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by PipTook


House stretched his leg and looked at the clock. 2:00? How could it be only 2:00? His hand subconsciously went to his coat pocket and he longingly fingered his ever-present prescription bottle.

"Take as few as possible," they had said, "you'll build up a tolerance." Well they weren't the ones in pain. “As needed” had a different meaning when your leg’s twitching was so violent that your kneecap felt like it was about to dislocate.

He reluctantly withdrew his hand and tried to find something, anything to distract him for at least another hour. After that, he’d be able to focus on “General Hospital,” which was the way he had put off taking his last Vicodin of the day until 4:00 since being prescribed it.

The Vicodin didn't completely erase the perpetual cramping and aching of the remnants of his quadriceps muscle, but it made it somewhat bearable. The inevitable was happening although he didn’t want to admit it: Gregory House, great diagnostician and epidemiologist, was becoming more and more reliant on painkillers.

Despite his dramatics with flashing the bottle of pills and taking them in front of irritating patients any chance he got, House had no love of them. They were a necessity like the cane and like the cane they were a crutch that he loathed. Every pill seemed to mock him with a whispered "Cripple!"

House got to his feet with a pained grunt. Maybe he’d put in some clinic time. Abusing patients too stupid to realize a splinter was not reason for a walk-in was always a good way to vent. He slowly walked out his office. Halfway to the elevator, he paused and grimaced in pain. His knees buckled and he prayed no one would come down the hall at that particular moment.

He had tried to go without medication for one day, back in the beginning. Unfortunately by the time he finally broke down and took a Vicodin, it was too late for it to have maximum effect. That evening found him at home screaming in agony.

House straightened and continued down the hall. He was so intent on simply not passing out that he didn’t see Dr. Cuddy until he nearly knocked her over.

“You know, you’d think you’d watch where you’re steering with that thing,” she dryly remarked, gesturing at the cane. She gave him a concerned look. “Are you…feeling okay?”

That was enough to dull the pain with anger. He slit his eyes and scowled, “I would feel great if I didn’t have to do these damn clinic hours. Have I mentioned that a monkey with a bottle of Advil could perform this job?" He paused. "Speaking of which, how are Dr. Weston and Dr. Ling doing down there?”

Mission accomplished. He could see the sympathy being replaced by annoyance.

“I’m just making sure someone remembered to feed them their bananas and clean their cages.”

His carefully modulated voice of faux concern ensured that Cuddy gave him one last glare and continued on to wherever she had been going. He watched her receding back, suddenly feeling lonely. It sucked being in constant pain but it sucked even more not having anyone he trusted enough to lean on when it got tough. Well there was Wilson, but James had already gone beyond even what could be expected of a best friend and he hated going to him all the time for support.

The elevator doors opened. House allowed himself to sag against the wall in the mercifully empty elevator. All too soon he was deposited into the chaos of the perpetually overfilled clinic. House felt a malicious grin spread across his face as he signed in and grabbed an exam room.

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