Written for sexy_right's Put a Ring on It challenge over on LJ to celebrate New York's new law.
Edit: Apparently FFNet thinks that separators not put in by their fancy little document editor don't count and should not be there. So. I had to go back and fix that. Sorry to those of you who have me on alert and got an e-mail about the same story more than once. If anyone was confused, I hope this helps.
It all started with a phone call. A friend asking another friend for a favor. No big deal, right?
"Lucy! Long time no threatened by! What can I do ya for?" Matt Farrell asked with a grin, cell phone on speaker as he saved his progress on his current project. He had a deadline coming up faster than John could say "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker," but he always stopped to take Lucy McClane's calls. She'd kick his ass if he didn't, for one, and he was sleeping with her dad, for two, and the man could and had withheld sex for bad behavior.
Matt could practically hear Lucy's eye roll as she replied, "Very funny, Farrell. If Dad hears you say that…"
There was a sheepish grin on Matt's face as he said, "Well, bit late for that, Luce. What's up?" John shot him a mock glare on principle and went back to his paper. He was perusing the article about the recent equal rights law put into effect, coming to a decision about something he'd been thinking over for some time. He made a mental note to talk to Matt about it once he was done with Lucy.
"I need a favor, Matt. Hey, Dad, can you…?" Lucy trailed off, and John grinned, knowing his daughter wanted him out of the way.
"It's alright, Lucy. I need to run an errand real quick anyway," John replied as he stood, grabbing his keys and giving a lingering kiss to Matt before heading out the door. Matt watched him, bemused, before Lucy grabbed his attention again.
"Where's he going? Hmm. Never mind. That favor. I need you to pretend to be my fiancé," Lucy stated, point-blank and blunt as ever. She had to pause for a minute to let him splutter indignantly before she cut him off. "Yeah, I know you're with Dad, but I need your help. My psycho ex-boyfriend is stalking me, and he said that he wouldn't leave me alone until I get married, but I don't want to deal with another 'relationship' right now. You and I are close enough that we get mistaken for a couple all the time. Please, Matt?" Lucy seemed as close to begging as she would ever get, and she was right about all of that. He opened his mouth to ask why she didn't ask her dad for help, but she beat him to it. "And you know I can't ask Dad because he'll kick his ass and arrest him. You know he will."
"Luce, I can't! What am I gonna tell John? How long would this last anyway? What if someone else finds out? Your family will flip and start planning our fucking wedding! You know they've been planning it forever anyway, even though we've told them over and over that we're not together. And Jack! I work with your brother, Lucy. He's become one of my best friends, and I can't lie to him."
"Well, you can tell him then. I'm gonna tell Mom this Saturday what's going on anyway, and you can tell Dad and Jack, so there's no confusion and no planning of our wedding. Mom knows you're a boomerang anyway," Lucy sniped good-naturedly.
A boomerang? The hell? Matt shook his head to clear it of the image before sighing and reluctantly saying, "I'll talk to John about it, but that's all I can promise for now."
"Thanks, Matt. I'll owe you one," Lucy said, the genuine affection in her voice making Matt smile as they exchanged their goodbyes and ended the call.
Matt went back to his coding, absently wondering where John suddenly remembered he needed to be.
John pulled up at the front of Holly Gennero's home, blowing a breath out through his mouth as he tried to convince himself again that this was the right thing to do. He and Holly were not at each other's throats anymore, and their relationship had actually gotten better after he'd saved their daughter from Thomas Gabriel. Lucy helped with that, as did Jack when he realized that he and John had a common friend in Matthew Farrell. Holly stopped hating John, and they had teasingly fallen back into the pattern of their very early relationship before they became lovers, that of extremely close friends.
Whenever one or the other was in a relationship, they would talk about it in the past, and, since repairing their relationship, John and Holly had only talked about Holly's liaisons. John knew he and Matt were close, but he didn't want to jinx it by telling anyone besides his kids that it was as serious as he and Matt knew it was. With that new law going into effect, though, John would be able to take that final step he had been contemplating for some time. Before he even thought of using the rings he'd bought on a whim, however, he needed to tell Holly. They'd made a pact when talking about their love lives that if there was a person that they loved enough to marry, they would talk it over with each other as fair warning.
