DISCLAIMER: So not mine. None of them.
NOTES: Thanks to the usual suspects (Luna, Jess & Shana). Thanks to Jae and Ellen. Title from the Grant Lee Buffalo song 'You Just Have To Be Crazy.' Dan quotes the book The Killing Season by Miles Corwin.

YOU JUST HAVE TO BE CHOCOLATE CAKE

September 1997.

It wasn't that kind of bar but that was where it happened anyway.

Dan had chosen this bar carefully. He had found it last year and it catered to a certain breed of Manhattan yuppie. No sports ever, not even a television. A determinedly idiosyncratic jukebox that played quietly in the one long, dark room that comprised the bar. When Sports Night first debuted last year, CSC had plastered ads for "Dan and Casey" all over the city. As much as Dan had wanted to be famous, he found there were things he missed about the anonymity of Dallas.

This wasn't that kind of bar and all Dan was thinking about was drinking a Tom Collins in peace and quiet. Then the yuppie sitting next to him at the bar turned slightly and Dan could see he was beautiful. The kind of cheekbones models would kill for and perfect hair. He was wearing a tailored Armani suit and smiled at Dan tentatively at first, then broadly. As he leaned in, the smile settled into seductive. The man was truly gorgeous and Dan made sure to smile back.

There were tentative hellos, and Dan felt sure he knew where this was going since neither of them introduced themselves. Just normal cocktail hour chatter at 1:30 am about the quality of the bar and the nuances of choosing drinks.

Armani Suit downed his drink in one quick gulp and said, "I should go. I should go out there and catch a cab." He turned suddenly and looked Dan in the eye. "Maybe you need to go too?" His gaze was steady but his voice quivered. Dan wondered where the Armani Suit's wife had gone that night.

He nodded yes anyway and followed him out of the bar. As they stood outside, Dan felt for sure this was going where he thought it was when Armani Suit said his name was Jim. "Jim" was clearly lying. Then he said he was a lawyer and that, Dan thought, was clearly true. Dan started to say his name and Jim said, "You - you're that guy from the sports show, right?" Dan nodded yes, and Jim said, "It's - it's Casey McCall, right?"

Dan thought about saying yes, and almost laughed at the thought of Casey standing here, not hailing a cab as the rest of this played out. Casey was warm in bed with Lisa, Dan assumed. Casey could never know about this. He said, "No. I'm the other one. Dan Rydell." Jim turned away from an empty cab driving by them, nodding at Dan, and just when Dan thought he had perhaps misread everything, Jim snaked his hand around Dan's waist and kissed him.

Things settled quickly after that. Jim said something tentative about a place to go and Dan said they should go to his place. Then they were in a cab, and then walking up to Dan's apartment. Jim stood stiffly in the elevator watching the numbers climb. Dan watched him smooth his jacket and shuffle his keys and cell phone from one pocket to another. When they got to the bed Dan was surprised at the passion of their second kiss. He thought Jim's nervousness would continue, but instead he efficiently removed Dan's suit and stroked Dan's cock in a way that had him hard in a single breath.

Jim had definitely done this before, and more than once or twice.

Dan settled back into the bed after disposing of the condom. Jim got out of the bed quickly and rooted around for his clothes. He put on his boxers and then just stood in the middle of the room. He said, "I - I have no idea what I'm doing here." He ran his hands through his hair and laughed. He said, "Look," and then paused.

Dan said, "Wait." He got up and pulled on his underwear. He felt suddenly odd being naked in front of someone whose name he didn't even know. Dan started rooting in his old jackets.

Jim still stood in the middle of Dan's bedroom. "What are you looking for?"

Dan turned and looked at him. "You don't smoke, do you? I want a cigarette. I quit a few years ago, but I left all these half-smoked packs hidden in jackets and suits." Dan found a rumpled pack of Camels in an inside pocket of a leather jacket. He smiled. He went back to the bed and lit one of the cigarettes.

Jim watched him. Dan took a long drag and watched the smoke curl towards the ceiling. Jim hugged himself. He said, "You know what? I'm engaged."

Dan tried not to laugh. "I thought you were married."

"I'm not. I'm not married yet. Next year, in September. And I'm not." Jim paused again. He looked down at his Armani suit on the floor. "I'm not saying I haven't done this before or what have you. I'm just. I should go home."

"I really have nothing to add to this conversation," Dan said. He took another long drag off his cigarette. He should have never let Casey and Dana talk him into quitting.

