Wafflish

My Way – Epilogue Pt 1

Hi,

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

 

My Way

 

 

 

Epilogue (Pt 1) 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: 2 days later

Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

“More…?”

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

“Stooop…” 

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

“Nooo…” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Joe…” Mac croaked, “Please move…”

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

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

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

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

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

“Mac!” 

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

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

“Aye…?” 

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

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

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

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

“Fuck off,” Mac snickered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*

 

tbc…second and final part to come.

Wafflish

My Way 52

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

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

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

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My Way

 

 

62 Joe

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Prove it.” 

That? Joe could do. 

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

 So he did.

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

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

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

“As snug as the hug 

Of a drug haze

Lazy days, lost ways 

A last-past-the-post maze

Of nowhere fast…”

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

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

*

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

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

 

“A Nowhere Man

With no hope plans

All tattered, torn, 

So lost, forlorn

What a blast

It’s been.

 

The future is green… “

 

 ***

 

 

Wafflish

My Way 51

 

My Way

 

 

62 Mac

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then. Fuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then. Came a thunder clap 

A steel-sprung snare trap

My lean mean lethal machine…

A clash of contrasts as extreme…

As whispers in the wind.

Or the soft susurration

Of summer rain

To soothe, succour, sustain…”

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

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

As hollow as a heart without hope 

Smack sodden, strung out on dope, 

And pipe dreams in the sky dreams

The lost boy left behind beams

Safe on shore Lost no more

Mon amour Dur à cuire…

 *

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

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

Mon amour dur à cuire… 

Merde.

 

***

 

Wafflish

My Way 50

My Way

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61 Mac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Mac could: Nothing…yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, but not me? Arrogant arse.

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Joe, where’d you go…

Why d’you stay

Washed up, wasted, 

Scoring day to day.

.

Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Tall poppy tales

from the toppermost tree?

A brief relief 

from being me?

.

And so I flail, 

from fail to fail

From fix to fix

A fix to fix

hope departed 

Hole hearted.

Numbing the ache

Yours to take.

.

Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Filthy lucre n’ kicks for free?

No you, for me?

Never to hear 

A ‘mine’ nor ‘we’...

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

*

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

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

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

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

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***

Wafflish

My Way 49

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

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My Way

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60 Joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Neither…?”

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

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

*2*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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*

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*Tell Adam*

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

Wafflish

My Way 48

Hi, I hope you have a great week. 🥰

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

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My Way

59 Mac 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*** 

60 Joe

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Neither…?”

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

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

*tbc*

Wafflish

My Way 47

 

My Way

.

58 Joe

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 46

My Way

.

 

57 Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac stood outside the door to Studio B. And that’s it—all he did—stood there like a spanner. Attempting to get a handle on whatever the hell was thrilling through his veins. Anticipation? That would’ve been bad enough, but this was worse—much more dangerous—than that. Mac clamped down on that thought, too…far too late. As it had been all along, from the off. 

About the best Mac could do was school his expression into some sort of neutrality…not least when there was no telling how many people he might encounter in there. One being the most lethal landmine to navigate, of course…and still Mac was couldnae quell the urge to surge forth with fuck all care for consequence.  

F’chrissakes…Pissed off with his own prevaricating, Mac turned the handle. Then realised he didnae have the foggiest notion whether striding straight in was on a par with walking into a darkroom mid-processing. Pillock. Pushing the door open a crack, Mac stuck his head in the gap…only to find himself blinded by the breath-snatching beam that lit up Joe’s face, and the whole goddamn world with it. 

Meanwhile, on planet earth, Joe had merely glanced up from his seat and smiled at Mac; fingers poised on the strings of the semi-acoustic guitar in his lap, half-wearing a pair of headphones.

“Hiya. Y’can come in…”

“Y’sure? I don’t want to intrude.” Mac found himself mumbling. Ludicrously, when he already had.

“I’m sure. Did you get on alright with Adam?” Joe’s airy tone belied the twinkle of mischief in those eyes. Would Mac ever become… ‘immune’ was too preposterous a notion to ponder. Was it possible to become so accustomed to them that Joe couldnae use them as weapons of mass destruction?

Mac assured him that they’d reached an understanding in a voice so tight, it sounded more menacing than he’d intended. There was bugger all he could do about that; his larynx was a minor cog in the chain of body parts wound far too tight for comfort. 

“Oh okay…” Having clearly lost interest in that subject, sans blood thirsty finale, Joe’s butterfly brain fluttered back to the imminent arrival of his bandmates. “D’you think we should whip through the set list, before I break the bad news? Or, get that out of the way first?”

“Bad news?”  His guts gurgled ominously, despite the fact Joe had mooted that choice in much the way he might ask Mac to express a preference for blue or red in a game of Battleships. Battleships? He’d lost his bloody marbles.

Joe’s vague mention of three, or four, new songs for the lads to learn seemed rather like the trail of smoke left lingering in someone’s wake when they’d walked past with a cigarette in the street. His thoughts had patently flitted off elsewhere. Precisely where, soon became all-too obvious.

“Won’t be a mo…I need the loo.”

 “Fuck no.” Mac shoved the door shut with his arse before advancing on Joe, face set in what might best be described as a bulldog chewing a wasp expression, fists clenched reflexively. Pointless, when knocking Joe out to delay what he was dead-set on doing sure as shit wouldnae result in a fully functioning Joe when his bandmates walked in.

