After 9/11, John tried to purge his New York born instinct to dislike the entire state of New Jersey. The people had been really great, really helpful. New York had needed them, and New Jersey had responded.
But nothing in this lifetime would ever make him like going to Emergency, much less in the middle of the night, and triply so in freaking New Jersey, which was the sludgy icing on a burnt cake. At least when he'd become a cop, he'd made a point of memorizing major traffic routes, hospitals, fire stations and police headquarters anywhere close to New York City, and always kept updated maps in his car, so he had a fairly smooth drive to Camden General.
He should have asked for details. Fuck him, he was a cop, he knew to get a full report. But the phone had rung and Matt's scared voice had said, "John, I'm at Emergency. Camden General. Can you – " and he'd answered, "I'm on my way." Matt had almost laughed when he'd replied, "I'll be here," but still John hadn't pressed for details, just repeated, "I'm on my way," and hung up, reaching for yesterday's clothes before he'd put the phone back in its hook.
He'd thought about calling Matt's cell during the drive, but it should be turned off anyway, because cell phones couldn't be used around medical equipment. John repeated to himself that Matt had been the one to call, not a member of the hospital staff, and his voice sounded decent. Whatever had happened, Matt would be fine, and that was all that ultimately mattered.
The clerk on duty was responsive to his badge, buzzing him through and giving him Matt's room number without any of that 'are you related to the victim?' nonsense. Bless the people of New Jersey and the authority of shiny metal.
Emergency was relatively quiet at 2:00 in the morning, so he didn't have to walk around stretchers in the hall as he sought the correct room. Matt was sitting on an examination bed, dressed in one of those atrocious back-opening gowns, white with a design of small scattered flowers. His face was bruised, with his left arm in a cast and his right ankle taped up.
"Christ," John swore, and pulled him into a loose hug, not risking holding him tight, given his obvious injuries. "What the hell happened to you?"
"John." Matt rested his head briefly against his shoulder. "I’m glad you came."
"It was unnecessary to call Mr. McClane, Matt. We'll look after you."
There were other people in the room, John reluctantly realized, releasing Matt from his hold but keeping one hand on his side as he stepped back. A man and a woman, both middle-aged – hell, John's age – dressed in casual clothes and looking as stressed as people tended to do in Emergency in the middle of the night.
John's "Who – " and Matt's "These are – " and the couple's "I'm – " all started to happen at once and then everyone stopped, though no one laughed to cover the awkwardness.
Matt cleared his throat. "John, these are my parents. Peter and Sylvia Farrell. Mom, Dad, this is John McClane. He's the guy who saved my life."
"Yes, Mr. McClane. Matt has spoken very highly of you." From Sylvia's unhappy eyes, big and brown as Matt's, she wasn't impressed with Matt's rhapsodies, but she held out her hand politely enough. Her hair was long and straight and most other women would have dyed the gray out of it. "We really appreciate what you did with that dreadful Gabriel person, but we do wish you hadn't given Matt the opinion that he's indestructible."
John shook her hand and then Matt's father's hand as Matt protested, "This wasn't John's fault, Mom."
"Was there someone else who gave you the impression you could attack armed robbers?" Sylvia asked, one of those rhetorical questions parents liked to inflict on their kids.
"You attacked an armed robber?" John asked, trying to maintain his best professional cop voice, keeping doubt out of his tone. Sure, Matt had showed his bravery, but not that level of reckless stupidity.
Matt defended himself, his lips pouting in a way that John would have kissed away in better circumstances. "He was just a kid, not a dangerous thug."
"A lot of dangerous thugs are kids," John noted, paying close attention to Matt's injuries. The facial bruising would get worse over the next few hours, and must have come from a couple of punches. The condition of Matt's hands said he'd gotten scraped fighting back. "What happened?"
"You see? Mr. McClane agrees." Peter's voice was as mild as Sylvia's, but still with that 'you're a kid, listen to your parents' tone that made John's skin itch. His eyes were more hazel than brown, and from his thick brown hair, Matt would never be like John, shaving the remnants of his hair that hadn't bothered to fall out. "You shouldn't have gotten involved."
Well, no, that wasn't what what John had said, but getting the Farrells to shut up seemed more critical than contradicting them. "What happened?" he repeated.
"I was coding and I ran out of Red Bull – "
"You shouldn't be drinking that stuff, it's – "
"Ma'am." John held up his hand, bestowing his very best 'serious cop' look. "Let him speak please."
