by Synchronik (as Charlemagne)
She was blond and sleek and her name was Cassandra. It all seemed too perfect to Casey, the way she looked, the name, the expensive way she smelled, the narrow slope of the hand she extended to him across the table in the bar.
"Cassandra," Casey said. She had blue eyes the color of ice chips.
"She's the friend I was telling you about," Natalie said. "Cassie was my college roommate."
"You were Natalie's college roommate?" Dan asked, leaning into Casey, holding out his own hand. Cassandra ignored him. Her hand was smooth and warm in his.
"Natalie told me all about you," she said. Casey felt himself blush.
"What did she say?" Danny asked, leaning harder, almost shoving Casey out of the chair.
"Danny, come here." Natalie yanked on his arm, and Dan was abruptly gone.
"I'm going to an exhibition tomorrow night. Would you like to accompany me?" Cassandra asked. She was still holding his hand, lightly, her blond hair slipping slowly over her shoulder and brushing his wrist.
"Exhibition?" Casey said. He felt, somehow, that he wasn't living up to the picture Natalie had painted for him, but this woman, she was . . . "I'd love to," he said.
"Great. I'll pick you up at seven."
"Great," Casey said, making a mental note to increase his vocabulary by seven tomorrow.
She was waiting outside the door at seven, standing in front of the door to the cab, looking just as perfect and blond in her black dress as he remembered.
"Casey!" she said, reaching out for his hand. She folded her fingers around his, and drew him into the cab. She seemed like less of an ice queen here, alone. She had a sweet smile, and freckles. He could see a little of who she must have been when she had lived with Natalie in college, before she became this gorgeous creation.
"So what has Natalie been telling you?" he asked.
"One," she held up one perfectly manicured finger, "you're single. Two: you're cute. Three: you won't try to grope me unless I want you to. That was the distinguishing feature between you and your partner there."
Casey laughed. "A woman with discriminating tastes."
"So I thought I'd take you out and show you around and we see what happens." She was still holding his hand, he realized, and he wondered how he could know whether or not she wanted to be groped.
Initially, what happened was not much. It was a photo exhibition, as it turned out, called "Before the Party Ended: New York in the 80s" and, from what Casey could tell, it was mostly shots of drunk people taken by drunk people. Lots of them were blurry. Many of them were big.
"Well, this is a terrific bore," Cassandra whispered in his ear, and he was about to agree with her when he saw it.
It stood out because it was black and white, and mostly in focus, and huge, and it was near the door, which was why he hadn't seen it when he came in, because he wouldn't have missed it otherwise. It was Dan.
It was a profile, and a little blurry, and there were at least fifty people in the photo, some of whom were beaming and leaning into the camera, but it was Dan alright. For sure. Dan leaning against a wall amidst a crowd of people, looking down at someone else, and, kind of smiling in that way Casey had seen a hundred times before, every time he had seen Danny looking down at some girl he was about to kiss. It was a sleepy look, a slow and lazy look. But Dan wasn't looking at a girl.
The other person was a man, slightly shorter, his eyes already closed in anticipation, one arm looped around Danny's neck.
"Come on," Cassandra murmured in his ear, threading her own arm through his. "I'll buy you dinner as an apology."
She bought him dinner, and kissed him good night, thanking him for being a gentleman before dropping him off at his front door. He'd been a horrible date, he knew, but he was unable to stop himself because all he could think of was that photo. That picture. Dan.
"She thanked you for being a gentleman?" Dan asked, for the third time.
"She's never calling you again."
"I know. And even if I hadn't known, I certainly would by now."
"Since this is the third time I told you." Dan had his feet up on the desk, arms folded behind his head. He was smirking. Casey, disturbed by the fact that Dan smirking looked suspiciously like the Dan-about- to-kiss face, was pretending to type.
"But she was so into you, Casey. How did you blow that?"
Casey shook his head. "Dumb luck, I guess."
"A gentleman," Dan said, shaking his head. When he got up a minute later to go to bathroom, Casey picked up the phone and dialed the gallery.
