Decided to start writing this before Christmas to get myself into the "Christmas spirit" but have enjoyed putting this together - there should be more about Greg and Stacy! New Collarverse writer Ravenhurst started writing a story about the Greg and Stacy years, "No Escape", which is in the Collarverse Community - and if you don't follow that, please do already! Longtime stalker/writing-partner Tailkinker wrote a lovely fluffy Christmas story with a really happy ending, "A Christmas In the Mirror". So it's been great. Maybe we'll party again next year. There are the Christmases after the infarction to get through...

In response to one review to the last chapter - actually my thought was that Dani probably doesn't have ovarian cancer, House is diagnosing because he really doesn't have any other way to cope with the situation. (House does not have a 100% success rate of correctly insta-diagnosing patients. Not in my universe anyway.)

This is a seasonal extra for CollarRedux... part six of a six-part story covering six of Greg House's Christmas Days at PPTH in the Collar!Verse. All six Days take place pre-infarction.

This is the Collar!Verse. This story takes place on the eighth Christmas of House's enslavement. There are slaves, Greg House is one of them. Warnings for non-con and crude language.

6. Oh You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, I'm telling you why

The last patient of December 24th, a man with a head-cold who ought to have just stayed home with Kleenex, hot drinks, and aspirin, instead of coming out to infect more people, got dealt with before six. House told him nastily that there was no cure, waited for the man's face to go white with shock, and then explained in sarcastic detail exactly how to treat a cold. He was unpleasantly amused to see fear-shock turn to anger: this was at least the fourth patient who had stumbled in to the exam room listless and choked with a cold, who had walked out briskly and furiously, all set to give someone a piece of their mind about the rude doctor in exam room one.

There was no one else in the waiting area. The doors had been closed against new admissions for forty minutes. Tomorrow was Christmas Day and the clinic was closed: there was a bowl of candy canes instead of lollipops on the admissions counter, and all the staff, including Nurse Previn, had been wearing red Santa hats. Previn pulled hers off as House walked over to the admissions area, handing the last file back to her. There would be half an hour or so of clear-up to do; Previn was probably going to scold him for rudeness to the patients, which would probably mean a trip to the basement either before or after. It had been worth it, House told himself. He lifted his chin and stared at Previn.

"I had six complaints about your behavior today," Nurse Previn said. She stood up, eyeing him. After a moment, she added "I apologized on your behalf, and I'm not going to have you disciplined for this. Not today. You've got the day off tomorrow. If I get any complaints about you next week, you're going direct to the basement, is that clear?"

Clear. The tag that Stacy had hung from his collar wasn't there, hadn't been there for weeks, and Stacy herself was gone from the hospital: her leaving party had been yesterday. Of course the slave she used to have tagged hadn't been invited.

House spread his lips and showed his teeth. "Clear," he said. His voice came out harsh. "Happy holidays." He hadn't been dismissed but he turned around and walked out of the clinic anyway.

Years ago Jon had told him that no one tags a slave forever. He had been stupid about Stacy. As stupid as getting enslaved. Stacy couldn't afford to buy him, and even if she did, it wasn't legal to buy a slave in order to free him. Slaves did get freed, sometimes, but House had no reason to suppose PPTH would ever let go of him. He was an expensive asset. Valuable hospital equipment. No one would give that away. No one would want a relationship with an MRI machine for long.

House stopped at the head of the stairs down to the basement. There were other slaves going past him, walking tiredly, end of shift: they looked at him with curiosity, crazy Greg who had been tagged for years, who wasn't tagged any more. For years House had been able to face off the most aggressive staff at PPTH, knowing there was really nothing they could do to him, providing he kept up his work for the clinic and the Diagnostics department: he was protected by Brenda Previn and Doctor Cuddy in the clinic and the Diagnostics department, and by his relationship to Stacy Warner everywhere else.

The basement smelled of cleaning fluids and unwashed slaves and hot food.

The evening meal was sliced vegetables baked into a kind of loaf with lentils and bits of meat and cheese. Every slave got an apple and an orange: House wondered if this was some gesture at celebration. He'd got used to eating like the real people ate. Or they just wanted to use up the fresh fruit, as no one would be around tomorrow to eat it.

Scott, one of the junior supervisors, was moving through the room with a pair of permanent markers. House saw her and remembered what she was probably doing before she got to him: she glanced down at her list, picked up his hand, and scrawled on it with the green marker.

House sat staring down at the food in his bowl. His hand lay flat on the table beside it. Last year at about this time he had been sitting in Stacy's apartment, looking forward to a whole day, thirty-six hours, of eating good food and listening to music and Stacy talking to him as if he wasn't medical equipment, as if he were a real person. There was a curling, horrified pain inside him: he had shoved violently away any feeling about not seeing Stacy again, but the realization he'd never see that apartment again - Stacy was moving away from New Jersey, to a job somewhere else, the apartment he remembered probably no longer existed -

He had to stop feeling like this. He couldn't feel like this. He couldn't go on living like this.

Mrs Graham called him over when he stood up. House showed the empty bowl, used to this: he often left early, escaping the crowd of slaves who liked to shove and kick him if they had the chance. The supervisor had opened a paper sack and was dropping a large handful of slave chow into it from a big container. She added another handful.

"Here, big boy." She held it out to him.

House stared. Mrs Graham shoved the bag at him impatiently. She probably knew his name as well as he knew hers, after all these years, but she'd never called him by it. He'd never heard her refer to any of the slaves by name. He took the bag. His food for the next day. Slave chow. She had the day off tomorrow. Most of the basement staff did. He was supposed to go back to the Diagnostics department. Rider, his latest fellow, had gone home yesterday once they figured out the diagnosis for their latest patient. The best he could hope for was that there'd be a new patient. Someone in New Jersey desperately ill on Christmas Eve with something so obviously confusing and immediately lethal that whatever junior doctor was on duty would call on Diagnostics at PPTH at once to save a dying patient's life. That would be great.

