Title: The Rest of the Story
Summary: What if Dan and Natalie had actually met pre-show? Kind of an AU look at things that could have happened even we didn't see them on screen.

there's some things we don't talk about
rather do without
and just hold the smile
falling in and out of love
ashamed and proud of
together all the while

never say never; the fray

There's this pretty brunette sitting at the bar and he can't help but smile because she keeps looking his way. He makes his way to the bar, introduces himself, and offers to buy her a drink. She accepts and the rest, as they say, is history.

He's got her pinned up against the wall in his apartment kissing her like his life depends on it, and she returning the favor. She fumbles with the buttons on his shirt as he lifts her up and carries her to his bedroom.

The next morning he wakes up and she's gone, just like that. He wonders if he dreamt it all.

He rushes to work and spends half the day in his head when he's supposed to be helping Casey with the first show. Casey's getting frustrated with him when Dana sticks her head in to introduce her newest hire, and -.

Then there's Natalie stepping into his office and it's all Dan can do not to drop his jaw. There she is, his dream girl - but this is not a dream. She turns bright red when she sees him and Dana and Casey shrug it off as nerves.

Later he corners her and they agree not to speak of it again. After all, she says, "It was just a fling, anyway."

He knows they're not supposed to be doing this. He's supposed to be somewhere else and she's supposed to be someone else, but here they are anyway, spending another night watching sports and getting drunk.

In the morning he'll pretend to be asleep when she gathers her clothes and tries to slip out silently. When they pass each other at the office, they'll joke and act like nothing's going on.

When Jeremy gets the job their after show routine stops. There's no discussion, no true break-up since they weren't really together. But it hurts all the same. He understands, though. It was just a fling, anyway.

Someone needs to explain that to the ache in his chest.

It's four years later.

He hears the phone ringing but he's almost dead asleep and it doesn't register until he's answering and hears crying on the other end of the line.

He can't understand half of what she says but the words, "Jeremy," and "job offer," and "broke up," somehow make it through. He tells her he's on his way.

Just like that he's at her door with take-out, some stupid movie, and alcohol. The words 'same old scene, different setting' run through his head but quickly leave as she collapses into his arms, breaking down again.

The next morning he leaves the blankets he used folded up on the couch and the coffee maker on. All other evidence is gone.

He knows she won't remember him carrying her to bed after she passed out.

Two years after that the show's canceled for good this time, and Casey gets offered the job at ESPN. Dana follows him, and the rest of the crew disperses to different shows and networks.

Natalie gets a job at SNL after all, and Dan takes one on a new sports show starting up in LA.

The night before he leaves they both wind up at Anthony's, and a couple drinks turns into a couple more and before long they're falling into bed at her apartment.

Three A.M. rolls around and she's sighing, her head lying on his shoulder.

"What is it?" he asks, quietly.

"You know we're messed up, right?"

"Maybe a little bit, yeah."

"Well how else do you explain it, this dance of ours? If that's even what it is."

"I don't know, Nat, it's just… it is what it is, I guess."

"Well, that's a shitty answer."

"Well, you caught me off guard."

"Hell, Dan, I love you. You're leaving. This is all off guard. This whole game of ours has always been off guard."

"I know, Natalie."

She sighs again and reaches her arm across him, pulling him tighter to her.

"I love you too, you know."

"Yeah," she says softly, "I know."

Another six months go by and Dan's sitting at the desk in his corner office absentmindedly staring out the window. He's supposed to be working on material for the next show but he can't focus. A tiny brunette chatted him up at the restaurant last night; he kept flashing back to another tiny brunette 3,000 miles away.

He's finally gotten used to LA. He's heading up his own show. He's supposed to be happy.

A year goes by and Dan finds himself walking up to this pretty brunette at a bar. Déjà vu sets in as he leans down to whisper in her ear.

"Can I have this dance?"

She swivels around and all he can do is grin at the shock in her eyes. Slowly she smiles and reaches out to take his hand.

A few songs play before she finally asks, "So what brings you to this part of town?"

"Oh, you know, I was in the area and remembered this ex of mine used to like this bar. I figured maybe I'd show up and she'd be so happy to see me that I might get some action – OW! That was my foot."

"I know. That's what I was aiming for jackass."

"I missed you, too," he replies, smirking.

"So what really brings you to The Big Apple?"

"Well, I had a meeting this morning, and I kind of got a job offer." He pauses, catching her eyes before adding, "One that would require moving back here."

A grin starts to spread on Natalie's face. "You're not messing with me, Rydell? Cause that'd just be too cruel, even for you."

"Nope, I'm totally 100% serious."

"Did you take it?"

Leaning down, Dan captures her lips with his. He pulls back, smiling. "Does that answer your question?"

Natalie grins and kisses him again.

The rest, as they say, is history.