The question that had slipped out of the dark had been the burning catalyst for this mess. Peter should have known, should have seen it sparking, and realised that nothing good could come of this. Not for him, anyway.
At just past midnight on a Tuesday, Davy had whispered across the room: "Hey, Peter. Are you awake?"
Now, that wasn't the question, but it should've sent out a warning to Peter anyway; Davy slept like a log, almost every night from 11pm to 8:30am. Beauty sleep, he called it. The only things that could keep him awake were girls, troubles, or girl troubles.
Despite this, Peter answered "Yes," none the wiser to everything that was to come.
"Good," Davy had said, "Can I... ask you something?"
Again, this wasn't the question, but it was another sign that something was not quite right. Davy wasn't normally so hesitant to ask Peter anything. There was definitely something off , something askew.
Even in his blissful ignorance, Peter seemed to know that. Instead of making a quasi-joke about how Davy just had asked him something, he whispered, "Sure," turning his head in the direction of Davy's bed.
A thick silence settled in the room. If not for Davy's silhouette opening and closing its mouth like the goldfish Peter had once won at a fair, he would've assumed Davy had fallen asleep. But a vague light from the window highlighted Davy's profile, and the stuttering movement of his lips. Peter thought he looked like he was chewing something. His own words, perhaps.
Eventually, the question found its way out of Davy's throat, barely a whisper but still loud enough to give Peter a headache for weeks.
"Have you ever- Do you ever- Have you ever liked a… guy before?"
There it was. It hung in the air, as if it had been traced with a sparkler - stammers, hesitations, and all. Clear as day, almost lighting up the room. Their own little firework display.
It was Peter's turn to pause. Davy was asking a dangerous question. Something Peter often found himself thinking on, before shoving away again hastily. It felt like a question that would scorch your palms, your mouth, your brain, if dwelled upon. And Peter had always preferred the cold.
He knew exactly what Davy meant . But how could he answer truthfully? How could he tell Davy the way he'd tossed the thought around like a bouncy ball so many times, only to find himself more confused than he'd been before?
"Of course I have," he adopted his dopiest tone, glad only Davy would bear witness, "I like you guys, you guys are my friends!"
The two let the words air for a moment, each contemplating how to follow that. Maybe Peter should confess to knowing what Davy really meant. Or maybe Davy would be content to let him live in faux ignorance.
The fact was that Peter didn't know how to talk about this . But he didn't want Davy to close up again. He liked it when people would confide in him about serious stuff. It felt like they trusted him. This was just… difficult . It wasn't Davy's fault that Peter didn't know how he felt about boys. And it wasn't Davy's fault that he himself was having the same thoughts. It just happened that their problems intersected at the same point. A crossroads, or a Venn diagram, or a car crash. They were just two cars driving down the same street at the wrong time. No, this just wasn't the right time.
"That's not what I meant," Davy said finally, his voice soft.
Then again, Peter thought, maybe just after midnight on a Tuesday was the perfect time.
"Oh," he replied, trying to maintain his act, "What did you mean?"
"Like…" Davy inhaled deeply, "like the same way you like girls."
"Have you? Liked a guy like that, I mean," Peter deflected the question, stalling so he could think .
Again, Davy seemed to test the shape of the words in his mouth before sighing, "I think so," and even though the room was quiet, Peter had to strain his ears to hear him.
There was the overlap. The place the two seemed to dip into each other, reading different questions, and rising with the same answer anyway.
"I think I have too."
Silence fell again, lapping against Peter's ears, the same way the waves pressed up against the beach outside. Peter was still watching Davy's silhouette. His lips were parted slightly. His nose sloped gently upwards. Every so often, his eyelashes would flutter like butterfly wings. In a way, he reminded Peter of a fairytale princess. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, preserved in a beautiful slumber until they were awoken by true love's kiss. For a moment, he considered telling Davy this. It might cut through the strange tension in the air between their beds. But even after midnight on a Tuesday, Peter was not so brave.
It seemed not to matter, apparently, whether he said it or not; Davy's next question seemed aimed to shatter the odd thickness floating around them. Or to build it up stronger.
"Have you ever kissed a guy?" he murmured, now looking over at Peter.
Davy did not break his stare. His eyes were like a spotlight and Peter felt weirdly exposed, just lying there, looking back at him. Peter slid his own gaze slightly to the left, just above Davy's face. The blank wall watched him in an accusatory fashion.
If he had been any quieter, Peter would've sworn he'd imagined Davy's question, but no, he definitely heard it. And this wasn't like the time they'd watched a vampire movie, and Peter kept sitting up in the night, believing he could hear someone whispering his name. He'd absolutely heard what Davy said. Somehow that made it worse.
Something like glass shattering took place in his stomach. He'd swallowed shards of butterflies. He was trying to breathe underwater. If he were standing, he was sure he'd have gone a little weak at the knees because… was Davy really asking what he thought he was asking?
As a rule, Peter liked to take people literally. It was easier to see something at face value than trying to pick away at it and find a deeper meaning. Those painting analysts were stupid for chipping away at layers of paint when the finished image was right there in front of them. There was no point trying to find what someone was implying if you could just wait for them to say it outright anyway. Despite this, Peter knew Davy's question was loaded with something more. It had to be.
Even in the dark, he could feel Davy's heavy gaze on him. Something cheeky and suggestive in his apprehensive smile. Yes, he could just imagine it. This was some kind of dare.
"Okay," he just about croaked, and, yes, Davy was asking that because he sat up in his own bed. Threw back his covers. Planted both feet on the floor.
"Okay," Davy echoed, and stood up.
His walk across the room seemed to take an age. How could 10 steps - Peter counted - take so long? He heard each footstep as if it were reverberating through the whole house. His heart seemed to be beating at the same volume. Maybe this was how men felt before their executioner.
"Sit up then," Davy hissed as he stopped by Peter's bed, "I'm not leanin' down to… I'm not bloody Prince Charming."
Are you sure? Peter thought, as he slowly lifted himself up to sitting. He crossed his legs and Davy perched tentatively in front of him, as if preparing himself to run away again.
"Okay," Davy murmured again, and close up it crackled electric.
Peter wanted to say something back, but the words seemed to jam in his throat. In the low light, he looked at Davy's lips, which were still parted a little. Those lips had kissed so many girls. It wasn't something Peter tended to get hung up on - maybe he purposefully didn't think about it at all - but now it was at the forefront of his mind. So many girls had kissed Davy, and now Davy was going to kiss Peter. A strange sense of satisfaction stirred somewhere deep within. Some green-eyed monster Peter had shoved so far down now let out a laugh, feeling a sense of vindication, perhaps.
"Go on then," Davy whispered, breaking Peter's reverie.
"Huh? You want want me to-" he stammered.
"Yeah," was all Davy said, and Peter watched his eyes flicker shut.
This was it.
He leaned forward and kissed Davy's mouth. Gentle. Chaste. And it was its own kind of heavenly.
It felt different to kissing a girl, Peter thought. Although perhaps that was down to his acute knowledge that he was kissing a guy - kissing Davy . That was the point of the exercise, after all. Dabbling in kissing not-a-girl. Or maybe it could be pinned on his general lack of experience in that area. Peter was no Davy Jones. His mouth didn't meet that many girls, and when it did, it felt more like sympathy than anything else.
This felt like curiosity.
Peter pulled back as quickly as he had leaned in. Not because he didn't like kissing Davy, because he had liked it. He'd liked it a lot. Davy's mouth was soft. Secretly, Peter had always wondered what Davy's lips would feel like to touch, especially since girls seemed to like them so much. Now he understood the attraction.
But still he'd pulled away, because he didn't know if he was allowed to like it. Because he didn't know if Davy had enjoyed it too. He'd simply sat there, frozen in place, allowing Peter to kiss him with his eyes closed in case he had to face an uncomfortable truth. They were still shut now, maybe avoiding Peter's own gaze because he was so desperately ashamed. Of all the people Davy would want to kiss, Peter wouldn't have ranked himself very high at all. He doubted he'd even made the shortlist.
So he waited, looking at Davy's eyelids, Davy's nose, Davy's mouth, still open a little in the half light. (Did he ever close it? Peter suspected Davy might be a mouth breather.) His own heart, it seemed, was starting an uprising beneath his ribs. It pounded and pounded and pounded, although Peter wasn't sure how he could hear it over the blood rushing in his ears. He was surprised the house didn't shake with each thump.
Slowly, Davy opened his eyes to assess the situation. He fixed Peter with an unreadable stare.
"Well?" he whispered, somehow sounding both tentative and impatient, if that were even possible.
"Well what?" Peter frowned.
"Well, what did y'think!"
"Oh, uh," Peter tried to shrug, to remain unflustered, to give the right answer, "It was okay," he said, hoping Davy couldn't hear the beat of his heart, betraying him, "What about you?"
Davy's eyes dropped down to his own hands, twisting a ring around his little finger. "I quite liked it," he said earnestly. Then he looked up again, and even in the low light Peter could see the mischievous smile quirking his mouth. The cheeky glint in his eye. "I think I'd have to try it again though, just to make sure."
Relief and something else flooded Peter's system as Davy began to lean towards him. His veins were on fire with it, whatever it was. Anticipation, perhaps.
Their lips were barely a breath apart when Peter murmured, "S'this like an experiment?"
As if to answer, Davy crashed his mouth into Peter's, the overlap, two bumper cars at a fair, and Peter's mind short circuited. His question didn't really matter anyway. Not as much as this. It wasn't a mess, so much as a tangle. Like, fingers threading into each other's hair, and teeth clashing, and Peter falling, falling, falling, and landing flat on his back, Davy acting as a paperweight on top of him. It was just as well, or Peter feared he might have blown away.
Davy kissed with such ferocity. He was like a parched man, having just found a very tall glass of water. Desperate to drink in all of Peter at once. Peter felt it too, mirroring this frantic thirst, although his glass of water may not have been so tall. He wondered if Davy kissed girls like this. Like he had nothing left to lose. It felt strangely animalistic, primitive, pouring into each other as if they'd never see each other again. Maybe they wouldn't, for Peter couldn't imagine having to wake up tomorrow, having to look at Davy over breakfast, with Mike and Micky having no idea of how the earth shook beneath them that night.
