If you’re reading these words, thank you.❤️ Here are the next two chapters:
“I hope you’re better at your part of that bargain than me, or we’re done for…” After unleashing this travesty of truth, Joe attempted a smile, but the result was sadder than the sigh it came accompanied by.
How could he possibly think himself inadequate? Joe had somehow managed—in the harsh glare of the media no less—to remain utterly himself. Unsullied by social conditioning; as if all attempts at enforcing its norms had wafted in one ear and out the other. Or, been tuned out as nought but white noise, while Joe pottered on his merry way, unaffected. Uninfected. As intrinsically himself as Mork from Ork or Thomas Jerome Newton. Sans script.
“It’s a bloody tragedy if you believe that, but maybe you do…The truth is, you’re too good at being you. Too good for your own good. That is the problem.”
The reason it had all gone to shit was simple. The solution was not. Least of all for Joe. While the world might be eager to lap up the lavish gifts and excess of all that was Joe Fitzgerald, it came with caveats he didnae have a hope in hell of fulfilling. Not if it expected him to dial it down a notch or fifty when the proverbial curtain came down. It would have been easier for Joe to hack off a leg or two in a bid to comply. It had taken Mac all of…minutes to discern that attributes deemed ‘extra’ in modern vernacular were baseline Joe. Much to his chagrin, Mac had been forced to consult the urban dictionary to explain why ‘he’s so extra’ was not an (irritatingly) incomplete sentence.
‘Excess’ could only be channeled, or syphoned off, as Mac knew all too well. It couldnae be diluted, nor dissipate into thin air. It could, however, be drowned…or drugged into a state of torpor. For a wee while…until the ‘solution’ became a bigger problem than the one it was supposed to suppress.
“You just told me that all I have to do is be me…and leave the rest to you. But now you’re saying that being me is the problem, which means I must be making a mess of it. That’s a bit befuddling…if I’m ‘the product’ they’re buying, then surely they want me to keep skidding off the rails? The press definitely does, so what are you saying? Carry on having mishaps and I’ll mop up?”
“I clearly haven’t had enough to drink,” Mac groaned. “What I am saying is, all I intend to do, while we’re here, is watch and learn. Baseline observations, if you wish, so I can gauge how best to safeguard your sanity. To do that, I do need to know where your stash is squirrelled away.”
Joe prickled visibly, hackles rising in affront like a spiky kitten. He didn’t hiss, but he did look rather as if he might arch his back and start spitting. “You’ll have access to it,” Mac assured him, “But I have to know how much you’re taking and when, to work out what you need—to function—and where that tips over into fit-for-fuck-all. So, I want the truth and nothing but. All you have to do is trust me…and I’ll take care of the rest.”
“But you earn trust. That’s not a given—or a right—is it?” Joe pointed out.
“I concur…but I dinnea have time.” Mac sighed. “So, we’ll have to work backwards; you can retract your trust if I screw you over. What d’you have to lose? You have two days to decide if you cannae trust me. What would be the point in cutting you off, when I know damn well that there’ll still be a stash secreted elsehere?” An observation that was greeted by the tip of Joe’s tongue. “I’ll bite that off, if I see it again.” Mac stated, matter-of-factly.
“You would too, methinks,” the miscreant chuckled.
“Damn straight I would. Joe, they might be footing the bill, but this is about you. Not them. I dinnae a flying fuck what they want. But I do want you to be able to fulfill what’s already been booked. For your own pride, if nothing else. I intend to see Adam, to put a freeze on whatever the hell else they have planned…until I know exactly what you want. Right, speech over. This bag is for the kitchen…I dinnae know whether you had anything edible and I sure as shit wasn’t going without. The second one has all my gear in it—that can go in the bedroom—I need a drink.”
Joe blinked. Several times. “Crikey…You don’t ’alf chunter when you get going…and become more Scottish, t’boot. D’you want your drink before, or after, you dump your bags?”
“I wasnae thinking in terms of choice,” Mac muttered.
“Well I hope you’ve got some whisky in there, cos you’ll have cleaned me out by bedtime, Mr MacBadass.”
“I do indeed. There’s no ‘A’ in that, by the way.”
“I beg your parsnips?” Joe frowned in puzzlement.
“In the ‘Mc’.”
“Sorry, I shall beg them again then, for any cultural offence caused. There’s a wee flaw in your cunning plan though, Mr Mc.”
“And that would be..?” This was the most stupid question that had ever crossed Mac’s lips. There was no flaw, wee or otherwise.
“What about if I need a shag?” Joe pouted.
“We’re heading back to London on Monday, f’fucksakes,” Mac rolled his eyes. As if in exasperation.
“I’m not going to last that long,” Joe protested.
“Phone a friend.” Mac shrugged.
“But you’re kipping in my room! Perv!” Joe actually had the brass neck to gape in ‘shock’.
“I really hope you’re not trying to suggest you’ve never shagged on the bus, backstage or in the bogs…” Mac smirked as a headline flashed through his head: ‘Junkie Joe’s portaloo passion! Read all about it in your super soaraway Sun!’
