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My heart is on your doorstep...

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Mike didn't know what to expect when he came home that evening following their awkward conversation about Kali that morning.

"I'm home," he called out as he walked into the living room.

Surprisingly El was still there sitting on the couch and Paladin was sitting in the single seater furthest away from the couch.

El turned around. "Hi." El smiled good naturedly at him as if she had forgotten all about the incident that morning. "How was your day?"

"It was fine," Mike responded as he made his way to his bedroom. His client in Brooklyn had stiffed him again and he really didn't feel like discussing it right now.

He placed his bag down against the wall and then unbuttoned his shirt . Before he could finish shrugging it off he felt El's arms around his waist and kisses being pressed into his back. He dropped the shirt on the floor. He would place it in the hamper later. He easily turned around in the loose hold that El held him in. He smiled as his hands rested on El's lower back. "Miss me?"

El hooked her arms behind Mike's neck pulling him down. "Something like that." El's lips were warm and needy. Mike held her tighter as the kiss deepened and El walked backwards to the bed. When her calves butted the bed she turned around so that she could push Mike down on it and then got back on top of him. Her lips immediately reattaching to Mike's. God, she could kiss those lips the entire night.

Her teeth lightly scraped Mike's bottom lip as she released it from between her own lips and trailed some kisses down the column of his neck.

"El..." Mike growled. His hand spanning El's ass, pressing his hips against hers.

"Yeah?" El sounded distracted as her tongue worked it's way down his chest.

"Did you feed Pal?"

El kissed across his rib cage. "What?"

"Did you feed Pal?"

She couldn't believe that Mike was asking her about the cat while she was doing this. "Uh, yes." She moved her lips further down to Mike's belly button .

"Did he eat all of it?"

El licked a flat stripe across the taunt skin. "Yeah he really seemed into it."

"Really? He normally takes his time eating kibble."

El placed another kiss on Mike's body wondering how long this conversation was going to go on for. "It wasn't kibble. It was the wet stuff."

"El!" Mike sat up suddenly causing El to roll off on to the bed. "I told you to feed him the kibble. He's only allowed to have wet food twice a week."

El sat up a bit stunned. She couldn't believe that Mike was actually upset at her over some cat food. "I did pour out the kibble first but he didn't want it. He kept on meowing and looking at me. I figured if he didn't eat and then got sick or something that you would've blamed me for not giving him something else so I put the kibble back and gave him the canned stuff. He likes that." She explained.

Mike groaned and got off the bed. "Of course he does. He would eat it every damn day if you let him." Mike breathed out harshly and slammed his open palm against the wall as he walked through the door. "Next time just feed him as I asked."

"Hey!" El got off the bed and followed him through the door. " What's your problem?" she grabbed Mike's arm as he entered the kitchen. "It's just some cat food."

Mike pulled his arm away and opened the fridge door and took out a bottle of beer. He slammed the door shut, popping the ring on the can as he sat on a stool.

"Mike?" El approached him cautiously. "Are you seriously upset over the cat food?"

He watched as Mike took a long hard drink from the bottle. His adam's apple bobbing up and down as he swallowed. He didn't respond to El as he continued to stare hard at the wall across the hallway from him.

El watched as he took another drink. She couldn't understand Mike freezing her out like this. "Mike?"

He continued to ignore her and it unnerved El more than she cared to admit. She couldn't believe that she was getting the silent treatment all over some cat food. She felt tense and uncomfortable standing there waiting for Mike to speak to her. Should she apologize? But for what? She didn't do anything wrong. She stared at the back of Mike's head willing him to speak to her but to no avail. El became frustrated. She didn't have to take this treatment.

She walked out of the kitchen and grabbed her dried coat from the bedroom. She needed to get out of there. As she walked back through the apartment she wished that Mike would call out to her but as she placed her hand on the doorknob she realized that wasn't going to happen. She opened the door and just started walking.

