Back Burner, The

by D. Sidhe


     From: "D. Sidhe" <dsidhe@attbi.com>
     Date: Friday, August 23, 2002 10:46 PM

     The Back Burner
     By D. Sidhe (With reluctant collaboration by Call Me Betty.)
     Category: pre-slash
     Pairing: Langly/Frohike
     Spoilers: None. 

Rating: PG-13, mostly for language, some angst, and the mild sense of nausea that accompanies anything that happens in the kitchen when I'm around.

Disclaimers: These lovely boys don't belong to me, either, and I apologize to them and to their keepers. I'm a very unkind woman, and the comment about Byers is probably particularly uncalled-for. But, hey, at least I haven't buried them. And once again, I do unconscionable things to wholesome foodstuffs. I imagine neither Procter & Gamble nor Kraft would be delighted by either their appearance here, or the dreadful things I routinely do with their fine products. No, I don't have an eating disorder. Yes, I do have a cooking disorder. Though in my own defense, the mashed potatoes thing is a time-honored recipe which occasionally includes pimentos and a sprinkle of paprika for those romantic occasions. Just be grateful I left out the capers.

Archive: If you want it, you need professional help. But don't let me stand in the way of anything that amuses you.

Author's Note: Inter-story continuity is for people with talent. I don't have it, and I won't try it. Dedicated to The Rather Fetching Betty, imaginary friend and literary masochist, who has vowed to write me out of the will if I put his name on this one. That's a buck-ninety-seven I'll never see, I guess.

Summary: I don't really know what happened here. I had hoped for less angst and more sex, but haven't we all been there.


The Back Burner

"Listen, are you guys comin' to eat or not?" Langly glared at his roommates where they sat in front of assorted computers. He didn't look happy.

Actually, neither did the other two. They'd been listening, for the past hour, to a steady stream of profanities, yelps, and dropped or spilled items. Frankly, they'd been sitting there, messaging each other, desperately trying to come up with a good reason to announce they had to leave, sorry about dinner and all that.

And wondering, with each new shout, if they should call emergency services. So far they hadn't. But then, if they had to eat it, they might need to yet.

They weren't exactly sure what had brought on this sudden attempt at domesticity in their young colleague. Frohike had volunteered the theory that he'd been replaced with some kind of alien. Byers was at a loss to explain it, but seemed a little more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. At least, he had been until they'd heard, in rapid succession, a clang, a hiss, a loud splash, a yelp of outraged pain, a startling blonng noise, and a bellow of "FMH!" from the kitchen, at which point Langly had erupted from the doorway in a cloud of steam, headed for the bathroom, and presumably, the first aid kit.

They'd been left staring at each other over their monitors, dumbfounded. Frohike stood up and headed down the hall to see if he could help.

"Hey Ringo? You okay?" he asked, tentatively.

"Fine. Fucking dandy. Got it all under control."

That had been twenty minutes ago, and in the meantime Langly seemed to have recovered admirably. Enough to snarl at Byers when Langly came back and saw him peering in the doorway of the kitchen. Enough to do some more swearing. Enough to drop a couple more things, but fortunately without further injury. They supposed, anyway.

Crunch time. Apparently, dinner was ready. They sure weren't, though. They stood up slowly and walked into the kitchen. It was, as expected, a mess. Byers was positive he was sticking to the floor. Frohike was doing his best not to look at the stove.

"So, uh, what're we eating?" Frohike asked nervously. He was looking at the table, but it didn't seem to help a lot. Salad, which actually looked okay-and what could you do wrong to a salad anyway, mashed potatoes, which looked a little weird, and... Well, some kind of meat. He wasn't sure about that, though. It looked, in fact, like Langly had attempted to bake big oily piles of Shake 'N Bake. The more he thought about it, though, the more Frohike hoped that's what he had done. He wasn't sure he wanted to risk food poisoning from undercooked meat.

"Pork chops," Langly said proudly.

Byers turned green. "Pork?"

"Yeah," Langly grinned. "Dig in!"

Neither of his friends sat. They stood, sharing a look. Byers gave in first.

