Life, Mid-Crisis
by lamardeuse

Rating:  NC-17

Pairing:  John McClane/Matt Farrell

Written for the Smallfandomfest challenge community on Livejournal.

Warnings (highlight to view):  explicit sex

When Matt was released from the hospital, the NSA put him up at the Watergate Hotel – God, the irony, it burned – and spent the next four days giving him the third degree. Matt counted himself lucky there was no rubber hose involved, but maybe they were saving that for later.

McClane had disappeared – Matt had no idea what the hell had happened to him, but the press was dying to get their grimy hands on him, as if interviewing him would be the ratings equivalent of getting Britney Spears to confess to killing Jimmy Hoffa. Maybe it was; the country was going apeshit, politicians demanding action, demanding inquests, demanding blood, like there hadn't been enough blood shed already, some of it his, some of it John's.

Thing was, it looked like McClane was used to bleeding. One night, CNN showed a 'documentary' – what bullshit – on McClane's illustrious career. Matt was shocked to see the footage and grainy photos of a much younger man with the same lopsided smile, the same bruises and scrapes, the same world-weary gaze. It was surprising, and more than a little sad, and Matt didn't know what to do with either of those reactions, so he stowed them away for later examination.

His dad offered to get him a lawyer, but Matt turned him down, because first of all, after helping to nearly destroy the country (even though it had been unintentional), Matt figured he probably owed somebody some quick, easy answers. Second, his father's idea of a lawyer was a guy who had a three hundred square foot office in a strip mall between the hardware store and the place that sold travel insurance. Third, he just wanted it all to be over with, already, so he could just go home and –

Right. Yeah. He'd almost forgotten about that.

Matt rested his head in his hands and sighed. “Okay, so do you think you're going to be done with me sometime before I die of old age?” he asked the guy he was starting to think of as Harpo, which had to be a sign he was losing it. The guy didn't even have curly hair. “Because I seriously can't remember anything else.”

“We'll be done with you when we say you're done,” was the reply, which was actually one of the cleverer things Harpo had said in four days. Matt laid his head on the table and tried to ignore the ache in his knee. He was sick of the meds; they made his head fog up, and he really didn't want to get sent up the river because the little blue pain pills let these yutzes get the better of him. Being outsmarted by Harpo would be a particularly shitty way to end up in jail.

And then that night McClane showed up on Larry King, of all things, and proceeded to tell the entire world that the real hero of the Great Fire Sale of '07 had been Matthew Farrell, and that he was the guy the press really wanted to be talking to.

And wouldn't you know it, the fucking world believed him.

The next morning, the NSA needed fifteen guys to get him from his room at the Watergate to the car waiting outside. Even with the escort, Matt was barraged with questions, blinded by flash bulbs, and jostled and manhandled to within an inch of his life. Some guy on Daily Kos found out Matt was being held without bail by the NSA, and the wire services picked it up. By the time NBC Nightly News had heard about it, Freedom for Matt Farrell was a full-blown crusade. Matt was pretty sure somebody out there was already organizing a benefit concert.

The next day, Matt was a free man again. The day after that, his insurance company e-mailed him to tell him they were sending him a big fat check, because evidently they no longer considered French mercenaries blowing your apartment to smithereens to be an act of God. And the day after that, Bowman offered him a job.

Really, Matt didn't know whether to kiss McClane or hunt the fucker down and kill him.

Six Months Later

All told, Matt lasted exactly three and a half weeks in DC, and that included his quality time with Harpo. While he and Bowman had developed a healthy respect for one another's respective skills, they both came to the swift realization that Matt did not fit in with the rest of the Fibbies. Matt had signed up for a contract job where he was pretty much doing his own thing, so it wasn't like he needed to be stuck in a box with the rest of the cubicle rats. And when they did need him to confab, well, that's what secure-line video conference calls were for.

And then he told himself that hey, he'd always wanted to live in New York someday, so why not now?

