Harlequin's Slash Fic

The Opposite of Alone

Title: The Opposite of Alone
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Original
Characters featured: Danny/Steve (original characters)
Category, Word count: Story; 12,063 words
Rating: R
Summary: A story about two Australian blokes, who begin an affair while sojourning on the NSW north coast. Set in the mid 1990s.
First published: 4 January 2008 on Harlequin’s Slash Site


The Opposite of Alone



Danny didn’t really notice him at first; he later reflected on that with some irony, given all that happened between them. Well, he noticed Steve, but only because Steve was a stranger, and while Nambucca Heads was a popular enough town to be host to all kinds of transients, the Bat and Ball wasn’t really the sort of pub that attracted tourists. Basically, Steve just wasn’t a noticeable kind of guy. Though Danny had so much cause to regret knowing far louder and more colourful guys, that he wondered why he didn’t immediately see Steve’s total lack of flamboyance as the most desirable quality of all.

Brown. There was so much brown about Steve that he could easily get lost in the background. He had light-brown hair, which to be charitable in the sunlight became golden-brown. He had dark brown eyes, and the kind of tan that spoke of being often outdoors. He was of middling age, perhaps well into his thirties. He dressed in browns, in smart but functional shirts, sweaters and chinos. He was average height and average build; neat except for a hint of the beer belly to come. And, to Danny’s amusement, he drove a sports car – a Toyota Celica – which was sleek and beautiful and beige. Danny hadn’t known they even made sports cars that colour.

Danny himself was all contrast: tall and lean, with long thick dark hair, pale skin and blue eyes, and still young though well into his twenties. Where Steve was quiet and contained, Danny was random energy. And yet Danny had come to this place to find a bit of peace, hadn’t he? A bit of self-knowledge, if that wasn’t too pathetically sixties a quest. A bit of calm. He’d made a place for himself here, and yet he’d felt as if he was waiting. He was still, perhaps stalled, but not peaceful. He was in limbo.

As opposed to Steve, or at least how Steve appeared at first. He sat there each evening in the pub, perfectly self-contained. Not avoiding people, but not seeking them out either. He might not talk for hours; he’d just sit there and watch the sports on the tv above the bar, eat a meal, and slowly but steadily put away a few beers. And he seemed comfortable; not happy, but comfortable. Whereas Danny would have gone mad. He got all twitchy without people to talk to. He’d made friends here, but he knew well enough that his noisy affection for them was born as much from desperate need as from genuine feeling. Watching Steve on the third evening – not that he knew his name at that stage – Danny wondered if the guy could live his whole life through like this, on his own. Danny sure as hell couldn’t; though considering the trouble he’d run from, he was torn between considering the idea bleak or bliss.

Danny waited until the guy was almost done with his latest schooner, and then walked over with a fresh one in each hand. ‘Hi,’ he said, putting the beers down. ‘Mind if I join you?’

The guy looked up at him impassively for a moment, but then shook his head just before he might seem unwelcoming. ‘Take a seat,’ he replied so quietly that Danny had to mentally replay it before he was sure of what he’d said.

‘Thanks,’ as he slid across into the next chair. ‘Danny,’ he introduced himself, holding out his hand.

‘Steve,’ as he shook it firmly.

They sat there for a long moment, staring up at the cricket on the tv. ‘Uh,’ Danny said, ‘so is that Australia?’

Steve looked at him with a touch of cool pity. ‘Yeah. They’re playing New Zealand.’


‘New Zealand are batting,’ Steve added helpfully, as if he knew this was Remedial Cricket.

‘Who’s winning?’

‘Well, it’s going our way at the moment. But a lot can happen in five days. The momentum can really swing back and forth, even within a session.’

‘Five days?’

Steve just looked at him. ‘You follow any sport?’

‘Not so much. Well, I’m from Sydney. Footy was pretty big there –’

‘You don’t say,’ Steve muttered.

‘– and I knew a couple of the players, but I never actually went to a match. Not since high school.’

‘Who d’you know?’

‘Oh, well, uh, there was a guy I went to school with, Jason Taylor, and then there was…’ But of course it wasn’t cool to name names, even when he was trying to impress someone. ‘There was someone I used to see round the clubs,’ he finished lamely, ‘but, uh…’

‘You knew JT?’


Steve was nodding. ‘He’s good. Not a natural, but a hard worker. He’ll have a solid career.’

And Danny found himself beaming, as if the praise was for him.

‘The game on Friday night: he’ll be playing. D’you think they’ll show it here?’

‘Yeah,’ Danny said. ‘Yes,’ though he really had no idea. But surely they’d indulge him if he begged. ‘Oh, except… Friday. They have live music on Fridays and Saturdays.’

Steve’s face fell a bit.

‘But if you can watch it with the sound down. And the music’s only from eight till nine.’

‘OK, we’ll only miss the first fifteen or twenty minutes. They stretch it out with ads, these days,’ he added with a hint of bitterness.

But – we, he’d said. Almost like it was a date. Danny’s heart was beating faster than normal – and for this guy who was brown and quiet, middling and brown? God, he was getting desperate. And yet he heard himself asking, ‘So, where are you from?’


Oh god… A brown, quiet, middling, brown public servant… ‘Really?’ he responded brightly.

Steve chuckled. ‘Yeah, it’s not Sydney.’ He looked sweet when he smiled. It was genuine, and it made his dark eyes glow; otherwise they were quite opaque.

‘Canberra’s not so bad,’ Danny offered, which only made Steve chuckle some more.


They spent the rest of the evening together. While Steve didn’t want to talk about himself, and resolutely avoided asking Danny anything personal, he seemed happy enough to talk about the cricket, or about footy or general stuff about Sydney.

As the cricket program wound up at ten, Steve stood to go, and shrugged on his (brown) leather jacket. Silence, while Danny wondered what to say for the best. He wanted to do this again. But he knew he couldn’t overplay his hand. He didn’t want to scare the guy off. He knew Steve was straight.

To his surprise, Steve ended up saying it all for him. He fixed Danny with a bright hard gaze, and asked, ‘Who was the other footy player?’ And he knew. He knew the answer exactly, and was challenging Danny to be honest.

Danny let a beat or two go by, realising he was confessing to so much with just one name. Finally he said, half defiant and half afraid, ‘Ian Roberts.’

Steve nodded, and didn’t seem bothered. He knew; he’d already known somehow. Danny steeled himself. But then Steve simply said, ‘See you tomorrow?’

‘I’ll be here,’ Danny blurted out. It was Thursday tomorrow, too, not Friday when they’d already kind of agreed to meet.

‘See you then,’ Steve concluded with another nod. And he left.

Danny sat still for several minutes waiting for his heart to stop racing. Over a brown, quiet, middling, brown, straight public servant from Canberra.


On the Friday at eight, Danny walked out from the back with his guitar in hand, and didn’t dare look up until he had to. Finally he was all plugged in and miked up, and he couldn’t delay it any longer: he lifted his head and looked directly at Steve. Who was sitting there, apparently already over his surprise; a tiny wry smile on his face was the only thing that betrayed him. He lifted his beer in salute, and Danny nodded gratefully. God, he hadn’t felt this nervous about performing for ages. Well, once more into the breach, and all that.

After the first couple of songs, oddly enough, Danny got right into it. Once he’d warmed up, he just seemed to get warmer and warmer. Some nights were good like that; some weren’t. He ran through his usual set – all the expected Aussie songs, some old ballads and some new rock songs – handled a couple of requests as well, and then finished with one of his own. And he got applause. He didn’t always get applause; people often just wanted to drink, really, on a Friday night. But what really counted was that Steve had listened carefully, even once the footy game started, and applauded, too, after every song – and when Danny had packed everything away, he came back out to find a fresh schooner awaiting him at Steve’s table.

