Title: This Is Only a Test
Summary: What the hell kind of toothpaste did Dana use? He should know, and he knew beyond a doubt that this was the point of the entire exercise.
Disclaimer: Casey McCall and the rest of the Sports Night crew belonged to Aaron Sorkin and ABC freakin' ages ago. I'm just playing with someone else's toys, but I'll put them back when I'm done.
Author's Note: Response to a friend's prompt: Casey/Dana, toothpaste. Keep in mind that I have not written Sports Night in YEARS, so I hope this works well enough! Enjoy!
"I have a problem," Casey McCall murmured into his cell phone.
"Casey, it wouldn't be a day unless you had a problem," Dan Rydell answered, giving a slight roll of his eyes.
"How, exactly, does one go about buying toothpaste?"
Dan pulled his phone away from his ear and frowned down at the receiver. He had to have heard wrong. No way Casey had made it through life thus far without ever having to buy toothpaste. "Uh, you go to the toothpaste aisle and pick up whatever box strikes your fancy."
Casey heaved a sigh into the phone. "I know that."
"Then I think I misunderstood the question."
"Dana asked me to pick up some toothpaste for her."
"She ran out?"
"She ran out," Casey confirmed.
Dan let out a breath through his nose, still not understanding what the big deal was. "And the problem is …?" Casey didn't respond, and the answer instantly dawned on Dan. "The problem is you don't know what kind of toothpaste she uses."
"I don't know what kind she uses."
Casey ran his hand over his head as he stared helplessly at the multitude of boxes on the shelves. Toothpaste, in every flavor and formulation imaginable. Gel, paste, whitening, tartar control, classic mint, cinnamon, baking soda, sensitive teeth … and he was drawing a complete blank. What the hell kind of toothpaste did Dana use? He should know, and he knew beyond a doubt that this was the point of the entire exercise. "I am going to fail this test," he muttered.
"Test?" asked a voice in his ear.
Casey jumped, somewhat startled. He'd almost forgotten he'd called Dan in a minor panic. "Yeah, test. This is some kind of relationship test."
"Do you really think Dana would give you a relationship test?" As soon as the question was out of his mouth, Dan paused to think about whom they were discussing. This was Dana Whitaker, after all. She of the six-month dating plan would most definitely not be above giving Casey a little relationship test, although she probably would make it more about what kind of flowers she liked rather than her favored brand of toothpaste.
"This is Dana," Casey answered, echoing Dan's thoughts. "Of course she's giving me a test."
"Or," Dan argued, deciding to play devil's advocate, "maybe she's just out of toothpaste. Were you heading out anyway?"
Casey cringed and wondered if he hadn't jumped the gun a little. He had been on his way out anyway, to pick up the snacks for their lazy movie afternoon. Dana could have just asked him to pick up the toothpaste to save her a trip to the supermarket. Oh, the hell with it, he thought, grabbing a box of Aquafresh of the shelf.
Dana Whitaker's gaze settled on the clock on her cable box and she frowned. What on earth was keeping Casey? She'd sent him to the grocery almost an hour ago for some snacks and a box of toothpaste. Nobody besides Casey could make a simple trip to buy a bag of chips and some toothpaste into an hour-long affair.
She gave a quiet sigh as she set two bottles of water--one for her and one for Casey--down on the end table. The plan for the lazy Sunday afternoon ahead of them was to spend it on the couch, watching movies they'd seen before. It was Dana's hope that their attention wouldn't be on the movies.
She was trying incredibly hard not to screw this up. Where Casey was concerned, she'd already screwed up plenty. The dating plan had been a complete disaster, one of her dumb little ideas that sounded good at the time but didn't really stand up to experience or even careful thought. Luckily, after the initial disappointment and heartache was over, Casey had been willing to give her a second chance.
The pair had been an official couple for just seven months, but they had been the happiest seven months of Dana's life. She never really realized just how much she loved him--and had always loved him--until their first official date. That was when she realized that she was head over heels for him. She was trying not to listen for the sound of the other shoe dropping, though. That was the way her life worked; once she got to a certain level of happiness, everything usually came crashing down around her.
When the phone rang, she snatched the handset off its base on her end table. "Casey?"
"No," said a female voice on the other end of the line. Dana smiled; it was Natalie Hurley, her senior associate producer and best friend. "Why would … oh, it's date night! I'm sorry! I'll hang up now--"
"No, Natalie, it's okay," Dana laughed. "It is date night, but Casey's out getting snacks."
"You sent Casey out for snacks?" Natalie asked, incredulous. "I hope you're prepared for him to come home with like, salt and vinegar chips or barbecue pretzels or some other ridiculous thing that no one else would eat but him."
"I gave him a list," Dana protested.
"Was your list specific?"
"What'd it say?"
Natalie clucked her tongue in disapproval. "He's bringing back blue corn chips and mango salsa. You weren't specific."
Dana rolled her eyes, plopping down on the sofa. "He's a big boy, Natalie. I think I can trust him to pick up the correct chips and salsa."
"You say that now," Natalie said, her voice almost a singsong. "Did you ask him to pick up anything else?"
Natalie actually gasped out loud. "You asked him to pick up toothpaste?"
"Yeah," Dana answered, drawing the word out with an extra unsure syllable. "Should I not have?"