Up close, it was a disturbingly large picture. The guys who had carried it up were also disturbingly large, come to think of it, which would explain why instead of carrying the picture into the other room, Casey was forced to resort to dragging it over the carpeting, the brown paper wrapper tearing off as he went.
He'd thought of leaving it in the living room, but he couldn't just have a large rectangle wrapped in brown paper in the living room without incurring at least a few questions from Charlie or Lisa. And it wouldn't fit in the kitchen or the bathroom, so he lugged it to the bedroom, propping it up against the wall at the end of the bed. He tore the rest of the brown paper off, and tipped it so that it was upright. Then he sat on the end of the bed and looked at it.
Casey couldn't explain, really, why he'd bought it. There was the fact that Dan was a public figure, of course, but he wasn't all that recognizable, especially among the photo gallery crowd, and even in the picture he was kind of blurry. It had just seemed, in the office, that a picture of Danny about to kiss someone shouldn't be up in some public place. It was a private moment, somehow, despite the fact that the real moment had obviously taken place in the middle of a room full of people. It reminded Casey of all the times Dan had looked at him across a table at the bar, or tossed him a glance during the show.
He guessed that was why.
Later, when he was lying back panting on the bed, sheened with sweat and semen, his cock still in his hand, Casey thought he might have to re-think that rationale at some point.
Life after that became kind of split screen for Casey. He would spend twelve to fifteen hours a day at work with the real Danny, listening to him say stupid things, and watching him smile, and, occasionally smelling him when Dan leaned down over Casey's shoulder to read the computer screen, and it was all very normal. Except it wasn't because Dan didn't know that Casey was storing up things to use later. Like, for example, the time when Dan complimented Casey's script by saying "sometimes you fucking amaze me, Casey." Or the moment when Dan turned to whisper something to him at the same time he turned to whisper something to Dan and they bumped noses. Or when the air conditioning went on the fritz in the office and Casey spent the day wearing Dan's spare sweater, the scent of Dan's cologne in his nose, and Natalie saying "you smell like Dan."
Then he would go home, and brush his teeth, and go to bed, and before he went to sleep he would run through those things in his mind, and look at Dan's picture. Sometimes (more and more frequently, if Casey were being honest with himself), he would jerk off. Sometimes, he would just fall asleep, and dream of being at a party, looping his arm around Dan's neck.
Of course, things couldn't go on like that forever.
They were supposed to play racquetball. They always played racquetball on Saturday mornings, they had been playing racquetball on Saturday mornings every Saturday Casey didn't have Charlie for probably years now, and Danny had still forgotten his racquet.
"You forgot your racquet," Casey said, staring at him.
Dan looked at his hands. "I might have left in it the cab, I guess, but I think I forgot it."
"You forgot your racquet," Casey said again. He knew he was being stupid, but he couldn't help it--
"I'll just use your spare," Dan said, stepping into the doorway and forcing Casey back.
--because there was the rub, of course. Dan would want to use the spare, and the spare racquet was in the closet, the bedroom closet where all his sports gear was, and the bedroom closet was in the bedroom, appropriately enough. And so was the picture.
The six foot by eight foot picture of Danny about to kiss another guy.
"I'll just go and--" Dan was saying, heading toward the bedroom.
Dan turned, his eyes narrow.
"I mean, it's a mess in there. I'll get it." He brushed by Dan, head down.
"Your closet's a mess."
"Yep, it sure is. You'll never find it."
"Maybe you missed my point. Your closet, Casey McCall's closet, is a mess."
"Yes, Dan. Why is that so hard to believe?"
"Have you ever seen your closet?"
Casey scowled at him.
"I mean," Dan continued, "I would believe most people when they said that. In fact, I'd believe every other person in the world, Casey. But I've seen your closet. Many times. Your shirts are alphabetized, Casey."
"They're arranged by designer," Casey muttered at the carpet.
"In alphabetical order."
"They're easier to find."
Casey paused, feeling Dan's eyes on him. "I'll get the racquet," he said, finally.
