Wafflish

My Way 35

My Way

44 Mac

 

 

 

“Fuck!” Mac cursed, dodging away from the guitar winging towards his head from the back seat.

“You didn’t need to duck, y’daftie. I wasn’t going to clobber you with it.”

“The trajectory of its arc would have clipped my left ear. Fact,” Mac stated.

Fact? How can you sound so sure? It was nowhere near you when you flinched!” Joe protested. “You’re hellish sexy when you’re spitting bullets, though. Just sayin.”

“Experience.” Mac stated, ignoring the latter to address the former. “I would’ve sat tight—not took preventative action—had there been no need. Anticipating an attack is the best form of defence.”

“Are we talking war…or wits?” Joe asked, that insatiable curiosity piqued.

“There is no distinction in clash of will terms. The victor still triumphs over the vanquished.” Mac shrugged, knowing damn well that his words wouldnae sate it.

“How many men have you…vanquished, Mac?” Joe obliged…and then some. As Mac should have anticipated. The appetite glittering in bottomless black was far too greedy for its own good. It would be the death of Joe. A cause and effect as consequential as: trajectory on impact point.

Eradicating that threat was impossible. A client cannae be killed to save their life. Nor a territory bombed to preserve it. His efforts to keep Joe alive would likely finish them both off. Bring it on, Fitzgerald. I’ll save you if it fucking kills us, Mac vowed to…himself. Just as well, when there seemed to be a wee flaw in his formerly impeccable logic. Well, so be it, but—in the meantime—he’d just have to do his damnedest to ensure Joe’s safety. That was a given; it was Mac’s job. Job? That had bugger all to do with it, as well he knew. He’d be willing to do that for free, but they’d sure as shit have to pay Mac to put up with the press and Joe’s…entourage. Particularly those who purported to work on his behalf. Mac’s employers. A cinch, then.

“I refer you to my previous reply…” Mac snorted, yanking sharply on the steering wheel to swerve around the shadow that scuttled from the hedgerow, straight into their path. 

He focussed on the road for a few miles, thoughts never drifting far from the silk clad tangle of limbs crammed into his passenger seat. What was Joe scheming…dreaming…in that baffling, bewitching, brain? His reverie was interrupted by a trickle of notes that saturated their silence. Left lingering in the air like scent when Joe paused to tweak a tuning knob, before repeating the same sliver of melody. A low murmur accompanied the flutter of Joe’s fingers, Mac could only make out fragments… ‘Wits or war…’ Words he recognised, followed by a stream of several he hadnae seen, or heard, before.

He came, he saw…he conquered. Veni, vidi, vici…Victor victory. Walk the walk…Richard of York…gave battle in vain…somewhere over the rainbow…the show, must go…on.” Sung in a murmur like a whisper on the wind. Aching sweetness, weaving its way around notes fingerpicked at breakneck speed in a spine-tingling clash of contrasts.

 Mere stream of consciousness? All rhyme no reason? Another tweak, the pluck of a single string, then Joe nodded in satisfaction and shifted in his seat, settled the guitar more comfortably. 

A Minor…C…Fmaj7, duh…better…” Joe tutted to himself, then played a melody Mac couldnae discern from the first.

The ferocity of focus Joe had summoned from fuck knows where was staggering. Mac had become (he instantly realised) far too accustomed to random flights of fancy and flurries of movement like light refracting off curved glass. This was laser focus, trained with pin point intensity on a single ‘target’, catching Mac off guard. A sensation uncannily akin to the ‘dramatic gun cock’ in a movie. Fuck. He needed to stay sharp. Being spat out…wasnae an option. Mac was starting to fear he was all out of those…

“’Kay…” Joe raised his head and blinked, several times. “Sorry…I got…” He scratched at his temple, leaving a tufty sprig of hair standing proud, translucent in the light from the dash.

“S’okay. I enjoyed…listening, as it unfolded. Like watching a timelapse clip of a plant growing. If that makes sense…”

“It sure beats the ‘back of a cross-stitch pattern’ I’d been convinced it resembled?” A response that almost seemed…abashed. No…surely not?

It had been one helluva weekend. Mac had lost his mind.

“‘Kay…sorry, here y’go…It’s real rough though, don’t expect much…” A ripple of notes negated the need for a reply, so Mac just nodded, forcing himself to focus on the road ahead.

Joe bent his ever-tousled head over the guitar and began to play with more purpose. His fingers were more fluid, his voice more certain when he began to croon ‘Mac’s’ song.  A thought that stirred the dark heat pooled in the pit of his guts as words flowed from those overripe, ever ready lips. As readily as if they’d been sitting on the tip of Joe’s tongue all this time.

“O those eyes of tourmaline green

That flinty glint, agleam with mean

Glimmering with a lethal sheen

Dangerous with dark desire

Tempered rage and deadly ire,

Ablaze with lust and bad-ass fire…”

Another ripple of notes started tripping off Joe’s strings like a stone skimming the surface of a lake. The melody quickening, as he began to pluck more purposefully. When Joe resumed singing, his rolling vowels now accompanied clipped consonants, enunciated with a click of tongue as the lyrics rang crisp and clear. Words he’d murmured but a few minutes ago…

“Wits or war? He came, he saw. 

He conquered...and more. 

Veni, vidi, vici.  

Victor in victory. 

My way au paradis

Un fait accompli…”

 Fragments of conversation, snatched up and unleashed like a kite taking flight. Mac made a mental note, catalogued it with the slew of observations accrued over the last two days. Reality reflected through those incredible eyes took on a new truth, Joe’s truth. Given authority by the beauty of the words he weaved…and cast into stone by the purity of his conviction. 

Fuck… Mac clamped his mouth shut, and kept his eyes fixed on the tarmac snaking ahead, abruptly conscious of being unable to recall driving the last few miles. 

Oouch, that needs work…sorry…” Joe flinched, but his fingers didnae falter as he segued straight into the next verse. The similar pattern of the first line lulled Mac into a false sense of security, until Joe dropped his voice to sing the second. Gone were the couplets, replaced by more complex rhyme…and recognizable phrases that clashed like bodies on a battlefield.

“He walks the walk, talks the talk.

With diamond-tipped will,

Like The Hawk in the Rain

Swooping in for the kill

While vile Richard Of York.

Died Battling In Vain…”

Joe took it down a notch, slowing to a shiver of notes, repeated as a haunting refrain.

“Lest we forget. The green

Reigns supreme. I dare to dream…

And somewhere over the rainbow… 

The show, oh the show, must go…” 

A line left lingering in the air for several bars…then a single word. As final as the slap of Joe’s palm onto the strings—silencing all sound—in its wake:

“On.

Crap…I’m crippled.” 

“Huh?” Mac blinked, as startled from a trance. Fucknows how they hadnae wound up wrapped around a signpost. “Crap? Are you off your rocker?” Mac demanded, glancing to his left. At Joe, entirely present; sitting up straight, scanning the darkness like a sniper rifle.

“According to most…but I said: crap I’m crippled. Are we nearly there yet, Mac?”

“Nearly there? It’s a Jag, not Chitty-Chitty bloody Bang-Bang. We haven’t even reached Reading.”

Pffft. Can we stop for a bit, then?”

“For what…?”

“I just told ya,” Joe grinned. Eyes and teeth glinting like starlight.

“You want to stop. For a bit.” Mac repeated. Gobsmacked by the segue from lyricism to lust.

“Yup. Maaac…” he whimpered. “Pleeease…

“We. Are on the M4,” Mac informed him. For all the world as if that would matter a toss.

“Just park up on the hard shoulder,” Joe insisted, with an impatient huff.

“I am not shagging you on the hard shoulder,” Mac hissed.

“That sentence was just cruel. Sadist. I don’t recall mentioning shagging. I do remember the part where you promised to keep me safe.

“That’s exactly what I’m doing…from the press. And being arrested,” Mac snarled.

“I don’t give a monkey’s nuts about the press. Mine, however, are another matter. Three seconds, Mac. Then I pounce…Oooone…Twoooo…

Shit...Mac glanced in the rear view mirror, then swerved sharply across two lanes of motorway. Never. Ever. Would he drive Joe anywhere in broad daylight. Or busy traffic. Absolutely not. No way.

“Thank you muchly, dear sir.” Joe beamed. Having stopped counting the second the car veered left, victory secured. Demon.

“Joe. I am not—what the fuck are you do—!?” The guitar was jettisoned out of the car window about a sharp intake of breath before Mac found himself engulfed in limbs and lips. As insistent, hot, hungry as the hand that clamped to his crotch. “Joe…”

“No…need, I can’t—” 

Mac’s button gave as that far-too talented tongue darted between his teeth to duel with his own. “Can’t what!? Jooe, stoohhgod…” Mac groaned, when his zip gave way with a rasp like his shredded resistance.

“Stand more craving. Mm, so harrd…” A burning palm branded Mac’s cock; enclosed it in a sure fist.

“Gnnrr…f’fucksakes. Do it…” Demanded the degenerate idiot—supposedly—in the driver’s seat. 

“Do what? This…?” As Joe began a torturously slow glide.

“No…” Mac grunted, head slamming against the headrest.

Hmm…good…I’m starving…”

There was a brief caress of cool air, about a bitten-off cry before Mac’s cock was enveloped in velvet heat. “Aaaah…” The noises ensuing from his own crotch were obscene, deafening in the darkness. Christ, that bloody tongue. “Joe…please…” Mac groaned, bowing his back, hips straining off the seat. “Aaargh..”

“Hmm…” The hum vibrated around his shaft, sparking along his spine, thrilling through his veins. 

“Fuck…don’t stop, never stop…” A plea Mac would’ve sworn he didnae utter, until a cool whisper wafted across scorched flesh.

“Oh, I don’t intend to..”

God no…he had. Oh, whatever… Mac couldnae quite…care, when Joe—who had bobbed up briefly to respond to his own unutterable sentence—damn near swallowed him whole.

“Oh..I..ah…” Blow job? It was like being feasted on by hungry bloody hoover. Back and forth that mind-boggling mouth swept, obliterating all but…He. “Gnh..aah…” Fuck no…the head of Mac’s cock hit the back of Joe’s throat and Mac sucked a sharp breath through clenched teeth, fighting to hold on. A battle doomed before it began. “Joooe!” he hollered when Joe swallowed around him, alongside possibly the most obscene purr of sound Mac had ever heard. The impossible pressure exploded in riot of bliss, blitzing his body with…far too much for…Mac’s last remaining marbles. Guzzled, far too greedily for…anyone but who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald.

“Mmm…” An appetite that apparently wouldnae be satisfied till Joe had licked the bloody platter clean.

Mac’s lids had no sooner flickered open than slammed shut when his eyeballs were stabbed by the blazing trail of light snaking along the central reservation. “Oh fuck…”

“Oh, if only…” his miscreant sighed. With all the limpid sorrow of le poète. “I suppose we’d better be off though, before someone snaffles my stash in exchange for some overnight accommodation y’cannae refuse.”

“Oh, fuck…” Mac groaned. Again.

“That said, I’m not sure my sterling intentions can outlast a third verbal ejaculation along those lines.” Joe snickered. “D’you want me to drive?”

“NO.” Mac blew out a fulsome breath and scraped a hand through his tangled snarls of fringe. Then…fumbled for the seatbelt he…somehow hadnae noticed being undone. If there could possibly be a more uncanny summation of his plight? Mac sure as hell didnae want to hear it.  

Or an offer of bed and board somewhere far less ‘posh’ than planned, if you don’t get your raddled ass, and the Jag, into gear…

 

 

***

 

Wafflish

My Way 34

My Way

43 Joe 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There, see? Just my stash and I’m done.” Joe announced after bouncing his second case into submission. “Oh. When I’m dressed,” he amended. Then realised exactly where his trousers were. “On second thoughts…I might as well just don my dressing gown, I’ll be more comfy. No one will see me in the car, anyhoo. Sorted.”

“They sure as hell will when you arrive at the posh hotel. Particularly if you intend on keeping that…” Mac declared, darting a glance at Joe’s head. “You must be six-eight in that bloody hat.”

“I will be spiffy, is what I’ll be. Very Gent at my Leisure…and most appropriately attired in silk paisley.”

“Don’t forget your cravat,” the scoundrel snorted.

Ooh, perfect…”

“Oh, fuck no…”

“It was your suggestion. So put that in your pipe…”

“No. Pipe. You cannot walk into the foyer of Poshpants Hotel, Knightsbridge, puffing on an opium pipe. No way. Are you planning to sport shoes with this get-up, or going barefoot?” Mr Snarky enquired. 

“Now you’re just being daft. That would be an affront to sartorial flair. I can’t wear shoes with a smoking jacket, I’d look ridiculous, my feet are like flippers.”

“I’m losing the will to live…” Mac buried his face in his palm.

“D’you want a blow job before we go, that might perk you up a bit?” Joe pinned on a cheesy grin. Almost as big as his feet, which were not. Cheesy, that is. His arm pits could possibly do with a swipe of Sure, but he’d never suffered from niffy feet.

“Tempting…but no.” Mac’s sigh did sound regretful, unless that was a result of agreeing to go. Or, arriving in the first place. “I’ve just got washed and dressed so I’d best go and start loading the boot…before I find myself forgetting that fact.”

The bad-ass was taking the abrupt change of plans with astonishing good grace. Joe had expected him to start muttering about ‘terms’ and timetables…but Mac hadn’t even grumbled about his toppled-over towers of tidiness. P’raps obliterated in a bit of a mishap because someone had buried Divinidylle at the bottom. A double entendre par excellence, Joe could not help but note. Nor the divine (comedy) retribution that was Dante’s banishment to the pits of the book pile. Or, while he was on a roll…that Mac’s amenable disposition was most oddsome.

Unless, o’course, he was just relieved that brute force wouldnae prove necessary to prise Joe from his hideyhole. Drat. A spot of tardy-arsery could’ve reaped rich rewards. Ah well, he’d have opportunities aplenty to bear the brunt of said brutery. In truth (tralala) Joe hadn’t intended to kick up a fuss about goingdespite his former disinclination—because that burden now fell to the bad-ass. Whose contract no doubt depended on it, but more to the point…? Proving that Mac’s superlative powers of persuasion could pull off what no other bugger had managed (despite their job title) was irresistible. Begrudging anyone their failure in comparative terms was a wee bit harsh, Joe had to admit. They could’ve turned up in tanks and never outgunned those hips.

