A/N: I'm back writing, I suppose. (Did not expect this, but muses are funny that way, no?) Not a story for Goren/Eames (I fear that ship has sailed). Thanks to my BFF for the Studio 60 DVD set – good lord, I miss this show! Also dedicated to college buddy RP, who provided inspiration when he "pulled a Danny" for real back in '03. Here's hoping I'm not too rusty – it was quite the writing exercise to try to get the rhythm of Sorkin-esque dialogue!
Standard disclaimers apply. (Read: I am poor.) Thoughts to share? Click that little review button below.
He's going to drive her crazy.
Whether he does it in one fell swoop or causes the mania to descend slowly over time has yet to be determined. But if their lunches together are any indication, it's inevitable - especially considering they eat lunch together every day now.
It's a comfortable routine they've settled into since her return from maternity leave and his return from summer hiatus; every day they synchronize their Blackberries and steal thirty minutes or so together to eat and to catch up. Sometimes that break comes at 11:00 in the morning and sometimes it comes at 4:00 in the afternoon, but the timing isn't important, just the being together. It's a small chunk of domesticity inserted (usually by force) into their otherwise hectic workweeks.
Having lunch together also affords him ample opportunity to push Jordan's buttons – a fact that hasn't been disguised from her in any way and that she doesn't really mind. (Too much anyway.) After all, banter helped build their relationship and it's their go-to form of communication on most occasions, so why stop now that they're engaged? Besides, all of the quips, jibes, and witticisms only serve to emphasize their affection for one another – why take the time and bother to argue with someone you don't find fascinating and intelligent?
It doesn't matter what the subject either; it could be their daughter Becky's latest milestones:
"I swear she's a genius, Jordan – she got that rolling over thing on, like, the second try!"
"Well, it's good to know that if we can't get her into Yale or Northwestern, she'll at least get into Barnum and Bailey Clown College with that kind of talent."
It could be about work:
"I'm telling you, Danny - you need to get back in there with the college kids. Some kind of stunt casting, a guest host that will really catch their attention."
"Sure. No problem, Jordan. I'll see if Betty White's available – that will get them talking!"
"Would you take me seriously please? I'm speaking as a show runner right now, not your fiancée."
"I was serious – Betty White would make people tune in!"
On this Tuesday afternoon, though, the banter begins when she realizes that her fiancé is on the phone attempting to sabotage their relationship.
She's already had a rough morning that has stretched into the 2:00 hour, one full of phone calls, including (once again) an argument that has become a standoff with Hallie Gallaway about a new reality show pitch. She also accidentally side-swiped a cement column in the parking garage on her way into the office this morning because she was in the middle of the aforementioned Hallie argument and has made her assistant sneak the car off for repairs in the hope of Danny never becoming the wiser. (He still won't let her drive Becky when at all possible and on mornings like the one she's just had, she ruefully understands why.)
It's Matt he's speaking with – as usual – and Danny paces in front of her desk, having only just walked in, set a bag of takeout in front of a ravenous Jordan, and given her a quick kiss prior to the interruption.
He'd taken a furtive glance at the display, then at her, and said sheepishly: "It's, uh, Matt." A pause while he ran a distracted hand through his already disheveled hair. "He's working on a new sketch for Harriet where Holly Hunter gets cast in A Midsummer Night's Dream and he's three Red Bulls in…"
Their rule is no distractions during lunch – not even (and especially!) a Matt-caliber distraction - but he looked fully prepared to use the loophole of "I just walked in so lunch technically hasn't started yet" if she didn't acquiesce, so she let it go. This time.
(Later, she wishes she'd stuck to her guns and made him ignore it.)
"Go ahead – but I'm starving and I'm starting without you!" was her reply.
He grinned, leaned in to kiss her again in apology, and answered the ring, his mind instantly leaving her office and crossing the street back to Studio 60. "Hey, what's up?"
And as the phone conversation has progressed, she's worked her way through a chicken Caesar salad (dressing on the side) while hungrily eyeing his club sandwich and wondering if he'll notice a few bites gone. (Everyone told her she'd lose the pregnancy pounds quickly if she breast-fed but failed to mention that she'd also be twice as hungry as when she was still carrying the baby.)
