AN: This fic originally began as a very short romantic oneshot I never finished on my own or really intended to publish a couple of years ago. Then I found out more people (all five of us, lol) also shipped Zoot/Lips as much as I did, so I asked one of these weird people (AnimatedC9000) to co-write and finish the fic with me. The end result ended up being much longer to make and more complicated compared to what I originally had in mind. Still, it's been a fun project and I'm glad I did it. Thanks to my wonderful co-writer for not only the writing but their patience and creativity and our proof-reader for clearing a few things up for us. Enjoy! - Getawayby AlittleMayhem and AnimatedC9000 Lips sat down and silently offered one of his two hot chocolates to a large ball of thick blankets on the other end of the couch. A gloved hand emerged from the ball and took the mug, mumbling his thanks. He smiled as he heard a slurp and watched the blankets shudder all over. “Man, I needed that.” “Could be worse,” Lips replied after sipping his own drink. “Grandma used to tell me about the winters when they didn't have a stick of wood to keep 'em warm.” His eyes wandered to the small spitting fire, licking up every piece of wood. “Good thing I stocked up beforehand.” The blankets shivered again. “How is it possible that I'm still cold? I have five layers in here! I don't know how you put up with this, man.” The fire made a whump noise as Lips threw in another log. “Well, this is North Dakota, hon. It ain't no stranger to Jack Frost.” The couple sat in silence for a while, drinking their hot chocolates and watching the fire. Lips felt the warmth run through his body briefly with every gulp he took. Outside the wind howled. It crept under the wooden door and tickled the back of his neck. He shivered and he tugged at his jacket. He was grateful that they had a fire and extra blankets, but it was times like these when he wished the place at least had central heating, and a better door. “Hey.” Lips glanced up. His partner Zoot stuck his head out of the blankets, complete with two woollen hats and a pair of pink earmuffs. Despite still wearing his signature shades, it was obvious that he was concerned. Zoot set down his drink and shuffled over, opening the cocoon of blankets. Taking the invitation, Lips also put down his mug and curled in, wrapping his arms around Zoot. He felt the blankets fall over his body and the drafts disappeared. “Better?” He rested his head on his shoulders and scuffled in closer, soaking every bit of body heat. “Much.” Zoot chuckled softly and kissed his forehead. “Good.” The skin tingled where Zoot kissed him, the feeling travelling inside him and down to the pit of his stomach. Lips sighed quietly and closed his eyes. It was pure bliss. He initially wasn't sure if a couple of nights in his grandmother’s old cabin was a good idea. There was no electricity or heating and a limited phone signal. Winter was always harsh in these areas and it was likely that if something went wrong, they'd have little chance of contacting the outside world, never mind getting out. But now, being this close to his partner made it all definitely worth it. It was what he wanted after the hustle of Christmas and Hanukkah as well. With the pair of them spending time with either Zoot’s family or the Muppets, celebrating two major holidays, it had been a miracle when they had so much as a millisecond of alone time. Lips looked up to Zoot's face. He wasn't shivering anymore and was near the verge of falling asleep. “Zoot?” He jerked in surprise, as if he'd been poked awake. “Huh, wha-?” Lips chortled and kissed him lightly. “Calm down. It's only me.” “Oh, yeah,” said Zoot, sporting a goofy grin from the kiss. He then rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Something wrong?” Lips shook his head. “No, everything’s fine. It’s just…” He paused, smiling a little. “I’m really glad we did this.” “Mmm, accommodation could be better,” Zoot muttered into Lips’ hair. His hand squeezed Lips’ shoulder and rubbed his cheek against his head affectionately. “But, yeah. Me too. Just the two of us at last.” Lips hummed happily in agreement. He shifted, seeking out Zoot’s mouth again. However, he was clumsy and they knocked heads painfully instead, making them both giggle stupidly like two idiot teenagers trying to figure this out for the first time. “Sorry,” Lips exclaimed, shaking with laughter and rubbing Zoot’s head. Zoot only smirked. “You dork,” he said and kissed him before Lips could protest. Lips sighed into the kiss, melting against Zoot and returning the favour with much gratitude. Pretty soon, they were so caught up that neither of them heard the very low rumble of an engine. The door rattled suddenly, the sound sharp enough to make the pair break off in fright. “What was that?” Lips asked breathlessly. Zoot tensed next to him, presumably waiting for another sound. But all that was heard was the howling of the wind and crackling of the fire. “Ah, you just imagined it,” Zoot grumbled dismissively. He pulled Lips closer again. “Now, c’mere you-” BANG BANG BANG! This time there was absolutely no mistaking it. People were at the door, out here in the wintery wilderness. And judging by the frantic yelling of what was most likely a certain percussionist, it was people they knew. Zoot groaned, looking like he wanted to bang his head on the nearest surface. “Of all the times and places…” “Open up! It’s