Oh, The Places You'll Go

Five By Five

Notes: Written for phoebesmum, because every girl needs some Dan in her life.

When Dan was ten he saw Principal Carter kissing Mr. Kirby behind the gym block. It made him tingle in places he didn't know could. Some time later, when he caught Principal Carter kissing Miss Cleary in the art store closet, the tingle was missing. These encounters left Dan with two things: one, that strong jaws were more interesting than soft ones and two, a skewed view of the hierarchy of the public school system.

When Dan was fifteen he fell in love with Zack Sirkowicz and fucked Hannah Bloom. It seemed to be the way things were done. The three of them hung out — smoking pot, listening to music, planning a future in meticulous detail, from jobs to apartments to exactly which of Dan's baseball cards would be framed and displayed. Dan spent his time watching the way Zack's mouth moved, how he blinked slowly and deliberately, fine, long eyelashes sweeping his cheek. He joked with him, making the punch-lines literal, turning them into the best caress he was allowed to offer. And when they were very stoned he leaned against Zack's chest, his heartbeat vibrating Dan's bones.

Hannah was always at their feet, wide-eyed and eager to please. She never saw it. Never saw how Dan's attention only wandered to her after his hands started to linger a little too long on Zack's shoulder, or back, or thigh. Dan would crawl towards her and she would smile and open up to him, take his hand and lead him away. Dan could lose himself in her for a while, but when he came back Zack was always there, round, black eyes just looking in a way Dan could never interpret.

Hannah broke up with Dan on his sixteenth birthday. Two weeks later she was dating Zack. Dan found himself a new crowd to run with and discovered the healing powers of alcohol. It never seemed like a fair trade.

When Dan was twenty he fucked or sucked everything that moved. It was a phase. At least, that's what Casey told him. Casey McCall recently promoted to best friend status, straight, tall and married, whose one word of advice on being gay in the world of sports was 'don't.' Who, nonetheless, appeared just as happy to listen to Dan's tales of alley sex with nameless guys, brief encounters in dorm washrooms with closeted jocks, dates with stereotype-perpetuating, Derrida-reading intellectuals with neat beards and horn-rimmed glasses as to tales of brunettes with bouncing breasts, blondes with oral fixations, red-heads with elegant calves and an ability to solve complex mathematical equations while coming.

When Dan was twenty, he thought he could live this way forever. Getting people off and being got off in return. Not letting anyone through the barrier he'd carefully built around his heart. Unfortunately for Dan, he was a journalism major, not an architect and he didn't realize that all barriers need constant maintenance. That's why he didn't notice when the cracks started to form.

When Dan was twenty-five, the barrier crumbled into dust. He barely noticed: he was far too busy having the time of his life in Dallas. Anchoring a sports show with his best friend — what could be better? And if he hated saying good night to Casey at the end of a working day, it was only because Casey had someone to go home to and Dan didn't, nothing more. And if Dan had mostly given up on anonymous sex it was only to protect his career and nothing to do with the fact that if he closed his eyes Casey's face had a habit of appearing at the most inopportune moments.

Dan, thankful that he had been blessed with a good imagination, learned to love his own hands. Sometimes he lay in bed, legs splayed, hand gripping his cock, pulling sure and hard and fast and there was barely enough time to visualize someone else's hand, let alone a face before he came in quick spurts. Or he might turn over and drive into a tight fist, too busy thinking of the curve of ass or sharpness of pubic bone under him to wander further in his imagination. Other times he stood in the shower, knees bent, leaning against the wall, hand easing up and down his cock, nice and slow whilst the fingers of his other hand explored, pushing inside as far as they could, making him gasp. Times like these he imagined strong arms pinning him down, his legs raised high on broad shoulders, the blunt head of another man's cock petitioning for entrance, filling Dan up. And if a familiar face swam before his eyes, Dan could easily think it away, replace fair with dark, tall with stocky.

It wasn't a problem.

When Dan was thirty he decided not to die alone. And seeing as how he wasn't in love with his partner, not at all, he found himself the perfect woman. She was perfect because she didn't want him which meant she wasn't turned on by the trappings of Dan's celebrity, which, in turn, meant she was honest. Only, it became apparent she wasn't honest at all which gave Dan cause for concern and pause for thought. What else had she lied about? Could Dan trust her? Did he want to?

The decision was taken out of his hands when she left. A sad and confused Dan leant against Casey that night and listened with half an ear to the words that were coming out of Casey's mouth and with all his heart to the way Casey spoke them. And Dan silently apologized for hypocrisy because how could he expect honesty when he couldn't be truthful himself?

When Dan was thirty-five he kissed Casey. It was the morning after Dan's last Sports Night, the drinking had gone on all hours and now Casey was crashed on the fold-out in Dan's study. With the alcohol still buzzing in his blood stream, he thought now or never. It wasn't enough not to die alone. He wanted to not die alone with Casey. No one else.

So he knelt down by Casey's head, bent over and kissed him, soft but insistent. Casey's eyes flew open and he jumped out of bed as if he had been scalded. One second he was there, the next gone. Dan groaned and rested his forehead on the warm pillow. The trouble with risks was that they didn't always pay off. He stayed there, attempting to gather his thoughts, which wasn't easy with the smell of Casey distracting him every time he breathed in. He was just about to straighten up when he felt a touch on his shoulder. He looked up.

Casey looked down at Dan, half-scared, half-smiling and something eased in Dan's chest.

"Morning breath," said Casey. "If we're gonna do this, it's going to be with good oral hygiene."

Dan felt his smile like a sunburst. He reached up and laced his fingers through Casey's, pulling him down. Grinning like idiots they moved closer and closer until their lips touched and then they were kissing and the world around Dan dissolved until there was only him and Casey with lips and hands and skin and ... oh god, it wasn't like he had imagined at all, but so much better for being real and clumsy and full of love.

When Dan was thirty-five he was happy.

When Dan was sixty, their grandson's friend walked in on him and Casey making out. Behind the "Ewwwww, gross!" barrage, Dan caught something in the ten-year old boy's eyes — a tiny glint of recognition. He thought of Principal Carter and Mr. Kirby and he smiled.

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