Title: The Piano

Summary: House muses after the events of Moving the Chains. A piece with no ship whatsoever, just thoughts. Based off my own first thought when the sprinklers went off.

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me, but I would take House or, if that's not possible, I would take his piano.

Disclaimer to those expecting absolute factual accuracy in fanfiction: I really don't think there are too many possibilities for me to have screwed anything up in this one, as it's almost purely subjective, but if I did blow anything, I apologize. I am not a professional anything that applies here, although I suppose I'd qualify as semi-pro on music. Not piano, though. With pianos, I'm strictly amateur.


Even the key in the lock felt stiff, rusty, and out of place, as if it, too, were disabled. Once it had slipped into this knob easily, with no thought required, but no more. That life felt eons in the past. The door swung open, and House limped into his apartment, closing the door with a dull thud behind him.

The rooms were cold with the utilities off. The apartment felt overall past its usefulness, much like House himself did at times. But still, he let his eyes linger with a softening expression on the books, the art - every one with its story, every story absolutely at his mental fingertips. It might seem jumbled, but not one thing here was random.

And the piano. He walked over to it, caressing the ebony surface, flinching at the dust on it. He had come specifically to check on the piano, but instead of immediately playing, he found himself in the kitchen getting the dusting spray out from under the sink, then returning to polish the lid until he could see his reflection in it, a dim and distorted reflection in the black, but recognizably him. Finally, he set the dusting spray aside, having created one oasis of cleanliness in the abandoned apartment, and sat down at the bench, resting his hands on the keys, not playing yet, just feeling them.

"You're not abandoned," he said to the piano. It did not reply, of course. Its voice always had to be coaxed out of it, always reflecting his mood, never inserting its own or speaking when he wished silence. It was only one of the many qualities he loved about it.

Loved. Yes, he loved this construction of wood and wires. He wasn't sure how to define his feelings towards any of the people in his life at the moment, but he undoubtedly did love this instrument.

And he could have lost it. That was the chilling thought that had pulled him here tonight. When Wilson had hurried back down the hall after the sprinklers went off, his immediate thought for the flat screen, House had been still on the floor with his immediate thought pure gratitude that the one possession he prized above all was not in the loft, had not fallen victim to the unknown prankster. Prank was really too mild a word for Lucas' actions. Thousands and thousands of dollars of damage to the loft. The floors would need refinishing, the furniture, thankfully limited as yet, restoring at the minimum and possibly replacing if the dampness and subsequent mold could not be gotten out, the flat screen most likely ruined. His guitars had been in their cases, at least. But his first thought at the assault had been a flood of gratitude over the piano.

He started to play, letting the music wander with his mood. Why had it not been there yet? He definitely missed it, in fact worried about it with the utilities off, although the sturdy old building surrounding them still provided some shelter. It wasn't like it had been tossed out into the New Jersey winter. He had even considered moving it to the loft, but he had run into a vague desire to not move it over yet, and typically, he had immediately distracted himself with something else. House loved to dig into all puzzles except the gigantic one of his own feelings. No, there he was perfectly content to dodge instead of probing. The fact that he didn't want the piano over at the loft yet had been enough; he hadn't needed to define it.

Tonight, however, there was a new element involved, one so illogical that he simply had to dig further because the surface explanation did not make sense, much like his compulsion to identify where he had seen his soldier patient a few years ago, his refusal to accept that he had actually dreamed what was about to come true merely because it was about to come true, some sort of somnolent precognition. House refused to believe in precognition. Dealing with the present and the past were more than enough, thank you. Nobody got sneak previews of the future. It was totally illogical. As it had been with that previous case, with an eventual purely rational explanation for where he had seen his patient before. Pure chance that he had dreamed him that afternoon, but pure fact how he had known him. Who knows, maybe House had heard a news snippet that day as he walked by a TV, thus plunging his subconscious into military events and pulling a solider out of his mental file cabinet to star in his dream. The point was, it did make sense. It was not supernatural. It was pure coincidence on the timing.

So assuming the hypothesis that he did not have a premonition that his beloved piano would be in danger at the loft, why had he not wanted it there? Tonight, House needed that alternative explanation for its absence, just to convince himself that it existed. Delving as briefly as possible into his own feelings, much as he hated it, was less painful to him than admitting to supernatural powers and elements in the universe which could never be fully grasped, explained, and diagnosed.

