Toppington Von Monocle (nestra) wrote in slounger,
Toppington Von Monocle

For shrift. You know that on the list of good things I owe to fandom, you're right at the top.

Thanks to gritkitty for cheerleading and beta as I frantically tried to get this done in time.

Title: Rubato
Fandom: Sports Night
Rating: NC-17

Casey knew it was going to be one of those days as soon as Dan walked into the office. Not that they ever really had normal days, but there were a few different categories he could have sorted his days into, if pressured. There were Manic Days, when every game went into overtime and team managers called unexpected press conferences and the script was being constantly rewritten right down to the wire. There were Lazy Days, when he and Dan spent hours playing paper football until Dana came in and yelled at them and then got sucked right into the game. There were Uphill Days and Smooth Days and Natalie Days and rare Isaac Days, and once in a blue moon, there were Cheese Days (named by Dan, of course).

But this...this was going to be an Unpredictable Day.

"Casey! Casems! Case-o-rama!" Dan sailed into their office and tossed a section of newspaper on Casey's desk. Casey immediately flung his hands up in surrender.

"I don't know what I did, but I apologize. Although I have a hard time believing it was bad enough to warrant the use of nicknames."

"I have had what you might call a transformative experience, my young friend." Casey looked down at the paper in front of him, turned it ninety degrees so he could read it. It wasn't the Sports section, as he'd expected. In between the dull columns of newsprint, a color picture dominated the Arts page. Her dark eyes pinned down the viewer; her dark hair spilled over the graceful curves of a cello that shone like hundred-year-old brandy.

"She's beautiful," Casey said.

"Beautiful? You can't apply a pedestrian word like beautiful to her."

Oh, crap, Casey thought. Not only an Unpredictable Day, but with a new Grand Passion thrown into the mix. It was one of the quirkier aspects of Dan's personality, which was saying something when you considered the competition. There was a certain type of woman that attracted Dan, a combination of talent, brains, and unattainability, usually with a dash of craziness thrown in for spice. But Casey had lived through Hillary Clinton, Imelda Marcos, and the dark days of Annette Funicello. He'd live through this.

"I take it you went to a performance of the Philharmonic on your night off."

"Performance?" Dan scoffed again, clearly determined to find fault with most of Casey's vocabulary. "Such a guttural term for my transformative experience. Do you know what happened to me, Casey?"

"You had an epiphany?"

"I had an epiphany, courtesy of the glorious Estella Marcolini."

"The glorious..."

"Estella Marcolini. A lyrical name that suits my beloved."

"And does your beloved know you exist?"

Dan flung himself onto the couch, arms spread along the back and legs crossed in front of him. "We had a connection."

"Really. From...what row were you sitting in?" The newspaper crackled as Casey refolded it. He battled a sudden impulse to toss it in the trashcan and set it on the corner of the desk instead.

"Mere physical distance matters not to me and Estella Marcolini."

"And neither does sentence structure, I see."

"It was a definite connection, Casey. She was using her wiles on me."

"Her womanly wiles?"

"Whose womanly wiles?" Natalie powered through the door and grabbed a highlighter from Casey's desk, ignoring his ineffectual swipe at her. "Dan, have you been letting some woman wile you? Some woman who isn't me?"

Dan smiled benevolently at her. It made him look like he'd had a little too much tequila. "Estella Marcolini. Her name means 'star', you know."

"Marcolini means 'star'?" Natalie asked.

"Estella means 'star'."

"What does Marcolini mean?"

"I have no idea. But 'Estella Rydell' trips off the tongue, doesn't it?"

Natalie shot a sympathetic look at Casey, but her sympathy didn't seem to extend to staying in the office and watching Dan draw hearts and stars and 'Mrs. Estella Rydell' on a notepad. "You know, I think I hear Dana calling me."

"You're a tiny coward, Hurley!" Casey shouted after her. Over on the couch, Dan was air-bowing, eyes closed and humming to himself.

"Maybe one of us should start writing the script, Danny." No response. "Dan? Earth to Dan? The Dodgers were completely shut out last night? The Olympic Committee deadline is coming up?"

Dan opened one eye. "The cello is an inherently sensual instrument, isn't it?"

Casey gave up and started typing. From the corner of the desk, Estella Marcolini stared at him.


As he stepped into Isaac's office, Casey gave him the quick but careful once-over that most of the staff had adopted after the stroke. Isaac never missed it, of course, but as long as they didn't give him any crap, he let it slide. "Isaac, how do you feel about cellists?"

"I don't trust them." Isaac looked good, and his speech was only a little slurred. Really, the man was a walking miracle.

"See, I don't either! What's up with that?" Casey sat down in one of the extra chairs and grabbed a highlighter from the pencil cup on Isaac's desk.

"Put that back." Casey put it back, and Isaac continued. "They're like violinists, but with bigger instruments. Everyone knows that string players are raging egomaniacs."

"Everyone does?"

"Sure," Isaac said, clearly warming to his subject. "And you never turn your back on a clarinetist."


"They can't be trusted. Brass is where it's at. Trumpets, trombones, even French horns. Those are the real cool cats."

"Uh-huh," Casey said. "Lingering high school orchestra issues?"

"Don't psychoanalyze me."

"Yes, sir."

Isaac flipped closed the file folder sitting in front of him. His chair creaked as he leaned back. "What's this about?"

"Dan's obsessed with the Philharmonic's new cellist." Casey supposed he should feel a little stupid, tattling on Dan like this, but the air-bowing had tipped him over the edge. He'd fled the office when Dan started musing about their kids' bone structure.


Except Isaac's knowing look was making him feel...guilty, or silly, or something. Casey squirmed in his chair. "You know how he gets when he gets like this."

"He's a big boy, Casey."

"I just don't want to see him..." He trailed off, searching for the words he wanted, and unable to find them.

Isaac nodded. "I know you don't. But he's still a big boy, and you have a show to write."

"And an insane partner. Must be my lucky day." He pushed himself up out of the chair and considered making another humiliating grab for the highlighter, but Isaac might actually take a ruler to his knuckles.

"You know, it could be worse."

"Really," Casey said, pausing at the door.

"Could be Yo-Yo Ma." Isaac chuckled at his own joke, and when he caught the look on Casey's face, laughed harder.

Casey pressed his lips together and tried not to smile. "You're an evil man, Isaac Jaffe."

"I know. Having a stroke means you can get away with anything. Shut the door on your way out."


"Back in five, four, three..."

"Thanks, Kelly. That was Kelly Kirkpatrick in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers had their assorted caps and helmets handed to them by the Mariners. For the third time in a row. The Dodgers are five and sixteen for the season, and sunny Los Angeles is probably feeling a little frigid right now."

"That's our show for tonight. Tune in tomorrow night, when we'll tell you all about the Olympic Committee's decision. Unless they haven't made a decision yet, and we're stuck staring at the camera for an hour. I'm Dan Rydell, alongside Casey McCall. Good night."

"We're out," Dave said in Casey's ear. Casey pulled his earpiece out and tried to make it away from the desk before Dan started talking again, but no luck.

"She attended Julliard, Casey. Right in our fair city. It's even possible that I've passed her on the street, never even knowing that my soul mate was within touching distance."

"She's not your soul mate. She doesn't even know who you are." He made a beeline for Wardrobe, and Dan followed him. Which was really no surprise, Casey realized belatedly, since Dan was wearing clothes too.

"Hey, I'm on TV. And the occasional billboard."

"And she's a classical musician. What are the chances she likes sports, let alone watches a sports show?"

"No," Dan insisted, loosening his tie, "the timing is perfect. Concert at eight, out by ten-thirty, home in time to watch me at eleven. And don't apply stereotypes to Estella Marcolini."

"You know, I'm a little sick -- no, make that *really* sick of hearing about Estella Marcolini. It's been three days! And besides, everyone knows that you can't trust cellists. Or clarinetists. So maybe you should just stay away from the entire symphony orchestra." Casey thought this was a pretty impressive speech until he ruined the effect by nearly strangling himself with his tie. Dan stared at him for a moment, eyes narrowed, and then reached over to undo the knot.

"You're in a bad mood," he said.

"I'm really not."

"You really are, and I'm coming to your apartment, and we will drink beer and eat pizza and watch my tape of the Dodgers game."

"We know how the Dodgers game ends," Casey protested.

"And won't it be fun mocking their inevitable defeat?" Danny twisted to his right and fumbled for his t-shirt and jeans, pulling them toward him before starting to unbutton the blue shirt he was wearing.

Casey turned his back to grab his own clothes, inexplicably angry again. "Maybe I have something better to do tonight."

He didn't hear anything except the rustling of clothes for a few minutes, and then Dan said, "Okay," and he sounded so confused that Casey had to turn around.

"No, I'm sorry. You're right. I'm in a bad mood." He pulled his t-shirt over his head and tried not to act self-conscious.

Dan nodded, a careful movement of his head that made Casey feel like a heel. "Okay. So I'll go get the tape."

"We're not getting pineapple on the pizza," Casey added.

Dan retreated to the door before announcing with a grin, "Estella would let me get pineapple on the pizza."

Casey threw a tennis shoe at him; Dan ducked and flipped him off before disappearing down the hall.

This would be good. They'd have beer and pizza, and they'd make fun of the disaster that was the Dodgers' pitching staff, and maybe tomorrow Dan would be over this latest obsession and they could get back to normal.

Whatever that was.


"-- so maybe you could tell me what bug crawled up your ass about this?" Dan's plate clattered so loudly on the counter that Casey winced. "Seriously, it was kind of funny the first few times, but now it kind of seems like you're on a quest to steal any and all joy from my life."

"Good to see that you're not getting overly dramatic about this, Dan." He picked up the plate and loaded it into the dishwasher with his. He'd thought things were going pretty well, with the two of them camped out on the couch watching the game and stuffing their faces, but then he'd made what he'd thought was a subtle comment, and Danny had lost it.

"See, there's the part where this is my life, and although I include you in it out of courtesy, you actually don't get any say over my choices."

"What choices? You're not making any choices. You're just bouncing around the office, annoying the crap out of me." That last slice of pizza was sitting a little heavy in his stomach, and Casey wished they could just skip this part and get back to being buddies.

