“Okay. That’s awkward.”
Or at least it is now.
Matt pulls his laptop bag over his lap.
He’s always had this problem. All his life. Matt swears there’s some kind of key piece of syntax missing in his brain that stops normal people from just blurting out every last dumbass thing that crosses their mind.
Well not every last thing, because Matt seriously has a lot ratting around up there, but really? He’s supposed to be smart. And he totally doesn’t see anything particularly intelligent about the way he just went ahead and drew attention to the…situation he just found himself in, after waking up in the passenger side of a stolen car, from what he suspects was actually a pretty kickass dream. A dream which may or may not have even featured a certain dare-devil of a Detective, who happens to be sitting right beside him in the driver’s seat.
“Look, um. Don’t be, like, weirded out or anything. But I guess I should probably-- in case it comes up again…”
Oh God. Pun. So not intended.
“Don’t take it personally or anything, I just sort of have this …thing. For comic books.”
Yeah. He really just said that.
“And, I mean, you’re probably aware that you’re…very…”
Stop now. Seriously, Farrell, all you have to do is shut up. Oh God, you’re not shutting up…
“And hey, you’re pretty much literally my hero, so. Thanks for the. Whole. Saving thing. And, you know, for not shooting me in the head so you could keep your 401K. Which. Sorry about that, by the way.”
Okay now. Now he was shutting up.
“Don’t worry about it kid,” is all McClane says, looking characteristically bored.
Matt direly, desperately wants to ask if McClane is talking about his retirement funds or…the other thing, but he doesn’t. Opening his mouth hasn’t gotten him anywhere good so far.
“Okay,” he says, and turns to look out the window. It’s really, seriously, the last thing he’s going to say.
That’s all, just that.
And, in spite of himself,
“Hey, McClane? I didn’t…say, talk in my sleep or anything. Did I?”
John keeps his eyes on the road. He’s always sorta had this problem. Thinks too much when he drives. Always has.
And the last thing he wants to be thinking about right now is this kid and his weird idolatry issue. Or whatever it is. They’ve got a job to do. The shit is really hitting the proverbial fan, and John needs to focus.
Not that this complicates it; doesn’t change a thing. It’s not like it means anything, kid said so himself. It’s not even like it’s a crush, more of just a -- what did he call it, a hero-worship thing.
The kid likes him that’s all, looks up to him. Pretty normal under the circumstances, if John thinks about it. They’d been running for their lives for a good 10 hours straight, and it was like he said, John had probably saved Matt Farrell’s life about as many times. So there was nothing special or crazy about it at all, really.
And in spite of himself,
he thinks how special or crazy might not actually be all that bad.
“Dude, don’t,” says Warlock, the minute McClane is out the door.
“Where the hell are you going, you think you can help him now? What can a guy like you or me do to help a guy like that? We’ve done our piece, man. You got him pointed in the right direction. You should just – and I can’t believe I’m saying this right now – stay here. And don’t die. Let the cop go do his job, am I right?”
And well, yeah, the thing is -- probably.
Matt doesn’t know whether he can help McClane, in fact he’s probably just going to end up slowing the guy’s roll. It really will be stupidity of epic proportions if he follows after McClane right now. But then he thinks about who they were just talking to, and where McClane is going, and he would rather at least try to help than have it be the case that nobody is trying.
And it’s not so much that he wants to play hero -- because, let’s face it -- no. He’s nothing like McClane. Matt’s never even met anyone like McClane. It’s safe to say he never thought he would.
And he’s not going to get all dramatic and say if McClane doesn’t live through this fire sale, then he doesn’t want to either; it’s nothing anywhere near as noble as that. Although maybe it’s true that he just plain couldn’t live with the guilt if he just stayed here hiding, and then something horrible and permanent happened to McClane -- or hell, his daughter.
Okay so there’s a lot of reasons Matt’s considering doing this completely insane thing, but the real issue is pretty simple. It’s not even about the risks. It’s just that, after all the shit Matt has seen McClane do, there’s no way he can handle him doing it out of his sight for the next god-knows-how-many hours -- or days.
So yeah, he knows the realistic and wise thing to do is to sit here and fucking wait it out to see if the media comes back online and if they get any news of the lone New York City officer’s siege on Woodlawn.
