Rating: PG, I guess
Disclaimers: All belong to the wonderful Mr Bennett!
Summary: 50 word prompts detailing their un-relationship.
A/N: All quotes are from poems by Philip Larkin. In #31, it's from the poem "A Study of Reading Habits", and #37 quotes "Love Songs In Age".
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#39 - Torn
“I argue it cross-wise every time,” Dakin says curtly.
“That’s—that’s good,” Irwin replies, and his gaze is even. “That’s really good.”
“It’s called pretending, sir, for the sake of –-”
#18 - Attention
“— For the sake of not being dull. Sir.”
Irwin pauses, his hand hesitant on the other man’s arm. “You were never dull, Dakin.”
#26 – Goodbye
“No, I’m sorry, Mr – Mr Dakin -- Mr Irwin is not with the studio any longer. Yes, that’s right. Oh, about three months ago…No, I’m afraid he didn’t leave any forwarding address. Would you like to – sir? …Hello?”
#40 – History
Irwin stood up before the class of young, expectant faces, shuffling his paper nervously. Talking before his class at Cutler’s certainly doesn’t’ compare with being a guest lecturer at Oxford.
#35 - Sudden
Unconsciously, Irwin scanned the lecture hall for those boys (red trainers, Hector’s borrowed poetry books, rumpled blazers, that mocking air of careless apathy). It’s the unexpected collision of his memories and the present that makes him stutter; the papers fall to the floor in a heap. Dakin is sitting at the back of the room, smirking.
#32 - Eye
He keeps his gaze trained on the board, on his trembling hands, on a blank spot on the far wall throughout the presentation – anywhere but Dakin’s searching look.
#20 – Picture
“Well, sir,” Dakin says, by way of starting a conversation, his voice thick with suggestion, and Irwin leans against the blackboard and thinks how odd it feels to be playing out this scene again, as if history wasn’t quite done with him yet.
#04 – Last
They decide to go for a drink, and the look that Dakin shoots him over his shoulder as they make their way towards the pub sears Irwin right down into his core. It certainly wouldn’t be the last time.
#03 – Young
Dakin’s still filled with that eager curiosity inherited and encouraged by Hector, only now it’s tempered by Oxford seriousness and he launches into (mostly one-sided) discussion about everything he’s learned (or pretended to understand). Sartre, Dakin scoffs, what an ugly, brilliant fuck.
#06 – Gentle
“It’s all morally relative,” Irwin remarks mildly after Dakin describes a recent anthropological study of cannibalism in some obscure tribe.
#10 – Learn
Irwin smiles patiently into his glass as Dakin continues with his rant as if Irwin wasn’t there at all, on how there had to be some moral absolutes that spanned civilization and history, how Irwin and his diplomatic, P.C. rubbish offered no consolation at all (and here, Dakin’s Sheffield accent elongates the ‘a’ into a low drawl that sends heat straight to Irwin’s groin).
#28 – Fortune
“As I recall, you were morally ambiguous yourself,” Irwin says, lifting an eyebrow at Dakin’s.
“Equal opportunity,” Dakin replies airily and crushes the last of his cigarette in the steel ashtray.
#44 – Wall
Irwin’s apartment is impossibly small, white and spartan. On the bare wall across from the threadbare sofa, yellowed curtains billow gently against a grimy pane of glass.
“Not much of a view,” Dakin comments.
Looking up from his mug of tea, Irwin smiles lopsidedly. “Oh, that’s not a window.”
“They just ran out of drywall.”
#31 - Book
“Get stewed! Books are a load of crap,” Dakin read aloud and smiled broadly at Irwin, who muttered under his breath and snatched away his battered copy of The Whitsun Weddings, placing it back on his bookshelf with care.
#49 – Hunger
It’s not much of a dinner as it turns out, just takeaway curry and a leftover bottle of wine, but when Dakin gesticulates with the garlic naan and sends Chicken Tikka flying across the table, Irwin can’t help but smile.
#45 – Naked
It started with the small freckle on Dakin’s cheek, as they sagged against the shabby couch. They’re sitting, shoulders and hips pressing in the cold apartment, and suddenly Irwin’s long fingers are catching on the buttons of Dakin’s shirt. (Dakin thinks about commitments, and a promise for drinks, then nothing more).
#41 – Power
Later, Dakin sprawls across Irwin’s lean frame and props his head up on the other man’s chest and says lazily, “So, how long did Poland hold out against the invasion do you think?” –Irwin knows that Dakin knows, and so throws a pillow at his smug face.
#22 – Mad
“Dakin,” Irwin huffs, blinking owlishly at the other man in the half-light. “Give me my glasses; I can’t see what you’re—”
#17 – Vision
“No,” Dakin replies firmly but gently. “I want you to see.” Irwin can immediately hear the difference in the verb. He deliberately leaves his frames on the night-stand, and reaches up to trace the curves of Dakin’s face with his fingers, leaning in as he feels soft breath on his palm.
#29 – Safe
Irwin wished he had someway of justifying this – whatever you called it. Some explanation other than it felt right, like warmth had finally seeped into his bones after an endless winter chill.
#48 – Precious
They’re tangled in the sheets Irwin doesn’t know if he’s changed—ever—and every time he moves to clamber out of bed, Dakin pulls him back again and plants open-mouthed kisses on his chest.
#09 – King
Checkmate, Dakin whispers against Irwin’s collarbone, marks his victory with his teeth.
#46 - Drive
“You need a lift back to Oxford, then?” Irwin asked quietly in the fading light, twining his fingers into the curls at the nape of Dakin’s neck.
