Hi everyone,
Well, it took me some time, but I decided to take Surreal up on her challenge, and wrote a Langly is *dead* story. Tango de los Pistoleros is a BIG TIME spoiler--in fact, this is a missing scene from that episode. If you haven't seen it yet, you may be a bit lost. Just a warning.

Surreal, kiddo--this one's for you. Hope you enjoy.
Peace,
Joelle

Title: Miami Blues
Author: J.D. Rush
Summary: Challenge proposed by Surreal. Langly is *dead*...how do the boys take it? A 'missing scene' from Tango de los Pistoleros.
Spoiler: see above
Archive: Unusual Suspects, The Basement, others on request
Pairing: Langly/Byers
Rating: PG 13, for language and mild m/m situations
Disclaimer: These lovely men belong to CC,1013, FOX. . .all the usual suspects. Dialog shamelessly ripped off from the LGM. Not intended to infringe on any copyrights.
Feedback: pretty please, with sugar on top! yanksfan462@aol.com
Author's note: Thanks to my beta, Kylara. You're the best, kiddo! This story came to me when I was re-watching Tango for the umpteenth time, and noticed some missing time between the moment Langly falls overboard, and the next scene. This is what MIGHT have happened.


Miami Blues
By J.D. Rush

4:10 A.M.
Miami, FLA.

"Byers! Get out of the water now!"

I pretend not to hear him. Maybe he'll go away and I can continue to search in peace. . .

"Byers! For Christ's sake! You're been in there nearly an hour! You're gonna freeze to death!"

Yeah, right, Frohike. . .and Langly's been out in this water a lot longer than *I* have.

"Byers! Goddammit! I know you can hear me! Now get in the damn boat!"

Leave me alone. I want to join Langly. . .

I slip under the water for the last time. It'll be so easy. A few more minutes, and I'll be with Ringo once more. But just as I feel myself blacking out, a strong hand grabs at the back of my jacket collar and I'm being hauled unceremoniously back on board the little craft we had 'borrowed'. I collapse in a heap on the bottom of the boat, gasping from lack of air, a gutful of water, and the repression of sobs that threaten to never end if I let them begin.

My lover is gone--I watched helplessly as he drowned right in front of me. And there was nothing I had done to stop it.

"Jesus, John. That was a really stupid stunt. Thank God you're okay. Talk to me, kiddo." I hear Frohike calling to me, but I try to ignore him. I don't want to talk to him. I don't want to talk to anyone. Except my Langly. I just want to die.

Suddenly my old friend is kneeling beside me, cradling my head against his chest, slapping my face gently. "C'mon, kid--snap outta it!"

I cough up some water and mumble, "Leave me alone."

He doesn't seem offended by my words; instead he simply encourages, "That's good, Johnny. . .keep talking to me."

Oh, God. . .my stomach is flipping. I'm going to be seriously sick! I jerk away from his grasp and lean over the side of the boat, heaving up much of the water I had swallowed. Frohike just sits beside me, patting and rubbing my back; I find his presence comforting. "That's good, John. Get it all out," he whispers in my ear. "Damn, I thought we were gonna lose you there for awhile."

With nothing left in my gut, I slide down the side of boat, and slump on the floor. "I wish you had," I mutter. "I wanna die."

"NO YOU DON'T!" he commands, fairly shaking me by my shoulders in the mistaken belief I'll process what he's saying. "Don't you EVER say that again, do you hear me?"

I barely manage to blurt out, "But. . .Langly. . ." before I break down, the grief completely overwhelming me.

Strong, gentle arms pull me in for a hug, and hold me tight as I start to wail uncontrollably, mourning my lost love. Rough hands cradle me, giving me a safe harbor in this time of crisis. Frohike is good at that--like a black bear protecting her cubs, he always goes out of his way to protect me and Langly.

But there was no way to protect either of us anymore. Langly was dead. And so was I.

Some part of my mind hears the conversation swirling around me, without me, but I no longer care as I cling desperately to Frohike, crying my heart out.

"What do we do now?" Jimmy asks, softly. . .sadly.

"Not much we can do," Frohike answers. "We should head back."

"I still think we should call the Coast Guard," Jimmy argues.

Frohike sighs, as he explains for perhaps the hundredth time, "I told you, Jimmy, we can't do that. What we were doing out here was illegal. VERY illegal. We'll be arrested on the spot."

"So what?" Jimmy shoots back. "We don't leave a man behind. Isn't that what you always say? Don't you even care that Langly's out there somewhere?"

