Character: William the Hitman
Rating/Warnings: PG-13. Bad language
Summery: Matt gets the message to meet Chance at a posh hotel in Chicago. Mary decides to go with him, just to say thank you.
Author's Note: This is the last part of mysocalledhell's 25000 hit (blinks mildly) kiriban on Y!Gallery. It amuses me that I had to post in the Extras over there because of Mary, but I like her a lot. *laughs*
They took a taxi. Both Matt and Mary sat in the back seat in their Sunday best. She was in a turquoise, hand dyed dress suit that flowed about her slender form easily. He was in a navy suit that had been fitted to him by his cousin's son. It showed off his broad shoulders, highlighted his bright eyes. The barred tie and shone shoes felt solid, and helped Matt's courage.
"I'm just gonna say hi and thank you," Mary said stoutly. "No more, leave you men to your business, but I have to at least see him."
"Okay," Matt said, feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing, but not sure if it was so much because of Mary's insistence so much as it was just the whole concept of going to one of the swankiest hotels on the shore of Lake Michigan to get fucked by his best friend.
He suspected it had a lot more to do with the latter than the former.
Mary, suddenly white-haired after her chemo treatments, now looked prim and proper, and so slender, Matt could span her waist with his hands the way he had when they were in high school. In her flowing turquoise silk dress suit, she looked like she glowed.
Unable to resist, Matt leaned toward her and kissed her very gently. Mary smiled at him and kissed him back.
"You'll be all right," she whispered, as always, sensing his unease.
"I will," Matt said, suddenly grateful for her presence.
They pulled up to the big hotel, and Matt paid the driver and tipped him generously.
"You want I should stick around?" The man asked.
"Naw, don't know when we'll be done," Matt said.
The man winked at them. "Have fun wit' the missus!"
Matt just shook his head as the guy drove off chuckling to himself. Mary laughed and patted his arm as they walked in the front doors.
The lobby was filled with dark wood, swirling carpets, and brass lamps. The cast plaster ceilings had huge panels that Matt didn't even want to work out how they'd gone up. The chandeliers were bright crystal hung over silk seating islands in gold. Matt watched as Mary stood and looked around before moving further into the bright high-ceilinged room. He waited with her, one hand at the small of her back.
"Will he be looking for us at the front desk do you think?" Mary sounded more awed and wondering than nervous, and Matt was glad of that.
"I don't know. He'll find us," Matt said confidently and steered Mary toward a seat by the bar. "You want a white, baby?"
She smiled up at him. "Yes, please, something kind of sweet."
"Sure thing." The wine list was so long as to be intimidating, and Matt stood there for a long moment before he got his courage up and asked for a sweet white and a Bud. The barkeeper didn't bat an eyelash. He just got a stemmed wine glass, filled it with a cold white wine, and set a frosty mug next to it. "That will be twelve fifty, sir."
Matt paid, tipped, and found himself happy to get away with his drinks. Mary accepted her glass with a smile and then sighed with pleasure at the first sip. "Oh, that's very nice."
Looking around the room, Matt didn't notice anyone that looked like Chance. There were lots of people in fancy suits, glitzy dresses, and even a few in the hotel uniforms. So he settled by Mary and sipped his beer, and they started talking about Hank's grades. Since Hank started traveling with the team, his grades had fallen, and they talked about helping him find a tutor.
When a man came to stand by them, Matt glanced up.
The man wore a sleekly bronze single-breasted suit, fitted to broad shoulders, with a tie diagonally striped in old blood, gold, and moss greens. A matching handkerchief peeked from the breast pocket. The silk russet dress shirt underneath would have matched nothing in Matt's closet, and probably cost as much as a quarter of its contents. Bronze-lens sunglasses hid his eyes. He just kept standing right next to them, and Matt finally sighed, looked up and said, "If you don't mind, my wife and I..."
The sunglasses came off, and Matt looked into Chance's chagrined face. "Sorry, there. I thought you were here 'cause I..."
"Oh!" Mary gasped. "I didn't recognize you!"
