Rewatched my early season Dead Zone DVDs last weekend and then found this reading through some of my old work. Just a quick friendship fic with Walt and Johnny.
Takes place between Season 2's The Mountain and The Combination, references to The Mountain and Season 1's What It Seems.
* * * * *
Walt shut off his car with a sigh, unable to express just how glad he was that this case was finally closed and he could go home to his family. The case hadn't ended well, unfortunately, but they'd pretty much known that it wouldn't from the first look at the blood-smeared walls in the girl's apartment.
They hadn't needed Johnny to confirm that she was dead, but with his help they'd been able to locate the body before the majority of the forensic evidence had been destroyed. So her killer would end up serving 25 to life instead of the maybe two years they'd have been able to keep him on if only the fraud charge stuck. Unfortunately, that in no way changed the fact that Marilyn Wheatley wouldn't be finishing up the year at the community college and then going downstate to finish her degree in economics next fall. There were days when he really, really wished that he was a janitor somewhere rather than the county sheriff.
He dropped his forehead against the steering wheel for a moment, and then opened the door and got out. It was late—JJ was probably asleep—but Sarah would be waiting up for him. They hadn't been able to spend much time together these past few days.
He unlocked the door and stepped inside, surprised to find that the entire house was dark. Maybe it was later than he'd thought? But a glance at his wristwatch showed that it was only a bit after eleven, which…. "Sarah?" He stopped in JJ's room first, thinking she might have fallen asleep putting him to bed, but the room was empty. The bed was still neatly made. He hurried down the hall to find their room equally empty, and a feeling of dread began to settle in the pit of his stomach. "Sarah? JJ?" The living room, the dining room…nothing. "Sarah?!"
He was starting to panic, pulling out his phone to call someone—just who he hadn't quite decided—when a square of white on the kitchen counter caught his attention, and he leaned over to read it.
Honey, I suspect you've forgotten, but your mother's birthday is today. JJ and I are going down for a visit—we'll be back tomorrow evening. There's a casserole in the refrigerator for you.
He frowned, shaking his head. "Mom's birthday is today? But it's only…damn, it is, isn't it?" At least Sarah had remembered, and had taken JJ down to see her, so he might be able to get away with calling tomorrow afternoon and sending flowers rather than having to grovel for a week before she'd forgive him.
It did rather ruin his plans for the evening though. The last thing he wanted was time alone with only his thoughts for company. And he didn't think his stomach was up for nuked leftovers, even if Sarah did make the best chicken casserole in the county.
He dug a beer out of the refrigerator in lieu of dinner and stretched out on the couch in the living room. Maybe there was a game on…a little interstate rivalry was always good distraction. But a quick flip through the channels yielded nothing worth watching. No football, no hockey, not even any basketball. Of course, the news was on, but the last thing he wanted to hear about was how the sheriff's department had found the body of the college student missing for four days.
Walt ran through the crime again, unable to stop himself. The girl had been working part time at an investment firm and had stumbled across information indicating that one of her superiors was stealing from the company. She'd confronted him directly rather than going immediately to the police—noble of her, but not particularly wise, as the man had decided that the best way to preserve his way of life was to get rid of the evidence. Her included. They'd found some email on her computer that had directed them to the suspect, but if her body had spent too much longer in those woods before they'd found it…. Well, he didn't like to think about that. As bad as it was to tell parents that their child was dead, telling them that their child was dead and the killer was going to go free was considerably worse.
He took a mouthful of the beer, but it didn't sit well in his stomach, and he put the bottle down on the coffee table and gave the television a second try. The channels hadn't changed programming in the last five minutes, though; there was nothing on to take his mind off the girl's body. He sighed. There had been nights like this before, back when he hadn't been married and had gone home from work every night to an empty apartment, but that had been a long time ago. He'd become rather accustomed to getting home after a bad day and being able to kiss his wife and look in on his son and know that at least in this little corner of the world everything was all right. But they weren't around, and there was nothing but the chattering from the TV and whatever images his mind could supply to occupy his time.
He considered calling Roscoe or a couple of the others from the station, see if any of them still kept a poker game going after the bad cases when no one wanted to sleep, but most of them had long since gotten married and had families of their own to go home to. He didn't have any right to interrupt whatever comfort they could find.
