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Title: Dueling Banjos
Pairing: Mike Nesmith/Peter Tork
Genre: Slash. Also some angst.
Warnings: This is a slash fic, meaning that it contains adult content between two characters of the same sex. If that isn't your bag, don't read this. Also contains some adult language.
Disclaimer: This fic is about the Mike/Peter characters from "The Monkees" TV show (but, as the lines between their TV and real selves do tend to get blurry, that may also happen a bit in this fic). However, I make no claims as to the personalities or sexual proclivities of the real Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, and I glean no profit from this story whatsoever. So don't sue me, cause I'm a broke grad student and I'd have to pay you in little tiny packets of Chinese mustard.
Summary: Mike and Peter are fighting incessantly as the guys try to prepare for an upcoming gig. Will they be able to work things out?
Author's Note: Inspired by this picture and (somewhat) this picture. Make sure to check them out before reading.
Tension. It is the source of our passion, our furor, and the greatest moments in history have been preceded by its vast, encompassing pause.
It was also what Mike Nesmith had been feeling for some time now, specifically almost every time he found himself around Peter Tork. He couldn't pinpoint it, couldn't ascertain whether it was good or bad; friendly musician rivalry or flat-out aggravation over Peter's endlessly sunny demeanor.
It's gotta rain sometime, shotgun...
The sandy-haired man, for his part, was also feeling tense around Mike. He'd seen how the Texan's eyes would darken whenever he tried to talk to him, and felt the Piercing Glare™ fixed on him on more than one occasion, even from across the room. Rather than be frightened off, though, Peter kept trying to engage Mike, his determination fueled by curiosity mixed with fear.
Everything came to a head one day when the four Monkees were in the Pad practicing for an upcoming gig. Mike's already thin patience was worn out that day, and all of the guys were feeling his wrath. He'd yelled at Micky for missing drum beats and Davy for being slightly off-tempo. Peter's finger pick had gone missing the day before and, despite a massive search effort by all of the guys, it hadn't resurfaced since. He'd gone down to the music shop that afternoon to buy a new one, but Elvin, the manager, had closed the store early that day, and it wouldn't be open again til morning. In the meantime, Peter had to make do with his fingers. The California heat was especially strong that day, and even with all of the windows in the Pad open, his hands were still sweaty, which caused him to slip on a few notes--much to Mike's ever-growing chagrin.
"Damn it, Peter! That's the fifth time today!" Mike declared, annoyed.
"I'm sorry, Mike. It's hot in here and my hands are sweating," Peter said softly.
Mike lifted the guitar strap over his head, setting the instrument down next to him. "Well that ain't good enough. Or at least it won't be when it comes time for us to play a gig. I offered you some resin earlier; why didn't you take it?"
"I'm allergic to the chemicals in your resin, remember? Unless you want my hands to turn red and get so itchy that I won't be able to play at all." Peter sighed, trying his best to remain calm despite the discontent building inside of him.
"Then you shoulda gotten your finger picks yesterday, like I told you. But no, you made us all get down on our hands and knees lookin' for it for three hours, to no avail."
"Mike, cool it, will you?" Micky interjected. "That was Peter's favorite finger pick. We said we'd help him look for it."
"It's all right, Micky," Peter said. "I appreciated your help. And I told you, I'm going to go down to Elvin's first thing in the morning and get a new one. Come to think of it, he's got that groovy all-natural resin, too. I can get some while I'm there."
"That's just peaches n' cream, now isn't it?" Mike muttered, flashing a brief sarcastic smile. "But until then, we're stuck with you slipping up notes."
"Well, maybe if you'd be a little more patient and understanding, we could get through this just fine. Not everything has to be perfect the first shot around. That's why they call it practice," Peter countered.
"I didn't say it had to be perfect. It just shouldn't sound like complete shit, either. Which is, by and large, the direction we're headin' in," Mike said through gritted teeth.
"All right, that's it," Davy interrupted. "You two have been at each other's throats all day, and I'm sick of it. We're all tired, and more than a little nervous about this performance, but this is just getting out of hand."
"Yeah, you know what? Davy's right, man. We can't play like this, fighting and taking jabs at each other," said Micky, setting down his drumsticks. He got up from behind the drum, grabbing his jacket from a nearby chair. "Davy, let's just go to the beach for a while. It's hotter than hell in here, and I need to go for a swim and cool off."
"Good idea, man. And you two," Davy gestured to Peter and Mike. "Stay here and work out whatever it is you've got going on between you. All right?"