She jumped up and hugged Chance, who held very still, but then gingerly wrapped his arms about Mary and hugged her as if she'd break.
"Me, either," Matt said. "Sorry, man, I've never seen you..." He paused at a loss for words.
"So fancied up, hm? I thought I'd do my best to host you properly, and now that Mary has shown up as well..." The smoothness of Chance's words felt odd to Matt. "I'm very glad that I went to the effort."
"Oh, you shouldn't have!" Mary said with a smile. "But I'm glad you did, you're very handsome in that suit, sir."
"Sir?" Chance laughed. The familiar shit-eating grin on his face made Matt relax. "Now that's going way too far. Just call me Chance, like in high school, and we'll do just fine."
Mary laughed, putting a hand on Chance's shoulder, and Matt saw the wonder in Chance's returning smile. Matt looked at his wife and was struck by her beauty, he found his heart aching at how much he suddenly realized he loved her.
Mary quieted when she turned and saw Matt. Her head tilted in question, but he shook his head.
Chance watched, but when they looked at him, he said, "Dinner's that way, the hotel restaurant's pretty tasty."
"Oh. That does sound wonderful, but I wouldn't want to intrude," Mary said gently. "You've given me my life, and I just wanted to say thank you too. I figured you two would want to just..."
"You're going to leave me alone with him?" Chance asked, in a teasing tone. "And here I was hoping you'd stay."
"Stay? Me?" Mary asked softly, wide-eyed. "But you were... he was... oh dear."
At her obvious dismay, Chance frowned, and flicked a look at Matt. Matt sighed about his own discomfort and then shrugged. Chance chuckled and then bowed gently to Mary. "Did you know the restaurant at the top of this building is called 'Glass'?"
"No," Mary said softly, and then smiled. "I wonder why?"
"Come and see..." Chance offered Mary his arm, and when she took it, Matt relaxed and followed. Mary would be at dinner, so dinner would be safe. Understanding that surprised Matt, his misgivings about the end game of this night were far stronger than he'd thought.
Chance headed toward the elevators set in a tower of glass at the edge of the atrium. Plain bullets of glass, open to the view all around them, the elevator cars allowed Matt to see all five stories of the interior, with the restaurants, stores, and meeting halls all decorated in those bold swirls of color. When they went up into the guest room floors, the inner walls turned blank, but now they had a view of Lake Michigan and the city. The further up they went, the more they could see of the blue waters, the darkening sky, and the ships plying the big waters.
For an instant, Matt wondered what it would be like to live this way, to see these kinds of views as a matter of course. He realized that Chance's eyes weren't out the window, rather the man was looking at him and his wife, as if they were more amazing than anything outside those polished windows.
"I wonder how they clean the glass up here?" Mary said softly as they reached the top. "They're so clean."
"Probably from platforms outside on the glass. I've seen that before," Matt said thoughtfully.
"Maybe they ride the top of the elevator," Chance said with a tilt of his head. "It's not that hard."
Matt looked out at the water and really didn't want to know how Chance knew that, and breathed a sigh of relief when the elevator reached the top floor.
When the elevator door opened, Mary gave a small gasp of surprise and pleasure. "Now I see why!"
They were surrounded by glass. The clear elevator cars were now sheathed in doorways of glass, all part of a transparent wall that swept all around the restaurant. The interior walls were mottled, clouded, or thick glass brick to allow for privacy within booths or rooms, but light shone through. Art pieces hung everywhere made from stained glass, standing in for sculptures, paintings, and even murals. In the entry way, behind the hostess station was an arch of summer sky blue with a representation of Lake Michigan's distinctive shape beneath, crowded about with vegetables, fruit, cheeses, fish, milk, and meats in brilliant colors and exquisite detail.
"Welcome to Glass," the hostess said. "Did you have reservations?"
Chance nodded. "Three under the name of Conner?"
"Ah, yes, I have you. Please follow me."
Matt followed again, wondering how Chance had known to make a reservation for three, when the text message hadn't mentioned who, exactly, was to come. He watched Chance murmur softly in Mary's ear, bringing a smile to her face, as they walked by the floor to ceiling windows, ending up at a table on the edge of the floor.