Although…that did, in fact, seem preferable to shrugs of weary resignation. Best case scenario on the scale of annoyance that could attain contempt when they turned up to find Joe stoned, insensible. About ten minutes after being promised an improbably firing-on-all-cylinders Joe.   

Other than hand the miscreant an empty receptacle, there was fuck all else Mac could do, other than accompany him.

An announcement that—far from reaping the strop Mac expected—was met with an ominous gleam of triumph?  For the first time since the monster announced he was off to the loo…Mac couldnae help but suspect he’d just been played like a bloody fiddle.

A bitter truth that, to his utmost self disgust, didnae give rise to a flare of comforting fury. In fact it didnae give rise to fuck all, when it was too late for that. Mac had been rigid since he crossed the threshold. Possibly on Saturday. 

Right Fitzgerald…you asked for it. In not so many words, but Mac would have to be as blind as he was belated, if he hadnae cottoned onto just what distraction Joe craved. Suffice to say, dissuading him from shooting up would have been a breeze in comparison. All of Mac would have been on board with that particular plan.

“Lead the way…”

“Stu…?” Joe called to the bloke standing at a mixing desk in a sectioned-off part of the studio. “We’re just having five before the lads arrive…” he explained, rising to his feet before settling the guitar on his vacated seat.

“‘Kay…” Stu nodded, raising a hand to second the fact he’d heard.

“C’mon Mac…” Joe was at the door in three strides, tugging it open to peer out, as if to check the coast was clear in a chronic crime caper. One in which Badass McCafferty, the meanest mo-fo in the business, found himself scuttling about in a most unbecoming manner, in search of an empty loo. Or, a broom cupboard, if Jeopardy Joe had already toured enough cisterns to last a lifetime.

Mac sauntered out after him, in an effort to scupper the ‘scuttling’ part of that, at least. Excellent, McCafferty. Way to establish that you’re a cool as fuck badass to the bone. The coast was indeed clear; Adam had sequestered the lads to fill them in on the latest developments in the life and (very approximate) times of Joe Fitzgerald.

The upshot of this meant that Mac found himself bundled into a unisex bathroom; similar in size to the average downstairs loo in a suburban semi. Joe tugged the door shut with a definitive click and slid the lock into place before turning to lean against it.

“I thought you needed the loo..” Mac noted.

“I do…” Eyes wide, head tilted to his right, cherry pout ripe for the taking. “…but that would be a tad tricky.”

“Joe…? Which need did you intend on sating?  The truth.” Mac demanded, ensnaring inkwell eyes to ensure they couldnae spill a lie. Mac was strung too tight for bullshit.

The rug was promptly snatched from under his feet with a flair so audacious he really should have expected no less. It was, quite literally, breathtaking. Joe scrunched his eyes shut, robbing him blind. A few seconds of quicksilver fluidity later…he’d whisked his T-shirt over his head, popped the button of his trousers and tugged them over skinny hips, leaving Joe stark, and Mac staring, naked. Aside from the puddle of fabric at Joe’s feet and the shoes he toed off before extracting endless legs to dispense with his socks.

This left Mac standing, stranded in a confined space with a ridiculous array of porcelain wherever he turned. He sure as hell did not. Fuck. How did he ever get so fortunate? Mac had never done a damn thing to be worthy of Joe. Quite the contrary…

“Strip search. Thought I’d save you the trouble. Check ’em if you want to…” Joe smirked, poking the discarded clobber with a toe.

“Pointless.” Mac shrugged. “You wouldnae have offered them up if there was oot t’find.”

“Yes, I would. That’s exactly what I’d do…”  Yes. Mac realised…it was. Calling his bluff…which made confessing that fact…a double bluff. Or not. He didnae give a fuck. Either, left Joe in the buff. It would be downright insulting not to afford that due appreciation.

“You know damn well that doesnae matter a toss in your scheme of things. You also know just how thorough that search would need to be…” Mac reached out to flick the toilet seat shut. That bitumen gaze, ablaze with lust, agleam with anticipation. Enthralled. Enthralling.

A snatched off breath later, Mac was plastered to an extravagance of skin, fingers tangled in tufty hair crushing Joe’s lips to his own. The moment their mouths melded Mac was cut adrift, clutching liquid flame, fuelling the insatiable need to take Joe apart, strip him back to bone and put him back together. Whole. Which was fucking ludicrous. All of it. As was the fervor to taste, touch, take, give. Slake. Mac felt demented with it, a fact as dangerous as it was devastating. A need so subterranean it had never seen the light of day—or dark of night—he’d be long dead, if it had. Desire dulled sharpness. Distracted. Fuck…but he needed him. Needed this. Nothing had ever felt this…necessary in Mac’s godforsaken life. Snatching his head back, he tore himself free to drag in a jagged breath.

“Turn around and place your palms on the seat, legs astride.” Ground out as an order, in a voice so guttural it didnae sound like his own. “You’re gonnae to have to slum it, I’m afraid. No rubber gloves, sorry. ” Mac shrugged, tugging his cuffs to his elbows with a sharp flick of each wrist; as if he was about to perform surgery, or do the bloody washing up.  Yet, Joe did exactly as instructed, without a word, those eyes aglitter with God knows what. If they got any wider the damn things would devour him.

