Orbits, Drift

Act 2

John’s apartment is neat. At least, neater than Matt’s apartment (may it rest in peace) used to be, and that bugs Matt a little. Matt’s place was 30% essentials, 70% junk, but at first glance it’s like John’s all essentials, all the time.

It’s not exactly sparse, but everything, from the couch to the side table to the dinosaur-era television, look like they were only put in place after a thorough evaluation of their usefulness. Even the human touches – a bookshelf, framed photos, a stack of old magazines and a pair of dumbbells – have a look about them that mean anything but frivolous.

“Your room’s in here,” John says, walking past him with Matt’s bag and spare crutches.

Matt hobbles along behind John towards the spare room, swallowing a pleased huh when he sees dents in the carpeting where furniture used to be but now isn’t so that Matt has space to move around.

“Have a rest, whatever,” John says, scratching his head, a reminder that this is just as much something new for him as it is for Matt, “And I’ll get some Chinese? You okay with Chinese?”

“Dude, I’ve been living off hospital food,” Matt says. “Chinese is great.”

John laughs a little, and then he’s gone.

Matt gets over to the bed and lies down, body wired from the long drive and his mind gently drifting in and out. The door is half-open so he can hear John moving around outside like an alarm system, so if anything stupid happens, John would be there in two seconds guns a-blazing (metaphorically/literally, whichever).

He dozes off for a bit, and when he wakes up, he can hear the electronic hum of a television turned on. Matt pulls himself up to look over the room properly – door to the shared bathroom, a small dresser in the corner, and – wait.

Matt pulls himself to the edge of the bed and leans over, arms stretching to reach one of the half-dozen or so boxes on the floor. He manages to get his fingers to the lid and flips it open.

Familiar things look up at him: his khakis, the maroon hoodie that he’d only worn once, his J-League watch, and so on, and so on.

The relief is so strong it’s like being kicked in the gut.

He’d spent so many weeks resigning himself to the fact that he’d be starting from scratch, effectively a hobo on the streets whose only marks on the world exist in cyberspace where memories are fickle. Matt knows that these things aren’t Important with a capital I, but they’re physical evidence that he’s a real person with his own (though tiny and mundane) history beyond his brief brush with cyber-terrorism. Matthew Farrell is.

The desire to hug John is overwhelming and it propels Matt forward and fumbling with his crutches. He makes it out of the room and is thrown when he sees that John is asleep on the couch, remote in one hand.

Matt backs up, accidentally knocking a side table. At the noise, John stirs awake, his gaze sharpening almost immediately.

“Good, you’re up,” John says, his voice more gruff than usual from sleep. “C’mon, food’s here.”

When John stands, Matt shrinks back a little because he’d forgotten. They don’t have that much difference in height, but John carries himself so differently: he’s large organic steel made to protect innocent bystanders and beat the shit out of bad guys, moving anywhere he damn well pleases with the certainty that there’s no one alive who can stop him. All that buffed-up personal space looks pretty fucking intimidating in the face of a wiry geek hacker with a lame leg.

The desire to hug melts into embarrassment, and Matt quietly follows him to the kitchen area.

Matt arranges himself on a stool, eyes down when he says, “Thanks for rescuing my stuff. What’s left of it, anyway.

“No problem,” John says. “I was in the area.”

“Sure you were, you big scary marshmallow you,” Matt says. It’s easier when there’s a breakfast table between them.

John pushes a box at him. “You better eat before I decide to shove it down your throat.”

+ + +

It takes a few days of weird shuffling and adjusting of body clocks before they find a routine that works for them.

John’s away for most of the day, so Matt amuses himself pawing through John’s collection of stuff (with permission), and tossing about future career-type ideas in his head. His first review with the Feds went well, but he’s still under probation, i.e. no electronics more sophisticated than John’s DVD player, not that there’s any temptation in John’s apartment, anyway.

When John comes home, there’s some useless chit-chat over dinner, which gets less awkward once they figure out that tip-toeing around topics is for losers.

“Do you honestly think they’ve learned anything from the fire sale?” Matt asks one night. He doesn’t remember how it came up, only that suddenly the elephant in the room is getting a spotlight, leaving John huffing and Matt puffing. “Seriously, man. Gabriel might be a total fuckhead—”

Might be? If you’re going to say something stupid like can’t we just focus on the good side in this, let me stop you right now, because no. Not when the price to pay is that high, no,” John says.

“I get that, I do,” Matt says, sighing. “Good intentions and all   I know, I was part of it, okay, that shit’s not ever going to leave me. I’m just saying... Sometimes it’s in the most horrifying situations that we find what we’re can do; what we’re really made of.”

John has this thing, Matt notices. When he’s in big bad-ass mode, his glare is like the spotlight of the gods, but when it’s switched off, his eyes move everywhere else, to his hands, to the floor, to the toaster in the corner, like it’s hard for him to focus.

It’s an interesting quirk, but also really irritating, so Matt reaches out and hits the table to get John’s eyes on him – yeah, just like that.

“Hey man,” Matt says. “He pushed the panic button and everyone danced to his tune exactly the way he knew they would, like puppet sheep. He was one anomaly away from getting away with it.”

“If it weren’t for us meddling kids?” John says.

That startles a laugh out of Matt. “Um, okay, something like that. Anyway, it’s just... It scares the shit out of me that you’re it. You’re all that stood between civilization and complete melt-down.

