Author's Notes- Warning Time as quoted by the author who started this is the time we love best. This story contains for lack of a better word a whole ass load of violent scenes, strong adult language, and adult themes. If the topics of torture, abuse- physical, mental and sexual or any references thereof bother you, then I suggest finding another story to read. This is a companion piece to DIYSheep's excellent story The Contract. For those of you who have read the original draft of this story, I have taken it down to add new chapters and text based on changes to The Contract and the other excellent companion piece Exigencies by Priority. If you have not read The Contract, it would be a good idea to start there in order to understand some of what is going on. If you want to know what happens after both this story and The Contract, check out Exigencies by Priority.

LIFELINE Chapter I

They came and got me in the early evening. Two men I had never seen before. New people frightened me and I tried to make myself smaller against the wall of the cell. The men, sensing my fear stopped. One knelt down near me, too close for comfort," Dr. House, I'm Special Agent Roberts this is Special Agent Matthews. We are with the FBI."

My heart was pounding so hard and so fast I feared it would leap out of my chest. They called me Dr. House; I hadn't been called that name in years. What sort of sick joke was Thompson playing now? Agent Matthews handed me my "cane", the pathetic piece of PVC pipe that doubled for my mobility aid. His face registered surprised as I immediately fastened the chain to my wrist. I struggled to stand up but I couldn't get my fingers to grip around the cane's shaft, they just wouldn't bend properly. I knew I was supposed to stand for anyone who entered my cell, but it was near impossible for me to move without help. I knew this breach would get me punished. Agent Roberts appeared with the arm cuffs and leg chains. Bile rose in my throat and my head swam as he placed the waist chains and leg cuffs on me.

"I'm sorry Dr. House," Roberts said," it's procedure. It will only be for a little while longer."

There it was again "Dr. House", this foreign name. I was no longer Dr. House; I was no longer Greg House. I was prison inmate 501473, a convicted murderer, a vicious, violent, dangerous, escapee robber, a threat to society. It seemed so long ago, was I ever a doctor? No, must not think of that. Must keep playing the game, focus on the now. Got to play the game, play the game and they will bring me back here. Must play the game.

Roberts placed the leg irons and waist chain on House, noting the stiff way the man held his body, as though Dr. House was afraid to show any pain, afraid to show any weakness. He noticed too the sway and saw House about to pitch over. He grabbed House around the waist and supporting most of the other man's weight he brought him out of the cell. He wasn't really surprised by the reaction the stiffness, but it bothered him nonetheless. He had seen the videotapes, see the beatings, the torture Greg House had endured for over five years. Thompson was an evil son of a bitch and Roberts hoped wherever he was in Hell, Thompson was receiving back triple what he had done to Dr. Gregory House.

When the FBI first reported to the New Jersey Department of Corrections the implications of what had happened sent shock waves through the entire system. Overnight, half of the staff of the prison was arrested, the night shifts and prison hospital staff hit particularly hard. Even in his fifteen years with the FBI Roberts had never seen an operation like Thompson's. The payoffs, the beatings, the conspiracy of silence. It was the most methodical operation Roberts had ever seen. When he looked over the mountains of paperwork and piles of tapes, Roberts couldn't help but think that Thompson could have taught the Nazis and Russians something about record keeping. Worse were the contracts. The clauses, the sub clauses, the penalties for violating each and by looking at Greg House Roberts could tell the doctor had suffered most of those paragraphs and subsections. All but the big one. God, what must go through a man's mind to suffer his life for someone else? Roberts didn't know whether to pity or admire Doctor House, so he did the most logical thing. He did both.

The agents led Doctor House to a black unmarked car. House was shaking violently and it was grotesque to watch him walk. The slow, laborious shuffle, of limp and leg irons, most of the man's weight…what there was if it resting against Agent Robert's side. The limp, Robert's knew was a medical condition compounded by years of torture…the leg irons because Doctor House didn't break.

The ride to the hospital was short; the agents led House in the back away from anyone who might have recognized him. House sat quietly, looking down as doctors drew blood. It was only during the physical exam that House acted up. He bolted from the table in a mad frenzied dash to escape, but there was nowhere to go. Two orderlies grabbed the man as he thrashed wildly only becoming quiet as the sedative ran through his veins.

The exams and labs showed why House acted the way he did. The big secret he was hiding. Broken bones, so many the radiology techs lost count. Doctor House had lash marks and burns to his chest, back, legs and feet. He was suffering intestinal parasites and for a man over six feet tall he was dangerously underweight. His teeth were chipped in many places and some showed signs of acid damage. His hands were mangled claws, crushed and reset only to be broken and crushed again and again.

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Doctors James Wilson and Lisa Cuddy sat stunned in the agent's office, tears silently leaking from Cuddy's eyes. Laid out before them was House's secret. Piles and piles of DVD movies showing House being beaten, lashed, burned, his fingers and ribs broken repeatedly. James heard Lisa's muffled sobs as they watched fire hoses being turned on their friend, as dogs bit into House's legs and arms. The worst though were the videos labeled House-Special. These showed House pinned down as men took turns beating on his right leg and thigh. "He did this all for us." Wilson thought.

The agents showed them the contract. In red letters read their names. James Wilson, Lisa Cuddy, Eric Foreman, Robert Chase. Wilson's eyes lit on one name- Allison Cameron. There was a red line through her name and the words terminated. It was all so dry, so legal, but the implications were perfectly clear to anyone who saw the document. Cameron was the first, but Wilson quickly realized this was what all the secrecy…all the lies…the injuries…the fights and finally the pushing away were all about. House couldn't save Cameron but he had gone to jail rather than risk the rest of their lives. Cameron was dead and House had sacrificed his life and freedom to protect their lives. "Protect my life," thought Wilson.

