National Pastime

by Dira Sudis

Notes:
Disclaimer: Neither John McClane nor Matt Farrell belong to me; I am (or at least try to be) merely an innocent bystander.

Beta thanks to lamardeuse and Miss Molly Etc!


Matt made it about two crutches-swinging strides from McClane's car before he actually looked up at their destination. "Oh, man, I really don't think this is a good idea."

"Shut up, it's a great idea," McClane said easily, matching his stride to Matt's slow, painful pace--swing crutches, hop, breathe, swing crutches, hop, breathe...

Matt looked up at the stadium as they got closer, his eyes tracing the slanting concrete. There were people walking behind the grating. "Wait--those are ramps. Did you say those tickets were upper deck?"

"Nothing like the upper deck at Shea in July," McClane said, in a hearty, two-working-legs, not-even-wearing-a-sling-anymore kind of voice that made Matt want to punch him a little bit. Not in the gunshot wound or anything, but still.

"Seriously, man, thank you for bailing me out of the hospital and everything, but that doesn't actually make you my physical therapist."

McClane was still walking, and Matt had worked up enough momentum that it was kind of a tossup whether he was going to be able to stop without falling over. And... McClane was still walking, so Matt kept following him, joining the stream of people heading toward the turnstiles.

Apparently fire sale plus one week equaled time to worship at the true American altar of professional sports; there was a serious crowd, more people than Matt had seen in one place since that day--not that he'd exactly been out looking to commune with the masses, between the hospital and holing up in McClane's apartment.

No one here seemed upset, though. They felt safe enough to spend time on baseball. The possibility that someone would suddenly turn and shout that it was his fault seemed safely remote.

"Didn't say it'd be good for your leg," McClane said, pulling out his wallet and extracting a couple of tickets. "Said it'd be good for you."

Matt almost did stop short then, mostly because he wanted so badly to wave his arms around in protest that he was almost willing to drop his crutches and fall down. Not that there would have been any point; McClane wasn't even looking at him, just cutting sideways across the lines. Matt hobbled along in his wake.

"Oh, really, that's awesome, thanks for letting me know about my leg seceding from the rest of my body, man. I guess I can stop worrying about PT and quit taking the painkillers, because my leg isn't a part of me anymore--"

"Hey," McClane said, waving his tickets and shrugging his jacket open in a way that must have shown the badge on his belt, not that Matt could tell with McClane's back to him. "Walking wounded here, you wanna let us in by the gate?"

A woman in a security vest nodded and stepped aside, opening a gate for them to the side of the turnstiles, and Matt was stunned silent long enough to get through.

"Hey, Ben," the woman called before they'd gone two steps, flagging down a guy pushing a cart stacked high with hot dog buns, "take these guys up with you, huh?"

McClane flashed a smile over his shoulder, "Oh, ma'am, thank you, you're saving my life here."

Matt tried to glare at him, but the guy with the cart was already nodding and waving toward a freight elevator, maybe fifteen feet away. McClane stood in the door, holding it for him, while Matt followed them in.

It wasn't until the doors closed that Matt thought about the fact that power failures were pretty much a daily event since the fire sale, and that maybe a freight elevator--even one equipped with a lifetime supply of hot dog buns--was not the place he wanted to be if today's happened now. On the other hand, there was probably nowhere safer in the entire fucking world than an elevator with John McClane in it, so it really didn't matter what happened at Shea today, the worst Matt had to worry about was a sunburn and a sore leg.

Well, maybe he'd get shot again, but they'd give him more morphine afterward, so he probably wouldn't care too much. Then it'd be the hospital all over again, and probably McClane bailing him out again.

It had been literal bail, back in DC. McClane was his surety to the FBI that Matt would turn up when they were ready to "fully debrief" him. He'd walked into Matt's hospital room after the first couple of days--the lights had stopped flickering by then and they'd stopped letting him have morphine, which was as much as he really grasped at that point about either the state of things outside or his own recovery. And then, wham, there was John McClane--fully clothed, strangely free of blood and grime--standing at the foot of his bed holding a plastic bag full of clothes and saying, "Hey, kid, come on, I'm busting you out of here. Let somebody who's still bleeding have the bed, huh?"

That had sounded like a good idea--a better one after McClane casually explained, while equally casually helping Matt deal with his clothes, that the FBI wasn't planning on letting Matt leave DC when he didn't have a fixed address, steady employment, or anybody who could say where he'd be after he took off. "But I signed off with Bowman, told him I'd make sure you stayed put in New York, so unless there's somebody else you wanna call who can vouch for you sticking around somewhere..."

Matt had thought of his parents, for about half a second. He'd managed to call and tell them that he was okay, and that if they heard anything about him on the news it really wasn't as bad as it sounded. They thought he was still in Jersey; his mom had said they'd listened for any mention of Camden on the news, but there hadn't seemed to be anything. He'd said, no, Camden was all right, and anyway he was with a cop the whole time, this guy who'd been giving him a ride to an interview. "Well, there," his mom said, "you couldn't have been safer, we were worried for nothing."

"Yeah," he'd said, to his mom, and, "No," to McClane. There was nobody else he was going to call.

"I mean, maybe Freddie'd put you up," McClane had added, right before he tied Matt's shoes for him without missing a beat. "You wanna give him a call?"

"We stole his mom's car and it got blown up in West Virginia," Matt said, resisting the urge to swing his feet like a little kid, mostly because it would hurt too much. "I don't think I want to go anywhere near the state of Maryland if I don't have to."

"Two hours, through and through," McClane promised.

"Hey, princess, let's go," McClane said, waving a hand in front of Matt's eyes. Matt shook his head as McClane moved to hold the door for him while he got his crutches and arms and legs all organized. He worked his way out to find they were just slightly downhill from an opening out into the stands. He followed McClane through and then stopped dead when he got out into the sunlight.

The upper deck was way the fuck up in the air--as in, there was a flight of stairs going down from where he stood and then, way below that, grass. Crutches made going down stairs an adventure, in the sense of being always one slip away from going down headfirst, and that was without a drop into nothingness at the end. A couple of times when McClane wasn't around to give him shit for it, he'd just chucked his crutches to the bottom and hopped down on his good leg, bracing on railings. That wasn't really an option here.

"Come on, kid, almost there," McClane said, and Matt realized that McClane was heading up. He twisted to look toward where McClane was waving--they were almost at the top of the stadium; the back row of seats had grating behind it, and behind that was the sky.

"Um," Matt said, trying desperately to think of a really good reason to not do this. People were moving around him, heading to their seats, and McClane was giving him a look--not mad or impatient, just sizing him up. In another second he was going to realize Matt couldn't do this, let him down easy, and leave him behind somewhere safe. Fuck, it was just a baseball game.

"If I fall off the top of the stadium you do not get my stuff," Matt muttered, and started the painstaking process of climbing stairs on crutches. His shoulders and right hip and knee--to say nothing of his bullet wound--weren't happy about it, but he wasn't going to back down now.

"Your stuff fits in a backpack and a milk crate," McClane muttered. "I'm not going to cut your mom out of her massive inheritance."

Matt winced. He mostly didn't miss his stuff, except when he did, like when he remembered the books his mom had given him every year for Christmas, with his name written inside in the her perfect handwriting--they were all gone, and his mom didn't even know it.

McClane was behind him. He couldn't possibly have seen Matt's face, but his hand was on Matt's back at the next step--not quite pushing him along, just giving him something to lean against.

Another minute and they were at the top, and Matt was staring out at water. "What's..."

