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The Team Player

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A few years after Quo Vadimus purchased Continental Corp, turning CSC into QVS and saving Sports Night, it turned out that Calvin Trager was just another too-rich, entitled, corporate asshole after all. Given the number of rich, entitled assholes Kim had met, worked with, or slept with over the years, she supposed she really should have seen it coming.

"So what do we know?" Chris pulled a chair up next to Kim's desk.

"We know that Quo Vadimus is finally stripping everything that's left of Continental Corp," Elliot said from the desk across from Kim's.

"Quo Vadimus," Will said despondently from Chris's other side.

"'Where are we going?'" Elliot translated for the millionth time that week alone.

"Straight to hell," Kim answered, giving up on work at last and leaning back in her chair.

"Or at least the unemployment line," Dave’s morose voice said over her shoulder. "Anyone know how Dana's taking the news?"

Kim froze and saw Elliot flinch across from her. She'd forgotten that Dave had been out on a location shoot with Jeremy for most of the day. Chris and Will shifted in their chairs. All of them were twitching, eyes sliding in the direction of Dan and Casey's office while trying not to turn their heads.

In the ensuing silence, a faint but distinct shriek of rage carried across the bullpen from behind the glass door. "Oh, you think? Then maybe he should get the hell out of the moneymaking business!"

"Ah," Dave said.

As Dana's voice skyrocketed even higher into the upper registers, Kim gave up and swivelled to look. The rest of the crew swivelled a beat after her.

Silence fell as Kim tried to squint through the glass wall. She finally managed to make out Dana with her arms around Dan's neck and Casey with his arms around both of them.

"So," Elliot started. "I haven't wanted to ask, but...."

"Does Dana know that Casey is sleeping with Dana and also sleeping with Dan?" Kim finished for him.

She swivelled back around to her desk--and froze when she saw Jeremy and Natalie standing right there. Aw, shit.

But Jeremy just cocked his head in that way that meant he was about to start sharing information whether you liked it or not. At least this time, it had good odds on being information Kim actually wanted.

"Oh yeah, she definitely knows," Jeremy said. "Ow, Natalie!"

"A little discretion, Jeremy?"

Though Natalie's hand stayed poised to smack him again, Jeremy interpreted this as a cue to lean over Kim's desk and lower his voice while he kept talking. "Actually, Dan made Casey get a written dispensation from Dana before he would sleep with him. Ow! Dammit, Natalie. Why do you keep doing that?"

"Oh, why do you think, Jeremy?"

"It's relevant to the situation," he protested, hands coming up defensively.

Natalie stopped hitting him, but skewered him with a glare. "How is it relevant to anything?"

"I can't even imagine," Kim put in and shared a glance of approving feminine solidarity with Natalie. With any luck, by the time Natalie repeated this conversation to Dana, she'd have forgotten that Kim had contributed to the original question.

"Yeah, Jeremy," Elliot attempted, but got skewered by both Jeremy and Natalie at once.

"It's relevant," Jeremy continued, "because Dana wouldn't sleep with Calvin Trager."

Kim sat straight up in her chair. "Wait. Quo Vadimus is dismantling the network because Dana wouldn't sleep with Trager?"

"That isn't true," Natalie assured her.

"That is exactly true," Jeremy countered, and they walked away still arguing.

Silence fell over their corner of the bullpen until Will broke it. "Well, we’re screwed."

"No," Kim returned, surprising herself with her own force. But she'd let Dan go on the air in a panda suit before she'd let yet another corporate asshole fuck them over.

"Hell, no!" Elliot said with matching enthusiasm. "Um...so what are we going to do about it, exactly?"

"Talk to Isaac?" Chris suggested.

Dave shook his head. "Isaac hardly even comes into the office anymore. And I think we all remember how Dana's plans turn out."

They all exchanged glances heavy with memory. "I think that leaves Dan and Casey out, too," Kim said, since their plans never worked out significantly better than Dana's. "It's going to be up to us to save the show this time."

"So what have we got?" Chris asked. "What can we use?"

"My good looks," Elliot said.

"My wit and rapier intelligence," Will said. "And Dave makes killer pancakes."

"I do," Dave agreed. "And Kim knows everybody."