Jim laughed again. He finally moved from the middle of the bedroom and, to Dan's surprise, sat down next to him on the bed. "Let me have a drag," Jim said, his voice low and seductive again. He inhaled deeply after Dan handed it over. Then he kissed Dan, his hand already tugging down Dan's boxers.

They came with grunts and a few minutes later fell asleep.

Dan woke later, when he realized he was being prodded. "I need to go now," Jim whispered.

"Okay," Dan muttered. He looked at the clock and it was four AM. "This is pretty early."

"I know," Jim was still whispering as he pulled on his clothes. "I need to go home. I used your shower. Sorry. And your toothbrush and floss. Sorry."

Dan shook his head. "It's fine."

Jim was back in his suit and looking only slightly rumpled. He whispered, "I didn't want to just leave. So I woke you up. I wanted to be polite."

Dan buried his head in the pillow and laughed quietly. He looked up and said, "It's okay. Seriously." Dan sighed. "Look, I'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything ..."

Jim nodded his head vigorously. "Right, right. No problem. I mean I wasn't going to mention any of this to anyone, anyway." He paused. "I really do like you, but I can't. I'm engaged." Dan tried not to laugh at how Jim was still whispering.

Jim leaned over the bed and kissed him goodbye. Dan went back to sleep and woke six hours later to go to work.

*

October 1998.

Casey looked around the bar and wished they could watch sports. He'd let Danny choose the bar and they'd ended up here, in some dark, long room with no TVs at all.

"Really, Casey, I come here and no one ever recognizes me. Except once." Danny smiled and sipped his Tom Collins. Casey started to say something about not seeing the point of going out and not being recognized when Danny made a low noise of surprise.

Danny was staring at the door. "Speak of an Armani Suit and there you go," he muttered.

Casey turned towards where Dan was staring. A group of people had come in, led by a man who looked like a model. None of them, Casey thought, were wearing Armani. There were three men and two women. The model-like man was saying, "I love this bar. It's really quiet and nice." Casey heard Danny snorting in some kind of strangled laughter behind him.

Casey turned and looked at Danny and then back at the group of people who had settled into a table. The model gathered up drink orders and came towards them. He stopped dead in his tracks a foot in front of Dan. "Well, hi!" He said it too loudly.

Danny smiled. "Hi." He waved his drink at Casey. "This is Casey McCall."

The model smiled broadly. "I'm - Sam. Sam Seaborn." He swallowed and extended his hand. Casey shook his hand and wondered exactly what was happening.

"So, you know Danny?" Casey looked at Danny, who just grinned and looked back at Sam, who looked nervous.

"We met here, oddly enough," Dan said. "But it was only once." Dan turned back to his drink and Sam inhaled deeply and went to the bar. Sam got the drinks and returned rapidly back to his friends.

Danny pulled Casey into a booth on the other end of the bar. They sat in companionable silence and then Danny said, "People-watching is fun. I mean, don't you ever do that? Sometimes just sit and watch the people?"

Casey looked straight ahead and saw Sam and his friends at their table. One of the women, the short one with the pixie haircut, had an arm twined around one of the men. The other woman, who was tall and beautiful, waved her long, elegant arms.

Danny said, "They're going out," and gestured with his drink at the short woman and her attached companion, "but I don't think he likes her at all. I don't think any of them like her." Casey looked back at the short woman and the way the man next to her winced at her words. The man who was not Sam and who was not attached to the hated woman walked over to them.

Casey looked up at him. He said hi and the man introduced himself as Toby Ziegler. Casey started to say his name, but Toby said, "I watch the show. Casey McCall. Dan Rydell." Toby sat down next to Casey.

Dan started to say something, but Toby cut him off with a curt, "You're an Orioles Fan. Be quiet." Dan settled back with a laugh and Casey finally felt comfortable. They were going to talk about the Yankees now and this he could understand.

In the midst of a spirited discussion of DiMaggio and Kinder and the pennant race of 1949, the tall woman walked over and sat down on the edge of the booth close to Toby. Up close, she looked tired and worn and even more beautiful. Casey said, "You could have a whole seat next to Danny."

The woman laughed, a low and sexy laugh. "I want to leave space for Sam."

Casey felt Danny start next to him. Danny looked up. "Why are we leaving space for, uh, Sam?"

Toby looked over at the other table. "Cause Mandy and Josh are fighting and Sam will flee once they reach the 'argue about our sex life' stage."

