Spoilers: For the whole film.
Raiting: R maybe?
Once again the prize goes to Janne (janne_d) for fantabulous beta-age (hopefully she likes the ending...?)
Eight Days and Nights by ToraK
The day Dan leaves hospital Duck takes him to Iggy’s. Dan would be happier to stay at home, but Duck says they can’t hide away forever. Dan tells him he doesn’t want to hide forever, just until, say, 2020. Duck laughs, kisses him, and drags him out the door.
They get some funny looks walking together across the island – Duck said it was too nice a day to take the truck – but nobody says anything. Inside Iggy’s they find a table in the corner and both Sandra Anderson and her daughter – who introduces herself, a little breathlessly, as Emily – fuss over them, getting coffees and pastries and refusing to let them pay for anything. Then Sandra slides into the booth beside Dan and begins telling them – Duck – about her plans for the café and asking – all pouting lips and fluttering eyelashes – if he’ll paint the place for her.
Dan sits back, unable to contribute and trying not to feel jealous. It’s ridiculous to want Duck’s attention to himself the entire time. Especially ridiculous considering how long he spent ignoring and pushing him away. Ridiculous to be jealous of this woman who Duck told him has been his friend since high school and is on their side. He just wishes she didn’t flirt with Duck so unashamedly. Or in truth, he wishes he could.
“What do you think?” Dan hears Sandra ask, but it isn’t until no one else answers that he looks up and finds her watching him quizzically out of her big, wide eyes.
“Er, I. I’m sorry, what?”
Duck leans across the table and touches his fingers, “You okay?”
“Yeah.” Now Dan feels ridiculous. “I was just miles away. What did you say, Ms Anderson?”
“Sandra.” She says, rolling her eyes. “Ms Anderson makes me feel like I’m still at school. And we were talking about whether or not to change the name of this place to Anderson’s. Duck thinks we should stick with Iggy’s.” She adds, mock-glaring at Duck.
“Um.” To be honest it doesn’t mean anything to Dan either way. Today feels like the first time since he and Val moved here that he’s sat up, looked around, and thought about Wilby as anything more than a change or later a trap. “Who was Iggy?” If marriage taught him anything, it was how to avoid a tricky question.
Sandra and Duck laugh, “She was … a character.” Sandra says eventually.
“Mad as a hatter.” Duck agrees. “But she made the best custard tarts in the world, and used to let us hang out here after school even though we could never afford more than one cup of coffee between us.”
“And she’d know what to do with people like her.” Sandra adds as the doorbell jingles and Dan looks up to see the loud-mouthed woman from the other day – Irene? – shuffle in.
Duck swivels round, and Dan sees his shoulders tense. “Never mind her,” Duck says, turning back to Dan and squeezing his hand across the table. Dan’s first instinct is to snatch his hand away, but he makes himself turn his hand over and squeeze back. Duck’s pale blue eyes meet his and Dan suddenly never wants to let go.
“Irene,” Sandra says loudly, sliding out of the booth and placing herself between their table and Irene, who Dan can still see peering curiously over Sandra’s shoulder at them. “What can I get you?”
Irene pushes forwards as if she needs to make sure she’s seeing right, causing Sandra to take a step back. “You letting people like them eat here?”
Sandra flicks back her hair and doesn’t budge back another step. “Well, obviously.” She says tartly.
“Disgusting. Letting people like that eat with normal people.”
Duck’s eyes are locked on Dan’s and Dan can feel him willing Dan not to freak, not to get upset. Strangely, Dan doesn’t feel anything but a bit annoyed. There’s nothing like a near-death experience to make you see things clearly. He squeezes Duck’s hand, and offers Sandra a small smile when she comes back from seeing Irene to the door.
“Don’t worry about her,” she says, picking up their coffee mugs and taking them over to the counter for Emily to refill. “Give it a week and everyone will have forgotten. Wilby’s like that.”
Dan is exhausted by the time they’ve had dinner and sat on Duck’s couch talking about important things and trivial things and occasionally just holding hands. He lies down on the side of the bed Duck tells him no one has slept on since it belonged to his parents and closes his eyes. He’s half asleep when he feels Duck press a soft lipped, bristle-roughened kiss to his temple and whisper goodnight.
