Pairings/Characters: Mel/Carter, Mel/Johnny
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Angst, AU, Challenge, Drama, Holiday, Hurt/Comfort
Spoilers: For the movie, natch. :)
Summary: Melvin Purvis grieves for one lover lost and one slipping away.
Date Of Completion: December 1, 2009
Date Of Posting: December 10, 2009
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1940
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: A Christmas gift for khylara. I couldn’t find anything angel-themed to suit you this year, darlin’, and got this plot bunny instead. I hope you enjoy this little offering.
Also written for my 2009 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies Fic/Art Winter Holidays Challenge. :)
I couldn’t reference the film, It’s A Wonderful Life, as it came out in 1946, but I’m sure the folklore about angels and their wings was around before that. :)
Gets his wings,
My heart sings.
Mel walked through the stark white halls of St. Cecilia’s Hospital, snow falling outside the windows. Not surprising for Wisconsin in December.
He reached Room 106 and pushed open the door, balancing the pot of deep red poinsettias he was carrying. Tiny bells attached to the pot jingled softly.
A few other vases of flowers decorated the room, get well cards tacked to the corkboard on the wall opposite the bed, and a tabletop Christmas tree was set on the round table in front of the window. Right next to it was a menorah.
Mel carefully set the poinsettia pot on the nightstand, his gaze drawn to the man in the bed.
Carter Baum looked peaceful, as much as any man in a coma could.
Mel’s heart ached as he gently touched Carter’s chestnut hair. He pulled up a chair and began his vigil.
“Hello, Carter. It’s snowing out, not too bad, actually. The forecast is good, but it looks as if it’ll be a white Christmas. Hanukkah, too.”
Mel poured a glass of icewater from the pitcher on the nightstand. His throat was painfully dry. Hospitals were such arid places.
After his drink he continued, “At least the Bureau is taking good care of you. I used some of my trust fund to upgrade for you, too. A private room is better. If it was okay to move you, I’d bring you closer to me in Chicago, but maybe it’s fitting you’re here in Wisconsin, close to Little Bohemia.” The hand holding the glass shook slightly. “Nelson shot you up pretty badly, including that bullet off your temple. It’s been almost nine months.” His voice trembled. “I miss you.”
A nurse entered the room, nodding to Mel. The staff was used to seeing the agent at their comatose patient’s bedside. She took Carter’s vitals, wrote on the chart, and left.
“Things just aren’t the same at the Bureau without you. I…I haven’t felt right about things there for a long time, especially after the Biograph.” Mel rubbed the back of his stiff neck. “It was the damned hottest day on record for Chicago, 103 degrees, frying-eggs-on-the-sidewalk weather. I can’t blame Johnny for wanting to go to the movies in the refrigeration. I was thinking how miserably hot I was waiting outside.”
Mel knotted his fingers in his lap. “I should have warned him, Carter. I should have yelled something, alerted him. Instead, I just stood by while he was shot down like a dog in the street.” He took a pained breath. “I slept with him, Carter.”
Eyes haunted, Mel continued, “You saw what happened in Tucson. You saw what was going on when I saw Johnny in the flesh for the first time. God, I wanted to jump his bones in that jail cell! I could barely restrain myself, and I knew you knew. I know you assured me that it was all right, but I broke down, Carter. Johnny and I spent a week snowbound in a cabin in upper Wisconsin, and…” Guilt flared in Mel’s liquid-dark eyes. “I…I loved him, too, Carter. I don’t know, can you love two people at once?” He dashed away a tear.
Mel seemed to huddle in on himself, misery clinging to him like a cloak. He hugged himself, watching desperately for signs of Carter coming out of his coma, but of course he didn’t.
Mel rocked back-and-forth slightly, his voice raspy. “I was going to tell you, but then we had to run off to Little Bohemia, and then Nelson shot you, tried to butcher you, and you’ve been lost to me ever since…”
He fell silent, the snow muting traffic noises outside.
“I killed Nelson when he was escaping,” he whispered. “And I’d do it again.”
Mel wondered if it was possible to die of a broken heart…twice.
“I’m sorry, Carter. I’ve been hoping for you to come back to me, and ever since I lost Johnny, too…nothing’s the same. I can’t care about my work at the Bureau anymore, and I’m disturbed by what’s going on there. We’re no better than the gangsters we chase with our brutal interrogations and shoot-first, ask-questions-later policy.” His voice grew shaky. “I can still smell his blood on that hot July night, and yours on a cold March evening.” He lifted a trembling hand to wipe away tears. “I can’t believe Johnny’s gone, and now I’m losing you, too.”
Mel took hold of Carter’s hand and let his tears flow freely, finally resting his head on the bed in exhaustion, falling into a troubled sleep.
Warm. Quiet. Peaceful.
He drifted, bobbing on waves as he felt contentment. No worries, no pain, no grief.
“Time to rise and shine, sugar.”
Carter frowned. The voice was familiar.
“C’mon, sweetness. Our Mel needs us.”
Carter struggled to open his eyes, finally succeeding. He squinted as a bright light backlit the figure standing in front of him. He lifted a hand to shade his eyes.
He saw the trademark smirk as the slender man stood there in a crisp white shirt and tan pants, tortoiseshell glasses pushed down his nose as he peered over the rims.
“Always knew you were a smart cookie, Agent Baum.”
Carter frowned. “What is this place?” He looked around at the blue-white surroundings, cottony clouds drifting by. “The last I remember…” His eyes widened. “I was in a gunfight with your gang at…at Little Bohemia…and I was driving my car to cut off your gang and Baby Face Nelson…”
“Yeah, I know.” Johnny’s expression was regretful. “I’m sorry about that. I should have followed Walter Dietrich’s advice: never work with someone you don’t know. Nelson was too much of a loose cannon.”
