Day 16 - Saturday

A guard stands over him while he dresses in the morning. He's told to put on his old clothes, not his 'fancy' ones and he drags the smelly and stained clothing on reluctantly. He knows he's supposed to be in the clinic at eight this morning, and he thinks it will be his first shift working as a doctor, although nobody has confirmed it. He knows the Board met yesterday to consider Doctor Cuddy's plan for the diagnostic department but has no idea what their decision was. If they didn't approve the plan, Doctor Cuddy has told him, he'll be sent back to the Center. He thinks about the rows of cages in processing and feels physically sick as the memories sweep over him, he can't go back there.

"Get a move on, boy," the guard barks at him and he quickly slips his T-shirt on and stands ready. The guard is holding a leash and he clips it onto Greg's collar, tugging on it.

He's led along the corridor to the canteen and handed over to the canteen supervisor.

"He's all yours, Ruth - boy's not to clean, and you'd better not let him near any knives - he's a bit clumsy, but he can do anything else you want. Someone will come and collect him at quarter past seven."

The canteen supervisor takes his leash and leads him over to a sink. There's a large container of potatoes next to it.

"Scrub them clean, I don't want to see a piece of dirt left on them. You understand?"

"Yes, ma'am," he answers and she nods, taking his leash off.

He's left alone to do the potatoes and he works diligently. He's still not sure what all this means. He thinks that if he is to be sold, or returned to the Center that Mrs Foster wouldn't have caned him yesterday, Doctor Cuddy had said they wouldn't bother with it unless they were keeping him, but she hasn't sent him back to his office either.

After the potatoes are finished he's put to cleaning other vegetables and then onto washing some dishes. When its six o'clock the canteen doors are opened and he's directed to kneel by the serving counter while the slaves from his dorm enter and collect their breakfast. When they are all seated the supervisor nods to him.

"Get your breakfast, boy."

There's only one spot left on the benches and it's beside Kev. He goes and sits down, ignoring the discomfort as his sore ass meets the hard wooden bench.

"Hear you're leaving us," Kev says, too quietly to be overheard by the supervisor.

Greg glances at him, wondering what Kev has heard. He won't give him the satisfaction of replying, he keeps eating his breakfast steadily, ignoring the other man.

"I cleared out that office you've been spending time in. Guess you weren't good enough for Doctor Cuddy after all."

Greg forces himself not to react, to keep eating. His thoughts churn, they were clearing his office out?

"They say you're going to be whipped before you're sold, maybe you'll learn, boy."

He shoves the last couple of spoonfuls of food into his mouth and stands up all in the one motion, desperate to get away from Kev's taunts before he loses it and punches the guy out.

As he kneels back in his spot by the counter his head drops in despair. He's going to be sold, and he's going to be whipped. So close to success, he's failed.

He's collected by a guard from the kitchen and taken back to the dorm. He's directed to change into the clothes he wears to the clinic, except for the rolltop and labcoat. He's confused by the order, if he's going to be sold why is he wearing the clinic clothes?

He's taken to the supervisor's office and leashed back up to the wall. Mrs Foster is in, she's on the phone but glances at him when he's led in. He kneels properly, hands behind his back, his head bowed as she continues on with some paperwork.

He hears her footsteps approaching but doesn't look up.

"Greg, have you had time to think about what I told you yesterday?" she asks.

"Yes, ma'am, " he says, thinking it doesn't matter now, nothing matters. He feels a hopeless wave of despair crushing him.

"Look at me while I'm talking to you."

He slowly lifts his head up to look at her.

"Tell me what you remember," she says.

He thinks back to what she was saying while she was caning him.

"I'm a slave," he says, the words hurting him, "disrespect and disobedience will be punished." He swallows hard, thinking of the cane striking him, of what a whipping might feel like, "I will be punished if I'm disrespectful or disobedient. I will not be treated differently because I'm a doctor, ma'am."

He wonders why she's making him say this if they're shipping him out.