Now he’d lost the plot. Where was he? Packing. That was it. For London. How long would he be away for? Joe had no idea, that was just the first stop. Rehearsals had been booked to prepare for the five date mini-tour that followed straight afterwards. He was looking forward to those, Joe loved playing gigs…it was the in-between parts that drove him doolally. That said…the tour bus entertainment was sure looking up. There would, at least, be a plentiful supply of crunchy-nutters to sustain him on his travels. Hmm…

Speaking of, Joe scrounged up a bag for his cereal of the scoffing sort, tossed in a few odds ‘n’ sods, then pronounced himself done. “Once I’ve slipped into my robe and slippers, we can sally forth into the night….” 

“Right…I’ll go and get started on cramming this lot in the car,” Mac told him, slinging the strap of his holdover over one shoulder and seizing the handle of a suitcase to slink off downstairs. 

Joe pulled on a pair of pants and slipped into aforementioned silk paisley, secured the belt in a knot and slid his feet into his fancy slippers. Velvet—as sported on many a red carpet—by la crème of Hollywood no less. So, plenty fine for a swanky hotel by Joe’s reckoning. Hat on head, cigs in pocket, sorted.

“Y’done?” Mac grinned from the doorway, the green aglint with devilry.

“I am, indeed.”

“And splendid you look too, sir. C’mon then, let’s go, it’s just this case and your bag now. Do you want anything from the fridge?” Mac asked, scooping the second hat off the chair and cramming it on with a wink. Dashing he looked, too. “Nooo…we cannae delay our departure, so don’t even—”.

“I didn’t say anything!” Joe spluttered.

“Those.” Mac pronged a two fingered jab at Joe’s eyeballs. “Did.” Dratted traitors.

“Rumbled. Okaaaay… Lager then, there should be some chilled ones left…”

“Okay. I’ll collect that, along with the bag I left in the kitchen. London, here he comes…” Mac proclaimed, tipping his topper. 

“Suits you, sir,” Joe beamed, before adding: “Crikey, I hope so, or I’m staying here.”

*

“She’s a beauty,” Joe grinned, sliding into the leather passenger seat of the silver Jag. “Thank you for driving us now. I thought you might be miffed.”

“Why?” Mac asked, as the car purred to life. 

“Well, it wasn’t on your schedule…following your ‘terms’,” Joe shrugged, cracking open a can o’lager. “D’you want one of these?” 

“Maybe later, I’m good…” Mac answered, a mite distractedly. P’raps for the best while negotiating the dead o’night driveway. 

“That’s the understatement of the century.” Joe noted. “Just sayin’.” It was too dark to see for sure, but he could’ve sworn that the bad-ass blushed a bit.

The brusqueness of his response p’raps suggested that Joe had been spot on. “The only schedule I care about is the one I’m contracted to ensure you carry out. As long as I get you to the studio by four tomorrow, I’m not fussed about the minutiae.” Another shrug, then Mac sighed, “Joe, I’m not out to make you miserableor shove a spoke in your wheelsif they have a hope in hell of taking us in the right direction. That said, I have no intention of co-starring in a remake of ‘Get him to the bloody Greek’ either,” he declared, shooting Joe a shifty side-eye.

“You may rest assured, I’ve no wish to secrete my stash up your arse…” Joe, um, reassured him.

“Thank fuck for that,” Mac snorted.

“That sounds a lot closer to the truth, that’s for sure. Smoke?”

“Thought it might.” A response too droll to sound disgruntled. “Please…” Mac nodded.

Please..? Blimey, that’s a result, I was willing to beg,” Joe pinned on a big ol’ beam.

Joe…” 

Pft. Just a tip. If that’s supposed to sound scary, you might want to have a word with the wisest parts of my person. Okay…here you go.” Joe lit a cigarette and held the filter to smirky lips.

“Thanks,” Mac muttered around it, dragging in a lungful while winding down the window.

“I’ll play your song in a mo, while mine’s still open…” Joe told him, following suit. “…if you still want me to.” 

“Very much. Is the tour part of a new album launch?” Mac’s question was so artless, it was clear he had no clue whether Joe had released two, or twenty, of them. A gift in itself.  

How Joe loved that there’d been no crash course on his back catalogue. Mac didn’t seem to care a toss, which made him feel…safer for some daft reason. Comfy. Whatever the bad-ass thought; it would be his truth. Not gleaned from a record review or opinion piece. Or worse, tainted by the tittle-tattle of the tabloids. 

“Don’t pretend to like it—if you don’t—I’ll be able to tell. I won’t be miffy or have a mishap, if you hate it.”

A mishap? Are you assuring me that your adherence to the terms is not dependent upon my appreciation of your musicianship?” Mac intoned with grandiloquent aplomb.

“Yup,” Joe chuckled. “You’re an incalculable conundrum, Mr McBadass.”

’Ow d’ya work that aht?” Mac parried, breaking into a broad cockney Burt wanted back.

“I doubt I ever will…even if you’re still driving me doolally in twenty years,” Joe admitted.

“Fuck. I’d get less for manslaughter,” Mac snorted.

“Was that a promise or a threat…? ”

“Let’s just call it multitasking,” the scoundrel winked.

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 33

My Way

42 Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Well, I guess the proof will be in the pudding. Or not. Here y’go…” Mac bent over the side of the bed and grasp the neck of the guitar to settle it across Joe’s legs. “I really would like to hear you play…”

“Okay…in a minute. Mac, can we buy a kite?”

“A kite,” Mac repeated, nonplussed. Even bearing in mid who’d mooted said kite it was still one helluva random response to having a guitar land in your lap. Try as he might, he couldn’t fathom a connection if his sanity depended upon it.

“I want to go kite flying on Primrose Hill.” Joe beamed, midnight eyes aglitter with delight. Starry with anticipation. Infectious. 

“Okay…where did you rustle the kite up from?” Mac grinned, despite himself. 

“I didn’t. I haven’t got one, that’s why we need to buy one. Let’s go to Harrods, we can get a posh one with two handles and fluttery ribbons to whirl in the wind…’Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaaaring’…” he warbled, all-but bouncing in his seat. “I haven’t been for soooo long, to Harrods, I mean, nor kite flying for that matter. I can’t remember the last time I did something just because…it struck my fancy all of a sudden. Not without being told I can’t. Or all sorts of caveats chucked in…and a babysitter t’boot. There was no one I wanted to…do stuff with, but now? There’s almost nothing I’d rather do. It feels like Christmas.”

“It’s May.” Mac chuckled. Dementedly.

I know that. Well, sort of…it was March last time I checked. It must have been, I had my birthday…my thirtieth, I think. Crikey, no one saw that coming. Can we go, can we, Mac? Pleeease?”  Huge pools of liquid darkness, like black gloss paint, agleam with wonderment. Impossible to disappoint—or dream of doing so—lethal. But, comparatively safe…the shopping, at least. Of all things Joe might’ve been struck by a sudden yen to do? Happy hour in Harrods sounded about as…innocuous as it got. Downright normal—unextraordinary—in fact. Unless perhaps, you were Joe Fitzgerald. Who was lit up like the festive season itself; as exuberant as a wee bairn off to see Santa. With Han Solo…on the Hogwarts Express. Mac had lost his marbles. A fact so blatant that Joe’s grin widened to ear-licking capacity. “Yay! Ooh, I can’t wait now, when will I be able to go?”

“Tuesday? Unless we set out first thing, if you want to do Harrods before rehearsals?”

“Let’s go now,” Joe had shoved the guitar off his lap and scrambled off the bed before Mac had chance to reason why the fuck not. 

Now?” he found himself repeating, instead. With all the ingenuity of a parrot.

Yes now.”

“It’s what…eleven p.m.? Harrods is shut. It’ll still be shut when we get there,” Mac pointed out.

“So, we can go first thing. We can stay in a hotel, a posh one, by Harrods. We’ll be the mostest. I shall wear a top hat. C’mon, pour yourself into your slinky suit, I’ll just-um, pack ‘n’ stuff…” Joe stood, starkers; hands on skinny hips in the middle of the room, head swivelling meerkat style, biting down on his too-plush bottom lip. “What do I need…stash, smokes, journal, guitar, socks, crunchy-nutters…ooh! I can get a white tux while I’m there, it will save asking Adam. C’mon, Mac! Get your glad rags on…”

“I need a shower!”

“Y’can have a posh one later. I’ll play for you in the car, if you still want me to. Hurry up…chop chop.”

“Chop chop?” Mac couldnae do a damn thing to stop his shoulders quaking. What the fuck?

What!?” Joe demanded, as if Mac had said something demented. 

“You! About thirty seconds ago, you conjured a kite from fucknows where. Now we’re on our way to London wearing top hats!” Mac spluttered, swinging his legs around to clamber to his feet.

“Ooh, good point, I’m glad you reminded me…I might have forgot. Hats. I bet you’re glad you never bothered unpacking now….okay, right. Clothes would be good. You’re very nearly naked by the way, hmm…where was I? And very distracting…” Joe was pressed to Mac in an instant, winding everlasting arms around his waist.

“I’m counting on it,” he sighed. A long-suffering one.

“That could prove a smidge unseemly, if you intend on following through,” Joe grinned, unabashed. “You’re a bad influence, Mr McBadass.”

“Me?” Mac snorted, “…and you can take that look off your face, y’monster. I am not stripping off in Harrods…so don’t even think about it.”

“Spoilsport.”

“Shurrup and kiss me…then get your arse into gear, if you’re expecting me to drive to London at bloody midnight.”

“We didn’t wake up ’til five, so it’s mid-afternoon by my reckoning…nevertheless, that’s an order, so I’d best be obliging…” Joe murmured at Mac’s mouth, about a sharp intake of breath before doing as directed. For once.

Shutting Joe up had fast become one of life’s great pleasures. Alongside listening to whatever the fuck those lips unleashed next. Therein lay the problem. Why the hell wasn’t he heeding the shriek of his own instincts? How had it proved possible for such soft, dulcet tones to drown them out?

On the plus side, far from Mac’s strongest suit, Joe’s plan was…even an advisable course of action. Almost logical—in the right light—viewed with a squint that blanked the elephant crammed into the back of the Jag.

It made sense to head to London now; ensuring that they would, at least, be there tomorrow. Bypassing the need to drag Joe out of bed and frogmarch him to the car in order to make it to rehearsals by four p.m. If, of course, you ignored the fact that wrangling Joe to Camden by four wasnae a dead cert, even if they set off from Finsbury Park at midday. Last week. On the contrary, arriving in London at three a.m. would give Joe thirteen hours of merry hell to raise. Rather than a mere one, or two.

F’fucksakes. It wasn’t as if they were heading to London to trawl tawdry brothels and crack-dens. They were, apparently, going to a ‘posh’ hotel, shopping in Harrods…and kite flying. An itinerary that couldnae be considered untoward by the bloody Duchess of Cambridge herself, but then she only had three nippers to keep out of mischief. If only a cheeky tongue poked at the Press was Mac’s greatest concern. Joe could cause chaos in a sodding Portaloo. At least the ‘leggy lovely’ had deprived the press pack of that particular headline. 

“I have no memory of this incident. It was a complete fabrication. That’s my story and I’m stickin to it…Just like its floor.”

What chance in hell did Mac have?

He wasnae thinking all this while luxuriating in Joe’s silence, that would’ve been impossible. Reasoning bit the dust the moment those lip—Christ, who was Mac trying to fool? Free-falling into hungry black holes dead-set on devouring his sanity was quite sufficient. There was a point half an hour a go, Mac was sure of it…

He was pondering all this while having a swift wash ‘n’ brush-up in the bathroom. Before driving to London at the drop of a top hat for a trip to Harrods. To buy a kite. F’fucksakes.

“Beats me why you’re bothering…” Mac told his reflection. “You’ve never felt this alive unless staring down the barrel of a bloody gun, and y’know it…” 

His veins were thrumming with an insistent buzz, as if he’d mainlined adrenaline. All-too similar to the one sparked when the shit hit the fan; the full-throttle rush that made whatever-the-fuck-was-necessary possible. 

Get your arse into gear, McCafferty. Recognising that he’d have much to thank that for—if he, miraculously—managed to pull this off? Wasnae Mac’s finest moment, it must be admitted. After fastening the waistband of trousers, Mac turned away from the mirror to glance over his shoulder at his reflection. Christ knows what the fuss was about, but he was more than willing to play dirty, should the need arise. In fact, he was counting on it. Mac never could resist a challenge.

“Good grief, how much stuff d’you need?” Mac gaped from the attic doorway. There was a mountain of miscellaneous fucknows what, heaped in the middle of the floor. His immaculate towers had been obliterated by hurricane Joe and added to the pile of…books, hats, shoes, cds, sundry odds and sods, trinkets and treasures. One guitar, more books…with three sunshine yellow boxes teetering on top.

“Is there a city-wide shortage of crunchy-nut cornflakes in London?” Mac asked, ignoring the taint in the air for the moment.

“There might be…it wouldn’t do to go short,” Joe grinned. “Speaking of, I had a toot while you were titivating. You told me tell you, so y’can keep track…um, I didn’t shoot up? But my guts were griping and you might’ve stabbed me by the time I got to London cos I was driving m’self demented. As y’can see…I’m fine. Just a smidge less…frisky.”

“Thank you…” Mac hadnae expected that confession, not straight up. Despite the scorched tin foil on the desk. Joe had shrugged aside his assurance that Mac woudnae stop him yesterday, then scuttled off the second the opportunity had presented itself. That was progress on the trust front, at least? Now who’s clutching at straws? “Aren’t you bringing any Christmas decorations?” Mac found himself asking, for want of anything…sane, to say. 

“In May? Have you been snorting my bathroom stash?”

“No, strangely enough. I figured you’d packed for six months. I’ve got a Jag, not a ten-tonne truck.” 

“A Jag? Ooh, you had me at hello, but blimey. It’s a classic, isn’t it?” Joe beamed, glee glinting in those goddamn eyes.

“What makes you so sure?” Mac shrugged, poker-face in full force.