‘Thanks,’ Danny said, sitting down beside him in what already felt like his usual spot.

Steve shrugged this off. ‘Least I could do. That was good.’

Something told Danny that Steve wasn’t used to making compliments, and this was actually strong praise. ‘Thanks,’ he repeated, idiotically. ‘Uh, well… it’s what I’m good at. The only thing.’

‘You’ve got a band back in Sydney?’

He failed to hide a grimace of pain. ‘I did. We split up. It was…’ Horrible. ‘It wasn’t amicable.’


‘So, I ran away. And this is as far as I got.’

‘I see.’

But he didn’t have the whole story, of course. Danny added, ‘There was a guy in the band who…’ He didn’t know how to say it discreetly. ‘He and I were…’

Steve had already gotten the idea, of course.

‘So of course in the middle of all that we split up, too.’

‘Guess that didn’t help matters.’

‘Not in the slightest.’ Danny grinned at him, though it was a mirthless grin. ‘Anyway, so now I’m trying to figure out what next. Whether to try putting a band together again. Whether I can face Sydney again.’

‘D’you even need a band?’ That seemed to be a rhetorical question, and a compliment. Steve continued, ‘That last song…?’

‘Mine,’ Danny acknowledged. ‘They let me do one; otherwise it has to be all covers.’

‘It was good. You could go down the singer-songwriter road.’

Danny shrugged at this. He feared he wasn’t that good. Not good enough to really go it alone. Or maybe just not confident enough, which amounted to much the same thing.

‘Well, anyway…’ Steve trailed off, apparently not comfortable enough to continue pressing. He glanced up at the tv, and said, ‘Look, there’s your mate JT.’

Danny looked up, and saw him immediately, though it had been years since they’d last met. He smiled fondly. Jason had been one of the few decent guys at school, which had generally been hellish. ‘He’s doing well for himself, you said?’

‘Yeah. Yeah, he is.’



This time, when Steve got up to go, it was Danny who made plans. ‘Look, uh, I don’t know how much you’ve seen of the area, but if you’re up for a walk, I could take you to the best beach of all. Hardly anyone goes there; you’ve got to climb over two headlands; you can’t drive. But it’s worth it. Terrific for a swim, no tourists, and really beautiful.’

Steve stood there, considering him. ‘Sounds good.’

‘It really is.’

‘Just a swim, yeah?’

To his great confusion and annoyance, Danny blushed furiously. Great! Now he’d look totally guilty. ‘That’s all I had in mind. Honestly.’

‘Sounds good,’ Steve repeated, though he seemed doubtful.

‘You can trust me, you know,’ Danny said, trying not to let his resentment show.

‘I know.’ Steve let a beat go past. ‘OK, so where do I meet you, and what time?’

‘Come to my place. I rent a caravan in the park down near the beach. We can leave from there.’ And they arranged for Steve to be there at ten.


It was a perfect day. Steve knocked on his door at ten on the dot, and Danny was ready to go. They grinned at each other, as if they just couldn’t help themselves; it felt like an adventure. Steve insisted on carrying the esky in which Danny had put beer, water and sandwiches; this proved Steve was a gentleman if nothing else. And Danny led the way. They walked together well, Danny was absurdly pleased to note: Steve walked along beside him, easily matching his stride, while following his lead. Danny loved the harmony of it.

When they finally reached the beach about forty minutes later, Steve was suitably impressed. ‘Beautiful, yeah?’ Danny asked as he looked around.

‘Yeah.’ Which didn’t really cover the full effect of the white sands and turquoise water nestled between two tree-covered headlands. But it would do.

As would Steve in just a pair of long board shorts. Danny had led the way again by stripping down to his shorts. A bit self-consciously, Steve followed suit. When he was done, he stared down at the sand for a long moment, but then he looked up as if he wanted to know Danny’s reaction. As if he cared about whether Danny still found him attractive, or perhaps he cared about disappointing Danny and suspected he would. Much of him nut-brown from the sun, but his belly a bit paler, and yes telling the tale of beers drunk. He was fine. Danny smiled in appreciation, and Steve’s lips quirked as he turned away, perhaps to hide a smile of his own, or maybe just to remind Danny that he was off-limits…

Danny defused a potentially embarrassing situation by running past him down into the sea, the cool glorious sea. Steve immediately followed with a whoop, and they swam out a-ways, then back in; contentedly mucked about or floated on the surface, and then swam again. Rode the waves in, and strode back out. It was perfect.

They went ashore and devoured the makeshift sandwiches, lazed around in the sun on their towels for a while with a beer, and then headed back into the water. All without talking much. Just being there, and soaking it up, and enjoying every moment.

Until late afternoon as they lay dozily on their towels, when Steve finally broke the comfortable silence to say, ‘Reckon I’ll be heading off tomorrow.’

Danny sat up abruptly, all the joy dropping out of him. ‘You’re leaving?’

‘Yeah. I was gonna go today.’

Oh god, this was awful. ‘Where? You’re going home?’

‘No. Byron Bay. I was always heading there.’

‘Oh.’ His disappointment must be palpable. And to be fair, Danny knew it had nothing to do with Steve; Steve didn’t owe him anything; Steve had been a gentleman, but hadn’t looked for what Danny was offering, and didn’t want it. Danny should have been better prepared for this.

But Steve obviously cared about the fact that Danny was hurting, because he went to unusual lengths to explain himself. ‘I have six weeks of leave. I hardly ever go on holiday, not on my own, and the leave built up, and I would have lost it if I hadn’t taken it. But if I don’t head up to Byron Bay soon, I won’t get to spend much time there. And that was kind of the point. Such as it was,’ he finished a bit lamely.

‘Yeah, sure,’ Danny reassured him. ‘I understand.’ The poor guy shouldn’t have to feel bad over something he couldn’t do anything about. This was Danny’s own fault, the heartache. And all for a quiet, brown nothing of a guy… No, that wasn’t fair. All for a decent, attractive, peaceful guy who’d been willing to be his friend when most straight guys would have just run a mile at the first hint of a flutter from Danny’s heart.

‘Six weeks seems like forever, until it starts running out.’

‘Yeah,’ Danny said again. His heart clenched. ‘One more day,’ he blurted out, though he was being totally unfair. ‘Have you driven up into the mountains from here? It’s just beautiful, really gorgeous. All lush and green. I don’t get the chance to go often, cause I don’t have a car. But you could drive us up to Dorrigo, and I’ll take you to lunch at this great little place, and there’s a walk through the rainforest you can do, out to a waterfall and back around, and –’

‘All right,’ Steve said, taking pity on him. ‘All right. Then I’ll head off Monday.’

‘Thanks,’ Danny said, daring to glance at him. Tears welling in his eyes. Oh, this was ridiculous!

And Steve was kind enough to say, ‘I’ll be dropping by here again on the way home. Probably only stay one night, though.’

‘Thanks,’ Danny repeated, trying his very best not to cry. He owed it to Steve to not make a scene, he really did. Especially after those major concessions on Steve’s part.

‘Taking my time heading up there. Have to travel every day on the way back.’


A silence grew, in which Danny composed himself, and discovered to his amazement that Steve still seemed comfortable with him. Strange, but maybe inevitable, given the fact that he was straight, and they both knew it, and Danny could expect nothing except his freely given companionship. The sun was westering, casting beams through the trees across the gentle waves. Danny sighed, and let the quiet peace wash over him.

