Absolute Horizons

Act 2

They’re an hour before the planned departure time, and John (who finished packing ages ago) is relaxing on the couch. Matt’s somewhere in the background keeping up a steady commentary on his activities, so John relaxes while he watches tv for traffic updates. 

“I don’t think my bag is big enough – well, it’s big enough for a change of clothes, yeah, but the Golla’s only just big enough for my laptop and I don’t want a third one for my other stuff, just give me a minute, okay?” 

John feels surprisingly calm. Maybe the enormity of it hasn’t kicked in yet, but John figures that that’s a good thing. As he waits, he chooses to focus on the fact that this is just another road trip with Matt, except this time no one’s injured and bleeding. 

“Do you have something with wheels?” Matt asks, still walking around noisily. “Never mind, stay where you are, I’ll just – I’ll just… Why are you even watching traffic updates? It’s three in the fucking a.m.” 

“It helps to be prepared,” John says. And because he doesn’t want to jinx it, he doesn’t add that holidays leave him on edge. “Go finish packing.” 

“I’m not the one who just decided to leave before the crack of dawn, smartass,” Matt says. “I wanted to go after the sun came up.” 

“When you see what the roads look like after the sun does come up, you’ll thank me, Matt,” John says. “Now go pack.” 

“Packing, packing,” Matt says. 

When was the last time John actually did something for Thanksgiving? He thinks back, eventually stumbling on a memory of that time with Jack. It had been mostly good and only just a little awkward, and John would’ve liked to do it again but then Jack had gone off to school in the middle of nowhere. 

“John?” Matt says, startling John. The tone is completely different, and it makes him look up.  


Matt is standing there, hands holding a box. “Is this—” 

“You want to put that back,” John sighs. It figures that Matt would find the lone item in the apartment he’s not supposed to see before the appropriate deadline. “Right where you found it.” 

“It’s not even December yet!” Matt says, grinning. “Can I open it? It can be my Thanksgiving present instead, then you can get me something else for Christmas and—” 

“Matt. You know how sometimes I tell you to do something and it’s really in your best interest to do it instead of arguing because the consequences will really be bad? This is one those times.” 

Matt’s smile goes a little wobbly. “I can’t believe you already got me something—” 


“Fine, fine.” He goes off and it’s all quiet until he returns ready and declares, “I’m armed.” 

Even with Matt’s new addition, they don’t have all that much stuff to get to the car. They make it down easy, and then John’s slamming the trunk shut and Matt is getting into the passenger seat, muttering softly to himself, “Here we go, yippee-ka-yay.” 

+ + + 

“Okay, here’s the plan,” Matt says once they’ve hit the Interstate. It’s still an ungodly hour, but there are other cars out there, not that John’s in any sort of rush.  

“That’d be something new,” John says. 

“I told my mom I’m bringing a friend, but I don’t think you’re what she’s expecting,” Matt says. 

“If she’s expecting someone like me, then there’s a whole other side of you I need to know about,” John says. 

“Yes, because I go around seducing middle-aged muscle men in all my free time.” There’s a tinge of tension in Matt’s voice that isn’t funny. “But she’s… Well, she’s my mom, I love her, but she’s… She’s a little… Okay, I have absolutely no fucking clue how she’s going to react.” 

“Do you have a story for how we met?” John asks.  

“At first I thought the truth would be nice,” Matt says, “But then I remembered we’re not allowed to share all the details so I figured I’d just sum up and say that my place got burned down, you saved my life, and poof – instant best friends.” 

“For the record, I would not believe that for a minute,” John says. 

“Let me do the talking, okay,” Matt says, and the edge in his voice is sharper, an alien thing that throws John off. “You just be yourself and she’ll be in love with you in an hour, tops, no problem.” 

“What?” John says. 

“Just do that thing, with the charm,” Matt says. “Just don’t push too hard, I don’t want her thinking the wrong thing because that would be really uncomfortable and deeply traumatic for me.” 

So that’s why John’s so calm about this. Matt’s doing all the freaking out for the both of them.  

“We don’t have to do this,” John says.  

“Excuse me?” Matt says. “Who’s the one who offered? There’s two of us in here and I don’t think it was me, so you just shut up and drive.” 

John blinks. 

Matt sighs. “Sorry.” 

“What I meant was,” John says, “I’m still gonna drive the whole way, but if by the time we get there, you think it’d be too much for me to be there, I’ll just go to a motel or something. No big deal. So we decide then, not right now.” 

“Oh, okay,” Matt says. “Okay.” 

The next mile goes by in silence until John says, “You think I’m charming?” 

“Oh, please, like you don’t know, you use it all the time,” Matt says. “It’s like getting out of a speeding ticket by flashing your cleavage.” 