"Queens," McClane said, waving toward the right, "and--"

The next words were lost in a jet-engine roar, and Matt flinched as he looked up--fuck, fuck, that plane was low, too low, oh God--

And then it passed overhead, and Matt realized that straight road down there was a runway, and McClane was grinning as he yelled, "LaGuardia."

"So a nice, relaxing, permanent-hearing-loss-incurring day at the ballgame," Matt said, as McClane shuffled past him with hand on his side, steadying him as McClane moved into the second seat off the aisle. That left the end seat for Matt--which meant he'd be able to stretch his leg out onto the steps, and no one would be going down past him if they were at the top.

"Pretty much," McClane agreed, smiling as he stared down at the field below them while Matt propped his crutches against the grating and lowered himself carefully into his seat. "If you're really good I'll buy you some peanuts later."

"I swear to God I am old enough to drink," Matt said, not for the first time. An eight-dollar beer in a plastic cup sounded pretty great right now.

McClane didn't even look over at him. "You're not old enough to drink while you're taking painkillers. Unless you're going cold turkey on the codeine it's all lemonade for you, kid."

Matt huffed, shifting around in his hard seat and squinting down at the people moving around on the diamond. "I seriously think you're taking this surety thing too far, man. I could have stayed--" home, but it wasn't, and he shouldn't want to say that after all of five days crashing on McClane's couch.

"If the power went out you'd be like a dog left in the car," McClane said idly. "That?s just wrong. Anyway, I don't lock you in when I go to work, and I didn't force you to come with me, so knock it off. We're just watching a damn baseball game all the way through without the TV shutting off, all right?"

Matt would have grumbled some more, but a voice was suddenly blaring out of the speakers, not quite at jet-engine levels. He couldn't understand the first few things they said. By the time he was managing to process words, the announcer had gotten to the part that he probably didn't used to say before every game.

"In the event of a power failure, the game will continue normally, and we ask all fans to stay with us. Sunset is at 8:27 pm; if play has not ended by 8:25 and electric light is not available, darkness will be treated as a rain event; the game will be called if five innings have been completed, or delayed until tomorrow if not. And now, please rise for the National Anthem."

On the rare occasion Matt found himself at an event where they sang the National Anthem at the beginning--not totally unheard of; he wasn't Warlock--he usually sat through it, or stood but rolled his eyes a lot. Now McClane was pulling him up by the arm--his good leg and McClane's good arm were on the same side, which was sort of handy, if you were McClane and you wanted to be able to drag Matt somewhere.

So he was on his feet, with McClane's hand holding him up, and McClane standing stiffly at his side. And when the national anthem started up, he was thinking about McClane's dress uniform, which he'd taken with him in a garment bag when he left the apartment two days ago and hadn't brought back yet. Matt thought of every movie he'd ever seen with a cop's funeral in it--Taps, a folded flag. Somehow he didn't have to try not to roll his eyes.

McClane held him up through the whole anthem, and his grip started out sort of annoying, but after the first minute or so of standing still on his good leg Matt was leaning into it, sweating even in the breeze off the water. McClane's hand never wavered, but Matt's knee just about gave way completely when they yelled "Play ball!" and everyone around them started settling into their seats. McClane guided him down, and only let go when Matt was safely in his seat.

People were still filtering into the mostly-full seats, grumbling about the heat and the #7 train and the price of gas these days and the fuckin' Phillies. Matt looked down, but the top row was mostly full, and anybody who needed to get in now seemed to be taking one look at his crutches and taking the long way around. Or maybe McClane was radiating his aura of go the fuck away, powerful enough to repel nurses and FBI agents at the same time. Matt was still trying to figure out if he had some freakish natural immunity, or if McClane just never bothered to aim it at him.

He spotted another plane coming toward them--even knowing the airport was right behind him, Jesus that was fucking low--right before the roar hit, like a physical force pushing him down into his seat. He looked around and realized that it wasn't just that no one could hear anything; everyone around them in the stands had stopped talking. Everyone was watching the plane to make sure it stayed in the sky.

He expected McClane to be different, still staring down at the game about to start, but when he looked over McClane was watching too, one hand in a fist like if that plane didn't land safely he'd kick its ass. Matt didn't look up at the plane again, just watched McClane twist to watch it all the way down to the ground, and then got his own eyes back on the game before he could get caught staring.

He watched McClane a lot. He was getting better at not getting caught at it all the time, although McClane never seemed to mind much. Matt supposed that McClane was a long way past the "What are you staring at, faggot?" phase of his life, anyway, or maybe he was perfectly aware that Matt's brain was still a little scrambled (not that scrambled, but a little) since the fire sale. After all, he'd yet to wake himself by falling off McClane's couch in the middle of a nightmare without McClane being there before he'd even really registered what happened, asking him if he'd hit his leg, did he need another pain pill, asking him anything but are you okay or do you want to talk about it. He figured McClane already knew the answers to those: no and no.

The third or fourth time it happened, he'd finally managed to fumble out an apology for waking McClane up all the time. McClane had just given a short little laugh and said, "What, you think I hear every sound you make out here because I'm lying in bed sleeping?"

It probably should have been embarrassing to realize McClane was listening to him all night, hearing him snoring or talking in his sleep or--he suspected, given how he woke up sometimes--crying. But it didn't. It just felt like McClane was still watching out for him, which meant everything was, somehow, eventually, going to turn out okay, even if the problem now was Matt's brain and there was nobody left to kill to make it all stop.

McClane finally turned back around and settled into the seat beside him as the announcer rattled off the lineup and the guys down on the field took their places. Matt could follow a baseball game just fine--he'd even played a couple of not-totally-disastrous years of little league, before the divide between nerd and jock became totally impassable around fourth grade. Still, nothing--not announcers and the weird, amplified inflections of their voices, not John McClane sitting next to him, not even all the eight-dollar beer he could drink if McClane would actually let him drink it, would ever make baseball anything but the most boring sport in the world to watch.

He glanced over at McClane again, to try to get some idea of how this could possibly be interesting. He guessed if baseball was your thing it would have to be interesting. If the only way to get the new Spawn comic was to come somewhere and watch each panel get made one by one for an entire afternoon--actually, that would be kind of awesome--then, okay, then it would be interesting even if it took forever and was made up entirely of tiny bursts of motion.

But McClane didn't look like he was getting intense about it. He was relaxed in his seat, leaning back. He was wearing a jacket that hid the holster, the badge, the police walkie-talkie he never let out of arm's reach even when he was at home, since any emergency now meant the cell networks either went down or got overloaded.

The cuts on his face had healed, and you could only tell he carried his right arm a little stiffly if you watched for it. You couldn't see it at all, right now. He was smiling a little, not a nasty smile or a triumphant smile or what Matt had tentatively identified as the smile for when McClane figured he was about to die. Just a regular smile, on a regular guy's face, watching a baseball game.

Matt looked down at the players again--they were straightening up, looking alert, like something was about to happen. He didn't think about how good it was to see McClane like that, and what it meant that he cared so much. He didn't think about what it meant that he was still glad to know that under the jacket McClane had the gun and the badge and the radio.

People mostly stopped looking up after the fourth or fifth plane went overhead, even McClane. The periodic roar of the engines blended into the nonstop blare of the announcers and the shouting of the hot dog guy and the beer guy and all the other guys and the talking of people in the stands, occasionally rising into a roar when something ostensibly exciting happened down on the ground. It was warm up here, but not too bright under the upper deck roof, the sun just starting to sink behind them. The back of his neck felt hot, and he leaned away from the sun a little, letting his eyes sink shut.

