Process servers came and went all day, but this one appeared out of place, Melissa thought. For one thing, she seemed lost in a legal office: like a shark out of water--or maybe vice versa. For another, her whole look was, well, cheap--lacking that finesse that infested the legal echelons at even the lowest levels so pervasively as to go virtually unnoticed until absent, like absurdly overpriced white noise. No leather satchel; no smart-casual attire; no downtown au currant cut, color, style and blow-dry. Her sensible shoes were scuffed, having left white behind many shades ago, and dear God, were they...Red Wings?

"This is Alan Shore's office?" she asked, consulting her PDA.

"That's right," said Melissa. "He's not in yet. I'm his assistant. May I help you?"

"It is urgent, but rather delicate." Red Wings switched screens on her PDA and waited.

Melissa lowered her voice. "Well, we are a law firm. We sort of specialize in those sort of thingies."

Red Wings fished into her bag and produced a fistful of state issued business cards. She passed one over to Melissa. "Jenny Cabot: Public Health. I was given this address to locate a sexual contact of Alan Shore, but I don't have a name. Any ideas?"

Melissa reached into a file cabinet and pulled out a bound computer printout that must have been at least three inches thick. She tossed it across her desk, where it landed in front of Jenny with a thud.

"What's that?"

"Employee roster." Melissa sat down behind her desk and swiveled back to her screen.

"So...are you going to point me to a name, or what?" Jenny had opened the front cover, taken one look at the single spaced tiny print, and closed it again.

Melissa stared up at her like she was a moron. "You're new at this, aren't you?" She sighed, stood up again, and walked over to the intra-mural intercom.

"Would everyone who's had sex with Alan Shore please report to the reception area of Litigation?"

Melissa plunked down at her computer for the last time. Clearly her job was done. Before she went back to her painful hunt and peck, she did turn to Jenny with one afterthought. "Hey, um, if you've got more cards in the car or something, you're going to need them." She punctuated it with a sweet smile.

Denny and Alan strode down the sidewalk, cocky as Butch and Sundance in the salad days of Bolivia. They kissed Etta and her sister goodbye outside the main door (Shirley had said it wasn't seemly to bring hookers inside during office hours), then Denny kissed the sister goodbye again as, like dogs peeing against a tree, he always liked his tongue to be the last one in any given spot. They rolled down the hallway, up the elevator, and arrived at Litigation amidst a sea of people.

"Huh," said Alan. He scoped out a path and tunneled his way through to Melissa's desk.

Calmly, he surveyed the mass of overly familiar bodies. "Any messages for me?"

Meanwhile Jenny was studying Denny with clinical intensity. "Don't I know you?

"I'm not your father." Denny reconsidered. "But if you want to play 'Who's your Daddy...'"

"No..." She knitted her brow. "I think you're case study 1956-108! Do you mind?" She reached for his fly and yanked it down before he could protest. Not that he would have, but all the same...

"Yes! That was you!" she declared after a good, long eyeball through his shorts.

"Penicillin. Wonderful stuff. I got better," Denny said.

"Yes, but, oh...!" Jenny gaped in admiration. "What a case you were back then! New recruits still study your photo. You're an unknown to identify on the advancement test, and on a daily basis, a slide of your lesion is used to strike fear and respect into sixth grade health students across the state."

She turned to the room. "I wish I'd brought the picture with me, but honestly, it was this big!" She made a circle with her two hands.

Alan gaped.

Women gasped.

Denny grinned from ear to ear. "Denny Crane."

Although the initial plan had been to divide and conquer as usual, by unspoken consensus they both ended up in Denny's office. The silence between them was an unusual one--clearly the countdown to something which had to be said as opposed to the preamble to countless things which did not.

Had it been after noon, Denny would have poured scotch to grout the awkwardness. Since it wasn't even 9 A.M., he topped Grey Goose (times two) with Bloody Mary mix and stirred it with a swizzle.

"No celery?" asked Alan, as he set his glass down on the end table.

"I'll make it up to you at lunch." Denny sat down on the sofa beside him and waited.

Alan cleared his throat. After a time, he began to speak. "A few weeks ago I developed a...discomfort of a rather...personal nature. It was diagnosed as a social disease of a somewhat antiquated variety, eminently treatable with a series of injections in the buttocks--"

"Know it well." Denny came over all misty.