The woman grabbed Toby's wrist and looked at his watch. "Okay, it's 2:18 am. Who wants to bet on how long it takes Sam to come over here. I'm taking under five minutes." She let go of Toby's wrist and threw a twenty on the table. "I'm CJ, by the way." Toby gestured with his cigar and rattled off Casey and Dan's names. Toby threw a twenty on the table and claimed five to ten minutes.

Casey grinned. To his surprise, Danny threw a twenty on the table and claimed over ten minutes. CJ raised an eyebrow and noted that Danny had no idea how intolerable Mandy and Josh fights could be. Danny leaned back and sipped his drink. He just smiled. Casey turned back to Toby and their argument about DiMaggio versus Williams.

Danny won the bet. It took eleven minutes for Sam to come and sit down at their table. Casey was saying, "Ah, the immortal Denny Galenhouse" when Danny turned and saw Sam standing over the table.

"The immortal Sam Seaborn," Danny said dryly. Sam looked at the table and the seats and swallowed. He smiled weakly and sat down next to Danny.

Casey looked over at CJ. Her face was slightly flushed and she was leaning back with a contented smile. She was very, very beautiful. She didn't know anything about sports, but she rolled her eyes and laughed at Toby and Casey. Lisa had been married to Casey for ten years but she always pretended to have learned nothing about sports. She wouldn't laugh when he and Danny or Dana talked about sports, she would sigh and purse her lips. Casey leaned forward to say something to her when he realized Toby's right hand had disappeared under the table. Casey sighed and leaned back.

He looked over at Danny and Sam, who had both sat out the Red Sox rehash. Sam stared at his beer and fiddled with his tie. Danny was leaning back with an overly relaxed expression that Casey recognized as one step from freaking out. Danny suddenly leaned forward and nudged Sam. "I have to go - bathroom." He didn't look at Sam as he eased out of the booth and disappeared.

Casey took a sip of his beer. "You know, I have no idea what you're all doing here. Danny said you're a lawyer, Sam, do you all work together?"

Sam clutched his beer for a moment and said, "He said that?"

Casey frowned. He couldn't place any of this. "Yeah, earlier tonight. Sam - lawyer - met him here once. You're not a lawyer?"

"No, no. I am a lawyer. I don't practice anymore." Sam took a quick drink of his beer.

"We work in politics." CJ said quickly. "That's how we know each other and that's why we're here. It's very boring. Especially right now. Very, very boring." She sighed and Toby puffed on his cigar. CJ looked at the empty space next to Casey. "Where is Dan?"

"He met a girl. I know Danny." Casey smiled widely and realized that he, the immortal Casey McCall, was very drunk. "He's smooth." Casey saw Sam smile into his beer.

CJ looked over at the other table. "Well, the fireworks are dying down. We should be heading out." She remained sitting, though, and rearranged her skirt.

Casey stood up. "I need to make a quick call, so if you're gone when I get back, it was nice meeting all of you." Casey walked back to the exit but couldn't find a phone. He went into the men's room and ducked into a stall. The stall smelled like someone had just thrown up. He had flushed and zipped up and was about to leave the stall when he heard someone enter, then someone else and then, finally, Dan's voice.

"Sam. Here we are again."

Then Casey heard Sam saying, "Dan. Well. This has been a little awkward."

"It's fine."

Casey leaned against the stall door. He was too drunk to make sense of this. He heard Sam mumble something and then one of them left. Casey left the stall and looked at Danny, washing his hands at the sink. Danny looked at Casey with something like fear for a split second and then just regular Danny. "Casey. You ready to go?"

*

August 1999.

Dan sat at the bar in DC and tried not to notice if his hands were shaking. He heard someone saying, "Well. Well. Dan Rydell, as I live and breathe." Dan turned and smiled at Sam.

"Sam Seaborn. We meet again." He watched Sam settle down next to him with a wide smile. Dan sipped his drink and then held his hands together on top of the bar. Sam signaled the bartender and paid for his drink.

"What are you doing here in DC?"

"It's just. You don't watch the show anymore, do you?" Dan leaned back and grinned.

"I don't really have time, now." Sam preened a little and smoothed his coat down. Dan looked at him and sighed.

"The network has me on the road. I'm here covering a thing."

"A thing?" Sam laughed. He looked down at his drink.

Dan spoke quickly to end the silence. "You come here often?"

Sam looked around as if to determine where here was. "I do. Not often, but I do come here. It's a nice bar. It's a nice hotel, too."

