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Summary: Mike's in from a night out.
Disclaimer: Never happened. Never, ever happened.
Author's Notes: This is in my still unnamed fiction universe which started with A Study in Contrasts. I am writing these more as vignettes.
"Five dollars says he's home by midnight."
"Ten dollars says he's home by ten."
"You're on!" Micky looked over at Peter. "Peter, you want in?"
Peter shook his head and kept strumming his bass. "I think you're both wrong. He really digs this chick. This might be the night they ... you know."
Davy and Micky looked at each other and then at Peter, snickering. "What do you know about you know?"
Peter just shrugged. "I know enough about it. I've gone a lot farther than just first base."
Davy and Micky exchanged looks again, of bemusement this time. Just then, Mike walked through the door. It was 9:30 p.m.
Peter felt a pang of sadness as he stared at Mike's weary and dejected face. Davy tried to hide a smug look as a ticked-off Micky slid a crisp 10-dollar bill in his hand.
"Hey, Mike. How was the movie?" asked Davy casually.
"It was all right." Mike made a face. "One of those Frankie Catalina things. She seemed to dig it."
"Oh, charming." Davy glanced at Micky who was trying not to laugh. "So, are you gonna see Susie again soon?"
"Don't think so. We're startin' to get gigs again, and she's got college and all ..." He trailed off as if completing the sentence was beside the point. "I'm goin' to bed early. See you all in the mornin'."
No one said a word as Mike's lanky form disappeared up the stairs and then into his room.
"Probably has a lot of that excess energy to, uh, work out," Micky said, biting his lip to keep from laughing. "I better not head up there for awhile."
"Poor Mike." Davy finished polishing his maracas and put them away. "I knew he'd get dumped by this one, too. I wonder what goes wrong? He never lasts more than three dates with any of them."
"What makes you think Mike's the one gettin' dumped? Maybe after a few dates, he just figures out they're not as groovy as he thought they were."
"I don't know, Micky. If that was what was happening, I don't think Mike would have to go to bed early, if you catch my meaning." Davy shook his head. "Poor fellow. He hasn't had a girlfriend in ... well ... not since I've known him."
"Hey, I don't think he's actually had a girlfriend since he's been in California," said Micky, thinking hard. "Almost four years. Wow."
"Wow is right. He must be about to burst."
Davy and Micky both looked sympathetically toward the upstairs. Peter, who had had enough of such talk by this time, carefully laid down his bass and headed for the stairs.
"Peter, where are you going?"
"To talk to Mike. He seems like he needs a friend, not a bunch of people betting on him to fail."
He glared hard at Micky and Davy and their eyes dropped. He knew he was being too tough on them, but he didn't really care right then. He could make it up with them as soon as he checked on Mike.
"But Peter, he's ..." Davy made a disturbing motion with his hand and nodded toward the upstairs. Peter sighed.
"Davy, please don't ever do that again. It's scary, and Mike's not doing that. He wouldn't with all of us still awake. And besides, the door's open."
Leaving his friends below with gaping mouths and red faces, Peter climbed up to Mike and Micky's room.
Peter knocked, though the door was open anyway. He poked his head in and saw Mike lying on his bed, fiddling with his watch the way he did when he was down about something.
"Mike? Can I come in?"
"Sure." Mike sat up a little as Peter closed the door. "So, who won this time, Davy or Micky?"
Peter's mouth fell open. "Y-You know about that?"
"Micky slipped up and told me when I noticed he had one of Davy's funny British dollars instead of real ones. It was a mixup or somethin', Mick said. So ... who won?"
"Davy. It was double or nothing." Peter sat on the edge of the bed. "What happened?"
"Same thing that always happens. Nothin'." Mike's voice was colorless. "Well, except that Susie chick talked through the whole damn movie. Her and Frankie Catalina were a little hard to take all at once."
Mike stretched leisurely. "Was hopin' Davy'd win tonight. Mick's been bleedin' him dry lately."
Peter shook his head slowly. "Mike ... I can't believe it doesn't bother you."
"Well, it doesn't. Somebody's gotta get their kicks out of all this. If it ain't me, why shouldn't it be anybody else?"
"Your personal life should be, uhhh, personal. It's not really any of our business, and we shouldn't make trouble for you over it or bet on it."
"It's not a big deal, Pete. Mick and Davy don't mean nothin' by it." Mike ran his thumb over the face of his watch. "And my personal life, ain't really personal. It's the same story. Girls think they're makin' time with an up-and-coming musician, but when it gets right down to it, they're just havin' a soda with a tall skinny guy wearin' a wool hat."
"Mike, you're a lot more than that!"
"Yeah, well, not to them, shotgun. I guess the reality isn't as groovy as the big-time musician fantasy." Mike put his watch aside and sighed. "Can't say I blame 'em, really. Not much."
"You're wrong and you should blame them for wasting your time and making you feel like you're what's wrong." Peter spoke with quiet conviction. "They just can't appreciate the real you, Mike. The guy we see every day and who is a great friend and musician and person, and is sweet and kind and cares about people. I'm glad you aren't going steady with any of these chicks because if they can't see any of that and can't appreciate you better, then they're not right for you."
"Wow, Pete. I don't think I've ever had anybody say such nice things about me. 'Specially to my face." Mike looked up at Peter, smiling slightly. "Shame I can't just date you huh?"
Peter smiled wide, his face tilted dimple-side up. "Well, I know I'd hold on to a good thing if I saw it."
Mike chuckled lightly, running a hand through his hair. "Thanks, good buddy. You always know what to say to make me feel better." Mike yawned as he spoke. "'Scuse me. More tired than I thought I was."
"I can dig it." Peter stood up and made for the door. "I'm gonna go to bed, too. Oh! We got a sandwich from Pop's and saved you some if you're still hungry."
"Naw, I think I'm just gonna lie here awhile and try to drift off." Mike nodded his appreciation. "Thanks, Pete. G'night."
Peter flicked off the lights and gently closed the door, feeling good now that Mike was feeling better. As he descended the stairs to rejoin Davy and Micky, he shook his head over the fickleness and poor taste of some California girls.
Mike listened to Peter's footsteps fade before he turned on his side and sighed.
Missed your chance again, Nesmith. Maybe I should make a bet with Davy and Mick on how long it's gonna take Pete to see what's right in front of his face. Or maybe how long it'll take me to stop puttin' myself through all this and grow a set and just go for it ...
Mike put that thought to rest and settled into bed. He was going to need his rest in order to handle the next day and especially the next night. He had a date.