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Masking Tape
by Cita Powers


Title: Masking Tape
Author: Cita Powers
Author's Website: none
Fandom: Sports Night
Pairing: Dan Rydell / Casey McCall
Rating: NC-17 (m/m sex)
Author's Disclaimer: None. I'm like that.
Author's Notes: Warnings: sex and unsafe use of videotapes...
Thanks to Em and n for all their useful suggestions. Comments and criticism are always welcome.



The bag thumped onto our desk.

I didn't look.

"A bientôt, mon ami. I am off to the Big Easy."

"What about the tape?" I kept my eyes on the screen.

"Yes, my friend," Casey continued, his vowels getting rounder by the second, "in one hour and thirty minutes, I will be reclining in comfort, winging my way to the Belle of the South, the Crescent City, the--"

"And the tape would be..." I glanced up. Casey picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Where?"

"The tape?" He looked at me blankly.

"The tape we had discussed earlier." I sighed. "The tape that Jeremy had promised would be here today. By noon."

Casey glanced at the clock and frowned. "Noon?"

"Noon."

"It's not noon."

"No, it's not."

"In fact, it's well after noon."

"Indeed it is."

"Ah." He turned and stuck his head out the door. "Jeremy!"

I went back to typing. How to accurately describe the Wizards' season? There were only a finite number of synonyms for 'suck,' after all.

"Yes?" Jeremy sounded like he'd been running.

"The tape," Casey said.

"The tape?"

"It was supposed to be here by noon."

"Oh. The tape." Jeremy cleared his throat. "It was delayed."

I swiveled my chair around and looked at him. "Delayed?"

"Yes. They called earlier and said they would courier it to us this evening." He held up his hands and backed out the door. "It should be here by the end of the show."

"There you go," said Casey, grabbing a notebook and pen. "It should be here--"

"By the end of the show. Yes. I heard." I turned back to the screen. Did comparing Juwan Howard to Howard the Duck really look like a cheap shot?

"Dan."

"Yeah?"

"I..." He hesitated, then continued softly. "I wanted you to come with me."

I stared at my fingers, motionless on the keys. Not as much as I wanted to go with you, even if it was just to talk about sports. Not as much as I wanted what you couldn't give, even if you'd known about it. Not as much as... Shit. "I'm sure you did."

"I fought the network."

"And the network won. Yeah. I know." I sat back in my chair and let my head fall back. There were small gray circles on the ceiling. We should probably wash our basketball. "Go. Have a good time."

"Dan."

"Listen." I sat up. He was giving me that damned Bambi-eyes look. It got me every time. I rubbed the bridge of my nose and wished... Hell. I wished I'd put on baggier jeans that morning. "I'm serious. Go. Have a good time. Bring me back something Cajun."

He stared at me, then smiled, some of the tension bleeding from his jaw. "Did you know that Cajun is a corruption of Ac--"

"Casey." He closed his mouth. "You're going to miss your flight."

"See you in three days," he said quietly. I sighed and looked at the screen. Even bringing Michael Jordan on board hadn't helped the Wizards. Not unless he got out of the boxes and on to the court.

"Casey, do you think--" I started, and then realized that Casey had already left. The office felt empty.

Yeah, I knew the feeling.

***

"Well, that was interesting." I wasn't surprised that Natalie was in perky mode. It was her way of dealing with disaster.

Dana barreled down the hall. "Interesting is one way of putting it. Catastrophic is another."

"Catastrophic is a little... strong, isn't it?" Jeremy sounded like the voice of reason.

"No," said Dana.

"No," said Natalie.

"Thanks for your support, ladies. It means so much to me." I slammed into my office. God damn it. Where was Casey when I needed him? If he had been here, instead of fucking New Orleans, the whole fucking show would have been fine. Good, even. Maybe great.

I grabbed my coat, and as I turned to leave, I saw the padded envelope on the desk. At last. I picked it up and headed for the door.

***

Dumping my coat on the chair by the door, I ripped open the envelope and slid the tape out. This had better be good, Jeremy. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor. I flicked on the TV and pushed the tape into the VCR, then went to get a beer.

As I unscrewed the top, I could hear cheering, and an announcer's voice. What the hell? I came out of the kitchen and glared at the TV. Shit. Gymnastics.

