It's three months and five days into the Clinton administration when a plain brown package arrives on Johnny's doorstep, the address lettered in what looks like a third-grader's printing. No return address, just a postmark from Costa Rica. Inside he finds something that makes his heart stutter and then rev like a runaway machine. A mask of the most recent ex-president, George H. W. Bush.
"Fuck you, Bodhi," Johnny says under his breath.
He doesn't have a moment's doubt about who sent the package, although a prankster or copycat wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility. Johnny has made some gaudy headlines, a string of them actually: shootouts at the bank and the airstrip, Angelo's death, the rescue in Mexico and the debacle in Australia. Headlines like that bring out the crazies. But Johnny just—he's got a sixth sense where Bodhi is concerned, whether he wants it or not. He can feel Bodhi's fingerprints all over this.
Bodhi's alive. Shit. He's alive and daring Johnny to chase him. Fuck.
"Hey, babe." Tyler wanders into the kitchen, tousled and yawning, stretching her arms up over her head and rucking up her T-shirt, showing off that lovely, vulnerable place at the small of her back that Johnny loves to kiss when they're in bed. "You want coffee?" She pads over to the percolator, darts a glance back over her shoulder when she doesn't get an answer, and frowns when she notices the opened package. "What's that?"
He doesn't tell her, because he can't get out the words, so she goes to look for herself. When they were first together, before he could tell her the truth about himself, she used to stare at him sometimes as if he were a puzzle and say: "You have that look again. I don't know what it means."
By this point in their relationship, he can read her expressions as easily as he'd pick up a book and open a page. The one she's wearing now means, Oh fuck, not this again.
At precisely eight o'clock, Johnny sits down at his desk in the Los Angeles field office, takes a sip of the industrial-strength swill that passes for coffee, and eyes the stack of background checks that will be his day. That will be his career in the FBI for as long as he keeps coming here every morning.
That day in Australia—after he'd left Bodhi there on the beach to go meet destiny, after he'd driven away and found a motel room and busied himself trying not to think about anything—he'd been startled by a knock at the door. Rain sleeted against the windows, and gale-force winds shook the walls. Most of the surrounding area had been evacuated, and when Johnny had checked in the guy manning the front desk just shrugged as if to say, Your funeral, mate.
Director Harp was supposed to be back in LA, but somehow Johnny wasn't all that surprised to see him standing there. Harp didn't wait for an invitation, just muscled his way inside. "You think you get to walk away from this clusterfuck without a backward glance? Think again." He pushed Johnny's badge at him, still damp from the ocean.
"Sir, with all due respect—"
Harp waved him off. "Can the bullshit, Utah. If you had any respect, for yourself or anyone else, we wouldn't be in this situation. But here we are. So this is what's going to happen. You're coming back to LA. You're also coming back to the Bureau, because if you don't it'll look like an admission of something. We're going to get you diagnosed with PTSD or shell shock or whatever the fuck they call it these days, so there's a medical reason you're on restricted duty while I'm doing my best to defuse this PR nightmare you've just created."
"I really don't think—"
Harp glared him into silence. "Then you're going to sit your ass quietly at your desk and do whatever the fuck I tell you and listen to the sound of your life ticking away while I watch and smile in enjoyment. That's how it's going to go. Because you've managed to pile up a dead partner, a dead cop shot in the line of duty, and now a dead suspect that you let go drown himself. With a body count like that I need to have my eye on you, to keep the innocent populace safe from whatever stupid shit you decide to do next."
Johnny doesn't know why he's gone along with Harp for as long as he has. Except, of course, that he does. Sometimes he imagines what Angelo might have to say on the subject, something along the lines of, Penance is for pussies. But then Angelo isn't around to say anything anymore, and that's kind of the point actually. Penance is for the guilty.
"Yes, hello, am I speaking with Margot Tanner? This is Agent Utah from the Los Angeles office of the FBI. You were listed as a character reference for James Brennan. I just have a few questions. Is now a good time to talk?"
The morning limps on, a mind-numbing blur of people who give terse monosyllabic answers to every question Johnny asks as if he's investigating them and the paranoid busybodies who can't pile on enough details, gleefully hoping their co-worker or neighbor will turn out to be a serial killer. Johnny filters out a good eighty percent of what he hears and still manages to check all the boxes on the forms.
This leaves him with way too much mental space to think about Bodhi.
Of course he'd considered the possibility that Bodhi might somehow have survived, because if anyone could it would be him. Maybe he even hoped a little. But it's a far different thing actually knowing. Bodhi is out there somewhere, waiting.
Johnny can feel dark corners of his brain lighting up again, the machinery of obsession whirring to life.
When he'd gotten back from Australia, there had been mandatory counseling waiting for him. "Forty-five sessions," Alvarez had announced to the entire squad room. "That's a new record." He laughed when Johnny flipped him off.
"Call me Kristen," the shrink said at their first meeting, an apple-cheeked blonde with bright blue eyes and the perennially cheerful demeanor that Johnny knew so well from growing up in the Midwest.
