May 25, 2018

FAN FICTION: Live Free or Die Hard: Sleeplessness


Master list can be found here.

Title: Sleeplessness
Author: christikat
Fandom: Live Free or Die Hard
Pairing/Characters: John McClane / Matt Farrell
Rating/Category: PG-13
Word count: ~3900

Prompt: After his close brush with death, Matt teeters on the edge of sanity (PTSD). Surprisingly gentle and understanding, John helps him cope.

Beta: Many thanks to flwrpwr_vampyre

Summary: Nightmares keep Matt up at night.


Sleeplessness

Sleeping had been easy in the hospital. He just had to ask for a sleeping pill and instantly sink into a dreamless sleep. He didn't feel restored the next day but that didn't matter. Anything was better than to wake up after another nightmare, drenched in sweat, kicking and flailing while streams of tears were running down his cheeks.

After the first time he'd experienced such a nightmare and woke up to a worried night nurse looming above him, Matt decided that sleeping pills were a much better choice. He knew that it wasn't uncommon to suffer from nightmares after all he had been through. He also knew that he had no reason to be embarrassed about reacting this way but still – he had been mortified about the crying fit he'd had that night.

When he got released from the hospital the Feds brought him to a safe house where they kept him during their interrogations. Matt stayed at that house for four days and nights. He only had sleeping pills for three nights and no one allowed him to go to a pharmacy. Not that he would have been able to walk long distances but would it have hurt them to just drop him off at one?

The fourth night in the custody of the Feds was horrible.

Matt feared an oncoming nightmare and had been on edge throughout the day. He tried to stay awake long into the night but was forced to crash around 2 am. Coke just wasn't having the same effect on him as the energy drinks he was used to. Half an hour later he woke up with a scream that reverberated in his throat, thrashing around in bed. One of the guys who stayed with him stormed into the room, gun ready.

“Hold it! Hold it!” Matt yelled.

He switched on the light and stared in the muzzle of a gun that was directed at him. He gulped, then waited for the other man to lower it. At least the guy didn't make fun of him and for that Matt was grateful. A curt, understanding nod and the other man left his room. Matt stayed awake another hour before sleep claimed him again.

When he looked at his watch again forty minutes had passed. His throat felt sore from screaming and the damn sheets were winding around his lower body, trapping him. This time there was a knock on the door and a shouted, “You're okay?”

“Yes! Yes! Sorry … sorry for waking you up! I'm fine!” Matt's voice cracked several times. To himself he muttered, “I'm okay, really, I am. It's just a nightmare. For fuck's sake! How do I get those creepy sheets off?”

During his babble he heard the other man's footsteps striding away. Matt flopped down on his back, panting and shaking. His heart thumped wildly against his ribcage, feeling as if it wanted to jump out of his chest. That nightmare had been scary in a different way. This time there was no John McClane to rescue him. No matter how much Matt yelled and begged – John didn't come and Matt was alone.

Matt closed his eyes as tears welled up. He wasn't going to have a breakdown now, damn it! He had proved to be tougher than he thought and besides, it was over. If he could only shake off the feeling of utter loneliness, then everything would be great. While he tried to get his breathing back under control, he thought about McClane. Of course he thought about the guy who had saved his ass more than once, that was perfectly normal.

Matt opened his eyes, switched the bedside lamp on and carefully entangled his legs from the sheets. His shirt was glued to his body and absentmindedly he registered that he was trembling. What did it say about him that he wanted McClane to be with him? Not … not in a sexual way!

Well, maybe that too but mostly he yearned for McClane's sheer presence. Despite of all what had happened he had trusted the cop - implicitly. Hell, he even had obeyed his orders without hesitation, knowing that McClane would do everything to protect him. Surely he'd be able to protect him from his nightmares too.

Matt sat on the edge of the bed, the sweat cooled on his skin and his teeth began to chatter. He gave a mirthless laugh that sounded more like a sob. Yeah, right. McClane would kick his ass for being such a wuss. He dropped his face into his open palms and calmed himself down by breathing slow and deep. He angled for his crutches and hobbled to the bathroom to clean himself up and put a fresh shirt on.

When he came back into his bedroom he decided that he had slept enough for that night and got his laptop. Fortunately for him the Warlock was online and able to distract him until the new day dawned.

XXXXX

When the interrogations were over Matt stayed at various places, including shabby hotels and lumpy couches at several of his friends places. He never stayed more than one night because no matter what he tried he always woke up screaming or crying or doing both at the same time, embarrassing the shit out of him.