Jeremy, my friend, you fucked up.

I reached for the remote, trying to decide if I should yell at Jeremy, or just humiliate him in public, when there was another cheer, and the announcer said, "Casey McCall on floor exercises."

And this young, skinny guy, all arms and legs, stood at the edge of the mat for a second, then held up his hand. I squinted at the screen, and my knees felt wobbly.

God. It was Casey.

So I sat down and watched him do a tumbling pass. It was good. Not the best I'd ever seen, not Olympic caliber, but it was good. He did some strength moves, splits to show flexibility, and then another tumbling pass.

Only then did it hit me. What was Casey doing on this tape?

There was more applause, and the camera jiggled and jerked as Casey bowed to the judges and walked over to the sidelines. I looked around for the envelope that the tape came in.

"Good job, Case." I didn't know the voice. Soft, husky.

Casey -- god, he was young -- looked right into the camera and smiled. He was sweaty and his hair was sticking up and he winked at the camera.

"Thanks, Bri."

The camera stayed on him as he shrugged on his training jacket. He sat down and pulled his pants over his feet, then stood up, turned and bent over as he tugged them up over his...

Fuck.

The picture jumped and the screen fuzzed for a second. Then it picked up again with Casey on the parallel bars. He was moving well, with smooth transitions. Good.

A voice, Bri's, I think, picked up, as Casey continued the routine.

"Nice job, Case. Keep it strong, yeah. Get those thighs apart. Yeah. Good. Oh shit, look at that ass..."

The screen fuzzed again. I looked down at the beer in my hand. I'd forgotten it, so I took a big swallow and almost choked when the picture cleared.

Casey was stretched out on a bed. Naked. God, he was skinny. Hipbones sticking out, and you could count his ribs. His hand slid from his belly down to his... Shit. He was holding himself, stroking. His... dick... shit. I could see the moisture at the tip. He was looking at the camera, no, next to the camera...

A big back, a big, naked back, moved into the picture, and I caught myself leaning sideways, trying to see around it.

"C'mere, Bri." I'd never heard Casey sound like that. Low. Slow. Sexy.

The back moved, and then I could see Casey again. He licked his lips and raised his arms.

The other guy crawled onto the bed between Casey's spread legs and slid his hands under Casey's head, lowering his mouth and...

I forgot to breathe.

***

There was more. A lot more.

Casey on the rings. Casey on the vault. Casey, straddling muscular thighs, sitting down slowly on Bri's huge dick. Dry mouthed, I watched it disappear inside him, listened to Casey grunt and pant as he shifted his hips and sank down another inch.

How the hell...

Then he just gave a funny little gasp and moved, and he was... It was... gone. Inside. All the way.

Shit.

I had to lean back, spread my legs, but I wouldn't, couldn't touch... No. Not even to adjust myself. No.

Hands moved over Casey's long back, feeling each bump in his spine, tracing his ribs. A voice rumbled, but I couldn't make it out. Just saw Casey's head fall back, heard him moan. God.

The hands moved lower, cupped his ass, pulling. I could see... everything. The sheen of moisture -- lube? -- around his... around... Oh, fuck, fingers traced the stretched skin, and Casey shivered. I shivered, too. Tried to swallow.

Then Casey lifted himself, and it slid out a little. He shivered again and sat down, moaning.

I had to. Had to rub, through my jeans. Just enough to ease some of the pain.

He did it again, lifting, sliding, sitting down. Again. Over and over, getting noisy. Groans, muffled words. His back was sweaty, drops catching the light. One drop trailed slowly down his back, between his...

Bri's hands slid down, his fingers digging into Casey's hips as he pushed up, hard. Bri groaned and his thighs shook. After a minute, he relaxed, and when his hands fell away, I could see dark marks on Casey's hips.

I wanted to kill him.

Then Casey lifted, and Bri's dick slid out, wet and obscene against his hairy stomach. Those damned hands cupped Casey's ass, pulling him forward, and then... Fuck, I couldn't see Casey's dick disappear into his mouth, and I wanted to. It didn't take long. Casey's hips jerked, and a little white trail dribbled down the back of his thigh. His ass tightened, and he moaned.

I didn't remember unzipping my jeans, or pulling out my dick. Just pumping hard and fast, and then fumbling as I tried to stop spraying all over the sofa and me.

