Ricochet Chapter Eight


Matt woke up to find he had a pounding headache and what felt like a mouthful of sawdust.


“Urgh,” he muttered, lifting his head blearily.


“Mmmm,” a voice beside him said.


He thought about it for a moment, but he didn’t remember asking Emily to stay over. Then he realized his head was resting on a broad, solid chest… nothing like Emily’s thin body. He took a second to process this. He was lying on a sofa, pressed up against someone bigger than him; someone warm, who had one arm slung over his thigh. Where the hell was he?


The events of the previous evening came rushing back in a jumbled haze, and he sat up quickly. That caused a stabbing pain in his head, and he grabbed hold of it, moaning, as the room lurched violently around him.


“Take it easy,” the voice said, and he felt a big hand on his back, stroking reassuringly as his head swam. He opened one eye, cautiously, and saw Rick grinning at him.


“What the… why am I…?” He stared at Rick in disbelief. “Oh, shit! Did we…?”


“Relax. You just had too much to drink last night. We were lying here talking, and you fell asleep. I thought you might as well stay over as you were in no condition to drive home.”


“I had too much to drink? Didn’t you have too much to drink, too?” Matt asked suspiciously, because Rick was making this sound very one-sided.


“I hold my liquor better.” Rick smirked at him.


“I remember it all now.” Matt buried his head in his hands. “Did I tell you all kinds of personal stuff? About the sex scene with Karl, and about… oh, shit, did I tell you about my first sexual experience?”


“Yes, you did, and I’ll be tweeting all the details later.” Rick winked, and Matt thumped him on the arm – hard. “Ow! Don’t be an idiot, Matty – your secrets are safe with me. I promised you that last night.”


“Oh. Right. Yes, you did. I am so embarrassed.” Matt rubbed his head, feeling stupid. “I should have kept my mouth shut.”


“Hey – it’s fine. I’m good at keeping secrets.”


“Really?” Matt raised an eyebrow. “Because that doesn’t seem like something you’d be good at.”


“Hah!” Rick poked him in the ribs. “That’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Wasted-after-two-glasses-of-wine.”


“Don’t remind me. What time is it?” He glanced at his watch. “Damn it, Rick – we’ll be late for work.”


“Nah – there’s plenty of time. I haven’t been up this early in ages.” Rick swung his legs forward, bumping Matt off the sofa in the process, and Matt landed on the carpeted floor with a yelp.


“No, there isn’t,” he protested. “I don’t have time to get home, shower, and get changed before work.”


“Then don’t.” Rick shrugged. “You can take a shower here.”


“But if I go to work wearing these clothes…” Matt gestured helplessly at the large, dark wine stain on his shirt.


“People will think you had a hot date and didn’t go home last night. What’s the big deal?” Rick shrugged.


“It’s embarrassing.”


“Well, I could lend you one of my shirts, but I think that’d cause even more gossip, don’t you?” Rick grinned at him infuriatingly. “Anyway, who cares? You’ll be changing into Ben’s clothes the minute you get on set, so hardly anyone will see.”


“Oh, forgive me for not wanting to turn up to work late, smelling of liquor, looking like I’ve just had a one-night stand! Some of us have standards.”


“Whatever, grumpy face. C’mon.” Rick held out a hand. “Get up and in the shower – you’ll feel better after that.”


Matt grabbed hold of Rick’s hand and allowed him to haul him to his feet. The room swam again, and he lurched into Rick and held on tight. Luckily, Rick was built like a tree trunk, and he wrapped his big arms around Matt and held him up until everything was still again.


“Okay?” Rick was giving him one of those smug grins, and Matt thought it’d be easier to like him if he wasn’t so annoying.


“I’m fine, thank you,” Matt snapped. He pulled away sharply, wishing he felt steadier on his feet. “Where’s the shower?”


Rick directed him to the bathroom in the spare bedroom and found him a razor and a clean toothbrush, still in its wrapper. “I have a drawer full of them,” he said with a wink as he left Matt to it.


“Yes, yes, we know, for when one of your legions of subs sleeps over,” Matt muttered under his breath, as he shut the door firmly and began getting undressed.


Rick was right about one thing – he did feel much better once he’d taken a shower, washed his hair, shaved, and brushed his teeth.


He wrapped a towel around his waist and emerged into the spare bedroom to see a clean tee shirt lying on the bed. He pulled it on to find it more or less fitted him. He looked at himself in the mirror and sighed as he saw the words emblazoned on it: You want to spank me, and you know it! They were the words of an infuriatingly catchy pop song that everyone had been singing a few months ago. Still, it was better than his liquor-stained shirt, so he decided to go with it.