‘We’d better get back,’ Steve eventually commented. ‘I’m starving, and I guess you’re playing again tonight?’

Danny abruptly realised what the time must be. ‘Fuck!’ he cried, leaping up. ‘Yeah, come on!’

And so off they dashed, back to the real world.


The road up to Dorrigo twisted and turned and climbed. Steve handled it masterfully, while Danny sat curled up in the passenger seat of the beige Celica, luxuriating in being at Steve’s side, letting him take charge, and he thought that not even Steve was unmoved by the sensuality of it. Driving and being driven as a sexual metaphor… maybe he could get a song out of it.

Speaking of which, he had with all due respect asked if he could replace Steve’s cd of The Police with a selection of his own, and so he lay there bathed in sounds he hadn’t heard for months… which helped push the sensuality along, of course.

It was all so blissful that Danny felt a terrific twinge of disappointment when they finally reached their destination.

Lunch was pleasant; they chatted about music, mostly, with occasional inconsequentialities. It seemed Steve was into music, and had quite good taste though mainstream. He explained that he had a lot of quiet hours to fill, and Danny imagined him pottering around a nondescript brown set of rooms, cooking himself a basic dinner, and perhaps nodding along occasionally to The Police and U2 and REM.

‘You live alone?’ Danny asked.

‘Yeah,’ was the only reply. ‘You?’

Danny sighed. ‘Well, I do now. I never did before I came here. The band – we shared a house, with various comings and goings. It was pretty chaotic. The guy I was with, he was the bass, the bass player, we…’ We shared a bed, he didn’t explain. ‘When he wasn’t…’ Another sigh. ‘Well, he must have slept in half the beds in Sydney by now.’

‘Not worth regretting, then,’ Steve said stoutly, and Danny smiled at him. The pain of that heartbreak had gotten less over the past months. The past days.

After lunch they went for that walk through the rainforest, and sat there for an hour or more watching the waterfall, without talking. Danny wondered at himself afterwards. He hadn’t ever sat so still and so quietly for as long as he did with Steve, on the beach yesterday and here today. He thought he liked it. He thought maybe he wanted more of that in his life.

As the sun began westering, Danny directed Steve to one last place: a lookout with an amazing view of the mountain range, which became truly awesome as the sun set. That evening, all the peaks were bathed in rose gold. They propped their bums on the wooden fence there, and watched as dusk spread and the rose deepened into purple then the darkest blue. Both of them silent again.

Until Steve said, ‘Thanks for this,’ and in the darkness he brushed Danny’s hand with his knuckles to gain his attention or emphasise his gratitude or something.

Danny just froze. It had been the most innocuous of touches, and yet obviously inspiration of the most genuine sort. He didn’t want to respond unworthily, or make anything of it beyond what was intended, but how could he hide the fact that his heart was racing?

‘Sorry,’ Steve muttered, perhaps guessing at some of the effect he’d inadvertently had.

God, no,’ Danny retorted. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t want you to feel that…’

‘I can’t – I can’t be what you want. I can’t do what you want.’ So rough and raw this apology, when usually his voice was quiet and considered and careful, occasionally gentle.

‘I know. I know that. You’ve got nothing to be sorry about. I’m the one who… got inappropriate. You’ve been a perfect gentleman.’

A pregnant pause, and then to Danny’s surprise, Steve chuckled under his breath. ‘Probably about the last thing you need right now.’

Danny looked at him, totally floored by this guy. ‘No,’ he eventually whispered. ‘Not the last thing.’

A serious glance from Steve to acknowledge this, and then he stood. ‘Come on, let’s get back. It’s my last night here, and I want the Bat and Ball’s mixed grill again.’

‘Yeah,’ Danny said, once he’d re-gathered his voice, ‘I can understand that.’

And off they drove.


The drive this time was different. It was dark, and the road was dangerous, but Danny gave himself up completely to trust. Steve sat there in the driver’s seat, competent and careful; and Danny lay there curled up, watching him, and knew that he loved.


They were silent over dinner, and then even though it was relatively early, Steve announced he thought he’d turn in for the night; he had a fair bit of driving to do the next day. Danny nodded, and stood, too. Was this goodbye now? He’d tried not to let the thought of losing Steve cast a shadow over these hours, but now there was no avoiding it. Somewhere inside, Danny was howling in grief.

‘Can I drive you home?’ Steve asked. He hadn’t done that before.

‘Yes,’ Danny instantly responded. ‘Yes. Please.’

Steve dropped him off right by the caravan, amidst the secretive dark of the surrounding trees. He pulled the car up, and then just sat there staring ahead through the windscreen with his hands lying passive in his lap, perhaps wondering what if anything to say.

Danny dared to ask, ‘D’you wanna come in?’

‘Better not,’ Steve replied.

‘Just for coffee,’ Danny reassured him.

Steve turned to him with a nod. He knew that; he trusted him. ‘Look, I’ll come by in the morning after I’ve checked out. Make me a coffee then. Before I hit the road.’

‘All right.’ His heart pounding, and all because this wasn’t quite goodbye. Not yet.

‘See you then,’ Steve said.

And Danny got out of the car, and watched him drive off. Turned to the caravan, climbed the steps and unlocked it. Made himself a coffee, and sat there at the little table, gazing sightlessly into an imaginary distance.

Better not, Steve had said. Better not. Why? Because he feared Danny would, in extremis, finally make a pass at him? Because he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to turn him down with the gentlemanly grace he’d maintained until now? Or… because he was afraid that actually he might not say no?

Better not. Better not. You could read anything into that. Better not.

Danny hardly slept that night.


Steve showed up just after ten the next morning, and Danny wordlessly invited him in. He was carrying something, but Danny was too embarrassed and fraught to pay much attention. Instead he busied himself putting the kettle on, and finding two clean, unchipped mugs. ‘How d’you have it?’ he asked over his shoulder.

‘Milk and one, thanks,’ Steve replied.

When Danny finally turned around, he found a colourful box taking up most of the kitchen table. A box apparently containing a new cd player. He stared at it, then looked mutely at Steve.

‘That’s for you,’ Steve said, with an impatient gesture of encouragement.

All he could do was continue mutely staring, and try not to cry.

‘You don’t have one, do you?’ Steve said, forced to contribute more than his share of the conversation. ‘That’s why you brought your cds along yesterday.’

Danny nodded.

‘Well, that didn’t seem right, for a musician.’

‘Thank you,’ Danny managed to whisper. It was the most thoughtful thing anyone had done for him for a very very long time. The kettle started whistling, so he turned away, and with shaking hands made the two coffees.

When he turned back around, he placed his hands on the box, and stared at the image and specifications of the player, though he couldn’t really take in any details.

‘I’ll give you the receipt if you like, so you can exchange it. Not that they had a big range, but I wasn’t sure if –’

‘It’s perfect,’ he said. And he turned to Steve, and – he had to bend slightly, cause he was quite a bit taller – he took Steve’s hand in his.

Steve just stood there. Let Danny hold his hand in both of his. Didn’t say a word.

‘I’m sorry,’ Danny whispered. ‘I’m gonna ruin everything. But I just have to try.’ And he leaned in, painfully slowly, targeting Steve’s mouth with his own.

At the very last moment, Steve turned away, moved towards the door. ‘I can’t,’ he rawly reminded him.

‘I know.’ But Steve hadn’t left yet. He was just standing there with his back turned, and in fact his hand was still in one of Danny’s. So Danny took a breath, and stepped up close behind him. Slid both his arms around that stocky nut-brown torso. Pressed his face against the golden-brown hair.