Mac slipped a hand into his jacket and retrieved the lube he’d stashed in its breast pocket before they left the hotel. Being prepared for any eventuality was…expedient.

“Fuck…” Joe grinned over his shoulder. “You’re scary, Mr McCafferty. You know what that looked like you were about to dish out, cos you intended it to,” he smirked.

“Scary, because I’ve proved more about you, than me…?” Mac asked, coating his fingers with slow deliberation.

“Y’do realise that no-one else would presume such a thing?”

“That doesnae make me less right.” Mac rasped as he clasped a lean hip with his left hand and slid a couple of—slick—fingers into Joe’s body. He might be a killer but he wasnae a sadist. He’d never got off on inflicting pain. Proving himself was far more…satisfying. Satisfying Joe? Might well prove the Everest of all peaks.  “Is this what you wanted all along..?”

“Yessss…” Joe hissed, pushing back, driving them deeper still. It was all Mac could do to hold off until all of Joe was as ready as the pleas that tumbled from his lips. He could scarce see straight, let alone focus…he could, however, crook his fingers, eliciting a far purer pleasure. 

“Mac!”

“‘Kay…” Mac bent to press a kiss to the nape of Joe’s neck before trailing his tongue down the far-too proud knots of bone snaking along his back. This while fumbling with his own flies and retrieving the lube he’d tucked into his pocket. Straightening up, Mac yanked his trousers and pants out of the way and slicked up. “The subterfuge really wasn’t necessary…y’only had to ask…” he pointed out, burying himself balls deep with one smooth thrust.

“Aaaah…’twas much more fun…for you…” Joe gasped. “…my way tho’.”

“For me?” Mac grunted, holding steady, against the need gnawing his nuts.

“Hmm… and y’know it, y’scoundrel.” Joe sighed. A sound so serene it was practically obscene. Mac did not dignify this with a response, other than easing back to unleash a snap of spine so fulsome Joe’s tufty head hit the cistern.

“Oof…y’brute…”

“I aim to please…” Mac grinned, pressing a kiss between the sharply jutting wings of Joe’s shoulder blades.

“If your aim was any truer I would’ve popped next door…” the miscreant purred.

“Shurrup and hold on tight…”  That was about the last thing Mac could recall uttering with any clarity…the rest was lost to pounding hips and white-knuckle heat, bitten off cries and breath snatching bliss. It wasnae tender and far from pretty. It was exactly what they craved. 

“Maaac….I-ah-ahhh..” Joe craned his neck around, those eyes imploring, as if Mac might—could—ever deny him. He bent to capture the lips offered up and curled his hand around Joe’s cock. Only then, did Mac fire-off the final flurry that blitzed his body in a rush so sublime it almost eclipsed the sticky warmth seeping through his fingers. 

.“Fuck…” Mac groaned, letting his forehead thunk onto sweat slick skin.

“And how…” came the sultry sigh from the vicinity of the loo seat.

 “You’ll be the death o’me Fitzgerald,” Mac grunted.

“Never on purpose. Besides, if you haven’t managed to off y’self yet, I doubt it’s possible. I’ll be a long time dead before you pop y’clogs…” 

“Not on my bloody watch, you won’t.” The vehemence of his own voice startled Mac. He hadnae intended—or expected—to unleash such a…snarl of sound. Blowing out a long breath, he clasped Joe’s waist and pushed himself up, keeping his head dipped to conceal his flaming cheeks.

“Mac? What’s wrong..?”  Joe straightened up, scuffling his feet closer together before turning to cup Mac’s face and raise it to that dredging gaze.  

“Din’t yer dare die on me, Fitzgerald.” Mac’s jaw was clenched so tight he wasnae sure his accent was decipherable.

“Mac…” His name was a cool breeze that stirred the rogue strand of hair falling over Mac’s eye as obsidian scoured his soul. “I never want there to be no…then.

 

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 45

My Way

.

56 Joe

 

 

 

 

 

“Huh?” Joe stilled his fingers on the strings and scrunched his eyes to refocus before shifting the phones behind his ears.

The reason Stu had hollered his name instantly became obvious; the tinny tootle of Psycho Killer was trilling away in his trousers. Joe’s grin of glee faded pretty sharpish when he realised that delighting in its jaunty ditty p’raps wasnae the required response. Particularly when Joe had no idea how long it had been parping away for. Damndamn-quickquick. His guitar grunted a discordant protest when it twanged to the floor while Joe was trying  to cram his hand into his pocket. Fuffing out a f’fucksakes, he sprang to his feet for better ease of access and yanked the McBatphone out. Phew...still tring-a-linging, but how d’you do the chatting part? 

Joe poked at it a mite gingerly, then bodged it a bit, heart hammering a fretful tattoo. Glaring at it didn’t work either. It took no notice, but then, Joe couldnae psycho-killer stare it into submission. It might’ve occurred to him roundabout then that he was waiting for it to stop. On accounts of being convinced it would do just that, the second Joe solved the riddle of the sphinxter clenched in panic. Thereby breaking his promise in one fell swoop the very first time Psycho-Killer came a-calling. Fuckfuck…phew…finally:

“Mac!? Sorry, I didn’t hear it! I had m’headphones on.”

