"Hey man, are you okay?" Bruce asked with concern.
Johnny shrugged, forehead leaning against the window as he took in the darkened street.
"Cause, you don't look so hot."
"Well, let's recap, shall we? I was kidnapped and held against my will, forced to witness the brutal and insane murder of an entire family by the one who did it and molested. Oh, and the whole thing was not only recorded, it was broadcast for millions of people to see. I think I've got a right to not look so hot."
Bruce frowned and glanced at Johnny, demanding, "Wait a minute, molested?"
Sighing, Johnny said, "Penny. She was all set to, ah, get pregnant from me."
With a slow breath, keeping firm grip on his emotions and the car, Bruce repeated evenly, "She was going to rape you."
"I, um, yeah, I guess," Johnny agreed, not looking at him.
"I assume you didn't tell Walt."
"What are you, crazy?"
"Besides, she's obviously disturbed and now she's going to get the help she needs."
"She still tried to…"
"Bruce!" Johnny exclaimed sharply.
Bruce fell silent and kept a firm grip on the steering wheel.
Sighing, Johnny said softly, "I just want to forget that it ever happened."
"Sure man, whatever you want," Bruce agreed. He reached over and gripped Johnny's shoulder, trying to comfort him at least a little.
Johnny briefly covered Bruce's hand with his, but still wouldn't look at him.
* * * *
It was a few days before Johnny looked him in the eye again, but Bruce stayed patient. He took that time to get himself together so that when it happened, he didn't have this unholy anger ready to burst out. An anger with Penny's name on it. That anyone could hurt Johnny was unthinkable to him. That it had been bad enough for the other man withdraw into that hard shell he'd started out in right after waking up from the coma made him furious.
They were in the back yard having a mini-cookout and enjoying what was probably the last of the good fall weather when Johnny held out the plate of uncooked hamburgers and grinned at him, saying, "Try not to burn the burgers this time."
Bruce grinned back at him, enjoying the blue eyes staring back at him, and retorted, "Just because some of us like the burger no longer mooing, doesn't make it burnt."
Eyes rolling, Johnny hobbled towards the patio table, sitting down with a wince.
"Your leg still bugging you?" Bruce asked casually. Neither of them had mentioned the kidnapping since it had happened.
Johnny nodded. "Yeah. I've been soaking it the last few nights, but I think it requires your magic touch after all."
Snorting, Bruce promised, "I'll show you magic touch all right."
Johnny lifted his face to the autumn sun, closing his eyes with a smile. "Thanks, Bruce."
"No problem, man," Bruce agreed easily.
It didn't take long before the burgers were done, and Bruce brought them to the table just as the phone rang. He held up a hand and ordered, "Don't move. I'll get it."
Nodding, Bruce headed inside and snagged the phone in the kitchen. "Smith residence."
"Bruce, hey, it's Dana."
With an internal grimace, Bruce poked his head out the back door looking at Johnny and saying, "Hey, Dana, what can I do for you?"
Johnny waved quickly, motioning that he wasn't home.
"Just wanted to talk to Johnny."
"He's not here," Bruce lied easily.
"Then why are you?"
Grinning at her pointed tone, Bruce answered, "I was borrowing his washing machine. Mine's busted."
"Uh huh," she commented, plainly disbelieving. "Well. When he's done avoiding me, have him give me a call."
"Sure thing," Bruce agreed cheerfully.
She hung up without saying goodbye and Bruce shot Johnny a curious look. "She said that when you're done avoiding her, to give her a call. Since when are you avoiding Dana?"
Johnny started fixing his burger as he answered, "Just don't feel like talking to her."
"Cool by me."
Obviously surprised, Johnny looked up and asked, "It is?"
Nodding, Bruce brought the phone out to the table and replied, "Sure. She gets on my last nerve, sometimes."
Johnny snorted. "Since when does a beautiful woman get on your last nerve?"
With a smirk, Bruce pointed out, "Not beautiful women in the abstract, this particular woman in the specific."
Shaking his head in amusement, Johnny started eating.
Bruce was happy to note that the last of the shadows began to fade from Johnny's eyes.
