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“You’ll be my best man, right?” Danny said, and gave Matt that blissed-out grin he’d had for three days now, ever since Rebecca Tripp was born, ever since Jordan didn’t die and did say yes. Danny didn’t even wait for an answer, just handed Matt another cigar – how many boxes must he have gone through by now? – and twirled off to annoy Jack, or possibly Simon.

The whirlwind of manic cheerfulness was back an hour later, apparently out of cigars at last, and interrupted Matt while he was hard at work staring blankly out at last week’s set. “You will, right?” Danny said, just a little uncertain. “Be my best man?”

Matt summoned a smile for his best friend, still mapping out a sketch in his head. “Of course I will.” He knew he sounded distracted, and he hoped Danny would go away before the scene fell apart.

“It’ll be the last time I ask,” Danny said seriously.

Matt glanced at him. Danny had been married when they’d first met, but Matt was the best man at his second marriage. Third time’s the charm, he hoped. Fatherhood suited Danny already, and Jordan was perfect for him, strong enough for him. Matt frowned; he’d lost the thread of the sketch. “I know,” he said.

Danny grinned, not quite so manic but still a little gleeful around the edges. High as a kite on happiness, but more solidly grounded than Matt had ever seen him before. It was good to see. Matt gave up on the sketch and focused on his friend.

“And I’ll be yours,” Danny said, bouncing a little.

“Be my what?”

“Your best man. When you ask Harriet.”

“What is this, Days of Our Lives?” Matt demanded. “Who says I’m going to ask Harriet to marry me?”

Danny raised his eyebrows.

Matt scowled.

Danny waited.

“You can be my best man,” Matt conceded with bad grace. “But only if I ask her.”

Things were going too fast.

Only a few days ago Mark Jeter had been rescued. Matt had spent most of yesterday finding the perfect ring for Harriet. His best friend was suddenly a father. Matt had a show to write and a sexual identity crisis he’d been putting off for far too long.

Falling in love was the easy part. He did that years ago.

***

Harriet was drunk the first time he kissed her. She always was a happy drunk, never drank more than to get a little tipsy. Very… proper, his Harriet. It had been at a wrap party, of course, and for the show he’d written her a sketch that went on a full four minutes. She’d never had a sketch that long. When he’d brought her a glass of champagne, she’d smiled up at him in that heart-stopping way she had, so raw and happy and her eyes shining, and she’d just said, “Thank you.”

It was the first and last time he ever danced with her. Sometimes, thinking back, Matt was sure he must have been drunk as well – the whole scene was so hazy and happy and perfect in his memory. Objectively, he knew he didn’t have a drop to drink that entire night; it was too important. She was too important.

Their first kiss, he’d stopped in the middle of the dance floor and just held her, looking into her eyes. She’d looked as dazzled as he’d felt, and he'd kissed her, and he couldn’t believe that he’d dared. The most beautiful woman in the world was kissing him back.

He realized, later, that if he’d just done things the way they were scripted, the way he was supposed to, he and Harriet would have two kids by now, and a house in the Hills, and a couple of movie contracts under their belts. If he hadn’t been stupid, if he hadn’t been scared, if he could have just believed that she really did want to be with him – they would be having fights over the color of the curtains in the kitchen and whether to celebrate holidays for a religion he felt no affinity for. Stupid, comfortable fights, instead of fights about politics and wars and baseball bats and pills.

I’m the one person, she insisted. I’m the one person, always. And he’d finally believed her. Stupid that it took breaking up and getting high to figure out that she was really real.

So he’d bought her a ring, and he was going to sort out this thing about being in love with Danny, and then he was going to ask her to marry him.

God, he was terrified.

***

Danny liked to tell reporters the elaborate story about the first time he and Matt met, complete with a bet over a blue-eyed brunette, how the partnership proved better than the brunette, and how they went on to take over Studio 60.

Matt was intimately familiar with this story. This was because Matt wrote the story.

With people Danny actually cared about, he would cut the bullshit and just say that they met professionally and struck up a friendship. It was true enough, and Matt often used that version of the story as well.

As far as Matt could tell, Danny didn’t remember the first time they met, and Matt never got around to telling him.

***

I’m the one person, Harriet had said. The one person you don’t keep things from.

