stuff 'n' nonsense · Wafflish

Stuff ‘n’ Nonsense

Hiya 🥰

I’m so sorry I still haven’t finished the epilogue, my hands are a bit too battered to type away to my hearts content. I tend to rest my inner wrists on the edge of the laptop when I write…this is what they look like:

I took it unto m’self to tackle a huge project in my garden. Ivy had swallowed my house—all of it—windows included. And some of the roof. On accounts of being a dunderhead. Matters had possibly reached Maleficent proportions, so I set about beridding myself of it.

I am an itty bit clumsy, I must confess.

During the last few weeks I’ve broken a couple of ribs, dropped the shears on my foot (which broke a bit and went blue) dislocated my toe and trod on a thorn. My arms look as if they’ve been through a shredder. I’m too used to m’self to take a lot of notice, but the bee sting was insult to injury, it must be said.

By the time I stagger indoors after hacking my way through said shrubbery I’m a smidge too sore to rustle up a fitting finale for our miscreants. Nevertheless I am almost done (in) so with a bit of luck, unless I fall off the ladder—

I should stop there. Tempting fate is so not a cunning plan…

Last week, another thorn got lodged in my palm, so I yanked it out and forgot, as y’do, figuring that it would stop bleeding soon ’nuff. Then, carried on clipping until my son’s belly prompted him to pop outside and ask how I was doing.

I may have swiped my hair out of my face at some point. That seems the best explanation for the fact that he went quite white, the poor little mite. 🙈 I p’raps looked as if I’d taken a trip through a windscreen.

I am delighted to report that I’ve almost defeated the beastie hell-bent on devouring my house, so all being w—😨 Oops, time to quit, whilst (I have) ahead…

And finally…

(this is the bit at the end of the news where they wheel out the 115 year old birthday girl who drinks like a sailor and smokes 40 a day…)

❤️🤍💙 Thank you, truly, Stateside folks ❤️🤍💙

I’m a smidge stunned 😳

Wafflish

Beast of Bodmin: Free

Hiya,

I hope you have a wonderful weekend 🥰

I’ve made The Beast of Bodmin Moor free for five days if you’d like a copy…

Blurb

Two years ago Jake McCain encountered a compelling stranger at the Glastonbury festival. Two days later his life, as he knew it, was over. Enter Jack. They have…cohabited ever since. Much to Jack’s despair, Jake has remained dogged in his bid to be the most bloody-minded human a jackal ever had the misfortune to manage.

Phin Finley has embarked on a magical mystery campervan tour of Cornwall. Free to potter about, doing as he pleases for the first time, he wants to prove he can do just fine without having a fatal mishap. Or causing one. Or losing his trusty bicycle clips. Even if he is a tad too…Phinish for most folk’s comfort, his mum’s peace of mind and dad’s constitution.

Theirs is a tale about finding your (happy) place in the world, making (foxy) friends, and the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor.

*This is an #ownvoices story. Phin’s reality reflects my own*

Review by the brilliant Penny Blake

💙 Her blog 💙

https://blakeandwight.com/

💙 where magic is weaved with words 💙

***

US

UK

Wafflish

My Way – Epilogue Pt 1

Hi,

I’m so sorry it’s taken a wee while. It’s getting a mite out of hand, so I’ll post the lastest part soon…

 

My Way

 

 

 

Epilogue (Pt 1) 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: 2 days later

Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Gnhh…” Mac stirred, adrift in the half-way world where dreams and awareness merge. Heavy with slumber, floating too freely to surface when consciousness couldnae compare. “Hmmh…”

Warm…slither-soft, moist… Dangerously so. As if Mac needed reminding exactly why he’d written this off as a ‘gateway drug’ he couldnae afford to indulge in for…far too long. Far, far too… Hmmm…

“More…?”

Joe. Mac snapped his eyes open, halting whatever the fuck his spine was hell bent on pulling off. Bent? Damn thing was concave, shoving his arse towards the source of such contraband bliss. No. Fuck no. Nooo…Mac’s bones were melting. 

“Stooop…” 

“Up?” Huge hands clamped to Mac’s hips, hitching his arse higher, high enough for that far too talented tongue to dart between his cheeks and…dapple. Mac clenched his butt muscles, trapping it. Briefly. “Now you’re just teasing me…” The miscreant blew a stream of cool breath across damp skin, a sensation so persuasive that Mac’s treacherous cheeks staged a sodding mutiny. Goddamned arse would’ve slapped out the welcome mat if it could. In darted that demonic tongue, flickering like a fucking firefly, dead set on demolishing every last scrap of Mac’s sanity. Swirling…oh, so slowly…purgatory. Paradise. A world of black-shot-scarlet bright behind his eyelids. Brighter than the sun. Too intense to insist on…whatever the hell Mac should. Soon. 

“Nooo…” 

“No? Oh, okay…” What the…? Plush heat vanished, about a silent shriek of protest before Mac found himself tilted off balance before being flipped onto his back, to lie blinking up into daylight. A retina searing sight eclipsed by a streak of alabaster and mop of platinum hair when Joe straddled his hips. That face. Moonbeam pale, beyond beautiful, swooping to meld their mouths for an all-too fleeting moment. Shattered, when slick fingers closed around Mac’s cock, about a snatched off breath before Joe sank down—impaling himself hilt deep and Mac in a devastating scorch—with a sigh so sublime it was obscene. It damn near finished Mac off. 

“Gaarrhhh!” Tight hot, white-hot heat as acute as being flayed alive. Mac gritted his teeth against the need boiling his blood, battling it back, fighting to get a grip, when the grip was eye-watering elsewhere. A stillness serrated by his ragged breaths that felt as if each was hauling a steel-trap after it. Mac’s body was leaden, stupid with bliss, saturated in sweat. Brain shot to shit. The self he’d so assiduously constructed, snatched from his clutches and tossed to the wind like candy floss. Decimated with a twirl of demonic tongue and (quite possibly) a ‘wee sit down’.  Even Joe’s imaginary mind was monstrous. 

“I’m going to kill you,” Mac managed to groan. “Later…” 

“‘Kay…” Joe smiled, midnight eyes ablaze with knowing. Far, far, too much. “I’d better distract m’self for a bit then. Take my mind off the trauma…” A sage nod as the monster started rocking his hips, as if he were settling in for the duration. 

“You’re…” Mac couldnae think of a thing that could begin to cover it. 

Not ‘entertaining myself’ on your cock. Nor, using you ‘to abuse’ myself…” Joe leaned forwards to murmur “…’cept with pleasure.” at Mac’s lips before catching the bottom one between tender-sharp teeth. He wasnae lying. He’d prepped. Fucknows how long Joe had been awake. If he’d even been to sleep. He’d also clearly had his ‘breakfast’. Then recovered enough to be way too coherent at stupid o’clock and repeat Mac’s words from a lifetime ago, t’boot. Words he’d uttered in a last ditch attempt to protect himself, far too late. 

Who the fuck is this and what the hell has he done with Joe Fitzgerald?

With those eyes…? Pinned so wide he’d bypassed ethereal en route to unearthly. Impossibly beautiful. Mine. Whoever he is.

“Joe…” Mac croaked, “Please move…”

Hmmm…” Joe’s sigh was the most mind-boggling expulsion of air Mac had ever heard in his life. Coupled with an expression that could convey more than most could proclaim with a soliloquy. ‘Move’ swiftly morphed into finding himself cut adrift, lost to a rolling rhythm so inimitable only Joe could have rendered it. How wrong Mac had been. Far from ‘entertaining himself’, Joe might’ve been putting on the performance of a lifetime...if Mac could credit such a travesty of truth.  He watched, rapt, as Joe rose and sank; as unselfconscious as a creature of the Fae flitting through the trees. Flicker-frame flashes of liquid midnight and rosebud lips, head tipped back, baring the superlative arc of Joe’s throat to Mac’s greedy gaze. He was extravagance personified, gift wrapped in porcelain skin, pearlescent in the light filtering through the French windows.

“Will I be…enough?” Words Mac couldnae suppress with the onset of the tour looming so large. Joe was his. Mac didnae share…with anyone. For anyone. Not even Joe. Particularly not Joe.

The moment he sensed that his miscreant was done with him, Mac would be gone before dawn…but while Joe still wanted him? Mac couldnae abide another bastard laying a finger on him. If they so much as tried, he’d break a helluva lot more than that. It would probably be the last thing Mac ever delighted in doing. 

He didnae expect an answer, but Joe blinked, focussing on Mac’s face with irises too dark to discern how pinpricked his pupils were. “Yesss…” Joe gasped, “H-how could you…doubt it? Unless…” His gaze softened, smudged. Imploring. “Please d-don’t leave me, Mac…”

Leave you? Fuck no.” Never had a concept seemed less possible. Or more ludicrous, when nailed by need as compelling as the ever-building pressure, hovering on the precipice of unbearable bliss. 

