|Fidelitas, Praesidium, e Amore
Author: Purple Eyed Cat PM
Mel begins to realize how much he cares for her, how much he cares for them, after his brother's second visit. One-shot. Complete.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Words: 4,662 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 41 - Follows: 11 - Published: 09-01-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7343869
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: After watching the two most recent episodes of Melissa and Joey, I just couldn't help myself. Man, but those hints are dropping fast and hard! If they don't get together by the end of the show's run, I will be most disappointed! Well, enjoy!
Disclaimer: No one you recognize is mine.
Summary: Mel begins to realize how much Joe cares for her, how much he cares for them, after his brother's second visit.
Note: The title reads "Faithfulness, Protection, and Love" in Latin. I thought it summed up Joe nicely. The idea for this fic came from episode 1x25, "The Other Longo," in which I found it really intriguing that Joe was so protective of Mel, and even when Tony pressed him, taunting him that he loved his boss, Joe's only response was that she was not his boss, as he was freelance. No denial of his love or attraction for her that time. Oh, and also Joe's comment at the end of the episode, that he had invited Tony back for Thanksgiving. And so this fic was born.
Fidelitas, Praesidium, e Amore
"Joe, where's Lennox?"
Joe glanced up from the TV to find Mel standing by the couch, wearing nothing but a fluffy pink bathrobe and looking worried.
"Uh, I think Tony dropped her off at her party before he headed out on his date."
"Tony?" Mel dropped onto the couch to stare at her nanny. "You let Lennox go with Tony? Are you insane? And who has a party on Thanksgiving weekend?"
Joe glanced at her as she took a breath. "Are you finished?"
"I can't believe you let Lennox go with your brother. Do you not remember what happened the last time he came to town?"
"Relax," Joe said calmly, turning back to the TV. "Ryder went with them. The kid might be skinny, but he's not going to let anything happen to Lennox if he can help it."
"I know, but Tony?" Mel said again, clearly not convinced.
The look Joe shot her was bordering on a glare. "Easy, Burke. He's my brother."
"Yeah, and the last time he was here, you nearly threw him out for going on a date with me," Mel retorted.
Joe scowled. "Do you not remember the pictures?"
A frown deepened the lines of Mel's face. "I do. That's why I don't trust him."
"It'll be okay," Joe reassured her, returning his attention to the TV, making it clear that the conversation was over. "What could happen?"
"Famous last words," Mel mumbled, getting off the couch and wandering towards the stairs. "Are you going to wait up for them?"
"Like I always do," Joe told her, shifting on the couch until he was comfortable, clearly ready for a long night.
"Burke. Burke, get up."
Mumbling, Mel rolled towards the voice, peering blearily at the clock. "Joe, it's nearly four. What's wrong?"
Joe's voice deepened with concern. "Mel, you need to come downstairs."
Joe's worry finally got to her, and Mel sat up, her mind beginning to clear. "Joe? What are you doing in my room? What's wrong?"
She startled as Joe reached out and took her hand in his. He tugged gently, and Mel followed willingly, sliding out of bed and reach for the robe she had discarded hours earlier. Shrugging it on, she padded after her silent nanny as he led the way out of the room, his entire body stiff with tension.
Halting on the landing of the stairs, Mel could only gaze into her living room in shock. Joe took no notice of her as she stopped, and continued down the steps, his jaw set, eyes dark. Mel had seen that look before. Joe was ready to do murder.
Tony, carefree, causal Tony stood near the door, looking for all the world as if he had just come from a wonderful jaunt across town. His camera hung around his neck, and Mel found that the smirk he wore was jarring and disturbing, given the circumstances.
Ryder stood between Tony and Lennox, nearly vibrating with fury. He sported a black eye and a split lip, but his glare was nearly as murderous as Joe's. He stood in a fighter's stance, legs apart, knees slightly bent, his hands open and ready, alert for any sudden movement on the younger Longo's part.
Lennox…Mel's heart nearly shattered at the sight.
The bubbly senior in high school who had left earlier that evening, dressed in a cute top and the new jeans Mel had bought her weeks before was nowhere to be seen. In her place was a lost, frightened girl, one with makeup staining her cheeks, one who viewed the entire world around her with fear.
"Lennox?" Joe had ignored his brother entirely in favor of his charges, and Mel watched as the man placed his hand on the girl's shoulder. Neither Mel nor Joe missed the way Lennox flinched away from Joe's hand, huddling deeper into herself. Joe's head snapped up, and he focused on Ryder. "What happened?"
