Title: A House of Cards
Fandom: Sports Night
Disclaimer: They're not mine, I just borrow them.
"Have you noticed anything strange about Dan today?" Casey's way of bursting into Dana's office and straight into conversation would have bothered her if it wasn't a habit that every single other person on the staff, herself included, shared.
"Excuse me?" Her attention jerked away from her computer screen mid-email, her train of thought completely derailed, her expression was quizzical as she looked up at him.
"Danny. Has he seemed odd to you today?"
"Danny seems odd to me almost every single day."
"Funny, smart guy, but you know that's not what I meant."
"I'm not a guy, Casey."
"You're not ... what?" He sat down across from her and folded his hands on the edge of her desk.
"You called me 'smart guy,' and I'm not a guy at all."
"Oh. Yeah. I know that, but if I said 'smart lady' I'd feel like I was in a Jerry Lewis movie."
"And that's not what I was going for, really." He was using that smile he used whenever he wanted to remind Dana that he was charming She knew this, and the effect was therefore more annoying than charming.
"What were you going for, exactly?"
"Concern! Concern for our friend, who despite admittedly being by default a little off, has been exhibiting especially strange characteristics this very day."
"'This very day'?"
"That was weird, and I don't know where it came from, but that's not what we should be focusing on."
"I hardly ever know what you're talking about." Dana stood up and began stacking papers on her clipboard.
"Danny almost always does."
"Well, then you'd better ask him what's up." She brushed past him on her way to Isaac's office.
"Oh, Casey?" Dana stopped in the doorway. "When you see Captain Cryptic, if you could tell him to cut ten from the NHL preseason report in the twenties..."
"Yeah." Casey leaned his forehead on the desk.
In truth, Casey had barely seen Dan at all, and that was a big part of the weird. All morning it seemed like Casey was constantly five minutes behind the place Danny was last, collecting comments from everyone in his wake about how Dan had been acting weird.
The party line seemed to be "ignore it, you know how he gets," which both amused and infuriated Casey. On one hand yeah, a lot of times that was how you had to deal with Dan, if only to keep yourself from going absolutely crazy. On the other hand, Casey was qualified to make that call; he always knew what the issue du jour was, and felt justified in the way he chose to handle each little event or damage in his friend's neurosis-ridden landscape. How dare everyone blithely assume he was just grumpy because the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly was late? Dan was on edge, and that put Casey on edge.
When he caught the back of Danny's head slipping into the elevator at lunch, Casey grabbed his coat and took the stairs down two at a time to the ground floor. It was time for him to go into stealth mode.
Dan slowed a little when something reflected in the window of a Starbucks' caught his eye. He looked back over his shoulder and saw Casey stop abruptly a dozen feet behind him, glowering in frustration with his hands on his hips.
"How long have you known I was here?"
Danny shrugged, "Just a second. You're very stealthy."
Casey beamed and took a step towards Dan. "You shouldn't do that, you know. You shouldn't look behind you."
"It's just a thing I do." Danny stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
"Don't you know about Lot's wife? Don't you know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice?" Casey stepped closer.
"Do you know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice?"
"I'm actually pretty smart, Danny." He smiled and approached until he was at Dan's side.
Dan jerked his head towards the park, and Casey kept pace with him silently until they were inside the copse of still fire-hued trees.
"Are you going to tell me what's up with you?" he stopped on a downward slope.
"You really aren't great with anniversaries." Danny stopped a few steps below him.
"Is it ... did I miss our anniversary again?"
Dan shook his head and started to walk again.
"Okay." Casey caught up. "Is this the kind of thing I should try to keep guessing?"
"I swear that I will give you money if you don't."
"What's up, Danny?" Casey steered him towards a bench. Neither of them sat.
"Sam died today."
Casey fought the immediate urge to apologize. Was he sorry Sam died, or was he sorry he forgot the date? Yes, on both accounts, but Casey had learned long ago that this memory defied any consolation words had power to give.
Dan sat on the bench, straight back with his fingers laced loose between his knees. Casey stood a foot away, hands in his pockets looking like he'd trade the world for one chance to turn back time.
"This is the best year, so far." Danny looked up and what the hell kind of friend was Casey if he didn't notice his best friend's eyes ringed in red and dull with lack of sleep?
"I don't mean 'best' in any kind of good way; things aren't good, you know? But I haven't broken down today, I haven't locked myself in the bathroom ... I haven't thrown up. Yet, at least. I've seen calendars all day, and I've held it together. It was touch and go a few times, but ... it's a delicate thing for me, and I was holding it together. I just - it was good that no one asked me how I was doing."
"Until I did."
"One of about a hundred and five reasons why you're my best friend, Casey."
"To dredge up suppressed emotions too strong for you to handle?" he sat down next to Dan on the bench and threw both arms out along the wooden back.
Danny nodded and looked back down, quickly. Casey let the fingers of his right hand come off the bench's chipped green paint to rest against Danny's bowed shoulder.
© scrunchy 2004