CHARACTERS: Wilson, five OMC, and House
RATING: A hard "R" for graphic violence. There is also a section of this story that is NC-17.
WARNINGS: Oh, yes. This is a rough, violent story, with rough, violent situations that may be distressing for some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
SPOILERS: No, although there's a very slight hint of the Tritter Arc.
SUMMARY: Wilson pays dearly for something House hasn't done.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will. Also do not own any part of the artists or songs mentioned in this fic.
AUTHOR NOTES: Originally posted 3-15-2007, written by nightdog_writes. And this is the last time you'll know who wrote what.
Sometime in the near future, in a world very much like our own ...
It starts like any other awkward encounter on a city street; that clumsy moment when the guy in front of you, the guy in the long black overcoat and the old-fashioned fedora, stops suddenly and you walk straight into his back.
That's exactly what happens, and Wilson pulls up short, mumbles "Sorry" and starts to go around. Except that this time two other guys come up behind him, boxing Wilson in, and one of them puts a hand on Wilson's arm. Wilson tries to shake off the hand, but instead of letting go the hand tightens, and then the other guy is pressing something small and round and hard into Wilson's back, and the first guy, the guy he ran into, has turned around and is saying "In the car, please, Doctor."
And for the first time Wilson notices there's a black stretch limo parked at the curb, right there beside him, and one of the doors is open. The late-afternoon sunlight slants down from the wrong angle, and the car's interior is a dark cavern. For just a moment, Wilson hesitates, questions running through his mind. How does he know I'm a doctor? What the hell kind of mugging is this? They wouldn't shoot me right here on the street, would they? A quick glance into the first man's cold grey eyes tells him yes, they actually would.
The gun pokes him in the back again, urging him forward. Wilson forces his feet to take one step, and then another, and bends down, starting to get in the car. He knows it's the wrong thing to do even as he's doing it—What if it's not a gun? What if it's just a piece of sawed-off pipe?—but it's already too late because suddenly things are happening, very fast. Hands reach out from inside the car and grab Wilson's arms, yanking him forward and shoving him sideways, and Wilson goes down with an ooof! onto the carpeted floor of the limo. He can hear the other three guys getting into the car, but he's more concerned with the black cloth bag that's been slipped over his head and the fact that his arms have been pulled behind his back and his wrists handcuffed. He's having trouble breathing, both from the closeness of the bag and because he's hyperventilating out of sheer fucking panic. He squirms a little; his kidnappers are resting their feet on his back, his shoulders, his legs, and when he tries to raise his head another foot plants itself on the back of his neck, forcing it back down.
"Hey," Wilson says. He's trying desperately to keep his voice from cracking but can't tell if he's really succeeding because his words are muffled in his own ears. "Hey, what—"
He's cut off by the voice of the grey-eyed man. "Dr. Wilson. I'm only going to say this once," he says, and his tone is dispassionate, cold as Arctic ice floes. "Shut. Up."
Wilson shuts up. He feels the limo's engine rev up, and the smooth motion as they pull away from the curb.
It feels like they've been driving for hours; shrouded in his cloth prison, Wilson has completely lost track of time. He remembers moldy plot devices from cheesy, grade-B melodramas and tries to memorize the turns they're taking and how many, but as they continue to drive he realizes it's a useless exercise. For all the good it's doing he might as well be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. He keeps waiting for someone to say something else, but no one does. Wilson can hear one of the guys popping his chewing gum, but that's it. When the limo finally rolls to a stop he's disoriented and faintly lightheaded from the stale air that's collected in the cloth bag. The multiple pairs of feet come off his back, and then strong hands are under his arms, hauling him up and pulling him roughly from the car. More hands grasp his shoulders and biceps on each side, guiding him at a stumbling walk over what feels like an uneven, grassy surface. Behind him, he can hear the limo's engine start up again. He trips over some kind of raised threshold but the hands keep him from falling.
