By Enola Jones and Madame
A word of introduction before we begin. For those of you who are familiar with Enola's Power Monkees series, you'll quickly notice some differences with this story. As with the Trauma Series, this Power Monkees story isn't intended to fit with the established continuity of either of our solo Monkees universes. This is yet another alternate universe! And obviously it doesn't fit with the Trauma Series either; it's completely stand-alone.
Mike strolled in from the beach, practically floating on air; he was so distracted by his own pleasant thoughts that he left the beachside door standing wide open and didn't bother to tidy up the trail of sand he left behind himself. Sprawling on the chaise lounge, he released a long sigh of blissful contentment and smiled slightly, thinking about the wonderful girl he'd just left. They'd spent the entire afternoon together, and still he had been reluctant to leave her company.
"Isabel..." he whispered. She had a beautiful name, he thought. A beautiful face. A beautiful body...
A beautiful soul.
They were so much alike...They'd been dating what? A month now? And he could already see how much they had in common.
Mike sat up straight then, his idyllic reverie interrupted by a sudden dash of cold realism, and he scowled at the thought. So much in common...
"Yeah, right," he said aloud. "She's a beautiful, talented, smart funny girl... a normal girl..."
He raised his hands, staring grimly at the translucent golden glow that surrounded them at just his thought. "And I'm not normal at all."
"Man, you weren't normal even before you got powers." A new voice startled him out of his melancholy train of thought, the self-willed light around his hands dissipating abruptly.
Mike glanced up to see Peter standing in the downstairs bedroom doorway, grinning at him.
"What's up?" Peter asked, moving to plop down on the couch, facing Mike. "I thought you were spending the day with that new girl of yours."
"I was," Mike answered tersely.
"So why the long face?" he pressed. "Did she wise up already and dump you?"
Any other time, Mike could have accepted Peter's teasing easily enough, but not today. He shot a dark glare at Peter, silently warning him to back off the wise-cracks.
"Sorry." Peter sobered instantly. "What's the problem?"
"The problem is that Isabel's a nice, normal girl."
"Yeah," Peter nodded expectantly. "So?"
"So I'm not a normal guy—and I have no idea how she'll react if I ever tell her that."
Peter nodded. "I understand...I had the same problem with Valerie. You're worried she'll be afraid of you. Or that she'll dump you for someone without powers—someone normal."
Mike smiled slightly at him. "You get all that from our link?"
Very funny, Peter sent. Aloud, he said, "Your emotions do come through loud and clear, yeah... but I'm speaking from experience here."
Mike sighed. "Just once I'd like to be able to talk to you in words instead of just feelings and pictures."
Peter smiled, leaning against the couch arm. "Valerie's a strong woman. She knows about me, about what I can do...and she loves me anyway. If this girl..."
At Peter's casual mention of her, Mike suddenly flashed back to that afternoon on the beach. There was a moment of crystalline clarity etched forever in his memory: Isabel, standing on the edge of the shore, the waves lapping her bare feet, managing to laugh and look impatient at the same time as she reached up to brush back the wayward strands of long, dark hair that the ocean wind had whipped across her face.
Peter blinked, smiling. "She is pretty," he remarked, his expression clearly mirroring the admiration in his voice. "If you two get serious, and if she falls in love with you, and if it's the real thing, she'll love you no matter if you have powers or not."
Mike nodded. They hadn't been seeing each other that long, not long enough for him to say he was in love, and certainly not long enough for him to trust her with his secrets yet, but still, Peter's words gave him hope for the future. His face lit up momentarily—then fell. "I feel like I'm cheating," he admitted.
You're not, Peter mentally assured him. Phyllis took the other Mike for you. She's with him now. You're a free agent. He smiled his dimpled grin, blue eyes twinkling. And Isabel does seem to like you...
I like her, Mike admitted with a wry grin. She's like no one I've ever met before, he added, opening up a channel between himself and Peter to show him without words what she was like, how well they meshed.
Jumping a little, startled by the sudden, unlimited access into Mike's psyche—a rare event indeed; usually Mike kept the shields up so high, nothing leaked out!—but as the memories unfolded in his head as quick as a thought, his eyebrows climbed into his hairline, and he let out a long, low whistle.
