Master list can be found here.
Title: The Day After (2nd installment in the “Coping”-Series)
Fandom: Live Free or Die Hard
Pairing/Characters: John McClane / Matt Farrell
Word count: ~ 3500
This is a sequel to Sleeplessness. More stories in this series (“Coping”-series) will follow.
Summary: The day after sleeping in McClane's arms holds some surprises for Matt.
The Day After
Matt expected awkwardness in the morning. He also expected himself to be deeply ashamed and McClane to avoid him. Those thoughts twirled through his still sleep-addled brain as it struggled to wake up fully. He swallowed hard at the thought of the cop looking down at him for freaking out during the night. He started when he heard McClane's voice which was still hoarse from sleep, “Good morning.”
It was then that Matt became aware that McClane was still holding him, that he was still safe and protected. The bedding rustled loudly when Matt turned from his side to his back to get a better look at the other man. He didn't know what else to say so he simply replied in kind, “Good morning to you.”
“You look better than yesterday.”
“I feel better than yesterday. Awesome what a few hours of sleep can do, huh?”
McClane smirked at him, then brushed a few strands of hair out of Matt's face. It was more the gentleness of the movement than the action itself which left Matt wide-eyed and reeling. He closed his eyes but quickly opened them again because the bed seemed to spin. McClane was still smirking but now his eyes were definitely twinkling in amusement too. Matt cleared his throat and desperately willed the flush that was creeping onto his cheeks, to go away. It was to no avail except that McClane pulled his arm out from under Matt's neck and sat up.
“I'm gonna make breakfast, you better be at the table in ten minutes,” McClane said.
He got out of bed and went over to a drawer where he pulled a shirt out. Matt was fascinated by the play of McClane's back muscles and even was disappointed when they were covered by the shirt. Without saying another word McClane walked out and Matt allowed himself to snuggle deeper into the sheets for a few minutes. He must have dozed off again because he jumped when McClane hollered, “Kid! I said you better be at the table in ten!”
“I'm coming, I'm coming!” Matt shouted. Clumsily he freed himself from the sheets and staggered into the bathroom. He still felt a bit dizzy when he walked over to the kitchen table and sat down. His mouth watered at the smell of baked bacon and eggs. The cop shoveled a big portion on his plate and Matt ate all of it. Afterwards he said, “I could get used to that kind of breakfast.”
“That's the special weekend breakfast only. You'd have to stay here for at least another week to get another of these breakfasts.”
Matt was surprised and not entirely sure if this was an offer to stay or not. Nervously he carded his fingers through his hair. “I … would like to get another one of those.”
Matt blinked. That was it? He wasn't usually rendered speechless but for every time there had got to be a first time, right? He watched John put the dishes in the sink and turn on the tap. The older man had his back towards him when he demanded, “This is not a hotel. Get over here and help me do the dishes.”
Matt almost toppled over his chair in his haste to get to the sink which earned him a raised eyebrow. His cheeks were burning from embarrassment as he reached for a towel. They stayed silent but worked together surprisingly well, just as they had during the fire-sale and during the previous night. It should have been odd but it wasn't. On the contrary it felt familiar, agreeable and utterly comforting.
When they were done with the dishes Matt dried his hands on the towel, then handed it to McClane. “So, um, you gotta go to work soon?”
“Nah, I'm off. I'm still chained to my desk and therefore have the weekends off.”
“Oh.” Matt's eyes wandered around in McClane's apartment, not knowing what he was supposed to say or do now. Well, hello awkwardness!
“We should get dressed and buy you some clothes. Or do you wanna go to your place and see if there's stuff to be rescued?”
“Have you already been at your apartment?”
“Since the fire-sale? No. I, it just, it didn't occur to me to go over there. I …,” Matt trailed off.
There was no need in telling McClane that he had been to scared to go to his old apartment. Yes, he had been there, outside, but he couldn't bring himself to enter on his own. His hands had gotten sweaty and he'd started to shake. Even the cab driver had seen his distress and asked him if he was okay. Matt had mumbled that this had to be the wrong address and quickly directed the driver to somewhere else.