 

But Matt was chickenshit. Procrastination was the only way he knew to get anything done. Point yourself at a goal; head away from it to get yourself rolling; make sure the world will punish you mightily if you don’t reach your goal; steer toward it by the seat of your pants and pumping adrenalin; get there at the last possible minute. It meant a life of panicking under deadlines and rewriting sketches as the show aired and never, never being satisfied with the finished product, but it had worked for his entire career. Someday it would give him a heart attack, but for now he was young.

Goal: Tell Harriet about Danny. Get over Danny. Be best man at Danny’s wedding without having to drink heavily through the whole thing this time. Get married. Try my damnedest to be happy.

Procrastination: Ask Jack Rudolph for advice.

***

Danny was high the first time Matt met him. He didn’t know until later that it was cocaine, and it took a while for him to figure out that Danny wasn’t sharing the same reality Matt was; Danny hid it pretty well. It was at another wrap party but long before he’d ever met Harriet. They talked for a long time about how the show could have been better. A sketch that Matt had written had flopped, and he was convinced that if it hadn’t been so heavily edited by the senior writer it would have been hilarious. Danny didn’t agree, until Matt had explained that the sketch hadn’t been written for the lead but for Josh Meyer, one of the supporting artists. A dawning understanding came over Danny’s face. “Man, that’s brilliant!” They’d talked for hours before Matt finally dragged himself home to sleep. Finally he had made a friend in Hollywood.

When Matt spoke to him the next day on set, he could tell that something was wrong. Danny didn’t recognize him.

He must have remembered something, though, because the next week the sketch was reintroduced, unedited, and Josh performed it. There was no standing ovation, but it got a good laugh from the audience.

Once bitten, twice shy; it was a long time before he spoke seriously with Danny again. But slowly, they got friendlier and friendlier. After a while, he even learned to tell when Danny was high and when he wasn’t. Danny didn’t always lose time, he learned.

Once, after he walked in on Danny snorting lines off a prop camera in a dressing room, he’d stupidly asked if he was going to share. Danny had just looked at him for a long minute while he squirmed before saying, “You don’t want this, Albie.” And it was true enough, he didn’t. He did want Danny’s friendship, though.

The friendship grew, spread and filled in parts of Matt’s life but never touched the lost time when Danny pursued oblivion. The holes became more and more apparent as they spent more and more time together, and every once in a while Danny would whisper an apology, and Matt would say, “I know,” because he couldn’t say “It’s okay.”

***

“Albie,” Jack said sourly, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I was bored,” Matt said. He strolled across to look at the view from Jack’s corner office.

“Get out.”

“And I have a question.”

“Whatever it is, the answer is no.”

“And here I thought you were becoming less of a bastard since your divorce,” Matt said pleasantly.

“Not to you, Albie,” Jack growled. His phone rang. He ignored it.

Matt grinned. Jack wanted him to stay. “Never to me,” he agreed.

“So what is it this time? If you’re planning to come out in support of Simon over that little mess we managed to sweep under the rug, I’m going to terminate your contract.”

“You can’t,” Matt told him smugly. “Danny and I made sure of that. Only Jordan can fire us.”

“That’ll get messy when they have their first fight,” Jack muttered. He shuffled through some papers, pointedly. Matt lounged in front of the window. It really was quite a view. “Albie…” Jack warned.

“I need some advice.”

“Get a lawyer.”

“I’ve got one, thanks. I meant personal advice.”

When Jack was silent, Matt glanced over at him inquiringly.

“You’re asking personal advice from a man whose marriage has just crumbled spectacularly.” Jack got up and poured himself some scotch. Grudgingly, he poured another for Matt. “You must be pretty desperate.”

“Pretty,” Matt agreed.

“Well then, tell me all your troubles. I’m sure that ‘shrink’ is somewhere in my job description.” The sarcasm was drowned by the scotch.

Matt tasted the whisky. It was wonderful. He hummed a little to himself. He enjoyed shocking Jack. This was going to be good.

“I think I might be gay.”

A pause. Jack poured himself another scotch. “Albie, you’re not gay.”

“How do you know?” Matt demanded.

“How do you know?” Jack returned. “And what the hell is with the ‘I think I might be’? You are or you’re not. And God help me, I am so sick of people freaking out over being attracted to other people. Get a shrink, Albie, I don’t have time for this.”

