The first light of dawn spread through the window. Peter sat up, and felt reality spin. For a split second, he thought he was on the set, in the bedroom. Then he counted the four solid walls. This was a real house.
Memory came flooding back. Of course it was a real house.... They now lived in a dimension where the characters from the TV show were real -- where Roma had said they were needed most.
Peter looked around at his sleeping partners. Mike's body was surrounded by the telltale glow he got whenever he slept. Micky was tossing and turning, flickering in and out of visibility, in the grip of a nightmare. Davy was curled up on the bed, snoring loudly.
Peter lay a gentle hand on Micky's shoulder. He leaned over and softly sang, "Sometime in the morning, a simple thought may occur to you..."
Micky sighed and smiled, singing in his sleep, "An' you'll hold her..." Still humming to himself, he rolled over and went deep asleep, fully visible.
Peter smiled and moved toward the doorway. He paused by Davy's bed. Moved by a protectiveness that comes from being in charge, Peter leaned down and gently drew the covers over Davy's legs. Davy rolled over, opened his eyes sleepily, and smiled his thanks. Then he mumbled, "You kiss my forehead, I'll deck you."
Peter couldn't help it. He chuckled. "No worries, mate," he said in a mock Australian accent. Then, dropping it, he whispered, "Go back to sleep."
"Where you going?" Davy asked as his eyes closed. Peter didn't answer because Davy wouldn't have heard him. The snores had already started again.
Peter looked over at Mike and sighed. He could see the tear-stains on Mike's pillow. Mike missed Phyllis so very much. Peter remembered the special thing Mike used to do for his little brothers when one of them was feeling blue. Not hesitating a second, Peter walked over to Mike and brushed the hair from his eyes. He leaned over and whispered, "Remember when they hurt? What you did?" In his sleep, Mike nodded. Peter sat behind Mike and sang, very softly, a lullaby Mike's mother had taught her boys.
Mike woke up and turned, eyes wide, to see where the lullaby was coming from. He smiled to see Peter sitting there singing. He joined his baritone to Peter's bass line.
Micky woke up and added his tenor. Davy sat up and listened a second, then jumped in a few notes below Micky.
When the song was done, Mike had fresh tears streaking into his sideburns. Peter had tears running down his face as well. Micky and Davy stared at the pair as Peter and Mike shared a private memory.
"Thanks, old buddy," Mike said softly. "I would ask how you knew, but I think I know the answer. The merge."
Peter nodded. "How much of me do you retain?"
Mike smiled at him. "Obviously, not as much of you as you still have of me. I can't recall your childhood at all."
"And I can recall yours vividly."
Micky grinned, "Is that the merge, Pete? Or your rather unique memory?"
"Hey, that's right," Davy said. "Peter's the one that could come on the set and glance at the page, then do the scene flawlessly!"
"Enough, guys," Peter ordered, standing. "Those days are behind us, now. We've got some big adjustments to make."
Suddenly a knock sounded on the door. Peter glanced at his partners and called, "Coming!"
A leap over the second floor railing and a short telekinetic flight, and Peter was at the doorway. He looked through the peephole, closed it, and took a deep breath. Squaring his shoulders, he opened the door and grinned. "Hi, Mister Babbitt!" he said overly cheerfully. "What can I do for you?"
Babbitt held a can of spackle, with a huge, toothy smile on his face. "I'm here to fix your plaster, like I promised."
That took Peter by surprise. He was so startled he forgot to act stupid. "But," he gasped, "that's out of character! That's not how Babbitt is supposed to act!"
Babbitt laughed. "You guys are not supposed to pay me almost three months rent at a time, either. But you did. For that kind of money, I'll co-operate till the cows come home!" He came inside and set up a ladder. Climbing it, he began to cheerfully spackle the broken plaster.
The other Monkees came downstairs, dressed and ready for the day. They stared at Babbitt in wonder, at the sight they never dreamed they'd see.
Micky checked the cupboards and fridge. "Bare as always," he reported. "Any dough in the kitty?"
Peter's hand slid into his jacket pocket, where Thorkelson's fully-loaded wallet rested. "Some," he said understatedly. "Enough for groceries. I'll be back soon." He held out a hand. "Keys, Mike?"
"I'm coming too," Mike said.
Peter nodded, withdrawing the hand. "We'll be back soon, guys. See if you can pick out today's set list." The others nodded as Mike and Peter left.
"Hey, guys?" Babbitt called. "That sounded like an order. Since when does the dummy give the orders?"
Davy's brain whirled, trying to think of an explanation. Micky decided to stick with the literal truth. "The dummy had an accident," he explained. "He's not so dumb anymore."