“No problem.” Mac’s husky voice lapped at Joe’s earlobe, sending shivers of flame licking along his veins. “Do you want to play Glastonbury this year, or not. Your call.”

“Mine?” Joe frowned, sure he must have interpreted Mac’s words wrong, somehow, being all of a flutter.

“Yeah…yours…”  As warm as rummy honey on a wintery night. Drizzled into Joe’s lughole, hell bent on driving him demented, he was sure of it. 

“Well…” Joe would like to play Glastonbury. He’d missed it last year after having a bit of a mishap en route, then p’raps got a lot lost…when it was so many folk to fuck up in front of. He’d puttered off without responding to Mac. Mac…the only answer in Joe’s world that made sense. “Will you come with me?” Joe asked, a tad tentatively. Possibly because it was mid-March-ish. Glastonbury was still three months away. So not fair—downright cruel in fact—to ask Mac to commit to enduring Joe until then.

“’Course I will…” he replied with an audible shrug, as if Joe had asked something reasonable.

Unless…it was a ruse to lure him into a false sense of security and secure the yes they wanted …a spot of scoundrelly subterfuge. Paranoid? P’raps? Prob’ly…but that didn’t make Joe wrong.  Even paranoid peeps had good reason to be suspicious once in a while, surely? Mac might be playing along for now, pretending that he’d stay, purely to keep Joe sweet. That made more sense than it didn’t, when he must’ve expected Junkie Joe to be a nightmare on narcotics, incapable of toeing Mac’s terms. If the bad-ass was just browsing, then it didn’t matter a jot what Joe added to the window shopping list, did it?

“Will you stand at the side of the stage, so I can see you?”

“If you want me to.” Instant credit granted, with nary a pause to ponder liability clauses. No need, when playing with Monopoly monies, o’course. So why not moot a promissory note? 

Mac agreed with nary a quibble. The scoundrel either thought he was on one helluva roll or…was a stone cold unscrupulous killer. Oh. Who inexplicably tossed Joe a lifeline to cling to.

“Done. D’you wish to play any of the other festivals?”

“Do I have to?”

If the bad-ass said ‘your call’ again, it would be impossible to persuade himself that Mac hadn’t been breaking Joe in gently. Dangling Glastonbury as bait to see if he’d bite, before promptly coshing Joe with a fistful of festivals.

“No.” One word. With nary a second of sinister silence that shrieked volumes. It wasn’t even the single syllable snap to a slapped hand on the snaffle. It sounded like seashore kissing sand. So, Joe told the truth. 

Verbal vomit that possibly accosted Mac’s ears much like the scrape of teeth across tines. Finished off with a claxon screech justification, in case Mac assumed that Joe just couldnae be arsed to drag his junkie-carcass round the festival circuit. Unless frogmarched by force. “…I think they’ll be hoping I’ll throw a strop, or set fire to m’self…”

There it was, the dark dread truth. The hunger he’d triggered…fuelled, fed. By turning himself into a font of plenty for the rapacious thirst of the press to guzzle on and spew out. 

“No problem. Just Glastonbury, sorted.” Sorted? That’s it? Done ‘n’ knuckle dusted? 

No let’s talk it over later while I’m coaxing a thousand yesses from your lips, stroking reassurances across your skin…with words as hollow as a heart without hope? Pipe dream promises that dissipated when dawn crept through the curtains and Joe found himself trussed—bound by his own word—on the altar of the morning.

“Mac?” His name slipped free before Joe could stop it. He had no idea what he wanted to ask. Just needed, to say something—anything—that wasn’t this. That was theirs. Something tangible to clasp and remind himself that they hadn’t been a figment of his own lyrical fancy. “I…nuffin.” It was pointless. Dipshit daft. There was nothing Mac could say on the phone—at the drop of a hat—to assuage the snakepit of fears. “Thank you.” Anyhoo…for being you, being here.

“Then.”

Fuck. Joe’s breath cut off. He felt his heart stutter in his chest before starting a giddy gallop so hectic it left him lightheaded. Properly lightheaded, in a whizzy sort of way. For one white-as-a-sheet-faced freeze-frame second, Joe thought he might keel over. His skin broke out in a sheen of sweat, as if his pores had unleashed a sudden flash flood. One word. A whole world within it. Theirs. Crikey. Mac could bring Joe to his knees without so much as a glint of green. The bad-ass was more lethal than even his own reputation. Typical…Mac could only be surpassed by himself. Scoundrel.

“Then…” It wafted out as a wisp of wonderment. Unless it was just an echo in his head, Joe wasn’t quite sure. His hand sort of flopped to his lap as he sat, amidst a torrent of words like summer rain. 

Then

 

Wide asleep pupils pinned,

From station to station

Then. Came a thunder clap 

A steel-sprung snare trap

My lean mean lethal machine

A clash of contrasts as extreme

As whispers in the wind.

Or the soft susurration

Of summer rain

To soothe, succour, sustain.

 

As snug as the hug 

Of a drug haze

Lazy days, lost ways 

A last-past-the-post maze

Of nowhere fast.

