This is my first attempt at a House MD fic, so please be nice! It's set in Season One. Constructive criticism is welcome, you know, to a certain extent. Please review, it really makes my day, and inspires me to write more!
"House, where are you going? We have a case!"
"So, I have plans."
House made for the door, but was blocked by a frowning Cuddy, who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
"These plans wouldn't involve the object which is currently standing in the lobby of my hospital, would it? Strictly on display?" She added, her voice mockingly innocent.
House narrowed his eyes at the Dean of Medicine, obviously put out.
"What good," he snarked, "may I ask you, is a piano that nobody plays?"
Cameron, Foreman and Chase frowned. How could a man so cold, cranky, and sometimes downright mean, be able to play such a beautiful, elegant instrument? Sure, House had his moments, but...
"Wait, you mean... you can play?" Cameron inserted skeptically, voicing her co-workers' question.
A smile spread across House's face, lighting up his admittedly refined features. Not a smirk, or even a grin, but a smile.
Cuddy crossed her arms, shifting her weight. House turned to her, frowning at the disbelieving look she was wearing.
"What? I am a man of many talents, if you know what I mean..."
This got a chuckle out of Chase, a roll of the eyes from Foreman, and a sigh from Cuddy. "And frankly, I'm wounded that you doubt me like that." House brushed away an imaginary tear, giving a little sniff for effect.
"Who 'warned' you anyway?" He asked, addressing Cuddy. "Wilson?"
Cuddy rolled her eyes. "No, your other only friend."
House sent her a half-hearted glare, and made another attempt to exit the room. Cuddy gently pushed him back, raising an eyebrow. The room was silent for a few seconds, and your could almost hear the wheels turning in House's head.
"Two extra clinic hours." The diagnostician finally offered, with a striking simularity to a small child bargaining with his parents for a new toy.
"Ten." Cuddy shot back.
"Six, and we get to listen."
House thought it over, still staring intently at Cuddy. His 'ducklings', as he referred to his team, were inwardly hoping he agreed. After all, it wasn't everyday you got to witness your boss giving a musical performance, right?
Cuddy smiled, standing aside and letting House limp out into the hall, her and the team not far behind.
They made their way down the mostly empty hallway, stopping at the elevator as House used his cane to press the button with expert precision.
A rather lengthy, awkward silence followed, leaving Cuddy attempting to strike up a conversation.
"So, when did you start playing?"
It was simple enough question, and yet somehow managed to sound so incredibly strange when addressed to House. He looked at Cuddy, his face emotionless, then went back to staring down the elevator.
"A while ago."
"Oh no, don't think you can worm your way out of this one, House. Remember our terms? I'm just curious!"
House sighed, deciding that some battles just weren't worth fighting.
"When I was five."
This came as a surprise to everybody present, and started some interesting trains of thought.
"Wow..." Cuddy commented, earning a raised eyebrow from House. "That long, huh? I assume your parents forced lessons onto you?"
It had been meant as a sarcastic comment, and actually got a few chuckles from the ducklings, but House's expression betrayed a hint of bitterness.
"No. I found an abandoned grand in an old, run-down building, and it sort of... happened. My father doesn't approve of music."
The last sentence held an unmistakably sharp and bitter note, and had a strange air to it, as though it wasn't complete. But House said nothing more, and before anybody could prod further, the elevator finally arrived.
And out of it, coincidentally, stepped James Wilson.
"You!" House exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger at his friend. His tone held more amusement and annoyance than anger, although by far not everyone would notice.
Wilson, who was accustomed to this, presented him with no reaction whatsoever.
"What about me?" He merely asked, stepping out into the hall.
"You foiled my plan, you little tattle-tail!"
"Hey, I didn't foil anything- she's letting you play, right?"
"Sure, and my six extra clinic hours will just breeze by."
Wilson chuckled, shaking his head.
"Well, at least you will have earned your prize. Besides, she noticed you ogling that thing as they were bringing it in this morning, long before I came to warn her."
House looked genuinely offended.
"By 'that thing', I suppose you mean the beautiful, antique Baldwin grand?"
Wilson smirked. "Yeah, sure. Mind if I come?"
"Why? Is the baby grand in my apartment not good enough?"
"Curious, just curious."
"Why do people keep saying that?! Curiosity killed the oncologist, you know."
"I don't think you're really grasping that saying, House. Besides, I want to see the looks on their faces." Wilson added, gesturing to Cuddy and the ducklings, who simultaneously frowned in confusion.