We, kid,” John says. “I would’ve been fuck all useless if you hadn’t been there.”

“Likewise, I would’ve been fuck all dead,” Matt says.

They both seem to realize at the same time that this is a Moment, which only stops being weird when John suggests they turn on the television, and Matt starts bitching about the stupidity of the mainstream media. John doesn’t seem to mind, and definitely doesn’t mean it when he occasionally tells Matt to shut up.

So they get a routine. It usually ends with John falling asleep on the couch, and Matt prodding at him to get off to bed. Matt doesn’t joke about John being an old man, because he’s nice that way.

+ + +

Sometimes John comes back late, and a whole different set of lines are around his eyes and mouth.

The first time it happens, Matt hovers back uncertainly. The stress waves ballooning off John are worrying in a Danger-Will-Robinson sort of way, and Matt thinks it’d be detrimental to their living arrangement if John suddenly decides to throw him out the window when they’ve been doing so well.

That leaves Matt with the option to hover until John looks at him and snaps, “You good for Mexican?”

“Sure, no complaints there,” Matt says.

They call it in. Matt watches John sink into the couch, staring at the reflection in the tv screen but not reaching for the remote. Matt keeps on watching, the alarm bell in his head getting louder when the lines between John’s eyebrows thicken until he finally lolls his head back and sends a glare at Matt.

“How was your day?” John snaps.

“Oh, it was...” He wants to say the usual, but stops when he recognizes the invitation for what it is. “I figured out some things, well, not figured out, exactly, but more like setting names to some of the options I think I’ll be able to get once this gag order’s up – I figure that it’ll only take me a few weeks to catch up with all the stuff I’ve missed and...”

Matt doesn’t need to think to do this; it’s easy to put words to the thoughts and ponderings that have been rattling about his head and have had nowhere to go. It’s a relief that goes both ways, if the way the lines of John’s brow smoothen a little, and when the smirk finally makes an appearance after what seems like a dozen years of blathering, Matt decides that he might as well make himself comfortable on the couch as well.

The food is a little overcooked when it arrives. Matt points it out, so John just counters that Matt should cook if he’s going to whine so much, and Matt replies that he just might do that, thanks.

This becomes part of their routine, as well.

The second time it happens, John makes it halfway through the meal before he starts talking back, and Matt learns the shitty intricacies of being a New York cop.

+ + +

When Matt was younger, he’d won some programming science challenge thing in his senior year, which had been a complete fluke because he’d forgotten that he’d joined it in the first place, so when the results came in he’d been more terrified than thrilled because it meant he had to present his project to the entire school body.

It didn’t go well.

Matt’s mostly blacked out that memory, but he remembers the essence of the incident’s glorious shame, and the few ex-schoolmates whom he’s kept in touch with since know better than to bring it up. Because it is that bad.

But not, apparently, as bad as falling in the shower.

There he was, minding his own business and scrubbing his face while water pelted his hair, when the stool he’d been using to balance his bad leg slid suddenly – something that hadn’t happened so far and Matt hadn’t been prepared for – and though Matt could have just as easily reached out for the rescuing purchase of the tiled walls, the frightened lizard part of his brain panicked because it was that knee that had suddenly pulled away from him. Throw in a face-full of soap to the mix, his sole remaining foot losing its balance, and a shoulder finding contact with the floor.

Lots of people fall in the shower, and Matt himself has done so on at least two previous occasions, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.

But it is, because Matt can feel the twinge of the metal screws in his knee, and this is John’s shower.

Plus, it’s the weekend, so John’s home.

Of course.

“Matt? Matt!” John’s doing some serious pounding on the door, which doesn’t bode well.

“I’m okay!” Matt shouts back, twisting his head so that water droplets don’t fall in his mouth.

The pounding stops. “You sure?”

Matt thinks. His knee is uncomfortable but not in pain, though he can’t say the same of his shoulder.

“I’m coming in,” John says.

“Wait, no, no, no!” Matt’s horrified now, trying to shrink into the floor but failing.

There’s the sound of the door knob turning, then John is right there, yanking the plastic curtain away and turning off the water, which is the only good that can come out of this.

Matt scrunches his eyes shut, suddenly sure that there is nothing worse in the universe than having John McClane see the absolute lowest a human being can fall to.

“Does your knee hurt?” John asks.

“Just a bit, but I don’t think anything moved,” Matt says. “I just lost my balance, my right shoulder got the worst of it, I think.”

There’s the scrape of the stool being pushed out of the way, and then the softness of a towel landing around Matt’s hips. Matt’s fingers hold on to the towel, even as John’s arms come beneath his armpits and lift him up like a helpless fucking baby. Matt wants to die, especially with the way John presses Matt’s head to rest against his shoulder and helps Matt balance on his good leg.

It’s only because Matt’s busy being humiliated that he doesn’t shove John away.

“Your clothes are gonna get wet,” Matt mumbles.

“I’ll send you the laundry bill,” John says.

They get out into the spare room and John shuffles Matt over to the bed, setting him down. John’s fingers are warm against Matt’s knee, checking that it’s okay, and from the soft huff that John makes, it probably is.

John exits quietly, shutting the door behind him, and it’s only then that Matt permits himself to open his eyes.

+ + +

The shower incident shakes something loose in Matt, making him veer wildly off course in this exercise in complacency.

