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Not This Life

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Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys. ~Alphonse de Lamartine

 

Steve and Danny spent almost all their free time together, falling into a natural rhythm that was good for them both. Having a real friend to confide in was something they’d both needed, and they cherished that they’d found each other.

Steve refused to examine his good fortune too closely, afraid it would vanish like so many of the positives in his life had done. Danny also worried about being too happy, fearful his new sense of security would also be snatched away. They were both content to enjoy the time together, getting to really know each other, and agreed not too look too closely at their luck.

“Do you want to come to meet Stan with me?” Danny asked Steve Sunday afternoon. They’d both had appointments but agreed to meet for a beer at the bar close to Steve’s house. That would keep them out of bed and out of trouble.

“No,” Steve said. “You need the time with him.”

“All right,” Danny agreed easily. He understood what Steve meant. The pain he and Stan shared was not a part of the fabric of Steve’s life. That tear would never be mended for Danny or Stan.

“I accidentally double-booked Wednesday. Can you take one of them?” Steve asked.

“What time?” Danny said, taking out his phone.

“One’s at noon. The other’s at 12:30,” Steve said.

“Yeah. I can do either one,” Danny agreed. “Who you want me to take?”

“The 12:30 is the mayor’s wife,” Steve said. “She’s not a lot of work. Mostly she wants to be the center of someone’s attention for a couple of hours.”

“And the other one?”

“Ex-military. You’d probably hate him. If you don’t mind taking Sahara, I’ll take the noon.”

“Yeah. You soldiers should stick together,” Danny said, laughing behind his hand.

“Navy,” Steve hissed. “I was in the Navy.”

“Yes of course you were,” Danny said, patting him solicitously on the hand. That made Steve frown even harder although Danny hadn’t thought it was possible.

“Shut up,” Steve retorted, having no choice but to laugh. “I’ll call Sahara and let her know. She likes short men.”

“Then how’d she end up with you, Gigantor?”

“Sam,” Steve said simply. “She gets a room at the downtown Marriott. She’ll call you with the number.”

“Then you’ll see Sam?” Danny asked.

“Not this Wednesday. He’ll be in Washington.”

“Ohhh…” Danny said. “I happen to have an opening Wednesday night. And the Yankees are playing the loathed Red Sox.”

“I’m not flying to Boston,” Steve said, openly laughing at Danny.

“Tape the game for me or I swear I will make you regret it,” Danny warned.

“I don’t know why you think you can threaten me,” Steve said. “I can take you down without raising a sweat.”

“As I am all too aware, Ninja SEAL. However, if you don’t tape the game, you don’t get this delicious morsel in your bed for an entire week.

“More like an appetizer,” Steve said, sweeping Danny with his eyes.

“It’s a good thing I like your cooking,” Danny said.

“And my bed. And my shower.”

“And you,” Danny admitted, leaning closer to kiss him. “Most of all, you.”

“Yeah?” Steve said, a sparkle in his eyes.

“Yeah,” Danny sighed.

It wasn’t too much longer until Danny had to go and meet Stan. Steve went home, trying to keep busy. But in the short amount of time he’d known Danny, he’d grown accustom to having him around. The house was way too quiet without Danny’s constant talking following him.

A couple hours after they’d parted, Danny called him. He sounded…sad.

“You okay?” Steve asked. He was sitting in one of the beach chairs, listening to the soothing sounds of the waves.

“I will be,” Danny said. “It’s always hard.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know,” Danny said, taking a deep breath. “Stan got us a tee time next Tuesday. We need to be there at 9:30. Do you have appropriate attire?”

“Yeah,” Steve said. “I won’t need cleats, will I?”

“No,” Danny said. “Soft sole shoes. No sneakers and no flip-flops.

“Slippahs,” Steve corrected automatically.

“Doesn’t matter. You can’t wear them at the club. What if you run into a client?”

“We pretend we’ve never met,” Steve said. “That’s how we handle it.”

