AN: SEE? I said we'd have it up in a day or two! :D (For once.) And this chapter is even LONGER than the last one!

Some of the funny and light-hearted-ness is gone from this chapter, just as a warning. There's some...intense plot points that are starting to emerge here, leading to some wonderful pseudo-angst (or actually, quite legit angst). Don't worry though, there's quite a bit of joking around since Matt's involved.

The next chapter is done, too, I'm just editing it right now. I hope to have it up in a day or so. Maybe late tonight/early tomorrow. I have work, so we shall see.

Again: thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sticking with us for this long. We've made you guys wait for MONTHS and what seems like years and forever. The fact that anyone reads this at all means the world to me, I really mean it.

Also, Leather and I are going to do a little video blog thingy and will take any questions you guys have, so if you do have any, just send us a message and we'll answer them. Anything at all, seriously. :3

Love you all!


Leather and Stripes

.:Chapter 13:.

"Take Me to the Riot"


He laughed a bit too loudly, leaning back in the chair. "No, seriously, Matt, that's not how it works! You cannot die of blue balls!"

"You can! I feel like I'm about to combust from overuse of tube sock," Matt whined as he leaned back on his couch, eyes slightly moist. "We've been dating for a month and she won't so much as let me get to first base."

"Maybe she heard about your shoddy dating history. You didn't divulge any of that to her, did you?" Mello raised a slender eyebrow, "I mean, really, that's a bit of a deterrent. She also seems a bit...straight laced, I suppose."

"Why in hell would I tell my current girlfriend about my ex-girlfriends? That's about as smart as Dean Winchester attempting to walk in to Mordor." Matt scoffed loudly before taking a huge swig of his beer. "No, I have no idea what's going on. We start making out, and then suddenly she's all, 'Too soon' or suddenly has somewhere to be." A pout appeared on Matt's lips, "Have I done something wrong..?"

The blond tried to hide the grimace creeping over his face, "No, I don't see how you could have. You're dating, spending every minute of forever together, and physicality is a factor. Maybe she's cautious, too. Had a bad break up, wronged by a total shithead."

"I guess that's a pretty good reason. I don't want to…rush her, but it's really starting to get bad." The redhead absently prodded the remote control while frowning, "And sorry I haven't been around much…just, spending time with Halle takes up a lot of my life." He offered the blond a smile and nudged his knee with his toe.

"Stop playing footsie with my knee," Mello smirked, pushing the sock-covered toe away from his pants. "It's fine, don't worry. You've got yourself a lovely girl who needs your time and never ending affections."

"But Mel, I'm so depriiiiiiived...your knee is keeping my foot from stabbing itself." Matt continued to nudge Mello's knee with his foot, pouting harder. "You're right. But we're hanging out so maybe we shouldn't keep talking about Halle?"

After a moment, Mello pushed Matt's foot away. "I won't allow your toes to get off on my knee. There's a lot wrong with that. You're right, though," he smiled, settling back against the chair, "you'll just get more frustrated talking about not getting any. Speaking of which, my birthday is in three days."

Matt allowed his jaw to drop in surprise. "It is?"

"Yeah, it is. There's gonna be a party. If you're not busy."

"Even if I were busy, I'd make time! How old are you turning? Do you want me to get you a cake? Oh, oh, what do you want?" Matt jumped off the couch, pacing. "I have to go to the store…not right now, of course. But soon."

He smirked, crossing his arms over his chest, "23. And I like cake. I really don't know what's going on exactly, but there's another bar Rod owns that he's throwing it at. Or something. I really don't have a fucking clue."

Scrunching up his face, Matt looked disappointed. "I should have thrown you a party. I'm sorry Mel, I'm a terrible best friend." Throwing his arms in the air, he let out a loud frustrated growl, "I FAIL AS A BOYFRIEND AND A BEST FRIEND; I AM NO MAN!"

"You're a man, albeit a rather immature one with too much money and too many toys. But a man, no less."

"A sexy man?" Matt suddenly struck a pose.

Mello's eyes widened momentarily. "Oh, Matt. Shut up."


It was a shady neighborhood. Far shadier than Matt was comfortable with, but it was for Mello, and he'd go anywhere Mello wanted him to. Putting out the cigarette left in his mouth, Matt turned his car off. As he stepped out on to the gravel he made a metal note to watch his back. Matt flicked his cigarette to the ground, reaching into his back seat and grabbing his gift.

As he walked toward the bar all he could think about was the scene in From Dusk till Dawnwhen George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino walked in to the bar full of vampire strippers. The things he did for Mel.

The redhead pushed the door open to the bar, wishing he had brought some holy water with him.