“Instinct? Could you be anymore perfect? Methinks not. I’m gladder than glad we’re setting off now. It’s an E-type isn’t it?” Joe bent to scoop up a pile of…stuff and dump it into an open suitcase. Circa a similar era to Mac’s car. The sort a bear might be found sitting on at Paddington Station. 

“Is that a flute case?”

“Yup. It wasnae going to contain a sawn-off shotgun, was it?” Joe cackled. 

“Why ever not…” Mac sighed. “Are you quite done?” he wondered, watching Joe attempt to cram the lid shut. He soon gave up, huffed in disgust and plonked his butt on it to bounce it into submission.

“Errr…yup. Almost…just one more case, then I’m ready to go.” The miscreant announced in satisfaction after fastening the second leather strap. Brown. To match its corners. The case itself was beige…ish.

“Naked?” Mac noted, lifting an eyebrow aloft.

“Oops, I forgot. I have my hat on, tho.”

“I noticed. You’ll have to glue it on and stick your head out of the window if you intend to wear it in the car.”

“I figured I’d use a staple gun,” Joe shrugged. The most concerning part of that particular quip? It seemed entirely feasible Joe might intend on doing just that, if not for the grin. And the irrepressible twinkle. “Daftie. I’m only wearing it so I remember. Yours is on the chair.”

“Mine?”

“You said, ‘now we’re on our way to London wearing top-hats’…

“You don’t seriously th—Joe, I have spent the best part of a decade flying beneath the radar. If you think I’m about to start cavorting on Primrose Hill with a fucking kite, and saunter around Harrods dressed like Screaming Lord Sutch you nee—”

“Ooh…cavorting? Crikey, I didn’t dare hope for a spot of that. We’d better go at dusk then, or you might get arrested…wouldn’t do to cause a blip on your radar. ‘High as a kite: Junkie Joe buggered by bad-ass at Twilight Barking.’ 

“Joe, please finish packing before I feel compelled to start digging a moat.”

“I’m not sure there’s a shovel in the shed…so you’d have to go and knock up the vicar’s wife.” Joe tittered, springing off the vanquished suitcase to scoop up an armload of books. “Okay keep your hair on…won’t be a jiffy.”

Mac didn’t know whether to laugh or die. So he grabbed the cigarettes off the bedside table and lit up, seeing as whisky wasn’t an option. Being stopped for drink driving was the last thing he needed. If only on account of his cargo…and the sodding smack.

The crunchy-nutters sure as shit wouldnae fit in the second suitcase. Mac’s life was swiftly morphing into a comedy caper starring said cereal, smack, and sex. Eyes and legs. Bananas. Not…a bad gig in all, Mac had to admit. He could kill for a bloody curry though.

 

 

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 32

 

Hi, perchance you missed the start of Joe’s part in the update, I’ve included it all here. The new bit is in black type…

 

My Way

 

41 Joe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to go…you’re making me do it. Let me stay here, Mac. Stay with me. Just me. That’s what I want…but you won’t.

 

Joe believed this with every fibre of his being as he said it; it was a mere echo of dreams he’d nurtured for a wee while. Of staying forever in his attic hideaway…as safe as those sacred hours of early morn that seemed to belong only to Joe. Writing, reading, playing…pottering about to his heart’s content. Contentment. The holy grail. Worth so much more than it was given credit for by those who sacrificed it at the altar of ‘happiness’.  Joe wasn’t quite as daft as he oft made out, to cut himself some slack. No one else had offered of late…until Mac.

A belief that might well spring from stoned illusion—or batshit delusion—Joe had to admit, if only to himself. Chances were he’d drive himself doolally in a week if he did stay. Shortly before he found himself crawling the walls and chatting to the teapot.

It was comforting to wallow a while in his pipedreams though, because Joe was so, so weary of the fight. Dog-tired of being a product on a conveyor belt; churned out and swallowed up by the monster of his own making. Sometimes he was so bone-weary he could barely crawl out of bed…tramelled by too many forces making too many demands. Too many tainted dreams turned to dust. Sweet ’n’ sour sorrow that felt like failure. Scored into Joe’s skin as he paid the piper and danced the dance. Resenting them for snatching his soul away, even while trying to convince himself its integrity remained intact. Loathing that he let them.

It was akin to being trapped in an ever-contracting circle of snakes, knowing he couldn’t escape any sooner than flee from himself. Or his relentless, unmanageable emotions. Too many, too messy, too much. Feelings Joe could express far better in rhythm and rhyme, when that felt allowed. Even welcome. A way to finally unleash them, without fear of censure. To give them form, let them flutter free. Free? It had felt that way at first. Now they just fed the monster, fuelling the flames of the inferno that raged around him. A despair Joe tried to douse with much the desperation he clung to the tatty remnants of his wide-eyed dreams. Like a broken child clinging to a comfort blanket on a bitter cold night.

A despair he turned on Mac now, utterly certain that his bad-ass had his own piper to pay. Joe knew that his words rang true. Saw guilty indignation glint in the green before Mac quelled it, with but a blink. Crikey…he was good. Joe couldn’t have managed it; his eyes shared his secrets with all and sundry no matter what he said. Ever more ludicrous lies rustled up on the spur of the moment to twist people up in words…trying to distract them from truths so easily accessible elsewhere.

“You’ve signed a contract…put your honour on the line. The one thing you’re less likely to surrender than your reputation. I haven’t got one worth saving…and everything I crave is here. Now tell me who’s got most to lose if I refuse to go…”

The truth Mac had demanded went down about as well as a cup of cold sick. As oft tended to be the case.

““I cannae refute being called out as a cold-hearted bastard.” Mac acknowledged, as if Joe had accused him of such fallacious twaddle. “So, you should, by rights, have won. But.”

Bummer. Why was there always a but? This honesty malarkey was getting a tad out of hand. Quite why folk set so much store upon it, Joe had no idea. It was a Pandora’s Box of horrors waiting to be unleashed upon the unwary. The truth never went well. Especially when you got coshed over the head with a corker.

***

A fact Mac proved with his very next breath…and a plot cooked up by the divil himself. If Joe had been daft ’nuff to imagine he’d got the bad-ass all sewn up? He would’ve found himself tied up like a kipper when Mac seized upon the single frayed thread he’d left dangling and all-but strangled Joe with it. Scoundrel.

Mac’s ‘staring competition’ was so dastardly in its design, Joe didnae have a leg left to stand on to dispute that fact. Not least when his Achilles tendon had been severed with a single swipe.

“How long before you’re crawling the fucking walls for that shit? Two hours…four at the absolute outside?

Joe could do two without breaking out in a cold sweat. He’d never scuttled off stage to shoot up mid-gig, after all. Four was endurable. In a cramped t’fuck and twice as clammy fashion. Four days? The blackguard would park his unimpeachable bad-ass there for four bloody weeks, and Joe knew it. Probably pride his cussed self on four months with naught but few nanas and barrel of whisky to while away such purgatory. 

Oh, but he’d far from finished yet. Not content with that trial o’torture, Mac mooted the tie-break from Tartarus. ‘Six hours fix-free. Wide awake. Then choose one. Just one. No caveats or amendments. Smack…Or (cue demonic drum-roll)….Shag. Me.’ The scoundrel even had the utter audacity to serve up that doozy with a set of scales. 

An ounce of smack against the ten-tonne weight of bad-ass bravado-two-zero? Physics was far from Joe’s best thing, but he didn’t need to be Newton to figure that he’d go flying through the air faster than a bloody bullet sat on one end of a see-saw if a cannonball was dropped on the other.

There was a flaw in Mac’s cunning plan. Joe would have be dead not to notice that spot o’goalpost shifting. Someone who doesnae bottom ever cannot dangle such a carrot and expect to clean up in the scurrilous scheme stakes.

Mac clearly thought Joe was still ‘away with the faeries’ if he expected him to fall for that one. Hypothetical, my arse.

Clarification was called for. Joe bit the bullet. There was a lot o’them about. 

“Does ‘I do not bottom’ mean: You never have or…You won’t bottom for me?”

“It means I won’t. Full stop.” 

Mac had fessed up, whether he was willing to own that fact or not. Pah. Hoisted by your own petard, you wriggle-hipped hustler. A man who had never been plundered thus would not allow such a suspicion stand. It was a matter of manly principal. Or something such. Joe didn’t have the foggiest idea why that mattered but then, he’d never had a stick up his arse instead.

Mac was obfuscating. It was pointless poking away at something he had no intention of admitting any time soon. Sober. 

Ah well, where there’s a will, there’s a way. To wrangle the truth...still dish of the day, no doubt...t’die for? Or, hill to die on? Back at ya, Mr. McBadass. I believe the ball’s in your court…

Mac didn’t demur. Did, in fact, seem well-up for cramming the lid back on the candour box. Odd that.

Some truths are best told without words. Tinderbox truths. Told in tongues, stroked across skin, suffused in sighs…soft cries, like whispers on the wind. Stealing free in a tumble of endearments, too tender to survive the harsh light of day.

 One of which was…the bottom line. The real reason Joe was so obsessed about whether the baddest ass had ever been breached. 

You never have? Or, you won’t bottom for me?

The former was false…which left the latter. 

Despite the fact you’ve done it before, with someone else. Someone worth it.

In truth (being the blah-de-blah), Joe wanted Mac whichever way he came. He wasn’t fussed how. But. He couldn’t help but wonder (fret…fear) that it meant Joe was just a convenient port of call, a perk of the job, rather than someone Mac would ever care to share himself with. In any way. Let alone deem worthy of such a gift.

Unless. One hope did remain in that particular Pandora’s Box. If paranoia would permit Joe to believe it wasn’t just a loophole Mac could exploit and explain away:

Mac had only done it once (maybe twice for confirmation) and hated it so much, he’d sworn never to allow it again.

Joe would have to accept that. Whether it was a big fat fib, or not. Only an utter git wouldn’t. He might be a junkie scumbag, but he wasn’t a sadistic shit.

While on the subject of wriggle room…and dunderheads who leave it lying about for bad-asses luxuriate in?

So shove that up your pipe, and y’might smoke the truth out?  Had left the scoundrel all the segue he needed to bypass—nay, sashay past—Joe’s not-so-killer-line with Lauren Bacall aplomb.

“Speaking of…I’m gasping.” Mac reached out to snag the cigarettes from the bedside cabinet, tugged a couple out and popped one between his lips, then held the tip of the other to Joe’s. If you can’t beat ’em…

After doing the honours with the lighter, Mac shifted himself around, cig still in situ, to lean against the headboard. Hellish sexy he looked too, having pulled that off with more than a whiff of Brando, when by rights? He should have looked like a navvy on a dockyard with one gripped in his gob like that. The bad-ass oozed too much louche elegance for that ever t’be possible.

“Why are you being so tricksy, Mac? Truth being the terms, n’all. Y’can ask me anything you like and I’ll tell you true.” Joe shrugged. Oh crikey, he was forever landing himself in some tight spots to escape…which was p’raps part of their charm.

“Self-preservation. No, you would not…and y’know it. Not if it served you better to lie…or even for the hell of it.” Mac smirked, levelling him with a squinty stare. Unless he just had smoke in his eyes.

“Back up a bit…‘self-preservation’? You can’t toss that off and carry blithely on without a care in the world,” Joe gaped. “Self-preservation against what?” The more Mac said, the less Joe knew. It was most perplexing.

“You.” One word. Tossed at Joe with hot-potato-hand-grenade pizzazz.

“Me!? I haven’t got any nefarious plots up my sleeve,” he protested.

“I don’t think you have, right this minute, but you’d soon give me the slip if it served your purposes,” Mac smirked. “But that’s not the point. I have a job to do. One that will be tough enough, without being too bloody besotted to watch my own back, thank you very much.”

Besotted? The bad-ass? That was taking truth-twisting to…tongue twister tangles. Waterloo Bridge was Joe’s favourite, if Mac thought he was that bloomin gullible. 

“Besotted? By me? Do you think I fell off the Christmas tree? I’m hardly a catch. It’s been clearly established that I’m a junkie scumbag. Y’could trawl the banks of the Thames and take your pick, if that’s what floats your boat.”

“You know damn well it does not.” Mac spat before narrowing those glinty greens to spear Joe with a flinty special. “If I ever hear you call yourself that again, I’m going to flog you.” 

“Is that a promise?” Joe grinned.

“Fuck off. You know what I meant. They’re baying at the bloody door to tear you to shreds, don’t give them—”

“Lightweights,” Joe scoffed.

“I take it you mean that you can do a damned better job?” A knowing eyebrow twerked up in enquiry.

“Yup. Please don’t clobber me with logic, Mac.” Joe begged, when the badass looked about to launch into some spiel that would make Joe’s batshit brain shove its tralala fingers in his ears. “That’s the only straw I can clutch, so I’m clinging on tight.“

“They wouldnae be so hellbent on dragging you down, if they didn’t think you were worth the effort.” Mac argued, instead. “Where would be the sport in that?” A shrug that asserted itself as an unnassailable pronouncement on the proclivities of the Press. 

“That’s just tall poppy syndrome…” Joe’s shrug was a smidge limp-wristed, as a result. But then…The Rock would’ve been hard pressed to rustle up a worthy contender.

“No. It’s not. You’re a rare challenge, Joe Fitzgerald. The vultures don’t often get such rich pickings. Granted, you’d be a walkover if you were less bloody brilliant, but you’re a T-bone steak tossed into their midst…” Mac rolled his eyes alongside a rueful headshake. Despairing at whom? ’Twas tricky to tell. 

“You can’t claim that, when I’ve been ‘away with the faeries’ or shrieking Ooh Mac! for a good half o’the two days you’ve known me,” Joe shot him a side-eye, suspecting a scoundrelly ruse. 

“Yes I damn well can. Could have, ten minutes after I got here, in fact.” The bad-ass shot back.

“Oh…”

Oh? Is that all you’ve got?” Mac’s chuckle didn’t quite offset the fact he looked side-swiped. Astoundingly. Joe had chucked everything but the kitchen sink at him and the scoundrel was poleaxed by a single vowel? 

“Yeah.” Joe dipped his head, a bit abashed, despite himself—or Mac—he wasn’t sure. “I dunno how you can call me brilliant, when you’ve somehow managed to circumnavigate everything I’ve asked is beyond me. How d’you suppose I could get bored of you?”

“No matter how tasty a meal is, would you want to eat it every day?” Mac sighed.

“I do.”

