Just a City Boy

Part 2

By Wednesday night, John could usually find himself ready to skip over Thursday altogether.


Friday nights now meant hours well wasted on the couch – John’s rickety coffee table struggling valiantly under the burden of takeout containers, sweating beer cans, and Matthew’s sneakered feet, while he complained about whatever was on the tube. Unless it was the game – and then the rule was he had to wait for the commercial break before he was allowed to start quoting the players’ statistics and lambasting their inflated salaries.


John almost looked forward to Saturday mornings even more. It was a safe bet, if the scent of coffee drew John out of his bed that morning, to find Matt scrubbed and dressed with the living room cleared of last night’s cartons and cans, waiting on the couch with a coffee cup and a dilapidated copy of his magazine.


WIRED, it was called. They were starting to pile up around the place. John got tired of reminding the kid to take them with him every time he took him home. He’d be back to read it the next week anyway.


If it was too early for Matt when John opened his eyes, John would have to tiptoe past him to make the coffee. He had given up after the first few weeks, trying to get Matt to take the bed. He left him with a pillow and blankets every weekend, but they always ended up mostly on the floor.


John would never know how somebody could manage to sprawl quite so spectacularly in such a narrow space. Spread-eagled, more or less, with one arm up over the back of the couch, the other arm and a leg dangling off the side, impressively and impossibly managing not to slide right off. Like the kid could defy gravity.


He had learned to resist the urge to gather up the tumble of kicked-off bedding and cover Matt up, because he could never get away with it. Matt would wake without fail, blink at him, muzzy and mussed, and offer to ‘help’ with breakfast. 


This was less than ideal. And not just because breakfast was when their companionable weekends skipped the rails somehow – turned a corner into strange, gloomily-lit alleys.


After breakfast was when John took Matt home, and they gradually found they both preferred to simply put it off. Sometimes until well after what was really lunch time, making their way through at least one pot of coffee and catching up on the week; Matt’s reading, the office gossip.


The real problem was that Matt’s idea of helping mainly consisted of leaning blearily against the various surfaces of the kitchen John would need to access, like the counters, the cupboards, and sometimes even – dumbfoundingly – the fridge.


If he was feeling especially industrious, he would pick up various objects around John’s kitchen, and subject them to careful examination before setting them down again. He had thankfully all but stopped taking things apart to see how they fit together, after an incident involving John’s electric can opener and a broken sugar bowl.


It was a damn good thing John kept his gun in a locked cabinet.


What got under John’s skin the most though, was the unnatural silence that entering the kitchen seemed to impose on Matt. Matt would generally watch, taciturn, while John scrambled eggs, fried bacon and set up the toaster – seeming to reserve his pattering monologues for the evenings, lit only by the flicker of the television, as if the weekend’s arrival flipped all their usual rules and routines on their heads.


They never fucked at John’s place, either. John wasn’t sure when that particular rule had gotten set, but it seemed the light of the city outside could reach them here too –  threatening to seep in through the walls and over the boundaries they’d built up, and cast a spotlight on everything unspoken they’d shrouded in shade.


~ ~



If you asked him last July, John never would have thought the day would come when he’d see the kid’s extraordinary nattering as a plus, but the biggest benefit of their daylight time together was that Matt talked to him. Rarely stopped actually, unless he was passed out in the passenger seat, somehow miraculously recovering hours of lost sleep in a mere twenty minutes. Forty, if it had been that kind of night.


But when Matt was awake, as long as he didn’t bring up that dark hotel room, John could ask him anything. And – usually – get an answer.


Not today though.


The FBI was only going to pay for Matt’s hotel for so long. He was supposed to find his own place within a year, that was the deal. It was hard to find a place in Manhattan, that was for sure, but Matt had given up too easily after the first few months.


That would be fine, of course, if he didn’t plan to stay. But Matt had taken to dodging the question whenever John asked if he planned to stick with the job here, or look for something else.


