"I thought you wanted to be called Daniel."
"I kind of do, yeah."
"So --" Dan shrugged. "It's kind of scary when you do it."
Dana sighed as she almost smiled. "Get to work, will you?"
"Thank you." Dana picked up the Dallas tape and left the office.
"Who was in Dallas?"
"I mean who from other networks."
"Chris from over at Fox; ESPN showed up late."
"They missed the fight?"
"They missed the fight, and I would bet Chris didn't see much of it, either."
"Why would you bet that?"
"Because he was drunk and asleep in the bleachers when the fight broke out."
Dana stopped walking. "Seriously?" Kim nodded. "You mean this tape--"
"We're the only ones," Kim confirmed.
Dana grinned. "Excellent!" She started walking again. "Natalie!"
"We're the only ones who have Dallas."
Dana faced her. "How long have you known?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"This is the first time I've seen you today."
Dana blinked. "It is?"
"Miami's going to win."
"Over Florida State?"
"No, Dana, over New England's croquet champs."
"Miami's going to win over Florida State."
"Casey doesn't know that Miami's going to win?"
"Casey thinks Florida State's going to win."
"Where is Casey?"
"He's in the edit bay."
"This is really the first time we've seen each other today?"
"Okay." Dana nodded and headed for the edit bay.
"Miami's going to win," Dana said as she entered the room.
"No way," Casey said without looking up. "Florida State's got it."
"Care to bet on that?"
"I've got some time, Casey. Please bet on that."
"Who said anything about money?"
Casey started to grin as he turned to face her. "What did you have in mind?"
"If Miami wins, you knock it off with the horse jokes, starting with the harness race tonight and the Derby qualifiers this month. I know it's a funny sport, but we do have viewers during this season who tune in just for our coverage of the Thoroughbreds."
Casey nodded. "Fair enough. On the other hand, if Florida State beats Miami, you come with me tonight to that dinner."
Dana sighed. "It's not a dinner, it's a banquet, and it's going to be so boring I'll be surprised if you live through it."
"That's why I want the company."
Dana bit her lip. "All right," she said at last, and they shook on it, for slightly longer than a usual deal-sealing handshake.
Dana dropped Casey's hand quickly as she turned to answer Isaac.
"What is it, Isaac?"
"I've got some news."
"What kind of news?"
"The kind you're not going to like."
"What is it?"
"And when I tell you, I don't want you to go off the deep end."
"Isaac, what is it?"
"You're not going to go off the deep end?"
"Not if you never tell me what it is!"
Isaac shook his head slightly at the less-than-satisfactory answer before he continued. "Luther Sachs is trying to impress a new critic," he began.
"Yeah, the tall guy with the funny hat. I've seen him around," Casey said.
"That's right. Well, this critic has a thing for harness racing."
"I'm afraid he does. And apparently there's a big race tonight."
"Yes, we were just discussing that," Casey said.
Dana shook her head. "Get to the point, Isaac."
"We're not on the air tonight," Isaac said.
Dana blinked twice before she was able to speak. "We're being bumped?"
"I'm afraid so."
"For harness racing?"
"I think that's the case."
Casey shook his head. "We're being bumped for harness racing?"
"Welcome to the general idea."
"Dana, we'll be fine."
"No, Isaac, we wont' be fine. We'll be at home."
"I suppose you could go out."
"Isaac, we are standing here in the office with exclusive footage, work done and to be done, with millions of viewers waiting to see us tonight! What would Luther have us do?"
"Luther doesn't care what we do as long as the critic is happy, Dana. You know how it works."
"Yes, Isaac, I do. I do know how it works."
Dana shook her head in disbelief. "So, this isn't how it works! You don't bump your best show for harness racing on a night when the ratings could conceivably be through the roof!"
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the fight in Dallas."
"What fight in Dallas?"
"The one that broke out during the Dallas game."
"A fight broke out during the Dallas game?"
"A big one?"
