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Best Man

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He'd gotten so skinny that Michael had half-expected him to feel as brittle as matchsticks when he touched him. Christ, hadn't they fed him in that unit? But Danny was still wiry, still had that farmboy strength somewhere, and shoved back hard when Michael pushed into him. There, in the hotel room, Danny smelled like someone else, no one familiar, just some trick who'd brought his own Vaseline, some quick, faceless fuck that Michael would pretend not to recognize if they ever ran into each other at a barber shop or a baseball game.

Michael's mouth had gone dry when Danny had just knelt on the bed and set his shoulders, head down, and he'd let Michael work him open without a whimper or a sigh, so silently that Michael wondered how many men in this man's army had had Danny just like this, in other anonymous hotel rooms. But then he was inside, kissing the back of Danny's lean, suntanned neck, the freckles on his shoulders, and it was everything he'd lain awake nights at the hospital missing, craving more than morphine, even though the sharpness of Danny's hips felt wrong to his hands.

He didn't say, "God, I missed you," and he didn’t say, "I was out of my mind," because Danny's jaw got tight when he said stuff like that, Danny'd tell him to knock off the swooning, that was for bobbysoxers and he didn't say, "Beth doesn't even like you, why does Beth get you, how can you stand to let her touch you?" because that would have killed his erection and he was going to get Danny to say his name, even with a bum leg.

But he couldn’t hold out, and Danny'd always been the stronger one, and he wouldn't make a goddamned sound, and so in the end, he just hid his face in Danny's hair and maybe he cried a little, but Danny just lay still and let him, for a little while. Then he'd shoved him off and rolled over and started talking, boozy, idle chat, eyes on the ceiling, anywhere but Michael.

You know what I don't understand, though, is why you brought her along.

And Michael had pictured Beth's sneering little face, the sharp lines around her mouth, her huge dark eyes that always went hot and greedy whenever she'd looked at Danny, like he was something she wanted to eat, the last gumdrop maybe, or even the last Brussels sprout-- something Beth wanted only because by taking it she could keep someone else from having it, and in that moment, Michael realized that he'd dangerously underestimated her mean streak, and he understood for good and all that if Beth couldn't have something, no one could.

Someone started pounding on the door.