By Enola Jones and Madame
Micky was cruising through downtown Malibu Beach with the convertible top down, with nothing else to do but enjoy the wind in his hair and the music from the radio. Ever the drummer, he was tapping out riffs on the steering wheel as he drove. The souping up he had given the Monkeemobile's engine sounded really fine, and a large smile of pride passed through Micky's face as he turned up the radio. "I Get Around" was on—fitting, Micky thought.
The song ended, and "Little Red Riding Hood" started. After the first wolf howl sounded, Micky snorted.
"Shoot," he exclaimed, "I can do better than that."
When the second wolf howl sounded, Micky threw back his head and matched it—then began to howl in earnest, changing pitch and tone as he did so.
Micky pulled the Monkeemobile over to the side of the road and shut it off, still keening like a werewolf. Enjoying the rubbernecking stares, he shot to his feet behind the steering wheel, still howling. He leapt over the door and loped onto the hood of the car, bouncing up and down and wailing. He stretched up, clawing the air with his "paws"—
And a rubbernecker got a little too close. His car slammed into the back of the Monkeemobile before he could stop.
The impact lurched the Monkeemobile forward. Micky's feet were knocked from under him, sending him flying backward. He felt the small of his back impact on the metal part of the windshield where the car top attached. There was only enough time to think "Ow..." before he pitched over, headfirst, and landed on his face and chest in the front seat.
Micky was knocked unconscious on impact.
Isabel let out a frustrated snort when the phone suddenly rang, and she swiveled around in her chair to give Mike a pleading look.
"If that's Gregory, tell him I'm not here," she said. "Tell him I've run off to Rio, tell him I'm sick, dead or dying, but please tell him to leave me alone so I can get this stupid article finished!"
Mike lay his guitar down and stretched out along the couch until he could reach far enough to grab the phone receiver.
Picking up the phone, he snapped in his most forbidding tone, "Yeah, whaddaya want?" Then his eyes widened, and his tone turned apologetic. "Oh— sorry, Doctor Peterson, I thought you were Isabel's editor... Yeah..."
Isabel watched the proceedings with interest that abruptly turned into alarm as she saw Mike's face drain of all color. Without hesitation, she jumped up and ran over to him, dropping her hands on his shoulders as she anxiously waited for the conversation to end.
"I-I see... Yeah, we'll-we'll be right there... Thanks..." He hung up the phone and sat there, staring at it like it had suddenly sprouted fangs.
"Mike?" Isabel asked softly, her voice laced with concern. "What is it? What's going on?"
"That... was Doc Peterson..." His eyes met hers, and the somberness in them made a sickening knot form in the pit of her stomach. "It's Micky."
The front door to the Pad exploded open as Mike and Isabel burst in. Peter looked up from his new cookbook, startled, as Mike stalked over to the staircase, seething with barely contained fury.
Davy was in mid- "I love you" when Mike's finger slammed the cradle buttons down, severing the connection. "Hey!" Davy protested, whirling around to glower up at Mike.
"Hang it up," Mike ordered, a note of imperious command such as they had never heard before in his voice. "And I don't wanna see you on it for the rest of the week!"
"Mike—" Davy began , but Mike was too mad to listen.
"Doc Peterson has been tryin to call here for the last hour! She couldn't get through because you were tyin up the freakin line!"
"Doc Peterson?" Peter rose to his feet, wringing his hands as Mike's demeanor began to agitate him as well. "What's wrong?"
"It's Micky," Mike said, eyes still boring into Davy's. "He's been in a car accident. He's at Mercy, and he's unconscious. Doc Peterson says she's not gonna be able to tell how bad he's hurt till she can get him to wake up. She wants us there, now!"
Peter shrugged off his apron and grabbed two jackets. He flipped one to Davy and the four raced out of the Pad and over to Isabel's, using her car to get to Mercy General Hospital.
Micky cracked open his eyes, wincing as he became aware of two things at once: Doctor Ericka Peterson was bending over him, and he had a hellacious headache.
"Welcome back," Ericka said, straightening up. "How do you feel?"
"Head...no...Face hurts...What happened?" he rasped, his throat slightly hoarse.
"You were in an accident with that souped-up coupe of yours. You've got a mild concussion and three bruised ribs. You landed right on your face and chest in the front seat. Your cheeks are bruised and you'll be hurting for a few days from the impact."
Micky nodded. "I remember now...was pullin' my werewolf impersonation...got my feet knocked out from under me...hit my back..."
Ericka blinked, concern rising in her eyes. "Your back?"
Micky nodded, raising a hand to his aching cheeks. "Yeah...slammed my back on the windshield...where we hook the top to...."
Ericka shot an alarmed look at the nurses. "A back injury...and they moved him without protection..." She took a deep breath. "Micky...cover your eyes, all right? Keep them covered till I tell you to open them."
Micky lay both hands over his eyes. "All right...ready."
Ericka slid one of her hands onto Micky's leg, sliding it down till she reached his knee—one she knew from experience examining him was a prime ticklish spot. She squeezed hard enough to produce a squirm.
Micky did not move.
Ericka raised the leg till the knee was bent. She slammed the flat of her hand on the reflex spot.
His leg did not kick.
She looked over at the nurses again, licking lips suddenly gone dry. She slid a bobby pin from her businesslike blonde bun and moved to the foot of the bed. Ericka uncovered Micky's feet and stabbed the pin into the sole of his foot. Micky did not react.
Ericka closed her eyes. She felt herself start to tremble. Not another one....
"Hey, Doc," Micky suddenly asked, "When are you gonna do something?"
"I've...been doing it, Micky," she said, covering his feet and moving back to his side. "You can open your eyes now."
He looked at her with a look of profound puzzlement. "You've been doing it?"
Micky shrugged, and sat halfway up—then got a look of extreme confusion. "I...I can't. This is as far as it gets..." He then looked at his legs, which were suddenly visible to him—
And which lay like two lumps under the covers.
"Ericka—" he said in a suddenly strangled voice, "what-what's going on? I'm...trying to-to move...and it's not working!" His voice rose in pitch, threatening to break. "I can't even feel the covers! What's going on here?"
Ericka held up both hands. "Micky...you've sustained a back injury. The ambulance drivers didn't know and moved you without protection. We've got to take some X-rays to determine the extent of the damage—"
"The extent of the damage?" Micky echoed incredulously. "Ericka, I can't move!" All that was going through his mind was, my drums....the bass drum and hi-hat...if I can't use my legs...
He sank back onto the bed, squeezing his eyes shut in a vain attempt to keep back the tears. He dimly heard Ericka order a round of back X-rays. One more thought ran through his mind.
Aw, Mike...Davy...now I get it....
Blowing the air out of her cheeks, Ericka moved down the hallway to the waiting room. She entered to find Peter, Mike, Davy and Isabel riveted to their seats, all their faces white and eyes huge. On one side, Isabel held onto Mike's hand; on the other, Peter rested his head on her shoulder, and she slipped one arm around him as they waited for Ericka to explain.
"You guys are having one weird year..." she began.
"How extensive is it?" Mike asked in a strangled tone.
Ericka gave a little start. "How extensive is what?"
"Micky's paralysis," Peter said in the same tone. "Mike heard him scream that he can't move."
Ericka's mouth formed a little o as she turned to stare wide-eyed at the black-haired man. "They're still sensitive? After three months?"
"That's not important now," Mike said, waving a dismissive hand. "Ericka...Micky..."
"He can't move his legs," Ericka said. "Or feel them. At all."
Four pairs of eyes closed in spasmodic grief. Isabel squeezed Mike's hand tighter.
"I've ordered X-rays. Hopefully they can tell us the exact type of damage done to his spine and if it can be reversed surgically like we did for Davy's ears." She licked her lips. "Speaking of ears... Mike, I'd like to run more tests on you, if that's—"
"No, it's not all right!" His eyes snapped open, and they were blazing. "I said no more tests, and I meant no more tests! Most of the time it's fun bein able to hear things other people can't, but today—" He leaped to his feet, fists clenching. "To hear him scream—"
Mike pivoted on his heel and half-ran out of the waiting room.
"Mike!" Isabel jumped up and raced after him.
Davy climbed to his feet, only to be stopped by Peter's hand across his chest. Peter met his eyes and shook his head, face unusually somber—back in leader mode.