He walked down the stairs and found Rick in the kitchen, brewing some coffee. He had showered and dressed, too – in a pair of black jeans and a tight crimson shirt that hugged his body almost obscenely. There was the usual assortment of leather thong bracelets around his wrists, and he was wearing his favorite thumb ring. A gold ear cuff clung to his left ear, attached by a chain to a ruby ear stud with a long scarlet crystal spike hanging from it. As usual, Matt felt decidedly under-dressed beside him.


“Thanks – shit, I need this,” Matt said, taking the mug of black coffee that Rick handed to him.


“You’re welcome, and you’re right, I do.” Rick winked at him, nodding his head at the slogan emblazoned on his chest.


“Hah hah hah hah hah.” Matt glared at him. “Was this really the only spare tee shirt you had?”


“Nah, but I liked the idea of you wearing that slogan.” Rick grinned. “Also, it’s a great shade of blue on you – brings out the color of your eyes. Plus, it actually fits.” He stood back and surveyed Matt critically. “It’s not mine – some sub left it here a few months ago.”


Matt took a sip of his coffee. “And they never came back for it?”


“Nah – I never invite subs back. It complicates things.”


“Really? Never?” Matt glanced at him over the rim of his mug, startled. “I mean, I know you get through a lot of subs, but you never see them again after?”


“Nope. I don’t do reruns. Once is fun, but twice starts to feel like we’re dating, and I don’t date.”


“Why not?”


“Why?” Rick countered with a grin.


“I don’t know – lots of reasons: intimacy, friendship, affection… love?”


“I’ve got friends for that. Relationships just complicate things. That’s why I’ve got my no reruns policy.”


“Wow – those are some massive commitment issues you’ve got there, O’Shea.”


“I freely admit it. Now, if you’ve finished guzzling that coffee – take this.” Rick handed him a motorcycle helmet.


Matt stared at it blankly. “Uh… why?”


“Because I don’t trust that you’re sober enough to drive yet, so you’ll be my passenger on the bike.”


“I’m not sober enough to drive, but you are?” Matt raised an eyebrow.


“I only had one glass of wine. You were knocking it back.”


“I’m fine. There is no way I’m getting on that stupid bike with you.”


“Tough.” Rick’s expression changed, and he folded his arms across his chest. “Because there is no way I’m letting you get behind the wheel of a car right now.”


Rick was usually very easygoing, so Matt had expected him to shrug and give in, but it seemed that he really did mean it about him not driving. He might have a point – Matt had drunk a lot only a few hours ago; it probably wasn’t entirely safe for him to drive yet.


“Why don’t you drive my car, then?” Matt held up the keys.


“What’s the matter…? Oh, wait.” Rick rolled his eyes. “You’ve never been on a motorcycle before, have you?”


“Well… no,” Matt admitted. “They always seem noisy, and dangerous, and -“


“Fun and exciting?” Rick raised an eyebrow. “You know, I don’t think there’s nearly enough fun and excitement in your ordered little life.”


“And I don’t think there’s nearly enough order and routine in your freewheeling existence,” Matt retorted.


Rick laughed. “You could be right, but we can’t all be as perfect as you. C’mon – let’s get moving. I can’t be late for work today after Petra’s dressing down yesterday.”


Matt took the helmet and followed Rick into the hallway. Rick paused to shoulder himself into his long, black leather coat, while Matt grabbed his scarf and put on his own much less dramatic denim jacket, and they went to the front door. Rick opened it… and they both froze as a dozen camera bulbs flashed at them.


“Rick, Rick – any comment about what happened down at the Justice Hall last night?” a reporter yelled.


Matt stood there, open-mouthed, taking in the sight of the crowd of journalists camped out on Rick’s front drive, complete with brightly flashing cameras.


“Damn it – I forgot to lock the gates when I got home last night,” Rick muttered.


“Are you worried about your job, Rick?” someone called.


“Do you think Petra Davies will fire you over this?”


“Rick – are you and Matthew Lake having an affair?”


“What?” Matt exploded.


The journalist who’d yelled that out grinned at him. “Well, you stayed over last night, and that isn’t the shirt you were wearing when you arrived.”


“How did you…?”


“Forget it, Matt. They just want to get a quote out of you,” Rick told him quietly. He took hold of Matt’s hand and dragged him across the driveway towards his Harley. “Have you never dealt with the paparazzi before?” Rick asked as they walked.


“Well… not like this, no. Have you?” Matt asked, shocked.


“Plenty of times, but that’s because I’m always doing stupid things and drawing attention to myself, whereas the most gossip you’ve ever given them is going out for a meal with your boring accountant dom, followed by a quiet night in.”


“That is not…” Matt began, and then he sighed. “Okay, that is true.”


“Matt! Does this mean you’ve split up from Emily Campanillo? Or doesn’t she know that you’re sleeping with Rick?”