Babbitt whistled at this bit of information. "A dummy who's not dumb. Yeah. Right." He climbed down the ladder. "That's that," he said. "The plumbing supplies are in the basement. I'll be back in a few hours to fix that." He left.
Micky and Davy looked at each other, eyes wide.
Three hours later, Peter and Mike climbed the steps that led to the glass doors on the verandah. Ten bags of groceries, suspended by Peter's telekinesis, floated between them.
Micky saw what they were doing and flung the doors open. "Ixnay on the owerspay!" he hissed. "Babbitt's here!"
Peter nodded. He folded two bags in his arms and nodded at Mike, who did the same. The other six landed softly on the verandah. Then Micky opened the doors and let them in.
"We're home!" Peter sang out as if they had just gotten there. A loud bump followed by a curse erupted from upstairs. Peter looked up and grinned. "He's working on the plumbing, isn't he?"
Micky chuckled. "And you startled him."
Peter, Micky and Mike made one more trip out to the verandah and got the rest of the groceries in. Then Peter glanced up to make sure Babbitt wasn't bombing out of the bathroom, and focused on the grocery bags. In seconds, they were emptied, folded, and in a drawer, with the groceries on the counters.
"Comes in handy, doesn't it?" Mike chuckled.
"Shh," Peter grinned at him.
Davy slid down the banister and his eyes widened at the plethora of food before him. "Man! What did you do, buy out the whole store?"
Mike grinned. "Well, at least the cupboard won't be bare anymore."
Peter opened the refrigerator and Davy stepped behind him. They made an assembly line and took care of the eggs, cheese, milk, pop, and meat. Mike and Micky made another assembly line and put all the canned goods and boxed goods into the cabinets. Even without using their powers, the food was all put away in five minutes.
"I'm impressed." The Monkees looked up. Babbitt was leaning over the railing, smiling at them. "You all have always talked-up teamwork, but that's the first time I've ever seen it in action."
Peter smiled up at him. "How are you doing, Mr. B?"
Babbitt walked down the stairs. "I'm done. All fixed. Now, if there's nothing else..."
Peter cleared his throat. "How can we thank you?"
"You paid me nearly three months rent. That's thanks for me."
"How about we play you a song?" Micky suggested.
Babbitt sat on the black chaise lounge and listened while the Monkees played "Shades of Gray". He wiped his eyes as the last notes faded. "I've only heard you play that rock stuff. That was beautiful!" He walked out, still wiping his eyes.
Davy grinned. "Should we have told him that was rock?"
Peter grinned. "No. Let him enjoy it."
The phone rang in the middle of supper. Peter stood up, wiped his mouth, and walked over to the staircase. He reached through and picked up the phone as it rang the third time. "Hello?" He grinned. "Hi, Valerie!" The others nodded. Valerie Cartwright was the Peter-character's rich girlfriend, for one episode.
Peter's grin faded. "Nine?" he gasped. He craned his neck, trying to see the clock, but he couldn't. Raising a hand, he fired an order with his fingers: Someone check the time.
Mike glanced at the clock. He fired a burst of bright white light in front of Peter. With his other hand, he fired a burst at a lower intensity, that showed up black in front of the other light. It formed a numeral: 5.
Peter made the OK sign, and said, "Yeah, I can make it. Where do you want to meet, or should I pick you up, or..." He nodded. "Fine. See you at nine, then. Love you, too." He hung up the phone and turned, wiping his eyes. "Nesmith, thanks, but next time, tone down the flash a little! I'm seeing spots!" Mike grinned sheepishly as the others burst out laughing.
"Where does she want to meet?" Micky asked.
Peter sat back down. "The Marshfield Café at nine."
"Where's that?" Davy asked.
"Search me," Peter said. "But I've got four hours to find it. And a lot to talk to Valerie about."
"What do you mean?" Davy asked.
"We need work," Peter said. "Something to keep us occupied between gigs. We can't afford to let the cupboard go bare again. All of us need to eat-- especially Davy."
Davy nodded, frowning at his plate and picking at the fourths of scrambled eggs. When he was a different size, his metabolism was way up. He had to eat tremendous meals just to keep even.
Mike smiled. "Don't feel bad," he said. "We all have adjustments to make because of our powers. You need to eat more than most people, Micky has to struggle to keep control of his emotions..."
"Cause if I don't, my powers blink out," Micky pointed out.
Mike lay a hand on his chest. "I have to watch out constantly, or my light gets out of control..."
"Except when you sleep," Peter pointed out. "You're better than a nightlight!"
Mike raised a glowing wrist and grinned dangerously. "You wanna see more than spots?" Caught with a mouthful of food, Peter laughed and choked at the same time. Mike lowered his wrist and finished, "And Peter has to keep his temper under control."
"Hey, yeah," Davy said. "Since we got powers, I've not seen Peter lose it once!"
