Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 4:43 AM
Lisa had a boundless ability to talk about nothing when she was drunk. Admittedly, Lisa could talk about nothing without the assistance of inebriation, so Dana found it difficult to blame the alcohol. But she was drunk too and that might have been the illuminating factor in this instance. Lisa's ingenuousness shone through the fog of Dana's intoxication like flashing neon. In Dana's field of vision it was a beacon, nothing else to be seen. Not for the first time that night, she felt the need to get out.
The dinner was winding down. Dan was getting obnoxious, Natalie was giggly and Owen, who had the misfortune to be Dana's date for the night, laughed at everything they said. It would never work out. She knew that from the moment he shook Casey's hand vigorously and claimed to love "sports." Doomed.
Casey didn't like her date. She doubted that any of them liked her date but Dan was amiable and Natalie was drunk and Lisa just pretended he wasn't there, so it was Casey's visible dislike that roused her. For someone who complained often about Dan's antagonism toward his wife he had no qualms about directing the same level of discourtesy to Dana's date. Turnabout was fair play, and Casey was an angry man, but none of it was her fault. Her ire was just.
The seventh person at the table was Marie, whom Natalie had brought along at Dan's request. Marie sipped on an orange juice and smiled politely at Dan's jokes. That wasn't going to work either, but Dan had a unique ability to date someone long enough to bed them an appropriate amount of times. Dana rarely managed sex out of a single date, and when it came down to it, she really wanted sex.
She wanted sex tonight of all nights, because the Olympics were over, and change was in the air and she felt uncertain and insecure. And there was something about sexual intimacy that made her feel reassured, made her feel that some things would always be the same.
Lisa was in the middle of telling a story about her latest under-talented client. She managed the careers of a number of low-level Dallas celebrities. From time to time she tried to convince Dana that she needed a manager. From time to time Dana would tell Lisa to get the hell out of her space.
Dana stood up and professed a desire for a cigarette.
"Me too," Dan said, promptly following her lead.
"You don't smoke," Casey said.
"Sure I do."
"I've never seen you smoke."
"Then how do you know I don't?"
They stood on the balcony of Casey and Lisa's apartment, marvelling at the view which, Lisa claimed, was the envy of all her clients. Dana took out a cigarette and offered the packet to Dan.
"No, thanks," he said.
She lit her cigarette and grinned at him. Dan Rydell: master of the subtle exit. "So, Dan, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
He shrugged. "Lisa's success stories. They drive a man to cigarettes and alcohol. And I thought you were giving those up."
"I'll give up when they get a divorce," she said.
Dan raised eyebrows. "Dana?"
"Oh, don't judge me, Dan. She might be my friend but she's easier to like when she isn't married to someone I care about." She blew smoke away from Dan's face. "She never used to be so manipulative."
"Yeah." Dan leaned an elbow on the balcony and contemplated the dinner party as seen through the glass doors. It was a cool night and the door was closed.
Dana followed his gaze and saw Owen engrossed in conversation with Natalie. Natalie's hand gestures were large and he seemed fascinated by her movements. She considered the possibility that Owen preferred Natalie - Natalie, who joined in the dinner party conversation with enthusiasm and who was not a jaded thirty-year-old with a disdain for domesticity. It wouldn't be the first time she lost a man to Natalie.
She edged back into the corner of the balcony, so that she was obscured from their line of sight by the curtain.
Dan followed, giving her a puzzled look.
"They'll know we're talking about them," she said.
"We look guilty."
"I feel guilty - don't I look guilty?"
He gave her a once over. "You look hot."
"You do. That whole long skirt thing really works for you."
She ignored the compliment. She liked the skirt, thought she looked good in it, but Casey was going to be angry with them and it was Dan, after all.
"We have to get used to this," she said.
"Get used to what?"
She indicated inside. "Them."
Dan was silent for a moment, and then he nodded, slowly. "Yeah."
"We have to get used to them. They have a child. They're a family."
"Yeah," he said, still nodding. "Charlie's a great kid."
Charlie was adorable, but it was the pregnancy that sealed Casey's fate. At that point they knew that Lisa was more than a passing interest for Casey. At that point Casey was doomed and Dana would be smoking for years to come.
But Charlie was born and he was cute and loveable and they were in awe of Casey-the-father, a side to Casey that surprised them, and she couldn't help wondering if that was the point to it all: Casey and Lisa would destroy each other but their children would be beautiful things that everyone would adore.
She used to be idealistic. She used to think that people came together because the sum of their union was greater than the sum of their individual parts. She used to believe in the Tooth Fairy too.
"Owen seems like a nice guy," Dan said.
"You think so?"
