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Chuck Norris and John McClane walk into a bar...

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John McClane does not sleep. He waits.

John considered himself to be a stoic man – a man’s man. One who expressed emotions by grunts, and manly slaps on the back, and – at most – whispers in his sweetheart’s ear.

But if Lucy didn’t stop crying soon, John was going to join her.

He walked the five steps it took to cross from one side of her nursery to the other for the six-millionth time that night, rocking her gently before turning around and pacing back again. Six million and one....

As unimpressed by this maneuver as she had been all the previous times, Lucy continued to scream, face screwed up and as red as the little tufts of hair under John’s hand, waving her fat little fists in indignation.

“What, baby?” John whispered, his voice raw and tired, because he’d been whispering to her for so long now. “What’s wrong, hmm?”

He held her gently; she was hot and squirming in her agitation, but so small, so incredibly small in his hands, he couldn’t get over how tiny she was.

She’d only been home from hospital for a week, and had slept for a conservative estimate of about three minutes in all that time, and Holly was passed out exhausted in their bedroom. John was taking his turn – a much more active father than his own had ever been – already well familiar with diapers and bath and bottle temperatures – and he certainly didn’t want to shirk his responsibilities, but God he needed to sleep.

“Please baby,” he said, hoarsely, “please baby, get some sleep. You’ve got to need to sleep too, c’mon.”

John crossed over to the rocking chair and sat down on it again, as walking her clearly hadn’t worked at all.

He held her in one arm as she cried and rubbed his hand over his eyes, feeling helpless. He hated feeling helpless – facing the worst the streets of New York had to offer didn’t feel like this – there was always something he could do. Something really stupid, perhaps, but something.

He looked down at his daughter’s face, scrunched up and angry, drool dribbling down her chin. He was too exhausted to get up and grab a cloth, so he wiped her mouth with his fingers.

Lucy grabbed his fingers in her surprisingly strong grip and sucked them into her mouth.

She hiccupped gently around them, but she also, miraculously stopped crying.

John stared down at his baby daughter while she stared sightlessly back, until her eyes drooped and the suction damped down in ferocity.

He let his head fall back and closed his eyes in blissful sleep, holding her close against his chest.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures John McClane has allowed to live.

It was raining.

John hunched his shoulders up and flicked up the collar of his jacket which had… absolutely no effect as water drenched him completely, now also trailing annoyingly down his neck.

He didn’t even own an umbrella anymore – Holly had got that in the divorce along with… everything else.

That was unfair, John knew, Holly had been incredibly reasonable about everything, but she’d got the kids so, as far as John was concerned, she might as well have taken everything.

John hurried along the street to his apartment. He could afford better, but he’d taken it as it had been the first one without any serious flaws (missing walls, drug dealers on the stairs) close to work.

As he approached his building, he heard a small noise from the dumpster.

He shouldn’t have stopped – but he had a cop’s curiosity. By the time he’d got to the dumpster, he was pretty sure he’d processed what the sound was, and he was right. It was a kitten.

As you might imagine for a kitten in a dumpster in the rain, it was a pretty pathetic sight, and was wearing a piece of moldering cabbage on its head like a hat. It wasn’t doing much to keep off the rain.

The kitten’s dark fur was patchy and sticking up in wet, dirty spikes and its eyes were huge.

John stared it down for a moment, before it meowed pathetically directly at him, and John caved.

He picked it up – it was all scraggly fur and bones – and tucked it close to him under his jacket.

What the hell was he going to do with a cat?

When John McClane does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the Earth down.

“You have got to be kidding me, McClane!”

Matt was dragging his feet, staring at the building.

“What?”

“It looks like a crack house!”

John glanced back at the gym. He’d actually been to a number of crack houses on raids, and it really didn’t.

“It does not look like a crack house. It looks like a gym, it’s just you don’t recognize it because you’ve never been in one before in your life.”

Admittedly, it didn’t look like a shiny, thousand dollar membership gym, but it wasn’t that bad.

“I’ve been to a gym.”

“Your school’s gym doesn’t count.”

Matt shuffled his feet.

Two guys came out of the gym, bags slung over their shoulders. John nodded to them – they were NYPD. A lot of cops used this gym.

“They look like guys who used to kick my ass in gym class, McClane! I do not need to relive those exciting memories.”

“They’re not going to kick your ass, Matt. Or give you a wedgie, or flush your head down the toilet. No one’s even going to be looking at you.”

“I’m disturbed by how much you know of high school bullying techniques, McClane.”

John grabbed the kid’s sweater and pulled him along, giving him a quick noogie, while he yelled in surprise and flailed ineffectually.

***

The kid did pretty well, actually, and if John slightly pulled a muscle showing off – well. No one needed to know.

John McClane will never have a heart attack (his heart knows better).

John wasn’t exactly anti Christmas. Really. It was just that he’d had a few bad experiences and that tended to color a guy’s mood.

Admittedly, 20 out of the last 22 had gone off fine, when the most danger he’d faced had been tripping over the Christmas lights, but two had gone so very badly, that it really wasn’t his favorite time of the year.

Also, since the divorce, the kids had mostly spent Christmas Day with their mother, and celebrating the festive season with the cat (which from such a tiny start had grown into a monster. Seriously, it weighed over fifteen pounds and John was going to have to take it to feline weightwatchers soon) and a pizza wasn’t exactly good times.

John was resigned to getting through Christmas Day (they wouldn’t even let him work… something about just not risking it), and then enjoying Boxing Day, when Jack and Lucy were going to take him out for dinner.

He wasn’t expecting the doorbell to ring.

Maybe it was terrorists? It would at least make for a little excitement.

It was not, in fact, terrorists; although the devastation Lucy and Matt combined could wreck on his tiny apartment was not too far off the mark.

He eyed up the Christmas dinner preparations with the same suspicion he would a bomb – Matt was doing all the cooking, with Lucy (who had never cooked so much as a grilled cheese sandwich in her life, John was pretty sure) on vegetable prep, and he was not entirely sure what was going to come out would resemble actual food in any way.

But Matt was laughing and saying how John needed to lose weight anyway, he wasn’t getting any younger, and as his cholesterol and blood pressure had been a high at his last physical (why had he told them that? Why?), if they ended up with raw vegetables for dinner (crudités, Lucy supplied, with a grin), it was probably all for the best anyway.

John sat back with a beer, and didn’t disagree (too much).