Relaxing, Mike let out a tiny little sigh. "Suppose it'd be hopin' against hope that she'll leave Davy alone?"
As if on cue, there came a scream from downstairs.
Three pairs of eyes met. Mike's soft, "Oh, shit...." spoke eloquently for them all.
As one, they broke and ran for the stairs.
They found Davy curled into a ball on the floor under the windowseat. His hands were over his face and his body wracked with the force of his screams.
Mike froze, warring with himself for a moment. But then he surged forward, gripping Davy's shoulders and helping him sit up. "Easy, Dave, we've got you – you're all right...."
Davy shook his head. His screams had faded to low moans, but his hands were still pressed tightly to his face.
Peter took hold of his wrists. "Let me see." Davy resisted, and Peter pulled harder. "Davy. Let. Me. See."
Davy whimpered, shaking his head again. Peter released his wrists and carded his fingers through Davy's straight dark hair. "Davy – I know it hurts, right?"
Davy nodded wildly.
"But you have to let us see so we'll know how to fix -- Micky, don't touch that!"
Micky blinked, jerking back from the mail. Peter hadn't even turned around. "Damn, that 'radar''s freaky!" he muttered as he rejoined the group.
That mutter surprised a chuckle out of Davy.
"C'mon, Dave," Mike said, giving him a little shake. "Let Peter see."
A single sob.
"C'mon," Mike soothed. "We'll fix whatever it is."
"I don't know...if this can be fixed," Davy sobbed. "It hurts so bad...."
Three pairs of huge eyes met as three jaws slammed open.
Davy's distinctive voice had altered. The lilting half-drawl that betrayed his Manchester roots had flattened to a dull, almost mechanical precision. Emotion and pain laced the words -- but the English accent that had danced out with every syllable was gone.
"Try us," Micky challenged softly, shocked by the voice. "Just.... try us."
"O.... Okay." Slowly, painfully, Davy lowered his hands and raised his head, opening his eyes.
Mike turned his head, closing his eyes as his mouth thinned in pain and anger.
Peter's hands flew to his mouth as his eyes went larger still.
Micky just shook his head. "Oh... my G-d."
"Is it.... is it very bad?" Davy gulped. "Please...j-just tell me..."
"D-Davy," Micky stammered out. "Y-You.... you don't...."
"I don't what?" Davy gasped.
It was Mike who answered, his voice tight with emotion. "You don't.... look the same, Dave."
A hand went to Davy's throat, massaging as he spoke. "From the way it hurt – I'd guessed that. I know I don't sound the same."
Peter shook his head. "No – you sure don't." He brushed the hair away from Davy's forehead.
Davy's eyes turned to him and his hand encircled Peter's wrist. His voice trembled. "Peter... what do I look like? What's – what's happened to me?"
"Did you open something?" Micky interrupted. "Peter won't let me touch the mail."
"I opened a letter – and all of a sudden, this blast of – it looked like glitter – shot into my face and...and....Peter, please! What happened?"
"Who was it from, Dave?" Mike asked.
"Didn't see – just saw my name."
"Micky," Mike ordered.
"On it," Micky said. He got a drumstick from the bandstand and turned the empty letter over. He groaned. "It's from Maria."
And all of the others groaned as well. "What did she do to me?" Davy groaned.
Peter took his hands. "We'll make her fix it, Davy. She's got to fix it."
"Davy..." Peter licked his lips. "You... you don't look... human.... anymore."
There was stunned silence for a few seconds. Then Davy yelped, "I what?" Before anyone could stop him, he was out of their arms, on his feet, and racing toward the bathroom.
They followed and found him frozen, just staring at this reflection. "Davy," Mike said, moving forward.
"Oh, G-d," Davy whispered, bringing his hands up to touch his face. He repeated it over and over and he began to tremble.
Davy didn't look like himself. He didn't look like anybody.
