five gifts casey mccall has given dan rydell
"What did I just -- ow -- why did someone leave a box on my seat?"
"It's from me." Casey looked at him. "How did you reach this age without learning to look before you sit, Daniel Rydell?"
"Hilarious. Don't use up all your good lines on me, Case, save a few for the viewers." Danny pulled his chair straight and jiggled the tiny box in his palm. "What's this for?"
"It's our first Sports Night show," Casey explained.
"Shit, is it really?"
Casey reached out and pinched his forearm. "Be glad it wasn't a whoopie cushion, Dan."
Dan opened the box and looked at the contents for a while in silence. It had taken Casey almost an entire afternoon to find baseball cufflinks that were both technically accurate and not hideous or ostentatious, and if Dan said anything moronic then he was going to punch him in the face, first show be damned.
"Wow, Casey," Dan said finally, widening his eyes outrageously as he tucked the box into his pocket. "Does this mean I can take you to prom?"
"Absolutely." Casey straightened his sleeves and clasped his hands together and looked straight at the blank dark promise of the camera. "And I expect a really big corsage."
"He didn't," Dana breathed, staring at the monitors.
"He did." Jeremy leaped into the air with a wild flail that Casey assumed was triumphant. "And the footage is ours."
"Danny. Casey." Dana spun around with her how-much-do-you-love-me smile blazing across her face. "I think we have a new lead story, what do you boys think?"
"I think I'm deeply saddened," Dan said, and Casey caught a joke simmering beneath the pathos, but he still schooled his own features into the concern that everyone else was showing.
"Dan? What is it?" Natalie asked.
"I'm deeply saddened at the tragic task now facing me, as it is quite clear that I am going to have to duel my best friend for the honour of reading this story on the show." Dan turned to Casey and clapped him on the upper arm. "What'll it be, my brave partner? Pistols at dawn?"
Casey pretended to think, but he'd made the decision thirty seconds ago. "I'd hate to have your death on my conscience, Dan." He bowed, enjoying the scene immensely. "The only honourable solution is for me to concede the reading."
"Seriously, Case?" Dan said, low, under the laughter of everyone else in the room. "You don't --?"
"Shut up, man." Casey squashed the last envious ache and elbowed him in the side, grinning. "You're ruining my gesture."
Jeremy looked nervous all morning, but at lunchtime his flowers arrived and Natalie let out a shriek that could probably be heard ten floors above and below them.
"I love them! I love them! And I love you! Come here!"
"Nice going, man," Casey told him later, impressed.
"Tulips." Jeremy looked a bit rumpled, but also smug. "She told Louise ages ago that she loves tulips, and Louise told me. But Natalie thinks it was some kind of boyfriend telepathy; you won't ruin this for me, will you?"
"Not at all," Casey said. "You've given me a great idea."
The great idea didn't reach fruition until just after the six o'clock meeting, when a girl dressed in a skimpy peasant's blouse and what Casey could only assume were stiletto clogs pushed her cleavage into a very pleasant half-argument, half-flirting-session that Casey was having with Dana.
"Um." Dana looked the girl up and down. "Can I help you with something?"
"Dan Rydell?" she enquired, eyeing Casey hopefully and twirling a plait around one finger.
"Over there." Dana indicated.
"Dan Rydell!" She twirled unsteadily and headed across the room. "I have a singing Valentine for you, Dan! No! Stay where you are, I will come to you!"
Casey fought not to spit coffee all over Dana's shirt at the expression of terror on Dan's face as the lace-enclosed cleavage trapped him against a glass partition and the girl broke into a loud and poorly-rhyming song.
Going to kill you, Dan mouthed at him over the girl's shoulder.
Casey wrapped his hands around his mug and pretended not to have noticed.
"I can't," Dan moaned into Casey's shoulder. "Not today, I can't, I can't, my head is pounding and she's going to stand there with her voice and make me feel like I'm thirteen."
"You are a superb specimen of manhood, Danny."
"And you're an ass."
Casey pulled back, placed his hands on Dan's shoulders and was about to launch into a great little speech that he'd been saving up ever since Dan had left him talking to Sandra Mason for fifteen minutes at that network party, but...shit, he really did look dreadful, beneath the sullenly pursed lips that made him look like said Sandra's more petulant younger sister.
"Yeah," Casey said eventually. "You're just lucky I'm your ass. Hide under a desk."
"A desk, Dan." Casey threw the door open and stepped out, throwing himself into Natalie's path with the kind of desperate courage he imagined was only displayed by soldiers marching to certain death. "It was me," he said. "I screwed up. All me."
Ten minutes later Casey's head was pounding as well. But he'd also discovered a whole new realm of respect for Jeremy, the only person known to have withstood the gale-force fury of Hurricane Natalie. He stuck his head back into the room.
"I owe you, man," came Dan's voice from under the desk. "I owe you so hard."
"It's interesting. Deep fruity flavours, with...a touch of citrus on the nose."
"You've got no idea what you're talking about, do you?"
"Not a clue," Dan said in a doomed voice, putting down the glass, and Casey laughed.
"You could go home, you know. You don't need to stick around and impress me with your complete lack of knowledge."
"Heating's still broken," Dan whined.
"And you hate having cold feet."
"And I hate having cold feet."
"And it's practically snowing."
"And it's Sam's birthday."
"And -- what?"
Dan rotated his glass twice and then looked up, looked straight at Casey with a thin desperate expression that Casey recognised and really wished he didn't. Then the expression twisted and Dan took a breath in, and Casey reached out and covered Dan's wrist with his own hand. "No. You don't have to, Dan. I know it all already."
"More wine." Dan kept looking at him. "I decree --"
"No. Come back to my place." Casey pushed the glass aside with his free hand. "I have heating."
Dan sighed and closed his eyes. "What would I do without you?"
"Apparently? Die of gangrene." Casey stood up, moved his hand under Dan's arm and tugged him upwards. "And then where would the show be? Hi, I'm Casey McCall, alongside an empty chair, because my partner had the bad manners to die in a tragic foot-freezing incident..."
Dan rolled his eyes. "You just can't take a 'thank you', can you?"
"I'll let you know if it ever happens," Casey said cheerfully, and he held Dan's gaze until a smile started to displace the shadows on his best friend's face, and that was all he needed.