DISCLAIMER: So not mine.
NOTES: Thanks to Luna & Jess.


SWEET OCTOBER

October 3rd, 1997

Somehow it had turned into a party and the 10 or 12 people involved had all crammed themselves into Dan and Casey's office, drinking the screwdrivers Elliot's cousin had decided to make.

"It's a song," she insisted loudly. They had emptied the vending machines of orange juices and Isaac had donated a bottle of vodka as he left for home. They hadn't had quite enough orange juice though, in the end, for whatever the right mix for screwdrivers was meant to be.

"I got a fresh screwdriver - right before closing time," Elliot's cousin sang, not badly. "I got a fresh screwdriver, so what if I'm dying?"

"That's a really, really cheerful song," Dana noted.

"No, no ... It gets better!" Elliot's cousin insisted. "The next part," she started singing again, "I forgot there was such a thing as gooo-ood people left." She stopped singing. "See? There are good people left."

"That makes me happy. Let's drink to that!" Casey said, raising his plastic glass and then swallowing much more vodka than orange juice.

Danny grinned and leaned against the desk, saying "You know what's an incredibly cheerful album? Like so happy skip to your feet cause you can't stop smiling?"

"Skip to your feet?" Casey asked. He decided he should talk more. Elliot's cousin had a nice voice. And a nice ass. And a fine rack. And he was on TV, so he should really say something so she turned towards him again. Or turned away - he'd take either view.

"Is that like skip to my lou?" Dana asked suspiciously.

"No, no - it's just so cheerful. We should all listen to it right now, cause every song makes you want to dance."

"What album is this?" asked Elliot's cousin.

Danny grinned again. "Berlin by Lou Reed." Elliot's cousin and Danny were the only ones who laughed.

"Is it not a funny album?" Dana asked.

"No skip to my feet part?" Casey asked.

"No," Elliot's cousin sputtered. She started laughing.

"It's the most depressing album. Ever. So voted by hundreds of critics, or something. It's kinda, it's a sort of concept album," Danny explained. "There's this woman Caroline, and she takes speed, a lot of speed and her boyfriend hits her and she puts her fist through a windowpane and they take away her kids and she kills herself. And nothing about it makes you skip to your lou or skip your feet or anything."

"So we shouldn't play it now, ya think?" Elliot asked.

"I vote no." Natalie said. She was nearly sitting on Elliot's lap, crowded on the couch.

"See, if people delivered videos - if someone did that, we could rent a video right now and watch it on this TV," Chris said, gesturing at the monitor in the corner.

Casey watched Danny duck out of the room, probably to call that girl he'd been seeing for the last two weeks from somewhere that wasn't packed with drunk people who didn't know anything about Lou Reed. He turned his attention to Elliot's cousin again, and her fuzzy sweater and tight jeans. Married, but not dead, he thought. Married, he thought.

Casey felt like the screwdriver had suddenly begun to war with the provolone cheese sandwich he'd had before the show. He was nauseous and wanted to stand, but then he would assuredly throw up. In front of Elliot's very cute cousin, who was chatting with Chris by the TV - Chris wasn't on TV. Chris was just a studio tech. If the cute girl was gonna flirt with someone, it should be Casey, married or no.

"Casey?" Dana said, with a mocking lilt. "Ya look a little green there, boyo." She stood over him, grinning evilly.

He threw up on her shoes.

****

October 7th, 1997

"It was a difficult pregnancy." Dana rolled her eyes. "She says that, like, twenty times a day when he's around."

"Casey's mom?" Natalie asked.

"Yes. Casey was a difficult pregnancy."

"Would you say Casey was a difficulty pregnancy?"

"I just did."

"I mean, would you say Casey was, or when Casey was in the womb - I mean, what's the correct subject there?"

"Natalie. I have no idea. Casey's mother, when pregnant with Casey, had a difficult pregnancy. Casey is the youngest of four, and the only boy. His mother dotes on him, his sisters think he's the second coming ..."

"He bought you new shoes," Natalie said.