She just allowed her legs to carry her down the street and then over the road and into the park. In her jeans pockets she found a half empty carton of cigarettes and a lighter. She slumped down on a park bench with a lit cigarette between her index and middle fingers. She didn't like to smoke, she just liked to watch the cigarette burn away. She had already started fucking up even when she was trying extra hard not to. She could never get this relationship thing right. Although she didn't believe that this was entirely her fault. She also didn't really think that the issue was cat food. But Mike wouldn't open up to her and she had a feeling that she couldn't make him either.

She watched the last of the cigarette disappear before she released it into the wind. She really did like Mike. Last night she had sat in the rain thinking about him. There was just something about the man that just appealed to her in a way that no one had ever done before. But as the stars started to appear in the evening sky, she wondered if what appealed to her was real or just some fantasy conjured up in her mind.

The smell of cigarette smoke lingered. It was familiar. Comforting. Something that she was used to. Mike was unfamiliar but she wanted to get used to him too.

About an hour later she was turning the knob on Mike's apartment door. Surprisingly but thankfully it was unlocked. She pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind her. Maybe Mike was expecting her back. She walked softly into the living room and found Mike sitting on the couch with Paladin in his lap. He was mindlessly stroking the cat's back.

El stood a bit away from the couch. Mike turned his head and their eyes met. Mike's expression was softer this time around. The anger that he had displayed earlier was gone. Signs of remorse lingered on his face and El took a chance and sat next to him on the couch.

Paladin rolled over his back with his stomach exposed to Mike who absentmindedly petted him without a second thought, for his eyes were still on El.

"I'm so sorry about earlier," his eyes unwavering from El's face. "I shouldn't have gone off on you like that."

El leaned forward, resting her arms on top of her thighs. "Was it really about the cat food?"

A subtle smile graced Mike's lips as he shook his head. "No."

"Then what's the problem?" She noticed Paladin purring as he playfully swatted Mike's fingers.

Mike sighed. "It's this client I have in Brooklyn."

El eased closer to him. "What about this client?"

So Mike told El the entire story while she listened attentively taking mental notes.

Mike shook his head. "I think that I'm going to let him go next week."

"What about the money that he owes you?"

Mike shrugged. "I guess I'm gonna have to chalk it up as a loss."

El didn't say anything she appeared to be lost in her thoughts. He scooped Paladin from off his lap and placed him on the floor. "Come here." He wrapped his arms around El's waist giving her a sharp tug so that she was on top of him as he slinked down on to his back. He started to kiss El before he was even settled. "I'm sorry that I went off on you earlier." He repeated as he sucked on El's bottom lip for a moment before he released it.

"Yeah don't do that again." El muttered nestling her lips against Mike's.

Mike's response of "I won't." was muffled by their lips fusing together. This was a lot better. Kissing El was way better than fighting with her. His hand slid down El's back to grab her ass, allowing himself a firm squeeze of her butt.

El was placing kisses down Mike's neck until her lips met with the collar of his shirt. She pushed the hem of the shirt up to above Mike's nipples so that she could continue on her exploration of Mike's body. Her lips suckling the soft skin on her way down her lover's torso. Suddenly El stopped. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. She had a distinct feeling of being watched by someone other than Mike.

She turned her head sharply to the right and there was Paladin staring right back at her as if he was in a movie theater.

Mike lifted his head up when he noticed that El had stopped. "Is something wrong?"

"Paladin's watching us."

Mike glanced at the cat and then back at El. "So?"

" So? It's creepy that's what."

"I don't think you have anything he hasn't seen before."

This made El look away from Paladin to stare wide eyed at Mike. "You've screwed in front your cat before?"

"Well it's not like if I did it on purpose. He has walked in several times while it was going on." Mike's tone belied that he didn't really see what the big deal was.

Mike sat up so that El straddled his hips. His index finger tilted El's chin up and he placed a sweet kiss on her lips. "So you're gonna let Pal stop you from going any further?" His tongue licked a spot on El's jawline before sucking the flesh into his mouth. He heard El's breath hitch in her throat and he continue to work the sensitive flesh between his lips and teeth. El grabbed a fistful of his hair yanking his head back up so that she could claim his mouth roughly.

