No matter how old you were, your mom was always your mom, with an innate ability to make you squirm.
At least, John's certainly could.
He hadn't expected an interrogation, not on a pleasant Sunday afternoon at the residential home where she lived, playing Scrabble on the Ipad Matt had bought her. His mom loved anything Matt gave her, so physical board games had all been replaced by shiny computer interfaces. John missed the feel of the wood tiles and wondered when his mom had become the progressive one in the family.
"When are you going to ask Matt to marry you?" she asked, her hands loosely folded in front of the iPad, her direct gaze focused on John.
"Never?" John suggested, sliding his letter tiles around, trying to make words. Why did he always get such horrible combinations? "Who says Matt even wants to get married?"
Her face firmed in that way she had of indicating displeasure, a method which had always been more effective than his dad's yelling. His dad could be scary, and raise John's defenses, but his mom's disapproval made him feel like a disappointment. "Who says he doesn't? You don't know if you don't ask him."
Reluctantly, he added an 's' to the front of 'team.' It was lame, but for a moment, he could contemplate Matt in a steamy shower, his hair appearing even darker when wet and plastered to his skull. "You're serious," he said, as the game gave him credit for his score.
"Of course I'm serious. He's a very charming man. He deserves to know you're serious."
"We live together. He knows I'm serious." They both mentioned 'forever' regularly, though it was frequently in an 'I want to fuck you forever' context, so John chose to not elaborate.
"He knows you like sex with him and the fact that he has dinner started when you get home."
"Mom!" John glanced around the large room, but none of the other residents were paying attention. Not that he could tell anyway. He'd learned the hard way that sneaky assholes with a video function on their cell phones could be anywhere. "I'm not talking to you about our sex life."
"I don't want to talk about your sex life. I want to talk about your marriage. You do realize he's not going to ask you. You have to be the one."
"Why do I have to be the one?" he asked, forgetting for the moment that he wasn't expecting either of them to ask.
"Because you do," she insisted, adding 'exi' going down, ending with the 't' in 'steam.' The 'x' was on a triple score box, of course, because his mom always creamed him at games. He bet she could have created an even longer word, but that was her way of driving home her message. "Or you should let him go."
"He doesn't want to go. We have a good relationship, okay? Can we leave it at that?"
She gave him that look again. As a dad, he'd tried to make Lucy or Jack squirm with just a look, but he'd never succeeded. Or at least, they'd never revealed it if he had. Lucy glared back, while Jack gave him one of those 'Oh really?' looks that emphasized his resemblance to Holly.
"Very well, John. You're a grown man. You certainly don't need my interference in your relationship."
How did she do it? How could she make him feel guilty by agreeing with him? And why was she making him think that maybe being bound to Matt by a piece of paper might be a pretty good idea?
"She's right," Charlie agreed several days later, as they stood in the bathroom at the precinct, using the urinals. "If you want to get married, you have to be the one to ask."
"Why? We're both guys." John wasn't sure why he was pursuing this, not after all the effort he'd gone to halt his mother's questioning. He and Matt had been living together for months, with neither of them mentioning marriage. Their relationship was working well, and John was hesitant to risk anything that might screw it up. He'd pushed too hard with Holly, trying to force their relationship to fit his expectations, resulting in years of fighting. But they'd been officially married and had kids. Matt could pick up his gear and leave at any time.
"But you're John McClane. You're a retro caveman who sets the rules for his house. If you're not the one to ask, then you're not interested. No one knows that better than Matt."
John gave a grunt, because he couldn't argue with that logic. They finished and zipped, moving to wash their hands, which gave John a good chance to look at Charlie's face in the mirror. Charlie teased him a lot, but he could see only calm certainty now.
"Do you want to get married?" he asked.
"I'm with Matt. That's all that matters."
"What does Matt want?"
What a simple question, with such a complex answer. "Matt wants the world to be a better place. He thinks the system should be reset, but he's more invested in knowing what's going on than anyone else I know. He wants wars to end and the military-industrial complex to be hacked off at its knees, but he's antsy for the next expansion of some idiotic game to come out so he can spend all night killing computer-generated monsters." John paused, wiping off his wet hands. "He wants to spend the rest of his life with me," he added, with absolute surety.