"Dr. Phillips," he answered with distant politeness.
"Kristen," she reiterated, and he could see that beneath her Miss Wisconsin Dairy Princess exterior there was absolute determination.
Fuck. Why couldn't he have gotten a tired bureaucrat just counting down the days to retirement?
He'd rehearsed a story about what happened on the beach that day: how he'd done a tactical assessment of the situation and given what he knew of the suspect's likely actions and the inaccessibility of the terrain, he'd concluded that the best way to prevent law enforcement casualties was to avoid a confrontation with the suspect.
Kristen nodded along as he spun half-truths into outright lies, and as soon as he was done she asked, "So, what was it about him? Did he tap into some deeply rooted jock-daredevil part of you? Or were you half in love with him?"
She'd watched him expectantly, actually waiting for an answer.
He'd gritted his teeth and ignored the question and somehow managed to finish his mandatory counseling stint without telling her much of anything. At their last session she'd signed off on his release form with a heavy sigh. "I really shouldn't do this. You're still just as messed up as the day we started. But more sessions will only be more wasted time, so." She shrugged as she handed back the form.
Thinking back on it now, Johnny has to admit that Kristen asked some good questions. What was it about Bodhi? He's never been able to pinpoint it, at least not in a way that explains anything. Bodhi just saw him, and that was—intriguing and uncomfortable as all fuck and he couldn't stop going back for more.
He remembers the first time Bodhi showed up at his door, by himself, surfboard under his arm, an impatient pinch between his eyebrows. "You going to sleep all morning or are we going to jam?"
Dawn had only begun to streak pale pink on the horizon when they paddled out. The beach was empty, just the two of them in the immensity of ocean. A wave lifted Johnny and carried him back toward shore, and in that moment, he felt the sort of peace of mind that had no place in an undercover assignment.
Afterward they sat on the beach, staring out at the ocean.
"This is why we're drawn here, Johnny, to experience this sense of limitlessness," Bodhi said, in that low, fervent way of his that could make even the biggest steaming pile of shit sound like the wisdom of the ages. "To remind us that freedom is what really matters, that anything is possible if you just want it enough."
Johnny nodded along, wondering if Bodhi financed his freedom with armed robbery.
"I bet you felt that on the football field, huh? Invincible. Like that play you made in the Fiesta Bowl to beat Pitt. Master of the universe, bro." Bodhi slanted a sideways smile at him.
"Yeah. I guess," he said, with the familiar mix of impotent pride and embarrassment that always came with reminiscing about his glory days.
"What was it like at school after you hurt your knee?"
He could feel Bodhi watching, and he mumbled, "Fine," but he couldn't manage to make it sound very convincing.
An unwelcome rerun of things he hadn't thought about for years played in his head: the grim, downward tilt of the dean's mouth when he gave Johnny the news that the university was revoking his scholarship; the panicked twist in the pit of his stomach as the school loans piled up; the thin smiles from girls who used to hang on his arm; the uncomfortable silences at the dinner table, his mother trying her best to make small talk as if nothing had changed and his father not quite able to look his own son in the eye anymore.
"See, I think you and me have a lot in common, Johnny." Bodhi leaned in, and his voice was like a closed room, like they were the only two people on earth. "You had this story of how your life was supposed to go, this game plan for who you were going to be. Then you messed up your knee, and that cut you loose from all of that, from every assumption you'd ever made about who Johnny Utah was."
He paused, watching to see if he'd hit the mark. Johnny kept his face blank, even though there was this sensation in the pit of his stomach, the way he felt on roller coasters when the bottom dropped out and he thought he was going to fall and fall and never stop.
Bodhi must have seen what he was looking for because he kept going. "For me it was the day my pop came home from the steel plant for the last time. Every man in my family worked in that place, brothers and uncles and grandfather. Hell, even my great-grandfather. And then one day the owner just shut the place down and with it pretty much the whole town."
"Sorry," Johnny murmured, even though it sounded thin, meaningless.
Bodhi looked him square in the eye. "I'm not. Taught me a lesson. Don't clutch at a flimsy illusion of security that's only going to kill your spirit. Embrace your freedom. That's the difference between me and you, Johnny. You're still trying to tie yourself down. That day job of yours, those responsibilities you're trying to hold on to—none of that is real. Once you've been cut loose from all your assumptions, there's no going back. You're like me. Made to defy gravity."
The words hung there, and Johnny tried not to think about the times at work when the whole thing felt like an out-of-body experience, when he didn't know why the hell he was there. Bodhi just kept on waiting, for what Johnny didn't really understand, although he suspected it was some kind of capitulation.
Finally he broke the spell the only way he knew how, by being a smart ass. "Hey, I didn't realize I'd signed up for philosophy class. Are we done with the lecture yet?"
Bodhi just smiled. "For now. You'd better be going. Probably have some important depositions or something to take care of."