I can feel the tension grip Frohike's body as he grips me closer still. "Listen, you little punk-ass!" he growls. "Don't you DARE question my loyalties! I'm perfectly aware of the situation, but I'll be DAMNED if I'm gonna allow them to throw this man into jail after everything he's gone through." His arms tighten even more around me, sheltering me, as he whispers forcefully, "Nothing is worth that. . .not even Langly."

The sound of his name causes me to start shaking violently. "Oh, shit," Frohike mutters.

"What's wrong?" I can hear the worry and concern in Jimmy's voice.

"Probably hypothermia," comes the diagnosis. "We gotta get him back to the van."

"But Frohike. . ." Jimmy complains.

The older man has had enough, and puts his foot down. "I'm not going to debate this with you anymore, Jimmy! Just trust me--I'm doing what's best for all of us. Now get us the hell outta here!"

Without another word, Jimmy starts up the engine, and begins driving away from the area where we had seen Langly go down. Mel releases his hold on me just long enough to take his coat off and wrap it around me, before enfolding me in his warm embrace once more. How could I tell him the shivers had nothing to do with the cold, except the coldness in my heart? "You're gonna be okay, Johnny," he murmurs, reassuringly. "Just hang on, buddy--everything's gonna be okay."

But Langly was gone. . .things would never be 'okay' again.

++++++++++++

When we get back to the van, Frohike pushes my wet jacket off my shoulders, and helps me strip off the rest of my soaking wet suit, socks, and underthings--it WAS rather stupid to jump into the water fully dressed, I suppose--before he envelops me in the heavy wool blanket we kept under the seats. Again, he hugs me close, as much out of affection as to provide warmth, and Jimmy takes over at the wheel. While grateful for Mel's body heat, I'm more thankful for his closeness and strength. Now that the adrenaline has worn off, I have no energy left, and need someone to lean on.

"Where to?" Jimmy asks, as the old motor comes to life.

"There's a hospital not far from here. That's our first stop," replies the confident voice beside me. With that, we take off, leaving the marina behind, but not the nightmarish memories. The short drive is done in silence except for Frohike's instructions to our dirvers, and the weeping I can't seem to get under control.

Once we arrive at the hospital, Frohike lays out the plan for Jimmy. "Okay, kid. I want you to go into the emergency room and scout around, find out if anyone matching Langly's description has come through here. I'm gonna go see if I can round up some supplies."

"But what about Byers?" the young man inquires, baffled. "I thought we were going to get him some treatment for his hypoglycemia?"

"HypoTHERMIA," Frohike corrects, with just a hint of his usual impatience. "No. Too risky. 'Sides, I think he had a pretty mild case--seems to be past the worse of it, eh, buddy?"

I just nod. Getting out of the cold wet clothes has been a big help, but I'm still trembling, from thoughts of life without Ringo.

"Is he going to be okay by himself?" Jimmy asks, cautiously.

Frohike kneels down in front of me and stares into my eyes. My God, it's the first time I have really looked at him since all this started--he looks like he's aged a hundred years. "He's gonna be fine, aint'cha, Byers?"

"Yeah. . .fine," I respond automatically, my voice so low, even *I* can barely hear it.

"Hey, I got a great idea. Jimmy, turn on the radio before you go." Mel gives me a small smile, "That'll keep ya' busy until we get back, 'kay?"

Again, I just nod as the gentle, soothing strains of a Mozart sonata drifts through the back of the van. Even Frohike seems surprised that Jimmy got it right the first time. I'd thank him, if I could only form the words. I hear the driver's door squeak as it opens, and then our youngest member is gone.

"Do you think he'll be here?" I ask, hopefully.

My old friend shrugs his shoulders. "Don't know. It IS the closest ER to the marina. Thought it'd be a good place to start looking. . ." He doesn't finish the sentence, and I'm glad he doesn't. The thought of Ringo laying in a morgue somewhere--I can't handle thoughts like that right now.

He glances over his shoulder in time to see Jimmy enter the emergency room's doors, then turns back to me. "Okay, that's my cue. I'll be back in five minutes." Carefully holding my face in his hands, he looks me deep in the eye, and fairly pleads, "Promise me you won't do anything stupid while I'm gone. Please."

I nod for a third time. "Promise."

He plants a quick kiss on my forehead. "Five minutes," he assures me once more, and he's out the door.

