Situation Normal

Part 2

On more than one occasion, John’s had doctors congratulate him on his remarkably hard head. Without it, they’ve said, he’d have been dead about eight times over.

Better make it nine, he thinks fuzzily, blinking his eyes open carefully, then wincing them closed again as the dim light pierces them and makes his head throb like someone’s beating a drum inside his brain. Ouch. OW.

Weak sounds filter in, slowly, through the painful throb of his pulse in his ears and the buzzing of his headache. A voice, low and…cajoling? And then a muffled sound, almost pained, and it comes back to him…the call, the drive, Matt.

He gets his eyes open and keeps them open this time, ignoring the pain with the ease of long practice. He tries to check his gun and hits resistance…he’s on the floor, his hands are tied together. Okay. Okay. He doesn’t move, just sweeps his eyes across the room.

The place is a dump, no surprise there, and the lights are low, like the curtains or shades are all drawn closed. He can see the legs and feet of someone standing and moving around a little, and then more legs…he recognizes those shoes. Matt’s ratty Converse, shit, SHIT.

“You had to make this difficult,” a strange voice says, almost whining, and John pays attention. This must be it, must be their guy. As nice as it is for him to make himself known so quickly, John could’ve wished for a less painful introduction.

“Mmmmpf, mmmf, MMMM,” Matt says, and okay, clearly the guy has taped his mouth shut. John has a moment of wry sympathy, thinking of the times he’s been tempted to do the very same thing, and then has to tamp down the urge to crawl over and kill this guy with his teeth. The guy--big, but soft, out of shape, shaggy hair, looks young--has his hand on Matt’s head, he’s stroking his hair, what the fuck.

“I responded to your profiles,” the guy goes on, still in that whining, persuasive tone that grates on John’s ears. “I figured out it was you. I’ve been your biggest fan since you were on CNN, Matt. Matt Farrell, the guy who took down Thomas Gabriel.” There’s a creepy kind of awe in his voice, now, and John starts to get a bad feeling about this. “Like a real hero. A real superhero, but smart, I knew you were smart.”

“Mmmmm!” Matt says, and John inches sideways, just far enough to look up and see his face. His eyes are huge, dark, terrified, and there’s a strip of shiny silver duct tape over his mouth. He’s staring straight at the guy, not blinking.

“I didn’t want it to be like this,” the guy says, like he’s responding back, like he’s having an actual conversation with Matt. “I found you on MySpace, I commented, you never replied to me. And your Yahoo profile said you were looking for a nice guy. I’m a nice guy. You never replied, Matt! We’re perfect for each other and you never gave me a chance!” His voice rises to a slightly hysterical shout at the end, and then John can hear a deep breath, like he’s consciously calming himself down. “I was angry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” John watches him stroke Matt’s cheek in a grotesque parody of tenderness. “I never thought you should really have died. How else would people know that it’s our world, now, that the hackers own this planet? But I had to make you pay attention. You weren’t paying attention.”

“Mmmmph, mmferfmmmfer,” Matt says, and John’s pretty sure that whatever he said wasn’t nice. The slap the guy delivers to Matt’s face indicates that he gathers the same thing.

“Be polite, Matthew,” he says, and there’s that creepy tone again. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’m never going to hurt you unless you make me.” Matt’s head swings towards John, and the guy slaps him again, rocking him back in the chair that John can see he’s tied to, as well. “Don’t look at him. He’s dead, I’m pretty sure. The book said if I hit him behind the ear hard enough he’d die. You don’t need him, you don’t need anyone but me.”

John takes a moment to identify the slow burn his insides seem to be doing. Rage. Pure, cleansing rage, shaking the fuzz out of his head, clearing his mind, letting him focus. Loverboy there doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, so John starts testing the knots on the ropes around his wrists, gently and slowly. Wouldn’t want anyone to know he’s awake. The rope is tight, and there’s a lot of it, but his fingers find the knot and slowly start to work it open.

Too slowly.

“I think you’re distracted,” the guy says, and John hears footsteps, and closes his eyes again, going still. “I think you’re paying attention to HIM. He’s a thug, Matt, you know that, right? He’s just dumb muscle. You need someone who’s smart like you, someone who can appreciate your talents. I’m that guy. We’re going to be great, you and me, you’ll see. I’m going to get rid of him now, I don’t like it when you’re distracted.” The guy giggles, and it’s the freakiest thing John’s ever heard. “Don’t go anywhere, now. We have so much more to talk about.”

