Oh, The Places You'll Go

A Million Ways to Go

Notes: Um. Yeah. So that happened. For the two of you as will want to read it. No sex with minors if you don't like that kind of thing.


He loves Susan, he wants her, he really does. Those red, red lips are a teenager's wet dream. Only it's been a long time since he's felt like a kid and maybe he's grown up too fast, but there's something in Mr. Gardner--Nathan--that's pulling him in, that's drowning him more than the dunk in the pool ever could.

They're in the audience, and she's there, tall and beautiful, red lips curving in a smile as she sings, "'cause there's a million ways to go, you know that there are," and Nathan puts his arm around Charlie's shoulders. It takes everything that Charlie's got not to lay his head down and turn his face to press a kiss into Nathan's neck. There's a million ways to go, he knows that there are, only this way is wrong, really so wrong.

The song finishes and Nathan's thumb brushes Charlie's collarbone as he withdraws his arm, getting to his feet to give his daughter a standing ovation. Charlie can barely breathe, but he stumbles to his feet, too, and claps wildly, grinning at Susan, pride and love welling up in him until he's two seconds away from bursting into song himself.

"That's my girl," says Nathan, and he's all choked up, voice even more gravelly than usual, and it hits Charlie right in the balls.

Almost dizzy from the mental whiplash, Charlie fumbles for his seat. A million minus one. A million minus one.

Charlie does his best not to think about it. He's got a lot to do, after all. He needs to finish up the school year, complete his internship, build bridges with his father, teach his mom some new songs, have lots of sex with his girlfriend, so there shouldn't be time for crushing on the ex-principal, off-limits, stupidly hot father of the girl he loves. There's a problem, though. Charlie's a teenage boy and he's been one long enough (and read all the books) to know that his life may seem to be about a whole bunch of things, but really, it's simply about careering from orgasm to orgasm, wondering what's the next thing that'll get him off and then doing it.

And it turns out that he can't control the wondering, can't stop the images of Nathan that crash unbidden into his head. In the pool, reaching out to touch Charlie's head. In the house, watching him as he dries off, warm eyes trying not to betray either of them. Cooking dinner for Charlie and Susan, knife waving in the air as he talks about something that happened in his AP class, happier than Charlie's ever seen him, smiling at Charlie and calling him 'Chuck'.

As masturbatory fantasies go, they only hit the first half of the phrase. All Charlie needs is a sharp-colored memory and he's there, dick hard and aching in his hand. In his head, Charlie hasn't even kissed Nathan, but in real life he's come over him more times than he can count. There's something weird about that and Charlie wishes he had someone to talk to, but the good psychiatrists of the town haven't forgiven him yet and it's not like Charlie can blame them.

He's got it all under control, though. At least, he thinks he has.

Charlie's keeping office hours in the boys' restroom. It's been a quiet day; even his regulars are having a good week. He hears the creak of the door opening, then a soft flump as someone sits down in the stall next to his.

"How can I help you?" he asks.

"I have this problem," says a familiar voice.

Charlie freezes. Nathan's not the Principal any more, and the school pretty much turns a blind eye to Charlie's counseling--it's saved them having to replace the school's guidance counselor while she recovers from her nervous breakdown--still he can't help but be a little panicked.

"Charlie?"

"Er, yes? I mean, tell me about it, sir."

There's a pause, and Charlie can almost feel the air getting denser as Nathan gathers his thoughts. He stares at the peeling patch of paint on the back of the door. Someone's drawn around the edges with a Sharpie, adding googly eyes and turning the bare grey space into a ghost. A transformation.

"Okay, so it's not my problem as such," says Nathan. "Let's say I know this, this mom. And she has a daughter your age. Very nice girl, smart, beautiful, talented, the mom's very proud. So this daughter has a boyfriend who's a decent guy. Real smart, mostly, though he sometimes makes dumb mistakes, very charming, and, oh, yeah, you can pretty much always rely on him to do the right thing. May take him a while to get there, but..."

