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First Sons and Superheroes

Chapter Text

The girl was playing with her red toy fire truck at last, letting it drive over steep hills and valleys of sand. It was warm, and the sunlight had dried the last tracks of tears on her cheeks. A boy had tried to take her truck away and told her she should play with dolls instead. Her mommy had told him off and given the truck back to her; she was now standing at the edge of the playground, arguing with the awful boy’s mom, but the girl had long stopped paying attention to that. She laughed cheerfully to herself before she started imitating siren noises when the truck sped to work. A red sand mold was the fire.

Her truck had just reached its destination when several things happened in very quick succession: something small fell from the sky, and suddenly there was an actual fire just a hand’s width from the mold. A woman shrieked and car horns honked loudly. Something else fell from the sky and landed on the roof of the kiosk by the playground with a sound much louder than the others and like nothing the little girl had ever heard before. Then, her mother screamed, shouted her name with such fear in her voice that the girl felt stuck to the spot. Something above, another sound, made her look up.

There was a shape like a ball, engulfed in red flames, hurtling towards her, down and down and down. The girl couldn’t move, didn’t know how to process what her eyes saw and her ears heard. Another shape suddenly flew into her line of vision, chasing the big fiery ball at lightning speed. She thought in astonishment that it looked like a person-shaped flame, but the moment before she could even squint her eyes against the brightness above, something snatched her around the middle and pulled her back so fast that she lost sight of everything all together. The last thing she thought before she came to a stillstand, miraculously in her mommy’s arms and inside the entrance of a house all of the sudden, was that the thing that had taken her looked like a long, rubbery arm. It was gone before she could catch another glimpse.

Back outside, the flame already flew on, shooting through the sky towards another object. It was large enough to cause severe damage but not too large to be vaporised mid-air by a flame much hotter and more destructive than the meteorite's tail. It burned white-hot, and a second later all that was left of it was dust.

Down below, Reed took a second to catch his breath, giving Johnny a nod before he saw him dash through the air in pursuit of more of the meteorites to destroy. He looked around, his focus on any civilians still in the way of the falling objects or of debris from the tall buildings that had been hit in the shower. It was all he could do at the moment.

Another meteorite came crashing down, fast towards the ground and its tail blazing. There was a car parked at the side of the road, some hundred yards away, and Reed could spot two kids sitting at the driver’s and passenger’s seat. They seemed completely unaware of the large object approaching them with destructive speed and force. There was no time, not enough time, and yet, Reed started running, gesturing wildly to gain their attention but to no avail. They were too far to stretch his arms into their reach. The meteorite would surely hit them or, if not, cause enough damage in the building next to them to pose a serious threat to their lives.

Reed was still too far away. The burning rock fell and fell; in a matter of a second or two it would impact. There was nothing he could do.

But he wasn’t alone. With a forceful jump, something much larger threw itself into the path of the blazing rock. The landing caused the ground to shake. People screamed in startled surprise, and finally the kids in the car became aware of the commotion around them, too. A split-second later, everything was noise and glaring light - an almost-explosion that would only be withstood by rock itself. Or someone made entirely of it.

Ben’s feet dug into the ground as he pushed his arms up against the weight of the flaming stone. He didn’t feel the heat, didn’t hurt from the impact, and yet he had to struggle to remain upright, catch the foreign object with all his bodily might before he let it drop onto the asphalt which cracked and split underneath the weight. Finally, the kids were out of their car.

“Inside, everybody inside the buildings, now!” Reed yelled as he had reached them. “Go, into the basements. And don’t come out until this is over.”

To his great relief, the kids obeyed instantly and disappeared inside one of the apartment buildings, followed by the few people who had not yet found shelter.

Ben took a deep breath and released a grumbling sound. “Those dumb kids, what were they thinking?”

Reed did not reply, however, his eyes trained onto the sky already. The main concentration of falling meteorites was above the bay, and the few within the city seemed to be under control. Mostly. But the small objects, none of them larger than a yard in diameter, had only been the beginning.

“Have you seen Sue?”

“By the bay. Johnny’s on his way there, too, I think. Any idea where the big one is gonna land?”

Reed had his pad in hands already, reading the data he and Sue had only been able to enter rudimentarily. Hardly enough to make any precise calculations, but enough still to tell him more about the trajectory of the meteor. And the remaining time to impact.

His eyes widened in fright.

“We need to get there at once. Sue won’t be able to hold it off by herself.”

“Come on!” Ben shouted back over his shoulder at him, already running towards the Fantasticar parked right in the middle of the street, his rocky feet crashing loudly with every step into the pavement. Reed followed without hesitation.

He cast his gaze around one more time, trying to see if he could spot other people in danger, other places where they might have to intervene. But the people had indeed finally, blessedly, retreated into the buildings, and any material damage from the smaller meteorites was manageable.

It was the big one that was the real danger now.

By the wharf at the Coast Guard base, Sue was standing in midst of a shower of meteorites. They came crashing down mercilessly now, some of them having hit boats and cars. People were running around, wanting to get into their cars and drive to safety, and she was trying to extend her protective shield to cover all of them best she could.

The shower seemed to have its centre where she was, and although safety was not guaranteed further into the city, it was the best prospect for them. Sue did not know if she could hold the big one off as well as its much smaller heralds.

It was wearing on her already; she felt the muscles in her legs tremble with effort, her blood pulse in her ears with every quickening heartbeat. Her gaze went up when something bright came into her line of vision, blurred by the waves of her force field but unmistakable nonetheless.

A second later, her brother landed next to her, and the flames surrounding him subsided. “Any idea how we’re gonna destroy a full-blown meteor?” he asked with an almost casual tone that would have mildly annoyed her, had her energies not been completely focussed on her task.

“Not yet. You seen Reed and Ben?”

“On their way,” Johnny replied. His gaze was fixed on the sky above. He squinted, his brow furrowing in confusion as he tilted his head. “Sue, I think they’ve stopped.”

She focussed, trying to feel around through the energy field and ignore the throbbing ache in her head. Johnny was right. The small meteorites were gone, nothing shattering against the force field and no sound or tremors of impact anywhere around them. Carefully, she lowered her shield and let it fade, breathing deeply.

“Sue…”

Johnny again, directing her attention, and when she looked up again, her breath stuck in her throat.

The big one was coming down towards them, huge, blazing and deadly, painting a fiery tail into the sky. For a moment Sue couldn’t look away, fear and awe freezing her to where she stood, until the sounds of the Fantasticar drew closer and broke her out of her paralysis.

Ben and Reed hurried out the second the vehicle had touched the ground, both staring up into the sky with looks of dread on their faces.

“All right, what do we do?” Johnny asked, for the first time sounding and feeling scared. Even on Ben’s face, worry and fright were clearly visible.

“I think I have an idea,” Reed replied, hammering away on his pad. “If my calculations are correct Sue could use her force field to channel pyro energy and transform it into a high-density kinetic flame that--”

“Reed! English!”

“Basically, you shoot your flame and she bundles it to turn it into a kind of…” Reed paused with furrowed brow. “Disruptor ray.”

“Okay, I said English, but ‘nerd’ will do,” Johnny replied, and Sue gave him an admonishing glare.

“I think I can do that. Where do I aim?”

“Uh, I’m…” Reed continued to type on his pad, moving closer to show her the screen. “I’m not sure, but if you hit the meteor here it should split by both its vertical and horizontal axis. The rotation should then cause the remaining quarters to break down into even more pieces, leaving only one big one that you could direct into the bay while Johnny, Ben and I take care of the rest.”

“Okay. Johnny, over there,” Sue directed her brother to a spot next to her. They only had seconds now, the harsh, rumbling sound the huge meteor emitted growing louder, and its heat already noticeable over the distance. All four of them knew if they messed this up not only would the city be hit by a immensely destructive detonation but also that none of them would escape alive.

They all took their positions. Sue and Johnny exchanged a nod and then lifted their arms simultaneously.

Back in the city, on one of the upper floors of a building on the edge of the financial district, several office workers abandoned their spots in the relative safety under their desks and by the staircase. They rushed to the windows and stared outside in shock and awe as a blazing light shot up into the sky, straight up, like a pillar of white-hot marble. A much larger object rocketed down towards it, a big ball of flame and stone. None of the people had seen it before, but they had seen the damage the much, much smaller ones had done to their building and to others already, and although they had no time to share their thoughts with their colleagues, the glances they exchanged were full of a collective sense of sympathy, of fear and desperate hope.

Then everything was blinding bright; the building, the air even seemed to vibrate as a thundering sound made them sink to their knees, ears covered and eyes squinted shut. This was clearly the end, some of them thought with certainty, but those that had hoped for it to pass, miraculously, had been right.

The sound and light faded, leaving only faint cracks and roars in the distance, and they were, indeed, still all alive. One of them blinked his eyes open, got back to his feet and looked out of the window, still seeing spots as he tried to focus. Dozens, or even hundreds of burning pieces were falling from the sky above the bay. One of them came hurtling closer. Closer still, right towards them. Just when the man thought it would crash right into their window another shape zoomed into its path. There was an explosion, maybe twenty, thirty yards from them, and a second later all that was left of the threat was dust. The man-shaped flame dashed back out of their view again.

The meteor fragments were still shooting through the air, all over the North End and downtown Boston, but most of the pieces were small now, their damage negligible compared to the one caused by the larger chunks of rock. It was now Johnny’s main objective to destroy them before they could impact.

He was chasing another one at lightning speed. Far from him still, a rocky, fiery projectile the size of a wrecking ball was shooting towards the city with its busy shops and historic buildings. Too far, he thought for a split-second before determination set in and he sped up with all his might.

It was low above ground now, sinking in its fast trajectory. Johnny focussed, arms outstretched and every muscle in his body tensing as he flew towards it, watched it shoot lower and lower, just yards above Faneuil Hall.

His flame shot towards it, blazing-bright with all the power he could muster. He felt the shock wave of the detonation, too, was pushed back by it, but what he saw when he blinked against the light and looked back was dust and nothing larger than pebbles.

Johnny took a deep breath at last.

At the North End, Ben and Reed had taken care of the smaller, manageable pieces, but one was still left. A chunk no smaller than seventy or eighty feet in diameter was hovering above the water, stopped in its destructive path by an invisible force. To a distant observer, it would have looked harmless - more like a weird art installation than an actual meteor - but Sue felt its weight, heavier and heavier with every passing second.

“The water! Drop it into the water!” Reed shouted behind her.

“What do you think I’m doing?” she retorted, wincing as she tried to move the direction of her force field.

It took effort, a lot of it. Her head was pounding and every muscle in her body burned as though she had to use actual physical force. Sue grit her teeth and pushed on when, suddenly, she felt the rock jolt in her control, further towards the water, and her eyes flew open.

It was Ben, having jumped high and crashed like a cannonball into the rock to give it another push, and it was all she had needed to be able to finally let it slide down into the ocean far enough away from water’s edge.

The second she could let go, all tension fled Sue’s body and she let out an exhausted sigh, sinking towards the ground. Hands came to support her immediately, holding her before her knees could make impact on the asphalt.

“You okay?” Reed asked a little breathlessly, and Sue only nodded weakly, utterly exhausted but all right.

Her brother landed next to them as Ben had also come closer, and finally she struggled back up to her own feet.

“Great job, everyone,” Reed said, giving first her and then the others a relieved smile.

“I dunno, man,” Johnny shrugged. “Dropping things into the harbour, that’s so seventeen-seventy-three.”

“Oh, I wasn’t aware that you paid attention in those history classes,” Reed shot back, raising his eyebrows at Johnny, but then a laugh broke out over his face and he reached out to clasp Johnny’s shoulder. “Well done, Johnny.”

“We had a young and pretty substitute teacher that day,” Johnny replied with a smirk that soon turned into a grateful smile, the same relief visible on it as they all were feeling.

“Hey, kid,” Ben said as he stepped closer. “The harbour’s that way, though. Didn’t pay attention to geography lessons, did you?”

“Oh shut up,” Johnny laughed and slapped Ben’s upper arm in a jovial gesture. “You know I had to make that pun.”

“I’m not surprised,” Sue threw in dryly, but there was weariness in her voice as well as affection. “I, for one, am dying for a bath, but I bet there are a lot of people also dying to talk to us. So let’s just get this over with as quickly as possible, yes?”

“What? You don’t want to bask in the limelight after having saved one of America’s greatest cities?” Johnny asked, his usual post-mission giddiness surfacing. It only earned him rolling eyes.

In the distance, people were getting out of their cars and houses, and somewhere close-by a news helicopter approached, and they knew that trying to escape the press and onlookers would be a futile endeavour.

But they had handled a giant meteor that had seemed to come out of thin air. So that, after everything, would only be a small challenge now.

Chapter Text

 

The champagne bubbled on his tongue, a soft buzz as it went down his throat soothingly. It was his second glass tonight, and he was emptying it in small sips while navigating the throngs of expensively clad, important people in the ballroom. They all had to be here, seen and be seen among D.C.’s political high society.

T.J. disliked most of them, actually despised a great many, but the event - tedious as it was - also served as an opportunity that was too good to be wasted. How often did you get the chance to meet real life superheroes, as if sprung straight from comic books and childhood dreams?

The rocky guy - the Thing as they called him - was the only one who looked like he felt a bit awkward about being here, barely ever leaving the side of his beautiful girlfriend, which was actually rather sweet. Richards had obviously grasped the chance to talk to a couple of higher ups from the Science, Space and Technology Committee, and T.J. was sure that they could just as well have spoken a different language, so he didn’t even bother getting close.

The Storm siblings were milling about, unsurprisingly having no trouble finding various interested parties to talk to. It probably didn’t do any harm that, aside from having made up half of the team that had saved Boston from a natural catastrophe, they were both insanely attractive. It made for a combination that was sure to draw people like moths to the flame. Almost literally, in case of Johnny Storm, T.J. thought and swallowed his chuckle with another sip of champagne.

“All right, tell me,” T.J. said, demanding his brother’s attention with a light nudge of his elbow without looking away from the blond sibling pair. “What do you think?”

“Nothing near what you’re hopefully not thinking,” Douglas replied with an all too knowing smirk.

T.J. rolled his eyes but laughed. “Seriously, I’m curious. I know you got a type, but don’t tell me you wouldn’t risk a second glance.”

Doug shrugged slightly, his gaze briefly drifting to Anne who was chatting with a city council spokesperson from Boston. “Yeah all right. Hypothetically, if she weren’t married and neither were I, I wouldn’t say no.”

The words made T.J.’s lips curl in a wide grin, and he made a half-hearted attempt at hiding it by raising the glass to his lips for another sip.

“Thought so.”

He shrugged again, rolling his eyes at his brother but letting out a small chuckle. “What are we? Sixteen?”

“It’s not like there’s anything else interesting enough to talk about,” T.J. replied, a small smirk on his lips, before he brought them to the rim of his champagne glass again.

There was a brief look of something akin to concern on his brother’s features, though he hid it behind a benign smile. “Careful with that, okay?”

“I’m fine. It’s worked for over a year, hasn’t it?” T.J. replied, his own smile - a little too wide - emphasising that he was in a good mood and the champagne purely for enjoyment.

“I suppose it’d be a waste of breath to ask you about him,” T.J. continued before his brother had the chance to say anything else, simply diverting the topic as his gaze once again drifted towards Johnny Storm. He was unmistakably flirting with the woman he was talking to. His tendency to do so was splattered all over enough magazines and gossip shows that neither of them could have not known. It made T.J. sigh and roll his eyes.

“Well, I’m straight, not blind. But… pretty sure he is too,” Douglas remarked and slapped his brother lightly on the shoulder. “So, whatever you’re thinking right now and why you’re asking me these questions, you better forget about it.”

“Such a waste,” T.J. muttered, emptying his glass. His gaze remained on the Human Torch though, because maybe he, too, had a bit of a type.

“Yeah, you know that’s exactly what women would say if he was on your team,” Douglas replied.

He turned to look at his wife whose conversational partner had moved on to the next person. It was a rather amusing coincidence that Johnny Storm’s gaze drifted towards her right on time for Douglas to see it. He twisted back towards T.J. to give him his best ‘I told you so’ look. “All right, have fun. I’ll better go back to my wife before there’s any chance for my point to be proven.”

“Yeah right,” T.J. returned, sending him off with another nudge on his shoulder. He went back to gaze at Storm, not even trying to make it look accidental or casual. He had to be used to a lot of people staring at him in various types of admiration. A lot of people were doing exactly that tonight. He let his gaze follow the ridiculous line of his shoulders while he pondered if he could get away with one more glass of champagne.

Before he could have contemplated that thought further, however, Storm, who looked more amused about himself than actually disappointed when Douglas had reached Anne, turned slightly, and his eyes met T.J.’s - blue, friendly and with a glint of mischief in them. A smile appeared on his lips as he shrugged vaguely in Douglas and Anne’s direction, and he raised his own glass towards T.J. over the crowd of people between them.

The gesture had T.J.’s lips curling up into a lazy smile. It was habit, maybe, and it wasn’t like he had something to hide, unabashedly letting his gaze linger.

There was an open, boyish smile on Storm’s lips as he moved and came walking right towards T.J., snatching a full glass of champagne from one of the waiters as he passed.

“You caught me there,” he said with an apologetic shrug and a grin as he pushed the new glass into T.J.’s hand. “But don’t worry, I was just looking. There aren’t many women under fifty here tonight except for your sister-in-law and my sister,” he said, raising his glass briefly for a hinted toast.

Returning it, T.J. chuckled. “Yeah, I know. And both a sight for sore eyes for that same reason,” he winked, still smiling as he took another sip. That the other man had actually come over was a surprise, but he wasn’t going to look a gift-horse like that in the mouth.

“Yeah, well, Sue’s all right, I guess. I mean, she’s my sister,” he said, pursing his lips in mock-contemplation with a small shrug before he let out a soft laugh. “Anyway, introductions not needed, good to meet you,” he said then, extending his right hand. It was warm when T.J. took it, nicely warm and pleasantly dry.

“Same here. Bet you must be tired of everyone telling you how excited they are to meet a superhero.”

“Depends on who’s telling me. But I guess same goes for you and being the president’s son. Two presidents’, actually.”

“Oh, yeah, no,” T.J. barely refrained from rolling his eyes. “Let’s not talk about that? I won’t try to squeeze exciting stories of your good deeds from you if you don’t. How’s that sound for a deal?”

“Well,” Johnny shrugged, “some of them are pretty interesting, though. But yeah, deal.” He brought his glass up again and letting it clink against T.J.’s, who let out a short sound of amusement.

“Well if you want to tell them, I’m not gonna stop you. Not sick of it yet then?” he wanted to know, thinking that up close the blue of his eyes looked even nicer.

“I dunno, some of them are pretty epic,” Johnny replied. “At least compared to what most people here have to share. But okay, other topics then. How about…” He let his gaze drift through the crowd to where Reed Richards was still surrounded by several people, primarily a very nerdy looking, small man with glasses and a woman a good twenty years older than Richards. “Wow, looks like a lot of people are in a flirty mood tonight. You sure they didn’t put something in this champagne?” he asked and, not minding the point of his own joked theory, took a hearty sip.

“I never said I was,” T.J. couldn’t help replying, the opportunity too good to pass up. Another smile curled around the edge of his glass, champagne bubbling on his tongue.

“Fair enough,” Johnny replied and, as a waiter with a large tray came by, took one of the hors d’oeuvres. “One thing I gotta say, though. Despite everything, this party is surprisingly normal. Not exactly very House of Cards.”

“You watch House of Cards?” T.J. crooked an eyebrow. “And now I wonder what kind of parties you go to to think this is normal.”

Johnny let out a slightly louder laugh, shaking his head in amusement. “I go to very different parties, usually. But… I’d have expected it to be a lot stiffer, not so much mingling, more Secret Service agents running around and glaring you down, looking intimidating. And certainly not your dad smacking me on the back and telling me ‘Well done, son’. That sort of ‘normal’.”

T.J. felt a small, brief smile flicker over his lips, and shrugged. “We’re all just human, even here. And well, without you guys we’d be one big city short.”

Johnny made a waving motion with his free hand. “Nah, not the entire city. Just the first half mile in from shore or so.”

T.J. huffed out a soft laugh. “Humility isn’t your thing, huh?”

“Hey! I just corrected you. That was humble,” he replied, tone barely raised in mock-affront but his blue eyes glistening with mischief. “But all right, if you want me to be really humble then I can tell you that it was mostly due to my sister. I’m not much use against water.”

Yeah, okay, that was cute. T.J. bit his lower lip around a grin.

“I bet. Being all fiery and muscly can’t solve every problem, right?”

For a brief moment, Johnny’s brows went up as he looked back at T.J., and it seemed like he was, in fact, wondering whether he was being flirted with. “No, sometimes it’s brain before brawn. But don’t tell Ben I said that.”

“Mmh.” T.J. only hummed serenely, smiling as he drank a bit more. It was nice to see that the other man wasn’t getting nervous and bailing on him. Not yet at least. “So, you’ve never been here before, right?”

“No, I haven’t,” he replied immediately. “I was really curious about it, too. It definitely seems different than in the movies and TV shows.”

“Does it?” T.J. asked, only half interested in that though. He glanced up at Johnny, gaze traveling from his eyes to his lips and back up. “Want the tour?”

“Seriously? Can we do that?” Johnny asked, visibly excited, making T.J. laugh, a small rush of his own trailing down his spine.

“I lived here, remember? Come on,” he said and knocked back the rest of the champagne.

They managed to leave the party unnoticed by anyone who’d matter, reaching the long hallway where only a few people came from or went downstairs to the bathrooms. The only one following them a few steps behind was Jeff, one of the three secret service agents usually assigned to T.J. for whenever he needed them.

“So… can we actually see the Oval Office then?” Johnny asked, throwing a brief glance over his shoulder to the man following them.

T.J. snickered softly and reached for Johnny’s shoulder, tugging him back around and along with him. He knew it was strange to other people, to be followed everywhere like that on these occasions, but he’d grown up with it, and these days it was nothing compared to when he’d been a kid. “It’s empty, and contrary to popular belief, there are no state secrets lying around in unlocked drawers. Jeff, can you call in?” he added for the man following them down the stairs.

“Yes, sir,” Jeff replied and reached for his comm.

It was pretty much the only place they had to do that to be able to see as the West Wing was guarded and locked off for the guests tonight.

“Damn,” Johnny said in pretend disappointment. “And no secret book in any hidden drawers either, I guess? Just the secrets the walls would talk of if they could, then?”

“Well, I haven’t found any secret books yet,” T.J. smiled wryly, leading the other man along the hallway. “Feel free to though, that would make my evening exciting.”

“Yeah I gotta find other ways to do that then, because I have no secret puzzle pieces and keys with me, either,” Johnny replied with a smirk, and T.J. grinned but opted not to say what he wanted to say to that. He could name a way or two that the Human Torch could make his night more exciting, but his chances for that were probably slim.

But not non-existent.

“I’m sure you can show me a party trick.”

“I could set something on fire,” Johnny replied, but the smirk on his lips vanished almost the moment he had finished those words, and he turned around to face the agent behind them. “But I won’t. I was just joking!”

It drew an honest, uninhibited laugh out of T.J. It felt good, and it made the corner’s of Jeff’s mouth twitch slightly as well, though he said nothing.

They continued their way along the West Colonnade and into the building again, and T.J. could watch Johnny’s gaze travelling around the more narrow corridor, his attention clearly drawn to all the details. At last, they reached the door to the Oval Office, and the guard that had been informed of their visit opened it on T.J.’s prompting nod.

“Tadaa.”

The place was decorated differently than it had been when his father had been president, but he was still familiar enough with it to just let himself fall onto one of the cream-coloured couches in the middle, content with just observing Johnny as he took everything in.

One moment, he seemed to want to touch something but then didn’t; the next he walked a few steps and looked at something else, obviously very much in awe of the famous place. “Wow,” he said and stepped closer towards the desk, now daring to let his fingertips run along the wooden edge. “Impressive.”

“Not really,” T.J. replied dryly, but vaguely amused at the awe the place could inspire in everyone else. He made himself comfortable, sliding down where he sat.

“There’s a little door, right?” Johnny asked, pointing at the middle of the back of the desk. “There’s that photo of the Kennedy kids sitting in there, playing hide and seek. Did you do that, too? No, wait, you would have been a bit too old for that, huh?”

“A little.” Nice ass you got there, he wanted to add when Johnny was turned away from him to inspect the desk, and he cocked his head to the side, watching unashamedly. “We played basketball with paper balls in here though.”

“Even while your dad was on the phone with some important foreign politicians?” Johnny asked with a grin.

T.J. snorted, dragging his gaze up to his face again. “No. Mostly when no one but us was here.”

“Aww that’s disappointing, but I thought so,” Johnny replied, coming a few steps closer again. “So, what else is there to see? Any kitchens or bars to raid?”

“Well, we could stop by the wine cellar?”

Johnny snorted softly and shook his head. “Of course. A wine cellar. Uh, yeah, sure, why not.”

T.J. dropped a few brief stories here and there about the paintings and rooms they passed on their way to the cellar, one  or two more anecdotes about his childhood in here. Johnny was curious and asked questions, but never in a way that felt like he was prying.

“All right then, where do you want to drink this?” T.J. asked on their way back up after they settled on a bottle of an awarded pinot blanc from Germany,  the tip of his tongue flickering out to wet his lips, his gaze staying deliberately on the other man. “I could offer my room.”

Again, Johnny’s brows lifted slightly when he looked at T.J., and it seemed like he was pondering whether he had made the right observation. Which, by now, he should have. Whatever he did suspect or not, it obviously didn’t hinder him in his decision which he delivered with a nonchalant shrug. “Sure. Sounds fine by me.”

T.J. looked at him for a moment longer, and then a grin started to spread on his lips. He probably shouldn’t read too much into this, but he couldn’t stop himself from wondering how straight that man really was.

He was rather looking forward to finding out.

When they reached his room on the second floor, he held the door open for Johnny, getting a short nod from Jeff, who was going to stay nearby for whenever they were going to return.

Johnny was looking around with the same interested fascination as before - from doorway to the right, leading to the en-suite bathroom, the dark leather couch with arm chair and table first in his line of sight in the room and then, when he fully entered and T.J. had closed the door behind them, the large, white, antique four-poster bed. Johnny let out a laugh. “Oh wow, that’s… uh… exactly what one should expect in the White House.”

“Yeah, probably,” T.J. smirked, put wine bottle and glasses on the couch table, and shrugged out of his suit jacket. “It was my room the first time around, too. Remade everything when mom returned, and we kind of still had that standing around,” he gestured briefly at the bed, “and I couldn’t quite say no.”

Johnny shrugged slightly. “Well, it does look comfy.” He took in other details of the room - a tasteful mix of modern and vintage - and then came over to the couch, sitting down while T.J. was opening the bottle. “Pretty huge for a kid’s room. I’m not sure our aunt’s entire house even was that big. Well, okay, maybe just so.”

“Right - I read something about that some time ago. You grew up with your aunt, right?” T.J. asked.

“Yeah. Our mom died when we were pretty young,” Johnny replied, no hint of grief on his features but the ghost of a melancholy gaze in his eyes for a small moment.

T.J. decided not to inquire about their father. “You do know that this is basically the smallest bedroom we have in here, right?” he grinned instead. “Lincoln’s and Queen’s are bigger, and the President’s of course.”

“That’s pretty decadent,” Johnny replied, the soft smirk that was curling around his lips betraying the lack of seriousness in his statement.

“What do you want, aren’t you guys, like, really rich too?”

A small laugh took any sting out of his words as he handed one glass over to his guest and then sat down on the couch as well.

“Yeah, well, we are. But I don’t have furniture like that. The most expensive things I own are probably my waterbed and a huge flatscreen TV. And…” He lifted his glass in direction of the adjacent wall with several original paintings. “Mostly just posters on the walls.”

“That’s cute,” T.J. couldn’t help commenting, grinning around the rim of his glass as he raised it to his lips.

Johnny took a sip as well, brows going up briefly with an appreciative look. “I like it like that. Still got a large photo print of the first car I restored. A ‘74 Chevy Camaro. It’s all faded and yellow around the edges because I didn’t have it framed for the longest time, but… What can I say, I’m sentimental like that.”

T.J. shrugged, toeing off his shoes for more comfort and sliding into his corner of the couch so that he was facing Johnny. “It’s not wrong to hold onto something like that.”

“Nope, not at all.” Johnny took another sip of his wine, silence between them for a few moments, and for the first time, T.J. wondered whether he had seen a tiny trace of something like nervousness on the other man’s features when he briefly looked at him, then back down onto the surface of the coffee table. “But you don’t live here all of the time, right? You’ve got your own place?”

T.J. let his head tilt to the side to rest on the cushioned back of the couch, trying to figure out if his interpretation was in any way right.

He was so ready to test that.

“Got an apartment out in the city, yes. This whole circus here… not really my thing.”

Johnny let out a soft breath, half a chuckle, and nodded. “I can imagine. Wouldn’t be my thing either. I mean it’s interesting to see, but all those people around constantly? Secret Service agents and servants… Yeah, no. I like a bit more privacy. Guess I won’t ever try to run for president then,” he ended with a smirk that T.J. mirrored, though there was not even a bit of a joke in his words.

“For nothing in the world.”

He took another sip and slowly slid down a little further, deliberately sprawling his body in the couch corner. While it looked casual and relaxed, his attention was on the other man, on the small reactions and ticks that often betrayed people, and this time it was another glance with raised eyebrows, a hint of amusement on his lips but also the faintest trace of that uncertainty T.J. had thought to have seen earlier. As if he wasn’t just casually flattered by what he must have identified as interest by now, but maybe considering what he wanted to do with that awareness.

“Definitely not. I like not having to run someone past a whole staff of security personnel if I want to bring them home after a night of clubbing. I suppose that’s mostly off the table for presidents and their kids, huh?”

Oh, this was good. This was definitely something he could work with.

Another sip of wine, tip of his tongue coming out to slowly chase every last hint of flavor off his lips.

“Oh, you’d be surprised.”

“Yeah?” Johnny asked, and for a brief moment it looked like he deliberately had to steer his gaze away from T.J.’s mouth back to his eyes. “You managed to sneak boys in here then, when you lived here the first time around?”

T.J. had to fight to keep a smile from spreading on his lips.

Straight as an arrow my ass.

“Nah. Was fifteen when I came out, the eight years were almost over, and I went off to boarding school.”

“Oh, all right. An all boys school or mixed?”

His grin widened. “All boys.”

“How convenient for you,” Johnny replied dryly, and T.J. couldn’t help snickering quietly.

“Not gonna deny that.”

Johnny let out a small chuckle as well, lowering his gaze to the wine glass in his hands as his index finger ran along the edge of it absent-mindedly. He had beautiful fingers too, T.J. noted. “So, not that many stories these walls here could tell?”

“Less than many, more than none.”

Again, Johnny studied him, as if he was trying to decide what to make of this all, his features showing a mix of subtle amusement and curiosity.

But that was enough. It was, T.J. was pretty sure, all that he was going to get, so it was either now, or he could just leave it be.

And Johnny was definitely too hot to just leave it be.

So he took another sip of wine, his gaze and voice casual as he asked, “Have you ever fucked a guy?”

Johnny let out a breathy half-laugh, eyes widening in surprise as he shook his head, and the look he gave T.J. then, just briefly holding his gaze, could only be described as impressed. “Wow, okay. I should have seen that coming,” he said, but there was no hint of rejection in those words. He took another sip and then sat his glass back onto the table before he turned to look T.J. in the eye. “And no. I haven’t.”

The reply alone heated him up, a pleasant kind of prickle that coiled in his middle. T.J. smiled. "Ever thought about it?"

The expression on Johnny’s features hardly changed at first; there was just a tiny bit of bashfulness in the crooked smirk now before he raised one eyebrow at T.J., making it look almost like a challenge. “Is this where I’m supposed to say I’ve always wondered and you’re offering me to find out?”

T.J. huffed softly, slowly twirling his wine glass between his fingers. “You’re not supposed to do anything. I’m curious. Have you?”

Johnny shrugged slightly, briefly lowering his gaze again. “Not seriously. At least not when I actually had an occasion.”

“I bet you had quite a few of those,” T.J. commented, still curious, cocking his head to the side.

Another soft snort of amusement and the smallest of shrugs. Johnny didn’t say anything this time. He just leaned back against the couch, one hand on the armrest, upper body turned toward T.J., and yes, that clearly was a challenge - whether he just wanted to see where T.J. went with that or actually intended to go along.

T.J. bit down on his grin, the gaze prickling pleasantly on his skin. He pretended to shift his concentration to his wine glass for another sip, but moved his knee aside, effectively letting his legs fall open a little further.

Eventually he glanced up at Johnny again, letting his gaze trail from his eyes to his lips, down his throat and upper body, ending on his lap. He was very aware that he was being watched as he briefly let the tip of his tongue run over his lips.

“So do you… want to find out?”

Chapter Text

A soundless puff of breath came over Johnny’s lips. It was the only thing that did, and he blamed the champagne and wine for the fact that he couldn’t come up with something smooth and smug to say. Nothing but, a few seconds later, a breathy “Jesus, yes.”

For a brief moment T.J. looked almost surprised. Then, a short laugh came over his lips and his whole face lit up. He downed the rest of his wine and finally put the glass back onto the couch table, pushing himself up onto his knees in one fluid motion. With that he was suddenly much closer, gaze flickering from Johnny’s eyes to his lips and back, and it sent a shiver of excitement down Johnny’s spine.

T.J.’s left hand found the back of the couch close to Johnny’s head, the other the armrest, and he waited only for a brief moment before tilting his head and joining their lips in a kiss.

T.J. had been right. Johnny had gotten plenty of offers over the recent years, from women and men, and especially many and explicit ones ever since he had become the superhero known as Human Torch. He had taken up several of those from women, but the men, no matter what they had promised him, had never been spared more than fleeting thought. Why T.J. was an exception there, Johnny had no idea. Maybe it really was the wine, maybe the mood of the entire evening and the conversations they'd had. Or maybe simply the fact that the way T.J. was licking those gorgeous lips of his had made Johnny want things he hadn't known he'd wanted. The only thing that mattered, though, was that he did want them, and so far, the kiss they shared - slow and exploring for the moment - was only confirmation.

It was different from kissing a woman, undeniably so. Rougher with the faintest hint of evening stubble, somehow harder, despite being unhurried, and Johnny would be lying if he said T.J. didn’t know how to kiss. He did.

A fleeting touch appeared on the side of his neck, fingertips, then a whole hand, light and unassuming, but it preceded a deepening of their kiss, a bite to his lower lip, and Johnny could only let out a throaty groan into the contact.

He lifted one hand, brought it to T.J.’s shoulder and gripped him firmly, pulling him closer against him, and yes, he definitely wasn’t disappointed with how this felt. Definitely wanted this to continue - to where exactly he’d simply see.

They kissed for a while longer; the more they got used to each other, the more heated the kiss felt. T.J.’s hands had long started exploring, trailing over Johnny’s arms and shoulders, pushing down his suit jacket which he shrugged out of. A delighted sound was being half swallowed by their kiss as T.J.’s hands slid further down pecs and abs, and closed around his hipbones. Before Johnny knew exactly what was happening, T.J. had pulled away from the kiss, and Johnny was dragged further down by his hips.

“Fuck,” he could hear T.J. mutter empathetically, saw him lick his lips, and then there were fingers undoing the front of his pants, and, Jesus Christ, he was actually going to get his dick sucked by a guy - and no other than the son of the president, on top of it all.

The thought of that agent, Jeff, standing in front of the door and waiting for them crossed his mind briefly, but the amusement only lasted for a second. The sound of a zipper drew his attention again, those hands tugging his pants open, pushing his shirt up, and then those red-kissed lips were on his abdomen, tracing the trail of darker hair leading down from his navel.

Johnny let his head sink back, one hand digging into T.J.’s hair, and it did cost him a little restraint to let his grip remain gentle, not to push the other man’s head down to where he wanted his lips to be.

Not that he had to, he realised a moment later, because by now T.J. seemed just as - or even more - impatient, tugging the hem of Johnny’s boxer briefs out of the way. There was another of those delighted sounds, a soft half-laugh, and Johnny didn’t have to look down to know that he was hard already. A hot tongue traced all the way up his cock, and then a pair of lips wrapped around the head and sucked.

And God, it felt amazing, that warm, soft mouth all around him. It made Johnny look back down instantly, which might have been a mistake because the sight was so fucking hot. It surprised him a little; it didn’t seem odd to him or somehow less appealing and arousing than a woman’s mouth. The truth was it just felt amazing and hot and exhilarating.

He tightened his grip in T.J.’s hair just slightly, gently urging him to go faster, and he was rewarded instantly. T.J. sucked him down without hesitation or reservation, but without getting ahead of himself either, unhurriedly going up and down, tongue swirling around the head before taking him in a little deeper each time as he pinned his hips down with both hands.

If that went on the way it had started Johnny wasn’t sure there’d be a lot of fucking possible afterwards. At least not in the way he’d want it to happen. And the longer this went on, the more he wanted to take it there, as well. If he was already doing this he might as well go all out.

“Fuck, you feel amazing,” he said, voice slightly hoarse as he gently tugged on T.J.’s hair to make him halt in his movements.

There was a soft sound of protest, but after a moment T.J. drew his head back, licking over spit-shining lips and glancing up at him. He started to smile. “Then why’d you make me stop?”

It was probably best to not beat around the bush anymore, Johnny thought as he put his hand on the back of T.J.’s head, gently urging him to come back up. “‘Cause I’d like to fuck you. If you want that too… and if you’ve got any condoms here, because I don’t,” he ended with a small laugh, making T.J. smile widely down at him.

“Sure I do. How about you get yourself out of this,” he said, trailing a hand down Johnny’s collar, “and I’ll be right back?”

Johnny just gave him a smile and nodded. Watching as T.J. went to the en-suite bathroom, he started unbuttoning his shirt but, instead of remaining on the couch, he got up, shrugged out of his pants, shoes and socks, and walked over to the bed.

So he was actually going to do this. Have sex with a dude to tick that off his bucket list. Not that he had actively added it. A grin spread on his lips involuntarily as he leaned sideways against one of the wooden posts, and he had to shake his head. This was really an outcome of the evening he never would have expected, but he certainly wasn’t complaining.

Eventually the bathroom door opened and T.J. reappeared, a pack of condom between two fingers, lube in the grip of his palm. His gaze trailed very obviously all over Johnny’s body, another smile tugging on the corners of his lips. “You really are one hell of a hot guy.”

It wasn’t the first time Johnny had heard a compliment like this, but it made him shoot T.J. a smirk anyway. “And you’re horribly over-dressed,” he said, reaching out one hand for the other man to come closer.

T.J. grinned and threw condom and lube onto the bed, already unbuttoning his vest as he crossed the distance between them, stepping right into Johnny’s personal space.

“That’s easily changed.”

“Good,” Johnny said, his hands coming to rest on T.J.’s hips automatically and more naturally than he would have thought. He just let his gaze linger on the other man’s face for a moment longer, wandering down and following the movements of his fingers that were now also loosening the tie and unbuttoning his shirt. And Johnny tugged it out of the black slacks before he opened belt and fly, leaning in to bring their lips together again for another kiss while the clothing items fell to the floor one by one thanks to their combined efforts.

T.J. didn’t break away even when he leaned down a little, letting his lips trail down Johnny’s neck. Only when he straightened again Johnny realised that he had gotten rid of his underwear and was naked from head to toe as he stepped closer. He fit himself against Johnny’s body, arms coming around his waist, a low moan sounding deep in his throat.

And that, too, felt amazing: the firmness of his lean muscles, the hardness of his cock against Johnny’s own. Nevertheless, he broke the kiss, grasped T.J.’s upper arms and brought one step distance between them to be able to look the other man up and down.

He was not disappointed with that sight either. The fine lines of well-defined muscles on his smooth chest and abs, the V-shape leading down to neatly trimmed dark hair, and Johnny found himself marvelling at the sudden realisation that he was looking, properly looking, at the first half-hard dick outside of porn ever. That in itself was more exciting than he would have thought, and he couldn’t help himself, didn’t hesitate when he brought their lips together again and his hand down to cup the length of him.

T.J.’s breath hitched softly, and Johnny could feel him smile into the kiss, hips encouragingly meeting his touch as he grew harder in his hand.

It was oddly familiar and completely strange at the same time, sending shivers of excitement down Johnny’s spine and straight to his groin, and he started feeling a little impatient with it all. He turned them around, pushing T.J. lightly onto the surface of the bed and then crawled onto it too.

