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An emergency at the Spectator calls Nate away halfway through Eternal Knights V: Resurrection. Chuck is understanding but secretly annoyed, both because since Nate decided he's a responsible businessman now, he and Chuck never get to hang out, and because Nate was the one who wanted to watch the movie to begin with. He and Dan pretend to be absorbed for about another fifteen minutes. Then Dan asks, "How much longer do you think it is?" and Chuck turns it off without regret. Of course, that leaves him and Dan on the couch together, drunk, with nothing to do.

"Is it weird seeing someone you used to date in a movie?" he asks Dan.

Dan shrugs. "No weirder than seeing my friends in the tabloids."

Chuck considers this as he unwinds his ascot. Then he catches Dan watching him with an arrested expression. Chuck has been saving this question for a long time, and he's just drunk and bored and spiteful enough to bring it out. "What's your fascination with strangling me, anyway?"

Dan's eyes immediately shoot up to meet Chuck's. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Don't play innocent, Humphrey. It's boring and unconvincing."

"What happened to Charlie Trout was a metaphor," Dan slurs patronizingly.

"A metaphor for what?"

"Your self-destructive thrill-seeking. Obviously."

Ouch. In vino veritas. Chuck's eyes narrow. A minute ago, he might have let Dan off the hook. Now it's on. "You gave me a dog collar in a presentation box."

"Yes, for your dog. Who I also gave you, if you remember."

"It fit me," Chuck points out.

"How do you know that?"

"How do you think, Humphrey?" Dan's eyes go huge and he swallows. Chuck lets his smile widen suggestively.

"You--you tried it on?" Dan squeaks a little on the last word.

Ha. Got him. Chuck leans forward. "No, I made that up. I did have to have it resized for Monkey, though."

Dan gulps in some air. "Oh. Okay. Good."

Dan's hypocrisy is a little more than Chuck can deal with right now. "Why don't we try a little experiment? You'll strangle me, and if you aren't turned on, I'll eat my words."

Dan looks unsettled. "And if I am?"

Chuck is a little impressed that he's acknowledging that possibility at all. He gives Dan his most predatory smile. "Maybe I'll eat you. If you're lucky." He hasn't played a game like this in a while. It feels a little silly, but mostly it just feels comfortable. Easy. Right.

Dan makes a face. "You're drunk."

"So are you."

"Breathplay is dangerous," Dan says sententiously. "It's not something you should try drunk."

"Did you just say 'breathplay'?"

"I did research for the book." Dan sounds a little insulted at Chuck's unintended slur on his professionalism.

Chuck imagines Dan alone at his computer, reading breathplay websites and thinking about Chuck. If he wasn't so drunk, he'd be hard right now. "Think I'd look good in duct tape?" he asks. He draws his thumb and forefinger across his face where the edges of the tape would be. Usually he wouldn't wear anything so cheap, but it brings a whole vibe with it that's hard to duplicate.

Dan turns bright red. "It's a metaphor!" Chuck just looks at him. "Like dreams," Dan elaborates. "Just because you dream about having sex with someone doesn't mean you actually want to have sex with them."

Chuck certainly hopes that's true. "Who did you dream about?" he asks anyway. "Was it Nate?"

Dan makes a yelping sound, and the conversation de-rails.

###

Chuck assumes they're just going to pretend it never happened, so he's surprised when Dan says, "Listen, when we were drunk the other night, you asked about Charlie Trout."

That isn't what Chuck asked about. He raises his eyebrows at Dan.

"I just...I've started to realize that I kind of need to talk to people about the book. It doesn't mean what you all thought it meant, but maybe it doesn't mean what I thought it meant either. If that makes any sense."

It doesn't. "What did you think it meant?"

Dan sinks into a chair, feeling totally entitled to Chuck's space even though they're talking about how much he despises Chuck. Chuck's mood turns slightly vicious. "I don't know. I just wrote it, I guess. I never meant to publish it."

"Then why write it?" If Chuck kept a diary, it would be solely for posthumous publication. Or maybe to convey misleading information when temptingly "forgotten" on the coffee table.

Dan chews on his lip, thinking about himself. It's what he's best at. Chuck feels strangely fond of him. "Did you ever read Harriet the Spy?"

"Sure." Dan looks surprised, which is annoying. "You want to be a spy?" Chuck imagines Dan in a tuxedo, trying to look elegant while drinking a martini. It's hilarious.