"I do." Kim tapped one nail on the desk, already sorting through the many favors, friendships, and flirtations she had accumulated over the years. She had meant to use most of them to further her own ambitions, but in the end, her ambition was to run Sports Night, and for that to happen, there needed to be a Sports Night. "And I think I know how we can make sure that cancelling Sports Night is the last thing Calvin Trager wants to do."

She opened her desk drawer and pulled out her palm pilot. It had never had enough memory space for all of her contacts, but it would make a good start on giving Mr. Trager a week he would never forget.

***

Calvin Trager jogged up the six flights of stairs to his office Monday morning, for once wishing he had taken over the penthouse office that had belonged to Luthor Sachs. He preferred residing on one of the lower floors of Rockefeller Center specifically so that he could take the stairs. But after a weekend of skiing in the Swiss Alps, he would have welcomed the excuse to take the elevator.

"Morning, Amy," he called to his CFO, who also happened to be his sister. "Any changes?"

"Not where you want to see them," she called back, which meant that QVS, his baby and the reason he had bought out Continental Corp to begin with, was continuing its leisurely decline into deeper unprofitability.

He stifled a groan and waved off the papers she half-heartedly offered him. "Later. I don't want to begin the week with bad news."

The morning passed in a blur of conference calls. He spent most of them spinning his wheels in the back of his mind, trying to figure out what it was about Sports Night that was keeping it from succeeding in the sports television marketplace. Everyone should be watching; too few actually were.

He'd invested a significant financial gesture of confidence in the network, with Sports Night as the flagship. All of it was gone now, with no return. He still believed in the show and its people, but he couldn't let it keep bleeding money forever.

But maybe a little bit longer. A miracle could still happen.

A loud noise, like a thwack! or a thunk! startled him so much he jerked in his chair. Something had hit his window, though all he'd caught was a flash of something dark out of the corner of his eyes. It hadn't sounded like a bird, but he supposed there wasn't much else it could be, six stories up.

He'd just turned back to his laptop when a second noise broke his concentration again. A second later, he heard Amy, who kept her window open, yelp in surprise.

He stood up, torn between going to his sister or his window. Before he could choose, Amy appeared at his door with a bemused expression and something large, round, and flat in her hand.

"I think this is for you," she said and shoved the object at him.

It turned out to be a hockey puck--a Sports Night-branded souvenir hockey puck, which he hadn't even known they made. Writing in what looked like silver Sharpie wound around the side. He tilted the puck to read: "CALL ME KIM XOXO ERIC" with a New York phone number following.

Calvin Trager was not a man who was used to being surprised or confused by anything. It turned out to be a curious feeling, almost a numbness in his brain. He tried to walk it off by going to the window, but then--

Yes, that was definitely a crane out in the middle of the plaza. And it was certainly dangling a large, flat platform in mid-air about a hundred feet from his window.

And on that platform, he could distinctly make out New York Ranger Eric Lindros, in full uniform, giving him a cheerful wave with his stick just before he went down in a tangle of limbs belonging to a New York Islander and--yes, that was a New Jersey Devil, although he couldn't identify the other players through the flailing.

Far below, a crowd of tourists cheered the impromptu fisticuffs and snapped photos.

Slowly, Calvin Trager put the hockey puck down on his desk. Message received, though disconcertingly, he still didn't know what the message was.

***

"And then the crowd went home with that rarest of souvenirs. No, I don't mean something signed by star players from all three members of the Tristate's bitter hockey rivalry. I mean a Sports Night hockey puck. Did you even know we had Sports Night hockey pucks, Dan?"

"Actually, Casey, I tiled my bathroom with them. I'm more unnerved that someone let a Devil, an Islander, and a Ranger be in the same place at the same time."

"Yes, we're pretty sure that violates any number of laws of space-time physics. Fortunately, this show of bizarre solidarity quickly succumbed to the entropy of the hockey universe. You know what that means, Danny."

"Fisticuffs."

"Fisticuffs. We're not sure why Sports Night was involved, other than giving us the chance to say the word 'fisticuffs' repeatedly on the air, but we couldn't be more proud."

"And we'll be right back."

***

His assistant left the copy of TV Guide on his desk without comment Tuesday morning. Dan and Casey grinned up at him from the cover above the words "The Best Show You're Not Watching."

He gave a slow, rueful shake of his head. "Nice," he conceded aloud. "But a death knell if I've ever seen one."

