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"Better Business - Part 2: Layaway"
Title: Better Business, Part 2: Layaway
Author: Virginia Plain
Genre/Pairing: Davy/Peter, mentions of Mike/Peter (RL, not TV)
Rating: this part is PG-13
Warnings: slash, mentions of violence and drugs
Disclaimer: This story is purely the result of my imagination (which should probably
worry me) and not at all any claim to represent real events or ownership of the persons
Summary: “Once you’ve bonded and you’ve had this thing such as the Monkees, to me, a friend is a friend for life. But this was more, this was finding three brothers I never had” (Davy Jones).
Author’s Note #1: On February 29, 2012, I had a long talk with my crusty, no-guff, 60-something father. He was inconsolable: Davy Jones had passed away. We were lucky enough to see the Monkees on their 45th Anniversary tour the previous summer, and Dad was especially thrilled that Davy had sung his favorite song, “It’s Nice to Be with You.” Davy, wherever you are, Dad and I would just like to say: it was nice to be with you, too.
Author’s Note #2: Although I’d recommend (and beg and plead) that you read Part 1, “Salesman,” to set up this story, you can probably get by with a recap. Both stories take place after the infamous Peter-Davy fight during the filming of “The Monkees’ Paw.” In Part 1, Mike and Peter had… shall we say, addressed some of their own differences, and Peter had left to go patch things up with Davy.
“Erm, sorry, sorry, didn’t have it in sync. Let’s try again, all right?”
Davy pressed a hand to his throbbing forehead as he waited for the tape to be set again. Then, upon realising he was mussing his hair, quickly removed it. Not in sync. Truer words I’ve never spoken.
What was he even doing here in the control room? A place he’d never thought to occupy a couple short years ago, a place he hadn’t thought it proper to occupy. When had he ever got it into his head that he could write a song, produce a track? Well, he knew when of course. All four of them had latched onto that notion, though one had beaten the other three to the punch—ouch, bad choice of words there. But eventually they’d all caught on. It was enticing, intoxicating… and at the moment it required more concentration than he could give.
“Okay, let’s try again.” Jesus, what take was this? Twenty? Twenty-five? He was used to nailing his vocals in two or three tries, but in those cases the backing track was presented to him already finished, all tied up with a bow. Here he was trying to make his own backing track, and he just couldn’t get it right. “Right then, on three—“
“Wait, we’re still setting the tape,” Hank told him.
Davy groaned to himself again. He just couldn’t pay attention to anything, couldn’t get it together. Hank was probably getting a bit pissed off. The only comfort was that it was some of his friends down in the studio pit. Charlie didn’t mind playing the same thing over and over, wouldn’t hold it against him. Some of the lyrics Davy would sing later—whenever they finished this bloody backing track—echoed in his mind: “I have got more friends than I’ve ever had before / But are all these friends like the ones I knew before?”
These friends, at least, hadn’t pressed him to explain his distraction, or his frequent exits to the loo. It wasn’t a bladder problem; he just had to keep checking the mirror to make sure his hair was still a perfectly combed fringe hiding the ugly swatch of stitches over his eyebrow. Once Eddie had bumped into him there, but Davy had cut off his shocked questioning.
“You should see the other guy,” he’d told Eddie with a flash of his patented cheeky grin and, as he’d hoped, no more questions were asked.
Speaking of the other guy, when had Peter gone and lost his sense of humor? It was incredible that this whole mess was sparked by one of Davy’s jokes. Just a little crack about water beds and brown rice. Maybe he’d cracked it plenty of times before—he knew he tended to do that—but if it had never bothered Peter before, why now? “That’s not funny, David, and if you don’t knock it off—” Davy didn’t like being told to shut it, not by anyone, but especially not by someone whose job it was to appreciate him. “I’m not funny, eh? Then have a chuckle at *this*—“ And there it was, a battle of something less than champions—bam! pow!—and when the dust had settled all that remained were two bruised Monkees who couldn’t get away from each other fast enough.
Davy suddenly became aware that Hank had been speaking to him for the last several minutes. “Sorry, what was that?”
“The tape is ready,” Hank said a bit snappishly.
“Right, right… erm, how ‘bout you handle this one? I just need to, ah, check something.” Without another word Davy left the control room and hastened along the well-trod path to the toilet. Making sure nobody was in the stalls, he leant over the basin and splashed some water on his face, careful not to get the stitches wet. After drying off, he examined his hair again. A few strokes of his trusty comb set it to rights once more. If only everything else could be dealt with that easily.