"Doctor Cuddy has given me authorization to cane you, when you are in the basement, if you disobey or you're insolent. I don't want to hear of you talking back to people who are responsible for you, Greg."

"No, ma'am," he answers automatically but as he hears her words he feels relieved, it almost sounds like he is staying. "I'm not...not being sold?"

"Who told you that?" she asks sternly.

He almost says 'Kev' but doesn't.

"Doctor Cuddy said...yesterday, that if the Board voted..."

"No," her voice is stern. "It's none of your concern how the decision was made, but I can tell you that the hospital still owns you, and has no plans to sell you - if you behave well and remain useful, of course." She looks him over and then continues, "you should also be aware that you're extremely valuable and we do not want you damaged. If anyone hits you hard enough to bruise, they'll be penalized for doing so - though of course you will still be caned for whatever insolence or disobedience you committed. I intend to warn everyone who works in the basement, and I expect Doctor Cuddy will inform other hospital staff, so they're aware that they must contact either Doctor Cuddy or myself if they want you disciplined."

He stares at her, taking it in, not only is he not being sold, but is to be afforded some degree of protection from abuse. Maybe what happened in his office on Wednesday won't be repeated.

"Thank you, ma'am," he says sincerely, he does appreciate her efforts..

"Good boy," she says, "now come along."

She unclips him from the wall and he rises to his feet and follows her. She escorts him up the stairs and to the door of the clinic, where she hands him over to Nurse Previn with what appears to be a sigh of relief.

Nurse Previn confirms that he is to be working as a doctor today.

She doesn't give him a speech about how he must behave, what he must do. Instead she just hands him a patient file.

"Exam room one, Doctor House."

He looks at the file and calls the name and a young man gets up and follows him into the exam room.

He follows behind the man and shuts the door behind them, waves his patient to a chair. He stays standing and smiles.

"I'm Doctor House, what seems to be the problem?"

The first patient turns out to have a rhinovirus, otherwise known as the common cold. He does a thorough job of the exam, listens to his lungs, interrogates him on the color and consistency of his sputum and inquires after his general health. The patient seems to want to talk and he listens gravely to the usual complaints of a cold, trouble breathing and sleeping, sore throat and a cough. He suggests some over the counter remedies, and throws in a couple of things his mother always swore by for good measure.

The young man seems pleased by the attention and happily leaves.

"Thanks doc," he says with a little wave as he goes out the door. Greg records the encounter in the patient's file and goes back to the reception desk. Nurse Brenda is there and she looks pointedly at the clock and then gives him another file.

"Emma Wilkins," he calls out loudly and a young woman with a baby comes forward.

In the exam room she settles herself down on a chair and smiles at him.

"Hello, I'm Doctor House," he says, smiling back at her. It feels so good to be able to say that again, he doesn't think he'll ever get tired of it. "Which of you is my patient?"

It turns out they are both sick, as she recounts their symptoms he stops smiling. What she is describing could be a cold, but it could be much worse.

"How old is she?" he asks.

"She had her first birthday last month, on the eighth."

"Is she vaccinated?" he asks, he suspects he knows what the answer will be.

"No, at our church we don't believe in vaccination, so we set up this daycare group that doesn't make parents get their kids vaccinated. We believe our children are healthy enough without getting this kind of artificial poison inside their bodies. I got a leaflet here about it.." she starts looking for it but he cuts her off.


He feels anger rising. He's heard this lunatic, religion based, reasoning before. People who think praying will keep their children safe from all sorts of infectious diseases. It was people like this moron who kept these diseases alive. Measles! Something the baby should have been protected from, if her mother had an ounce of common sense.

He steps back from her, they'll be highly contagious at this stage. He's had measles but it's an instinctive reaction.

"How many kids are at this daycare group?"

"Fourteen," she replies, her voices trembling a little.

Fourteen! Fourteen possible cases, all spreading the disease wherever they went, family members, and everyone those people had contact with.

"And none of them are vaccinated?"

"Well, I don't know, the whole point is we don't make kids get vaccinated."