Nonetheless, he made a note to have it filed somewhere safe.

***

"It's an honor, folks. I can't even tell you how much of an honor it is."

"We'd try to tell you, but apparently, you're not watching."

"We've been talking to ourselves all these years, Casey."

"I always had a feeling. At least about you, Dan."

***

Wednesday night, he made it home by eleven o'clock. An early night by his standards, and he had plans for it: a glass of a very fine thirty-year-old single malt he had picked up while hiking in Scotland last month and a thick book that had nothing whatsoever to do with sports.

He made it one sip and ten pages into his evening before his phone rang.

"Cal, turn on the TV," his sister said when he picked up. "Channel 2."

"I trust this is either a corporate or family emergency," he answered, but he picked up the remote and turned on the television. Then he frowned. "Since when do we advertise on Channel 2?"

"That's not an ad, Cal. That's the local news."

He hadn't watched the local news, pabulum for the masses, in years, but he still remembered what it looked like. It didn't look like the set of Sports Night.

Then again, the set of Sports Night didn't look like itself, either, given that Derek Jeter and Mike Piazza were sitting behind the anchor desk, spinning around in the chairs with a glee better suited to Disneyland.

They cut to a closer shot of the two ballplayers in the control room. "Sports Night has always been my favorite TV show," Jeter was saying. "I was really upset when I heard a rumor recently that it might get canceled."

"I heard that, too," Piazza added, leaning up next to Jeter like it was the most normal thing in the world for the Mets catcher to be cavorting around town with the star shortstop for the Yankees. "So I called up Derek and said, man, we gotta go call our friend Kim and see she can hook us up with a backstage tour while we still have a chance."

"Makes you crave another Subway Series, doesn't it?" said one of the local anchors as the piece ended. "Well, Sports Night may not be as much of a local institution as the Mets and the Yankees, but we sure would miss those guys if they were gone. Best of luck to them."

"You can see the rest of Derek and Mike's visit to the Sports Night set on the show itself tonight on QVS," the other anchor continued. "Which is on--right now, actually. But don't switch over just--"

He switched over. Jeter and Piazza were there on Sports Night, giving backslapping hugs to Dan and Casey, both of whom looked like they were about to cry. Calvin Trager thought he might cry, too.

"Jeter and Piazza were in my building," he said to his sister. "And no one told me."

Dana hadn't told him. Once, Dana would have told him.

"You should probably stop trying to cancel them if you want them to invite you to things," his sister said and hung up.

***

"So, Danny, best day of your life or best day of your life ever?"

"Except for the bit about us being canceled. We're not really going to be canceled, are we, Case?"

"I think that's up to the viewers at home, Danny. We just have to hope they stick with us -- after this break."

***

Kim sat at her post in the control room, obsessively reading the overnights from yesterday's broadcast. The ratings had shot up during the second half of the show, almost enough to put them into the number two slot for only the third time ever.

And that had been before the wires had picked up the Jeter-Piazza story and sent it national.

She traded meaningful looks with Elliot, then hid a grin in her hand when Dana looked over at them. If she was judging this right, tonight's viewership should be triple the usual for the top of the show--which Elliot had managed to rearrange to move up Dan and Casey's call-in segment.

It would be her piece de resistance.

She hoped Trager was watching.

***

Forty-three stories below, Trager was watching. He flipped on the TV that sat on his credenza and kicked back in the more comfortable of his chairs. He would rather have been watching down at Anthony's, but after Dana had politely but firmly rejected his suggestion of a more private rendezvous, he had started retreating to his office instead.

He didn't have any hard feelings about it. From what he understood afterwards, she was already juggling two men, and while he wouldn't have minded getting into that mix, it was probably for the best to steer clear of the drama. So he steered clear of Anthony's now because he hadn't wanted to make it awkward for her and her people when they were trying to unwind after the show.

The overnights sat in his lap next to a bowl of pretzels. He'd given up any pretence of not obsessing over them hours ago. This was it. It was the break he'd been waiting for.

He could work with this.

"Let's go to the phones," Casey was saying. "MJ from Chicago--well, that's a moniker to live up to."

"I do my best, Casey," said the unmistakable voice of Michael Jordan.

The bowl of pretzels tumbled to the floor and the ratings sheets fluttered after them.

