Wilson dropped House off back at the apartment. The ride home was silent between the two as the radio provided the necessary background noise, each man lost in his own thoughts until pulling up to the curb outside. Wilson promised to return later that evening with pizza and movies.
"Make sure it's got action. Lots of action," groused House as he pushed the car door open with his elbow not letting go of either his cane or the new helmet. Swiveling in the passenger seat he half pulled himself upwards with his right arm until his left leg was braced under him to take his weight before switching the cane to his right hand and proceeding the few feet to the apartment steps.
"Are we talking explosions, car chases, and copious amounts of spent bullets?" Wilson queried as he leaned across the leather seat to pull the door shut.
House looked over his shoulder with a patented eye roll that said don't make me explain myself and opened the outer door.
Pulling the car door closed Wilson sat back, wrist draped over the steering wheel while he watched his friend disappear inside the building before shifting the vehicle into drive and accelerating away. Wilson didn't understand his need to see that House got inside safely; he was a grown man after all and more than capable of looking after himself, most of the time.
Driving the short distance to the hotel he'd contemplated turning around and imposing himself on House's hospitality and staying with him for the remainder of the day. Instead deciding a long hot shower and a couple hours of peace and quiet were in order after the last few hectic weeks. There was also the growing pile of clothing that needed to be sent out or he'd be resorting to House's mode of dress.
Wilson shivered repulsed by the mere thought of being seen in public wearing a half-unbuttoned and wrinkled shirt that haphazardly covered a faded t-shirt and hung loosely over blue jeans. He preferred the crisp starched cotton shirts with matching tie, creased dress slacks and patent leather shoes. Consider him vain, he shrugged inwardly at his own voice, he enjoyed looking like the professional he was no matter how many times House chided him about his laundry expenses.
Wilson sighed gloomily as he drove into the parking garage under the hotel. The darkened area reminded him continually of driving into a cave filled with metal monsters lying in wait for unsuspecting victims. Shadows played along the walls from his headlights and he was grateful to find a stall close to the elevator.
The motor died as he turned the key silencing the engine, and he suddenly became aware of the gloominess that settled around him. Welcome home he thought shutting the car door and listening to the metallic thump echo loudly in the dim murkiness of the palely lit concrete dungeon. Wilson glanced around nervously, the rush of traffic outside a dull roar ominously ricocheting in between the manmade walls.
Squaring his shoulders he strode to the elevator with more confidence than he felt and inwardly welcomed the brightly lit cubicle awaiting him. Stepping inside he pushed the lobby button and let out a long exhale as the doors closed and the familiar lurch of the elevator signaled the upward rise.
"Good afternoon Doctor Wilson." The concierge acknowledged him with a nod and slight smile as she hastily dropped the book she'd been reading and stood to address him.
Marcy he recalled not bothering to look at the name tag buried under blond hair that draped loosely over her shoulders. Big brown eyes under too much mascara that did nothing to hide the fact she wasn't getting enough sleep, the dark circles almost hidden by the makeup.
"Hello, thought I'd pick up my mail," he answered; glancing down at the book lying open on the counter as she turned away. "Biological physics?" he called.
She didn't bother to turn as she began checking the banded bundles, placing a few into a small box. "Course elective," she said over her shoulder adding more content to the rapidly filling box.
Wilson turned the book around to get a closer look. "Seems a bit on the heavy side for an elective," he mused out loud scanning the headings and noticing a few pages from a magazine sliding out from between the back pages of the oversized book.
"The faster I get through school, the quicker I can start a real career."
Wilson chuckled to himself as he slid the Cosmopolitan quiz on 'How to Satisfy Your Man In Bed' back into place and leaned his forearms nonchalantly on the counter by the time she turned around and carried over the box heaped with mail.
"You've got quite a bit here," she stated lifting the cardboard onto the counter and giving him another warm smile as she pushed it towards him.
"Thanks," Wilson returned the smile, grabbed the box and glanced quickly at the few pieces on top, mostly junk he thought, and began to make his way back to the elevator.
"Oh, wait!" a voice stopped him as he pivoted, the contents of the box shifting slightly and he let his arms lower, the weight pulling forward awkwardly, already becoming a strain and looked at her questioningly.
"There's something else, I almost forgot," she said hastily as she walked backwards toward the office pointing behind her for emphasis. "Be just a sec." Then she disappeared into a doorway.
Wilson waited patiently as she entered the office behind the desk, and found himself shifting from one foot to the other after several minutes, giving slight nods to a few folks that wandered through the lobby eyeing him and his collection of mail.
He was beginning to wish she'd hurry it up when Marcy reemerged with a triumphant grin and carrying another package, this one fairly small and he eyed cautiously. She stepped towards him hesitantly trying to determine how to place the package on the already filled container and then pushed letters to the side tucking the square box beside the edge. Wilson nodded thankfully, eyed the package suspiciously and walked away again.
He was in the elevator once more before the thought occurred to him that he should have at least found out whom the sender was. The box was wedged so that the address wasn't visible and Wilson had to content himself with waiting. The list of people that knew where he resided wasn't all that long, the exes, House. At that he laughed aloud at the idea House would ever send him anything. That only left Cuddy and his folks, and he surmised it had to be his folks or his older brother that had sent the package for a late Christmas present.
