There was something about sunsets and sunrises that paused the world before Johnny’s eyes. That for a moment, if he sighed real deep and closed his eyes and opened them again, he couldn’t even tell which one it was. That time itself suspended, in technicolor, in reds and oranges and purples so deep he felt like he could drink them, just throw his head back and breathe it all in and wait for time to be known again.
Roy was kinda like that. He radiated with colour, the kind of colour that stopped time and made its way down into Johnny’s chest and had him asking to use Roy’s pen. He didn’t even know people could be colour, not really, not until he stepped through that door at headquarters and stared straight into a blue so deep and full of all-American zeal and a lust to make a difference and just Roy , whatever made him tick, whatever made the corners of his eyes crinkle just so.
But colour he was, and Johnny was helpless but to follow that colour to the edges of the earth and up cranes and down ravines and anywhere, really.
When they were alone together, either at the station while the engine was out or at Johnny’s, Roy seemed to look the way Johnny felt. He seemed to regard Johnny with awe, which shook Johnny to his core. Because this was Roy. He was Clark Kent, he was everything golden about California wrapped in blue eyes and freckles and red hair.
Johnny was, well, he couldn’t compare. He was a scrawny ball of want and trying, still playing pretend in the big city after all these years. He was twine and hay, itchy and roadside-discarded, cut from the cloth that the rest of the world left behind. He was born to support, to stay on D, not get the goals.
Not get the guy.
This thing they were doing, this them , was everything and nothing. It was more than Johnny’d ever felt, had ever been filled with, more than he’d ever dreamed to be allowed. And yet in the light of the day it was translucent, it was highway shimmer, it wasn’t real for anyone else because it couldn’t be.
It was usually okay. It was usually all he needed. He was lucky enough to get as much of Roy as he was getting, and he knew Roy gave as much as he possibly could. Planned meticulously for the days they spent together, the occasional overnight, planned himself into knots over and around soccer practice and parent-teacher conferences and double date dinners with the Silverbergs next door.
And then sometimes it burned Johnny, ripped him from tongue to toe, to think about Roy with his wife and their guests arranged around their mahogany dinner table with after-supper coffee and dessert and all of the things Johnny could never have.
Not with Roy.
And if not with Roy, he didn’t want them.
He never said these things out loud, never wanted to ever make it harder on Roy. Roy felt guilty enough. Not that he’d ever complained, not once, but Johnny could tell. It was a look that would come over his partner, brief and elusive like a wisp of dust into the wind. His face would fall for just the tiniest of moments, the lines in his forehead deepening, and then he’d raise his eyes to Johnny and brighten once more.
It was a sunrise today. A sunrise that danced on the edge of a very sharp night, one that cleaved and gored and echoed with the flat line of a pulse that had lost its way among the patchwork of street light hopscotch.
It was kind of strange how Johnny didn’t think about Roy when they were out on a rescue, when they were neck deep in someone else’s world collapsing and choking on the dust. He moved with Roy intuitively, they were reverently-made clock gears promising precision, requiring redemption. The work was so second-nature to Johnny that it felt like he didn’t even think, he just was . And when it was all over, when it was all said and done and filed away under failure or adequate, when he saw Roy again at the hospital it was like waking. It was like coming back down, somehow, or maybe climbing back up, and Roy was a sunrise after a night of fever dreaming and fade.
Johnny’d woken at the hospital and they made their way back to the station, watching the colours embolden the gleaming hood of the squad in silence.
Now their shift was over and the smell of rust was still in the air as they made their way out to their vehicles, and Johnny’s throat was thick as he turned to say goodbye to Roy when Roy spoke first.
“Let’s go somewhere.”
Johnny frowned, eyeing the smudges under Roy’s eyes and noticing that he wasn’t making eye contact. “You mean breakfast?”
Roy’s eyes finally met his and they startled Johnny with their ferocity. “No, Johnny, I mean let’s go. Let’s drive. Let’s get away from here.”
Johnny sometimes had a hard time understanding intention even on good days. “You mean, like, a day trip? Or like, for the weekend or something?”
