Includes lines from the Pilot, "The Honeymoon," "Humpty Dumpty," "Detox," "Autopsy," "Daddy's Boy," and "Three Stories." Set pre-"No Reason." Inspired in part by maineac's His Coy Mistress.

People used to have more respect for cripples, you know!

They didn't, really. I didn't. Still don't. Boo-fucking-hoo. I give this body as much respect as it deserves. Fucking traitor.

I haven't been up here in five years.

Because of the stairs. I used to be able to escape up here—skip hop step, an easy 17—the only way to find me was to haul your own ass up those stairs.

Now, though. Going up is one thing, not so bad with the cane and the rail, if you're ready for a shoulder workout. Coming back down those stairs is heading back into hell. Arms burning, shoulders screaming, the bottom of the stairwell tilting away as scary violin music pounds with the blood in my ears. Waiting for the cane to slip, waiting for concrete and bone to make intimate acquaintance. Fucking traitor shakes and sweats and promises payback.

I will always have to come back down. So I quit going up. But I make sure to walk by that door at least once a week.

People don't want a sick doctor.

'Doctor, heal thyself.' Right. If the doctor couldn't heal himself, what the fuck good is he to you?

Can't work as a cripple?

Nope, can't work. Good thing I make my living with my brain, or I would have been fucked. Can't stand, can't walk, can't carry. I have everything delivered to my door: My food, my clothes, my entertainment, my toilet paper.

See, I'm capable of going to the store. Every time I try it: I get a cart loaded, paid for, transferred to the car; the fucking traitor shrieking before I get to the checkout counter and there's nothing for it but to finish. Even 'just a few things' takes for-fucking-ever. Sit in the parking lot until I can drive, sit at home until I can get out of the car and take the first bag inside. Only one bag at a time, and pack them small, please. Lean on the counter awhile until I can go back and get the next one. Every time I try going to the store, the fucking traitor demands its due, turns what used to be a half-hour trip into an afternoon of agony. I'm capable of a lot. That doesn't make me able.

I'm an old man at 45, scared of stairs and bathtubs and ice and wet pavement, nervous about escalators and airplanes and crowded spaces. I've got nerves closer to the surface; half my attention must always go toward protecting them. Those nerves let me feel the thrum of the monster trucks more keenly than anyone else in the arena, but I can't even get carried away by the Gravedigger. I have to watch my steps carefully in the dirt. My body will take its time cashing this check, but it's worth it to witness destruction up close and feel the heat of the flames.

It's my leg busy calendaring what I can't do.

Man went from slithering out of the muck to walking on four legs to running on just two. My devolution: I walk on three legs.

Which means I only have one hand, and it's the wrong one. Forty years of experience carves strong neural pathways in the brain, and I had to rewire them all. Every single blessed thing is designed for the comfort of the right-handed. Paper towel dispensers: lever's on the right. Handshakes. Scissors and lamps and subway gates and dress pants and fucking coffee mugs. So I wear jeans with my wallet on the wrong side of my ass and I bought mugs with no logos so no one can see that I'm sipping my coffee backwards.

She could outlive you.

Small comfort: I can still make people follow me. They always seem surprised at how hard they have to work to keep up with me as they chase me down the hall. My legs are as long as they ever were, and I can cover ground when I want to. But the fucking traitor is no longer as nimble as my brain.

She hugged me. People don't hug me. "You should go for a walk," she said. People don't tell cripples to go for walks. I wave my cane to remind her I don't go anywhere without purpose; the benefits have to outweigh the costs. So I'm surprised at myself when I discover I'm following her advice.

The test drive is heaven. Open road, fresh air, mind and body finally moving at the same speed. The rumble of the engine cycles at the same speed as the raw nerves in my thigh, purring along action potentials until I can't tell if it's me or the machine that's throbbing. I'm not crippled on a bike. I'm just fast.

Last I checked, you still have two legs.

Yeah. I am so fucking lucky. I don't know how good I have it. Social comparison doesn't change how much this sucks, right here and right now.

Every movement of every day requires forethought. If I forget, move too quickly or just the wrong way, the fucking traitor reminds me just why that's a bad idea. I can't spontaneously chase down a beautiful woman to beg her for her phone number. So I let her go.

I don't look in mirrors. If it was just a scar, that would be OK. But my whole shape is different because of that damn thing. I'm lopsided. The right half of my upper body and the left half of my lower body belong to an athlete: One trapezius, one lattisimus dorsi, one biceps brachii, one triceps brachii well-developed, shaped and taut and strong. I have one bun of steel and adductors to kill for. The rest, well, it's just along for the ride. My hand doesn't mind that I'm fucking crooked.

It's my leg. It's my life.

I fought for it, fought to keep this fucking traitor through a lifetime's pain crammed into a week's time. Fought so viciously that this asymmetrical body is almost the only thing I have left.

I still have two legs. How could I forget? One of them keeps up a constant stream of chatter that regularly turns into screaming, the other does its job until it starts screaming too. Every time I chew a bitter pill I mute the screaming. Every time my hand runs from hip to knee I respond to the chatter. Every time, I ask the fucking traitor.

Was keeping you worth it?