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Bad Company

Interregnum Two: The Phone Call



Interregnum Two: The Phone Call

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TITLE: Interregnum Two: The Phone Call
RATING: 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.
SUMMARY: House gets a call he wasn't expecting.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: Takes place during Bad Company.

Main Entry: in·ter·reg·num
Pronunciation: "in-t&-'reg-n&m
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nums or in·ter·reg·na /-n&/
Etymology: Latin, from inter- + regnum reign -- more at REIGN
1 : the time during which a throne is vacant between two successive reigns or regimes
2 : a period during which the normal functions of government or control are suspended
3 : a lapse or pause in a continuous series

—from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

Interregnum Two: The Phone Call

It's late evening when House's cell phone rings. He picks it up and glances at the tiny backlit screen.

Unknown Caller.

With a grunt, he tosses it aside and arranges himself more comfortably on the couch. He pours himself three fingers of scotch and begins thumbing the remote, channel-surfing. The phone rings again. And again.

"Shut up," House mumbles, turning up the volume on the television. As if in obedience to his command, the ringing stops as the unknown caller is routed to voicemail. The caller i.d. screen glows for a moment more, then goes dim as whoever it is hangs up. House picks the phone back up—no new messages.

The phone begins ringing.

Unknown Caller.

Once again, he allows it to go to voice mail; again there are no new messages.

It starts to ring again.

"God damn it," House curses softly.

The cycle continues; when the phone rings for the twenty-seventh time he glares murderously at it. On the thirtieth ring he takes an especially large gulp of scotch. At the thirty-fifth ring he seriously considers throwing it across the room or stuffing it under a pillow. On the fortieth ring he picks up.

"Go away!" he barks, and he's about to flip the phone shut when the person on the other end laughs.

"Why, Greg," the voice says. "Is that any way to greet an old friend?"

House freezes. "Who is this?"

He can hear music in the background; familiar sounds of a band, a monologue. House looks at the TV and changes the channel to the NBC affiliate. The sounds fall into place, matching perfectly. His caller has Saturday Night Live on. The man on the other end of the phone is chuckling.

"I know we haven't spoken in a while, but I was sure you'd recognize my voice." And the bitch of it is, House does. The scotch is suddenly like battery acid in his stomach.

"How'd you get this number?"

"Someone gave it to me," the voice says mildly. It's a smooth voice, urbane and polished, one that House hasn't heard in ten years. He'd hoped he would never hear it again. "You've done well for yourself, haven't you? Although I was sorry to hear about your ... disability." There are more noises in the background -- men laughing, as if over some long-standing, private joke. House glances at the TV; not from there. There are other people with this man.

House's mouth is dry. "What do you want?" The voice laughs softly, and the hair on the back of House's neck stands up.

"It's not what I want, Greg. It's what Georgie Reno wants." A faint groan escapes House's lips, and he can feel the man on the other end grinning.

"You didn't know I work for Mr. Reno, now did you?" The voice is obscenely cheerful, as if saying You didn't know the sky is blue, or You didn't know the gun was loaded. "Mr. Reno wants his money, Greg. All of it."

"The race was fixed," House says. "You're probably the one who fixed it." More noises rise in the background; the sound breaks up a little as if the caller is moving around. House can hear dull thwacks and thumps, and another, lower sound he can't identify.

"Neither here nor there," the man says patiently. "All you need to know is that Mr. Reno expects to be paid."

"Not gonna happen," House growls. "And he can have me killed if he wants—hell, I'm an addict and a cripple anyway." The thumping sounds are growing louder, but his caller's voice has dropped. He's almost whispering, as if not wanting to disturb someone close by, someone concentrating on his work.

"You haven't changed, have you Greg?" The man sighs. "Always the grand gesture, the great fuck you to the world, even when it causes other people untold grief."

"You'd know that better than me." The low noises are continuing, and House strains to make them out.

His caller chuckles. "Not this time, Greg. I'm entertaining a friend of yours tonight."

