A/N: I've always wanted to try my hand at a backstory fic. So. This is mine. Not really my usual style, but we'll see how it goes, I guess.
July 13th, 1988
Watty White fixed Deacon Claybourne with a hard stare before he put a hand on his shoulder and waggled a finger in his face, "Stay away from her." His voice was teasing, but Deacon could tell there was an underlying seriousness to his words.
Deacon threw his palms up in front of himself and took a step back, "Hey," he chuckled, "She's sixteen. She's a kid. I'm not interested in any kids."
Watty laughed then, and squeezed Deacon's shoulder, "You're 19. You're still a kid," Watty dropped his hand, "But seriously, stay away from her."
Deacon slid up to the bar and ordered a shot of whiskey. The drinking age was raised to 21 from 19 a couple of years ago, but bars around here didn't so much care about the legality of how they made their money.
Watty slid in next to him, and rested his elbow on the bar. Deacon tipped the glass back, taking it in one swallow, and slapped the shot glass back on the bar.
"Gonna be a bit hard to do, you know… if you want me to play guitar for her." Deacon signaled the bartender with a small wave, and then tapped the spot in front of him with two fingers. The bartender nodded.
Watty chuckled, "Smartass. You know what I mean."
Watty had only known Deacon for a month, but it seemed that was enough. In fact, Deacon hadn't even been in Nashville that long, a month or two really, but his reputation had apparently preceded him. He told people he learned guitar for the girls—it was true, when you had a guitar in your hands and you were halfway decent at it, the girls kind of fell at your feet. And Deacon wasn't just halfway good at it.
But that's not really why he learned guitar. He learned guitar to try to forget; he learned guitar to try to escape.
He supposed that's why he found himself with a different girl every week, too.
As the bartender placed another shot in front of him, he raised his glass to Watty, "I really don't think it'll be a problem, Watty."
Watty smirked, and then slid off the barstool, throwing a ten-dollar bill down. "We'll see about that." Watty clapped Deacon on the back, "Just be at the Bluebird tomorrow night at 8."
Deacon sipped the shot, "Alright." He said, before taking the rest.
. . . . . .
In July, even the nights were muggy. Deacon stepped from his truck, wondering how in the hell 8 at night still felt like it could choke somebody. Growing up in Mississippi, he was not a stranger to the humidity, to the way it clung to you, grabbed ahold of you and refused to let go. As he slammed the door of his pickup, he pulled his black t-shirt from his frame, fanning it a couple times to create air, enjoying the makeshift breeze on his back. He really needed to get that air conditioning fixed.
He was fifteen minutes late, so he was extra quiet as he slid in the door, the sound of someone plucking at a guitar escaping into the night until he closed the door behind him. The girl behind the counter smiled at him, he lifted his hand up in a wave, and went to a table in the back. He saw Watty, stationed at the bar leaning against it, stare at him briefly as he settled at the high top.
When he was seated, he let his eyes find the stage. There, he assumed, stood Rayna Jaymes. She was holding the microphone in one hand, the cord in another, nodding her head along to the music, glancing at the band behind her.
Watching her, he was momentarily stunned by the way the light threw itself underneath her red hair. It looked almost golden in the stage light. When she turned to face the audience, Deacon couldn't help but smile. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting when Watty told him about this young girl, but this sure wasn't it.
He couldn't make out the exact details of her face, but he immediately found her beautiful and captivating. She's like home. The thought hit him out of nowhere, and he shook his head in an attempt to dislodge it. First of all, he had no idea where it came from. Second of all, Deacon Claybourne might write something like that in a song, but he definitely didn't think it. Not about women, and certainly not about girls he'd never met.
He didn't have to try to erase the thought for long, because Rayna opened her mouth to sing, and when she did, every thought he'd ever had disappeared, and all that was left was the melodic sound of her voice reverberating in his head. Later, he would look back and realize it wasn't so much just the quality of her voice—she was good, very good—but it was the way she sang. Her face lit up, and her whole body came alive as she belted the words into the microphone. She sang like it was the only thing in the world she ever wanted to do, like it might be the last thing she ever did.
He was so mesmerized by her performance, Deacon didn't notice Watty arrive at the high top. Rayna was just finishing the song when Watty leaned in to Deacon's ear.
"I told you," He said, startling Deacon, "Stay away from her."
Deacon's mouth was dry as the band quieted down, and her honeyed voice spoke to the crowd, "Thank y'all. It's been a real, real pleasure to perform here tonight at the Bluebird. I'm Rayna Jaymes."
