by Synchronik (as Charlemagne)

This is for Helen, because she asked nicely.

Screw by Charlemagne

"We have to talk," Dan said, exactly the way he'd said it once or twice a day for the last week and a half, which meant they were going to have the discussion again. Casey kept his eyes on his keyboard: if he didn't look up, then maybe Dan would take the hint and go do something else. Some work maybe.

"Casey," Dan said.

If he just kept typing, pretending that he was actually writing his part of the script for tonight, that he was busy busy busy trying to save their show, their asses, then surely Danny would understand that he, Casey, was working and couldn't be bothered.

"Casey," Dan said, sitting on the edge of the desk. "Casey, I know you're typing your name over again."

Casey, who had, in fact, been typing "I hate Dan Rydell" over and over again, stopped.

"What, Danny."

"We need to talk."

"About California."

Dan nodded. "California."

Casey sighed and looked at Dan, sitting above him on the desk in a blue sweater that matched his face in some weird way. Dan's eyes weren't blue, they were brown, but that sweater made Casey want to say "it matches your eyes."

Instead, he said, "Danny, I told you about California. I can't. Charlie--"

"Charlie has nothing to do with it," Dan said, and something dark flitted across his face.

"Charlie has--you talked to Isaac."

"More accurately, Isaac talked to me." Dan had picked up the hem of his sweater, and was pinching it between his fingers.

"Isaac talked to you."

"He said that if you were going to take the ESPN thing, you'd better get back to them. He said I should get on you about it, because if you weren't going to go to California, then you had better not throw away the best opportunity you were going to get out of this whole mess."

Dan was not looking at him, but staring at the hem of his sweater, compressing the blue yarn between his fingers. He was still talking.

"And I told Isaac that I would be sure and get right on that, because I wouldn't want you to miss out on the chance to lie to me again about why you weren't taking the California job."

"Danny--" Casey said, but Dan was already up off the desk, walking out the door, his shoulders stiff under the sweater, his head down.

Someone, probably Natalie, called his name as he walked by, but he didn't stop. He couldn't bear to stand in the hallway and have Natalie chirp up at him about whatever it was that she would chirp about. He loved Natalie, adored her, and one look at her sincere sweet face and he'd be bawling like a baby. So he kept going, pretending he didn't hear her, pretending that the most important thing in the world was in editing instead of sitting in the office he'd just left, and he had to get in there, into editing, and lock the door.

Natalie, who had yelled out to Dan as he passed, turned to Kim, hugging her clipboard close to her chest. "Guess who just found out," she said.

Kim looked at Dan's retreating back.

"God," she said. "Maybe I should have slept with him."

Casey had thought it would be harder to sit next to Dan and do the patter now that Dan knew, but it wasn't. Dan had come back in an hour and asked him about the offer, and Casey had told him, and Dan had whistled at the amount of money and the prestige ("damn, Casey. You're going to number one," he'd said, with a sincere smile), and then they'd finished the script. That was it. It was a good script, too.

And here, with the hot lights on his face in the middle of the second commercial break, he was starting to feel like everything was getting back in order. Dan was okay with it. Dan was happy about it, even. He could call Dave at ESPN tomorrow and tell him to save a seat for Casey McCall. He smiled to himself, tapping his papers on the desk. Just before they came back from commercial, he glanced over at Dan and saw him staring just straight ahead, not at the camera, not at the crew, just straight ahead into nothing.

"And five, four, three, two," Elliot said, and Dan came on like someone put a quarter in him. He was smiling, talking, looking at Casey who had no choice but to take his cue and read the lines from the teleprompter and pretend that everything was fine. Fine.

Dan knew he should have left immediately after the show. He should have gone to wardrobe and changed and wiped his make-up off and grabbed his jacket and left. But it was like driving too fast in the rain; he knew he shouldn't, but he stayed anyway, lying on the couch in the dark just waiting for Casey to come through and grab his own jacket and leave. He wasn't waiting for anything important, just an everyday Casey moment, something he normally wouldn't even have thought about twice. That had been before, though. Before he knew that his allocation of everyday Casey moments was finite.

"Hey," Casey said, his movement across the room making a slight breeze.

"Hey." Dan looked up and smiled.

"You wanna come over? I'm ordering pizza."

"Yeah. Yeah, sure."


Cool, Dan thought, standing, feeling the room swim a little.

"You okay?" Casey asked.