His face was smooth and shiny like dull, flat pale metal. His eyes were two pale brown dots in the expanse. His nose and mouth were two simple slits – the mouth twice the width of the nose. His ears were two nondescript semicircles seemingly just stuck onto his head and playing peekaboo out of his hair.
"Omig-d," Davy whispered. "I'm... I'm a freak!"
Peter was pacing the small room, running a hand through his hair in agitation.
"Please, Peter," Mike said from where he was sitting. "Calm down."
"You shouldn't have come," Peter sighed. "You're still not completely yourself."
"Which is exactly why I'm here," Mike said. "She needs to see exactly what she's done to us."
"To us?" Maria frowned as she was led into the room and unmanacled. "Who is this 'us'?"
Mike met her eyes as the guard left them alone. "Me an' Dave."
Maria's frown deepened as she sat down. "Dave? My smallest grub-chick was caught in your gift as you were caught in the funny one's?"
"No, Maria," Peter said as he sat across from her, beside Mike. "He was hurt when he opened the letter you sent him."
"I sent him?" She shook her head. "But, my -- but, Peter -- I have sent him no letter."
Mike and Peter both reeled back slightly, shocked. "You --what?" Mike gasped.
"I sent no letter," Maria repeated, concern in her voice. "Michael's gift was the last I performed. I -- I was preparing David's, but it was not yet sent."
"What was it?" Peter asked.
She licked her lips. "You... are familiar with David's concerns about his -- differences?"
"His height, yeah," Mike said softly. "And his accent?"
"And his face," Maria finished.
"Hi-His face?" Mike stuttered. "B-But he's the group's chick-magnet!"
Maria shot a confused look to Peter, who smiled. "The one who gets all the female attention."
"Ah!" Maria chuckled, then she sobered, tapping a fingertip on the tabletop. "But most of that attention is not what he wants. He wants to - to 'fit in', is that the word? To be like the three he sees as his brothers. Each of you has different, exotic features. David feels he is plain when put with you."
Peter and Mike look at each other and a double sigh of frustration issued forth. Mike shook his head. "When this is over -- we need to have a long talk with that boy."
Peter nodded solemnly.
Maria shook her head. "I had completed the first part of his gift, but it was not close to being able to send. I do not underst--"
She was interrupted by the door opening and the guard that had brought her in walking in. "Wait," Peter gasped. "Our time isn't up yet!"
"It isn't," she said. She looked distressed. "Maria, I -- I overheard. What-what happened to this boy...."
When she paused, chewing on her lip, Maria stood up. "Go on," she said gently.
The guard met her eyes. "I... I think it might be my fault."
Davy's altered eyes blinked as he tried to process what Micky had just told him. "....you're kidding."
Micky shook his head. "Nope. I'm dead serious."
"An accident?" He gestured at his featureless face. "This -- my face and my voice -- was an accident?"
Micky sat down beside him. "That's what Peter said when he called -- he told me the whole story. He wasn't pleased to hear you'd not said one word since they left." Davy tried to glare at him, and the effect was so horrific that Micky barely repressed the shudder. "Anyway, the spell was supposed to make you more American -- to fit in with us like she thought you wanted."
Slowly, Davy nodded his understanding. "Didn't turn out that way."
"No, it didn't. The spell was unfinished. One of the guards saw the envelope -- with the paper holding that glitter-like stuff -- assumed it was ready, and mailed it off." He squeezed Davy's arm. "Her and Maria both are really, really sorry."
Davy sighed. "Sorry won't give me back my face or my voice."
"No," Micky agreed. "But the guys are talking to the warden. They're going to try to bring Maria home with them, to try to fix this."
"What if she can't?" Davy half-whimpered.
Micky squeezed his arm again. "You've gotta think positive, Davy."
Davy sighed, shaking his head. "That's easy for you to say. You still look human."
With that, Davy got up and headed to his bedroom, leaving the echo of his pain behind.
"Aw, Davy," Micky sighed.