It wasn’t the weekend, not technically, it was a Tuesday but it was the same to them, their two days off, before they had to come back to this spot and do it all over again.
“No. I dunno. Yeah. Let’s go.”
“Roy, I… should we pack?” Johnny’s brain switched to logistics, and the time it would take to get everything together and get on the road. And they were both so tired, they’d barely had any sleep...
Roy frowned and Johnny could tell he was frustrated but he didn’t know, he didn’t know what Roy was asking and he didn’t know what the right answer was.
“Johnny, I don’t wanna think. Can we just… please?”
Johnny swallowed, and there was something in Roy’s voice that wrenched into his chest and he nodded. “Yeah, of course. Of course, we… where?”
Johnny startled as Roy grabbed his arm, gently but firmly, and tugged him toward the Land Rover. Johnny tripped a little but complied, unlocking the truck and getting into the driver’s seat. When Roy climbed in on the passenger side, he turned to Johnny and said, “I don’t care. I don’t care.”
Johnny’s pulse quickened then, the whole implication of what Roy was suggesting finally sinking in. Roy looked desperate, he looked frazzled, he looked so contradictory to the certain, strong, steady man he was completely crazy for that there was no other option. There never would be—Johnny would always say yes to Roy, over and over, and he was pretty sure that they both knew that.
“Okay, Roy. Okay.”
Johnny made his way to the coast and drove mindlessly south, not sure where he was going. They sat in the cab of the Land Rover quietly. Roy didn’t tell him where to go. Roy didn’t say anything at all. Maybe he assumed Johnny did this all the time, back when he was seeing a new girl every week. Johnny wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
He hadn’t seen anybody but Roy since they first got together.
Roy’s uncharacteristic spontaneity had Johnny unnerved. Roy was usually so calm, so controlled, had everything all planned out. Roy was the driver, was the leader of the two, despite their partnership being one of equality for years now. Letting Johnny take control was completely at odds with who Roy was.
Roy usually wore those awful shifts better than Johnny. Now Johnny was wondering if it had always been a façade. If Roy didn’t have it in him to pretend this morning. He fought against the urge to reach over and give him a comforting squeeze. Could he do that? They’d been seeing each other in secret for a year. But Johnny was constantly terrified of overstepping, of overwhelming Roy, of finding a way to push him away.
It was kind of his thing. It was a miracle that it hadn’t happened yet.
Maybe because it wasn’t real. Maybe because it didn’t count, not really.
Johnny suddenly realized he was heading somewhere. Somewhere he’d always planned on taking someone, eventually, when they became someone special.
Only Roy’d ever fit that bill.
“Did you see Marco trip over the hose and fall on his ass about halfway through the night?”
Johnny blinked, Roy’s voice jarring him out of his thoughts. He glanced over to see a ghost of a smile on Roy’s face, a bit of glimmer in his eye.
“I was just disappointed he didn’t take Chet out with him,” Johnny replied.
Roy’s laugh sent a shock of warmth through Johnny’s chest.
“Two fallen hose jockeys would have been better than one,” Johnny added.
“You just want to see Chet’s demise.”
“I’ve never denied that.”
Johnny let out a silent sigh of relief. Okay. A bit of sun and ocean air was exactly what they needed. He was on the right path.
Johnny was pretty sure this trip was going to ruin him. He’d had daydreams just like this, where he and Roy would just pack up and leave without telling anyone, running away to some far off place like Hawaii where it was just them and the ocean and the mountains and all that colour.
Except in Johnny’s dreams they never went back, never had to worry about Friday rolling around and getting back to work.
They’d only been driving for an hour, but Johnny needed to pull over for gas. Even now he was falling apart, ten kinds of destruction as he watched Roy try on sunglasses near the cash counter, occasionally flashing him a big grin from behind knock-off Ray-Bans.
Once they’d initially started talking, the mood in the Rover had shifted into something more comfortable. Something softer. Something dangerously on the edge of Johnny’s fantasies, and it was deliciously painful.
