Pairings/Characters: Mel/Johnny, Walter Dietrich, Art O’Leary
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama, Holiday, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Claim: For the 12_stories Challenge (Mel/Johnny)
Prompt: T 7; P 1: Color
Prompt Count: (2/12)
Summary: Johnny tends to an ill Mel on Christmas Eve.
Date Of Completion: November 6, 2011
Date Of Posting: November 29, 2011
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1881
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written for my 2011 LJ Fifth Anniversary Fic Request Meme (Build-A-Fic). Pairing: Mel/Johnny. Prompts: Hurt/Comfort, Pie, Mousse/Pudding. Also written for my 2011 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies Fic/Art Winter Holidays Challenge. Prompt: Christmas Eve. :)
While life hangs
In the balance.
My Christmas wish
Is for my Sunshine
To break through
Silver N. Gold
"My Christmas Wish"
Johnny gently brushed a lock of hair back from Mel’s brow. He was still warm to the touch, anxiety skittering through Johnny. He rubbed his eyes as he felt the exhaustion seep down to his very bones. His hand trembled slightly as he rested it on Mel’s forehead.
“You’ve gotta get better, Sunshine. Don’t leave me,” he pleaded.
Mel moved restlessly, pulling at the sheets. Johnny picked up the washcloth and wiped down his lover’s face, his heart breaking.
You deserve better than being deathly ill in a shabby hotel room on Christmas Eve.
Johnny felt his joints ache. The radiator hissed as steam heat slowly began to build in the cold room. At least hotel maintenance had gotten the heat going again. Johnny pulled his greatcoat closer around himself, wishing that he had another blanket to drape over Mel.
He poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the nightstand, gratefully drinking it down. He stood up, stretching his joints as he wandered over to the window.
Snow fell lightly down onto the street below, glittering like jewels in the streetlights’ glow. It dusted the cars and the hats and coats of the people walking at a brisk pace, covering the ugliness of dirt and grime on the streets and sidewalks.
It was all like his and Mel’s lives: glitter and sparkles covering the shabby hotel rooms and run-down shacks they had been hiding out in lately.
A far cry from the mansions and townhouses you’re used to, huh, Mel?
Guilt weighted heavily on him, something he didn’t like to feel. His life had been successful because of his innate self-confidence, even when he had first arrived in prison. Scared at first, he had quickly learned the ropes under Walter Dietrich, sometimes literally.
For a moment he saw Walter’s face, the light slowly leaving his mentor’s eyes as his hand slipped out of Johnny’s as he fell to the pavement, mortally wounded.
Johnny closed his eyes. Walter was at peace, and that was what he needed right now.
He opened his eyes and looked at the giant Christmas tree in the square outside the department store. It sparkled with silver and gold ornaments, giant balls and stars and garlands of the same colors. The snow dusted the branches and swayed gently as the flakes came down faster. The colors of Christmas were a welcome splash in the drabness of their surroundings.
Johnny felt stiff, stretching out his neck and shoulders as he wished for everything to turn out right. It had to, because he couldn’t face life without Mel. His heart ached at the very thought.
He looked back at his lover in the bed. He should have insisted that Mel not come with him to that meeting with Art O’Leary, Louis Piquett’s private investigator, on that cold, rainy afternoon three days ago…
The rain was cold on this gray Chicago day. Patches of dirty snow still lingered on the sidewalks as Johnny and Mel held onto their fedoras, their heads bowed as the wind blew rain in their faces. Their pace was quick as they dashed into the dingy South Side building.
“Brr,” aid Mel as he shivered in the vestibule.
“Looks more like February out there instead of December.”
Mel agreed as they climbed the creaky stairs. Johnny frowned and wished there was heat in this building. Being wet and cold was a bad combination.
They reached Apartment 2B and Johnny knocked, first three times, then two.
The door opened a crack, one brown eye looking out. The chain was unlocked and the door opened wide.
“Hurry up,” said Art O’Leary. He shut the door when Johnny and Mel came in.
“Where’s the fuckin’ heat, Art?” Johnny asked, blowing on his gloved hands.
Art grimaced. “This place is a dump. Whaddaya expect?” He ran a hand through his brown hair, wearing a greatcoat over his slightly stooped frame.
Johnny noticed Mel shivering and silently cursed. Mel had a tendency to pick up colds. He had suffered laryngitis twice since Halloween.
“You need better digs,” Johnny said.
“This is just a meeting place. I’m going back to a warm apartment.”
“Peachy.” Johnny smiled charmingly. “Where’s my dough?”
“Keep yer shirt on.” Art went into the bedroom and Johnny said as he slid his hand up-and-down Mel’s arm, “We’ll get us some hot soup after this. My treat.”
Mel smiled wanly. “Sounds good.”
Art trotted back out. “Here it is, Johnny.” He didn’t look at Mel any differently than if he had been Red or Homer. Apparently Art was used to his most famous client’s peccadilloes. “Louie assured me it’s all there.”
“Well, if Louie says so…” Johnny pocketed the money and smiled. “Thanks, Art, you’re a peach.”
Art snorted and snatched up his fedora from the coffee table. “Yeah, I’m the fuckin’ Prince of Wales.” He buttoned his greatcoat.
He left right behind Mel and Johnny, locking the door. The three men descended the stairs and they parted outside, Art canting into the wind.
