Nutrition And Other Needs
by Pearl-o

I. Dan in Los Angeles; or, Dinner with Friends

L.A. isn't like Dan thought it would be.

He had been excited about it -- sun and girls and fun and, well, L.A. He gets paid more here. His apartment is nicer, and so much bigger than the New York one that he's almost frightened of the space. He hired an interior decorator to fill the place up, everything except the study, and put all his old stuff that didn't fit in that room into storage. But he's working most of the time, anyway.

He's driven more in the past six months than he did in the ten years previous, and he thinks he and his car might be heading to a not-so-amicable divorce.

It's winter now, and there hasn't been any snow. No ice, no wind-chill factors, no scarves and mittens, no slogging through the cold for ages before bursting into a warm and toasty office. He has a great winter coat that he hasn't gotten to wear yet.

The first month at the show, he and Dana ate lunch together everyday. Dan likes Dana, knows she's brilliant, even if she's bugfuck crazy, but all they've ever really had in common is sports and the people they care about. Which is a lot, but isn't so much that they eat together any more.

He hasn't met any Laker girls, either, but he's pretty much okay with that.

To be honest, Dan knew it wasn't going to be the way he thought as soon as Casey said no.


Casey calls on Wednesday night, on Dan's day off. It's been a couple weeks.

"How's the show?" Casey says.

"Good." Dan mostly means it. It's not as good as Sports Night, and it's not as good as it would have been with Casey. But it's a good show. Dan believes in the show.

"I know it's good, Danny. I watch it. You know what I meant. All of the crap. How is the show?"

Dan stares at his kitchen wall. "It's good," he says finally, and he hears Casey make an affirmative noise on the other end of the line.

Casey's been unemployed since Sports Night. He's turned down at least two decent offers, Dan knows. Not because Casey told him. Dana mentioned it casually once during the middle of a conversation, and Dan nodded along, pretended to pay attention to the larger point she was making and pretended that he wasn't irked.

"I'm taking a break, Danny," Casey told him, back in the summer. "I think I'm going to take a cue from the late great John Lennon."

"You're gonna get yourself shot outside your apartment building?"

"I'm going to hang out with Charlie. Be there for him. I'm taking a hiatus," Casey continued then.

Right now, back on the phone, Dan says, "I bought the tickets today. Your couch going to be ready for me the eighteenth?"

"Danny, my couch is always ready for whatever lies ahead."

"Uh-huh," says Dan. "So what's happening with you, my good man?"

"Ahh," Casey says expansively. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Oh, yeah?" Dan's been standing at the kitchen counter where he answered the phone. He sits down now, on the soft white couch he bought and never uses.

Casey continues, "You may think you're hard at work out there with your show, but let me tell you, you do not know true labor till you're toiling away on your own loaf of homemade bread, Dan, flavored with the sweat of your brow. Nor do you know true accomplishment."

"That sounds like a lot of work for sweaty bread, Casey."

"Oh, it's worth it. Believe you me."

"I'm assuming you've already tasted it to make sure it was edible," says Dan.

"I made a sandwich," Casey says, with the tone of someone who's had the last word.

Dan has to admit that Casey has always made good sandwiches.

"Has anybody else tasted your work of genius?"

"I made Charlie a sandwich as well."


There's a long pause before Casey admits, "He asked me if he was being punished for something," and Dan snorts.

They talk for a few more minutes, but he has to excuse himself and hang up sooner than he'd like, and he's still late to the restaurant.

It's some vegetarian place in the trendy part of town, and Agnes is already waiting for him when he gets there, looking pointedly patient and calm as he sits himself down. She could be a model for a martyred saint, he thinks, trying to remember the art history class he took sophomore year. Calm smooth hair and big bright eyes and perfectly pursed lips.

"Hello, Danny," she says. He hasn't figured out why the way she does it bugs him so much.

It's their second date, and Dan doesn't know the why on that, either. They ran out of anything worth saying to each other at the bar where they met, but Dan called the number she gave him anyway. He spent their first date being as charming and attractive as he could, and he thought it worked on her. Now he's not so sure. She was probably pretending just as much as he was, being charmed and attracted.

When the waiter comes, Agnes orders the ratatouille and Danny gets something with spinach. He feels a little nauseated about the prospect of spending the next however long amount of time -- one hour, two -- right here with her and this table, and he takes a sip of water. He feels absurdly grateful when she starts talking, carrying the conversation with long pointless stories about the theater where she works.