"Not even Phyllis?" he asked, surprised by the intensity he already sensed behind Mike's feelings for this girl.
"She's different from Phyllis," Mike replied aloud, dampening the link again. "Stronger. More independent. She's really got it together."
And you have got it bad, Peter teased mentally, standing up and moving toward the kitchen.
"You're right." Mike nodded and, folding his arms behind his head, leaned back on the chaise, his expression troubled. "I do."
Falling in love was supposed to be a good thing.
So why was he so worried?
"Okay, fine—you're right," Isabel snapped, not bothering to hide her irritation as she clutched the phone receiver tighter. She didn't think she was that transparent! "I do have it bad for him. He's special, you know? There's something about him—he's strong and independent..."
Memories of the lovely afternoon they'd spent together rose up in her mind, and she could see him as clearly as if he were standing before her, his dark hair tousled by the breeze off the ocean, a tiny one-sided smile quirking his lips...
"Have you told him?" Mags asked bluntly, and Isa grimaced. Mags was her best friend in the world, but sometimes, she was too nosy for Isabel's comfort!
"No, not yet," she admitted. "It's too soon. We haven't known each other that long, and—"
"Izzy, he deserves to know," Mags interrupted.
"Thank you, Dear Abby," Isabel retorted. "That's all I need, a nice, normal guy scared off because his girlfriend can read minds."
"You can't read minds," Mags countered. "You're not telepathic—you're empathic. You read emotions, not words. It's entirely different."
"Same difference," Isabel replied, sinking onto the couch and curling up on one end. "And if he ever breaks an arm or something I can heal him with a touch," she added lightly.
Much more lightly than she felt. All her life, she'd been forced to keep her secret; only a handful of people knew the truth about her, and she had revealed it to them only after a long period of time. She couldn't trust that people would accept her once they learned about her powers, and that meant she'd had few friends—and no boyfriends. Not since that first disastrous attempt at a relationship.
She never wanted to be called "freak" again, and if that meant hiding the truth indefinitely, so be it. Mags wasn't fooled for a moment. "You really need to tell him, babe. If this gets serious..."
Isabel closed her eyes and sighed deeply. "I'm afraid to tell him. I don't want him to get scared and leave me, too. Oh, Mags—what am I going to do?"
The moon glistened across the choppy surface of the water, casting sparkles that reflected back up at Mike and Isabel as they leaned against the ancient wooden rail at the end of the pier. It was such a warm, pleasant evening that he'd suggested taking a walk after dinner at Otis', a popular beachside restaurant, and she had readily agreed. There was a long pier nearby that was quiet and secluded, and they had wandered onto it; the only company they had were two or three other young couples who were also enjoying the peaceful atmosphere—among other things, Isabel had thought, turning her head away hastily when she'd noticed two standing shadows merging into one as she and Mike strolled past on their way to the end.
He'd draped his arm across her shoulders, and she had slipped hers around his waist, and now they stood in companionable silence. That was one thing she liked about him and about them together: they had both quickly learned that neither of them required non-stop conversation, and that they were perfectly capable of enjoying each other's company without feeling the need to fill the quiet times with chatter.
But tonight, the silence between them was different.
If she weren't empathic, she probably would never have guessed by his outward demeanor that anything was wrong, but despite his stoic appearance, she felt that subtle vibration that meant something was troubling him.
Or maybe it's me, she thought, staring resolutely out over the rippling black water. Maybe the anxiety is coming from me, and there's nothing up with him at all.
Mags' advice still echoed in her ears, and she'd been debating for days whether she wanted to risk confessing the truth about her powers to him now or wait till they knew each other better, until the bond between them was stronger and he would be less likely to walk out...or it would hurt her more when he did.
Releasing a frustrated sigh, she scowled a little, scarcely aware that she did so, but Mike apparently noticed.
"Is something wrong?" he asked suddenly, and she darted a startled glance at him.
"No, no—" she improvised hastily. "I was just thinking about this story I'm working on. My boss is being a real jerk about the rewrites."
Mike looked at her askance but didn't say anything more; he didn't know how to read her all that well yet, but he was learning. The problem was that she was almost as good at hiding her emotions as he had trained himself to be. But he could see the conflict and anxiety lurking in the depths of her eyes, and he knew it didn't stem from a quarrel with her boss.