Matt pouted. Usually he could parry with Jack for much longer than this.

Jack sighed. “Albie, you’re not gay.”

“I could be.”

“You’re not attracted to men.”

“How do you know?” and it was a real question this time.

“Albie, I know. You don’t look at other men. You don’t track them around the room. You flirt with them, but you flirt with everyone; that’s the natural state of Matt Albie. But you’re not attracted to them.”

“I flirt with them?” But that wasn’t important. The important thing was that Jack didn’t understand. “I’m in love with Danny.”

Oh,” Jack said, and took a long drink.

“Yeah.”

“Well. How long did it take for you to figure it out?”

“Huh?”

“I knew that within ten minutes of meeting the two of you. Are you honestly telling me that you didn’t know?”

“But you just told me I’m not gay!” Matt protested.

“What’s that got to do with it?” Jack demanded. He was looking morosely at the empty scotch bottle.

Matt knew his mouth was gaping unattractively, perhaps even in a fish-like manner, but this just didn’t compute. This was not going according to script. “I – But – We – ”

“Gender has very little to do with love. It does have a lot to do with attraction, unfortunately. You’re straight, Albie. You’re in love with your best friend. He’s in love with you.”

“He’s in love with Jordan,” Matt said weakly.

“And you’re in love with Harriet.” Jack reached for the liquor cabinet again.

“Should you be drinking this early in the day?”

Jack gave him a withering look. “When your marriage of twenty-seven years dissolves, you can start telling me when I can drink. Until then, shut it.”

“Yessir,” Matt snapped. He felt dissatisfied. Jack had taken the “I think I’m gay” and the “I’m in love with my best friend” with a certain amount of equanimity. Matt was freaking out; the least Jack could do was be a little shocked. So he said, “I slept with him.”

Well, he’d been going for shock. He watched Jack freeze in the act of taking another bottle of scotch from the cabinet. There was a beat while Jack processed. “Well, shit, Albie,” he said.

“Shit,” Matt agreed.

Jack focused on him completely for the first time that morning. Matt felt the grey eyes examining him, and he began to realize just how stupid it was to tell his boss’s boss such things. This was career-ending stuff, when you came down to it.

“Does Harriet know?” Jack asked.

Matt studied the edge of the carpet between his feet. “No.”

“You’re going to need to tell her.”

“Yeah.”

“Albie…”

“Yeah?”

“I’m not real sober right now, so I can’t guarantee that I... Fuck. Look. You and Danny, you make a good team. But you and Harriet, you make a good team, too. Don’t fuck either of them up, okay?”

“Okay.” Matt felt obscurely comforted, the way he’d always imagined he’d feel if his dad gave him advice. Though thank God Jack wasn’t his dad; Matt would have refused any advice from his own dad if the bastard had ever been interested enough to offer.

“And for God’s sake, talk to Harriet. She’ll put your head on straight.”

“So to speak,” Matt couldn’t help adding.

“So to speak,” Jack agreed.

***

After leaving Jack’s office, Matt figured he needed another opinion; perhaps a more sober one.

Simon had an opinion; of course Simon had an opinion. Simon had declared that he was done having opinions after having publicly aligned himself with the Taliban by accident, but of course that lasted a grand total of half an hour.

Simon’s opinion, once Matt had broached the subject, was, “Wait, you mean the two of you aren’t sleeping together now?”

Matt fishmouthed. Simon had to be shitting him. “Uh, no,” he said at last, when it became clear that it was a real question. Just once, eleven years ago. Could Simon tell?

“That’s fucked up, yo,” Simon informed him. Matt wished intensely for a moment that he had a real little brother to get an opinion from, instead of Simon.

“It’s fucked up that we’re not sleeping together,” Matt repeated. “What the fuck?”

“Well, why aren’t you?” Simon demanded. “I mean, I know why you aren’t now – he’s gonna get married and all – but we all thought…”

“ ‘We?’” Matt’s voice hit a high note and he winced. “Who is ‘we’?”

“We” turned out to be just Simon and Jeannie – and Suzanne, who thought it was cute, but Suzanne went to Star Trek conventions and was one of Those Fans, and Matt thought that had warped her view enough that ordinary people couldn’t possibly share her opinion.

