Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Duck left Wilby when he was twenty-years old. Kids either stayed or made a running leap to get on the ferry the minute they graduated from high school. People assumed Duck would putter around the island doing odd jobs just like his father. A piss poor student at best, people never would have pegged Duck as the college type, and he would have given a wry grin at that thought. Jack of all trades, master of none was a phrase that pretty much described Duck to a tee. He was hell of good at fixing leaks in your roof, pretty decent with a paint brush too. A good man.

He left the day after New Year's. Took the first ferry out in the morning, a single duffle bag slung over one shoulder. Said he wanted to see the United States. Shocked a lot of people. His father had died by then, and his mother was just as surprised as everyone else. People came through her line at the Giant Barn and asked her what in the hell was up with her son? She'd laugh and say, "Hey, you know why, give me a call." It was the favorite topic of conversation for about six months. That and the fact that Buddy French hadn't come home for Christmas on his holiday break. He was spending Christmas with his fiancee's family in Toronto.

Duck wasn't one for much talking, but he figured he should have said something. They'd never gotten beyond kissing, hand-jobs, and blow jobs (that summer before Buddy went away to college). Probably wouldn't have made a difference. But next time, he was going to say something. Next time.

He came home for good the year his mother died. Fifteen years doesn't have to be a long time, but it can be. Buddy met him at the ferry to take him to the hospital to see his mother, and the first words out of his mouth were, "Jesus Christ, Duck. Jesus Christ."

Duck picked up where he left off: putting up fences, painting houses, weather-stripping doors, and watching his mother die. He and Buddy spent a lot of time together. Buddy was now a cop. Duck didn't see that coming, but kind of got it after giving it some thought. Something had been permanently broken that Christmas Buddy didn't come home, but they'd grown up together and those bonds were strong. It was partly an islander thing, and partly a Buddy/Duck thing. They'd smoke down a pack in privacy of Duck's backyard, not saying much. Not doing anything. Just hanging out. Buddy didn't blink an eyelash when Duck told him that he wasn't drinking anymore. Nodded and said, "I figured." Because Buddy wasn't stupid. You don't look forty-five when you're only thirty-five without something riding on your back.

Duck could see it coming. He wasn't sure he could stop it (or wanted to stop it), until the night he walked up the steps of Buddy's house and heard a fight going on. Duck had never understood why Buddy had married Carol, a nervous uptight woman. But the one thing you could say about her was that she said things.

By the time Duck had returned to Wilby, Buddy and Carol had been married about twelve years. Not that Duck was any expert on things matrimonial—and never would be—but he knew Buddy like a brother and was hard pressed to understand why they'd gotten married.

One of those woman who had to run things, no matter what, Duck would have assumed she'd insist they stay in Toronto. She was the law-school type. Wore suits and black pumps to teach third graders about the California missions. The teacher gig didn't make sense. Right off the bat he saw that she was certainly one to say things and do them. Who knows? One morning she might have said, "Buddy, we're getting married," then called people, and had the entire affair organized by three that afternoon. Squeaky wheel gets the grease, he guessed.

Well, she was sure squeaking away in there, and Buddy was keeping up with her. Duck turned around to leave when he heard Buddy shout, "How can you hate kids? You're a school teacher."

When Buddy came over the next night, Duck didn't even let him sit down.

"I'm not the solution to your problem, Buddy."

It was as if Duck had slapped him. Buddy's body stiffened and his face flushed to the roots of his hairline. Duck wasn't sure he was embarrassed or mad, but based on the raspy, "No, you're not," Duck figured he was embarrassed. Then he said, "See you around?"

Duck nodded and joked, "Yeah. Small town." Then added. "Say hi to Carol for me."

They didn't hang around anymore, and Duck started going to the Watch a couple of times a week.