Davy sighed and sat down.
Ericka sighed and addressed the two remaining men. "His ears... Have they shown any sign of being less keen?"
Peter sighed. "No, ma'am. They're still the way they tested last month. The book I read said some people have this all their lives. Do you think Michael—"
Ericka looked after Mike and Isabel. "I can't tell you, Peter. I have no idea."
By the time Isabel got Mike calm enough to return to the hospital, Ericka had the results of the X-rays. The others all gathered in Micky's room to hear it. Peter cranked the bed so Micky could sit up.
When Ericka came in....
"You're smiling," Peter said. "Good news, I hope?"
"The best we could have hoped for," she said. "Micky, this isn't permanent." She turned on the light and hooked the X-rays onto the viewing board. "See that?" she said, pointing to a shadow on the X-ray. "That's a bruised vertebra. Two of them. The disc in between them is also bruised and swollen—and pressing on the spinal cord, which is also bruised. But nothing is severed, and nothing is broken. Everything will heal on its own, and you'll be walking again."
The others smiled in relief. Micky did not. "When?" he demanded.
Her smile wavered. "That's—the bad part. Each bruise will have to heal completely before you regain even a little bit of feeling and mobility—" "When?"
"Two months, minimum—five at the outside."
Micky closed his eyes, rolling his head from side to side. Too long...too blasted long..."I can't play," he muttered to himself.
But Mike's quick ears caught it, and he tried to offer some small bit of comfort. "You'll be able to play soon enough."
Micky's eyes flew open, focusing on Mike a look of pure venom such as they had never seen on that open, cheerful face before since they'd known him. He sucked in a deep breath—and screamed as loud as he possibly could, "I hate those ears!"
Mike's hands flew to his ears, his features contorted with pain as he staggered backwards a little, reeling at the onslaught of sound.
"Micky!" Peter gasped, visibly horrified. "You did that on purpose!"
Micky glowered, shrinking into the pillow and looking up at the ceiling, but he didn't apologize. "We can't afford to be out of work for two months, and if I can't play—"
"You can sing," Davy pointed out sharply. "And I can sub for you on drums."
"Every song? You have trouble with the simple riffs!"
"I'll learn," Davy retorted, straightening his shoulders as he tried to project a confidence he didn't quite feel. "We'll adjust. We always have before—"
"This isn't before! This is now! And I don't wanna adjust!" The tears were coming now, and Micky couldn't stop them. He scrubbed at them furiously and sobbed, "Get out—all of you, just get out!"
Davy pivoted on his heel and went to help Mike, who was still rubbing his ears with a pained grimace; he grasped Mike firmly by the elbow and led him out into the hall, followed by Peter, who walked out slowly, throwing concerned looks over his shoulder the whole way.
Isabel, however, didn't budge. She remained right where she was, arms folded across her chest, her mouth thinned into a annoyed—and stubborn—line.
Micky ran a hand across his face, scrubbing away the rest of the tears. He'd managed to shut them off again through sheer rage. Then he noticed Isabel. "I told you to leave," he spat through clenched teeth, his almond eyes narrowing to brown slits.
"I'm not going," she replied quietly. "Not when you're like this."
He recognized that tone—it was the same tone he'd heard a thousand times from Mike when he was about to be obstinate about something. But he was in no mood to indulge her stubbornness. All he wanted was to be left alone.
"Like what?" he snarled, pounding a fist on the bed—or trying to. He wasn't looking and he misaimed, hitting one of his nerveless legs. "Incomplete?"
Her jaw dropped at that, and she stared at him as if she couldn't believe he'd just said that—which she couldn't. "No!" she exclaimed vehemently. "That was the furthest thing from my mind!"
Her first reaction was to be furious that he could even think she would see him that way—and then she realized that it had nothing to do with her at all. That was how he perceived himself now, and all anger fled as she looked at him, compassion filling her eyes.
"Micky—you're hurting. I just want to help," she told him.
"Help?" He laughed, a terrible parody of his Micky-giggles. "How? Can you make me walk again? Can you help me feel the covers or the touch of a hand on my legs? Can you help me move? That's the kind of "help" I need!"
"And you're going to get it—in time," she snapped. "You heard Dr. Peterson—this will heal. You just have to be patient and try to hang on until then."
Micky's only answer was a derisive snort as he turned his head away from her and slung an arm over his eyes. If he could have, he would have turned his back on her, but those stupid legs...
Isabel watched him for a moment, searching for something to say that would encourage him a little, maybe help lift him out of the depression she saw settling over him like a stifling blanket. But nothing came to her, and she realized that it was too soon for mere words to have any healing effect anyway. He needed comfort, but he didn't need to be talked to.
Without hesitation, she crossed the room and hopped up on the bed beside him, ignoring the forbidding glare he shot her from beneath his arm. Instead, she began stroking his tangled mop of curls soothingly with one hand and capturing the hand that rested on his stomach with the other, squeezing it tightly, not about to let go no matter how much he might protest.
Micky looked incredulously up at her for a long minute. Then his almond eyes welled with tears again, and he held out the arm that she did not have hold of the hand on.
"Izzy..." he whimpered like a little boy. "Izzy..." And the tears fell as his body began to wrack with sobs.
Quickly, she released his hand and wrapped both arms around him, holding him close as he wept.
"Shh, it's all right," she crooned softly. "You're going to be fine, sweetheart. You're going to get better, and we'll be here for you until you do."
But if Isabel had seen his face at that moment, she would have been chilled to the bone. Micky was still crying, but the expression he wore over her shoulder gave no doubt as to his feelings.
He did not believe Ericka. He was convinced he would never walk again. And he hated them all for lying to him about it.
For trying to protect the poor little cripple.
Peter and Davy got in an animated discussion after they dropped Mike and Isabel off at her place; even though neither of them were engineering geniuses, they visualized lots of ways to change things around the Pad to make Micky's adjustment easier. Peter got so excited about their plans and the improvements they could make that without even stopping to think twice, he ran next door and pounded on Isabel's door, practically vibrating in place as he waited impatiently for someone to answer.
After a moment, Mike flung the door open, visibly annoyed and obviously disheveled. "What ?"
"We need your help over at the Pad!" The words burst from Peter's lips in a tumbling rush. "We need someone who's Hicky's might!" He stopped, scrunched up his face and tried again. "I mean, Mikey's hit—I mean, Micky's height! That's it! Micky's height!"
From somewhere inside, Peter heard Isabel's familiar giggle, and Mike even cracked a smile at Peter's twisted tongue. "Get in here, shotgun," he growled reluctantly, waving Peter inside.
Peter hurried into the living room, feeling like he would explode if he couldn't hurry up and tell them the news. Isabel was sitting on the couch, trying to get one of her hair ribbons away from Gil, who was enjoying shredding his new play-toy far too much.
"Mike, you've got to come home," Peter exclaimed. "Me and Davy came up with a way to help Micky when he gets home, but you're the closest to Micky's height and we need to see if it's going to work."
Mike walked over and grabbed the ginger cat mid-pounce, and Gil promptly retaliated by kneading his shoulder. Isabel finally snagged the hair ribbon and retied her ponytail. Mike tried to put Gil down, but Gil would have none of it. He dug his claws deep into Mike's back, making him wince. "Dumb cat..." he muttered.
"Let him go," Isabel said. Mike lowered his hands and left Gil perched there like a strange-looking parrot. Then Isabel bellowed, "Guildenstern Evans!"
With a startled MRROW! Gil launched himself to the ground—using Mike's shoulder as a springboard—where he sat licking his front paws.
Not certain which smarted worse at the moment—his shoulder or his ears—he gave her a bemused look and remarked, "You sure got a mouth on you, girl."
"Mike—" Peter groaned impatiently, bouncing up and down on his toes.
"We're coming," Mike replied. "I think it's 'we'?"
"Not tonight," Isabel shook her head regretfully. "I've got a conference with Gregory at nine AM tomorrow—he wants to pitch an idea to me for a new series of articles."
"Okay." With Peter in the room, he wasn't about to say "good-bye" as he usually did; instead, he had to content himself with a simple, "See you tomorrow."
She smiled knowingly, then winked at him once Peter's back was turned. "Good night—good luck, Peter!"
"Night, Isabel! Mike, come on!" He was already halfway to the front door, and now he turned to Mike with an aggrieved look.