There were too many people. Correction: there were too many big, scary-ass guys and under-dressed girls, and not enough Mello.

Matt felt his heart skip a beat. Why didn't he have a gun or something on him? A knife? Pepper spray? Oh lord...

The redhead bobbed in and out of muscles and boobs. Where was Mello? This definitively was not his scene.

"Matt! Matty, there you are!" a familiar voice sounded over the music, the blond weaving his way through the crowd toward Matt. He stopped just short of falling into the redhead, cheeks flushed, v-neck shirt hanging slightly off one shoulder, and hair pulled back into a messy ponytail. "I was starting to think you'd gotten lost."

It took Matt a few moments to recognize the blond blob in front of him. It was a shock to say the least, to see Mello drunk. He smelled heavily of vodka and God knows what else. And for once, Matt felt a tug of disappointment in his stomach. For some reason, he thought Mello was above alcohol. But it was his birthday, and he'd get over the sloppy mess his friend was in.

"Naw, I have a built in GPS in my brain." Bracing the other, he smiled. "Mel, are you drunk?" A small laugh left his lips before putting Mello's arm over his shoulders, wrapping one arm around his waist to get him to a chair. "You…uh, okay there?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine, don't worry about me," Mello laughed softly, patting the top of Matt's head, "you're a true gentleman, Matt. But, really, I'm fine." He swayed slightly in his seat, smiling up at the other, "They told me that I had to have a drink on my birthday because that was all anyone was getting me. And here I am."

Matt shook his head with a bemused smile on his lips. Sitting next to him, he handed the blond a box. "Mel, seriously, how many fingers am I holding up?" Matt held three up and waved them around mischievously.

Mello grabbed Matt's wrist lightly, "Three once you stop waving them at the speed of light. What's this?" he looked at the box, holding it up to his ear with a smirk. "It's not a bomb, right?"

"If it was, I don't know if you're in any condition to disarm it." Matt made no attempt to move his arm away from Mello's grasp. It was good to know Mel wasn't as far gone as he assumed. It still bothered him to see him like that though. "It's your gift. Open it."

"You didn't need to get me anything. All the bastards here thought a stupid drink would be a good gift. Pretending that I drink all the time," he released Matt's wrist to run his hands smoothly over the gift, eyes meeting the gamer's with a smile. "Thank you, Matt."

Matt's cheek's turned bright red for a second before he waved it off. "You're my best friend. A drink is no gift, now come on! I need to know if I got the right thing or not, open iiiitttt!"

"Alright, alright, keep your panties on, Matty," Mello carefully unwrapped the gift, meticulously folding the wrapping paper and setting it next to him before he opened the box. His fingers lingered on the gift, smiling growing. "Is this a-?"

"Yeah…I thought it was something you'd like. I don't know, it just screamed Mello."

The blond pulled the vest out of the box, looking it over before turning to Matt, "This is perfect. Thank you."

"Perfect is a big word." Embarrassed Matt looked off to the side, staring at some guy chatting up some girl. "I hope it fits."

"Let's see," Mello stood quickly, steadying himself on the chair before pulling his shirt up over his head and picking up the vest.

Was there music? He recalled there was music a few seconds ago. Also people. A lot of people. But they seemed to have disappeared. Where did the people go? Matt also swore life wasn't in slow motion; that was a movie effect. All he noticed now was the fact that Mello was standing in front of him shirtless. Wasn't he wearing clothes two seconds ago? A familiar pang in his stomach followed by a skip of a heart beat informed him of the situation. This had happened once before, in Mello's apartment. That's right. The scars reminded him that this wasn't the first time he'd seen Mello shirtless- but it was the first time his face betrayed him.

Matt covered his eyes with one hand, waving with the other. His face was bright red, matching his hair. "M-Mel! Put your shirt back on, man!"

"I'm a man, it shouldn't fucking matter. Don't be such a pussy, Matt," Mello smirked and shrugged the vest on, fingers fumbling on the zipper.

"Ohdeargodwhat..." Matt muttered, peaking between his fingers. Technically, Mello was correct. It didn't matter if he was shirtless, being a man. But it did matter how it made Matt feel, and that mattered a lot. It shouldn't, and he needed to remind himself a few times it was most likely his neglect from Halle coupled with Mello's attractive qualities. But still.

"Here." Matt grumbled, swatting his hands away, face burning. His fingers shook just slightly as he helped zip the vest up for him.

"Thanks, Matty," the blond adjusted the collar, running his hands along the sides of the vest and down to his hips. "It looks okay? It's a little saucy, don't you think?"