"You do know pork has to be fully cooked, right?"

The grin disappeared. "I'm not an idiot, man. I know."

"Well, that's fine then," Byers said a bit weakly, sitting down and leaving Frohike no choice, short of feigning unconsciousness, but to take his own seat. They were both pretty grateful, even so, when Langly set a bottle of beer in front of each of them. This wasn't shaping up to be the sort of meal you wanted to eat sober.

Byers snagged the salad first, leaving Frohike with a choice between potatoes and... meat, allegedly. Which wasn't really a choice at all. He took some of the potatoes, surprised they actually smelled pretty good. Maybe this wouldn't be a total disaster.

They traded bowls, averting their gazes from the center of the table. Wishing it were a larger table, actually. There wasn't too much else to look at. Frohike found himself wishing for some kind of Martha Stewart centerpiece that he could pretend was fascinating.

Langly had no intention of letting them off that easily, though. He forked one of the piles of baked breadcrumbs onto each of their plates. "Dig in."

They glanced at him, wondering if it would be possible to just eat the salad. His challenging glare convinced them they'd better make the effort.

Frohike took a bite of the mashed potatoes. They were sort of crunchy, dry, but on the whole they could have been a lot worse. "Hey, this isn't too bad!" It probably wasn't the most diplomatic comment. The temperature in the kitchen dropped several degrees, and Langly's baleful look left him grasping for anything nice to say. "Very... buttery. You used milk?"

The suspicion in the blond's eyes faded to mere wariness. "Yeah. You can tell?"

"Oh yeah," Frohike said sincerely. "Very good. A little salty, but really good."

Langly tried some of his own, looking thoughtful. "Kind of, yeah. Sorry. I was afraid that would happen."

Byers gathered his courage. "This is good, Langly. Um, thanks for making dinner."

Langly beamed and cut into his pork chop, or whatever it was. He didn't die while he was chewing it, and swallowing didn't seem to cause serious health problems. Yet, anyway.

Byers took a surreptitious look at the exposed portion of Langly's chop, and was grateful to see that it did appear to be fully cooked. He scraped off a little of the Shake 'N Bake and took a bite. Maybe a little too well done, in fact, but you couldn't fault Langly for the attempt. It did seem to be the most edible item the younger man had ever produced.

"So, uh, what brought this on?" Frohike asked after a few minutes. "Cooking, I mean."

"Just wanted something different," Langly mumbled around a mouthful, but there was a spark of amusement in his eyes that hinted at something else.

Byers opened his mouth to insist on the real reason, but Frohike kicked him under the table. If Langly didn't want to tell them, Frohike knew pressing the issue would only make him defensive and angry.

"Eat, guys. There's plenty more," Langly said, ignoring the byplay altogether.

Byers stalled for time. "My mom used to put milk in her mashed potatoes. I never have, though."

Langly looked slightly embarrassed. "Well, I had to," he admitted.

Byers very carefully set down his fork, his face completely neutral. "Why is that?"

"Well, I forgot to get potatoes."

Frohike broke into a coughing fit and it took a few moments for him to get it under control. Tears ran down his face while he gulped his beer. Langly sat and glowered at him in a way that promised he'd better change all his passwords.

Eventually, Byers said, "What did you use instead?" He said this very, very carefully.

Langly's face turned a little pink. "Well, we had some Pringles, and I thought..."

Frohike was right back to hysteria. At some point the coughing turned into laughter. He knew he was in a hole already, and the only sensible thing to do would be to stop digging, but he really couldn't help it. It wasn't even so much the cooking tips as the expression on Byers' face.

Langly was getting pissed off. "Listen, it's perfectly reasonable," he insisted. "Very sound theory. They use dehydrated potato stuff sometimes, that's all Pringles is."

Frohike managed to stop laughing, though he was still chuckling a little as he picked up his fork and took another bite. "Pringles and milk, huh?"

"Yeah," Langly said defiantly. "And butter. Margarine, or whatever."

