Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

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Original Fic: The Problem With Matt

Title: The Problem with Matt (1 of 2)
Character/Series: William Johnson the Hitman of Silas and the Hitman
Rating: PG-13 for language, implied violence, and one m/m kiss
Word Count: ~3000 words
Summery: In desperate need for help, Matt meets and old friend at a bar and asks for what he needs.
Author's Note: This is for mysocalledhell, who won my 25,000 hit kiriban on Y!Gallery. Her prompt was "I want to be the object of your passion, but it's hopeless." I only promised 1000 words, but it turned into about 7000, with a nice little cliffhanger in the middle.

Matt Conner opened the doorway of the Skye Over Dell, and walked into his past. The place hadn't changed for two decades. Dark corners lay all about the old neighborhood pub, smoky wood beams, farm implements and grainy black and white pictures hung on the rough paneled walls. People filled it as well, young and old, dark and light, but most were dressed in utilitarian clothing. Kids ran about with families that met over beer and burgers and the best chips to be found. Matt remembered sitting under one of the corner tables as a sulking kid when his mom wouldn't let him order a root beer float.

Still sticky with sweat and grimy from staying late at the construction site, Matt edged through the crowd toward the restroom.

"Hey there, how're yer doin', lad?" called out old Guy Hamilton.

"All right," Matt answered, moving over to the table with four white-haired patrons. "Sorry, just got off work."

"Y've grown to be such a big strappin' man, Matthew. How's yer sweet Mary and the kiddies?" Guy's wife Biddy smiled gently up at Matt, and laid a cool hand as dry and smooth as sanded plaster on his big, calloused one, unmindful of the smears of dried cement, dirt, and sweat.

Matt forced a smile. "Fine, Biddy. We're doin' just fine. Lily's 'bout to graduate from art school, even has a job lined up at an ad agency in town. Hank's runnin' in the UChicago track meet this Saturday, and Sam's made the Loyola varsity baseball team. The scholarships are a godsend. Mary..." Matt faltered as a flood of rage ran through him and drained him dry and tired. "Mary's makin' muffins, cookies, and her fourteen carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for the bake sale on Sunday. We're good."

"Good, good." She patted his hand and nodded. "Good to know that the Lord takes care of the faithful."

Matt withdrew his hand gently. Then he slipped away to the restroom, where he washed his hands and face. By the time he got out Harry O'Connell, the barkeep, had already poured his usual draft and set it on the bar. Matt scooped it up and took a long, grateful gulp and looked around. The person he was meeting wasn't there yet, and Matt swallowed his disappointment with the other half of the beer. Wordlessly, Harry took the empty and put another on the bar, but there was something watchful in the set in the ex-policeman's shoulders that made Matt go sit by one of the tables by the boards rather than on one of the bar stools.

Matt sat, lost in thought, eyes on his beer. Minutes later, a light touch on his shoulder startled him so badly he nearly fell off his chair.

"Y'look like yer tryin' ta tie yourself inta a knot, there, Matt. What the hell's got yer ass so tight?"

Chance Brennan's brown eyes danced in laughter, as Matt growled, lunged out of the chair and swung at him. Chance caught Matt's fist in midair, redirecting it so that he spun Matt half-around; but then Chance grabbed him around the chest and hugged him. Matt twisted and ended up yanking Chance's lean form close while pounding his back, but then let go to step back to see his childhood friend in his entirety.

Faded jeans and a loose blue t-shirt clad a man of average height, average build, a thinning hairline, and looks that were certainly not as remarkable as Matt's own. Matt had always taken after the dark Irish heritage of his mother, with green eyes, black as night hair, and smooth skin that only reluctantly took a gold hue after a few burns on summer construction sites. In the last ten years, he'd taken on weight and his features had coarsened with a daily diet of sun, wind, and dust; but he was still strong, still had all his hair, and still kept up with the younger guys at the work site. Yet he'd be the first to admit that, nearing forty, he was feeling older and slower all the time.

"Glad you're not wearing that godawful suit you usually wear. What's the occasion for dressin' down?" Matt asked, as they sat down. Harry came over with a pint of Guinness, the head thick and pale, and set it by Chance.

As always, Chance touched a fingertip to the foam, drawing a 'C' on the top. "'s Friday. We usually meet up in the middle of the week, so it's dress down day at the office. That's all."

Matt nearly choked on his beer. Ever since high school, Chance had always been the crazy one, the scrawny scrapper, finding fights, taking on the bigger boys, and ending up bruised, bloody, and beaten. Matt had avoided the fighting when he'd first gotten Mary pregnant in high school; but with his looks and strength, he'd been expecting it when Scott Brennan's gang recruiters had come by to make him.

Scott was Chance's uncle, the neighborhood's family head. Ever since Chance's father had died in mob action and his mother had drunk herself to death, Scott had acted as his guardian. From Chance's stories, he was a remote man, so busy with his business deals that the boy never saw him.