And Steve still hadn’t left yet. Danny began easing his hands lower, exploring every plane and curve on the way. Steve was tense, but maybe expectant rather fighting it. Or was that just wishful thinking? But he could walk out, any time. He could say no.

And in the meantime, Danny figured he was free to press his luck. He was trembling. It had been so long, so long since he’d even touched anyone else, let alone held them with loving intent. He’d been so horribly hurt last time, and no doubt this would end painfully as well, though less dramatically at least, but he was almost helpless in the grip of this yearning for a straight, quiet, peaceable gentleman, and even while he knew he shouldn’t…

His hands were down past Steve’s belt, when the man pulled away a little. Turned slightly towards him. Those dark brown eyes confused, intense, searching. Steve cleared his throat, and Danny quailed inside, knowing he was about to be rejected. Politely but firmly put back in his place. But – ‘Lock the door,’ Steve said hoarsely.

Danny let out a little moan of surprise, surrender. Steve stepped past him, into the cabin, out of the way, and Danny bent to fumble with the little catch, shot it home. Turned to see Steve sitting on the edge of his bed up the other end of the caravan. Walked towards him, even though Steve was staring at him the whole way. It felt like he was striding against the incoming tide, but Danny reached the calm waters eventually, and sat down beside his love. Slipped his arms around his shoulders. Tried again for a kiss.

‘Not that,’ Steve said, turning his face away.

Well, then. Danny shaped a hand to Steve’s thigh, started running it up towards the ultimate goal. Curled up to tuck his head into Steve’s shoulder, press his face against Steve’s throat. Discovered to his shocked delight that Steve was hard already. Let out another little moan.

Moments later, Steve was lying back on the bed with his feet still on the floor, and Danny was kneeling between his spread thighs, and he was going down on that thick column of flesh as if there were no tomorrow. Which there wasn’t. Danny groaned, and ran one hand up across the beer belly, the chest. Let the other slip under to tug at Steve’s balls – and suddenly Steve let out a raw shout, pushed at Danny’s bent head – and he was coming, pulsing semen into Danny’s mouth, and Danny gobbled it up greedily, his hands and mouth busy, trying to make this as good as possible, trying to make it last for both their sakes.

But soon, too soon it was over, and Danny sat beside Steve again, watching while he lay there tucking himself away.

‘I, uh –’ Steve cleared his throat. ‘I can’t do that for you. Not that.’

Danny’s heart clenched again, though in disappointment this time. He supposed he should say it didn’t matter, or he could take care of himself later, but he was wise or selfish or brave enough to want to take Steve up on the implied offer of a reciprocal orgasm. The man was decent enough to not want to leave him in the lurch, so why offer to be left? ‘Could you touch me?’ Danny whispered.

Silence, for what seemed like a long time, though it was probably only a moment. ‘Yeah,’ Steve eventually said, though he sounded a bit unsure.

Danny lay back down beside his love, and unzipped his own jeans. ‘Jerk me off, then.’

And Steve rolled onto his side to face him, got up on his elbow to lean over him, his focus only on the job that had to be done. His hand already working its way inside Danny’s pants. His gaze avoiding Danny – until his hand was wrapped around Danny’s stiff cock, and his eyes were suddenly examining Danny’s face, quizzical, as if he was even now assessing where he was, and with whom, and what the hell he was doing.

Well, Danny didn’t want him to be frightened off at this late stage, so he eased up onto his side, facing away from Steve. Wriggled back a little. ‘There. You can pretend you’re just doing yourself.’

Steve, bless him, shifted closer, so they were pressed together, and his hand began an easy rhythm that was no doubt exactly how Steve took care of himself. Danny groaned, let himself relax into it. Let himself reach a hand back over his shoulder to run across Steve’s fine hair. Tried to make it last, but he couldn’t, it had just been too long, and for the last few days he’d been daydreaming constantly about something like this happening…

He came with a groan, with a murmured, ‘Steve…’ and Steve saw him through it, and then held him wrapped in both warm arms for an eternity that might have lasted about ten minutes.

And then Steve pulled away and they were two separate, cool beings again.


Steve was up the other end of the caravan, by the door. ‘I’d better get going,’ he said. Hair dishevelled, but clothes all done up again.

‘Yes.’ Danny sat up, but was still too overcome to stand.

‘I’m sorry,’ Steve said. ‘If I could be what you wanted –’

You are what I want, Danny’s heart cried. Just the way you are.

‘I shouldn’t have – I’ve just made this worse –’

‘It was my fault,’ Danny offered. ‘I shouldn’t have – You made it perfectly clear that you didn’t want –’

‘Are you going to be all right?’ Steve asked, the perfect gentleman once more.

‘Yes. I’ll be fine. Yes.’

‘I’ll come back through. On my way home. In about a week, I guess. But I can’t – I can’t do this again, Danny. I just wanna – I’ll wanna make sure you’re all right.’

‘Thank you,’ Danny said with simple gratitude. If Steve could be a gentleman, then surely Danny could respond with elegance. ‘You’re very kind to be concerned about me, under the circumstances.’

Steve’s opaque eyes were examining him again, as if to reassure himself. Finally, he nodded. Then he said, ‘See you, then,’ and he walked out the door.

Danny listened to him go, listened to the car pull away, and then he fell back on the bed alone, and curled up, and gave way to his grief for a long unmarked time.



He was all right while driving through town, and even when he saw the welcome sign in his rear view mirror. But as soon as Steve turned onto the Pacific Highway, he felt this massive reluctance, as if a weight was dragging him back, as if he was driving against the pull of an enormous magnet. And the thing was, the magnetised weight was Steve himself. His body was hauling him back, and only his mind was enabling him to keep driving north. It was the weirdest sensation.

Doggedly, he kept going. This had always been the plan. Byron Bay had been the whole point of this holiday. Such as it was. It had been good to hang out with a new friend, but obviously he couldn’t – they couldn’t – Danny had known all along, hadn’t he? They’d both known all along it could never come to anything.

And yet the unthinkable had happened just that morning. So it wasn’t impossible. But it just wasn’t him. Steve was straight, and it was no good trying to pretend otherwise even if he was capable, so really he shouldn’t have let anything happen, because living with it was going to be difficult for each of them, for very different reasons.

Not impossible, no. But not wanted, either. And they really couldn’t make what had happened into a relationship of any kind. They couldn’t become… a couple. Steve couldn’t face the world as the other half of another man, he just couldn’t. He couldn’t do that.

So why was his body numb with the force dragging him back? This massive reluctance to go on. This overwhelming need.

Doggedly, he made himself keep going. But it took all his efforts, and he wasn’t paying proper attention to the road, and after a couple of near misses that would have scared him if he wasn’t feeling so dazed, he pulled over. The echo of an angry car horn still blaring in his ears. Took stock of where he was.

He was surprised to see it was past two already, so he’d been driving for over three hours. God, it was a wonder he hadn’t managed to write himself off.

Woodburn. Some inland town. He parked properly, and found a café. Ordered strong coffee. Looked at his map, and figured out he was over halfway to Byron Bay already. And yet his eyes kept drifting back down to Nambucca Heads. He found Dorrigo, traced that drive through the mountains with a fingertip, remembering the curves and twists, the startling cliff faces on one side and sheer drops on the other. That had been real driving.

Remembered Danny curled up like a cat beside him, listening to his music, and smiling, beautiful and forever smiling.

God, what the hell was wrong with him?

Over halfway to Byron Bay already, and still this massive reluctance to go on. It was almost getting worse, when really it should have faded the further away he got. The further he got from Danny and his influence.