"Hey, no, come back here." He almost didn't recognize McClane's voice, middle-of-the-night soft in broad daylight. Still, it was McClane, so Matt did as he was told, letting the slight pressure on his chest tip him back the other way, slumping back in his seat with his head tilted back against something solid at a better height than his fiberglass seat-back.

He was half-awake for a while after that, his eyes closed and his body heavy and still. Long enough to realize that he was leaning his head against McClane's arm, long enough to wonder what McClane thought he was doing here. Matt didn't even dare try to figure out what he thought he was doing here. He was sleeping, that was all.

The silence woke him. He sat straight up, blinking and staring around--like there would be anything to see, like he'd gone deaf. McClane said, "Have a nice nap?"

Matt rubbed his face--he actually felt kind of okay, like he'd slept without going straight back to someplace awful when he closed his eyes--and then spotted the darkened scoreboard. "What--um..."

"Bottom of the sixth, power just went out," McClane said easily. Even he was speaking in a slightly hushed tone, like everyone around them--as if the underlying silence wasn't enough. "Good guys are winning, seven to three."

Matt looked down and realized the game was still going on, just like they'd said it would--well, it was going to be still going on, eventually; right now a lot of guys were standing around pointing to things and looking at clipboards. He considered asking which ones were the good guys again, but he didn't really need to wind McClane up right now. He could save that one for later.

Even before the guys down on the field sorted themselves out, the stadium got loud again with vendors--lots of vendors, a swarm--coming out into the stands to sell all the food before it got cold, or warm, or whatever. McClane stood up and all but commandeered the hot dog guy, somehow getting him to come right up to their row, and then looked down at Matt expectantly.

"Um. Ketchup?"

McClane rolled his eyes, but nodded at the hot dog guy and ordered one with everything for himself. The bottled water guy cleverly came right up on the hot dog guy's heels, and even before Matt was finished eating, the ice cream guy was there with a lot of steeply discounted and seriously drippy ice cream. The seventh inning was well underway by the time he'd finished licking his fingers clean. McClane kept staring at him with an expression Matt couldn't read, but McClane hadn't gotten nearly enough napkins to deal with this situation. Ice cream was sticky when it dried, and Matt only had so many shirts these days.

By then somebody holding a radio had come around and waved it at them--to signal that the information was very recently secondhand, Matt guessed--before calling out, "The power outage covers all five boroughs and some suburbs. It was caused by an accident at a substation. Estimates are six to twelve hours. More complete reporting is available at the information desk on the lower level."

The crowd groaned and bitched a little, but Matt heard the relief in it. He remembered the heat of the explosion in West Virginia, the force of it throwing him and McClane around like green army men. He wondered if anybody had been killed at that substation. He wondered if it had really been an accident.

Beside him, McClane said, "We're good, kid. They'd've called me in if it was a big deal."

McClane wasn't really supposed to be working--he wasn't sure McClane was really supposed to be out of the hospital--but the guy was unstoppable and the city was pretty desperate. McClane had been irritated that he was only allowed to be on call for dire emergencies, but he'd gone bolting out to work three of the last four days. Clearly there were plenty of emergencies to go around.

But not today, not really. Today was only a routine emergency, not enough to even put a serious crimp in the baseball game. Matt watched the bad guys score a couple of runs before the good guys put them away, and then the power outage hush was broken by a grumbling roar.

Everyone looked up. He thought even the players must have looked up, must have stopped playing, because there was another plane coming in overhead, making for LaGuardia. They had to have generators at the airport, Matt thought, watching the plane fly over--they weren't wasting gas on a baseball game, sure, but they'd keep the lights and radios on there. And it was broad daylight, not another plane in sight, so it wasn't like the pilot would have any trouble putting the plane down safely even if everything was shut down at the airport. All they'd need was the runway.

He still couldn't take his eyes off it, and when it disappeared above the upper deck roof, he twisted to look through the grating behind him. He had to twist toward McClane, to keep from leaning on his bad leg, and McClane had to twist toward him, to keep from leaning on his bad shoulder. They were just about cheek to cheek, watching the plane that ought to be perfectly fine as it glided toward the airport.

They saw it touch down; everyone saw it. The whole bay side of the upper deck cheered, the rest of the stadium echoing them a second later with a roar louder than jet engines. McClane laughed and threw an arm around Matt's shoulders, tugging him closer for a second. He ruffled Matt's hair and then let go, uncurling to return to the game. Matt turned back more slowly.

"They got generators," McClane said, as much to himself as to Matt. "And another couple hours of daylight to land whatever flights they can't redirect. They'll be fine."

Matt nodded. McClane had watched just as closely as he had, so he didn't think McClane really bought the reassurance any more than he did. And McClane had hugged him, and ruffled his hair, and let Matt sleep for hours on his arm, and...

Matt was a geek. He knew that. He could handle himself with geeks. He could even mostly not embarrass himself around women; he wasn't that kind of that guy. He hadn't had that much practice interacting with really guy-like guys until McClane, and McClane was clearly a whole other species of guy's guy. Matt was an undersocialized bisexual-slash-yes-please computer geek and he could fucking never tell what was Normal Straight Guy stuff and what was over the line; the rules seemed to change all the time. He had to confirm explicitly, sometimes by email, before he was sure someone was hitting on him. And McClane was...

He was McClane. He had kids, he had a hot daughter he didn't want Matt to date, and he'd tied Matt's shoes and taken him home and now he was taking him out to the ball game. Buying him ice cream, letting him sleep, like he was a little kid to be looked after. That was the logical explanation. That was certainly where all the probabilities lay. Anything else was just really, really wishful thinking. That had to be it. That was the only thing that made sense.

The game carried on, but after the plane people weren't as quiet anymore, and there were still vendors out with peanuts and cotton candy and bottled drinks. The hush of the power outage was still there, but so was the hum of cars on the parkway, the sounds of people all around. Matt associated the power outages lately with a sense of claustrophobia and sudden, horrible isolation--alone in McClane's apartment, scared to try to walk anywhere when he couldn't see perfectly, and his computer screen going dim as the network connection disappeared, cutting him off from the rest of the world.

But the rest of the world was right here in the late afternoon sun, cheering for the good guys and heckling the bad guys and not worrying too damn much about when the power was going to come back. He wasn't trapped, and he wasn't alone. It wasn't even just him and McClane; they had the whole goddamn city of New York with them now, or at least the half that rooted for the Mets.

At the top of the ninth--the good guys were pretty decently in the lead, which meant the game might end early, Matt remembered that part--McClane took out a little orange bottle and shook out a couple of pills. He offered one to Matt, and Matt took it, because he really did not want to know what his leg was going to think of getting all the way back to the car--without an elevator assist, this time--if he wasn't at the well-medicated sweet spot. McClane knocked his own pill back dry, but offered Matt the remains of his bottled water, and Matt took it, because what else could he do? If McClane wanted to look after him, Matt couldn't really object now.

He sat and fidgeted and stared down at the game almost like he cared, waiting for the codeine-fuzziness to hit. It hadn't, really, when the game ended, and then he stood up and realized it had, and he was staring down a lot of steps that dropped off pretty sharply at the end there. "Oh, shit, this was not a good idea."

And just like that McClane was in front of him, blocking most of his view of the stairs and the grass way down below, saying, "Okay, okay, I gotcha."

McClane was right in front of him--there wasn't that much space up here, and he could feel the breeze at his back. There was just the grating behind him, keeping him from wobbling back over the sheer drop.