Matt had refused the recruiters, thinking of his parents, of Mary, of their unborn child. Matt had nearly died that night, and Chance found him in a dumpster after searching frantically all night. That hadn't scared Matt, that had just been what it was like being a big, strappin' boy on the bad side of town.

What scared him was waking up in a hospital bed two days later to headlines trumpeting Scott Brennan's death by car bomb. Brennan had been a big deal in the neighborhood, someone everyone relied on or simply dealt with and tolerated. That he was gone seemed impossible, and, worse yet, that was the day Chance disappeared from high school. Vanished without a trace. Rumors ran rampant, but in the end, Matt had seen Chance's pictures on local milk cartons for the next two years.

Matt was never approached again by the local mob, even after an older cousin had taken over the organization. He'd dropped out of high school and just worked at construction through boom and bust. The fact that various members of the old gang were found dead outside his locked apartment on two separate occasions, only made him all the more glad that he could just work, love Mary, and raise his three kids in peace.

Chance had appeared again two years ago. He'd shown up when Matt came off work one evening. and he wore a brown suit just a little big in the shoulders. Very plain it was, with white shirt, solid tie, and black shoes. He asked if Matt wanted to go out for a drink and watch some football together. They had, and after that, they met up on the fifteenth of each month, always at a different bar around the city. Chance would name the bar the morning of the day they met. Some days someone would just hand a slip of paper to Matt's site boss. Recently, Chance had taken to text messaging the name to Matt's phone, but the number of origin kept changing.

Chance had only missed one of their meetings. He never specified a place; and at the next meeting had shown up looking fifteen pounds lighter and as pale as a fish. He blamed the flu, but Matt had never seen the flu leave someone limping.

So Matt had his suspicions, but the idea of an office that had dress-down days didn't fit any of them.

Chance glanced up, his brown eyes wary. "What?"

"Uhm... uh. You've got an office?" Matt asked the first thing that came to his mind.

"Yeah. You didn't think I was wearing that stupid suit to go lifeguard at some pool, or hammer shit, didja?" Chance said with a grin.

"Wouldn't last a minute," Matt said with an equal grin. "Probably have AC, too, you wuss."

"You bet, better'n frying my balls in this heat. Askin' so you can see the secretaries? Mary'd kill you. Hell, she'd kill me if I dragged you into an office. You know how much you hate desk jobs."

Matt nodded frowning, trying not to cry at the thought of Mary attempting to kill Chance to protect him.

"What's up, Matt?" Chance asked. "You're acting like Mary..." Suddenly Chance shut his mouth.

Matt nodded and stared at the table. He couldn't look at his old friend to say it. "She's got ovarian cancer. It'll be at least half a mil to do surgery, chemo, and follow up. I don't got the insurance or the money to cover. I opted out of insurance to make our rent this year, and...shit."

He put his forehead on the table, and tried not to feel it when Chance's hand lightly covered one of his.

"I'll give you the money."

"What do I have to do for it?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all."


"I'll just get it to you."

"What do you have to do for it?"

"Go to my office with AC, sit at a desk for ten hours, rinse and repeat." Chance's voice turned cool, nearly cold.

Matt sat up, capturing the hand that was on his, and Chance let him have it, unresisting.

The hand was deeply scarred. Lines twisted across the palm and knit the flesh below the thumb, knuckles smashed so many times they lay flat or crooked, and the fingertips were pale and as smooth as glass. Matt looked from the telltale hand up at Chance, and Chance looked away.

"Hey, I'd...I'll give you my life. Take me as a scapegoat or something," Matt pleaded. "There's talk that the company's gonna fold with this goddamned recession, and I'd rather die than..."

Chance's eyes widened. "What the hell? No. That's -- n -- o -- no, fucker. It's just money. What I got, you have. No strings attached. And Mary and the kids are gonna need you, idiot. You have to...shit."

And that was when Matt realized that Chance knew what he was offering. "You are a hitman, aren't you, Chance?"

Chance got up and backed away, and he spit out, "I...shit...Don't do this. I can't...I'll have to... Fuck off, Matt."

Harry at the bar was watching them, idly drying a glass.

Frowning, Matt let go of Chance's hand and made a placating gesture. "Right. Shit. I just..." He closed his eyes. "I won' more. I won't push no more."

Gingerly, as if he were poised for action or to run away, Chance sat back down in his chair. Harry turned away to serve another customer, and Matt sighed in relief before turning back to his friend.

In a very low voice, Matt took his courage in both hands and said, "I know you, Chance. You can't hide from me, and I can't...can't let you give me that money w'out me givin' you something in return. Kids're outta the house, and Mary's got her volunteer work..."

Chance's hand landed on Matt's arm again, shutting him up. When Matt looked up it was into eyes so wide that he could almost fall into them. Chance was shaking his head already, and Matt felt his stomach drop. He'd done so much to nerve himself up to this, remembering dozens of looks he'd seen when Chance thought he wasn't looking, of hard-ons in the locker room shower, and of touches no other man ever gave Matt the way Chance did.

