Magic Touch

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Johnny leaned his forehead against the steering wheel of his jeep and just breathed for a moment, working up the energy to open the door and clamber out of the car. When he finally did manage this feat, he made sure his good leg and cane were well grounded before swinging the bad leg out.

Most of the time he could almost forget that he needed the cane. Bruce was an exceptionally good physical therapist; Johnny had regained more strength and control in the leg than anyone had expected. On a good day, the cane was nothing more than a fashion accessory. Even on the bad days it was more convenient than necessary, so long as Johnny didn't push himself.

Leaning back against the smooth side of the jeep, Johnny closed his eyes, resettled his grip on the cane, and prepared for the walk from garage to bedroom. The ache in his hip and upper thigh was simply background noise for a series of pains that went off like fireworks, nerves throughout the area firing and subsiding at random. If he focused on that pain, he could actually forget about the general soreness of his whole body. Not to mention the splitting headache.

Grunting softly, Johnny pushed away from the support of the car, took a moment to solidify his balance, and set off for his too-distant bedroom.

The garage door swung open before he could could reach for the knob. Johnny lurched to a halt and stared at it for a moment, too tired to be alarmed that there was someone in his house. He was spared a belated adrenaline surge when Bruce stepped through and took up a position at Johnny's side, an arm circling his waist.

"I thought I was the psychic one," Johnny said, leaning unashamedly on his friend.

Bruce snorted. "I didn't need psychic visions to know you'd need me. Just the local news."

"Amazing," Johnny marveled. "The constant hounding actually has an up side. It might even be worth it."

"Might?" Bruce protested, mock offended. He pushed open the master bedroom to reveal towels and heating pads laid out for a massage. "You need this even more than I thought if all I get is a might."

"Oh," Johnny moaned in anticipation. "Oh, this is above and beyond the call of duty, man." In spite of his words, Johnny started stripping down the moment Bruce let go of him to start the heating pads and oil warming.

Bruce just chuckled. "This is the call of duty, Johnny."

Ignoring the little voice that told him to hang his clothes up properly, Johnny kicked his pants aside and stretched out on the pad of towels Bruce had set out to protect the bed from stray massage oil. "You stopped being my therpist a long time ago," Johnny said when he was settled. A long time ago, when he'd accepted that his leg was as good as it was going to get and, in theory, he could do all the maintence exercises himself.

"Not what I meant, my friend, and you know it."

He did, but any comment to that effect was pre-empted by the firm touch of warm, slick hands on his hip. Johnny hissed in pain as Bruce forced tight muscles to unwind. It hurt, but the slow decrease of the fireworks going off under his skin was more than worth it. By the time Bruce finished with his leg Johnny couldn't say that he was relaxed, but he wasn't in pain either.

A couple of heating pads were laid over the leg and Bruce moved on to the rest of his body, experienced hands manipulating the muscle groups, leeching the tired ache of Johnny's body away. A vision or two flickered through Johnny's mind, an inevitable result of allowing anyone to touch him for such an extended period of time. He gave them just enough attention to know they weren't important before letting them go. The visions didn't help his headache any, but he never considered easing away from Bruce's touch.

There had been a time when Johnny would have turned down the massage, no matter how tired he was, no matter how much his leg hurt, but it hadn't taken him long to decide that if something was going to happen to Bruce, he wanted to know. He wanted the vision and the warning time and the chance to make sure everything would work out for his friend.

Maybe he should have wanted that for everyone, particularly for all his friends and for Sarah, but he'd been dealt too many nasty surprises. Even when he had reason to be worried, it took effort to reach out, to know for sure. Sometimes even the innocent, unimportant moments were too much. It made him feel like a peeping tom.

Bruce...Bruce had taken Johnny aside and told him that he might not have a pristine past, but there was nothing there he wouldn't want Johnny to see, and that he couldn't imagine that ever changing in the future. Every now and then that thought reminded Johnny of Kate, who'd told him the same thing less than a day before he foresaw her death. But then, she hadn't understood his visions the way Bruce did. No matter how much she'd meant it, she couldn't mean it the way Bruce did.

Especially not after his father's funeral.

"You're thinking too much again," Bruce's rich voice broke into his thoughts.

Johnny chuckled, eyes mostly closed. "How can you tell?"

"You think stress is the only kind of emotion that shows up in your muscles?" Bruce dug into a little knot of tension in his lower back, as if to illustrate. Johnny caught his breath and let it out slowly, feeling another ache vanish.

"I'm surprised anything can show in my muscles after one of these massages," Johnny mumbled. "You have a magic touch."

Bruce laughed. "Pot, meet kettle. Just clear your mind and let yourself fall asleep, okay?"

"Clear my mind? Have you been taking classes again?" Johnny's lips curved up slighly, but he was already half asleep.

"Aren't I always?" Bruce's voice followed him down into restful blackness. "You enjoy your nap. I'll enjoy your satellite TV."