El's eyes were closed and her lips were parted. Some unintelligable noise was seeping out of them as she felt the wet heat of Mike's mouth on her core. Her fingers were laced tightly through his raven hair, keeping Mike in place. Although she really didn't need to because from the enthusiasm that Mike was showing he seemed to be quite content to go down on El all night long.

A shiver ran down El's spine when Mike's tongue circled her clit. She whined and opened her eyes. That was a mistake. The first thing she saw was Paladin sitting up erect on the carpet staring at Mike as he was down on El as if he was almost scared by what Mike was doing.


Mike looked up at her.

"Paladin's watching us again." El didn't know why she was whispering but it seemed appropriate.

Mike rested on El's legs. "Really El? We are doing this and all you can concentrate on is the cat?"

El just looked back at him.

"Well clearly I will have to distract you harder" Mike lowered his head back between El's thighs. A surprised yelp escaped from El and she tried to buck her hips but Mike's hands were on her thighs and he purposefully pressed down on them so that El's ass remained grounded in the couch.

El was writhing beneath Mike's palms as continued to work sheer magic with his tongue. Her eyes were closed and nonsense tumbled from her lips as Mike brought her to pure ecstasy. She certainly forgot all about that cat as her orgasm crashed over her in waves.

A week later El casually strolled into Mike's apartment. She had heard Mike return home for the evening and she popped in to see what Mike was having for dinner. She found Mike sitting at the breakfast bar nursing a can of soda.

"Hey," El casually slung an arm around Mike's shoulder and kissed his cheek. She then made her way around the counter to the fridge and pulled open the door. "What's for dinner?"

"I think that I might just order in."

"Good." El closed the door and picked up some menus from off the counter flipping through them. "Chinese or Italian?"

When Mike didn't respond, she raised an eyebrow at him as Mike calmly took another sip of his drink. "Well? What's it going to be?"

Mike placed his drink down slowly and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "What did you do El?"

El was puzzled. "What do you mean?"

She could see Mike's jaw line working as he shook his head with disbelief. Mike raised his hip a bit so that he could reach into his back pocket. He pulled out a wad of cash and dropped it on the counter.

El looked down at the cash and then back up at Mike. "Um... I'm not really getting it Mike."

"That client that I told you about last week, gave that to me today." He stared at El knowingly as if he was saying that the gig was up.

But El just shrugged her shoulders. "So Italian it is."

El was reaching for her phone when Mike grabbed her hand. "El." His tone was low and it warned her that Mike was not as calm on the inside as he appeared on the outside.

Honey brown eyes met dark. "Yes?" She responded meekly.

"What did you do?" Mike's words were spoken slowly and measured.

"What makes you think that I had anything to do with him paying you?"

"Oh I don't know, maybe it was the freaked out look on his face. The way how he was looking around as if he was expecting someone to jump out of the bushes at him. Oh and there was something about not sending the lunatic girl and her henchmen back to him."

"Henchmen is a bit much."

Mike was not fooled. He saw the blush on El's cheeks when he repeated what his client had said. "El how could you?"

El sighed and looked down at the counter. "I just wanted to help you. Funshine and Axel didn't mean to shake him up too badly. I just wanted him to give you what he owed."

Mike released El's hand. "El, you can't go around threatening my clients."

"Well technically you said that you were going to drop him so he wasn't really your client." She responded feebily.

Mike resumed crossing his arms and just staring at El.

Tense minutes ticked by and neither said anything and El was growing more uncomfortable by the second. She had fucked up again. But she didn't really mean to. She was honestly trying to help Mike. Maybe she went about it the wrong way but what was the right way? She didn't know.

She decided that it was best if she left. Mike was probably sick of looking at her. She walked around the counter and was heading to the door when a pair of arms ensnared her waist and stopped her in his tracks. From the expression on her face she was clearly befuddled at what was going on.

Mike kissed her temple and rested his forehead against El's. She could feel the breath from Mike's nose fluttering against her skin. One of Mike's hands cupped her face while his thumb gently stroked his cheek. " I have no idea what I'm going to do with you."