He recalled himself back in hospital, sitting on the examining table and grimacing while needle and thread probed and tugged at the skin of his forehead. The doctor had lectured him throughout about “stupid young people” who only acted on impulse, no thought for consequences or responsibility… He’d been reprimanded like a child and, perversely, reacted by thinking like one. All of the petulant, childish thoughts had raced through his mind: Peter put me in hospital—so much for peace, love and flowers! Mike deserves a fist in the face more than me! I should just hang out with Micky from now on! It’s all Peter’s fault! I’m not apologising! So there!
But later, during the drive from the hospital to the recording studio, he’d begun to put childish things away. The boy who’d had to grow up too fast began to think like the man he wanted to be, and that man reluctantly concluded there was blame to spread around. Giving someone a Manchester kiss because they didn’t like your jokes was a bit of an overreaction, wasn’t it? In truth, Davy admitted, it wasn’t really like himself at all.
Why had he blown up like that? If Micky’d been the one offended or hurt by his joke, he’d have made sure not to tell that joke ever again. If Mike had been the one objecting, he’d have made certain to tell it again—and again and again. But Peter wasn’t supposed to object. He wasn’t supposed to do anything except silently admire everything Davy said and did, without asking for or expecting anything more. That was the unspoken pact between them, or at least how Davy had understood it. By making criticisms and issuing ultimatums, Peter was upsetting their comfortable arrangement and yanking away one of the few sure things Davy could count on amid the madness their lives had become. Put another way, Peter was going off script—and it got Davy’s back up like nothing else.
That invited the question of what had made Peter himself act so out of character. Maybe there’d been warning signs, things that Davy had missed or unconsciously chosen to ignore. Maybe that was where his own fault lay… maybe. So… Davy decided he was maybe sort of willing to kind of apologise. But he wanted to hear what Peter had to say for himself first. Although that would mean going to see Peter, which he wasn’t quite ready to do yet. He did clock me one, so he should still make the first move, Davy decided with a small trace of petulance left.
Yeah, right. He’s probably off with the White Rabbit in Wonderland by now, forgot all about me…
A flash of orange caught his eye. It was reflected in the mirror above the basin, and almost as painful as his war wound. It was a shirt, an orange shirt he knew all too well. Only one person owned what he’d always thought of as The Ugliest Shirt in the Western Hemisphere and Then Some. Davy liked colourful clothes himself, but he at least took care not to put anyone’s eyes out with his wardrobe selections.
“What are you doing here?” Davy instantly regretted his suspicious, demanding tone. Way to get things off on the right foot, Jones. But it was a fair question. It was getting rarer and rarer for any of them to be in the same studio at the same time these days. Davy knew Peter was upset about that, but not to the point of crashing another Monkee’s recording session because of it.
“You weren’t at the hospital or at home,” came the calm response. Peter was leaning against the tiled wall, arms crossed over his front.
Hmmm. Maybe this will turn out okay after all. If Peter cared enough to hunt for him, then he might be willing to apologise first. In fact Peter must have cared a lot more than that, because it certainly looked as if he’d run all the way here. Davy didn’t know what else to make of his flushed face and slightly rumpled appearance, both of which were at odds with his strangely serene manner.
And there was something else about his face… Davy hadn’t really seen where his own blow had landed, but he’d assumed it was somewhere in the nasal vicinity. Instead Peter had a multi-hued bruise on his left cheekbone—except that it was an oddly regular shape for a bruise. In fact, it looked like—
“What is that thing?” Davy pointed at the reflection of Peter’s cheek in the mirror. The question was less harsh than before, now that he was reminded that he had inflicted as well as received an injury.
“Camouflage for the cameras. Just a tattoo—temporary, I assure you. By the time you get used to it, it’ll be gone.”
“Okay, but seriously—a butterfly?”
“I thought a flower would just piss you off more.”
Davy decided not to go there. Bringing up the hippie thing again would call back to mind his disastrous water-beds-and-brown-rice joke, and this attempt at reconciliation would be over before it started.
“Yeah, well… erm, did you hear any of the song?” Best to stick with neutral subjects for now.
“Some of it. I didn’t want to bug you in the control room. I’m not on Hank’s welcome list right now anyway.” Peter inclined his head to the side. “You wrote it, didn’t you?”
“Why else would I be here?”
“Actually that’s not what I meant. I knew it from the rhythm.”
“What’s wrong with the rhythm?” Davy bristled. The situation was getting away from him again, but any musical critique from Peter had a validity that couldn’t be ignored. If Peter said it was rubbish, then Davy would do best to heed him… but it just wasn’t what he wanted to hear right now.
“Nothing.” Peter looked surprised. “I just heard it and knew it was you. That’s your signature.”