The grating and McClane's hands. McClane reached behind him--reached around, ha--to get his crutches, tucking them under Matt's arms. He was really, really, right there, his hands all over Matt, and then he said, "Close your eyes, kid."

Matt closed them and even remembered to keep breathing, even though McClane was right inside his space and he knew, he knew he was being stupid, but McClane was still touching him even though he had his crutches. There was a tug on his shirt, and half-ticklish brushes of fingers against his stomach, and then he realized that, for some reason, McClane thought now was a good time for Matt's shirt--the one he'd thrown on over his t-shirt to keep the crutches from rubbing his pits totally raw--to get buttoned up.

Maybe McClane was doing it on purpose, giving Matt something other than the stairs to hyperventilate about. But that would mean McClane knew, and Matt couldn't really imagine that McClane buttoning his shirt for him would be McClane's answer to knowing about whatever was happening in Matt's head.

"Now put your head down," McClane said, and it wasn't just words, it was a brush of fingers against the back of his head. Matt dropped his chin to his chest, suddenly desperate to hide his face from McClane. Matt felt a brush of pressure against his forehead, like he'd hit McClane's face on the way down, and a dull, hot blush poured into his cheeks.

McClane just laughed a little. "Good. Now open your eyes and look at your feet."

His feet, McClane's feet, his crutches, they were all packed tightly together on the painted concrete.

"That's all you gotta look at," McClane said. Matt wondered how this looked to everyone around them, if they were staring in pity at the broken guy and his keeper. But he wasn't going to look up. McClane was right. He really just had to watch his own feet. "You watch out for beer slicks and peanut shells, all right, and you just take it one step at a time. Come on."

McClane backed away, down a step and down another one. Matt sighed, shifted his weight, and lowered the crutches carefully down to the next step, then hopped down. McClane backed another step, not even looking behind him, but when Matt hopped down to follow him, McClane's hand hovered at his chest, ready to catch him. He didn't look at McClane's face, so he didn't have to know what McClane was thinking of this, of him. Matt was just getting down the stairs, just doing like he was told.

"Hey, here we go, come on." McClane was tugging Matt to make a turn; he finally looked up--out over the drop to the grass--and realized they were back at the tunnel, finished with the stairs.

"It's just the ramps from here," McClane said, grinning, and Matt mustered up a smile.

Fuck, ramps. Going downhill was even worse than stairs, because there was nothing to stop the momentum, and he really was just going to wind up running into that concrete wall down at the bottom there. This had been such a massively, ridiculously bad idea.

He followed McClane through the tunnel anyway, because as far as he could see the alternative was McClane throwing Matt over his shoulder and carrying him out, and he wasn't quite ready to be that pathetic. Yet.

They got to the ramp, and Matt put his head down and took a tentative first step. Before he'd even swung his good foot to catch up to the crutches, McClane had grabbed the back of his shirt, pulling it tight across his chest. Matt managed to stop, turning sharply to look back at McClane, who rolled his eyes but didn't let go. "Just spotting you so don't go down headfirst, kid. Go on."

Matt blinked a couple of times and then put his head down and took another step downward, and sure enough McClane's grip on his shirt--that was why he'd buttoned it, because his t-shirt wouldn't have been enough to hold on to--kept his momentum under control. It was almost easy, then. Or else the fact of McClane's knuckles pressed against his back was distracting him from how hard it was. Could go either way.

His arms started shaking sometime around the third or fourth ramp, but he wasn't going to admit defeat. He wasn't going to tell McClane he couldn't do this when McClane was already helping him. Just a little further, a little further, a little--

His left crutch skidded away from him and he was already swinging forward, his left arm waving wildly, and he was either going to try to put his braced leg down or he was going to fall on it. Except he was falling the wrong way, yanked sharply backwards, McClane's arm suddenly around his waist and McClane's whole body there for him to lean against. Hitting McClane was almost like hitting the concrete, or at least Matt lost his breath just the same, his heart racing wildly.

"Hey, you're all right," McClane murmured, almost into his ear. "Hey. Come on."

Matt had his eyes shut, his head down, but he managed a quick nod--he couldn't talk, not held against McClane like this, right out in public, because he'd almost fallen down, because he couldn't hold himself up.

"I fuckin' hate crutches, man, I don't even know how you've lasted this long without losing your shit at those things," McClane said in a normal tone, pushing Matt away to balance on one foot and his right crutch. McClane's hands were still on him, but all of a sudden his left crutch was getting steadied back into position--he looked over and it was a woman with blond hair going ash, wearing a Mets t-shirt and carrying a heavy purse.

"Don't tell a nurse that," she said, smiling, and then turned and jogged back to where a guy and a couple of kids were waiting for her. Matt stared after her as she just walked away--should have said thank you, should have said anything--and then she was gone.

"You ready to try that again?" McClane said, dropping his hand from Matt's stomach, and Matt realized belatedly that McClane had been holding him steady the whole time.

"Yeah," Matt said, still not looking back at McClane. "Uh. Yeah."

"Not much farther now," McClane said.

It wasn't, either. One more dim, cool ramp, one more ramp down in the bright hot sunshine, and they were in the mass of people pouring out the gate and into the parking lot. McClane held onto him in the crowd as they inched forward, even though Matt wasn't sure he could fall down with this many people around him. It'd be worse if he did, though. He'd probably get trampled without McClane standing right behind him.

Another few minutes and they were in a smaller crowd, dispersing down the aisles of the parking lot. McClane finally dropped his hand and fished out his keys as his car came into view. Matt made for the passenger side, but McClane waved him off. "It's gonna be a hundred and thirty in there, gotta let it air out a little. Hold on."

Matt wanted nothing but to sit down.

"Hold on, of course," he muttered to his feet, and made his way around to the back of the car, propping his crutches against it--his arms felt like jelly when he let go, and his hands didn't want to uncurl. With one last feat of strength, Matt pushed himself up to sit on the trunk. The metal of the car was hot under his ass, almost painful through his jeans, but he'd take it if he could just keep sitting still.

The sun was nearly down, shining straight into his eyes over LaGuardia and the bay, and he shut his eyes and let the heat and light pound on his face. He was sweaty under his shirt--pretty much everywhere, actually--but he didn't think he could raise his hands to undo the buttons again, not right this second.

He could hear people walking and talking around him, cars starting up, snatches of news and music from the radios. McClane came and stood next to him--the car shifted a little when McClane leaned against it--and said, "Man, I miss smoking."

Matt turned and squinted at McClane, who was looking further down the row of parked cars. Matt saw the thin trail of smoke and then realized he could smell it faintly, somebody smoking a cigarette twenty feet away.

"Yeah?" Matt asked, genuinely curious. "You never mentioned it during the fire sale."

He couldn't remember McClane ever even chewing on anything, playing with a lighter, nothing. They'd stopped at a gas station on the way to West Virginia to grab food--because Matt really would have passed out, and even McClane couldn't run on coffee forever--and McClane hadn't so much as glanced at the cigarettes, although McClane had also been pretty insistent on getting in and out in under three minutes.

McClane shook his head. "Too busy to miss it, couldn't think about it. This, though--end of the day, hanging out, can't smoke in the ballpark and just came outside... This is when I miss it."

Matt had never quit smoking, but he was pretty sure that didn't even make sense. Normal people did not miss smoking more when they weren't stressed out. "Has anyone ever mentioned to you that you're insane?"

McClane snorted. "What, today? Nah, it's been at least eighteen hours. Maybe twenty-four."

