The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors (halfshellvenus) wrote,
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors
halfshellvenus

Die Hard 4 Fiction: "Better Late Than Never" (PG-13)

Title: Better Late Than Never
Fandom: Die Hard 4
Author: HalfshellVenus
Pairing: John and Matt or John/Matt (Gen or Pre-slash, up to the reader)
Rating: PG-13 (language— McClane IS a New York cop, after all)
Summary: Being the strong silent type has its consequences, not all of them obvious.
Author's Notes: I started this for 60_minute_fics ("Still Missing You" challenge) and for my own prompt in the July 4th hard4brains ficathon of Matt makes the cover of some PC-type magazine and McClane spies it at a grocery store/newstan, and has a sudden flash of feelings. It stalled out for quite awhile, but I finally finished it. It didn't make it to the slash I was hoping for-- I think I foiled myself with the thematic structure I picked, which I could only sustain for so long. If you want to write the sequel, please feel free!

x-x-x-x-x

November was when John realized he should have said something.

The World-Series was over by then. He'd spent every night of the last two weeks sitting on his broken-down couch and staring at the television before either deciding to go to bed early (no use dragging out a shit day any longer) or falling asleep only to wake hours later to the soulless chatter of infomercial programs.

The apartment was too quiet now—even though he turned on the television as soon he came home. It was quiet because something was missing… someone was missing. The only spark of life the place had seen in the last decade had walked right out the door.

And John had let it happen.

"So you're probably tired of having me around the place by now," Matt had said one night. He'd come back from the hospital with John after the fire sale months earlier, his own apartment nothing but charcoal and fragments by then. John had given him the spare bedroom (previously used only for storage), and over time Matt had gotten a pretty decent home office set up in there too.

They'd balanced out each other's mobility problems those first few weeks of rehab, and it seemed as if they'd kept that same rhythm afterward— Matt's habit of voicing all his random curiosity out loud working as an antidote to John's terseness, and John's lone-wolf lifestyle not dampening Matt's friendliness in the least. Things had been comfortable and unhurried (and good—hadn't they been good?) until the night the kid had brought up the subject of moving.

John usually wasn't the type to say anything, ever, though he was pretty sure he'd managed something like "Nah, don't worry about it. No rush."

As a result, he'd been surprised when Matt had moved to a new apartment two weeks later.

It was a week before Thanksgiving when John realized what he should have said in particular: "It's good having you here, and if it was up to me I'd like you to stay." Because the casual words he'd used before had been too much like the path of least resistance that had brought the kid to live with him in the first place. John had made it sound too much like he wasn't totally fed up yet instead of like he actually enjoyed the way his life was going, like he'd even choose to keep it that way.

Matt hadn't heard what John hadn't said, obviously, and now the silence that waited at the end of the day drove John to stop off at a bar on the way home three nights out of five.

On Saturday morning, John was walking along Bleeker Street. He was headed to Zinetka's for pastries when a magazine at a newsstand caught his eye and his feet stopped moving.

"Hacker Hero Tames Technology," whatever the hell that meant. All John really noticed was the blue shirt that looked really good on the kid, and the floppy hair/big smile/bigger eyes that had him grinning back at the cover as if Matt himself had just walked back in through John's front door.

John hadn't missed anyone like that since Holly had left him and taken the kids.

It was half an hour later when John realized he should have called Matt sometime in the month after the move-out. They'd gone from seeing each other every day to totally non-intersecting lives, where John hadn't asked how the new place (the new life) was going or invited Matt to meet him for a beer. He'd assumed Matt was relieved to unload him and get on with whatever it was kids these days were doing. The fact that Matt hadn't called him either had seemed to pretty much prove the point.

Funny how all that rationalizing could suddenly just look like stubborn bullshit.

Back at his apartment, John tossed the newspaper and the magazine on the kitchen table. He'd debated over buying the magazine (Too stalkerish? Or what any friend would do?) before (Aw, fuck it) doing it anyway. The kid was sort of his hero anyway, compared to most civilians, and he wanted to see if the magazine had gotten the story right.

The door to the spare bedroom was ajar, and John found himself going in for the first time since Matt's departure. The room seemed disturbingly empty, even after years of sitting ready in case Lucy or Jack needed a place to stay. Only Matt had ever taken John up on that offer of hospitality.

Things looked out of place now, though all that remained were the same items that had been there before: the same basic furniture, the wedding photo, and some old football trophies. All of those things were John's, but the room had only ever belonged to Matt and there was nothing of the kid left behind.

That room wasn't the only thing that felt empty.

Calling would probably be dumb, but not calling had been dumber. John pulled the contact info the kid had given him off the fridge and punched the numbers into the phone, backing up a couple of times when he hit the wrong key. He'd barely caught his breath before the phone started dialing.