“All right, let’s do this then,” he said, feeling a smirk spread on his lips.

T.J. had his eyebrow cocked up at him for a moment, and then grinned and slid up further until he could bunch up a pillow under his head. “Ever done this with a woman?”

Johnny had to snort at this. “What do you think?” he asked, dry amusement in his question as he reached for the bottle of lube.

“That probably means yes,” T.J. shot back with a quirk of his lips, and then pulled one leg close to be able to spread them around where Johnny was kneeling. “So you want to do this yourself?”

For a brief moment, the image of T.J. fingering himself open crossed Johnny’s mind, and he was very tempted to see that happen. Then again, he wasn’t very keen on just lying around, watching, in the meantime. At least not right now.

“Got some Kleenex here too, or wet wipes?”

“There’s a box in the drawer in the nightstand.”

“Okay,” Johnny said, letting out a helpless chuckle when he realised he couldn’t simply reach the drawer without moving around on the bed. Finally, he had it in hands and sat it onto the surface of the bed before he sank back down next to T.J. and opened the bottle of lube to squirt some of it onto his fingers. It had been a while since he’d last done this with anyone, but the technicalities of it were pretty simple. “Like this, or want to roll onto your belly?”

A laugh came over T.J.’s lips. “Wouldn’t mind either. What do you want?”

Johnny shrugged but leaned down, brushing a kiss to the corner of T.J.’s mouth. “Haven’t gotten a good look at your ass yet, but you can stay like this,” he said, hand drifting between the man’s legs and nugging his left one with the back of his hand. “Up.”

“Yes, sir,” T.J. smirked but complied, drawing his knees up. He bit down on his lower lip around his grin for a moment, and then commented, “You like being bossy during sex?”

“That’s what you call bossy already?” Johnny laughed, but he didn’t intend to waste much more time waiting for a reply. His index finger was already running around the tight, puckered muscle in small circles, and that part really didn’t feel any different so far than he remembered it.

“Nah. Just wondered,” T.J. smiled, reaching for his cock to stroke it lazily.

And that definitely was different. If he were with a woman right now, he’d go down on her, suck on her clit while he worked her open, and for a very brief moment he wondered whether he could take him in his mouth instead, but decided against it in the end. That was something that would stretch the limits of first experiences a little. He settled for another kiss instead, slow and deep, holding T.J.’s bottom lip between his and sucking gently. His finger slid past the ring of muscle easily, but he took his time with just one digit until he could feel T.J. relax around it more and more. He suspected that T.J. hadn’t really needed that at all when he pushed the second finger in alongside the first just as easily, but he hadn’t complained once or tried to get him to act faster. Instead he simply returned the kisses, worked his hand slowly around himself, and reached up with the other for Johnny’s shoulder, the back of his neck, then his hair.

Johnny had no idea why or how, but it was that gentle gesture that suddenly made it fully sink in - almost like he hadn’t completely been aware before - that he was, in fact, about to sleep with a guy, and he felt his heart speed up with a sudden boost of excitement and arousal that reminded him of the time he had lost his virginity. Just minus the slight awkwardness. And the premature ejaculation. At least he hoped so.

The train of thought made a chuckle bubble from his chest, and he had to break the kiss, looking down at T.J.’s face and his reddenned lips.

“More?” he asked, spreading his two fingers a little in a scissoring movement.

T.J. smiled up at him and licked his lips, muscles challengingly tightening around Johnny’s fingers.

“Believe me, I can take everything you give me.”

And God, that made him shudder with arousal at the thought of the same sensation around his dick in a while. Nevertheless, he wanted to do this properly, letting a third finger push inside and thrust up carefully.

T.J.’s eyelids drifted shut then, and he tipped his head back against the pillow in obvious enjoyment.

When the tightness around his fingers relaxed, Johnny let them curl forward, having no practical experience with that but hoping to hit the right spot. And sure enough, the body under his jerked just a little, and a breathless laugh came over T.J.’s lips.

“You’re not trying to make me come already, are you?”

“Nah, don’t worry,” Johnny replied, feeling daring. “I’m planning to do that while I’m fucking you.”

“Jesus.”

“Would be a shame to let that opportunity go to waste now. Besides, I can’t possibly walk past poor Jeff with a raging hard-on in my pants, can I?”

T.J. snorted in amusement. “Don’t believe even for a second he’s phased by any of this.”

“Well, good.” As much as he enjoyed the light banter and the jokes, Johnny was getting rather impatient now, tension in the pit of his stomach and his cock aching with the need to be properly touched or, ideally, inside T.J. soon. “That enough then?”

“Man, I’ve been waiting for you for the past ten minutes.”

Johnny smacked T.J. lightly on the shoulder. “I’m just trying to be considerate. And you do remember the part about me never having fucked a guy, right?” Although it definitely wasn’t a general rule that women preferred it slow and careful, it at least seemed to apply to anal. Then again, for most, that was more of an exception, and it obviously took longer to get ready if you weren’t used to it. But T.J. was, Johnny remembered when he saw him laugh.

“That’s why I didn’t say anything!”

He knew the other man was teasing, but his laugh sounded carefree and fuelled by arousal even when Johnny smacked him again and pulled his fingers out.

“Wow. You’re lucky I don’t need to be told I’m awesome,” Johnny replied while he was cleaning his fingers and getting the condom pack.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll tell you after,” T.J. smirked. “Now you tell me how you want me.”

Johnny had to ponder that for a moment, letting his fingers wander up T.J.’s chest as he kneeled next to him. “Hm. On your hands and knees?”

T.J. only looked at him for a moment, sucking on the inside of his lower lip. And then he rolled onto his front, pushed his knees under him, and slid them apart.

The sight of T.J. spread and ready like that made Johnny feel even harder than before, and he hurried with the condom and more lube as he knelt behind him.

So this was really happening, he thought with a grin on his lips as he let one hand roam down T.J.’s back, along the line of his spine to his right buttock, taking his cock in the other hand and positioning himself. “Okay?”

“Yeah.” The reply was quiet, the muscles in T.J.’s back under Johnny’s hand were completely relaxed. He stretched his arms out on the pillow and rested his forehead on the sheet, back arching. “I’m good.”

Yeah, you are, Johnny couldn’t help thinking, still a little astounded at how he found himself here, not even doubting his decision in the slightest. And even less so when, finally, he pushed in, meeting no resistance but overwhelmed by how tight T.J. felt around him nevertheless.

“God.”

T.J. laughed a little, just once, quietly, but it made his body shudder briefly around Johnny.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

“Yeah… pretty sure I’m not,” Johnny just replied, voice slightly hoarse now.

He pulled out almost completely and then, having to press his eyes shut for a moment, pushed back in, slow, still, but deeper this time, both hands on T.J.’s hips for leverage. “You really feel amazing.”

“Nice,” the other man replied, half muffled by the sheet, then pushed back against Johnny. “And you have a pretty great dick.”

The words made another shiver of arousal run down his spine as he let out a soft laugh again, and he had to bite his lip around the smile lingering on them. “Do I?” he asked, just briefly letting his hips push forward a little harder. “Thanks.”

“Believe me, I’ve seen a lot,” T.J. smirked. “I know one when I see one.”

“You’re still speaking about the dicks, right? Not about the guys attached to them?”

“I did not say you’re a dick, don’t put words in my mouth!”

Johnny had halted in his movements, leaning forward to get closer to T.J.’s face. “I didn’t think you said that, but I’m hoping my qualities aren’t just limited to my penis.” He chuckled before he brushed his lips against T.J.’s shoulder. “But before this turns into a pun fest…”  Out again, almost entirely, back in hard. “How about we both shut up?”

A soft gasp, fingers briefly digging into the pillow. “Deal. Don’t get me wrong, your dick kind of is what matters right now.”

“I thought it was what I’m doing with it.” Johnny didn’t wait for another response, not necessarily needing the last word, as a rule, but in this case, especially considering how he was proving his point, it probably wasn’t a bad thing. He thrust back in, hard and faster two times before he angled his hips and rotated slightly with the next push. His palm, flat and firm on T.J.’s back, slid up, pushing against his spine between his shoulder blades. His other hand still on T.J.’s hip, Johnny picked up a deliberate rhythm then, more hard and deep than fast for the moment.

He didn’t get a reply anymore, so he decided he was doing something right. T.J. moved with him, meeting his thrusts, head turned to the side now, breathing more audibly than before, and Johnny felt his own breath speed up gradually.

As great as it felt, though, after a while with that measured, deliberate rhythm, Johnny found himself wanting to see more of T.J.’s face, wanting to know what he looked like when - if - he found the right angle, pushed his hips forward with an even harder thrust.

“On your back, if you like?”

“Want me to ride you before you put me on my back?” was the almost immediate, smile-coloured reply.

“Okay,” Johnny replied without giving it much thought.

Having pulled out, carefully so, he slid onto T.J.’s side, lying down on his back but not without reaching over and pulling the other man in for a brief but firm kiss on the lips.

T.J. didn’t lose even a moment, starting to rearrange himself even before the kiss was over. He slid over Johnny’s hips, took his cock, and pushed down onto it, bottoming out in a matter of seconds. His gaze was trailing visibly over Johnny’s chest, and he smiled as he put his hands onto his skin, thumbs flicking over his nipples. Then he moved, rolling his hips first, then raising them up only to take him back in again.

And yeah, this, too, was just as great as with a woman in that position. Just different to look at, and Johnny wondered for a moment when he’d ever felt just a fleeting hint of attraction to a man, but he couldn’t think of a single one. Not one whose mouth looked so kissable and inviting - perfect dick sucking lips - whose gaze was so tempting and whose entire demeanor seemed to radiate a sensuality that was pretty unique for a guy while not being feminine either. And there was definitely also the part where he really was an extremely good kisser and felt amazing around Johnny’s dick, deliberately letting his muscles play around him.

Fuck. This was really pretty fucking great.

T.J. couldn't know what he was thinking, but a smile curled around his lips anyway. They didn't talk, but only a few moments later T.J. was riding him hard, tight around him, hands holding on to his sides, and even though he was loving it, after a while, Johnny wanted something else. Something even harder, closer, and so he reached up, pulled T.J. down towards his chest and, receiving no protest since he had been offered just that earlier, turned them around until he was on top of him. There was just enough time for another kiss, a bit longer than the last, before Johnny propped himself up on both arms and started fucking him with fast, deep thrusts.

It was the first time he heard T.J. moan uninhibitedly, a sound rumbling deep in his chest. His body curled up further, fit better against Johnny's thrusts, spurred him on with panted breaths and soft sounds. His muscles were working around him, and Johnny was quite suddenly getting so close that he had to press his eyes shut and bite the inside of his cheek.

It was almost more on instinct than deliberate thought when he reached between them, hand finding T.J.’s dick and wrapping around it firmly, stroking up and down in rhythm of his fast thrusts. But they were, bit by bit, becoming erratic and more shallow, his whole body caught in that trembling tension that wouldn’t make him last for much longer.

“Fuck. I’m… You close?”

“Keep doing that,” T.J. ground out, eyes shut, head thrown back. It took a little longer, Johnny cursing silently to himself, but eventually T.J.’s mouth fell open and he shuddered around him, muscles spasming, body twitching, and a short, sharp moan came from him as Johnny felt him spill warm over his hand.

It was all it took for him to follow just one, two thrusts later, feeling that tension heightened at the base of his spine, running through his entire lower body before it shot through him. He let out a drawn out, throaty moan before he sank forward, his lower arms giving out underneath him, breathing hard.

Their echoing breaths were all that could be heard for a few moments before T.J. started to move, legs stretching, shifting so that Johnny had to draw his hips back and pull out. A short, breathless chuckle came over T.J.’s lips and he pushed against Johnny’s shoulder uncoordinatedly. “You’re like a fucking furnace.”

Johnny snorted softly, too lazy, relaxed and blissfully worn out to protest with much more than that. He only moved enough to roll onto his back, feeling the cooler air in the room on his heated, sweaty skin in pleasant contrast. “I didn’t even turn my trick on,” he said then, shrugging before he mustered up the energy to remove the condom and put it on the nightstand, on the pile of tissues he had used earlier, taking a few more to clean his hand.

T.J., lying on his back next to him, huffed. “What, did your trick mean setting yourself on fire while I was on your dick?”

“Jesus!” Johnny had to laugh, the spasms in his belly mildly but not unpleasantly painful after the exertion, and he took a deep breath to force the chuckles to stop. “You know, there are several degrees of how I can turn it on, far from setting things on fire,” he said then and, to prove his point, made the remaining moisture on his torso evaporate in a faint waft.

T.J. stared at him, and then dissolved into giggles.

“I can’t believe you just did that.”

Johnny shrugged. “When I’m not specifically doing anything with it I’m no hotter than any other, average person. Well… temperature-wise.”

“You went there, of course you did,” T.J. half laughed, half groaned. He pushed his hair out of the way, and then shifted just enough to reach the top drawer of the nightstand, pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

And yeah, maybe Johnny was feeling a little cocky when, without giving T.J. the chance to reach for a lighter as well, he snapped his fingers and made a small flame appear above them. It actually startled the other man for just a moment before a reluctantly amused grin twitched on his lips and he rolled his eyes.

“Fine, all right, nice party trick,” he admitted, fished out a smoke and lit it on Johnny’s flame.

“Convenient, too. Though… smoking is bad for you, you know that,” Johnny said, a faint smirk still on his lips.

“Lots of things are bad for me,” T.J. only replied, slid his legs over the side of the bed, and got to his feet. He took a drag from the cigarette as he crossed over to the window, pulling away the curtains and opening it wide to let in fresh, cool night air, and Johnny was grateful for that for two reasons: not particularly liking the smell of the cigarette and for the sight that was offered to him. He was just still too lazy to get up and only propped himself up on his elbow, looking over at the other man.

“I hope I wasn’t one of them,” he asked, pretty sure the answer was no and, all right, maybe fishing for compliments just a little.

T.J., leaning his shoulder against the the white window frame, blew the next breath of smoke out into the night air before glancing back over his shoulder at Johnny, a smile on his lips. “Nah, you were good. You’re the one who has to tell me though. First guy and all… how was it?”

“Fair enough,” Johnny replied with a chuckle, not surprised by the question at all. What he was surprised by was the answer he could give. “To be honest, it was pretty damn amazing. I… I kinda thought it could be a bit awkward, no offence but, yeah, I don’t usually swing that way,” he explained, shrugging slightly, more to himself than T.J. before he looked back towards him. “But it wasn’t.”

The words let the smile on T.J.’s lips widen a little. He glanced back outside, took another drag, the line of his body relaxed. “A lot of people are less straight than they think. There’s this theory, you know, that sexuality’s normally distributed, like pretty much everything else, which means that the ends of the spectrum, the extremes are rare and…” He paused, and then left his sentence trailed off, shaking his head a little as he breathed out. “But hey, I think it’s cool. You just broadened your horizon on possible dates by a hundred percent,” he said with another smirk instead.

“A hundred?” Johnny asked. “Shouldn’t that be fifty?”

T.J. smiled and bit his lower lip around a breathy chuckle. “No. If you add the same amount of men to your pool of potential dating candidates, you double it. Means you add one hundred percent of the amount you had before.”

Johnny pondered this for a second but then let out a small laugh himself and shrugged. “Guess I’m shit at math. But… I dunno. I don’t think I’ll start actually dating guys now. This was probably a one off. But definitely worth the experience.”

T.J. snickered quietly to himself for a moment, then shrugged as well. “Fair enough. Pity though.”

“Well, try to see it this way,” Johnny started and finally got up from the bed as well to walk over to the coffee table and refill their glasses. “In all likelihood you’ll always remain the one and only dude the Human Torch ever had sex with. And that’s something, isn’t it?” he asked with a playfully smug grin on his lips, coming to T.J. with the glasses in hands.

T.J. snubbed the cigarette out on the outer wall and turned towards Johnny, back leaning against the window frame as he took the offered glass.

“It does have a certain ring to it,” he admitted with a grin, clinking their glasses together.

“Here’s to that,” Johnny added and took a sip of his wine, noticing just how thirsty he was when the liquid hit his tongue. “Got any water around here somewhere? Though… we should probably get cleaned up and dressed and see if there’s anything of a party left to join. What do you think?”

“I think you’re right,” T.J. replied and took a long sip from his own glass, pulling up his shoulders when a bit of wind picked up outside and blew more cool air around their backs. “And there’s my envy of your party trick. Let me close that,” he said, shooing Johnny out of the way to be able to get to the window.

“Well…” Johnny put his own glass down on the low window sill and laid his arms around T.J. from behind, chest closely against his back as he adjusted his temperature just enough to be pleasantly warm. “How’s that then?”

For a moment T.J. froze, but then his whole body shuddered and he went pliant against him.

“Oh fuck me. Furnace, right.”

“What? Again? I thought we were heading back to the party,” Johnny asked jokingly, though there was a part of him that briefly regretted they couldn’t - shouldn’t - do just that.

“Yeah, well, I’m not gonna say no. It’s you they’ll be looking for.”

It was so, so tempting to just shrug and agree to that, possibly spending the entire night, but he probably really shouldn’t. Though he wasn’t even quite sure why. It was not like anybody would consider him having come to serious harm, but if he just disappeared it might raise a few questions that he wasn’t sure he’d want to answer.

“They probably will,” he said then, just briefly tightening the grip around T.J.’s middle before he let his arms sink, waiting for him to turn around. “But I had a really, really great time. Thanks for that.”

“Yeah, I did too, so we’re even.” The grin on T.J.’s lips was quick and easy, his gaze resting on Johnny’s face for a moment longer. “All right, gonna go clean myself up. We can be out in ten minutes.”

Johnny nodded, and when he watched T.J. leave in direction of the bathroom he thought that it was a bit of a pity, but at least he had definitely made an experience worth remembering for a long time.

 

***

 

Guess who I just saw on TV

Oh no. What did I do?

Wear a really great suit

And apparently visit the theater

Why thank you ;) and yeah, have to take my grannie out

every once in a while

Enjoyed the show then? Midsummer night's dream right?

I've never seen that.

It was fun, yes.

So how are you?

Bored enough to watch some gossip thing on TV with the

latest news on Brangelina and who else is currently hot and

important :D Other than that good. You?

Having cold pizza, so all good

Cold pizza is the best... Well aside from warm pizza ;)

You're kind of a dork ;)

Why thank you :D

 

***

 

Wow remind me to never agree to an interview with fox news

ever again.

Aww come on, no one's told you that before?

Yeah okay. Point

But some of the questions today topped everything else in weirdness

What happened?

You can watch it tonight ;)

Really liked the part about what my favourite news show was tho

What did you say?

Daily show :P

Haha

You know you could teach me how to weasel out of the really

stupid questions

Your PR people haven't sat you down for this shit?

What pr people? :P

Well then. You can pay me with chocolate cake.

Deal

 

***

 

Quick, Fantastic Four to the rescue!

Huh? Is this a joke or an emergency?

There's been a mud monster sighting in Reykjavik!

Haha very funny.

I think it's hilarious :D

Yeah for you maybe. Fyi, I'm still finding mud in places

I didn't expect

It was, I was kind of laughing my ass off. Your comment

doesn't help btw ;)

Yeah just laugh at my misfortune. I almost had it. Totally

would have won if it hadn't been for that stupid guy crashing

his bike in front of me

Poor you. So what's this even called?

Cross-country motor...cross...?

Wow you're really ignorant when it comes to motorsport,

aren't you? ;) It's motocross. No R

Are you really surprised? I have no clue whatsoever

Not really ;)

Wow thanks.

Just messing with you

G2g. I’m invited to dinner.

What are you having?

Rotten shark

o.O

Well, dig in then.

 

***

 

Hey are you busy next weekend?

Depends? When next weekend?

Fri-sun. I'm flexible on that. Just turns out I'll be in DC

I'm having this family thing Friday night, but other than that

there's nothing planned

Ah okay. Sue and Reed have a conference to attend on Friday.

Early afternoon I think. And on Monday morning we're visiting

a kid's hospital So between that I'm around. We could hang

out if you like

Sure thing. Want me to take you sightseeing?

I'm up for whatever. Though I've already seen plenty the last

time we were there ;) haven't seen your club yet

Of course, I'll take you there

Awesome. Can’t wait

What else would you wanna do?

Nothing special. I'm cool with just watching movies and

ordering pizza ;) Seriously whatever you can think of that

sounds like fun

Okay, if we go out on Saturday, movies sounds good for Friday.

Awesome. See you in a few days.

:)

Chapter Text

T.J. left his family just before ten that Friday night and called Johnny the moment he was surrounded by fresh air to let him know he was free and to give him his address, something he hadn’t wanted to do over text. He had no idea what to expect, really, because he didn’t usually meet up with one night stands again, let alone develop some kind of… friendship. T.J. supposed that was what it was shaping up to be.

Sure, they had gotten on well that night, even without the sex, and it was, well, nice, somehow, to text with him afterwards without any kind of awkwardness. He really, really appreciated that, even though Johnny had said that it had probably been a one off with a guy, he neither seemed to have any kind of issue with it, nor let it become one in any way. That relaxed kind of attitude was nice to be around. No pressure or expectations, just getting along.

At home, T.J. only had the time to change into a much more comfortable pair of jeans and v-neck t-shirt before the doorbell sounded. T.J. buzzed the entrance to the building open and waited for the sound of the elevator arriving to open his door wider.

When it did and Johnny’s gaze found him, T.J. hadn’t quite expected the wide, radiant grin on the other man’s lips to be so catching.

“Hi!” Johnny said as he came towards him, stepping through the open door, and T.J. couldn’t help grinning back.

“Hey.”

He should have expected this though, really, because everything he had seen of the other man since their first meeting had confirmed this image of him, of someone fundamentally positive and happy. It really was catching.

T.J. let the door fall shut and turned back to his guest.

“So, are you hungry? Still want that pizza?”

But the look on Johnny’s face had started to change almost the instant the door had closed; the smile was fading from his lips slowly, gaze trailing down T.J.’s front for a second before it went up to his eyes. And his lips opened briefly, brow furrowing as if he were contemplating that question, unsure of what to say or do, and T.J. felt his own smile slipping, wondering what the hell was up.

Then, barely a moment later, that look on Johnny’s face was gone, replaced by one with no trace of uncertainty but complete confidence. “Nope, don’t want any pizza.”

T.J. had a brief second to recognise the hunger in Johnny’s gaze for something quite different before he felt the other man’s hands on him, one at the back of his head, the other in the front of his t-shirt. Their lips crashed together, and fucking hell, he had not seen this coming.

It didn’t happen often that T.J. was taken by surprise, especially not by something like this. He did need a moment to steady himself, even though his instincts had taken over immediately, had made him return the kiss, because this was something he knew even in his sleep. He remembered the scent instantly, the way Johnny kissed too, and only when his mind had finally caught up with what was happening, a laugh started bubbling up in his chest.

It made Johnny break the kiss for a moment, a smile that was definitely mischievous on his lips. The look in his eyes, though, however lustful, was almost gentle, and he seemed to want to give T.J. a moment to respond. He tried to compose himself, but small pearls of laughter were still coming over his lips.

“Shit, that was unexpected,” he finally admitted, tangled his fingers in Johnny’s shirt, and pulled him closer again.

There was nothing Johnny seemed to want to reply to that; instead his lips locked with T.J.’s again, kissing him hungrily, fiercely, while his hands continued their firm grip, started to tug on T.J.’s shirt, pushed him against the wall with careful determination. T.J. let a soft sound of encouragement fall into their kiss, wound an arm around Johnny’s neck and grabbed his hip to pull him close, a firm, delicious line against his own body.

The first time had been good, not exceptional or anything, but considering that it had been the other man’s first time with a guy, he had done a lot right. So T.J. really wasn’t opposed to doing this again, because that Johnny wanted to have sex again was pretty damn obvious. And it was getting even more obvious, very quickly.

‘So much for a one off,’ T.J. thought and grinned into the kiss, teasingly biting down on Johnny’s lower lip, getting a throaty, trembling groan from him in response as Johnny returned the kiss with equal enthusiasm and impatience. He only broke it to pull the t-shirt over T.J.’s head, shrug out of his light jacket and reach for the fly of T.J.’s jeans, obviously determined to get them out of their clothes as quickly as possible.

T.J. had trouble remembering the last time he had lost his clothes as fast as now, and that was considering that his one night stands mostly didn’t take a lot of time with it either. But this, this was seconds before all his clothes had been strewn all over the floor next to the apartment door. At least Johnny’s upper body was naked already as well, and he could dig his fingertips into his shoulders, the muscular back, pressing close, close, kissing hungrily.

Johnny’s lips didn’t seem to want to leave his, and he let out another of those low, rumbling moans as he pressed their hips together, hands roaming over T.J.’s body hastily, pulling him with him a few steps into the living room. Neither of them properly paid attention where they were heading, and when they bumped against the black leather couch, losing balance for a second, Johnny let out a breathy chuckle as he broke the kiss and looked around.

“Lube? Condoms?”

“Bedroom,” T.J. muttered back, slightly out of breath, and reluctantly put his hand on Johnny’s chest to push him away.

Johnny looked around quickly as if to make up his mind, before he found the half open door into the bedroom and just grabbed T.J.’s hand to pull him in there impatiently.

“Nice apartment, by the way,” he said in passing but not insincerely before he all but threw T.J. who, again, couldn’t stop himself from laughing, onto the bed.

“You are ridiculous,” he commented. T.J. was really damn aroused, and it was making him giddy, because it was true, Johnny really was ridiculous.

In a pretty fun way.

T.J. rolled over and pulled the drawer of his nightstand open where he kept condoms and lube, while Johnny was already crawling onto the bed, one hand running down his back and to his butt, squeezing lightly. “And you’re really hot, you know that?”

“So I’ve been told,” T.J. only smirked, held the bottle of lube out over his shoulder for Johnny to take, and spread his legs.

“Uh… how quickly do you think you can be ready?” Johnny asked, having settled down next to him, the cap of the lube springing open audibly.

The question sent a shudder through his body, and T.J. took a deep breath and leaned his forehead against the sheets. “Very.”

“Good,” Johnny just replied, and a moment later, T.J. felt one finger enter him, the second one already circling around the ring of muscle, joining mere seconds later. Despite his impatience Johnny was careful when he started scissoring his fingers, more than other lovers he’d had in the past, and T.J. had enough practice with this. He wouldn’t have bothered with this right now at all, but Johnny wasn’t exactly small, so he concentrated on relaxing, muttering after only a couple more moments, “Another. You know, next time I’m gonna give you a toy for this, it’s a lot neater.”

“Okay. Whatever gets the job done.” Johnny’s words didn’t sound demanding, a trace of amusement ringing in his tone. He seemed to hesitate just a moment before he let the third finger slide in, thrusting slowly with slightly rotating movements to stretch him swiftly.

T.J. let him for a couple of seconds longer, breathing calmly, subtly moving his hips back against Johnny’s hand until he lost his patience as well.

“Just… come on, come here,” he demanded, already ripping a condom package open, and there was shifting on the bed as Johnny took off his jeans, underpants and socks quickly, throwing them onto the floor. Then, a pillow was shoved under T.J’s hips, the condom taken from him, and finally, as Johnny was kneeling behind him, between his spread legs, he felt his hard cock push into him.

“Oh… fuck,” T.J. mumbled, licking his lips and breathing deeply, shoving his face into the pillow. It didn’t hurt, but goddamnit, for a few seconds he felt stretched to the limit.

Johnny didn’t rush it. Despite his earlier impatience he gave T.J. a few moments to get accustomed to the feeling before he pushed in a little deeper, very slowly. Johnny leaned forward, breath ghosting warmly over T.J.’s neck. “Okay?”

“Jesus,” T.J. let out a breathless curse but then huffed out a brief laugh, feeling his body open up gradually. “Yeah, fine.”

“Okay,” Johnny repeated and then leaned back up again to pick up a rhythm.

It was somewhat slow at first, and, same as last time, Johnny let his hands run over T.J.’s back, soothingly, gently, making him relax more and more. But soon the earlier haste was back in his movements, and he started thrusting forward faster and harder with each passing moment.

It took only a few short, very short minutes before T.J. muffled a moan in his pillow and told Johnny to wait, to give him a bit of room so he could push himself onto his knees, making the angle so much better.

“Shit, oh,” he groaned when Johnny thrust back in, all his nerves tingling, and even more when he gripped T.J.’s hips tightly and started slamming into him, hard.

Johnny’s breath was coming out as panted, short, throaty sounds in rhythm with his thrusts. He reached forward again, to T.J.’s left shoulder, and then he pulled him up, his other hand coming around T.J.’s middle to press him back against his chest. Kissing his neck, open-mouthed, breathing hotly against him.

He had known right from the start that this was never going to last long. T.J.’s body was thrumming with arousal, maybe simply from the mere fact of how much the other man seemed into this, maybe because of the way the whole thing had gone. He arched his back and reached down, roughly jerking himself off while the arm around his waist held him in place for the hard thrusts, and it didn’t take much more than that before he started shuddering and twitching between his hand and the cock inside him, moaning unsteadily.

“Oh Jesus,” Johnny moaned against his neck, caught by surprise. His hand reached down as if that had been his intention when he had changed their position, and he laid it on top of T.J.’s, moved along with it, stroking him through his orgasm.

His mouth was on his neck then, kissing, tongue trailing, and when Johnny breathed out a stuttered groan, he softly bit down on T.J.’s skin. His hips jerked forward, stopped moving then save for a slow, trembling push against the weight on his lap as he sank onto his heels. Breathing hard, he held T.J. against him for several, long moments, before, weakly but carefully, pushing him forward and off his cock.

T.J. took a few deep breaths as he rolled onto his back, his stained hand hanging over the edge of the bed, and he just stared at the ceiling for a few moments. Oh, he was going to feel this in the morning, he already knew, and the thought made him grin.

He laughed quietly. “You know, if you wanted to come here to have sex, you could have just told me.”

Johnny had sunk to the side, at the lower part of the bed, seemingly unwilling to move for the moment either, but he let out a small chuckle. “Yeah well, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I’d want that. Or… if you did, for that matter.”

T.J. huffed in amusement. No, he really wasn’t going to complain.

“What made you decide then? That seemed to happen really quickly.”

Johnny gave a small shrug. “I dunno. Seeing you I guess. I mean… you know what I mean, right? Sometimes you have an idea of someone in your mind, but you only really know when you see them again, face to face.” Another shrug and a vague smirk followed his words, and T.J. nodded and stretched out luxuriously on his bed.

“Yeah, I guess I do. That’s flattering,” he grinned and pushed himself up into a sitting position, clean hand reaching over into his nightstand again for some wipes.

“I mean,” Johnny went on with another shrug and a waving motion of his hand, “I’m not saying I’m crushing on you or anything like that. It’s mostly about the whole thing where you are a guy and I’ve never gone for guys before, and I wasn’t completely sure whether that thing at the White House was some kind of… unusual result of an unusual chain of events and wouldn’t be like that a second time or… Well, this,” he ended with a lopsided smile before he finally removed the condom, only bothering to tie a knot in its end instead of getting up just yet.

“Hey, it’s fine,” T.J. laughed while he cleaned up the worst of the mess on his hand, body feeling pleasantly relaxed now. “You’re curious, I get that. Hell, I’d be, too, if I ever slept with a girl again and was as into it as you seem to be,” he added, winking at the other man.

“Again?” Johnny asked, one brow going up as he looked over at T.J. who shrugged.

“I tried it. Just wasn’t it for me, not really. Certainly not in comparison.”

“Oh, okay,” Johnny said and reached for a few of the wipes himself, cleaning his hands and wrapping the used condom in them before he shifted and laid down next to T.J. on his belly and propped on his elbows. “Makes sense I guess. Because that’s sort of still the default, so you try that because most other people do. Right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” T.J. replied, thinking back on the handful of times he actually had. “I’d like to say that what most other people do or think has nothing to do with it, but that’s probably not true.” He shrugged again, not really bothered by that though. To be gay and out hadn’t been his biggest problem in a long time. “But it was also curiosity and figuring myself out, so it’s all good in my books.”

Johnny looked up at the ceiling for a moment, a pondering expression on his face before he looked back at T.J. and smirked vaguely. “Whatever the hell that means for me, then.”

T.J. returned his gaze, only tilted his head a little. “Hey, it’s your life. Just do what you feel like, fuck who you want to fuck. You don’t have to label yourself if you don’t feel like it.”

“Yeah that’s exactly what I’m thinking.” The smirk turned into a wider grin, before he slid a little closer. “I just know I’m liking this.” A hand reached out, slid up T.J.’s shin to rest on top of his knee. “And I like kissing you. Can we do that again?” The grin turned yet a little wider, boyish, cheeky and challenging, making it impossible for T.J. not to grin back.

“Sure thing, cowboy.”

He chucked the tissue back onto the nightstand and reached up with the other hand, tangling his fingers in the blond hair to pull him closer and give him his wish.

Johnny laughed softly against the contact, but the sound faded to make room for a small, relishing sigh as he kissed him back languidly. The kiss had nothing of their previous hastiness or hunger; it was indulgent instead, lazy and a little playful, and T.J. thought again that Johnny really was a good kisser.

No wonder, with all the practice he must have had.

But he appreciated good kissers at least as much as he did thoughtful or talented lovers, and so he enjoyed every bit of it. As did Johnny, very obviously so, because he let the contact of their lips linger, a hand on T.J.’s chest, thumb brushing over his skin below his collarbone. Then, he patted him lightly twice and rolled back onto his back, taking a deep breath.

“Alright, guess we should get cleaned up? Or… what were your plans for the rest of the night?”

“Whatever they are, cleaning up would definitely be the first step,” T.J. grinned back wryly and got out of bed. “And I don’t know, I’m still up for a movie if you are. Or whatever, really.”

Johnny rolled over again and lifted himself up, shrugging as he looked at T.J. before he got up from the bed as well. “Whatever sounds good.” The smirk on his lips was impossible to misinterpret, and T.J. couldn’t help snickering as he led the other man to his bathroom.

“You’re like a teenager who just found out what to do with the thing hanging between his legs.”

“Oh, it won’t be hanging for long, I can promise you that,” he said with that boyish, cocky expression and tone of his that always left the possibility of a joke rather than a fully serious statement. And his following words confirmed that impression. “Unless you really want to watch a movie.”

The words made T.J. glance over his shoulder at Johnny from where he was washing his hands, trying to figure out how serious he actually was. Maybe it was truer than he had realised when he had first said it, but it did make sense: Johnny was acting like he was some kind of extraordinary candy he’d just discovered and obviously liked a lot.

T.J. felt the corners of his mouth twitch and turned back to the sink, turning off the water tab. He was kind of curious, he had to admit, even though there was something in the back of his mind stirring in unease that he shoved back immediately.

“I wouldn’t mind being the outlet for your experimental phase,” he eventually smirked wryly and turned back, leaning against the sink. “But are you telling me that you want to go again right now?”

“Not right now,” Johnny said, having come over to him into the en-suite bathroom, leaning against the door frame casually with his arms folded in front of his chest. “But after a little break and something to drink maybe? That is… if you want that and weren’t planning to kick me out soon.”

T.J. just looked at the other man for a moment, and then drew his shoulders up. “Okay,” he just said, quirked a grin, and pushed himself away from the sink to pass by Johnny who filled the door almost entirely, patting his biceps. “Bathroom’s yours.”

Johnny only grinned happily back at him, and so T.J. went into the hallway, fished out his boxer briefs from the mess of clothes strewn everywhere, and pulled them back on, not bothering with anything more for now. He grabbed the rest of the clothes, threw them onto the armchair and put on the TV on some random channel before moving over into the kitchen.

“What do you want to drink?” he called over his shoulder, pulling open the fridge, as Johnny came into the living room, also only clad in his underpants.

“Water first. A beer if you have any.”

T.J. had both, because he was good like that and figured out pretty quickly what kind of drinker people were. They moved over to the couch and did watch TV for a while, but true to his word, it didn’t take more than half an hour before Johnny became interested in something else again.

T.J. only laughed and went along.

 

***

 

Johnny sank back against the couch, catching his breath. As he felt T.J. slide off of his lap, the sound of his breathing as panted and deep as his own, he didn’t even want to open his eyes for a few moments, simply basking in the pleasant exhaustion, waiting for the heaviness in his limbs to subside.

He had had a lot of fun in his days, but even Johnny realised that it had been quite some time since he had had so much sex within only little more than twenty-four hours, and he had to admit to himself in mild amusement that he was hitting his limits probably a little bit sooner than he would have done at twenty, twenty-five. When he finally did open his eyes and looked to his side, he found T.J. glancing back at him with a weak smile, as worn out as he was, and that odd sense of amazement hit him again, making him release a breathy half-chuckle and shake his head at himself.

Johnny had always been quite open to experimentation and exploring new territory; he had, same as many, kissed a guy on a dare at a party the one or other time and once with a former girlfriend, there had almost been a threesome with another man, had the guy not bailed last minute. In all that time, he had never felt a strong attraction to a man or thought that having sex with one was something he definitely needed to make his life complete. How drastically that had changed ever since he had met - been seduced by - T.J.

Maybe the fact that they got along so effortlessly was one aspect of it. Just two buddies who fucked rather than the sometimes complicated courtship rituals that seemed to be required when serious dating was on the table. But it couldn’t be that alone, because he had known women with whom that had worked just as perfectly. There had been others he had been completely nuts about - physically at least - despite many difficulties and complications. So that couldn’t be the reason why this - being with T.J. - felt so easy and natural, either. As every time when he tried to figure it all out, Johnny could only stop that train of thought with a mental shrug and decide to simply enjoy himself, whatever the reason.

And he did enjoy T.J.’s company a lot, too. This morning, they had slept in and had a late brunch together, followed by a stroll through the streets and parks and past some of D.C.’s sights, and after Johnny had gone back to the hotel to pick up new clothes (and pack some of them for the next day because - who was he kidding? - he was spending the next night with T.J. again) they had spent the evening at the club with drinks and dancing and throngs of people trying to flirt with both or either of them, and Johnny had enjoyed that part as well. Instead of Caitlin, Michelle and - was it Abby or Ally? - he had gone home with T.J. again, and not even for a second it had occurred to him to regret that choice and the missed opportunities with one of the women. There were enough attractive women back in New York, anyway.

He was distracted from his thoughts when T.J., who had curled up comfortably in the corner of the couch, yawned unabashedly.

"I'm really not going to be awake for much longer, just so you know."

Johnny requited that with a soft laugh, fishing for some tissues to get himself cleaned up enough to feel comfortable. "If that's supposed to mean that you wouldn't be up for another round, I'm completely with you on that."

"Oh that's a relief," T.J. replied dryly but cracked a laugh immediately after. He rolled his shoulders and pushed a pillow under his head against the armrest, looking entirely comfortable. "I'm not saying you're wearing me out but... you're kind of wearing me out," he added with a satisfied grin.

“Yeah… sorry,” Johnny replied with a faint shrug. “Same, though.”

T.J. just grinned, one hand absently combing through his dishevelled hair.

"Good. I can put this down in my calendar as a long sex weekend."

Johnny had to laugh this time. “Well, the weekend isn’t over yet,” he added and, despite being utterly exhausted, feeling a small pleasant tingling in the pit of his stomach at the thought of this all continuing tomorrow.

T.J. smiled, tilting his head on the armrest to watch him. "You really are surprising."

“Am I?” Johnny asked as he finally decided to move, fishing for his boxer briefs on the floor and tossing T.J.’s at him in case he wanted to put them on, too. “How exactly?”

T.J. shrugged, lazily raising his hips off the sofa to pull the boxer briefs over them. "I wasn't surprised that you were curious enough to try, but I wouldn't have thought there'd be that many follow-ups."

Johnny shrugged again before he leaned forward to pick up the water bottle from the coffee table and take a few large sips. He wasn’t quite sure what to respond at this point, having no definite explanation either and feeling somewhat reluctant about repeating his own rather complicated musings on the question.

“Hope it’s a good surprise then,” he said instead, a slightly smug grin on his lips as he leaned back again and turned towards T.J.

The grin on T.J.'s lips widened. "You don't see me complaining, right?" But then he shrugged. "To be honest, it's a bit of a bother to find someone uncomplicated when I really just want to have sex."

“Glad I could be of service then,” Johnny said, feeling very much flattered and… somewhat proud. “So…” he started, sliding down against the back of the couch a bit more comfortably, one foot on the seat next to him, and passed the water bottle over to the other man. “Tell me then, what else do you like in bed? Aside from the stuff we already did. Or, out of that, what do you like most?”

