DISCLAIMER: So not mine.
NOTES: Summary and inspiration and one quote Danny makes from Jude's songs Charlie Says and Prophet. Jess, Luna and Shana are not mediocre and are truly beautiful. Casey quotes Kristin Hersh without realizing it. A mild thanks to the boy at the tobacco shop who sold me the perique smokes.
NOTE2: A sequel to 5000 Tigers, but hardly necessary to have read that first.

PERIQUE.


November 2000.

"Did you buy the alcohol? Did you buy the pot? I'm just curious."

"I know what you're saying, Abby, and you're wrong."

*

The girl in front of him was buying cigarettes - a black pack with red lettering. She asked the boy at the counter what perique meant. He explained it was a kind of tobacco. "A sharper taste," he said. "Still poison, but a sharper taste." Dan looked at his copies of Esquire and Spin and wished he still smoked.

*

In his advance copy, he read:
By 1995, Rydell hated Dallas specifically and Texas generally. Wunderkind no longer, the "other guy from Lone Star Sports," the one that wasn't the famous Casey McCall, he felt more and more that he was just a jumped up rookie gone stale, hitched to a star's wagon and still going nowhere. He got drunk on election night 1994 and the hangover lingered for another 13 months. He went out on one date with a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, every boy's dream, but the woman confided that Kenny Loggins was her favorite musician of all time, and he didn't kiss her goodnight or ever call her again. It was a year of marking time, and waiting, though he didn't know it yet, for a call from Isaac Jaffee.

*

Things Dan hadn't told the reporter about 1995 specifically and Texas in general:
He didn't tell the reporter about the way Casey's eyes had followed Dana around the office every night, and how Dana was flustered and ignored Casey. Casey's face seemed more angular in the cameras as Lisa came by the studio more often to point with at the peeling paint in the corridors and complain about how third- rate the show seemed. Dan had kept his head low and ignored all three of them, except once, and instead dated women who liked Kenny Loggins and fucked girls from bars who could be wooed with Shiner Bocks.

He never mentioned a night in Austin without Casey when he went down for SXSW and a deep throat kind of kiss behind a bar on Sixth Street. Three separate nights in Montrose, in Houston alone for the Rockets and the NBA finals, where he listened to someone talking about how there was no zoning in Houston, only restrictive and discriminatory covenants. A hand moving Dan's Shiner to a coaster on an end table before grabbing the waist of his jeans and pulling him into another kiss. He didn't think about those things much anyway, and he didn't remember if he'd ever even told Abby.

He was 26 in 1995, and crazier than he was now, another thing he never said to the reporter.

*

"What did you lie to the reporter about?"

"Abby. There were many lies of omission. And one actual lie."

"That's not what I asked, Dan."

*

He bought a copy of the Rolling Stone at the same store where the girl bought her perique cigarettes. He also picked up copies of Esquire, Spin and Maxim, so he wasn't just buying a magazine with a half-naked 18 year old on the cover and his name in smaller type in the left hand corner, right underneath Limp Bizkit. He had already seen the advance copy, but he wanted a real copy to look at. He told himself he wanted to see the ads run next to his article.

*

In the article, he read:
Rydell hasn't smoked pot, snorted cocaine or any of the other illegal excesses of his high school days since that September day in 1987. He supports legalization, as he said in his infamous Esquire interview in 1998, and speaks eloquently about Props 210 and 36 in California. He's reluctant to talk about it for any length of time on or off the record, and quickly changes the subject every time it's brought up.

*

He hadn't told the reporter about the day after the funeral, finding his father in Sam's room, ripping off the sheets, one or two small Ziploc bags with green buds already on the floor, stashed beer from under the bed pulled out into the light. His father's strangled voice saying, "Did you buy this shit for him? Did you hook him up with your fucking loser friends, you little shithead?" It was the only time he and his father had discussed the circumstances of Sam's death.

He had lied to the reporter about not using since 1987. But it was only once and that night and everything he did that night weren't something for Rolling Stone. They had nothing to do with some strange reporter who was only 26 and trailed behind him for a day at the office and talked to him in his apartment and talked to Dana, Isaac, Natalie, Jeremy and Casey on different days. He knew better about interviews these days, he told himself.

