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After a while, even Roach fell asleep, and it was just Bodhi and Johnny and Tyler, staring out at the ocean over a dying fire. Johnny knew he needed to get up. He had work bright and early tomorrow. Had to get there and be an agent, do the job, make the case.

It was just hard, sitting here, to remember why that mattered. It was hard, any more, for that to seem like winning.

Bodhi was showing Tyler something, drawing in wet sand with a stick, and Tyler was laughing, and Johnny didn't want this moment to end.

He could have stayed there forever, watching the waves, listening to Bodhi and Tyler without registering a word they were saying, if Tyler hadn't said his name. Johnny looked up. They were leaning close together, talking quietly but intensely, and suddenly Johnny wanted to know what they were talking about.

"Hey," he said, coming up on them. He slipped in between them, threw an arm around both their shoulders. They made room for him like it was natural. "What's up?"

"Bodhi's being Bodhi," Tyler said.

"Tyler's being tame," Bodhi said.

"Hey, you do what you want," Tyler told him, and pulled back a little. Johnny let his body follow her, but he was tired enough to forget to let go of Bodhi first.

Bodhi didn't seem to mind. He leaned into Johnny and asked, "Tired?"

Johnny was, but he didn't want to admit it. "Nah. Ready for anything."

"You always are," Bodhi said, and smiled. "You're not like the other guys."

"Never," Johnny said simply, and for a second, he thought Bodhi's eyes looked -- hungry.

Bodhi leaned into him, dropped his voice a little. "Want to know a secret?"

Tyler slipped out from under Johnny's arm. "I'm going in," she said.

Johnny looked between the two of them, Bodhi and Tyler. "Uh, I -- I should go in, too," he said.

Tyler shook her head. "I've heard this before, that's all," she said. "Not up for it again." She gave Johnny a tiny smile. "I'll catch you later."

Johnny listened to her footsteps crunching away over the sand, but he kept his eyes on Bodhi. Bodhi grinned at him, his face alight with something that Johnny couldn't quite read. "So tell me the secret," Johnny said.

Bodhi didn't say anything. Instead, he stroked all the way down Johnny's chest, brushing over one of his nipples. Johnny hesitated for just a second too long and then pushed Bodhi's hand away.

Bodhi laughed, and that didn't sit right with Johnny. "Everything a joke to you?" Johnny asked.

Bodhi put his hand back on Johnny's chest and leaned in close enough that Johnny could feel his body heat. He dropped his voice low. "It's not a joke. It's just not real. You're not here. You're there." He gestured out, around them, waving his hand at the night sky. "We're all star stuff, Johnny." He shifted so he was pressed against Johnny all along one side, and somehow it made Johnny warm all over.

Johnny didn't usually have to work for a challenging tone, but this time he took an extra second to make sure his voice would come out right before he said, "Oh, was that the secret? Deep, brah."

"Nah," Bodhi said, smiling. "Of course not. I didn't say I could tell you a secret. I asked if you wanted to know it. The biggest secrets, the deepest secrets -- they have to be felt. You can't learn them with your mind. You learn them with your body. You know that from surfing, right?"

Johnny thought about it, about all the words he'd read and how not one of them had prepared him for his first encounter with a wave. He nodded.

Bodhi said, "You in or you out?"

There was only one answer to that, ever. "In," Johnny said.

Bodhi turned and walked away, up the beach.

Johnny followed.


Bodhi's place was, Johnny thought, a lot like Bodhi himself: designed to be misjudged at first glance. Johnny wanted to look at the walls, wanted to look at the art, wanted to spend some time figuring it all out, but Bodhi didn't give him a chance to look around. "Back here," he said.

Johnny followed Bodhi's voice through a beaded curtain he'd never noticed before. The room on the other side was dark, lit by a lamp with some really low-wattage bulb, so it mostly just cast shadows of different density. Something in his brain said ambush and the hair on the back of his neck went up.

