House recognized the immaculately starched and perfectly coiffed figure hovering in front of his desk. Wilson. It was too early for lunch. Could be a new case, but Wilson was empty-handed and, in any event, a case could wait until he'd reached the next level on his Gameboy.
Wilson bounced lightly on his heels then cleared his throat. House pushed the pause button on his game and raised an eyebrow.
"Wanna get away?" Wilson asked.
Right. "In case you hadn't noticed," House replied, pointing at his damaged leg propped up on his desk, "I'm not much into downhill these days."
"Not to ski. It's my parents' cabin," Wilson said, as if that made all the difference in the world.
"Are your parents there?"
"Of course not. You know they live in Wilkes-Barre."
"Okay," House drew out the word. "You got me. Why go to your parents' ski cabin this time of year other than to ski?"
"There are things to do other than ski. Bonnie and I went there just to relax."
"I'm already relaxed! House laced his fingers behind his head and leaned further back in his chair, feet still resting on the desk.
Wilson's eyes flicked from the Gameboy, to the clean white board, to the recliner, to the IPod headphones. "Sorry, I forget that, unlike most people, you only work to relieve the tedium of relaxation."
House tilted his head in mock acknowledgment. "And because it's the only way I can get Cuddy to pay me." He sat up in his chair. "So what's the real reason?"
"Real reason for what?"
"For wanting me to go with you to this cabin. James Wilson Boy Wonder and first class workaholic never takes time off to relax. There's more to it than that."
"Okay." Wilson raised his hands in mock surrender. "My parents are moving to a retirement community. They're not using the cabin and my brother and I don't want it. So I need to clean out all the personal stuff before they sell it."
"So it's not a getaway weekend?"
It was Wilson's turn to look flustered. "Yes. Uh, I mean . . . no." He shook he head slightly as if correcting himself. "I just thought you might enjoy getting out of town for a couple of days. And I would . . . enjoy the company."
House steepled his fingers. It all made sense and yet it didn't. And he was all about having things make sense.
"I get it." Wilson rushed to fill the silence. "Bad idea. No TiVo, not even sure the TV works. There's not much to do while I sort through cupboards and boxes of family stuff—"
Wilson stopped talking, shook his head and looked at him. "What?"
"I said I'll go."
The hint of a smile crossed his features. "To relax." And, he thought to himself, to see what secrets might be lurking in those cupboards and boxes.
"Your car isn't exactly cut out for the snow," House said from the Volvo's passenger seat.
"Which isn't a problem, given that it's not snowing." Wilson's eyes remained glued to the road as the car worked its way up a steep mountain incline.
"But it could snow." They'd left the office early Friday afternoon and had made good progress out of the city. Still, they faced another two hours of mountain terrain to reach the cabin. The sky was overcast, heavy clouds making it seem later in the day than it actually was.
"Not in the forecast; I checked." Of course he did. "Besides," Wilson continued, "cabin's self-sufficient. Stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, fireplace, even a washer and dryer. And lots of canned goods – your kind of place."
House wasn't sure that any place without 24-hour room service and rent-a-porn movies was his kind of place. "Shouldn't we have brought a U-Haul?"
"Most of the stuff stays. Apparently, they sell these things fully furnished. It's really only personal stuff that might be lying around; should all fit in the trunk.
"When's the last time you came up here?"
"Three, four years ago."
"Yeah. Thought a romantic getaway weekend was just what we needed."
Wilson gave him a stern look. "What do you think?"
"Not paradise mountain, obviously."
"A remote cabin is great when you want romance and seclusion," Wilson continued. "When you're at least talking to each other. The problem is that, when you start arguing, there's no place to go. It's worse than a prison."
House gave him a sharp sidelong glance. The Tritter fiasco remained a partially healed wound, scabbed over but festering beneath. As with so many things between them, they'd talked over it, around it, beneath it, but never actually discussed it. Too much discussion wasn't . . . wasn't their way. It could only complicate things.
The car approached an object in the road. A dead raccoon. Wilson swerved to avoid it.
"It was already dead," House said, righting himself in the seat as the car veered back into the lane.
"The animal that you almost killed us to avoid hitting."
"Just because it's dead doesn't mean I need to squish it."
"It wouldn't have noticed."
The rode in silence for a few minutes.
"You haven't been back since Julie?" House asked.
"To the cabin? No."
"That bad, huh?"
Wilson sighed with exasperation and stole a quick look at him. "House, are you going to spend the weekend psychoanalyzing me?"
House's eyes didn't move. "It's why I came," he replied, allowing a trace of smugness to creep into his voice.
"Well, it's not why I invited you."
"I know, I'm here to relax."
"And maybe talk."
House shot him another dark glance. "Talk about what?"
"What we've avoided talking about for the last six months."
"I haven't avoided talking about anything," House said.
"You're avoiding now."
House was suddenly grateful for the winding pavement that kept Wilson's eyes on the road. "Is this part of your therapy?" he asked. "Your assignment for the weekend?"
"No and no. I just thought—oh never mind."
House stared straight ahead, fingers twitching in his lap. "So talk."
"About whatever you're so anxious to talk about. I'm all ears."
"I'm not the only one who needs to do the talking."
"So I'll talk." He faced Wilson. "What again am I supposed to talk about?"
"House, we can't talk now. I'm driving."
"You've been driving – and we've been talking – for the last two hours."
"That was . . . a different kind of talk."
"So, you want to talk, a special kind of talk that you can't talk about and can't even listen to when you're driving—"
"Forget it. Just forget it." Wilson's eyes remained on the road and House was left to rethink his agreement to come on this trip.