Phyllis Nesmith barely restrained the cheer that erupted as the sapphire appeared. That was piece number eight -- the boys would be home soon.
Phyllis snapped the sapphire in place. She lifted the completed crown from the desk and slid it under the bed. I can't wait, she thought, smiling. It's been way too long since he's wrapped me up in those elastic arms.
A loud noise erupted from the other room. Phyllis got to her feet and moved to the doorway to see the Monkees picking themselves up off her living room floor.
Micky shoved Davy off of him. "Man, do you deliberately aim at me or something?"
"Or something," Davy quipped, drawing chuckles from Mike and Peter, and a black look from Micky.
"Mike!" Phyllis cried ecstatically.
Mike turned, grinning. "Phyllis!"
Phyllis spread her arms, expecting Mike's elastic arms to wrap around her and draw her to him. Instead, Mike raced over and hugged her normally. Then he kissed her.
Phyllis's eyes flew wide open. Mike's kiss was different -- his lips were firm and tasted normal, not spongy with the faint taste of rubber she had grown used to. She broke the embrace and stared at Mike. "M-Mike," she gasped. "Is... Is that you?"
Mike blinked at her. "Of course it's me, Phyllis! Why in the world...?" Then he remembered. "Oh, Phyllis. Now I get it. I was still elastic when we left."
She frowned. "Still elastic? Mike, have you lost your powers?"
He smiled, shaking his head. "No. Roma changed them on the first quest. I can emit any wavelength of light. Even laser beams!"
Phyllis's mouth pursed in a silent whistle, then she caught sight of Peter. He was smiling the familiar dimpled grin, but his body language was completely different. He stood erect, not slouching. He was quietly alert, blue eyes taking in everything. He seemed quieter, more serious. As a matter of fact, Peter seemed a bit more like Mike!
Phyllis's eyes flicked to her husband. Mike's smile was broader, his lank form looser. The brown eyes twinkled with an inner sparkle she hadn't noticed before. He seemed lighter, more carefree.
And Phyllis knew. She turned back to Peter. "You're the leader now, aren't you?"
Mike lay a hand on Phyllis's shoulder. "See, honey, I was hurt bad on one of the quests. Peter agreed to lead the team till I got well."
"Except when he did get well, he liked the freedom," Peter finished. "So here I am."
Davy smiled. "And believe it or not, he's an excellent leader. Surprised us all, even himself!"
Peter didn't reply, but his cheeks became tinged with pink.
Phyllis turned to Mike. "I got all eight pieces. I assembled the crown."
Mike met Peter's eyes. Peter nodded, and Mike said, "Go get it."
Phyllis left the room and returned with the assembled crown and handed it to Mike. The instant Phyllis released it, the crown pulsed with light. A beam struck Mike's watch.
Peter telekinetically lifted the crown from Mike's hands. "Michael?"
Mike studied his watch. "More co-ordinates!" he gasped. "Another dimension!"
"Not again," Micky groaned, rolling his eyes.
"I don't dig," Davy said. "We found all the pieces!"
Peter telekinetically brought the crown to his own hands. "I think I know," he said as his eyes stopped glowing. "I think we're to bring Roma the crown ourselves."
"All right," Mike said. "Sooner we do this, sooner we can get back here!" He pulled Phyllis into another passionate kiss. "I love you baby. See you as soon as I can."
Phyllis smiled and touched his cheek as she released him. "I love you, too," she replied.
Mike triggered his watch for the last time, and the Monkees vanished.
So did Phyllis's smile as she lowered her hand. "Oh, Mike..." she whispered, beginning to tremble as she hugged herself to ward off the chill in her soul. "...why do I get this funny feeling I'll never see you again?"
The Monkees landed in a tangle of arms and legs. Peter rolled off of Mike, shot him an apologetic smile, and picked up the crown. Micky shoved Davy off of his legs and groaned. "You did it again!" he roared.
"Did what?" Davy teased.
"You aim for me every time!" Micky snapped. Davy just grinned.
Peter looked around. They were in a plain white room, empty except for a throne in the center. "Roma's dimension," he whispered.
Then, suddenly, she was there. Taller than Mike's six-foot-two, silver Grecian robe flowing about her slim body, long platinum hair blowing as if there were a breeze.
"Roma," the Monkees breathed as one.
She smiled sweetly at them. "Hello. I see you've brought my crown."
Peter studied her face. There was something about her eyes that troubled him. He clutched the crown tighter. "Yes, we've brought the crown."
She reached a hand for it. "Give me what is rightfully mine, Michael."
Peter's jaw set, and his eyes narrowed. "Come and get it... Mara."
The woman started and pulled her hand back. Davy hissed, "Pete, have you gone mad? That's Roma, not Mara!"
She narrowed her eyes and raised her chin. "Very well. If that is how you wish it..." She made an elaborate arm motion. The robe turned red. Her hair became blazing orange. "See me as I truly am."
"Still think he's gone crazy, man?" Micky whispered to Davy.
Mara held out her hand. "Give me the crown Roma stole from me!"
Peter screamed, "Let's go, Monkees!"
Mike shot laser after laser at Mara, and she answered with a volley of force beams. Peter's telekinesis and Micky's shields protected Mike as he pressed the attack.
"Fool!" Mara exploded as she shot twin force-beams at Mike and Davy. "Mere light cannot harm me!"
Davy shrank out of the way. The other beam bounced harmlessly off the force-field that surrounded Mike.
"Maybe not," Micky yelled, "but I can!"
Something invisible struck Mara, surprising and staggering her. Roaring incoherently, Mara unleashed a force beam toward Micky. Micky just stood there staring intently at the approaching beam.
The beam abruptly wheeled around in mid-air and struck Mara full in the chest. "No!" she screamed as she vanished, leaving the echo of her voice behind.