“Mac!” 

“AGHH!”  A god-awful racket clawed Mac’s throat when Joe upped the ante, pace, undulation of his sprite-like self, as if dead set on driving Mac demented before he was, indeed, done. It was all Mac could do to close his fist around Joe’s tremouring cock and watch, rapt, as he rode the waves sweeping him to the edge of everything and beyond. Mesmerised by the perfection that was Joe on the precipice of paradise; realms away, yet never more present. It was with a sharp cry that his tufty head rocked back when Joe shuddered with a spasm of inner muscles that blazed through Mac in blitzkrieg of bliss.

“Hmm…” A sound matched by the beatific smile with which Joe sank forwards in a slick and sticky smear of skin. Mac would crawl over broken glass for one last glimpse of that expression. He would do far more than that. Right then, he couldnae think of a thing he wouldn’t do to merit that smile. Nor summon the will to worry about it. “Hmm…Mac…?”

“Aye…?” 

“Did you mean ‘fuck no’ the way it sounded?” 

 How the hell had Mac said it? He had a sneaky suspicion that he knew damn well. As if it was the last thing he might ever do, perhaps?  Too emphatically to suggest a single marble might be left rattling around in the bottom of Mac’s Bergen?

“Aye…” he repeated with a rueful smirk, instead.

“Will you say it again? ‘Twas hellish sexy,” Joe murmured, lifting his head to unleash the lashes.

“Fuck off,” Mac snickered.

“That’s very distracting, Mr Chuckles. Please…for me?” Rapid blinking. Pity-me-pout. Monster.

“Phhhh…” Mac hmphed. Trouble’s lips just twitched, knowing damn well that he was about to be obliged. Oh why not…what the hell. Mac couldnae be any more buggered. Unless he was, surely?  “Fuck no Growled, with a steely glare. Mad bastard.

“Hmm…” A happy hum of sound succeeded by a question from left field. Of course. “Mac, how long is ‘fuck no’ for?” Big round eyes beseeched, impossibly innocent.  Oh...for about as long as it took for Joe to finish one of them off? At least.

“Until you’re bored…and/or start finding your diet rather…restrictive, shall we say?”

“You can say it, if you like, but I sure won’t. The latter wouldn’t cross my mind, let alone leave my lips. I don’t find anything restrictive when I’ve shackled myself to it, you daftie. I’d get miffy if someone else told me what I must do, eat, say, for fifteen minutes, let alone forever. But never if I chose it myself. Beats me why folk have kiddies if they get fed up of stuff in five seconds flat. Scary that. Weirdos.”

If there was an answer to that? Mac wasnae likely to fathom it before he’d had his first smoke of the day. A stiff drink wouldnae go amiss, either…

“Mac…are you miffy?” Joe asked, hot on the heels of Mac’s silence. Unless, of course; the miscreant knew damn well why that might be. 

“Should I be…?” Mac raised his head, arching a wry eyebrow

“Sorry…? Um, it ‘wasnae a wandering digit‘ to break…the terms? Or feed to the dog?” The face Joe donned was best described as ‘all eyes and teeth’.  Like a cartoon character caught red handed.

“You broke the spirit of the terms—as well you know it—or you wouldnae be asking.” Mac informed him, with a lofty sniff. Far from ‘withering’, but about the best he could muster, when really. Joe was impossible. It was like trying to scold Pootle Flump. Okay. You’re really showing your age now, you old git. Baby Groot? He’d do. More to the point…scold?

Five days with who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald and Mac had mutated into a badass grandma. 

Five days? It felt like five minutes and forever, Joe Mean Time. Meanwhile…in real time? The weekend in Marlborough had been followed by two rehearsal days in London. The second of these—Tuesday—had unfolded in much the manner as the first, except Joe had been the one to take Adam aside to ‘fine-tune some stuffs’. Apparently. The misreant had seemed untroubled when he’d emerged, so Mac hadnae pressed for any details. He could not micro-manage Joe and his own manager. His own control-freakery had started to freak Mac the fuck out. In his own indefensible defence…? Fear was a cruel taskmaster. One he was so unaccustomed to serving that Mac’s instincts had snatched up the proverbial sledgehammer with which to crack the nut. 

Overcompensation? Guilty as charged, but underestimating Joe really wasnae an option. There was no middle ground to scope out. Mr Fitzgerald avoided that as if it might incite a plague on his person. 

Every song had been sung as if for his last supper, performed with a focus so transfixing Mac would’ve been hard pressed to tear his gaze away had the drug squad stormed the room. Joe’s band had burned through every track like men on a mission to fight fire with fire, lest they be left stranded.

Adam had been right, he could have filmed those rehearsals…and promptly sold ‘Junkie Joe’ down the river. Made a mockery of every word scripted for him with such pitiless derision by poisoned pens. Mac almost wished that the conniving bastard had done just that, lest—  

He couldnae go there. It was a horror show waiting to hook its claws into Mac and shred his ever flimsy façade of civility. It’d wind up about as effective as a clingfilm flack jacket if—when—the shit hit the fan.

Mac couldnae afford to fool himself. He sure as hell had not come armed with a magic cock that could wave Joe’s demons away. Particularly when the miscreant made Mac feel as if he could. Not literally, of course (he had retained a modicum of sense), but metaphorically. Letting those eyes persuade him otherwise might well prove his fatal flaw. Joe’s life depended on that. If it was the last thing he ever did, Mac would make damn sure that Joe wanted to live it. 

 

*

 

tbc…second and final part to come.

Wafflish

Cover Poll

Hi,

I hope your week is being kind to you. 🥰 Thank you so much for voting in my poll, the results thus far are:

Cover 1 – 30%

Cover 2 – 20%

Cover 3 – 50%

Apart from the first vote (for number 2), number 3 has been the leader all along. So, unless we have a flurry of votes that pips it at the post, this is the cover you’ve chosen:

fotojet-1-1

lucas-filipe-ihlPKC7P0gE-unsplash (1) (4) (1)

FotoJet (4)

lucas-filipe-ihlPKC7P0gE-unsplash (3)

Epilogue coming soon…

.

Wafflish

My Way 52

Hi…this chapter brings us to the end of Part 1 of My Way. It’s grown in the re-writing and now totals around 95,000 words. When I began, I believed that I’d written about 70% of the full story, but there’s so much more I’d love to tell. You’ve p’raps read 50% or thereabouts?😳

This seems the perfect place to leave off…with p’raps an epilogue or a preview chapter to Part 2. Still to come: the tour, album launch, Junkie Joe & His Mystery Man hit the headlines. Lots more sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll. All manner of mishaps, mischief and mayhem along the way to their Happy Ever After, Amen.

Thank you for reading and for all your support, it means so much.🥰

.

.

My Way

 

 

62 Joe

 

Joe was still reeling when he shrugged the strap of his acoustic over his shoulder to sing the rough sketch of the song he’d scrambled together from snippets of lyrics. They’d kept creeping up on him unawares all weekend; fragments of thought Joe had stashed away in his box of scraps till they told their full story. Sort of like the one at primary school—filled with odds n’ sods, cartons, boxes ’n’ buttons, loo roll tubes, tin foil and bottle tops for arts ’n’ craft projectsexcept it was stuffed with random bits of rhyme and ramblings. 

A single word had strung all those snippets together, but it was Bowie, oddly nuff, who handed Joe a hook to hang them on. Then. The next stop on the station to station trip called life.

To be or not to be, me. Smack sodden, strung out on dope. Tattered torn, lost forlorn. Then was hope, shimmering on the horizon. The strongest link to fuse the lyrics that kept infiltrating Joe’s head, here, there ’n’ everywhere. The new verse had tripped off his tongue the moment all the puzzle pieces had slotted into place. He’d always written as fast as he thought…that bit was easy. It was the polishing up part that took more time—which he hadn’t had—so Joe had been unable to fiddle or fine tune it. A fact that made its already daunting debut—in the most knee-knocking of circumstances—feel a lot like flinging himself out of a plane without a parachute.

The ‘sneering’ accusation was way worse than the fury with which Mac spat it at Joe. Nothing could have been further from the truth Mac insisted on. The ‘Psycho Killer’ ringtone had been a bit of mischief to take the edge off the fact Joe felt as if he’d been outfitted with an electronic tag, like a prisoner on probation. Or a set of kiddie reins to stop him toddling off and getting into trouble.

Sneer? Joe hadn’t even had a huff, let alone sneeredif it p’raps gets lost, will you wheel out the shock collar, or leg irons next?

The very next time Psycho Killer tootled through Joe’s thoughts, it ushered in a couplet t’die for:

Psycho Killer qu’est-ce que c’est, I did it myyy wayyy.

