Early Morning becomes Electra
Author's note: Post-ep for 2.11: "The Cut Man Cometh."
Casey's words had made Dan hot and then cold.
"I'm Casey McCall alongside Dan Rydell, sending out the good vibe to his father, Jacob, who's sitting and watching his son on television right now, whether he says so or not."
Dan hadn't missed a beat. Hadn't mistimed, by one small fraction of a second, his next line in the farce that was Sports Night's coverage of the shortest fight in professional boxing. The voice in his head, though, hadn't missed its cue either.
Talking about me to your coworkers. Thinking so much of yourself that I have to drop everything to watch your show. Disrespecting your family by running your smart mouth. Embarrassing me by calling me a liar on TV. Having hair that's so gay the neighbours are asking your mother about it.
Something twisted in Dan's chest to think of how colossally Casey had misjudged the relationship between Dan and Jacob Rydell, if he thought mentioning him on the show would help. Because fatherhood was something that Casey thought about a lot.
It showed as Casey's hand curved protectively around Charlie's shoulder. It showed in every tousle of Charlie's hair. It showed in the expression on Casey's face as he looked at Charlie, which was sometimes so full of love and pride that Dan had to look away.
He had breezed into their office one year when Casey had been sitting with his pen poised over a Father's Day card; staring blankly into space with the look on his face that he wore when writer's block was totally kicking his ass. As Dan's footsteps had slowed, Casey had cracked a joke about how Hallmark could increase their profit-share by bringing out a range of cards for the controlling, mean-spirited, world's seventy millionth best father. Dan's laugh had been out of his throat before he could stop it, and Casey's eyebrows had shot up like Dan had told him something unexpected.
Casey had occasionally dropped little bits about Mr McCall into conversations over beers and Dan had nodded and smiled and sometimes frowned to indicate that Casey had had things rough. He'd felt like a fraud each time it happened. All he wanted to do was not talk about families, or childhoods, or fathers, and he would have laid cash money on that want causing the stiffness in his face that surely – surely – made him seem as weird and frozen as a statue.
Now, as he sat on the sofa in his office, while his coworkers span and fizzed outside with the adrenaline of filling eighty-eight minutes of unexpectedly free airtime, he thought that it was strange how long a single person in New York City could go without being touched. Without being deliberately touched by someone who liked them.
At moments like these he missed Sam with everything he had. Because Sam would have let Dan sling an arm across his shoulder; would have leaned in to his side until Dan could smell him. Dan could almost remember what Sam had smelt like, but as soon as he thought he had the scent in his nostrils it would trickle away like so much water through his fingers.
He knew what Casey smelt like. Had stood or sat close enough to Casey in countless locker rooms, dressing rooms, planes, cars and media centers to recognise the smell of Casey. Drunk or sober; freshly-showered or fresh off a long-haul flight; hot or cold. If any TV production company ever wanted to make a pilot for a weirdly inappropriate game show where people identified each other by smell, then Dan would be a shoo-in as one of the contestants.
"Danny?" The heat of the lights in the studio had sharpened the smell of the crap that Casey put in his hair. "We're going for beers. Are you coming with?"
"I'll follow you guys down." Dan attempted a smile.
"Danny?" The bounce had gone out of Casey's voice. "Everything ok?"
"Tired, I guess."
"Yeah, that show was a sight to see." Casey's gaze sharpened on Dan's face. "You sure that's all it is?"
Dan, poised on the edge of a lie, couldn't quite bring himself to say the words.
Casey's hand was warm on his shoulder and Dan realised that he couldn't trust his voice. He shook his head.
"Jesus, Danny." Casey's eyes were wide with concern. "What's wrong?"
Dan swallowed. "I wish you hadn't mentioned my Dad. On the show."
Casey frowned. "Why?"
"It's complicated, Case."
"I'm a pretty smart guy."
Not about this you're not.
Dan leaned back against the sofa. Into Casey's hand. "He doesn't like me dragging family stuff into the show."
Casey tilted his head to one side, considering this.
"He called already?"
"Nah, man. Look, just forget it. Let's go get a drink."
Casey didn't move. "He called you about the apology?"
Dan had noticed that Casey never used Sam's name, if he could help it. He had wondered what frozen, guilty expression he'd pulled the first time Casey had said it, that had made Casey determined never to call Sam by name again.
"He mentioned it."
"What did he say?"
"Just let it alone, Casey."
Casey's eyes were dark. "No, I don't think I will."
"Why? Why?" Casey's face was twisted. "Because you're the best man I've ever known, Danny. And this is a thing to you."
Casey slid his hand from Dan's shoulder to rub the back of Dan's neck. It was unexpectedly comforting.
"So, what did he say?"
Dan let out a sigh. "That I was using Sam to get off the hook at work. Like I'd used him to skate on things my whole life."
"That's bullshit." Casey's voice was fierce. "You know that's total bullshit, right?"
Dan's eyes dropped to his khakis. "It's complicated, Casey."
Casey's fingers kneaded Danny's neck muscles and it almost hurt. "What makes it complicated?"
He couldn't think of a lie, so Danny told the truth. "I'm just not ready to believe that my Dad is an asshole who never liked me very much."
When Dan looked up, the expression on Casey's face was the same one that he wore when he looked at Charlie. And Dan had to look away.