Or maybe I'm just seein’ in her what I feel myself, he thought, a pang of guilt over the secret he was harboring twisting his conscience again. He ought to tell her the truth about himself and his abilities; it was the right thing to do, but what if he scared her off? What if she couldn't handle the idea of a boyfriend who had special powers and who lived under the threat of danger?
Right now, she was his one refuge, the one person with whom he could relax and feel at peace with; her presence was soothing, and when he was with her, he could forget the past, forget that he was more or less on-call at all times, forget that some maniacal villain could pop up at any moment, thirsting for his—and Micky, Peter and Davy's—blood. For a time, there was only Mike and Isabel and the restful tranquility they shared.
He didn't want to give that up, but if she knew...if she couldn't accept the truth...
"It's gettin late," he said at last, reluctant as usual to leave her company, but she had to work in the morning even if he didn't. "I'd better take you home."
"All right," she answered softly, her expression mirroring her disappointment, and he smiled, pleased to know that she seemed to enjoy his company as much as he did hers.
He reached down and captured her hand, feeling an odd, warm tingle as he did so; he chalked it up to his power leaking a little and clamped down on it, hoping she hadn't noticed. Other than a sidelong glance that seemed to be a mixture of confusion and...was that guilt?...she didn't react, and he let out a quiet sigh of relief as he laced their fingers together and led her back to the car.
The next morning, Mike was the last one up—even Micky had awoken before he had—and when he finally shambled downstairs, dressed but still rubbing sleep from his eyes, the others, who were just finishing up breakfast, turned to him with various levels of inquisitiveness in their faces.
Peter had deliberately tamped down their link so he could sleep without being awakened by an accidental leak from Peter either mentally or emotionally; that was the one drawback of the link they shared: if they weren't careful, unexpected side effects could result! For example, he'd been privy to a particularly strong dream that had escaped Mike's shields—a nightmare borne of guilt in which Isabel had discovered the truth and left Mike after calling him hateful, cruel names—and it had shaken Peter to the core. When he had jerked awake, crying out in shock, and had realised what had happened, Peter had clamped his own rarely-used shields in place so he could get some sleep as well.
But he hadn't slept any more; the dream had been far too intense and far too unsettling even though it had nothing to do with him personally. Thus he was letting Mike sleep till he awoke naturally.
"Here comes sleepin' ugly," Davy teased when Mike descended the spiral staircase, obviously bleary-eyed.
"Watch it, loudmouth," Mike growled, as he moved to the table, reaching for the paper and a glass of juice.
"Hey, man, what happened?" Micky cracked. "Were you at the library again? Oh, no, wait—sorry—your mysterious 'girlfriend' kept you out all night!"
Mike glared at him, but it did nothing to quell Micky's mischievous grin.
"Lay off, man, he's not in the mood," Peter admonished mildly, pulling a cold egg sandwich from the refrigerator and setting it in front of Mike.
Mike smiled slightly, sending Peter a little thread of gratitude, then he stretched one hand palm down, fingers splayed, over the food; instantly a pale yellow light surrounded his hand, and he let the resulting heat permeate the sandwich. Seconds later, the food was warm and Mike began to eat.
But Micky wouldn't let this one go. "Come on, Mike—you can tell us! Who is this chick?"
"Back off," Mike growled between bites.
"Hey Mick, maybe she's like you!" Davy laughed. "Maybe she's here, just invisible!"
"Hey, you could be right!" Micky cried. He put on his best spooky voice and called, "Come ooouuuuuut.... come ooouuuuttt... whereeeeeever you aaaaaare...."
Dropping the sandwich, Mike slammed his fist onto the table, wordlessly fixing them both with a look of such intense anger that they both stared back, shocked into silence. Abruptly, he jumped up from his seat and strode to the verandah doors, slamming them behind him as he stalked onto the beach.
Micky and Davy exchanged bewildered glances. "What?" Micky asked. "What'd we say?"
Peter made an exasperated sound, rolling his eyes impatiently. "Micky, you are doing breakfast dishes!" he ordered. Then his eyes began to glow blue, and he shot into the air in search of Mike.
