SUMMARY: No direction home.
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson, OFC
RATING: R for language and themes (gen fic).
WARNINGS: Details the aftermath of events in Bad Company, a rough, violent story. Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The pieces of this shattered story are numbered. The first number signifies the number of days that have elapsed since the original event in Bad Company; the second number signifies when the fic occurs during that day.
It wasn't that he was trying to be mean. All he'd done was ask (all right, maybe in a tone he shouldn't have used, but there's such a delicious sense of turnabout in all of this) whether Jimmy had done his PT today.
Lemme alone, House. You've had enough practice at that.
He should turn to the right, toward the track, just like Wilson said.
Go play with your new friends. 'M sure they miss you.
Of course they don't, and he damn sure doesn't miss them, but he should go anyway just because Wilson said so. That'd teach him, wouldn't it? Yeah. Because that lesson went so well the first time, right?
He turns left instead, westward, out of town. The sun is down behind the trees, its glare giving way to a velvety light that shades the grass and sky with a soft, hazy gold. It should be beautiful; it is beautiful in fact. House glances downward and notes that the orange sides of his bike seem to glow from within.
The Honda whines like an enormous, angry, fiery wasp as he opens up the throttle.
It's not enough. The powerful engine, the hollow rush of air over his helmet, the constantly shifting feel of the asphalt beneath the tires—not enough this time. He doesn't even know where the hell he's going. Certainly not to the hospital (that, too, would've been the right turn he'd chosen not to take). There's no point going to a bar. Even if he wanted to drink—and he doesn't, right now—he'd then be unable to get himself home. He'd have to call a cab, and that would mean Wilson would know what he'd done, and—no. It's not that it matters if Wilson knows that he gets drunk now and then. It's just that if Wilson picks at him tonight, and House is drunk, there's no telling what House will say to him.
It might sound something like fuck you. And that was exactly why House left the scene, left Wilson there to stew through the evening on his own.
There are green hills all around House now, hills dotted with big round bales of hay. He can smell mown grass and the occasional, somewhat less pleasant scent of livestock. He rounds a curve, leaning into the force of the turn, and sees an old red barn set back from the road.
Fighting a wave of dizziness, he twists the throttle back, slows to a crawl and pulls into the nearest disused driveway. The gravel's packed tight with clay and weeds; it holds the bike easily, provides a good surface for the kickstand. It's an entry to a pasture, that's all. House pulls off his helmet and stumps over to the fence, still feeling as if the ground isn't quite as solid as he'd like. He leans on the old gate, listening to the rusted hinges creak. A dark horse is watching him from halfway across the field, its head held high, ears pricked.
House doesn't see any cows.
There's a mourning dove calling from the power lines across the road. Somewhere else, not as close, an owl hoos softly in response.
This what you wanted? 'M just like you now. Wilson's words sink ever more deeply into House's mind, down his throat, into his stomach.
No, it wasn't what he wanted. And if he's very, very lucky, Wilson was lying and he'll never be like House. It's too hard a thing even to think of, Wilson all shot through with House's anger, his bitterness. What House wanted—and this is pretty damn sad—was his friend. Not a warden, or a hopeless lying martyr. Most certainly House hadn't wanted a therapist or a parent or any of the other crappy things Wilson had tried to be, screwing up House's whole life in the process. What House had wanted was for Wilson to stop all that and just—stop it.
A gentle sound makes House look up. He hadn't noticed the approaching horse, which is now just a yard away and stretching out its nose, cautiously puffing and sniffing the air around him. It has a long forelock, and deep brown eyes that look black in the gathering dusk. It's tall and sleek, a Thoroughbred perhaps. House thinks of chasing it off, but he's curious now. The horse, a dark bay gelding, lazily shakes its head as it steps forward.
It delivers a swift, hard bite to House's forearm and then wheels merrily, squeals and runs.
He's startled and his arm hurts like hell, but House understands. The damn horse wants to play with him. Tag, you're It.
"Sorry, Wildfire. Can't keep up. You'll have to pick a non-cripple next time." So much for the peaceful countryside.
He can't even remember how he got so far out of civilization, but getting back is easy enough: point the bike eastward and go. Sooner or later he'll find one of the familiar north/south roads that'll take him home.
That thought isn't as pleasant as it once was.
Home means the sound of that blender, the endless yakking of the television, and Wilson's hollow silence underneath the noise. Home used to be his refuge, and now it's like being stretched out on an altar, waiting for his best friend to go all ancient-Aztec and cut out his heart.
Five minutes away, he spots Mama Leoni's and realizes that he's hungry. He's hungry, dammit, and Wilson will just have to deal with his limitations. If House can't get anything else that he wants, he can get this.
"Give me that," she snaps at him, her clean, blunt-nailed fingers snatching the folded paper out of his hand. She flips it open and squints down at the recipe and then up again at him, like she's comparing his face to a photo on a wanted poster. "No," she says. "No, I can't make this for you, Biker Boy. I don't cook swill." She scowls and wrinkles her nose, wads up the paper and tosses it into the nearest trash bin. "You even read it? That idiot said to use Campbell's tomato soup. And paprika, for God's sake. What's wrong with people? Hm?"
"Don't ask me," House retorts, "unless you have all night."
"So, what? A Biker Boy Special and ... how much soup? A quart?"
"Yeah. That'd work."
"Good, then. I'll send Toby over in an hour." She starts on a beeline for the kitchen, but he calls out to stop her.
"Fifteen for the pie. You stiff Toby his tip again, I swear I'm putting anchovies on your next one." She'll do it, too. Toby's a twerp, but you don't mess with Mama Leoni, and he's probably her nephew or something.
"And the soup?"
"Is a mystery," she says, "'cause you don't eat soup. Who's it for? Somebody get sick?"
"Guy with wires in his jaw. My friend." Short brunettes, House thinks, are entirely too perceptive. Especially if they're Sicilian.
"That soup'll be too thick for him. Unless he's lost a tooth or two?"
House winces and nods. How is she so familiar with the problems of broken jaws? He decides he doesn't want that information. He'd rather continue to know her as Pizza Lady, and let her call him Biker Boy, and leave it at that. When he looks again she's standing with her hands on her hips, dark brown eyes assessing him from head to toe.
"Get out of here," she commands, "and you let me worry about the soup."
Wilson has hardly said a word since House got back. That isn't very surprising, considering that for all Wilson knows, House did go to the track. Spite is an ugly thing, and they both know House isn't above it.
He may not have gone to the track, but he doesn't have to tell Wilson that. If Wilson thinks House is that stupid, that unable to learn, it's his own damn fault.
Toby shows up with the pizza and the soup, and Wilson doesn't even turn around to see what's happening. He's either sulking or he's half asleep. Too bad, because the delivery kid is always amusing. He wears a dress shirt and tie on his pizza rounds, and manages to get tomato sauce on himself every time. Moron.
"Put that in the kitchen," House tells him, and Toby eagerly does. You'd never know he'd been stiffed last time. That kind of cheerfulness is not rational; it has to be a sign of mental deficiency. When he returns, House shoves a ten dollar bill at him. "Tell the Pizza Lady to call off the hounds," he says.
"Sure thing!" chimes Toby, as House practically shoves him out the door.
When House looks back into the living room, he sees Wilson glaring at him, clearly pissed off at the unfairness of life. There's Leoni's pizza on hand and all poor Jimmy has had is yet another nutritious smoothie. The hell with him. He can bitch about unfairness on the day he wakes up and realizes that he'll always, forever, as long as he lives, be in pain.
House has an offering that will probably please him, but the God of the Guilty Conscience can just damn well wait.