No, maybe this was the end. He'd die kissing Davy Jones. Well, at that moment, he couldn't think of a better way to go.
Tomorrow came anyway, as it had a habit of doing. Peter awoke to an empty room, and tried to swallow down the strange tickle he felt in his stomach as last night slowly came back to him. Perhaps it had been a dream. A subconscious fantasy, conjured by a cruel id. After all, Peter couldn't even remember how the scene had ended. It had just faded to black as Davy had started kissing his neck, and cut to a golden sunrise. In Peter's opinion, that was definitely for the best.
All the same, Peter felt different. His lips felt strangely lonely, as if they'd had a visitor. His chest seemed oddly light, like there was something… missing. It was not a feeling he was used to waking up to, and when combined with the light twinges of something other coming from deep in his stomach… well, he felt all shaken up.
Slowly, he pulled himself out of bed and wandered lazily through to the kitchen. Like his and Davy’s shared room, it was empty, narrowing down the list of places Davy might be. He was probably hiding somewhere. Peter might have considered hiding himself, had he woken up first. He just had this feeling that, when they saw each other, the events of last night would become real . Peter would no longer be able to pass it off as a particularly pleasant dream. Their eyes would meet, brown on brown, and it would act as a confirmation . And, even for Peter’s naive optimism, that felt dangerous, because it would change everything. The way he saw it, they wouldn’t just be friends anymore; they’d be friends who’d made out that one time, and it would hang between them like an invisible talisman, cursing them to a lifetime of living slightly to the left. Not entirely off the rails, but certainly tilted on the tracks. Staying in this contact-free limbo - at least for the time being - seemed much safer. It looked like Davy agreed, and was giving him a wide berth for now. Peter wasn’t about to go seek him out. Still, he hoped Davy was only in the bathroom, and not halfway back to England by now.
It had not long turned 7:30, and Peter was hungry. After searching each cupboard twice, he managed to source a box of out of date cornflakes. Alone at the table, he was able to crunch through half a bowl before his stomach began to turn. Instead of attempting to eat any more, he poked at the cereal with his spoon, enjoying the crisp sound they made. He’d broken nearly every single flake into two before he realised that someone was watching him.
He looked up to find Davy, leaning his shoulder against the doorframe of their patio door. His hair was windswept in a way that only the sea air could manage, and only Davy could pull off. Arms crossed, nonchalant, with his head cocked to one side, he seemed to be studying Peter with an inscrutable frown.
Peter’s stomach turned for the second time that morning, although he knew this time had nothing to do with the cornflakes.
“Hey Davy,” he tried to keep his voice level, as if it were simply an ordinary day.
Davy’s expression hadn’t changed from that unreadable mask. Nor had he even glanced away from Peter. He stood completely still. He seemed to have frozen Peter to the spot too, rendering him little more than the dummy everyone thought he was.
“You’re awake early,” Peter tried to continue, adopting an overly cheery tone. He didn’t want to mention how Davy’s change in routine indicated something wrong . “Have you had any breakfast?”
Davy didn’t answer. Instead, he suddenly broke from his reverie, rubbing both hands over his face, finally moving and breaking his line of sight. Perhaps he had something in his eyes. Perhaps it was the memory of him, and Peter, and… He let his hands drop again and strode purposefully towards the table. The chair opposite Peter squeaked against the kitchen floor as Davy yanked it back with more force than necessary. He sat - and they were face to face again, just like last night. Peter was thankful for the table between them this time.
When Davy didn’t speak immediately, Peter turned back to his cereal bowl, determined to make his cornflake halves into cornflake quarters. He’d managed two before Davy said, “About last night…” His voice shook a little as he spoke, although perhaps Peter was imagining it.
“What about it?” he asked carefully, not looking up from his cereal.
“Well, we’re not gonna tell Mike and Micky about it, are we?”
Peter thought back on those kisses, the strange magic that had tingled in their room all night. He thought about Davy’s eyelashes fluttering, and this one moment, a lapse in their kissing, where Davy, cupping Peter’s cheek in his hand, had gazed down with the most incredulous look on his half-lit face. Like Peter was something special. Like he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Peter then tried to imagine translating that into words that Mike and Micky would understand, and the very thought seemed an insult to his memories. He didn’t like to keep stuff from his friends, especially because hiding things usually left them all neck deep in hot water without a paddle, if that was the correct expression. His mother had always encouraged him to share. But Peter couldn’t imagine sharing this. It was beautiful, and private, and personal to him and Davy, and he refused to let anyone else have it.
“No, of course not,” he looked up and tried for a reassuring smile, “It was just an experiment, right? Just a test. It’s not like Micky tells us about all his experiments -” he ignored the fact that Micky did , actually, “- until he’s reached his conclusion.”
“Or he’s blown something up,” Davy grinned, relaxing now.
“Well that’s good then,” Davy said, “It is just an experiment.”
“What’s the verdict, Doctor Jones?” Peter couldn’t help himself.
“Well Professor Tork,” Davy played along, adopting a posher accent, “I do believe my hypothesis was proven correct! But…” he narrowed his eyes slyly at Peter, still grinning, “I believe there is room for further testing, and possibly even retesting.”
Peter’s stomach did a flip. “Of course, Doctor Jones,” he replied, and the two fell into a comfortable quiet, only broken when Micky stumbled down the stairs to join them.
That was only the beginning, of course. Things like that don't just happen once and then lay still forever. Davy had mentioned the opportunity for further testing, and if he was open to it, then Peter certainly was.
So it became a ‘thing’. An agreement of sorts. Davy - or Peter, although that was rare - would see a gorgeous guy during one of their adventures, and in true Davy fashion, he’d get hung up. It was just the same as Davy falling for some chick, only… he could act on his feelings with girls. Any Mary-Anne or Suzie Q was bound to return Davy’s affections, at least for the week it took him to fall in, and promptly out of love again. He couldn’t do that with dudes. Not if he wanted to keep his perfect teeth, anyway.
It seemed only natural, then, for him to turn to his roommate. Since that fateful Tuesday, they’d settled into a new-found easiness. They’d swapped a secret. It wasn’t that Peter thought they owed each other anything, but whatever they had fallen into seemed like a fair trade off.
They’d stumble into their room, mumbling throw away excuses to Micky and Mike. And the second the door was shut, they’d be kissing with the same fire as that initial test-run. All parts remained in working order. In fact, performance seemed to improve each time.
Between kisses, Peter would simply ask “Who?”, and Davy, gripping the front of Peter’s shirt would whisper “Brad,” “Neil,” “Harry,” “Johnny,” et cetera.
And Peter would know he was just a placeholder for these strong, handsome men, but he also knew he had something they didn’t; he had Davy. And that alone outweighed any of their virtues.
When Peter was eleven, he’d fallen in love with the girl next door. It was cliché, he knew, but all clichés had to come from somewhere, right? She went to a different school to him, all plaid skirts, and shiny shoes, and high school level reading. To Peter, she seemed a million miles away. But she stuck her tongue out at him and smiled whenever she saw him looking, so perhaps she wasn’t so out of reach. They’d started hanging out one Tuesday, after Peter was in his backyard, digging for worms, and she’d popped her head up over the fence that divided their properties.
Peter had looked up, and there she was, braided hair and bright eyes, with the sun glowing behind her head like a halo. Well that was it for eleven year old Peter. Anything he’d heard about girls and cooties flew out the window, because he’d never seen someone so pretty before.
She’d asked him to come to the park with her, and when they arrived, she’d grasped his sweaty palm in her own and they’d paraded around the playpark like the young couples Peter saw at the diner after school. It was exhilarating.
This continued for several weeks; the girl would call for Peter after dinner and they’d amble over to the park. There they would hold hands and laugh. Being only eleven, Peter had lots on his mind, but Peter thought maybe he understood now how you could want to be with someone forever.
One day, however, she stopped calling round. His father would ruffle his hair and his mother would ask whatever had happened to his girlfriend. Peter was devastated. He made his way to the park alone, hoping to see her there. And see her he did. He saw her holding hands with another boy. The boy seemed familiar, and Peter realised he recognised him as someone who was always at the park for their little parades. Make-believe boyfriend and girlfriend, only Peter had actually believed.
She’d used him. He realised this and it ached worse than his skinned knees. She just wanted to make this other guy jealous, and it had worked. (Upon later reflection, Peter knew that it probably wasn’t quite like that. Not many eleven year old girls were that calculating and cold. The reality was that she had probably liked Peter, but had simply grown bored of his grubby hands and dimpled smile.) Peter ran home, heartbroken, and vowed to never speak to that girl again. No band-aid could heal this wound, he was sure.
The problem with his and Davy's agreement was that, despite the unspoken sentiment of 'no strings attached', Peter still found himself getting all tangled up. He wouldn't have said he was hung up on Davy, because that was too heavy a statement to admit. The word he might've used was preoccupied. He was preoccupied with Davy's hair, and Davy's eyes, and Davy's smile. He was preoccupied with the way Davy would lean back from kissing to survey him through his eyelashes, and how the room lamp would glow behind his head like a halo. He was preoccupied with Davy , and all the things only he knew about Davy.
This mutated into a problem. See, it was one thing to think about Davy's brown eyes and warm smile. It was quite another to catch Davy's gaze mid-song, and miss several beats because his heart's sudden syncopated rhythm had set him off time. This had happened during several rehearsals now, and Mike was starting to get antsy.
He pulled Peter to the side and said, "Listen Shotgun, I don't know what's goin' on with you, but whatever it is, you'd better snap out of it!" He clicked his fingers between them as if to demonstrate his point.
"I know, I'm sorry, I'm just… distracted at the moment," he shrugged.
Mike softened slightly. "Somethin' you need to talk about?" he asked.
Peter shook his head lightly. "No, don't worry. It's just something I gotta deal with."