He had thought that T.J. would smirk and answer, but it didn't happen like that. Instead T.J. took the bottle to his lips first, slowly taking a few gulps, on his features something like contemplation.

Eventually he gave a half shrug. "I guess I'm kind of versatile. The things I get thrills from aren't just a handful, and it's not like I have one favourite position or a type or only like bottoming or anything like that. If that was your question."

That did answer some questions. At least the one about whether or not T.J. also liked topping, and that in itself raised another one Johnny wasn’t quite prepared to ask, because, as of right now, he really couldn’t imagine switching their roles in that aspect. “Hm, okay,” he said, pushing aside the thought that T.J. could easily find other guys who’d be willing to bottom for him, and for a split-second he wondered why he didn’t like the thought all that much. But he discarded that as well.

“I guess positions is a matter of what mood you’re in, anyway, right? Many are great and have their pros and cons. Some more than others though,” he said. “I had a girlfriend once who had a copy of the Kama Sutra and wanted to try every position in it. We gave that up very quickly.”

T.J. laughed. "I can imagine. The moment you have to concentrate more to stay in whatever position than you have to actually enjoy what you’re doing is when you realise it's way too much of a hassle. I don't really care for one position over the other, generally."

“Yeah, same. What about places, I mean other than a bed or a couch?”

T.J. drew up his eyebrow at him, the corners of his mouth twitching. "Whatever, man. Anywhere, 's long as I'm in the mood."

Johnny chuckled and, getting curious, continued, “What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever done it, then?”

"Umm..." The way T.J.'s smile threatened to widen suggested that the sound wasn't one of contemplation. He huffed out a laugh. "A movie set."

“Seriously? How did that happen?”

T.J. bit his lip around a grin. "I was visiting and it… kind of just happened? I mean, how do these things happen. People get horny for each other."

Johnny was really curious whether it had been just with someone working on set or actually with a famous actor, but since T.J. hadn’t revealed that fact himself he probably didn’t want to be nagged into doing so. Maybe he’d get the full story out of him another time.

“Yeah, I guess,” he said instead. “Mine was probably getting head in a glass elevator. It was stopped somewhere on the thirtieth floor or so, but if someone had looked up with a spyglass they’d have seen.”

An amused sound came over T.J.'s lips. "You think no one did?"

“No idea. Don’t really care, to be honest,” Johnny replied with a grin on his lips and shrugged. “It was definitely worth it. Great view, too.”

T.J. hummed contemplatively. "I should find myself a spot with a great view too some time."

“Hm, yeah. How about the glass floor platform at the Great Canyon?”

A small, somewhat choked sound came from the other man. "Well… looking down from heights below my feet like that makes me a bit shaky, but that could make for the greatest orgasm ever."

Johnny chuckled softly. “Something to keep in mind then,” he said, not quite serious. His eyes were already growing a bit heavy, and he realized that he, too, would probably soon have to sleep. “Right. We should probably get ready for bed. But tomorrow we could try it in that big glass shower of yours. Next best thing to glass elevators and floors, at least close-by.”

There was another one of those incredulous, amused laughs, and T.J. simply let his eyes fall shut. "Anywhere you want. You take the bathroom first."

Johnny let out a small laugh and, getting up from the couch at last, patted T.J. lightly on the knee before he made his way to the bathroom. When he returned just about five minutes later to get some more water before bed, he found T.J. with his eyes closed, very obviously having dozed off in the same position Johnny had left him in.

He opened his mouth to say something, but as he watched him, head lolled to the side, lips slightly parted, Johnny nearly didn’t have the heart to wake him, and he wouldn’t have, had it not been for the fact that T.J. would probably wake up with a stiff neck in the morning.

“Hey sleepy head,” he said softly, crouching down next to the couch and putting one hand on T.J.’s lower arm. “Wake up. To the bathroom with you and then to bed.”  

T.J. blinked himself awake and grumbled, sitting up while the heel of his hand rubbed into his eyes. "This is your fault," he informed Johnny and nudged him back so he could stand up.

“I take that as a compliment,” Johnny replied in amusement and gave T.J. some space.

“Yeah, yeah,” T.J. half-smiled and yawned, brushing past him on his way to the bathroom.

Taking an extra water bottle with him, Johnny waited in the bedroom, crawling under the covers already. As soon as he realised he could just fall asleep on the spot, it occurred to him that he wanted to wait until T.J. was back and had lain down beside him, and for a split-second the thought surprised him a little. Then again, that was just him being polite.

He didn’t have to wait long. T.J. returned in a matter of minutes, crawled into his bed next to Johnny and made himself comfortable on his front, head turned to the side, face shoved into the pillow. “Night,” he mumbled, eyes already closed, and Johnny had to chuckle to himself again. It wouldn’t have mattered if T.J. had found him asleep, after all.

Reaching over, he switched off the bedside lamp, and when his hand passed the sleeping figure next to him, he couldn’t quite resist letting it brush over his shoulder lightly before he turned onto his side, closed his eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.

 

***

 

The plan was for Johnny to sleep at the hotel the night after. They had spent a lazy Sunday inside, living off the remains of food T.J. still had in his apartment (he was really going to have to get new groceries delivered on Monday), really getting out of bed only some time after midday. T.J. had actually felt a little sore after everything they’d done the two days before, so they had only kissed and grinded in the shower, T.J. had brought Johnny off with lips and tongue, and had then leaned back and closed his eyes while a hand on his cock and a pair of lips on his chest had returned the favor.

They were lunging on the couch again right now, three cartons of pizza on the coffee table, with The Fast and the Furious playing on TV and T.J. flipping through his tablet out of curiosity. There had been pictures taken of them when they’d been out for brunch in that café the day before, and the gossip pages were all over it of course. And maybe it was a bit morbid, but T.J. was curious, and some of the stuff was kind of hilarious.

“Anything interesting?” Johnny asked, balancing a half-full glass of coke on his knee, just one hand wrapped around it lightly. They had continued to chat throughout the movie, with the plot not requiring too much attention since Johnny had watched it ‘dozens of times’ already. He really was very excited about fast cars. T.J. had returned he’d watched it about five times for Paul Walker, so they were both being predictable and it was all good.

“Weeell, they’re all very excited about us,” T.J. smirked wryly. “Speculating how we’re even getting along. Gives them lots to talk about.”

“Oh?” Johnny asked, leaning in a bit more closely to get a peek, and, seeming rather unconcerned, added, “They’re not speculating anything other than us getting along as friends, though, are they?”

“God, no,” T.J. huffed out a laugh and angled the tablet for Johnny to have a better view. “Puzzles them, ‘cause according to TMZ we’re the most contrary characters they can think of.”

Johnny let out a short laugh and shrugged his shoulders. “Oh well, opposites attract, huh? And we’re not that different anyway. At least we both like similar movies. Even if for different reasons,” he ended with a smirk and T.J. pushed his elbow into Johnny’s side.

“You know how they are, they like defining people by sex. I’m the gay troublemaker from the White House, you’re the flaming Casanova Superhero.”

“There were probably unlikelier friendships in the past,” Johnny replied. “But yeah, that’s the press for you, I guess.”

“I always loved getting their brains in a twist,” T.J. commented and went on to the next site, huffing quietly. “Look, these here worry I might corrupt you. I really don’t see how, you’re clearly car-sexual and the only thing you could get addicted to is gas fumes.”

“Yeah. I’m also a bit too old to be corrupted,” Johnny said, amusement clearly visible on his features. “But wow, they really don’t have a very high opinion of you, do they? If they see you as the bad guy instead of me. Morons.”

“Please,” T.J. rolled his eyes. “They love you.”

Johnny tilted his head, pursing his lips with a nonchalant expression. “Wasn’t always like that. I was the bad boy who was into fast cars and showing off, with a different girl on my arm every weekend. Compared to my genius sister I’ve always been the irresponsible rebel. And they used to have a go at me, too. Just not so much recently. Guess I got old and boring after all,” he said, a grin on his lips. “Oh and by the way, they don’t hate you either. Depends a lot on what you’re reading, because I remember quite a few articles and headlines that were praising you for your charity involvements and how well you’ve been doing those past two years or so.”

T.J. wanted to make some dismissive comment for a moment, but then his mind caught on the words and he glanced over at Johnny, eyebrows going up.

“You’ve been reading about me?”

“Surprise, I do read,” Johnny said somewhat defensively but in good humour, lips twitching upwards. “I did read some stuff when I knew we were going to visit the White House, not just about you, though. And, well, there’s some stuff you can’t really miss.”

Oh, T.J. was pretty sure about that. He just shrugged and rolled his eyes a little, turning his tablet off, not really knowing what to say to that.

Johnny’s gaze was on him, studying him intently, and a moment later T.J. could hear him inhale and then let out a soft chuckle. “Okay, and maybe I did read some stuff on purpose because hey, it’s always kinda exciting to read stuff about someone you actually know. Especially if it’s good like that article in the New York Times that listed you as a positive example of people who have overcome addiction. So that’s cool.”

“Okay, yeah, that’s great,” T.J. replied, knowing the tone of his voice lacked enthusiasm, but he really didn’t feel like talking about this. So he put the tablet onto the coffee table and turned to Johnny instead, a hand on his chest pushing him against the back of the couch so that he could straddle his lap. “So, if you’ve got to leave later, how about we do something with the time we got on our hands now?”

Instead of reacting to his advances directly - as T.J. would have thought - Johnny just looked up at him, trying to figure him out. Then, he released a soft, barely audible sigh, and an apologetic smile was on his lips. “Okay, sorry. Guess you didn’t want me to mention that. It’s just that I wanted to… Yeah okay, never mind. I’ll shut up.”

“Yeah, shut up.”

T.J. followed his words with a kiss, hands brushing over Johnny’s neck and his shoulders. He knew that this hadn’t been his smoothest change of a topic, but didn’t really care either.

Johnny, at least, didn’t seem to mind and kissed him back, his lips parting pliantly, tongue meeting T.J.’s, but it wasn’t yet with as much hunger as most of their starting kisses had been, a lot gentler and less foreplay mode than a kiss for its own sake, and T.J. wondered what the hell this was about. But he didn’t want to ask about it either, so he just went with it, one hand sliding into the blond strands, the other wandering down Johnny’s chest, tracing the lines of his muscles under his shirt, and his hips pressed down into his lap in a slow, circling motion.

“What was that thing about being too sore, earlier?” Johnny asked with a breathy chuckle as he broke the kiss, though his hands had reached around T.J.’s waist, holding him steady.

“Mhm… been hours since then, right?” T.J. drew up his eyebrow, his hand cupping the bulge he found between Johnny’s legs, eliciting a small groan.

“Yeah okay,” Johnny said, one hand trailing up T.J.’s back, palm flat against him, and his hips pushed slowly up into the touch of T.J.’s hand. “I’m not complaining. Though…” The contemplative mood vanished from his features, there was a hint of mischief in his eyes and the smirk on his lips again before he craned his neck to look past T.J. at the TV. “Weren’t we kinda watching a movie?”

T.J. immediately tightened his hand in Johnny’s hair and pulled his head back so that he had to look at him.

“I wouldn’t really mind retreating back to my corner of the couch to jerk myself off to Paul over there,” he said with a small nod back towards the screen. “Would you?”

Johnny didn’t reply anything, but there was something in his eyes as he looked up at T.J. that was both amused and lustful. And maybe even a little bit possessive. Just a second later, he had grabbed T.J. around the middle and pushed him over, onto his back, and he kissed him deeply, hips pushing down against him, and a soft, rough groan came over T.J.’s lips. He started tugging on Johnny’s shirt to get it over his head, feet hooked over Johnny’s calves, their kiss impatient and messy right now, lips and teeth nipping at the other while their hands struggled with getting each other out of their clothes.

It was amazing, really. How Johnny went from casually relaxed to nearly eating him up, his kisses deep and hungry, hands exploring T.J.’s body, hips grinding against him. And although it was still obvious that being with a man was new to him and a bit unusual, T.J. had no reason to believe that Johnny was anything but crazy about him, physically at least.

It was intense this time, nearly as much as it had been the first night; T.J.’s ankles were on Johnny’s shoulders as he fucked him into the couch with deep, hard thrusts. And yet it lasted much longer, seemed like Johnny made a deliberate effort to draw it out when his hand slapped T.J.’s away from his cock, taking that part over himself with firm but slow strokes to keep him on the edge longer than would have been normal even after an entire weekend of fucking. And when T.J. finally came, spurting warm against his own belly, Johnny kept up the pace of his thrusts throughout his orgasm until, finally, he found release with a long, throaty groan and collapsed on top of him, panting against the crook of his neck for long moments.

T.J.'s heart was hammering, a pleasant tiredness in his limbs that made him not want to move one bit. His breathing slowed gradually, legs having slid down, splaying around Johnny's hips, one hand resting lightly on the other man's shoulder. Eventually he sighed, long and deep and satisfied, not really feeling like saying anything at all just yet.

Johnny raised his head, face glowing and brow sweaty, and there was a lopsided smile on his lips before he brought them to T.J.’s for a brief kiss.

“Man,” he said and shook his head, and it took him some obvious effort to raise himself up and carefully slide out of T.J.’s body. “I could probably sleep for a whole day straight now.”

“Yeah, no, you’ve gotta make some kids happy,” T.J. replied, glancing down at the mess he’d made on his own chest.

“Yeah, don’t worry, I’m not gonna bail on that,” Johnny replied and tossed T.J. a few tissues, getting himself cleaned up as well before he sank against the back of the couch. When he looked back at T.J., there was a mix of a salacious grin and a contemplative gaze on his features. “Hm, you know, I’m going to miss this.”

“You don’t say,” T.J. couldn’t help smirking, wiping himself off. The way Johnny had behaved all weekend, he’d have been surprised if his thirst for this just vanished the moment he left the city. He reached over to pat his knee. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find just as many guys as girls in New York.”

Instead of grinning and adding some smugly joking comment about it, the contemplative look became more prominent, and Johnny tilted his head, opening his mouth to speak and making a waving hand gesture. “Or… you know, you could always come visit me.”

T.J., who had sat up on the couch to pick up his underwear from the floor, paused and looked over at Johnny. “Huh?”

“I mean… Why go through all that hassle to find someone for one night and not know how it’s gonna turn out when I know I’m liking it with you? Never change a winning team, right?” Johnny ended on a shrug, brows slightly raised and head inclined, a pouty half-smile on his lips that was reminiscent of a young boy’s, trying to talk someone into giving him candy or buying him a toy, and T.J. thought that was a bit ridiculous but… maybe endearingly so. He cocked his head to the side, trying to figure out if he was getting this right.

“Are you saying you want us to be fuck buddies?” he wanted to know, the corners of his mouth twitching in amusement.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what I’m saying,” Johnny replied with a grin, and T.J. couldn’t help laughing a little, pulling on his boxer briefs after all to give himself a moment to think.

He had said just earlier how inconvenient it was to find someone first when he really wanted to have sex, and this… He’d know Johnny wasn’t going to talk to anyone about this, he knew what he’d get, Johnny was hot and enthusiastic, they were getting along just fine, he’d never felt the need to get away from him immediately after…

“Alright,” T.J. said then, turning back towards Johnny with a wry smirk. “Seems like we have a deal. Do we need to talk about details or rules or stuff like that?”

The grin on Johnny’s lips widened, almost ridiculously so for a moment before he visibly forced it down and knitted his brow, pondering T.J.’s question. “Dunno. I mean other than us not being exclusive I guess, I can’t really think of anything right now. You?”

T.J. shrugged. “No drama. Guess that’s all I’m asking. And not that I think you would, but just in case: never show up here high on anything. That’s all.”

“Yeah, no, I won’t,” Johnny said sincerely. “Oh, and as for showing up, give me at least a thirty minutes heads up. My place is a mess sometimes.”

T.J. snickered and grabbed another slice of now cold pizza. “Yeah, bit of a warning would be appreciated. Calling in before generally is a pretty good idea, just so you won’t end up here when I’m not.”

“Good thinking,” Johnny said and, probably finding the pizza carton to be too far out of his reach, cheekily took the slice T.J. just wanted to bite into from his hand.

“Hey!” T.J. grappled with his hold on the slice. “No pizza stealing or the deal’s off!”

Johnny made a disappointed face and let out a sigh, not able to keep that expression up for longer, though, than it took him to lean forward and grab a slice of his own, biting into it with relish.

T.J. only huffed and kicked the side of his thigh, but the corners of his mouth were twitching. Maybe this could turn into one of the better deals he’d made in his life.

 

***

 

I really want you right now.

Damn. I'm kinda busy saving Grand Bahama from a meteor right now

Damn you.

Meteor again though? Seriously?

And, what, you're saving the Bahamas but have time
to answer text messages? That's suspicious!

Yeah I'm waiting for Reed and Ben to oh gotta go. Call you back

Just so you know, I'm going to get myself off for hours without you.

(But good luck)

 

***

 

Looks like there are no islands to save at the mo. If you still
want me (or again) I'm free this weekend

Well that sure took some time. ;) I saw you on TV.
Well done, the place is too beautiful to go down

It definitely is

What is it with those meteors lately?

No idea but we’re trying to find out

Sue and Reed are that is. They’re on another trip this weekend.
Having the place to myself. What do you say? Wanna visit?

That sounds promising. Looks like I can make some time, yes. :)

Great. Friday?

The whole weekend again? I don't think I can stay too long
on Sunday though

That's okay. Just let me know when you'll be here

I'll give you a shout once I leave DC. Should I bring anything?

Just yourself ;)

That I can do

Awesome. See you

 

Chapter Text

T.J. should be here any moment now, Johnny thought and checked the time on his phone. For what must be the fourth of fifth time, he realised and put it into the pocket of his jeans.

He wasn't going to kid himself. Johnny neither could nor wanted to deny that he was quite excited at the prospect of spending another weekend like they had at T.J.'s, and the thought of that alone sent a pleasant shiver right to his cock. It had been like that ever since their text conversation about the visit, and the memories of everything they had done together (and the expectations of what could follow this time) had left him half hard and restless more often than probably was appropriate for any grown adult around thirty. Then again, he hadn't had any sex since then, so…

Considering those circumstances, it was probably perfectly normal that Johnny had spent long minutes daydreaming earlier today, when he had sat down with a cup of coffee after having tidied up his rooms. Maybe it was a good thing that they hadn’t had the opportunity to meet for a late-night booty call on a regular basis, because Johnny could barely remember when he had looked forward to a weekend of amazing sex as much as he did now.

He took his phone back out and checked the time again, wondering whether he should go into the main kitchen and get some things to fill his fridge with. Just in case they'd be hungry and too lazy to make it out of his rooms.

He didn't get to make up his mind about that. Finally, he heard the signal chime that announced a visitor was coming up in the elevator, and it sent him sprinting to the console by his door to enter the code that would allow T.J. to get off on the right floor. He then jogged down the hallway and waited, trying to compose himself and keep that grin that was widening on his face in check. He didn't want to tear off T.J.’s clothes the instant he stepped out of the elevator. That’d be ridiculous.

When the doors slid open and his gaze fell onto him, T.J.’s lips twitched into a smile before he bit down on it. His legs were clad in dark denim, a form-fitting t-shirt covered his torso, and the only things he carried with him were a small duffle bag and a soft-looking black leather jacket slung over his shoulder.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” Johnny said back, feeling a wide grin spread on his lips, and, despite his attempt to get hold of himself, he could just so refrain from pushing T.J. against the next wall and kissing him senseless. “So, this is it,” he said instead, waving his arm vaguely in direction of the hallway and the rooms left and right. “The Baxter Building. Not as glamorous as the White House, but I can give you a tour, if you like.”

“A tour of your place is enough for now,” T.J. replied with a visibly amused smirk.

“Okay, then, follow me,” Johnny replied as he led the way, excitement bubbling up in his chest with a small laugh.

After he pointed to the open door of his room, T.J. stepped in and toed his shoes off before he turned towards Johnny. “Besides, no one needs the White House.”

“Yeah, you may be right,” Johnny replied with a shrug, closing the door behind him. “At least I don’t. This is more than enough for me,” he said, spreading his arms, inviting T.J. to have a look around from the sitting area with his huge TV to the sleeping area, mostly hidden behind the shelves and cabinets that divided the room in the middle. “Bathroom’s over there if you need it. Want anything to drink?”

“Just water,” T.J. replied, taking a moment longer to glance around before turning back to Johnny, a grin spreading on his lips. “Nice place.”

“Yeah, I quite like it, too. Bigger than my last room here. We rebuilt the whole living quarters shortly after Sue and Reed got married and Ben moved in with Alicia,” he explained, having gone over to the table by the divider where he also had a fridge, some glasses and dishes, a microwave, coffee machine and whatever else he needed and didn’t always want to go get from the main kitchen. “Glass or straight from the bottle?”

“Bottle’s fine… have the feeling I’m gonna need it anyway,” was his reply, coloured with a smirk, and Johnny  liked the way that sounded very much.

He went back to T.J. a bit more slowly, head inclined slightly, a smile on his lips as well as he handed his guest the bottle. Despite his very obvious body language, Johnny couldn’t quite keep himself from cracking a small joke. “Did you plan to do some workout? Gym room’s one floor up.”

“Oh, a lot of workout,” T.J. replied, never breaking their gaze even as he took the bottle, unscrewed the cap and raised it to his lips for a few deep gulps.

“Yeah? Anything particular in mind?”

Licking the remaining moisture on his lips away, T.J. pushed the bottle back onto the counter, his gaze trailing down Johnny’s face, neck and torso. “No, I’m… open to suggestions.”

“Hm, then how about a few rounds on the treadmill or a run around the reservoir in Central Park?” Johnny asked, playing dumb just for a few moments longer, until he couldn’t keep himself from cracking a huge smile anymore. “Or…” And already he had put one arm around T.J.’s waist, the other hand on the front of his t-shirt, as he pulled him in for, finally, the first kiss.

“I’d been thinking about testing out that waterbed, actually,” T.J. said, smiling as he briefly broke the kiss. He hummed into it as he brought their lips together again, his hands coming up to cup Johnny's face, brush against his neck and, finally, bury themselves in his hair as he kissed him deeply and happily. His body pressed closer, hips rolling up against Johnny's, and a soft moan spilled into their kiss. And… fuck, despite his relative patience just now, Johnny found himself reacting to these few touches even more quickly and intensely than he would have thought.

A soft groan came over his lips as well, caught by T.J.’s, and he tugged impatiently on the fabric between their bodies as he pushed against the other man. He only broke the kiss briefly, pulling T.J.’s t-shirt over his head with one swift movement as he directed him, step by step, towards the sleeping area, pausing once to push him against the back wall of the divider. Kissing him still, letting his tongue run along the bottom lip, nibbling softly, he let one hand slide down T.J.’s chest, thumb circling one already hardening nipple. He was hard already, the otherwise comfortable jeans feeling constricting and way too tight.

“Man, I really did miss this.”

"Yes, you said something like that," T.J. grinned and bit into Johnny's lower lip, hands sliding back under the waistline of his jeans, fingertips digging into Johnny's ass.

“I said I would miss it,” Johnny replied, a smirk on his lips even as he was grinding against T.J., finding they weren’t losing their clothing quickly enough. “And I was right.”

“Good,” T.J. muttered, nipping on his jawline, hands brushing Johnny’s t-shirt up, trying to get it over his head. “I’d hate for our deal to be that short-lived.”

“Don’t think it will,” Johnny replied, and even though it had been just a joke, the mere thought of that deal coming to an early end made Johnny kiss T.J. back a little desperately, hungrily pressing their lips together, tongues sliding before he gently bit into T.J.’s bottom lip. “Pretty sure it won’t. Jesus, let’s get out of these clothes already,” he said, opening T.J.’s jeans and tugging on them impatiently.

There it was again, that amused, carefree sounding laugh whenever Johnny behaved like that, and he couldn’t help thinking that T.J. liked it, liked it a lot. He bit teasingly into the side of Johnny’s throat, then into the lobe of his ear and started undoing Johnny’s jeans as well. “Hope you stocked up on condoms.”

In lieu of a reply, Johnny simply reached to his side, opening the top drawer of his nightstand and pointing at the contents: a full bottle of lube and more condoms than they could possibly use up in one weekend.

“That enough?” he asked cheekily before he pulled his t-shirt over his head himself and pushed his pants down, too, stepping out of them and kicking them to the side.

T.J. licked his lips around a grin. “Good boy,” he said, voice low and deep, and his gaze dropped to Johnny’s underwear. His hands landed on his abs and he leaned in to press his lips to Johnny’s neck, then his pecs, trailing down his stomach as he slid to his knees in front of him.

“Oh… Jeez,” Johnny couldn’t help letting out, one hand lightly curling into T.J.’s hair. If giving head was T.J.’s idea right now then, damn, he really couldn’t argue, even if it’d cost him quite some resolve not to let T.J. go through with it til the end.

Warm hands slipped into his underwear, pulling it down to leave him naked, and then there were more kisses on the V leading between his legs, following the lines to his rapidly hardening cock. Johnny wasn’t sure if this was some kind of reward or if he just wanted to really get him going, but T.J.’s gaze moved up to his face as he licked all the way up his length, took him between his lips and sucked him down slowly, deeper and deeper.

Maybe not a reward at all but some kind of punishment, what for, he had no idea. He felt a tingling tension start to build from the pit of his stomach down to his cock after just those few moments. His impatience grew more and more, making him want to grab T.J.’s hair more tightly and thrust into his welcoming, hot mouth, and Johnny had to bite his lower lip as he looked at the head moving up and down to keep himself from doing just that.

But T.J. kept his pace slow, let his lips drag leisurely up and down Johnny’s cock, tongue twirling around his tip as though he wanted to taste him. And eventually he let his hands fall, one of them slipping down the undone front of his jeans, the other going back around to his backside, pressing between his cheeks, and he moaned around the length in his mouth, long and deep.

“Jesus,” Johnny sighed, low and drawn-out, and it was the combination of sensation and sight that made him nearly lose his mind right there and then. “You’re fucking amazing at this, and you know it,” he said, wanting it to sound playfully reproachful. He wasn’t sure it came out as intended.

The words put a smile on the lips stretched around him. It was obvious in T.J.’s cheeks, in his eyes, in the way his gaze said, ‘I do,’ as he sucked on the tip and let another soft hum vibrate around it.

“Fuck.” Johnny prided himself on having quite some self-control, usually, but he had gone without sex since their last encounter, and, well… this little asshole here really was too damn good at giving head.

The next swirl of his tongue right before he sucked him back in again made Johnny’s knees grow weak and his hips buck forward, and he had to close his eyes to at least not see that smug expression on T.J.’s face anymore, but even that wasn’t going to help for long. “T.J., you need to… Jesus. You need to stop.”

And he did, laughing quietly as he drew his head back. T.J. pressed another kiss to his stomach and got back to his feet, eyes gleaming with satisfaction, mischief and arousal, the next kiss pressed to his lips.

“And you need to fuck me.”

What escaped Johnny then was nothing short of a growl, and he grabbed T.J. by his upper arms, crashing their mouths together for a fierce kiss before he turned and pushed T.J. onto the bed to reach for his jeans and tear them from his body along with the boxer briefs and socks. “Damn you, it’s gonna take a while til I can do that,” he said in mild frustration, but T.J. only laughed.

“Don’t be so sure. Hey, this is more solid than I thought,” T.J. remarked, rocking up and down on the mattress, but Johnny didn’t feel like explaining why waterbeds these days weren’t all wobbly and way too soft for any activities other than sleeping in them. He was already climbing above him, reaching for the bottle of lube in the nightstand when he halted and looked down at T.J. as his previous words caught up with Johnny.

“Huh?”

T.J. snickered, reached for Johnny’s shoulders, and pushed him down as he spread his legs. There was a buttplug nestled between his cheeks, dark blue and soft silicone, and suddenly everything made sense.

“You… you had that in your ass this whole time?” Johnny asked, a bit stupidly, he realised, and he was torn between wondering if that could be comfortable, when T.J. had even put it in, and not minding about the how and when but being even more turned on because, fuck, this was really kind of dirty, and T.J. had done it because, devious as he obviously was, he had planned it all like this. “Kinky,” Johnny added with a breathless chuckle, and T.J. only grinned wider.

“Thought it might come in handy. Seems I wasn’t wrong.”

“You weren’t,” Johnny replied, reaching for a condom with hasty fingers and putting it on, quickly lubing himself up for good measure. The only thing that remained - and T.J. quite obviously left that task to him, following his movement with a heated look - was to remove the plug and then replace it with his cock. “You really weren’t.”

 

***

 

T.J. was chewing on his lower lip, entirely engrossed in what he was doing, gaze fixed on the TV screen. The rainbow road was flying along below his wheels, and he instinctively turned the controller in his hands to the right as he tried not to get carried off the track into space. He made it, but only a moment later Bowser was trying to push him off as well, crashing into Koopa’s side.

“No, no, fuck off! You bully!”

Bully,” Johnny snorted, shaking his head as he navigated his character along the track and, being in the better racing line now, passed T.J.’s Koopa. Just a second later, he dropped a banana skin right in front of T.J.’s kart that he of course couldn’t evade.

“Oh you’re going to regret this,” T.J. growled and went back into fight mode immediately, every bit of consideration gone now.

He could definitely play that game.

“Wohoo,” Johnny laughed mischievously as he sped down the race track with already a considerable distance between them. Before, suddenly, a red shell hit him.

“Oh no! COME ON!!!” Johnny shouted at the screen. “FUCK YOU, PRINCESS PEACH!”

T.J. would have erupted into full-blown laughter if he hadn’t had to concentrate all his attention on grasping the chance he’d been given. “That’s what you get for being a dick to your little… cousin… whatever they are oh shit come on come on…!”

Johnny was yelling again, too, because just a few moments after he had been back in the race, another opponent had rammed him. “Damnit. Why do I even play this shitty game. This is just… No, FUCK! Go away!!!”

“I’m going to kick you off this thing so hard,” T.J. announced because for once luck had been on his side and he’d rolled just what he needed, hot on Bowser’s heels, and he fired.

“You asshole!!” Johnny shouted, but T.J. didn’t get a chance to bask in his victory in the slightest as an alarm sound chimed from the console by the door, and Johnny sat up straight, looking in its direction.

“Shit. Pause. Pause!” he said and pressed the button to interrupt the game before he scrambled to his feet.

“Umm?” T.J. only said, for a moment still too distracted by the success of his endeavor, but then it clicked. “What, is that someone coming up?”

Which was inconvenient since they were both only in their underpants.

“Yes,” Johnny let out, followed by an exasperated sigh as he took a look at the monitor. “Sue and Reed are back,” he explained, trying to quickly gather his clothes and getting dressed hectically. “As soon as someone gets in the elevator, the alert sounds. So we got like thirty seconds. Shit!”

T.J. knew that he should probably not laugh about this, but he couldn’t help it. He found his t-shirt first, put it on hastily, tried not to erupt into more laughter, and remembered just in time that his jeans were still next to the bed. He wanted to ask how Johnny was sure that they were actually going to stop on this level and come in, but knew there wouldn’t be enough time for an answer, so he just tried to climb into his jeans fast enough.

“Jesus fuck…”

Johnny was - for the lack of a better expression - running around like a headless chicken in the effort to find his second sock, and he nearly stumbled over the small armchair in the effort of putting it on. By now, he was laughing, too.

“Why the hell are they back already? Jesus. They weren’t supposed to come back before tomorrow night,” he said in a rather apologetic manner, finally having put his t-shirt back on, too, and checking his appearance in the mirror by the door.

“Relax, you don’t need to apologise,” T.J. grinned, hurriedly closing his belt and then reaching up to comb his fingers through his hair.

Johnny was back at the panel, squinting into the monitor but obviously not seeing anyone right now. “Go to the couch,” he told T.J., and sure enough, even before he had sat back down, the bell of Johnny’s door buzzed. Waiting a few more seconds by the door - obviously to make it seem like he had had to get up to come open it - Johnny put his hand on the handle. He shot T.J. a final glance, made to press the handle down and… jerked his head back. “Hide the lube!”

Oh shit he’d forgotten about that. T.J. dove under the coffee table where the bottle had landed after its last use, in plain sight through the glass surface. Not really having time for anything else, he quickly kicked it under the sofa out of sight and scrambled back onto it, grabbing his controller again, heart now pounding after all.

It wasn’t like he’d really mind if anyone found out what was going on here, but his body still reacted to the thrill of almost having been discovered. But he was really fucking good at looking innocent, so he concentrated on that for Johnny’s sake.

And finally, the door was open.

“Sue? What are you doing back already?” Johnny asked in convincing fake surprise.

The answer was a loud, frustrated sigh coming from Johnny’s sister, who was still standing in front of the door and out of T.J.’s direct line of sight. “Don’t even ask. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did go wrong,” she said stepping into her brother’s room, and then,  taking no notice of T.J. yet, she went on a complete rant. “Started with a booking error and a twin room and continued with the weather. It was so cloudy and rainy up there that we could see nothing of the meteors, not even with the strongest telescope we had. And the worst thing was, Reed somehow miscalculated, and the largest of meteors burned out in the atmosphere after all, which sent him in an abysmal mood for the rest of the night because, apparently, he had it named after me and wanted to find it once it had hit the ground and give it to me as a gift. You should have seen his face. He was so-- Oh! You’ve got a visitor.”

Sue had finally turned around enough to see him, and T.J. could see her do a double take. He pressed his lips together around a grin for a moment, raised his hand and gave her a small wave, slightly amused, very sympathetic towards her story, and just a little awkward.

“Hi.”

“Oh…” She said again, still staring at him in obvious surprise before she remembered her manners. “Hello. Sorry, I didn’t know you were visiting. Wouldn’t have barged in here like that.”

“Hey, it’s fine, it’s your home. And I’m the one who kind of barged in on him,” T.J. shrugged the apology off with an easy smile, nodded in Johnny’s direction and got to his feet to shake her hand. “I’m sorry about your trip.”

“It’s okay,” she said and shot him a kind smile. “Spontaneous visit then? How long are you staying?”

“I need to head back tomorrow.” If she asked, he should probably say that he was sleeping in the same hotel where his detail was currently staying, and T.J. hoped she wouldn’t see the duffle bag he had dragged next to the bed the night before. “I was just around and thought I could come and say hi.”

“That’s nice,” Sue said kindly. “Seriously, despite my kind of sour mood just now, we’re glad to have you. Johnny, have you taken him on a tour yet? The view from the roof is really great, if you’re interested in that. Are you staying for dinner? Should we--”

“Where’s Reed?” Johnny interrupted his sister’s questions and turned her attention back on him.

“Oh, he’s gone to our rooms. That’s the second worst thing of it all: he caught a really bad flu in the horrible weather.”

No wonder they’d come back early. T.J. had to hide another grin, because no, they actually hadn’t gotten around to that tour yet. But Sue didn’t need to know that he’d been there for a day already.

And he was wisely staying out of their discussion right now, gaze going back and forth between the two siblings, even though, yeah, he kind of was staying for dinner.

“I gave him a tour of my awesome flat screen TV and video game collection, alright?” Johnny replied with a grin, and if T.J. hadn’t known what they had been up to he would have completely believed Johnny’s words.

Susan, apparently, did believe them. Simply rolling her eyes for a moment, she gave her brother and T.J. another smile and shook her head in amusement. “Well, I’m not going to meddle, but there’s more to be seen and to do in a city like this,” she said and turned towards her brother. “You should take him out tonight to a nice club or somewhere. You know, Johnny here had a blast last time in D.C. when you took him to your club.”

“How… would you know I had a blast?”

“You didn’t return all night and the next day?” Sue replied after a moment’s hesitation, and from the way she shrugged at T.J. it became very obvious that she firstly thought this was news to him and secondly was convinced her brother had spent that time with a girl he had met at T.J.’s club.

He had to keep himself from laughing again.

“Of course he had a blast, my club’s a good place for that,” T.J. grinned instead, but he very obviously winked at Johnny, because he really, really wasn’t above making him squirm.

Which Johnny did for about a second before he pulled himself together, turning towards his sister with a teasing smirk on his lips. “Yeah, great to see you’re still keeping track of everything I’m doing.”

“That’s what sisters do.”

T.J. really wondered in that moment what Sue would say if she knew what her brother had really been up to that night. It was just curiosity, really, and he wasn’t going to make Johnny uncomfortable by asking him about it later, but he did wonder.

“But, you know, I’ve been in NY before, and I’ve been out here a lot too, so it’s not really like I’m missing out,” he eventually said to try and get Johnny out of that. “Just relaxing a bit is totally fine with me. And he does have a really nice flatscreen.”

“Well, okay, he does,” Sue replied and gave T.J. a kind smile. “Alright, you boys do whatever suits you. As for dinner, though, if you like, T.J., there’s an excellent sushi bar around the corner that delivers, a really good Lebanese restaurant and a Mexican. Just, whatever you do, don’t let Johnny pick or you’ll end up with pizza.”

“Hey! I eat other things, too!”

“Sushi sounds great,” T.J. interrupted before either of the Storm siblings could say anything else, an honestly amused smile on his lips. It was nice, actually, to see the two of them like that, in a relationship that didn’t seem under strain in any way.

“Alright, I’ll leave you to it now,” she said, and Johnny nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, I was just winning at Mario Kart before you interrupted us.”

“The fuck you were!”

Sue laughed, leaning in towards T.J. conspiratively. “He’s a sore loser,” she said with lowered voice. “Anyway, I need to make some tea or soup for my husband now. T.J., I hope I haven’t seen the last of you.”

“I don’t think you have,” he smiled back and was actually rather sure about that. Sue left then, and T.J. simply patted Johnny’s shoulder sympathetically before going back to the couch.

“Okay,” Johnny started, flopping back down on the sofa before he picked up his controller. “That wasn’t as awkward as I’d feared. Well, not quite.”

“What now though? Are we always running the risk of having about thirty seconds to make ourselves presentable? Cause I foresee problems with that,” T.J. smirked.

“Ugh, jeez, yeah,” Johnny groaned, gaze lowered for a moment and brow knitted in thought. “Though, she usually doesn’t come by later at night. But… fuck, you’re gonna have to move into the hotel, right?”

“Guess I do,” he returned with a sigh, letting his head fall onto the back of the couch. Yeah, so that was kind of inconvenient. “Though, what, does that mean you never had a chick over during the day because someone could always barge in on you?”

“What? No,” Johnny laughed. “No, nothing like that. But then she and Reed knew I had a girl visiting and knew better than to disturb us unless it was an emergency. This is different. She thinks we’re just playing Mario Kart.”

“Good thing we were just playing Mario Kart.”

Johnny let out another soft laugh, a grin lingering on his lips for a few more moments while his fingers played with the buttons of the controller as if he was trying to make up his mind on whether he wanted to resume the game or not. The way he quirked one eyebrow up slightly and the grin turned into a suggestive smirk confirmed that. “Hm, Sue’s taking care of her sick husband. Guess she’ll be busy for a while. What do you say? Savour the opportunity before we come up with a good strategy for the rest of the weekend?”

“If I’m sleeping in the hotel and have to leave around midday, I’m not going to come back here just for a booty call,” T.J. said, looked at the other man for a moment, and then grinned. “So you probably should make the most of it right now.”

It was nearly comical how that smirk vanished and was replaced by a disappointed almost-pout, and Johnny let out a barely audible sigh before he shrugged his shoulders. “Brunch together at least? I could come over to the hotel for that.” And suddenly his face lit up again as he had probably made the connection to what else they could do.

T.J. couldn’t help it, a grin spread on his lips even while he rolled his eyes and shook his head in amused exasperation.

“I’ve created a giant monster.”

“Hmmm,” Johnny said with a cocky smirk, leaning in a bit closer, one hand on the backrest of the couch. “Maybe you have. And there’s an even bigger one in my pants.”

For a moment T.J. could only stare because, holy fuck, awful. And then they both burst into laughter.

“Oh… my God.”

“Oh God, yeah,” Johnny groaned, head sinking forward to bury somewhere between the couch cushions and T.J.’s back. “Yeah, that was bad,” he laughed. “Sorry.”

“I should put a chastity belt on just for that.”

“You have one?” Johnny barely got out, his laughter having turned into helpless giggles now, eyes glistening as soon as he resurfaced and looked at T.J. again, who crooked an eyebrow.

“Let me guess… that would kind of turn you on.”

“God no, not really,” Johnny replied, his laughter slowly subsiding but the amused smile on his features still radiant. “But hey, I could always just melt it off!”