Ryder, his jaw set, lips pale, jutted his chin towards Tony, who seemed nonchalant in the face of so much anger and uncertainty. "Him."
Without asking for further explanation, Joe strode towards his brother. "What did you do, Tony?"
Tony did not move, raising his hands as if seeking to both calm his brother and ward off any preemptive blows. "What makes you think I did anything?"
"If Ryder says you're to blame," Joe ground out, "then you're to blame."
Tony snorted. "You would believe some kid over your own brother?"
"If that kid is Ryder, and the brother is you, then yeah, I believe him."
Tony's eyes narrowed, but Mel decided that she had had enough of the family drama. Hurrying down the rest of the stairs, she gently settled herself next to Lennox. She reached out to give comfort, then remembered the girl's previous reaction. "Lennox? Honey?"
In response, Lennox turned with a muffled sob and flung herself into Mel's arms. Cradling her sobbing niece to her, Mel sent Joe a desperate glance. They needed answers. Mel needed to know what had happened, and she was sure Joe only wanted to commit murder, given the correct culprit.
"Wait a minute," Joe snapped, as Tony attempted to discreetly reach behind himself and fumble for the doorknob, looking for escape. "Why were you so eager to go to the party Lennox and Ryder were at? Why did you want to take them?"
Tony gave Joe the same careless grin he had always used, the confident smirk of man who knows how to get what he wants. "I had a date with the boy's mom."
Joe blinked, his voice coated in disbelief. "What?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "The boy who threw the party. I had a date with his mom tonight. That's why I took the kids."
"Where was the dad?"
Tony smirked at him. "She's a divorcee."
"Lucky you." Joe commented dryly. "Now, what happened at this party, exactly?"
This time, it was Ryder who spoke. "Tony dropped us off, met up with Mike's mom, and we left to socialize. Mike was there, hanging out with his friends, and he was bragging that his mom had bought him a keg for tonight. Lennox and I got separated, and the next time I saw her, she was rushing down the stairs. She was crying, and when she found me, she demanded we go home. I asked where Tony was, but she only got whiter and told me she didn't care, we just had to leave. Mike came down after her, looking furious, and I saw the way Lennox moved away from him." Ryder gestured to his face. "I punched him, and that's how I wound up looking like that. I wanted to beat the shit out of him, but Lennox stopped me. We got a ride home with one of my friends, and the Tony came home a few minutes are we did." Ryder gestured helplessly to Lennox. "She won't tell me what happened."
Joe swung around to face Tony again, looking as if he would like nothing more than to pin his younger brother against the door literally, but had to settle for simply using his dark gaze. "What did you do, Tony? Did you hurt Lennox?"
"No!" Tony looked aghast, which lent some credulity to his sincerity. "You know I don't go for the young girls, Joe, just the older ones. The last time I saw Lennox, I dropped the kids off for the party. Then I was hanging out with Gina for the rest of the night."
Joe glared at him. "You didn't see anyone else?"
Tony shrugged. "Just Gina's kid, Mike. He was bugging us, hanging around and asking his mom for more beer money, and finally I got fed up with his interruptions and gave him my camera, telling him to amuse himself with it for awhile."
"Why did you have your camera?"
Tony gave him that smug Longo grin. "Gina wanted to see my work."
"Uh-huh." Joe seemed unconvinced. "So, how does this relate to Lennox?"
Tony once again held up his hands in submission and surrender. "I don't know. Ask her. I didn't do anything."
"You gave Mike your camera."
The raspy, harsh voice came from the throat of the shaken teenager who had spent the entirety of the conversation buried in her aunt's embrace. Shaking her tangled hair out her face, she glared at Tony, accusing.
"You gave Mike your camera. I liked him, and once I had a few drinks-" here she stopped and glanced at her aunt guiltily, but Mel didn't bat an eye, too concerned about Lennox's well-being to administer punishment just yet, and so the girl continued, taking a deep, shaky breath.
"I had a few drinks, and Mike came back with a camera, bragging about all the cool shots he was going to take with it. It looked sort of like yours, but at that point, I didn't really care. He invited me upstairs to his room, and I figured it wouldn't be so bad. We could make out a little, and that would be it. I'd done it before." This time, she spared a guilty glance in Joe's direction, but he did not seem to hear, more focused on blocking Tony's access to the rest of the family.
