The Bigger They Come (The Harder They Die)

Part 2

The surgeon left them with a fuck-load of pamphlets in eye-watering colours, with condescending titles like ‘Cardiac Stents and You’ and ‘Recovering from Circulatory Arrest: What Happens Now?’

Okay, so ‘What to Expect’ and ‘Changing your Surgical Dressing’ actually looked important. But Matt didn’t get why they couldn’t just make them all the same size and shape. He felt like such a tool trying to juggle them all in his lap, and make some kind of sense of them while the surgeon talked at them in hushed tones that were probably meant to be calming but really just spooked him all the more, because it made it sound like someone had already died.

She also told him a bunch of different wings of the hospital they were going to cart John around to, before they started the surgery. Matt remembered, now. Before he’d been shot, he didn’t realize there were so many stops on the way to just getting into an OR. He’d obviously watched way too much TV as a kid.

In the end, the only intel that really settled in for him was that they would come back in a few hours and take John away. Once they did that it would take more hours to get him into surgery, but the actual procedure was only about 40 minutes long. After that, well, they waited for him to wake up, Matt supposed.

He piled the awkward jumble of pamphlets together as best he could, and breathed through his nose a couple of times. The next 8 to 10 hours were going to suck, large.


When Matt ventured down to the lounge area to pass the news on, there was a woman sitting with her head close to Lucy’s and talking quietly, who could only be Holly. She had soft, curly hair and an expensive looking laptop bag at her feet that gave Matt a pang of envy. He’d been offline way too long and he could feel himself getting twitchy. God only knew what could be going on in the world outside of the cardiac wing that was currently his universe.

Matt slowed his approach, but tried not to look nervous. Not that nervous was any different from how he probably always looked.

Lucy noticed him first, and Holly smoothed a handful of Lucy’s long brown hair down over her back before looking up at him.

“This is my mom, Holly Gennaro.” Lucy introduced her, and Holly stood up.

“The famous Matthew Farrell.” Holly said. She smiled and held out her hand. Matt felt weirdly formal, but he shook politely anyway.

“Hi.” He said. Eloquent. Nice.

Matt felt like he was supposed to say something trite about how good it was to meet her, but it seemed wrong under the circumstances.

“Um. John’ll be glad you’re here.”

Matt followed a few paces behind as Lucy showed Holly the way to their room. When they got there, the room was officially too small for all of them. Matt lingered awkwardly in the doorway for a moment, then leaned against the frame, trying to take some of the weight off his bad knee.

When John caught sight of Holly, an expression hit his face that Matt had never seen there before. Uncertainty. Or even – dare he think it – fear.

“Holly.” Was all he said.

“John.” Holly answered him, going to the bed and taking his outstretched hand. “Look at you.”

“Sexy, right?” said John. And Holly actually smiled like his old recycled jokes were the best she’d ever heard. She leaned down and kissed the top of his bald head. John reached up and stroked her hair, while they gazed at each other.

Matt inhaled a little too quickly and realized he’d been forgetting to breathe. He couldn’t figure out what was messing with his mind the most; the vulnerability John seemed to allow himself once another ‘grown up’ entered the room, the downright soppy tenderness between him and his wife – ex-wife, Matt reminded himself – or the fact that when he looked away he saw that Lucy was watching him avidly with slightly narrowed eyes and her lip between her teeth.

When he looked back at them, they’d parted and Holly was digging in her bag.

“Jack wanted to be here.”

“No he didn’t.” said John. Apparently he’d come back to himself.

“He’s in Australia right now.” Holly said brightly, seeming to ignore John’s surly response. “But he wanted me to give you this.”

She drew something out of her bag and handed it to John. It was an envelope, looking suspiciously like a Hallmark greeting card that couldn’t possibly have had time to get to San Francisco from Australia since yesterday.

John put it aside without opening it. Lucy was conducting a thorough examination of the toes of her shoes.

Critical mass.

Matt mumbled an excuse about checking out the cafeteria. He thought he managed a sort-of smile before he turned away into the hall, but he couldn’t really be sure. He just tried not to be too obvious about shuffling down the hall as fast as his gimped-up legs would take him.