His mind traveled with the music, unraveling the past. His affection for the instrument was not diminished. He had had a frightening dream one night in Mayfield that the locked piano was the result of his hallucination, that even when released he would never be able to play again. He shuddered, remembering how she had appeared beside the piano, taunting him. He looked up quickly, looking directly at the spot, convincing himself nothing was there. There had been a logical explanation - Vicodin combined with extreme stress and sleep deprivation. No, he did not blame the piano for Amber. He circled that thought mentally, inspecting it from all sides. True. He still loved the piano, still loved playing it, and he had missed it in the loft.

So why wasn't it there, if his feelings toward it had not changed? There had to be some answer besides premonition.

Maybe he still wasn't convinced how defined things were with Wilson, how welcome he was there, how long this would last until he was kicked out. House was enjoying the company - which thought itself scared him - but he also was forced to admit to himself a worry over when Wilson would hit the limit. Shortly before he had bought the loft, he had told House to take all his stuff and clear out. Moving the piano would be difficult and expensive. Why do it just for a temporary stay?

He ran a differential on that possibility for a while and conceded that it probably had some merit, but he still felt like he was missing a symptom, and he needed to define it, needed to prove that it was a rational motivation.

Maybe he wanted to keep the piano here to hold out the possibility of returning to his apartment someday. Hmmm. The tempo on the music slowed, becoming contemplative, then suddenly picked back up again. The thing was, House wasn't sure if he did want to come back here eventually. There were so many years of pain tied up in this apartment, from Stacy clear through hallucination Amber. The things in it were his treasures, but he wasn't incapable of picturing them in different surroundings someday. Just not yet.

But why not yet?

His fingers shifted again, starting a Bach piece, the elements of counterpoint contrasting and harmonizing with each other. He simply enjoyed the music for a minute, loving the precision and logical structure of Bach, and it wasn't until a few minutes later that he realized the piano had given him the answer.

Harmony between two parts. His life as yet was a dichotomy, past and present split in two with a barrier wall of Mayfield in between. He was still working on establishing communication, much less harmony, between all that had happened and what he was working on now. He was working on things, really trying in therapy, staying off Vicodin to this point, but he also felt still tangled in the web of former events. The past could not be escaped. Wilson and his conversations with his dead ghost every night, his obvious desire for House to apologize to him as if things had been one-sided while not seeing that he himself had some serious issues and needed help. Cuddy and her seeming inability to return to the give-and-take on the job that House missed so much from years ago, presumably because she could not forgive him for those delusional moments. How ironic, that the one thing she seemed unable to forgive him fully for was the one thing that was not his fault. He had been ill, not in control of his actions. But the past was swirling around his new present, and he was having trouble establishing harmony between them, possibly contributed to by most of the people in his life having the same difficulty. It wasn't that he wanted to leave the past behind. It was that he wanted to leave some parts, admittedly large parts, of the past behind while holding others, and he couldn't do it, any more than Wilson or Cuddy could. He smiled suddenly, seeing the irony. They were having the same problem in their own ways. All three of them struggling, but not able to talk about it with each other. How screwed up was that?

That was it. Trouble merging the past and the present. It hadn't been a premonition, it had just been confusion over the track of his life currently. That made sense. Perfect, logical sense.

Maybe someday he would move the piano to the loft. Maybe someday he would move it to a new location entirely, either with or without Wilson. He might even wind up back here, although that choice was losing its attractiveness lately. Meanwhile, he would continue to visit it occasionally, assuring it that it wasn't abandoned. He could not leave the past behind, not when it contained something as beautiful as this instrument as well as all the pain and misunderstandings. He just needed to learn how to incorporate the healthy parts of his past, overcome the bad ones, and move on.

Wow. Playing the piano was as good as a session with Nolan. House finished his current piece, then stood up and admired the gleaming, dust-free surface. Dissonances resolving into harmony. The piano knew how to do it already. He wished it were that easy for himself. He gave the instrument a final, loving pat, then left, turning back in the apartment door for another look, reassuring himself that it was here, waiting, until he was ready.

Even if there had been a totally logical explanation, he was very glad that the piano had survived.