When Holly opened the door and saw John standing there with the same expression he wore whenever he was going to tell her something that he thought she might object to, she shot him an exasperated look while inwardly laughing. If the conversation they were about to have was going to go the way she thought it might, she would have a hard time keeping a straight face. She'd seen the paper that day, including the article about the new law, and she hoped the next bit of time would include John admitting to his love for the sweet, if eccentric, young hacker that was friends with her son and nearly a brother to her daughter.
Once inside with the requisite pleasantries of small talk and refreshments were out of the way, John decided that the blunt approach would work best with his ex-wife as he stated matter-of-factly, "I want to marry Matt."
Holly smiled wryly, if affectionately. "I thought as much. I'll hold back the 'finally' I'm thinking right now," she said with a small smirk.
"You were just waiting for this weren't you, Hol?" John said, his own look just as wry as Holly's. Another smirk from behind her glass as she took a drink was his only answer. "You're okay with this?" he asked, already having an inkling as to the answer.
Holly put her drink down, her face completely serious as she replied, "I won't lie and say I'm not concerned." She held up a hand to forestall his objection as she continued, "Concerned for you, for the problems you might face, John, not concerned about you. I know you love each other; it's in the way you talk about him." Holly paused, and her impish smile as she paused set off John's internal warning alarms before she continued, "And the way he talks about you." At John's slightly wide-eyed look, Holly let out sound suspiciously like a giggle as she said, "Oh, John, you know he's friends with Jack. Did you really think I'd not meet a friend of Jack's who just happened to have saved my daughter and the country with my ex-husband?"
Shortly after that, their conversation ended, and John got up to leave. Holly met him halfway, pulling him into a tight hug. John returned it, pressing a kiss to her cheek as they parted and allowing her to do the same. They looked into each other's eyes, silently communicating, and John's smile was once more wry but honest as he answered her warning verbally, "I promise I'll take care of him, Hol. He was right there when everything went down. I doubt that's going to scare him off, but I'll make sure to let him take care of me, too."
As he got into his car, he dialed Matt's cell number, grinning when it was answered before it had a chance to ring twice. "John! Where'd you go? You'll never guess what your daughter wants me to do," Matt said, his tone at once conspiratorial, fond, and exasperated, a feat John thought only Matt could accomplish. "It's crazy. Not too crazy that I'm not thinking about it, but I gotta talk to you when you get home first," Matt added hastily before John could ask.
John took a moment to savor the fact that Matt used the word "home" before replying, "Yeah, I've gotta talk to you about something, too."
"I didn't do it! Did I?" Matt's retorted instantly before sounding unsure. John couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him at the answer, and he knew Matt planned it that way by the laugh he earned in return. "Well, if I did, you can punish me for it, right, John?" Matt teased, and John could practically hear the mock-leer that had settled over Matt's face as the hacker said the words.
"Right, Kid. See you soon," John said before hurriedly pressing the "End" button, cutting off Matt's protest over being called "Kid."
Matt and John didn't jump right into their respective news right away. They had a leisurely dinner and argued good-naturedly over which movie to watch before settling on a movie chosen at random by Matt closing his eyes and pointing. John pretended not to notice that Matt's eyes were cracked open so he could see the movie to which he was "blindly" pointing. As Matt settled into John's arms when the title sequence began, John couldn't help thinking that right then would be a great time to bring up his visit to Holly, but Matt beat him to his story of his day after they parted.
"After you left, Lucy told me that her psycho ex-boyfriend wouldn't leave her alone, and he kept saying that he wouldn't let up until she got married, so she asked me to pose as her fiancé. She didn't want to mention this while you were there since she knew that you'd want to go over there and kill him or arrest him. She said arrest, I say kill. Anyway, it wouldn't be for long, and you wouldn't have to worry about anything because she's like a sister to me, not to mention Jack would totally crash all of my servers with a hidden backdoor loophole he invented in two seconds flat for fucking around with his sister and his dad, which, by the way, I invited him over for dinner this Saturday so we can talk this out and figure out a game pl—" Matt was abruptly cut off when John put a hand over his mouth to stop the sheer flood of words pouring out of it.