Time seems to stop. "What are you talking about?"

There's a sudden increase in sound; it's obvious the man has taken the phone away from his ear and is holding it out. House can hear everything.

A solid thwack!, as of a fist smashing into flesh. The low, rolling sound, which is now so obviously someone moaning. Another thump, and the grunt of air being driven out of someone's body. Another very hard thwack, and someone cries out; it's the desperate, hopeless sound of deep pain, pain that's been going on for quite a while. There's another whack!, and then a different voice, venomous words in a twisted snarl.

"Fucking Jew!"

The bottom drops out of House's stomach. The noises die away as the caller puts the phone back to his ear.

"Martin," House says.

"So you do remember my name," the man replies quietly. "How nice."

"Martin," House says again. He notes with some distraction that his hands are trembling; he grips his cell phone tighter and lays his free hand flat on the coffee table. He wills it to stop shaking. "Don't do this. Not to him."

"Well now." The tone is light; an undercurrent of amusement runs through it. "The great Gregory House cares about someone else."

"Don't kill him." House hardly recognizes his own voice. "Martin, don't kill him."

There's a long silence. "Don't worry," the man finally says. "Our contract is only for twenty-four hours; he'll be released somewhere at the end of that time. Alive." The voice grows stern. "And you'll pay Mr. Reno what he's due."

"Yes," House whispers.

"Good. I'm glad we've come to this understanding. It's good when minor disputes like these come to amicable conclusions." The man's voice suddenly grows softer. "Is he as good a friend as I was, Greg?" There's a tiny click! as the connection is broken.

A dial tone buzzes in House's left ear.

House sits back. His heart is pounding in his chest and he's shivering; his thoughts seem to move with glacial slowness and he feels numb.

This can't be happening.

He looks around the apartment, blinks as if seeing it for the first time.

This can't be happening, he thinks again. No threatsReno never said anythingno one said anything! He turns the words over in his brain, examining them from each angle.

There was no warning. House stares blindly at the phone still in his hand, realizing, much too late, just what kind of people he's been dealing with. Betting with. Drinking with.

These people don't give warnings.

House's eyes widen. An odd, animal-like whimper tries to escape his lips.

And out of all the fucking gin joints in all the world, MartinMartin!walked into theirs. And they hired him.

A hysterical laugh bubbles in the back of his throat and he chokes it back down.

And he's got Wilson.

It's this thought, finally, that shocks House into action. He bolts to his feet and sways, has to put one hand against the sofa to brace himself because the world is slipping, tilting sideways. God, he feels sick, so fucking sick.

He has to fix this. Stop it right now, before it goes any farther, because God damn it, this is Martin, and he's got Wilson. They're already beating him. They've got him somewhere, and they're beating him.

And it's Martin. If Martin wants to do something worse

He knows he's panicking, and forces himself to stop for just a moment even as he reaches for his helmet.

Martin has to be called off. Only one person can do that.

And with that he's out the door, slamming it behind him.

He needs to talk to Georgie Reno.
  • Very powerful images here. I can feel that ache in the gut, the immediate loss that is described as well as that feeling of responsibility.
  • House's moment of realization was gut-wrenching and poignant. Powerful imagery. Great descriptions of sound. And I loved the phrase "glacial slowness." It was so appropriate in a lot of ways, but I liked how it reinforced the curt, cold atmosphere of the scene. But at the same time, the entire scene is so charged with emotion. Really lovely.
  • "Don't kill him." House hardly recognizes his own voice. "Martin, don't kill him" still makes me whimper. This time through, the line about Wilson's hopeless, helpless noise at the endless pain hit me particularly hard too. I hadn't seen some of the end -- the Casablanca reference is perfect, as is the bit about the room tilting as House feels suddenly ill. A stellar beginning to this epic sequel!
  • Wow. In a split second, House is reduced to a human being. Humbled and pleading. This is why people sometimes find it easier to shy away from human contact. If you connect and love another person, either as a friend or as a lover, you end up doubling your chances of getting hurt. House was reading and willing to face pain and death. He even welcomed it. He didn't care. What he didn't expect what how he wasn't ready for Wilson to face it for his sake. Then he was lost.

