Title: Headwall 1/3

Author: Maineac

Genre: House/Wilson gen (friendship); angst/humor

Rating: K+

Summary: What a stupid move it had been, to hope that House would not find out that he was going to the conference in Aspen.

Timeline: Set in January, 2006, the middle of Season 2

Chapter One

House tossed his tray down on the cafeteria table, and pulled out the chair opposite Wilson. Then he fished in his jacket pocket and produced two tickets, which he waved slowly under Wilson's nose. "Patriots-Jets," he said in a seductive voice, then passed the tickets under his own nose, inhaling deeply as if they were expensive cigars. "Mmmm. Fifty-yard line. Selling the extra ticket to the highest bidder. Do I hear $150?"

"Next Sunday? Whoa, I'd love to. Really. But you need to give me more warning. I, uh,… I'm tied up that weekend."

House gave him an appraising look. "Sure. Got to stay home and make nice with the in-laws, serve tea, go to the museum, is that it?"

"Yeah. Something like that."

"Well, I'll pretend to believe that. And you can pretend that you don't care that I'll find someone else to sit on the fifty with."

At that moment Blaine, an oncologist whom House went out of his way to annoy whenever possible, paused as he passed by with his lunch tray. Wilson braced himself as he saw House narrow his eyes and prepare to scare him off.

"Blaine, just the man I'm looking for," said House loudly. "Listen, I've been meaning to talk to you about my prostate. You got a minute?" Blaine glared at House and then paused and massaged Wilson's shoulder in a good-old-boy style that House was sure to find particularly offensive. "Peeing," House continued in a louder voice, "is really—"

"Sixteen inches of new powder this morning, my friend," said Blaine to Wilson. "And more in the forecast. It's going to be sweet!" He smiled thinly at House, and then moved on.

The silence was made worse by the chatter around them in the cafeteria. Finally House spoke.

"You know, those conferences are pure graft and corruption. Four days in Aspen, three hours of lectures in the morning, unlimited skiing all afternoon, luxury hotel--all courtesy of our friendly mega-pharmaceuticals. Pass the bill on to the consumers. Doesn't your conscience bother you? Oh, that's right—it does. Otherwise you wouldn't have lied to me about it."

"Greg—"

"Now you're going to say, why don't I come too? Chum around for a few days with medical big wigs from all over. Maybe go tubing on the kiddie slope. No thanks, buddy. I've got bigger fish to fry." He stood up, leaving his lunch behind, and limped out of the room, making a large detour around Blaine's table.

Wilson sat looking at their untouched meals. What a stupid move it had been to hope that House would not find out that he was going to the conference in Aspen. Yet it was one of the many painful areas in their friendship that neither had been able to broach since House's infarction. It was an unavoidable fact that their early friendship had formed around a couple of wild skiing weekends they had taken together in Vermont. House's reckless abandon on skis was the perfect complement to Wilson's flawless form, which translated into an ability to ski almost any slope the mountain could throw at the two of them, each one egging the other on to harder and harder slopes. It was Wilson who'd taught House how to ski moguls and how to jump. It was House who'd first dared him to go off piste, into the woods, skiing glades and back trails.

House could ski anything steep and icy, Wilson could ski anything steep and mogully. Between the two of them, as House once said, they could rule the world.

The only problem about skiing with House was that he was easily bored, especially on the smaller mountains of the East Coast. Once he had skied all the hardest trails, the black diamonds and double-black diamonds, he got restless. That's when he pulled stunts like skiing off-piste, trying to learn ever-more outrageous jumps, or even, on one memorable occasion when he broke a binding, skiing the rest of the day on one ski. Eventually he declared the mountains of the East too easy and announced that he and James should take a joint vacation in Aspen, along with Julie and Stacy, who were by then part of the scene. It had been a perfect week, at the end of which House had pronounced Aspen to be heaven, and they had all vowed to return every year. But that spring he'd suffered the infarction, and his skis had remained at the back of his closet, along with his golf clubs and other sports gear, ever since.

They both knew it was ridiculous for Wilson to forsake skiing just so House's nose wouldn't be rubbed in what he was missing. And yet that didn't make moments like this any easier for either of them. It felt intensely disloyal. There was no way around it.

Well, evasion hadn't worked. So maybe it was time to tackle it head on. Not just time to do it—way past time to do it. Wilson stuck his head into House's office on his way home.

"Hey," he said. House glanced up from his computer, and then back down at it.

"Come to apologize and atone? Wasn't Yom Kippur last month?"

Wilson entered and sat in his usual chair. "This is stupid, you know."

House typed a few words into the computer. "Something I've always wanted to ask you." He shot a glance at Wilson. "How did a Jew get to be such a good skier? Isn't it a WASP sport? And Jews don't do sports, period."

Wilson just raised his eyebrows at him. House continued. "Name a single famous Jewish athlete— aside from the Israelis who were murdered at Munich. You can't, can you? A basketball player? Nope. Baseball player? Nope. Jews love baseball, don't they, but name me one Jewish baseball player."

Wilson sighed. House was so good at misdirection. "Jews can't be good at everything," he said "We have to leave something for the goys. Besides, I had a lot of expensive lessons. You, on the other hand, had no right to be a good skier." He didn't, either, living as he had in hot climates most of his life, and too poor, on his father's military salary, for the expensive sport. But apparently two years of living in Germany, close enough to the Alps to be able to beg, borrow or steal some time on the slopes, had been enough to create a passion for the sport.

House was silent. He made a pretense of going back to his computer. Wilson figured two could play at this game and determined to wait House out. At last House stopped typing, rubbed the stubble on his chin, and sat staring into the middle distance.

"God, I miss it," he said, swiveling to look at James for the first time since he'd entered the room. "Almost as much as I miss cigarettes. I dream about skiing. I dream about smoking, too. Weird, hunh? But kind of stupid for you to think you have to miss out on it too. I mean, I'm all for solidarity, but if the shoe was on the other foot you know I'd be out there every weekend, not caring a damn about you."

"Yeah, I know. You always were a heartless bastard."

"Thanks. So, go have a good time prostituting yourself for the drug companies. Just remember to eat your heart out about the Jets game."

"Roger that."

Wilson hesitated, feeling that it had all been too easy. The phone rang on House's desk. House checked the caller ID and lifted the receiver.

"House," he said. He listened for a few moments, then covered the receiver and nodded to Wilson.

"Sorry," he said, dismissing him. "Gotta take this call."

Wilson shook his head, still a little worried by how easy it had all been. Ridiculously easy. As he left, House was still on the phone.

"Ketamine?" he heard him say. "Talk to me, baby."

TBC