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Dæmonverse AAU (1-2/16)

Title: Principles of Growth
Author: dominus_trinus (lit_luminary)
Rating: R
Characters/Pairings: Chase, House/Wilson (established).
Genre:  Alternate alternate universe, à la Pullman's His Dark Materials.
Summary: Secrets and stories shared among heretics.
Notes: My sincere thanks to bluerosefairy for the truly excellent beta.

Preface:

This is a very, very alternate version of my already-alternate dæmonverse.  Don’t ask where it came from; this was a story that decided to tell itself and pulled me along for the ride.

I suppose that it isn’t so much an AU (or even an AAU) as a fusion, placing House characters and their dæmons (i.e. their souls, which in this world are externalized and take animal forms representative of the given character’s personality) in the societal context of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

This world incorporates modern technology in place of the steampunk conventions Pullman employed, but retains the ideology represented in his texts.  This is an aggressively patriarchal world run by the Magisterium, a theocratic institution based on overzealous Catholicism (i.e., to the extent that there is no separation between church and state); the terms ‘Magisterium’ and ‘Church’ are used interchangeably.

As the jobs available to women are severely restricted, this version of the hospital is run by Foreman, with Cuddy as, essentially, a glorified secretary.  Cameron (whose role in this fic ends with this note, but if any of you are curious) is a nurse in pediatrics.  Chase is House’s sole fellow, as Foreman doesn’t have any interest in combating House’s misanthropy and feels that the expense of one fellow is enough (especially considering it’s difficult to find people who can tolerate House for long stretches).  Both House and Wilson retain their canonical positions, with Wilson occasionally joining Chase in Diagnostics during a DDX when House requires an extra contributor/sounding-board.

This story began in the center of something larger, so bear with me as I take you through a few necessary background details: House had previously been noticed by the authorities for his unorthodox medical practice; when a deeper investigation was made, he made a few blasphemous, heretical and seditious remarks to the members of the clergy in charge.

Shortly thereafter, he was called before the Consistorial Court of Discipline and cut away from his dæmon, a measure viewed as spiritually corrective (as an elementary particle referred to as “Dust” in the series, which is taken by the Church as physical evidence of original sin, is able to settle only on adults connected to their dæmons) but in practice about as damaging as a full frontal lobotomy.  In this world, however, there fortunately exists a little magic; toss in the Law of the Conservation of Energy and it’s plausible enough to bend Pullman’s canon just a few degrees and put House back together—mostly.  That sort of thing leaves one wide open to PTSD.

Of course, the witches responsible for the mending would have gone to ground in such a society, so a mechanism was necessary to get House into contact with them—and the mechanism had its own story.

Read on…



Prologue: Judgment Day

“And on the charge of heresy, you are found guilty and sentenced to intercision.”

That word rings like a gunshot.

He wishes it had been: a bullet would have been merciful.

He clutches Minerva hard against his heart.  She’s clutching him, too, hand-like paws clinging to the fabric of his shirt, and he can feel her nails pricking his skin.  He knows it’s over; knows they’re going to be dragged off and turned into the worst kind of vegetable.  Knows that there’s nothing he can do, no way he can fight.  They took his cane, and he’s flanked by a burly guard and German shepherd dæmon on each side.

He remembers Eunomia, identical to them, and struggling against his father’s restraining arms; remembers the pain of heavy paws pinning Minerva down, crushing her.

And right now
you’re crushing me, she says, squirming a little in his arms.  Would you mind loosening up a tad so we can breathe?

Ah.  So the constriction in his chest isn’t the stress of impending doom, after all.  He loosens his hold slightly and draws a deep breath, absently noting that whoever said that was calming was lying through his goddamned teeth.

“The condemned will be escorted to—”

“‘The condemned’ happens to have a name!” he snarls.

Maybe it’s just that they’re so assured of their power, so unused to being challenged, but they’re not rushing to silence him.  He has a minute or two before the shock of interruption wears off, and if he’s going down, at least he’ll go having had the last word.

That’s the spirit, Minerva says dryly as he sets her down on the table, stroking gray-brown fur once before he lets her go.  Granted, our big mouth also got us into this, but I’m all for dying as we’ve lived.  Hit it.   

“You’re not actually winning anything here,” he says, raising his voice to carry.  There’re good acoustics in this room, a nice dramatic resonance: all that’s missing is defiant background music.  “Destroying my soul isn’t going to make me believe in your logical fallacy of a holy book.”