As they climbed back into the truck, Johnny could tell that their adrenaline was wearing off. It wasn’t long after he’d returned to the freeway when he noticed that Roy was fading. He gently pushed Roy’s shoulder and said, “Why don’t you have a nap, pally?”
Roy gave him a wan smile. “Nah. I don’t want to lea—I don’t think I could fall asleep if I tried.”
Johnny frowned because he knew there was something else there, something hovering between them, something that had followed them after that last rescue but he couldn’t put his finger on it and knowing Roy, pushing for an answer wasn’t an option. So, he settled for watching Roy nod his head in the corner of his eye.
After another hour of driving, Johnny pulled over at a Walmart near their destination. The everyday bustle—screaming children, disgruntled parents, friendly greeters, hectically-mussed racks—was so polar to the quiet peace of the Rover’s cab, that it was surreal. He felt detached, he felt fuzzy.
Roy paused to use the payphone and Johnny continued inside, feeling it was important to give him some privacy. He had no idea what Roy’d say to his wife. He only hoped Roy wouldn’t be in too much trouble with Jo. The flash of guilt was fleeting—Roy had, after all, convinced Johnny of the trip, not the other way around.
Johnny grabbed a blue shopping cart and waited for Roy just inside. When the senior paramedic slipped through the automatic doors he smiled when he caught sight of Johnny, blue eyes lighting Johnny on fire.
“All good?” Johnny asked.
Roy nodded. “Everything’s great.”
Great. Everything’s great .
It wasn’t, though. They’d spontaneously run away from Carson, directly from the station, because they were both effectively not great. They probably weren’t going to talk about it—neither of them were particularly skilled at voicing the hard stuff—but that didn’t matter. What counted was that they were together. That they were scattered impressions of themselves and that they were going to be able to put each other back together again. Johnny would spend the rest of his life collecting Roy from the ground without complaint.
To Johnny’s surprise, Roy pressed right up next to him with a mischievous smile, helping Johnny push the cart through the aisles. Johnny blushed and looked around. Southern California might have been relatively progressive when it came to gay relationships in theory, but that didn’t mean people were all that accepting in public.
No one noticed. Roy didn’t care. And with him right up against his side like that, Johnny was thrumming with joy.
They gathered some packaged food items and reached the clothing section and Roy still didn’t ask what the plan was, but he shot Johnny a curious look.
Johnny shrugged. “You didn’t let me pack.”
Roy chuckled. “Do you need some pajamas that badly?”
“As if we’re going to be wearing all that much tonight.”
It was Roy’s turn to blush. “Alright. Touché.”
“Something for tomorrow, if you want. Something to swim in.” Johnny headed toward a pair of royal blue square leg swimming shorts that caught his eye.
Roy looked both surprised and pleased and began flipping through the racks.
They ended up trying on a few things in the fitting rooms side-by-side. They clambered out with swimwear on, and Johnny tried to keep the flush off of his face at Roy’s appreciative gaze by glaring at his partner’s white legs.
“Jesus, Roy, you live in California. Let me introduce you to the sun.”
Roy scoffed. “Don’t act like you’ve never seen my ankles, Gage.”
“My mistakes are my own, pally.”
Roy laughed “What do you think though?” He motioned to the baby blue trunks he had on and turned in a circle.
Johnny smiled at him. “Perfect.”
The bed and breakfast was set just off the beach, only a few blocks between a room to stay and the infinite blue Pacific waters. Johnny smiled as he threw the Rover in park and saw the wooden “vacancies” indicator hanging on the sign announcing “Welcome to Cat & Quill Bed & Breakfast.”
The building stuck out from the Mediterranean Revival vibe that most of the neighbourhood had; it was a pale blue Victorian-esque three-story house complete with a turret on the third floor.
“How’d you know about this place?” Roy asked as they climbed out of the truck, looking up at the B&B, his face painted with surprise and awe.
“Aunt Rose used to live near here,” Johnny said, pulling their bags out of the back seat and joining Roy on the sidewalk.
