Mean Woman Blues

Part Four

Copyright 2002 Marlene Taylor


Warning: This story contains rough m/m sex. If you are offended by this, or under 18, turn back now.

Disclaimer: This original work of amateur fiction is based on the TV series "The Monkees" which (as far as I know) is owned by Rhino. This not-for-profit piece of fan fiction is not intended to infringe on that ownership. The author's copyright extends only to the original material in this work.

The dream was always the same. The days blurred into one another and sometimes he couldn't tell if he was awake or asleep, but it didn't matter, because he had the dream, and the dream was so much better than reality, which was now four dark dirty walls and a mattress on the floor. It got so that he didn't even need to close his eyes to be in the dream: it was always there for him, dancing at the corner of his vision, so that all he had to do was turn to face it and it began again, like the endless loop of film in a nickelodeon.

In the dream he lay waiting on a bed in a room: he didn't know and didn't care where. He was alone, but the moment he closed his eyes there was someone with him. Warm hands caressed him, strong but soft, holding him, touching him, sliding up his chest and down his legs; and then where the hands had been there were lips, kissing, tasting. A wet mouth over his nipples. Delicate fingertips tickling his balls. A hard cock pressed against his own. Then finally a tongue, parting his lips, and he was pulled into a long, deep kiss that tied knots in his toes and when he opened his eyes there was Micky looking down at him.

"I know what you want," dream-Micky said, and kissed him again, and again, bruising his lips; then he took Mike's face in his hands and smiled at him, brown eyes glowing, his hair a curly halo.

"I want you," Mike said. Micky laughed.

"I'm yours," he replied, leaning down to kiss him once more. "And you're mine."

Then it was just pure pleasure as Micky's kisses fell on him like summer rain, his gentle hands everywhere, his smooth white skin rubbing against Mike's like the Japanese silk that he had once touched, giving him pleasure in a thousand different ways.

And then Micky was inside him, magically, moving with the grace of an angel, each thrust an intimate caress; they moved together, and it was different, so different than it had ever been before: no pain, no fear, no anger. All that had been empty was filled, overflowing, and it was Micky that filled the empty spaces inside him, more than joined with him: completed him. He dreamed and slept and dreamed again and the dream was always the same.

The guards passed along the news on what had happened to the others, which allowed him to stop worrying and forget them properly for the time being and go back to the dream world. Solitary was in a different wing of the prison, away from the regular cells; from time to time he thought he heard Micky's high voice, but he could never be sure.

Now he would pay for the year with his bitch. Another year inside; a year for a year. It was only fair. It was probably the only fair thing that had ever happened to him in prison.

One day they came to let him out; he was surprised, since it sure hadn't felt like a month, if he could remember what a month was supposed to feel like. He was escorted out of his cell, the guards making small talk with him, opening doors for him and acting almost apologetic. Mike felt like he was floating. Now that he was out of the dark little room everything seemed too bright, too loud, and the walk from one building to another exhausted him. They let him shower and shave, a month's worth of dirt and stink going down the drain. Once he was back in the cell block he was greeted with whoops and whistles, like the return of the prodigal son.

Up the stairs, along the hall, four, five, six, seven, and cell number eight, his home, with the door standing open. Micky stood silently by the bunks. God , he looked good. The cell, the desk, the bible: it all seemed to belong to someone else, or maybe it was his, only the world had shifted everything over an inch to the left. He took a few steps into the room and suddenly he was transfixed by the square of blue sky he could see through the window, the clear hard Texas blue of the first warm day in spring, and he knew that outside the ground was still hard but that there would be the delicate smell of green growing things in the air. Right then all he wanted was to be free, to be standing in the parking lot of a diner with a cup of hot black coffee in his hand, ready to jump back in his car and hit the road again and just keep on driving till he reached the horizon. In five years he hadn't thought about the outside much, hadn't really missed it until this moment. Micky's fault. Micky was talking to him, he realized, asking him a question.