Except Jeannie, and how galling was it that his own ex thought he had been sleeping with Danny all along.

Simon said, “That’s fucked up, yo,” and Simon said, “You mean never, not once…?” and Simon said, “You need to fix this, Matt, before the wedding.”

“I need to sleep with Danny before the wedding?” Matt asked dully.

“No, you ass. You need to talk to him before the wedding.”

Matt decided Simon’s advice sucked.

“And Harriet, too,” Simon called after him as he stalked out of the dressing room. Matt ignored him. Simon had aligned himself with the Taliban, and contrary to popular opinion, Matt didn’t actually take advice from terrorists.

***

It was a Friday night, technically Saturday very early. Another afterparty; lots of alcohol. Matt hadn’t arrived with Danny, and when he found him at last it was obvious that Danny hadn’t expected him.

Matt wouldn’t have picked up on it except that Danny’s pupils were blown, even thought there was plenty of light. Matt had learned a few things over the years, and he could tell when Danny was high about 50 percent of the time, near as he could calculate. The man was good at acting normal.

Except on this night, Matt was the one who wasn’t acting normal.

He arrived at the party late; he’d had an argument with one of the techs after the show about a misplaced prop that had ruined an entire sketch, and they’d screamed at each other for a while until Steven came out, fired the tech, and yelled at Matt to go home and fucking relax for once, would ya?

He’d been feeling reckless when he got to the party, almost drunk on the power of being backed up by the head writer, drunk on the offhand “it would have been a good sketch, sorry it got messed up” so casually tossed his way. He didn’t see anyone he knew very well at first, but a pretty blonde danced with him for a bit and then pulled him into a deserted den at the back of the house. He went to kiss her, but instead she produced a straw and a mirror, flashed a smile at him, and snorted a line in front of him. He gaped a little, but he took the mirror when she handed it to him. He was more put off by the thought of using the straw that had just been in her nose than he was by the thought of the cocaine. Feeling a bit like this was a cheesy afternoon special, he found a ballpoint pen to dissect instead of recycling the straw. He glanced again at her, uncertain, faced with the actual powder, but she was paying no attention at this point. A mental shrug, an ow ow ow why the fuck would anyone do this? as he bent his head over the mirror, and he joined her on the couch.

Danny came in just as Matt was starting to feel the effects. Matt instantly felt less anxious. When he saw Danny’s pupils, he relaxed even further. He was getting along well with the girl; she was laughing at his jokes. She laughed at Danny’s, too. Matt felt very light, very present. It was great to be having fun with his friend. He wouldn’t trade Danny for anything.

They followed the girl – he giggled and asked her name, and promptly forgot it again – up to a bedroom, where she kissed Danny and then Matt, and Matt watched her undress Danny. He watched Danny sprawl out on the bed, watched the girl climb on top of him, watched them have sex. His mind eventually came back to his hand on his own cock.

They all got under the covers together after, the blonde in the middle, and Matt slid into her slow and leisurely. It felt exquisite. He had never been so in the moment, had never been able to shut up those voices before, the ones that said no and wrong and how dare you. Euphoria – this couldn’t be the coke, it couldn’t, everyone would be doing cocaine if it made you feel this alive – and Jesus, that was Danny moving behind him, oh fuckfuckfuck that hurt that felt perfect – exquisite – Danny inside him Jesus fucking Christ, there wasn’t enough room to cram more feeling into this moment and something was going break – oh fuck that felt good – harsh breathing – more, more – and he was breaking, the orgasm torn out of like someone was clawing his insides out, wrung out of him in long, agonizing bursts, as he panted and panted and tried to catch his breath against the bosom of a woman whose name he didn’t know, with his best friend passed out on top of him.

***

The nameless woman was gone when he woke up in a strange bed with Danny’s arms still clamped around him. Adrenaline flooded him, trapped as he was under Danny’s weight, and he froze, every sense screaming at him. The voices were trying to make up for lost time, screaming stupid stupid stupid round and round in the forefront of his brain; meanwhile, the back of his brain had decided to quietly gibber, relentless.

It took a while, but he concentrated through the pounding headache and managed to wrestle the panic into submission. Slowly, surely, he consciously relaxed his muscles, trying to let the tension drain out.