“That’s what I feared,” T.J. deliberately rolled his eyes again, the corners of his mouth twitching. It would be an outright lie if he claimed it didn’t somehow thrill him, the way Johnny looked at him, lusted after him, wanted him.

The exact way he was looking at him now as the amusement faded from his glance more and more and he leaned in yet a little closer, fingertips dancing over his shoulder towards the collar of his t-shirt. “Admit it, you like me better completely unrestrained.”

Another pun, almost as bad as the one before, and yet somehow this time the words so close to his ear did send a small shudder down T.J.’s spine. For a moment he stayed still, only watched the other man, but it didn’t last very long.

With a soft but not very regretful “Ah, shit,” T.J. gave in, let go of the controller and turned to straddle Johnny’s lap instead, kissing him before any more of those puns could follow.

They had indeed something better to do with their time.

 

***

 

Hey how's it going?

Was just about to take a shower. You good?

Bored out of my fucking skull

That happens to superheroes?

All the time. Helping Reed with some experiment right now.
Which basically means I've gotta stare at a monitor and just press a
button if the little curve here spikes out. Which isn't happening.

But at least I've got something nice to imagine now ;)

Or are you postponing that shower for a bit?

To keep you company you mean?

Nah go and take your shower. Don't mind me.

It's not like I can't be quick. :P

Well then go. ;)

Don't miss the spike!

Oh wow the thing actually went ding just now.
I'd already thought Reed was just playing an elaborate prank on me.

Anyway how would you like an extended weekend on an luxurious
private island on the Bahamas? ;-) We got this invitation by someone from
the city council of Freeport to use her weekend home while she’s travelling.
Sue and Reed can’t make it and I thought it’d be a shame to let the
opportunity go to waste.

What do you think?

It’d be next weekend or the one after.

What, are you serious? Bahamas, really?

Yep. Swim in the ocean, soak up the sun. What do you say?

Sounds too good to be true. Any catch? ;)

Err… We’ll have to do our own cooking.

Ah well, who needs food anyway? I can live off sunlight
if it’s on an island in the Bahamas.

Good. Then that’s a yes?

That’s a yes.

 

***

 

“Seriously, mom, I don’t get why you’re that set on not having at least speakers in here.” T.J. sank deeper into his cushioned seat with a sigh, crossing his arms over his chest. “All that silence is depressing.”

“I’m surrounded by people talking at me almost twenty-four seven. I think I’m entitled to some peace and quiet every once in a while,” his mother said, reaching for the large glass of ice tea on the small coffee table in front of them. “There’s a reason this is the only room in the entire house where no staff are allowed except for emergencies. How’s your ice tea?”

“It’s ice tea,” T.J. replied dryly, but then relented and reached for his own glass. “Yeah, it’s good. Still stuck on the immigration reform?”

His mother shrugged faintly. “It’s moving slowly. You know what it’s like trying to pass a reform against a congress full of old, white men. But let’s not talk about politics, or we might have stayed in my study or the Oval Office. Tell me about you. We haven’t talked properly in weeks.”

That was true, T.J. guessed, but it certainly wasn’t new. His mom had her hands full with her presidency, and it wasn’t like they’d had weekly chats before, either. But T.J. shrugged, because things actually felt like they were going well right now.

“I’m all good,” he replied, not really knowing what else to say.

She gave him an indulgent smile and leaned back more comfortably in her seat, one knee crossed over the other. “I’m really glad, T.J. Not only because it’s always hard for a mother to see her child struggle, I’m really glad for you. I hope you know that,” she said, but the sincerity and warmth her words could have conveyed were hardly noticeable, her tone even and matter-of-fact as was probably typical for someone whose daily business was diplomacy.

Not that he hadn’t become used to it.

“Yeah, I know,” T.J. just said and glanced away, taking another gulp from his ice tea. He knew it had become easier for all of them since he had managed to get a grip on himself, that he was much less of a hassle right now. Hell, even he wouldn’t want to have to deal with any of that when your main job was the already impossible one of governing this country.

“There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about,” she started a moment later. “I’m to meet the Canadian prime minister in Ottawa next week Thursday. It’d be a great opportunity to spend the extended weekend as a small holiday for all of us as a family. What do you say?”

“Oh.” T.J. reached up on instinct to card his fingertips through the hair at the back of his head. “I can’t next week, sorry, I’m… kind of on holiday already. Trip to the Bahamas, somewhat spontaneous.”

“Oh?” The surprise on her features was difficult to miss. “The Bahamas? And you’re going with whom?”

“Just a friend,” T.J. instinctively dismissed with a shrug. “His other friends couldn’t make it on short notice, so he asked. I figured, yeah, it’s the Bahamas.”

His mother studied him for a moment, then she leaned forward again to take another sip of tea, lower arms on her knees after she sat the glass back down. “That friend doesn’t, by any chance, happen to be Johnny Storm?”

T.J. was actually surprised, and knew it showed on his face when he glanced back at her. “Uh. Yeah.”

“Where are you staying?”

His brow furrowed as he tried to remember if Johnny had actually said a name. “Some private island I think? They invited him after he and his team saved Grand Bahama.”

“You and Johnny Storm, on an island on the Bahamas.” Tone perfectly even again, but T.J. could spot the subtle judgement in it nevertheless. It surfaced more noticeably with her next words. “T.J., you must be kidding. No, I know you’re not, but I’m honestly finding it hard to believe this.”

T.J. was staring at his mother, but he honestly didn’t know what else to do for the moment, completely taken aback. “What?” was the only thing his brain could finally come up with.

“Oh don’t give me that, T.J., you know what,” she replied. “Don’t play me for a fool. I’m sure you’re not spending a holiday together in the Caribbean just as friends. I’ve been wondering what it was with the two of you lately, but you’ve just given me the answer.”

“Oh, Jesus, no.”

T.J. couldn’t believe this was happening. He closed his eyes, half covering them with one hand, his heart hammering suddenly, and he felt like he had been thrust right back into that feeling of mortification, defensiveness, anger and embarrassment.

“We are friends, we’re not… I don’t… God, are we going to have this discussion every time I’m spending time with someone?”

“No T.J., not every time you’re spending time with someone,” she said in mild exasperation. “But every time you are having an affair with a man who is officially straight and quite obviously just messing around with you at your expense.”

T.J. didn't even bother asking how she knew or was so sure that they were having sex. He didn't want to have this conversation at all.

"No, it's not like that. God. We're not going on some… romantic getaway, we're not in love or anything like that, not even… God. It's not like that, not at all. Don't you think I learned my lesson?"

“I think that Johnny Storm is very charming and you’re quite easily impressed.”

"Wow, thanks," T.J. shot back, anger colouring his voice now. "Of course, he's the charming one and I don't know what I'm doing."

“T.J., please.” There was a barely audible sigh in the last word, and she tilted her head, looking at him with concern that felt patronising to him in that moment. “I just don’t want you to get hurt again. I’m not saying you generally don’t know what you’re doing, and I’m sure you’re convinced you’re doing it right, but I simply can’t bear the thought of you ending up giving your heart to someone who certainly doesn’t deserve it. Storm has a reputation as a playboy and, frankly, a show-off. You wouldn’t be the first person he’s wrapped around his finger to drop them like a hot potato. Even if it’s only been women so far.”

None of that was surprising, and it wasn't like T.J. didn't know all of that. "I'm not a teenager anymore, okay? And I’m not…” he half-suppressed a frustrated sigh. “Whatever we're doing is happening on my terms. I'm not that naive that I'm letting something like back then happen again. And just for the record," he added a bit vindictively, "I wrapped him around my finger."

“That’s all very well, T.J., and I do hope you’re right about this, I really do,” she said, not raising her voice to his level, an indulgent, kind expression on her face that only pissed him off even more. “But please, do yourself the favour to remember that you weren’t a teenager either when you fell for Sean Reeves. No matter who wrapped whom around their finger, first.”

"Yeah, I remember," T.J. shot back, sick of this whole discussion. He still hadn't learned how to prevent his chest from tightening painfully at that topic, and he hated it, hated everything surrounding this. "Was that all you wanted me here for? Be patronising towards my life choices?"

“Why do you always have to be like this?” she asked, shaking her head. “I am worried about you, T.J., because I’m your mother. Is it so difficult to understand that I only want what’s best for you? And if that means sometimes speaking out of line - in your eyes - then fine, be mad at me.”

Great, because he was mad at her. T.J. balled his hands into fists at his sides and then tried to relax again. "Why am I always like this? Great, that's just great. I'm perfectly fine, you can stop worrying now, thank you for all your motherly concern. Are we done?"

“Okay,” she started, lifting her hands in a surrendering gesture. “I take that part back, though I am sometimes finding it hard to get through to you. But all right, let’s not fight on one of the few occasions we have to ourselves.” To anyone else it could have sounded like genuine intent to let the topic go, but T.J. couldn’t shake the feeling she was blaming the fact that they had been fighting on him, same as she was putting it into his hands to end it now or keep going. And she probably didn’t even realise anymore that turning everything into a strategy was appropriate in congress and press conferences but not when talking to your family. Always the politician.

“How’s the club going then?”

T.J. only slumped back on the sofa, head on the backrest, one hand covering his face. He was just trying to calm himself down right now, not to get up and just leave, because this was simply beautiful, this was his life. And of course it was his fault.

But he knew it'd just get worse if he actually left now, so he took a deep breath and reached for his glass again. "Fine. Good. I told you. Everything's actually okay."

“That’s great,” his mother said and reached for the jug to refill their glasses. “What you built there is really amazing, quite some achievement, and I’m proud of you, you know?”

That was probably the worst, because right now, T.J. didn't believe a word she said. He only sighed in defeat and settled himself in for a new round of nods and hollow words, a well practiced back and forth, until he could finally go home again.

Chapter Text

Johnny squinted against the late afternoon sun that shone over the rim of his sunglasses. He turned his head towards T.J. who was lying on his back on the sun lounger next to him, a fine sheen of sweat on his brow, and Johnny couldn’t tell whether he was simply relaxing or had fallen asleep. He stretched his leg to reach the pool’s edge and dipped his foot in to kick a few drops of water onto T.J.’s chest, making him jump and open his eyes to scowl mildly at Johnny.

“You know, it’s a bit pointless lying by a pool when there’s a whole ocean just… like thirty yards from here.”

T.J. huffed softly and made himself comfortable on the lounger again, closing his eyes pointedly. “So? The sun’s the same here as it is thirty yards from here.”

“Yeah but…” Johnny started, finding no immediate rebuttal to the admittedly reasonable argument. “Ocean, waves, funny little fishes. Swallowing a mouthful of salt water when trying to make out in the surf,” he ended with a small laugh.

The words brought a small sound over T.J.’s lips that could only be from amusement. He reached for his sunglasses and put them on before he raised his head and looked at Johnny again. “Exactly… not even mentioning the sand that gets everywhere. I’m not kidding, have you done this before?”

“You know, I’m a little offended. You’re making it sound like I’ve got nothing but sex on my mind,” he said, trying and failing at keeping a straight face. “What about just going for a swim? That’s kinda the reason why we’re spending the weekend on a private island in the Caribbean, or not?”

The corners of T.J.’s mouth twitched. “You were the one talking about making out in the surf.” He continued looking at Johnny for a moment from behind his dark glasses, then sighed and raised his hand to push his hair back and brush his wrist over his slightly sweaty temples. “But you do have a point, I could use a bit of a cool down.”

Johnny only chuckled, staying on his back a moment longer and enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin.

It really had been a great idea, coming here. Even if it was just the two of them - or maybe because of it, Johnny allowed himself to think. Unlike back in Manhattan or D.C., there was really nobody around to disturb them, nobody to hide from, no explanations to invent… and not many clothes to wear, which Johnny approved of greatly. In fact, he wondered why they had even bothered to put their swim trunks on after their shared shower earlier. Then again, seeing each other without pants for too long could have resulted in them spending the rest of the day screwing in every of the seven rooms of the beach house, and the weekend was still long.

“Right then,” he said as he got up from the lounger, patting T.J.’s thigh twice. “Let’s go.”

T.J. hummed audibly as he stretched and then got up as well, discarding the sunglasses again.

“Food after? Getting kind of hungry.”

“Yeah. Let’s order some pizza,” Johnny said and made a face at T.J. as if he only just realised that wasn’t really an option. It made T.J. laugh anyway.

“How about something more local, hm?”

“We could try to catch some fish,” Johnny joked on as they walked the two dozen or so stairs from the rocky elevation the house was situated on down to the beach that was just a narrow strip - maybe fifteen yards wide - of the softest, palest sand Johnny had ever seen. “Maybe some groupers or sea bass or a small shark.”

“Let’s not,” T.J., however, returned with a brief grimace. “I think the fridge is stocked well enough. Except, of course, I could lie on the sand and watch as you catch one with your bare hands. That would be impressive.”

Johnny let out a small laugh and shrugged, palms held out for a prolonged moment. “I’ll try my best, but the most impressive thing you’ll see me do tonight is firing up the grill. I mean, if we’re still only talking about food,” Johnny added, letting the grin on his lips become a little dirtier, and okay, yeah, maybe he did have little but sex on his mind.

Maybe T.J. had really gotten used to that by now, because he didn’t reply to the innuendo, humming contemplatively instead. “Fresh, deliciously grilled fish… mmhh, we shouldn’t talk about this, I’m only getting hungrier,” he said instead, watching the waves that were rolling around his toes as they walked into the ocean.

Despite being thoroughly heated up from the sun, the water didn’t feel all too cool, and Johnny was nearly hip deep in it just a few seconds later, the waves gently washing around him.

“Well, considering that the freezer is almost as big as a cooling house I’m sure there’s as much fish in there as there is in the sea.”

“So there will be deliciously grilled fish later?” T.J. asked, almost childishly hopeful, grinning widely as he glided fully into the water.

“Well, not sure about deliciously,” Johnny said, wading further until the water reached up to his chest, pleasantly cool and refreshing. He could not resist the sudden urge to fully submerge himself, diving a few long strokes before he resurfaced on T.J.’s other side. “I mean I’m good at grilling steak but I’ve never done fish. Less heat, I guess?”

T.J. made a face and then dipped his head back to get his hair wet. “I’m not exactly an expert chef, so… I don’t know, we’re not going to put them on sticks and smoke them, are we?”

“Nah, that’d take ages,” Johnny replied, starting to feel a little hungry, too. Right now, however, his focus was on T.J. - hair wet, squinting against the sunlight as he moved his arms against the gentle current. There was another urge Johnny couldn’t resist then. Two breaststrokes brought him to T.J.’s side, toes dug into the yielding sand; he had to reach out around the other man’s waist to bring their faces closer together, looking into the eyes that seemed bluer than usual with the turquoise water reflected back in them. Lips redder from the sudden change in temperature. Johnny kissed them hungrily.

It took a brief moment, but then T.J.’s eyes slid shut and his lips went pliant to return the kiss, skin still sun warm as he raised his hand and rested it on Johnny’s shoulder.

And that was… nice. Really nice. Johnny wrapped his arm a little more closely around T.J.’s waist, the other one following to hold him even closer and steady himself in the gently moving water. When the current shifted slightly he lost his balance and, with a short chuckle released between joined lips, he felt himself slide backwards, pulling T.J. under with him.

There was a bit of spluttering, some cursing, but even more laughter as they resurfaced. T.J. let himself sway with the soft current while he tried to blink the salt water out of his eyes and pushed his hair back not to add more to it.

“Yeah, what was that about the surf?”

“We’re not in the surf anymore. And there isn’t much of one to speak of,” Johnny replied and rubbed his left eye. “Damn, we should have brought diving masks. I bet snorkeling would be awesome here. Look,” he said, pointing at the small, silvery shapes darting through the water, and inside their formation two slightly larger, orange ones.

T.J.’s gaze followed his, a small smile flickering over his lips at the sight. “We don’t have anything? Not even normal goggles?”

“I didn’t bring anything. But we can have a look. Maybe the Dohertys left something at the house.” Johnny dived again, finding that opening his eyes under water didn’t burn as badly as it could have, but it wasn’t really anything he could keep up for long.

“Man, this is great, though,” he said after having resurfaced. “Been ages since I went swimming in the ocean.”

“Yeah, me too.”

T.J. didn’t add anything else; after a moment he glanced away and lay back on the gently moving surface of the water to let himself float.

Johnny swam a few more strokes, turning in a tight loop and coming back behind T.J.’s head. For a short moment he had considered letting out his mischievous side, pushing him under or splashing him with water, but what he did instead came more automatically than he would have thought, both hands coming up underneath T.J.’s shoulders, keeping him afloat rather than doing the opposite. It startled T.J. into opening his eyes, but when he tilted his head back and saw Johnny, he relaxed again.

“Done watching fish already?”

Johnny shrugged softly. “Nothing to see, really. Just more of those sardines or whatever they are. Some sea urchins. A shark.”

“Uhuu, a shark,” T.J. echoed dryly, sounding mightily unconvinced.

“What? Don’t believe me?”

“Nope.”

“Yeah, too bad because… it’s coming our way again,” Johnny said, barely able to hide the grin from his voice before he let his hand dart forward and pinched T.J. in the side, making him jerk.

“Jesus Christ,” T.J. cursed and curled his body to upright himself in the water and push against Johnny’s shoulder. “I know you’re bullshitting, stop trying to scare me.”

The grin died on Johnny’s lips, and for a moment he felt a pang of guilt along with mild embarrassment. “Sorry, I’ll stop. I didn’t mean to… You’re not…”

T.J. squinted at him for a moment and then huffed softly, the corners of his mouth twitching. “What, you think I’m mad?”

And now Johnny felt even more embarrassed. He shrugged and put on a casual grin. “Nah. That would be silly.”

“Oh, really now?” T.J. arched an eyebrow at him, arms crossing over his chest below the surface of the water. “So you think that’d be… overreacting?”

“Yeah, because I was just--” But he stopped himself right there, not so sure anymore that the direction he was going with this was the right one. “I mean… no?”

“You mean no?”

“No. I mean it wouldn’t have been overreacting. Maybe a little. I mean-- Hey look, a jellyfish!” To his great dismay and further embarrassment, what could have been a genuine opportunity to change the topic turned out to be a floating transparent plastic bag.

They both watched it float past for a moment, then T.J. reached out and picked it out of the water, making a face.

“Well. I guess you can be glad I’m a sure thing. That was ridiculous.”

It took Johnny a moment to get what T.J. meant, and then the whole conversation replayed itself in his mind and he wanted to smack himself up the head. “You know, you’re a bit of an ass,” he said around a smirk but then quickly added, “I guess I deserved that, though.”

The grin curling around T.J.’s lips wasn’t mean or mocking; it looked almost soft, Johnny thought. “So maybe we’re even. I’m going to put this into the trash,” he commented and shook the piece of plastic he was still holding between his fingertips.

“Who throws that into the ocean anyway?” Johnny asked as an attempt to distract from the previous topic, but T.J. only threw him a dry glance.

“Only the whole world?”

Johnny just shrugged and grimaced at the truth of the statement.

They waded back out of the water, finding no resistance in the nearly still current. “So, sharks… you afraid of them? Serious question.”

T.J. shrugged. “Not actively. I don’t really think about whether there could be any around whenever I’m anywhere for a swim. Chances are so low anyway…”

“Chances are pretty big, actually,” Johnny said. “They say most people who often swim in the sea have encountered sharks without even realising. Or at least I heard something like that once. Makes sense if you think about it.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. But the water’s so clear out here, we’d see them coming for miles, so…” T.J. glanced over and gave him a little grin. “Still wouldn’t have believed you.”

“And you shouldn’t,” Johnny replied honestly, but with what he knew was a disarming smirk.

They had just reached the patio of the house again and T.J. took his towel to dry himself off, smirking at Johnny.  “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Just when I’m talking about scary animals, though,” Johnny replied as he took his towel from the sun lounger, too. “Everything else you can believe. Well… almost everything.”

“Sure,” T.J. smirked and put his sunglasses back on. “Come on, cowboy, fire up the grill.”

Johnny grinned and gave a mock salute. “Aye sir!”

 

***

 

So it seemed like Johnny really loved swimming in the ocean, and though T.J. liked that too, of course, he was really just happy to be able to lie in the sun, close his eyes, and think of nothing at all. Yes, putting on sunscreen all the time was a hassle, but he had no way of doing this back home in D.C., and he loved soaking up the sun, so he was determined to get as much of this as he could.

The tan was only a nice bonus, just like the privacy, having the whole island all to themselves. Nothing to worry about, nothing to think about.

That’s how it should be anyway. T.J. didn’t really have a reason to worry about anything. What he really should do was banish his mother’s words from his mind and forget about them. He did try, because, frankly, it was annoying to have them floating around at the edge of his consciousness when he had sex with Johnny.

It was still good, that wasn’t it. T.J. even felt like Johnny was actually… learning or something, because holy fuck, the sex they’d had just the night before had been nothing short of amazing.

He really should just stop thinking.

T.J. sighed quietly and turned from his front onto his back on the large towel lying on the sand, wondering if he could just fall asleep right here.

He almost had, hearing nothing but the soft sounds of a light breeze and the calmly moving water when suddenly a few drops hit his right foot and shin. Then the dry sand beneath him shifted from the weight of someone kneeling next to him, and more droplets of water trickled onto his heated skin.

It made T.J. grumble sleepily, half-heartedly in protest, his eyes still closed against the sun as he reached out blindly to swat the source of the drops away.

A low, breathy chuckle was the answer, and he could feel Johnny shift beside him, hear the soft rustling of a second towel while the movements threw shade onto his upper body. “You know that falling asleep in the sun can be dangerous, right?”

T.J. huffed softly, tried to blink for a moment, but the sun was too bright, so he shut his eyes again. “Only if I’ve got no one to wake me, obviously.”

“Good thing I came, then,” Johnny replied, tone self-assured and cocky as always. A second later, he was above him, the shade stretching over T.J.’s face, too, and the coolness of the still moist body noticeable above him even though Johnny was lifting himself up on outstretched arms, knees on either side of T.J.’s thighs and no direct contact except for the hem of the swim trunks brushing against his legs.

It was cold and made T.J. shudder, but he slowly opened his eyes to the sight of Johnny above him, eyes impossibly blue as he looked at him.

And it was back, that urge to squirm, all those goddamn thoughts that resurfaced every time he was pinned like that, looked at like that.

Why the hell couldn’t he just enjoy this? There was nothing going on, just as he’d told his mother, nothing to worry about. Definitely nothing in the way Johnny looked down at him for a prolonged moment, either, before he leaned in and brushed his lips against the corner of T.J.’s mouth, waiting for him to catch on and respond before he gently deepened the kiss. So T.J. chased the thoughts away and just gave in, let his eyes slide shut again and kissed Johnny.

It had become familiar by now, and they fit together in a way only people who’d had the time to figure out what the other wanted should. Johnny tasted like the ocean, warm despite the water cooling on his body, always warm, and T.J. had the vague feeling that he’d always think of Johnny whenever he felt the sun.

Johnny broke the kiss for a moment and looked down at T.J. again, that familiar smile on his lips - boyish and, despite the mischief sparkling in his eyes, still innocent, somehow. As if he wasn’t capable of any cruel or dark thoughts, ever.

He kissed T.J. again, and his skin was dry now as he lowered himself, their chests touching. The cool wetness of the swim trunks felt a tiny bit unpleasant, but it only made T.J. press his hips up so that the cold fabric could warm up as quickly as possible.

Now that it was clear that Johnny wanted more than a brief kiss, T.J. put his hands on Johnny’s lower back and let his fingertips brush over the bumps of his spine, shuddering slightly at the contrast of warm and cold between bare skin and water-soaked fabric. The warm, soft lips soon left his, though, wandering lower, over his neck, suckling gently on the sensitive skin there, before they continued their trail down to his pecs and further.

Johnny crawled down, shifting his position until he was lying on his front, only his upper body propped up above T.J. on one arm while the other reached up, thumb and forefinger twirling an already hardened nipple gently. Lips on his stomach. Gaze fixed on T.J.’s. And the hint of a smirk, almost shy and a little dirty.

T.J. squinted down at him, his brain not quite catching up. Did Johnny really want to have sex here? They’d have to go get their stuff first, T.J. couldn’t remember them having brought anything down here with them.

Or maybe Johnny was only getting comfortable, but with that smirk of his, it didn’t seem likely.

No, Johnny was definitely getting into that mood, the fact as evident in his gaze as it was in the small sound that came over his lips as he let them wander even lower, the throaty hum vibrating against T.J.’s skin, right above the waistband of his swim trunks. His hand came down to stroke up T.J.’s thigh and then, while his mouth was placing small kisses along the line of his hipbone, palmed his cock through the fabric.

Alright then.

T.J. let his head sink back onto the towel and his eyes close against the sun, thighs parting slightly to make it easier to accommodate the body sliding even lower.

“Just so you know, it’s your turn to get our stuff.”

“What stuff?” he heard Johnny ask, the gentle movement of his hand continuing, and when T.J. did look back up again there was a more prominent trace of that odd shyness in Johnny’s gaze, deliberately concealed by a roguish smirk.

“Uh. Lube? Condom?” he asked in mild confusion.

Johnny bit his lower lip as he raised his head while his fingertips were playing with the edge of the fabric, barely grazing T.J.’s skin. “Not gonna need that,” he said and pulled the trunks down enough to expose T.J.’s already half-hard dick.

It finally clicked, and T.J.’s eyebrows rose up towards his hairline. “Wait, you what?”

Johnny just huffed a small laugh, warm breath against T.J.’s lower belly, before he lowered his head again. He placed a few gentle kisses there, and then, after what seemed like a second’s hesitation, to the length of his cock.

T.J. suddenly felt much, much warmer than he already did from the sun, unable to stop staring. This wasn’t something Johnny had ever done, or even attempted to do before, and that had been fine; T.J. had never dreamed of wanting that from him.

Consequently, he hadn’t gotten a blowjob in a while, and to suddenly have lips on his cock now had his blood leaving his brain in record time.

A small, somewhat pathetic sound escaped him and was answered with a humming chuckle against him. The lips were gone a moment later, replaced by Johnny’s hand that stroked him a few times, pressure just right to bring him to full hardness. His gaze was fixed on T.J.’s,  hunger and a tiny bit of insecurity in his blue eyes. But that was gone the moment he parted his lips and brought them down, closing around the head of T.J.’s cock, wet, warm and soft, and his tongue, just the tip of it, against the underside.

T.J. clamped down on the noise that wanted to escape his mouth, even though he rationally knew that he didn't have to. The sun was too bright and he squeezed his eyes shut, struggling for words. "You, ah… not that I… But you know you don't have to, right?"

Another chuckle followed, this time around his dick, and it was the only reply Johnny gave him. He let his lips slide down further, careful not to graze him with his teeth, and it did feel like he hadn’t quite gotten the hang of it yet, though he was certainly trying. He let him out of his mouth almost completely, tongue circling around the head before he sucked him back in, more eagerly than just now.

T.J. raised his arm and threw it over his face, burying his eyes against the crook of it, and bit down on his lip. The first step down the wrong road was wondering why Johnny had decided he wanted to try doing this. If he was just getting bolder, more curious. Recognising the skip of excitement in his chest was the second one.

This was the first time Johnny was doing this, and it was the most intimate thing he’d ever done with T.J.

It's not like that, not at all. I'm not that naive that I'm letting something like back then happen again.

T.J. felt very naked suddenly, but, at the same time, he didn’t want to let his thoughts ruin this. So he concentrated on the mouth around his cock instead, and hoped his head would just shut up.

Stupid head. Stupid overreaction.

“You gotta tell me, okay?” Johnny asked, voice a tiny bit hoarse before he cleared his throat and let out a soft chuckle, making his next words seemingly nonchalant but nevertheless sincere. “I mean, I’ve never done this before. Tell me if it’s okay.”

Shit. Shit shit.

T.J. grasped the momentary respite with both hands and took a deep, deep breath.

"Long as you don't bite down, there’s not much you can do wrong," he promised, hoping that he could feel as relaxed as his words had sounded.

The arm over his eyes kept his sight blessedly dark, and Johnny’s lips were on him again. His hand was wrapped around the base, steadying him as Johnny found a rhythm. Slow at first, a little bit unpractised, he became bolder, trying a few things he certainly had been at the receiving end of, applying what T.J. knew Johnny liked. And he seemed to be really into it, too, that hum vibrating around T.J.’s cock again, soft sounds of his own arousal.

"Shit," T.J. whispered, this time out loud, but wasn't even sure what he meant. His heart was racing, he was high strung on arousal and nerves now, and caught himself thinking this would be so much easier if Johnny had just fucked him.

That had been just fine, hadn't it?

And then the tip of Johnny's tongue was pressing, swirling against the head of his cock, and T.J. jerked, and his thighs started quivering. How long was it now since Johnny had started? T.J. had no idea.

"S-stop, I'm gonna… Stop…"

“Mmh-hm,” Johnny just murmured around him, not giving up the movements of his lips. One hand was on T.J.’s hip, pinning him down so he couldn’t buck up into his mouth, and Johnny sucked him in harder, not deep but lips so tight around him.

T.J. couldn't think straight. Was this really what was happening?

"I mean it, you gotta… Oh, fuck, fuck…"

But Johnny didn’t even seem to think about it, holding him still with both hands now as he sucked him off mercilessly through his orgasm. He only spluttered faintly once, gave a tiny cough but leaving his lips firmly around T.J. until he was finished.

T.J., chest heaving, kept his face pressed into the crook of his arm and shuddered silently.

Absurd as it sounded, it was almost a relief to be tucked back into his swim trunks, and after a few more moments, he talked himself into uncovering his face and looking, blinking somewhat stupidly, at Johnny.

He was still kneeling between T.J.’s legs, more upright now, thumb of one hand wiping his bottom lip before that grin was back and Johnny shrugged softly. “Hey, I came all over your face the other day. Would have been a bit dickish to chicken out last minute.”

Maybe. Was that it though? T.J. tried to look past Johnny's expression but didn't quite manage it.

"That's not… I mean, uuh… Thanks?" he said but couldn’t leave it at that either, so T.J. added quietly, "You still didn't have to."

“I know I didn’t,” Johnny replied, his tone something between testy and amused. “I wanted to. Never do things by halves.” He crawled up on the towel, let himself flop down onto his side next to T.J., head propped on one hand, smirk in place. “So, I take it I didn’t completely suck then. Well, figuratively.”

T.J. forced himself to glance back at Johnny, one hand coming up to shield his eyes from the sun.

“For a first timer? Not so bad at all. How was it for you?”

“Not so bad at all,” Johnny repeated. “Though I hope I’m not getting lockjaw,” he added, hand coming up to rub his chin and cheeks, and T.J. snorted softly in weak amusement.

Okay, so maybe he had been overreacting.

Please let him have been overreacting.

"Alright…" he began, heartbeat speeding up as he pushed himself up to put that to the test, one hand on Johnny's chest pushing him onto his back, "my turn now?"

“Hmm, I’m not gonna say no,” Johnny replied and added in a gently teasing, mocking way, “but you don’t have to.”

Bullshit he didn’t have to. He had to for the fact alone that it would reassure him that this had, after all, not been anything to actually think about.

So T.J. didn’t bother replying and tugged on Johnny’s swim trunks, making him raise his hips just slightly so he could pull them down enough to put his mouth on him.

He didn’t think of it again when Johnny moaned underneath him, nor when he reached for his hair to dig his fingers in it, came in his mouth just minutes later. And it was fine the rest of the day that was spent with having dinner and watching TV. The thought only stirred again later that night in bed when Johnny wrapped an arm around T.J. and kissed his neck before falling asleep, and it definitely came back full force the next morning after they had taken a water taxi back to the mainland and said their goodbyes before T.J. would take a plane back to D.C. and Johnny his own to New York. Because Johnny pulled him into the men’s room and kissed him with a longing that went beyond what should be normal in a casual affair, so far beyond. It had been sweet and there’d been an aching in Johnny’s gaze that left no conclusion other than the one that made it hard to breathe and a cold fear settle in his chest even when T.J. was alone again, on the plane back to D.C..

This was exactly what he hadn’t wanted, couldn’t do.

It's not like that, not at all. Don't you think I learned my lesson?

It was all starting again, and the quiet, paralyzing panic gripped him tight and didn’t let him go for days.

 

***

 

Hey what's up? Busy lately?

 

Yeah, sorry. Hope you’re enjoying your tan.

 

Yeah lol

How are you anyway?

 

Good, just busy.

 

Okay I’ll leave you to it then.

 

***

 

Hi still busy? ;)

Lots of work at the club or are you working on some charity project or something?

 

Kind of. I'm trying to get something going, and I'm playing a lot.
Sorry about this

 

Playing a lot what?

Oh the piano?

You know all those times we met I never once heard you play.
You gotta make up for that next time ;)

 

***

 

Ok you’re probably still busy but I just had a thought.
So what about you call me on the phone (because apparently that’s
another useful features of these things. Who would have thought? :D )
and play something on the piano?

When you’ve got the time

I'm not home rn. Are you really that into the piano?

Ah! It lives :D

And I don’t even know but I’d like to find out

Bet you’re really great though

How about you just come by Friday night?
I can't on any other day that weekend though, sorry

Good thing I can make it very quickly then… if I don’t need
to take any luggage ;)

Friday it is!

 

***

 

So this might be one of his most horrible plans yet, but T.J. convinced himself that it was one that made sense, and that it’d be just fine.

He just had to know. Time and space had made him think that maybe he had overreacted, and this, with Johnny, was something he liked enough to not just want to put an end to it in case he really was wrong. So he had to make sure, had to see how Johnny reacted, how he reacted when they were together now, and it was probably a good idea to put this back onto a more casual lane anyway.

He could do this, T.J. was sure of that much at least. He just hoped Johnny wouldn’t look at him like that again, and that he wouldn’t like it so much if it happened. And maybe that the argument with his mother had simply made him overly sensitive to this whole thing and it wasn’t anything at all.

Yet, while T.J. waited for Johnny to arrive, he found himself unable to feel the cheerfulness he wanted to project, and for the first time in months he guiltily thought with something like craving of the relaxed jauntiness his drugs had brought him so often.

When Johnny did arrive - wearing that ridiculous and ridiculously tight suit that had allowed him to simply fly down here - he was all smiles and grins, joyful and relaxed, and it was catching for a while. A charmingly smug comment here, a little pun there, and T.J. nearly forgot the nagging questions in the back of his mind, certainly at last when Johnny had him pinned down on the bed, one leg lifted high and ankle on his shoulder, the other angled, spread to the side, while Johnny thrust into him relentlessly.

It was when he kissed his way up T.J.'s neck that the thoughts returned suddenly, and he turned his head to the side and pushed softly against Johnny's shoulder. "Wait. Want to turn…"

And Johnny just complied, a crooked smirk on his lips before they changed their position to T.J. on all fours, and Johnny thrust back into him with his hands firmly on his hips.

T.J. breathed a sigh of relief and let his head hang low between his arms. This was better. No real intimacy, and he didn't have to feel Johnny's eyes on him like that, didn't have to deal with the way his heart hammered. Putting up a bit of distance, god, he needed that.

He came soon after, and that was more relief.

The cigarette that he smoked out of the window now made his head more quiet, and T.J. relished in the silence it gave him.

It was broken when the sheets rustled behind him, and quiet footsteps came closer. “Lemme have a drag.”

T.J. looked back at Johnny in surprise. "What?"

“Gimme,” Johnny laughed softly, reaching for the cigarette to bring it to his lips. He coughed after the first drag and, after the second, handed it back to him. “Uh… as gross as I remember. Sorry,” he shrugged and chuckled.

T.J. shrugged and took it back, looking back out the window. "Don't have to like it."

“Yeah I know.” Instead of going back to the bed, away from the smell of the cigarette, Johnny leaned against the window sill with his backside, his gaze on T.J., and even though he was only half looking, he could not miss that subtle gentleness in it.

It made T.J.’s stomach clench. He averted his gaze fully and took another drag, already feeling the urge to light a fresh one.

“The guy I had here last week, we argued about the brand for twenty minutes straight,” he recalled, because it was a good moment to put it out there.

From the corner of his eye he could see Johnny tense, eyes fixed on him, and for several seconds he did not say a single word. Eventually, he quietly released the breath he obviously had been holding. “Oh, can’t say I can relate. Though maybe it’s like with beer.”

It was probably the worst kind of confirmation that T.J. felt a spark of guilt at Johnny’s reaction. God, he had to get himself out of this shitpile before he was in too deep. He’d meant what he had said to his mother, this wasn’t like with Sean, and he’d be damned if he let it become like it.

“A bit, maybe,” he shrugged, stubbed out the cigarette, and turned away, rubbing the heel of his hand over his eyes. Wondering if he should mention the other guys as well. The one he’d hooked up with the day after returning from the island, to prove a point to himself, and the one after he’d gotten the message that Johnny wanted to hear him play. Instead of replying, he’d gone out that night to get drunk and get fucked, and both had worked beautifully until he had stared at the message again the morning after.

A glance at the clock told him that it wasn’t late enough yet to go to bed.

“I’m going to the bathroom. Want to watch a movie then?”

“Yeah, sure, why not,” Johnny replied, a little too quickly, his enthusiasm a little too unconvincing. “I’m just… uh, gonna borrow some of your underpants, okay? No use getting back into my suit.”

That actually made T.J. snicker, despite everything, and he glanced back over his shoulder at Johnny for a moment.

“That would be a sight. But I guess not that comfortable for you, so knock yourself out.”

“And I’ll check your Blu-ray collection,” Johnny replied with a soft smirk as he went over to the dresser to get some underpants.

It was easier, once they had a movie on and T.J. could curl up in his corner of the couch and pretend to direct all his attention at the movie. For a while he was hyper-aware of Johnny’s presence next to him nevertheless, but then he started to relax and actually get sleepy.

He could do this. He was going to cut out the intimacy, put up distance. Or probably… stop this altogether. Play it safe. He was only going to have to keep things slow for a while until Johnny diverted his attention elsewhere, because that would happen, surely, eventually, and then this would resolve itself just like it had started. No strings, no drama, just like they’d said.

T.J. had learned his lesson. And he really wasn’t going to let this happen again.

 

***

 

Hey how are you?

I'm bored out of my fucking skull right now. Watching one of Reed's
little experiments again ;)

Hey. Sorry about not replying until now. Remember how I said I was
trying to get something started? So, I still won't have much
time in the coming… I don't know, weeks, maybe. I'm sorry.
I hope you're good.

Oh okay that's fine. Hope it works out for you

I'm good, hope you too

Talk to you soon

Thank you! Bye, Johnny

 

***

 

OMG I’m watching Zoolander right now. Seen it a couple of times
but it still cracks me up. Next time we need to watch that ;-)
Hope you’re doing good.

 

So today I found out what escargots are. I bet you’d have spared
me the embarrassment

or laughed your ass off at me staring at my plate like o.O

 

Wow you’re very busy. Hope that’s a good sign. Read about that
upcoming concert at your club. I’m sure it’ll be a big success

Ok I hope that didn’t sound passive-aggressive, because it wasn’t meant to be

Just teasing

 

Watched Star Trek Into Darkness with Sue tonight. Think she’s got a
crush on Khan. Don’t tell Reed ;)

Who would you pick? Khan, Kirk or Spock? Lemme guess… Kirk?

 

Ok you haven’t replied to me in a while but I just wanted to ask:
there’s a gig of a friend’s band on the 17th. They’re really great.
Wanna come up to NY and see them?

 

Ok guess you won’t come to NY for the gig tonight

Or at all anytime soon

Just hope you’re alright. Text me sometime if you can okay?

 

Chapter Text

Johnny stared at the phone in his hand as if he could will it to buzz with a new answer. It remained dead silent, same as every time before over the past couple of weeks. By now, there wasn’t a lot left as an explanation.

With a barely suppressed sigh, he let the phone slide back into his jeans pocket, but his thoughts didn’t return to the work he was currently supposed to focus on. As he tried to remember which part of Reed’s new machine he should replace, run and monitor, he couldn’t chase away the question he’d been asking himself more and more often lately - the question of why, for god’s sake, things between him and T.J. had changed so drastically ever since his last visit. Or even since their trip to the Bahamas, because it had not been the same after that, had it? No matter how often he thought about it, though, he couldn’t come up with a reason, at least none that was in any way satisfying, none that didn’t leave him with even more questions; what he had done wrong, what words or actions had pushed T.J. away or, if it wasn’t his fault after all - which he found difficult to believe - what else it could be.

