Title: Protection

Author: christikat

Fandom: Live Free or Die Hard

Pairing/Characters: John McClane / Matt Farrell

Rating/Category: PG-13

Word count: ~ 2300

A/N: Written for hc_bingo for my wild card. I chose the prompt post-traumatic stress disorder.

Beta: Many thanks to petey156

Summary: John protects Matt even when Matt thinks he doesn't need to be protected.

Protection

Matt has always been a sound sleeper, probably due to the fact that he usually doesn't drift off to sleep. Rather he crashes after being up for too many hours. He sleeps like the dead, sprawled on his belly, often taking the whole bed.

Matt doesn't sleep well since he moved into John McClane's bed directly after his discharge from the hospital. He wakes up often and never really feels restored even after eight hours of sleep. In the beginning the reasons for Matt's restlessness at night had been clear – finding a sleeping position with his injured knee and being careful not to accidentally jostle John with his movements, that's it.

Weeks later Matt tells himself that it's due to the fact that he can't take up the whole bed because he has to share it. Okay, sharing the bed isn't the source of the problem, it is John. During the night he'll pat around in bed until he finds Matt. Everything would be okay if John was satisfied with for example laying a hand on top of Matt's shoulder. He isn't.

John will pull and drag until he's spooning Matt, holding him close and very tightly. Matt has no chance of prying himself loose from the embrace. He'll sweat and sometimes feel as if he's suffocating. He's irritated by how this makes him feel, like he's too small, too fucking fragile when he's in John arms for hours. When John doesn't spoon up behind him he pulls at Matt until he's sprawled on top of the older man's body. It isn't that bad but Matt always gets a stiff neck from this position. Also, even in this position Matt gets the creeps because of John's protectiveness. He doesn't mind it per se, even finds it attractive and comforting to know how fiercely John always protects him. It's just, well, frightening.

Frightening how much he likes it, how much it screws up his self-esteem. He has always been smart and likes to run his mouth and he is definitely capable of defending himself against some drunken idiot who calls him a fag. He never has a chance to show that he can take care of himself now because John is always beating him to it. Matt tells himself that he should be annoyed by John's behavior but the truth is that he's never annoyed during such a situation itself. Annoyance creeps up later when he has had time to think. It isn't so much annoyance as it is embarrassment and a feeling of misgiving coiling up in his guts. Matt doesn't need someone to protect him, yet he feels special when John does just that.

John often acts like Matt's Dad, or at least how Matt would have liked his father to have acted when he was a kid. He isn't a kid anymore and his father never protected him from anything, not even a spider. Now he has John who is doing all this and Matt likes it, really likes it. The problem is that he's not comfortable with liking it because he fears coming across as weak, wimpy or even girly. He isn't but no one cares about the rambled litany in which he explains being capable of taking care of himself. So he gets more and more quiet.

Quietness evokes a new problem – John takes notice and starts asking questions. Matt does his best to evade them. Introspection isn't something he's keen on. Explaining how much his usual self-assurance self is rattled by John McClane's sheer presence isn't on his list of most favorite things to do either. When evasion doesn't work anymore he goes for distraction. It doesn't only distract John from questioning Matt but also Matt from questioning himself. Awesome sex can do that to you.

The distraction-tactic would have worked for a much longer time if it wasn't for the incident at John's station. Matt doesn't remember when it became a habit for him to show up each Tuesday to pick up John so they could go out for lunch or dinner in a nearby restaurant. One of John's colleagues, Snyder, sees Matt walking into the station and announces loudly, "McClane, your girl is here!"

The busyness lessens and every becomes quiet for a few seconds before the bustle returns to normal levels. Matt is frozen while John glares at Snyder. Matt doesn't go to John like he usually does; instead he waits where he is, fidgeting with his bag and shirt. He can't even come up with a witty or snarky reply which bothers him greatly. He watches John going over to Snyder, taking him aside and speaking a few words. Snyder is very pale afterwards and Matt has trouble trying to suppress a gleeful smile. Though of course it's John who gets the revenge on Matt's account and not Matt himself. His high spirits leave Matt instantly and a foul mood settles in.

When John is finally standing next to him, he raises an eyebrow in an unspoken question. Matt doesn't react, just walks away briskly. John catches up and asks, "Don't tell me you got your panties in a bunch because of Snyder's comment."

They are on the street when Matt whirls around with angry red spots dancing on his cheeks. "My panties? What is this? The biggest asshole contest?"

John's stoic mask is in place, as always, and Matt is frustrated and slowly but inevitably his frustration turns into fury. The older man looks at him, maddening calm he says, "No it isn't. But at least you're reacting and not evading my questions or trying to distract me."

Oh. So John noticed. This could get nasty. Lamely Matt huffs, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Sure, kid." John's eyes sweep over Matt, causing a heavy shiver to roll up and down his spine. It's embarrassing and Matt doesn't know how to hide it. He's rescued from a poor attempt by John's question, "You still wanna go out for dinner?"

Matt shakes his head and they stroll to their shared apartment in silence. On their way they get Chinese take-out and eat it as soon as they are inside their home. Matt waits for John to switch on the TV but he's one unlucky guy tonight. John reaches out and cups Matt's face in his broad palms. Matt swallows hard, the temptation to snuggle his face right into those hands is almost overwhelming. He sobers up when John asks, "Kid, what's up with you? You're ill-tempered and you don't run your mouth 24/7. You're worrying me."