Mary refused to sit by the window. "It makes me dizzy to be that close to the edge," she said, laughing, and Matt held the chair for her as she settled gracefully into her seat.
Both Chance and Matt exchanged a grin before they both sat on the edge side of the table. Matt twisted about to look as far down at the wharf and traffic below, crawling about like ants on a log. He sighed and settled again, turning about to contemplate the menu. It was filled with intimidating foreign names of dishes, and he frowned when he saw Mary's smile drop.
A man arrived at the table in what looked more like a full suit than the other waiters, and stood at Chance's elbow. "Do you wish to see the wine menu?" he intoned.
Chance looked around the table and said, "I think that the lady wants a glass of something sweet, cool, and white, and my friend and I'd like a beer. A pilsner for Matt, and a Guinness for me."
"Certainly, sir." And the man disappeared with a small bow.
When he was well out of ear shot, Matt said, "You can do that?"
Mary giggled, as if they were in high school again, when Chance waved a hand in the air. "You'd be surprised at what you can do in these kinds of places. I'm payin' 'em a wad of money to do exactly what I want, so they're gonna be a lot more amenable about doin' what I ask."
"Okay, then tell me where the hell steak 'n' fries are on this menu," Matt said, leaning back. "I can't tell what's what here."
"You don't gotta know what's on the menu. Here. This'll be fun." A waiter with their drinks came and set them down. Chance brusquely asked, "Hey, you. Prix fixe. That goin' today?"
The waiter's eyes flickered up and down Chance's lean form and he seemed to make a decision and nodded. "Yes. Seven or nine courses, with or without matched wines." At an appreciative sound from Chance, the dark eyes lightened and the man smiled. "It's the best thing goin', as the guys out back really know their stuff. You want me to get 'em started?"
Chance laughed, to smiles and turned heads from the tables near-by. "Yeah," he said with a nod. "You do that. Nine without for all three of us. We're comfortable with our beers."
Matt watched the waiter walk away. "You got friends here, eh?"
"Right," Chance said with a grin. "Hell, everyone's a friend when you toss a few hundred at 'em." He drew a 'C' on the head of his beer and picked it up and held it up for a toast. Hurriedly, Matt and Marry picked up their drinks.
"To a fun evening," Chance proclaimed.
"Hear hear," They chorused and all clinked glasses.
What followed was a delicious and bewildering array of nine tiny dishes, all beautiful, all different, and all so delicate that Matt was sure he'd break something at any second. Mary oo'ed and ah'ed at every course, and seeing her dig in with appetite after so many months when everything had made her sick, Matt had to smile. So there would be more than one good thing out of this evening.
They talked about the food, about Mary's surgery and chemo and how all that was going. Chance asked some telling questions, and Mary answered them honestly. Matt was uncomfortably quiet, but didn't change the subject. The meal ended with three tiny desserts on a little tray for each of them, drizzled with something purple, pink, and gold, with a net of crisp threads so fine, they parted when Matt breathed on them.
"Oh, so gorgeous!" Mary said in delight, and she spooned one of the confections into her mouth. "Mm. That melts all over my tongue. How delicious, and raspberry is my favorite summer fruit. They're growing so well this year as well. Matt's done an amazing job in the garden while I was out of it. He grew so many berries he had to actually learn how to make jam."
"You? Made jam?"
Matt had no idea how to read the look Chance was giving him, and he shrugged. "Yeah. Not too hard. Pectin, sugar, and fruit. The fun part's the canning, with all that glass, boiling hot water, and metal. Nothing quite like when you hear the tick of the lid suckin' down."
"Huh. How are you doing these days, Matt?" Chance asked.
Matt looked at him, wondering what the hell he was up to, but at Mary's anxious look he realized he was probably frowning. He snorted and said, "Pretty good, all in all. Not having a job's been a lifesaver with having to get Mary through everythin', but I'm starting to look for a job again."
"Yeah, sure, not much else on my resume, though there ain't much out there as lotsa the big builders are holdin' back or belly up."
