Written by Luna

Author's Note: I never can resist a challenge, so I whipped this up. Hey, it took less time than sending everyone a turkey. The lyrics are from "Nothingman" by Pearl Jam. Big ups to Jess for beta-reading.


Once divided, nothing left to subtract
Some words, once spoken, can't be taken back --
Walks on his own, with thoughts he can't help thinking
Future's above, but in the past he's slow and sinking....


When the phone rang, John jumped and burned himself on the stove.

Cursing softly, he reached across the postage-stamp sized kitchen. "Munch's House of Pancakes," he said sarcastically into the phone.

"You gone corporate, Munchkin?" a familiar voice replied.

"Meldrick?" Munch was startled.

"One and the same," Lewis confirmed. "How's life in the Big, worm-eaten Apple?"

"I was sure it was work calling. Perverts come out of the woodwork on the holidays."

"Just like killers. Must be something about those family get-togethers that brings it on."

Munch snorted, holding the phone between his ear and his shoulder as he stirred the gravy. "What're you up to today?"

"Not a damn thing," Meldrick said lightly. "Goin' to my moms' later on, have some turkey, you know the drill. How 'bout yourself?"

"Trying to make a woman happy," Munch said, only half-joking. He'd kept in touch with Monique after the psych-evaluation fiasco, tried to help her get through the worst of the aftermath. No longer partners, they'd become friends, and her family was in Chicago visiting her brother. "A little wine, a little candlelight, a little home-cooked turkey...."

"When did you get to be that type?" Meldrick laughed. "You bakin' some pumpkin pie, too?"

Munch silently gave thanks that Lewis couldn't see he was wearing an apron. "What do you want, Meldrick?"

"I gotta ask you something, Martha Stewart."

He rolled his eyes. "Fire away."

Meldrick took a breath. "I think I'm gonna sell the bar."

"What?" Munch was stunned.

"You said you wanted to sell your third," Lewis reminded him. "I ain't about to go into business with Falsone. I'll ride with the grease-monkey, but I wouldn't let him handle my money or take out my sister, if you know what I'm saying."

John couldn't help but smile as Meldrick went on, "We've been barely breaking even since we went into business. Now you're not down here to pull your shifts, and Bayliss...." He hesitated. "Bayliss is out of commission, and I just don't have the time or the drive anymore. Real-estate guy says I'll get a decent price. What do you think?"

Munch was silent on the line, thinking. Meldrick contemplated the reasons he'd listed, and one he hadn't spoken aloud: the Waterfront felt over. The atmosphere had never been quite right since J.H. Brodie had walked into the bar with the news of Gee's death -- some warmth in the place had died then too. And there were other bitternesses, Lewis thought: Mike, and Tim, and....

His thoughts were interrupted when Munch sighed heavily. "I'm a silent partner now, Meldrick. It's your call."

"Yeah," Lewis said, knowing it was true. "I just had to check with you first, man."

Munch nodded to himself. "We put a lot of work into that financial sinkhole."

"Sure as hell did," Meldrick agreed. "The bathroom...."

"The licensing fees...."

"The waitresses." Munch swore he could hear Meldrick's nonchalant smirk over the phone. "Guess that didn't turn out too great for you, huh?"

"Four bites at the apple," John mused. "Maybe someday I'll catch on that it's poisoned."

They were silent for a little while, remembering. Munch considered saying that selling the bar would leave him with no reason to go back to Baltimore. Then he caught himself, and thought, sternly: *You don't have a reason now.*

"It's getting late," Lewis said, finally. "I guess after the weekend, I'll start placin' ads."

"Yeah. Hey, don't sell it to anyone who'll mess it up. Don't sell it to some yutz who wants to paint it white and hunter green and turn it into a haven for tourists."

Meldrick grimaced. "I hope to hell not."

"Me too. I should get going."

"Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven," Lewis quipped.

"I'm the Iron Chef," Munch shot back, then added, "Happy Thanksgiving."

"Yeah. Yeah, you too. Bye."

"Goodbye, Meldrick."

John hung up and set the receiver down on the counter, absently flipping through the cookbook he'd bought that morning, and feeling like it was the end of an era. He didn't want to be depressed, but he knew he could think himself into a serious funk if he let it happen. *It was already over,* he told himself. *I should be glad it lasted for a while.* He opened the oven and studied the turkey, not sure how to tell if it was doing all right.

*I should be thankful.*


Empty stares, from each corner of a shared prison cell --
One just escapes; one is left inside the well
And he who forgets
Will be destined to remember....