"...listening to me? Mike?" A tentative hand on his shoulder.

"What?" Mike reluctantly tore his gaze away from the window.

"Are you all right?" Micky was just inches away now, and Mike could see the thin red scar on his neck, still healing, and the circles under his eyes, and the ragged inside edges of his lips where he must have been chewing them. Just a boy from California who was going to get out on time. Mike heard his dream-Micky whisper faintly to him ­ "And you're mine" ­ and then the dream was gone for good and all that he had was in this rotten dirty goddamn cell.

"What do you care, boy?" he snarled, and shoved him away. He looked out at the sky again and wanted to cry. He hadn't cried since he was nine and his dog died. It was so much easier when you didn't feel anything. He had to find a way to kill these fucking emotions before they killed him.

Arms wrapped around him and he felt Micky's breath on his neck. "I missed you," Micky whispered.

Mike closed his eyes. Damn this boy.

"I was so lonely. Davy's been in the infirmary and Peter's too busy all the time and no one else will even come near me, like they're scared of even looking at me. I didn't have anyone to talk to and at night I was all alone." Mike didn't respond. "Why'd you do it, Mike?"

"Why not?"

"He was going to kill you. I had to do something. I didn't think..." Micky hugged him tighter. "It wasn't fair."

"Ain't nothin' fair in this life. The sooner you learn it the better. Ain't no justice, neither, but what you make yourself."

"Is that why you killed the guy who stole your wife?" So he'd found that out. Curiosity was going to kill this cat one day.

"Somethin' like that." Oh sweet Jesus, it is too early in the morning to be talking about this, Mike thought. It looked like Micky had saved up a month's worth of questions and wouldn't shut up till Mike answered them all, or got fed up and hit him. Too bad that might be the only way to get a little peace and quiet.

Mike pulled away from Micky, needing space and air. It was too intense, all of it ­ talking, touching, thinking. The wall he had so carefully constructed over the years was down and it was getting all mixed up: memories, feelings, things he wanted and things he was afraid of. The barbed wire in his stomach knotted up again.

"It's OK. I understand what you did." Micky was smiling, a sad, pitying smile. "We both killed someone. Now I know how you feel," he said, as if he'd just joined some secret brotherhood. Mike thought it was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard.

He grabbed Micky with his good left hand and stared directly into his frightened brown eyes. "Listen to me, boy. You ain't like me and you never will be. What you did, that was an accident, plain and simple. You didn't mean to kill nobody."

"But it was self-defense! The same for you ­ Peter told me he tried to kill you ­ " Micky insisted, taking a step closer, even as Mike backed away.

"You really don't get it, do ya, Mick? Self defense is what my goddamn lawyer told me to say. You want to know what really happened? I got a gun and I went to his fuckin' ranch and waited for him to show up and then I shot the bastard. His money couldn't save him from that. Lucky for me he had a gun too, and there was no one around to see." He edged around the cell as he spoke, but Micky was with him at every step, like a magnet.

"Oh," Micky said weakly, color draining from his face. Now Micky knew; the only other person he'd ever told was his mother, and she'd take that to her grave. What the fuck was happening to him? Why couldn't he make the wall come back? Wanting to run, wanting to cry, and now this ­ telling his bitch the truth about that awful day: maybe something in his head was broken. "You must have really hated him," Micky added in a whisper.

Hated him? Mike couldn't remember. He'd taken Mike's woman, and everything else that was important, so Mike had settled the score in the only way possible. None of that mattered now. "I wanted him dead. And I'd do it again."

Mike could feel himself starting to come apart at the edges and wished desperately he was back in solitary, where he wouldn't have to think, or feel, or remember the past, or face the future. He felt like a snow globe that had been shaken up too hard: everything swirling, blinding him, dizzying. He backed up slowly, till he felt the hard edge of the bed hit him in the back of the knees, and sat down unsteadily. Micky sat down next to him, pressed up against his leg. They sat in silence for a few minutes.

