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Title: Ghosts and Sharks
Author: Scrunchy
Rating: PG
Notes: Written for The Two Lines Challenge -- my lines were from the Tom McRae song "Ghost of a Shark" -- they're: I'm gonna leave any minute / see the skyline disappear.


I. New York, January 1

The tack was the old fashioned kind, "brass tacks," Casey thought, though he was pretty sure the metal bits in the 40-cent box on his desk weren't actually brass. The other kind was easier to use...easier to remove, if you needed to. There were seven tacks on the board counting the one he'd just sunk into it; each tack held a piece of paper, some had a picture, too, or a receipt or a little drawing.

Casey stepped back to look at the collection. Hands on his hips, shoulders canted in a tired slope forward, his eyes blurred out of focus for a moment. He scrubbed a hand over his eyes – once, twice – and headed to bed.

II. New York, October 22 – Three months earlier

Danny was laying on his back on one of those beach chairs made entirely out of plastic tubing and metal rods. His eyes were closed; the sounds around him had faded back to a vague, far-off thrum of noise. His hand dangled down next to his warming bottle of beer, a thumb resting on the sweaty neck.

"Danny," Casey stepped onto the terrace into the cool night air, "Danny come on. You're going to be late."

Danny opened the eye closest to Casey and shrugged.

"So? I can stay here. Catch a later flight," the eye sank shut again.

"No, no you can't, Danny. Get up." Casey pushed down hard on the back of the chair, tilting it and its occupant suddenly.

"Whoa, hey!" Danny planted his feet on either side of the chair and jumped up, "Nothing like a tearful send off to make a guy feel loved."

Casey scowled and threw Danny his jacket. "Come on, man. You know we're going to miss you."

Shrugging into the jacket, Danny grumbled and turned towards the railing. The Empire State building winked in the distance, the top lit red and white.

"Something about Canada?" Danny leaned on the wrought iron that separated him from thirty floors and eventual squashy death.

"Danny." Casey came up alongside him but didn't follow his gaze. Casey instead seemed intently focused on the small muscle in Danny's jaw that danced back and forth over the bone.

"The Empire State building – why red and white? I mean ... usually I know why it's lit the way it is. July fourth, Thanksgiving, St. Swithin's day—"

"Danny. We really do have to get goi—St. Swithin's day?"

Danny smiled a little and looked at Casey.

"Ready?"

Casey laid his hand on his friend's shoulder and followed him back inside.

*

The car smelled like new car smell. That and the stale not-dust smell of disuse. Casey knew Danny bought it more than a year ago, and that he had driven it more times than Dan himself had. As he slid into the driver's seat, his shoulders ratcheted together briefly when the shock of the cold leather poked through his sweater. It was cold, even colder in the garage beneath Danny's apartment.

Danny stared passively out the passenger's side window, his breath fogging and receding on the glass. Casey turned the heat on.

The streets were oddly empty – for New York, at least, since there were still dozens of cars and pedestrians everywhere you looked. Danny hadn't said a word, and it was making Casey nervous. He turned on the radio.

It was silent until the George Washington Bridge, which Casey took since once Danny had expressed an admiration of its steel-cabled majesty. Dan's words, not his.

Casey cleared his throat, knowing that he hadn't spoken in nearly twenty minutes and wanting to make sure his big conversation-starting icebreaker didn't sound too prepubescently squeaky. Danny glanced his way briefly, then assured that Casey wasn't choking on a lozenge, he returned his stare to the white panel van that drove ridiculously slowly in front of them.

Why would anyone voluntarily drive one of those? Danny squinted a little to try and see into the high dark windows in the back. Maybe he'd just watched too much TV, but he automatically associated white vans with the bad guys. White vans, without a sign on the side declaring their legitimate business purposes, clearly belonged to terrorists, kidnappers, various lowlifes and scheming men who—yeah, Danny definitely watched too much TV.

"— into tomorrow." Casey finished up with a bright smile that faded immediately when he saw Danny squinting intently at the car in front of them.

