Adj. stupider, stupidest.
* Slow to learn or understand; obtuse.
* Tending to make poor decisions or careless mistakes.
* Marked by a lack of intelligence or care; foolish or careless: a stupid mistake.
* Commonly known as Johnny Smith. See also: Walt Bannerman.
-- dictionary.com (with additions made by J. Smith, esq.)
The way Johnny figured, they were both to blame. If Walt hadn't suffered from an overdeveloped sense of justice, and if Johnny had taken better care of his brain, the two of them would be at home, watching Monday Night football, eating greasy potato chips and discussing the game as Sarah and JJ tried to get them to shut the heck up already.
But no, Walt had to be a cop, and Johnny had to be brain-damaged, and together they were just stupid. They were like frat guys trying to be superheroes. In theory, Walt was the best cop Penobscot County had seen in over twenty years, but in reality, the minute Johnny Smith crossed his path, the whole thing went to shit with alarming speed.
Still wasn't Johnny's fault.
The problem was the fact they were both inherently stupid. Sarah liked to blame their respective penises for the problem, but Johnny thought it went deeper than that. See, together, they attracted trouble. The type of trouble most people couldn't handle, so the fact they could, and with minimal bloodshed, was pretty impressive, if you asked him.
Though it was probably penis-related, too. Johnny was man enough to admit it.
"You awake?" Johnny asked, his ears still ringing from the beating he had taken lying down, curled up into the foetal position, protecting all his vitals organs. The only consolation was that Johnny's brain was already mush, so a few more kicks probably wouldn't hurt it, but knowing his luck, he'd now shoot lasers out of his eyes, too.
Walt's voice was nasally when he spoke. "This is your fault, you know."
"I knew you were going to say that," Johnny said with a sigh.
He didn't understand where they were, because he wasn't getting anything from brushing his fingers over the walls. It was small and cramped like a sardine can, and he'd been stripped of everything but his boxers and his undershirt. Walt was next to him, sweaty and tense, naked from at least the waist up. The light inside the space was dim, and if Johnny shifted slightly, he could see Walt's grim face, just barely illuminated.
"At least we're together," Johnny said, the sorriest peace-offering ever.
"You couldn't have seen this?" In Johnny's opinion, Walt seemed a little stressed out. "Fucking useless psychics. Can save everybody else without a problem, but when it comes to their own asses, they conveniently block out the part where someone sneaks up on them and beats them senseless. Fuck, John," Walt added for emphasis, scowling.
"Not my fault," Johnny repeated. "This power works in weird and mysterious ways ..."
"It's a pain in the fucking ass, is what it is."
"If you had just waited ..."
"If you hadn't been so insistent ..."
"If you had just waited ..."
Secretly, Johnny hoped this was part of Walt's grand plan. Annoy their captors into letting them go. It seemed like a great idea to Johnny, but he really wasn't much of a criminal mastermind. Bruce was the man of Great Ideas, at least according to Bruce.
Johnny, though, Johnny wasn't quite as stupid as this entire unfortunate episode made it seem. Close, probably, if you asked Walt, but Johnny had faith they'd get out of this alive, because they always did. Stupid, maybe, but they were lucky sons of bitches, too.
Johnny was simply going to think of this as long overdue bonding time, just him and Walt and a sense of impending doom.
Johnny hoped his obituary went something like this:
Smith, John. 1971-2006. Died suddenly in a sardine can early Friday morning. Survived by his son, JJ, his ex-fiancee Sarah, and his best friend, Bruce. Would posthumously like to assure everyone that despite appearances to the contrary, he really did see it coming. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Centre for Really Shitty Psychics. Sorry, Walt.
"I guess we were right about the drug ring, huh?"
"Small consolation," Walt said, the first words to leave his mouth in hours. They'd been there a day at that point, by Johnny's estimation, or maybe a week. It was hard to tell. They'd taken his watch. He really loved that watch. He hoped he got it back.
Johnny reached out, touching Walt's pinkie with his.