Slitting his eyes open a little, John sees those feet approach, then stop. He tries to slow his breathing, play dead, but he can smell the guy when he bends down close. Ugh. That’s some seriously nasty BO.

“He’s still breathing.” The guy sounds disappointed. “I’m going to write a nasty review on Amazon, that book is publishing lies.” John feels a hand grab his arm, and tug, and pull. He makes himself dead weight. “If you’d come home like you were supposed to, alone, I wouldn’t have to deal with this,” the guy complains as he drags John towards the bathroom. “I’m very disappointed in you, Matt.”

John opens his eyes, taking advantage of the guy’s distraction, and looks right at Matt. Meets those huge scared eyes, and blinks once. Matt freezes, then blinks back, and it looks like he takes a deep breath. Okay, connection made. John works the knot harder, now, with the jostling of the dragging hiding his movements. Fuck, this is awkward. But there’s no way he’s letting this guy get him into the bathroom, where blood’s easy to clean and wash away. No way he’s leaving Matt alone with this freak.

He can’t get his hands free. Can’t, no matter how hard he works the knot, and he’s on tile, now, not wood, and he can hear rustling. Fuck, fuck, fuck, think, John, think. Then the guy whispers in his ear, breath sour and hot where it brushes John’s face.

“He’s mine, you hear me? MINE. Mine forever, mine, not yours, mine.”

John stops thinking.

In a surge, he’s on his feet, staggering as his bound hands knock him off balance. He lurches into the sink, then bounces back and charges the guy, shouting wordlessly as he slams his head into the guy’s face, knocking him back into the tub, bringing the shower curtain down with a crash and clatter of hardware. The guy screams, tangled in the vinyl, half in and half out of the tub. He’s big, bigger than John, but he’s slow and shocked and John grins viciously as he kicks him in the knee, then again, using the tub as a brace when he staggers back from his own impact.

The guy heaves himself out of the tub, red-faced and gasping, something insane in his eyes. He swings at John and John ducks it, hurling himself forward again, slamming his forehead against the guy’s chin, ignoring the shock of pain in his already-abused skull. FUCK if he’s gonna let this guy hurt Matt, the sick fuck.

This time when the guy straightens up, he’s holding John’s gun, and John bares his teeth at him.

“He’s MINE,” the guy hisses, and John laughs.

“You gonna shoot me, you fucking douchebag?” John’s voice is a rough, vicious rasp that he almost can’t recognize himself. “I’m gonna kill you and I’m not even gonna use my hands.” He takes a step forward and the guy freezes. “I’m gonna rip your spine out your mouth and strangle you with it. I’m gonna cut off your balls and stuff ‘em down your throat and then maybe, if you’re lucky, maybe then I’ll kill you.” He takes another step forward, and the guy takes another step back. “You won’t even leave a smear when I’m done with you. You think you rule the world? Let me tell you, buddy, there ain’t no keyboard here right now, and this is MY world.”

“Stop moving,” the guy says, but now his voice is shaking, and the hand holding the gun is shaking too.

“Fucking shoot me, then,” John taunts, taking a step forward, eyes flicking to what’s behind the guy. “Go ahead, shoot me. You know how many times I been shot? More than five. And I’m still here, and I’m still gonna kill you, no matter what you do.” One more step…the guy shifts his weight back…

“John!” That’s Matt’s voice, he’s loose, and the guy howls and swings his attention towards the door, and John moves. Dives, tackles the guy right into the tub. The gun goes off right by his ear, FUCK, he’d been hoping the safety was still on, the sound is deafening and sears his ear with a sharp pain, but he’s got the guy in the tub now, pinned with his own body weight, and he slams his head down once, twice, three times, seeing the nose explode in a spray of blood, gotta get him out before he gets that gun around…

“McClane! Holy shit, John, stop, you’re gonna kill him!”

He comes out of the haze with someone tugging on him, tugging him back, and he swings around with a snarl…but it’s Matt, Matt pale and shaky looking, with John’s gun in one hand and his other on John’s shirt, pulling. John stares at him, then slumps down. Aw, fuck, this guy stinks SO bad.

“John, come on, get off him, come on,” Matt begs, his voice sounding strange and tinny, and John finds the energy to get his knees under him, at least, and kind of lurch up sideways, using the shower wall as a brace. His fucking hands are still tied behind him, and he thinks maybe his shoulder is dislocated, and his head, Jesus, his head hurts so bad and he can barely hear. Matt grabs him and steadies him, and John steps out of the tub, turning around so Matt can get to his hands.

