Walt startled a little at the knock on his office door; it was late, and the place had fallen mostly quiet. Bruce waved through the blinds, and Walt got up, letting him inside and thanking God he was still dressed and at his desk.
"Hey," Bruce said, and he looked nervous, which wasn't right. Johnny was free, and Bruce hadn't seen that look Johnny and the good Reverend exchanged over Mike Kennedy's suicide note, so Bruce shouldn't be worrying about anything tonight.
Walt said, "Hey, Bruce," and waved him to a seat. Bruce took it, glancing only briefly out toward the night desk. Walt gritted his teeth and reached for his notebook as he settled behind his desk. At least now he didn't have to decide whether to crash on the floor or in a cell. He had a bad feeling sleep wasn't going to figure into his night at all. "What can I do for you?"
Bruce looked down at his hands, then out toward the night desk again, then squarely at Walt. "Have you ever killed anybody?"
Walt blinked, pushed his notebook back off to the side, and let go of his pen. He wasn't going to want to write any of this down. "Yeah, I have," he said, holding Bruce's gaze and keeping his tone level and matter-of-fact even as he mentally listed the possibilities for where this was going: had Bruce killed somebody? Did he intend to kill somebody? And, because it was inevitable, how did John fit into this? "I was in the Army during Desert Storm, and I've been a cop for more than ten years."
Bruce nodded, not looking particularly reassured. He didn't look guilty, either, though. Just worried. Walt mentally upped the importance of John's involvement in this mess, whatever it was.
"Have you ever, like--" Bruce looked away again, down toward the framed photo on his desk. From where he sat, Bruce wouldn't see Sarah and JJ smiling, but he'd know what that picture was, he'd been in here before. Walt's bad feeling intensified. "Has it ever been someone you knew?"
Walt sat and looked at Bruce in silence until Bruce met his eyes, and then nodded, just once, and tipped his hand a little. "The first case John got involved with, I shot and killed a woman I'd known for more than seven years."
Bruce winced, but he didn't try to get away from talking about John now that Walt had mentioned him. "She was threatening Johnny, wasn't she? That's the one who came at him with a knife?"
"Butcher knife," Walt said, trying to hide his own wince. He still hated to remember that; he'd goddamn well eaten dinner at Henrietta's place with her and Frank. And all the while that basement had been under his feet, he'd worked with Frank for years and never known... "What's this about, Bruce?"
Bruce sighed. "Johnny."
Walt nodded. No surprise there. He waited for Bruce to say more, because he was not at all interested in drawing his own conclusions right now, especially not out loud. He wasn't even interested in breathing out loud.
"Johnny," Bruce said again, and then halted, frowning down at his hands. "You saw his basement."
For a bad second, Walt thought of Frank's basement, still lurking at the edge of his memory, but of course Bruce meant John's basement, which meant he really meant... "Those boards. The ones you said you didn't know anything about."
Bruce nodded, not looking particularly caught out, and hell, it wasn't like they hadn't all known he was lying. "You read 'em? Both of 'em?"
"I saw his timeline, yeah," Walt said, because that was the one everybody in the county hadn't had delivered to their doorstep. There had been nothing in Frank's basement that Walt found half as scary as John Smith's vaguely deranged handwriting spelling out FUTURE? And NUCLEAR? BIOLOGICAL? TERROR? in red marker. "And I know he thinks Stillson has something to do with..."
"With the coming apocalypse," Bruce said grimly. "Yeah. Well, that's not all."
Walt leaned back in his chair and took a breath, bracing for it. "Okay, hit me."
"He thinks he has something to do with it," Bruce said. "Like--he thinks he might cause it, somehow."
"What, you mean, accidentally--try to fix the wrong thing and--" Walt knew that wasn't what Bruce, and John, meant even as he said it, but he had to say it, because the alternative...
Bruce shook his head. "He thinks he might go Dark Side," Bruce said. "He asked me to--" Bruce looked away, swallowing hard. "To promise him I'd do whatever I had to, if he..."
