"Hell, no! Not now, not in a million years, not under any circumstances anyone's ever invented! I don't know why the hell you even let him onto the lot, but if he gets anywhere near me or my wife or my SON, I will fucking kill you, you got that?"
The sound of Michael's furious words reverberated around the black box. Micky, startled, almost jumped out of his seat. He looked around at Davy, who seemed puzzled and alarmed by the vehemence with which Michael hung up the phone.
Even Peter, sitting in the lotus position with a column of sweet-smelling smoke rising from the joint he held between his fingertips, opened one eye.
No one spoke for nearly a minute. The silence, coupled with his native curiosity, finally broke Micky. He cleared his throat. "I'd give that an eight-point-five, compared with the nine-point-five you got for Donny's wall."
If Michael's expression had been sour before, it turned positively thunderous now. "Is that supposed to be funny?"
"Hey," interposed Davy, "don't start in on Micky. He's just trying to find out if you're okay, although God only knows why when you're such a prat."
Michael paced the length of the room with his hands on his hips, scowling. Davy rolled his eyes at Micky and returned to his script. Peter took a hit off his joint, then held it out to Michael.
Michael snorted. "What, you think I need to get high?"
"I think you need to sit down and pull yourself together, and that's not going to happen while you're doing your caged leopard impersonation." Peter's voice was calm, but there was an element of concern in his tone.
Micky never knew from one encounter to the next if Michael was going to kill Peter or adopt him. With a bitter sigh, Michael accepted the joint, puffed its smoke deep into his lungs, then handed it back to Peter with a brief nod of thanks.
No killings today, then. Fine. "I didn't mean to sound flippant," Micky began, hoping Michael would stay mellow for at least the next five minutes. "But you sounded really upset."
"Upset." Michael seemed to taste the word and find it rancid. "You could say that I'm upset, and I could say I've got damn good reason to be."
Davy looked up again. "No joke," he said, "you sounded like you were going to reach through the phone and rip someone's throat out."
Micky didn't quite catch what Michael grumbled under his breath as he flopped down on the sofa, but it sounded like 'ripped my heart out.'" Peter must have heard it as well, because he opened both eyes and scooted closer to Michael, looking for all the world like a protective Fu dog with smoke coming from its nostrils.
Folded in over himself, elbows on his knees, Michael ran his fingers roughly through his hair. Micky had never seen him so agitated, not even at the height of their increasingly frequent arguments. He glanced at Davy, who shrugged back. No help there. Peter was sitting serenely, probably feeling no pain, close enough to share the joint with Mike but not touching him.
There were times--not to mince words, there were days and sometimes weeks--when Micky wished Michael would pull the giant stick out of his ass and beat himself over the head with it. Somewhere in that tightly-strung body with its acidic tongue was the same guy who was funny and generous and brave. Micky sighed. He missed that Michael so, so much. He leaned forward and lightly brushed Michael's forearm with the tips of his fingers. "If you want to talk..."
He caught a glimpse of the man he remembered when Michael raised his head and focused his world-weary brown eyes on Micky, an ironic smile forming on his lips. "You are just not gonna let this go, are you?"
"Got nothin' else to do."
Michael let out a half-annoyed, half-amused grunt. He leaned back, stretching his long legs in front of him, and looked at the ceiling. "That was Steve at the front gate. Guess who someone let onto the lot?"
"LBJ's here to re-enlist you in the Air Force?" Micky quipped, desperately trying to get a full smile out of Michael.
He did not succeed. If anything, Michael's face darkened even more. "I'd rather see him than the son-of-a-bitch who's out there coolin' his heels on the asphalt."
Davy set his script down and turned to the other three. "Are you in some type of trouble?" he asked. Micky couldn't tell if Davy was worried or hopeful.
"Not unless he comes within a mile of me or my family," Michael growled. "Then you three'd have to combine a couple years' future pay to bail me out, because the charge is gonna be murder in self-defense."
Wracking his brains, Micky tried to remember if someone had sent a threat. That was unlikely; they were "just" The Monkees, after all, and the weirdest thing they'd ever gotten in the mail was a hungry, dehydrated pre-teen girl.
"Whatever he's done to you," Peter began, speaking slowly in a low, soothing tone, "is it really worth how much it's tearing you up inside?"
"What he did to me is nothin' compared to what he did to my mother, and nothing he can say or do will ever, EVER right that wrong."
Holy crap, it was Michael's father.