"You done any demolition in your time?" Chance asked, playing with the spun sugar, knocking down glittering confetti with his fork.
Matt's eyes narrowed, but he shook his head. "No, more into making sure it stands up than ripping it down."
Chance glanced up at that and nodded. "You ever thought about giving up the physical part of it? Going for a desk job? I mean... you've been kinda...well..."
Mary gave a laugh. "No, he hasn't been indoors that much, Chance. He's been on the roof, used a giant pry bar to break up the cracked sidewalk and repoured it by hand, and every day he's been out in the garden, weeding, fixing, and replanting most of my flower beds."
"How about gardening and landscaping?"
Matt nodded. "The guys from my old job are takin' landscapin' and handyman work on the side. It's work, but day to day. Too many bodies for too few jobs."
"Mm." Chance sipped his coffee and sat back, his eyes closing, and Matt thought he looked very tired.
"Trying to do me another favor?" Matt asked with a wry grin.
"Mm?" Chance's eyes opened, but he looked no less tired. His brown eyes went from Mary to Matt.
"Chance, any job in this economy is a favor, especially for someone like me." Matt looked down at the last of the silverware, that had been dancing to the fingers of all the various waiters and servers that had come by all night. He was a little surprised to only be left with spoons, and the small fork that had come with the desserts.
"No." The tone of Chances voice made Matt look up and the pain in it made it so that he couldn't look right into Chances' eyes. He didn't want to see pity in there. "Fuck no, Matt, you're worth more than all that crap. You're..."
"I'm special to you, Chance, and I still don't know why. I'm just a fat old construction guy." Now that anger licked through his veins, Matt could look up and into his friend's eyes. "Why do you keep pretending I'm something else? Something better or more...I dunno. Desirable?"
Scarred hands bent fine silverware. Chance coughed. "Look, about that..."
"Chance," Matt looked at his childhood friend. "You kissed me in the damned bar. You had better..."
"Better what?" The challenge was said in the same tones Chance used to use when they dared each other to lick a metal basketball poll or walk on thin ice on the pond by the house or slide down a slope more rock than snow.
"Follow through or give me something real to risk for you. I just can't be someone you baby at all cost to yourself and never a bit of..."
"Of what, Matt. Pain? You've got plenty in your life, boyo, to be borrowin' more from me."
"No, sir," Matt bit out. "No, I don't. I've got more good than most men dream of: a wife I love and get to keep a little while longer, a house I own, three thoughtful kids that are growing up into fine people, and a chance to build things the way God made me to build 'em. Even if it's just handmade furniture to turn down at Donny's."
The long silence made Matt wonder if he'd made a mistake, gone too far, making out that his little shit life was anything like this grand life Chance was living.
He almost didn't hear the words when Chance whispered, "Well, there, and you don't think you're special." However, Matt couldn't miss the twist in the spoon on Chance's plate. Mary was the one that reacted, though, her hand going to cover one of Chance's.
Chance gave her a look Matt couldn't read, and covered her hand with his other one. He sighed once and then said evenly so that they could both hear, "Do you two have any idea how much I've hated the people that have tried to take the life you've built together away from you?"
"Some," Matt said. "But I couldn't ever be sure." Mary's eyes flickered to him, but he'd always been horrible at keeping secrets from her. She knew everything he did. When Chance looked at her, she simply nodded.
Something like humor passed over Chance's face, touching the corners of his eyes and he nodded. "Good. If you could be sure then I fucked up my job."
Matt shrugged. "I never wanted to know, I think."
Chance gave a small nod at that. "Understandable, but, through sheer conjecture, let's say that everything you might think happened did, and a few things you never even saw a hint of did as well."
Eyes widening, Mary's hand closed a little harder on Chance's scarred one.
Chance looked at Mary's hand and then smiled up at her. Then he turned to Matt and said, "If all that were true, what do you think I'd feel like knowing that I was about to do something that would fuck up what I'd worked so hard to protect?"
Matt and Mary stopped and looked at each other, and Mary gave Matt a fierce little smile.
