Title: Thoughts On Joe Longo
Summary: Mel Burke didn't like Joe Longo at first, that's the truth. But then something happens that shakes them both to the core.
Author's Note: Just a little something to thank all of you guys for leaving extremely nice comments on my other Mel/Joe story, I really didn't think it'd be that popular.

When Mel Burke first met Joe Longo, she did not like him at all.

She thought he was self-centered, smug, arrogant and protective – to a fault – of his possessions.

And what was up with him being all Super Longo? Joe Longo could cook like Jamie Oliver, fix the broken television in under an hour and do all the chores that needed to be done on a weekly basis: ironing, vacuum cleaning, wash dishes, the list could go on forever.

So when Stephanie had asked her if she liked- no, if she liiiiiked him, Mel Burke had first scoffed with repugnance.

But the Council woman couldn't deny that as weeks slipped into months, and the kids started to grow fond of Joe, so did she. She started noticing the little things about him that she liked, although she never told anyone about it, of course.

Joe was a stereotypical big brother to her niece, Lennox Scanlon. Whenever she hinted about a boy mistreating her, his eyes would blaze fury and his fists would clench into a ball, ready to track the kid down. And even though Mel didn't want to encourage such violent behavior, she couldn't help but adore how much he already cared for Lennox.

Ryder, too, obviously. Ryder was no nerd, but he occasionally had his moments when he couldn't stand up for himself (when Lennox would refer to him as a 'loser', but in that big sister way so that Ryder wouldn't get too offended) and Joe stepped up to the plate.

But that was this one moment that burned in the back of her mind.

It happened a few weeks ago. She was supposed to go out on a date with a man she met at a restaurant. He seemed genuinely nice, had a stable career and he was just so wonderfully charming that no one could resist him. Not even Joe.

Mel didn't fail to notice how Joe pulled Richard into a corner of the room, where he thought Mel wouldn't hear him. 'Hey, look, I just wanted to say one thing to you, buddy. Burke and I… we kind of look out for each other. So you do something that'll upset her and she didn't deserve it, I'll upset my mom.' Joe glared at Richard, who just frowned in confusion. 'For going to jail.' Joe then added matter-of-factly. 'For talking to you about the situation with my fists.'

'Got it, Joseph.' Richard just said, though there was an obvious hint of anxiety in his voice.

Joe pulled a painful face. 'Also, you gotta stop calling me 'Joseph', man, I'm not your son. If anything, call me Longo.'

'Will do.'

From her corner of the room, Mel just bit back a smile and deliberately knocked over her purse to create some noise. 'Alright, I'm all set. Let's go grab something to eat.'

'Alright.' Richard exclaimed, extending his arm so that Mel could shove hers through his. Richard needed a few awkward steps before he was completely out of Joe's personal area and into his freedom. 'We'll, uh, be back later.'

'Good. You kids have fun.' Joe said, a smile plastered on her face, though neither Richard nor Mel could figure out if it was a real smile or not. Joe just patted Richard on the shoulder once as they left, and then his hand was on Mel's back, gently shoving her out of the door until Mel ordered him – as casual as she could possibly be – to 'stop friggin' touching her'.

'Hey Mel.'

Mel shook herself out of her thoughts, and was surprised to find Joe standing in her doorway, a bottle of red wine in his hand, two empty glasses dangling in the other. 'I was planning on enjoying a glass of wine in the backyard and figured you might want to join me.'

'Oh,' Mel responded, a wave of uneasiness settling over her like a thick blanket. 'I don't know…'

'C'mon. You never say 'no' to wine. You should know better than that.'

She glanced back at him, into those brown eyes that were so far away, yet felt so close to her. These little moments between them made her forget about everything she hated about him. It reminded her of why she put up with him in the first place. Because despite all of his flaws, everything did come from a good place in his heart. And sometimes, she'd like to think that he had a spot reserved there for her and the kids.

'I guess you're right.' She rose to her feet and gladly accepted one of his glasses before following him down the stairs.

'He's an asshole, that's what he is. I mean, who does he think he is? Dumping me for a dumb, blond bimbo that's got to be barely legal.'

Joe bit back frustrated groans as he helplessly watched Mel spit out insult after insult regarding what would have been her company for the night. He was frustrated that he couldn't protect her from this jerk, this ballsack, this-

'Dipshit!' Mel called out, angrily punching the dashboard of the car.

Exactly. Joe nodded in his head, but on the surface, he just kept listening to her and doing everything to keep his cool. She was losing it, he couldn't really afford to get violent too.

'I'm sorry.' Mel fought back some tears and sniffed. 'You don't have to hear all that. I just want to forget about this night. You know, I actually thought he was one of the good guys.'