"How's your hand?" Micky asked, taking it and examining the scar. Touching him without permission. Again. Mike didn't know where Micky's sudden bravery had come from, but he'd have to deal with it later; it was all he could do to maintain, right now. He pulled back impatiently. The gash in his palm had healed, but as it healed it had drawn his fingers down and in, like a claw. Useless.

To his surprise Micky took his hand back, gently but firmly. "C'mon, let me see. Can you move your fingers?"

Mike tapped them against his palm, wincing.

"Still hurts?"

"Course it fuckin' hurts, I had a goddamn knife through my hand! You reckon you're my doctor now, boy?"

Micky ignored that and began to rub the palm of Mike's hand with his thumb. "My dad broke his hand once. I helped him get it back to normal after the cast came off. You have to exercise it or it'll always be stiff, like it is now. It hurts but it gets better a lot faster."

He lifted Mike's fingers very slowly, experimentally. The pain was excruciating. Mike snatched his hand away, cursing.

"Goddammit! Do that again and I'll put you through that wall! Anyways, you should be glad - at least I can't beat you with this hand no more." He scowled, annoyed with himself for letting Micky see his pain, see his weakness.

"Sorry. Let me try again." Micky reached out, waiting patiently, and Mike amazed himself by letting his hand be taken, and cared for. He felt calmer now, his control coming back. The rubbing felt good, and when Micky was done, he thought it didn't hurt quite so much when he tried to move his fingers.

"Thanks," Mike snapped, and Micky responded with a grin that lit up the grey little room.

So every night Micky rubbed his hand, and stretched his fingers, and helped him work the muscles; and little by little his strength returned, and the pain faded. He would have his hand back: not the way it was, but good enough. He was grateful, and he hated it.


Time seemed to slip away. He'd been there eight months. Mike tried not to count the days. But every morning he knew he it was one less day that he would have Micky.

Micky insisted that he do something harder to keep his hand working, and handed him the guitar. "Just try strumming it lightly with your fingers. Then if you can hold it, try a pick ­ I made these in the wood shop." He held out three perfectly formed little triangles of polished wood. "I can teach you some chords, if you like."

Mike stared at the guitar for a moment, then slowly took it in his arms, held it against his body. It felt good.

They kept on meeting in the chapel (the chapel: a room with a bunch of pews, a little podium, a beat up piano, and a big table in the front; no statues, no candles, no crosses, just ugly fluorescent lights and peeling paint), singing together, playing together. After a while Mike started practicing in secret and he was pleased with how easy it was ­ his fingers were sore but they remembered the chords, and soon he could play along to the music in his head. One day during "band practice", as Micky called it, he got tired of watching the other three. Micky was stumbling through a harder song and when he messed up the chords for the fourth time Mike lost what little patience he had.

"Gimme that goddamn gitar," he said, grabbing it out of Micky's hands, and he played the whole song through perfectly while Davy sang. When he was done they all clapped and shouted.

"Where'd you learn to pick like that, boss?" Peter asked.

"No offense, Mick, but I think we just found a new guitar player," Davy laughed.

"I pronounce you cured," Micky said. "Thank God we found somebody better than me. Now let's get serious and jam."

They did. Now they were playing for an audience, under the watchful eyes of the guards, who didn't like to see too many inmates in one place at one time. Every day they would run through the ten songs they knew, and sometimes play them twice, if there were enough requests. At first Mike had to watch his fingers the whole time he was playing, but then he could feel where they were supposed to be, and started to watch the joes in the pews. Who were all watching Micky. And when he watched Micky, he was hypnotized.

All his nervousness, all his shyness was gone when he threw his head back and sang, his clear, high voice soaring above the music, balanced by Davy's harder, warmer tone. They sang really well together, trading verses, discovering harmony, leaving big spaces for Peter to improvise. Mike did the best he could to keep up while he concentrated on keeping them all together ­ for a drummer, Micky didn't have a really good sense of rhythm, and often got carried away while he banged on the table with the drumsticks he'd made out of wood scraps. Davy could at least maintain a beat when he clapped his hands: Davy followed Mike, Peter followed Davy, and Micky was carried along with the flow. Somehow it worked.