Which means they're not. Which means this a major outbreak.

"Congratulations," he says, "you have a fine bouncing case of the measles, so does your daughter."

"Measles..." she's staring at him, her eyes wide.

"You were probably vaccinated but it didn't take or your immunity wore off. It happens, not very often and it shouldn't matter, because measles epidemics shouldn't happenany more. Except sometimes when a dozen morons put a herd of susceptible kids together. All the children at your daughter's playgroup have the measles. By this time so does everyone they live with who doesn't have an immunity. How did you get here this morning?"

He hopes she's going to say she drove but of course she took the bus, damn.

"Everyone on the bus could be infected. Do you know what happens to one in five adults who get measles? The complications start with diarrhea, vomiting, laryngitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia. You could also get inner ear infections or eye infections, and end up deaf or with a permanent squint. If your or your daughter's temperature runs high there's a one in two hundred chance either of you could have febrile convulsions - fits caused by high fever. Your daughter should be okay, you might not be. And there's a chance of hepatitis, encephalitis, blindness from neuritis, or heart complications. Plus, one in every hundred thousand measles patients can develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, which is a brain disease that causes convulsions, motor abnormalities, mental retardation and death," he brings out the last one to really scare her. "Some of these complications are pretty rare, but they're all possible. And you thought this was betterthan vaccinating her? Parents are morons. What's the name of your church's day care center?"

Her eyes fill with tears and her lower lip trembles.

"I'm not a moron," the moron says,"I don't even have a rash."

"You will have, tomorrow, your daughter's just starting, see?"

He goes closer and points behind the baby's ears, at the distinctive brown mottling. "You might even have a rash by the time you get home. What church do you go to?"

Of course she doesn't tell him, just wants to know why. Idiot! It hasn't even occurred to her that the other kids in the oh-so-healthy daycare will be infected.

"Because measles is a notifiable disease," he answers, "the hospital will have to warn the CDC, we might have a local epidemic and everyone who goes to that daycare center has to be warned."

She's crying properly now, winding herself up into a state.

"Oh stop crying," he says impatiently, "you're in for a nasty few days, but you're probably going to be fine."

"But Sharon - she's …", she blubbers. Sharon must be the spawn's name.

"Children recover from measles a lot faster and easier than adults," he tells her, adding some instructions on staying away from the daycare for a while after the rash clears up.

She's still blubbering. "What about the disease you said, pan..pan,"

"SSPE, occurs once in every hundred thousand cases," he tells her, does she seriously think the kid is going to get it? "Don't worry about it,when your kid's better take her to her family doctor and get her vaccinated."

She keeps crying and he snaps at her, "Stop crying, you get to go home, feel terrible for a few days, nurse your daughter, you've basically got nothing to worry about."

What do free people have to worry about? He used to think he had problems when he was free, he had no idea. A free person gets to go home, gets to be with their family, a free person isn't usedby other people whenever they feel like it. Give her a collar around her neck and she'd really have something to cry about.

She stops crying and now her face screws up in anger.

"My kid could die, you bastard!"

It's when she starts to head for the door that he realizes what he's just done - he's got angry at a moronic patient, and said things he shouldn't have. Not an unusual experience for him, before, but things are different now. He quickly gets between her and the door, somehow he has to try and stop her from going out there and complaining about him.

"You can't stop me! I know my rights!" she yells.

"Sure. You need to stay in here while I get a nurse," he tells her, trying to be reassuring.

"No I don't! I'm going home and you've got no right to stop me!"

Actually he does really, seeing as she has a notifiable, highly contagious disease. Well he would if he was still free, now he's a doctor who's a slave, and these issues that had been raised in his medical board exam are now cropping up. What exactly is his level of authority here? The best thing would be if she would stay here and he'll go out and get Nurse Previn to take charge of the situation, she'll know what to do.

He spreads his arms, blocking the door, careful not to touch her.

He tells her she can't leave, she's really infectious, she can't go on the bus. He tells her to sit down and not breathe on the furniture and he'll go fetch a nurse. He realizes he's shaking and she's now looking at him with a question in her eyes, she's picked up on his anxiety.