Roy looked over at him, eyes studying him in that uncanny way that suggested he was pulling apart Johnny’s exterior to see exactly what was inside. Johnny shifted uncomfortably. Talking about his late aunt was occasionally a tender spot—besides Roy, she was all he had left before she passed—but right now he wasn’t sad. He was nervous, and excited, and a little bit terrified, but he wasn’t sad.
“I just always thought it looked cute,” Johnny added with a shrug, before making his way inside.
“You’re full of surprises,” Roy said softly behind him, so quiet that Johnny almost wasn’t sure that he’d heard him.
Johnny had barely set the bags with their freshly-acquired wardrobe on the desk in their room when Roy grabbed the collar of his shirt in a fist and pulled him into a kiss. It was hungry and desperate, all teeth and tongue, and it left Johnny flushed and breathless.
“I thought,” Johnny cleared his throat as Roy backed him up toward the bed. “I thought we were gonna have a nap.”
The back of Johnny’s knees hit the mattress and he fell backward, Roy following him as he slid further onto the bed. Roy settled in between Johnny’s legs and pressed him with another devouring kiss, tugging at Johnny’s bottom lip with his teeth before answering. “I think I need to wear off some energy.”
Johnny swallowed and grinned, his fingers finding the back of Roy’s shirt and tugging it out of his jeans as they continued to kiss long and hard. One of Roy’s hands was wrapped around the small of Johnny’s back, the other lifting to gather Johnny’s long hair into a fist and tugging gently, pulling Johnny’s head back and leaving his neck stretched and exposed.
“How are we gonna do that?” Johnny asked hoarsely as Roy’s mouth left his to nip at his throat.
“You’re about to find out,” Roy growled.
They did end up taking a nap afterward, the bitter, bone-deep exhaustion from their long, pitiless night finally taking hold. Johnny came-to slowly and contentedly, stretching the kinks out as he watched the rise and fall of Roy’s chest as he slept.
It’d been a while since Johnny was left raw from Roy, his mouth sore and swollen and other parts aching in a way he wished he could hold onto forever. If they got in the Rover and drove home right now, it would have all been worth it.
Roy followed him into wakefulness not long after, blinking back confusion at their surroundings for only a second before beaming up at Johnny with a big grin that tore right through Johnny’s chest. God he was a puddle for this man.
“Good morning,” Roy said.
“Morning, sleeping beauty.”
“So what should we do now?”
Johnny smiled. “I have a few ideas.”
The tinkling sound of carnival music cut through the early evening as Johnny and Roy approached the colourful boardwalk that lit up the shoreline. It was a fifteen minute stroll from the B&B, right along an ocean-side walking path. Even from several hundred yards away they could see that it hosted a few old-fashioned rides and dozens of food and game booths.
“I didn’t even know this was here,” Roy said softly, his eyes wide as he looked up at the glowing skyline.
“It’s no Santa Cruz,” Johnny said, “but it always looked like fun.”
“You’ve never been?”
Shrug. “Nah, been saving it I guess.”
Roy looked over at him, studying him enough to make Johnny blush as they entered the boardwalk, but didn’t respond.
Though it was late summer, the fact that it was mid-week and somewhat of a hidden gem meant that it wasn’t overwhelmingly busy. Most of the patrons looked to be teenagers or older, with younger children tucked away at home for the night.
They walked contentedly in and around the booths, eyeing the wooden roller coaster that graced the centre of the grounds.
“When’s the last time you’ve been on a ride?” Roy asked.
Johnny shook his head. “God, I’ve got no clue. Maybe when I was a kid?”
There was an annual rodeo back home where a travelling theme park would set up—rides, lights and all. It struck Johnny that the boardwalk reminded him a little of those moments, that one time of the year where he felt like he melted into the evening, like he was painted with the glow of swirling carousel lights, like maybe life wasn’t so lonely and that it was magical and that everything was going to be okay.
He swallowed back the nostalgia and tried to pretend he wasn’t still nostalgic for something he couldn’t grasp in his hands.
The smell of caramel and popcorn sauntered through the evening as if the glowing rides and game booths were edible. Unable to resist the call of food, Johnny stopped at a hot dog stand and bought them some dinner—mustard for Roy, mustard and ketchup for himself. They ate at a picnic table, people-watching and chatting quietly, before continuing on.