Irrésistible, non? So, a medley it was; the first verse, then half of Psycho’s chorus, segueing straight into My Way.

The latter came about because Joe’s brain had started humming to itself the second ‘My Way’ left Mac’s lips. It sang itself…could anyone hear those words without winding up with an ear worm?

Joe didn’t have a ‘reason’ for wanting to play them, that implied a ‘motive’. A means to an end. Joe rarely had reasons. He did stuff or he didn’t. He never consciously thought: what will happen if I do this? Or vice versa: doing this will cause… Joe’s ideas and decisions were instantaneous. Thus, the moment My Way was mooted, this happened: song/set list.  This did not: song>motive>set list. 

Mr doesnae feel a thing McBadass sure seemed to feel lots of things about something Joe hadn’t spent a second pondering. The two tunes had taken up residence in Joe’s head alongside Mac. There wasn’t a thing he could do to dislodge them. 

Joe had never been able to reason things through, but he could backtrack, after the fact. Retrace his footsteps in reverse. From outcome to origin:  

  • Debuting the new song. 
  • It’s placement in the set list after ‘Is This It’ reflected the fact that it was written as an answer of sorts. An unequivocal No. There was more. There was ‘Then.
  • ‘Then’ picked up where the refrainIs this it? No you, for me? No ‘mine’ nor ‘we’. Merely I, myself, and my enemeleft off.
  • Is this it, all there’ll ever be…was the fear Joe had sought oblivion from when ‘yes’ seemed certain: A fix to fix/hope departed/Hole hearted.
  • The original set list occupied about…five percent of Joe’s headspace (he may have rounded that up). The rest was…bedevilled by badass. Taking into account that ratio? The likelihood that Joe would walk on stage and sing twenty songs about not-Mac? Zilch.
  • Gig rehearsals.
  • Drive to London
  • And how.
  • Arrival of badass to whip Joe’s into shape…

True to form, the very thing he’d longed for most had rendered him horror-stricken with happiness. Joe’s joy was a fearful thing. A petrifying tumult of emotion, as terrible as a beast crouched beneath the bed. A feeling so intense, it left him its loss short of insanity.

Mac made Joe feel safe. A fact that triggered terror. A very specific terror he recognised all-too well. Joe felt it every single time his stash started running low. Or, someone mentioned rehab. Or, his dealer was two minutes late. Or, he couldn’t find a vein that wasn’t shot to shit.

A truth that made: ‘the sooner you’re done, the quicker you can get back to what really matters’ a travesty of it.

“That’s not fair…” Joe’s limp as last week’s lettuce rebuttal incited the retort it deserved.

“Prove it.” 

That? Joe could do. 

It’s all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…

 So he did.

Prove it…propelled Joe through the studio door with the pizzazz of a man with a plan. The flinty glint that remained riveted to Joe’s person was rocket fuel up his arse as he careered through the set list like a man possessed. He must have sung the right songs in some semblance of order, cos the lads seemed to be playing much the same one, at the same time, which p’raps hadn’t been a…sure thing of late.

Slick with sweat, running on fumes, Joe played as if he were headlining Glastonbury, rather than rattling through a few tunes for one man and nary a dog. He lost all track of time, place, space. There was just his music, and Mac. Thus, it was a wee bit dazedly that Joe tugged the strap of his Fender over his head when a second guitar was wafted in front of his face. Severing his focus on eyes so potent he’d started to suspect they had superpowers. Panther-stalking-prey-powers at the very least.  The latter shouldn’t have been as hot as hell, particularly when the mere threat of curtailed freedom customarily made Joe clammy with dread. 

After shrugging the strap of the semi-acoustic into place, Joe lifted his head. Sought, found, that agate gaze and dragged in a deep breath. He must have taken another at some point, or he would’ve dropped dead, and Joe didn’t…so, it seemed safe to say he pulled that much off with aplomb. Whether he could claim the same about the song itself was a lot less certain. By the time he’d finished crooning the first verse and chorus, Mac looked…a mite shell-shocked. It was trickier to tell if that was a good or bad thing.

“As snug as the hug 

Of a drug haze

Lazy days, lost ways 

A last-past-the-post maze

Of nowhere fast…”

All Joe had ever been able to trust were the truths he cloaked in melody and rhyme. Seeking solace in structure, shaping their form, shrouding his secrets in simile and metaphor. Crafting a suit of armour to protect his inner self from the outside world.

The truth and nothing but, Mr McBadass? So be it.

*

Joe formed a chord, licked his lips, and ignored.

All reason why, or why not. Then, threw in his lot.  

 

“A Nowhere Man

With no hope plans

All tattered, torn, 

So lost, forlorn

What a blast

It’s been.

 

The future is green… “

 

 ***

 

 

Wafflish

My Way 51

 

My Way

 

 

62 Mac

 

 

 

“Fuck.” Adam’s expletive splintered the shimmering silence; reverberating with the echo of the last chord strummed. He appeared rather startled, Mac noted with a sense of satisfaction he found…unsettling, to say the least. “That was bloody blindingand I’m not just talking ‘tight’I’m talking the dog’s bollocks. If you play like that on Wednesday, I’ll be cursing the fact I never booked a film crew. Then I could get on the blower to Amazon or Netflix or whatever, telling ’em that the stakes have just been raised to Six Foot Four…” 

“From Five Foot Two, I take it? That’s just blasphemy, that,” Connor declared. “And, just for the record? Sizeist, too. Waving surplus inches about in the faces of the press is an alliterative accident waiting to ’appen, I reckon.  Junkie Joe’s Junk, just sayin’. Biiig mistake. Jinormous.”

“Christ, you’ve had your Shreddies this morning, Con. Don’t tempt him, or it’ll be trending on twitter before y’know it. If only to start a bidding war,” Luke groaned. 

“Sometimes, you scare me, Three Shredded Wheats Watson…” Connor shot him a suspicious side-eye that made Luke splutter a snort of laughter. Not quite as taciturn as he seems at first acquaintance. Mac patently hadnae paid Joe’s drummer the attention he merited. Overlooking the ‘strong silent type’ was never wise. Mac should have clearly polished off some crunchy nutters after his bacon (and Joe’s).

As for the all-day breakfast habits of this band? Mac was starting to suspect their rider would prove more scandalous than egregious inches, if it was leaked to the media. Cereal addicts, the lot of ’em. Should anyone suggest renaming Psycho Killer? Mac couldnae be answerable for the consequences.

“You lot can stick your cardboard breakfasts where the sun don’t shine. I’m a meat man, m’self,” Jez smirked. “Lightweights, the lot of you…if Mac didn’t put away a Full English this morning, then I quit. Mac, save me, please.” The imploring puppy-dog-eyes Jez turned on Mac were as priceless as the fact they’d patently been perfected to stymie someone’s lash-batting terror tactics.

“Gladly…” Mac obliged with a conspiratorial grin. “Two, in fact.”

“Ha. That’s it, he’s a keeper. I rescind my resignation. I’ll stay if Mac does. Speaking of grub, I’m starving…and Joe is suspiciously silent. Y’okay, Fitz?” 

“Hmm…?” Joe blinked, swivelling an abstracted gaze Jez’s way, or thereabouts. “I was…thinking. I need a pen…and a piano. Dammit, I didn’t bring my flute. Well, I did, but it’s at The Berkeley. Ah well, no matter, I don’t need it now-now.”

“You don’t need a piano either, you were going to play the new song. The last new song before this new song—the one I’m prepared to eat all your hats if you forget—so I reckon you’re good to go. Colour me curious, I’m intrigued…and famished. I have a hot date with a Bulgogi and a pair of thigh-high boots, so…If you’d be so kind, Mr. Fitzgerald?” Jez swept a flourish of his wrist mic-wards with a half bow and all the flair of a compere at The Royal Variety Performance.

Mac had to concede that Joe had a point on the too similar to find one another irresistible front. Brains like twin-barrelled scatterguns. As brilliant as they were batshit bonkers. Mac couldnae recall the last time he’d found company quite so…entertaining. 

His squaddie days, perhaps? He didnae do ‘nostalgia’ but he may have missed the camaraderie of those early years. Rising in the ranks didnae come accompanied by a barrel of laughs—it was a trade-off of sorts—respect in exchange for comradeship. Mates. Men whose lives were worth trading your own for. Rather than your duty to do so. 

Special Forces had demanded a different kind of…kinship. Brothers In Arms in extremis. Since then, Mac had existed on the peripheries of all that made a man human. It was the life of a lone predator, and he relished the self-reliance. Considered himself independent, as opposed to isolated. Free to roam at liberty, eradicating the liberties less discerning bastards took with more deserved lives. 

