Oh, The Places You'll Go

Five times Charlie tells Dan before Casey

Notes: Written for a prompt by quiesce. How could I resist little Charlie? *smushes his cheeks*


1. "You're going to be a what?"

"A kangaroo, Danny. I'm going to be a kangaroo. You heard."

Dan's drawn face creases into a beaming smile as he throws his arms around Charlie and hugs him tight.

"How? When? How long have you known? Why didn't you say something? Where's Molly? I have more hugging to do!"

Charlie slaps Dan on the back and then releases him.

"How, I'm not getting into with you," he says. "I know it's been years since you slept with a woman but you should be able to remember the basic mechanics. When? We're — Molly's — due in October. We've known for about-" he checks his watch, "-four hours now. Molly's getting some herbal crap from the store. And I'm telling you now because ... because you need something else to think about."

The smile on Dan's face fixes a little and he flicks his gaze towards the door.

"Casey ... is gonna be so proud," he says with a choke in his voice.

Charlie squeezes Dan's arms.

"I'll tell him just as soon as he's awake. Give the old bastard something else to fight for, right?"

"Damn straight," nods Dan, eyes flaring with passion. "I'll have him up and knitting bootees in no time."

"That I'd love to see," says Charlie and lets Dan get back to his pacing.

2. Dan sees the signs; loss of appetite, too much sleep, difficulty concentrating. Before Charlie heads back to med school Dan makes him a cup of coffee, puts a hand on his shoulder and says,

"Follow your heart, Charlie. Don't be anything less than yourself. You're not responsible for your parents' happiness."

Charlie blusters, pretends not to understand. Dan lets it lie. When he's ready.

Three weeks later, Dan gets a call.

"I'm dropping out."

"Okay, Charlie."

"I don't know what I want but I know I don't want this."

"It's okay, Charlie. How do you feel?"

"Relieved."

"Then you're doing the right thing."

"Will you tell Dad?" There's a hint of the Charlie of a decade before in the half-scared, half-cajoling tone of voice.

"No chance, bucko. Take responsibility for your own actions, I've got enough to do taking responsibility for my own. Something about red wine on a pillow, I don't know. Listen, you'll regret it if you don't tell him yourself."

"Dammit, Danny! Why'd'you always have to be right?"

"It's a gift." Dan can feel Charlie grinning down the phone.

"It's a something," says Charlie. "I'll be home this weekend." He hangs up and Dan heads to the laundry closet to search out fresh sheets.

3. "Danny," Charlie's voice cracks on the whisper, sliding down an octave. Dan smiles despite being woken with a shake: Charlie is growing up.

"What is it?" he asks, rubbing his hand over his eyes.

"Sssshhhhh. Don't wake Dad!"

Dan sits up in bed and looks at Charlie's haunted face. He grips Charlie's wrist.

"What's wrong?" he whispers back. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. It's just." Charlie blushes a deep, deep red. "Can you come with me?"

Dan nods and lifts himself slowly out of bed, careful not to disturb the sleeping form lying huddled under the covers next to him. He pads bare-footed behind Charlie, follows him into his bedroom and shuts the door behind them.

"Tell me," he says.

Charlie sits on the end of his bed, then gets up and goes to sit in his computer chair. He twirls a little then gets up again and mooches to the window.

"Charles McCall, spill it!" demands Dan and then something catches his eye. The pajama pants that Charlie had worn to bed lie crumpled on the floor, Charlie is wearing a different pair — obviously newly laundered, the creased seams from Casey's insistent ironing still clear. Dan puts two and two together and comes up with oh dear god did he use the wrong choice of words. Loins are girded.

"Charlie, did you have a wet dream?"

Charlie's head drops.

"Yes."

Dan looks at the tall, young man in front of him and wonders where the tow-headed little boy disappeared to. He feels a strange pang — a mixture of loss, love and pride. Dan sweeps up the dirty pajama pants and stuffs them in Charlie's laundry hamper. Charlie's look of horror proves just how much reassurance he's going to need.

"Come on," Dan says. "I'll make us a cup of tea. Your father won't be up for hours yet. We can talk as men do."

Charlie smiles and lets Dan lead the way.

4. Six months after Casey leaves home, Charlie and Dan are in the Conference Room seeing who can slide a full cup of water farthest along the glass table without spilling. There may or may not be damp backsides for a couple of members of the team in the rundown in half an hour's time.

Charlie is topping up the water from a jug when he says, "I'm glad Mom and Dad have split up."

"Oh," says Dan, careful not to give anything away. "Why's that then, Charles?"

"They fought a lot," says Charlie, "It was loud. And when it wasn't loud it was real quiet."

Dan isn't sure what to say but that's okay because Charlie hasn't finished.

"Dad's happier now he's just got you anyway."

And now Dan is really unsure of what to say. He settles on "Really?"

"Yeah." Charlie peeps up at Dan from under long eyelashes. "It's good to have friends, isn't it?"

"Sure is," Dan says with forced bonhomie. He cocks his head to one side and regards the miniature McCall. Inscrutable — just like his father.

"Your Dad know you feel like this?"

"Oh no," grins Charlie. "You don't get as many toys if they think you're happy."

"Charles McCall, I'm ashamed of you!" Dan shakes his head. "When you grow up, you wanna be my lawyer?"

5. Charlie had nagged and nagged and nagged for what seemed like forever (two weeks is a long time in a four year old's life) for a Batmobile. He was too young, his mom had said, he'd break it. But Casey had caved, as he almost always did and Charlie had got his (this week's) heart's desire.

Two days later, as Batman chases He-Man in the yard, Charlie manages to lose the jet that shoots out of the car. He searches all over for it until he's called in for milk and cookies. He doesn't tell Daddy.

When his friend (daddy's friend) Danny comes round to watch TV, Charlie drags on his arm until he follows him into the yard. Danny listens to him with a solemn face and helps Charlie look. Eventually Batman is discovered to have flown his jet under a bush. Just in time as Charlie hears his mom calling him to get ready for his bath.

Danny smiles and puts his finger to his lips.

"Our secret," he says.

Charlie loves Danny.


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