Mike patted his shoulder somewhat sympathetically. "Well, if you ever need to get it off your chest, you know where I am," he paused to consider something, "I may not wanna hear it, but… I'll be there."
And Peter knew he would be. Mike was always true to his word, and even when he lacked the language to comfort them, he'd try his best anyway - typical, dependable Texas boy.
For half a second, Peter considered telling him the truth. Perhaps it would be good to say it out loud, get a second opinion. But the same thoughts flashed through his head from that first morning, that whatever it was that he and Davy had, it was private. It was theirs and trying to explain to Mike in words he'd understand would twist it from something beautiful to something downright ugly. He couldn't do that.
Besides, in Mike's efforts to keep them all safe and sane, he had a tendency to become a harbinger of doom. However Peter phrased it, Mike was sure to see his and Davy's late night escapades as the beginning of an ending, and spend hours agonizing over it, when it was really nothing to do with him at all. It was best for everyone he never found out, Peter reasoned.
"Thanks Mike," was all he said before retreating to his and Davy's shared bedroom.
He flopped onto his bed and stared at the chipped white paint on the ceiling. Perhaps theoretical Mike was right. This was getting out of hand. Sure, it was just him and Davy fooling around in lieu of being with girls; Peter had noticed a resounding dip in female action for both him and Davy as of recent - perhaps girls were out of stock. But where did the line between playing boyfriend and girlfriend, and actually being something fall? Peter was good at art, but he certainly didn't know where to draw the mark here.
Slowly, he turned his face to look at Davy's empty bed. It was unmade, sheets wrinkled messily, just the way Davy liked it. If he hadn't known better, Peter would've believed Davy had just been in bed, and had only got up to go to the bathroom, or to fetch a glass of water. He'd just have to wait and Davy would be back.
As if hearing Peter's thoughts, the door creaked open, and Davy's head, in all its glory, appeared in the doorframe. On top of everything else, Davy apparently had impeccable timing.
"You okay Pete?" he asked, and while his voice sounded chipper, a small crease between his eyebrows gave him away.
Peter nodded once, before dropping his eyes to his fingers as they knitted together over his stomach. "I just keep messing up. Michael's worried."
Nodding slowly, Davy properly entered the room, shutting the door quietly behind him. "I wouldn't say you're messing up… just playing the right notes at the wrong time." He smiled at Peter, a jovial smirk so he knew he was joking (having been so distracted by Davy as of recent, Peter had observed a collection of different Davy Jones smiles, suited to his purpose).
Peter huffed a small laugh, "Mike's right, though. I gotta ship up or shape out."
"D'y'mean 'shape up or ship out'?" Davy asked, not unkindly, as he walked casually across the room.
"Probably," Peter shrugged.
Davy sank gently onto the edge of Peter's bed, body angled towards him, and Peter felt an intense sense of deja vu. They'd done this before, or something similar, under cover of darkness. The memory throbbed in Peter's chest. He wasn't particularly religious but Peter thought, perhaps if he prayed a little, God would draw the night's curtains early and they'd be in black once more, ready to re-enact that opening scene. That was one thing Peter knew he could be trusted to focus on.
"Well why d'y'think you keep messing up?" Davy's question brought Peter back to the current act, the scene, his next fumbling line.
"Uhh," he tried to remember the right thing to say, something other than the truth. "Well I, um. I'm just a little distracted," he admitted.
Davy nodded thoughtfully. "You have seemed more of a cosmonaut lately," his face then split into a teasing grin, "What's got the Great Peter Tork so wound up then? Or should I ask who ? 's'there a chick?"
Despite his joking tone, the last question seemed almost venomous. It stung Peter like an accusation of infidelity, and he frowned. He knew him and Davy were nothing close to exclusive but it still felt like being with anyone else would be a betrayal. He wondered if Davy felt the same way.
Davy mistook his silence. "Oh, a guy ?" he whispered the last word, just in case the walls were listening, "Don't worry Peter, tell me all about 'im and we'll-"
"No!" Peter interrupted, louder than intended. Davy's eyes widened. "No," he said again, quieter, "It's nothing to do with, with… anyone , I'm just a bit out of it." He figured it didn't really count as a lie, because Davy wasn't just anyone . Davy was different. Special.
"Have you been taking sweets from that man on the corner again?" Davy said seriously, fixing Peter with a worried stare.
" No, " Peter sighed, "I've just not been feeling much like myself recently, that's all."
Davy said nothing, simply studying him with the crease worrying his brow again. It took a lot of self control for Peter to stop himself from reaching out and smoothing Davy's frown with his fingers. It was the same restraint he exercised every day, when he pulled himself back from running his hands through Davy's hair on the couch, or pressing his knee against Davy's during dinner. Those things were not part of their agreement, Peter was certain. And whilst he hadn't signed anything this time, Peter was not in the business of breaking contracts.
"Alright," Davy murmured at last, giving Peter a small, sympathetic smile, "I'll let you rest. Maybe that'll help."
He rose from the bed and half turned to the door, before pausing. He turned back to look at Peter, considering him slowly. Then, he stepped forwards and bent over to press a small kiss to Peter's forehead. His lips were soft, a little dry, and very warm. The kiss lasted for 12 beats of Peter's racing heart. After that, he straightened up and smiled again.
"See y'later," he whispered, and left Peter alone.
His forehead was tingling in the spot where Davy's lips had been and his cheeks flushed warm. Beneath his shirt, his heart was pounding again. He could've sworn that the hairs on the back of his neck were stood on end, although he didn't want to check.
It was just a kiss on the forehead, he told himself. Him and Davy had gone further than that so many times, if they were talking about sexual mileage. But, really, it wasn't the kiss itself sending his head into a heated spin. It was the inherent intimacy of it. It was tender . And it weighed more than any sloppy kiss against their bedroom door.
The way Peter saw it, this was foreign territory. The deal, as far as he'd been aware, was for them to be friends, and for them, simultaneously, to help each other with certain issues that lay outside of the realms of being good buds. And that was it. Those two parts of their relationship were separate. But forehead kisses seemed to lie in a confusing in between space. An intersection of caring and physicality that they were yet to cross. Until now.
Peter unknitted his fingers and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. Being preoccupied and being hung up were almost the same thing, weren't they? They were just different words for the same thing. Well, Peter wasn't going to admit anything yet, but perhaps he was even more... preoccupied with Davy than he had thought.
Regardless of what Peter may or may not have been feeling, he and Davy continued in the same way. The only real difference was that Peter felt more guarded. It was a matter of trust, really. He trusted Dav y. Davy was one of his best friends, and Peter was certain that Davy would never knowingly hurt him. Davy Jones was many things, but malicious was not one of them.
No, it was himself he didn't trust. He refused to give into the temptation of believing that this - whatever it was - meant the same to Davy as it did to him. That would only lead to a one way ticket to broken-heart's-ville, and Peter quite liked living where he was.
Despite this vow, he couldn't help the stab of hope he felt one day when, with Davy mouthing at his neck, he whispered, "Who?" and Davy only looked at him, lips parted and pupils blown.
That's the problem with blank spaces, you see. People see a blank space and have a tendency to fill it in, usually with whatever answer they want to hear. And it wasn't conscious, but in that moment when Davy looked at him and said nothing, Peter heard, "You".
That was the logical answer, wasn't it? If he wasn't kissing Peter out of unrequited sexual frustration, then surely he must be kissing Peter because he wanted to kiss Peter .
Well, whether it was logical or not, it was the justification Peter's brain supplied. After the weeks, months, (Peter couldn't tell you how long it had been) of being a stand in for a fantasy, Peter dared to see himself as the dream become reality. Even being wanted by Davy once was exhilarating, and Peter understood now why the chicks Davy brought into his life would leave again so amicably; they knew, as he did now, that this was lightning in a bottle. And you can't beg lightning to strike twice.
And so Peter gave in to the idea that maybe, just maybe, this meant the same to Davy too. For once, they might truly be on the same page, and that was enough to put a spring in Peter's step and an extra smile on his face.
There's another problem with blank spaces, however. See, sometimes a blank space is truly meant to be blank. Other times, it's waiting for an answer that you're not quite ready to hear yet.
Considering how preoccupied with Davy he was, Peter knew he probably should have noticed it sooner. Really, all the signs had been there, flashing bright red, but Peter thought he might be selectively colour blind. Either that, or he had chosen to ignore them, in order to fit with the narrative he'd been stringing together this whole time.
It was a Tuesday again, when Davy crossed their room and slipped into Peter's bed beside him. This was yet another development - no matter what they did, they never slept together. Not in a literal sense.
"Hmm?" Peter lifted his head, half asleep.
"Sorry," Davy sounded sheepish, "Is this okay?"
"Mmm? Don' worry," Peter yawned, "What's up?"
Davy wriggled a little next to him. Without thinking, Peter threw an arm over him and pulled him close.
"Mm," Davy hummed in contentment, "I was just… Just thinking. About this guy."
"A guy?" Peter was suddenly aware of his heart beating in his throat, making it a little hard for him to speak, "Who?"
He heard Davy exhale heavily through his nose.
"I can't tell you."
"Why? Do I know him?"
"I guess you could say that."
"Huh," Peter managed to choke out, "Well… what were you thinking? About him, I mean."
Davy shuffled again, moving so he was lying on his side, with his back to Peter. Peter's arm seemed to naturally rest in the slight dip of Davy's waist. He tried to hide the way his breathing hitched as Davy's spine pressed into his chest until they were lying flush.
"I think… it's different to all the other guys I've liked. Y'know, the ones I've told you about. Different to most of the birds too," Davy's voice was quiet but steady, "I think I might…" He didn't finish the sentence. Then again, he didn't have to.
"Oh," Peter exhaled. He tried to force his muscles to relax, so Davy wouldn't notice how tense he was.
"Yeah," Davy murmured.
"Y'know, I think I- I might… a guy… too," Peter forced out, his heart racing so fast it hurt.
"Wow," Davy half laughed, "Funny how the world works, isn't it?"
Peter just swallowed.
"Do I know him?" Davy continued.