All of which made it…interesting that Mac had taken to this eclectic bunch of blokes, when indifference had best described his dealings with Stateside showbiz types. His insights into the music business, on the other hand, had proved…disappointing, at best. Irritating, more often than not but then, he’d previously been contracted to protect ‘pop stars’ from screamers…rather than musicians, from themselves. 

“Okay…keep your dreads on, drama llama. I feel decidedly underdressed now.”

Whether the absence of said bootsor The Palladium intro were more responsible wasnae elaborated onwhich was perhaps just as well. Particularly if Jez was to be spared starvation and kinky-boot induced cripple cock. 

“It still needs work, sorry…but I want to include it,” Joe scuffed his toe, staring at his feet, strangely…abashed. 

“I wouldn’t worry about it. I suspect there’d be demands for a refund if you didn’t meander off on some ramshackle ditty,” Connor snickered..

“Half naked…at least,” Luke chipped in.  At least? Over my dead body. The miscreant would find himself carted off stage if that looked likely, even if it caused a goddamn riot.

“Quit gassing you lot and let him get on with it then, before Jez’s dinner winds up in the dog,” Adam advised, with a despairing eyeroll for Mac’s ‘benefit’. 

Connor handed Joe his semi-acoustic before heading over to join Mac, his expression one of keen interest, rather than impish amusement, which was a first. 

“Okay…” The sheen of sweat glistening on Joe’s face looked thick enough to drag a finger through, like condensation on glass. It had been a fair few hours since his ‘breakfast’. “’S called…’Then’.”

Then. Thank God Mac was sitting down, it wasnae so far for his jaw to drop. Then: a word he’d mooted even more recently than that last fix. Had Joe written an entire song since? Mac had assumed that Adam must’ve eavesdropped on the ‘new’ one Joe played in the car during their journey. 

Then. Fuck.

It’s…all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…trust me, you said. I know you don’t trust me…and I don’t blame you, I don’t…but this? Tell me one thing you trust yourself to do, Mac…

Mac couldnae recall the last time he’d felt a creeping sense of shame leech the colour from his face. Or been so thoroughly blindsided. If the devil himself spent forever plotting? Mac couldnae imagine a more lethal plague on his person than discovering who the fuck Joe Fitgerald was.

The first trickle of notes that tripped from Joe’s strings were tentative, as if he were feeling his way into the song…unless it was supposed to sound that way. 

Wide asleep…” Two words…and the tempo made sense. Joe left them lingering in the air while playing a few more bars before the confirmation came. 

Pupils pinned…” Another pause for a repetition of the riff that made Mac’s tendons reverberate in response, twang tight, as tense as muscles steeled to spring.

“From station to station…” Christ. Joe had heard what…three seconds of ‘Time’? Before rewinding it to—incidentally—the best of Bowie incarnations. 

Mac could only be grateful that he was too staggered to register the full impact of the next few lines. Unleashed in swift succession to spear him like lightning strikes. Sung to Mac—at him—in smoky tones as seductive as opium fumes and eyes ablaze with dark fire drilled him to his seat: 

“Then. Came a thunder clap 

A steel-sprung snare trap

My lean mean lethal machine…

A clash of contrasts as extreme…

As whispers in the wind.

Or the soft susurration

Of summer rain

To soothe, succour, sustain…”

My lean mean lethal machine? Thunder clap? He’d transformed Mac into steel-jaw trap Thor. Poetic licence assuredly, but even then; a superhero was the last thing on Earth Mac resembled. That part was too outlandish to focus on—sheer wordsmithery wrought by a Romantic—with my resounding around his head.

My…my…my…was the sound of a ‘Word on a Wing’. Mac was still listening to its echo when Joe started strumming rather than finger pickingthe strings. When he began to sing, his voice was a ripple of velvet ribbon weaving its way through the words:

As hollow as a heart without hope 

Smack sodden, strung out on dope, 

And pipe dreams in the sky dreams

The lost boy left behind beams

Safe on shore Lost no more

Mon amour Dur à cuire…

 *

Joe…hollow hearted, alone in a land of lost dreams. ‘Drowning’ in smack, until…deposited safely on shore. By mon amour Dur à cuireMon Dieu.

Mac’s French and Italian were…good enough to get by when a target was based in mainland Europe. He tended to be  dispatched there more often than most, because he could pass as a native, apparently. Until he opened his mouth, of course…but still. Mac sure as hell recognised the expression dur à cuire: Badass. Hard-nut. Bulldog.

Mon amour dur à cuire… 

Merde.

 

***

 

Wafflish

My Way 50

My Way

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61 Mac

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Mac regretted mooting the ‘bandmates-with-benefits arrangement’ the moment he’d all but spat said accusation at Joe. For a multitude of reasons, first and foremost being the fact it revealed far too much for comfort.

While he’d never been lazy, envy was the only other deadly sin Mac wasnae guilty of. He was riddled with vices, most of which he valued above his scant virtues; none of which had ever served him well. Quite the contrary, he considered them weaknesses. Mac had done his damnedest to suppress, if not eradicate, anything that reeked of ‘softness’. Pity, in particular, was lethal—he’d quashed that like a beetle beneath his boot—the most fearsome of foes couldnae compare.  

Mac didnae want to watch the world burn. Nothing so…noble. Fire could be considered purifying. Mac couldnae claim to be a righteous man. Nor a decent one. He dealt in vengeance and death. Killed in cold blood. He was a weapon without a cause, pointed at a target, as injudicious as death itself. A reaper of revenge. Mac took out the trash. Men he deemed worse than he.

Playing God? No, far from it. He didnae cull innocents. Not even as ‘collateral damage’. That was a crime he’d only committed for Queen and Country…and the main reason Mac no longer did. The other…? Doing so while living half a life himself. An existence that required him to kill to order, but denied him the right to love. Openly.

Psycho Killer? Joe’s tongue-in-cheek tease, and taken as such. ‘Paint it Black’ would’ve been more fitting…except Mac had never shied from facing up to the fact his world was as black as his heart. But jealous wasnae Mac’s colour.

Or, hadnae been. Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald, indeed…

Aside from the miscreant intent on pointing the Psycho Killer finger at Mac in front of thousands, that is. Fair enough…it was their secret code of sorts. Ringtone of the McBatphone; the only one Joe answered. It might even be considered a…fond nod to that fact. But…in tandem with My Way? It became something else entirely. A piss-take from the safety of a stage. A very public one. 

What did I do wrong? You can’t say nothing, cos Jez noticed too…‘ 

Yes. Mac could: Nothing…yet.

As for Connor? If it ever happened, neither of us noticed, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if you weren’t the last man who fell to Earth who might need to...’

“Why might that be?” Mac enquired. He was wound so tight, his voice sounded flat, devoid of feeling. Verging on bored…as if he couldnae care less. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth.

“You know why. I promised. I meant it.” Joe shrugged, too casual to possibly be so. As was the way he flicked the butt of his cigarette to the floor and ground it beneath the heel of his boot. 

“You expect me to believe that while sneering at me in the most public way possible? My Way?” Mac retorted. “The song itself has that covered…but Sid even sang it as a sneer. That’s just the half of it—”

“No!” Joe cried, cutting him off. “No, It’s none of it. It was never about that! I jus-just wanted to…it’s the only way I know—that I could show—I, Mac, I—” Joe broke off, digging his fingers into his scalp, as if intent on tearing his hair out. “You’ll see…please? It’s…all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…trust me, you said. I know you don’t trust me…and I don’t blame you. I don’t…but this? Tell me one thing you trust yourself to do, Mac. One thing above all else?” Joe demanded, spearing Mac with an accusing stare.

If midnight burst into flame it would look like those eyes.

“You know damn well, which is why you’re asking…and yet, you want confirmation. Christ knows why…you want me to tell you how it feels? It doesnae. That is why you don’t want to know, Joe. So, go in there, sing your song, tell your truth. I asked for it, after all,” Mac snorted. “My terms. My Way…” Fuck.  

He chews ’em up and spits ’em out like cherry pips…

Oh, but not me? Arrogant arse.

Mac raked a despairing hand through his hair.. “C’mon…let’s get back. The sooner you’re done, the quicker you can get back to what really matters.”

“That’s not fair.” Joe rounded on him like a spiky kitten with eyes spitting sparks.

“Prove it.” Mac returned, resorting to icy indifference. He had fuck all else to safeguard himself from Joe Fitzgerald.  Yanking the door open, Mac jerked his head to indicate ‘you first’ and followed his flouncing charge back inside.

Mac had blown it. Buggered his remit to deliver Joe in a fit state to function in one fell swoop…and for what? A bruised ego? Petty point scoring? Jealously? Pathetic. Fuck knows what Joe’s bandmates would wind up suffering for Mac’s utter ineptitude. He’d pretty much pulled the pin from the grenade and tossed it into the rehearsal room.