-- "John, run," Walt shouts, shoving him, and Johnny's trying, but his legs are like jelly, after being locked up so long. Angry shouts, and gunshots, and Walt's down, and then his gut's burning like it's on fire, and his mouth tastes like rust, and fuuuuuck --
"Fuck," Johnny repeated, just for emphasis.
Walt looked over at him, rightly suspicious. "Now what?"
"Well, here's the good news: we're going to die."
Walt groaned, planting a hand over his face, fingers digging into his damp curly hair. It had turned into something akin to a white boy afro, except much worse. It was like an old lady's perm gone astray but more manly, like the old lady could beat people up, too.
"I could be at home watching football," Walt said bitterly.
"Not my fault," Johnny reminded him.
Johnny knew Walt's obituary was going to go something like this:
Bannerman, Walter J. 1971-2006. Died suddenly in the line of duty on Friday morning. Penobscot County sheriff from 1996-2006. Beloved father of John (JJ) and loving husband of Sarah. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to [insert charitable cause].
PS. It was all Johnny Smith's fault, but you didn't hear that from him.
Johnny was like any normal guy, and had a list of things he would do if he knew it was his last night on earth. Get laid by the first person who said yes (preferably someone he knew and loved, like Sarah, or Bruce, if he didn't laugh too hard when Johnny asked), have a big dinner of grilled steak and mashed potatoes and warm apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream, and finally talk to Walt about the Sarah thing, which they danced around like only men could.
"I slept with your wife."
"I know," Walt said, carefully, like he didn't know where Johnny was going with this.
"I'm sorry about that."
Walt didn't reply at first, but there was a perceivable tension in his shoulders, thrumming against Johnny's skin where they touched, glued together by the unforgiving heat. Johnny was a little surprised that he wasn't having visions constantly. This was the first time in at least five years that he had been so utterly physical with someone and so completely without a single psychic episode.
Walt's pinkie notwithstanding.
"You're not sorry," Walt said, finally, and Johnny deflated a little. "If I was to die, and you weren't, I know exactly whose bed you'd be sleeping in for the rest of your life."
Johnny licked his dry lips. "I'd wait a couple months," he said quietly.
"You'd wait a couple days."
"I'd mean to wait a couple months," Johnny muttered, blinking into the darkness. This wasn't exactly how he'd picture it would go. He'd imagined a fistfight, which he would undoubtedly lose, and Walt messing up his face, but within reason, a polite rearranging.
Hard to do, Johnny would admit, in an area this small.
In the morning, nothing had changed.
They were still going to die.
"How about if we kick our way out?"
-- thump, thump, thump and then something snaps, not the metal door, but something in Johnny's already crappy legs. He shouts before Walt can clamp a hand over his mouth, and the door opens, and Walt's dead, a hole in his head that Johnny can see the sun through, and then another bang, and --
"Okay, yeah, that's not going to work," Johnny said, letting go of Walt's finger.
Walt grunted softly. "Okay, what if you distract the guy, and I jump him ..."
-- a guy opens the door, ordering them to take their twice-daily piss, and Johnny fakes a seizure, moaning about the future as he drools with his bone-dry mouth. Walt jumps up, tackling the first guy, and suddenly there's three more, shouting at them, pulling out guns, and Johnny's shot in the chest, and the stomach and the neck, burbling blood as Walt is shot point-blank range, his brains in Johnny's mouth as Johnny gurgles --
"Definitely not," Johnny said, spitting into the corner, still tasting the salty heat on his tongue. "There's a whole group of them out there, and they're armed to the teeth."
Walt sighed. "All right. You fake an illness and ..."
-- Johnny finds that puking on command is easy in this situation, moaning and groaning as he lurches around, emptying his stomach of the Snickers bar he and Walt shared for dinner. One of the guys kicks him in the stomach, and decides he's too much trouble --
Johnny pried his fingertip off the knobby bump of Walt's knuckle. Sweat dripped in his eyes, stinging like a motherfucker, and Johnny rubbed at them, trying to clear his blurry sight. "That might buy you some time, but I'm toast. The psychic says no."
"Then we just wait it out?"