"Whoa," Bodhi said from Johnny's left side. "Looking a little tense, brah."

It was just stupid reflexes from Quantico training, Johnny figured, so he shook it off. "Yeah, a little," he said.

"Afraid," Bodhi said. It wasn't a question, more like a diagnosis, and that pissed Johnny off.

"I can't fucking see," he said. "I'm afraid I'm gonna trip and break my face."

"And that would be a shame," Bodhi said, and his hand was on Johnny's chin, turning his face, and what the fuck? "You're pretty. Don't want to lose that."

"Fuck that." Johnny knew how he looked, but he also knew it had never been a fucking advantage. You wanted to be anonymous, you wanted to fit in -- you didn't do that with a face like his.

"I always forget how blind we are to our own faces," Bodhi said, shaking his head. "Thank you for reminding me." He touched his chest, then Johnny's, brushing his hand down Johnny's sternum towards his stomach, just like he had at the start of all this.

"You're welcome," Johnny said flatly.

Bodhi ignored that. "Fear is a gift," he said. "Tells us we're still alive. It's okay to be afraid."

"I'm not."

Bodhi grinned at him again, his teeth very noticeable in the dim light. "Oh, okay. Good," he said. He was so close and moved so quickly Johnny didn't have a chance to react; he got his hands up, but Bodhi went lower and got him off balance and falling. By reflex, Johnny reached out, hooked Bodhi with his leg and pulled his feet out from under him, and then they were falling together.

Johnny landed on something soft and low to the ground. He had that frozen second he always had after a fall, ever since the knee, where he waited for the blinding pain to start. When it didn't, he started taking stock.

He was flat on a mattress, a damn big one, in the middle of a dimly-lit room, and Bodhi was mostly on top of him, laughing.

"Your bedroom," Johnny diagnosed, unimpressed.

Bodhi stopped laughing. "No, no. Bedroom's for sleeping. This is the shrine, Johnny." He reached across and grabbed something from the side of the bed; he was still mostly on top of Johnny, so he could feel every movement.

Shrine? "What the fuck," Johnny said. "Is this some kind of weird religious thing?" He considered the mattress, and added, "Some weird religious sex thing?"

"It's the last thing from weird. It's beautiful. Primal. Sex is about transcending, it's using our bodies to get into our minds. It's a way to open our horizons, open ourselves. But to be beautiful, it's gotta be wanted." Bodhi looked at him, somehow serious and taunting at the same time. "If you want to tap out, tap out. Go on home, or sleep in the next room. You don't have to push yourself, Johnny."

Johnny hesitated, caught -- he wasn't, he didn't, not this kind of shit, not with this kind of -- but he didn't want -- "I'm straight," he said.

Bodhi laughed. "Everyone thinks that. Until they don't anymore. Straight, gay, bisexual -- those are just boxes, Johnny. Boxes they put out for us, that we pack ourselves into, looking for the one that fits us best. But you know what? Inside a box, you don't see anything but the walls. Once you break down those walls, you see the universe." He held his hands up like he was weighing something. "Gay," he said, letting one hand drop a little. "Straight," he said, and let the other one drop a little more. "Or you can just be. Your call." He let his hands fall all the way and waited.

"I -- it's not gonna do it for me, man." Johnny'd had a few moments, here there, looking at guys, but everyone did that, and in bed, girls were what did it for him.

Bodhi shrugged. "If it doesn't, then you've learned something. You've tried, at least. Trying and failing is better than not trying at all. "

It was a reflex, like hitting back at anyone who hit at him. "I don't fail."

"Then what's the risk in trying?" Bodhi still looked... he didn't look like horny, exactly. He looked the way he did when he got to the beach in the morning, like he was assessing the waves, figuring out how to respond, finding out what the world had for him that day. That same intense focus, but on Johnny.

Johnny weighed it up. Imagined saying no, rolling off this mattress, seeing Bodhi's eyes slide off him again, shift back to the waves or Tyler or Grommet. And that made up his mind, because that wasn't what he wanted. He wanted the opposite of that, whatever the hell it was.