Agnes is the second girl he's dated in L.A. Mostly he just goes out to bars and chats girls up, flirting with them for five minutes at time before he goes home and throws their numbers away and sticks his head under the faucet. He'd liked Tillie a lot, and they'd gone out a couple of times before she told him she didn't think they should see each other anymore, because she was moving to Canada to get back together with her ex-boyfriend. She sent him a postcard from Alberta about a month ago.

He probably should have stayed home tonight.

Agnes is laughing at her own punch line. Dan flashes her a grin and takes another sip of water.


Dan is on tonight, and he doesn't care who knows it.

He grins as they come back from commercial. "That's our show for tonight. Tune in tomorrow when we'll let you in on the latest b-ball madness in the oh-so-wacky NBA, and maybe even -- hey! -- talk a little football. You've been watching Sports Review. See you tomorrow."

"And ... we're out," says the voice in his ear.

The post-show bustle starts immediately, the comforting noise he can't get enough of. He takes off his mic and stands up, stretches his arms out wide, and heads to wardrobe for his clothes. He's still grinning. There's nothing, nothing, like the post-show rush.

God, he loves being on television.

Dana catches him backstage, catching up to walk along with him. "Good show, Dan." She pats him on the shoulder.

"You're telling me."

Dana gives him her quirky crooked smile, and looks past him almost immediately to the craft services table. "Reed! Have I yelled at you yet about the Dunham fiasco?" She scoots off from Dan without another word, making a beeline to her assistant producer, who's frozen with a mouthful of pastrami.

Dan stretches his neck, shaking his head, and continues on, feeling mildly sorry for the guy in Dana's headlights.

Dana had been crushed after Sports Night. She'd failed the show, she told him in the couple weeks after, whenever they went out for drinks and she got a little tipsy. She'd failed the show, and she'd failed all of them; they all deserved better. She was always at least a little teary eyed by that point, and Dan would either give her a hug and rub her back or pretend not to notice, depending on how he felt by that point.

But maybe there was just a set mourning period in Dana's head, because she picked herself up, dusted off her clothes, and moved on, threw herself into the show like it was the only thing in the world and didn't look back. Just like always.

After he has his clothes, he goes to his office and stretches out on the couch. "Man, that was a good show," he says to the ceiling. Maybe the best one yet here.

There's a knock on his door -- he has actually has real walls here, but he leaves the door open because it's still kind of weird. When he looks over, Dana's standing in the doorway. She shakes a finger at him.

"Ah, you're a crafty one, Dan. With your distracting and sneaking away."

He moves to a sitting position on the couch and says, "Is there something you need, Dana?"

Dana comes in, settling herself on Dan's desk. "I wanted to talk to you."

"A lot of people want to talk to me. I'm a good guy to talk to. Easy-going, friendly, charismatic..."

She doesn't bat an eye, of course. If Dana was ever susceptible to his charm, she must have grown out of it a good ten years back.

"You've been doing good work lately," she says abruptly. She picks a paperweight off his desk and hefts it around in her hands. "Great work."

He waits a minute. "And....?"

"Listen, Dan, I know you're the last person who needs an ego boost. I'm not your baby-sitter or camp counselor."

"What are you--"

"But I also know every night that you've been up there at that desk you've been thinking: Boy, I would be doing better if Casey was here. And you know what, Dan? You wouldn't. This isn't Sports Night, Casey's not here, and you're doing great work." She puts the paperweight back down, and looks at him, laughing a little. "That's all."

He just blinks at her as she stands up and heads out. At the doorway, she stops and looks back. "Oh, and Dan? You were on tonight." She smiles at him. "See you this weekend."


The first thing Dan learned on his first day at his first job was that everybody in sports was crazy. It's a lesson that's stuck by him to this day.

He'd thought the kids at Dartmouth were nuts.

Sports people are off -- they're weird and obsessive and passionate. It might be more socially accepted, but a sports geek is still a geek. Someone can do something graceful or amazing and extraordinary, and for a few years, a few months, a second, that's the only thing that matters. It's all going to be over at any second, but that's completely irrelevant, because what's matter is that it's done.

That isn't the kind of field that attracts the sane. Athletes are crazy; people who study them are even worse.

He can count on one hand the number of people in his industry whom he considers to have a complete bag of marbles in their possession -- and for a while, he was counting himself there, too.

Dan wakes up in the middle of the night from a dream. The precise details fade almost instantly, leaving him with only the faint memory of its presence. He watches the ceiling fan for a few minutes before he falls back asleep, but the feeling stays with him throughout the next day, leaving him unsettled and off in a dozen tiny ways.