"--an interesting mix of painful and pleasurable stimuli administered by a most striking nurse in a tight-fitting scrub top."

"Never had them in the army," Denny mumbled sounding a little jealous.

"Ostensibly the matter was to be settled, except that apparently said antiquated disease is still a reportable condition to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health with partner notification required. The conglomerate assembled in front of Melissa's desk, I take it, is everyone at the firm with whom I have coupled since my arrival."

Denny raised his eyebrows and his glass. "I told you you'd do well for yourself here, but even so, I'm impressed! Good work, son. One day it'll be your, name on the door. Right under mine."

There was no response to Denny's toast.

Denny lowered his glass and his voice. "There's more?"

Alan nodded. "Not at all coincidentally, I believe, shortly afterward, I also received a letter from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health informing me that I had been named as a contact of someone with not only said treatable disease, but also a much more modern disease. One that is far more complicated to control and for which there is currently no cure.

"The letter stated that I had been exposed to HIV."

Denny's face fell. "Exposed doesn't mean--"

"I found out yesterday that the initial screening test was positive, although they tell me that that is actually indeterminate, as the antibodies to the disease I am known to have contracted confound the ELIZA screening assay. I'm still waiting for the results of the definitive Western blot."

Denny opened his mouth as if to say something, but Alan jumped back in. "While this story certainly contains a great deal of miscible and imbibed ethanol, I shall spare you the extended play details. The fact of the matter is that I participated in unsafe activities with him--"

Alan watched Denny's eyelids flicker, but other than that, his face stayed neutral.

"-- knowing full well what I was doing because I find it pleasurable, and because at the time, the risk seemed both exciting and well worth it. In the cold light of this development, of course I regret it very much.

"I'm not so much worried about dying, or even dying a slow, painful, lingering death. I think that anyone who becomes a practicing attorney must realize that that is in small print as one's just desserts. What I fear is dying alone. I have seen others with this disease have to surrender jobs and therefore colleagues; have to abandon activities and therefore contacts; have those they knew eventually forget about them, and have their life narrow to one room, a TV set, a bedside commode, a hospice nurse and a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer.

"That is what I fear most." Alan gazed at him with open, unblinking eyes.

"You had sex with a man who wasn't me?" Denny boggled. "I always thought--"

Alan lost patience. "Denny, believe it or not, this is not about you!" The times when Denny's ego exceeded his charisma--even in Alan's book--were not frequent, but they weren't pretty either.

"Which is the problem: it should be! Everything about you concerns me. If you have a problem, I should be there. You should have told me sooner. If anyone, I should be the one." Denny's voice trailed off, and he looked away.

Alan swallowed. Oftentimes when Denny was being the biggest ass was when he made the most sense. Alan was afraid that didn't bode particularly well for the state of the world they lived in, but that was the way it was.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Denny asked.

"Your raging homophobia made it a bit sticky to bring up," said Alan.

Denny waved him off. "Everyone knows that doesn't apply to you."

"I didn't," said Alan.

Denny took a swallow of his drink. "Will he be there for you?"

Alan laughed with no humor. "I wouldn't know how to find him. We didn't make it to a last name basis, and I didn't note his license plate. I'm mystified as to how he even knew how to contact me. Perhaps he rifled my wallet whilst I was...otherwise occupied." He glanced askance at Denny to see if any of this was fazing him, but Denny seemed oblivious. His usual oblivious, not his intentionally oblivious or his maddeningly oblivious--albeit it was getting harder and harder to distinguish amongst the three.

"When I first realized that I had Alzheimer's, that was what I worried about the most too: the loss. When I had to start turning down cases...and then cases started turning me down. First I worried about the loss of capacity and dignity, then the loss of things or appreciation of things. But most of all, losing the friends I treasured because I remembered my father--how painful and how exhausting it was to be around. I knew that I had no friends left who loved me enough to stick through that kind of--" Denny made a vague hand gesture and let his words trail off.

"Until I met you."

Denny squared his shoulders and cleared his throat. "I'm only going to say this once, so you better remember it because I might not: No matter what happens with you, this test, AIDS, whatever--you are my best friend; that will not change; and I will not leave you."

Breathing a voiceless,"Thank you," Alan reached for Denny's hand. He clutched it like a lifeline, but that still wasn't enough. With a shuddering breath, he laid his head on Denny's shoulder and took deep, spasmodic gasps until he was sure he had control again.