“C’mon, I know a café that serves great beef stew,” Johnny said as the wind nearly blew off his fedora.
The duo walked briskly down the street until they reached The Blue Willow Plate Café. It was one of those charming little places that attracted office workers and middle-class matrons who met their friends for lunch. A wreath with a big red bow was on the front door with pictures of Santa Claus and his elves on the walls inside.
Johnny ordered two bowls of beef stew, which was chock-full of meat, carrots, potatoes and onions. The savory flavor was just what the doctor ordered. He broke off a piece of crusty bread and frowned as he noticed Mel half-heartedly eating his stew. Despite his lover being as skinny as a rail, he had a healthy appetite.
Mel did finish more than half of the stew and Johnny decided to tempt him with something else. “How about some lemon pie, sugar?”
Mel’s eyes lit up. “I’d surely like that, Johnny.”
Johnny smiled and ordered two pieces of pie and both men enjoyed the tart goodness.
Johnny returned to his chair, checking Mel’s brow. Still hot. Johnny slumped in his seat. Should he risk getting a doctor?
Oh, Mel, what should I do?
He couldn’t bear it if his outlaw status cost Mel his life. He remembered how tired his Sunshine had been when they had returned to the room after lunch…
Mel was too tired to do anything but curl up in Johnny’s arms, which suited the gangster just fine. He was tired, too. He was grateful that this shabby hotel room had heat. He and Mel fell asleep under a warm blanket.
Johnny rubbed his eyes. He had awakened in the middle of the night to an icy room and a burning-hot Mel.
He was exhausted. He had barely slept the last three days as he tended to Mel, worried sick and terrified that he would lose his Sunshine.
“Please, Mel,” Johnny whispered, keeping his hand on his lover’s brow, the heat scorching his skin.
Maybe once upon a time he could have managed without his Southern honey but now he knew he would barely survive his loss. Johnny had enough money to go anywhere or do anything but without Mel it would be hollow. He couldn’t imagine life without him.
He loved his Mel’s elegance and class, teaching him things that Johnny had never known. He felt exhilarated with his Southerner, always waking up to joy.
Johnny couldn’t face his life alone, not anymore. The man who never needed anyone desperately needed a thin, fussy Southern Carolinian with a background of privilege and a former career as a Federal agent to boot.
The elegant restaurant had been Johnny’s choice, his new wad of cash from his last bank job burning a hole in his pocket. Mel was delighted with the choice, ordering stuffed lobster, julienned potatoes, and a medley of baby corn, broccoli and carrots. Johnny decided to order the same and was extremely pleased. He had never eaten lobster before.
“We must go to Maine this summer so you can have it on the wharf, fresh right off the boat.” Mel ate a succulent piece of lobster, which was soaked in butter and breadcrumbs.
“Since when did you go to such a Yankee enclave?”
Mel laughed. “Summer vacation. Old family traditions.”
The lighting was dim in this restaurant, the green velvet curtains and lacy undercurtains filtering out the light. Chandeliers were on low power and the waiters unerringly traversed the room from long practice.
A white candle in a green glass jar provided some illumination at their table as Johnny ate a forkful of potatoes. He liked a lot of butter on his spuds. One thing about growing up on a farm, you always had plenty of fresh food and churned butter as long as you didn’t live in the Dust Bowl.
Mel looked especially beautiful in the candlelight, the golden softness highlighting his raven hair and high cheekbones. His dark eyes were soft as he smiled at Johnny.
Johnny felt a little flutter in his stomach at that shy smile. It felt good to have someone smile at him that way.
When it came time for dessert, Mel said, “You should try the chocolate mousse, Johnny. When done right it’s heaven.”
“Moose?” asked Johnny in confusion.
Mel laughed, guessing why his lover was confused. “It’s a richer form of pudding.”
“Oh.” Relieved, Johnny grinned. “I like chocolate pudding. Let’s have some.”
The mousse was orgasmically good. Johnny was immediately hooked.
“Mmm,” Mel said as he took a bite, his face reflecting his own bliss.
It was a good look on him.
Johnny desperately wanted to enjoy lobster and chocolate mousse again with his Sunshine.
Besides, I’ve already bought your Christmas present. You’ve go to open those pretty eyes of yours and see what I got you.
He reached for the water pitcher when the church bells started ringing, summoning people to services. A soft sound caught his attention. He looked down to see Mel thrashing.
“You better get into bed, sugar.”
“I’m not really up to it,” Mel said as he shivered.
“Silly Sunshine. I mean just rest.”
“Oh.” Mel smiled slightly. He began to shed his greatcoat.
Johnny helped him, handing him a set of silk pajamas. “I’ll see if we have an extra blanket.”
He resented having to hide out in this shabby hotel, the radiator hissing and knocking, but that was the way of things. He had to take care of his Sunshine.
Mel snuggled into the bed and Johnny tightly tucked the blanket around him.
“Mel?” Johnny leaned down, touching his lover’s forehead. It felt a little cooler.
“You’ve been sick with a fever, darlin’.”
“Oh.” Mel blinked owlishly.
“How do ya feel?”
“Um, sore and achy.”
Johnny brushed the hair back from Mel’s eyes. They had been too-bright with fever before but looked more normal now. He checked his brow again as the church bells peeled joyously, matching his own emotions.
“Merry Christmas, Sunshine.”