hi sonia! c. 1600 words of HCL crack, please imagine a big pink ribbon wrapped round it. many thanks to belmanoir for beta. all suckage is, as ever, mine mine allll mine. no warnings (!) i think.
Joe woke up feeling really, really weird. Which was saying a lot for Joe, given the number of times he’d woken up with people he didn’t know after taking substances he didn’t remember. (One time he woke up on a crab boat in the Bering Sea. That was a bad week. Turned out he gets seasick.) He thought maybe there’d been mushrooms last night, definitely something new, anyway. A real head-fuck, the guy had said.
“Nice," Joe had said.
“You fucking dink,” Billy had opined. “We don’t even know what the fuck those are. Or if you’re even supposed to take them like that.”
“I feel okay,” Joe had replied, and he really did. Tingly, disconnected, but good.
Then there were rainbows. Rainbows and… sparkles?
And then he woke up.
Billy rolled over and pulled the blankets over his head. “Fuck off,” he muttered into the pillow. Whoever was – scraping? – at the door could go to hell. His head pounded. This was Joe’s fault. Usually he hogged most of the JD, but last night he was so spaced out on whatever the fuck those mushrooms were he let Billy keep a hold of the bottle. All night, it felt like.
Eventually the noise stopped and he slipped back into a restless hungover sleep. When he woke up again it was three in the afternoon, he really needed to piss, and he was alone. He rubbed his stubble and tried not to worry. Joe was probably still passed out somewhere. He was fine. He didn’t always show up the next morning.
Sometimes he got arrested.
Billy crawled painfully out of bed and started hauling yesterday’s clothes back on.
“It doesn’t seem like – like the kind of joke Joe would come up with,” John pointed out. “I mean, Joe’d piss in your beer, not--I mean--it's sort of-“
“This is just fucked up, man,” was Pipe’s contribution.
The motel door was deeply scored with an apparently haphazard serious of lines. But if you stood back they read:
“It’s not a joke because it’s not funny,” snapped Billy. “We’re supposed to be in Red Deer in four fucking hours, and fucking Joe is AWOL, off his head, and playing the new age fucking comedian.” He turned on his heel and headed for the van. Pipe had to yell his name four times before he looked back.
It wasn’t exactly what you thought of when you imagined a unicorn. It was sort of stocky, for starters. Well built. Yeah, it was white. Off-white. Almost white. But it was definitely Joe. Something about the eyes. The eyes, and, okay, the mane, which was black and stood straight up like a zebra's. All it needed was an earring and a bad attitude. Billy shared this last thought with the group and the unicorn snorted and made what looked to be a rude gesture with its horn. Okay, attitude also present. Jesus. Billy tried to think of something - anything - to say.
Then Pipe, tilting his head and squinting, got there first.
“Dude,” he said admiringly. “You’re fucking hung!”
The unicorn looked smug.
John and Pipe were careful to discuss some of the - the, uh issues - that this whole situation raised later, while Billy was distracted.
Billy had spent much of the past three days petting Joe's velvety nose and talking to him under his breath. (Joe didn't bite - much - unless you stopped paying attention. Unicorn or not, Joe needed attention like he needed air. And, these days, oats.)
John frowned. “I always read that they, they can only be captured by a virgin.”
Pipe was thrown. “Well none of us are virgins, that's for fucking sure. Maybe he's some other kind of unicorn?”
John thought about that. “Yeah, or maybe we're some other kinds of virgin?”
“Fuck that, man! The Pipefitter is fully experienced. Access all areas!”
“You've, um, taken it in the ass then?” John smirked.
Pipe opened his mouth, shut it, spluttered. “No way man! No way have I – hey! So I guess I'm an ASS virgin. And you're -” he looked at John who nodded quickly -”you're an ass virgin too. And Billy--” he stopped.
John giggled. “Our theory needs, uh, work.”
“Man, if you're as anal as Billy it probably grows back after a while,” Pipe decided, and changed the subject.
Two weeks later they still didn’t have a plan. They couldn’t play, the last of the t-shirt money was gone, and John and Pipe figured maybe it was time to go home. Pipe peeked round the corner of their current motel – conveniently located in the ass end of nowhere, where there were fewer people around to ask difficult questions (they didn’t LOOK much like circus performers on leave) - and slid back with a sigh.
