Yep, back with another story. Been working on this one for a while, then got impatient and decided to start posting. I don't own the House characters, just Johnny Rocket and all the other O/Cs that show up.
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"Wilson, will you come on?" House huffed impatiently as he pushed through the crowd in the small club. "We'll never find a seat at this rate."
"Right behind you, House." Wilson answered, weaving through the crowd behind House. "I can't believe all these people showed up to watch some washed up rock star."
"Johnny Rocket is one of the most underrated guitar players of all time." House told him, finding a table and plopping down in one of the chairs. "He would have been right up there with Hendrix and Clapton if someone had known how to sell him."
The waitress showed up to take their drink orders, a bourbon for House and a beer for Wilson. No sooner had she reappeared with their drinks than the lights started to go down.
A mournful wail came from the direction of the stage, and a spotlight suddenly shone on a lone guitarist. He was tall and lean, his long fingers dancing easily over the fretboard, pouring his soul into the song he was playing. His blond bangs hung in his eyes, obscuring them from view.
If there was a heaven, House was pretty sure it would be something like this. A smoky club, a wailing guitar, and a strong drink. He could think of no better way to spend a Friday night. The fact that this guy was one of the all time greats was a bonus.
"He is good." Wilson leaned over and whispered, breaking into the bubble House had built around himself.
"Ssh." House scowled, once again losing himself in the music that flowed from this man's fingertips.
The rest of the set was damn near magical, and House remembered how much he loved the experience of live music. He checked the inside of his coat pocket for the CD he had tucked in just before leaving the apartment. Normally House didn't do the obsessive fan thing, but he knew this was a rare opportunity to catch Johnny Rocket, and he didn't want to miss his chance at an autograph, if the man hung around long enough.
The second set started, a quieter acoustic set this time. It was no less amazing, as Johnny was able to showcase his precision that was sometimes lost on the electric.
Every note was crisp, clean, precise, dazzling, and House was almost jealous of the man's ability to switch gears so easily. He moved from rock to original material to blues with equal ease, and House was sure he enjoyed this set more than the first.
The crowd seemed to agree, and when Johnny closed his set, they rose to their feet, insisting on an encore. After a couple of minutes, it was clear none was forthcoming, and the lights came up as the club started to clear out.
"Ready whenever you are." Wilson told him as he rose from his chair and started to put on his coat.
"In a minute." House scanned the stage area for any sign of the guitarist. Soon he spotted the man near the back, where he was packing up his instruments.
"House, you're not…really?" Wilson sounded a bit appalled.
House ignored his friend and continued toward the stage, clearing his throat loudly.
Johnny turned around, a resigned expression crossing his rough face. "Show's over." He told House in a distinctive Texas twang. "I don't do encores."
"I know." House responded, limping around the stage until he was closer to Johnny.
Johnny spotted the CD case, fixing it with a frown. "Don't usually do autographs, either."
"Not even for an old cripple?"
"House, let it go." Wilson was suddenly beside him. "The guy obviously doesn't want to be bothered."
Johnny finished packing his guitar and hopped down from the stage, holding out his hand to House. House was a tall man, but Johnny easily had a couple of inches on him, and the way he was studying House unnerved him. "Will you quit harassing me if I sign the damn thing?"
"It's possible." House answered, suddenly feeling awkward.
Johnny held out his hand, and House handed him the CD case. A slow grin spread over Johnny's weathered features as he looked it over. "Not many folks have this one."
"Only one thousand copies were made." House replied.
"Bet you paid a hell of a lot for it." Johnny continued giving House the once over as he dug a pen out of his jeans pocket.
"Bet I didn't." House snapped. "Bought it when it first came out, back when you toured with Stevie Ray Vaughn."
"Is that right?" Johnny signed the CD cover and handed it back to House. He seemed to notice something, and he took hold of House's hand. "You've got some tough fingers there, friend. Do you play?"
"I've been known to." House could barely believe he was standing there, having a casual conversation with this man.
Johnny nodded, that slight smile never leaving his face as he brushed his bangs out of his eyes. "I might be hanging out here for a while. You up for a jam session?"
House nearly passed out from shock, although he never would have let it show. The idea of jamming with Johnny Rocket was almost more than he could stand. He jerked a thumb at Wilson. "Kind of got a friend with me…we've got a hotel reservation." He cursed himself for his sudden case of verbal diarrhea.
"Leave the address." Johnny glanced over at Wilson, seeming to notice him for the first time. "Don't worry, man, I'll make sure your friend makes it back in one piece."
"House, are you sure about this?" Wilson sounded skeptical.
House huffed and gave Wilson a withering look before glancing back at Johnny. "Give us a minute."
The two men moved away from the stage, and Wilson once again spoke up. "House, what the hell are you doing? We're in a strange city, and you don't know anything about this guy."
"I know that he's a legend, and he wants to jam with me." House argued. "How many chances am I ever going to get to do something like that? That's right, none."
Wilson let out a short sigh, followed by a frown. "Fine, but if I read about you in the New York Post tomorrow because you got murdered by this guy…"
"I won't be around for you to lecture anyway." House dismissed him irritably.
Wilson shook his head. "I don't have to tell you that this is a phenomenally stupid idea, right?"