“Aaargh, motherFUCKER!” As soon as the rope is loose, the pain in his shoulder slices through him like fire. His bad shoulder, again. His physical therapist is gonna KILL him.

“Jesus, John,” Matt says, voice shaking, and John spins around, staggering a little when the room keeps spinning after he’s stopped moving, and then Matt’s hands are on his shoulders, steadying him again. “Holy shit, holy shit, oh my god.”

“Hey, easy, it’s okay,” John hears himself slur, and when he meets Matt’s eyes, he’s almost smiling. The bad guy’s down. Matt’s safe, he’s safe, sort of. “Matt, go get my cuffs, they’re in my bag, okay? Grab my cuffs. And then call 911. Go on, go.”

“Jesus,” Matt says again, and leans his forehead against John’s for a long moment. John breathes. When Matt pulls back there’s a smear of blood on his face, and John’s mouth twists as he wonders what he looks like. At least he doesn’t think much of the blood is his, though he hasn’t really had a chance to check. “You look awful,” Matt informs him.

“Sexy, right?” John laughs, rough.

“Yeah,” Matt admits, and even though he’s smiling, his eyes are serious and his hands are shaking.

John has no idea what to do with that, right now when his head is pounding so he can barely think, his shoulder a solid brick of pain, and he gives Matt a gentle push. “Go on, get those cuffs. I’ll watch Stinky here.”

“His name is Dave, he said, but I like Stinky better,” Matt says over his shoulder as he heads out towards the living room, leaving John leaning against the sink, fighting to keep his eyes open. “Hey, you need an ambulance?”

“Tell ‘em you’ve got an officer down,” John calls back, but there’s something wrong with his balance, his head, and he tilts sideways, or maybe that’s the room, and black sparkles start filling his vision.

“But you’re not down,” Matt argues, his voice sounding closer again, and John feels something pop inside his ear, a trickle of heat and that can’t be good, and then he’s feeling cold tile under his ass again and against his face, and Matt’s voice is coming from far away. “John—oh my god. Oh shit. Officer down, officer down, do you hear me, there’s a police officer here and he was attacked, he just collapsed, get me someone right fucking now…”

John closes his eyes.


Things are beeping, and his nose is burning with medical smell and the feel of a plastic tube, dry air forcing its way into him, and John can’t open his eyes. It’s quiet, except for the beeps, and he lets himself fall back into painless darkness.


He can hear voices. It sounds like Matt and…Holly? He really wants to wake up to see that conversation, watch them together, because he imagines it’d be pretty fucking funny, but he can’t hold on to the thought, can’t hold on to any thought, and he loses his grip again, and he’s falling, falling.


It’s dark, and quiet, and he actually gets his eyes open this time. The beeping is still there, and the burning in his nose, and he’s distantly aware of his shoulder, because it fuckin’ hurts. A lot. More of an issue is the ringing in his ears and the aching throb of his head, but he ignores it, makes himself wake up. Forces his brain back online.

It’s a little scary how long it takes before he can actually blink, but as long as he’s still breathing, he figures he’s okay.

He definitely doesn’t want to move his head, but he does look around. It’s your standard-issue hospital room, dim for nighttime. He’s been in more of these than he wants to remember, but this one doesn’t look like ICU, which is probably a good sign. He turns his head and moans at the pain, and there’s a flurry of motion and then he sees Matt, right there, so close he almost goes cross-eyed.


“Unrgh,” John replies, brilliantly, and Matt’s grin almost blinds him.

“He’s awake!”

“Ow,” John moans as Matt’s voice rings in his head, and Matt looks apologetic, even as a nurse hustles in and starts taking readings and doing things with tubes that John doesn’t want to think about.

“Thank god, John, you scared the shit out of us,” Matt says, accusingly, and John would yell at him for that, but he’s holding a little straw to John’s mouth, and that water is the best thing John’s ever tasted. His mouth feels like a desert, and he sucks greedily, growling when it’s pulled away.

“Little sips,” Matt scolds him, and when John takes a better look at him, the kid looks like hell. Unshaven, a big bruise on his cheekbone and a butterfly bandage on the side of his neck holding a nasty cut closed.

“Y’okay?” he rasps, and Matt breathes out a shaky laugh.

“I’m fine, FINE, you lunatic. What were you thinking, you beat a guy half to death with your head, you’re INSANE.”