#42 - Bother
When Dakin doesn’t respond except to hum noncommittally, Irwin murmurs into Dakin’s hair. “It won’t be any trouble, really. I’d—I’d like to, if…you want.”
#21 – Fool
One morning, Irwin reaches for his glasses on the nightstand and his fingers close around a scrap of paper. There’s a receipt for a pre-paid British Rail ticket from the local station to Oxford (eight pounds on a student discount, departing 0740) hastily wedged between the lamp and a book of Larkin, and Irwin belatedly realizes that Dakin had never intended to stay.
#08 – Thousand
Should have known, should have known, should have known, Irwin recites to himself and rips the soiled sheets from the bed.
#11 – Blur
It’s the odd snatches he remembers during breakfast, in his room, in the shower. They coalesce and taste sour on his tongue, like stained bitter elation. He grips his mug closer and wills away the dangerous arabesque of memory. Cream and two sugars later, and he can still taste Dakin on his tongue.
#23 – Child
“A doomed, geriatric love affair,” they snickered from the sofa, balancing bottles of beer. Scripps is the only one that doesn’t laugh.
“Irwin’s not old,” he says quietly, approaching Dakin – Dakin with his fists curled at his sides looking away, all his former arrogance faded from the lines around his mouth; Dakin who slams the door behind him.
#47 – Harm
“Even if it’s morally justifiable,” Scripps offered, “doesn’t make it right, you know, to just leave him like that,” and he sounded so reasonable that Dakin snarled and pushed his glass away and skulked out of the dark pub.
#34 – Sing
You know you’re fucked when even Posner won’t speak to you. It is, of course, conveyed in an utterly Posner fashion: Dakin enters the cramped, badly-lit practice room at the end of the music hallway and stands sheepishly in the doorway, one hand in his jeans pocket. Scripps looks over his shoulder and the jaunty tune falters only slightly. It’s Posner though—Poser who follows the lilting melody while fixing a disappointed, flinty eye on Dakin that finally makes him leave, shutting the door behind him once again.
#02 – Cool
The air here is colder than where he lives, and as Irwin walks into the center of Oxford from the railway station, he stuffs his hands into the pockets of his thin jacket and wonders, not for the last time, why dispassion was necessary in history class but maddeningly absent in real life.
#16 – Need
There Dakin, you fuckwit. I’ve made a choice. Wouldn’t Sartre be pleased.
#36 - Stop
Of all people, it’s Scripps that recognizes him in the street as he walks down the winding, cobblestone alleyways.
#43 – God
“I thought he was at Balliol,” Irwin says, sluggishly rummaging through the cobwebs of his memory.
Scripps laughs softly, his breath condensing in the cool air. “No, he’s at Corpus, wouldn’t you know. I’m at Jesus myself. Bet you can imagine how he reacted to that. He always loved irony. Here, I’ll show you the way,” he adds, and jerks his head in one direction.
#14 - Command
It’s Scripps who knocks politely, but Irwin who bellows through the door for Dakin to let him in for fuck’s sake.
#27 – Hide
It’s not giving up, Dakin justifies. It’s a strategic retreat. He laughs hollowly and snaps the pencil in his fist, crushing bits of lead into his history texts with the heel of his hand.
#12 – Wait
Irwin wearily leans against the closed door, ignoring the knowing looks of students as they pass.
#15 – Hold
Stuart hasn’t fucked a post-grad before, the girl in the mauve sweater murmurs under her breath as she walks delicately around Irwin’s hunched form in the hallway, giggling as her friend shoots Irwin a sly look. He wraps his arms around his knees and suppresses the urge to kick them in the shins.
#13 – Change
After an hour, he appears. Instead of arrogance and thinly veiled derision, Dakin stands motionless in the hallway with grim frustration, as if he cannot possibly understand what made Irwin come back to Oxford.
#33 - Never
Irwin’s eyes are clearer when he looks at Dakin; he’s stopped living in terms of apology.
#37 – Time
To pile them back, to cry /
Was hard, without lamely admitting how /
It had not done so then, and could not now.
#1 - Motion
The lines come from nowhere, and Dakin looked mildly surprised at his own recitation. He runs a hand agitatedly through his hair—mercilessly free from all the gel he had favored before—and raised his hand in an awkward wave.
#07 - One
It was a terrible goodbye, of course, as goodbyes went. There had been a great frenzy was Poland was first invaded. And after that, silence. Silence in war. Irwin walks away, down the staircase and across the barren courtyard where the sun illuminated the frozen lawn with a weak winter light.
#50 - Believe
Irwin wants to think there’s no real use for the kind of knowledge that Hector passed on, no real value in the endless lines of poetry the boys won’t understand, but knows that it might be all that keeps them sane; there’s history, even in that.
#30 - Ghost
Hector’s still here, Irwin realises and wonders if the poetry that they recited on occasion (mostly when drunk now at University, all cramped together at one table, the Cambridge boys visiting for the weekend) would ever truly become theirs, and not tinged with the memory of a past teacher.
#19 - Soul
The things we love never really leave us.
#25 - Shadow
He hopes he wouldn’t face a similar fate – oh, just a history teacher, they might say in the future. What was his name now? There was that abbey, I think. Akhtar pissing in the Ganges, of course. Doesn’t matter, got us into Oxbridge, hey.
#05 – Wrong
As Irwin walks, out and into the cold morning light of the street and beyond school-boy pretenses, Irwin thinks of Cutler's. They can’t see it’s just a game, Totty had said wryly, drawing on a cigarette. But he disagrees.
#24 - Now
He’s never wanted to pretend like this before.