Bad Habits Die Hard

Part 2

At first, Matt wasn’t really sure how he was going to manage it. He wasn’t a girl, and he couldn’t use the obvious tactics like push-up bras and excessive makeup. But there had to be something guys did when they were trying to…conduct this kind of experiment.


He had some t-shirts that were smaller than others. They hugged him slightly tighter across the chest, and if he wore low-hanging shorts or sweats with them, he got the added bonus of showing a little sliver of skin across his hips. Skin was good, right?


God. This was nuts.


Matt pushed his fingers into his hair and tugged a little, like tearing it out by the roots could pull out some of the crazy. Hmm. He could probably go get a haircut, too.




On day one, it was kind of hard to tell whether it was working or not. With absolutely no idea what to do, Matt just offered to bring McClane as many beers as he could get him to accept. Then he just sort of tried to make himself as helpful as possible.  AKA being semi-subtle about reaching for a lot of things and bending over a lot of stuff in ways that just happened to make his sloppy, ill-fitted clothing slide around.


But by news o’clock, McClane was practically snoring on the couch next to him and Matt was pretty sure he passed out as soon as he hit the sheets. So there was no ranting to be heard period, much less anything to do with Matt’s efforts.


Day two, Matt thought, had gone really well. He went a little easier on the beer thing. They were running out and he needed one himself if he was going to go through with this. Because McClane was rocking his head on his neck and bunching up his double-wide shoulders, like it hurt more than usual. And Matt figured it was as good a time as any to offer a neck-rub. If by offering, you meant slamming down his beer so hard it foamed over, and launching himself across the couch at McClane, and declaring that his ouch-face was making Matt’s own shoulders hurt, and that this, right here, counted as performing a public service.


And yeah, McClane looked at him like “kid’s lost it”, but Matt was so over that look by now, and it only lasted a second or so before he turned his back to Matt and just let him. Matt was careful, although McClane did make a pained hissing sound a couple of times, and by the end even Matt could feel the difference. The tightly corded sinew had gone lax and warm under his hands.


And McClane actually said “thank you” and “c’mere”, all kind of slow and fluid, and he drew Matt’s leg across his lap, and started doing things he must have learned from getting shot so many times because, just. Yes.


But it turned out that beer and massages and were a potent combination, and Matt’s research was mentally exhausting. John had to help him off the couch, which was interesting for a second, and then this time Matt was the one asleep before McClane was probably even up the stairs.


On the morning of day three, John watched Matt putting a couple of steaks out on the counter to defrost, and then stiffly announced that he was going to be putting in more hours at the precinct.


“You gonna be ok, there? You’ll eat something, not just drink those Bulls’ Balls sodas?”


Matt wasn’t going to bother correcting John, he saw his opening and he went for it.


“It’s a piece of meat, McClane, not a marriage proposal. Yes. I can totally eat supper by myself.”


John flashed Matt that look he had – the one like a pissed-off pit-bull – and Matt had the first inkling that this… investigation, this game, this whatever he was doing, could be totally dangerous.


Matt hadn’t really considered it, but there was always the chance that McClane might actually beat the shit out of him. Matt had never been one of those macho types, but from what he understood they got kind of touchy about other dudes getting in their personal space and acting like…well, like they were coming on to them or something.


And – oh God. Oh my God and oh shit that’s what he was doing. Matt was flirting. With a man. And that man was John freakin’ McClane, and there was the minute yet distinct possibility that it could get him killed.


Of course, it was far more likely that McClane would just lose all of what passed for patience with him, and kick Matt out of his house. And while that would suck, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Matt had already lived through that, thanks, and as a result he didn’t have much stuff to take with him. He could find some place to crash pretty fast on craigslist, probably.


But what was equally likely, was that McClane would never, ever speak to him again. And that? Was pretty much the worst thing Matt could think of.


