Bruce burst through the hospital entrance and ran straight to the reception desk, exclaiming, "Where's Johnny Smith?"
The woman leaned back, obviously intimidated, and answered, "I'm sorry, sir, I can't give that information out."
Taking a breath, Bruce said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you like that. I'm his, his best friend and the Sheriff called me to say he was in a car accident. My name's Bruce Lewis."
She looked down at her computer screen and shook her head. "I'm sorry, sir, but I have nothing here that says I'm allowed to give you any information."
"Damn it!" Bruce swore, moving away and pulling out his cell phone. He was dialing Walt's number when the man himself called his name. Turning, Bruce strode of towards the dark haired man and demanded, "What happened? How's John?"
Somber, Walt answered, "It doesn't look good, Bruce. He's in surgery, but the doctors aren't optimistic about his chances."
"Oh God," Bruce whispered, his heart stuttering.
"It was on Wilkins Road. Witnesses say that a blue car came out of nowhere and hit Johnny while he was crossing the street. No one could get a license number or make of the car, though. It sounds like a professional hit to me."
Clearing his throat against the emotions threatening to break loose, Bruce asked, "When will we know?"
They both faced Reverend Purdy and Bruce groaned to himself at the pompous expression on the older man's face. It was a mix of 'I know what's best,' and 'The Lord will provide.' He really hated dealing with the man.
From the tight expression on Walt's face, something similar was going through his mind as he answered, "Yes, Reverend?"
"Johnny is out of surgery," Purdy announced quietly.
"And?" Bruce demanded.
Purdy glanced at him, then looked back at Walt. "He's still in recovery, and under the influence of the anesthesia, but it doesn't look good. They're only giving him a twenty-five percent chance of making it."
Bruce's stomach rebelled and he clutched at it, making a faint noise of protest at the pronouncement.
Walt took one look at him and grabbed his arm, bringing him to the nearest set of chairs and pushing him down into one. Grim, he said, "I'll talk him into letting you see Johnny."
Finding his voice, Bruce whispered, "Thanks, Walt."
"No problem," Walt said, moving back to the Reverend.
Twenty-five percent chance of living. Which meant seventy-five percent chance of…
Bruce couldn't finish the thought. It just wasn't possible.
"I mean it, Reverend!"
Walt's loud exclamation penetrated the fog around his mind, and Bruce looked over at the men. Purdy looked like he'd swallowed something nasty, and Walt was ticked. Well, not that that was a new look for the Sheriff, he wore the expression a lot. Purdy looked at him and Bruce knew that the older man knew…that Walt had just told him. He wasn't sure how Walt knew, but then, Walt was a lot more observant than people gave him credit for.
Of course, making sure that your wife's ex-fiancé was hooked up with someone else would be a pretty big concern for anyone. It would only be all the better if the ex wound up with another man since it cut down on any serious future competition.
Walt walked over to him and said, "Come on. I'll bring you in."
Nodding, Bruce got to his feet and followed him down the corridor.
Purdy stopped them as they walked by with, "Don't think that you're going to get a penny if he dies, Bruce."
"If he dies, you won't have to worry about me, Reverend," Bruce said bleakly. He seriously doubted that he'd be up for anything except massive and unending quantities of alcohol if that happened.
"C'mon, Bruce," Walt ordered kindly. He glared at Purdy as he took Bruce's arm and led him away.
When they stopped in front of the recovery room, Bruce glanced at the other man and asked, "How'd you know?"
Wry, Walt answered, "Aside from the fact that you two have been joined at the hip almost since day one?"
Bruce snorted. "Yeah. Aside from that."
"John told me."
Astonished, Bruce asked, "He told you?"
Nodding, Walt confirmed, "A couple of weeks ago. He wanted to make sure that you could get to him if anything ever happened. Maybe he had a vision of this."
"He better fucking not have!" Bruce said harshly. "If he did and didn't do anything to stop it…"
Walt broke in with, "Doesn't matter, Bruce. The only thing that matters is you giving him a reason to live."
