Eye for an Eye
House sits in a dark corner of an infirmary, his unfaltering stare fixed on a lithe, young man sleeping prone in the sole hospital bed under a glaring neon spotlight. Ira Adler, his tormentor, delivered as promised.
The man's hands are chained to the bed, every visible area of skin a patchwork of scrapes and bruises. His face shows a tension of pain even in unconsciousness, one eye swollen shut and one lip marred by a freshly scabbed split. Dark stubble covers his jaw, oily strands of brown hair falling messily over a scraped forehead. Lightly draped blanket rises and dips with outlines of a full set of restraints over a muscular physique.
Seeing past the discoloration of injuries, House traces every muscle of his exposed upper body, one not formed by use for strength or endurance, but meticulously sculptured in vanity.
"Severe concussion. Resisting arrest. Wouldn't be surprised if he died from the injuries."
An observation of the jail's physician, given in passing, flutters through his mind. In truth it's a badly veiled message, passed down from responsible big-shots, allowing him free rein over the prisoner's fate.
Slowly, House rises to his good foot and makes his way to the bedside in a slow beat of alternating clacks and thumps. Left-hand crutch leaned on the bed, he takes a syringe and vial from the first aid pack, filling one with the contents of the other singlehandedly. A precise stab in the neck delivers a dose of clear liquid before he rolls the morphine drip dry.
The captive wakes grunting in pain, his effort to roll over stopped by the leather snares. A slurry sound of surprise emerges from him, followed by an inarticulate guttural cry. The man tries out his tongue, finding it lax and useless. Frustrated, he yells wordless, nasal groans to the surrounding dark, punching at the bed with clenched fists in a futile effort to get attention, the bars rattling loud.
House observes the show in silence, seeing the man for an utter fool that will not last long in prison, abused or not. He endures the noise effortlessly, simply counting the shouts as seconds. The look on his face is boredom bereft of irritation. Even if he is above the guards' short fuse, the display is only so much energy wasted.
The man quiets shortly, giving up easily. Not survivor material at all.
"Five loosing traits in under five minutes." His hoarse voice fills the dark void beyond the pool of neon light.
Ira snaps his head to the whisper, anger blazing from hazel eyes over an undercurrent of utter lack of comprehension.
"Ten." H adds as he rises to one foot, crutches rattling ominously. "And I'm not gonna tell you which." He walks with slow deliberation to the restrained patient, just enough for his torso to show, but not the face, looming dangerously close over the former abuser whose limbs are stilled by budding fear. And he hasn't even done a thing. Pathetic.
Ira's big, attentive eyes twitch nervously over the stranger's torso in search of clues as to the situation, falling eventually on the circle of pink skin on one clutched hand.
House follows the man's eyes to his scar and recalls the cigar-but incident, wincing at the distant but vivid memory. A quiet kind of satisfaction overcomes him as realization about his identity overcomes Ira, badly snubbed surprise and fear following shortly to the man's expression.
"Boo." House utters emotionless.
Ira gulps awkwardly, repeatedly.
"You don't have to talk. I gave you a shot of paralytic in the Hypoglossal nerve, I think you'll have enough trouble keeping bile going down the right tube. And no one will care if you groan."
Ira swallows hard, Adam's apple moving oddly as if to confirm the warning.
House leaves the left crutch resting at the bed side and pulls two plastic-capped syringes from the blazer pocket. "Pain meds." He explains. "Immediate short term relief." One is turned closer to Adler before the other "...and long-lasting slow-release. See, the guards messed me up so bad I have to take each of these daily just so I wouldn't die of a cardiac. Now, which do you want? Long term...? " the syringe is held slightly higher up. "...or short term?"
Ira flashes his gaze between the two, eyes ablaze with need, hands itching to reach for both. A frustrated grunt comes out.
"Look at one and blink twice."
Ira keeps switching attention between them.
"One or none." The reminder is calmly detached, almost as if it means nothing to him.
Adler blinks at the short term one.
"You do know bones don't heal quickly, right?"
Ira makes no reply except another double blink.
"So are you a sissy or just dumb?"
"Right... You don't trust me? Well I'm gonna be a sport and give you what you really want anyway."
House plugs the long-term syringe to the man's IV and empties it slowly.
Adler starts heaving, a bewildered frown further marring his features.
"I forgot to tell you... the long term meds, they work by overloading pain receptors. That's why I need the other kind too. It will get worse before it gets better. Much worse."
Ira stares at him with madness, skin dewing up with sweat.
"You want this one?" House offers.
Ira nods with rapid urgency, tossing his focus between the needle and IV pole like some odd game of tenis.
House's eyes turn hard. "Beg for it."
Adler looks away defiant, stern expression affixed on his features, but it melts quickly to one of anguish from the backlash of that predictable major pitfall of resistance - tension aggravates pain. His fingers and toes curl and stretch, back and neck arching, twisting.
House watches with patience born of suffering as the man's eyes water and leak, furious blinks trying in vain to stop new tears from welling up. Despite having lived through the same, he feels no empathy whatsoever, his heart having taken leave for the time being, ice hard emptiness in his chest.
Ira looks at him pleadingly.
The man looks at him as if he were thick.
"Mouth it." House offers.
"You see..." House changes the syringes "…what you want... " He empties the other one. "... is rarely what you need."
Ira watches in fear but nothing happens, the moment of hope-driven endorphins passing, internal analgesia giving way to a new wave of heat.
House looks down on him with icicle eyes. "That's a cc of epidural." He elaborates. "Injected in the blood stream it causes chronic neuropathy."
Adler's eyes turn saucer-like
"Oh drop the face." House hisses venom. "I'm just giving you a taste of your own medicine." He strides out, leaving the man to his pathetic wails. Even as he door shuts, muffling the noise, the burst of vengeful glee drains from House. Not even the thought of the man's continued suffering does anything to fill the numb void in his heart.
The doctor walks up to House. "You got your justice?"
House nods, quiet and thoughtful, his eyes staring unfocused down the hall.
The man grins. "Feels good, right?"
He sighs heavily, his soul still a wreck. "Felt." Her corrects sadly.