"I guess you could say that," Peter echoed Davy's line, voice shaking.
Davy laughed again, and turned to look at Peter over his shoulder. In the vague light, Peter could see his eyelashes flutter with every blink.
"Who is it?" Davy asked, and Peter could hear the smile in his voice, "Tell me, go on!"
Chuckling nervously, Peter said, "I can't, I can't."
"Ugh!" Davy sighed dramatically, dropping his head back to the pillow. As his hair moved past Peter's face, Peter caught the strong scent of Davy's shampoo for the first time - strawberries, it seemed. He swallowed again.
They lay there, silent in the dark for some time. Peter listened to Davy's breathing, trying to match his rhythm. He inhaled deeply, slowly, and Peter thought he might be asleep.
Peter was beginning to drift off again himself, when suddenly Davy said, "It's Micky."
Confused, Peter lifted his head and frowned. "Huh? Whadabout Micky?"
Davy gulped loudly, "The guy that I- it's Micky."
Peter drew his arm back from around Davy. He couldn't help it. It felt like he'd swallowed stones. His ears were hot and buzzing. He hadn't confessed to Davy, but he'd been rejected anyway.
"Peter?" Davy's voice was small.
It wasn't Davy's fault. No, it wasn't anyone's fault . It was just the point where two circles overlapped. It was two cars going down the same street at the wrong time. It was just the wrong time.
"I need the bathroom," was all Peter said, his tone almost mechanical. He climbed out of bed and walked to the door.
"Pete," Davy said again, but Peter didn't turn around.
The door squeaked as he opened it. He didn't close it behind him. As he made his way to the bathroom, he could barely see, and he didn't know if that was down to the dark or the tears blurring his vision. Either way, he walked on autopilot, without having to think about where he was going.
It was only when he looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror that he allowed himself to breathe out. He hadn't realised that he'd been holding his breath, nor did he realise that with his breath he was keeping in a sob. And once he started sobbing, he didn't quite know how to stop. It all came out in little pathetic whimpers, each one rolling out after the other like waves crashing on a beach.
He was sure the world didn't exist outside the bathroom. It couldn't. It had collapsed down like a box, folding and folding again, to create thick walls around him in this tiny yellow-tinted room. If he opened the door, there would only be darkness, nothingness, and he didn't know if that thought comforted him or terrified him.
It wasn't Davy's fault, he reminded himself. Davy never set out to make Peter fall in love with him. Davy couldn't help that he liked someone else. Davy didn't owe Peter anything at all.
He couldn't blame Micky, either. Oblivious Micky, who probably barely let his gaze linger on Davy for more than a moment. Micky, who probably didn't see the way Davy would let himself stare, and bite his lip, and blush.
No, Peter could only blame himself. He blamed himself for not seeing either. He thought back on the past few weeks, how Davy would stand close to Micky, how he'd knock their knees together on the couch, and the way he never gave an answer when Peter asked, "Who?" It was his fault, too, for allowing himself to get his hopes up. Perhaps everyone was right when they called him gullible. He was a victim of his own naivety.
Sniffing loudly, he wiped his eyes. They were red rimmed in a way that normally indicated a much better time had been had, if you catch my drift.
It was then that he remembered Davy, not as a concept, but as a person. He'd developed this habit of squishing Davy down into some flat two-dimensional thing, as a way to avoid endless thinking about Davy's intentions. It was a self-preservation mechanism mostly, to put a stop to sleepless nights. But that meant he often forgot Davy had intentions at all. Now, a layer of guilt settled on top of his heartache. He'd left Davy there, vulnerable and alone, after admitting something difficult. Trust was a two-way street. And Peter had driven off road.
He opened the bathroom door, clicked off the light and hurried back to his and Davy's room. But it was empty.
"He's gone," Peter whispered to no one but himself.
Part of him wanted to search for Davy, and apologize over and over. But he knew he wouldn't be able to manage that. Instead, he sat down on his bed and waited. He watched the door and he waited. But Davy never came.
Davy didn't materialize for breakfast either. Peter sat between Mike and Micky, and said nothing when they asked where Davy could be. He just sat and drank his coffee. The worst part was that he didn't even like coffee. He'd made it for Davy, but had been forced to drink it himself when it started to go cold. Well, maybe the coffee wasn't the worst part, but it was certainly a contributing factor.
"Where could Davy be?" Mike pondered aloud for the fifth time that morning. He turned to Peter, "You sure you don't know anything, good buddy?"
"He wasn't in the room when I got up," was all Peter said, which technically wasn't a lie. It just conveniently left out the part where Davy had been confirmed missing in action for at least five hours more than Mike was aware of.
"He probably tripped and got lost inside a boot," Micky joked, putting a sarcastic hand to his forehead, "We may never find him."
"Now, Mick, he might be in trouble," Mike gesticulated wildly, "What if he's been kidnapped or something?"
"Well I can see how he might be mistaken for a kid," Micky grinned.
Peter involuntarily tightened his grip on his coffee mug. It wasn't Micky's fault, he reminded himself. But here Micky was anyway, blind to the fact that Davy Jones was… Peter didn't want to think it but, Davy was in love with Micky.
He thought of all the ways this could've panned out differently. Whilst he kept telling himself it was just bad timing, he knew the truth was it was really a case of right time, wrong roommate. Micky might've been more reluctant than Peter at first, but his curiosity would surely get the better of him, and just like Peter, after one kiss he'd be hooked. There was something irresistible about Davy. Peter had known this for a long time, but after being on the receiving end of Davy's sultry smirk, it was undeniable. If you could bottle it and sell it, you'd be a millionaire. But there might not be much of Davy left if you did.
"All I'm sayin' is, he might need our help! We should go look for him," Mike was saying.
"He's not a lost puppy, Michael, he's probably fine," Peter snapped, his tone venomous.
Mike and Micky stared at him, surprised by his sharpness. Normally he could bite his tongue before saying something like that. He'd sand down his edges so he was smooth and unthreatening. But this was no ordinary day. He figured he was entitled to some bitterness in the face of emotional tragedy.
"Are you okay, Pete?" Micky frowned, exchanging a worried glance with Mike.
"I'm fine," he answered stiffly.
"You don't seem yourself," Mike said carefully.
Peter said nothing. He stood up, all four chair legs screaming against the kitchen floor. Micky and Mike watched him silently, as he carried his mug over to the kitchen sink and began to wash it.
Behind him, Peter vaguely heard the click of the front door opening and closing, heard Mike and Micky exclaiming, "Davy!" but he didn't really register it until he heard Davy speak.
"Hi fellas," was all he said, and the mug slipped from Peter's hands to smash in the sink.
"Oh how clumsy of me," he said, turning his back to the sink, "Hey Davy."
"Hello Peter," Davy looked at him cautiously, as if he might explode.
But any words Peter might've had seemed to stick to his tongue. Davy said nothing else either, and for a few moments the two regarded each other in silence.
Peter took in Davy's windswept hair, the dark circles under his eyes, his slightly red nose. He wondered if he appeared just as shaken up.
"Davy, man, what happened, where did you go?" Mike interrupted, glancing between the two of them.
Davy blinked once, twice, and looked away from Peter, focusing his eyes on Mike.
"I just... went for a walk," he shrugged.
Mike frowned, but didn't say anything.
"I'm tired," Davy continued, his voice a little wooden, "I'm going back to bed."
"Sweet dreams princess!" Micky pitched his voice up an octave or two and wiggled his fingers at Davy.
Something in Peter's chest tightened. It wasn't anger, exactly. Nor was it sadness. It was a hollow sense of remorse, without knowing what he truly felt remorseful for. And Peter could barely breathe under its weight.
He turned back to the sink and began to pick out shards of shattered mug.
Davy had been hidden behind their closed bedroom door for about half an hour before Peter decided to knock. Any remnants of bitterness had slipped away as threw fragments of mug into the waste bin, leaving only the intense guilt he'd felt last night. He knocked gently and briefly, hoping he hadn't woken Davy from a nap.
"Come in," came the reply.
He used both hands to open the door, like he was trying to shift a heavy block of stone - or maybe it was just to keep himself steady. When he peeped around the door, he found Davy lying on his bed, arms behind his head, staring intently at the chipped paint on the ceiling.
"Can we talk?" he asked tentatively. He was nervous, suddenly, to talk to Davy. The sensation was so unfamiliar, so alien, that all he wanted to do was run away.
Davy cast him a cursory glance, "Well you seem to be doing a pretty good job of it so far. Keep going."
Peter took this as an invitation to enter the room fully, and closed the door behind him. "Look, I just wanted to say I'm sorry-"
"Sorry for what?" Davy frowned at him.
"I- Well, for last night. For- for running out on you," Peter stammered.
"Shouldn't that be my apology?" Davy half smiled.
Peter huffed a nervous chuckle, "Well maybe but… you told me… something, something important, and… I bailed. And I shouldn't've. So," he drew himself up to his full height, "I'm sorry."
"Well," Davy seemed to consider this for a moment, moving his hands from behind his head to rest on his stomach, "I accept your apology?"
There was a clear question mark in his voice but Peter chose not to address it. His chest felt a little lighter now, even if he was still being dragged down by the weight of his own confused feelings.
"Well, I'm glad," he nodded once, "I'll, uh, leave you to rest now. You're probably tired…" he trailed off, turning back to the door.
"Peter, wait," Davy said, propping himself up on his elbows. He licked his lips quickly and said, "Can I… ask you something?"
It was only then that Peter recognized it; Davy was nervous too.
He turned back around. "Sure," his mouth was dry.
"Why… why did you leave after I told you… y'know. Why were you so upset? Was it because it was Micky, or something else, or…"
Peter felt his cheeks begin to heat up. His tongue turned to a heavy metal in his mouth, and his jaw locked, leaving him unable to speak. He spent a few moments, swallowing, breathing deep, before he managed to speak.
"... I think you know," he murmured at last, looking Davy directly in the eye.
Davy stared back, brown on brown, and something flickered behind his iris. Understanding. Regret. Pity, perhaps. Peter felt sick.
