Danny had plenty of experience bull-shitting his way through much of his life. He had to, didn't he? Getting a scholarship at a prestigious school, getting into the swim team, facing off against Martin.
It worked a lot of the time too. After so much begging and pleading and fighting his way to the top of the pile, the school board had seen fit to grant him a scholarship. And, he had managed to get himself a place on the team by getting Tsitsas kicked off.
But, there was one thing that Danny just couldn't bull-shit his way out of this time. It was far more terrifying than facing the entire review board of Blackstone College. Far more than the feeling of being so alone starting a new school and even more than summoning the courage to kiss Martin.
Christmas had always been a relatively small affair at his parents' house. What with their small budget and also gift-giving. There was always just enough food to go round, his mum managing to choose exactly the right sized turkey to feed everyone perfectly.
Danny used to remember Christmas as being a happy and stress-free period of the holidays. One where he could simply relax and enjoy the festivities. Probably because he was never the one to organise it.
But now, it was Danny and Martin's first Christmas together. And, it had been nothing but one long string of problems. First, Danny couldn't get the tree to co-operate and to stand up in a way that he liked. So, he had to settle for it being at a slight angle. Then, getting the lights and decorations up was almost enough to make Danny forget the whole thing. He had been electrocuted no less than eight times and almost fell off the ladder twice before he managed to get the whole roof done. And, to make matters worse, they forgot to get a tree topper so Danny had to listen to Martin's whining about how it wasn't Christmas without a proper tree topper.
Why was he putting himself through so much of this misery? Oh, yeah. Because Martin absolutely loved the festive period. And, Danny would do anything to make Martin happy. They had been together for eight months, two weeks and three days exactly, almost to the minute when Danny checked his watch.
Shit, he was going to be late for the stores!
Danny rushed to his car parked outside his and Martin's shared apartment and sped down the road like the devil himself was behind him. As he drove, he started to think about how he and Martin finally got together in the end.
Eight months ago, Commonwealth Games
Danny stomped into the changing rooms, cursing angrily at the empty room. Fuckin' coach, fuckin' Commonwealth Games, fuckin' parents.
Why couldn't he have come, just this once, to support him? This was the bloody Commonwealth Games and he needed Martin here to support him.
Seeing that empty spot where Martin would have been, cheering for him, made Danny panic and run off before the final race. He had shown how much of a coward he was, on national television, in front of millions of people.
Fuck, he had fuckin' messed everything up. He had put his education on the backburner so that he could be here. He had sacrificed what little he had to get ahead of everyone else.
'Don't put all your eggs in one basket, mate' his father had told him. Why couldn't he have just listened to him, Danny thought.
He had put everything he had into this, and now he was a disappointment to his family, to his coach...and he didn't have Martin.
Danny ripped off his goggles and threw them angrily across the room.
"Arghh!" Danny gripped his hair tightly and doubled over as he cried out in frustration. All of his doubts, his fears, his anger and insecurities were hitting him all at once like a freight train and Danny felt like his head was about to explode.
A sob escaped from Danny's lips as his knees gave out from underneath him. He collapsed to the floor and leaned back against the wall, pressing his palms into his eye-sockets as tears began to pour from his eyes.
So, here he was. Danny Kelly, the Olympic-standard swimmer from one of the most prestigious schools in Melbourne...and he was curled up in a ball, sobbing his eyes out.
They would come looking for him soon - coach and the other officials. They'd find him in here and see him like this and think he'd gone mad. But, Danny didn't care. He didn't care what any of those fuckers thought about him anymore.
"I'm sorry, Martin" Danny whispered through desperate sobs "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have kissed you. I just wanted you to be here"
"You're right, ya shouldn't have" A voice said suddenly
Danny instantly quietened as he looked around the room, his vision blurred because of the tears. But, there, standing in the door of the changing room, was Martin.
"But, I'm glad you did" Martin admitted, with a small smirk on his face.
The relief washed over Danny's face as he sobbed fresh tears. He rested his head on his knees as he tried to hide his face from Martin.
Martin's face fell to nothing but concern when he saw Danny cradled on the floor crying. He rushed over to Danny and wrapped one of his muscular arms around Danny's shoulders.