“Didn’t have…no hands,” John explains fuzzily, and Matt laughs again, even though it’s pretty weak and his eyes are suspiciously bright.

“Only you, McClane,” he says, and leans in and presses his mouth to John’s, quick and hard, before pulling back just as quickly. “And you don’t get to kill me for that,” he adds hastily, looking worried, “because you totally saved me from becoming that guy’s sex slave or something, so even when you get better, don’t punch me, okay, because you’d probably break my face, and I’m seriously not as tough as you, so that would SUCK, and-“

“Shuddup,” John slurs, eyes already drifting shut, but he’s smiling, he can feel it. “’nother one.”

“Another what?” Matt’s leaning back, looking confused.

“AGAIN,” John stresses, and Matt blinks, and then kisses him again, a little longer and softer this time.

“This is too weird,” he declares when he pulls back, and John’s stomach lurches. “I can’t make out with you when you’re still barely conscious, it’s like, I don’t know, weird. If you wanna do this when you’re actually awake, let me know, and if you don’t, just don’t tell me, okay, because it would totally break my heart if this is just the drugs or something, but we should be friends at least, since you keep saving my life and everything, I figure at least we should hang out sometimes, even though you never even called me in MONTHS, but don’t think I’m letting you get away with that again—“

John closes his eyes, and he’s still smiling as he drifts off into sleep. Real, honest sleep this time, with Matt’s voice lulling him down.


It turns out that John’s shoulder is indeed dislocated, and in addition to a hairline fracture in his skull, he had gotten himself a pretty serious brain contusion somewhere in the scuffle. Swelling on the brain, the doctor tells him seriously off his blank look at the term, and they’d put him into a light coma to see if it would go down on its own. It has, apparently, but it’s been over a week, and he can’t believe he’s been out that long. He’s been half-drowned, thrown off buildings, blown up, beaten up, but one crazy hacker stalker guy puts him in a coma for a week?

Maybe he really is getting too old for this.

The thought depresses him enough that he eats the bland gelatin and toast that they bring him without once protesting or demanding coffee, and even that wears him out enough that when he’s done, he sleeps again for a while.

“Induced coma” was apparently enough to get Holly on a plane, too; he hadn’t been imagining her voice that one time, since she shows up in his room the next morning looking pale but calm, shaking her head and smiling at him.

“Really, John? You decided that fists were boring and you were going to start fighting with your face?” She pulls up a chair and settles in, and he’s ridiculously pleased to have something besides the white walls and the beeping machines to look at. “I always said you were hardheaded, but you didn’t have to go this far to prove me right.”

“I had my hands tied behind my back,” he shrugs, and then winces. Okay, no more shrugging for a while.

Holly sighs. “Well, at least you saved the day. Again. And survived, again, but this is getting a little ridiculous, you know. How many times are you going to end up in this hospital? This has to be some kind of record. They should set up a wing for you.”

“Lots of guys get hurt on the job—“ it’s their old familiar argument, and he cuts himself off with a shake of his head. “I wasn’t gonna let that psycho hurt the kid, okay? I could be eighty sittin’ in a wheelchair and I’d still try to stop that going on.”

Holly grins at him, that sly little twist to her mouth that means she’s thinking something wicked. “I met your…Matt,” she says, hesitating long enough before the name that he starts wondering what on earth the kid’s told her. “He’s an interesting young man. Very smart.”

“Yeah, he’s smart all right,” John grumbles, leaning back against the pillows. “Smart mouth, smartass, all those.” He’s really starting to regret that frank conversation he’d had with Holly way back when they were still dating, when he told her all about his college roommate Ben and what they’d gotten up to, naked, for pretty much the whole second semester of his junior year. Right now he’d like her to have a little less knowledge to work with.

“He told me he’ll be staying with you while you’re still recovering,” she informs him brightly, and now her eyes are positively, evilly gleeful. “He told me I really don’t have to stay, he’s got it covered. In fact, he’s probably talking to your doctor right now about your discharge instructions.” She leans forward. “So, John. Is there something you’d like to tell me?”

“No, there’s nothing I’d like to tell you,” he grouches, mimicking her tone. “Jesus, Holly, he’s only a couple of years older than Lucy. Give me a break. He’s a nice kid, that’s all.”

“A nice kid? You don’t even like kids, except maybe your own, and Matt Farrell is definitely not a child. And I don’t know what’s going on between you, but you’d better not be a jackass.” She fixes him with a stern no-bullshit look, and his mouth snaps closed. “Don’t sabotage what could be a good thing, John, just because you’re too damn stubborn to bend.”