And Micky glowed. He danced ­ and he was a good dancer ­ and laughed, looking at the audience and beaming. All the boys in the joint wanted to fuck Micky.

Everyone was standing now, clapping and whooping. Micky jumped up on the table. "Let's do 'Oh Boy'!" he shouted.

"We should cool it, Mick," Mike warned, not liking the look of the crowd. All they needed now was a fight, and band practice would be cancelled forever.

"Come on! Just play it! I dare you!" Micky said, pointing down at him from the table. Mike still hesitated, while the audience clapped even louder; then he looked up at Micky, who gave him the sweetest smile imaginable, and said, "Please."

Well, here goes nothing, Mike thought, and counted them down.

"All of my love / All of my kissing / You don't know what you been missing, oh boy..." Micky launched into it like he was possessed, crashing down on the table at the end of every phrase, his voice carrying to every corner of the room. Drawn by the music, more bodies were filling the little room, and now the place was packed, hot and steamy. Micky grinned like a madman.

"All of my life I've been a-waiting / Tonight there'll be no hesitating, oh boy / When you're with me, oh boy / The world can see that you were meant for me..."

They came to the bridge of the song and Mike held his breath, waiting to see what kind of insanity Micky had in mind. The crowd was pressing forward, all eyes on Micky's lithe body as he swayed to Mike's guitar. Pupils were dilated. Lips were wet. Hard ons were everywhere.

"A little bit of loving makes everything right / And I'm gonna see my baby tonight!" Micky sang, and grabbed his crotch with both hands.

That was when all hell broke loose. The two front rows of music lovers moved towards them in a rush, with the rest following close behind: Micky was their target, Mike knew, and if they caught him they would tear him apart. Micky just stood there glowing, radiating wanton lust, his eyes black with excitement. Mike just had time to grab his arm and yank him off the table before Davy pulled him towards the back door, all of them stumbling, scrambling, and finally falling through the doorway, straight into the arms of the guards, who were not at all pleased with them. After a few hard knocks they were hustled away, and Mike could hear their frustrated fans fighting and yelling. It was only a prelude to all the fucking that would happen that night. Foreplay.

Micky laughed all the way back to their cell, and even after they were shoved in, he couldn't stop breaking out in giddy fits. Mike had never seen him so happy.

"...tonight there'll be no hesitating..." Micky sang softly to himself as he spun around the cell.


Lockdown meant cold sandwiches tossed into the cell and water from the tap. Mike didn't much care what he ate but he was annoyed that they'd miss dessert, even as bad as prison dessert was. Sweets were about the only thing he actually enjoyed eating, and since Micky had arrived, Mike had gotten two helpings every night ­ his and Micky's. Mike was spoiled and he knew it, and that annoyed him too.

Micky interrupted his sulk, standing directly in front of him, bouncing a little on his toes. "I got you something."

Mike curled his lip and held out his hand, expecting some little toy, the kind that Micky liked to make. They were cute, but he'd be knee-deep in them if he kept them all. They were worth almost as much as cigarettes in trade.

"Wait. Close your eyes," Micky said, his voice bubbling with excitement. While he was waiting, Mike heard Micky rummaging around in the desk, then the sound of paper tearing. He felt Micky reappear in front of him. This stupid game better be worth it.

"Now, open your mouth." Mike sighed and did it grudgingly. Something was pushed into his mouth, small, soft: chocolate. Real chocolate, the kind he hadn't tasted in years ­ in fact, this was better than anything he'd ever tasted before, smooth, creamy, with some kind of tangy bittersweet flavor that made him think of wood fires in autumn. He kept his eyes closed, letting it melt on his tongue, till his mouth was full of sweet velvety liquid. He swallowed.

"Was it good?" Micky asked breathlessly.

