Title: Guitars and Video Games
Author: sy dedalus
Rating: PG for one bad word and a smidge of adult content
Spoilers/Setting: Season 2, between "Who's Your Daddy" and "No Reason"
Summary: Some of the things House has lost over the years, or how video games came to replace guitars in House's life. One-shot character study. Gen.
Note: A cookie to anyone who knows the band whose song title I borrowed as the title for this fic. Also, I'm basing the guitars in this fic on my memory of what we've seen of House's apartment. If anyone knows of a good screen cap showing the guitars, I'd love to see it. Finally, I think House does own an acoustic guitar, which is in his bedroom (see the opening of Skin Deep) but for the purposes of this fic, he doesn't.

Guitars and Video Games

House lay on his couch blasting away space aliens to keep his mind off of the nausea swishing in his stomach. His leg didn't hurt any more—that was the important thing—and the morphine he'd taken fifteen minutes ago should last for a while. He grimaced, but not at the screen. The nausea would last too.

The lucky thing about such a powerful narcotic was that he didn't care too much if he was nauseous or not. He still felt good. But only so good. The point of taking this drug was to control his pain, not to get high—even if he did want to get high. A morphine high did wonders for Sunday boredom. But he still had enough self-control left to limit his intake to the smallest effective dose. He could do something else to treat the boredom. Hence the video game.

His eyes lit of their own accord on the guitars hanging decoratively on the wall next to the piano and an alien beat his character to death before he could dodge the blows. He chose not to continue for now and put the game down on his chest.

He knew better than to sit up, never mind to walk over to them, so he limited himself to watching the mid-morning sunlight glint off the metal strings.

The steel guitar was his favorite. He remembered buying it at a pawn shop in some no-name town outside of New Orleans during his brief stint as a touring musician. Poor, hungry, the band's van almost out of gas, his father seething at him from a marine base in Germany for skipping a semester of college, he'd haggled with the pawnbroker until he got him down to $120—which would not only put him in debt to Crandall but also force him to mooch food off the guy until they got paid for the next gig or he could bear to hock his old acoustic, the one he'd learned to play on—but he'd walked away happy. The steel guitar was worth at least $500 when he bought it. Now it was probably worth much more. He could feel the smooth, polished wood of the fret board in his left palm and hear the twang the steel front added. Unconsciously, he began picking with his right hand.

Two years. No—three years. Three years since he'd touched a guitar. Maybe more than that. His memory was a little fuzzy right now.

The way a guitar sat on his leg, shaped to fit over it and drape down either side, was no longer tolerable.

The electric he had was too heavy. The steel acoustic was also too heavy and much too wide. If he had a basic acoustic with a very light body, maybe he could stand it…but probably not, given the way his leg hurt more now. Why was that? His eyes focused again on the guitars and he pushed that thought away. He didn't want to know why.

They were useless, hanging there untouched. Gathering dust. The slim video game spread warmth over his sternum.

Piano was always his first instrument anyway, and he could still play it (though pressing the right-most pedal for an extended period didn't always work out)—guitar was no big loss.

And besides that, he could always strap an acoustic on and stand up. If standing up wasn't always a problem in itself.

No. The pleasure of plucking the strings no longer outweighed the pain of weight pressing against his thigh. He'd never been all that good anyway. It was just something he liked to do.

For a boy who moved around so much—often to countries where he didn't speak the native tongue—the universal language of music was a natural fit. So was the universal language of sports, but he'd only ever been so good at soccer. And in the States, a boy who played piano was not nearly as cool as a boy who played guitar. His mother had always encouraged him to take up a stringed instrument in addition to the piano when he was a child, too.

And the guitar tended to piss his dad off more than the piano did. That was a huge plus. He'd felt good as a teenager when his dad yelled at him for acting like a hippie, telling him to cut his hair and put that damned guitar away, when he could taste the anger radiating from his chest and he would stand there and take it (because no one talked back to John House) until he could go outside and smoke a purloined cigarette and feel vindicated and rebellious.

His stomach twisted suddenly and he closed his eyes, letting out a slow breath. He could get through this. He just needed to take his mind off of it.

His fingers remembered a jaunty riff and urged him to get up and feel the steel bite and pull of the strings on his soft fingertips. Yes. It would hurt if he played now. Not too much, but the calluses from years of playing were long gone.

He opened his eyes to look again at the instruments on the wall.

No. Not any more.

All the sports he used to play—little league when he was in the U.S., soccer even if he wasn't that good at it, tennis, lacrosse, rowing when he was near water, and later men's league sports with other doctors or (preferably) with guys who worked outside and got their hands dirty for a living, who weren't averse to playing rough sometimes and always went for a beer afterward, even golf, the sport of middle age, as he got into his late thirties—all of them gone.

Sometimes when he lay still at night trying to sleep some before dawn, the things he would never be able to do again flashed in his mind in a great, hulking heap. There was his lacrosse stick and helmet, his old running shoes, basketballs, racquets with green tennis balls and blue rubber racquetballs, bowling balls, golf balls, golf clubs, swimming trunks, bicycles, sweaty t-shirts and the sweet feeling of breathing in and out after honest exertion, muscles humming with blood, gym smells and locker room smells, his innate sense of balance and the deft footwork it enabled, the heat of the mid-summer sun, uninhibited sex, staircases—things he'd done for the last time in his life, whether he wanted to do them again or not. The pile grew a little every time he saw it. He told the pile that he'd gotten back on a motorcycle when he thought he'd never ride one again, but the pile didn't listen. Stacy was there now too.

The guitars gleamed on the wall. He didn't think about any of this. He felt cool and relaxed, with his pain under control and the orgasmic sensation of narcotics washing his blood.

The guitars could go now too. The guitar was a social instrument. He didn't need it. In fact, they were already gone.

He picked up the video game, warm under his fingers, and pressed continue.