by Synchronik (as Charlemagne)
Rest Assured by Charlemagne
So, of course Natalie won. It wasn't like Dan wasn't expecting it, not after that incredibly awful Archie moment when Casey tanked the Monkees question. Veronica of all things. Veronica.
He was leaning back on the couch with his feet up, beer in hand, shoes off. Jeremy had gone somewhere sometime during the course of the final round, and Dan felt a little bad about it, like maybe he should have overlooked his own little misery and said "hey, Jeremy, please play. Please take my best friend's spot. Please" because that would have been the charitable thing to do. And because Jeremy would probably never have said "Veronica" for fuck's sake.
"You're still peeved about losing," Casey said, coming in from the loud and sloppy victory party. From Dan's position on the couch he looked impossibly tall.
"I was trying to reclaim my manhood, Case."
"And I threw it away."
"And you threw it away."
"That I did. Would it help if I apologized?"
"I'm thinking no. It would help if you could remember that Veronica is not a member of the Monkees. Or if you could persuade Natalie to stop gloating over my manhood--"
"There's an image."
"Of if next time you could rig the coin--image?"
"Natalie gloating over your manhood."
Dan paused for a moment, staring off into space. Then he looked at Casey.
"You're freaking me out," he said. "Quit it."
Casey smiled, dragging his jacket over his shoulders.
"Seriously, Casey. I mean . . . gloating. You're freaking me out."
"Then my work here is done. You want a ride home?"
"You're good to drive?"
"I, unlike you, do not drown my sorrows over my lost manhood in alcohol."
"Right. See, the thing about lying, Casey, is that it'll make you grow hair on your palms."
You coming?" Casey held out his hand.
Dan took it, pulling himself to his feet. "There's no sense in staying around here, is there?"
"I get the feeling that your manhood is just going to be paraded around the studio on Natalie's shoulders."
"I hope it weighs as much as she does. She looks tiny, but really, man, she's made of lead. I just hope my manhood makes her suffer like I have suffered."
"Not a chance, my friend." Casey slapped him on the back, and steered him out of the office.
"So you're really not upset about the list thing," Casey said. Danny looked at him. Casey was driving down the mostly deserted streets, one hand on the top of the wheel, eyes resolutely fastened on the road. This is Casey's driving face, Dan thought, and realized that he had seen the face so many times on so many different occasions that it was more familiar to him than his own. Casey driving, watching the road, one hand draped over the wheel. It reminded Dan of home.
"By that you mean 'very upset.'"
"No, by that I mean 'not really.'"
"Because I'm telling you, Danny, if I could trade my spot on the list to get you on there . . ."
"I know, I know. I rest assured that you would do it."
"You're not just saying that?"
"Casey, are you sure maybe Natalie didn't get a hold of your manhood back there? 'Cause you're sounding a little like a thirteen year old girl, here."
"I just, a girl."
"A thirteen year old girl."
"Before or after her first menses?"
Dan tipped his head back against the headrest and shook with laughter. "Okay, that's twice in, like, half an hour that you've freaked me out."
Casey, who had pulled into to Dan's parking garage sometime during the discussion of menses, turned off the car and looked over at him.
"It makes a difference is all I'm saying."
"Uh huh. I'm going to let that one go. You wanna come up?"
"I don't know, man. I might freak you out."
"Fuck off," Danny said.
Casey came up, and they turned on the t.v. and drank more beer and watched the West Coast Update, and didn't say much of anything else, because there wasn't much else to say. Then Danny got tired, and tried to stand up to go to bed, and was prevented by Casey putting his arm out like Danny's mother used to do when she was driving and had to stop suddenly.
"You're sure you're okay?" Casey asked.
"To go to bed? It's right over there," Dan said, pointing. Casey didn't smile. Dan sighed. "Am I okay? Well, let's see. I didn't regain my manhood, I didn't pick Jeremy for my team even though I know he would have been much better than Casey 'Veronica' McCall, and said Veronica is on the list of the 100 Most Influential People in Sports, and I am not on that list."
"Oh, and I now know the lyrics to 'How Are Things in Glocca Morra.' So if you're asking me if I'm okay, then I'm going to have to say that this is not my finest hour, no. You want a pillow?"
"Danny, I'm sorry."