* * * *
One of the best and worst things about being in love with your best friend was proximity, Bruce decided a few days later. You had pretty much unrestricted access to your heart's desire, but couldn't let on that that was what you really wanted. Every time that he massaged Johnny's leg, he was on edge to keep things above board and professional. The music was soothing but not romantic, the candles relaxing, but not sensual. The whole set up was calm and easy, designed to relax the body.
Whenever Johnny popped a boner, Bruce took it in stride, knowing that the male body just worked that way. When you were feeling all good and happy, inside and out, your body liked to show its appreciation and maybe ask for a little more. It happened on a pretty regular basis with a number of his clients and Bruce never took it personally. There had been a few offers over the years, but Bruce had always smiled politely and rescheduled the patient to work with someone else the next time.
Johnny, for his part, never talked about it, which totally reinforced Bruce's theory about his friend being 'happy' in general. That's why he was so startled when a few nights later, Johnny said, completely out of the blue, "You've got great hands."
Bruce froze in place, then slanted a look at his friend. "Ah, thanks?"
Laughing, Johnny replied, "You're welcome. And I was just mentioning it because my leg's completely back to normal, no pain. Well, no more pain than usual at least. I wasn't trying to hit on you or anything."
Damn. Bruce shook his head and tossed a chip at the other man. "Just watch the damn game, will you?"
Johnny caught the chip and ate it, turning his grin back to the television. It was only a few minutes later that the doorbell rang and the grin vanished as if it had never been.
Reaching over, Bruce squeezed his friend's shoulder. "I'll get rid of them, whoever it is."
Relieved, Johnny said, "Thanks."
"No problem," Bruce assured him, standing.
He walked to the foyer and swore softly at the blue flashing lights outside, knowing that Walt would be waiting. Taking a breath, Bruce opened the door and, sure enough, found Walt on the front stoop. "Sorry Walt, but he's really not up for anything right now."
A pinched look was on the handsome man's face as he said, "I know, I'm sorry, but it's an emergency."
"Didn't you just hear what I said?" Bruce exclaimed angrily. "Or have you gone deaf? He's not up for anything right now!"
"Bruce, it's okay," Johnny said from behind.
Looking back, Bruce saw that Johnny was far from okay, but subsided, knowing that the other man wouldn't relax until he at least heard what Walt had to say. Stepping aside, he sarcastically waved Walt in.
Walt entered the house and crossed to Johnny, saying, "Sheryl Wilson's daughter's gone missing. She left the Jackson's house at three this afternoon and never made it home."
Frowning, Johnny asked, "Don't the Jacksons and Wilsons live two blocks apart?"
"Exactly. We're sure that someone picked her up," Walt explained. "And if we don't find her in the first forty-eight hours…"
"You probably won't," Johnny finished tiredly.
Johnny grabbed the black leather coat hanging behind him and said, "Let's go."
"I'll drive," Bruce stated, daring an argument.
Quirking a grin at him, Johnny agreed, "I wouldn't dream of saying no."
Eyes rolling, Bruce lightly shoved him towards the door. "Yeah, right."
* * * *
They went from the Wilson house to the Jackson house. Then they walked the entire length of the space in between. Johnny caught a glimpse of the kidnapper's caravan from a skid mark on the street. Then he saw Lisa's funeral when he touched something in her room. As night wore into day, Bruce hovered close while the worry, guilt, and fear deepened on Johnny's face. He knew that the other man was afraid that he wouldn't get to her in time.
It was almost a complete twenty-four hours later that Johnny finally saw Lisa Wilson, tied up and drugged in an abandoned farmhouse and was able to direct Walt to her. Thankfully, that was the extent of her condition. Lisa gave a description of the kidnapper for the police to work with and Walt sent him and Johnny home. They drive was silent, both exhausted from having been up for almost two days straight.
Bruce tried to help Johnny up the front steps, but the other man sidestepped before they could connect. Wincing, he apologized, "Sorry man, you're probably sensitive after such a long session."
With a sigh, Johnny countered, "I'm sorry, Bruce. I know you're just trying to help. You've been great, like always, but I just need to be alone right now, okay?"
"Sure. No problem," Bruce agreed. "Call me when you want some company."
"Thanks, I will."
Bruce waited until Johnny was inside then walked to his car. Before he got there, Dana drove up, stopping beside him. Sighing, he pasted on a smile and greeted, "Hey, Dana."
"Hi, Bruce," she answered. "Johnny inside?"