Before she could respond a warm kiss went coursing through her veins from her lips all the way to her fingertips. She opened her eyes and felt herself blushing despite not wanting to. Mike wasn't chasing her away. He wanted her here. With him. Even though she had messed up, Mike had forgiven her. That's all that was going through her head as Mike led her back to the kitchen. What did Mike see in her that none of her previous lovers before see? She was used to being yelled and cursed at. It was how she grew up. It was just how life was. This treatment? She couldn't help but to be suspicious that there was some sort of ulterior motive behind it.

Mike smiled at her. "Italian it is." picking up the phone "And Funshine? Really??" shaking his head.

"Where are you off to?"

As soon as Mike had stepped out of his apartment he was greeted by El coming out of hers.

"I'm off to the hairdresser."

"Oh." El pursed her lips as she thought. "Why don't you let me do it?"

Mike looked at her skeptically. "Do what?"

El rolled her eyes. " Let me cut your hair."

"Uh huh." Mike didn't look too convinced.

However El had already grabbed him by the arm and was leading him into her apartment.

"So you have done this before, yeah?" He was pushed down on to the couch by a pair of determined hands while El then headed off to her bedroom.

El came back out a minute later holding a small black bag that he guessed contained scissors.

Mike watched in amusement as El ran around trying to set everything up. She grabbed a stool from the kitchen and placed it near a window where the natural light flooded in. She pulled the coffee table close to the chair so that he could place the black bag on it. El was tapping her fingers against her chest as she looked around the room as if she was trying to remember if she had everything that was needed.

"Oh!" She held a finger up like an exclamation point. "I've got just the thing." She scampered back to her room.

Mike chuckled softly to himself. El was obviously quite excited to be performing this service for him. He could feel the enthusiasm pouring off her. Even though Mike was quite particular about his hair, years of awful mum designed haircuts, he had made up in his mind that even if El did botch it he wouldn't say a thing about it. He got the feeling that El liked doing things for people that she cared about and Mike knew that El cared about him even if she never said it. The incident of El and her friends shaking down his client in Brooklyn came to mind. He didn't think that El did it with the intent to cause harm to Mike's reputation. What happened was that Mike told El about a problem and she tried to fix it the best way that she knew how. Even right now, Mike wanted a hair cut and El had a solution. He couldn't help but to wonder if El's resourcefulness was a result of how she grew up. She hardly talked about it but from little tidbits it seemed as if there wasn't much brightness in her past.

El came back out holding a burgundy cape. The type that barbers' used on their clients.

"Where did you get that?"

El smiled at him. "You ask too many questions."

She looked so happy. El most of the time seemed to be on edge about something. But now she looked completely relaxed and carefree.

Much to El's surprise, Mike grabbed her head between both hands and planted a hard kiss on her lips.

El was stunned. "Wha..."

Mike sat on the stool and grinned. "Come on, let's get to it. I don't have all day."

El secured the cape around Mike's shoulders and then laid out the scissors and various combs that she wanted on the table.

She stood in front of Mike as if she was examining his face. She leaned forward and planted a kiss right in the center of Mike's forehead. Mike could feel the wet impression of the kiss on his skin when El pulled away.

El picked up the scissors. "Let's get started."

About twenty minutes later Mike was holding a hand held mirror gazing at his reflection as he slowly turned his head from side to side. El had done a pretty damn good job. The style was fresh and cut just the way he liked it. Mike smiled at him. "Why do I get the feeling that you've done this before?"

El turned her head to a side so that Mike wouldn't see the blush creeping up her cheek but it was to no avail because Mike still noticed. "The first way I used to make money was I used to cut hair for older kids in the foster homes. I just needed a pair of scissors and for five dollars they could have what they wanted." El's eyes were shining at the memory. " It was a good gig but eventually the foster parents found out and then I became useful but it meant no more money for me."

Mike chest tightened at the mention of foster home, he smiled sadly. "You did a really great job."

El beamed at him. She had finally done something right. She unfastened the cape from around Mike, shaking the clippings on to the floor.

"Let's say after you get this mess cleaned up that I treat you to lunch." Mike suggested.