But then he’d have to listen to the motherfucking news.
For maybe the first time, Matt looks around the room they’re standing in. He’s pretty sure Warlock has acquired more shit since the last time he was here. His display has always been pretty sick but at least one of those monitors is new, and there’s even more gnarly old-school stuff too, like the CB and a telex printer. This is possibly -- with the obvious exception of Space Camp -- the coolest room Matt has been in, in his life.
And they just got off a fucking video chat with Thomas goddamn fucking Gabriel.
“Dude,” Warlock says, again. He’s not wrong.
And in spite of himself,
Matt sprints after McClane and out to the car.
Matt is in the shotgun seat of the Kaludis’ old Detroit cruiser with the door shut, before John can say anything else to stop him.
Christ. If John lets the kid tag along, it’ll just be out of weakness on his part. And not just because he’s obviously starting to develop a real problem telling this kid ‘no’.
Alright sure, this is what Matt wants for some nutty, unfathomable reason, and hell, maybe he’s even earned it, today. But the real reason is because some part of John wants it too. Because even though he knows Matt is better off, staying put in this bunker of a Nerd War-room… even then John just can’t help thinking if these are going to be the last hours of his life, he’d rather spend them with this twitchy, mouthy, brainy kid than alone.
And that’s what makes it wrong.
He climbs in the driver’s side, meaning to tell the kid to take it from a guy who knows, not to be a stubborn ass. He wants to tell him maybe it’s his own fault for telling him anybody can do this. That he wasn’t anybody’s hero any more than Matt was. That these things just happen and it’s what you do about it that makes you that guy.
But the point John was trying to make is, shit happens. You don’t go looking for it. John wants to tell the kid this is his fight now. It’s his daughter, and it’s his job, and part of that job is keeping civilians out of harm’s way. Civilians like Matthew.
He means to say it. He turns to the kid and looks him in the eyes.
Matt buckles up and looks right back.
And in spite of himself,
he turns the motor over and drives.
Three months go by, before it ‘comes up again’ as Matt put it in July.
They’ve been seeing about as much of each other as you could expect, what with Matt having settled into a new place relatively close by in White Plains, and after spending weeks in the hospital with nothing but each other, and the book of Times crosswords Lucy found them in the gift shop, for company.
To hear it from Lucy, Matthew calls her all the time but he can’t get anything out of either of them about the prospect of a date.
Matt makes cracks about saving a girl’s life on the first date and setting the bar pretty high for the follow-through. Lucy rolls her eyes and insists they are still just friends.
And every time they do, John feels a tense anticipation break and drain away from his shoulders as he chuckles quietly and congratulates them on Matt having at least another week to live. It’s completely natural, John tells himself, she’s his baby girl after all.
If he’s honest, John’s still waiting for that shoe to drop, but it looks like it might truly not have happened. Not yet, anyway. He and Matt are placing their orders in a deli they’ve met up at for lunch a few times before, always on a Friday, when John finally gets a hint as to the possible reason why.
The whole thing starts with a glaring lack of subtlety and just gets more blatant from there. The tall, blond, beefy-looking guy behind the counter is new, as far as John can tell, but apparently Matt’s been here a few times on his own because the new guy tells him how good it is to see him back again.
Matt smiles, and dips his head the way he does when he wants that disobedient hair of his to cover up his face.
And then Blondzilla really kicks it into gear. John can’t help but give a little half-smirk as the guy starts going on about cucumbers, for crying out loud. How he knows Matt likes them. How he really likes a good cucumber too. And not just on sandwiches. Nope, pretty much any time. He just ‘can’t get enough of them’.
Once they’ve got their lunch, they generally walk across the street to the park to eat. Matt finds throwing his ass down on a bench easier than trying to maneuver his leg under a table and into a booth. John is all set to give him a hard time about his new cuke-loving boyfriend the minute they’re out in the bright fall sunshine.
Then Matt crumples his napkin in his hand before he has even unwrapped his sandwich.
He moves too quick for John to be sure anything is written on it, but Matt doesn’t toss the little wad of paper in the trash on their way out the door. He flicks a nearly imperceptible glance back at the counter from under his long, dark lashes and stuffs it into his pocket.