Denny stiffened at the contact. "Alan," he gritted through pulled tight lips. "Some days you make it harder than others to be your best friend."

Alan straightened. To his surprise and delight, his face was still heterosexually dry. "Unlike you, Denny." He smiled.

Denny stood. "Come on."

"Where are we going?" asked Alan.

"Where you went."

"That would be a place on Merrimac called The Man Hole, but--and not even addressing the leather requirement in the dress code--they don't open until 10 P.M."

"I mean to be tested."

Alan raised his eyebrows.

"I've done things too," said Denny. "Not perverted things," he added hastily. "Just normal things. Client's wives, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, granddaughters, nannies, know, red-blooded American stuff. But I was thinking: if you're waiting, I could wait too."

Alan stood up and took his arm. "So, this makes you my man-in-waiting?"

As they strode out through the crowd arm-in-arm Denny corrected him, "I'm the queen or nothing."

At the clinic, Denny strode up to the counter with Alan at his elbow. "I need an AIDS test. I'm not gay."

"I am, but my boyfriend's not," Alan chimed in with a smile.

The receptionist barely looked up. She passed a clipboard over the counter. "Fill out this page. We do offer anonymous testing, so if you don't want your name recorded, leave that field blank. A unique sample ID will be assigned to you."

"Denny Crane doesn't do anonymous." Denny whipped out his Mont Blanc and filled in his name in crisp block capitals.

Denny's writing pace gradually slowed, and Alan looked over to assess the situation. He sat between Denny and the girl two seats over and redirected Denny's attention back toward his own clipboard. In the car on the ride home they would have a chat about why picking up women at an STD clinic was not the best system in the books, but better there than here.

"Denny Crane." A blue-haired woman in a white lab coat opened the door and called him back. Alan rose and went with him.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said sounding well-rehearsed. "To protect privacy and confidentiality, only the patient is allowed back."

"It's all right; we're married." Alan nodded toward Denny's ring finger.

With a shrug that said she never would get the third millennium, she led them both back into the lab.

"It may take up to a week to get the results," she said as she withdrew the needle. "We'll call you at the phone numbers you left on the form and leave a message when they're available."

"Don't call me until his are in," said Denny.

"Pardon?" Blue Hair peered over her glasses at him.

"Alan Shore. Make a note: if mine come back first, don't call me until his are back too."

"I told you, we're married," Alan repeated and reached for his hand.

Denny yanked it back with a scowl. "Make a note: my blood goes with his blood," said Denny.

"Denny Crane. Alan Shore." They stomped out of the lab together.

The day seemed to pass by in slow motion on the way to balcony time, but eventually the appointed hour came. Denny tried to hand Alan the ritual glass of scotch as he crossed into his office, but Alan shook his head and just headed straight to his usual chair.

"Scotch not your thing anymore?" Denny grumbled as he sank into his seat. "Don't tell me: now you only drink fruity blender drinks out of hurricane glasses with paper umbrellas and swizzle sticks loaded with maraschino cherries?"

Alan chuckled. "While the pureed fruit has a certain appeal--as well as the added benefit of promoting good colonic health--that isn't it. Because of my high-risk exposure, it was recommended that I begin HIV chemoprophylaxis immediately. The anti-viral cocktail--while it does carry its own trendy charm in some metropolitan areas I'm told--does not mix well with ethanol."

"Oh." Denny paused a moment, then with deliberation he poured his scotch out on the balcony concrete, turned his glass upside down on the end table and left it there.

"You realize that I may be on medication indefinitely," said Alan with a curious stare. "By this spontaneous gesture of empathetic bonding, should I infer that you are prepared to give up alcohol entirely? At least in my presence?"

Denny shrugged. "You're my friend. I care. I figure it's either give up alcohol with you or open up a rectal night depository. Given a choice between the two--"

"It's a no-brainer," said Alan.

"My specialty." Denny finished with a nod.

"Easier on the knees and the sacroiliacs, as well as the liver, but not nearly as much fun," Alan observed. "Although, if you ever wish to reconsider--"

"Drop it," said Denny. "Just because I love you, doesn't mean I have to like everything about you." He pulled the band off a cigar and popped it into his mouth, waggling an index finger at Alan. "And don't go thinking this cigar means anything, either."

Alan pulled an identical one (likely pinched from Denny's humidor earlier in the day) out of his own breast pocket. "And don't go thinking that mine doesn't. Given that certain other pleasures are cut off to me at this time, a man must get it where he can."