Swallowing heavily, Bruce nodded and said, "Right. I can do this."
"I'll make sure that you're not disturbed."
As Walt nodded, Bruce pushed through the double doors and headed for the gurney where Johnny was hooked up to more machines than even Bruce knew the purpose of. He took a cool, lax hand and bent down to kiss it. "God, John, what happened? Did you forget to look both ways, or what?"
There was no response, of course. Bruce forced down fear and pain at the too-pale face that was buried under a mass of bruises and medical equipment. "You can't just up and leave me, you know. You can't give me this for such a short time and then take it away! Please, John, you have to, have to come back!"
An alarm went off and then another joined it. His heart lurched into his throat just about the same time that the medical staff pushed him out of the way. He was shoved to the back of the room to stare dumbly at them as they worked desperately to save his lover. His mind whited out with fear and he couldn't do anything except lean against the wall and wait.
Flat line and a loud, steady noise from the heart monitor. The doctors ordering for epinephrine and the shock paddles. Once. Three times. Five. No response. Finally, someone reached over and turned off the monitor as the doctor said, "Time of death, 1:17pm."
Huddled in on himself, Bruce just shook his head and whispered, "No. Not possible."
One of the nurses jumped in surprise at his whisper and hurried towards him, a sympathetic look on her face. "I'm sorry, sir."
"No!" he repeated, louder. "It's not possible!"
Obviously sensing that he was about to lose control, she gestured sharply for help and then said, soothingly, "It's going to be all right, sir. We just need you to…"
"No! It's not possible! He's not dead!" Bruce shouted, lunging towards his lover's motionless body.
They grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground as he kept shouting, over and over, "It's not possible!"
* * * *
Johnny jolted awake at a shove from Bruce and groaned, exhaustion tugging insistently at him. It had been a long few days where they hadn't seen each other. Bruce had shown up from his medical conference in Boston, where Johnny hadn't expected him until the following day. They'd had a serious marathon lovemaking session and fallen asleep directly thereafter.
Bruce twitched violently under him and mumbled something. The pain in his voice caused Johnny to stiffen and he shook the other man, trying to wake him. Bruce started shouting and struggling against him, caught in the grip of what was obviously a horrible nightmare. "Bruce! Bruce, wake up! Bruce!"
Finally, Bruce did wake up, freezing completely. Then he rolled on top of Johnny and plastered around him like a second skin, shaking and breathing hard. Wrapping his arms around Bruce, Johnny held tight and waited, rubbing the clammy skin to warm him up. After what seemed like an eternity, Bruce shifted to the side, taking most of his weight off Johnny, though he didn't let go.
"You want to tell me about it?" Johnny asked softly.
Swinging a protective leg over Johnny's hips, Bruce countered, "Did you tell Walt about us?"
Startled, Johnny nodded. "Yeah. In case anything ever happened, I wanted you to be able to get to me. Why?"
"I wonder if the vision thing is catchy."
"What are you talking about?"
Lacing their fingers together, Bruce answered, "I think I just saw you die, John."
A chill ran through him and Johnny tightened his arm around Bruce's shoulder. "It was just a nightmare, Bruce."
"It was so real. I never dream like that. I always know that it's a dream. Something about self-awareness. But I lived every second of this one. I had no clue that it wasn't real. I saw you die, John!"
"Ssh, it's okay, I'm not dead," Johnny soothed. He brought Bruce's hand and placed it over his chest. "Feel that, Bruce. I'm alive and planning to stay that way for a long time. You're going to be chasing me around in a wheelchair."
The hand pressed flat to Johnny's chest and he swore, "It was real, John, I swear to God it was real."
Knowing how serious the other man took that kind of vow, Johnny was forced to consider that something really had happened. Not that the Dead Zone had rubbed off, of course, but there were other explanations. Paranormal things happened to people all the time, especially as a warning of dire things to come. "Okay. I believe you."
Bruce looked up at him, suspicion plain in his voice as he asked, "You do?"