"Natalie - I'm not talking about the shoes. I'm not even talking about Casey, per se. The shoes have nothing to do with what I'm saying. I'm saying," she sighed and stopped again in the doorway of her office. "I'm saying, Casey's mother is coming to visit and, please don't repeat this, I mean - really, you cannot repeat this, but she drives me crazy. And she will look over at Casey more than once during her visit and say it was a difficult pregnancy and look at him like he's a medical miracle, and it drives me crazy."

Dana walked to her desk. She fiddled with the straps on her new shoes.

"Dana, why does she drive you crazy? Cause she thinks Casey's a great guy?"

Dana sighed. She fussed with the papers on her desk. "I just, I just find that she drives me crazy, Natalie. And now I'm going to put these numbers together for Isaac. So ..."

"I should leave."

"Yes."

"He bought you better shoes than the ones he threw up on."

"Yes. Now go."

**** October 11th, 1997

Danny walked quickly into his office and sat down at the table as quietly as he could.

"Where were you? And, Danny, don't lie."

"Wh-Why would I lie? I was looking at tape - NHL. For the injury report."

"And before that?"

"I was in Isaac's office, talking to Isaac."

"Between those two things, where were you?" Casey sounded weary and pissed off.

"Casey. What's up?"

"You snuck up to the 51st floor balcony and had a cigarette. Stop lying."

"I. I didn't do that."

"Which part of that didn't you do?"

"I didn't sneak. I went out with one of the secretaries up there for a few weeks - she lets me up there. No sneaking involved."

"You quit smoking. I vividly recall it."

"I'm still quit. I mean. I'm not smoking again."

"Except for the part where you're smoking again."

"No. See, I used to smoke a pack a day. In the last ten days, I've had all of ten cigarettes. So, I'm still quit, or whatever. I just - this week, I've had one a day. No more."

"That makes no sense. You either smoke or you don't. And now it's one a day, and soon it's back to a pack a day. And then you'll wise up again and quit again for real, and I'll have to do the show with psycho no cigarettes Danny. Licking ashtrays, glaring at smokers, twitching on-air ..."

"I never licked an ashtray."

"I saw you."

"I was breathing deeply in the nicotine goodness."

"Whatever. Cigarettes will kill you. Cancer, all those fun things. And before they do that, they'll ruin your voice, which, last I checked you might need for the show."

"I appreciate your concern -"

"Also, when you smoke you stink. Even if you changed clothes after every puff and stood in a wind tunnel blowing all the smoke away, you'd still stink of it. And I spend the better part of every day either sitting next to you or stuck in a small office with you and it annoys me."

"Ah. The truth emerges. I'm not smoking again. This - this is just a thing. You've been in a bad mood all week."

"Now it's my fault that you're sucking on cancer sticks again? I'm very confused."

"No. No - I changed the subject. I'm not smoking again, it's just one a day and I'll stop soon. Your desire for me to quit is noted. End of discussion." Danny waved his arms. "That was a visual aid. New subject. You've been in a bad mood all week. What's wrong?" He asked and looked up, meeting Casey's annoyed gaze.

"Nothing."

"Seriously."

Casey sighed. "It's just lately - Lisa and I ... Look, don't start, I know how you feel."

"I didn't say anything. Is she upset about something specific? Are you upset about something specific?"

Casey stared at his monitor. He felt tired. He wondered, again, how pissed the cleaning crew had been about the puke on the floor by the chair. He wondered what Elliot's cousin's name was. He looked at Danny.

"It's just - I know what you think but lately ... Lately, it just seems that neither of us is very happy to see each other. That's all." He looked away from Danny and tried to see if the puke stains were actually gone. "It'll blow over and everything will be fine. And I don't want to talk about it. So," he waved his arms, "End of discussion. End of subject."

**** October 16th, 1997

"I had a boyfriend in high school - he gave me his ring to wear on a chain around my neck. One night he came over to my house and we had this argument on the porch. He ripped the chain off my neck and threw the ring in the bushes." Natalie paused for breath.

"He sounds like a jerk," Kim said with one raised eyebrow.

"Oh, that was just Fred. He was very dramatic. He ruined Billy Joel for me. Cause he loved Billy Joel so much."

Isaac sighed and looked at Dana. "We are doing a rundown, right? I didn't just accidentally wander into the lunch room at high school? Cause last I checked there's actual news happening today."

Danny sighed and looked sad. "News can't be as bad as yesterday."