He wasn't hard to find; the glaring light from the lasers he was firing one after another into the rolling waves led Peter right to him. Mike's entire body shook with the intensity he poured into each beam, and Peter realised he was unleashing all the fury Micky and Davy's careless teasing had created into the potentially destructive beams.
He lowered his shields, sending a gentle stream of awareness into Mike's mind—their linked equivalent to a throat-clearing.
Mike didn't move, but the slight lowering of his own mental shields told him Mike knew Peter was there, and he was accepting the mental touch. Peter touched down beside Mike, cutting off the telekinesis that kept him airborne.
The affectionate sensation that was Mike's mental equivalent of a welcome wrapped itself around Peter's mind, warming him, but he cursed silently nonetheless, wishing Mike could communicate telepathically in words instead of just feelings and images.
They didn't mean any harm.
"I know." Mike fired one more laser into the water, but this one was smaller and weaker than the previous beams, then he sank onto the sand, drawing his knees up to his chest and wrapping both arms around them. "It's just that on top of everything that's going on with Isabel...It was too much."
Peter sat beside Mike, studying him. So you haven't told her.
It was a statement, not a question, but Peter felt the answer anyway in the form of fear slamming into his stomach like a physical blow. Mike lowered his head and sighed.
Instantly Peter received vivid pictures of Isabel, terrified and revolted. He recognised them immediately—they were from the nightmare they had shared. He fell silent a moment, choosing his words carefully; this was a delicate situation, and he didn't want to say something that would inadvertently make things worse for Mike.
"If she really loves you," Peter began slowly, "that won't happen."
Mike shot him a look of grim determination. "I know it won't happen. I've made up my mind."
Peter smiled, awash in relief. "You're going to tell her."
"I'm going to break up with her."
You're going to WHAT? Peter was far too shocked to check his mental volume, the question exploding from his mind before he could get his voice to work.
Mike winced and rubbed his temples. When Peter "shouted" mentally, it hurt, and it usually meant the beginning of a headache for Mike. "She's normal, Peter," he explained patiently. "She deserves a normal man, not a human flashlight and laser thrower."
So you're going to run away.
"It's not running!" Mike retorted indignantly. "It's the best thing for her. For both of us."
Mike, Peter began.
But immediately he felt a wave of stubbornness as thick and high as a brick wall surrounding his friend, and Peter knew he was wasting his time and energy. He shook his head, gave Mike's shoulder a brief squeeze, and took flight again, heading out to sea to do some thinking of his own.
Mike remained on the beach till long after Peter had vanished over the horizon. Then he stood up and walked slowly to the Pad, brushing sand off his jeans as he did. He had to call Isabel and arrange a meeting.
The most difficult meeting of his life.
Mike took Isabel to the pier again. It was the location of one of their most romantic times together, which perhaps wasn't the best place for what he planned to do given the pleasant memories he had of the place. But in a weird sort of way, it gave him the strength and the resolve to go through with The Talk. If he could manage get through it there of all places, he knew he'd be able to handle anything.
He was careful to keep his expression neutral until he was ready to begin, but somehow, Isabel picked up on his anxiety as if he were as easy to read as Peter. They hadn't been in their spot five minutes before she turned to him and asked, "What's the matter?"
She knows me too well already, he thought. She can practically read my mind!
Reaching out to capture her hands—feeling that odd, warm tingle again as he did so and clamping down on his powers before she felt it too—he clasped them tightly and looked her straight in the eyes as he struggled to find the kindest way to express this, but there wasn't one really. He simply had to take the plunge and blurt the words out.
"Isa, this is hard for me," he said, his voice quiet and somber.
"What is?" she asked, trying to ignore the icy fist that slammed into the pit of her stomach and crept inexorably up her spine as she gazed up at him, reading the mingled compassion and melancholy lurking in the depths of his eyes.
"I—" He took a deep breath, forcing himself to say it, to spit the words out. "I don't think...I don't think we should see each other anymore."
"What...?" She stared at him blankly as if she could scarcely believe what she'd heard, which she couldn't. "Why?" she asked, hating the quaver she heard in her voice but unable to keep it out. Despite all the fear and doubt she'd harbored, her feelings for him had steadily grown since the day they'd met, and for him to say this now...It hurt more than she imagined possible. "Is it something I've done? Something I've said?"