the Police of Rock’n’Roll!” came Dr. Teeth’s gruff voice. “Yeah, you’re, like, totally under arrest for abandoning us close to New Year’s!” they heard Janice giggle. “C’mon, man! Let us in!” Floyd complained. “We’re freezing our butts off out here!” “BUTTS OFF! BUTTS OFF!” Lips sighed, slightly dejected, and pried himself away from the warmth of the blanket cocoon. “Better let them in,” he muttered, giving Zoot an apologetic look. It never seemed to fail. Even when Lips had a moment alone to himself, some sort of craziness always managed to reel him right back in. But the rest of the Electric Mayhem coming all the way out here to be with them was a new one. In the back of his mind, Lips couldn’t help but think that they would have done this even if they had known of the true nature of his and Zoot’s relationship. Lips unlocked the door before quickly stepping to the side as it flung open (partially from the outside wind), greeting his bandmates with a small smile before Animal barrelled in past him to warm himself up in front of the fireplace. Floyd came in with his usual cackle. “Sorry, man!” he yelled over the strong winds, giving Lips a hard pat on the back. “He’s been a little cranky since the snow storm began!” “Not like that’s ever, like, stopped us before!” Janice said behind him. She greeted Lips with a much gentler kiss on his cheek before following Floyd. Finally, the ever zealous and expansive Dr. Teeth strolled in, rolling in Animal’s drums with his keyboard slung over his shoulder. “Movin’ and groovin’, that’s what keeps us going!” he added, grinning. Lips looked out the door. Everything outside had turned practically white and it was still snowing, some of it blowing right into the cabin. “You drove the bus out here in this weather?!” “Naw, man!” replied Dr. Teeth, shutting the door before the cabin could be filled with snow. “We used the Highlander! Man, that car is good! Glad they let us keep it!” “Err, not that I’m not happy to see you or anything,” Zoot began as he slowly emerged from his blankets. “But, what are you guys doing here?” “Aw, c’mon! We ain’t gonna let you two be out here alone!” Floyd said, flinging his bass case carelessly into the only bedroom. An almighty crash followed, making Lips flinch. “Yeah, like, we rully figured you needed some company, fer sure!” Janice said, tossing her own guitar case to Floyd. The band formed a line down the cabin, a rehearsed arrangement they practiced several times when unloading their things. What had been peace just a few minutes ago was now replaced with an orderly chaos of casual teamwork and flying amps and instruments. Most of which, Lips noted, were electric. “You do realise there’s-AH!-no electricity in here, right?” he said, narrowly avoiding an acoustic guitar. Janice pouted in disappointment, holding up her iPhone as she single-handedly caught and tossed an amp cord. “Oh, bummer! Like no signal too,” she sighed. “Hey, why’d you choose such a square place to stay,” Floyd complained, wrinkling his nose at the woodwork as if it offended him. “I can’t plug my bass in anywhere!” Lips frowned at him, ducking out of the way as Dr. Teeth’s keyboard flew passed him. Didn’t he hear what he just said? Then- “ALLEY-OOP!” All that Lips could manage to do was let out a startled cry before he was knocked to the floor, trapped underneath Animal’s bass drum. He barely sat back up before a cymbal crashed onto the top of his head, making him fall back on his backside and dazedly look up at the shapes of his bandmates. He only just made out the echos of Zoot’s voice. “Animal! Be careful!” “SORRR-RRY!” The percussion equipment was soon taken off of him and stored away, and Lips soon found himself being pulled to his feet, his vision still a bit disoriented and his body, by some sort of miracle, not feeling as sore as it should have been. He must’ve built some sort of unknown tolerance to pain. Lips thanked Dr. Teeth and Zoot for helping him up before propping himself up against the back of the couch. For Floyd, of course, this kind of thing wasn’t anything new as he didn’t seem to acknowledge what had happened. “Hey, Doc? You bring two acoustics wit’ ya? Me and Jan can’t use our axes in this place.” Dr. Teeth tutted mockingly. “All these years and I teach you kids nuttin’! This is why I have battery power in mine." He then snapped his fingers. "Oo! That reminds me! Janice!” At that command, Janice flung two cases to Teeth who then, with a quick warning of, “Heads up!” passed them to Zoot and Lips. This time, Lips was ready to catch it. “My trumpet?” Lips asked, cradling the case. He and Zoot had deliberately left their respective horns behind, not really thinking they would need them so much out here. “What else, baby?” Dr. Teeth answered, stretching himself on the couch, right where Zoot had been just minutes ago. “Might not be the same without the amps, but just cos there’s no power don’t mean we can’t have our sweet electric sound!” “YA! E-LEC-TRIC SOUND!” Animal repeated, back to being curled up by the fire. “Fer sure,” Janice agreed, taking the other side of the couch with Floyd. Floyd groaned, rubbing his eyes tiredly. “Later, man,” he said, looking more beat out than Zoot usually did. “Driving a thousand miles in four feet of snow can really get to a guy!” Zoot looked back and forth between Lips and the band confused, a little habit Lips found quite endearing of the saxophonist. "Wait! I don't understand," he said. "We