"I'm worrying you?" Matt is flabbergasted. That's not the reaction he expected, not at all.

John nods and Matt is at a loss for words. How could he possibly phrase his problem without John believing that he's a complete idiot, that is? He licks his lips and rubs his face against the hands that are holding it. Damn, he didn't want to act that … that, well just like that but he can't help himself. He knows John knows that something is up so he needs to tell him something. Matt decides to tell him what's wrong or at least a part of what's wrong.

"There's no need to worry, I'm a big boy, you know."

"Yeah, I figured that you're a big boy by now," John replies. His eyes twinkle in amusement and Matt curses inwardly about his lame retort. John goes on, "So, big boy, tell me what's got you all riled up. Is it still about the fire sale and all that happened? You could still go to a counselor."

"Counselor? No, thanks, man. I'm perfectly fine about the fire sale and all that happened. I mean, you saved the world, I followed you around, helped a bit and now everything is almost back to normal."

"You're fine? Do you seriously believe that or is this just another phrase to show how grown up you are?"

Matt is speechless and just gawks at John. Uncomfortably he squirms on the sofa and tries to wrap his mind around what John has said. Snappishly he says, "Yes, I'm sure and I don't need to show that I'm grown up."

"I have a different impression."

"You do? How come?"

"Because of the nightmares."

"Nightmares? What nightmares?" Matt asks confused, his voice getting a little higher in apprehension.

John scrutinizes him and then kisses him firmly. He releases Matt's face and no, Matt totally does not have to squash the urge to follow those hands like a lovesick puppy. If he could stop himself from looking at those hands longingly too, everything would be fine. He can't and John does what he's perfect at – he's that guy who does what's necessary. He scoops Matt up in his arms and places him on his lap. Matt doesn't even try to hinder his body from molding perfectly against John's chest. What's the point in that? His body would betray him anyway.

He closes his eyes and concentrates on feeling the warmth that floods into him from where John's body is close to his. He shifts around a bit until he's comfortable on John's lap when John asks, "You don't remember? Not one of those nightmares?"

Matt shakes his head but keeps his mouth shut. He's not sure what to say nor is he sure if he wants to hear more about his nightmares. John makes the decision for both of them when he explains, "You're screaming and kicking in bed every night. You call out for me and only when I hold you really tight do you calm down. In the beginning you struggle against me every time but in the end you relent. Neither of us would get any sleep if I wasn't holding you. And you seriously tell me you're fine?"

"Yeah, well, I … I, uh, I don't remember having nightmares. I only remember you dragging and pulling at me." Matt leaves out that John curling around him sometimes caused him to feel like he's suffocating. His mind is twirling in an endless stream of disconnected thoughts, all having the same main revelation. What if it wasn't John's protectiveness that left Matt reeling? He gulped in air, suddenly feeling ashamed of having been angry at John.

"Kid? Matt? Come on, talk to me. That's not you here."

Matt snorts about John's statement. No, he doesn't seem to be himself lately. He stays silent and shifts his body so his head comes to a rest right under John's chin. He curls himself up as much as possible and thank god, his leg is up to such a folded up position again. He's so tired all of a sudden and he doesn't want to talk, he doesn't want to think. Maybe the fire sale took a greater toll on him than he was ready to accept.

He is however ready to accept that he needs John to take care of him, protect him. He isn't comfortable with this knowledge but maybe he'll get there. Why should it be so difficult for him when it's so easy for John? Oh right, there's the whole thing with John being his usual superman-like self which has to make for quite some self-confidence and generally comes across much cooler in public. On the other hand … Matt is the one who has wormed himself into John's life, who's now a crucial part of the man's life. Lucy has said that John is so much more at ease since he's been with Matt that it scares her sometimes. So, Matt has to have some qualities besides talking non-stop about whatever floats through his head.

"Done with contemplating the world?" John asks when the silence stretches out between them.

"Not completely but I do feel better about … some stuff."

"Stuff?"

"Yeah, stuff like my feelings being all over the place. Not stuff you wanna talk about." Matt yawns and pulls at one of John's hands to place it on his hipbone. John's arms are like a safe cocoon right now and Matt feels himself relaxing bit by bit. Screw his stupid issues and carpe diem! Or something like that.

John holds him for some time and Matt falls asleep, only to be jostled awake when John carries him over to their bed. He doesn't complain and he doesn't feel uncomfortable, not one single bit. He helps John strip him of his clothes and smiles at him when the older man bends down to capture his lips in a tender goodnight-kiss.

"You gonna be okay with me protecting you tonight? Or are you going to have another freakout about your manhood tomorrow?"

Matt is surprised. Actually he's shocked but who cares about semantics, huh? "Uh, I, um," Matt stammers, collects himself and says, "I'm all for enabling your hero complex."

John laughs, his breath tickles the skin of Matt's neck before John nips there. Eventually they settle into a spooning position and for the first time John's presence doesn't overwhelm him at least not in a negative way. Instead he takes refuge in John's solid body pressed up around his, allowing himself to feel safe and loved.

END