The guards glare at him, but he’s gotten better dirty looks than theirs and disapproval isn’t going to shut him up.  The next thing they’ll do is drag him away, but for the moment, they don’t have the orders to do that.  And domestic dog people do nothing without orders from a higher-up.

“The condemned will be silent,” the judge says pointedly, “or he will be held in contempt of—”

He barks a laugh.  “You hand down capital punishment and expect me to give a crap about contempt of court?  Either you’ve been overindulging in the blood of Christ, or you’re even more of a moron than I thought!”

Minerva takes over before anyone can recover from that, and he relishes the affront that registers on every face when she addresses the room at large: he can’t see, but he knows jet-dark eyes are gleaming with the same satisfaction.  “Moving right along—please let us know if the big words go over your heads, since your god seems to prefer his earthly representatives stupid—we repent nothing, we recant nothing and we regret nothing!”

“Except,” House adds, “that we won’t get to appreciate the day society finally pulls its head out of its collective ass and figures out that Holy Mother Church is full of lying hypocrites—”

“And you can all go to hell and fuck yourselves on arrival!”  Minerva finishes for them.

It’s a shame there aren’t more church officials here: it would have made the blasphemy that much sweeter.

There is a long silence.  Then: “Bailiff!”

Two crisp, military-precision syllables and he’s being dragged out of the room, escorted by the guards alongside.  The pace is too fast (on purpose, no doubt) and his leg is protesting heartily, sharp shocks of pain with every step, but he doesn’t care because the anticipation of the pain ahead is worse.

But apparently they’re not going to be severed yet: the journey stops in front of a holding cell.  He’s shoved in, overbalances and falls, his bad leg crumpling beneath him.  He grunts; Minerva hisses.

The door clangs shut.  He looks up, and his stomach lurches when he sees that the bitch dæmons have kept Minerva on the other side; watches as they herd her into what’s presumably the cell adjacent.

The design of the cellblock means that she’s a few paces past comfortable distance.  Not enough to cause the wrenching pain of heart drawn between ribs, but there’s still a dull, persistent ache he can’t do anything to ease.

He shifts his weight to his left side, gets up and over to the bed and lies down.  There’s no pillow, so he presses his hands to his chest where Minerva should be.

It doesn’t help.

They would have to sink to psychological torture, she says.  But she sounds shaky, because separate rooms are a horrible, horrible arrangement.  He can’t see her and they can’t touch, and that’s the worst of it because he wants to hold her even more than he wants Vicodin to muffle his screaming leg.

She croons softly into their mind, little should-be-comforting sounds to soothe them, but it’s no good.  His leg hurts and his heart hurts and his arms are sickeningly empty.

This is what we get for insisting on the last word, he says.

But it was worth it.  She infuses her tone with all the conviction they can muster.  The looks on their faces…

He smiles a little, grimly, because although they’re being punished for what they said, it had to be said.  Silence would have implied consent, acceptance, and the last thing he wants is for the bastards to have the satisfaction of breaking them a second before they’re actually dead.

Well.  As good as.

What’ll they do with us after, do you think?
Minerva asks.

Probably let us go, since we’ll be all spiritually corrected and cleansed of our nasty heretical atheism.  Keeping us locked up forever would mean they’d have to pay for our upkeep, and they won’t want to do that.

So Wilson will end up taking care of us, she surmises, since I seriously doubt we’ll be able to do it ourself.

He’s not sure what level he’ll be capable of functioning on like that, but the idea of Wilson reduced from partner to nursemaid is repugnant.  Maybe someone will convince him to put them in some nursing home with the senile and demented: they should be damaged enough to fit right in.

But he knows Wilson won’t.  It would go against everything in his illogically devoted nature, and that’s why he’ll end up dutifully caring for—for the two of them.

There’s a small mortality rate, Minerva says.  Maybe we’ll get lucky.

Less than five percent, he replies.  No way is our luck that good.

Would you mind? she huffs. I’m trying to lift our mood here, and you’re not helping by thinking about the odds!

What am I supposed to think about? he demands.  In case you didn’t notice, imminent doom is slightly difficult to ignore, and it’s not like they left us distractions!

Yeah, I know.  Don’t bitch at me; we’re miserable enough.


Miserable.  Right.

Miserable is a word for cold, wet days when he gets barometric pain along with the neuropathic and Foreman makes him do clinic duty.  It doesn’t even begin to contain what he feels about being physically alone during the long wait for the guillotine.

He presses his hands harder to his heart and tries to appreciate the pain, because as long as he can feel it, they’re still a complete person; she’s still there.