never said where we were. How did you find us?" "You never said anything, period," Teeth replied, thumping his snow covered boots on the table. He then leaned back with the back of his hand pressed against his forehead, mimicking a dramatic damsel. "Left without a word, abandoned poor little old me! How could you?!" "Lay off, man," Floyd chastised, but he smirked. He then added to Zoot, "Nah, but ya did leave a note. From then on, it was just a matter of trying to figure out which cabin in the woods in North Dakota you meant." "Fer sure. Like, who knew so many of them were owned by angry old ladies with shotguns!" Lips couldn’t help but smile a little at that. That sounded a lot like Grandma, God rest her soul. "Note?" Zoot asked incredulously. "I didn't leave any-" He cut himself off with a look realisation, then turned his head to what was probably an accusing glare at Lips. He bit his bottom lip. Well, they couldn't exactly just disappear without an explanation, even though it wasn't the...entire truth. It wasn't as though he deliberately invited them over. Finally, he sighed. They were here now and that was that. What else could he do? “Alright, who wants hot chocolate?” After managing to get Animal away with an extra bag of chips, Lips was soon heating up the milk over the fire as the rest of the band chatted away behind him. He tried to ignore the itching feeling of Zoot's glare burning on his back. As he silently prepared the four other hot chocolates, all Lips could do was wonder why. Why did the rest of the band have to do this? He knew their intentions were good, but at the same time, he and Zoot were looking forward to their time alone. Now with them here, it’d be next to impossible to do anything, especially given the fact that neither he or Zoot were ready to flat out tell them that this was supposed to be somewhat of a romantic getaway for just the two of them. Who knew when someone would just pop up next to him? “Hey, like, need any help?” Like right then. Lips turned to see Janice kneeling beside him. “Sure.” He moved over to give her some room, and soon drinks were being prepared faster. “I just wanted to say thanks for letting us stay with you guys,” the guitarist went on, a smile on her face. “I mean like, it was rully short notice, but all the rest of us rully thought that, you know, you two needed the company, so we all headed out here. But I kind of wish it wasn’t so…” “Crowded?” “Cold. Like, in here, at least.” She paused. “You got any cinnamon?” “Storage closet. You can’t miss it.” Once he was done with everyone else’s drinks, Lips handed them out then sat on the floor by Floyd’s feet. Everyone began speaking about music and work and the occasional hint at Janice's private life was made. Lips only added his own input when addressed. Zoot, on the other hand, sat on the arm of the couch and said nothing, shivering and visibly grumpy. "Aw now don't look so glum, chum!" Dr. Teeth, whom he was sitting closest to, said. Zoot only responded with a grunt, shifting to turn away a bit from the rest of the group. “Geez, what’s eating him?” Floyd said to Lips. “Haven’t seen him this grumpy since Woodstock.” Lips shrugged, feigning ignorance on the whole ordeal. Deep down, however, he had a feeling that he knew exactly what was on Zoot’s mind. Dr. Teeth stroked his beard in thought, humming for a moment before it appeared that he had an idea. “Hey! I think I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what prescription our blues-stricken friend needs to truly be in his own groove again!” The rest of the band members turned their heads to stare at the keyboardist in confusion. “Uh, might wanna rephrase that in English.” Teeth responded with a golden grin. “How’s about we set up an impromptu jam session in here?” “Hey, now there’s an idea!” “Did you rully even have to ask?” “JAM JAM! JAM JAM!” Zoot slumped over more as the rest of the band left the couch to get the equipment, propping his head up in his hands. Lips tried his hardest to hold back a laugh at his reaction, but it still slipped out anyway before he covered his mouth in response to the second glare he received that day. He tried to plead with Zoot with a look to at least humor them. And besides, at least they were getting to play music. Finally, the saxophonist sighed, defeat written on his face as he hopped off the couch to get his own instrument. A small smile formed on the trumpet player’s lips as he followed suit. Now all that was left to do was convince himself that this was a good idea, given everything else that happened. Soon, a drumset was set up, guitars were tuned up and the brass were assembled. Dr. Teeth cracked his fingers, ready over his keyboard. "Alright! Let's get this going! Two, three, four!" Animal sounded out a decent beat on the drums, and pretty soon the rest of the band started to get lost in the music of the moment. Throughout his time with the Electric Mayhem, Lips had learned a thing or two about jam sessions. One was that, given that every single band member was up for it, time would be filled with a jam session to make the time pass by faster. The second thing was that it was easy to lose track of time in a jam session, especially if given an unlimited amount of time. After what seemed like hours of playing (which was most likely literal hours of playing), the bass line had dropped out. It was soon followed by the keyboards being silent, then Dr. Teeth telling the rest