CHARACTERS: House, OMC
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
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.
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.
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.
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 threats—Reno never said anything—no 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, Martin—Martin!—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.