Denny peered at him through slitted eyes. "And you can cancel the pity party. It won't work. I'm still not having sex with you."

"How about just a cigar?" Alan held it out to him.

"All right." Denny flicked the lighter under Alan's roll, and for a while they both puffed in silence.

"Are you scared?" Denny asked at last in an eerily familiar tone.

Alan placed it at last. It was the same way he had once put the exact question to Denny. Denny might forget a lot, but Alan declined to believe that by coincidence Denny had managed to forget that.

Such a question deserved a considered answer. Alan took his cigar out and stared at it as if the answer might lie somewhere within its leaves. "Scared? Not precisely that, but it's curious. For the past thirty years I've been confident that I knew precisely how my life would go: A successful and lucrative if shady legal career, eventual disbarment once age and the combined effects of a plethora of neurotoxins worked their ills on a sufficient percentage of my gray matter and I finally slipped up so catastrophically as to be caught, spared from a prison sentence by the skin of my proverbial teeth by an equally disingenuous but slightly less senile colleague and free to live out the remainder of my days in relatively carefree disgrace and debauchery.

"You know, Denny, that even if the immune system remains adequate, the HIV virus itself has a destructive demylenating effect on neurons, particularly in the frontal lobes. On average seven years after infection, a person's higher cognitive processes are considered moderately impaired on psychometrics. That's cause for a professional to have to cease practice. Fifteen years after diagnosis, if still alive, ninety-five percent-- that's virtually all-- HIV positive patients have dementia significant enough to impair their advanced activities of daily living--"

Alan's voice trailed off, finally recognizing that this conversation could be delicate for more than one reason. He wished desperately for a glass of scotch, and regretted again how many of the tiny pleasures that he had taken so cavalierly for granted were cut off to him now.

"It's not the same, is it?" Denny's voice interrupted Alan's reverie. "Four years you've sat here and believed that you've empathized with me over my Alzheimer's, but you can't--you simply can't--until it's you."

"No." Alan spoke very quietly into the night.

"But I never doubted your sincerity. So I need you to remember that although I can't feel what you feel, never doubt it when I say that I care--I care with everything that I have within me--and that you have--you always will have-- whatever you need from me."

They held the held the moment for a few heartbeats. Then Alan cleared his throat. His voice was brighter. "Well then--"

"Except for Shirley."

"Denny," Alan tried again. "Think of it as a dying young man's trip to Disneyworld: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Schmidtland."

"Disney you can have. The mouse, the fairy, the teacups, the Jungle Bunny Cruise--whatever--but Shirley is off the table."

"I don't need a table," Alan bargained. "The rug will do just fine. A little carpet burn never hurt anyone for more than three or four days, and I'm a very swift healer."

"Forget it!" Denny pushed up and blustered back into his office to get his case and coat. "Check your Fast Pass. Your monorail doesn't stop at Schmidt. That's a private station."

"But Denny, if you really loved me--"

"Don't pull that crap with me!" Denny griped as he waited for Alan to collect his attaché case. "I can see through your sweet talk. I was making it up when your father was trying to figure out how to get into your mother's underwear." He jabbed a stern index finger at Alan's chest.

"One leg at a time, same as jockeys; watch the lace: it itches. That's what he always taught me." Alan smirked and Denny pretended to be disgusted, but he snuck a peek at Alan just before he turned off the light, and Denny allowed himself a self-satisfied smile in the dark as he noted that Alan looked distinctly less distressed than he had earlier.

"Do you need anything from your hotel?" Denny asked as his car sped toward home. There hadn't been any words; they both just ended up in it apparently content to go the same place.

"Is my toothbrush still there?"

"Right where you left it: next to mine."

"Then not if you're willing to lend me some pajamas."

Denny gave him an odd look. "You'll have sex with a man in a car--

"Truck. Ford Ranger."

"--but you won't sleep in my guest room without pajamas?"

"They make me feel warm. Secure. Cared about. And they smell like you."

"Because you might be dying, I'm going to let that pass. You like the ones with the footies and the button flap bottom?"


"Done," said Denny. "Nightcap and sleep mask?"

"If it's not too much trouble."

"Never for you." Denny leaned back in the seat, as the driver rolled on through the streets.

