TITLE: Hell & High Water
RATING: Not sure how to rate it, but high up there- M for mature, maybe?! I think the term is “not poeia compatible.” Nasty things happen to House, alright?
WARNINGS & NOTES: This is based on the Contractverse, which if you haven’t already read or heard about, is an awesome but tragic fic from diysheep (who I really hope doesn’t mind me writing under the umbrella of the Contractverse! Respect, I promise!). As it is a Contractverse fic, you can expect a lot of angst and violence and torture. Be warned! You can find all the Contract stuff here: http://contractverse.livejournal.com/. Also, partially inspired by a passage from a novel called Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – but its quite different, just a little borrowing going on…
SUMMARY: A mean little story in which House gets wet (not in the sexy way either)…
What House didn’t expect was that the years of abuse were just like a splash in the pond; that there would still be ripples in the water, landmines left behind long after the war had ended. He could steel himself for most of the oncoming waves of psychological mayhem. There was medication, a nightlight, avoidance of loud noises, and Wilson’s hand on his back, his voice at his ear. It was easy because Wilson got to know the flashbacks and nightmares, and what would send House into a panic attack or pull him out of one.
Still, there were things Wilson didn’t know about and things House couldn’t – and wouldn’t - bring himself to mention. Wilson didn’t know that the whistling of the teakettle in the kitchen made bile rise up in House’s throat.
It was a creative move. Not creative in the way they fashioned new weapons when the novelty of the baseball bat and House’s own cane wore off. Even the curtain rod lashings on his back grew monotonous, as did the wood and bone greetings they conducted using a guitar’s fret board.
This fresh torture began before prison, at House’s apartment, on House’s living room floor. He was a naked bloodied heap on the ground – a rain puddle oft jumped in. The lawyer was bored with House and House knew it. The screams were boring, the bruises were boring and although there was still a rush to be had when kicking in someone’s ribcage with steel capped boots, it wouldn’t last. A broken bone is a broken bone is a broken bone. What the lawyer really wanted was something he could laugh about when he crawled into bed with his wife that night and keep him laughing over the first cup of coffee the next day. He found his answer in the kitchen of his victim’s apartment.
House’s teakettle, plugged in and switched on, was full to its maximum capacity with plain tap water that started to bubble and pop. It sounded like a distant train. The kitchen window steamed up and Thompson realised that he was breathing hard with anticipation, the heat of the kettle flushing his face. House didn’t hear it. He didn’t even recall the kettle being boiled until much later, in a nightmare. House was ordered to stand up, and for the first time, the lawyer’s cronies were ordered to assist him. They held him there as the lawyer approached from behind.
I’m a little teapot, short and stout. House felt heat at the back of bare neck, as if, in trying to warm up, he was sitting too close to a fire.
Here is my handle, here is my spout. Something hard momentarily pressed against the spot where House’s spine met his shoulders. A chair leg? A knife?
When I get all steamed up, hear me shout. House shivered involuntarily and not because he was cold. Then the lawyer tilted his hand and his grip of the kettle. Boiling water trickled down House’s bare back, searing his flesh in a waterfall of innocent lava. The lawyer kept his steady pace as House screamed a new scream and the hot water peeled away the layers of skin. House was on fire.
Tip me over and pour me out.
It was worse when it was over and they had left. When the boiled water left his skin and the flesh began to pulse like a heartbeat, prickly agony, wave after wave of excruciating pain. He lay flatly on his stomach, craving another burn. He yearned for the burn of a Scotch as he swallowed in one go or the burn of vicodin dissolving in his stomach. Unmoving, he felt the burn of repressed tears leaking silently from the corners of his eyes.
House panicked over the practicalities at first. It wasn’t another black eye he could pass off as a bar fight. Hell no he couldn’t. Bad sunburn, maybe, or spilt coffee. In the end, he didn’t have to worry that much. It wasn’t more than a few days before Cameron was murdered.
In prison, House feared the return of the kettle and its liquid fire. He knew They were eager to do it again. Burning a man’s flesh with an appliance one used to make comforting tea, was strangely alluring, dangerous beyond measure, a sick violence that turned Them on. But House also knew that They were loathe to use it too often. Maybe They were scared of infection, or maybe the sight of the skin yet unhealed was too repulsive. Anyway They only used the kettle a few more times. And They concentrated on his hands and feet, letting the water trickle out so very slowly. Once, House was forced to stand in a bucket of boiled water. They added salt as well, for his open wounds, you see.
House’s fantasies in prison varied wildly. A beach holiday, riding a motorbike, Dream Jimmy. One of his most comforting fantasies – a favourite ‘vacation spot’ – was the one where he was wearing thick socks. His mangled, boiled feet in a pair of thick, white socks. Just wearing them, feeling them, the thick, white socks on his roasted-like-a-chicken feet.
When he slept or lost consciousness, he sometimes dreamt that he was lying in a bath that was slowly filling up. But the water began to pop like popcorn kernels, and steam like an iron. The boiling water rose in the tub and House could do nothing. He whimpered as the hot water filled the deep valley in his right thigh, and up and up and up, melting away his flesh and bone and soul. House was drowning – a flooded House. He would try to scream but the water got into his mouth and burnet away his insides. Through a thick film of water that felt like acid, he would see his parents standing over the bathtub. He called for help and watched as his Dad flung buckets of ice into the bath. “Just pull me out; just pull me out,” House would yell, “Forget the ice.” And his Dad, flustered and confused, would yell back “Then how will you learn Greg?”
That nightmare was one of the ripples, still radiating out from the big bang. But House couldn’t tell Wilson, not all of it. Wilson knew he had been tortured and could probably tell he had been burned, but he didn’t know the details. Wilson didn’t know why House refused every offered cup of tea or coffee or got nervous about bath time.
Most confusingly, Wilson didn’t know why House had shook when he laid eyes on the chest of drawers in his new room, why after pawing through the drawers, his shaking hands settled on a pair of thick, white socks.