With a smile, Johnny kissed the full lips briefly and teased, "Far be it from me to be the only weirdo in this relationship."
A short laugh escaped Bruce and he curled closer, sighing deeply in relief. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Johnny answered, fingers playing lightly with a lock. "What do you remember?"
Bruce paused, thinking about it, then shuddered. "I think…it was a car accident of some kind. A hit and run, yeah."
"Okay. So I won't drive for the next couple of days. Problem solved."
"I don't know, John," Bruce answered doubtfully.
"Look, we're both wiped and you're still freaked. We'll talk about it in the morning. Go back to sleep."
"Don't think I can."
Rubbing his chin against the scratchy dread locks, Johnny smiled and ordered, "Go to sleep, Bruce. I'm not going anywhere."
It was a long time before Bruce's breathing evened into sleep, but it did happen. Johnny, however, remained awake until the barest of light outside the windows signaled the coming day.
* * * *
"You look like crap, man," Bruce observed as Johnny came into the kitchen.
Johnny sat at the table and answered through a yawn, "Thanks."
"My fault, I assume?"
"You assume correct."
Bruce grimaced. "Sorry, John."
"Nah, don't worry about it," Johnny replied, reaching for the coffee at his spot. It was really nice to have Bruce sleeping over for a change. Not only did he already have the coffee ready, it was just how he liked it.
"So what're we going to do?"
Sipping at the hot coffee, Johnny shrugged and answered, "If I was in a car accident, it makes sense for me not to drive, right?"
Bruce frowned, staring back at him for a long moment before saying, "I guess."
"Do you remember if I was alone?"
"Uh…I don't know. Pretty sure no one else was hurt anyhow."
"Did you get a sense of time? Like if it'll happen in the immediate future?"
The frown of concentration grew and Bruce closed his eyes. "When did you tell Walt about us?"
"A couple of weeks ago," Johnny answered.
"Then yeah, it's right around now," Bruce confirmed, eyes popping open. "I remember Walt saying that you told him about us a couple of weeks ago."
Nodding, Johnny put down his mug and took Bruce's hand. "I'm going to be fine, Bruce. You were given this warning for a reason and I'm going to listen. I'll just hang around the house for a few days. There's plenty I can do right from here."
"I'll stick around too."
Johnny shook his head. "There's no need for you to. I know you've got a lot to catch up on at work from being away at the conference."
"No, it's fine Bruce," Johnny insisted.
Bruce waffled for several seconds then gave in with a sigh. "All right. But make sure you call me every few hours to let me know you're still okay."
Grinning, Johnny agreed, "Yes, mother."
"Dick," Bruce insulted fondly.
* * * *
Johnny headed for the door with a grimace, his leg twinging as he headed for the security box. Bruce had insisted that he screen all the visitors for the next few days before leaving for work. Said something about the accident not being an accident and not taking chances. Dana was standing on the porch, looking around impatiently and he sighed. After almost no sleep, he really wasn't in the mood to deal with her.
Forcing a smile, he walked the rest of the way to the door and opened it. "Dana, hi. How are you?"
Dana grinned and stepped inside, saying, "Good now that I'm here with you."
Johnny tried to back step, but she caught him too quickly and kissed him. Holding her shoulders, he gently disentangled from her.
"What's wrong?" she asked, worried.
Knowing he was no good at this kind of thing, Johnny suggested, "Let's talk."
"It's never a good thing when someone says that," she said, sighing. "Just spill it here, Johnny, I'm a big girl."
Johnny hesitated then replied, "We can't see each other romantically any more, though I hope we can stay friends."
Dana's arms crossed over her chest and she demanded, "When's the divorce?"
"Divorce?" Johnny repeated in surprise.
"I assume you're dumping me for Sarah."
Wincing, Johnny shook his head. "Sarah's got nothing to do with this."
"Then why?" Dana asked softly. She moved closer and rested a hand on his chest. "I know we're good together. And I know you like me. Are you just getting a little commitment phobic? Because if so, I can back off."