The FBI paid better than his previous contracts, but not a lot better, and rent wasn't cheap if he didn't want to live in a war zone, so he put out a few feelers to some likely prospects for additional contracts; banks, brokers, a couple of hospitals. He got so many responses, he soon had to decide to either turn away clients or figure out a way to clone himself. Apparently Larry King had more influence than he'd thought, or McClane had been on TV again. Matt was willing to bet he'd hit it off great with Mary Hart.

He found a nice one-bedroom in the Village that had once been a warehouse; he liked the feeling of height and scope after his last place, and his new landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Gratti, were a lot friendlier than his last one, Nick the Nose, who had had only six teeth and absolutely no sympathy when you informed him that you had no hot water in your fucking apartment. The big windows spooked him a little at first, until he reminded himself that nobody was out there training a rifle scope on him. Still, he ordered heavy black curtains online for his bedroom, and when they arrived he had his first real night's sleep in – well. Longer than he wanted to think about.

One afternoon, he took some time off from staring at his monitor and walked a couple of blocks to the second-hand furniture place he'd seen coming back from a dentist's appointment downtown. He went from a computer table and a futon and not much else to a real mattress and box spring, a red melamine and vinyl dining room set, a bookshelf, a sturdy cabinet for the TV he didn't own yet and a couch big enough to stretch out on. Hell, he even had a coffee table. It was weird to have all this – this stuff, but he couldn't find it in himself to regret it.

He'd always ordered his groceries from Peapod and only shopped in person if his life depended on it, but there was so much life on the busy fall streets near his apartment that Matt found himself actually strolling around his neighborhood on nice days when he didn't have a huge, looming deadline hanging over his head. He found the Asian grocery and the Italian deli and the place where the guys made bagels by hand, and when he stumbled across the Abingdon Square greenmarket, he was stunned by the revelation that he could actually enjoy fruits and vegetables that didn't come from a can. Pretty soon, he'd bought kitchen utensils that did shit he didn't even know kitchen utensils could do, and he was trying his hand at Mrs. Gratti's famous chicken parmesan recipe.

At some point – maybe when he found himself using his garlic press with experienced efficiency – he figured out that he had finally become a grownup. It staggered him so hard he had to hold onto the counter for support. Later, he went on eBay and won himself a six foot cardboard figure of Bugs Bunny, which he'd probably paid way too much for but he figured would go well with the dining room set.

Matt really knew he was screwed, though, when he signed up for the gym membership. Okay, so, wait; the thing was, he'd found the place online, and there was this class that claimed to be like a real boot camp, only when he signed up and plunked down his sixty bucks, his drill instructor was named Candi and didn't yell at them at all. He didn't want to think too much about why he was disappointed, so he didn't. The next week, he joined a gym around the corner from his apartment that had no website, no fancy classes, not even fresh paint on the walls. The locker rooms smelled like sweat and Irish Spring and the next thing Matt knew, he was going there three times a week like clockwork, lifting weights or using the creaky rowing machine that dated back to the days of John L. Sullivan.

One night, to celebrate the completion of a big contract that earned him more money than he'd seen in the last five years, he bought himself a six-pack of Vermont microbrew and drank it slowly while contemplating what exactly the fuck he was going to do now.

He didn't come to any earth-shattering conclusions until after beer number five, by which point he knew he'd be too drunk to remember in the morning anyway. He fell asleep halfway through beer number six, and dreamed that Bugs came to life and chased him around his apartment until Matt just decided to quit running.

All right, so he'd thought about it, thought about bumping into John somewhere, though the chances of that happening in a city the size of New York were something like the chances of surviving all the crazy shit they'd been through a few months ago, and so Matt didn't hold out any great hope of getting that lucky again. He'd long since tracked down John's home address, phone number and vital statistics, but he was too chickenshit to do anything with it. Well, maybe not chickenshit, just realistic. At the end of the day, it wasn't like they had anything in common. He seriously doubted that John jerked off to fantasies about him, for starters.