Dan doesn’t know what wakes him, but when he opens his eyes it’s still dark and he can hear Duck’s gentle breathing on the other side of the bed. Dan smiles and rolls onto his side, just wanting to see Duck before going back to sleep.
Duck is lying on his back, eyes open, staring at the ceiling. He looks up when Dan rolls toward him. “Hey,” he whispers – cos you have to whisper at night.
Dan lays his head on Duck’s pillow, “What’s wrong?” he asks, taking one of Duck’s hands off his chest and tangling their fingers together.
“Nothing.” Duck picks up their joined hands and kisses Dan’s wrist – a hot, wet, open-mouthed kiss that does things to Dan’s insides. “Just can’t sleep.”
“Am I keeping you awake?” Val used to moan about Dan’s sleeping habits. Said he wriggled and tossed all night long. “I could sleep on the couch?”
“No.” Duck’s voice is sharp, and raised to a normal volume. “No,” his voice drops back to a whisper, “Stay with me.”
On their third night together, Dan and Duck make love for the first time.
Duck laughs when Dan calls it their first time and reminds him of all the times at the Watch.
Dan protests that it wasn’t “all those times,” and asks if Duck’s calling him a slut. Then he tries to explain that the Watch doesn’t count. Because even though after a while they wordlessly sought each other out, it was still sex with a man, not sex with Duck. Dan wants this to be sex – no, love making – with Duck.
Duck lets him babble himself to a standstill then pushes him down into the pillows and kisses him until his ears ring.
Dan wakes up early the next morning and his long legs are tangled around Duck’s. Duck’s face is buried in his shoulder and when Dan tries to slide out from underneath he finds their skin is stuck together with dried sweat and something else Dan still isn’t ready to think about.
Duck mumbles and curls closer into Dan’s side. Dan kisses the top of his blond hair, gently prises the long, oddly flattened fingers off his biceps and rolls out of bed.
Taking a shower, Dan runs his hands over his body and smiles when his touch reminds himself of Duck’s the night before. His body feels amazing. Muscles he hasn’t used since the early days with Val are aching beautifully, and his mouth seems to have been surgically shaped into a permanent smile.
Dan wanders back into the bedroom, sorts through the abandoned pile of clothes at the foot of the bed and pulls on his jeans. He doesn’t bother with underwear hoping the jeans won’t be on long enough for it to matter. Then he pads barefoot downstairs and into the kitchen where he switches on the coffee maker, finds bagels in the pantry and puts them under the grill.
From the kitchen’s small window, he can see Duck’s mailbox is full. It takes a moment for Dan to convince himself to go outside shirtless where all the neighbours can see, but he tells himself to get a grip, lets himself out the front door and if his walk to the mailbox is a little faster than it maybe should be, well, he still reckons he’s doing pretty well.
There are a couple of letters addressed to Duck, a copy of the Sentinel – which Dan refuses to let himself think about – and, tucked underneath it all where Dan almost doesn’t see it, is a folded over piece of white paper. He tucks the letters and newspaper under his arm and flicks open the piece of paper. It’s probably junk and if it is he can put it straight in the trash.
Dan reads the note from beginning to end without taking it in. By the time he’s read it twice he’s shaking. His only thought is to get rid of it before Duck sees it, and he lifts the lid off the trashcan wanting to throw it away and pretend it never happened. But when he lifts the lid, he finds other notes, similar but not quite the same, with a brick on top to stop them flying out and all over the street.
Dan finds himself in the kitchen with no memory of how he got there. His hands are shaking and the bagels are starting to burn. He turns off the grill and sinks down into the nearest chair, the note clutched in his hand.
Duck finds him there later – Dan has no idea how much later. He’s dressed in jeans and a shirt and Dan feels weirdly naked and vulnerable.
“Hey,” Duck puts a hand on Dan’s shoulder and Dan jumps. “What’s wrong? You’re shaking.” Duck kneels down in front of Dan’s chair and takes his hands. “Did I rush you? I thought you were okay.”
Dan shakes his head. “I found this.” He says holding out the note, which Duck takes mechanically, his face paling. “And I found all the others. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to worry you. I’m sorry, I never meant you to find out.”
Dan turns his face away. “It’s my fault.” He mutters, feeling his eyes fill. “I … you’re getting hate mail cos of me.”
