With a whoop, JD struck the last drum note of the song. He shot to his feet and laughed, twirling his sticks.
Chuckling, Buck threw the heavily sweating young man a towel. "Damn, boy!" he shook his head admiringly. "You make it look effortless!"
Nathan shook his head as well. "....but the way you sweat, I'm surprised you don't get dehydrated!"
JD wiped his face and hair, smiling. "Yeah, well, I make sure I drink a lot." He bent down and lifted a large sport bottle of water.
"Hey, JD?" Vin asked as he tuned his guitar. "You're what, twenty?"
"Twenty-one," JD said, moving around the set and joining the others at the front of the stage, sitting down.
"How long have you been playing?" Vin asked.
JD smiled. "Started when I was thirteen. Started playing professional at fifteen."
That got their attention. Suddenly all eyes were on JD. "Fifteen?" Buck gasped.
"Fifteen," JD confirmed.
"Where?" Chris asked.
JD took a large drink of the water before answering. "Boston....Hartford....did some studio work in New York.....drifted down to San Fran, Seattle, LA...." he grinned. "Ended up popping into a music store --- rest is history."
Buck blinked. "....JD....not that I'm not grateful -- cause I am --- but those are some of the hotbeds for drug use around!"
Nathan nodded. "And JD doesn't do any kind of that junk!"
Josiah smiled at the young drummer. "Strong moral fiber?"
"That," JD agreed, a fond smile on his face. "Plus, I had some help."
Sixteen-year-old JD Dunne finished the take and smiled up at the producers.
"Great!" one said, grinning at him. "Take five, guys, and we'll work on 'Baby Soon'."
JD moved to the bathroom, where he looked in the mirror and smiled tiredly. "Thanks, man," he whispered to his unseen partner.
No sweat, came the disembodied mental voice, then a throaty chuckle. Or perhaps I should rephrase that?
JD laughed as well. "Tell me about it," he said as he drew a hand along his dripping forehead. "Did you sweat this much when you were alive?"
Oh, absolutely, the merry voice chuckled. Terribly bad form, but something I simply could not help. I'm terribly sorry that my assistance causes you to share that difficulty.
A shake of the long dark hair sent droplets flying. "I swear, Keith Moon, sometimes I think I need a dictionary to understand you!"
Someone's coming! the ghost hissed, and both fell silent.
One of the session guitarists walked in. He smiled, seeing JD standing by the sinks. "Hey, Dunne! Y'look tired."
"Ah, I am, a little," JD smiled back. "I can make it through the session, though."
"Yeah, well, here." He tossed JD a small bag. "That'll help."
JD turned the bag over in his hands. "What's this?"
"Somethin' to perk you up a little. Get you through easier." He clapped JD on the back. "Parker wants you back in the booth in ten. I'll tell him I found ya." He smiled and left.
Oh, damn, Keith breathed. Reds.
"Reds?" JD opened the bag and lifted out one of the small red pills. "They look like red-hots."
They're red and they're hot all right, the ghost growled. But not in the way you mean. Johnny, that's speed.
"Speed," JD frowned harder. "......uppers?"
Uppers, Keith confirmed.
JD looked toward the door. "Marty did say they'd help...."
Well, now, that depends.
On whether or not you wanna end up like me, Keith said firmly. Dead at 31, your body ravaged by drugs and booze to the point you look like you're fifty or so. Before that, losing your talent.... developing epilepsy....
JD froze. He knew Keith's story forwards and backwards. Since the ghost had come into his life, he'd reveled in having a constant friend -- and a famous one at that! Keith had done many things for him.
The ghost had never, ever steered him wrong or lied to him.
The journey of a thousand miles, Keith reminded him, begins with one single step.
"...and the path toward being like you," JD whispered, "starts with one red pill."
Silence, then Keith whispered, Your choice, mate.
JD looked into the mirror, considering. Then he moved into a stall and poured the bag of pills into a commode.
As he flushed and watched the poison vanish into the sewer, JD smiled. "Keith?"
Yes, dear boy? the voice was full of pride.
"I think I'd rather follow my own path than the one you took."
Keith's words were clogged with tears. Excellent form, my dear boy. Most excellent indeed!
JD broke out of his reverie and blinked, looking over at Ezra. "I'm sorry --- what did you say?"
Ezra smiled. "I asked who your helper was."
"A friend," JD said as he felt a ghostly hand close over his shoulder. "A friend I can never repay enough."
A friend who knows, Johnny my lad, came a gentle whisper for his ears only.
JD stood up. "Come on," he told the rest of the Magnificent Seven. "Let's rock!"
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