"No, it's got nothing to do with you," he hastened to reassure her, giving her suddenly cold fingers a squeeze. "It's me. I'm—" He floundered for words, trying to think up an excuse she'd accept. "I'm not interested in gettin serious right now. And you're a nice girl and all, but—"
"That's not it," she interrupted sharply, her dark brows snapping together in a fierce scowl, but she was careful not to release his hands; she could sense his emotions well enough anyway—she'd become attuned to him much more quickly than she had with anyone else ever before—but physical contact heightened her ability even more. "You're lying to me."
Mike felt his eyes growing wide, and he fell silent, not certain how to reply to that unexpected accusation. She was right! She'd called his bluff, but how did she know...?
"Whatever my reason, the fact remains the same," he said as gently as he could manage. "I don't want to see you anymore."
And that was a qualified truth at best; she could feel his hesitation, she could sense that breaking up with her was not what he really wanted, but for some reason, he thought it was necessary. There was something shielded in darkness within him, and try as she might, she couldn't penetrate the inky blackness to reveal whatever was hidden there.
But she also felt the stubborn determination emanating from him, and she knew there was no point in arguing. He'd made up his mind, and nothing she could say would change it. In that, too, they were much alike.
And wasn't this exactly what she'd been afraid of anyway? She gave a silent snort of derision. She'd played this moment over and over in her head non-stop for days, but there had always been a concrete reason--her powers freaking him out too much--and not this strange, amorphous reason-that-was-not.
"I don't suppose I have any say in this, do I," she said bitterly, feeling a twisted satisfaction in the fleeting look of guilty pain that crossed his features. She didn't have to make this easy for him, and at the moment, she wasn't inclined to. "What I want doesn't matter."
"I've made up my mind," he told her, his jaw firmly set.
"So I see."
She watched him silently for a moment, probing the shields she felt surrounding him with delicate mental fingers, but she couldn't find a single crack or weak point; they were unusually strong for a normal person, but she chalked it up to a natural development because of the tight control he kept over himself and his emotions.
"Well." Tugging her hands free of his, she stepped back a pace or two and lowered her gaze to the splintery slats of wood that made up the floor of the pier. "I suppose that's it, then."
"I suppose it is."
But still he made no move to leave; instead, he stretched out one hand as if to comfort her, but she shied away, still not looking at him, and he dropped his arm to his side again.
"C'mon." His voice was quiet and low. "I'll take you home."
"No." She shook her head. "I can call Mags. I'll be fine."
"You sure?" he asked doubtfully, and she snapped her head up, her dark eyes blazing as a sudden fury welled up within her.
How could he? she silently fumed. How could he act like everything was fine one minute, then turn around and break up with her the next without a solid reason for it? She lowered her own shields for a moment, breaking one of the cardinal rules she'd set for herself years before—not to use her ability to manipulate anyone—and wrapped a tendril of pure emotion around him, making him feel her anger and misery for an instant before releasing him again.
He felt it—his shell-shocked expression told her that much—but she knew he'd never figure out where it came from. It had hit him too quickly, and he probably never imagined in his wildest dreams that powers such as hers could exist in the real world. But he had felt it, and part of her was satisfied.
"Good-bye," she said coolly, then turned away and stared out across the water with unseeing eyes.
It seemed like an eternity before she finally heard his retreating footsteps, and when she was certain he was out of sight and out of hearing, she let the tears she'd been holding back begin to fall.
The day dawned sunny, warm and beautiful—typical California June weather. The sun shone down bright and hot; on the beach, people were already cavorting in the waves, and in the Pad, three of the four residents were already bustling about, engrossed in their own little activities...except Mike.
Peter scowled as he looked up the stairs. Mike was still asleep. Sleeping late wasn't an unusual occurrence for him—he generally stayed up later than the rest of them, ostensibly to get work done on his music, but Peter suspected it had something to do with the privacy and quiet the pre-dawn hours offered—but he rarely slept this late.
Davy wandered over and stood by Peter, following his gaze to the closed upstairs bedroom door. "Can you sense anything?"
Peter's eyebrows arched as he looked at Davy, but the rest of his face was completely emotionless.