"I wasn't much bigger than Christian when he took a powder. We had nothing. NOTHING. Hell, there were days when we didn't eat, and even when there was food in the house then Mom made damn sure it went to me. It was hell for her, tryin' to get a job to support us. Nobody wanted to hire a single mother because it had to be HER fault, so it was a sign that she'd be a crappy employee as well as a failure as a wife. The job she had was total shit but she had to keep it or else we'd have been out on the streets. My aunts, my grandmother, they did what they could but it was HIS fault for runnin' out on us and I'm not about to welcome home the Prodigal Father. Fuck that. Fuck HIM."
Micky looked at the others. Davy's eyes were wide as saucers; he'd known poverty, but nothing at that level. Peter, the only one of them with his family intact, had sorrow plainly written on his expression.
"Michael," Peter began gently, but he was cut off.
"So where the hell's he been the last twenty years? Not a goddamn word, man, no clue if he was alive or dead, but now that I'm on television and have some money, well, guess who shows up?"
Peter stubbed out the joint and moved to sit on his heels next to Michael, looking up at him. "Maybe he didn't know where to look until now. Maybe that's one of the things that's supposed to happen now that you're--we're--famous."
Michael glanced sideways at Peter and shook his head as he took a deep, ragged breath. "You're wrong. He wants to get in good with me."
"Or perhaps it's as simple as wanting to get to know his grandson, to make things right with him even though it's probably too late with you."
Peter's thoughtfulness seemed to be all that was keeping Michael from screaming at him in frustration. "He's a bloodsucking leech and the only reason I'd want to meet him would be so I could deck him and break his ass."
Sighing, Peter sat back against the wall. "Whatever you say, Michael," he murmured.
That, surprisingly, seemed to take Michael's hostilities down a notch. "Naw, Peter, I know you mean well, man, but you've still got your family in one piece. You just don't understand, even though you want to." For an instant, Micky thought Michael was going to reach out to stroke Peter's hair. His fingers hovered over Peter's bowed head for the briefest of moments before Michael clenched both hands together again in front of himself.
Davy cleared his throat and set his script aside again. His eyes were downcast. "I, uh, well, I don't have my whole family in one piece. You know, I lost my mum when I was a teenager."
Nodding, Michael grimaced in sympathy. "I know, and that had to be awful. But 'losing' isn't the same as 'being dumped by,' babe."
Something electric crackled in the air among them. Davy examined his fingernails for a moment then looked Michael full in the face. "It's not a fucking contest, Mike. You don't get to quantify pain, and you don't get to diminish what I went through."
"No! I didn't mean...aw, fuck." Michael put his head down on his folded arms.
Micky wanted nothing more than peace. For all of them. The constant strain of argument took more out of him than work ever could. Acting and music were things he loved, and was willing to work himself to the bone to create. Surviving the ever-increasing squabbles was killing him.
"Dave, man, there's no way he was..." He squeezed Davy's shoulder comfortingly and got a terse nod in return, then went to sit at Michael's feet. "Hey, listen, MIchael, you know about my dad, right? About the drinking, and how sometimes he wasn't...wasn't...the father I thought he should be."
Peripherally aware that all three were now focused on him, Micky found himself uncharacteristically self-conscious. He swallowed hard and made himself look at Michael, who was watching him with a touch of compassion in those intelligent, wary eyes.
"I was angry, and I did some bad stuff, stupid stuff, and I thought I was getting back at him by doing it. I was so pissed at him. Christ, I actually hated him for a long time." He knew Michael could relate to that, could understand the ice-cold fury that drove a teenaged boy to reckless behavior.
Micky hoped he could comprehend what he was about to say next.
"Then when he died, all I wanted was just five more minutes with him. I'd have given anything for that. I still would." He sighed, peering up at Michael from beneath lashes wet with bitter tears. "I envy you this chance, Michael. Don't screw it up."
Michael said nothing with words, but the brush of his hand on MIcky's cheek spoke volumes. He touched each of them in lieu of speaking, ruffling Davy's hair affectionately and giving Peter a pat on the shoulder.
With a thin, tight-lipped smile Michael went out the door and closed it softly behind him.
What Davy called "the Michael situation" weighed on all their minds for the rest of the day.
Micky shot several scenes with Davy, then was sent to the studio with Peter to work on the vocals for "Words." Unusually fidgety, he dropped lines on set and kept rushing his lyrics. "Oh, God, that was me, I'm sorry," he said after his third consecutive flub.
From his stool on MIcky's right, Peter gave Micky a sympathetic shrug as he shook his hair away from his face and prepared for the next take. Smiling gratefully, Micky let Peter keep time with small conducting gestures and the two of them sailed through the fourth take.
Before they had time to ask Hank what he thought, the door to the studio opened and Michael came through, his face an unreadable mask. Peter glanced at the control booth and inclined his head toward the inner door, suggesting that the three of them be left alone for a few minutes. "I'm gonna take ten, guys," Hank said over the intercom.