"Okay." Dan sat on the back of the couch.
"Okay." Casey hurried into the bedroom, ignoring the picture, refusing to look at it, and threw open the closet doors. The racquet was kept on the shelf, in the basket third from the right, with other sports equipment for racquet-based sports: a tennis racquet, tennis balls, a ping pong paddle, there was probably even a shuttlecock in there toward the bottom . . . but no racquetball racquet.
"Fuck!" Casey muttered. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
It wasn't on the floor of the closet either, or in the baskets on either side (baseball gear to the left, assorted track and field to the right). It was nowhere.
"Fuck!" he whispered. Then he remembered that the spare racquet was, in fact, at the racquetball courts, where he had left it in his locker in case Danny forget to bring his last Saturday, and Dan walked in.
"Hey, Case," he said. Then he stopped, staring at the picture.
"It's not what it looks like," Casey said.
"It looks like a picture of me about to kiss Sean McSweeney."
"Maybe it is what it looks like, then." Casey sighed.
"The racquet's at the gym."
"So we can go."
Dan paused on the third serve, bouncing the hard rubber ball with his borrowed racquet.
"So Casey," he said. "I wonder why you have a picture of me about to kiss Sean McSweeney in your bedroom." He served.
Casey hit the ball. "I bought it."
"You bought it." Dan hit it back.
"It was--" hit "--at the gallery."
hit Casey nodded, wiping the sweat out of his eyes with his wrist.
"You--" hit "bought it."
"You're a pub--" hit "lic figure."
"That was--" hit "nice of you."
hit "I'm your friend."
hit "That you are." Despite the heavy breathing, Dan sounded casual, relaxed. Casey wondered if this was how Dan sounded during sex, then tried to forget that he wondered that.
hit "That I am," he said.
hit "He's a good kisser."
Casey missed the ball.
They walked off the courts, towels draped around their necks, racquets dangling from the wrist straps.
"I wasn't a public figure back then," Dan said.
Casey nodded, not looking over.
"It was the eighties."
Casey nodded again, wondering what exactly Dan was trying to explain.
"He was cute. I was drunk. I was horny."
"How many?" Casey asked.
Dan laughed aloud, startled. "Ironically, just him. It was a . . . passing fancy."
"A passing fancy that ended up on the wall of a gallery."
They were in the locker room now, so Dan leaned in, trying not to be overheard. Casey could smell the scent of him, sweat and laundry detergent, and Dan's expensive brand of conditioner.
"Yeah, well, we all make mistakes," he said, and smiled up at Casey, that rueful sweet Danny smile. "Thanks for covering my ass."
"Sure, man. Anytime." Casey tried to smile back.
In the shower he tried not to think about how Dan's ass would feel covered by the palm of his hand. He tried not to look.
"So what are you going to do with it?" Dan asked. He was sitting on Casey's couch with his feet up on the coffee table in classic after- theexercise -before-the-game posture. Casey handed him a beer.
"I hadn't really thought about it," Casey said, honestly.
"You bought a gigantic picture of me--"
"of you kissing--"
"--of me kissing, and you have no idea what you're going to do with it."
"It was an impulse buy."
"What kind of impulse would lead you to buy that?" Dan asked, twisted around on the couch, arms folded over the back. He looked genuinely interested.
"I, um, an impulsive one."
Dan rolled his eyes. "I think you should give it to me," he said.
"No." Suddenly, was impossible for Casey to look at him anymore. He had some weird kind of vertigo where he could feel the Dan in his living room and the Dan in his bedroom both listening to him at the same time. They were both laughing.
"Well, that was quick."
"What does that mean?"
Dan shook his head, grinning. "You have a gigantic picture of me--"
"It's not that big."
"--engaged in a sexual act--"
"You're not even kissing him."
"--that you have admittedly no idea what to do with--"
"It was an expensive picture."
"--but you're emphatic about not giving it to me."
"Casey, why not?"
Dan was kneeling on the cushions now, elbows on the back of the couch. "Because why, Casey?" he said, and there was the smirk again, and suddenly it was just too much to take.
