When Jeff walks into Matt's house on Christmas day a mere four hours after he should have been due to arrive, the first thing he hears is shouting. He stops in the act of cheerfully banging the door shut and closes it quietly instead. Matt shouting is nothing out of the ordinary. Jeff's sure it's his favourite pastime, outside of trawling the internet and refreshing the comments page on his Myspace every five seconds, the stupid ass. The only reaction Jeff ever has to Matt's shouting anymore is a brief pause while he puts Matt's mood into one of two categories: Pissed At Jeff and Everything Else.
"Number 24: Would probably come in his pants if Eddie Vedder ever said hello to him. Fanboying looks really dumb on you. Fanboying. Fucking fanboying?"
Jeff can't remember ever having mentioned Matt's disturbing fondness for Eddie Vedder outside of a heavily locked room with only himself and Shannon inside it. And he's certainly never given it a number, so it's safe to say that whatever's got Matt's panties in a bunch falls into the Everything Else category. He could probably just slip into the room and Matt won't even notice he's there until he hurls the phone -
- Okay, so someone's actually in there with Matt. Like, in the room with him. And this is the kind of problem Jeff really wasn't expecting on Christmas day. Because the last time Jeff heard Matt at this level of angry it had something to do with himself and Shannon.
And yeah, maybe in retrospect it hadn't been a good idea to tie Matt to that tree and leave him there for six hours. And okay, maybe they shouldn't have hit him with sticks when he was helpless, but really, what did the dumb fucker expect? Jeff's fuse is only so long and Shannon had gotten a bit enthusiastic with his stick because Matt kept making him cry and, well, Matt was supposed to be the tough seventeen-year-old. It's not like he couldn't take a bit of what he was dishing out, right?
Except he really couldn't and by the time he'd worked himself free he was oddly calm and Jeff hadn't ever been so scared in his entire life. Shannon was scared too, but it had been fine for him - he could go home. Jeff had to live with Matt. And Matt could go from calm to homicidal in less time than it took for Micheal Schumacher to run over his pit crew.
Three months later retribution was had and neither Jeff nor Shannon speak of it because neither want to face paying the therapy bills that would be part of the fallout of opening those floodgates.
Jeff shivers. The only time he's heard Matt more pissed off than this is when the whole Adam and Amy thing happened and Jeff had had to throw a 200lb carved mahogany wardrobe on Matt just to stop him leaving the house and killing a bitch. Jeff's still not sure which bitch he would have gone for, but he really didn't like either of their chances.
"You arrogant prick! Do you even know what Pearl Jam have done for the music industry?" Matt screams and whoever is in the room laughs. Actually laughs, and Jeff is fairly certain that even if he bolts in there right now and spears Matt into the wall, the resulting blow to Matt's head won't even put a dent in his urge to kill. In fact, he'd be lucky if it slowed Matt down for three seconds. And three seconds, though a lifetime in some circumstances, is really no time at all when your primary goal is running away from Matt.
"Hey, look," the voice begins and Jeff does a very quick mental shuffle and assigns the voice to Montel. And oh, Vince is going to be pissed when Matt fucks Montel's shit up. That storyline of theirs is going to be over and Matt's going to go to jail and Jeff really doesn't want to spend his time trying to think of a decent hair dye that won't clash with jailhouse orange.
"Look, you said I should surprise you, so. Surprise!"
There's a possibility Montel's gravestone will read: Here lies Montel Vontavious Porter. He pissed Matt Hardy off and really, it's his own damn fault he's here. Stupid fuck.
Jeff waits a beat, to hear what Matt's going to say. Well, he waits to hear what Matt's going to do. Two more beats go past and Jeff sidles along the hallway. It's dangerous and stupid and if he had any real sense he'd go straight back out the front door and pretend he was never there.
He likes Montel, sure he does, but when it comes down to saving his own neck or Montel's, well, Jeff's always been a selfish little fucker. Still, Matt isn't saying anything and there are no sounds and Jeff has to know why. So he sidles and he sidles and he's a foot from the door of the living room when he hears sudden movement and a hand reaches out and drags him in the room by the shirt collar. He squeaks and oh, isn't he really fucking pleased that didn't sound wrong coming from him. It's one of the wider known perks of the whole damn universe questioning your sexuality. 'Hey man, Jeff just squeaked', 'Aw dude, that's nothing, I heard he takes it up the ass.'
He'd be a little more pissy if - well, if Matt's hand wasn't bunched up in his shirt and Matt's face wasn't an inch away from his, cause yeah. Jeff's been here thanks and he really doesn't want to go through this again. PTSD at this stage in his life would just be annoying.
"You're late," Matt hisses. And yeah, okay, so he's late, big deal. He's always fucking late. It's his thing. It would be his goddamned gimmick if the top brass had a square inch of fucking testicle between them. Not that he's going to say any of that to Matt. He might be reckless but he's not fucking stupid.
"Um." And yeah, score one for eloquence Jeff. Matt's going to start shouting at him and really, if he throws the Christmas tree at Jeff's head then he and Matt are done. Anger is one thing, but Jeff spent fucking hours on that tree and outright sacrilege is something Jeff is having no part of.
"Shut up," Matt says and, much to Jeff's relief, forgets he's even there. Instead, Matt's attention is turned back to Montel. He looks at a sheaf of papers in his hands, shuffles through them and says, "Number 134: He eats with his fingers. Way to stereotype, Hardy."
Jeff looks from Matt's face (oh god, he's pissed) to Montel's face (why the fuck is he smiling?), and wonders if he moves slowly and hunches his shoulders a bit to look a little smaller he'll make it out the door before the screams start.
"Hey Jeff," Montel says, bright and happy and Jesus, any time Montel stops drawing attention to Jeff would be fine with him, thanks. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas," Jeff mumbles back and Matt punches him in the shoulder and it fucking hurts. It's not Jeff's damn fault if Matt can't keep his fucking boyfriend under control. Jeff tries to hide his glare under his eyelashes and finds out that it really doesn't matter if he hides it or not because Matt isn't even looking at him. Jeff wants to say something like motherfucker or asshole or, for preference, do that again you pile of fucking pussyjuice and I'll whip your ass from one side of the state to the other; but there's a lot to be said for Jeff's self-preservation, and the fact that it's hogtied his vocal chords and threatened to make his balls retreat into his body is just one of the many reasons it should be made king of all his other senses.
"Don't fucking talk to him." It's a command, without doubt, the only problem is that Jeff isn't sure who it's aimed at. Still, it's not like he's going to argue with it at this point. There aren't any wardrobes handy and besides, he's breaking in a new pair of boots and falling on his ass while trying to get away is a rather terminal mistake he just doesn't want to make.
Montel barks out a laugh and it's actually bordering on fucking gleeful and Jeff doesn't want to be part of a murder, he really doesn't. Even if his part only consists of trying to get out the front door before Matt turns his attention elsewhere. Matt's got rage and Jeff's fairly certain he's trained it.
"I got you something, man," Montel says, like Matt didn't even talk and really, would he please stop talking to Jeff? It's not much to ask. Jeff's trying to perfect the art of making himself invisible in plain sight and if Montel keeps drawing attention to him then Matt is going to cause some form of blunt trauma to Jeff's head. And Jeff doesn't want that. He's actually pleased with how his hair looks today.
Montel turns to the Christmas tree and Jeff is stunned into awe because Montel thinks it's actually safe to leave his back exposed. God, if this is what Allah does for you, then show Jeff the dotted line and he'll chew your arm off for a pen. Montel picks up a small box, professionally wrapped, and hands it to Jeff. "Merry Christmas, man," he says again and pulls Jeff into a quick, tight hug.
"Thanks," Jeff mumbles, taking the present. All of his gifts are in his car outside. They're wrapped in cloth and newspaper and whatever else he could find. He's about to say he'll go get them, but -
"Number 15: Looks like refried shit in the morning."
"Well, you do," Montel says without missing a beat and Jeff takes a step in the direction of the door. Just in case. "Okay, so I'll admit, maybe most people aren't at their best in the morning, but a little care the night before goes a long way. It's all I'm saying."
"I've seen you without your cornrows, fucker," Matt says, voice low and Jeff feels like he's eleven again and Matt has just caught him drawing moustaches on all the women in his Playboy magazine and he's not amused. "So don't talk to me about 'a little care', afro-boy."
"I'll thank you to know I look fucking amazing with an afro," Montel says right back and Jeff really didn't agree to all this.
Matt wanted him here because Montel was spending Christmas here too and he really wanted Jeff to come over and no, seriously Jeffro, c'mon, it'll be fun. I'll kick your ass at scrabble and we'll hit the nog and light up a doobie and show Montel what a real Hardy Christmas is like.
And really, Jeff should have known. He should have fucking known that things were going to go tits up when Matt said doobie. Doobie for fuck's sake. No one's said doobie since Nirvana were in the Billboard Top Ten and everyone thought it was cool to go without a shower for three months. He should have told Matt that he had plans, that he was going to woo his girl, that he had an embarrassing venereal disease and was going to spend Christmas day injecting antibiotics directly into his cock, lest it shrivel up and fucking die, but hey, I'll try to call in.
Anything would have been better than standing here feeling jittery and anxious and like he's going to be blamed for the lack of snow and world peace and random kitten torture.
"Number 81 isn't funny either," Matt bites out and Montel grabs the papers out of his hand, skims them and laughs loudly.
"Sure it is," he says, adding, "And it's not like it isn't true."
Matt snatches the papers back and Jeff watches him shuffle through them. "12 is complete bullshit, I would never do that," shuffle, "58 is an outright fucking lie," shuffle, "102 is not even my fault," shuffle, "And God only knows what you were taking when you thought up 219."
"Hey," Montel begins, putting his hand on his heart and affecting a sincere look. Jeff doesn't buy it but he doesn't say anything either. He's getting closer to the door. One more step and he'll hit freedom head on. "I never took a thing when I wrote that. I was stone cold sober."
"You'll be out cold, you fucking prick."
Jeff's almost there. He really is. One more word from Montel to keep Matt's attention and he'll be home and dry.
"Oh!" Matt shouts and Jeff jumps about a foot in the air, trying to look like he wasn't making a desperate bid for freedom. Matt turns to him, grabs him by the shirt front and drags him to the chair, shoving him down on it. Jeff makes a small 'oof' sound when he lands and is about to plead innocence when Matt says, "You're gonna fucking love this Jeff."
Jeff's fairly certain he won't. His heart is thudding in his chest and he tries to remember if his last will and testament is up to date, and then he remembers that he doesn't have a will, let alone a last one and oh God, he really doesn't want to die in Matt's living room. He's always hated that stupid fucking picture above the fireplace (and, y'know, hello. How much does Matt love himself to give his own damn picture pride of place anyway?) and he doesn't want his last few seconds to be spent thinking that the V1 hand gesture is the dumbest thing in existence, second only to Matt's fucking dopey legs and his insane need to force Mattitude on every living thing dumb enough to enter the house of Cameron's biggest homicidal fuckwit.
Matt strides over to the CD player and Montel huffs out a breath and rolls his eyes. "Man, are you still pissy over that?" Matt mumbles something Jeff can't quite make out and Montel says, "Look, it's funny. It's not my fault you don't have a sense of humour."
And Jeff thinks that whatever is coming is going to be bad. It's going to be so so bad.
"Oh, I have a sense of humour," Matt mutters, yanking a CD out of it's case and slamming it into the player. "My sense of humour is just fucking fine."
He jabs at the play button and a song starts up that Jeff doesn't recognise. Matt skims the CD case at Jeff, with, Jeff thinks, a little more force than is strictly necessary and bites out, "Read the note."
Jeff opens the CD case and on the inside sleeve there's a little message saying, 'Dear Matt. Everyone does crazy shit when they're young. No hard feelings, eh? Love Adam. p.s. My bad.'
It's in Adam's scratchy handwriting and Jeff throws a quick glance at Matt. Matt nods and says, "Listen to the damn chorus."
So Jeff does.
When the song finishes, Jeff looks from Matt (who looks like he's set all senses to 'kill') to Montel (who's laughing so hard he looks like he might be in pain). Jeff, just to follow a theme, has no fucking idea what's going on.
"Um," he says and really, that's about one syllable too many. He's clinging onto things by a fingernail and all he wants is for someone to explain what the fuck going on.
Montel is leaning against the wall for support and there's a muscle twitching in Matt's jaw.
"Um," Jeff tries again and flinches a little when Matt snatches the CD case back. He flings it at Montel's head and snaps, "It's not fucking funny you silly bastard. I was going to fucking kill Adam for that."
Montel laughs and wheezes his way to standing up again. Eventually, he controls himself and says, "Aw man, you should have seen the look on your face when you got it though. Fucking priceless."
"Yeah, and if Adam had been in the same damn room as me I would have smeared his face over the walls."
"It was interesting though," Montel says. "Kinda like Pavlov and his dog."
"Oh fuck you, you cunt."
Montel ignores that and nods his head towards the sheaf of papers still held in Matt's hand. "Y'know, your reaction to that whole incident is where I got the idea from to begin with. I spent weeks working on that list."
"That's because you're a fucking moron," Matt shoots back.
"And I thought it would be the perfect Christmas present," Montel goes on, ignoring him.
"Shows what you know."
"Hey, that gift was sincere and original," Montel says. "And I wrapped it up too, you ungrateful plebeian bastard. I even delivered it after bestowing you with a mind-numbing blowjob, and this is the thanks I get?"
Yeah, that's about as much as Jeff can handle. "Would one of you fucking idiots tell me what the fuck is going on? And if you never mention blowjobs and my brother in the same sentence ever again I'll be eternally grateful, thanks."
Matt stares at Jeff and so does Montel and really, they could at least have to common decency not to look so fucking surprised to see him there. He's been part of the damn argument, for fuck's sake. Matt has all but beat him up and seriously, Jeff doesn't deserve to have his Christmas go out like this. He should be at home, fucking his girl into the mattress, not sitting in Matt's fucking living room with the start of a headache pushing at his temples because he's been through a barrage of emotions in the space of half a damn hour.
Matt rolls his eyes and says, "It's nothing Jeff, forget about it."
"What's nothing?" Jeff says. "Forget about what?"
"Nothing," Matt says and he's got that tone that tells Jeff he's young and stupid and he'll only ever know what the fuck Matt is talking about when he's ninety and Matt'll be dead by then so the whole thing won't matter anyway. "Forget about it."
And no, seriously, Jeff's had enough. He lifts his foot and kicks Matt very hard in the shin. Because he might be thirty years old but damn it all, the only difference between him now and him when he was eight is that his shoes have gotten a bit more sturdy and when Matt comes to kill him, Jeff can at least look him in the eye without tilting his head.
"That's not the right answer, Matt," he says and Matt's bent over cradling his abused leg and he's not saying much but his breathing is kind of shallow and yeah, okay, so maybe that wasn't the best course of action. Even if Jeff's headache is starting to recede. In fact, maybe it was just this side of really fucking bad that Jeff had better make a hasty retreat.
"You little bastard," Matt suddenly growls and Jeff's going to withdraw that 'make a hasty retreat' and replace it with 'RUN AWAY RIGHT NOW.' Score one more for self-preservation.
Jeff clutches his present like it's a sparkly shield strong enough to ward off the homicidal and backs up quickly. He stops when he bumps into the warm body of Montel and oh shit, this is going to be so bad if Montel is on Matt's side. So. Very. Bad.
"If I were you, I'd get gone," Montel says low in his ear and Jeff can hear the grin in his voice. "He looks pissed."
And Jeff agrees but he still wants to say something like, no shit Sherlock or well fucking DUH, but hey, his basic motor functions are hotwired to that small bunch of neurons that are given out as standard to all little brothers. The warranty reads: Will activate automatically when older brother threatens functionality of host. Menial functions will be shut down to concentrate all efforts on running away. Relay message: You are still a man. Running away from your older brother does not make you a girl. But go easy on the screaming next time, when higher brain cells come back online.
Jeff runs away.
Jeff sees only one route open to him when faced with Matt's rage.
Three days into his self-imposed exile he gets a hand delivered package. He approaches it cautiously, because hey, Matt may be all kinds of stupid but Jeff knows he trawls the internet and Matt only goes where the special kind of crazy is. And really, Jeff should sabotage all of his net access. The harder it is for Matt to get to the anthrax dealers, the easier it'll be for Jeff to approach his mail without a football helmet, heavy duty gardening gloves and three layers of specialised padding.
And yeah, Jeff's not dumb enough to think a little bit of extra padding would be protection against a lungful of poison, but he's always relied on Matt's stupidity and it's never let him down so far.
Still, he's not taking any chances so he prods the envelope with a tree branch. He'd gotten it from his yard and was going to use it for something awesome, but, well, something happened to that train of thought and now its home is behind his front door. But it still looks awesome.
There are no bursts of noxious fumes from the envelope, so Jeff prods it a little harder. When nothing continues to happen, he kicks it. He then cautiously stamps on it and when it gives no reply, he figures it's safe to pick it up.
All in all, it takes him ten minutes to get into the envelope. Not because it's particularly difficult to open, but more because a brown padded envelope is quite uncooperative when your hands are ensconced in gardening gloves and you're using a couple of forks instead of your fingers. But hey, caution goes a long way to keep him alive. Well, okay, it kind of doesn't but there's always a starting point and Jeff thinks this might be it.
He pulls out a small wad of papers carefully. They're crumpled and a bit worn and very very familiar. Jeff looks at the first page and sees, in bold type, the header: The
Pros Cons and Further Cons of Not Killing Matt Hardy.
Jeff skims through the sheets of paper and right at the end, after con number 254 (prissy bitch can't let anything go), there's a note in Montel's neat script saying:
Feel free to add more.