Several hours passed before the Monkeemobile pulled up. Mike and Peter got out, then Peter reached his hand back in and helped Maria out.
They entered the Pad, and Maria frowned. "What is that?" she asked, tapping her foot against the vibrations.
Mike frowned in confusion, then he chuckled. "Our washing machine and dryer. Micky must be washin' the powder off my clothes."
"Nope," Micky said as he emerged from the doorway to the basement, wiping his hands dry. "They're in the dryer. Your bedding's all in the washer now."
Peter's eyes widened. "You didn't touch --"
"No, I didn't." Micky grinned at him. "But you owe me a pair of drumsticks. I used them to manhandle everything into the washer and they've got it all over them. Had to put them in the incinerator out back. Hello, Maria," he greeted belatedly.
She smiled. "We meet again, my funny grub-chick. I only wish it could have been under better circumstances."
"Me, too," he said as he hugged her quickly. "Hey, Maria -- why do you call us grub-chicks?"
Her head fell back as her rich laughter rang out. "It is an affectionate term for dearly-beloved children. Young ones who eat much."
And all three Monkees laughed with her. She finished kindly, "The moment I lay eyes on you four, I knew things would never be the same. At the time, I thought it meant success with the Vulture, but there was much love there." She petted Peter's cheek. "Much love. And with my boys all dead -- you now are the only sons I have."
They froze. "Dead?" Peter whispered. "But--"
But Maria was no longer listening. Her attention had been captured by the small figure trying to be invisible in the shadows of a doorway.
She took a step forward, a hand reaching for him. "David. Come out to the light, my small one. Let me see you."
At her words, Davy shrank deeper into the shadows. "No."
She took another step forward and her other hand came up. "Come, David. I cannot help you until I see you."
Still, he hesitated.
And another step. This time, her words were in the lilting tongue of the Romanji. The tone was soothing --- loving.
A mother's comfort.
Slowly, a trembling hand reached out of the shadows to clasp hers. She wiggled her other fingers, and slowly his other hand reached to grasp it.
A gentle tug, and he was suddenly in her arms. Her arms had flown to embrace him so fast that they barely saw her move. Her hands stroked his back and head and she breathed words of comfort as he trembled in her arms.
"I have you, David," she soothed. "I have you. It is all going to be right now." She brushed a kiss on top of his head, then met Peter's eyes and jerked her head.
Peter nodded and got her a chair. As she sat, she pulled Davy to kneel in front of her.
"Now," she said, moving out of the hug. "Let me see."
He resisted, looking down.
She cupped his face in both her palms and slowly tilted it upward. There was no gasp of horror or flinch of shock --- the others had described the damage done. She studied his face closely.
Then suddenly, she broke into a beautiful smile.
Seeing that smile, Davy felt hope begin to blossom in his chest. "....Maria?"
She ran her fingertips down his smooth, metallic cheek. "This.... this is fixable. And it is fixable now." She looked up at Peter. "I will need your help."
"We'll do anything, Maria ---" Peter began.
Maria shook her head. "No, Peter. Not 'we'. I will need your help."
Slowly, Peter nodded.
"Take David into the bathroom." She stood and turned to Mike. "You will recover. I am sorry my treasures go so horribly wrong."
He smiled gently at her. "Just say you're done --- and mean it --- and we'll call it even."
"No." She shook her head. "Not even until all is right again. Your gift will vanish after another shower. It clings to your hair."
Mike grinned and bolted for the stairs and the upstairs shower.
"You," she pointed at Micky, pausing as they both laughed as Mike's discarded shirt came barreling over the railing and landed right on Micky's head.
"Good aim!" Micky called up the stairs, and was rewarded with Mike's laughter. "Be nice when he laughs as himself again."
"It will not be long now," she assured him. "You need to finish the laundry and then wait with him. We have much to do."
He nodded and headed back toward the basement.
