AN: Is this for real? Did we seriously (and successfully) post three chapters in less than a week? Holy crap.
(By the way, do you guys like the frequent updates, or is it too much? Is once a week better?)
I'm truly, madly, deeply enthralled that you guys actually like this. Oh good lord it makes my life. And I really hope that you enjoy where this is going, I really do. I think that this chapter, so far, might actually be my favorite, personally. I'm not really sure why. Probably because I LOVE angsty shit way too much, and yet I generally write something with a lovely comedic edge. Beh. Well, anyway. XD This chapter somehow reminds me of the Frou Frou song Let Go. Thus the title.
I adore you all, you have no idea how much I adore every one of you. I got a review alert at work today and I squealed. No lie. So, thank you.
Leather and Stripes (and Stripes really talks too much, and you all just want to read the next chapter, so enjoy!)
Mello's feet had started to hurt by the tenth flight of stairs, but he kept running, eyes glancing back to make sure that Matt was still keeping up behind him. They had sprinted down several hallways and out the back door of the bar, jumping into Matt's car, who only objected briefly to Mello taking the wheel. The entire drive, Matt had stared out the window, gnawing on his bottom lip, too preoccupied to even light a cigarette. When they reached the building, Mello had made sure they used the back access door, climbing the 21 flights of stairs to his apartment.
"We're almost there," he called over his shoulder softly, catching sight of Matt's battered knuckles and quickly turning back. "Only 24 more stairs to go."
He was lost in his mind. What had he done? Why had he done it? Easy enough; his friend was in danger and there was no other option. But why had he kept going? One punch should have been enough, but he kept punching. That rage, the audacity of that man to even think he could do such a thing to Mello. He wanted to keep punching until he could never lay another hand on the blond. Who did he think he was? Matt wasn't sure who he was actually, but the thought was rhetorical.
The stairs to this new place were taking forever, his breath labored with each step. The adrenaline had died down and the alcohol had started to give him a migraine. The only thing keeping him going was the leather clad blond ahead of him. He was taking him somewhere safe, somewhere he'd never been before. That nagging feeling in the back of his mind, the itching in his fingers, he needed nicotine bad. He didn't think he could handle smoking right now though; the damage he had already incurred on his lungs keeping sweet oxygen from flowing in during these stairs was enough.
"Mel..." he started, his voice a bit ragged. "Mel…where are we going?"
Mello looked back at Matt as he reached the landing, resting a hand on the door handle, "My apartment." He held out a hand for the other, helping him up the last few steps before he opened the door, peering out into the hallway. Gesturing to Matt, he started heading toward the door near the end of the hall, pulling a key out of his back pocket.
"Your real apartment?" He nearly gasped, feeling a little strange about the situation. Not that anything about this wasn't already strange.
"Yeah," Mello murmured, seemingly deep in thought as he reached the door, inserting the key and pushing the door open. "It should be fine now."
The redhead followed closely behind him, not sure exactly to expect. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory? His fingers were numb by now, his knuckles throbbing with a dull ache.
There was a click and a small light appeared overhead, casting a soft glow in the entryway, the bulb flickering with months of disuse. "Do you need anything or-?" Mello turned, eyes dropping again to Matt's hands. "Right...right, we need to wrap those up." Wandering out of the entryway, the blond flipped on another light. "Bathroom's over here," his silhouette appeared in the beam of light shining into the living room, "looks like only these two actually have working bulbs."
Matt wandered in, following Mello. His head hurt with every pump of blood his heart pushed through his body. He felt weak and tired, his hands hurting more with each step. Where was a couch? He needed to sit down. "Mel…I don't feel very good..."
A warm, sturdy arm wrapped around Matt's back, Mello pulling an arm over his shoulders to support the redhead. "I've got you," he replied quietly, pulling Matt carefully into the bathroom and sitting him down on the toilet lid. Mello opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out several bottles of pills followed by bandages and medical tape.
Two pills and a glass of water were placed in Matt's hands, Mello crouching down in front of him, "Take these. They'll help."
Matt struggled for a moment to move his fingers, they hurt way too much. He managed to toss the pills in his mouth, it was picking up the water that was the hard part. He tried to smile, but the room was moving. "Do you have a straw?"
"I don't...I can hold it though..." Mello took the glass, slowly bringing it up to Matt's lips.