MIcky's throat was tight. "How did it go?"
Michael paced the room, not looking at either of them. "Pretty much the way I figured. He wanted money. Oh, he pretended to be interested in meeting Phyllis and Christian, but before long it was obvious what he really wanted." He ran his fingers through his hair, leaving it an untidy mess above his brow. "Know what's really weird? Lennon told me the same thing happened to him."
"I'm so sorry," Peter murmured. "I'm sorry I talked you into meeting with him."
"You did what you thought was best. All of you did. Is David around?"
"They didn't need him in the studio, so he went home," Micky replied.
Michael nodded. "I kinda need to tell him something."
"Nah, he got it. He's cool." Micky had pulled Davy aside earlier to smooth over the rough edges as only he could.
His neck ached. Making peace was hard work.
"And I kinda need to tell you something, too," Michael added.
"No you don't," Peter said firmly, but with enough of a smile to show his dimple. "If I ever heard you apologize to anyone for anything, my world would implode."
Michael gave him a wry smile. "Funny boy." He turned to Micky. "I know how hard it is for you to talk about your dad. You're right, it was worth seeing him even though it went to shit about twenty minutes in."
"Are you going to see him again?" Micky asked, fearing that he could read the answer in Michael's pale, drawn face.
"No. He doesn't need to see me anymore."
Peter groaned. "Oh, Mike. You didn't give him--"
"Yeah, Peter, I did, and you should be the last person on earth tellin' people not to give away all their money."
That was true. Peter was balancing on the knife edge of insolvency even though hardly any of the vanished money had been spent on himself. They'd all given him crap about that, but Peter was Peter and Micky secretly admired his extravagant generosity.
He admired Michael as well, for the strength that flowed as powerfully from him as the music that came out of his hands and throat. That strength had come with a price, however, and could leave him appearing cold and cruel whenever he needed to conceal the vulnerability in his heart. Micky expected something harsh from him now that they had witnessed the softness lying beneath the prickly exterior.
He didn't expect tears.
Michael's face contorted. "Shit," he muttered as he fumbled for a handkerchief that, for once, was nowhere to be found. He scrubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands and looked at them as if stunned to find them wet.
Micky froze, shocked at the level of raw emotion he was witnessing. Peter reacted quickly, opening his arms and letting Michael fall into them. He held onto the shuddering, sobbing man. Micky saw Michael fight the embrace at first, keeping his hands in the air even though he wrapped one arm around Peter's shoulder and the other around his neck.
Peter shifted his weight rhythmically from the ball of one foot to the other, directing Michael's tears as subtly as he had kept Micky's song in tempo. Michael clutched the fabric of Peter's shirt. His harsh sobs tore through Micky, who rushed up behind him and threw his long arms around both men. He shed a few tears of his own against Michael's slim back, not certain if he wept with Michael or for himself.
Eventually Michael either cried himself out or became too embarrassed to continue, for he pulled away and gave them each a quavering smile. "Man. I'm so--"
Peter cut him off with a mock-glare. "What did I tell you about apologizing?" he joked even though his voice was laden with his own emotions.
"Right." Michael squared his shoulders and wiped his face on his sleeve. "I'm gonna go home."
"I'll drive you," Peter declared, holding out his hand for the keys to Michael's beloved Lamborghini. Ordinarily Michael would have laughed him out of the room for such an absurd suggestion, but today he complied meekly.
"Coming with us?" Michael asked Micky as Peter grinned at the silver key ring in his hand.
Micky took his chances and ran his fingers through Michael's disorderly hair, smoothing it back in place. "I gotta go somewhere. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" He mouthed a "thank you" at Peter, then reached for his own car keys.
He hadn't been to Forest Lawn in years, and it took several minutes to locate the grave. The simple bronze marker, its surface weathering to a rich patina, bore his father's name. Micky crouched low enough to touch the lettering.
Not always true, not in the literal sense, but as much as he'd been able.
"Out of sight but never out of mind."
Micky sighed, remembering the sharp shock of the news of his father's death. He recalled the agony in Davy's dark eyes the first time he told them about his mother, the furrow in Peter's brow when he said his disapproving parents rarely spoke to him, and the angry heat of Michael's recent tears.
He remembered his dad at his best: the strength in his loving arms, the melodious voice calling his name. He could almost hear it now, whispered in the light breeze that caressed his face.
Micky plucked a piece of grass from the side of the marker and held it to his nose. It smelled fresh, like new life. He lay down on the cool, green lawn and began to talk to his father.