Johnny shook his head, covering her hand with his, as he answered, "It's not you, Dana."
She frowned and pulled away. "Well if it's not Sarah, and it's not me, then…oh…you didn't! Johnny, tell me I'm wrong. This isn't about Bruce!?"
"Dana, I'm sorry…"
"How long?" she interrupted angrily.
Johnny replied, "Just a few weeks."
Laughing a little bitterly, she repeated, "Just a few weeks."
"Dana, I really am sorry that this didn't work out," Johnny said quietly. "It's not like I planned for my life to turn out this way. Hell, I didn't even know that it was a possibility! It's not like my life isn't hard enough without adding a relationship with Bruce to the mix. It's just…I love him."
Dana eyed him for a long minute, lips pursed in a distasteful moue. Then she sighed as if consciously letting go of the irritation, running a hand through her hair. "Yeah, I can see that. I guess I always did, but didn't, you know? I mean, you've pretty much been together for months now."
Relieved that she was at least trying to accept it, Johnny nodded and agreed, "Exactly. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if he wasn't here. He's done a lot for me, been a great friend. Things just, well, changed."
When Dana started laughing, Johnny wondered if he should worry.
Grinning, wiping tears from her eyes, Dana gasped, "Gene is going to have a conniption! Not only are you with a man, you're with a black man! Can I be there when you tell him? Please?"
Johnny chuckled and answered, "That's not very nice of you, and no, you can't."
Eyes crinkled with amusement, she said, "Look, if it makes you happy, which it obviously does, then I'm all for it. I can't say that I'm not disappointed, because I am, but we never had any strings. And Bruce is a good man."
He conceded the point with a nod and a smile. "Very true. Hey, you want some coffee?"
Shaking her head, Dana declined, "No, thanks. I really just popped in to say hello."
Johnny arched an eyebrow at her.
"And have a quickie," she allowed with a grin. "Which is definitely out, now. Speaking of which, I assume you're not going to be out?"
"We haven't even talked about it," Johnny admitted.
"Well, just a piece of advice?"
"Make an official change of your physical therapist so Bruce doesn't get in trouble before you make any announcements."
Johnny jerked upright at the warning and realized that she was right. "God, I didn't even think of that!"
Dana nodded and said, "I didn't think so. And you might not know this, but Gene gets mean when he doesn't get what he wants. So watch yourself, okay?"
"I will, thanks," Johnny assured her, not surprised by the warning. Knowing Gene for so long gave him the benefit of seeing just what kind of man Purdy could be.
"All right then, I'm off."
There was an awkward pause, then she hugged him tight and said, "Good luck, Johnny. And I'm still around if you need anything."
He returned the hug with, "A friend, I hope."
Dana kissed his cheek and pulled back, smiling. "Absolutely."
Shutting the door behind her, Johnny sighed with deep relief. That could have gone a lot worse, if she'd been inclined to be bitter about it. He hadn't thought she would, but sometimes you just couldn't tell.
* * * *
Bruce knew that he should be paying more attention to the staff meeting, but his mind just wasn't on it. He kept trying to remember details about the nightmarish vision, trying to pinpoint what, exactly, he'd seen and heard.
"Bruce? Are you with us?"
Jerking to attention, Bruce nodded and answered, "Absolutely, Jim. Sorry."
The older man smiled kindly. "No problem. Just a reminder that this Friday is your turn for donuts."
Donuts? Jesus. He was worried about his lover getting killed and these people were going on about donuts! Forcing a smile, he promised, "I won't forget."
"Good. That about does it then, people. Let's have a good day and help some people."
Bruce got up with everyone else and was about to leave when Jim called his name. Biting back a sigh, he turned to face his administrator and asked, "Yeah, Jim?"
"Is everything all right, Bruce? You've been distracted all morning," Jim observed with concern.
Shrugging it off, he answered, "I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Bad dreams."
Nodding with understanding, Jim said, "All right. I just wanted to make sure we weren't overloading you."
"No, not at all," Bruce assured him. "Thanks, though. I appreciate the concern."
