"Awesome," said Dan, looking around the stands of Yankee Stadium happily.
Casey looked at the huge man sitting on his other side. He was wearing a Sox cap. Casey eyed him for a second before leaning closer to Dan and muttering, "You remember that we have access to box seats pretty much anytime we want to go to a ball game, right?"
"Don't be so bourgeois."
"Bourgeois?" Casey laughed. "Bourgeois? Danny, any person here," he indicated them all with a vague sweep of his hand, "would gladly take our box seats. Or, barring that, I know Isaac's got some season tickets along the first-base line that we could probably have talked him out of for today. And instead you have us in the right-field nosebleeds."
"You have no appreciation for atmosphere," Dan said without actually looking at him, but the smile was still on his face. Casey watched in consternation as Dan took a deep breath of what he was probably pretending was fresh air. Or maybe just atmosphere.
"I have appreciation for free, cold beer instead of warm, wobbly cups of it that cost ten bucks a pop," countered Casey.
"Atmosphere," Dan repeated, totally zen. "Anyway, I know you're not a baseball fan. I can accept that you don't get the rituals of the fan."
"I don't hate baseball."
"I didn't say you hated it. I said you're not a fan. A true baseball fan goes to a Yankees game and will either cheer for the Yankees, or for any team playing against the Yankees. That is our way. That guy in the Sox cap is making a bold personal protest. You, on the other hand, don't really care."
"Observing baseball rivalries is like witnessing the... the religious rituals of some hidden native culture of Papua New Guinea. I don't get it. I have no opinion on the Yankees."
"No opinion whatsoever? Even as a sportscaster?" asked Dan. Music was starting under the booming announcer's voice as the players hit the field to warm up.
"Well," said Casey, "I think A-Rod's okay."
Dan made a disgusted face. "A-Rod?"
"He's a good ball player!"
"He's tabloid bait! He has an ex-girlfriend who told a gossip rag he has a picture of himself as a centaur that he keeps hanging over his bed!"
"Yes," said Casey, "I remember talking about that on the air, at the time. It made a good bumper."
"How am I even friends with you?" Dan wailed. "You don't like baseball but you do like A-Rod, of all the ball players you could ever like."
"Yeah, I don't know how you bear it."
The game was okay. It picked up a lot for Casey in the eighth inning, when he caught a home run ball in Dan's Yankees cap. Hit by the man himself.
"Throw it back," Dan hissed.
"Blow me," said Casey cheerfully, ramming the hat back onto Dan's head, mostly straight. Dan still took it off to smooth his hair and rearrange it to his exacting standards. "I'm getting it signed."
Casey raised an eyebrow. "I'm going to abuse my media pass. Why else do we have them?"
Dan was still adjusting his cap, probably feeling the taint of A-Rod's home run sullying it or something. "I don't know, maybe to function as professional members of the media corps?"
"Don't be ridiculous," said Casey, and after the game he dragged Dan to the media access area, where they waved around their ID cards and got into the locker room. Dan hung back near the entrance while Casey hunted down A-Rod for an autograph.
Ten minutes later, when Casey emerged, Dan was leaning against a wall talking to a security guard. His expression was that of a person who had just eaten a lemon. "There you are," he said when he saw Casey. "I thought I was going to have to go looking for you."
Casey shrugged. "We just had a chat."
"A chat," Casey agreed. "It was crazy."
"He asked for my autograph."
"I'm kidding," said Casey, displaying his ball with a scribble on it. "He did ask for my business card, though. I think we're going to do lunch."
"Lunch?" Dan's voice had gone flat.
"Lunch," Casey agreed, leading the way out of the locker rooms and toward the stadium exit. "Are you just going to keep repeating the keywords from things I say?"
"A-Rod asked you to go to lunch?"
"We made a mutual decision that it would be interesting. Me being a sportscaster and him being a professional athlete, we have common ground."
"I didn't think you actually had a crush on him."
"You said you liked him and now you're going on a date."
"We're going for lunch."
"Uh huh," said Dan, sounding skeptical. "Look, Case, just because he signed your home run ball doesn't mean you have to let him round the bases."
