AN: So, I think I'm actually going to be posting about three chapters tonight. Bear with me. And please review (it seriously makes my day to see all those emails with review alerts. Makes me feel like our little baby made the honor roll. Or something.). But yes!

Officially the start of why we rated this fic M in the first place? I think yes.

So uh...that's your warning (or incentive to read further, that's really your prerogative).

Enjoy, thank you for reading, and cheers~!

Leather and Stripes


.:Chapter 16:.

"Hiding in the Dark"

xxx

"It's completely necessary. I can't believe that...here, take a left here."

"I still don't think it's that big of a deal..."

"Well, you're clearly uninformed because it is a big deal."

"I'm pretty in the loop. Why haven't I heard about it before if it's this big a deal?"

Mello glanced at Matt with a smirk, "Because everyone you talk to sucks, apparently."

"Way to alienate my entire in-crowd in one fell swoop, Mel." The redhead turned a rather sharp corner, offering the blond a cocky grin.

"I don't want to die today, Matt, I just want ice cream."

"I'm living on the edge?"

Shaking his head, Mello leaned back in his seat. "No edges, just ice cream. Please."

"Well I don't see how ice cream is more interesting then dare devil driving."

Green eyes glazed over for a moment; all the redhead could think about was a cigarette. Mello had surprised him, showing up unannounced after a rather involved hour of arguing via text message. "Seriously, I don't see why me not ever tasting this flavor is call for an end of the world reaction." His lips quirked ever so slightly as he looked at the blond.

"Matt."

"No really!" Matt's voice cracked, "Cherry Garcia? Is it really that good?"

"Yes, it is that good. It's fantastic. It's probably the most well known Ben and Jerry's flavor and I cannot believe that you haven't even tried it!" The blond laughed under his breath, eyes closing with a sigh, "Seriously, it's good."

"I'll take your word for it, but if it's not good enough for me to want to stick my dick in it- I'm going to have to slap you, man. I mean…we had to drive half-way across town for it." Matt licked his lips, he really needed to smoke. "Do you mind?" He asked, pulling one out.

"Whatever, go ahead," Mello watched the tiny cancer stick rise to hang between Matt's lips as he fumbled for his lighter.

The moment he lit the end Matt felt the smoke enter his lungs, instantly feeling a lot better. "Man, I really need to stop. I'm so addicted it's not even funny." He sighed, smoke escaping between his lips. "Okay, so how…what's the etiquette with sharing ice cream?"

He needed to look away. Those stupid lips were too distracting. "If we get a pint we can either split it into bowls once we get someplace that's not the supermarket or we get two spoons."

"I vote two spooning it." The redhead nodded absently, "I enjoy eating it out of the carton, has a certain...je ne sais quoi."

Mello pulled absently at the cuff of his shirt, fingers brushing over the thin metal chain under the fabric. "Very classy. We can arrange two spoons, no problem."

"I'm a classy man, Mel." Matt wiggled the cigarette between his lips with a smirk. "You uh…sure you don't mind sharing with me?" His eyes darted to the road again, not sure if Mello felt odd around him still. It'd been a while since the Christmas party, the redhead still found he was nervous at moments, worried Mello would be uncomfortable. It made him seriously happy when Mello initiated their little adventure.

"Classy as those Jersey Housewives you love so much, and no, I don't mind," the blond made a conscious effort to look at the buildings rushing by outside as the car slowed to pull into the parking lot.

"Hey now, don't judge my housewives. I loves them bitches." Matt pouted as he put out his cigarette and got out of the car. The redhead waited for the blond to get out before he locked it, walking down the cross walk. "You know what else I love?" He asked, grabbing a mini black cart. "Safeway."

"You're a tiny-shopping-cart man, aren't you?" Mello eyed the cart with a small smile.

"Hell yeah I am, these guys are so cool." Matt pointed out the cup holder, "Look! I can pa-ruse the store while sipping on my gin and juice, and by gin and juice I mean my venti soy double shot caramel macchiato upside down…with mocha."