And it turned out John wasn’t the only one the kid was ducking.


 “Talked to Bowman today.”


“Yeah? How was that? How is old Bowman these days?”


“Said you haven’t been returning his calls, actually.”


“Shit, knew I was forgetting something. Yeah, he wanted to know about that blip on the grid in Oregon. It was nothing, just some script kiddie trying to impress his girlfriend.”


“Actually…he wanted to know if I knew your plans. Says the guys from Finance are after him to shut down your relocation budget. Year’s almost up.”


“A year. Wow. What did I tell you about this city? Could not be harder to get a place.”


“It’s been a while since we went looking.”


“Yeah, it has. Since we went. But I don’t take you everywhere I go, McClane, okay, I’m keeping an eye out for something on the net. It’s just a pain in the ass, to – you know what? It’s not even a problem. I’ll figure it out.”


“You know if you want me to drive you somewhere I can.” There was more though, and John really had to say it. “...But you should think about it. Bowman had a lot to say about what’s going on in DC. Sounds like you could go far, there.”


Bowman had said more than that. He said they could really use somebody of Matt’s “calibre and dedication”.  He said he was prepared to sweeten the offer they’d already made, so if John happened to be talking to him, to tell him to call them back.


“Yeah, no, like I said, I know relocation is almost up and it’s no big deal, I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure it out, and I’ll call Bowman about that Oregon thing and, really,” Matt said, barely pausing for breath, “It was nothing. The guy was chatting everything he was doing to this girl over a public IRC the whole time he was dumping all kinds of shit like ‘operation desert fox’ and ‘code: eagle’s flight’ into his password generator. Not exactly covert ops. This poor dude had no idea ‘project Birddog’ was a real thing. Korman wanted to send somebody in there to put the fear of God, America and the FBI in him, but I thought it was better if he doesn’t know Big Brother’s watching him just yet. You know? He hasn’t tried anything else all week. So, really…”


So maybe the budget thing was skirting too close to the issue.


The lines between dark and light were starting to blur on him, leaving everything dusky and half-lit. John didn’t know how long he could keep this whole thing up, but he did know a deliberate change of subject when he heard it.


~ ~



 “I want cake.”


This was a new development. He’d never given John a clue before.


“You want anything?” No mistaking it was a test this time. John could hear that trip-hammer again.


Or maybe it was just his heart.


“I got everything I need right here.”


Matt bit his lip and scrutinized him for a second before nodding mutely and getting up.


John thought he passed the test, when he woke up to leave at 3:30 and Matthew was still draped across his chest; hair damp at the roots and sticking to his forehead, unconscious breaths coming slow and humid against John’s collar bone.


~ ~



Four minutes. Matt had officially been gone too long just to grab the beers from the kitchen he’d gotten up for.


John clicked off the television. The Jets were down by 14 points anyway. He stood up and stretched, squared his shoulders and tried not to look intimidating before he made his way to the kitchen.


It was time.


Sure enough, Matt was standing in the kitchen with his back to John and the fridge wide open.


Matt jumped – even though John was careful not to touch him – when he leaned around him and slowly pushed the fridge door to. Beverages could wait.


“You have cake,” Matt said, still staring at the refrigerator.


Matt turned around to face him, but there was nowhere for him to go so he ended up backed against the counter. John maybe didn’t mind him being captive for this. They were going to have to talk about it sooner or later. And now was already later.


“…It’s chocolate.”


 John wasn’t sure when he realized he was operating in a world where chocolate meant ‘stay’ and no olives meant ‘don’t try anything funny, old man’, but when you’re working with a hacker, you learn to communicate in code.


“You were staying in a smoker’s room.”




Typical. Kid had always been quicker to get there than John was. Picked up on the past tense before John even noticed he’d used it. Wasn’t wrong, though. Like he said, typical.


“You know, if you stay here there ain’t no maid, you’re gonna have to pick up after yourself.” There. It was out in the light, now.