"Yeah, Mike, and if that doesn't work, find a bottle of bug spray and go kill whatever crawled up your ass and died," Micky snickered, ducking as Mike tossed one of his shoes at him.
Micky and Davy were already out the door and gone before either of the other two musicians could protest. Mike sighed loudly, running a hand through his hair.
"Fucking hell. This is just great," Mike grumbled. "Now do you see what you did?"
Peter's eyes went wide at Mike's statement, which had shattered the resolve he'd tried to hold firm up until then. "What I did? What the hell is your problem?!" he snapped, standing up from the chair where he'd been sitting. "Where do you get off blaming me for this? It's not my fault that I lost that pick."
"Wait, it isn't your fault that you lost your guitar pick?" Mike gasped melodramatically. "Then whose could it be? Oh, I know! It's Cletus, the Finger Pick Gnome, come down to steal all the world's finger picks!"
Peter threw up his hands in exasperation."Dammit, Michael, you're abusing sarcasm at this point. Can't you ever address me seriously, like an adult?"
"Well if you'd act like one, I would!" Mike yelled.
Peter opened his mouth to retaliate but stopped midway, not wanting his anger to get the better of him. He closed his eyes and began to breathe deeply, calming himself back down.
He spoke again a few moments later, his voice back to its normal timbre and tone. "I won't stand here and fight with you, Michael. We can go to our respective rooms and cool down until Davy and Micky get back, if that's what you want."
Mike nodded, muttering quietly to himself as he picked up his guitar again. He moved to walk toward the stairs, but was stopped by Pete's hand on his chest.
"But I need to know one thing first: Why?"
"Why what?" Mike asked.
"Why do you always get mad when I come near you? And glare at me? Sometimes I can feel it on the other side of the room, even when I can't see you."
Mike's eyes widened in shock. Peter had seen it--the darkness. The tension. Did he feel it, too? Mike wondered silently. Now it was his hands that were sweating. He was beginning to lose his grip on the guitar, and he placed it down on one of the kitchen chairs before it could fall out of his hand.
"Aw, geez...why do you care, anyway?" Mike looked away from Peter, staring out the bay window.
"Because you're my friend. And I want us to get along. I want to be able to talk to you without feeling so tense all the time." Peter froze as the last few words left his mouth, not knowing if it was a good idea to bring up the tension he'd felt between them.
"Look, sometimes things just are what they are. There doesn't have to be a reason," Mike sighed, placing a hand on the stair rail.
"Is that more of that Ling Fu Yang stuff?" Peter asked, trying to suppress a grin.
"No, that one's a little W.H. Woolhat for ya, a wise old homegrown philosopher that nobody's ever heard of--"
"--because he's not real?" Peter finished and broke into a laugh, the dimpled smile he'd tried to hold back now spread across his face.
Mike felt warm again all of a sudden, the familiar knot curling up inside his stomach. Peter stood only a few feet away, a fact he'd not taken notice of until then. He needed more distance, or so the little panicked voice in his head was telling him. He inched backwards slightly toward the couch, trying to play it casual as he sat down on it.
Peter's smile faded as he saw Mike move away.
"You did it again," Peter's voice was trembling. "What did I do now, Michael?" he asked, nearly on the verge of tears.
The sight and sound of Peter so upset unnerved Mike, especially knowing that he was the cause. He stood up again, some combination of paternal obligation and something more propelling him to act, to comfort Peter--something he wouldn't have even thought of doing ten minutes earlier, a fact that also unnerved him.
"Oh geez, Pete. Don't cry, man," Mike walked back over to Peter, placing a hand on his shoulder. He began to slowly move it back and forth, rubbing softly.
"I can't help it," Peter said, his voice breaking as the words rapidly fell out of his mouth. "You make me feel like I'm diseased or something. I know I've been slipping on notes and I lost my finger pick and made you guys all look for it and then Elvin's was closed and--"
"It's okay. It's okay," Mike whispered, moving the hand on Peter's shoulder around to his back and pulling him into his arms in a hug. Peter buried his face in the taller man's neck, sobbing quietly. Mike reached his other hand up to the back of Peter's head, gently stroking his fingers through the bassist's silken hair.
"I'm a mean, rotten son-of-a-bitch, Peter. I know it," Mike said. "Doesn't mean I had a right to yell at you like that. And you are not--" he paused before continuing, pulling back slightly and lifting Peter's head to look him in the eye. "Not diseased. Not even close."
Peter looked away, wiping the tears from his eyes, ashamed at his outburst. He felt Mike's hands on his upper arms, gripping tightly, and turned back to face the dark-haired man.