Mello paused for a moment before shaking his head, "I think you just lost two levels and 100 experience points."

The gamer's face fell. "It takes a real man to admit he drinks fruity drinks, Mel."

"If it were fruity, yes it would. Unfortunately, it's all yuppie and no fruit."

"I have no qualms with this." The redhead stopped as they passed the fruit section, picking up melons. "I have melons."

"Oh Lord," the blond cracked a smile, trying to smother it with what he hoped was a disappointed frown. "We're here for ice cream, not sex changes, Matt."

"If I were a girl, I wonder if my boobs would be this big?" As Matt walked away from the melons he pondered a tad too loud. "Can you have boobs as big as your head, like in anime?" A man next to him snorted while his girlfriend smacked him.

It took every ounce of Mello's self control to not smack Matt upside the head. "You can, but it leads to back problems and unwanted advances from tentacle monsters, so I really think you're better off with what you've got."

Green eyes stared ahead blankly; Matt had become oddly silent as he walked down the cereal isle. Yes, he was pondering the ramifications of huge tits and tentacle monsters.

At least he did it silently, and to himself.

By the time Matt had checked back in, Mello was walking toward him with a pint of ice cream, holding it aloft with a coy grin.

"Oh hey, you found it. Look what I found." With a bright smile he held up boxes of Berry Captain Crunch and Trix.

"Matt, is that the kind of thing you eat? Don't you ever cook?"

"Yeah, of course I do! It just happens to be in Harvest Moon and Cooking Mama."

"What do you even eat?"

"Hot Pockets, Eggo waffles…"

"How are you not morbidly obese?"

"I throw in a few Lean Cuisines for variety. Once in a while I'll get creative and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and sometimes I'll even make some bacon to put in my mac and cheese. Well…actually, they make Easy Mac with bacon in it. Same thing."

"Not really," Mello pressed the carton against Matt's stomach and into his hands as he walked by, tucking his hands into his pockets. "Now let's get going."

"COLD!" Matt howled as he tossed the ice cream in to the cart. He stood there for a moment just rubbing his tummy, scowling at the back of Mello's head. "You're so mean sometimes." Matt muttered, pouting.

Blue eyes flashed over Mello's shoulder, "Me, mean? Now where on Earth would you get an idea like that, Matt? Come get in line, already."

Matt puttered up behind Mello, leaning heavily on the mini cart. His eyebrows were fixed to a point, "Jerk." He claimed playfully, "Just for that, you're buying me cereal."

Mello quickly snatched the ice cream and the box of cereal from Matt, placing them on the conveyer belt and pulling a thin black wallet from his back pocket. "Just this once, Matty."

"Why not always? You can be my sugar daddy." Matt laughed at that, rolling along with the cart as the line moved.

"I think you're more likely to be the sugar daddy."

"True facts." Matt glanced at the candy, eyes lighting up, "OH! I want this, this, this and this!"

"No. You're getting ice cream and cereal, and that's it," Mello smacked Matt's hand away from the Twix bar he was about to toss on the conveyer belt.

The biggest puppy eyes known to man met with Mello's blues, "But…I want it."

The blond closed his eyes for a moment before handing another bill to the cashier. "Fine, but just that one."

"Woot!" Matt tossed the candy bar on the belt, smiling so wide his cheeks threatened to break. "He got me one." The gamer proclaimed to the cashier, not even caring that the man did not give two shits. "You're the best ever, Mel."

"Yeah, yeah," Mello took his change, tucking it carefully into his wallet before dropping the coins into the little plastic container to the right of the register. "Grab your bag and let's go."

"You so good to me, Mel." Matt snatched the bags and trotted up next to the blond. "So hey, it's crazy o'clock." Matt started his sentence before getting distracted by a claw machine. Popping two coins in he started to play.

"No, no, Matt, no, stop it."

He couldn't help his hand meeting the back of Matt's head with a dull thwack.