Not quite an apology yet, but getting there. At least Peter was willingly falling back into the accepted pattern of admiring him. But there was still something different about him… Davy couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was some kind of weird glow about Peter that—judging from the lack of red in his eyes—was for once not due to grass, acid, sleepers, leapers or the rest of his vast chemical stockpile.
Peter took a step closer to him. “Can I see?” was all he said.
Resigned to getting the comb out again later, Davy turned to face Peter and pushed his hair back from his forehead. Peter had the grace to wince at the sight of the damage he’d caused.
A light hand barely skimmed the threads, a tickling sensation that lessened the throbbing just a bit. The hand did not touch the angry red patch of skin, only gliding above it then down the side of his face. A cool palm rested on his cheek.
“I am so sorry.”
It was exactly what he’d wanted—someone else to take the blame and the pain—but for some reason the simple statement almost broke Davy. If he had any less pride, he might even start bawling. That could only mean one thing: time for another joke.
“So am I.” Davy waited until Peter looked about to speak again, then grinned: “Yeah, I’m sorry you punched me, too.”
Peter took his hand away, pressing it to his own head in mock agony. “You,” he groaned, “really need to find some new material.” He looked up again, less serene and more serious than before. “I was… um, talking… to Michael. He says you and I will be okay because you respect fighters. It sounds like the Attila the Hun school of how to win friends and influence people. That’s not how I want to live. And I really hope that’s not what it takes for you to let me be your friend again.”
Davy felt his hackles rising once more. “Mike doesn’t know as much as he thinks,” he bridled, “and he certainly doesn’t know how I think.” Why did Mike have to go and stick his oar in this? It was none of his business, would just make everything worse. “As for friends—it goes beyond that, Peter. As far as I’m concerned, you never stopped being a brother.” He couldn’t resist taking a shot at the absent troublemaker: “So yeah, tell Mike he can stuff it up the other place.”
“Mike—what?!” Peter’s eyes widened. “Oh. Um, thanks but… I think I’ll just hold that thought, if you don’t mind.”
Now that Mike’s shadow had intruded on them, Davy had to acknowledge the irony of it: he’d always assumed the likeliest fight would be between him and Mike. They could both be stubborn sons of bitches, but it was more than that. Lately Mike had been in Davy’s bad books, for a variety of reasons that all essentially boiled down to the fact that Mike had turned out to be someone other than he’d first seemed. And how he’d first seemed was a hell of a lot more appealing to Davy than the snide, standoffish jerk he was now. They’d only avoided a punch-up because Davy took care not to let it happen. Mike was just too bloody big; there was a point where standing up for yourself crossed the line to foolishly suicidal.
After that, Davy would have guessed the next likeliest fight would be between Mike and Peter. They certainly had enough rows, and a hole in the wall of a Beverly Hills hotel room had made Mike’s capacity for violence clear enough. Davy used to think Peter’s pacifist beliefs kept their disagreements from escalating to the physical. Until today he’d doubted Peter even knew how to throw a punch, but the stitches in his forehead guaranteed he would never doubt again. Yet if Peter had it in him to deliver a pile driver like that, why didn’t he ever give a richly deserved one to Mike? And why give it to *me*?
Sometimes, when observing those two go at it, Davy thought maybe he should just forget them and only hang out with Micky from now on. Micky was crazy, sure, but at least his was a consistent brand of craziness. You never had to worry about Micky being a barrel of laughs today, then an aloof, indifferent stranger tomorrow. Or a wise, patient teacher one minute and a blithering space-case the next. Still, the four of them shared this bizarre brotherhood, this unsought bond, and even if it sometimes felt more like a manacle he couldn’t bring himself to break it.
“What’s it like?” he asked.
Peter looked even more alarmed than before. What’s all this, then? Davy wondered.
“David, I really don’t think you want to know about—“
“I meant, what’s it like to have brothers,” Davy clarified even as he became more confused himself. “You’re the only one of us who does.”
Peter visibly relaxed. “Oh. Oh, I see.”
“I always say the Monkees are like the brothers I never had, but how would I know when I never had any? Maybe I’m just talking complete cobblers.”
When he saw Peter tilt his head again, he knew it would be a few minutes before he got any kind of answer. He was actually okay with that. This was the Peter he liked best, the thoughtful one who had taught him the bass and drums for their live concerts. That was the first time he’d realised Peter was more than just some weird guy who often seemed flakier than a big bowl of Kelloggs. As he patiently guided Davy through chords and beats and all the rest of it, Davy was confronted with a truth he’d only known in abstract before: that this was a uni professor’s son, someone who but for a different roll of the dice might well have been a teacher himself. And he was the kind of teacher Davy responded to: exacting but encouraging, as willing to listen as to lecture.