They become the longest five minutes of my life. I try to concentrate on the beautiful music, try to let it calm me, but each time I close my eyes, I only see Langly--young, handsome, funny, smart, energetic, sexy Langly.

Gone. All gone.

True to his word, Frohike isn't gone more than just a few moments. He runs back to the van out of breath, his arms filled with goodies. Dropping his burden to the floor, he hands me a steaming cup. "Here ya' go, John. Drink up--it'll warm you up."

I have to give a small smile--hot chocolate. Frohike knows me so well. Seeing my reaction, he allows himself a tiny smile in return. "It's only from a machine, but better than nothing, right?"

"Thanks, Mel," I sigh, as I sip at the dark nectar. Waving my free hand at the items he deposited, I question, "What is all this stuff anyway?"

"Just. . .necessities," he answers evasively, while digging out a clean white towel. "C'mere." I lean forward as he rigorously rubs it through my hair. Once done, he pulls out some clean hospital scrubs, and helps me struggle into them. "Sorry, no boxers, guy, but look--booties!" and he slips them over my ice-cold feet. Once I'm dressed, he shakes out a dry, clean blanket from the pile, and drapes it around me.

I'm not sure if I want to know how Frohike managed to grab all this stuff, and I feel bad that he has resorted to stealing for me, but I'm so grateful to have some dry clothes. My eyes begin watering up again at the extent of the love and friendship and devotion this man was demonstrating for me--something I could probably never repay him for.

"Mel. . .?" I start, haltingly.

"Yeah, buddy?" his voice full of tenderness.

A couple of stray tears insist on falling. "Thank you. For everything. I.. . I appreciate everything you've done for me."

Familiar, calloused fingers brush the tears away, and he gently cups my face. "Anything for you, John," he whispers, softly. "Anything at all. If I could bring him back, I would--just for you."

"I know." I sip at my drink, focusing on the sweet, familiar taste as it slides down my throat. I've always loved the taste of chocolate--nothing could beat it. Except for the taste of a Hershey's Kiss on Langly's breath after he had raided the candy dish again. All the flavor, without all the calories.

Damn it! Is everything always going to remind me of Ringo?

"Johnny. . .you okay in there?" Frohike asks, anxiously. "You got quiet there all of a sudden."

"I was just thinking of Langly," I admit, truthfully. "You know, I never even got the chance to say goodbye? My God, Mel! My last words to him were 'Check the cans!' "

He's busy rubbing my cold feet through the thin little booties, warming them up. But more than that- - he's reassuring me with his touch that he's there for me. "I know, kid, I know," he says, sympathetically. "And I'm so sorry. It's all my fault."

That puzzles me. "Why is it your fault? Langly was the one who wanted that assignment. He INSISTED on being out there in the water."

"No, no. . .this whole fucking trip," he spits out. "If I hadn't dug up that information on Yves, told you of my suspicions, we wouldn't even BE in Miami."

"Mel, *I* was the one who insisted we come down here. If anyone's at fault, it's me." I tip the cup and finish the last of the hot chocolate, wishing for more. Wishing I could savor the taste of it as it lingered on Langly's lips and tongue again. "If only I could tell him I love him. . .just one more time," I sigh wistfully, to no one.

But it's not to be. Jimmy is walking slowly back to the van, his head down--and he's alone. As he crawls in behind the driver's wheel, Frohike asks, needlessly, "Any luck?"

"Nope--no one saw any one who looked like Langly come through here tonight. Sorry guys." He turns around to look at us, just as Frohike is slipping on another pair of booties over the first pair. I notice for the first time his eyes are red and bloodshot. Seems I wasn't the only one crying over our lost friend. "How ya' doing back there, John?"

I look down at Frohike, and give him a sad smile. "Better. Or at least, drier."

"So, what's next?" the young man wanted to know.

"Well. . .there's another hospital a few miles from here," Frohike replies, watching me the whole time with those wise, soulful eyes. "It's worth a shot."

+++++++++++++++++++

For the past couple of hours we have driven around, visiting every hospital and health care clinic within a 50-mile radius of the marina--it's pretty unlikely that Langly would have been transported beyond that. But it's all been for naught. No one fitting his description has been admitted at any of them.

The sun is starting to come up, and we are all running on fumes--the van included. We've done everything possible to find Ringo, except for one. I glance up at Frohike, who is fussing with my blanket, trying to wrap it tighter around me. I know he can read my face, and knows what I am thinking; he runs his hand through his hair and sighs deeply. "Are you sure, John?" he inquires, wearily.