Alan's hotel room was dark and cold when he pushed open the door three days later to see the message waiting light blinking. He went straight to the phone and pressed the message keys.

"This is Riverside Exigent Health Care calling for Mr. Alan Shore," a tinny voice said. "Please call us back during business hours Monday through Saturday seven A.M. to seven P.M. or Sunday one to eight P.M."

The red L.E.D. of the cheap hotel alarm clock display read 7:43 P.M.

Alan thought about calling first, but decided there was no reason. He picked up his sleepover bag and headed straight back out the door.

Denny was in pajamas and smoking jacket with a glass of scotch in one hand when he came to the door. He gestured absently and started to walk away. Alan knew where everything was.

"Did you get your results?" Alan asked without preamble.

"Just a message to call," said Denny. He stood aside to allow Alan to enter. "Massachusetts law--"

"I know the law," Alan snapped.

Denny gave him a queer look.

Alan's face ceded a wordless apology, and he stepped into the foyer.

"I just thought perhaps they may have left negative results on your machine, but in my case--" He let the thought trail off, but Denny could hear that the fear was real.

"Just a message to call back during business hours." Denny said blandly. He closed the door and dead-bolted it behind them. "Your pajamas are laundered and folded on your bed. Want to put in a movie?"

Alan rubbed his head. "I don't think so. I'm not going to be good company tonight. Maybe I shouldn't have come." He slumped against the wall.

"I know people," said Denny. "I can put a call into the medical director. Wake his overpaid ass up. Get the results."

"No. That won't change anything. I'm sorry." Alan straightened and reflexively moved as if to smooth his tie although he still wore his overcoat. "I'll be a good boy and go to my room now until morning." Alan shuffled off down the hall towards his room.

"And Denny--" Alan turned.

Denny's face posed the query.

"Thank you." Alan continued down the hall.

Several sleepless hours passed before surrender. Finally, Alan pushed open the master bedroom door. "I know what you said about sharing your bed, but I can't sleep, and I so desperately don't want to be alone."

There was a creak and a groan in the darkness.

"My house, my bed, my covers. If anyone steals them, it'll be me, not you. And if you're going to choke the chicken, do it off of your edge not towards the middle. I don't do wet spots."

"Got it." Alan clambered in. He curled up, arms around Denny's torso.

"And that better be your elbow in my stomach," Denny said ominously.

"It is."

"It feels pretty small to be an elbow."

"My mother always said I that I had delicate bone structure."

Denny made an unconvinced sounding grunt.

Alan exhaled a giant breath and squeezed tighter. "Denny--would this be an awkward moment in which to say that I love you?"

"Yes. And that still doesn't feel like an elbow." Denny jiggled his belly muscles to try to get a better sense of it.

Alan chuckled. "As to your concern regarding the latter: it is. And in re the former concern, would you please remind me to do so later?"

Denny groaned. "Why do you always have to go and turn us into a gay thing? Why can't it just be about the love?"

Alan took on a grade school teacher cadence. "Well, Denny, when two men love each other dearly, and say so in bed, generally that's considered a gay thing."

"Only to you Democrats."

"Whereas Republicans see it differently?"

"Of course."

"Actually, that explains a great deal," said Alan, in all seriousness.

"Go to sleep," said Denny through grated teeth. "A sleepover is just that: sleeping."

For a while there was soft breathing.

"Denny, did I say 'thank you?'"

"Yes. Go to sleep."

"I don't just mean for this." Alan hugged his waist. "I mean--"

"I know what you mean. I heard you. If you really want to thank me, go to sleep."

Alan buried his face in Denny's chest, and as Denny stroked his hair, Alan eventually dozed off.

Denny stared at his portrait on the wall and listened to the clock tick away the night.

At 7:01 the next morning they placed the call. At 7:07 they got the results: negative on all counts.

That night they celebrated by splitting three cocktail waitresses and a twelve-pack of condoms between them. Somehow they made it work so everyone was...satisfied. Long after Big Hair, Bigger Hair, and Biggest Hair had left, Denny and Alan lingered, reclining in Denny's California king--naked--smoking cigars, sipping pomegranate juice and...afterglowing.

"It's good to have things back to normal," said Denny as he scratched his balls. He hoped he hadn't picked up crabs again. Those nit combs hurt like hell. How come they made protection against all the baddies except that one? Maybe he should take up shaving again

"Not quite normal," said Alan. "I'm still not out of the woods. The window, they call it: a curiously light and auspicious word to apply to a concept that fills the mind with dark dread and anxiety. I've got a standing membership in the Phlebotomist of the Month Club until that magic six-month mark."