"Where are they?"
Pipe spat and shook his head. "They're like, doing it again."
John sighed and took a look himself. Sure enough, Joe was rubbing his head against Billy's chest and chewing at his jacket, while Billy scratched him behind the ears and ruffled his mane. John and Pipe exchanged glances - and headed over to talk to them.
Billy turned to meet them, lighting a cigarette. Joe nudged him. Billy ignored him. Joe nudged him again. Billy sighed, lit another cigarette and held it out for Joe.
It was okay, actually. John had been ready to make their case, but Billy got that they had to leave. Anyway, Billy had been going to leave too, he admitted. Before all of this. He'd had this plan. An offer. A good one. (Joe snorted and pawed the ground and Billy gave him an apple to shut him up.) But now Billy was going to take Joe with him. South. To California. They'd talked about it, apparently. (Not that Joe could talk, but his opinion on the topic at hand was rarely left in doubt.) It was too cold in BC in the winter. Stabling was fucking expensive. They needed an income.
So. Billy would play for Jenifur, they'd buy a ranch or something, it was cool.
Oddly enough, it really was. Unicorns, as it turns out, aren't addicts.
Over the years, there were a lot of conversations. They were surprisingly mutual given that Joe couldn't talk.
"Look," Billy stormed pointing a long finger at Joe's forehead. "Selling out is how I can afford all this fodder, you ungrateful fucking donkey."
Joe made a noise that was pretty close to "Hee HAW."
Billy whirled. "Oh yeah? Well I don’t care. And you’re still giving up smoking, Mr Ed!"
Sometimes Billy hated California. It almost never rained – he’d never though he’d miss that – and the shine wore off success quicker than he expected. People in the business had categorized him as a recluse – just another talented weirdo - living alone out there on his ranch, but the work kept coming. Enough to pay for hay and guitar strings, anyway. Most of the time, that was enough.
"Hey Joe. Uh. This is. This is. Uhm. Her name is -- Billie."
Joe turned slowly, dipped his head and stared at her.
Billie stared back, fascinated. "You have a ANTLER." she announced. "On your HEAD."
Joe swung round to glare at Billy, who shrugged helplessly.
The next year Billie’s mom moved south and Billie started coming round to see the ‘horsey’ every other Sunday. She didn’t fall off, so Billy never did buy the saddle like he threatened. When she moved to Toronto at 18 she cried more over Joe than she did over her mother, or Billy, or her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend.
Billy walked slowly down the gentle slope, leaning heavily on his stick. He held out the apple. Joe ate it in a couple of bites then nosed at his hand.
“I know. Live fast, die young, that was the plan wasn’t it?”
Joe snorted quietly.
“Yeah, your corpse was never going to be good-looking.” Billy’s smile was still sharp at the edges. Joe made a rude noise and Billy laughed, which set off his cough. “Fuck,” he finally wheezed. He looked away from the unicorn’s clear gaze. “They, uh. Want to put me on oxygen. Maybe have me come in for a while. To the hospital.” He looked at the ground until Joe rubbed his cheek against his forehead.
Billy slung an arm over his neck. Joe pushed at the dirt with his horn and then against Billy with his head. The scratches said, "ON BK". Billy shook his head and leant harder against Joe's warm side. "Can't. You know that. Not anymore."
Joe pushed harder. (Some things never change.) Billy wrapped a hand round his horn right where it grew out of his forehead and shoved back. Joe rolled the eye Billy could see.
"Okay," he agreed, finally, and started the slow walk to the step by the lower barn where he could use the step to get on. Joe muzzled his ear briefly when they got there, and then there was swearing and coughing and finally – yeah. Okay. Right.
Joe waited till both Billy's hands – his long fingers with their swollen joints – were curled in his mane and then – then they were going, they were gone. Slow, faster, fastest, down the hill into the warm wind. Billy's cowboy hat – not that hat, but one like it, one of a whole dynasty – blew off. He didn't really care. Riding like this was like music.
That's when Billy realised where they were going.
ten million thank yous to kanzenhanzai who had a first read-through and made THIS THING OF WONDER: the smokin' joeicorn! ♥ ♥ he is so cute! (i might have emailed kanz to say i wanted to ride him. which i then had to qualify with: NOT LIKE THAT OMG! some people, i do not even know. perverts!)