"Thanks," Matt replied, no energy to make a joke. He took a gulp of water and coughed a bit, almost choking on the pills. Note to self, no more drinking for a while. Certainly no more fighting for a while.
"No problem," Mello offered a small smile, setting down the glass and picking up a roll of bandages, "Let me see your hands."
The room just wouldn't stop spinning, and he leaned his elbow on to the counter in an attempt to stop it. He lifted his hand to the blond, his eyes closing. "Please don't use alcohol...it'll burn."
"Okay, I won't..." he took a small antiseptic packet, ripping it open. "We have to clean it, though. It'll get infected otherwise. And then they'll have to cut off your hands," a smile quirked the corners of Mello's lips, "And then no wanking." Gently taking Matt's hand, he dabbed the pad to his skin, carefully cleaning the broken skin. "Sorry if this stings a little. It shouldn't be too bad, though."
"I shouldn't have to wank myself..." Matt whined, reminded of the Halle issue. "But yeah, infection equals bad." The redhead looked like he was going to be sick. Tilting his head back, he shifted so his other hand could be in front of him too. Mello was being so gentle…it was nice. "Thank you."
"I should be thanking you," Mello mumbled, eyes glued to treating the hands in front of him.
"All I did was cock everything up. I'm going to jail…I just know it. I don't even know what was going on." Matt sighed, the pain in his hands couldn't even compare to the pain in his head.
"You're not, don't worry." A small chuckle left his lips, "I really didn't think you had it in you, Matt. I'm impressed but, really, nothing'll happen to you. I'll make sure of that."
Matt's eyes locked with Mello's, a worried look locked on his features. "Are you sure? I…I didn't think, I just acted. He was hurting you…"
"And I'm thanking you. For..." he paused for a moment, wrapping the gamer's knuckles with the bandages, "...for saving me."
"You're welcome." The redhead sat in silence as Mello wrapped his hands. He wasn't going to be able to type for a while. It was a good thing he installed that voice translating software. After the blond finished, Matt let out a deep sigh. "Your birthday's ruined…"
"It's not my birthday anymore," Mello glanced up at Matt, "It's two in the morning, so we're in the clear." Carefully inspecting his work, the blond ran his fingers carefully over the bandages. "How does it feel?"
"They feel alright," Matt answered, wiggling his fingers. It wasn't until he attempted to stand up that he needed to brace himself on the blond. His hand stung when he placed it on Mello's shoulder, but it was better than falling down. "Mel…I think I need some help getting to the couch."
Mello grabbed Matt's hips as he stumbled forward, bracing the gamer and resting his head lightly against his stomach from his spot kneeling on the bathroom floor, "Okay. Do you think you're okay to walk at all or..?"
His cheeks flushed. Looking toward the doorway, Matt tried to forget how close Mello was. "I think I can. Maybe, possibly."
"Alright, here," Mello placed Matt's hand on the counter before standing up and draping one of the other's arms over his shoulders. "It's not too far. I can fold out the couch, too, if you want." The duo hobbled unsteadily across the room, Mello adding softly, "It's really the least I can do after..."
"Don't mention it. I mean, I'm sure you would have done the same for me? Right?" Matt gave him a hopeful look. "You're my best friend." The redhead glanced around the room as they walked; Mello had a nice place. "No more bugs?" He asked quietly, trying not to speak too loud so not to incur the wrath of the small angry man banging drums in his head.
"I certainly hope not," Mello sighed, leaning Matt against the couch as he kicked the coffee table out of the way and folded out the mattress. "I've got your back, Matt."
His muddled mind jumped back to how his company would react if they found out about this little fiasco. His eyebrows furrowed as he wobbled on his feet. "If I ever...just stop showing up one day, and not answering my phone, make sure to look for me, okay?" His voice wavered for a moment before he gathered himself again. Realizing what he said, Matt laughed, "Yanno, in case I get drunk and pass out somewhere."
The blond looked up at that, eyes narrowing for a moment, "Yeah...of course." Walking over to the hall closet, Mello pulled out a pillow and several mismatched sheets, fumbling his way back across the room in the dark. "It's not much. Haven't exactly been here for a while, but it should do." He shook out the sheets, neatly making the bed, eyes drifting to the redhead gripping the couch.
The gamer allowed himself to collapse on to the couch, trying hard to kick his shoes off and failing. "It's perfect, I feel safe here. It's like a safe house in one of those crazy movies I watch." He smiled toward Mello, noticing for the first time since the fight just how shook up he looked. "Hey, maybe you should sit down, too."