Matt spent as long as he could over a plate of cold French fries and several cups of poison-flavoured coffee. He went for a walk, even though his knee was fully flipping him the bird by now, and even buzzed by the physio gym to visit Larry, their PT. He did have an appointment after all.

Larry was a tall and wiry dude, with a receding hairline and an addiction to lululemon athletica. He took one look at Matt in his tattered old track pants and Linux penguin t-shirt and sighed, “Can’t keep him out of trouble, can you?”

When Matt explained, wearily, why they wouldn’t be coming to their appointments, their always disturbingly positive trainer looked uncharacteristically worried.

Coming here might have been a mistake. Saying it all out loud made it a million times worse. Something Matt wouldn’t have thought possible.
Just waiting for something to happen had been the toughest part so far. He felt helpless. He wanted to scream. He wanted to blow a fit and kick things over, and then go sit with his back in the corner and start stuffing things in his mouth, like lollipops or Twizzlers or maybe even his thumb. Why was it that being around McClane always brought out the pre-schooler in him?

Larry squeezed Matt’s shoulder and told him they were in the best hospital in New York, and that he’d call in a few days to re-set Matt’s schedule since John would be out of the gym for a while. Matt just nodded dumbly. He’d all but forgotten that after all of this was over he would be going back to his life, with appointments and working, and interacting with people who weren’t scary-ass McClanes.

When Matt got back to the cardiology wing, they’d already taken John to surgery. He felt guilty about missing it, until some hours into John’s absence he considered the possibility – no matter how remote the nurses claimed it was – that it might have been his last chance to see McClane...ever. And then he just felt downright distraught.


Matt was pacing again. If he sat still too long, his knee hurt. If he moved around too much, his knee hurt. He never expected to feel this way, but Matt really missed his crutches.

He also wished he'd had the presence of mind to grab his inhaler, and maybe his phone, when the ambulance arrived instead of just throwing on a shirt he'd had so long he didn't even remember what Con it came from and an old pair of Vans. Hindsight. Whatever. Matt thought longingly of his laptop, and pushed away the image of Holly tapping away on her computer in John's empty room, the light from the little screen painting the distracted lines of her face a ghostly blue-white.

He didn’t even have his watch on. Matt looked at the clock on the lounge wall instead, trying not to stare too much at the curve of Lucy’s sleeping form, curled on the long airport-style row of chairs, her head pillowed on her big purse.

It seemed like it was taking too long, but Matt couldn’t be sure, since he didn’t know exactly when they’d come to get John. He did know it was either way too early, or way too late, for this pacing shit.

Not that he hadn’t tried to sleep. Matt had always had pretty bad insomnia. He had this whole chicken-egg thing going on where he didn't know if he'd started hacking because he couldn't sleep, or if he never slept because he was too busy messing around with code. 

But shitty sleeper or not, there was no way he could have managed it tonight. Not with his over-active imagination showing him waking nightmares of his life without John McClane. Fire sales going unstopped, crappy lonely one-bedroom apartments full of mint-in-box action figures that saw about as much action as Matt did.

When he was with McClane, Matt did things. He made a difference. He got to be a sidekick; help save the world. He got to learn things with no numbers in them, like cooking pasta, and how to take apart a nine-millimeter. He got to take care of someone. He got someone to take care of him.

Matt sighed as he turned around and started another length of the hall. Warlock would accuse him of having daddy issues. Who was he kidding, Matt was completely aware he had daddy issues. And at this point, he didn’t give a shit. It might be unhealthy, it might be gay and weird. But it was what he had, and it was a shit-ton better than what he’d had before. Which, Matt knew now, was nothing.

Then Matt turned back again, and he remembered that it still might be nothing. Holly had appeared at the other end of the hall, walking toward them.

“Hey…Luce.” Matt said when he got close enough, trying to wake Lucy slowly.

It was a wasted effort. She bolted upright and said “Mom?” Matt wouldn’t have been surprised if Lucy hadn’t actually slept at all, either.

“Kids,” Holly shook her head, “Sorry. Lucy honey, Matthew." She tried again, "…He’s awake.”


