set after "Dana Get Your Gun" ~~ previous / next
"Dana, stop walking."
Dana stopped briefly, closed her eyes and didn't turn around. "What?"
"What's going on?"
"What do you mean?"
"What's going on?"
"Dana, I'm just asking."
Dana started walking again. "I could tell you were asking, Casey, and guess what?"
"You don't particularly care?"
"I don't particularly care."
"Dana!" Natalie jumped around the corner and almost collided with Dana and Casey.
"Dana," Casey said again.
"Natalie, what do you need?" Dana asked, ignoring Casey.
"What type of video?"
"I've got a twenty says you work in sports and can figure it out."
"Oh, nevermind!" Natalie stormed away, and Dana stared after her for a second before heading back toward her office.
"Dana, I want to know what's going on. You've been drifting around like a mindless old lady for a week."
Dana stopped walking again and turned to Casey. "Thank you."
"Dana, I want to know --"
"Nothing's going on."
"Steve Saris almost ruined the show last week."
"You handled that very well, Casey."
"He almost ruined the show, and you weren't even in the room!"
"I'm not the one who hired him, nor was I the one breaking up with him, so I don't see that this has anything to do with--"
"--with my own responsibilities and anything that might be 'going on'."
Casey shook his head. "You're supposed to be in control of the show, Dana, and instead you're out roaming the office with Sam?"
Dana started walking again. "Leave Sam out of this."
"He drives you crazy, Dana, and I'm not talking the kind of crazy you already are."
"What do you know about Natalie?"
"She's a lovely young lady who holds a journalism degree from Northwestern and wants to someday be on camera."
Dana shook her head in frustration. "What do you know about Natalie and Jeremy?"
"They work at Sports Night. Listen. I've got to go. I have an appointment to have my eyes checked in half an hour. Are you going to tell me what's going on?"
"Nothing's going on."
Casey tilted his head. "Fine."
"You're having your eyes checked?"
"You're supposed to have your eyes checked routinely."
"You actually listen to those guidelines?"
"I have a son, Dana, I'm just trying to set a good example."
"To make sure your 10-year-old doesn't develop cataracts. That's some good fathering, Casey."
"I'm leaving now."
"I'll see you later, then."
"See you when I get back."
"You won't if you never leave."
Dana raised an eyebrow. Casey shook his head as if to clear it and walked away.
As he passed the edit bay he saw Natalie standing inside. He waved and she nodded back. She had been standing here for almost a minute trying to remember what she needed. Tape. Well, yes. Of what, she did not know.
This had to stop. All week she'd been fuzzy and uncertain. This morning Jeremy had announced that he wanted his stuff from her apartment. His stuff? Even that was slang for Jeremy. And what was it that he had left at her apartment? She knew a couple of his ties were there. Some dress shirts, but she was keeping those. A couple of videos she hadn't liked anyway, and maybe a pair of shoes. Didn't the man have anything personal?
Tape. Dammit, dammit. She grabbed a video at random and stormed out of the edit bay, tossing her hair angrily over her shoulder as she went. This could not continue. She had to get her head in the game.
"Natalie!" Dana was catching up with her. Briefly Natalie wondered if she could outrun her. Instead she waited.
"What do you need?"
"Natalie, is everything all right?"
"With you and Jeremy?"
"We are no longer an item, and everything is fine."
"Natalie, what happened?"
"You decided mutually to no longer be a couple, but nothing happened?"
"Nothing happened. Is there anything else?"
Dana handed her a video. "If that's not what you needed, you'll have to be a little more specific next time."
Natalie came as close to blushing as she ever did. "Sorry about that, Dana."
"No problem. If you need anything else, let me know." She didn't mean video, and Natalie wished it was weeks from now when Dana's concern and Jeremy's bad mood and her own fuzzy-headedness had all passed.
But this was Sports Night. This was her beloved job in the craziest office in New York. And there was no guarantee that weeks from now would be any easier to handle. Casey and Dana would undoubtedly be struggling with some aspect of their fledgling wounded mixed-up relationship. Jeremy would still be Jeremy and that meant things like the ancient language of Acadian popping up on the show every once in a while. Dan would either be crazy or attempting to prove that he was not, and Isaac would always have an outlook on life that could pause the rest of them mid-step to consider the world. And all of this would land amidst the chaos of writing and producing a live nightly hour of television watched by millions of viewers in the nation.