The gamer made a strange face before turning and frowning at the blond. "What? Oh, sorry. I was going to ask..." He turned back around, tongue sticking out slightly as he maneuvered the crane. "If you just wanted to, I don't know, stay over or something?" His cheeks turned a slight shade of rose, using the game as a distraction. He hoped Mello wouldn't notice, "We could watch a movie and eat ice cream and veg out. Hey, we could make a fort!"

"...A fort?"

"Yanno.. like a pillow…fort?" Matt offered, his hand jiggling the joy stick. "I've never made one, I heard they're cracker jack though!"

No. No, Mello couldn't handle a night alone with Matt, not after the Christmas party. He was using everything he had to ignore how close they were, how pink Matt's cheeks were when he thought Mello wouldn't approve of something he said, how bright the other's smile was when it was shining at him...

A gallant, 'whoop!' filled the air as Matt achieved his goal. Bending down he pulled the stuffed skelton rabbit from the machine. "For you, for being awesome." He offered the blond a bright smile, "So…yeah, no? Fuck off Matt I don't want to spend a night on your stupid couch?"

He took the plush toy, fingers smoothing over the soft, synthetic fur. "I'll never hear the end of it if I say no, will I?" Mello smirked at the redhead, ignoring the grin spreading across his lips.

"I will pester you about it for all of your days, good sir."

"Fine."

The redhead threw his arms in the air with another loud 'Whoop' before running all the way to his car with his arms up.

This was a BAD idea.

xxx

"Okay, this ice cream is pretty fuckable.."

"I told you it was," Mello mumbled around his spoon, watching Matt carefully lick the ice cream off his own spoon.

Matt was trying very hard not to moan or make any inappropriate sounds. But the ice cream was delicious, so much so that he had to put his spoon down. "Jesus Christ, I'm going to need to stop for a while."

"Had enough already, Matty? I'm a little disappointed. I thought you'd last longer than that," the smirk was evident in Mello's voice.

The redhead laughed loudly at that, shaking his head. "A man can only take so much. It sucks being an ice cream virgin."

The blond bit the inside of his lip, nodding slightly, "Sure does."

The redhead leaned back on his couch, his head back, staring at the ceiling. "This is nice. I was a little afraid we wouldn't hang out anymore, to be honest. What with the whole…yanno…Christmas shenanigan."

Well, that was certainly one way to put it. "Why would you think that?"

"You seemed…upset? I don't blame you. If I had to kiss me, I'd be pretty upset." He made a strange face before shrugging, his eyes firmly glued to the ceiling. "I was afraid you wouldn't want to be around me anymore."

"It wasn't your fault that anything happened. Blame the ladies," Mello allowed a smile, trying not to watch Matt out of the corner of his eye. "Besides, you're my friend, even if you kiss like a seven-year-old."

"I do not!" He finally turned his glance to the blond for a second before looking away again. "Well…I don't know. I'm British, so this type of thing doesn't really phase me. But I know how most people are here, they don't really like that kind of stuff. Even if it's a clever joke devised by demon women." He let a smile slip over the corners of his lips. "So…we're okay?"

"Just dandy," he smiled, that little grin on Matt's lips breaking the wall he'd put up.

"Oh thank God." Matt sighed like the world had been on his shoulders. He smiled more, tossing a pillow at the blond. "I couldn't have my best friend hate me. I mean, it wasn't a terrible kiss." He laughed giving Mello a thumbs up.

The blond was thankful for the pillow blocking the blush on his face. "Of course it wasn't. I'm fucking fantastic."

"Claudia is one lucky lady." Matt plucked his soda from the coffee table and raised it in the air. He noticed a tad too late the tone of his voice; it clearly sounded sour. He laughed to cover it up, taking a big drink.

"She was, yes."

Green eyes peered beside him curiously, "What?"

"We're taking a bit of a break, I guess."

"But…why? You guys seemed, uh, good?" Matt's lips threatened to curve, but he hid them with his can. "Oh. What a shame." He didn't sound sad in the least bit.