Well, there was no use in driving like this. There was no point in becoming just another statistic, and no one would notice except for Personnel with their leave cards and salary payments; except for Danny, who’d be waiting for him to come back in about a week, and wondering where he was, and losing hope, and finally assuming Steve had just bypassed the dangers of Nambucca Heads and gone straight back home. Danny would be the only one to grieve, and he wouldn’t even know why.

There was no use in driving, so Steve checked into a motel, just the nearest one, a shabby old place, and he locked the door of his room behind him, and exhausted he lay down on the bed, and with no warning at all he burst into tears.

He wept and wept and then just kept weeping as if he was a helpless babe again. He wept because he wanted to go back. He wept because he wanted to be with Danny. He wept because, as Sting put it so succinctly, he was so lonely, so lonely, so lonely. He wept because the only answer to his loneliness was something he’d never wanted for himself. Why did it have to be this? He wept because he was doomed now to be gay, or as near as made no difference. Because he didn’t want this, he so vehemently didn’t want this in his life – and yet at the same time he yearned for it more forcefully still. He wept for himself, and for the courage this would take. He wept until there were no more tears in him, and then he just lay there alone. Cold and empty and alone.

Until finally he just couldn’t bear being alone for one moment longer.


It was dark by the time he drove back into town. Welcome, said the sign. He dismissed the notion of going to the pub; even the sociable Danny wouldn’t have gone there that night. Steve drove down into the caravan park, and picked his way through the lanes. Pulled up in the spot beside Danny’s caravan, amidst the secretive sheltering trees, and noticed the lights were on.

He was shaking, but he made it up to the door, and knocked.

And there was Danny, looking at him in wonder, backing away as if he didn’t believe it, almost didn’t want to believe it. Steve climbed up the steps, swung the door closed behind him, and locked it. Turned to his friend –

Who gave a throaty cry, a cry full of relief and awe and need – and then they were in each other’s arms, and they were kissing – and in the confusion Steve was aware for a few difficult seconds that this was a man, and he had to tilt his head back to kiss him because Danny was taller than him, and this whole thing was going to lead to all kinds of embarrassments and difficulties – but then the passion rose within him, the long dormant passion, and Danny was answering it in kind, and for a long long while nothing else mattered at all.


They were lying on the bed together, still pretty much dressed, and Steve hadn’t been challenged by anything more than hands and kisses, yet he was feeling very complacent. He could do this. In private, he could do this, and he’d worry about the rest later. God, just hands on each other’s cock and kisses for each other’s mouth, and it had been spectacular. Twice, it had been spectacular.

They hadn’t spoken much, not in words. But at last Danny asked, ‘How far did you get? All the way to Byron Bay?’

‘No. Woodburn.’

‘Why Woodburn?’

‘I just couldn’t make myself go any further.’ Steve shrugged. He didn’t think it would be very polite to explain what a fight he’d put up, pitting one set of instincts against another. To describe how he’d wept for the loss of his own old familiar straight certainties. Danny didn’t need to know about any of that.

‘Thank god you came back,’ Danny said in a fervent prayer. ‘I didn’t even hope,’ he added in wonder. ‘It didn’t even occur to me. I just knew you wouldn’t.’

‘I knew I wouldn’t, too.’

‘Look…’ Danny went all solemn. ‘Look, Steve…’

God, here it comes. And yet he welcomed it, too. If it came down to love or loneliness, well, he’d already chosen love, hadn’t he?

‘Steve, I don’t know about you, but… I’m ravenous! I haven’t eaten all day. You wanna order in pizza, or something?’

Steve just gaped at him for a moment, but then he chuckled. ‘Sure,’ he agreed. ‘Order three. Wouldn’t wanna deprive you.’

‘I wouldn’t want you to do that, either,’ Danny retorted with a wink. And he headed for the phone.


It was late, around midnight, they were lazing around on the bench seats with a beer each, heads propped on their hands, and Danny was looking like something was on his mind.

‘What?’ Steve eventually asked.

‘Are you staying at your hotel again?’

This rather startled him. ‘D’you want me to?’

Danny shrugged, as if it didn’t matter. But it obviously did.

‘I was kinda thinking I’d stay here. If that’s OK.’

The uneasiness fell away, and Danny grinned. ‘I should warn you I sleep naked.’

Steve’s mouth quirked. Twenty-four hours ago, he’d have found that beyond daunting; now it was delightful. ‘Sounds like a good habit to pick up,’ he commented.

And Danny’s eyes caught fire.

Despite the fact that it had been a very long day, they didn’t get to sleep for quite a while after that.


They spent the days at their beach, or walking, or just hanging out. A couple of times, Steve played a round of golf; Danny cried off playing and instead caddied for him. They spent the evenings at the Bat and Ball, or in bed. They spent every night in Danny’s bed together, naked and… not alone. The complete opposite of alone, whatever that was.

After a few blushes and cringes on his part, Steve found he didn’t even mind too much that the people at the Bat and Ball knew Danny well enough to work out exactly what was going on between them. No one seemed to mind all that much, though there was a bit of teasing and elbowing. He survived it. He even teased back on occasion. Danny was nothing to be ashamed about, after all; he was probably the most beautiful man Steve had ever seen. Someone to be proud of.

The two of them chatted, or were silent, but avoided all talk of the future. Steve figured that the difficult decisions could wait, along with the fears about one or both of them being uprooted. They may as well have this time together as a trouble-free holiday. Real life would come back to claim them soon enough.

And so another week passed. And he had to start thinking about going home. He still had plenty of leave left, and he thought he could get an extension if he needed it, but the thing was, it was time to start making plans.

‘Look,’ said Steve over dinner that night in the caravan. ‘I’m thinking we should get practical here. What are we going to do? I’m due back at work on the twelfth. In Canberra.’

‘Yes,’ Danny said in oddly neutral tones.

‘Well, I guess the question is, are you gonna come with me?’


‘D’you wanna stay here so badly? Or does it have to be Sydney? I mean, I could try to get a transfer there, but there’s no guarantees, and I figured if you could come to Canberra, even if it’s just for a while until we get things sorted, that would be easiest.’

Danny was staring at him as if even now wondering who the hell Steve was. Eventually, Danny asked very carefully, ‘This isn’t just a holiday fling for you, then?’

‘No,’ Steve retorted in surprise. ‘No! For god’s sake, why would you think that?’

‘Because… because you’re straight.’

‘Well, I kinda gave up on that when I drove out of Woodburn, didn’t I!’ Steve was staring back at Danny. They were both still mysteries to each other. ‘I thought this was…’ He suddenly ran out of courage. ‘D’you want this to be just a holiday fling?’

Now Danny turned scared. ‘No,’ he admitted. ‘But I didn’t even hope – There’s no point in me trying to change who you are. Doesn’t work like that.’

Oh god. He’d have to say it. He’d assumed it could go unsaid, but obviously not. Steve put his fork down, and grasped Danny’s nearest hand. Looked at him with all his honesty. ‘It’s love, mate. Thought you knew that.’

‘No,’ Danny whispered.

‘Wasn’t gonna turn my whole life around for anything less than that, was I?’

‘I didn’t…’ A moment passed, and then Danny confessed, ‘I love you, too.’

‘I know,’ said Steve gently. ‘I kinda figured it wasn’t just lust or a crush. Not for me, for god’s sake.’

Danny shook his head at this.

Steve said, ‘I know you’ve got the regular gig here, but there are plenty of pubs and clubs in Canberra. Plenty of places with live music. Lots of bands, if you’re looking for that, and some have made it big. I know people say Canberra’s soulless, but it’s not.’