Johnny has thought about that conversation a lot since then. There are only two kinds of people who can look right through you and see things you've never told a living soul. He suspects it's a lot more likely that Bodhi is a sociopath than that he's Johnny's soul mate.
Not that this keeps him from shunting aside the stack of forms he's supposed to working on and starting a trace using Bodhi's known aliases and the town in Costa Rica from which the package was sent. If Bodhi's going to run, Johnny's going to chase him. That's as inevitable as the sun coming up.
He imagines what Angelo would say, Why the hell not, kid? If you're going to fuck yourself, may as well fuck yourself all the way.
Johnny's kind of the king of that, actually.
On Saturday, Johnny rolls out of bed at the first sign of light on the horizon, not that he has anywhere he needs to be. This desk job lifestyle of his is strictly nine to five, and his weekends are his own. Tyler murmurs softly in her sleep, and he moves quietly, shuts the bedroom door carefully behind him. In the garage, he grabs his surfboard.
The waves are breaking hard, and before he can catch himself he wishes Bodhi were there. "You stupid fuck," he tells himself as he paddles out.
It seems hard to believe sometimes that he hasn't always been surfing, that he actually spent the first twenty-plus years of his life in land-locked exile. This is where he was meant to be, Johnny feels certain. This is his natural home.
Tyler's up by the time he gets back. She's dressed for work, drinking coffee at the kitchen table, flipping through the paper.
"Hey," he says and bends down to kiss her.
"Mm," she says into the kiss. "How was it?"
He nods. "Good. Off-shore wind's blowing."
The corner of her mouth tilts up.
He grabs a mug out of the cabinet and pours coffee for himself. "What?"
She shrugs. "It wasn't so long ago you had no idea what that meant."
He smiles back at her, remembering the day they met, the way the water just kept dragging him under and how he honest to God thought he was going to drown until this strong hand pulled him up by the scruff of his neck, and then there was this gorgeous woman scowling at him. From that first moment he knew she was going to be important to his case. Knew she was going to be important to him.
"So, what do you have going on today?" she asks.
He glances out the window at the tarp-covered pile of bricks in the backyard. "Think I'll work on the barbeque." At the rate he's going they'll be able to grill steaks sometime in the twenty-first century.
Tyler grins. "Have fun with that." She gives him one last kiss before she heads off to the restaurant.
They haven't talked about the package since the day it arrived. Tyler hasn't asked and Johnny hasn't volunteered anything, and they've both worked hard to pretend that nothing has changed. It's a delicate illusion and it won't last forever, but Johnny wants to hold onto it for as long as he can.
By the time the sun hits its zenith, his T-shirt is damp through with sweat, and he's managed to lay three whole bricks. This barbeque is less of a project, really, than a meditation aid. He likes to do his thinking out here. Today there's one predictable subject and one overwhelming question: why? Why has Bodhi chosen now to communicate? Did he just get bored being dead? Or is there some ulterior motive?
He gives up on his ill-fated DIY effort late in the afternoon and settles at the desk in the little broom closet of a room they use for an office. He tells himself he's going to pay some bills, but that lasts about five minutes, and then he's pulling out his notebook and going over what's he found so far. There's a record of a hotel room in Manila reserved in the name of Rolf Aurness, the 1970 World Surfing Champion; a train ticket to Phuket bought with a phony credit card issued to Bill Andrews, the first man to surf Black's Beach in La Jolla; passage on a cargo ship bound for Sri Lanka booked for George Freeth, considered the father of modern surfing, dead for more than seventy years.
It's frustrating trying to follow the trail from so far away, information trickling in as slow as molasses.
Johnny doesn't realize how long he's been sitting there, doesn't hear Tyler come in. But suddenly she's standing there, reading over his shoulder. He opens his mouth to explain and then closes it again, because what can he say? The moment stretches on, and he waits for her to explode, because he deserves it, because this is very much like a betrayal. Oh, who the fuck is he kidding? It is a betrayal.
She just shakes her head tiredly. There's something in her expression that looks a lot like pity.
"I brought Chinese for supper."
They eat without saying much. Johnny washes the dishes when they're done. There's a made-for-TV movie on, and they sit on the sofa and drink their beers and watch it, or pretend to anyway. When it's over Tyler flicks off the set with the remote, and silence blooms, deep and uncomfortable.
She's the one who breaks it. "I never told you why I broke up with Bodhi." Apparently Johnny's game face isn't what it once was, because she cuts him with a look. "Yes, I did the breaking up, not the other way around."
"No," Johnny says quietly. "You never told me."
"He'd done something. I don't even remember what. Just the usual, you know? Bodhi being Bodhi, crazy and reckless and dragging other people into his shit. And I just had this moment of realization that I couldn't let him take me down with him. That he just wasn't worth it."
Johnny stares at the beer in his hands.
Tyler watches him searchingly. "You've never had that moment, have you, Johnny?"
"I'm going to bed."