Dan looked at his friend and saw, for the first time, how really and truly sorry Casey actually was. It was one thing to say you were sorry about your friend not getting something he wanted, everyone did that once in while, expressed sympathy they didn't feel. Hell, he had done it tonight, when it was completely clear that Jeremy had wanted to play, and he hadn't persuaded Jeremy to play in spite of Natalie. He had pretended to be sympathetic, but really hadn't thought of anything but his own chance of winning.
But this. Casey really was sorry, and that hurt, that was awful because Casey shouldn't be sorry at all. Casey should be gloating over his own manhood, puffed full of himself and only expressing sympathy for his friend because it was required, not because he really felt it.
"Listen, Case, it's okay, alright?" Danny said, reaching along the back of the couch and patting his friend's somewhat bony shoulder. "Really. I mean, I haven't been able to do interviews or publicity much, and it's natural. They have to overlook someone, right?" He smiled.
"It didn't have to be you," Casey said.
"Yeah, well, I'm an unsung talent. I'll die at some ripe old age and they'll say 'Dan Rydell, we never knew what we had.'"
"They'll know. Next time. I'll use my considerable influence."
"The considerable influence I have as number 92."
"Uh huh." Danny smiled. This was better. This was Casey actually enjoying his success for a change. "You're a really nice guy, you know."
Casey spread his arms wide. "The nicest."
The hug started as a manhood type of hug, the one where you leaned in and slapped the guy on the back and leaned away quickly. It was that way only for a second, though, only until Casey stopped slapping his back and started running his palm over Danny's shoulder blade, and Danny, whose arms had gone around Casey's biceps, slid them up so that they weren't really around Casey's arms at all, but around his neck. And that felt so good, so final, that Danny turned his head and pressed his nose into the side of Casey's throat and Casey kept running his hand up and down and over Danny's back in slow smooth strokes.
"You staying?" Danny asked. It was a question he had asked a hundred times before, and it had never sounded the same.
"You mind if I do?" Casey asked. His voice sounded lower somehow. Secret.
Danny shook his head against Casey's shoulder. "No. I don't mind."
"Great." Casey slapped his shoulder, and Danny took the cue and pulled back. Danny stood, reaching out his hand out of habit. Casey's hand felt warm and dry, papery almost. Familiar.
Casey grabbed the beer bottles. Danny went to the bathroom to brush his teeth. When he came out into the bedroom, he heard the sounds of Casey still rinsing the bottles in the sink. There had only been four.
"Hey, Casey," he said, smiling into the darkness of his bedroom. "Can you come here for a second?"
Dan heard the water turn off, the busy silence of Casey wiping his hands, the thud of the bottles in the recycling bin, and then Casey was there, hands on the doorframe, leaning in.
"What's up, Danny?"
"You're staying, right?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure. What's up."
Before he could think about it, Dan reached down and yanked his shirt up and over his head. His thoughts caught up to him right about the time he had the shirt above his head, hanging stupidly off one arm, then puddling on the floor. It was a hug, his thoughts said. Are you insane? his thoughts asked, and then, louder, when Casey didn't move, are you FUCKING INSANE?
But as it turned out, he wasn't insane at all, because Casey let go of the door frame and stopped leaning into the room, and came in to the room, and slid his hands around Danny's waist.
"Casey," Dan said, breathing the words against the collar of Casey's shirt. He had known, somewhere, that Casey was taller than him. He knew it whenever they stood next to each other and he had to look up to meet Casey's eyes. What he hadn't realized was that this height was seductive, that it was sweet to lean in and press his cheek against Casey's neck, to know that if he tilted his head, just slightly, that he could meet Casey's mouth with his own.
"I'm not freaking you out, am I?" Casey asked, sometime later, sometime after Casey's shirt had landed on the floor and they had fallen onto the bed and Danny's jeans had been pushed down and crumpled around his ankles in a way that was both annoying and somehow arousing as well.
"No, Case," Danny said, close to laughing with joy. "You're not freaking me out."
"Well, I was just checking. You seem to get freaked out pretty easily tonight." Casey, who was lying half on him and half off, their legs tangled together in a way that was both intimate and reassuring in its weight, propped his chin on his hand.
"Casey. I am not freaked out."
"Because I wouldn't want to freak you out, Danny. I know how you hate that."
"Casey, do me a favor."
Casey looked down at him, suddenly serious. "Anything, man."
"Keep quiet. I'm trying to have sex with the ninety-second most influential person in sports."