"Will you go before he spontaneously combusts?" Her smile turned into a grin at Peter's antics.
"He's just excited," Mike replied mildly, but he complied, catching Peter's arm and hauling him out the door. "Now what is so important?" he demanded.
"Davy and I think we may have some ideas to help Micky get independent, like we did with you! Toward the end there, you were completely independent! We think if we make some changes to the Pad, Micky can be the same way!"
"Where do I come in again?"
"You're only one inch taller than Micky. We need you to be in the chair so we can see if we've got the settings right!"
Mike shook his head at the irony. "Wonder if he realized when he bought that thing someday he'd be using it for real?"
When they walked up to the Pad, Mike's eyes widened. Two parallel boards were resting on the steps, making an ersatz ramp. "Out here, too, huh? Babbitt's gonna love us..."
Mike noticed the chair was sitting beside the door when they came in— and Davy was nowhere to be seen. "Where's—" he began as he moved towards the couch.
Micky's patchwork quilt suddenly flew over the upstairs rail, sailing down to land directly on Mike.
"That answers that," he finished under his breath as he scrambled to get the heavy blanket off, letting it fall in an untidy heap at his feet.
Davy came down the stairs, arms loaded with Micky's personal things. "Ready?" he asked Mike.
"What do I do?" Mike asked, finger-combing his hair back into place.
Peter patted the back of the wheelchair. "Sit down."
Mike shot him an "is that all?" look and sat in the wheelchair. He even brought his feet up to rest on the footrests as Micky's would. "Okay—now what?"
Peter walked over to the bandstand. "Come up here."
Mike wheeled over—they had made a ramp up to the bandstand. The chair glided right up. Mike turned it around to face the Pad—and whistled. "You've been busy."
There was another small ramp dropping down the slight recess where the kitchen table sat. A cane rested very conspicuously against the side of the refrigerator. Mike asked about it, and Peter grinned. "Go over there and see for yourself."
Mike stood—then remembered he was supposed to test-run these things for the guys. He dropped back in the chair and tooled it down the ramp off the bandstand—this is kind of fun, he thought as the chair picked up speed.
But then I can get up and walk away....
"So?" he asked once he was in the kitchen.
"Get some cereal."
Well, the cabinet was way out of reach, so..."The cane?" he asked to confirm his theory.
Mike picked up the cane and reached up with it. The bent handle acted as a hand, pulling open the cabinet. He slid it inside and hooked it around a box of cereal—which fell with a PLOP! onto the counter. Easily in reach now. He stood up and replaced the cereal, then got back into the chair, replacing the cane. Peter's laptop writing desk was also in the kitchen now. "What's this for?"
"When it's Micky's turn to cook, he'll need something other than his lap to cut things on. There's no room at the counter for the chair to fit."
"Then what're you going to write on?"
Peter smiled and gave a one-shouldered shrug. "I made that one. I can make another one." He jerked his head toward his bedroom. "This stuff was easy. It's the bedroom we're having the problem with."
Mike started to wheel in—then stopped. "Hang on. What about the breakables? The dishes and stuff up high?"
Peter smiled. "They're not up high anymore." He stepped around Mike to the lower cabinets, where they'd always thrown bags and such. He opened one to show dishes neatly stacked. "The bags are up there now. Oh—and we need to borrow Gil for a few days. We've got a mouse."
"I'll tell Isa." Mike wheeled toward the bedroom. "Okay—what's the problem in here?"
The chair fit easily through the door, though maneuvering it around the tornado staircase took a bit of practice. Mike wheeled into the bedroom and over to the window, turning around and looking at the twin beds. Peter's was neatly made as always. The other one was a shambles.
"Davy's changing the quilts. He's gonna sleep with you for a week, then I am for a week. We'll see which one of us can live with Micky best, then that one will move in permanently till he gets back upon his feet."
"Sounds like a plan." Mike nodded toward the wall over what was now Micky's bed. "What are those screws for?"
"That's the problem. We're trying to figure out a way for Micky to pull himself up out of bed and get into the chair by himself. We're both stuck."
An image flicked through Mike's head. Something he'd seen at the hospital... "A triangle," he said suddenly. "Thread an oversized triangle down through the screws and over—"
Mike got out of the chair and lay down on Micky's bed. Lying down, he raised his arms straight up. "Here. He can pull himself up—" Mike demonstrated with an imaginary one. "Hold onto a bar that we'll put here—" He swung a hand to the side of the bed, lower than the mattress. "And just swing himself into the chair!"
Peter had grabbed one of the notebook necklaces left over from Davy's trauma and was illustrating what Mike was saying. "That'll work!" he said. "And if we lower the closet bar, Micky will be able to reach his own clothes—"
"And shower by himself—"
Their eyes met. "The bathroom," they both said at the same time. "We forgot about the bathroom."
"Here now," Davy said, coming in with another armload of stuff, "I've not heard that in awhile."
"What?" they both asked, then Peter grinned. They already knew the answer.
"Us talkin in unison," Mike said.
"Our minds and mouths in perfect synch," Peter agreed.
"Sharing leadership," they said together, and Peter laughed out loud while Mike smiled benevolently.
"I thought you were backing off, letting him lead again," Davy said.
Peter nodded. "I am...There's just a few times—"
"Moments—" Mike added. "When it just kinda—"
"Happens," they finished together, doing it deliberately to get a rise out of Davy.
Davy stood there, arms folded as he frowned at them both—trying to decide if they were really back to sharing leadership, or if he was being teased. He decided on the latter, and with a snort, pivoted on his heel and went back upstairs to get another armload of Micky's clothes.
Mike sat back in the chair and wheeled it into the bathroom. One good thing about the beach house -- it had been built large. There was room in the bathroom for a commode, a sink, a shower—and a wheelchair.
"Reach at the sink won't be a problem," Mike said. "We keep the brush there..."
"We don't," Peter reminded him. "Maybe we should buy him another brush in case whichever one of us ends up sleeping in here forgets. And another razor and toothbrush and toothpaste."
"Good idea," Mike said. "Now—we need to put handles on the toilet and another bar so he can swing in and out of the chair—" Mike lowered the toilet seat and sat down, showing Peter with his arms where the bars and handles would need to be. Peter drew the diagrams, and Mike moved to the shower.
"Another bar here...and some kind of stool..." Mike mimed sitting, and reached for the shower controls. "Reach isn't a problem..."
"Hey, you think Babbitt's gonna go for all this?" Peter asked suddenly, his brow furrowed with concern.
"He's not gonna have a choice," Mike said firmly as he stood up. "By the time he finds out about the changes, they'll already be done. Most will be in here anyhow—all that's out there is some ramps that we can dismantle after Micky can walk again."
"Yeah, and Babbitt never comes in here." Peter finished the last diagram, then frowned. "Show me the last bar position again?" Mike did and Peter nodded.
"Okay, I got it right." He flipped through the pages and whistled. "How much do you think all this pipe and stuff's gonna cost?"
"I don't know," Mike said. "But it's something we've gotta do, isn't it? Just like you had to go to the library every day to type out Braille music for me."
Peter's brows were drawn together in a puzzled frown. "Hey, Mike—he can't feel anything from the waist down, right?"
"So how's he gonna—um—go to the bathroom?"
"I got no idea," he replied curtly. "And there are some things that just ain't none of my business."
The next morning, Mike and Peter drove to the hardware store and bought fifty-eight dollars' worth of material and tools.
"Well," Peter sighed as he drove the car home, "Babbitt's just going to have to get his rent late again."
"M-hm," Mike said, distracted. He was poring over Peter's diagrams and making a few notes of his own, which was the only reason he'd agreed to let Peter drive without shooting fingers first. "I think we can really make this work, shotgun."
"IF Micky will do his part," Peter said. "He's still really down. Did you see the expression on his face when we dropped Davy off at the hospital?"
Mike closed the notebook and looked at Peter, his expression betraying his anxiety on his friend's behalf. "Yeah, I saw. I don't mind tellin you—it gave me the creeps. It's almost like he's givin up," he said grimly.
"Like you tried to do," Peter nodded gravely, his light brown eyes wide with concern.
Mike shivered involuntarily. "Yeah... like I tried to do." He suddenly turned a shrewd look on Peter. "How come we never get to see this side of you unless one of us is hurtin?"