Her back is rigid as she leaves the room, and Johnny knows he should go after her, explain, beg her forgiveness, something, anything to close the distance he can feel growing between them. But he doesn't. He just watches her go, and after a moment, he gets up for another beer and goes to sit in the backyard, staring out into the shadows.
How did it start? He asks himself that a lot. He really doesn't know. By the time he understood what was happening, he was already in way too deep.
In the evenings after they'd gone surfing, the gang would hang out at Bodhi's beach house, and it didn't take long before Johnny and Tyler were hanging out with them. There was this one night—well, it wasn't the beginning, but it probably was the point of no return.
"Johnny!" Bodhi bounded forward and clasped him in a one-armed hug. "You got a beer? You need a beer. Hey, somebody get Johnny a beer!"
There was a keg sitting in a plastic kiddie pool in the middle of the living room floor, because that had made sense to—someone. A plastic cup got shoved into his hand, and he downed the cheap, weak piss masquerading as beer in two gulps.
"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about," Bodhi said with a huge smile and called out for more.
Johnny must have had a hundred of those little cups of beer, the discards piling up around him. There were so many people jammed onto the one sofa that Tyler sat in his lap, her smooth, soft skin warm against his. A few feet away Bodhi sprawled in a recliner, sleek and bronzed, surveying the room with an air of satisfaction. Whenever his gaze settled on Johnny, there was a warm spark of approval in his eyes. You're one of us..
Funny that Johnny would finally find a place where he could belong again, and it wasn't in the FBI but with a bunch of presumed criminals.
Or with one presumed criminal, anyway.
He didn't mean to stare, but that was just the thing about Bodhi, he made you want to look at him. It was the way he took up space, as if it were territory to be colonized and he was confident of his right to claim it. Maybe Johnny had been like that once, and then he'd lost it, and when he watched Bodhi, it was with a mixture of envy and admiration. And something else too, a too-warm feeling in the pit of his stomach whenever Bodhi wrapped his long, tanned fingers around the cup in his hand. There was a blunt strength in his grip that Johnny could almost feel—
Tyler let out a startled squawk when he scrambled up. "Sorry, babe." He settled her back onto the sofa. "I just need to—" He waved his hand toward the kitchen.
The room was white tiled and soothing, and Johnny breathed in the heavy scent of whatever they'd had for dinner with a sigh of relief. He'd had moments like these before, but not for a while, not since the locker room, when a sudden spark of awareness might lead to fists or a furtive encounter in one of the bathroom stalls. He couldn't afford either of those things right now.
So of course Bodhi came striding into the room, because Bodhi had a knack for whatever people couldn't afford. "Hey, bro." He slung an arm across Johnny's shoulders. "You okay? You're having a good time, aren't you?"
"Yeah, Bodhi. Sure."
Bodhi gave him a long, sideways look and then nodded. "But you could always be having a better time, right?"
Bodhi crowded close and put one of his hands in Johnny's hair and his tongue in Johnny's mouth. Johnny surged forward, kissing back without thinking for a long, insane moment, his breath catching in his lungs. Then his brain started working again, and he remembered why this was just about the stupidest thing he could possibly do.
"Hey—" He forced himself to pull away, panting heavily. "Bodhi, no—"
"No?" He brushed his fingers lightly down Johnny's fly, feeling the shape of his cock, hard and pressed against the zipper.
"Bodhi." He wanted to sound firm, but it came out pleading and a little desperate.
"Cause I've got to tell you, Johnny, that sounds a lot like yes." Bodhi tilted his head in consideration, but Johnny didn't say anything, so Bodhi pulled his hand away. "Okay. No it is then."
He turned to go, and if Johnny had been smart he would have let him. But he was already completely stupid where Bodhi was concerned. So he grabbed Bodhi's shoulder, wheeled him around, and muscled up close, one hand gripping the back of Bodhi's neck, mouth hard and messy on Bodhi's.
Tyler's in the next room, Johnny thought in a haze, but that didn't make him pull away when Bodhi got a hand on his fly, pushed down his zipper, wrapped those long, lean fingers around his cock.
"Yeah, that's it," Bodhi said thickly, staring down at Johnny's erection sliding in his fist.
It didn't take long, Bodhi's grip hot and too hard and so fucking good. The fact that anyone could have walked in—maybe Bodhi did appeal to the jock-daredevil part of him, the part that took stupid risks as if it were a sport.
He had no idea what to do or say afterward, but Bodhi just zipped up Johnny's jeans, wiped his hand on his shorts, and grinned. "Now that's what I call defying gravity," he said with a quick, sharp smile and went back to the party.
Johnny needed a little while longer before he was ready to follow.
The stack of background checks Johnny's supposed to be working on grows taller by the day, shoved to the side, forgotten. He tracks Bodhi—or Bodhi's aliases anyway—to Oahu, Bali, the Gold Coast of Australia. It feels increasingly like torture to have to sit at his desk when he'd like nothing more than to continue the search in person.