Casey blinked while that sank in and then he flipped Dan the bird, dropping his hand only when they reached an open area where there might be cameras. "That's what I think of you and your witty metaphors."
"I thought you loved my witty metaphors," said Dan, sounding dangerously close to sulking.
"Pizza today?" asked Dan, a week later.
Casey looked up from his notes. "Can't. I've got lunch plans."
Casey watched in some fascination as Dan tensed up completely. "With A-Rod."
Casey watched him a minute longer, but Dan was staring at his screen intently, like he was trying to melt it with his eyes. His fingers were loud on his keyboard. Casey frowned and went back to his briefs on soccer.
Later, when Casey got back, Dan asked, "Good lunch?"
"Pretty good," said Casey. "We had Japanese."
Dan nodded tightly and walked away.
Two weeks passed without incident, and then Dan walked into the control room just as Natalie was saying, "The guy with the centaur painting, right?" Casey watched Dan's entire expression change from relaxed (maybe a little excited about yacht racing) to closed-off and tired.
"I don't even believe it's real," Natalie continued. Her back was to Dan and she didn't know he was there, not that it would have given her pause anyway.
Casey resolved right then to let Dan work through whatever his problem was, and turned his attention back to Natalie. "Actually, it's real," he said to her. "The A-Rod centaur holds a spear triumphantly and has many bulging muscles."
Natalie's face lit up like Christmas. "Lies!"
Casey dug out his phone. "No, it's true, I have a picture." He searched through his phone for it and showed it to her.
"You know how to take pictures with your phone? Oh wow," she breathed when she saw it. "This would be my wallpaper. Can you send it to me? I want it as my wallpaper. Is it really over his bed?"
There as a thump as Dan shut a thick binder as hard as he could, and Casey looked up in time to see him march out of the room, his spine stiff.
Casey looked back down at Natalie and gently pried his phone out of her grip. "Sure, I'll send it. Or I'll get Jeremy to send it for me. Can you just? I need to go deal with something."
She waved him off; he went and found Dan in their office, sitting at his desk. Casey shut the door behind him; Dan didn't look up from his computer. "What's up?" he asked.
"What's up with you?" Casey went to lean on his own desk, his arms crossed.
"You have a thing about Alex."
"You mean A-Rod?"
"His name is Alex. That's what the A stands for."
"Everybody calls him A-Rod, Casey. He hasn't been Alex Rodriguez to the public consciousness since he first outed himself as a diva. Then again, you guys are special friends now, so what do I know?"
"What do you mean, special friends?"
Dan finally looked up at him, leaning back in his chair as though they were just talking about football stats or something. "Is that picture really in his bedroom?"
Casey's mean streak took over briefly and he shrugged.
"So you're sleeping with him."
Casey's brain twisted inside his head. "What?" he managed.
"You're sleeping with your special friend A-Rod with whom you are on a first-name basis, who you have known for two weeks and he has had you in his bedroom to show you his centaur portrait. And he either let you photograph it or left you alone in there long enough for you to do it." Dan paused. "Is that how he got in your pants? Inviting you to see his centaur portrait? That's like offering to show someone your etchings."
Casey raised his hands, as if that might stop the juggernaut of Dan running with an assumption. "Whoa. Okay? Whoa. Nobody has seen anybody else's etchings. I am not sleeping with Alex Rodriguez."
Casey heard the distinctive sound of their office door closing and glanced over just in time to see Kim hurrying away. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath before continuing. His tawdry affair with A-Rod was going to be all over the station in twenty minutes. "Anyway," he soldiered on, "we've just met a few times. I went for drinks at his house the other day and he gave me the tour; I took the photo when he was distracted by a phone call."
"You can actually use your phone camera?" Dan asked.
"Yes," said Casey, irritated by how Dan was missing the point. When Dan just kept staring, he grudgingly added, "Charlie showed me how."
"Well," said Dan after a minute, "that's a good story, Case."
"Why do you care?" Casey demanded, urgently needing to know why he was being subjected to the Spanish Inquisition. "Are you jealous?"
"Fuck off," said Dan.
"I'm not jealous."
"If you weren't jealous, you wouldn't care." Casey crossed his arms again in triumph: the familiar triumph of logic over the workings of Dan's mind.