"Dan?"

"Hmm?" Danny's moment of reflection with the Van of Obvious Evil Doing ended abruptly.

Casey ground his teeth together, an in a voice faster and angrier than he'd intended for it to be, repeated, "I said , 'Ah, the George Washington Bridge. When it was finished in 1931 it had taken twelve lives and more than twenty years to come from idea to reality. It was built by a man obsessed with the sheer idea of it, and at more than twice the span of any other structure at that time, it was really a bridge into tomorrow."

"Also, New Jersey," Danny nodded.

Casey's hard-line expression fell into a small smile, and he caught Dan smirking at him out of the corner of his eye. He turned the radio down; you could still hear Pat Benatar, but you really had to be trying.

"I just don't want to go, Case."

"It's just two days."

"I'm aware of the duration, I just don't want to go."

"Why? And I mean really...why?"

Danny tapped his fingertips along the base of the window as Casey passed the white van. A huge orange and blue sign on the front, Danny hadn't been able to see it before, said "Alfie and Kikki's Party Clowns" Maybe they weren't up to any international espionage, but the image of a van-load of clowns didn't exactly comfort Dan.

"Why aren't they sending you, Case?"

Casey sighed, loudly, and refocused his attention as he merged onto the turnpike.

"Because they're sending you. Remember last June when I had to spend two weeks in Quebec for the finals?"

"Fondly. I got the pleasure of working alongside Steve Whitman the whole time."

"Steeeeeeeeeeve"

"I don't know how you can stand him. He insisted on shaking my hand before and after each show." Danny pantomimed Steve's "have a good show"/"job well done" face and pushy hand.

Casey laughed. Danny settled back down into his seat and zipped his jacket up to the collar.

"I just don't like that they're sending me."

"It doesn't mean anything," a part of Casey knew not to use logic on Dan's insecurity, "the baseball season was gonna' come to a finish sooner or later, and one of us always goes. They're not sending you, Danny...it's your turn."

"You'd just think now...under new ownership, with all this new stuff...names to learn and all that, you'd think they'd want to keep us together." Danny looked down at his lap and lowered his voice, "We could hold down the fort."

Casey raised an eyebrow.

"The fort's fine. And you know as well as I that when the fort is in danger, the terrific tag team duo of you and me are the first ones to freak the hell out about it. Besides…the way I see it, by carrying on as usual, we look cool and unaffected by the big change in whose insignia's on our checks."

"Cool and unaffected?"

"Flying fully in the face of us being completely neither of those."

It started raining lightly, and the wipers made intermittent swishes across the windshield and the taillights of the cars in front of them bent and pooled between their source and the road's surface. Danny looked at the big green signs as they passed, counting exits down to the airport, factoring in all the A and B ramps. Casey was doing it too, but out loud and with a running commentary of notable events and people from each city. Kearny had been an eye opener, but right around his diatribe on the dynamic team of Jersey City and Bayonne, Danny spoke up.

"Casey," Danny said, his voice as even and calm as if he wasn't going insane, "Casey, stop for a minute."

"I'm just trying to make conversation, Danny. You're all weird, and I'm trying to be not weird enough to diffuse it." Casey punctuated his speech by hitting the steering wheel.

"You're talking about the population of a city whose biggest asset is that it sometimes doesn't smell like trash, Case," Dan couldn't keep his smirk down, "your version of 'not weird' comes off as something slightly different..."

Swish. Swish. Swish.

"...and I'm not being 'all weird.' I just don't wanna' go."

"Well, that's crashingly mature of you, Dan. Is this an airplane thing? Because seriously – you're going to Baltimore. That's like...as soon as you're in the air you begin your descent."

"No. It's not the airplane. Haven't you ever just felt off?"

Casey looked slant at him, his "have you met me?" face unmistakable.

"A man just knows these things, my friend," The sudden brightness of the tollbooth closed Danny's eyes for a second. It was raining much harder now. Do they cancel flights on account of rain, or are they like soccer matches?

"What does Abby think of this?"