The urge to reach out and grab Roy’s hand had never been more consuming, and Johnny found himself a little sad that even though they were somewhere no one knew them, it was still something he couldn’t do. Johnny’d never know the feel of Roy’s arm over him out in the open, the scent of his neck in the fresh air.
Roy bumped into him then, subtly but intentionally, and Johnny looked up to see his face so open with care that it stung in good and bad ways.
It was enough to bring the smile back to his face.
“This was a great idea, Johnny,” Roy told him, eyes falling to a juggler in clown makeup.
Johnny pressed his hand against his chest and spun around energetically so that he was walking backward in front of Roy. “Well what did you expect when you left the best in charge?”
Roy laughed and rolled his eyes. “An inflated ego.”
Johnny shrugged as he righted himself. “That too, I guess.”
It was easy to forget what had been bothering him and get washed away with the vibrant thrill of the boardwalk. There was something about the other gleeful patrons, the blinking lights, the screams and the distinctive music that only survived at carnivals and fairs that made him feel like they were walking around in a dream. His eyes were wide as he took it all in.
“You look like you’ve never seen a string of lights before,” Roy quipped with an elbow to Johnny’s side.
Johnny shook his head and laughed. “I’ve been to fairs before, but I guess… guess I was just too busy trying to make an impression to really notice it all, ya know?” Johnny flushed at the admission.
Roy just smiled and nodded. “That makes sense. I know when we take the kids there’s no time for me to think, let alone look around.”
Johnny’s pride did nothing to wash the feeling of awe that continued to bubble up. They didn’t even have to engage with anything for all Johnny cared—the electric atmosphere was running up his spine, lighting every nerve on fire and he’d never been more aware of Roy right at his side.
They were wandering up an aisle of game booths, the kind that promised large stuffed toys for the better part of your wallet. Johnny absorbed the ring-throwing and bottle-shooting and noticed a swarm of giant Mighty Mouse toys hanging from the ceiling.
He didn’t notice when his feet stopped, his eyes tracing over the stuffed animal with amusement and, yet again, nostalgia.
Roy noticed and paused with him, his eyes traveling between Johnny and the booth. “See something you like?”
Johnny gave a soft laugh. “I just used to watch that show as a kid. I wasn’t… expecting it.”
Roy hummed as he pulled out his wallet from his back pocket and stepped up to the nearly-empty booth.
Johnny grabbed his arm. “Hey—what are you doing?”
“Gonna get you a Mighty Mouse.”
Johnny laughed nervously. “I never meant—you don’t have—”
“I know. I wanna,” Roy interrupted, grinning over at him as he passed some cash to the booth attendant.
Johnny was pretty sure he was beet-red as he tucked his hands awkwardly in his pockets and stood aside to watch his best friend—and the person he was disgustingly, madly in love with—try and win him a toy. At a boardwalk. Like they were just a couple of kids and this was a date and it was completely normal. He was light-headed with the idea of it, because there was no way this was real life.
The game was mini-basketball, and Johnny watched as Roy collected a handful of balls in front of him. His freckled nose was scrunched in concentration as he shot, his mouth pursing slightly. His blue eyes were narrowed and his eyebrows pinched and Johnny would laugh at how serious he looked if he wasn’t absolutely reeling with love for him in that moment.
“Wanna try?” Roy asked, lopping a ball at Johnny without waiting for an answer.
Johnny grinned and stepped up beside him, and together they tried to sink baskets and avoid hitting the attendant and themselves with rebounds. On a regular day, they were both decent at hoops, especially since there was one at the station to help them pass time. The carnival game, of course, was never that easy.
In the end, Johnny walked away with some sort of Superman decoder keychain thing.
He was going to keep it forever.
Later that night, they were lying in the hotel bed facing each other, bare limbs intertwined and Roy softly running a thumb over Johnny’s eyebrow.
“How do you do it?” Roy asked suddenly.