And the weird thing was, the fantasies were ridiculously boring, the typical up-against-the-wall-and-spread-'em tough cop fantasies, complete with handcuffs. Matt knew that wasn't John, or that it was, but there was a lot more there, all tangled up with the look in his eyes when Matt had gotten into the car with him, like he couldn't process the evidence that somebody would actually give a shit about whether he lived or died. That didn't fit in with the fantasies, and it was easier, Matt found, to leave that detail out of the scenario, because that just made him want in a way that had very little to do with reality. Reality was his dick in his own hand late at night, was being alone in his head in a big, cavernous apartment, was never picking up that phone and dialing a number he'd memorized months ago.

Apparently, though, Matt had forgotten that reality as he'd experienced since meeting John McClane also meant crazy, impossible shit could happen at any time, usually on major holidays. This fact was brought home to him when he was flipping through the channels of his new TV on Valentine's Day and came across one of those cheesy network newscasts with the banner HOSTAGE SITUATION DOWNTOWN – POSSIBLE TERRORIST LINK scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Matt had just enough time to feel the cold chill do a Lambada up his spine before he heard John's name on the news Barbie's lips.

He was up out of his chair and headed out the door before he could think, grabbing his coat on the way.

It was all over but the shouting by the time Matt hopped the Seventh Avenue Express from 14th to Wall Street and emerged to the eerily familiar flash of ambulance and police sirens, striping the nearby office towers in garish colors. He tried to assess the situation, but he lacked a policeman's trained eye; all he knew was that everything seemed orderly, at least in comparison to the last big disaster he'd attended. But then, he supposed some parts of World War Two would look kind of quiet next to that.

The barricades were up to keep out the riffraff, of course, and Matt knew that nothing he could say to the uniforms guarding them would get him past the clearly drawn lines between cop and civilian. Still, he felt this alarming, nearly overpowering need to get to John, to find out if he was all right. He felt as though he should have been there, been at his back, though he knew that was ten kinds of ridiculous.

He stood there  a few minutes more in the cold February night, feeling increasingly like a stalker, or possibly just a stupid kid, when he suddenly caught sight of John. He was about twenty-five yards away, his steps unhurried but even. Matt felt the relief like a gut punch; shit, he was okay, he was alive, he was right there, and Matt had to have been an idiot not to have picked up that phone, because suddenly he was sure that John was alone, that nobody was coming for him, and that was just plain wrong.

“McClane!” Matt shouted, earning him a glare from the uniform nearest him. “McClane! John!” Nothing; John was turning away from him, talking briefly to another uniform. Matt saw him nod, then start to walk toward one of the barricades on the far side. Shit, shit, shit; Matt shoved his way out of the crowd he'd elbowed his way into a scant fifteen minutes ago and started running, using all his newly-won strength and agility to dart and weave through crowds of stunned onlookers. He made it to the barricade just as the cops were pulling it aside to let John's car out, and he ran right out in front of it while it was still crawling. He could see John's pissed-off face through the windshield as he slammed on the brakes, then saw him blink, saw his frown fade as he registered exactly which asshole had flung himself in his path. One of the uniforms started toward him, a menacing look in his eye, but John rolled down the window and called him off. Matt stumbled over to the driver's side to find a John whose expression had settled into that practiced mask of wry amusement.

“Hey,” Matt grinned, figuring the least he could do was to play along for a while. “Imagine running into you.”

“More like I almost ran into you,” John said, gaze flicking down, then up. Matt felt his cheeks go hot; they hadn't done that in nearly a decade. “How're you doing, hack boy?” Casual, like it hadn't been over seven months since they'd seen one another.

“Oh, you know, same old shit,” Matt said, as casually as he could manage, which wasn't much at all. “Doing some contract work.”

“Bowman know you're cheating on him?” John asked dryly, and the evidence that John actually gave enough of a damn to find out what was going on astonished him. Then he registered the twinkle in John's eye, and holy shit, no, that wasn't – he didn't just – did he?

Matt tried an experimental smirk that probably looked dorky instead of flirtatious, but it was the only one he had. “Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him, right?”

John held his gaze for a long moment, and Matt couldn't hold back the shiver. Oh, right, it was freezing out. He'd kind of forgotten it was the middle of February; for a couple of minutes he'd been back in the sweltering DC heat, looking into this man's eyes and suddenly realizing it was actually possible to believe you could trust another human being with your life.

