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this casual affair

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After the battle at Roof O’ the World – it feels a little silly referring to it as a battle, even just to himself, but Dan can’t really think of anything better to call it – when Dan takes a trip to Anniston to check on Abra and make sure she’s really okay (he finds that knowing it and seeing it are two wildly different things), the Stones tell Dan, more warmly than he had expected, not to be a stranger. He thinks, at first, that they’re doing it for Abra’s sake, or even possibly at her request, but when he sees the look on Lucy’s face he realises it that she at least is doing it for herself as much as her daughter.

Dan takes their request to heart, albeit with some hesitancy. 

At first, he calls a day or more in advance when he plans to come over, but after about three months of this, Lucy tells him that he can just call when he’s on his way – that he doesn’t need to schedule his visits like he’s setting up a business meeting.

It takes time, but eventually, he gets used to the idea that they don’t mind him being there – that they might even like having him around. After spending so much time alone, it’s a concept that takes him a while to understand, even after his visits to Anniston stop being marked down on his blackboard.

It's early in the evening one Wednesday, during one such unscheduled visit to the Stones, that Dan Torrance recalls something long forgotten from his childhood – something that predates the horrors of his time at the Overlook. It's a memory from the days when the visions Tony brought with him were all pleasant, surprise birthday trips and missing keys and reminders to collect the library books so Dan's mother could return them before they became overdue. It comes to him after Abra has already reluctantly retired for the night, leaving Dan sitting in the Stones' living room, he and Lucy each sipping a cup of tea while Dave nurses a beer.

The memory of his first meeting with Dick Hallorann has never lost clarity, per se, but it hasn’t been at the forefront of Dan’s mind since he was a child – perhaps, even, since the last time he saw Dick. Now, though, Dan is remembering it quite clearly, and it brings another buried memory forward with it. It’s a memory of something Tony showed him long ago, something he hadn’t even been aware he remembered: a vision of a crib in the Stovington house. A little brother or sister that he never got.

Now, he begins to wonder if maybe Tony was trying to tell him something else, and the message had gotten jumbled, somehow. After all, he had been very little then, not even four yet; he wouldn’t have been able to conceive of the thought that his father could have an affair, or even have known what the word ‘affair’ meant.

"Has Abra ever told you about any premonitions that haven't come true?" Dan asks. He notices how surprised Lucy and Dave look, and realises belatedly how out of nowhere the question must seem to them.

Lucy thinks for a moment, her brow furrowed, and then shakes her head. "No, none that I can think of. She was always spot on with her guesses, as far as I know." Lucy cocks her head a bit and purses her lips as she gives Dan a searching look. "Where is this coming from all of a sudden?"

Dan looks down into his mug, and cannot help but smile. "When I was... Oh, I guess I must have been about three, because Dad was still teaching at Stovington Prep, Tony showed me something, something I haven’t really thought about in upwards of twenty or thirty years. I always thought it was a fluke, because it never seemed to come true, but... now I can't help but wonder if maybe it did come true, just not the way I thought it would. Maybe I didn’t really understand what Tony was trying to tell me, or the message got confused along the way."

He can see the hesitation in Lucy's eyes, the understanding that not everything that the shining brings with it is good hovering always in the back of her mind, and in Dave he can sense a battle between the desire for knowledge and the reluctance to get involved in something he still doesn't quite get. In the interest of easing their worries, Dan explains himself without prompting.

"Back then, everything Tony showed me was... wonderful, or helpful. Positive. And on this particular occasion, he showed me a crib in our house in Vermont, with a new baby in it," Dan smiles again, wistful, and traces the lip of his mug with his index finger. "I was so excited. I waited and waited, but when there never was any new baby, I assumed that Tony had been wrong."

Lucy nods slowly. "But now you don't think that's true."

Dan nods back.

Dave's brows knit together. "But, wait a minute… I don't get it. If there was never a new baby, that means your… vision was wrong."

"Exactly," Dan says. "But there was a baby. Just not in a crib in our house."

A look of comprehension dawns on Dave's face, and Lucy simply nods, as though this is a conclusion she had already reached (and for all Dan knows, it was).

"I think Tony was trying to tell me about you, Lucy, and I couldn’t understand because I was so young. He put it in the simplest terms he could manage and I ended up misinterpreting it," Dan continues, the corner of his mouth tugging upward. "In a way, I suppose I always had a feeling you were out there, somehow."