“Hmm?” Johnny hummed, still stunned and sated and altogether sleepy.
“How do you… wear it all on your sleeve? Let the whole world know how you’re feeling, without trying to hide it all?”
Johnny pulled back a little and frowned, unsure of what Roy was asking, unsure of how to respond, unsure of whether or not Roy was making fun of him. “I don’t… I… I—”
Roy kissed him before he could continue to stutter through collecting his thoughts. “No, I just mean… I admire that about you. You’re not scared to be yourself.”
“Who else would I be?” Johnny said, half joking, half serious.
“I… get scared sometimes.” Or all the time. Scared of people finding out. Scared of Roy realizing he’s better off without all the complication. Scared of losing Roy in an out-of-control blaze because if anything, that should be Johnny and not Roy, Johnny didn’t have a family and Roy was everything and—
“You just did it again,” Roy smiled. “Just threw it out there. Just how you feel.”
“Well, don’t you get scared?”
Roy got a small, hesitant look on his face and paused long enough for Johnny to snort out a laugh.
“I see what you mean,” Johnny said.
Roy laughed too, and the sound filled Johnny like a sunset and like the ocean and like Roy’s eyes on the water.
After they finally calmed, Roy pulled him tight. “Of course I get scared,” Roy said softly. “Of course I do.”
In the morning, as they slipped into wakefulness with the later sun, Roy was soft and close and held Johnny and breathed into his hair and Johnny barely breathed at all, afraid to break the moment. Normally, on the rare occasions where they did get to wake together they were usually pressing into the mattress immediately, one last quick fuck before reality descended.
But not this time. Not this weekend.
He wondered if Roy felt guilty.
He wondered if he was thinking about the same things Johnny was, wishing they could run away, have this in and out of every day.
He wondered if maybe Roy left a part of himself back at the ocean bottom dark of that rescue where they failed to accomplish the one word they promised the county they did.
They did end up fucking, but it was languid and gentle and Johnny was on his back and Roy was buried into him and his neck and it left Johnny reeling even after it was done.
Then they dressed in their new swim trunks, gathered what few things they had and checked out.
Johnny closed his eyes and sighed to the feeling of sand on his bare toes—the heat on the top layer and the cool moisture as he buried them. The waves lapped calmly against the shore, and seagulls cried above. It was tranquil, meditative almost.
He’d driven all the way out here for Roy, on the singular thought that Roy needed this, that Roy needed to get away, but… now that he’d had yesterday and today to ease the tension that had coiled in his own body, in his own head, he could see he needed it too.
He popped his eyes open to watch Roy frown contemplatively, trying to pick a place for them to set out their towels. He began to wander one way, paused, and then headed in the other direction. Johnny laughed as Roy settled right beside the shade of a tree. He followed suit, arranging his own towel beside Roy’s, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Shut it,” Roy muttered without heat.
“I didn’t say anything,” Johnny grinned as he stretched out beside his partner.
“You burn too, you know.”
“I never said that I didn’t.”
“Just because you have great skin…”
Johnny flushed as Roy tipped his sunglasses down to give him a once-over. “C’mon Roy, red’s a nice colour too.”
Roy growled, but the corner of his mouth twitched in a smile.
Johnny flopped onto his back, cradling his head with one of his arms. It was a beautiful day, if not a bit breezy. Puffs of docile clouds moved languidly overhead.
He heard Roy sigh contentedly as he lay down as well. Roy was currently in the sun but the poor guy did burn easily. He’d chosen the spot so he could shift into the shade when he needed to. Johnny had witnessed plenty of ugly peeling over the years, so he couldn’t blame him.
The late morning sun was gentle. The other beach patrons buzzed in the background. Roy was beside him. It was good.
But this was it. The last couple of hours before they had to head back to real life.
Let’s stay. The words were swelling in his diaphragm, choking to get out. He couldn’t. He wanted to. He couldn’t.
It was stupid, he knew, borderline pathetic, but his insides swam in the warm water of that idea, in the potential of having his partner, his best friend, his everything under the golden coastal sun all to himself, forever, where they didn’t have to be invisible, where they could grow old and leave a legacy like a grove of hibiscus trees, bright and buzzing and breath-taking as the sun on the blue horizon they were facing.