Reaching the local news channel again, he frowned at the image on the screen. A certain psychic, backing determinedly away from Dana Bright, who seemed equally determined to prevent his escape and get a good sound byte for her story. He'd yelled at Michael to give the man a ride home on his way away from the body's location, and as far as he knew those orders had been followed. Unless Dana had decided to accompany him—unlikely given the look Johnny had just given her—Johnny was also alone and might not mind company. Except….
Walt sighed. Except that Johnny probably wasn't the best person to approach to complain that his wife and kid weren't around when he really needed another person's presence to ward off the demons. Sometimes, when they were working together, he almost managed to forget that this was the man who'd been engaged to his wife, the man who'd fathered his son…the man who could tear his precious family to pieces.
Sometimes it was all too easy to like the guy. He was one of the most genuinely decent men Walt knew. Albeit with a decidedly twisted sense of humor and a deep-seated determination to avoid taking himself or anything else too seriously, but when it mattered, he'd never shown any hesitation in selecting the side of right no matter the cost to himself.
And then other times, mostly when Sarah insisted on inviting the man over to their house and forcing him into their lives, he could just as easily hate him, because he'd gone and woken from that damn coma when the doctors said it couldn't happen. Because he'd gone and woken up, and remembered, and every so often there was something approaching hate in his eyes when he looked at Walt. Hate that Walt couldn't even blame him for, in all honesty, because if anyone ever took Sarah and JJ away from him he'd never be able to stand it.
He sighed, hitting the power button on the remote and closing his eyes. And then the image of the girl's broken body came to him again, and he stood, heading for the door. He couldn't spend the night sitting alone…even if Johnny told him to get the hell out, it would kill some time. Give him something else to focus on.
Fortunately he hadn't consumed enough alcohol to be concerned about driving, and it only took a few minutes before he was pulling into the other man's driveway. He considered ringing the bell, but if Johnny was already asleep, there was no point in waking him up. He had Sarah's key and after a moment he let himself in the back door. If Johnny was asleep, he'd just turn around and go back home.
As he shut the door behind him, he noticed that the alarm hadn't been activated and there was light coming from the kitchen. So Johnny probably was still awake. That was good. He snorted quietly. It was probably good, anyway; he still wasn't sure that this was the most intelligent thing that he could be doing. He could hear Johnny muttering as he walked towards the kitchen door and wondered briefly if Bruce was here also—although he hadn't been at the crime scene, which was a little unusual—but there hadn't been any other cars in the drive so Walt didn't think so.
Walt moved into the shadows in the doorway and found Johnny with his back to him, setting something out on the countertop. "Okay, so I've got the burners… chemicals… wire loops. No, where are the wire loops? There have to be some somewhere. Because normal people keep equipment for flame tests lying around their kitchens. And hold conversations with themselves regarding the location of said equipment at midnight as well. Maybe with the dancing spaghetti setup…? Wait, no, I used them in the coppering experiment."
He reached for his cane, and Walt was a little disturbed at just how heavily he leaned on it as he crossed the kitchen and reached up into the upper cabinet. And at the—not frantic, maybe, but almost manic—tone in his voice as he spoke. As though he didn't want silence to reign for even a moment.
Whatever the thin sticks he brought down had once been, Johnny shook his head as soon as he saw them. "Once again proving that experience gained is directly proportional to equipment ruined. I knew there was something I needed to restock after that one…maybe I can get a couple spares from Derek before the session. Or I could stop by the hardware store, I guess. This isn't the only experiment I need them for." He tossed the set into the trash can and began to limp back toward the center counter. Unfortunately, he caught something—his cane or his leg, Walt wasn't sure—on the way and went crashing to the floor.
Walt took a step forward and then halted at dry laughter from the figure on the ground as Johnny attempted to shove himself upward but seemed unable to get his legs under him. The counter mounted on the wall was too far back for his arm to reach and lever himself up from, the one where he'd been setting up his experiment too far forward….
"I don't believe this. I've fallen, and I can't get up." Johnny chuckled again, trying several more times to get to his feet as Walt held himself motionless in the doorway, uncertain whether to reveal he'd been watching or not. Johnny eventually gave up and slumped back down on the floor, pulling a cell phone off his belt and dialing quickly.