"Aw, hell," Walt said, and it was far too mild, but if he started trying to curse up to the size of this thing, he'd never be able to stop. "Bruce, you can't--"
"I know," Bruce said sharply. "And he knows." And Bruce looked at him again, with a kind of speculation that made Walt's skin crawl. "I kept thinking about it, even after I told him there was no way, because--there was maybe a minute, when--I mean, with the blackouts and--"
"I know," Walt said quietly. "He couldn't say he hadn't, not for sure." For days he'd had to wonder, until John could finally say it for certain. It had been an unspeakable relief to be able to trust him again, but if Bruce had this right...
Bruce nodded. "And I didn't know--if he didn't know, if he was having these blackouts--so I've been thinking about it, because if something--came over him, pushed him over the edge--"
Walt nodded slowly. "John knows what he sees," Walt said. The words tasted foul. "If he saw that he did something..."
"He didn't know for sure," Bruce said quickly. "Everything can change, maybe just seeing that has already changed things. But I kept thinking about it, about what he asked me for, because he's--he's a fucking psychic, man."
Walt raised his eyebrows, fighting the out-of-place impulse to laugh.
Bruce lips twitched, but he kept going, deadly serious. "I mean, if he--if he did go bad, not that I think it's likely, or that he'd be in his right mind, or responsible, but if he did--and I had agreed--"
"Then the first thing he'd do would be to get you out of the way," Walt said. It was all just some worst case scenario, nothing to do with the Johnny who'd gone over to the house with Sarah to see JJ after he was released from jail. Walt could talk about it as long as he remembered that this was just a vision so far, and not a vision that John was real certain of, at that. "And even if he doesn't already know you're going to do something about him if he goes off, it wouldn't be too hard for him to pick up on it before you could do anything."
"And I couldn't anyway," Bruce said quietly. "I thought about it and thought about it, I tried to imagine what he would do--but I wouldn't do it in time to stop anything. I know it. I'd hesitate. But then I thought, maybe--maybe stopping him myself isn't what I need to do." Bruce looked up at him cautiously. "Maybe the thing I have to do, if I want to do what he asked, is something he wouldn't see coming. Maybe I have to call in a professional."
Walt wanted to hit Bruce, except that he felt like he'd been gut-punched himself, didn't think he could pull in enough air to even stand up--and anyway it was true, and they both knew it. Walt's entire adult life was a testament to the principle that sometimes deadly force was necessary, and that paycheck he got every month said he'd gone pro a long time ago. "I see," Walt said, staring hard into Bruce's eyes, stomach churning hot and cold though his voice stayed steady. Professional. "Because we both know I wouldn't hesitate to kill him."
Bruce flinched from the word kill. He'd only said stop himself, hadn't he? But then he wasn't going to be the one doing it, in his little scheme. If John was right about this, if the future didn't change. Neither of them spoke. Both of them looked away. Walt tried to think of it himself, how he would know, what he would do, whether he could pull the trigger on John's wide blue eyes, just like JJ's...
Very quietly, Bruce said, "You would, though. If it was what you had to do."
Walt blew out a long breath. He would, and he knew it. He'd killed for John before, and he had a feeling he'd do it again, and if ever the moment came when what John needed was for Walt to kill him, Walt would do it. If he could. If he knew.
"God damn him," Walt said, rubbing his eyes. He'd have to explain it to Sarah, to JJ--and God forbid JJ should know by then who John really was to him, but Walt had a feeling he just wasn't that lucky. And he'd have to watch for it, because if he missed the moment when John had to be stopped, there might not be a Sarah or a JJ left to explain anything to. He'd have to spend the rest of his life watching John, waiting for that moment--although if John's timeline was right that was probably only ten, twelve years tops, and if John's timeline was wrong, the moment would never come. "God fucking damn him."
"I think maybe he already did," Bruce muttered, and Walt really couldn't argue with that.