"We've got a membership." Denny corrected. "I'll go with you."

Alan gave him a funny look.

"A beautiful woman in nursing whites, drawing blood: usually I have to pay extra for that. Besides, who says I won't need it? Six months is a long time. Who knows what I'll get into by then?" Denny paused for a beat. "Or who?"

Alan searched Denny's face. "When you drop little comment bombs like that, do you have any idea what you're implying?"

"Not always, but the audience does. That's what counts." Denny took a swig of cranberry and suddenly turned serious.

"Alan, why'd you do it?"

Alan gave a humorless laugh. "I hate to burst your heteronormic bubble, but it was hardly the first time."

"I meant the unsafe sex. Take the chance. It's so... stupid!"

Alan looked away. "I knew what you meant, and as I said, it's hardly the first time."

"No, but it's your first time in a long time."

Alan blinked. In fact it was, but it was beyond him how Denny would have known such a thing.

Of course, most of the time it was beyond him how Denny knew almost anything.

Alan considered the question on a much different level than he had previously over the past week. He had no good answer. Not a real one, and so he turned to his usual source for help with the imponderables. "One of my closest and dearest friends once said that she considered me self-loathing and self-destructive: a danger to myself and those around me. Do you think that's true?"

"Not anymore."

"Mm. Perhaps it's some vestigial impulse left over from those nocent days. Maybe it was just for the more intense orgasm--"

Now Denny's interest visibly picked up.

"--or maybe an even more primal drive just to be be that kind of physically blended with someone...a part of them retained within you for hours, days even. I haven't known that kind of closeness for so long, sometimes I wonder if the part of me that needs intimacy to live has already starved and died."

"It was a lot easier when there was nothing out there that a shot in the ass and a good paternity and divorce lawyer couldn't fix," Denny agreed.

"Was it?" Alan regarded him in genuine curiosity. "Did that relative genital freedom find you true love?"

"Many times. Or, at least I thought it did. But who knows. That was before the mad cow. Maybe I was wrong." Denny stubbed out his cigar and turned out his bedside lamp.

"Alan, there was a time two seasons ago that you said I didn't need you. You were wrong then." Denny settled down amongst the pillows and sheets and closed his eyes.

Alan's brow wrinkled. "You said that, Denny."

"Whatever. You were still wrong. I do need you. Whatever sicko stuff this is that you're into--and I don't want to hear the details--can you do it in some way that makes sure you stick around? For me." The room fell impossibly quiet, and Alan sent a small prayer up to a God he had not believed in in at least forty years. Please God, let these tests come out all right.

Alan extinguished his cigar and drained his juice. "If I come out of this one undeservedly lucky, then yes Denny, I can do that."

"Good. Because I do need you, Alan." Beneath the sheet, Denny patted Alan's naked thigh.

Denny whipped his palm away. He turned his lamp back on and stared in horror at his damp and sticky palm. Something dripped off of it.

He gaped at Alan. "Is that--?"

"Hair gel," Alan pronounced. He did a Cameron Diaz through his hair.

"Ah." Denny turned the lamp back out and lay back down.

Alan turned his lamp out as well. "So, so shall we call this officially a sleepover? The office pool is keeping count."

Denny groaned. "There you go again. Why do you always have to turn it into a sex thing? Why can't you just accept the love and a place to roll over and go to sleep afterward?"

"Didn't your mother explain to you that when two people love each other very much...?"

"That's where babies come from. Babies don't come out my ass." Denny farted.

"Fortunately," Alan said dryly.

"I'm just taking care of myself for you. A fellow could get hurt--rupture himself--trying to hold all that inside. There's more room on the outside than in."

Alan fanned the sheets to move the noxious air farther outside. "Denny--"

"And don't start whining about a little fart," Denny griped. "That's a girl thing. If I wanted to be in bed with a girl--"

Alan propped up on his elbow and waited. This should be good. "Yes?"

"Never mind." Denny grumbled, rolled over, and pulled the sheets around his neck.

"Denny," Alan repeated. "Thank you. Thank you for taking care of yourself for me."

Denny farted again. "Any time."

Alan chuckled and lay down. With luck they might still get almost three hours of sleep before they got up to do it all again