Disclaimer: House is not me. Neither is Hugh Laurie, though if he wants to come visit, he's welcome any time.

Spoilers: Takes place during Detox

Little white pills. They filled the plastic amber colored bottle that he kept in his pocket at all times. Some days he only reached for them once or twice, sometimes more. He didn't even bother with the water anymore. Just popped them in his mouth and chewed them like candy. One at a time. Usually.

He knew people worried about them, about him. Worried that he took too many, that he took them for the wrong reasons. Cuddy made her concern obvious. Talked about it outright. Dared him to go a week without them. For a month away from the damn clinic, he was willing to do it. The others were less obvious. They turned away when he reached his hand into his pocket, or just continued whatever they were doing without commenting. They never asked if he was in pain. Each of them had asked once. That was all it took, for them to understand why it was a bad idea.

It was hard to remember, now, a time when the Vicodin was not his constant companion. Like the cane, it was an ever present fact of his life PI. Post infarction. The pills, the pain, the limp, and the temperament that was darker and more sarcastic then before. Not that he had ever been accused of being a cheerful man.

It had been three days since his last pill. Three days of the pain that grew and grew until he was barely aware of what was happening around him. He was aware of the clamminess of his skin, the nausea, the increased respiration. He lied, to the others and himself, and said that they were symptoms of the uncontrolled pain. To some extent that was true. It didn't explain everything. Didn't explain his purposely breaking the fingers on his hand, or why he welcomed the additional pain.

He was staring at the bottle of pills sitting on his desk. Eric had left the room, not waiting to see whether he took one or not. He reached out and grasped the bottle in his hand, popping the top off with the pressure of his thumb. The white ovular disks spilled out, making a neat pile on the blotter. They were inches from his hand. All he had to do was reach out and pick one up between his thumb and finger. It was a simple task. Manuel dexterity, something a two year old was capable of. In ten minutes his symptoms would be relieved. The pain would go away. All he had to do was reach out.

He stared at the Vicodin for long minutes. The pain of his body warred with the logic of his mind, and he wasn't sure which side was going to win. He thought of Cuddy's face when she dared him to go without. He had to prove to her that he could do it. More importantly, had had to prove it to himself. Using his left hand, he swept the pills into the palm of his damaged right hand, and returned them to the bottle. Sliding open the top drawer of his desk, he tucked the bottle inside. Four days. He only had to wait for four more days.

It was never a question, in his mind, of whether he would take the pills once the week was over. If the past three days had taught him nothing else, they had imparted one important lesson. He was an addict. He needed the Vicodin. Not wanted, but needed. They let him do his job, and nothing was more important to him then his work. Just as vital, they took away his pain. What pain it was that he was treating, he wasn't always sure. For now, it was enough that it worked. Grabbing his cane, he pulled himself out of the chair and limped across the room. There was work to do.