“You’re not wrong,” Professor Peter eventually said. “I guess you could say it’s like a toothache. It bothers you every day, but you still don’t want to lose the tooth.”
Just like that, everything suddenly made sense. Davy felt some of that serenity flow into himself, chasing away the tumult. Everything was going to be okay—
“On second thought, scratch that. It’s a lousy analogy,” Peter offered a puckish smile of his own, “considering what that fascist dentist of yours did to my mouth.”
“He must be getting rusty,” Davy deadpanned. “Not like he gets to practise much with these perfect choppers of mine, eh?”
He had his little vanities, but he usually treated them as jokes so as not to rub people the wrong way. Peter’s answering laugh assured him that his jokes still worked in that respect. So why didn’t they work before?
“Let’s go to the break room.” Davy pointed to the door. “I want to ask you something, and the bog isn’t really where I want to do it.”
Peter looked worried again but said nothing as he waited for Davy to comb his hair back in place, or as they padded through the studio hallways to the lounge. After making sure nobody was present, Davy locked the door behind them. He flopped down on the worn, mouldy-green sofa, resting his head against its back. When he noticed Peter still awkwardly standing, he motioned at the seat beside him.
As Peter sat down, Davy caught a whiff of something he couldn’t quite place. It wasn’t grass, and it wasn’t that hippie mint incense stuff. It was a tangy, woodsy scent. Not unpleasant, but not something he associated with Peter. It wasn’t unfamiliar either, but he couldn’t recall where or when…
“You said you wanted to ask me something,” Peter reminded him.
“I—yeah, right. I wanted to ask, why did you get so angry today when I told that joke about the water beds and brown rice? I mean, angry enough to actually hit me!”
“Leaving aside that you head-butted me in the face, that is?”
“You were angry before that. When I told that joke. It’s not like you. Are my jokes really so bad?” He nearly cringed at the slightly pleading note in his last question. How pathetic!
Another lengthy thought session commenced. Davy tried to believe the wait would be worth it if he could get a comprehensible answer.
“That’s a good question,” Peter said after a while. “I didn’t think it was like me, either. Or I hoped it wasn’t. At first, I thought it was because you really do need to come up with some new material. Some of your repeats ought to be outlawed as cruel and unusual punishment, you know.”
“Nah, got a built-in defence, don’t I? Not guilty by reason of temporary profanity.”
Peter groaned again. “I rest my case.” He touched the butterfly tattoo on his cheek, a seemingly unconscious gesture. “Then I was… talking… to Michael, and I thought it was because of the hippie thing. You both drive me crazy with that,” he said a bit sternly. “You enjoy the trappings, but you put me down for living it. That does make me mad. Like the song says, you’re day trippers. It… I think the expression you would use is that it ‘gets up me nose’.”
“Thought that’s where the brown rice went,” Davy quipped before he could stop himself. Oh, great. That’s it, I’ve blown it—
“But now, I think it doesn’t really get me that mad,” Peter continued. “Now… now, just talking to you like this, I think that joke set me off because it came on top of something else you’d said earlier.”
Something that wasn’t a joke?
“I think,” said Peter, “what really made me lose it was that you said I was scary.”
Of all the possible grievances and recriminations Davy had expected to hear, this one had barely even registered. Did I say he was scary? He searched his memory. Oh. I suppose I did.
“You didn’t say it to me—which was worse, by the way—but I heard you tell Micky you didn’t like coming to my house because you were scared you’d be in the middle of an orgy or drug freak-out. You said I scared you, like you thought I was going to attack you or something. That hurt. A lot. You think I’m going to dope you up with something, then take advantage of you? Really, David? Have I ever given you a reason to be afraid of me because—because of that?”
Instinctively Davy slid further to the side of the sofa, away from Peter, knowing he was just adding to the hurt. But he had to put some distance between himself and the words he didn’t want to hear. All this time he’d been pondering and puzzling over why he and Peter would have come to blows, yet deep down inside hadn’t he known it was because of this unspoken and unequal covenant between them?
“I wish you had a different favourite colour,” Davy slurred as the blissful cloud of smoke filled Peter’s living room. “All this orange is making me feel like I fell inside a traffic cone.”
He’d been making a point of hanging out with his fellow Monkees, convinced that as the only four people in the world who knew what they were going through, they ought to do more than just work together. Micky and Peter went along him, but Mike was having none of it.
Mike didn’t have any time for them anymore, was too busy on the phone cutting deals and shouting and looking down his nose at them all. He didn’t used to be that way. He used to laugh with them. He used to swap jokes with Davy all the time, each one worse than the last, and they’d both collapse to their knees with laughter. Such a long time ago. If only Mike would go back to the way he was…
Stupid thought. None of them was ever going to be the same again, ever.