God.

My hand was sticky, but I didn't care. All my muscles had turned to water, and I leaned my head back and caught my breath. But I didn't look away from the screen.

Casey was kissing him.

I stumbled into the bathroom to clean up.

***

There was nothing but snow on the screen when I walked back into the living room. I'd changed, too, and hit the rewind button as I passed the TV.

Water. Juice. I needed something, and for a terrifying instant I knew it wasn't going to be found in the kitchen. Deep breath. Two. Okay. I chugged half the carton of OJ and slammed the fridge door shut.

The padded envelope was still sitting on the coffee table. It was addressed to Casey, but there was no return address, and I couldn't make out the postmark. I threw it back on the coffee table, and saw a piece of paper on the floor.

It was a handwritten note.

Dear Casey, I was going through my college junk, and found this. Thought you might like to have it for old time's sake.
Brian.

Well, that made sense. Casey did gymnastics in college. Casey did... other things in college, apparently. My dick twitched.

I was so screwed.

***

An hour later, I was sitting on the sofa in my robe, with a box of Kleenex on the cushion beside me. Never let anyone say that Daniel Rydell wasn't prepared.

I hit the play button on the VCR and fast forwarded through Casey's routines. The gymnastics ones, I mean. As soon as I saw naked Casey, I pressed the play button again and leaned back, propping my feet up on the coffee table.

No touching, not yet. This time I could hear them, the little comments they made to each other.

"You're good," said Bri, and "Love this."

"Yeah, love this," Casey murmured, and I unclenched my fists and turned down the volume.

I was breathing hard and my robe had fallen open by the time the scene changed again. Football players ran out onto the field, and one, number 37, waved to the camera. The picture stopped and started a lot, and the action was choppy, but I could see that Bri was a good player. Very good. Definitely pro quality. He came up to the camera after the game, his helmet still on, and pretended to tackle Casey. The screen went blank.

When the picture cleared, all I could see was Bri's stomach and thighs. And dick. I couldn't believe that Casey'd taken it up his... God. My dick jerked as Casey came into the picture. He must've been kneeling, because his head was on the same level as... Fuck.

He kissed Bri's stomach, stroking his dick a couple of times, and then Bri's big hands smoothed over Casey's head. With a grin, Casey opened his mouth and...

I couldn't believe it.

Casey had Bri's dick half-way down his throat, and was trying for more. Bri's hands tightened around Casey's head, and his hips started to move. God, he must have been choking Casey, and I let my feet drop to the floor and leaned forward, my hands shaking.

It didn't take long before Bri pulled out and pumped all over Casey's face. Casey was smiling, but his face was kind of flushed, and it didn't look to me like he had enjoyed himself very much.

There was snow on the screen for a couple of seconds, and then it cleared. Casey was stretched out on a bed, his head and shoulders propped up on a couple of pillows. His legs were spread wide, knees bent, and his dick was reaching for the sky. He smiled at the camera and said something.

I grabbed the remote and turned up the volume.

"You look hot," said Bri. He wasn't in the picture, which was fine with me.

Casey's smile grew bigger. "So, what do you want me to do first?" he asked, raising an eyebrow and managing to look both innocent and completely debauched at the same time.

"Touch your balls. Roll 'em, pull on them a little."

Casey did, and I flopped back and put my feet up again. My apartment had suddenly turned into a sauna, so I shrugged out of my robe and kept my eyes glued to the screen.

"Stroke your cock with your other hand." Bri's voice was husky, and Casey gave him a half-lidded look before complying. His hand moved up and down, spreading the wetness over his dick, while his other hand continued to play with his balls.

I stroked my dick once and pulled my hand away quickly. No, not yet. I just rubbed my stomach and thighs as I watched, instead.

"Stop."

Casey did, but he shot Bri a peeved look.

Bri laughed, and I clenched my fist and started to sit up before I remembered that this was on tape, and had happened a long time ago.

"Hands off your cock, and do yourself with a finger."

Oh, shit. Casey's smile returned, and he let go of his dick and reached out for something off screen. When his hand came back, his finger was wet and glistening. I swallowed hard.

He scooted forward a little more, canting his hips, and began to circle his... God. He moaned as his finger moved, around and around, and spread his legs wider. The camera zoomed in tighter.

"Yeah. That's good." Bri's voice had dropped an octave, and for once we were in agreement. That was very good.

Casey pushed his finger inside and I could see the goosebumps march across his skin. Then he moaned.

I moaned, too.

He squirmed and pushed his finger in further.

I squirmed and tried to breathe.

"Two fingers," Bri said, "and go deep."

God. I couldn't help it. I grabbed my dick and pumped. Casey panted and closed his eyes. His fingers were wet up to the knuckles.

"Three..."

Casey grunted as he pushed the other finger in. Then he twisted his hand and his dick jerked, come landing on his chest and stomach. My hips bucked, I squeezed my eyes shut and yelled as I pumped my dick, shooting all over myself.

By the time I managed to open my eyes, the tape had reached the end and had started to rewind automatically. I reached for a Kleenex and frowned down at the mess on my chest and belly.

I couldn't believe I had done this. Jerking off while watching a tape of Casey. A tape of Casey fifteen years ago. A tape that he didn't even know I had.

Shit. I am one sick fuck.

***

I came in early and centered the envelope on the desk. I'd resealed it that morning, with the tape and note inside. It didn't look bad. It certainly didn't look like I'd opened it and watched the tape at least a dozen times over the past three days. Maybe more. Probably more.

Okay. More.

I was sitting at the table, pretending to type, when Casey walked in. Kim followed him. I didn't look up.

"The air was like wine," he said. I heard the thud of his bag on the desk.

"Fine wine." Kim sounded amused.

"Like fine wine," he agreed. "Ripe with the promise of--"

"Can air be ripe?"

"New York air can be ripe," I said, turning in the chair and looking up.

"It can indeed." Casey nodded, smiling at me. "But that's not the kind of ripe I experienced."

Kim grinned. "Like fine wine."

"Exactly!" Casey unzipped his bag and pulled out a small packet. "Something Cajun, as promised." He tossed it to me.

I caught it and turned it over. "Paul Prudhomme's Jambalaya Spice Seasoning Mix."

"An Authentic Taste of New Orleans," Casey said solemnly. "Just add shrimp and sausage..."

"And rice."

"And rice, and you have an Authentic Taste--"

"Of New Orleans." I tossed it to Kim. "Enjoy."

"Hey, that was a gift!"

Waving the packet, Kim disappeared out the door with a laugh.

"How was the trip?"

"Good. It was good." He sat on the sofa and I swiveled the chair around. "At least, the food was good." He leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. "It would have been better if you'd been there."

"Yeah." I turned back to my laptop. "The air being like fine wine and all."

He got up and crossed to the desk. "Did the tape arrive?"

"Tape?" I was halfway out of my seat before I understood him. "Oh. Yeah." I sat back down and rubbed my eyes, letting my heartbeat return to normal. "Yeah. It got here okay."

"Dan?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you... I'm really sorry that you didn't get to go."

Shit.

I laughed, but he didn't look like he was buying it. "I'm telling you, Casey, that it was fine. I was fine. I am fine. We're all fine. I--" I shut up, way, way too late.

"The thing is, Danny," he said, frowning, "the trip was pretty awful. We didn't get out of the hotel once, and I had to buy your gift at the airport before I left. And I think it's Creole, not Cajun."

I took a deep breath. "It's okay."

He looked at me, then nodded. "Okay." Picking up the envelope, he gave it a shake and glanced at me. "What's this?"

I shrugged. "Dunno." I bit my tongue before I started babbling again.

Lifting his eyebrows, he opened the envelope and took out the tape and the note. He stared blankly at the tape for a minute, then read the note. I think his face got a little pink, but I couldn't be certain. God knows my blood pressure jumped fifty points right then, and everything was a little hazy.

He put the tape and the note back inside the envelope and pushed it to one side.

I couldn't stand it. "What is it?"

"Just something from an old friend," he said, not looking at me.

"Oh, yeah?" I jerked my head toward the TV and VCR. "You could watch it now, if you want."

He choked, but recovered quickly. "No. I'll probably just throw it away."

"It was nice of him to think of you." Crap. Leave it alone, damn it.

Casey's mouth curled up, and he raised his eyes. They looked... bleak. "Yeah. Real nice."

I put my hands on the keyboard and began to type in garbage.

***

"Now that was a good show." Natalie beamed.

"A very good show," Kim said, before disappearing around the corner.

"I don't know about very good," Jeremy began. Natalie grabbed his arm. He shut his mouth and winced.

"Jeremy and I are going to Anthony's. Dana's coming. Why don't you come, too?" Her smile included both of us.

"I'm pretty tired," Casey said, loosening his tie.

"You can tell us about New Orleans." Natalie's smile broadened.

Glancing at me, Casey shrugged. "It's not that--"

"I'm buying!" Dana called from down the corridor.

Three voices from around the set yelled, "I'll be there."

"All right." Casey turned on his heel and started back to wardrobe.

"How about you, Dan?"

"Huh? Oh. Yeah." I glanced at Natalie, then back to Casey. "Yeah. I'll meet you there."

***

"It's not the heat, it's the humidity," Casey said, gesturing with his beer. It sloshed onto the table. Jeremy glanced over, pushing a napkin toward us. Casey ignored him.

"I thought you were inside the hotel the whole time." I swiped the napkin through the puddle of beer and balled it up, throwing it across the room. Someone yelped.

"I was inside the hotel the whole time." He frowned down at his beer. "I was speaking generally."

"Meteorologically, even."

"Indeed." He took a drink. His throat muscles moved smoothly and I shifted in my seat. Damn. I raised my glass and gulped down half.

"So, are you going to watch the tape tonight?"

"The tape?" He blinked at me. "Didn't Jeremy say..." His voice trailed off.

"The tape. The one from Bri-."

Fuck.

His eyes focused on me. "From Brian," he said softly. "How did you know it was from Brian?"

"Uh." I stared at him. I couldn't breathe, and my pits were swampy. "Return address?"

His eyes narrowed and he shook his head. "There wasn't any return address. I noticed."

"Uh." I held my glass against my burning forehead. "I. Uh." I sucked in air and let it out with a whoosh. "Casey, you know how sometimes these really strange things happen, and that the best thing to do is to just go with the flow and--"

"Dan." His voice was like flint. I closed my mouth. "Did you watch the tape?"

I put down the glass and clasped my hands. They were shaking.

"Casey..."

"Did you watch the tape?"

"Yes."

"You opened an envelope addressed to me and watched--" He made a weird noise and stood up.

I raised my eyes. His face was scarlet and he looked sixteen feet tall.

"It was a mistake. I thought it was the tape that Jeremy--"

"Don't talk to me." He turned and walked out.

Fuck.

***

I think I got some sleep that night, if staring at the ceiling counts. I'd called Casey as soon as I got home, and got his answering machine.

"Hi. This is Casey McCall. I'm not available right now, but if you leave a message after the beep, I'll get back to you as soon as possible."

I shook my head. I had helped him set up his answering machine, and he'd insisted on reading the message right out of the instruction manual, even after I'd made some good suggestions about how to personalize it. I'd told him to loosen up and take the stick out of his ass. What the fuck did I know?

"Listen, Casey. I'm sorry. Really, really sorry. I thought it was the other tape, and by the time I--"

Click.

Shit.

I hit redial and... nothing.

Damndamndamn.

He'd unplugged his phone.

So I got ready for bed and spent the night staring at the ceiling.

I got in early, but he was there before me, sitting at the table typing away.

"Hey, Case."

He didn't look up.

"I, uh, tried to call last night--"

Before I could finish, he stood up, grabbed a pad and pencil, and headed for the door.

"Hey, I'm trying to apologize here--"

He didn't even turn his head.

I collapsed on the sofa. Daniel Rydell, my friend, you are a fucking idiot.

***

Casey showed up for the noon rundown after everyone else had arrived, and kept up the silent treatment. Kim and Elliot raised their eyebrows at each other, but no one else seemed to notice. I tried to catch him as he left, but he turned to Natalie and asked her a question, and they walked down the hall together.

I frowned at his back, and wondered what he'd do if I grabbed his arm, hauled him around, and kissed him.

Shit. I lowered my pad of paper over my crotch and went back to the office.

The three o'clock rundown was no better, and this time Jeremy was looking from Casey to me and back again. As he left, Casey told Dana that he was going to work on the playoff highlights and didn't want to be disturbed.

Fine. So I wouldn't disturb him.

At the six o'clock rundown, I waited until Dana asked me about the Kolzig interview, and then turned to Casey.

"I thought it should be in the forties. How about you, Casey?"

His jaw tightened, and he frowned and tapped the paper in front of him with the end of his pencil. But he didn't answer and he didn't turn to me.

I rubbed the back of my neck. Natalie was looking at Casey, her head tilted to one side. Then her eyes moved to me and I flashed her a smile. She tilted her head to the other side and narrowed her eyes.

"Well, Casey?" Dana looked up from her notes.

"It should be in the twenties, after the NASCAR spot." His voice was flat, and Dana's eyebrows drew together.

"Natalie? Where do we have time?"

"Oh." She jumped and shook her head, then consulted her timetable. "The forties would be better."

"Do you have any problem with that, Casey?" Dana waited, pencil poised.

Everyone waited.

Finally, he shrugged. "No."

Dana gave him one of her patented you're-an-idiot looks, and then turned to Jeremy.

When Dana said she was finished, Casey made a run for the door.

"Oh, Casey, wait!" She scooped up her papers and caught him before he could escape.

"Yeah?" He stuck out his jaw, like he was waiting for a punch.

"Ah." She blinked up at him, her mouth open, and then recovered. "Brian called me this afternoon. He wanted me to ask if you'd received the package he sent."

Brian?

I stared at Casey.

Brian?

Brian Whittaker?

Dana's brother?

Casey looked up, over Dana's head. He looked right at me. His eyes... fuck. I hadn't seen that look in his eyes since he broke up with Lisa. I wrapped my arms tight around my stomach to keep from doubling over.

"Tell him," he began, still looking at me. His voice was hoarse. "Tell him I got it."

Dana glanced at me, and then turned back to Casey. "Good." It was almost a question. "Good. Okay. I'll do that."

Casey, Casey, Casey... You're more fucked up than I am.

I took a step toward him, and he turned and slammed out of the conference room.

***

We made it through the show. Somehow. I smiled and joked and couldn't tell you what the hell I said or read off the teleprompter. Every time I looked at Casey, my throat tightened and my heart battered against my ribs. So I didn't look at him. I looked near him, at his shoulder, or the top of his head. The audience couldn't tell, but Casey could.

I heard the hurt in his voice. Hurt I had caused.

When Dave said "We're out," I grabbed my script and ran. I hid in the bathroom, locked in a stall, until I figured he'd changed and gone home.

I stripped off my suit and started back to my apartment. But when I should have turned left, I turned right, and right again, ending up in front of Casey's building. I said hi to Joe, the night doorman, and he waved me onto the elevator with a grin and a comment about the show.

I knocked on his door and waited. No answer.

"Casey?" I knocked again.

"Casey? I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. Let me in and I'll grovel."

Silence.

I leaned my forehead against the door. Shit. "Casey, I'm going to sit here for a while, and if you decide you want to talk to me, open the door, okay?"

I turned and slid my back down the door, resting my head in my hands.

***

"Dan?"

Something soft touched my cheek.

"Dan?"

I leaned into the softness. It brushed over my lips.

"Danny?"

I opened my eyes. Casey straightened up and stared back at me.

Huh?

"I. Uh." I looked around. Hallway. Casey. Oh. "Sorry. I fell asleep."

"I thought you were just resting."

"Pining for the fjords?" I rubbed my eyes and squinted at him. "What are you doing here?"

He raised his eyebrows. "Trying to get into my apartment."

"I thought you were in your apartment."

"If I was in my apartment, then why are you sitting out here?"

"Uh. I thought," I leaned my head against the door, "that you didn't want to speak to me, so I waited out here, in case you changed your mind."

"In case I changed my mind." He nodded solemnly.

"Yeah. But." I started to scramble up, but my foot and ankle had pins and needles, and I sat down with a thud. "Ow. But you're talking to me. You changed your mind." I rubbed my foot and grinned up at him.

"Dan." He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. "You're blocking my door. It would be very difficult to enter my apartment at the moment without talking to you."

"Since I'm blocking the door." My grin widened.

"Exactly."

"I should have thought of this yesterday."

"No. Yesterday I would have hit you."

My smile disappeared.

"Casey, I'm sorry. I thought it was--"

"I know." He flushed and held up his hand. I closed my mouth. "You thought it was the other tape."