Lucy smiles a little back at him, but the smile doesn't last long before it drops from her face. "I wish we had been able to meet sooner. Maybe if we hadn't grown up apart... Maybe if we had had each other, all of this would have been easier. Certainly I would have been able to handle Abra’s shine a little bit better, if you were anything like she was as a child." She cracks a slightly fractured-looking smile, a facsimile of the real thing, and it makes Dan’s heart ache for her. "I'm sure you'd have preferred a little brother back then, though. Somebody to play baseball and gawk at your model car collection with."

Dan chuckles. "Believe it or not, I'd never really liked the idea of having a brother. I always preferred the thought of a little sister." He shrugs. “Honestly, I feel that our meeting couldn’t have been timed better. It’s the fact that we found each other at all that matters, not how long it took.”

Lucy's smile becomes a little less forced. She takes a sip of her tea, is silent for a long moment, and then says, “I still wish I had known about you, at least. Maybe then I would have felt a little less… lonely.”

Dan stares into his mug and says hesitantly, "When my mother passed, I was alone for the first time. I’d lost what was left of my family, small as it was to begin with, and I was... I guess I was lonely, too, for a long time, without even really being conscious of it. And now, after everything that's happened, I–" He takes a shuddering breath, determined not to cry, and looks up, earnest. "I don't just have a family, I have the sister I always dreamed of. Even if I came by her in less than conventional means."

Lucy's eyes are glassy by the end of the impromptu speech, and she smiles warmly at Dan. From her side, Dave sniffles quietly, trying (and failing) to wipe at his eyes without the other two taking notice.

“I can’t exactly take credit for that,” Lucy says softly, placing a hand on Dave’s shoulder and giving him a comforting pat. “That was all Abra’s doing. If not for her, we never would have known each other at all.”

“If not for her, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here,” Dan confesses, and they all understand his meaning. “And if I was, I certainly wouldn’t be as… as content as I am. I can hardly understand myself the impact Abra has had on my life, even in such a short time. She’s really something special, shine or no. I know you two must be proud of her.”

Lucy nods, reaching over to pat her husband’s hand when he sniffs again, harder and longer than before. He reaches up and takes her hand, giving it a squeeze.

Once he’s gotten himself together, Dave says, “You’ve helped us, too, Dan. Really. Abby, she’s a special kid, and she’s so bright it’s hard to keep up, but you never seem to have any trouble with her. You just get her. You’re so good with her, I wish I could just talk to her like you do, y’know?” His voice is wet and choked with unshed tears, slurred ever so slightly. “I’m just her lame old dad . She doesn’t have time for me anymore. You just get her, though. You really… you really just understand what she’s going through, y’know?” He sniffs hard, lets go of Lucy’s hand, then grabs a tissue and dabs almost delicately at his eyes.

Lucy gently removes the bottle from his other hand, saying, “Okay, hon, I think that’s enough for you.” To Dan, she says, almost absentmindedly, “It was great to see you, Dan, but you should probably start heading home soon. You ought to start your day off from work in your own bed instead of on our couch.”

Dan smiles privately to himself as he agrees – he hadn’t mentioned having a day off, and as it always does, these little signals that his sister has a touch of what he and Abra have make him feel oddly pleased – and stands, depositing his dishes in the kitchen sink and reaching to turn on the water.

(are you leaving)

The thought slips into his mind like a letter pushed under a door, not much louder than a whisper, and in it Dan can almost hear Abra’s disappointment. He shakes his head to himself as he turns on the faucet, rinsing out his empty mug. When he replies, it’s in the same soft, whispery way.

(yes have to before it gets too dark   you should be sleeping you have school tomorrow)

(i know but i didn’t want to miss you)

Dan smiles fondly at that, then leaves the kitchen, stopping in the foyer to grab his coat before going back to the living room. He thanks Lucy for the tea as he pulls his coat on, patting himself down to make sure he hasn’t forgotten anything. He gives his sister a hug, nodding and smiling at Dave – who is barely holding it together – as he turns and heads for the door.

He can feel a presence gently nudging at the edge of his awareness, waiting patiently, and he shakes his head again.

(goodnight sweet dreams abra)

He telegraphs an image of himself blowing a large cartoon kiss, which flutters toward Abra’s bedroom window, squeezes under the pane, and deposits itself on her cheek. Abra sends a similar image in return, and Dan can feel her starting to doze.

(goodnight uncle dan drive safe i love you   tell mr freeman i say hi)

As he climbs into his truck and slides the key into the ignition, he pauses and reaches out. He finds Abra already on her way to a deep, restful sleep, and her parents heading upstairs to bed themselves. He relaxes minutely at the knowledge that they are safe, that they are feeling as content and full of love as Dan himself, and when he speaks again he does so not via the shining, but out loud to the otherwise empty cab of his truck:

“I love you, too.”