DISCLAIMER: So not mine.
NOTES: Thanks to Luna. And Nikki.


TIME AFTER TIME

The first time Casey said something that hurt Danny -- not something teasing or mean, but hurtful -- was when they first met in 1988, less than a year after Sam's death. It had been unintentional, and it was two years before Casey had even realized what he had said, but it was wounding. Danny had been squatting outside the locker room, sucking on a cigarette, and Casey had stood over him, smiling. Danny had introduced himself as Danny, and then quickly corrected himself and said Dan. Casey had thought of Dana's younger brother Teddy who would never be Theo or Theodore since Dana refused to call him anything but Teddy. And Casey had said, "The trick to making the more mature name stick is to kill any siblings you have."

The spasm of pain in Danny's face had surprised Casey back then, and he thought he had never since said anything quite as awful. He didn't remember the first time he'd intentionally tried to hurt Danny in an argument, but he'd never again had the element of surprise.

The most recent time Casey had intentionally hurt Danny had been Saturday.

The first time Danny had let Casey drive his car had been in Dallas in 1994. Election night, when it was clear Ann Richards would lose and that the Republicans had taken over Congress, Danny had downed five too many Shiners and had given Casey his keys and said, "Damn it. Take me home. I hate this state."

Casey had driven Danny's sleek Honda while Danny had stared out the window and talked about how much he hated everyone in Texas, from the new Governor to Dick Armey down to the smug yuppie bastards at his gym. He wanted to go home, to be in New York City where the people who disagreed with him weren't so numerous and loud and proud. Casey had looked over at him and thought Danny looked, as he often did when he longed for New York, like he was 12 years old.

The most recent time Danny had let Casey drive his car was tonight. After the seder and the second show, Danny had been extolling the joys of Manischewitz wine. He had seemed genuinely surprised that no one else liked it.

"The first wine I ever had. Shaped my palate. The standard against which I judge all alcohol since my first sip at 8," he had said with a real smile, grinning across the newsroom at Casey.

"I'm surprised you ever moved beyond stealing Nyquil if that's really the case," Dana had said dryly. Danny had tried to look wounded, but he was too happy to pull it off.

"Seriously, Dan," Jeremy had said, "Manischewitz is pretty awful wine. Kosher for Passover and not palatable any other time of the year."

Dan had grabbed five glasses and poured wine in each of them. He had offered one to Elliot, who had waved it off with a nod of agreement towards Jeremy. Danny had gulped it down. He had ended up doing the same with the glasses he offered Will, Natalie and Dana. He had turned towards Casey.

"Manischewitz. Casey, it's great wine."

"I had four sips at the seder, Danny. I know what it tastes like."

"Like Nyquil gone bad," Natalie had said giggling.

Danny had held up the glass, and it wasn't a test or a sign -- he could see in Danny's already tipsy look that it was just a glass. So he had said, "It's not like Nyquil gone bad." He had grinned.

Casey had said, "Not like Nyquil gone bad, you know just a few bounced checks bad. It's Nyquil gone bad like it's smoking crack, soliciting whores and stomping on orphans bad, that's how bad it is, Danny."

Danny's grin had disappeared and he drank the glass himself, unable to maintain his wounded fašade after he began hiccupping. Too much Manischewitz, and Danny had tossed his keys over his shoulder to Casey as he ambled out to the garage. Now Casey drove Danny's sleek BMW, occasionally glancing over at Danny clutching his last bottle wine and his precious chocolate macaroons.

The first time Casey thought Dan was maybe not right in the head was 1989. In the midst of discussing Len Bias's death again, Danny had casually discussed the attractions of cocaine with more knowledge than Casey would have expected from a 20 year old. Or from someone who had never tried it. At 24, Casey thought he had shed his sheltered view from the suburbs he grew up in, but he still thought anyone who had tried cocaine in high school had to be a little bit crazy.

In retrospect, he laughed at himself for not realizing Danny wasn't the framed picture of mental health earlier. Danny would duck out of bars and slip out of restaurants for a smoke at odd intervals, and stand outside inhaling smoke hard with a look of fierce concentration and trembling hands. He would drift out of conversations at certain topics that Casey could never pin down. He was simultaneously one of the most extroverted people Casey had met and one of the most weirdly shy. Despite all of this, Casey had never thought of him as anything other than just young before the cocaine conversation.

His surprise had registered on his face, he could tell, when he looked over at Danny. Danny's hands were trembling again, and he had fumbled with his lighter and cigarette.