It took Buddy French a long time to understand why Carol had agreed to live in Wilby. He went with it and assumed that within three years she'd insist they move back to Toronto. But she hadn't, and it finally dawned on him that she realized that she could be a big fish in a small pond in Wilby as opposed to a small fish in a big pond in Toronto. Carol saw herself as "fish" material that was for sure. When she announced that she was quitting teaching and going into real estate, he couldn't say he was surprised. He nodded and went outside for a long smoke.

The thing was this: she'd never be a big fish in Wilby because she wasn't an islander. Oh, she might have become one eventually had she been a different person. If she'd gotten along with his mother, then most people would have accepted her as one of them. Frenches had been one of the founders of Wilby and being married to Buddy carried a lot of weight. But Carol just by being Carol mocked everything that made Wilby Wilby. People gave her a year, then shut down for good. They were polite. Nobody was going to insult her, being Buddy's wife and all, but they let her teach their kids, then sell her houses and plan her festival and talktalktalk on the phone and didn't really pay her much mind. They accepted her because she was Buddy's wife, but they never really accepted her.

Fifteen years later, Buddy would look at her and wonder when effervescent and lively had turned into desperate and grasping.

Most of the men who went down to the Watch were summer tourists. Antique shoppers by day, cocksuckers by night. But a few were local. There were a lot of unwritten rules among the islanders and one of them was that you didn't acknowledge each other in town. You suck a guy's cock at the Watch the night before, you don't give him a sly grin the next day when you run him at the post office. By and large it wasn't a problem because the locals avoided each other. Sort of like dating someone you worked with. Generally a bad idea.

Based on the snide remarks people made in his hearing, most people thought the men who visited the Watch were twisted. Sick. Making it with strangers. Sneaking off to touch dick and suck cock at night with a guy who you'd never see again and didn't even know their name. Duck didn't see it that way. Coming to terms with who he was had played itself out in a nearly endless tumbler of Scotch. The Watch to him was a portal into a world where you didn't have to be ashamed of who you were, and what you wanted was good, okay, like normal, and the other person wanted it too.

Yeah, occasionally, you got the guy who was still trapped in the place Duck had been ten years ago, the one who cried, "Faggot," even as he was coming off. Duck was never sure whether it was for himself or Duck.

As the number of raids increased and the whisperings grew louder, Duck figured it was only a matter of time. Still, he kept going. At some point, it was going to come down to, "You've known me for thirty-eight years. I can repair your roof so it will hold another five years. My word is good. I'm gay. Now do you want me to replace your eaves or not?"

Duck seriously thought about breaking his own iron-clad rule about not doing locals when the Dan Jarvises moved into town. Duck didn't peg them for staying much longer than a couple of years. The wife looked a little high maintenance for Wilby. She drove a late model Volvo and wore a wedding ring with lots of sparkle. They were from Vancouver, the lilt of their voices gave them away, and what they were doing all the way across Canada on some small island where the winter population was six hundred was anyone's guess.

Until Duck saw Dan's face in the moonlight as he kicked up the shale as he approached the Watch. Wilby was as good a hiding place as any other.

There was something other worldly about Dan Jarvis. A little lost. Duck would go into Dan's video shop and order a movie. Always asked Dan for a recommendation. Always got a western. They'd chat about John Ford and John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, and every time Duck would shake his head as he exited the shop and wondered what in the hell Dan and his wife, Val, talked about; a software engineer, firmly rooted in the here and now, with a husband wanted to live anywhere but the here and now. Preferably about 1875. Duck got that. His reality wasn't so hot for a long time, and he understood that need to find a time or place to run to. Too bad for him that he ran to the nearest bar and not the nearest video store.

It was kinda cool the way Dan would pull himself out of whatever he was watching on the television the second Dan walked into the shop. Dan wasn't afraid of Duck's here and now. Duck didn't crush on people, he wasn't that type. Truth? Buddy French was the last person he'd really cared about, and before long, he realized that Dan might be another. Dan was a lot more educated than he was, but didn't lord it over him. Treated him like an equal, which racked up a lot of points in Duck's book. Was sort of shy and gentle and, well, lost. There was something very anchoring about Duck MacDonald. Salt of the earth. Solid. There. Dan reacted to that in him, reached out, in fact, and Duck found himself responding to that need. Shit.