"Then why not make it official?" Charlie smiled fondly, in that way that suggested John was a decent student who was finally getting the point and might one day earn an A.
Singer barged in, stopping at the sight of the two of them talking. "Jeez, are you two having some gay chat in the john again? Can't you guys go get a room?"
"Hey, Singer, you know what I'm going to do the next time you cast an aspersion on my sexuality?" John asked, before Charlie could respond.
"The next time I what? Jeez, does being gay make you pretentious now?"
John took a step toward Singer, close enough to loom over the shorter man. "I'm going to the Captain and complain that you're creating a hostile work environment by harassing me about my sexual orientation. And you know what that means?"
Singer understood, because he looked horrified. "Jeez, you wouldn't."
"A refresher course, Singer. An all-day refresher course on the department's policies regarding acceptable work behavior."
"Christ, McClane, I'd rather you just hit me."
"I'll do that afterwards," he promised, leaving the john, followed by a laughing Charlie.
John wasn't laughing as he studied the selection of men's rings at the jewelry store closest to the precinct. If he was doing this, he was doing it right. What kind of ring would Matt want? Gold, silver, tungsten, platinum? Plain, or with a diamond? A design? He'd experienced the same agony when buying a ring for Holly, and then she'd exchanged it anyway.
But Matt wasn't Holly. Matt liked John to be his retro self. As soon as that thought occurred to him, the decision of which ring to pick was a breeze.
Planning the proposal had been easy too. He'd done the fancy dinner out and bended knee for Holly. She'd been thrilled, but also a little indulgent, like John was silly being so traditional. He wanted something more relaxed with Matt, because they'd always been honest and upfront with each other, no fancy airs.
So home early on Friday, with steaks, an expensive bottle of wine and a small chocolate cake from the bakery. Matt emerged from the computer room, wandered in to be surprised and share a few kisses, then padded off to work some more.
John set the table with their best dishes and placemats. This wasn't a meal to eat in front of the television watching a game. Matt showed up on time, without having to be called, which meant he'd been paying attention to the effort John was making. He devoured his dinner, the salad and fresh bread and steak, the conversation flowing as steadily as the wine.
"This is nice," he said, as they cleared the table and John served the cake. "Something special going on?"
"There was something I wanted to talk to you about," John said, and then paused, struck by the terrifying thought that he was only assuming he knew Matt would want to get married. His mom and Charlie had nagged him until this proposal seemed inevitable, but what if Matt said no? Maybe John didn't know Matt as well as he thought. What if Matt saw living with an old guy and being tied down by an official document as two wildly different things?
"John?" Matt prompted as the silence grew.
The idea was in his brain now, Matt committed to him forever, and of course that was bullshit, marriage hadn't stopped Holly from dumping him, but John wanted that apparent security, for Matt to say "I do," and for them to both promise to love and honor forever. He wasn't holding out any hope 'obey' would be involved. "Yeah, there's something special going on. Something I hope you'll like." He took the box out of his pocket, opening it and holding the ring toward Matt. It was gold, a plain band, simple and classic, the style that said 'forever' to John. "Matthew Farrell, will you marry me?"
"Oh my god," Matt said, shakily, his eyes suddenly bright as he reached out and took the ring from the box. "I never actually thought you'd ask." He slid the ring onto his right finger. "It's beautiful. Completely traditional and ridiculous, but beautiful."
John was going to say more, that he knew he was older than Matt, that he'd die first, but that he'd be a good husband, that if Matt wanted kids, they could get a surrogate, or a bigger place, they could move. But Matt was straddling his lap, his arms resting on John's shoulders, and kissing him in a manner that clearly said, "Yes." His hand cupped John's bald head, the gold band pressing on John's skin.
John hugged him close and returned the kiss, sealing their engagement, thankful that he had such a wise mom.
~ the end ~