"We are, but it was more of a...mutual thing," Mello shrugged, taking a spoonful of ice cream.

Matt offered one last shrug, for some reason, it didn't bother him at all that he wanted to smile or laugh at this information. The way she got close to Mello always irked him. The way she laughed with him, smiled with him, it all made his stomach clench. He wouldn't use the word jealous, but it didn't mean it was the incorrect word. He just wouldn't use it.

"Sucks man."

"A little," he admitted before sighing dramatically, "I don't know how I going to live with myself now that she's gone." Mello smirked and threw a hand across his forehead, "Woe is me."

Matt placed a hand on Mello's shoulder, his voice a mock stern. "It's okay man. We have ice cream, the healing can begin."

"It already has," he waved the spoon before going for another bite, "but it's a shame the healing is going straight to my ass."

"More like your hips, I don't think your ass can take it, man." Matt laughed loudly, he knew it was only seconds before Mello realized he just made a butt joke. He jumped up and strolled toward the kitchen before it was too late to escape.

There was a pause.

"Excuse me?"

"Nothing, nothing, tra la la la..."

"No, that was something," the blond stood up, stalking toward the kitchen. "Are you making fun of my ass?"

Matt's hands were up in a defensive position. "I said nothing of the sort."

Blue eyes narrowed with a small smile, "Well, too bad for you and your lying face because I'm taking the ice cream and I'll be on my merry way."

"Aw come on, Mel! I was kidding. You have a nice, uh…posterior."

"...Ogling me again, Matt?"

"Always?" He offered him a smile.

"Oh, you sly boy," Mello raised an eyebrow before resting back against the counter.

"I know, I'm so clever."

Matt paused in his retort, smile softening. "Hey Mello, thanks a lot for coming. It means a lot to me. I wanted to have a really low key birthday, I intended on being alone...but I'm really glad you showed up. It's the first time in a long time I've spent it with someone else."

"...Excuse me? Did you just...it's your birthday?"

The redhead shrugged a shoulder, "Yeah?"

"Shit, Matt, why didn't you tell me?" Mello frowned a little, kicking Matt's foot lightly, "I would have let your ogling count as my gift to you."

"Does that mean I can ogle all I want without getting punched?" Matt wiggled his eyebrow and laughed. "I don't know...I didn't think it was very important. I normally spend it alone."

"It is important, and no. Your eyes don't get to wander that far from home," a smirk crossed the blond's lips. "I need to get you something other than ice cream and cereal."

"Not even for the birthday boy?" Matt pouted openly before allowing a smirk to grace his lips. "Pffft, I don't need anything. Just having you here is enough."

"Nope, I'm getting you something," Mello ignored the blush threatening to burn his cheeks. "And it will be the best gift you get this year."

"That sounds-" suddenly the theme song to the 90s Power Rangers sounded through the apartment. Matt's eyebrow rose as he plucked his phone from his pocket. His green eyes scanned the text message quickly, widening. Wetting his lips, he read it again.

And again.

"Uh..."

"'Uh?' How very articulate, Matt," Mello watched the redhead's cheeks flare up as he stared at his phone. "What's up?"

"Halle…uh..." Matt blinked, rubbing his eyes. He wasn't sure how to feel about what his girlfriend had just sent him. Sure, he should be overjoyed…was it strange he felt confused? Shouldn't he be half way to his car at this moment instead of staring dumbly at his phone and Mello?

"She wants…to ..." He gestured slightly.

"...Wants to...?"

"...You know…"

The blond frowned, "Build a giant robot, bake a fifteen layer cake, take up disco?"

The gamer made an incredulous face. "Mello." Looking back at his phone as it went off again, he swallowed.

Oh dear God, a picture attachment.

"Take a cold shower before you ruin your pants, sailor." Mello straightened, a small smile gracing his lips, "You're going to have a good night, finally getting what you want."

"I guess." He muttered head tilted at an angle. Was that a bath tub?