"Okay, I'll wait in here," she tells him, sinking down onto one of the chairs. He breathes a sigh of relief and smiles shakily in what he hopes is a more reassuring manner and quickly slips out the door, shutting it firmly behind him.

Nurse Previn isn't at the desk. He looks around for her. The waiting room is crammed with patients, there's a young nurse on the reception desk doing his old job. As he stands there more people come in and a patient is about to leave. There's no time to consult anyone, he goes quickly to the clinic doors and shuts them in the face of the patient about to leave, cutting off a young family about to enter. He pushes the latch on the doors, locking them from inside.

He turns around and looks around the room.

"The clinic is closed. This is a quarantine zone, no-one in or out until you are cleared."

His voice comes out shaky, thin and he knows he's still shaking. This is not how he wanted his first day to go. The waiting patients start jumping to their feet, the young nurse on the reception desk is staring at him. Outside the clinic doors he sees a security guard stop and start towards the doors.

The patients are all talking at once, the nurse is saying something, the guard is rattling the door. Into the chaos Nurse Previn comes out of the storage area and looks around. She spies him standing in front of the doors and yells for silence.

The people all fall quiet, although they don't sit back down. Nurse Previn walks up to him calmly.

"Doctor House, perhaps you could explain what is going on?"

The clinic has procedures in place to deal with such an event. Nurse Previn quickly informs security and the Dean what is going on. She contacts a Doctor Reed from infectious diseases to come and take charge of decontamination procedures. She organizes the waiting room, has the patients wait down one end and the medical staff at the other. Greg goes quietly with the others. He notes that Nurse Previn is angry but it doesn't seem to be directed at him, he'd explained about the young mother and their 'healthy' daycare and she had gone into the exam room to talk to the woman herself.

Doctor Reed arrives with three slaves trailing behind her. The slaves take up a kneeling position in the middle of the floor. Doctor Reed explains that they will clean down the clinic and then go into quarantine until it was confirmed they have immunity. Greg looks at the kneeling slaves, their heads bowed, their hands behind their back and knows that could have easily been him.

Doctor Reed takes a sample of blood from all of the people in the clinic and then looks at the medical staff.

"Which of you actually treated this patient directly?"

He raises his hand and Nurse Previn and the young nurse on reception raise theirs. Doctor Reed asks if they know their immunity status and after the other two explain theirs Greg tells her that he had measles when he was four.

"You're sure it was measles you had?"

"I remember the rash, and I had febrile convulsions," he explains. He smiles slightly, he'd been feverish for a couple of days and the highlight had been vomiting all over his father's dress uniform. "I didn't touch either of our carriers, or any surface they touched. I'm not infectious."

She nods, seeming to take his word for it.

"What department do you normally work in?"

"Diagnostics," he says, wondering if that is actually true, he's still had no official word that the board approved the Diagnostics department proposal.

She glances at the three slaves kneeling on the floor and he realizes she's made the connection, realized that he too is a slave. She's probably thinking she might as well have arranged for him to clean too. She doesn't say anything though, just turns to the waiting patients and explains the quarantine procedures to them.

After that she comes up to Nurse Previn and they arrange for food and drink to be sent in, to keep the patients calm.

"I hear the adult carrier's complaining she was badly treated by us," Doctor Reed says. Greg tenses, he's not sure what will happen to him if a patient complains about him.

"Is she?" Nurse Previn says, not glancing in Greg's direction.

"Whatever you said to her, she probably deserved. I phoned the church that runs this plague-care group - there are ten cases already that the person I spoke to knows about. I've told the CDC we're in for an epidemic. And I hear she took the busover to us. But the good news is, she's running a temperature of 104 - whatever complaints she's making in a fever, she's not likely to remember about them once she's well."

He relaxes slightly, that's true, hopefully she'll get so sick that she'll forget all about the doctor who first treated her.

When Doctor Reed has gone Nurse Previn calls Greg over to her.