None of it seemed to make any sense, and the only person who could shed some light onto it was currently ignoring him. It should make him angry, but the worst part was that it didn’t, it only left him feel oddly tired and worn out.

The attention he did get right now was one he could have easily done without.

Reed was eyeing him from the console with readings and calculations of the current meteor shower simulation, and even though Johnny only looked back at him for a second he could see the admonishment in his stare.

“What?”

“Oh, nothing,” his brother-in-law said. “I was just wondering if we could finish this today or not.”

“You know what?” Johnny snapped back despite the fact that Reed’s tone had been relatively patient. “Screw this. I’ve told you from the beginning, the machine works just fine and doesn’t need all these triple and… and quadruple checks. So don’t blame it on me if I’m not jumping for joy at this stuff when I’ve got better things to do than being your working robot.”

Reed just raised his eyebrows and then stretched an arm, longer and longer until he could reach into the test arrangement and switch the component himself. And Johnny hated everything right now.

“See? You don’t even need my help here.”

“No, I don’t. At this stage I think hiring an untrained intern would be more useful,” he replied calmly. “But I thought it’d be good for you, doing some actual work instead of hanging around unproductively in your room like a teenager.”

“Wow, okay,” Johnny started, having to force himself to stay calm - or at least not lose his temper any further. “You know, if you actually had some interesting, useful work for me like revamping the Fantasticar as I’ve wanted to do for ages, I wouldn’t try to avoid it so often.”

“Oh, so you’re admitting it?”

Johnny had known he made a mistake the second the words were out, but something in him had clicked and he couldn’t find the switch to turn it back.

“Yes, I’m admitting it, because your stupid experiment fucking sucks. There.”

“Alright. I’ve always known you were a bit immature, but I think you’ve just outdone yourself,” Reed replied, tone still calm but dripping with condescension.

“Great. Immature, am I? Okay then. No surprise for you if I just say fuck you!” he spat and, not waiting for Reed to say another word, stormed out of the lab, past his sister who must have entered without him noticing it.

When the door of his room shut behind him, Johnny let out a low sigh, leaning against it for a moment.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out immediately, excitement and hopefulness making him forget the stupid fight for a sweet moment… Before he saw it was just spam. Without even realising what he was doing or being able to stop himself, he tossed the phone through the room, against the opposite wall where it cracked and shattered in several pieces.

He let himself slide down against the door, sitting on the ground, head in hands.

Fuck.

“Johnny.”

It was his sister’s voice, calm and quiet, that reached him muffled through the intercom by his door after a few long minutes of complete silence.

“Hey. Can I come in?”

Johnny wanted to say no at first, but he knew, even in his irrational anger, that telling her to just go away would have been childish. He felt his anger fade in that moment, replaced by a weary resignation as he slid away from the door and reached up to the button to answer it without even getting up.

“Yeah, come in.”

The door clicked open quietly and his sister stepped through, pausing when she saw him sitting there, worry and sympathy flashing over her face. She didn’t say anything for a moment, just closed the door and then knelt down before him.

“Talk to me?” she said softly, her voice so gentle in her inquiry that it didn’t sound like she was going to push if he didn’t want to. “What’s going on?”

“Your husband uses me as a lab monkey,” he replied, opting for the easy answer. He knew it wasn’t true, but he wasn’t ready to reply honestly. He pushed himself up, went over to his fridge and took out a can of coke, slumping down with it on his couch.

Sue followed after a moment, taking her shoes off and sitting down on the armrest, her feet on the cushions so that she was turned towards him.

“And what is it really? I haven’t seen you like this in… forever.”

“Nothing… I don’t know, it’s… nothing,” he replied as if on autopilot, as if there was no other option for a response.

“Actually,” Sue continued now, looking contemplative, but her gaze remained unwaveringly on him, “forever as in: not since Lauren Peterson broke up with you in high school.”

That made him look up at her involuntarily, so fast he almost cricked his neck. And that really had been it, hadn’t it? Even though he and T.J. had never been dating, had never officially been together, this sudden silence, being ignored like that, it was exactly like breaking up.

It was almost ridiculous that he hadn’t wanted to see it like that, hadn’t wanted to realise that he had not just been mourning the loss of opportunities or been worried about a friendship dying down, no; this entire time, his heart had been broken, and it felt like it was breaking again now that he was finally aware of it.

Johnny slumped further into the seat, gaze lowered and no energy in him to deny or confirm her words.

There was a small, empathetic sound from his sister, a soft sigh, and then: “It’s T.J. Hammond, right?”

He could only let out a small, bitter chuckle, not sure if he was surprised that she had come to the right conclusion or not. Probably not, not really.

“One message in a month. He’s busy,” he said with a thin, sarcastic smirk. “And I’m pathetic.”

“Don’t say that.” Her words were still coloured with gentle sympathy, and with a sigh she slid onto the couch next to him, their shoulders brushing. “I’m so sorry. What happened?”

Johnny buried his head in hands for a moment, shaking it and letting out another huffed half-laugh. This whole situation was completely surreal, on so many levels.

“How did you know?” he asked instead of answering her question, not sure he could or wanted to dig out all the details yet. “How long?”

“I wasn’t completely sure,” Sue admitted, tugging her knees closer to her chest and folding her arms around them. “I’m not even sure what it was that made me think there could be something. You just started hanging out so often, and then there were small things that made me think back on that time he was here for a visit when Reed and I were supposed to be away, or how you’d vanished at that White House party. I really wouldn’t have thought… but stranger things have happened.”

The tiny smirk that found its way on his lips this time wasn’t a sarcastic one, though he knew it didn’t fully reach his eyes either. “Never would’ve thought, either. And look what’s happened now. It was supposed to be just fun, something casual, no drama and all. Yeah, that went well,” he said and, seeing her questioning glance, continued, “After the Bahamas it was… well, different. Kinda distant, all of the sudden. He said he was very busy. Then I went to see him one night, and after that… nothing. Not even an explanation. And oh my God, could I sound any more like a sixteen year old, love-sick girl?”

The last word was barely out when Johnny felt a soft punch hit his upper arm. “Because boys can’t ever be love-sick and heart-broken, huh?”

Johnny found himself rolling his eyes at her, but not genuinely annoyed. “Yeah, okay, whatever. Can we postpone the feminist lecture to some other time?”

“Just this once,” Sue allowed, and then tilted her head to the side and rested it lightly on his shoulder. “So you don’t really know what happened.”

“I really have no fucking clue. Everything was fine. It was… we had a really great time on that island and--” He stopped himself there, realising he had just disclosed the truth behind his white lie. “Yeah, uh, you probably already figured. I wasn’t there with a bunch of friends. It was just the two of us.”

“Oh. Yeah, I know.” She made a small waving gesture with her hand. “I met Karen and Nicky a little while ago and asked them if they enjoyed the trip. Imagine their surprise.”

“Oh. Awkward,” he said, wincing slightly and wondering how he was supposed to explain that to them, next time they met.

“They won’t think anything of it. And they’ll understand. So, I did get this right… you weren’t really together, and it was just supposed to be a fun thing.”

“Yeah.”

“Hm.” She was quiet for a few moments. “Think it got too intense for him?”

Johnny felt his brow furrow, looking down at the can of coke on the coffee table. He started playing around the rim with his index finger. “I don’t know. I mean why should it-- Why wouldn’t he--” He let out a barely audible sigh at his own aborted questions, feeling the answers to them ghost around the edges of the spoken words. Memories stirred, images and things he had said, and Johnny wanted to groan in frustration, bury his head in the cushions and push away the embarrassment he was suddenly feeling with a force that made him wish he could simply erase those things from his memory.

That last kiss when they had said goodbye before flying back home…

“Fuck,” he let out bitterly. “Shit. That’s not me, though, is it? I’m not the one who falls in love without noticing. Who lets things get too intense. I’m the guy who breaks things off and - holy shit. This is karma, isn’t it? For all the hearts I’ve broken. Oh, that’s just awesome.”

Sue could only lay her slim hand on the crook of his arm for a few long moments, her thumb brushing comfortingly over his skin. It took a while until she said something again.

“Whatever you want to call it… any idea what you want to do?”

Now that was definitely the hardest question, and maybe it had been the reason why he hadn’t even dared ask himself all the previous ones leading up to this, because finding an answer right now seemed completely impossible.

“I don’t know. I mean… I can’t even talk to him if he simply ignores my messages, can I?” He had to laugh again, shaking his head at the surreal ridiculousness of the situation. He really did feel like a clueless, helpless teenager again.

“Have you tried calling?”

“Yeah, if he doesn’t answer my text messages I doubt he’d pick up. And… he obviously doesn’t want this to go anywhere anymore, so what good would it do?”

Sue shrugged slightly. “Then your only option is, what, to just get over it?”

“Yeah, I guess.” He hated how that made his stomach twist, a tight heaviness in his chest that rose up his throat and started to burn and tingle somewhere in his nose and eyes. “God, how did this even happen? I mean… he’s a guy for crying out loud! How did fooling around and just trying something new turn into… into this?”

“You tell me,” his sister returned, glancing at him, her chin lightly resting on his shoulder. “You get on really really well? He pushes buttons you didn’t know you had?”

Johnny took a large gulp of his coke, wishing it was whiskey or at least a beer. “Yeah, I don’t even know. It was just… it was so uncomplicated, so much fun, and…” He couldn’t, didn’t want to put into words how amazing it had felt sleeping with T.J., how he had loved seeing him come undone, the taste of him, the smell, everything. How, when they had kissed afterwards, Johnny had found himself, more and more, simply wanting to hold him. As if he could do something right by him, show him the affection he deserved, an urge that became stronger every time he heard T.J. speak ill of himself. How he couldn’t get enough of the sound of his laughter, that low, soft chuckle that made his eyes crinkle and his lips look even more kissable.

How he loved just talking to him like a dude, rough and simple, their humour different but still matching so well.

How was he supposed to explain any of that?

He just made a noncommittal motion with his hand, shrugging slightly. “I just don’t get it. We said it was supposed to be something casual at the beginning, but… things can change, can’t they? And if you don’t like that, the least you can do is be honest about it and explain why.”

“True,” Sue admitted, her thumb still brushing over his arm. “Maybe he just… I don’t know. I mean, you know how he’s had troubles in the past, maybe that’s the way he learned to deal with things.”

Johnny just let out a soft sigh, feeling too drained to actually reply. He leaned back again, slightly against her side, just drawing comfort from the touch.

After long moments of silence he asked, “What would you do if you were me?”

His sister sighed softly. “I have no idea. Honest? Probably nothing, really,” she admitted very quietly, head leaning on his shoulder again. “But I don’t know him. Or what it was really like with you two. If there’s anything to gain from chasing after him.”

Johnny couldn’t deny that he felt… disappointed. Sue had always been the wiser, more reasonable one, which probably came with the fact that she was the older sibling, and even though he had often gone against her advice before, especially in his younger years, he had wished for nothing more than some solid, bullet proof advice. But despite his disappointment, he realised she couldn’t give him that, least of all without having witnessed the progression of things. At this point he wished that he had told her sooner.

“Yeah, I don’t know either,” he just said. “Maybe I should just get drunk and sleep myself through half of Manhattan.” He saw Sue raise an eyebrow at him admonishingly. “I am kidding. Well… not about getting drunk, maybe.”

She still huffed very softly and gave his arm a gentle slap, but leaned back against him again already the moment after. “Look, Johnny. It doesn’t really matter what I’d do, because I’m not you. What do you want to do most? Try to get over it and let it go? Or try to get him to talk to you to at least know what’s really going on?”

I want to be with him.

It was all he could think of, but not say.


***


The night was at its height. Music pulsed through the air, masses of bodies were dancing and grinding, drinks were making their rounds. Up in the VIP section, a group of nine was sitting around the small tables, laughing rambunctiously, passing around all kinds of poisons.

T.J. was getting tired. Just five minutes ago he’d been shedding tears of laughter at some joke Troy had made, but now he couldn’t even remember what it had been about. He was… tired.

The others had left him alone, blessedly so, because he only wanted to sit here, slid down into the comfortable cushions, and let the sounds and lights wash over him.

It was already letting up, that relaxed feeling where nothing could really touch him, where the outside world was far away and nothing could really trouble him.

God, he missed that feeling.

Maybe he should go home. He definitely wasn’t in the mood for sex, he didn’t want to get more drunk, and a bed sounded like a nice idea right now.

He hadn’t even noticed that he had closed his eyes when a voice suddenly made him open them again - one that he recognised immediately even over the music playing in the VIP lounge, albeit not as loud as in the club.

“T.J.? God, are you… what…?” Johnny asked, surprise and concern in his tone as he took a step closer towards him. He stopped as he let his gaze drift over the small, round tables, the stubbed out joint in the ashtray on one, white residue on a flyer on the next.

T.J. stared at Johnny, his heart plunging, but he was unable to comprehend what was really going on right away. Had he fallen asleep? Because Johnny wasn’t here, couldn’t be here. God, now his mind was playing tricks on him, why couldn’t it just leave him alone? The past weeks had been bad enough.

“T.J., Jesus, what did you take?” There was panic in the voice now, unmistakable, and a second later strong hands were on his shoulders, shaking him carefully despite the very real, very graspable fear and worry on Johnny’s features.

It was the touch that woke T.J. fully, cold settling in the pit of his stomach, sharpening his senses again.

Yes, Johnny was definitely here. What the hell?

"What are you doing here?"

“Never mind why I’m here. Why did you… T.J. what are you on?” Johnny repeated insistently.

"Nothing," he replied, and it sounded almost bitter even to his own ears. He tried to twist his shoulders out of Johnny's hands.

“God, T.J.,” Johnny groaned, more in helpless exasperation than any real anger. He looked around again, eyeing the contents of the two round tables, and he fished the stub of the joint out of the ashtray, sniffing it. “Please tell me it was just that and not… is that cocaine?” he asked, pointing at the leftovers of it on the other table. “Please tell me you didn’t take that.”

"I didn't take that," T.J. just echoed as if on autopilot, tired, so tired of this, because of course Johnny thought that he had. Everyone always did. With a hollow feeling he got to his feet, pushing past the other man. He wanted to go home. He didn't want this, that's what he had avoided Johnny for all this time.

But Johnny hurried in front of T.J, raising his hands. “Wait, please. Just… I came here to talk to you. Can we--”

"Jesus Christ," T.J. muttered to himself, a sinking feeling in his chest. "I told you, I don't… I just don't have… Look, I'm sure there's someone who'd be very happy to go with you, but I'm tired, okay?"

“Go where? What are you…” Johnny looked at him, confused. “I didn’t come here because I wanted to fuck, T.J. That’s not… God.” There was obvious hurt in his gaze, but at the same time something pleading, something desperately hopeful, and that was the hardest thing to look at. T.J. buried his face in his hands and rubbed them over his skin just to give himself a respite.

He didn't even know what to say.

"Why did you come here then? I told you I was busy."

“Yeah… I can see that.” It sounded more resigned and hurt than reproachful, and Johnny let his shoulders slump. “Is it really so hard to guess why I’m here? That after--”

Two guys came back up the stairs into the VIP lounge and Johnny looked their way before he took a step closer towards T.J. “Can we just go into the back room? Just… just give me five minutes, okay?”

T.J. stared at Johnny for a few moments, trying to push down the turmoil in his chest that was making his heart hammer and his hands clammy. That awful feeling was back, the one that left the bitterest taste in his mouth whenever he had seen another of those messages that he’d somehow ignored, but not without feeling awful every goddamn time.

“Fine,” he finally got out somehow, his mouth dry, his throat tight, a queasy feeling in his gut.

When they got to the room, closing the door behind them, the first thing Johnny did was opening the small fridge next to the desk and taking a bottle of water, unscrewing the cap and handing it to T.J. “Here, drink this.”

He took the bottle automatically even though the thought of anything going past his throat now made him feel a little sick, but he couldn’t deny that his mouth felt dry and he was thirsty. He couldn't look at Johnny either, focussing on fumbling with the bottle’s label with unsteady fingers before he finally took a few sips.

“Why I came here,” Johnny started after a few moments of silence, an unmistakably exasperated undertone to his words despite his worry, “is because I wanted to know why you didn’t reply to any of my messages in over four weeks. And don’t tell me it’s because you’re busy. Writing a text message doesn't even take a minute.”

No shit. T.J. kept his gaze on the bottle, feeling queasy as he tried hard to find some words to reply.

Johnny didn't really have to ask anyway, did he? He'd kind of been trying to be obvious.

“Yeah, okay, that’s what I thought.” There was bitterness in Johnny’s voice now, and he walked a few steps towards the couch, stopping and turning around again to face T.J. “Why? Was it something I did or said? Or did you just grow tired of me and didn’t have it in you to at least tell me what the deal was?”

Oh God he wanted to go home. Why had he agreed to this? He actually was going to be sick before this was over.

T.J. tried to take a breath and ignore the way his heart was hammering in a chest that felt way too tight, putting the bottle down on the table before he’d drop it.

"Why do you even care?" was what eventually made it out.

Because he shouldn't. Johnny shouldn't care, he should have turned his attention elsewhere by now. It was going to happen anyway, sooner or later.

“Why do I care?” Something shifted in Johnny’s tone, and when T.J. looked up at him, he could see it plainly on Johnny’s face as well. Within just a second or so something had cracked in him, and he looked wrecked as he blurted out, “Because I’m fucking in love with you.”

T.J. flinched as if he'd been struck, feeling like the air had been sucked out of him.

"Don't…"

“What? Don’t say the truth?”

"Just don't!"

This time his voice was louder, more desperate, his eyes were stinging and the flimsy lights blurred along with Johnny's face. "How would you… What the fuck makes you think you could… you'd… be in love with me?"

Johnny shrugged, and it seemed like he was somewhere between cluelessness and panic himself. “I don’t know! I… I don’t know how this happened. I know we said it was supposed to be something casual at first but at some point it just-- It changed.”

T.J. was shaking his head, letting out a breath in desperate disbelief.

"Yeah, we said that. I said 'no drama', that was literally the one thing I asked!"

Johnny nodded faintly. The desperate energy that had fueled his words just now had left him, and he looked resigned, sad, even a bit embarrassed as he leaned against the desk, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“I just thought… I don’t know. I thought it had changed for both of us.”

His body still seemed not to want him to breathe right, and his fingers kept shaking. T.J. curled them, balled his hands to fists and blinked rapidly, trying not to let his throat close up.

“Come on, what’s the big deal with this?” he eventually heard himself say shakily, a small, instinctive, empty grin flickering over his lips. “I told you, you can easily find dozens of people, you always did. You’re not really in love with me.”

“Why the hell are you so sure of that? Why do you think-- Because I’ve always just been with women? Well, that’s worked out great so far, hasn’t it?” Johnny let out a half-suppressed sigh, looking up, obviously struggling to find the right words. “Look, I said I don’t know how this happened. But maybe there’s a reason I could hardly ever be with a girl for longer than a few weeks. Maybe there’s not. I don’t know, and I don’t care! But… Don’t think this wasn’t - isn’t - kind of confusing for me because, yeah, I like women! I like having sex with women. But the truth is I like you more. I want to be with you more. I think of you when you’re not there, I can’t fucking wait to see you again, or to laugh over some bullshit when we’re texting, or watch movies with you. I just can’t stop, and it’s getting worse. So yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what being in love is like. Whether you think I’m capable of that or not.”

He couldn’t do this. Halfway through Johnny’s heartfelt confession T.J. had started shaking his head, silently pleading with the other man to stop talking without being able to get even one word out himself. His hand shot out blindly to find something to steady himself on because he was dizzy and didn’t trust his legs while he was trying to convince himself that none of this was true. But he couldn’t, and that was the worst. Because Johnny sounded so honest, so wounded himself, but Sean had always been honest and genuine too, until he’d gone and broken him. It had taken so much to put himself back together, and he couldn’t do this again.

“Shit,” Johnny breathed out, his voice cracking. “I just thought there was something… developing between us. That you… that it wasn’t just me. Or is it because I’m… is it…” He exhaled loudly again in frustration. “Please, T.J., just tell me what it is, because I’ve been racking my brain those past few days, and I can’t take it much longer.”

“I -” T.J. started, and he actually wanted to go on, but his throat was so tight that it choked everything else down, making his breath hitch desperately. The back of his legs had found the couch, and he sank down on it just as tears started spilling from his eyes, not even stopping when he squeezed them shut, trying not to make a sound, silent sobs shaking his body.

All of this just wouldn’t be so horrible if it was just Johnny.

“T.J.?” He could hear the sudden alarm in Johnny’s voice, then his steps as he quickly came closer. Then stopped. “What… what is it?” He took another step, crouched down in front of him. T.J. could hear it in the shuffling of fabric so close to him, in that undeniable presence that was like subtle warmth radiating towards him even without them touching.

But he still couldn’t say a thing, his whole chest constricting, body too busy dealing with his sobs and getting a few gasps of breath into his lungs to be able to get out even half a word. He just curled up further on himself, fingers burying in his hair as he pressed his face into his arm, and he just couldn’t get himself to stop.

“Jesus, T.J., I don’t know what to do,” Johnny said softly, and then a hand came to rest on T.J.’s lower arm. “Hey, talk to me.”

Even if he'd been able to, T.J. didn’t know what to say. Everything was whirling in his head as well as in his heart, and it hurt. It had been exactly what he had tried to keep himself from so desperately. Maybe Johnny even meant it, and maybe he was convinced that he was really, actually feeling this, but what if he was wrong? What if it didn’t last? What if T.J. admitted to himself that he liked Johnny, and that he’d been falling into this exactly like he had said he wouldn’t, and then - maybe not this month or even this year but eventually - the same thing was just going to happen again?

“I can’t,” T.J. managed to get out somehow, the words choked and muffled against his arms.

It took a few long moments, and T.J. could sense that Johnny was utterly clueless, helpless even as he just let his thumb brush gently against the skin below his wrist.

“Okay,” he said eventually, hurt and disappointment still audible in his voice, but no reproach. “It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m sorry. Just… please calm down. T.J.” And then Johnny’s arms were around him, cradling him in them, just comfort and no demands.

Just like that, the tears were back, harder, but only because somehow something had suddenly been shaken loose in him. There was no resistance, he simply became pliant in the embrace, curled against Johnny’s warmth and let himself be held. It took him another minute or two, ticking away agonisingly slowly, but eventually the tight hold that had squeezed all air out of his chest  let up. T.J. didn’t want to move, to face Johnny, just wanted to stay right there. But at least his voice had come back to him, no matter how raw and shaky.

“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”

Johnny didn’t say anything to that, not for a while; he just let one hand draw soothing circles on T.J.’s back. Until he shifted, kneeling upright in front of T.J. too uncomfortable in the long run, and he stood up again, a hand still lingering on T.J.’s shoulder.

“I… you really confuse me, you know?” he said softly. “I don’t know what to do. What do you want me to do?”

“God…” A wet, incredulous, mirthless laugh escaped T.J.’s lips. He pulled his sleeves down over his hands and wiped them over his face, his voice still shaking, but at least there again. “How can you not get it? ‘Is it really so hard to guess,’ you just said that to me. It wasn’t, so how can you not get it now?!”

“I’m trying to!” Johnny exclaimed, brow in deep furrows . “But frankly, you kinda lost me. You’re telling me I’m not in love with you, then you say you can’t but that you’re sorry. And you’re sitting there, crying, and I don’t understand a single thing or know what to do other than try to make you stop because making you cry is the last thing I wanted to do.”

“Well why do you think I’m sitting here bawling like this?!” T.J. shouted back, unable to keep a lid on his churning emotions now. He was embarrassed for having broken down like that and scared of what he was doing. “You think that’s because I don’t care, that I’m not terrified of this, that I didn’t feel like shit every time I didn’t answer?”

Sympathy, hurt, confusion, it was all written on Johnny’s features along with the smallest, subtle spark of hope in his eyes. “I… no. I wasn’t sure. I mean. Damnit, T.J. I’m trying to make sense of everything, but I can’t, so please help me out.”

Maybe it didn’t even matter anymore right now since things had already come so far, T.J. figured. He felt lightheaded, his eyes were so heavy from crying and his throat was parched, so he finally reached for that water bottle and took a long swig, and then a deep breath.

“I swore to myself I wasn’t going to fall in love again, so I tried to stop.”

Johnny exhaled audibly, gasped even, and he took one step closer again only to stop himself right there. “So you’re…“ He made a tiny waving motion with his left hand. “But didn’t want to because… you were afraid. Are?”

“I’m terrified,” T.J. repeated, unable to look the other man in the eye, the word heavy like lead.

He felt Johnny sit down on the couch next to him, quiet for a long while. “Of what exactly?”

T.J. kept his gaze fixed on the floor in front of him, swallowing around the lump in his throat.

“Being hurt,” he finally admitted, the words coming out even more quietly now.

“Okay. That’s, um. That’s normal, I guess,” Johnny replied and, after a short pause, added, “Is it because I’ve got a bit of a reputation? And because I’ve only been with women before?”

No, it wasn’t. Or at least that was only part of the problem. But T.J. knew he was nowhere even near being able to talk about that.

“I just haven’t had good experiences with that,” he finally managed to say at least, keeping it vague enough to get the words over his lips.

“So you’d rather not try than run the risk of getting hurt.”

T.J. wasn’t sure if that was a statement or a challenge, and he couldn’t bring himself to look at Johnny to find out. He knew that Johnny didn’t get it, couldn’t get it, not fully, not without knowing everything there was behind this. So this might make him a bit of a coward in Johnny’s eyes, but that was nothing he could change right now, even if it did hurt.

“Yeah,” he finally admitted so quietly that he himself didn’t really hear the word over the muffled pounding of the music from outside.

“I guess that makes perfect sense in your mind,” Johnny said, no trace of condescension in his tone. “And I’m not going to try to talk you into anything… though I really want to. I really, really do.” He let out a short, quiet chuckle. “But if there’s any chance that you might see that the risk is worth the gain, then tell me what you need from me. What I can do to make you less terrified.”

It took a couple more seconds, but eventually, finally, T.J. was able to raise his head and look at Johnny again. He couldn’t even remember ever having been asked anything like that.

“Do you really mean that?” he blurted out without thinking, feeling so damn vulnerable, but finding himself unable not to ask.

Johnny looked at him with such tenderness in his eyes, making a visible effort to hide the traces of the emotional turmoil he, too, had been through. “Yeah. I mean that.”

His heart was skipping before it started to run, and it was the farthest thing from that hollowness in his chest he’d felt before.

T.J. wanted to believe Johnny. At least his heart did, while his head was still reining him in, trying to tell him no, don’t do this again, don’t let yourself be drawn in again by an earnest face and gentle eyes.

“Would you…” he started, paused, breathed, and licked his lips before going on. “Would you come out?”

Johnny looked at him, eyes widening, and T.J. already thought that that was it, that he’d find any excuse or explanation for why this wasn’t a good idea. But then, a minuscule smile played around one corner of Johnny’s mouth. “Yeah, I would. Hell, if you want me to I’ll go right up to the dj and announce it to the entire club.”

For a moment T.J. could only stare at him, not sure if he had heard this right, or if his mind was somehow playing tricks on him.

“What…?”

The smile turned a little wider, and Johnny let out a small laugh. “Okay, that was a bit of an attempt at making you smile, but… I wasn’t just joking. If that’s all it takes just say the word. Now that I think about it, it would be hilarious to see all those reporters lose their shit. Can you imagine Fox News?”

T.J. still hadn’t managed to fully catch up with the fact that Johnny was really saying these things, and so easily, as if that was the smallest problem in the world. So the corners of his mouth did twitch into a smile, but it was tentative and disbelieving, hope surging through his chest, and a bit of fear that this was too good, too easy, and that he might wake up any moment.

“I…” he tried to say but didn’t know how to go on. The one thing that had been turned against him in the most cruel words, and here it was offered to him without even a moment’s hesitation.

Johnny shifted on the couch, turning towards T.J., a little closer. “Anything else?”

Another skip in his heart’s beat. Anything else? Did he have any more conditions? It was hard to think suddenly, with Johnny so close and looking at him like that. “I’m… ah… I don’t…” T.J. stumbled over his words until he told himself to get a grip. “Being exclusive?”

“I’m glad you didn’t say letting you win at Mario Kart,” Johnny replied, now obviously determined to change the mood, make T.J. smile, and it was working, making an inevitable smile flicker over his lips. “Done.”

“What if I want to win at Mario Kart though?”

“Then you have to try hard and win fair and square,” Johnny replied, and that was the best thing he could have said in that moment. T.J. had to bite down on his lower lip to keep his smile from getting too wide, and then he had to swallow down a lump of a very different kind than the one before had been.

But he had to make sure just one more time, had to ask again, and he let his smile dim to let Johnny know that he was being serious again.

“I just… Are you really sure? Promise me, and don’t just do it lightly. Please.”

And now, Johnny took his hand, squeezed it gently as he leaned in closer. “I am really, really sure, and I promise. If the same goes for you, about being exclusive. And next time something is bothering you, you don’t ignore me. You talk to me, okay?”

His own hand was cold, from nerves maybe, and Johnny’s perpetually warm fingers covering his sent a shudder through him, made him want to bury himself against his warmth. His body was still in some subtle state of overdrive from toeing that line where he still wasn’t sure if he was actually doing this, taking this kind of risk, or playing it safe.

“I just thought…” T.J. started slowly, gaze pinned on their entwined hands. “I dunno. I didn’t think you were this serious about it…” The words made his throat tight again, and he had to stop and breathe.

“You thought wrong.” There was no accusation in the words, just relief in them as well as in Johnny’s smile. “So… all good then?”

Yes… yes, maybe it actually was.

T.J. bit into his lower lip and looked up at Johnny again. “And we’re going to come out? As something serious?”

He knew he was repeating himself, but he couldn’t help it.

Johnny gave a small chuckle. “If you want that, yeah. I’m gonna drag you in front of the cameras, holding your hand and bragging about how hot my boyfriend is.”

A small, choked laugh came over T.J.’s lips, but he kept his gaze on Johnny. He didn’t just want that.

“I need that.”

“Okay!” Johnny just replied, the soft smile on his lips turning into a wider grin, and it really seemed like he wasn’t only willing to do this for T.J.’s sake but was genuinely enthusiastic about the idea. “It’s gonna be great. No more sneaking around and trying to find our scattered clothes when someone knocks.”

And that was it. Just like that, the deal was sealed, because how different, how utterly different was this?

Another sound escaped him, somewhere between a laugh and a sigh and maybe even a bit of a sob. T.J. reached up, fingertips brushing down the side of Johnny’s face, and he leaned close to kiss the corner of his mouth, then his cheek, then buried his face in the crook of Johnny’s neck and slung his arms around his shoulders.

He heard Johnny breathe in deeply, the lighthearted hilarity replaced by a different, much deeper kind of happiness that radiated so unmistakably from him. From the way he held him close, nestling his face against T.J.’s hair, hands clinging on to him before running over his back with more of those soothing, comforting gestures that just felt so damn good.

“I’m… I’m a bit surprised though. I kinda thought you didn’t want anyone to catch wind of us.”

T.J. couldn’t bring himself to move away, despite his surprise at the words. “No, I… what made you think that? I thought you didn’t want…”

“God, I don’t even know anymore,” Johnny huffed out a laugh, shaking his head softly. “I just thought you wanted things to be kept private. Seriously, was that the big misunderstanding? The main problem?”

T.J. knew that wasn’t all, that he was the problem, him and his scars, but he didn’t say that out loud.

“Maybe,” he just murmured instead. “I just don’t… I just want all or nothing.”

Johnny had leaned back again, now looking at T.J. as one hand wandered to his neck, thumb gently brushing over the skin underneath his ear. “Sounds good to me,” he said and then, gaze drifting from T.J.’s eyes to his lips for a long moment, leaned in again to kiss him. Softly, affectionately, just a brush of his lips against T.J.’s, before he slowly deepened the contact.

There was no turning back anymore, not after this. T.J. knew that, but somehow he wasn’t panicking. His eyes had drifted shut and his lips parted for their kiss that stayed slow, a caress more than it had ever been between them, for its own sake.

T.J. didn’t think he had even completely realised what had happened during the past half hour, or he probably wouldn’t be this uncharacteristically calm right now.

It seemed like Johnny couldn’t keep up that slow, deep kiss for long; a soft sound escaped him, more a chuckle than a sigh, and he kissed him firmly with closed lips, both hands on T.J.’s cheeks before he drew back again and laughed in pure delight and relief.

“Okay, do you… Should we maybe get out of here?”

It was the easiest question to answer, because this was happening now, irrevocably, no matter what the outcome would be. T.J. might have promised himself never to get into this love business again, but he had never been all that good at keeping himself straight.

All he could do now was hope that this time, it would be okay somehow.

“Yeah. We should.”

 

Chapter Text

There was a part of Johnny that still couldn’t believe his luck. After the emotional rollercoaster ride of their conversation and the past weeks, he simply couldn’t grasp that it had really turned out like this. But he was just too happy and excited to ponder any of this for too long, especially when, after having arrived at T.J.’s apartment, they had gotten out of their clothes. In those moments, he found himself caught between giddy impatience and wanting to draw those minutes out, to savour every small second and sensation - as cheesy as that sounded, even in his own head.

And so, when they were finally lying on the bed, it made for the strangest but most amazing swirl of lightheartedness and longing, an ache that resurfaced as a reminder from days filled with uncertainty. Slow kisses, laughter, hasty fingers almost getting caught in the drawer of the nightstand, more laughter until Johnny’s stomach hurt from it and the pleasant tension of too many butterflies made his heart skip.

They moved together, T.J.’s knees pressed to the side of Johnny’s body, fingertips caressing his cheek, lips kissing his again and again when they weren’t gasping for breath. Eyes open for as long as they could, gazes unrestrained and honest as they took in the other’s. Only when Johnny felt the tension hold his body in a firm grip, he could not keep them open any longer, squeezing them shut as he came and T.J. followed, the grip of thighs and arms like a vice as their bodies were shaken with tremors, breathing hard, together.

Later, after they had cleaned themselves up as much as possible without leaving the bed, they were lying on their sides, facing one another, and Johnny realised that simply doing this - kissing again and again, letting fingertips caress cheeks, necks, shoulders; looking, properly looking at each other without inhibition - had been something he’d started wanting a long time ago but never dared to do, properly.

He let out a soft chuckle, shaking his head slightly.

“What?” T.J. asked quietly, lips curving into a smile, his gaze, soft around the edges, never leaving Johnny’s eyes.

“Nothing really,” he said. “I mean… It’s just, part of me can’t really believe it. And I guess I’m a bit surprised at myself, that’s all,” he confessed openly, finding it easier than he would have thought and that fact surprising, too.

T.J. reached up to adjust the pillow under his head, slipping one hand under his cheek to rest his head on the back of his hand, still watching him.

“That you want to go through with this?” he asked tentatively.

“No, not that,” Johnny could reply without even having to ponder it for a second. The actual answer was more complicated. “That it worked out this way, that we’re even here. That it all happened the way it did, because I really didn’t see this coming that night you seduced me to get in my pants.”

T.J. bit his lip around a wide grin, and if the lights weren’t so low, then maybe Johnny would have been able to tell if that was actually a soft flush on his face or if his sight was playing tricks on him.

“I knew you weren’t completely straight, I knew it.”

Johnny could only shrug. He had never felt attracted to guys before, never gave them more than a fleeting thought of curiosity that probably everyone at some point experienced to some degree. But to explain it, analyse it and label it, felt too much of an effort for something that didn’t really matter.

“And I knew you were amazing,” he said instead, knowing it was a lame answer but hoping to make up for it with the wide smirk he was giving T.J. “What I didn’t know, though, was that I’d actually fall in love with you. Well, I kinda only fully realised it yesterday, when Sue talked to me. Which seems a bit stupid now because it’s been like that for ages and I just didn’t get it.”

For a few long moments T.J. just looked at him. Eventually he reached out, placing one hand lightly on Johnny’s chest to get him to lie on his back so he could slide closer and nestle into his side.

He propped his chin up on Johnny’s chest. “What exactly did she talk to you about?”

“She kinda did this thing where on top of turning herself invisible she can also be a mind reader,” Johnny replied, rolling his eyes in mock-exasperation. “She knew what was up.”

A small smile flickered over T.J.’s lips, his thumb brushing slowly over Johnny’s side.

“Really? You were that obvious?”

“I guess so,” Johnny shrugged, feeling a smirk spread on his lips. “A little longer and I’d have gone from manpain to pining twilight level.”

T.J. reacted with a small, choked laugh, but quickly quieted down again, his gaze trailing down.

“That was a shitty thing to do, to just ignore you like that.”

Johnny’s first instinct was to play it down, tell him that it was ok, that he’d had his reasons, but in the end he decided against it. “Yeah, it kinda was. But it doesn’t matter anymore now.”

“Still.” T.J. sighed. “I just want you to know… I thought it was what I had to do, but it hurt, I felt awful.”

“Then just be glad it’s over,” Johnny replied, too happy to let any hurt or disappointment cloud his voice. T.J. didn’t seem to want to say anything about it anymore either, he only laid his head on Johnny’s chest and let silence linger between them for a while.

Johnny knew that, despite his reassurance, T.J. was still going to struggle with this, but he’d meant what he said: it didn’t matter anymore, not when everything had turned out the way it had after all. So he just reached down and let his fingertips brush through T.J.’s hair, drawing a small sigh from him and then, eventually, another question.

“So… when was the last time you were in love?”

That question was a difficult one to answer. Johnny had wondered about it himself, over the past few days, and he had not come up with a definite answer.

“I don’t even really know. I mean sure I’ve had crushes. I even thought I was in love a couple of times. But that always passed kinda quickly.” The words had just left his lips, when Johnny realised how they could sound to T.J., what they could imply, and he quickly went on. “But we did this whole thing backwards. We got to know each other as friends… with benefits,” he chuckled softly. “And the whole romance thing wasn’t even on the table until it happened. You know what I mean?”

“I don’t actually think that’s backwards…” T.J.’s nose crinkled briefly in contemplation.

“Well, not exactly. I guess it’s probably best. But most of the time you know what you’re headed for. You meet someone, you like them, you start dating… And then it either works out or it doesn’t. I can’t even remember what it felt like the last time it did work out for something longer than a few weeks or a month or two, tops.”

“You better make this work out longer than a month or two,” T.J. grumbled half teasingly.

“But that’s what I’m saying. We’re already past all this, the getting to know each other phase,” Johnny explained quickly. “It’s been over four months, and instead of finding all the things I don’t like or that are incompatible, it’s been the complete opposite. And it’s not like something big changed, really. We didn’t add anything that we haven’t already been doing.”

T.J. raised his head then, and his eyebrows as well as he looked at Johnny again.

“Oh? So this…” he said quietly and slid further up his body until he was able to stretch his neck and place the softest, tiniest kiss on the corners of his mouth, “isn’t new?”

Johnny found himself immediately sighing against the contact, eyes sliding shut and a smile on his lips. “Hmm, well, not exactly. You know what I mean though? We get along great as friends, we know each other quite well by now. We’re not doing anything new, like adding sex to the equation where it wasn’t before. You know what I mean. Right?”

“Right,” T.J. just smiled, though his focus seemed more on where to place his next tiny kiss.

It fell on Johnny’s jaw, drawing another content sigh from him.

What came over his lips next, even though he was trying to fight it, was a yawn, and Johnny laughed softly in apology. “Hate to say it, but I don’t think I can stay up for a lot longer.”

T.J chuckled softly. “Barely just entered a relationship and already your strength deserts you?”

“It’s been an exhausting day… night!” Johnny protested, pulling T.J. closer against him and pressing a soft kiss against the side of his face. “And we still got tomorrow. Plus you don’t only like me for my stamina, I hope.”

“Nah,” T.J. relented and nestled into his arm, his own coming around Johnny’s waist. His fingers brushed over the bare skin and it was quiet for a few moments until he said, “Goodnight. Sleep well.”

“Good night,” Johnny replied, and although he hadn’t even realised how tired he was until just a few moments ago, he drifted off to sleep almost instantly.

 

***

 

They slept in that morning, until almost eleven, and T.J. thought it was the best morning he’d had in a long long time. Only for a moment after he'd woken up that fear had gripped him again, those thoughts, those 'what if's. But he couldn't back out anymore now, and he didn't want to either. He wanted this, even though that fear was going to remain, lurking in the back of his mind for a long time; he knew there was no changing that.

But the way Johnny softly nuzzled against his neck when he woke up made those worries quiet down, made him remember the reasons why this was a good idea.