"No, I don't, but it seemed like something I should say." Dan grinned and she marvelled at the way Dan could smile and be forgiven for his lack of diplomacy. "Jesus Dana, this Owen's more boring than the last guy - are you going for a record?"
She shrugged. "He's sweet."
"He spent half an hour telling me about how he broke his wrist playing racquetball with his boss."
"You're a sports-caster - it's a sports story."
"It's a very boring sports story."
"He was looking for common ground. "
"Dana..." Dan took her by both hands and gave each a slight squeeze. She felt a rush from nowhere, the first indication that the night was going to get interesting. "Dana, you have lousy taste in men."
She looked away. Dan was wrong: she had great taste in men. It just wasn't enough. "I'm not going to marry him, Dan. God - lighten up. It's just a date."
"I think you can do can do better." He grinned slyly. "Now ditch the loser and come home with me."
She threw her head back and laughed. It wasn't the first time Dan had drunkenly propositioned her. "Dan, you are not my idea of doing better."
He moved his hands onto her hips and pulled her against him. She leant back slightly so that only their lower bodies were touching. She didn't want to push him away but at the same time she wanted a space between them, however small.
It didn't help. She could feel his groin against her and she was made distinctly aware that the flirtation was more than playful. Dan wanted her. And she wanted to be wanted which was probably why she let him hang on to her long enough for the glass door to slide open and for Casey to appear on the balcony, catching them in a clinch that was no doubt open to all interpretations.
She pulled away quickly and realised in the act of doing so that she's made matters worse. They looked like guilty teenagers caught by their parents. She achieved a small degree of decorum by refraining from straightening her skirt.
"Lisa wants to know if you'd like coffee," Casey said.
Dan turned around. "Yeah, we were... " He gestured toward the door. "We were just about to go inside." He thrust his hands in his pockets and walked casually inside, somehow managing to avoid catching Casey's glare.
Dana was indignant. She wanted solidarity, a united front of the righteous, and Dan had slunk past Casey with his tail between his legs.
Casey waited for her by the door, confident in his role as the betrayed. She stepped towards him with her arms folded, a defensive gesture in preparation for the battle.
"Well," he repeated. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything."
"Actually, yes. Dan and I were just in the middle of flirting outrageously with each other."
They were eye to eye, but Casey had the advantage of being able to look down his nose at her. "Well, don't let me stop you, Dana. You want to make an ass out of yourself in front of your date, you go right ahead.
"My date? You mean that guy over there enthralled by whatever it is Natalie's babbling?"
"Is that your excuse?"
"Do I need one?"
He didn't answer. She shook herself, shook Dan and Casey and the whole damn lot of them away. "Trust me, Casey, the only one who gives a damn about what Dan and I have been doing out here is you."
The thing with Casey, was that it was a "thing" and in the years that she'd known him she'd not come up with a more apt definition. They had this "thing" and that was why they argued at parties and that was why Lisa wasn't her friend anymore and that was why she couldn't give up smoking.
What she found interesting, was that there was a "thing" between Dan and Casey which produced different yet surprisingly similar results.
She wondered, what on Earth made them think this night would go well.
"I can't tell what bothers you more," she said. "That Dan was with me, or that I was with Dan. And you know, neither can you."
She pushed past him, hearing him sigh loudly as she left him behind. She didn't turn around.
Owen smiled as she took her seat next to him and made a glib comment about the outside temperature. She 'hmmed' as a response and caught Lisa giving her a frosty look. Cold outside, colder inside.
Owen got up to help Lisa with coffee and Natalie shifted into his seat. "Did you and Dan make out on the balcony?"
She had a glass of wine half way to her lips and she paused with the glass in mid-air. She felt unusually hostile, angry that Natalie had equated her with Dan and his propensity for indiscretion.
"Stop making eyes at my date," she said. She stood up suddenly, pushed her chair awkwardly against the table and mumbled an 'excuse me' before marching into the bathroom.
Lisa had a dark maroon tile in the bathroom. Pastels were out as were floral patterns and marine motifs and Lisa would know because she had the best designers in Dallas as clients. Dana demanded nothing more from her bathroom than hygiene and hot water. She was prone to fits of indecision which sometimes resulted in the upheaval of her living room furniture - moving the book shelf to the far wall, changing the rug, rearranging the books on the coffee table - but the bathroom was purely functional.
She didn't really need to use the bathroom so she turned the water on and turned it off again. She checked her hair in the mirror and tucked a strand behind her ear.
Someone knocked on the door. "Dana?"
She couldn't really snipe at Natalie and expect her to take it at face value and she admitted to herself that she was relieved that Natalie could be depended on like that.
She opened the door. "Natalie, I'm sorry. I think..." She brushed the back of her hand against her forehead. It felt warm. "I think I've had too much to drink."