Duck thought about this a lot. Wondered if there was any difference between not sticking his dick into Buddy's marriage and sticking it into Dan's. Oh, there were key differences. Like Buddy was pretty much straight but had had the hots for Duck. He had met a few guys like that. Liked women, but the right guy turned their crank. Dan wasn't like that. Full-blown queer if Duck's radar was any good. And it was. Again, Duck had married a liquor bottle and Dan had married Val. But at some point, you can't stop the truth from being said, no matter how loud you turn up the volume on the television.

In the end, Duck decided he wasn't going to go there because the potential for a whole lot of heartache was just about the same.

And it probably would have stayed that way if the cops hadn't raided the Watch.

Carol and Buddy lasted about two months after Dan Jarvis tried to hang himself. Already a marriage in deep trouble, when Carol said she was moving back in with her folks it was all he could do not to heave a sigh of relief. He watched her climb the gangplank to the ferry for the last time. She didn't turn around, make even an attempt to wave good-bye. Well, Buddy got that. He'd spent fifteen years with this woman and knew he had loved her once, but damn if he could remember why. Or even care much that she was going. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that she was probably asking herself the same questions and was just as relieved. Which depressed the absolute shit out of him.

Sandra Anderson had heard from Irene that Carol and Buddy had called it quits. Irene made some veiled racist remark what a good thing it was because, you know, Buddy being white and Carol being "one of those." Before Irene could say another word, Sandra threw her out of the diner. If Sandra was lucky, she'd stay away for good.

Buddy French was now free. For once in her life she didn't chase and waited to be chased.

It didn't take him long to remember how Sandra had pushed up against him like she actually wanted him. The lean curve to her calf as she hooked a leg over his hip. But Carol had been gone at least a couple of months before he sought her out. He drank six cups of coffee waiting for the diner to empty, as old man Jenkins retold his storming of the beaches of Normandy saga for the millionth time to some hapless tourist who had the misfortune to ask Bob what that medal pinned to his lapel was for.

"Hear that story six days a week. Would be seven but we're closed on Mondays," Sandra sighed.

Buddy smiled and although he'd known Sandra pretty much all his life, he was unexpectedly nervous. He'd helped her pack up her things when she left Wilby for the mainland, and had sent her a few bucks when he heard she was pregnant and the father had run out on her. Sort of the story of her life. People not being there for her. And all of a sudden he realized if he didn't want anything more than a fuck, he'd better get his ass out the door. Because she didn't deserve anything less than a real shot at something permanent. Something good.

"Penny for them, Buddy."

"Would you like to have dinner with me tonight. Go to the hotel?"

That raised her eyebrows.

"Your reputation will be in tatters," she said with a sad smile.

"Wear that blue dress with the ruffle on the hem. It's real nice on you."

Dinner went pretty well, although Buddy kept dropping his utensils and kept reaching for his pocket even though you couldn't smoke in the dining room. She said "Sure" when he asked if she wanted to sit on his porch for a spell and have an after-dinner drink and a smoke. They walked to his place, savoring the balmy air. Both of them knew without saying that it was most likely the tail end of the nice nights. Summer was winding up and fall always came in like gangbusters in this part of the country. One minute you were wearing shorts, the next minute a muffler.

Sandra never quite knew how it happened. They started out talking about Emily failing math and could Buddy tutor her, and yeah, Tuesday nights were good for him, and then it was would Sandra marry him. When his divorce came through, of course.

Okay, there was being chased and being crazy. While Sandra had had a yen for Buddy French since fourth grade, she wasn't crazy.

"Think maybe you might want to give it some time? Carol hasn't been gone that long."

Buddy had moved back into his mother's place when Carol had left him. Had cajoled Maud MacKenzie to sell him back the rockers that had sat on the porch ever since he could remember.