John doesn’t mention it; doesn’t quip or joke or make any indication that it even happened. That somehow makes it worse, and soon Matt finds himself seething quietly, his chest getting tighter every time John casts a glance his way that looks watchful (like he’s worried that Matt’s going to spontaneously fall over again), or offers the remote, or makes Matt choose where they’ll have dinner next.

One Saturday, John offers to cook dinner and Matt explodes.

“What is this? What the hell are you doing?” Matt clings on to the edge of the breakfast table, his lungs heavy and his knuckles cold.

John doesn’t look perturbed by the outburst. “I’m asking if there’s anything specific you’d like. I can’t do any fancy stuff but—”

“This, what is this?” Matt says, allowing one hand to gesture at John. “Is this some sort of pity party, is that it?”

“What?” John blinks, openly surprised, and Matt feels a surge of triumph.

“You being nice to me,” Matt says. “Why are you being so nice?”

Now John looks really confused. “I just insulted your taste in music, again, and you just spent a whole fucking hour trying to educate me in the way of getting out of the, and I quote, fucking lame shit that fucks up my ears, unquote, which is the only thing I heard throughout that entire rant, and I’m pretty sure I just messed up one of your CDs. On purpose.”

“That doesn’t count,” Matt says.

“I’m lost,” John says, shaking his head. “I can whip up a mean stir-fry if you’re up for it.”

“No, no, that’s just it!” Matt says. “You’re not supposed to be nice! You’re an asshole! Lucy said so!”

John just looks at him. “Point?”

“Are you doing this because you feel sorry for me?” Matt says. “Because if you are, I quit.”

John is startled. “What?”

“I quit!” Matt’s almost shouting now. “I want out. I’m gonna move out, that’s what!”

John just blinks. “Still lost.”

Matt takes a deep breath. Word vomit time.

“You’ve been doing all of this – letting me into your home, helping me out, whatever, and at first I was like, okay, but now I’m thinking that this goes all the way back to the hospital, man,” Matt says, because he has been thinking about it. “You were all okay with Lucy hanging out with me, and that thing with Holly, too, what the hell! Fuck it, man, if you did all that because you feel you have some sort of weird-ass obligation like you’re indebted to me for saving your daughter, then you can stop it right now.”

John just blinks.

Matt sighs, rubs his hand over his face. “I know you, remember? You don’t do things because you want to – you do it because someone’s got to do it, no matter how much you yourself feel about it one way or the other. So if this falls under that category, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want you, like, tolerating me.”

Now John looks stunned, which is an entirely new look for him, at least as far as Matt’s concerned.

“You don’t even like me, man,” Matt says.

“Matt,” John says slowly, “If I didn’t like you, believe me, you’d know.”

That’s rather true, but Matt isn’t giving up. “Then why, man? Why am I here? Not that I don’t appreciate it, but… I don’t want you to think that you have to.”

Then John’s expression changes, and it’s almost enough to make Matt take back everything he just said.

“I like… the noise,” John says eventually. It’s an uphill struggle to get whatever’s moving inside that shiny head of his out, like he’d much rather be jumping on a moving train right about now. “I miss it… I’ve been missing it… For, ages, I guess. I’ve been coming back to an empty place for so long that I’ve forgotten what a difference it can be when it’s not.”

“Oh.” Matt hears the unspoken: John wouldn’t have let in just anybody.

John’s eyes are moving about again, restless. “But it goes the other way, kid. Don’t you feel obligated to stay if you’re only feeling sorry for this pathetic sorry ass of an old man.

Matt barks a laugh at that, and only when John quizzically looks at him does he realize that he honestly doesn’t know.

“You’re not pathetic,” Matt says, because the alternative would be to start gushing about how John has somehow every day found a new way to be fucking awesome and make Matt feel like somebody who counts, because that would kill the mood dead.

John nods slowly.

“So, you were saying something about a stir-fry,” Matt says cheerfully. “Can I help?”

The smile John gives him then makes the blood rush to Matt’s face.

“Please, like I’ll trust you around sharp objects,” John says, and shoos him away.

Matt returns to the living room, casting a glance back at John as he starts opening drawers and moving things.

Anyone within a twenty-foot radius can see that John has an acute case of Lone Wolf Syndrome, but only those who’ve seen him around Lucy know that it’s not a situation that comes naturally to him. The certainty by which John carries himself is something that he had to cultivate over years, and that kinda sucks in a big way.

Matt doesn’t really need to move out, anyway. Tomorrow he’ll offer to pay a share of the rent, even.

+ + +

John never comments on Matt’s lack of social life, because pots know when to shut their yap. But sometimes, while they’re watching ancient television re-runs over the weekend, John glances over at Matt with a little frowny look, like he has no idea why Matt’s indoors when he could be outside enjoying the sunshine.

While they’re in the middle of an Addams Family marathon, John turns to Matt on the couch and says, “You should go out.”

“I will if you will,” Matt says right back.

“I go for a beer after work sometimes,” John says.

Matt snorts.

John turns his eyes to the television, but Matt can tell that he’s not watching the black-and-white action. Matt struggles to keep his expression blank, because he can feel a plan of some sort bubbling beneath John’s skin.

“Call me old-fashioned—”

“Don’t I always?”

