In A Strange City With $20 In Your Pocket
by Oro

Charlie just stands there, looking at the mess. There's some broken glass and spilled food on the floor, apples that would've seemed delicious had they not been touched with the tinge and vague flavor of death; they'll be picked up, he thinks, but never eaten. There's still blood on the floor, and the police mark -- he's reminded of his mother's death, how he considered the spilled blood the one sign of life he had left of her -- but now he knows it's just an enhancement to the cold of death. He shivers at the wind and the sight of Simon's blood cells, scattered all over the cold cement, and the incoherent shouts of the store's owner as the officers attempt to interrogate him about the murder and dust his store for fingerprints. He never did like the red lights and the sirens, and the all too familiar issue of gun control being thrown in his face whenever things like this happen. It's his third time; he makes a mental note and walks away, shrugging grimly because there's nothing he can do now.

So he enters a bar and orders a beer -- it's legal for him to do that now, for what it's worth -- and sits next to a complete stranger, because who the hell isn't one nowadays. His own casualness feels vaguely guilty because he knows someone who's just died while trying to do the right thing, and someone who will terribly miss him. The stranger looks familiar, though Charlie's pretty sure he hates that right about now; it's that guy from the sports show, you know, that guy. That guy looks at Charlie as he examines him in a tired look that says look, I know what you just called me in your mind but please stop doing that. Casey McCall! -- And at this look of recognition in Charlie's eyes the man just sighs and orders a second beer (at least, another beer).

"I'm Charles Young," he says eventually, when he is certain it would be rude not to. "Charlie," he adds sheepishly.

"Casey McCall," Casey flashes his television smile, though tired and on his way to drunkenness.

Casey McCall is happier to share his problems with Charlie with every beer: his girlfriend. Well. His on and off girlfriend, whom he's known for about twenty years now, she's marrying another man. A man -- he clarifies -- who is not at all him, Casey. It's just, you know, another man! He then hits the counter with drunken fury, and Charlie puts a soothing hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm him down. It works; Casey looks straight into Charlie's eyes, suddenly, and says, "Let's get the hell out of here."

Casey's apartment is very spacious, very sophisticated bachelor's pad, very New York; and Charlie suddenly feels very provincial, until Casey's sudden, hot wet kiss reminds him that he is the only person in the world other than the First Lady who's allowed to wake up the leader of the free world every morning. Thinking of how to make Casey's pain go away distracts him from his own dim ache, somehow, and they're naked and on top of each other before he even notices. It's night, but Casey has no curtains up, so the city lights stream right into the apartment, the lights and the noise. Charlie's groans blend with the sirens and car horns and it all feels hauntingly familiar, though it has no reason to. He knows he'll never see Casey again except on television, so he tries to make the most out of it.

He has to go in the morning, back to Washington, D.C. He wakes up hours before Casey does and leaves quietly. He'll fly on Air Force One and be back in time for his sister's dance recital. He'll have a successful interview with Deborah Fiderer, whether she likes it or not. He'll move on. Casey will wake up, eventually, to discover that the sex didn't make anything go away except for his partner, and that it doesn't hurt any less when you've got a hangover.


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