“Are you comparing me to a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes?” he spluttered.

“No, you are.” Joe snickered. “I’d compare you to a bucket of crunchy-nutters with a bunch of bananas on top.”

Can you actually fall for a man cos he strews nanas on your crunchy-nutters? P’raps that wasn’t the right question. It was his reason that mattered, was it not?

“You’re telling me that you could quite happily live on cereal and banana for the foreseeable—with nothing to let’s say cleanse your palette—when fancy struck?”

“Yup. So long as I could feast to my heart’s content, not survive on stingy rations,” Joe nodded.

“Well, I guess the proof will be in the pudding. Or not. Here y’go…” Mac bent over the side of the bed to grasp the neck of the guitar and plonk it across Joe’s legs. “I really would like to hear you play…”

 

 

 

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 30 – updated

Hiya…

I had a little fiddle with Mac’s chapter and added a bit of ‘business’ here ‘n’ there, embellishing a few things. I’m sorry, I do so hope it reads better now. While I was beavering, I readied a chunk of Joe’s chapter too, so I’ve included it here… 

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. 🥰

 

 

 

 

My Way

 

 

40 Mac

 

 

 

Mac loaded a tray with drinks and poured a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes for Joe. With banana slices strewn on top. It was a bloody good job he’d brought such a big bunch, but partial as he was to his favourite fruit, Mac couldnae recall the last time a meal hadnae been built around one. Still, it could be worse…Bowie had survived on cocaine, milk, and red peppers at one point. Rock stars. Who’d have em…

Mac’s very own was sitting on the bed, strumming the guitar when he returned to the attic, playing the lilting melody from yesterday. The knowledge that the first song he’d ever heard Joe play had been inspired by Mac was far too gratifying for comfort. Both the knowledge itself, and the impact of said fact. Thank fuck for the tray, or that particular truth would’ve been all-too blatant. 

Mac now found himself cursing his own cussed refusal to familiarize himself with Joe’s back catalogue on the drive down. He had no idea how ‘his’ song compared, in stylistic terms, to those Joe had recorded and released. Having sold shed loads, it seemed likely that the record buying—oh f’fucksakes. Downloaders? Paying punters?  Music lovers, that would do…might revere a few likely suspects alongside him. One in particular. So they sure as hell couldnae hope to delight in a duet, or see them share a stage this lifetime. Suggesting Adele or Ariana as replacements to Joe’s fans would probably go down about as well as an apple martini rather than absinthe. 

Nevertheless, the melody that infiltrated Mac’s memory after one fleeting listen—now weaving its artful way around his heart—was world’s away from Wembley Arena. Its charms were far better suited to wreathing the air at Scarborough or Appleby Fair…or the Memory of a Free Festival, featuring pre-Hunky Dory Bowie and The Kinks. Love-child of Faithfull and Dylan, rather than Swift and Eminem. (Top selling f/m solo artists of the twenty-tens; courtesy of Mac’s recent search history).

It was the indefinable aura of bygone times he’d found so enchanting. As if he were being lulled by the whispers of wandering minstrels in cambric shirts following the clarion call of their muse… Okay, the Scarborough Fair nostalgia fest is getting out of hand. Mac would be in desperate need of a good dose of “London’s Calling” before stepping so much as a foot in that fair City.

“I’ve never seen a more splendorous sight slink through that door bearing bounty. Whatcha got?” Joe asked, neck like a periscope to peer over the edge of the tray. 

“Rum, water, crunchy-nutters and banana.” Mac reeled off, blanking the big ol’ beam his use of that sodding name inspired.

“Are you in cahoots with the vicar’s wife? She’s forever trying to fatten me up,” Joe snickered.

Never, in a long and inglorious career had that particular accusation been levelled Mac’s way.

“If I was, then I’d be shovelling steak and chips down you. I’m trying to keep you alive, despite your sterling efforts to the contrary. Drink this first…” he instructed, handing Joe a pint glass of water.

“Couldn’t you find a bucket?” Joe pouted, eyeing the water suspiciously. As if suspecting it might play host to a shoal of piranhas.

“That seemed counterproductive on the sick-encrusted front,” Mac noted with a nonchalant shrug. 

“Charmin’,” Joe huffed, pretending affront.

“Perhaps…but nonetheless probable.”  Mac’s poker-face had withstood somewhat sterner tests, thankfully.

After indulging himself in a long suffering sigh, Joe glugged the water as if drinking it for dare. Watching his Adam’s apple bobbing beneath ivory skin made the desire to sink his teeth into it as ridiculous as it was almost irresistible. But resist, Mac did. For now…

“There. It’s drunked. Aren’t you having something to eat?”

“I had a sandwich while you were away with the fairies. Here you go…eat these…” Mac handed him the bowl of bloody cereal, adding: “Then I’m done nagging… ”

“I don’t know why I’m putting up with all this bossy-boots business, y’know. Downright deviant of me, ’tis.” Joe grumbled.

“The latter I am prepared to believe. The former was a bare-faced lie,” Mac snorted.

“Just a titchy white one…” Joe conceded with an unabashed grin before turning his attention to his ‘trouble is they taste too good’ spoonful. A claim so clearly founded in fact, Adam had missed a trick in not slapping a contract with Kellogg’s on Joe’s table. A far less edifying fact? That first mouthful included a glee-inducing sliver of banana; proving that Mac’s potassium overload had rendered him delirious.

“I wasnae expecting your music to be so…melodic,” Mac found himself confessing as he lit a cigarette.

“You’d never heard it before?” Joe managed to ask, while pebble dashing himself in soggy cereal. “I’m glad. I thought it had become inescapable…”

“Not knowingly, at least,” Mac couldnae help but grin. “I only listen to dead musicians, according to Vince. I beg to differ, ‘though I don’t suppose Keith counts, being immortal, an’ all…but Dylan and Davies are very much with us.” 

“It was an era worth a wallow in forever though, so I don’t blame you one bit. Anyhoo, I’m doubly glad, cos you didn’t arrive thinking it was crap. Or worse…loved it. Then wound up gutted when you got here…” 

“I’d gleaned enough from Google to know that I’d rather make up my own mind, but that’s it. Sufficient to guess that the portaloo wasnae your finest moment…” Said loo almost won Mac’s poker-face war, it must be owned.

“I have no recollection of this incident. It was a complete fabrication…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” Joe declared with a lofty sniff. Then. “A bit like its floor…”

“Oh, give me strength. You. Are impossible,” Mac spluttered, dead-pan demeanour floored by a sucker punch. “Shut the fuck up and sing for chrissakes.”

“I’m not being difficult but…” Joe cackled with glee.

“Oh fuck off.” Mac grunted, snatching the dish out of his hand to dump it back on the tray.

“Cruel, that. Wafting fucks my way if you don’t intend following through. Cock tease.” 

“I thought you intended to play…” Mac pointed out.

“Am I singing for my supper now?” Joe asked with an irrepressible smirk that didnae detract in the slightest from the draught unleashed by his lashes.

“That sure beats the view from the other end of the telescope…” Mac sighed.

“I think I’d need to pilfer more rum than Jack Sparrow could polish off to fathom that…” The miscreant shot Mac a side-eye that suggested the recovery of his plot might require a compass. 

“Only one of us is being rewarded for my presence, Joe. In a much less worthy way.” Mac had aimed for wry…rueful at worst. Ballsed up both. Crap.

“If you’re shagging me for filthy lucre you should look into getting a better agent…” Joe plucked a string with a frown; erased by the incremental tweak of a tuning knob. Unless Mac’s hearing was too shot to shit to detect such subtleties, he couldnae detect a difference. Attunement, perhaps? Mac might be able to distinguish weapons by sound if there was an audible distinction, but Joe could probably identify the brand of bloody pin by the ting it made when dropped. This, while tossing off a quip so sharp it left Mac gaping in the wake of his own sour words.

Having cornered himself in an alley as dank as it was dark, Mac cut his losses. Distraction was about his best bet. It hadnae failed him yet. 

“I’d be prepared to stay for a packet of peanuts and a bottle of Irn Bru, so I got a damn good deal by my reckoning,” he shrugged. “You don’t have to sing it, if you’d rather not…” Mac threaded his fingers together and rotated his wrists to swing his arms skywards, arching his back to…knock the kinks out.

“That’s one helluva torture technique, Mr McBadass. Is m’supper off the table, if I don’t?” Joe bit down on his bottom lip, worrying at it while waiting for Mac’s response…which died in his throat when it dawned on him that Joe might just believe that being sent to bed without ‘supper’ was a possible—let alone probable—‘punishment’. 

Almost before Mac realised he was about to toss the set list to the wind, he’d grasped the neck of the guitar and hefted it out of the way. It landed on the floorboards with a discordant grunt of protest as Mac clasped a fistful of feathery hair and tugged Joe’s head up. To crush his mouth down on lips parted in wordless wonder and dart his tongue between them to claim what Mac couldnae forsake if he tried. 

Fuck…He’d never felt so craven in his goddamned life. Sing for his supper, for chrissakes? Mac could scarce keep his hands to himself even when Joe was unconscious. 

“Impossible…” Mac hissed, somewhat belatedly, smudging his mouth across Joe’s jaw. He seemed to be straddling Joe’s lap, although he wasnae sure when, or how, he’d got there.

Why the hell hadnae thought to whip his pants off first? A single layer of cotton that felt as thick as a slab of concrete when he tilted his hips, desperate for friction. Tongues tangling as hungrily as their hands clutched and hips writhed.

“I wouldnae give a shit if you never sang another word…” Mac muttered, eventually, at Joe’s ear. Then tugged on its lobe with tender-sharp teeth before fastening at his neck. 

“Mmmac…” Joe arched into it, clasping Mac’s nape, his meaning as clear as the mark that would be branded there long after they left for London. “Nor me, if it makes no neverminds…”  

“Easy to say…here, now…stripped of the warmth of spotlights…the adulation of thousands…”

“Mac…tell me what you want to hear. I’ve run out of ways to say the same thing…” 

Joe was right…their words were forever swirling in circles. Before whirling down the drain; neither believed nor negated. Banter flowing back and forth, doubling back, darting forwards, then retreating again. Like swordplay with tongues.

“And I might even believe you mean it,” Mac sighed, lifting his head. Fool that he was. Dooming himself to obsidian pools of liquid light, drowning deep, as dark as dread. “Here…now.” 

“But not in London, no matter what I say…” The distractions of the city were the surface scurf of the fears Mac could never express. Joe wouldnae want to hear them any more than Mac was willing to voice them. “And yet…I don’t want to go. You’re making me do it. Let me stay here, Mac. Stay with me. Just me. That’s what I want…but you won’t. You’ve promised Adam, and your boss…Vince? You’d never forgive yourself if you reneged on your word, or didn’t deliver what they’re expecting you to pull off. You’ve signed a contract…put your honour on the line. The one thing you’re less likely to surrender than your reputation. I haven’t got one worth saving…and everything I crave is here. Now tell me who’s got most to lose if I refuse to go.” 

Fuck. Mac blinked, staggered by the onslaught of Joe’s words and blindsided by brown.  Another means to an unfathomable end? A trap Mac had been too lust-drunk to notice until he’d lost the lot? Foiled, on all fronts. 

Crave. One word, salvaged from that torrent of truths. Prompting a flash of thought that scythed through them as the irrelevences they were.

“I cannae refute being called out as a cold-hearted bastard.” Mac stated, every word couched in icy calm. “So, you should, by rights, have won. But. Let’s say we did a deal…a staring competition, if you like…”

Midnight eyes widenedimprobable but trueagleam with intrigue. “All you need do is sit on a chair, one each, to decide whose truth stands. Yours, or mine. Based upon who folds first…now tell me you’d have a leg to stand on. How long before you’re crawling the fucking walls for that shit? Two hours…four at the absolute outside?

Joe’s inner flinch was so instinctive Mac felt it despite the determinedly blank stare boring holes in his head. “You know damn well that I could do four days with a canteen of water so…a bonus round seems fair. Playing to your specialist subject. One simple decision that makes the first result null and void. Six hours fix-free. Wide awake. Then choose one. Just one. No caveats or amendments. Smack…?” Mac held out an upturned palm“Or….”—raised his right, completing the set of scales as he added, “Shag. Me.” 

“Shag you?” Joe gaped. “But…y’said, ‘I don’t bottom ever’.”

“It’s a hypothetical choice,” Mac groaned.

“Well, it’s not a choice at all then, is it? It’s one hypothetical thing I can’t have, and one real thing I can have,” Joe huffed. Christ...it was like talking to a labyrinth. With landmines: “Does ‘I do not bottom’ mean: You never have or…you won’t bottom for me?”

“It means I won’t. Full stop,” Mac spat.

“That’s not what I asked. So full-stop-off,” Joe retorted. “You would’ve said straight out if you’d never had a cock up your arse…and we both know it. So shove that up your pipe, and y’might smoke the truth out.”

 

 

***

 

 

 

41 Joe

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to go…you’re making me do it. Let me stay here, Mac. Stay with me. Just me. That’s what I want…but you won’t.

 

Joe believed this with every fibre of his being as he said it; it was a mere echo of dreams he’d nurtured for a wee while. Of staying forever in his attic hideaway…as safe as those sacred hours of early morn that seemed to belong only to Joe. Writing, reading, playing…pottering about to his heart’s content. Contentment. The holy grail. Worth so much more than it was given credit for by those who sacrificed it at the altar of ‘happiness’.  Joe wasn’t quite as daft as he oft made out, to cut himself some slack. No one else had offered of late…until Mac. 

A belief that might well spring from stoned illusion—or batshit delusionJoe had to admit, if only to himself. Chances were he’d drive himself doolally in a week if he did stay. Shortly before he found himself crawling the walls and chatting to the teapot. 

It was comforting to wallow a while in his pipedreams though, because Joe was so, so weary of the fight. Dog-tired of being a product on a conveyor belt; churned out and swallowed up by the monster of his own making. Sometimes he was so bone-weary he could barely crawl out of bed…tramelled by too many forces making too many demands. Too many tainted dreams turned to dust. Sweet ’n’ sour sorrow that felt like failure. Scored into Joe’s skin as he paid the piper and danced the dance. Resenting them for snatching his soul away, even while trying to convince himself its integrity remained intact. Loathing that he let them. 