Davy grinned. He'd become used to seeing Mike's expressions on Peter's face—after a year of being linked, some overlap of emotions/mannerisms often occurred with both of them—and it no longer threw him when Peter gave him The Look. "I mean about what's got him in such a state."
Peter sighed. "I have a pretty good idea. Where's Micky?"
"Where else?" Davy jerked a thumb toward the Monkeemobile's garage.
Peter smiled and shook his head. His eyes glowed as he issued instructions, "Stay put. Let me handle him."
Davy spread his hands, smiling as he backed away in mock-surrender. "I'm not touchin’ this one, Leader-man."
Peter snorted, then glided up and touched down over the railing. Sucking in a deep breath, he opened up the link—and sent a mental wake-up jolt as he did—grinned and threw open the door, making as much mental and physical noise as he possibly could. "All right! Rise and—"
"—shine, sleepyhead!" Mags caroled with obnoxiously good cheer as she breezed through the bedroom door, rattling the morning paper. "Time to face another day!"
Another day without him, Isabel thought, groaning as she rolled over onto her stomach and pulled the pillow over her head only to have Mags unceremoniously snatch it away.
"Aw, come on!" Mags said, sitting on the foot of her bed and bouncing up and down so there was no possibility of Isabel ignoring her and going back to sleep. "Look, you've been moping around here two full days. What's the matter?"
"I've been dumped. Remember?" Isabel reminded her acidly. "Out of nowhere. Just BOOM! He—"
"—broke up with her," Mike said morosely, his hands tucked behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling. "I think it really hurt her, too. I could almost feel the betrayal..."
Peter perched on the edge of Mike's bed, listening and nodding sagely. "And now?" he prompted.
"And now on top of feelin like the world's biggest jerk, my life is empty, Pete," Mike admitted. "I didn't think we'd been together long enough for me to get so attached, but there's no light anymore...no happiness..."
"No joy," Isabel finished, her voice quiet and melancholy.
"You should have told him," Mags replied, ever the voice of pragmatism.
"Well, I didn't," she retorted tartly. "And now it's too late. He does care about me—I sensed that—but he's hiding something, and it's—"
"—tearin’ me apart," Mike said, scarcely able to believe he was pouring his feelings out like this so freely. But there was nobody in the world he could talk to like this but Peter, and that was only because Peter quite literally knew him from the inside out. Trying to hide his feelings from Peter would be fighting a losing battle, and they both knew it.
"Because you're so darn stubborn," Peter chided him gently. "She cares about you—it's obvious from what you've told me."
"Yeah, but what can I do about it now? I broke up with her. She probably hates me, and if I tell her now—"
"Well, if you wanna know what I think," Peter said. "I think you should—"
"—pick up that phone and call him right now," Mags said. "If he still feels that way about you, there's no need for you both to suffer. You need to forget your pride and call him."
"And say what?" Isabel challenged. "Hi there, I'm the girl you just tossed aside like an old shoe, but I want you back. Oh, and by the way, I've got these weird powers; just thought you should know?" She let out an unladylike derisive snort and sank back onto the pillow.
Mags shook her head and scowled slightly as she looked at her friend. "Isabel Evans, sometimes you are just too—"
"—dang stubborn for your own good, Mike Nesmith," Peter scolded as he left the bedroom leaving Mike to burrow into the pillows once more.
He hurried downstairs and found Davy was waiting, his expression a mixture of impatience and curiosity.
"Well?" he demanded.
Peter rolled his eyes, and Davy's face crumpled; that was all it took to let him know how well successful the encounter had been.
"What did he say her name was?" Peter asked, his voice distant as his expression turned calculating. "Isabel...Evans?"
"Seems right. Why?"
Peter's answering smile was enigmatic. "I've got a plan."
He scrounged around until he found the phone hidden under a week-old newspaper, then he picked up the receiver and dialed.
"Hello, operator? I'd like the number for a—"
"—Michael Nesmith please," Mags said. She scribbled the phone number down, glancing up at the bedroom she'd just vacated, a mischievous smile blooming on her lips. "Thank you, operator."
She looked at the number as she replaced the receiver in its cradle and whispered, "Now let's see who can out-stubborn whom, Mary Isabel Evans."
And then the phone rang.
