Fandom: Sports Night
Disclaimer: These folks ain't mine. I just can't seem to stop fiddlin' with 'em.
Notes: Thanks to slodwick for an awesome beta. Thanks too to both her and tstar78 for their incredible support throughout my writing of this.
"What're you listening to?" Casey leaned in the doorway of the office, smiling ahead at Danny, who was typing at his desk, blasting some woman's raspy voiced song and doing what would casually be described as "shimmying" in his seat.
"Whoahey!" Danny jumped and spun around. "You scared me. It's ... ahh, it's Susan Tedeschi. She's - she won a Grammy. She's good."
Casey closed the door behind him and sat up on the other desk. Danny's stuff had been cleaned up, the computer, the tchotchkes, most of it was in boxes on the floor.
"She sounds like she's been gargling with whiskey," Casey leaned back on his hands and stared at Danny, typing slowly and deliberately. When he said "whiskey," Casey noticed, Danny's eyes closed for a second, like he was suddenly hearing the woman's voice differently. Like he could hear the deep gut burn that Casey could.
"It works for her." Danny's voice seemed lower than usual. He could have been crying. He could have been drunk. Casey looked at the boxes under his feet. Negro Modelo; he recognized the yellow and black stripes of the Mexican beer Danny sometimes brought over to barbecues, picnics, and other times when it was good for a man to bring beer.
"You wanna' maybe talk about this?"
"About the music?"
"I know you probably can't understand why, Casey, but it's good music."
"Danny, I ... hey. This isn't a good time for us to be having this Casey's not at as cool as Dan conversation."
Danny stopped typing.
"I got a job with a good station."
"I know. What I don't know is ... anything else."
"I got a job with a good sports show," Danny spun around and crossed his ankles up on the desk. "I got a job anchoring a show. Alone. I'll be that guy, Casey. I'm not going to be your number two anymore."
Casey's eyes narrowed. That knot, that feeling that had set up a bivouac in his stomach for the past week began its morning march around his guts.
"You're not my number two, Danny."
Casey looked at his shoes; Dan stared at a pencil on Casey's desk. In that time, glaciers - big millennia-spanning continent-sized hunks of ice, were moving. The Detroit Tigers were working out a deal to bring Andres Greaves to their squad, much to the dismay of the Red Sox fans who were sure Greaves would be swinging at Fenway that Fall, and Dana was sitting with Natalie in the studio, crying and whispering anxiously, what are we going to do? Dan looked up; it was entirely possible that the shine on Casey's eyes came from tears.
"It's in DC. I'll be ... in DC."
"Washington, DC?" Casey stood up, crossed his arms.
"No, Casey. Vancouver, DC."
"So, Washington, then."
"Yeah." Danny spun a full revolution in the chair and stopped facing Casey.
"Are we back to sniping at each other, because ... I thought we were okay."
"Does it matter?"
"Yes. It matters." Casey went for the door.
"It's over. It's all over, this ... this."
"She didn't win the Grammy."
"Your whiskey-voiced songstress. She was nominated, yeah. But she lost."
"There a point in all this?" Danny found himself busy scratching geometric shapes on a stack of lime green post it notes near his left hand.
"You're trying to be all pissy now, because you think it'll make it easier when you have to leave. You're wrong. And what's more? No, you're not my number two, but you have to know that you're not the brains behind this operation, held back by some weird super power that I have. You need to know that I'm damn good at this, Danny."
Danny took a deep breath, and it rattled in his trachea. Casey could hear the whiny release of air. Dan was getting sick. It happened every year around this time.
"Susan Tedeschi lost that year. And you honestly thought for a second, that 'Vancouver DC' was a good comeback." Casey was halfway out the door. He wasn't looking back at Danny. " Vancouver's not in Dritish Columbia, or wherever the hell you thought you were being smart by saying it was."
"You have to know that I'm good at what I do, Danny. You should know that I was good at what we did."
He let the door close behind him, a soft pneumatic whoosh of air and he was gone. Dan printed out the note he'd been writing to Isaac and left it laying on the top of the desk.
The boxes stacked easily. A laptop, a set of Nerf balls, and a paperweight Christmas present from Natalie two years ago - they didn't weigh so much. Danny left. He looked back once, standing in the middle of the newsroom. One of the TV screens popped on and off, scaring Danny nearly halfway out of his skin. They were disconnecting the cables to the floor. He turned and headed for the elevator.
Casey pulled her into the room and closed the door.
"Huh. Turns out this is a supply closet."
"Casey. I don't-" she had her hands up, her fingertips pressed into her forehead.
"Dana, what do you mean 'you saw'?" He was holding her by her elbows.
"You're hurting me."
He let go and his hands fell, fingers still splayed, to his sides.
"I saw you guys. Casey, I saw the two of you, and I ... saw you. What's going on?" She backed up and sat down against a shelf loaded with copy paper.
"It's a thing." He ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Are you together? Is it that kind of thing?"
