Date: Tuesday, December 10, 2002 11:51 AMTitle: Should've Been Author: Marguerite Fandom: Sports Night Rating: R Classification: Angst Spoilers: The mother of all SN angst, "The Apology" Summary: Dan Rydell, age 18. Answer to Jae Gecko's "Defining Moments" 500-word challenge. Thanks to Ria for insta-beta. And the Spanish version of Word should be called Palabra.
People kept saying to him, "There are some things a father should never see." As if that would somehow lessen the unbearable pain. As if knowing that someone felt worse should make him feel better in an insane zero-sum kind of way. Not enough sorrow to go around, Danny, so you'll have to give some up to your dad.
There are some things, he wanted to retort, that a son should never see. His brother's broken body in a stainless-steel drawer. Gray skin, blood-darkened hair, eye socket mangled. The odd shape of the plastic body bag, insinuating that one leg was bent at an impossible angle.
There are some things a son should never hear, he couldn't tell them.
"It should've been you." Whispered into his ear by his father, mad with grief, who dragged him into the morgue and made him see with his own tear-blurred eyes what had happened, as surely as if his had been the hand on the wheel, the foot on the accelerator.
His father repeated it as the plain wooden coffin was lowered into the grave. Dan's body was already lurching, heaving forward, stomach frozen with guilt. Those words could propel him into the ragged earth. He wanted to go. He wanted to go down wherever Sam was, to join him in eternal oblivion, to end this nightmare of losing his father's love.
He knew it should've been him. He didn't need his dad for that piece of wisdom.
Dan repeated the story later as he sat in his car with Annie at his side. They'd broken up over the summer, but she was here for him anyway.
"He didn't really mean it, Danny," she whispered.
"Who's to say I don't agree with him?" He leaned against the steering wheel. Sam's chest had been crushed by the steering wheel. It'd gone through and stopped his heart, just like that. He was dead by the time the flying glass tore out his eye.
Dan opened the car door and was violently sick.
Annie tugged him back in when the spitting and gasping was done and offered him a stick of gum. She offered herself, too, not complaining about the door handle against her back or how Dan came before she'd even gotten started. She was a generous girl and he still loved her a little.
Afterwards, she offered him a joint. Dan held it between his fingers for a while, unlit. Contemplating. It'd take away the nausea. It'd slow him down next time so he could make it good for her.
Maybe she would smoke it all. Maybe she'd get into her car and never see the oncoming headlights. One blue eye gone. One sleek leg crushed to powder.
Or he could smoke it himself. Grant his father's wish and join Sam in an early grave. But there were some things a father shouldn't see twice. Not even his father.
"Let me drive you home," he said as he threw the joint out the window.
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