"No, no, I'm fine, don't worry about me. You're the one who got all..." he gestured absently, letting out a deep sigh. "I just need some sleep, I'll be fine. It's really not a big deal."
"Mello, you have a pretty nasty cut on your face." Matt frowned hard at him, he would have patted the bed, but that would have hurt.
Mello brought a hand up to his cheek, eye twitching as his fingers brushed over the gash, "Oh...right."
"If you get me a cloth and a band-aid I'll help you with it." Even though his head felt like it was going to explode, his hands felt useless, and his body wanted to fall over sideways and never move again, he still wanted to make sure Mello was alright.
"Really, Matt, it's fine."
Matt shouted suddenly, surprising himself. "It's not fine! I should have gotten there quicker, it's my fault you're hurt." Why was he so upset about this? Why was he blaming himself? Was it because he knew something was wrong when Rod walked in? "I'm your friend…" he paused, "I don't know, I feel like I should have helped more. I feel responsible somehow." If not Matt, who else was going to watch Mello's back?
Mello stopped, eyes widening slightly in the dark. "Matt...there's nothing more you could have done. The fact that you did anything at all is more than I could have ever asked for. You fucked up your hands, and I have a little scratch on my face. I've had worse. Much, much worse, and..." his voice dropped, eyes darting down to the carpet, "...and I didn't even deserve to have you help me at all. It was stupid and I should have just taken care of things myself. You didn't need to get involved. But I'm sure as hell going to make sure that this doesn't get back to you."
"But...you can't do everything alone." Matt leaned back against the couch, his eyes locked on the blond. "Everyone needs someone, Mel. Like…I couldn't imagine life without you around anymore. I'm never bored around you. You get my stupid jokes, we go on epic adventures, I just feel like my life has more purpose now. I guess I've never had a friend like you." Green eyes closed, it made life so much easier to not have to keep them open. "I want to be the person you can count on. I never want to let you down."
He froze. Each beat of his heart wracked his head and his chest, and he forgot to breathe. Mello sunk to the mattress, staring blankly in front of him before his eyes slid over to the redhead next to him. "How on Earth can you say that? You don't even know me..."
"But .. I feel like I've always known you." His lips curved in to a smile, "Does that sound crazy? I'm sorry."
"It doesn't." He laughed. He wasn't sure why he was laughing, but there it was, lingering in the stale air of his apartment. "Never be sorry, Matt."
"You know, if you don't like me not knowing you, as you said, you could tell me more about who you are." Matt opened his eyes only a bit, the light burning his eyes. "I'm only sorry I wasn't with you when you went to talk to that guy."
"Stop apologizing," Mello shook his head, running his hands through his hair. He could feel Matt watching him, eyes half lidded and starting to glaze over with fatigue, but he was still watching. Looking up slowly, Mello caught his gaze. He shifted forward, gingerly placing a hand behind Matt's head, fingers weaving into his hair, and brought their foreheads together softly. "Remember, I've got you, Matt."
It felt…better than it should have. Maybe it was the alcohol or the recent neglect…but he was kidding himself, it wasn't either, really. He had no idea such a small gesture would feel so good, but it felt wonderful. His fingers pushing through his hair made Matt close his eyes again. He could fall asleep with Mello petting him. The feel of his skin against his made his face hot to the touch. It hurt his chest for an odd reason that he didn't want to think about too hard.
Matt's mind was in a haze, he wasn't entirely sure if he was dreaming this or not. He knew if he remembered this tomorrow, he'd feel guilty. Guilty for feeling this strongly for someone who wasn't Halle. Guilty for having this strange feeling for his best friend. Ashamed that he couldn't man up and label it for what he was afraid it meant. He was scared. Scared of why he beat that man so hard, scared for why he cared so much about another person.
It wasn't supposed to be this way, was it? "I'm really happy to hear that. I wouldn't trust anyone else..." His sentence stopped midway, not sure exactly what he was going to say.
Mello simply smiled, fingers tensing against Matt's scalp for a moment, "Go to sleep now, Matty." He pulled back just enough to press his lips to Matt's forehead, whispering softly against the skin, "And thank you." Pulling away and standing unsteadily, Mello walked to the bathroom and flipped the light switch, leaving only the dim entryway light on.