Buddy rocked for a bit and then said, "No."

"Why now? Didn't look twice at me in high school." Sandra didn't really want to hear the answer, but was sick and tired of getting her heart ripped out and stomped on. Even if it was Buddy French.

They sat in silence for a long time. She was three seconds away from telling him to go to hell when he said, "Only had eyes for Duck."

That blew her away. Blew her away. She wasn't particularly naive about stuff like that, and had always wondered about Duck (the only guy besides Buddy who hadn't tried to get into her pants), but Buddy and Duck?

"You bi-sexual?"

That got another long pause and then he said, "No, just think I was in love with him. I was willing to… You know."

Yeah, she knew. Perhaps a little too much about what you did when you were in love and what you were willing to give up.

"And now?"

"Just a friend," he said quietly, but his hand didn't shake when he lit up a cigarette and right then and there she decided not to compete against a twenty-year old memory. And Duck was very handsome back then; all sinew and tendon, with that wiry strength that was impossibly sexy.

"Well, he was pretty hot in high school. Have to be blind not to want some of that. I know I did," she admitted.

That got a laugh, a natural laugh, and things were okay again.

"Sandy? What would you think about having kids? Like right away."

She'd been bringing her drink up to her mouth when he said that, and she was so angry she nearly crushed the glass with her hand. Because she'd thought he wanted her for herself. Finally. Someone just wanting her. He made it even worse by using that "Sandy," a throwback to a time when they were stupid kids and Buddy was class president and she was class whore and she thought she'd climbed out from under all that. Guess not. She was just someone he felt comfortable enough with to have some children with, not someone he wanted.

"Don't think I can have any more," she lied and waited. Waited for the hemming and hawing and the excuses and maybe we'll have dinner on Tuesday and then he'd be busy on Tuesday.

"Yeah, just wanted to see if you wanted them. If not, it's okay. We have Emily. You did a great job with her. Really nice kid. Carol didn't want any and I've kind of come to terms with it. Do you want to live here? I really love this house, but it's kind of old-fashioned…"

"I'd love to. I like old-fashioned."

Duck sat in Dan's hospital room for a few hours, holding his hand, watching him flit in and out of that hazy druggy sleep you do when on meds. He'd made up his mind while sitting there. He'd fucked things up once by not saying anything and he wasn't going to make that mistake again. He didn't know what Dan wanted, but he knew what he wanted.

So when the doctor said that Dan was well enough to be discharged, he offered Dan a bed at his place until he got back on his feet. "Got a spare bedroom. Window backs up on the creek. You can hear the water running at night."

That got his hand a squeeze.

They picked up his stuff at the motel and made their way back to Duck's place. One of the original homes on the island, a barn stood to the left where Duck kept his painting supplies, a vegetable garden was mapped out on the right. Six generations of MacDonald's had grown up here. Duck was the last. He was kind of glad his mother wasn't here to see that. Family meant a lot to her. He had some cousins in Nova Scotia; maybe they'd use this for a summer place when he went.

"Want some iced tea?" Duck asked after Dan had thrown his duffle bag on the bed.

Dan nodded.

"Bathroom's there. Meet you out on the porch."

They sat on the front steps, Duck smoking, Dan sipping his iced tea.

After a while Duck got up the nerve to say, "You gonna stay? I mean, here in Wilby. You don't have to stay here with me any longer than you want to. Silas Warner's got an apartment he's trying to rent out."

"Paper?" Dan rasped out, his throat still sore from rope burn.

Duck ran into the house and got a pencil and paper. Despite the cool from the chilled glass, his hands were sweating from nerves. He handed the pad and pencil to Dan and waited while Dan wrote in caps.


Duck wrote under Dan's writing. I WANT YOU TO STAY. WITH ME.