Nathan trails off, and there's another long pause. A cold lump settles in Charlie's stomach because, yes, he's real smart and, though he isn't a hundred percent sure exactly what's coming, he knows enough to know it's not going to make him feel good.

"This kid--the boyfriend--he seems to have developed, ah, feelings for the mom. Now, I'm not saying he doesn't love his girlfriend because that would make him an idiot and I'm fairly sure he's not that, but what I am saying is that the mom would like to know how to discourage the boy without--oh crap--Charlie?"

"Yes?" Charlie answers even though what he'd like right now is to crawl down the toilet bowl and die.

"You have to...not. Okay?" Nathan's voice sounds strained and Charlie puts his palm flat to the cubicle wall.

"I'm sorry," he says, voice barely above a whisper.

"Don't be. It's nobody's fault. Just. It's not only your heart that's at risk. I'm a teacher, Charlie. This is dangerous ground."

Rebellion swirls up in Charlie's chest. "You're not my teacher."

"That is so not the- Charlie, stop it. You're dating my daughter. That's it. The end. No more. Okay? No more."

The door clanks as it shuts, sending shivers along the cubicle wall. Charlie listens to the retreating footsteps, the creak and muffled thud of the restroom door opening and closing, the brief hubbub of the hallway silenced, and he puts his head in his hands. Enough. A million minus one.

Time has a habit of passing, and distance a habit of putting things into perspective. Charlie gets both, graduating high school and moving away to college. He'd spent most of senior year successfully limiting his exposure to Nathan--Mr. Gardner--by being on the science track and having Susan spend more time at his house. Freshman year at university--well, it was freshman year. There were new things to do, to see, new people to meet (and do). There hadn't even been time to miss his mom, so what chance did an unrequited crush have of lasting?

Still, he's home for the summer now, back interning at the Franklin Psychiatric Institute. It's his first day off, the sun shines in a cloudless sky and there's the scent of new-mown grass in the air. Today's the day the suburbs take to their lawns, at least, that's what Charlie's blaming for the buzzing in his ears as he jogs up the street. He doesn't need to be here, it's nowhere near his home and yet this is where he's found himself. Out for a run, sure, if 'out for a run' includes two buses and a stop for coffee.

Charlie doesn't think about it, just swings right and heads up the drive, unlocks the gate to the yard and sees him exactly where he thought he'd be, sitting robed on the deck, book in one hand, coffee mug in the other. There's no boat in the pool. Charlie doesn't look at him straight on, just comes to a stop by the diving board, shucks out of his sweatpants, pulls off his t-shirt and runs lightly along the board, the cool water a shock against his heated skin. He swims the length of the pool, twists, turns, kicks and strikes out again, heart racing in his chest and not from the exertion. He laps again and again, afraid to stop because what if there's no one there when he looks up?

He does stop, though, and stands, waist deep, water streaming from him, blurring his vision until he squeezes his eyes shut and opens them again.

Nathan sits by the poolside, legs dangling in the water, leaning back on his hands. "What do you want, Charlie? Susan's not here."

"I know." Charlie sweeps his hair back with both hands, forcing the droplets out of it, rattling against the surface water like a violent shower of rain. "She's with her theater group." He shakes his head. "Though I still haven't figured out how she's playing all three sisters. Still, I'm sure her director boyfriend has it all under control." It's clumsy as hell, but Charlie's not quite sure there's a subtle way of getting this done, so it'll have to do.

Nathan smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkling, and something in Charlie relaxes, elastic gone slack. "So that brings me back to what do you want, Charlie?"

"You," says Charlie because he's learned that simple is best.

Nathan straightens up. "Charlie-" he says, in a warning tone.

Charlie moves towards him, the water a cool burn against his thighs. "Is it that you think I don't understand my own motives?" he asks, "because I don't know if you know but I'm going to be a psychiatrist so I'm pretty good with motives." He's standing between Nathan's legs now, looking up into his face. There's a little more grey in his hair, some new lines etched into his skin but his eyes are exactly the same, warm and kind and less good at hiding things than he'd think. Charlie rests his hands on Nathan's knees.