"Because it's a picture of you kissing some other guy that I paid a whole hell of a lot of money for, and it's art, dammit, and I'm keeping it!"
The room was suddenly too silent. Dan no longer looked amused. He had his head tilted to one side. He didn't look like he was going to say anything else for a while.
"I'm sorry, Dan. Sorry." Casey sighed.
Dan shrugged. "No big deal. Can I ask you something, Casey?"
"Some other guy?"
Casey felt his mouth open, shut. Open again. "I meant, you know, instead of some girl."
"That's what you meant."
"And what were you thinking, letting something like that out into circulation. You're a public figure."
"You said that already."
"Well, that's what I meant."
"Okay." Dan nodded. "Game's almost on."
"Right," Casey said, and went to get himself a beer.
They watched the game, and drank beer, and ate pizza ordered in from the really good place on the corner even though Dan said he hated their pizza and wanted Pizza Hut, dammit, and everything seemed fine. Then the game ended, and while Casey was picking up beer cans and Dan followed him into the kitchen with the empty pizza box, and said,
"I think you're lying."
Casey, startled, dropped a beer can in the sink. "huh?"
"I think you're lying about 'other guys' meaning other girls."
"Danny, don't be--"
"You're jealous," Dan said. He leaned back against the counter, resting against it with one hip. He smiled. "You're jealous of me and Sean McSweeney."
"First of all, how could I be jealous of someone with a name like Sean McSweeney, secondly, how do I know you even did something with him, and third, I'm not gay!" Somehow, saying it like that, at the end of a sentence that was mostly true, made Casey feel self-righteous and honest.
"Okay." Dan held up his hand in mock surrender. "Okay, McCall, you're not jealous. I'm totally convinced."
"Why would I be jealous that you kissed a guy?"
"I'm a good kisser," Dan said.
"That is beside the point."
"Not if you've ever kissed me, it isn't." Danny was smirking again. He'd tossed the pizza box onto the counter and was leaning back, arms crossed over his chest. Casey wanted to smack him.
"Alright, then," Casey said. "Show me what you got.'
It was almost worth it for the look of shock that passed over Dan's face. "Um, Casey," he said.
"No, I mean it, Dan. You're supposedly Mister Stud to the Scottish Surname, so bring it on."
"I--" Dan paused, wiping his palms on his sweatpants. "Really?"
"I'm beginning to think you can't walk the walk," Casey said, and now his arms were crossed over his chest, and he was the one doing the smirking, thank you very much.
"Oh, I can walk the walk," Dan said. He took a step toward Casey, then another, and suddenly his chest was against Casey's arms, pinning them. Dan reached up and put both hands on Casey's face, then he leaned up-- Casey could feel the rub of Dan's chest against his forearms--and placed his mouth over Casey's.
At first, it was a little strange, Dan's mouth on his. It felt softer than he expected, and Dan had beer breath. But then Danny began to move, licking at Casey's mouth with just the tip of his tongue, nothing slobbery, just teasing, asking. Casey didn't answer at first, but the tongue kept coming back, pushing gently at his lips until he couldn't stand it anymore and had to open his mouth, had to brush his tongue against Dan's, had to free his arms and wrap them around Dan's waist, pulling him tight and close, and Dan was walking the walk all right. Dan was fucking working the walk like a supermodel as far as Casey was concerned. He groaned then, he thought, as Dan began kissing him in earnest.
"Danny," he gasped, when Dan pulled away, freeing himself from Casey's entangling arms. Dan took a few steps back. His mouth looked swollen, and Casey had to fight from grabbing at him and pulling him back. Dan had a hard-on, Casey noticed. It tented out the front of his sweats. "Dan," he said.
"Told you I could kiss," Dan said. Then he grabbed his coat and left.
He had planned on handling the whole situation. Obviously, something weird and inappropriate had happened, and afterwards, rinsing out beer cans in his suddenly hollow apartment, Casey thought to himself, "I'll handle it." He hadn't had a plan, but somehow the murmur of that little confident voice inside him convinced him. He would handle it. It would be handled.