Dan wanted to be at the Plaza Hotel. He wanted to be in New York. He sighed.

Sam looked over at him and opened his mouth and then closed it again. He said, after moment, "Why - our conversations are always so awkward."

"Sam. We've had two conversations, tops. And neither was long enough to enter awkward territory, really." Dan finished his drink and thought about standing up to leave. "Did you get married to that girl - the one you were engaged to?"

Sam shrugged. "No. Did not get married. We're not together anymore."

Dan said what he thought he should. "I'm sorry."

"Really?" Sam laughed. "I don't know that I'm sorry. Anyway, there was the campaign and now I'm here." Sam sighed and said, "Do you do this often?"

Dan shook his head. "This? Come to DC and get bombed in hotel bars? Be forced out on the road by the network?" Drink to forget Rebecca he thought. He didn't do that very often. "Run into someone I fucked once every two years for awkward conversation? Or did you mean something else?"

Sam winced and then laughed. "Well, I meant sleeping with ..."

Dan rubbed his forehead. "Since you, only once. Before you? More often." He contemplated another drink. He looked over at Sam, still beautiful, though looking much more tired. "And you?"

"Well. Since you, not all. You know. It's the White House." Sam couldn't stop himself from smiling as he said 'White House.'

Dan snorted. "It must be so hard." He knew he was sneering, but he couldn't help it. Sam started and looked down at his drink. "Look, Sam, this, as always, has been fun but I'm going to bed." He stood up.

Sam looked up at him. He said quietly, "You're staying here? Tell me the room number." Dan looked at the near empty bar and thought about New York City and Casey and Rebecca. He grabbed a napkin, wrote the room number down and placed it in front of Sam. He went upstairs.

Twenty minutes later, Sam was in his room. He was faster this time getting undressed and he seemed hungrier. Sam grunted when Dan entered him, but then he pushed back against Dan, wanting more. Sam didn't get up and try to get dressed when they were done, he just lay there, tracing patterns on Dan's chest. After the second time, Sam used his shower again and his floss, and left with another quick kiss and whispered "bye."

*

May 2000.

Casey could joke about it on-air but it was day two of the CSC fire sale and all he felt off-air was fear. After Draft Day, everything had seemed fragile and now this was happening. He was shattered and holding things together with fraying ties. Tomorrow he would be better, he would joke about all this when the cameras weren't rolling and he would talk to his agent about LA and everything else. Today, he thought, there was an odd clarity to this experience of nearly dying.

He watched Danny stroll in, jaunty air only somewhat in place. Casey grabbed the New York Post and looked down at the front page. "You see this, Danny? Your old friend on the front page with a prostitute."

Danny took the paper and looked at the picture for a moment. "Huh," he said. "She's too pretty to be a prostitute."

Casey watched Danny put the paper down on the table. "Too pretty to be a prostitute? But pretty enough for a porn star?"

Danny grinned. He sat down on the couch. "You do like alliteration, don't you? I'm just saying - most hookers? Not that pretty."

"I've never done a study, mind you, but yes, most hookers aren't the prettiest girls on the block. The article says she's a high priced call girl, though, not a prostitute, per se."

Danny grabbed the paper. He looked at the photo of Sam on the cover, and then opened it to the article. "I always thought high priced call girls were an invention of Hollywood. I've never met one. We're on TV, wouldn't we have met one? I mean - have you met a high priced call girl?"

"Heidi Fleiss." Casey leaned back in his chair and smiled.

"You met Heidi Fleiss? When?" Dan looked up from the article.

"I've never met her, but that's a high priced call girl, not an invention of Hollywood."

Dan grinned. He said okay and read the article.

Casey said, "Danny. Dan. Sam Seaborn, you, uh, you slept with him, right?"

Danny inhaled sharply and put down the paper. He looked at Casey and said, "Yes." Casey hadn't imagined that, that Danny would look in him in the eye. He hadn't imagined it, though, really, at all. Whatever part of him knew these things about Danny hadn't ever made enough noise before today for him to imagine anything about this. He wished he had thought about it before because he suddenly had a million questions. But he and Danny were only a little put together and he didn't want to push too hard.

"Did you, uh, did you ever want to sleep with me?" Casey said it quietly.

Danny still looked right at him. "Once."

Casey almost laughed. "Only once? There was, just, like one time when you wanted - you wanted that?"