When they finally come to a stop, Wilson is panting a little, and his fear ramps up exponentially when the hands on his shoulders force him to his knees. They're going to shoot me, he thinks wildly. Execution-style, in the back of my fucking head oh God why for what what did I ever do—
The cloth bag is slipped off, and Wilson blinks and squints in the sudden light. He can't immediately focus and for a moment he's glad—if they're going to shoot him then he really doesn't want the last thing he sees to be his killers' faces. The cuffs are tight around his wrists, and he waits numbly for the explosion of light and sound that will end his existence. I'm sorry, he thinks. I'm so, so sorry. He wishes he at least knew who he was apologizing to, and for what. Instead of a gunshot, though, there's another sound—something so startling, so incongruous that Wilson looks around in surprise.
It seems the last thing he's going to see in this life is ... a cow.
The cow is looking at him, her brown eyes wide with bovine curiosity. Her head dips over the half-door of her stall a few feet away. She moos again, her jaw moving in a slow, placid motion as she chews her cud. She's brown and white; a milk cow, a Jersey cow. There's a strong odor of cow flop, and hay, and chicken shit—barnyard smells—and Wilson suddenly understands that that's entirely logical, because he's in a barn. His thoughts seem to have hit a stone wall, because how could he have been on a nice, normal city street and now he's in a barn, and more important, how can any of this be happening to him?
When the grey-eyed man steps into his line of sight, flanked by two other men, all Wilson can do is stare up at him.
The grey-eyed man has taken off his hat and his overcoat; his blond hair is close-cropped, his face craggy and deeply lined. He looks to be in his early fifties, maybe a little older, but he's lean and whipcord-taut in an expensive blue suit. He's holding an open file folder in his hands.
"James Evan Wilson," the man says softly, and begins to read from the file. "Head of Oncology, Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Born February 28th, 1969. Current residence: room 958, the Execustay By Marriott, Plainsboro, New Jersey. Parents, Leo and Bette, maiden name Minsky. Two brothers, David and Jonathan. Innumerable cousins, aunts, and uncles. Jewish. Left-handed. University of Chicago, McGill, Vancouver General—" The well-dressed man flips the folder shut. "An impressive record, Doctor." His nose wrinkles. "Except for that rather plebian hotel, of course. Really now."
Wilson tries to swallow but his throat is bone-dry.
"Why?" Wilson whispers, and it's literally all he can say. His panic is growing. Where did that file come from? How do they know I have two brothers? The hands are strong on his shoulders, keeping him on his knees. The grey-eyed man smiles, and Wilson realizes he only thought he'd been scared before.
"I like to know all about the people I'm going to be working with," he says. "Surely you know by now, Doctor, that it's a bad idea for people like you to be friends with people like Dr. House." Wilson stares at him. "Your friend is a betting man, Dr. Wilson, and he likes to play the ponies. The odds at the licensed parlors have become too tame for his tastes and he's moved on to ... other sources. Dr. House placed a rather large wager last week, on a horse called Indian Dancer. It was a losing bet, but he seems to believe the race was fixed, and he's refused to pay up."
Wilson holds very still, trying to take this all in. House? House is involved in this? Idiot, a small part of his brain snidely observes. You've been kidnapped, threatened, and you're in a friggin' barn. How could House not be involved? With an effort, Wilson silences the voice. "If House thinks the race was fixed," he says slowly, "then it probably was. What does it have to do with me?"
The man shrugs. "The race is not my concern," he replies. "But I'm afraid it has everything to do with you. Dr. House needs to understand that my employer is serious about collecting his debt. If we hurt Dr. House, it will just make him more stubborn, and the entire business arrangement will just degenerate into a lengthy, tedious affair that's really to neither party's benefit." He smiles again, a conspiratorial smile, as if to say Yes, we both know how stubborn Dr. House can be! "So we're going to hurt you instead, and Dr. House will pay what he owes." The smile grew wider. "If he doesn't, we'll just have to do this all over again, and Dr. House's debt will increase by five thousand dollars."