"I mean…I should go, right? Yeah. She's all…well, it looks like soap-sudded but…hey, I'm not an expert." Matt felt conflicted. On one hand, he had a feeling if he and Halle did finally consummate their relationship all his weird, lusty feelings might dissipate. All his crazy thoughts had to have accumulated from lack of intimacy, right? He was simply projecting his feelings for Halle onto someone else close to him; Mello was always there for him, that had to be why. Maybe his feelings would return to those of a normal friendship after he got laid?

Genius logic.

But on the other hand…he had invited Mello over. They had plans. He couldn't just ditch his best friend to go have sex... could he? It might fix everything. But simultaneously…he might offend him.

Shallow logic.

"My logic seems so flawed right now..." Matt muttered to himself.

Blue eyes watched the other man, brow furrowed and waging some epic internal battle. "Is she waiting?"

"Yeah..."

"Then go, seriously," he offered a smile, grabbing Matt his jacket off the back of the couch. "We can reschedule. This is a crowning moment in Matt history. The girl made you wait, and you actually did. She might be the one or whatever."

Matt brushed red hair out of his eyes, glancing around the room a bit nervously. Seriously, shouldn't he be more excited? Butterflies erupted in his stomach as his phone chimed again.

"Are you sure you aren't going to text me tomorrow telling me how shallow and uncool I am for canceling?" He took his jacket from the blond and slipped it on, looking for his keys. "You're way more understanding than I'd be."

"Yeah, yeah, go, it's fine. Not going would be the uncool thing, you dork," Mello opened the front door, ushering Matt out of his own apartment before following him. "I should probably go to work anyway. Silly thing, needing to pay for stuff. Always so bothersome."

"I feel like such a tool right now."

"Oh shut up and go fuck the girl, Matt. You've been dying to for months, so just do it already."

"Such crude language, Mel." Matt offered a smile and patted Mello on the shoulder. "Alright then, wish me luck."

"You don't need it," Mello paused for a moment before adding, "Well...that is unless you fuck like you kiss. In which case, hit puberty already and do it like a man."

Matt had a million different comebacks to Mello's statement, however every last one of them disappeared as his phone chimed again. "You win this round, Joker. But I'm the Goddamn Batman, I'll be back." As Matt walked away he said something about catching Cat Woman tonight.

He watched him go, rounding the corner at the end of the hallway, hearing the distant ding of the elevator. Mello needed to collect himself. Matt had a girlfriend, and he was going to go do intimate boyfriend-girlfriend things with said female. And that was fine. Mello certainly didn't have any right to tell him otherwise, especially with what he and Claudia had had...

He caught himself before he blindly dialed her number on his phone, slipping the small device back into his pocket. It'd be fine. This wasn't a big deal. Mello would just go home, relax, watch a movie...

Letting out a deep sigh, Mello focused on the hallway stretched out in front of him before he slammed his fist into the wall.

xxx

Matt could still feel the night air all around him, even after the elevator shut and the hum of music began. He had taken this ride a million times, the repeating motions of pushing the button for his floor, the tapping his foot as he waited for the climb to be over. The sliding of the doors, the walking down his hallway, and finally the unlocking of his door. He tossed his keys gingerly in to the decorative bowl he had next to the door and slipped his shoes off.

Though he was home and the door was shut behind him, he felt off. Matt stood silently in the entrance way of his apartment. Today had been his birthday. She said it was his birthday gift, that she had been waiting for this moment to make it their first time together, that she planned it and it was to be a special moment. And it was, it was perfect. Everything moved slow but fast at the same time, the music was there, the candles, her body was soft and warm. Everything it should have been. He had forgotten just how much he enjoyed having sex, and no, meaningless masturbation didn't cut it quite like sex with a willing, soft body. It was a beautiful moment that would stay with him forever.

And yet, there he was. Standing in his entrance way, feeling numb.