John almost swerves. “What?” 

“It totally is,” Matt says. “Didn’t you know you’re supposed to use your superpowers for good?” 

“Just for that I’m turning on the radio,” John says, and he does. 

Matt doesn’t comment. When John briefly glances over, Matt’s eyes are closed and his expression is – well, not exactly relaxed, but it isn’t pinched, and that’s something at least. 

+ + + 

John is left to his own devices while Matt sleeps and the sun creeps into the sky. Lunch is still a long way off and they’re doing good time, so John isn’t even hitting the gas that hard.  

He’s in the middle of singing along to a John Lee Hooker song on the radio when he realizes that Matt’s awake. John inclines his head a little. “Breakfast?” 

“Yeah, okay,” Matt says, voice slightly coarse from sleep.  

John pulls over at the next stop and they step out of the car to eat their bagel stash under the sky.  

Matt’s watching John while they eat, not that this is something new. Matt’s right, there’s a lot of stuff rattling about in his head, and it never seems to stop – it just fluctuates in intensity and is right now at DEFCON 4. 

“What would you do if I told my mom about us?” Matt asks. 

“Not my call,” John says. 

“That’s not what I asked,” Matt says. “I asked what you would do if I chose to tell her.” 

John considers this. It’s a legitimate question, but John doesn’t know Matt’s mom. He has no mental image of her beyond the handful of mentions Matt’s made, and it’s a world away from the DEFCON 1 of Holly’s showing up. 

“I don’t know,” John says. “I’ll make it up as I go along.” 

Matt nods, and eats quietly for a while. 

John says, “I know you don’t like to talk about your family, but no family’s perfect. Just look at me, I’m the poster guy.” 

“It’s nothing like that,” Matt says. “My mom and I get along okay. It’s not difficult to talk about it, and I won’t break out in hives if I do. I just don’t want to talk about it with you.” 


“Shit, not like that,” Matt says, nervous laughter an undercurrent to the words. “What I mean is – it probably sounds stupid, but… John, you have grown-up kids.” 

“Ah,” John says, starting to get it. Stories of childhood make Matt feel his age; maybe the only thing that makes Matt feel self-conscious. “Yes, I noticed.” 

“Yeah,” Matt says.  

They’re in public, so there’s a near-foot of safe space between them where they’re leaning against the car.  

“And Lucy scares the shit out of me,” Matt says. 

“You should meet Jack,” John says. After a while of watching the cars go past, he adds, “For the record, I like it when you talk about your family. It’s part of who you are, and that makes it interesting. I thought you not telling me was something else.” 

“What, you find it interesting when I tell you stuff like how Joseph used to sell my things for lunch money?” Matt says. 

John chuckles. “Yeah, definitely.” 

“God, we’re so fucked up,” Matt says. 

“Amen,” John says. 

+ + + 

Now Matt’s wired and can’t sleep. He gets a headache after a couple of minutes staring at his palmtop, so that leaves one other alternative for passing the time, and it’s not road trip bingo. 

“Okay, so while I was sleeping I had this dream, right, and it gave me the idea.” 

“What idea?” 

“I’m going to write a book.” 

“What would this book be about?”  

“Well, you, obviously. We won’t have to market it as non-fiction, except that it’ll have that extra edge if we do but I don’t think we really can since I’m thinking most of it is classified, but I think that even if it’s placed under fiction, it has plenty of potential even if there’s the chance that people might find it too outrageous—”  

“No, Matt.”  

“—and the stuff you know, the stuff you’ve done, they’re legend! We’ll have to change the details, of course, but the heart of it, that’s what it’s all about – one guy standing against the odds but fate keeps pulling him in again and again, and it’ll be revolutionary—” 

No, Matt.”  

“—and I’ve already got the title! I’m gonna call it Old Habits. It’s perfect! How can you say it’s not perfect?” 

“Because you’d have to rewrite yourself as a hot blonde chick.” 

“No, I don’t.” 

“And you can’t write for shit, Matt. I’ve seen your stuff.” 

“Wait, what, when?” 

“Can’t walk anywhere for falling over it. Or maybe the pages just randomly flew out of your room when you weren’t looking.” 

“Give me a minute, busy being embarrassed right now. Also, what the fuck – you’re reading my stuff, who gave you permission to read my stuff?” 

“So sue me, I’ve got eyes, what am I gonna do, wander around the apartment with ‘em shut?” 

“You know what would be a good idea? We could walk around the apartment with no clothes on. That’d be a good idea. Save on laundry, too.” 

“Sure, if you’d like your dick to freeze off.” 

“Aha! So you are considering it, but only for the summer!” 