"Let's examine, shall we?" He slides his hands a couple of inches up Nathan's legs, wet skin leaving a slippery trail. Nathan hisses an inward breath and closes his eyes. He nods.

"Okay, then. Number one, I have a solid relationship with my father these days, so no need to worry about daddy issues. Number two, I'm of legal age and you're not in any position of authority over me so there's no power kink thing going on. Number three, I am over Susan, so this isn't a way of getting close to her or some feeble attempt at revenge and I'm not sure which is the creepiest of those two things. And number four, this isn't a gay phase. I've done the research and I'm pretty sure I'm a solid Kinsey three, though the scale is flawed for several reasons, none of which I'm going to explain at this time because I really, really need you to kiss me now."

Nathan opens his eyes and looks at Charlie with an intense, considering gaze that strips Charlie bare of all his grown up, college-guy pretensions and in that moment he's just a nineteen-year-old kid and he wants.

"Okay," says Nathan, blinking in resigned bemusement. "Okay." He smiles, then, and leans down as Charlie tips his head up.

And then they're kissing and it's--oh, god--this is why Charlie never imagined it, this is why Charlie never took more than reality because it's a full-on, multi-sensory onslaught that has to be a million times better than anything he could have dreamed up in fantasy. Nathan's unshaven and the scrub of his stubble wakes up Charlie's skin, lips chasing the burn, soothing first, then stimulating, overpowering Charlie's brain with messages until it blurs into a hum of abandon.

Charlie's hands flex on Nathan's thighs and he tracks higher, finding his way under the robe and sliding his fingers under Nathan's boxers until they brush the crease of his thighs. Heat is pouring off Nathan as he bucks at the touch, grabbing Charlie's hair and pressing their mouths together, hard, harder. Charlie's feet are firm on the bottom of the pool, the sun is burning his back, but somehow he's deep under the water and he's drowning. He pulls back, gasping for breath.

"Hey, hey, are you okay?" Nathan asks, thumb caressing the curve of Charlie's neck.

Charlie nods. "I have to-" he says, and moves a hand to spread it across Nathan's chest. He pushes lightly. "Lie back."

Nathan frowns but settles back on his elbows. It will do. Charlie pushes the robe aside and tugs at Nathan's boxers. Being the smart guy he is, Nathan shoves his hips up to help Charlie get them down.

"Oh," says Charlie, turned on beyond belief at knowing that the flushed dark erection curving against Nathan's belly is down to him. He fits his hand over Nathan's hipbones, lowers his head and takes him in.

"Fuck. I mean, Jesus. I mean, Charlie, god, what are you-"

Charlie hollows his cheeks and sucks, licking across the join where the shaft meets the head and Nathan jerks in response, making Charlie grin around the dick in his mouth. He hasn't imagined this, not ever, so it isn't better or worse, it simply is. It is amazing. What he can do with his mouth, his hands, to make Nathan squirm and pant and moan Charlie's name.

And then Nathan gabbles, "Charlie, I haven't had sex with anyone since my ex-wife which I'm going to be embarrassed about telling you approximately fifteen seconds from now and I'm kinda on a knife-edge here and you'd better take your mouth off because- Oh!"

Charlie has no intention of taking his mouth off. Charlie wants to make Nathan come so hard he'll still be talking about it when he's 85 and incontinent. Charlie likes to be liked. So he drops a hand in the water to wet it and slides a finger back behind Nathan's balls, pressing into the skin there, the heel of his hand pushing up against the ball sac, and he sucks. Nathan jerks again and Charlie's mouth fills with thick liquid, which he swallows down, ears filled with the muffled profanities that Nathan is chanting.

He pulls off, wiping his mouth with his arm. "I didn't know you knew so many curse words," he says, grinning.

Nathan flops back onto the poolside. "I'm a history teacher, you think I haven't picked up curses through the ages?"