Casey looked up at her, his brows furrowed.
"I love him, Dana."
"I know that, Casey." She stood up and crossed to him, rested her hands on his arms.
"I've just - with the network. Everything ... it's been crazy, and I guess we weren't careful about - people seeing."
"Well," Dana poked the center of Casey's forehead with her fingertip, "full on making out with your boyfriend in the middle of McCain's at ten at night? People, Casey ... they're gonna see."
"What am I gonna do, Dana?"
"It's not the end of the world." She linked her arm through his and turned him around to the door. "You and Danny will figure something out. You're smart boys."
"Dana, we're two men who - no matter how tangentially - work in sports. Now there's a big list somewhere, a big list of professions in which it's safe and okay and acceptable to be gay. Sports? Not on the list." Casey wouldn't budge.
"I have your back, Casey. I love you, and while, yes, it's going to be a little weird for me to get used to the fact that my anchors are an item, it doesn't change who you are, or who Danny is, or how I feel about either of you. I have your back." She ran her hand over his head, ruffled his hair a little.
"No one else is going to."
"Oh, bull. Natalie's going to be thrilled. She's going to ask what the hell took you two so long, by the way. Jeremy'll be fine, and Isaac ... is Isaac. You're both like sons to him."
"That's just creepy."
"I'm helping, here."
"I'm not worried about you guys, Dana. It's the rest of the world."
Dana tightened her arm around his and pushed open the door a crack. She leaned back and whispered.
"The rest of the world wasn't in McCain's, and those that were - they were pretty tanked. The rest of the world doesn't need to know."
Casey smiled and they walked out into the newsroom.
Jeremy came running in, shouting - they'd been bought. They were saved. People were gathering in from offices, the studio, from other departments and floors.
Danny was walking, fast and serious, towards Casey. He stopped, suddenly, close to him and laid his hand on Casey's jaw. He pulled him in and kissed him, hard. Jeremy's jaw literally, comically, dropped, and Kim whistled. Natalie shouted, "I knew it!" and Dana backed away from the men and covered her smile with her hand.
"Okay. Well. Now they're gonna know."
Isaac Jaffee died on a Wednesday morning. Danny would remember it as Tuesday night, but it was Wednesday on a technicality. Danny just hadn't yet been to sleep when he'd gotten the call. Casey wouldn't remember the call at all; he'd remember standing by his open front door for the twenty minutes it took for Dan to get there. Dan hadn't called him. Casey wouldn't ever remember who did, but he knew that whoever it was, they would have called Danny first. So Casey waited, and twenty minutes later Dan came pouring out of the elevator in his sweatpants and a white undershirt under his long black coat.
Dana and Natalie were together, at Anthony's, staring at the New York Times stock pages pretending to know what the initials meant, and what the little carats meant, and not talking about the fact that no one was going to step up and bring them a ninth inning rally. Natalie's cell phone rang. Dana didn't have one. It was Casey's number on the caller ID, but Danny's broken voice at the other end of the line. Their cab fare to Casey's place was twelve dollars and fifty cents. Dana thought she handed a driver a twenty when she pushed her way out of the car. She had handed him a fifty. She never knew.
Jeremy was standing outside when they walked up to the building. It had begun to rain, and Jeremy stood next to the awning, soaked.
"I don't know which floor he lives on." Casey had woken him up. Woken, in the sense, that he'd been able to get downtown, but Jeremy wasn't even awake enough to come in from the rain.
Natalie took his arm and Dana pushed the buzzer.
In Casey's living room, no one said a word. Hours went by silently, and at dawn they quietly affirmed the funeral arrangements with each other before heading to their respective apartments to change.
Dan's eulogy was elegant and smart. He remembered Isaac as only a quasi-adopted son could; there was all the respect of family combined with all the love of a friend. He had the practiced smoothness of a man who'd already said goodbye to too many people, but Casey had been with him in the bathroom in the rectory, Casey had held his suit jacket while Danny voided the nothing in his stomach into the toilet over and over and over again.
When it was over, he kissed Esther on the cheek and sat back down between her and Casey. He would remember the smell of the room forever. Pine and sandalwood and a hundred and five woods he didn't even realize he could identify by smell. Behind him, Natalie had taken Jeremy's hand on one side, and Dana's on the other. Casey had his hand tight on Dan's shoulder and his eyes focused intently on the altar. The choir sang hallelujah and the sun shot colored beams across their faces.
"I hope for better things," Danny had said, echoing Isaac in front of a room packed with his family. Now he looked for an explanation in the red and blue play of sunlight on the polished cherry wood.
"That's not what I said."
"But it's what you meant," she whipped the foam ball at Jeremy's head, "I can't believe you."
He caught the ball, a few millimeters from his temple. If she wasn't so angry, Natalie would have found his reflexes incredibly hot. As it was, however - she was angry.
"'No ties' means 'no, I have no problem leaving Natalie, sir, please hire me and let me move to Seattle!'"