“—but real socializing should be face-to-face,” John says, not missing a beat. “That’s the human connection. All that whizzing about in the internet – I think it sounds really stupid. Kids hiding behind keyboards and monitors because they’re afraid to look each other in the eye, like it protects them from real life. Stunts em, is what I say.”

“That what some people said about the telephone,” Matt says.

“That’s completely different—”

“You’re not the boss of me,” Matt says, relaxed and loose.

John grunts a little. “You guys just don’t know any better.”

“I’m having a conversation with you right now,” Matt says. “Human connection, et cetera. What more do I need?”

“Hell, this isn’t…” John trails off, and takes a deep breath. “What I was going to say was that I don’t agree with the inherent fucked-up-ness of your generation’s lifestyle—”

“And you’d know about fucked-up-ness.”

“—but if that’s what you’re comfortable with, then it’s better than nothing,” John says. “So we should get on it.”

Matt frowns. “Wait, get on what?”

“You’ve got your review on Monday, right?” John says.

“Yeah,” Matt says.

“Then you might as well get started,” John says. “You know… Rebuilding your ‘command centre’. You’ve been on your best behavior, so there’s no reason to think you won’t get a pass.”

Meh,” Matt says. “I made it through the worst of the withdrawal, and look at me, fit as a fiddle. There’s no rush.”

“Jack mentioned this place downtown,” John says. “A shop, or a bunch of shops, I can’t remember. Said it was pretty good for that kind of stuff.”

“Yeah?” Matt says.

They watch Gomez blow up a train set, the lulling symphony of things going kaboom the only sounds in the room. Then Matt stretches, cracks his jaw and slowly scratches the back of his neck.

“Want to get some fresh air? Matt asks.

“Gee, Matt, what did you have in mind?” John asks.

Matt grins.

+ + +

The first thing Matt does once his probation is over and his pretty damn cool new gear is all set up in the narrow empty space of John’s spare bedroom to enable his sweet, sweet reunion with the internet (though it goes without saying that Big Brother is watching pretty closely now), is to check his messages.

He gives up when he sees their volume, and moves on to the second item on his agenda.

Search term: “John McClane.

Matt loses track of time quickly.

At every interesting turn his screen gets flooded with a new window to read and a new lead to track. The stories are the stuff of urban legends, and if Matt hadn’t seen what John’s capable of with his own eyes, he’dve just discarded the lot as overwrought hyperbole. Matt knows better than to believe all of it (some of the soundbytes are hosted in NBC’s archives, for crying out loud), but there’s a picture forming in his head, and it is epic.

But what’s really weird – more so than John’s ridiculously bad luck – is how Matt doesn’t recognize the man in the archive pictures. It isn’t just the hair, or the leaner guns, or the tattoo (!!!); from the way his eyes and mouth are set, the man in the photos is almost someone else entirely.

There’s a measure of distance in that, when Matt continues to read.

It is a fundamental truth that there are collectors for everything on the internet. So Matt finds himself signing up to a message board of dubious merit just to gain access to some painfully archaic media files.

This is the time that John gets home and knocks on his door.

“What the hell?” John says. He frowns. “Did you just scream at me?”

“No, I did not just scream at you,” Matt says, glad that at the angle his monitors are set, John can’t see a thing from the door. “Go away.”

John just shrugs, and it could be in amusement. “So it begins.” He retreats outside.

It occurs to Matt then that looking John up on the internet might not be a good idea. There’s the chance he might interpret this as prying, when it so isn’t. Matt’s just curious, because one does not run headfirst into a terrorist den without so much as batting an eyelash unless one has faced some serious shit beforehand as a warm-up. John hasn’t been inclined to elaborate whenever Matt asks, usually brushing him off with a “part of the job”, “anyone would do it”, which, no.

Matt’s known quite a few cops in his time (known, been talked down by, read about, whatever), and the simple truth is that John doesn’t fit. Matt’s actually disappointed that John was never in the marines or something similar, because that means he’s a man trained on the streets and has had the pleasure of being pushed so far as to see the limits of what he’s capable of. (Matt personally understands that last bit.)

But John.

Matt wants to know him. He knows that like he knows Holly sent over a list of potential new apartments ages ago but they’re languishing inside one of his boxes, like he knows that he will just laugh whenever Lucy jokes over the phone on how he’s survived this long living with John, like he knows that he enjoys one-upping Warlock over housemate bad-assery (your mom, dude).

Matt downloads the media files, leaving them untouched for now.

Then he goes outside, where John’s warming up yesterday’s leftovers in the kitchen, and watches.

John looks up mildly. “What?”

“It’s the funniest thing,” Matt says. He feels bold tonight, and maybe a little wired from the sugar shortage of missing lunch. “There I was, surfing along, and I happened to see your name in some old news articles.”

John doesn’t get angry or annoyed. He just tilts his head a little and says, “Really? What’re the odds.

“I know, right,” Matt says, and he’s grinning now, because it’s so easy. “Now, of course, I’ve googled myself before because I’m just human, right, but it’s not like I’ve actually done anything newsworthy or whatever so my main hits are, like, stuff from high school, but that’s okay because it’s not like I use my real name most of the time anyway and Lucy may have brought it up—”

“Lucy?” John says, and it kinda makes Matt go tingly a little to know that he’s actually paying attention.