“I’m trying to drive, Matt.” 

+ + + 

“Okay, it’s just over three miles, coming up,” Matt says. He’s putting his palmtop to use by finding them a place to have lunch. John would’ve been happy just to stop wherever, but Matt’s having none of that and comparing the choices he can find on the internet. It shouldn’t make a difference, but because Matt’s insistent, John lets him. 

At Matt’s instructions, John pulls up to the stop. He comments that it looks just like any other place, because it does, but Matt ignores him and gets out of the car. John just follows. 

These places are always the same. The same seats, the same tables, the same disinterested coffee-pot wielding lady behind the counter. Matt makes himself comfortable in a corner booth at the farthest end from the door, and John settles into the seat opposite. 

They place their order, and it’s only after that that Matt rests his elbows on the table and looks at John with a clear agenda in his eyes. 

“What?” John asks. 

“Ground rules,” Matt says. “No sex in my mom’s house.” 

John jerks a little. He’d scoped the place and its relative sense of privacy the moment he’d walked in, but it’s still startling to hear the words in public. Matt sees John’s sudden discomfort and makes an elaborate show of looking around them (no, there’s no one close enough to hear what they’re saying) and then shrugs as if to say, so

“Gotcha,” John says. “No hanky panky.” 

“Yes, indeed,” Matt says. “So try to keep your hands to yourself, okay?” 

“I think I’ll manage,” John says, just barely refraining from rolling his eyes.  

“So that brings me to the second item of the day,” Matt says. “Since there will be no funny business in my mom’s house, we have to fuck right now.” 


“Right now,” Matt repeats. “If not we’ll be frustrated. You know what a dick you are when you’re frustrated, but then it’ll affect me, and I really don’t want to get sympathy asshole syndrome. So for the good of my relationship with my mom, we’ve got to have sex right now.” 

John looks at Matt, whose mild expression hasn’t changed. The waitress drops by with their coffee and greasy food, but even after she leaves John’s still looking at Matt in something that’s not quite a game of chicken, waiting to see who’ll blink first. John does, because he’s hungry, so he tucks down to eat. 

“You’ve never fantasized about doing it in a public men’s room?” Matt asks. 

“No.” John taps his chest with a fork. “Cop.” 

“I’ve never heard you sing before,” Matt says, and it’s that thing he does where he changes the topic without completely changing it. He’s also quite the multi-tasker, because he’s cutting his food, eating it and keeping John trapped in that familiar stare. “It’s kinda hot. You have a growly Springsteen thing going on.” 

John only realizes it some way in, but Matt is trying to seduce him. In Matt-speak, it means that he’s making squinty eyes at John and taking slow, deliberate bites of everything. It’s working, but not in the way Matt thinks it is. It’s because – and there’s no way to sugarcoat it – Matt looks stupid when he’s trying to be seductive. Matt looks ridiculous, the way he licks his spoon is ridiculous and the foot brushing against John’s calf is ridiculous.  

But this is one of those times where the thought really does count, and John can feel the slow burn of arousal working through his limbs, side by side with the inalienable desire to reach over and clock Matt for looking so damn stupid. 

Matt finishes his food first, his cutlery making a soft clatter when he sets them down on the table. Then he’s sipping his coffee and tapping his fingers on the wood grain. The toes are gone from where they had been pressing at John’s ankle, and now John’s ankle is lonely. 

“Okay, I’m going to go,” Matt says to his plate. “If you feel like joining, by all means.” 

Then he’s up and walking. 

John doesn’t watch him go, doesn’t do anything other than take another long swig of his own cup of coffee as he stares at the off-green color of the recently vacated space opposite him in the booth. 

John’s pretty sure he isn’t a pervert. He remembers what it was like to be young and hormonal, but that was a lifetime ago. Until just a couple of months ago he’d been content to sit on the backburner, only occasionally venturing out when the vice of the world got too tight. Paul likes to say that life begins at 40, but John remembers what it was like to turn 40, and his life was doing the exact opposite.  

What’s happened since? Why is he seriously thinking of getting up and taking Matt up on his invitation, when he knows how bad an idea that is? Why is he dropping payment on the table and getting up to walk to the men’s room with his jacket folded strategically in front of him? 

The door to the men’s room is heavy and creaks loudly when John pushes at it. Once he’s through, it hits him once again how much this is a bad idea. It’s small (noisy door will warn them), noise will echo off the tiles (the vehicles outside will mask it), and... 

And Matt’s head is leaning out of the farther side stall, expression surprised like he didn’t expect to John to be there at all.  

Hey, it’s still not the craziest thing John’s ever done. 

“I’m so turned on right now,” Matt says, grabbing John’s shirt and pulling him in. 