"I don't understand."
"The serious, smart side of you," Mike explained patiently. "The side that sees a need and steps in to fill it. Like with me. Not with Davy so much, but now you're doin it again with Micky."
Peter shrugged, turning the car onto Beechwood. "I don't know. I'm not that different."
"Yeah, you are. And I'm real curious about it."
Peter thought for a second, then wheeled into the driveway of 1334 Beechwood.
"Mike, I think I'm just...I'm just growing up a little," he said at last, offering the only explanation that came to mind.
Mike stared at him in mute astonishment. Yeah... Peter's actions when one of them was in trouble were those of a man more mature than they had given him credit for being.
"I think you may be right," Mike said finally. "You might be growin up a little." He smiled slightly at that; he'd have to adjust his way of thinking where Peter was concerned. "Well— we've got a lot o'work ahead of us today. You game?"
"I'm game!" Peter vaulted out of the Monkeemobile and started gathering up some of the pipes.
Mike was tightening the last connection on the pipe bars he was installing in the shower when he heard a THUMP and something he had never heard before.
Mike peeked into the bedroom to see Peter stand up and fling the pipe wrench onto the bed, cursing under his breath. He clamped both hands on the top of his head, his eyes squeezed tightly shut as he muttered a litany of curses under his breath.
Mike didn't bother to repress the grin that curved his lips. "Nice to know I'm not the only one with a temper," he remarked lightly.
Peter glared at him, gesturing to the bed. The pipe triangle the two of them had constructed lay askew on the bed. "That—that thing slipped its moorings and crashed down right on top of my head!" Peter snapped.
"Ow..." Mike winced, suddenly understanding. "Did it hit that place?"
The top of Peter's head was very sensitive, from an accident he'd had as a toddler.
"Yeah..." Peter grimaced, closing his eyes and letting another curse slip out. "It hurts!"
"Come on," Mike said, grasping his elbow and pulling him into the living room, making him lie down on the couch. When that place got hit, Peter was in so much pain he could not think straight. Mike made him comfortable with an ice pack, and went in to check that triangle.
One glance told him the trouble. Peter had threaded the triangle through the eyelet hooks like he was supposed to, to give the chain enough give for Micky to use it to pull himself up, but he had not secured the eyelet hooks into the wall and ceiling with the special screws they had bought! Mike sighed, amused despite himself.
"Peter, Peter, Peter..." he chuckled, imitating Davy's typical response in situations like this.
The phone rang. Peter moaned—the sound was too much with a budding migraine.
Mike snagged it before the second ring. "Hello?" He grinned. "That's great! Yeah, I'll tell him....No, not really. He got conked...Yeah, it hit that place...Oh, he's peachy. He's cursed more the last five minutes than...Yeah, I said cursed. .. Yeah, Peter...Oh, shut up."
"Gotta be Davy," Peter groaned. "Smart mouth..."
"Peter says hi," Mike said into the phone, smiling at the black look he got. "Don't worry, I'll pump him full of aspirin. When you gettin home?...All right....sure. Yeah, sure....Hamburgers. OK, see you then. Bye."
He hung up the phone and walked over to the couch. "Ericka's releasing Micky tomorrow," he informed Peter. "Davy's gone to a fast food joint to get supper for us, so we can finish modifyin the Pad. Let me get you some aspirin so we can get back to work."
Peter closed his eyes and groaned, sinking deeper into the couch. Mike disappeared into the bathroom, and Peter heard the door open. He peeked one eye open to see Isabel walk in; she glanced over at him, the beginnings of a pleasant smile of greeting curving on her lips—only to vanish as soon as she noticed the taut lines of agony etched on his face. She gasped and hurried to the couch, and Peter winced with every click of her high heels. She sat down beside him, clasping one of his hands between both her own as she gazed down at him, obviously concerned.
"Peter, what's wrong?"
He managed a shaky grin. "Hello to you, too, sweetheart," he mumbled.
Isabel glanced up to see Mike coming out of the bathroom, aspirin and water in hand. He froze mid-step and mouthed, "Sweetheart?"
"Sweetheart?" Isabel asked—lowering her voice, since she had realized by now he was in a great deal of pain.
Peter waved a hand. "Term of affection...for a bestest friend...that I can't use with my other bestest friends...cause they're all guys..." He moaned, closing his eyes. "Where is that aspirin...?"
"Comin," Mike said, handing them to Isabel. Mike helped Peter sit up, and Isabel helped him take the medicine. Then Mike eased him back down.
"So..." Peter mumbled, wincing from the pain of being moved, "Isabel... Please, can I call you that? With Michael's permission of course..."
"Hang Mike's permission," Isabel replied promptly with a saucy grin at Mike. "I like it—especially coming from my dearest friend." She winked at Mike, who crossed his arms and mock-glared at her. "You can call me sweetheart anytime you like, Peter."
Peter smiled at her and closed his eyes. "Mi... Michael?"
"I'm gonna...I'm gonna sleep now...This is migraine-strength..."
"Go ahead, Peter. Sleep it off."
Peter nodded and turned to face the back of the couch. Isabel drew the afghan over him, tucking it around his shoulders.
She stood up and whispered, "Sleep it off?"
"Peter gets migraines," Mike said. "He hides them till he can't stand the pain anymore. Then he goes to bed and sleeps it off. He gets them every three months, so regular you could mark your calendar and predict when they're gonna hit."
"And today is the day."
"No—he had the last one September second. His next one's not due till the first of December. Come on, I'll show you what happened."
He took her arm and led her into the downstairs bedroom.
"Mike," she said, "I was here September second. You played a gig September second! You mean he was hurting and—"
Mike nodded solemnly. "He was so full of painkillers that I don't think he remembers the gig. He crashed in the car on the way home, and we had to carry him inside. See that on Micky's bed? He forgot to screw it into the wall and it hit his head, right on the—" Mike broke off.
"Right on the what?"
Mike hesitated. They had had to drag that information out of Peter, as it was one of the embarrassing moments of his childhood. Mike didn't know if he had the right to tell Isabel...
Still, she was Peter's "bestest friend"...
"Right on what we jokingly call The Place," he continued. "See, when he was two, Peter was staying with his grandmother and uncle while his parents went shopping. His grandmother thought the uncle was watching him, the uncle thought his grandmother was. Peter slipped away and went exploring. He found the basement door had accidentally been left open and, well, kids will be kids..."
"He decided to go to the basement," Isabel finished knowingly.
"Uh-huh. Only he couldn't see in the dark and didn't know there were steps. Peter fell down the steps and landed headfirst in a pile of quilts his grandmother had down there waiting to wash. Under those quilts was a bare concrete floor."
Isabel's hand flew to her mouth. "Was he hurt?"
"Oh, yeah. His head cracked open down to the skull. Ever since then, the top of his head has been incredibly sensitive. Remember when you gave him that hat?"
"Yeah—he wore it for a few minutes, then pulled it off. He didn't think I saw him, but he grimaced like he was in pain!" She met Mike's eyes. "He was in pain, wasn't he?"
"Yeah. He was." Mike ran a finger along Micky's headboard. "The three of us think that accident is a large part of why Peter is the way he is today. Peter denies it. He thinks he would have been the curious hodgepodge in his head even without the accident."
"You know... how he doesn't know very much about a lot of things, but give him music or a book and he turns into supermind."
Isabel's eyes lit up with sudden comprehension. "Or how he's so naive unless one of you is hurt, then he turns into a father figure."
"Leader Mode," Mike said. "Yeah. Anyhow—I've gotta get this thing rigged up right before Davy gets home."
"Can I help?"
"Sure—you can hand me the screws."
An hour and a half passed without incident—and suddenly there came a loud pounding on the front door followed by Babbitt's enraged shout, "All right, you guys—open up! Now!"
Peter lurched upright, yowling from the pain, hands flying to his temples. Isabel flew to his side, trying to comfort him with soft words and a soothing touch on his forehead. Mike, wincing in pain himself, moved toward the door with a fierce scowl and dire mutterings about their landlord. Davy, who had just gotten home, looked up from laying out the hamburgers he'd bought—four servings of them.
Mike yanked open the front door, forcing himself to look remotely pleasant. "What is it, Mister Babbitt?"