Matt grinned--he'd made McClane smile, almost laugh--and looked at the lineup of cars making their way out of the parking lot, the stream of people still coming out of the stadium. He wondered how McClane watched people after thirty years as a cop, after everything. He wondered what McClane was seeing right now. He looked back at McClane, about to ask, but McClane was watching him, and he was so startled to meet McClane's eyes that he totally lost track of what he'd been thinking.

He opened his mouth anyway--when in doubt say something--and didn't look away, and neither did McClane. Before Matt could fumble out a single word, he heard a distant roar, and McClane straightened up and looked out over the stadium.

One last plane was coming in, flying toward LaGuardia and the sunset. Matt looked from the plane to the airport to McClane, who had a hand up to block the sun as he stared across the bay.

"They're putting the lights on," McClane called above the sound. "They know he's coming in. They're good." But McClane's shoulders were strung tight, and he watched the plane all the way down, and then kept watching.

He'd been looking at Matt, and Matt was honestly fucked if he knew what to make of it. He also didn't know if he could slide down off the trunk of the car without his arms or his leg failing him. It was seriously about eighteen inches down, and he didn't know if it was going to work.

McClane to the rescue again, as always; he stepped right in front of Matt, and then his hands were on Matt's sides, easing him down off the car. But McClane didn't drop his hands when Matt's foot was safely on the ground, and didn't step back. They weren't quite touching, but Matt's foot was between McClane's, and McClane's hands were on him, and if he so much as breathed Matt would be rubbing up against him. McClane didn't let go.

Matt looked up and met his eyes. McClane was watching him again, but this time he cracked a smile. "Attaboy," he said, under his breath. "Now you're getting it."

"Oh," Matt said, holding McClane's gaze because he was not going to blink first even if his brain had just kind of exploded, because John McClane--John McClane--

He raised his hand and touched the first part of McClane he could reach--his arm, that was probably a good place to start. "I get it?"

McClane's smile widened, and his hands shifted a little on Matt's sides; not just supporting him now. Touching, feeling. "Well, you're starting to, at least."

"Oh," Matt said, and he was smiling now himself, probably kind of stupidly wide. "Okay, yeah, no, I get it, I totally get it."

"Well, I wouldn't go that far just yet," McClane said, and then he dropped his hands from Matt and backed away a half-step. He didn't shrug off Matt's touch, though, and he was still smiling. "You want your crutches to get to the door?"

Matt did blink, then, repeatedly, trying to get some kind of equilibrium. "Umm, no. No, I think I can--"

It wasn't far. He could have hopped and braced himself against the car. McClane walked him, instead, opening the door for him when they got there and watching while Matt maneuvered himself into the seat. While he was putting his seatbelt on, McClane went and got the crutches and handed them in so Matt could settle them beside himself.

Matt stared blindly out the window while McClane went around to the driver's side of the car. There were still people everywhere, and he'd just--right there in front of all of them--he and McClane had just--just done nothing, not really, said nothing, except everything--holy shit.

Matt really was really, really bad at figuring out when Normal Straight Guy behavior crossed the line. Jesus.

McClane started the car, and the radio poured out static. McClane switched to another station, and it came in, slightly fuzzy, a DJ's soothing voice talking about the power outage. They were still calling it an accident; power was expected to be restored by morning. The city was keeping its cool, apparently. The power failures were already familiar, nothing to get excited about.

They joined the line of cars waiting to pull out of the parking lot, and the DJ gave them some actual music--McClane-style music, but Matt was absolutely not going to argue with him. Even Creedence wasn't that bad when it wasn't being used as an assault weapon. McClane was tapping his fingers against the steering wheel like he wanted to hurt it, like he never had, in all the driving he'd done during the Fire Sale. Now he was acting like a guy who missed smoking.

Matt's stomach flipped, and he kept his gaze fixed out the window, where McClane couldn't see (unless maybe he had just the right angle on the side mirror, which Matt wouldn't put past him, but whatever). Now McClane wanted a smoke, now he was stressed. Not in the middle of the fire sale. Here, with Matt, on a nice day with the sun going down over LaGuardia.

The implications were impossible to ignore, too amazing to process. Matt watched the sunset, and forced his brain into the channels of the next freelance project he had due. Weirdly, none of his contracts wanted to extend his deadlines, despite the current circumstances, although honestly his contracts could suck it if the power outages kept up. McClane was on a waiting list for a home generator, and even if he--they--he could get one, gas prices were insane. If there wasn't actual rationing soon, shortages were bound to keep getting worse.

Matt started mapping out the price points for a fuel surcharge on his existing projects and wondering who he could extort an adjusted agreement from first. He'd mapped out an entire decision tree--who to approach first, with what offer, and how to proceed from there--when the window beside him rolled up with a faint electric whir, cutting off the rush of air and sealing him into the cool confines of McClane's car. It was dark out, he realized, really really dark everywhere but the Parkway. People were driving slowly in the isolated stream of headlights. The music was turned down low, half-obscured by the shushing of the air conditioning.

Matt looked over at McClane and saw mostly shadows. He wasn't pounding on the steering wheel anymore, at least.

"Hey," Matt said, "did you just take me to a Mets game on a date?"

For a couple of seconds McClane didn't make a sound, and weirdly that was what clinched it beyond any possible doubt. If Matt had been wrong, McClane would have cracked up, or smacked him or something, right away.

What McClane said, in the end, was, "If that's what you're asking me? No, of course not."

Matt watched the darkness go by, trying to pick the city out of the black on black on black, and then tried again. "Having taken me to a Mets game on a date, are you expecting to get laid?"

The words came out pretty evenly, he thought, without revealing too much desperate hopefulness. He remembered McClane's hands on him, though--McClane had been touching him all day, waiting for Matt to catch on, and now that he had Matt wanted more, a lot more, everything. No matter how much time he had to spend thinking about flowcharts and spreadsheets to even pretend to be cool about it.

McClane laughed a little this time, though, and said, "Hey, give me some credit here. It's the first date, I'm a gentleman."

Matt frowned and looked forward, watching the red lights leading them onward. "Shouldn't there be kissing, at least?"

"After I take you home," McClane said patiently--home, like Matt belonged there, like he didn't even realize it mattered. "Some people got no standards."

That was empirically absolutely true; Matt's approach to dating, sex, any kind of hookup, had always been pretty much to take what he could get and run with it. But McClane--McClane was from a whole other generation, one with standards. Rules. Protocols.

Some of which McClane was probably violating pretty badly by going anywhere--even just to a Mets game--with Matt.

Matt tilted his head against the window, looking completely away from McClane, and said carefully, "Do you, um--have you--I really never would have guessed in a million years that you were into guys."

"Yeah," McClane said, and Matt kept staring out the window even when it started to seem like that was going to be the whole answer.

"Yeah," he repeated. "Took me a while to guess myself."

Matt shut his eyes and let his forehead rest against the glass as the realization washed over him that he might very well be the person in this situation who knew what the fuck was going on. Less scary than the helicopter, he thought--he was starting to have a really finely-developed scale for utter terror. That time neither of them had known. Also, helicopter.

McClane sighed, like Matt had dragged the words out of him. "Before this--before the fire sale--I don't know, I thought I was done with a lot of things. Done saving the world, done... but when I decide I'm going to do something, I mostly just go for it. I figure this time at least no matter how bad I fuck it up I'm not going to get either of us killed."

Matt did have to look at him then. "You're saying hooking up with me is slightly less crazy than shooting yourself?"

McClane's grin appeared briefly, in a flash of passing headlights. "You saying it's not?"