"I'll go. . .with or without you," I tell him, boldly. "I have nothing left to lose." He looks away, and I know I've hurt him with my words, even though I never meant to. "Mel--I realize you're only trying to protect me, protect us all. But I have to know the truth."

I can sense him wavering, so I pull out the big gun. "You said you'd do anything for me, Mel. Did you mean it?"

He lifts his eyes to meet mine. The pain and sorrow I've been feeling is reflected right back at me. Frohike had always treated Langly like a son, and this loss couldn't have hurt him more if Ringo had been his own flesh and blood. A strong, coarse hand caresses downs my cheek as he mouths, "Anything."

"Frohike?" Jimmy's voice cuts into the peaceful, somber moment. "We're almost on 'E' up here. What do you want me to do?"

My old friend fixes his gaze on me, and I give him a quick nod to let him know my mind was set. He nods back in understanding before crawling up into the passenger's seat. I can hear him as he explains to Jimmy to stop at the nearest gas station, then we are heading back to the motel. Once there, Jimmy is to be dropped off, and Frohike and I would continue on to the authorities on our own, leaving our young partner out of any crime we may be implicated for.

I realize how hard it is for Frohike to say that. He's so concerned with protecting me and Jimmy, but I need some closure, if only that they find Langly's body and we can give him a proper burial. Thank God Mel has been so strong through all of this, keeping his level head. . .I'm not sure I would have made it tonight without him.

Of course our young partner isn't happy with our plan in the least, but he doesn't have much choice. It's one thing for me and Frohike to be putting our butts on the line--we weren't about to have Jimmy involved if at all possible. Langly was our friend, and this was our fight. Jimmy was too young to just throw his life away, and we were not going to allow it.

8:13 A.M.

Jimmy pulls into the spot in front of our room at the Gatorland Motor Court. Mel and I leave him to reluctantly unpack the van as we head back to the room for a quick change of clothes before heading off to our executions. By now, I'm so exhausted, I barely have the strength to carry my ruined, dripping-wet suit let alone get the key in the door and turn it.

Again, Frohike comes to the rescue, performing the simple task for me. As he pushes the door open, he lets out a screech that makes me jump out of my shoes, and starts my heart beating like a jack hammer.

"LANGLY!!"

At the sound of Ringo's name, I shove past Frohike to see what--or who---is in the room. And there, laying on one of the beds, chowing down on an Egg McMuffin, is my very-much alive lover. He looks up at us, a confused expression on his face. "Hey guys. . . where've you been?"

Before I can stop him, Frohike has leaped at Langly, grabbing him by the front of his Dead Kennedys shirt and yanking him off the bed. "You sonuvabitch! We've been looking all over Miami for you, you selfish bastard! How DARE you do that to us? To your boyfriend? You goddamn, mother. . ." The anger boils away as quickly as it formed and he crushes our friend close to him, bawling, "Don't you EVER do that again, kid! You scared 10 years off my life."

Now that the crisis is over, it's Frohike's turn to fall apart. Well, he earned it--he held it together when Jimmy and I needed him most, something I will always be thankful for. Langly's looking at me, over our smaller friend's head, and asks, "What the hell is wrong with Frohike? And why are you in doctor duds?"

I'm still in shock to discover that my lover is not dead after all, and can barely answer him. "It's a long story. Frohike. . .he thought. . .we ALL thought. . .you were dead."

"Dead?" he echoes.

"Yeah. We saw you fall off that boat. And then you disappeared. We thought you had drowned."

That earns me a smile. "Nah. . .I swam under the pier until Yves and that goon went away, then I made my way to shore. I waited for you guys for a while, but you never showed up, so I followed SOP and made my way back here."

I slap myself in the head. Of course. Our Standard Operating Procedure: If we get separated, go back to home base, and wait for the others.

"The least you could have done was contact us, you imbecile!" Frohike blubbers. "Let us know you weren't fish food!"

"I tried. . .but my transmitter got damaged in the fall, and your cell phone wasn't responding."

I sheepishly dig into my coat pocket and take out the waterlogged, useless cell phone that I had forgotten to remove when I jumped into the water. "Oops."

"Dude, I'm not paying to replace that," Langly smirks, and I'm reminded of how much I love this man. And how much I almost lost.