"She has other patients, Casey. She'll be okay."

"Ass. Does she know about new, improved, now with 100-percent-more-freaked-out-ed-ness Danny?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"Bullshit, Dan. That's doctor-patient privilege, not patient-doctor. You can tell me whatever the hell you want."

Swishswishswish.

The Who asked Danny who he was from the mostly inaudible radio. They seemed to really want to know. Dan realized he hadn't brought his Discman.

*

Newark Airport – lit up in powerful relief and glistening from the downpour – was still powerfully unattractive.

Inside wasn't much better, and at the security checkpoint Casey couldn't go past he suddenly got antsy.

"I remember being able to go to the gate, don't you? Waving – you could wave to the people on the plane as it left. Don't you remember that?"

Dan glanced at the bored-looking man checking shoes and purses in front of them.

"Things have changed."

He reshouldered his carry-on and turned towards the metal detectors, then back to Casey.

"I'll see you in a few, Danny."

"Talk to you tomorrow on-air, Case."

Casey reached out and touched Danny's elbow where it bent to hold the strap of his bag in place.

Dan smiled and walked over to the guard; Casey watched him take off and replace his shoes and go through the metal detector, just once. He watched him walk down the terminal until he was just a smear of black jacket and blue jeans Danny, and then he headed back home.

III. New York, October 23

"...these stories plus, we go to Detroit, where the Lions are in dire need of some courage, we'll find out what's up with Jozef Stumpel's Los Angeles scoring streak...all while not laughing at his name, and more post game World Series coverage than you can shake a police baton at. You're watching Sports Night on CSC, so stick around."

It was a good night. Game seven of the World Series had ended a half hour before they went on, and the startling Orioles home victory was eclipsed only by the behavior of the fans present. Both home Baltimoreans and those who'd made the trip down from Philadelphia commenced to riot immediately after the last out. The players on the field were locked in butt slapping, teary groups; the angry fans had streamed out of the park and flipped over a police cruiser, then started in on the fans who were celebrating. It eventually got under control, but that kind of violence leaves a mark on the Series. The Orioles would be getting a ring for the first time in a decade, but everyone would be talking about ten-year-old Lee Kingston being rushed to Mercy Medical to get the shards of glass from some raving drunk's broken Budweiser out of his eyes. Bad night for Lee, bad night for baseball, great night to be in sports journalism.

They went to Dan live, safely ensconced inside Camden Yards after the commercial. When they first cut over to him he was silent for a second, looking off camera blankly, his brows furrowed. He snapped to after the briefest of moments, and smiled widely into the camera. Danny's white dress shirt was splattered with champagne while discussing the game he jocularly took a moment to wipe the bubbly out of his eyes with the point of his tie.

"It's a beautiful night here in Baltimore, and though some of the uglier elements of the night will undoubtedly take the forefront in the coverage to come – I hope people remember that there was a game played here tonight, that the titans of the diamond swung it out in a ten inning battle of wills. From Baltimore, I'm Dan Rydell and I'll see you all soon. Back to you, Casey."

*

An hour after the show Casey stood in his office. It was dark except for the light that crept in from the outside offices. He was staring towards Danny's side of the room, trying to figure out why he'd felt so unsettled since Dan had signed off.

Dana's shadow dropped across Casey's in the low light.

"Danny seem off to you?" she leaned against the doorframe, her jacket folded over her arm.

Casey looked up, concern etched in every line of his face.

"Yeah." His voice was a little rougher than he'd expected it to be.

Dana forced a smile and stood upright.

"Yeah," she pulled her jacket on and stuffed her hands into the pockets, "it's probably nothing. Good night, Casey."

She had already walked away when Casey replied.

He rifled through his pockets and pulled out the number for Danny's hotel.

"Pier 5 Hotel, this is Anna, how may I help you?"

"Hi, Anna. I'm trying to reach a guest, Sam Overstreet. I’m not sure what room he's in." Danny never stayed anywhere with his own name. Not because of ego, he just liked to be a different person every time he traveled. Casey couldn't do it, always forgot which name he was supposed to answer to.