One stray Monday, the trail just—stops. Johnny sits up very straight, almost afraid to breathe. Of course, it could mean that Bodhi got tired of the game and decided to disappear for real. But Johnny has that sixth sense, and when has Bodhi ever gotten tired of a game before the final move?
Johnny's found him. At this very moment Bodhi is in Maldives, catching a wave or downing beers in some bar, quite possibly having a good laugh at Johnny's expense.
Before he can decide what to do about it, Harp's voice cuts the air. "Utah! Get your ass in here."
Johnny lets out his breath. He's been expecting this summons every day, and it's ironic or fitting or something that it comes today.
Harp glances up from his paperwork when Johnny steps into the office. "Shut the door."
That usually means there's going to be yelling involved, but Harp doesn't start ranting the moment the door's closed. He just levels a long, unreadable look at Johnny. The silence is more unnerving than yelling ever could be. "So, how are those background checks coming along?"
Johnny isn't going to lie and he isn't going to admit anything, so he just stands there, waiting for Harp to get to the point.
He doesn't have long to wait. "They've been fucking sitting on your desk for weeks now. That's how they're coming along. Or not fucking coming along, actually."
Harp's voice rises on each word, and spit flies when he curses. Johnny starts to relax. He knows how to deal with this.
"What the fuck are you pulling, Utah? I got the quarterly resources report this morning." Harp shakes a thick sheaf of papers at him. "What the fuck do I find? Bullshit, that's what. Your bullshit. Unauthorized computer searches. Phone calls to Indonesia. I assigned you background checks on new Social Security Administration employees. Are their references in fucking Bali?"
"No, sir," Johnny tells him.
"You want to explain yourself?"
It's so clear now that he's never been cut out for this. If he were he would have reported receiving the mask the moment it arrived. Would have turned it over to other agents, let them handle it. Johnny doesn't know what he'll do when he catches up with Bodhi, but it's his to decide, and in the meantime this is all going to stay his secret.
He expects a meltdown from Harp, but what he gets is a smile that just keeps growing wider and wider. "You know, Utah, I've been looking forward to this for a long time, maybe since the day I met you. You're done, finished, and it's on my terms, not yours. You don't get to quit. I get to fire you for being an incompetent slacker asshole. No headlines in that. No PR disaster I have to clean up. In a week no one's going to remember you were ever here. This may be the best day I've ever had in the Bureau." He waves his hand in dismissal. "Pack up your shit and get the fuck out of my squad room."
It takes about two minutes to empty the contents of his desk, more evidence that he's never really belonged here. No one says anything as he makes the long walk down the row of desks, although Alvarez does have a smirk plastered all over his face. Outside, Johnny waits for regret to hit him, but it never comes. He feels as if an unbearable weight has been lifted. He feels—like himself, for the first time in a long while.
He isn't expecting Tyler to be home—middle of the day on a Monday she's usually on the lunch shift—but when he walks through the door he hears the vacuum going in the living room. He drops the box, heads toward the sound, and lingers for a moment in the doorway to watch her, the flex of muscles in her arms, the shape of her body that he knows so well.
"Tyler," he says and then again, louder, to get her attention.
She turns off the vacuum and blinks at him, and he can tell that she's about to ask what he's doing home when a look of realization dawns on her face. "I'll go get the whisky."
They sit on the sofa and tip back their glasses—Johnny doesn't count how many times—and he starts to go fuzzy around the edges, but nothing gets any easier.
"Tyler—" he begins and doesn't know where to go from there.
"I've known it was coming. Ever since the package showed up."
Johnny flinches at that, at the thought of her waiting for the inevitable. She's never gone into a lot of details about her past, but he knows she's been let down a lot. He's never wanted to be just another man who disappoints her.
"I'm sorry," he says, his voice rough, the words threatening to stick in his throat. "I wish it were different."
God, he really does. Loving Tyler is simple and good, always has been, since the very beginning.
"Yeah," she says softly. "I know."
They sit in silence until he finds the courage to say, "I want you to be happy—I don't expect—"
"If you came home I'd probably take you back, but we both know that's not going to happen." She puts down her glass and leans over to kiss him. "I'm going to go next door to Jeanine's. I'll sleep there tonight. If you could not be here when I get back in the morning, that would make it easier for me."
He nods, and then she's gone, and he drinks the rest of the bottle by himself.
In the morning he's on a flight to Asia.
The Singapore airport is like pretty much everything else in Singapore—extravagant and so immaculately clean it's a little unnerving. Johnny spends his layover pacing the terminal, wandering past the lush indoor garden, stopping into shops to look at things he has no intention of buying. He seriously doubts Tyler would appreciate getting a souvenir in the mail from him.
His flight to Male, the Maldivian capital city, doesn't depart for another three hours, and that leaves him with too much time on his hands and nothing to focus on but Bodhi.