Matt shook his head, and it was thirty seconds later by the time he realized he should actually say something, because McClane probably couldn't see him. By then it was too late, and just throwing a no out there was the last thing Matt was interested in doing. He squirmed around getting comfortable, instead, letting his left hand creep sideways to brace himself as he shifted his bad leg. He left his hand there, even when he'd found the right position, and it wasn't long before he felt McClane's hand settle over his--not holding, just happening to be in the same place together.

Matt tipped his head back and closed his eyes. If he couldn't see the looming darkness where a city should be, everything would seem normal, everything except the touch of McClane's--oh, God, John's?--hand on his. When the car slowed and the turns got more frequent, his heart started to race, and by the time they came to a stop he'd broken into a sweat all over again, though it was almost chilly inside the car.

McClane took his hand away to shut off the ignition, and then there was no radio or rush of air, no engine-growl to block out the silence of the power failure and the night. There was a jingle of keys, and McClane muttered something that sounded like, "Yippee-ki-yay, Jesus, John."

Before Matt could decide what the hell to make of that, McClane's hand was on his shoulder, more a gentle shove than a shake. "You coming up?"

"What," Matt said, sitting up and stretching a little--awkwardly, without reaching toward McClane or bashing into anything. Fuck, his arms were just about done. He wasn't going to be able to move tomorrow. "To look at your etchings?"

"No etchings," McClane said, pocketing the keys with an audible jingle. "Coffee? Red Bull? All your stuff is here?"

It was a joke, it wasn't a joke, it was some kind of Schrodinger's banter. If he followed McClane upstairs right now, grabbed a Red Bull and said he just had to put down this thing he'd thought of on his computer, Matt would swear on the hope of New York's crippled electrical grid that McClane would never mention this again.

"Plus that kiss-goodbye-at-the-door thing is really not my style," Matt tossed out, and then opened his door and--even almost deliberately--made a big noisy production of getting himself and his crutches out and upright on the sidewalk. It was really fucking dark out, but not completely--there were stars, when he looked up, stars in Brooklyn, and here and there light spilled out from windows where people had put lanterns or candles. Matt spared a second to hope FDNY's walkie-talkies were top-of-the-line, and then there was a bright white pool of light at his feet.

He looked up to see McClane standing six feet away--apart from that moment in the parking lot, he really was usually awesome about letting Matt figure out his own mobility--aiming a keychain LED. Matt grinned, unsure whether McClane could see it in the spill of light--for himself, McClane was mostly just a dark outline. He looked down and picked his way along the sidewalk, going carefully over the cracked and tilted places, avoiding the trash and the edge of the open square where a tree was growing.

When Matt had nearly reached him, McClane turned and started walking, still aiming the LED. He didn't say a word, and neither did Matt. Out here, even in the dark and the silence, seemed much more exposed, more dangerous, than the small space of the car. Matt wasn't sure he could have said any of that outside. And once they got back to McClane's apartment...

One thing at a time. First, the stairs up to the building door, which McClane held for him. Matt got through the door on the first try, without brushing up against him. It would have been more likely than not to result in some sort of disaster, with the crutches involved.

Matt stopped just inside. It was darker indoors--no light from under any apartment doors, and the starlight was lost. The silence was heavier, the air more still. McClane pulled the door shut behind them and touched his hand to Matt's back as he moved around him to take the lead again, shining the light on the floor even though it was level here, free of obstacles. McClane moved soundlessly, and Matt thumped along in his wake--he winced at the thought of the neighbors, and then remembered that it wasn't actually the middle of the night, that the sun had only just gone down.

He followed McClane past the elevator, to the stairs, and McClane held the door for him again. Matt hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, but McClane didn't pass him this time, just shone the light ahead of him. Matt took a breath, steeling himself, and out of the darkness and absolute silence, McClane said quietly, "Last set, go on."

Matt was so glad not to hear, hey, princess, you need a lift? that he almost laughed, and got himself moving. He managed to get the door mostly open himself, at the top, but McClane reached past and held it so he didn't have to hop through sideways. He stayed behind Matt all the way to the apartment door, and then Matt leaned against the wall beside the door and McClane let go of the LED to find his key.

Without that little white light the darkness was absolute, and there was nothing, nothing in the world, but his own ragged breathing and the muted click of keys in McClane's hands. It was stupid, weak, helpless, but Matt reached for him, got a fistful of McClane's shirt in his hand.

He felt McClane go completely still--the keys clashed and then went silent--and his own breath stopped in his throat. McClane's hand was on his shoulder the next second, quick and rough enough to unbalance him if he hadn't already been leaning. McClane's hand didn't stop, finding his throat, his jaw, and then there was the press of McClane's body against his, McClane's mouth on his.

Matt's lips parted on impact, and his hand clenched in McClane's shirt tugged, like he could possibly pull McClane any closer. The claustrophobic darkness was suddenly hot and close around him, and McClane was kissing him roughly, desperately, like a last chance, a last breath, one hand still on Matt's face and the other arm around him. Matt just tried to keep up, giving himself up to the kiss, his fist against McClane's side through his shirt, his knuckles throbbing from holding on so hard.

"Thought this wasn't your style," McClane said, his lips dragging along Matt's jaw, his hand sliding down to cup the back of Matt's neck.

Matt tried desperately to remember when he said he wasn't into being kissed like kissing was the only thing in the world.

Oh. "Dude, does this seem like a kiss goodbye?"

McClane laughed a little and muttered, "Dude?" as he squeezed Matt closer. Matt's head was swimming. The heat was sauna-like, and his clothes felt like that lead vest at the hospital. McClane's next kiss was gentler.

"I guess not," McClane muttered, and dropped his arm from around Matt with a clash of keys. "I should really--"

"Sure," Matt said, and kissed him again, kissed John McClane, because he could, because McClane's mouth opened for him and McClane's hand on the back of his neck tightened just a little when he had Matt's tongue in his mouth. Still, Matt forced himself to break away. "Yeah, maybe--inside."

"Yeah," McClane said, and took both hands away to sort through his keys again.

Matt held on to his shirt the whole time, until he heard the locks slide back and McClane pushed the door open and shined the light inside. He stepped inside far enough to hold the door, and Matt pushed himself off the wall, shook his head, and made his way inside, into pitch darkness.

He closed his eyes--this he could actually do, because he and McClane between them were pretty good about keeping the floor clear, and he'd had nothing better to do for the last five days than learn how to navigate this one space. It usually freaked him out, trying to do it blind, but he really had other things on his mind right now.

There were barstools at the kitchen island, that was the closest. Matt was moving even as McClane was doing up the locks behind him, remembering to evade the coat rack and the recycling bin, only misjudging the doorway a little. He got his hands on the countertop and let his crutches drop--they bounced, crashing and echoing--and he did not care because he was perched on a barstool and his hands were on his lap and he didn't have to use his arms to get anywhere.

McClane appeared with a soft jangle of keys, bathed in white light as he held the LED over his head. He raised his eyebrows at Matt, but said nothing, just walked over and picked up his crutches off the floor. He propped them against the (long since unplugged) fridge--three, maybe four hops, Matt could remember that--and then the light went out again, and a second later McClane was there, standing between Matt's knees, hands on Matt's shoulders.

Matt could feel him leaning in, even where they weren't touching--he could feel the extra heat of another body, feel McClane's breath stirring the air between them. He'd kind of quit breathing, himself.

"McClane," he said, and it came out hoarse and shaky. McClane still didn't move, and it was dark, and they'd just kissed in the hallway. "John, hey."