I should have kept my mouth shut, he says.  I feel like some overdone textbook example of hubris.

Wilson’s going to hate being right about our ego getting us killed, Minerva says.

He closes his eyes on the drab walls of the cell and thinks of Wilson; of the warm, safe feeling of Rona curled around Minerva, wolf and raccoon dozing together.  Of banter that’s playful and arguments that aren’t; of maple sugar-sweet pancakes and sex on weekend mornings; of the contented haze of afterglow and idly caressing hands.

If he were given to self-delusion, he’d try to convince himself this is a nightmare.

It’s two hours before the guards return and open the doors, and he wants to pick Minerva up and hold her against him, but without the cane, he needs his arms free for balance—

They grab his arms roughly and cuff his hands behind his back.

So much for balance,
he thinks bitterly, gritting his teeth against the leg pain as they pull him along.  But Minerva’s following at his heels, and the pain of too much distance has stopped.

Soon they’re out of the building and in the back of a locked car, glass and wire mesh separating them from the driver.  Minerva climbs onto his lap and nuzzles against his torso, and although the restraints keep him from stroking her the way they’d like, her weight and warmth is comforting.

He tries to focus on that.  Tries not to think of where they’re going and what’s going to happen there.

Doesn’t tell himself they’re not terrified, because the lie wouldn’t help.

It feels like a small eternity before the car lurches to a stop and the engine falls silent, but it’s still far, far too soon.  Another car, this one containing the guards, parks a few spaces down.

If there were a god, the guards and the driver and anyone else involved in the intercision process would be struck by lightning and drop dead right about now.

Several seconds pass.

There is no god, Minerva says flatly.

Forget divine intervention; I’d take Dad’s help if it’d get us out of this.  Hell, if Church authorities were to swoop in and give him the chance to recant everything and go free, he would: no principle is worth living intercised.

One of the guards opens the passenger door, then leans in and grabs Minerva from him, hands where no hands but Wilson’s are allowed; and he knows pain intimately but this is beyond pain, beyond—beyond anything.

He can hear Minerva squalling but can’t comprehend anything but the dizzy-nauseous-wrong feeling of hands groping inside him.

Some tiny, detached part of their mind produces the word ‘rape,’ but it’s gone as fast as it forms, dissipating like smoke.

Movement.

Pain.

Bile rising in his throat.

Trying to breathe.

“That shut them up.”

“Definitely an improvement.”

Movement.  Doors.  Corridors.

“Have to say, though, mouthing off to the court like that took guts.”

“Nah.  He was just desperate.  Nothing left to lose.”

Movement.  White walls.  The hiss of hydraulic locks engaging.  Voices.

The guards let them go, Minerva landing heavily at his feet.  He feels the shock of the impact, half-sinks and half-falls to his knees.  She drags herself onto his lap and he breathes again, bends until his chest brushes her back because it’s not much protection but he has to put something between her and those violating hands.

They—they—  She can’t even find words; their mind is still stuttering.  Greg—

Don’t.  He draws a deep breath.  We are not giving the bastards the satisfaction.

They’re already satisfied—I swear if I could still change I would kill them—

“Up.  On your feet.”

He lifts his head.  The speaker is an executioner/technician in a lab coat that’s as blindingly white as everything else here that isn’t made of stainless steel.

“You can get into the cabins or be put there by force.”  A new voice, female: the man’s dæmon.  Cougar.

Cooperate or not? he asks Minerva.

Cooperate.  If we’re going to die, we’re not going to do it sick and senseless.

She has a point: he doesn’t want his last thought as a complete person to be how much he wants to vomit.  Better to be able to think a little more clearly, manage words.

He straightens up to let her off his lap, somehow manages to get to his feet.  Walks to the steel-mesh cage (he refuses to dignify it with any other word) and gets in, leans to brace himself against the wall.  Watches Minerva walk with grace he can’t into the cage across from his and listens to the high, cold sound of metal on metal as the cages are locked.

Between, everything that makes them human.

And a blade, poised to fall.

He wrenches his gaze away from it and holds Minerva’s eyes as switches are flipped and machinery starts to hum.

We’re right, she tells him, and under the pain and terror is certainty.  He reaches for that and clings.  We’re right, and that’s the most important thing.

He manages the ghost of a smile, remembering how that conviction gave her form.  Remembering fragments of puzzles and epiphanies.

Always, he confirms.

There’s a horrible whooshing sound as the blade’s edge cuts air.

Then an inferno of pain that devours his heart.

A shared scream.

And all-consuming loss.