Something wasn't right. Something was missing. He couldn't place his finger on it, and he didn't want to linger on it too much. She had given him the ultimate gift a woman can give, and in a proper way as well. It was wonderful for sure, and he wondered if they'd do it again anytime soon...but still. Something lingered in the back of his mind, nagging at him, eating away at him.

What was it, exactly?

The redhead finally moved from the entrance way, walking slowly through his living room, he decided to sit on his couch instead of going to his bed room. He felt light headed, the adrenaline all but gone from his earlier excursion. His eyes finally focusing on something on the table.

An empty carton of ice cream.

His stomach lurched.

He was sure the moment he and Halle consummated their relationship that all of these thoughts, all of these confusions hazing his mind would clear. He was just distracted because of his lust...right? But he was having a harder time convincing himself after that, after the one excuse he had left was taken away from him. His feeling were mixed. He had both enjoyed and thrived in the moment with her, but at the same time he felt his heart wasn't fully in it, that it was more animalistic and heated. A deep need to be fulfilled more than anything.

"What am I doing..?" He said out loud to no one at all. What was he doing? There was a moment there, when they were having sex, that blond hair had been all he could see. His mind had drifted to another person then, and it had made everything that much more intense. He had felt the thing he had been lacking all along, for that split second, before he willed it away. The hunger gnawed at his insides. He knew exactly what it had been he thought. He felt shame and regret for spoiling his and Halle's moment together, and prayed she hadn't noticed any change.

Mello.

At that moment, he had thought about Mello.

Matt cupped his hands over his face. What was he going to do? Images flashed though his mind, his green eyes peering between his fingers. A hot flush of heat flooded over his body like hot water, his cheeks as crimson as his hair. He felt his pants grow tighter, shame. Shame again. It wasn't Halle that stimulated his body. Not at all, nothing about the images he pictured were her. In fact, he had just imagined their night together, but replaced it with another blond.

Matt bit his bottom lip; his pants were starting to hurt him. He'd regret what he was about to do the moment he saw Mello again, but he couldn't help it. Jumping up, he walked calmly to his bed room, closing the door behind him.

He was going to do something he would most likely regret in the morning, then he would lock it away forever and never think about it again.

xxx

His bright blue eyes, his silky blond hair. Matt could hear his voice in his mind's eye as he wrapped his fingers diligently around his manhood. Green eyes half lidded, he imagined Mello's hand instead of his, stroking the length. He panted softly as the heat in his chest spread to his lower body, his other fingers curling tightly on the bed sheets.

He imagined Mello watching him, licking his lips with lust. Imagined him saying how embarrassing it must be for Matt to be in such a position; Matt on his elbows and knees, stroking himself as if Mello were the one doing it. He laughed to himself, moaning loudly after, thinking about how very pathetic he was. He closed his eyes again, focusing on finishing so he'd never have to think about how fucking stupid he was again. How angry he was at himself. How could he objectify his best friend? His tall... slender... very attractive best friend. He let out another strangled sound, tightening his hold on himself.

His blue eyes. So striking, so full of things Matt couldn't even imagine, the things those eyes had seen, will see one day. He wanted them to watch, to see how hard he was, to see how his body pulsed with every thought of the blond. He pushed his face down in to his sheets, panting, breath more labored as he pushed his thumb over the tip.

Mello.

He wore tight clothes on purpose.

Mello.

He touched him and stood too close on purpose.

Mello.

He made him feel important, like someone on purpose.

Mello...he ...

"Shit .. Mello!" His eyebrows furrowed as he felt himself falling over the edge of oblivion, his mouth open in a wordless cry.

Matt lay there, staring at his bed side table. There sat the only picture he had of himself and the blond. He wasn't sure when they had taken the picture, but he didn't care right now. A tear slid down his cheek; he'd never be able to pretend this didn't happen. Mello would notice, surely. He'd have to avoid him for a while... just... just long enough to get himself sorted. He'd go see Halle again. They'd have sex and he'd be normal. He wouldn't think of Mello like this...

He'd let himself forget, and then they could hang out again.

With that resolution, Matt drifted off to restless sleep.

xxx