"We've been back together for twenty minutes, and you're already a crazy person." He stood up and started towards her.
Natalie, for her part, managed to sit down before the tears threatened to breach her eyelids.
"It's not like I stopped. Being a crazy person, Jeremy."
"I know." He knelt next to her chair and held her hand under his.
"It's not a thing, you know? It's not a special thing for you."
"I do know. I know this, and it's part of why I love you. And hey - we may not even have to worry about it. These platypus people - they could come through. Seattle won't even enter into it."
She was crying in earnest now. Natalie was a smart girl, and a platypus never saved the day for anyone.
Isaac stuck his head around the corner into the editing room, paused a little when he saw Natalie's reddened face and Jeremy's knit brow.
Natalie stood up quickly, knocking Jeremy's glasses askew with her elbow.
"I'm about to gather the troops. We've been bought by a last minute bidder. They'll be dumping cable sports." He backed away, towards Dan and Casey's office.
Natalie exhaled loud, as close to a whimper as her Hurley blood would allow. Jeremy pulled her in, held her close to him, tried to match her breathing.
"It's okay, Jeremy. I'm okay." She put her hands against his chest. He held strong.
"I'm not." He pulled off his glasses and pressed his face into her hair, tighter against her shoulder.
Natalie dropped her hands to her sides and was consumed by the sensation that Jeremy wasn't just holding on to her, but was actually the only thing holding her upright.
"You'd better call Galveston," he pulled away, rubbed his eyes quickly and replace his glasses.
"Screw Galveston." Natalie brought his face back to hers. "No ranch work for you, and no rainy Pacific Northwest for me. Okay?"
"Happy medium, then."
"We can find one."
She kissed him quickly and backed away, towards the control room. Dana would need her.
Jeremy pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and walked slowly from the room.
"Where she goes," he stuffed his hands in his pockets, "so goes my nation."
Casey pulled her into the room and closed the door.
"Huh. Turns out this is a supply closet."
"It's always been a supply closet, Casey."
"I know, I just - I never thought I'd be doing this in a tiny room that smelled like pine cleaner." He ran a hand through his hair.
He went to make some sort of gesture, and his hands fell at his sides.
"Everything's so messed up, Dana," Casey ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "And all of a sudden we're not sure - where anyone's going, or if we're going anywhere, and I can't -"
"You're rambling, Casey"
Casey looked up at her, his brows furrowed.
"I am. But it's okay because it's not gonna matter in about two seconds."
"Okay; what happens in two-" Dana caught herself on one heel as Casey crashed into her. She'd been paying a fair amount of attention to him over the years, but Dana would never be able to pinpoint the moment where Casey McCall got sexy. She suspected it had something to do with luring women into supply closets.
The startle wearing off, and the confusion shelved in favor of the moment, Dana laid her hands on him, her fingertips fanning out against either side of his ribcage. Casey had his arms around her, one hand clutching her shoulder and the other spread territorially against her hip.
Casey kissed her right behind her ear and whispered low, "The dating plan sucked."
Her knees almost gave out and she was grateful that Casey was holding on to her so tightly.
"It did, it did, I know this now. I'm so sorry, Casey." She caught his lips again, liking this fierce Casey who was now easing her backwards until her calves hit something - a stack of copy paper jutting out from the metal shelving on the wall.
"It just never went away, Dana." He pulled away a little, gentle now, and held her face in his hands. "I took some time, I got some distance ... but when you gotta' draw a bottom line, lady, mine's you."
"That's ... incredibly sweet." She slid her hands up to his neck, "but don't you think - have you though that maybe this is just because of how crazy it's been around here? Maybe this isn't the time for this, Casey."
"No, actually - I'm pretty sure this is exactly the time for this, Dana."
"Last days of war?" she brushed her hand against his forehead, pushing the hair back
She kissed him and slid her arms around his waist. He had his arms resting against hers, his fingers loosely cradling her elbows. From the periphery of her mind, Dana heard noises from the newsroom right behind the door.
"You're damn right," he nuzzled her neck.
"No, Casey," she nudged him away, "outside - listen."
He turned as the sounds met his ears: someone shouting, music on a crackly radio being tuned in, the distinct sound of Danny's laughter.
He pushed the door open and looked back as Dana slipped her hand into his. Danny was dancing with Kim, around the room in a big loping waltz. Natalie and Jeremy were standing by the windows, kissing like she'd never broken up with him. Or like he'd never broken up with her. It didn't matter anymore. Isaac was leaning against a desk, talking animatedly to Chris.
"Hey, there you are!" Danny broke away from Kim as they passed Casey and Dana. "It was Quo Vadimus, they bought Continental Corp."
"And they're keeping us?" Dana clapped a hand over her mouth.
"Some guy called right before the announcement," Danny was smiling hugely as he turned to Dana, "said he'd spoken to you at Anthony's? He told Isaac not to worry - that anyone who can't make money off of Sports Night shouldn't be in the money making business."