Blowing out a regretful breath, Mac followed in Joe’s wake. Possibly to attend a rehearsal for that of their careers.

*

“Thanks for holding the fort. Is everyone good to go?” Joe breezed into the studio for all the world as if he’d just been for an invigorating walk in the woods. “I don’t expect it t’be pitch perfect, I just want to feel m’way through. So, same set list, ‘cept the new song…I’ll play it solo after ‘Is This It’. We may as well do the covers last, for now. I just want to rattle through from start to finish…so, no worries on the bum note front, just carry on regardless. Adam…I’ve decided to use ‘Cat People’ as the intro music, if you’d be so kind as to sort it…” 

“The whole set, without…pause?” Connor sounded incredulous. “Who are you? And what the bejeezus have you done with…etcetera, etcetera…?”

“Shurrup O’Donnell and do your plinking thing.” Joe sniffed, affecting affront, as he selected a guitar from the rack and shrugged it’s strap over his shoulder. “Ready?”

“As you’ll ever be…” Connor grinned, taking his place at a mic to the left of Joe’s, set centre ‘stage’.

“Damn cheek…” Joe just winked, spinning on his heel to face Luke.

The next hour was the most staggering sixty minutes Mac (as sure as shit hitting the fan) hadnae foreseen when Joe stomped off in a huff…a few minutes beforehand. He stood, leaning against the wall, arms folded, legs crossed at the ankles, little knowing what to expect. Either in content or…commitment. Joe’s jaunty air had suggested they were about to launch into little more than a rough jam, ‘bum notes’ and all. 

Mac, of course, had only heard Joe play one song; a ballad as achingly raw as the impact it wreaked. Thus, the sudden surge of sound that crashed against his ears was as unexpected as it was exhilarating. A breath-snatching assault of sheer power and musical prowess. As staggering as the intensity of Joe’s delivery…the irony weaved by its words. Even its title was an oxymoron. Bedsit Busker. Buskers played in public for passersby who tossed pennies into a hat. A bedsit suggested a bleak box room in a busy city…a tableau of loneliness. It definitely did to a teenage ‘Gutterheart’ who’d sought solace in the lyrics of Marc Almond and Morrisey while stripping himself back to sinew and bone. Deadening the truth that would destroy his future before Mac even embarked upon it. 

The bleakness of the bedsit song was followed by a swift succession of melodies as irresistible as the mind from whence they’d sprung; running a gamut of emotion from one end of the scale to the other. Minor chords of melancholy entwined with deceptively intricate ditties, and refrains as immediate as they were infectious.

Had that been all? Mac would’ve declared that Joe had a gift for knocking up a great hook, but that was the least of it. Those mellifluous melodies merely framed—shaped—the stories Joe told. With an intonation as uniquely his own as any artist could lay claim to. Some songs could be sung by anyone…others belonged entirely, exclusively, to their singer. Words that could’ve only frothed forth from the wellspring that was (who the fuck is) Joe Fitzgerald. The click of that tongue, the roll of his rrrr’s, the moue of his mouth. Inimitable.

The lyrics themselves were a revelation. Lyrics? They were poetry, pure and far from simple. If Mac hadnae seen them flow from Joe’s fingertips with startling fluidity, he would’ve thought they’d been meticulously crafted—wrangled to his will—honed and perfected over hours, days, weeks, months…and maybe they had been. But Mac felt somehow sure their essence had been captured in one frenzy of focus so intense, Joe wouldnae have noticed if the world had burst into flames, until his paper and pencil followed suit.

Words that swept Mac along on a tidal wave of emotion. From the most incisive clatter of self-contempt never spat by John Lydon to the unbearable tenderness of a ballad Joe and Jez coaxed from semi-acoustic guitars.  ‘Is This It’—the song Joe had referenced at the start—was the former. A track as bitter-sweet as it was brutal, pulling no punches as it battered its subject with scorn, mocked it with disdain…and left him for dead. 

“Hey Joe, where’d you go…

Why d’you stay

Washed up, wasted, 

Scoring day to day.

.

Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Tall poppy tales

from the toppermost tree?

A brief relief 

from being me?

.

And so I flail, 

from fail to fail

From fix to fix

A fix to fix

hope departed 

Hole hearted.

Numbing the ache

Yours to take.

.

Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Filthy lucre n’ kicks for free?

No you, for me?

Never to hear 

A ‘mine’ nor ‘we’...

Without thee. Who’d you be? Is this it…no you, for me? No ‘mine’ nor ‘we’. Merely…I, myself, and my eneme...”

*

The entire song was a teeth gnashing crash of futility. As poignant as it was precise in its dismemberment. Rage, regret and self-recrimination, directed inwards and out. Delivered by a Joe Fitzgerald Mac would’ve been prepared to swear he’d never met in his bloody life. Gone was the gawky grace of those long, lean lines…in it’s place? Joe was all sharp corners and spiky limbs, as fluid as freeform jazz…and yet, as mesmeric as a metronome.

Mac sat, spellbound by this stranger with Joe’s eyes. For they could belong to no other. They drilled him to the seat he must have sunk on to, at some point. Implored far more than Mac could afford to surrender. Ablaze with fearful fury, as cruel as glass shards ground against skin. It didnae seem possible that one gaze could ache with such intense vulnerability and yet, spit such vitriol. The latter felt like being spattered by needlepoints of hot fat. Soothed, by imploring pools of drowning brown in the very next breath. 

Only once had Mac felt quite so besieged; as brain scrambling, breath-snatching experiences went? It sure had waterboarding beat. An endurance test he’d emerged from sane. Whether Mac would survive the next few days in a fit state to function, was a whole other matter.

Moreover, as it soon transpired? Joe had barely begun…

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***

Wafflish

My Way 49

Hi, I’ve included the start of Joe’s chapter so that it follows through…

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My Way

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60 Joe

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“Magic.” Joe grinned when he and Jez were done rustling up the perfect arrangement for their guitar parts. “Thanks for this, Jez…”

“No need, this”—Jez wafted a finger back and forth between them, before swirling it in the air above his head—”is all the thanks I need. Look at those two, I can’t recall the last time Luke didn’t look as if he’d rather be playing Call of Duty. They’re buzzing. C’mon, ‘fess up…what gives? You look a helluva lot like a Fitz who’s been fucked senseless, might I add, so don’t even think about spinning some seeing-the-light fairy story. I doubt you’ve seen it for three days. I rarely bottom, but Dayum…”

Jez had been married to the love of his life for five years, and never once availed himself of the offers his sublime guitar skills and general sex godliness bombarded him with. Joe flicked his gaze toward the man who made damn the understatement of the century. Unless accompanied by unprecedented access to Jez’s spectacularly lush tush. 

When Joe flicked his gaze Mac’s way, he was parking the baddest ass in a plastic chair. A cheap as chips monstrosity he somehow contrived to seat himself on as if it was a gold gilt throne. The majestic glower he directed Joe’s way was possibly intended to wither parts of his person that perked up with appreciative aplomb. But then…Joe’s cock had the instincts of a four year old let loose on a black forest gateau. Reading the room was far from it’s Very Best Thing.

Mac looked an itty bit miffed. In a flinty glinty, foaming at the mouth sort of way. Had his lips not been pressed in too grim a line for a sliver of spittle to escape. Uh-oh. Had Joe done something amiss? Of course he had, Mac sure wasnae aiming a death ray glare at Jez. 

“Have you had a tiff? Or, did you zip him up a bit too sharpish…he looked fine till he sat down?” Jez shot Joe a not the least subtle Not today Satan expression Bianca wanted back pronto. 

“Neither…?”

“Oops…you might want to take him off for a smoke break before he combusts. I’ve got this, I’ll go and sort the rest of the arrangements with Connor and Luke. Go on, take five, I’ve got your back.” After giving Joe’s nape a quick squeeze of reassurance, Jez swivelled on his cuban heels to swing his slinky hips over to the drum kit. Where Adam was t’be found bending Luke and Connor’s ear about something or other. His manager did not look miffed, for once, which was a bit of a miracle, it must be admitted.

Ah, well…here goes. Time to pull m’big boy pants up and face the McMusic….

*2*

Big boy pants or no, walking towards Mac was still…unnerving. It didn’t help that they got a smidge less roomy with every step. Or, that Joe’s skin got clammier by the second, prickling with a sheen of sweat; smack slick, sticking his T-shirt to his back.

Mac’s glare didn’t waver, if he blinked, Joe missed it. He just sat, on his threepenny throne, as majestic as a King waiting for a pesky peasant to be brought before him. Watching, waiting, that laser gaze ablaze with burning intensity. See these eyes so green… Joe very much feared that a ‘thousand year’ stare wouldn’t be long ‘nuff.