Matt jumped violently when McClane's hands were on his shoulders, squeezing and grounding him. The cop looked at him for what seemed an eternity, then lifted up his broad hands. Matt expected him to withdraw but instead McClane ruffled his hair before he shoved him into the direction of the bathroom, telling him, “Whatever you want. Your apartment or a store.”
Matt heard himself muttering, “My apartment would be good.”
McClane nodded and so it was settled.
Matt's nervousness increased even though he tried not to show it. He assumed that he wasn't all that successful because McClane didn't even switch the radio on during their ride to his apartment.
Matt swallowed when the cop parked his car at the backside of the building. The bricks were still blackened from the explosion and a lot of holes were visible. The window hadn't gotten replaced, only some kind of plastic was stuck there. If it weren't for the yellow police warning tape the plastic surely would have been in pieces by now. Matt hadn't been inside his apartment since the fire-sale and that was almost three months ago. He wasn't sure if he wanted to have a look anymore either.
McClane got out of the car and rounded it. Matt didn't want to lose his face so he climbed out of the car and followed the older man. His gaze flickered from one point to the other, wondering if those villains would revive and attack them again. His breathing became more and more shallow and his hands began to shake. All his nerves were screaming at him to run and hide and never come back again. Although he knew that nothing was going to happen his body wasn't convinced. He forced himself to trail after McClane, reassuring himself that he wasn't alone and if anything was going to happen he would have the best protector of the world at his side. This thought soothed him until they reached what was left of his apartment door.
He stared at the warning tape and clawed at this throat. It was so damn hot in here and he couldn't breathe, at least it didn't seem as if enough oxygen was transported to his lungs. He couldn't hear anything besides the blood that was rushing through his body and also the wheezing sounds he emitted. He squeaked when strong arms shook him slightly and it took him a few moments to realize that McClane was speaking to him. The concern was obvious and Matt felt humiliated by showing so much weakness when there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. He turned his head sideways because he couldn't get out of McClane's grip and gritted out, “I'm fine, I'm fine, really. You can let go of me, I'm fine.”
At least the pounding of blood in his ears had subsided so he could hear McClane's sarcastic words, “Yeah, right. You're perfectly fine. Very funny, kid. Come on, breathe in and out. If you don't wanna go in, we don't have to. You have nothing to prove.”
Matt closed his eyes, willing the oncoming tears to stay behind his closed eyelids. He didn't want to cry in front of McClane, not again, last night had been enough. The older man's gentleness was disconcerting and he was afraid of losing control. All he wanted right then was to be held by McClane, to be calmed down by him but he couldn't ask for it, he just couldn't. He still hadn't sorted out his feelings nor did he know why McClane was being so nice to him.
His eyes flew open when he was pulled flush against McClane. Strong arms held him and pressed him against a bulky chest, giving Matt what he needed so desperately. At first Matt was rigid but soon the tension left his body and his breathing evened out. Reluctantly he mumbled into McClane's clavicle, “I'm good now. I … I'm sorry, really man, I am. I don't know what's going on and … oh shit, this is embarrassing.”
They were still standing close and McClane's hands were resting on Matt's hipbones when he asked, “You still wanna go inside?”
“You're gonna come with me?” Matt whispered. He stared at the warning tape again, not wanting to look McClane in the eye, not wanting to see annoyance or pity or whatever else feeling Matt couldn't handle right now.
McClane's hands gave a quick squeeze before he turned around and ripped away the tapes from the door. He didn't look back as he entered the apartment and Matt followed him closely. Slowly Matt walked into his destroyed apartment and pivoted around himself. His heart beat fast and he couldn't stop from rotating on the spot, not even when dizziness was swallowing him. He was stopped by McClane but the floor still seemed to waver and he had trouble staying upright. He felt nauseated and closed his eyes in an attempt to overcome the dizziness. It was an unsuccessful move and only the quick grip McClane had on him prevented him from falling.
