DISCLAIMER: So not mine, except for Alex and I'm keeping him.
NOTES: Thanks to Shana, Jess, Luna and Mosca. Summary and title courtesy of the Jude song Charlie Says.



FIRST AND TEN

1988 was a year when Dan told himself he was fine and knew it was a lie.

He stumbled in and out of dorm rooms, and forgot the names of the people he'd fucked in those rooms quicker than he expected. Some of the girls would find him later and cut him dead for being an ass. Most of the rest didn't care.

One pulled him into a bathroom at the library and called him "a fucked up specimen" and told him he needed to get his "shit worked out before fucking your way through the campus." Dan thought he could say, "My brother died last year. It's my fault," and maybe the voice spewing obscenities at him would soften and arms would hug him. Maybe not. He never said anything and left the bathroom without a backward glance.

He studied. He sat in classrooms and bumped whoever sat next to him over and over again, taking notes left-handed. He wrote papers and got As and some of the professors talked to him with respect. He did a million activities, because he could fit them in, and met lots of people whom he worked very hard to charm. They called him Danny and he corrected them. He never talked to anyone who had known him before college.

He second-guessed every emotion he felt, checking that he wasn't over-reacting or taking something the wrong way. He smiled a lot and felt happy very little. He thought underneath everything there was a lake of depression and he had to skate around the edges of the lake or fall in.

Alex put an arm around him, drawing him close. "Danny, Danny." Dan had tried to explain about the lake and how he felt to the grad student. They both had beers in one hand and cigarettes in the other. Alex sounded like he was trying not to laugh. "Danny. Seriously, you are so nineteen. I know, I know, you're suffering. But, boy, we'll meet back in ten - twelve years, right here in 2000, say, and you will laugh at the things you said tonight."

*

He walked towards the locker room and heard someone call "Danny! Dan!" Turning, he recognized the skinny guy he'd met last week. Dan had been smoking after being dissed by one of the reporters and the guy had loomed over him, saying hello. Dan had introduced himself as Danny and corrected himself. The guy had said something about the only way to get rid of childhood nicknames was to kill your siblings. Dan knew he had winced at that, but he didn't remember the rest of the conversation. He knew it had been short.

"Hey," Dan said.

The guy smiled, flashing perfect white teeth. "Danny. I am so glad to see you."

Dan still stood, but he shifted his weight slightly away from the other man. "Um. You know, seriously, I remember we met last week, but I've. Sorry, I remember you have a name that reminds me of poetry for some reason -"

"Casey. Casey McCall." The wide smile came out again.

"Ah. No joy in Mudville, etcetera."

"Yeah, I don't hear that a lot." Casey looked eager and happy, even as he rolled his eyes. Dan couldn't think of anything to say and Casey was looking beyond him towards the locker room.

"Um. So, Casey - is that short for something or a nickname or something?"

Casey looked back at him. "No, it's the name my parents gave me. Hey, you working here today?"

Dan shook his head. "I'm just an intern, I only work three days a week."

Casey nodded and said, "Look. I've got this small problem. Maybe you could help me."

"Help you? How exactly?" Casey had started walking towards the door and he turned and stopped when he saw Dan just standing there still.

"See - I just started this thing - this job - two weeks ago, I don't know anybody and "

"I don't know any of the players or team people either, dude, I'm just an intern." Dan paused. He knew one player, sort of. "You're a reporter - meet them. Ask them questions. Use your skills. And learn some networking skills, I guess, if you don't know anyone after two weeks." Dan frowned. Casey still grinned at him.

"Danny. I know how to do my job - but I got here, did that one game where we met and then I was on the road. I just thought maybe you could, you know, give me a little feel for the guys and such."

Danny sighed. He started walking towards the locker room with Casey. He had no idea why he was doing this. "Shane McArnold. I know him a little."

"McArnold? The shortstop. He had a great game. Guy's good."

"I've met him twice. When he was visiting his sister at Dartmouth." Dan noted some of the stats from the exhibition games and Casey threw in some from McArnold's minor league stint. They nodded sagely at each other and both started grinning. Casey grabbed Dan's arm and pulled him into the locker room, past the guys at the door. Casey went unerringly to McArnold. Dan said, "Shane. Hey - I met you at Dartmouth -- " and McArnold turned with a smile. Dan introduced Casey and beat a quick retreat. He watched Casey ingratiate himself, and begin talking to the shortstop.