Then John broke the contact, looking away, and Matt saw something else; weariness, maybe a hint of something else John was keeping too deeply buried for Matt to identify. “Hey,” he heard himself say, and John looked up again, brows drawing together in puzzlement, “when did you eat last?”

“You asking me out for Valentine's Day?” McClane drawled.

“I'm offering to feed you,” Matt said, leaning in a little, because Jesus, even tired and cranky the guy still carried enough gravity to drag you right down. “What do you say?”

John's gaze searched his face, and Matt held still, opened himself to the silent interrogation.

“Okay,” John said finally, “sounds good.” Not waiting for him to change his mind, Matt jogged around to the passenger side and opened the door.

They stopped at the Italian market, where Matt bought some of their great homemade sausage and a can of crushed tomatoes. He debated on the cheese for a few moments, finally going with a friulano, then topped it off with a loaf of ciabatta and a couple of cannoli. He had beer at home, but crossed the street and picked up a bottle of valpolicella just for the hell of it. When he got back in the car, John raised an eyebrow at him. He considered rising to it, but just smiled and shrugged instead.

Back at the apartment, John picked his way through the great room, running a hand over the backs of chairs, the kitchen countertop, an iron column, the exposed brick of the wall. Matt watched him touch the place he lived and felt a deep, inexplicable warmth rise up inside him.

“Disappointed there's nothing to break?” Matt said, smiling as he cut the sausage into bite-sized chunks and dropped it into the skillet, where it sizzled happily.

John looked up, expression uncharacteristically sheepish. Matt grinned.

“Hey, no biggie. It would've blown up anyway, right?”

John stared at him for a moment, then smiled and shook his head. “I'll buy you another damn doll,” he mock-growled.

“Forget it,” Matt said, ignoring the sudden flare of heat in his belly. “I don't really collect stuff like that any more.”

“Yeah,” John said, nodding at Bugs standing in the corner. “Your tastes have gone kind of retro.”

“In more ways than one,” Matt muttered under his breath, turning toward the stove to dump the penne into the rapidly boiling water.

It wasn't like he didn't know he was good at this now, but it still somehow made it official to hear somebody else – to hear John – say so. It was then that he realized he'd been living like a hermit since coming to New York, like he'd been waiting for something.

Yeah, okay, who was he kidding?

John leaned back on the sofa with his glass of wine and murmured, “That was really great, Matt. Delicious.”

The simplicity of it – no sarcasm, no backhanded compliments – made Matt reel a little, even though he was sitting down. “Thanks.” He took a sip of his wine, swallowed, cleared his throat. “What – what happened tonight?”

John's gaze shuttered for a moment before he sighed and ran a hand over his shaved head. “Not much. Guy got fired, decided he wanted to take a gun to work and scare the shit out of the people who he thought done him wrong.”

“Scare them,” Matt said slowly. “Not kill them.”

John shook his head. “I don't think so. Or if he did, when he came to it, he had the balls not to pull the trigger.”

Matt propped an elbow on the back of the couch and rested his head in his hand. “That's an interesting way of putting it.”

“Doesn't take any balls to kill somebody, kid,” John murmured.

Matt thought about the solid thump, the shock of the impact transmitted into the muscle and bone of his arms, and the surprisingly wet sound of flesh hitting steel a few seconds later. “Yeah,” he said, scratchily, hating the tremor in his voice – man, where had that come from? – “yeah, I guess you're right.”

He didn't realize he'd closed his eyes until he felt John's hand on his arm and opened them. “Hey,” John said, voice almost a whisper, and who knew John McClane could do soft? “This been backing up on you?”

Matt took a couple of seconds to think about it. Apart from a few nightmares early on, it hadn't; any remorse he might have felt – well, it wasn't like it was gone, but it had faded to an acceptable level.  And in the end, he could live with what he'd done. He shook his head.

Inexplicably, John's gaze hardened at that, and he pulled back, letting go of Matt. “Okay,” he said, and then he was on his feet, and wait, what? “Thanks for dinner.”

“Look, wait, hold up,” Matt babbled, leaping up and blocking John's path. “What did I say?”