‘The gig here doesn’t matter. It’s just a favour they do me, really.’

‘You could just walk out?’

‘Yeah.’ Danny shrugged. ‘It’s no big deal.’

‘Well…’ Steve frowned. ‘Look, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. I don’t wanna pry. But what do you live on?’

Danny snorted. ‘Not gig money, that’s for sure!’

‘Oh.’ His assumptions fell down round his ears. ‘You’re on the dole, then?’

‘No, I, uh… Well, I suppose I should tell you the whole story some time, but basically when my favourite aunt died she left everything to me. I was the only musical one in the family, apart from her, but she never had the chance to – She didn’t want me to have to work, she wanted me to study, but I decided to just use it to live on instead, and I put the band together.’

‘It’s enough for you to live on?’

‘If I’m careful. It’s not like I can go buy a Jaguar or anything. Well, not if I wanna eat regularly.’

Steve whistled through his teeth. ‘Good for her!’ He thought for a moment, then commented, ‘There’s the Canberra School of Music, you know. If you want to study.’

Danny was just looking at him. ‘You really do care about me, don’t you?’


‘Then I’ll come to Canberra.’

‘Just like that? Ten minutes ago you thought this was just a holiday fling!’

Yes. I’ll come to Canberra.’

‘I, uh… I have to work,’ Steve explained, ‘but I have a good job, I’m a class six, and I have my own place. A house. It’s nothing much, but I bought it ages ago, and prices have really taken off since then. I don’t owe much on the mortgage any more, and I own the car outright.’

Danny was watching him respectfully but his lips were trying not to curl into a smile. ‘You don’t have to sell me on what an eligible bachelor you are.’

‘I just want you to know we’ll be OK. You can concentrate on your music, and if you need looking after, I’ll look after you. Or we could go crazy and buy that Jaguar, or a nicer house – and we’d still be pretty much OK, I think.’

There were tears pricking in Danny’s eyes, Steve could tell; but he didn’t let them fall. ‘I’ll come to Canberra with you,’ he repeated.

And Steve, with tears pricking himself, shuffled further along the bench and kissed the man.


It didn’t take Danny long to pack. ‘I just took what I could carry,’ he explained, ‘and I got on the train. I had my guitar, and my amp and mike, I had some clothes – and I didn’t care much about the rest.’

‘Is there stuff you want back in Sydney, then? We could head through there on the way, and pick it up.’

Danny said he’d think about this, but later that day he said no. ‘If it’s gone, it’s gone. I don’t care. I didn’t care when I walked out of there, and I still don’t care. Anyway, there was nothing that you’d call valuable, and my mum has all the stuff like photos and personal junk.’

‘All right,’ Steve said.

‘Travel light, that’s what my aunt used to say.’

Steve nodded. ‘All right.’


He was deadly nervous going back to work, but it wasn’t long before Steve remembered that no one ever paid much attention to him anyway, so he just said a few relatively neutral things such as, ‘It was nice… Spent most of the time in Nambucca Heads, actually… Yeah, I got a lot of sun, what with the beaches and the golf course…’ and they nodded and went back to work, and apparently didn’t get the first clue that his whole life had been turned around.

Kim was the exception to the rule. She and Steve were kind of friends – well, they were friends by default because they often met up at the same pubs, the same gigs on the weekends, and then they’d chat during the week. Steve had had vague hopes of her for a while, but she’d been going out with this English guy Alan for years now, and lately they’d started using phrases like ‘Once we’re married… It’s not cool any more to change your name… If we ever get around to having kids…’ and anyway Steve had never felt that strongly about her. Except he was now realising she was probably the closest thing to a friend that he had. And maybe that was something else he should work on.

‘Hey, welcome back! What a tan!’ And she asked, like she really wanted to know, ‘How was it?’

Once he’d gone through an expanded version of the usual answers, Steve leapt into the main topic. Kim was gonna find out all about it at some stage, but he wanted to handle that as slowly as he could without actually lying to her. ‘Uh, this guy Danny came back with me from Nambucca Heads. He’s staying with me.’ He resisted the urge to add at the moment, which would make it seem like it was just convenience or a favour. She was surprised, curious – but Steve just ploughed on before she could start prying. ‘He’s a musician, and I think he wants to get back into a band, but he’s good solo as well. He played at this pub I went to. So, if you hear of anything…’

That had diverted her. ‘Cool! What’s he play?’

‘Guitar. And he sings. He did a real range of stuff. And he writes songs as well.’

‘And you say he’s good?’

He almost smirked as a visceral memory hit him of what Danny had done the previous night in Steve’s hitherto empty bed, but he managed to control himself. ‘Yeah, he’s good,’ Steve said lightly. ‘Very good, I think.’

‘I’ll ask around, see what’s happening.’

‘Thanks. I’ll bring him along on Friday night. You starting at the Twisted Soul?’

‘Yeah. That’ll be great, Steve.’ She looked at him for a moment. ‘Must have been a great holiday – you look happy. It suits you. How long’s that gonna last now you’re back?’

‘Dunno,’ he replied with a chuckle. Maybe longer than you think


It was while Danny was talking with Kim on the Friday night, that Steve got an insight into how lucky he’d been. Apparently he had had the pure undiluted Danny right from the start, for it seemed that Danny on his best behaviour or out in public or wanting to impress, or whatever, was someone a little more polished. Not that it wasn’t still Danny, but it would have been harder to get to know him well, or not as quickly. Which left the question of why on earth Danny had been so unguarded with him from the moment he’d first put those two beers down. In Steve’s experience, feeling attracted to someone made a person more guarded and not less.

‘Oh my god!’ Kim exclaimed with shining eyes once Danny had gone to get a round of drinks. ‘He’s gorgeous! And charming, too. He’s got everything, hasn’t he?!’

‘Yeah,’ Steve agreed with an easy smile.

‘He’s gonna go far; he has to. If what you say is true about how good he is, then he has it all! He’s the complete package.’

‘Yeah, you’re right,’ Steve said again, still smiling because Kim had been around the traps, and wasn’t easily seduced.

Kim nudged him, and said in slightly more confidential tones, ‘You know he’s in love with you, don’t you?’

Damn. ‘Yeah,’ he acknowledged with a careless shrug, wondering how on earth she’d picked up on that so soon, just when he’d been thinking Danny was being so polished. ‘How d’you know?’

‘It’s just the way he talks about you. Well, it’s not what he says, but the way he kind of lights up inside whenever you get mentioned.’

‘Oh god,’ he groaned. Though on the inside he was kind of lighting up himself.

Kim laughed, apparently not having guessed Steve’s secret yet. ‘Did you rescue him? Was he stuck in some awful situation up there?’

‘Oh right, yeah. Do I look like a knight in shining armour?’ He shook his head. ‘He was doing all right. He told you he used to live in Sydney? I guess he was starting to think it was time to go back, but then we got talking and Canberra seemed like the easier option.’

‘I wonder if he’ll head back to Sydney once he’s found his feet again?’

‘Dunno.’ He thought about that. He supposed that if (or when) Danny’s music took off, then they’d have to move to Sydney or Melbourne. Canberra would only take them so far. But it was a good place to be in the meantime. While they got used to being together. While Danny started thinking again about bands and performing, and maybe studying; he was still taking it slow on all of that. It was a place where they could avoid too much pressure.

‘Steve,’ said Kim quite solemnly, ‘what are you thinking about?’

‘Nothing much.’

She was examining him, and he suspected he was gonna get found out sooner rather than later. ‘You’re still looking happy, you know. And you’ve been back a whole week!’ He didn’t respond, so after a moment she concluded, ‘Must have been a good holiday. My holiday smiles never last more than a day once I’m back at work!’