Between bites, however, she's become more and more alarmed by the side of the conversation that's materializing in her office. No longer is it the Harriet sketch being discussed, but rather scheduling for the next couple of weeks.
"Well, tell the writing staff they're going to be writing over Labor Day weekend, then," Danny is saying. He's in his normal working uniform of black polo shirt with charcoal slacks and his glasses keep slipping down from the top of his head as he paces. Finally, without breaking stride, he reaches up one last time to affix them more firmly and they stay.
"No, don't let them worry about that right now – we premiere in three days," he continues. An exasperated pause is then followed by, "Matt! I'm telling you – this is not a crisis. That's why they invented Labor Day! Never mind what they should have been doing over hiatus."
He moves to sit in the chair facing Jordan's desk – progress in the direction of ending the call, it would seem – then pops back up with spring-like reflexes and resumes pacing. "No, I don't recommend telling Lucy that she the whole point of taking Tom home to meet her family was to get some material out of it. She's a smart girl; I'm sure she'll figure that out on her own and you shouldn't force it."
The glasses come off his head now and he begins to chew absently on one earpiece. Jordan catches his eye and extends his wrapped sandwich to him helpfully only to be waved off with a grateful yet dismissive shake of the head.
"Matt, I'm going to hang up the phone now and have lunch," Danny says. He pauses for the response on the other end. "No, okay, fine. Look, tell them that you and I will come in over Labor Day and we'll get this all taken care of. End of discussion."
And there it is. Though Jordan normally finds him adorable when he's oblivious, today she feels compelled to strangle him for the absentminded way in which he's thrown away a very important date on their calendar. (It's posted on the man's Blackberry, his assistant's calendar, every message board on the set, and even written in red ink on the desk calendar that, admittedly, he can't see because it's buried beneath a stack of paperwork and still he's forgotten. Perhaps if she'd written it on a scrap of paper and slipped it under his watchband he'd have better recall.)
Surprise and frustration cause her to choke audibly on her last crouton and he turns.
Are you okay? he mouths in her direction, concerned. His left hand returns the glasses to the top of his head.
She recovers quickly and, with a vehement shake of the head, she mouths back: NO.
His brows knit in confusion. To Matt, he begins to narrate what passes between them and she feels like she's suddenly been transported into the middle of a Studio 60 sketch: "Hang on a sec, Jordan's making a weird face at me and I think she just… choked on a crouton…"
"Daniel Tripp, we are busy on Labor Day," she hisses, crouton safely swallowed. She plants her hands firmly before her on the desk and leans forward in her best network president stance so as to appear as imposing as possible. (Internally, she begs him not to laugh at her for it.)
"Jordan says we're busy on Labor Day," he repeats absently into the phone in continued narration and Jordan's eyes to roll skyward in exasperation. (The motion is now a reflex where Matt and Danny are concerned, she realizes. It's as though she gave birth to Becky and adopted two teenage boys in one fell swoop. Truth be told, Becky is turning out to be the easy one to raise.)
"Matt and Harriet are busy too," she hisses again pointedly.
"…and you guys are busy too," he repeats while simultaneously giving Jordan his best What are you talking about? expression.
Damn you for being the most exasperating and wonderful man I've ever met, she thinks wryly. You don't even have to try to drive me crazy; it just happens.
On one hand, she can't believe he's forgotten and yet, when she considers the matter further and remembers what he's like in his working mode, it doesn't seem all that far-fetched. In the working world – which, unfortunately, is where they now both live post-hiatus and post-leave - Matt's brilliant, erratic, co-dependency comes first, followed closely by the needs of the show, with the needs of NBS and the president of NBS coming in a distant third.
(Lord only knows where that puts fiancée on the list.)
Today, however, Jordan refuses to come in third - or worse. Their own self-imposed lunchtime rules state that there are to be no outside calls and the one time she's been lax, this has occurred.
"Hang on," Danny finally tells Matt. To Jordan, he asks, "What are we doing on Labor Day weekend?"