Natalie stepped inside and closed the door behind her. "Right there with you, babe."
"I wasn't making out with Dan on the balcony."
"I didn't think you were." She smiled a drunken smile. "But Casey..."
Dana rolled her eyes. "Tell me about it."
"He gave you 'what for'?"
"'What for and more."
"I wasn't making eyes at your date."
Dana laughed and thanked god for Natalie. She let her hand slide down Natalie's arm. "It's okay, honey, you can't help it. Guys fall over themselves around you."
"That's just the alcohol talking."
Dana caught her reflection in the bathroom mirror. There was something about catching herself off guard like that, like seeing herself through someone else's eyes. She was suddenly reminded of something that had bothered her earlier. Something that was bothering her all night but she had managed to bury under wine and cocktails.
"Isaac's been offered New York," she said.
Natalie blinked. "Isaac's leaving us?"
"No. Natalie..." She felt suddenly sober. "Isaac's been offered a show on CSC. We've been offered a show on CSC."
Natalie leaned her head to one side. "You and Dan and Casey?"
"All of us."
"Yes - you too. They want the show."
Natalie's eyes moved around the room without taking any of it in. "Wow," she said eventually. She looked up at Dana again. "He'll take it, right?"
"I think so."
"And you'll go?"
"Yes." And for the first time she knew it to be true. "What about you?"
They laughed, and then Dana was serious again. "I haven't told anyone else yet."
"Well Lisa will be pleased. She 'looooves' New York."
Dana grabbed Natalie's hand. "Don't tell anyone yet."
Natalie blinked again. "Why not?"
"I don't know," She looked at herself in the mirror again. What was she waiting for? "Just not tonight, okay?"
Dana nodded towards the door. "We should go back."
No one seemed to notice they had been missing. Dan was laughing with Marie, Casey and Lisa could be heard arguing in the kitchen and Owen was contemplating his coffee with what looked like deep concern. Dana considered that for all she knew Owen was a deep guy and she just hadn't been paying attention. She didn't care. And she didn't care that she didn't care. She was going to be single forever.
Owen looked up suddenly as if sensing their re-appearance. He smiled a genuinely happy smile and she was momentarily perplexed until she realised he was looking at Natalie. Natalie beamed back.
"You like him?" She whispered at Natalie.
And where had she heard that before? "He's yours," she said. She felt magnanimous until she realised she had just passed him off like an unwanted prize. She wondered if it was something about being in the presence of Lisa and Casey that turned her into such a callous human being. Maybe it was contagious. "I mean - ahmm - I don't want you to think that just because we came together we need to go home together."
Natalie laughed. "I knew what you meant."
They took their seats either side of Owen. Dana inclined her head toward the kitchen. "How long has that been going on?"
"About eight years," Dan said, and he didn't smile at his own joke.
They would never survive like this. Not in New York, certainly, but not here either. Not anywhere. The thought instigated mild panic in her, made her heart beat faster and her head swim in the way that only fear of change could. She wanted to be a success, she wanted to be recognised for her talents, and her brains, and her lightning-speed problem solving skills. She wanted to go to New York and have her own show and she wanted everyone to say what a fucking fantastic show it was.
But it would mean nothing if these guys - this family - could not be there with her.
"One big happy family," she said out loud. No one was listening.
Casey and Lisa returned to the table as if nothing had happened and they all drank their coffee while Lisa related another story about her too-much-money-too-little-taste clients.
Strangely, it was Dan who had the last word. They were saying, "goodbyes" and he used the pretence of helping her into her coat to whisper in her ear. "It won't always be like this," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"You can't go on making the same play year after year and hoping for a different result. Sooner or later you're going to have to change the line-up."
She waited to see if he would finish. Owen was saying goodbye to Casey and Lisa. She could see Casey biting his tongue beneath his forced smile. "What are you saying?" She asked eventually.
"I don't know - probably nothing."
But she knew that wasn't true. He was saying what she feared - that they were never going to make it if something (someone) didn't give, and they dreaded what it would cost him, what it would cost them.
Change was in the air and that night she crumpled her remaining twelve cigarettes into the bin.
"And in my dreams I slashed your tyres, and in my dreams I set these fires"
Luna (the band, not the girl)
"We're a package. Love me, love MacGyver" Selma (The Simpsons)
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Fandom: Sports Night
Title: In My Dreams I Slashed Your Tyres
Author: cgb [email]
Details: Standalone | PG | 15k | 02/10/04
Summary: "They would never survive like this."
Notes: Pre-'Sports Night'. No pairings and yet all pairings.
Acknowledgments: I read Luna-petunia's "Sports Night" fic before I ever saw the show, so she gets all props, glory, wonder etc etc. She was also Beta-girl so big time shout out for that too.
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