"Get going, big boy," Mrs Graham said sharply.

House walked out. He stood in the basement hall, knowing he should go upstairs. He had his chow for tomorrow, he had the green mark on his hand exempting him from being locked up in a dorm for thirty-six hours. There'd be no music, no one to talk to, if he dared venture to the soft drinks machine he might get a coke. Diagnostics equipment wouldn't care about being left alone over Christmas.

The security guard on duty was watching him. The overseer's door was closed. Mrs Foster had retired last year. The new head overseer had evidently left promptly: and Doctor Cuddy had gone hours ago, to visit her family over Christmas. There was no one in the hospital who was authorized to cane him or have him whipped.

House walked towards the security station, opening up the paper sack. He threw a handful of slave chow at the guard, and laughed at the look of utter astonishment on the woman's face. When another man showed up, one of the guards Cuddy used to move him around the hospital, House threw another handful at his face, stepping back out of his reach, grinning widely.

They got him down, of course - he knew they would. But they'd learned to be careful with him. Wrists cuffed behind his back, his legs shackled together, he sat on his ass on the floor and grinned up at them.

"Is Mr Talbot still here?" someone was asking.

"No," another voice said: Chris Barrie, Talbot's deputy. He kicked House, not hard, in the butt. "Fucking troublemaker. Get him in the security station. Get someone out here to pick up all the chow he scattered."

"You might just as well let me go," House said clearly. "It's not like you're allowed to do anything to me." The guards bodily picked him up. House heard Barrie telling a new guard, a very junior one, "Better not let the slaves see what happened - get a cleaning kit" and laughed. The slaves would know. They'd know a guard had to do a sanitation slave's work. They'd know Crazy Greg threw chow at the guards and wasn't punished. He'd get caned for it when Nic Gonzalez got back to work after the holidays, or ten lashes of the whip if they spoke to Doctor Cuddy first, but that was days away.

"All right," House said. He was put carefully on the floor of the security station. "Gently, you know how much I'm worth? Get this crap off me, I'm going upstairs."

Chris Barrie stood still, arms folded. He nodded to one of the guards. "Lock up the canteen and the dorms, just for now, and get all the guys in here. Who's good with a gag? Get one in his mouth, I don't want to hear from him any more."

A guard twisted his head back by his hair and tapped his jaw. His mouth fell open. Neatly, the guard shoved in the mouthpiece of the gag.

"Okay," Barrie said. "Get this piece of crap naked. Don't damage his clothes, fold 'em up neatly over there."

There were twelve or thirteen of the guards, not counting Barrie. They handled him efficiently: it was hard even to struggle. He hated being gagged. They fastened the cuffs and the shackles on him again. He'd never got up off the floor. Barrie lifted one booted foot and put it down on House's chest, not hard, just a reminder.

"Okay, guys, here's what's going to happen. This piece of crap is worth more than all our salaries put together. I'm not authorized even to cane him. I could talk to Doctor Cuddy about having him whipped, but that'd take days, and I don't think we want to wait, do we?"

There was a disturbing, murmuring growl of agreement.

"I'm changing the Christmas shifts. There's going to be four of us on duty, instead of three. Fourth guy's job is going to be to keep an eye on this piece of crap. He's going in the cage."

The growl of agreement got louder, enthusiastic. Barrie pressed down with his boot that bit harder.

"Now pay attention, because it's not just me that you'll be in trouble with if this piece of crap is damaged. Three people on the station, all the time. One watches the screen, one watches this piece of crap, two on standby, nobody takes more than a five minute break outside the station. The piece of crap's gag has to come out once an hour for at least five minutes, and either his cuffs or his shackles have to come off every three hours for at least ten minutes. Four people in the room whenever his cuffs or his shackles are off, no exceptions, and when you take him to the bathroom, two of you do it and don't take the restraints off. Yeah, this means wiping a shitty slave's ass, I don't give a fuck." Barrie lifted his boot from House's chest. "Roll him over."

Hands gripped, turned him. House was on his belly. He felt Barrie's foot prod at his buttocks.

"You want to have fun with him? I know. This piece of crap is a valuable piece of crap. I'll be personally inspecting him before we send him back upstairs and if I see any bruises, any damage at all, anywhere, there's going to be trouble. He stays in the cage unless you've got a reason to take him out, and he stays gagged. Do as I've said and I'll stand by you. We don't take any crap from a fucking slave. Break my rules and you'll be lucky if the best that happens to you is you get canned. Now get him into the cage."

Hours later, or it might have been days, House was drifting, lost. He had lost track of time entirely. The gag in his mouth, the bars of the cage, were his only reality. He knew there was a reason this was happening, a reason he'd done this to himself. He could no longer remember what it was.

The sharp pain in his leg woke him up. He couldn't move very much, he couldn't press on the leg to relieve a musle cramp. This wasn't a cramp. It hurt worse than anything he'd ever felt before, even the tenth stroke of a judicial whipping. He screamed, muffled by the gag: when they took it out he screamed again and again, and couldn't shut up even when they cuffed the back of his head and shouted at him. It hurt too much. Something was wrong.

And they gagged him again and put him back in the cage.

end

...and yeah, I don't do fluffy happy endings. Not even at Christmas. Happy holidays!

Now on to Season 3 of the Collarverse... that's enough Christmassy angst for me. For now, anyway. There's more to come in the Collarverse. If you liked it, leave a review... if you hated it but read to the end, leave a review anyway. And go read the other great stories at the Collarverse Community!