Title: The Path of the Righteous Man
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Rating: M, for language
Summary: John wasn't sure what he'd been expecting when he'd answered the knock at his apartment door. Certainly not a pair of young men in dark pea coats with ancient blue eyes. 2500 words.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Spoilers: Post-"Boondock Saints" (1999) & "Live Free or Die Hard" (2007)
Notes: For butterflyflame, who requested "Boondock Saints/Die Hard. John McClane and the twins." This is more of a prologue than a complete fic, but I don't know enough about police procedure, organized crime, or New York to write the epic that would logically unfold from it. Hope you enjoy anyway!
"Fuck," Connor groaned, panting, leaning back against the brick wall of the alley they'd found to hide themselves in. Blood seeped, slowly, between the knuckles of the hand held clenched against his side. "All right, all right, I admit it; we're going to need help on this one."
"Fucking Smecker, getting himself fucking killed," Murphy growled, prying at his twin's fingers in an effort to get a better look at the bullet wound. "The security setups he gave us are all wrong, and now we have no way of finding out what's changed."
"If Da were still with us--" Connor said, shoving irritably at Murphy's arms with his free hand.
"Aye, if Da were still with us I'd say fuck it and go back in anyway," Murphy cut him off, slapping Connor's interfering hand away as he finally got a glimpse of the damage done his brother. Just a graze; oozing nastily, but ultimately only a nuisance, Almighty be praised. They'd have to find him a new coat and shirt and some bandages to conceal the injury, but it wouldn't interfere with carrying out the job. Provided they found a means of carrying out the job that wouldn't kill them both before they got anywhere close to the target.
"He's not with us, though," he continued, "which means we're going to have to find someone else."
"So you've been saying," Connor grumbled. He shoved Murphy away again, and this time Murphy let him, reassured that he wasn't going to lose his brother anytime in the next few minutes. "But how are we going to know who to trust?"
They'd had a bit of trouble with that, over the years; while the police they'd known in Boston had been willing to overlook a great deal in the first few years of the Saints' operation, conscience and attrition had whittled that support away over time, and Smecker's death in an FBI sting gone wrong had taken the last of their inside government backing from them. They still had contacts on the less legal side of things, of course-- plenty of them-- but weaponry and rumor weren't what they needed now. They needed information, and an experienced gun at their side who'd not betray them.
"What we need is a righteous man who hates the system's failures as much as we do," he murmured to himself, thinking, as Connor clamped a hand back over the hole in his coat and the two made their way back to the mouth of the alley. They'd lost their pursuit somewhere in the headlong rush of the last several minutes; he gave it another hour or so before the security detail they'd fallen afoul of got smart and started checking the cheaper hotels for record of a pair of blackclad Irishmen. They'd have to hurry to patch Connor up and get their gear out before that happened.
"What we need is a whole fucking army," Connor snorted. "Or else John fucking McClane. But the way our luck is going, he'll probably be the one they send after us."
Given that this was New York, and the law tended to label the Saints terrorists--
Wait. Murphy's thought processes ground to a halt as he considered the brilliant, wonderful idea that had just crystallized in his brain. If it worked-- and why wouldn't it? "Connor, you're a genius," he blurted, dragging his brother down by the scruff of his neck to plant a kiss on his forehead.
"What the fuck, Murph?" Connor hissed, flailing away from him and clutching at his flank. There was a question in his eyes, though, and hope-- where there hadn't been before.
Never let it be said that the Lord didn't provide for his children, Murphy thought, grinning wider as he thought over the idea again. It was perfect. It would work. And it might take care of their little intel problem in the long run, too, even if they didn't end up with a new permanent third.
"John fucking McClane," he repeated back to Connor, full of anticipation. "Think about it."
"I think you're fucking crazy," Connor retorted, eyeing him with disbelief. "John McClane, the great fucking hero? Ye saw the documentary last year, same as I did. Righteous man, for sure. But one as would work with us? No fucking way."
"And why the fuck not?" Murphy hissed. "Didn't ye say at the time, ye thought it a bit strange a man with a record like his was still on the streets? How many times now has he saved a city, or the whole country even, from a group of fucking lunatics? And he's still only a detective."