It was akin to being trapped in an ever-contracting circle of snakes, knowing he couldn’t escape any sooner than flee from himself. Or his relentless, unmanageable emotions. Too many, too messy, too much. Feelings Joe could express far better in rhythm and rhyme, when that felt allowed. Even welcome. A way to finally unleash them, without fear of censure. To give them form, let them flutter free. Free? It had felt that way at first. Now they just fed the monster, fuelling the flames of the inferno that raged around him. A despair Joe tried to douse with much the desperation he clung to the tatty remnants of his wide-eyed dreams. Like a broken child clinging to a comfort blanket on a bitter cold night.

A despair he turned on Mac now, utterly certain that his bad-ass had his own piper to pay. Joe knew that his words rang true. Saw guilty indignation glint in the green before Mac quelled it, with but a blink. Crikey…he was good. Joe couldn’t have managed it; his eyes shared his secrets with all and sundry no matter what he said. Ever more ludicrous lies rustled up on the spur of the moment to twist people up in words…trying to distract them from truths so easily accessible elsewhere.

“You’ve signed a contract…put your honour on the line. The one thing you’re less likely to surrender than your reputation. I haven’t got one worth saving…and everything I crave is here. Now tell me who’s got most to lose if I refuse to go…”

The truth Mac had demanded went down about as well as a cup of cold sick. As oft tended to be the case.

““I cannae refute being called out as a cold-hearted bastard.” Mac acknowledged, as if Joe had accused him of such fallacious twaddle. “So, you should, by rights, have won. But.”

Bummer. Why was there always a but? This honesty malarkey was getting a tad out of hand. Quite why folk set so much store upon it, Joe had no idea. It was a Pandora’s Box of horrors waiting to be unleashed upon the unwary. The truth never went well. Especially when you got coshed over the head with a corker.

 

tbc…

 

 

***

 

Wafflish

My Way 29

My Way

 

39 Joe

 

 

 

“Mac…?” Joe prised his lids apart and blinked a bit, trying to focus through the fuggy haze. His mouth felt as if it had been hoovered before being sanded dry. His nose belatedly noted that Mac was smoking, p’raps accounting for the misty wafts he was wreathed in. A fact that suited his bad-ass ambience so splendidly, he should, by rights, always come accompanied by his own cloud of dry ice. 

“Y’okay?” Mac smiled—if a smidge foggily—but there didn’t look to be thunder clouds brewing.

Joe had expected the bad-ass to still be cross about the bodge-a-bolt business. Unless he was saving it ’til Joe was less bleary of eye and foggy of thought. Ah well, even if he was miffy, or likely to be so at the drop of a syringe, he was still a sight to behold. Preferably a mite closer. Beside Joe. Inside him. There could be no finer way to wake up than that.

“Hmm…”

Despite the grogginess, Joe still felt strangely…content. P’raps because the world felt far, far away. It was tempting to pretend the future lived there too, when the present was so very vivid. As vibrant as bold splashes of oil on canvas, whereas everything else was but an impressionist watercolour, wrought in pastel hues.

Joe only knew Mac here, now, in this context. ‘They’ only existed in his attic haven. A little kingdom in the clouds where the rest of Joe’s life had never intruded. Infecting it. Not even the looming fear of faceless hands and endless demands could reach him here. 

The former were infinitely preferable and cared much more than Joe deserved. The latter deserved less than they cared a toss, for ought but facts ’n’ figures, bums on seats and sodding schedules. How Joe despised that word: it came complete with a rancid stench and tasted acrid on his tongue. 

No one had ever mentioned that his entire self, not just his career, would be controlled by everyone else. He loved the ‘show’ part but loathed the ‘business’ bit. Detested the politicking palaver and bean-counter bastards who couldn’t give a monkey’s about melody and rhyme. Joe’s preference for Show Business in absentia had come with a cost he hadn’t anticipated. He’d assumed that paying them to take care of stuff would mean he’d be left in peace to write and play. What transpired instead? Joe wound up employing them to get pissed off. A lot. With Joe. Coulda woulda shoulda…

He wasn’t even sure whose interests Adam beavered on behalf of, anymore. He knew that his manager was stuck in the uncomfy position of playing Middle Man, but ‘trying to keep everyone happy’ had somehow morphed into keeping the suits off his back. Adam’s back that is, not Joe’s. It felt a helluva lot as if Adam spent most of his time paying Joe lip service…while wrangling him into fulfilling bookings he could scarce believe he’d agreed to.

A stadium tour? Joe liked playing quirky venues and majestic old theatres. Somewhere with atmosphere, steeped in the magic of gigs gone by. Not cattle sheds cum aircraft hangers. A minor detail that didn’t seem to matter a jot…as long as the gravy train went tootling on its merry way. Just because Joe could fill stadiums didn’t mean he cared to. He would rather play five intimate gigs on consecutive nights in the same town, than one huge show to faceless thousands. That didn’t make ‘economic sense’. Apparently. It sure as shit-shows made sense to Joe. 

Mac had his back. He would keep Joe safe. He’d promised. Weirdly, Joe believed him. Or, believed that he’d do his damndest to try. Somehow sure that if it was possible, Mac would make it happen, whatever the bad-ass set his mind on. He was far too cussed to accept ‘can’t’. A word Joe heard all too often…whenever he expressed his own wishes. Or wanted to do stuff spontaneously, which freaked everyone the fuck out. 

“Smoke?” Mac asked, tossing the packet onto the bed. When the lighter whizzed toward him in its wake, Joe popped a cig between his lips and lit it, before inhaling that first lovely lungful and blowing the smoke ceilingward.

“Thank you for putting me to bed…and tucking me up. It was…” Kind of you? Generous? Gallant?  Rustling up the wrong reason would be unbearable. P’raps Mac had simply wanted to sit down and Joe had parked himself in the only chair before conking out.

“S’okay. You would’ve wound up with a crick neck…” Mac’s gruff mutter suggested he’d done nothing of note. Nothing special…which was far from the truth he insisted on. 

“Did we move house, in the interim?” Joe wondered, struck by the realisation that there was a very lot amiss. Underfoot. Joe’s stuff, specifically.

“One of us was going to fall flat on our arse surfing magazine covers,” Mac chuckled.

“Thank you…I keep saying that. Mac, why are you being so…kind? When I keep being a big trouble.”

Kind? An hour ago I damn near dislocated your shoulder and castrated you. I dread to think how uncouth your customary company is…” 

“Pft. You are the most cussed critter on Earth. You won’t even be thanked without wheeling out the flinty glint and arguing the toss about it.” Joe informed him through eyes narrowed to a squinty stare.

“Flinty glint?” Enquired he, spearing Joe with a topnotch special.

The bad-ass hadn’t batted an eyelid about being called a cussed critter. Then took issue with a far less impertinent phrase. Incomprehensible, he was. Unless. Joe flicked his gaze to the floor, which seemed much more…roomy than it had been a wee while ago. So much so…even the chair had a dearth of debris scattered around it. Aside from several skyscraper piles of stuff standing to attention against the window wall and the furniture itself…? The floor hosted but five things: the bad-ass feet, one plate, a bottle of whisky…and Joe’s journal. Open with a pen atop it, which was p’raps how Joe left it…yesterday? He’d never been precious about his own words…but that particular poem? Read by Mac? The bad-ass possibly wished he hadn’t. Found himself saddled with a mooning-in-June junkie nutjob.

That flinty glint, agleam with mean…

Was supposed to be keeping Joe out of trouble…not inspiring gushing tributes to its lethal sheen. Oh help. Flinging himself out of the window was starting to seem a fine way to spend the evening. Starting asap. Rather than face the fact that Mac had seen far too many truths for comfort. Knew he’d inspired a (not-at-all obsessive, plinths aside) tribute to his eyeballs. Um, it could’ve been one less syllable worse? A truth Mac mightnae be all that thankful for. Oddly nuff.

In Joe’s own defence? No one as sexy-as-fuck as Mac could reach his mid-thirties(?) without receiving rave reviews aplenty.

“I..um…are you miffed with me?” Joe cringed, scrunching one of his eyes shut as a precautionary measure. See…? He did have a sense of self-preservation, no matter what folk might opine to the contrary. Having never met Mac.

“Miffed?” The bad-ass shot Joe a side-eye…quite at odds with the wicked twerk of his lips.  

Even his features argued with themselves. Mac’s brows clearly snarked: ‘what the fuck d’you think!?’ But the sin in that smirk was as divine as it was devilish.

“With me, for writing it…”

“Joe…” Mac gripped the armrests of the chair and pushed himself to his feet before prowling Joe’s way. “Why might I be ‘miffed’?” he asked, crooking a knee to perch on the edge of the bed.

“Cos I’ve…appropriated your person. Or, you found it intrusive? Or…it made you uncomfy, when this is just—” Oh fuckfucketyfuck. Just…a shag for you? Just a job with a side-order of sex?

The words clumped in Joe’s throat like coal tar and refused to budge. He couldn’t moot those when they’d almost force Mac to say outright what Joe didn’t want to know. He wanted to cling to his hopes like the lifeline they were and let himself pretend, for just a little longer, that Mac might feel something for Joe. Not just as a shag. Or worse, Joe Fitzgerald

‘Cos I give a shit’… 

“’Intrusive’ is reading someone’s notebook without permission, surely?” Mac’s c’est la vie shrug was followed by: “I didnae mean to. I put it to one side, on the chair, because it was open with the pen on top, so I assumed it was your current one. Then sat on it.”

His fringe was obscuring the green and his gaze was boring holes in the bedcover, which made it tricky to tell, but his ever confounding bad-ass looked a bit rosy of cheek. Crikey. 

It was Joe who should be purple, or a charming shade of puce, in the shame-stakes. A spot of lyric perusing wasn’t a patch on the secret glee that thrilled through Joe’s veins upon finding that the baddest of all asses had sat itself down on his journal.

“When I extracted it…the title leapt off the page, and I couldnae help but be…curious.”

Curious!? If Joe had happened upon his own name, written by Mac, a herd of wildebeests couldn’t have kept him from it.

“S’okay, I don’t mind…you can read anything you want. Although you probably wished you hadn’t,” Joe sighed, kneading at his forehead with the heel of his hand. It was still a mite muzzy and reluctant to spring to his rescue. Or ‘spring’ anywhere at all, in truth (still the dish o’the day, no doubt).

“Why would I wish I hadnae read it? You might’ve taken such poetic liberties that I figured you must know another Mac…but I’d be a bloody idiot if I wasnae flattered,” the bad-ass grinned.

Okay…had the bad-ass been helping himself to Joe’s stash as well as his words? He really wasn’t making a jot o’sense.

Poetic liberties? Are you bladdered?”

“I am not bladdered. I may have had a tipple or two, but I’m sober enough to recognise myself in the mirror, thank you very much.”

Okay…he’d definitely snuffled something. Or two days with Joe had sent him nuts, bolts ‘n’ barking bonkers.

“D’you want me to destroy it? I won’t finish it, if you’d rather I didn’t,” Joe offered. If Mac thought the first verse had taken liberties with his reflection, he’d prob’ly think the rest belonged in the Hall of Mirrors.

“No…I want you to play it for me, if you will.” Mac mumbled from beneath his fall of fringe.

Play it? Mac wants to hear it? Well, duh.

“Really? Are you sure, it’s very rough? I’d better have a drink first, I can barely swallow.”

“Very. D’you want a cuppa, or something stronger? A glass of water, or three, would be a bloody good idea.”

“I’m not drinking three! One. And some rum. What time is it, Mac? It’s nearly dark now.”

“Getting on for nine…? We didn’t go to bed until what, nine a.m? Then slept till five…”

“I’ll never forget the next hour or so, but it goes a wee bit wafty after that,” Joe admitted.

“Speaking of fixes…can you factor in that we’ll need to leave for London by noon tomorrow? I’d rather not try to cram you in the car unconscious if I can avoid it. It would be like trying to pack a stuffed giraffe into a snuff box.” Mac rolled his eyes skyward, lips twitching with their wicked twerk.

“Okay… Joe grinned. That sounded far too fun to miss out on, which he would. 

Life sucks…then you die. And don’t even get to attend your own tribute. 

“Mac, will you just tell me what I must do one-by-one and then I can’t fret about the next thing before I do the first. I get in a panic if it’s all looming in a lump. It feels like staring up at a cliff and knowing I’ll never scale it…and that everyone’s waiting for me to fail.”

“Okay, no worries. That works for me if it seems less daunting to you Tomorrow is just rehearsal time booked with your band, that’s not a looming horror, surely?”

“No, not really. Well, it didn’t used to be, but this last year or so…I’m convinced that everyone expects me to fuck up, which makes me anxious…and then I get late…which means they’re all pissed off by the time I do turn up. Then things get tetchy, which makes me so uncomfy I…p’raps get a bit stroppy and stomp off…” Joe broke off, scrunching his eyes tight against the wave of bitter words that crashed through his head like a salt water into a seeping sore.

“The studio is booked for four p.m,” Mac told him, clasping Joe’s chin to impale him with conviction. “We will be there, so no-one will be pissed off. Just bloody grateful they haven’t been left twiddling their thumbs for…three…?” The bad-ass paused, lips pursed with an impudence that was just plain rude. Scoundrel.

Joe cringed into his shoulders a smidge.

“Four…six hours?” Mac amended, with eyebrows that kept pace with his counting up prowess. “Christ. All you’ll need worry about is your band dying of shock, when you saunter in on time. We’ll leave at twelve. Two hours on the road, traffic permitting. The hotel is booked, which gives us two hours to…settle in.”

“Is that p’raps a euphemism?” Joe couldn’t resist asking. It was not his fault, it was the glint that did it. Full gleam bright with bad-ass intent. “You are a wily ol’ cove, y’scoundrel. What you’re actually saying is: if we set off late for London, there won’t be time for hotel sex before I have to go to rehearsals. So I’ll have to wait for bloomin’ hours, cos you won’t shag me if I should be at the studio, instead.” Blackguardy bad-ass.

“I have no recollection of uttering a word of that…” Mac smirked. With a wink. 

Oooh. Ev-il.

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 28

My Way

 

 

 

37 Joe

 

 

 

 

“Smoke…or smack?” Whispered words pitched so low, they were too alluring to resist.