“Yes, ma’am,” John sighs, only a little sarcastically. He really, really does not want to be talking about Matt with Holly. It’s so fucking awkward, no matter how amusing she seems to find the whole thing. “I’m not gonna be a jackass. Well, I probably will,” he acknowledges—fifty years of living with yourself, you’d better know at least that much—“but I’ll try not to make it too bad.”

“Good.” She finishes her coffee, ignores his pleading look at the cup, and stands up. “I have to book a flight home. Jack wanted to come, but since you weren’t in immediate danger I told him to stay in school. Lucy’s been in and out, but she has class today. I’ll find…Matt…and send him in.” There’s that wicked grin again, as she leans down to kiss his cheek, soft and warm. “He told me he thinks you’re quite the kisser,” she murmurs in his ear, and as he’s still gaping, she leaves the room.

He’s gonna kill that kid.


His injuries this time are actually more dangerous than a bullet hole might be, or so they tell him, with all kinds of appropriate threats and warnings, as he’s signing himself out two days later. He’s supposed to take it easy, he’s supposed to rest, he’s supposed to have someone with him all the time in case there’re any unexpected moments of disorientation or unconsciousness. He grunts noncommittally at all of it, and jerks his thumb over his shoulder at where Matt’s hovering when they ask again if someone will be staying with him.

The kid’s been avoiding any one-on-one time with the skill of a pro since John woke up; first only showing up with Holly (watching them talk is just as amusing as John had imagined, and they seem to get along almost eerily well), then Lucy, then he was back at his own apartment and packing his stuff so he can come stay with John (which John still doesn’t remember approving, but whatever, as long as it gets him out of the hospital faster). He’s bright and cheerful and his regular self, mostly, but there’s a wariness in his eyes and the set of his shoulders that John’s not quite sure what to do about.

Well, they’ll have plenty of time once they’re at John’s place in Brooklyn. He’s on mandatory medical leave for at least another month, since apparently they don’t want a cop who might randomly pass out somewhere to be out on the streets, or even at a desk. John had called his Captain a “pussy who listens to doctors too much,” but he hadn’t really meant it, since he really does feel pretty shitty, still.

Lucy drives them home, since John can’t drive and Matt doesn’t even have a license. John closes his eyes really tightly and breathes carefully through his nose as they go through the Holland, then across Manhattan and over the river into Brooklyn. He taught her how to drive himself, it should all be fine, but he still slams his foot against the floorboard of the car when a cab swerves in front of them, like he’s stepping on an invisible brake pedal, and Lucy and Matt both snicker at him.

“I should’ve known you’d be a backseat driver,” Matt says to him, grin bright in the rearview mirror as John glances into it to see him in the back seat, leaned forward so he can chat with Lucy, comfortable like they’re old friends. He and Lucy, that is. He’s still not looking at John straight on, much, and John’s caught him more than once with a flush of red high on his cheeks.

Lucy snorts and rolls her eyes at the way John’s got a death grip on the door handle. “He’s actually dying inside because he’s not driving,” she tells Matt over her shoulder, and she and Matt both laugh, and John’s left scowling out the window. At least they’re not playing loud music.

Thankfully, by the time they reach his apartment, Lucy’s checking her watch and looking worried. “Hot date?” he needles as they turn the corner onto his street, and she flushes a little.

“None of your business, dad,” she replies coolly, and he laughs a little. That’s his girl. “You two play nice,” she warns them, and again, he wonders what Holly’s told her about him and Matt, what Matt’s told her. It’s too much to deal with right now, and his head hurts like a sonofabitch, so he just kisses her cheek and staggers out of the car, blinking at the late afternoon sunlight and how much it hurts his eyes. Maybe the concussion’s not entirely gone, after all.

“C’mon.” An arm turns him away from watching Lucy drive off, and Matt’s got their bags and the keys, and he’s heading up the stone stairs like he’s the one who lives here, tugging John along behind him.

John’s more than willing to be tugged. His ears are ringing and his shoulder aches, and as soon as Matt opens the door (the place smells closed-up and dusty, and the super clearly hasn’t been in to fix the heat, since it’s like a sauna in the living room, and he can’t imagine what the bedroom must be like), he settles carefully on the couch, and leans his head back against the cushions, closing his eyes.