So here he was in this house of orange, sharing a joint with Peter… who didn’t really have any reason to. Peter didn’t need to look for brothers; he already had some. But that must mean something, that he was making time for Davy when he didn’t have to. At the very least, it probably meant that he wouldn’t give away his Christmas present from Davy to someone else like Mike had…
“You know, my ex kinda looks like you.”
Davy wasn’t so far gone from the grass that he didn’t find Peter’s statement a wee bit odd. Peter himself had his eyes closed, nothing evident on his face except utter tranquility.
“That’s lucky then,” Davy couldn’t resist joking. “Lots of people wish they could say that.”
Several minutes—or was it hours—dragged by before Peter made his next weighty pronouncement.
“She digs horses, too.”
And then Peter had let loose a gentle cascade of giggles, and Davy had pretended he knew what the hell Peter was talking about, nodding and smiling and surrendering to the lure of the lotus.
Davy had thought nothing more about it. Peter had said nothing more about it, whether in or out of his right mind. But then one day Davy was at Peter’s house again when said ex actually turned up during a visit to LA.
It was hard to say what had shocked him more. For one thing, the ex wasn’t a former girlfriend but a former *wife*. For another, the short, dark-haired, boyish figure *did* kinda look like him. And his brain just about imploded when he distinctly heard Peter address the ex as “Joe.”
Joe?! Was this a chick or a fella? What in the world was going on here?
At least that mystery was cleared up when the ex introduced herself to Davy as “Jody.” So that was it: Peter had actually said “Jo.” Of course. Jo. Jo. Davy had simply been mistaken. But there was no mistaking the change that had come over Peter as he talked to the ex. His usual smile now had a tight, painful quality… pain that reached right up to his eyes. Whatever had happened between him and Joe—*Jo*, Davy corrected himself—this busted relationship must have meant something to him. Jo must have been someone he’d cared for.
Davy hadn’t stuck around to talk to her about horses. He’d made his tactful goodbyes then made himself scarce, heading home to sort out what he’d witnessed. The conclusion he kept drawing seemed preposterous but it was also the only one that made any sense.
Peter fancied him. Peter saw something of Joe—Jo!—in him, and liked it. Things that Davy had never really taken much notice of now added to the evidence: the way Peter just seemed happy to be around him, the way he sometimes patted Davy’s face for no reason. The way he’d volunteered himself for the task of getting Davy into instrumental shape for their concerts, praising his progress and abilities when nobody else gave a toss. The way he would spend time with Davy when he didn’t have to…
Davy had nothing against poofters, per se. You couldn’t work in the English theatre, let alone in a Lionel Bart production, and not have some inkling of three-pound notes. So long as limits were respected, no harm done. Nor, he supposed, should it really surprise him that Peter, with all his free love notions, might possibly be one. Or half and half. Or something.
In fact, the more he thought about it, in a strange way this might work out for both of them. Davy was a born entertainer; he needed an audience. Now, he was guaranteed one. Peter needed to admire him; Davy was more than pleased to let him. So long as Peter respected the limits, which he seemed to have no trouble doing, it could be the best of both worlds. Davy got a daily boost to his ego with no obligation to return the attention. Sometimes, when he was having a truly rubbish day and needed to feel better, he would even crank it up a bit for Peter, playing the “aren’t I just too cute” game and soaking up Peter’s uncritical adoration. All the benefits, none of the responsibilities.
Nothing was ever openly said or acknowledged. It was just how things were between them, and it was as plum as the job could get.
But every now and then his conscience niggled at him. Was he playing with another person’s feelings? Wasn’t that… not very sporting? Would Peter call him out on it some day, tell him to make up his mind once and for all? Many people would. Davy himself would, were their positions reversed. He’d understand if Peter finally told him to piss or get off the pot, but he hoped it never happened.
Because then he would have to say no. He could not force himself to be something he wasn’t. No matter how good the intention of making someone else happy, it was a recipe for disaster. Saying no wouldn’t be a jolly occasion either, though. Peter would probably, and quite rightly, be furious at being teased and used. He’d probably wash his hands of it all right then and there. The Monkees would be even more fractured than they already were, the show would suffer, Davy would lose his little daily dose of ego-boo. He’d lose a friend and brother.
He’d have to see Peter look at him the same way he’d looked at Joe—Jo!—with all that pain in his eyes.
He couldn’t let that happen...
“Well? Have I?”
Davy shook himself out of his memories and tried to get a handle on what Peter was asking him. What had they been talking about? Hippies? No, jokes. No, house… drugs… orgies… frightened to go there—that was it! Peter was asking him if he’d ever scared Davy. Scared him that way.