“Yeah, she warned me that you don’t do Christmas,” Matt says, “And I asked, why’s that Lucy, and she said, oh because of that thing that happened that time and another thing that happened that other time, and I said, what thing are you going on about now, and she said, Jesus Christ, Farrell, just ask my dad why don’t you. And I would’ve, but I don’t know if you’d, like, beat me, or something.”

John sighs a little. “That’s really old, kid.”

Matt bristles. “What?”

“Joking about me handing you your ass,” John says. “Quit it.”

“Then quit calling me kid,” Matt says.

“Okay,” John says, like they’re talking about the mail. “About that other thing, it’s... I guess I can give you the Cliff’s Notes version.”

The what notes?” At John’s expression, Matt quickly adds: “Kidding! Just kidding.”

“Geez, k—Matt, you don’t have to keep reminding me that I’m pushing ancient, I get it,” John says.

“Oh,” Matt says, suddenly embarrassed. “I didn’t mean it like that, I don’t think you’re ancient, you’re quite the opposite of ancient, really, because people who are ancient don’t—”

Then John’s hand is on Matt’s head, shaking gently to shut him up.

Heh,” Matt says, dipping his head. It would be inappropriate to blush, so he tries not to.

Then they have dinner, and John talks. Matt talks, too, because he has questions and John has the answers. Once in a while John flinches a little, a hint for Matt to not prod too deeply, so he doesn’t, but it’s still miles better than just reading about it on the internet.

+ + +

Now back on the grid, Matt quickly finds some freelance work to do, and it revs him up and out of the slacker thing he’s been getting too comfortable in. It feels good to have something concrete to do again, even if it is the kind of stuff he could do in his sleep, because it’s another step towards getting some semblance of a life back together again.

Matt Farrell isn’t a waste of space, so to speak.

He’s in the middle of coding when he remembers the media files he’d downloaded on the Nakatomi thing. He spends five minutes debating whether to delete them, and then says fuck it, John’s not going to kick his ass, so he pops on his headphones.

There’s a few seconds of rubbery static, then a female voice blandly announcing the date, time and that this recording is restricted to authorized personnel only, bla bla bla. There’s a beep, and after a few more seconds of static, John’s voice comes through the headphones:

Mayday, mayday, anyone copy channel 9, terrorists have seized the Nakatomi building and are holding almost thirty people hostage—“

It’s John’s voice, clear as anything. Matt’s fingers freeze on top of the keyboard, because he’s too busy listening to do anything else. He winces when the dispatch lady blows John off, then:

No fucking shit, lady! Do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza?

There’s definitely goosebumps on Matt’s arms now.

The recording of John’s voice is only a little less growly than the current real deal that Matt listens to every day, but the tone itself is completely new. This is the man squeezed tight between a rock and a hard place, where fear and desperation are the flavors of the day. This is John, before.

The rest of the recording has John’s voice fluctuating between light banter to no-nonsense barking to profanity-laden screaming that hurts Matt to listen to. When it gets to the point where John’s voice goes soft, Sergeant Allen trying to keep his head steady, Matt turns it off entirely.

He opens the clip of KFLW-TV’s footage instead, learning that douchebaggery has a name, and it is Richard Thornburg. (Though, holy shit, Lucy was cute as a button back then, what happened?) Matt skips over most of it to the end, where there’s grainy footage of people doing the aftermath milling about under dust and debris, and there’s John, dirtied and bloodied, wrapped in a fireman’s jacket and Holly at his side.

Matt forgets to breathe.

It’s so perfect – Matt really can’t think of any other word to describe it. Then Sergeant Allen steps forward, and there’s the hug, and that’s perfect, too. John looks rather shell-shocked, with none of the self-assuredness that’s familiar to Matt. John and Holly are so young, pressed against each other like a promise of forever.

For a moment Matt hates Holly, but he gets over that quickly, and not only because she has a mean right hook ready for Thornburg.

Their limo rides off and Thornburg comes back on for more soundbytes with the Deputy Sheriff, but Matt’s mind has wandered off.

He’s thinking of John, exhausted but riding high on the exhilaration of survival, something that Matt remembers from his own close encounter with it, but he wasn’t even being heroic. He knows what’s happening in that limo, and before he can stop himself, he’s thinking about what it’s like to kiss a grime-covered John McClane, and it has to get all desperate, John trying to convince himself that he’s alive, that he survived, that life is so fucking short and he has to make the most of it as he presses down into the leather—

It takes Matt far too long to realize that he’s hard.

Five seconds after that and he’s panicking because he can’t exactly do anything about it without things becoming even more inappropriate. So he’s mostly sitting there, stunned, while the weight between his legs gets heavier.

Now that the mental images are there, he can’t unsee them. Other memories leak in and blur into the scenario in Matt’s head: John touching him to make sure he’s okay, the solid weight of his shoulder when Matt hangs on to it, heck, even the way he just looks at Matt like he can’t understand what he’s on about but John wants to figure him out anyway like Matt’s somehow interesting.

And this is Richard Thornburg, for Channel 10.”

Matt numbly closes the video clip, and stares at the screen for a few slow ticks of the clock.

He knows all the reasons, because they’ve been at the front of his mind from almost the beginning. The age thing, the beliefs thing, the social maladjustment thing, the thing where John can be a scary motherfucker and Matt his sidekick who doesn’t know when to shut up, and the thing where the middle ground between them seemed so thin at first it should’ve been a middle tightrope instead.