"It's pretty good," Frohike told him. "Different. They're sort of crunchy. It's interesting. Explains why it's salty, I guess. Does go well with beer."

Langly started to relax. Frohike thought he might get out of the doghouse yet. "Yeah."

"I think I need another one, though."

Langly got up again. Byers, momentarily out of his line of sight, briefly considered dumping his food into the napkin on his lap and pretending he'd eaten it all. He dismissed the ridiculous notion and finished his salad, positively determined not to ask any more questions. But he was deeply relieved when the phone rang, just as he was lifting another bite of pork chop to his mouth. He put his fork down and jumped up. "I need to get that. I'm waiting for a call."

Frohike stifled his laughter with a hunk of tomato.

Langly glared after him. "He's so goddamned mundane sometimes, y'know? Everything has to be normal." It wasn't a compliment.

Frohike let himself laugh at that. "Don't worry about it. He has no sense of adventure is all." He took a second helping of potatoes. "These really are good. Mashed potatoes are boring, usually." Frohike considered. "Maybe next time, use the Sour Cream and Chives ones or something."

Langly grinned again. "Next time?"

"Sure. Why the hell not? It's not like Byers ever does Beef Wellington or anything. Nobody here's Julia Child. It's a nice change from pizza." Frohike smiled, feeling a bit impish for encouraging him to do something that made Byers so nervous. But, it really wasn't too bad.

Byers poked his head in the door. He had his overcoat on. Frohike shot him a look, which he pretended to ignore. "I need to go out. This could be the big one, after all. Sorry about dinner, Langly. Save mine for when I get back."

Langly snorted. "Yeah, right. Sure it's really important, Byers."

Byers tried not to smile. "I'll finish it when I get back. But I don't know how long I'll be, so don't wait up for me, okay?" He figured he could get rid of it when no one was watching. He ducked toward the door to the accompaniment of further disgusted snorts from his young roommate. Somewhere out there, a burger had Byers' name on it.

Frohike winked at Langly. "He's a wimp, that's all."

"Yeah," Langly said quite loudly for Byers' benefit. "A big wimp!"

Byers didn't bother to respond; he was busy wondering why they needed so many locks.

"You really think it's okay?" Langly asked Frohike anxiously.

Frohike was amused. Langly rarely needed this sort of encouragement, rarely felt anyone else's opinion mattered.

"Yeah, it's fine, really. Relax, would you?"

Langly shrugged. "I just wanted to do something different."

"This is different, all right."

Langly's eyes narrowed. "If you're nice to me, I'll help with the dishes."

Frohike laughed. "Help? Is that what this is about, you feed me and try make me to clean up?"

"Hey, that's the rule. You cook or you clean. I cooked."

Frohike grinned at him again. "Let's save it for Byers."

"Huh," the other man sniffed contemptuously. "We should. You try to do something nice, and what do you get, complaints..." He continued muttering in this fashion as he covered Byers' plate in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

Frohike tried not to laugh. Langly's ego could be surprisingly brittle at times. "Hey, I'm not complaining." He grabbed another pork chop and Langly smiled, pleased.

"Thanks, Mel. I really tried."

"I can tell, yeah. You maybe need a little more practice, is all. Nobody's first time is perfect."

Langly looked nervous. "Well, the potatoes. I mean, they weren't that good. It should have worked, though, the idea."

"Nothing wrong with the idea. I thought they were fine. Next time, maybe some water with the milk, maybe some garlic powder or something."

Langly nodded thoughtfully. "And the pork chops?"

Frohike grinned. "You don't have to use all of that powder stuff, you know."

"Oh. It just looked like there was a lot left over."

"Usually is. Don't worry about it. It tastes fine." He gestured at his empty plate. "Byers doesn't know what he's missing."

Langly grinned like the sun coming out of stormclouds. "Thanks, Fro." He finished clearing the table.

Frohike stood up and gathered all the dirty pots and pans from the stove, trying to imagine what Langly had used them all for. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the younger man putting the sink stopper in place. "Hold up, Kiddo. Dishes last," He said.

Langly raised his eyebrows. "Why?"