He rubs his hands together briskly. "So," he says, "we're on the clock, have been since two hours ago when we took you off the street. Our contract runs for twenty-four hours, so we've got twenty-two more hours to go." He crouches then, bringing his face level with Wilson's. "I'm sorry about this, Doctor," he says gently. "I really prefer dealing with lawyers and used-car salesmen; it's not often we have a physician in our custody." He stands back up, smoothing out the wrinkles in his pants. "Ah, well." His tone is light, almost philosophical. "Business is business. Your injuries should be no worse than those of a mugging victim." He adjusts the lapels of his expensive suit and snaps his fingers. "A particularly brutal mugging."
Wilson gasps as the hands that have been holding him down suddenly slip under his armpits and pull him to his feet. The grey-eyed man has turned away; another man, younger and blonder and in not as nice a suit, takes his place and looks Wilson up and down.
"I think I'll break that pretty Jew nose of yours first," the young man says, and Wilson can only watch as he rocks on the balls of his feet, cocks his fist, and punches Wilson hard in the middle of the face. There's a crunching, popping sound, and lances of sharp pain shoot into Wilson's sinuses. He reels back; the two men on either side of him hold him up. Wilson is vaguely aware that warm blood is running down his face as he gasps for air; his gasps turn into choking splutters as more blood backs up and drains down his throat.
"Damn it, Bobby," one of them complains. "Couldn't you let us know first? You know I hate getting splattered like that."
"Sorry, Nick," Bobby mutters. "Forgot." Wilson is still gagging, unable to believe what's just happened, when something much worse occurs—a knee, driven at full strength into his groin.
Wilson doubles over instinctively, hardly recognizing the high keening sound that's apparently coming out of his own throat, and vomits profusely on the barn floor. He got hit like this once years ago, playing soccer, and he'd lain on the field for long minutes as the pain rocketed around his body. This time there's no chance to recover as the men holding him back up a few steps so the guy hitting him won't slip in the vomit. They straighten him up, and the young guy takes his place again in front of him and grins as he punches Wilson again, this time in the gut, just under the diaphragm. Wilson whoops, trying to breathe, and then the blows are coming fast with no pause in between. Wilson tries to struggle, but the cuffs bite into his wrists, and his arms are held fast as he's worked over.
They're tag-teaming him. The two guys who'd been holding him up (Wilson has named them Tweedledum and Tweedledee in his head) had gotten tired, and so they'd dragged him over to one of the posts and taken the handcuffs off. He'd tried to fight again, but a third man had simply held him still with a forearm across his throat as Wilson's wrists were re-cuffed in front of him.
For a moment Wilson is grateful; these cuffs are thick leather, shearling-lined, and then he realizes it's only because a real mugging victim wouldn't have steel handcuff marks or rope burns on his wrists. He grunts as he's pushed back against the post; his arms are raised above his head and the cuff chain fastened to a ring bolt on the post. Something is looped around his legs and Wilson looks down to see another man using Wilson's own belt to strap his ankles to the post. Dum and Dee step away, and Wilson is left standing there against the post, helpless. He flinches as Grey Eyes stands directly in front of him, strong fingers working at the knot of Wilson's tie. The silk slides easily from under his collar, and Grey Eyes drapes it across the top crossbar of the stall next to him. There's a horse in the stall; it blows out a soft horsey snort and shakes its head. Grey Eyes' fingers are at Wilson's throat again, unbuttoning his dress shirt and spreading it slightly apart. Wilson's white Fruit of the Loom undershirt is revealed and one of the men snickers.
"Please," Wilson whispers. Every breath is like a dull icepick in his sides; he hopes they haven't already cracked a rib. "Please stop. I won't go to the police, I won't—"
Grey Eyes ignores him and stands aside so that Dee can step up and punch him in the gut. The others begin taking turns. First Dee, then Dum, then the blond boy who broke his nose. He's Hitler Youth.
Wilson's given them all names in his mind, and they've been beating him long enough that he already knows each of their styles.