“Hey…” Joe croaked. Tried to swallow, licked his lips, tried again. “The lads…are sorting…some stuff. I can, I mean it’s okay if I…take five, d’you…fancy a smoke?”

“Sure.” With the briefest of nods, Mac rose to his feet. Joe shifted himself so sharpish he was standing at the door by the time the bad-ass had twitched his jacket to attention. 

 “We’ll be back in ten…” Mac informed the room with a hot as hell rasp you’d have to be batshit to take issue with. No one did. Oddly ’nuff. “If I am not heading out for a smoke, you are really not going to be fond of sitting down for a fortnight,” he informed Joe with a flinty side-eye.  

“Was that a promise or a threat?” Joe couldn’t resist enquiring, as an exit line of sorts. He really should have. Resisted, that is, if the narrowing of Mac’s eyes could be considered indicative. It sure as shiver me timbers had ‘sinister’ covered. “I’ve been gasping for a smoke since we…left the loo,” he added, kneading his temples with the heels of his hands, abruptly beset by a blinding headache and the certainty that he’d buggered everything up. Again.

“Y’okay?” Mac frowned, as if he were worried, which was a wee bit weird when he’d been spitting bullets a few seconds ago. Keeping up with his mood swings was like trying to catch clouds.

“Yeah…just…” Joe trailed off, slumping against the wall with a fulsome sigh. 

“Here…” Mac proffered the packet of cigs he’d just fished from his pocket to Joe, then popped one between his own lips. Once Joe had done likewise, he bent to the flame of Mac’s Zippo, as grateful for the respite from fucking stuff up as he was for the lungful of much welcome smoke. Albeit, an all-too brief one…  

“What did I do wrong…?” Joe stared straight ahead, unable to bring himself to brave the badass in both sound and vision. Oops, the Bowie lyrics have boarded the truth-telling train to Out-of-Handsville now. “You can’t say nothing, cos Jez noticed too…” 

“You told him?” Mac’s tone was scarier than the glare. Joe chanced a glance from the corner of his eye, too afraid he’d find himself scorched by ‘shame’ to brave it full-on. Because that made so much sense. Those laser beam greens were spitting too many sparks to tell. Unless that was a sure-fire indication that Mac was, in fact, ashamed. Of Joe full-stop. Let alone of anyone knowing the truth…he valued so much.

“No. Not that it matters, when he knows. I should have told him he was wrong, sorry.” Joe scrunched his eyes shut and let his head fall back against the wall with a thud. It’s dull thump sure had ‘The Plummet of Hope’ nailed. 

“Sorry? Why? Are you worried that will put the kibosh on your bandmates with benefits arrangement? Just Jez, or Connor, too?” Mac snorted. Never had an expulsion of breath encapsulated ‘disgust’ with such utter aplomb.

What the bejeezus? What-where-why…? People very rarely flabbergasted Joe: ‘If you expect folk to do their worst, they don’t often surprise you…’

Carpe Diem might’ve been the sexy answer to the ‘motto’ question interviewers were so fond of, but that was one cliche Joe hadn’t committed. He couldn’t rightly recall the last time he’d seized anything…cept p’raps his rescue package of smack at the Priory. Suffice to say, Joe had been blessed by the most ingenious fanmail on the planet. It’s sublime sense of irony on the Get Well wishes t’die for front had been almost as welcome. Especially after enduring yet another scintillating let’s chat about how uniquely we suffer for our gifts session. 

Jez!? Good grief.  Seung would’ve taken to wearing Joe’s balls for earrings. Never had a spitfire worn a sweeter smile, or possessed a shorter fuse. It was a bloomin’ good job Jez thrived on it, or he’d sport a swift-trip-through-a-shredder look, more often than not. His cat-who-licked-the-cream-bowl-clean strut suited him so much better. Joe ‘n’ Jez were way too similar to find one another irresistible. They’d started as Sisters-in-Army-&-Navy-Stores, and not a very lot had changed. One husband and a heroin habit later…here they were. Their friendship, miraculously, intact.

Connor…? There may have been a drunken fumble here ‘n’ there, but neither of them knew for sure. Or, if Connor did, he was saving it to sell to the papers when Joe popped his clogs. P’raps he should write a ‘heartfelt farewell’ note to stash away for the scamp, just in case. That was sure t’be worth a mint. 

It was a fine thing that Joe thought fast, cos strewth, what a waste of inner slow-poking in the mists of time that would have been. One swift fast-forward later...

That was why Mac had been so miffed he’d looked about to blow a fuse? Why? He’d already made it quite clear that he thought Joe was a two-bit tart…which left the hands-off-my-stuff buzzer button Joe had inadvertently bodged earlier. But that still couldn’t account for the feel my blood enraged ferocity in those feline greens. There must be more.

“We’ve never had sex, you nutjob…let alone a cosy ‘arrangement.’ Nor will we. Jez is the most married man I’ve ever met. But, even when he wasn’t, we didn’t. Besides which, I am not the only bloke in five years who could breach that…um, barrier. And then some. So pft...put that in your pipe. As for Connor? If it ever happened, neither of us noticed, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if you weren’t the last man who fell to Earth who might need to. Just sayin’…” Joe shrugged.

Ha. Mac’s expression was priceless. As hot as hell too, but that definitely went without saying….

.

*

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*Tell Adam*

Intro Music: ‘Cat People’.  Purrfect (ouch) for Thin White Junkie Entrance.

Wafflish

My Way 48

Hi, I hope you have a great week. 🥰

I’ve included a bit of Joe’s part too – most of this was written today – so it’s very much a WIP. I’ll update it asap…

*

My Way

59 Mac 

 

 

Mac was left gaping in Joe’s wake, but the door was not. It began to swing shut again, so Badass McCafferty scrambled his wits together sharpish and corrected the expression on his face to its customary countenance. After following Joe into the studio, Mac nodded a general greeting to all present: now numbering three thirty-something musicians, Stu the technician…and, of course, Adam.

“Hiya, sorry! I wasn’t late, I was a smidge early, so we pottered off for a bit. Shurrup, O’Donnell,” Joe sniffed, shooting ‘O’Donnell’ a devilish smirk before he could pass comment on the miracle that was Joe Fitzgerald, in the flesh, before five p.m. Or seven. His blue bass guitar, suspended by a blue/purple/pink strap, seemed to proclaim both O’Donnell’s role in the band and sexuality…which begged a question that was no business of Mac’s and did not make him feel bilious. Let alone murderous. Even if the bastard was a twinkly-eyed Irishman with inky curls and an impish grin. 

His name didnae guarantee his birthplace, but the “Spoilsport” he shot back was pure Dublin…and if ever a pair of Irish eyes had smiled more disarmingly, Mac hadnae encountered them. As wiry as he was compact, he could probably pass as Georgie Best’s cousin after a couple of pints.

The dude standing beside Adam had the lean, lithe form of a man who lived hard and loved every minute of it. The long fingers of his left hand were poised on the frets of a six-string guitar; a white Les Paul, to be precise. While Mac couldnae claim to be a buff, he sure as Spiders-from-Mars recognised the guitar Bowie had spent the seventies ‘fellating’. It’s owner, however, didnae look a thing like a reincarnated Mick Ronson, by virtue of resembling a younger, taller, Lenny Kravitz. Shoulder-length dreads framing fabulous bone-structure, beautiful almond eyes…and as gorgeous as he was gay. The platinum band that graced the third finger of the chord he’d formed on the Gibson’s frets was—by far—his finest feature. 

The only member of Joe’s band who could be taken for a bloke you might meet down the pub was the drummer, who was a dead ringer for James Dean Bradfield. Only one of the Manics was reputed to have departed this mortal coil, thus quashing Vince’s claim, once and for all. Although, it must be admitted, Mac did retain a particularly soft spot for Richey Edwards. A lost soul so similar to a certain miscreant’s it made Mac’s ‘type’ abruptly obvious. In retrospect. A fact as ominous as a freight train hurtling Mac’s way with failed brakes.

 “I ‘spect Adam’s filled you in lads, but this is Mac, my Bad-ass.  Mac…that’s…Luke.” Joe wafted an arm towards the drum kit, behind which sat Bradders’ brother, who nodded with a grin so amiable it suggested he was the least likely person in the room to be pissed off by a Joe-no-show. Not least, if that meant he could head off for a pint and game of pool before closing time. “Mac, meet your fellow mad-axe murderer, Jez…” The monster waved a hand toward his handsome Riff Ripper (when in Rome…) with a wink at Mac. “And that scamp…” Joe indicated the impish ‘O’Donnell’ “is Connor.” 

