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Bad Company

Interregnum Four: Sickness



Interregnum Four: Sickness

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TITLE: Interregnum Four: Sickness
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's demons come home to roost.
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 Four:  Sickness

He's not even thinking in words anymore. He used too many of them trying to stop this thing, and now they've all simply vanished. That part of House's brain has completely gone black, the breakers all thrown. It's an electrical storm in there, and every time the lightning flashes he sees some fresh horror going on in the darkness.

He doesn't care about the phone receiver that has fallen from his hand, doesn't hear its angry beeps as it dangles useless on its cord. He hears his teeth rattle; he's cold. Cold. Frost forms on his fingers, on his toes, and shoots rapidly up his arms and legs, tingling and numb.

Some animal instinct moves him away from the front of the little store and into the shadow of the building's side. The word alley does not occur to him, although that's where he is. It's his body that's doing the thinking now, seeking out a safer place, a cave. This one will do. He staggers in, feeling the asphalt tilt wildly beneath him as if he might slide off, fall and never stop falling. There's a wall, a thing to lean on, so he does. Its surface scrapes his hand, and the first word returns to his mind: Brick.

He's seen Martin use a brick once, a very long time ago. He sees it again, but this time Martin's hitting harder and it's Wilson with the blood running freely from his temple. This time Martin doesn't stop.

Until he's a fucking vegetable.

It's not until his knees hit the ground that House even knows his legs have given out. The lightning flashes in his mind again and he sees men kicking, kicking like those freaks in A Clockwork Orange, kicking until there's nothing but a ruined, empty husk where Jimmy ought to be.


The heaving starts, and he lets it take him. There's not much to give up, but his body's determined. He's on all fours by the time it's over, his eyes are watering from the stench of alcohol and acid, and when he wants to stand, he can't. The alley's spinning around him, there's no air to breathe, and his cane—could be anywhere. He doesn't remember. He scoots away from the puddle of vomit, finding the wall again and pressing his back against it, waiting. Waiting while Martin does whatever he likes and Georgie fucking Reno lets him do it.

You could have lunch with Wilson every day, whispers an unholy ghost in the depths of his mind. Talk to him whenever you feel like it. He'll never walk away from you again. Just what you wanted.

That spectre in his head is showing him pictures, bloodless and sterile and utterly obscene. Wilson's uncombed hair falling down above wide, vacant eyes. Wilson with his face all slack, his brilliance forever stamped out. A wheelchair, a care facility, a place among the living dead. Complete unconsciousness, perhaps: Coma Guy, meet your new roommate. He's here because of me. It would be better just to die, and Wilson might, if Martin—

A sound brings him back to the present. It's a gravelly scuffing of rubber soles on pavement. The guy who's approaching is maybe twenty, twenty-two. A fleshy-faced white kid in an oversized hoodie.  His thick, cheap jewelry glints in the light that slants in off the street. Hyena, House thinks, a witless little scavenger who wants to run with the big black wolves.

Hyena boy pulls a small flashlight from his jeans and shines it into the deep shadows where House sits. Intentionally the kid points the glare into his eyes before checking over the rest of him.

"Aw, pops, you cryin'?" he mocks. "That dee-tox shit, 's a fuckin' bitch, a'ight?"  He pats his other hand over the front pocket of his sweatshirt.  "Got me a li'l somethin'-somethin', right here, you wan' it." He's sauntering closer like a posturing dog, thinking he'll make a sale or have some fun, because he's an imbecile. This pipsqueak's maybe five foot eight and his benighted brain has misjudged everything. He's giving House something very necessary, though: a focal point. Something to make the ground stop lurching.

House lets him come closer, and then pushes himself up against the wall, displaying every bit of his height. The kid's languid footsteps stop. The light rests on House's face again, but not directly in his eyes this time.  The kid's dumb, but he's still thinking twice about pissing off a guy of House's size.

"Dude," he whispers, and takes a hesitant half-step back.

"I will kill you." House hears himself say it, very quietly. And he will, if this kid touches him; he will not be able to stop himself. Hyena boy has just enough sense to know the truth when he hears it. He drops his light and flees in a backward, stumbling rush.  Still, House doesn't move until the kid is gone; it's never a good idea to let the enemy see that he's crippled.

He supports himself against the wall, retracing the route that he barely recalls having taken.  He brushes past a moldy cardboard box and ignores a beer can that rolls hollow and empty past his feet. At the front corner of the building he stops, suddenly aware that his face is damp, and when he rubs his cheeks he can feel the grit on his hands.  Dirt and sand from the ground and the mortared wall. It doesn't matter. He'll have his helmet on in a minute, and no one will know.