of the band to cool it. The remaining instruments trickled out until all that was left sounding was a cymbal. “Hey, why’d we stop?” a confused Zoot asked, lowering the mouthpiece of his saxophone in an attempt to focus between trying to catch his breath. Floyd motioned over to the drummer. “Feedin’ time.” Indeed, Animal had his jaws clamped around one of his cymbals, chewing away before the bassist told him to stop. Exhausted, Lips slumped back and tried to catch whatever breath he still had in him without hurting his lungs. He hated to admit it, but playing an instrument that needed wind to make sound had its downsides at times. He could already tell that Zoot wasn’t about to get up from his spot. Quite frankly, Lips didn’t feel like moving either. He just wanted to get his breathing in check for the time being. Besides, at least Janice knew that there was food in the storage closet and was quick to tell the others about it. “My head feels dizzy,” Zoot weakly muttered out, holding his head with one hand while his sax lay across his lap. Lips grunted in agreement, his own head feeling the same way. “And not the good kind,” he mumbled back. "Food, guys!" Janice called, her arms full of all sorts of random cans and jars. "Let's see...um, we got spam and chicken and sardines and whoa, I don't know what that is! Looks weird, fer sure." "I'll take it! Throw it over here!" "Hey Animal! Go long!" "GO LONG! GO LONG!" Lips was only just aware of what was going on, too tried to do or say anything as the food he stocked up on flew in various directions around him. “Guys, guys! Like, I need to cook these first,” Janice cried in a fit of giggles. If Lips didn’t feel like being silent to the world at that moment, he would’ve gotten up and helped Janice fix the food. After all, she had helped him with the hot chocolate earlier. Floyd beat him to the pinch, however, and Lips was honestly glad that he did, mainly because he felt like even if he could stand up, his legs wouldn’t move. “Hey.” Lips didn’t need to look to know it was Zoot speaking very quietly to him. “Hey.” “How you feeling?” “Terrible. You?” “Worse, I bet. Haven’t jammed out this hard since Woodstock.” Lips chuckled a little. “You’re gonna have to tell me about that one day.” “Mmm-hmm.” “Hey, what’s the matter?” Floyd said, addressing them both. “Food’s almost ready. You two not hungry?” If looks could kill and sunglasses weren’t a thing, Zoot would probably have killed Floyd solely by the look he was giving him. After all, there were only a few times when the sax player was visibly angry. “We… need… to breathe, man!” “BREATHE! BREATHE!” Animal inhaled sharply, holding his breath until his face turned in various colours and shades. He shook, the chains rattling, and then hit the floor with a loud thump, passed out. “Not again,” the bassist groaned, shaking his head. After a somewhat interesting meal (Lips can't really admit to trying spam mixed with sardines before), every went back to conversating around the fire again. But despite getting his breath back to normal, Lips still felt horribly drowsy. Soon the conversation became blurrier and blurrier. Lips felt himself slump over a bit, trying his best to grasp whatever it was that whoever was speaking was saying, but it wasn’t working out. Things became a bit darker, exhaustion washing over him before- “Lips! Hey, wake up, man!” The trumpet player jolted himself awake and looked at his bandmates, who were staring back at him. Even Zoot was giving him an odd look. “Hmm? What happened?” “You, like, totally almost fell asleep on us,” Janice answered with a concerned look. As Lips rubbed his eyes, Floyd nodded and added “Almost called you Zoot for a minute there, actually.” “What, the closest of amigos can’t pick up on each others habits after a while?” Teeth joked with a good laugh. Zoot just continued to glance between everyone else in confusion after the laughter started. “Uh, yeah.” He didn’t know how to respond to this, and neither did Lips. Lips stifled a yawn. “Sorry. Just tired is all.” Dr. Teeth stretched, his arms extending to the mantelpiece. "Yep. I could use a few Zs myself now." "Hm, bed does sound like a good idea," Floyd softly purred, giving Janice a smouldering look. Lips looked away shyly, always feeling that he was imposing when the couple flirted in public. "Er, 'fraid there's only one bedroom, so unless-" "Dibs!" Both guitarists yelled suddenly, and with a great whoosh and the bedroom door slamming shut, they were gone before Lips could even blink. Dr. Teeth shook his head dismissively. "Kids, the pair of them," he said with some hidden affection. He then lay back on the couch, now that there was room to do so, and kicked off his boots. "Hey, you mind if I crash on this for tonight? Back's acting up again." "Help yourself," Zoot muttered with a hint of resignation in his voice before Lips could even get a word out. The trumpeter was quick to give him a startled look, hoping that Dr. Teeth didn't catch on to the tone in Zoot's voice. Animal was already curled up by the fire again. A silent agreement was reached via a quick glance, and neither Lips or Zoot said a word to the drummer. Two separate pallets were soon made on the floor, using some of the blankets that weren’t already in use. Goodnights were then quietly exchanged between the four in the living room (Animal grunted out something or other before turning back to the fire), and soon everyone seemed to be set