But when he came into the office and saw Dan sitting behind his computer, typing away, his eyebrows crinkled in concentration, he didn't handle it. Instead, he said,
"Why was it only him?"
Dan looked up, blinking slowly. He had apparently really been working, and not faking. Casey was mildly insulted.
"Hey Case," he said. Casey knew the exact moment when Dan stopped thinking of whatever story he was thinking of and remembered, because it was the moment Dan flushed red and began to stammer. "I, umm, what?"
"Why him and no one else?"
"Oh." Dan thought for a moment. Then shrugged. "I only liked him."
"You liked him? That's your explanation?"
Dan shrugged again. "I liked him."
"You liked him. Dan, that's not a reason, that's bullshit. You like a lot of people. You like Jeremy, but you never kissed him."
"Natalie would rip my head off and spit down my neck."
"That's not the point! All I'm saying is that liking someone is not a reason to kiss them in public and get your picture taken!"
"You seem disturbed," Dan said.
"Fuck!" Casey said, and left, wishing the door wasn't pneumatic so he could slam it behind him.
"What's wrong with you and Danny?" Dana asked after the show, grabbing his arm and pulling him into her office.
"Uh huh. Except I have forty three minutes of tape that say otherwise, Casey. What's up?"
He found himself staring at her shoes, and the carpeting, and the bottom edge of the desk. Anything but her face. They had been through too much: if he looked her in the eye, he would tell her, and then there would really be hell to pay.
"Whatever, Casey," she said, huffing her breath out in exasperation. "Just fix it."
"Dana says there's something wrong with us," Casey said. Dan was pulling on his jacket, facing the wall.
"Yeah," he said.
"Yeah. So you want to come to Anthony's with me for a drink and fix it?"
"No," Dan said.
"You don't want to come to Anthony's with me, or you don't want to fix it?" He leaned back on his desk and shoved his hands into his pockets. He was casual. It was casual. He was the picture of casualness.
"No." Dan looked over his shoulder at Casey for a minute, his eyes dull. "See ya."
"That's not an answer, you know," Casey said.
"And yet that's all the answer you're getting." Dan smiled a thin smile, and left.
"See ya," Casey said, to the slowly closing door.
He didn't go to Anthony's after all, even though Natalie hung on his arm and whined "please, Casey, please," and batted her eyes at him.
"Sorry," he said.
"Que sera, sera," she said, patting his shoulder. "You and Dan fixed yet?"
"Nope." He sat down at his computer. Maybe he'd get a head start on tomorrow's show. Maybe he'd write his half of the show right now with little blanks for the scores so he could see Danny as little as possible tomorrow.
"What's wrong?" Natalie asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
Casey shrugged, not looking at her.
"Okay." She ruffled her hand through his hair. "Just don't lie to me, Casey, or you know what will happen."
"I know, Natalie," he said.
"I know, Natalie," he said.
"Okay." She smiled and ruffled his hair again. "Get better."
"I'm not sick," he said to her back, although to be honest, he probably was a little sick, jerking off to a picture of his best friend every single night, but that wasn't want Natalie meant, and he wouldn't tell her that anyway. It was a little . . . offensive though, having people think you were off- balance just because you had a little fight with your best friend. Who you kissed. Once. With tongue.
Just a little sick though. A head cold. A sniffle.
Jeremy came in an hour later, leaning in the doorway right as Casey picked up his computer keyboard and slammed it back onto the desk.
"Dammit!" Casey said.
"I don't think that's recommended in the manual," Jeremy said.
"I can't get this thing to fucking work!" Casey glared at him, knowing that Jeremy would understand it was a misplaced glare.
"Uh huh. Usually I try pressing the keys." He made little typing motions with his fingers.
"How do you get this thing to look up phone numbers?"
Jeremy came over to the desk and looked over Casey's shoulder. "Okay, um, typing the person's name in the URL field isn't going to do it, Case."
"How the hell am I supposed to do it then!" Casey slammed his hand onto the keyboard.