"So you make sure you get everything that needs to be washed. Don't you know that?" he teased.

Langly snickered. "I took electronics class, not home ec."

Frohike grinned at him. "I took shop. This stuff your mom shoulda taught you."

"Nope. I think we made cookies together one time."

Frohike clucked with mock sympathy and patted him on the shoulder. "I had no idea you'd come from such a dysfunctional home. I guess it explains your cooking," he added, ducking.

Langly just laughed. "Okay, so where do I start?"

Frohike wet a dishrag and added a little detergent. "Do the table first, then clean up the stove." After a moment, he realized he was being watched. "What?"

A smirk flashed across the sharp features. "I was just thinking you'd make somebody a really great wife."

Frohike was surprised into laughter. "Or mom."

More snickering. "You've already got that covered."

"Hey, someone has to keep you two in line. Speaking of which, get crackin' on that stove. And I wanna be able to see my face in those counters."

"Yeah, yeah."

Frohike wet another cloth and went onto his knees, cleaning up the spills. "Why don't we have a mop," he groused.

Soft laughter, genuinely amused, and he looked up to see Langly staring down at him. Unaccountably, he flushed, not entirely sure how to interpret the look in Langly's eyes. Then it was gone, and Langly was saying "Byers says mops just move the mess around."

"We should make him clean the floor, then. See how his knees like it."

The look was back for a fraction of a second. Then Langly turned back to the counters.

Frohike shook his head and went back to the floor. After a couple of minutes he was seriously cursing Byers under his breath. A mop might not do the job perfectly, but it was sure a lot easier on the old back. He sat up, groaning slightly. Standing up, he realized, was going to be harder.

"Geez, Mel. You shoulda let me do that." Langly sounded guilty, helping him to his feet.

"Nah," Frohike told him. "You cooked."

Langly could see the ache, though. He looked at his watch. "We'll save the dishes for Byers. Let's go watch Star Trek."

Frohike looked like he was thinking about arguing, and then changed his mind. "Okay."

Langly grabbed a couple more beers from the fridge and followed him out to the couch. He watched guiltily as Frohike lowered himself onto the couch, trying to arrange the pillows for a little comfort. "Man, I'm sorry, Mel. I shoulda done the floors."

Frohike grimaced, embarrassed. "I'm fine, Langly. Really." He turned on the TV, hoping to forestall further conversation. Getting older was hell. Doing it with an audience-Well. It wasn't fun. Especially when the audience was so young. He sighed softly, not even aware he was doing it.

Langly heard it, though, and glanced across, still pretty pissed off at himself. Mel'd been really cool about dinner, and he'd made him scrub the damned floor.

When the show was over, Langly got up to get another couple of beers. When he came back into the living area, Mel was half-hunched over again, in obvious pain. Langly stepped back toward the kitchen and said loudly, "Hey, can I get you anything?"

Mel sat up abruptly, and managed to reply in an almost normal voice, "Another beer would be good."

Langly laughed a bit under his breath. "Gotcha." He went back into the kitchen and opened the fridge door and rattled the bottles, giving the older man time to get himself together. When he returned, Mel was sprawled out on the end of the couch, looking relaxed enough that Langly would have been fooled except for the expression in his eyes.

"Listen, Fro, you need some aspirin or something?"

"I'm fine, kid." It came out a lot more harshly than he'd intended and he heard Langly's indrawn breath. He put his hand out towards the younger man's arm. "Hey, I'm sorry. I'm fine, though. Really." He forced a smile.

Langly narrowed his eyes, not the slightest bit convinced. Then he shrugged, letting it go, and handed over the beer. He glanced at the TV. "What's on now?"

"Some movie." Frohike shrugged. "I wasn't paying attention." He caught the look and said, "Guess I'm just tired."

Langly's gaze flicked over him but he didn't say anything as he sat.

Frohike shifted, uncomfortable under the scrutiny, and decided on a diversion. He muted the TV. "What's Byers working on, anyhow? He tell you?"

Langly snorted. "You know Byers. Every story could be the big one. The dude needs to get laid."