"I’ve got to get going or I’m going to miss my plane. Matthew can walk me out."

If Holly hadn’t said that last bit, Matt would have run for cover again. McClane and Holly had been oddly stiff and formal with each other in the hours since McClane had come back from surgery, and he wasn’t sure how smoothly their farewell was going to run.

He shouldn’t have worried. When Holly stood up and went to the bed, John reached out for her hand and clutched it against his chest.

“You take care, Hol.”

“You take better care. From now on. I mean it.” Holly bent down and pecked him right on the mouth. McClane didn’t respond. He just shut his eyes and let her hand go. Matt remembered to breathe this time.

She collected her things, then gathered Lucy into a long hug and made her promise to call.

“Goodbye, John.” Holly said, “Stay out of trouble.”

McClane smiled crookedly, and Holly looked at Matt. He led the way out into the hall, but Holly stopped them just as they rounded the first turn.

"I’m really happy to have finally met you, Matthew.” She said. “I want to thank you for the way you’ve been taking care of John. As the only other person in the world who’s lived with him for any amount of time, I know it’s not always easy."

"Oh. Yeah, well, you know. I’ve had worse." Matt blurted. He still felt awkward but Holly seemed totally at ease, and that helped.

"Well then I shudder to think." She smiled. "I have just a small piece of advice for you, if you’ll accept it."

She tucked a lock of her curly hair back. Matt could absolutely see John falling for this steely and attractive woman when they were both young and fiery.

"It’s not the thing I’m most proud of,” Holly went on, “But John and I lost our marriage because we were both too bull-headed to be the first to apologize about things that were probably nobody’s fault.”

Holly looked at him, like there was something weighty she was deciding whether or not to say.

“John’s got a good heart – when it works properly. You don’t seem like a stubborn guy, but in case you haven’t noticed, John’s got it in spades, and some day you might have to find the strength to be the bigger person, and call him on it. If you can do that, I think the two of you will be very good for each other. "

"You have nothing to worry about there, Ms Gennaro.” Matt assured her, “I have virtually no will of my own."

She laughed. It was musical and throaty, and Matt was struck with the oddest moment of envy for Lucy and the mysterious Jack, growing up with this intelligent and indulgent sound as a backdrop.

"I can see why he likes you, Matthew. And please, call me Holly."

"Please, it’s Matt. Can I ask you something, Holly? Why does everyone keep assuming McClane and me are a couple?"

Holly just gave her melodious laugh again and patted him on the shoulder.

"Take care, Matt. Don’t let him push you around, okay? Oh, and if you break his heart, our daughter will kick your ass."

She leaned in and kissed Matt on the cheek, and she was gone before it could penetrate that Matt had just gotten fucking marriage advice.


"You know Dad, you could’ve had 5.8 billion dollars in that dump truck in the nineties?"

"Two thirds back then," Matt reminded Lucy. "So more like, 4 billion."

"Three point eight-seven." Lucy corrected, and actually stuck her tongue out at him. Matt didn’t know what to do with that so he just retaliated in kind, and then yelped in surprise when Lucy responded with a vicious pinch on the arm.

"Are you kids gonna play nice, or you gonna give me another heart attack?"

Lucy said "Sorry, Daddy!" Right at the same time as Matt muttered "Sorry, McClane." and John smiled, smugly. He was looking better already. More McClane-coloured instead of that terrifying, sickly gray.

Matt rubbed his arm. That friggin’ hurt.

"Gimme a kiss, honey,” said John, “And Matt’ll walk you out.”

Matt nodded, Lucy did have a bus to make. He wandered into the hall to nurse his newest bruise and get a meandering head start through the ugly winding hallways as they said their goodbyes.

“Hey Farrell,” Lucy said, when they reached the elevators, “Thank you. You saved my life, and now I owe you for my dad, too.”

Matt shrugged, “Come on, all I did was call for help. Then again, I am exceptional at that.”

“If nobody was in the house with him, he’d be dead right now. You’ve been taking good care of him.”

Matt wasn’t so sure, if nobody had been in the house with McClane, then nobody would have been taxing his gnarly old heart with partial nudity and really hot foreplay. But now was definitely a bad time to split hairs.