He thinks about bringing it up the next day during therapy, but he takes another look at his sharp-eyed therapist, the one Abby referred him to when he left, and he almost decides against it. He doesn't feel want to talk about any of this today. But, fuck. He doesn't want to talk about it at all, so what does it matter?

"I had this dream last night," he says suddenly. "I can't stop thinking about it." He chews on his lip.

Heidi wears red glasses with little rhinestones on the edge. She says, "What sort of dream was it?"

"I don't remember. Or I guess I do, but only a little. I was at this tiny deli in New York I used to go to all the time, and I'm sitting at this table with some people, with my brother Sam, and Rebecca, Casey. I was eating a roast beef sandwich and talking with them. And that was it."

"Why those people?"

He shrugs, adjusting in his chair. It's not as comfortable as the ones in Abby's office. "I don't know. I guess it was just people I miss."

"People you've lost?" Heidi's watching him, but Dan just looks at the carpet to his right, away from her gaze.


II. Casey in New York; or, Bottoms Up

Danny's plane is due in at five o'clock, so Casey's at JFK by three-thirty. It's forty five minutes late, and the luggage takes even longer. By the time they get to Casey's apartment, it's well into the evening.

"There's food in the kitchen if you're hungry," Casey says as Danny sets his suitcase down on the floor.

Danny shakes his head. He looks like shit, but everybody does after that many hours of traveling. "Nah, man. I think I'm just gonna collapse on your couch and practice my R.E.M. skills."

"Fine with me," Casey says.

He and Danny fold out the couch together, and Casey goes and gets him sheets from the hallway. When he comes back, Danny's stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt. He reaches out and takes the linens from Casey's hands. "Thanks."

"No problem."

Casey's computer is in his bedroom, so he heads there. He's still taking a break for dad-time, but that doesn't mean he can't be involved with things, too. The column's only a couple thousand words a week, so it still counts as his hiatus. It's a great deal, too, a good magazine, and they let him write whatever the hell he wants. This one's not due for a couple of days, but he's going to be busy tomorrow with the party and Saturday with the wedding, so he may as well get a head start on it.

He's only written a couple of sentences when he remembers that Pacific Time is three hours behind.

Casey yells, "Hey, Dan!"

There isn't an answer, so he heads back into the living room. Danny is lying on his back, eyes closed, hands clasped together over his stomach.

"What's going on?" Casey says, watching him from the corner of the room. His arms are crossed in front of his chest.

"Trying to sleep."


Danny opens his eyes to look at him. "I'm tired. I was under the impression that su casa was mi casa."

"I don't have a problem with you sleeping, Danny."


"I was just interested in knowing why you're this exhausted at five o'clock at night."

"It's eight."

"It's five in Los Angeles."

Danny sighs. "Give it a rest. I'm tired. I haven't been sleeping so great, and I didn't get any at all last night."

"Huh," Casey says.

"You really are an ass, Casey," Danny says, and he closes his eyes again.

Casey throws his arms up in mock argument, realizing after a second that Danny can't see him. "All I said was 'huh.'"

"That was a very pointed 'huh.'"

Casey says, "Besides which, I'll have you know, I resent that remark."

Dan doesn't respond, but a corner of his mouth twitches.

That's an acceptable response, so Casey leaves again, back to his room. For the next few hours, he writes, and he stays in his haze of historical college basketball and doesn't bother to think of anything outside of it.


"Oh my god," Jeremy says.

The three of them are sitting at the table in his small apartment, drinking. The rest of the party broke up a little while ago, and Jeremy's brother, who organized the whole thing, went back to his hotel. It hadn't been a big party anyway; a little porn (none of Jeremy's ex-girlfriend, for which everyone was thankful), a lot of booze, a lot of teasing.

Jeremy's been nervous but jovial most of the evening, but the whole thing seems to have suddenly struck him. It's possible they've gone on a little too long.

Casey shoots Danny a look. He just nods to Casey once and takes another drink of beer.

"Oh my god," Jeremy repeats, looking stricken. He's sitting next to Danny, across the table from Casey, and he looks from one of them to the other before placing his forehead against the table. "What am I doing?" He starts banging his head.

"I'd say you were knocking your head on the table," Danny says. He leans over and pats Jeremy on the back once.

Jeremy lets out a long moan. "I'm panicking," he says, muffled from the table.

"You're not panicking," Casey says.

"I'm panicking."

"You're not."

"Casey. I think I know when I'm panicking, and I am panicking!" His voice goes slightly high pitched and whiny at the end, and he raises his head to glare at Casey.