Hawaii. That’s where they’d go. They could join a fire department or help start an EMT program on the remote side of O’ahu or maybe on one of the quieter islands.
Let’s run away, Roy would say.
“Let’s go somewhere,” Roy did say.
It was addicting, overwhelming, the idea of taking off, running away, starting over. Just the two of them. They could do it, it was so close. So full of potential. This trip was proof of how easy it’d be, how close it was. If they were brave enough. Reckless enough. If Roy didn’t have other people depending on him. Johnny wouldn’t think twice if Roy asked him. Roy was LA for Johnny. He was all that possibility and all that sun and all that hope.
But if Roy never asked him, Johnny knew he wouldn’t hesitate to stay by his side, his second life, his second home, until the end.
Johnny was startled out of his thoughts at the feel of Roy’s fingers curling around his own. He looked over at his partner, eyebrows high in surprise.
Roy had pulled down his sunglasses enough for Johnny to see the blue of his eyes, currently dark and serious. So serious that Johnny’s heart jumped a little, a tinge of worry flaring.
“I haven’t thanked you yet, Johnny,” Roy said softly, giving Johnny’s hand a squeeze. “This was exactly what I needed. Thanks.”
Johnny swallowed and felt heat crawl up his neck and onto his face. Anything for you, he thought. “Glad to hear it, pally,” he said.
Roy smiled and let his hand go, relaxing back again.
But that interaction had sent a jolt of adrenaline through Johnny, and it took only a few more minutes before he became restless. He sat up and looked around. Not too busy, given the weekday and the time. Those that were around looked to be college-aged. Lots of bikinis. Lots of square leg suits like Johnny’s. But he didn’t notice all that skin, not really. He only noticed that he didn’t notice. Not like he used to.
He briefly wondered if Roy noticed other people. He stole a sideways glance, watching as Roy edged himself into the shade before settling back down, eyes closed, with a small, peaceful smile on his face. Probably not. The man was already juggling both Johnny and his wife. He didn’t have the time.
A pang of uneasiness that Johnny couldn’t immediately place flared up in his chest. And he didn’t want to place it. He didn’t have the time for that .
“I’m going for a swim,” he said, bouncing to his feet.
“Don’t drown. I’m off duty.”
Despite his mood, Johnny couldn’t help but snort.
The water was cool, but it didn’t take long for Johnny to acclimate as he breast-stroked out to the swimming area buoys. Where there’d been a dull roar on the beach, it felt quieter out here. He rolled onto his back and floated, eyes closed against the sun. The warmth on the front of his body permeated, soothing the nameless ache that had started niggling.
He was okay. They were okay. Even without having Roy to himself—without running away for real—he was happy.
He bobbed with the waves for a few moments and then flipped forward to swim laps along the buoys. Finally, when his limbs felt that bone-deep weariness that could only be caused by the water, he headed back.
Roy was in the ocean by the time he got there, thigh deep with his hands on his hips. “Finally figure out how to hold your breath without pinching your nose?”
“Very funny,” Johnny rolled his eyes as he stood up. “Hey, you’re the one that’s basically a fish. Why aren’t you swimming?”
“Too busy enjoying the view,” Roy grinned mischievously.
Jesus. Johnny never would have guessed that out of the two of them that Roy’d be the brazen one. But god he was a flirt. And truth be told, Johnny kind of needed it.
And right now, with Roy’s eyes on him and the water dripping into his face, he felt like he looked more like a drowned rat than anything worth being looked at. So instead of responding, Johnny kicked a leg out and caught Roy on the back of his knees, knocking him into the water.
Roy rocketed back up in an insultingly quick and graceful manner. He ran a hand to push his hair out of his eyes, spat some water out and crossed his arms. Completely unphased, except that dangerous glint in his eye.
“Shit,” Johnny muttered, eyes wide.
“Yeah,” Roy said, tipping his head to smile at Johnny from beneath his brow. “Shit.”