"Yeah, Nesmith," Babbitt snapped, "What is it? What is the meaning behind all these boards you've nailed to my front steps? And WHATare those things on the bandstand and kitchen?"
"Ramps," Peter raised himself on one elbow, glaring up at Babbitt. "They are all the same things—wheelchair ramps."
"Ramps?" Babbitt echoed. "Wheelchair?" Then he caught sight of the empty chair by the door. "That is a wheelchair," he blurted. "Who's coming?"
"Micky," Mike said curtly. "He was in a car accident and he's paralyzed from the waist down. He needs that chair to get around, and the ramps to get up and down the rises. Anything else you need to know, Mister Babbitt?" he asked with barely restrained irritation.
"What's the matter with him?" Babbitt asked, pointing at Peter.
Peter winced from his foghorn voice, pain making his ears as sensitive as Mike's. "Migraine, Mister B. Intense headache."
"Oh, hey!" Mike said. "Long as you're here..." He walked over to the mad money jar and pulled out the assorted bills, pressing them into Babbitt's hand when he returned to the door. "Next month's rent—in advance."
Babbitt blinked at him. "Where'd you get this?"
Mike winked at Isabel, who had suggested a temporary loan; Mike had automatically refused until she pointed out with annoying logic that Babbitt probably wouldn't be happy about the additions to the house—which he wasn't—and that money was the best way to shut him up about it—which it was. "Oh, we have our ways—legal ways."
Babbitt took the money and retreated. At the door, he turned and barked, "If he ever gets on his feet again, I want those things dismantled!"
"They will be," Mike promised. "Soon as he's walkin again."
Babbitt nodded and left, slamming the door.
Making Mike and Peter both cry out from the onslaught of sound.
Morning dawned a spectacular day.
But Micky's eyes were blind to the beauty. He sat in the wheelchair that the guys had brought from the Pad and watched them bustle about, packing his clothes and getting him ready to go home. Getting dressed had been an adventure. Trying to wrestle pants on over essentially dead limbs had required more strength—and patience—than he thought he possessed. Fortunately, years of drum playing had left him stronger than he thought, and he had finally done it on his own. Peter had offered to help, but he had tersely refused; it was bad enough that half his body was useless. He didn't want to feel like he was becoming a burden to the others as well.
However, instead of being proud at that accomplishment, he was bitter and resentful of the harsh hand fate had dealt him. The others joked around with him—even Mike teased him a little—but Micky could not smile. He felt like another person entirely—a cold shell of himself that wore Micky's face and name, but whose emotions were as paralyzed as his legs.
Ericka came in then, handing a prescription to the person nearest to her—Peter. "This is for pain," she said, looking at Micky. "When those bruises heal, the first sensation to hit your legs is going to be intense pain. These pills will help make that manageable for a few days, till the first onslaught fades and you can handle it better."
Micky just scowled up at her mutely.
She touched his shoulder. "Micky—this won't last. It's not forever."
"Quit lying to me, Ericka. You don't know if it is or isn't."
The venom in his voice stopped everyone in their tracks.
Ericka blinked at him. "That is the lie, Micky. The X-rays were very clear. You are going to walk again."
Micky just turned his head away as his frown deepened.
The guys and Ericka looked at each other, profoundly worried. Despite his clownish behavior, Micky felt things deeply—with all his heart and soul—perhaps more than any of them realized.
And now that sensitive heart and soul were caught in the grips of a fathomless depression.
Micky chafed when they were home. The guys were doing their best to treat him normally, but he could not get past the fact that he was dead from the waist down.
Night fell, and bedtime rolled around. Peter and Mike studied Micky as he used the bar system they had rigged up to get into bed independently. The two modifiers shared smiles of pride.
Micky cast a dubious look up at the ceiling and the triangle. "This thing isn't going to come down on me, is it?"
Peter winced automatically, remembering, and Mike chuckled. "Nope, it's secure. Anything you need?"
"My legs." Peter closed his eyes for a second, then amended, "Anything you need that we can get you now?"
"Water," Micky said suddenly. "I would like a tall glass of water."
"I got it," Peter said, leaving the bedroom. When he came back, he had a tall glass of ice water. Micky thanked him and drank, then set the glass where he could reach it easily.
Micky pretended to be asleep when Peter came to bed. Soon he heard Peter's gentle breathing—he was asleep at last. He waited till the others had had time to go to sleep too—then he made his decision.
A sound dragged Peter from sleep—a low groan that triggered his alarm instincts even in deep slumber. He rolled over and cracked open his eyes.
"Micky?" he whispered.
There was no answer. Not even a snore.
Instantly, Peter was wide awake and on the move. Micky was neversilent—even in sleep. He swung his legs out of bed, teddy bear tumbling to the floor forgotten as he reached for the lamp by his bed, growing fear making him clumsy as he groped for the switch.
Still no answer.
Finally his searching, fumbling fingers found the knob, and he snapped on the light by his bed, his gaze trained on Micky.
Micky lay sprawled on his bed, one arm dangling limply over the side; his chest rose and fell in breaths that were becoming increasingly shallow, and although his eyes were half open, all Peter could see were the whites.
"Micky?" Peter gasped as he sprang out of bed. Then his eyes fell on the nightstand beside Micky's bed. The tall glass of water was empty.
So was the bottle of painkillers.
Peter ran to the bedroom door, flung it open and took a deep breath. "MI-I-I-I-IKE!"
He then raced back inside, his brain whirling. There was no time to wait for Mike—
Peter wrestled his hands underneath Micky's armpits, and Micky struggled weakly, lifting his hands with what little strength remained to try to push Peter away. Peter froze for a split-second—Micky didn't want to live...
"You're gonna live, man," Peter hissed, hauling Micky to a sitting position.
Micky's head lolled back and Peter stood, pulling with all his strength. He ended up on the floor with Micky sprawled on top of him, felled by the sheer dead weight of Micky's body. Peter scrambled to his feet and began to drag Micky out of the bedroom, across the living room.
Mike appeared at the top of the stairwell, knuckling sleep from his chocolate brown eyes.
"What is it, Peter?" he demanded testily, irritated at having been woken up in the middle of the night.
"Call Doctor Peterson!" Peter yelled as he kicked open the bathroom door. "Micky swallowed the whole bottle of painkillers!"
"Micky did what?" Mike bellowed, taking the metal stairs two at a time. He helped Peter drag Micky the last few feet. "You got him?"
"I got him! Call Doc Peterson!"
Peter flung the toilet seat up and, using one of the newly installed handles as a lever, hauled himself and Micky over to it. He braced Micky over it and reached for Micky's mouth.
Micky tried to slap his hand away. "Lemme be..."
"No." Peter's voice was firm as he grabbed Micky's chin, trying to force his mouth open.
Again Micky pushed his hand away, stronger this time.
And a sudden CRACK! jolted Micky out of his drug-induced stupor as he felt the sting of Peter's hand across his cheek.
"No!" Peter yelled. "I am not gonna let you be!"
Peter grabbed Micky around the shoulders, immobilizing his arms with one arm, and he forced two fingers of the other hand down Micky's throat. Micky still struggled weakly, and tried to bite Peter's fingers. Peter jerked them away, and pushed his fingers down in again.
"Come on," Peter hissed through clenched teeth, "come on!"
Micky shook his head weakly—then involuntarily gagged. Peter kept his fingers in, and Micky gagged again ... and again....
And Peter jerked his fingers out of Micky's mouth and held his head as the contents of his stomach emptied forcefully.
Peter breathed a sigh of relief. Only three pills had had time to dissolve. Twenty-one whole white pills fell into the commode. Finally, Micky heaved but nothing came out.
"It's all right now," Peter said, leaning back and pulling Micky back as well.
Peter reached up and pulled the towel from the bar, wiping Micky's mouth as the curly-haired man began to tremble violently. Peter noticed his own hands were trembling as well, and he felt a sudden, belated rush of fear behind the adrenaline pumping through his system. He pulled Micky's head into his lap and smoothed the brown curls as he mumbled, "You're going to be all right now..."
"Why?" Micky asked, his light tenor voice cracking.
"Why did you do that? Why didn't you just let me die?" he wailed as tears welled in his eyes, leaving wet streaks down his cheeks as he wept uncontrollably.