Casey looked as stunned as Trager felt, but he visibly swallowed down his shock and continued on. "MJ! Great to finally have you on the show. We've been trying for years, you know."

"Oh, yeah, man, and we're gonna work that out real soon. But you know I watch you every night, right?"

Dan's voice veered wildly up the register before he got it under control. "Actually, we did not know that, MJ, but we love to hear it. Can you bring a few friends with you tomorrow night?"

"Look, I am going to get on the TV and I'm going to get on the radio and I'm going to tell everybody that they need to be watching Sports Night. Hey, Dan, I hear you play golf."

"I am an avid golfer. That is to say, yes, I play golf. Avidly."

"Come out to Chicago and we'll tee up. What about you, Casey?"

"I do not golf, but I can learn. But first, while Dan books his flight to Chicago, we're going to show some commercials. MJ, can you stick around for a bit?"

"Not tonight, Casey, but hey, give my love to my girl Kim, would you?"

Casey touched his ear for a moment, then grinned. "She says back atcha, MJ. And we'll be back atcha right after this."

***

A few days (and a few more stunts, just to keep the ball rolling) later, Kim was basking in the soaring ratings. Every newspaper, magazine, radio and TV show had picked up the story of Sports Night's potential demise and celebrity endorsements, and viewers were flocking in droves to see who would show up next.

Dan and Casey were taking it from there.

"Excuse me." A man wearing a QV corporate ID badge appeared in the door of the control room. "I'm looking for Kim."

Aw, shit. This could not be good. Kim started to take her headset off, but Dana reached across Jeremy to put a restraining hand on her arm. "Well, excuse me, but who are you?"

"Calvin Trager's executive assistant."

"Ah. Of course you are. And what do you want with my production assistant?"

"I want to take her to Mr. Trager's office."

"For what purpose?"

"For the purpose of Mr. Trager letting me go home sometime before today becomes tomorrow." The man looked pointedly at his watch.

Dana took off her headset and slammed it down on the console. "Fine, but I'm coming with her."

"Dana, it's okay," Kim said, not sure she actually wanted witnesses to whatever was about to go down. "I've gotten a few mentions in the press stuff; I'm sure he just wants to know who I am."

Dana's mouth tightened with worry, but she nodded. "All right. But you call if he gives you any trouble and I'll be right down."

He won't, Kim thought even as she nodded.

Trager was watching the end of the QVS hockey coverage when she knocked on the open door of his huge executive suite. "So you're Kim," he said without turning around.

"I am," she answered, nudging the door closed behind her.

He turned to face her, pinning her with a hard look. "Who the hell are you? For days now, strange, miraculous things have been happening to this strange, miraculous show," he said. "Suddenly we've been number two three nights in a row, and within striking distance of ESPN. And everywhere I keep hearing the name Kim. Kim, Kim, Kim."

"That's me," she said with cool composure, though she couldn't help a little smile. Dammit, why did the rich assholes always turn her on? And something about the way he'd used the word "we" softened her resistance.

"I'm not going to ask what you did. But I want you to come work for me."

"I already work for you. Unless that's going to change."

"No. Sports Night is going to be around for a long time thanks to your previously hidden guerrilla PR skills and my financial genius. But I mean work for me personally. I can offer an extremely generous benefits package."

"I like the job I have, actually. But that's not the question you really want to ask me."

He matched her cool look with the slightest lift of his eyebrows. "What question do you think I want to ask you?"

"You don't want to ask me to work with you. You want to ask me to sleep with you." It wasn't a great leap; most people did, sooner or later, and that was something Kim really liked about her life.

"And would I get a different answer if I asked that question?"

She took a step closer to him, resigning herself that the answer would probably be yes. The guy was hot. "That depends. How generous a benefits package can you offer?"

He closed the gap even further. She could hear him breathe now. "We'll start with Paris and move on to St. Bart's. Though from the way you're not looking at my face, I think that's not the benefits package you were interested in."

She had to admit, it was growing clearer that he could offer a generous package of benefits in every sense of the word. "I heard you sold the place in St. Bart's."

"I bought another one. I just can't decide about St. Bart's. Maybe you can help."

She tilted her head with a little smile. Oh, rich assholes. They were all the same, though she had the tiniest feeling that this one, maybe, might be a little different after all. Was she willing to take one for the team and risk finding out?

Well, she had always been a team player.