Mike half-opened his eyes. "More," he ordered, and Micky laughed.

When he was done with the chocolate (which Micky had specially asked his parents to send, and which had cost him a month's worth of cigarettes to make sure it got through the mail room intact) he felt the sugar high rolling through him, making him pleasantly tired and lazy. He stretched out on his bunk to enjoy it and the view: Micky, sitting in the corner with his chair tilted back, reading, his baby face very serious, eyes moving quickly down each page. Not too different from other evenings, if you ignored the tension in the halls and the angry faces of the guards as they passed by every few minutes.

But Micky was up to something. He'd long ago gotten used to Mike watching him all the time; but tonight he didn't ignore it. As he read he glanced up at Mike from time to time, meeting his gaze and flashing a smile, then ducking his head down again where Mike couldn't see him. And, incredibly, several times Mike caught Micky watching *him*.

"Quit starin' at me, boy," Mike growled, and Micky covered his grin with one hand and kept reading.

Micky was *flirting* with him. Mike had seen people behave like this but he had no idea what the fuck he was supposed to do, and it only got worse later on when they got ready for bed: Micky kept casually bumping into him, standing just a little too close while he waited for Mike to finish at the sink (washing his face, brushing his teeth at night, that was new: Micky, always clean, had made him ashamed of his hillbilly habits). When Mike dropped his ragged towel, Micky was there to hand it to him, holding on to it a little too long as he said, "Here."

And then, finally, when it was time to climb up into his bunk at lights-out, he was almost paralyzed by the sight of Micky naked in his bed, the thin sheet doing nothing to hide his body and his hard-on. Mike pulled himself up to his bed fast and lay face-down on the mattress, clenching his fists and praying that this wasn't a dream.

It was almost impossible to wait, but he had to; no use getting caught fucking on a night like this. He heard the guards walking the cell block: once up, once down, and then when the door at the end of the corridor banged shut it was safe, and Mike was out of his bunk in a heartbeat. Micky was already leaning against the desk, waiting for him.

"You are askin' for it, boy," he muttered, pulling Micky hard against him.

"No," Micky replied, squirming out of his arms. "*This* is asking for it." And with that he turned to face the desk, grabbed the edges, spread his legs, and bent over.

"Oh, Lord," Mike breathed. How many times had he fucked this boy? It didn't matter; every time was like the first time, and now that perfect ass was being offered to him like a present. He wanted in, badly, but hell, he might never get this chance again, so he dropped to his knees to get a good view of his property. Micky's swollen cock hung low between his legs, pressed back against his taut, heavy balls by the edge of the table. Mike dug his fingers into the firm flesh of Micky's ass, kneading it, pulling his cheeks apart till he was fully exposed. The scent was enough to make him drunk ­ sweaty, hot, musky, everything that was Micky, drawing him closer. If Mike could only spend the rest of the night between those legs; but if word ever got out that he'd had his nose up his bitch's ass he'd be a dead man. All he could do was snatch a taste, a flick of his tongue up the back of Micky's balls. He felt goosebumps rise on Micky's thighs.

Standing up again, Mike ran his hands over Micky's smooth back, watching the muscles shift under the skin as Micky shook himself impatiently. Smooth and soft. No hard, knotted muscles from years of useless labor; no scars, nothing to mark his passage through life. Mike poured the last of the oil into his hand (time to put that on the shopping list) and lubed himself up; then he ran his thumb into the dark cleft of Micky's beautiful ass and pressed his thumb in slowly, circling the entrance. Then he was fucking Micky slowly and carefully, pulling Micky's hips back so he could go real deep, to the source of all that heat.

Every boy in the joint wanted to fuck Micky, but they could only imagine what it would be like. When they were fucking or being fucked that night, they would be thinking about doing what Mike was doing right now: sliding in and out of that tight little hole, sound of skin scraping skin, watching Micky's ass get filled up with cock. Mike almost wished they could all watch, so they could see how good he was, and see Micky twitch every time the head of Mike's dick nudged his hot spot. Mike knew exactly where that was, and how to play him.