"Fine," he said. "Show me."

Bodhi nodded, and said, very seriously, "Thank you." Then he picked up one of the things he'd grabbed and held it up. A black cloth, long and thin. A blindfold. "You've got to give up control to get there, Johnny."

Well, Johnny'd said he was in. He sat up, swallowed past the slight wave of dizziness, and, with more effort than he'd thought it'd take, tipped his head forward so Bodhi could blind him.

The switch between dimness and blindness was more than Johnny had been prepared for. His heart rate kicked up, his breath started coming faster, and nothing was even happening. He forced himself to take a deeper breath, started counting heartbeats, and then Bodhi brushed his hand along the side of Johnny's face, and Johnny flinched.

"Whoa," Bodhi said, and Johnny tried to rein in his reaction, hold his body still. Bodhi didn't seem to buy it, though. He pushed his hands into Johnny's hair and started rubbing his scalp, pausing to tug a little on his hair from time to time. Johnny didn't want to respond to that, either -- being petted like a dog -- but he found himself relaxing, his pulse slowing, and after a few minutes he felt pleasantly floaty and a lot less worried.

"Yeah," Bodhi said, satisfied, and he stroked his fingers gently down the side of Johnny's face, then down his neck with just a slight touch of fingernails. Johnny shivered, and Bodhi stopped.

Johnny waited, and then waited longer, for something to happen. His pulse started to accelerate again, this time out of anticipation: what was coming, when was it coming, how? And then -- lips on his palm. Bodhi was -- kissing him?

Bodhi moved away, and Johnny's skin burned where he'd kissed it. Johnny waited, trying to figure out how he felt, what he felt, and he couldn't focus, and then Bodhi touched him, a quick drag of his fingers up the outside of Johnny's arm. A pause, again, and then another touch, his knee. His ankle. Johnny realized that he was panting, his whole body tense and waiting for the next touch, and it didn't come, it didn't come, and then it did, Bodhi's finger, rough with callouses and too much ocean water, sliding across Johnny's lips.

Johnny gasped without meaning to. "Bodhi," he said, mostly to remind himself who he was with, that he wasn't just a body alone in the dark waiting.

"Lie down," Bodhi said, and Johnny hesitated. He already felt pretty fucking exposed, and lying down -- but he wasn't ready to quit, and that was the other choice here, so. He forced himself to lie down. Bodhi's hand brushed his forehead briefly, and it felt almost like praise. Stupid, Utah, don't get stupid, Johnny warned himself.

But thinking was apparently the wrong strategy here, because it let Bodhi take him completely by surprise. Bodhi ran a finger along the hem of Johnny's t-shirt. Twice he brushed Johnny's stomach, and both times Johnny's abs contracted involuntarily. Bodhi breathed out the slightest chuckle the second time, and Johnny's brain focused on it, latched onto it, waited for more. But all he could hear was his own breathing, fast and ragged.

Bodhi waited another interminable few seconds before dropping his hand squarely on Johnny's side. "Ready?" he said.

Johnny wasn't, he absolutely wasn't. "Yeah," he said, or tried to. His mouth was dry and the word broke off in the middle. He swallowed and tried again. "Yeah."

Bodhi pulled Johnny's shirt up, and somehow Johnny was helping him, squirming to get it off faster. He didn't want to be naked, of course not, just -- just wanted the teasing touches to stop. "Get on with it," he said as he tossed the shirt away somewhere.

"Nothing worth having has shortcuts," Bodhi said, and ran a fingertip over one of Johnny's nipples.

Johnny hadn't been expecting it and he gasped. It felt -- rough and gentle at the same time, and it left his skin tingling, and he was still trying to deal with that when Bodhi did the same thing to the other nipple.

Johnny had always had a fairly basic approach to sex. The point was to get off, get everyone off, and he'd never really seen much of a reason to draw things out. He was competent in bed, he made sure his partner got off first, he used protection. What more was there?