Casey barked a laugh and pulled Dan into a hug.
"What was that, just now?" Dan muttered near Casey's ear.
"I stopped missing opportunities." Casey whispered back.
"That's my boy," Danny clapped him on the shoulder.
Dan leaned in, hugged Dana and kissed her on the cheek.
"Hey," he backed away, "we're going to send someone down to the liquor store. Casey, beer? Dana?"
"Beer's fine!" She was smiling, her voice trembling near that hysterical pitch.
She turned to Casey and laughed, bouncing on the balls of her feet. She pulled him in and kissed him again. Jeremy's jaw literally, comically, dropped, and Kim whistled. Natalie shouted, "I knew it!" and Dan nudged Isaac's shoulders and whispered something that made the older man whoop with laughter.
"See that?" Casey murmured against her lips, "See how that felt okay?"
"Yeah." She smiled.
"I guess times are less desperate than we thought."
The deck chairs were still covered with a sheen of moisture from an afternoon shower when Jeremy brought them out there. It was April, still cool in the evenings, but there were green shoots curling from the big terracotta pots on the deck.
"Great view, man." Casey walked over to the railing and looked out over the city skyline, glittering against the multicolored sunset.
"Seriously," Dan wiped off one of the chairs with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, "what's the big drawback here? Reasonable rent, gorgeous view, huge huge apartment. Jeremy, did you sell your soul?"
"No," Jeremy dragged a chair over next to Dan's and sat with his feet against the railing, "I just had to say, 'Sure, I'll live in New Jersey!'"
"I knew you sold your soul." Dan took another long swig of his beer and set the bottle down by his feet.
"It's not so bad," Casey got his own chair and sat on Jeremy's left. "Besides, Natalie seems pretty happy. That's got to make even Jersey tolerable."
Jeremy smiled. "As long as she's here, I don't care where I live. I could be in Knoxville and be happy."
The three of them sat, full from dinner and warm from drinks. Two years since Sports Night was cancelled, this was the first time they'd hung out like this. They'd seen each other, of course, and phone calls and emails were no odd occurrence between their numbers lately. But this was the first big day together, no rushing to their respective jobs, no shouting over other people in bars, just the three of them talking slowly and sleepily in the cool air. Dan pulled a cigarette from the pack in his jeans pocket.
"You're smoking again?" Casey leaned forward, squinting in the glare from the failing sun.
Dan shrugged as he lit it, "I've got a brooding, edgy reputation to perpetuate. At least I didn't grow a beard."
Casey absently ran his hand against his chin, where a few week's growth roughened his face. The beard would make anyone else look vaguely unhinged, maybe even dangerous. On Casey, though, well, Dan was pretty sure Casey could be holding an Uzi and whipping kittens at oncoming traffic, and he'd still look his usual friendly, boyish self.
"... and so, yeah. Hiatus. It's a good thing." Casey leaned back in his chair.
Danny nodded, he hadn't really heard what Casey'd said, but he knew the show was on hiatus for three weeks because of the Olympics. They had talked before about how strange it was that neither of them were really following the games. It didn't affect them anymore, and there was so much else to pay attention to. Jeremy filled them in; they expected he would. He had new records, surprising victories, and underdog stories at the ready when the conversation turned that way. Even if he wasn't still in sports, Jeremy would probably still have known all he did. As it was, however, the Olympics were still at the forefront of his mind - Jeremy had gotten a job at Sports Digest doing pretty much the same thing he'd done at Sports Night. A month in, he'd filled in last minute on a story about a Canadian high diver, and soon enough he had a column. Jeremy had always hoped he'd end up on camera. A byline turned out to be pretty damn satisfying, though.
Casey still did a lot of sports on his show, but it wasn't his main thing anymore. CBS let him do a lot with the Late Late Show; they and Casey both had been surprised at the amount of viewers that had apparently followed him from Sports Night. Casey was happy there - he was a good host; people just liked being around him. Things were going to get crazy for him soon; the longtime host of the show before his, the legendary late night king Nat Jackman was retiring at the end of the year, and everyone seemed pretty damn sure the mantle would be passed to Casey.
Ashes drifted through the rails, and disappeared in the air seventeen floors above the city street. Danny found Rebecca's number through one of the women downstairs. Melinda. Possibly Belinda. Dan had caught her on her way out of the building, smiled and spoke softly to her downcast red rimmed eyes and her flushed cheeks. Her Rolodex was balancing above the lip of a box brimming with the accoutrements gathered in ten years at Continental Corp. Melinda/Belinda had flipped to the back and pulled out the card, ripping part of it. He thanked her and smiled sadly as the elevator doors closed between them.
Rebecca never got the chance to break Danny's heart. After six months of dating, he realized that they weren't as good together as his impassioned brain had convinced him they would be. She ended up moving to Connecticut, somewhere near Greenwich. She wasn't alone for very long.