"Especially since the merge," Micky said. "Why, Pete? What happens if you lose your temper?"
Mike answered. "Trust us, guys. You don't want to know."
Peter finished the last of his toast and TK'd his plate and silverware to the sink while he drained his milk and juice. Then those glasses joined the rest of the dishes. "We need to set up chore lists," he said. "Tomorrow. Tonight, Micky and Davy are in charge of dishes, Mike is in charge of supper, and I am outta here!"
"Don't forget," Mike said as Peter grabbed his jacket. "Be back by midnight!"
Peter grinned over his shoulder. "Or the Monkeemobile turns into a pumpkin?"
Mike looked confused for a split-second, then joined the laughter. "That's not what I meant," he chuckled.
"I know we have to practice," Peter said, fumbling for his keys. "I'll be here in time. Mike, d'you still have the keys?"
"Nope," Mike said, checking his pockets. Then he grinned. "I know what I did with them. Mick, open the cabinets, please." Micky did and laughed. He pulled the Monkeemobile keys from among the cereal and flipped them to Peter. Mike turned red. "I got so caught up putting stuff in there I absent-mindedly put the keys there, too."
Peter shook his head, grinning. "A good songwriter, yes. A house-husband, no." Mike shot a beam of light at Peter, who ducked, laughing.
Peter arrived at the cafe and settled into a seat, waiting for Valerie. Though it had been months since they filmed the episode, Peter remembered what the actress who played Valerie looked like.
So when he heard the familiar voice say his name, he stood, smiled, and turned -- to find himself looking into the smiling face of ---
The smile turned into a furious glare and he growled, "What is this, some kind of blasted joke?"
She blinked, taking a step backward. Confusion and hurt flickered on her face. Her mouth moved, but nothing came out -- and then the voice of the actress came from the hated woman's face. "Peter... I don’t understand...."
"Oh, you're good," Peter laughed bitterly. "You're very good. How are you faking her voice?"
"This is my voice!" she protested. "What are you talking about?"
"Don't play dumb with me! What lengths won't you go to for your story? Are you that desperate to see 'Susan Jacobs' on a byline exposing the Monkees' secrets?"
"Peter!" She gasped. "Have you become completely unhinged?"
Peter opened his mouth to retort, then his eyes met hers. There was no triumph, no 'gotcha', no 'on the hunt' look as he'd consistently seen in Susan Jacobs's eyes. There was nothing there but worry for him and a love so deep it defied words. "....this.... isn't a joke, is it? You're... you're not Susan Jacobs, are you?"
Slowly, the woman shook her head. "I don't know any Susan Jacobs."
"He dropped his face into his hands. "Blast it, I've probably messed everything up...."
She stepped forward. "Peter... honey... what is it?"
"I...." he took a deep breath. "We're in a bind...." he said softly.
"Talk to me, darling."
Valerie came through-- in spades. Within forty-eight hours, the Monkees were working in a recording studio as session musicians. The pay was decent, the hours long. But it was a lot of fun. After work, the engineer worked with the boys to get tracks laid for an album of their own.
Driving home after one long day, Micky grinned. "Ironic, isn't it?"
"What, Mick?" Peter answered sleepily from the back seat.
"Back home, everybody criticized us because that idiot wouldn't let us play our own music. Now we're the ones who play the music!"
"--For artists who really can't play a note!" Davy interjected.
"I dunno," Mike said distractedly, focused on the road. "That one kid was really burning up the harmonica. What was his name?"
"Wonder," Peter answered, even more sleepily. "Steve Wonder."
"But he can't sing worth a darn," Micky said. "He'll never make it."
"Look who's talkin'," Davy snapped. "We haven't made it here, either!"
"Give it time," Mike said. "Right, Pete?" No answer. "Pete?"
Micky looked over and chuckled. "Pete's asleep, Mike. He's had a long day."
"I'll say," Davy said softly. "Piano, organ, bass, lead on two songs... He must have played every instrument there!"
"Plus he stayed to make sure 'Zilch' sounded right," Mike said, turning into the driveway. "He really worked his butt off. Let him sleep. Micky, you think you can bring him in on a field?"
"No prob," Micky grinned. "Feels good to hear you give orders again."
Mike grinned lopsidedly at him as he shut off the car and got out. "Don't get any ideas. I have no intention of giving up the freedom."
Micky tucked Peter in and joined the others downstairs to clean up before they all crashed.
That's the way it went for a long while. No villains to fight, nothing out of the ordinary lives the four led. Peter gradually began to genuinely fall for Valerie -- despite her looks. Their powers were used to help others, always in secret. They fell into a comfortable routine.
Too bad it wouldn't last. They were about to confront this world's strangest super-villain.
And Peter had had dealings with him before.
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