He was an openminded guy, he told his brain sternly. He didn’t have a problem with homosexuality. He should not be freaking out about this.

Danny snuffled in his sleep and snuggled closer. Matt instantly went tense again.

Danny gave a little moan and shifted off of him. Matt waited until it was clear he was still asleep. It was now or never. He wormed out of Danny’s stranglehold and inched toward the other side of the bed. He was almost there when –

“Matt?” Danny’s voice was little-boy sleepy, confused.

“Yeah?” Matt said carefully. Don’t open your eyes, don’t open your eyes…

 

But a moment later there was a flurry of sheets as Danny scrambled away from him, limbs at odd angles, staring. His mouth opened, shut, and opened again, but no sound came out.

Matt’s heart sank at the horror on Danny’s face. He’d been counting on Danny not to freak out; Matt already had that angle covered, and Danny’s role was usually to talk him down. Matt had never thought that he would have to…

“Jesus, Matt, what – I –” Danny stuttered.

He’d always worked best under a deadline. He needed a story, and he had about five seconds. The best lies contain a modicum of truth. “Where’s Colleen?” he asked, rubbing his eyes as if just waking up.

“What – Who?” The horrified fish look was still on Danny’s face, begging Matt to say that what he knew had happened, hadn’t.

“Colleen. You know, the girl we – uh –” He was not going to say ‘shared’; his voice would crack and Danny would know it was a lie. He felt his face go bright red.

“Girl?” Danny looked for a moment like he would contradict this.

When in doubt, fake a hangover. “I think her name was Colleen. I dunno, I don’t remember much of last night.”

“You’re… okay?” Danny’s voice sounded odd.

“Headache. Drank too much. Where’s the john? Maybe there’s a medicine cabinet.”

They didn’t speak on the drive back to Matt’s place, and Danny didn’t come in. Matt promptly got drunk for real, at eight in the morning.

Danny checked himself into rehab, and didn’t see Matt for four months.

***

Harriet found him having a staring contest with the countdown monitor. “I’m going over to see Jordan in the hospital. You coming?”  Matt came.

Harriet cooed over Rebecca Tripp, and Jordan managed to look stunningly beautiful, impossibly fragile, and incredibly strong all at once. There hadn’t been much of a pregnancy glow, but there was definitely a motherhood glow.

Matt dutifully held the too-small child, and wondered if he would feel more if it were his own. Danny was already crazy about this little thing that seemed only to sleep. Her face was all scrunched up; he hoped it would unscrunch before her senior prom.

When he came to, Harriet was in the hall talking to Danny, and Jordan was smiling at him. Matt was instantly wary. “What?”

“You look cute. With Rebecca.”

He shrugged self-consciously, and fidgeted.

“Matt, I wanted to tell you –” Jordan began, but Rebecca scrunched up her face even more and began to cry. Matt handed her over hurriedly. Jordan soothed her.

“Do you want me to get Danny?” Matt asked, hoping not to have to have an intimate talk with her.

“No, I want you to shut up for a moment. I want to tell you that things are going to be weird for a while, but you and Danny have my full confidence.” She hesitated. “I can’t protect the show while I’m on maternity leave, and I won’t protect the show if it doesn’t continue to be great, but I’m pretty sure you guys have that covered.”

“Um, speaking of dating one’s boss…”

“Yes?”

“I… that is, Harriet and I – uh, we’re…”

“Back on?” Jordan suggested.

Matt nodded, mutely.

“Good.”

Rebecca went to sleep with her fist over her mouth. Even Matt had to admit, it was pretty cute. He already knew he’d be watching hours and hours of baby videos in the years to come; Danny just hadn’t had time to buy the camera yet.

“Matt, I know you and Danny have something, uh, special,” Jordan began. He started to protest, but she waved him to silence. “I’m… I’m not going to mess with it, okay? I’m not really the jealous type. I just want to know that you and me, we’re okay.”

He looked at her. He wanted to tell her, “That’s in the past,” but it had never really been past. That night eleven years ago had tied the two of them together in ways he couldn’t explain to Jordan. “He asked me to be his best man at your wedding,” he said at last, voice hoarse.

She nodded. “He told me.” A pause. “Are you in love with him?”