McClane's hands squeezed on his shoulders, and the warm pressure sent a crazily intense bolt of pleasure-pain through his body. Matt's back arched and he let out a gasp and shoved his mouth against McClane's. They kissed clumsily, already breathing hard, coming together and apart in rough presses and slides of mouth against mouth. McClane's hands opened, and he rubbed his flat palms over Matt's shoulders, dragging all kinds of desperate and incoherent noises out of Matt's mouth.

McClane pressed his knuckles to Matt's biceps, and he nearly fell off the chair, finally raising his hands to grab at McClane and hold on. He might die from this. He was painfully, fantastically hard from kissing McClane and having his shoulders rubbed. Actual sex might seriously kill him.

So a typical day with John McClane, then.

"Okay, okay," Matt gasped, pulling away to catch his breath, "seriously, I don't care what kind of gentleman anybody here is, you had better be putting out now."

McClane laughed a little, but he sounded breathless himself this time. "That a fact?"

His hands were wrapped around Matt's upper arms, not really moving, just a little heat and pressure, and McClane's mouth was still brushing against his on every other breath. Matt couldn't quite think, but he could talk.

"It is a fact," Matt said. "Also a fact, the day we met we spent like thirty-six straight hours together including three different multi-state trips, one of which was actually in a helicopter, and neither of us even tried to kill the other and you bought me food. That is at least ten or twelve dates right there, even without a multiplier for saving the world and committing justifiable homicides together.

"Plus, then you asked me to move in with you, and then we didn't have any sex, and you know who moves in together after like three days, and then doesn't have sex? Lesbians. And not the ones in porn, the ones who wear flannel and don't shave their legs."

McClane laughed right out loud this time. "Did you just call me a dyke, Matthew Farrell?"

"Both of us," Matt corrected. "John, John, man, I'm really sorry, but the only way to defend our masculinity at this point is to get our goddamn pants off. Right now."

"Oh, right now, he says," John murmured, his hands sliding down to Matt's hips, his lips brushing Matt's jaw and then his throat. "Right now, huh? Not that I haven't thought about stripping you naked on the kitchen counter or anything..."

John's hands were moving in, fingers sliding under his shirts to rub at the skin of his sides, which was pretty much the end of Matt's ability to consider whether that was a good idea. It was a right now idea. Matt nodded frantically.

"...But that kind of thing's actually pretty aggravating afterwards, and I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself."

John's hands stopped moving as he stopped speaking, and Matt forced himself to think a little bit. The couch? John's bed? There was theoretically a guest room where Matt was theoretically staying, but in practice it was full of junk and boxes and, the one time Matt had peeked in there, a framed picture of Lucy and her brother. So, no, definitely not there.

"Um," Matt managed to say, because John had fallen silent, and was maybe waiting for some kind of input.

"Yeah, um," John whispered. "How about you come to bed with me, Matt."

It wasn't a question, or it was, or Matt was too far gone to think about it. "Yeah, fuck, yes please--"

And that was as far as he got before John moved, and Matt had a shoulder in his stomach and then he was upside down.

He managed a pretty coherent, if breathless, "What the fuck?" but John was already walking--carrying him, with one arm across the back of Matt's thighs. "Oh, God, please tell me this is your good shoulder."

"Hold still," John replied, sounding a little strained, but only a little. "Anybody ever tell you there's no nutritional value in Red Bull? Do you eat?"

And then the world flipped around again and he was set down--really, pretty gently, he only bounced a little bit--on John's bed.

"It was faster," John added, from somewhere above him, and then there was a thump of clothing hitting the floor, because apparently John agreed with him about the urgency of getting pants off. Matt wrestled his shirts off--fucking button-down, fucking sleeves, fucking rubbery arms--and by the time he'd won out, there was a dim yellow light in the room.

John had set a flashlight down on the night stand, aiming at the wall. He was setting down his gun and holster beside it, then his badge, and then--with a habitual click to check that it was on--the walkie-talkie. In just a t-shirt, the solid strength of John's body was obvious, and Matt just sat and stared for a few seconds before he realized John had stopped, standing there, with his hands at the hem of his t-shirt. Matt looked up to his face, but John was looking down at his hands.

He was steeling himself, Matt realized, for the twist of his shoulder as he pulled his shirt off. Because he might insist on going around acting like he had a full range of motion, but that didn't mean it didn't still hurt like fuck. Something shook in his stomach--an irrational sense that John was already naked--and Matt twisted around on the bed, dragging his bad leg after him.

"Hey, come here, let me do that."

John looked up, startled, and for a second Matt thought he would just laugh, or rip his own shirt off like he'd never hesitated, or tell Matt to leave. Instead a little tension ebbed from his face, and he came and sat down facing Matt.

"Fair warning, if you tickle me I'll probably punch you in the face."

"Oh, well, that's reassuring, thanks." Matt reached for the hem of McClane's t-shirt and pulled it up to his armpits, not even letting his fingers drag against the skin he revealed. "Okay, just--"

John nodded, and raised his left arm, letting Matt pull his t-shirt off on that side, and then over his head--no hair meant no stupid hair sticking straight up like Matt's probably was now, definitely a plus--and then gently down over his right shoulder. There was still a bandage there, sealed over with plastic tape, which Matt suspected made showering easier. He also suspected it wasn't the way the hospital did it, but clearly John had figured out how to handle his own gunshot wounds by now.

Matt looked away as he tossed John's shirt after his own, and when he turned back John was reaching for him, reeling him into another kiss. Matt went without a struggle. It was crazy how John's mouth was already starting to be familiar, and meanwhile his hands were flat on John's bare skin, all new territory to be learned by touch. He was hot and here and Matt was allowed now. He seemed to be all muscle except where he was made of scars, and Matt had no idea whether it was actually okay to be touching those.

He raised his head--to ask, or look--but John hauled him closer still, so that Matt was half in John's lap, his side pressed flush to John's chest, skin to skin. He could feel John's hard-on through his jeans, and suddenly Matt had a whole new set of priorities for what he wanted to be touching and looking at. John was apparently a step ahead of him, his hands going down to Matt's jeans again, fumbling the button open and tugging down the fly.

Matt caught John's hand before it could go any further. "I should do this myself or, seriously, all over."

John went still, and then he dropped his hands to Matt's thighs--so it was just John's dick pressing up against his ass, just the weight of John's hands driving him crazy on top of the heat and smell and touch of skin. John's mouth brushed down his throat and along his shoulder, and John muttered, "Your call, kid."

Matt squeezed his eyes shut and bit down hard on his lip and then, finally, managed to make himself scoot off and away from John. He shoved down his jeans and boxers together and leaned forward to ease them over the bandages and brace keeping his knee at its optimally obnoxious angle. Then he had to stop and get his shoes off--fucking laces--and his socks, and then he shoved his pants off himself, off the bed, and fell backwards in triumph, his arms raised over his head as he hit the rumpled sheets.

He realized a half-second later that John was standing next to the bed, watching him. He felt an instant's stab of self-consciousness, followed by the almost literally stunning realization that John was watching him, standing there with his hand on his dick and his eyes intent on Matt. John wasn't exactly jerking off, but he was hard, he was into this, really seriously into it, just from looking at Matt, just some skinny geek who hardly ever went outside in daylight.

He opened his mouth to say something--probably something stupid--but John shook his head and said, "Don't move."

Matt bit his lip, suddenly conscious that his arms were above his head, that he was as exposed as he could be. His dick was achingly hard under John's gaze, his toes curling a little already. He looked back at John, instead of down at himself; in the splash of light he could see a pale white scar on John's thigh, the dark blot of a tattoo on one arm, traces of tan lines.

