Dana shook her head. "No, Isaac, no they are not doing this again. Do you know why?"
"Do you know why?"
"Because they cannot be doing this again."
"Isaac, this is Tuesday. This is one week since the night they did this to us before. We've got McSorley, and we've got the - the Rangers and G-town and Rutgers, and they ca-- they can't do this to us again."
"Uh oh." Dan and Casey were standing in the doorway of Isaac's office. Casey stepped forward as he spoke. "Dana's forgetting how to speak English. This can't be good."
Dana turned to face them, opened her mouth, and forgot how to speak altogether.
It was Isaac who told them, "'Sports Night' isn't on the air tonight."
"No," Dan said.
"And let me tell you how happy I am to go down that path again," Isaac told no one.
"What are we being manhandled out of the way for this time?"
"We've been cut for an homage to Aristides."
Dan blinked. "A what to who?"
"He was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby," Casey said.
"And we're the first sports show to get muscled to the side two weeks running for 1200-pound athletes who don't give a damn whether or not they're on camera.
Isaac, what the hell --"
"On the bright side," Isaac continued, "the two of you will not have to share in this unexpected vacation time."
"What are you talking about?"
"You're covering the 2 a.m."
"Oh, joy," Casey stated.
"So be ready," Isaac instructed.
Dana regained the ability to speak as she followed Casey and Dan from the office.
"What the hell is going on?" she cried in something near a shout.
"Aristities," Danny said.
"Aristides," Casey corrected.
"Shut up," Dana told them.
"I am going out tonight, I am going to get drunk, and, honestly, I don't give a damn if either one of you is back in time for the two a.m. Who's with me?"
"We've still got this promo."
Dana stopped walking. "Promo?"
Dan sighed. "That damned promo they sent down from upstairs. We're supposed to have it on camera by morning."
"Why didn't anyone tell me about this?"
"Someone did tell you about this."
"Who told me about this?"
Dan shrugged. "Casey."
Dana looked at Casey, who raised an eyebrow and said, "Or maybe Dan."
"I'm leaving now," Dana said.
"Dana." Casey stepped forward.
"Aristides?" she asked him.
"How have you heard of him and I haven't?"
"Dan was kind enough to stick me with Derby coverage last May and we aired a history. Once that stuff gets stuck in your head, it's there for good."
"We're paying tribute?"
"Aren't his owners in bed by now?"
"How do you know?"
"His owners are dead."
"His owners are dead?"
"And the horse is dead."
"Did the first Derby take place some time before 1975?" Dan pointed out.
"How the hell should I know? Why are we airing this?"
"Because Luther said we are. But, hey, look on the bright side."
Dana turned on him. "The bright side? Danny? I don't see a bright side. I see the two of you here till three; I see Queen Amazon Bitch running her show without a snag while mine gets pulled two times in as many weeks, and I *don't* see any promo being on camera by daybreak. The only possible bright side of this is of the deer-in-the-headlights variety. So, what the hell are you talking about?"
Dan shrugged. "At least Casey and I get to work with Sally."
"And you get to go out tonight," Casey added.
Dana walked away from them stiffly but without verbal comment; when she was gone, Dan glanced at his partner. "What's up?"
"What do you mean?"
"With you and Dana. What's up with you and Dana?"
"Nothing." Casey walked toward their office and Dan followed.
"'Cause, you were acting like something was up."
"With me and Dana."
"Nothing's up with me and Dana."
"Just, the show's getting pulled again."
"And we're staying till three."
"To work with Sally."
"Whom, unless my memory fails, you once commented you liked."
Dan nodded. "But nothing's up.
Casey shook his head. "Nothing's up."
Dan left the office and then jumped back into it to avoid Natalie, who charged by as she apparently gave the sheaf of papers in her hand a good talking-to.
"Of all the rotten schemes to hatch in this office in the midst of a serious work day, they have to land this one right when we find out it isn't even a work day and all our work is going down the drain, or into Sally's show, as if she did all the work herself and we spent the day on the beach sipping margaritas and listening to Bing Crosby croon our troubles away. And then they hatch this?"
Dan stepped cautiously into the newsroom again. "Bing Crosby?"
"Do you like Bing Crosby?"
"I sort of do."
"Did you see this?"
"Did I see what?"
"The promo. You haven't seen it?"
Wordlessly Natalie handed the papers to Dan.
A moment later, Dan dropped the papers on Jeremy's desk. "What's going on?"
"What the hell is going on? Aren't you producing this thing?"
"You're talking about the promo?"
"Yes I am talking about the promo. What's going on?"
"They think it's cute," Jeremy explained.
"Who thinks it's cute?"
Jeremy shrugged. "They do."
"Who wrote this?"
"I honestly don't know."
"I'm supposed to say the word 'Howdy'?"
"I think that's cute."
"It's 30 seconds, Dan."
Dan sat down backwards on the nearest empty chair and dropped his face onto his crossed arms before he spoke again. "We're getting pulled for Aristities --"
"--and they want us to shoot this promo with a damned horse?"
"That appears to be the case."
"And just where are we filming with said horse?"
"In Central Park."
Dan groaned. "Honestly?"
"You mean we honestly have to leave the building?"
"The horse wouldn't do well on an elevator for 49 floors. And anyway, we're not doing the show tonight. Why wouldn't you leave the building?"
"We've got the 2 a.m. Sally's guys called in."
Jeremy grinned. "That's a lot of calls."
Dan actually laughed. "I'm saying Sally's anchors called in," he said.
"Casey and I are stuck with it."
"They like the visual image: the city, the animal, the frosty New York air ..."
"The chattering teeth, the woolen scarfs, the surly looks on the faces of the anchors ..."
"Look on the bright side. At least they're promoting us at all, which I must say is better than they've done in the past."