There was silence for a few seconds, then Davy turned to Peter. "How'd you know?"
Peter shook his head. "She called me Michael. She's consistently done that. I don't know why." He looked at Micky. "That's the third time you've done that to her. How do you do that?"
Micky grinned. He took Peter's wrist and guided his hand over a U-curved invisible tube in front of them. "Force-field tube, curved in the middle," Micky explained as Peter felt the tube dissolve under his hand. "I aim it at her. Her energy goes in one end and out the other, striking her, and sends her back to her own dimension."
"Where she is confined," rang around them. Four pairs of eyes turned toward the throne. Light pulsed from it, then slowly faded.
The throne was gone, and in its place stood Roma. She smiled gently at the Monkees. "Mara is confined to her dimension for a time. You have done excellently. You have completed your quests and returned the stolen crown."
Peter clutched the crown tight. "Roma... just who are you?"
She smiled at him. "A servant. Nothing more." Roma lifted a hand. "May I have the crown, Peter Tork?"
Peter studied her face. Then he took a step back. His eyes began to glow and his hands fell to his side. Suspended by Peter's telekinesis, the crown glided to Roma.
She took it reverently. The Monkees expected to see her put it on her head. Instead, she held it as it vanished.
"Wh-Where'd it go?" Micky stammered.
"Where it belongs," Roma answered. "Now you also must go to where you belong."
"Home," Mike sighed.
"Perhaps," Roma replied. "If that is where you are most needed. If not, I am truly sorry, Robert Michael."
Mike blanched. "What are you saying? That... I may never see Phyllis again?"
"All things are possible, Robert Michael. Have faith." She raised a hand. "Now... go till your unique services are again required."
"Now wait --" was all Peter got out before they vanished.
"--a minute!" Peter finished as they materialized in a bedroom.
"Least we're on our feet this time," Micky teased. "You didn't have a chance to use me for a cushion!" Davy grew a foot and cocked a fist. Micky blinked out.
Peter chuckled. "Okay, you two. Enough!" Micky reappeared behind Peter and Davy shrank to normal size.
Mike broke into a wide grin as he looked around. "The bedroom at the pad set! We are home--! I'm gonna call Phyllis!" Mike bolted from the room.
Micky turned to Peter. "Hey, man. What's wrong? You're smiling, but it's not in your eyes!"
Peter sighed, the smile fading. "I don't like what Roma said. It sounds suspiciously like we'll be used again." He shrugged. "At least we're finally home."
"No. We're not." Davy was looking out of a window. "Roma didn't send us home." Peter moved to Davy's side.
Micky said, "Come on, Davy! How can you even think something like that?"
Peter's voice was very soft as he answered. "Because there's a real beach down there." He turned, face pale, blue eyes huge. "And four solid walls in here!" Peter bolted for the door. "Michael!"
A leap over the second floor railing and a short telekinetic flight brought Peter to Mike's side. Mike was standing immobile, phone halfway to his ear, huge brown eyes fixed on the fourth wall.
Peter very gently disentangled the buzzing phone and replaced it in its cradle. "Michael?" he asked softly.
Mike turned unseeing, shocky eyes to Peter. "We ain't home," he whispered, finally focusing on Peter's face. "This... This ain't no set. This is a real house!" His eyes filled with a pain so deep it made Peter ache to see it. "Pete, we ain't home!"
"I know," Peter said. "Michael..."
There was a sharp knock on the door. Peter squeezed Mike's shoulder and answered the door.
Mister Babbitt came striding in. "You're late with the rent, Tork!"
Peter met Mike's eyes for a split-second. Then he grinned stupidly. "How much d'you need again, Mister B? I forgot."
Babbitt rolled his eyes. He spoke very deliberately, so the moron would understand him. "Seventy-six dollars. And I needed it yesterday!"
Peter slid a hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wallet. He slipped ten twenties out and lay them into Babbitt's palm. He had never stopped grinning. "There y'go. Is that enough for this month?"
Mike couldn't stop the grin. What a ham!
Babbitt couldn't believe his eyes. "Th-That's enough for two months! Plus!"
"Enough to get you to fix our plaster and plumbing?"
Babbitt nodded, still in shock. "I'll do it in the morning!" He grinned at Peter and left, singing off-key.
Peter winced at the horrible noise fading down the stairs. He closed the door and blew the air out of his cheeks. Dropping the idiot act, he turned to Mike. "I'm sorry, man."
Mike nodded, sagging onto the black chaise lounge. "This must be where we belong."
"For now." Peter looked up to where Micky and Davy were coming down the spiral staircase. "We must be needed in this place more than at home. But-- if we're to live in this beachhouse, there's going to have to be two huge changes."
"What's that?" Davy asked.
"We're going to have to band tighter together, use our powers in secret, and protect our identities like never before." Peter pointed toward the door. "And we're going to have to buy this house from that jerk because I am not going to hide my intelligence!"
The others laughed at this. Even Mike managed a smile.
Then Micky sobered. "But how're we gonna do that when our TV selves were constantly struggling?" he asked.
Peter picked up the bass from the bandstand, caressing the neck like a long-lost lover. "We're just going to have to do better than our counterparts," he said. "After all, they were only celluloid characters."
Mike stood up, walked over and picked up the 12-string. "And we're the real McCoy!"
Micky grinned as he slid behind the drum set. "No, man. We're the real Monkees!"
Davy groaned at the pun as he played mental pick and choose between maracas and tambourine, finally deciding to just take both. "So what's the first step, Peter?"
Peter grinned. "I think you guys already know. So... let's go, Monkees!"
Micky clicked the sticks together four times and began "Mary, Mary"'s distinctive drum riff. And the Monkees began to play.
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