“No. No, of course not.”
“Then why the hell would you say something like that! I swear, you and Michael both really know how to cut someone right to the heart…”
Peter’s voice trailed off, eyes widening in alarm again. Clearly he’d said something he hadn’t meant to. He abruptly sat up.
“Look, I have to go. I’m glad we had a chance to talk and all, and I’m glad we’re still brothers… but I’ve just… um… you have a song to finish, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Davy watched silently as Peter struggled to his feet. The movement brought another whiff of that tangy, woodsy scent that he just could not… quite… place…
Hold up. Don’t tell me. No, anything but that.
“I’ve been here at the studio for hours,” Davy said as Peter beat a hasty retreat to the door. “What took you so long?”
“Pride before a fall,” Peter muttered, fumbling with the lock at the door. “And I’m far from the only one in our little circle who has that problem.”
“You know, when I first saw you in the loo I thought you looked like you’d run a marathon to get here. That was pretty flattering, that you wanted to make it up to me that much.”
“I did. I mean, no, I didn’t run here, but I did want to make it up to you.”
“The thing is, if it meant that much you’d have come a lot sooner. So what were you doing all that time?”
“I was… nothing you want to hear about. Just weird hippie stuff, you know.”
“I didn’t know,” Davy said slowly, “that weird hippie stuff wore Mike’s aftershave.”
If ever he’d needed proof that Peter wasn’t a trained actor, he had it now. The whole story was written all over his face.
“Peter… no. You’re supposed to be thick on the show, not—I mean, come on, Mike? You know that can’t end well.”
Davy couldn’t even fathom it. Mike? He’s having it off with Mike, who shouts at him all the time, insults him, threatens him? He should have thumped Mike a long time ago, instead he’s shagging with him? I’m the one he fancies, I never treated him like that, so why wasn’t I—
Peter sighed and returned to the sofa. He sat back down, as far away from Davy as possible. “I guess not. Heck, it didn’t even start well.”
Thankfully Peter didn’t ask how Davy could identify Mike’s aftershave. It was too embarrassing to admit, something he’d banished to the far recesses of his mind—though obviously not far enough. Truth was, way back in the early days Davy had bought himself a bottle, just because Mike used it. Back in those days, Davy had looked up to Mike. He’d wanted to be Mike. Why not? Mike represented standards of height and hirsuteness that Davy could only envy, plus he looked a little like Elvis and everyone always did what he told them to. What was there not to aspire to?
Quite a few things, as it turned out. Upon more prolonged acquaintance, Davy had begun to feel that the idol had more than a little tin mixed in with the steel. Things that once seemed cool about Mike were no longer so admirable; in fact they were distinct turnoffs—the control, the confidence, the moodiness and aloofness. Things that had made him a fun mate were no longer in evidence. He didn’t swap jokes with Davy anymore. His generosity, which Davy himself had once directly benefited from, had been swallowed by the entrepreneur who was only interested in fattening his already sizable songwriting royalty checks. All the fuss he’d kicked up about the Monkees being their own group might lead a person to logically conclude that he considered himself part of that group, yet now with that battle won he was severing himself from them as surely as if they were three gangrenous limbs.
Under normal circumstances Davy would have just cut his losses. He wasn’t willing to waste his time with someone who preferred their own disagreeable company. But he couldn’t do that with a fellow Monkee, a brother. Besides, to nick a line from President Johnson: better to have Mike inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in. Nonetheless, Davy just didn’t have much left other than a lingering resentment at Mike for conning him into expecting a friend, and at himself for falling for it.
If only Mike would go back to the way he was…
But Mike wasn’t, he never would, and now he’d managed to compound his offences by somehow getting to Peter first—
Wait, wait. Getting to Peter first?! Where did that come from? You know you’d never go there, it’s impossible, you’re not that way...
“It’s like being on a moving train,” Peter said. “Worth the ride, but the track isn’t all smooth. And you just have to stay on board until you get some clue which stop you’re meant to get off.”
What’s he talking about—oh. Mike. Why he’s with Mike. What it’s like being with Mike. Makes sense, sort of…
It was Professor Peter again, the Peter that Davy liked best, but he did not want to see his favourite teacher making an appearance for this!