"Mr. Overstreet checked out about forty minutes ago, Sir."

"Really? You're sure?" Casey leaned all the way back in his chair.

Anna laughed softly on her end of the line, "Pretty sure, Sir."

Of course she was sure. Whatever name he was traveling under, Danny was still Danny, a passel of women in his wake.

Casey thanked Anna and hung up. The whole way home he told himself Danny had taken an earlier flight, maybe rented a car for a nice drive up to the city. He'd ask him about it when he got back.

IV. New York, October 24

Three in the afternoon and still no word from Danny. Casey'd been over to his apartment, Dan wasn't there, and the doorman hadn't seen him either. Isaac was on the phone with the airline when Casey got back, he shook his head when Casey raised an inquisitive eyebrow. Isaac hung up; he'd called the major airlines and checked all flights from Baltimore Washington, Reagan, Washington Regional, Wicomico, and Dulles coming in to Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK in the past day. No Dan.

"What about Teterboro?" Dana asked.

"Unless he's being shipped in from UPS, Dana...no."

Casey was snippy.

Isaac, when he spoke, spoke slowly and softly. Casey and Dana could read plainly his concern. Casey's foot tapped steadily on the leg of his chair, and his hands twitched and clenched in his lap, wanting to do more but unable to thing of a single thing. Dana was fuming.

"I cannot believe he'd be so irresponsible," the color had been flushing her face since that morning, and she now had a perpetual high blush, "well, I can, but I'm still pissed off!"

"Dana...before you decide how to kill him, why don't you wait until we're sure he's alive first?"

"Casey." Isaac's voice shut him up.

"Excuse me...Isaac," Jeremy stood in the doorway, "Danny's on the phone."

"Let me at him!" Dana jumped up and lunged for the phone.

Isaac placed his hand on the receiver, Dana sat down.

"Casey. You take it."

He picked up the phone and walked over to the window.

"Danny?"

"Casey," Dan exhaled as he answered, "hi."

"You're okay." Casey's eyes were clenched shut, but the sun still glimmered across his eyelids.

"I'm okay Casey."

"Danny. Where are you?"

"I'm ok, Casey. I promise. I'm not coming back for awhile, though."

Casey opened his eyes to the afternoon activity swarming the streets of Danny's New York.

"Casey?" Danny still sounded calm.

"Is it a girl?" Casey dropped his voice even lower, "Tell me it's a girl, Danny, and I'll leave it at that."

Danny chuckled.

"No, no girl."

Casey smirked, "Is it a guy? Tell me it's a guy, Danny, and I'll leave it at that."

Danny's laugh rang through the phone and closed Casey's eyes again.

"That's very open-minded of you Case, but no."

"Dana's going to have your head."

"I know. I figure by the time I’m ready to come back, I'll have thought of a way to make it up to her."

"Danny...what about the dynamic duo? I can't hold the fort down by myself." Casey leaned his forehead against the cool glass.

"Yeah, Casey, you can. I'm sure of it. Besides, I'll be back – just not yet." Casey could hear Dan stretching, and knew instantly what his face looked like at that moment. "I'm planning on having an epiphany. A Maryland Epiphany, at the moment."

"I can pick you up. Give me...three hours. I can pick you up."

"Don't, Casey."

"I'm serious."

"So am I."

Casey had wrapped the coils of the phone cable around his index finger, which was turning a shade of deep purpley red that, on anything else, would've been lovely.

"I'm okay, Casey. I'm gonna' go now. I'll be in touch – soon, okay? I don't want anyone to worry, I just need to do this now. Okay? Case?"

"Yeah. All right."

"Bye Casey."

"Bye Danny."

Casey dropped the hand that held the receiver down so it hung near his thigh.

"Casey," Dana urged, "say something."

"He's not coming back."

Isaac swore under his breath and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand.

Dana tried to say "what?" but ended up with a soft formless whoosh of sound.

