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22 August 2008 @ 03:09 pm
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!


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 --------

The Grammarian about whom your mother warned you.acostilow on August 23rd, 2008 12:11 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Took long enough, didn't it!

There IS another one that's unfinished (also for 60_minute_fics), because it's clearly going to be on the longish side if I can ever get back to it. :D
The Huntress: Dark Sidehuntress69 on August 23rd, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
I liked this, and I swear when I was watching DH4 I had slashy thoughts too LOL. Oh please, write some more of them. They are like one of the oddest couples around.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean slashhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
and I swear when I was watching DH4 I had slashy thoughts too LOL.
I think there are number of viewers (female ones at least) who thought exactly the same thing! I know I did (because, whoo!) and there's a comm for this pairing that I'll be posting this to: hard4brains. Lots of good stuff there, especially by poisontaster, lamardeuse, and megyal. \o/

They are like one of the oddest couples around.
And yet, they work as a couple. It's that Yin/Yang thing-- instead of driving each other nuts, they balance each other. :)
(no subject) - huntress69 on September 14th, 2008 04:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on September 14th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
ext_75726 on August 23rd, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! Olivia, isn't it? I finally caught up with your changes in usernames/locations.

I see you have an icon for this pairing. I'm teetering so close to the edge that I think I'm going to have to cave in and get a John/Matt one myself.

The most fun part of these stories (there's another one still in the works, barely started) is the dialogue. Between John's dry snarkiness and Matt's unique rambling truths, the way they interact is just priceless.

Thanks for reading!

(no subject) - ext_75726 on August 23rd, 2008 07:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 07:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
Ariss Tenohariss_tenoh on August 23rd, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
Nice touch and pretty believeable for McClane. So is there more? ^_^
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 07:09 am (UTC)
I hope to either get to the "more" (and a slashy one, too), or that someone else might enjoy picking this up and running with it. There've been several stories on the hard4brains comm whether other authors have added onto a story someone else wrote an initial take on. :)
Amber: die hard | john mcclaneminttown1 on August 23rd, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
This is lovely.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 07:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I've seen that icon before, but it is still one of the most distracting views of McClane ever. God, that chest. *is riveted*
i was always like thisbionic on August 23rd, 2008 06:04 am (UTC)

That was so warm and sweet, like a really good bedtime story hehe.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 07:12 am (UTC)
Hee! I know exactly what you mean-- there's a feeling of looking for comfort and finding it, because you can tell that both John and Matt miss each other and enjoy being reunited.

And I hope that somehow, via someone, romance will bloom in a follow-on. ;)
Jas Massonjasmasson on August 23rd, 2008 09:30 am (UTC)
Loved this! Felt so understated and real.

I'm SOOO sucked into Die Hard, it's not really funny ;-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
I'm SOOO sucked into Die Hard, it's not really funny ;-)

It's totally irresistible, isn't it? And I blame the John/Matt chemistry entirely. I wasn't majorly fond of John McClane until Matt showed up and brought out the funny/kind/sweet side to him on top of the cantankerousness and that willingness to throw himself (or a car!) at any threat. :D
noctuabunda: john/matt by salierinoctuabunda on August 23rd, 2008 09:44 am (UTC)
*happy sigh*
I'm so glad John finally said what was on his mind! Now I just hope that Matt is going to stay with him.
*squishes them both - and you, for writing the fic*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on August 23rd, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad John finally said what was on his mind!
This story in some ways is about the peril of relying on indirect communication-- you talk around what you mean, and you think you're implying it well enough, but the other person isn't hearing it at all. And then you pay. :0

Thank goodness for John finally coming around to see that he never did actually say what he meant-- and that he needed to!
emma_in_oz: Die Hardemma_in_oz on August 23rd, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
Yay, happy ending! hard for John to say.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: John/Matt Lovehalfshellvenus on August 24th, 2008 06:52 am (UTC)
I am all for happy endings, especially for people who really do fit together in spite of all the reasons they "shouldn't."

Thanks for reading!
adafrogadafrog on August 23rd, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: John/Matt Lovehalfshellvenus on August 24th, 2008 06:52 am (UTC)
That dialogue is one of the must fun things I've written in ages, I swear. :D

They get so weird together, but in such a good way. :)
lelann137: mattlelann137 on August 23rd, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
love it! so fun to read, i really enjoyed it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: John/Matt Lovehalfshellvenus on August 24th, 2008 06:53 am (UTC)
Yay! "Fun" is wonderful feedback-- it was definitely fun to write, even if it didn't want to be wrangled toward the originally intended ending. I love these two characters together. :)
Truthful Plum Logical Horse: [this is how we] live freemegyal on August 23rd, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
Oh MAN! I would love to see this continued! It's such a great fic.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: John/Matt Lovehalfshellvenus on August 24th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
Wow-- that is high praise coming from you! You know how much I love your John/Matt stories. :)

I'm hoping there'll be a continuation too-- by me, if possible, but if not then anyone will do. :)
Katiekaethe on August 24th, 2008 01:11 am (UTC)
Aww! *fingers crossed that Matt says yes*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: John/Matt Lovehalfshellvenus on August 24th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
:D I don't see how he could resist, not with McClane's unique brand of allure working against him. ;)
crownglass39: BruceBWcrownglass39 on August 24th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
Oh John! See, you ARE brave in more ways than one!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: John/Matt Lovehalfshellvenus on August 24th, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
You CAN teach an old dog new tricks after all!

Or, properly motivated, he can even teach himself. ;)
Mahala A.C.mahala_ac on August 27th, 2008 06:42 am (UTC)
SQUEAL! I am SO Happy! *~^-^~*
I was going through John/Matt Fiction Withdrawal....it was NOT pretty! So THANK you for giving me my MUCH needed fix! lol ^-~ Hope to see more of your work on here!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: John/Matt Lovehalfshellvenus on August 27th, 2008 07:06 am (UTC)
Re: SQUEAL! I am SO Happy! *~^-^~*
Hee-- I know what you mean! I keep checking the comm to see if there are any new stories, and getting disappointed when nothing shows up. :0

I hope to write more of John/Matt, as I really like this pairing. There's the possibility of a sequel to this (if I get the inspiration), and then there's the story I started back in April that I sill hope to finish. Of the known possibilities, that is. ;)

Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you liked it. :)