With more than a hint of irony in her voice, she reminds him, "We're going to a wedding."
He speaks into the phone again, his eyes never leaving Jordan's while he visibly waits for her to elaborate for him: "Uh, Jordan says we're going to a wedding." His face still quizzical, she can tell he's now narrating both sides of the conversation when he repeats Matt's words to her, "Whose wedding?"
It's the most exasperating game of "Telephone" she's ever played.
"Seriously?" she asks him in a tone that could make the Sahara look waterlogged. (It's with more than a little surprise that she realizes she's never loved anyone as much as she loves the absolutely infuriating man who stands before her in earnest oblivion. At this moment, however, she feels absolutely no desire to tell him this.)
He begins to ask "Wha-?" with a defensive shoulder shrug but she cuts him off.
"It's our wedding, Danny!"
His eyebrows shoot skyward in realization, his glasses crash land onto the bridge of his nose, and his entire face lightens. "Oh!"
Jordan tilts her head to the right, confrontational: "Oh is right. You think maybe you and Matt can try not to ruin what's going to be kind of an important weekend for us?"
"Okay," he's frozen in place, eyes locked on hers, and only his lips move. The stance lasts for a few more seconds before he's a flurry of motion again, reviving his conversation with Matt: "Um, hey, Labor Day isn't going to work because Jordan and I are getting married and you and Harry are in the wedding." A pause, then a disbelieving, "What do you mean 'I knew that'? If you knew that, why did you just ask me whose wedding? I look like an idiot here."
Hang up the phone, Jordan mouths, a smile beginning to creep across her features.
Danny's eyes haven't left Jordan's face and he smiles back. "Matt, I really have to go and have lunch with my fiancée right now 'cause I'm in big trouble…."
Huge, she mouths.
He grins, adds "Bye," and ends the call. Seconds later, he leans across her desk, dark eyes amused and soft. "Is this a good time to mention how much I love you?"
She doesn't give in that easily. "You can – but it doesn't get you out of trouble."
"Give you half my sandwich?"
"Nice try – but in the grand scheme of things, half a sandwich does not make up for forgetting our wedding."
"It's a club sandwich – your favorite!"
"It's the rest of our lives – not the same thing."
He throws his hands up in surrender and comes around to her side of the desk to pull her out of her chair and into an embrace.
"I'm sorry," he tells her softly, arms wrapped around her waist. His face grows thoughtful: "Is there any way you'll let me blame this all on Matt?"
She pretends to consider the idea, and then shakes her head. "Nope. It's all on you, buddy."
"Really?" he presses the issue and holds her a little tighter while something in his tone makes her instantly suspicious. "There's no way you'd just forgive me and forget the whole thing?"
"Not so much."
"Not even if I mention that the mechanic left a message with your assistant that says your car will be fixed by 4:00 today?"
"Must have been a wrong number."
"Kevin knows better than to tell you things that are really of no consequence."
"I swear that column wasn't there yesterday."
"So it's the column's fault? It jumped out and bit your car?"
"Fine. Give me half of your sandwich, show up on time to the ceremony on Labor Day, and let's call the whole thing even."
"What? I'm bargaining here. That's the deal – take it or leave it."
"I'm bargaining too. This deal doesn't go through until you agree to let me continue to be the one to bring Becky to daycare in the mornings. You know, until she's about sixteen."
"Why does she still need daycare at sixteen?"
"If you drive her anywhere, she might not make it to sixteen."
"You're not going to let this go?"
"I already gave up half of my sandwich in the deal."
"Fine. I'll agree to your terms for now – but if you forget about the wedding again…"
"I didn't forget about the wedding."
"Um, were we in the same room three minutes ago when you…"
She trails off when realization overcomes her. "…set me up." She strikes his chest, but he's holding on too tightly for the blow to register. "You set me up, you jerk!"
"Well how else was I going to get the truth about your car and look out for the best interests of our daughter?"
"I hate you sometimes."
"No you don't."
"You're going to drive me crazy, you know that?"
"Yep. Hopefully for the rest of our lives."