From time to time he took a sleeping pill but even then he woke up from a nightmare in the early hours of the new day. He would have taken the pills regularly but after a quick search on the web he found out that they could get him in severe trouble due to his asthma. Not to mention that he always felt dizzy throughout the next day and his appetite was almost not existent.

He was still waiting for the money from the insurance company so he could afford to rent a new apartment. Sourly he thought that McClane had been right. They had saved the whole country, they had gotten shot at and what did they get? A pat on the back. Fucking great. McClane just had forgotten to mention the scary nightmares and the nausea that overwhelmed Matt whenever he thought about the fact that he had killed two men. Or maybe McClane simply didn't have the same problems.

Matt sighed; why was it that all his thoughts kept swirling around John McClane? The cop had simply done his job, that's what he had said to him. The little sparks of whatever had been between them, had obviously only been in Matt's imagination since he hadn't seen McClane or heard anything from him for the last six weeks. Given, Matt could have called him or showed up at McClane's threshold but that would have been too pathetic. What would he say there?

“Hey, I'm having nightmares and could I please sleep in your arms because then I'd finally feel safe again?” Matt choked on his own laughter which caused the old lady that was sitting beside him on the bench to throw an irritated glance towards him. She got up  with a disgusted expression on her face and Matt couldn't help it but stuck his tongue out when she turned her back towards him as she left.

He sobered up quickly enough and inspected himself. He was wearing jeans that were stained with too many blotches to count and his shirt reeked. He carded a hand through his hair and wrinkled his face in annoyance. It felt greasy and suddenly he realized that he had to look like a bummer. Great, the day just kept getting better because now he was starting to wallow in self-pity and even started to think about going home to his parents' house.

He had talked to them briefly on the phone shortly after the almost fire sale but had declined their invitation to stay with them for a while. In his parents household existed more rules than should be possible and he had never gotten along with his father anyway. Their relationship had gotten even more strained when his parents had discovered that their only son swung both ways. Matt sighed again – it was such a joy to be himself.

“Hey, hack boy! Are you done with pitying yourself for today? Or should I come back later?” a very familiar voice asked.

Matt jumped, then shielded his eyes against the sun. He gaped for a few seconds and when he finally found his voice he croaked, “McClane! Hey dude, what are you doing here?”

McClane came over and sat down next to Matt. He gave him a quick once-over and Matt looked away, embarrassed. Matt swallowed hard and deliberately kept his eyes averted. So when one of McClane's hands landed on top of his shoulders, giving it a firm squeeze, he shrieked in surprise. McClane's voice was gentle when he asked, “You're doing okay, kid?”

Matt debated with himself about what to say and then decided to lie. He made the mistake of looking up and straight into McClane's eyes. There was no chance to lie and get away with it so Matt answered flatly, “No. I don't think so.”

The older man nodded and squeezed his shoulder again. “You don't look like it either.”

Matt snorted and gazed into the distance. “I'm not like you.”

“No, you're not and that's good. We don't need another me.”

Matt turned his head and stared at McClane. “You're a hero. The world needs more heroes.”

“No, it doesn't. It just needs less assholes.”

Matt smiled but the smile faded when McClane pierced him with that intense gaze that was so perfectly him. He cleared his throat, shouldered his bag and picked up the cane he still had to use. “Gotta go now. It was nice to see you again.”

“Yeah, sure. Get your ass over there,” McClane pointed at a car that was parked a few feet away.

“Um, what?”

“I'll take you to my place where you'll take a shower, dress into fresh clothes, get something to eat and then sleep.”

“That's a really tempting offer and I'm grateful for it but … no, thanks.”

“I can't recall having asked or offered this to you. I gave you an order.”

McClane got up and before Matt even knew what he was doing he was following him. When he realized what he was doing he stopped, a stunned expression crossing his face. McClane was already opening the door and he glanced over his shoulder, shouting, “Come on, kid!”

“I'm not a kid,” Matt muttered under his breath.

It didn't matter that he felt like one right then. He didn't dwell on the fact that he longed to be taken care of without having to listen to subtle accusations as his parents would surely have done. Because he wouldn't have been in all this trouble if he hadn't participated in something that he knew was dubious.

Matt was still rooted to the spot and he fiddled with the hem of his shirt. He had no sleeping pills and as tempting as McClane's offer was, he didn't want to wake up in the cop's apartment, humiliating himself to the core. Not in front of the man who had saved the whole fucking country, the one who thought he had done a good and brave job of helping him save the country a few weeks ago. Matt couldn't bear the thought of losing McClane's approval.