"He's okay. He says he's okay. He just said he needs to do some things. There's a chance here...a slim chance he's gone crazy."

"Dana," the full tenor of Isaac's voice was back, "Go find a replacement for Danny – say it's for a 'semi-permanent basis' – I'll figure out what I'm going to tell the people upstairs."

Dana nodded, her mouth still slightly agape. Casey went to follow her out.

"Casey." Isaac's voice always had the power to stop him in his tracks.

"I need you to talk to Danny's psychiatrist friend. I need to know if he's really okay, and how we're gonna help him stay that way."

Casey nodded and got halfway out the door when Isaac spoke again.

"Have faith that he's right about this until we have reason to believe otherwise, Casey."

Casey squeezed his eyes shut again before smiling back at Isaac and heading towards his office.

*

"Abby! Hi, this is Casey McCall, I'm Dan Rydell's…friend. I was just wondering if you could give me a call back whenever you can. It's pretty important – I'll be here at the office until about one or two in the morning, except for the hour I'm on air I'll be near the phone, so...yeah. That's it. Oh! 212-555-2198. That's the number. Okay. Thanks—"

"Casey?"

"Yeah?" Casey looked up. "Abby! I just left you a message...just, like...just this second."

"Hi Casey. Can I come in?"

Casey stood and pulled Dan's desk chair over. Abby sat and leaned her elbows on Casey's desktop.

"Did he call you too?" Casey sat back down.

"Left a message on my answering service. I figured I'd come by and see where you were on all this."

"I am currently stranded at the corner of 'what?' and 'the hell?' so I was kinda' hoping you'd be the one with some insight."

Abby smiled so warmly. Casey felt better knowing that she wasn't freaked. Or, at least, freaked enough to crack her professional façade.

"I'm worried, too, Casey. I believe that he really is okay...I'm just not sure if, right now, he can maintain that away from the show. Away from you."

"Maybe that's the problem," Casey said, "Maybe he needs to go do his Crazy Thing. Maybe he needs to find a way to be okay without us before he can come back and be okay with us again."

"You're aware that you make very little sense right now."

"I'd rephrase it in fancy doctor talk if I could."

"No need. I get it, but I'm just concerned about him surviving the Crazy Thing. You know Danny way better than I do, Casey. How do his plans usually end up?"

"It's about fifty/fifty. Half the time they exceed his expectations, half the time they're crashing failures."

"Well, then," Abby stood up and returned Dan's chair to his desk, "we'll just have to hope we land on the good side of that coin toss."

Casey smiled and stood, his hands in his pockets, his collar open and tie undone.

"Casey," Abby stopped in the doorframe, "I would like it if you came in, or called every once and awhile. Just so we can keep track of what's going on. Is that okay?"

"I'd like that."

Abby left and Casey sat back down, hard. The cursor on his screen blinked steadily, a mocking reminder that he'd written nothing of his script for the night. Abby was right – he probably really was okay as he said. Casey was still scared as hell, though.

V. Louisiana – October 30

Casey-
Dude, this city is weird. I guess this is an especially weird time to be here, but damn. I bought a car – I'm going to drive this one. It's a convertible, black...her name is Bridget. Maybe Lucy. I haven't decided for sure yet. I spent some time around Tulane, caught a football game. Remember the name Jake Lord; when he's dominating the NFL in a few years we'll be able to say we saw him coming. Had a beer after the game and felt like a creepy old guy in the middle of a crew of halter-topped sorority sisters. A happy creepy old guy, but there you have it. Did you know this state has a plant with the worst employee safety record in the country? Apparently it's right next door to a plant with the best safety record. I don't know why that struck me as so amusing. I was going to get an alligator for Charlie – figured you and Lisa could get along long enough to kick my ass for that. Instead, see enclosed alligator action figure (Figurine? Doll? Collectible? You'd know the correct term.). Tell Charlie I say "hey" and take care of yourself. You and Jenny Benson look great on the show. Tell her I say "Hi" too – just don't ever eat veal around her if you value your life. Take my word on this one. Great newscaster, weird girl. I'm heading out tomorrow. I'll talk to you soon.
-Danny

*

Casey refolded the letter and tucked it and the alligator into his desk drawer.