Tweedledee is short, with light brown hair and blue eyes. He likes to hammer on Wilson's ribs. His partner, Tweedledum, is tall but also has brown hair and blue eyes. He was the gum-popper in the limo. Every time he steps up he carefully removes the gum from his mouth and sticks it to the post, right beside Wilson's head. He seems to find his victim's stomach interesting, and has been concentrating on driving Wilson's navel into his spine.
Hitler Youth is tall and blond, with bright blue eyes that remind him a little of House's. He likes to talk to Wilson as he beats him, whispers epithets in Wilson's ear as he punches him hard in the gut, curses as he clips Wilson's jaw. "Kike," he says. "Fucking Jew. Yid. Nigger-lover." Wilson's not sure where this last endearment comes from—maybe the kid is just really confused. It doesn't matter. His punches still hurt like hell.
His other assailant is somewhat of a mystery. Tall, with curly brown hair and green eyes, he has a strange habit of running his hands over Wilson's exposed chest, slipping his hands under Wilson's undershirt and gently rubbing his nipples. Any hint of tenderness, though, is always belied by the crushing blows that follow. He has the powerful arms and toughened knuckles of an ex-boxer, and Wilson calls him Pugilist.
When one of the four gets tired or wants to take a break, he steps away and waves one of the others forward.
The only one who hasn't taken a turn is Grey Eyes. He's sat back the entire time, smoking a cigarette. The first time Wilson saw it, a crazy laugh tried to bubble up in his throat. Hey! he'd wanted to say. Don't you know it's dangerous to smoke in a barn? Of course, he hadn't said anything. Hitler Youth was hitting him in the mouth again.
The first time Wilson passes out, he opens his eyes to a bright penlight checking his pupils for responsiveness. "House?" he mumbles. Grey Eyes steps back.
"He's okay," he says. "Keep going."
Wilson moans softly as both Tweedledee and Tweedledum step up. He's ashamed a moment later when one of them lands a vicious, twisting blow to his abdomen that causes his bladder to release; he hitches in a breath as his pants grow wet and warm urine trickles down his thigh. Hitler Youth laughs and punches him in the face again.
The second time Wilson faints, they leave him alone for a while. He comes back slowly, to the smell of fast food hamburgers and fries. He hangs in his cuffs from the post and watches—his eyes are swollen nearly shut and he can feel a loose tooth on the left side of his jaw, the side that Hitler Youth's been banging away at. Wilson's pants are still damp and clinging to his legs. His body is a seething mass of pain—his clothes had protected him for a while, but these thugs have been going at it for ... well, he doesn't know how long. It was late afternoon when they'd snatched him off the street, and he can tell from the ambient light creeping in from outside that it's coming on full night now.
He looks around; the thugs have set up a card table and are eating dinner. A flickering square of light reveals a small portable TV; someone else has set what looks like a boombox on the table and is fiddling with the buttons. What seem to be five surplus Army cots have been unfolded against the wall. There's a burst of laughter, friendly conversation. All the comforts of home, Wilson thinks. His wrists are aching, and he straightens as best he can to take some of the pressure off his arms. One of the thugs must've seen him, because the next thing he knows Tweedledee is standing in front of him, casually eating from a greasy bag of French fries.
Wilson's stomach rumbles, and Dee smiles. He's shorter than Wilson, only about five eight, with light brown, fine hair, thick eyebrows that yearn to meet in the middle, and light blue eyes. Three faint moles form a large equilateral triangle on his left cheek. He takes a French fry from the bag and holds it up to Wilson's lips. Wilson can't help himself; the last thing he's eaten today was half a bagel at lunch, and he whimpers softly as his mouth begins watering. There's a movement at the card table, someone scraping his chair back.
"Tim!" Grey Eyes barks. "Don't feed the guy!"
Dee looks apologetically at Wilson and steps back. As he walks back to the table, Wilson can hear Grey Eyes and the rest of the thugs scolding him. "He might have aspirated!" "What the hell were you thinking?" "We're not supposed to kill this one!"
Tweedledee holds his hands out—"Sorry! I'm sorry, okay? Won't happen again."