His face fell at whatever he heard on the receiving end, and he closed it with a sigh. "Back visiting his mom, right. Hence dropping him off at the airport yesterday. Brilliant, John. And bothering Sarah now is probably not the smartest move I could make." The phone was tucked back onto his belt. "Now what?" But he obviously didn't expect an answer to the question as he began to drag himself across the floor towards the table, wincing every time he put pressure on his left knee.
That was enough to shake Walt out of his stupor, and he moved forward. "John?" Blue eyes snapped up as Johnny tried to pull himself into some sort of defensive position, and he stopped moving and held up his hands in a no-threat position. "Easy, easy, it's just me. Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Are you all right?"
"Foot stuck when it shouldn't have…twisted one ankle and banged my bad knee on the way down." He smirked. "Just can't do things halfway."
"Yeah, I've noticed," Walt agreed. "Come on." It took a moment to lever the other man upright—Johnny wasn't exactly a lightweight—and help him to lean against one of the counters. "I think you'd do better sitting down," he said with a nod to the chairs around the table, passing the other man's cane over.
"Not unless I plan on spending the night there," Johnny disagreed with a shake of his head. "Not…not to sound ungrateful for your impeccable timing since I really didn't have any desire spend the night lounging on my tile, but what are you doing here?"
"I…." Walt studied the pattern on the counter, unsure just what to say.
"Are Sarah and JJ okay?"
"They're fine," Walt assured him quickly. He supposed that something wrong with one of them was a reasonable guess for why he'd be over here in the middle of the night, but he hadn't meant to scare the guy. "It was my mom's birthday today so they went down to Boston to spend the weekend with her."
"I didn't realize they were gone until I saw the note," he continued, then halted, unsure where to go from there. Even leaving aside the whole his wife was Johnny's ex-fiancée thing, how the hell do you tell someone that you were just looking for company to keep your mind off a bloody mess of a case? Especially when you're the sheriff of the whole damn county. It was one thing when it was another officer he was talking to. They'd been in the same situation, knew how to talk around the issue, keep themselves distracted. With a damn civilian…. He shook his head. What the hell had he been thinking, coming here?
"You want a beer?"
"Beer. Alcohol. In the fridge." Johnny waved a hand in that general direction. "I'm afraid you'll have to get it for yourself if you want one; I have no desire to give an encore for my earlier performance."
Walt managed a quick grin. "Thanks. Do you want one?"
"Um…." Johnny turned, studying a clock on the wall. "Why not? Can't take any more doctor-prescribed painkillers for another two hours; might as well try the old-fashioned kind."
Walt frowned, hand paused above a couple of the bottles. Which, despite the decidedly…upscale…labels on a few of the takeout boxes that he could see, were all the decent available-at-the-grocery-store sort. "You sure that's such a good idea? I mean, if you're on painkillers…."
"It'll be fine. I didn't take the strong stuff when we were wandering around out there. Didn't want to take a chance on passing out on you." Apparently Walt didn't look convinced, because he rolled his eyes. "What are you, my mother? Gimme a beer."
Walt shook his head and passed one over, ignoring the shaking in Johnny's hands as he popped the top off. After a moment, he moved to join Johnny in leaning against the counter, waving at the random equipment and beakers spread across the surface. "So what is all this stuff?"
"Flame tests for chemistry tutoring tomorrow. Identifying ions in a solution by the color they burn. Need some wire loops though." He drummed the fingers of his free hand against the countertop lightly.
"Loops. You use them to hold the substance in the flame. Had a set, but I didn't get them cleaned in time after we did the forgeries." He shrugged. "Happens, sometimes."
"You do realize that I'm the sheriff, right?"
"What, you don't think counterfeiting is an appropriate life skill to teach high school students?" He grinned. "Relax; we were doing false plating on pennies—copper, silver, and gold look-alikes. Think one of the guys might have got his kid sister to buy a set for a couple dollars, but they're not likely to get spread all over the city."
Walt shook his head, flashing a smile of his own. "Need any help setting the rest of this up?"
"Nah, just need to get a set of the loops from the high school and hook up the gas and oxygen again. Not going to try that until I'm moving a little better." He shifted, gripping his cane and beginning to make his way slowly across the floor. "Come on, I've got a pile of DVDs Bruce dropped off that I haven't even started making my way through. He's determined to catch me up on all the 'culture' I missed."