A Nowhere Man

With no hope plans

All tattered, torn, 

So lost, forlorn

What a blast

It’s been.

The future is green…  

*

 

“Joe, y’okay?”

“Yeah…thanks. Sorry Stu…” Joe winced as he bent to pick up his guitar, plucked a string, then flinched afresh when a discordant twang assaulted his earholes. “Won’t be a mo.” A few tweaks of tuning pegs later, Joe picked up where he left off…

Hmm…I sigh

No reason why

Or why not

One last shot

To be or not 

To be

Me.

 

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

 

CH:

As hollow as a heart without hope 

Smack sodden, strung out on dope, 

And pipe dreams in the sky dreams

The lost boy left behind beams

Safe on shore Lost no more

Mon amour Dur à cuire…

 

*** 

 

As hollow as a heart without hope. What was the point in hoping when Joe would destroy it? When he knew full well that he’d shred Mac’s trust as swiftly as the dreams he’d turned to dust the minute he got his mitts on them?

In truth, the most he could hope for was that Joe Fitzgerald might, one day, be deemed better than he deserved, by virtue of stealing himself away. When all that remained of the pantomime he’d become were the fleeting slivers of magic they believed he’d managed to wring from himself.  Then maybe, just maybe, those might linger in the mists of memory…gilded by nostalgia, granting his ghost pardon.

Oh, if only…but Joe wasn’t dead yet. He’d long felt it lurking, lying wait in the wings. A living death vanquished by a gleam of green. A sinuous sweep of spine so sublime that Joe had never felt more alive in his life. A terror so exhilarating it left him teetering on the edge of a cliff, aching to fling himself into eternity.

It was a very lot like the lady said…love is a losing game. Its loss, a burden too heavy to bear. Shit, how Joe missed her. So…why not toss the lot in the pot, if there was a hope in hell that his psycho-killer wasnae just killing time.

Speaketh of the divil…

“Hiya…” Joe felt a shit-eating grin smear itself across his face when a finger-tingling fringe and laser beam greens peered ‘round the side of the studio door. “Y’can come in…”

“Y’sure? I don’t want to intrude.”

Joe was hard pressed to think up an instance where a Macish intrusion might prove unwelcome. Nope. Nary a one presented itself for perusal. Joe didn’t try very hard though, it must be admitted, cos there were way too many hards flaunting themselves for comfort. He’d just fit three into as many sentences. Odd that.

“I’m sure.” Joe had never been surer. Of anything. Or anyone. “Did you get on alright with Adam?”

“We’ve reached an…understanding.” Mac’s lips twisted in a serpentine smile as sinister as it was incendiary. It sounded a very lot as if said understanding had been prised from Adam with a crowbar.

It was the bad-ass. In the studio. With the dagger-tipped glare…

Psycho Killer/Qu’est-ce que c’est…I did it my waay…

 

“Was that as painful as it sounds?” Joe asked. “Or… should I assume that’s a ‘refer you to my previous reply… ’ sort of question?”

“He’ll be here in a minute…” Mac glinted with a wink. “A couple of the lads just turned up.”

“Oh, okay. D’you think we should whip through the set list, before I break the bad news? Or, get that out of the way first?”

“Bad news?” Mac’s sublime features had a bit of a scuffle at this point. Bemusement and worry at war with a side-eye serving of suspicion. As sexy as fuck and twice as flammable.

“Not bad-bad, just a mite miffsome…I just want to add three songs to the set list. Maybe four. Won’t be a mo…I need the loo.”

“Fuck no.” The bad-ass shoved the door shut sharpish. Literally. With a flick of his butt.  “Joe. They’ve just bloody got here.”

“I’ve had lots to drink! ” Joe protested. “You put the pineapple juice in it! That’s just cru-el.” 

“I’m coming with you,” Mac declared. Firmly.

Ah…now there was a sentence not to be sniffed at. In fact, Joe couldn’t have cooked it up better himself.

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 44

Hiya 🥰  Please excuse typo’s, I’ve done my best, but it’s so long…

 

 

 

My Way

.

55 Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mr Fitzgerald…Do mine eyes deceive me?” grinned the stocky bloke standing with an elbow propped on the receptionist’s desk. His sandy hair was well-cut, his clothes, designer casual. Not too showy, but none too shabby either. “Now there’s a sight I never thought I’d see this side of six…unless you’re under the impression it’s actually Tuesday.”

“Cheeky blighter. I am well aware of the fact it’s Monday, thank you very much, Mr Harris. Mac…this is Adam. Adam…My bad-ass. Quite why I’m faffing with introductions when that’s like a lamb chop introducing a shepherd to a cleaver, I know not.”

“Lamb Chop? I can only think of one similarity, but Shari Lewis would turn in her grave.” They hadnae been here two minutes and a Glasgow kiss would suffice by way of greeting. Adam turned to Mac and extended his hand, “Thanks for coming, It’s good to meet you, Mac.”

“Glad I did,” Mac kept to facts. Ignored Joe’s snigger. Gripped Adam’s proffered hand.

“Are the lads here, Adam?” Joe scratched at his head, neck, inner elbow, scoring his skin with ragged nails. Gone was the fluid, gawky grace Mac had grown accustomed to. The long lines of Joe’s body were strung tight with tension; every twitch staccato, unscripted.