"Again, not in the manual. Can I ask you something, Casey?"
"Have you tried the phone book?" Jeremy leaned over and pulled open the bottom drawer, drawing the thick book out of the drawer and flopping in onto the desk.
Jeremy slapped his shoulder. "Casey, technology isn't the answer to everything. I know that in our increasingly computerized world some people think that--"
"Out," Casey said, pointing.
"--Casey, I just think that you should know that while technology certainly has its place in our culture--"
Casey pointed, flipping through the thin pages.
"--it's not the answer to everything, Casey." Jeremy said, heading toward the door. "Especially for you."
Casey pointed again. Jeremy rolled his eyes, and left.
It was there.
Casey looked out the open door of his office, then back down at the number above his index finger. It was impossible to believe. He had opened the phone book to the Ms and there it was, right there, the number.
He dialed before he could stop himself, before he could think that it was after midnight and most respectable people were in bed. Before he could close the book and forget this whole thing ever happened.
The phone rang.
He was just about to hang up, realizing how rude it was to call this late, how he wasn't even sure he wanted to call any way, when someone answered the phone.
"Hi, um, hi. I'm--is this Sean McSweeney?"
"No. Who's this?"
"My name is Casey, I'm a friend of Dan Rydell's, and I was looking for- -"
"Danny? You know Danny?"
"I'm, yeah, I'm a friend of his."
The voice laughed. "Yeah, me too. This is Sean."
"Hi." There was a pause. "Can I help you with something, Casey?"
"Yeah, actually. It's about Dan. Can I--can I meet you?"
"Yeah, sure. You know where O'Malley's is?"
"Great. I was just heading out there. Meet me in half an hour. I'm wearing a red sweater."
"I, um, okay."
Sean laughed, and his laugh was low and light, and made Casey smile despite the incredible weirdness of the situation. "See ya," he said, and hung up.
O'Malley's was a local bar, meaning not that it was near the studio, because it was over a half hour away, but that it was one of those New York bars where mostly locals go--no tourists, no out of towners. Casey had dated a girl once who lived three blocks from there, and they had spent more than one night gazing at each other over the beer soaked tables in the dim light of O'Malley's. Maybe Sean had been there then. Before Casey had lost his mind and called him after midnight to talk about sex with Dan Rydell.
It was crowded, but not packed. Casey weaved his way through the crowd, looking for red, heading for the bar.
"Hey," he said to the bartender. "Beer, please." He reached into his back pocket for his wallet and someone tapped his arm. He turned.
A shorter man, with blondish hair and green green eyes, in a red wool sweater. A terribly attractive man with the type of jaw you only saw on movie stars, and dimples. Casey realized that, for all the staring he had done at the picture in his bedroom, he hadn't really noticed the man with Dan at all. Suddenly, that seemed like a shame.
"Casey?" Sean asked.
"Sean? How'd you recognize me?"
"A hunch. You're on t.v., you idiot."
I'm a public figure, Casey thought, suddenly, and felt his mouth twist into a rueful smile.
They got beers and Sean led them to a table in a far corner, saying hello to a number of people along the way. He seemed, Casey thought, like a very friendly and easy going guy, the kind of guy who went to the corner bar after midnight just to hang out and see who else turned up. The kind of guy who was friends with the counter clerk at the grocery store. The kind of guy who bought strangers drinks and struck up conversations.
The kind of guy Dan would like.
"So what's up, Casey? What can I do for you?"
"It's about Dan--"
"Oh God." Sean leaned forward, his face stricken. "Danny's not sick is he?"
"No, no, he's fine. Well, fine I guess."
"Don't do that to me, man. What's up?"
"I saw a picture of you two together."
Sean watched Casey over the edge of his glass.
"And, um, he said he liked you."
Sean sipped, and watched. He didn't seem disturbed, just patient.
"You wanted to meet me," Sean said.
"Well, I. Yeah."
"Because you're jealous."
Casey froze. "No, I. No. I'm not. No."