Apparently a lot more.

"Hey," Bodhi said. "Focus." And he pinched Johnny's left nipple hard, hard enough to make Johnny gasp, hard enough to make him squeeze his eyes shut behind the blindfold.

"What the fuck?" Johnny snapped.

Bodhi just leaned down and -- kissed. He fucking kissed Johnny's nipple, and that -- it felt weird, it felt wrong. It felt good. Johnny found himself pushing up towards Bodhi's mouth, trying to get more of it, and that was just -- he had no business doing that, just like his skin had no business sparking under Bodhi's mouth, just like his dick had no business getting hard.

It was happening, though. It was all actually happening. Johnny felt like he was two people -- the idiot on the bed aching to be touched by someone he shouldn't even want to fuck, and the observer way off trying to figure out what the fuck was going on.

Bodhi licked Johnny's nipple one more time and switched to the other side, and Johnny dug his fingers into the bed to keep from grabbing Bodhi's head. Bodhi licked and sucked and bit until Johnny's body just had three points: his fingers pressing into the bed, his nipple burning under Bodhi's mouth, his dick pressing against the inside of his pants, fully hard and throbbing a little in the confines of his jeans.

When Bodhi pulled away, Johnny forced himself not to say anything because he was afraid he'd beg. Instead, he panted, tried to reel himself back in. Bodhi gave him a few seconds, just a few, and then he scraped his fingernails along Johnny's stomach.

It hurt, and it felt good, and Johnny wasn't sure what he was even feeling anymore.

"Yeah," Bodhi said appreciatively, and maybe Johnny was imagining it, maybe it was just wishful thinking, but it sounded like Bodhi's voice was rougher, deeper than it had been, and for some reason that did it for Johnny, made him need the way none of the touching had. He wanted -- he wasn't sure what he wanted, but he wanted Bodhi to touch him, wanted Bodhi to want him, wanted Bodhi to fall apart, too.

"Jesus," Johnny said, and then he ran out of words again because Bodhi was running his fingers along the waistband of Johnny's jeans, and his hand was inches away from Johnny's dick, and Johnny couldn't even breathe, he wanted so much.

"You want it?" Bodhi said.

Johnny bit his lip, but he couldn't -- he couldn't think this through, he couldn't think, he just wanted, and then Bodhi's hand was moving away, and fuck no. "I -- yes," Johnny gasped out.

"Yes what?" Bodhi's voice wasn't exactly even anymore, and that pushed at Johnny, made him able to say, "Yes, do it, I want it."

"You want to get off?" Bodhi said, and he moved his hand down, so that it was just barely touching Johnny's dick, more heat than pressure through his jeans.

"Fuck, yes."

Bodhi kept talking like Johnny hadn't answered him. "Or do you want the full experience?"

Johnny froze, caught between Bodhi's hand on his dick and the dare in Bodhi's voice. He wanted -- he wanted -- but there was only one answer to that question. Johnny didn't turn down dares. Johnny didn't go halfway. "Everything," he said, forcing the word out past the tightness in his throat. He was pretty sure he knew what "everything" would mean, and he wasn't actually sure he could do that, but -- he wanted it.

"That's what I love about you, Johnny," Bodhi said. "You get it." He took his hand away, and Johnny moaned in protest. Bodhi flicked his fingers against Johnny's ribs, a tiny touch that reverberated through Johnny's whole body, and said, "The only things worth having are the ones you work for."

Johnny attention was still mostly in his dick, his thoughts stuttering a few seconds behind what was actually happening, so he didn't realize right away that Bodhi was moving around, doing stuff that Johnny couldn't see and couldn't guess at. He found himself holding still, even holding his breath, trying to guess where Bodhi was, and that was stupid. He'd -- he'd committed to this. He didn't need to worry. Johnny shook off the tension, forced his body to relax.

Seconds later, he was tensing back up, anticipating.