“It’s not even half-three.” Adam pointed out, nodding at the clock on the wall. “They’ll probably turn up at around five…expecting a three hour wait.”

“You said four o’clock,” Joe frowned.

Mac had to suppress a snort, because the crumpled brow and pouty lower lip were priceless. If not as justified as they might’ve been, had Joe’s band been bastards for deeming it a fine idea to arrive at five, for a four o’clock session. That might commence at eight. If their luck was in.

“I did. Fully expecting you to arrive four hours later, if there was a fair wind and favourable weather,” Adam smirked.

“Adam.” His name sounded as crisp as a very different four letter word. “We’d never met, so I’ll assume those expectations were founded on previous form…rather than my proficiency.” Mac raised an enquiring eyebrow, regarding Joe’s manager with a daggered glare that spoke more eloquently than ‘tosspot’.

“My apologies. It was more a case of…mission impossible, than casting aspersions.” Adam did, at least, have the good grace to appear abashed. Perhaps having recognized how insulting his assumptions had been…if say, it was your job to ensure that Joe turned up at the designated hour. On the right day.

Mac wasnae pissed off, but he thought it expedient to point out that he had every right to be. Might have been, had the issue of efficiency—or lack of it—not concerned whothefuckis Joe Fitzgerald. Nevertheless it wouldnae hurt to keep Adam on his toes. Mac didnae have to answer to Joe’s manager, the record company was footing the bill. He’d been employed to ensure that his charge arrived when and where he should be, in a fit state to function. It was not part of Mac’s remit to appease Adam. He would play nice, if shown the same courtesy, but he sure as shit didnae intend to take any crap from Joe’s…entourage. No matter how high up the food chain they believed themselves to be.

“Fair enough,” Mac nodded, cranking his lips in a smile as tight as his temper was wound. Way out of proportion for the threat Adam posed, when he seemed a decent enough bloke. It wasnae so much his lack of faith in Mac that irritated him, more his…general air of presumption. Towards Joe, in particular. Was this how everyone treated him? Like a recalcitrant child who must be pacified, coerced and cajoled into behaving as required?

This was a lot to assume in a short space of time, but the evidence was undeniable. Not least in the patronizing tone Adam adopted when speaking to Joe—or about him, on the phone—albeit disguised as good humoured forbearance. As intensely annoying as this was, the peril it placed Joe in, was worse. Pillock. The miscreant was far too sharp not to use being belittled thus to his own end. 

“Which room is booked, Adam? I need to get some stuff down, I’m not fussed how long the lads will be. I just want someone to twiddle knobs ’n’ stuff.”

“Studio B…everything’s set up ready. You’ve been writing?” Adam seemed surprised, and yet Joe had been scribbling away all weekend. Between sex and smack fixes, at least.

“‘Course I have. Is my rum in there? Oh, before I forget, I need a tux. A white one. For the gigs.”

“A white tux,” Adam repeated, nonplussed.

“You said that as if I’d requested a tutu and dog collar,” Joe noted. Accurately. “The latter wouldn’t be a bad idea, now you mention it. Or, a padlock on a chain. Either will do. Fucknows why I’m still standing here gassing, I have stuff t’do. My rum?” he reminded Adam, in tones that suggested ‘do keep up, dear…

“Yeah…it’s in the studio. A tux and a dog collar. Or a padlock. On a chain.” Adam repeated. Again. Strewth. Mac sure couldnae beg to differ on the do-keep-up front.

“Yup…and don’t forget Mac’s sugar. With black coffee in it.” Joe winked his way. “I’ll be in Studio B, if anyone wants me…” The latter was tossed over his shoulder with an impish grin.

Mac did his damnedest to smother a smirk as Joe weaved his way over to a nearby door, singing softly to himself. Fucknows how long he might continue to be amused by his own rug-tugging technique, but the next few hours would do. For now.

“May I have a word in your shell-like, somewhere more private?” Mac requested, turning back to Adam when Joe had disappeared through the door. 

“Sure. I hope he hasn’t given you too much grief? How the fuck you managed to get him hereearlybeggars belief.”

“I have my methods.” Mac shrugged, answering the latter and ignoring the rest.

“I’ll say. Come through to the kitchen, I’ll make us a cuppa.” Adam agreed, readily enough, before indicating a second doorway leading from reception. “I haven’t seen him this…I dunno…switched on? For months,” he sighed, heading straight for the kettle when Mac followed him into a kitchenette of sorts. The way Adam invariably referred to Joe as ‘he’ or ‘him’ was really starting to chap Mac’s ass.

“Joe was plenty ‘switched on’ when I arrived on Saturday…you’d only just left, surely?” Mac asked, seating himself at the table and extracting his cigarettes from his jacket pocket.

“Yeah, but that was diff’rent, I’d sat sentry all night, so I doubt he had time to get…lost en route to let you in the front door.”

“You don’t seriously expect me to swallow that, do you?” Mac snorted. “Joe is quite capable of getting ‘lost’ in a portaloo…and well y’know it.”

“Well…I had perhaps pointed out that you were…”

“The meanest mo-fo in the business? Or, the bad-ass sent to whip his arse into shape?” Mac enquired, dry as dust.

“I…um, might’ve mentioned the former…”

“The latter is Joe’s interpretation of it,” Mac finished for him.