to fall asleep. However, for what felt like hours, sleep didn’t seem to want to come easily for Lips. His mind was wide awake as he found himself staring at the ceiling of the cabin, long after the fire had started to dim. With all that had been happening in the hours prior to the rest of the band finally deciding to take a break for the night, he had almost expected for some other unexpected person or group to show up. Worst case scenario, the rest of the Muppets would show up and there would be a near repeat of what happened at Fozzie’s mother’s house that one winter. Fortunately, it seemed as if it was just the band that wanted to brave this chilled night air creeping into the cabin. Lips’ mind had wandered off, trying his hardest not to imagine having to relive that particular holiday season, when his arm was given a nudge. He turned his head to see a very exhausted Zoot sitting next to him, a blanket drooping around him like a cape. “Hey,” Zoot whispered, his voice somehow sounding a bit more tired than what it usually was. It was apparent that he hadn’t been expecting for Lips to react as soon as he had. “Hey.” Lips rolled onto his stomach and looked up at him, trying his best to keep any sort of noise to a minimum. “How long you’ve been awake?” “Haven’t slept yet, really,” Zoot admitted, his head turning a bit to the sides to look around. “Same here.” The couple shared a silent glance between them before Lips stood up, gathering up his own blanket and pillow and motioning for Zoot to follow him. It felt weird to having to resort to sneaking off during what was supposed to be their weekend alone together, but it seemed as if the two would have done the same thing as soon as got back home anyway. The only other significant room other than the living area and the bedroom was the storage closet. It was a long and narrow room with wooden shelves of canned food on both sides. It was only wide enough for one person to walk through, but also just enough for two muppets to squeeze into side by side. Lips took Zoot’s hand and led him in, quietly shutting the door behind them. A terrible mistake, now he realised, as it blocked out the firelight and turned pitch black, the glow only visible through the cracks. “Hey, where’d you go?” Lips sighed. “Sorry, sorry. Forgot there was no light in here.” He felt around for the doorknob and gave it a good turn. And another turn. And another. When nothing happened, he tried jiggling it to get it to open, but it wouldn’t budge. Zoot’s hand brushed against his before he started jiggling the doorknob as well, but it was all to no avail. “Don’t tell me,” Zoot started quietly. In the near-darkness, Lips sank back to where he had been. “Yep. We’re stuck.” He knew that the cabin needed improvements, but who would make it so you couldn’t get out of the storage closet from the inside? Well, at least they knew for sure they would have complete privacy. “C’mon," Lips said, tugging Zoot's hand again. "Let’s set up the blankets.” “Uh, where?” “Just drop them on the floor.” “Right, uh, I’ll just-” “Wait, wait! Zoot don’t push!” “Oof! Ah, sorry.” “Ok, hold on. Turn to your left-” “Ow! Watch your elbow!” “No, your other left.” “Wait, your knee is on my kidney!” “Stop squirming! You’re making it worse!” “I’m just trying to put the blankets down like you told me!” “Just drop them!” “I can’t! You’re-” “No, no, no don’t-” Too late. One wrong movement later, Lips was truly stuck, squashed between the cold, hard shelves digging into his ribs and Zoot’s warm and far too uncomfortably close body against his back. “This must be either the best or worst idea we’ve ever had,” he heard Zoot say in a dry and bitter tone. Lips grunted in frustration and then successfully wriggled himself free. “Give me those!” he snapped, snatching the blankets and pillows from Zoot. He set them down on the floor angrily then lay down, curled in with the blankets tightly around him. Typical. This was just absolutely typical. After sneaking around at work and home for far too long, they finally get their one weekend to themselves and now they couldn’t even have that. Now, here he was, locked in the storage room of his own stupid grandmother’s cabin in the middle of winter while his stupid, hogging, uninvited friends took up his bed and his couch, disrupting his peace. What did he ever do to deserve this?! Lips nearly jumped out of his skin when the blankets moved and an arm tentatively touched his side. “Hey,” Zoot whispered gently in his ear. “Are you okay?” “Yes,” Lips grunted. But then he gave up and relaxed a little, only just realising how tense he was. “No.” Turning onto his other side, he shuffled into Zoot’s arms and rested his head just beneath his chin. It was almost exactly where they had left off before the band came crashing in. Only Lips wasn’t feeling so blissful. “I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice. “I’m just-really-you know...” “Shhh. It’s okay. I understand,” Zoot replied, rubbing his back comfortingly. They lay together in silence for a long time, neither really in the mood for sleep or anything else quite yet. Lips didn’t mind. All that mattered now was that it was quiet and he was in Zoot’s arms, content, warm and safe. Just what he always wanted. “We’ll go somewhere else next time,” he whispered, almost ready to drop off. “I promise.” Zoot didn’t say anything at first and Lips briefly wondered if he had fallen asleep after all. Then he mumbled, “I’ve