his head out from behind the slick, rubberized curtain. He leers.
"I could be ready now if you'd just come in here."
Stacy rolls her eyes. "Not now," she says. "I'm already dressed and you should be too. Mr. Black will be here in ten minutes." She leans forward, brushes her bright red lips against House's. "After dinner, tiger." The door shuts; another blast of cool air pushes past the curtain and she's gone.
"Sorry, tiger," he says to his now-flaccid dick, wilted in the face of adversity. He finishes rinsing, hurrying a little now.
Water was getting cold anyway.
House puts on a pair of clean slacks and the pale pink buttondown Stacy likes so much. No tie, though. Not even for the Great Adrian Black.
The majority of Stacy's clients are stuffed shirts, morons puffed up with their own self-importance. It's no challenge for House to run verbal rings around them, effortlessly jabbing them with pointed quips and thinly-disguised barbs until Stacy puts a stop to it by kicking him under the table. This guy, at least, seems like he might be different.
He's been just about all Stacy's talked about for the past two weeks -- her newest client is witty and charming, smart and funny, old-fashioned in his manners and gentle in his demeanor, with a core of inner strength like tempered steel.
She'd made him sound like a friggin' knight.
A great guy, House thinks sardonically. A real humanitarian. A mensch, as Wilson would say.
When she'd discovered Black was alone in the city for the holidays, it had provided the perfect opportunity. And, Stacy being Stacy, she had seized it.
"I want you to meet him," she'd said. "He's funny and he tells great stories -- he's lived all over the world, he speaks at least four languages fluently, and he's interested in everything. He even plays the piano. He reminds me -- " her right eyebrow had quirked upward " -- of you."
Well, House had thought. Maybe this guy isn't all bad.
He smoothes his shirt down a little, tucks his feet into his loafers. The smell of roast duck fills the apartment, and he can hear Stacy doing some last-minute thing in the kitchen. He comes out of the bedroom just as the doorbell rings. Stacy leans out, waving one potholder-clad hand at him.
"Greg, could you get that?" Her expression softens. "Thank you for doing this, honey," she says. "I really want for you to like this guest."
"I like all your guests, darling," House singsongs in his most smarmy, insincere voice, and grins as Stacy shakes her head in mock exasperation.
He's still smiling when he opens the door and feels the earth slide away under his feet.
The man at the door is tall, a couple of inches taller than House. His blond hair is cropped close, and a few snowflakes cling to the shoulders of his black wool overcoat. He's smiling, widely enough to crinkle the corners of his eyes with his good humor, and he's got a red-and-green wrapped bottle of what appears to be champagne in his gloved hands.
"Greg!" the man exclaims. "What an unexpected surprise!"
Stacy comes forward, and for a moment House wants to slam the door in the man's face and bear her to the floor, cover her body with his to protect her from the wolf on the threshold.
But he can't do that. He can't do any of those things, and he can only stand helplessly as the man turns to Stacy.
"Ms. Harper," he says, and Christ, he hasn't changed, he'll never change, that voice is still velvet-smooth. "You didn't tell me your friend was Greg House!"
"You two know each other?" Her surprise is evident, as is her annoyance with House for not mentioning this important detail. "Greg? Why didn't you tell me you know Mr. Black?"
House's tongue doesn't want to work. "I ... " he begins, and then finds he simply can't say anything else.
"It's been a long time," the man says. "Ten years, at least, wouldn't you say, Greg?" He turns the full force of his smile on Stacy. "And please -- call me Adrian. I insist."
And just like that, Martin Grey is back in his life.
Dinner is a nightmare.
Worse than a nightmare, House thinks as he stabs viciously at an innocent bit of sweet potato. A nightmare, you can wake up from. He chews at the potato morsel, forces it down his throat.
The food is like ashes in his mouth, and he doesn't dare to drink too much wine.
He might start talking. Not be able to stop.
Martin, of course, has no such compunctions; he's been regaling Stacy all evening with stories of his work as a consultant for the United Nations, how recently he's been preparing white papers for the Special Commission that's been in the news lately. How he was in Malta last month, and Cairo before that.
And he's been telling stories of House's youth. Happy stories. Funny stories. House keeps waiting for the story, the one that's not happy, or funny, the one he's kept hidden for almost twenty-five years now, but of course Martin doesn't tell that one. Why should he? It's obviously much more entertaining to keep House guessing.
He can tell Stacy is pissed at him, and for good reason -- his contributions to the dinner conversation have consisted mostly of monosyllabic grunts. He can't help himself, though. He wants Martin out of here as quickly as possible, and he's determined not to give him any reason to stay longer.
Which means, of course, that Stacy does.
"Adrian," she says, and for one horrified moment House mishears her, thinks she's said "Martin," and he's surprised she can't hear the way his heart's thumping in his chest. The dishes have been cleared away; they've had pumpkin pie and coffee.
Martin's had seconds.
Trying to draw it out as long as he can, House thinks. Bastard.
Stacy's smiling again -- it's her dazzling "company" smile, and House suddenly knows what's coming.