Bodhi came back and said, "Second thoughts?"

"No," Johnny said, trying to keep his voice steady, "but could you fucking get on with it?"

Bodhi rested a hand on Johnny's bare chest. "Breathe," he said, and Johnny didn't like being told what to do, but Bodhi was the expert, and it was probably good advice. He did it, forced a deep breath in and out. Bodhi said, "Good. Again."

Johnny just breathed for a minute or two, focusing on moving Bodhi's hand with the inflation of his lungs and then moving it again when he exhaled.

"Good," Bodhi said again. Then he took his hand away and said, "I don't hurry this. It takes what it takes. You get to the end when you're ready for it, not before."

Johnny nodded. He could do this.

Bodhi unbuttoned Johnny's jeans. He flinched a little, just from the surprise, but he thought he hid it pretty well, and Bodhi didn't stop, just methodically stripped him of his jeans and boxers. Johnny wanted to squirm, curl up; being naked to someone else's eyes, when he couldn't see himself -- he felt exposed, vulnerable, and he didn't understand why his cock stayed so fucking hard on display for Bodhi. By reflex, he brought his hands up, maybe to cover himself, maybe just for defense, but Bodhi pushed them down again. "I do the touching," Bodhi said, and pressed once on each of Johnny's wrists. Like restraints, like handcuffs --

Johnny forced himself to breathe again. On his second deep exhale, Bodhi stroked his hand down Johnny's thigh, and Johnny's breathing stuttered. It felt more than most touches. It felt like being touched after a long time alone, like his skin had been aching for the contact and then overwhelmed when it came.

"When we really acknowledge our bodies, they're so much more than we can even take in," Bodhi said knowingly, and Johnny found himself nodding. "This'll take your body pretty far. Not as far as it can go. I'm still looking for that," Bodhi said, and laughed a little.

Johnny didn't feel like laughing.

He felt Bodhi moving some more, and then a hand on his chest. Johnny knew the routine now: he took a deep breath, and another deep breath, and Bodhi started tracing patterns on Johnny's skin. The patterns didn't seem designed to turn Johnny on, but every few seconds Bodhi would stroke over one of Johnny's nipples, or over the sensitive skin on Johnny's sides, and each time it revved him up a little more.

The patterns got bigger, and bigger, and on each pass Bodhi's fingers got a little closer to Johnny's dick, hard and pressed against his stomach. Johnny wanted that, wanted it desperately, and when Bodhi's fingers came so close but didn't quite touch, his hips hitched up involuntarily. Bodhi kept moving, but he said, "You seem ready, Johnny."

"Ready for anything," Johnny said. His voice was scratchy, rough like he'd been talking for hours, even though he'd hardly said a word.

Bodhi didn't say anything, just brought his other hand up and slid it along Johnny's inner thigh. The touch was smooth, slick -- lube. Jesus.

Johnny felt his pulse ratcheting up, and then Bodhi said, "To do this, you have to want it." And Johnny did want it, he wanted -- he wanted this to keep going, he wanted to be touched, he wanted Bodhi.

He wanted Bodhi to want him.

"I want it," he said.

Bodhi pushed Johnny's knees up, spread his legs, and he was fucking glad he couldn't see himself now, spread out like this, hard and panting for it.

"Breathe," Bodhi said. Johnny braced himself for something pushing into him, but instead, Bodhi ran his slick fingers along the crack of Johnny's ass, just a light skim that still sent a jolt through Johnny.

"Jesus," Johnny said, unable to stop himself.

"See? You've got to trust your body. Learn it." Bodhi kept on moving, stroking, teasing Johnny's hole, touching and then pulling away, and after a minute Johnny's hips were shifting into Bodhi's touch, trying to get more.