Matt swallowed. His eyes were round, and leery, like a cornered alley cat’s.


“...But I think I might be able to arrange for some room service,” John added.


He waited, while Matt considered this – ran it through whatever mental programs he used to come to all his unfathomable conclusions. John swore he could hear the whir of gears. The RPMs on the kid’s machinery up there had to be burying the needle right about now.


“Quit calling me Cyber Crime and maybe we can work out some kind of deal, Agent.”


“Agent, huh?” This was progress.


John wanted to move in, plant both hands on the counter on either side of Matthew, immobilize the target. But the kid was still looking sort of fight-or-flight, and he didn’t want to push his luck. Not right now.


He reached out with one hand and hooked his fingers under Matt’s belt, instead. Didn’t pull, though.


“You know, the FBI doesn’t negotiate with extortionists. You’re getting too used to dealing with the local PD. That shit won’t fly in DC, kid.”


This didn’t get the playful sass-back John was expecting. Matt dropped his chin, looking down at where John was invading his space like he was glad for the excuse to unlock their gazes – dark hair swinging forward to obscure those too-expressive features.


“No? What happened to ‘you’ll go far in DC’? Fuck you, McClane. Call me when you figure out what you want.”


What John wanted? So maybe bringing up DC was a mistake, but whatever it took to break the spell frankly worked for John.


‘Fuck you’ meant something. It meant anger, and anger was better than the nothing he’d been getting up till now.  ‘Fuck you’ meant they were getting somewhere, and it was a good thing John had that grip on Matthew’s belt, because the kid was about to put his usual stop to it.


He turned his shoulder into John’s chest, trying to torque out of his grasp so he could disappear back into the shadows.


“Hey, hey. Hang on!” John kept his hold and yanked Matt back straight, other hand at the ready to catch any punches the kid might throw. “Wouldja stop – stop and hang on one fucking second?”


Matt didn’t try anything like that, though, just pivoted nimbly back and braced himself against the counter. The last of the flight was gone from him now and he was all fight – wide brown eyes gone narrow and blazing-black, both hands tucked behind his hips and ready to shove forward, hard, into John’s bad shoulder if he had to.


But for now he was just waiting, calculating the next move. So John better come up with something good. And damn quick.


“Can you…can you stop and think for one second that maybe this isn’t about me? It’s all you, Matthew. Your call.”


John watched Matt’s brows twitch, like they wanted to knit up but he wasn’t about to let confusion into the mix. He was guarding that anger, keeping it pure, because he would need it undiluted to give John the verbal ass-kicking he was clearly gearing up for. So John kept talking while he had the chance.


“Your call,” He repeated. “DC, Jersey…here. But you’re the only one who can make it kid, and I know you don’t need me to tell you it’s gotta be soon.”


“My call,” Matt nodded. Tone quiet, dangerous. “Right. Because you don’t make calls. You don’t call for months, you just show up. At my job. At my door, with that stupid car, and in my – in my fucking bedroom.”


Well, to be fair, it was a hotel room. Matt’s entire place was a bedroom, and there wasn’t much John could do about that. Not if Matt wouldn’t let him.


“And now suddenly you’re all about the DC thing,” Matt went on.  “My career. Why? Fuck, why now? You don’t give a shit about my career, John, you’ve never fucking cared.”


First names? Kid was feeling ballsy. Why not break all the rules while they were at it?


“Never cared? Jesus Christ, Matthew, whaddyou think I call you all that Intelligence, Cyber shit for huh? You been through two promotions and three divisions in a matter of months. I know you’re kicking ass at this gig. I never woulda thought the kid I met last year was the same guy. I’m impressed, Matt. Alright? I’m…proud of ya.”


One of Matt’s hands slipped off the counter and down to his side, softening the sharp, aggressive line of his narrow shoulders. But it looked like he’d only scored part marks. Matt was still holding John’s gaze steady, not about to let up just yet.