"You, uh, you know, you should quit smoking." Which wasn't Casey had meant to say at all. He should have asked questions, or said something comforting, but all that came out was his anti-tobacco PSA.

The most recent time Casey had thought Danny was maybe crazy was Saturday, after Danny had blinked and begged Casey to forgive him. Continued anger he could have understood and had even expected, but the sudden switch, the change from angry and pissy Danny to contrite and scared Danny had made no sense and he had thought, once again, that Danny was maybe crazy.

The first time Casey thought that the pains of being friends with Danny outweighed the benefits was 1991. Danny was late. The four of them had sat with their bags by the baggage claim in Austin. Dana had an interview in Houston, Casey had one in Dallas and they had decided, after Danny had offered, to stay with him in Austin, where Danny had gotten a job on air. He'd been hired six months after graduating. It had taken Casey three years to get on TV, Danny six months. Casey's job was better, and in a bigger market, but sometimes he had thought of Danny's success and felt envious.

Charlie had squirmed in Lisa's arms - he wasn't hungry or wet or tired, just unhappy and whiny. It didn't matter which of them held him, Charlie would not sleep or be happy. Casey had said what he was thinking, about the pains of Danny sometimes being more than the benefits. Lisa had sighed in agreement. Dana had tucked her hair behind her ears and said, "That's not right. Friendship isn't an economic equation. And anyway, you know, meaning accumulates. Over the years, it's like -- every time you see something it reminds you of your friend and you smile. And that should count as a benefit, right? So even if you stick with your metaphor there, you're underestimating the benefits."

Lisa had sighed in disagreement and said, "Whatever, Dana. He's twenty minutes late and we're just sitting here. It's hot." She had glared at Casey over Charlie's bobbing head.

Then, Danny had been there. He had apologized for being late, slung Dana's bag over his shoulder and took Charlie from Lisa's arms. Charlie finally smiled and started contentedly sucking his thumb, his other chubby hand grabbing at Danny's neck. Danny had rented a car for them, and he had walked them over to counter so Casey and Dana could be added as drivers. The girl at the counter had thrown in a free upgrade, and waited for Danny to collect everyone. She had grinned at Danny like she would have thrown in a blowjob without much persuasion. "He's gotten so big," Danny had said, looking down at Charlie.

The most recent time Casey thought the pains of being friends with Danny and working with Danny outweighed the benefits was the last four days. He was so tired of it. Three weeks of Danny's apathy at work and irritability in everything, then the stunt on Saturday. He had thought it would be harder. And it had seemed to him that perhaps their friendship had never been as much as he thought since the habit of shutting down Danny for the last four days had been easy to maintain.

The first time Casey had wanted to strangle Danny with his bare hands, or pound his head against the curb, or drown him in a bag like unwanted kittens, had been in 1990. Three days after Danny's friends at school had gotten him wasted, Casey had taken him on another pub crawl for his 21st birthday. Afterwards, Danny had taken his keys from him and said resolutely that they would call a cab. Casey had been livid. He needed his car in the morning - Lisa was near term, he had to get to work, and he felt fine to drive. Danny had insisted even as Casey planned on ways to kill him to get his keys back.

When he had flopped into the back of the cab, he felt instantly contrite. The back seat swayed under him like a water bed, he couldn't even sit straight and he would have plowed both of them into a pole with no effort at all. He had fiddled with the keys Danny had plopped on his stomach and turned to Danny and apologized.

"You shouldn't drive drunk, you know?"

"I know, I know..."

"My brother Sam... I mean..."

"Was killed by a drunk driver?"

"He was the drunk driver. He ran a red light and got run over and...anyway. Drunk and high and there you go." Casey had looked over at Danny, still clutching the used book Casey had bought him for his birthday, 'Ball Four' by Jim Bouton. The book was still in their office, on Danny's shelf. Same copy, Casey knew, since the last time he'd checked it he saw on the title page where he had scratched out the price and written Danny's name on the flyleaf as a joke - Danny Rydel. One intentional misspelllling and one taunt for the birthday boy.

The most recent time Casey had wanted to strangle Danny with his bare hands, or pound his head against the anchor desk until he bled, had been Saturday. Crazy or not, he's been furious. Furious during the meeting with Isaac, furious for hours afterward, forced to concentrate on not spitting out every word for his remaining hours on the air alone.

The first time, the most recent time and the only time thinking of Danny had made Casey cry had been tonight at the video store. He had decided when he left the office to just do the list. What did he care about hanging next to the guy who opened for Carrot Top? He had stood in the aisles, watching the owner sign up someone. He had fidgeted by the new releases.