They left the bed soon after because Johnny wanted to shower and T.J. was hungry. So he started making some breakfast while listening to the soft sounds of rushing water, a small smile playing around his lips.

When the doorbell rang T.J. hesitated because he was still wearing nothing but a pair of boxer briefs, but then went over to the door anyway.

It rang again just as he opened, finding his mother standing on the other side with two Secret Service agents next to her, their dark shades making it impossible for him to determine whether their gazes in any way echoed his mother’s disapprovingly quirked eyebrow.

“Hello T.J.,” she said, tone calm and friendly nevertheless. “Can I come in? I wanted to talk to you. Though if noon on a Monday is inconvenient for you, maybe I should come back another time.”

Ah, and there it was, her chiding sarcasm.

And just like that his mouth was dry and his morning wasn't all that good anymore.

T.J. seriously contemplated saying no for a moment, but then his shoulders slumped in defeat and he opened his door a little wider, stepping back with a quiet, "Yeah, sure. Is… is everything okay?"

It wasn't exactly normal for her to come to him like this, not as his mother and even less as the president.

She didn’t reply at first, turning back to her agents and signalling them with a nod and a lift of her hand that it was alright for them to wait outside. When it closed with her inside, she took a few steps towards the living area, inspecting her surroundings, and she let out a breath that seemed to have held some tension.

“I could ask you the same question.” She took in the lack of a reply and the cluelessness in his gaze before she continued, “I’ve heard from a trustworthy source that one of your regulars was caught with cocaine in his possession the other day, and according to said source he got it at your club. T.J., I’m not going to accuse you of anything, but tell me the truth: do we have something to take care of again?”

The question made his stomach flip in the most uncomfortable way. T.J. wanted to be angry, or at least indignant, but somehow he couldn't work up the energy for it, too disappointed, too nervous about the actual issue she didn't know about yet. So he only replied, "No. I'm okay."

“Good. That’s good, I’m relieved to hear that,” she said. “However, T.J., you really need to take better care of what sort of people you let into your club. I know you think they’re your friends, but if they get you in touch with drugs again, then they clearly are not. And think of the publicity if the press got wind of this. You won’t have to worry about that this time because I took care of it, but it would do your professional success no good if your night club was known as a drug den, or worse: shut down for that reason.”

"Yeah, I know," he replied, because it wasn't like she was wrong. He hadn't heard about it  from his people yet but wasn't going to ignore it either. "I'll take care of it. Thanks for the…" He trailed off with an awkward hand gesture.

His stomach was in knots. He couldn't hear the shower anymore, not even sure when exactly it had stopped.

“You’re welcome,” his mother replied, just as the click of the bathroom door opening could be heard, and with it a cheerful, “So what’s for breakfast? I’m star--”

There was an awkward pause as T.J.’s mother stared at Johnny who had just emerged, only a towel wrapped around his waist. He too, had frozen in his tracks, staring back at her in surprise. “Madame president. This is…” He looked down himself, back up to her, and the look of surprise changed into a rather cheeky smirk. “Exactly what it looks like.”

T.J. would have honestly found that endearing if not for the intense urge to go and hide somewhere, and not to face the conversation this would bring. He knew that it was unavoidable if he really wanted them to be official, but not so soon, not like this. On his own terms would have been so much better.

He couldn't even think of anything to say, only breathed out shakily as he waited for the inevitable reaction.

“Johnny, hello. How nice to see you. And unexpected.”

Johnny let out a small chuckle, somehow both sheepish and unashamed, and it looked like he wanted to step closer to shake her hand in greeting but aborted that after just half a step, turning towards the bedroom. “I’ll put something on and be right back.”

When the door closed with a quiet 'click', T.J.'s mother looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

He could just talk it off. To give himself at least a couple more days. But then again, it wouldn't really matter when he told her, and after everything Johnny had promised last night, it was only fair to stand by that as well now.

So T.J. took a long, deep breath and held her gaze.

"We're making this official."

“Official?” she asked, incredulous. “You said you were just having fun, and now… Don’t tell me you’re actually dating.”

"Yeah, we are," T.J. confirmed, still holding her gaze and standing very still, not fidgeting for a moment. "Things changed."

She let out a small, disbelieving laugh and still looked at him as if she was trying to come up with a perfect argument as to why that was a bad idea. Or at least so T.J. thought. “T.J., are you really sure about this?” she went on, lowering her voice. “I mean he’s not exactly the storybook example for a reliable partner, let alone one in a gay relationship.”

T.J. couldn't even blame her for that, because no one but him had seen the way Johnny was with him, talked to him, looked at him, touched him. All everyone knew was what the press said, and didn't T.J. know all about things like that.

"He's what I need," was what his mind came up with to try and put into words what was going on. "What I want. Please give him a chance."

“What you need?” There was still exasperated skepticism in her tone, but despite all their difficulties and despite how patronising she sometimes could be, the concern in her gaze was genuine.

The door of the bedroom opened again, and Johnny came out, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, still barefoot as he came over to her and held out his hand. “Alright, properly this time. Good to see you, ma’am.”

It was a relief to see her take the offered hand and T.J. continued watching her closely. For a moment he wished Johnny would touch him too, a kiss on the temple, even just a hand on the small of his back, but he could understand that the situation might be too awkward for him to do that.

"I didn't expect to see you here," she replied now, her presidential smile on.

Johnny let out a small laugh. “Yeah, I can imagine. But I’ve always been great at surprises,” he added with a shrug, his expression and tone somewhere between boyishly smug and innocently cheerful. “Hey, why don’t you go get dressed and I make your mom some coffee?” he asked T.J., taking the step he needed to be fully at his side, a hand between his shoulder blades and his gaze, albeit just focused on him briefly, affectionate, eyes glowing. And then he did lean in and brushed a soft kiss to T.J.’s lips.

It took T.J. by surprise, so much that he could only stare at Johnny for a moment. "Okay," he said then, more on autopilot, skin tingling with warmth where Johnny's hand had been.

He didn't look at his mother as he turned towards the bedroom, and by the time the door closed behind him, the knots in his insides had loosened, and a smile spread on his lips again.

 

***

 

“So, how do you take yours?” Johnny asked, standing in front of the fully automatic coffee maker in the open kitchen. He couldn’t deny that he was at least a tiny bit nervous about having T.J.’s mother here, just half a day after they had properly gotten together, and the fact that she was the President of the United States only contributed to enhancing the tension in his insides. But he would be damned if he didn’t at least try to win her over.

"Black, one sugar please," Elaine replied after a brief pause. As Johnny glanced over, he could see her looking at the scattered evidence of her son having been in the middle of making breakfast for them when she had arrived.

“Not espresso but coffee crèma, I guess?” Johnny asked, not finding any regular joe on the menu of the automat, and when she nodded, made to prepare it - a double for both her and him -  waiting until the loud rattling was over while he stood in front of the machine. Then, putting a third cup into it and preparing another one for T.J., he returned to where the president stood by the outer counter, setting both cups down and giving her a smile. “There you go.”

Elaine nodded at him as she took the offered cup, but didn't drink immediately. Her gaze rested on him for a long moment, then flickered towards where T.J. had vanished before returning to Johnny, and she sighed softly.

"What are you really doing here?"

Johnny felt genuinely intimidated for a second. He tried to hide it from her observant gaze by taking a sip of his still very hot coffee before he answered. “Alright. I guess the question is legitimate seeing as I don’t really have the best track record of maintaining steady relationships, and T.J.’s your son, so you worry about him, of course,” he started, and he did mean it, too. “So I guess you’ll still have your doubts, no matter what I’m telling you now, at least until you get to know me better. But I’m saying it anyway, for what it’s worth. I’m really, as clichéd as that sounds, madly and head over heels in love with T.J. And I promise I will do my best to not hurt him.”

Johnny could be wrong, but he thought he could actually see surprise flicker over her face for just a moment before her even, unreadable expression was back. She sighed and took a sip of her coffee.

“I know he’s old enough to live his own life and make his own choices. But yes, I am worried,” she admitted and looked him right in the eye again. “Because it’s always us who have to pick up the pieces after.”

Johnny couldn’t help feeling curious, but it wasn’t his place to ask, and considering what he knew about T.J., it wasn’t impossible to at least guess what she was talking about. He didn’t know what to say, how to assure her that she didn’t have anything to worry about because… how could he? There was never a bullet-proof guarantee for anything in life, but right now Johnny didn’t think he could ever cause T.J. any harm.

The soft sound of a door clicking saved him from having to come up with a reply. T.J. had gotten dressed and had tamed his hair somewhat, now glancing back and forth between them as he joined them in the kitchen again, obviously trying to gauge the mood.

“Do you want, uh… a second breakfast, mom?”

“No thanks. I have a lunch meeting in…” she checked her watch. “Forty minutes. I should get going anyway.”

“Okay,” T.J. just nodded, briefly glanced at Johnny and back, again. “I’m gonna call.”

“Alright,” she said and emptied her coffee cup as Johnny came towards her and extended his hand again.

“Have a good day, madame president.”

“You too,” Elaine replied, holding his gaze until she let go off his hand and then going over to her son, kissing his cheek.

“Take care, sweetheart.”

T.J. just nodded. She didn’t wait for either of them to accompany her to the door and was gone a moment later, the front door clicking shut. T.J. let out his breath in a sigh.

Johnny quickly reached for the finished coffee waiting in the machine and put it onto the counter in front of T.J., before he laid an arm around his shoulders, kissing his temple. He could sense that his mother’s visit had left T.J. a little nervous and tense, and he wondered if this encounter had finally confirmed what he had already gotten as hints here and there: that their relationship definitely wasn’t the easiest one.

“You okay?”

He didn’t get a verbal answer right away, but T.J. leaned into him, resting his head against Johnny’s shoulder. It felt like the tension slowly seeped out of T.J.’s back.

“Mhmm,” he eventually hummed quietly. “I’m sorry about her…”

“Hey, it’s fine. She’s your mom. And she didn’t even give me the whole ‘hurt him and I’ll have you assassinated’ speech.”

His reply was a soft, huffed snort. “It was probably implied. Or she’s just getting tired of cleaning up my messes.”

Again, Johnny wondered what exactly T.J. meant, but he didn’t want to ask, not right now at least. No matter what had happened in T.J.’s past - with drugs or other guys - it didn’t matter for the present. Because if that was the case, Johnny would have quite a few messes on his own record, too.

“I’m sure she means well. Sue would be the same, I guess. Fiercely protective, and all.”

T.J. only hummed, foregoing more words for a small tilt of his head that brought his face to the crook of Johnny’s neck where he started a trail of slow kisses that went up his throat, over his jaw and to his lips. It made Johnny let out a soft sigh as he returned the kiss, more reassuring than passionate, and damn, he really loved those little kisses and gestures as much as when things got heated. And sometimes even more because they made his stomach flutter.

“Mmmh, your coffee’s turning cold,” he said softly, not fully having drawn away from T.J.’s lips yet, brushing another small kiss against the corner of his mouth.

He didn’t receive a reply, only another small, gentle kiss before T.J. paused abruptly, and then pulled back to look at him.

“Wait, what did you even tell your sister? Did you let her know you’re here?”

Johnny stared at T.J. for a second, his brain not quite catching on before he cursed faintly and rushed to find his phone. “Shit. She knows I came here to talk to you, but I’m supposed to tell her how it went.”

T.J. actually started laughing now, small sounds of amusement as he watched him. “Uh oh…”

“Yeah.” Johnny laughed as well, finally holding his phone in hand and quickly typing a message.

All’s great. Sorry was a little too busy to text you ;-)

“So, how about breakfast? I’m actually really starving now.”

“Yeah… in a sec,” T.J. replied and was suddenly next to him, poking at his phone. “Let’s take a picture.”

Johnny looked at T.J. in surprise, feeling a grin spread on his lips. “Okay. Let’s,” he said, switching on the camera. T.J. leaned against his side, tilting his head close to Johnny’s so that their temples touched lightly when Johnny lifted up his phone with one outstretched arm. Johnny could see him smiling in the display, uninhibited and soft around every edge, just like he had looked when they had just woken up earlier.

When Johnny checked the finished photo he already knew he’d be looking at it all the time, once he was back in New York, alone - a prospect he didn’t even want to think about right now. He turned back towards T.J. and asked, “Okay, any message you want to include?”

T.J. shrugged good-naturedly. “Just hi and… thank you?”

Hearing those words moved Johnny, and he smiled before he typed the message and sent the photo to his sister. It had been quite clear to him already, but T.J. reaffirming that he hadn’t been talked into anything and was actually as happy as Johnny was lifted that final trace of doubt from him.

“Hm, I think I’ll set this as my background pic. If that’s okay.”

“Yeah, that’s okay,” T.J. replied but was smiling widely, looking at him as if he couldn’t entirely believe that Johnny really wanted to do something like this. Then he tilted his head up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’ll finish breakfast.”

As Johnny watched him go over to the counter, he felt that warmth that hadn’t quite disappeared ever since they had gone home together spread in him again. Where until yesterday he had felt a heaviness in his chest, now there was only a wonderful, light feeling that lit up a bit more every time he looked at T.J., saw him smile or look back at him with the same adoration in his eyes.

“I’ll help you. Got any bacon?” he asked, getting a smile with an accompanying eyeroll as reply.

“Nope. Way too much fat.”  

“What? No bacon? Wow. What are we even having breakfast for if there’s no bacon?”

T.J. didn’t dignify that question with a response, just a laugh and a shake of his head, and after all it turned out that lean chicken breast also tasted great with eggs, and even better tasted the kisses they both couldn’t get enough of afterwards as they spent hours snuggled up on the couch in front of the TV and more time in bed together later that afternoon.

Johnny thought he really had a lot to thank his sister for.

 

***

 

It wasn't the first time they spent an evening on the couch together with a movie on, but it was, without a doubt, the best.

T.J. wasn't tired but comfortably drowsy, his limbs still wonderfully shaky from what they'd been doing barely half an hour ago. It had been amazing.

The thought let a smile flicker over his lips, and he briefly glanced over at Johnny who was snuggled against his side, T.J.'s head on the armrest, Johnny's on his side. He reached over and put his hand on the nape of Johnny's neck, softly combing his fingers through the short strands of hair. And Johnny lifted his head a little, gave T.J. a small but nevertheless radiant smile before he settled comfortably against him again and directed his gaze back at the TV where they had switched into probably the millionth rerun of Die Hard.

“Have you ever watched Red? Because we should really watch that sometime,” Johnny said without turning his gaze this time.

"What's Red?" T.J. mumbled back without glancing away from the screen either, fingertips drawing tiny circles.

“Oh my God, you’ve really never seen it? It’s like one of the best comic book adaptations ever. With Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, all as retired ex super spies and CIA agents, and--”

But Johnny didn’t get to finish as T.J.’s phone started ringing in that moment. Letting out a grumbled sound, Johnny reached for it lying on the coffee table and handed it over to T.J., muting the TV at the same time.

It was his brother, so T.J. didn’t bother getting up, too warm and comfortable here.

“Hey Dougie.”

“Hi T.J., how’s it going?”

“Great,” T.J. replied, and he couldn’t say it without starting to smile. “I’m really good. How about you?”

“Had a really busy day with too many idiots to deal with, but let’s not go there,” Doug replied, a dry chuckle barely audible over the line. “I’m calling for another reason. I’m really disappointed with you right now, you know that?”

“What?” He could feel the smile sliding from his lips, heart skipping a beat. “Why?”

There was another small huffed out chuckle. "We used to talk about everything. And there you are, getting yourself a new boyfriend - and a hot one, literally - and I'm learning about it from mom??"

T.J. let his breath out in relief, and just like that the smile was back and everything was good. At least the tone his twin had used suggested that it was, and after that morning this was a relief.

“Yeah, uh… to be fair, that only really happened last night, and before I was only honoring our agreement not to talk about our sex lives, so.”

Johnny lifted his head at that, an eyebrow quirked at T.J. but a smirk on his lips nevertheless before he settled back down, his own phone in hand now, going through his messages. T.J. smiled back and started playing with his hair again.

“Alright, fair enough,” Doug replied. “So I guess congratulations are in order. Can’t say I saw that one coming, but in hindsight… Explains why you two just vanished at that party back in May.”

“That it does,” T.J. grinned widely. “Have to admit everything after that I didn’t see coming either. Sorry you heard it from mom though… What did she say?” he wanted to know, grimacing slightly.

“Yeah, you know her,” Doug started. “Can’t say she isn’t worried, but she’ll come around. That is, as long as Storm doesn’t give us any reason to worry about you. You can extend my words of warning to him that I’ll kick his ass if he hurts my baby brother. Won’t threaten him with government-funded murder because, apparently, we still need him and his team if another city needs to be saved from a meteorite or something,” Douglas said lightheartedly, making T.J. laugh.

“Yeah, let’s not take that risk,” he said and then bit down on his lower lip. His gaze went back to Johnny who was still tinkering with his phone, looking comfortable nestled against him like that. “But I think…” he started, voice getting more quiet, “I think this time, I’ll be okay.”

Of course, Johnny could still hear him, but he was either too distracted by his phone or simply not bothered by the topic of the conversation and didn’t even look up this time.

“That’s good. And unlike mom I think you learned from the past and can take care of yourself, and sooner or later you just gotta get back on the horse anyway.”

T.J. was going to hug Douglas the next time he saw him.

“Actually… I’d have called you sooner rather than later about this anyway cause I was gonna run this by you, how to, uhh… get it out in the open.”

“Yeah, mom told me about that too, so that’s the official reason I’m calling,” Doug replied. “So you really want to do this? And soon? Or do you want to take some time for yourselves first? I probably don’t have to tell you about the potential media circus, but is Johnny aware of it all?”

“Well it’s not like he’s been out of the media circus since becoming flammable,” T.J. returned, but the question was justified, so he glanced back over at Johnny and poked him gently in the shoulder.

“Hey, my brother wants to know if you’re aware of how crazy everyone’s gonna get once this is out.”

Johnny turned his head and regarded T.J. for a moment, but then he shrugged softly. “Maybe it’s gonna get crazier when it’s about the president’s son than just me, but I honestly don’t care.”

Douglas, who had obviously heard the reply, added, “Yeah okay, I’m inclined to believe him. He’s always had this ‘I don’t give a damn’ aura about him. Lucky pick, T.J.”

“Besides,” Johnny continued even while Douglas had still been speaking, “how bad can it really get? Fox News digging up some dirt, Perez Hilton and the likes writing some shit nobody with more than two brain cells believes anyway? As long as you’re cool with it and our families are cool with it, I am too.”

All through what Johnny had said, T.J.’s heart had been swelling in his chest, there was literally no other word for it. “Yeah, I’m inclined to believe him too,” he said to his brother, but the bright grin on his face, that was all for his boyfriend.

Johnny was smiling as well, pushing himself up to press a brief kiss to T.J.’s lips before he settled back down into nearly the same position as before, just with one hand on T.J.’s knee, stroking it gently.

“So, uuh…” T.J. tried to find his train of thought again, making himself look away from Johnny, “can we just do this however we like or…?”

“Yeah, well, I guess so. I mean there’s probably no right way to do it. You could have a statement issued through the White House, or you could just be seen together, and the press will send us an inquiry about it. Then we just have to agree on what we’re supposed to reply. How long you’ve been dating, a bit about how you fell in love - because they are going to ask that, especially with Johnny only having dated women before, as far as the public knows. Give them enough so that they’re satisfied and don’t nag you with questions too much. Though that can still happen. We could up your personal security for the time being, if it becomes necessary. That’s about as much as I’ve thought of, so far.”

“That’s more than I have, to be honest,” T.J. smiled wryly. “I think neither of us really care how we do this though. Maybe just… I don’t know. Just go somewhere together and be really obvious?”

“Make out in public? I’m all for it,” Johnny piped in, grinning at T.J. widely just as Douglas replied, “Yeah, well, can’t stop you doing that, but mom would probably prefer if you kept it classy.”

T.J. couldn’t help laughing, reaching out to give Johnny’s shoulder a nudge while he replied for his brother, “I didn’t mean - holding hands is already obvious!”

Johnny pouted in playful disappointment before the grin was back on his features and he shrugged apologetically.

“That sounds better, yeah,” Douglas agreed. “And wow, he’s really crazy about you, isn’t he?”

“How about a peck, though? A small, family friendly kiss?” Johnny asked nearly at the same time and T.J. doubted it’d be possible for him to grin any more widely.

“Maybe,” he just said, and didn’t bother specifying if his reply was meant for his brother or his boyfriend.

“Sounds like he is,” Douglas said, and T.J. could hear the smile in his tone. “Okay, I’m sure you’ll do fine. Just give me a heads up so I can prepare something for when the questions storm in. Official reply: you met at the gala, became friends and then just fell in love? That sound about right?”

“Not even that far from the truth. But yeah, let’s leave the sex part out,” T.J. snickered, running his fingertips over the nape of Johnny’s neck again. “We’ll probably really just show up somewhere. I’ll let you know, and I promise we’ll keep it PG-rated.”

“Good. Well then, I’ll leave you to it. Let’s meet for coffee if you have time, and I can give him the whole ‘don’t you dare hurt my baby brother’ speech in person,” Douglas chuckled, making him smile.

“Hey, stop telling people you’re the older one. But, yeah, coffee sounds good, then we can talk for real. Say hi to Anne for me, okay?”

“Will do. Have a good night, you two.”

And with that, the call was ended and Johnny had T.J. all to himself again. Which he seemed very happy about, judging by the way he was still grinning as he straightened and leaned in to brush another kiss to his lips, just like that.

“Okay, think that was PG-rated enough for the purpose or do we need more practice?”

T.J. tilted his head back towards Johnny’s, stealing another one. “No one ever stops needing practice.”

“True,” Johnny replied, the smirk turning cheeky before he kissed T.J. again, much more deeply this time and definitely not so PG-rated any longer.

 

Chapter Text

“You’re not tired already, are you?”

T.J. stopped yawning immediately, giving Johnny a look. It couldn’t be much later than ten, but it had been a long day at the club. He had spent it trying to organize things with his crew, sort out the mess with that regular showing up with cocaine he’d somehow acquired at the club, wanting to make sure that wasn’t going to happen again.

He had always turned a blind eye on what they did in the VIP section - even though the question had been nagging at T.J. if he shouldn’t try and get anything of the sort out of his club for good. He’d been doing fine, he’d stayed clean, except for that joint that he didn’t really want to count, but -

It hadn’t always been easy, but maybe he should make it so.

T.J. quickly shook the thought off. He was home now, and his boyfriend was standing before him, looking down at him on the couch with that gentle smirk of his. T.J. swatted lazily at Johnny’s thigh and shook his head.

“Nah, it’s way too early for that. Why?”

“Good, because there’s one thing we still haven’t done. Or you haven’t done,” he replied, one eyebrow going up. “You haven’t played the piano for me yet.”

“Right.” T.J. was a little surprised that Johnny came to him with that now, out of the blue. But that he was asking at all made him bite down on his lip around a hesitant smile.

The last time he’d played for someone else, privately, wasn’t one he wanted to revisit, not even in memory. Many people probably didn’t understand, but it was something very intimate, something he bared a part of himself for. He hadn’t thought he’d ever do that again at all.

But things had changed. So after a few long moments he said, “Okay,” got to his feet and pressed a quick kiss to Johnny’s lips.

“What are you gonna play?” Johnny asked, following T.J. to the piano, looking around a little awkwardly for a moment before he drew a dining chair closer and sat down there.

T.J. shot him an amused glance as he sat down as well. “You could have stayed on the couch, you know? Way more comfortable.”

“I can watch you better from here, though. Unless you don’t want me to.”

“No, I don’t mind.” He put his fingers on the keys, letting them hit a couple of notes to warm up. “What do you want? Something fun, something melancholy, something pompous?”

Johnny pondered that question for a moment, brow in furrows, and it wasn’t that difficult to guess that, considering classical piano wasn’t his usual type of music, he was having a hard time coming up with a reply.

“I don’t know,” he finally confessed. “Hm, how about that Casablanca song? As time goes by.”

T.J. hummed softly in acknowledgement, trying to bring the notes for that one back into his mind. “Wow yeah… just a heads up, I haven’t played or even listened to that in ages,” he shook his head a little, letting instinct bring to the keys what memory of it he still had. It took a moment before most of it was back, but the song itself was rather simple, so he thought he got by alright, glossing over those parts he didn’t really remember by improvising around the main theme.

Johnny either didn’t notice or he didn’t mind; he was sitting leaned forward, elbow on his knee and chin on the knuckles of his hand. The expression on his face was one T.J. had caught glimpses of before, on the Bahamas in particular and that one time they had met after, like there was nothing he’d rather look at. It wasn’t just physical attraction, hadn’t been for a long while, but now Johnny didn’t try to hide that from his gaze, and T.J. didn’t try to look away anymore.

“I knew you’d be great,” Johnny said, smiling in admiration when T.J. ended the piece. “That was really nice. You need to do that more often.”

T.J. caught himself smiling, barely pausing before he continued mindlessly with a piece of one of his favourite contemporary composers. "Thanks," he said, glancing over at Johnny again. Now that he let himself, he didn't want to stop.

"That wasn't too hard to predict though, was it?" he continued, grinning softly. He didn’t feel the need to be humble, not about this. T.J. knew he was good, and this was maybe the only thing in the world he was really, uncompromisingly proud of.

Johnny listened intently, with admiration and adoration on his face, until T.J. finished the second song as well.

“Wow, you’re really good. Makes me regret I never learned to play any instrument. We could have jammed together… Or started a second career as rock stars,” he added jokingly.

"Rock stars, huh?" T.J. grinned, smoothly slipping into a piano rendition of 'Nothing Else Matters'.

"Actually…" he started then, biting down on his lip for a moment with his gaze back on the keys. "Remember when I said I was busy cause I was trying to get something going? Thing is… I was thinking I could maybe do something with this, that it's maybe not too late after all. All those benefit concerts… And I don't know, maybe the name is good for something, cause turns out there are actually people who might want to work with me…"

“Sorry, I wasn’t listening right now because you’re fucking playing ‘Nothing Else Matters’,” Johnny said, the awe not completely faked, but then he lifted a hand in apology, small shrug and grin accompanying the gesture. “That’s a damn good idea, though.”

T.J. clicked his tongue in disapproval and lifted his hands from the keys to cross his arms in front of his chest. "Really? I'm spilling my guts about my plans for the future to you and you're getting off on the song?" he smirked.

“It’s a damn good song!” Johnny said defensively but in good humour. “And you were playing it really awesomely, too. But okay, tell me more about your plans. What exactly did you have in mind then? Anything concrete in the making yet?”

"There's one concert that's fixed so far but other than that I'm just hoping it'll go somewhere… become more." T.J. shrugged slowly. He hadn't really talked to anyone about this yet, not in detail anyway. "So I've gone and played for hours, practicing and trying to distract myself."

“Oh wow, that sounds really great. If you have a talent like that you definitely should get some recognition for it. So when’s this concert? And is it solo or with other musicians?” Johnny wanted to know.

It was touching, that Johnny was so curious and enthusiastic about this, and T.J. had to smile.

"Both. And it's in two months."

“You mean you play a few pieces solo and then… what? With a singer or a jazz quartet or what exactly?”

"No, just, you know…" T.J. made an aborted hand gesture. "With an orchestra. It's classic stuff."

“Jeez, okay. Fancy,” Johnny said in surprise. “So it’s gonna be a real big thing. Are they selling tickets yet? Because you so need to reserve a seat for me.”

That made the widest smile appear on T.J.'s lips, and, unable to help himself, he leaned over for a deep kiss, which Johnny returned readily. One hand at the back of T.J.’s neck, he let the contact linger even when the kiss ended, his lips just resting against the side of T.J.’s face for a moment before he leaned back while his thumb continued to draw gentle circles over the skin under his ear.

“So does that mean I get a seat or was that an attempt to distract me because there aren’t any tickets left?”

"You get a seat," T.J. laughed, instinctively leaning into the caress. "Course you do. Since you're also gonna have to put up with me practicing all the time."

“Yeah,” he said, mock-frown on his features. “It’ll be torture.”

"You'll get sexual favours in return."

“Oh will I?” Johnny asked, a small smirk tugging up one corner of his mouth before he gently brought it to T.J.’s lips again. “How about some musical favours first and you play that again? ‘Nothing Else Matters’, I mean. And I’ll just shut up and listen.”

"Okay," T.J. smiled and brushed their lips together one more time. "Go back to the couch, get comfortable."

“All right,” Johnny agreed, putting the chair back where he had taken it from before he went to lie down on the couch, one arm under his head, looking over to T.J. at the piano.

“For getting a private concert I should actually pay you in sexual favours, though.”

"Feel free to pay in any way you want," T.J. grinned, the first signature notes already sounding through the room.

Not that any of that was needed, not this way around, and not the other way either. While he played T.J. watched his boyfriend lying there on the couch, his eyes closed contently as he listened.

No, this was enough. More than enough.

 

***

 

Johnny had to admit he was feeling somewhat nervous about this. Not in a bad way, he definitely wasn’t worried or ready to abort the whole plan, he just felt excitement bubbling in his stomach, making him giddy with it.  

He reached over to take T.J.'s hand, pulling it to his lap as they were sitting on the backseat of the limousine that would bring them to the theatre.

"Wow, so we're really doing this then."

T.J. glanced over at him, his pinkie coming up to brush against the side of Johnny's hand. He looked calm, his gaze attentive.

"Still okay with this?"

Johnny didn't even have to think about it for a second. He returned the gesture gently and leaned in to bring his lips to T.J.'s.

"Of course I am."

The smile that reply earned him was blinding, the fingers between his tightening their grip.

"Then yes, we really are doing this."

"Great," Johnny replied and, leaving their hands entwined, directed his gaze back out of the window, the buildings outside slowly passing by as they approached the theater. T.J. had told him it was a smaller one, showing a production of a play called Art.

Johnny wasn't particularly crazy about theater, but of the various options they had considered for their first official date as a couple this one had seemed just right. Not a big, fancy event but also not too small for them to be noticed by anyone. At least in theory.

"Think there'll be any press?"

T.J. shrugged, also watching the streets and houses pass by outside. "There's usually someone. And if not," he paused and grinned wryly, "every phone has a camera."

“True. Guess we’ll have to give them something worth taking a picture of, then,” Johnny replied, giving T.J. a smirk.

"Remember, everything PG," T.J. grinned back, but the way he bit his lip and glanced at Johnny's mouth betrayed that he wasn't the one who'd come up with that rule.

“Damn it,” Johnny cursed faintly, though, naturally, the reminder wasn’t unreasonable and he hadn’t actually planned to engage in a heavy make out session in the middle of the theater. Though it sounded tempting in his mind. “Hm…” he hummed as he leaned towards T.J. again, his lips close to his ear. “Maybe we can go for something R-rated on the drive back. Or sneak into the bathroom after the intermission?”

The faint shudder that went through T.J.'s body didn't escape him.

"Oh? Like what?" he muttered back quietly.

“I’d show you,” Johnny said, the mere thought already sending a shiver through him. “But I guess we’re almost there.”

There was a soft, unwilling sound in reply, but then T.J. seemed to shake it off as he briefly glanced out the window again.

"Right."

The limousine slowed down and T.J. reached up to rake a hand through his hair, fluffing it up a bit more.

"Ready?"

“Ready,” Johnny confirmed, smiling at T.J. before he took a deep breath and got out of the car.

They had stopped right in front of the entrance of the theater, several patrons already filing in, a few standing outside and smoking, and for the first few moments until they reached the main door - the Secret Service agent in tow - nobody paid them any particular attention.

When they were inside, however, and just as Johnny wanted to take T.J.’s hand again, a young woman recognised first him, then T.J., her eyes widening for a second before she poked her two friends in the side and inconspicuously whispered something to them.

“Not exactly press,” Johnny said to T.J. in a low voice, a grin on his lips.

"Everybody's press these days," T.J. returned dryly, but there was an affectionate smile on his lips as he looked at Johnny.

For a moment there was a considering expression on Johnny’s face, but then his smile widened a little. "Wanna bet that if I do this…" he started, but was cut off by the group of people who had entered the lobby in that moment, pushing past them. They had to step aside to let the patrons through what was a rather narrow corridor between entrance and the coat room, and when they had finally moved through, Johnny found himself looking right at the shyly smiling faces of the young women.

“Hello ladies,” he said and smiled back at them openly.

"Hi!" one of them said back, a soft flush on her cheeks. "Sorry, we don't want to be a bother, we were just wondering if you'd sign an autograph for us."

From the corner of his eye Johnny could see that T.J. had stepped away, and was talking to a man he seemed to know.

“An autograph? You’re not mistaking me for one of the actors, are you?” Johnny asked, slipping into his cheeky, flirty tone automatically. He threw another brief glance in T.J.’s direction, finding him smiling back briefly, unconcerned. “But okay, let’s see… do you girls have a pen?”

"Sure!" she replied immediately, and just like that there was a pen and three pieces of paper for him to sign.

He asked for their names and signed with a little message for each of them, chatting briefly about the play while he did. They were definitely more excited about it than he was, and he learned they actually were there as fans of one of the actors who had recently had a role in a new TV series. When he was done with the autographs, Johnny asked whether they wanted to take a selfie with him which they were even more excited about. It turned out great on the second attempt, and Johnny handed the phone back to its owner.

“Alright, ladies,” he started, noticing that T.J. was done talking to his acquaintance and finding his gaze again. An idea popped up in his head and suddenly Johnny’s heart was beating loudly in excitement. He took a half concealed, deeper breath before he continued, “Was great meeting you, but I shouldn’t let my boyfriend wait so long.”

He was met with silence for a moment before one of them seemed to catch herself. "Okay sure," she said, her voice just a little higher than it had been before. "Sorry we kept you… Thank you so much, enjoy the play!"

Another one of the girls was having a hard time hiding her dumbfounded expression, and Johnny had an equally hard time hiding the big grin that wanted to spread on his face as he just nodded, gave them one last charming smile and said, “You too!”

Then, he finally turned back towards T.J., crossed the few steps between them and entwined their hands once more. “Hey.”

"Hey," T.J. smiled back widely, gently squeezing his hand. "Made a few fans happy?"

“I think I did. Though they probably didn’t expect me to be here with my boyfriend.” And now the grin inevitably spread on his lips before he leaned in and gently brushed them against T.J.’s cheek.

It took a brief moment, but then T.J. started laughing, carefree and exhilarated, and simply wrapped his arms around Johnny's shoulders.

“Are they looking?” Johnny asked, a warm excitement in his stomach at the thought of everyone around them at least being able to see that yes, they were together.

"Yes," T.J. just laughed, and then pulled back, reaching for Johnny's hand again to tug him along. "Come on, let's go inside."

For a split-second, the giddy feeling in his middle made him want to stop and announce the happy news to everyone in their vicinity. But that would have been tacky, so he just followed T.J. into the house, hoping that someone managed to sneak a picture.

 

***

 

It was after the break, in the middle of the second part of the play, that T.J.’s phone vibrated briefly in his pocket. He waited until the scene was over, too immersed in what was happening on stage, but then drew it out and had a look at the message.

It was from his brother, and it made a grin spread on his face.

‘Heads up: press waiting for you outside.’

He nudged his boyfriend with his elbow and held the phone over so that he could read.

“Think they took a photo?” Johnny asked in a whisper, looking around briefly for anyone who might notice as he took his own phone out, but then let out a faint huff, probably having as little reception inside the house as T.J. had.

“If the press caught wind of it that quickly, they must’ve written about us on twitter or something like that,” T.J. whispered back, pocketing his phone again.

This was good… this was exactly what they’d hoped for.

“Awesome,” Johnny said, the excitement in his voice making it sound a tiny bit louder than he’d probably aimed for. What they received as prompt response was an annoyed ‘Shhh!’ from the woman sitting behind them.

Johnny took a deep but quiet breath, and it sounded almost like a sigh, amusement visible on his features when T.J. looked at him. A moment later he felt his Johnny’s hand take his again, their shoulders bumping together, and then, in the cover of half-darkness, T.J. tilted his head over and brushed the smallest kiss on Johnny’s cheek.

It felt incredible to be able to do that. To T.J. it felt like small bursts of endorphins were going off everywhere inside him, and he knew he was probably squeezing Johnny’s hand harder than he needed to. But he didn’t want to make himself stop, because he didn’t have to.

For the first time in his life, he didn’t have to.

The play soon approached its end, laughter erupting again in the audience. Johnny held his hand, caressing it absent-mindedly, until they needed both hands free for the final applause. And after the standing ovations for the cast of what had turned out to be a really hilarious and moving production, the house lights were turned on again and the guests started filing out of the doors, some of them stopping here and there to chat.

“Hey, that was really fun,” Johnny commented as they made their way through the throngs of people, a smirk on his lips. “Less boring than I’d have thought.”

“As if I’d make you go to a boring play,” T.J. huffed and bumped his shoulder against Johnny’s in playful reproach. “But it’s great to hear that you liked it.”

“No, I really did,” Johnny said, “it was hilarious and interesting.”

T.J. gave him a smile and squeezed his hand briefly before they walked on. His gaze had fallen on a group of four people who were standing close together, talking quietly, because their gazes were flickering over to them every now and again. He grinned and averted his eyes again, letting them. He was pretty sure they weren’t the first that evening.

Outside in the lobby, they were joined again by the agent assigned to T.J. for the evening, and people seemed to make an effort to keep a bit more distance, being a bit more inconspicuous when obviously gossiping about the unexpected couple. One man, ten years older than the two of them, give or take, briefly looked at them with disapproval in his glance - nothing T.J. wasn’t used to, but when he looked at Johnny he was relieved to see him simply roll his eyes, amusement on his features.

“Probably just jealous.”

T.J. smiled without a reply. They both knew that these people would always exist, and there’d be a lot of them saying their piece in the next couple of days and weeks too.

None of that really mattered though.

He turned to Jeff instead, glancing up at the head of his detail.

“You know what’s going on outside?”

He gave curt nod. “The car’s waiting. Just a few photographers on the way.”

“Well, then let’s go,” Johnny said, excited, clapping his hands once before he reached for T.J.’s left again.

They left together, Jeff walking in front of them, then T.J., his hand extended behind him to keep hold of Johnny’s. The second they walked out the doors, a flurry of camera flashes went off, enough that T.J. couldn’t even tell how many people were actually here right now.

But he could hear the questions called at them, everyone wanted to be the loudest, to be heard and get a chance at a reply; questions like ‘Are you really dating?’, ‘Johnny, we thought you were straight,’ and one ‘Is this a PR stunt?’, too. As Jeff opened the limousine door for them to get in, T.J. could feel Johnny stop, keeping a hold of his hand, and he had the other lifted in a wave, a big grin on his lips.

“Do I look like I need any PR stunts?” he asked back cheekily, and T.J. just started laughing, uninhibited and happy.

God he was in love.

“‘s exactly what it looks like!” he called back over his shoulder and then tugged on Johnny’s hand to follow him into the car, letting go only to climb in. Johnny barely had enough time to close the door behind himself before T.J. had reached for him to pull him into a deep, exhilarated kiss.

“Aww man, the windows are tinted. Nobody saw that,” Johnny laughed as they parted from the kiss and the engine was started, but he didn’t give T.J. the chance to respond as he already had his lips on his again. It didn’t last very long, an excited laugh bubbling from Johnny’s chest before he drew back again and they finally fastened their seatbelts.

“They have enough to talk about as it is,” T.J. smiled back, his whole body still tingling from excitement and happiness. He looked into the other man’s face, his heart wide open.

“This was good,” he said quietly, meaning every bit of it. “I’m so glad you’re with me, you have no idea…”

"And you have no idea how much I wanted to be with you, apparently." There was still a rather impish glint in Johnny’s eyes, though the words sounded sincere, the gentleness ringing in them unmistakable despite the playfully admonishing overtone.

T.J. had to press his lips together, going from excited to emotional ridiculously fast. Maybe Johnny was right… maybe he still hadn’t grasped it fully, how much Johnny really did want this. Wanted him.

“Apparently,” he finally said, the corners of his mouth twitching into a small smile.

"Guess I need to show you more then," Johnny said, tone changing from mischievous to almost dirty as he leaned in and grabbed T.J. around the shoulders, pulling him close for a kiss that was unmistakably hungry. From the front of the limousine they could hear Jeff faintly clearing his throat, and though he wanted to keep kissing Johnny, T.J. reluctantly pulled away again.