“Nothing,” John gritted. A muscle leapt in his jaw, and Matt estimated he had about three and a half seconds to figure this out.

At three and a quarter seconds, he decided to try a different tactic. “John, look, I – I, so, okay, I don't know what I'm doing here.” McClane looked up at him, scowl fading, and Matt guessed he'd earned himself a temporary stay of execution. “I don't mean here, right this second, though yeah, fine, that's pretty fucking confusing too. I mean here – ” he jabbed both index fingers at the floor “– in this apartment, in this city. Shit, John, I moved to Manhattan, I bought furniture – second hand, okay, I'm not adding to the waste stream, I still have some integrity – ”

“Matt,” John said, and this time his voice was kind of scratchy.

“Okay, sorry, and I cook, and I lift weights, and I know what wine to buy, but I don't have the balls to call you on the goddamned phone like I've been dying to for mo – ”

John shut him up with his mouth right then, and really, that was – well, about the most astonishing thing that had happened to Matt ever, and he'd been through more than his share of astonishing shit. He was proud of how quickly he got over the shock and got with the program, though, wrapping an arm around John's neck and pulling him closer, opening his mouth and letting John's tongue delve deep.

Then John pulled back, and Matt heard himself make an undignified whimpering noise at the loss. “This isn't smart.”

“Trust me,” Matt countered, sucking on John's lower lip, “smart is vastly overrated.”

But John evidently had more will power than Matt wanted him to have, because he took hold of Matt's arms and held him firmly out of kissing range. “You think this is what you want now,” he said, almost patiently, like he'd rehearsed it, like he hadn't just been kissing the hell out of Matt, “but it's not gonna last.”

Matt quit pushing against John's grip, and John let go of him. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” John snarled, his gaze steady on Matt, “in the end, nobody wants to wake up next to a killer.”

“That's not – ” Matt began, then stopped dead. “Oh, man. Is that what you thought I was thinking about earlier?” He shook his head. “I was thinking about me, about – the guy in the elevator shaft. I should say I'm sorry I haven't thought about him for a while, but I'm really not.”

John glared at him. “So I'm the guy who turned you into a killer. Even better basis for a relationship.”

Matt tried to ignore the way the word relationship in John's mouth sounded hotter than every line of porn dialogue he'd ever heard. “Look,” he said slowly, sensing that there were very few things he could say here that wouldn't end in John walking out the door forever, “I don't think of you that way. I never have.” John looked at him warily, but he was still there, and Matt took a cautious step forward. “You did what you had to do. You stopped some people who were hurting a whole hell of a lot of other people. You saved your daughter, you saved me, you saved the goddamned country. How could I not want to wake up with you when you're the reason I'm still waking up every morning?”

“So this is hero worship,” John countered, and man, he wasn't going to make it easy, was he?

Matt stuck out his lip like he was considering it. “I don't think so, but if it is, it can be mutual, considering I saved your ass, your daughter and the country, too. We can be like Batman and Robin, stripping off the Lycra and getting down to business, if that's your thing.”

John's jaw dropped. “Christ, kid.”

“Hey,” Matt said, “I've seen you kill people, okay? If I'd been traumatized by it, it would have happened already, and it hasn't. And I saw you. I saw you, and you're just gonna have to trust me on that one. I don't know what your ex-wife thought she saw in you, or any of the airheads you might have dated, and by the way, I'd like to French kiss every one of those idiots for not knowing a good thing when they saw it, because now I've got a chance at you, and I'm not going to mess it up.” Not giving himself a chance to think about it, he reached up and took John's face between his hands. “And neither are you.”

“I turned fifty-one last month,” John murmured against his mouth.

“Happy birthday,” Matt growled, kissing him.

“Matt – Jesus, people think I'm your dad – ”

“That's only when you're – all bruised and – battered and shit,” Matt said, between kisses. “You clean up pretty good. Takes five whole years off you.”

“Fuck off,” John snapped, but considering this was followed by John grabbing his ass and hauling him close, Matt wasn't too worried about it.

