set after "The Local Weather" ~~ previous / next

Things He Liked and Didn't Understand

"Oscar Parrish watched his dream come true for five minutes."

Casey looked up. "Still?" he asked.

"Did Oscar Parrish still watch his dream come true for five minutes?"

"I'm saying, are we still talking about this?"

"I think we are."

"I think *you* are."

"I'm hearing your voice, Casey."

"I'm not talking about this, Danny."

"Then what are you talking about?"

"Did you notice the pendant?"

Dan raised an eyebrow. "What pendant?"

"The one Dana's wearing."

"No, I must say I did not."

Casey stood and shuffled some papers together, took three steps from the desk, and realized they weren't the papers he needed. "It's not that I'm not happy for her."


Casey rolled his eyes. "Dana. It's not that I'm not happy for her."

"And you are aware that I don't really care what it is?"

"Care what what is?"

"... It."

Casey frowned. Dan shook his head, and Casey moved on. "It's not that I'm not happy for her. It's just that this weirds me out."

"... It 'weirds you out'?"


"What 'weirds you out'?"

Casey shrugged. "The mental image of a religious Dana."

"Doesn't have to be a mental image at the moment, does it?" Dan pointed out.

Casey smiled a little. "Danny --"

"Is gambling wrong?"

Casey blinked. "What?"

"Biblically. Is gambling wrong."

Casey half-shrugged. "I can tell you that it's wrong according to Federal Section Code 4 of the Rico Act."

"Casey --"

"Yes, Danny, I'm assuming that gambling is Biblically wrong."

"And her name's in the pool?"


"Then don't worry about it."

Casey smiled just a little. "We've even got a little wager brewing on the side," he said proudly.

"He watched his dream come true for five minutes," Dan said, and Casey picked up some papers, the right ones this time, and left the room.

He passed her in the newsroom.

It struck them both as odd that he didn't speak. But the terms of their bet had left them on an odd patch of ground, and he wasn't exactly sure where they were standing.

She caught up to him as he reached the edit bay.

"Hey, Casey!"

He nodded. "Dana."

"You know that I like strawberry, right?"


"So when you lose, you have to buy me strawberry."

"Strawberry what?"

"Wine. To go with the dance."

"I've got to buy you wine to go with a dance?"

"I could have demanded a date for the entire night, Casey. You're getting off easy only being required to dance one dance when you lose."

Casey shook his head. "Who says I'm going to lose?"

Dana grinned that irresistible grin of hers and said, "God."

Natalie, entering the edit bay, heard this last. "Casey," she said.

He turned to her slowly, reluctant to take his eyes off Dana, who was still grinning at him, but in a slightly different way.


"Divine intervention or no, the woman's asking you for a date."

"Natalie!" Dana cried.

"You bet Casey a date, Dana!"

"A dance."

"You bet Casey a dance, then, and I say --"

"Can I see you?"

"For just a second I thought you were asking if I was visible."

Dana took Natalie's elbow and guided her through the newsroom, down the hall, and into her office, the door of which she closed behind them.



"You really had to say all that in front of Casey?"



"'Cause I thought he should know."

"Natalie --"

"Because it seems only fair. He's not the kind of guy who is going to notice a subtle date. You've got to point these things out to him."



"A reining horse did something, and in a million years I'm not going to care what. Could you get someone on that?"

"You want someone to figure out --"

"What this horse did. Please."

"Okay." Natalie stood still.


"Yes, ma'am."

"Look at the floor."

Natalie looked.

"Do you notice any straw?" Dana asked.

"Not right off."

"Then you know that this horse isn't in my office."

"Well, he isn't in the newsroom, either."

"Yes, but the important thing about the newsroom is that *I* am not in it. Please go."

Natalie nodded. "Okay." She walked to the door, and turned briefly to say, "But on this whole date thing, make sure he knows."

"What if I don't win?"

"You won."

"I won?"

Natalie shrugged. "You're going to win."

"How do you know?"

"Remember my guy at the NFL?"

"Vaguely .."

"He handed me a note."


"He still has a crush on you."

Dana blinked. "Cool."

"I'm going to go find out about this horse."

"Blessed be."

Natalie walked back toward the newsroom, but she stopped at the sight of Jeremy. He was a good distance away, sitting silently at his computer, and for a moment she didn't want him to notice her.

It took her almost a full minute to realize that it was because her hair was tangled.

"Hey, Jeremy," Natalie said as she passed him, no trace of trepidation in her voice.

"Hello," he said cautiously.

"Have you noticed Dana's pendant?"


"You know she asked Casey on a date?"



"What did he say?"