"I hope all your shifts aren't going to be this exciting, Greg," she says dryly. "She was what, your second patient?"

"Yes, Nurse Previn," he says nervously and she smiles thinly.

"Relax Greg, you did the right thing in shutting the clinic down so quickly. Just, maybe a little more tact next time when you're dealing with a stupid patient, okay?"

"Yes, Nurse Previn," he replies, trying to look sincere.

It's nearly five before the situation is completely resolved, patients and staff allowed to leave, clinic scrubbed clean by the slaves. A security guard shows up to escort him from the clinic. He swallows hard as he goes with him, the guard is as tall as him, broad shouldered and with a steely look in his eye that says Greg had better not cause him any trouble. Greg follows alongside him meekly, nervous. Although Nurse Previn hadn't been angry at him about the clinic situation it doesn't mean that other people won't take a dim view. He's not reassured when he's led into a conference room on the fourth floor. Doctor Cuddy is there, with a dozen security staff.

Once he's inside the room he's directed to stand in the middle of the floor and the security staff all stare at him.

"This is the diagnostics slave, Greg. He'll be working around the hospital, he'll be wearing these clothes so the patients don't realize he's a slave. All of you need to be familiar with what he looks like in these clothes." An older man in a security uniform addresses the others. "Turn around, Greg."

He obediently turns his back on the group. He's tense and uneasy. They would all be colleagues of Edwards, the guard who had … assaulted him. How many of them had seen the photos? He hasn't heard anything more about the photos, he hopes that Doctor Cuddy has managed to stop their circulation but these people might have seen them first. Now they are all here, staring at him.

"Okay Greg, turn around again. Good boy."

The man addresses his audience.

"As you can see he's tall, six foot two, he has very blue eyes," the man pauses, Greg has ducked his head, "put your head up, Greg, they need to able to see your face."

He looks back up at the assembled guards.

"Now walk up and down the room, boy," he's ordered and he complies, moving uneasily under their scrutiny. "Okay, now run up and down a couple of times."

It's strange to be running up and down a conference room, while so many people watch him, he feels like a farm animal being appraised for slaughter.

"Okay, now take off those clothes, boy and put these on."

He's given his cleaning clothes - the jeans and T-shirt he'd been wearing this morning and he strips in front of them all, takes off his nice clothes and puts on the worn clothes, he's been wearing them off and on during the week and they are fairly ripe now, stained and smelly. He averts his eyes from Doctor Cuddy as he changes clothes.

"Okay, now he looks more like a slave as you can see, he'll not be wearing these very often as I understand it, you need to be able to recognize him with his other clothes on as well. Walk up and down again, boy."

He walks and runs again to the man's orders and then finally he's told to kneel at the end of the room.

The security staff are told that he will be allowed to go about medical business in the hospital unescorted. He is relieved, the close escort of the last day has been stifling.

"Any disciplinary proceedings have to go through Doctor Cuddy - or Mrs Foster if the slave's in the basement - and they'll be formal : he'll be caned or whipped. If you see any other hospital staff disciplining the slave, even if in your judgment the slave deserves it, you need to stop them," the man explains to the others.

Greg listens intently, although they aren't talking to him, just about him. It's a relief to know that random hospital staff won't be allowed to 'discipline' him, though he guesses that Mr Johnson was never supposed to have kicked him in the face anyway. He doesn't think Doctor Cuddy is likely to have him caned or whipped for minor offenses, she never did anything about the piano playing incident.

"I want to emphasize how valuable Greg is, he's an extremely costly item of hospital equipment," he looks up as he hears Doctor Cuddy talking, its still strange to hear himself being talked about in this way, as if he was equivalent to the MRI machine or something. "While he may need discipline he mustn't be damaged. The hospital administration will fire anyone who commits an act of vandalism on Greg, and we may consider further action to recoup our costs if any permanent damage is done, reducing his value. Any questions?"

