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"Say It Ain’t So"
Title: Say It Ain't So
Summary: Mike has to cope with an unexpected loss.
Disclaimer: Never happened. Never, ever happened.
Author's Notes: This is in my still unnamed fiction universe which started with A Study in Contrasts and continued with Wager. I am still writing these more as vignettes.
Mike hadn't wanted to believe it when the others had told him, but he had no choice when the proof walked through the door of the Pad. Davy and Micky had already gotten a look, so he was alone in appearing completely thunderstruck.
"Pete, what'n the blue hell!"
Peter stopped at the door, eyes wide. Davy took one look at Mike's face and decided to retreat to the safety of his and Peter's room. Micky sauntered toward the washroom, shaking his head and snickering as he passed.
"Pete, you might have to leave the band, man! You're bad for our image. Make us almost look ... respectable."
"Ha ha, Mick." Peter was peeking hesitantly at Mike. "M-Mike? Um, is everything okay?"
Mike shook his head slowly, his mind hardly able to process what he was seeing. "It's true. I can't believe it ..."
"I did really good today at work!" Peter's enthusiasm sounded somewhat subdued. "I sold ten subscriptions and one lady even gave me a tip. She said buy Federated Lineoleum at 72 and a half. And she gave me a dollar, too."
Mike hardly heard Peter's chattering. His gaze slid upward and his mouth went dry. The hair. Peter's hair. That lovely, sandy, hair - the same strands that framed that beautiful face, that accentuated those amazing eyes - was gone. It had been cruelly treated; hacked into a short cut that was reminiscent of a banker's - or an undertaker's.
"They made ya -"
"Yeah." Peter's smile faded and he lowered his eyes. "Mr. Sanderston said ... maybe I'd do better if I looked, um, more professional." He pulled nervously at the jacket of his gray suit.
"Y'didn't leave lookin' like that. When'd you do it?"
"Oh ... Mr. Sanderston took me to a barber before we went out for the day. It didn't take too long." Peter ran trembling fingers through his shorn locks, seeming to almost shrink at Mike's scowl. "Are you mad at me because I didn't say anything first?"
Mike saw the fear in Peter's eyes and the outrage left him, softening his expression.
"Naw, Pete. I just don't dig that they made y'do it at all. Don't know what your hair hasta do with sellin' magazines, anyhow."
"Mr. Sanderston thought it might help." Peter swallowed hard. "He says I have to get my numbers up, or else ... we need this job, Mike." His voice was quiet, an almost desperate undertone to it. "At least until we start booking gigs again."
Mike started to answer, but found he had no rebuttal for that. They'd hit a wall as far as gigs went, and the end didn't seem to be in sight, so far. They were all looking for day work, but Peter was the only one of them so far to have been successful. And so, Peter was right. They did need the money. It was the only thing keeping them marginally afloat at the moment.
But Mike felt truly angry. It was almost as if Peter had been violated in some small way - forced to part with something that made him uniquely Peter. That glorious hair that whipped around his face when he jammed onstage, that rested on his cheekbones right above his dimples, that fell in his eyes whenever he ducked his head in that shy way of his or tilted his face in that cutely quizzical expression he sometimes wore. That hair. Was gone. The more Mike studied it, the more he had to admit that it wasn't a complete butchering. The barber had had exquisite material to work with, so it could have been decidedly worse. Still, there was something about it that set Mike's teeth on edge and made him extremely uncomfortable ...
Peter had moved to a mirror, studying his reflection and rearranging the strands critically. "Wow, it's really short. When I was a kid, my gran used to cut it like this."
Mike's head jerked back as if he'd been slapped. That was it. That was the other thing that was nagging at him. The haircut made Peter look so goddamned young. The lack of hair accentuated the freckles that dotted his nose and cheeks and made his eyes look wider and more innocent. And that was a problem. Mike had finally made peace with the fact that although he was a grown man, and a Texan by birth, he'd fallen for his friend and bandmate, and part of that whole falling in love business included a bunch of pointless sighing, songwriting with ambiguous pronouns, repressed emotions, daydreaming and jacking off to the image of the golden-haired bassist. Among other things.
But he couldn't do that sort of thing now that Pete's haircut made him look like a damned Cub Scout. Even thinking about kissing Peter made Mike feel like a dirty old man.
Peter turned from the mirror and looked at him. "It's really bad, huh?"
Mike took a deep breath. "Not ... bad. Just different. Gotta get used to it, I guess."
"It'll grow back." Peter stroked his hand over his head. "It grows fast, you'll see."
"Yeah, and then they'll just hack it off ya again."
"No, because by then we'll be playing gigs again. And I'll be able to quit."
Peter smiled then - his full-fledged, radiant Peter grin - and Mike nearly groaned. Peter's face was absolute perfection, and without the curtain of hair to hide it, the reality of it was hitting Mike square in the face. I can't think about this anymore, he looks about ten damn years old!
And then a thought occurred to him: this was likely a representation of how Peter had looked even as a young teen. Mike found himself amazed: Peter had looked like that with a smile like tha and he'd never made it with any chicks? He wasn't sure what the girls back East had been smoking, but he sure would have liked some right then.
Micky's exit from the washroom snapped Mike out of his musings. The drummer grinned again as he passed Peter, playfully ruffling his hair. "So, anybody have ideas for dinner?"
"I do." Peter's eyes lit up. "How about burgers and shakes at Carson's? I'll pay - I made a real good commission today."
"You sure you wanna blow it on food, Pete?" Micky frowned slightly. "It'd be just as easy to get credit from Pop's or go someplace cheaper."
"It's all right." Peter shrugged offhandedly. "I'll make it up. Mr. Sanderston says I'll probably do twice as well tomorrow."
"Huh, Pete. They say clothes make the man," said Micky, his eyes sparkling. "Maybe for you, hair does - or the lack of it!"
"Maybe." Peter smiled gently at Micky before looking over at Mike. "Is Carson's okay, Mike?"
"Uh, sure, shotgun. It's fine. I just gotta, uh, take a shower first. Just be a minute."
Mike pivoted toward the washroom, feeling a familiar stirring below his belt buckle. If it wasn't the smile, it was the eyes. Peter's eyes got him every time.
"Hey, Mike, wait! Babbitt still hasn't fixed the water heater." Micky's voice was at his back. "You're not gonna get anything except cold water in that shower."
Mike glanced over his shoulder at Peter standing there, looking just angelic and gorgeous, hair or no, and swiftly turned away again, shaking his head sharply.
"That suits me," he muttered to himself, and very nearly ran for it.