Right Here
by Synchronik (as Charlemagne)

For Helen, as a bribe. For Dawn, also as a big fat bribe.

It wasn't like this sort of thing hadn't happened before, Casey thought, pulling the car into his parking garage. Christ, he'd seen Danny drunk a thousand times, drunker than this even. The difference, Casey supposed if he wanted to put a finger on it (and for some reason he did, for some reason it seemed key that he put his finger on it as soon as possible), was that Danny usually got drunk happy and loud.

He looked over at his best friend, who was dozing with his face against the window.

Happy and loud. Even when he was depressed or pissed off, Danny usually got louder and happier the more alcohol he consumed. It was like each beer added volume and enthusiasm, like he was drinking from the vociferous stream. He'd have to remember that to tell Dan in the morning, when he woke up with a vociferous hangover, Casey thought, as he slid out of the car and went to the passenger door.

Not tonight though. Tonight had started with that strange conversation by the door. Dan had wanted to say something, Casey knew. It was in the way he smiled at the wrong times, and kept looking off into the distance: guyspeak for "I'm fucked up." Danny speak for "I'm really fucked up." There wasn't too much Dan didn't talk about, didn't want to talk about. For him to announce his possible silence was about as much of an admittance of emotional pain as Dan could ever come to. It had worried Casey.

But then Dan had started drinking and Casey thought that would take care of things. Dan would drink, and laugh, and eventually lean over and whisper so loudly that the whole table could hear that he was really fucked up and would Casey like to take him to another table and fix him? And Casey would have said "sure, man" and done so. Danny'd done the same for him who knew how many times.

Casey swung open the door, catching Dan by the shoulder. "Come on, sunshine." He hauled Dan to his feet.

"Where're we?" Dan asked, pulling away and leaning in the space between the door and the body of the car.

"Birmingham, Alabama," Casey answered, grabbing the sleeves of Danny's coat and tugging him forward. "Wanna go upstairs?"

"Okay," Dan said.

The problem, Casey thought, was that this wasn't like all those other times. Danny hadn't gotten louder and better as the night wore on. Instead, he'd just gotten drunker and quieter. He seemed to be trying to fulfill his little prophecy by the door--"There may be times in the conversation when I don't say anything at all"--by pushing himself headfirst into the beer bottle. It was a little . . . troubling.

He slung his arm around Danny's back and helped him to the elevator. He was walking a little better now than he had been at the bar, but he still leaned heavily against Casey's side.

"How you feeling?" he asked, after he'd gotten Dan into the elevator and pressed the buttons.

"Good, good." Danny's hand flapped in front of his face. It was probably supposed to be a careless wave, Casey thought, but it looked more like Danny's hand was having a seizure.

"Uh huh. How you feeling, Danny?"

"I promise to only vomit into pre-approved receptacles," he said, and Casey smiled. Maybe Dan was feeling better.

Dan walked more or less by himself to Casey's apartment door, which Casey considered a good sign, and hung his coat up on only the second try. Then he sat down on the middle of the couch, hands hanging in his lap.

"I'm going to bed, Danny. You okay?"

Another flapping movement, which Casey assumed meant "I'm fine." When he looked out his bedroom door after brushing his teeth and stripping down to his boxers and a t- shirt, he could see Danny's shoulder over the armrest. The faint sound of slow breathing told him Dan was asleep.

He went to the kitchen and poured a glass of water, setting it on the end table within Danny's reach but outside of knocking-over distance, and, after a second thought, put the small living room waste pail Lisa's mother had gotten him as a first Christmas gift (and if that wasn't a warning sign he didn't know what was) on the floor next to the couch. Dan was sound asleep, mouth open, hand under his cheek.

"Night, Danny," Casey said, and turned out the light.

He came awake, suddenly, in the dark, knowing only that something was wrong. After a second he realized that it wasn't wrong, per se, it was Dan sitting on the edge of the bed that had woken him up.