Dan left and walked to the parking lot. He and Shelly McArnold weren't any kind of friends anymore. He wondered if Shane was as much of a twit as his sister. He lit a cigarette and waited by the exit for no real reason.

He smoked two cigarettes and thought about leaving. Cars were still fighting their way out of the parking lot. He should head out. He had started walking when he heard Casey calling him Danny again. He turned and smiled. Casey clapped him on the arm and said, "Thank you, Danny. Got a great interview." Casey waved a little reporter's notebook and grinned again.

"You gotta call that in?" Dan pointed at the notebook.

"Already did, my friend. Already did." Casey flipped to the page with his story written out while Dan wondered about the 'my friend' part. Casey handed the story to him and Dan read it quickly. He was only a little surprised to find that it was good. Dan complimented him on the story and Casey kept grinning.

"So. Let's go get a drink."

"Casey. I have to drive back to New Hampshire tonight. I don't want a drink." Dan had to laugh - Casey seemed bound and determined to cement this momentary bond.

"Danny. Yes, you do. You have a car, right? I don't have one yet. We'll go somewhere and you'll have one drink and I'll have more than that and we'll have a high-minded, intelligent discussion about sports. Cause we're two smart guys, and you know what? It'll be great." Dan couldn't stop smiling. Casey, he thought, was crazy.

Casey drank too much. Dan learned that he had been married for one month and considered his wife to be the sexiest and smartest woman alive. Even sexier than Ava Gardner, he said. Dan just nodded his head. Casey wanted to be on TV and Dan agreed with Lisa's assessment, as reported by Casey, that he would be good on TV. "As long as I get to write my own stuff. I don't want to be some fucking idiot reading off a teleprompter."

Dan didn't say much about himself. He thought it was sweet the way Casey tried to probe and push, but Casey was still a young reporter. After, Casey leaned against the car.

"Where to, Casey?" Dan sighed, thinking of his two hour drive back to Hanover. Casey leaned against Dan's car and sighed.

"I don't know. I should have dealt with that earlier, you're completely right."

Dan gritted his teeth. "Casey. Should I take you to a hotel? Do you not have a place to stay yet?"

"I have no place to stay. And I think I can't quite afford a hotel. See, Lisa has the credit card and I don't get paid until tomorrow. So." Casey kept smiling and Danny decided Casey was an idiot.

"Casey. Do you have any money? Any friends in Boston?"

Casey clapped Danny on the shoulder. "I have a friend in Boston - I have you!"

"Your one friend in Boston lives two hours away in another state, Casey." Dan sighed.

"Why can't I stay with you?"

"Casey. Which part of 'I go to college at Dartmouth which is in New Hampshire' have you missed?" Dan gritted his teeth again. He felt his jaw ache.

"We could get a hotel room. I mean, I'm not -- or anything, but if you have a credit card " Casey was still complacently grinning, leaning against the car.

"Casey. Again, I'm a college student. My parents pay for things and I'm basically broke."

"But you're 22."

"It's a fake ID, Casey. I'm 19. I mentioned I was a freshman, right?"

"It's a really good fake ID." Casey nodded his head seriously.

"I'll pass that on. I'm 19. I live in a dorm." Casey turned out to be an irresistible force, and Dan let him come home with him. He thought Casey would pass out at some point but he stayed awake for the whole drive back to Hanover. He talked about sports and tried to show Dan pictures of his wife, but Dan kept on his eyes on the road.

As they walked into the dorm, Casey asked about his roommate. Dan muttered that his roommate was out all night. "With his special friend, right" Casey said, raising his eyebrows.

Dan snorted. "I don't know about a special friend, dude, but yes, he's off fucking some girl." Casey nodded seriously.

Dan slept on his roommate's bed and let Casey have his. Casey fell asleep seconds after crawling under the blankets. Dan looked at him, stared at his profile as he slept and wondered what he had gotten himself into.

Casey left the next morning, insisting he had fine survival skills and would traverse states to get home. He clapped Dan on the arm again, and called him his best friend in Boston.

"We're in New Hampshire," Dan said.

*

At the station, on Friday, one of the P.A.s handed him a phone message, saying, "Some guy called for you."

Dan looked at the scrawled "KC called" and the phone number after it. He rolled his eyes and folded up the message.