Somehow it was harder, hearing the words from her, than it was from Simon or Jack. Maybe because she loved him, too. “I don’t know.” He looked at her miserably. “How do I tell?”

She raised one eloquent shoulder in a shrug. “I knew as soon as I saw him.”

Matt nodded. “That’s was it was like with Harriet, too.”

“Have you told her?”

“I think she knows.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“…No.”

“You should,” she said.

“I know.”

They sat together in silence for a while, both watching Rebecca breathe.

***

When Danny got out of rehab, he apologized to Matt. “I need to ask your forgiveness. I let you down.”

Matt waited to see if there would be any more, but there wasn’t. “It’s okay,” he said.

“No it’s not. I’m gonna make it up to you.”

And he did. Eleven years of looking out for him, making sure he lived up to his potential; Danny had never owed him anything but he repaid any imagined debt a hundred times over. Danny was closer than family.

Sometimes at nights – especially the ones he couldn’t sleep because of deadlines – Matt would try and remember whether he had enjoyed sex with Danny. He would try and work out whether that made him gay. He didn’t fantasize about Danny, or any guy really, but he thought he wouldn’t mind trying it again.

***

On the night before Danny’s wedding, after drinking enough at the bachelor party to be able to pass it off as drunkenness, Matt kissed Danny.

They were on the roof of Studio 60, which was one of Danny’s favorite spots nowadays – though he’d stashed a few keys around so he’d never be locked up there again.

It wasn’t much of a kiss. Matt was pretty sure he’d throw up if he tried for anything more than lips brushing lips. Danny didn’t move at the first kiss, so Matt tried again. Danny grasped him by the shoulders and gently pushed him back.

“Matty,” he said with heartbreaking kindness, “what’s going on?”

Matt choked on the emotions rising up, and wondered if he were going to throw up anyways. He felt tears on his cheeks. White-hot shame burnt through him.

“Aw, Matty, come here.” Danny pulled him into his arms, into a bear hug. Matt felt the sobs wracking his body, tried to force them down. “’S okay. I don’t mind if you cry.”

When the sobs finally subsided, Matt dug through his pockets for a tissue. Danny produced a clean handkerchief. Danny was always cleaning up after him; Danny was always playing the big brother.

“I just – I don’t want things to change,” Matt said finally, wincing as his voice broke pathetically.

“Things aren’t gonna change, Matty. I’m not going anywhere. I’m always here for you.” Danny pulled back to look him in the eyes. “I’m not going to leave you, Matty. You hear me? I’m not going to abandon you.”

“Eleven y–” But his voice was shaking so hard that he couldn’t get the words out. Eleven years you abandoned me to deal with this thing, and I can’t, I can’t, I can’t keep pretending.

Danny tensed and stepped away. They both looked out over the Strip, at the lights below. “Eleven years ago I – you think it hasn’t been eating me up, too? I love you, Matty, you’re the first person in my whole life I ever loved, and I – I – I raped you, and I left you to deal with it, and nothing I do will ever make that better. Nothing.”

Matt rocked back. “You… you remember?” he demanded, because he’d managed to convince himself, sometime in the first five years, that Danny didn’t remember at all. And – “You didn’t – no. Is that what you’ve been telling yourself for eleven years?” Jesus Christ.

“I thought the coke – it only really hurt me, right? And then one day I wake up and I’ve hurt the only person I care about. And that – that violence, it was inside me, the drugs just let it out. I had to get clean, it was the only way – I couldn’t let myself lose control like that again. And I –”

“Danny. Danny, you didn’t rape me.”

“What? No, look, I do remember that night, and I remember you were pretty out of it, too. I –”

“YOU’VE BEEN CARRYING THIS FOR ELEVEN YEARS?” Matt yelled, white-hot rage erupting. “For the love of Jesus, Danny, you could have told me!”

“What was I supposed to do? I have to make it up to you.”

No you don’t, you insufferable egotistical maladjusted snotface. You didn’t rape me, I remember that night better than you do, and if your guilt is the reason that you’ve stuck around this long, you can take a long walk off a short pier! Fuck you, Danny Tripp!” Matt stalked away, only to be caught a few yards later by Danny tugging at his arm.

“Damn it, Albie, would you just –”

“No!” Matt shook him off. “I thought we were friends. I thought, however fucked up this thing between us is, at least we love each other. But you – you felt sorry for me. You thought I was some sort of victim you had to protect. That’s not friendship, Danny, that’s just – sick.”