It was enough to just lean his head on his shoulder anyway, to breathe this in and let himself believe that he could truly have this.

 

***

 

It was the second time in his life that Johnny found himself in the White House, though this time he neither got to see the official banquet room nor T.J.’s - in the latter case luckily, since that would probably have stirred quite a few inappropriate memories and thoughts. Instead, he was occupying one of the two antique floral couches in the East sitting hall between Douglas and Anne’s quarters in the Lincoln bedroom and the Queen’s bedroom currently inhabited by T.J.’s grandma, who had already told him to call her Margaret instead of Mrs. Barrish.

Bud Hammond was away on a business trip, and the president herself was absent from the small gathering as well, busy with whatever presidents did the whole day long, in the Oval Office. Johnny couldn’t say that he minded,  because he knew T.J. wouldn’t have been as relaxed as he currently was if she had been there. Their shoulders bumped into each other as they sipped a fruity long drink Margaret had made for the five of them. With probably a little more gin than what she had described to be just a dash. Johnny didn’t really mind that, either.

"Seriously, T.J., you want to tell me you were on an island in the Bahamas and didn't take even one picture?" Margaret huffed as she sat back down in her armchair.

"I didn't! It was just… lying around all day anyway!"

“I did!” Johnny replied quickly, taking his phone out and sliding a bit closer to the armchair she was sitting on, swiping through the pictures of crystal blue water, palm trees and -- “Oops, forgot that was on here.”

"What was there?" T.J. perked up and tried to catch a glimpse of the display, sounding mildly alarmed.

“Err, nothing,” Johnny said, shrugging as he tried to fight down the smirk spreading on his lips. “Just you having your morning coffee on the patio.”

“In your birthday suit,” his grandma added, which had Anne laugh and Douglas look at T.J. with an amused expression.

"Oh Jesus Christ!" T.J. tried to reach for the phone. "Put that away!"

“That was the only one,” Johnny laughed, snatching the phone out of T.J.’s grasp. “I think.”

“I only saw it for a second and it looked very classy,” Margaret said, still a smirk on her lips.

“Yeah, what she said. Only your back and butt in front of the scenery.”

His boyfriend huffed, but Johnny could see that it was all in good humour. "Are you going to need a separate folder with private pics?"

“That’s an excellent idea!” Johnny replied, his enthusiasm only half exaggerated.

“You wanna be careful with that, though,” Douglas objected, though neither his tone nor expression seemed very serious. “Hope you got some good encryption on there. If not, we could help you with that.”

“Yeah, thanks, my sister and her husband are technical geniuses. I don’t think even the NSA could hack into this,” Johnny replied as he continued to browse through the photos, this time looking at them first before he showed them to T.J.’s grandma.

"Thank God for that," T.J. muttered, hiding a smile behind the rim of his glass.

"Those are beautiful, Johnny," Margaret commented with a smile, still inspecting the pictures. "It must have been a great holiday."

“Yeah it was,” Johnny replied, an odd feeling sitting in his chest, pleasant reminiscence paired with the faintest trace of melancholy. It was more unconscious than deliberate when he looked at T.J., a smile on his lips.

His boyfriend had only waited to catch his gaze it seemed. There was a look in his eyes as though he knew exactly what was going through Johnny's mind.

"We'll do it again, okay?" he said quietly, just between the two of them.

“Next time you should take us along,” Anne said, and it took Johnny a second to notice the dry humour in her tone before he gave her a little grin - but reached for T.J.’s hand next to him on the couch, squeezing it gently.

“Guess you two aren’t getting that many holidays, huh?”

"You knew what you were getting into," T.J. pointed at them casually with the hand holding his drink, and Douglas sighed with a wry smile.

"Can't argue with that."

"Well, you know," Johnny started with a shrug, "if you do get some time off, there are plenty of private islands for rent. And I can highly recommend it. No annoying tourists around, and you practically don't need any clothes."

"Obviously," Margaret threw in dryly, making T.J. groan.

"You literally don't need any clothes, don't blame me for that being documented."

“Don’t blame me either,” Johnny quickly interjected. “It was impossible to resist.”

"Really now," T.J. only smirked while a somewhat comical expression appeared on his brother's face.

"Can we install a filter for those kinds of pics?"

“Yeah alright,” Johnny chuckled. “But I’d have put it away if it had been something really not safe for work… or family.”

“That’s what they all say,” Anne said, her expression good-natured and amused despite the mock admonishment in her tone as she looked over to her husband. “But then things happen, and suddenly your mother in-law almost sees something she never should.”

As Douglas gave her an apologising glance and was just about to reply something, when Margaret spoke up again, mirth in her eyes. “I’m glad there were no smart phones in my days. There’d be a thing or two someone might dig up that you kids wouldn’t want to know about your old grandmother.”

That prompted laughter and 'oohh's, and T.J. next to him almost choked on a sip of his drink, coughing and laughing.

"God. And Doug, what did you do? Did you almost show mum a sex tape?"

"Let's not go there," Anne interrupted before Douglas could have replied. Which he did anyway, "Something like that," earning him a playful punch against the upper arm.

"I'll be careful to keep our sex tapes private," Johnny said, barely hiding the grin that wanted to spread on his lips.

"Just for the record, we don't have a sex tape," T.J. was quick to add before any of the others had the chance to say anything.

"Yet," Johnny said with emphasis, although he wasn't that serious about it.

It earned him a nudge in his side anyway, but the way T.J. was smirking when he looked at him told him that there were actually worse things his boyfriend could think of doing.

They continued to chat for a while, Margaret telling an interesting tale or two from her past as a dancer. After a while, though, the conversation shifted to the reactions in the press, though there, too, it stayed lighthearted despite a few rather idiotic but foreseeable accounts in the gossip mags.

"It's just like we expected," T.J. commented, rolling his eyes for a brief moment. Nevertheless his words were followed immediately by a small smile. "Lots of the reactions online though… that was great to read."

"Yeah," Johnny found himself agreeing very easily, thinking of the sometimes a little weird but still touching things some fans had written and created. And all the comments by women who had mourned the fact that Johnny was forever lost to them had been both hilarious and caused Johnny to feel a tiny wave of sympathy for them. But he couldn't make everyone happy, could he?

"I knew there'd be many good ones. And it looks like most of them are, so…"

But in that moment his phone started buzzing in his pocket, and he took it out to check the caller. "Oh, it's my sister. Guess I should get this," he said, getting up from the couch, taking a few steps away before he accepted the call.

"Hey Sue, what's up?"

“Johnny, we need to meet up,” his sister’s voice sounded close to his ear over the Hammonds who were still talking in the background, and he knew right then by the tone of it that something serious had happened. “We’re in trouble.”

 

***

 

It was only two hours later, the sun already having set as Johnny had walked from the White House to the West Wing, when a team of politicians and scientists had assembled around the president in the Situation Room, and despite the fact that the Fantastic Four had had to deal with military and political officials before, Johnny felt both incredibly important and terribly out of place.

After Sue had only told him in brief detail what threat they were facing, Johnny had had Douglas alert his mom, and all other activities planned for that late afternoon and evening were cancelled. As relaxed and entertaining as his earlier afternoon had been, now the atmosphere was immensely tense. For good reason.

“As you can see,” Reed explained the simulation currently playing on the large screen and the few smaller ones around the conference table, “the vortex is responsible for all the meteors that have occurred over the past months. And as shown here,” he fast forwarded the simulation to another part, “the course of the vortex is headed for a collision with the moon in fifty-two hours. If that happens, as the simulation shows…” he used his pad to fast-forward, “it would essentially swallow the moon whole.”

It was quiet for a moment, the kind of quiet when people tried to process that what they were hearing could, in any way, be real.

“Fifty-two hours,” the Minister of Defense finally broke the silence, his voice and face disbelieving. “How didn’t anyone notice this sooner?”

"Well, the vortex is basically invisible," Reed explained. "It was more of a coincidence that we picked up on it while observing the recent meteor anomalies. It emits an energy signature that is essentially that of a black hole just with the difference that the levels of proton radiation are--"

Sue cut him off with a lift of her hand and a deep breath before she continued, "What my husband is saying is that nobody usually would have looked for this type of phenomenon since it did not exist to anyone's knowledge prior to yesterday. We only got behind it since we saw the debris it was spitting out, which explains why so many meteors and meteoroids have seemingly appeared out of thin air."

“So what do we do?” the president spoke up now, her expression worried but composed. “Is there any way to avert this, any at all?”

"We have an option," Reed replied, his voice sounding confident but Johnny could tell from the subtle change in his expression that it hid concern. "We'd need to get close to the vortex and, by firing a high level of energy into its core, neutralise it. That is the simple explanation," he ended and got a soft nod from Sue.  

Ben cut in as well, "He means we have to blow this thing to hell."

Johnny could see that the president and vice-president were exchanging a glance before she spoke up again. “And you have the means to do this? What resources would we… or you… need for such an endeavor?”

"Madame president," one of the other men present spoke up - Johnny didn't even know who he was, "surely NASA is better suited for the job. We can't put our fate into the hands of amateurs."

"Amateurs?" Johnny let out a brief laugh. "Dude, have you not watched any news those past um seven years?"

“We have already -” Elaine began, but Johnny and that other man seemed to have kicked loose an avalanche of comments from most people present, most likely fuelled by real apprehension about the gravity of the situation they were facing.

"What would even happen if we didn't have the moon," someone made the mistake of asking, and now even Reed lost his calm and argued vehemently about the importance of having a goddamn moon if humanity and all other life on the planet wanted to survive.

“Gentlemen! Gentlemen, please!” the president eventually spoke up, her tone sharp and decisive despite the polite words. The men actually fell silent, though the tension in the air was still palpable. “I’m going to consult with NASA right away. Mrs. and Mr. Richards, I’d be grateful if you could accompany me. To everyone else, please stay in the vicinity, this meeting isn’t over.”

“We were actually considering using Van Doom’s spacecraft,” Sue said, and Johnny could see the barely concealed look of annoyance she threw some of the particularly hotheaded guys in the room. Luckily, himself not included. “If you could alert the authorities for its release, we believe it’s best suited for this mission.”

“We’ve also spoken to two leading scientists in the field to assist us. One from Germany and the other from Pakistan,” Reed added. “They’re on their way here already.”

Elaine nodded and turned towards some guy whose name Johnny didn’t know, telling him to keep an eye out for them, and to inform her at once as soon as they had arrived.

“Now, if you could accompany me?”

As they left the room to one of the smaller offices, only followed by Douglas and the Minister of Defense, the remaining people in the room resumed their discussions or were talking on the phone, and Johnny took the opportunity to get up and, with a nod of his head, take Ben to the side.

“So, what’s the deal with that neutralising the vortex plan?” he asked, not fully able to shake the feeling of trepidation.

Ben heaved a sigh in response and then shrugged slowly. “I’m not completely sure I got it right when they told me, you know how they get. We need a lot of energy to reverse the polarization in that thing, to neutralise it. That’s the basic principle of it.”

“And…” Johnny asked, trying to work his mind around the specifics that he had a much more basic understanding of than his sister and brother in-law, “how exactly are we going to get enough energy for that? We’re not talking nukes, are we? Because… I kinda can’t imagine that’d be enough for a dark matter vortex big enough to swallow the moon.”

“No, it’s not.” Ben shot him a sympathetic glance. “Thing is… You’re not gonna like it.”

Chapter Text

T.J. wasn’t hungry despite the food laid out on the table, but that didn’t surprise him. It was hard to swallow, and so he eventually pushed his dinner plate away, got up from the table and started cleaning it, ignoring the gaze he could feel on him even without having to look.

He heard his boyfriend sighing softly, and even though Johnny had practically been wolfing down his Thai curry just moments ago, he only took two more bites now before he got up to help T.J. clear the table. As soon as the leftovers were stored in the fridge, T.J. felt Johnny’s arms wrap around his middle from behind, his face nuzzled against the crook of T.J.’s neck, breathing in deeply with something that might have sounded like contentment, had it not been for the tight grip and the deliberately soothing movements of his thumb across T.J.’s lower arm.

“You alright?”

He couldn’t blame Johnny for asking, but T.J. still huffed at how obvious the answer to that question was. “No. This is stressing me the fuck out,” he admitted, reaching up to grip Johnny’s forearm in turn, the warm chest against his back comforting, somehow.

Another sigh brushed warmly against his skin, and Johnny tightened the embrace some more as he gently kissed T.J.’s neck. “I’ll be alright. Oh… and the moon, too.”

T.J. suppressed a sigh of his own and turned around without untangling himself from Johnny’s arms to look at him. “How certain is that? I want, like, numbers, percentages. Explain it again.”

“Okay,” Johnny started and drew away from the embrace, one hand gripping T.J.’s to lead him back to the couch.

“So, this vortex thing is kind of like dark matter, just more dark energy than matter… I think,” Johnny started. “It’s super cold, basically invisible and has an extreme gravitational pull towards all objects in its direct vicinity. In order to neutralise it, the dark energy needs to be countered with an extremely high amount of normal energy. Dark energy meets normal energy, and the whole thing collapses in on itself and is gone.”

“Okay,” T.J. returned slowly, because he was pretty sure he’d already understood that bit the first time around. “But no one ever said it has to be the fire energy kind.”

Johnny let out a slow breath, though there was a soft smile on his lips, indulgent and comforting, and a tiny bit smug before he pulled his shoulders up in a small shrug. “Yeah, well, guess there’s nothing else that can go supernova as well as I can. Except for an actual supernova.”

T.J. couldn’t help rolling his eyes a little and pushing against Johnny’s shoulder, because as awesome as the whole human torch thing was and no matter how much T.J. knew Johnny loved it, right now he was less than thrilled about it. “And there’s nothing else? Do you really need a supernova?”

Johnny seemed to discard the playful attempts at lightening the mood now, his expression sincere as he gently caressed T.J.’s hand in his. “Yeah, apparently that’s the only way. Or at least the only one anyone could come up with in the limited time we have. Look, we really need to do this, because if not, then there won’t be a moon anymore in a little over twenty-four hours. And God only knows what that vortex is going to swallow next if it gains so much volume. Could be Earth.”

“I know,” T.J. groaned and actually rolled his eyes again, because that really wasn’t the question. But he still would have preferred another way to go about this than sending his boyfriend up into space to the edge of a goddamn vortex. “I know, I just…”

He broke off because he didn’t actually know how else to explain his stubborn denial of the fact that this was the only way. Instead he sighed and reached up to draw his arms around Johnny’s shoulders, shuffling close enough to be half on his lap.

“I’ll be alright, seriously,” Johnny just repeated after a while as he held him, gently and comfortingly. “We’ve dealt with worse before, and Sue and Reed really know what they’re doing. When they devise a plan to save all our asses, it always works.”

“You still haven’t given me a number,” T.J. mumbled half-heartedly against Johnny’s neck, unsure if he really wanted one at all.

“Ugh,” Johnny groaned, “I’m really, really bad with numbers. I honestly don’t even know where I’d get one from, what details to consider and weigh against each other to give you a ninety-nine or a fifty. Pretty sure it’s not just a fifty, though,” he quickly amended.

T.J. huffed and bit down gently on his Johnny’s neck in reprimand. “Okay, whatever. If you don’t come back I’m going to rip your head off.”

“And you’re absolutely allowed to,” Johnny replied lightheartedly. There didn’t seem to be anything else he could come up with, though, no further words of assurance as Johnny just hugged him tight again, let one hand run through T.J.’s hair and along his shoulder, then to his chin. He softly pushed T.J. back and looked him in the eyes, a small smile on his lips before he leaned in and brought them to T.J.’s.

It was a soft kiss, just a brush at first, and T.J. returned it immediately. He didn’t want to think about the day and night that Johnny had spent in the White House, planning with the others, nor of what was going to happen once the night was over. Sure, maybe the chances of something actually happening to Johnny weren’t big… but the possibility was there and T.J. hated it.

So he kissed him, soft and slow, before adding, their lips barely parted, “And your balls, I’d rip them off too… that’d be such a pity.”

Johnny let out a brief, slightly high-pitched chortle, shaking his head softly before he let their lips meet for another short kiss. “Sorry, can’t let you do that. But well, since I am coming back, you won’t have to.”

“Good,” T.J. muttered back, his fingers trailing up Johnny’s back, over the nape of his neck and into his hair while they kissed again, never really parting. “Now do me a favor and make me forget about this.”

“Gladly,” Johnny replied, and there was a spark of his boyish temper back in his eyes, not clouded by worry or concern any longer. A second later, his lips were on T.J.’s again, the kiss intense and deep, but Johnny didn’t let it last for longer than a few moments. He drew away with a deliberate smacking sound, a soft laugh following as he got up and pulled T.J. to his feet. “Come on, bed.”

T.J. all but plastered himself to Johnny’s back as they walked to his bedroom, arms around his waist, hands brushing over his stomach and chest while his lips were pressing kisses to his neck. He had known all day that this would be where the evening was headed at some point, but right now it felt different from what it usually was like, somehow. This was something more important, more meaningful.

Despite the regained lightness of his mood, the smiles and chuckles, there was something in the way Johnny looked at him, touched him, that told him he understood it, too. It became strongest when, after they had taken off their t-shirts, Johnny looked at T.J. for a long moment before he crossed the distance with a fierce need gleaming in his eyes, his lips fast on T.J.s, hard and tenderly longing at the same time.

They crawled onto the bed and T.J. rolled over him so they could simply kiss again, grinding slowly. He wasn’t in any real hurry to get Johnny inside him this time, it was enough to know that it was going to happen. Right now all he wanted was to have him close, their bodies pressed together, kiss him for hours to make himself believe he didn’t ever have to stop. He savored the feeling of how they were both hardening between them the longer their hips moved against each other like this, of Johnny’s hands unhurriedly moving all over his body.

Eventually, though, Johnny turned them around, and his lips started a trail down T.J.’s neck, warm and soft against his skin. He was starting to get a little breathless between the open-mouthed kisses down T.J.’s chest. His tongue darted out and teased one already hardening nipple, and Johnny raised his gaze again, locked with T.J.’s, as one hand drifted lower to the fly of his jeans, palm flat against the hard bulge before his fingers made to open button and zipper.

T.J. exhaled slowly and let his head fall back into the pillow to stare up at the ceiling for a moment and continue breathing deeply, body thrumming with arousal. The moment Johnny tugged on his jeans, he raised his hips and pushed at the waistband as well to help him get them down his legs.

“How d’you wanna do this?” he finally asked, breaking the silence for the first time since they’d entered the bedroom.

Johnny let out a soft chuckle. “I dunno yet. For now,” he said, accentuating his words with a tiny kiss to T.J.’s stomach, “this,” another kiss, “is what I want to do.” Johnny looked up again, fingers playing along the waistband of T.J.’s boxer briefs, and there was a tiny smirk on his lips. “How do you want to do this?”

T.J. bit down on his lower lip around a smile and reached out to card his hand through Johnny’s hair. It was slightly longer than when they’d first met, and he loved how he really had something to bury his fingers in.

“Mmh… long and drawn out?”

Johnny heaved a heavy sigh, not quite serious. “Alright, I’ll try my best,” he said, and a smirk tugged on the corners of his lips before he brought them back down to T.J.’s skin, his belly and down to his hip. And finally, jeans and underpants were pulled down completely, tossed to the floor where they wouldn’t be a hindrance.

“So, with long and drawn out, did you have something like this in mind?” Johnny asked, innocence in his voice and the complete opposite in his eyes as he let his fingertips ghost along the length of T.J.’s dick without really touching it, and his lips placed kisses as light as butterflies dancing over his skin along the line of his hipbone.

T.J. laughed, soft and a little breathless, and subtly stretched out under Johnny. “I don’t know? You seemed to develop a real fondness for this though… still can’t believe you thought you were straight all this time,” he grinned, nudging his hips up subtly.

Johnny shrugged, one hand roaming up T.J.’s chest while the other continued its minuscule caresses around but unfortunately not on T.J.’s cock. “Yeah, I guess even I make mistakes.”

“Lucky me,” T.J. sighed and tried to get that hand on him by more tiny nudges. “Please?”

But Johnny smirked up at him again, subtle glee on his features. He continued his gentle kisses, as if he was mapping out every spot on T.J.'s body, and just when T.J. thought he could not bear it any longer, Johnny's tongue flicked against the head of his cock, a hand wrapped around the base to stroke up with a firm grip.

T.J. let his head fall back with a grateful moan and parted his legs, hooking them over Johnny’s shoulders to prevent him from going anywhere. “God yes… did I tell you yet that you’re really talented at this?”

“Hm, no,” Johnny replied before he let his tongue run up the entire length. “Am I?” And then, gaze locked with T.J.’s, took him into his mouth, lips closing around him tightly as they slid down, making T.J.’s whole body tense for a moment.

“Ah… yeah… ‘m going to make you practice a lot and we’ll… make a pro out of you…”

Johnny chuckled, low in the back of his throat, the vibrations sending shivers down T.J.’s spine. He didn’t seem inclined to reply to the comment.

He really had gotten very good at this, and quickly after only a few previous attempts. The way he let his tongue slide against the underside with every move up, like he let it circle around the head, pressure just right, and how he hummed throatily around him made T.J. press his face into the crook of his own arm, small panted breaths coming over his parted lips, quiet sounds of encouragement, of enjoyment. God, Johnny could do this for hours as far as he was concerned. T.J. reached down blindly with his free hand, found Johnny’s hair again and hooked his fingers into it, wanted a touch, a caress of his own to give back.

The slow play of lips and tongue continued for a long while, but then Johnny picked up a faster rhythm, hollowing his cheek as his head bobbed up and down, and suddenly, T.J. wasn’t so sure that he could continue this for much longer anymore. But Johnny knew him by now, knew the subtle reactions of his body, and he let his movements slow down before he drew away completely, brushing a gentle kiss against T.J.’s hipbone before he looked back up. “Want me to go through with this or not?”

T.J. registered the question but his head felt like an incoherent jumble. He just tried to breathe deeply for a few moments and to decide what he did want, but that was hard right now, God damn it. He heard himself let out a soft, indecisive whine. “Ugh… up to you.”

He already thought Johnny was going to stop and crawl back up to him when he shifted on the bed, but then one hand grasped the base of his cock firmly, and the lips were back around it, sucking him hard and fast.

T.J. let out a shuddering moan, his whole body relaxing into the knowledge of what Johnny wanted from him right now. It was very, very easy, and he’d been so close already that his mind simply blanked out ridiculously fast and, just a few moments later, he shuddered through his orgasm. He was barely aware of how Johnny’s lips never left him, but he only fully focused his attention back on his boyfriend when he was leaning above him, a self-satisfied grin on his slightly swollen, reddened lips. The expression soon faded to make room for something much more gentle, and Johnny leaned in, kissed T.J. softly before his hand brushed a messy, slightly sweaty strand of hair from his forehead, thumb drawing small circles in the process.

“Jesus Christ,” T.J. breathed out and smiled, blissed out and tingling all over. He reached for Johnny and tugged him down against him, warm and heavy and perfect. “That was a pretty good start…”

“Obviously,” Johnny smirked. “You’ve already forgotten my name.”

“That joke is so old,” T.J. complained back but still wrapped both arms around Johnny’s shoulders and nuzzled his face into his hair.

“Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad,” Johnny insisted, but he returned the affectionate gesture, fingers trailing down T.J.’s neck as they just held each other for a while. Johnny gave T.J. the chance to recover and regain his energies, even though T.J. knew he must be getting impatient by now. He was still half-hard against T.J.’s thigh, and eventually T.J.’s attention was unmistakably drawn to it. His fingers moved in small patterns over Johnny’s shoulder, he started leaving soft kisses along his boyfriend’s jaw, and with the other hand he reached down, brushing along Johnny’s hip before he reached between Johnny’s legs to wrap his fingers around him.

Johnny let out a throaty sound, half a chuckle and half a moan, and his hips pushed forward against the touch. T.J. could feel him grow harder in his hand, and the next sound that left Johnny’s lips was definitely a sigh, lips parted as he drew away from the gentle kisses.

He shifted their position again, rolled half on top of T.J. as one hand slid down to his hip and then around to his ass, grasping it with warm, strong fingers as he pushed himself against T.J.’s body, a promise of what was soon to follow.

“Lube.”

T.J. gave himself enough time to enjoy the touch, parting his legs a little more to bring Johnny’s hips closer between them before he even thought of moving any further. He was still pressing small kisses to his chin, cheeks, the corners of his mouth, even when he finally reached out blindly and pulled open his bedside drawer. He found the bottle almost immediately, looking back at Johnny who smirked at him, one hand outstretched for T.J. to put some on his fingers, the other absent-mindedly running along T.J.’s shoulder.

He leaned in again to bring their lips together before T.J. could feel the cool slickness prod against him gently. The kiss was just as soft for a few long moments, and T.J. was convinced Johnny drew this out deliberately, teasing him with just a soft circling motion of his forefinger before, at last, he entered him, just when T.J. had opened his mouth to complain. He just let his breath out again, hands brushing over Johnny’s shoulders, up his neck, tangling in his hair to keep him close, let their foreheads rest together.

Keep him so close that T.J.’s whole field of vision was filled solely with warm blue eyes like summer skies. Breath faltering, heart stuttering.

He didn’t have him close enough yet.

“Want you. You have no idea… Please…”

The reply he got was a low sound, almost a growl as Johnny kissed him again more fiercely and deeply than before. Another finger followed the first, then a third after some carefully stretching thrusts that eventually became more impatient, and Johnny didn’t have to ask when or if T.J. was ready. The condom was on him quickly, its package tossed to the floor over Johnny’s shoulder, but when he positioned himself, weight supported on one hand above T.J. as the other reached between them, he held T.J.’s gaze for a long moment, so long that T.J. started squirming against him subtly, pleading wordlessly.

Finally Johnny pushed in, all the way, pulling a soft, hitched sound right out of T.J.’s lungs, filling, claiming, owning him, and suddenly T.J. couldn’t chase away the thought away fast enough, of what would happen to him if this got taken from him.

A shudder of fear went through him and he reached for Johnny, held him close, arms and legs enveloping him as though this way he could ward off any eventuality, any possible risk, any chance, no matter how small, that something could happen after all.

“Oh God…” escaped his lips, barely a whisper, and he held on to Johnny harder.

Johnny seemed to sense T.J.’s worries, the ghost of a frown on his features when he looked down. He kissed him gently, the movements of his hips slow, careful, slightly rotating with his thrusts between more kisses.

“You feel so good, you know that?” he said breathily, the soft smile on his lips almost masking the slight concern in his eyes. “I haven’t even nearly gotten enough of this.”

T.J. took a few deep, slow breaths, making himself ease up on his tight hold and look into Johnny’s eyes again, the words putting a small smile on his lips as well. He let his fingers brush over Johnny’s face, along the lines of his cheekbone, his temple, his jaw.

“Me neither… God, I just… ‘s so amazing…”

A small, touched chuckle came over Johnny’s lips and he brought them back to T.J.’s, letting the contact last a bit longer this time, nibbling gently before the tip of his tongue met T.J.’s. The rhythm of Johnny’s movements became faster, the thrusts going deeper as he reached for the hollow of T.J.’s right knee to pull it up higher, kissing him again and again as both their breathing sped up with the rhythm of their bodies.

It really did feel amazing, and T.J. had no real desire to let this end, no matter how sweet the end promised to be. He just wanted to draw this out for as long as he could make them hold out, wanted to relish every minute of rocking together, of every touch caressing his nerve endings in the best possible way.

So when he felt Johnny starting to speed up a bit too much, he pressed his hands to his chest and pushed, rolled him onto his back and settled over him, pinning him down and forcing their movements to slow by the leisured drags and circling of his hips over him.

He kept his gaze fixed on Johnny’s face, put his hands on his hips to make him feel every move, soaked up every moan he could draw out of him, smiling at those laced with frustration, shuddering at those sounding like pure surrender.

His thighs started to tremble and sweat slicked their movements, their breaths coming out shallow and panted. Johnny sat up, pulled T.J. in for a kiss - a short breath for both of them as they rested their foreheads against each other and breathed together. Then, Johnny pulled him down again and shifted their position, and T.J. followed his gentle prompts willingly until he was lying on the bed on his side, Johnny behind him. He was blissed out already when Johnny began moving again, one arm cradling him close around shoulder and neck, the other coming around his waist, and he’d never felt so safe before. Time was swimming away, past and future as well, only the heat between them, the arms enveloping him, the lips on his shoulders and neck, the body pressed against his back, the thrusts into him again and again, finally bringing him so close, toeing that line beautifully, agonizingly long.

Eventually, neither Johnny nor T.J. could or wanted to draw it out any longer. T.J. could feel the tension in his lower body find its peak as Johnny’s movements became erratic and unfocused, throaty moans pressed against his neck. Johnny wrapped his hand around T.J.’s cock, thumb flicking over the slick head - the one touch that pushed him nearly violently over the edge, let his body coil tight and twitch and shudder helplessly as he finally came, wrecked sounds dredged up from somewhere deep, deep inside for endlessly long moments.

When T.J. felt himself coming down, breath finally filling his lungs again, he was still shaking, lips parted, eyes still closed to sort out his what his own body had just done with him.

Johnny was still moving inside him, a few more shallow and shaky thrusts before T.J. heard him let out a long, shuddered sigh, the grip around his waist now almost vice-like as tremors went through the body behind him.

Johnny was breathing hard, exhausted and spent when the grip relaxed, but he did not draw away immediately, just sliding out of T.J. carefully but holding him, his face buried against the crook of his neck.

T.J. didn’t bother opening his eyes or moving at all, only letting out a soft, half protesting sound.

“You could’ve stayed…”

“Hm, better not,” Johnny mumbled, still a little breathless, and though a minute more wouldn’t have done any harm, T.J. knew he was right. “Maybe another time. We could get tested ‘n all.”

“Yes,” he agreed immediately, a tired smile flickering over his lips. Being able to do this without barrier, to keep him inside for a while longer afterwards… the thought alone was enticing, made him shudder again weakly.

He’d never done that before.

“Yes, please.”

Johnny chuckled softly behind him, placing a gentle kiss against his neck and shoulder. “Can’t do that right now, but as soon as I’m back. Okay?”

It was a thing to look forward to, a definite plan, a promise that Johnny and the others would do this, come back, and then everything would simply go its way.

“Okay,” T.J. agreed softly, finally blinked his eyes open enough to see and turned his head back towards Johnny, regarding him with a smile, soft around the edges from sex and warmth. “I love you.”

There was a jumble of emotion written on Johnny’s features that was impossible to miss but difficult to dissect; a smile played around one corner of his mouth before his lips parted softly, his eyes bright and brow ever so slightly furrowed, and the faintest hint of pink on his cheeks. T.J. hoped it wasn’t just a consequence of the heat and exertion.

Johnny shifted his position a little, nudged T.J. to roll back onto his side so that they could face each other. The caress of Johnny’s hand along his cheek as he looked into his eyes seemed to say what, so far, Johnny hadn’t gotten over his lips. He bit them softly before a low, breathy chuckle came over them. “I… you… You make me really happy, you know that? And… I really can’t remember when or if I’ve ever felt like this with anyone,” he got out, the mild bashfulness only partially hidden behind a small grin. “And I’m so, so fucking in love with you.”

T.J. still felt so high on endorphins that his smile only widened, a soft laugh coming over his lips, and he thought he wanted to see Johnny look like this for the rest of his life. But when he quieted down again, taking a deep breath, he registered the tightness in his chest, the good kind, the one he had thought wasn’t his to feel anymore, and he had to bite down hard on his lower lip before he was able to say anything else at all.

“So… let’s make a deal… we keep making each other happy and being in love with each other. Yes?” he eventually brought out, smiling a little tentatively up at his boyfriend.

There was a look on Johnny’s face that T.J. could barely describe; amused and maybe a tiny bit confused - how could he know what had made T.J. ask it, made him need a promise so desperately? But he also seemed touched, a tender, deep affection in his eyes that he put into another caress, gentle and reassuring. “Deal,” he said, the word sincere and meaningful despite its brevity, and T.J. smiled against his lips, kissing him soft and sweet.

It had been an uphill struggle for him, to allow himself to bare his heart like this; it still was sometimes, even if Johnny made it much, much easier.

He was going to tell him, someday. Maybe someday soon, but there really wasn’t any hurry either. T.J. really did believe in the deal they’d just made.

 

***

 

Johnny was dreaming. Something pleasant and hilarious, but as soon as his hazy mind awoke, the images faded from his grasp, only leaving a warm feeling in his chest. There was soft music coming from somewhere, and as he slowly came to he wondered whether someone had turned on the radio. Or set it as alarm.

Johnny blinked, trying to wrap his mind around why the thought of an alarm clock made him feel so… well, alarmed before, finally, it sunk into the more conscious parts of his brain, and he jerked his head up, heart beating faster.

Fuck, he had overslept and he had a spacecraft to catch!

But then he noticed that it was still completely dark outside, his cell phone on the nightstand silent, and the soft music actually coming from behind the closed bedroom door where T.J. was playing the piano.

For about a second he considered sinking back into the pillows and enjoying the last few hours of sleep instead of getting up to join T.J. in the living room. In the end, he decided against it and it was an easy decision to make, if only for the prospect of getting him to come back to bed. He wondered briefly what had prompted T.J. to get up so early in the first place as he walked over to the door, and he could not quite shake the feeling of concern and sympathy that became even stronger when he recognised the tune as ‘Hallelujah’.

He opened the door and found T.J. only in his boxer briefs, gaze lowered to the keys, his mind obviously somewhere else entirely as he didn’t seem to notice him at all. The notes were soft, drawn from fingers that caressed the keys, simple in this version of the song, converting what was sung into wordless sounds.

Johnny didn’t know how long he just stood there by the door, watching, and he didn’t know how it happened, but something about the beautiful and melancholy sounds and the sight before him made his chest feel heavy. It was as if, until right now, it hadn’t fully sunk in what he was facing once the night was over - or why it felt more threatening to him, now, than any other similarly dangerous missions before. It made him ache for T.J.’s presence, suddenly, so strong that he crossed the distance to him with fast steps, putting his arms around T.J.’s shoulders and nuzzling his face against his hair.

The notes stopped abruptly, plunging the room into silence, but after the first moment of surprise, T.J. relaxed back into the embrace.

“Sorry, I didn’t - Did I wake you up?”

“No… yes, I dunno,” Johnny replied, breathing in T.J.’s scent and telling himself that he was being ridiculous and only sentimental because of tiredness. “Keep playing.”

T.J. seemed to hesitate, but turned his head slightly towards Johnny’s face. “You were completely out of it, and I wasn’t tired. I… uuh, the same thing?”

“Whatever you like,” he answered and, realising it was going to get a little uncomfortable standing there bent down as he was, he nudged T.J. lightly to make room on the piano bench for him.

T.J. didn’t even wait until Johnny was sitting fully before he started playing the same song again from the start. And Johnny just leaned against him, listening and watching his fingers, long and lean, dance over the keys - and why had he never fully noticed before just how beautiful and elegant they looked? For a short moment he wondered if T.J. couldn’t play something a bit more uplifting, but there was something to the tune that, despite the heavier undertones, kept him enraptured. He felt his earlier thoughts fade to the background, making room for something comforting and relaxing. As he closed his eyes he felt the pleasant haze of sleepiness settle over him.

When T.J. eventually stopped playing, Johnny was honestly not sure if he’d played it just once or twice, or ten times. A hand found his knee, and T.J.’ face nuzzled gently against his hair, his voice soft and low.

“You should sleep.”

“Yeah, I know,” Johnny replied, having to clear his throat and blink his eyes open to at least seem a bit more awake. “Didn’t know you were such a Shrek fan,” he said after a short pause, making T.J. huff in amusement.

"You’re the one who hears ‘Hallelujah’ and thinks ‘Shrek’," he commented dryly, but then his expression softened and he leaned over to press a kiss to Johnny's temple. "But it had nothing to do with that. Come on, you’re going back to bed."

“Yeah alright, Shrek is awesome,” he replied, only a small part of him registering that maybe he was being a bit silly, but he was too tired to care. The past day and night had worn on him, after all. “You coming to bed too, though, right?” he asked as he got up with T.J.’s hand clasped around his.

“Yeah,” his boyfriend smiled at him, gently squeezing his hand before standing up after him. “One in the morning sounds late enough, huh? Just let me go to the bathroom first.”

"Okay," Johnny mumbled. They made their way back, Johnny leaning against the wall by the bathroom door, waiting until he heard the rush of water inside subside. The look on T.J.’s face when he came back outside and saw him there was surprised, but the corners of his mouth were curling up softly as well.

“Jeez, you didn’t have to wait here for me.”

Johnny just shrugged and took T.J.'s hand in lieu of a reply, pulled him closer gently. "Think you can sleep?"

“I dunno. We’ll see, I guess?” T.J. laced their fingers and tilted his head up to press a kiss to Johnny’s cheek before tugging him back to bed.

When they had lain back down, facing each other, their fingers intertwined again, and Johnny let his thumb caress T.J.’s hand. A soft chuckle escaped him, a somewhat silly thought in mind. “You don’t happen to have any animal crackers? No?”

Animal crackers?” T.J. chortled softly, the confused amusement he regarded him with barely visible in the faint light falling in from the city outside. “What in all the world do you need animal crackers for right now?”

“Aww man, don’t tell me you didn’t get that movie reference?” Johnny pouted, noticing his voice becoming more slurred with sleepiness. “Though I‘m afraid I’m not gonna stay awake just to hear you breathing.”

It was quiet for a few moments, and Johnny realised his eyes must have slid shut because he couldn’t see the expression on T.J.’s face anymore now. But eventually he heard a quiet, “Oh, you’re adorable,” and a hand brushed softly over his cheek and through his hair, a gentle kiss touching his forehead. “But I should also sock you in the jaw because that movie made me cry. Don’t you dare make me cry.”

“Sorry,” Johnny instantly replied, though he could barely open his eyes again. “But since we’re not taking your mom with us, you’re safe.” It had sounded funnier in his head, but he realised it probably didn’t make it any better. He should just shut up and sleep already, and his boyfriend seemed to agree with him.

“Shush, okay? Just sleep, there’s nothing sensible coming out of your mouth anymore,” T.J. muttered and slid closer, his arms wrapping gently around Johnny and keeping him close against his own body.

There was something Johnny wanted to say in his defense, but when he opened his mouth to speak, the only thing that came out was a mumbled sound that he barely even registered. Then he slipped off, remembering neither what he had wanted to say nor what dreams he’d had when he woke up early next morning.

Chapter Text

There was so much going on in the hall around him that T.J.’s head was spinning. He had retreated a little, away from everyone else waiting in the docking hall for the Fantastic Four to board the spaceship, and he felt a little lost. People were still hurrying about, preparing this or that, packing things away or making last minute checks. He rubbed his hands over his forearm and looked around, seeing Johnny still involved in some final planning with the others, standing by his mother, his brother, Ben’s girlfriend Alicia and a few members of staff.

He maybe just wasn’t in a good enough state to deal with all these people right now. T.J. hadn’t slept much at all; he had nodded off a few times just to jerk awake again soon after, irrationally fearing that Johnny would have already left, that he’d have missed the chance to say goodbye. The plan had always been to leave together early that morning, but his always half asleep mind hadn’t bothered trying to be logical and had instead decided to simply not let him get any real rest. Now, his lack of sleep and his nerves made the commotion worse than it probably was.

T.J. sighed, ignored the look his brother sent his way and glanced towards Johnny again, chewing on his lower lip as he watched him gesture.

Reed checked something on his PDA and then addressed Johnny, who nodded to him and started jogging towards T.J. just a second before an announcement came over the speakers, echoing loudly through the entire hall.

‘Ready for launch in fifteen minutes. Prepare boarding.’

A moment later, Johnny was at his side, a hand on his upper arm to pull him away another step or two behind a cargo container. There was a small smile on his lips, but T.J. was sure he also saw a trace of nerves in the other man’s face.

“So, that’s us. Round trip to the moon,” he said lightheartedly, letting the smile on his lips become a little bit wider. T.J. struggled to keep his eyes fixed on Johnny’s face. That he looked good in his uniform wasn’t anything new, but T.J. didn’t think he was ever really going to get over it, and the thought was definitely preferable right now to… others.

‘All crew prepare boarding,’ it resounded through the speakers again, and Johnny gave T.J. a somewhat apologetic look before, both hands on the side of his face and neck, he brought their lips together for a sweet and lingering kiss. “Twenty hours or so, and I’ll be back.”