"Now you don't want to share an office with me?"

"I didn't say that!" Casey took a couple of deep breaths and flattened his hands on the counter behind him. "I just...isn't therapy supposed to help you identify patterns?"

Dan twitched unhappily and pried open the fridge for another beer. "God, is there any chance we could get through a week without you being an asshole about my therapy?"

"I'm not trying to be an asshole," Casey said. "I'm trying to help you."

"I didn't ask for your help." He rattled through Casey's junk drawer for a bottle opener. When he finally found one, he wrenched the top off with such violence that Casey shifted over a step.

"Yeah, but you usually don't. Especially when you need it."

"You really don't think you're being sanctimonious, do you?"

"You don't have a problem with this? Wasting your life obsessing over these women who don't even know you?"

"Hey!" Dan slammed his beer down so hard that it foamed and overflowed out of the bottle's neck. Shit, he'd really pissed Dan off, because Dan had completely invaded his personal space, crowding him against the counter, his face flushed with anger. "Back off, okay?"

"I'm tired of seeing you get hurt, chasing after these women you can't have. You never learn," Casey said.

"God, Casey, you're such an idiot," Dan said, his voice suddenly quiet. "I'm not the one who never learns."

He realized that it wasn't anger making his heart beat faster right around the same time that Dan leaned in and kissed him. Casey had given and received his fair share of kisses, but nothing had ever hit him quite so hard as the desperate press of Dan's mouth against his, or the tentative way Dan's hands came up to cup his face.

"Danny." What else could he say, with Dan's taste drying on his lips?

"Just...don't hate me, okay?" Danny whispered. Casey closed his eyes as Dan moved in again, leaning back against the counter as his world turned itself upside down. It seemed like Dan was trying to swallow any complaint he might make, tongue pushing insistently until Casey opened his mouth. Danny kissed like there was nothing else in the world he'd rather be doing, like Casey had given him ten years' worth of birthday presents wrapped up in this one touch. He was hard against Casey, and Casey realized with a shock that if he just moved a little to the left...there...

Dan moaned into his mouth, and that made Casey want to do it again, and before he quite knew what had happened, he was thrusting against Dan, cocks bumping together as Dan kept kissing him, hungry and anxious. Danny's hands had long ago left Casey's face and were creeping under his shirt instead, catching on his skin as they stroked across his back. Casey pulled Dan harder against him, the friction on the edge of painful through his jeans.

Dan broke the kiss and buried his face against Casey's shoulder. "Oh, fuck," he said helplessly, hips moving in an awkward rhythm. "I need..." He reached behind him for Casey's hand and moved it down to his cock, face still hidden. Their hands worked together, opening Dan's jeans, and at the first touch of Casey's fingers on his cock, Dan heaved in his arms and lunged for his mouth again.

Casey had no idea what he was doing, but he seemed to be doing it right, judging from the gasps Dan kept stealing in between kisses. Dan's cock felt fever-hot in his hand, and every time Casey touched a spot behind the head, Danny trembled. He began to experiment, twisting his hand on the upstroke, licking his tongue into Danny's mouth and squeezing his cock at the same time. He was overwhelmed with all the possibilities, all the new things they could do now -- a stolen kiss in the privacy of their office, legs pressed together under a conference room table, secret looks during a commercial break that promised so much more.

All this time, and he'd never known.

"Oh, god," Danny was chanting, "oh, god, oh, god..." and Casey's hand was wet. Dan panted against his lips for a minute, and Casey stood there, hand still down Danny's pants, unsure what to do next. With a gentle sigh, Dan grasped Casey's wrist, pulled his hand up and wiped it on his shirt. He felt Dan's heart beat against his palm, and he met Dan's eyes. A wry smile twisted the corner of Danny's mouth as he sank to his knees.

Casey didn't know what to do with his hands, so he put them back on the counter, which lasted for the few seconds it took Dan to get his pants open and pulled down to his ankles. Apparently not minding the hands in his hair, he took Casey into his mouth, tongue flickering down the shaft, and Casey realized with embarrassing clarity that he would either come or collapse very soon. He hoped he at least got to come before he collapsed.

Dan was using one hand to steady his cock; the other crept around between Casey and the cabinets and teased at his balls and upper thighs. Casey recognized what Dan wanted, even through the caution, and his gut lurched with anticipation as he spread his legs a little. Dan let his cock slip from his mouth and looked up. Casey nodded, no more than a jerk of the head, hips pushing forward and bumping his cock against Danny's cheek. Dan opened his mouth and let Casey shove his cock across his tongue, while a finger pressed lightly against his asshole.

When Danny's eyes drifted shut and his finger pushed in, Casey cried out and clutched at Dan's shoulders. Dan sucked harder, and Casey came in his mouth, muscles clenching in surprise. He was staggered, stunned, at the power of this thing that had been hiding silently in him for God knew how many years.

"I didn't know," he gasped, shuddering through the last of his climax, and Dan whispered, "shhh," head resting against his thigh, fingers trailing over Casey's hip as they might have traced the curve of a cello.


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