He had been so lost in his own whirling thoughts that he didn't recognize McClane coming back until the very same laid his broad hands on his shoulders. They were warm and strong and Matt had to close his eyes to restrain from simply falling against McClane, hoping that he'd catch and hold him. One of the hands was removed and took hold of Matt's chin. McClane tipped his head up while Matt tried to chase off the tremors that were surging through his body.

“Kid, when was the last time you slept?”

“Yesterday.”

McClane raised an eyebrow and clarified, “I meant, when was the last time you had a good night with a few hours of sleep. Without waking up screaming like a little baby from  nightmares?”

Matt's eyes widened in shock. How could McClane know that? Was it that obvious? He felt his face flush and his eyes darted around aimlessly. He swallowed hard several times before he squeezed out, “I don't know what you're talking about.”

The hand on his shoulder became heavier and the hand that held his chin gripped just the slightest bit more strongly. Matt shuffled his feet, then tried to shake off the hands that held him. He should have known better than to struggle against McClane. If the guy wanted  you to stay, he made you stay, simple as that.

Matt fought against the tears that welled up, hating himself for reacting this emotionally and unwilling to see the disgust in McClane's eyes that was surely there. He gasped when McClane's calloused hands moved again, this time to cup his face into them. It felt strange, to say the least, feeling those hands that could be so dangerous. Right then, they were providing something else, something that Matt didn't want to name because then he'd be in a really dangerous area.

McClane's voice was almost soothing when he asked, “Did you see a shrink? Probably not. By the way, I still can tell when you're lying to me.” He made a pause before he continued, “You're going to listen to me now very carefully. You'll get into my car and drive with me to my apartment. You'll take a shower and you'll eat something. Then you're going to sleep and I'll make sure that you will get a decent sleep. That's not up for discussion, so move.”

Matt blinked but nodded because seriously, you didn't disobey twice in a row when John McClane gave you an order.

They were silent throughout the ride, not even the radio was on. Matt leaned his head against the car window and glanced over at the cop from time to time. The cop either didn't recognize the glances or he chose to ignore them. Matt felt uncomfortable and jumbled. His thoughts kept twirling, tied themselves up in knots and didn't leave him time to figure out what was happening.

When they arrived at McClane's apartment Matt's uneasiness blossomed to new dimensions but McClane had nothing of it. He rounded the car, opened the passenger door and unceremoniously dragged Matt out of it. One of his hands stayed at the small of Matt's back,  pushing lightly whenever Matt's reluctance rendered him into immobility.

He didn't have time to look around in McClane's apartment because the cop took his bag and then pushed him into the direction of his bathroom. “Do you have any fresh clothes in your bag?”

Fresh clothes? Matt frowned – he honestly couldn't remember. Sharp worry lines appeared on McClane's forehead when Matt didn't answer. He turned around and muttered, “I take it that you don't even know the last time when you changed your clothes.”

Matt blushed and bit his lip. God, this, he was absolutely pathetic. “I … I …,” he stammered but couldn't think of anything useful to say.

“It'll get better, believe me.”

The soft timbre of McClane's voice surprised the hell out of Matt. He couldn't prevent himself from blurting, “You sure about that?”

Matt had never felt that vulnerable, not even when Gabriel had shot him and everything seemed to go to hell. He pressed his lips together to a tight line, waiting for McClane's answer.

“Yes, kid, I'm sure.”

Matt smiled and the cop smiled back. “Thank you.”

McClane gave a curt nod, then strode into his bedroom. “I'll try to find some clothes that could fit you. You go and take that shower. Guest towels are in the cupboard on the left.”

Matt doubted that McClane would be able to find anything in his closet that was going to fit him but the thought of wearing some of his clothes was comforting. Matt smiled when he undressed and relished the feeling of hot water pattering on his body. He lathered himself generously and washed his hair three times until all the grease was out. His spirits were lifting when he came out of the shower and toweled himself off. A knock at the door caused him to hastily bind the towel around his hips.

McClane entered the room to hand him some clothes, then commented, “Much better. I hope you're not used to blow-drying your hair because I don't have one.”

He rubbed over his bald head and Matt had to grin. “Nah, it'll dry on its own.”

“Good. Get dressed, I'm heating up pizza.”

Matt's stomach grumbled loudly at that and with a sheepish smile he said, “I can't really remember when was the last time I ate, either.”

McClane just stared at him for a few seconds, then turned around and left. Minutes later Matt was dressed in a pair of McClane's jeans and a shirt. The shirt hung loosely and he had to hold the jeans with his hands while he walked to the kitchen. “Um, do you have a belt somewhere?”