-- it's close, death, and they both know it, leaning against each other, numb from days of sitting, crouched, waiting for this very moment. Johnny takes Walt's hand, leans his head on Walt's shoulder, and wishes he could cry, but he's all dried out. Walt's breath slowly evens out, slower and slower, until it stops, and Johnny's completely alone --
"We're fucked," Johnny said decidedly.
The fundamental problem, the reason why they were reduced to having the IQs of amoeba when they were around each other, probably had something to do with how much they had in common, and how badly they both wished otherwise. Peas in a pod, Johnny's mother would have said about the whole stupid thing, and the pod was Sarah.
Okay, bad metaphor, but Johnny had never claimed to be an English teacher.
Johnny was feeling especially pea-like now, squished up tight against Walt, who wasn't the type of guy to banter his way through a bad situation. Not like Bruce. Walt may have been perfectly happy to sit there, grim and thoughtful, but Johnny wasn't.
"Talk to me, Walt."
"Nothing to say," Walt replied, the profile of his face stark against the dim light. He had strong features, a powerful jaw and nose that was just a little crooked. Handsome, in a way that made Johnny, who had never been much more than average, slightly jealous.
"You can tell me off for sleeping with your wife."
Walt frowned, the skin on his brow folding up like a distressed accordion. "No, thanks."
"You can tell me how much better your life would be if I'd never woken up."
Johnny was just poking at Walt now, childishly trying to get him to respond, but Walt was evidently part machine. "Don't know that to be true. I can't tell the future, John."
Okay, suggestions weren't working, but maybe they could still have a pre-death heart-to-heart, the type Johnny had always wanted. Walt was unnaturally stoic, yes, but Johnny was also unnaturally annoying, a skill he had further honed by being friends with Bruce.
He just had to chip away at Walt's defences, piece by piece, slow and patient, like a gnat.
Johnny could do it.
He had faith.
An hour later, it was becoming increasingly clear that Johnny was a moron.
"Jesus, Walt. Why do you have to be so fucking serious?"
"Same reason you have to joke about every goddamn thing."
Checkmate to Walt Bannerman.
The vision changed, slightly, after Johnny fell asleep against Walt's shoulder, and woke up with his mouth open on Walt's overheated skin, an arm slid securely around Walt's waist. Johnny opened his eyes, seeing only the dim glimmer of sweat on Walt's skin.
-- and he puts his fingers on Walt's wrist, hesitantly, wondering if Walt will hit him, push him away, but the inevitably of it is almost overwhelming. They've fought against it, refused to give it a name, but this has always been the solution. Johnny knows it, because it's the type of thing he's only been able to think of late at night, unable to say out loud --
Johnny sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with his one free hand, the other still hooked around Walt. He pulled it back carefully, trying to pretend Walt hadn't noticed, praying Walt hadn't noticed, but he still let his fingers touch down, right at Walt's hip.
-- Walt turns to him, his lips dry and cracked, his hair an unholy mess of loose curls, and the look in his eyes assures Johnny this is the best, and worst, solution to the whole damn problem. Because Johnny loves Sarah, still, helplessly, no matter how hard he tries not to, but somehow, these feelings have begun to seep into Walt, too, begun to cover him, always at the back of Johnny's brain, wondering if he could, if he even dared --
Johnny took a deep shuddering breath, ignoring Walt's inquisitive, "hmm?" The heat was suddenly overwhelming, and he couldn't believe the audacity of his brain. Underneath the vision, there had been the sense of imminent death, the type of urgency that pushed men like Walt to do strange things, which wasn't how Johnny wanted it.
If Walt ever came to him, it had to be of his own freewill.
It was the only way it would ever work.
It was never going to work.
The thing was, Johnny could see it, why Sarah had fallen in love with Walt so easily, so quickly after his accident. It was so glaringly obvious that even his resentment of Walt, which only reared its ugly head once or twice a year around Christmas, was minimal, because Johnny probably would have fallen in love with Walt if it had been Johnny at Sarah's bedside.