"Aw, poor Danny. His Orioles lost. No World Series for them. Waah waah," Kim simpered.

"Yes, and to express my sadness, I plan to go to the Basement in Cleveland, and pee on any passing police officers from a second story window."

Isaac grinned. "We should lead with Gary Miller."

Dana sighed. "Yeah, because some ESPN guy getting caught with his pants down - literally - is such a better story thaaan, say, the Tigers being moved to a different division, the Indians moving onto the World Series, the Leafs ending the Red Wings' streak ... Let's just take potshots at ESPN instead."

"Works for me." Casey said with a grin.

Dana threw her hands up. "We're done! See you all at the 8 o'clock."

As she walked out, she fell in beside Casey. She glanced up at his face, done with tormenting Danny and taunting ESPN, and saw the tension and the exhaustion.

"How long is your mother in town?"

"Oh. Two more weeks, until right after Halloween. She wants to see Charlie in his costume."

"What's he going as?"

"I don't actually know. Lisa and my mom are taking him today to get his costume." He glanced over at her. "Nice shoes."

"Yeah. Completely puke-free."

He stopped in front of his office, and turned to look at her, actually meeting her gaze for the first time all day. He smiled, a genuine and complete smile, it seemed, for the first time in days.

"You look nice, Dana. And you know how much my mom loves you - you should come by for dinner on Saturday. She would love to see you."

Dana considered. She looked at Casey, and couldn't quite look at his face. She stared at his hands.

"Ask Lisa. If it's okay with her, I'd be happy to come."

Casey looked into his office. "I'll ask her."

Dana watched him turn into his office. Natalie came up behind her and tugged at her sleeve.

"Your boyfriend ripped your chain off your neck?"

"Oh, Fred. He was just dramatic. Last night, Carter threw a fit when we couldn't get the right red wine for the pasta. He was so saddened by it all."

Dana rolled her eyes, but she turned her head away from Natalie while she did it. Natalie knew, anyway.

"Carter's arty, that's just the way he is."

"Natalie - "

"So. Casey and Lisa are fighting."

"I had heard that. But you know what? Right now I'm going into my office to work. So, you should go somewhere that is not my office and work also. Okay?"

Natalie scurried off. Dana sat down at her desk and stared out the window. It had been so cold this morning. She wished spring would come, but today's cold had been the harbinger of the long chill of winter and she had months to wait for real sun.

Danny came in and sat down on her couch.

"So. Casey says you're smoking again."

"Not as such, no."

"You're going up to the 51st floor every day to smoke, right?"

"Yes, but only once a day. So it's not like I'm smoking, like I used to."

"Well, as someone who lived through the last time you quit, I beg you to quit now before you're smoking again like you used to, cause I can't make it through that again."

"You all exaggerate. It wasn't that bad."

"Danny."

"Whatever." He stared out her window. She wondered if he was wishing for spring, too. The leaves had just started to change, and then there would be the denuded trees and stomped on snow for months and months. She shivered in anticipation.

"So. This thing with Casey and Lisa. You think it's serious?"

"He doesn't want to talk about it."

"But what do you think?"

"I think he doesn't want to talk about it. And yeah, it's probably serious. He's leering at cousins which is never a good sign. And you know Casey's mom can't be helping."

"Well, they've been married for so long. I mean, 10 years. And together for four years before that - I can't imagine ... Poor Casey."

"Dana." He had stood up and was leaning against her desk.

"It's just. I think there was a total of five months in the span of time I've known Casey where he wasn't with Lisa."

"It's not like they're one of those couples that are joined at the hip. You know, CaseyandLisa. Like that. LisaCasey. Case-Li. Li-Case. Li-Sey. Case-Sa. Heh. Not like that at all." Dan rolled his eyes at his own list.

"What are you doing in here?"

"Casey's on the phone with Lisa. So I left. And then when he gets off the phone, he's gonna nag me about the smoking. I thought I'd come here instead."

"Go back to your office. Casey should be nagging you."

He shrugged and walked out. She watched him leave and wrung her hands before turning to the rundown.

**** October 20th, 1997

Danny stood looking out over the city. The air was crisp and colder up here than down on the street.

"Dan. Stop smoking."

"Natalie. Did you sneak up here?"

"Nope. I went out with one of the secretaries for a few weeks last year and he lets me come up here sometimes."

"Lot of that going around."

"Why are you out here having a cigarette?"

"To prove I don't need a cigarette."

"That makes perfect sense. Except for the part with sense in it."

"No. See, I'm so quit of these things, I can have one a day for 20 days and then just stop again. Not the raving addict you all think I am. In fact, I am proving myself the framed picture of mental health - a guy strong enough to resist the pull of a pack a day habit."

"That still doesn't make a lot of sense. Why did you start again?"

"I was at a party and there was this girl. Out on the porch, having a cigarette. So, as approaching her was imperative, I bummed a smoke off her. We had a lovely talk, she gave me her number -"

"And a cigarette."

"Actually she gave me a full pack. Someone had given it to her and it wasn't her brand, so she just gave it to me. With her number written on it."

"Did you call her?"

"Yup."

"How's that going?"

"Not so great. But I still have some of the pack left, so we'll see."

"Why doesn't Dana like Casey's mom?"

"You know, there's a sign - a visual aid - you could use there to indicate you're changing the subject. Casey and I have one worked out."

"Why doesn't Dana like Casey's mom?"

"She likes Casey's mom just fine. Casey's mom drives her crazy."

"Why does Casey's mom drive Dana crazy?"

"Because Casey's mom thinks no one is good enough for her l'il miracle. Including Lisa. Casey's mom has never ever thought Lisa was good enough for Casey."

"Why would that drive Dana crazy? Lots of people think Lisa isn't good enough for Casey. You. Dana, for example."

"Well. It's not that I think Lisa isn't good enough. I think she doesn't like Casey very much, which is different. But anyway, Casey's mom thinks Dana is good enough for Casey. She's always thought that. She thinks Casey is the bestest little boy ever, and she thinks Dana is who he should be with. And she's not exactly subtle about her preference. So it drives Dana crazy."

"Huh." They watched the city lights winking on as the sun set.

"Dan. Do you think it'll snow?"

"Nope. So, Carter, huh?"

"Yeah."

"He's a jerk."

"I know."

Dan took a long drag. "See, we all choose. I choose not to smoke," and he took another long drag off the cigarette. "Casey chooses to be married to the Wicked Witch of West Iceland. You choose to date jerks."

"I broke up with him last night."

"Yeah. That's good. But you'd be happier if you chose not to date jerks." The sky was a perfect shade of pink and purple and the lights were a soft yellow in the darkening sky.

**** October 25th, 1997

"Casey, damn it, shut the fuck up right now!"

Dana's clipped and quite angry voice came up quite quickly in both their earpieces.

"The FCC and thousands of dollars of fines would like me to remind both of you we're live in 10 seconds. So, you know, let's avoid saying fuck, okay?"

"Oh, look, Danny's got the pout/sulk face in full force," Kim noted.

"And Casey's got the stone cold jaw of resolve in effect," Elliott added.

"Does anyone know what they're fighting about?" Phil asked.

No one answered immediately as Dan and Casey did the intro, smiles firmly in place. Then Natalie leaned over to say, "Near as I can figure out from the snatches of the argument I've heard, deductive reasoning and a vast knowledge of the psychology of the players, Dan wants Casey to shut the fuck up."

"That's helpful," Phil replied.

"Lordy," Kim commented, "it's just unbelievable to me how many of these fights they have mic'ed. And the thing is," Kim said, "I don't think they care or even think about the fact that we can hear every bit of these little tiffs-"

"There was nothing little or tiff-ish about the fight of June 24, 1997," Elliott interrupted.

"Tiff-ish?"

"Guys," Dana said, "we're doing a broadcast here, would it be too much to ask for everyone to, you know, do their jobs?" For five minutes, nothing was heard on the topic. Then she said:

"You could construct a top 10 list of their worst fights, couldn't you?"

"But what would be the standard for worst?" Natalie asked seriously. "How angry they were? How much spill-over to on-air?"

"The only standard that matters is how much do we back here think, Please, please, take off your mics and spare us!" Kim said.

**

Casey looked over at Dan.

"They're laughing pretty hard in there."

Dan looked down and scribbled something on his script. Casey suspected he was writing "die, Casey, die!" over and over again.

"Dan -"

"Casey, in the name of everything holy, please -"

"I know, I know," he muttered, "Shut the fuck up."

They both looked up expectantly. Dan look puzzled. Casey grinned.

"Looks like one of us has an exemption from the FCC."

Dan dropped his chin to his chest and said loudly into his mic, "Hey, yo!"

Dana's voice came back into their earpieces, "Danny, ow. What's up?"

"Casey said a bad word. Are you people even listening to the show?"

"Well, we're in commercial, and you two are being big babies, so, we're listening to the show, just not to you."

"What's so funny?"

"We'll, uh, Casey, we'll tell you later. *Later*, later. 20 seconds back!"

Dan looked over at Casey.

"So, are you still pissed at me?"

"Yes, Casey, I am. But we can talk about it. *Later*, later." He snorted and even grinned.

The show went surprisingly well after that, though during every lulls Casey and Dan would hear laughter start up from the control room.

"So, Dana, it's later. It's even *later*, later. Can we get in on the joke?" Dan demanded from the doorway, with Casey trying to look stern behind him.

Dana giggled and there were snorts of laughter from the rest of the room.

"Oh, okay. We've compiled a list, a ranking of, well, of, hmmm ... How to describe this?"

Kim took the bull by the horns.

"We made a list of your top ten fights."

"Of our - me and Casey?"

"Yes, Danny, of you and Casey. We debated the exact ranking of them, but yes, we compiled a top 10 list of your, your - Kim, what's the standard, in the best words?"

"Inducing the feeling from the control room of "please take off your mics and spare us!" was the standard we used," Natalie said.

"I would have said it better," Kim noted.

"Yeah. That wasn't very precise, was it?" Natalie said.

"I think we understand," Casey said sternly. "I can't believe you did this."

"I believe it," Danny said. "Read the list."

They had drifted out to the newsroom. Dana took up a position by the conference room and started to read.

"Now, understand that since Kim and I were in Dallas, we're considering the whole of your time together. So, Number 1 - November 24th, 1993."

Casey winced. "It was our second show. Second show nerves!"

Kim snorted. "Please. I thought we would last a week - and our last show would just be the two of you pouting at each other."

Dan grinned. Dana started again. "Number 2 - June 24th, 1997."

Elliot said, "Exactly. Not the least bit tiff-ish. A full-fledged fight."

Both anchors winced in memory.

Dana laughed, and went back to the list. "Number 3, 4 and 5: October 7th, 8th and 9th, 1995. Otherwise known as Danny quits smoking."

"It really wasn't as bad as you all make it sound."

"You licked an ashtray!"

"I did not. And if I had, I'd be dead. Nicotine is one of the most powerful poisons known to man - you could soak some cigarettes in water, and then make someone drink that water and they would die in minutes. I read it in a murder mystery. So, I didn't lick the ashtray. I inhaled deeply and held it close to my heart."

"Danny, we have tape of how bad you were. I have the tape of three days of tight close-ups so we wouldn't get your compulsive twitching on the air. And Casey, Kim and I were there and we remember, like a burn victim remembers the fire, what you were like off the air. So, you know, don't ever smoke again."

She went on with the list, while Dan and Casey suffered and rolled their eyes. When they got to ten Casey and Dan drifted back to their office. Casey looked over at Dan, already shedding his tie and jacket.

"So, quit smoking again?"

"I never stopped, but yes. I have finished my pack and proved myself stronger than the addiction. One a day, never more and now done. So stop fucking bugging me about it, okay?"

"Fine, whatever. Just don't do it again."

"Yes, Dad."

"I have to get home. My mom's driving Lisa crazy." He sighed. He stood over the chair and remembered watching Elliot's cousin bend over to pour drinks. He felt nauseous for no reason. He thought of Lisa, as he had last seen her, rolling her eyes and glaring at his mother. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her smile a genuine and complete smile. He turned and saw Dana laughing with Elliot and Chris. She didn't turn around to look at him. He could see Danny out of the corner of his eye, taking off his suit and changing into his own clothes. If he turned around right now he would see Danny buttoning up his blue J Press shirt. He didn't turn around.

"I have to get home." He walked out.

THE END

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