Disclaimer: These guys aren't mine. You can see why. I'd just abuse them.
Author's note: I honestly don't know where this came from. Product of exhaustion and a rough couple of weeks.
WARNING: Let's see, where to start? Violence, torture, abuse, angst to a factor of ten. I guess you wouldn't even call it angst, more like psychological torture. Sensitive readers beware!
House was sleeping as soundly as he ever slept, when the commotion in his living room snapped him out of it. He sat straight up in bed as he heard another crash, muffled voices, heavy footsteps, then a sound that made his blood run cold: Wilson crying out in pain. Or maybe fear. Either way, it wasn't an "I'm having a nightmare" or "I tripped on my way to the bathroom" cry. It was more along the lines of "I just broke my leg" or "Oh, shit, there are the horsemen and the world is ending!"
Not even bothering with his cane, he grabbed for the edge of the dresser and hobbled frantically toward the door. "Wilson? What are you doing? Don't you know people are trying to sleep?"
Jerking the door open, he expected to see…well, he wasn't sure what he expected to see, but it certainly wasn't three well-muscled men standing around his couch. One of them held Wilson in a choke-hold with a knife to his chest. Blood flowed from his nose, and it occurred to the doctor side of House that his nose was probably broken. Then Wilson met his eyes, and the safe detachment of his doctor side evaporated. Terror, pain, and confusion were conveyed between them. "What-what is this?" House croaked out. "Let him go. Who are you?"
The tallest one, a scary-looking white man in black jeans, a skin-tight black t-shirt, grabbed Wilson from the other man with a hand around his throat. Wilson tensed, and House was afraid for a moment he was going to struggle. House tried to tell him with his eyes "No, don't! This guy is eight foot tall, and can snap your neck like a toothpick!" Apparently, he wasn't as stupidly brave as House gave him credit for, because he didn't fight. "Let him go!" House demanded.
The second man, the one who originally grabbed Wilson, smiled dangerously. "You're not the one giving orders, here, Doctor House. We're running this show. You just sit down in that chair there, and you really don't want to cause any trouble. Does he, Doctor Wilson?" Wilson refused to speak, so his captor took his hand and physically shook Wilson's head forcefully from side to side. House hobbled over to the kitchen chair he was directed to, his mind racing. The one had Wilson by the neck, one of the most fragile, vital parts of the body. The other had a knife, and the third had an obnoxiously large revolver clipped onto his belt. For once, his mind was blank as to a way out of this. Best to just see what they wanted. "Okay, I'm sitting. Now what? Kinda hard for Jimmy there to get us coffee with you holding him like that. Why don't you let him go and we'll talk about this."
No one spoke to answer him, but the smaller man, the one with the gun, circled around behind him. He tried to keep an eye on him, but he couldn't watch both him and Wilson at the same time, and his eye contact seemed to be the only thing keeping Wilson from full-scale panic. He wanted to say something, crack a joke to try and de-stress him a little but he couldn't fish one from his mind at the moment. Other than maybe a pitiful "Why did the chicken cross the road" joke from when he was five, nothing even remotely amusing came to mind. He wanted to tell him it would be okay, that it would all be fine, but he had a deep, sickening feeling that it would be a lie. He hoped his eyes conveyed something remotely reassuring, but he didn't know for sure.
He let out a strangled sound as strong, rough hands grabbed his arms and pulled them behind him. Something tightened around them, way too tight, cutting into him. Zip-ties, he realized as two more were shoved under it and fastened his hands to the sides of the chair. House pulled against them, but they wouldn't budge. His captor then went to work fastening his ankles to the legs of the chair. It had been hours since his last vicodin, and his thigh was screaming at him, but he had deeper concerns at the moment. "Okay, we're going to play cops and robbers? But I gotta know if I'm the good guy or the bad guy if I'm gonna play right."