Dan waves that away. "No, no, that's not the point. At the end, after everyone sees the notebook, Ole Golly tells Harriet, 'Little lies that make people feel better are not bad, but to yourself you must always tell the truth.'"

"I thought Inside was heavily fictionalized satire," Chuck bites out.

Dan buries a hand in his unkempt hair. "I know, I know. I don't know what I'm trying to say." He ponders the mysteries of his own soul some more. Chuck pours himself a drink and thinks about Charlie Trout. "Look, it's like this," Dan says. "It's not the truth. It's just part of the truth. A really small part, even. But it's the part I can't ever tell."

Chuck technically knew that already. It feels good to hear Dan say it, though. Charlie Trout has Chuck's outer demons and even his inner demons, but there has to be more to Chuck than demons, right? Sometimes he isn't sure, but now he knows for sure that Dan agrees, and Dan has a better grasp on reality than a lot of people Chuck knows. With a few notable blind spots. "If you want to tell me all about your secret longing to strangle me, go right ahead."

Dan laughs as if Chuck is teasing him. "I told you, it's a metaphor."

"For fuck's sake, Humphrey," Chuck says, annoyed. "Have some balls. Tell the whole truth for once in your apple-polishing little life."

Anger flashes across Dan's face and disappears into a painfully reasonable expression. "Fine," he says. "Since you can't let it go, we'll do your experiment. But it's not going to turn me on."

Humiliation stirs a little in Chuck's stomach at that prospect, because he's going to be turned on and if Dan walks away like it's nothing...Who cares, though? Dan will just attribute it to Chuck's general perversity. He probably thinks Chuck does this with strangers. Which he has, once or twice. Chuck pulls off his tie and jacket and unbuttons his first couple of buttons. Dan carefully doesn't watch, but he stands up when Chuck does.

Chuck lazily tilts his head back to expose his throat and waits.

Dan swallows nervously a couple of times and puts his hand up. He wraps it carefully around Chuck's throat--and then pulls it back. Chuck is going to kill him. "You really want me to do this?"

Chuck shrugs. "Why not?" He hopes his voice doesn't make it obvious how badly he wants Dan to do it.

"Why?"

"It's a rush, Humphrey. Like Russian roulette or sky-diving." Only part of the truth.

Dan scrunches up his face. "Because I might accidentally kill you?" He sounds horrified.

Chuck rolls his eyes. "I'm sure you'd tell the police it was an accident, anyway."

"Look, I thought the point was the actual loss of oxygen," Dan says. "It intensifies the sensation of. Um. You know."

That's just a bonus. Chuck's favorite sex games aren't about physical sensation. They're stories. For a second he misses Blair. She understands. He wants her, and he can't have her, and it's not fair.

He clamps down on the feeling until it gives up and focuses on the game he's playing right now. Dan Humphrey has been the moral yardstick of Chuck's existence since he was sixteen. Dan meting out justice, or better yet, Dan goaded past right and wrong into naked violence...that's a turn-on. "My self-destructive thrill-seeking shouldn't be a surprise to you of all people," he says silkily.

Dan steps back. "I'm not really comfortable with this. I told you, I don't want to hurt you."

"Oh, please," Chuck scoffs.

"I don't. I mean. Look, it’s not you. I mean, it is you, but--I want to hurt everyone, okay? All the time. God, I can't believe I'm telling you this. The point is, it's not your fault. Serena is the nicest person in the world and look what I did to her."

Chuck is feeling cock-blocked and annoyed, but he reluctantly takes a deep breath and listens. So Dan wanting to choke him isn't primarily about punishment, then. It's about giving in to the Dark Side.

It's been a truism of Chuck's life for years that Dan Humphrey is jealous of him, so obvious it doesn't even need to be said. But he's somehow shocked that Dan might actually be jealous. Jealous that Chuck can let himself hate, the same way Chuck is jealous that Dan can put himself out there to be rejected over and over and over again. Just stay down, Chuck wants to tell him, but he can't take his eyes away either.

It makes a bizarre kind of sense. Dan lives in the light, and Chuck lives in the dark. Chuck always thought that made Dan a human being and Chuck a shadow, but...maybe they're each only half a person.