"I'm sorry," Davy whispered, but Peter just waved it away.
"That's my line," he joked, putting all his energy into keeping his voice steady. He half smiled to himself, before turning around, stepping through the door, and leaving Davy alone with his unspoken confession.
Peter wasn't sure why, but he hadn't expected Davy to try and speak to him about what he'd revealed. In retrospect, it was an unreasonable thing to demand, but it still shocked him when, a few hours later, Davy strode over to him as he sat on the beach, and asked, "What can I do to help you?"
Peter tried to look up at Davy, silhouetted against the glare of the midday sun. He had to shield his eyes with the book he'd been reading. And there Davy was, drawing himself up to his full height, which wasn't much, puffing his chest out, with his hands on his hips. He seemed determined, like this was just another mission, another conquest to… conquer. Or perhaps he was faking confidence, since he wasn't particularly practiced in making people fall out of love with him.
"Help me with what?" Peter asked, squinting and wrinkling his nose.
Davy faltered a little, "To- to get over me."
Peter considered this for a moment, watching the rise and fall of Davy's chest as he breathed in, then out.
"I don't think there's anything you can do," he said at last, "Sorry."
At this, Davy seemed to deflate. His confidence and determination must have seeped out almost as quickly as he'd mustered it. With a sigh, he sat down next to Peter on the sand.
"Are you sure?"
Peter nodded. "I think… it's just something I've gotta do on my own," he began to draw a line in the sand with his pointer finger, "And I'll get there. Eventually," he tried his best to keep his voice airy and casual, like it didn't hurt to have to map out a kind of timeline for his unrequited feelings, "Definitely by December."
"December?" Davy stared at him in a way that made him itch, just under the skin, "But it's July!"
Peter shrugged, "Hopefully before then," he traced his line in the sand again, "Maybe if we draw a line under it now, it'll be gone by next week!"
"D'ya really think that'll work?" Davy sounded unconvinced.
"It might!" Peter was defensive.
"Okay," Davy shrugged, "We can give it a go."
And so the line was drawn, separating whatever once was from whatever was going to be. They both looked out to the sea, allowing the silence to hang between them like a full stop. Peter watched the waves moving up and down, fizzing and splashing, similar to the sensations he was feeling in his stomach, in his blood. Despite this being a supposed sedentary ending, it felt like he'd put a fork in a wall socket, and the electricity wouldn't stop twitching through him.
"What should I do about Mick?" Davy spoke quietly, and Peter was surprised. Davy wasn't the type to ask for advice, especially not with matters of the heart (or cock, depending on the angle from which you were looking at things.)
"Well it would be a shame to put him down, since he's in such good health. Maybe a rescue centre can take him."
Davy snorted, and smacked Peter's arm lightly, "Come on man, you know what I mean!"
Unfortunately, Peter knew exactly what he meant, and if they hadn't drawn a line underneath… Peter's feelings, then he might've muttered something bitter. Instead, he searched for a reasonable answer, a piece of advice worthy of Davy Jones.
"The way I see it," he began slowly, "is you have two options. You either tell him, or you don't."
"Thank you Peter, that really narrows it down for me," Davy sighed sarcastically.
"No, no, I just- I think you have to decide if you… want something out of this, y'know? Like, like, if you do tell Micky, he might, y'know, feel the same way"
"Peter," Davy deadpanned, "this is Micky we're talking about, right?"
"He's full of surprises," was all Peter could think to say.
He wasn't sure why he was encouraging Davy to tell Micky what he was feeling. Sure, Micky was full of surprises, but did Peter really think Micky would feel the same way? Maybe he was setting Davy up for failure, as a subconscious form of twisted revenge. Did he want Davy to feel the same scalding pain as he had in that moment of rejection? The answer was no, of course he didn't, because he wanted Davy to be happy. He just didn't particularly want Davy to be happy with Micky.
"Maybe you're right," Davy murmured, "I'll think about it."
He pushed himself to his feet, once more casting a shadow over Peter.
"Thanks Peter," he said as he dusted the sand off himself, "Y'know, for everything."
Peter just nodded, words failing him. He watched Davy turn and amble back to the Pad. On the way, he seemed to catch a girl's eye - a blonde, Davy's favourite - and she joined Peter in watching Davy walk. But instead of ogling her back, Davy just kept on moving, eyes trained on the Pad.
And that's when Peter knew there was no coming back for Davy. He tried to ignore the sinking feeling he had in the pit of his stomach, replacing that shipwrecking sensation he'd had previously. It was very rare for Davy's gaze to slide over a pretty girl, but this one must've been covered in grease for his eyes to skim her that quickly.
Peter tore his own gaze away to carry on reading his book. It was a self-help guide to meditation, and freeing the inner eye. With a snort, he tossed the book away. His inner eye was the least of his problems.
From the start, Peter had known this would change things between him and Davy. Even drawing a line under everything wouldn't stop it from leaking down to dampen everything below it. All the same, he didn't realise quite how drastically everything would distort. He didn't notice at first, but it became increasingly obvious that Davy now saw him as something fragile and breakable. Where he would once tease Peter, he now spoke softly, as if he were afraid one wrong word would shatter Peter into pieces. That, or he wouldn't say anything to Peter at all.
In turn, Peter also acted more carefully with Davy. He'd avoid looking at him too long, in case Davy thought him predatory. Whenever he was alone with Davy, he kept a safe distance between them, and refused to catch his eye, lest he see that flicker of pity again. At night, he'd turn out the light as quickly as possible; if Davy whispered over to him, he'd pretend to be asleep.
It was as if that conversation on the beach bookended their casual friendship, leaving them as little more than each other's potential casualties. It felt stale. It felt like they'd fallen into this strange limbo where everything was tinted grey. And Peter despised it.
For a while, he'd worried he was making it up. Maybe his paranoia had manifested into Davy giving him the imaginary third degree. Only when Mike followed him down to the grocery store one day did he know that the tension between him and Davy was well and truly tangible.
"Hey Pete," Mike began as they inspected oranges. He was using his careful voice, the one he liked to keep for when Peter had done something stupid, but didn't want to upset him. He didn't realise that it was his tone that upset Peter by now.
"Yes Michael?" He was the only person who called Mike by his full name, aside from his mother. He wasn't sure if it meant anything, but Mike never corrected him in the same way he did everyone else. Maybe he had a secret soft spot for Peter.
Mike now held an orange up to the white store lights, looking closely at the peel. "Is everything… fine and dandy with you and Davy?"
Peter took the orange from his hand and surveyed it himself. The ridges were even and clean. He couldn't find any discoloration. To top it all off, the skin was nicely firm, bouncing back when Peter squeezed it lightly. All in all, a very good orange.
"Why wouldn't it be?" he asked, placing the orange in their cart.
Shifting his weight a little, Mike picked up another orange, running his thumb lightly over the surface. "Well, y'know, things just seem a little… tense around you two at the moment. Tell ya the truth, me 'n' Mick were talkin' 'bout it last night. He seems to think you're all tied up over the same chick. Couldn't think of any chicks when I asked him though," he scoffed at whatever memory he was recalling of Micky, and passed the orange over to Peter.
Peter's jaw stiffened. He hadn't realised he and Davy would be the high point of late night conversation for their bandmates. At least Micky was pretty far off the mark, although he wasn't sure if that comforted him or irritated him.
He barely glanced over this orange, almost immediately placing it in the cart.
"And what's your theory?" he asked woodenly.
"Your theory," Peter repeated, turning the cart towards the bread aisle, "Micky's got one, so I expect you do too, right?"
Mike hurried behind him, grabbing a few more oranges as he did.
"My theory is that something is up, but you won't tell me what it is. And I wish you would."
Peter stopped by the baguettes and sighed. "I want to tell you, but I can't," he said, looking down at his hands. And he really did want to tell Mike, to hear his thoughts now that they'd reached the predicted doom and gloom. But he didn't know how. The right words were like an origami bird, in the sense that Peter didn't know where to fold everything. He couldn't find the right places to dip in and out of their story, not in a way that fit comfortably on his tongue. "Maybe you should ask Davy," he tacked on the end meekly.
Fixing him with an analytical look, Mike moved to stand next to the shopping cart. He placed the oranges in one at a time, keeping his eyes trained on Peter. It was as if he was trying to read between the lines. Maybe in the crease where Peter's nose met his cheek, Mike would find all the answers he was looking for. But Peter knew he wasn't an open book, at least not in the traditional sense. Everything was there to read, but most of it was written backwards.
Mike sighed deeply, giving up on his attempts to figure Peter out. He reached past him to grab a baguette off the shelf, muttering, "Mick's workin' on Davy, but I don't imagine we'll get much more out of him."
A cold shiver shimmied its way up Peter's spine. Would Davy tell Micky everything? Would he tell Micky anything? He had no way of knowing until they got back, and by then, the deed would be done. Or not done, if Davy so wished.
"You okay, shotgun?" Mike frowned at him as he put the baguette in the cart next to the oranges. It resembled something phallic and Peter snatched it back up, feeling taunted.
"Can we afford bread this week?" he asked, putting the baguette back on the shelf without waiting for an answer.
"Pete, bread's about the only thing we can afford!"
"Hmm, well, we should get some different bread," Peter pushed forwards, and took a random loaf of something wholegrain off the shelf.
"Peter…" Mike began.
"We should hurry up and get back," Peter said, "I'm tired."
He heard Mike inhale deeply behind him, before he clapped a hand on Peter's shoulder and murmured, "Alright, good buddy."
Neither of them spoke much for the rest of the trip. Peter didn't know if he felt good about this or not; on the one hand, it meant he didn't have to answer - or avoid answering - any more difficult questions; on the other hand, it left his mind whirring at 200 miles per hour with all the possible scenarios awaiting them back at the Pad.
Mike went into the Pad first, carrying half of the groceries in a large paper bag. Peter lingered behind, trying to wrangle with the snake that was writhing in his stomach. If he stayed out here forever, he'd never have to know what had been said. Like Schrodinger's cat, neither dead nor alive for eternity. Although, if you left a cat in a box for long enough, Peter was pretty sure there was a point you could be certain it was dead.