“No.” Duck kisses his hands then stands up, stepping between Dan’s legs and pulling him against his chest. “This is the fault of people like Irene and a couple of other busy-bodies. You heard what Sandra said, it’ll all quieten down in a week, so we’ve only got to last through three more days and it’ll all go away.”
“What if it doesn’t?” Dan’s voice is embarrassingly thick.
“Then we go somewhere else. Toronto, maybe, I’ve always wanted to go there.”
Dan shakes his head against Duck’s flat stomach, “Wilby’s your home.”
“You’re my home.” Duck corrects, running his fingers through Dan’s hair, “And if you ever tell anyone I said something that sappy I’ll have to kill you.”
Dan chokes out a laugh and suddenly everything is okay. He doesn’t give a damn what other people think. Duck loves him; it’s like some surprising and miraculous gift.
There’s another note in the mailbox the next morning, and Dan watches from the window as Duck rips it up and puts it in the trash. When Duck brings the mail in there’s also a letter from Val. Dan wrote her when he was still in hospital. He kept the details vague, not wanting to worry her, but he told her he was in hospital. He also told her about Duck, but he kept that even vaguer.
Her reply is short and to the point. She’s glad he’s alive. She’s glad he’s happy. Other than that, the only contact she wants with him is through their lawyer.
“At least she didn’t tell me to go to hell this time.” Dan sniffs into the mug of coffee Duck got him.
In the morning, Duck asks if Dan is planning to reopen Jarvis Videos. Ten minutes before Dan would have said he didn’t care about the video store – in truth, he only opened it to give himself an excuse to get out of the house, and a place to watch his Westerns without Val complaining – but the moment Duck mentions selling, he finds an overwhelming affection for the place.
He tells Duck all this and Duck offers to help him redecorate, so Dan goes into town to take a look over the place and decide what needs to be done. It’s the first time he’s been out without Duck by his side, and it feels a little strange. Not that he needs Duck’s protection – in fact he’s probably attracting less attention by himself – but he misses Duck’s calm, easy presence.
He passes Iggy’s – newly painted, but without a change of name – and considers going in to see Sandra, but she’s Duck’s friend really, and he wouldn’t know what to say to her.
He turns off Main Street and is just unlocking Jarvis Video’s front door when he hears a car pull up beside him. Something sinks in Dan’s chest, but he puts on his game face and turns around.
It’s Buddy French, which both surprises and relieves Dan.
“Hey, Dan.” Buddy calls, slamming the car door and coming up to him, “How are you doing?”
“Uh, good, yeah.” One day Dan will learn how to make small talk. “You?”
“Oh, I’m fine. Are you giving the store another go?”
“Yeah.” Dan manages and feels himself blushing. “D’you want … is something wrong?”
“No, no. Just thought I’d say hi.” Buddy pulls on the already open collar of his blue uniform shirt, “Look Dan, can we go inside?”
“Sure,” Dan pushes the door open and shows Buddy inside. The place smells of a week’s worth of dust and there’s nothing but boxes of videos. “Uh, sit down?” He goes to push some boxes onto the floor, but Buddy stops him.
“No, it’s fine. I really just wanted to see how you’re getting on. Carol’s been wanting to come visit you, but she’s not sure if you’ll want to see her.”
That stumps Dan. He’d rather forget the entire incident, but he feels he owes Carol something. “She could come by, if she wants. I really should thank her.”
“I told her you’d say that. She was worried you might not be exactly … Well, to be honest she’s worried you think she’s cracked. She did lock you in a cupboard.” Buddy says it seriously, but the corner of his mouth quirks up, and Dan bursts out laughing.
After a beat Buddy joins in. Dan doesn’t remember laughing like this for a long time, and it feels fantastic. He’s known for days that his life is falling into place, but this is the first time he’s really known it.
The Wilby Wonderful signs are still everywhere around town. Duck’s found the piece of paper – written in Carol French’s ditzy secretary’s handwriting – and it definitely does have the words the wrong way around, but Duck is repainting the signs anyway.
Dan asks him if he’s losing business since it all came out. Duck says only business he isn’t sorry to lose, which isn’t really an answer, but Dan trusts Duck would tell him if things were really bad.
Carol and Buddy French invite Dan and Duck around for dinner. It should, but being so obviously invited as a couple doesn’t feel embarrassing or awkward at all. There are trays of hors d’oeuvres – which Carol calls nibbles – on the table. Little biscuit-y things and tiny pieces of sushi, which are gone in less than one bite. Duck makes faces at them when Carol’s back is turned, making Dan laugh and choke on a mouthful of sparkling wine.