always wanted to go to Rio.” Through the darkness, Lips gave him an incredulous look. “Really?” he asked, intrigued. Zoot shrugged. “Well, I hear Carnival is soon. It might be fun, just the two of us-” “I didn’t know you liked Samba.” “I have a...thing for it.” “You just want an excuse to wear that Las Vegas outfit again, don’t you?” “Hey, that was one photoshoot. Of course I wanna wear it again.” Lips laughed lightly and kissed Zoot’s forehead. “Now who’s the dork?” The pair of them sniggered and cuddled closer, the blissfulness from before back again. If only they could be like this more often instead of hiding from everyone. If only they could just… “Besides,” Zoot added, bringing Lips out of his thoughts. “It may not be perfect here, but it has it’s charm.” Lips hummed thoughtfully. “Yeah. But if I ever win the lottery, it’s getting a makeover. New doors, electricity, more rooms, extra bedrooms-” “A recording booth,” Zoot said, wistfully. Lips snorted in amusement. “If you like.” He ran a hand up Zoot’s chest. “Only if you want to live here.” “Wha- what are you talking about?” Zoot faltered and Lips knew he was blushing from the way he stiffened. “You know,” Lips teased, not trying to hide his grin. “Settle down, start a family…” “Whoa, slow down there.” He began to sing softly, enjoying Zoot’s reaction far too much. “Have a mini-you and a mini-me.” “Cut that out,” Zoot hissed but that only made Lips laugh again. “And quiet that noise too, unless you want to wake the others.” Lips calmed down at that point, feeling light and fluttery in the stomach. He closed his eyes, exhaustion taking over him slowly and pleasantly. “I’m kidding,” he yawned. “Just you is enough for me.” He felt Zoot huff against his forehead, his hands petting through his hair. “Thanks. You’re enough for me too, floofyhead.” Lips only murmured in reply, finally falling into a deep, warm and tranquil slumber, the sounds of the winds and Zoot’s breathing lulling him to sleep. - The air was cold when Lips slowly woke up, which was probably why he wasn’t so keen to get up right away, especially since his own personal body warmer was still snoring beside him. He wasn’t sure what it was that woke him up, but for some odd reason, he could have sworn that he had heard the rest of the band calling for him and Zoot. Groggily, Lips let out a weak groan, not even bothering to open his eyes as he mumbled a “Five more minutes” before shifting a bit and burying his face into Zoot’s shoulder. The once-sleeping form below him began to stir, startled a bit by the sudden movement. A sudden blinding light flooding into the room soon woke the pair of them up, if they weren’t awake already. Dazed, Lips raised his head to the best of his abilities, just in time to see a silhouette through the light. A silhouette of a familiar bass player, blinking back at them with a befuddled look. “Oh.” Floyd said, awkwardly. “Ah… I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” Zoot shot up so fast that Lips fell back a little at the sudden loss of leverage. “Ah-uh-morning!” he stammered, rearranging his crumpled clothes, clearly flushed. But Floyd only laughed at this reaction. “Ah, cool it man. I’m only raggin’ wi’ ya!” Part of Lips had been hanging on to the idea that most of the previous day’s events had been one terrible dream, even if it was just to make himself feel better about the situation. But as always, reality proved itself to be stranger than almost any dream, and probably just as unrealistic in expectations. “How long have you been up?” Lips asked, trying to stand up himself. “Only about five minutes. Teeth just came into our room saying that you guys were missing.” Zoot gulped. "Well, er, not missing anymore right?" "Oh, we can positively see that now!" Dr. Teeth said, poking his head around the doorway. "Don’t do that! You had me sweating like a sinner in a church!" He then eyed the two suspiciously. "So? The closet, huh?" Lips was about to speak but Zoot hastily beat him to it. "It's warmer in here! And cozy!" Floyd snorted. "Obviously. I found 'em snuggled up like little blue and yellow ducklings!" "Really?" Dr. Teeth exclaimed and Lips could feel all the blood rush to his cheeks. The Good Doc had that glint in his eye again, a glint he was always worried about. "Might I be so bold as to question why?" Just then, as if some higher being took pity on Lips, Janice appeared between the Floyd and Teeth and the topic was momentarily forgotten. "Oh, hey! You, like, totally found them!" she said, smiling and then took a step forward. "Oo, just as well too. I was gonna get some more cinnamon anyway!" "No, don't-" Lips managed to yell but, again, it was too late. She pushed between the two and, due to the lack of space, didn’t get much further. “Ow! What are you doing?!” “Hey, could you, like, move a bit?!” “I can’t! No, go backwards!” “Jan, your hand is on my face!” “Like, sorry! Let me just-” “Wait, no!” “Oh, bummer! This is not my scene!” For the second time this weekend, Lips was crushed against the shelves but with an extra body this time, it was absolutely impossible to free himself; never mind the extra awkwardness. To his ever increasing embarrassment, Teeth and Floyd doubled over in laughter at their current predicament. Oh, they were never going to hear the end this one for a long time. He just knew it. “Look at that!” Floyd said. “I’ve heard of Stuckists, but this is ridiculous!” And so it begins. Janice