It made Matt sick to the stomach to contemplate. He was straight. Plumb line straight and also damned to Hell if he did this thing he was thinking. He loved his wife more than anything, but he'd do anything, take anything, to keep her safe. If this was what it took, he could do it. It didn't hurt that it was Chance that would do it to him, either, someone he knew and trusted. Chance would never hurt him, he'd spilled so much blood already to keep Matt safe, that Matt felt like he owed Chance his life already.

What were a few more hemorrhoids in the face of that?

"Think about it?" Matt pleaded. "For you, for Mary, I will. Any way you want me. Just...tell me where and when, that's all."

Chance's eyes turned so dark, Matt swallowed and had to look away. Then those glass smooth fingertips brushed his arm, and Matt went stone-still to hide a shudder.

"I'll think about it," Chance said, eyes now on his beer. "Give ya the money, and we'll talk about the rest of this crap another time. It's...too much for me to work through here." There was a long pause and Matt looked at Chance just as Chance's eyes came up, and his voice went flat, so uninflected that he wondered where the boyhood accent had flown. "And just so you know. I can hide from you. I can just disappear like before, and you'd never see me again."

Matt nodded, wrestling with words and his knowledge of his friend. "You can," Matt said quietly. "But I don't think you want to."

"No," whispered Chance, defeat and something like despair drawing down his mouth. "You're right. But sometimes I think you'd rather I did. Can you just...wait for me?"

"Yes," Matt said, feeling relief wash over him along with a tinge of guilt at feeling the relief. He really did owe the man. "I could wait forever."

Chance quirked a smile, and Matt wondered how much of his feelings showed.

"All right then." Chance's lips grew thin. He pulled a worn and wrinkled checkbook from a back pocket. "How much ya need?"

"Twenty five percent up front, and then we pay monthly for five years," Matt whispered, and he thought he'd faint when he saw how many zeroes Chance wrote on the check. "That's too much," he protested when he saw the figures.

"Keep the rest, make the payments, an' keep the interest so you're covered if they fuckin' over charge ya," Chance said brusquely. "I'm not..."

"You're not gonna to show up again, are you?"

Chance glanced at Harry, who was just putting away a cell phone. "No. I'm not." His voice dropped. "There's 'nuff for your check, so go ahead and let the police see it, no strings to me."

That was when Matt heard the soft wail of sirens in the distance.

"I'll cover," he said automatically, remembering countless times in high school as the principle barreled down on a fight that Chance managed to escape, and Matt was left to explain.

"Thanks, Matt."

To Matt's utter shock, Chance bent and touched strong harsh-with-stubble lips to his own sweat-salted and beer-scented mouth.

Then he was gone.

Matt swore, erased all the messages on his cell phone, and prayed.

When the police arrived and started asking him about one William Johnson, Matt was able to answer that he'd had no clue that that was the man's name, and let the police come to the conclusion that he must have been given a pseudonym. He'd vehemently sworn up and down that he was shocked and pissed off about the fucking kiss, which was all the other bar patrons remembered, and had been just as surprised as they were about the check. They'd held it for a week, but when nothing illegal was found connected to the account, they'd reluctantly given it back.

The check didn't bounce.

A week later, after tears, worries, a good screaming fight, and the making up after, Matt and Mary got started on what they needed to do.

Matt lost his job when the construction company that employed him folded, but he found himself almost glad to be out of a job. It took so much time and effort to get Mary to her surgery, physical therapy, the chemo, and the follow-up checks. He learned how to cook, clean, and do the laundry, even after a few disasters that set off the fire alarm and flooded the basement; but he was always there for her when she needed him.

One night, during the worst of it, when she was thrown up everything she tried to put down, even the water, she started crying on his shoulder. Matt held her in his arms and just hung on. At the end of it, she'd rested on him and asked him how he'd gotten the money for this torture, half in jest. So tired and exhausted he couldn't think, he'd told her, not just who it was all from, but all that he'd offered as payment.

After a long, silent moment, Mary said quietly. "You really do love me, don't you?"

That was when Matt got to cry as well.

She held him, trembling, and then said softly, "And he loves you, doesn't he?"

Matt just shrugged.

"He refused your death, and gave you everything you needed. I think that's love, and Jesus told us to love each other and take care of each other. So I think..." The hesitation in her voice made Matt cringe, but then she continued, "I think I'll have to be grateful for him and for you. Can I see him when he comes to collect?"

"I...I don't know how comfortable he'll be..."

"You mean how comfortable you'll be, hm?" she said, suddenly cheerful in a way Matt just couldn't comprehend.

Matt just shrugged again.

"Anyway..." Mary's voice faded with tiredness. "I'd like to meet him and tell him to take care of you."

"I will, Mary my love. I will."

Months later, after the doctor declared Mary cancer-free, Matt got a text message that read: "Meet me at the Whitestone Hotel. 7 pm in the Lobby."

Tags: original, writing

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