The Puzzling Nature of Hate

By Clarity Scifiroots
Disclaimers apply.
Fandom/Characters: Dead Zone – Bruce, Johnny
Rating: Teen
Summary: For some reason, only this bit about hate crime would let me write tonight.
May!fic 30 of 31

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It happens during nationwide coverage of a series of violent sexual assaults and murders of young white women in Georgia. Authorities finally release information on the perpetrators: three young black men, ages sixteen, nineteen, and twenty-one. Racial tensions increase in the aftermath and Bruce feels it like a physical weight when he steps out the safety of his home.

He goes out to buy groceries and pick up a couple of movies on a Thursday night. While at the store, Johnny calls and they plan on having dinner in addition to the movie night. Bruce laughs as they say goodbye and picks up additional supplies before checkout. The teenager with dark-eyeliner at the register eyes him with obvious suspicion; she asks for his ID even though he pays with a credit card and it's been years since he last had to provide identification with such a purchase. With a curt nod of approval, she lets him go.

In the car, Bruce turns up the radio and lets himself get lost in the music.

His last stop is at the gas station, the last one in town with a reasonable price. Bruce runs his card through to start the pump. While waiting he squeegees the windshield. He's smiling, thinking about the conversation with Johnny, when the bat slams behind his knees. His legs fold under him and he crashes down on the car's hood before he realizes what's happening.

--

Bruce manages the drive home in a haze of pain. By the time he reaches his apartment door, he can't hold his own weight any longer. With a frustrated sob he hits the wall and slides to the floor. His breath comes in shallow gasps thanks to bruised ribs protesting inhaling any deeper.

Across the hall a door opens and Sonya Williams steps into the hall. She spots Bruce right away and her face pales in horror. She leans back into the apartment, calling for her husband. Bruce closes his eyes.

"Mr. Lewis, we should take you to the hospital." Sonya touches his shoulder.

Bruce opens his eyes and shakes his head. "No. Please, let me just talk to Carl."

"Whoa, man, I thought this was a safe neighborhood." Carl appears at his side and squats down to run an appraising eye over Bruce. "You don't look so good."

With a grimace, Bruce says, "Don't feel so hot, either. I don't want to go in. Just patch me up, I've got pain killers inside, I'll ice and everything."

Carl frowns at the request but after meeting Bruce's stare his expression changes and he nods in understanding. "Sonya," he directs his wife, "let's help him up. Got your key, Bruce?" Bruce relinquishes it without a problem.

--

For two days Bruce manages to avoid Johnny. He claimed to have come down with the flu on Friday afternoon. By Sunday the excuse seems to be wearing thin. Even so, it's a surprise when Bruce finds the blonde standing at his front door shortly before dinnertime. Johnny's reaction is instantaneous. His eyes widen and lips part with an expression of horror. Bruce steps away from the hands that reach for him—wary of both the physical pain they might unintentionally inflict and the possible vision.

"Jesus! Why the hell didn't you tell me? Who did this?" Johnny advances and takes only a moment to close the door. Bruce continues backing away, hands held up in a defensive position. "Bruce? Damnit, stop that!"

Bruce sighs and moves to his couch to sit down. He hurts too much and is far too exhausted to have this conversation right now. Unfortunately, it's unavoidable. Johnny takes a seat on the coffee table, bracketing Bruce's legs between his knees. Surprisingly he doesn't touch Bruce.

"Bruce..." Johnny captures the other man's stare, his concern and love conveyed in his gaze. He glances down and Bruce's eyes follow. Johnny holds out a hand, palm up, waiting. Bruce closes his eyes and leans back. Johnny says his name, more insistently this time.

After long, silent moments Bruce places his hand reluctantly in Johnny's. The pale fingers close over his and clench tightly as the vision is triggered.

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