“Noo I’m not…but that’s beside the point,” Joe sniffed. “I can’t phone a friend and say: D’you fancy a shag? Oh, by the way…have you met my McBadass?”
“Well, that’s up to you, if it doesnae suit, you have a wrist. You’ll have to make do.”
“Hmph. By the way, you haven’t said ‘no’. Just sayin’…”
“Do I look like rent-a-cock? Don’t answer that.” Mac added sharpish, when midnight eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Spoilsport. Not even if I’m succinct?”
“I’ll give you succinct in a minute,” Mac grunted.
“I wish you would. That would do for starters.” Joe grinned.
“So would a melon boat,” he retorted.
“Can I have an orange sail slice on a cocktail stick? With a cherry on top…or has that ship long since sai—?”
“Joe.” Mac growled, cutting him off with a withering glare. Before it became impossible to rustle one up. “I am going to gag you, if you don’t put a sock in it.
“Oookay…” came the sing-song reply as Joe meandered over to the drinks globe. “I shall not dignify that with the answer it deserves. Here you go…” he snickered, extending the bottle of whisky Mac’s way. “It’s a waste of time giving you a glass when, despite all indications to the contrary, you are clearly unfamiliar with the term ‘a wee dram’. So you might as well just guzzle away…”
When Mac closed his fingers around the neck of the bottle they brushed Joe’s skin; it was all he could do not to suck in a sharp breath. Fuck. He’d never felt more grateful for being olive skinned in his life. Mac didnae have a hope in hell of schooling his features into indifference, so he kept his head down while muttering his thanks.
Their chances of making it to Monday without wheeling in the dessert-trolley were well below the waterline. Making it to the bloody bedroom would require navigating uncharted waters of restraint—for which Joe patently possessed no compass whatsoever—leaving Mac to steer the melon boat. Fair enough, that was his forte…but the cherry on top was not on the table.
Joe passed Mac the bottle of whisky…and damn near dropped it when their fingers brushed. Brushed? It was akin to being branded. The shock of skin contact sizzled up his arm like a spark scarfing a trail of dynamite with a hotline to his cock. It was staggering, not least when (truth being the order of the day an’ all) Joe had found himself feeling far less…well, anything for months. As a result of too much what, he wasn’t sure; there were a fair few ‘whats’ to consider.
Pinpointing the culprit in an ever spiralling cocktail of smack, crack, coke, rum, men, women, wine ’n’ insomnia was a tad tricky. The cause could be cumulative…or singular. Joe had knocked the crack on the head of late, at least. It may have made him a tad um, testy…but sure hadn’t shot his synapses to shit. So, if there was a particular perp responsible for his maladies, Joe didn’t want to know. Suspecting that he knew all too well. Sod’s law, wasn’t it…? The one he could least live without. Even if it killed him.
Demon supression must be a helluva lot harder to pull off than sedating a few sensory receptors, after all. While Joe could function just fine, he’d scarce felt a thrill of fuck-all for…his cock couldn’t care less. With one exception: the less his nerve endings reacted to stimuli, the greater its appetite grew. The upshot of all this was, Joe needed more of everything, to feel less of anything. At all. This going-nowhere-fast stream of (far too) consciousness must have had a point in the first place, but the plot had got lost along the way. Ah yes…the McBadass and his sensation(al) superpowers. It was all Joe could do to keep his grip on the bottle until it was safely in Mac’s magical mitts. His litany of torture tactics was longer than the list of things-not-to-think about. In addition to trying to sleep beside the baddest-ass-on-earth, he’d be tucked up in bed with Taserman. (In his own defence, Shocker was already taken).
The sizzle was so scorching it seemed impossible that Joe felt it all on his lonesome. Logic, oft reluctant to pop in for a visit, pointed out that Mac’s blood might be 70% proof, but wasn’t likely to send sniffer dogs into a frenzy any time soon. Nevertheless, if logic cared to muse upon the matter for a mo, then Joe’s toxicity levels hadn’t mustered so much as a fizzle of late. There was no telling whether his bad-ass had been stirred in the slightest, let alone been shaken like a can of Irn Bru. Mac’s head was dipped, fringe flopping forwards, and about all Joe could glean was the fact his socks seemed more interesting than his face. While they were red, and thus quite eye-catching, they still looked a lot like red socks, which could undoubtedly be noted in a nanosecond.
Joe’s brain felt fit to blow—the light too bright, sound too sharp—so he scrunched his eyes tight, which didn’t help. The glare was more intense inside his head; louder too, with his lids shut.
“Y’okay?” Mac’s Black Velvet voice was tinged with concern.
“Yeah…my head hurts, s’nothing,” Joe assured him, mustering a careless shrug ’n’ smile.
“Yup. Shall we go and dump your stuff in my room first, then I’ll show you around?”
“Okay…” Mac regarded him with a squinty scrutiny, then nodded his consent and snagged one of the holdalls to follow Joe upstairs.
“I’ve been kipping in the attic, so we may as well head up there and work our way down. If it’s a tad cluttery for your exacting standards…I didn’t anticipate sharing it,” Joe pointed out, pushing the door open. “It could’ve been worse…?” he offered, when the Bad-ass simply stood in the doorway. Blinking. A bit.