Bodhi said, "Yeah," rough and low, and then he actually did push. It felt -- weird, and like a lot, and Johnny wasn't sure if he wanted more or if he wanted it to stop. And then Bodhi rubbed just the head of Johnny's dick, smearing around the precome Johnny hadn't even realized he was leaking, and he moaned without meaning to. When Bodhi stopped, Johnny's dick twitched a little, desperate for more. And then Bodhi's finger slid into him.

It was a lot, it felt like a lot, and Johnny felt his muscles locking up. "Breathe," Bodhi said again, and Johnny did.

Bodhi started moving his finger, and it hurt, and Johnny set himself to take it, deal with it, move past it. Bodhi helped, with a couple more light touches to his dick, a hand on his side, a stroke over his nipple or lips. Eventually, Johnny relaxed, and Bodhi said approvingly, "You've got this. You've found the place beyond control now."

The second finger didn't take as much getting used to. Bodhi pretty much just slid it in, and then he changed the angle or something, and for a second Johnny's whole body lit up like a neon sign. "Fuck, fuck," he said out loud.

"Yeah," Bodhi said. "You've just got to take it far enough to get there," and he kept moving.

But now it wasn't Bodhi doing something to Johnny, it was the two of them doing something together. Johnny moved, and pushed, and, when Bodhi still wasn't getting it just where he wanted it, Johnny couldn't keep his hands down any longer. He grabbed Bodhi's wrist and angled it, chasing that spark.

Bodhi laughed. "Yeah, you want it," he said, and then he pulled his fingers out entirely.

Johnny realized he'd been arching up pretty hard, putting his whole body into it, shoving into Bodhi's hand, and he fell back against the mattress, panting. Bodhi wasn't being gentle anymore -- he muscled Johnny into a new position, turning him over so he was on all fours, his ass in the air and his legs spread wide.

"I think it's time," Bodhi said. Johnny's kneejerk reaction of fuck, no, no dick in my ass got buried in a wave of pure yeah, give me more, and he nodded.

"You always want so much," Bodhi said, admiring, and Johnny didn't want to like Bodhi's approval so much, but he fucking did.

"Yeah," Johnny said, but he broke off in the middle because he could feel Bodhi's dick pressing against his ass, and he could imagine the disapproval of, fuck, everyone he'd ever known, that he was doing this, that he was letting it happen, that he wanted it, and that made it even better. He was doing this, going for it, and to hell with all of them. "Do it," Johnny said, pushing up against Bodhi, trying to make it happen faster.

And Bodhi did. His dick felt huge to Johnny, and the pain mixed with the pure rush Johnny always got from doing it -- from daring a little more, trying a little harder, pushing a little more. It was a familiar feeling in the middle of everything new, and it sent Johnny flying, riding a wave in his own mind. "Yes," he said, and pushed back, looking for more, and then Bodhi's dick nailed him in that same spot and Johnny's brain whited out.

He skipped a few seconds and came back to find himself shoving into Bodhi, pushing down, chasing the rush, and Bodhi driving into him almost as hard as Johnny wanted.

"Yes, fuck, give it up, take it," Bodhi chanted, and dug his fingers into Johnny's hips so hard they'd for sure leave bruises.

Johnny loved it. He wanted to feel Bodhi's hands everywhere, wanted Bodhi to touch every part of him. His body felt alive, activated, all his nerves firing. Sweat dripped down his face and the blindfold felt wet and his breath moved harshly through his throat and his hands were skidding on the sheets and he just took it, took it all.

And for a while, that was enough, but every thrust made his dick harder, until it was throbbing, pressing up against his stomach, leaking there, and Johnny needed to come so bad he could taste it. "Bodhi," he ground out, "touch me."

Bodhi said, "Wait for it." Johnny could hear him breathing now, harsh and loud, and his hands were flexing on Johnny's hips, and -- Bodhi was into this, Bodhi wanted this, Bodhi needed Johnny. The thought hit Johnny hard, and went straight to his dick, making him moan out loud.

"Come on," Johnny begged. He needed both arms to hold himself up, to push himself onto Bodhi's dick, but he'd never been this hard, this desperate, without anyone touching his dick, and he fucking needed it.