He was so deep in thought he missed the agent's next words. Snapping out of his trance he heard the Agent say House was in the building, being held there for his own safety.

"Can I see him please?" Wilson asked hopefully.

The agent balked," He's not in good shape…" Wilson cut him off," Please I have to see him."

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The agent led me to an interview room upstairs. I was prepared for most anything but I wasn't prepared for the sight of Wilson sitting there. Oh Jesus H. Christ, they got Wilson. Somehow I always knew in the end they would get him. He hated me, everyone hated me, they won, and they got Wilson. In the end they always got what they wanted after all they got my father, now they got Wilson.

It was my birthday; they made a point to remind me afterwards as they dumped me back in my cell, the blood running down my throat, the pain crushing in my chest. As usual, I had heard them before I saw them, it sounded from the echoes off the walls like a small army, six or seven this time. As their boots came to a stop outside my cell I could heard the slow rhythmic tap of baton on shield like a modern day centurion and me, Daniel Boone, Custer, one against the multitude but unlike the Japanese there was no kamikaze to save me from this horde. I wondered briefly what strategy to use this time, prison rules stated all prisoners must stand when someone entered their cell, but standing here was a threat, either way I was fucked. As the door opened and the light attacked my retinas I stayed down curling in the vain attempt to present as small a target I could. The lead boot grabbed me, lifted me off of the floor, and shoved me against the wall. This time they made certain to bounce me off all four walls before throwing me headfirst out into the hallway. The world passed in a blur of shifting linoleum as they dragged me to an open cell. The guard handcuffed my arms above my head and another turned on the hose full blast. The cold water hit me full in the face. The guard took my arms down and handed me a bar of soap and a razor. This was unusual, but before he could change his mind I quickly showered and shaved. They blasted me down with the hose again before giving me a clean uniform…something was definitely up with this scene. They put the cuffs, waist chains, and shackles on and dragged me to the visitor's room. If Christ himself decided to pay me a visit, it would have been less shocking than what awaited me.

It was my father

He sat there, stiff backed in the chair. I stole a quick glance at him before ducking my head back down, my face was burning with shame and I can feel the heat in my ears. I can also feel his gaze, that intense look, honed by years of staring down wayward Marines, the look that said to his eight year old son that "no, a B wasn't good enough" the one that still judges me all these years later. I can see it in his pants and shoes. He has been retired for ten years, but his pants are sharp creased and his shoes have a high gloss…in other words they were everything I wasn't.

I'm sitting across from him, neither of us speaks…neither of us can speak. Finally, he breaks the standoff. He unloads on me, calls me a shame, says I brought disgrace on the family…but it is the last thing he says before he hits me that hurts the most…he tells me my mother is dead and it is all my fault. He stands, his frame filling all the area in front of my eyes. I never see the hit; even if I wanted to I couldn't have prepared myself for the blow. He's right handed, the open handed slap coming across my blind left side. My head jerks back. I am stunned but some small part of me burned with anger and I can feel my fists curling reflexively. It's too late though, he has stormed off to the door, raps once, and is gone before I can say or do anything. Tears threaten to spill from my eyes.

The guards take great delight in replaying this little incident for hours afterwards –slap- "You've shamed your family" -slap- "I have no son" -slap- It's their words but his voice I hear -slap- Fat Boy grows bored and brings out his nightstick. He pushes my head up with it so my eyes are meeting his. His eyes are glowing, mad with the excitement of what is to come "Did you know," he sneers in my face, "It's your birthday today? You know what that means?" Oh fuck no. I'm forty six, I think quickly to myself…or maybe forty seven…it doesn't matter; they will decide how many hits I get. The "one to grow on" is delivered of course by Fat Boy. His nightstick is a flash as it connects with my head, sending two teeth down my throat. I remember gagging and then I remember nothing at all.

I'm jerked back to the horror presently in front of me as Wilson clears his throat.

Try as he might, Wilson had the worst poker face and it was hard to see the shocked look on his face. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and quickly lowered my gaze to the floor. The agent led me to a chair and bolted my leg irons to the floor. Wilson again cleared his throat. He always cleared his throat when he was uncomfortable. We sat like that for seemed like an eternity. Like the time before with my father it was James who first broke the silence.

"Nice shiner, who'd you make mad this time?"

This was unexpected. My throat tightens and I swallow a few times, trying to clear the lump that has formed.

"Must have prison accessory. You wouldn't believe the doors I have to walk into to stay fashionable."

I couldn't believe how my own voice sounded, shaky, rough, unused. It was amazing what a knife and years of nonuse could do to a person's vocal cords.

God what cruel torture. Worse than the beatings…worse than anything. They were using Wilson now against me. God, why not just kill me?

"Greg," I flinched at the sound of my own name. Wilson had moved around the side of the table and now knelt down in front of me," Greg you're safe now. There's no one left to hurt you, to hurt me or Lisa or Eric or Robert. You did good old man. You saved us."

He put his hands on my arms. I can smell his aftershave, the one I told him countless times smelled like an aerosol pine spray. I'm shaking so hard I can barely concentrate. My hands are shaking; it's making the chains rattle. James pulls me towards him he's looking deeply into my eyes. I look away " It's okay Greg. It's okay." He's really real. Maybe just maybe this isn't a trick. Oh God I want to believe. Wilson pulls me closer. I reach out as far as my cuffs will let me and grab a bit of his shirt. Slowly, I lower my head to Wilson's chest. Maybe, I really am safe.