Something's Wrong

Chase enters the Diagnostics office, Kylie at his side, and sinks into his usual chair at the conference table.  Even a few hours in the clinic is tiring—not just because of the monotony—and he wants things back to normal.

All is quiet in the office and the corridor outside, even when he listens through Kylie’s ears (dingoes are known for their acute hearing).  It shouldn’t be that way—wouldn’t be, if House were here, because surely he’d be making some kind of noise.  Even the portable TV House watches when he broods would be a welcome distraction; would help take his mind off his worry.

It’s been two days since the Consistorial Court sent House home, but there hasn’t been any word from him.  For what’s perhaps the tenth time, he moves toward the phone, is about to pick it up and begin to debate with himself whether to call or not when it rings, and both he and Kylie look up in surprise.

He answers, the usual, “Diagnostics office,” and Wilson’s voice replies.

“Chase?”  There’s a…strained quality in his tone, something raw and aching, and Chase reaches with his free hand for Kylie and threads his fingers through the thick ruff of fur at her neck, because nothing good could possibly cause Wilson to sound like that.  “Do you have a few minutes?"

“I haven’t had anything to do since House left,” he answers, sitting down on the nearest chair.  Kylie rests her head on his lap, holds his eyes.  “Will he be back soon, or…?”

He doesn’t want to consider ‘or’: certain of the Church’s arms habitually inflict torture and worse, and the Consistorial Court is among them.

“I don’t think so,” Wilson says.  His voice is even, too even; there’s something brittle in it that wants to shatter into a cry, and Chase feels dread coil around his heart and squeeze.  “If I can get him into a good long-term care facility—but he’d never have wanted that, and anyway they probably won’t accept—”

“Doctor Wilson, what did they do?” he demands.  If Wilson’s talking about House like he’s dead—but he isn’t, can’t be, because then there wouldn’t be any question of care—

“Intercision.  On the heresy charge.”

Kylie howls, not full volume but close enough to lessen his urge to scream.  Bile rises in his throat, hot and bitter.  “God.  God,” he says, and the words don’t contain even a fraction of his horror: the idea of House’s vibrant spirit destroyed so utterly is sickening.

He closes his eyes, tries to steady his breathing, ground himself, because he cannot afford intense emotional upheaval, especially not within glass walls.  “There might be something that could help,” he says, impulsively deciding that the risk is worth it if it can make House whole again.  “There’s a witch clan a few miles from here; a few witches will sometimes help humans.”

A long silence.  “And they might be able to…”

“Witches work with energy.  The bond they cut was energy; maybe it could be put back together somehow.  There’s a lot that can be done with magic.”

Guarded hope.  “How do you even know this?  Witches don’t—”

“My mum was.  I know…not much, not enough, but more than most people do.   And maybe…”  He trails off, gives Wilson directions to the clan’s territory.  “Let me know how it goes?”

“He will.  Or won’t, depending.”  A pause.  “Chase…thank you.”

He hangs up before Chase can answer.

Now there’s nothing to do but wait.  And hope.

Maybe…just maybe the chance he’s taken will be enough.

Continue...

Notes:
"Eunomia" means 'good order/governance by good laws'; the mythical Eunomia was the Greek goddess of law and legislation.  She, like the guards' dæmons, is a German shepherd: a breed traditionally used in military/police work.

You will recognize ‘Minerva’ as the name of the Roman goddess of wisdom, war and crafts (and, as Minerva Medica, patroness of healing and doctors).  ‘Rona,’ although it can also be a Hebraic or Gaelic name, is used with its English meaning: ‘counsel power’ or ‘advisor to the king.’  (No explanation needed.)

Raccoons symbolize curiosity, cleverness, unique perception, questioning without fear, dexterity and deception; wolves (among other things), guardianship/teaching, perseverance, cunning, intuition, communication, the combination of intelligence with instinct/intuition, and loyalty to the family group.

"Kylie" is an Aboriginal Australian name meaning 'boomerang', reflecting Chase's surface tendency to be controlled by a higher authority (i.e., thrown around).  However, the name is also linked with the Gaelic "Kelly", 'warrior', because what appears to be passivity is, by my interpretation, the ability to choose his battles.  (Notably, boomerangs can also be made as weapons.)  Dingoes are traditionally identified with the struggle between dependence and independence, intelligence, adaptability, truth-seeking, the ability to decipher messages, the correct use of intuition, and the power of speech.
Tags: "principles", character pov: chase, character pov: house, chase, dæmonverse, house/wilson
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