The thing that happened between them in the kitchen—it didn't have to be a thing. If Johnny had been smart it would never have happened again. Stop thinking with your dick, kid, Angelo would have said if Johnny had ever told him about it.
Maybe that's why he never said anything. Because he had no intention of stopping.
It's early afternoon when Johnny gets into Male. He's been awake for—he's not sure exactly. He's been flying for more than twenty-four hours, and there's a sixteen-hour time difference, so he should definitely be tired, but he isn't. He feels caught between worlds, like gravity has lost its grip on him, just like Bodhi always talked about. Maybe that's why he's here, why the mask came in the mail, and those breadcrumbs were suspiciously easy to find. Bodhi wanted to push him all the way to the edge.
He takes a cab to the harbor and asks around until he finds someone with a boat who's willing to sail to the distant atoll where Bodhi is. Where Johnny hopes he is, anyway. It takes nearly two days on a painfully slow-moving cargo boat, the stink of diesel coming from the engines, the squawk of chickens from crates stacked on the deck.
Johnny spends most of his time at the railing, staring out over the water. It's as clear and deep blue and sparkling as a gemstone. Every now and then they pass land, lush thickets of trees and sun-bleached outcroppings of rock, sand as white and fine as sugar. If he weren't so distracted, maybe he would admire how beautiful it is. Instead he just leans over the rail, as if he's trying to urge the boat on, as if his impatience will help him get there sooner.
When they do finally put into port, he's the first off the boat, bag slung over his shoulder as he strides down the dock. He asks around, finds out where the surfers hang out, a bar on the other side of the atoll. He hires a Jeep and driver, and half an hour later he's walking through the doors of the place.
It looks like all the other dives where Bodhi likes to hang out, a glorified shack that seems to have been built out of driftwood and scrap metal. Johnny only needs a split second to spot Bodhi, sitting at the end of the bar. The place is buzzing, but the barstool next to Bodhi is empty, as if he's expecting company. He glances over, and when he sees Johnny he gets that cocky, pleased grin that Johnny knows so well.
He's thought about what he'd do when (never if) he saw Bodhi again, punch him or launch right into an interrogation or—punch him. He's always assumed this reunion would start with fists. But now that he's here, he just goes and drops his bag and slides onto the barstool. He doesn't have any idea where to begin.
Bodhi eyes him, and when Johnny doesn't do or say anything, he calls out to the bartender, "One of these for my friend," and taps his beer bottle.
Johnny downs the whole thing in three gulps. Bodhi's smile is big and amused, and he nods to the bartender for another. Johnny just wants to sit there and drink until he feels less ghostly. Bodhi seems perfectly content to go along with this plan.
He hasn't changed at all. That's what Johnny thinks as he watches Bodhi out of the corner of his eye. His long, lean body and forearms knotted with muscle and the smell of salt water on his skin, just as sun-kissed as ever, because in Bodhi's world it's always summer. Johnny wants to laugh at himself for ever having believed he was dead. It's damned hard to kill a force of nature.
"You shouldn't have been able to survive those waves," he says at last.
"Nope," Bodhi agrees, taking a sip of his beer.
Johnny knows that's all the explanation he's going to get, because Bodhi is just as infuriating as ever with his bullshit air of mystery.
"I kind of expected you to punch me," Bodhi tells him, almost as if he's disappointed.
"I still might," Johnny says dryly.
Bodhi grins. "How's—"
"Don't." Bodhi's not allowed to say Tyler's name ever. He doesn't have the right.
Bodhi nods, but because he's Bodhi he has to add, "You know I wasn't going to let anything happen to her, right?"
Johnny doesn't know anything of the kind.
"So. Robbed any banks lately?"
Bodhi ducks his head, and the corners of his mouth pull tight. "That all turned real bad. I don't mess with that anymore."
Johnny blinks, and in that moment of surprise, he sees what he hadn't noticed before. There's a worn quality to Bodhi, new lines etched across his forehead, a gravity to him that makes him seem older even if he doesn't look it. He seems genuinely chastened, and that's not something Johnny ever expected to see.
The way things went to shit back in LA—Johnny has never known what to make of that, why Bodhi changed his MO after it had worked so well for so long, why he got suddenly reckless and greedy. Was that just Bodhi being Bodhi, or was it something more sinister? Is everyone just a mechanism to Bodhi, to be set into motion and abandoned when they outlive their usefulness? Johnny will wonder about that for the rest of his life.
"I should have just turned that fucking mask over to Harp," he mutters.
Bodhi takes a sip of his beer. "I figured it was fifty-fifty. You show up to arrest me, or you—just show up."
Johnny stares at him incredulously. "And what? You were just going to go along with that? Let me haul you off to jail?"
"Ball was in your court, brother."
Johnny shakes his head. "I don't know why I'm not here to arrest you." He says it as much to himself as to Bodhi.
"Probably for the same reason I didn't let Roach shoot you outside that bank." Bodhi slants a look at him, intimate and knowing and suddenly they're the only two people in the room.