Maria walked into the bathroom and removed her jewelry. "Now," she said as she laid it on the back of the toilet. "Let us begin." Maria sat Davy down on the bathtub and sat beside him. "Peter --- I require you because of your unique gift. I have never tried to reverse an incomplete spell before. I am certain we can stop it, but I do not wish to harm him further."
Peter nodded as he sat on the closed toilet seat. "Tell me what you need."
"David, I need you to be silent. To trust Peter and I and let me help you," Maria said gently.
He met her eyes. "This was truly accidental?"
"Yes, David." There was sad sincerity in her voice. "This was truly accidental."
Davy studied her for a long moment. Then he said softly, "All right, Maria. I trust Peter, and I trust you."
"Then be silent." She brushed her fingertips over his cheek again. "Peter, are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be," he smiled.
Maria did not return it. "I need you to close your eyes --- and look at David only with your gift. Can you do that?"
For answer, Peter closed his eyes. Seconds ticked by, then he spoke. "It's Davy --- but he's buried. It's.... It's like he's under a thick blanket and can't get out."
Maria moved to the sink. She drew some herbs and salts from the pouch at her side. She filled the sink with water and used her hands to stir the herbs and salts in. The entire time, she sang.
But it was a song neither dared to interrupt. The Romanji words held magic. Davy and Peter could feel it crackling against their skin.
"David," Maria said when the song ended. "Come. You must bathe your face in the water. You must not use a cloth. Your hands will tingle if you use them and your face will hurt."
He got up and moved to the water, which had turned a sickly green. He took a deep, fortifying breath.
Then he plunged his face full into the water.
Screaming, Davy jerked his head up and pressed his hands to his face.
Maria pulled his hands away. "Do it again!" She saw his mouth open. "Yes! It hurts! It feels like your face is aflame! But do it again! Trust me!"
Another second's hesitation --- then Davy lowered his hands completely and plunged his face again into the freezing cold water. He raised it, gasping from cold and pain.
Another deep breath, and Davy lowered his face into the water again. He held it as long as he dared, then jerked it up, trembling and gasping.
"Again, David! Again!"
A soft sob, and Davy plunged his face back into the water. When he came up spluttering this time, Maria breathed a prayer of gratitude.
Davy's features had been restored.
Maria emerged from the bathroom, replacing her jewelry as she blew the air out of her cheeks.
A still-dripping Mike --- buttoning his shirt --- and Micky converged on her with a unison, "Well?"
"We are half of the way there." She held up a packet. "Have you any broth?"
Micky pointed at the kitchen. "We have chicken noodle soup."
"Excellent. I can use that broth as well." She watched as Micky set out a pan and prepared the canned soup. "I must just have the broth."
"I'm gettin' there, Maria," Micky chuckled as he set a large bowl in the sink and a colander in the bowl. He poured the soup in, and the chicken and the noodles remained in the colander. He set them aside and poured the broth back into the saucepan.
Maria smiled and kissed his cheek. "Thank you. Now, please stand back." She waited until the broth began to boil. Then she emptied the packet of herbs into it. "I must have three hairs plucked from David's head."
Mike turned to where Davy and Peter were emerging from the bathroom. "Didja hear that?" Davy nodded and reached up. A second later, he handed three hairs to Maria.
She dropped them into the broth, and it emitted a serpentine hiss. "Behave!" she scolded it. "These spells are always so foul-tempered!"
Despite everything, that brought a smile to the strangely silent Davy's face.
"He looks normal," Micky breathed in relief.
"His looks are normal," Peter informed them. "His voice is not. Believe it or not, those bouts of sullen sulking might have saved it."
"How's that?" Mike asked.
"Maria said the more he used the American voice," Peter explained, "the more his throat would get used to it. Because he went into that silent sulk, more than once...."
Mike's eyes widened. "There's a good chance his accent will be back?" At Peter and Davy's nods, he ordered, "Stay silent, then, Dave!"