"Fuck it better not," Tweedledum mutters, and Wilson hears the rustle of cardboard as he opens a burger box. "You pick up the tools for next week?"
"The battery cables? Yeah, got 'em at Wal-Mart." There's a short silence, in which the sound of the men eating stops completely.
"Tim." Dum says disapprovingly. "You're not supposed to shop at Wal-Mart. You know about their corporate practices. They're a soulless fucking entity, destroying small businesses all over America!"
"Well, I'm sorry! They were the most fucking convenient soulless entity, and they had the best price!"
Hitler Youth laughs; Wilson can hear a rasping sound as he pokes a straw through the plastic cover on his soft drink. "You guys kill me," he chuckles.
"Ah, shut up," Dee grumbles. "You wait till you're the goddamn equipment guy on a team and have to scrounge for the good stuff. These budget cuts'll be the goddamn death of me."
"All of you shut up," Grey Eyes says mildly, and the other four men instantly fall silent. "I want to get an early start tomorrow. Who wants to take first watch?"
"I do." It's Hitler Youth, and Wilson can tell he's smiling. "I want to play with him some more anyway."
Wilson opens his eyes to blackness. His arms are numb and he can't feel his hands; he's slumped in the same position Hitler Youth had left him in, after yet another savage beating. He'd murmured the same imprecations in Wilson's ear, interspersed between Wilson's groans of pain and the tinny, braying laughs of the Saturday Night Live audience.
Kike. Fucking kike.
"I'm a doctor," Wilson had managed to whisper at one point, his breath whistling through his broken, bloody nose.
"You're a Jew," and the next blow had come under his ribs, almost paralyzing his diaphragm.
He realizes he's either been unconscious or had actually fallen asleep in his chains. The small portable TV has been turned to the wall; wavy blue and white shadows flicker against the wood like reflections from an aquarium. Wilson shifts his feet under him, trying to figure out what roused him. Something else shifts, too, and suddenly there's one hand on his jaw, holding it open while another hand stuffs what feels like a balled-up handkerchief in his mouth.
Wilson grunts and tries to jerk back, but he's still half-dazed and can offer no resistance as his own tie is wound tightly around his mouth and knotted, effectively gagging him.
He freezes in terror. There can be only one reason for this—one of the thugs wants to hurt him; hurt him even more than the beatings, hurt him so badly that he might scream. He tries to calm himself, only to flinch back in panicked dread when one of the hands drifts down his chest, below his waist, and gently cups his testicles.
Wilson is only vaguely aware that he's making low whining noises deep in his throat. He begins to tremble as the hands unbutton his still-damp pants, which fall and puddle about his bound ankles even as thumbs are slipped inside the elastic waistband of his boxers. Wilson tugs at his cuffs, trying to twist his wrists free. The boxers join his pants on the ground, and the hand cups his balls again. Wilson moans. Oh, God, it's Hitler Youth, it has to be. Amusing himself. He's probably got a fucking knife, thinks it'll be funny to give me another circumcision.
The hand moves a little, the index finger tracing a delicate line up Wilson's perineum. His testicles are still sensitive and there's a lingering soreness from their earlier introduction to Hitler Youth's knee, but the hand cups about them lightly, as if holding a particularly precious egg. Wilson's penis has shrunk, trying to retreat to safety, but the stranger's other hand strokes it gently, as if in reassurance. Wilson strains to see through the darkness, to discern who's in front of him, but this corner of the barn is pitch-black. The hands continue to stroke, to tickle; a thumb moves slowly over the head of Wilson's penis, massaging the tiny slit there. He whimpers; there's a dull thump, and then someone has taken the tip of his cock in his warm, wet mouth and a hand is gently squeezing its root.
Wilson screams, but all that makes it past the gag is a strangled croak. The stranger takes more of Wilson's penis into his mouth, stroking and flicking with his tongue. Wilson's terror is absolute now, pure and perfect and blinding. He's not going to cut me, he's going to fucking bite me oh Christ—He sobs, tries to lift up, to move away, but the hands grip his hips and hold him firmly in place.