Speaking of hair, Matt let his fall forward over his face a little. He could feel a flush creeping into his cheeks, and hoped Lucy would just chalk it up to the compliment.

“I saw all those pamphlets, with all that stuff about bed rest, and taking it easy when he gets home.” Lucy sighed. “You’ve got your work cut out now, huh? You know how big a pain in the ass John can be.”

Matt didn’t yet, actually. Damn, he would have to stop thinking things like that if he was going to stop blushing. But then, apparently Lucy was thinking it too.

“You’re really going to have to sit on him.” She said. “Actually, don’t do that, look how it turned out last time.”

Yeah, he wasn’t going to stop with the blushing any time soon.

“You’re a comic genius, McClane!” Matt exclaimed. “It must be genetic.” And then he dodged before she could pinch him again. At least when Lucy said these things, she was kidding. He hoped.

The ping announcing Lucy’s elevator sounded, and she surprised him by throwing her arms around his neck and popping a quick kiss on his hot cheek.

“Thank you.” She said again, stepping into the elevator. “Take care of yourself too, okay?” Lucy added, as the doors slid shut. “You really do look like hell.”


John had his eyes closed, but he opened them when he heard Matt limp his way back into the room. 

"That's everyone gone." Matt reported. "Lucy says she'll call when she gets home."

"Finally. Get over here."

Matt came to the edge of the bed, and John reached out and pulled Matt's hand to his chest, the way he'd done with Holly. Somewhere in there, there was a tiny little peice of metal that Matt owed big time.

"You waited for them to leave so we could hold hands?"

"Shut up." John advised him. He didn't let go.

He looked down at how small and narrow his fingers looked against John's thick, round ones. It was still new, McClane wanting to touch him. It made Matt feel like all the nerves in his body had migrated to that one point of contact. They'd taken the IV out, but there was still a piece of cotton taped to the back of John's hand. Matt sighed and laced their fingers together.

"Don't hurt yourself trying to murder me or anything," he warned, "but I'm pretty sure they already know."

"That right?" John didn't sound very surprised.

"Everyone around here thinks we're doing it. Even you. I thought we were just gonna fool around. But seriously, it's ridiculous. Where is everyone getting it from? I mean, I know I'm not as butch as you, but I wouldn't exactly call myself obvious. Hell, I didn't even know until last week. And before you say it, it's not like I want to start lying to anyone about anything, but, come on McClane, you'll understand if I don't go around wearing a rainbow button that says ‘Now serving dudes too! Ask me how.' That's okay with you, right? And okay, I know I'm getting way ahead of myself, I know all we did was kiss. Alright alright, yes, there was 'heavy petting'. God McClane, what the hell were you..."

"Kid, slow down. Slow DOWN and shut the fuck up a second, wouldja?" He rubbed his rough thumb over the back of Matt's hand a couple of times, and waited for his full attention.

"You should take a look at yourself, when was the last time you cleaned up a little?"

Yeah okay, Matt knew he was gross, it had been way more than 24 hours since he'd showered, brushed his teeth, or even splashed some water on his face. What, did McClane want to make out or something? That was a bit kamikaze, Matt thought, considering last time it almost killed him. But he was still John McClane, so who knew what he might do. Maybe he got off on risking life and limb.

"Go on," John prompted. "There's some soap by the sink and mirror, right in there." He let go of Matt’s hand, and inclined his head toward the little bathroom across the room.

Matt thought it was kind of weird that John mentioned the mirror until he caught his reflection. His hair was greasy and matted in weird places, he was pale with dark smudges under his eyes to rival the bags McClane had been sporting yesterday and – Oh, for the love of Guarana!

Matt let out a surprised gasp so loud he could hear McClane chuckle and then cough weakly outside the door.

"This could be a bruise." He said, walking back toward the bed and pointing at the lurid purple mark on his neck. "You fell on me."

John was still laughing quietly, even though it looked like it hurt.

"No, really. You're huge, man. This could totally have happened then."

"Does it matter?" John asked.

"It could be from anything. Or anyone! They don't know what..."