“What the hell business is that of yours? And I am NOT sleeping with Rick!” Matt rounded on the journalist angrily. Rick took Matt’s helmet out of his hand, placed it on his head, and began buckling it up under his chin.


“Is it true she offered you her collar, but you turned her down because you’re secretly in love with Rick?”


“No! Where on earth do you get this shit?”


“Matty – I’ve told you, just stay calm and say nothing,” Rick hissed, fastening the helmet a little too tight, in what felt like an effort to gag him.


“No way! I am not letting them get away with making up stuff about me!”


“Matt – how does it feel to be another notch on Rick O’Shea’s bedpost?” someone yelled. “Do you feel cheap and dirty now? He’s had just about every other sub in town, after all.”


Matt saw red. He jerked away from Rick and stormed across the driveway… only to find himself suddenly walking on air, his feet kicking out uselessly beneath him as a strong arm latched around his body and swung him off the ground.


“What the hell…?” Matt hollered, as Rick threw him over his shoulder, cave-dom style, and carried him back to the bike.


He plunked Matt on it, jumped on behind him, and put his arms around Matt to grab the handlebars, trapping Matt there. “Now shut up and stay still,” Rick ordered, revving up the bike.


“But I -“


“Quiet!” Rick thundered. He twisted the throttle impatiently, and the bike roared out of the driveway and onto the road, leaving a trail of scattered journalists in its wake.


“Oh, shit…” Matt put his arms back and clung onto Rick’s solid body for dear life. “I thought passengers were supposed to ride behind the driver?” he squeaked.


“Normally, yes – but I couldn’t be sure you wouldn’t jump off to get into a fist fight with those idiots back there.”


Matt took several deep breaths and tried to relax as Rick wove in and out of the L.A. traffic, trying to lose the reporters chasing them.


“Oh… fuck… oh… agh!” Matt closed his eyes as the bike swerved, and sped up, and swerved again. “We’re going to crash and die!” he yelled – and he had to resist an impulse to jab Rick in the ribs when he guffawed in response.


“Don’t freak out, Matty. It’s fine. I’m good at this.”


“No you aren’t! You were arrested for speeding yesterday!”


“That’s true.” Matt could feel Rick’s chuckle against his body.


“Stop and let me off!”


“No. Don’t be a baby. Besides, you’ll be late for work, and Petra will find a way to blame me, and there’s no way I’m taking more licks after yesterday.”


“Fine, but if you ever get yourself disciplined down at the Justice Hall again, there’s no way I’m going to come and bring you pizza afterwards.”


“Well, you know what they say – no good deed goes unpunished.” Rick said that straight into his ear, and Matt could almost feel his infuriating smile as he spoke.


Matt closed his eyes and tried to maintain his bad mood, but he had to admit there was something exhilarating about flying down the road on Rick’s Harley. Rick might be reckless and ridiculous, but there was something reassuringly safe about being pressed up against his broad chest. Not that Matt ever intended to let Rick know that; he’d be insufferable.


Matt was almost disappointed when they swept through the studio gates. All the same, he shoved Rick’s hand away when he tried to help him off the bike, and threw his helmet back at his co-star in a huff.


“I hate you,” he said, before storming off towards his trailer with Rick’s annoying guffaw following him all the way to the door.


Their arrival caused such a stir that people had come out to watch, and Matt flushed and thrust out his jaw defiantly as he marched to his trailer. It really was unbearable. He liked his routines. He liked waking up in his own bed, not on someone’s sofa. He liked being in his own home, with his own choice of breakfast cereals, and he liked peace and quiet, not being hauled over some big dom’s shoulders, thrown onto his bike, imprisoned between his strong arms, and whisked away against his will. It was… the most fun he’d had in ages.


He stopped short in surprise, his hand on his trailer door.


“Are you okay, Matt?” a concerned voice asked, and he looked around to see Karl standing nearby, a bemused expression on his face. “That was quite a dramatic entrance you made back there.”


“Well, it’s Rick, so what do you expect?” Matt snapped. “You know what he’s like.”


He stomped into his trailer, slammed the door shut behind him, and stood there, his chest heaving. He felt strangely exhilarated and alive, and he couldn’t remember ever feeling like this before. Damn it – this was another reason to hate Rick. He didn’t want to feel this way.


He grabbed his script and sat down on his couch, trying to calm down so he could concentrate. It took a while for his heart to stop beating at twice its normal speed and the flush to fade from his cheeks enough for him to brave his nosy co-workers. There was no place like a set for gossip, and Matt was sure that the news of him staying over at Rick’s last night and arriving on his bike this morning would have gone all around the place like wildfire. All he could do was to refuse to dignify any of it with a response.