Clapping him on the back, Jim said, "Well we don't want to lose you! You're one of our best and most popular."
Bruce grinned. "Then maybe we should talk about that raise."
* * * *
It was almost noon by the time Bruce got through with his morning appointment and hurried back to his office. Checking his voicemail revealed two messages from Johnny, both short and to the point that he was okay and things were fine. Shaking his head at the matter-of-fact tone to his lover's voice, Bruce grinned and dialed the house.
After several rings, the answering machine picked up. "Hi. I'm not here, so leave a message."
"Damn. John, are you there? You were going to stick around, right? You in the bathroom or something?" Bruce paused, but it wasn't picked up. "All right. I'll call you back in a bit."
He pretty much twiddled his thumbs for ten minutes, then picked up and dialed the house again. When the answering machine picked up, a sick feeling entered his stomach. "Johnny! Come on, man, pick up!"
"I'm coming over, so if you're just outside or something, call me on my cell," Bruce ordered before hanging up.
He grabbed his coat and keys, then rushed out of the hospital. The drive was excruciatingly long, even though it only took twenty minutes to get to Johnny's house. The jeep was in the driveway, so the other man wasn't out driving somewhere at least. Bruce hopped out of the Cruiser and jogged up the steps, punching in the security code before unlocking and opening the door.
"Johnny? You here, man?" Bruce called loudly.
When the big, old house ate up his voice and didn't give him an answer, a shiver of dread slithered down his spine. He crossed to the answering machine and saw there were only two messages, but played them anyhow. As expected, his own voice echoed back to him. Fear settled in the base of his spine and he headed back outside.
Walking down the driveway, he looked around but didn't see any sign of Johnny. He frowned and started walking along the sidewalk. This was wrong. This was so very wrong and he knew it, but couldn't remember why. Johnny wasn't driving, so he couldn't get into a car accident. Why did he remember that much and nothing more? It was almost like something was blocking his memory.
Bruce was so intent on his thoughts, trying to coax out the dream, that he bumped into someone walking the other way. Startled, not having even noticed that there was anyone else around, he automatically apologized, "Hey, I'm sorry."
The man was in his late fifties with white hair and blue eyes, a ruddy complexion that reminded Bruce of stereotypic Boston Irish. He was on the short side and slight, but appeared nimble enough as he stepped back, a grin on his face. "No problem."
"You a new neighbor? I haven't seen you around before," Bruce asked, suspicious.
The smile broadened as the man shook his head. "Not me, sonny-boy. I'm just collecting something that I can't seem to keep hold of. You know how that is, right?"
Bruce snorted, relaxing a little. The guy seemed harmless enough. "Yeah, man, I hear you."
"Have a good one."
"Oh, I plan to."
Shaking his head in amusement, Bruce continued on his way. He made it to the end of the block before turning around. To his surprise, the other man was nowhere in sight. Suspicion laced through him and he jogged back the way he came.
Bruce stopped short at Lindsey's call and groaned, aggravated. This was really starting to tick him off! Turning back around, he saw the girl on her bike at the corner of Wilkins Road. The sun glinted off the street sign in a halo effect and he froze, memory suddenly flooding through him.
"It was on Wilkins Road. Witnesses say that a blue car came out of nowhere and hit Johnny while he was crossing the street. No one could get a license number or make of the car, though. It sounds like a professional hit to me."
"Oh, fuck!" Bruce muttered, starting to run.
He didn't stop when he reached Lindsey, just looked both ways and saw Johnny talking to some girl down the street. Putting on a burst of speed, Bruce ran flat out as his lover finished talking to…Lindsey? What the hell? Shoving it aside to think about later, he moved as fast as he could to reach Johnny in time.
Screeching tires echoed through the air and Bruce's vision narrowed to a point beyond Johnny. A blue car was streaking down the road, hurtling towards the unsuspecting man. Feeling as if his lungs and heart would all burst, Bruce didn't falter. He poured on more speed and raced across the street, tackling Johnny out of the way a split second before the car would have hit him.