"Yeah, but he's not up for people right now," Bruce informed her.
"Been a busy twenty-four hours. How come no one called me?"
Snorting, Bruce answered, "Because it was a busy twenty-four hours."
Green eyes narrowed at him as she commented, "Not too busy for you to be there."
"I was here when Walt arrived."
Frowning at the snide tone, Bruce demanded, "What is your problem?"
She walked closer and snapped, "You are! You're always here, Bruce. Why don't you go find someone else to bother? Or don't your other patients want you hanging around?"
Bruce stiffened, but kept his mouth shut so he didn't say something they'd both regret. From the slight widening of her eyes, Dana knew that she'd gone too far. Taking a breath, he said, "I've been up for a long time, so I'm going to pretend that I just hallucinated you saying that."
He cut her off by holding up a hand and taking a step back, towards his car. "You got a problem with me being Johnny's friend, then we'll have this out another time."
"It's not you being his friend that I mind," Dana insisted.
Okay. Apparently they were going to have it out right then. Gritting his teeth, he asked, "Then what is your problem?"
"You're in love with him and he's straight," she said ruthlessly. "He's never going to be more than a friend to you, but you can't accept that."
Thinking that he was probably going to need some serious massage therapy to unclench his jaw, Bruce said, "I do accept that. I know that he's as straight as the day is long. But you know what? I don't try to control or manipulate him into anything, unlike some people. I'm his friend and that's not going to change, so you best accept that I am not going anywhere."
Dana paused, then tried, "It's got to be painful for you, Bruce, you should find someone who can love you the way you need them to."
Laughing, Bruce shook his head and exclaimed, "Pain is so far from what I feel around him, that it's not even on the same planet. I can't change how I feel, any more than I can change him. And I wouldn't if I could. Maybe in a few years I'll meet someone, and maybe I won't. No matter what happens, though, even if he gets serious with you, I'll still be here. Understand?"
Though she looked less than thrilled, Dana nodded.
"Good. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going home so I can collapse," Bruce said with a sigh. "I suggest that you leave, because he really is exhausted, but you do what you want."
Stifling a yawn, he opened the Cruiser's door and got in, not looking at her again and careful not to 'accidentally' run her down.
* * * *
If Johnny noticed the tension between Dana and Bruce over the next few weeks, he didn't mention it. Things did, of course, die down over time and eventually, he could interact with her and not want to strangle her skinny neck. By that time, Bruce was pretty sure that Johnny was the most clueless man on the planet, but that was just as well. The last thing he wanted was for Johnny to know that his occasional girlfriend had warned him off.
Sighing, Bruce relaxed into the leather chair and waited for Johnny to finish getting ready. They were going to be late to the movie again, which meant they wouldn't go because the other man hated being late, but he didn't really care. Any time with Johnny was a good time, at least in his not-so-humble opinion.
"Sorry, I just couldn't get started today," Johnny apologized, entering the living room.
Opening his eyes, Bruce looked over and shrugged. "I figured."
"Well, we're definitely not going to make it on time. You want to do something else?"
Bingo. Did he know the man, or what? Grinning, Bruce answered, "If you want, doesn't matter to me."
"We can go if you really want to see it," Johnny suggested.
Shrugging, Bruce said, "It really doesn't matter. What do you want to do?"
A twinkle entered the blue eyes as Johnny countered, "I don't care. What do you want to do?"
"Oh man, spare me," Bruce groaned, chuckling. "What is this, high school?"
"Well, I was in high school a lot longer than most people. It probably warped me," Johnny pointed out, sitting on the couch.
"You were a teacher, John, not a perpetual student."
"Ah, but it's a very fine line, sometimes, my friend."
Snickering, Bruce said, "Well, since the movie's out, we could rent a video or something."
Johnny nodded, but didn't move, instead shifting to get comfortable as he asked, "You ever think about getting married?"
Startled, Bruce answered honestly, "No. Are you?"
"I'm thinking about getting serious anyhow."
Though hurt ran through him, Bruce ignored it and smiled. He leaned forward and said, "I'm happy for you, man."
"Yeah. You and Dana are a good couple. You'll have great lookin' kids, too, if you do ever get hitched," Bruce replied. They would, too.
Hesitant, Johnny corrected, "It's not Dana."