“Never complain, never explain,” he told himself, nodding at his reflection in the mirror. It was a little saying his mother had taught him when he was a kid.


Everything was calm and peaceful when he arrived on set. Daniel was already there, reading his script intently, and Matt was relieved when he didn’t ask him any questions or make any jokes about the events of the morning.


“Where’s Rick?” Matt asked, realizing they were all ready to shoot the scene but, as usual, waiting on their errant co-star.


“Petra wanted a word with him,” Daniel replied, with a meaningful twitch of his eyebrows.


“Oh, shit.” Matt had forgotten, in all the drama, that Rick was probably in trouble for his all too public appearance at the Justice Hall the previous night. He had been in Petra’s bad books even before that had happened – supposing she decided this was the final straw and fired him? Matt couldn’t bear to even think about that. The Collar Crime set was a great place to work precisely because Rick made it such fun; it would lose its heart without him.


He studied his script morosely, going over his lines for the upcoming scene, and his heart thudded a few minutes later when he heard Rick’s familiar long strides as he walked onto the set.


“Hey, did you start without me?” Rick joked, but Matt could hear that he wasn’t his usual ebullient self. He glanced up to see his friend looking pale and chastened.


“Just adjusting the lighting and then we’ll be ready,” the director said.


Matt grabbed Rick’s arm and dragged him into a private corner of the set. “Are you okay? What did she say?” he asked quickly, all his earlier annoyance forgotten.


“Aw – you care.” Rick broke into one of his annoying grins.


“No, I don’t.” Matt bristled immediately. “Oh, for fuck’s sake – of course I do. What happened, Rick? Was it bad?”


Rick dropped the act and ran a hand through his hair. “Pretty bad, Matty, yeah. I can’t screw up again this season – not once, not in any way, shape or form, or I’m fired. Petra was pretty clear about that. She really means it, too – I screw up, or bring any kind of bad publicity down on the show, then I’m out on my ass.”


“She can’t fire you. You’re the main reason this show is a hit.”


“That’s nice of you, Matt, but there are plenty of actors in Hollywood who can do what I do. Nobody’s irreplaceable.” Rick shrugged.


“You are.” Matt stuck out his chin obstinately. “Look at those stupid photographers this morning, and the news item on TV last night. They could have caught me and Karl having sex on the lawn in front of the Justice Hall, and that wouldn’t have gotten half the publicity you did.”


“Nah. They just like me because I live it large.” Rick shrugged. “And is that your fantasy? You and Karl making out in public?” He leered at Matt suggestively.


“Don’t be an idiot.” Matt bashed his arm. “And don’t change the subject, either.”


Rick sighed. “Look, I don’t kid myself, Matt. I’m not a great actor. Daniel is – and you have the chops for it, too – but I’m just very good at the one thing I do.”


“That’s not true. You should see yourself the way everyone else does.”


“A total screw-up?”


“No – an idiot, sure, but an idiot with a big heart who manages to touch people in every scene he’s in. You make it feel real, Rick. I do my best work whenever I’m in a scene with you, because you make me relax, and you throw out this good vibe and sort of coax the best out of me. I’d be so anxious I’d freeze if you weren’t here, cracking your truly appalling jokes.”


Rick looked genuinely surprised by the compliment. “Thank you, Matty,” he said quietly.


“So you absolutely mustn’t get into any trouble between now and hiatus,” Matt told him sternly. “Promise me, Rick – because I really don’t want to do this show without you.” That sounded kind of sappy, so he added, “You’re my only chance of ever winning an award one day.”


Rick grinned at that, responding to the teasing as he always did. “Okay, Matt, I’ll do my best.”


“No – I want you to promise.”


“I promise, then. I already promised Petra: no clubs, no subs, no trouble – nothing at all to give the show bad press.” Rick gazed blankly into space. “Shit, Matty – how the hell am I going to do that?”


“I’ll help you. We all will.” Matt gestured around the room. “You can do it. I know you can.”


“You have more faith in me than I do.” Rick gave a wan smile, and Matt realized that was the truth. Rick didn’t have a lot of faith in himself; he seemed to almost expect to screw up, and Matt wondered how much of the goofing off was simply to pre-empt the inevitable moment when it all went wrong for him.


Impulsively, he reached up, put his hands on either side of Rick’s face, pulled his head down, and kissed him firmly on the forehead. “I mean it. You can do this,” he whispered fiercely.


He released Rick and walked back to his position on set, aware that everyone was looking at them again. Damn it, they were really giving the gossips plenty of fodder today. He wasn’t used to being the center of attention, and he felt himself flushing at the scrutiny. Rick came to stand opposite him ready to start the scene a second later and gave him a little wink, and Matt flashed him an encouraging smile in return.


Rick could do this – he had to.


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