He doesn't really understand Charlie Trout's motivation in this little seduction-by-the-devil fantasy of Dan's. Probably Dan hasn't bothered to think about it either. But fantasies are all about self-indulgence, and Chuck doesn't mind playing along. "Games like this are about trust," he explains. "I know you won't really kill me. It's a metaphor."

"For what?"

Chuck shrugs. "We don't have to know." He takes a step closer to Dan, pulling his shirt collar open with both hands and fixing him with a hypnotic gaze. "Sometimes wanting something is a good enough reason to do it."

Dan looks like that is blowing his tiny mind. Chuck feels almost sorry for him. Sorry, and really, really turned on. He's got Dan Humphrey in the palm of his hand. He tilts his head way back. "Come on, Humphrey," he says huskily. "You can't shock me. I'm Chuck Bass."

Dan's mouth falls open. For a second or two, he just blinks, his eyes darkening. Then he fits his hands awkwardly around Chuck's throat, feeling for the arteries with his fingers. "I'm not doing this for longer than five seconds," he says, and presses down.

Dan doesn't really know what he's doing, but it doesn't matter. Chuck's head swims and his pulse pounds anyway. Dan counts, his lips moving, and then his hands fall away. Chuck gasps.

"Jesus," Dan says. "This is a really stupid thing to do. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Chuck says. "What about you?"

Dan sucks his lower lip into his mouth. His expression, looking at Chuck, is weirdly soft. "Um, I think you were right."

Victory stops Chuck's breath more effectively than Dan managed to do. "Right about what?" he asks casually after a moment.

"I, um, I think--I think I like you. Okay, this is weird."

"Bisexuality is nothing to be ashamed of." Neither am I, he thinks, but he doesn't say it.

Dan looks uncertain. "Okay, fine, but--I don't really do casual. I guess maybe to you that seems kind of square, but--"

Dan couldn't possibly want anything from Chuck that isn't casual, so Chuck guesses that means Dan doesn't want him for anything at all. Disappointment makes him cruel. "No, the word 'square' seems kind of square. Look, if you're not going to put out, that's fine, but could you leave so I can call someone who will?"

Dan frowns. "That's exactly what I'm talking about. I don't understand how you can love Blair and still sleep with hookers. And with me, apparently."

"Not all of us turn on our exes just because we have feelings for someone new," Chuck says. "Just because you can't love Serena and Blair at the same time..."

"You're the one with the stupid threesome rule!" Dan says hotly. "Why is the third person always a stranger if you have so much love to give?"

Chuck grits his teeth and tries not to think about how awful he always used to feel after a threesome with Nate. A threesome with Nate and Blair would have been torture. "The rule is about protecting yourself," he says sharply. "It's about protecting what you have. Your little Guinevere broke the rule, and she got dumped."

"She dumped me!"

Chuck shrugs. "People are jealous," he says. "Don't ever have a threesome with Serena and Blair if you want to live to see the morning."

Dan laughs. "I see your point." He doesn't say anything for what feels like a really long time after that, just stares out the window. Chuck clears his throat. Dan starts. "Oh, sorry. Just, um..." He turns pink.

"Thinking about a threesome with Serena and Blair? I can't blame you." Chuck's thought about it quite a lot.

Dan shakes his head, making a cute self-conscious squinty face. "Not exactly."

Chuck can feel his eyes widen in delight. "Me and Blair?"

Dan puts a hand over his eyes and groans. "I'm a pig. Blair would never."

Dan doesn't know Blair as well as he thinks he does. But that's something they can talk about later. Chuck feels a little of the old I don't want to say it first panic, but he's made that mistake a lot of times now. At least new mistakes are never boring. "I am capable of monogamy," he says. "When I've made a commitment to someone."

Dan looks at him very seriously. Chuck's noticed the effect Dan's serious look has on him before. The force of all that concentrated caring is like a punch in the gut, only even sexier. "I know I'm probably not someone you'd really be proud of being linked to," Dan says. "But...um...I think we should give it a shot."

"Why?"

The corner of Dan's mouth quirks upward, just a little. "Because if I can't kiss you in the next five minutes, I might not survive."

Chuck realizes that Dan's got game. That explains a lot. He grins appreciatively. "Obviously in that circumstance I would be overcome with guilt."

Dan leans in and presses his lips softly to Chuck's. Chuck's heart swells and, embarassingly, overflows. His eyes sting. He kisses Dan back and hopes he doesn't notice.