“Yes. Our Mel killed him at Little Bohemia.”
Shocked, Carter tried to process that, then realized something else Johnny had said.
Johnny nodded, chewing gum casually. He looked like he was leaning against something, his leg crooked and crossed over the other one, but there was nothing there.
“Yeah, looks like we got a little situation here.”
Carter looked around. “It’s all wispy cotton around here. What is this place?” A frightening thought seared through him. “Are we dead?”
Johnny’s smile was a bit wistful. “You’re not, no.”
Carter’s brown eyes blinked. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, it’s not so bad. It’s interesting up here. And someday we’ll all end up here, anyway.”
“You’re quite the philosopher.”
Johnny grinned. “You’d be surprised how people have messed up the whole religion thing.”
Carter thought of what he had to deal with because of his Jewishness and nodded. “What happened?” He waved toward Johnny. “With you?”
“Your Bureau got me last summer. Just saw the latest Clark Gable film. Gangster picture.” Johnny was clearly amused.
“As a matter of fact, you’re right.” Sadness entered Johnny’s eyes. “Our Mel blames himself for both of us.”
“He loves you,” Carter said softly.
“Yes.” Johnny looked a little guilty. “I love him, too.”
“Good.” At Johnny’s blink, Carter smiled. “Unrequited love isn’t fun.”
Johnny’s mouth quirked into a smile.
“So what happens now? If I’m not dead, what’s my next move?” A thought occurred to Carter. “Am I in a coma?”
“You get another kewpie doll. No wonder Mel is smitten with you.”
Carter chuckled. “I could say the same, Johnny.”
“Well, that’s right nice of you, Carter.” Johnny looked thoughtful. “Seems to me you’ve got to go back. I’ll help you. It’ll be a great way to get my wings.”
Johnny winked. “It’s what angels wear, right?” His eyes twinkled. “Whenever you hear a bell ring, an angel gets his wings.”
Amused, Carter asked, “Isn’t that miscasting?”
Amber eyes sparkled. “You’re a sharp one, Carter. I like that. And that means you’re a good match for our Mel.” His smile faltered slightly. “I know you were there first…”
Carter put up his hand. “Mel’s got enough love to go around. And I can understand the attraction.”
Johnny’s smile grew confident again. “I can see what he sees in you.”
Carter’s smile was just as confident.
“Our Mel is wracking himself with guilt about us,” Johnny said softly.
Carter felt pain spear through him. “He’s always been too hard on himself.”
“He’s high-strung, like a champion thoroughbred.”
Carter chuckled. “Good description. Lean and long-legged with those long, elegant fingers that delight.”
“Yes, ‘long’ is a good description for our man.” They shared a grin, then Johnny said, “Come with me.”
Carter followed him through the mist, the clouds drifting around like wisps of cotton candy. He didn’t know how long they walked, but he supposed time didn’t matter much here.
Finally they stopped, Johnny turning to face Carter. “You have to make a choice, my friend. Go, or stay.”
“That’s right. Here there are no worries, no fears…no pain.”
“And all of that is waiting for me if I go back?”
“That’s right, but you also get Mel.”
“That really tips the scales.”
“Worth it, eh?” Johnny’s tone was wistful.
Carter understood the attraction of this man: cocky, insouciant…vulnerable.
“He is.” Carter smiled. “I’ll go.”
“Close your eyes, click your heels, and think of home.”
“Sorry, inside joke. You never read L. Frank Baum? Any relation?” Johnny snickered. “Get ready.”
Carter took a deep breath, the mists rolling in, starting to obscure Johnny.
“Take care of him.”
The mists rolled across Johnny as he disappeared.
“I should be able to stay for awhile, Carter. I’m still Hoover's Golden Boy, though my halo’s starting to tarnish.” Bitterness laced Mel’s voice. “Anyway, I still have enough juice to get time off. I need it.” His voice was tired. “I need you.”
Carter felt sore, every limb leaden as he fought to open his eyes. He heard water being poured into a glass and finally managed to open his eyes.
“Can I have some of that water, sweetheart?”
His vision was fuzzy but he could see the shock on Mel’s face.
“That’s my name.” His throat hurt and his voice was rusty from disuse.
“Omigod!” Mel set aside the glass he’d almost dropped. He touched Carter’s face with a trembling hand. “Carter, love, how do you feel?”
“Like a truck hit me.” He licked his lips.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Mel quickly poured more water in the glass and held it to Carter’s lips, lifting his head slightly. Carter drank gratefully. He felt as parched as the Sahara. “Are you still thirsty?”
Mel put the glass on the nightstand. “Can you move?”
Cater tested his fingers and toes. “Yeah.”
Tears shone in Mel’s eyes. “Thank God!” He carefully hugged his lover.
They clung to each other, then Mel drew back. He caressed Carter’s face, drinking him in.
“I hoped…I prayed…that you’d return to me.”
“Knowing you were here waiting for me made all the difference.”
Mel blinked away tears. “I’d better get the nurse.”
He stood, his hand brushing against the bells on the poinsettia pot. The jingling sound was followed by Carter’s laughter, slightly raspy but music to Mel’s ears.
“What?” Mel asked with a smile.
“An angel just got his wings.”
Mel looked confused but was so happy to have Carter back that he squeezed his lover’s hand and went to get the nurse.
Carter heard the whisper in his ear.
“Same to you, Johnny Angel.”
Laughter echoed in the room as Carter closed his eyes with a smile, waiting for his Mel to return.