"It has too much caffeine and chemicals in it," she squeaked out before subsiding.
"I wanted to finish. I like working at night," Matt said, shooting a resentful glance at his mother. "I ran out to the convenience store, down the block. I was getting a four pack and this kid came in."
"With a gun," Sylvia inserted. "A handgun."
"I've seen men who know how to use guns, Mom. He was terrified."
"That doesn't – "
John held up his hand again, cutting off Peter this time. "Let him speak. So he pointed his gun at the clerk?"
"Yeah. Mr. Wong."
"And then you jumped him?" Something abysmally stupid, John wanted to say, but figured Matt's parents already had disapproval covered. Besides, actually attacking the thug seemed out of character for Matt.
"He saw me and yelled at me to come over, so I came. I was still holding the four pack. I tripped and ended up tossing the cans at him and I fell – "
Real accident or a faked one, it had been a hell of a risky situation. "He went backwards?" John guessed.
"He kinda flailed and fell on his side and dropped the gun. It slid out of his hand."
"And then you jumped him."
"It seemed the obvious thing to do," Matt said, sounding definitely petulant. Petulant and young and vulnerable, but still very much an adult, the stubble on his chin starkly noticeable against the unnatural pallor of his skin under the fluorescent lights, and John really wanted to kiss him out of gratitude and relief.
"So this all happened in the brawl?" John gestured to the damage on Matt's body.
"We got caught up in a display stand. There were Twinkies everywhere. That's how I twisted my leg, trying to get out of it."
"That was him. He, um," Matt swung his arm, demonstrating how the thug had slammed it against a shelf. "And then again. It's only a fracture, not a break. Mr. Wong kept yelling the whole time."
"What happened to the gun?"
"Mr. Wong grabbed it and was trying to fire it. I think the safety was on. That was when it really got scary. I curled into a ball so he wouldn't hit me if he managed to get the safety off and the guy ran out."
"The perp got away?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Mr. Wong calmed down after he left and we called 911."
"The Camden police have already interviewed Matt. They seemed to think the man would never be caught. Which leads me to wonder why you're here, Mr. McClane. This seems rather out of your jurisdiction. And I have to add, Mr. McClane, I find it inappropriate, the way that you keep touching our son."
John shot a look at Peter, and yeah, his body language said irritation, all stiff muscles and down turned mouth. He'd let it go when he figured John had been showing his relief that Matt wasn't hurt, but John's hand hadn't moved off Matt's side for this entire conversation. John glanced sideways at Matt, who looked equally uncomfortable, but determined.
"I was going to tell them at breakfast tomorrow," he said to John before drawing a deep breath. "Mom, Dad, I called John and asked him to come. We're…seeing each other."
"Seeing each other?" Sylvia's tone was confused.
Matt sighed. "We're dating." His parents still looked blank. "We're in a relationship," he spelled out.
Peter's, "He's our age," came a second before Sylvia's, "I thought you liked girls, honey."
"Mom, we've been over this. I'm bisexual. It means I like both."
"Yes, but – "
"I like both, Mom."
"He's our age," Peter insisted again, an objection with which John had a certain amount of sympathy. If some jerk his age tried to date Lucy, he'd beat the crap out of him, and then lock her in her bedroom for a year. Spreading his fingers wide, he felt Matt's warmth, the comfort of touching his lean torso. He wasn't giving him up, regardless of his parents' opinion.
"Having to date someone 'my own age'," Matt emphasized with little quotes in the air, "is a societal restriction of our western industrialized culture. Hundreds of years ago, no one would have thought twice about a twelve-year-old girl marrying an adult man. They still do in countries like India."
"Yes, but this is – "
"Look, this is neither the time or the place," John cut through Peter's protest. Not that there was ever going to be a time or place as far as John was concerned. Though he normally liked to address problems head-on, he'd learned with Holly's parents that sometimes a sidestep was the most effective technique. Refusing to fight could be the best way to win with family. "Matt needs to go home and rest."
As if cued by John's wish to escape with Matt, a young woman in a white coat stepped through the curtains. "Matt? I have your discharge papers."
"Doctor, thanks," Matt said with relief. "Mom, Dad, why don't you go back to your hotel. John can drive me home."
Sylvia frowned. "Honey, I think we should – "
"No, really. Just go back to your hotel, keep going on your trip. Say hi to everyone for me. Catch me on the way back up, okay? I don't think I'll feel like breakfast tomorrow. I want to sleep in."