"Jesus, Dan!" He flopped onto his back, feeling the race of his heart in his chest. "You scared the shit out of me."

"Sorry," Dan said. "I didn't mean to wake you." This, Casey knew, was complete bullshit. A person who didn't mean to wake you up didn't come in and sit on your bed in the middle of the night. He mentioned this to Dan.

"Are you impugning my honesty?" Dan asked.

"That implies you're being honest."

"What are you basing this assessment of my honesty on?"

"a) You're sitting on my bed in the middle of the night. b) I know you too well to not know when you're full of shit. c) You're using words like 'impugn.'"

"Impugn is a perfectly good word."

"Which you do not use."

"I use it."


"When I'm on your bed in the middle of the night."

Casey smiled. "How come you haven't used it before when you've been here?"

"You've never impugned my honesty before."

"I impugn your honesty all the time."

"No, you insult my integrity, you question my veracity, but this, Casey, this impugnation of my honesty, this is a new one for you."


"Casey?" Dan said, and that was Casey's first hint that maybe Dan wasn't all better.


"You mind if I sleep in here?"

In answer, Casey slid away and held up the blankets. The couch wasn't very comfortable he knew from personal experience, and it wasn't like he and Dan hadn't shared close quarters before. Dan took off his jeans and got under the blankets, lying on his back, looking up at the ceiling.

"You okay?" Casey asked. Dan nodded.

"You wanna talk about it?" Casey asked. Dan shook his head.

"Okay, man," Casey said, holding up his hands in surrender. "If you do, I'm right here."

"I know." Dan said, and started to cry.

Casey turned over onto his side, facing Dan, and reached out, resting his hand on Danny's shoulder. Dan didn't make any noise, really, just some sniffling and gasping. Casey could feel Dan's chest heave with the effort it took to breathe. He rubbed Danny's shoulder, gently.

"You need a Kleenex?" Casey asked when Dan had let up a little. Dan shook his head, wiping his face with his hands. "Glass of water?"

"No." Dan shook his head again, breathing deep. Whatever it was, the storm seemed to have passed. Casey wasn't worriedhe was sure he'd hear about it eventually, when Dan felt like he could talk about it without looking like an idiot. Dan talked a lot, about apparently important things, but what most people didn't realize is that most of the things Dan talked about were things he had already dealt with, himself. Things that had already been worked out. This thing, whatever it was, was obviously not there yet.

"Need a hug?" Casey asked, poking him in the arm.

Dan turned his head. "You offering one?"

"Was I offering Kleenex and a glass of water?" Casey asked. He hadn't been offering the hug, actually, it had been a joke, but Danny . . . well, he seemed to need one.

"Hey, I'm not impugning your honesty or anything . . . "

"Danny . . . "

"I'm just saying that I, unlike some friends I know, would never doubt another friend when"

"You want a hug or not?"

There was a short silence. "Yes," Dan said, finally. "Yes, I do."

Casey lifted his arm up, and Dan scooted over until his head was on Casey's shoulder. Casey squeezed and relaxed, thinking that Dan would get up now, or slide back to his own side of the bed, but Dan didn't. Instead, he turned so that his face was resting in the crook of Casey's neck, and his arm was around Casey's waist, and his knees were bumping against Casey's and they were pressed together so that there was nothing for Casey to do but squeeze again. And when he unsqueezed this time, Dan did too, but only a little, only enough so that his breath was hot against Casey's throat.

"I don't suppose you want to talk about this now?" Casey asked, leaning back a little and talking into Danny's hair. Dan shook his head.

"Do you mind?" he asked, and Casey felt Dan lips move against his throat.

"No, it's okay," he said. Okay. Such a bland word for what this was. "Danny, if you do want to talk about it"

"I know where you are," Dan said.

"That you do," Casey said. Eventually, Dan's slow breath against his throat lulled him to sleep.


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