“Here, take your pills, c’mon. You can sleep in a minute,” Matt’s voice is soft and concerned. “Are you sure you’re okay to leave the hosp—“

“Don’t start,” John groans, taking the pills and the water and swallowing them down. “I’m gonna be fine, Lucy’s driving would make anyone feel a little sick.”

“Yeah, okay,” Matt sighs, definitely sarcastic, and John cracks an eye to give him a dry look. “You’re just a control freak who doesn’t like riding in the passenger seat,” he continues defensively, and John laughs a little.

“You noticed,” he tips the water bottle at Matt, who bobs his head and jitters around. John watches him. The kid cannot seem to be still; he sits for a second in the chair, then jumps up and rummages in his bag, then goes to the kitchen, then comes back with a Coke. Sits down, jumps up again.

“Do you need anything? Pillows, or, I don’t know, what do you even do? You probably polish your gun and watch Fox News, right? I don’t know if I can handle that, we might have to get you a Netflix account, or real cable, or something. How do you not have a cable box? I mean, you probably don’t have a computer—“

“Matt. Matt. MATTHEW.” Matt stops talking and looks at him. “Would you sit down and relax? I’ve got a huge fucking headache and you aren’t helping.” The moment Matt registers that and the second the crushed look that appears on his face, John feels like the biggest asshole in the world. “No, hey…”

“No, I’m sorry,” Matt blurts over his apology. “I mean, I invited myself here, I didn’t even ask, and you’re probably not even, I mean, you don’t have a guest room. And you never actually said it was okay for me to stay.”

“There’s a couch,” John points out, patting the cushion he’s currently sitting on. “It’s not the Hilton, but it’s not too bad. And they wouldn’t have let me out unless you were gonna stay here, or I’d have to go stay at Lucy’s dorm, and let me tell you right now, that would not have ended well.”

“That’s true,” Matt says, brightening just a little, and John feels like he’s won a fucking medal or something when the kid smiles. “I mean, it’s not like you’re supposed to be cooking, or cleaning, or anything like that, so you’re gonna need help, right? I can pay you back for saving my life seven times. Or however many it is now, I kind of lost count there for a while, do you think this one counts as once or twice?”

“Uh, I don’t know?” John closes his eyes and tips his head back again. “But can we work out the statistics or whatever later? I think I need to sleep now.”

“You’re not sleeping there,” Matt informs him, and wow, John hadn’t really realized just how bossy the kid could sound. “No sleeping on the couch for the guy with the brain injury, even I know that much. And they gave me instructions.” He waves some papers around, apparently what he’d been getting out of his bag. “You’re not supposed to sleep for more than four hours at a time, and I’ve gotta keep an eye on you. And no exertions…in bed or out of it…till your brain swelling is all gone. So be sure to heal up fast.” He does something crazy with his eyebrows that John thinks is maybe intended to look sexy and suave, and John bites his lip to keep from laughing.

“Okay, Nurse Farrell, I’m going, I’m going.” He braces his hands on the edge of the couch, feeling every minute of his fifty years weighing down on him as he slowly, slowly presses himself up to his feet. His shoulder shoots bloody fire down his spine, and he bites his lip again, this time for a whole different reason.

“Hey, here.” Matt’s really sturdier than he looks, John thinks blearily, as he drapes an arm over the kid’s suddenly-convenient shoulder, and feels an arm wrap firmly around his waist.

“Thanks,” John mumbles, realizing he’s a lot more tired than he’d even thought. His vision is still a little wacky, too, zooming in and out of focus quickly enough to make him feel a little dizzy and sick. The doctor had promised that would go away with time, but for now, it’s a real pain in the ass.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Matt reminds him, negotiating down the narrow hallway, past the bathroom, into the one small bedroom with the great view of the airshaft. He sets John down on the edge of the bed, then hurries around, opening the window a crack, kicking John’s running shoes out of the way from where they were sitting in the middle of the floor, turning on the bedside lamp. He looks an inch away from starting to fluff the pillows when John gives up and kind of keels over sideways onto the bed, sighing in relief as he gets horizontal.

“Come on, shoes off first,” Matt says, and tugs them off John’s feet for him. John would thank him, but his tongue feels strange and heavy in his mouth, and his eyes just won’t seem to open. The last thing he hears is the click of the light being turned off, then the door closing, and then he’s out.


The first time Matt wakes John up for one of his four-hour check-ins, John very nearly punches him in the face. He has to apologize profusely before Matt will promise not to just poke him with a stick from a safe distance, next time.




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