"Nope." House answered, barely able to suppress the child like excitement that coursed through him.
"Good. Glad we cleared that up." Wilson pulled the business card containing the hotel's address and phone number out of his wallet and handed it to House. "Seriously, House. Be careful."
"I'll be hanging out here playing music." House rolled his eyes at his friend's concern. "What kind of shenanigans can I possibly get into?"
They parted ways, and House returned to the stage where Johnny was sitting, his long legs splayed out, where he had apparently been watching the whole exchange with great interest. "What's up with your man?" He asked House with a smirk. "He think you're going to screw around on him?"
"What?!" House was surprised by the question. "Oh. No. It's not like that. He's my best friend, that's all. He just…goes overboard sometimes."
"Don't make no difference to me, brother." Johnny told him as he climbed back up onto the stage, flipping the clasps open on two guitar cases. "I'm not too fussy myself, if you know what I mean."
House was baffled. Obviously he had failed to pick up whatever Johnny had put down. "I thought you just wanted to jam."
"I do." Johnny smoothed his hands over one of the guitars before pulling it out of the case. "But if I get more out of the deal, that's okay with me."
This was getting more interesting by the minute. "No promises."
"I don't recall making any." Johnny grinned at him and blew his bangs out of his eyes. "You gonna to grab a guitar or what?"
"Don't you think we should at least be on a first name basis before I start pawing your instruments?" House still wasn't sure he didn't want to bail out now, before things got too strange.
Johnny shrugged as he tuned up. "You already know my name. What's yours?"
"Good to meet you, House." Johnny came out to the edge of the stage and bent down to shake House's hand. His grip was firm, his hand rough and warm. "Now get your ass up here and grab a guitar. Let's see what you can do."
House took the few steps up to the stage and limped over to the other open guitar case. He let out a low whistle when he saw what was inside.
"She's a beauty, ain't she?" Johnny beamed as he played a few chords.
House was speechless as he carefully lifted the guitar out of its case and attached the strap before slowly pushing himself to his feet. The last thing he wanted to do was wreck the thing. He'd kill someone if they did that to his instruments.
He tuned up and played a few chords of his own, thrilling to the rich sound of the instrument. Soon he and Johnny were playing some call-and-response riffs, almost matching each other until Johnny lost him on some ridiculously long, seamless riff that ended in a mournful, bluesy wail, almost like the one he had opened the show with.
Johnny let out a satisfied sigh at the result as the notes faded away. "That's the shit, there." He met House's eyes with his own. "You're damn good. You do this for a living?"
"Nope." House answered, shifting his weight off his bad leg.
"Well, you damn well could have." Johnny's eyes shifted to House's leg. "You need to sit, man?"
House nodded mutely, and Johnny dragged over a stool from the center of the stage. "That thing looks like it hurts like a bitch. What happened?"
"Old injury." House told him. He didn't feel the need to tell the whole story.
"Sorry to hear it." Johnny played a few random chords before moving into one of his original songs, belting it out in a growling baritone that was almost one with the soulful guitar riffs.
House sat on the stool, holding the guitar and listening to Johnny. He almost didn't give a damn what might happen at the end of the night. Right now, he was thoroughly enjoying the private show.
Johnny finished the song, smiling slightly when he spotted House watching him. "You know what I love most about doing music?"
"What?" House was startled out of his thoughts, suddenly vaguely uncomfortable.
"Meeting the real fans." Johnny told him. "Not just the ones who buy your latest CD or download your latest hit because they heard you on the radio. I'm talking about the real fans…the ones who are in it for the love of the music, whether it's popular or not." He started hard at House. "Fans like you."
House shifted awkwardly, not sure what was happening. Johnny didn't seem to notice his discomfort, simply continuing to talk. "Once in a while, you meet fans that you really connect with. Just…you know, regular people, people who aren't in the business." He glanced away, staring at the floor. "Folks like that are pretty rare."
"Gotta kick you out, Rocket." A male voice carried out across the small club. "Wife's gonna start bitching if I come in at dawn again."
"I hear you, Fred." Johnny started packing up his guitar. "Okay if I leave the girls in your office for the night?"
Fred waved a hand to indicate agreement, and Johnny soon had his guitar placed gently in its case. House reluctantly undid the neck strap and did the same, running his hand over the instrument with a sigh.
"Yeah, I know." Johnny laughed at House. "I feel the same way every time I put the girls away. It's like tucking in your kids for the night."
"Wouldn't know." House answered carefully, still suspicious of Johnny's motives.
"Me either." Johnny's face seemed to fall a little before he quickly recovered. "Hey, there's this after hours club not too far from here, if you're interested."
"I…don't really do the dance club thing." House waved his cane around.
"No, man." Johnny laughed and shook his head. "It's a music club. Some of the best live music in New York goes down there. You in?"
House thought about it for a moment before nodding his head firmly. "Sure."
"Cool." Johnny grinned with child-like joy. "Let me put my girls to bed and we'll catch a cab."
House stood on the stage after Johnny left, barely believing his luck. Not only did he get to jam with one of his favorite guitar players, but now he was going to hang out with him.
He allowed the thrill to wash over him. This was going to be one hell of a night.
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And now I hand it over to you. Read and review.