Best damned holiday I ever had, he agreed, but he kept that to himself. For now.


‘Fuck me?’ Danny groaned as he pushed into Steve’s embrace, stretched his body length along Steve’s. ‘You wanna fuck me?’

It was late one night, far too late for those who had to get in to work the next day, but Steve still found his lover too intoxicating to ignore. In fact, Danny became more and more so, the more that Steve learned about Danny and about gay sex and about Steve himself. The more he learned about sex, for heaven’s sake: Steve had soon realised he’d never had anyone in his bed before who’d had any imagination, and that included himself. He was learning happily and fast.

‘Steve?’ There was no doubt it was a genuine offer. Danny sounded fraught with need. And he was so warm, it was as if he was burning up. ‘Please.’

‘I dunno,’ Steve said under his breath, running his hands down to shape them to Danny’s rear. God, the man was beautiful. Those amazing blue eyes stared down into his. Witchy eyes. Wizardly? Ah, who cared? Witchy. Bewitching. He had a sudden vision of Danny on his back, pale long legs akimbo, gazing up with those witchy blue eyes while Steve fucked him…

‘Why not? Don’t you want it?’

He almost snorted with laughter. ‘Course I want it. Doesn’t every man, gay or straight?’

The blue eyes flashed with heat, with humour. ‘Do I want it, then? Would you let me?’

‘I dunno,’ he replied, even more doubtfully than he had the first time. But fair’s fair, and so far they’d done most things turn and turn about. ‘Guess I would. Anyway, let’s not talk about it now. Let’s just get this done. I’ve got work tomorrow, remember?’

Danny was beginning to look rebellious.

Steve’s heart sank. They’d have to clear this up now, or Danny would get into a mood and there’d be little sleep for either of them. ‘Does it have to be tonight?’ he asked in more conciliatory tones.

‘Why shouldn’t it be?’

‘Well,’ he countered, ‘would you let me use a condom?’

The rebellion turned sullen. ‘I told you there’s no need.’

‘Danny, you don’t know that.’ Steve refused to let the man go when he pulled away; instead he settled them side by side, and he wrapped his arms as reassuringly around his lover as he could. ‘I know you didn’t sleep around, but he did, didn’t he? And, anyway, you don’t know for sure that I’m safe. This is about both of us.’

‘You’re safe,’ Danny said dismissively.

‘I know I had a dry spell before I met you,’ he said with wry humour, ‘but it didn’t go back quite as far as the early eighties.’

‘You were straight.’

‘I had unprotected sex. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I guess a lot of us were pretty clueless back then.’

‘Anyway, if you fuck me, I’m the one taking the risk. And that’s what I wanna do. It’s my choice.’


‘If you’ve got it, then I already caught it off you, didn’t I? When I went down on you that first time. And I haven’t gotten sick.’

‘Maybe you got lucky. Maybe it didn’t get into your bloodstream.’

‘You’ve done your fucking research,’ Danny muttered resentfully.

‘It’s serious stuff,’ he replied.

‘You don’t have AIDS, Steve!’

Steve just looked at him, aching for his lover’s frustration, for his fear, for his anger. He stroked Danny’s hair, and held him, and after a while he said as gently as he could, ‘I love you, Danny. Let’s get the tests done. I’ll make appointments for us at that clinic. Then I’ll fuck you as much as you like, I promise, and you can fuck me, and we can go down on each other, and we won’t have to worry about it ever again.’

Danny was silent for a long time, but eventually his posture eased, and he even slipped his hand around Steve’s waist. ‘All right,’ he finally said.

‘Thank you,’ Steve responded, before pressing a kiss to the man’s brow.

‘What will you do,’ Danny asked in a tiny voice, ‘if I have it?’

‘I’ll keep loving you. That’s all. We’ll face it together. And I’ll still fuck you, and you can fuck me, and all of that, but you’ll have to let us use condoms. All right?’

‘All right.’

And Steve held him close until Danny finally fell asleep.



In the end, it was Steve who ended up in a panic about the tests. Once he’d finally agreed to go ahead, Danny felt a fatalistic calm descend over him. He didn’t really trust that Steve wouldn’t leave him if the worst came to the worst, but somehow once knowing became a thing to be faced rather than a thing to be feared, he realised he could cope. For now. He didn’t think he could cope with Steve leaving him, or even distancing himself, but that was something to face later, if he had to. He was stronger now; those days with Steve in Nambucca Heads, and these weeks in Canberra, had made him strong again, had built up what Sydney had undermined.

It was Steve who panicked, and not even because of the actual tests, but because there was someone he knew from work in the waiting room, and even though Danny kept very strictly to Steve’s rule of no affection to be shown in public, Steve was sure that they’d be assumed to be gay, and a couple – and a couple who needed testing for AIDS, at that. And all Danny could do, because of the rule, was mutter reassurance to his love who flinched away from any closeness let alone contact.

Steve was in a right state by the time they got home again. He’d gotten himself so worked up that he couldn’t even bear for Danny to touch him, let alone hug him. He sat there perched alone on the edge of an armchair in the lounge room, his arms wrapped around his chest as if he was deathly cold, and he wouldn’t let Danny near him.

‘For god’s sake,’ Danny eventually cried from across the room, ‘what exactly is wrong?’

‘People knowing. People knowing I’m –’

‘They won’t care.’

‘Oh yeah, they will. You know they will.’

‘Well, they knew back at the Bat and Ball.’ He put it harshly: ‘Everyone there knew we were fucking.’

Steve winced. ‘That’s different. That was on holiday. That wasn’t home.’

‘They had a bit of a laugh, and they teased us – but they would have done that if we were a straight couple, too.’

‘That’s not home, that’s not work, that’s not friends.’

‘Right.’ A plan of action had popped into his head. ‘I’m getting Kim over here.’

Steve was gazing down at the carpet, but Danny could see his confusion and pain. ‘Why?’

‘Cause she’s your friend, and she deserves to know. You should have told her weeks ago; she certainly shouldn’t hear it first from someone else. And cause she’ll be fine with it, and you’ll see it’s not such a drama. Not any more.’

‘Danny, no.’

He already had the phone in his hand. But he turned back to Steve, and he asked with all the authority he could muster, ‘You really think it’s so wrong? You’re really so ashamed of yourself? You’re ashamed of me?’ And that shut Steve up long enough for Danny to dial the number, and ask Kim to come over as soon as she could. ‘Steve has something he needs to tell you.’

And Steve just sat there after that, looking bleak and ill and a bit shell-shocked.

Kim arrived maybe half an hour later, came into the lounge room and immediately picked up on the difficult atmosphere. ‘What is it?’ She knelt before Steve, hands on his arms as if ready to offer him a hug. Warm and genuine. ‘Steve, what’s wrong?’

He tried to talk, but when he opened his mouth, all that came out was a great gulping sob. And Kim, bless her, took him into her arms. Danny ached to do the same, but that wouldn’t be welcome. Not yet. He reassured himself that it would be welcome again soon. ‘Steve, just tell her,’ he said, gently but firmly. ‘Spit it out. It’s gonna be OK.’

‘What is it?’ Kim asked again.

And Steve whispered to her. Hidden away in her embrace, he told her the truth. Danny never knew what words he used, but there were quite a few of them, as if he felt he had to fully explain himself.

Finally Kim sat back on her heels, though she kept her hands on him. ‘Is that all?’ she asked with a fond laugh. ‘I thought someone must be dying.’

‘It’s a big deal to me,’ Steve said thickly, head still down.