There was no guarantee that next week or the week after would be any easier than this.
Natalie stopped walking. She wanted to go home. Right now. Right now she wanted to walk to the elevators and go down to the street and hail a cab or catch the subway home. She wanted to curl up on the sofa in her apartment with an Alice Hoffman novel and a fuzzy navel wine cooler and watch the show from home tonight without worrying about who was going to screw up and how she was going to fix it.
It frightened her, to want that. This show was her job and a large part of her life. The people she worked with were her closest friends, and until a week ago even her romantic life had largely existed among this delightful chaos.
Natalie froze at the sound of Jeremy's voice. "Yes?" she asked softly.
"Have you got that film on the Jets?"
"I have it right here."
"May I borrow it?"
"I've got work to do with it, Jeremy."
"Which explains why you're standing dead still in the middle of the newsroom."
"I'm sorry. I'm just a little tired from having such a damn good time last night."
"Let me know when you're finished with the tape."
Jeremy walked away quickly. Wow. He was dizzy with this. It was an overwhelming feeling, to be so mad at Natalie and to love her so damned much. They were not right for each other. But they were so perfect together.
He wished it were last week, when he and Natalie were together and he didn't have to worry about this yet. But even last week they were beginning to bicker over every little thing. And this was Sports Night. Last week Dana was beginning to notice Sam in a different light. Last week Casey was going insane because of Dana, and Dan was insane over the need to see Tom Waits, and Steve Saris was insane because he thought Felisha Mercer was about to break up with him. Nothing was ever calm around here. And he loved that. It charged him. It gave him a rush. But today he wanted less. He wanted his recliner and a soda and to watch the mindless talk shows all day. He wanted, more than anything, to go home.
Jeremy turned at the sound of Natalie's voice. "Are you finished with the tape?" he asked.
"We need to talk."
Natalie huffed out a breath. "Follow me."
Against his better judgement, Jeremy followed. When the door of the edit bay was closed behind them, Natalie turned to Jeremy and let go.
"I want to go home," she informed him.
Jeremy shrugged. "So go home."
"I never want to go home. I love it here. This is my life, and my job, and I never want to go home. Only today, I want to go home."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because you're here."
"I mean it's because you're here that I want to go home. And that isn't right, Jeremy."
Jeremy shrugged. "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to help me work something out here. We've been acting like seventh-graders, and if it keeps up, Dana's going to fire us both."
"I haven't been acting like anything."
"I really haven't."
"See?" Natalie swung a hand toward Jeremy to illustrate her point. "We can't even talk for five minutes without breaking down into some sort of I'm-right-you're-wrong seventh-grade debate, and I'm tired of it. I want to do my job and I want to love my job, and I don't want to think about this anymore."
"Then don't think about it. And I won't either, and we'll see what happens."
"No! We're going to work this out, because if we don't, we'll be at it again the next time you ask me for that damn tape on the Jets!"
"Do you have that tape, by the way?"
Natalie launched a video at Jeremy, and he caught it. "If you can't take this seriously, can you at least pretend, you know, for a second, that this matters to you?"
"It does matter to me."
"You're not acting like it does."
"You weren't, Jeremy!"
"Natalie, we're doing it again. Why don't we just leave this alone and go our separate ways?"
"Because our separate ways both end in the control room. And Dana sits between us and she's our boss, so I think we'd better work this out right now."
Jeremy sighed. "Fine. What do you propose we do?"
"I want to know why we broke up."
Jeremy tried to hide his being caught off-guard by the question. "We broke up because we weren't right for each other."
"And Dana and Sam aren't right for each other and sparks are flying from that piece of flint, so I want to know why that has anything to do with our relationship ending after a year of being strong."
"We argued for a year."
"That bothered you?"
"No, actually, I kind of liked it."
"So why --"
"Natalie, it's just one of those things that happens."