Carol makes a throw-away comment about not choking himself, which she cuts off half way through, goes pale, and babbles an apology, which they both know covers the cupboard incident more than her slip of the tongue.
Overall, they have a damn good time – much better than Dan expected – and he’s half sorry when it’s time to go home. He’s also more than half tipsy, which he feels really bad about cos Duck’s not drinking.
Duck kisses him – right there on the moonlit street for God and Wilby to see – and tells him he’s hot. Then takes him home and takes advantage of him, which Dan is fine about.
Dan’s late meeting Duck for lunch. His mother called wanting to know what the hell was going on with him and Val. That was a conversation he hadn’t been expecting to have this soon. He speaks to his parents on average once every two months, saving up birthday and Christmas wishes and news of his brother’s latest sprogs. It took him half an hour of ambiguous answers and promises to call later to get away.
He’s half way across Bargain Mart’s parking lot when he notices that people are standing whispering to each other over their trolleys. At first he assumes they’re talking about him and Duck, but no one stops when he gets near, and in fact they don’t seem to notice him at all, so he starts to revise his opinion.
Dan is almost at Iggy’s when he sees a figure sitting on the curb, legs drawn up, looking miserable.
“Emily?” Dan asks cautiously, not sure if this is any of his business.
She looks up, her eyes and cheeks wet. “Hi.” She sniffs, pushing her dark hair out of her eyes.
“Are you alright?” He winces even as he says it. Does she look alright? He sits down beside her, pulling his pant legs up so they don’t trail in the dust, and hoping no cars come along considering how far his legs reach into the road. “What’s wrong?”
She sniffs again, and he pulls out a handkerchief, which she takes with a shy smile. “I … haven’t you heard? It’s all over town.”
“Um. The principle caught Mackenzie and Tyler screwing in the school gym last night. She’s been kicked out of summer school, which totally serves her right.”
“Oh geez, Emily, I’m sorry.” He has no trouble working out who Mackenzie and Tyler are. The three of them are always in his store renting videos or just hanging out for a while between school and home. Dan has always thought Tyler is a bit of a jerk – a really good looking one but still a jerk – but Emily seemed to really like him. Feeling a little self-conscious, Dan puts his arm around Emily’s shoulder. She sniffs and presses her face into his shoulder.
“Come on,” he says after a while, pulling her to her feet, “Let’s go see your mum.”
As they reach Iggy’s Dan sees Duck coming out. He waves and Duck grins, looking relieved.
“I’ll be in in a minute.” Dan promises Emily, giving her another squeeze before sending her inside the café and going to Duck.
“Thought you’d skipped town.” Duck says easily, a cigarette lolling comfortably from the corner of his mouth.
Dan takes a deep breath, plucks out the cigarette and pulls Duck into a kiss, just as Irene turns the corner into sight.
Duck freezes for a second, but Dan perseveres, pushing his tongue into Duck’s mouth, and he feels Duck shrug and return the kiss.
They pull apart eventually, both breathing hard, and Duck leans his head on Dan’s shoulder, laughing softly.
Irene is standing, motionless on the other side of the road, staring, her mouth slightly open, cheeks slightly flushed.
“Afternoon, Irene.” Dan calls cheerfully, clutching Duck’s hand as hard as he can.
She blinks at them, obviously conflicted, but then she shakes her head and runs off, intent on the new gossip.
Through the window of Iggy’s Dan can see Sandra watching them, a slight smile on her lips.
Duck presses a kiss to Dan’s throat and lifts his head. “What was that about?” He asks, looking amused and very slightly rumpled. He reaches down, takes his cigarette from where it rests awkwardly between Dan’s fingers.
Dan doesn’t know what to tell him. It was about too many things. It was about finding people who accept him and who he will one day count as friends. It was about no longer being at the top of Wilby’s gossip list. It was about waking up each day and going to bed each night with someone he loves. It was about finally opening his eyes and seeing life is good. It was about …
“I’m happy.” He says with a bit of a shrug.
Duck’s eyes crinkle, smiling without moving his lips. “You still owe me lunch,” he says, taking Dan’s hand and leading him into Iggy’s.