"With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I'd often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off." - Jack Kerouac
House let Wilson pick out the bikes. Once he saw them, he blamed his poor judgment on endorphins.
"Endorphins?" Wilson loosened the strap that tied his bike down to the trailer.
"Sure. From the Greek. For the natural high you get from faking your own ending," House said. "Either that, or post-traumatic stress from surviving a deadly fire. Pick whichever one you like."
Wilson looked over his shoulder at the truck driver who'd delivered the bikes, probably checking to see if he was paying attention, House thought. The guy hadn't even blinked, but Wilson would likely still give him a big tip, just in case.
"They're classic American touring bikes." Wilson rolled his bike down the ramp and onto the pavement.
"Classic," House said, "from the Greek, meaning boring." House popped his own bike onto its kickstand and looked at the two bikes side-by-side. They were nearly identical, each with chrome accents and a soot black teardrop of a gas tank. House's sat a little lower, which House hoped would mean he'd find it a little easier to swing his leg over at the end of a long day. The saddles were designed for comfort and hours in the saddle, rather than the aerodynamics of his old Honda.
They were stripped down to the basics. No windshields, no saddlebags. There would only be enough room to carry whatever they could stash beneath the saddle or strap onto the back. Just as well, House thought. He'd already let everything go nearly a week ago, gone like the dust after a late-summer storm.
Well, not quite everything. That first night, while Wilson and Foreman sat shiva in the dark - waiting for the news they'd both expected for years- House had gone to his apartment one last time. He filled a bag with some clean clothes and stuffed his pockets with all the cash and Vicodin he'd stashed away just in case of an emergency.
Once he was done, he'd stood in the doorway for a few seconds, let his eyes take in everything else he'd once cared about - the piano, the guitars, the books, the TV. It turned out to be easier to walk way than he'd expected.
He'd had enough money to pay for a cheap motel, food for a few days and two pre-paid cellphones. He'd also slipped one of the funeral home workers a couple of twenties to slide one of the phones into Wilson's pocket while he stayed out of sight and listened.
Wilson had paid since then - for House's hotel, the take-out pizza, the beer - and the bikes. And now that hefty tip to the driver that House predicted.
House looked over at the bikes again. "I'll need at least 200," he said.
"What for?" Wilson closed his wallet, but didn't put it away.
"OK, make it 300."
Wilson shoved the wallet in his pocket.
Wilson straddled his bike and grabbed his helmet. He fiddled with the clasp, trying to get the fit of the strap just right.
"You'll get it back, once your guy sells my place and settles the estate," House pointed out.
"That could take longer than I've got."
"You'll get more than that just from the piano, and that won't take as long to sell."
Wilson stopped toying with the clasp.
"I need a new helmet," House said.
"I got you one."
"Yeah, I noticed. It matches yours." House plopped the helmet Wilson had brought him on top of his bike. "I need a real helmet."
"That won't cost 400 bucks."
"No, but I can think of someone who will."
"Better not be one of your regulars," Wilson said. "It'd shock the hell out of them. There were a half-a-dozen at your funeral."
"I noticed. Sweet girls."
"They paid for a wreath."
"I thought the white roses were a little over the top."
"I told your Mom they were from some of the nurses."
"She buy it?"
Wilson shook his head. He turned the ignition switch on the bike and fingered the start button, but didn't start it yet. "I don't have $400 on me."
House held back the grin for a moment. "I know where you can find a bank."
Wilson handed over the cash after he managed to drive the bike the two miles to the local branch. He only stalled it out twice in the parking lot, and another three times at the red lights.
The sun had gone down by the time they made it back to the hotel. Wilson parked the bike beneath a street lamp, popped it up on its stand, but didn't get off it yet.
"It's going to take me a few more days," he said, "to wrap things up."
"It's -" Wilson took off his helmet, stared down at the bike for a few moments. "Complicated." He made a vague gesture to everything around them. "Everything."
"Your patients will be fine."
"They're not the only things I'm leaving."
House wondered how many times Wilson had stopped by to see his parents, just one last time. How long he'd waited to tell Danny. Hell, he'd probably drafted a long apology to each ex-wife about why he wouldn't see them again.
"Not getting cold feet, are you?"
Wilson smiled then, and took the key out of the ignition. "Not a chance." He swung his leg over the bike. "Don't let anything happen to it before I get back."
"Not a chance," House said.
Three days later, Wilson stood with his hands on hips, staring at House's bike.
"Four hundred bucks?" he asked, "to paint on some flames?"
"Of course not." House stroked the tank's side. "Do you know how many colors and coats of paint it takes to get flames to look right? I only had them throw on a coat of gold." He reached into his pocket. "I needed the rest for this."
He held out a driver's license and Wilson nabbed it from House's fingers. He stared at the name. "Oliver Mo -" he stopped himself and stared at House. "Wasn't that your last patient's name?"
House shrugged. "Only fair. He used my name."
"Because you," Wilson lowered his voice, "swapped your dental records for his."
"And he ended up with a lot better funeral than he would have if he'd just been another drug addict John Doe who OD'd in the streets."
Wilson shook his head. He looked at the license, flicked it between his fingers. "It sure looks real."
"Because it is."
Wilson raised his eyebrows.
"Stopped at the MVC, told them all about how I'd lost my license in a fire," House took the license back from Wilson. "The best lies are the ones that are closest to the truth."
"And no one thought it was strange that you didn't look anything like the old photo?"
"That's why it cost so much," House said. "Special handling charges to make sure no one asked too many questions. And why I could only afford one coat of paint."
Wilson held up his hands, seemed to be about to start a half-dozen different lectures before he shook his head and laughed instead. He grabbed his helmet.
"So, Oliver," he finally said. "You ready to go?"