"What do you want?" Johnny asks helplessly.
Bodhi shrugs. "What I've always wanted. A good ride. Kindred spirit to share it with." He fishes some crumpled bills out of his pocket, pays the tab, and slides off the stool. "Come on. I've got a room upstairs."
"Just like that? You think it's that easy?"
Bodhi leans in, his mouth close to Johnny's ear, his breath warm against Johnny's cheek. "I think you could have stayed home and put in your twenty years behind a desk and lived your safe little life, but you flew two thousand miles to be here with me. So come upstairs."
Johnny takes another long sip of his beer and—fuck it. He goes.
They navigate the rather perilous staircase with its teetering railing and broken steps. The room is spare—bed, dresser, night table, bare floor—but it's in better shape than the stairs at least.
Bodhi pushes the door closed and then shoves Johnny up against the wall, kisses him, wet and hot and messy, pressing their hips together. "Took you long enough. Thought you would have caught up with me a week ago. You're not losing a step, are you, Special Agent Utah?"
"Fuck you." Johnny kisses him back viciously, fingers twisting in Bodhi's hair. "And it's not Agent Utah anymore, you asshole." He bites Bodhi's neck hard, right in the curve of it where he can feel Bodhi's pulse.
Naturally this makes Bodhi laugh and grind against him harder. "Come on." He pulls back and strips the shirt over his head, kicks off his shorts. When Johnny doesn't move fast enough for him, he takes over, pulls the clothes from his body and runs a hand possessively along his side. "I finally get to have you in a bed."
"Maybe I'm the one having you," Johnny shoots back.
Bodhi smiles—yeah, you just go on telling yourself that—and tosses Johnny onto the bed, standing over him, staring and stroking himself.
Johnny wants to say: this doesn't magically erase the past, not that dead cop at the bank or Angelo gasping out his last breath or the terror on Tyler's face as she ran for her life. Maybe it's himself he needs to remind.
"Come here." Bodhi grabs Johnny by the ankle and pulls his legs apart and kneels between his thighs
He goes down without another word, so far that Johnny can feel the back of his throat. Johnny arches up and spits out, "Fuck." Bodhi smiles around his cock and makes a sound in the back of his throat like he's laughing. "Fuck you," Johnny rasps out, but there's no force behind it.
Bodhi certainly isn't fazed by it. He must have had a tube of slick stuff lying around in the sheets, at the ready; Bodhi can be a planner when he's got good reason. Johnny can't complain, not when he has a finger, wet and cool, working in a slow, teasing circle around his hole and Bodhi's tongue doing things to his cock that make him strain upward, begging for more, heart pushing against his ribs.
When he comes, it feels like falling, long and far.
Bodhi doesn't give him a moment to catch his breath, just flips him over with casual strength, as if Johnny is as weightless as a ragdoll, and starts stringing kisses down his back. He bites the curve of Johnny's ass hard enough to sting. When Johnny tries to kick him, he just laughs and thumbs Johnny's cheeks apart and buries his face between his legs.
The jolt of sensation, that warm, wet tongue on him—Johnny's body can't decide how to react, stutter upward trying to get more, or push forward into the mattress, rubbing against the damp sheets. It doesn't feel good exactly, the kind of pain-pleasure that's a white-hot shock to the brain, because he just fucking came and he's so turned on again already that he can barely breathe.
Bodhi murmurs like he's pleased because there's nothing that makes him happier than pushing Johnny past his limits. He presses two fingers into Johnny's ass, licking around them, making Johnny's body seize and shake, making Johnny string together curses and low, desperate moans.
It's the desperation that gets to Johnny—the sound of it like capitulation, like giving Bodhi the upper hand. That's not who they are, not how this relationship is going to go.
Bodhi has twenty pounds of muscle on him, but Johnny has FBI training. One quick flip and Bodhi is flat on his back with Johnny straddling his hips and holding him down by the wrists. You want to play? Let's play.
Bodhi beams up at him. He fucking loves this. Loves it when Johnny bends down and kisses him so brutally it's practically an assault. Loves testing Johnny's grip on his wrists, fighting the hold, not because he wants to break it, but to make Johnny hold him down even harder.
That's both hot and infuriating, and Johnny squeezes Bodhi's wrists hard enough that he can feel the press of bone. He leans down, bites Bodhi's nipple, not gently. Bodhi arches up and grates out, "Fuck," and that's more satisfying than anything has been in a long time.
"I'm definitely the one having you." Johnny releases Bodhi's wrists and braces his hand against the mattress and shoves himself down onto Bodhi's cock.
Bodhi's eyes flash wide with surprise. "Fuck. Johnny."
The shock of penetration makes Johnny's body burn, makes his teeth hurt, but he doesn't stop, pushing his hips down and down until Bodhi's all the way inside him. Bodhi stares up at him, his eyes hot blue. He grips Johnny by the hips, a desperation in his touch that Johnny would not have predicted, his fingers digging in like he's not going to let go, probably leaving bruises, which is good. Right. This should hurt as much as it feels good—that's who they are.
