The brain was a beautiful machine, capable of overriding itself when properly motivated. He bypassed the pain in his leg, riding the high of the newly delivered pain in his fingers. Crushed. He'd felt the bones splinter under the force of the pestle. The resulting clatter of the dropped mallet rang like church bells in his ears. Not nearly as effective as the Vicodin, which blanketed his senses and completely numbed his mind. But it was something, and he coldn't ake a pill. Couldn't cave so easily and prove them all right. Maybe he was addicted, but the point was the Vicodin let him do his job. He wasn't a junkie. Not by a long shot.

He wasn't sure how long he'd sat there at his desk, his back facing the door, cradling his throbbing hand. Too long, and not long enough. There was no way to measure time like that, and no way to pull the mind from the numbing shock. Until drawn from his retreat by force.

"House." It was a voice he knew well. Too well. That voice echoed in the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind. James Wilson ought to have been a Broadway performer rather than a doctor.

He could i feel /i Wilson looking at him. Dark eyes boring in to him. Accusing, if not judging. Wilson never judged him. No. Wilson just accepted the things he couldn't change.

House pushed off with his left leg, swiveling his chair around to face his best friend. He watched as Wilson's coffee colored eyes took in the sight; the way he cradled his left hand to his chest.

"Did it work?"

Blue eyes blazing, House looked up at Wilson. His eyes burned with a darkness he hadn't felt since he'd been flat on his back with an uncertain future ahead of him. He sighed and leaned his head back, eyes closed, shutting down the lines of communication.

Not that it would deter Wilson. Nothing ever deterred Wilson. He had a way of pushing past or straight through House's defenses. It both aggravated House and endeared Wilson to him.

"Oh no you don't, Ace." Wilson said with an even calmness. "We're going to go downstairs and get a good look at that hand."

"No." House muttered and swatted at Wilson with his right hand. "You make me move, my leg will hurt. It doesn't hurt. Leave it alone."

"If I leave you alone, you will end up with bent and mangled fingers for the rest of your life."

House cracked one eye open. "Then it'll just match my leg."

"House." Wilson said firmly. "Don't make me carry you."

He opened the other eye. He had no doubt Wilson would do it too. He sighed and set his right hand on the arm of his chair to push himself up. "I hate you."

"Good. Now move." Wilson pointed toward the door, as if House had lost his way. House muttered and grumbled under his breath. Wilson sighed and fell in to step behind House.