Peter turned his head and looked at the doorway. Mike stood there, silent and still, his expression closed. Peter shot him a questioning look, and Mike shook his head, tilting it toward Micky. Peter could see concern and compassion in the depths of his eyes, but he was clearly leaving this job to Peter. He, after all, had started it. And now he could finish without Mike's help for the moment.
"Look at me."
Micky was startled by the note he heard in Peter's voice. He'd only heard that a handful of times—that forceful, commanding tone that meant Peter was in Leader Mode. Micky pushed himself onto his elbows and raised his head to meet Peter's blazing eyes.
"That question was dumber than anything that's ever come out of my mouth!" Peter snapped. "You're our friend, Micky! You are George Michael Dolenz, our friend and our partner! That's why I did that! You're trying to take the coward's way out—the easy way out. A permanent solution to a temporary problem—well, you can just forget about it! We are going to see you through this, Micky—all of us!"
Micky blurted, "Dang it, Peter—this isn't temporary! I'm paralyzed, can't you see that? I can't move! I can't feel! And you're telling me a magic wand is gonna be waved and all of a sudden I'll be walking again?"
"I'm telling you that you're going to heal! Doc Peterson said so!"
"Peter, she also said Mike would lose his sensitive hearing," Micky pointed out. "And he hasn't!"
"No, he hasn't," Peter conceded. "But he did regain his sight, just like she said. And Davy did regain his hearing. And Davy also lost his observation skills—except for the lip-reading—just like she said he would."
"Then..." Micky made a move to sit up, and Peter helped him lean against the wall. "What you're saying is she's right more than she's wrong."
"That's right," Peter said. "She's only been wrong so far about Mike's ears. So trust her, all right? She said you'll walk again, and you will walk again!"
"I'm scared, Pete," Micky admitted softly. "Now I understand what they went through—the limitations—" His voice hitched, his throat clogged with unshed tears as he continued. "I f-feel like I'm only—only h-half a man! Like I j-just stop right h-here!" He lay a hand on his stomach, right on the dividing line between where he could and could not feel.
Peter rested his hand on one of Micky's knees. "Like these don't exist anymore."
Micky looked deep into Peter's eyes—and was shaken by what he saw. "You—You understand! How do you understand? You understood his blindness, Davy's deafness....now me being..."
Peter just smiled very slightly. "It's simple, really. I just imagine myself in your shoes. I have a very good imagination." Then the smile faded. "We're going to help you through this, Micky. Don't shut us out."
"And don't ever try anything so stupid again," came the distinctive twang from the doorway.
Micky craned his neck around Peter to see Mike leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded, regarding Micky with a stern scowl. "How long were you—?"
"Long enough," came the terse reply. "Pete, Ericka wants me to call her back. She said you did exactly the right thing. How many got inside him?"
"Three dissolved. Not enough to hurt him." Peter sighed, and began to tremble again. "Thank goodness he moaned and woke me up..."
Then Peter put his head in his hands and sobbed. Coming out of Leader Mode, with the crisis past, he could finally give into the fear he had felt. "If I hadn't woken up—"
And it was Micky's turn to put a comforting arm around Peter's shoulders and draw him into a hug while Mike went to call Doctor Peterson back and tell her everything was all right.
For the moment.
"He did what?!"
Mike stared wide-eyed at the vibrating bundle of fury in front of him, wondering if perhaps he should have called for back-up before telling her about Micky's suicide attempt the night before.
"Of all the stupid—!" The words stuck in her throat, strangled by the force of her anger, and Mike watched with growing alarm as her face turned five different shades of red in the space of about ten seconds.
"Yeah," he drawled. "That's what we said. Now I gotta stay in the downstairs bedroom with him until he recovers cause I'm the only one who'll hear him if he tries somethin like that again." He paused, shaking his head. "Why do I always have to be the one to sleep downstairs?"
Isabel appeared to be listening to him, but he wasn't certain she actually heard what he said; her eyes snapped with rage and her hands were clenched into fists by her sides. Finally, she whirled around and stormed out of her house without a single word, not waiting for him or looking back to see if he was following her. He did, of course, keeping pace with her easily despite the fact that she was almost running across the yard towards the Pad.
"Isa—? Isabel—?" He considered catching hold of her shoulder and stopping her, but thought better of it. "What are you doin?" he asked, but she kept moving, not giving him so much as a backwards glance.
When she got to the front door, she threw it open so hard it bounced against the wall and almost rebounded in her face. Good thing it wasn't locked, Mike thought. She might've kicked it in.
"Where is he?" she demanded.
Instantly, Peter and Davy looked up from what they were doing, their jaws scraping the ground as they gaped at her. They'd never seen this side of her before. As one they both pointed to the downstairs bedroom, eyes wide as saucers—and not envying Micky a bit.
With that, she hurried over, flung open the bedroom door and barged in without knocking, then slammed the door shut behind her—not that that would keep the others from hearing the conversation. Or her side anyway. Mike moved to stand close enough that he could easily hear both sides, but he winced and stepped back a couple of steps at her outraged roar.
"GEORGE MICHAEL DOLENZ, what did you think you were doing?!"
Micky, who had glanced up curiously at her sudden, unannounced arrival, now stared at her, shocked into silence. The morning paper slipped from his suddenly nerveless fingers and fell to the floor as he watched her glare at him, her hands on her hips, her dark eyes flashing wrathful fire at him.
"Wh-who told you—?" he asked faintly.
"Mike did," she answered grimly. "And he was right to tell me. Micky, how could you?" she demanded angrily. "What were you thinking? No, wait—" she interrupted herself, giving him a withering look. "You weren't thinking. You were just all wrapped up in self-pity, and you didn't even stop to think for one minute how this would affect anyone else."
"Now waitaminute, Izzy, that's not fair—!" he protested. How dare she come in here condemning him? She didn't understand! She couldn't possibly understand what he was going through!
"Don't you 'Izzy' me!" she shrieked, waving her hands. "And don't you talk to me about fair! I'll tell you what's not fair! Not fair would be your friends waking up this morning to find you dead! Not fair would be Peter having to live with the guilt because he didn't wake up in time to help you! Not fair would be Mike having to come over and tell me that—"
Her voice suddenly hitched in her throat, and her mask of anger cracked just long enough for him to catch a glimpse of pure fear hiding deep in her eyes.
"That I'd lost the only brother I've ever known," she finished in a considerably more quiet voice.
She crossed the room and sat down on his bed beside him, her face set in taut, somber lines.
"That wouldn't be fair, Micky. And it would be permanent. This—" she said, resting her hand on his left leg. "This isn't. Ericka said you'd walk again. You have to hold onto that—you have to let us helpyou hold onto that."
"I know," he replied quietly. "Look, I've heard all this from Peter...and Davy...and Mike..."
"Hearing it doesn't mean you've listened," she retorted. "So you're going to hear it from me too."
Her expression softened then, and in an unexpected move, she reached out and cupped his cheek in the palm of her hand, gazing at him fondly.
"I'm finally getting the family I've wanted since I was ten years old," she told him softly. "And I'm not ready to lose you--any of you."
Micky gazed back at her, suddenly feeling the stirrings of remorse. He'd forgotten that she was an orphan—that she was an only child raised in a strict environment who'd had few chances to make friends. He'd forgotten that he wasn't the only one in the world who'd suffered loss, and he felt unaccountably guilty.
Neither Mike nor Davy had tried to take their own lives even during the worst of their suffering. Mike hadn't even known for sure if he would get his sight back, and Davy had told them in no uncertain terms after the scare he'd given them by wandering off that he'd never even considered suicide.
And he had actually tried it...How weak they must think he was...What a coward...
He hung his head, ashamed of his selfish behavior. She was right—he hadn't been thinking of anyone but himself and his own grief.
"Micky—" Isabel's tone was soothing, and he looked up again, all the misery he felt showing in his face. "It's okay. No one blames you. And we don't think any less of you."
"Yeah, right," he scoffed. "You don't think any less of Micky the coward—"
"No," she repeated firmly. "We do not. I do not. You've suffered a great loss, and you're having trouble dealing with it. The only thing I blame you for is not letting one of us help you so you didn't reach this point. I mean,really, Micky—even Mike let Peter help him."
Micky managed a slight chuckle at that. "And if he of all people can do it..."
Isabel nodded. "Exactly. Let your friends support you. Don't shut us out anymore."