But then there’s the other thing, where Matt has been living with John for months now, breaking down those early perceptions like they’re nothing, so that at the end of the day John’s just another regular Joe, and Matt really likes living here (with him), which shouldn’t be possible since Matt swore off housemates since college, yet it is.

It’s like the final fragile curtain’s fallen away, and Matt’s allowed to want.

Well, his brain knows that he isn’t really allowed, but his body doesn’t give a fuck and happily sends his blood rushing south.

There’s a litany of so wrong so wrong pounding in his ears as he reaches into his pants and grips himself firmly.

Matt shuts his eyes, and it’s him in the limo, John above him, smelling like concrete and sweat. But it’s not the John in the video – the one who’s almost a stranger – but Matt’s John, broader and rougher, pressing Matt down and keeping him there like he’s afraid Matt’s going to up and disappear.

There’s no point of reference for this, Matt’s just making it up as he goes along, but he imagines that John’s lips are salty with sweat, his hands will be everywhere, and when he can’t stand it anymore he’ll just growl and—

Matt doesn’t finish that thought, what with his busy coming all over himself.

When the high evaporates, Matt’s panting heavily, feeling a little embarrassed and a lot dirty.

But the one thing he knows is that there’s no way he’s taking it back.


There are worse things in the world than jerking off to one’s housemate with whom one has to continue living, and that’s the thought that Matt keeps in his head when John comes home. Matt’s already showered and changed into a new set of clothes, looking very much unsuspicious when John checks up on him cooking in the kitchen.

“What’re you up to?” John says.

It takes Matt half a second to remind himself that that’s a perfectly innocent, unloaded question, and he answers by waving a spatula in a very carefree way. “Just felt like doing something with my hands.” Wait, what?

But John doesn’t seem to notice anything, and he goes off to shower – don’t think about it, don’t think about it – and when he comes back dinner’s all ready and they get down to it, ready with small talk and not-so-small talk.

By dessert, the anxiety that’s been bubbling at the edges is long gone. John’s telling a funny story about Rob and Connie at work, and Matt laughs because John’s straight face makes him a great storyteller. Matt tries to quid pro quo, and though his story falls a little flat because he can’t stop laughing before getting to the punchline, John laughs anyway.

“There’s this thing this weekend,” John says suddenly. “A friend’s kid is having a birthday. It’s just outside the city limits so I can’t say no.”

“What, you got roped in to do party tricks or something?” Matt asks.

“Hah! Guy couldn’t afford my rates if he even wanted,” John says. “You wanna come with or not?”

That’s new. “You’re totally asking me along so you won’t be stuck in a lonely corner somewhere glowering at everyone,” Matt says.

“Can’t you say you haven’t got me pegged,” John says.

“Do I need to bring a present? Because if I don’t know the host, I totally shouldn’t have to bring a present,” Matt says.

“No, you don’t need to bring a present,” John says, sighing like he’s suffering already.

“There better be some good food, though,” Matt says. “Hey, I got my priorities straight.”

“Sure you do,” John says, getting up to stack the cutlery. Matt just sits where he is, because this is part of the routine, and only jumps a little when John brushes the back of his shoulders when he walks past.

+ + +

The friend in question turns out to be Zeus Carver, which Matt only learns when they’re already on the way.

“You could’ve told me!” Matt whines.

John doesn’t take his eyes off the road. “Does it matter?”

“Well, no,” Matt says, when what he really means is that he doesn’t know how to explain why it matters without sounding like a doofus.

“There you go.”

Matt settles back into the seat. He wasn’t nervous before, but he is now, because he gets the feeling that there’s going to be judging. John’s colleagues were bad enough, Matt’s pretty sure they think of him as some sort of pet (except Connie, who doesn’t, because she is kick-ass), but this is like some sort of celebrity sidekick deathmatch.

Okay, that sounds weird even in his own head.

“What’s with the bug up your ass?” John asks.

“I don’t know,” Matt mutters, and that happens to be an outright lie.

The truth is that Matt’s been using a lot of his thinking time, and he’s figured that he really likes John, and may be already more than halfway in love with John, but he’s also smart enough to know that attempting to seduce John is a twenty-mile uphill climb in the snow.

What he needs are points. Matt’s got the scoring system all worked out in his head, and it’s pretty clear that if he gets enough points, John will realize that Matt’s awesome in more than a heterosexual-lifemate sort of way, and that breasts are completely unnecessary. In the bizarre workings of Matt’s mind, pitting him up against Zeus is a recipe for a shitload of negative points.

Well, Matt’s at least thankful that they’re not going to see Allen, because then he’d be really screwed.

“Here we are,” John says, which is redundant because Matt can see that the car has stopped. John walks and Matt follows, his cane feeling heavier than usual as they approach their destination.

When they reach the front door, Matt’s all poised to flee. He can feel his shoulders stiffening and his leg muscles bunching, so of course this is when John decides to put a hand on Matt’s back, like he can see the irrational panic alarm going off in Matt’s head.

The first thing that Matt registers when he sees Zeus is that he’s as bald as John, which in Matt’s fevered mind means that they’re already, like, blood brothers. Zeus has a huge grin and claps John on the shoulder in a friendly, mano-a-mano way before finally noticing Matt.

“This is Matt,” John says.

To Matt’s surprise, Zeus just nods a little and says, “Yeah, I figured.”