And he could see John's dick, slipping in and out of shadow as John slowly moved his hand over it. It was built pretty much like the rest of John, thick, and what light there was shined on wetness at the head. Matt's brain tripped straight to the thought of getting fucked, by him, by that. Matt shuddered, and felt his own dick jump without so much as a touch. His legs spread almost (almost, but not really) involuntarily as his eyes squeezed shut, because clearly even looking was too much for him.

"Hey," John said, and this could go one of two ways. Matt was actually pretty sure he was okay with getting his ass smacked for not following directions or winding up handcuffed to John's bed or something. Unfortunately it was just possible that kind of deal would be too much for John, what with this apparently being his first day of being kinda gay--except who the fuck knew what was too much for John.

"Matt, hey," John said again, closer, and the voice was accompanied by a hand on his side, the soft place just above his hip. He opened his eyes, and John was leaning over him, looking amused. "Don't fucking tell me you're freaking out, here."

"I am freaking out," Matt said without moving his hands, though he couldn't stop himself from arching just a little into John's touch. His voice was kind of wavery, but John had heard worse from him. "And I will tell you why, because I am scared I'm going to be as old as you are before we actually have sex."

John's gaze shifted, raking up and down Matt's body, and he said almost absently, "Yeah, I know I'm not the math guy here, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't even make sense."

Matt clenched his fists and then released them. He should move, he should do something, push this to somewhere other than John's hand resting on the mostly-neutral territory of his side. He should touch the man. But John had told him to hold still, and all he could bring himself to do now was say, "Fuck, man, you really cannot expect me to be naked with you and make sense at the same--"

"Stop talking," John said, as he gathered Matt's wrists into a one-handed grip and shifted to kneel over him, sliding the hand on Matt's side up over his chest instead of down, where Matt wanted it. Matt's hips rocked up helplessly, to rub against absolutely nothing, because John was a horrible, vicious tease--

"No, seriously, stop talking," John muttered, but he said it against Matt's mouth as he settled lower over Matt, his dick hard against Matt's hip and just enough of his weight resting on Matt to make this real. Matt pushed up desperately, his dick against the firmness of John's stomach, his wrists against John's grip, his mouth mashing against John's in a kiss. John pushed right back, thrusting against him, holding him down, his tongue slicking over Matt's in the best, filthiest way.

John lifted his head a second before Matt would have had to pull away to breathe. He pushed up just a little--just enough that Matt had to dig in his heel and arch up to keep thrusting against him. Matt's ragged breath had the edge of a whine in it, but the next second John's mouth touched him again, brushing lightly over the underside of his arm, stretched and exposed by John's grip on his wrists.

Matt actually went still for a second, whimpering, and then John's mouth found the nearly-raw patch of skin where the crutches rubbed, and Matt moaned out, "Fuck, fuck, what kind of fucking erogenous--"

It was, though, clearly. John licked, and Matt was thrusting wildly, helplessly against him, the same spot on his other arm burning in sympathy, his whole body drawn tight as John traced the extent of that one patch of abused skin.

John's teeth scraped over sensitive skin and Matt let out a startled, choked cry--how could it hurt that much and feel that good all at the same time? He shoved his cock wildly against John's sweat-slick skin. John shoved back against him and bit down, and Matt came like pulling a fucking trigger.

John kissed him again, when he'd fallen still, and thrust down gingerly against him, like Matt might not be into this anymore. Except now Matt had nothing distracting him from the fact that John McClane was into him, hard for him, rutting against him in the semi-dark.

Matt slung one (limp, useless, incredibly happy) arm around John's neck and reached down between them with the other. He got his hand on John's cock for the first time, making John thrust harder.

"Come on," Matt whispered, "come on, you crazy, amazing motherfucker, come all fucking over me, like you've been wanting to--"

John grunted at that, thrusting harder against Matt's belly, under his half-curled hand. Matt swiped his thumb over the head of John's cock, and his own twitched in sympathy. "Except this is like a tenth of what you want, isn't it? This is like--second base? Third? I'm gonna be naked on the kitchen counter as soon as my leg heals, you know that? Naked over the back of the couch, up against the wall--you're going to fuck me, right, like a lot, because--"

"Shut up," John growled, but he was coming against Matt's belly as he said it, hot hard pulses under Matt's fingers, so Matt knew perfectly well that he liked it.

He lowered himself onto Matt and rested there for a few half-suffocating seconds, and Matt wiggled the toes of his bad leg and thought he could probably fall asleep like this. Only he was starting to be aware of how hot it was in here--the motion of his and John's breathing made him feel the sweat trapped between them, and if they actually did fall asleep like this they might well be stuck together at the dick by the time they woke up.

John sighed and rolled away, to the side of the bed with the flashlight and all his gear. He wasn't far--inches, maybe. Matt could still feel him breathing. He watched through half-closed eyes as John reached for the flashlight and then hesitated.

"Stay?"

Matt snorted and reached up to locate a pillow in the shadows above his head. "Can't go anywhere, I lost my crutches."

And John, honest to God, started to sit up, like Matt could actually possibly want his crutches right now.

Matt grabbed his arm, and John resisted for a second, then fell back to the bed at Matt's tug. "Still naked with you, still not making sense. Yes, I want to stay."

John's arm relaxed a little under Matt's grip, and he shut off the flashlight and lay back down. Matt fell asleep before he could decide whether he cared that the manly thing would be to let go.


He woke up cold, air moving over his skin accompanied by a low whoosh of white noise, a faint glow through the window.

"Power's back on," John murmured, as he pulled up a sheet over them both and spooned up against Matt's back. Matt glanced back over his shoulder and saw the steady red glow of an alarm clock and, beyond it, his crutches propped against the wall. He blinked at them sleepily--that wasn't where he left them--but then John slung an arm over his waist and Matt gave up on thinking.

"You still awake?" John said softly, jerking Matt back from a half-dream about his crutches going and getting his laptop for him so he'd never have to move again.

"Maybe," he managed, blinking slowly at the dark.

"Something I gotta say," John said, and wow, he sounded totally wide awake. Matt squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them wide, forcing himself to tune in for this.

"I don?t know what kinda caveman you think I am, but this is over when you say it's over, Matt, I swear to you."

Matt's heart started racing, and he tried to twist and look, but John's arm tightened, holding him still.

"I can only do this in the dark," John said. "I'll say it again, later, if you want, but I just--the worst thing about a shrink is when they tell you what you're thinking and they're right, and I don't want to do that to you, but it's been one week since everything you know about yourself and the world got turned upside down, and the one thing I know from experience is you don't even know what it's done to you yet."

Matt's brain had tripped into overdrive. John was serious about this--he would be, right, he hadn't shot himself just for fun, he'd done it to save Lucy and the world. He was so serious he was scared he was too serious, scared he was--a caveman--pushing Matt into this. It was patently ridiculous, but Matt knew better than to laugh at anything this guy was scared of.

"I'm not saying you don't know what you want," John added, his hand flattening against Matt's belly. "I'm just saying what you want at day one or three or seven after something like this might not be the same thing you want at day eight or nine or thirty or a hundred, and it's--it's all good, okay?"

"John," Matt said, pushing back against him and nestling down into the pillow. "Seriously, shut up, it's four in the morning and I'm trying to sleep."

John snorted against the back of Matt's neck, then kissed him there, but he didn't say anything more. By the time the light outside the window had brightened to the gray before dawn, John had relaxed against him, his arm a dead weight anchoring Matt in place.

Matt was pretty sure John didn't hear him whisper, "I stuck with you through terrorists and baseball, man, I am not going anywhere."