Johnny could count the number of friends he had on three fingers: Sarah, Bruce and Walt. And of those three, Walt was the wildcard, because Johnny couldn't even be sure Walt liked him. All the time they spent together tended to be forced, precipitated by Johnny's visions or Sarah's insistence that Johnny was perfectly welcome in their house.
Welcome wasn't exactly the word he would have used. Those dinners could be painful, with JJ stumbling over what to call Johnny, and Walt dripping with a professional politeness that was deeply ingrained in him by now, and Sarah acting like nothing was amiss, it was all perfectly normal, one big happy family, which was a load of crap.
Nothing about them was normal. It couldn't be, because Walt had never punched his lights out like he should have, and Sarah had never really moved on like she should have, and Johnny was a fucking psychic, which blew everything else clear out of the water.
If Johnny's brain had never decided to single-handedly save the world, if Johnny had never been in that car and had never brought his life to a dead stop, things still wouldn't be normal, because Walt wouldn't be there. Johnny had seen that future, and he hadn't liked it either. Because as much as it was about him and Sarah, it was about Walt, too.
The three of them had been screwed from the very beginning.
The definition of stupid just never seemed to change.
"Just for the record, I'm sorry," Johnny said.
Walt sighed deeply, a whistle of warm air leaving his lips and ghosting over Johnny's forearm, which he had propped up on his knee. "Why can't you just leave this alone, John? I understand you might want to clear your conscience, but you're really pissing me off."
Johnny closed his eyes. "I don't know. I guess I just want you to understand."
"Have I ever implied that I don't?"
Johnny frowned, opening his eyes and glancing over at Walt, who looked defeated. Not exactly the look Johnny was hoping for, but Walt was full of surprises. As a rule, he didn't let Johnny get close to him, but there had been a few times, Walt's own ill-timed coma, that mess with his childhood friends, when Walt had let his guard down long enough to let Johnny inside. Walt was a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in ...
"God, John." Walt's voice commanded attention. "Whatever you're thinking, stop."
"I can't," Johnny said helplessly. "It's all I can think about ..."
"Then leave me out of it," Walt said, folding a hand over his eyes. "I can't change how things are. I can only endure it, and you're making it hard to even do that. You fucked my wife, but I married your fiancee. You're the father of my son, but JJ has my last name."
"Well, when you put it like that ..."
"That's the only way to put it," Walt said.
I'm sorry. For everything, but especially that.
"I can't see a way out of this," Johnny said quietly, when it was almost night again.
It had been an excruciatingly long day, and he had passed the time by occasionally touching Walt's finger, confirming what he already knew about the whole stupid future. It was like picking at a scab, painful and satisfying in turn, and downright addictive, too.
Johnny's whole life was like that, really.
No way out, and nothing to lose. Johnny walked his fingers up Walt's hand, slowly, slowly, not wanting to startle Walt, giving him ample time to break his arm, but Walt just sat there, breath a little quicker, eyes dark beneath the shadow of his brow. Johnny watched his mouth, the line of his lips disappearing as Walt pulled them around his teeth.
As an unfortunate side effect to all of their insane adventures, Johnny knew Walt's entire sexual history. The series of cheerleaders he had worked his way through in high school, the two girls he had dated in college, one wild in bed, the other more reserved, and Sarah.
For Johnny, there had been only one who mattered: Sarah.
On the record: Johnny was not gay.
But he had thought about this more often than he wanted to admit. About Walt, in this way, and what would happen, and how it would happen. In the beginning, he'd thought of it strictly in terms of him and Sarah, with Walt always there, watching. They wouldn't touch each other, but they'd be acutely aware of each other, and of Sarah between them.
In time, Sarah fell away. Still there, always in his mind, forever in his heart, but the distance between him and Walt shortened. There were parallels in the real world, but they complicated his fantasy unnecessarily. In the end it was just them: Johnny and Walt.
The irony of their current situation did not escape the notice of his feeble brain.
Walt finally looked over when Johnny started exploring his wrist, which was sinewy with muscle, smooth under his fingers. Johnny, who was already looking at Walt, didn't shy away from the baffling expression on Walt's face. Walt hadn't punched him, which was a good sign, but Walt looked a little too blank for Johnny's liking, which was a bad one.