“Keep it down,” John hisses, locking the door and hanging his jacket. 

They’re two grown men forced into a tight space, so at first John has no idea how this can work, but then Matt’s fitting himself in the lee of John’s body and it becomes a little familiar. 

“Be quiet, or I’m out of here,” John orders. 

Matt’s gaze drops to John’s crotch dubiously. “Really?” 

John huffs in annoyance, and makes snap movements getting Matt’s pants open, cupping the heated flesh and working it quickly. 

He’s pretty sure it can’t be that good, because the angle is awkward and Matt’s leg is pressing against the porcelain seat, but Matt’s sighing and his arms come up and fold over John’s neck – yeah right, like John has any hope of escaping. The sighing turns into little huffs of breath, in his nose and out his mouth, and when there’s the first hint of a grunt, John pushes two fingers of his free hand into Matt’s mouth to keep him busy. 

“The things I do for you,” John whispers. “What if someone comes in here, huh? What if there’s someone in the next stall listening in, wondering what kind of idiots would be doing this in a diner along the fucking Interstate? If this place were a little bit bigger I’d just fuck you right up the wall, that’s what you deserve, you son of a—” 

John winces, because Matt’s biting down – not hard enough to cause damage, but just enough to make the warning known, and John quickly grabs some toilet paper before Matt ruins another one of his shirts. 

Matt comes quietly, head falling on to John’s shoulder as he shudders. John holds him through it, then when it’s done throws the wad of tissue into the toilet. Matt’s humming softly, and then he moves, his aim a little off in his attempt to find the edge of John’s mouth. 

“I wanna suck you,” Matt says, his voice low like it sometimes goes after sex.  

“Not here,” John says, though from how close Matt’s pressed to him, he can’t keep it a secret that he really likes that idea. “Rain check, Matt.” 

“No sex in my mom’s house, remember?” Matt reminds him. 

“Shit,” John says.  

He pulls back and braces against the door as Matt squeezes through the tight space to sit down on the toilet. It’s even more awkward to get their legs to fit around each other, but John’s hoping that Matt will find a way to make this worth his while. 

Only once John’s pants are open it’s obvious that’s not going to happen, and after a few attempts of Matt trying and failing to get his mouth anywhere interesting, he sighs and plants his mouth at the softness of John’s belly. 

And that’s actually – hey

It surprises them both the way John’s cock leaps, the wetness of Matt’s mouth a contrast with the stubble burn that follows it. Just below, Matt’s fingers are on John’s dick, rubbing it firmly against the hard lines of his chin. John can’t watch the proceedings because he knows his neck will hate him for it, so he keeps his eyes on the wall, breathing steadily through his nose until his legs get a little wobbly and he has to brace both hands against opposite sides of the stall. 

Matt likes to bite. John would’ve never guessed looking at him, but there’s a lot about Matt that surprises him – and continues to surprise him. Matt doesn’t seem to think there’s anything unusual about setting teeth to flesh; he just does it and admires his handiwork after. Maybe he does it because he knows John can take it – he does so enjoy challenging John, seeing how far he’ll go, and apparently he’ll go far enough and agree to a quickie in a public bathroom. 

A sudden heavy creak startles John. 

Matt pauses, but then he gets right back on it, pushing his tongue into John’s belly button and jerking off the erection against his neck. 

There’s movement outside – the clear sound of moving shoes with (presumably) feet in them – and it should be a dowse of cold water but it isn’t. There’s a curse ready in John’s mouth but there’s nowhere it can go, there’s nowhere he can move, he’s fucked and Matt’s got him trapped— 

John puts his head down, permits himself a soft fuck and then comes. 

When John opens his eyes, Matt’s put a finger to his lips and is mouthing a very deliberate, “Shhh!” 

John gets a hand into Matt’s hair and tugs, tilting the other man’s head back for the kiss he has coming.  

Outside, there’s the sound of the shoe owner making use of a urinal and then flushing. There’s no shouting and no one comes banging on their stall door. 

John waits until the steps are followed by the heavy door opening and closing, then they both start getting themselves back in order. Tissues are passed back and forth, and because there’s really no elbow room they have to help do up each other’s pants.  

John steps out first, sliding his jacket back on and checking himself in the mirror. Matt comes up next to him and washes his hands in the sink. He’s got an expression that’s an over-deliberate attempt at nonchalance that would only fool a blind person in Iowa. John can’t decide which is worse – this, or if Matt had on his regular grin of smug self-satisfaction.  

“I’ll be in the car,” Matt says once he’s done and walking to the exit. 

John gives him a sideways glance. “You got come on your ear.”  

He shouldn’t have said that out loud, but the sound Matt makes is worth it.

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