Danny didn't smile. "No. I mean, once I did. Not now. When I first met you, then."

"But not anymore?" Casey moved his hands from the keyboard and let them rest on the desk. He felt oddly calm.

"No. I got over it. When we started working together, in Dallas. I got over it in Dallas." Danny was clutching his knees, and that was the only sign that he was nervous.

"Okay. Okay. So, um, do you think Seaborn will keep his job?" Casey turned back to the computer and started typing.

Danny swallowed and stood up. "Casey. I appreciate the change of subject. But, uh, is there anything else you wanted to know here?"

Casey looked at his monitor. He was writing about baseball and the Yankees and he remembered Toby Ziegler and his cigar. "No. Really, Danny, that was all the questions I had. I never understood what was happening that night and I wanted to know the other thing. The rest is - it's okay, you should do what makes you happy. I mean - right? You sleep with women and also, also men. It's okay with me." Casey thought he hadn't known any of that before he said it. And now he knew and it was all true. He looked up at Danny, standing in the middle of the room, saying nothing.

Danny blinked and said, "Okay." He turned and sat down at the table and opened his laptop.

*

June 2001.

Dan walked into the long, dark bar and looked around. Sam sat in the corner, a near empty glass in front of him.

"Hey. You called me and everything," Dan said with a small smile.

Sam smiled weakly and finished his drink. "We're in town for this thing. I just. I wanted to see you." He waved at the bartender to get another drink.

"Cause we always have so much fun." Dan looked over at Sam. The same fine bones and surreal beauty, but he looked older, his skin more papery with thin lines around his eyes.

The bartender brought another drink for Sam and one for Dan. Sam drank half of it in a single gulp. He started talking with a rambling cadence and Dan wondered if it even mattered that he was here. Sam said, "I always - I've always said I don't understand women. And I really don't. They stomp on your heart with their big high heels. But I've really - my dad. I'm not so different from him. I've really only been in love once and it was - it was my best friend really, and now he's just. He's over me or whatever and everything's so fucked up." Sam sighed. "I shouldn't be here." Sam rubbed his eyes and put his hands down on the table.

Dan sipped his drink. He said, "I once read this book about the LAPD Homicide division. Anyway, this gangbanger, he was describing why some murder happened. He said, 'love is a motherfucker.'"

Sam laughed. He put his hand on Dan's thigh. Dan leaned forward and placed his hand over Sam's on his leg. Sam tensed, waiting for Dan to pull his hand away, but Dan just sat there and squeezed Sam's hand.

"Sam. I was in love once - more than once - but really, the first time, I was nineteen and he's straight and nothing ever happened." Dan stopped. He had felt good when he walked in here and now Sam was just staring at him blankly. He wanted to be nice but he had no idea how to be nice to Sam. "And you know, I have no idea. I'm not the person for advice of any sort." Dan sighed.

Sam leaned forward and turned towards Dan without moving his hand. "I don't want advice. I'm sorry. I really, seriously? I just want. I want to." Sam paused and looked down at the half full glass. "You seem happy, though. I mean, I guess it's easier being a sports anchor, easier than working in the White House. Especially now." He didn't preen as he said it this time.

Dan took a long drink from his beer. "Sam. I was pretty clear that this was just a booty call. And that's fine. I - I was seeing someone, we just broke up. I'm happy to go somewhere with you and fuck. But I really don't want to listen to your self-pity as foreplay."

Sam pulled his hand away and leaned forward over the table. He covered his face with his hands and sat that way for a long few minutes. Then he put his hands down and laughed. "You're right. Okay. Okay."

They went back to Dan's place again. Dan wondered if Sam was worried about being followed, but Sam just walked ahead of him without any signs of concern. They undressed quickly in the darkened room. Sam didn't stop kissing him, even as he entered him.

Sam came back to the bed and sat down. "What happened with you and that guy you loved?" He looked at the ceiling and away from Dan.

"He's - he's still my best friend. It all worked out in its own way. I never - nothing ever happened but that. Sorry." Dan pulled the blanket up and tried not to shiver.

"Okay." Sam got dressed and kissed him goodbye again. He said before he left, "Do you count that as a happy ending - just friends?"

Dan thought. He said, "There's no ending, really. There was an ending to one thing and other parts never ended at all and right now, I'm mostly pretty happy. At least I don't work at the White House, right?" He smiled to take the sting out of it.

Sam laughed again. "Right. But I like it. In the end, I do like the White House. So." And he left.

THE END.

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