AN: Written because procrastination is my favorite hobby, and it bothered me that Shannon really did leave Steve, even though (in my opinion) it wasn't actually Steve's fault.
Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Matt knew his sister. Of course he did: they practically raised each other, what with an absent father and a pining mother. He could go years without seeing her and still feel completely comfortable in her presence. He could all but read her mind, and she his, so he knew as he watched her sit red- and hollow-eyed on the plane back to America, home-sweet-home, that talking to her about anything Dunham related was a no-go.
Not that he could blame her. He bounced Ben, the nephew he barely knew, on his lap, and he tried very fucking hard not to think about the mates he'd left behind. Pete was gone. That much he knew. He hadn't even known Pete for a year, and he still knew the man well enough to know that he'd said goodbye. Matt wanted to hate his sister for coming, for causing Pete's death, but if it was her fault, it was his fault, and Bovver's, and none of them could deal with that on their respective consciences. No, Matt had to accept the death of his best friend somehow and move forward with whatever was left of his life.
Which was nothing, really. Shannon had Ben, she had their dad, and she had Steve waiting for her if she chose to go back to him. Matt had a soiled reputation and rusty writing skills, the knowledge of how to fight and when to run, and not much more.
Ben snuggled into Matt's shirt—he'd ditched the bloody coat in the trash, because that would have gone over with airport security like a ton of bricks—and fell asleep, his sweet face calm and innocent. The poor boy didn't know that he wasn't going to see his dad again, or his uncle—and just like that Matt was thinking about Pete. He couldn't help it.
He liked Pete more than Steve—that was just a fact of his life. Steve was a good husband to his sister, a good father to his nephew, and he respected him for that. But as a person, he'd pretty much disliked his sister's husband until the man confronted him in the Abbey that his past was going to fuck him over, and then stood up for him against Pete when he'd been lying bloody and confused on the ground. In that moment, he couldn't really dislike Steve anymore, and that was a confusing feeling. He knew that most of his worry over Steve getting stabbed was for Pete's sake, and Shannon's, but a little of that worry was his own, which surprised him. So he didn't hate Steve, and he didn't like him, but the man wasn't a bad guy.
Pete was a completely different story. He hadn't liked the other man when he first met him. Pete was loud, obnoxious, and annoying. But when Pete decided that tolerating a yank wasn't such a bad thing after all, he'd turned out okay. Matt had seen a new side of the man; Pete was loyal, brave, and sure of himself. He'd laugh just as soon as he'd punch you in a face, and that wasn't such a bad quality. Matt had decided Pete was an okay kind of guy—despite his clear-cut hatred of all things journalist—and that maybe being friends with him wasn't a terrible thing.
So when Steve had attacked Pete for letting Matt get hurt, well, it just didn't seem like he had any choice but to step in and defend Pete. He hadn't expected to end up slammed against the wall with his brother-in-law screaming at him, but, well, things rarely turned out as he expected them to: like Harvard, case in point. Pete took him in, defended him against his best friend, and Matt knew that guys like Pete were one in a million. Swapping loyalties from his father and journalism to the GSE hadn't been too tough after that.
He should have seen that he was taking Bov's spot; Bovver couldn't help being a jealous prick, it was just who he was. That Bov would get jealous of Matt's stunningly easy friendship with Pete was a given, if only Matt had cared to see it. Of course, Pete hadn't cared to see it, either, so none of them were really at fault.
If only Shannon hadn't told Steve that he was a journalist; no, if only his dad hadn't visited at all. The man had been completely absent during his and Shannon's childhood; why he have to go and turn into super-Grandpa now? Then Matt would never have been talked into visiting the Times, and Steve would never have found out that Matt had once been determined to follow in his father's footsteps, and Steve wouldn't be lying half-dead in the hospital, Pete wouldn't be lying dead somewhere in some morgue, and Shannon, Matt, and Ben wouldn't be on this bloody plane across the Atlantic going to some home neither of them belonged in anymore.
First things first, he had to fix things at Harvard. His life here in America and his life over that, across the pond, were two completely separate things. He wouldn't mix them—not when he found out Dave and all of them were in jail, not when he thought about Pete's kids discovering the death of their favorite teacher, not when Steve was released from the hospital and went quietly back to work. Not when Terry somehow got his address—probably from Steve, because Matt had sent a few letters; he couldn't stand to just abandon the man who'd lost everything in one fell swoop—and sent ahead Bov's obit. He did bring the lessons he'd learn there with him, though. Beating the shit out of Jeremy VanHolden wouldn't get him far in this world, but he had a few tricks up his sleeve. When Bov hadn't been off hating him they'd made a pretty sly team, and they'd come up with one too many cunning plans for that side of him to be lost.
Yeah, he got settled back into Harvard, but then he had to settle the unfinished business of Shannon and Ben.
Sending them back across the pond wasn't going to be easy for two reasons. One, Shannon still wasn't talking about Steve, still wasn't ready to; Matt didn't think she ever would be. Two, he saw Ben nearly every day now. The kid had grown on him and he didn't know how he'd cope with seeing him only once or twice a year, but hey. Maybe he'd move back to jolly old someday when the memories weren't so fresh and sharp and painful. Truth was, Ben missed his dad; Shannon and Matt could both see it, though Shannon liked to pretend she couldn't. The kid needed his dad, and Matt knew from his few feeble attempts at communication that Steve needed his family back.
They'd just gotten Ben down for a nap when Matt confronted his sister, handing her a steaming cup of tea and sitting down across from her on the couch. "It wasn't his fault."
"Whose?" she asked, playing oblivious, but her eyes had narrowed just enough that he knew she knew. He was pretty sure she knew he knew, too.
"Cut the crap," he advised. "I know you told Steve you would leave him if he put himself at risk; he never begrudged you that, and I won't either. But Shannon, Steve was protecting me. He wasn't out looking for a fight. None of us knew that Millwall would come find us and attack," he told her, skipping around the fact that Bov had led the rabid dogs right to their door—that would only confirm her belief that all firms were bloodthirsty and traitorous. "He told me just before it happened that he would never do this to you, Shannon, and he meant it. Whatever happened was my fault, so please, don't take it out on him."
She'd started crying at some point during his speech, and fuck, he hated seeing his sister cry. She reached out and took hold of his arm. "You just don't understand, Matt," she whispered, and he frowned.
"I do, though, Shannon. I mess things up with you and him; I always have." She was shaking her head, determined to skirt around his logic, so Matt switched tactics. "Ben needs his dad."
She was sobbing in earnest now, but he couldn't hug her. He needed her mind to decide he was right, and for that she needed to face the truth head on. "I can't go back."
Matt shrugged. "He needs you. You're enough like me that you know what that means, right?" The most important lesson he'd learned from his time with the GSE was that you never left your mates unguarded. Protecting them was the best part of fighting. Shannon had protected Matt through their childhoods; she wouldn't fail to protect Ben and Steve now. Not when it mattered. "He lost everything, Shannon." Matt left the room, knowing better than to stay. He was unsurprised but incredibly proud when she packed up and left the next morning, telling him to watch Ben for a couple of days.
He got a single email from Steve the next day, and the two words warmed his heart: Thank you. Pete had died protecting the broken pieces of his brother's family; Matt had put them back together again. All was as it needed to be in the world once again.
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