Startled, Mags jumped at the sudden shrill ring, but she hastily reached out and picked up the receiver before the phone could ring again. "Hello?"
"May I speak to Isabel Evans, please?" an unfamiliar male voice requested politely, and Mags felt a sudden surge of hope and delight.
"Is this Mike?" she asked, the question tumbling out before she could censor herself.
"No." The man on the other end of the line chuckled warmly. "This is Mike's room-mate, Peter Tork," he explained. "And you are—?"
"Isabel's nosy room-mate, Magdalene Bennett," she replied, smiling even though he couldn't see it. She liked this fellow already.
"Hello, Magdalene," he greeted her, amusement lingering in his voice. "Is Isabel around?"
"She's upstairs wallowing in misery at the moment." She had no compunction about being blunt with Peter; something told her she could trust him—and that he was probably calling for the same reason she had planned to call Mike.
Peter laughed outright at that. "That makes two of them, then," he said. "Look, I know this may sound pushy, but I hate seeing Mike so upset when he doesn't have to be if he'd just admit he made a wrong decision."
"So why did he break up with her?" Mags interrupted. "She's been driving herself and me crazy trying to figure it out."
"Long story," he sighed. "But there's no reason why they can't get back together."
"With a little help, you mean." Her tone was sly and knowing. "What did you have in mind and what can I do?"
"You can start by meeting me for lunch at Otis' in an hour," he replied promptly. "We can compare notes and figure out the best way to get the blinders off these two mules."
"Mr. Tork, you've got yourself an informant."
"I think we're going to work together just fine, Miss Bennett."
An hour later, Peter and Magdalene huddled together over a small table for two at the cozy ocean-side restaurant, munching on breadsticks as they commiserated with each other over having to deal with two such strong-willed, opinionated, hard-headed individuals as Mike and Isabel.
"Sounds like they were made for each other," Mags remarked after a while.
"Well, they're either gonna end up blissfully happy together, or they'll kill each other," Peter replied with a teasing smile. "Time will tell which."
"If we can get them talking again," she reminded him. "And that is going to take some doing. So what did you have in mind?"
"We need to get them in the same place at the same time..." he mused, rubbing his chin as he considered the possibilities. "But they can't know they're being set up or they'll balk."
"Oh, yeah," she nodded agreement. "If Izzy gets wind of any kind of conspiracy, she'll run." Which means I've got to be really careful nothing leaks or I'll blow everything! she thought grimly.
"Hhmmm..." Peter narrowed his eyes, frowning slightly as he framed and discarded several ideas. But he kept coming back to one certain plan... "Well, we could always go for something so obviously ridiculous that they'd never guess it's a trap."
"Like what?" She leaned forward slightly, intent on catching his every word. If there was any way, no matter how silly or trite, to help her friend, she'd do it.
"We lie," he stated bluntly. "We say whatever it takes to get them at the same place at the same time and then make sure they don't leave until they talk this thing out."
Mags stared at him, astonished, then she burst out laughing. "Oh, I like the way you think!" she declared, her face lighting up with a sunny grin. "When and where?"
Peter smiled back and thumped his fist on the table. "Then it's a plan!" he exclaimed. "Tonight—six o'clock—at our place. I'll let our other two room-mates know what's going on, so they can help too."
"I'll get her there if I have to hogtie and drag her myself," Mags promised solemnly.
"Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that," he laughed softly.
"Let's hope it works!" she replied fervently.
"I'll drink to that," he said, raising his water glass.
Smiling, she raised hers as well, and their eyes met, sparkling conspiratorial mirth at each other as they clinked glasses.
"Peter Tork, what in the world?"
The shrill cry cut through the celebratory moment, causing Peter and Mags to jump and nearly spill their water. Peter swiveled in his chair to see Valerie standing close behind him, shock, horror and grief warring on her face.
"Valerie..." he said, jumping hastily to his feet, "it's not what it looks like—"
But she didn't allow him to finish his explanation; instead, she closed the distance between them and, with eyes blazing with fury, slapped him with every ounce of strength in her before spinning on her heel and stalking off.
Peter stood there a second, stunned, one hand flying to his stinging cheek. Then he turned back to Mags. "She's my girlfriend," he said lamely.