“You look completely famished,” McClane replied but went to his bedroom to retrieve a belt nonetheless.

Matt ran the belt through the loops while McClane put the pizza on plates. They sat down around the kitchen table before eating in a companionable silence. Afterwards they settled on the sofa and watched a baseball game until Matt began to nod off.

McClane shook him by the shoulder and told him, “Time to hit the sack, kid.”

“I'm … I'm not tired,” Matt squeaked. It was a lie, of course he was, but the dreadful feeling of oncoming humiliation was waking him up effectively.

“You are. Come on I'll show you to the guestroom.”

Guestroom? Didn't McClane say something about making sure that he could sleep? How was that going to work with him sleeping in the guestroom? Matt rubbed his hands over his face, struggling with a decision. It couldn't be more embarrassing to ask this question than to wake up screaming later so he plucked up his courage and blurted, “Can't I sleep in your bedroom?”

There was no sound to be heard, not even the ticking of the wall clock registered with Matt. He held his eyes downcast, his shoulders were hunched and every fiber of his body was on the alert. Quickly he scrambled off the sofa and babbled, “Forget it, forget it. I'm sorry, man. I … I should really go. Thanks for the shower and the pizza and-”

He was cut off by the growled demand of McClane, “Shut the hell up, kid. Get your ass in my bedroom. Right side is mine.”

Matt's head snapped up and wide-eyed he stared at the cop who merely smirked at him. “Uh, um, really, like, seriously?”

“Yes, really like seriously. Get a move on now.”

Matt did. He made a quick beeline for the bathroom and when he warily entered McClane's bedroom there was a pair of pajama bottoms already laid out for him. He put them on  and crawled under the blanket. It was weird, no doubt about that, but it was also so incredibly comforting. He was surrounded by the smell of McClane, the smell which he by then associated with safety and protection. Maybe he would finally have a night without nightmares.

Matt was already dozing off when he felt the bed dip and heard the other blanket rustle. The solid presence of McClane's body lying right next to him was what allowed Matt to drift off to sleep.

He woke up hours later, struggling against someone holding him while he whimpered and called out for McClane to help him. It took him a while to come around. It took him even longer to realize that McClane was holding him tightly while he spoke reassuring words. Never would Matt have thought that McClane could even talk like that.

He gulped in air and eventually croaked out, “I'm sorry, man, really, I'm sorry. I … I'll leave so you can-”

He choked on his last words when McClane rolled him on his back, held him down by pressing one hand against his sternum and loomed above him. Matt tried to keep still under the scrutinizing stare but found he couldn't. He started when the older man handed him a tissue with an added comment of, “Don't be an idiot.”

Matt hastily blew his nose, then wiped away the wetness on his face. His cheeks felt hot underneath his palms and why the hell did he stay here? Though, it didn't seem as if McClane was disgusted by him nor did he show a great deal of pity. Only concern and maybe something else lurked in his eyes. To keep his eyes away from the cop Matt glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand. His eyes bulged. “Wow! I slept five hours? I haven't slept that much without taking a pill since … since, uh,...”

“Since the night before the fire sale started, I'd say. Time for you to get back into normal sleeping patterns again.”

Matt just stared at McClane while something within him loosened up. Yeah, it was about time and maybe with a little help from McClane he'd eventually get there. He nodded in agreement but still had to ask, “You're not mad at me? For waking you up?”

“Kid, I've been there too. It's easier if there's someone to help you. All you gotta do is ask for help.”

“Did you ask for help?”

“Not exactly. You're smarter than me. Or at least I thought you'd be smarter than I was.”

Matt's heart thumped heavily in his chest when he plucked up his courage again. “Could you, um, touch me? Not, not like … I mean, just, just lay your hand on my shoulder or something. That way I'd know you're still here.”

Christ, his face was hurting from the heat that pooled there. This time he didn't avert his eyes, instead he tried to make out the facial expression of McClane in the dim moonlight that seeped through the curtains. He was confused by the command of, “Roll on your side.”

He did as he was told even though he felt humiliated. He almost jumped out of his skin when a strong arm looped under his head while the other one settled around his upper body. Matt gasped when he felt McClane pressing his chest against his back as he spooned up behind him. He began to shake and those strong arms tightened their grip. It felt so good, so right, so incredibly safe to be in this bed with McClane curled around him, sheltering him.

Matt didn't think about the next day, didn't think about the implications of what they were doing or what they meant to each other. He lived simply for that moment, surrounded by John McClane, his strength, his scent and everything. When he dozed off the next time, a smile was stuck on his face.


END

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