"Yeah, well, he doesn't much care about the damage he does while he's taking his targets down, now does he, and he's moved cross-country twice," Connor reasoned. "Not exactly a recipe for reaching the top of the employment ladder."
"Exactly," Murphy said. "He's willing to break the rules when he believes it's needful, and it's got him the attention of the press-- but not much official support. Sound familiar? And the kid in the photos with him from that mess in '07-- he was a hacker. Not an innocent. McClane still worked with him, because they had the same goal."
"Nice bit of work, that," Connor agreed, reluctantly. "Fucking worthy of us. Our bad luck we were out of the country at the time."
Murphy nodded. "This is McClane's city-- ye think he doesn't know about the guy we're after? Ye think he doesn't wish he could just track him down and pull the trigger himself? Whatever else ye can say about the man, he's not indifferent; he put the job over his own wife and children."
"Like Da," Connor said slowly, consideringly. "But legal."
"Like Da," Murphy agreed. "Tough as Da, too. However old he is, man's made of fucking steel."
"I still say he'll shoot us soon as look at us," Connor sighed, after a long, contemplative moment. "Be fucking brilliant, though, if he didn't."
"Wouldn't it?" Murphy said. "And come on, the whole world heard our vow to hunt only the guilty, and we've never broken it. I'd hope he'd be pragmatic enough to at least hear us out before dropping the hammer on us. If he doesn't like it, we'll just tell him why we came here now, and leave town before he can have us thrown in jail."
Connor narrowed his eyes, working through Murphy's reasoning, then nodded sharply. "Right. Right. Because we may not have enough proof for anyone to convict on-- not without Smecker-- but we know things he doesn't. And what are the chances that a man like him will choose not to investigate a serious crime in his territory?"
Murphy smiled again, satisfied. "Now all we've got to do is find the bastard. Do ye happen to remember what department he works for?"
Connor blinked at that, then deflated with a sigh, leaning back against the brickwork. "No, but I think I know how to find out. You're serious about this, then?"
"Wouldn't have suggested it otherwise. Not now." Quick as they might be to joke around-- a necessary relief valve with a calling like theirs-- the middle of a job gone wrong wasn't the time for it.
Connor sighed, then pushed away from the wall. "All right," he said, bumping his shoulder against Murphy's as he left the alley. "All right. Then let's get going."
As always, Murphy followed.
John wasn't sure what he'd been expecting when he'd answered the knock at his apartment door. Matt, maybe, with or without Lucy at his side; the kids had been making noise about dragging him out of his solo apartment for a little Halloween cheer this year. Fat chance of that; John had learned through long experience to keep himself close to a phone, and available, on holidays. Even pansy-ass holidays celebrated mostly by children hopped up on sugar.
It wasn't Matt, though, nor Luce, nor even Jack-- whom he knew to be home on leave, visiting his mother-- that stood on the stoop: it was a pair of young men in dark pea coats, dark blond and brown-haired, both with ancient blue eyes. The blond was pressing a hand to his side, and if that wasn't dried blood on his knuckles, John would tap-dance in a tutu at the next department meeting. Both of them were packing.
Even if he hadn't just been watching the evening news, their identities would have been obvious.
Cautiously, he opened the door-- leaving the chain in place-- and with the hand still fully concealed reached for the gun he kept in the front entryway. Never knew when he was going to need one, after all, and it wasn't like he had little kids visiting on a regular basis. Lucy and Matt ever got serious, he might have to redecorate; but until then, as much of a creep-magnet as his reputation made him, protection was more important than child-safety considerations.
"Yeah?" he grunted, discouragingly.
"Detective McClane," the unwounded one spoke first, solemn and weirdly respectful.
"Murphy McManus," he replied in kind. "Saw you on the news. What brings you by my place? You have some kind of issue with the way I do my job?" Better not, if their reputations were accurate; but after all he'd been through, he wasn't going to make assumptions.
They glanced at each other, eyebrows raised, then turned back to him. "Fuck, no," the blond one said, shifting to lean slightly on his brother. "You're a good man; we have nothing but admiration for your work."
"And that's why we're here," Murphy continued. "If you've seen us on the news, then ye know who we're here for. What ye might not know is why."