huffed, sandwiched between Zoot and Lips with her hand still on Lips’ face. “Floyd! Now is rully not the time for that!” “Yeah, either of you can give us a hand right about now.” Lips said, his voice somewhat muffled. Dr. Teeth raised his hands, as if about to applause. “Don’t!” Zoot snapped. His hands stopped before they even had a chance to clap, his expression innocent. “Who, me? Wouldn’t think of it.” “Alright, alright. No more jokes. Here, Jan. Give me your hand. We’ll try an’ pull you out.” Before Lips could protest, Janice reached out, forcing her shoulder to press against his cheekbone; at least one jar was knocked down while doing so. Due to this, he couldn't turn his head anymore, but from the corner of his eye, he saw Floyd grab on to Janice's hand while Dr. Teeth held him by the waist behind him. They pulled. And pulled. But none of the people trapped in the storage closet, including himself, seemed to budge. “Jeez, you really are stuck. Hold on. Animal! Animal! C’mere buddy! We need your freaky strength!” Oh, no. Oh no, no, no, no, no. Sure enough, the rattling of a chain and grunts of the drummer followed, then paused at the doorway. “WHAT THE?” “Don’t ask. Listen, you take the back end and pull as hard as you can. On my count, okay?” “ERRM, OKAY!” If Lips had been filled with dread before, now he was overflowing and spilling over the top with it. No, this was not going to end well at all. They pulled again, much harder this time with Animal. Lips was squished so hard he felt his head would pop at any moment. "Stopstopstop!" he gasped desperately and the tugging stopped. "Sorry, man," said Floyd. “Okay, maybe if we-” “ONE, TWO, PULL!” Before anyone could voice an argument, Animal gave an all powerful tug; everything was a blur and then Lips was flying, he hit something, crashed to the ground; there was yelling then- "OOF!" All the breath quashed out of him as four unmistakable bodies piled on him. There was a mixture of groans and complaints, until Janice squawked, "Oh no! Where's Lips?" "I'll give you three guesses," he grumbled. There was a mad scramble until all the weight vanished and hands were lifting him to his feet. He glanced briefly at Animal, who was looking very smug with himself. “GOT ‘EM OUT! AHAHA!” the drummer proudly proclaimed, a big grin on his face. Lips could’ve sworn that even through the shades, Zoot was giving Animal an annoyed glare. Floyd grunted, rubbing at his ribs and patting Animal on the head. "Yeah, you sure did, buddy," he wheezed. "But if this ever happens again, you wait on my mark, 'kay?" “It won’t.” Realising that he had answered a bit too quickly, Lips shifted his gaze to the floor before repeating, “It won’t happen again.” Janice gave him a curious look. “What won’t happen again?” “Didn’t you see? They snuck away in the closet while we were away with the Sandman,” Dr. Teeth said. “WHA?” Animal said, tilting his head in confusion. “WHY THERE?” Lips watched as, in perfect synchronization, the band paused and four pairs of eyes turned suspiciously towards him and Zoot. Almost immediately, Zoot started to sputter out some sort of answer, his face turning in various shades of red. “I...erm...ah...well...uh...y’see-” Lips breathed through his nose noisily. The eventual answer will most likely come about in a much longer time than he was willing to wait at that moment. With that thought in his head, Lips grabbed Zoot’s hand, making a show of lacing their fingers together. He wasn’t even sure that he was fully aware of what he had done, but he still held his hand, only moving his head to glance at him. Zoot returned the look and they both smiled. At that moment, he didn’t particularly care that the rest of the Electric Mayhem were there in front of them. He was tired of both of them having to hide every day for the past four years. Enough was enough. "You guys," he heard Janice breathe. There was a pause in which the rest of the band looked at them with equal dumbfounded expressions, not even broken when Animal tilted his head so far that he fell over. Then Janice let out a piercing squeal of delight and next thing Lips knew, his neck was being crushed by a surprising powerful group hug from the blonde. "Oh my gosh, you guys! You guys! Oh I'm soooo totally happy for you two! Like, oh gosh, you guys!" "Can't breathe," Zoot choked, prompting her to let go. "Oh, sorry! I'm just... Oh wow! Honey, can you, like, believe it!" "I see it, I believe it." Floyd replied, grinning. He took Zoot's hand into a firm handshake. "Hey, congratulations, man! We were only jokin’ earlier but it’s 'bout time you got your own squeeze!" "Most exhilarating news!" Dr. Teeth exclaimed, clapping Lips on the back. He then wiggled his brows suggestively. "Though very unforeseen. Just how long have you two been hiding in closets for your own private jam sessions?" Zoot's earlier flustering came back in full rushing force. “It-it wasn’t like that!” “Yeah,” Lips agreed. “It was only sometimes like that.” Everyone save for Zoot, who only pulled his hat over his head in embarrassment, roared with laughter. Even Lips couldn’t find himself to blush over his own statement. He was too relieved to have finally come out after all this time to care. Dr. Teeth wiped a tear from his eye, still chuckling. “Nah, I’m serious though. How long you two been dating behind our backs? Can’t imagine you guys pulling this off for thirty years.” “Well,” Lips said, slowly. “You remember the final