"I hate holidays," House said the Monday after the Thanksgiving long weekend. It was December 1st, the start of the worst month of all; giddy expectations, over-consumption, and inevitable disappointment. It was no wonder it was tagged on at the end. Starting fresh in January was a relief.

"No, you don't," Wilson replied. "You milk them for all they're worth, even the ones that have nothing to do with you."

"You're just pissed because I got Culture Day off and you didn't. Living in Japan for two years totally counts." He'd celebrated peace and quiet and freedom from the office, and watching a full season of Simpsons episodes was as good a way as any of promoting culture.

"You didn't get it off, you just didn't show up for work and I covered for you with Cuddy." Wilson tried to look disapproving, but only managed to look mildly envious. "By that logic, I should get Boxing Day off. I lived in Canada longer than you lived in Japan."

"Bad choice. Boxing Day isn't an official stat. Go for the extra day in July instead." Not that it was advice Wilson would take. He'd only taken Thursday off, instead of the glorious four-day weekend, opting to be on-call so that colleagues who needed to travel out-of-state had enough time for a proper visit. Or that's what he'd claimed when he told House he was unavailable for a road trip to Atlantic City.

On the bright side, it meant that Wilson had hosted Thanksgiving dinner, instead of making the trek to his parents' place, or worse, his in-laws. At least when Wilson visited the parental units, House received an invitation and/or a care package. He'd received an invitation to Wilson's dinner, but had told Wilson he had other plans, which they both knew was a brazen lie. He'd shown up at the last minute with the intention of ruining Julie's seating plan, only to discover that there was a place reserved for him. Wilson was a killjoy.

He'd also bought a turkey big enough to feed the Plymouth Colony. Better yet, Julie's parents were visiting their other virago, so Julie had left on Friday afternoon for a visit, leaving Wilson free of matrimonial, if not work, bonds. Denied the delights of Atlantic City, House had made himself comfortable on Wilson's sofa for the weekend, watching big-screen TV and working his way through plates of leftovers. Which made returning to work on Monday even more depressing than usual.

"Neither is Black Friday, but anyone not in retail still takes it off. I don't know why you're complaining," Wilson said, reaching for another chart. "It's not like you're actually doing any work, unless annoying me is part of your contract."

"It's an implied duty." House was fairly certain that entertaining him was part of Wilson's contract. Cuddy was too smart not to have written that in, once she realized Wilson didn't actually object to spending time with him. He spied a card tucked behind one of Wilson's fishing trophies. "Are you getting Christmas cards already? That's indecent."

Wilson glanced behind him. "It's a Thanksgiving card. Hallmark has sentimental slogans for every occasion."

"Do they have I'm sorry you're dying cards, because maybe you should get a bulk order of those." Wilson didn't flinch, but House gave himself a point anyway for making him look away.

"Are you just here to bring light and joy into my life, or do you have a deeper purpose?" Wilson asked, gripping his pen just a little tighter than necessary.

"Maybe that is my deeper purpose," House countered. It wasn't, of course. He had more tangible goals in mind. "Did you bring me a turkey sandwich?"

"My mother warned me this would happen," Wilson replied. "When you feed an animal, it becomes incapable of surviving on its own in the wild."

Unless, of course, that animal's natural prey was people-pleasing oncologists. House congratulated himself on having found a particularly defenceless example to feed off. "Then it would be cruel to force me to look after myself now." The cafeteria was a dangerous place for anyone to graze.

Wilson shrugged. "It's a harsh world out there. Come back at lunchtime, and I'll see what I have."

"But I'm hungry now."

"It's ten o'clock in the morning." Wilson seemed to think that had some kind of relevance. "You only got here half an hour ago."

"And I haven't eaten yet." Unless you counted coffee; which House did, but Wilson didn't. It was hard enough getting out of bed in the morning. Even standing in the kitchen long enough to prepare toast was too much to handle before the Vicodin kicked in.

"You're pathetic," Wilson grumbled. He pulled open a desk drawer and grabbed a granola bar. "Here. Eat this and leave me alone for a couple of hours." He flipped over a page and frowned. "Don't you have fellows to annoy? I bet you can browbeat them into feeding you."

Hogan had gotten the point in his fellowship where he refused to do anything for House that wasn't patient-related, but Chase was a soft touch and would probably jump on the chance to do a cafeteria run, especially if he could get an extended coffee break out of it. That didn't mean Wilson was off the hook, though. "It sounds to me like you don't want me here. I'm hurt."

"I don't, and you're not."

The words were exactly what House had expected, but something in Wilson's tone pricked the hairs at the back of House's neck. He grabbed the file Wilson was reading and scanned the test results. Another unlucky winner in the cancer sweepstakes. "T-cell leukemia?" he asked, looking for the immunophenotyping report. "Could be S├ęzary syndrome," he offered, noting a mention of skin lesions.

"That was Markinson's initial diagnosis," Wilson replied, "but it was an atypical presentation, so he asked for a second opinion. I rechecked the cell morphology. They're prolymphocytic."

That dropped the median survival rate to seven months, assuming Markinson hadn't wasted them away before he brought the file to Wilson. "There have been some good results with Campath-1H," House said, remembering a study he'd read in one of Wilson's journals.

"Which is what I'm going to tell him when he arrives for his 10:30 appointment." Wilson gestured for House to give him the file. "I can't entertain you right now, House. I need to be able to give my patient my full attention."

"Right. Because it takes so much concentration to tell a guy he's got less than a year to live. You should be able to do that in your sleep by now. If you had those cards, you wouldn't have to say anything at all." But he put the file back on Wilson's desk and walked to the door. "Grab me after T-cell guy leaves. I'll be starving by then." He knew he'd be able to talk Wilson into an early and extended lunch. Wilson always welcomed a distraction after delivering a death sentence.

He hesitated at the door and looked back. Wilson was studying the file again, scrawling notes in the indecipherable handwriting that he thought made him seem more like a doctor, as if the lab coat and the multiple diplomas weren't enough to hammer the point home. Wilson glanced up and waved him away with an annoyed frown, but it wasn't enough to disguise the bleak expression in his eyes.

House closed the door and leaned on his cane. On Sunday evening, they'd watched a Monty Python marathon, and Wilson had laughed so hard during The Meaning of Life that he'd fallen off the couch. House loved the sound of Wilson's laughter; the pure, unrestrained kind, not the bitter chuckle that punctuated so many of their conversations. He had a feeling he wouldn't be hearing it anytime soon.

When he got back to the Diagnostics department, Cuddy was waiting for him with a file and an ultimatum. Normally, House refused to bow to administrative pressure on a matter of principle, but he was a sucker for foamy urine, especially when it was tied to approval of his expense account. At least it would keep his mind off his stomach until Wilson was free.

The patient had other ideas, however, and decided to crash during an MRI, which was more of a distraction than House had needed. By the time they got the patient stabilized and ruled out the simple kidney infection that House had initially diagnosed, it was late in the evening and Wilson was gone for the day.