Micky tried to reach down for his own hard on but Mike stopped him, putting his hand firmly back on the desk.

"No," Mike said.

Micky moaned in frustration. "Please, Mike, touch me, please," he begged.

"No," Mike repeated. He thrust quickly, and Micky gasped; he moved his hips in a tight circle, and Micky moaned; and when he pulled out as far as he could, still staying joined, then slammed in, aiming straight for the target, Micky cried out, loud, loud, so everyone could hear him coming, and Mike heard answering moans from the cells around them, a chain reaction. That was real good.

He fucked Micky for a long time that night, using all his control to hold on till the very last minute till he came explosively, pounding furiously against that tender ass. He came and came, and when he was done his legs were trembling; so were Micky's. After Mike pulled out they fell together on Micky's narrow bed, sweaty skin sticking them together.

"Damn," Micky whispered.

"Damn straight," Mike replied, and fell asleep.


Every day was more bitter than sweet. Micky talked a blue streak, and Mike could see that he really was anxious to go home, even though his parents were pissed at him and he'd have a hell of a time getting a job. He listed all the things he wanted to do, the places he wanted to go, and he wondered if any of the girls he used to date would still be available.

"But the first thing I'm going to do when I get home ­ the very first thing ­ is to find those sons of bitches who narked on me and kick their asses from LA to San Francisco and back again."

At night things were the same as ever, though Mike didn't sleep much; watching Micky was more important. He had to memorize every detail about the way Micky looked and moved and felt in his arms so that he could remember it for the rest of his life. Whatever happened to him, he would have these stolen moments to think about and hold close.

Nine weeks to go and Mike's mood got worse and worse. It had been raining and that meant everyone had to work, cleaning up the mud that clogged every drain, bailing out the basement that always flooded, tacking up tarps over leaky walls. He came back late to their cell, tired and cold, his arms aching from shoveling mud all day. Micky wasn't there, and he was so exhausted that for a few minutes he didn't notice that Micky's stuff wasn't there either. Then he saw that the desk was clear of books and gadgets, and the lower bunk was stripped to the mattress. He was alone.

It wasn't till the next day that he found out Micky had been released early, along with a bunch of other inmates whose time was almost up: there were more newbies than usual this month and they had to make room for them, and the judge who sent down the order was feeling generous because his term was almost up and he'd get to stay drunk all day instead of just all weekend.

All Mike could think was: God. Fucking. Dammit.


A month after he'd gone Mike got a letter from him. It was one page out of a notebook, covered with Micky's smooth handwriting, and there was something else in the envelope too, that the guards hadn't wanted to steal: a set of guitar strings. Mike smiled to himself even as he felt the twist in his stomach.

He went to the chapel and sat alone in the last pew. The letter was spread out on his lap; he put his index finger under the words, concentrating fiercely, and tried to keep his voice to a whisper: "D-Dear Mike...I am sorry the...sorry that I, couldn't...say good...bye." He closed his eyes; he could feel a headache starting in the back of his skull. At this rate it would take him a month to read this fucking thing. He thought about paying someone to read it to him, but the old possessiveness took hold and he knew he'd never let anyone else touch it, let alone see the words that were meant for him.

He finally did finish reading it two months later. He liked to let the last sentences play over and over in his mind, hearing it in Micky's high-pitched voice: "Come to California when you get out and I'll help you start things over. Write back to me if you can." So he did, hunched over a piece of lined paper in the chapel, printing the rehearsed words painfully slowly, pressing the pencil so hard it sometimes went right through the sheet. It took a long time. Then one day it was done, and he watched the envelope go into the mail bin, and was glad to be done with this letter-writing shit.

After that Micky wrote to him every six months or so, long letters, sometimes three pages or more. Mike didn't bother to try to read them. It was enough to open the envelopes, which he thought smelled of some kind of perfume or spices, and look at the color of the ink, and imagine Micky's hand moving back and forth across the page while he thought of Mike and wrote all those words. At night he kept them in his pillow; during the day he wore them in his shirt.