Natalie stared at him. "You're not taking this seriously at all."
"And that, right there, is why we broke up. I"m too serious for you, Natalie, and you're too serious for me."
Natalie stared at him for a long moment and then turned to leave the edit bay. Jeremy considered for a long moment, and then followed.
"Natalie, what is it that you need to know?"
"No, I want to hear it."
"Forget it, Jeremy. I've got work to do. We've got a show in seven hours, and I want to be ready for it."
"I think we have a little time to spare, Natalie."
"Forget it. It doesn't matter anyway." She charged away from him.
"Natalie, stop walking."
She stopped, and held her breath, and waited.
"I love you. You're a wonderful woman and I love you. But that doesn't mean that we can be together."
"No, I think I've got this straight, Natalie. You're 26. And I'm 27 and neither of us knows exactly what we want. But I do know that I never want to feel the way I did today. I wanted to go home, too, Natalie, and it's a feeling I don't like at all."
"So what do we do?" At last Natalie turned to face him.
"We didn't break up over Area 51."
"We broke up because we need space and we need time. And there's nothing wrong with that. And maybe someday down the line we'll end up together." He hesitated. "And maybe not. The important thing is that you know this: I love you. And we've got to be friends, and if we aren't -- if we don't at least make an effort -- all we're ever going to want to do is go home."
Natalie stared at Jeremy and for the first time in six days she let one tear fall. "Good enough," she said softly. Their eyes locked for one long moment before Natalie turned and walked back to the edit bay. There was work to do, and at last she felt like doing it.
Dana saw her through the window and raised her eyebrows in question. Natalie smiled back at her, and Dana nodded and continued on her way. Her way was not to her own office, but to Sam's. Something had to be done.
Sam looked up when the door opened, and his face changed when he saw who had entered. "Hello, Dana," he said softly.
"Wow," she said.
"I expected more along the lines of a question or answer dealing with the show, but I could get used to this greeting thing."
"What do you need, Dana?"
"Then what are you doing here?"
"Just wandering around ..." She was surprised at her own voice, which was low and confident and not at all like the frustrated voice with which she usually addressed Sam.
"Don't suppose you could wander into the edit bay and find me that film on the Jets?"
"In a minute."
"Dana, this is my last day here."
"I'm flying out tonight."
"I won't be back."
"Unless our ratings suddenly dramatically plunge."
"A joke, Sam."
They stared at each other in a silence that was charged with words they could feel that would never be said. Sam stood and walked around the desk, stopping when so little air was between them that Dana felt her breath affected by his. She thought for a moment that their hearts were beating in rhythm, that she could hear them, that this thing she was feeling that frightened her and excited her could be real.
And out of nowhere, she thought of Casey.
"I'm leaving tonight, Dana," Sam reminded her again.
"Don't," she said.
"I'll miss my flight."
"Catch a different flight."
"I'm on the last one out tonight."
"Then catch one tomorrow."
"Dana, I can't."
"If I allow myself to even look into your eyes for a minute more, I will be less than what I need to be to stay alive in this business I'm in."
"What are you talking about?"
"I get attached. And New York isn't the city for me."
"Just one night."
"And forever wishing we had gone our separate ways."
This time the silence was charged not with unspoken words but with unsettled emotion. Dana was lonely and Sam was lonely and both of them knew it and neither one wanted to admit it. And they knew it wasn't loneliness that had brought them here today. The two of them would be so right together if the world were something different than it was.
She surprised them both by kissing him. And in that kiss she knew he would not stay another night. They would do the show tonight, but this, right now, was their good-bye. Something that had never begun was ending now.
"Dana," Sam said after a moment.
"I need film on the Jets."
"And I need to leave tonight."
"And I don't need to know if you're going to be all right, but I would like to."
Dana drew in a breath and swallowed tears. "I'll be fine, Sam."
"Can I have that tape on the Jets?"
"Get it yourself."
Sam nodded. Dana smiled and left his office and went back to her own, and wondered when Casey would get back. She needed to talk to him.
04 February 2000
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set after "Dana Get Your Gun" ~~ previous / next