“Good to meet you,” Mac had nodded to each of the men in turn when they’d been introduced, so he directed his next words to Joe’s manager. “Adam, where should I park my arse, so I won’t be in the way?”

“Anywhere that suits, they’re just gonna run through the set list…”

“About that…” Joe bit down on his bottom lip while sweeping that beguiling gaze around the studio, blindsiding them all with beseeching brown.

Connor rolled Irish eyes with rueful sweet-Marymother-of-God resignation, Jez’s smirk was that of a man accustomed to going into battle armed with a loaded C8 carbine, no additional ammo, and the balls to clean up. And Luke? Looked like a bloke who’d do whatever the hell it took to make the pub before last orders.  

“Oh fuck. If you’re about to cut it in half, then don—”  

“I’m not.” Joe cut Adam short with a look that all-but screamed nanananana. F’fucksakes. Mac had actually thought that. While sober. “If I said I wanted to add three songs, should I hide behind Mac? Um, you only need learn two?” Joe amended when jaws dropped and eyeballs plopped to the floor. Except Jez’s umber gaze, which glittered with the anticipation of a man who’d just caught a live grenade and sent it winging its way to victory.  “What!?” Joe demanded when Connor’s smirk exploded in a splutter of mirth. “I often add songs!”

“Ye do indeed…but I’ll be blowed if I can rightly remember being warned beforehand…” he snickered. 

“Damn cheek…you know as soon as I do. I’d have to be psychic to tell you before that.” 

“I could kill for a cuppa…” Mac heard himself mutter, with no warning whatsoever. He wasnae sure that was true, whisky would be preferable, but he was gasping for a post coital smoke.

 “Y’could kill for far less…just sayin.” Joe tossed over his shoulder before turning his attention back to Connor. “On that note? I want to cover Psycho Killer…oh, and My Way…à la Sid. That’s why I need a white tux, Adam, so don’t forget. A padlock would be better than a dog collar, if you can get your mitts on one…oh, and will you remind me to mention a couple more items of clobber? The third song is a new one, so I’ll play that solo, on a semi-acoustic cos I only have the melody down at the mo. You’re more than welcome to chip in, if you want tho’.” Joe lifted a hand to scratch his tufty head after rattling off said ream of requests.

Connor…chuckled. Jez grinned. Luke looked…ready for a pint. “Is that okay?” Joe glanced around the room, bewilderment furrowing his brow when no one threw a fit—or a guitar at him—in the wake of his rapid-fire impromptu plans.

Not even Mac, most especially Mac. My Way, you monster…? Psycho Killer? F’fucksakes. Mac wasnae sure whether he wanted to slaughter him, or shag him senseless. More. Knowing why might clarify matters. To wind him up? The reappearance of that tongue x two…fucking thousand? Further proof that even when Joe appeared to stay on script, he was plotting its subversion? If so, didn’t that beg another ‘why’?

One that really should worry Mac? Was Joe still pissed off that his feathers had been clipped, despite…every single thing they’d said, and done, since? Had it all been some elaborate ruse, and Mac had, in fact, been played like a bloody fiddle?  Had Joe just sucked up the bad-ass babysitter (albeit in every way) until such time he could shred Mac’s…ego? In the most audaciouspublicway possible? Other than a bloody press conference—which could still be stashed up his sleeve, of course—waiting to be whipped out with a bloody flourish at the most opportune moment. Why the hell else? Mac sure as shit couldnae think of another reason why he might merit a twin ‘tribute’.

*

“Is that okay? Hell, yeah…” Connor nodded. In much the manner he might agree with a lunatic who’d just announced his intention of tightrope walking from the dome of St. Paul’s to the top of Big Ben. About three nines before calling the white coats in.

The addition of two classic songs any musician worth their salt could pick up in half- hour couldnae have caused such reactions. Might it just be the fact Joe had expressed a wish to do…anything above and beyond the cursory run through of the set list between smack fixes? Or, the scattergun list of plans he’d peppered them with?  

“Mac? Am I sporting a marshmallow-pie hat I’ve forgotten to remember?”

“Assuredly not.”  Mac couldn’t help but smirk. Shag him first. Then—Christ. I’ll never be able to think that word again without springing a bloody boner—Slaughter him. Sorted. My Way…à la Sid. In a white tux. Bare chested. With a padlock. On a chain. Oh good grief. Give me strength. Thank fuck he doesnae intend to do it à la Frank. Mac didnae fancy his chances of focussing on sod all, should Joe take to the stage in a sharp suit and fedora. Strewth. Mac needed a smoke. The aforementioned boner felt about fit to bust his flies.  

“Connor? Are you good with those?” Joe asked, with a knowing twinkle that soon proved itself astute. 

“Y’kidding…Psycho Killer? I’m bloody great with it, it’s a cracking bassline,” Connor obliged with an ear-licking grin. “Luke?” he called.

“I’m in…we’ll nail it in half-hour, no problem. Y’coming over?”

“Sure. Anyone need us?” Connor tossed over his shoulder, en route to the drum kit.

“No…y’good. Thanks Connor…” Joe’s beam was as bright as the brilliance of those eyes.   “Cheers, Luke!” he called, craning his head around to include the other half of his rhythm section.

“Jez, d’you mind?” Joe asked, with a visible wince.

“Fuck no…” His lead guitarist had no sooner produced a pick from the coin pocket of his black skinny jeans, than rustled up the riff Mac recognised all-too well. “G…Am..open E…G. Piece o’cake,” he winked. “One of the first songs I taught myself…Foxy Lady, Jean Genie, Psycho Killer. As for My Way? It’ll be a riot, Engel played a blinder. A minor, yeah?”

Mac left them to their chord progressions and went to park his butt. He hadnae expected Joe’s band members to be so…personable. Christ knows why, but he’d thought they’d be less—no—More ‘professional’. Less…passionate about playing for Joe. Session musicians, rather than bandmates, in the very real sense.

Better yet…while they might get pissed off with Joe for the six-hour no-shows…who wouldnae? Their unadulterated delight in finding Joe as ‘switched on’ as Adam must’ve assured them made Mac feel strangely…grateful. Grateful? That came so far from left field as to be sat, warming the bench. Gladthat they seemed to be good blokes who liked Joe—respected him as a fellow musician, despite all they’d no doubt endured along the way.

Mac hadnae expected the…foundations to be so solid. It seemed that Joe’s fears, the problems he perceived, may well have been born from frustration at being forced to watch a friend, and a damn fine musician, surrendering to his demons. Knowing full well that there was fuck all they could about it. They were employees in much the same way as Mac. Each had a valuable role, but it was Joe’s show. If he was a no show, there wasnae one. No performance. No music. No audience to play for. No fans screaming their names too.

They were all cogs—the band formed the chassis—the base frame of the tour bus keeping the show on the road. They might all be essential parts of the engine, but Joe was the master craftsman of the brand people bought into. They’d signed up as key components of a Jaguar; then watched its inimitable essence corrode. Fall apart before their very eyes, until they’d wound up as lackeys at Joe’s Junkie Yard…and yet, still they’d stayed. 

In Adam’s favoured terms? No one had abandoned the Good Ship Joe. No matter how rough the waters they’d sailed, there wasnae mutiny in the ranks. Just a weary crew riddled with scurvy and battered by storms…but not devastated beyond salvage. Nothing that a respite, wind change, and less perilous seas couldnae salve. 

Mac really needed a drink. Preferably before he’d loaded the lads on board an Airbus A319 and buggered off to the loo with Joe to renew his Mile High Club membership…

 

*** 

60 Joe

 

 

 

 

“Magic.” Joe grinned when he and Jez were done rustling up the perfect arrangement for their guitar parts. “Thanks for this, Jez…”

“No need, this”—Jez wafted a finger back and forth between them, before swirling it in the air above his head—”is all the thanks I need. Look at those two, I can’t recall the last time Luke didn’t look as if he’d rather be playing Call of Duty. They’re buzzing. C’mon, ‘fess up…what gives? You look a helluva lot like a Fitz who’s been fucked senseless, might I add, so don’t even think about spinning some seeing-the-light fairy story. I doubt you’ve seen it for three days. I rarely bottom, but Dayum…”

Jez had been married to the love of his life for five years, and never once availed himself of the offers his sublime guitar skills and general sex godliness bombarded him with. Joe flicked his gaze toward the man who made damn the understatement of the century. Unless accompanied by unprecedented access to Jez’s spectacularly lush tush. 

When Joe flicked his gaze Mac’s way, he was parking the baddest ass in a plastic chair. A cheap as chips monstrosity he somehow contrived to seat himself on as if it was a gold gilt throne. The majestic glower he directed Joe’s way was possibly intended to wither parts of his person that perked up with appreciative aplomb. But then…Joe’s cock had the instincts of a four year old let loose on a black forest gateau. Reading the room was far from it’s Very Best Thing.