"I feel so right," a girl standing over at the other end of new releases was singing to the girl next to her. "This is such a cheeseball song. And here comes the smash chorus - tonight and for the rest of the life," she had sung along with the tape being piped in. She had giggled. Her friend had curly hair and a nose-ring. "That's how I feel -- with you for tonight and the rest of my life." The once singing girl had giggled again and made a face.

"That's what I truly want -- the rest of my life to be spent with my psycho roommate stuck in a video store trying to find a movie."

"We could leave right now. Let's get LA Confidential."

"Again? Dude, you rent that movie way too much. Just buy it and we can stop having this conversation." The nose-ring girl had showed her friend a movie and the other girl had rejected it with a wave. They started to drift towards the comedies. The music piped in had changed to another song. 'Time After Time,' Cyndi Lauper, Casey had thought at the same time that nose-ring girl pointed it out to her friend. "See, if someone told me that if I fell, they would catch me - I would go to bed with them. I could be wooed by those words."

If you're lost, you can look and you will find me, the music crooned. Casey had thought if he were lost, he would look and see a thousand things that would remind him of Danny. Eleven years, and it would be twelve come summer. Even this song -- he had suddenly remembered Danny telling him that Miles Davis had covered this song and therefore it was cool. "Miles Davis, by definition, cool," he'd said. Casey couldn't remember where -- a bar in Boston, their office in Dallas, somewhere in New York? The music had seemed louder, like Cyndi Lauper was sitting on top of the stacks of videos, singing in his ear. Time after time. One hundred thousand times Danny had smiled at him. One hundred thousand times Danny had looked pissed at him. One hundred thousand times Danny had said his name. Meaning accumulates, Dana said all those years ago. He could hear her in his head. He had heard Danny saying that the people around here liked him, that he would've been great on Conan, that he should've been higher than 92. Six messages on his answering machines or voicemail on Saturday night saying sorry.

Okay, he had thought. He must have said it out loud since the girls had turned to look at him. "Okay," he had repeated, appalled to hear his voice crack. He had a lump in his throat the size of a golf ball.

"I have to go," he had said to the girls. He had tried to hand them the list and his headshot. His voice sounded like Charlie's when he had been five and about to start on a crying jag. "I have to go. There's a seder and I have to get back to the office. Could you - could you give this to the man behind the counter?"

The girl who had been singing had taken the list and the headshot from his hand. "Okay," she had said but Casey had already turned and left. He had stood on the sidewalk and hailed a cab, biting his knuckle so he didn't actually start crying.

The first time Danny had made Casey laugh had been an hour before they met, in 1988. Outside the locker room after the game, he had watched the local TV reporter, his crew and the intern waiting, like Casey, to get in. Danny, chubby cheeked and impossibly skinny at 19, had walked around the reporter trying to convince him to interview the shortstop, and not the pitcher. He had kept saying, "The shortstop had an incredible game!"

Casey had wondered if Danny had refrained from using the players' names because the reporter wouldn't recognize them. An expensive hairdo with a nice voice, Casey had thought. Someday, when Casey was on TV, he would listen to interns, he had thought, even if they were smarter than him. He had nearly laughed out loud at Danny nearly dancing in circles to convince the hairdo. The reporter had waved him off, and then as they started to walk in, told Danny to wait outside. It hadn't been funny at all watching Danny's face fall as he sunk down outside the door.

The most recent time Danny had made Casey laugh had been five minutes ago. He flopped into the car seat, clutching his remaining bottle of the Manischewitz crap wine and his tin of chocolate macaroons.

"O! Macaroons, to you I croon," Danny intoned, holding up the tin. "These things are so precious, Casey, only available once a year - they're like water in the desert, I tell you." Casey had giggled at the macaroon/croon rhyme. He glanced over at Danny, now nearly passed out, still clinging to wine and macaroons. Danny suddenly looked up.

"Repair work, right? Does that mean you're gonna come up and have some great red wine with me?"

"Right. Except for the part where I have any more of that crap in your hands. I assume you still have some of that scotch Isaac gave you for Hanukkah?"

"Yeah. So repair work here means we both get really drunk and slap each other around and then we're fine?"

"Well, yeah, that works for me. Except you're already really drunk, so I will initially have an advantage in the slapping each other around part."

"Okay. Works for me." He grinned. Danny stared out the window at the city passing by. Casey thought he had spent half his life looking at Danny in profile. Tonight and for the rest of his life, he and Danny facing forward.

"Casey?"

"Danny."

"You could have a macaroon, if you wanted."

"I'd like one. I really would."

THE END

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