Dan wrote a book, almost completely by accident. It was shelved under fiction in every bookstore he went into. He sent Casey one of the advance copies, haphazardly edited and bound in white paper, and Casey read it in one night. He called Danny the minute he finished, early in the morning, and they talked for four hours. It was the first time they'd spoken in three months. Danny's rambling story, weighty and heartbreaking, was a coming of age tale that shot to the middle of the bestseller list. It was shelved under fiction, but Casey knew it was one of those autobiographies told like a story, and he understood completely why the country was so enchanted. It was Danny, funneled into black ink and poured onto the page. Of course people were charmed by it.
When Casey had Danny on his show, he breezed past the dressing room and shook Dan's hand perfunctorily before heading to get his own hair and makeup attended to. Four minutes before the show, after he'd warmed up the audience, he came back and apologized. He hugged Dan, and felt the muscles in his friend's back slacken under his hands. On air they were right back to being Dan and Casey, as if they weren't horribly out of practice. They didn't talk for another six weeks after that.
And here, on Jeremy's terrace, staring out a gray orange sun dropping behind the East River, the three of them sat silently together. They all heard it, a peal of Dana's laughter from inside, where Natalie was trying on her dress and Dana was obsessing over her shoes. The wedding was tomorrow. Casey would probably shave. Danny flicked a wayward ash from his jeans, he was wondering if he remembered how to tie a bowtie. Jeremy was the happiest man alive.
The phone was ringing when Danny cut his hand on the plate. It was the second big dinner plate to get packed; the smaller ones were already in another box, set on a bed of crumpled newspaper, with more sheets between each plate. The answering machine picked up and Dan heard his own voice, rambling through the greeting, and then Rebecca, cheery, leaving her number again.
The blood welled in a fat line on the edge of his thumb, and Danny looked at it for a moment before bringing it up to his mouth. The bathroom was mostly packed already; band aids, if he even had any, would be impossible to unearth. He sat down in the kitchen, his back tired and relishing the rest. His sweatshirt rode up as he slid down to the floor, the Formica cabinets were cool and smooth against his skin. He was still holding the plate.
He looked at it, turning it over and twisting it in his free hand. There was a chip, a crescent moon ding nicked out from the edge of the lip. It was the same chip all plates had at one time or another. Dan remembered them on his grandmother's good china, white ivory with gold edge. His mother's lightweight blue toile dishes had them too, and spider cracks on their undersides, where the delicate glaze had failed against the dishwasher's violent assault. Now his simple white stoneware plates, picked up on sale four years ago at the Swedish furniture gulag Natalie dragged him to in Jersey after she found out he still hadn't furnished his kitchen beyond an economy sized package of paper plates and a cast iron pan he'd bought at a yard sale, well, they were chipped too.
Dan didn't remember dropping it, or banging it particularly hard against the sink or the other dishes. He didn't remember a whitish wedge of chalky crunch ending up in his scrambled eggs. He wondered if, when he actually got around to cleaning out the cabinet they'd been in, if he'd find a little pile of dish chips gathering dust in a back corner. Probably not, he thought again as he hoisted himself back to his feet, he wasn't planning on cleaning out the cabinet. His thumb had stopped bleeding, and was pulsing softly with the hot rush of blood right beneath the red skin. Dan laid the dish on top of a folded sheet from the Times, partially obscuring an article on Continental Corp's sale. He piled in the rest of the plates on top of each other; he could always just buy more. He taped up the box and scrawled "fragile" across the top with a wide tipped red marker he'd grabbed from the office on the day they moved out.
The phone rang again as Dan dumped the silverware into a pillowcase. He felt for a second like he was robbing the place, except it was all his stuff. He tucked the whole thing inside another box, next to a newspaper-heavy stack of mugs and his set of pilsner glasses from Brooklyn Brewery. It was Rebecca, yet again, sounding serious this time. Dan walked over and disconnected the phone from the jack. The answering machine squelched out a beep as the plug came out of the wall, and Rebecca's voice stopped abruptly when the tape did. Danny wrapped the long wires around the machine, binding the cordless phone to its base for the trip ahead.
On his last trip down to the truck, the big gas-eating SUV he never thought he'd catch himself dead in, Dan dropped the box of dinner plates. The crash wasn't so loud, he thought, well, at least the newspaper was good for something. It was more of a crunch, a muffled tinkling clatter at his feet in the elevator when he went to press the button for the lobby.
He dragged the box to the curb in front of the building, where the rest of the garbage was waiting to be picked up. Dan didn't really care, he was pretty sure they sold tableware in California. They had lots of things there.
"I still don't know why they don't want to have us." Danny was two-thirds down the side of a double shot. It wasn't his first. "We're very good."
"Quo Vadimus." Dan mumbled into his glass.
"Daniel, I swear, if you don't stop saying that, I will kill you." Isaac was at his desk, his cheek resting against his hand and his eyes half closed.