Movies sounded like a good plan—certainly better than sitting alone at home—and he noticed that John's voice had lost the manic note it had held earlier. They didn't exactly have the same taste in entertainment, but there was bound to be something they could agree on.
Walt stayed close as they crossed the kitchen, prepared to catch Johnny if he went down again, but he made it into the living room and down onto one of the couches without incident. Walt kicked a plastic container of DVDs over to him and dropped down on the other sofa. "So what 'culture' is planned for tonight?"
"Was thinking comedy, but do you have any particular preference?"
"Nothing involving blood."
"Agreed. Um…we've got Mr. Nanny—that was out before my accident, and it was lousy then." He tossed the case aside."
"Baby Geniuses?" Walt tossed that one after it. "Where the hell did Bruce pick these things up, the Wal-Mart's Worst collection? Um…Battlefield Earth?"
Johnny seemed to pale a bit at the image of fire on the cover. "Let's not. Gigli?"
"Sarah made me go to the theater with her to see that. We walked out in the first ten minutes."
And maybe he shouldn't have mentioned her, but Johnny seemed to take it in stride as he tossed the movie aside. "Not that, then."
A flash of black and silver caught Walt's eye. "Hey, have you seen The Matrix?"
"Matrix. Sci-fi thriller." He grinned. "Has a psychic in it." And maybe it wasn't exactly a comedy, but it had its moments. And the good guys won, which was something he definitely needed to see right now.
"Oh, there's a recommendation." But Johnny didn't seem to have any actual objection, and Walt moved forward to pop the thing into the DVD player before the other man could attempt to lever himself up off the couch. "You know you could lose the jacket," Johnny pointed out.
"Oh. Yeah." Walt shrugged it off and tossed it over the back of the couch he'd claimed. The previews began to scroll, and he glanced over at the other man. "Hey, John? I'm sorry to just barge in on you like this…guess I should have called first." And maybe the apology was coming a little late, but he hadn't exactly had a good opportunity before, and he didn't want to give the impression that he thought he had the right to just walk in whenever he wanted or anything.
"It's not a problem. I…," he trailed off with a shrug. "I've gotten kind of used to calling Bruce after days like this…having company so I don't have to think. Except his mother fell and hurt her hip a few days ago so he's taken some time off to stay with her until she recovers. Wasn't really looking forward to trying to keep myself distracted." He shrugged slightly. "I mean, I can hold some pretty involved conversations with myself—quarrels, even— but it's not the same." He tried to smile, and Walt appreciated the effort, even if it wasn't very successful. "Course actively fighting with myself probably isn't a good sign for my continued mental health"
"I think you pretty much lost that fight before you began it," Walt pointed out. "The warranty runs out if the coma lasts more than a week."
The smile became a bit more real. "Yeah, well, there is that. What the—" he frowned at the television set. "Okay, I've seen Superman leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but Superman just doesn't look that good in leather."
"And does Trinity normally defy the laws of physics?"
"It will all make sense in a few minutes."
That drew a raised eyebrow, and then Johnny turned back to the screen. "We'll see."
They made it through most of the movie without interruptions—well, aside from another beer for each, and some chips John directed him to. And then Johnny attempted to push himself up off the couch. Walt neatly blocked a second tumble to the floor when the other man's stance hadn't proved as steady as he'd thought and then sent him back down onto the cushions with a shove. "Where is it?"
"I thought you were supposed to be the smart one—where is whatever it is you were going to get? Cause it'll be a hell of a lot easier for me to just get it than for you to try and me to have to haul your butt back in here."
"Oh. Yeah. It's medication…cabinet above the sink, blue bottle."
"And you're sure it's okay to take this stuff with alcohol? I'm pretty sure every first aid course I've ever taken says that's a no-no."
"It'll be fine. It's not painkillers, just stuff for the muscles so I can actually move tomorrow."
Walt remained where he was.
"Which one of us was the science teacher again?"
With a shake of his head Walt headed back into the kitchen, grabbing both the bottle and a glass of water. He didn't know much medical terminology so it was hard to tell what the pills actually did, but he could see that the bottle had been refilled at least a couple times. Which was a little disturbing…he usually forgot that Johnny had been pretty severely injured in places besides his head. Even the cane never seemed slow him down that much; in a pinch he could run or fight like anyone else. Except, apparently, he couldn't. He glanced at the pill bottle again and decided he wasn't getting Johnny any more alcohol tonight, even if the man did claim that there was no adverse reaction to mixing the two. The last thing the guy needed was to get his head any more screwed up—he'd probably end up levitating or something.