Satisfied in the knowledge he knew the packages origin, there was just the matter of discovering what was in the box, but that could wait.
Entering his version of home, he set the mail on the end of the plain looking full-sized bed, eyes taking in the bare hotel room he found himself currently living in and sighed again. This wasn't exactly the way he had pictured life after medical school.
He picked up the mysterious package noting there was no return address and shook it lightly as if it would give away a clue as to its contents.
House stood just inside the hallway waiting and listening for the Volvo to pull away. Twenty plus four bounces of his cane later he was finally hearing the sound of the motor fading. He pulled back the blinds with the tip of his cane, a slow smile crossing his face as he watched the red taillights turn the corner. He dropped his cane and new helmet onto the sofa and limped to the closet pulling out his leather motorcycle jacket, the feel of the heavy material comfortable in his hand.
Laying it on the back of the sofa he quickly shucked the long wool overcoat tossing it haphazardly, not caring as it slid off the end of the furniture and fell into a crumpled heap on the floor. Time for that later, he thought slipping into the riding jacket and zipping it up. He stopped halfway, looking around quickly his brow furrowing in thought, then hobbled over to the lump on the floor and fished out his Ipod, dropping the coat back into a heap. He thumbed the dial, plugged in the small black cord and slipped the player into an inner pocket reaching for the helmet.
Patting his pockets he went through a quick mental checklist: Vicodin, in a prescription bottle, cell phone, gloves, wallet, didn't need that since his license was still suspended. Even so, he plucked a few bills out of it and stuffed them inside the front pocket of his jeans. Never hurts to be prepared he reminded himself as he finished zipping up the jacket, grabbed the keys and closed the front door firmly behind him.
He clipped the cane to the side of the bike lifted his leg over and settled on the seat, already beginning to relax in anticipation. Adjusting the helmet he rolled his head a bit to get a feel for the different weight, pulled on his gloves dropped the visor and started the motorcycle. The rough purr of the bike under his body spoke of freedom and he leaned forward twisting the throttle back while listening to the growl of the engine as he felt the vibration of power surging up through him.
He let the clutch out gently and maneuvered into the street looking both ways before accelerating, exhilarating in the knowledge he could still enjoy freedom while riding. If one could have looked under the mirrored visor they would have been shocked to glimpse House with a genuine smile as the scenery swept past.
Two hours later House was content to listen to the dull roar of the bike as he traveled onward, his Ipod having died a few miles back. Soon his leg began to protest the onslaught of cold air as he felt the first twinges of cramping and made the decision to pull off of the freeway hoping to find a small diner nearby. Glancing at his watch he figured a short half hour stop to warm up, down a couple of pills then head back was in order, still allowing him a few minutes to himself before Wilson arrived at his place.
He drove a couple of short blocks from the interchange and spotted a truck stop that looked promising for a short rest. As he pulled up to the handicapped parking he was met with a pleasant surprise. A row of bikes were lined up and nestled towards the end of the row was one he had seen earlier that day, or a very close replica. House was looking forward to meeting the rider, this was turning out to be a very good start to the New Year he told himself and parked his bike.
It took a few minutes of standing and seeming to be busy with his gear to allow his leg time to accustom itself to his weight again before he slowly entered the mini mart. The clerk didn't even look his direction as he entered, busy trying to explain to a truck driver where the showers were and the areas they were allowed to park their rigs. House ignored the few people roaming idly in the store and skirted the aisles moving towards the diner and promised relief.
'Please seat yourself' the sign read and House let his eyes roam over the mix of patrons quickly. The room seemed to be filled with a healthy crowd of the stereotypical Sunday afternoon biker crowd. Black leather jackets with metal odds and ends hanging out of the pockets or draped over shoulders, a few scraggly beards, numerous bandanas and the assorted patches announcing to the world at large the affiliated clubs they belonged too. The few men seated at the bar sported graying ponytails tied with rubber bands and the stitching on their backs read PNJAMC.
House settled in between two of the bigger men luckily with an empty seat to either side of him and leaned forward on the counter trying to get the waitress's attention. Finally she walked hurriedly past sliding a single paged menu towards him and mumbling something about a special in his direction without slowing. She was followed immediately by a younger kid who pushed a glass of water towards him spilling a portion of its contents on the countertop. The kid's smile was friendly enough and he didn't seem too bothered by the flurry of activity behind him as the cook shouted at another waitress who was pulling plates of food off the line.
"Want coffee mister?" the kid asked already pulling a coffee cup from under the counter. House just nodded and watched as the kid sidled around the waitress with her hands full barely managing to avoid each other. She shot the young man a dirty look and hurried off with her load of food only to be instantly replaced with another much heavier set lady.
One of the guys close to House addressed her as Betty and she turned with a flushed grin. "Why Billy, it's been awhile since you stopped in to see me."
House had to hide his eye roll at the corny banter between the two, and instead found himself concentrating on the cup of coffee that had materialized in front of him. He held the cup between his hands beginning to feel the cold subside that had numbed him and was grateful for the heat.