"Hey, hey, what is it, mate?" Martin asked, stroking the back of Danny's head tenderly.
Danny tried to listen as the swimmer sobbed out a reply.
"You-you weren't...th-ere. I-I couldn't, I couldn't do it w-without you" Danny lifted his head and Martin's heart broke when he saw how desperate and vulnerable Danny looked.
Danny was hyperventilating, Martin noticed. His chest looked like it was ready to explode with how quickly it was moving up and down. Danny needed to calm down, or he was going to end up passing out.
Martin manoeuvred them into a full-on hug so that he could run his hand up and down Danny's back slowly.
"Hey, it's okay, Danny. It's okay" Martin soothed "Everything's alright, mate"
"No!" Danny said "I'm a failure. I've- I've lost everything!"
"You haven't failed anything yet" Martin reassured him "You can still race, Danny"
Danny shook his head and pressed his face further into the nape of Martin's neck "They won't let me. Not now"
"Yes, they will" Martin said. There was a hint of anger in his voice but he tried not to let it show "...'cause there'll be hell to pay for if they don't"
"Wh-what are you talking about?" Danny asked, sniffling his nose and hugging Martin tightly as his tears wetted his friend's shoulder.
"My family's fortune has been one of the biggest contributors to the Commonwealth Games this year. My grandmother provided for most of the facilities in this building herself, ya know? Do you really think they'd be loony enough to say no to her?"
"Is that true?" Danny asked. Martin could feel Danny beginning to calm down as his breathing levelled out to a more normal rate. Martin breathed a sigh of relief and hugged Danny closer.
"Of course it's true. I would never lie to ya, Danny" Martin said with as much sincerity as possible.
"Are you gonna be there?" Danny asked suddenly, gripping tighter onto Martin as though Martin were his only lifeline.
Martin placed a hand on either side of Danny's face and gently forced him to look up at him. Martin wiped away the few remaining tears from Danny's face and said,
"The only place I intent to be, is right here with you"
And that day, Martin won the Commonwealth Games. He managed to swim harder and faster than he had ever done before and came first. His gold medal hung proudly on the door of his and Danny's room.
And that wasn't all. Danny was going to the Olympics in 2000. He was going to represent Australia in the Sydney Olympics alongside 200 other nations from across the world. To say that Danny was fuckin' overwhelmed about all of it would be an understatement.
But, for now, Danny didn't want to think about any of that. The Olympics...they'd be tough on everyone, his family and friends and his team.
All he wanted to think about was the here and now. He had Martin. He had his family. He had his place in Commonwealth Games history. What more could he want?
Later that day, after managing to get the last turkey in the shop, Danny had everything roasting away nicely. The ham would be done in about an hour - or was that the sausages? - and Danny would start getting the table ready for dinner.
But, for now, Danny was going to watch the oven like a hawk. Nothing was getting burned on his watch.
Danny was so fixated on watching the food that he didn't hear the door opening and closing and the classic yell of 'I'm home'. Or the person walking up the stairs and into the kitchen.
Martin smiled when he saw his boyfriend kneeling in front of the oven, completely oblivious to the world.
"Danny?" Martin called
Martin laughed and shook his head humorously. Sometimes, his boyfriend could get so fixated on things. But, it was just one more thing to add onto the list of reasons why Martin loved him so much.
Martin walked over to Danny's prone form and gently carded his fingers through his boyfriend's hair.
Danny finally looked up at Martin and the swimmer smiled up at him with a giant toothy grin.
"Hey" he greeted
Martin knelt in front of Danny and wrapped his arms around the back of Danny's neck.
"Hey yourself" Martin smiled back at him
"I thought you weren't supposed to finish for another hour?" Danny asked, slightly concerned
"I decided to close up early today" Martin said, running his fingers through Danny's soft curls.
"Are you going to get in trouble for that?" Danny asked
Martin shrugged "Probably"
Before Danny could say another word, Martin closed the gap between them and captured Danny's lips in a passionate kiss.
When they had to come up for air, Martin rested his forehead against Danny's and they both sighed in contempt.
"But, it's okay because the only place I intend to be..." Martin placed his hand over Martin's heart "...is right here with you"