Peter got out eventually, and so did Davy, and so did fifty other guys whose time was up, and that was the end of the business, and so Mike didn't care so much about being one of the big guys in the house and spent most of his time playing the old guitar. His mother visited him once to tell him that his cunt of a wife had run off with some other fucker, and he was glad to forget about her.

He looked in the front of his Bible one day and realized he was turning thirty on the same day he was supposed to get out. You got twenty-five dollars when they turned you loose: enough to rent a room and stay drunk for a week. Happy fucking birthday.

When the day finally came he felt nothing. He took the guitar, figuring he could sell it somewhere if he needed to. Three other guests of the state were being released that day and there was a bus waiting to take them into town. He walked out of the front door and into the square he'd seen so often from behind bars; it looked smaller, now that he was in it. He resisted the urge to turn around for one last look at the dump that had been his home for eleven years.

He realized with a start that he had absolutely no idea what to do next. Uncle Emil had his money, but how would he get it? He had no car. Did buses still run out to that town? Where did you buy a ticket? He should call to let Emil know he was coming ­ but how would he get the number, and did he even have a phone? He cursed himself for not thinking of any of this before. On the inside you didn't need to worry about any of this shit, and now it was all he had to go on.

No one talked as they marched single file to the bus; old habits die hard. A sound: Was someone inside calling his name? He didn't want to see who it was and kept walking. All he wanted was to get away as fast as he could and forget everything, everything, every last goddamn thing ­

"Mike!" The hand on his shoulder spun him around and he pulled his arm back, ready to level this asshole, then stopped in amazement.

"Holy shit," he muttered. Micky grinned at him. Here. Now. "Holy fucking shit."

"Nice to see you too. Did you think I wasn't coming? Or didn't you get my last letter?" The bus driver started honking the horn while Micky looked at him expectantly, and his brain overloaded. He looked from one to the other, paralyzed, seeing two very different but equally straight roads to hell.

"Go! Just go!" he yelled at the driver, waving him away, and the bus pulled out in a cloud of dust and smoke. Mike pulled the guitar close to him, holding it like a shield.

"Well?" Micky asked. What the fuck was he talking about? Letters?

"I got your letters," Mike said slowly, pulling them out of his pocket. Micky picked the top one, the one that had come just a few weeks ago, off the pile.

"That's it. Look, I told you I'd be here today. Didn't you read it?" Now he sounded a little hurt. Mike struggled for something to say, anything that would keep Micky here in front of him.

"I ­ I couldn't," he blurted out, then realized what he'd just said and rushed to cover it. "...Hell, I couldn't read your goddamn handwriting. Looks like chicken scratch. I thought you went to school." He steeled himself for the look of pity that was sure to come, but Micky only laughed and slapped him on the back.

"You're right, my handwriting sucks. I'll have to translate them for you. Come on, the guys are waiting."

"Guys?" he asked, lost again. Micky was walking to his car; Mike hurried to keep up.

"Sorry, I forgot. Davy and Peter and I came here together to get you. They're in town waiting for us to come back. Then we're going back to California together. If you want," he added, getting in the front. Mike tossed his stuff in the back seat and sat down next to him, his head spinning. Too fast, all of it ­ five minutes ago he didn't even know where he was going to stay for the night and now he was supposed to move to California, for Christ's sake? And Micky ­ oh god, Micky, looking even better than Mike had imagined, had dreamed, not a frightened boy anymore but a confident young man, looking Mike right in the eye when he talked to him, still full of restless energy but now with a purpose. Which was him. Mike was scared shitless.

"Mick, wait," he said, grabbing the keys out of his hand. "Just wait a damn minute. What makes you think I want to do any of this? You make all these plans and I ain't been consulted on anything. I'm a free man now," he said, almost to himself, "and I don't have to listen to nobody."