"You hear me?" Mike was dead serious now, but there was no anger in his eyes like there'd been before. Peter saw something new, something he didn't recognize. There was concern, yes; and genuine worry over his well-being. But behind those things was something else.
"I hear you," Peter finally responded, his voice still slightly hoarse from crying. He reached a hand up to the side of Mike's face, touching it just slightly, expecting the Texan to jump out of his reach at any moment.
But Mike didn't move; he didn't even flinch. His hands were still on Peter's arms, though his grip had loosened significantly. Peter moved closer to him, Mike's hands sliding down to his forearms as he did, until their faces were just inches apart. Mike swallowed hard, uncomfortable with this level of closeness, but not wanting it to go away, either. He could feel Peter's breath ghosting on his cheek, the heat of it driving his pulse up several beats. He wondered if Peter felt as nervous as he did right then, and forced his eyes up to look at him.
Peter had stopped thinking moments before, and was focusing intently on the scratchy-softness of Mike's sideburn beneath his hand, twirling the dark hair around with his finger. He saw Mike looking up at him and decided it was time for Mike to stop thinking, too. He closed his eyes, tilted his head slightly, and leaned in, pressing his lips against Mike's.
Mike froze at this, not knowing what to do. This was a man who was kissing him, and not just any man, but Peter. Is this what he wanted all along? Mike's mind reeled, trying to process everything at once. Shit...could this be what I wanted? He shook the thought out of his head, not ready for the words "want" and "Peter" to exist in the same hemisphere with each other. He felt Peter's lips beginning to move against his, seemingly urging him to respond. Cutting loose whatever threads of reason had managed to remain intact up to that point, Mike slowly kissed Peter back, moving ever-so tentatively, as if stepping foot into a hot bath.
The sound of female giggling wafted faintly through the windows, and the door to the Pad burst open, with Micky, Davy, and a blonde girl spilling in a moment later and shutting the door behind them. Mike and Peter immediately jumped apart, both startled by the noise and afraid of what might have been seen. Mike ran a hand through the dark wave of hair hanging over his forehead, straightening himself out, and Peter grabbed his guitar, holding it in front of him to conceal their actions--and the large bulge that had grown in the front of his pants.
"So, did you guys kill each other yet?" Micky asked, not even looking up as he hopped down the stairs and over to his drum kit, fiddling with one of the screws to get at a small tinfoil package inside.
"Uh, no, Mick," Mike said, clearing his throat. "Everything's cool now."
"Great. Well, uh, Davy and I are going to go upstairs with--Caroline, isn't it?"
"My name's Charlene!" the blonde's indignant response came in a high-pitched whine.
"Right. We'll be upstairs with Caroline, if you need us. But please don't," Micky added with a wink, rubbing his hands and grinning conspiratorially. He ran back to Davy and the blonde, one of them on either side of her as they quickly headed up the stairs.
Peter and Mike let out a simultaneous sigh as the bedroom door slammed shut.
"Damn, that was close," Mike said, slumping down onto the couch, lifting his legs up onto it and laying back against the leather. "I near had a heart attack when I heard them come in."
"Mike?" Peter walked back over to Mike, standing in front of him. "Was what you said the truth? I mean...is everything really cool now?"
"Yeah, good buddy. We're okay now," Mike replied, not quite able to look Peter in the eye right then.
Peter smiled brightly, happy with Mike's answer. "I have a new song that I'd like to work on, so I'm going go to my room," Peter said, half-lying.
"All right. I'm just...going to stay here for a while. Can't go upstairs anyhow," Mike chuckled.
"Okay." Peter headed towards the bedroom, stopping just as he was reaching for the doorknob. "Hey, Mike?" he turned around again to face him.
"I really liked kissing you." Peter opened the bedroom door and disappeared inside, partly desperate to take care of pressing business, but also afraid of what Mike might say back.
Mike laid still on the couch, staring up at the ceiling. Peter hadn't waited for a response, and Mike didn't know what kind he would've given him. The truth was, the kiss was soft; chaste, yet sinful; and different from any other he'd had before. On some level, he felt disgusted, like he'd betrayed a part of him that had vowed never to do anything like that. Or at least not to enjoy it. Words weren't doing Mike any favors right then, and he reached into his jeans pocket, pulling out a small harmonica he'd had since he was a kid. He lifted it to his lips, playing out a few quiet notes before pulling it away.
It's gotta rain sometime...right before the sun comes out to make it warm...