House gave a small grin, his way of giving in. Wilson returned the gesture, and soon the group was packed tightly into the elevator, making for yet another uncomfortable silence.
There was a pronounced 'ding' as the doors finally opened to reveal the lobby, alive and swarming with patients, nurses, doctors, and that one weird janitor who's name nobody really knows. House, followed by Wilson, Cuddy, Chase, Foreman, and Cameron, made his way eagerly towards the instrument.
It was, in fact, beautiful. House undoubtably appreciated it far more than anybody else in at least a three mile radius, but even Foreman acknowledged the rare, uniquely attractive quality of the old grand piano.
It was as black as could possibly be, and seemed to actually swallow the light around it. The legs and sides were adorned with carvings of intertwining vines and various other designs.
House ran his long, slender fingers over the ivories, which were slightly yellowed with age. The rest of the group stayed behind him as the diagnostician positioned himself on the matching black bench, simultaneously resting his cane on it.
He tested the tuning, trying out a few familiar, ringing chords. As the sound echoed around the lobby, House's breath caught in his throat.
There were a few seconds of silence, and then he began to play.
A slow, haunting melody resonated from the instrument, silencing each and every person in the room. Nurses stopped their scribbling, nervous children ended their whining, busy doctors paused and stood still to listen...
It was mesmerizing, the way this man's fingers danced on the keys. He swayed blissfully with the melody, and rather than coming from the piano, the music seemed to coming from inside him. It was created in his chest, and flowed out though his arms, his hands, and to the dancing fingers. It radiated from him.
He looked so consumed by the music, so at peace, that his team didn't recognize the man they work for. This wasn't bitter, crippled House; this was a brilliant, tranquil, thoroughly breathtaking man, with the ability to create beauty from silence. His eyes fluttered open at times, and remained tightly shut at others. He seemed completely at ease, every muscle relaxed, the simple task of holding himself up no longer a constant strain.
Freedom was something he had been robbed of a long time ago, but now, at the piano, it was back. He was completely free, and the mere thought brought a smile to his now relaxed, peaceful features.
House's right leg, having proven itself useless, sat awkwardly still, while the left expertly manipulated the pedals. All eyes were on 'the man sitting at the piano'. Those who didn't recognize him had come to the conclusion that he had come here solely to perform, and was just a regular man, playing for a living. Those who did recognize him refused to admit it to themselves.
The alluring melody slowly subsided, steadily dying out, much to everyone's collective regret. At last it came to a decided end; House finished it with a flourish, and a chord that echoed around the lobby long after he had taken his hands off the keys.
Silence. For the longest time, there was silence.
Nobody moved, or spoke, or even breathed. House's eyes were still closed, and he looked so blissful and content, that Cuddy couldn't bring herself to disturb him. Finally they snapped open, scanning the room, his features portraying surprise, confusion, and... pride?
He frowned, apparently having been unaware that a rather large audience had formed. Suddenly, the entire lobby burst into applause, the loudest sound coming from behind the pianist, where Cuddy, Wilson, and the team stood.
Chase could feel the hair on the back of his neck standing on end. Cameron sensed tears forming in her eyes, and she fought hard to hold them back. Foreman stood completely still, as thought paralyzed, his face a blank mask. Cuddy found herself sniffing slightly, and discreetly wiped her eyes. Wilson smiled knowingly; he had listened to House play for many years, and every time he somehow liked it just a little more.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the applause died down, and people went back to doing what there were before. Scribbling, rushing, whining, crying, laughing, talking...
House stood up, leaning heavily on his cane. As soon as the object touched his hand, the freedom was lost. It seemed to simply evaporate into the air, now patiently waiting to be found again; the group felt a stabbing pang of sympathy for the pianist.
House unbashfully threw down a few Vicodin, limping back towards the group, all peace gone.
"House, that was..." Cuddy couldn't find the appropriate words, and trailed off. "What was that, I mean, who composed it?" She inquired, attempting to cover up her emotions.
House grinned, executing a playful, overly theatrical bow.
Again, his explanation was met with silence. It was unbelievable; somehow, each and every one of them had, in a way, pegged House wrongly. With the exception of Wilson, of course.
Cuddy simply couldn't find any words that could possible explain how she was feeling, so she said whatever first came to mind.
"Consider those six clinic hours done."
"Really?" House commented suspiciously, tilting his head to one side. "Cuddy, are you alright?"
The group laughed, and, for once, so did House. His laugh differed from the rest; it was melodious, genuine, and somehow held a very pleasant quality. It was also very rarely heard, so those close to him always tried to cherish it for as long as possible.