"I have a pretty good idea," John growled, studying both men's faces closely as his grip tightened on the concealed gun. He didn't see any falsehood in them; none of the subtle movements that signaled a lie or an attempt at manipulation. Still. "What I don't know is what you expect me to do about it."
He'd never expected to meet the Boondock Saints in person; they rarely operated outside of Boston, and until now, never in New York. Nor had they ever been caught; it had been obvious for years that they had inside help somewhere, not that anyone tried very hard to track it down. Most good cops deplored what they did; called them vigilantes at best, serial killers at worst. And they were fucking vigilantes; there were good reasons why civilians weren't allowed to take justice into their own hands, and the varying public reaction to the Saints was a very good example. All the same, there wasn't a cop alive who didn't sometimes wish they could follow in their footsteps. And John found himself wondering just how many had; how many had tiptoed down the primrose path, prompted by a visitation like this one.
"Only what ye'd do already," the blond one, Connor, said. "Investigate the man. We have names, dates, facts that won't be in your records. Things ye can use to catch him, bring him in."
"I know that's not everything," John snorted, unimpressed. "If it was, you could have called or sent me a message at the department. You want the guy dead, and you want me to help you do it."
"And do ye really want to be discussing all this on your doorstep?" Murphy challenged him, raising his eyebrows. "We'll hand over our guns, whatever ye need to be comfortable. Just let us in and off our feet a spell, and we'll tell ye all we know."
"Wait, hand over our guns?" Connor hissed, glaring at his brother.
"What, like ye wouldn't if he asked?" Murphy hissed back. "We need his help."
John didn't doubt that he'd been allowed to overhear that on purpose, no matter how unfeigned the argument seemed. Hell, they probably did disagree on the issue. But they wanted his guard down more than they each wanted their own way.
It was working, too. If it had been Luce on his doorstep with Matt leaning on her shoulder, asking him to unleash hell on their behalf, he wouldn't even have hesitated. Pair of boys not much older than his own kids, wounded, with crime lord scum in their gunsights? Of course he was tempted.
That didn't mean he was stupid. "If you have information, you should report it to the FBI agent in charge of the case," he said, forbiddingly. "I don't work with vigilantes."
The brothers glanced at each other again; their expressions grew grimmer, and some kind of unspoken conversation passed between them. Then Connor nodded. "Not like it can hurt him now; he didn't leave anyone behind to care if we ruined his reputation," he said, apropos of nothing.
"Right," Murph snorted. "They'd probably be disappointed by the truth, anyway; ye know what the rumor mill in South Boston said about us and him after that time we were seen in that bar together."
Connor rolled his eyes. "As if we'd have the son of a bitch, even if we swung that way. Smecker was good at his job, but his personal habits left something to be desired."
"Smecker?" John interrupted their little insular dialogue, caught off guard by the name. FBI Agent Paul Smecker, investigative genius and fruit loop extraordinaire? Much as he disliked the guy personally, he'd never have pegged him for one to associate with criminals. "Don't tell me you know him."
"Knew him," Connor said, bleakly. "He called us in on this himself, then got killed-- yesterday."
John processed that for a moment, then sighed. He'd heard something had gone down across town the night before, but it was his off day, and he hadn't been filled in on the details yet. Damn. "Don't tell me, there's something big planned for tonight-- something he called you guys specifically to stop, in case he couldn't take care of it himself."
They didn't reply; just let their weary expressions speak for them.
No, they weren't Saints-- but they weren't villains, either. Despite their friend's death, he didn't see any vengeance in them; just passionate desire to prevent more people getting hurt, and regret that it needed doing at all. Something John definitely understood.
Damn. Double-damn, and fuck. He stared at them a moment longer, feeling the weight of inevitability press down on him. At least this time Fate, or Whoever was up there laughing at him, had seen fit to give him a few hours' advance notice. This wasn't the bathroom at the Nakatomi building; nor the baggage claim at Dulles airport; nor a call from Simon Gruber demanding John do as he said; nor a pick-up call for a smalltime hacker unwittingly collaborating with the enemy.
He undid the security chain, then opened the door, not bothering to conceal his handgun.
"Get the fuck in here," he said, "and tell me everything."