"Pete, c'mon, we gotta get that stuff in the ice box!" Mike called out to him from inside the house.
Inhaling deeply, Peter picked up his own brown paper grocery bag and stepped inside the house.
He wasn't sure what to make of what he found. Davy and Micky were sat side by side on the couch, both looking suitably ruffled. One side of Micky's shirt was untucked, and Davy's hair was sticking up at odd angles.
Most people thought Peter was slow on the uptake. The reality was that he was a pretty good actor. Still, he found it hard to put one foot in front of the other, keep walking at a steady pace after putting two and two together. His heart was beating loud and slow in his ears, in a rhythm similar to a native's funeral drum. A lump had formed in his throat, like the apple Snow White had choked on. It may only be a matter of time until he hit the deck too.
"Thanks good buddy," Mike said as Peter put his grocery bag down on the kitchen table, "Say Pete," Mike paused when he caught sight of Peter's face, "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I-" Peter tried, but the sound failed as it hit the air.
Davy's pitiful gaze bore into his back, and it burned like fire. He wondered if Micky was fixing him with the same sorry look.
"You're pretty pale," Mike pressed the back of his hand against Peter's forehead to check his temperature, "And clammy too. Maybe you're comin' down with something. You should get yourself to bed."
Peter just nodded, thankful for Mike's self-appointed role as pater familias. Avoiding eye contact with both Micky and Davy, he turned and took himself to his room, where he climbed into bed fully clothed, boots and all.
There was a rushing sound in his ears now. He couldn't decide if it was the ocean outside or angry waves of hot blood flowing quickly around his body.
If his calculations were correct, and the evidence was fairly conclusive, Davy had followed his advice and confessed to Micky. And… it had gone in Davy's favour. Either that, or Davy and Micky had gotten into a fairly nasty wrestling match, which, Peter had to admit, was probably more likely. Still, he wasn't sure if it was pessimistic or optimistic to assume that Davy and Micky had managed to find some mid-afternoon action between themselves.
The minutes were long and agonizing as he lay there, beginning to sweat under his blankets, and watched memories of him and Davy play on the chipped white ceiling. A private screening of his mind's home videos, playing over and over in sepia tones.
It was a relief when Mike opened the door and peeked in at him, asking if he wanted anything.
"Company," Peter told him, and Mike came over to sit at the foot of Peter's bed.
"Waidaminute, are you still wearing your boots?" Mike accused, after Peter accidentally nudged him with his foot.
"Yeah," Peter admitted, struggling to sit up.
Mike tutted and stood, "Here," he held out his hand for Peter's foot. Peter stuck out his right leg, resting his ankle in Mike's open palm. Gently, Mike loosened the boot and pulled it off. He did the same with Peter's other boot, swatting at him when Peter jokingly poked at him with his toes. Then he helped Peter slide the jacket off his shoulders, hanging it neatly on the back of the bedroom door. Peter didn't suppose Mike was quite so tidy with his own things, but he certainly appreciated the help.
"Thanks," he said softly as Mike sat down again on the bed.
Mike smiled briefly, but his expression quickly became serious. "Peter, I want you to be honest with me. What in the hell is goin' on?"
The pattern on his bedsheets was suddenly the most interesting thing in the room to Peter. He traced the lines with his finger, as if it were a map leading him to the right thing to say.
Where to begin? And where to end? As far as he knew, the story began with a question, and ended with another one - Mike's. But did he really need to start right at the start? Need he implicate Davy at all? He supposed, if you really got down to it, it could all be summed up rather simply.
"I- I'm in love with Davy," he blurted.
And Mike said nothing. The silence dragged on, stringing out like pulled molasses. Peter didn't look up at Mike, and he knew Mike was looking anywhere other than at him. It was only in that moment that he remembered the shame tied to liking guys. The whole reason this charade had started in the first place, and he'd managed to pass it by, instead focusing his torment on feelings . And everyone called Davy the romantic.
"Mike-" he tried, managing to force the word past his lips, "Mike, I- I understand if you-"
"If I what?" Mike finally spoke, his voice harsh, "If I think you're... unnatural? Some... unholy thing here to curse my good home?" Peter tucked his chin into his chest and tried to blink back the sudden tears stinging his eyes.
"Because, God , Pete, why on earth would I think that?" Mike's voice was soft now.
It was only then that Peter lifted his head and met Mike's eye. Mike looked sincere, almost vulnerable, as if he were the one laying himself bare. His eyes were soft with something Peter couldn't quite make out. Pity? Or was it understanding?
A sob shook through Peter's body and he couldn't help himself. He fell forwards to rest his head on Mike's shoulder, and was caught by long, strong arms. More than anything, Peter felt relief coursing through him. Relief that he had told Mike and relief that Mike had understood. Relief that after so long, he could sob and sob and sob, until he was half drowned in self-pity, and know that there was someone there to pull him out again.
"It's okay, good buddy," Mike whispered as Peter cried, "We'll work it out."
That night, having spent the rest of the evening avoiding meeting Davy's eye, Peter lay staring at the ceiling as Davy changed into his pyjamas.
"What did you tell Micky?" Peter pierced the air with the question he'd been dying to ask since he'd got home. Although he still wasn't sure if he wanted to hear the answer.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Davy pause, halfway through buttoning up his nightshirt. He seemed to be deliberating, deciding. He cleared his throat before he spoke.
But that answer didn't satisfy Peter. The truth was an unruly thing, that took many forms, depending on how you wanted it to look. It could be clipped down, just as Peter had trimmed it to fit Mike's ear. And it could be stretched to cover the heads of anyone listening, if you were good at weaving a story.
"How much of it?"
"'ow much of what?"
"The truth. How much of the truth?"
Davy sighed, rubbing a hand across his face. "Does it matter?"
"It matters to me," Peter said tightly.
"I just told him… I told him what I was feelin', alright?" Davy sank down onto his own bed, staring at Peter.
For a second or two, Peter chewed on his lower lip.
"And what did he say?" There was something unintentionally accusatory in his voice. In the courtroom of their bedroom, Peter was now the prosecution, and Davy was the defendant. But Peter was too scared to call for the only witness. And with no judge or jury, could justice even be served?
Davy was quiet for a moment, still looking at Peter, only now he wasn't seeing him.
"He didn't say much of anything, to be honest," he admitted, eyes glazed over, a smile playing at the corners of his lips.
And there it was. Confirmation of Peter's worst beliefs. His sickening fear become reality. And, God, how his stomach churned.
"Well," he spoke stiffly, "I'm happy for you."
Then he turned and clicked off the room lamp.
He heard Davy mutter, "Fuck's sake," and after that, neither of them said anything at all.
When Peter was sixteen, years after vowing never to speak to her again, he found himself sat on his front porch with the girl next door. They were both a bit different now. She no longer wore her hair in braids, and he didn't spend hours looking for worms in the garden anymore. Instead, she wore red spotted hair bands, and he played the guitar.
It was a warm summer evening, with the setting sun colouring the sky shades of orange. Peter was sat alone with his guitar, plucking at the strings distractedly. Around him was a congregation of small flies - the kind that you only really notice when the sun starts to disappear. They were his only audience. Or so he thought.
Peter had looked up, and there she was, loose hair and bright eyes, with the sun glowing behind her like flames. She was stood a few feet away in a pinafore dress, with her hands clasped behind her back.
"Oh," Peter said, "Hey."
"You're really good," she told him, and when he cocked his head in confusion, she laughed, "At playing that thing, I mean."
"Oh! Uh, thanks," he tried for an awkward smile.
She smiled back, and it was soft and warm, like the breeze ruffling their hair.
"Can I sit?" she pointed at the space on the porch next to him.
"Uh, yeah, yeah, sure," Peter shuffled over slightly, and she hesitantly sat down next to him.
He couldn't bring himself to look at her face yet, so he watched her hands smoothing her skirt over her thighs. The same hands that he had once held, and thought he might hold forever. They were bigger now, of course, but still petite and delicate; in contrast, Peter's hands had grown huge, so much so that he often found his fingers tripping over each other. Her nails were painted a soft pink, trimmed neatly and filed roundly. The skin that covered the back of her hands was smooth, even where it curved over her knuckles.
It was that moment, looking at her hands, that Peter realised he was over what had happened when they were eleven. The truth was that he'd been over it for a long while, years even. It was just something he'd pushed to the back of his mind, looked back upon if he needed an extra reason to be angry. But it didn't really matter to him anymore. He was right, at the time, when he'd believed a band aid wouldn't heal the wound; instead, it was healed by time. By the faultless progression of life, as it continued on without pause. The same was true of other hurts, too; his grandmother dying, the boys at school laughing at him for the way his ears stuck out, his best friend turning on him and fighting him in a back alley next to the diner. No hurt was permanent in the end, even if it felt like it at the time.
He slowly dragged his eyes away from her hands to her face, her soft cheeks and vibrant eyes.
"I'm sorry," he blurted.
She frowned. "Sorry for what?"
"I've been mad at you all these years, for what happened when we were kids, and I never did anything about it but I was angry with you," he babbled, "But I just realised that it doesn't matter, and I wasted all that energy being angry over nothing, and I'm sorry."
He wasn't sure what he'd expected her to do or say. Tearfully forgive him? Furiously berate him? Apathetically walk away?
What happened was, she laughed. And Peter didn't know why, but he laughed too. They giggled uncontrollably for a while, collapsing into each other for support, clutching their aching ribs.
"You're a funny guy, y'know," she grinned at him, massaging her aching cheeks.
"It was nice seeing you again," her hands moved back to her lap, to straighten out her skirt.
"Wanna hang out again tomorrow?" Peter suggested, emboldened by her smiles.
She stood up, shaking her head softly. Peter watched her hair dance and sway around her face.
"We're moving," she told him, quietly, "In a few days."
"Wow," was all Peter could think to say.