The mouth begins to move, slowly, sliding Wilson's cock in and out in a smooth, rhythmic motion. All the while the tongue is working, caressing and licking, the touches light and gentle as a feather. Wilson is shivering all over, waiting helplessly for the teeth he knows must be next, when suddenly one of the hands gives him a gentle pat on the hip and takes hold of his balls again.
Wilson's stomach does a slow, lazy flipflop as he realizes what's happening. Someone is giving him a blowjob. One of the thugs. One of the guys who's been beating the crap out of him, taking his turn, hour after agonizing hour, is sucking his dick. His stomach turns over again as he tries to figure out who's kneeling before him, who's the real psychopath in this gang of crazy fucks.
His first thought is that it's Pugilist, the one who's already had his hands under Wilson's shirt, but these hands don't feel quite large enough, not callused enough. It can't be Hitler Youth, obviously; it has to be either Tweedledum or Tweedledee. Unless it's Grey Eyes, but Wilson's thoughts skitter away from that possibility like frightened deer.
The suckling increases in intensity, and Wilson's penis twitches in the stranger's mouth. Encouraged, the tongue work is redoubled, and to Wilson's complete horror, he finds himself becoming erect.
The surreality of the situation is overwhelming. I'm dreaming, he thinks. This isn't real. None of this is real. The tongue is flicking again, teasing as Wilson's cock continues to stiffen. I'll wake up and I'll be home, or at the hospital. Wilson moans as thumbs begin tracing gently up and down the insides of his thighs. This isn't happening. He jerks a little as fingertips touch his perineum again. Suddenly the stranger's arms are wrapped around his hips; they pull him in, and the mouth closes firmly over his penis, battening onto him like a leech and sucking hard. Wilson struggles, but the arms are locked around his butt, holding him tight as the inexorable, wet friction continues. Wilson tries to scream again, and then everything happens at once as instinct takes over and he begins to buck, synapses firing in white comet trails through his brain, even as some tiny part of that brain keeps insisting that none of this is happening.
The stranger's arms keep a tight grip as Wilson's thrusts weaken; he holds him as Wilson gradually goes still, his penis now limp and deflated in the stranger's mouth. Wilson feels him let go slowly, feels the laryngeal movement as the stranger swallows. Then the mouth is gone, and brisk, efficient hands are pulling Wilson's boxers back up around his waist. Wilson stands quietly as his pants are hiked up and re-buttoned. The gag is untied and unwound; a forefinger and thumb grasp a corner of the handkerchief stuffed in Wilson's mouth and pull it free. A hand reaches up, tousles Wilson's hair, and then the stranger is gone.
Wilson's knees begin to tremble; he's lightheaded and sick. He leans forward as far as he can and tries to throw up, but all he can feel in the back of his throat is thin bile. Not real, he thinks. A dream. Not real. After a while his mind goes blank, and he drifts until morning.
It's the smell of sausage and cheese and coffee and good American grease that brings him back, swimming slowly up from some dark space. There's the crumple of paper bags, tops being popped off hot styrofoam cups. Someone's gone for fast food again. When Wilson opens his eyes and blinks, Grey Eyes is next to him, sipping at a cup of dark liquid. He smiles at Wilson, shrugs.
"Lousy coffee," he says. "But there's not a Starbucks within ten miles out here." He turns away, raising the cup impatiently. "Ray!" he shouts. "Come on, let's get to work. You want music? Put some music on." And just like that, Pugilist is in front of him. There's no glint in his eye, nothing to indicate he might've been Wilson's visitor in the night. Didn't happen, Wilson's brain reminds him sternly. Someone's put a CD in the boombox, and the beautiful opening notes of Handel's Water Music float through the air.
"Morning, Doc," Pugilist says, and punches Wilson hard in the gut.
Wilson's body is a single entity of pain. He's being beaten again, slowly and methodically. Bruises upon bruises, contusions and sprains and sore spots and spasms and cramps. Every blow resonates, from the soles of his feet, up his spine to the top of his head. He's a veritable tuning fork of pain, vibrating to the fucking frequency of agony.
