notes: Not mine.
We Save Our Worst Ideas for Last
The first attack Matt Farrell sees is in front of a sandwich shop in Harlem.
It's early November, three years after the Fire Sale, and what he really wants right now is a chicken curry sandwich with extra mayo. Matt is at the register when a girl outside is pulled down by what is apparently not a homeless guy. He stares, unable to really process what he is seeing, as the very-not-a-homeless-guy bites deeply into the girl's jugular and tears. Blood comes out like water from a punctured hose, and Matt thinks, hey, jugular vein. He can't hear anything through the glass, but he has a good imagination, and the shop window – which covers pretty much an entire wall – makes it look like it's something he's seeing on a fucking enormous High Definition television screen. It's not as if you can get more high definition than real life.
It doesn't last long – a few minutes, maybe, and while that may be worrying in other circumstances, there aren't many ways to react to open-street cannibalism than slack-jawed incredulity. A guy – cop, he's wearing the uniform – screams at the assailant, who just keeps chewing like he – it – he hasn't eaten in months. Maybe years. The cop pulls out a gun and shoots, twice – one shot misses, hitting the girl in what Matt thinks is her eye, but he doesn't have a clear view from where he's standing, but the other shot does hit; the assailant's head jerks, and he slumps over the other body. Matt stares, feeling like he's not really standing here, like he's watching all this over his own shoulder.
"So are you gonna pay up, or what?" The cashier looks supremely unmoved by the scene outside.
Matt snaps out of it. The world seems to slide back into focus, and suddenly he feels sick.
"Th – did you just see that?" he asks, feeling like maybe he has a panic attack coming on.
"Sure," the cashier says, and Matt has never seen another human being look so bored in his life. "Seen worse."
"Where?" And Matt feels like he really can't be blamed if his voice cracks a little there. The cashier shrugs.
"You ever watch the TV, babe?"
He calls John McClane.
Almost two months later and he's staring at the door of his apartment, stomach like a nest of spiders.
He hasn't boarded it up or anything, because the fire escape looks like it might break apart if he tries to use it, and shutting off your only functional way out is beyond fucking stupid. (Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone screaming, or the mindless, rattling groan of the recently not-so-departed, and thinks that maybe he should do it anyway.) He's on the fourth floor; if any of the undead make it to his door, they're not likely to come in groups, and Matt may not be John McClane, but he's still confident that he can take on a few of them.
He has a shovel. It's pretty new. Solid. Matt got it at a gardening store the day after the sandwich shop incident; it has a long, green metal shaft, and there's a sticker on it that says HAPPY GARDENING.
Sure, Matt thinks. Happy fucking gardening.
There's a knock on the door, and he gets up, tense. His hands don't shake as he turns the lock, and he opens the door an inch and a half with a weird, crawling feeling in his stomach.
"Yeah?" he says, steady. Looters don't knock, he tells himself.
"I'm looking for a Daisy Duke," and that's McClane, that's definitely McClane, with his trademark Irreverent Asshole in Face of Certain Doom-attitude. Matt feels like his knees have spontaneously melted, and tries not to lean against the wall too much when he takes the safety chain off the door.
"Yeah, well," he says, unable to keep the shit-eating grin off his face, "dick."
McClane looks like he's been hit by a bus. (Knowing McClane, he probably did.) He smiles wide, and his mouth is bloody – it's like someone took a red marker to his face and went to town. Matt looks away and down. McClane has four shopping bags in his hands, and for a moment, Matt wonders how he managed to get to Matt's apartment without losing them or getting hugely fucking mauled by zombies, but then he realizes that, yeah, he probably doesn't want to know.
"Happy fucking New Year, kid."
They celebrate – and that's using the word pretty loosely – with two warm, flat beers McClane's found God knows where, talking shit and sharing smiles. Matt's apartment feels more like home than it has for months, and it's funny, because he's never thought of himself as a romantic or anything, but when McClane puts a hand on his shoulder, probably more gentle than he should have had the capability of being, Matt has to look away and swallow hard to keep from saying something hugely stupid.
January first arrives cold and bright and too early.
Matt's neck hurts like a bitch from sleeping in one of the living room chairs and his mouth tastes like old shoes. McClane's already up, cleaning his gun on the coffee table. (This is another one of those things that would seem completely fuckbasket insane coming from anyone else, but from McClane it's almost normal, domestic.) His hands are deft and callused and worn from years of practice, and if Matt was a girl – which he definitely isn't, thanks, shut the fuck up – he might've said something like, I like your hands, or, What else can you do with those fingers?
Or maybe something worse.
McClane notices Matt looking at him and grins. "Morning, princess."
"Yeah, that's – that's hilarious," Matt grouches, trying to work some of the stiffness out of his shoulders without much success. McClane looks way too amused from where he's sitting, and Matt thinks, fuck it. It's too early for this shit, and if McClane wants to be a smug asshole, he's going to give him something to smile about.
He reaches across the coffee table – the chair wobbles precariously, and shit, this is going to get awkward – and yanks McClane into the space between them.
In retrospect, it's not so much stupid as it is extremely fucking suicidal. Even if he hadn't been the kind of guy who ate terrorists for breakfast – which he is – John McClane is still a pretty big guy, and Matt is pretty sure that this is going to end with someone's fist down someone's throat. He just wishes he'd thought of this before he tried to kiss him.
It's not much, as kisses go – just a short brush of lips with too much force behind it – and when it's over, McClane has that look in his eyes that makes him look old. (The worst part is that, yeah, Matt would still hit that.)
"You sure that's a good idea, kid?" McClane says, voice raspy and low in his throat, and Matt thinks that he's probably never been more sure of anything in his life.
"Well," he says, grinning, and it feels too bright, too raw, "for all we know, we could be the last people on Earth."
It's a lie, of course. McClane snorts, seeing it for what it is. "Is that right."
"That's right," Matt says. It comes out confident. McClane has the intense kind of look on his face that he usually saves for when he's blowing up terrorists or the living dead.
"Yippie kay-yay, motherfucker," he says, wryly.
They meet somewhere in the middle.