And then Roy pounced.
It took only a few minutes of wrestling and dunking for Johnny to surrender. Not only was he tired from swimming, but Roy’d always been the stronger one in the water.
They straightened in the waves, laughing as Johnny was wobbly on his feet and Roy had to steady him. Neither made the move to go to shore. Instead, they hovered in companionable silence, basking in the vague privacy of being away from the beach.
It was only mid-afternoon but Roy was beside him, shining all that colour, and Johnny thought looking at him was almost like watching reds and purples paint the twilight.
They stood there, goosebumped skin of their arms pressed up against each other as they watched a shipping vessel in the distance languidly trace the horizon holding up the sky. Johnny pretended they were seeing the sunset while beside him, Roy grinned into the sun.
They didn’t even talk about leaving, they just silently packed up and did it. Johnny knew he should be sad, he should be downright depressed but he knew it was pretend and it was still maybe the best days he’d ever had, ever, and he couldn’t find it in himself to be mad at it. Even if he was driving the love of his life back to his wife and damned picket fence and the Silverbergs, even if he had to say goodbye to him and go home alone.
They had work tomorrow, anyway. If nothing else was certain, Johnny still had that. No one else got Roy that way, got to see him work a scene and got to hover in his sweat and pride and pain. Got to see his unadulterated looks of terror and agony with close calls and failures that gouged so deep down no one could understand but them. No one else got to be Roy’s safe haven for the day or night.
No one else got to run away with him when it became all too much for one shift.
Johnny pulled himself into the driver’s seat, feeling full. He fought to keep the smile off of his face as Roy climbed into the Rover beside him. He didn’t have any right to feel this happy, to feel this goddamned gone over the man beside him.
He went to turn the ignition when Roy grabbed his hand. Johnny looked over at him, startled.
“Johnny…” Roy’s eyes were intense, flooding Johnny, stealing his breath and Roy’s ears were turning pink, pink like they’d been in the sun, like they’d been between Johnny’s teeth.
Johnny swallowed, not entirely sure what to expect but his hand was in Roy’s and Roy was… he was everything. “Yeah?”
Roy inhaled a deep breath. “You know… you know I love you, right?”
Johnny blinked, flushing, still not sure where this was all going.
“Because I do. Johnny. I love you so goddamned much.” Roy dropped his eyes and Johnny thought he looked shy, a little embarrassed, but absolutely so open and honest that it reminded Johnny that he was colour, he was good, he was his very own Clark Kent.
Maybe he was his.
Johnny looked down at their hands, his chest welling up almost painfully. He looked back up. “Yeah, Roy. Yeah, I do.”
Roy’s eyes met his and Johnny felt awash with all of that feeling swimming there. Roy finally broke into a smile and it was enough to make Johnny feel a little tipsy, like maybe he shouldn’t be driving. “Good. ‘Cause, I just really needed you to know that.”
Johnny wasn’t sure which one of them pulled the other into the kiss but Roy’s arms were wrapped around him and Johnny’s hands were holding Roy’s face and he was pretty sure he’d made a shameful noise close to a sob but he was too swept away to care.
That evening, when Johnny pulled over in front of Roy’s place, Roy hopped out of the truck and hesitated on the sidewalk, door still wide open. He looked up at Johnny, eyes wide with a warmth and so much feeling that it took Johnny’s breath away. They held each other’s gaze for a long moment, the silence comfortable and heady.
Johnny smiled and nodded. “See you tomorrow, Pally,” he said.
“See you tomorrow, Junior.” Roy said with his own soft smile, before closing the door and stepping up the walkway to his cheery, family-sized bungalow.
Johnny sighed and closed his eyes and opened them again. The sunset was just beginning to burn on the hood of the Rover, to lick the white paneling of Roy’s house. The keychain Roy’d won was hanging from Johnny’s mirror, and it swung with shades of pink and orange. He put the truck in gear and pulled away from the curb, driving with his windows open as the evening fell quietly cool on the trip back to his apartment.
Tomorrow, there’d be another sunrise.
He would always have tomorrow.