And in spite of himself,
John recognizes the chill that slides through his gut like cold steel, as jealousy.
“So. Captain America? Aquaman?”
“Huh?” Matt says, through a mouthful of cucumber and smoked turkey breast.
They’re sitting on their Friday bench, doing their Friday thing, and out of left field McClane wants to discuss Marvel vs. DC? That would make Matt’s day far too thoroughly for McClane to live with himself afterward. He was obviously being fucked with.
“The sandwich guy. Your veggie-hugging friend in the apron back there. You got a thing for comics so, c’mon. Who d’you think he’d be, the Green-pepper Lantern?”
Oh yeah. He was being fucked with. And well.
“Funny, I didn’t think he was your type. Thought you were more of a Star Wars guy?”
“Lemme guess, Han Solo? The wise-cracking, trigger-happy cowboy – a menace behind the wheel of various types of airborne vehicle?”
“Nah. I’m sort of a Skywalker man.”
Okay. This was bad. Either he was starting to read too much into this, or McClane was… No.
“Skywalker? Luke Skywalker?
“What? You can have a ‘thing’ for comic book guys and I’m not allowed to be into the whiny, skinny kid with the stupid haircut and sketchy family background who saves the day using the special powers of his big, superior brain?”
Okay yeah, he’s really starting to read too much into this. Time to move this to safer, balder, territory.
“Stupid haircut?” Matt says, eyeing the bristles on John’s scalp.
“Big, superior, smartass brain.” McClane replies, ruffling Matt’s own hair with one big mitt of a hand.
He crumples the wrappings and the remains of his sandwich in the other, and gets up to put it in the trash; leaving the outside of Matt’s head in what he’s sure is as impressive a state of chaotic confusion as the inside.
And in spite of himself,
Matt dares to think maybe he’s not reading too much into it at all.
“Brains huh? You know, Lieutenant McClane, I’m starting to think you’ve been holding out on me.”
Shit. ‘Lieutenant McClane’. John knows what happens next. He’s about to get roundly back-talked, and he figures he has it coming after all his bullshit about Mr Zucchini-Fetish back at the sandwich bar. It’s none of his business what Matt does. Or who. He should’ve kept his mouth shut.
“You don’t have to keep it in the closet on my account, big guy,” John isn’t going to take the bait. He waits for Matt to get done smarting-off before he reacts to the ‘closet’ thing. “I’m not going to judge you for secretly being a huge nerd, under the whole ‘big, bald and bulging’ thing.”
This time John does shoot him a look. It’s a pretty good one too.
“Which, hey, is totally working for you, by the way,” Matt adds, quickly, hands in the air. He’s still not done with John yet, though.
“Yeah, so since you’re outed as a geek you might be interested to know I’ve started to build up my collection of ‘dolls’ again. Got a few Star Wars ones, even. If you want to come by and see ‘em sometime, or something.”
Matt nods, slyly.
“Yeah. Because now I’m thinking maybe we should find something else to do at my place. They’re not actually more valuable when they’re broken.”
This is a bad idea for all kinds of reasons, and Matt having different equipment under the hood than John’s usual choice of date is the least of them. There’s John’s age. There’s Lucy, for chrissakes. He thinks.
And even if there isn’t, it’s selfish.
It’s letting Matt get in that car with him all over again, and John isn’t about to take advantage of the kid’s hero-worship, or crush, or whatever he’s got going on in that big over-active freak-brain of his, twice. Even if it probably won’t be endangering his life this time around.
Matt is bright and skilled and has his whole future ahead of him. And obviously he’s got enough going for him to catch not just John’s only daughter’s eye, but the big, strapping sandwich boy’s too. Even if he is weedy and scruffy.
Oh, who the hell’s John kidding, the kid’s fucking adorable.
“So its settled then?” Matt asks him, fishing the balled up deli napkin out of his pocket and holding it out over the trash. “We’ll find something else to do that doesn’t involve you breaking all my shit? At say, 8 o’clock?”
Matt tosses his head, clearing the dangling strands of his bangs out of his eyes so John can look straight into them. He sees a mischievous determination there, and a happy, unmistakable hope.
And in spite of himself,
'Snick, December 2010