Matt stared for a moment before managing a nod. "Suits you." He mentally cursed himself for thinking Mello looked very good in his new vest. So many curse words. So. many.

"Too much leather? It might be too much leather," Mello mumbled to himself, sitting back in his chair and facing Matt. "I love it. Thank you, seriously."

"Mel, you can never wear too much leather." Matt offered off handedly, after realizing what slipped out of his mouth, he laughed. "You always pull it off gracefully," he continued. Quick save, Jeevas.

Matt gave Mello a sweet smile, "You're welcome, Mel. I was walking past a store and saw it, and just…I don't know, thought you'd like it."


Matt's words jumbled together as he blushed, waving his hands. "I know, I know. It's weird, right? Dudes don't really get other dudes clothes or whatever, but I mean…yeah. So I just…thought maybe you'd like it. It's totally okay if you hate it, it's stupid. I know."

"No, it's..." Mello ran his fingers gingerly over the leather, "it's...beautiful." He looked up at Matt, letting a little laugh pass between his lips, "That sounded pretty stupid, ignore me. I kinda lose my filter when I've had a few. Forgive me."

"Hey, no way, it's totally fine. I don't mind at all. I'm just glad you like it; it looks nice on you." He practically beamed at the other man. He'd never really put effort in to a birthday gift, or any gift, for someone before.

He gently squeezed Matt's hand before standing up and holding out his hand to Matt, "Come on, we need to get you a drink."

Matt laughed, taking his glasses off to clean them in attempt to hide the terrible blush on his face. Maybe if he took Mello up on his offer he'd have an excuse for the red permanently plastered on his cheeks? Matt stood up and stared at Mello's hand for a moment. Was he offering his hand to…hold it? Was it just a motion to get him up? His fingers twitched as he took Mello's hand, skin touching skin causing his stomach to twist.

"Ahaha…right. I could use a drink."

"You certainly could. You look incredibly uncomfortable and I know that if I pump you full of alcohol that you'll become that bumbling, giggling geek I adore so much," he pulled Matt through the crowd toward the bar.

Adore? Matt's eyebrows fixed to a point, his head throbbing as the word bounced around his mind like a sick techno beat. He needed to stop thinking too much in to things. He also needed to get laid, and soon. This crushing on your best friend (correction: male best friend) thing had to stop.

"Ah…yeah. Yeah, I mean, I'm just nervous because of all these people. Not to mention all the girls. Halle might…get jealous?" Not likely, not that he'd tell Mello, but Halle never seemed to be jealous of anyone. She seemed to trust him more than any other woman in the world. Which, of course, made him feel worse when he looked down at Mello's pants and realized how nice his bottom looked in leather.

Bad. Bad Mail. Bad.

"Probably, yeah," handing Matt a glass, Mello took one of his own and held it up in a toast. "To...some shit I'll think up later!"

"To burying my perverse mind," Matt muttered under his breath and downed whatever it was.

The blond set his glass down on the counter, licking at his lips absently, looking across the room. "Hey, Matt?"

Lips. "Uh, yeah?" Lips.

The sly grin spreading across Mello's face bordered on psychotic. "How are you at pool?"


Matt smirked, standing straight as he watched the cue ball knock the 11-ball into the corner pocket. A groan of frustration erupted from the two opponents, the redhead offering a little bow to the two men across the table.

"You should let Mello take the last shot, it's his birthday."

"He's sloshed..."


"Mello, take the shot!"

Matt leaned against the table, "Are you going to be okay taking the shot?" His eyes glanced at the glasses on the table.

Mello waved his hand, stepping forward and taking up his cue, "I'll be fine, Matty." He cast a look at the men across the table, "But these guys are real dicks for trying to take advantage of me." The men laughed, watching Mello round the table, lining up his shot. He bit his bottom lip absently before leaning over the table. "8-ball, side pocket."

"Don't show off, Mello. You've had too many to make that shot."

"Shut your whore mouth, Jose," he barked with a loud laugh, eyes squinting before he took the shot, cue ball smacking harshly into the 8-ball.

The 8-ball clunked easily into the side pocket.

Matt laughed loudly, throwing his arm in the air and hooting. "YEAH! Go Mel! In your face, SUCKAAAAAAAS!" It appeared that Matt had…perhaps, had one too many drinks.

Grinning maniacally, Mello offered a salute to the others across the table before walking over to Matt and holding out his hand. "Nice job, Matt."

"Diddo, boss. You really took charge and cleaned up shop." Matt snickered under his breath before shaking Mello's hand.

The blond beamed, stumbling forward a few steps as several people passed behind him, gripping Matt's forearms. "Sorry, sorry," he flushed slightly, straightening up, "popping space bubbles everywhere."