They took it slow. Waited for Dan to heal. Spent a lot of time out on the porch drinking iced tea. Summer was nearly over. Dan reopened the video store. Duck gave it a fresh coat of paint. Duck's initial impression of Dan was right on. A gentle, nice guy with a subtle sense of humor; it wasn't long until Duck found himself in pretty deep. And it was getting harder and harder to keep his hands to himself.

Dan's divorce decree came through about the same time as Buddy's. Fall had come early that year and the tourists had dropped off. Duck was real busy as people started to batten down the hatches for another winter. Dan wasn't so busy, but it didn't seem to bother him. Duck figured he had a lot of thinking to do. Sorting out.

This time he wasn't going to say something, because he'd said and now it was Dan's turn to say.

Sandra was pretty sure by the middle of October but wasn't going to say anything. Not just yet. She wasn't showing and aside from switching to decaf and cutting down on the cigarettes, no one seemed to notice, least of all Buddy. Which was pretty amusing considering that they went at each other like sex-starved teenagers every night.

Buddy came rushing into the diner one afternoon with a piece of paper in his hand and a broad smile on his face.

"Got it! Right now, Sandra Anderson. We're getting married right now!" he whooped.

Fortunately, Emily was working the espresso machine. Sandra called Duck's cell, told him to get his ass down to the Justice of the Peace and pick up Dan on the way in, closed the diner, and got married in her apron. She'd tell him tomorrow. She hoped it was a son. For him, although Buddy French wasn't the type of man to care.

A few people stopped coming into the video store, but, by and large, business was the same. In a town that size, people knew he was living with Duck. Although they weren't sleeping together yet, people assumed that they were. Alternatively, snotty teenage boys and Irene whispered "Fag" behind his back, or people invited them to dinner. As a couple.

Dan never got why Duck was so nice to Irene. Always said good morning or good afternoon, ignoring her homophobic remarks with a grace that was pretty astonishing. What a bitch.

They were sitting on the porch one night with cups of coffee. Dan had been at the receiving end of one her vicious remarks earlier that day, and he laid it out.

"Why are you so nice to her? She called me a 'disgusting faggot' today."

"Irene's got a whole lot of anger she don't know what to do with. Her dad beat the living shit out of her mother and I don't want to know what he did to Irene. The town knew what was going on and didn't do anything. Now her father's dead and she has no one but the town to rage at. I understand that anger. Had a whole lot of it myself. I came to terms with it, but it took a hell of a long time. I hope Irene works it out. That's why."

Dan thought, "I'm never going to let this man go. Never."

"Come inside. Your room."

It was a little awkward at first. They didn't talk and they didn't kiss, and yet Duck still got all those amazing vibes you get when it's not just a fuck. When that person's hands on your body mean something. Mean everything. And when Dan Jarvis cupped his ass with one hand and stroked his dick with the other, Duck knew he was in serious trouble. Or serious heaven. He reached for Dan's face with both his hands. "Kiss me," he demanded.

"She won't let you smoke inside anymore?" Duck asked.

He and Buddy were sharing a smoke on the porch. Nights were still a little nippy for May, but it wasn't uncomfortable.

"Oh, it's not her. Me. Did I tell you it's going to be a boy?"

Duck nearly laughed out loud.

"Yeah. Only a few hundred times."

"Sorry," Buddy said ruefully. "I'm just so glad it's working out. Not just the baby, but with Sandy. I'm… happy. And you? You and Dan good?"

"Yep. We're real good."

They'd spent the winter months getting to know each other and fucking like rabbits. Duck couldn't remember when he'd been this happy.

They sat in comfortable silence, smoking down their cigarettes, smelling the tide coming in.

"I should have said something," Buddy said out of the blue. "I should have told you not to wait for me. I should have told you that I loved you."

"Maybe," Duck admitted. "But we're good now. Yeah? You got Sandra, I got Dan. We're still good friends. Best friends."

Buddy gave Duck's knee a firm clasp and then let go.

"They're predicting a hot summer."

Duck groaned. He hated working on air conditioners.