"You have no reason to be panicking," Casey says firmly.

"I'm getting married tomorrow. That isn't reason to be panicking?"

"In your case?" Danny says. He's wearing a musing expression. "Maybe. Natalie's pretty scary."

"Danny, you're not helping." Danny smiles to himself and shrugs. "Look," Casey goes on, gesturing, "so you're getting married tomorrow, so what? You're going to spend the rest of your life with the woman you love. You're going to be disgustingly happy."

Jeremy shakes his head and stares dejectedly at his bottle. "How can I go into a marriage after how my parents' turned out? What if it's genetic?"

"It's not genetic, for god's sakes," Casey says, a little annoyed.

Danny adds, "If it were genetic, Casey and I would be happily married right now."

Jeremy turns to stare at him for a moment.

"To other people," Casey clarifies.

Jeremy groans and buries his head in his arms.

Casey rolls his eyes and finishes the last of his beer. "Everybody gets cold feet, Jeremy. It's normal."

"Did you?" He's muffled again.

"Of course."

Jeremy looks up for a second, just a few inches. "And you didn't take that as a warning to get out and run far far away as soon as you could?"

Dan laughs once, harshly, and Casey spares him a look before turning back to Jeremy. "You know what? I give up. He's all yours, Danny." He gets up to get another beer. He can hear Danny talking as he opens the fridge.

"Think about it this way," Danny is saying quietly. "Which is scarier: going up there tomorrow and getting married--" Jeremy makes another small noise there, but Dan keeps going "--or deciding to call it off, and having to tell Natalie?"

There's a pause, and Jeremy says, "Oh, you're good at this," with a note of grudging admiration.

"I try," Danny says, just as Casey sits back down in his seat. He looks over at Casey, wearing a smug smile, and Casey has to resist the urge to do something immature like stick his tongue out or throw his bottle cap at Danny's head.


The wedding is very nice. Casey's seated on the left, which he's pretty sure is the bride's side. Most of the people over here seem to be related to Natalie, part of her big Catholic family, easily identifiable from their even features, dark hair, and the look of people who've just traveled a long way and are expecting a lot for their efforts. There aren't that many of them, though; they've kept it small. Natalie and Jeremy seem to have split their friends between them; Elliott and Kim are both a few rows behind Casey. Danny is over on the other side of room, near Isaac and his wife. Dana's up front next to Natalie, in her big poofy maid of honor dress. He's been sneaking looks over to her the whole time.

Casey has regrets about Dana. He's not exactly sure what they are, but he has them. Especially when she looks like she does today. Almost ... radiant.

The rest of the wedding party seem to be relatives of some kind -- brothers, sisters, cousins? The ceremony's short, almost over before Casey starts paying attention to the vague and grandiose words coming out of the guy's mouth. Jeremy's frighteningly pale up there, and Casey wonders for a moment if his bow tie is choking him, but when he says "I do" he sounds as sure as Casey's ever heard him about anything. Natalie's smile is a little shaky, and Casey feels a little sorry for the bouquet in her hands, but she blurts it out happily, too, and they kiss. It's sweet.

Casey's wedding was huge and elaborate; Lisa spent a year planning out every detail to make it as spectacular as possible. Casey can barely remember half of it now, but he can remember standing up in the front of the church, staring at Lisa and feeling lost and bewildered, barely recognizing her through the veil and hair and make up and distance between them. He could look at it as an omen, or an example of their entire marriage in miniature, but you can do that with anything you want in hindsight.

He's at the reception now, sitting at his assigned table. They already did the toasts. Casey did one, telling a lot of jokes that got good laughs, if he does say so himself, and wishing them a happy and fulfilling life together. He's not sure what Dana said, because she started crying halfway into it. Isaac's was the last and best.

It's dancing time now, but Casey doesn't dance, so he's just watching others dance instead. As well as he can, at least, around the huge flower arrangements all over the tables.

Natalie is with her dad. Casey would think it'd be hard to dance in a wedding dress and heels, but then, he's never been a bride, so what does he know? Jeremy is dancing with Kim, and looking nervous as he does so. This only seems to be increasing with time as Kim yells at him for his ineptitude. Isaac is sitting at another table like Casey's, only across the room, holding his wife's hand and leaning over to smile and talk with her. Dana (her mascara fixed in the bathroom, he guesses, as she no longer resembles a very formal raccoon) might or might not be coupled with Natalie's brother the grad student. Casey's sure, though, that Dan's partner is Jeremy's sister Louise, and this pleases him, because it's amusing to think of Danny paired with a deaf girl. Dramatic irony, even. It ruins the joke a little that Louise can read lips.