Sleep was beginning to take over the redhead against his will. His eyes were too heavy to keep open, his breath coming in slow, short puffs. He knew something in him had changed today, but he wasn't ready to admit it to himself. If he would remember it or not tomorrow didn't matter, because he had felt those lips against his skin. He had heard the gentleness in Mello's voice, and it had made him hurt inside.
As the world of dreams took him, Matt felt reality leaving him. False and truth blended together, then nightmares took hold. He dreamed of things that could have been part of a movie; fire and explosions, guns and death. Surely he'd forget it in the morning, but for now, lost in the dream, he felt a mix of fear and the pang of something deeper.
He was exhausted. Everything ached, and the cut on his cheek had started swelling. Fan-fucking-tastic.
Mello closed his eyes, sighing deeply as he tried not to think about how shaken Matt had looked, bloodied and pale and terrified. He'd still looked scared the next morning, eyes betraying the front he'd put up. They'd somehow reached a mutual, silent agreement that they weren't going to talk about it, that the incident would never be mentioned again. But Mello couldn't forget how Matt had looked, clearly on the verge of tears…
He knew the large man was standing there, watching him from the doorway. Those dark eyes staring, hazy with alcohol and drowsiness, but still staring, so intently, at the blond. It unnerved him, but served as a reminder of who, exactly, Mello was dealing with.
The blond threw a few towels into the washing machine, pretending he didn't see the other man. He continued with his work, fingers brushing the dial.
Mello pulled the dial, the sharp click echoing in the small room. "Rod."
"How's the loft?" He took a step forward, "Everything's workin'?"
"Perfectly," the blond turned, facing Rod, "no complaints at all."
"Well, then I'm glad I could set you up there, seein' as your place is sorta..."
"Yeah, to be blunt," the large man allowed a grin, crossing his arms over this chest. "You know, that's one of the things I like about you, Mello. You don't fuck around. You're straight forward."
Mello chuckled in the back of his throat, resting back against the counter, "I try, Rod."
The larger man inclined his head slightly, eyes never straying from the bright blue ones across the room.
Black painted nails tapped against the cool linoleum counter top. "I take it you're not here to make small talk about my living arrangements, Rod."
"See? There's that straightforward shit I was talkin' about." Rob cracked what should have been a smile, but looked no more inviting than a metal barrel pressed against someone's temple. "Nah, I'm interested in who you've got in here when I'm not."
"It's only Cla-"
"Yeah, I know about her. I set the two of you up, don't forget that, Mello."
Shrugging offhandedly, Mello cocked his head to the side, "Then there isn't anyone-"
He watched the blond, shaking his head slightly, "Do you think I'm stupid?"
"Not at all."
"Then why, Mello," Rod stepped forward, a sneer staining his lips, "Mihael, are you fucking that office junkie?"
Mello's eyes narrowed, teeth grinding behind his lips, "Excuse me?"
"I don't question your taste in fuck buddies. Hell, as long as you get your job done well, which you do, I could really give a shit." Rod uncrossed his arms, taking another step forward, "But this little geek is gettin' too close for comfort. I don't like not knowing people who know me, who know my business. They ain't got no right knowing anything unless I say so."
"And he doesn't know anything."
"Bullshit," Rod spat, advancing on the smaller man. "Jose said he's seen him around here at least once a week, and-"
"And you don't think I can keep my mouth shut?" Mello straightened against the counter, "I'm not an idiot, Rod."
"So what do you call what happened with Angelo?"
Mello bit the inside of his bottom lip, teeth nearly breaking the soft flesh. "What about him?"
"Why did my boys find him with a smashed face at your party?"
The blond laughed at that, eyes turning cold, "Because your little shit of an acquaintance tried to fuck with me. He wanted to change our arrangement."
Rod considered the other for a moment, eyebrows raising slightly. "Did he, now…"
"You might want to pick your friends more carefully, Rod," Mello hissed, tucking a hand into his pocket, "before they try to fuck me over in more ways than one."
Dark eyes widened at that.
Stepping away from the washing machine, Mello pulled a gaudy chain from his pocket, tossing it to Rod as he passed him, "Don't worry, I took care of it."
The large man caught the chain, holding it up to the light for a moment before a smirk crossed his lips, his voice cutting Mello off at the door. "Hey."
Mello glanced over his shoulder, "What?"
"That geek's got quite an arm, Mihael," Rod chuckled darkly, catching the way the blond's eyes held something that resembled fear.
"Have a good day, Rod," Mello muttered, slamming the door shut behind him.