*

"You know I lied, Abby. Did you read the article?"

"I did. You know I did."

"Did you think it sounded like me? I didn't think it was quite me."

*

*

1995

Danny's dating a woman with tendonitis -- from her data entry work and in the newsroom -- Casey hears him describe her aches and the time the pain in her forearm was so bad she went home and vomited. To Casey, later, he describes her pristine, unblemished back and her small nipples. Casey wonders how Dan meets these women - the only people Casey knows in Dallas are the people who work for Lone Star Sports, a few families from day care and another small group of people from Lisa's part-time job. He doesn't wonder how Danny gets the women in bed; he can picture Danny looking down at the latest or the next with that sly smile and his dark eyes and charming them right into bed.

Casey's losing weight from the heat, sweating away pounds, too hot to eat anything during the day. His shirts and pants still seem to chafe and pull, clinging to his neck and thighs. He thinks he's been in Texas for more than two years and he's worried that he'll be here forever. The novelty has worn off and now he's in Dallas and not LA, New York or even Bristol. He thinks everyone in LA has forgotten him.

Danny almost literally bounces off the wall during a rundown, jumping up from his seat and leaning against the wall only to spring back to the table a few moments later. He's worried about going to Houston if the Rockets win. Danny repeats how people in Houston sometimes celebrate by shooting their guns into the sky and he keeps asking why the rain of bullets doesn't worry anyone else. Cal grew up in Texas, and he tells Danny only a few people die every year when they do it on New Year's Eve. Chances are, he says, they won't hit you. Danny giggles and files out with the rest of staff. Cal watches him leave and wonders aloud what drugs that boy is on. Casey tells him not to worry; Danny doesn't do drugs. Cal mutters something about Danny's mood swings. Dana pushes her hair back and tells Cal that Danny's just naturally crazy.

*

Casey likes to look at Dana lately. Mostly, he tries to imagine her naked, filling in the picture with his best guesses from when he's seen her in bikinis. Every day he thinks about having sex with her. He smiles at her and sits too close to her; she looks at him and smiles back tentatively but moves her chair away from his.

*

Day to day, he complains to Danny about Lisa and Danny rolls his eyes and says Lisa's a bitch. He complains to Dana about Danny, and Dana rolls her eyes and points out that Danny's realizing he's stuck in Texas and no one cares. He can't complain to Lisa about anything, because she actually seems in a good mood for a while and he doesn't want to disturb it.

He picks up Charlie at daycare and listens to the women who've come to get their children. His agent told him that Dallas was a cosmopolitan city and not like the soap opera or whatever stereotype he had of Texas. But all the women speak in that same wide drawl he thought they would. Charlie comes toddling out and Casey picks him up. The women smile at him, wearing lipstick, full make-up and more jewelry than his mother wore to her wedding just to get their kids and drive home. He thinks Danny could score with any of them with just one look. Casey thinks even he could get one or two of them to fuck him. He looks down at Charlie and feels guilty for thinking about sex while holding his son. He thinks about Dana naked again, and feels guilty all over again for the drive home.

*

Danny comes home from Houston and looks away when Cal congratulates him on dodging the bullets. Sitting in Casey's office, he puts his feet up on the desk and complains about being 26 and going nowhere. Casey thinks that he's about to turn 30 and that 30 is a scarier age than 26. Danny suddenly starts talking about offers in a veiled way, about offers he's maybe received and how nice it would be to get out of Texas. Casey's afraid he's serious, that Danny would leave him alone here. Danny babbles more and then tells Casey he's not going anywhere, not to worry. Casey wonders if nearly 40 will feel as bad as nearly 30, with every part of his life not right and yet not so completely fucked up that he can just give up.

*

At a bar, Danny tells him again that he gave it all up when Sam died, that he never took drugs again. Casey watches Danny nursing his fourth Tom Collins, and wonders out loud why not drinking, too. Danny gives him a sickly smile and says he loves drugs the most, and that's how penance works. Riding home to Lisa in a cab, Casey rolls the word penance around in his head and the word punishment shows up, too.