"I'll—I'll try," he said softly. "But I'm not sure I know where to begin..."
"You begin by not worrying that any of us are going to judge you for what you're feeling—especially not Davy or Mike. They understand, and Peter and I will try to as best we can," she assured him. "And you can promise me you won't try anything so stupid ever again!"
She tried to deliver the words in a mock-threatening way, but the tears that welled in her eyes as she spoke ruined the effect, and she dashed them away impatiently.
"See what you've done?" she grumbled. "Making me cry..."
He reached out and pulled her down so that she could rest her head on his shoulder, and she allowed it, knowing they both needed comforting at the moment.
"Thanks, Iz," he said at last. "I think I listened this time."
"Good," she replied promptly, gently stroking his arm. "It's about time."
Outside the bedroom door, Mike, Peter and Davy gave identical sighs of relief.
"I think he'll be all right now," Davy remarked. "Dunno how she got through to him when we couldn't, but whatever works, man."
"It was the temper," Peter said, grinning mischievously. "She's been hanging out with Michael too long."
"Oh, no—" Mike waved one hand in a dismissive gesture. "She had that long before she met me. I had nothin to do with it."
Peter and Davy exchanged smug smiles as Mike darted questioning looks between them.
"What?" he demanded at last.
"Oh, nothing, mate," Davy replied nonchalantly. "Just goes to prove something Peter and I've talked about before."
"And that would be what exactly?" Mike growled menacingly.
"How much truth there is to some old proverbs," he answered blithely, then waltzed off, leaving Peter to bear the brunt of Mike's growing impatience.
"What old proverb, Peter?"
Peter smiled winningly. "Like attracts like, man. Like attracts like." And with that, he dashed away to hide out in the bathroom, leaving Mike standing there scowling and shaking his head.
"Man, I hate it when they're right."
Micky lay there alone for a few minutes after Isabel left, thinking hard about what she had said.
Then, a smile spread over his face as he made another decision.
Reaching up, he closed his fingers over the lower bar of the triangle. Using both hands, he pulled himself into a sitting position. Then he braced himself with one arm while he reached for the wheelchair with the other hand. He pulled the chair close to the bed, and reached down till his fingers closed around the bar under the side of the bed. Using that as a lever, he flipped himself out of bed, landing neatly in the seat of the wheelchair.
Micky smiled as he pulled each one of his lifeless legs up so that his feet rested on the footrests. He bent over and tied one of his shoes that had come undone in all the moving around—thankful he had gotten dressed before Izzy had barged in—then sat up and released the brakes on the chair.
And for the first time since he'd been released from the hospital, Micky wheeled himself out of the bedroom.
"Good morning," he said—not cheerfully yet, but with a bit more brightness than he'd been feeling lately.
The four smiles he received in return were worth more to him than all the gold in the world. And Micky knew that, at last, he was on the road to recovery.
He also knew that it was a long one that stretched out for weeks in front of him. But that he did not have to go down it alone.
Isabel slapped fruitlessly at the ringing alarm clock, groping for it without opening her eyes until she finally knocked it off the night stand and shut it off thatway. With a petulant groan, she rolled over and sat up. Morning. Again.
It was now three days since Micky's suicide attempt and life was very much back to normal. Micky still had his blue periods, but he had promised that he would not pull something so stupid again. And they were—slowly— beginning to trust him again.
Isabel drew on her robe and stumbled out of her bedroom toward the kitchen, needing coffee before she even attempted to begin getting ready for work. Still groggy, she went through the motions of making a fresh pot and was waiting for it to perk when her gaze fell on the living room and her couch—
That yelp brought Mike sitting bolt upright, his eyes wide. "What?" he asked, sounding anxious. "What is it? Is it Micky again?"
"What are you doing here?" she demanded, her need for coffee diminished by the pure adrenaline rushing though her bloodstream after such a shock.
Mike swung his legs out of the covers, and Isabel breathed a sigh of relief when she saw he was dressed. Bad enough he'd come over in the middle of the night, but if he'd come in his pajamas...... That was imagery she just didn't need right now, not when she still felt residual pangs of loneliness after those few days they'd spent under the same roof.
"Blame Micky and Davy," he groused, running a hand through his tousled hair. "Mick wrote out the drum riffs to our songs, and Davy stayed up late practicin—he's determined to get 'em right so we can start playin again real soon. I couldn't get to sleep with all the bangin, so I came somewhere quiet." He looked at her, and she saw a flash of chagrin in his eyes. "Sorry—I didn't mean to fall asleep over here."
"It's okay. I understand," she said, moving across the room so she could perch on the couch next to him. "You really didn't have a choice, did you? Those drums and your ears are a bad combination in the middle of the night."
"Yeah," he agreed with an annoyed grimace. "They are. But—" and he grinned, "there is an unexpected nice side-effect to this."
"Oh? What's that?" She answered his grin with one of her own.
He reached out and drew her into his arms, cuddling her on his lap, and she curled up against him with a small, contented sigh.
"Mornin," he said quietly.
"Good morning," she replied just as quietly, then dropped a quick kiss on his cheek before resting her head on his shoulder.
The coffee was ready by this point, but she was in no hurry to get to it, and it was quite a while before she ever got her first cup.
Micky sat in the sand, leaning back against his hands, his wheelchair temporarily abandoned as he watched the water swirl over his lifeless legs. He'd normally be screaming with shock at the frigid temperatures, but now it was almost like he was watching someone else get wet.
Isabel and Mike walked over to him, and he shot them a smile. "Look at this," he said, nodding to his legs. "I can't even feel this!"
Morbid, yes, he thought, but fascinating. These were his legs, but he felt as disassociated with them as if they weren't even real—just imitation limbs stuck on the lower half of his body. So very strange to think on...
Isabel sat down beside him, heedless of the wet sand even though she was still wearing the dress she'd worn to work—and that she had to go back once her lunch break was over. "Micky..." she began, lightly touching his cheek as she peered anxiously at him, "are you okay about this? It's been a week, and—"
"I'm fine, Izzy," Micky interrupted, waving one had dismissively. "No more thoughts of stupidity. I'm hanging onto what Ericka said—that I'm going to recover."
"Micky, Ericka just called," Mike announced. "She'd like you to come in at four if you can."
"Sure," Micky nodded. "Hey, what time is it anyway?"
Mike looked at his watch—and the sunshine flared off it right into his eyes. Cursing at the shock, Mike rubbed his eyes, then ran his fingers along the watch face.
Micky's eyes widened. For the first time, he realized Mike still wore the Braille watch!
"Ten after one," Mike replied, rubbing his eyes again. "Man, I'm seein spots!" Isabel stood up and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I'm all right," he assured her. "Keep forgettin I need to wear my glasses."
Micky stared up at him, visibly confused. "'Glasses'?"
"Sun glasses," Mike corrected himself. "I'm still a little light-sensitive—" he gave a wry smile, "as you probably guessed, from what just happened."
Micky pulled himself into the chair and adjusted his feet on the rests. Without being asked, Isabel came over and took the handles, pushing him toward the beach house as Micky dusted wet sand from his legs. He shot her a smile over his shoulder. "Thanks, Izzy."
Mike smiled as they neared the house. "Davy and Pete are practicin," he informed them. "I can hear the drums and keyboards."
Micky suddenly frowned. "Hey, Mike? I'm—I'm sorry I hurt you in the hospital. I haven't had much of a chance to say that till now, but—"
Mike nodded. "It's all right. Believe me, Mick—I understand."
Micky smiled. "I know. And now I understand what you must have gone through."
They wheeled Micky up the long ramp they had built over the verandah steps, and into the house. Isabel released the handles, and Micky wheeled up the ramp to the bandstand. He shot Davy a smile as he picked up the tambourine. "Much better. Still a little fast on the last seven beats, but getting a lot better."
Davy smiled, wiping his forehead in an exaggerated "Whew!" gesture that made them all laugh.
Mike walked over to the bandstand and picked up his 12-string. Peter abandoned the harpsichord for the bass. Micky turned to face front, tambourine on his lap. Isabel dropped onto the couch in her listening position, and they were all ready.
"Sometime in the Morning," Micky announced. Davy clicked the sticks by way of counting off, and they began.