"Walt? You find them?" Johnny called.
He turned, shaking himself back to the present. "Yeah, I've got them. Don't do anything stupid."
"Who, me? I'm just sitting here quietly."
Walt grinned at that. "Right. That'll be the day."
"Better hurry, I think it's Morpheus' turn to defy gravity." Sure enough, the leader of the resistance was leaping from the high rise as he gave the pills and water to John. The other man's eyes went distant for a moment as their fingers touched, and then he shook his head. "Thanks, man."
Walt settled back onto the other couch, snagging a handful of chips and returning his attention to the screen. "No problem. What did you see?"
"John, I've been around you long enough to know when you've just had a vision. What was it?"
"Oh, nothing important. Your watch is under the bureau."
Walt looked down at the timepiece still latched quite firmly on his wrist. "Okay."
"Well, it will be. Or it has been. You know how it works."
And he nodded, because he did know. "Do you get visions like that a lot? Just little stuff?"
"Most of the time, yeah. Little things from people's lives. I try not to touch them too much, but half the time the damn visions come when I touch something they've touched. Can't exactly live life in a plastic bubble."
Remembering all the times he'd clapped a hand on Johnny's shoulder or pulled him back from something, Walt winced.
Johnny seemed to understand. "It's not bad with you, or Bruce or Sarah or JJ for that matter. Guess I'm used to you. I can't help the visions but I can mostly ignore them. It's strangers that bug me—all of a sudden I'm standing on a porch yelling for something named Muffin with no idea where I am or what Muffin might be. Kind of disconcerting."
"When did that happen?"
"Couple days ago, washing off the apples from the grocery store. I think Muffin might have been the bagger's cat."
Walt couldn't help chuckling at that, but he sobered a bit as the gunshots onscreen reminded him of something. "You do get stuff off me though, sometimes. Bigger stuff."
Blue eyes latched on brown and Johnny made no attempt to deny it. "Sometimes."
There was tenseness returning to the atmosphere around them, and Walt didn't like it. "Sorry, I guess that's not exactly a calming topic."
"It's okay. I'd rather you just asked instead of going around looking at me funny."
He thought about that for a moment, and then—"Purdy?"
"Most times, yeah. I try real hard not to touch him."
That drew a quick smile, but…. "It doesn't really matter anymore, but do you mind telling me what you saw up on the mountain?" He'd never asked—as tempting as it had been to punch the other man for wrecking his early bid for freedom and then making him leap off a damn cliff, he'd just been too tired by the time they'd finally turned the tables on their captors. And then this latest case had come up this week and there just hadn't been time to question him about it.
"When I told you to jump? What do you think I saw? Got to tell you, man, seeing you get shot is really getting old."
Nice try. "Before that, John. When I went for his gun. I could have gotten it." He'd had a clean shot, the man with his back to him, kneeling down....
Johnny looked at him for a long moment and then looked away again. "Not cleanly. You'd have struggled, the gun would have gone off, and Sarah would have gotten a bullet in her stomach."
Which would have been a death sentence out on that mountain, and a slow death sentence at that. "Hell." He'd have killed his wife—which, alone, was nearly enough to make him lose what little he had in his stomach—and on top of that done it in front of his kid. "Glad I didn't deck you, then."
"Kind of figured you'd thought about it." John didn't seem overly concerned, for which Walt was grateful. "Does it ever get…I don't know…easier?"
"Deciding whether or not to take a swing at you?" He'd only ever done it once, and that had been in a twisted, coma-induced dream he really didn't plan on discussing with anyone, but he had to admit he'd thought about it on occasion. At first the fact that he'd be hitting a guy with a cane had been enough to stop him, and then later, after he'd gotten to know Johnny…well, the idea wasn't as pleasant as it had once been. Most of the time.
"Thanks, but I don't even want to know about that. I meant the cases…the deaths." He was quiet for a minute. "The killers."