"Quooooooooo Vadimus. Where are we going." A statement. Dan was on the floor, his head resting on the ottoman next to Dana's calves.
"In any language, Danny, I mean it. I will murder you with these, my own two hands."
Dana snorted a laugh. A few minutes passed until Isaac clapped his hands and stood.
"It's time for me to be getting home."
"You need a car? For ... to get home?" Dan was pouring himself another.
"I'm all set, Danny." Isaac pulled his jacket on.
He still walked slowly, but he was stronger than anyone in what the doctors referred to as "his condition" had a right to be. He bent and kissed the top of Dana's head, then walked around and took Danny's hand as he walked past. Dan pressed Isaac's hand to his lips and smiled up at him. Isaac patted his head.
"Get home safe, kids." He left them there, silent and smiling after a night of sheer, unadulterated, emotional hell.
Casey had gone home after one drink in Isaac's office. He was, he softly hushed to Dan after pulling him into the hallway, "freaking out."
Natalie and Jeremy left right after the announcement. Rather, they left an hour and a half after the announcement, when everyone finally shuffled from the control room, soggy-eyed and red, raw and exhausted from looking the end in the face.
"You know," Dan rolled his head back on the ottoman to look at Dana. His hair brushed tickling against her skin. He could almost see up her skirt. "In times like these, the last days of a war, the last days before going off to a war ... you know what people do?"
"They sleep together?" She smiled down at him.
"They sleep together, Dana." Danny was smiling into the bottom of his glass.
Dana ruffled his hair and stood up.
"The war's over, Danny." She crossed her arms and walked for the door. Her bag and jacket were in her office. She felt like walking home. "We lost."
Dana flicked the light off as she left. Danny sat in the dark of Isaac's office. Past dawn, he wiped his eyes and stood into a painfully sober stretch. He rinsed his glass in the bathroom sink and left the building. The morning guys down at the front desk didn't recognize him, but it was okay because Dan didn't recognize them either.
"Anything?" Dana was on a cell phone on the street somewhere; she didn't own one, so Isaac imagined a slightly annoyed man or woman standing next to her, waiting for their phone back.
"Not yet." He hung up on her. She'd called from Anthony's at lunch, from the control room after that, and from a pay phone outside the record store when she ran down to buy some "inspirational music" to play in the newsroom.
Isaac was staring out the window, watching a plane heading east high in the ribbon of blue sky. He didn't actually own a hammock, nor was he particularly interested in purchasing one. He had a nice chair in the backyard, one that reclined almost all the way back, with thick padding and a cup holder. The hammock was purely symbolic. He'd seen too many TV shows with wacky hammock hijinks; Isaac didn't know if he could get into the thing without spectacular failure, and he hated laugh tracks. The hammock was figurative, but it made for a nice metaphor. Besides, if he was going to be out of a job, he'd have all the time in the world to craft new metaphors. Ones without hammocks, even. The phone rang just as he was standing up to get a drink. Isaac wondered what the easiest way to kill Dana would be.
"Yes?" He listened, sitting slowly back into his chair. "Thank you. You too. Goodbye."
He pressed the button on the receiver for a dial tone, and called in to Danny and Casey's office.
"Casey, I need you to get everyone together in the conference room."
"Okay; you have news for us?" Danny was saying something in the background, Isaac heard Casey cover the phone and tell him to shut the hell up.
"You sound like you're smiling, Isaac. Are you smiling?" Casey was smiling. Isaac bet Dan was, too.
"Just get everyone together, son. Don't let on ... I want to tell everyone myself."
"You're a great man, Isaac Jaffee."
"Shut up and go."
"You got it, jefe."
"Have you seen Dana?"
"Uh - yeah, she just got back. We'll grab her." Casey sounded happier than he had in weeks.
"You do that. I'll see you in a few minutes."
Isaac hung up and reached for his suit jacket. Screw the hammock, he had a show to run.
Casey was writing; Danny was watching. Watching and glowering, slouched on the couch with one leg slung over the side. Except he was actually looking at a spot on the wall over and just behind Casey's head, a little to the right of the red and blue Rangers clock. To Casey, though, Dan may as well have been practicing his pyrokinetic powers. He squirmed a little, and right before he was pretty sure his shirt was about to burst into flames, he slammed his hands down flat on the desk on either side of his keyboard and looked up.
"Could you stop?" His eyes were wide.
Danny looked startled, as soon as he focused his eyes on him, Casey realized he hadn't been looking at him at all.
"Sorry ... what?" Danny was playing with a football, turning it over and over in his hands.
"Nothing. I thought ... nothing." Casey looked back at the monitor.
Soon after that, Danny silently got up and left. Casey watched him walk down through the newsroom and stopped at the end of the hall, looking both ways before heading towards the elevators.
It was a weird day.
At lunch, Casey ran down to the deli. He figured, as he bought two sandwiches, Danny either wouldn't have remembered to eat, or he wouldn't mind eating again.
Dan was sitting at his desk in the office when Casey walked back in.