“Good,” Danny said.

“You coming over?”

“I’m going home,” Danny said. “I need some time…to sort stuff out.”

“All right,” Steve said. “If you change your mind, you have the key.”

“Yeah,” Danny said.

“I have four appointments tomorrow. I’ll be home late,” Steve said.

“I’ll sleep here,” Danny said. “I may not sleep.”

“You sure you won’t come tomorrow?” Steve asked in sympathy.

“I’m sure. I won’t be very good company. And I don’t want to try to be.”

“I understand,” Steve said. “Are you drinking?”

“No,” Danny assured him. “I am about to dive head first into a half gallon of Ben and Jerry’s chunky monkey.”

“Got to go Heath bar crunch. I’m telling you,” Steve insisted.

“No way. Chunky monkey’s number one. Phish food a close second.”

“Phish food is for losers. Cherry Garcia is the way to go.”

They spent the next few minutes arguing over the best ice cream flavors, Danny finally laughing.

“Thanks babe,” Danny said, warmth in his voice.

“You’re welcome. Call me tomorrow.”

“I will. ‘Night.”

“Good night Danny,” Steve said, ringing off.

~0~

Steve didn’t see Danny again until he came over Wednesday for dinner and the game. Danny insisted on stopping for take-out, not wanting to take advantage of Steve’s hospitality. Steve said he didn’t mind but if Danny was sure, he’d love some Thai food. Danny assured him he’d stop at the right restaurant and would bring plenty of beer.

“You want to watch the game while we eat?” Steve asked when Danny let himself in.

“If you don’t mind,” Danny said, putting the bags and beer on the coffee table. “I need a quick shower.”

“Sure,” Steve said. “Help yourself.”

“Be back shortly,” Danny said, stopping to put up one finger in warning. “Don’t. Don’t go there.”

“You said it,” Steve said with a laugh.

Danny shook his head, sprinting up the steps with his gym bag. It didn’t take long for him to come back downstairs in a ratty tee shirt and sweatpants that had seen better days.

“Thank you for dressing up for me,” Steve said when Danny flopped onto the couch next to him.

“Anything for you, babe. You know that,” Danny said, leaning closer and stealing Steve’s chopsticks to eat from the container Steve was holding. “Fire up the game.”

“Yes sir. Right away sir,” Steve said, turning it on so Danny could alternate between yelling at his beloved Yankees and the hated Red Sox.

The Yankees managed to win, making Danny do a victory dance still sitting next to Steve.

“You are out of control,” Steve said, turning enough to kiss him.

“Wait until football season,” Danny warned with a wink.

“Giants or Jets?” Steve asked.

“Giants then Jets. I got a pass to the Pro-Bowl last year.”

“You were in your glory,” Steve guessed.

“Pretty much. Hawaii needs a baseball team.”

“I’ll mention that to Sam next Wednesday,” Steve suggested.

“Think you’ll still see him once he’s governor?” Danny asked. The elections were coming up and Governor Jameson had served as long as was permitted. It was a foregone conclusion that Sam would win the job.

“Doubt it. It’ll be harder for him to get away,” Steve said.

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, standing up to stretch and making sure his tee shirt rode up so Steve could enjoy the view. “You ready for bed, sailor?”

“I am,” Steve said, standing to go up with him. “You’re still coming over Friday, right?”

“That’s the plan. By the way, Sahara said to apologize but she prefers me.”

“I told you,” Steve said with a laugh. “Short men.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. We can’t all be giants,” Danny said as they stripped off their clothes. “She wanted to pay me your rates. I thought you’d adjusted yours to the same as mine.”

“Not with her. I keep my old rates for my original clients,” Steve said. “Did she pay your rate?”

“With a smile once I told her I wasn’t taking your cheap ass fee,” Danny said.

“My ass is not cheap, except for you,” Steve said, silencing anything else Danny may have had to say. It was hard to talk when someone else’s tongue was taking up all the room in your mouth.