"Oh." Micky stared at the dashboard. "Well, do you want a ride into town?"

"Yes. That would be helpful."

"Do you want to see Davy and Peter?"

"OK, I guess. Nobody else to see. How did they find you in LA?"

"I wrote to them before they got out and told them to look me up. Mike, you might not believe this, but you guys were better friends to me than anybody I knew on the outside." Mike snorted with laughter. "No, it's true! And I felt like I owed you all something. So now we have this house that's on the beach, and we have a lot of parties. It's a groovy scene. You'd like it."

"Maybe," Mike said brusquely.

"Think of it as a vacation. All expenses paid. You don't like it, you can go back," Micky said, spreading his hands.

"Vacation? I ain't never had a vacation in my life. I wouldn't hardly know what to do." Part of him wanted to kick Micky out of the driver's seat and speed down the highway till he ran out of gas; another part was all ready to say yes to this ridiculous plan. Saying anything seemed like a mistake.

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

"How's your hand?" Micky asked.

Wordlessly Mike turned it over, palm up, so Micky could see: the scar was still vivid, a dark red line right down the middle. Like Jesus' hands, someone told him once. He opened and closed it, to show that it still worked, even though he'd never be able to make a fist.

"I'm glad you're OK. I'm glad to see you," Micky said. Mike just stared at him, incredulous.

"Oh, Christ, you're not making this any easier, are you? Look, Mike, we want you to come back with us. The three of us, we're having a good time, but something's missing. Peter says you're the driver ­ you're the one that makes us get off our asses and do stuff. Right now we're just fucking around ­ sometimes Peter deals, and sometimes we play music together, but mostly we just talk about how great it would be if somebody would take charge. We could be rolling in bread if you were managing the business. We could be a real band if you were playing guitar with us. You're the boss, Mike, you always were. We need you."

"And what about you, boy?" Mike asked sharply, catching Micky's wrist. Right then he *was* a boy again: Micky dropped his gaze and blushed and looked more adorable than ever.

"I don't know," he said softly. "If you want me."

What a thing to say! As if Mike had a choice. As if there was anything else in this world that he wanted more than Micky, to be his, always and forever.

"What about Davy?" Mike still had hold of Micky's arm.

"What about him? His goal in life is to lay every woman in Los Angeles. I think he's up to the letter M by now."

"He get paid for that?"

Micky laughed. "Sometimes. How did you know?"

"I know that little weasel. Smarter than he is tall, that's for damn sure. But what about you?" Mike asked again.

"What about me what...oh," he said, and turned scarlet. "No, that was...He never asked. Peter either. Anyway there's enough women to go twice around the block. If that's what you want," he added quickly.

Of course it wasn't. He'd known that for a while now, even before Micky had shown up and blown him out of the water. Another reason to get out of Texas. Everybody said things were easier in California.

So he could go with them. First they'd get his money ­ probably have to dig up Emil's cellar floor to find the coffee can it was hidden in, he supposed ­ and then they could drive till they reached the ocean. A house. A new guitar. A new business to run. New food, new clothes, and Micky in his new bed every night. That sounded like a plan.

But as he looked at Micky he knew he wouldn't be staying with them long.

He wanted Micky with a longing that was pure, refined over the years to its essence: because Micky was a man, and because he was Micky. And Mike knew too that Micky would never feel the same about him, for the same reasons ­ because he was a man, and because he was Mike. It would hurt like hell to leave, but it would hurt even worse to look into Micky's eyes and see that he was an obligation, not a lover.

So Mike leaned over and kissed him, just the way he had been kissed by the Micky in his dream from long ago, warm and powerful and searching. He put everything into it, everything that he could dredge up from the bottom of the black hole that was his heart, everything that he had never been able to give Micky and now, he realized, never would. The kiss tasted like a sweet golden peach at the point of perfection, just before it became overripe, and started to decay.

He broke away. Micky looked at him in wonder, flushed and breathless, for once at a loss for words.

"Let's go," Mike said.



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