One of them, who he dubbed Larry, turned from him and drove his fist with inhuman force into Wilson's stomach. He gasped for breath as he tried to double over to ease the pain but the other guy, Curly, held him upright keeping the muscles taut. "Hey!" House yelled. "Leave him alone!" He fought against the thin but resilient pieces of plastic holding him in place until blood dripped down his wrists. Larry smiled at him cruelly, then drew back and landed another punishing uppercut to Wilson's side, directly into his kidneys.
With barely enough air to stay conscious, he was unable to yell in pain, so all he could manage was a strangled whimper. He looked up to meet House's eyes, seeking comfort in the fact that there was at least one person in the room that didn't want to hurt him. House twisted in the chair, trying desperately to get free. He had to help Wilson, couldn't just let these bastards hurt him. The chair started to wobble, as if it was going to tip over, and Wilson made an instinctive move to catch it. Curly held him even tighter as Moe, who was still standing beside House grabbed the chair and steadied it.
Larry pulled out his knife and swiped it across Wilson's chest, and House screamed "No!" Blood seeped through the gash in the white t-shirt, and Wilson's eyes widened in shock and pain. House was frantic now, sure Wilson was dying as the blood trickled down his chest. "What do you people want from us?! I have money! Third canister on the right in the kitchen has over a thousand in cash. Take whatever you want, but leave us alone!" There were very few things that could bring him to his knees, metaphorically or literally, but he couldn't just sit here and watch these bastards hurt Wilson!
They ignored him for the moment, and Larry turned to Wilson. "This time I cut you. Next time you struggle, I take it out on him, understand?"
Curly loosened him hold on Wilson's throat for a second, long enough for him to gasp out "yeah."
Moe pulled another chair around, facing House a few feet away, and Curly forced Wilson into it. "Do I have to hold you down, or are you going to behave?" He held the knife menacingly in House's direction, and Wilson nodded quickly, unable to find his voice, hoping they understood it meant he would cooperate. He squeezed his eyes shut as Larry put the knife to his throat, and tried to contain the terrified whimper that was threatening to escape. Smirking at the terror radiating from the younger doctor, he slid it a little lower, neatly slicing the t-shirt from the trembling body. House and Wilson simultaneously released breaths they were unaware they were holding. Their eyes met again as Moe secured Wilson in a similar manner, fear, anger and helplessness in the blue ones, pain, fear, and confusion in the brown ones.
Content that their captives weren't going anywhere, the three stooges backed up to inspect their handiwork. House took the opportunity to check out the laceration across Wilson's chest. It went from under his left pectoral muscle to the top of his right shoulder, and was barely into the subcutaneous tissue beneath the skin. Painful, yes, but not dangerous. The bleeding was already clotting. "You okay?" he mouthed, thankful they could both read lips. It came in handy during department head meetings, and it was useful now.
"I think so," Wilson mouthed back. "Who are they?"
House tried to shrug, but with his arms pinned it lost some of its effect. Just then, two of the three stooges stepped back into view. Larry was sharpening his knife on a whetstone as he spoke. "Dr. House, I was told that you were the best diagnostician in the country. The absolute best!"
"Well, if you wanted a diagnosis, all you had to do was ask. I'd say you are a sadistic psychopath. Sorry, it's incurable."
Curly drew back to smack House, but Larry put a hand on his shoulder. "Now, now. Dr. House is entitled to his opinion. And he's possibly right. Apparently, that's something we have in common. Besides, we're not going to lay a hand on him today. In fact, how's the leg? Hurt? Need a pill?" He reached for the pill bottle on the coffee table, opened it, and pulled one out. "Here," he said, offering it to House.
House wasn't sure what to make of this. His leg was screaming, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to take it or not. There had to be some kind of trick. "Take the damn pill, House!" Wilson said. "You may not get another chance for one!" Apparently, Larry's protection of House didn't extend to him, as Curly backhanded him hard enough to make his neck pop and start his nose bleeding again. He could only lean his head forward to keep the blood from running into his mouth. His throat was swollen from being choked, and he would strangle for sure.