Amusement and horror warred for dominance within John, and he found himself absurdly grateful that Matt couldn't see his face as he tried to think up a suitable response aside from something involving his cold, dead body. John willed his body to unclench from the horror-struck tenseness that had immediately permeated it once Matt's babble had sunk in, and he pulled Matt closer to him, practically hauling him into John's lap. "Whadya want me to say, Matty? Not sure how I feel about my own fi—lover pretending to belong to my daughter, even if everyone will know it's fake. I need to tell Holly, you know that?" John eventually said, fighting to keep his voice even. "You sure I can't just shoot her not-boyfriend?" he quipped half-heartedly.
Matt's laugh was weak at best. He recognized that John had problems with the situation, but Matt saw no other option. He was going to pretend that he was Lucy's fiancé, and John was going to pretend to like it while he kept secret the fact that he wanted Matt to be his fiancé.
Lucy and Matt's "engagement" was announced to the family that Sunday at Holly's parents' house. The Gennero's had invited their daughter and her family, ex-husband included since they always liked him, even when Holly hadn't, to one last family get together before summer was officially over. The invitations were sent out by e-mail since nearly no one in the family answered their mail anymore except John, and Holly made sure to remind her parents to send one to Lucy's boyfriend, "unaware" that the two ended their relationship a week prior to the event.
At half past noon, everyone was already assembled except Lucy, so when she showed up with another young man in tow, everyone looked shocked. Matt just looked sheepish while Lucy looked coolly defiant. "I thought you were dating Trent!" Holly's mother exclaimed, shooting a wide-eyed stare between her granddaughter and the young man to whom she had sent the invitation. Holly's father was quiet, his own eyes darting between Lucy, Matt, and the rest of the family before coming to rest on John. The other man was markedly silent as well, but Holly's father was drawn from his musings as to why at the sound of Lucy's voice.
"How can I be dating him when I'm engaged to Matt?" Lucy asked, her chin rising in a gesture reminiscent of her father at his most stubborn. The shocked silence that followed was broken soon after by surprised laughter and congratulations from Jack, Holly, and Holly's mother while John and his former father-in-law were still silent. The groom-to-be was also quiet and looked as if he wanted the well-manicured lawn to swallow him up whole while the obviously ex-boyfriend had turned a rather unattractive shade of puce and shot the couple a furiously resigned look before stalking off to his car and speeding away.
Those with Gennero blood in their veins fell silent as John came over to the knot surrounding Lucy. He hugged his baby girl tightly, pressing a kiss to her forehead as they parted before going over to Matt. Putting both hands on Matt's shoulders, John looked the young man in the eye for a long moment as everyone else around seemed to hold his or her breath. The tension sailed out of the area as John pulled Matt into a hug as well, hand coming up to cup the back of his head as he leaned down to whisper in the young man's ear.
To everyone else, it seemed as if John was warning Matt. Both men's bodies were as tense as bowstrings, and their words were completely inaudible to everyone but themselves. "I don't know how long I can take this, John… It's only been twenty minutes, and I already wanna run," Matt whispered, voice panicked and shaken.
John's grip tightened on the young man as he whispered his reply, everyone once more thinking John was threatening his daughter's fiancé. "Don't take too long, Matty. I have a question of my own to ask you once this is done." John pulled back, his patented wry smirk on his face as he held Matt at arms' length once more and said loud enough for everyone to hear, "You remember that, Matthew." Matt gulped over-dramatically in response, and what little tension was left over completely disappeared.
The charade lasted exactly four and a half weeks before crashing down around their ears. John came home late from work on a Friday night because a group of eighteen-year-old kids decided it would be a great idea to rob a liquor store the he passed on the way home. What the three didn't count on was the guy behind the counter actually using the hidden gun. Two of the kids were dead by the time they got to the hospital from gunshot wounds to the thigh that hit their artery enough to kill them, and the third had his left kneecap shattered by the impact of the bullet.