“Yeah,” Adam sighed, turning to pour boiled water into the two mugs he’d prepared. “Does he actually call you that? My bad-ass?” 

“Indeed. I find it…amusing,” he lied, knowing that Adam would consider this a ‘quirk’ Mac had deemed harmless enough to indulge. Not least when condescending appeasement tended to be Adam’s go-to method of ‘handling’ Joe. A fact gleaned in person and through Joe’s offhand remarks over the weekend.

“He likes nicknames. Between you an’ me, it’s…promising that he’s given you one.” Adam confided.

Mac found himself all-too willing to likewise confide that Adam was pissing him the fuck off. Patronising prick. However, letting Adam sense his distaste, rather than drilling it into his head was more tactical, for now. Regretfully. Suspending Adam in a state of ‘edgy unease’ would suffice, when Mac had more immediate concerns to impress upon Joe’s manager.

“Glad to hear it.” His tone implied that he couldnae give a shite. “Thanks,” Mac nodded when a mug of coffee was placed before him. “Can I have a copy of Joe’s itinerary for the rest of the year? I need to know which bookings have been confirmed, and which are just pencilled in as possibilities.”

“Sure. Everything in the diary for the rest of the month has been booked to promote the album. That’s released next Friday, the five gigs this week are a warm up for the tour proper.”

This was news to Mac. He’d asked Joe whether the gigs had been arranged to promote a new release, but the conversation had segued elsewhere. Nor did Mac have the foggiest idea whether the forthcoming album would be Joe’s second or seventh.

“So, we’re looking at five dates in small venues? To promote the album before the full tour. And, Joe is on board with all of this—by which, I mean—has he agreed?”

“Yeah…” Adam nodded.

‘Agreed’? Or informed when Joe hadnae been able to recall whether he’d eaten for a fortnight? Let alone care if he had a future to fret about. Mac wanted to discuss the imminent dates with Joe before making any further judgements. Far more pressing were the diary entries that had only been pencilled in, as yet. Mac had every intention of scoring through as many of those as possible, at least for the foreseeable. Joe needed a few months freedom from ‘expectations’ to just bloody breathe. Without anyone else breathing down his neck.

Barring one exception.

*

“Do you happen to have this diary handy? I need an overview…the long range forecast, if y’like…” Mac explained, reprising Adam’s quip to dress up the deck scrubbing in some shipmate camaraderie. A successful voyage aboard the good ship Joe apparently being dependent on ‘a fair wind and favourable weather…’ Rather than competent Captaincy…and the skill to chart a feasible fucking course. Other than that, life on deck was clearly swimming along just fine.

“Yeah, I’ll go and fetch it so that y’can have a gander.”

While Adam scuttled off to procure said oracle, Mac drained his coffee and lit another cigarette. A gander. F’fucksakes. He was hard pressed to think of a less fitting term for ‘meticulous attention to detail’. Nor, a more befitting one for motley crew methodology.

“Sorry to be so long…” Adam apologised, finally returning a second smoke later. “I stuck my head in the studio door to see if all was well—”

“Was it?” Mac interjected, hackles on high alert, which was absurd, because Adam didn’t seem agitated, or even concerned. In fact, his expression hovered somewhere between bemusement and the smug satisfaction of a man who’d handed over fifty pence for a packet of rizlas and received a fiver change.

“He was playing a song I’d never heard before…bloody brilliant, it was too. He was so wrapped up in it, he didn’t even notice I’d come in. It was like walking in on a flashback to the first album. Fuck. It used to feel as if there was nothing, nothing except that melody and the words he was weaving through it. For him, I mean.” Adam shrugged, lips twisting in a wry, regretful smile.

Okay. Mac could—for the first time—understand why Joe might’ve selected his manager. What the hell had happened to Adam along the way, that he’d become such a willing cog in the machinery Joe despised? Money, success…the caché he now enjoyed in the music business? By virtue of the very client he feared would blow it for him? It was, in all fairness, a ruthless game.  One in which the major players were frantically trying to sustain their cash flow in a world afloat with multiple means of accessing free music.

“Thank fuck for that. I’d begun to wonder why the hell Joe ever believed you had his back.”

“What…what d’you mean? Of course, I’ve got his back!” Adam protested, with slack-jawed self-righteousness. “I get battered left right ‘n’ centre, as he does his damnedest to destroy every dream we had!”

We? From where I’m sitting…there is no ‘we’. There is Joe. Then, there is you/them. It doesnae matter a damn what I think though, it’s Joe’s truth that matters: which side of the divide he feels that you’re serving,” Mac clarified. “Cannae you see that? Or, have you blinded yerself to whothefuck keeps you in Rolex’s?” He flicked a glance at the gleaming gold affront to discrete wealth and taste squatting on Adam’s wrist before continuing:

“For what it’s worth…I think you’ve acquired a mindset that considers Joe a potential problem. For you. A fly in your fancy ointment.  He’s not an investment in your future. He is a far from perfect person, like the bloody rest of us. All I’m asking is that you remember which side your bread’s buttered…and afford Joe’s feelings the same respect as every other fucker’s in the industry.”

