A/N: This came from a conversation with my partner at work. This was another extremely rough weekend for us ambulance cowboys, and as usual, I tend to take it out on our two favorite doctors. Hope you enjoy this! Pleas read and respond!

Wilson had been back for almost three weeks when House found him sitting on the balcony watching the sun sink into the horizon, slumped on the ground, minus his lab coat, with a bottle of Jack Daniel in his hand. He couldn't hear him crying, but he could tell by the way his shoulders quivered that he was. House didn't want to go out there. He didn't want to take this on. After their talk over a month ago, Wilson had gotten up the next morning from House's couch, hung over as hell, and called Cuddy asking for a week off. Then House spoke to her quietly, and she gave him two. He had asked House to pick up his mail, and that was it. Ten minutes after he left, House found his cell phone and pager lying on the counter, deliberately left behind.

When he had come back he had looked better. His normally pale features had a slight tan. House remembered thinking that he really must have been taking a break from being an oncologist if he actually got some sun, as paranoid as he was about the disease he treated. He had a spring in his step that had been missing for a while. Patients, visitors, and the nursing staff alike were all treated to his best boy-wonder smile, bright as ever, as if someone had chanced the bulb. House twisted his hand on his cane, thinking about the nearly insensitive skin of his palm. Then he opened the door.

Wilson didn't even look up. House limped over beside him and poked the bottle with his cane. Wilson still didn't respond. Sighing, House slid down the wall to sit uncomfortably beside him. "You realize the problem with what I told you, right?" Wilson gave him an uncomprehending stare, so he went on. "When you let the callus go away, it's back to blisters and bleeding and pain. That's the purpose of calluses. They form to protect you."

Wilson still didn't answer him, just stared out into the sky with tears rolling down his cheeks. House glared at him. "Look, this is what you wanted! You wanted to be able to feel again, now you can! Are you going to drink yourself numb again now?"

Still staring at the deepening red of the sky, Wilson finally spoke. "Looks like blood, doesn't it?" House followed his gaze, then nodded. Yeah, it did look like blood. Knowing it was just gases burning in the atmosphere didn't take away the illusion, especially for two men who saw so much of it. "You've lived with pain for a long time, House."

Not sure where this was going, he nodded again. "You know I have."

"And you hate it. You curse it in the mornings when you try to get out of bed, during the day if someone accidentally bumps into you, at night when you can hardly stand up in the shower. I would trade anything for you not to have to go through that. My own heath, if I could." Wilson turned and met his eyes for the first time, and saw the same young man he used to know, drowning in tears. "But it would scare the mortal piss out of you if you woke up one morning and you couldn't feel your leg, wouldn't it? You'd check yourself in here so fast it would make your head spin. Much faster than the pain would."

House thought about that for a moment. That was his biggest fear. The nerve damage progressing. Losing his leg completely. Even the pain was worth it to not become simply a fraction of a man. "But that's not the same. I could lose a large piece of myself. True, it's a piece that's been damaged for a while, but damaged is better than gone!"

Still looking into his friend's eyes, Wilson nodded slowly, and the last bit of the puzzle fell into place for House. Of course it was the same. Maybe the callus wasn't as good a metaphor as the infarction was. If Wilson had kept that part of himself shut away as it had been a month ago, away from stimulation and metaphoric blood flow, it would have withered away and died. And it would have been much more than losing a leg. It would have meant losing the man that James Wilson was, the man he had tried to be. It would have cost him any satisfaction he could ever get from his job, he would have given up on House, and then he would have nothing left. Shit. House closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the cold brick.

"I know what you meant now," Wilson said suddenly, staring back at the darkening sky. "Why you fought so hard to keep your leg. You can't just get rid of a part of you just because it hurts. Even if it hurts a lot."

House pulled out his ever-present pill bottle and took a vicodin. "Yeah, but I have these. What do you do for the pain?"

Wilson held up the bottle of whiskey. "I have this. And I have you. And I still have most of my little bald kids."

"Don't say that, Jimmy." House's voice was dead serious. "Don't make jokes about them and don't call them little bald kids. You don't think that way."

Giving him a curious glance, Wilson said, "But you do."

Still serious, House said, "You are not me. And I'm thankful for that. You're a better person, and I don't want you to be me." Wilson looked surprised. "If I lose my leg, I'm just another cripple. More miserable to myself, no different to anyone else. But if you lost…what you could have lost you would become something much worse than a cripple. Me."

Wilson didn't know what to say to that. He offered House the bottle. House took it. "What?" he asked. "No lecture about mixing narcotics and alcohol?" He took a drink straight from the bottle, more than a shot glass could hold. "Nothing about how my liver is already shredded from the vicodin and now the alcohol on top of it? You're slipping." He took another drink.

They sat there until House's leg started to ache from the position and he had to stand up. Wilson helped him to his feet, and he accepted the help because he knew it was because he had been drinking rather than because of his leg. What he didn't understand was how Wilson was still so steady. Was he that upset, like last time? 'Can't even get drunk' upset? Suddenly, another thought occurred to him. "Uh, if we're both drunk, how are we going to get home?"

Wilson shook his head with a half smile. "Sherlock Holmes you're not. Did you even look at the bottle?" He picked up the fifth of liquor, and House saw that it was almost full. All that was missing was what he had drunk.

"I don't understand. You weren't drinking? That little girl died, and you were out here crying, and I thought…"

Wilson cut him off. "This was just in case the pain got to be too much. In case I just couldn't take it. I got close, though, close enough to actually open it." House opened his mouth to speak, but Wilson beat him to it. "Like the morphine in the box on top of your bookcase."

House's eyes widened. How had he known about that? He'd deal with that later. "You wanted to hurt?"

Wilson leaned back over the ledge. "I was afraid to be numb again."

House shook his head. "That's why I have my vicodin. I don't want to hurt. I don't just try to tough it out, or anything crazy like that."

"I know. But it scares me how far out there I was. Wanted to feel something, anything. Now that I do, I didn't want to stop it unless I had to."

House nodded. "Come on, then. You can drive me home, buy me some Chinese food, and watch bad movies while we get rid of your 'morphine'. You can even pick the movies." He punctuated this with another drink of Jack and handed Wilson a few Kleenex.

Obediently, Wilson blew his nose and wiped his eyes, and except for the puffiness you wouldn't have known he had been crying. He gestured to the bottle. "You can have that. I'm not drinking tonight."

They walked side by side to the car, and Wilson got in the driver's side. They left House's bike for tomorrow "Being numb one night won't out you back where you were." He cringed inwardly at the words he was about to say. They sounded like Cameron's words, but they suited Wilson right now. "Getting your heart broken isn't your punishment for losing the fight for that kid's life."

Wilson's head jerked up again. "It's not about punishing myself, House! It's called being human. You should try it sometime!"

House carefully studied the recently acquired lines on Wilson's face, the hurt in his eyes, the slight swelling around them from crying. He then replied quietly, not intending Wilson to hear. "No, thanks, Jimmy. I'd better leave that to you masochists."