El nodded. "Sounds good." She looked up at Mike hopefully. "There's this Cheesecake Factory in Long Island that I want to go to."

Now how could Mike tell her no when El was using her perfect doe eyes to their full effect all wide eyed with a cute pout to boot. He knew that there was a pretty good Cheescake Factory just two blocks over. "Fine. We'll go to Long Island."

El whooped in celebration and then grabbed a broom and began sweeping eagerly.

November faded into the first week of December and with it bringing the icy cold. Mike hadn't seen much of El for that week. She always seemed busy and when she did come over she was quiet and stared melancholy into the distance. He had asked her several times what was bugging her but El just shrugged it off and told him nothing or when she got tired of Mike pestering her she got up and left.

Now it was Saturday afternoon and he hadn't seen El all day and he was a bit worried. He tried calling her but she wouldn't pick up and every call had gone to voicemail. He left the door of his apartment cracked open hoping to hear when El returned home but that proved to be futile as well.

Mike stood next to the window in the living room and watched as flurries floated down from the grey skies. He was getting restless on top of being worried. Where was El? His eyes latched on to a particularly large flurry as it sank to the earth. What if El had left him? She did say that she wasn't staying long. Maybe El being so distant with him was her way of breaking up with him without coming out and saying it. Mike shook his head. No. He shouldn't allow these thoughts to take root but what if it was true? What if El was heading down the Jersey turnpike by now and never coming back?

Mike couldn't stay inside the apartment a moment longer. He had to go find El. He threw on his heavy coat and pulled his gloves roughly over his fingers.

"You stay here Pal." The cat regarded him with an air of innocent curiosity from its position on the couch. "I mean it. I don't want you following me in this weather." Paladin narrowed his eyes at him as if he would dare to do such a thing and looked back at the television.

Mike just started walking. As his foot crunched the fresh layer of snow he realized that he didn't know El's hangout spots very well. He only knew about two and he thought that he had a greater chance at the first one that he stopped by.

The warmth of Benny's welcomed Mike inside as he pulled off his gloves and stuffed them into his coat pocket. His keen eyes surveying the patronage. The honey haired waves were nowhere to be seen. Be that as it may Mike still went up to the bartender and inquired as to if he had seen El . No, was the resounding answer. He hadn't seen her since last week.

Mike exhaled an exasperated breath as he forced his gloves back on and trudged back out into the snow. He carefully crossed the ice slicked street as he made his way to the second location. There was still an hour of light left before the sun set, Mike thought as he glanced at the time on his phone. He hoped that she was here.

His heart soared when he spotted the familiar figure sitting on a park bench with bits of snow decorating her hair. El looked surprised to see him when he sat next to her. She gave him a slight nod and then refocused her gaze on the empty field in front of him. "You found me." It was more of an acknowledgement than a question.

"I thought you had left town." Mike confessed.

"Without saying goodbye to you?" El shook her head. "I'm not that much of an asshole."

"Well you did say that whatever we were was just, you know, casual." Mike stopped abruptly when he figured that he was rambling. "I don't really know where I stand." That was a true moment of honesty for him.

El's eyes looked glassy as she observed him. "I think you know that it's more than that."

Mike decided to be brave and slid his gloved hand over El's bare one that was resting on his left thigh. When El didn't pull away, he tightened his grip over it. "El?"


"What's going on with you? This whole week you've been acting strange. Well stranger than normal."

He watched as El pulled her bottom lip in with her teeth before releasing it back into the cold. El sighed. Her breath frosting the air momentarily. "Today's my birthday."

"Um, what?" That was one statement Mike did not expect to hear. "Today's your birthday?"

El nodded slowly. "Yeah." Obviously she wasn't exactly thrilled about it.

"Did something happen on your birthday?"

The glass in El's eyes started to shine before it collapsed and slithered down her cheek. Mike placed a secure arm around El's waist and pulled her against him. Her body was so cold. He leaned his head against El's and he felt El's fingers tightening around the hand Mike had placed on her thigh.

"It was the day he never came home and it all went wrong."

A shiver ran through Mike that wasn't caused by the cold. "Who didn't?"