"Who's KC? Some guy from the Red Sox?" The P.A. leaned over and Dan looked down her shirt. Dan said Casey was just some guy from the Globe. The P.A. made a noise.

"Another sports guy." She crossed her arms and pushed her very nice breasts up.

"You work on sports, Nina."

"Cause the news program was filled up, Dan." Dan debated arguing with her about the value of sports. He pictured her naked and decided to let it pass. Instead he smiled at her and kept trying to look down her shirt.

He called Casey after his shift ended. "Danny. I'm house-hunting tonight."

"So things are going well with the job?" Dan leaned against the phone booth's plastic wall.

"Yeah. Did you see the McArnold thing got picked up by the wires?" Casey sounded pleased with himself. Dan said he had seen it.

Casey once again managed to rope him into driving. They drove around Somerville and looked at apartments. Casey would hem and haw and try to decide if Lisa would like the place. Dan began to tire of hearing Lisa this, Lisa that.

Casey dragged him into a pizza place as payback for driving. They came in around ten, and were trailed by a large party of scruffy and sweaty college students. They were carrying clipboards and talking loudly. Casey turned to watch them. Dan felt something rising in his throat.

"Casey. I'm gonna go smoke."

Casey started to protest but Dan was walking away and didn't hear much of it.

Dan ducked out a back door from the bathroom and lit a cigarette to wipe away the taste of bile.

*

Casey felt good. Boston was good; the paper liked him. He was married to the greatest girl. And Danny was a good thing. Or, he thought, knowing Danny was good. He wanted to phrase it in a way that didn't sound like he had a crush on some smartass college boy. He just liked Danny a lot. Casey knew he had good instincts with people. From the moment he met Lisa with her open smile and warm eyes, he knew she was the one. He'd known from the first time he'd met Dana that they would be friends for life. And he'd known from the first time he talked to Danny that knowing Danny would be a good thing.

He craned his neck out to peek out the front window but he couldn't spot Danny on the sidewalk. He turned his head to look at the rest of the restaurant and Danny sat down, smelling of cigarette smoke.

"Casey - you didn't eat all the pizza."

"Saved some for you, yeah. Thanks for all the driving." Casey grinned. Everything was just great right now, and could only get better.

*

A week after moving into his apartment, Casey sat in the booth, wolfing down fries and a cheeseburger. Dan sat opposite and laughed. "Doesn't Lisa feed you, man?"

"She does, but I'm a growing boy. Also, she's got this recipe book she's working her way through and it's all this fancy stuff - not very filling. Not important," Casey said with a shrug. He looked at Dan with a quick narrowing of his eyes. "You're really a freshman?"

"Wanna see my student ID?"

"Like you couldn't have a fake one of those." Casey grinned.

"I can't think of a single reason to have a fake student ID that said I was a freshman."

"Fair point. So, what're you majoring in? Communications or something?"

"I haven't - I'm not sure. Hell, Dartmouth's an Ivy League school, I can probably just coast on that even if I major in papier mache sculpture." Dan waved his hand over the food he had only picked at.

"You can major in papier mache sculpture? Seriously?"

"Yes, Casey. Dartmouth offers two separate courses of study in papier mache sculpture." Dan rolled his eyes.

"Ah. You're shitting me, here, right?" Dan nodded. Casey laughed. "Okay, okay. But you want to work in sports, right? You should. You're smarter than both of those asshole reporters at the station."

"Smarts will get me everywhere." Dan said rolled his eyes again and sounded bitter. He hated people who called him smart and he was never quite sure why. He wasn't the smartest person in his family, but he was the one at Dartmouth.

"Well. It will." Casey was smiling, like he always did. He had finished all the fries and the cheeseburger and was leaning over to take some of Dan's untouched fries. "Smarts do matter, Danny, and you got 'em. So, what do you want to do? Print, TV, what?"

"You want to be on TV, and yet, you're here, writing for the Globe. What's up with that? Didn't study hard enough in college?" Dan sneered and pulled his plate closer and ate one or two of his fries.

"I was Phi Beta Kappa, mister. And, you know, TV, not so easy to get into. I mean - it'll definitely happen, and it'll be better to have this writing experience. And there are plenty of people who would be perfectly happy with this job. It's a very good job. I get paid to write about sports, that's pretty sweet."

"Can I have it when you move on to bigger and better things?" Dan looked up, grinning.

"You're too good for it." Casey leaned over and tried to steal more fries from Dan's plate and Dan could smell his aftershave. He pushed his plate all the way over to Casey's side of the table. He drank his coke and watched Casey eat all the fries while talking about the Red Sox and the wonders of Fenway Park.

*

Dan didn't keep track, but he was pretty sure he'd thrown up three times in the past week. He didn't keep track and he didn't wonder about it or the shaking. He went to classes, he smiled at people to get them in bed because he wouldn't get high and he worked at his internship. And lately, sometimes, Casey called him at school or at the station and he would go out for dinner or drinks or watch games in Casey and Lisa's apartment when he was in Boston.

Dan woke up in another girl's dorm room. She was already dressed in a long skirt and pressed blouse and she said they should go to services. He looked at her with a puzzled expression and she said again that they should go to services. She liked the Saturday morning services best and she intended to meet friends. She followed him back to his room and sat on the edge of his bed with her legs crossed at the ankles, watching him change into nice slacks and a dress shirt. When they got to the temple, she drifted off to sit with her friends. He got through most of the service with rote participation.

They reached the tail end and the rabbi called for mourners to rise for the mourner's Kaddish. His body remembered before he did, and he stood and started reciting without thinking. The words on the page swam before him and he stumbled through the prayer. He finished, sat down again and rubbed his eyes. He blinked and looked down at his prayer book. He left after the services without stopping to find the girl or eating any of the food provided by the Sisterhood.

He found Alex for lunch. He didn't say why he wasn't wearing his usual jeans and t-shirt. They talked about Dukakis, Biden, Hart and Jackson. Alex was rooting for Jackson to be VP at least. They were united in their loathing of Bush and spent twenty minutes listing reasons to hate Reagan. Dan didn't want to talk about school so he started talking about Casey. He told Alex his Casey stories, about the way Casey seemed convinced Dan was just the cat's meow with a big, bright future. He found himself laughing and had to explain the nuances of a great line Casey had got off comparing the Red Sox to Gephardt. Alex said Casey sounded like a peach of a guy.

Dan followed Alex back to his dorm without asking, making up things to talk about to keep the conversation going. When they were inside the room, Dan pulled Alex to him by the waistband of his jeans and kissed him. Alex broke off the kiss and rubbed Dan's cheek. "Danny," he said, his eyes narrowed and the question clear in his face.

Dan thought about saying, "My brother died last year. It was my fault." He knew Alex would have hugged him and said sorry over and over again. Instead he said, his voice thick and sad, "I'm nineteen and I'm too young to be this tired of everything, I think."

Alex smiled and hugged him and said yes. Dan pulled Alex's U2 shirt out of his jeans. He knew from all the other times how easy it was to distract Alex. And Alex was very distracting in his own way.

Dan started writing his paper on Eudora Welty at 2 am on Sunday morning. He heard other students coming back from parties and one puked in the hallway, two doors down. He promised himself: next weekend I will party. Dan went back to reading "Death of a Traveling Salesman."

At the station, Dan relaxed. No conversation ever lasted longer than five minutes, he was surrounded by wire stories and Teleprompters and everything moved so fast, he could barely stop to think. He enjoyed not having the luxury to think or reflect. It was easy to love television.

*

Casey drove them to Fenway. He said, "So, you like golf?" After Dan nodded, he said, "See the Masters this year?"

"Dude. Of course. Lyle with that birdie on eighteen? Sweet. You know the last time a player in the last pairing who came to the eighteenth green needing a birdie to win got it?"

"1960. Arnold Palmer." Casey smiled smugly.

"Exactly. I hope we won't be seeing Sandy Lyle in underwear ads anytime soon, though." Dan laughed.

"Could be worse. Fuzzy Zoeller in underwear ads is much more frightening." Casey shuddered.

"And Trevino and Zoeller grousing about the greens?"

"It wasn't just them. Crenshaw, Couples, Strange. All bitching about the greens."

"Lyle wasn't complaining." Dan said with a snort. He looked out the window of Casey's new used Honda. "You still working on that local Olympians piece?"

Casey nodded. He sighed. "Not like the Globe's going to send me to Seoul or anything. Still. First Olympics since - I don't know - since a while that haven't been boycotted by somebody. Should be amazing."

"1972. Munich was the last one without an organized boycott, by us or the Russians or what have you. I wish I could see the yachting parts, but they never put that on TV."

"Yachting?" Casey made a face and looked away from the road for a second to glance at Dan.

"Great sport. Great for kids." Dan grinned.

Casey said, "I'm looking forward to the gymnastics. I did that in high school. Soviets have a pretty amazing group this year."

"You did gymnastics?" Dan tried not to giggle.

"Yes. Yes, I did. I was really good at the parallel bars, I'll have you know."

"Damn, I never would have thought." Dan watched Casey maneuver the car into a tight parking space.

As they got out of the car, Casey said, "There's a lot you don't know about me, Danny."

*

Dan pulled on his jeans and then sat down on the edge of the bed. He rubbed his forehead and pushed his hair back out of his eyes.

"Seriously, Danny boy. Your new best pal Casey, he wants to fuck you." Alex lay behind him and tugged at his jeans.

"Alex. Casey's not gay." He bent over and rooted around for his shirt.

"Right, right. Like you," Alex sneered. He kept pulling at Dan's jeans.

Dan sat up and drew his shirt over his head. "Well, technically "

"Please. I'm not interested in your Kinsey scale crap." Dan closed his eyes as Alex moved over towards him. Alex pushed up Dan's shirt and began kissing his spine.

"Alex. Casey's not gay. He's married." Alex stopped and rolled back to the other side of the bed. Dan turned to look at him and Alex rolled his eyes.

"Danny. If you put your hand on his knee -"

"He would jump twenty feet." Dan turned back to the floor to find his socks.

"And he'd be hard as nails. You know, he's hot. You should sleep with him, break him in, so the rest of us can get a crack at him."

"Dude. Could you stop acting like such a fucking queen?"

Alex laughed at him. He grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. "Look, Danny! A hockey game! Stay and watch with me, please? You can explain it to me."

Dan put on his shoes and stood up. "Okay, dude, I'm serious. The queen thing is really annoying." He grabbed his backpack and started to walk out.

"At least some us know who we are, duuuude." Alex said as he left.

*

Casey stretched and watched Lisa walk back to the bed. She snuggled up next to him and kissed him. He could taste the toothpaste she had just used. "Gotta make sure you brush every night, right?"

"Well, you'd brush your teeth, too, if you were just sucking cock." She grinned and kissed him again.

Casey loved that Lisa was always so blunt. There were no pretenses with her. He loved everything about her.

"Case, honey, this apartment - did you look a lot? This one's kind of dumpy." She moved over to the other side of the bed to take off her earrings.

"I looked. I looked at four or five places, with Danny." Casey still felt good, from the fucking and the blowjob and the thought of Danny. Lisa snorted, and Casey thought once she met Danny everything would be even better.

*

Dan brooded over his beer. Casey asked if it was romantic troubles. Dan couldn't imagine telling Casey about Alex being bitchy and the girl from his econ class who had clung to his arm when he left. He just nodded yes.

"You have a girlfriend?" Casey looked over at him with a sly smile.

Dan laughed. "I haven't had a girlfriend in, lord, two years. I. I just fuck around. I probably do that too much." He glanced over at Casey who tried to nod sagely.

"Fucking around is a perfectly acceptable college thing." Casey sounded like a professor.

"You fucked around a lot in college?" Dan found himself grinning.

"Well. Of course. I was in a fraternity, you know."

"Oh, of course. So no girlfriends, then?"

Casey made a weak attempt at laughing. He blushed. "You know, except for freshman year at college, I've always had a girlfriend. Since I was 14. So, really, no. I didn't really fuck around."

"You ever cheat on Lisa, then, when you two were in college?" Dan wanted to take back the question, but Casey answered easily.

"Once. Or maybe three times, depending on how you define it, I guess." Casey averted his eyes and fiddled with his glass. "But, uh, Lisa cheated on me once or twice, too. In college, I mean. Not now that we're married."

"With Dana?" Dan swirled his beer around and avoided looking at Casey.

"Lisa and Dana? No. NO. What are you talking about, man?"

"No - I meant, did you cheat on Lisa with Dana? You talk about her all the time, I just thought, you know." Dan laughed a little at Casey's chagrin.

"Oh. No - not Dana. I've never slept with Dana. Which is a pity. But it wasn't Dana. Anyway," Casey sighed to change the subject. "Anyway, girlfriends are good. I like having a girlfriend. You should get one."

"You recommend the idea? I mean, of course, you do. Married at 23 and she's not even pregnant." Dan bit his lip but couldn't stop grinning.

"She's not pregnant. And yeah, it's not just the sex. I guess you're getting that anyway -" Casey grinned, too.

"You sound so envious, you old married guy."

"A little. I am a little envious. But you know, it's nice to have someone to watch over. And someone to watch over you. Someone who gets you completely." Casey smiled his contented married guy smile at Dan.

"That's not every girlfriend, you know."

"Yeah. But it's worth looking for."

*

Casey ate quickly. He swallowed huge bites with minimal chewing. Dan stared in fascination. He ventured a guess. "Lisa still working on the fancy food cook book?"

"Huh?" Casey opened his mouth, and Dan thought of Sam at the dinner table, doing the same and saying, "See food?" Dan blinked. Casey swallowed hastily. "No, Lisa's all done with the cookbook. But she's working at this place, and her hours are all different from mine. So we don't always get to eat together."

"And you're a growing boy."

Casey laughed. He put down the fries for a moment. "Hey, Danny, what are you doing for the summer?"

"I've got a job lined up in New York. Actually, just an internship, but it's a good station. My parents'll spring for rent and give me some money for food, so - really I just need to buckle down and find a place to stay." Casey got an even bigger grin than usual. "What's that look for, Casey?"

"My friend Dana -"

"The Dana? Dana, the smartest girl you know, Dana the woman who you didn't cheat on Lisa with -"

"Whom I didn't cheat on Lisa with. Whom, Danny, whom. Dana, my friend Dana, who is getting her masters in few weeks, has a job in New York after she graduates. And she needs a roommate, just for the summer. I'm gonna make her come out to visit and meet you. You and Dana should be roomies!" Casey ate the last of his fries and started slurping his coke.

"Well. Maybe we should wait until we actually meet before committing ourselves here."

"You have to meet Dana. She's great." Casey grabbed at Dan's plate.

Dan held onto it and smirked at Casey. "I'm sure she's great. But, you know, she's like, twenty-three, right? Maybe she doesn't want to live with some nineteen year old buddy of yours."

"Oh, maybe. But she was just complaining about how she has no one to live with and she's got this apartment that's too big and she can't quite afford. Her brother was gonna stay with her, but something came up or something like that. Anyway, her cousin Ann's gonna move in with her in the fall. So, she needs a roommate for the summer only, and you need a place."

"Well, I'll meet her. Maybe she won't like me at all, Casey." Dan trailed a fry through the ketchup on the corner of the plate.

"Of course she'll like you. Why wouldn't she like you? I like you, everyone likes you." Casey smiled as he stole a bunch of Dan's fries. Dan blinked and let him have the whole plate.

*

Dan had missed the first ten days of his freshman year. After his first actual day in classes, he had stumbled into a backroom of the bookstore, looking for books that had already sold out and met Alex. Alex had been breaking down boxes, humming along to a tape of Joshua Tree playing on a battered boom box. He had turned and looked at Dan and said, "Hey. This is not for students." Dan started to explain his problem, saying only that he had missed the first ten days of classes and needed all these books the store didn't have. He had stopped in the middle, frustrated and unable to speak. He had been swallowing hard. Alex had looked him up and down. He had grabbed Dan by the elbow and took him to another back room. Alex made him sit down on a box, handed him a cold coke and said, "Give me that list."

Dan got laid for the first time in college on his second day, with a girl from his econ class who let him see her notes from the classes he'd missed. The second time was a drunken hook-up with a boy who lived two floors up from him, his first real weekend party. The only person he slept with more than once all year was Alex.

People came in and out of his room, borrowing his notes and picking his brains. He went to study groups and only occasionally went home with one of the other participants. He thought of Casey, and said to himself that he was smarter than at least some of his fellow students.

He met Dana. She regarded him with a level gaze and laughed when he said he was nineteen and Danny no longer. He met Lisa, who glared at him when he and Casey started talking about sports. Casey grinned at him, regardless.

He knew when he was with Casey he had only thrown up once. He didn't measure anything else.

His parents never came to visit him. He kept one picture on his desk, one of all of them from Passover in 1987, but no one ever asked about it. He talked to his mom on the phone once a week, and talked about work and classes. He mentioned Casey once, and his mother said he sounded like a nice man. Dan agreed, and he wondered if he'd know Casey long enough to introduce them.

*

Casey came by Danny's station to find him. He had time in the afternoon and Lisa was tied up with her office manager job. Instead he found a short PA with curly brown hair.

"You're looking for Dan? He's out at the game. He'll be back soon."

Casey smiled. "Danny's a good egg, isn't he?"

"Uh. Sure. He's a little out there, though." She snorted.

"I don't think so. He's young."

"Guy can't sustain a five minute conversation in a group of people. Always running out for a smoke or something. He seems kind of fake sometimes, you know?"

"He's not like that with me." Casey pulled at his tie.

"Well. With me, he just wants to get in my pants."

Casey laughed. "He's definitely not like that with me."

"Yeah." She looked down. "I mean, I did let him - once - but I'm just saying, he's not a good egg, I think. I think he's weird." She shook her head and marched off to get coffee for a reporter.

Casey watched the hustling back and forth of the station. Local news, local sports and weather. He imagined himself sitting at the anchor desk, talking about sports to millions of viewers. It was a good picture. He added in Lisa, sitting at home watching with maybe some kids next to her, waving to Daddy on TV. A better picture, he thought. He could see Dana back in the studio and he liked that, too. He added in Danny somewhere, maybe at the desk, too, and it all seemed perfect. Exactly the way things should happen, he thought. He saw Danny coming in and waved. Danny smiled and walked over to him.

*

Dan got the flu. The college doctor people told him to rest until his fever went down; they sent him home to his dorm. His roommate stopped in once a day for three days to grab clean clothes and each time he would say, "You're still alive. Good." Girls drifted in and out and left notes from classes and sometimes food. Dan slept mostly, waking up with a constant vague ache. He would listen to the radio, tuned to an AM sports channel and would fall asleep with the tinny voices still on.

Alex came by the second day with chicken soup in Tupperware. "It's Campbell's. I didn't make much an effort." Dan smiled weakly and ate his soup. "You know, Danny boy, I think I've figured out what you like about Casey."

"Why are you always talking about Casey," Dan said.

"This is, actually, only the second or third time we've talked about Casey - except for that one time you introduced us. Fever's gone straight to your brain." Alex reached over and rubbed Dan's forehead and then moved his hand down Dan's face in a caress. Dan closed his eyes and leaned his head into the cool hand.

"Here's the thing," he heard Alex say. "Casey's like - he's like my grandmother."

"You think your grandmother's hot?" Dan mumbled.

"Don't be an asshole, Danny." Alex moved his hand away from his face and let it rest on Dan's thigh. "I mean, my grandmother thinks I'm the smartest, nicest guy in the world."

"Your grandmother doesn't know you very well." Dan leaned back into his bed and put the empty Tupperware bowl on the nightstand. Alex squeezed Dan's thigh.

"No - she does. I think she sees the best in me. I mean, you should still fuck Casey, but..."

"Cause fucking is the best of me?" Dan asked and he sounded out of it, even to himself.

Alex shook his head. Dan fell asleep before he could ask for clarification.

The next day he woke up to a knock at his door. He croaked, "come in" and opened his eyes. Casey loomed over him, frowning. Dan smiled.

"You're sick." Casey sat down in the chair by the bed. He started fussing with the blankets, straightening them and brushing off crumbs.

"Yeah, I have the flu," Dan said.

"I called the station, 'cause I thought you were gonna call me, and they said you were sick." Casey frowned again. "You should have called me. I would have come to visit sooner."

"You drove all the way up here to see me." Dan smiled.

Casey said of course. Suddenly they were hugging, and Dan couldn't figure out which one of them had started it. He thought of Alex urging him on but he wasn't interested. He wasn't interested and he wanted more. He said to Casey's shoulder, "You're my best friend in Boston, Casey."

Casey said, "We're in New Hampshire." Dan broke off the hug and sat back. Casey tapped out a quick tattoo on his own knee and said, "We're gonna talk about sports now, right?"

"Shit, yeah," Dan said. Casey had brought the new Sports Illustrated and they both bent over the magazine.

THE END.

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