"The Night Is Still Young"
Esther came to get Isaac just as the show ended, so there was no extended celebration for his return. Just smiles on everyone's faces, and damn if that wasn't nice to see, given all the drama that had been going around.
Still, when all the post-show tech stuff was done, she wasn't quite ready to go home, but she didn't know where she wanted to be. "Dana," she heard and turned, too sharply, and then Dan was right there, looking down at her with a wrinkle of concern spreading across his forehead. "You're not calling your car service?" he asked.
"Indeed I am not, my young friend," she said, reaching up to poke at his forehead. "So you can just put the wrinkle of concern away."
He cracked a smile. "The wrinkle of concern?"
"That is correct. The wrinkle of concern that appears on your brow when I have been drinking things that are blue or appear to be functioning on about twenty minutes of sleep. And as you can see from my tongue, no blue things have been ingested." She stuck her tongue out at him to cap off her point.
"You want to put that away, lady?" he asked.
"Nope, not until you put that away," she said, giving him another good poke.
"Oh, I think we both know that's not gonna happen," he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Come on."
"I haven't been on the subway in years," she confided, beaming as he swiped his MetroCard through and gestured for her to go through the turnstile. She'd been strictly a cab and car service girl since she'd moved to the city. "I'm intrigued by your domain."
"I like to think of it more as my demesne," Dan said, swiping again and coming through. The metal bar from the turnstile just whooshed out of the way when his thighs hit it.
"Demesne," she echoed. "You're a good writer. I don't say that enough."
"You say it plenty," he assured her, one hand on her back.
"I do have eloquent eyes," she nodded, and she could feel him pressed up against her back, laughing at her.
The subway car was half full, little clusters of people spotted throughout it. She and Dan found an island of two forward-facing seats and sat down; he let her sit on the inside and let his left leg spill into the aisle. Parked between the wall and his broad shoulders, she turned slightly sideways to give herself more room. He was looking at her, face sad and still, so she looked down at her lap. His hand was resting on his knee, strong and squared-off fingers just sitting there, so she threaded her fingers through his.
"So, Gordon," he said, ducking his head to catch her eye while he turned his hand so that their palms were touching.
"And Rebecca," she said, just as soft, remembering the show he'd done right after Rebecca fucked off back to her husband, kicking herself for being too wrapped up in her own drama to reach out to Danny; he was one of the best friends she'd ever had, and she'd said nothing. "I'm so sorry, and I can't even begin to figure out what must have been going through her head."
"Nah, don't worry about it," he said, shaking his head.
"I'm serious. That hair-dye must have loosened some screws, because there's no way a sane woman could have looked at you and Steve Sisko and thought that he was the one who would treat her right."
One corner of Dan's mouth turned up at that. "Good to know I've got the natural blondes' vote."
"Hair dye, I'm telling you." She gave his hand a squeeze.
"So what was Gordon's excuse? Steroids? Because there's no way a lawyer working fifteen-hour days should be that ripped."
"He was nice at the beginning," she said, trying to be fair. Why that was so important, she couldn't say. But if Dan could be a gentleman, she could be a lady. "But he had it in his head that I was angling for Casey, and I think I started to wonder if he had a point, and then it turned into a vicious cycle, with Sally as a catalyst."
"I don't think that's how chemistry works," Dan said gently, dropping her hand to get his arm around her shoulders again. "Besides, I don't think you had a thing for Casey. Not really."
She considered. Between Natalie and Gordon and Sally and Casey, she'd had plenty of people pushing their pet theory at her. But hadn't she said that they were wrong? Hadn't she been with Gordon without worrying about Casey's extracurricular activities? "Yeah," she said. She hadn't been carrying a torch, but she'd been flattered by the thought that Casey had been, and had started thinking of him as her someday-man.
"What's wrong?" he asked, nudging her companionably.
"The wrinkle of concern has migrated," he elaborated, one finger coming up to sketch the line on her forehead.
"Because I'm questioning my sanity. I think I thought Casey was the prize I'd get, years down the line, for being good at my job, for dealing with all the men who think a woman doesn't belong in this business, for all the guys who think they should be enough to make me happy. And meanwhile who knows how he was thinking of me. Couldn't have been very much, if he chose Sally."
"Hmm," Dan said.
"What? You don't think so?"
"I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm just saying I missed my stop."
God, it was good to get out of her heels. "Your couch is a comfy one," she announced, drawing her legs up underneath her.
"I know; I tested every sofa in the showroom to find the right one."
He flicked her hair. "Not me. Besides, this sofa has an ass-groove Goldilocks never dreamed of."
"So I see." There was a telltale video-game console resting on the side table at his elbow.
"Not gonna tell me I'm too old for this stuff?" he asked.
"As long as you're happy," she said, leaning toward him, trying to make him see she really meant it.
"I've got some ideas about that," he said, just low enough for her to hear. He shifted, one arm against the back of the sofa and she could see the veins in his wrist, blue and slender like rivers.
"I'm always open to good ideas," she said, looking up to meet his eyes. They weren't sad anymore, she realized, and she smiled wider than she'd smiled in years, and then his mouth came down on top of hers, tasting every inch.
She couldn't stop smiling, not even to kiss him back, and he pulled away. His eyes traced her face. "This okay?" he asked.
She brushed away the tears that suddenly sprang to her eyes. "It's really good," she said, and pulled him back to her. The kiss was better the second time around. "Wait, do you - what -"
He pulled her onto his lap and she rested her palms on his chest. She could feel the thrum of his heartbeat in her hands. "This is big," he said.
"It is. Too big to do badly."
"Too big to be a rebound."
"So?" she whispered, running her fingertips through the velvety swirl of his hair.
"Live from New York, it's Dana Whitaker and Dan Rydell."
(there's now a sequel here: You and Me and the City Makes Three)
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.