"Kid, kid...Matt." John interrupted. "Does it matter?" John was looking at him the way he did when he was trying really hard to be patient. There was a question here Matt wasn't getting.


"I don't know," Matt said. He wasn't the one whose semi-estranged family had just been exposed to the thing.

It was pretty impressive for a hickey, Matt had to admit. He felt some of the blood leaving his brain just thinking about how it had looked in the mirror; the dark bloom of colour running over the white of his skin and disappearing under his collar. John had done that. With his mouth. He would totally have to spend some quality time alone with a mirror when they got home. Matt tugged a hand through his tatty hair, trying to focus.

"You tell me." He answered. 

"Not to me, Sir." John said.

"Then no, it doesn't. Officer McClane."

"Don't you mean 'Detective'?"

"I believe that's Senior Detective."

"Oh yeah? I'll show you how much of a Senior I am.” John leaned back a little in the bed. “They say I can take you home in the morning."

"Then check me out, I'll be shacked up with the Bionic Man." Maybe one day McClane really would have adamantium  organs that couldn't just quit on them. "I can't wait."

Matt actually couldn't. This was the best news he'd heard since Saturday at 4am. He turned around to drag his chair right up beside McClane.

"The coffee around here tastes like it has nail polish remover in it." Matt lowered the bedrail before he sat down, so he could lean forward onto the bed and rest his head on his arms. "Would it kill them to put one energy drink in the soda machine? Just one. It doesn't even have to be Red Bull. At this point I'd take a Rockstar. Or even Monster." Matt gave a little shudder for emphasis.

"Nail polish remover?" John asked. He raised an eyebrow and started combing his fingers through Matt's disastrous hair, gently taking the knots out.

"So I had a punk phase." Matt closed his eyes. "And some roommates with extremely childish and potentially fatal senses of humour. Turns out ‘harmful if swallowed’? Isn’t actually a hilarious joke. Oh and so you know, black isn't gay, it's tortured. Chicks love it. Or so I hear."

"I'll keep it in mind."

John continued his compulsive grooming. There were just so many jokes Matt could make about the silver stripe down his back, but then John might stop. He bit his tongue.

"Hey, McClane?" Matt murmured. He had to take his chin off his crossed arms so he could open his mouth to talk. And if that meant he had to rock his head to the side and push further into John's touch, well that was just a consequence he'd have to live with.

"Yeah, kid."

"How many axles were there?"


"On that dump truck."

"Hmm?" John's fingers paused in their careful de-construction of a particularly stubborn tangle at the crown of Matt's head. "I dunno, three."

"Then when Lucy calls," Matt yawned, "Tell her it's six point one-nine."

"You may be smarter than me, hack-brain, but if there's one thing I know it's to keep my big nose out of another McClane's arguments. You'll learn, Poindexter."

"Less name calling, more dump truck." Matt poked John in the hip, and it brought a soft laugh out of him that miraculously wasn't followed by coughing. "I called 911, I saved your life. I'd say that's good for at least one patented John McClane story."

"Patented, huh?"

"Yup. Tee - Em." Matt reached up and traced the letters over John's chest, avoiding the area where gauze and surgical tape poked up through the neck of the thin blue hospital gown. "Or haven't you heard? I'm turning patent-troll, and I'm trade marking your image. Copyright Matthew J. Farrell. Lucy figures you owe us pretty big after blowing your opportunity with the whole gold brick thing, so we'll just retire off of selling the movie rights."

"All I wanted was a couple of aspirin." John said. But he was giving a crooked little half-smile.

Matt smiled too, and shut his eyes again. He'd heard this story already, and Lucy had told him to ask about something to do with an ejector seat some time, but that one could wait. Matt was way too burned to take in any new information, and it didn’t matter anyway.

It was really just the sound of John's voice that he was after; deep and constant and close – and not going anywhere Matt couldn't follow. Not for a long time, at least. The slow, rhythmic stroke of warm, strong fingers through his hair was just a bonus. 

A really really nice, relaxing bonus. With any luck, Matt would be asleep before John could even get as far as "Simon fuckin' Says".



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 and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola