DISCLAIMER: So not mine.
NOTES: Massive, huge, monstrous thanks to Shana & Luna. Also Jess and Mosca. And the Applebutter that is not a condiment. Slartibartfast and the SEP fields are not Jeremy's, but the creation of the late, great Douglas Adams. Inspired by a long drive listening to the best of Smog and Liz Phair's Whip-smart. I listened to three songs by Amy Rigby obsessively while writing: Downside of Love, Didn't I? and Maybe We're Stronger Than That. The last provides the title and summary.
WARNING: Angst. Unhappiness. One offensive, homophobic joke. Slams of Matchbox Twenty.

Even Sugar Peas Run Out Of Snap.

When we made our vows to have and hold
We never thought about how love grows old ...
And when we have another argument
You wonder where your feelings for me went
Even sugar peas run out of snap
Maybe we're stronger than that. - Amy Rigby

I'm sitting on my balcony, smoking. Casey's asleep in my bed, probably clutching a pillow in the empty space where I should be. It's been six months.

All the things I thought would be easy about this turned out to be difficult. And all the things I thought would be difficult have turned out to be nearly impossible.

It's there in our heads every day, a list like Harper's Index. Number of out sports anchors: zero. And none of our friends can keep a secret.

I won't review the list again. Casey does it every day, it seems, and I won't think about it again tonight. I thought it would be hard to keep our lies straight, to remember not to tell, but it's more than that. Even before this we spent nights at each other places after drinking too much or staying up too late. We don't ever draw attention to it. But we lie, by omission, every day to the people we like the most.

Sometimes it's painful that Kim doesn't tease me about this relationship, that Natalie doesn't kibitz my sex life. I'd like to tell someone that I'm with this person and I'm actually, on the whole, pretty happy. I've always told them before.

We've become psycho paranoid about the way we treat each other whenever we're not alone. I question every gesture - is that the way I used to look at him? Is that the way we used to argue? It's like being poked by your younger brother unexpectedly, over and over again, every single day. I've started smoking again just to calm down.

Casey got crazy excited about this anniversary. It's important to me, but I would have been happy with just an acknowledgement of some sort. He made plans. He tried for a few days to figure out a way two ostensibly straight friends could take a carriage ride in the park and finally gave up on the idea, before I had to tell him I wasn't going to be caught dead in one of those tourist traps. We did have an expensive dinner, with candles and the like - just two friends settling a bet, we said. At least he didn't try to surprise me so I knew to buy him a nice gift. After we got here, after dinner, he pulled out his gifts and I was relieved to see that neither was the right size for jewelry. I had this brief vision of ID bracelets or something else that I would never wear. He bought me books. I bought him sunglasses - expensive, cool sunglasses. He grinned and put them on, and then walked over to the mirror in the bathroom to admire himself.

"These are definitely cool."

"Yes. I picked them, after all. They look good on you."

"Were they expensive?"

"That's not a polite question. Of course, they were expensive."

"Expensive expensive?"

"Yes, expensive. They're Serengetis, man. I wanted to get you something nice."

"Right. But it's not my birthday. It would seem kind of weird for you to just buy these for me."

What he means is people might wonder. For women, I would have bought jewelry, maybe. Maybe clothes, even underwear. I like seeing Casey in his boxers, I like seeing him out of them, but even beyond the spectacle of me buying another guy underwear ... So I got the sunglasses. I had fun picking them out. And he does look good in them, even cool. He preens in them a little, but I make him take them off and put them someplace safe before we fuck.

I had also thought, when we started this, when we jumped off the cliff together, hands held tight, that the relationship itself would be hard. Some nights, lately, I lie in bed and I stare at his closet while he's going down on me and I wish I wasn't with someone who had such organized closets. Then I go back to paying attention, of course, but I wonder if I should be distracted at all.

It should be nice to be sleeping with your best friend, but it's weird to have the person you tell everything to be the person you want to talk about. I miss the safety valve and the post-game analysis and the occasional insight. Because now it's all about the two of us, and we don't sit around and hash out everything we do and say like little girls. And I can't tell anyone else.

The sex part has worked out fine. We had that from the beginning, and it's still pretty good. That's about what I expected.

****

Jeremy's had too much to drink. Way more than I have ever seen him drink. He and Natalie are having another one of their things and we sit in the back at Anthony's. Casey's left already, which is fine; it's not a night we were going to be together anyway. Dana dragged Natalie away after Natalie drank too much and threw up in the bathroom. Elliott, Kim, Dave and the rest of the crew have gone off to a karaoke bar, leaving me with Jeremy in his cups.

He starts slurring something about how difficult it is working with Natalie and sleeping with Natalie.

"Exactly," I say, thinking of Casey. We disagree about whether something should be in the fifties or not, or how an intro should sound, and then it's not just at work, it's over dinner, before sex, in the morning and it never ends. We talk about work and it's code for talking about us. We talk about work and it's not a code for anything; it's the thing we do that we love and we talk about work and sports all the fucking time.

The first time Casey said he loved me, after we first started this thing, we were arguing about catchers. We were walking out of the bar to catch a cab and hissing at each other about the relative merits of Mickey Cochrane vs. Mike Piazza. Casey had taken the position that Piazza was the man, which was his way of saying he was just talking to Dana, and I shouldn't look down girls' shirts while he was right there. He's the only one who would ever notice these things, but I'm the one person who would notice the hurt and pissed off part, and I'm pissed at him for that one moment he didn't trust me. I argued just as vehemently that Cochrane was the man of his time, which was my way of saying he wasn't just talking to Dana, I could tell, and I was supposed to be, you know, straight and I was just looking at the girl anyway.

We turned a corner and he pulled me into a recessed doorway on the deserted street and, with his hands on either side of my face, he kissed me. He said, "Seriously, Danny, I love you." Up close, I could taste and smell the four whiskey sours he'd had, so I kissed him on the forehead and pulled away to get a cab. He'd fidgeted in the cab and wouldn't look at me until I said that Piazza was the man. Which was code for I love you, too. He said it to me again, this time sober, at six months. We don't say things like that to each other when we have sex, but we always wake up tangled up together, which is the same thing in some ways.

Jeremy is still talking.

"And it's like, sometimes I don't want to talk about sports or Sports Night and I don't want it to be all about us, either. You know?"

I nod. He keeps going.

"You know what I mean, of course, I mean you and Casey," and he makes some swirling gesture with his glass.

My hands are suddenly numb. I have a lit cigarette dangling from my fingers. I look over at him. I can't believe I heard that right. I say, as calmly as I can manage, "What do you mean by that?"

Jeremy looks up quickly and makes a befuddled face. "You know what I mean - you and Casey doing that thing, that dating thing." He stops and I can see his brain catch up to his mouth and he looks more appalled at himself than befuddled now. He says, "I mean. I think."

This would be an appropriate place to slap him down. To date, I haven't had to deny outright this thing and now should be the moment. But Mike Piazza is the man, and even knowing the list backwards and forwards, it feels wrong to say Casey is nothing to me. I take drag off the cigarette and say, instead, "Who else thinks that?"

Jeremy looks at me and thinks. "The thing is, I've thought about this and it's like" -- he says something that sounds like "Slarty barf fast" and "ESP" and I have no idea what's talking about. "Also," and he looks very serious as he says this, "I think I'm smarter than some of them. And, you know, not personally invested in the Casey Dana thing."

"You've lost me, Jeremy."

"From the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." He pronounces it carefully and even spells it. "Slartibartfast. Actually it's from the third book, Life, the Universe and Everything. There's this guy Slartibartfast, who's also in the first book, actually."

"And he has ESP. And he does something fast. Which is why you think this thing but no one else does. I understand completely."

"Not ESP. SEP. Somebody Else's Problem. See, Slartibartfast's ship - it's shaped like an Italian bistro, and it has a SEP field around it. Because people see something strange and they dismiss it as somebody else's problem and don't see it. Like," he stumbles again and gulps down his drink. "Like you and Casey. People see things that are slightly off and they just fit it into what they think they should be seeing."

Jeremy starts talking again. "I'm not saying that you aren't very, very good at this secret thing - I see it, but then I don't know anyone else would. Because I know you two. And I don't think it's somebody else's problem. And what can you do? Because sports is exactly the wrong place to be doing - to, well, yeah."

He stops talking again. He looks incredibly sad. "So. It's a shitty world. You know?"

The next day he finds me in the editing room. I watch the cars speed around the track. He sits down next to me.

"So - well. I had a lot to drink last night."

That's my chance to take it back. Nothing here. Nothing to see, move along, people. But it is just Jeremy. And I have to live this half-life thing. I just look at the cars. They're going awfully fast and I wonder what Dana would think.

Jeremy stands up. He walks to the door and waits for me to say something, and I do, but I think it's not what he expects. I say, "Don't tell. Please?"

I can see him reflected in the screen. He looks very serious. He says, "Of course. I won't. I haven't said anything." He looks out the door but doesn't open it. "The way - the way I first noticed is that you and Casey, you were both really happy. And neither of you had said anything to anyone about why. But you were both - you were both happy."

I smile at the cars and Jeremy's reflection. That's how he figured it out, and it's true. He finally leaves.

After the show, Casey strips down to his boxers and practically crawls under the covers. He's lying on his side and when I spoon up behind him, he says, "Dan. I'm really tired. I just." But he takes my hand and pulls it across his stomach. He leaves his hand over mine over him.

Isaac gave me a book a few months ago, for my birthday: Julian Barnes's History of the World in 10 and a Half Chapters. There's a chapter, the half chapter, on love. Barnes writes that he knows his wife loves him, truly, deeply, loves him because even in her sleep she lifts her hair from the back of her neck so he can sleep with his head against the nape of her neck. Even after she cuts her hair and there is nothing to lift, she still tries to do it in her sleep, and he knows she loves him.

"Casey. Jeremy knows." His whole body tenses. He grips my hand, hard.

"How does he know?"

"He just does. He figured it out, because he's smart and he has ESP. No, he has SEP, or he can see through SEP. I'm not sure. But it's fine. He won't tell anyone." He's still got a death grip on my hand, but the rest of him is starting to relax.

"Did you tell him? Did you deny it?"

"I didn't tell him. I, also I didn't deny it."

"Danny. What were you thinking?"

I know he wants me to say it. He's said it, and I feel it and I should say it and make him feel better. So I say I love him and that's why I couldn't deny it to Jeremy. I tell him it will be fine. I love him. I kiss the back of his neck. He relaxes his grip on my hand but he doesn't let go and we fall asleep like that.

It's nice that Jeremy knows - it's reassuring to me that this is actually real because somebody else knows. Casey doesn't feel that way. He stops talking to Jeremy the next day - not ignoring him, but he won't talk to Jeremy about anything but work. Jeremy stops me in the hall before the 10 o'clock rundown.

"You told Casey. Because he's being kinda weird to me."

"I told him, yes. And he's weird to everyone. Casey's profoundly weird."

"Dan. He seems particularly weird to me."

"Well." I look both ways - if Casey and I could get a nickel for every time we do this, we could have doubled our salaries by now - with the coast clear, I say, "Casey's paranoid. I mean, sometimes, I think it's like we both smoke five bowls of pot before work except we're never high, we're just paranoid. So. You know, he'll get over it." I think it's the first thing I've said to someone else about us since we started. Jeremy nods sadly and we go into the rundown.

****

I wake up naked and Casey's snapping at me. "Can you please get up?" He says as he rips off the sheet and blanket from over me. I roll onto my back and scratch my stomach. Casey is fussing around the room. He glares at me.

"Do you even remember what today is?"

"It's Saturday. We're taking Charlie to Six Flags day."

He's straightening things on the top of the chest of drawers. He gestures for me to get up.

"They're going to be here!"

I glance at clock. "In an hour and a half."

"And it's not like they haven't ever been early. And you're here -"

"Which wouldn't be a surprise since I'm the one with car to drive us all there and they both know I'm going with the two of you."

"But right now you're naked, on my bed, and the sheets smell like, like this. So, please, please, get up now." He's somewhere between pissed off and frustrated and it's very unattractive.

I don't tell him that. I go into the bathroom and shower. Before I even step into the shower, I hear him ripping the sheets off the bed and starting to remake the bed. I try to decide what to wear. I could go with leather pants and a mesh shirt. Or something translucent. Maybe a t-shirt that says, "I don't like cocksuckers but my boyfriend does." I don't own any of those things, but I certainly have time to buy them before Lisa and Charlie arrive. Since in the history of the world, Lisa has never ever been early dropping off her son. I put on an innocuous t-shirt and jeans. I even use Casey's hairdryer so I'm not sitting there with wet hair like I've just showered here.

I sit in the living room and wait with Casey. He toasts bagels for me, and even brings my applebutter out to spread on them. Then he snatches it out of my hands once I've used it and I look down at the paper but I'm pretty sure he hides it in a back part of the pantry. We sit and wait. They're fifteen minutes late. Lisa breezes in, and breezes out. We drive to New Jersey and Six Flags.

Charlie's still a good kid - but he's growing in these quick spurts and he's suddenly gangly and awkward. At this age, he has his father's fussiness and his mother's lack of tact and it's not the easiest combination. We ride rides, we drink sodas, and we eat hot dogs.

Charlie and I are standing outside the bathroom waiting for Casey when he starts to tell me a joke. He heard it from his friends at school and he's giggling before he even starts it, he thinks it's the funniest thing.

"See, these two gay guys go to a zoo," and already I know this isn't going to be good but I'm not quite sure how to stop it. "And there's this huge gorilla. And the gorilla, he grabs the one gay guy and just has his way, heh, you know! The gorilla all has sex with him. And the next week, the one guy goes to visit the other gay guy in the hospital afterwards and he asks if the guy is hurt? And the other guy, the one the gorilla had sex with, he says, 'Hurt?'" Charlie tries to lisp but it's just twisted from someone his age. " 'You know it, sister. He doesn't write, he doesn't call.'"

Charlie's laughing at how funny it is, but he stops when he sees I'm not even close to finding it humorous. He starts to make a face, but then Casey walks up to us. Charlie decides to tell his dad the funny joke that I didn't like. He tells it with a nervous giggle but he gets all the way through it. Casey has this look on his face that I used to see on my father's face once a week when I was a teenager. But Casey's a different kind of dad than mine, and Charlie's never seen that expression before. He literally steps back a foot or so.

"From where did you ever get the idea that jokes about gay people like that one are funny?" He says in that deathly serious voice.

Charlie mutters something about hearing it from his friends. He's at that age; he won't back down completely. He mutters again about how he thought it was funny, and he doesn't see what's so bad about it. Casey grabs his arm and steers him towards a bench so we can all talk somewhere besides the front of the men's bathroom. Charlie sits down and crosses his arms and stares out at the crowd. I stand behind Casey, and the bench is cold against my waist. Casey sighs. He says, "It's not like you would think that joke was funny if it was about African-Americans, right? Right?"

Charlie nods in agreement. He has this truculent expression on his face and he looks exactly like Casey did this morning by the bed. Casey looks at him.

"Look, Charlie, jokes like that, saying those kinds of things about gay people, its - it's wrong. It's like making racist jokes or saying things about people because of their religion. It's wrong. Understand?"

Charlie nods again. We get up and go on more rides. We have more hot dogs and after a bit Charlie stops being petulant and actually enjoys himself again. Later, Casey and I beg off a third time on some fiendish roller coaster. Away from Charlie, Casey falls into an attitude of despair. He looks out at the crowd. I light a cigarette. I try to say something reassuring but he hasn't looked me in the eye since the joke. Charlie comes running off his ride, exhilarated and winded. He runs over to us, but then sees some kids from his school and runs over to them. We watch him laughing with his friends and he gestures over to us.

"Charlie has two daddies," I say very, very quietly. Casey shoots me a deathly glare, and walks over to talk to the other parents. I wait for them.

On the drive home, Charlie revives the topic. He says, in a wondering tone, that everyone at school makes fun of gays. It's not just the stupid kids; it's all of his friends. Casey twists around to look at him and says that it doesn't matter what they say. There's probably some pamphlet for this - how to talk to your kids about homophobia, or something - but Casey doesn't have it at this moment and he flails around talking about how homophobia is wrong and it doesn't matter what other people tell him, because it is wrong to make fun of people because of their sexual orientation.

Charlie says he doesn't know any gay people. Casey rubs his eyes. He points out that it's not like you can tell just by looking. Charlie acknowledges that this is true. He then notes that there aren't any gays in sports.

"Also not true," I say. "Billy Bean. Rudy Galindo. Glenn Burke. Bruce Hayes. David Kopay. Greg Louganis. Billie Jean King. Martina Navratilova. And probably a lot more who won't admit it because of all the things your Dad was talking about." I glance over at Casey who's still twisted around in his seat to look at Charlie.

Charlie nods and then, of all things, laughs. "Okay, okay," he says. "I get it. I just didn't think about it." Which is his way of saying sorry. Because he is a good little guy at heart.

Back at Casey's, he asks me to stay for dinner, but I say no. He sends Charlie off to wash up and pulls me into the kitchen. Casey kisses me goodbye and rests his forehead against mine. "This was a day, wasn't it?" Which is his way of saying sorry, too, I guess. As I'm walking to the door, Charlie comes barreling out of the bathroom and hugs me goodbye.

At my apartment I sit on the couch and turn on the TV. Casey and I have fucked on this couch three times. It's been cleaned, of course, but there's still this rip that Casey made the second time. I finger the tear over and over again. Court TV has a Homicide marathon and I fall asleep on the couch during the fifth episode.

****

Jeremy and I sit in the editing room, going over footage from a completed road trip. We did remotes every night, but we have other stuff for a feature. It was a fun trip, even being away from Casey for four days.

Natalie comes bustling in and shuts the door.

"Jeremy, Dan, I have to tell you what happened while you were gone." She's bursting with whatever she has to say. "First off, Dana swore me to secrecy so don't tell anyone."

"If Dana swore you to secrecy shouldn't you be not telling us?" Jeremy says.

"You two don't count. And it's about Casey so I'm sure Dan already knows." She looks at me with a sly grin.

"I'm sure I don't," I say and look back at the footage. I hold my breath and try to look bored. Already I know this isn't going to be good.

She keeps going. She says that two nights ago, when everyone went to Anthony's, Casey got completely wasted. "And there was this girl," she says and I feel my hands go numb. I'm staring at the screen with our footage and right now I can't tell you what sport these people are playing.

"Natalie -" Jeremy starts, but she doesn't stop.

"So this girl drags him back to the bathroom - the women's bathroom - and they have sex in the stall. The farthest one from the door."

I need to be normal here. Because Natalie can't keep a secret. But I can't tell if this is basketball or baseball or football or lacrosse. Maybe it's lacrosse. What month is this - what season are we in? Jesus, am I supposed to be proud of Casey for doing this? What does Natalie expect of me? I can't think of anything to say. On the screen there's a man in a purple uniform, and he has this tattoo on his arm - a band around his bicep that says real murder. I open my mouth to say something, but I can't form any words.

Jeremy stands up and grabs Natalie's arm to lead her out. "How do you know they did anything, Natalie?"

She's startled that he's trying to hustle her out, and she says, grinning, "Because Dana walked in on them. And Casey was so embarrassed. He swore her to secrecy." Jeremy gets her out of the room and closes the door firmly as they leave. I don't know what he says to her.

For some length of time I can only measure by how loud my heart sounds in my head, I sit and stare. He called me the next day, he called me yesterday and he sounded normal. Maybe not completely normal, he sounded rushed, like he couldn't talk on the phone. But mostly normal. So we've come this far, and it's been 11 months, and he had been fucking some girl in a bathroom stall the night before and I couldn't tell at all. I watch the same purple suited man with his tattoo jump and do something with a ball. What the fuck does real murder mean? Is there unreal murder? Why would you have that tattooed on your arm?

Jeremy comes back in and puts his hands on my shoulders.

"Dan. I'm sorry." I hear him say it and I can't breathe. This room is nothing but screens and they all have something different on them. People moving fast, hitting things. I manage some words, even coherent ones.

"Could you ask Casey to come in here?" Jeremy squeezes my shoulder and leaves again. And then I'm alone again in the editing room.

I'm watching basketball. The Lakers. I was in LA when we filmed this and Casey was drunk in a stall fucking some girl.

Casey comes in and tries to act casual, saying Jeremy said I needed him.

"Did you," I say and my voice isn't remotely like normal, "did you think I wouldn't hear about it? Did you really think I wouldn't hear about it?" I've turned away from the Lakers and I'm staring at him as he leans against the wall. He covers his face with his hand and sits down on the couch.

He says he's sorry. He clasps his hands in front of him and I can see his face and he says he's sorry again. I know exactly why he did it; I could have done the same. There are always these girls, beautiful girls, and they're so easy. Not easy like slutty, but easy like if you slept with them you could tell everyone and ratings wouldn't go down. And none of them knows you so well, knows you deep to your bones, that it's sometimes completely frightening. I've never cheated on Casey. Not even kissing someone else. But I know why he did it.

He says he's sorry and I think he's almost about to cry. He says he's ashamed and he's sorry and it will never happen again. I forgive him. It's like my heart has been ripped out and then shoved back in place, but at least it's there. We break our cardinal rule and for a moment, in a corner where no can see, he kisses me in the office. It's fine. I know we'll be fine.

****

We've been doing this thing for eleven and a half months, the longest romantic relationship of my life. I would tell Casey and feel a little proud of myself but he's pretty clear on what a fuck-up I've been. And, being Casey, he already knows this accomplishment.

I tell Jeremy instead. At Anthony's, after the show, we're sitting at the end of the bar and I say, "It's been 11 and a half months, you know." I raise an eyebrow, wave my cigarette, and glance at Casey, over by Natalie and Dave, saying, "Rafter, not Sampras." Jeremy nods that he understands. I say, "That's, like, the longest relationship of my life."

"That's great, Dan. And, you know, everything's okay?" It's only been two weeks since the girl and the bathroom. I smile, Because it's really all okay. I say so. I say everything's fine, we're good, we're great.

I lean back and pretend to survey the bar, but really, I'm just watching Casey. He catches my eye and gives me this little half smirk - a secretive sort of hello in this crowded space. I've been in so many bars and I've always been just passing through. On the lookout for something that could be something but never was, or just looking for something quick. But in this bar, right now, this is definitely something.

****

Casey makes plans again. It's our one-year anniversary and he wants it to be special. He calls in all his chips and some of mine so we can both take off six days and vacation together. He tells everyone that we're going skiing. The plan, his elaborate plan, is to find some ski town in the wilds of Canada that has never been anywhere near a CSC affiliate, some place where no one will recognize us.

"In two years, everyone will discover this place, but right now, it's nothing but ski bums and snowboarders. So maybe they would recognize Greta Gaines or Russ Rebagliati, but we're nobodies to them, Dan." He's crowing to me in a side hallway. "And the skiing will be great."

"We're actually gonna ski? Should I break a leg the first day for effect?" I wonder if he's planned already exactly what we're going to say when we get back about the quality of the slopes and all the pretty girls we saw.

He glances from side to side to make sure we're safe with a wolfish grin. We're all such easily trained animals - after a year of this, I actually get a little thrill out of seeing Casey doing that paranoid side glance, because I know he's about to say something serious or sexy or something about us. I grin at him. "We should ski one day, at least. But I have other plans for your legs and for the rest of you."

"Casey, aren't you a little worried that a small town in deepest Canada might not be so taken with your plans for me and my legs?"

"You underestimate my research. It's a great town, I swear." He laughs. "We're gonna walk down the street together and if we want to hold hands we will. I may even kiss you, right on the street." And standing in the hall, seeing some researcher come towards us and studiously switching to talking about Agassi again, it does sound like quite the little paradise. We walk off to our separate tasks and he gives me that little half smirk again and I think, it's gonna be great.

It is great. Completely great. We do go skiing, once, but the rest of the time we rent movies to watch in our room, get dinner at the three different restaurants, drink at a local bar and fuck like bunnies. One of the first things we see when pull into town is two men necking in front of our hotel at four in the afternoon. I make a joke about queer skiing paradise and Casey doesn't even flinch. He just smiles smugly and says, "Research, Danny, research."

It's not the Castro or West Hollywood, but it's a tolerant little hippie bastion of a ski bum town. Neither of us shaves once while we're there, and wrapped in our winter coats, I doubt we're that recognizable to begin with. But no one does. On the third day we're walking to the video store, again, when some teenager comes up to me and asks for an autograph. Casey drops his hand from my back like it's on fire and we both stare at the kid. I boggle a little and it turns out the kid thinks I'm Stephen Dorff. Once I assure him I'm really not and that I'm really no one at all he skips off with a sigh. We rent Backbeat because Casey has no idea what Stephen Dorff looks like. He admits, under duress, that I am much cuter than Stephen Dorff and, most likely, better in bed.

In the video store the first time, Casey walked up to me and puts his hand on my back while leaning in very close to show me some video he wants to rent. The store wasn't thronged with people, but someone walked right by us. I was about to jump out of my skin, but the woman walked right by us without comment. The tremors in Casey's hand disappeared. I put my foot down about renting anything with any Baldwin, besides the Usual Suspects, of course, and we rented The Longest Yard, Bull Durham, and Caddyshack.

We walk down the streets walking too close, sometimes even holding hands. We sit in the bar watching games on the satellite feed (TSN only, not even ESPN around here) and I keep my hand on Casey's thigh the whole time. No pet names but by the second day he's saying Danny in this lascivious and loving manner that would take an army of Slartibartfasts and a hundred of Jeremy's SEP fields to pass as anything even vaguely straight.

The third night we're there, Casey tells me his other plans. He sits across from me at a restaurant and says, "I have a plan. I have all this figured out."

"Figured out what? Tonight's order of videos?"

"No. This," he says waving his hand between the two of us. I lean back and look at him questioningly.

"We seem to have this figured out. We're doing okay." I say.

"Not really. I mean, I have a plan for us to be like this, like here. I think it'll be great." And he starts to go into his plan, like a kid making a stable of gold for his planned for pony. The first part of his plan is that he leaves Sports Night and gets a job with one of many news channels doing some kind of commentary, politics stuff. "Like Olbermann," he says, "except it's me and it'll be better." Then after he's been doing it for a little while, I leave Sports Night and write. "And then," he says with flourish, "we're not in sports, and I can be the token liberal commentator if I have to be and who really cares and it's all perfect."

"What exactly am I writing here, Case? And how come you get to be the one still on TV?"

"You're writing stuff. Articles on things sports related but not current things. Or books. Or something. And I'm the one on TV because my Q rating is higher and I'll be the one to get the offers if I indicate I want them and you're the better writer anyway." He says it so matter of fact. The first part stings a little, but the second part - that he says it like a given, it's the nicest thing he's ever said to me in a way.

He notices my grin and says, "Scored some points there, didn't I?" He gets a proud look on his face, and I can tell he didn't plan to say it, he just believes it. I say yeah, and look at him. He's smiling at me and he's so fucking irresistible. I don't like his plan, and I don't think he really believes in it either. I say, "I like Sports Night." I look down at my dinner, steak well done with no pink anywhere and a baked potato drowning in butter. He takes my hand and makes me look up."I like Sports Night, too. I love it, Danny. But I like this, too. I love it. And by it, I mean you." He holds onto my hand when the waitress comes with the check. I even kiss him right on the street in front of the hotel.

The last night we're in town, we buy a bottle of Maker's Mark to drink in the room. We only have one glass for some unknown reason so I pour for Casey and I drink straight from the bottle. Casey says he thinks that arrangement seems unhygienic, which makes me laugh given how long we've been swapping spit and more. I say that to him and he laughs, too. We have sex and watch our last video, the Mighty Ducks. After that we lie on the bed. I'm sitting up, watching TSN, and he sits between my legs, leaning back against my chest. He sips his glass of whiskey, and says, "I - Danny, I'm not a very good person."

I wrap my arms around him and say, "Yes, you are. You're a very good person. Also, a very good lay."

"Danny. I mean it." He's slurring words that don't even have sibilants, so I realize he's pretty drunk.

"Danny. I mean it," he says again. "I always talk about how we have to be careful. I'm not scared. I'm scared of losing my job and all that and I'm scared of those things. But I'm so paranoid - maybe I'm not so paranoid of everything as I am scared of you." He's almost mumbling by the end, and I rest my head against his back. I can hear his heart in one ear and his mumbling in the other.

"I'm not that scary," I say.

"We're gonna screw this up, I think." I can't think of how to answer that. I tell him not to be scared and take his glass away. We go back to fucking like bunnies.

****

It surprises me every day how much he still turns me on. I always thought, with the other people I've been with, after some point things would become perfunctory. A matter of habit to go home and sleep with someone. I thought I would get bored. But here it is, thirteen months of sleeping with Casey and I can still get hard just looking at him.

I should be tired of his looks. I've seen them so long, and for so long they didn't cause anything to happen in my pants at all. Instead, my appreciation of how hot he is has deepened with time. And it's all sorts of things. A big toothy grin across the newsroom, a sidelong glance during the show, an unexpected touch in the editing room and I want him as much as I did 13 months ago.

And it's not just how hot he is, it's everything about him. He kills me sometimes with what he writes, and one night I even get turned on by one of his improvised fills. I'm lost, I'm whipped, I'm still falling and it's pretty great.

At the 10 o'clock rundown Dana comes bustling in with Isaac and these shit- eating grins. They both start crowing about the latest ratings. For a year, for almost exactly a year, our ratings have been ticking up and now we're neck and neck with Fox. Dana congratulates us both for a job well done. And she's right. We're so kicking ass. We're so great on the air since we started this, even when we're fighting.

Casey has stopped talking about his idea for us to leave Sports Night. One night we're in bed and already naked and Casey tells me that CSC offered him a fat renewal on his contract. Mad money. He trails his fingers down my chest and looks sad. My agent already told me about the offer because it's her job to know these things, but it just did happen today and it's the first time he's had a chance to tell me. Casey looks sad, though, and he keeps looking at my chest and not at me. He says he's going to take the offer. He doesn't mention his grand plan.

"You should take it. You deserve every penny. It's fine, Case."

He looks up, finally, and almost smiles. I say, "You know what would be even more fine?"

"What?"

"If you would, you know, come a little closer and do something here, okay?" And he does and it's all fine.

****

We eat a second dinner after the show one night at his apartment. He puts on a cd and stands in the middle of his living room and says, "Let's dance." I make a face. I don't want to dance. He says come over here. I roll my eyes and walk over but it turns out he was defining dancing as holding me and kissing me, which is much better than the twirls or fake waltz I had initially envisioned. We fuck right there on the floor and the only bad part is that I get so distracted I never take out the awful Matchbox Twenty cd he has playing.

The next day, at the office, he says, "You don't like Matchbox Twenty?"

"Casey. Matchbox Twenty - uncool. Never trust a band with a number in their name that's spelled out."

"Matchbox Twenty - they're uncool?"

"Yes. And they suck."

"I like the music."

"Well. Seriously, Casey - Matchbox Twenty? Their music is like - it's taking only the radio friendly parts of Jane's Addiction, R.E.M. and U2 and putting 'em in a blender with a heaping helping of bland to smooth out any rough edges. They completely suck."

"Am I allowed to like Third Eye Blind?"

"No. They're the same species of crap. And Creed. Except Creed just puts Pearl Jam in the blender and strains out all the talent. All three - uncool and sucky."

Casey looks pissed. He looks pissed for the rest of the afternoon and I can't believe we're actually going to have an argument about Matchbox Twenty. One more reason to hate that talentless crap band. After the show, we end up at his apartment and he snipes away at how cooler than thou I am for a half hour. By then, I'm pissed, too, because I can't believe he'd actually be mad at me for making fun of some stupid cd he likes, after ten plus years of ridiculing his choices. Tonight he decides it's bad.

We move from sniping to arguing pretty quickly. Apparently not only am I a fucking know-it-all about music, fashion and movies but also I go out of my way to make him feel uncool. I don't bite back my comment about how I don't make him feel uncool, he just naturally is. I call him an uptight asshole. We end up in his kitchen. He grips the edge of the sink as he yells at me, "You are not the only one with opinions. I'll like what I want and you are not the final arbiter of what is cool. You can't remake me into what you decide is cool." He glares at me and leans back against the sink. "If I wanted to be judged and found wanting in coolness every day, I would still be fucking Lisa," he spits out.

I slam my hand against a cabinet since he's too far away to hit. I say, "You should feel fucking free to do that. I can't believe you'd compare me to her."

He exhales like he's been holding his breath for hours. He sinks to the floor and rests his forehead against his knees. I sit down next to him. He mumbles something I can't hear. I ask for clarification.

"I'm sorry. I don't - what am I doing here?" He sits up. He wraps his arms around me and kisses the top of my head. He says he's sorry again. I tell him he can listen to whatever he wants, but I'm not going to any of those concerts with him.

****

There are good days. We wake up together and eat breakfast in his kitchen. He leaves for work after I do, but I stop at Starbucks and get coffee for everyone - and carry all 10 cups with the kind ooof grace and skill that the scouts should have noticed in high school. I get there after him but that means when I walk in the office, the first thing I see is his smile. The rundown is snappy and between the two of us we work the phones and manage to get an exclusive about a new athletic director at UVa. Our writing is crisp, we're crackling on air, and even Isaac tells us it was a good show as we head out. We go straight home to my place and fuck while watching Nebraska at Penn State from 1982 on ESPN Classic. I make a joke about the Liz Phair song where she sings, "that way we can fuck and watch TV" and Casey actually gets it, he's actually listened to the album I stuck in his cd player and left at his apartment. He tells me he won't be leaving at 4 am and he didn't go to camp with Julia Roberts. I fall asleep in his arms.

****

There are bad days. I wake up alone, hating Natalie. She's gotten an on-air job with a local network news show, and we've all been going out every night for a week to celebrate. Last night she decided that I shouldn't give Casey a ride; instead I should drive Kim and Will home. Then she said in front of everyone that Casey and I spend too much time together and I saw him wince. By the time I got home from driving all over Manhattan, there's a message from Casey saying it's late, and he's tired and not to come by. So it's been now 4 days in a row of waking up alone. I get to work early but Casey gets to work late. There's not a moment all day when we're alone, it seems, and Casey grows more and more annoyed by my attempts to find even five minutes to simply talk. He tells me we'll talk later. After the show I follow him down to the garage but he gets even more pissed off and he won't talk to me. I say something about not going to bed angry and he says I'll just have to live with it, he's going home now without me. I point out he doesn't even own a car, so I don't know why he's in the garage in that case. He turns on his heel and walks out to the street to catch a cab. I keep trying to get him to look at me and he tells me to back off. He gets in the cab and I drive home alone. I smoke four cigarettes in an hour, lying in bed. He calls me at 3 am, contrite and sad. And we're better, but nothing's really settled.

****

In the end, we break up. He breaks up with me. 16 months, 2 weeks and a few days after we started this. I know it's coming for a month. Casey does this weird flirtation thing with Dana and everyone in the office thinks it's because Dana's nearly engaged to Sam Donovan but I know what's going on. That's just a sign; it's Casey wigging out because he knows like I do that we're ending.

I know it's coming and still I make him do it. For a month we go home together and fuck and work together and I smile and stay away from dangerous topics and think, just fucking say it, Casey. I make him say it because I won't.

Friday we go back to his place after the show. We walk into the kitchen and he hands me a beer. He opens his and takes a long swig. He puts his hands down on the table and I watch the condensation form on his bottle of Heineken. I lean against the sink. He says, "We should stop this. We should not do this anymore." He starts in on the list of reasons, and right before it hits me, before we hit the ground hard, I think, I could have written this script better.

He says we're never going to leave Sports Night and we'll always be lying to people and skulking around. More than that, or alongside that; we hurt each other all the time. We're shredding ourselves and if we don't stop now, we won't stop until there's nothing left, not even the show. We know each other too well and we can't make this work. I can only say yes. I look around his kitchen, and remember all the times we fucked in here. I say, "Break up sex now, right?" He bursts out laughing and there's something reckless and lost in his eyes. He throws our beers into the sink. I hear the glass breaking but we're already in the bedroom.

It's great sex. Not fast or slow, but just the last time. Sex and Sports Night, that's the only things we've ever done well together. That list should maybe be longer but I don't feel that generous tonight. Ask me in a month. Or a year. He keeps his eyes closed the whole time, and I keep mine open. After, I get dressed again. Casey sits up on the bed and covers his eyes with his hand. I try to find my stuff and things I've left here to take with me, but it's too much to carry so I just go.

At my apartment I walk to the bedroom to sleep. But Casey and I were here last night and I can smell him on the sheets. I need to change the sheets. I rip everything off the bed and take the pillowcases off the pillows. I pile all of it in the corner, for the maid service to deal with on Sunday. I walk out to find clean sheets but then I find a box. I put an R.E.M. cd in the stereo. I start in the kitchen and grab everything that's Casey's and put it in the box. I clean out his coffee from the pantry and his beers. It takes me thirty minutes. I hope Casey does this for me. He has my applebutter that I ordered from West Virginia and it's not like he likes the stuff. I have so many shirts and sweaters over there. I've been too thorough. There's stuff in this box that Casey left before we were ever fucking; a sweatshirt, some books and a video. He left them here when we were friends and we weren't whatever.

I never knew what to call him. He was Casey and now I know what to call him, he's my ex. So, nice that he has a title at last.

I sit down slowly in the middle of my living room. It's like every bone in my body is broken and if I move the wrong way I'll just crumble to nothing. I must be sad. I don't quite feel it yet, but Everybody Hurts is playing, and I don't make fun of the lyrics. I listen to them. Every other time in my life I've felt anything like this since I was 19, I called Casey. But I can't do that. I grab the phone and call Jeremy. On the first ring, I pray he's not at Natalie's. I pray Natalie's not with him. He answers on the third ring and he's alone. I woke him up, but I guess with my voice and the way I say his name and he sounds suddenly awake.

He listens to me babble for a half hour. I don't cry, even at the end when he says Natalie is busy tomorrow and I can come over and we'll watch the Godfather, both parts. I know I'm going to cry when he says he'll make me pancakes. I say fine and hang up. I curl up on the floor and fall asleep crying.

Jeremy and I don't talk much, except to recite the lines we know, which is about half the dialogue. When I get home that night, there's a message from Casey. He's calling just to check up on me, to see how I am. I play the message over and over again and fall asleep on the floor again because I can't face the bedroom.

Sunday we both come into work late. We say hey and try to work. He gets up to talk to Isaac about a five minute feature and disappears for an hour. Casey skips the 10 o'clock rundown, which is fair, since I skipped the three earlier ones. Isaac tells us all that Casey has some kind of family emergency and will be taking off the rest of the week and going home. I wish I'd thought of that.

I make an appointment with Abby on Monday. I tell her about the last year and a half since we talked and Casey and everything else. I cry, but I figure if I'm only crying at home and in front of Abby, I'm doing pretty well. She listens and when the session's over, she just looks at me. Then she says, "You know, Dan, you're doing fine. You just broke up with the love of your life and you're sad and you're in pain. If you came here and told me nothing was wrong and you felt fine, I'd be worried. But you don't need to be here."

I tell her I need someone to talk to. I can't just talk to Jeremy. She says, "I'm pretty expensive. $175 a session, Dan. A prostitute would be cheaper."

I point out that she's bound by law not to tell anyone. She lets me schedule a follow-up.

I have to make the appointment at a weird time, so everyone in the office ends up knowing about it. They all think I've gone crazy again, and between that and Casey's "family emergency" no one pushes too hard about how out of it we both are. With Jeremy in Natalie's position, the whole office gossip mill is much less intrusive these days. People look concerned, but no one bothers us.

The show sucks for two weeks - the week Casey is gone and the week he first gets back. Then we find our groove. I think the show is the only place where we can talk anymore and the list of things we do well is now only Sports Night. But we both love Sports Night so that's still something.

Two weeks after Casey gets back from his vacation and then a week after that, he shows up at my place drunk and wanting to fuck. I'm not proud that I said no and turned him away with nice speeches about how we had to get over this and find our way back to each other as friends because two weeks after that we're in the doorway by Anthony's again, and I have him in my hand and we're kissing and I started it this time. He is hot and hard in my hand and his tongue is in my mouth and I think I could come right there just from smell of his hair and his hand scrabbling at my jeans. Then he stops. He pushes against me and falls back against the other side of the doorway.

He leans back against the wall and stares at the ceiling. He says my name and sounds sad. I just say yeah. This is the last time we will do this, that we will be these people with each other and after this just seems like an abyss of indifference I can't imagine. I say, "I loved - I love you. Did I say that enough?"

He says, "I always knew."

That's good. I sink to a squat, supported by the wall. He's zipped up his jeans and tucked his shirt back in. He's always been so beautiful. Which is probably something else I never said enough. Now we'll stop talking about this ever and if he never again looks at me like he is looking at me now this whole thing between us will be just a story I tell Jeremy and Abby. No one ever saw us or found us out and later I will never know if it was real or if I imagined it.

I force myself to speak, to say, "Case. You - you have to promise me that someday when we're whatever happens after this that you'll still sometimes remind me that it happened because we're the only ones who knew and ..." I don't know where to go from that. He sighs.

"It's not just us, Dan. There's Isaac - Isaac," he pauses, and then, "Jeremy, and, now, Abby, I suppose now."

"Isaac? You told Isaac?"

"Yes, like you told Jeremy, I told Isaac. After that Sunday." He pauses again. "I didn't mean to but I couldn't stop talking and I told him. Just like you told Jeremy."

"I didn't tell Jeremy. I told you - he figured it out."

He's suddenly angry. He takes one long stride and stands over me, hissing, "Lord. It's over now, Dan, tell the fucking truth. You told Jeremy. You wanted someone to talk to that wasn't me, and you told Jeremy. Because you had to have someone to talk to - like it's not real or something." He sinks down and now as he talks, he's still hissing and I think spitting in my hair. I 'm looking at his feet. I murmur something about how I never told Jeremy but he doesn't hear or he ignores me.

He inhales and starts again. "These things happened. They are real whether you ever tell anyone, there are actually things that happen that are important and real that don't end up on the highlight reel and still matter. Damn it, you are so fucking -" I can feel his anger as he crowds over me, he's warm and the smell of him tonight - gel, aftershave, makeup remover, alcohol, stale cigarettes lingering from Anthony's - it's all stronger than stench of the street. All I can do is look at his shoes. His feet seem huge all of a sudden. I think he wants to hit me - his hands are clenching into fists and unclenching over and over again in his pockets.

He spits on the street, away from me and says, "This happened. Let me remind you now. For sixteen months you and I would go home together four or five nights a week and we would go to your apartment or mine and we would fuck. I have fucked you and you have fucked me and I have sucked your cock and you have sucked mine and we have had sex many, many times." His voice cracks. "Do you need to me to tell you it was good?" I screw my eyes shut. I can hear my own ragged, uneven breathing since he is right next to me, still talking so quietly. "We said we loved each other and we meant it, I think, at least some of the time." He stands up. He doesn't step away from me.

"So. Maybe we meant it a lot more than some of the time. All of that happened, Dan. And it happened whether or not Jeremy and Isaac and Abby know. And we were friends for 10 years before that but everyone knows that so I don't think you need me to remind you." He walks out of the doorway. I can finally look up, but I can't move my legs. I'm going to die here, in this doorway, freeze over night like the little match girl with all my matches gone. Except it won't get that cold tonight, it's not winter. This doorway - this door must lead somewhere. He's facing toward me, a few feet away but I can't see his face in this light. I say, "And now?"

I hear him sigh and shrug. He says quickly, "I don't fucking know." We are so well and permanently trained. Even on this deserted street I see him look around and he walks back over to me so he can complete his thought where people won't hear. And I'm just as well trained; I start to think it's probably a good idea to be careful. Everyone's seen that we're only Dan and Casey on air and while Jeremy has kept the gossips away, they're all concerned and we were drinking with them twenty minutes ago. I wonder if they heard the yelling. I wonder if they came to find us when I had his dick in my hand.

Thinking that, my legs start to work and I stand up. There's one small step up to this doorway and I never realized it before, but standing here on it, Casey and I are exactly the same height and we're exactly eye-to-eye. He's not angry anymore. He says, "Going back to Abby - that's not because of me, right? You're okay, right?"

Eye to eye, I can see him. When he asks that, we're back for just a moment. Dan and Casey - not the ones who were fucking, but whatever everything else we were. Which makes me strong enough to tell him that I'm fine, that I just wanted someone to talk to. He doesn't get mad at that, he just says that's good. He walks back to the bar and I smoke a cigarette as I walk home.

****

Two and a half months after we break up, Natalie fixes Casey up with a girl from her new job and it works out. Everyone loves her, except me. He won't ever tell her, but I'm the bitter ex, and I feel confident I'm allowed to hate her. It's not exactly what Natalie wanted, since she hoped that helping Casey would make him be nice to Jeremy again and it doesn't.

I wake up some days and I think I will die alone and all I will have to show for anything is the show. I wake up some days and I think I will find a nice someone and settle down and forget all this. I wake up some days and I know Casey and I will be friends again, maybe even some time soon, and that can't be such a bad thing. I wake up some days and I can't breathe and all I can think of fucking Casey and being with Casey. Some days I just wake up.

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