"Hey, I got you roast beef and Swiss with horseradish; you want it?" He held the paper bag up in front of him.
"Do you think we could buy it?" Danny looked up from the piece of paper he was scribbling all over.
"I already bought it, Dan. It was kind of a condition of me leaving the store with it."
"What? Not the sandwich. The network."
Casey had pulled his chair over to Dan's desk and started removing food from the bag.
"I don't know how much more you think I make than you, but it's not that much."
Dan leaned in, pointing to the little drawings and smudged-pencil flow charts he'd been doodling. There were a lot of dollar signs, and stick figures vaguely resembling each of them. Casey didn't know which one was him, but he suspected it was the stick figure giving a high five to the one that was obviously stick figure Dan.
"All of us, though - you, me, Dana, Isaac, Natalie, Jeremy, Will ... all of us."
"To buy a network?"
He looked up and smiled a little.
Casey passed him his sandwich.
Dan unfolded and flattened the waxed paper, took a big bite
"Have you been thinking about it?" He licked a smear of horseradish sauce from the corner of his lips.
"About?" Casey cleared his throat and refocused his attentions on his own sandwich.
"What you're going to do after."
"After we don't get bought?"
"Someone could still come through."
"Yeah, but they're not going to." Danny glared around a mouthful of roast beef and reached for a napkin. "Real life doesn't go that way."
"Then we'll find a job somewhere else." Casey grabbed the napkin Dan was going for.
"I'm cool with you being denial guy and all," Danny yanked it back from him, "but you've seriously got to think about the future here. I am."
"You're drawing Danny and Casey's Super Action Adventures number one."
"What's going on with you?" Casey put his sandwich down and leaned forward on his arms.
"Nothing. It's just ... there's this elephant in the office we're not talking about, except it's bigger than an elephant. There's like, a blue whale in the office."
"What, did you go to the museum today? Danny, what brought this on? "
"I think the network going up for sale had a lot to do with it." He was rubbing his eyes; along with his turn towards petulance, it made him look a lot like a little boy.
"Go ahead and crack wise, buddy. You know I'm impervious. Now, talk to me like we've actually been friends for more than a week."
"I got an offer."
"A job offer?" Casey's eyebrows shot up.
"No a two-for-one offer on hummus down at Gristede's." Dan spread his hands out and sneered.
"Wow, I hope it was for writing comedy, man, because - you're on."
"It's a sports show - a weekly wrap up type thing on that new network for men ."
"So like this?"
"Except once a week and all by myself."
"But otherwise ... "
"Exactly like this." A small smile sparked on his face.
"That's awesome." Casey stood up and moved to hug Danny.
"You haven't asked me where." He stood up to receive Casey's hug, clapping him on the back.
"Are you leaving me for the Laker girls?" Casey pushed him to arm's length, a hand still curled around Dan's arm and another against his ribs.
"Well, they have those cute little sneakers, Casey." He feigned serious consideration, "And I'm willing to believe any one of them looks better in a tube top than you."
"That's a bet you'd lose, my friend." Casey let go completely and pulled his chair back behind his desk.
"Oh. Okay. Wow. Let's never ever go there again." Dan massaged his temples in an attempt to break up the mental picture, make it easier to purge.
"So," Casey was leaning back in his chair, "are you going to wait until we're actually sold, or have you started packing?"
Danny clenched his jaw a few times before answering. "I'm not going to take it until I know we don't have this job anymore. But I thought about it."
"About leaving Sports Night? Leaving me?"
"You know, this is why people talk about us, Casey."
"The offer came along right after a really bad time, with us. I still don't know if you realize how much the show means to me, and I thought, maybe, it would be good for me to move on."
Casey nodded slowly, hurt in the back of his throat and pulling at his eyes.
"But I couldn't do it. I told them to wait, talk to other guys, because ... as much as you don't acknowledge it, as much as you are, on occasion, an insufferable ass ... I love Sports Night."
"You're okay, too." He lay on the couch, open for Casey the way he'd never allowed himself to be with Abby. "Point is, I'm terrified to move on. Whenever I think about the new show, L.A., new friends ... it feels like running."
"Well, if it means anything, I hope they get impatient and give the job to someone else." Casey walked around and sat on the floor near Dan.
"That means a lot, actually," he turned his head and smiled at a mock-serious Casey.
"You should stay here in New York, Danny." Casey laid his hand on Danny's arm. "You're good here - people already love you here. They'd love you in California, too, I mean ... I'm pretty sure you could get people to love you anywhere. But I like you here. If no one comes through for us, we'll go somewhere else. Anyone who doesn't want the two of us on camera together doesn't know what's good for them."
"That's an impressive outpouring of support, Casey."
"I've been saving it up for awhile now."
The phone had been ringing for a little over a minute.
"You want to get that?" Dan looked at him.
"No." Casey looked down, then back up sheepishly, "Actually, I'm terrified, too."