"Yes."

He looked at me for a long minute, and his flush deepened. Then he put out his hand. "You might as well come in."

I grabbed it and levered myself off the floor. He unlocked the door and I followed him inside.

"Where were you?"

"Not here, obviously." He took my coat and hung it up next to his.

"Obviously. But where?" I wandered over to the sofa and sat down with a groan. Much more comfortable than the floor.

"I went for a walk. Want a drink? Milk? Juice? Beer?"

"Juice." I let my head fall back and stared at the unmarked ceiling. Either Casey didn't bounce a basketball off his ceiling, or his basketball was cleaner than the one at work.

He came in and handed me a glass, then sat on the edge of the sofa, his elbows on his knees. He held his glass with both hands and turned it around slowly.

I drank my juice and put the glass on the coffee table, then leaned back again.

"How much did you watch?" he said softly, still staring at his glass.

"All of it." My voice was just as quiet as his.

He didn't say anything, but his hands shook, and he quickly put his glass on the table and clasped his hands together.

"I'd forgotten he'd even made a tape." It was barely a whisper. "Forgotten, or put it out of my mind..."

I waited.

"I was a freshman, he was a senior." His voice was a little stronger, a little louder. "He saw me going through my routines one day in the gym, after he had football practice, and we... Well, you saw what we became... what we did. It didn't last past his graduation. I didn't want it to end. I... I felt... He had a chance to go pro, and didn't want..." He laughed bleakly and pushed his fingers through his hair. "So it ended. And now I can watch the tape to remind me."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. The one good thing that came out of it was that I met Dana."

"That would be considered a good thing." I nodded.

"She never knew," he said quickly, glancing at me before looking back at his hands.

"I didn't think she did."

We sat in silence. Casey's mouth suddenly twisted, his fingers tightened and his knuckles turned white. Then he raised his head and looked straight at me.

"Thank you," he said, enunciating each word clearly. "Thank you for not freaking on me, or telling Natalie, or--"

"Casey," I interrupted, shaking my head. "You're an idiot. I wouldn't freak, at least, not much. Not about something like this..."

"Because you're not that guy," he said solemnly.

"Because I'm not that guy," I agreed.

"I should have thought better of you," he continued. "I'm sorry."

I looked away, my face suddenly hot. "I, uh. Don't... Don't apologize, Casey."

"Why not? I should have known--"

My cheeks burned and I shook my head. "Don't."

"But--"

I raised my hands and let them fall. "I watched the tape... more than once. Okay? So don't."

"More than..." A little crease appeared between his eyebrows and he stared at me.

"A couple of times, okay?" I stood and walked to the kitchen. "Five or six. Maybe ten."

His eyes followed me and he frowned. "Ten?"

"Or twenty." I shrugged and leaned against the wall. "Approximately."

"Twenty?" He looked poleaxed. "Why would you..."

I stuck my hands in my pockets and pushed away from the wall. "Because... Because..." I walked over to a window and looked out. All I could see were blurred lights and my reflection, dim on the glass. "It was... You were..." I shook my head and tried to swallow past the lump in my throat. "You were hot."

"Hot?" He sounded startled.

"Yeah." I leaned my forehead against the cool glass. "Definitely hot."

"I was hot?"

I turned and propped my hip on the windowsill. "Casey, take my word for it. You were hot enough to get a rise out of a dead man."

"A dead man?" His eyes were wide.

"A dead man."

"I was hot, huh?" There was a hint of wistfulness in his voice.

"Was." I met his eyes. My stomach did a swan dive off the high board. "Are."

He cleared his throat. "You think I'm..."

I nodded. "Blazing."

"Steamy?"

"Blistering."

His mouth twisted. "Flaming?"

"God, I hope so," I breathed.

He stared at me for a second, then the corners of his mouth turned up and he laughed.

"Dan, we have to talk."

"Tomorrow," I said, standing. I sat beside him on the sofa. "Tomorrow we talk. Tonight, I was hoping..."

His smile faded, but not the light in his eyes. "Hoping?"

"Yeah. Hoping." I leaned forward and brushed my lips over his. His arms snaked around me, pulling me closer.

I closed my eyes, grabbed his head, and kissed him.

As he pulled me down on top of him, I wondered if I could borrow a video camera from work...


~ The End ~


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