Frohike raised an eyebrow and Langly almost blushed. "Figure of speech. Just seems like he needs a life, y'know?"

Frohike grinned at him. "Not like us. Friday night, we're watching bad alien movies on the Sci Fi channel. Party boys."

Langly laughed, but there wasn't much humor in it. "Yeah, okay. So we all need a life."

Frohike watched him for a few moments, hoping he was reading the younger man's mood wrong. "You thinking about leaving?" He asked it casually, stifling the worry.

"Nowhere to go," Langly said flippantly. But he didn't just mean on Friday nights, and they both knew it.

Mel smiled. "You know what they say about home."

"Home, sure."

The older man looked over at the arid tone. He picked up the remote again and turned off the TV. "You wanna talk about it?"

Langly turned red, looked away. Shook his head. "It's nothing, really. Just... bored, y'know? Nothing ever changes."

Frohike laughed. "Yeah, I know. When we're not getting shot at or bugged, we're getting strip-searched and tossed in jail overnight. How boring can you get."

Langly stared at him for a moment, and then started laughing. Eventually he managed to get it under control and swiped at the tears rolling down his cheeks with a knuckle. "Okay," he said a little breathlessly. "I'm a goddamned idiot."

Frohike grinned and leaned back. "You're just an overachiever. Things are plenty exciting for me, but you're never satisfied with it."

"Yeah, I'm a whiner."

"Hey, I didn't say that. What's wrong with you, anyhow?" He turned to look at the younger man and surprised there still another expression he was at a complete loss to explain.

Langly met Mel's eyes for the barest second and shaded into another blush. He tried to concentrate on his beer, but it was empty. He gazed forlornly into the amber depths of the bottle and declared, "I'm not drunk enough."

Mel's eyebrows went up, but he let it pass.

Langly got up abruptly and went back to the kitchen. Mel heard bottles rattling in the fridge, and then nothing for several minutes. Just as he was starting to get concerned, he heard the fridge open again, more rattling. A cupboard opened and closed. Langly came back with a couple of bottles clutched in one hand and an open bag of Chips Ahoy in the other. He exchanged a bottle and the bag for the remote control Mel had laid on the coffee table and perched himself instead in the old armchair with his beer. He turned the TV back on and stared at it like it was an alien monolith. Just one problem-the volume was still off.

Mel's eyebrows ascended even further into his hairline. That was six, by his count, including the one Langly'd obviously had in the kitchen. "I think you're probably plenty drunk," he commented mildly.

Langly ignored him. Mel watched the reflection of the TV on the other man's glasses, wishing he could see his eyes. Not sure what was wrong, but sure something was. Well, Langly would talk about it when he was ready, and not before.

He left his own unopened beer on the table and shrugged, standing up slowly. "I guess I'm gonna hit the sack." He grinned a little, couldn't resist adding, "Try to keep the noise down, okay?"

Langly looked confused for a moment and then snorted. "Oh." He gazed at his mysteriously empty beer bottle and shook his head to clear it. He hit the volume button and went back to staring at the screen, completely ignoring his housemate now.

Mel blinked at him, and shook his own head, puzzled. "Night, Langly."

Still no response. He gave up and went to his bedroom.

Some time later Frohike woke from a restless sleep when he heard a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass. He sat up, instantly alert, groping for his glasses. He grabbed the baseball bat he kept under his bed and stalked quietly through the living quarters, tracking a series of clumsy noises to the kitchen. He gripped the bat and took a deep breath before leaning in the doorway, weapon poised. A half second to process what he was seeing, and he slumped, the bat held loosely in one hand now.

"For God's sakes, Langly, what are you doing?"

Langly looked up from where he was sprawled on the floor, broken pieces of drinking glasses scattered around him, soap suds up his arms to his shoulders and clinging to the ends of his hair. He blinked solemnly at Mel. "I'm drunk."

Mel's eyebrows went up, and he shook his head slightly. "True."

"And I'm bleedin'," he added, sounding largely unconcerned. He held out his hand to prove it. His palm was, indeed, bleeding a little.

Mel closed his eyes and sighed. He set the bat down and made his way carefully through the soap-bubble covered remnants of the kitchenware to help the younger man up. "Watch where you're putting your feet, Kiddo." He propped Langly carefully on the counter and bent to pick up the larger pieces.

"Don't call me that."

Mel glanced up at him, surprised. Dear God, he was sulking. "Sorry," he said, wondering if his eyebrows would ever recover from all this exercise. "Trying to do dishes?" he asked neutrally.

"Yeah, but I'm drunk."

"I wouldn't have mistaken you for Carry Nation, no."

"Huh?"

"Never mind, Ringo. Do you think you could get the broom without maiming yourself further?"

"Huh?"

Mel sighed. "Just stay put for a few minutes, okay? Then we'll do something about your hand."

Langly looked back down at his hand, as if he'd forgotten about it. "Okay."

Mel grabbed the broom and cleaned up as much of the mess as he could, keeping half an eye on Langly the whole time. He could only guess at what was going through the other man's mind, assuming, of course, that anything was.

A risky assumption at the moment, he supposed.

He grabbed Langly's arm and pushed him ahead as he went into the dark hallway. "Come on, I'll find you a band-aid."

Langly stumbled over the bat, lying forgotten against the wall, and did a spectacular face-plant onto the hard floor.

"Oh, hell. You okay?" Mel switched on a light and reached down to help him up.

Langly rolled over and sprawled on his back, propped up on his elbows, and gazed at the bat for long enough that Mel had to kick it to get his attention. "For God's sake, Langly, it's a baseball bat, not the Rosetta Stone."

"Were you gonna hit me?" he wanted to know.

"That was the original plan, but I wasn't really committed to it or anything."

"Oh." He managed to sit up and lean against the wall. "Why?"

Mel shook his head and laughed a little under his breath. "Well, I didn't know it was you. I thought someone had broken in."

"Oh."

Mel rubbed at his forehead, amazed at the idiocy of the conversation. He was half amused, and half annoyed. "How many more did you have after I went to bed?"

"Huh?"

He shook his head again. "That many. Okay, Kiddo. You planning on laying there all night?"

"Maybe," came the honest reply.

Mel started to laugh and slid down the wall to sit next to Langly. "What the fuck is with you, anyhow?"

Langly contemplated that for a few moments, staring curiously at his palm. It had mostly stopped bleeding, and he tried to prod it with his fingers, and completely missed the cut, the hand, and most of the Western Hemisphere. Eventually he looked up at Frohike. "Uh, hi."

Mel winced and tried to stifle the laughter again. "I don't imagine you remember, but we've met, actually. You want to tell me what's wrong?"

"I'm bored," Langly said earnestly, like he was imparting the secret of cold fusion.

Mel snickered. "Did you consider, you know, crossword puzzles or something? Or was liver disease your first choice for a hobby?"

Langly blinked at him some more. "I suck at crosswords."

"Well, with your vocabulary, it's no wonder. 'Huh' probably doesn't get used too much."

Langly squeezed his eyes closed and thought about that, as much as he could anyway. He opened his mouth, and Mel was pretty sure he knew what the younger man was going to say. He didn't think he could take it.

"I'll sign you up for a Mediterranean cooking class, okay? Give you something to do with your spare time. Probably panic Byers." Mel was laughing again. He couldn't help it.

Langly sighed heavily and leaned his head on Mel's shoulder. "I can't cook."

"Believe me, I know."

"You said it wasn't so bad."

Mel glanced over at him. "It wasn't. Don't start sulking again, okay?"

"You don't have to make fun of me," he said petulantly.

"No, that's true. I don't absolutely have to."

Langly tried to sort that out and finally gave up. He left his head on Mel's shoulder, and Mel didn't push him away. When he started to slide down onto the floor again, Mel put an arm around him and pulled him back up.

"Don't you have enough bruises for one night, Ringo?"

He considered it seriously. "Probably."

Mel remembered something. "Did you burn yourself when you were making dinner?"

"Umm. Kinda."