Matt's smile grew as his cheeks darkened. "Hey, hey, don't worry about it. There's no such thing with bros." A short laugh behind Matt spooked him slightly, making him take a step away from it and a step a bit closer to Mello. "I think there are too many people in here."

"Yeah, probably," Mello carefully released the gamer's arms, eyes catching the other's with a smile. "I think I might be ready to check out soon. I'm not really a big party guy."

"Then why is this party so big?" Matt asked, placing his hand on Mello's elbow to attempt to lead him out of the crowd.

"I didn't plan it or anything. I think they were using my birthday as an excuse to have a party," Mello nodded to several people who wished him a happy birthday as they passed.

Out of the corner of Matt's eye he spotted a space where no one seemed to be milling around. Leading the blond that way, he discovered a door to another room. "Let's go in here to talk, I'm feeling just a bit claustrophobic." He offered Mello a smile before opening the door and walking in. "I can see that. You…know a lot of people."

"Eh, I've bartended at several places, run around doing a lot of Rod's shit, not a big deal," Mello leaned in the doorway, resting his head against the frame. "You having fun?"

"I always have fun when I'm with you." Matt offered, inspecting the room he had walked into. It was a bit dusty and he hadn't found the light switch yet. "Popular guy, I'm kinda jealous."

"Of me?" Mello laughed, shaking his head, "No reason to be. You're the one with a million coworkers who all go out and have fun." He paused for a moment, turning his head to look down the hallway, eyes narrowing slightly.

"Mello, I need to-" the deep voice cut off as the imposing frame of Rod appeared in the doorway, catching sight of Matt fumbling in the dark room. "There's someone here to see you. Wants to wish you a happy birthday."

Blue eyes seemed to instantly clear of any drunken haze they may have had. "Does it have to be right now? I'm a little bu-"

"It's an old friend, and he has to leave," Rod glowered at Matt through the dark, "this can wait."

The geek stopped mulling around when his eyes caught sight of who he assumed was Rod. The man was built like a brick house! He decided to stand very still, and pretend to blend in with the darkness. Matt certainly did not like the way this monster of a man was looking at him. Had he offended him in some manner?

The blond looked back at Matt, lips parting in a sigh, "I'll be back in a minute, okay?"

"Um…alright?" Something seemed off about this situation, but Matt wasn't going to speak out about it in front of Frankenstein.

A sickening smirk spread across Rod's features as he gestured Mello out of the doorway. "Don't worry, I'll bring him back in one piece."

That…did not sound good. Matt's eyebrows furrowed, all signs of being intoxicated left without a trace, except of course the room moving slightly to the left. Something wasn't right. His spider senses were tingling. So what was a gamer to do? Go all Call of Duty on Mr. Goliath? No. It was James Bond time.

The redhead waited for Mello and Rod to leave, counted to ten, then slipped out of the room. He was a master of blending in with crowds, being invisible and a wall flower had its perks. He hid behind larger men, following the wall-o-man and Mello.

The two walked to the end of the hallway, turning to skirt around the edge of the main room, pulsing with music and way too many people. Rod placed a hand at the back of Mello's neck, who immediately tensed up, hands clenching into fists at his sides.

Matt's lips drew to a very fine line when he noticed the hand on Mello. Why was he touching him? His heart pounded against his rib cage, adrenaline pumping through his body. His eyes kept locked on that hand on Mello's neck, willing lasers to burn a hole through Monstroso's massive hand.

When they reached another door at the far side of the room, Mello shrugged away from Rod's touch and pushed the door open, slamming it shut behind him. The large man leaned against the wall, arms folded over his chest, a cocky smile perched on his lips.

Boss battle.

That was the single thought crossing Matt's mind when he reached Rod at the closed door. This was the moment gamer's lived for. The big guy VS the little guy. Matt took in his options.

A) He could attempt to fight the beast
Projected Outcome: Death; no do-overs.
B) He could grab a weapon and THEN fight him.
Projected Outcome: Get arrested and lose his job.
C) Distract the Minotaur with something shiny
Projected Outcome: Success.

Glancing around, a wicked smile stretched out over his freckled face. He took a few steps to his left, and reached in to his pocket.

"Hey there," Matt offered a smile, lifting his eyebrow in a coy manner. The woman he had singled out tilted her head at him, obviously intoxicated.

"Yesss?" She slurred.

"I'll give you ten dollars to go up to that man there, and make him dance with you. A pretty little thing like you? Shouldn't be hard." He gave her a charming wink, making sure to let his British accent slip out. Chicks dug the accent.