"Ride it out," Bodhi said, and slammed back in.

"Fuck you," Johnny said. His arms were shaking, the muscles straining to keep him up, and then his whole body was shuddering like it could barely stand the pace. Bodhi was driving into him, and every thrust took him higher, until his eyes started leaking tears into the blindfold and his lungs burned and he could feel his own heartbeat, and then Bodhi nailed him just right one more time and Johnny came.

It seemed to last a long time, his body locked up and taken over by it, and when it was over Johnny felt emptied.

He collapsed to the mattress. Bodhi kept fucking him through the aftershocks. Johnny was so sensitive his body shook with every thrust, but he still wanted more, wanted something, though his brain wouldn't work well enough to tell him what. He just held on, waiting, letting everything happen to him, trusting it would work out.

Bodhi's rhythm faltered, his fingers dug into Johnny even harder, and then he slammed in one last time and held there, shaking, coming inside of Johnny, and that, that was what Johnny'd been waiting for.

Johnny came down slowly. He started to feel the sparks of pain, the exhaustion in his muscles, the come dripping down his thigh, Bodhi's body half crushing him. With tremendous effort, he pushed Bodhi off and rolled over onto his back.

"Jesus fuck," he said, and pushed off the blindfold. His eyes didn't want to open.

Bodhi smiled at him, and it was strange to see Bodhi again, to be able to see again at all. "This is what it's about, Johnny. Finding your limits, going past them."

Johnny knew how that went. He'd run past his limits, he'd lifted past his limits, he'd stood in the rain and climbed and saluted and kept silent past his limits. He recognized the feeling: the full body ache, the weird sense of dislocation. He wondered what he looked like right now, fucked out and sprawled on a bed with another guy. He wondered what Tyler would think of him right now. Or Pappas, fuck.

Pappas. Shit. Work.

"I have to go," Johnny said, sitting up. His body protested hard, but he ignored it.

"Sure," Bodhi said. He sat up, too, and kissed Johnny once, in the center of his forehead. "Go in peace," he said seriously. "Go in strength."

Johnny was only half listening. He dug for his clothes and forced himself to put them on, then stumbled out into the dark.

He had about four hours to turn himself back into a responsible FBI agent. Four hours before he needed to be at work, not stinking of sex and wincing when he stepped wrong. He kept his mind focused on the goal as he drove home through streets as quiet as they ever got.

The hot shower took care of some of it. The food that Johnny mechanically shoveled down, straight from the fridge into his belly, took care of a little more. He checked the time -- three hours, now. Enough for a nap. Maybe when he woke up he'd feel less like he'd forced himself into a uniform that didn't fit.

He sprawled out in bed, ignoring his body, emptying his mind. The phone rang.

"Shit," Johnny growled, and grabbed it. "Hello?"

"Johnny," Tyler said.

Johnny relaxed back against his pillow. "Hey, hi. I, look, I've got to catch some sleep, so..."

"Yeah, no, I know that," she said. "I just wanted to check on you."

"I'm fine."

She laughed at that. "Yeah, I've been that kind of fine. Don't be an idiot." Johnny opened his mouth to protest, but she rolled right over that. "I know what it's like, with Bodhi. I know how it -- I know how he leaves you feeling. Like someone you're not, like someone you never want to be."

Johnny deflected, automatically as breathing. "Mostly, he just left me worn out," he said, forcing a chuckle at the end.

Tyler sighed. "Okay, Johnny. See you tonight?"

"Yeah," Johnny said.

After she hung up, he went back to trying to sleep, but his mind wouldn't empty a second time. He kept hearing Tyler's voice, what she'd said: like someone you're not, like someone you never want to be.

She was wrong. He felt like the real Johnny Utah. Like the real Johnny Utah standing on the edge of something.

And he had three hours to make that go away, to push it all back down. Because if he kept standing at the edge, he was gonna jump.