"Kinda?"

Langly squirmed around a little and tugged his shirt up enough to reveal raised red blotches across part of his ribcage.

"Does that hurt?"

Langly considered that, too. "Don't think so."

Mel rolled his eyes. "How the hell did you do that?"

The youngest Gunman heaved a sigh. "Don't laugh at me, okay? Boiling water."

"I'm not gonna laugh." Mel thought back to dinner. "Why were you boiling water?"

Langly just shrugged. Mel regarded him curiously. "And all this 'cause you're bored."

Langly shrugged again and put his head back on Mel's shoulder. "Guess so."

Mel left his arm around his shoulders till he realized Langly was falling asleep. "Hey, c'mon, kid. You can't sleep here."

"Stop calling me that," Langly grumped.

Mel shrugged faintly. "Sorry. Why're you so touchy tonight, anyway?"

"I'm not a kid and you're not my dad, okay?"

Mel blinked. "Okay. Are you going to get up, now?"

Langly shrugged. "Dunno if I can."

"Let's give it a try."

They managed to get to their feet with a minimum of complications, and Mel got Langly turned around in the direction of his room. Two steps, and Langly promptly tripped over the bat again, and grabbed at Mel to stay upright.

"Shit, Ringo, you're heavy."

"Sorry. Sorry." He pulled himself upright and patted drunkenly at Mel's shirtfront. He staggered slightly and ended up clutching at Mel's shoulders again, nose-to-nose with the older man. Mel had a split second to wonder about the look in Langly's eyes before he leaned forward and kissed Mel full on the lips.

At first it was hesitant, slightly nervous. Langly wasn't sure he wasn't going to be hit, and Mel was just startled. By the time Mel's brain had caught up, all his nerve endings were already screaming at him not to do anything to make this stop. Ringo Langly, his stunned mind informed him, was one hell of a kisser.

After a shocked moment, Mel wrapped his arms around the other man, responding hungrily. He felt Langly's mouth open and a quiet moan escaped into his own. He slid his tongue easily inside and explored the sweet darkness, the tang of alcohol, the spiciness of something he couldn't really name.

He pulled away abruptly. Langly whimpered. "Kid-Langly-Ringo. We can't do this," he managed.

The look turned to confusion, fear, humiliation. Langly stepped back, trembling. "God, Mel, I'm sorry."

Mel grabbed his shoulders, held him where he was. "Ringo. You're drunk."

"I'm sorry," he repeated. "Sorry."

"Look, Ringo." Mel started awkwardly, then gave up. "You need to sleep it off. C'mon, let's get you to bed."

"I'm fine," Langly mumbled. "I can get there by myself."

Mel didn't let go, he just wordlessly steered Langly to his room and pushed him into the bed. The younger man buried his head in the pillows and curled into a tight ball.

Mel sighed and sat next to him, pulling the pillows away. "Ringo. I can't do this. You're too drunk to know what you want," he said gently.

Langly shook his head, and Mel tried to decide what he was denying. He rubbed at Langly's back. "I don't want you to wake up tomorrow full of regrets. Believe me, it's not worth it. It's not worth ruining our friendship."

"Right," came Langly's muffled voice. "I'm not worth it," he said with surprising bitterness.

Mel was taken aback. "Oh, hell. I didn't mean it that way." He paused. "How long have you felt this way?"

He shrugged, shook his head, mumbled something Mel couldn't make out.

Mel stared at him. Leaned over and kissed him sweetly on the cheek. Langly froze. Mel put his arms around Ringo's lanky body, rested his head on the younger man's shoulder. "Sleep it off, Ringo. If you still want to talk about it tomorrow, we can. I don't have sex with drunk men." He laughed a little. "But, shit, if you kiss like that drunk, I've gotta see what you can do sober."

Langly went limp with shock. He turned his head and stared at Mel's face in the semi-dark. "What."

"Tomorrow, Ringo." He kissed the younger man again, reassuringly, and smiled. "Tomorrow."

end


Harpy dsidhe@attbi.com Handmaiden of the Goddess of Irony
 

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