"I just stood up too fast." Dan reached out to put his hand against the wall and found Casey's shoulder instead. "I'm okay."

"Okay," Casey said, and Dan felt the word vibrate under his fingertips.

"I'm okay," Dan said. His head was down. He was looking at Casey's brown boots on the floor in front of him.


"Casey," Dan said.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about the offer."

"You can't do it without me," Dan said.

Casey laughed a little, a friendly laugh, a laugh waiting for another laugh to join it. Dan kept looking at the floor.

"You can't do it without me, Casey," he said again.

"Danny . . ."


"Danny, I don't want to do it without you. If I had my choice I wouldn't be doing it without you, but there's Charlie, and there's not moving, and there's ESPN, Danny."

"Say it."

"Say what?"

"You can't do it without me."

"I --Danny."

"Say it." Dan tightened his hand on Casey's shoulder, feeling the hard arch of his collarbone.

"I can't do it without you, Danny."

It was weird, hearing that, forcing Casey to say it, made his heart race, made the blood run through his veins like thunder.

"You know what I'm going to do now, Casey?" he asked. His heart was going to burst from his chest. There would be blood everywhere.

"Twist my arm off? Make me say uncle?"

"I'm going to prove it," Dan said, and yanked Casey toward him. Their mouths came together with an audible click, and Dan felt a small blossom of pain where he hit one of Casey's teeth. He felt Casey's hands come up firm on his shoulders and he had a second to lean into the kiss before he was pushed off and away.

"Danny," Casey said, shaking his head. "Danny." His breath was harsh against Dan's cheek, harsh and hot. He didn't give Casey a chance to say anything else.

Casey was still at first, stick still, as if he was trying not to punch someone, trying not to be mad, and when Dan pulled away for an instant, just an instant, to breathe Casey's hot breath, Casey said,


"You can't do it without me," Dan murmured and kissed him again.

Third's times a charm, he thought, when Casey's hands on his shoulders loosened, moved. He slid his down Casey's bicep, over his ribs. Casey was so thin, like a greyhound. So . . . Dan felt his breath catch in his throat. This was it, this was Casey, and he was leaving.

He felt the sway of Casey's body against his, the soft pressure of Casey's mouth, Casey's hands, one of them on the back of his head now pulling him close, and it was too much.

He pulled back, hands on Casey's wrists, leaning away when Casey tried to follow.

"I'm sorry," he said. He stepped back, releasing Casey's hands when he was out of reach.

"You're. What?" Casey's expression was somewhere between angry and upset. Somewhere dark.

"I'm sorry. I just wanted you to know."

"Know?" Casey's fingers were on his face now, pressing into his forehead, into his eye sockets. "What the hell is this, Danny?"


"I can't do it without you. I said it. Are you happy?"

Dan turned and sat down, feeling his own hands on his face. They must look like some psychotic twins here in the dark office, rubbing at their faces like they were trying to erase themselves. He didn't say anything. This was a huge mistake. He had just wanted to talk to Casey, tell him that he would be missed, that Dan would miss him.

"I'll miss you," he said, suddenly.


"I just wanted you to know that."

"You kissed me because you wanted to tell me that you're going to miss me?"

"I . . ." Dan shrugged. "I guess."

"Can I suggest to you, Dan, just a suggestion, but that's not a typical heterosexual response to missing your best friend?" Casey sat down on the couch next to him, smiling a little.

"No, I guess not." Dan tried to smile back.

"So, you're going to miss me."

"So you're taking the ESPN job."

"It bothered you that I didn't tell you."

Dan shrugged. "Nope. I'm fine with it."

"So fine you decided to kiss me to express your joy."


Another silence. Dan sighed. He wondered how he'd gotten here, to this moment after kissing Casey. He wondered how he could get back to the moment right before the kiss. Or during. During had been nice.

"How are you feeling right now?" Casey asked.

"Fine, I guess." Dan shrugged.

"Fine, meaning miserable."

Dan smiled.

"Let me make it up to you."

Dan laughed. "What are you going to do, Casey? Buy me a--" But it turned out Casey wasn't going to buy him a car, or a television set, or season tickets for the Yankees. Casey was going to lean in and plant one hand on couch cushion on the far side of his hip, and kiss him, slowly. With tongue.

"You know," Dan said after a minute, his head tipped against the back of the couch so that Casey could kiss his neck. "You know, in times like these, the last days of a war, the last days before going off to war, you know what people do?"

He felt Casey's smile on the skin of his throat.


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