Pain shattered through his foot and he knew that the car had clipped him as they landed heavily on the sidewalk. Groaning in pain, gasping for breath, Bruce just lay on top of Johnny for an eternity. He could hear Johnny's worried voice, but couldn't make out the words through the pounding of his blood and a high-pitched whine filling his ears.
Sirens grew loud, cutting painfully through the fog. When he could finally breathe without the asthmatic taint, Bruce swallowed against a severely dry throat and opened his eyes. He was lying on Johnny's lap, the other man looking frantic and about to lose it. Meeting the wide, blue eyes, Bruce reached up and gripped the shirt, touching the heart that beat beneath the chest. It was fast and heavy and very, very much alive.
Before he could say or do anything, the EMTs were there with a gurney and he was being lifted onto it. Finding his voice, Bruce gasped, "Johnny comes with me!"
"No! He's coming with me!" Bruce exclaimed, panicking as Johnny moved further away. He started struggling, trying to get to his lover, not knowing what the hell was going on, and was pushed back against the gurney.
"All right! All right," the young man gave in, motioning for Johnny to accompany them.
Relieved, Bruce watched as Johnny climbed into the ambulance after them. He reached out and Johnny silently took his hand. Before the doors closed, Bruce caught a glimpse of the man he'd bumped into before all this had happened. The man was plainly not happy, but before he could tell Johnny, the EMT closed the door and started working on his leg.
The pain was enough to knock him out.
* * * *
Johnny paced the waiting area nervously, waiting for news on Bruce. Once at the hospital, they'd been split apart as a doctor looked him over and Bruce was brought to another area for treatment. It was only a few minutes after he was pronounced healthy and released that Walt and Sarah showed up, offering their own kind of support for the vigil.
Walt was on the phone a short distance away, presumably with one of the deputies. Sarah came towards him with a Styrofoam cup in each hand, holding one out to him, which he took.
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Sarah soothed.
Remembering the pure panic on the black man's face as he'd been wheeled towards the ambulance, Johnny wasn't so sure. Something had happened to put the fear of God into Bruce and until he regained consciousness, they wouldn't know what.
Snapping back to his surroundings, Johnny smiled faintly. "Sorry. I'm just...worried."
She nodded, rubbing his shoulder with understanding.
"Sarah, can I tell you something?"
Johnny hesitated before saying, "I'm...I'm in a real relationship now. It's serious."
Sarah froze for a second then replied, "That's great. Um, have you and Dana decided on a date?"
Two for two, he thought wryly. Taking a breath, he corrected, "It's not Dana, it's Bruce."
Shock flashed through the wide, blue eyes and she stared at him, speechless.
Uncomfortable, he continued, "I just wanted you to know."
Shaking through the surprise, Sarah stammered, "I'm ah, I'm happy for you. Surprised, really, really, really surprise here, but um, happy."
"It's okay, you don't have to pretend to be happy about it or anything, I just wanted you to know," Johnny repeated. He knew that she was still in shock, knew that little twitched to her jaw as she assimilated the news.
Johnny half smiled and said, "I can tell."
"Johnny, you can go in now," Walt said from behind.
Turning to the other man, Johnny asked, "Which room?"
"He's still in recovery, but I'll bring you there."
Frustrated by Gene's arrival, Johnny looked at the older man and said, "I'm sorry, Gene, now's not a good time."
Leaning heavily on his cane, the ache more pronounced than usual, Johnny followed Walt down the hall.
"So you just told Sarah?" Walt asked softly.
Johnny nodded. "Yeah. Thanks for letting me do it."
"That was for you to tell, John, not me. I wouldn't do something like that. I mean, I know we got off to a rocky start, but we're friends. Right?"
Stopping at the door to the recovery room, Johnny eyed the other man a moment and agreed, "Right."
"Good. I'll make sure that you're not disturbed."
Johnny pushed through the double doors and stopped in shock at the sight of his normally irrepressible friend and lover completely motionless. He only had an IV in place for equipment, but the cast on the lower part of his leg was pretty massive. He winced, thinking about how bad Bruce was going to deal with that and continued on to his lover's side.