House watched hungrily as Betty dished up a healthy slice of apple pie crumble with two scoops of ice cream which instantly began to melt down the sides, a generous portion of whipped cream on top and then set the works in front of his neighbor. Unable to catch Betty's eye House settled for flagging down the kid again and hooked a thumb towards the dwindling dessert.
"How do I get one of those?"
The kid looked over at the dessert that was now reduced to more of a semblance of thick soup rather than a pie and grinned knowingly. "That's the last of that pie today, Mister. Won't have anything but the frozen store bought variety now for at least a couple of hours," he finished casually glancing up at the clock as if to confirm his statement. "There's apple or lemon meringue," he added on a hopeful note.
House shook his head watching jealously as the last few remnants of the crumble was scooped up and slurped noisily. "Think I'll pass." The kid shrugged, turned in response to the voice bellowing from the back and darted away. Ducking expertly as tray of food passed over his head he ignored the scolding that followed him. Plates of the house special clinked together as soda splashed down the sides of the tall glass dousing mashed potatoes in thin syrup. Quickly scooping a healthy ladle of gravy over the potatoes, the waitress topped the spilled soda and hustled away, leaving House slightly amused.
Stepping away from the counter House made his way to the restroom, both patrons and staff deftly stepping out of the way of him and his cane.
The restrooms were tucked into a narrow hallway towards the back corner of the restaurant the door on the left read 'Men's' scrawled in white etching on a blue name plate, while the 'Women's' mirrored it in opposite colors across the way. Another door partially open at the end of the hallway stated 'Employee's Only' in white on black.
A loud voice was issuing from the open door and House couldn't help but overhear the one sided argument. Pausing a moment with his hand splayed against the bathroom door he stood listening.
"I have a business to run. I can't have you chasing off whenever you feel like it. And don't give me that excuse I've had plenty of notice. You know how hard it is to find a replacement that's competent, let alone someone that can cover your position." There was a slight pause, House imagining the speaker having to catch his breath. "I'm sorry," the voice stated, sounding anything but apologetic in its tone before continuing. "I can only let you off for two days. Take it or leave it." There was finality with the last words and House suddenly found himself face to face with the speaker.
A lumbering behemoth of a man, breathing hard from apparent exertion, that would have passed easily for a cook on any old Hollywood Naval movie, sans the cigar butt that wasn't hanging out of his jowls. He pushed past House who was already moving into the bathroom to allow space between them.
The sound of something large hitting the bathroom wall adjoining the break room followed by a muffled damn alerted House to the recipient's response.
Thinking about the ride back home, House quickly downed a couple of Vicodin. Another cup of coffee and he'd be set for the return trip he thought entering the hallway just as the opposite door opened and a smaller figure collided with him.
Dropping his cane he managed to grab the doorframe behind him shocked that her momentum was enough to knock him backwards. The snide comment dying on his lips as he found himself held tightly in an embrace the cane making a muted thump as it landed. She was soft in all the right places he noted and her head tucked under his chin smelled lightly of strawberries. Bracing himself with his left leg and her assistance he stood upright still clinging to the frame.
As she bent to retrieve his cane he let his eyes roam down over her back side admiring the contours under the uniform. He was still grinning when she held his cane out to him, looking him in the eye, not even having the decency to blush as his eyes retraced upwards.
"I'm sorry," she said softly then turned and left him standing there open-mouthed.
She continued walking away from him pretending not to hear.
"You can't just knock over a cripple and walk away!" he shouted after her thumping his cane a few times for effect. More than a few patrons turned to look his way then hastily found other things to occupy themselves with as House glared back, realizing she wasn't going to stop.
She had successfully disappeared by the time he'd been able to make is way to the front of the diner. Paying his tab he grabbed his helmet and hurried, as fast as a man with a can could, out to his bike.
Once outside House noted the Ducati was no longer parked amongst the few remaining bikes and for a moment he allowed himself a small smile of indulgence before shaking his head knowing the reality was far from what his imagination had conjured.
Feeling the cold on the ride back as the darkness settled in and brought lower temperatures, House was tired and more than slightly irritated there was no music to distract his thoughts of the woman from the diner and by the time he'd parked his bike and headed for the apartment House all but ignored Wilson who was pulling up to the curb.
"You went riding," exclaimed Wilson as he followed House into the apartment then dodged items of clothing House dropped along the way.
"Any other startling observations you'd care to impart?" House responded sarcastically as he slammed the bathroom door.
Wilson stood open-mouthed staring at the shut door before making his way to the refrigerator and shaking his head.
Wilson was putting a movie into the DVD player when House emerged again and limped his way over the sofa where he sank gratefully onto the end pushing garments out of the way and propped his leg onto the coffee table rubbing his thigh absentmindedly, thankful Wilson hadn't begun any lectures about his little adventure.
Without a word Wilson cleared himself a space on the sofa and took a seat at the opposite end.
"Pizza?" House half belched after a long swig of beer.
"About fifteen more minutes," Wilson commented dryly after consulting his watch, then grabbed his own bottle of beer off the table.
The only noise for the next few minutes was that of the newest release action movie blaring from the television.