Oh God. Walt's going to kill him. He's going to hunt Johnny down with his biggest gun and kill him, Bruce thought, freezing with shock. "I thought you said that it was only one time with Sarah."
Confusion swam up and Bruce said, "There's no one else, unless you've been keeping secrets."
Johnny hesitated again, then stated softly, "There's you."
Bruce blinked a few times. "I'm sorry, what?"
"There's me, what?" Bruce demanded, stalling frantically. Please God, don't be screwing with me like this!
"I heard you and Dana...you know, a few weeks ago in the driveway?"
"And I realized that I'm an idiot," Johnny answered, half-grinning.
Shaking his head, Bruce said, "No, you're straight."
"How do you know?"
Nonplused, Bruce just stared at him. "Ah, because you were in love with Sara forever? And now Dana? And that ghost chic, which still creeps me out when I think about it."
Johnny grinned for real and said, "Technically, I don't think that one counts."
"What about Dana and Sara?" Bruce pointed out.
The grin faded and Johnny leaned back against the sofa, serious. "I've been thinking about it a lot since I overheard you. I do love Sara, always have, but I need more now. I don't want to be looking at her the rest of my life."
A little sheepish, Johnny admitted, "Great sex."
"Exactly!" Bruce exclaimed. "Great sex because she's a woman and you're straight."
"Bruce, I don't know anything right now. I loved Sara for so long that nothing else ever occured to me. And then Dana was there at just the right time for me, but it's just sex between us. You love me, you said it yourself."
Groaning, Bruce got to his feet and started pacing. "Just because I do, doesn't mean that you do. Point in fact, you don't."
"So the hard-on I get when you give me a massage means...?"
Aggravated, Bruce exclaimed, "It means that your body's relaxed and happy and lookin' for a little attention. That's it. Happens all the time."
"Why are you getting worked up about this? I'd think you'd be happy for me to say something like this," Johnny said, uncertain.
Getting a grip on his emotions, knowing they were at a delicate place, Bruce sat beside his friend, facing him. "I'm upset because I don't want to be an experiment to you. Your friendship is way too important to me for that."
Still uncertain, Johnny guessed, "And you don't want to get hurt."
"And that," Bruce agreed. "I do love you, John. But I couldn't take it if you give me this and then take it away. I'd lose everything if that happened. Do you understand me?"
Johnny nodded and took his hand. "I understand. I also think I went about this the wrong way. I care a lot about you, Bruce. I want to see where this can go between us."
The firm, loose grip on his hand was strangely confining and Bruce was unable to look away, let alone pull away. The brilliant blue eyes held him pinned, showing Johnny's sincerity and emotions, as they always did.
"You're always there for me, no matter what. We spend most of our time together now as it is, and when we're not together, it feels like every other thought centers around you," Johnny continued slowly. "That seems a hell of a lot more than just experimentation to me. I don't know where this will go, but that's true of any love, right? Man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman. You never know what's going to happen."
Which was true, but... "John, have you ever even thought about sex? Cause I've gotta tell you, man, it's something I really enjoy. This wouldn't just be some in the head and heart relationship."
Laughing, his eyes crinkling up and his hand tightening on Bruce's, Johnny answered, "Yeah, Bruce, I have thought about it. It wasn't just my body that was happy with you touching me, believe me."
Grinning slowly, Bruce said, "Cool."
He leaned forward, tugging Johnny closer and pressed their lips together. It was awkward for a couple of seconds, but then he opened his mouth and Johnny's tongue slipped in. The other man moved closer, kissing him back and doing it with exquisite slowness. It was a long, slow kiss, a get-to-know-you kiss that reminded Bruce of long make-out sessions. When Johnny's hand rested on his chest, moving in a careful way, Bruce started chuckling.
Indignant, Johnny pulled back and demanded, "You're laughing at how I kiss?"
The chukles broke into full out laughter and he nodded. "Sorry, man, but I'm not gonna break. Really. You can go a little har...mph."
Johnny grabbed Bruce's shirt and pulled him in for another kiss, smothering the rest of what Bruce had been going to say. It was hard and fast this time, and Bruce groaned at the way Johnny took control of him. There was an awkward moment where the other man kept the kiss going while he maneuvered to straddle Bruce's lap. Fingers played with his dreads, one hand massaging the back of his neck as Johnny devoured Bruce's mouth.