If Walt hadn't come to this conclusion on his own, he was the stupid one.
"I wanted to hate you," Walt murmured, his lips moving slowly over the words, arm flexing under Johnny's hand.
Johnny waited for Walt to continue, but that was apparently it. Not any sort of heart-to-heart to write home about, but Walt could afford to keep his personal life just that: personal. Johnny wasn't allowed the same luxury, but he would never fault Walt for that. Envy him, yeah, of course, Johnny was as human as the next guy, but never condemn him for it or feel anything other than childish, petulant jealously when he dwelled too long.
Their little sardine can felt supercharged, energy crackling between them, electric and volatile, and utterly beyond their meagre control. This was what Johnny had always feared: drinking too much at New Year's and finding Walt under the mistletoe or looking over at Walt after solving a tough case and catching Walt's happy, satisfied smile.
Of course Sarah loved this man. It was impossible not to.
Johnny took a deep breath, aware of his own body in a way that embarrassed him. He had never felt particularly sexy, because when he was younger and first getting with Sarah, he had been gangly and awkward, hitting puberty humiliatingly late, and then now. If you looked past the crisscross mess of scars on his legs and his pale middle-aged body ...
Well, you probably had to be blind, if you could look past all of that.
Walt was one of two people who had never treated him any different from your average run-of-the-mill dude. Bruce was the other. And he loved Bruce, but mostly because Bruce had smacked him upside the head and called him dickface when nobody else had dared. Bruce even took Johnny's frequently dire predictions about his future with a smile.
Walt just treated him right.
Walt was a good guy in world that had no tolerance for men like him, and that was another thing they had in common and probably didn't want to: the world had no tolerance for men like Johnny either, who couldn't deliver happy endings all the time.
So it had been easy to fall in love with Walt, because Walt was a rarity, like him.
Off the record: maybe Johnny was a little gay.
Supercharged, and neither of them had moved closer than an inch apart. Neither of them had closed their eyes either, so Johnny could see every fleck of colour in Walt's, the vibrant tones washed out by the dim light, which was rapidly disappearing with the setting sun. A few lines of light cut through the dark, catching in Walt's unruly hair.
Johnny tightened his hand on Walt's wrist, sliding his fingers down Walt's damp palm, then lacing their fingers together. Walt's expression tightened as his tongue came out and wet his lips before his head dropped, his dark lashes fanned over his tanned cheeks.
Johnny's body felt heavy and useless and weak, sick with worry and the fear of his own uncontrollable visions, but his body was also stupid. It had more than a year since he'd had sex, and his dick was already hard, poking out of his boxers like some drooling idiot.
And Walt was being frustratingly straight about this, the inevitable, the future.
It was Johnny who made the last move, Johnny who went to Walt, Johnny who slid his mouth across Walt's ready lips and kissed him softly, without tongue, gauging his reaction. A slight tightening in his body, impossible to hide, but no resistance either.
And then it was desperate, Walt kissing him back, with tongue. Walt caught his wrist, lifting it over his head, Johnny's fingers brushing the roof of their jail cell, and they paused like that, for an agonisingly long second, before getting back to the good stuff.
It was hard, Johnny learned, to have sex in a sardine can.
And afterward, it was awkward.
They had kissed until Johnny's lips had felt bruised, and Johnny had been to one to slip his fingers under the damp elastic of Walt's briefs. Walt's had pushed his hips into Johnny's hand, and Johnny had gamely curled his fingers around Walt's thick cock.
Visions had flickered at the edge of his consciousness, lapping at his brain like the roll of waves in the ocean, but for only the second time in his life, he had been able to push them away. The other time had been with Sarah, so that had to be meaningful, had to be profound.
They had bumped knees and chins; they had split each other's lips with badly-aimed kisses. They had been quiet, swallowing any betrayal of sound with their frantic sloppy kisses, and they had been careful, never forgetting where they were, or who they were.
It had felt so right doing it, and so awkward after that Johnny had almost wanted to cry.