She blushed, eyes drifting up and down Matt for a second. "Do I get to party with you after?" Matt nearly laughed, but held it in. "Sure? We can LAN." She, of course, had no idea what he had just said to her, but she waved off the bill. She'd do it for free, extra points.

He then watched as the barely dressed woman sauntered over to the Big Boss, said something in his ear, and gracefully stumbled off.


It took approximately five seconds for Rod to leave his post at the door, eyes hungrily following after the scantily clad girl.

Objective met. Wall clear.

Red hair peaked through the doorway as he slipped it open, he cracked it only slightly. It was time to save the Princess, but he had to know what he was up against. Goombas or Koopa?

"-not what we agreed to," Mello's hushed voice echoed down the hallway, his glare evident in his tone.

A harsh laugh sounded from around the corner. "And what? What do I get as compensation?"

"Jack shit! That's not what we-"

"How about this," Mello's growl sounded over the other man's voice, "I get this, and we'll drop the whole thing."

"You fucking-!"

Sudden fear made Matt's entire body turn ice cold. What the hell was going on? The alcohol in his system still present, even if he attempted to wish it away, made things harder to comprehend. Someone was yelling at Mello. Someone sounded very, very angry. Mello sounded upset…really upset. Something in Matt told him to stay out of it. Fear almost crippled him, but something else drove him forward. He wasn't a coward. He wasn't going to let Mello fight alone, either. Friends helped friends, and since he had never had a friend in need before, this was a moment in history.

If a Matt falls in a forest, do games weep? Matt turned the corner in a brisk pace, his eyes narrowed in anger. His fists clenched just in case…did he get an extra life for courage..?

Matt's eyes narrowed in on Mello, face pressed against the concrete wall, a hand pulling roughly at his hair while the other man held both of Mello's wrists behind his back.

Oh God. Think fast. Think fast.

Matt surveyed the surrounding area. Nothing. Not a weapon in sight, no high ground to take, no clever way to outsmart him. It came down to him, and this guy. Allowing rage to fully take him over as a last ditch effort, Matt charged.

Plowing in to the larger man he knocked him off balance before drawing back, moving his foot in a position so as his fist connected, his entire body weight would go in to the punch. He was aware of words flying out of his mouth, he was aware of the pain in his knuckles as he knocked the man to the ground with a punch to his jaw. He was then aware of his knees pinning the man 's shoulders to the ground, and the continued pain in both his fists.

He however was not aware of the words he was saying, nor for how long this went on until Mello stepped in.

Bare arms wrapped around Matt's chest, Mello's voice soft in his ear, "We have to go. You got him, he's not moving, but now we have to go, Matt."

Sounds were the first thing to come back, then the haze disappeared and all he could see was red. Red on his knuckles, red on the guys face. Just red. He heard Mello's voice and felt him pulling the redhead away. His glasses were askew, his hands hurt like a bitch, and embarrassingly enough there was a bit of spittle on his chin from the yelling. Matt hated fighting. He hated violence. It was always senseless and pathetic, all fists and bad words. He was shocked at what he had done, looking at the man on the ground as he stood up and backed away.

"Oh God." Matt let a groan slip out of his lips, staring at his hands. This was more real than he imaged it would be. Sure, he'd be in fights before. Generally he won because of clever actions and good planning. This was nothing like that. He had hurt someone, bad. When was the last time he lost himself like that?

"Mello…I…I didn't meant to…"

"He's not dead, it's fine." Mello pushed Matt against the wall, holding the sides of his face in his hands, "Are you okay to go? Can you walk, do you feel sick?" The blond was whispering frantically, eyes crystal blue and intense.

His head bobbed as he nodded, still clearly in shock. "Are you okay?" He asked, more worried about the blond. "I saw you. He had you against a wall…" His hand lifted, touching the side of Mello's face that had been against the wall. There was a cut there. The anger flared up inside him again, maybe he hadn't hit him enough. Should he hit him again?

"I'm perfect, no big deal," Mello put on a fake smile, hand dropping to take Matt's wrist. "We have to leave. Now. You ready?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay. Am…I going to jail?" Reality was crashing back to him. He had no idea who that man was. What was he capable of? What if this got back to his company? Oh shit, he'd be worse than fired…he wasn't supposed to draw attention to himself like this.

Matt squeezed Mello's hand, concern written all over his face. "I…just did something really stupid, didn't I?"

"No, not at all. You did something completely stupid and absolutely brilliant," the smile was real this time, Mello squeezing back gently, "And now we have to run."

In all the moments to joke, this was not one of them. But Matt did it anyway.

"There's always running." He offered a smile back, and followed Mello's lead.