"Depends on the NFL draft."

"Aah." He had closed his e-mail when he saw her coming, and both of them knew that he knew she had noticed.

"If you hear anything else on the NFL draft, let me know," she said quickly. "Dana's going to want it."

"Will do."

Jeremy watched her walk away before he opened his account again. Jenny's letter spoke of things he liked and didn't understand. For a moment -- just one, or maybe less than one -- Jeremy thought he might like being with her better than he liked basking in the atmosphere that had become smothering in this office these last days.

Awkward, he thought. Because of Natalie, and because something was balanced just so between Casey and Dan. And also because the network was breathing warming air in their general direction. Smothering. Maybe the rain couldn't wash it away, but it wouldn't hurt to walk in it once in a while.

"Jeremy," Dana said suddenly, and he jumped.

"What do you need?"

"If you hear anything more on the NFL draft --"

"You'll be my first call," he promised.

"I'll be your first call?"

"It's a saying."

"I assumed."

"I won't actually call you."

Dana nodded. "Okay."

"Calling you would be silly." Why would the computer lock up now, deny him the ability to minimize the e-mail, to hide it from Dana?


"Did you ... need anything else?"



Dana stared past him for a second and then walked away. Natalie was on a phone in the newsroom; the second she dropped the receiver, Dana was talking.

"Does he think it's a date, Natalie? Oh, what did you find out?" She took a step forward, reconsidered and stepped back, and then rolled her pendant between her fingers furiously till she realized she would break the chain if she didn't settle down. "Does he think it's a date?"

"I honestly coudln't say, not much, and I honestly couldn't say," Natalie answered. "The reining horse did a really good job reining, and Casey's going to think what you tell him, so make it count."

"I'm supposed to tell him it's a date?"

"If you want it to be a date."

"I don't want it to be a date."

"Then why did you ask him on a date?"

"I asked him on a dance."

"Then why did you ask him on a dance?"

Dana blinked. "On a dance?"

"*For* a dance. Why did you ask him?"

Dana shrugged. "Because I don't like going to parties alone."

Natalie was silent for about three seconds, and Dana realized why, but didn't comment.

"Natalie," Dana said at last. "Do you think I'm weird?"

"No more than usual."

"I'm saying do you usually think I'm weird?"

"A little."

"Is asking Casey to dance based on the outcome of the draft a weird thing to do?"

"I think it's sweet."

"What about church?"

"What about it?"

"I go there."

"I noticed."

"Is that weird?"

"If that's weird, then I'd say a large portion of the population is having trouble maintaining normalcy --"

"Natalie, I'm saying is that weird for me?"

Natalie smiled just a little. "No more than usual," she promised again.

Dana wrinkled her nose a little. "Casey thinks it is."

Natalie picked up the phone again and started to dial. "Just so long as he knows it's a date."

"The church?"

"The dance."

"It's not a date."

Natalie smiled and turned her attention to the call she was making. Dana walked toward Isaac's office, determined to learn something about reining horses, the NFL draft, or how not to let Casey think dancing and dating were synonymous.

She passed Dan, as he walked through the office looking for Casey. He found his partner in the sound room looking at tape.

"Casey," Dan said.


"Oscar Parrish watched his dream come true for five minutes."

Casey sighed and nodded. "I know."

"Five minutes."


"You and Dana made a wager on the side?"


"What's at stake?"

"If she's right, I have to go dancing with her at that benefit thing."

Dan raised an eyebrow. "Doesn't sound like torture. What if you win?"

"What if I win?"

"Most wagers have two sides."

"If I win ... she has to tell me what that pendant means."

Dan raised an eyebrow. "The crucifix? Dude, I could tell you what that means."

"I know."

"Anybody could tell you what that means."

"I know what it means."

"Then, why?"

"Why do I want her to tell me?"

"You could have asked her for, I don't know, money. Less nagging over the jokes you think are funny. A shopping trip."

Casey looked away, and his voice was quiet when he spoke. "I just want to see her face again when she talks about it."

Dan nodded slowly. Casey finished staring into the distance and looked at his partner. "Danny," he said, and his voice had changed again.


"Oscar Parrish saw his dream come true," Casey said.

Dan looked at him for a moment and then nodded. "Yeah," he said again.

"You ready to go talk about football and horses?"

"There's hardly ever a time when I'm not."

"Then let's go write the show."

They walked back through the newsroom, past Jeremy at his computer, past Natalie still on the phone, and past Dana, just re-entering the newsroom, who met Casey's eyes when she saw him and skipped a small dance step in anticipation.

7 March 2000

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set after "The Local Weather" ~~ previous / next