“Er, it’s very…charming. In a bombed-out wartime thrift-shop sort of way.” Mac’s lips twitched, despite his deadpan delivery.
“Damn cheek. It’s shabby chic, that. Or thereabouts,” Joe added a sniff of affront he far from felt.
“Whereabouts should I dump my bag, is more to the point?” Mac smirked. It was a good question, it must be admitted. The floor was p’raps a bit…busy.
“On the bed?”
“I really hope you have some clean sheets,” Mac commented—snippily—while tossing his holdall onto it.
“No-one’s sullied them, except me, Mr Snarkypants.”
“A likely story.” Mac scoffed.
“But still true. I could even add ever, if y’like. I slept in one of the bedrooms at first…but it’s cosier up here, so I kept waking in that chair. I didn’t get round to ordering the bed ‘til a few weeks ago and I’ve mostly been in London, since then. Besides, you told me to be honest. Why should I bother, if you’re not even going to believe me about something so daft?”
“Fair point.” Mac admitted, scrutinising Joe with another squinty stare before twitching his head in an almost imperceptible nod.
“Thank you muchly. So, do we need to go shopping?”
“For what?” Mac frowned.
“Sheets? Do keep up.” Joe sighed.
“Keep up? I’d need to imbibe a bucket of coke.”
“I hope you’ve got some stashed in your bag with your whisky then. I’m starting to feel like a moderate man.”
Mac spluttered, throwing his head back with unbridled glee. It was undoubtedly the most staggering thing he’d done thus far. He’d come swishing in, as cool as fuck with his flinty glint, dripping control freakery and pithy wit. Joe had never guessed that the bad-ass could let rip with such gay abandon.
On that particular subject… ‘Can I have a slice of orange sail on a cocktail stick? With a cherry on top…or has that ship already—?’ Joe’s attempt to root out this pertinent bit of info had been rudely interrupted thus: ‘I am going to gag you, if you don’t put a sock in it’.
Was Mac was sooo straight that the very notion was an affront to his personage…or… had Joe cut too close to the bone for bad-ass comfort? It was tricky to tell, Joe’s gaydar had run amok…alongside the rest of his sensory receptors. While there was a certain je ne sais quoi lacing Mac’s louche elegance, that predatory grace could originate in the martial art he practised. P’raps fencing, too? It wouldn’t surprise Joe in the slightest if Mac wielded a sword with much the finesse of those hips when he swished. ‘Walk’ being a woeful verb for the melody of movement that was Mac.
“When you’ve quite finished yukking it up, Mr McBadass…you still haven’t answered my question, which seems to be a bit of a habit. Do we have to pop to the shops, or not?”
“No…these’ll do fine. I just didn’t fancy lying in every Tom, Dick and Harriet’s body fluids, thank you very much.”
“That’s rather presumptuous of you,” Joe sniffed.
“‘Presumptuous’ would suggest that your sex life hasn’t been exhaustively documented, surely?” Mac snorted.
“Dagnabbity papers. You shouldn’t believe everything you read, y’know,” Joe huffed.
“You’ve point blank stated that your appetite cannae hold out until Monday. Then noted that I haven’t said ‘no’ should you feel disinclined to a spot of DIY. I think it’s safe to say that covers all my ‘presumptions’, don’t you?”
“Bugger. Hoisted by my own petard,” Joe p’raps pouted.
“I couldnae have put it better myself,” Mac grinned. “I’d be willing to wager you don’t stint yourself on that front either.”
“Sadly, you’re right. I insert my foot everytime I open my mouth…particularly in print,” Joe winced.
“You’re journalistic gold. Even if they weren’t accustomed to being bored shitless by ‘celebrities’ who’ve had media training in the art of saying fuck-all worth hearing. Like I said, you’re far too good at being you.”
“I can’t decide if you think that’s a good thing or bad,” Joe admitted.
“That’s because the answer is subjective. You’re too you for your own welfare. The repercussions are…perilous. In professional terms, it depends whether you believe that all publicity is good publicity. I don’t…even before factoring in its cumulative effect. With regards to my opinion…”
This was the part Joe wanted to hear most. The press part was Mac’s snapshot of life lived in the media.
“You’re a disaster waiting to happen—to yourself—which worries me. But that doesn’t change the fact you’re the most…authentic person I’ve met for longer than I care to remember.” Laser beam greens narrowed, zoning in for the kill. Uh-oh. “Far too beguiling…and quite impossible.”
What? Did I hear wrong? Beguiling…? It might mean charming, even enchanting, but that tends to be in a Loki-like way; tricksy…a beguiling bastard. ‘Far too…?’ For what? How? Why? About a trillion questions ricocheted ’round Joe’s head like ping-pong balls. ‘Impossible’ was a bit of a no brainer, though.
“Thank you…I think. I feel as if I’ve been probed under strobe lighting.” Joe blinked, a bit bedazzled.
“I’ve only got two days, not two decades,” the scoundrel snorted. “C’mon…let the tour commence. I need the loo. And a drink.”
Yessir. Strewth, Joe was starting to suspect that twenty years of being probed and bossed by his bad-ass mightnae be long enough at all…