He's discovered that Tweedledum is a Celine Dion fan. Tweedledee likes country western, and Hitler Youth, in an ironic twist worthy of a Sondheim musical, enjoys listening to Matisyahu. The rap lyrics of King Without A Crown boom out as Youth takes vicious potshots at Wilson's face, pounding it into an unrecognizable pulp.
Wilson doesn't want to know what Grey Eyes likes.
Someone's touching his hair again, and Wilson jerks and moans. Not again, please not again, he pleads, but his ears are ringing and he can't tell if the words are making it past his battered, bleeding lips.
The touch comes again, and then someone blows a long, whuffling breath onto his left cheek. It's a warm breath, and Wilson catches a scent of alfalfa and sun-warmed hay. He forces his left eye open; there's a face next to his. A face covered with sleek, shiny black hair, and large, soft lips like dry velvet that nuzzle at his own.
It's the horse from the stall beside him. It's extended its neck over the half-door and is investigating him. Wilson holds still as the horse snuffles him, sticking its big nostrils in his left armpit and inhaling. The muzzle moves up again, tickling his ear and nuzzling in his hair again.
Suddenly the horse's ears go up, then back, and the animal shakes its head violently. It pulls away from Wilson; he can hear the clop of the hooves as it moves farther back in its stall. He drags his gaze back around.
Tweedledum is standing in front of him.
"He's not worth it, you know."
Wilson doesn't answer Grey Eyes. He can't, not right this second—he's expending too much effort on not dying. He knows he's not (dying, that is) but there are definite moments now when he wants to. He's alone here with Grey Eyes; everyone else has gone to run errands or shoot pool or whatever else it is crazy gangs of sociopathic thugs do on Sunday afternoons. Surely they can't be in church. The church would probably spontaneously combust.
"He's not worth it," Grey Eyes says again, and Wilson wearily raises his head. Grey Eyes is reading the Financial Times—Wilson would recognize that distinctive pink newsprint anywhere—and he seems to expect an answer.
"Who?" Wilson whispers.
Grey Eyes snorts, rattling the newspaper. "Don't be an ass, Doctor. It doesn't become you." He turns a page, the thin paper rattling, and folds the newspaper over. "I've known Dr. House for quite a long time—in a previous life, you might say. He can't change. If you continue to associate with him, events will take their natural course and you'll end up losing your license, or experiencing a breakdown." The paper rattles again. "You may try and kill yourself. You might even succeed."
Wilson stares at him. "Who are you?"
Grey Eyes takes a cigarette from a slim silver case and lights it. "All in good time, Doctor. All in good time."
"Are we ready?" Grey Eyes is saying. "Are we ready?"
The card table's been put away, the cots folded into symmetrical squares and carried out of the barn. The cow and the horse blink at Wilson, going about their slow animal ways.
"Ready," Pugilist says. Grey Eyes nods.
"Good. End game, gentlemen, please."
Tweedledee steps forward and unbuckles Wilson's belt from around his ankles. At the same time, Tweedledum reaches up and unclips Wilson's cuff chain from the ring bolt. Wilson's arms fall limply in front of him, and then Wilson himself falls forward, collapsing like a sack of wheat onto the barn floor.
"Go," Grey Eyes says, and the four thugs crowd around Wilson, kicking him in the ribs, his shoulders, the backs of his legs. Wilson moans, trying to curl into a ball and cover up, but the brutal blows continue to land.
The kicking stops; Tweedledum is kneeling beside him, using the cuff chain to pull Wilson's arms away from his body. He unbuckles the thick leather bands and slips them from Wilson's wrists. It's over, Wilson thinks. It's finally over. But of course it's not quite over; he can only watch as Dum grips his left forearm and holds it in place on the barn floor. Wilson grunts as Pugilist's boot heel stomps down once, twice; the metacarpals and the small bones of the proximal, intermediate, and distal phalanges of his left hand snap and pop like Rice Krispies as they shatter.