"And if you don't get after her, she'll be an ex-girlfriend," Mags replied. Her expression was somber, but the light of mirth in her eyes betrayed the humor she saw in the scene played out in front of her.
"We'll fine-tune the plan later?" Peter asked even as he turned to follow Valerie out.
Mags nodded and raised her glass in mock-salute. "Will you go?" she commanded, making a shooing gesture.
Peter smiled and waved before sprinting out of the restaurant scanning the street for any sign of Valerie, but she was nowhere in sight. On the ground, he'd never find her, but he did have one advantage...
He jogged down the street until he found a deserted alley, and as soon as he was out of sight, he took to the air.
She ignored the shout from above and kept on going. She had kicked off her shoes and was running down the beach as fast as she could, kicking up sand with her heels with every pounding step, fury pumping through her veins and giving her a strength and endurance she wouldn't have had otherwise.
Suddenly, two strong hands encircled her waist and plucked her into the air, and she shrieked an enraged protest, squirming in Peter's grasp, pummeling his arms ineffectually with her fists.
"Put medown!" she roared.
"Not until you listen," he retorted in that rarely used inexorable tone he'd acquired since linking with Mike and since taking over as leader of the group.
"There's nothing to listen to!" she yelled, still struggling to escape him. "You were having lunch with another woman! And cozying up to her like you were flirting with her! Like I don't even exist in your life!"
"You're right—I was having lunch with another woman!" Peter countered. "Mike's girlfriend's room-mate! Mike broke up with Isabel, and we were trying to come with a way to get them back together again."
She grew still and silent as the implications of his words slowly sank through the anger-fueled fog in her brain. "You—you were?"
"Yes!" He chuckled softly, shifting his hold on her so that it was more of an embrace. "Valerie, I love you. I would never do anything to jeopardize what we share—I value it too much!"
Valerie twisted in his arms to face him. His expression was sincere, his glowing eyes peering intently into hers. "I love you," he repeated earnestly.
She cried out, throwing her arms around his neck. "I love you too," she sobbed. "It's just—when I saw—"
"I know," he said, pulling her close and stroking her hair. "I know...."
Then she kissed him, and there was no more need for words.
Back at the Pad, Mike felt a sudden rush of desire so keen and pure that it nearly took his breath away; he keeled over on the couch and let out a low moan, grabbing the nearest pillow and burying his face in it, trying to shut out the feelings bombarding him, but there was no escape; it was almost as if he were feeling it himself—and that, coupled with the longing he still felt for Isabel, made this doubly unbearable.
From his vantage point in the kitchen, Micky noticed Mike's collapse; immediately, he slammed the refrigerator door shut and raced over to the couch.
"What's wrong?" he asked, concern evident in his face and voice.
Mike drew away the pillow enough to look up at him, and Micky saw the answer in the chocolate brown eyes—there was an underlying shade of blue to them.
Obviously, Peter was broadcasting something through the link—an unfortunate accident if the expression on Mike's face was any indication—and Mike's limited telepathy made it hard for him to tell Peter to cut it out!
Grinning with pleasure at his own ingenuity, Micky suggested something; Mike nodded, visibly grateful, and closed his eyes, concentrating with every ounce of will power he possessed—
Peter jerked away from Valerie, the undiluted shock on his face giving him a pop-eyed look.
"What's the matter?" she gasped, suddenly worried that something was wrong, that he was getting a warning of impending danger.
He blinked, visibly bewildered. "I—I just got a picture—a door slamming in my face—" Pink suddenly suffused his nose and cheeks. "I think I broadcast—this—to Mike," he admitted sheepishly.
"And that was his way of telling you to stop?" She couldn't stop the smile from blooming on her lips despite her best efforts. What an uncomfortable moment that must have been for poor Mike!
"That's what I'm gonna assume," he replied, nodding. As soon as he drew his shields tightly around his mind and emotions, he felt a wave of gratitude, and he grinned, his dimples cutting deep grooves in his cheeks. "That was it, all right!"
"Good," Valerie purred, reaching up to cup his face in her hands. "Now where were we...?"
And he bent his head and kissed her, lowering them both to the beach and cutting off his telekinesis as he closed his blue eyes and concentrated on nothing but her.
Continue On to Part Two