*

Casey tells Dana every day that she looks lovely. He compliments her on her performance when Cal lets her run the show one night. She stands closer to him sometimes, but her eyes are always wary. He tries not to think about having sex with her every day, but he fails. One day he hears Danny talking about blowjobs and technique. Danny sits in his adjoining office with the connecting door open as always, and Casey looks up and sees Dana and the new PA Kim sitting with him, all three laughing. Only Dana is blushing. Danny says as a willing recipient of many blowjobs, he feels like he can offer some important tips. Kim asks if there will be a test and Dan leers at her and says yes. Dana rolls her eyes at him and walks over to Casey's office. Casey wonders what Dana would do if he told her how many times he'd imagined her giving him a blowjob. He talks to her about sports instead, but feels guilty anyway.

*

At a bar again, Casey finally says something to Dan about the man in the blue suit who keeps staring at them. The man looks at Dan with an intensity Casey can't understand. Dan says he knows the guy "sort of" and turns back to the bar with a dark look. Casey's drunk and pushes it, asking if maybe the guy is upset about their high school football coverage. Dan says he knows the guy; it's not about fucking football. Dan slams his drink down on the bar and pulls a twenty out of his pocket to cover his drinks. He shoves it in Casey's hand and walks out of the bar. Casey holds the slightly damp and warm bill in his hand and watches Danny go. He turns and sees the man watching Dan leave looking as confused as Casey feels.

*

Dan listens to music in his office with their connecting door open. The songs are too loud and the guitars are all distorted and some woman is wailing. It's not soft girly music at all. Casey hates how Danny makes him be the bad guy who doesn't appreciate anything. All Danny listens to anymore is angry music, with distorted vocals or raw screaming. The song reminds him of sex and the woman's voice scares him. He sees Danny standing with his hands in his back pockets, watching a game as Casey gets up and closes the door between their two offices. An hour later, Dan opens the door and glares at Casey. He's turned off the cd.

*

Casey's making good progress with Dana and he knows it. He sits close to her at a bar, smelling her perfume, and leaning into her wide grin. She bats her eyelashes at him and laughs and he smiles his closest approximation to Danny's most charming leer. He wants her like he wants a new job where he's important again; like he wants to be on in every media market in the country; like he wants to be out of Texas.

He has the night, since Lisa is off at something and there's a babysitter and he can just sit here. He reaches over and starts playing with Dana's blonde hair and whispers into her ear. Something makes him turn and he sees Lisa. Lisa, standing a foot away, standing in front of Danny, whose face is completely blank. Danny walks over and sits next to Casey, with his back to the bar and Danny's arm jabs him in the side. Lisa says Danny thought they would all be here. She's done with her thing and she wanted to see her husband. She looks at Casey and says the two of them should get their own table. Casey looks at Dana, and she is blushing and looks stricken. He believes now that he will never get a chance to have sex with her. He gets up and hugs Lisa and says getting their own table sounds great.

At home, Lisa doesn't even yell. She says she's glad she still has her part-time job because it's clear that Casey will never leave Texas and who knows how long a crap show like Lone Star will last. She doesn't say anything more, and somehow Casey knows he should sleep on the couch. He dreams that he is ice cream with a cone. First Lisa rips off the cone and then Dana grinds nuts into him. Dan comes last and eats him alive.

*

The second day in the Sports Night office, Danny sits on the couch and says that he feels so good being home. He looks at Casey and says, "When we were in Dallas last year, I was going crazy. I was crazy. I mean, I did some things that were crazy-crazy." He leans forward and averts his eyes for a moment, rubbing his knees. "And some things that were bad-crazy."

He looks Casey in the eye for the last part. Casey just says, "Right." Dan sighs and starts talking about how everything is going to be great here. Dan thinks they should kneel and kiss the ground here. They've gone national and he's home and New York City is the most wonderful place on the earth.

*

In the article Dan read:
A former CSC executive sums up the Draft Day incident differently than Whitaker. He says, "We always called him Breakdown Danny around the offices. Jaffee and McCall insisted on having him as co-anchor like in Dallas, but [Cal] Becker told us he always thought Rydell was on drugs or just plain nuts. We'd hear these thing about [Rydell] running out on doing on a promo or some new blow-up down there, and we'd all say, 'Breakdown Danny strikes again.' The guy imploded on national TV, during a live broadcast. He should have been fired."

*

Casey tried to speculate about the identity of the former executive. Dan didn't want to think about it; he knew it could have been anyone. The reporter had called him and read the quotes to him for his comments. Dan had had nothing to add. Casey kept coming back to it and then stopped. He apologized later.

*

"The law defines negligent homicide as when a person fails to be aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his failure to be aware of such substantial risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable man would exercise in the same situation. I think that applies here, Abby. It doesn't matter that I didn't pull the trigger."

"You studied law at some point? That's a very precise definition."

"No, I just remember it."

"What's the usual sentence? Do you remember that?"

"Usually only a few years."

*

After the rundown, Dana wanted to talk to Dan about the quotes in the article from a "rival network's executive." The unnamed exec had said that Dan should leave Sports Night, strike while the iron's hot, because Sports Night couldn't last forever and there was a real danger in Dan being forever linked to Casey. Dana wondered if Dan agreed with the guy. Dan said that the exec probably underestimated all the joys of being linked with Casey.

*

"So you've served more than average sentence here, right?"

"Are you saying I should go out and get stoned when this session is done?"

"I don't think that's a good idea, no. But it's something for you to think about, Dan."

*

*

1998

This, Casey thinks as they walk into the lawyer's office, is the last fight he and Lisa will have as husband and wife. He can't decide if it's significant that the fight is about Danny. Even Sports Night and two years of New York City haven't made her happy. Lisa screeches about Danny and a laundry list of 10 years of objections to her husband's best friend and Casey tunes it out. Like getting a tattoo, he thinks, or how Dave described getting a tattoo feels - a constant burr of pricks that because they go on so long become just an annoyance. He's definitely permanently scarred.

*

The burr under his skin doesn't go away. He blinks and he realizes he's talking to Dana. She's trying to talk about the All-Star game and he can tell she's pissed about something. He should know what she's pissed about but he doesn't remember how this conversation started. He doesn't remember coming in to work. Dana wants something from him, but he doesn't know what so he snaps at her and walks back to his office. Danny looks up as he walks in, but doesn't say anything.

*

Every woman he sees, he pictures naked. He doesn't ever get hard. He doesn't remember how Lisa ended up with his libido in the divorce. He isn't even excited by Dana, and picturing Dana naked has always worked. At night, he sits in his apartment. He bought a chair and a couch and a bed. Books are still packed in ripped boxes, all of them opened only once when he was looking for his phone. He's drunk and he watches some soccer game late at night and decides to try to picture the players naked. Naked men this time and he's still not hard at all.

*

He wakes up in the office. Danny stands over him with a sad look in his eyes. He snaps at Danny, and he just sighs. Danny tries to talk to him. Casey hasn't moved or gotten up and he can feel a wet spot under his cheek where he drooled in his sleep. He rubs his eyes and sits up. "Danny," he says. "I don't want to talk about it. Can we just -"

He looks up at Danny and Danny just looks at him. He showers in the studio and cuts himself shaving. He comes back to the office and Danny is already typing away. Casey thinks he looks smug, somehow, in his cheerful competence. He grabs the wire reports and changes the channel from CSC to FOX to see a game. Phil and Michael have left and Natalie is in Isaac's office interviewing someone named Jeremy. He wonders if he would get hard if he pictured Danny naked, but before he can try, he's distracted by a bonehead call from an umpire. He swears at the screen and Danny looks up, grinning.

*

He doesn't think he's fine. He tells himself that he is one fucked up, hurting individual. He looks at himself in the mirror and gets angry all over again, how could this happen to him? Nothing ever spoiled on me, he thinks. He tells himself that he is a mess, and he wishes everyone would stop bothering him while he is like this.

He takes Charlie to lunch at some restaurant with waiters who dress up as cartoon characters. The place is loud and half the kids are screaming and crying. Charlie looks beleaguered and Casey sees himself in Charlie's bewildered expression. Before all this, even with the hours he worked, he saw Charlie every day. Now, he is Special Events Dad. He takes Charlie to bright, well-lit places to entertain him, and every time Charlie leaves he feels like a fraud.

*

Dana and Isaac pull him aside separately and tell him to watch Danny during the Esquire interviews. Isaac emphasizes how important to the show the interview will be. Dana starts going on and on and her voice starts to blend in one long whine. He waves her off. Casey fakes his enthusiasm, smiling at the smug yuppie shit they send to talk to him and Danny. Danny senses his disdain, though, and starts talking fast to cover for him. Casey zones out, staring at a redheaded waitress filling water glasses. He hears Danny start to talk about pot and legalization and he knows he should do something. He doesn't. Danny's a big boy, he thinks. The waitress bends over and he watches her ass.

*

By the time the magazine comes out, he feels fine. He tells himself he's fine, and he knows it's true. He reads the article and he doesn't remember Danny saying anything of these things. He wishes he came off as more cool. Dana asks him about how much trouble Danny will be in, and he feels a stab of guilt. He doesn't know why.

*

The part of the Rolling Stone article Dan reread:
McCall and Rydell aren't faking the on air camaraderie and banter. They really are best friends when the cameras stop rolling. They're like old war buddies sometimes, and sometimes like twins with a secret language. All the time, they are friends. McCall says without hesitation that Rydell is the best in their business. Rydell says the same about McCall.

*

Neither Dan nor Casey, apparently, told the reporter about the fights in April and the recent thing. Dan didn't mention the way he sometimes thought that Casey got away with murder. He thought he more often than not let Casey get away with murder. The thought felt like betrayal and he stopped thinking it. But it came back.

*

Dan's dad came into the city more often after his partner retired. A few times, he asked Dan to lunch. They sat across from each other at a simple Italian restaurant. Dan's dad mentioned the Rolling Stone article and Dan couldn't help himself from mentioning that they might be in Sports Illustrated.

"That's because the ratings are going up," his dad said. "If you guys were still in the crapper, they wouldn't be calling." Dan thought he could be offended or hurt, but he knew his dad was just stating the truth. At some point, he thought, people realize their parents are just people, too. He took a sip of his water. He looked at his dad and started talking about a boxing match they'd watched when he was 10. His dad lit up and they made boxing and Jake LaMotta and Lennox Lewis last through to the final cup of coffee. They stood on the street, about to walk off to their respective cabs and offices, and his father hugged him suddenly and then got quickly in the cab. He heard him saying, "Bye, Danny."

*

Dan stared out at skyline from his office after the show. The word penance rolled around in his head, suddenly joined by parole and pardon. He laughed at himself for all the P words. He listed words relating to law starting with P in his mind, thinking prison, prudence and laughed out loud when he thought palimony. He heard Casey behind him, asking what was so funny.

"How long you been back there?"

"Not long. Why? You doin' something untoward before I walked in?"

Dan laughed again. He made a joke about flashing the other buildings. He turned and sat down on the couch. Casey looked serious.

Dan said he was thinking about something Abby had said. Casey swallowed. He said, "So. That's good, right? I mean, it's kind of rip-off if you go to a shrink and you don't have something to think about, right?"

Dan grinned weakly and agreed. Casey asked him if he was feeling better.

"Not really. I mean, it's okay. I don't think that's the point. Feeling better."

"Feeling better isn't the point of therapy?" Casey leaned against the desk and they were looking at each other.

"I don't think so - not like at the end of it, I'm a shiny happy person. I mean, it's more like - like there's this dam created by, I don't know, otters or something, and then you dismantle it and the river flows clean. Or something."

Dan watched Casey restrain himself from joking about the otters. He smiled. Casey sighed and agreed with him, his face still looking confused. Then Casey perked up and said, for the fifteenth time that day, Sports Illustrated. Dana had announced at the rundown that SI had called. Thanks to the upsurge in the ratings, SI wanted to do a profile on the show and Casey couldn't stop grinning about it. Casey admitted, after repeating it again, that he's happy it's both of them.

Dan looked down at his feet. He said, "Casey. You know they wanted me for Rolling Stone - it wasn't about popularity or anything." He paused. "You know, it's just that my life, it's been more interesting. A sharper taste, I guess." Casey sighed. He said Sports Illustrated again like people say prayers.

*

December 2000

Casey can't remember not reading Sports Illustrated. He read his father's issues and then his own. He never thought he would be in it. He plans to buy multiple copies and he will open them to the story on him and show it to everyone in the store.