VI. Kentucky, November 10

Casey-
Well, it was bound to happen. I got into a bar fight with some local lump of a guy. Just as an FYI? If you're ever in a bar fight in Kentucky, don't waste your time with what you imagine are witty barbs. The verbal sparring doesn't go over too well with Jesse and his buddies, Snake and Kenny. I spent the night in lockup, got released the next morning. The guy at the desk recognized me – told me to tell you he loves the show. He asked if I could sign a copy of my mug shot, so I did under the condition that he made a few copies for me, too. Souvenir, I guess. I wanted you to see it, too. I guess I'm officially a celebrity now that I've got one of these. Charlie doesn't need to see this particular picture from Uncle Danny's roadshow. Did you know that Middlesboro, Kentucky is the only city in the U.S. built within a meteor crater? Apparently all its residents are nourished by Earth's yellow sun. Imagine that. Ask Jeremy if he knows that there's more than $6 billion worth of gold held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox. Tell Natalie she's still the prettiest girl I've ever seen, and tell Dana I'm sorry. I'll have something for you to tell Isaac by next time.
-Danny

*

Abby liked talking to Casey about Dan, even if Casey got increasingly twitchy with each passing update from the road. Talking to Casey gave her a peek at Dan that she contrasted vividly with Dan's image of himself. Knowing about Dan's family situation, Abby never quite understood how he'd made it through – as messed up as he admittedly was. When Casey talked about Danny in that way he tended to, Abby understood.

VII. Kansas, November 19

Casey-
Hey buddy. I'm in Kansas now – the Sunflower State, I've been informed. There's not much here, but you have to respect a state represented by the bison. Bison are cool, Casey. You know it and I know it. So, yeah...Isaac. If you could give him the envelope within this envelope (you're thinking about Hamlet now. I know this. Buzz buzz.), that'd be fantastic. Oh, hey, I never mentioned Diane. Well, not recently. Diane's the car's name. She's still running great – we had to get new tires near Leavenworth, and she's got a face full of dust and bugs, but she's a road warrior. The Midwest is nice, Case, but I'm getting the hell out of Kansas. I keep thinking there's going to be a place where – when I get there I won't want to leave. Kansas isn't it.
-Danny

*

Isaac-
I'm not sure if you're terribly disappointed in me right now. I don't think you are, but I've been wrong about lesser things. In the face of me deserting my responsibilities as I have, I wanted to make sure you understand how thankful I am for everything you've done for me. I think you know that had I the choice between you and the other guy to be my father, I'd pick you. No question. I can honestly say, without a shred of commercial-related irony, that I love you, man. You and Casey, Jeremy, Nat, Dana...we talk about the Sports Night family a lot, and it sounds corny, but God, Isaac, if I didn't have you guys to pinch hit for the family that genetics gave me, I wouldn't still be around. So – if you hate me for running away like this, I'll understand. I'll be devastated, but I'll understand. If you don't hate me, then I'm smiling big right now. Also, if you don't hate me, could you maybe work on getting Dana not to hate me? I'm sure she's cursing my name hourly. Thanks, Isaac. I'm sorry.
-Dan

*

Casey tacked his letter up near Topeka on the map he'd dug out of the bottom desk drawer. The US of A, in state-by-state pastels, big as a sedan. Casey had pinned it up over a bulletin board he took from the supply room at the station. Danny was station business, so Casey didn't feel too bad. He put pins in letters on Baltimore, MD, New Orleans, LA and Lebanon, KY. Danny's mugshot, worn from the abuse it took in Casey's pants pockets the week he carried it around with him, peeked out from behind Kentucky's letter, and the alligator that never made it to Charlie was balanced on two big plastic thumbtacks over the Louisiana bayou. There was a picture of Danny on a boat in Baltimore, the city foggy and gray behind him. Casey had carried that one around for a while too.