"You might. Of all the people that might pull it off," Chance said with wonder and affection in his voice, "You two might be it. But, after all that I've done, I can't...I just can't risk it. Because of all the people in the world, you two are the only ones left that see me as hu--" Chance's voice caught, stopped, and then dropped to a whisper. "As a friend."
Matt frowned. He hadn't thought things through, not all the way through. Matt knew that he'd be able to do anything at least once for Chance, after all the things he felt he owed the bigger man. What would it be like after? What would it be like knowing what Chance could do to him in the darkness of a hotel room? He frowned at his coffee, took a mouthful and found it cold and bitter.
Matt glanced at Chance and saw his friend flinch away from the look.
"Don't," Mary's impulsiveness made Matt sigh, but he suddenly realized he wanted to do the same thing.
"Don't treat us as if we'd condemn you, Chance," Matt said quietly, suddenly sure of what he needed to say, wanted to say, remembering what Mary said that one awful night. "You love us and we do love you."
The look Chance gave him made Matt frown harder, but he continued on doggedly. "Whatever the hell you do, you're still...Chance. Not just the guy that saved us, but the guy that meets me for beers, talks about how shitty work can be, talks about the weather, who the Sox play next, and laughs at my bad jokes. The money thing is..."
Matt looked around the glass-encased restaurant. "Honestly, it's freakin' intimidating. It's making me see how different things worked out between us. I'm happy as a clam at the Billy Goat, munching on one of their awesome burgers, and I don't get just throwing around this much money for a meal. Still, I think you're showing us that check wasn't nearly as big a deal to you as we are."
Nodding, Chance huffed a sigh. "Yeah," he said roughly.
Matt shook his head. "I think I'm startin' to get it, but it's a little wrench in the works of what I thought was comin' to me. This is easier, but not sure it's better, yet."
"Huh?" It was more a sound of surprise from Chance than a word.
"You're awful lonely," Matt said, bluntly and saw the blow go home when Chance looked down at the table. "You got anyone you can call your own?"
Flexing his hands, Chance avoided Matt's eyes; but Mary sighed and held his hands. "Do you?"
Chance's shrug made Matt ache. "Yeah. I do," Chance said flatly. "He's mine when I pay for him."
"Aw, honey," Mary said softly.
"Don't," Chance said, nearly in the same tone they'd said the word to him. His voice turned into something just as gentle. "Just...don't. I'm all right. You can't fix this part of it, not really."
"What can we do?"
With a sigh, Chance said, "You've done it. You're here as my friends."
Not quite satisfied, Matt sat back.
Mary deftly said, "And we've enjoyed it a great deal. Thank you. And I am sorry, but I am tired. I'm still not quite as energetic as I once was."
"Of course, I'll have them call a taxi for you, now that we're done." Chance said smoothly.
When Mary excused herself to use the restroom, Matt turned to Chance. "Is there a job for me?"
Chance, startled out of his thoughts, looked at Matt and the nodded slowly. "Just a gardening, maintenance, and handyman thing, for my boss' mother and for our office building. He wanted someone he could trust to do the work, and since I trusted you..."
Matt nodded at that. "Would I get to see you?"
The brown gaze focused on Matt, intensified, and Matt fought the urge to squirm under the scrutiny.. The thought that Chance needed someone to keep him human helped. "Will I get to see you there?"
Something gave in Chance's look. "Yeah."
"I'll take it then."
Chance nodded, wordless.
Mary came back, and both men stood up.
When she looked at him, Matt grinned and said, "Chance offered me a job, and I took it. It'll be a gardening and maintenance thing."
Her eyes went wide, and she stepped over to Chance and to give him a kiss on the cheek that made him duck and squirm like a school boy. Matt moved closer to both of them, and Chance offered his hand for a handshake. Matt took it, pulled Chance close, and hugged him. Chance stilled, but then wrapped his arms around Matt, and they held each other for just a moment too long for Matt's comfort, but he didn't back away until released.
Then Matt touched Chance, deliberately reached over to touch Chance under the chin. Startled, Chance looked at him.
"I'll see you."
The wry smile that answered him made all the rest worth it. "Yeah, you will, Matt. You will."