“Okay,” T.J. simply whispered back but went for another kiss right after, his arms wrapping around Johnny’s neck. He didn’t care at all that there were so many people who could see them right now, this was their goodbye, and though T.J. had banned any thought about anything but Johnny’s return from his mind, he couldn’t let go of him until he had felt his boyfriend’s hands on his hips again, had his lips tingling from their kiss.

“Come on,” Johnny said eventually, one hand entwined with T.J.’s, tugging on it lightly to pull him with him to the gate of the long tunnel that would bring the Fantastic Four to the space ship.

The other three already stood by it when they got there, Ben with Alicia in his big arms and Reed shaking the president’s hand a last time before she moved on to Sue.

“Even though I can only speak as the president of this country, I’m sure the entire world is grateful for what you are doing. All our thoughts will be with you.”

T.J. took a deep breath and squeezed his boyfriend’s hand before letting go so that Johnny could say his goodbyes as well, and T.J. turned to find himself in front of Sue who looked at him with eyes that were so similar to her brother’s.

God, he didn’t even know what to say.

It seemed like she didn’t either, only a soft smile on her lips. She raised her hand and gave his upper arm a brief, encouraging squeeze.

And then that was it. All four of them were standing in a row, the other crew members on either of their sides - the last moment just before they’d step through that automatic door and, in only a few minutes, would take off from Earth.

“Good luck, ladies and gentlemen,” his mom spoke up a last time, “you have our complete trust and confidence.”

Not that there’s any other chance for us, T.J. thought and took a deep breath through the tightness in his chest, keeping his eyes on Johnny as he followed the others to the elevator. Once he was inside their gazes met and T.J. tried to smile, remembering the way Johnny had said ‘I’m so, so fucking in love with you’ the night before.

It was the doors sliding shut that cut off their locked gaze, and already T.J. wished for the whole day to be over.

 

***

 

Earth was nothing but a big round ball in the distance, the continents barely recognisable under thick ribbons of clouds. A good five hours and more than half of the distance lay behind them, the flight going as smoothly as expected and the crew on the bridge busy with nothing more than monitoring the progress of the voyage. It was a blessing that this spacecraft offered the comfort of artificial gravity, and so Johnny had gone to grab a cup of coffee for himself and Sue.

“There,” he said, handing it to her before he sat back down in the chair next to hers.

“Thanks.” She wrapped both hands around the cup and took a careful sip, relaxing back into her seat before Johnny felt his gaze on her. “So, you up for this? How did you sleep?”

He huffed out a small laugh. “Can’t really back out now. And… I guess I slept alright,” he ended with a shrug.

Sue nodded. “That’s good. How’s T.J. doing?”

He couldn’t help the soft sigh that left him, and he took a sip of coffee while contemplating his reply. He did not like giving it, because any truthful response only reminded him of the fact he had tried to optimistically ignore ever since he had learned about their upcoming mission, the fact that, despite everyone’s and his own confidence in their abilities, what he and Sue were about to do was probably the most dangerous thing they had ever done. And T.J. didn’t even know that.

“I guess he’s okay. I hope. Worried but… yeah.”

She hummed quietly, taking the time to sip on her coffee again. “He looked tired. Can’t blame him though, it’s always hardest to stay behind.”

“Yeah,” Johnny simply said, fighting against the heavy feeling in his chest that suddenly made him want to have T.J. by his side, so, so bad.

His thoughts automatically drifted, to what lay ahead, the method they needed to apply to neutralise the vortex, back to T.J. and what he was doing at this moment, waiting and counting the hours until they were all safe. And then forth again, to the machine that was supposed to channel Johnny’s power and Sue who needed to contain it and suddenly, a new thought occurred to him that he wished hadn’t: aside from succeeding or failing there was a third option of not all of them making it.

“So you think you can keep the supernova in check?” Grin on his lips, tone almost teasing, but none of that managed to completely expel that sudden fear that had gripped him.

His sister shot him a long, level glance that seemed to look right through him. “Didn’t you just say that it’s too late to start doubting now?”

“I’m not doubting,” he said quickly, needing to convince himself of that as much as her. The memory of her collapsing under the strain, blood flowing from her nose, was still vivid in his mind. The effort back then had been nothing compared to what she needed to do now. “After all, you’ve grown a hell lot stronger over the years. You’ll do it.”

A small smile twitched on Sue’s lips. She lowered the cup into her lap and leaned over to him, her free hand grasping his wrist lightly.

“It’ll be okay, Johnny. We’ll be okay, you and me, just like always. We can do this.”

“I never said we couldn’t,” he replied, radiating a confidence that, as rarely before, he did not fully feel beyond any doubt.

But he had no other choice than hoping for the best.

 

***

 

The wait was horrible. T.J. knew that nothing was happening yet, that the spaceship was still on its way, but that didn’t make it much better. He had managed to sleep a little, curled up in a corner outside the control room, unwilling to go too far from there. But it was fitful and didn’t last very long, so he gave up and walked the corridors for a while.

Eventually he happened upon a small area by a window front with several comfortable looking chairs, shielded from the corridor by some panels. It looked empty at first, but when T.J. came closer, he saw Ben’s girlfriend Alicia sitting there in one chair with her back to the panels, unseeingly looking out the windows.

“Oh… sorry,” T.J. fumbled for words, unsure if he should just leave again.

She turned her head towards him slowly, a smile playing around her lips that was sympathetic but did not fully hide her own tension and worry. “What for? I actually don’t mind having some company. Sit down.”

“Okay,” T.J. said quietly, nodding automatically although she couldn’t see him., He shuffled over to one of the chairs to sit down, and his gaze went out the window at first, then back to her, but felt too uncomfortable looking at her for long.

Alicia was quiet for a while, too. Then she inclined her head in his direction. “Are you okay?”

T.J. let out a long breath, sliding further down in his seat. “Do I give off really negative vibes?”

She shrugged, a faint chuckle coming over her lips. “You don’t have to. We’re kinda in the same boat.” Her expression turned a little more sombre as she turned her face back towards the large window, as if she could look up in the direction the spaceship had left, now somewhere between them and the bright half moon sickle. “I’d like to tell you the first time is the hardest, but that’s not actually true.”

That was a little disheartening to hear, and had actually been a question that had been going through T.J.’s mind more than once since this whole thing had started. He sighed deeply.

“That sucks. Did you think about this before… you know… getting together with Ben?”

“I thought about it,” she replied, her tone ranging somewhere between self-ironic and serious, “but reality is always a bit different, isn’t it? What helps is knowing that without what they’ve been doing - some of it at least - we wouldn’t even be sitting here to have this conversation.”

That was definitely true. T.J. had no idea what they would do right now if the Fantastic Four weren’t there to help the whole world out.

“Yeah, I know. I just didn’t think about it,” he admitted then. “Not this far anyway. I guess the abstract knowledge really is quite different from the real thing after all.”

Alicia leaned over, one hand searching until it had found his forearm to give him a gentle, encouraging squeeze. “It’s not always something this big, though. In fact, it’s been over a year since I’ve last been as worried as I’m now. But you know, when it’s all over and you get to be with the person you love again, knowing that they saved the planet, it’s worth all the troubles tenfold. So keep that in mind and focus on that moment ahead when Johnny gets off that ship and you can hold him in your arms again.”

That… sounded a little cheesy, but nevertheless it warmed something in his chest and brought a smile to his lips. T.J. ducked his head, thinking that he was probably going to do exactly that the second he saw Johnny again.

“I didn’t think I’d ever be with an actual superhero.”

This time, the small laugh that came over her lips sounded a bit more genuinely amused. She shook her head softly as she leaned back again in her seat. “Neither did I. But it does have its benefits, doesn’t it? Besides being damn proud of them you also get to have your own personal bodyguard… Which, in your case, you’ve had before but I’m sure Johnny’s more fun than a Secret Service agent.”

That actually startled a laugh out of T.J., the sound surprising him, and he rubbed the nape of his neck a bit awkwardly. “Yeah… so much more fun,” he admitted nevertheless, biting down on an affectionate smile. “Should have brought the bodyguard thing up with my mom sooner, that’s hard to argue against.”

“Oh? Well…” Alicia shrugged slightly, smiling as well. “I can see how she wasn’t thrilled at first what with Johnny’s reputation as trouble maker and ladies’ man. But - and feel free to tell her I said that - as far as I can remember, he’s never been like this with anyone before.”

T.J. looked at her in surprise, his heart skipping a beat at the implication of her words. “Like this?”

“Even a blind woman can see how madly he’s in love with you.”

A wide smile spread on his lips that made his face glow suspiciously. “He is kinda mad, isn’t he?” He knew that wasn’t what she had said, but it made him chortle quietly nevertheless.

She clicked her tongue softly but smirked. “That too. A bit at least.”

“Yeah, let’s go with that,” T.J. replied and then actually started laughing softly, shaking his head and tilting it against his hand to cover his eyes. “But, uh… Thank you. For saying that.”

Alicia reached over again, gave his left hand a small pat as she smiled at him encouragingly. “I remember it’s a nice thing to hear from others at the beginning of a relationship.”

T.J. smiled at her, hoping she’d be able to hear it in his voice. “I don’t think that’s true only for the beginning of a relationship.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Though at the beginning everything’s new and exciting and you can’t really trust your own head. But yes, hearing it is always nice.”

He hummed in agreement and let his head sink back against the wall behind him. “Hey, are you hungry or something?” he eventually changed the topic. “Maybe we should go find something to eat before… before this starts.”

She seemed to contemplate his question for a moment, and T.J. could guess that food had probably been furthest thing from her mind in the past few hours, just like it had been for himself. But then she nodded and gave him a small smile. “Yes, let’s do that. I think I smelled microwave pasta earlier, so there’s got to be a kitchen around here somewhere. Let’s see what we can find.”

“Alright,” T.J. smiled and got to his feet, hesitating for a moment. “Do you… umm… want to take my arm?” he tentatively asked then, hoping he didn’t sound condescending.

She probably didn’t need to, having gotten here just fine on her own. But before he could really regret his question she got up as well, reaching out to find the offered arm. “Sure. Lead the way then.”

“Okay.”

T.J. smiled and exited the seating area with her by his side, absurdly relieved that he wasn’t alone in this anymore. That there was someone here who understood exactly what it felt like.

T.J. thought it could make the next few hours a little easier.

 

***

 

Reed and Ben were the last two with them in the rear part of the spaceship. It would soon be shut off from the rest of it, the airlock in the hull to open with nothing but vast, empty space before them. Reed was checking the tether on Sue once more; it would prevent her and Johnny from floating off, should either of them lose control, and Johnny briefly thought that that was rather redundant since a failure of their endeavours would result in certain death anyway.

They were close to the vortex now, so close that with the ship’s drive they would not be able to free themselves from its gravitational pull, should they not manage to collapse it. They had only about twenty minutes left, or they’d be sucked in and crushed to death.

“Remember that you have to direct the flame straight through the amplifier while keeping your shield up,” Reed said, and both Sue and Johnny refrained from telling him they had all heard this and been over it a dozen times before. Instead, Sue leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to Reed’s lips, a smile on her own as she drew away and nodded, and Johnny once again wished T.J. were here with him, too.

His gaze found Ben’s, mirroring a similar sentiment, and he suddenly had to remember what Ben had said over five years ago, that, if he knew they had to go down fighting, he would wish for nothing more than holding Alicia in his last moments.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ he had to tell himself and shake the thought off. It would go fine. They had planned this meticulously and done the math. It would work.

“All right, we’ll be there with you and guide you through this,” Reed went on, taking a step back from his wife with visible reluctance.

“Don’t burn a hole in the ship, kid,” Ben said, his grumpiness more play-acted than serious, and Johnny was grateful for it.

“Wouldn’t dream of it. Okay then, let’s get these fireworks started,” he said, clapping his hands once and stepping to his position in front of the round, still closed opening.

There were no further words spoken, and the other two left through the hatch, sealing it behind them. A few seconds later, Reed’s voice came through the coms. “Engaging amplifier. Confirm.”

“We hear you,” Johnny replied and looked over to his sister who held his gaze, firm and confident and encouraging.

“Ready?”

“Ready,” he replied as blue lights flared up around the gate, tendrils of it meeting in the middle and going nearly translucent as soon as the area was covered.

“Opening hatch. Sue, get your force field up.”

Sue lifted her hands, and a look of concentration covered her features right before Johnny could feel the subtle vibration of her her invisible force stretching around them. “Force field up.”

And then, the airlock in the hull opened, revealing the darkness of space before them. Johnny stared right into it. No stars were visible in the distance, just a dense, heavy blackness in front of them that made Johnny blink and almost hurt to look at. He felt a shiver run down his spine at the sight, or rather non-sight, because it was like nothing he could describe or had ever witnessed, just plain… nothing. As if he had gone blind. He shivered once more as he pressed his eyes shut, concentrating to access his powers as soon as Reed would prompt him to do so.

“On my signal,” he heard. “Three, two, one. Go!”

“Flame on!” Johnny called almost simultaneously, arms lifted and hands turned up towards the opening as his flame engulfed him.

It felt easy, almost too easy. His flame shot from him, Sue channelling it into a white-hot pillar straight into the centre of the device. From there it spread, a massive cone of heat that shot far and farther into the distant blackness. But there, it was swallowed completely, as if it was hacked off bluntly at the sharp surface of the dark energy vortex, and Johnny had to ignore the sight, had to focus and keep going.

“Twelve percent. It’s looking good. Keep doing exactly what you are,” he heard through the speakers. Barely a few seconds had passed, and at this rate everything would soon be finished. It really was that easy.

“Twenty-three. Twenty-seven,” Reed went on and over to thirty, forty, more. What a piece of cake.

“Sixty-two. Good. Sixty-- No. Fifty-nine. Fifty-six!” There was panic in Reed’s voice all of the sudden, and at the same moment, Johnny felt as if something was pushing back against his flame, as if it cooled down, burning ice crawling towards him and through his body.

“Johnny!” he heard Sue shout as he swayed on the spot. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing! I’m doing nothing!” he called back, focusing all his might to keep his flame going, heat it up against the coldness that spread through him. “It’s like it’s fighting back.”

“We’re losing it,” Reed said. “The vortex is sealing itself against the thermal energy. You have to--”

The signal broke off. The ship shook with a sudden jerk forward, pulled in towards the vortex.

“... need more… energy not suff--” The static interrupted the transmission, but it didn’t matter. Johnny knew they only had one chance now.

He found his sister’s gaze again, and she gave him a nod; they would not give up so easily. Both of them looked forward again, and he could feel their combined focus run through his body. And then his flame shot out of him, stronger and hotter than ever before, even beyond the force of what he had called his supernova flame, and for a moment was nearly frightened by how intense it felt.

The tremors of the ship subsided just moments later, and the transmission came through clearly again. In great relief, Johnny heard the climbing numbers from Reed, and they were back at sixty percent.

It took a lot of effort, and Johnny couldn’t remember ever having felt so strained, the muscles in his arms and legs starting to shake as he fought to remain standing, to keep his arms outstretched and his flame going strong. And for the first time, the light he emitted seemed to blind him. The coldness he had felt just moments ago had disappeared, but now it was replaced by a heat that crawled over his skin.

“Seventy-two.”

Hot and hotter still, it burned where it left his palms, for the very first time unpleasant and even bordering on painful.

“Seventy-six.”

He wheezed and tried to catch his breath, tried to keep it even so he could still focus.

“Eighty percent. Keep going. You can do this.”

It burned, seared his palms, and Johnny was sure his skin must be red and raw to the flesh.

“Eighty-five.”

It was all he felt, excruciating pain shooting from his palms up his arms and chest. Just fifteen percent more. He had to do this, he had to keep going.

“Eighty-eight.”

He had to, had to. There was no going back, no stopping now, even if he was--

“Ninety percent.”

He was going to die. Johnny was sure that he was, the agony in every fibre of his body killing him, or if not, his own flame consuming him and leaving nothing but a heap of ash.

T.J.

Johnny had promised him to come back, and he was going to break it.

“Ninety-three.”

“Johnny!” his sister’s shout barely reached him over the consuming pain in his body, and he couldn’t even look at her. In a few moments, all of this was going to be over, and he’d never see her again. Not her, not T.J., because there was no way he was going to survive this.

“Ninety-five.”

But he had to. Had to keep going. Just five percent more, he told himself, lest he allow himself to give up, give in and die.

“Ninety--”

And then, he could hear nothing, felt nothing, the pain leaving him with all conscious thought, and that really must be it. He had become the flame, a burning, blazing fire of a thousand stars.

Johnny never heard or saw or felt if he did, and all he thought in that last moment was an overwhelming sense of regret before everything around him went black.

 

***

 

Breathing was hard, moving nearly impossible. T.J. had his eyes fixed on the monitors, his ears clinging to the voice coming in over the microphones, Reed relaying what was happening. T.J.’s hands were sweaty and there was a weight on his chest, on his whole body, pinning him down while he listened.

How often had he told himself over the course of the past two days that nothing would happen, that everything would be fine? Now he was sitting here, repeating those words in his head and struggling to believe them.

Please just let them be fine…

“We’re at ninety-seven percent,” Reed’s voice resounded through the speakers, the transmission cracking. “Ninety-eight. Nine-- Oh God. It’s--”

His voice suddenly broke off, leaving only static.

Then, there was a blazing light. It was so bright, even coming only through the few small windows at the control room, that it blinded all its occupants for several seconds, and T.J. could have sworn the ground was shaking. As if the entire night sky was alight with white-hot fire, an explosion that sent ripples of shock waves all the way to Earth, through the entire solar system for all he knew. Like a supernova.

When it became dark again and he knew Earth had not and wouldn’t be blown apart by the force of it, it took several long moments until the white spots in front of his eyes faded and he could finally see of the other people around him again: the NASA scientists at their monitors pressing their buttons and reading their displays; Alicia clutching a hand to her chest; his mom blinking and her face tense. The only noise on the comms was a high-pitched, constant buzzing.

T.J. couldn’t comprehend what was happening. His mind was completely blank, unable to piece together what he was witnessing, but there was a heavy, cold, dreadful feeling sinking slowly in his stomach.

“What happened?” Elaine was the one who finally spoke up, her tone demanding a reply even though there was a slight tremor in it.

“We… the comms are down,” one of the operators replied while she and others were hacking away on their panels. “What’s the status on the satellites?” she asked and a colleague replied, “They’re operational. No readings on the vortex.”

“Moon orbiting within normal parameters again,” someone else confirmed. “It worked. It really worked. They did it!”

There was a gasp of relief going through the entire room, cheers and laughter as the tension that had been holding everyone in its grip faded. Despite the fact that some removed part of him was relieved too, there was nothing else T.J. wanted to hear about but Johnny.

The room was vibrating with frantic energy now, the scientists trying to confirm their readings and communicating in what was little more than gibberish to T.J. And although there was reason for them all to fall into a celebratory mood, their tension as they tried to get the comms back up was palpable.

“Nothing, I can’t find them,” someone said.

“Try the other satellites,” another person replied, the concentration of the team back up and their jubilations interrupted for the moment in pursuit of confirming that the mission had been a complete success.

It couldn’t have been more than a minute, but the relieving message never came.

“Where are they? Do we have visual of the spacecraft?” the president asked with urgency in her voice. “Any readings? Anything at all?”  

“Ma’am,” a scientist started, “we… we can’t find it. No video, no audio, no energy signatures.”

‘What does that mean?’ T.J. wanted to ask but somehow couldn’t manage to get even a single word over his lips, couldn’t get his body to listen to him. Everything was completely still except for his heart that was hammering painfully in his chest; his vision, his hearing, it all felt like he was stuck in a too long, too narrow tunnel.

“But it can’t just have vanished?!” he faintly heard his mother’s voice, but his breathing was so loud that he had trouble grasping the words.

“No, it can’t,” the first scientist replied again, still fumbling with the controls of her panel, “but at the blast of the explosion was more powerful than anything we’ve ever recorded. At this point we have to entertain the possibility that… that it was instantly vapourized by its force.”

‘No.’

T.J.’s heart was stuck on the knowledge that they had been up there, Johnny had been up there, while his mind was caught in a loop of that one simple small thing, ‘no, no, no,’ over and over again.

He heard Alicia gasp, barely caught sight of the movement of her hand, trying to reach for him. The flurry of activities in the room died down; a man took his headset off and rubbed his eyes; somewhere, someone was releasing a faint sob.

They were gone.

T.J. couldn’t breathe. The static was so loud in his ears that it drowned everything else out and he couldn’t feel his limbs, couldn’t feel… Couldn’t.

Johnny. Johnny.

Johnny

“Are you sure?” His mom asked, the silence that followed terrible confirmation.

They were gone.

“I’m sorry,” the female scientist from before said, “but we should be able to get a reading on them in the vicinity since our satellites are fully operational. The explosion--”

Suddenly, there was a buzzing on the line again, then a loud ear-splitting beep. And then, finally, a voice, deep and rumbling and familiar.

“-lo? Anybody there? Can you hear me, ground control??”

Just like that everything erupted into chaos again, voices talked over each other, almost drowning out Ben’s voice and Alicia’s choked laugh, only T.J. still couldn’t move.

“You disappeared from all our readings, what happened? Where are you? What’s the status on the crew?”

“Somewhere near Jupiter for all I know,” Ben replied, but another voice quickly cut in.

“The blast catapulted us from our position.” Reed. “Took a while to get our instruments back up, but our systems are working. We’re even a bit closer to home than we had expected, just approximately 118,000 miles from our original position. I assume that’s why you couldn’t find us. Our coordinates are--”

“What about the team?” It was Elaine who cut him off and gave voice to what T.J. couldn’t.

“Shaken and a bit battered, but all are okay,” Ben replied. “We’re all fine.”

There was another sob, sharp and wrecked, and it took T.J. a moment to realise that it had come from him. His hand came up immediately to cover his mouth and suddenly he was shaking, only wanting to hear this again, needed to hear it again to make sure this wasn’t just denial and wishful thinking.

“God, Ben!” he heard Alicia call out now, a sound halfway between a sob and a laugh leaving her. “We thought--”

“Aw, no, I’m sorry. We’re coming home. You’ll see, just a few hours and we’ll be back.”

“Six and a half, to be precise,” Reed said, and T.J. finally believed him.

They were coming home, everything had worked, they were fine, everything was going to be fine…

T.J. sucked a deep breath into his lungs and pushed himself to his feet despite his weak legs, heading for the door. He thought he could hear his name being said but didn’t stop, needed space to breathe.

It was quiet the moment the door had closed behind him but T.J. walked on, around two corners until he found a dead end, and then just let himself slide down against a wall.

He was shaking. His whole body was shaking as though it had been caught in a deadlock that let up slowly now, allowing the emotions come to the surface and manifest themselves in those physical reactions that had mostly been delayed. The shaking, and the tears that were streaming down his face.

For a few moments, horrible and way too long, he had thought that the worst had come to pass despite its unlikeliness, that he was never going to see Johnny again.

That there wouldn’t even be anything to bury.

God, he could have been dead, and what would he have even done then?

“T.J.?” he heard his mother’s voice even before her footsteps registered with him. She was carefully coming closer , her feet entering his blurry line of sight as she crouched down in front of him. “They’re alright. Johnny’s fine.”

“I-I know.”

His voice was choked and unsteady, but at least it was there again. T.J. raised his eyes to look at his mom, letting out a shaky sigh.

“I j-just…”

“I know,” she said, and her voice probably sounded the warmest he had heard it in a very long time. “But he’s not,” she added as she reached out one hand to wrap it around his lower arm, squeezing him gently and assuringly. “And what’s more, they were successful and saved us all. You can be damn proud of him.”

A breathless, weak laugh came through the tears, but at least it was a laugh. She was right, and he was, so, so proud. But that would only really come later, once the fright, the shock was overcome that was still sitting so deeply in his bones.

A fresh bout of tears trailed down his cheeks and T.J. reached up to press his hands against his face, shaking with laughter and sobs.

A small, sympathetic sigh left his mom, and she leaned in more closely, getting onto her knees before she pulled him into her arms and hugged him tightly. And for all the times T.J. would have pulled away if she tried to hug him, this time he didn’t. This time it was good to be held, to feel warmth and sympathy and understanding.

He wanted Johnny, but until that was possible again, he buried himself in his mom’s embrace and cried until everything felt alright again.

 

***

 

When Johnny came to, for a ridiculously long moment he thought he had actually died and woken up somewhere in the afterlife - wherever that was. Certainly not heaven, because the first thing he saw when his blinking eyes regained focus was Ben’s face, looking down at him with concern that he hid carefully as soon as he realised Johnny was conscious.

“Wow, is this hell?” he asked, his own voice a little rough and weak.

Ben just grunted and turned towards the opposite end of the room, where Reed stood. “He’s alright. Still a little shit.”

Sue was lying on the med bed a few feet away from his, and Johnny learned from the others that she had kept the ray of his flame under control for the last few seconds it was needed before they both had passed out from the exertion. Johnny’s palms, wrapped in light bandages, still hurt and burned faintly, but other than that and probably needing to take it easy for a few days, they were both absolutely fine. The dark matter vortex was gone, the danger to all life on Earth averted, thanks to them.

Sue woke up half an hour later, and they only had about one more to go until landing in Florida. For some strange reason, it seemed to pass more slowly than the eight hour flight up here had, and it was one thought that kept him occupied for most of it, until, at long last, the metal doors of the spacecraft opened and Johnny saw solid ground beneath them again, green fields and brown hills stretching from horizon to horizon.

During the energy blast, the hull of the ship had been damaged slightly, and they had to use the emergency exit and a simple metal gangway that had been pulled up to the spacecraft. Reed and Sue were the first to step out, followed by two of the other crew, and Johnny waited impatiently until he could finally set foot on the metal steps and jog down onto the vast concrete area in front of the hangar and control central. Its wide gates were open and many people stood there: technical personnel, scientists, even a few photographers and a small camera team, as had to be expected.

Then, Johnny saw T.J., standing next to his mother with his hand shielding his eyes from the sunlight, and Johnny sped up his steps, barely resisting the urge to simply run as fast as he could and only falling into a light jog.

He didn't even make it halfway because T.J. hadn't bothered waiting for him either, breaking away from the small crowd of people to run towards him.

It was as cliched as it could get, but Johnny didn't care and T.J. very obviously didn't either, crashing into him because he had barely slowed down, and Johnny found himself in a fierce, bone-crushing hug.

“I’m so glad to see you,” was the first thing that came over his lips, the words half muffled against T.J.’s shirt collar, and Johnny could barely remember when an embrace had last felt this good.

"Are you okay?" was T.J.'s slightly unsteady reply, and then, as he drew back to reach for Johnny’s hands, his eyes went wide. “What happened? What’s wrong with your hands?”

“Just a small burn. Nothing serious,” Johnny replied quickly, not even feeling the pain any longer now . “I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine.”  

T.J. brought his hands up to take Johnny's face in them, quickly looking at him but not really giving him the time to answer before hugging him tightly again. "I thought you'd died, God, don't do these things to me!"

Johnny wanted to give him a humorous reply, something to ease the tight feeling in his chest, guilt paired with sympathy, but he couldn’t come up with one. “I’m sorry,” he said instead and then, not able to wait any longer, brought his lips to his boyfriend’s to draw happiness from the gentle contact, hoping he gave back the same.

T.J. returned the kiss without hesitation, a soft hitch in his breath for a brief moment, his eyes falling closed right away. His hand came up to bury in Johnny's hair, and it felt like T.J. didn't want to let go of him ever again.

Eventually, he had to, and it were the sounds of cameras going off, of cheerful voices around them as all of the heroes were welcomed, that made them draw apart reluctantly. Johnny found it easy to keep a wide smile on his face as he turned towards the press, one arm around T.J.’s shoulder and the other raised in a wave. He saw the president congratulating Reed and Sue until she and others approached him as well.  

It was only then that T.J. slipped out from under his arm to give him some room, taking a step back, but when Johnny looked, there was a smile on his face.

“Alright, alright,” Johnny said when the journalists were throwing questions at him; another one of them was holding a microphone in front of Sue’s face who looked equally displeased at the prospect of being interviewed.

“I’m sure we can schedule a full press conference and all, but right now let me finish this by saying: we succeeded, as you already know. And we just want to celebrate a little now and then probably get some shut-eye. Thank you for your time!” he dismissed them with what he knew was a disarmingly charming smile before he took T.J.’s hand in his and crossed the remaining distance to the president to give her a brief salute and a smile. “Madame president.”

"Johnny," she returned, a small but obviously amused smile curling around her lips. "You have my and probably everyone on Earth's deepest gratitude."

He made a waving motion with one hand but grinned, unable to deny that it felt good hearing something like this. “Well, it wasn’t completely altruistic, you know. I kinda like living on this planet, so… you’re welcome.”

Her smile widened a little and she nodded. "Are you really sure none of you need any more medical attention? There's everything here, whatever you might need."

“No, I’m fine,” Johnny replied and Sue, who had stepped closer again, confirmed the same. “Like my brother said, just some rest.”

“And something to eat,” Johnny added.

"That's easy to arrange," Elaine smiled and T.J. stepped up next to him, touching Johnny's lower arm instead of squeezing his hand.

"You guys want to go right to the hotel?"

“What, you’re not throwing us a party here?” Johnny joked, but the thought of a warm bed and some peace and quiet definitely sounded more appealing.

“I think Sue needs some rest,” Reed replied, earning him a faint eyeroll from his wife but an agreeing nod after all.

“Yeah, this one too,” T.J. added with a gentle poke into Johnny’s side.

“I don’t,” Ben said, earning him a laugh from Alicia who was standing close at his side, his arm around her.

“Well, then you can party on for all of us,” Johnny said, not going to argue with T.J. who carefully fitted himself back under Johnny’s arm as well. “Let’s go.”

 

***

 

T.J. put out every light behind him on his way to the bed, yawning quietly. His sleeping rhythm was fucked up after barely having been able to sleep over the past couple of days, and after Johnny and the others had finally touched ground again and relief had settled for good, exhaustion had caught up with him.

T.J.’s gaze fell onto his boyfriend already huddled under the covers, and he stopped and smiled, something fluttering in his chest.

What had happened felt like nothing but a dream now, hazy because of the state he’d been in, a little surreal because it wasn’t even all that long ago that these things had only happened in science fiction movies he’d watched when he’d been younger. That it had, and that Johnny had come out alright was the greatest relief T.J. had experienced in what felt like forever.

“Come ‘ere,” Johnny mumbled sleepily, a hand outstretched towards him until T.J. crawled into bed next to him, letting himself be pulled into his boyfriend’s arms.

“Thank God this suite has proper blinds. Though, to be honest, I could probably even sleep out in the sun right now.”

“I know.” T.J. tilted his head up and pressed a soft kiss to Johnny’s forehead, letting his hand brush over his shoulders, chest and sides, enjoying the warmth brimming under his skin. “Let’s sleep in tomorrow, ‘kay?”

"You mean later?" Johnny asked. "Though I could probably sleep until tomorrow. What about you? Have you even been sleeping the past…" he rolled his eyes upwards, brow furrowed slightly, "twenty hours or something?"

“Not really,” T.J. admitted easily. “And later, tomorrow, who cares. Whenever it is we wake up,” he added with a smile and pressed another kiss to Johnny’s cheek.

"Yeah," Johnny agreed, his arms loosely slung around T.J.'s back before he leaned up and brushed a small kiss to his mouth. "Whenever we want to. And the press can just suck my dick."

“That’s my job,” T.J. laughed quietly.

Johnny let out a low snort in response, though he didn't even open his eyes anymore, just nuzzling his face against the crook of T.J.'s neck. "Yeah, you can do that once we wake up."

“‘s that what you want as a reward for saving the world?” T.J. chuckled and left another kiss on Johnny’s brow.

Johnny shrugged softly. "There are other things I could think of. Also, pizza," he said, speech already slurred with fatigue. "An entire jumbo salami pizza from Pepe's. Hey, your mom could go get it with the Air Force One, couldn't she?"

“We’re going back home anyway, and then you can have all the pizza you want.”

T.J. had lowered his voice further, able to watch Johnny fall asleep right before his eyes. He pressed one more kiss to his temple and then reached around and put out the bedside lamp, plunging the room into darkness.

“And you’ll get all the blowjobs you want too, and breakfasts in bed and… whatever you want,” he whispered, uncaring if Johnny even heard him anymore. He just wrapped him up in his arms, conscious of the hands on his back that were still wrapped in bandages, the only mark the ordeal had left on Johnny.

T.J. breathed out slowly and held him a little tighter.

“I’m so glad you’re back. You have no idea, Johnny… I’m so happy.”

"Mmh," Johnny mumbled against his skin, "'m too. Love you."

T.J. didn’t bother replying, sure that once they woke up again, Johnny would barely remember this anyway. But he pressed a final kiss to his forehead, and when he closed his own eyes to follow Johnny into sleep, it was with a smile.

Chapter Text

Heroes of our TIME

It’s not always about saving the World

Meet the heroic figures that are helping 
shaping our society in more ways than the obvious.

 

The Pursuit of Happiness.

Two years ago T.J. Hammond turned his car on in his garage and prepared for the carbon monoxide to kill him. Today he shows everyone you can turn your back to addiction, depression, and to your family’s expectations.
BY IOLE TAGGART/WASHINGTON

 

It is not difficult to determine who the heroes are when a yet unknown astronomic phenomenon threatens to swallow the moon.

     It is a scenario as surreal as sprung from a Sci-Fi novel or a Star Trek episode, and equally extraordinary are the superheroes who averted the catastrophe.

Superhuman abilities aside, the aptly named ‘Fantastic Four’ count among them two brilliant scientists holding multiple doctoral level degrees in theoretical and applied physics and biochemical science, an experienced astronaut, and an expert mechanic.

     T.J. Hammond looks unassuming as he waits for the crew of the spacecraft to complete disembarkation procedures at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He’s standing among worried aviation medical examiners and flight surgeons, jubilant astrophysicists, and sleepy US Government officials. His partner, Johnny Storm, is on board, which is the only reason he’s there at all.

Two times First Son, Hammond, 32, is not a scientist, a doctor, or a politician - he’s made it clear over time that he would have never gone into the family business. A mildly successful entrepreneur, T.J. is not a stranger to battles himself. Unlike his boyfriend’s, the ones he’s had to fight are definitely more earthly and common. Unlike his boyfriend’s, his victory wasn’t swift and triumphal; it was slow and paved with failings as recovery from a drug addiction and health issues often is.

When Johnny Storm makes his way down the ladder that is going to take him and his team back on firm ground, T.J. finally abandons his spot to run towards him.
Like his boyfriend, and the other heroes following him out of the spacecraft, T.J. Hammond looks fearless.

     Two years ago, the story broke on a minor blog that the son of former president Bud Hammond and then Secretary of State Elaine Barrish had attempted --



“Okay, that’s enough.” The magazine was pulled out of T.J.’s grasp before he could have even noticed that Johnny had approached his recliner. He was now peeking down at him from behind, a wide grin on his lips.

“Hey - I was reading that!” T.J. protested immediately, his hands instinctively reaching up to try and snatch the magazine back.

But Johnny only pulled it farther away before throwing it onto the other recliner by the pool. The grin on his lips grew even bigger, and a soft laugh escaped him as he came around, pushed T.J.’s feet aside and sat down. “Don’t you know it by heart by now? I mean, you must’ve read this issue cover to cover a hundred times.”

“So? It’s a good bit of reading,” T.J. huffed and crossed his arms in front of his chest, giving Johnny a small pout as he leaned back in his recliner now that his magazine was truly out of his reach.

Maybe T.J. had read it ridiculously often ever since the special ‘Heroes’ issue had come out about two weeks after the events, but it really was lovely to read. After all major news outlets had hardly reported on anything but the mission to and beyond the moon, the main articles here offered deeper insight into the technology behind it, interviewed scientists involved and had a feature on Reed and Sue and their scientific achievements.

The twelve page spread following those articles, however, focused on the less obvious heroes, on people who, even with more limited means, changed their immediate environment for the better, or those who had overcome immense obstacles and become an inspiration for others. For some reason, they had picked T.J. to open that series.

It made him ridiculously proud, and, probably for the first time ever, he even enjoyed the press attention and how they were writing about him.

It hadn’t been just TIME; countless of papers and online outlets had praised him and Johnny; pictures of them taken in those first moments after the spaceship had landed had been shared tirelessly on social media. Close-ups of their kiss had been all over the internet. Of course T.J. couldn’t get enough of it.

“It’s just… nice.”

“Well, yeah,” Johnny replied, a smug, self-satisfied expression on his features that T.J. knew was not entirely serious. “Though I think they could have put more emphasis on how important and dangerous my part was. Reed’s definitely getting too much credit.”

T.J. just rolled his eyes, but the corners of his mouth were twitching inevitably. “Yeah, yeah, right. Hero of heroes.”

“That’s me,” Johnny agreed, the smugness surviving on his face for a second longer before he, too, had to shake his head and laugh softly at himself. He slid a bit closer, one hand on top of T.J.’s knee, a more tender, affectionate look in his eyes. “There’s no fun in bragging when there’s nobody making sheep’s eyes at me. You know, I think you’ll make a humble man out of me after all,” he said, thumb caressing the skin above T.J.’s knee, before he added, “okay, humble-ish.”

T.J. could feel a smile spreading on his lips, one with a sweeter edge to it. “And would that be such a bad thing?” He drew up his eyebrows at Johnny and nudged his knee against the warm hand on it.

A soft, breathy chuckle came over Johnny’s lips, and both his tone and expression were perfectly honest when he replied, “Nah. Not at all.” He leaned forward then, his other hand coming up to reach for the back of T.J.’s neck, pulling him closer to kiss him gently and without haste.

They had gotten so, so good at this. T.J. could kiss this man for hours, just enjoy the press of lips, the caresses of tongues, the brush of fingers along his jaw. All that didn’t need any heat or urgency at all, it was beautiful just like this. When their lips parted again, he released a content hum.

“So you’re not going to let me finish that article, huh?”

Johnny let out a dramatic, long-suffering sigh, but a faint glint in his eyes betrayed him.

“I thought maybe we’d go for a swim?” he asked, tone slightly whiny.

T.J. gave a soft huff and received another sigh from Johnny who reached over to the other sunchair and took the magazine in his hands, looking at its cover. “Such a shame they didn’t put the one of us kissing on the front.”

“Gotta say, I like this,” T.J. shrugged and slid a little closer, glancing at the picture over Johnny’s shoulder. In the foreground there was his mom greeting the rest of the Fantastic Four, but the focus of the picture were the two of them in the background. It was the moment before they had kissed, when they had stood in each other’s embrace, literally clinging to each other, the indescribable, consuming relief he had felt captured for everyone to see, to relate to.

Yes, T.J. really liked this one, he was glad they had picked it.

Johnny shrugged slightly. “Yeah okay, it is a nice picture.” He turned his head to look at T.J., a tenderness in his blue eyes that made it clear that he understood perfectly what T.J. had meant. “Was a nice moment, too.”

Well, T.J. couldn’t argue with that.

“And we could have more nice moments right now,” Johnny continued. “We didn’t come back here just to lie around by the pool and read magazines, did we? Do I need to remind you again that there’s a whole ocean with waves, fishes-”

“Plastic bags?” T.J. finished, smiling as he reached up to take Johnny’s chin in his hand and brush his thumb over the skin.

“There won’t be any plastic bags this time,” Johnny replied peremptorily as he leaned into the touch.

“How can you be sure? If your sister was here, she’d probably tell you exactly how many tons of plastic there are in the western Atlantic Ocean.”  

“Well, good thing she’s not here, or the kinds of nice moments we could have would be pretty limited.”

T.J. let out an amused huff. “That’s something only a person with limited imagination could say.”

“Hey, I’m imaginative!” Johnny replied, giving T.J. a light shove in the chest. “But it’s-- Yeah, okay, I don’t have to explain to you why being on a private island - alone - is a ton better than having company. Like, hanging around the house and pool butt naked or the stuff we did on the balustrade over there.” The smirk on his lips was positively dirty, emphasised by the waggling of one eyebrow, and T.J. rolled his eyes again but let out a laugh as well.

“Alright, yes. I wasn’t saying that you were wrong.”

And it wasn’t like he wanted things to be any different. T.J. wanted to be exactly where he was, on this island with Johnny again, no uncertainty between them anymore.

“It was a good idea to come back here.”

Johnny only smiled at that, exuding warmth and confidence, as he always had, always would, something T.J. could always latch onto and lift himself up on.

With a final glance and a tiny nod, he got up and took T.J.’s hand.