"Matt – "
"Please. Thank you for being here tonight. I'll call you when I get up."
Sylvia and Peter weren't happy, but they seemed willing to listen to their son, giving him goodbye hugs and kisses. John let his hand drop away from Matt's side, but didn't leave the room. Sylvia nodded her head stiffly at John before stepping through the curtain. Peter gave him a hard glance and a stern, "We'll discuss this more when Matt is recovered."
John nodded, because he'd won this round, and that was enough for now. The doctor went quickly through the discharge papers, got Matt's signature, and handed over his copy and a prescription for pain pills. John caught the curiosity in her eyes, but her face reflected only professionalism before she wished them goodbye and slipped out.
"Come on, let's get you dressed." John undid the ties at the back of the ridiculous flowered hospital gown and pulled it off, tossing it on a nearby table. There was bruising around Matt's ribcage, and more on one thigh. John ran his fingers over the marks, registering their size, knowing how much pressure must have been inflicted on Matt's body to cause them. "You shouldn't have gotten involved."
"Like you wouldn't have."
"I'm a cop."
"Being a computer geek doesn't excuse me from not doing what needs to be done."
"You can really be a pain in the ass, you know that?"
Sighing, Matt leaned against John. "I'm learning from the best."
"Come on, clothes. Let's get you out of here." He took them off the hook on the wall, helping Matt get dressed, easing the material around the cast and bandages. There was creamy junk on his jeans. "I told you there were Twinkies everywhere," Matt muttered, "it was surreal," as John grabbed paper towels and wiped it off. John made Matt stay in the waiting room while he found the discharge pharmacy and picked up his drugs, before collecting him and driving him home. Neither of them bothered to talk.
Matt's apartment was a lot like his last one, located in a highly urban area, the building occupied by students or self-absorbed professionals. Matt was friendly with some of the geekier types, but there wasn't anyone around that John would rely on to take care of him.
Dropping the crutches in his living room, Matt limped into his bedroom, sprawling on his bed, watching with bleary eyes while John searched through his closet, finding his pack, filling it with clothes. Jeans, sweats, underwear, shirts, socks. Enough for a few days, and then they could do a load of laundry. "What are you doing?" Matt finally asked, as John headed into the bathroom.
"Packing stuff for you. You'll want your computer too, right?" John tossed toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving stuff, and any products that appeared regularly handled into the bag. They could buy anything he'd missed. "Just the laptop bag, right?" he asked, entering the bedroom again.
"What are you doing?"
"Taking you home."
"I am home."
"Home to my home. Why did you call your parents before me anyway?" John asked as he went into the living room, closing Matt's laptop and stuffing it into his pack.
"The doctor said they wouldn't let me leave without a ride home," Matt called. "Mom and Dad got into town last night. They were closer than you and I figured they needed to know anyway. They're driving down to see my brother tomorrow. What are you doing now?"
"Checking your window locks," John answered, walking around the apartment, making sure potential entrances were secured. Matt had picked up basic furniture at Ikea, but the place was still pretty sparse, with few of the dolls or other gadgets that had decorated his last place. Hopefully it wouldn't be a draw for burglars while he was gone. "Okay, let's go," he said, entering the bedroom again, slinging the bag of clothes over the laptop bag on his shoulder, holding the crutches out toward Matt.
Matt eyed the crutches. "My parents are going to stop by in the morning, even if we don’t do breakfast. They'll want to see me."
"So leave a message on your cell. Come on, I want to make it back to Brooklyn before commute starts."
With a sigh, Matt reached for his crutches.
Matt roused as John stopped the car at the drive-through grill.
"Starbucks? You hate Starbucks."
"I need coffee. They have coffee. You don't need any."
"They have sports drinks." Matt looked like he thought about arguing for the sake of being contrary, but didn't have the energy.
John ordered a black coffee and a sports drink. Matt downed half of it, took a pain pill, capped the rest, and was asleep before John had gotten on the freeway again.
Matt was still sleeping when they reached John's house. He contemplated momentarily whether he could carry him in, then gave him a small shake. Matt's color was better, and he appeared more lively, crutching in and stripping his clothes off as John called the precinct and left a message that he'd be out that day. Matt got into bed, dressed only in his underwear, but he didn't pull the covers up. "Join me?"