"No, you shouldn't have. I thought we decided you weren't going to give Casey stupid little relationship tests."
"I didn't give him a test," Dana argued. "I just asked him to pick up toothpaste."
"No. You gave him a relationship test."
"I don't understand."
Natalie gave a quiet groan, as if she couldn't believe that Dana could be so clueless. "He's going to be standing there, looking at box after box of toothpaste and wondering which brand you use."
Oh, crap! Dana thought, bringing her hand to her forehead. But wait a second. Casey had stayed the night more than a few times in the past few months. He knew what kind of toothpaste she used. Didn't he?
But even if he didn't, it didn't really matter. Unless whatever he brought back tasted horrible, she'd use it. "It's just toothpaste," she said to Natalie, although even she could hear the uncertainty in her tone.
"It's not, Dana. It's a test. However inadvertently, you gave him a test."
"Do you think he thinks it's a test?"
"It's Casey and it's you. Of course he thinks it's a test."
Dana ran her fingers through her hair and whimpered softly. "I have to call him. Tell him that it's not a test and whatever toothpaste he chooses is--"
"No!" Natalie cried. "You cannot call him."
"But I don't want him to think that--"
"But what if that thought hasn't occurred to him yet?"
As Dana frowned, she idly wished Natalie were there in person and not just on the phone so she could strangle her. "You're the one who said he would think it was a test."
"Well, he would. But there is the off chance that he hasn't yet."
Dana sighed heavily. "Natalie, you certainly have a way of making things needlessly complicated."
Casey took a silent moment to settle his nerves and readjust the grocery bag in his arms before letting himself into Dana's apartment. He could hardly believe he'd spent over an hour in the store buying all of six things. In the time he'd been gone, Dana had set the living room up for movie night. Well, movie afternoon, and hopefully they'd be paying little attention to the movies. A bottle of water sat on each end table and she'd taken the afghan off the back of the sofa and gathered it into a ball on the middle cushion, the better for snuggling.
The television was on and tuned to CSC, most likely out of habit more than any conscious decision. "Hey, Dana," he called, dropping his keys on the small credenza to the side of the door.
"In here," she called back from the kitchen.
Casey followed the sound of her voice and set the grocery bag down on the counter. "I know you only asked for tortilla chips and salsa, but I got French onion dip and ruffled chips, too."
Dana raised a single eyebrow at him. "We'll both have to eat the French onion dip. Like garlic bread, you know?"
"I didn't even think of that," Casey said with a sheepish frown.
Dana smiled, gently running a finger down his cheek. "It's fine. What else did you get?"
She stepped forward in an attempt to peek into the bag, but Casey stuck his hands inside before she could get much of a view. "Chips, salsa, and the six-pack you asked for," he said, pulling each item from the grocery sack. He took a deep breath and grasped the final item. "And your toothpaste."
As he held the box of Aquafresh out to her, he watched her face carefully for her reaction. Had he passed the test? He thought he saw a flicker of a smile curl onto her lips as she snatched the box from his hand. "Thank you," she said, her voice noncommittal.
She disappeared into the bathroom to put away the toothpaste. Without another word about it, she came back into the kitchen and began pulling out bowls for the snacks. That was it? She wasn't going to tell him if he guessed right? God, the suspense was going to kill him!
"So, um," he said uncertainly, "did I get it right?"
"Get what right?" she asked without looking up from what she was doing.
She shrugged, again noncommittal. "Sure."
"What do you want me to say, Casey?" she asked, frowning. "You picked up toothpaste."
Uh oh. Maybe he had the situation wrong. Maybe she had just wanted to save herself a trip to the store. But now that he'd brought it up, he had to continue the line of questioning. "It was a test, right?" he said uncertainly.
Dana just shook her head, arranging the bowls of chips and dip on a serving tray before brushing past him to bring the snacks to the living room. "It was toothpaste."
Oh, crap, he'd just screwed up. The fact that he thought she would give him a covert relationship test had offended her, and he didn't blame her. He'd be offended, too, if the situation were reversed.
He followed her into the living room, preparing to grovel. "Dana, I'm sorry."
"It's fine," she said, giving him a small smile. "Given my history, I can see how you'd think I was giving you a test."
"But you weren't."
"I wasn't. I just didn't want to have to go out later." She set the tray on the coffee table, sighed heavily, and sank down on the sofa, moving the blanket to the end cushion. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I've been trying very hard not to do stupid little things like that. We deserve a real chance, Casey, and I don't want to screw it up like that."
As a matter of fact, Casey had noticed that the past seven months had been relatively free of needless drama from Dana. Damn it, he should have thought of that before automatically assuming the worst. "I have noticed," he assured her. "I'm sorry I didn't give you enough credit."
"Like I said, it's fine." She smiled as she held her hand out to him. He smiled back and grasped her hand, and she pulled him down on the sofa next to her. As soon as he was settled, he wrapped his arm around Dana's shoulders and she snuggled into him.
After sitting in that position for a long moment, Dana snatched the remote control from the coffee table and turned on the DVD player. Then she made herself comfortable again, snuggling against Casey and resting her head on his shoulder. "Just curious," Casey quietly spoke up a moment later. Dana smiled; she could feel him playing with a lock of her hair. "If it had been a test …"
She looked up at him, stared into his eyes, and grinned. "You would have passed with flying colors."