As I watch Walt take Max away--turning only when Max glares angrily back at me one last time before being shoved unceremoniously into the police car--I swear I hear the distinctive sound of a key being turned in a lock in the back of my mind. The metallic sound of the tumblers lining up, waiting only for that last twist and a gentle push to set me free.
Free. What a concept. I almost don't know what that means, despite being a modern woman of the twenty-first century.
I can feel Johnny hovering next to me, as if he wants to take my arm and lead me away from the scene of what could easily have been my death. But he doesn't, and a part of me doesn't mind. I'm not sure either one of us wants one of his visions hanging between us like an unwanted poltergeist. Not right now, not after all that's happened tonight.
Silently, I lead him up to my apartment. As soon as the door closes however, the memory of Max's earlier visit--before my date with Johnny--assails me and I collapse against the door. I can't help it, and there's no use in trying to pretend I'm tough anymore. Johnny's seen more of me tonight than any man I've known.
He reaches for me just as I choke out a sob, stiffens, and I know he's seeing something.
"I'm sorry, Dana," he whispers close to my ear. He's holding me now, steadying us both against the door and there are real tears running down my cheeks. I haven't cried like this in ages. I can't answer him, and he seems to understand.
I let him hold me a little while longer, until my tears stop flowing anyway. He hasn't tried to pull away from me or discuss what he might be seeing. I don't ask him to share, either. It's enough that I'm reliving it, compounded by the thought that Max intended to make road pizza out of me, and I don't really need to rehash it verbally.
After what seems like hours but has probably only been a few minutes of my life, I pull myself together and away from Johnny.
"What about that ice cream?" I say, forcing a weak smile and trying to keep my voice from cracking.
"Sure," he replies, following me into the kitchen. "Where are the spoons?" he asks amicably, as if I hadn't just been a blubbering wreck in his arms a few seconds ago. A part of me is glad for that, because right now, I don't want to deal with it. And yet, I know Johnny well enough by now to know that he isn't going to let me bury it.
"Over there," I tell him, pointing the way to a drawer. "Do you want a bowl?" I turn to see him grinning at me.
"Nah. We can share." A man after my own heart, I decide. Ben & Jerry's is meant to be eaten straight from the carton. It tastes better somehow. I grab a pint of "From Russia with Buzz," which is one of my current favorite flavors and we head into the living room.
We sit down on my couch, half turned to face each other. Johnny hands me a spoon and I pull off the top, discarding it onto the coffee table.
::Once around the coffee table... :: a specter of Max's voice taunts me and I catch my breath.
"It's all right, you know," Johnny tells me. "He's not going to bother you again." He says it like he knows and I believe him. I've never believed a thing any man has ever told me, but God help me, I believe Johnny Smith. I have to. I've seen what he can do. And if he says Max is out of my life forever, then he is. That's all there is to it.
And Johnny's here.
I let him take the first spoonful of our dessert and watch as he tastes it. It's a fairly new flavor, and I doubt he's had it before.
"It's... sweet," he says hesitantly, but he still smiles.
"I use this to keep me awake while I'm up late trying to make a deadline."
"I see where it could help in that department." He reaches for another spoonful.
We eat in silence for a while, just sitting there, as if neither of us has anything better to do. Maybe we don't. I'm amazed at how comfortable I feel around Johnny right now. I shouldn't be. I should be scared to death, pushing him away.... like earlier. But I'm not. Oh, I know I said that I was afraid of him... afraid of what he might see in me or make me see in myself, but suddenly I'm not.
I'm just... not.
Instead, I feel strangely safe. And that's when I hear the last twist of the key in that mental lock and the creak of very rusty hinges as the door swings open. Just a little. Enough for me to see the light of day peeking into the darkest recesses of my heart.
"I'm sorry about the date," we both say at once, breaking the silence in unison. Johnny laughs at the timing of our statement.
"Maybe we can try again sometime," he offers tentatively, and I wonder briefly if he's already foreseen my answer. The hopeful look in his eyes suggests that he hasn't. "I still... " he sets his spoon down and reaches out, his fingers hovering just centimeters from the skin of my cheek. Like he wants to touch me, wants to know what will happen next, but also wants the anticipation of not knowing. "... want to make that connection."
"I'd like that," I whisper, leaning into his touch. His fingers brush against my skin softly, like butterfly wings. This is nothing like the hot passion we'd shared before. I'm not sure I want that from Johnny anyway.
He moves in to kiss me, and in the back of my mind, I feel the door push open a little further. I let it. I want to open myself to this man. To Johnny.
He's smiling when our kiss ends.
"What did you see?" I ask him for the first time since dinner.
"A fresh start... for both of us."