On the sidewalk beneath the abandoned pay phone, House's cane lies where it fell.  Its glossy finish reflects the fluorescent tubes that light the front of the store. Looking up, he sees a whole colony of spiders, web after web stretching over those lights, forming a tent from the eave to the wall.  Another surge of nausea hits him as he picks up his cane and limps numbly toward the bike, the orange beacon that offers one impossible hope. He'll take it. He'll ride, and he'll search, because there's no way in hell he can go home.

  • I love the horror imagery laced through this -- the storm in a power outage, the Clockwork Orange allusion (divine -- twisted, deranged, ultraviolent), the living dead, the ghosts and specters. House just waiting for the stupid kid to make one wrong move so he can lash out in the way Georgie and Martin won't let him. Taking the first steps towards appreciating Wilson in the way he never let himself before (or never let himself show).

    Oh, House.
    • We spoke often, while working on this story, of the fact that it was essentially the "perfect storm" in terms of its emotional effect on House. It really was amazing to explore his reactions.

      He didn't really want that kid to do something dumb, mess with him. He just knew he'd kill the guy. And a murder charge would've been one more thing House didn't need. Heh.
  • Geez!! I can see and feel everything. Wilson is caught between three sociopaths and that's never a good thing. I loved the allusion to Clockwork Orange and Coma Guy. The hyena reference for the wannabee gangbanger was perfect!! I think of hyenas as being driven by their senselessness for whatever it is they seek. Of course, this one had enough sense to back away.

    I am so looking forward to the next installments! And yes, I'll probably read these a couple of more times because they remind me of poetry.
  • Down to the Clockwork Orange reference, this is gold. This: Coma Guy, meet your new roommate. He's here because of me. made me feel nearly nauseous. The imagery is beautiful, too, especially the description of the cane. Bradbury would be proud.
  • Oh, man. House's PTSD with the connection to the brick is just harrowing. And the moment with the wannabe bad dude in the alley is terrifying when one realizes that House is barely holding onto what separates him from Martin.

    Abso-bloody-lutely amazing writing.
  • He's not even thinking in words anymore. He used too many of them trying to stop this thing, and now they've all simply vanished.

    It was spooky how this theme ran through the chapter; how House can barely think of more than a single word or take in a single image at a time.
  • Oh man. I'm so glad to see these stories being posted, but it's oh so painful. Which is the point, of course, and one that you guys are making brilliantly. This is a universe I wouldn't want to live in, but thank you for the chance to peek in.

    My heart breaks for both of them lost in that long, dark night. And the Georgie Reno conversation - brilliant juxtaposition of the menacing and mundane.

    Friending so that I can catch these seconds before they pop up elsewhere on my friends page!
  • *shivers*
    House's flashback with the brick...eep. He knows just what these guys are capable of. Love seeing how his mind works under stress.

    Question...did this idea of all of you to write these stories come about before or after the original was posted?

    • These stories came after the original was posted. One of us wrote one story and posted it for a few others to see, and the timeline sort of grew from there.

      We're planning, at the end, to have some DVD Extras, in which we'll reveal individual authors, talk about the process of writing this monster, and show some 'cut scenes.'
  • Greetings!

    "He'll ride, and he'll search, because there's no way in hell he can go home." Perfect. The fear, the determination, both so House....

    Such razor-edged opposition here... the physician being quite willing to commit murder, the traitorous thoughts that fly through his head v. what he really wants, the desperate hope, even though he knows the search is futile. Great stuff!

    Powerful, dark stuff here! So AU, yet so IC and true to itself....

    Eagerly awaiting more,

  • The grief and rage here are palpable.
  • Very intense!
  • I... wow.
    I'm commenting on this chapter at random - I'm reading them all.
    But I'd like to say... Clockwork Orange didn't worry me, Fight Club made me laugh, but this... The way this is written is wrenchingly poignant and sickening - which is entirely a compliment for such a morbid piece as this.
    I'm especially impressed with some of the phrasing, and the little nicknames given to characters - the Hitler Youth, the Hyena boy... and the treacherous little voice in House's head was terrifyingly realistic. He's exactly right for the circumstances. And it's terrifying, because the kind of situation which would make him this incoherent, this vulnerable... Just wow.
    I'll keep reading now.

    Deepest regards,

    I hope I was fairly coherent there... if not, my deepest apologies...
    • *smiles*

      Thank you so much. You are perfectly coherent.

      There are many parts of this tale that just about killed us even as we wrote -- House and Wilson will do that to you, you know -- and this? This was definitely one.
  • Oh God, House :( My heart breaks for him :(
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