They were both silent for a while, her looking at Peter, and Peter looking at her. Then he dropped his eyes to his guitar and began to play. It was something he'd begun to compose himself, picking out gentle melodies on the strings and trying not to wince when he played a wrong note. She stood and listened, not taking her eyes off him once.
When he was finished, he met her gaze again. For a few beats they stayed like that, lost in this moment of strange emotions. He barely knew her, but now they had to say goodbye. Then she darted forwards, planted a light kiss on his cheek, and before he could say goodbye, she was gone.
The next morning at breakfast, Peter could taste the confused tension on his toast. It wasn't particularly nice, but at least it gave some flavour to the otherwise plain bread. The problem seemed to be that no one at the table knew the whole story of what was going on. Each person had their own pieces of the puzzle, but with their recently developed communication problems, it didn't look like anybody was going to get the full picture any time soon.
Peter scanned each face at the table. Mike was slicing his toast in half, and then in half again, meticulously and measured. It was Mike who knew the least, Peter thought. Unless Micky had spilled the beans about his and Davy's "conversation", all Mike knew was that Peter was suffering from a bad case of unrequited-itus. Anything else was shaved off info that Peter had decided to keep to himself. He didn't imagine Davy would appreciate Mike knowing all about their newfound hobby these past few months.
Micky was tearing his toast into thin strips, every so often pausing to take a sip of his coffee. The problem with Micky was that Peter didn't know how much he knew. Had Davy's confession been as simple as Peter's? A short tagline for their twisting and turning side narrative? Or had he recalled each plot point in detail, telling Micky how Peter shivered as he kissed his collarbone, the way he melted under Davy's palms? Just the thought made Peter lose his appetite, and he dropped his toast on his plate, half eaten.
"Are you gonna eat that?" Davy interrupted his thought process, pointing at the abandoned toast.
"'s'all yours," he sighed.
In theory, Davy knew the most. Peter watched as he took the toast, spread a thin layer of butter on top, and bit into it. With his other hand, he reached for his coffee, timing it so his knuckles bumped into Micky's, and the two exchanged a small smile. Davy knew what Micky knew. For the most part, he knew what Peter knew too. The only piece missing for him was Mike, with his simplified version of events.
If he had time, Peter would've graphed it all in a Venn diagram, so he could see the way the circles overlapped and intertwined. At least then he might be able to make sense of it all. But they were busy today - an audition for a club none of them had heard of; Don't Be Shellfish , or some other seafood related pun. An audition meant rehearsal, which in turn meant Mike had woken them all up at seven so they had plenty of time to practice.
“Any song suggestions?” Mike asked, as if reading Peter’s mind, “Now I personally think we should do somethin’ like Hanging ‘Round , y’know? Somethin’ we know we can play.”
Mike’s main hang up, so far as Peter could tell, was that he liked to be in control of things. Any situation that required a leader seemed to be Mike’s forte, and he could fall into an authoritative role at the drop of his wool hat. Now, Peter wasn’t one to get all Freudian, but if a psychologist were to analyse Mike, he imagined they’d suggest it was something to do with his father leaving when Mike was young. Or perhaps Mike just found life chaotic, and was very decidedly getting a grip. Anyway, the point Peter’s trying to make is that when Mike proposed something, they usually did it. That’s not to say that there were never any disagreements. Davy and Micky frequently locked antlers with Mike over things Peter would consider trivial, such as their stage outfits, or whose turn it was to wash up. But more often than not, they would end up bending to Mike’s will anyway. Maybe it was the natural order of life, that they, a simple pack of Monkees, listened to whatever their leader had to say. Or maybe it was Mike’s bullish stubbornness that left them ultimately unwilling to disagree unless absolutely necessary.
Peter would have thought that this was one of those things that they would all agree on. Let Mike choose the audition song, and continue living a peaceful life. But maybe the early wake up call had made him cranky, or perhaps the past few weeks of emotional strain had gotten to him, because Davy spoke up.
“No, I don’t think we should do Hanging ‘Round ,” he said through a mouthful of toast.
“And why would that be?” Mike frowned at him across the table.
“Because,” he swallowed the toast, “It’s boring.”
Peter’s eyes widened, as did Micky’s opposite him. Insulting one of Mike’s songs was never a wise move. Especially if the criticism didn’t stand up well.
Mike inhaled loudly, deeply, slowly, like he was trying to keep his cool. Either oblivious or apathetic, Davy shoved the last of the toast into his mouth and dusted the crumbs off his hands.
“Well then Davy,” Mike’s voice wobbled as he attempted to keep his temper in check, “What song do you suggest?”
“‘Ow ‘bout- sorry,” he covered his mouth as he sprayed flecks of toast over the table, “‘ow about Clarksville, or that new one, whatsit, Goin' Down ? Y’know, one of Micky’s.”
Nodding slowly, Mike considered this. He seemed calm but Peter could see his fists clenched under the table, knuckles white. On the other side of the table, Micky had frozen, as if one wrong move would make Mike erupt. Peter felt the same.
"Okay, what does ev'ryone else think?" Mike asked, turning to Micky. Davy turned too.
"I, uh, I don't mind! What we do, I mean," Micky squeaked.
"Peter?" Davy tilted his chin as he and Mike swung around. It felt like Davy was challenging him, like some kind of test.
Peter thought for a while. Micky did have the strongest vocals of the group, so perhaps playing one of his songs would be beneficial. Then again, Mike's song was good , definitely set to wow an audience. Plus, if they played a newer song, like Davy was suggesting, they were more likely to fumble, which may cost them the audition.
He looked Davy directly in the eye as he said, "I don't think Mike's song is boring."
"Well, I think that's settled then," Mike declared, standing up and beginning to stack their empty plates, "We're doin' Hanging 'Round , and we can have Clarksville as a backup, case we need more songs."
"Sounds good," Micky said.
"Yeah," Peter agreed.
And Davy said nothing. He just looked at Peter, staring with another inscrutable expression. Whether he'd won or lost Davy's challenge, Peter couldn't say. Perhaps there was no way to win anyway. It was all a losing game.
The rehearsal was a dud. Throughout, there was an overbearing tense energy. Peter could split it into different elements, each with their own weight and heat. The most prominent was the strain between Mike and Davy, after their brief clash of Capricorn egos. The downside to sharing a birthday, Peter supposed, was having an almost equal stubbornness. If you believed in the zodiac, anyway.
This taut vibe was only doubled by the joking looks shared by Davy and Micky, who seemed to be trying to make each other laugh. They didn't seem to be taking it very seriously, despite it being their first audition in weeks. That ought to wind Mike up like a spring, Peter thought. He watched from his place, stage left, as Davy turned and threw a grin at Micky, and Micky replied with a ready laugh. On the other side of the stage, Mike stood stiff as he played, and Peter could almost see the steam billowing from his ears.
The third twist of discomfort lay between Peter and Davy. Peter's desire, his selfishness, to want Davy for himself had driven a wedge between them. It had all come to a head, now that Davy's attraction to Micky had moved from the realms of theoretical to visceral. Maybe Peter had been okay with the hypothetical, since there was no guarantee that Davy would do anything about it, and an even smaller likelihood that Micky would reciprocate. But now it swung before Peter's eyes, the prize he could never win, and it left a bad taste in his mouth. He supposed Davy had been able to smell the bitterness on his breath, and in turn was spitting his own venom.
It was apparent that Peter had failed Davy's unspoken challenge, as Davy refused to look at him once during practice. Even when they leaned into the same mic to sing harmony, Davy's eyes would fix on Mr Schneider, sat across the room, before swiveling back to Micky. It wasn't fair for him to try and test Peter like this, and then punish him for getting it wrong. Then again, Peter knew it wasn't fair for him to see Davy as some kind of prize either. He was a person, even if he was a little short. Perhaps they were on level ground.
Despite the tight atmosphere, they made it through the rehearsal without incident.
"We better get it together for later," Mike warned, before striding out the front door to blow off some steam in the Monkeemobile.
This left Peter alone with Micky and Davy, somewhere he really didn't want to be today. As the other two flopped down next to each other on the couch, Peter retrieved his book on meditation and left to go read on the beach. Maybe he could find some techniques to help Mike stay calm.
He found a spot in the sun, a little way down from a game of volleyball, and opened the book in his lap.
Breathing techniques… Breathe in, then out. Think about his breathing, the sand under his palms, the sun on his face. Anything other than Davy, and Micky, and whatever they could be doing in the Pad right now. Hands, and mouths, and… other things.
He blinked hard, to dispel the images. Just focus on breathing.
Gently, he lay back on the sand, keeping his eyes closed. His breathing fell into a slow rhythm, just in and out. The sea echoed him, pushing in and out again, over and over. Once he'd wondered if the tide got tired of doing the same thing, over and over, but supposed it didn't, in the same way that his lungs never got bored of breathing. In the same way he'd never grown sick of kissing Davy, over and over.
Eventually the sound of the sea and his breathing and the people playing volleyball faded into nothing.
The next thing he was aware of was someone shaking his shoulder, and an LA accent calling his name.
"Pete? Hey Pete, you gotta wake up, babe."
Through blurry eyes, he saw Micky standing over him.
"Mick?" he mumbled.
"Yeah, yeah, it's me! C'mon, we need to get ready for the audition!" Micky straightened up as Peter lethargically pushed himself to sitting.
"Wha' time's it?" he yawned, accidentally rubbing sand across his face.
"12 noon," Micky bounced a little on the balls of his feet, "So we got time, only, Mike thinks you should shower."
Micky held out a hand to him and he took it, feeling the stretch of his muscles as he stood up. The meditation book slipped from his lap and landed in the sand, and Micky ducked down to grab it for him.
"Thanks," he said, as Micky handed him the book.
"No problem, sandman," Micky grinned, ruffling Peter's hair and laughing at the cascade of golden sand that poured out.
The pair began to walk back to the Pad, Peter trying to dust the sand off his back before it engrained itself into his shirt. They were silent for a while, Micky humming something that Peter didn't recognize, and Peter stopping himself from asking about Davy. He had a hoard of questions on the tip of his tongue, but he knew better than to tip the balance just before an audition. It still took all of his self control to bite back his questions - or were they accusations? - and just walk next to Micky.