The groping quickly became mutual. When Matt slipped a hand between their bodies and molded it to the hardness in John's jeans, he was rewarded with a groan and a shimmy of John's hips that was pure sex, and man, if the guy could be this sexy while fully dressed, they needed to get naked right now. Still, he let John lead the way, sensing he needed to take it slow, at least for this first time.

After some truly inspired necking, John let his hands roam, pushing up Matt's sweater, palms sliding warm and sure against his skin. Matt curbed his own desires, stripping John with careful, almost worshipful hands, nothing hurried or half-assed, which was tough considering he'd wanted this for so damned long. When he started on John's pants, he heard John make a small, deep sound and looked up, searching his face. “What? Too fast?”

“Too fast?” John actually laughed at that. “Kid, you go any slower and I'll be too old to come by the time you're done.”

Matt grinned with relief and joy and the sudden, sure knowledge that this was going to be amazing. “You're never gonna be too old to come,” Matt promised, pulling down John's fly and kissing him lewdly as his fingers stole past the barrier of John's waistband to finally touch his bare cock. “I promise I'll always visit you in the old folks' home and blow you after a rousing game of pinochle.”

“You are gonna pay for that,” John promised, and surprise, surprise, Matt's dick liked that idea a lot. He let John shove him toward his bedroom, hands fumbling at Matt's jeans as Matt stumbled backward toward their ultimate destination.

Matt was naked by the time he hit the bed except for his socks, and John took care of those in short order, tugging them off and following Matt down onto the bed. Matt arched up to meet him halfway and they bumped their way into another kiss,  noses smashing against cheeks and chins butting into lips. It was messy and crazily hot, and then John's full weight came down on him and it was better than hot, it was John, hard and heavy against him, a thin film of sweat soon making everything slick as they strained together. Matt clutched at John's ass, urging him into a faster rhythm, and John picked up on it right away, increasing the pace and leaning all his weight on one arm so he could reach between their bodies and wrap his hand around Matt's cock. Matt cried out, the surface of his skin suddenly electrified, and blindly reciprocated, finding John's erection by touch alone. After that, things got desperate fast, and it wasn't long before John shouted, stiffened, and came in long pulses that felt like seismic tremors. Matt didn't last much longer, especially after John tightened his grip and murmured in his ear, “Matt, c'mon, fuck, please, I've wanted–” like he couldn't believe his luck either.

The next morning, Matt woke up beside John.

It was fucking fantastic.

“Hey.” John had been watching him, and while Matt usually found this habit creepy in people he slept with, he felt warm and cared for under John's watchful gaze.

“Hey.” Matt frowned suddenly, the memory catching him by surprise.

“What?” John demanded, immediately wary.

“No, no, no, come on, that's not what I'm thinking about, so just quit it.” He shook his head. “It took a while for it to come back to me, because – well, to be fair, a lot happened, right? But I just remembered the way you touched me.”

This time it was John's turn to frown, confused. “When?”

“Right from that first moment, you know, when you were shielding me from the bullets? You were lying right on top of me, and I was too scared to think that was hot, but that's not what I remembered. It was the way your hand cradled the back of my head. Your touch was so gentle, like it was barely there, but I could feel it. You did that a lot.”

“A lot of stuff blew up and crashed and shattered around us.”


John blew out a breath. “Look, it's an instinct, okay? I didn't even realize I was doing it.”

“Okay, fine, whatever,” Matt huffed. “I know it wasn't any kind of special treatment. My point is, it's you. It's the way you are with people. You think they're important, precious, worth protecting. How could I not – ” He trailed off abruptly; shit, he'd almost –

“Not what?” John murmured.

Matt took a deep breath, then met John's complicated green-eyed gaze. “How could I not?” he repeated, turning it into a question.

John stared at him for a long moment, and finally, fucking finally, Matt got to see some of what was under there – saw his features darkened by successive clouds of doubt and mistrust and fear until they slowly cleared, brightening with a tentative hope that made something in Matt's chest tighten. Reaching up, he touched a thumb to the fledgling smile tugging at the corner of John's mouth, committing the line of it to every kind of memory he could get his hands on.


A/N:  In my head, Matt lives in one of the old buildings in the far West Village.

January 2008

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