So by day five, Matt was starting to maybe spaz out a little. Or, sure, a lot. Because apparently it was possible for McClane to never speak to him again without even doing him the courtesy of kicking him out. And judging from the past two nights, he was pretty sure that was the plan.


Twice now, Matt had flipped the porch light on before crashing out well past midnight, only to find it switched off in the morning, but no McClane in sight.


That was it. Game over. No more research. No more eavesdropping. No more fucking flirting. He’d wait up all night if he had to, and set this straight. Pun totally not intended. Oh, fuck.




By the time Matt heard John jiggling his key in the rusty lock on the front door he’d lost all track of time, count of how many Red Bulls he’d had, and probably a year off his life.


It also would’ve helped if he could get up without practically falling down, but he’d been sitting here too long, rigid with tension most of the day. And even on a good day his leg seemed to have this uncanny sense of irony, always seeming to want to fuck with him when he most needed to do things like maintain verticality.


“You’re home.” Duh. Awesome start. Matt winced, and made his way to where John was standing in the hallway.


“Yeah.” John gingerly started peeling off his jacket. He was wearing his office clothes, a plain blue button-down was now half open over one of those old-school undershirts he constantly wore stretched tight across his broad chest.


Oh my god, focus.


“You’re up late.”


“Well I was kind of…waiting… Hey – um. McClane, can we talk?”


“Sure, kid.” Okay, progress. Cool.


Matt made it into the hallway, where John was hanging up his jacket on one of the pegs on the wall next to him. John cracked his neck. He kept a hold of the coat peg, like reaching up helped to stretch out the bulging muscles in his back and shoulder.


He looked tired, and suddenly old, and Matt wanted…well now that it came to it he wasn’t sure what. But he knew what he didn’t want and it was this. McClane all tough and distant and working way later than was good for him – or anyone – because of some stupid shit like whatever was going on here.


So Matt asked if he was hurting, and McClane said something stoic and unapproachable. And Matt had, like, zero idea how to start a conversation about this and hell, he didn’t even know what this was. So he just stood there, and blushed, and considerately gave McClane the opportunity to start making fun of him.


“C’mon, spit it out. S’a matter? You shrink all your shit in the laundry? You need me to take you somewhere to pick up some more t-shirts tomorrow?”


Matt looked down at himself and remembered he was only wearing an old pair of sweatpants he planned to sleep in. Damn, he was supposed to stop doing this.


“Ha, that’s funny. Laundry, no.”


Okay, here goes nothing.


“But that’s kind of what I wanted to talk about. Well, not that. But…so…why is this such a problem, John?” First name. John.


McClane did that thing with his eyes, where the whites stood out, making that murky green-blue colour look suddenly sharp and intense and…kinda scary.


 “This.” Matt moved his hands through the air, trying to illustrate it. “Me. Not wearing a shirt.”


“Hey, it’s not my problem. You’re the homeless hacker street-urchin. People will just think I’m not takin’ care of ya.”


“So, the problem is what people will think?” Matt took a step closer, and McClane didn’t step back exactly. More like a reclining, chin-lifting, not-backing-down, cop motion.


“What? Kid, it’s late, and if you’re not gonna start making sense – ”


“I thought I was the one taking care of you?” Matt had to say something, anything, before McClane started shutting down on him. He hadn’t meant to say something that sounded like he was…like he didn’t want to…ungrateful…like he didn’t want to be here.


McClane blew air out his nose like some sort of large and intimidating farm animal. But then he let his eyes flick around a bit, so Matt wasn’t pinned so much by the whole Senior Detective glare thing.


“Yeah.” John took a breath in. “You’ve done a good job of that, with the apron, and the cooking, takin’ the garbage out when I can’t deal. And now I’m workin’ more, an’ I know you probably want to get back to Jersey soon…”


Whoah, bad. This was going all bad, all wrong. Matt gave up trying to explain and took another step forward.


“So it’s not a problem,” he interrupted. John was still holding onto the coat peg above their heads, and, oh wow, he was actually going to do this. He took another step in, and John pivoted a little on the spot, creating a little space between them, but he didn’t back away completely.