Strong hands close around Wilson's biceps and haul him onto his knees. Another hand wraps tight in his hair; it yanks Wilson's head up and holds it still. He sags in his captors' grip and looks around, dazed and trying to focus. Hitler Youth is in front of him, dancing a little as he spits on his palms and rubs them together. One fist shoots forward, then another, snapping Wilson's head back.
Tears leak from Wilson's eyes as his jaw is broken. From somewhere far away, he hears Grey Eyes.
The return trip is a film run in reverse—he's dragged to the limo and once in, flat on his stomach, a black cloth bag slipped over his head. They don't bother handcuffing him this time.
They drive and drive as Wilson drifts in a haze of pain and lost time. When the limo finally pulls to a stop, he's hauled up and positioned before the car door. The black bag comes off, and he's looking directly into the face of Grey Eyes.
"Doctor. Listen to me carefully." Wilson listens.
"You will not go to the police. If you do, a rather large envelope full of betting slips from an establishment not licensed by the State of New Jersey will find its way to a certain Detective Michael Tritter. I'm quite sure he would be very interested in Dr. House's gambling activities." Grey Eyes leans closer. "You were mugged, Doctor. It happened too fast—you didn't see your attackers, and that's all you know." His voice becomes softer. "I'm sorry we had to meet this way. I hope I never see you again, but of course that choice is up to Dr. House. He truly does have better friends than he deserves."
Wilson licks his lips, tasting dried blood. "Who are you?" he whispers again. The words are barely audible, slurred through Wilson's broken jaw. The grey-eyed man's lips quirk up in an achingly familiar smile.
"Your fly's open, Doctor," he says, "and you can call me Mycroft," and then the limo door opens and Wilson is heaved out into the opening of a blind alleyway. There's a small splat beside him—Wilson's wallet, no doubt robbed of credit cards, money, and I.D.
He lies there, cheek pressed into the dirty gravel, as the limo speeds away.
For three days Wilson simply exists, floating on a pleasant sea of antibiotics, tranquilizers, and painkillers. Everyone's heard about the terrible attack; everyone agrees it must have been a gang of teenagers, high on PCP or some other street drug, who'd kept beating their victim long after they'd robbed him.
He has four cracked ribs, a broken collarbone, internal bleeding, a broken hand, broken jaw, several chipped vertebrae, and other injuries too numerous for casual conversation. The actual list takes up two pages on his chart.
Cameron wants to know every detail—what drugs have been prescribed, how many reconstructive surgeries he'll need. How he's going to cope with what must be a monumental case of post-traumatic stress disorder from being beaten so savagely, and for what must have seemed like hours. She looks curiously at him as she speaks these last words; her unasked question hangs in the air between them, but Wilson closes his eyes and goes back to sleep.
Foreman doesn't want to know anything; he simply looks in on Wilson once a day. Chase comes to visit every day, sitting by Wilson's bed, bringing him journal articles he might be interested in.
Cuddy sees him every day, every four hours, sitting on Wilson's bed, holding his right hand. Her thumb traces slow, lazy circles on his palm, and she holds his hand until he falls asleep.
House doesn't visit until the fourth day.
Wilson wakes out of a dream; somewhere a cow is still nodding at him, saying "Don't be an ass," and the stink of manure is fresh in his nostrils.
House is sitting in the visitor's chair; his face is drawn and haggard. He looks like he's aged twenty years in a day. He taps his cane in an unsteady rhythm on the floor.
"Wilson," he says. "Wilson, I'm—"
House's voice trails away in his throat. His gaze fixes on the floor and stays there.
Wilson looks at him for a long, long time. His jaw aches, but after four days' practice talking around the wires he's more articulate, and when he finally speaks, it's in a low, flat tone as if he's telling a joke with no punchline.
"There was a cow," he begins, "and a horse. But they didn't have names."
The LJ-cut text is from the song Live and Let Die, by Paul McCartney. Full lyrics may be found here.
Full lyrics to King Without A Crown, by the Orthodox Jewish rapper Matisyahu, may be found here.