"You have a point."
"So go tell Casey."
Dan left Jeremy's desk and went back to the office, where he found not Casey but Dana, lying on the sofa with her arm across her face.
"I thought you were going out."
"We've got the promo."
"Jeremy's producing it."
"So you don't have to stay."
Dana sat up and looked at him. "It's better than sitting at home and doing nothing," she said honestly.
Dan nodded. "I hear you. Listen ... is everything all right? You and Casey have been acting ..."
"Like something's up?"
Dana lay back and covered her eyes again. "Everything is fine."
"That's good to know."
"It's just --"
Dan didn't quite look at her as he waited.
"I asked him again," she said in a distant voice, as though trying to make it seem offhand.
"You asked him what again?"
"I asked him out again."
"And he said no?"
"He said not yet."
Dana nodded. "Too soon."
"At least he didn't say no."
"You know Casey and I have to hang out with a horse during the promo?"
"And I have to say 'Howdy'."
Dana laughed softly. "See? I wouldn't want to miss that."
Dan nodded and left the office to his boss.
An hour later he was wishing he was back in his nice warm office, as he and the rest of them shivered in the night. Even the aged grey mare seemed cold and tired, as though she wanted nothing more than to curl up in her renovated-high-rise stall and go to sleep.
"Wake up, old pony," her handler said softly. The girl of about 15 was the only one oblivious to the cold as she set her old horse up for the perfect shoot. "She's an old pro," the girl confided in Jeremy. "She's been in two commercials already."
Jeremy nodded. "Well, that's good to know. So let's get this thing done. Dan, Casey --"
"She does carriage rides, too," the girl said, and giggled. "I guess that's kind of like her day job."
"Uh, right. Casey, why don't you, uh, come over here next to the --"
"Jane," the girl said. "Her name is Jane."
"All right. Next to Jane. And, Dan, you stand by the cart --"
"..carriage ... and we'll get started."
The camera crew got ready; just as action was called, Jane shook herself violently, knocking Casey off balance and making Dan jump back in spite of himself.
"Okay," Jeremy said. "Let's try that again. Only this time ... don't move." No one was sure whether he was talking to the horse or to the anchors, but it didn't matter; all of them moved six times more before they were able to get the shots they needed.
At last the mortifying promo was on camera. Dana was almost cheerful again as she watched, half a smile on her face. Only, as the shoot wrapped up, she turned.
Across the way, just hailing a cab, was Sally, and she was watching Dan and Casey and the horse with a smile on her face.
It didn't matter to Dana that she herself had nearly been smirking at the boys and their fear of this aging creature. Sally's show was going on tonight. Sally was going to have her rush, her high time, her good mood. And Dana was going to sit in the control room several floors up and try to remember what it was like to work for a station that actually respected the show being aired.
Dana walked away several steps and stood, staring distantly at the city skyline, wondering if this night was ever going to end. And from behind her, Casey watched and wondered what she would do if he were to kiss her right now.
"Aristities?" Dan asked, and Casey nearly blushed as he pulled his gaze from Dana.
"Aristides," he corrected by habit.
"Was he good?"
"He won the first Kentucky Derby by two lengths with a time of 2:37 3/4."
"What's the record?"
"Doesn't sound spectacular."
"But was he good?"
Casey shrugged. "What do I know about racing?" he answered.
"Talk to her, dude," Dan said softly from nowhere.
"You said no again, you're out of your mind."
"I didn't say no, I said not yet."
"You said not yet, then, Case; you're still out of your mind."
Casey closed his eyes briefly. "I panicked."
Casey sighed. "Yes."
Dan shrugged. "So go fix it."
"I don't know how."
"How much money did this Aristities win?"
Casey frowned. "Uh, not even $3,000."
"And he's famous."
"Well, not enough for you to recall his name ..."
"He's been remembered."
"You don't have to reap the rewards right now, man. Just --" Dan grinned. "Just get a hoof in the door."
"I don't know how," Casey repeated.
"Sure you do."
Slowly Casey turned to face his partner, realization and question meeting on his face. "I thought they were out."
"They are back in," Dan stated firmly. Casey nodded slowly and took a nervous step toward Dana.
Save for shivering, Dana hadn't moved in almost five minutes when Casey lay a hand on her arm.
"Hey," he said quietly.
"Hey," she replied.
"Are you crying?"
"Want to do something?"
Dana turned to him. "What?"
"Some time ago, we were going to go for drinks and dinner and a carriage ride in the park. Well, the only drink we've got here is cocoa and I don't know about you, but I'm not really hungry." Casey started to grin. "But old Jane there looks like she could handle part three, if you're up for it."
Dana didn't move, and she didn't smile.
"It doesn't have to mean anything," he said.
Her voice caught, and she had to whisper her reply. "That's what I was afraid of."
Casey met her eyes and his hands lay lightly on her shoulders. "What I'm saying is that it doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to. But I wish it did."
Dana stood still for a count of ten, and when the impulse she was trying to fight didn't pass, she let herself move into Casey's arms. He was her friend first, after all.
"Okay," she said at last, and Casey grinned past chattering teeth. Minutes later, Natalie beamed as she watched Casey and Dana and their carriage roll away.
"See?" Jeremy told her. "Some good can come out of this."
Natalie's smile vanished instantly. "Well, that doesn't mean I'm not mad as hell about it," she snapped.
Jeremy raised a hand. "I know."
Natalie nodded shortly. "Then let's get back to the office; it's freezing out here."
"Yes," Dan said, stepping close to them. "And didn't I see Sally heading in that direction?"
Natalie turned on him. "What did you say?"
Dan grinned. "Another time."
Natalie eyed him suspiciously, and the three of them headed back toward the office for another night of cancelled show and who knew what surprises.
22 February 2000