"Hey, McClane." The kid's voice greeted him immediately, cracking warmly on his name. John almost didn't notice, too preoccupied with the question of Wait, how'd he know it was me? until the kid followed it up with, "Caller ID dude, seriously, I know you know what that is, right? Sure you do. So anyway, that's why. Say, how the hell have you been?"

"Okay," John said, both his grin and the softly rasping word bearing false testimony to the loneliness of the last several weeks. All of it was forgotten in the sudden rush of happiness at talking to Matt. "How about you? I hear you're famous."

"Yeah right, famous—it's like spam central now, all these teenaged hackers sending me love letters and resumes twenty-four/seven, not to mention the older ones. A guy from Bulgaria wants to marry me— or send me up in a Soviet satellite, I'm not sure which. Warlock says I'm a sellout."

"Warlock should be so lucky," John said smoothly.

"Exactly—I'd tell him you said that, but he'd hijack your pension. So how much of this is hitting you now, McClane? Though you've probably been through it all before, like, a million times already— or a couple of years ago anyway, right?"

"Something like that." John cleared his throat, remembering why he'd called. "So you want to go out for a beer, tell me all about it?"

"Love to, sure." Matt sounded almost surprised. "Though public places can be kind of a handful right now, you know? I mean I still can, it's just—"

"Whatever you want, kid," John soothed. "We can meet up somewhere, or you can come over here and we'll hide out on the fire escape or something."

"Okay, yeah—that sounds good. Like today? Now? I can be there in twenty minutes."

John realized the right response was the one he wanted to say anyway: "Come on over. Now is great."

"Good. Excellent," Matt rambled, "See you soon."

An earful of dial tone followed soon after. John glanced around him, suddenly aware that he had some picking up to do.

He took the shower he'd postponed earlier, and straightened up the bathroom and the living room. He hid the magazine, then unhid it because Matt would probably ask about it. He did the dishes in the sink and wiped off the countertops, so the place looked like a grownup lived there instead of some loser who'd been alone for far too long.

The doorbell startled him—he hadn't even buzzed the kid through the downstairs entrance yet. But when John looked through the peephole, it was Matt all right. A mop of dark hair, head turning everywhere, body constantly moving while he waited—definitely Matt. John opened the door.

"Hey," Matt smiled, and the last month fell away in a flurry of half-formed thoughts about What the hell was I thinking not calling him weeks ago? and Why did I ever let him move out of here anyway? and God, I've missed that smile.

"C'mon in, kid," John said. He was surprised when Matt hesitated, stepping forward and then stopping before awkwardly enveloping John in a half-hug that felt so nice, so warm and—

John was forgetting to let Matt go, the same way he'd forgotten to step out of the way so the kid could get by him and into the apartment, and that was kind of embarrassing. Almost like the kid had hugged him because he thought John expected it instead of because he wanted to, and now John was hanging on and acting all desperate and needy. John patted Matt's back and released him, turning to usher him inside.

"So how've you been?" John asked.

"Good. Busy—I'm working on a security system for a medical database company right now, got a few jobs lined up after that, maybe a long-term gig in about four months. Still haven't really unpacked, but you know—didn't have that much to begin with after the other place went up in flames."

"Yeah. You're still in the rebuilding stage, probably."

"Pretty much— in more ways than one. Half the people I used to know don't want to have anything to do with me, and people I've never heard of want to be my new best friend. Totally weird."

John chuckled softly. "I'll bet."

Matt settled on a beer, so they got a couple of bottles out of the fridge and took them over to the sofa. They sat side-by-side, comfortable together the way John had only ever been with a couple of guys from the neighborhood, guys he hardly ever saw anymore.

Guys he had a whole childhood in common with, unlike this kid who was so different and so much younger than he was, and yet none of that mattered anymore.

They talked for hours, through Penn State vs. Ohio and a pre-season basketball game. John ordered a pizza and they ate it while tarantulas chased William Shatner through a Styrofoam city to the accompaniment of Matt groaning over the lameness of the special effects.

By ten, John was nodding off during a CSI re-run and Matt woke him by getting to his feet and starting in on the usual goodbyes.

The happiness of the day disappeared with a jolt. They wouldn't be doing this all over again the next day like they used to—it could be weeks or months, or even longer depending on what else opened up in the kid's life that might be more interesting than a divorced cop on the verge of retirement and permanent has-been status.

John followed Matt to the door, the emptiness in his stomach already growing. He was about five minutes away from weeks (or worse) of lonely evenings and endless silence.

"Thanks for asking me over, John. It was great. We should do this again."

And John realized the words he was already saying were, "I've really missed having you here, and I wish you'd never moved out.

So what do you think—can you break your lease and come back?"



-------- fin --------

Tags: die hard 4, my_fic, random-fandom
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