Davy shot a "thumbs-up" at him, then looked at Peter and jerked his head toward Mike.
"Normal," Peter said, grinning. "Completely normal."
Davy's grin stretched from ear to ear at that.
"David." At Maria's call, he turned. "You must drink this. Every drop."
She pressed a mug of a vaguely greenish liquid into his hands. He sniffed it, and his upper lip curled in disgust.
Maria chuckled. "I did not say you had to wear it as perfume."
Davy huffed, but tilted the mug into his mouth. His throat worked as he drank it on down. Over the mug, his eyebrows drew together in a grimace.
But he kept drinking. When he was done, he handed the empty mug back to Maria --- grimacing as something slithered out of his throat and into his mouth.
"Spit it out!" Maria ordered.
Davy's lips parted, and all four issued wordless shouts of horror as a four-inch-long black snake fell out of his mouth to hit the floor with a furious hiss.
Maria roared in Romanji as the serpent reared up as if to strike. She flung what looked like silver glitter onto it, and the snake burst into dust.
"Oh, my word!" Davy gasped, hands flying to his throat. "That was inside my throat?"
"Davy!" Micky whooped. "You sound British again!"
"No," Maria sighed, looking at the dust covering her shoes. "That was not inside your throat. That was merely a visual representation of what was holding your accent in check."
"But it worked!" Davy cheered. "I'm me again --- all me again!"
"So'm I," Mike said, hugging Maria one-armed.
Maria smiled, patting the arm as it was retracted. Then she reached her arms toward Davy, who all but flew into them. "All is well now, my little grub-chicks," she said, stroking Davy's hair. "All is well now."
"Maria," Peter said, pointing to the dust covering her feet.
She nodded, her smile growing. "It is... how do you say.... inert? Inactive?"
"Inert works," Mike chuckled.
Davy, holding on to her, manoeuvred them both to sit on the couch. He sat beside her. "Maria --- please --- why do you do this to us?"
"Ay, David," she sighed, cupping his cheeks in the palms of her hands. "As hard as it may be to believe --- it was from love. Each gift was meant to help you --- and each gift caused harm." She lowered her hands. "But this old hen has learned a new way to scratch. The next gift I send any of you will be from an American store!"
Laughter eased the tension, then Davy asked, "But why gift us? You've four boys of your---"
"They're all dead, Davy," Micky interrupted softly as Maria's eyes lowered and averted. "She told us while you were hiding in the bedroom."
"Dead?" Davy gasped. "Oh, Maria... I'm so sorry! How?"
"Kiko hung himself with his sheets," she said, her voice clogged with grief. "Rocco died of a fever. Zeppo was shot by a guard trying to run out of the yard. And.... and Marco...." She shivered. "Dear, foolish Marco. He was beaten and stabbed to death in a yard fight. The warden said his last words....were a cry for me."
"Maria," Peter said, squeezing her shoulder. "I am so sorry."
"So, you see...." She looked up, and her eyes were full of tears. "You four are the only sons I have."
And all four hugged her.
Maria was returned to the prison a few hours later. Each of the Monkees promised to be better about keeping in touch, and she swore she would no longer send her special brand of 'gift'. Only the gift of letters and cheap trinkets.
The promises were kept on both sides, with the bonds of love and forgiveness binding them tighter with each passing month.
Four years of Maria's sentence was commuted for good behaviour. As she gathered her things, she fretted.
Where would she go in this country? What would she do? She couldn't ask her grub-chicks for help --- not after she'd hurt them so badly.
It was easy to speak forgiveness and love while she was in a cell and they were not. Now, that was changing.
The warden and a guard escorted her to the gate. As it opened, Maria gasped aloud at the sight before her. Both hands flew to her mouth and she began to sob.
Then her grub-chicks --- all four of them --- drew her into their protective, loving embrace. Slowly, they led the sobbing woman to their large red and white car.
Together, they brought their adoptive mother home.
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