A strange little short story based off no particular episode, just all of S6.

It is not a one shot. It isn't long, though. Please be nice.

House and company are not mine, etc., etc., and so forth.

I don't know if the dates work; if not pretend they do. I know the song is older, but it could have been played as an old classic at a concert in their college days. Shoot, people still play it now sometimes. At least I've heard it on the radio, thus the root for this story. Also, I don't have an Ipod, so forgive any Ipod technical errors.

***

House sat on the floor in his office, his blue eyes focused far into the distance. The music through his Ipod buds was a river, carrying him along in its current, but like most things involving House, it was a contrary river, flowing backwards. It led him not to the future but to the past, as much as he tried to fight it and move forward. He felt lately sometimes that he was swimming against the current, struggling to make any sort of progress, fighting on alone, while the people around him seemed oblivious, floating easily on boats, defying the current that was such an obstacle for him alone. They laughed and talked among themselves, sharing picnic lunches, enjoying an afternoon out on the water, never looking down or noticing the man trying so hard to catch a firm hold on a boat or a dock somewhere. No hand extended to help him out of the water.

Well, okay, one hand. Sort of, sometimes. Wilson tried at least sometimes in his blundering, psychoanalyzing, Wilsonian way, and while part of it annoyed House, part of him was grateful. His words prior to the surgery had been true. Without Wilson, he would be totally alone right now.

Because she wasn't there anymore. The problem wasn't even Lucas, really. House knew that Cuddy would eventually see how shallow Lucas was, would eventually get bored with his facade of dependability and good ol' boyness. No, Cuddy needed someone to challenge her, to push her. She thrived on the challenges. Lucas would eventually wear off.

House wished he could say the problem was Lucas, but he sensed that it ran much deeper. She simply could not get over his psychotic break, get over the balcony declaration and the scene later in her office. She had given up on him. Even their working relationship was so stiff these days, so awkward, and any time he tried to recapture it, even merely the give-and-take of working with her, she either went distant and cold, or she lashed out with a fierceness that was totally not Cuddy. She had always stood beside him, even if not romantically. After Mayfield, their friendship was broken, and all of his efforts to fix it had failed so far.

Yes, she had given up on him. He probably deserved it, but he wished that they could have a real conversation, that she would accept him. That they could be friends again. That the whole last year, scratch that, the whole last two years, had never happened. Rewind past Mayfield, rewind past Kutner, rewind past Amber.

Rewind to Vicodin?

No. He closed his eyes as the song played on loop on his Ipod. Losing touch with reality had scared him like nothing else in his life. He knew that he wouldn't go back to Vicodin.

But there were a rare few parts of his past, like diamonds glittering in mud, that he desperately wanted to go back to.

"House."

It took several repetitions before the fact that he was being called registered over the music in his ears and the rushing river of regret in his head. He blinked, focusing, and suddenly realized that Cuddy was standing in front of him, staring down at the corner behind his desk where he was on the floor. He straightened up abruptly, too abruptly, and his leg yelped. He couldn't resist one quick rub at it before he heaved himself to his feet, using the desk as an aid. "New case?" he said, nodding toward the file in her hands. Of course it was. She never discussed anything else with him these days, her interactions as limited as possible.

The Ipod was still playing, and her words tangled with it. She saw it and stepped forward suddenly, jerking the buds out of his ears in frustration. "Yes, new case. Your team is already in her room."

She expected some semblance of resistance, but he meekly took the file and limped out. She turned to stare after him, puzzled. When she had first walked in and found him on the floor, lost in thoughts, lost in music, she had stood there in the doorway for a few minutes, just watching him, noting the droop of his shoulders, noting what she would have sworn was a glistening film of tears across the blue eyes, although if so, House was forbidding them to fall. He had looked so sad, so regretful, and part of it touched her, even while she tried to maintain the distance.

The Ipod was still in her hands from when she ripped it out of his ears, and she could hear the tinny sound of the song playing, the tune almost familiar but too distant. She gave one quick look around, not wanting to be caught in curiosity, then plugged in the earbuds just as the song hit the end and started again.

If I could ever say it right,

And reach your hostage heart despite

The doubts you harbor, then you might

Come to believe in me.

Cuddy blinked, abruptly swept back decades. Boy was THAT an oldie. She remembered going to a concert with House in college, hearing Dan Fogelberg. She could still recall him perched on the stool on stage, embracing his guitar like a well-known lover, singing his gentle love songs and ballads. A glisten of tears sprang up in her own eyes. How she wished she could rewind at times, back to the days when life had seemed simpler.

The life I lead is not the kind

That gives a woman peace of mind.

I only hope someday you'll find

That you can believe in me.

One tear spilled over as she suddenly recalled him joining her in the car recently that afternoon, him assuring her that he did believe in her, that he knew she would deal with the hospital crises, that he knew that she could deal with them. That was precisely what she had needed at that moment - one person to believe in her, without qualifications. Even if expressed in a Housian way, he had given her that gift. How she missed the friendship they used to have, but she knew it was too dangerous now. She had moved on. He would interpret anything as hope, and she didn't want to give him hope. She was with Lucas now.

Cuddy sighed suddenly. She was with Lucas now. Yet on that awful day, it wasn't Lucas who had propped up her leaning soul. Lucas had been there, had even helped her trap the pharmacy tech, but it was House who had supported her. What an odd thought. House supportive. She sighed again. In his own way, he had always been a good friend. She missed him.

Too many hearts have been broken

Failing to trust what they feel.

Trust isn't something that's spoken,

And love's never wrong when it's real.

She shook her head, trying to shake off the song. She knew what she felt, and she wasn't mistrusting it. What she felt was gratitude for finding someone as steady and reliable and considerate as Lucas, even though he could be annoying at times, like when he "accidentally" took the sitter's phone.

House never hid the fact when he tried to play with her. Lucas' fake obliviousness could get annoying at times.

And why was she thinking about this anyway. She needed to get back to work, not stand here listening to House's Ipod. What if someone walked by and saw her? What sort of image for the Dean was this? She couldn't resist a quick glance at the Ipod, though, wondering if any of the other songs she remembered from long ago were on it. She froze, staring at the screen. The current selection set on loop was not titled "Believe in Me" but rather "Please Believe in Me," an additional word inserted by House at the beginning. Obviously a private message, but she had no doubt to whom he had mentally addressed that plea.

Please. She couldn't remember him ever saying it nonsarcastically. Please. Please believe in me.

A few more tears spilled over now as the song wound on.

If I could only do one thing,

Then I would try to write and sing,

A song that ends your questioning,

And makes you believe in me.

You can believe in me.

How she wished she could. She heard the thought slip out before she could catch it, and her shoulders stiffened immediately. She did believe in him, of course, as a doctor. But as far as a relationship between the two of them, it was over. She was with Lucas. She was happy. She DID trust what she felt, damn it. "I'm sorry, House," she said softly, saying to the empty office what she could never have said to him. She ripped the Ipod buds out of her ears and put it down on the desk.

As she walked out, it seemed that she could still hear the tinny sound from the earbuds behind her, impossibly loud in the empty room. She had forgotten to stop the music, but right then, a group of employees came down the hall and noted her. She forced herself to close her ears and walk on.

Dan Fogelberg continued singing, unaware that both members of his audience had left.

You can believe in me.