"Well, when we were done making out, Mike said he wanted to take some pictures. I thought it was little weird, but okay, we could take some pictures. Then he told me that he wanted to take pictures like Aunt Mel had taken, because he had seen them online." Lennox ignored her aunt's stifled gasp and continued, her eyes shadowed with remembrance. "When I started to tell him I didn't want to, he tried to take off my clothes for me, telling me we could have more fun when my clothes were off. I refused, and tried to get off the bed, but then he was all over me, and I could barely get away…"
As Lennox trailed off, Joe moved. Before anyone could say anything, he lashed out, catching Tony in the jaw. His younger brother slammed back against the door, stumbling, clutching his chin.
As everyone gaped as the Longo brothers, Tony glared at his older sibling. "What was that for?"
"You did this." Joe stared down at his brother, fists clenched, ready to strike again.
"What? Me? Joe, it's not like I was the one who tried to rape her!"
"No," Joe conceded, as Lennox hiccupped a sob and burrowed into Mel again, "but you gave Mike the camera. You were responsible for these kids, Tony! Why didn't you schedule your date for another night?"
"I figured we wouldn't be bothered if there was a party," Tony mumbled as he got to his feet. Joe made no move to help him. "That way, we could have more privacy."
"Get out of my house."
Joe's statement, no louder than a growl, left everyone frozen and gaping where they stood.
"Dammit, Joe!" Tony exploded. "You're going to kick me out because I gave some kid my camera? I didn't tell him to take Lennox to his room and start his own porno photo-shoot!"
"I don't care," Joe snapped back, advancing towards his brother. "I trusted you with these kids. They trusted you. If you're going to let these things happen, I want you out of this house."
Tony scowled, his face twisting into a vengeful mask as he stared at his brother. "Wait a minute, a second ago you said my house. Why is it suddenly this house?"
Joe stopped, blinked. "Well, I meant…"
Seeing his brother growing flustered, Tony went on the defensive. "I guess what you said last time I was here was true, huh, Joe?"
Joe glared, his eyes darkening, darting from side to side. His brother was very close to baring long-kept secrets, and he didn't want that. Not now. "Shut up, Tony."
He closed his eyes in defeat as a voice rang out behind him. "What? What did Joe say?"
Tony smirked, sensing triumph as his brother swallowed his defeat. "Joe told me he was very protective of everyone in this house. I didn't think he meant it."
"Why wouldn't he mean it?" Mel had come to stand beside Joe, her hands propped on her hips. Despite her attire and her stature, she seemed to tower over the younger Longo for a moment, staring at him disdainfully. "Joe loves the kids. He looks out for them."
Tony shook his head slowly, wearing a sympathetic grin. "No, you don't understand," he said gently, as if speaking to a small child. "Joe also admitted that he loves you, Mel."
In the stunned silence that followed, Mel turned to Joe, blue eyes wide, shock writ large on her face. "What?"
"Tell her, Joe," Tony taunted, and now, this close, Joe could smell the alcohol on his breath. This far gone, Tony didn't care who he took down, as long as he got back at Joe. In his mind, it was only fair.
Joe said nothing, keeping his gaze locked on his brother. Suddenly, he was tired of the charade. If this was how it was to be revealed, so be it.
"Tell her, Joe," Tony continued, grinning, his eyes wild. "Tell Mel how when we were fighting over her, when we fighting over whether or not it was right for me to date her, whether or not it was right for me to post those pictures, tell her how I got you to confess."
Joe kept his gaze locked on his brother, still said nothing.
"It was tricky, wasn't it, Joe?" Tony crowed. "You didn't want to spill, but at one point, I challenged that you were in love with your boss. You didn't deny it. You merely commented that she was not your boss, that you were freelance, and pushed me away. That's when I knew."
Mel turned to her nanny, gaping, aware that Ryder was doing the same behind her, even as he cradled his older sister. "Joe, is this true?"
The man beside her did not respond. Instead, he strode forward, grabbed Tony by the collar, and shoved him out the front door.
"Hey!" Tony protested. "What about my stuff?"
"I'll send it to Mom. You can get it from her!" Joe retorted through the door, refusing to reopen it, making good on his promise to keep Tony out of the house.
"Joe…?" Mel wondered after him as he strode past her with nary a glance in her direction. It was clear that he did not want to discuss the recent revelation, as his gaze focused on their kids.