House finally opened his mouth for the pill, and Larry dropped it on his tongue. He swallowed it deftly, and said, "So what now? You gonna explain all of this? Why you're beating up on Wilson, but trying to help my pain?" He didn't add that no amount of vicodin could take away the pain he felt watching Wilson suffer.
"Simple," said Larry. "Just giving back what you gave me."
House shook his head, trying to make sense of this. "Do we know each other?"
"Sure we do. Don't you remember?"
"What did I do to you?"
Larry smiled coldly. "Not a thing. You were wonderful to me. Kind, reassuring-"
"Are you sure it was me? Doesn't sound like me."
"Okay, maybe that's just my memories playing tricks on me. But I do remember clearly what you did too my wife."
House looked up at Wilson and his blood went cold. "She died, didn't she? I didn't solve the puzzle in time and she died. Look, sometimes it happens. I'm sorry I couldn't save her, but I'm not God! Now, you have a problem with me, take it out on me! Put Wilson in the other room, do whatever you plan on doing to me, and get it over with!"
"House!" Wilson exclaimed. He was terrified, but House offering himself in his place was certainly not the answer. Seeing Curly shift, he flinched, expecting another blow, but it was just a scare tactic.
Larry shook his head. "Nope. Wrong. She's still alive. She's just traumatized, a fraction of the person she used to be."
Wilson tried to defend his friend. "Long illness can do that. It's not his fault!" again, he was ignored, both by House and by their attackers.
"She had abdominal pain. Some vomiting. That was all. But it had been going on for so long, we sought you out. You looked at her for 30 seconds and decided she had ovarian cancer. Dr. Wilson here was out of town, so you had some underling cut out everything that made her a woman."
House closed his eyes. Shit! Of course he remembered her. Mrs….Well, he remembered her case. It was about six months ago, and she had presented with abdominal pain and vomiting alright, for over six months. She had lost over thirty pounds, but her stomach was so horribly swollen that she actually looked pregnant. She had suddenly started crashing, so he had gone with the most likely diagnosis. He had been wrong. It was lupus, the one thing it never was.
"Look, I did what I thought I had to do to save her. I was wrong! Am I not entitled to that?"
"No!" Larry screamed, getting right in the older doctor's face. "Not when you play with people's lives!"
House was at a loss for what to say. Lupus presented in a million different ways, which was why it fit almost every differential. Still, they should have caught it. Cameron should have caught it. But most of all, HE should have caught it! Still, bigger things to deal with at the moment. "Okay. I messed up. Bad. Take it out on me, let Wilson go. It wasn't his fault his brother's wedding was the weekend you chose to bring your wife to us. This is about me."
Larry grinned. His prisoner was getting it. "Exactly. You hurt the person who means the most to me, so…"
House felt his mouth go dry, and he was pretty sure that the terror flowing through his veins outweighed even Wilson's at the moment. He could take pain, could deal with whatever these men chose to do to him, but they couldn't do this. Couldn't punish Wilson for his mistakes. But it happened. Vogler, Tritter, now this. And he had a feeling this was going to be much worse. He met Wilson's eyes, and was surprised to see a fierce determination there. Great, now Wilson was feeling strong, when he just wanted to crawl under the rug. He had to swallow his pride, for Wilson's sake. "What do you want?! Do you want me to apologize? I'm sorry! Do you want me to beg? Please! Please let him go, and do what you want to me instead!" Tears blurred the edges of his vision, and Wilson's heart clenched. Despite the fear he felt, despite the pain he knew he was in for, hearing House beg for mercy on his behalf flooded him with relief. Whatever was going to happen, he wasn't alone. So much of what he went through for the sake of his friendship he had gone through alone. In a way, it was comforting that it would hurt House so much to see him in pain. And he could take the pain to protect House. He had always protected House, this was no different.
