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When the dust has settled

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John doesn't cringe when he hears footsteps on the landing and the jangling of keys in the lock. He sits up straighter and makes sure the t-shirt he's wearing covers the bandage on his arm, but he doesn't cringe.

The door opens, and Matt calls out a friendly "Hey!" as he wheels in a suitcase at least three times too big for a few days in San Francisco. It's Matt, so most of it isn't clothes. There's a laptop and a back-up laptop, three different phones and two tablets packed with far more care than the jeans and t-shirts Matt threw in at the last minute.

"Hey," John calls over his shoulder, and definitely does not wince when his shoulders try to complain. Right now, he's black and blue from his shoulders to his knees, with a fun array of scrapes and scratches. By some miracle, there's nothing broken, torn or sprained but even sitting on a sofa makes him ache right now. "How'd it go?"

"One threat from the CIA and three job offers, so there's a chance I'm losing my touch," Matt says, and then he launches into a million words a minute, talking about patents and SSLs and encryption codes that John couldn't follow on a good day. Today John nods, and makes interested noises as Matt settles on the sofa and tries to condense days of presentations into a twenty minute breathless rant.

It's Matt in a nutshell, really: the only thing that works faster than his brain is his mouth.

John knows that. Like he knows that sitting carefully and hiding the bandages is a lost cause. The second he takes off his t-shirt, Matt's going to figure out what happened. John's had this fight with Holly often enough to memorise the steps to this dance. The fight's inevitable, but John's made a career out of avoiding the inevitable for as long as possible. He keeps smiling and throws in the occasional "Yeah?" for good measure.

He must misjudge one of those 'yeahs' because Matt pulls his head back and blinks. "Am I boring you?" Matt asks, with a crooked smile that's almost amused.

"Not bored. Confused, sure, but you know this stuff goes over my head."

"Just checking it's not the spaced-out high of good painkillers," Matt says lightly. "Or the adrenalin crash of risking life and limb because stuff happened and you were the guy there."

Now John cringes. "Lucy?" This is why amicable break-ups are wrong. Even if Lucy insists it was two meals where Matt mostly talked about John and how they barely count as dates so it certainly wasn't a break-up, it's still wrong. Matt should not be getting information from Lucy. "Did she call you up to gossip? Because gossiping with your ex is not right."

Matt rolls his eyes extravagantly. With a face as expressive as Matt's, that's a pretty extravagant gesture. "Please. She emailed. So when you said 'vacation' for 'family stuff'," Matt says, with sharply ironic airquotes, "you really meant 'going to Russia' and 'blowing up a nuclear reactor', huh?"

"You're making it sound worse than it was," John tries, although he doesn't expect Matt to buy it. He nearly says that it's not like they blew up a working power station but throwing the term Chernobyl into this isn't going to make it sound better. "We didn't blow it up. There was a helicopter crash. Small explosion. Tiny."

"Vacation, John. You said vacation. That is not what most people do on vacation. Resort, family, so much outdoors time that you get 'net withdrawals, that's what people do." Matt's waving his hands, using a tone of voice that usually goes with five cans of Red Bull and getting beaten on some troll and swords game. Frustration and annoyance and disbelief, but not really anger. "They don't go to another country and blow things up."

"There was family. Jack."

And Matt freezes for a moment. Just... pauses, hands still in the air and watching John. He blinks, moves an arm to rest on the back of the couch and gently asks, "How did that go?"

"The blowing stuff up?"

Another eyeroll. "Jack. Lucy said you guys were talking again."

John shrugs. He hates talking about this stuff. "It was fine."

Matt gives him this look. Big brown eyes and shaggy hair and worried mouth, and it's just ridiculous how this kid gets to him.

"We shot bad guys. We blew stuff up. We said a couple things." John looks over at the TV and pretends he gives a damn about a Patriots game played five years ago. "It was fine."

"Fine, huh? You want to expand on that a little?" Matt asks, and John shoots him a glare fuelled by precisely how much he doesn't want to talk about it. "Okay, okay, just tell me there was a heart-to-heart at some point between the gunfire and at least one hug."

"We helped each other limp out of there. That close enough for you?"

"Not ideal, but I'll take what I can get." He might sound sarcastic as hell, but the look on his face is a soppy mix of pride and soft affection. Honestly? It makes John a little uncomfortable. "On the good side, at least Jack isn't dealing drugs."

"He was undercover so that option isn't entirely ruled out," John grouses. He leans forward to get the remote, then lets out a heartfelt curse as his back objects.

"Okay, old man, let's get you into bed and on the good drugs."

"Enough of the old man crap," John says, and then groans like an eighty year old as he stands up. "I could still kick your ass."

"Firstly, I spend about eighteen hours a day staring at a screen so being able to kick my ass is not much of an achievement." Matt wraps a careful arm around his shoulders and steers him towards the bedroom. John lets himself lean into the support. "Secondly, you are way too bruised to sound threatening right now."

"I am threatening no matter how bruised I am."

Matt doesn't point out that he's currently being helped across a seven foot room. Instead, he grins and says, "Only to people who don't know you."