It seemed to be a choice. Joe was certain it was a challenge. It had become blatantly obvious that every time the bad-ass offered him a selection box of treats? One was a trap. Door slamming shut.

Mac might present it as a free choice, but Joe knew damn well that if he plumped for shooting up, it would be akin to shooting himself somewhat north of his foot. If he chose ‘smoke’ now, then he’d leaped all the landmines placed in his path—only one option would remainwouldn’t it? It was not as if the bad-ass had asked Joe to choose between doing the hoovering or hoovering up a line. A post-coital smoke with Mac was (in theory) a far more tempting prospect to sitting on his tod having a poke about, trying to find a functioning vein to fuck up.

Joe could bear the cramping for a few more minutes, if relief was on its way. Delayed gratification, rather than deprivation. A helluva lot different from being denied it—or even a ‘why is the smack always gone?’ situation—but Mac hadn’t and it wasn’t.

Joe was Making A Choice; easier to endure when he’d not been denied that liberty with the decision taken for him. That reeked of rehab. Mac was a wily ol’ wolf in sharp tailoring, t’be sure… Had anyone else attempted such wool pulling shenanigans, Joe would’ve given the sheep the slip and scarpered. But sabotaging the good ship Mac would sink all Joe’s future prospects faster than y’could say Titanic. Bummer.

“Smoke…” Joe rustled up a serene smile; for all the world as if that wasn’t the most perilous option on offer. Smack couldnae hold a candle to Mac on the lethal front.

The cosh of cold air was as brutal as the loss that beset Joe’s bum when Mac slipped from his body. After grabbing his discarded pants from beside the bed, the bad-ass mopped himself up a bit, passed them to Joe, and reached for the cigs on the cabinet. Joe gave himself a swipe and turned around to plonk down beside Mac, who lit a cigarette and held it out, filter first for Joe to take with his mouth before lighting his own. An act of gallantry every bit as confounding as the fact that the bad-ass, meanest mo-fo on the planet, blew out a languid stream of smoke with all the lofty allure of Lauren Bacall. As was his wont. 

Joe’s inner grin was vanquished mere minutes later by the shaft of pain that shot down his legs. He’d been doing his damnedest to ignore his griping guts, but the new agony felt like steel-jaw traps clamped to his thighs. His system was quite done craving what it required more than its next breath, clearly.

“Mac, I can’t stand it anymore—” Joe’s voice cracked when another stab of cramp grabbed his guts in a cruel fist and gave them a vicious twist.

“How I hate that this owns you.” The muscle in Mac’s cheek ticked ominously, but he remained true to his word. “’Kay…I’ll leave you to it and head off for a shower,” he sighed, stubbing out his cig before swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “I didnae expect you to hold out so long…” he acknowledged with a wry twerk of lips. “But don’t overdo it to compensate, f’chrissakes…”

“Mac..?” Joe asked, hating the hesitancy in his own voice. It made him sound as small and crumpled as he felt, but he had to ask, needed to know. Mac’s first words were too startling to let lie.

“Yeah?” He glanced over his shoulder, raising an enquiring eyebrow that might’ve seemed snarky, if not for the smudginess of the green. Softer, sans flinty glint.

“Why does that matter?” Joe wondered. Aloud. Loon.

“Because I give a shit. That’s why.” Mac muttered, before springing up to stalk off with nary another word.

 

***

 

38 Mac

 

Because I give a shit. That’s why…

F’fucksakes.

You’ve got me…

Oh, if only you knew…

 

If Mac couldnae keep his goddamn mouth shut, Joe sure as hell would. Know.

‘Because I give a shit’ was at least preferable to: I’m scared shitless of falling for you…but that was scant consolation. 

While Mac was on a roll? He might as well add: Worse still…I’m terrified that you’re going to steal yourself away. And even if—by some miracle—you manage to survive you? That you’ll be whittled to an empty shell of all you were, those inimitable eyes as barren, bereft, as a soul stripped to naked need.

He may have muttered something about fearing that Joe would wind up a twisted parody of himself while stomping from the room, but hopefully not loud enough to hear. Mac flicked off the shower and scraped his fingers through his hair before grabbing a towel. What the hell would greet him when he walked through that door? He’d been ten minutes, tops. It took far fewer than that to die.

Mac was buggered. In every way except that one. Surely he could keep a grip on something? He had fuck all else left in his Bergen. How the mighty have fallen. Thirty hours with who the fuck is Joe Fitzerald and Mac was clinging to the fact his arse remained unconquered territory. 

*

“F’chrissakes! What the?!” Mac stormed over to Joe and grasped his wrist to yank the arm out of harm’s way. “Drop it.” He spat, pressing back until Joe’s shoulder joint protested when the miscreant just stared, mute, at Mac.

“No,” Joe growled, through gritted teeth.

“Joe…” Mac warned, forcing a deadly calm into his voice as he nudged the arm back an increment. Joe was sitting in his chair, a tie dangling from his right elbow, the crook of which was botched to fuck with a sodding great crater glistening scarlet in the light.

“OOWW!” Joe hollered. Egregiously.

“It does not hurt that much.” Mac stated. As fact.

“It’s my arm!” he huffed. “I know!”

“It doesn’t hurt half as much as that sodding eyesore, and y’know it,” Mac snarled.

“Well, it wasn’t going to hurt for long, was it!? Mac, give me back my arm, I’m not dropping it! OOOOOW!”

“Drop it. Or I’ll clench my fist. Hard.” 

“Not FAIR! PFFFT.” Joe sulked, letting  the syringe clatter to the floorboards.

Mac relaxed his fingers until they were merely cradling Joe’s balls.

“Oohh…”

“You are impossible. Christ, c’mere…” Mac clasped his dandelion head, tugging it to his bare chest. He’d only donned pants after his shower, having neglected to take any clean gear with him.

“I couldn’t find a vein! I didn’t do it on purpose…it’s frustrating.” Joe whimpered, allowing his body to sag against Mac. “I’m hurting…”

“I know…just calm down. It was useless poking away at…that, it looks like the goddamn Grand Canyon. I’ll need to clean it up, you’re bleeding,” he sighed, stroking Joe’s sweaty fringe back before bending to press a kiss to the top of his head. Mac inhaled, long and slow, breathing him in, then forced himself to pull free and scoop up the dropped syringe. “Y’can have it back in a minute, but you’ll need a fresh needle. I want to get that cleaned up first, or it’ll go septic.”

“Mac…what did you mean before?” It would be easier to withstand waterboarding than those eyes, Mac was sure of it.

“When?” he asked, too casually, rooting around for antiseptic and gauze in the first aid box he’d brought. 

“Why d’you give a shit if I wind up a parody of m’self…that’s what you said, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Why? Because you’re worth more than that.” Mac muttered, tearing open a packet of sterile wipes with his teeth before tugging the tie loose to dab gingerly at the gaping wound.

Oooft… I’m not.”

“Sorry. It’s a…mess. Yes, you are.” When he’d done swabbing it down, Mac squeezed a dollop of cream into the crater, which was about the size of a five pence piece.

“Ooh..”

“Are you this bad at the doctors? Five year olds make less fuss than you,” Mac snorted.

“I’m suff’rin…everything hurts more!” 

“Pft…a likely story. Bet you’re always the same.”

“Shurrup. I’m not good at being a patient.”

“Or at being patient either, if the state of your arm is indicative. It looks as if you’ve been bodging it with a bloody bolt. There. Now leave that alone for a few days, f’fucksakes,” Mac instructed, slapping some adhesive gauze on top and smoothing the edges down.

“You are the hottest nurse I ever had, that’s for sure.”

“I’ll give you bloody ‘nurse’, y’monster. Find a clean needle, then you can have the syringe back.”

“You’re very bossy,” Joe grumbled, levering himself from the chair.

Christ…was Mac ever going to get accustomed to the sight of Joe unfolding himself to full height? It wasnae just the sheer length of his limbs, it was their inelegant grace. Rendering each movement a mesmerizing contradiction in terms.

“You like it,” Mac tossed over his shoulder, bending to scoop up the debris.

“Only cos it’s you…” Joe huffed, foraging for a clean needle. “Can I have the syringe back now?” 

“No.”

“Are you going to do it!?” Joe looked staggered, as well he might.

“No, I’m bloody not. Nor will I ever shoot that shit into your body. I havenae binned the needle yet. Here. Now don’t keep poking away from every angle or I’ll throw the fuck up.”

“You’re stayin’?”

“I havenae much choice in the matter,” Mac grunted.

“Thank you,” Joe murmured, examining his left arm intently before tying its forearm off. The scarring was worse on this one—but older—pitted with healed-over craters and livid splotches.

“How many times a day are you shooting up?” Mac asked, attempting to sound conversational, rather than accusatory.

“Three…four? Ish. Okayy…” Joe blew out a breath when blood clouded the chamber, then pressed the plunger with a sigh of such utter, heartfelt relief, Mac’s throat clenched around what felt like glass shards. A smile smeared itself across Joe’s face as he flopped back in his seat, letting his head loll to one side. The syringe fell forgotten to the floor.

After scooping Joe’s limp, horribly lifeless body from the chair, Mac carried him over to the bed and lowered him onto it before arranging him on his side.  Fankyou…” He was semi-conscious this time, at least. But all skin and bone; the former so pale it was bleached to much the same shade as the latter. He looked like his own corpse. 

The fact Joe also looked peaceful in that state was almost worse. 

His lifeforce was so vivid, vibrant, the contrast was an agony in itself. With a heavy sigh, Mac dragged the duvet over Joe’s nakedness and headed down to the kitchen to pour a stiff drink and rustle up something to eat. He’d no sooner downed his first shot than started fretting about leaving Joe alone, so Mac cobbled together some banana sandwiches, grabbed the whisky bottle and hurried back upstairs.

*

After polishing off his butties and washing them down with whisky, Mac lit a cigarette and sat in Joe’s chair, trying to make some sense of the last two days. Staring at Joe’s recumbent form sure didn’t help matters. Mac just wound up watching the gentle rise and fall of the duvet, far too slow for comfort.

Realizing that insanity beckoned if he sat monitoring Joe’s respiratory rate, Mac pushed himself up and gathered the detritus to bin it. Collecting up some of the crap littering the floor seemed about the only thing Mac could ‘sort’ any time soon, so he focussed on that, rather than losing his mind. After making a satisfying tower of cd cases and stack of vinyl, he started piling up the bomb blast of hardbacks, paperbacks, and notebooks.

Fuck…does he read all of this? If Mac hadnae spent the last thirty-odd hours with Joe, it would be impossible to reconcile ‘Junkie Joe’ with the softly spoken, hypersensitive reality. A man who devoured Camus…Baudelaire…Wilde…Dickinson…Dostoevsky… 

Even the bog-standard paperbacks had been penned by the likes of Orwell, Woolf, and Forster. Notebooks…dozens of them, stained, tattered and overflowing with fucknows what. The one closest to the chair was lying open with a pen dropped on top, so Mac placed it on the seat, figuring it was the most current.

There. Five perfect piles, which would no doubt be demolished by an unwieldy limb…or sent crashing to the floor when one was tugged from the bottom. Oh well, it was done…and satisfied Mac’s sense of order. At least he could walk across the room without going fucking flying.

Time for another drink and a smoke. Wasn’t it always.

After parking his arse on the chair, Mac tipped the bottle to his lips for a swift slug, then raised his thigh to retrieve the notebook he’d just sat on. It had been left open at what appeared to be the start of some lyrics or a poem but Mac wasnae about to read them when that seemed intrusive. Until the first word all-but leapt off the page and stabbed him in the eyeballs, so he could hardly not see it. Or read it for that matter.

Fuck. Mac blinked, but the words remained the same. Scrawled in an almost illegible, spidery hand. Did Joe still mourn the loss of another Mac? It wasnae a rare nickname. There must be a million Macs knocking about south of the border. As suppositions went? That one was too preposterous for even Mac to believe, and he’d mooted it. It was—quite clearly—a work in progress.

Mac

O those eyes of tourmaline green

That flinty glint, agleam with mean

Glimmering with a lethal sheen

Dangerous with dark desire

Tempered rage and deadly ire,

Ablaze with lust and bad-ass fire… 

It sort of fit Mac. If you squinted a bit. Through a haze of opiates. His eyes didnae do that though, did they? He’d need a mirror to discern as much; a notion that suggested he may have necked rather too much whisky. Both before and after eating the sum total of two bananas and a few slices of bread since fuck knows when.

Okay…enough. Joe spent his life stoned, which meant Mac would be best advised to stamp down the smug before his head swelled. Joe was just taking (far too forgiving) liberties with poetic license. Much as they stretched credulity, it was hard not to feel…flattered that Joe found the raw material worth expending precious words on. A fact that assured they couldnae be about Kyle McCafferty, at all.

“Mac..?”

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 27

My Way

36 Joe

 

 

 

I do not bottom, Joe. Ever. I do not bottom…Ever.Ever.Ever.Ever…

 

Bugger. Or not. Ever.

Never-ever was a very long time—unless Joe popped his clogs o’course—in which case, it might be sooner rather than later. A lot less longer to hope that never-ever meant definitely-maybe…

Thus, it was a waste of the time Joe did have left to fret about that. Tick-tock. Time was a tricksy devil. It could lull you into a false sense of security just as fast as it could smash your dreams to smithereens.

All hope is lost? Tended to be a question of tense…

Present: I do not bottom ever—is a helluva lot different from—Past: I have not bottomed ever.

And altogether different from: I will not bottom ever… 

A flicker of future possibility Joe snuffed out. For now. In the meantime? The present was a gift, not to be sniffed at. Mac slinked over to the bed and snagged the lube off the cabinet. That glinty gaze skimming the L shape formed by Joe’s body—as if he were trying to decide which bit to scoff first—while slicking up. Watching the deft sweep of Mac’s fingers was second only to watching plush lips trawl the length of Joe’s cock. By the time Mac had clambered up and nudged Joe’s legs further astride with first his left, then right knee, Joe was strung tight enough to shatter.

He had no idea what dastardly design the scoundrel might embark on…but it wasn’t a feathery tongue of flame skimming across Joe’s shoulders. The fizzle of cooling flesh should’ve been audible when Mac retraced its trip with a blazing breeze of cool breath blown across damp skin.

“So responsive…” he murmured, pressing plush lips to Joe’s nape as shiversome fingertips traced the rails of his ribs.