He was so stupid.
It was easy to forget how fickle the future could be, and how easily it was changed. Having sex didn't change anything, but one of their captors reaching in to give them a bottle of much-needed water and Johnny touching him on a whim and seeing his mother and making the choice to whisper, "your mother's going to die if you don't help," did.
Three hours later, and there were cops everywhere, looking to Walt for guidance even when it was obvious Walt was in no condition to give it. Despite the heat, Johnny shivered under the blanket he had been given, half-heartedly listening to official police business.
"It was an anonymous tip," one of the younger guys was saying as Walt nodded. "We would have found you anyway, sir, but it sure helped a lot. So simple, huh?"
Johnny knew one thing: nothing was ever as simple as it seemed.
The paramedics at the scene poked him and prodded him then assured him he was fine, just a little dirty, a little hungry and a little tired, all of which Johnny already knew. Not only was he psychic, but he could state the obvious, too. He went straight to the station instead.
It didn't surprise him that Walt had also skipped the hospital. Johnny had his psychic visions to back him up, but Walt was just plain stubborn. Across the station, locked in different interrogation rooms, Johnny surreptitiously avoided Walt's wandering gaze.
The actual interview was long and boring, and the soda they give him was lukewarm. He accepted a change of clothes and the offer of a shower, hobbling down the hall toward the locker room, wearing his blanket like a cape. Another stupid adventure over, Banner Man and his sidekick, Psychic Boy, had once again saved the day. What a happy ending.
Except Johnny wasn't particularly happy, and Walt hadn't looked much better.
Walt was already in the showers, lathering his hair, when Johnny finally got there. His back flexed impressively, a sinewy mess of muscles that tapered down to his ass. Walt paused briefly, his fingers buried in his hair, head bowed and exposing his wiry neck.
"They treat you all right?" Walt asked the wall.
"Yeah," Johnny said, limping toward the nearest showerhead, which just happened to be two down from the one Walt stood at. He also couldn't have made it any further. His legs were killing him, and he'd already had visions of being in bed for the next week.
What was he going to tell Sarah, when she asked why he and her husband couldn't even look at each other? Johnny hadn't confirmed it yet, but he suspected it would be very similar to what had happened after he and Sarah had slept together: agonisingly painful.
At least Sarah would get a lot of fancy dinners out and time with her workaholic husband.
Johnny would get his hand and the memories of how tremendously he had fucked up.
Walt would get the guilt, another thing he and Walt would have in common.
Johnny opened his mouth to apologise, to beg forgiveness, to offer all the stupid explanations his lovesick brain could come up with, but before a single word could leave his mouth, Walt was there, tipping his head back, kissing him deeply and desperately.
Walt's hands curled around his hips, pulling his body tight against Walt's, fitting Johnny between his legs. Johnny's knees groaned, but his dick told them to shut up. He grabbed at Walt, his skin slippery under Johnny's palms, which skidded down Walt's back to his ass, squeezing.
Walt moaned into his mouth. "Fuck, John," he said.
Johnny's knees buckled.
They did it furiously on the floor of the shower, Walt aware that anybody could walk in at any moment, Johnny aware that that wasn't going to happen. There was no awkwardness this time, not during and not after, just two regular guys, who had just happened to fuck.
Things still weren't that simple, though.
When Sarah arrived, they were sitting on the bench, wearing matching clothes, side by side, and connected only where Johnny's pinkie had hooked over Walt's. Unlike them, Sarah wasn't stupid. Her eyes focussed on their hands as understanding dawned on her face.
-- it's weird at first, because none of them know if this will work, not even Johnny. He hopes, but the visions aren't coming on this one, so he has to have faith. They start at different corners of the room then gravitate closer and closer, like misaligned planets. Walt's serious, and Sarah's nervous, and Johnny's torn between both, but it feels right, like this is how it's supposed to be, how it's meant to be, and it'll save their lives --
Sarah put her hands to her mouth. "Does this ... what does this mean?"
"Only that we're stupid," Walt said, taking the words right out of Johnny's mouth.