Bodhi's expression has gone serious, almost solemn. "You get cut so far loose, and there's nothing, no one." His voice is a low, gravelly whisper. "You think you're going to feel so free, so alive, but you just end up wondering why you're not dead."
It's a shock to hear him sound so lost, and Johnny grasps him by the shoulders, holding tight, wanting to be an anchor, whatever Bodhi needs.
"You feel so damn good." Bodhi's mouth turns up softly, and the way he's looking at Johnny—it's warm, fond. "I missed you." It sounds like a confession.
"Bodhi." Johnny takes in a shaky breath, and the next time he sinks down it's deeper and more deliberate.
Bodhi strokes a hand over Johnny's chest, his belly, along the crease where leg meets body, and then further back, brushing Johnny's balls with his fingers, dragging his thumb along the seam where their bodies are joined.
"God," Johnny grates out before he can stop himself.
Bodhi smiles up at him, cocky as hell, like he's answering to the name. He slides his hand back up and around Johnny's dick and rubs those calloused fingers of his in all the right places. "Let's see what you look like when you're coming on my cock."
He's not going to have to wait long. Johnny's thighs are trembling, and he's losing his rhythm, his muscles heavy feeling, barely able to lift him. Bodhi takes charge, surging up, grabbing Johnny by the hips and pulling him down, making Johnny cry out, his cock rubbing against Bodhi's hard-muscled stomach. He comes, and then he's floating and free. He's vaguely aware of the warm puff of breath on the side of his face, of Bodhi calling out his name, shoving up and up, fingers clenched in Johnny's hair until he's gone too.
Johnny's been awake for days, has just come twice, and jet lag's a bitch. He's spared Bodhi's notion of pillow talk by promptly passing out.
Sunlight is streaming into the room when he wakes. He blinks, glances around, and sits bolt upright. The place is empty. He really should have figured—but he didn't. Fucking Bodhi. He flops back down onto the bed and crooks his arm over his face, no idea what he'll do now. He can't go back, that much is for sure. He just doesn't know how to go forward. Bodhi was the only plan he had.
This is his less-than-happy train of thought when the door opens and Bodhi appears, coffee cups in hand. "You're awake." He smiles with delight and strides over to the bed, bends down for a kiss.
Johnny blinks up at him, still bleary-eyed and a little confused, trying to hide his surprise at seeing Bodhi standing there. Apparently he's not very successful, because Bodhi laughs at him as he hands him his cup and stretches out beside him, back propped against the headboard.
Johnny drinks his coffee, a little petulantly. "You could have woken me up."
"I really couldn’t," Bodhi says companionably. "The one time I tried you took a swing at me."
"What time is it?"
"I think you mean: what day is it?"
Johnny groans. "Fuck."
Bodhi angles a look at him. "Hey, you woke up just in time. The waves are going to be breaking hard this afternoon."
Johnny looks at him incredulously. "You know we can't just surf and fuck for the rest of our lives, right?"
Bodhi makes a noncommittal noise.
Johnny stares up at the ceiling. "Seriously. What are we doing, Bodhi?" When there's no answer, he says, "Come on. You're the one who always has the answers."
Bodhi shakes his head. "I used to think so. Anyway, you figured things out enough to get yourself here." He turns to look at Johnny. "Maybe we can figure out the rest of it together."
It sounds deceptively casual, but coming from Bodhi that's practically a declaration, and Johnny's voice goes rough when he says, "Yeah. We can do that."
Bodhi nods. "Yeah. That's good. And, hey, it's morning. So we should probably start by doing morning things." He sets down his coffee, takes Johnny's coffee out of his hand and sets it down too, turns Johnny's chin with his fingers and kisses him.
"Mm," Bodhi murmurs, stroking his hand along Johnny's bare thigh.
He bends down and puts his hot, amazing mouth around Johnny's cock, and, really, the whole surfing and fucking thing—it's not the worst plan Johnny's ever heard.
Johnny's sated and a little hazy afterward, and Bodhi is a warm, solid weight stretched out along his side. Johnny could stay just like this for a long time, maybe even go back to sleep.
Except, of course, Bodhi has other ideas.
He leans in close, his lips brushing Johnny's temple, his voice low and unusually serious. "I know I messed up, and people got hurt, and I don't want it to be that way with you. So I'm going to try to do it different. That's the best I can promise."
Johnny nods, because he wouldn't believe any other kind of promise coming from Bodhi, and, really, isn't that why he's here? Because Bodhi's not the only one who likes the idea of defying gravity.
Bodhi watches him closely, and he must like what he sees because he breaks into a huge grin and slaps Johnny on the thigh. "Come on. I've got a spare board you can use."
There's every chance, Johnny knows, that this will one day all turn to shit, but that day isn't today. He throws back the sheets and gets up and pulls on his clothes. The waves are waiting.