“It’s not a problem if I stand right here?” Matt moved in tight, his shoulder right under John’s outstretched arm. “It’s not a problem if I do this?” Matt reached out with both hands and just put them on John’s hips. He hooked his thumbs through the belt loops to make himself keep them there. He felt hot, like he could feel McClane’s body heat through the worn-out layers of old-man shirt, and maybe he could. Their chests were nearly touching.


A muscle in McClane’s jaw jumped.


“Matt.” His name. His first name, and John’s voice came out rough and sort of stripped-down sounding, but not angry. “You don’t want…”


“I dunno. I think I might.” There. He said it. Two hit points.


McClane was shaking his head. He shifted his weight marginally, like he was trying to dislodge Matt’s hands without reaching for them.


“I’m old, kid. And I’m a man, for fuck’s sake.”


For some reason, Matt found it encouraging that John pointed out the age thing before the second thing, but he didn’t have time to think about why that was, because McClane was still talking his way out of this. Or he was trying.


“…and I’m not…Look, I want you to be…”


“I know.” Matt cut in, quietly. “That’s what makes you that guy.”


It was like watching a building come down. Those gigantic hotels in Vegas, that they were always imploding in televised special events. Big hero John McClane kind of crumbled the same way; all that stiff structure falling out of his frame, all the air coming out of him at once.


Matt tightened his grip on McClane’s waist a little. It wasn’t like he could hold McClane up, and he wasn’t quite pulling either because, let’s face it, there was no way he could ever make McClane go anywhere he didn’t want to. It was more just a reminder – hey, I’m here – but maybe it was also a bit of a request.


And John granted it, wrapping his arms around Matt and pressing their heads together like a hug almost, only without slapping his back or squeezing. They just stood there, and held on.


McClane was warm and solid and under the the cigarette smoke, he smelled like Irish Spring soap. And coffee and doughnuts and McClane, which were some of Matt’s favourite things, so he could have been there five seconds, or ten minutes, or hours who knew, when McClane finally said something.


“Kid? Matt. Have you done this before?” Matt could feel the sound vibrate against his chest.


“Nope. But how hard can it be? Tab A, Slot B, right?” Matt smiled even though he knew John couldn’t see it. He could feel John doing the same, with his face pressed into Matt’s hair.


“Anyone ever tell you it’s rude to listen at keyholes, kid?”


“Anyone ever tell you talking to yourself’s a bad habit?”


McClane pulled away just enough so they could talk, with their foreheads still touching.


“If I didn’t talk to myself I’d never get a word in edgewise around here.”


“Ooh. That’s a good one. That’s comedy, McClane. You know, I’ve been thinking you should do improv.”


“Is this the part where you tell me this is just like a piece of meat and not a marriage proposal?”


“No.” Pretty much the opposite. “No, I wouldn’t say that. At all.”


“Good.” McClane said, or really, whispered. “That’s good.”


McClane was maybe nodding, but it came out like rubbing their foreheads together, and God help him, Matt was just done. He tipped his head to the side and moved in the rest of the short distance between their mouths.

It wasn’t anything like he was expecting. He felt cold, and suddenly shaky, and had the unpleasant feeling of having his heart forget what its job was for a good two seconds.


Because nothing fucking happened.


And then, suddenly, John responded. Gentler than he’d thought it’d be, and Matt felt firm lips, and the scratch of stubble, and what he thought might be a bit of tongue, and there were white sparks jumping behind his eyes.


And then he opened them, looking at John if only just to be sure he could still see straight. Close enough.

“Still good?” Matt heard himself say.


“Yeah.” John was laughing this low, satisfied chuckle. “Still good. Better than good.”

Matt inhaled, slowly. He would need to get his breath back before he did that again. Because he was so, so doing that again. And again. And again after that, and…




Part 1 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Live Free or Die Hard ~~~~~~~~           



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