Matt shakes Zeus’ hand, trying not to feel tiny. “Hi. Um, John’s told me a lot about you.”

“It’s a wonder you came, then,” Zeus says, and then he’s ushering them inside.

Matt doesn’t do well with crowds, let alone crowds of people he doesn’t actually know or share any immediately obvious thing in common with, so it quickly becomes obvious that when Matt had joked that John needed him around so not to be the loser in the corner, it’s pretty much the other way round. John seems okay (because he’s a cop, duh) and strolls up to the birthday girl, who’s dressed way above the age limit of 12.

“Oh my god!” birthday girl squeals, and flings herself at John.

Matt takes a startled step back, but it doesn’t do any good because as soon as birthday girl turns and John says, “Yeah, this is him”, Matt gets a wraparound hug that knocks the wind out of him.

“The hell you been telling people ‘bout me, John?” Matt says, not thinking when he bumps John’s shoulder with his own.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” John says easily, and he’s somehow looser, like being surrounded by other people has a buffer effect.

Birthday girl, whose name is Naomi, grabs Matt’s arm and drags him to the other end of the room, where they’re setting up the PS2 for a party session. For a while Matt’s reluctant to join, but when he starts shouting instructions, one of Zeus’ nephews shoves a controller into his hands and Matt’s showing them how it’s really done.

After a while, Zeus’ wife yells that the food’s ready, and Matt snaps out of it to remember that John is still around there somewhere. The kids stampede away, and when Matt looks up, John is in a corner, but Zeus is with him, and they’re talking.

Zeus is all big gestures – he rolls his shoulders like it’s an event – while John keeps his hand in his pockets, only head and neck moving when he needs to emphasize something, and he doesn’t sway even a little when Zeus laughs and thumps him on the back. Whatever they’re talking about, it makes John do that thing where his eyes drift about and his mouth alternates between purses and lines. It doesn’t look like the subject is something particularly funny from the way John’s eyes are narrowed, but Zeus is patting John’s shoulder and doing something with his eyebrows that could either be sympathetic, or mocking.

Then John is looking at Matt, and the expression is—

The expression is fucking gone, that’s what it is.

Matt braces himself on his cane as he pulls himself off the floor, then heads over to the food table because he’s hungry and stuff smells good. He gets to the serving table, and after a few seconds, John’s there, too.

“Is this, like, the only way you know how to make friends?” Matt asks. “You know, get caught in a harrowing life-and-death situation, befriend the first innocent bystander who happens to have the bad luck of getting involved?”

“One, you’re not innocent,” John says. “And two, fuck you.”

“Hey, watch it,” Matt hisses. “Ids-kay ound-aray.”

“Yeah, yeah, keep moving,” John says, gently pushing at Matt with his side, “I’m starved.”

Matt just manages to bite back the starved for me? that’s surfaced in his brain, because that wouldn’t have been funny at all.

+ + +

They get back home too full to bother with dinner, so by unspoken agreement they crash on the couch. Matt can’t even be bothered to hang his cane up properly, so he mostly slides down the cushion seat until his head is propped up on the headrest to stare at the ceiling.

“Comfy?” John asks. Matt feels rather than sees John shift on the other end of the couch.

“Oh yeah,” Matt says.

John grunts. After a while, his breathing evens out like when he’s gearing up for a power nap.

“Do you miss it?” Matt says. “Those kinds of things, like you used to do with Lucy and Jack?”

“All the time,” John says, but his voice is calm, lacking both warning and melancholy.

It just makes it easier for Matt to press on: “But you deal.”

“That’s life,” John says, and the words have a mantra-like quality to it. Matt frowns, because there’s a wrongness in there that he can’t quite put his finger on.

“It shouldn’t have to be,” Matt says. He’s all relaxed and content, so there’s really no one to blame but Zeus when his mouth goes stupid and says, “I can’t tell what you’re thinking.”

The couch shifts again from John moving his weight. “Hah.”

That prompts Matt to turn, making out through fallen bangs that John’s head is fitted into the corner of the other end of the couch, arms folded across his chest. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Hmm? Nothing.”

“No, what did you mean by that?” Matt says, sitting up. He reaches over and pokes John in the arm.

“Hey.” John swats at him, but it’s half-hearted. He already looks half asleep, so Matt reaches over and pokes him again, just to get another smack for his effort. “Quit it, Matt.”

“Make me,” Matt says, because he can.

Then he’s mesmerized by the way John’s expression changes, a veil falling away and John is suddenly more tired that Matt feels.

“Hey,” Matt says, softer, concerned. “You okay?”

“How do you do that?” John asks. His palms are open, questioning. “How do you know so much?”

“No, I don’t,” Matt says.

But then clarity hits, and he does.

While Matt’s been pondering and observing and chipping away at the great big wall of awkwardness between them, John’s been doing the same. At a different wavelength, certainly, since he’s coming from a whole different direction, but the sentiment is there, and it’s the same. John has his own issues to deal with, plus a shitload of baggage that Matt can’t begin to fathom, so maybe he’s been just as confused about why this thing between them has been working, because it shouldn’t.

“There you go,” John says, like he knows that Matt knows.

And Matt knows that John knows Matt knows.

Yeah, it’s dizzying, and Matt’s more than a little stunned because he recognizes this brand new expression on John’s face when he’s never seen it before. This is what John looks like when he’s thinking about kissing someone, only that someone is Matt, which is equal parts strange and awesome.

