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Dan got out of the hospital on a Thursday afternoon.

He didn't have anywhere to live, but he'd told Duck that, and Duck had said "well, come stay with me." Said it easily, like it was obvious, and Dan had blushed and smiled down at where his hands were clenched in his lap, and he'd thought that maybe this was the way things would be, now. Maybe he'd used up his quota of complicated; maybe it was time for simple. Or maybe things always had been simple and it was just that Dan was dumb. Either way, he liked it better this way. He'd told Duck: "I'm much obliged."

So on Thursday, when they let him out, Duck's place was where he went. He walked, because it was such a nice day and it wasn't that far. When he came to Duck's gate, Duck was working in the yard. For a minute they just stood there smiling at each other.

"You're out," Duck said finally.

And Dan knew he was blushing but he didn't care. He nodded, met Duck's eyes.

Duck's smile grew into a grin. He dropped the paintbrush he was holding and wiped his hands on his overalls, then slowly crossed the yard.

Dan swallowed, but he kept his eyes on Duck's. He stepped all the way into the yard and let the gate fall closed. "I was going to call," he said. And Duck was right in front of Dan, now, and he smelled like sweat and paint. "But I didn't, though," Dan finished, lamely. Duck touched his cheek. Dan closed his eyes. Duck's lips kissed him.

It wasn't much of a kiss--it was broad daylight, and they were in the middle of Duck's yard. But still. Dan felt like he'd been holding his breath for thirty-six years. That relief of inhaling, of coming up to the surface, of being alive when you really thought you were going to be dead. He leaned his forehead against Duck's and held Duck's slim waist between his hands, bunched that paint-stained denim in his fingers.

Duck tilted his head a little, brushed his lips against Dan's hot cheek. He rubbed Dan's temple with his thumb. "Come inside," he said.

So Dan did.


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