A/N: This is a Contractverse story; specifically, a take-off on Pencils are Dangerous that focuses on the perspective of Elizabeth, the therapist. This is my first attempt at fanfiction, and really my first attempt at any kind of fiction since childhood, so please be gentle, but give lots of constructive feedback so I can improve. Also, I'm not sure if I'm going to continue this, so let me know whether you think it's worthwhile.
"I've got a new case for you," John, my supervisor said. "Great!" I said excitedly, before noticing the unusually serious look on his face. It was my second week on the job, and I was eager to build up a caseload, and eager to prove myself.
"This is… Well, this is a man who's been through an awful lot," he began, as I settled in his plush chair for our weekly supervision session. Most of our patients had experienced some type of trauma, but it was clear from John's grave tone that this was somehow different. "He was referred by a friend of mine, Dr. James Wilson. The patient… well, you've probably heard about him on the news—Dr. Gregory House?"
He paused, looking for recognition, as I searched my memory.
John continued, "He's the one who was accused of killing Alison Cameron, and was recently exonerated. The one who had been tortured by Thompson's clan."
"Oh, yeah, I did hear about that. It sounded like the torture was pretty severe. Pretty horrific, actually," I recalled.
"Yeah, it was. James saw the x-rays. One hundred improperly healed breaks on his right hand alone. The rest of his body was pretty similarly mangled. His eyes were literally stabbed out of his head with a pencil."
I cringed. This felt like a horror story. Couldn't possibly be real.
John continued, "They also broke his eardrums multiple times. He's now both blind and deaf. And they starved him. When they found him, he looked like a concentration camp victim. On the rare occasions they fed him, they kicked him in the stomach until he threw up, and then made him eat the vomit." I closed my eyes and shook my head, feeling a bit nauseous myself. I wanted to tell John to stop, but I told myself that if this man could endure years of experiencing the torture, certainly I could endure 5 minutes of hearing about it. "When they found him, he was on the brink of death. Hypothermic, malnourished, with pneumonia and multiple infections. He was in the prison hospital for two weeks, and then in the ICU at Princeton Plainsboro for a month. They really didn't think he would survive. But of course, the worst part was psychological. Do you remember how they got him to submit to this, how they got him to confess to Cameron's murder?"
"Um…" I said, trying to recall.
"They drew up a contract. Thomson's lawyer, Nate Archibald drew it up. It basically stipulated that if House didn't submit to their 'punishment'"—John drew quote marks in the air—"they would kill his best friend, James Wilson. Later, the names of other people he cared about were also added to the contract. So basically, if House did anything to try to fight back or escape the torture, if he did anything besides basically beg for more, they would kill one of the people he cared about most. If he told any of them about the contract, same thing. So for 5 years, as House was experiencing continual torture, he had no expectation that it could ever end. In fact, he could scarcely even hope that it would end, because that would mean that his friends would die. Thompson even threatened to kill Wilson if House died, so House couldn't commit suicide if it became too much. Ironically, I guess that must have been what gave him the strength to survive."
"My God," I breathed. I was stunned not only by the horrific nature of the torture, but also by House's strength of spirit. I didn't think I would ever be able to survive such of thing. They would have broken me. I would have given up, given in, attempted suicide, something, and my friends would be dead. And John was right—it was definitely the "no end" aspect that was the worst.
After a moment, I asked, "How is he doing now?"
"Good question. I'm not sure how you'll find him. Greg House would have been a difficult man to treat before all this. He was known for being a jerk, for keeping people at arms length. He was a Vicodin addict, never accepted treatment, and was vocal about his contempt for psychiatry and psychology. I'm not sure whether any of this has changed, or whether his defenses have only solidified. But I guess the more pressing issue, immediately, is communication. As I mentioned, he's now both blind and deaf."
"Oh, right. How does he communicate, then?"
"Well, actually, that's part of the problem. James has been trying to figure out how to communicate with him. And he's not even sure if House is all there. Intermittently, he seems like he might be catatonic, not moving or responding to touch. Although it's hard to tell, of course, given the lack of communication. It's not clear why he's not talking, or if he knows where he is. He frequently has what appears to be flashbacks, where he dives into a corner, curls himself into a ball, hyperventilates, and shakes. James has been trying to soothe him with touch, and has been giving him Ativan injections when the physical reassurance isn't enough."
"It must be especially hard to ground yourself back in reality when you can't see, can't hear, and can't communicate," I commented.
"Exactly. There are signs he knows who James is though, as he often clings to him for comfort. He also seems to respond well to his nurse, Clarence. I recommended you to James because he thought House might respond better to a woman, since his tormenters were all men. Plus, James wanted someone who could do home visits."
John continued, "So I guess, the first part of the challenge will be to find a way to communicate with him. And to help James and Clarence to do so too."
"Have they tried fingerspelling into his hand, like they did with Helen Keller?" I asked, wondering if I would have the chance to put my sign language training to use.
"I'm not sure, but that's not a bad idea."
"Hm… although if I just start spelling letters into his hand, he might not get what I'm doing…" I continued, thinking out loud. "Although if his intellect is still intact, and if he's as smart as we've heard… if I repeat the alphabet a couple times over, he might get the idea."
"Maybe…" John said, also thinking.
"But it would be better if there was something self-explanatory, so that I could immediately let him know who I am, and that he's safe… I could use my finger to draw letters on his skin, but that can be hard to discern under the best of circumstances, and we don't know if he's suffered nerve damage. Maybe some kind of raised letters, like self-explanatory Braille, if the letters were large enough to trace even with reduced sensation…"
"My daughter has these refrigerator magnets…" John said.
"Oh, that's perfect! I'll pick some up at the store. And then I could use those to teach him the alphabet in ASL, for faster communication."
"Excellent. Sounds like you'll be off to a great start. Here's James's number"—he handed me a slip of paper—"give him a call as soon as you can to set up the appointment."
"I'll do it right now." I got up to leave, as our hour was over, and I had heard John's next patient enter the waiting room.
Back at my own office, I closed the door, took a deep breath. This would certainly be quite the case. I dialed the number, and after a few rings, a male voice said "Hello?"
"Hi, is this James Wilson?"
"Hi, this is Dr. Elizabeth Manning. You spoke to my director, Dr. Morrison?"
"Oh, yes, thanks for getting back to me so quickly."
"No problem. So, I'd like to set up a first appointment. What does your schedule look like? I mean, you and Dr. House?"
"Hm, well, I'd like to do it when I'm home, if possible. Do you have any time on Fridays?"
"Sure, I have 1:00 open, if that works." Tomorrow would be Friday. "Would you like to start tomorrow?"
"Yeah, that would be really great."
"Okay, in that case, I'll see you then."
"See you then."