Teaching, lessons… Davy recalled again those music lessons. The way Peter had guided his hands on the bass, leant over him at the drums, counted softly to help him keep time. Close and warm, but still within those limits. Full of tips and advice and knowledge and wisdom that he never got to display on the show, and rarely anywhere else either. His usual blissful smile had been heightened by what Davy could only describe as gratitude, as if he were saying to Davy: thank you for letting me share what’s been inside me all along. Davy had felt curiously protective of this newly revealed person. Sometimes he’d even wondered if this was a person he maybe… kinda… sorta… perhaps… almost possibly… just might…
That was it, Davy saw now. It was discovering the teacher underneath it all that marked the moment when Davy had begun to get scared by Peter’s drug use. Once he’d learnt that Peter wasn’t just that flaky weird guy, he’d become convinced it was the drugs that made him seem that way. None of them would pass up a good joint if one was on offer, but with Peter it was getting beyond looking for a pleasant buzz to pass the time. Beyond even being a hippie. It seemed more and more like willful self-annihilation: hiding, suppressing, warping a person Davy maybe could have loved. In time, it might destroy that person.
But blokes, especially Monkees, didn’t say to other blokes things like “I’m worried about you and I want to help.” Instead, they cracked jokes. “Hey, did you hear the one about the water beds and the brown rice and Hare Krishna…”
What a bloody fiasco.
Davy’s hand shot up to his forehead, tangling in his hair and giving it a ferocious tug.
“Are you all right?”
The warm, deep voice jolted him out of his futile, too-late comprehension. “No, I’m… I… erm…” Davy shut his eyes against the glare of Peter’s orange shirt. Such an ugly shirt, too ugly to live. It would be better served wrapped round a Christmas cracker…
“What are you thinking about?” Still the teacher’s voice, endlessly patient, nudging his pupil to reason it out, bit by bit, one excruciating step at a time.
“Christmas,” Davy answered truthfully.
“Yeah… the crackers and the colours and… and we had these things, these Christmas clubs. If you wanted to buy a hamper but couldn’t afford it all at once, the shop held it for you till you finished paying it off. My dad put in a bob when he could, and if he’d made the last payment by Christmas we’d get to take the hamper home and eat all the jellies and biscuits.”
Anyone else would have called the men in white coats or at least checked Davy’s temperature, but Peter merely nodded. “We have that, too. Well, not exactly that just for Christmas, but for buying things in general. It’s called ‘layaway’ here.”
Still the supportive professor, quietly urging him along, wanting students to have ideas of their own instead of just repeating what they were told. Davy was glad of that encouragement, because he felt less than adept at this analogy stuff.
“Right, well… I’ve the strangest feeling that I was supposed to be making payments all this time. Now the shop’s got fed up with waiting for me, so they’ve gone and sold my hamper to someone else.”
He waved his other hand when Peter started to speak again.
“I get it,” he said. “I’d have got fed up, too, and probably a lot sooner. It’s just… what I really hated about those Christmas clubs was that we never got to take the hamper home first and pay it off later. You didn’t even get to hold a single biscuit in your hand till that last payment went through. So, if it didn’t… you lost it, without ever even having it.”
“No, you—no, no. That’s not—just, no.”
Davy pulled his hair again in frustration. He just couldn’t win! Here he was trying to admit something, at considerable cost to his own fundamental beliefs about himself, and now even his favourite teacher was abandoning him. Professor Peter would never simply shut down a pupil like that—but Professor Peter had vanished again. Now it was flaky Peter, blithering away and shaking his head, sandy hair flailing all round his face.
“No, no, don’t think that. You’re—you’ve just been surprised, it’s just the competitive instinct or something. It would be the same if he recorded a song you could have sung yourself. Don’t be—don’t confuse it with… um, real feelings. I mean…” Peter looked momentarily at a loss, then blurted out: “All I’m saying is, if you lived without it that whole time, then you didn’t really need it in the first place.”
He reached over and carefully disentangled Davy’s fingers, which were still wreaking havoc on the once perfect fringe. His hand felt very cool.
“Look, I just… With the hippie thing, you do make me mad when you claim you’re not something you are. But with this… our thing, I’d never ask or expect you to be what you’re not. And you’re not that.”
What, and Mike is? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on… But those bells began to ring a little louder as Davy realised he had no idea what Mike was. Thanks to Mike’s aloof ways, he couldn’t even guess what was in Mike’s head or heart. Mike may well have shown his hand to Peter at some point, and Davy had missed it like he seemed to have missed so much else. Is that why those two are always arguing? Is *that* what they’ve really been on about, an unspoken pact of their own?
“You didn’t lose anything. I’m still hanging around,” Peter offered a shaky smile, “still as much of a schmuck as I always was.” The smile strengthened, turning a little more real. “And I’m still happy to just sit on the side and watch you be yourself.”
Be myself? Bit of a tall order, now that I don’t even know who I am anymore. Slowly he became aware of his surroundings again, in particular a very low rumbling in the background. After a moment’s thought he identified it as the break room’s soda machine charging up its fridge. Now that he noticed it, he couldn’t stop noticing it. I’ve got to get out of here.