Twelve songs later, Davy's arms began to quiver from the unfamiliar strain and he began losing the beat, fumbling with the riffs. Micky called a halt to practice so Davy could go rest.
"Almost three," Mike said. "We got an hour before we have to go."
At that instant the phone rang. Peter was first to it. "Hello?... Yes, this is Peter.... A gig?" He turned, beaming to the others, and three heads nodded in excitement. "Sure! When? Tonight...?"
Davy shook his head vehemently, his wide brown eyes growing wider with alarm. "No... tonight's too soon..... Tomorrow?" They all nodded again, Davy with some reluctance. "Yeah, tomorrow will be fine. See you then!"
Peter hung up the phone. "We've got a gig for tomorrow night at the Club Camelot!"
Four voices went up in a huge cheer.
"Waitaminute! Waitaminute! Hold it!" Isabel yelled, waving her arms to command their attention and effectively cutting short the celebration. "What about Micky?" she asked, looking directly into his eyes, her voice and face laden with concern.
Micky wheeled over to her, deliberately bumping into her leg—he had found a way to be annoying even now—as he gave her one of his old, familiar sunny grins.
"Micky will be just fine, Izzy. I can't walk, but I can sing. And I can play those stupid maracas."
But Micky ignored Davy's indignant protest, his expression turning unusually serious as he added, "I'll be okay."
And for the first time, he actually meant it.
Micky had to endure being strapped into a bed that turned upside down so Ericka could examine him without twisting him around.
"Looks good, Micky," she said at long last, turning the bed so that he faced upward and removing the straps. "I want to run some X-rays—check on the bruising."
"All right," he said, using her arm as a lever to pull himself up and swing back into his chair.
She pushed him down to X-ray, and he had to lay perfectly still on a table that was ice-cold on his arms and stomach while the technician ran the machine over his unresponsive spine. It was nerve-wracking, especially since he was terrified about what the results would be, and he felt as if the waiting was enough to drive him nuts.
But he forced himself to remain calm and quiet, knowing that it wouldn't do any good to get agitated. The results wouldn't come any quicker—and they'd still be the same no matter what.
Then Micky rolled himself to the examining room where the others joined him so they all could hear the verdict. He felt his chest constrict with anxiety when Ericka walked in, and he caught his breath, hoping for the best but anticipating the worst.
Apparently some of his nervousness must have shown in his face because Isabel took one look at him and moved to stand behind his wheelchair, curving her arms around his neck in a loose, comforting embrace.
Ericka turned on the X-ray viewer and hooked an X-ray up to it, pointing to the dark blob on it.
"This is the X-ray we took a week ago. This is the bruising." She hooked another X-ray next to it. "This is the one we just took."
Five delighted smiles broke out. The bruising was visibly less.
"You're beginning to heal, Micky," Ericka assured him, and he released the breath he'd been holding, closing his eyes with relief.
Isabel leaned over and kissed his cheek, squeezing him tight for a moment before loosening her grip again—but she still kept him in the protective circle of her arms.
"In a few days, some feeling should begin to return. Movement will return shortly after that. Speaking of which," she said, looking squarely at Micky, "I'm going to prescribe some physical therapy. You need to keep your muscles toned so that when they are ready, they can move and hold you up."
"When do we get started?" Micky asked eagerly.
Ericka smiled. "Tomorrow morning. I'd like all five of you to be here, so you can take turns doing the therapy in between sessions. The more he gets, the better he'll be able to cope to gaining his legs back."
"I have to work," Isabel said, "but Mike will show me."
The next morning, three Monkees watched and learned as the therapist put Micky's unresponsive legs through a range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises, using his own hands to force Micky's legs to push against blocks and the therapist's knees.
The therapist ordered them to do this everymorning, and come back three times a week for the therapist to do it again.
That afternoon, the Monkees practiced for their gig at the Club Camelot that night. Isabel came straight to the Pad after work, and Mike and Micky showed her the exercises so she could help. She got the hang of it quickly and promised to take her turn with such evil glee that Micky threatened to suspend her therapy assistant privileges.
At eight, Mike put his hands to his mouth and pitched his voice so that it carried to every corner of the Pad. "All right, guys—front and center! Time to split!"
Micky wheeled in from the bedroom, and over to the bandstand, snagging the spare maracas and tambourine and laying them in his lap.
"Ready," he said, turning around and wheeling toward the door. He was tempted to try a wheelie, but he was still perfecting maneuvering around with greater speed and dexterity; the tricks would have to wait a little longer, he thought with a little regret.
"Ready," Davy said, racing down the stairs and grabbing the sticks off the bandstand.
"Ready," Peter said, coming out of the bathroom. He checked quickly to make sure he'd matched outfits right—and for once he had—then snagged his bass and Mike's guitars, handing them off to Mike as he walked out the door.
Mike locked the door and slid into the Monkeemobile, honking the horn in a distinctive pattern as Peter and Davy loaded the trunk. Isabel came out of her house, tying her ponytail as she did so.
Micky hauled himself into the middle seat, using the door handle as a lever.
Peter collapsed the wheelchair and Micky pulled it into the car beside him. Peter and Davy vaulted into the back seat, and they were ready to go once Isabel slid in beside Mike, but instead of starting the car, he promptly reached out and tugged the end of the ribbon until it unknotted, causing her hair to spill in a thick, dark wave down her back.
"Hey!" she protested, grabbing for the ribbon—which he casually tossed out the window as he started the engine. "What did you do that for?"
"I like it better down," he replied calmly, focusing with unnecessary intensity on pulling out of the drive.
"You could have just asked," she sniffed, finger-combing her hair into some semblance of order.
"Since when does Isabel 'I change for no man' Evans listen to me?" He raised a skeptical eyebrow at her.
"Pot kettle black," she retorted, and she managed to score the last word in this particular round simply because the giggles from the back of the car hushed him for the moment.
When they got to the Club Camelot, they deftly reversed the procedure. Peter and Davy vaulted out, and Peter opened the wheelchair for Micky while Davy began to unload the trunk. Micky swung in as Isabel and Mike helped Davy move the instruments from the trunk to the carrying cart. Isabel and Mike pushed the cart inside. Peter pushed Micky inside. Davy stayed behind to close the trunk and grab the incidentals like extra picks before he raced inside.
"Can I help you?" a woman asked, coming out from behind the bar.
"Yeah, we're the Monkees," Mike said. "We're supposed to be playing here tonight."
"Oh, yes, come on in, we've been expecting—" Her words died in her throat as she stepped around Mike and saw Micky. "And you are?"
Micky's almond eyes widened slightly, taken aback by her cold tone. "Micky Dolenz. Percussionist and sometimes lead singer," he replied, putting more confident bravado in his voice than he actually felt.
"Lead singer," she echoed, her lips pursed. Then—dismissing Micky as if he no longer existed—she addressed Mike. "I'm sorry, there's been a mistake. The booking was given to you in error."
With that she turned and walked back toward the bar.
"Now wait a minute!" Mike snapped.
"I'm sorry," she said coldly, closing the door to the storage room behind her.
Mike stood there trembling, white-faced with rage, his hands curling into fists. "Come on," he said through clenched teeth. "Let's get outta here before I do something we'll all regret."
"It's because of me, isn't it?" Micky said in a strangled voice, despair welling up like a dark tidal wave inside his soul. "Because I'm in a wheelchair. We were fine till she saw me..."
All his fault... They were going to lose what few jobs they could get, their house—everything—because of him.
Mike abruptly whirled around and grabbed the armrests of Micky's chair, forcing him to look up into Mike's blazing eyes.
"You listen to me," he said, voice dangerously low but with an unmistakable note of command that even Micky couldn't ignore. "The problem ain't this—" and he slapped one of the wheels, "it's this!" He tapped his own head. "She's got a problem that a lotta people got—prejudice! And the problem is all hers—not yours! You couldn't help what happened to you!"
Micky lay his hands on the round metal bars that turned the wheels. "You're wrong, Mike," he corrected, his face growing colder and more distant with every word. "I was the one who decided to pull my werewolf impression in the middle of a busy street."
He gave the wheels a hard spin, making the chair roll backwards and knocking Mike off-balance in the bargain. Only Isabel's quick reflexes—grabbing him around the waist— kept him upright.
Without another word or a backward glance, Micky wheeled himself angrily out of the nightclub.
Continue On to part Two