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Best Friends are like Indians

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Mike's back is bothering him again. Bothering him bad enough that he's popped all the Percocet he's allowed for the day and it's not even dark yet. He's gone past complaining into that manic place where he just ignores it and pretends he's not pushing forty with a couple of blown disks with a thousand miles between them and the shop. As always Frank knows. He knows Mike better than anyone else in the world knows him and he's started doing those things he does when he knows Mike's hurting. He doesn't say anything and neither does Mike, but it's Frank today who runs in and starts climbing to the lofts, behind the piles of dusty junk, up and over those piles while Mike hangs back and feels out the folks selling their treasure trash. Mike's grateful, but he'd never say that either, it's just not their style.

They spring for a room at a Holiday Inn Express somewhere off I-80 in Wyoming and Mike jumps in the shower for about 40 minutes, water as hot as he can stand it. He's on the bed when Frank comes in smelling like dinner. It's pizza and Mike doesn't even want to sit up to eat it. He waves at Frank to go on and eat without him and dozes, concentrating as much as he can on letting all the tight muscles loosen and relax. He's not really getting anywhere and he's dreading getting behind the wheel of the van tomorrow morning.

There's a weight suddenly tilting the corner of the bed and he opens his eyes to see Frank with an old oilcan in one hand. He unscrews the top and dips his fingers in. The smell is definitely not motor oil and absolutely not Frank. It's lavender. Lavender and peppermint. Weird and vaguely disturbing.

"What the hell are you up to, Frank?"

Frank straddles his hips and Mike feels the cold oil splash across his shoulder blades.

"Just don't ever say anything about this, OK?" Franks starts at the top, at the base of his hairline and works down slowly and methodically; his blunt, strong fingers with their dirty nails are one of those unexpected treasures you find like a rusted 1912 Indian in the back of a falling down barn with only half a roof.

By the time Frank's fingers are brushing against the towel still wrapped around his hips, Mike's almost asleep and feeling less miserable than he has in days. He grunts something back when he feels Frank's weight leave his thighs and hears Frank's whispered, "Good night, Mike."