He stalked across the rooftop to glare at the lights of the Strip below. “You’re supposed to get clean for you. It doesn’t work if it’s not for you.”

“You think I don’t know that?” There was a desperate catch in Danny’s voice. “AA tells you to put your faith in a higher power. They don’t tell you what to do if you can’t. I don’t have higher power, Matty. All I had was my family – all I had was you.” He reached a hand out to Matt’s shoulder again, but Matt shook it off, angrily.

“Do you know what kind of position that puts me in?” he yelled. “Do you? I can’t be – whoever it is you think I am. I can’t save you, Danny. I can barely keep myself together.”

“I know it isn’t fair,” Danny whispered. “I know. You shouldn’t be responsible for me. I’ve tried… I’m trying… to spread the – the burden –”

It took Matt a moment to realize that he meant Jordan and Rebecca. “Jesus, Danny.” He considered it. “Jordan’s going to kick your ass if you ever tell her what you just told me.”

“I know. On my better days, it isn’t true – it isn’t the reason I went after her. But on my bad days…”

“You’re a sick son of a bitch,” Matt spat. “You went after her – she was pregnant, she was alone, you manipulative –”

“It wasn’t like that!” Danny backed down under Matt’s baleful stare. “I’m an addict, Matt. That doesn’t change. Every day I have to remember that there are reasons not to go back to what I was, and most of the time those reasons are outside of me. You – you’re worth being sober for. So’s she.”

“This is so fucked up,” Matt muttered. He had to get away, away before he punched Danny in the face.

He was almost to the door when Danny spoke again. “Please, Matty.”

Matt whirled around and glowered.

“I’ve already destroyed two marriages because of this. I don’t want to lose my best friend, too.” Danny looked destroyed, so fragile that the slightest breeze would smash him to pieces. He was trembling, hard. Matt had never seen him like this, not even when he was afraid that Jordan was going to die and that he’d lose Rebecca, too. Danny had always been a rock.

Danny had always been his rock.

God damn it, I love him. Doesn’t matter if I’m in love with him or not; he needs me. He would have to be Danny’s rock, now.

“You’re not going to lose me, Danny,” he said quietly. “I’m going to be very angry with you for a very long time for being stupid and not talking to me, but you’re not going to lose me. I’m going to stand up next to you tomorrow when you marry your daughter’s mother, and you’re going to stand next to me when I marry Harriet, and we’re going to work this out. AND YOU’RE GOING TO STOP BEING A MORON, okay?”

Danny nodded, shakily. There were tears on his face. Another first. Matt reached out and clasped his shoulder, pulled Danny into a hug.

Jesus fucking Christ, he thought again, as Danny wept against his shoulder.

***

The sun was just coming up over the ocean when he got under the covers next to Harriet.

“Hey,” she mumbled sleepily.

“Shh – go back to sleep.”

“Good party?”

Matt tried to remember. “The strippers weren’t very good.”

She grinned and kissed him. “You hired them,” she reminded him.

“I didn’t want to hire Wendy and make you jealous,” he admitted.

She considered this. “Thank you,” she said, and lay down again.

Matt stared at the slowly-lightening ceiling for a long time, an arm around Harriet. After an hour or so, he whispered, “Harry? You awake?”

“Not if you’re going to call me Harry,” she whispered back.

“Do you think I’m in love with Danny?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No, I don’t think you’re in love with Danny. I think you love him quite a lot, and I think that you don’t understand how to fit that into your worldview.” A silence. “Do you think you’re in love with Danny?”

“I slept with him, once,” he said to the ceiling.

She went still. “That… explains a lot.”

“It was eleven years ago.”

“Before he got clean?”

“Yeah.”

“Was it the reason he got clean?”

“Yeah.”

She nodded. “No wonder you’re so messed up about it,” she said, fondly.

“You don’t… mind?” That was unexpected.

“As long as you aren’t planning a repeat, I don’t have objections to your exes. That’s your thing.”

He ignored this pointed barb; after all, it was true. “You know I’m going to ask you to marry me soon, right?”

She grinned in the early morning light. “You know I’m going to catch that bouquet tomorrow, right?”