Now he knew there had to be some weird medication-alcohol interaction going on because he and Johnny never talked about stuff like that. But then again…Walt had been sheriff for the last five years, a cop for nearly seven years before that, and a soldier in Desert Storm out of high school. He'd seen about the worst things that humans could do to each other. Johnny had gone from high school to college and then back to the high school as a science teacher up until a car wreck had changed his life almost beyond recognition. Now, seven—eight—years later, he was suddenly finding himself getting him dragged into police case after hopeless police case. Which he usually managed to make a little less hopeless, but that didn't change the fact he didn't have any kind of training to deal with the stuff he saw. And he didn't really have anyone else to ask. Walt tried to keep work and home separate to protect Sarah and JJ, and in the beginning he'd made it pretty clear that Johnny was to do the same. Not that Johnny had needed any urging he knew now. But that really only left Bruce to talk to, and for all that he was Johnny's best friend he wasn't exactly equipped to handle what they were dealing with either.
"Getting easier…it never has for me," he admitted slowly. "In a lot of ways that's probably a good thing. When you don't care anymore it means part of you is dead." John seemed to be considering that, and after a moment Walt added, "We've got a counselor down at the station…you might want to try talking to him sometime. He's a good guy." An offer he probably should have made a long time ago, he realized, but he just hadn't thought about it.
"Somehow I don't think he's going to be able to explain how to get the feel of them out of my head."
"When I touch things, sometimes I'm in the scene like a ghost, or I'm the victim and seeing it from their eyes. And then other times I'm the killer…right down to feeling what they're feeling. That's a lot worse."
"That's what happened this time?" He couldn't imagine what it would be like, feeling himself slicing another person apart and being unable to do anything about it. Especially the cold bastard they'd just taken down.
"Damn it, Johnny, you should have said something." He remembered the first case, where he'd offered Johnny the evidence bags in his office and the other man had begun to speak and act so strangely. "Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care."
Johnny seemed to recognize the reference easily enough. "Yeah, like that. Couple times I've gone after Bruce when he was in the wrong place when I was coming out of a vision—it's a good thing that he's faster than I am. But most of the time afterward I can look at the people who were helped and know it had some benefit…that it made something better. Makes it…well, it doesn't go away, but it's not so bad at least. This time…." He shrugged.
This time there had been no one to look at except the girl's crying parents identifying the body, Walt had no trouble finishing. He made a mental note to keep Johnny well away from any grieving relatives from now on. "You made sure he paid for what he did—she got justice for what happened." John glanced over to meet his eyes again, and he sighed. "Yeah, I know it isn't enough, but you can't save the world. Trust me; I've been at this awhile."
Johnny finally nodded. "Doesn't make it any easier though."
"No, it doesn't." And he couldn't exactly promise to stop calling Johnny about cases either—he preferred to use the psychic as a last resort, but on the cases where there were no other options and a person was in danger, he had to do what he could. Besides which, if he tried to stop Johnny from helping, he had a feeling they'd end up finding out which one of them was the better fighter after all. Not that Walt wasn't pretty certain that he'd win, but he was also pretty certain he'd be feeling it the next day too. A glance over at the other man showed that John's attention had, at least superficially, returned to the screen, and with nothing more he could offer he decided to do the same.
The next thing Walt knew, the sun was shining in his eyes. He opened them slowly, raising one hand to shield them as best he could. "Must have fallen asleep." He turned his head to look at John and discovered two things. One, he was getting too old to spend his nights on a couch, and two, Johnny had disappeared. He rolled to his feet and his back protested as much as his neck had so he took a few moments to stretch out before going in search of his host. "John?"
"In here," Johnny called from the kitchen. "Got cereal if you want breakfast."
"You don't mind?"
"Nah, there's enough Captain Crunch to go around."
That drew a quick grin, and he found Johnny leaning against the side counter munching away. "Stiff too, huh?"
"Even more than usual." He pushed the cereal and milk over. "Spoons are in the drawer next to you."
They ate in silence, and then Walt turned towards the door. "I'd better get to the station, make sure everything got wrapped up. You going to be all right?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I've got my phone if you need anything."
Walt nodded at that. There had been enough witnesses last night that he doubted they'd need a statement from Johnny, but if the guy's lawyer decided to be an ass that could change. "Will do. Sarah will probably be calling when she and JJ get back."
"All right. Later."
"Later." Walt shook his head as he drove away. Last night had been…surprisingly pleasant, actually, considering the circumstances. John was good company. Which still didn't make the situation with Sarah and JJ any easier, but…well, you took your friends where you could find them. He'd deal with the rest of it somehow.