“Mac…” His name whoosed out as if Joe had been holding his breath. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched him this way, when he’d grown accustomed to grappling hook hands and grasping fingers that clawed his flesh, scoring half-moon scars. Clutching too tight, leaving livid bruises in their wake; a snatch ‘n’ grab that left Joe feeling bereft. So alone…he’d slip off to seedy haunts, seeking higher highs to feed a need that couldn’t be sated. A thirst impossible to slake…when he hadn’t known what he sought. A lie Joe had clung to for comfort, rather than face a future too bleak to bear. The death of divine idylle.

“Mac…” Joe begged, his voice breaking on something like a sob after enduring the searing slalom of Mac’s tongue down his spine. The scoundrel paid no heed, just ratcheted the knot of need even tighter when he paused to dapple at Joe’s coccyx. “Pleease…

“Joe…” The bad-ass was abruptly cleaved to Joe’s back, reaching round to cup his jaw and steer his face toward Mac. It was with a muttered expletive that he mashed his mouth to Joe’s, a smidge off-centre in a messy smear of moist warmth before claiming conquered territory.  Releasing Joe’s jaw, Mac splayed his palm across Joe’s chest and cupped his balls with the other. Cradling them with an aching tenderness made all the more stark by the plundering intensity of his kisses.

“Mac…take me,” Joe gasped, tugging on Mac’s lower lip with his teeth. “Now. Please…” Too impatient to wait, he arched his back in a bid to make matters more…snug.  

“Joe…no—”

“Yesss…”

“But—” 

You…” Joe pleaded.

No.” Mac yanked his head back to spear Joe with a glint so flinty it was flammable.  “You are not using me as another form of self abuse,” he growled, locating the knot of gnawing need and thrusting a slick finger into Joe’s body.

“Ah…more,” Joe gasped, pushing onto it. “I wasn’t…just-wanted you.”

“You’ve got me,” Mac snarled, swivelling that deranging digit. It had no sooner eased back than plunged forth, alongside a second to scissor with the first. His lips were but a breath away, too tempting to resist, so Joe released the bedstead to clutch buzz-cut hair and meld their mouths once more. A heady duel of tongues; abrupted when the bad-ass brushed that brain-boggling spot and Joe’s head snapped back with a “MAC!”

Now you can have more…” he rasped, tugging his fingers free about a shiver of anticipation before Joe felt the blunt press his whole self craved.

“Ahhh!” Joe gasped when Mac buried himself hilt deep in one sharp snap of hips. Stilled. A sudden silence, as sharp as the stretch. The blissful burn of pleasure pain, scarlet bright behind Joe’s lids as he released a raggedy breath. “’Kay…”

The next wee while eclipsed words. Even if Joe spent forever weaving them in tapestries of sound. He’d never be able to nail it, never encapsulate such all-consuming fullness…or the scintillating sweep of Mac’s spine, thrusting harder, faster, deeper. Slowing right down, just to drive Joe demented. He was sure of it, relished it, forgot the terms, demanded more. Got it…and how. Jack-hammer hips and snatched off cries, bliss blazing through Joe’s veins like wildfire, razing all reason to ashes. 

Promising him the more that spawned untold moons-in-June; as if he might conjure it with rhythm and rhyme. That elusive something he’d known must hover just out of reach, ever withheld, no matter who, what, how, where Joe sought it. That mythical more, taunting him with its absence. Goading Joe to seek another source, rather than mourn the loss of something he’d never had—might never know—if it was unknowable. As unattainable as talking to animals or gliding on the breeze like a wingless bird. Flights of fancy beyond his reach in the real world; a comparison too cruel to tolerate. Clean. 

“Mac…” Joe sighed when a forearm clamped across his body like a satchel strap, cleaving them closer still. Fingertips resting at his right shoulder, Mac’s elbow level with Joe’s bottom rib. More fragile than the rest, as fragile as Joe felt in Mac’s steely embrace…and yet, safer. In more danger than he’d ever been. 

Mac answered with his lips, crushing them to Joe’s before snatching them back alongside his hips. Then the bad-ass—as if hell-bent on putting himself to shame—began to build a blistering pace, surging with greater urgency. Short, sharp snaps that pounded Joe’s prostate until he was juddering wreck, clinging on by the skin of his teeth. After sliding his diagonal arm down to circle Joe’s waist, Mac tightened it to grind himself deeper still. The slick press of his chest at Joe’s back was a wall of hard heat, the only solid thing in his buttery-boned world. 

“Fuck…” Mac gasped, cutting short a guttural groan. “Joe…”

“Yesss…” Joe could scarce hold on. In a white-knuckle-tight to the bedstead sort of way. His cock was so desperate for friction, it felt like a silent scream. The sheer relief of being enclosed in firm fingers almost finished Joe off before the tattoo intensity of Mac’s hips could stake their claim. With incomparable aplomb, as inimitable as…him. Joe was done for. The damn burst, unleashing wave after wave of blinding bliss, spilling from his body in a white-hot rush. Only then, did Mac fire off a final shuddering thrust, triggering a chains-across-cobbles-Joorr as pulsing warmth flooded Joe’s insides.

The sudden stillness shrieked with the weight of words unsaid. As sacred as the silence in church when please be seated scuffles cease. Mac blew out a breath like the ruffle of turning pages before pressing his lips into the curve of Joe’s neck.

“Thank you…” That popped out unbidden, more hiccup than word.

“For what?” Mac asked, raising his head to tilt it in a wondering sort of way. 

“For…” Oh bugger. “…refusing.”

The reason he’d given for that, rather than the prepping Mac had insisted on.

Oh, if only you knew…” 

“Knew what?” Joe chuckled. The bad-ass had adopted the drum-roll timbre of Movie-Trailer-Man. 

Can The Rock obliterate a terrorist enclave with naught but a twinkly grin and bulging jockstrap? Will he triumph across the most treacherous terrains on Earth and still make it home in time to read his kids a bedtime story? Find out next week in the new nail-gnawing, sweat-glistening blockbuster of thrills, spills, and glutes t’die for: Between The Rock and a Hard Place. Coming soon to a cinema near you…

Mac had imparted more tantalizing gravitas in five words than Movie-Trailer-Man had managed to muster in a thirty-second spot. Lightweight.

“How impossible it—” Mac broke off with a frown before finishing: “—You are.” 

“I have the meanest mo-fo on the planet to keep me out o’mischief tho…” Joe sighed, too sex-soused to rustle up the rest of his five star review.

“What’re you after?” A query so arch, it suggested that Mac was forced to suffer all sorts of shady shenanigans. How rude.

“Nuffin…” Blimey, the telling truth malarkey had got way out of hand.

If he didn’t keep a very beady eye on the bad-ass, Joe was in grave danger of finding himself turning up for stuff—on the right day—before he knew what had hit him. Let alone had chance to scupper such pesky Machiavellian plottings.

Pah. If the scoundrel thought Joe was going down witho— Dang. Hoisted by his own petard. Again. 

 

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 26

Hi…

Thank you for being here and for your support. Here are the next two parts…

 

 

My Way

34 Joe

 

 

 

 

“Gnrrr…”

Hmm…at last. He waketh. Joe had managed to doze off, eventually, lulled by Mac’s soft snuffs of breath at his back. As safe as safe can be, encircled by strong, sure arms. A haven that felt far too much like the finishing flourish Joe’s hideaway needed…to make it a home. A new hatstand would’ve been a much better bet. Particularly at the rate Joe kept promising to scoff them. 

*

Sung as the hug of a drug haze

Lazy days, lost ways

A last past the post maze

 

Of nowhere fast.

Nowhere man. With a no hope plan

Tattered, torn, lost, forlorn

What a blast

 

Its been.

The future is green.   

 

In your dreams…in your dreams (backing vocals taunt/refrain)

 

CH:

Pipe dreams in the sky dreams

A lost boy left behind beams

Safe on shore

Lost no more

Mon amour

Dur à cuire…

 

*** 

 

Joe’s mind—despite its opium ’n’ orgasm extravaganza—wasn’t the slightest inclined to while away a few hours in sated splendour. Instead, it was fizzing about in a rearranging the furniture frenzy. Shoving stuff aside to make room for a spot-lit Mac centre stage; burnished bronze with a crown of thorny-lights. P’raps on a plinth. That last bit was possibly a smidge excessive, but moderation had never been Joe’s very best thing and he was far too busy to learn. Plinths don’t build themselves. 

Nevertheless…snooze he did. Eventually. For a wee while…before waking with a bit of a start. Heaven knows what that meant, but it must be a thing, so Joe went with it. Where was he? Waking with a start…that was it: the fortunate consequence of a fidget. Mac’s. It was p’raps an absence of warm weight that woke Joe when Mac’s arm slid away as he turned over. It was daytime, o’course, and they hadn’t bothered getting into bed, beneath the covers. So, when Joe—struck by the sense of something missing—peered a mite blearily over his shoulder, his eyes popped open pretty sharpish upon being treated to a sight to behold.

After that, Joe’s lids were less inclined to shut up shop than stick pins in themselves. So, he turned over to face Mac’s back and lay, admiring its intricate play of muscle and bone…the sublime sweep of his spine… All gift-wrapped in skin like runny honey. Sleep seemed the least interesting thing on the planet at that point, which was an excellent thing indeed, when Joe would’ve been much miffed to miss the next part. 

He hadn’t curved himself around Mac, spoon-style, while admiring the scenery but the slumbering bad-ass had better plans, it seemed. Whether these unfolded as a result of a fidget too far, or Mac’s body was drawn to the heat of Joe’s, he knew notand cared lesswhen Mac shifted enough that sleep-warm skin sizzled his own. That’s how it felt. Bzzzzt. Joe did attempt to hold his hips at bay. His cock was just brushing the bubblicious butt, not wedged in happy valley. That was all Mac. Typical.

Joe was all geared up to accept his medal for services to bad-ass-kind…when that very blighter all-but robbed him blind. If it hadn’t been for the tighty-whiteys, matters might have got a smidge sticky. Joe was so wound up with nowhere t’go he was coiled like a steel spring about to sproing. A splendid onomatopoeia, if e’er there was one. Joe could barely breathe, even before Mac snuggled closer. The kind of close that left Joe’s so-oven-ready-it-was-radioactive boner doing a fine impression of a frankfurter lucky enough to be nestled in the very best of buns. 

Mac’s subconscious self sure didnae seem to mind where it was parked…least of all his spine, if its arching antics could be considered indicative. It was impossible to keep still after that. Only rigor mortis could have held Joe’s body as rigid as his cock. Trying not to twitch was a tad similar to attaining stasis on a bouncy castle.

It was a raspy rumble in Mac’s throat that alerted Joe to the fact the bad-ass was emerging from slumber. He didn’t seem aware of waking…until he actually clamped a palm to Joe’s thigh. It very much felt as if Mac was scrabbling for purchasetrying to tug Joe innot shove him away. Then he froze, alongside a sharp intake of breath.

“What are you doing..?” he mumble-grumbled.

Not ‘alf as much as I want to be doing…was the honest answer to that. Nevertheless, Joe wasn’t convinced that such sterling truth-telling efforts would reap their just rewards.

‘Joe. Please remove your cock from the crack of my arse,’  was perfectly polite. It was also a mite too fulsome on the fuck-off-front to ignore. Joe p’raps did his best though… luxuriating in a last few seconds of bliss while bickering about the fact that it was, indeed, still there. A fact Mac professed to be miffed about, without making any attempt to shift himself in the slightest.

“Joe!” he growled. Eventually. Oops…time to get up. Not in a fun way. Sad sigh.

The bad-ass then speared Joe with what was p’raps supposed to be a withering sneer, but was, in fact, as sexy as fuck. Joe didn’t tell him that either—which was not fibbing—it was omitting to mention it. The next part Joe was not responsible for at all. It was instinct pure and simple; not a plot he’d prepared earlier. He couldn’t be charged with murder if he hadn’t planned to off someone, after all… So, it was bumslaughter at the very most.

Nevertheless, Mac soon recovered from his rude awakening to embark on a bit of banter, none o’which was a jot important, like most joys in life.

Joe did p’raps ask something he’d resisisted almost since Mac stepped through the door… despite suspecting that his insistence on truth wasnae a two-way street.

“Have you ever killed a man, Mac?”

True to form, his response? ‘If I told you that, I’d have to kill you…’ Fessed up nothing, and confirmed far more than Mac knew. A lot like his sexuality, in fact. All o’which tended to suggest that Joe’s bad-ass-bodyguarder was a gay assassin. He could, o’course, be a bi or pan serial killer with a contract…but he sure as sharp shooters wasn’t a straight babysitter.

Speaking of which, Joe couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted to do anything except shoot up the moment he opened his eyes. Let alone indulge in chit-chat, which was staggering itself. Not content with that feat, when Joe finally got around to his morning ministrations he found himself bamboozled by the bad-ass again.

“What’re you doing?” Mac demanded, instead of lighting the cig he’d been cussing about for the last ten minutes. When Joe told the truth and nothing but, as instructed, he wasnae too chuffed about that either. There was just no pleasing some peeps. 

It was a lot like waking up with Oscar the Grouch, but less whiffy. Mac did, in all honesty, smell luscious; even his sweat seeped sex. A scent so heady that a few hours spent snuffling him would be a splendid thing in itself—which seemed a fair ‘nuff admission—it being quite a climb from that to scaling the giddy heights of the plinth.

“Joe…c’mere…” Mac’s tone didn’t seep sex, it was saturated in it. A lot like mozzarella stroodles drizzling off a three-cheese margherita pizza.

Joe found himself dragged Macwards as if being sucked into an inexorable vortex; as irresistible as licking sugar off his lips mid-doughnut scoff. The food fandangling was getting a tad out of hand. Joe was ravenous.

The moment their mouths melted together Mac pounced: faster than a bad-ass in hot pursuit of a spot of mischief. Too fast to follow how Joe ended up flat on his back on the bed, which mattered not when he did. Smothered in bad-ass, plush lips ravishing his own in a heady tangle of tongues. 

When the bad-ass snatched himself from the kiss, Joe feared it had been a mere ruse in a dastardly scheme to distract him from his stash. Or that Mac had only demanded it in order to prove his dominion over his desperately-craving-self. Joe was wrong. Very. 