He was again pressed against McClane's chest but this time he was beyond the feeling of embarrassment. He simply took the older man's gentle gesture as something he needed and hoped that he wasn't losing the rest of McClane's approval. He was drawn out of his thoughts by McClane's raspy voice, “You still don't have to prove anything. We can leave and buy you new clothes.”
Matt shook his head while he clutched tightly at McClane's shirt, crumpling the fabric between his fingers. “No, I … I'm just … I feel dizzy, probably from low blood sugar.”
Matt cringed, that had been a really dumb explanation. He was never going to be able to look McClane in the eye again without flushing to the roots of his hair. He took in a deep breath and released McClane's shirt. Opening his eyes he straightened up and looked at everything except the older man. He made a few steps to the side, staggering slightly. He almost lost his footing when McClane's hand shot out to steady him. McClane didn't withdraw his hand even when Matt told him that he was okay. Instead he intertwined their fingers, leaving Matt gaping while hot chills alternated with cold chills running up and down his spine.
Matt startled and finally looked up again when McClane asked, “Where are your clothes?”
Not trusting his voice Matt pointed the direction of the bedroom. McClane walked towards it and dragged Matt behind. It was odd, the hand-holding thing but not unpleasant. Matt licked over his bottom lip before he started gnawing on it. He didn't want to interpret anything into a probably totally innocent gesture but his brain went on and on about all the other implications that could be.
Matt swallowed when it occurred to him that he had to let go of McClane's hand in favor of stuffing some of his clothes into a bag. Brusquely he loosened their hold which earned him a raised eyebrow. The floor immediately began to rock, causing Matt to spread his legs in a wider stance to keep his balance. The rocking stopped as soon as he felt McClane's hand rest on the small of his back. He didn't rub or moved his hand at all but it was the anchor Matt needed.
When he was done with packing he glanced over his shoulder and said, “I'm done.”
“Do you need anything else from here? Papers, computer stuff or one of your dolls?”
It was the first time since they entered the building that Matt had to smile. He cautiously glanced around to gauge if there was anything he wanted to take with him. Without thinking he turned around, laid his hand into McClane's hand and pointed over at a place near the door. McClane didn't bat an eyelid about their intertwined hands and lead Matt over. It took him a few minutes to find some papers that could be useful and also to rescue an old big envelope with family pictures.
“You sure? What about all those … computer gadgets, don't you need them?”
“Most of my stuff is destroyed. I'll get new stuff as soon as I get some money. All I need I have in the bag I carry around all the time,” Matt shrugged.
McClane nodded and together they walked out of the apartment. Their hands stayed linked until they reached the front door of the building. Stepping out Matt breathed in the fresh air deeply. The drive back to McClane's apartment was more comfortable, even familiar with them squabbling about the music.
Back in McClane's apartment there was another brief moment of awkwardness when Matt set down the bag with his clothes. It didn't last for long because McClane picked up the bag, carried it over to his bedroom and started clearing out some drawers of his dresser. He gave a curt nod with his head indicating that Matt should put his clothes into them, then left Matt to his own devices.
Matt took much more time than he really needed but eventually he had to emerge from the bedroom. He was still wondering what all of this meant but had absolutely no clue how to approach the subject. Aimlessly he wandered through the apartment and finally found McClane sitting outside on his very small balcony. “Is this a balcony or a fire escape? If this is declared as a balcony and you'd have to pay more rent for it that would be an utter ripoff. I'm sure I could find something so that you wouldn't have to pay extra for it-”
“Kid, … Matt, don't jump to conclusions.”
Matt felt his face flushing and asked himself if this statement held a double meaning. He was without doubt attracted to McClane, had been from the moment he had opened the door to him. He was sure that the chemistry between them hadn't been only in his imagination but from experience he knew that he wasn't exactly a master at interpreting signals correctly. Hoarsely he asked, “What are you doing?”
“It's called reading the newspaper, you should try it sometimes.”