"And I missed it?"
"And you missed it."
"Is there footage?"
Isaac stood silently for a moment. "I'll pass that on to Luther, Dana," he said, "but I am almost certain that there's nothing we can do." With this, he left the edit bay.
Dana stood still for only a second before she left, as well, followed closely by Casey. Isaac was standing beside Natalie, unable to get a word in edgewise as she explained something about the Miami-Florida State game.
"Dana," Natalie said. "For the record, this is the second time today that I've seen you. Jack couldn't make it to Miami tonight, but I've called Ann Pabst, and she was already at the airport. She'll be there by three."
"Tell her not to bother," Dana sighed.
"Dana, she's already on the plane."
Dana turned to face Natalie. "Do you like harness racing?" she asked.
"I really couldn't say."
"Well, if you want to become more familiar with it, tonight's the night."
"What are you talking about?"
"What's going on?" Jeremy demanded as he approached them. "I'm looking at today's satellite programming schedule and either there's been a substantial oversight or I'm losing my mind."
Dana saw Natalie start to answer that, but she was interrupted as Dan charged up to them. "Is it true?" he demanded.
"It's true," Dana said.
"Apparently this critic likes that sort of thing."
"What's going on?" Natalie asked again.
"We're not on the air tonight."
"We're not -- on the air tonight?"
"We've been bumped for harness racing because Luther wants to impress a critic."
"With harness racing?"
"I didn't write this script, don't look at me." Dana shrugged.
Silence fell for a moment, because there was really nothing to be said that could be said in a crowded room. And there was suddenly, terribly, frighteningly nothing to do.
The clock kept ticking as no one said a word, until Dana couldn't take it anymore. "To hell with this!" she said suddenly. "We are doing the show tonight!"
"Dana --" Isaac began.
"Isaac, I've got footage here in my hand of the fight that broke out in Dallas. We have exclusive footage, and by tomorrow that story will be old news. Tonight Miami plays Florida State, and Miami's going to win, and we've got correspondents standing by. Not to mention today begins hearings on a certain seven NFL players involved in a conspiracy to buy steroids. We need this day, Isaac. This is the day when the critics will notice us."
Silence fell, as each of them again noticed how awfully silent rooms could be when they weren't filled with the chaos of news. And again the clock was the only sound, as the team stared at Isaac and waited.
"I don't know if there's anything we can do," Isaac said. After a pause, he added, "But because we need this day, I'm willing to try. Dana?"
"Good enough," she told him, and turned to face the others. "Let's get back to work."
"Ann's in Miami by three," Natalie said as she continued on her way.
"Thank you." Dana tossed the video to Jeremy. "Cut this, would you?"
"Sure." He followed Natalie. "Natalie?"
"Four-seventeen for now. And, Jeremy."
"There's a carton in Dana's office for you."
He closed his eyes briefly. "Thank you."
"Hey, Jeremy," Casey said as Natalie walked away. "Miami/Florida State. Who's going to win?"
"Aah!" Casey threw his hands in the air.
"Told you," Dana said as she passed them.
In her office, Dana sat still for just a moment, allowing herself the luxury of seething. She found herself thinking of Sam, who would be in Chicago by now, and what would he think if he tuned in at eleven and saw a harness race? Sam had left in just the nick of time. One more night he might have stayed, was going to stay, had at least told her he would. If he had stayed that night, she would be even more confused about why her hand felt warm yet from Casey's touch.
This was the thought that remained on her mind that day. By three, Ann Pabst made it safely to Miami. Isaac was having no luck with Luther, but Jeremy's cut of the Dallas footage came out beautifully, and no one seemed to care that all this work might be for nothing.
It was almost dusk. The day had passed so quickly. Just five hours till the show would or would not air, and no one knew if this day was for nothing. They only knew that time passed so quickly here.
Dana glanced up from her paperwork when someone knocked on her office door. "Come in," she called. Looking sheepish, Jeremy stepped through the door.
"Come for your stuff?" Dana asked with a hint of sympathy in her voice.
"It's there." Dana pointed to the carton that was sitting on the sofa.
Jeremy wandered toward the box and then sat beside it, his eyes on the floor.
"You're going to be alone again tonight?" he asked
"Unless by some freak of nature Florida State wins over Miami," Dana said lightly.
"He keeps staring at his hand."
Dana glanced up in surprise. "What?"
"Casey. He keeps staring at his hand. What's that about?"
Dana blinked. "Nothing. I mean, I don't know."
"I'm going to be alone tonight," Jeremy said. "And Natalie probably will. And Dan. But you and Casey -- Dana, there's no reason."
Dana couldn't look at him. This was Jeremy, who stayed out of everyone's business. Jeremy who came here to work and to play, but never, not ever to meddle.
"I know it's none of my business," Jeremy said as though reading her mind. "I guess I just don't want the whole place to feel so alone."
"Jeremy, I don't mind being alone anymore."
"Your brother's hearing starts today."
"We may not do the show tonight, and even if we do, we know now where we stand in the network's eyes."
"And Natalie and I and Dan are alone. But you don't have to be."
Dana looked at Jeremy and then at his carton of things. "Those are your things from Natalie's?"
"I don't know where I'm going to find room for them," he muttered as he stood and lifted the box.
"He hasn't stopped staring at his hand," Jeremy said.
Dana nodded slightly, and Jeremy left her alone.
For a long time, she wasn't sure if she should do what she suddenly wanted to do. In trying to occupy herself, she finished a lot of work that Natalie or Jeremy would have done anyway. She edited tape and watched a bit of the game, in which Miami was slaughtering Florida State. And she didn't allow herself to think beyond her work, and she didn't allow herself eye contact with Casey or Jeremy.
But at nine, two hours until the show might not air, she found herself waiting for Casey in his office.
"Hey," he said when he saw her.
"Hey, Casey." She didn't look at him, but kept staring out at the city.
"What do you need?" he asked.
"I need the show to air."
"And I need this hearing to go all right for Kyle."
"I know that too."
"If the show doesn't air, time will stop."
Casey stared. "If the show doesn't air, time will stop?" he repeated.
"Even if it doesn't, there won't be any reason for it to go on."
"This show is time," she said. "We live on time. And everything fits so perfectly when it's gauged only by whether or not its seconds fit."
"Dana," he said again.
She raised her eyebrows and waited for him to go on, but he just shook his head.
She turned to face him directly. "Can I come with you to the banquet even if Florida State doesn't win?"
Casey met her eyes and she saw the surprise in his.
"I just don't see why we should all be alone tonight," she said softly.
Casey stepped forward, but turned away from her as the door opened.
"Dana," Dan said as he leaned inside.
"We're not going on tonight."
Dana nodded slightly.
"I'm going to let Natalie and Jeremy know," Dan said, and closed the door behind him.
They stood in silence, and the clock ticked louder than it ever had before. Dana drew a breath, and tried not to sob as she released it. She was geared for the show and she wanted to air it and she needed the lift that it gave her. But some guy in a funny hat wanted harness racing instead. And Casey still hadn't answered her question.
"You all right?" Casey asked, so softly that she wasn't sure he had actually spoken the words.
"Yeah," she answered.
"Of course you can keep me company at that mind-numbing banquet," Casey told her.
Dana looked up abruptly. "Really?"
Casey laughed softly. "Dana, of course."
Dana didn't smile. She let time mean nothing as her eyes found his, as his hand found hers, as she shed one tear for this night. She wasn't sure where the show stood right now, or where she and Casey stood, or why Sam had left when he had told her he would stay. She wasn't sure of much, but she was sure of the time speeding by just as hurried as ever, and she was sure that Miami would win over Florida State, and she was certain she would not end this night alone.
And she had learned these things in just the nick of time.
16 February 2000