“Tell me what you want,” Mac snarled, before naming a few of Joe’s favourite things. One or three of which he’d possibly mooted in the last few minutes. “Choose one.”

Okay. A degree in quantum science wasn’t required to conclude that choosing smack would obliterate all other options. For farrr longer than Joe could survive and stay sane while sharing the same airspace as Mac. Let alone bed. It was a question of cravings. Joe was far more inured to enduring a skag-free few hours than being frozen out by Mac. They’d scarce begun. In fact, there could be no finer time to dismiss it as scratching-an-itch-sex. Or, worse a one-off shag to shut Joe up. 

“You.” There was no other answer. Not when Joe knew that no one else could come close. He’d already chosen; promised Mac that there would be only him. A scarily easy vow when Joe knew damn well that once he’d fixed on something, he craved it to the exclusion of all else. He’d never felt that way about a person before. Just things. It was terrifying.

“Thank you.” Kryptonite green gleamed with a warmth so unexpected it snatched Joe’s breath away. Mac was, without exception, the most mesmerizing man Joe ever had the misfortune to meet. ‘Misfortune’ because Joe was, without doubt, going to lose his bad-ass long before that felt bearable. Thank you…?

“What for…?” Joe wondered—aloud—being as befuddled as he was baffled.

“I don’t know…” That made two of them, but it didn’t matter overmuch when the sentiment itself was an unanticipated gift. 

“I am sorry,” Joe apologized—although he wasn’t sure what for—a reciprocal gift of sorts? Possibly on accounts of being a pain in the butt since the bad-ass came to whip Joe’s into shape. 

“Joe?” Uh oh. That sounded dangerous. Joe should’ve planned an escape. How far was the drainpipe from the attic window? Or…p’raps cosh Mac with the door stopper? There was a teeny flaw in that cunning plan. A guitar might do?

“Yeah?” 

“I am not.” A new shrug, alongside a wry twerk o’lips. The most mind-boggling one yet. 

Whathefucketyfuck? Not sorry…about?  The blighter was the most inscrutable scoundrel on Earth. The inescapable agent of Joe’s doom? Would damn well delight in it, the blackguard.  

 

***

 

 

35 Mac

 

 

 

Making Joe choose was cruel. It was also a surefire way of fathoming a few truths. ‘Facts’ Joe couldnae confess. Not with wordsit was too easy to promise all he presumed Mac wantedand even mean it, at the time. Joe was an addict. His truth wasnae set in stone. Mac was willing to bet he’d vowed ‘never again’ on countless occasions. Possibly believed it, once or twice. 

Offering Joe a choice would reap a fact so clear-cut Mac wasnae sure he wanted to learn it. That very much depended on the result, of course. Who the fuck wanted to compete with the lure of opium dreams? Mac needed all the help he could get. It was full metal jacket time.

A full metal jacket bullet is a small-arms projectile consisting of a soft core (often lead) encased in a shell of harder metal, such as cupronickel, or a steel alloy.

A definition that didn’t ring any bells whatsoever. Certainly not enough to recite it, verbatim. 

Mac was pissing in the wind. He had no idea whatsoever which option Joe would choose. If any. He was just as likely to select ‘pizza’. For breakfast. Or a curry, come to that.

“You.”

Fuck. How often did life hand you the answer you’d hoped for, when you ventured down the multiple choice alley of dreams into dust? Almost never, Mac had discovered. Particularly when the response meant more than it should. In which case, it was downright deranged. 

My terms. My way? It had all gone to hell in a Hawker Hurricane. He found himself thanking Joe, rather than admit any of that. A plan that promptly backfired in his face when asked ‘what for’. The lie Mac uttered didnae deserve the apology it engendered. Or eyes so soft, contrite, he couldnae allow himself to trust them. Was Mac so warped with cynicism he assumed that everyone had ulterior motives? Undoubtedly. It tended to save time…and lives.

“Joe?”

“Yeah?” One word and yet, it sounded so wary, it was a wonder Joe hadnae ducked. Or hid under the bed. In this instance, it was hard to rustle up a less fitting reaction. Or a wiser one.  

“I am not.”  Mac owned. He wasn’t made of bloody concrete. Even metal melts or corrodes if exposed to extreme circumstances.

Joe was a walking, talking, extreme circumstance; in past, present and future tense. On every sense. Certainly all six of Mac’s (fact, not airy-fairy fiction, according to sensory specialists). Mac’s equilibrioception—perception of balance—had been shot to shit since he’d crossed Joe’s threshold. He’d never felt so off-kilter in his life. Joe was the most perilous person Mac had ever been paid to protect. Or dispatch.

He had to face that fact, when lying to himself would be lethal. Every bit as lethal as the addiction that might snatch Joe away, making a mockery of every belt and beret Mac had sweated bullets for.

A far greater foe than Joe’s ‘people’. Or the journalists who focussed on it to the exclusion of all else. Willfully oblivious to the fact that addiction was the result of—not the reason for—the problem in the first place. Ever intent on belittling those so broken, they’d drink Loctite to glue themselves back together, if they thought for a second it would work.

Hoping for compassion was pointless, when it was far more profitable to track their prey. Hovering like vultures in hope of rich pickings. Playing the blame game in bold type and lurid headlines…

‘Junkie Joe’s Portaloo Passion’

True. Apparently.  ‘Shamed star’s drug-fuelled romp with a leggy lovely…’ served up with your Great British Breakfast by your Super Soaraway Sun.

Joe was journalistic heaven waiting to happen. But they didnae give a fuck about (nor grant a column inch of grudging gratitude to) the gift horse that kept them in nose-ups and fry-ups. 

“You’re…not?” The wonder writ so large in those eyes sat like shrapnel in Mac’s throat.

“No…but…” Mac let that linger, as if a pause might add weight to featherlight words.

“Uh-oh…Am I in trouble again, already?” Joe’s head sank into his shoulders, as if he were trying to make himself as small as the five year old his expression suggested.

“No…let’s just call it a helpful hint. I do not bottom, Joe. Ever. So. If I should happen to find myself hosting so much a wandering digit, I will break it. Just To Be Clear.”

“Okay. Darn it,” Joe tutted. “It’s a pity I haven’t got a dog.”

“A…dog.” Mac repeated, raising an enquiring eyebrow.

“You could’ve relished informing me that you’d chop it off and feed it to him, then. Tragic that.” 

“D’you want a thick ear?” Mac snorted.

“Nope, oddly ’nuff. If there’s thick in the offing…that woudnae be my preference. Just sayin’…” For all the world as if there was any doubt whatsoever that Mac would follow through. Worse, he knew it. They both did.

“Kneel on the bed and grip the bedstead.” Uttered in tones as cool, calm and collected as Mac could muster. Monster boner permitting.

“Hmm…don’t mind if I do.”

“Quelle surprise.” Mac sighed, with an eye roll that probably fooled no-one. Least of all himself.

“I’m full of ’em,” Joe beamed.

“You’re full of something else too, Fitzgerald. So shurrup and turn around, unless you want gagging.”

“I’d rather have cuffs to tell the truth, supposing it’s still the order of the day an’ all,” Joe grinned. Before swiping it off sharpish with the back of his hand and an “oops…” Eyes huge, horrified. Oscar-worthy. “Sorry,” he trilled. “Turrning…”

 

 

***

Blog Tour · Guest

Guest: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Hi… I’ll post an update to My Way later today, but in the meantime…I’d like to welcome my special guest, the fabulous J. Scott Coatsworth…

 

The Stark Divide - J. Scott Coatsworth

 

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out book one in the Ariadne Cycle: “The Stark Divide.” This is a re-release.

 

***

 

 

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

 

Get It On Amazon


 

BANNER2 - The Stark Divide

Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour, and a signed paperback trilogy of the Oberon Cycle (Skythane, Lander and Ithani) – two winners! Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47131/?


Excerpt

“Dressler, schematic,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

###

Anastasia Anatov leafed through her father, Dimitri’s, old paper journal. She liked to look through it once a day, to see his spidery handwriting and remember what he had been like. It was a bit old and dusty now, but it was one of her most cherished possessions.

She sighed and put it away in a storage nook in her lab.

She left the room and pulled herself gracefully along the runway, the central corridor of the ship, using the metal rungs embedded in the walls. She was much more comfortable in low or zero g than she was in Earth normal, where her tall, lanky form made her feel awkward around others. She was a loner at heart, and the emptiness of space appealed to her.

Her father had designed the Mission-class ships. It was something she rarely spoke of, but she was intensely proud of him. These ships were still imperfect, the combination of a hellishly complicated genetic code and after-the-fact fittings of mechanical parts, like the rungs she used now to move through the weightless environment.

Ana wondered if it hurt when someone drilled into the living tissue to install the mechanics, living quarters, and observation blisters that made the ship habitable. Her father had always maintained that the ship-minds felt no pain.

She wasn’t so sure. Men were often dismissive of the things they didn’t understand.

Either way, she was stuck on the small ship for the duration with two men, neither of whom were interested in her. The captain was gay, and Jackson was married.

Too bad the ship roster hadn’t included another woman or two.

She placed her hand on a hardened sensor callus next to the door valve and the ship obliged, recognizing her. The door spiraled open to show the viewport beyond.

She pulled herself into the room and floated before the wide expanse of transparent plasform, staring out at the seed being hauled behind them.

Nothing else mattered. Whatever she had to do to get this project launched, she would do it. She’d already made some morally questionable choices along the way—including looking the other way when a bundle of cash had changed hands at the Institute.

She was so close now, and she couldn’t let anything get in the way.

Earth was a lost cause. It was only a matter of time before the world imploded. Only the seeds could give mankind a fighting chance to go on.

From the viewport, there was little to see. The seed was a two-meter-long brown ovoid, made of a hard, dark organic material, scarred and pitted by the continual abrasion of the dust that escaped the great sails. So cold out there, but the seed was dormant, unfeeling.

The cold would keep it that way until the time came for its seedling stage.

She’d created three of the seeds with her funding. This one, bound for the asteroid 43 Ariadne, was the first. It was the next step in evolution beyond the Dressler and carried with it the hopes of all humankind.

It also represented ten years of her life and work.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re ready for the next step.

###

The crew’s third and final member, Jackson Hammond, hung upside down in the ship’s hold, grunting as he refit one of the feed pipes that carried the ship’s electronics through the bowels of this weird animal-mechanical hybrid. Although “up” and “down” were slight on a ship where the centrifugal force created a “gravity” only a fraction of what it was on Earth.

As the ship’s engineer, Jackson was responsible for keeping the mechanics functioning—a challenge in a living organism like the Dressler.

With cold, hard metal, one dealt with the occasional metal fatigue, poor workmanship, and at times just ass-backward reality. But the parts didn’t regularly grow or shrink, and it wasn’t always necessary to rejigger the ones that had fit perfectly just the day before. Even after ten years in these things, he still found it a little creepy to be riding inside the belly of the beast. It was too Jonah and the Whale for his taste.

Jackson rubbed the sweat away from his eyes with the back of his arm. As he shaved down the end of a pipe to make it fit more snugly against the small orifice in the ship’s wall, he touched the little silver cross that hung around his neck. It had been a present from his priest, Father Vincenzo, at his son Aaron’s First Communion in the Reformed Catholic Evangelical Church.

The boy was seven years old now, with a shock of red hair and green eyes like his dad, and his mother’s beautiful skin. He’d spent months preparing for his Communion Day, and Jackson remembered fondly the moment when his son had taken the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time, surprise registering on his little face at the strange taste of the wine.

Aaron’s Communion Day had been a high point for Jackson, just a week before his current mission. He was so proud of his two boys. Miss you guys. I’ll be home soon.

Lately he hadn’t been sleeping well, his dreams filled with a dark-haired, blue-eyed vixen. He was happily married. He shouldn’t be having such dreams.

Jackson shook his head. Being locked up in a tin can in space did strange things to a person sometimes. I should be home with Glory and the boys.

One way or another, this mission would be his last.

He’d been recruited as a teen.

###

At thirteen, Jackson had learned the basics of engineering doing black-tech work for the gangs that ran what was left of the Big Apple after the Rise—a warren of interconnected skyrises, linked mostly by boats and ropes and makeshift bridges.

Everything north of Twenty-Third was controlled by the Hex, a black-tech co-op that specialized in bootlegged dreamcasts, including modified versions that catered to some of the more questionable tastes of the North American States. South of Twenty-Third belonged to the Red Badge, a lawless group of technophiles involved in domestic espionage and wetware arts.

Jackson had grown up in the drowned city, abandoned by his mother and forced to rely on his own intelligence and instincts to survive in a rapidly changing world.

He’d found his way to the Red Badge and discovered a talent for ecosystem work, taking over and soon expanding one of the rooftop farms that supplied the drowned city with a subsistence diet. An illegal wetware upgrade let him tap directly into the systems he worked on, seeing the circuits and pathways in his head.

He increased the Badge’s food production fivefold and branched out beyond the nearly tasteless molds and edible fungi that thrived in the warm, humid environment.

It was on one of his rooftop “gardens” that his life had changed one warm summer evening.

He was underneath one of the condenser units that pulled water from the air for irrigation. All of eighteen years old, he was responsible for the food production for the entire Red Badge.

He’d run through the unit’s diagnostics app to no avail. Damned piece of shit couldn’t find a thing wrong.

In the end, it had come down to something purely physical—tightening down a pipe bolt where the condenser interfaced with the irrigation system.

Satisfied with the work, he stood, wiping the sweat off his bare chest, and glared into the setting sun out over the East River. It was more an inland sea now, but the old names still stuck.

There was a faint whirring behind him, and he spun around. A bug drone hovered about a foot away, glistening in the sun. He stared at it for a moment, then reached out to swat it down. Probably from the Hex.

It evaded his grasp, and he felt a sharp pain in his neck.

He went limp, and everything turned black as he tumbled into one of his garden beds.

He awoke in Fargo, recruited by AmSplor to serve in the space agency’s Frontier Station, his life changed irrevocably.

###

A strange sensation brought him back to the present.

His right hand was wet. Startled, he looked down. It was covered with blood.

Dressler, we have a problem, he said through his private affinity-link with the ship-mind.”

 

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Author Bio

J. Scott CoatsworthScott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning and runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, Liminal Fiction, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

 

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