No one saw it ending like this. After the sale, after their sense of security was restored, they were invincible.
Casey was up early, running along the perimeter of the park by his house.
Danny was in bed, hungover and listening to the Grateful Dead on the radio. It was a Twofer Tuesday.
Dana was asleep, dreaming of an evil salmon.
Natalie and Jeremy were awake, arguing about whether to paint the kitchen in Japanese Fern or Mountain Haze.
Isaac had just set the book he'd finished back on the shelf. He picked up an old copy of Foucault's Pendulum and settled into the familiar pages.
When the first plane hit, Casey saw smoke. He thought fire and ran back to his apartment, stopped and turned at the doorway, and ran towards Charlie's school.
Sugar Magnolia was fading out and the DJs began stuttering about a plane crash. Dan sat up and listened for a minute before jumping up to turn on the television.
Sirens roared past Dana's apartment, not unusual except for their number. A dozen or more clogged the street wailing. She woke with a start and walked to the window slow on bare feet. The sky was being eaten by smoke. She backed away from the window with her hand over her mouth.
Natalie, having won the great paint feud, was laying, self-satisfied, on the sofa watching CNN. Jeremy was making eggs. She called for him when the story changed over. It was almost ten minutes before they thought to look out the window. The second plane hit as they watched.
Esther ran into the room and turned on the television with shaking hands. Isaac collected her in his arms and stared unbelieving at the coverage. He would call the kids, and then Dana to make sure everyone was okay.
It didn't matter that Quo Vadimus was centrally operated out of one of the towers. Even if the home office was in Phoenix, Sports Night would still have ended that day. The geography had changed. The banter wasn't relevant. Nothing was the same, and no one could remember how they'd breathed so easily just hours before.
"So, I'm thinking," Casey's voice was tinny over the phone lines, it grated a little on Dan's already shot nerves, "I'm thinking about what we're going to do after this."
Dan leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs on the windowsill. It was hot, ridiculously so, even for Texas. He ran his beer bottle across his forehead and wished he'd remembered to stop at Sears that morning to pick up his AC.
"What are we going to do? After what?"
"After Lone Star. We're better than this show, Danny."
He could hear Lisa talking to someone else in the background. Her laugh turned Dan's stomach.
"What'd you have in mind? Dan and Casey take over New York City? Los Angeles? Chicago?"
"Obviously not, Danny." The screen door squeaked behind Casey as he stepped out onto the porch. Dan heard the connection frizzle and steady itself again. "But we should start looking around for offers."
"What's this about, Case?" Danny stood up and set his bottle down on the coffee table. He switched the phone to his other shoulder and pulled his tee shirt off. The sluggish breeze felt just cool enough on his skin to provide a momentary shiver of relief from the heat. "Have you gotten an offer?"
Casey paused. Not too long, but long enough.
"I just think we can do better than what we've got."
"You got an offer." Dan smiled and sat back down in the wicker chair by the window. "What'd you get?"
"It's nothing. Seriously."
"Casey, at some point you're going to have to cave and accept that I can tell when you're lying."
"It was NBC. Late Night."
Dan sat up so fast he almost choked.
"You got offered Late Night? Late Night? On NBC? Casey!"
"I'm not going to take it."
"What? Why? What?"
"I'm not going to take it - it's too big."
"Casey," Danny leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his chin resting on one upturned palm, "you gotta' take this. You're going to be incredible. This is incredible."
"You're not mad?" Danny knew how Casey was standing, the round shouldered stance he took when he was expecting to get yelled at. He hated when Casey stood like that. It made him look weak, and Casey wasn't weak.
"Mad? Casey! Fuck no. I'm not mad." Across the street from his apartment a man was walking his dog, a dachshund trailing five feet behind the man, little legs pumping. "Dude, this is huge. You'd be incredible. No, you're going to be incredible."
"If you pass on this? I will never speak to you again."
"If I do take it, what are you going to do?"
"I'm a good looking guy with an Ivy League diploma and a fair to middling knowledge of sports, Casey - I'll be okay. But this is an opportunity like, a dozen people have gotten. Ever. You have to say yes to NBC."
"I always imagined we'd end up on a network, together you know? Doing a show nationally - with fans and a modest amount of media attention. We're good enough, Danny."
"Yeah. But it doesn't look like it's going to go down that way, does it?"
"Not as such, no."
"Hey, but - I bet I could find a gig in New York."
The screen door squeaked again, and Casey whispered something. Lisa whispered something back; Danny couldn't hear what, Casey must have covered the mouthpiece.
"Okay, I have to go. Company's here and I'm being rude."
"We'll talk more tomorrow morning at the station, yeah?"
"Yeah." Casey's voice was low. "Thanks, Dan."
"You're going to be good, Casey. You're going to be very good."
"You think they'll hire me as a writer?"
"Seriously? Because I can make that happen?"
"Nah, not seriously."
"I'll see you tomorrow."
© scrunchy 2004