"My dad."

A heavy pained breath racked El's body, one that was hitched with wetness. The sound that a person makes when they are holding back tears. Mike pressed his lips against El's temple for a while before he moved them. Even though him and his parents weren't always on the same page, he couldn't begin to imagine a world without them.

"It's so stupid. I don't know why I still get upset about it. It happened when I was nine. That was over fifteen years ago. I should be over it by now right?" Her eyes searched Mike's face seeking an answer that confirmed her thoughts. But Mike didn't know what to tell her.

"I'm so sorry El, truly I am." His words sounded so empty when he actually spoke them.

"No. It's okay. I kinda knew all along it could happen, given his job, he was a cop. It just hurts that it did." Another glass broke in her eye. "I just want to know what I did wrong, because after that there was no one, Why couldn't someone else love me."

It was then that Mike's heart collapsed and broke. It hurt him so much and it made him even more ashamed of himself because he knew that El had to be in more pain that he could ever imagine.

He pulled El tight against him. His hand embracing half of El's face and planted kisses against the tear stained cheek. "You didn't do anything wrong El." He pushed a kiss softly into her face. " You hear me? Not a thing, I promise."

El looked at him as if she wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe that it wasn't her fault but something was just holding her back. Mike kissed her. His lips moving confidently over El's. He sucked them into his mouth warming them up. El didn't kiss him back but she didn't resist him either. She allowed Mike to kiss her, to make her feel needed and Mike was happy to give it to her.

Mike only parted his lips away from El's only when he needed to breathe. El looked so vulnerable in that moment that he wanted to protect her from everything that he could. He used his index finger to gently push a curl away from El's face. "C'mon. Let's go home." El nodded.

El was sitting on his couch with a thick blanket wrapped around her while Mike poured a couple shots of whiskey into two glass tumblers. He took the tumblers back into the living room. Of course El had found some zombie picture to watch. El thanked him as she took the glass and sipped the deep amber liquid.

"Oh it's the good stuff." El remarked.

"Well I thought you deserved it." Mike took his own sip. "It's your birthday after all."

El gave him a strange look and Mike chuckled and to El's suprise, Mike scooped her up blanket and all and placed her on his lap. "Happy birthday El."

The corner of El's mouth twisted up into a grin. "You almost made me spill my whiskey."

Mike placed his own shot glass on the coffee table and then pried El's loose from her fingers and placed that on the table too. The blanket slipped off El's shoulder and Mike gently brought his head down to meet hers. El's lips were soft and sweet with liquor. Her tongue slid easily against Mike's as the kiss mixed with the liquor quickly heated Mike's nether regions.

The blanket eventually fell off completely onto the floor and it was soon followed by their clothes. Mike's lips were tracing down El's neck as his thumbs massaged her hard nipples. El was panting softly as Mike's cock thrust up inside of her. She was still sitting on Mike's lap. Her eyes were heavy and they barely opened to see Mike's dark orbs looking back at her with that same desire filled haze. She gripped Mike's shoulders tightly. She still couldn't believe that it was real that someone like Mike wanted to be with someone like her. She didn't understand what she did to deserve it. The breath from Mike's mouth was tickling her lips and as if on autopilot she kissed him. She couldn't believe that she had someone that wanted her even after what she revealed to him in the park. A part of her that she had kept hidden. That she had convinced herself that she was over. Mike pulled her even closer so that their chests were touching. She pinched her hand hard to make sure that it was real and that she wasn't dreaming. She had Mike and Mike had her and nothing could be better. Absolutely nothing.

El was lying on top of Mike, who was drifting between sleep and awake. El was staring at the last remains of the whiskey in the glass. She never had birthday sex like that before. It was different. A good different. Her eyes drifted down to the floor and smiled to herself when she saw Paladin curled up on the blanket fast asleep.

El wanted to enjoy it. To feel content. But she couldn't. A voice in the back of her head told her that she didn't deserve it. That Mike would be like everyone else and would eventually grow sick of her and leave. She felt Mike's fingers carding through her hair and El kissed Mike's chest. She didn't want Mike to leave her.