"Mel, take Lennox upstairs. Dress her in her favorite pajamas, get her to wash her face if you can, and put her to bed. Ryder," Joe beckoned to the young man, and he came, serious and worried. "Ryder," Joe said quietly, watching as Lennox was led by the hand up the stairs, clearly in shock, "I've seen this before. She'll be quiet for the next few hours, but she might wake up in the night screaming. Your aunt has a really important council meeting she has to be up early for. Can you stay with Lennox, make sure she knows she's safe and in her own bed if she wakes up scared?"
"Of course," Ryder said, nodding fervently, looking relieved at having a task he could easily perform. Joe clapped him on the shoulder and pushed him gently towards the stairs. "Thanks, buddy."
With the kids and Mel safely upstairs, Joe straightened up the living room and then returned to the basement, intent on gathering up his brother's stuff. He was tempted to burn it, but knew that Tony would never stop whining to their mother if Joe did so, and so he decided against it, no matter the satisfaction it might give him now.
Dumping the last of it into garbage bags, Joe hauled it up to the kitchen, dropping in unceremoniously by the back door. Good riddance.
"Joe?" Mel had returned and was waiting for him, hands braced on the kitchen counter. Joe closed his eyes, sighing. He did not want to have this conversation now—or ever, for that matter—but he knew the expression on Mel's face; he would not be escaping this room without some sort of explanation.
He turned to face her, mirroring her stance on the other side of the kitchen counter, his side, the side where he felt safest. Plus, the farther away he was from her, the better. "Burke."
"Oh, it's 'Burke,' now?" Mel demanded. "Your brother drops that bomb in the living room minutes ago, and now I'm 'Burke?' What happened to calling me by my name?"
Joe grinned at her. Maybe he could get out this after all. "Your name is Burke. How's Lennox?"
Mel's blue eyes shadowed, and for a moment, she looked just like her niece, broken and forlorn. Joe crushed the urge to step around the counter and take her into his arms, as he had stifled the need many times before. "She's sleeping now, thank goodness. Hopefully she'll feel a little better in the morning."
His distraction did not last long. "Don't think you can change the subject. Do you love me?"
"Wow, Mel," Joe said wryly, "you sure know how to make a guy feel special."
Running a hand over her face, Mel finally let her mask drop. Not for the first time, Joe was faced with a vulnerable woman, and he felt his gut clench. Damn, but that always got him. He always was a sucker for a damsel in distress, but Mel's worry always brought out his strongest protective instincts. So did the kids. Maybe he had been here too long.
"Why are you here, Joe?"
Once again, the man attempted to deflect the attention given to the secret that had recently been brought to light. "Well, Burke, that's a loaded question. Do you mean what I'm doing here, in this moment? Do you mean what I'm doing here, in this kitchen? Or do you mean what I'm doing on this planet, what my purpose is?"
"Stop it," Mel orderly shortly, her nerves fraying. "What are you doing here in this house, Joe? Why have you stayed?"
"This is my job," Joe informed her, nonplussed. "You should know that. You hired me."
Mel once again braced herself on the counter, leaning forward, her gaze locking with his. "That was two years ago, Joe. In that time, Louis has been caught, Meredith is still serving time, and you've taught the kids and I how to be more self-sufficient. Lennox goes off to college in a year, and Ryder can drive himself now. Why are you still here? I know you've had job offers; the economy's better now, I know you could get a job somewhere else." Mel's voice strengthened, demanding now as Joe looked away. "Why are you still here, Joe Longo?"
"I like it here!" Joe snapped. "I like being part of a family again, okay, Burke? After Tiffany, after Louis, I didn't think I would ever have that, not really. Here, I get to be a part of the kids' lives, I get to go to teacher-parent meetings, I get to spend time with you—all those things I thought I never wanted before, all those things I want to keep now that I have them!"
Mel rocked back, surprised by his intensity. Her blue eyes roamed his face, lines deepening around her brows and lips, clearly trying to understand his outburst. "I can understand wanting to be with the kids," she murmured slowly, "but I thought you couldn't really stand me."
Joe huffed out an exasperated breath, ran a hand over his bald head in agitation. "I can't, Burke. I can't stand you."
At this, Mel drew back completely, brow wrinkled. "But Tony said you loved me."
Growling something unintelligible under his breath, Joe strode around the kitchen counter, coming to stand barely inches away, glowering down at her. "I can't stand you, Burke," he repeated hotly, and Mel glared up at him, suddenly grateful for their familiar bickering. This, at least, she understood.