"Yeah, a few more hours would be good." He undressed and climbed in next to Matt, waiting to let him arrange himself. He'd been banged up enough times to know that finding a good position could be difficult.
Matt promptly curled around John, his head resting on John's shoulder, his right hand sliding into John's underwear to reach his cock.
"You're not up to anything," John protested, trying to ignore the happy leap his dick made at Matt's touch.
"You need this," Matt answered, his fingers strong as they stroked up and down.
"I'm not a creep."
"I need this. I need – God, John, I was so scared. Mr. Wong was waving the gun around and yelling and I thought Jesus, I try to help him and he's going to shoot me by accident. I survived the fire sale and I'm going to die on the floor of a cheap convenience store. It was like a bad episode of Law and Order. "
"Hey." John gathered Matt in his arms, trying to be careful. Matt wasn't made of glass, but he felt as fragile. "It's okay," he soothed. "It's all over."
Then there was the reaction John had been expecting, the shivers that racked Matt's body as the unnatural calm eroded and the adrenaline generated by fear was finally released. He kissed him on his lips lightly, on his face, reassuring soft touches, and stroked his body, grateful that Matt had stripped to his underwear so John could feel all his soft, warm skin. Matt's hand didn't leave his dick the entire time, staying curled around the flaccid shaft as he shook, but fortunately concern overruled arousal. "It's okay," John repeated.
The tremors calmed eventually, the muscles in Matt's body relaxing, and even if it wasn't an ideal way for Matt to have ended up in his arms, John was glad he was there.
"I did that after the fire sale too," Matt confessed, speaking to John's chest. "When I was alone in Emergency."
"I've done that more times than I can count." Not for a long time though, which he supposed made him jaded about danger. He hoped Matt would never have to reach this stage.
"But you still do what you have to do."
"So do you." John tugged on Matt's hair, tilting his head. "You scared the shit out of me."
"John McClane? Scared?" Matt mocked gently, the stress clearing from his face as his hand gave a teasing caress to John's dick. "Is that allowed?"
"Asshole," John answered affectionately, even as he twisted his body to loom over Matt's, moving slow and careful of Matt's injuries, but determined to prove his feelings. "You said you needed this," he reminded Matt, tucking his legs between Matt's, which opened willingly for him.
"I do. God. I do." Matt's hand, trapped between their bodies, stroked again on his dick, more aggressively, which responded by firmly rapidly. His other arm, bound in the heavy cast, went around John's shoulders, holding onto him tightly.
Figuring words couldn't ever be enough, John cupped Matt's head in his hands and drove his tongue into his mouth, expressing the depth of his fear and need through the force of his determination. Rocking his hips, he thrust into Matt's hand, steady, implacable. He kept his weight on his knees and his elbows, his body lifted away from Matt's, not wanting to rub on his bruises.
Matt accepted and encouraged his fierceness, his tongue twining around John's, kissing him back as greedy little noises emerged from the back of his mouth, his fist working hard on John's dick, slicking the length with John's pre-come, squeezing tightly as his taut thighs clung to John's hips.
Quaking as desperately as Matt had earlier, John came fast, pulsing into Matt's fist. John never let go his grip, never broke the kiss, moaning low and long into Matt's mouth throughout his orgasm. With barely a pause, he slithered down Matt's body, tugging his underwear over his dick. Matt was only half-hard, exhaustion and pain medication slowing his normal reaction time. John was grateful that he'd already done this, finding it easy to take Matt's dick between his lips, to lick and suck and jerk and make Matt get fully erect and come, tasting some of the bitter semen before rubbing the rest into Matt's skin as he shuddered through his aftershocks.
Cock sucking and loving it, if it gave Matt the release he needed, and he was never going to admit that to Charlie.
Matt was barely conscious when John crawled back up his body, his eyes fluttering closed as he snuggled into the pillow, drifting into sleep with a faint smile.
Getting a wet washcloth, John sponged him off, studying his lax body, his bruises. It had been too damned close. He'd worried that protecting Matt during the fire sale day, but mostly because he'd been the key to figuring out the bad guy's plan and defeating it. He hadn't been truly afraid until Gabriel had brought Lucy into the picture.
In retrospect, the hours and fights and terror and confusion of the fire sale day seemed a hell of a lot easier than getting one call from New Jersey in the middle of the night.
He tossed the washcloth into the bathroom and crawled into bed, arranging his body around Matt's, knowing that though he'd started protecting Matt by accident, he was never going to stop now.
~ the end ~