The last injury had him flashing back to Matt's injury at the hands of Thomas Gabriel and the long months of physical therapy that followed to make sure that the hacker would walk again, let alone walk without a cane or a limp. That alone made him upset and irritable enough that Scalvino told him to just do his paperwork in the morning and go home. Add that to the tension hanging around him from Lucy and Matt's "engagement" and John was primed to blow.
When John arrived at his and Matt's house, technically his alone until he got that paperwork to add Matt's name to the deed, he expected a worried and frazzled Matt to meet him at the door while the smell of cooking food wafted to the front door from the kitchen. What actually greeted him was a veritable wall of sound. Lucy, Matt, the Genneros—Holly included—, and Jack were in the front room of the house, and the coffee table was covered with flyers and brochures for, from what John could tell in his split second glance, dinner venues, dress shops, and florists among others.
No one but Matt noticed his arrival at first. Matt's gaze locked onto John's, longing and love showing clearly within them before he had to turn away in case someone saw him looking as he had had to for what seemed forever for the two men. John looked away as well, fighting to tamp down his emotions before anyone else noticed he was home. Out of the corner of his eye, John caught the date on the calendar. August 4th. Their third anniversary as a couple.
That was it.
That was the tiny little crack that completely shattered John McClane's not so infinite patience. Deliberately slamming the door shut as hard as he could, John took great delight in watching everyone but Matt jump in fright at his sudden, loud entrance. In the silence that followed, John's tired, angry voice was clearly heard, though he did not raise his volume. "Let me explain something to you. This," John gestured to the papers strewn about and plans being discussed, "is not happening. My daughter is not marrying Matthew Farrell." Ignoring the outraged sounds coming from Holly's mother, who had been doing most of the planning, and the shocked looks from everyone else, John stepped close to Matt and hauled him off of his perch on the arm of the sofa near Lucy.
Holly's father moved to intervene, thinking John was going to harm the young man when his daughter's arm shot out to stop him. "No, Dad. Just wait," Holly said quietly.
John, either ignoring or missing the exchange, held Matt tightly with one hand wrapped punishingly tight around each bicep as he looked into his eyes and said, "Lucy isn't marrying Matthew because I am." John was absently aware of more shocked words and looks sent his way, but the only person who mattered to him at that moment was Matt. "Whadya say, Matty? Want to take advantage of that new law?" John asked his lover quietly, voice uncommonly gentle and unsure.
Matt stood there for a moment in shocked silence, eyes nearly as wide as the plates on the kitchen table, before he blinked rapidly and looked over at Holly. At the woman's tearful nod, Matt turned back to John and, breaking John's hold, threw his arms around John's neck as the two of them shared their first kiss in weeks. Their mouths opened as one as John's hand came up to tangle in Matt's hair while the other pulled him close by a firm press at the small of his back. Their tongues slid wetly against each other, heedless of their audience until the two men had to break apart to breathe. "Holy shit, McClane. Not quite the proposal I was expecting!" Matt exclaimed breathlessly.
John noticed, though, "That's not an answer, Matty."
Matt gave John a nearly blinding grin as he said, "Yippee ki-yay, McClane! Yes!" At this response, John pulled Matt into another kiss as Lucy, Jack, and Holly cheered loudly while Holly's parents looked on, bemused. Holly's mother wasn't sure what to do with her wedding plans now while Holly's father went over all of the interactions the two men had had with each other over the short time that he had been around them lately, soundly kicking himself mentally as he noticed subtle clues that he had dismissed at the time.
John broke the kiss, and the first true smile in weeks blossomed over his face. He hugged Matt close to him before disengaging and going over to hug his family in turn. When he got to Lucy, he held her the tightest while whispering in her ear, "Lucy, honey, if you ever do anything like this again, I won't hesitate to knock some sense into you, baby girl or not." He felt her nod before he turned back to Matt. Hooking an arm around Matt's waist, John pressed a kiss to his hair as he teased his fiancé, "Never say that again."
Laughter was heard around the room as new plans were made, this time for Matthew Farrell and John McClane's wedding.