Just then, Moe came back from the kitchen. "Here's all I found, boss." He put the load of things in his arms on the coffee table. House looked at the items with morbid curiosity. He would tell himself that he wanted to try to see what was coming, but he also wanted to know what he had in his kitchen that could be used to torture someone. The three men sorted through a roll of saran wrap, a butter knife, a candle and lighter, tray of ice, and a few other things House couldn't make out so well from his vantage. He looked at Wilson again, hoping to convey to him how sorry he was, how helpless he felt, how this was going to kill him to have to watch. Wilson returned his look, trying to keep his own fear to a minimum. From where he sat, he couldn't see the table, and what was in store for him. House didn't know if that made it better or worse.
Larry picked up the candle, and lit it, setting it back down on the table, then deliberately turned away from House to face Wilson. Breaking eye contact with House, Wilson stared at Larry, hatred flaring in the usually kind brown eyes. He didn't speak, and set his jaw to prepare himself for the pain. He wouldn't look at his friend, wouldn't cry out if he could help it. While they may be using him to punish House, that didn't mean he had to make it worse.
Picking the lighter up with one hand, he held the butter knife to the flame. House struggled violently, paying no mind to the fact that blood was flowing freely from his wrists. "Come on!" he pleaded. "Don't do this! He hasn't done anything to you!" Larry ignored him, continued heating the piece of metal, holding it with a dishrag. "You can't do this! You're not like me!" House knew it was a desperate long-shot, but then, so were most of his stunts. "I'm a bastard, but you're the good guy here, remember? You can't take it out on innocent people!"
Larry didn't reply, simply enjoying the desperation in the older doctor's voice. This was why he was here, to bring this smug, arrogant asshole to his knees. He was close now, but not there yet. After he listened to his friend, the only person in the world he really cared about, scream for a little while, maybe then he would know. He nodded to Curly, who reached over to Wilson and ripped the shirt the rest of the way off his shoulders. This left the younger doctor in only his boxers, completely immobilized to the chair, totally helpless. "Is he still your best friend?" Larry asked.
Wilson wasn't about to play into this man's game. "Absolutely."
Larry dropped the lighter, and pressed the red-hot knife against the side of Wilson's neck. The pain was immediate and sharp, and Wilson was unable to suppress the cry that escaped his lips. He felt the flesh blister around the blade, then it was withdrawn, leaving the pain behind. He started to reheat the blade, and Wilson shuddered. House could only watch, feeling the pain as sharply as Wilson did.
Larry heated the knife to red-hot again, and this time placed it on the inside of Wilson's left bicep, exposed by the position he was restrained in. A little more prepared this time, Wilson only hissed in pain. House whimpered in sympathetic pain. This went on for another twenty minutes, leaving blistering burns on his chest, stomach, sides, and thighs. Finally, Larry stepped back to examine his handiwork. Wilson had managed to keep silent throughout most of it, but tears were flowing down the older doctor's cheeks, and he begged for his friend's release at intermittent intervals. It was killing him to have to watch this, to see his friend in pain, to know it was because of him. Because he made mistakes. This was what Larry wanted. No amount of physical pain could bring out this level of remorse in Dr. House. Only psychological torture would suffice.
"Lay him back, boys," he said to the other two. Wilson was alarmed when the chair started going backward, and his head hit the floor with a thud when the back of the chair landed flat on the floor, but it was only a minor discomfort compared to the rest of the pain. He didn't know what was going to happen now, but he didn't think it would be good. House, on the other hand, saw where this was going. The burns to the rest of his body had been painful, but they wouldn't, pardon the expression, hold a candle to the same burns on the bottom of his feet. The doctor side of House knew that the sole of the feet had more nerves per centimeter than any other non-sexual part of the body, which was why it was such a common target for punishment in other countries who weren't protected by that pesky little eight amendment. The side of him that could take his own pain better than Wilson suffering cringed at the thought of his friend going through that. He had to try one more time. "Come on! You've made your point! I'm sorry! I'll do whatever you want, just don't put him through this!" Tears were flowing freely, unchecked, and he was too concerned with other matters to even be ashamed. "Don't do this to him! You've got me, hurt me if you want, but don't hurt him anymore!"