Facing the unfamiliar voice, Johnny found a doctor standing there. "Yes?"
"Sheriff Bannerman said that you'd be directing Mr. Lewis' care?"
He smiled at the polite phrasing and nodded, holding a hand out with, "I will."
* * * *
When the world returned, Bruce could feel a dull, sullen throb in his lower left leg and a lighter, though just as insistent, pulsing through his lower back. There were other assorted aches and pains, but those were the two major ones. Groaning, his eyes opened onto a plain hospital room.
Big surprise there. Not.
Looking around, Bruce found Johnny sleeping uncomfortably in a chair beside the bed. He was half sprawled between the bed and the chair, his upper body supported by the edge and a hand spread possessively over Bruce's abdomen. Smiling, he lifted a hand and sifted his fingers through the wild golden hair.
Johnny jerked awake at his touch, then groaned. "Ow."
"I bet," Bruce agreed easily, amused. "That's what you get for falling asleep like that."
"Thanks for the sympathy," Johnny retorted, eyes suspiciously bright.
Shrugging carefully, Bruce answered, "You're welcome. And you're not hurt, are you?"
Johnny shook his head, straightening and stretching with another groan, rolling his neck to loosen stiff muscles. When he was done, he demanded, "What the hell did you think you were doing? You could've been killed!"
"You would have been killed," Bruce replied soberly. "I almost didn't make it in time."
Jaw clenching shut, Johnny was obviously restraining some serious cursing. Taking a deep breath, he released it and said, "I don't ever want you to do something like that again, Bruce. I couldn't take it if anything…if you…"
Bruce cupped his face and said softly, "Join the club."
Johnny's hand gripped his as he leaned into the touch. "You scared the hell out of me, Bruce."
Offering a shaky chuckle, Bruce repeated, "Join the club, man."
"Yeah, well, how did you know, anyhow?" Johnny asked after a silent moment.
"It was the weirdest damn thing," Bruce replied, shaking his head. "I called the house and got the machine, so I decided to check it out in person."
During the recounting of everything that had happened, Johnny stayed rigidly straight, listening intently. Bruce saw his eyes widen slightly when he described the stranger, and guessed that Johnny knew him from somewhere. He finished with, "So what do you think happened?"
Johnny sighed deeply, bringing Bruce's hand to his mouth for a long moment. "I don't think we'll ever know. Either you had the vision to stop me from getting killed, or you had the vision to get me killed. The man? The one you were going to follow? I've met him before."
"Who is he?"
"Death, I think. He was the one I met up with when I did that weird joining thing with Walt when he was in the coma."
Fear blanketed him like it never had before in his life. With all the shit they'd been through since Johnny had woken from his coma, and there had been a lot of scary shit, this took the cake and then blew it up. "Death."
Johnny nodded, swallowing heavily. "Yeah. Or, some kind of demon thing that takes people before they're supposed to die."
"And Lindsey's twin?"
"An angel?" Johnny offered. "Some being that was trying to stop my death?"
Utterly stunned by the concept, Bruce just whispered, "God…John…"
They were silent, their hands the only point of connection, for a long time. A knock at the door scared the bejesus out of Bruce and he almost choked on his own breath. Johnny got to his feet just as Walt, Sarah and Gene entered the room. Bruce saw Walt take in their positions with a faintly smug look and snorted to himself.
That hadn't changed at least. Which was fine by Bruce, because the less time Sarah and Johnny spent together, the better in his opinion. Petty, he knew, but also unavoidable. "Hey, everyone."
"Hey Bruce, how are you?" Walt asked.
Bruce shrugged and answered, "Sore, but in one piece."
"He's going to be off the leg for a couple of months," Johnny added.
"What?" Bruce exclaimed.
Grinning, Johnny said, "Yep. And you're going to need physical therapy too."
"Well, we're glad that you're okay," Sarah said firmly.