Matt mutters a soft “Shit” when John sits up and puts his hands on Matt’s shoulders, but that’s where the movement stops, leaving Matt frozen and just sort of staring at John, breathing through his mouth like an idiot.

“Um...” Matt says. “You waiting for my permission or something?”

“Or something,” John says.

Then they’re both moving towards each other, and something quietly explodes at the back of Matt’s brain.

It doesn’t happen the way Matt’s fantasies said it would. John takes his time when he kisses, so he’s deliberate instead of desperate. Matt doesn’t have the patience for that, because hot damn, so he presses forward, tongue pushing into John’s mouth and fingers digging into John’s shirt to find purchase on the hard muscle beneath.

Matt hears John’s little noise of surprise, and the bastard pulls back.

“What—what?” Matt says, not caring that he sounds whiny pathetic.

“This isn’t the hundred-meter dash, Matt,” John says against his mouth. Then his arms are all around Matt in the bear hug that wasn’t, lowering Matt down against the couch cushions and keeping him there. It’s just like his limo fantasy, only better, because there’s no blood or glass involved.

They’re kissing again, and Matt’s trying to surge up and be forceful, but John’s having none of that, keeping it steady and deep like he has to prove he’s an asshole, which, duh. He can feel John against his hip, a warm pulse that answers his own, and it just isn’t fair that John can calmly slide a hand under Matt’s shirt to find skin, calloused fingers burning a trail on Matt’s nerve endings.

“Behave yourself,” John says quietly, and then he’s yanking Matt’s shirt up, exposing an expanse of pale skin. Matt doesn’t get to feel self-conscious because John’s lowering his head again and mouthing kisses against his ribcage.

It’s kinda hot (okay, it’s really hot) that John thinks this is something worth savoring, but Matt’s already going nuts, his pants are too tight and John’s too heavy and he’s going to do something really stupid if John doesn’t get his act together.

“I’m not a chick, John,” Matt says, though he hisses when John tongues a nipple.

“I know that, Matt,” John says, a free hand snapping open the buttons of Matt’s pants. “Don’t you think I know that?”

“Maybe it’d slipped your mind,” Matt says. Then he groans because John’s finally getting down to business, finding Matt’s dick and squeezing gently. Matt tries to push his hips up but there’s the whole thing where John weighs a fucking ton and that’s a no-go, so he has no choice to lie there and take it.

“Fuck,” Matt says, because that’s also really hot. He forces himself to relax, and John smiles against his stomach.

“Yeah, there we go,” John says, and he keeps on kissing.

Matt’s mostly lost, panting heavily at the ceiling while John’s working a map across his chest with tongue and teeth. The hand’s a constant pressure around Matt’s erection but it’s not really doing anything other than maybe gauging how hard Matt can get.

“John, I’m gonna...” Matt says.

“No, you’re not,” John says.

“Okay,” Matt says, his voice small. It’s hazy in Matt’s head, like he’s back on the drip, but everything snaps into sharpness when he feels the distinct wetness of a tongue on his dick.

“Holy fuck,” Matt says, and cranes his neck to look down. John’s face is the picture of concentration as he works Matt in, and the sight is – well, there’s hot, and then there’s John fucking McClane. Matt’s hands are scrambling for something, anything, and all that he can reach are John’s shoulders, the only solid anchor as the world melts away.

Matt’s trying to fight it, but John’s sucking like he has a personal vendetta against Matt’s cock, tongue doing all sorts of things that are mighty fucking distracting, and really, it’s not Matt’s fault that he can’t keep up.

The orgasm starts as a low curl in Matt’s belly, and then – there – it – is.

There are embarrassing opposite-of-suave noises in between Matt’s helpless panting, and isn’t that just the story of Matt’s life. He looks down in time to see John pulling away and spitting into a cupped palm.

Matt can only watch, his limbs mostly useless, as John scoots up into a sitting position and, using his only other free hand, unbuttons his jeans and pulls out his own dick. Then, as if his only purpose in life to blow Matt’s mind, John slides Matt’s come across his shaft and starts pumping with earnest.

“Wait, wait,” Matt says, his voice coming out soft. He’s determined not to miss this, so he forces his rubber arms to pull him up and over, sliding uncoordinatedly across John’s chest to take another kiss.

Matt holds on to those shoulders and kisses John. It’s sloppy now because neither of them are really paying attention, so Matt just bites and sucks until it occurs to him that this would be a really good opportunity to check something out. He reaches for John’s left sleeve and tugs up, finally exposing the long-hidden tattoo. Matt still a little too dazed to make out the details, so he just lowers his head and bites.

Matt, Jesus!” John grunts, and it is a sound that means business.

On the plus side, John’s orgasm is pretty damn impressive; on the minus side, Matt’s still hanging limply across John’s shoulders and ends up missing most of the show anyway.

Matt vaguely registers John cleaning himself up, and then his hands are on Matt’s back, stroking gently.

Heh heh,” Matt says. He wraps his arms tighter around John’s neck, and shuffles a little, settling his weight into John’s lap proper. Heh, heh heh.”

“Something funny, Matt?” John says.

“I don’t know, maybe,” Matt says.

“You gonna criticize my technique, now?” John asks.

Matt just kisses him, and it helps hide the quiet hysteria bubbling under his skin.

The world is awesome.



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