‘I know. I know. But I just think you’re the luckiest bastard alive.’

That startled him into looking up at her.

She laughed again, and ran her fingers round under his jaw, as if to say Keep your chin up. ‘Danny’s gorgeous,’ she confided. ‘If I was a guy, I’d turn gay for him, too.’

‘It’s not that easy. Guys don’t just turn gay.’

‘So maybe you were all along? Is that what you’re worried about?’

Steve grimaced in pain. ‘Dunno.’

‘I know you’ve been with plenty of women. I know that was real. But you never really cared much for any of them, did you? Maybe you’re bi; I don’t know. But you knew love when you felt it, didn’t you? Real love. And love’s the important thing. Love’s more important than whether it’s for a man or a woman.’

‘No one’s gonna see it that way.’

‘Well,’ she said briskly, ‘they’ll be wrong, then, won’t they? We know what’s right. You can be strong, knowing what’s right. Knowing Danny loves you, and you love him. God, Steve,’ she added with a laugh, ‘people are just gonna be jealous, and not only because he’s gorgeous. You’ve got an amazing guy here.’

And for the first time in too many hours, Steve looked directly at him. Danny’s heart pounded. It’s gonna be all right. But then Steve said bleakly, ‘Too amazing for me.’

‘No,’ Kim said firmly.

‘No!’ Danny cried, suddenly afraid of where this was leading.

‘You’re wonderful, too, Steve,’ Kim added. ‘You two deserve each other, you really do.’

Steve stood up, broke away from Kim, turned his back. ‘Right, yeah. If I’m so wonderful, how come I’ve been alone for years?’

‘You hide it away, your wonderfulness. You even hide it from yourself.’ She was exasperated with him, and while Danny felt lashed by her words on Steve’s behalf, he also thought she was saying exactly the right things. ‘It took me a while to see it, I admit, but I’ve been your true friend ever since I finally cottoned on. Danny’s smarter than me. He saw it a lot quicker – didn’t you?’

‘Oh no…’ He confessed, ‘It took me three days before I bought him a beer…’

Kim just laughed again, as if this was all a storm in a rather silly teacup. ‘Come on, you two. You love each other. There’s no point in worrying about what anyone else thinks, you just have to go with it. You have to trust it, and live it.’

But Steve was still upset, and it seemed he was really struggling with the words he wanted to get out. Finally he said very thickly, ‘Couldn’t face anyone alone. Not now.’

‘But you don’t have to,’ Danny promised him. Tears running down his cheeks. ‘You’ll never have to.’


‘You’ll never be alone again. Not if I have any say in it.’

Steve just shook his head.

‘You are wonderful. You’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. No one’s ever been as kind and decent as you. No one’s ever given me peace.’

‘And that’s what you want, is it? You… You’re a musician. You’re not used to a normal life. And I’m very ordinary. You’ll get bored.’

‘Ordinary?!’ Danny exclaimed. ‘If kindness and decency were ordinary, then you wouldn’t be so worried about how people will react to us being together.’

‘You know what I mean.’

‘All right: I need the world, I need excitement, sometimes I even need chaos. But I need a home, too, and peace and quiet. You give me all of that. I mean, you give me the world, too. But no one’s ever given me a home before. And… oh god, I love you, Steve. I love you so much. Enough to last our whole lives through, I promise.’

Long moments passed, while Steve thought about this, wrestled with it. But eventually he must have decided that everything would be all right, because he turned back to Danny, and looked him in the eye, and he nodded.

And Danny flew to him, and took him deeply into his arms, and was taken in the same way by Steve, and even Steve wept a little, and they both just held on.

After a while, Kim sighed wistfully. ‘You two beautiful guys,’ she gently said. ‘I’m going now, all right? But I’ll see you both soon.’

‘Yes,’ said Steve, with his whole heart.

‘Thank you,’ said Danny, likewise.


They had to wait a week for the results. Steve took the time off work, and they spent the days in a raw, quiet limbo. But they were tender with each other, achingly tender, and Danny later looked back at that time as an epoch. They achieved a depth of feeling that he’d hardly even dreamed of, all with the most profoundly simple acts. He wasn’t even talking sex, though that was certainly part of it. Just sharing a cup of coffee together was an act of love. They didn’t say anything much. Putting it into words would have been almost impossible; one day he might be able to put it into music. It would be the making of him.

That week was the making of them.


This time in the waiting room, Steve held his hand. Quite deliberately, too, and not defiantly. Just providing the same simple, profound comfort they had shared all week. Danny gazed at him with love, with more love than he could ever have described.

And finally it was their turn, and they walked in and sat down, and Steve took his hand again, and the doctor said, ‘You’re fine. Both of you. You’re fine, you’re negative.’

And when he understood that, Danny burst into tears at the shock of it, the relief. ‘You gave me a whole life,’ he tried to explain. Steve thought he was talking to the doctor, but he wasn’t. ‘You gave me back my life.’

And they went home together, and they went to bed, and soon Steve was carefully pushing inside him, becoming part of him in the only way he hadn’t already. And they were one.


Things got back to normal pretty quickly after that. Even a musician couldn’t live his whole life that rawly. Danny got back to his best old outgoing happy self, and Steve settled into his best peaceable happy self, and life (beyond all probability) continued.

Kim and Alan became a more intrinsic part of their lives, which was as it should be, and Danny and Steve made new friends as well, and a few of Steve’s acquaintances came to mean more than they had.

And one Friday evening Danny met a guy who was putting a band together to play blues and rock. He was lead guitarist, and he was looking for a singer, preferably one who could write as well.

Danny took Steve along to the audition the next day, even though Steve had offered to keep clear if he’d rather not have witnesses. Well, they’d called it a jam session, but it was an audition, and Danny’s career was on the line here. But he and the rest of the band – only missing a rhythm guitarist now – were soon grooving along with some old covers as if they’d been doing this together for years.

‘And you’ve written some songs…?’ Steve asked once they were all comfortable with each other. The lead was named Steve as well. (‘It’s an omen,’ Danny had said; ‘a good omen.’ ‘Don’t you go falling for this one,’ Steve ominously warned him.)

‘Yeah.’ And Danny picked up his guitar and played them one of his rockier songs, one he thought would fit with what the band were trying to do. They liked it. So Danny launched into the love song he’d written about that week out of time he’d shared with his own Steve, who hadn’t even known of it before. And the band were impressed. As was Steve. Danny met his love’s gaze, and nodded. That was for you.

The other Steve took a quick vote by glancing at each of the other players. ‘You’re in,’ was the verdict. ‘And if you’re happy to play guitar as well, maybe we don’t need the extra rhythm.’

‘Fine by me,’ said Danny.

‘Fine while it lasts,’ the drummer commented. ‘You could make the Top 10 on your own with that song. That’s classic singer-songwriter stuff.’

‘I’d rather make the Top 10 with you guys,’ Danny said, quite sincerely. He’d realised over past months that he wasn’t really cut out to be alone. ‘With or without the song.’

‘With, then,’ the other Steve concluded.

And his own Steve was looking at him and saying the same. With.

And Danny had a future again.

Posted in: original, Slash fic

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2 responses to “The Opposite of Alone”

  1. avatar Buttermilk Waffle says:

    This was lovely! I really enjoyed it, and I’m so glad Danny and Steve made it work. Thanks so much for writing.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Buttermilk Waffle – Thank you so much! It’s wonderful to receive such a comment, but it means all the more when it’s one of my more original offerings. I’m happy to know you enjoyed this, and you were wanting Danny and Steve to get their act together. Thank you again! I really appreciate your comment.

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