Walt nodded and continued, "Yeah, I just need to ask you some questions."
Holding up a hand, Johnny asked, "Can it wait a couple of days?"
"Johnny, if this was deliberate, which it looks like it was…"
"It's okay," Johnny interrupted. "Please. Let it drop for now."
Frowning, Walt nodded and agreed doubtfully, "All right. For a few days."
Yeah. We need to figure out what to say that doesn't sound like something from the bible, Bruce thought a little hysterically.
"If you need any help, a nursing or home aid, I'll be happy to…"
"Bruce is staying with me."
Purdy clearly looked unhappy with Johnny's announcement, but made no protest.
Obviously picking up on the tension, even if Sarah didn't, Walt put his arm around Sarah's waist and said, "We just wanted to check on you. Good to see you're all right, Bruce."
"Thanks, Walt," Bruce replied, smiling.
When the door closed behind them, Bruce waited for the showdown to start.
Purdy levied the opening volley with, "You're not gay."
Johnny snorted and answered, "I'm in love with a man. Sounds at least bisexual to me."
"Johnny, I've known you since you were born!" Purdy exclaimed. "There is no way that, that this could be! It's not right!"
Bruce leaned back, amusement taking hold as he watched the blue eyes narrow dangerously at the Reverend. Oh yeah. This was going to be fun. Johnny didn't get pissed often, but watch out when he did. Volcanoes had nothing on him.
"I appreciate everything you've done for me, Gene, but don't you dare tell me what's right or wrong. I love Bruce. You can either accept it or we can stop knowing each other. It's up to you. I'm also not going to hide this, though we're not going to take out an ad in the Bangor Daily News. Well, not unless Bruce wants to."
Bruce grinned up at him, meeting the blue eyes and shaking his head. Johnny smiled at him before turning back to an ever-increasingly agitated Purdy.
"Johnny, have you thought about the consequences? You already have problems with publicity as being a psychic! Can you imagine what it will be like when this comes out?" Purdy demanded.
Johnny shrugged mildly. "It's life, Gene. I'll deal with it when it happens. Frankly, I've got more important…beings…to worry about that your typical bigot. People can take it or leave it, I don't give a flying fuck."
Purdy seemed almost more shocked by the profanity than the statement and took a moment before pleading, "Johnny, please, think about what you're doing here!"
When Johnny held out his hand, Bruce took it without hesitation. The sure, steady grip went a long way to banishing the fear in the pit of his stomach. No matter what happened in the future, otherworldly beings, serial killers, kidnappers, natural disasters, or the Armageddon according to Johnny Smith, they would get through it together.
"I'm doing what's right for us, and that's final."
Bruce hadn't ever heard that level of steel in Johnny's voice before, though there had been hints of it now and again. The eyes staring at Purdy were a cool shade of the sky that was new, slightly disturbing, and reassuring all at once.
Purdy flushed and informed them stiffly, "I hope you realize that all assistance the Heritage House is giving you will cease if you continue with this mockery."
"Then I hope you realize that all of my trust-fund will be reassigned to someone who isn't as narrow minded."
Well shit. Threat for threat, Bruce thought in surprise.
The two men stared at each other, and Bruce wasn't all that surprise when it was Purdy who backed down. He did, after all, need Johnny a hell of a lot more than the other way around. Johnny's money, anyhow.
"Fine. We'll leave things the way they are. But Johnny, I won't stop praying for you to come to your senses."
Bruce snorted, changing it to a cough at the older man's glare. Johnny visibly relaxed at Purdy's departure, exhaling deeply. He tugged on Johnny's hand to get his attention then asked, "You okay?"
Nodding with a faint smile, Johnny answered, "Fine. What about you?"
"Yes, you. It was you he was insulting."
This time Bruce did snort. "Takes more than someone like Purdy for me to be insulted, John. Besides, I've got you to protect me."
Johnny chuckled at his sly tone and leaned in for a long, slow kiss. Their tongues danced lazily, exchanging a promise for later. Pulling back, he replied, "Always, Bruce, always."