    Great writing! Wohoo! Sixty of these! Is it my birthday? Christmas?

  • (Anonymous)
    Very powerful, but I don't understand why House wouldn't turn off the ringer on his phone.
    • House sees everything as a battle of wills. He figures that Unknown Caller will certainly give up and stop calling before House gives up and either answers or turns off his phone.

  • Is it terrible that I'm really curious to know what Martin's connection to House's past is? Great story but very creepy.
  • This just better and better and a little creepy. But beautifully written creepy just draws you in. Looking forward to the next installment - will it be daily? Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
  • 2 a day for a month-ish?

    From the looks of it, whatever House had been trying to accomplish - at least to get Wilson freed before his 24 hours were up - didn't work out.

    I hope House gets to put his cane to good use!!
  • Ooh, the unveiling begins! Is it really finished? Will there be answers? 'Cause I'm a little scared right now. Maybe a *lot* scared. It doesn't help that I'm reading this in the dark of night :0
    • Also looking forward to guessing who wrote what!
      • And we, you know, are looking forward to messing with your mind in that regard. Right up until the end, when we post the Big Reveal.

        Until then? We all are able to log into this account, and you won't even know which one of us is replying to your posts. Heh.

        Yeah, we're evil.
        • Oops, I meant to say: you lot are very sneaky indeed! I'm guessing I am replying to Mare here, but I wouldn't bet money (gambling never pays!)
  • Gahhhh! Now this is the sort of thing I am always hoping for. As it's been said, is this my birthday??

    I am dying to find out what Martin did to House ten years ago, and why. And poor Wilson! You WILL keep beating on him, won't you? *evil grin*
    • Actually, the abuse of Wilson is pretty much over with in this tale; that does not, however, mean that the poor man's suffering is at an end.

      We still don't know what Martin did to House ten years ago, actually. We do however know what happened one other time, and you'll find out about that as things progress.
  • Mercy. This gives me the good kind of shivers. I love how it turns around from House being his usual self to reality, and the past, smacking him right between the eyes. There are so many wonderful lines in this, but this one stands out for me: House stares blindly at the phone still in his hand, realizing, much too late, just what kind of people he's been dealing with. Betting with. Drinking with.

    Several times before in canon (most notably in the Vogler and Tritter arcs) we've seen House get into deep trouble because he'd let himself do what he'd never do in his work -- coast, run on autopilot, not pay attention to the signs around him. That makes his realization ring so true, and this time, the payback is horrible.
    • not pay attention to the signs around him

      Mmmm hm. Precisely. Besides which, House figured he'd dealt with mafia types before, right? And they weren't so scary. They even liked him. They gave him the 'Vette.

      But those guys were really just little fish in a very large sea. Reno and his boys are sharks.

  • Greetings!

    A wonderful psychotic beauty to this tale... that sucks one into its depths, just as much as those living it.

    Like others, I am in admiration of the knowledge of the one thing that will make House blink. Himself, he doesn't care. To a certain point, his friends can go hang. But after that point is reached... nothing will stop him from protecting his own.

    Awaiting more,
  • I feel kinda bad for enjoying this, but I really am. At the moment, I don't have much in the way of actual criticism, but I'm looking forward to more.
  • Egad! This is absolutely chilling. I'm almost scared to keep reading, but at the same time, I can't wait to see what happens next. Ah, the suspense! *nervously bites fingernails*
  • House's slow, frightful realization made the bottom drop in my stomach as well. Excellent build-up of anxiety and tension; and the tantalizing clues of history between House & Martin make one all the more uneasy.
  • Great story!
  • Oh God - I felt House's horror so acutely reading this <3 I feel so bad for him... I mean, it's horrible for Wilson, but it's just as bad for House, not to mention the guilt that will probably NEVER go away :(
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