Mac looked an itty bit miffed. In a flinty glinty, foaming at the mouth sort of way. Had his lips not been pressed in too grim a line for a sliver of spittle to escape. Uh-oh. Had Joe done something amiss? Of course he had, Mac sure wasnae aiming a death ray glare at Jez. 

“Have you had a tiff? Or, did you zip him up a bit too sharpish, he looked fine till he sat down?” Jez shot Joe a not the least subtle Not today Satan expression Bianca wanted back pronto

“Neither…?”

“Oops…you might want to take him off for a smoke break before he combusts. I’ve got this, I’ll go and sort the rest of the arrangements with Connor and Luke. Go on, take five, I’ve got your back.” After giving Joe’s nape a quick squeeze of reassurance, Jez swivelled on his cuban heels to swing his slinky hips over to the drum kit. Where Adam was t’be found bending Luke and Connor’s ear about something or other. His manager did not look miffed, for once, which was a bit of a miracle, it must be admitted.

Ah, well…here goes. Time to pull m’big boy pants up and face the McMusic….

*tbc*

Wafflish

My Way 47

 

My Way

.

58 Joe

 

 

 

 

“You’ll be the death o’me Fitzgerald,” Mac chuntered, for all the world as if it was Joe who kept dishing out a body ‘n’ brain-stewing brew of badassery as incendiary as it was sublime. 

“Never on purpose,” he promised. “Besides, if you haven’t managed to off yourself yet, I doubt it’s possible. I’ll be a long time dead before you pop y’clogs…” Joe pointed out. Having become quite convinced he’d been sent an immortal mo-fo to sex him into submission. 

“Not on my bloody watch, you won’t.” The bad-ass bit out, rather than parry Joe’s words with the pithy retort he’d expected. The vehemence of his response suggested that Mac was a wee bit insulted by the notion that Joe might commit the unforgivable feat of sullying his rep sheet.  That sure made a lot more sense than Mac suddenly found his own feet fascinating. 

“Mac? What’s wrong..?” Joe asked, spinning on his heel to cup Mac’s face and tilt it up a tad, to see what was afoot (as ’twere) in those glinty greens. Crikey. It was like staring into cauldrons of fiery fury ‘n’ icy fear, cooking up a toxic stew. One that could turn you to stone with one flinty stare…or sizzle you where you stood, with much the pizzazz of lightning strike on a lone tree. The words Mac forced through gritted teeth were even more astounding.

“Don’t you dare die on me, Fitzgerald.” 

Logic (not Joe’s very best thing; part squillion) dictated that said demon deed might hog the top spot on Mac’s remit. Instinct, aided and abetted by that McMolotov cocktail of emotion? Indicated that logic couldn’t have conjured such a concoction on its lonesome, so that was a crock of shite. 

“Mac…” Nothing Joe could say would tell the scoundrel more than Mac could glean from Joe’s gaze. So, he just stood there and let his eyes do their Very Best Thing, bar none. Spilling his secrets. A skill they delighted in showing off, as often as possible, to all and sundry. While Joe rode pillion protesting his innocence; ignored by one and all (even when he was) cos his eyes shouted louder. And delighted in a spot of mischief, whether he’d done the deedy or not. It was most unfair. Thus, it was only fair that they were, for once, screaming from the same hymn sheet as Joe told the truth that mattered most. “I never want there to be no…then.”

“I believe you…” Mac sighed, scraping his fingers through his hair. “But what you ‘want’ doesnae count in your game of Russian Roulette. You know that’s true. If you hold that barrel to yer heid, yer cannae will away the bullet that might be in the chamber when you pull the trigger.” His wry smile suggested resignation, rather than wrath, when Mac clasped the sides of Joe’s head and tugged it down to press a strangely tender kiss to his temple. Maybe the spot Mac targeted made it feel so. P’raps it was the kiss itself. “For what it’s worth, nor do I…” 

For what it’s worth? It was priceless. Nor do I…what? Want you to die? That went without saying, his bad-ass rep would be ruined. This, despite the fact Mac couldn’t stop Joe from shooting up forever if he was dead-set on doing so. Other than render him comatose, so that Mac could have a kip…which seemed a smidge counterproductive, on the whole. The only other nor do I—that made any sense was—want there to be no ‘then’

He was still standing, having a bit of a blink, when the badass bent to scoop up Joe’s stuff and press it into his arms. A state of bewilderment so acute it accompanied the wrangling of Joe’s legs into his trousers and the tugging on of his T-shirt. That Mac might-just-might-p’raps not want there to be no ‘then’ was too miraculous to be true, so Joe point blank refused to believe it. 

“C’mon then, Trouble…now get yerself in there and knock ’em dead.” Mac ordered, flinty glint in full force, as if he’d flicked some internal switch. Engage Badass Button. Exterminate.

“The latter is more your department, dear sir. So much so, I’d be an itty bit inclined to ask the requisite is that a pistol in your pocket... but I’d better not push m’luck.”

Now you are lying. You have no notion of said concept, and yer know it. As evidenced by the fact you just did…while maintaining that you had no intention of doing so. I rest my case. In answer to the question you didnae ask? No, it’s not…but that is exactly where it’s remaining. At least till…” Mac cocked a brow alongside a devilish twerk of lips. 

“Then.” Joe couldn’t have stopped the big daft grin that smeared itself across his mush if his next fix depended upon it. So, it was a damn good job it did not…’cos the craving was something chronic.

Ah well, a drink would have t’do for now…Joe wanted to get the new songs down. Really Wanted To. In a shimmer of—absent for so long—excitement sort of way. A miracle in itself, when Joe couldn’t recall feeling fizzy about anything for longer than he cared to, let alone new songs.

Not even the thought of a fully loaded syringe fired him up any more. It just inspired the sort of anticipation that preceded relief. Relief so sharp it was easy to pretend that pressing the plunger down would send smack ‘thrilling’ through Joe’s veins. It was a pretty convincing substitute. For about twenty seconds…until it hit you. That was it. The best you could ever hope to feel again. The absence of gnawing need became nirvana. Peace of mind so precious, you’d sell your soul to the devil for it. Its worth beyond measure.

Until…unless…it was measured against a present worth being present for. Present. One word. Pregnant with meaning. A gift. Here ’n’ now. Mindful. A holy trinity Joe found himself willing to trade with serenity for a while. He couldn’t remember when he’d last had such a fine ol’ time of being comparatively compos mentis. No matter what Joe cooked up to cosh Mac with, the scoundrel just side-stepped it with a distraction t’die for, or batted it back with quick fire wit and a wicked grin. Lethal. It was a very lot o’fun. 

Most staggering of all? The weekend had proved something he’d feared was no longer possible: Craving something more could make the customary craving less. Less. It didn’t eradicate it. His body required it to function or it refused to do bugger all else. His brain screamed for it when it could no longer bear the chaos running riot in its absence. Ironically ’nuff…he now felt a helluva lot like that about Mac. Joe needed him. Brain and body both. Thus, with much the swiftness he’d become addicted to smack…he’d wound up with another. One he could never earn enough to afford. Literally without price. Borrowing his bad-ass for a wee while was about all Joe could hope for. 

“Mac? How long is your contract for?” Joe asked, while following him from the loo. “Only…you agreed to come to Glastonbury but that’s three months away…”

“It’s open-ended…so you’re stuck with me. Unless, of course, I’m found surplus to requirements.” 

“So, if I’m dead…or do something so dreadful they decide you’re not doing a good job? But those are just their contract terms, surely? You’re not stuck with me…so you might’ve had ’nuff by next Friday, let alone June.”

“Tell you what, I’ll do you a deal,” Mac shrugged. That was a tricky one to decipher. Casual-as-yer-like? No-skin-off-my-nose? Take-it-or-leave-it? As-cool-as-fuck? Pah, the scoundrel was quite capable of cramming at least two, three, of those into it. “I have no intention of being branded a lightweight.” Mac declared. “Should it transpire that I find you intolerable, I’ll finish you off myself. Oh, by the way…did you have something particularly fiendish jotted down for next Friday?” 

“Nuffin’ special…” Joe pinned on his most seraphic smile. Weirdly, it was not-bad-at-all; a fact that proved there was no justice in the world whatsoever. Mac was staying. He wanted to stay. Until Joe dropped dead, one way or the other, which was a win-win, whichever way he snuffed it. 

“Joe. When you’ve quite finished swallowing me…get your arse in there f’chrissakes or I’ll pa—”

“You didn’t pack your paddles…and I really doubt that’s a Gideon in your pocket. Perv. I dunno, cannae take you anywhere…” Joe tutted, shoving the studio door open. Before the bad-ass could bat that back, bible or no…

 

***