Larry smiled. "But don't you see? I am hurting you! Much worse than I'm hurting him." He began reheating the blade, preparing to continue. "It hurts more to watch, doesn't it? To see the one person you care about suffer? Only one thing worse." He dropped the lighter and touched the heated metal to the bottom of Wilson's foot. This time Wilson wasn't able to fight back the scream. Larry jerked the chair upright again, and Wilson yelped as his burned foot hit the floor.
House finally processed what Larry said, and squirmed against his restraints. Knowing the answer was going to be bad had never stopped him from asking the question before, but damn, he dreaded this one. "What's worse?"
Moe grabbed Wilson's head to keep him from thrashing around, and Larry picked up the saran wrap. He tore off a long piece, and House felt his breath catch in his throat. "Watching them die." Wilson finally looked up at House, finally let the panic hit him.
Larry moved behind Wilson, and wrapped the clear plastic around his face, holding it tight. As the lack of oxygen and the inability to breathe fed his panic, Wilson struggled valiantly, snapping his head from side to side as soon as Moe released his grip.
"No!" House screamed. "No! Don't kill him! Please!" He continued to plead nearly incoherently as he watched Wilson's struggles grow weaker and finally cease. His heart, already weakened by what he had been forced to witness, broke, and he sobbed uncontrollably. Larry released Wilson, shoving the chair over again, and he lay on the floor, limp.
With a satisfied look, he turned to face House as his friends readied themselves to leave. "Now you know how I felt." He took his knife, sliced House's hands free, tossed the knife a few feet away, and left him there, slamming the door behind him.
House was sobbing, looking at Wilson's still form. Why couldn't they just kill him instead? Wilson had so much more to give, he was just a sorry, cranky, old cripple. No one would miss him! He hadn't even tried to get his ankles free. What was the point? Wilson was dead, there was no hurry. Eventually the neighbors would wake up, the walls were rather thick and if Wilson's screaming hadn't woke them up, he doubted he could. He just didn't care now. What was there left to care about?
His broken thoughts were interrupted by a minute whimper, so quiet that had there been any other sound at all, he would have missed it. Hi head jerked up to where his friend was lying, unmoving, but when House looked hard, he noticed the very shallow rise and fall of the injured man's chest. His heart leapt. Wilson was still alive!
That changed everything. His hands were free, but his feet were still bound to the chair legs. If he tipped the chair forward, he could almost reach the knife. This was going to hurt. He leaned forward in the chair, touching the floor despite the protest of his thigh. Still not enough to throw off the balance. He flung himself forward with all his strength and the chair tipped over. Ignoring the pain, he pulled himself forward with his arms, dragging the chair with him. He finally reached the knife, and cut his legs free.
Once free, he scrambled to Wilson's side. He was indeed breathing, albeit shallowly, and House felt a weak but racing pulse in the side of his neck that wasn't blistered. He reached for the cordless phone, unwilling to leave Wilson's side. "I need an ambulance!" he demanded as soon as the dispatcher answered. He gave his address, then hung up, ignoring her requests that he stay on the line. He had bigger concerns at the moment than placating an underpaid 911 employee.
He cut Wilson loose, and pulled him over on his back. His breathing slowly got better as House checked over the burns on his body. The blisters looked horrible and painful, but the damage wasn't severe. He shook him lightly. "Wilson? Wilson, come on! Wake up. Wake up and yell at me for getting you into this. Yell at me for treating that woman like a lab rat." Aware that this was the second person he had said this hated word to tonight, he went on. "Please wake up. Please don't be brain-damaged!"
This was met with a groan, and the young man shook his head violently, as if still being held. House gently took his friend's head into his lap and spoke soothingly. "It's okay, Wilson. Just relax. Its over. Calm down, they're gone. I've got you!"
Wilson stopped struggling when he put his hands to his face, then opened his eyes. "House?" he croaked.
A smile broke through when his friend looked at him. "Are you okay?" He asked, well aware that it had to be the most despised question in the world. "Do you remember what happened?"
Wilson looked down at the wounds on his body and grimaced. Doesn't anyone ever just sue anymore?"