“Are you suggesting that I’m about to find myself out of a job? Has he sai—”

“No. You are.” Mac interrupted. “Joe hasn’t indicated that he’s dissatisfied with your managerial efforts,” he smiled. Reassuringly. Rather as an alligator might. “Right, let’s have a gander, shall we…?” Mac flicked the A4 diary open and leafed through the pages, giving each a cursory glance before flicking to the next. “How many festivals do you have in mind?” he asked idly, after happening on a second, a scant few pages after the first. They hadnae been marked as bookings, yet. Only the name/location of the event had been noted.

“Four…maybe five?”

“Has Joe agreed to play four…maybe five?” Mac’s tone sounded as tart as a nettle sting, but he didnae give a toss.

“We haven’t really discussed—”

“Then don’t bother. Too much bloody hassle for too random an audience.”

“But there’s less hassle,” Adam protested. “He pretty much just has to turn up and play—”

Just?” Mac glanced up to shoot him a daggered stare from beneath glowering brows. “Forget it.”

“But he loves playing Glastonbury!” Adam squawked. So convinced of this did Joe’s long-time manager seem, Mac found himself willing to consider a compromise.

“Okay, if that’s the case…” Mac extracted his phone from his inner breast pocket. “I’m a reasonable man, Mr Harris. Glastonbury, it is. If Joe agrees.” He turned his attention to the screen and affected checking his messages. Waiting…

“Didn’t you say his phone was probably in Marlborough? It’s pointless anyway, he never answers the damn thing.” Adam sat back and folded his arms. Satisfied that he’d finally attained terra firma.

“I’ve given him my backup phone,” Mac shrugged, tapping speed-dial.

Joe…please answer the phone, f’chrissakes, or I’m going to look a right prat. You promised. Four…five…six... Mac was debating whether to slit his own throat, or Adam’s— on eradication of witnesses grounds—when a breathless voice gasped:

“Mac…? Sorry, I didn’t hear it, I had m’headphones on.”

“No problem. Joe, do you want to play Glastonbury this year, or not. Your call.”

“Mine?” One word that spoke volumes.

“Yeah…yours,” Mac rasped.

“Well…would you come with me…” That so-soft voice was hesitant, as if Joe were asking for the bloody moon. His amendment was worse. “…if you haven’t left already?” 

“’Course I will…”

“Will you stand at the side of the stage, so I can see you?”

Mac could all-too clearly picture the oh, so persuasive puppy dog eyes that accompanied this plea. As lethal as they were irresistible, even as a ghostly imprint on the back of Mac’s eyelids. “If you want me to,” he confirmed.

“Okay then…if you promise.” 

“Done. D’you wish to play any of the other festivals?” Mac asked, shooting a ‘Joe’s call, not mine’ glance Adam’s way.

“Do I have to?” Words so wary they were an answer in themselves.

“No.”

“I don’t really fancy it very lots. It’s a faceless mass of people who haven’t come to see me. There are always peeps I recognize—know by name—in my front rows. That feels…comforting, but the festival crowd makes me all fidgety. I think they’re hoping I’ll throw a strop, or set fire to m’self…” 

Mac bit back the urge to knock Adam the fuck out, which would be as self-serving as the tosser seated opposite.“No problem. Just Glastonbury, sorted. I’d better let you get on, sorry for interrupting.”

“S’okay…Mac?”

“Yeah?”

“I…nuffin’. Thank you.”

“Then.” Mac assured him, in response to…nuffin’.

“Then…” How the hell Joe had made the same word sound as if he’d sighed it while sinking into a jacuzzi, Mac couldne fathom. Not without crippling himself.

“Okay. Glastonbury it is.” Mac told Adam, tucking the phone back into his pocket. “As y’can see, I’m happy to compromise, as long as Joe’s well-being isnae in jeopardy. I’m not an unreasonable man Mr Harris, but I dinnae give a shit about corporate crap, or people pleasing. I can get Joe wherever you wish—whenever you want me to—but cannae guarantee he’ll be ‘fit to function’. Unless you back me on this, or…I cuff him to my wrist twenty-four/seven.” Moving swiftly on…

“I’m not here to score points against you. I’m just doing my job. I will do that, and well. The way I see fit. My way. You’ve employed me to ensure that Joe arrives where and when he’s scheduled to. In a fit state to function.” It bore repeating. Ad infinitum.

“Every stipulation has been proposed in a bid to ensure that’s physically possible. Joe will fulfil every booking for the promotional period you’ve outlined. After that…? The three of us can discuss the diary for the rest of the year. In the meantime, make no further bookings, but rest assured, you need not worry on the writing front. Melodies and lyrics were tumbling forth all weekend. Joe wanted to come in today and get them down. Everyone else appears to want exactly that, too. Product. But he’s not a fucking machine. He’s fragile, and he will break—if you don’t give him just that—a break. Joe needs you and I to take care of all the crap, so he can concentrate on doing what he does best. That’s not much to ask of us.” Mac girded his loins and bit the bullet. In for a penny… “I need your help as much as you need mine. If we work together, we can pull off precisely what we’re being paid to provide: Joe Fitzgerald.” 

What a crock of shite the tail end of that was. Two days with Joe and Mac had turned into Mary bloody Poppins. He’d wind up with ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ as a sodding ringtone if matters progressed apace.

 

 

 

***