They come out of the show and Isaac's waiting in the newsroom, leaning on his cane. His grin resembles a cat that has swallowed many, many canaries. He starts in by noting that tentative ratings were right. They beat FOX every night for the last two weeks and were neck and neck for all of November. Dana hugs Natalie fiercely. Casey and Danny bump fists and smile at each other. Jeremy and the techs high five. Amid the celebrating, Danny follows Isaac back to his office and Casey follows Danny. In Isaac's office, Danny says, "We'd be lower than third without you, boss." Isaac hugs both of them and tells them to have fun with the SI reporter tomorrow.

*

SI in the house, Casey thinks. Casey McCall, in SI. He reminds himself throughout the day to watch out for Danny in the interviews, though Danny did okay with Rolling Stone.

Casey grins all day.

*

The article comes out a week later and it's good. Casey skips over the obligatory paragraphs on Danny's moments after his first read, and reads and rereads the paragraphs that talk about how great Dan and Casey are on-air. Danny seems equally enthused and Casey's even happier to be on the same page as Danny for once.

Casey finds that Danny requires more work than when Danny was more crazy. He knows it's worth it, but he wonders why it's so much work these days. He knows that, too, they fought about this and now they're better. But, Casey thinks, everything's so good and he wants this to be easy and good, also.

*

Danny sits on the edge of Casey's desk and says, "Casey." He looks Casey in the eye, with his serious face on. Once in a blue moon, for no reason Casey can readily name, Danny will call him Case. It's not like a pet name or something special that Danny pulls out, it's just a nickname. Casey doesn't know what it means Danny calls him Case. He remembers some dumb Joni Mitchell song Lisa liked and thinks he's looked at Danny from more than two sides now and he really doesn't know him at all.

Danny repeats his name. He says, "Look. This thing. This not quite getting along right thing. You think it bothers you more than it bothers me." Danny looks away. Casey looks at the curve of Danny's hip on his desk and imagines Danny at 60, with a beer gut that won't go away and hands elongated and palsied. He would still have the same eyes.

Casey says, "It doesn't bother me more than you. I think it's there and you think it's not. Whatever. Maybe you're right." He looks up at Danny but Danny's looking away. He gets up from sitting at the desk and walks over to the couch. Casey tries to think that this is just to find a comfortable seat. Casey leans back in his chair and straightens the pencils on his desk.

Danny pulls at his shirt. "Casey. You know, I've been less than sane at times here -"

Casey blurts out, "You brought Lisa to the bar on purpose." He's surprised he remembers that, or that he suddenly brought it up.

Danny looks puzzled and then remembers. He sighs. "You know, I did. And that was wrong. But. Casey - you were flirting with Dana. You would have - you were married. I know Dana and Lisa are the only people who ever called you on this, but you weren't - you weren't acting like a model of sanity of yourself." Danny looks a little surprised, too, and a little resigned. He's short of breath, like he's run a mile just saying it.

Casey sits. He looks at his hands and tries to imagine himself at 60. He can see Danny clearly, gray hair and stooped shoulders, but when he pictures himself, he can only remember what he looked like freshman year in college. Danny says his name again.

"Danny. You know what, we have this feature to finish - this thing on Shaq and Kobe and I don't. I don't know what we're talking about really. Things are really going well now, don't you think?"

Danny shakes his head and makes a worried face. Casey says, quickly, "Shaq and Kobe. Shaq and Kobe. You know, you say the names fast enough and they both start to sound ridiculous. Like a Japanese cartoon movie here - Shakenkobi, Samurai Cat, defends Los Angeles from Mothra." Danny laughs. He tells Casey it's called anime, not cartoons, and they shouldn't use the Samurai Cat bit on-air.

After the feature is written, after the show is done, in their office, while Danny is reaching for his coat, Casey says, "You were right. In Dallas, after the divorce - more than I would maybe admit ... You were right." Danny just looks at him and puts on his coat. He claps Casey on the shoulder as he walks out. Casey stands in the empty office, feeling stupid and lost.

Danny stands in the doorway. He says, "Dude. Earth to Case - let's get a beer, okay?" He's got the same smile that Casey always imagined him using in bars on girls. "You're paying."

THE END.

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