Again, many thanks to maineac for beta-ing and advice.
Whatever happened to that trumpet?
For John Henry it had been about air. Not the air we breathe in and out every day, the air that keeps us alive, physically. No. For John Henry it was the breath of creation, the breath that created sound and music and, ultimately, beauty. And for that reason alone it kept him alive.
The trumpet had been a precious gift, but not for its actual monetary value. Had he sold it, it would have fetched quite a substantial sum, even without the added information that it had once belonged to John Henry Giles.
But he hadn't been at all tempted to sell it. And John Henry had forbidden him to play it. It had in fact been the one condition that came with this gift. Not that he would have considered playing it in the first place. Air was not his thing. Touch was. If you could tease music out of an instrument using your hands, your touch – it was his for the taking, he would figure out how to play it and he would make it his. Granted, he had the harmonica but that was more a gag than anything else, definitely not for serious playing. So the trumpet clearly would never be his in that sense.
What to do? The day John Henry gave her to him (for she was surely feminine, no doubt about that), he brought her home in her case and set her on the coffee table for lack of other space.
He took her out that night, after he'd had a few shots of bourbon; John Henry's words still going through his head, round and round. I know that limp. I know the empty ring finger. Yeah, John Henry, you know. It was the secret handshake of the brotherhood of obsessive bastards, his cover was blown. No woman waiting at home after work with a drink and a kiss; that ain't gonna happen for us. Yeah, exactly. He was alone in his apartment, same as every night. Except for those when Wilson came over. But he was pretty sure that even if he brought beer, Wilson wouldn't qualify as that woman waiting with a drink John Henry had talked about. He chuckled quietly to himself.
This is the reason you're still alive, John Henry: My loneliness, my sleepless nights, my pain. Especially the pain. The fact that I've got that one thing, that I'm such an obsessive son-of-a-bitch. This is the reason why I risked court and my one thing – to give you back yours. Because I know what it feels like to lose it.
The trumpet gleamed in the opened case. His fingers ran lightly across the cold metal. He was still amazed something so cold could be the source of something so passionate and beautiful. He had heard John Henry play, before he ever met the man. Before he had become his patient, his puzzle, and part of his own thing. The man was indeed a musical genius; he had music running through his veins instead of blood. During all the tests they had run on him, he had almost been surprised John Henry's blood looked like everyone else's.
He lifted the glass in silent salute.
The apartment was quiet, too quiet. The trumpet needed music, and so did he. He struggled up from the couch and took her over to gently set her down on top of the piano. This was the right place for her. And for him. He plonked himself down on the bench and let his fingers run across the keys. Without thinking, without any intention, his hands created their own music.
No matter how tired or preoccupied his mind, his hands always knew their way around the keys. They created the world his thoughts could get lost in. This was the sidekick to his one thing; one didn't work without the other. At least part of his brain, the one that constantly observed and analyzed, switched off when music took over. Music was his respite and his friend, one that never left, one that was always a fall back, no matter the time of night. A friend who didn't discriminate between good and bad times. Music often carried him through the sleepless nights.
This was how the trumpet found her place on top of the piano. Over the coming weeks she was moved around on occasion. One night she spent on the kitchen table after he left her there when he went to get himself another drink. The next week she spent on top of a stack of books on his desk. But eventually he always returned her to the piano. It seemed like her rightful place to be.
But something was nagging him.
She stared at him coldly some nights, at other times there seemed to be a warm glow to her. How could the same trumpet look so different? Initially he thought it was the light but a simple test and change in lighting disproved that theory.
One night, when he'd been tossing and turning, trying to find that one elusive comfortable position in bed, and he had finally given up to go and sit at the piano for a while, he had found her yet again gleaming coldly, almost silver. Yet he knew that only a few days ago, when he had spent a whole night wading through journals and books on the hunt for information on that rare virus that could have caused his patient's symptoms, playing for a few minutes at a time until a new idea took hold in his brain and he went back to his books, that night she had had an almost golden sheen.
It drove him to distraction until he just left her case closed, resting on top of the piano.
A few weeks later, sitting on his couch watching a documentary on B. B. King and his guitar, something tickled his brain. Guitars had names, most musicians named their instruments.
She needed a name.
He went through a long list of them, starting with the exotic (Lola anyone?) to the everyday (but somehow Rosie just didn't fit) until he gave up. But then it suddenly came to him - she was John Henry's trumpet, he had played her. She already had a name, that's why nothing he could come up with would fit.
So he finally called John Henry Giles. It wasn't easy to get through to the man. Apparently he had recovered quite rapidly after the surgery, enough to go back to recording and also playing some select live gigs. Well, good for him. The downside was that he had a horde of protective managers and assistants around him, none of whom would give him the time of day, never mind a chance to talk to the man himself. But years of practice in scheming and ruthless lying eventually got John Henry on the line.
There was just that hoarse chuckle at the other end for a second or two.
"Doctor House… I've been wondering when you'd break and finally call me. Not been able to solve the puzzle on your own?"
How the hell did he know he was going to call him and why?
"I know you're a busy man, John Henry, so let's get to the point. If you know why I'm calling just spill it. It's been bugging me for weeks now. What did you call her?"
Again, that throaty laugh.
"Her name is Esperanza, Doc, always has been."
Of course it was.
House put down the phone and took a sip of his drink. He looked at the trumpet, currently sitting right in front of him on the piano, a bright golden sheen to her tonight. His hands ran across the piano keys, playing for a moment, a simple tune he hadn't been able to get out of his head for a few days.
Then he got up, closed the trumpet case and took it to the bedroom. There he got down on his knees and carefully pushed the case under his bed – as far back as he could, even farther than the wood box from Egypt he kept there and never opened. Out of sight, out of mind. He hoped.