"I want to fuck you," says Charlie, surprised at his own candor, but he's so turned on he can hardly see straight and, besides, it was Nathan who'd taught him that honesty was the best policy.

Nathan barks out a laugh. "Jeez, kid, you don't mince your words, do you?"

"Please can I fuck you?" asks Charlie and even to his own ears that sounds a lot more like him.

"Inside," says Nathan. "If my legs still work."

Inside, Charlie has one of Nathan's still-working legs over his shoulder and three of his fingers inside Nathan's ass. Charlie's so hard it's probably a medical condition but Nathan...Well, Nathan's pushing up onto Charlie's fingers and he's making all the right noises but there's nothing going on, dickwise.

Nathan must catch him looking because he grins and says, "Oh, believe me, I'm enjoying myself, Charles. I'm just not going to get it up again in a hurry. I'm not exactly a spring chicken." And then his face freezes, he groans and throws an arm over his eyes. "God, Charlie, I'm old enough to be your father."

Charlie's puzzled. He knows this, he's always known it. It's kind of why they haven't done anything until now, what with the grey moral areas of consent. He twists his fingers and Nathan's hips buck. "Look at me," he says.

Nathan moves his forearm a half-inch higher and squints at Charlie from under it. It will do.

"Are you going to get all crazy insane about the age difference thing? Because I've been an adult longer than you think--most of my life actually. Not as long as you, maybe..." He finishes with another twist of his fingers.

"Hey!"

"You started it," says Charlie equably. "And now, Mr. Old-Enough-To-Be-My-Dad, I'm going to fuck you, okay?"

"Oh god, you're twelve," says Nathan and hands him a condom.

Nathan is beautiful, Charlie thinks as he pushes inside him, their hands gripped tight together. Properly, classically beautiful with a strong jaw, straight nose and deep, expressive eyes. But that's just surface--really attractive surface--and Charlie remembers the connection he'd felt, back when they barely knew each other. Charlie'd known then, though he couldn't have said how, that Nathan cared about him, wanted good things to happen for him. He feels the same connection now, gazes locked, Nathan's hips moving in time with his own, but it's stronger, deeper, and if this is what two years of not-thinking-about-it has done then Charlie's scared of what could happen after this. Scared and exhilarated.

And then he shifts his angle a little and thrusts, Nathan says, "Motherfucking baby Jesuits, Charlie, do that again," and goes from zero to orgasm in five seconds flat. Charlie's so shocked he almost misses his own orgasm hitting but there it is, ripping through him, turning him inside out and leaving him raw and exposed. He collapses on top of Nathan, panting, feeling his heart thudding hard enough to vibrate the both of them.

Nathan twists his head and pushes his face into Charlie's hair. They don't move until Charlie says, "What now?"

"Shower?" suggests Nathan. "Two bathrooms, no waiting."

Charlie wriggles himself free. It's sticky and not entirely pleasant, but clean up is never easy. "No," he says, rolling onto his side and resting his head on his hand, "The other 'what now?'"

"I don't really know. I wasn't expecting you to come back, just like I wasn't expecting to fall in love with my daughter's boyfriend in the first place."

"Ex-boyfriend," says Charlie, firmly. And, with uncertainty this time, "In love?"

Nathan's smile is rueful, but the hand he strokes over Charlie's side is firm and strong. "Too much for you, Charlie?"

"No," says Charlie. And it's not. "I could switch schools," he suggests. "Mom would like to have me closer, I know."

"Let you ruin your education for me? You have got to be kidding, Charlie Bartlett." Nathan swats him around the head. "We have the whole summer, let's just see what happens, okay?"

"Okay."

In a minute, Charlie's going to get up to go take a shower, but for now he lies here, hands folded behind his head, watching Nathan futz around the room, picking up clothes and towels.

There are a million ways to go, Charlie's checked, but the thing is, you only get to pick one at a time. A million minus one doors close and Charlie doesn't look back.


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