Dan slammed his laptop shut. "I'm not jealous and I don't care."
The feelings in the room took on a sharp edge that Casey could almost taste; he saw the tight line of Dan's shoulders under his shirt and suddenly wanted to take it back, find the words to undo what he'd just done. He didn't know what those magic words might be, though, so he tried a semi-apology instead.
"I'm just trying to court him for an interview. If I can get him on the show, it'll be a great ratings bump."
Dan's shoulders didn't relax; he was staring at the lid of his laptop, his hands resting on the edge of the table. "You don't need to whore yourself out for ratings."
Casey gaped. "I'm not whoring. I am not trying to--to seduce A-Rod with my body and masculine wiles so that he'll do ten minutes on Sports Night. I'm networking; I'm leveraging a new contact. We do that in TV, you know." He glared at Dan's back and straightened up, feeling irritation knotting up in his gut. "And you're an asshole for suggesting that I am whoring myself."
Dan spun in his chair and stared up at Casey. "Fine, I'm an asshole. That's not news. And you can call it what you want, but you're whoring yourself for the network, not that they've done anything lately to earn that kind of loyalty."
"Well, I guess you're the expert on whoring," Casey snapped, heading for the door.
"Takes one to know one," Dan called after him.
Casey dodged Natalie, Jeremy and Dana on the way to the elevator.
"I need draft copy!" Dana yelled at his back.
"Get Dan to write you some!" Casey said over his shoulder, not breaking his stride.
They didn't speak to each other off the air for the rest of the week. Casey deleted a large number of unread emails from Jeremy and Natalie about his 'relationship problems' and had resorted to taking back hallways and completely changing his routine to avoid Dana as much as possible. But it was too much of a pain in the ass for he and Dan to fight for very long, given how annoying everyone else got about it, and so on Monday morning Casey looked up from the newswire to see a steaming cup of coffee and a bagel wrapped in tin foil sitting on his desk. Dan stood on the other side of it.
"Sorry I called you a network whore," said Dan, not looking at him.
"Sorry I called you a regular whore," said Casey after a second, reaching for the bagel.
"You're both a little whorish," said Elliott, dropping a stack of papers on the end of Casey's desk. He left without another word, and Casey thought that one day he would really put a bell over the door.
Casey sighed and settled back in his chair as Dan dumped his jacket on the arm of the couch and unfolded a newspaper.
"A-Rod's not returning my calls anymore, anyway."
"Trouble in paradise?" asked Dan lightly from behind the paper.
"Seems somebody posted a cell phone picture of the centaur portrait on Facebook and TMZ got ahold of it."
"Dana and Natalie are reliable like that," said Dan.
The first comfortable silence in a week settled over the office, as Dan grumbled at his paper and Casey blew on his coffee.
"Masculine wiles?" said Dan after a while.
Casey put down his coffee in resignation.
"I mean, I don't know that you're so masculine," Dan went on, folding down the top of his paper so that Casey could see his pondering face. "You wear makeup every day."
"Makeup that Allison puts on me, so that I can look handsome for the high-definition cameras as I talk knowledgeably about sports for millions of viewers," agreed Casey, scrolling through the wire although his attention was on Dan.
"I'll concede you the wiles, though. You're pretty wily."
"Danny, I'm touched."
They looked at each other across the office; Dan's amused, slightly affectionate face was probably a mirror of Casey's own.
Dan had definitely, beyond question, been jealous of the idea that A-Rod might have gotten into Casey's pants.
"Admit it," Casey said smugly as he picked up the last of his apology bagel. "You'd never stand a chance against my masculine wiles."
"At least I don't have a painting of myself as a mythological beast hanging over my bed," said Dan, raising an eyebrow at him.
"I'm getting you one for your birthday. What'll it be? Unicorn? Dragon? Pixie?"
Dan threw down his paper. "Don't we have a TV show to write?"
"I guess we do," said Casey, and he indulged a little thrill of happiness as he opened up his word processor. Dan was already talking about video that Jeremy had been cutting.
Casey figured if they were going to swing for the fence, he could wait a little longer for the right pitch to come along.