Matt laughed, “No, thanks. Mind if I sit here too?”
John shook his head, then sunk back behind his newspaper. Matt squeezed himself on the second chair and for a while he was content with watching the pedestrians on the street. Later, John fetched them something to drink and instead of the newspaper he started reading a sports magazine. Matt had to bite down on his tongue to keep himself in check and decided that it would be for the best to go online. He hadn't been online as much as he used to be. There had been various reasons for it, one was that he didn't see the internet as his refuge anymore. He wanted it to be his safe haven again but more than ever he craved for human contact. More precisely he craved for the contact with exactly one human being, even when that meant to hear the news or music that made his ears bleed.
While McClane was occupied with his magazine Matt surfed through the internet, checked his e-mails – or at least a part of them – and chatted for a little while with the Warlock. The familiarity of what he was doing was soothing and he felt himself relaxing. When he distractedly patted for his glass on the small table he glanced up and caught McClane watching him. He had lowered his magazine and studied Matt intensely. A smile was stuck on his face; it was a real smile and not the kind of smirk Matt had gotten used to. It startled him but as soon as McClane was caught his facial expression became impassive. Matt wasn't even sure that he had seen the smile, it could very well be that he was fantasizing.
He averted his eyes and swiftly was drawn back into the conversation with the Warlock. They had a lot of news to exchange, or at least the Warlock was telling Matt a lot of stuff he had missed. He spent the whole afternoon online and was surprised when McClane nudged him and said, “Do you hackers never think of food?”
Matt blinked, “Food? We already had breakfast.”
McClane tilted his head slightly to one side, then shook it. “I'm gonna order some food. Any preferences?”
“As long as it is spicy I don't really care.”
“You like spicy?”
Matt nodded slowly under the scrutinizing stare of McClane. Was there a deeper underlying meaning or was he really losing it now?
“Okay,” McClane said, “I'll get some Mexican stuff.”
Later in the evening Matt was slouching on the sofa, watching a stupid old black and white Western movie and to his utmost surprise he liked it. Not the movie per se but he liked listening to McClane's commentary and he liked keeping him company. He felt relaxed and mellow when it was time to go to bed.
Relaxation fled him as soon as it occurred to him that he'd probably embarrass himself again. McClane went first to the bathroom and was already half asleep when Matt climbed into bed next to him. He turned on his side, unsure if he should try to stay awake or not. He tensed up when the bedding rustled and gasped when McClane laid a hand on top of his shoulder.
“McClane, you … you don't have to, you know. I could sleep on the sofa, you wouldn't get disturbed then and-”
“Kid, we had this discussion already so cut it out. And call me John.”
Matt turned over on his other side to face the older man. A sheepish smile spread out on his face, “It'll take some time until you won't be McClane to me. It sounds odd, or weird, or wait, maybe inappropriate to call you John. See, this sounds totally, uh, wrong. Somehow or … maybe I should better shut up.”
“That's one of the best things you said all day.”
“Yeah, love you too.”
Matt's reply was dripping from sarcasm but he cursed inwardly for having said it. His subconsciousness was bringing him into deep trouble. His whole body tensed and he had his eyes closed, waiting for John to yell at him and throw him out. He let out a startled noise when John pulled him into an embrace. For the first few seconds he was rigid and almost forgot to breathe. It was too much to comprehend, too much to figure out right then so he decided to just go with the flow and take what he could get.
Bit by bit he relaxed and after what seemed like an eternity he plucked up his courage and rested an arm on top of John's abdomen. He took in a deep breath and finally felt himself relaxing in John's arms. It struck him how odd it was that he felt safe in those arms that could be so powerful, even lethal. For him those arms meant safety and protection, it meant that he could let down his guard, knowing John was there to catch him.
Sleep crept up upon him and for the first time since the fire-sale he was only a tiny bit anxious about having nightmares. Just before sleep claimed him completely he felt John press a kiss on his hair. That should make for interesting dreams, was Matt's last thought.