shooting of our last movie? Not Most Wanted, the other one with...uh, oh, what’s-his-name from that stupid sitcom.” Janice gasped. “You mean...you guys have been together for three whole years!?” “More like four,” Zoot muttered into his hat. “What?" Floyd said, gaping at them. "That long? Dude, why didn’t you say something earlier?” Zoot lifted his hat long enough to answer Floyd. “You honestly expect us, out of everyone we know, to speak up about anything?” The bassist seemed to think about this. "Alright, point taken, but we're your friends! You couldn't trust us with this kinda thing?" "Upupupupup! Floyd, that was their decision to make," Dr. Teeth remarked, his tone unexpectedly serious. "Besides, I don't blame them. The world still considers this to be a mammoth thing and not exactly in a good way." "Oh, wow, you're right," Janice said. She cast a worried look to Lips and Zoot. "Like, did anyone give any beef over this?" Lips only shrugged. "When we were out together in public, we were always careful. No one really seemed to see us as like a couple." Floyd snorted. "Including us. But naw, in all seriousness, if anyone does give you any beef, just give me a holler and I'll set Animal on them. Right buddy?" "BAD MAN!" Animal growled, his hackles rising. "No, sweetie. There's no bad man here." "OH!" “So, um, I’m now, like, starting to see why you guys came out here alone,” Janice said, biting her lip. The other three had equally guilty expressions on, but Lips shook his head. “Doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just glad you accepted us like this,” he said. "We'll accept anyone who's into the cosmos of amplified harmonies and the realms of free artistic expression," said Dr. Teeth, and then he held out his arms. "Now, get in here, all of y'all! I feel group-huggy now!" Everyone chortled and welcomed the Doc's long arms encircling them all, except for Animal who was already bored and starting to gnaw at the couch. Lips ignored him, feeling safe in the embrace. Especially since his hand was still clasped to Zoot's. "But really," he added, muffled against Janice's fur coat, "get out of my house." - Eventually, the last instrument was stored away neatly in the Highlander after the usually packing anarchy. The weather outside was still frightfully cold, but the blizzard from the night before had long died down, letting the sun shine upon the glittering snow. Dr. Teeth dusted his hands. "You sure you won't tell the others yourselves when y'all get back?" he asked them. "Definitely," said Zoot. "Saves a lot of time for us if you just did that yourselves," Lips added, smiling. "Alright. Who am I to pass judgement?" The Good Doc then leaned in toward Lips and whispered, "In all seriousness though, I'm just glad you didn't pull a Floyd-and-Janice when they hooked up. Man, that was embarrassing. Even worse than Woodstock." Lips raised an eyebrow curiously. After all his years with the band, there were still things they never told him. "What are you telling him?" Zoot asked suspiciously and Dr. Teeth straightened up again. "Just yo' favourite records, of course!" There was muffled panting as Animal passed by, and Lips noticed with a start that he had a familiar piece of cushioning in his mouth. Animal must have noticed this as well, because his now-widened eyes were staring back at him. Stuffing dropped from his mouth as the drummer asked, “AH?” “Uh, keep it,” Lips awkwardly answered. He just hoped that Animal didn’t bite that off of any portion of the couch that anyone could sit on. "Don't worry, we'll getcha a new one," Floyd assured him. "Think of it as a coming out gift to you from us." "Fer sure," Janice said, nodding. She gave the two one last, less crushing hug. "Like, you guys are gonna be ok, right?" Zoot shrugged. "Ah, it's just one more day. We can survive." Lips smiled and nodded in agreement. At this point, all he could hope for was that the rest of the band would explain his and Zoot’s situation in the best way possible. Still, there was a sort of nagging feeling in the back of his mind that seemed to say that no matter how they explained it, some of the other Muppets wouldn’t let either of them hear the end of it for a while after they came back. Everyone said their goodbyes and more hugs and kisses were exchanged (including a big slobbery one from Animal) before Dr. Teeth started the engine. As the Highlander drove around the corner and disappeared from sight, honking as it went with Animal sticking his head through the sunroof, he heard Zoot sigh next to him. “That felt good.” “Hmm?” “Finally coming out, man. I wish we did that years ago.” Lips took Zoot’s hand gently. "I think there's plenty things we should have done years ago." Zoot smiled and pressed his forehead against Lips'. "Yeah." They stood like this for a time, just enjoying the quiet presence of each other, their foggy breath mingling in the cold air. Then Zoot broke the ice. "My toes are getting cold." Lips glanced down at his feet. "Well, you are wearing sandals." "I don't have no other shoes." The trumpeter sighed and led Zoot back inside. "Come on. I'll warm them up for you." The door closed behind them, bringing with it both warmth and a sense of ease that Lips realized he hadn’t felt in a while. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted off of him, and it honestly felt great. No matter what would happen later on down the line, all seemed right with the world in that moment.