Sean smiled, a slow, lazy drawl of a smile. "You called me."
"Yeah, I did, but that--"
"You called me after midnight on a Monday."
"--see, I saw the picture in a gallery--"
"Casey, man, you're jealous."
He was about to object again, but Sean reached out and put his hand on Casey's forearm, stifling him. Casey folded his hands around his glass, feeling the cool sweat slide under his palms. "I don't know," he said. From out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sean nod.
"Casey, can I talk to you privately?"
Sean grabbed his arm. "Outside," he said.
Casey followed, leaving his beer almost full on the table. Sean had the sleeve of his coat firmly in his fist, and pulled relentlessly through the crowd. He pulled all the way through the bar, and out around the corner, and into the alley.
"Casey," he said. "I'm going to tell you this because you seem like a nice guy. You seem . . . nice. Danny, he was great."
Sean nodded, smiling nostalgically. "Great. I met him, and I thought he was nothing, nobody, and then he opened up his mouth and started talking and that was it. We were inseparable for about a month, and then I fucked it up and he left."
"You fucked it up," Casey said, but he was thinking "a month, a whole month."
"I slept with someone else. Long story: I'm not a reliable person, Casey. But Danny, Danny's great. He's a treasure."
"A treasure," Casey said. Danny was a treasure, and this guy had slept with him for a whole month, and then fucked it up. It was too strange. Danny.
Sean nodded. He looked up at Casey, then leaned back and looked down Casey, and Casey realized that he was being scoped out.
"Hey," he said, holding his hands up.
"So you and Danny aren't together or anything, hmm?" he said.
"No, I--" and that was all he got out before Sean McSweeney had grabbed him by the back of the neck and was kissing him. He didn't kiss like Danny. He wasn't slow or sweet or seductive, or any other S word, but he was hot, and he seemed to leap into Casey's arms and Casey's mouth and before he knew it, his hands were on Sean's ass.
"Wait, hey. Wait." He pushed back, holding Sean's shoulders to keep him away. "Wait a second."
Sean smiled, a gorgeous smile, Casey thought, one he might have given to a hundred different men in this very same alley. One that he might have given to Danny. Right here.
"Tell Danny I say hi, all right?"
"All right." Casey felt himself smiling back.
Dan opened the door looking rumpled and sleepy, and, well, warm. And irritated. Very irritated.
"Casey, what the--"
"I want you to like me."
"I already like you, Casey. You are, allegedly, my fucking best friend."
Casey shook his head. "No. I want you to like me the way you liked Sean."
"Sean McSweeney. Like me the way you like Sean McSweeney."
Dan ran his hand through his hair, which was already poking up in interesting directions. He had been asleep.
"You'd better come in," he said, stepping aside.
Casey came in and sat on the couch, leaning forward onto his knees. He felt like pacing, like rocking back and forth, like moving, but he couldn't, not if he expected Dan to take him seriously. Dan sat down next to him on the couch, and leaned back, eyes closed. "Why don't you tell me what's going on," Dan said. He sounded tired.
"I--" Casey said, but there were no words behind that, so he reached out instead, and put his hand on Dan's bare leg, right below the edge of his shorts.
Dan raised his head, opened his eyes.
But Casey couldn't say anything else, couldn't explain, so he slid his hand up under the hem of Danny's shorts, feeling the rough texture of leg hair underneath his palm. Dan was still looking at him, but he didn't speak, and Casey thought suddenly of Sean, smiling, and launched himself at Dan, pinning him against the edge of the couch, and kissing too hard. Dan squirmed at first, but not hard, and his hands somehow found their way up under Casey's shirt, and then his ankle was hooked around Casey's thigh and, really, it was all over but the shouting. There was quite a bit of shouting, Casey thought, but in a good way.
Later, after they had found their way to Dan's truly decadent bed, Dan lifted his head and whispered something. Casey choked.
"What?" he said, sitting up.
"I said, you should give me the picture now," Dan said, smiling. He hooked his arm around Casey's waist and tried to pull him back under the comforter. His cheek was pleasantly rough against Casey's ribs.