Joe nodded slowly as he tore his eyes away from her and grabbed a firm hold of the steering wheel. They were still parked in front of the restaurant, but something in his gut told Joe that they couldn't leave just yet. Plus, he wouldn't really like it if Ryder and Lennox saw their aunt in such a vulnerable state.

'You know, Burke?' Joe started slowly, unsure of what he wanted to tell her. 'You gotta start opening your eyes.' He bit his bottom lip and felt her eyes bore into his cheeks. 'You keep looking for love in all the wrong places. I don't want to tell you what to do, but I just don't want to see you get hurt all the time. I want you to see what you can get for who you are.' Joe turned his head to glance out the window, but he couldn't help but let his eyes linger over the reflection of Mel, who almost seemed to shake in her seat and he wasn't sure if it was with anger or not.

On the other seat, Mel couldn't help it, but her eyes started to water and her bottom lip began to waver as realization sunk in. The realization that she didn't want to be with any of the guys she's ever dated. There was no future in them. They didn't care about her the way she wanted someone to care about her.

The man beside her breathed heavily before opening his mouth again to continue, but was completely flabbergasted when Mel reached out with her hand. She pressed it firmly against his cheek to push it in her direction. Then, she leaned in and pressed her lips against his. It took a long three seconds before he realized that this was no mistake, she wasn't backing off any time soon. So he closed his eyes and let himself enjoy the moment. It felt so wrong, yet it felt like a heavy burden just fell off his shoulders because apparently, it's something that they've both wanted for so long. He can tell, judging by the way she's completely losing herself in the kiss.

He can't help but smile in between their gasps for air, and there's a tingly sensation in his stomach when she grasps the short hair in the back of his head. There were dozens of times where Mel had yelled at him for touching her, but this night, his hands were free to go wherever they wanted to.

But obviously, he respected her boundaries, so they stayed on her cheeks, in her neck, twirled in her curly hair. He didn't care about what might happen if they let go and step back into reality, this could be something that she would only allow once, so he would grab the chance with both hands.


There was an awkward silence that stretched between them when they settled into their chairs, red liquor dancing in their glasses.

'How've you been? Since, uh…' Joe's stopped mid-sentence, unable to find the right words to continue that sentence.

'Good. I think I'm just going to forget about dating those kind of guys anymore. Nothing but trouble.' Mel replied, a light chuckle in her voice, though her eyes were sad.

'And about last night…' Joe began, his eyes looking at only Mel, though Mel couldn't do the same. Instead, she just glanced around at all directions just to avoid his gaze. 'I don't think we should tell the kids just yet. They're going to get all bent out of shape about this.'

'I know. I think you're right.'

'But, uh, what- what about last night?' Joe stammered, which surprised Mel. He hardly ever stammered.

'What do you mean?'

'Do you think we could- I don't know- act on it… or something?'

Mel nearly forgot how to put pressure on the glass and had a minor heart attack as it slipped through her fingers. In a flash, Joe reached out to save the wine and grabbed it in the air, losing nothing but a mere sip of his own wine in the process. He calmly put it on the table next to him, along with his own glass of wine. 'Is that a no?'

'No…' Mel began to speak, and she felt something heavy in her stomach as she (swore she) saw his face fall into disappointment. 'No, I mean, uh, it would be a bad idea.'

'But we covered that, didn't we? Bad ideas… usually a good idea?'

'No,' Mel laughed shortly at his hopefulness, 'You clearly said that they're just really hot.'

'Well, 'hot' is a good thing.'

Mel allowed herself to grin once more, until she turned serious again. 'I just don't want to hurt the kids. If this ends really bad, it affects them too.'

Her male companion just nodded. 'I guess you're right. So, does that mean you'll eventually start dating again?'

'Yeah. Maybe. We'll see. Maybe I'll just focus on work for now.'

Something inside her wrenched and screamed at her for basically crushing his hopes of ever getting more than just a kiss, but she was just too scared to risk it now. She liked what she had in Joe, now. He was the perfect 'co parent'. She couldn't bear losing him, not after almost losing him a few months ago. Sure, he promised to stop by, but it's inevitable that those visits will become more and more rare as the years go by.

For some reason, she's already imagining her whole life with him. But not as her partner, not as her boyfriend. Or whatever he would be… She never thought of him that way. Better said, she never allowed herself to think of him that way because she never thought that he would think of her that way. 'I should probably go to bed now. I got to wake up early for some uh, important…mayor…stuff.' She laughed awkwardly and so did he.

'Goodnight, Burke.'

'Night, Longo.'

She offered him one last small smile, before leaving him alone with his thoughts and the memories of their passionate kiss, a kiss that would haunt her in her dreams for months to come.

Author's Note: So, what do you think? Reviews make me incredibly happy. I basically have the 'bones' for a multi chapter story, but I'm not sure if I'll actually write it.