Joe continued, undeterred. "You're an infuriating woman, Mel. You can't seem to keep your room clean, you constantly lose things, you have this disturbing need to be liked by everyone, and you can't seem to let go of the party girl you were. But, inspite of all of that—"
His lips were stopped by Mel's, as her hands curled around his neck, his head, dragging him down to meet her. She stretched up towards him, and Joe reciprocated, wrapping his arms around her and drawing him to her, burying one hand in her hair, the other pressed against the small of her back. Joe growled as Mel's tongue swept against his, and he held her tighter, heat racing through him, relieved at having this chance to do what he had always wanted to do. It had been a long time since he had held a woman, had loved a woman, and now he had the chance to do both with the one he truly wanted—Mel.
"But there's that?" Mel asked as they slowly parted, smiling up at him. Her blue eyes were sparkling, and her lopsided grin told him that she completely understood how he felt.
Brushing his hand against her cheek, Joe returned the lopsided grin. "I once, uh, told Tony that I refused to date you, because that meant I had to put up with you without pay. Can we discuss a raise of some kind, before this goes anywhere?"
Joe enjoyed the feeling of Mel laughing against him, and he pressed kisses against her blonde hair, cursing himself at the mention of his brother, worried it would dampen the mood. "We'll talk about a pay raise later," Mel whispered against his ear, and Joe's mood shifted once again, now to one more wholly male, one that involved rather interesting fantasies of what that "pay raise" might be.
Pulling away slightly, Joe gazed down at her. "We need to take care of Lennox before we decide what this is, where we're going. Is that okay?"
Mel nodded, smiling. "Yeah, it's okay. She needs us right now. We'll have to worry about ourselves later." She gave him that wry grin. "Ah, parenting. Don't you love it?"
Joe snorted, his lips tugging into a smile he wasn't sure he would ever be able to remove, and kissed her again.
When they parted, it was Mel who moved away this time, albeit reluctantly. "I need to check on Lennox and Ryder."
As she headed towards the stairs, Joe towards the basement, she stopped and looked back at her nanny-turned-lover. "Joe, does this mean you're staying? For good?"
In answer, Joe took two steps forward and tugged her wrist, pulling her back down the stairs. His hands came up to cradle her cheeks, and his eyes were dark with promises. "I will stay until you tell me to go, Mel."
Joe wasn't sure how such a tender moment turned into such a hot one, but Mel's heart-melting smile at his reassurance might have done it. One moment, he was holding her, whispering promises, and the next, he had her pinned against the wall, his need for her pounding in time with his heartbeat.
Mel whimpered with the same need and pressed closer, her warm form molding against his. Joe dragged his lips over hers, over her neck, her collarbone, her cheeks, teasing her, pushing her robe aside for better access, the soft fabric bunching in his fingers, leaving her wanting and filled with the same heat he could feel rising through his veins.
"Mel," he panted, tearing himself away for only a moment, "if we don't stop now, I'm not going to be able to."
Mel's blue eyes flashed, her smile curved and seductive, silently informing him that she really didn't mind if he never stopped, and Joe trembled with desire, feeling the full force of her wiles aimed at him for the first time. Still, as difficult as it was, he slowly pulled away, leaning in only to give her a gentle kiss good-night.
"Go see to the kids," he said hoarsely, his dark eyes reflecting her desire, her need for him, his need for her. "They need you more than I do."
"I doubt that," Mel murmured huskily, her gaze roaming over him, and Joe chuckled, pressing a light kiss to her hair.
"Go, Mel. You have to be up early, I have to be up in a few hours to make breakfast. Go check on the kids and then go to bed. I'm not going anywhere."
With that, he disappeared into the basement, where Mel was sorely tempted to follow him. She knew that there few hours remaining between her and her council meeting, but she wished she could spend them with Joe.
However, such things would have to wait. They had all been through a lot tonight, and Mel knew she would be questioning tonight's actions when she woke, wondering if her rising emotions and Joe's confession were all set in motion by the trauma Lennox had unfortunately experienced tonight. She had gone looking for comfort without knowing it, and Joe had been there to give it, both emotionally and physically.
She wanted to keep him around, that was for sure. She would not fire him unless he asked to leave. She could no longer deny her attraction to him, that was for certain. Now, after tonight's events, there was no questioning the passion they held for each other, which had manifested itself in these last two years as fights, arguments, and jealous reconnaissance of the other's dates, all without realizing what they were doing.
Mel shook her head and started up the stairs. In the morning, everything would be a little clearer, although only time would tell where she and Joe ended up.
Hopefully, they would last. She liked having him around.
Reviews are appreciated!