Gripping Johnny's waist, he pulled the other man tight and felt an answering hardness through his pants. Heat flushed him all the way through and he gasped, pushing his tongue into Johnny's mouth. They battled for control, then Johnny relaxed against him and received as well as he took. It was heaven, having his hands roaming over the strong, lean body. The golden locks beckoned and he sunk a hand into Johnny's hair, loving the soft, smooth feel against his fingers.
When they broke apart, they both had to catch their breath. Grinning, Bruce gasped, "Nice."
Johnny half fell to the side with a grimace. "Very nice. Remind me not to sit like that again, though. Leg cramp, leg cramp!"
Concerned, Bruce pulled the damaged leg over his lap and unerringly found the pressure points, rubbing hard and certain until Johnny was groaning in relief.
"God, thank you," Johnny sighed.
"Helps to have a personal massuese, doesn't it?" Bruce teased.
Johnny nodded, looking at him with an invitation. Bruce took it and slid his hand up the damaged leg to pull up the t-shirt and touch the bare skin beneath. It was the body he'd been wanting for months and to have free reign was heady. Meeting Johnny's eyes, he asked, "How slow you want to take this?"
Smiling slowly, Johnny answered, "I think we've been dating for, what, six months already? I think that's long enough."
Bruce chuckled and said, "Good point."
"So let's get somewhere a little more comfortable," Johnny suggested, holding out a hand.
Taking the hand, he pulled Johnny up and said, "This is kind of weird."
Johnny arched an eyebrow at him and questioned, "So, you only want me when I'm not expecting it?"
Snorting, Bruce answered, "No, man. I just meant that I'm not used to doing stuff like this in the middle of the day."
A laugh escaped Johnny as he crowed, "I knew it! Beneath all the hippy new-age stuff you spout, you're a prude!"
"I am not!" Bruce protested, unable to keep the grin from escaping. "Well, maybe a little. My parents were middle-class."
Shaking his hand, Johnny slung an arm around Bruce's waist and angled them towards the stairs saying, "A product of your upbringing."
"Yeah, well, not too much or we wouldn't be heading for the bedroom," Bruce pointed out, a little smug.
Johnny snorted as they reached the stairs. "Like you ever would have made a move."
"I would so have!"
Johnny turned suddenly and pushed him against the banister, pushing a leg between his knees and looking at Bruce intently. Shifting his hips, he nudged against Bruce's cock and murmured, "What was that? I didn't hear you."
Groaning, Bruce's head fell back as Johnny began licking it. The hands on his ass sure as hell didn't feel like someone who didn't know what they were doing. Come to think of it, Johnny had been in control since the first sentence. Shuddering as his lover sucked on the skin just under his chin, Bruce muttered, "Okay, you win, I give. And you've done this before, haven't you?"
Startled, Johnny pulled back. "No."
"So what's with all this aggressiveness? Not that I'm complaining," Bruce added with a grin.
Eyebrows wriggling, Johnny replied, "I'm catching up on the new forum of the internet."
Chuckling, Bruce said, "Don't believe everything you see there. As a licensed physical therapist, I can say that some of those positions are just not possible."
Shaking his head, Johnny pulled back and grabbed Bruce's arms, leading him up the stairs. He leaned on Bruce, which Bruce totally enjoyed, finally able to give the kind of support he'd always wanted to. They were almost to the top of the stairs when the doorbell rang. Bruce groaned and pleaded, "Don't answer it, John."
Johnny sighed and looked down the stairs.
Bruce exclaimed, "It's probably just a Jehovah's witness or something!"
A chuckle escaped as Johnny cupped his face, a thumb brushing across Bruce's cheek. "That's doubtful."
"Yeah, yeah," Bruce muttered.
The doorbell sounded again and Johnny asked hesitantly, "Do you really mind? Because I won't answer it if you don't want me to. I want this as much as you do."
It was like not going to the movies if they were late. Bruce knew it was part of who Johnny was. And if he was going to have something real with Johnny, he had to accept it. Half-grinning, he answered, "Nah, man. Let's go. You know what they say. Anticipation is the spice of sex."
Johnny arched an eyebrow at him. "I thought it was the spice of life."
"Our lives don't need any more spice," Bruce stated definitively.
Laughing, Johnny turned around and started walking back downstairs, Bruce right behind him.