"This has been such a lovely dinner, but I'm afraid I've got to get an early start tomorrow morning." She touches her linen napkin to her lips, pushes her chair back. "I'm going to turn in," she says to House, then looks back at Martin. "I'll leave you two to talk more about old times."
"That sounds delightful," Martin says easily. "Doesn't it, Greg?"
"I don't want you here."
Martin smiles, and flicks a little more cigar ash into the Spode saucer serving as a makeshift ashtray.
"Well, isn't that a pity," he says. "Your girlfriend certainly does."
"No, she doesn't," he replies. "Not if she knew who you really were. And she's not my girlfriend." His heart aches with the lie, but it's his only chance to protect Stacy should Martin try to carry this any further. He never has in the past, but ... this is Martin.
Martin regards him with no small degree of amusement. "You're lying."
"Isn't everyone?" House snaps, and instantly regrets it. Don't piss him off, his mind chants. Just get him out of here.
Martin, however, seems in no hurry to leave.
"It was a pleasant dinner," he says mildly. "She's very beautiful. Intelligent, witty ... I can see why you chose her."
"I didn't choose her," House growls, and oh fuck, this is not the way he wanted this conversation to go, not at all.
Martin shrugs, his broad shoulders moving up and down beneath all that expensive cloth.
"Then she chose you," he says, and House's stomach clenches in a sick knot. "Perhaps she and I should have a little talk, about the wisdom of choosing one's friends."
House's mouth is suddenly dry, and he's very, very glad Wilson is at that conference in Orlando this week.
Stacy had wanted to invite him to this dinner too.
House takes another slug of his single malt.
"I don't want you here."
"You've said that already. And the looks you were giving me throughout the first course were positively poisonous."
Oh, God, this is so fucked. He sets the highball glass down on the end table with a solid thunk! and then flinches back, afraid the sound might've woken Stacy. Shit. He leans forward.
"What did you expect? You lied your way in here, lied to Stacy all goddamn night, spinning her that cock and bull story about being a consultant for UNSCOM -- " House makes a low noise, deep in his throat. "Go away. Just ... go away."
God, he hates himself.
Martin leans forward, seeming to meet him halfway. He's set the cigar aside, leaving it to smolder in the green-and-red Spode saucer, and his eyes are dark and very serious.
"But, Greg," he says. "Don't you want to know what I've really been doing with the rest of my life? How I've been occupying my time?" He leans back, crosses his legs. "You know -- since you left? Since you betrayed me?"
"I never betrayed you," House whispers.
Martin smiles again. "Oh, but you did," he says. "You most certainly did. And now I'm going to tell you what that betrayal led to." He picks up his cigar again; the tip glows red, then white, and he blows a perfect, ghost-pale smoke ring.
"The first one," he begins, "was Wendell Arroyo. He was a shoemaker." Martin grins, a wide, terrible, feral grin. "Not so odd, perhaps, except that he made horseshoes."
House is numb.
He doesn't know how long he's been sitting here, letting Martin's utterly calm, utterly expressionless voice wash over him. Occasionally a word or phrase breaks through the numbness, and he blinks.
But he can't stop listening.
My employer ordered that he be made an example of ...
The level of scotch in his glass hasn't dropped by much. He's almost afraid to drink now, afraid that once he starts he won't stop.
... broke every bone in his body ...
He'd thought before now, that given the nature of Martin's ... temperament, that something like this might have become his chosen profession. The thought and the confirmation though, are two entirely different things.
... then there are the special cases, the ones I take a personal interest in ...
For one mad moment, he has a mental image of Martin in a classroom, leading a symposium.
... it's a journey, you see, for the two of us. A journey of secrets and discoveries, of shared confidences ...
The apartment is very dark.
... gradually stripped of his defenses, until the only rock left to stand on is the truth ...
"Stop," House murmurs. Or has he really said anything? He's not sure, and Martin is still talking.
... removed his testicles ...
... flayed him alive ...
... took his --
"Please," House whispers. "Please."
Martin looks at him with flat, basilisk eyes. House's ears are buzzing, loud, loud, and so he only catches the last part of Martin's sentence.
" -- with a length of his own Achilles tendon," he says, and then falls silent. He takes a sip from his glass. A log in the fireplace shifts suddenly, and a rush of sparks flys upward. "I have a new contract beginning tomorrow, Greg. In Denver. Are you sure you wouldn't like to come with me?"
House's gut clenches again, hard, and before he can swallow or make a mad dash to the bathroom, he's leaned forward and thrown up all over Stacy's favorite kilim carpet.
Stacy is furious, of course.
"God, Greg, how could you?"
House doesn't look at her. It's all he can do to take regular breaths, given the jackhammer pounding inside his head.
"I mean really -- were you even thinking? I know Adrian is an old friend of yours, but he's also my client, and I don't appreciate your getting drunk as a pig and vomiting all over my client's shoes!"
Actually House isn't sure if he hit Martin's shoes, but it won't do any good to say that. He can't tell Stacy he wasn't drunk. He can't tell her anything.
If she knew what kind of old friend Martin really was, she'd leave him in a heartbeat.
And he doesn't want that.