To his surprise, it was Micky who brought up Davy.
"Y'know, me and Mike," he began, "We've been worried - about you and Davy." His speech was uncharacteristically hesitant, stopping and starting instead of flowing like usual.
"Yeah, Mike said," Peter nodded.
"Yeah, yeah. I just- I wanted to talk to you about it. I asked Davy but I, uh, didn't get much out of him."
Peter snorted. He imagined Micky had got a lot more out of Davy than he'd bargained for.
"And, y'know, I'm not scary like Mike," Micky continued, "So, if you wanna talk then…" He trailed off and stopped walking.
Peter stopped beside him, studying his face. Micky looked genuine, from the set of his lips to the crinkles by his eyes. He wanted to help Peter. The same way Peter would want to help him. This revelation shocked him a little, not because it was something surprising, but because Peter couldn’t pinpoint when he’d started doubting his friends’ intentions. It had just grown within him, expanding in his stomach until it filled him up, without him even noticing. How strange it was to lose trust in the people you held closest without being aware of it.
This also meant, Peter gathered, that Davy hadn’t told Micky about him and Peter. And it was a relief bigger than anything else Peter had ever felt. It washed over him softly, and then all at once like a sudden downpour. Him and Davy - whatever fragmented thing they’d had - was a secret kept firmly between the two of them. They were two pages of a book, pressing their story flat like a flower, if the book remained closed. Maybe Peter could let it stay shut.
“Davy really likes you,” he told Micky, his voice level.
Micky looked shocked, eyebrows rising at least an inch. “He told you that?”
Peter chuckled a little, shaking his head slightly. “Yeah, he told me,” he stared directly into Micky’s eyes, serious now, “Do you like him?”
He watched the question wash over Micky, and was suddenly reminded of the three years that separated them. In that moment, Micky looked so young, and scared, as if he were a small boy again. His conscious seemed to drop back from his eyes, staring blankly through Peter as if he weren’t there. It was a heavy question, Peter had to admit. One that Micky probably wouldn’t know the answer to yet, but he had to ask anyway.
After what felt like an age, Micky became present again, his eyes focusing back on Peter. He half-smiled. “I think so,” he shrugged, and continued his trek back to the Pad.
Peter hung back, watching Micky make footprints in the sand. It was almost jarring to hear Micky being sincere, without cracking a joke or providing some sarcastic response. He hadn't unboxed an impression or put on an affected accent. And it was that, not his words, that told Peter all he needed to know.
Micky liked Davy. Perhaps not as much as Davy liked him, but certainly enough to give this, whatever this was, a try. Well, it stung to realise. It sat like a bowling ball on Peter's chest, pinning him down as he looked on in self-piteous horror. But at the same time, he was a little impressed. Micky had been given the opportunity that he himself had been denied, and he seemed to be grabbing it with both hands. Despite its enormity and spontaneity, Micky was willing to wrangle this elephant of a situation, whether it all blew up in his face or not.
"Pete, come on!" Micky had paused at the foot of the beach stairs, waiting for Peter to follow him.
And there he was: Micky Dolenz, one of Peter's best friends. Peter knew in that moment that nothing could change that.
"What're you waiting for, come on!" Micky called again.
Smiling, Peter ran to catch up with Micky. The bowling ball on his chest shifted.
The four huddled closely together as they prepared for the audition. The Plaice To Be turned out to be more fine dining than fun club, which had set Mike on edge. As tended to happen, Mike's nerves had trickled down to make the rest of them a little jittery too.
"Okay, let's tune up," Mike said.
"Don't you mean, tuna up?" Micky grinned.
Davy snorted, and Peter let slip a chuckle.
Mike rolled his eyes. "Whatever Mick, let's just tune up and warm up."
Peter began adjusting the strings of his bass, listening as Davy began a vocal warm up for them to all join in. A steady drum beat started as Micky improvised a rhythm to limber up his wrists and feet. On the opposite side of the stage, Mike was tuning his guitar, tweaking the strings and pausing to check they were in the right key. To tell the truth, this was one of Peter's favourite things about performing; before playing the music, they had to make sure everything was perfect. On stage, they became one entity, a well-oiled sound machine. But here they were individuals, making sure their part would be up to scratch. The thrum of nervous energy was interwoven with excitement, anticipation, and it hummed through Peter like a heavy bassline or a good trip. He was in his element.
The perfection of the moment broke down pretty quickly when Micky hit one of his cymbals too hard and his drumstick snapped in half. A piece of broken drumstick flew through the air and connected with Mike's face as he tightened his A string, making him jerk and twist the tuning machine too fast. The sudden tension made the string ping and break, the two halves curling outwards.
"Fuck," Micky said, "Sorry Mike."
Mike rubbed one hand across his face and sighed. "Did you bring a spare?"
Micky shook his head.
Mike sniffed. "Me neither. So we have," he checked his watch, "Fifteen minutes to go round up an A string and a drumstick 'fore our audition. An' we better make it snappy."
With a nod from Micky, the pair disappeared in search of quick replacements, leaving Peter and Davy alone. Peter kept his eyes trained on his bass guitar, running quickly through the baseline of Hanging 'Round 's chorus. Next to him, Davy stood quietly, every so often shaking his tambourine. For a while those were the only sounds - the exposed bare-bones of a song, and quiet hustle and bustle of the restaurant.
Then Peter said, "I understand now." The words slipped out without much thought.
"Understand what?" Davy stopped shaking his tambourine.
Peter could feel Davy's eyes on him, but didn't look up from his bass. "I understand why… Micky, " he elaborated, hoping Davy would get it, "Why you picked him, I mean." He lifted his head to see Davy's face, his reaction.
Davy frowned, "Peter, I didn't… pick him, I didn't choose this, it just happened ."
And Peter did know. He understood the involuntary process of falling for someone, despite all the reasons you shouldn't. But he also understood that telling that person, that being with someone was a choice. Davy had chosen to confess to Micky, the same way Peter had chosen to tell Davy. And Micky had chosen to give Davy a chance, just like Davy had decided he wouldn't give Peter the same opportunity. Then again, could Peter really ask Davy to force a feeling for him, in the hopes it would develop into the real thing?
No, Davy hadn't chosen Micky. He'd chosen himself . He'd chosen happiness, and for that Peter could not blame him.
"What I mean is," Peter spoke slowly, finding the right words, "I'm glad you made the right decision."
Four feet away, Davy eyed him cautiously. "You really think I did the right thing?" he murmured, "Because I don't."
Peter frowned. "Why wouldn't it be the right thing?"
"Because it hurt you!" Davy waved his arms in exasperation, the tambourine jingling as he did, "You're one of me best mates! And I hurt your feelings."
A strange warmth settled over Peter's ribs. It was a soothing sensation, like someone had spread a balm over his chest. For the first time in a while, Peter felt truly calm.
He felt a flickering smile cross his lips as he reached out to place his hand on Davy's shoulder. "I'll be okay," he assured him.
Davy's mouth opened to speak again, but at that same moment Micky and Mike stumbled back over, with a makeshift drumstick made out of several kebab sticks tied together, and an A string replaced with dental floss. Needless to say, the audition did not go in their favour.
For a while, Peter couldn't help but wonder what Davy would have said if Mike and Micky had taken another 30 seconds. Maybe he would have protested Peter's statement, arguing that it didn't matter that Peter would be okay, if he wasn't okay now . Or perhaps he would've fixed him with a puppy dog stare and asked if he was sure he'd be alright.
It didn't seem to matter though, because whatever cracks had formed between them seemed to, not disappear, but press together like healing flesh. Their relationship slowly reverted back to normal, or as normal as it could be, after the ups and downs of the previous months.
It took some time for everyone to adjust to the open secret of Davy and Micky. No one really spoke about it, but they all knew. Davy might sit in Micky's lap, and Micky would leave his hand on Davy's knee, and that was just the way it was now.
As a result, Peter often found himself with an aching chest, made worse by sympathetic glances from Mike, whenever Davy and Micky sat next to each other. It was a hollow wanting, carved out by the fact he knew he could never have this for himself, but still heavily present. But he'd force a smile whenever Davy met his eye, because that was what he had to do. No matter what happened, he had a duty to his friends, and Peter was nothing if not loyal.
It took a long time, but eventually when Peter saw Micky and Davy together, he felt happy for them, in the most bittersweet way. It was hard for him to explain. Some part of him ached whenever he saw them discreetly pressing their thighs together, or found them stumbling out of a room, hot and bothered. But it wasn't heartache as it had once been. This was more a throb in his mouth or his fingers, as they remembered the parts of Davy that were now Micky's to explore. It was a dull growing pain, as he slowly adjusted to the fact that this was not his happy ending. A toothache that suggested, not a rotting tooth, but the pushing forward of a new one.
Happiness still overpowered whatever pain he felt because, even before he'd fallen in love with Davy, he had loved him. That unselfish kind of love that asks for nothing in return. He loved Micky too, in that same loyal way. So to see them happy acted, at least in part, as a kind of anaesthesia.
And even when memories of dark nights and Davy's eyelashes sat in the pit of his stomach like rocks, he couldn't help but smile when he saw Micky softly brush Davy's hair out of his face, watched Davy straighten Micky's shirt collar. They echoed intimacy, the same tenderness of the gentle kiss Davy left on Peter's forehead, and a part of him wished he could be the one living in those moments, instead of just observing them. But he knew now how to brush those thoughts away. If he could not have those moments for himself, he could be grateful that someone he loved got to experience them instead.
"You alright, good buddy?" Mike drawled beside him.
They were sitting on the veranda, as the sun sank into the sea. Mike was sucking on a pipe of smoking frodis, and on the beach below them, Davy and Micky were wrestling, or pretending to. All of Peter's lingering regrets seemed to melt in the gentle orange light. He might be ending the story with little more than he'd started with, but perhaps that was all he'd needed in the first place.
Smiling softly, he turned to Mike. "I will be," he said, "I will be."