And it was Dan's turn to sit up, his shoulders looking too naked and vulnerable, his arms crossed over his blanketed knees. "You can't. Why not?"
"You should have told me."
"I recall expressing my desire for the picture previously," Dan said.
"You should have told me about Sean." "I did."
"He said it was about a month, Danny."
Dan sighed, hanging his head. Then he turned, eyes narrow. "When did you talk to Sean?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"When did you talk to him?"
"Tonight, before." Casey waved his hand in the air. "It's not important. Why didn't you tell me you went out with him for a month, Danny?"
"Tonight? How did you find him?"
"The phone book."
"The phone book. You looked my ex-boyfriend up in the phone book."
"Jeremy showed me."
Dan laughed a little, shaking his head. "The phone book."
"Your ex-boyfriend," Casey said.
"Yeah, well, if I had known he was listed I wouldn't have mentioned his name." Dan sighed. His hair, which had not been subdued by the sex, was sticking up in absolutely impossible ways. Casey did not reach out to touch it, although he wanted to, wanted to feel its interesting shapes between his fingers. "I didn't tell you, Casey, because I thought you'd freak out."
"You thought I'd freak out?"
Dan laughed again, into his hands. "This doesn't seem a little freaky to you, Casey."
When Casey lifted his eyes, Dan was looking at him, a weary smile on his face. He sighed. "Maybe a little."
"It was no big thing, Casey, really. It was the 80s."
"He said he fucked it up."
Dan looked surprised. "He did?" He reached out and wrapped his arm around Casey's waist, sliding under the blankets and pressing his face against Casey's belly.
"He said he slept with someone else." He hadn't uncrossed his arms yet, hoping that his refusal would indicate to Dan that they weren't done here, that there were more things to be said. Dan, who was nuzzling his belly, did not seem to be picking up on the message.
"Well, he did, but it wasn't going to go that much further anyway. Sean wasn't my type." Dan kissed his stomach in a circle around his belly button. Casey shivered.
"Too Sean. You saw him, right? He's impossibly good looking. He spent more time on his hair than I did on calculus."
"You failed calculus."
"I did not."
"You got a D," Casey said, relenting and running his hands through Dan's hair.
"I should have never let you see my transcripts. What else did he say?"
"He said you were a treasure."
Dan lifted his head, and looked into Casey's face. "Really? Sean said that?"
"Why? You want to get back together with him?"
Dan shrugged. "He still has hair, right?"
"Then, no." He put his head back down, and Casey felt himself sliding into slow post-coital comfort. There would be more talking later, he supposed, but it was late, and Dan was warm and wrapped around him and not interested in getting back together with Sean McSweeney.
"So," Dan said, after along quiet while, "why won't you give me the picture?"
Casey, not thinking, answered. "I gave it to Sean."
"You gave away a very expensive picture of a minor public figure engaged in a sexual act that you wouldn't give to me, even though I am the aforementioned public figure and your best friend, to a total stranger." Dan's voice rumbled against Casey's abdomen.
"To give him something to remember you by."
Dan's smile against his stomach made Casey smile in return.
"That's nice of you."
"Yeah," Casey said, "but it only seemed right after he kissed me."
"Fucking Sean McSweeney," Dan said, shaking his head.
"Not yet. He seemed interested, though."
"So if he gets an expensive art gallery photo just for kissing you, what do I get?" Dan leaned up, tipping his forehead against Casey's bracing himself on his arms.
"You get me."
Dan paused, breathing his breath onto Casey's lips. Finally, Casey relented.
"You get me, and pictures of me."
"Art gallery pictures?" Dan asked.
"And by that you mean naked pictures?"
"You got it," Dan said.
"I'm not seeing the bargain here, Casey."
"You get me, and front row tickets to the Knicks."
"Those are my tickets, already." Dan smiled, his lips so close Casey could feel them move. He grabbed Dan's arms and rolled, flipping him onto his back and pinning him there.
"Then I guess you just get me," he said, and kissed him.