At the end of the dance everybody stops and says a few words to each other, but Casey doesn't pay attention to the newly formed pairings as Danny sits down next to him.

"You're a spoilsport," Danny says. His suit has gotten rumpled, his tie slightly undone, his hair messy. He takes a gulp of water from the nearest glass.

"Hey," Casey says, in good-humored defense, "I think my sitting this one out is an act of goodwill toward everybody. I'm selfless, Danny."

Danny just shakes his head. Casey takes another handful of mixed nuts and after a moment Danny says, "You know, I'm pretty sure your invitation said Casey McCall and guest. And yet, I notice -- no guest to be seen."

"Actually, the invitation said Casey McCall, Charles McCall and guest."

Dan makes an inquiring noise.

Casey shrugs. "Lisa needed him this weekend. Besides, kids are always bored at weddings, aren't they? There's not even anyone here the right age for him."

Danny purses his lips together and says "Hmm," and then there's a silence. Casey waits for him to start again, and of course he does. "That doesn't explain the lack of guest."

Casey looks over at him, narrowing his eyes. "Hey, I don't see you with a guest, either."

It's Danny who shrugs this time. "I was coming three thousand miles for a weekend. You're right in town. Besides, what happened to that girl you were telling me about? Anneliese?"

It takes a moment for Casey to remember what he's talking about. "That. It didn't work out."

"Hmm," Danny says again.

Casey hasn't had sex with a woman in a long time. Haasn't had any other sort of relationship at all. The thing is, his marriage was a disaster, and the sort of affair he had with Sally isn't what he wants, either. Let it never be said that Casey McCall doesn't learn from his mistakes. Except that all the first dates he's been going on seem like the same mistake again and again, because there's rarely a second date and never a third.

He frowns and stares into space.

"That really was a nice wedding," Danny says after a few minutes of silence. Casey glances over at him.

"That it was, my friend. That it was."

Danny eyes him. "You up for another toast?"

"I think that's an exceptional idea, Danny. I'm surprised you thought of it."

They both pick up their water glasses, and clink them together lightly.

"To our friends," says Danny.

"To our friends," Casey says. "And happiness."

"And happiness," Danny repeats.

And they both drink.


III. Danny In Between; or, Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

His flight back is this afternoon, so he can be back at work tomorrow. He's up before Casey, already drinking coffee and reading the paper when he hears Casey stomping around his bedroom and bathroom like Frankenstein's monster.

"Hey, Casey," Dan calls out, still reading the sports section. "You want me to make some breakfast?"

Dan takes the loud grunt he gets as assent.

Dan's not a great cook or anything, but he's better than Casey, at least. He manages some edible-looking scrambled eggs and toast, just about finishing as Casey finally stumbles out into civilization and makes himself a cup of coffee.

"Voila," Dan says, setting two plates on the counter.

Casey raises his eyebrow toward him.



"Yeah, so?"

"What are you, a magician?"

"You think the egg cooks itself, Casey? It takes talent and patience to transform a simple, raw egg into culinary delight."

Casey snorts, and sits down to eat. Dan arranges himself back at his former seat, and for a few minutes there's no sound but the two of them chewing and drinking as they eat and read the paper.

"This is pretty good," Casey says eventually.

"Thank you."

"I mean, it's not, say, mind-bogglingly good. But I don't suspect I'm about to get food poisoning, either."

Dan says, "I really do appreciate your faith in me, Casey." There may be something in his tone he didn't quite intend, because Casey glances up at him and gives him a long, studying look.

"What?" Dan says, feeling a little self-conscious.

Casey smiles and reaches out his hand to the nape of Dan's neck, shaking his head back and forth a little. "Danny, Danny," he says, his voice low and affectionate. "I missed you, man."

Dan blinks and remembers, incongruously, the dream from last week, the dinner and the calm and the loss. He leans in close enough that he can smell Casey's breath, savory scrambled eggs and overly sweet coffee, and he leans in close, invading Casey's personal space without a second thought, resting his forehead against his. "Casey..." He surprises himself by going the last few inches and kissing him full on the lips for a moment.

Casey looks monumentally surprised, even with his hand still on Dan's neck.

"Danny -- is this -- is this a therapy thing?"

For a moment Dan can just laugh, and then he shakes his head again. "Ah, Casey," he says, looking into Casey's confused eyes and feeling a little sad, "you really should have come to L.A."


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