He sat back and looked at the map. All this fuss about Dan's mental state, and Casey started to wonder if he was the one everyone should be worried about.

VIII. Montana, November 29

Casey-
It feels like I've been gone forever, and it really hasn't been that long. I'm in a cabin near Anaconda, Montana (which I admittedly decided to stop in because it's got a cooler name than Crackerville or Donald). It's beautiful here. The difference between here and Kansas is like – well, it's like the difference between two very different things (I'm not half as creative without you, my man.). I've been in this cabin all the time. I leave every day to chop wood and walk around. Diane isn't a big fan of the cold, but she's still a trooper. I watch you every night. Is that a beard you're working on there? I'm telling you this as your friend…shave. Casey, you know I love you. Shave. Someday I may have to live here for a while. It seems like a very Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance thing to do...although I'm probably only saying that since I passed Bozeman on the way here and remembered how much I hated that book. I can't believe you liked it. There's a girl out here, a woman. She tends bar at the (ready for it?) Big Elk Lodge. She's a Rocky Mountain woman, Casey. She wears flannel, and I'm ready to petition for it as the national fabric. She's very cool, Case. Laid back like a lot of the folks here are, but you can tell before she mentions it that she was born in a big city. Her name's Jackson. I'm not sure if that's her first or last name. I miss you guys like crazy. I'm dying for Natalie to smack me on the head 'cuz I'm a moron, I'm dying for Isaac to call me in for a "talk," I'm dying for you to finish my sentences (it's exhausting to do on my own). I'm going to go before nostalgia devours me. Montana's a nice place. I may stay here for a while longer.
-Danny

"If you're dying so damn much, then come home. Damnit." The tack was jammed through the letter and into Anaconda, MT.

It wasn't supposed to be a beard…he'd just stopped shaving, and the makeup department had a hard enough time spackling the circles under his eyes to start on him for experimenting with facial hair. Casey saw Abby all the time now, sometimes twice a week. They didn't meet in restaurants and bars anymore, though. Casey came to her office. They still talked about Danny.

Casey drained the last of his beer and headed into the bathroom to shave before bed.

IX. California, December 25

Casey-
Happy Holidays from the left side of the country. San Francisco is great. Cool and almost perpetually rainy since I've been here, but it really is beautiful. Diane's glad to be out of the snow, though parallel parking here's been a test of her strength and my skills. Luckily, both are formidable. Seeing as I've plumb run out of country, I'm going to head back. Right now I'm planning on leaving New Year's Day...I can't resist the symbolism of starting for home then. That place that...when I get there, I know I never want to leave? Turns out its New York. I had a suspicion, but now I know it's incontestable. I'm coming home, man. I can't wait to be back.
-Danny

*

Casey most certainly didn't tear up as he pinned the Polaroid of Danny in front of the Golden Gate Bridge to the board. A bridge to tomorrow, and not New Jersey. Or a bridge to today or one to how things should be. Casey wasn't nearly as creative without Dan, either.

X. New York, January 20

Casey spent every day in a constant state of readiness. When the phone rang he jumped out of his skin. The doorbell was worse. Every time he focused on something, a shape at the corner of his peripheral vision looked Dan-like and Casey snapped to attention. Abby called every once in a while to check in, since Casey canceled his appointments the last two weeks running.

"I can't be unavailable for an entire hour," his tone as if she'd asked him to stop breathing, "I have to be there when he gets back."

Isaac had a lot of meetings with Dana lately. Dana spent a lot of time in her office – there was shouting sometimes and her eyes were red a lot. Jeremy asked Casey to come hang out almost every day. Natalie met with potential new permanent anchors at a restaurant across town. Casey said Danny was on his way. Natalie hated herself when she said, "I'll believe that when I see him." Jeremy hated her a little then, too. She didn't say it in front of Casey.

Casey slept with the phone next to his right hand and alligators and meteors in his dreams. It was taking longer than he'd hoped, but Danny was coming home.

-the end-


© scrunchy 2003