She made her way offstage to the sound of applause, and Deacon watched as her eyes scanned the crowd, before they settled on Watty. She smiled at him, gave a little wave, and headed their way.
Deacon felt himself get nervous, wishing he'd taken a little more care to pick out his outfit, wishing he'd taken time to shave. By the time she arrived at their table, Deacon had composed a lengthy list of all the things he wished he'd done to prepare for this meeting.
"Watty!" She said, beaming at him before she threw her arms around his neck, "That was amazing!" She pulled back from him and squeezed his arms, "I just performed at the Bluebird!" She said, giddy with excitement.
"So you did, my little songbird. So you did." Watty said, wrapping her in a hug. "You were so good."
Deacon watched the exchange; he watched how Watty's face lit up, how his eyes crinkled as he smiled at her. That must be what it's like to have a father, Deacon thought, knowing that Watty wasn't, in fact, Rayna's father. But their affection was so clear, and pure.
"Rayna," Watty said, releasing her from his hug. "This," He gestured to Deacon, "Is Deacon Claybourne."
Rayna turned to face him, and smiled. Shit, he thought, as she extended her hand, she's pretty.
"Hi, I'm Rayna."
He reached out and grasped her hand; her handshake was firm, and her skin was soft.
He smiled, "Deacon. Nice to meet you."
Deacon stared at her a moment before letting her hand go. She had a light dusting of freckles across her face; she was wearing a sleeveless mustard yellow floral sundress with muted browns and golds, and he could see that freckles also dotted her shoulders and continued down her arms. Her eyes were a sort of cornflower blue, and they were bright as she stared at him. He realized then, he was going to have to find some other word besides 'pretty,' because that just didn't do her justice.
"You too." She said, glancing between him and Watty. She slid up onto one of the barstools and crossed her legs. Deacon tried not to notice how long they were, how smooth they looked as they disappeared into well-worn brown cowboy boots. "So… you play guitar?"
Deacon nodded, offered her a small smile, "A little bit. You don't play?"
Rayna smiled shyly and shook her head, "I've never been very good with guitars."
"Maybe I'll teach you someday. Anyone can learn." Deacon said, watching her. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he was concerned about the fact that he was already offering this girl guitar lessons, and they'd just met.
She chuckled, "You say that now, but you haven't seen me try." She rested her chin on her hand.
Watty laughed; having seen Rayna try to play guitar, he could vouch for this. His gaze lingered on Deacon before he spoke, "Why don't both of you come over to my place tomorrow around noon? I'll give Deacon the music tonight, you guys can talk tomorrow, try a few songs out to see if it'll be a match."
Rayna nodded, "Sure, Watty."
Watty turned to Deacon, "I'll walk you out."
Deacon slid off the chair and headed for the door, when he got there, he turned around, surprised to find Rayna's eyes on him.
"It was nice to meet you," He said, lifting his hand.
"You too." She waved back.
Watty pushed the door open, and Deacon stepped through it, the muggy night air rushing into his lungs, making him feel like he couldn't breathe. His internal monologue laughed at him, yeah, just keep telling yourself it was the air that stole your breath.
Watty headed to his car, Deacon following closely behind. Watty opened the door, pulled out a folder, and turned to face Deacon, a smile threatening to break. "Kid?" He shut the door, and thrust the folder out, slapping it lightly against Deacon's chest.
Deacon cleared his throat, "Shut up, Watty."
Watty walked around the front of his car, opened the driver's door, and tapped the roof of the car with his palm, before extending an index finger and pointing it at Deacon. "Remember what I said." He slid into the driver's side and closed the door. Putting the car in reverse, Watty leaned down and shot Deacon a hard glare.
Deacon rolled his eyes, "Yeah, yeah." He shouted through the window, as Watty drove away.
Deacon made his way to his truck, opened the door, and slipped inside. Closing the door behind him, he put the key in the ignition, but didn't turn it. In the silence of his truck, he could hear his heart beating rapidly in his chest. He cursed, and slammed his head against the headrest.
He'd written love songs before about some mythical girl, who could not possibly exist. He'd written songs about falling in love, songs about all the things that can happen to a heart, but they weren't real—none of it was real. Truth was, he'd never believed in love at first sight—hell, most days, he didn't even really believe in love, let alone at first sight. He'd always thought it was a fool's notion, some romantic way of painting a world that didn't really care one way or another what you were doing in it, or whether you were even in it at all.
But somehow, from just the touch of a hand, and a few words, he already knew what he would spend months trying to deny: he would write his first honest love song about Rayna Jaymes.