The guards asks what they are supposed to do if they find him where they don't think he should be and she outlines the procedures for dealing with him. She emphasizes again that he isn't to be 'disciplined' or abused by anyone outside of formal disciplinary procedures and assures them that he will be disciplined if he insolent or disobedient. He thinks she is talking to him as much as the guards at that point, sending him a clear message.

The guards run out of questions and the guy in charge talks to Doctor Cuddy.

"Thanks Doctor Cuddy, I'll bring up the other security staff over the next couple of days, make sure they're all familiar with Greg."

As they all troop out some of them cast curious glances at Greg, he guesses he must be something of a novelty for them, a slave who they have to pretend is a human being sometimes.

Once the room is empty Doctor Cuddy looks at him, where he is still kneeling at the end of the room, and tells him to 'come'.

He follows her into her office. He's relieved that they seem to be making plans for him to stay, that they are still talking about him as the 'diagnostics slave' but he doesn't know why all the furniture has been moved out of his office, where is he supposed to work?

"You'll sleep here from now on," Doctor Cuddy tells him "The conference room will be shared between the Diagnostics and Oncology departments. You must eat breakfast in the slave canteen each morning by eight, and you must eat your evening meal there between six and nine. You should log eight hours exercise a week in the exercise field. When you're in the basement, or if you fail to show up for meals or do exercise, Mrs Foster has my authorization to cane you if you're insolent or disobedient. The men's washroom down the hall has a shower, which you have permission to use. Mrs Foster tells me that slave laundry is done on Sundays, and she will arrange to have the slave who cleans the Diagnostics office collect your used clothing and bedding for laundry. You need to be clean and well-presented at all times. If anything affects that, let Mrs Foster know."

He stares at her, taking it all in, he's sleeping here? He's to use this office? He doesn't have to sleep in the dorm in the basement, he doesn't have to shower there, he only has to go there for meals and exercise. She waiting for a response so he murmurs, 'yes, ma'am.'

"The security staff are all aware of your status, and over the next few days Mr Talbot has arranged for all of them to inspect you. None of them will be able to pretend ignorance. If anything like Wednesday's incident happens again, you're to report it to me immediately."

"Yes, ma'am," he says, looking around the office, he can see a bunk now, in the corner behind the desk, behind his desk.

Doctor Cuddy points to a small bag on the desk. He can see it has some sort of toiletries in it. "You should ask Mrs Foster for fresh supplies as you use these." She taps a pile of paper that is sitting on the desk. " "You have all day tomorrow to review all of these and let me know your recommendations for the Diagnostics fellowship. I want you at my office by seven on Monday with notes on each resume you think is a viable candidate."

"Yes, ma'am," he says, he's unable to say anything else at the moment, he looks around the office, feeling a huge weight lifting off his shoulders, this is so much more than he could have hoped. He doesn't have to go back to that second floor office, he has protection from abuse. People have applied to work with him, for him. He starts to feel almost happy, something he hasn't felt in a long time and never expected to feel here.

"You understand that here is where you'll be living and sleeping from now on, except for your work and your meals - and exercise? You have to spend at least one hour on the balcony every day."

"Yes, ma'am," he says again. The balcony, he hadn't thought about that, he can go outside, whenever he wants, without having to strip off and run around in the mud. Just sit there in the sun.

He looks up at her, he wants to say something more than 'yes,ma'am' to express his appreciation for all she is doing for him.

"Th..I want you to know...Doctor Cuddy, I'm...", he slips down to his knees, to show her how sincere he is, how thankful. He stares back up at her, "I'm very grateful. I'm glad you bought me. Thank you, I won't let you down."

She smiles down at him, she looks tired but pleased, satisfied with what she has done.

"Good, I'll see you on Monday," is all she says and then she leaves, to go home.

He stays on his knees for a few seconds after she's left, taking it all in. Then he goes over to the bag on the desk and empties it out, little bottles of shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, some soap, even his toothbrush from the basement - with the tag 'Greg' on it. His things. He goes over to the bunk in the corner and sits on it, it has the same sheet, blanket and pillow as the one in the dorm in the basement but right now it feels like a bed in a five star hotel to him. No-one will drag him off this bed and stuff him in a cage in the middle of the night.