“So if I’m doing so hot here, why would I go to DC?”

“Why’d you come to New York?” John could get used to this rule-breaking thing.


Matt didn’t give him an answer, but he didn’t duck his head and hide, either.


 “ ’Cause with that shit you just gave me about your career and not giving a shit, I got this crazy idea it was because you wanted all those promotions. And come on kid, DC? It’s headquarters. Big shit FBI Homeland stuff. I’m not trying to get rid of you, here. But I can’t – I’m not gonna ask you to give that up. I’m just trying to get you to make a decision for once. I want you to give a shit, Matt. This thing…come on, it’s big. It’s your life.”


Matt was still meeting John’s eye; letting him watch the hard, glittering fire die away and leave only the familiar, molten brown.


“My job…isn’t my life, McClane.”


He reached out to a hand to mirror John’s stance, inclining forward and off the counter a little to take a matching hold of John’s beltline.


It wasn’t quite code, but John was taking it as encouragement.


“You know kid, the funny thing about ordering room service? You can have pretty much anything you want. But you gotta decide what that is before you pick up the phone and make the call.”


“Anything I want, huh?”


So much for not negotiating with extortionists.


“And for the record, ‘you want anything’ is a piss-poor code for ‘are you staying’.”


Matt blinked, and John felt the fingers at his waist tense in surprise – but the kid recovered quickly.


“You know, for a detective, you can be pretty slow with the getting a clue thing.”


Detective. This really was progress.


“Yeah? How’s this for a clue: ‘it’s too late at night to be eating that shit’ doesn’t secretly mean ‘I got what I came for and I’m taking off and abandoning you in five minutes, so you should get as far away as possible and start ignoring me’.”


 Matt wasn’t smiling yet, but John could recognize a suppressed smirk in the soft sparkle that had replaced the angry glitter in those dark eyes.


“No? What does it secretly mean then?”


“Are you ready for this? Because it’s pretty big, FBI, top secret shit. It means ‘it’s too late at night to be eating that shit and you should stay the hell in bed and we should fuck again instead’.”


Matt finally laughed, a wry little chuckle.


“That’s…wow, that’s – charming to the last, McClane. Anyone ever tell you that? Look. I’m not…like I know you like to call me kid, because, let’s face it, you’re getting pretty old. But I’m not, like, actually a kid. Like I’m not a child, okay McClane? I will pick up after myself, Jesus, but I’m not picking up after you.”


John did start to pull a little then, and Matt didn’t fight him. Even if he did make him work for it, leaning back like stubborn, dead weight while John towed him slowly in by the waistband of his jeans.  


“This isn’t gonna be that kind of domestic ‘arrangement’,” Matt was saying, holding one hand up in the air to make quoting motions with his slim fingers while John’s free arm gradually made its way around his waist. “And, you better be ready for me. Because, I’m a programmer. Okay? I eat and sleep at weird hours and I fuck at even weirder ones and if we’re gonna be sharing a bed, you are so totally buying me some ear plugs. You think that helicopter was loud? You should hear yourself man! In fact, can we get a tape recorder and make that happen, because let me tell you, McClane…”


There he was. The kid John knew from that disastrous and fateful fourth of July.


The sudden break and flow of chatter was a welcome change, here in John’s kitchen, with the late afternoon sunlight streaming in through the window. But it was pouring over them, hitting the mahogany in Matthew’s hair and lighting him up in an autumnal blaze, and suddenly John had much better ideas for the uses of Matt’s mouth. Things like begging and sucking and saying John’s name.


This time in their own bed. And then – if Matt wasn’t too busy sleeping off everything John had planned – maybe John would see what he could do about that room service thing.


But first, he thought, fitting his hand to the curve of Matt’s nape, he would have to shut the kid up long enough to get him there. And, John figured, as he moved forward enough to feel those fast-moving lips still against his own, he knew just the way to do it.



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



This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to www.yola.com and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola