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The Protector

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Many things in John McClane's life had surprised him, but perhaps the oddest was his unlikely friendship with a liberal hacker punk way too many years his junior. Despite or maybe because of their differences, Matt Farrell had become John's best friend. John felt closer to Matt than even his cop friends. Maybe their differences made for the perfect balance, but that was way too zen or romantic-sounding for John's taste. He and Matt were buds -- that's all.

Whatever the reason for their compatibility, Friday nights had become the highlight of John's week, as he and Matt regularly had dinner, either at one of John's old haunts, or some weird new restaurant Matt that wanted to explore. Tonight the restaurant was John's choice, one of his favorites, an unpretentious local place with great steaks, where no one minded when John took off his jacket, revealing his gun hanging from his shoulder holster. Matt had made his obligatory grumble about the environmental degradation and individual health problems caused by red meat before happily scarfing down his t-bone. It was funny how Matt's personal inconsistencies or disagreements with John's opinions never bothered him the way Holly's had. Maybe he was getting mellow as he aged? Or maybe Matt was less obnoxious because he never acted like John should change. The entire world perhaps, but not John.

Mid-chew and mid-rant, Matt stopped, staring toward the door, an expression of unhappiness on his face. He glanced down, his bangs sliding forward to hide his face and finished chewing without speaking.

John glanced at the door. The two people standing by the 'please wait to be seated' sign looked unassuming, but John had learned long ago that appearances could be deceptive. The man and woman both wore lightweight coats in deference to the fall weather, his tan, hers black. They shared dark hair, dark eyes, and slim builds, but there the resemblances ended. His skin tone looked Mediterranean, hers a pale white, his hair slightly wavy, while hers was sleek and glossy, almost artificially black.

"You know those people?" John asked, though from the frown on Matt's face, he clearly did.

"A long time ago," Matt said dismissively, as if the relationship had been no big deal.

"They look familiar." John felt he knew both of them, but he couldn't place from where.

"They're actors. Well, he is. She acted with him."

The couple were being led to a table, but then the man saw Matt, and headed toward their table with a broad smile on his face. Interestingly, he didn't seem to share Matt's dislike.


They paused by the table, but Matt didn't stand. Interestingly, he also didn't object to being called Brandon. "Fred, Laliari."

"It's good to see you."

"Yeah. Sure."

Fred look perplexed, as if realizing that Matt didn't share his enthusiasm. "Hey, maybe you could help. We have a problem with, um, communication. Reaching someone far away. You always knew that technical stuff so well."

"Sorry," Matt said, in the coldest tone John had ever heard him use. "I'm not in the helping business anymore."

"Oh." Fred stared at Matt with complete incomprehension, and the light bulb went off in John's head, because he'd seen that look dozens of times on television, immediately before Fred would announce some brilliant yet scientifically improbable method to save the ship. John had never been an avid follower of the SF classic 'Galaxy Quest,' but he'd fallen asleep to dozens of episodes, since its reruns often aired at 11:00 pm, when John was seeking a distraction from his thoughts.

"You're on 'Galaxy Quest.' Tech Sergeant Chen."

"Um, yes?" Fred held out his hand and John shook it, as well as Laliari's. She'd been on the new version of the ship, her character dating Chen's, though John had never realized the actors also were together in real life. He'd never been one to follow celebrity gossip.

"You guys are friends of Brandon's?"

"Um, yes?" Fred said again, making John realize that Chen's spaciness wasn't much of a stretch for the actor. "We haven't seen each other in quite a while."

"Anyway, you guys should let the waiter find you a table," Matt said.

"Oh, um, yes I guess so. It was good seeing you, Brandon."

"Yeah. Bye."

Laliari gave a small bob of her head, adding, "Goodbye Brandon," and the two walked away.

"So what was that all about?" John asked.

"Nothing," Matt answered, too quickly. "It was just a guy I used to know."

"If it was nothing, then you wouldn't be upset," John noted, because Matt's lips were still downturned, conveying his unhappiness. He didn't mention Fred's calling Matt a different name, knowing that Matt would try to pretend John hadn't noticed, even though they both knew he had.

Matt gave a sigh, glancing away, a sure sign he was trying to figure out how much to tell John. Like he'd forgotten that John was a cop and well accustomed to reading body language and knowing when people were lying to him.

"I met the whole cast when I was a teenager at a convention. I kinda... saved them during an incident. Things can get out of hand at cons, all the fans and everything. And we became friends and they let me hang around them and stuff. The show was starting up again and I got to come on set and watch them. It was exciting." He smiled, his face fond and a bit dreamy, and yes, part of this story was definitely true. "But then I got older and I was going to college and I wanted to tell the truth about some of the things that had happened and they wouldn't support me."

John's fingers clenched into a fist. He didn't like the images he was getting, a vulnerable, teenage Matt seeking the approval of jaded, older actors. "Did they take advantage of you?"

That question confused Matt for a second before he gave a short laugh. "Jesus, John. They didn't get me hooked on drugs or gangbang me. They just..."

"Didn't support you." Not support him in what, back when he was Brandon? That was the 64,000 dollar question that Matt obviously didn't want to answer.

"Yeah. They were famous and happy and didn't want to get involved. I understand that now. I didn't at the time."

Matt's maturity may have given him a greater understanding of the actors' motivations, but it didn't mean he was happy about it. John decided to let the matter drop. Matt was his best friend, and even though he hated the Californian-ness of the thought, he'd respect his boundaries. For now.

And if he perhaps abused his police power to run a few checks on the cast of 'Galaxy Quest,' well, it wasn't like Matt would ever know.

"You ready to go?" he asked, Matt visibly relaxing as John didn't keep pushing for a more thorough explanation.

"Yeah." Matt drained the last of his beer, and they shrugged into their jackets, John tossing the money for the bill on the table. The cold hit as they walked outside, a nice fall cold, where only a warm sweater or a light jacket was needed. John had missed the temperature changes in Los Angeles. They started toward the car, as someone made an odd trilling sound, high and feminine-sounding. John glanced across the street to see Fred and Laliari on the opposite sidewalk. They must have decided to find another restaurant. Suddenly, a circle of light appeared in the middle of the empty street. John looked up, trying to see the helicopter, but the sky was void of any flying machines. Where was the light coming from?

Laliari ran toward the light, which slid a few feet down the street, away from her. A car turned the corner, almost running into her, and she gave a cry as she fell back against a parked car. The driver yelled an obscenity and sped on. Undeterred, Laliari darted at the light.

"Laliari!" Fred shouted, running after her.

"Laliari!" Matt echoed, also running toward the light. John didn't understand why any of them were running toward the light that shouldn't exist, but he reacted, joining the chase. Matt, John guessed, was reacting instinctively to the weirdness of the situation and trying to protect his former friend. Though John wasn't sure Laliari needed help, he wasn't going to let Matt handle this alone.

A crazy few minutes followed, the light zipping around as if it couldn't find the people, Matt and Fred chasing Laliari, John chasing Matt, until the light caught Laliari, and she stopped, looking up and making another of those trilling noises. Matt pushed her into the darkness before vanishing. One second he was standing in the street, fully visible, and the next, he was gone. Pulling his gun, John ran into the light.

And blinked because he was somewhere else, a place he didn't recognize. But Matt was there, looking around curiously. They were together, which was all that mattered.

"Where are we?" John put his back to Matt, pointing his gun at the one door he could see.

"We're in a spaceship," Matt answered, with an excitement bordering on glee. "I never got to go in one before."

"Before? What do you mean, before?" And if his voice rose into a yell, John didn't think he could be blamed. He'd dealt with terrorists and the scum of the Earth, but aliens from outer space were beyond his experience. "When you were friends with those actors?"

"Yeah. Laliari's an alien. She's from this group of people-- "

And simultaneously, Fred and Laliari appeared in the room, having caught the light, and the doors zipped open, with a good old-fashioned swooshing sound, just like they made in 'Galaxy Quest.' Aliens walked in, and John grabbed Matt with his left hand, forcing him against the wall, planting himself in front of him, gun wavering between the aliens, Fred, and Laliari. He didn't know what the fuck was going on, but he knew protecting Matt was his priority.

"Hello," the alien in front said with surprise. "We did not expect multiple petitioners."

"This is a misunderstanding," Laliari answered, putting herself between the aliens and John and Matt. "They are friends of ours."

"Dude, you can..." Fred patted the air close to John's gun, in a 'put it away' gesture. Since the aliens didn't seem to have any weapons on them, John let his hand drop, but continued to hold his gun.

The aliens were humanoid, though short, about Matt's height. Their skin was a beautiful amber, and they wore robes of warm colors. The lead alien had long and flowing white hair, while the second one had long black hair, and the third short brown hair.

"So you are the only petitioner?"

"Yes." Fred came to stand by Laliari, linking their hands. "We come to you for your help in having a child."

John turned his head to look at Matt's expression, which was as perplexed as his own, before understanding dawned. "Laliari's an alien," he whispered.

And by the time John turned his head back, Laliari's alienness was revealed, as Fred was now holding the tentacle of a creature that should be featured in a bad SF movie, a mottled-purple and creamy tone octopus-looking thing with multiple appendages. "Shit!" John yelled, taking a step back, almost bumping into Matt. Fred shot him a look of irritation.

The lead alien ignored John, placing one hand on Laliari's forehead and the other on Fred's, seeming to read their minds, or perhaps just making a theatrical gesture, John didn't know and didn't care, still struggling to figure out what was going on.

"Yes," the alien said, dropping her hands and waving one of her compatriots to step forward. She took a bottle from him, and handed it to Laliari. "Take one of these every morning for a month, and then you will be able to bear a child."

"You're fertility specialists?" John blurted out.

"Why, yes." The alien seemed surprised that John didn't know of their reputation. "We Zoop pride ourselves on our ability to assist with cross-species fertilization. It is our greatest contribution to medical science."

Fred interrupted his sappy beaming at the Laliari-octopus to say, "We didn't have a chance to explain to our friends why we needed your assistance."

"You guys are going to have a kid? That's great, man." Matt stepped around John, hugging Fred and the octopus, which patted his back with multiple appendages. "You'll be great parents."

John resolutely decided that he wasn't going to contemplate how Fred and the octopus had sex. Or what the baby would look like or how it would emerge. It would be a baby, and John was fond of babies.

"We hope so." Fred couldn't seem to stop beaming at Laliari, who was suddenly herself again. Or her fake-self, John supposed. "Matt, you won't -- " he started to say, now looking anxious.

"No." Matt hugged them again. "I got all the publicity I ever wanted and more from the fire sale. Your secret's safe with me."

"Thank you."

"Are you sure you do not wish to petition?" the lead alien asked. She reached her hand toward John, who jerked back. With a frown that reminded John strongly of his kindergarten teacher, she reached out again, and this time John remained in place, letting her touch his forehead, the middle of his chest, and his lower abdomen before she stepped away. "You would be an interesting challenge, but quite manageable."

"I'm a guy. Guys don't have babies on Earth."

"Yes, but --" she glanced at Matt, who appeared frozen with surprise, before giving an elegant shrug of her shoulders. "Very well. We only seek to serve."

"You'll serve us best by sending us home," John said.

"Hey, can we get a tour before we go back?" Matt asked, his face brightening with anticipation. "I've never been on a spaceship."

"We haven't been on one in a long time," Fred added. "And never one designed by the Zoop."

"Of course. We would be delighted to show you our ship."

She glided toward the door as Matt threw John a beseeching look. With a sigh, John tucked his gun back into its holster. One spaceship tour coming up.


The street was quiet and empty, which was a good thing, as the light put them back down in the middle of it. The tour had been interesting, the interior of the spaceship fascinating, but it was the view of the Earth from outer space that John would always treasure the most. He'd never expected to be divorced, to have kids who barely tolerated him, to face down terrorists, or to see a sight reserved for astronauts. His life was full of surprises, many bad, but every once in a while, absolutely amazing.

Fred and Laliari were still beaming foolishly at each other, as John tugged on Matt's arm, guiding him to the sidewalk. New York was not a city to loiter in the path of traffic.

"Hey, let me know when the kid comes, okay? I'll send, um, one of those silver cups or something. Or a half dozen cups, one for each tentacle."

"We will," Fred promised, holding hands with Laliari as they walked the other way, so happy and crazy about each other and their upcoming child, they could barely take their eyes off each other. "Brandon!" He stopped and turned to face Matt, his clenched fist in the middle of his chest, giving a small bow as he said, "Never give up. Never surrender."

Matt and Laliari both repeated the gesture. "Never give up. Never surrender."

John didn't join in. He recognized the futuristic version of a handshake and the quote from the television show, but he'd never been one to copy others. He waited until they were in his car, and he was driving toward his house. "Talk, kid. The short version."

"The Thermians, that's Laliari's people, saw episodes of 'Galaxy Quest' and thought the shows were historical documents. So they built a replica of the NSEA Protector and then they recruited the actors to help them face down this bad guy, Sarris. Only before they had gone into space, Jason and I had accidentally switched our voxes, those were the communicators used on 'Galaxy Quest,' so I had a real working vox instead of my replica. Jason ended up calling me from outer space and my friends and I helped him and Gwen -- that's the Commander and Tawny -- turn off the self-destruct after the aliens started it and then we guided the Protector home with bottle rockets. It landed in a parking lot and crashed into the convention center, right into a Galaxy Quest convention. It was so cool."

Sarris? An actual enemy alien from outer space? Why did Matt as Brandon have bottle rockets? A replica of the Protector crashing into a convention center in California? And none of it made the news? Some day he definitely wanted the long version. "And then you wanted to go public?"

"Yeah. I mean, not at first. At first it was just too cool to hang around with them. But I got older and I was going to go off to college and I just wanted it known. Known that aliens existed. But the actors, they were all happy in their careers with the new show and didn't want to look like delusional idiots." A little of the bitterness crept back into Matt's tone. In response, John dropped his hand from the gearshift to Matt's knee and squeezed. "So I started hacking," Matt continued. "Because I knew that a spaceship had crashed on Earth and somehow it had been made to disappear. I hacked into every law enforcement agency I could think of and I never discovered how they moved it or where they hid it. But they found me and I ended up permanently on FBI's list of most dangerous computer geeks."

"That's when you changed your name," John hazarded.

"The judge almost denied it. They don't approve of criminals changing their names. But I'd just graduated from high school and I talked about how embarrassed my parents were and that I didn't want to cause them any more harm by being associated with me. So he approved it, but warned me he'd give my new name to the FBI."

"Jesus, kid." John gave Matt's knee another reassuring squeeze before putting his hand on the wheel so he could focus on parking outside his house. "Come in and have a beer."

"How about two or three?" Matt joked.

"As many as you want," John promised. It was definitely one of those nights Matt should crash in his spare bedroom.


Matt was pacing when John returned with the beers. The kid always had a lot of energy, probably because he drank too many Red Bulls. John handed him a beer, and they lightly clicked the tops. "To outer space," John said.

"To the Protector," Matt replied with a weird intensity. "To you."

"I'm your protector?"

"We were scooped up, onto a spaceship, and there were aliens, and you put me behind you. You would have shot to defend me, wouldn't you? I mean, shot an alien with a ray gun?"

"They didn't have ray guns," John had to note. "But that's what I do. Protect people."

"No one's ever protected me like you do. My parents, the 'Galaxy Quest' cast, the FBI... you've been the only person to give a shit about my safety."

John shrugged, uncomfortable with Matt's description. Protecting Matt had been his priority during the fire sale because it was his job. "Hey, you were just a guy I had to escort around. Don't make it more than it was."

"And I would have died if it had been left to the FBI. You were the one to keep me alive." Matt lunged forward, one hand clasping the back of John's head, pulling it down, his lips mashing on John's in a frantic kiss. Surprise kept John still as he registered that despite the awkwardness of the kiss, Matt's lips were soft and sweet. He tentatively put his hand on Matt's slim back, gentling the kiss.

"I'm sorry," Matt whispered as their lips separated. "I didn't -- "

"I don't want this if it's about gratitude." He wanted it. Jesus, he wanted it so much, more than he'd ever allowed himself to dream. But not for the wrong reasons.

Hope filled Matt's eyes. "It's not about gratitude. Or maybe it started there, but it's a whole lot more than that."

"Then what is it?"

"It's about you and you're so solid and reliable and retro and you make me crazy and I just want - " A blush spread across Matt's cheeks.

"You just want?" John asked, not giving an inch. Changing their friendship into something more was too important. He needed to know what Matt was thinking.

"I want to suck your dick," Matt admitted, burying his head against John's chest before looking up at him with defiance in his eyes. "I want to be on my knees for you. I want you to stretch me out on your bed and fuck my brains out. I want to argue with your absurd opinions every day and watch football games together and make you learn to use your computer. I want to spend my life with you. Not just because you're the only person who's been there for me my entire adult life but because - because you're that guy. The guy for me."

John's dick was pressing uncomfortably against the fly of his jeans because he could see it so clearly, Matt on his knees, Matt in his bed, fucking him into oblivion and waking him up the next morning with kisses. This was another surprise John hadn't seen coming, but he wanted it desperately. "I've never been with a guy," he admitted. He set his bottle down on the coffee table, then took Matt's and set it down too, before grabbing onto Matt's waist, letting his body fall and twisting, so he ended up sitting on the couch, Matt on his lap. "I want to be with you."

"John," Matt breathed with a rush of relief, and then they were kissing again, long, deep kisses, Matt's body resting on John's.

"Take off your shirts," John ordered, watching as Matt gave a shiver and obeyed, first the plaid overshirt and then the cotton t-shirt with the weird gaming logo, revealing a slim chest with sparse body hair. John rubbed his thumbs on Matt's flat, brown nipples, gliding his hands up and down Matt's chest, pleased with the way Matt's abdomen muscles rippled in response. "Now the rest." He tugged at the fly on Matt's jeans.

"You don't have to be the totally dominant one," Matt complained, even as he stood, kicking off his shoes, toeing off his socks, and pushing his jeans and boxers down his legs before settling back on John's lap, completely naked while John was still fully dressed.

"Yes, I do."

"Retro," Matt muttered with satisfaction. And then they were kissing again, their tongues meeting and tasting each other's mouths. Matt's hands rested on John's chest, but John took advantage of the temptation to explore Matt's body, his skin so smooth, his ass sleek and rounded. He squeezed the cheeks, his thumbs grazing down the cleft, before reaching around to grasp Matt's erect cock in one hand. Giving a whine of need, Matt arched forward, pushing his cock into John's grip.

"You need to come?" John asked, jacking Matt, catching the pre-come with his thumb, rubbing it down the length.

"I've only been waiting for this for over a year," Matt bitched, his hips thrusting in response to John's masturbating him. He was panting, his chest heaving as he struggled for breath, and he was absolutely fucking gorgeous. John wanted to see him like this every damn day for the rest of his life.

"Then come for me," John demanded, and Matt did, throwing his head back and yelling out his pleasure as his come spurted over John's fist and splattered on his jeans.

A sex-satiated Matt was a boneless Matt, his body sprawled on John's, seemingly unable to move. John stroked his back, feeling the need to keep touching, but conscious of the demands of his own body. He'd always been the kind of guy who leaped right into anything that needed to be done, and it appeared that behavior carried over to gay sex.

"Wow. That was even better than I imagined." Despite his lethargy, Matt plucked deftly at John's jeans, undoing the zip, freeing his dick, before sliding to his knees between John's thighs. Between the warmth of Matt's mouth, and the eagerness of his tongue, it took only seconds before John came, his hips involuntarily arching, thrusting his dick deeper, and who the hell would have guessed that Matt was a swallower?

"Come up here." John tugged on Matt's shoulders, arranging Matt into his lap again, both of them sprawled blissfully on the couch. "You're staying here tonight and moving in tomorrow."

"Yeah. Okay."

He'd get to eat every dinner with Matt and not just Fridays. Breakfasts every day and lunch on the weekend too. John liked that thought. "And one of these days we'll visit California so I can kick your parents' butts."

"They didn't ask to have a crazy, alien-obsessed kid."

"You're mine now anyway."

"And you're mine."

"Yeah," John agreed. This was the weirdest, biggest surprise of his life, falling in love with his best friend, but also the best. They belonged to each other now, and Matt would always be John's, to love and argue with and protect. Forever.

~ the end ~