Dropping my sodden bundle on the floor, I step towards my embracing partners, and stand along side Langly. We just stare at each other for a moment or two--I can't believe he's there. It's like a miracle. My fingers reach out and casually comb through his long blond hair, and as I sense the tears stinging my eyes, I vow to never take moments like this for granted again. Leaning in close, I kiss him softly, chastely almost, and I'm suddenly flying high with the feel of my lover's lips against mine once more.

Pulling back, my fingers still entangled in his silky mane, I gaze into those sparkling gray-blue eyes of his, and smile. "God, I love you, Ringo."

"Prove it," he dares me with a grin.

Never one to back away from a challenge, I snake my free hand around his neck and pull him in for another kiss, this one a proper kiss, with lots of lips and tongues and fluids. I feel like I'm drowning, but this is a good kind of drowning, and I don't ever want to be rescued.

When lack of oxygen becomes a serious concern, I break away from his hungry mouth, and trail a line of butterfly kisses across his chin, along his cheek, and up to his earlobe; I thrill to the shivers that ripple through his body and smile to myself, that I can reduce this man to a quivering mass so easily. "Love you so much," I whisper in his ear.

"You said that already," he whimpers, as I start nibbling on that tasty spot right under his left ear.

"Get used to it," I tell him. "You're going to hear it A LOT!"

"I can live with that," he gets out before I claim his mouth again, staking out my territory, branding him mine and no body else's.

He extricates his right hand from around Frohike and wraps it around my waist instead--it doesn't take long before it's heading south, sliding past the elastic of my baggy pants, and cupping my bare asscheek. "Mmmmm. . ." he purrs. "Why don't we get rid of Melvin and you can give me a full medical exam, DOCTOR Byers?"

"That's the best idea you've had in ages, Ringo," I sigh, happily.

He taps our still sobbing friend on the shoulder and says, "You heard the man, Frohike--vamoose."

"Guys?" Jimmy calls out, as he picks that moment to enter the room. "Where do you want all this stuff. . .hot damn! Langly!" Next thing we know, Jimmy's dropped all the equipment and he's rushing towards us. He skillfully tackles all three of us and we go flying onto the bed behind us, which immediately collapses under our weight.

"Jimmy?" Frohike grumbles from the bottom of the pig-pile. "I can still fire you, you know."

+++++++++++++++

9:36 AM

Things are starting to get back to normal. I'm finally dressed in my own clothes; Jimmy is flipping through the static-y channels trying to find something to watch. And of course, Langly and Frohike are arguing. . .

"What are you doing?" my lanky lover demands.

"Calligraphy," comes the snotty reply as our old friend throws some clothes into his knapsack. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

Giving up on finding any reruns of 'Gilligan's Island', Jimmy asks, confused, "We're going home?"

"No, we're not going home!" Langly answers, decisively. "We're onto something big here."

But what Langly wants isn't what Langly is going to get, if Frohike's continued packing is any indication. "Well, whatever we were onto was last seen headed towards the Bermuda Triangle at full throttle. Now we're onto El Bupkas Grande. And I for one am getting the hell out of Miami."

Langly snags the knapsack and savagely throws it behind him; it nails Jimmy right in the solar plexus. "No you are not! Not after I nearly died last night." Oh great. He is NEVER going to let us forget THAT one.

It's obvious Frohike's not going to be so easily manipulated. "Well, whose fault was that, Aqua Man? Look, we took a shot, we lost. We'll get her next time."

Langly turns to face me. Oh no. Not that look. Not that pleading, wheedling look that I always causes me to cave. "Well, back me up here."

I think back over the last few hours, when I thought I has lost him forever. Nothing is worth going through all that again---no story, no amount of reward money. I know he's going to be upset with me, but I had to go with Frohike on this one. "You're lucky to be alive," I tell him sincerely. "Maybe we should cut our loses."

"Maybe it serves us right, guys," Jimmy pipes in, adding his two cents. "You go in with bad intentions, only bad things can come from it.

"What are you, a fortune cookie?" Langly sneers, as there's a knock at the door. "I can't believe you three. Yves is out there somewhere plotting and scheming, and you guys just. . ."

Whatever else he was going to say is interrupted by an irate Yves barging in, full of sound and fury. She grabs our startled partner by the lips and pushes him back into the room.

Glaring at him with sheer hatred, she snarls, "You're alive. You have no idea how unhappy that make me." With that, she shoves him backwards onto the bed we had just managed to fix before turning her anger on the rest of us.

Uh-oh. . . I think the shit is about to hit the fan.

The End


Archived: July 04, 2001