But Peter was still holding onto his hand. Davy knew he could pull away and Peter would let him.
The fridge rumbled some more. Davy still sat on the sofa. Peter looked right into his eyes.
“You really trust me?” No red in those eyes, no drugs, just the real Peter emerging once more from behind the flaky facade. “Leaving aside that I punched you, that is.”
“I gave you a Manchester kiss first. And yes, I do.”
What did Peter see in Davy’s eyes? For perhaps the only time in his life, Davy was glad to be in a room with no mirrors.
“You really want a biscuit?”
Yes. Yes, I do… Davy nodded, just once.
“Then you’ve got it. Not a Manchester kiss, but—well, not to insult your home town, but frankly this is better.”
Peter slowly leant forward. He’s really going to kiss me. Davy knew he should be panicking, protesting, doing all the things that a proper, normal man would do. At the very least he should close his eyes, because that’s what you were supposed to do when kissing. But Peter’s eyes were open. Davy watched his face come nearer and nearer, the butterfly tattoo on his cheekbone gaining clarity and depth, looking so real that Davy found himself hoping it wouldn’t fly away.
Their lips were going to touch any minute, he knew it… but they didn’t. Peter veered off to the side, just a bit. The tip of his nose glanced off Davy’s before sliding lightly to the right. Davy hardly had a chance to feel it before Peter shifted his nose over in a gentle arc to Davy’s left. This time Davy was more ready for it, had a chance to savour it. He’d never thought of noses as particularly sensitive to anything other than right hooks and ragweed, but all the tiny cells in his skin there seemed to come alive. Peter leant even closer, his left cheek just barely brushing against Davy’s, the wings of a butterfly fluttering near and far, within limits and without, at one and the same time.
Another wisplike rub of the nose to the right, one more to the left. Davy could only imagine what his own face must be showing, but Peter’s smile was growing broader, realer. Blissful, the way it should be. When Peter finally pulled back and sat up straight again, there was also a forgivable hint of smugness.
“Thought you’d like that.”
Like? You just killed me. And I’m this close to asking you to do it again...
“It took me a long time to figure out that it’s just the thing for you uptight Capricorns and your stubborn hides.”
Bloody Mike! Davy felt his fingers clenching again. He must have done that with Mike. Some of the old resentment, the competitive instinct, flared up… but just as quickly died down. He had to admit there was something vaguely hilarious about the image of Mike giving anyone an Eskimo kiss. The very idea of that moody cuss doing such a silly thing was, Davy acknowledged, probably funnier than most of his own jokes.
“David.” Peter’s voice was warm and close. “Don’t give him a hard time about this. Please.” The cool hand softly squeezed his burning fist. “You know he hurts himself more than anyone else.”
Oh, now Mike is supposed to be some fragile flower? Davy felt another surge of irritation. Why did everyone think that pretentious prat had hidden depths like Lord Byron or something… Because he does. You didn’t know he was shagging Peter, that’s about as hidden a depth as you can get. You really don’t know what Mike’s about, do you? Maybe he can hurt, too.
“He’s still there.” Peter looked straight into Davy’s eyes again. “He was the one who told me you had to go to the hospital. Yeah, that was partly to make me feel like a dog for sending you there, but it wasn’t his only reason. You’d have to pull his toenails out before he’d admit it, but I know he told me about you because he cares.”
Pull the other one… No, keep talking. I want to hear this, need to believe it.
“That guy we both remember from the beginning,” Peter said, “he’s still in there, underneath it all.”
No lie in those eyes. Mike was still there. Peter was still there. The words were finally taking on a real shape, something he could touch and be touched by, and believe in.
“All right. I won’t give him a hard time.” Davy grinned, half in relief and half playing the part he was expected to, that he excelled at. “At least, not about this. But next time he pukes when we’re filming on a boat, no promises.”
Peter tilted his head to the side… and laughed.
The sound of his own answering laughter was far more tuneful to Davy’s ears than that damned hash of a backing track he should have completed hours ago. That he still hadn’t finished his work, that every minute he sat here laughing on the sofa was costing thousands of dollars in studio time, that he would have to remember to comb his hair again before getting back to business—none of it mattered at this one moment to be remembered and cherished.
Sure, he’d lost the hamper he’d never really had, but the shop wasn’t closing its doors against him. Besides, Christmas came every year. He might start making those payments. Or not. Some day. Maybe. Or maybe not.
For now, he’d at least got his friend back. And all of his brothers.
And who knew, Davy laughed to himself. Maybe, some day, they might even form a group…