He flips through the pile of resumes, startled to see one from Doctor Bergeron , the doctor in the clinic whose diagnosis he'd disputed and who'd challenged him again in his presentation. There's a good pile of resumes surprisingly and he sets them aside to deal with later.

It's getting late and it's been a long day so he decides to go down to the slave canteen and get his dinner. It's his normal time, he knows his ex-dorm mates will all be there. He grins to himself, this should be fun.

On the way he stops in the bathroom closest to his office. As he opens the door he sees Jon, cleaning the bathroom. He watches while the slave ducks his head and continues wiping down the shower. He sees the dirty clothes, the collar, the cowed stance of the man and wonders if that was what he looked like when he was cleaning bathrooms. When Jon turns around he's obviously trying to make himself small, invisible so he can slip out. He hasn't realized that the intruder is Greg.

Jon looks up at him, a strange expression on his face. He doesn't say anything and Greg lifts his chin, he's not like this slave, he's not like any of them. He goes to use a stall, to stay invisible, but then changes his mind, he'll urinate like a man this time.

He goes to the urinal, which Jon has no doubt just finished cleaning, and pisses freely. As he's zipping himself up Jon finally says something.

"You'll get into trouble," he says, in his typically mild voice.

Greg looks at him.

"Probably, but I'm pretty used to that."

He leaves Jon standing there, staring after him and goes down to his dinner.

He makes sure he sits opposite Kev this time.

"What happened? Didn't the new place want you then? Going back to the Center are you?" the slave taunts him quietly. "Or didn't Doctor Cuddy want to let her fuck toy go?"

Greg calmly finishes his bowl of slop off, puts his spoon in the bowl and stares at Kev.

"Doctor Cuddy gave me her office," he says, "because I'm just that good." He stands up, picking up his bowl and gets in a parting shot, "don't wait up for me tonight, I have my own place now."

As he dumps his bowl in with the dirty dishes he risks a glance back and sees Kev, Jon, Sam and the rest all staring at him, their mouths hanging open. He quirks a little smile at them and quickly slips out of the canteen.

Back in his office he kneels down and sorts the resumes into piles, 'no way in hell', 'if we're desperate' and 'worth an interview'. He'll make notes on them tomorrow, see if he can determine from the dry words on the paper who has the creative spark needed to diagnose mysterious illnesses.

It's getting late so he goes along the hallway and has a shower, remembering just in time not to walk naked back to his office. He goes out onto the balcony when he returns, looking out over the lights of the city, at the lights of the cars as they make their way home, maybe one day if he works hard, if he brings enough value to the hospital, maybe one day he might be one of those people out there again.

He goes back inside, glances at the clock, it's eight o'clock, and strips for bed. He flicks off the office lights and goes to his bunk.

He lies there for a minute, in the dark. The memories start to creep back in, and he shivers. He gets back up and puts on the lamp over the desk, casting a dim glow over the room.

When he gets back in bed this time he can sleep.

He dreams that he is free.

The End

Thanks for sticking with the story through 17 chapters! I hope you've enjoyed Greg's journey as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'd love it if you'd leave a review on your way out, even if you haven't reviewed before it would still be great to hear from you, there's no such thing as a late review and a little encouragement goes a long way :)

To those who have reviewed during the story, and especially to those who've left multiple reviews, thank you so much:) To the anonymous reviewers, I can't write back to thank you personally but thanks!

To all the readers, and people who put the story on favourites and alert, thanks for reading!

To Illumin - thanks for the beta and thanks for coming up with the original concept of Seven Stages and your story that launched the whole Seven Stages/Sixteen Days saga - see what you started :)

And to Oflymonddreams, thanks so much for allowing other authors to play in your sandbox, and your generosity in sharing the Collar!Verse and your amazing cast of characters with me. Writing Sixteen Days (and Seven Stages) with you was an absolute pleasure :)