Long, Hot Summer

It had to the absolute hottest day of the year in Manhattan at the offices of CSC-Quo Vadimus. Dana shifted in her seat. Her thighs were slipping against the material. Sweat rolled down her back. She didn't even want to think about the stains her dry clean only blouse was enduring.

Dan breezed in. He was wearing a sleeveless weave basketball jersey, light shorts, and sandals. His toes stuck out flapping in the breeze. Despite the temperature in the office, he looked relaxed and airy. "The hottest day of the summer, our air conditioner conks out, and building maintenance doesn't know when they can get to it." Dana growled.

"Relax, Dana. With these temperatures, this is happening all over town. They'll get to ours as soon as they can." Dan spread his hands in a relaxed explanatory manner. "We just have to wait our turn."

Dana took in his cool posture and almost leapt out of her chair. "It's three hundred degrees in here. Everyone gets to dress like it's Spring Break at Boca Raton except for Natalie, Jeremy, and ME!"

She stalked around. "Someone in this office has to look professional. Plus, I didn't know the building air unit would choose today to die. Trust me, I would have never worn hose into the office if I had the slightest inkling that was a possibility." She flopped back in her sticky leather chair exhausted and hot. "The most I can do to cool down is skip coffee and take my shoes off."

"You can take your hose off." Dan offered helpfully.

Dana sighed. "I already tried that. The ladies room by the way is the hottest place in the entire building."

"O.K. I'll stay out of the ladies room." Dan smiled.

Dana continued on unabated. "I always hated when I was young that the moment the temperature went above 75 degrees. All the boys could whip off their shirts while we girls had to swelter in knit. It was always so hot and the boys with their little skinny pasty white chests weren't feeling it. Why?!"

"Because they had taken off their shirts?" Dan answered.

Dana rolled her head back against her chair. "Yes!"

Dan folded his hands. "You can take off your shirt if you want. I'm sure no one around here would mind. In fact-" Dan glanced to see who had just come in. "Jeremy would you care if Dana took off her shirt?"

Jeremy had just come in. In spite of the heat, he was looking pretty good. His shirt was ventilated; the weave of his pants was light. Even his tie was coolness prepared. "It's fine with me. I'm sure the advertisers when they come for their meeting would appreciate it too."

"Advertisers!" Dana thumped her hand with her head. "That's today?!"

"Natalie left a reminder on your desk." Jeremy cocked head. "Two reminders, in fact."

"I knew it, but I just didn't want to know it." Dana lolled her head again.

Jeremy handed over his latest assignment. Dan grinned. "You know we might get a higher price for our ad time if you did show up for the meeting topless."

"I am not Sally thank you." Dana looked over Jeremy's paperwork.

After a slight pause, she looked up and focused on the newest entrant.

"Why do you look so dry?" Dana demanded.

Smiling, Jeremy replied. "I checked the weather channel before work this morning. I tailored my wardrobe to heat specific conditions. Did you know that the weight of a material can actually raise or lower your ambient body temperature by two full degrees? Not to mention, the psychological effects of wearing heavy dark clothing in summer. "

"That's my honey." Natalie cruised in. Jeremy's glasses became steamed whether this was the result of the heat or the short sundress Natalie was wearing no one could decide.

"Am I the only person in this office who didn't have clairvoyance that it would be as hot as hell in here today?" Dana asked as she received another load of paperwork.

"Basically." Dan nodded. "I stuck my hand out the window."

Natalie explained. "I was with Jeremy this morning." Natalie and Dana exchanged a telling look. Things must certainly be on the upswing between Natalie and Jeremy.

"And I know the smart scientific way to dress." Jeremy added Dana half-smiled. "Everyone, get out. I have work to do. I suggest you go do what you are employed for as well."

Dan walked into the editing bay. Sweat was beading on his forehead; it felt like an oven in the studio. One would think the absence of windows would help combat the heat. The anchor desk was proof enough. Dan was musing how the show would go with two sweaty anchors and a melting desk.

Surprisingly, he found the bay wasn't empty. Natalie and Jeremy were together at the reel splicer. Dan couldn't remember this as one of the methods listed in the manual. Natalie's hands were looped around Jeremy's waist. Her fingers were slightly south of normal station. They were grazing the light weave of his back pockets. Jeremy was lightly kissing her turned up nose. Dan could hear her soft giggle.

Tossing his reel on the long dark wooden table, Dan spoke airily. "Good to see you guys back together."

Natalie glanced around her boyfriend. "Hi, Dan. We were justÉ"

"Kissing. No problem." Dan laughed and turned to leave. A thought occurred to him. "Carry on." He breezily remarked.

Dan ran into Casey in the office bullpen. Casey was dressed in light casual clothes. His purple jersey shirt and blue athletic shorts were the lightest clothes he could find in his recently cleaned closet this morning. Basically, he was dressed like his compadre; they looked ready for the NBA finals, almost.

Dan greeted Casey with a good morning. "Did you know Natalie and Jeremy were back together?"

"No. Seriously?" Casey asked. The grapevine was considered another employee at CSC-QV.

"Yup." Dan nodded to emphasis his point. His dark curly hair was damp from the heat.

Walking around Natalie and Jeremy's desk, Casey's eyes lighted with the idea of love. "You know for sure?"

"They were making out in the editing bay. I took that as a definitive sign, yes." Dan chortled.

Casey flapped his arms to get some air circulating in the stifling environment. "They were kissing?"

"That's usually what making out means, yes." Dan didn't even have to look closely at his longtime friend to know Casey's expression. Case would be blushing and trying furiously to divert his mind off Dana Whitaker. Dan took the opportunity and asked. "Makes you think of Dana, doesn't it?"

"Not a chance." Casey spread his hands in his characteristic explanatory gesture. "I am over her. I have moved on." Sailing one hand through the humid air, Casey emphasized the moving on part. Dan wasn't fooled for a moment. "I have to call Abbie. You are going to see Dana right now, aren't you?"

"Absolutely." Casey veered off to Dana's office. Dan laughed as he continued on to theirs.

It seemed that the temperature was not the only thing heating up in this office.

Dana checked her clock it was 3:50; she had been sweltering for hours. The four o'clock rundown was coming shortly, and she still had work to do. Although she still hadn't taken her shirt off, the sleeves of her blouse were unbuttoned. Every hour another button had been popped down the front.

A light knock resounded at her door. Three years at Sports Night had taught her everyone's knock except Natalie who rarely ever knocked. She allowed herself a slight smile as she continued with her work. This was Casey's distinctive rap. "Yeah." She projected toward the door.

"Rundown's coming up." Casey told the woman he dreamed about.

Allowing herself another smile, Dana kept working. "I know. I am just trying to go over this piece on Dallas."

Casey plopped down into one of her chairs. He waited quietly as she finished up. Dana and Dan were the only people had ever felt comfortable with just sitting in silence. Danny was like his brother, and Dana was likeÉ The woman in question interrupted Casey's meandering, slightly romantic thoughts.

"Any particular reason you're still here or do you just love my company?" Dana asked as she made her last notation.

"Well, Danny is talking to his therapist in our office, so I thought I would come-" Casey seemed to lose his place. The slight gap in Dana's blouse was now visible. He was stuck on that until Dana broke in.

"Is he alright?" She asked concernedly putting her pen and wooden clipboard aside.

"I think so, but I am going to talk to him later." He clasped his hands as if to say just to make sure.

Dana nodded. "Good. I have that advertisers meeting with Isaac." She gathered her necessary paperwork for the rundown.

"Are you planning on that outfit?" Casey asked nonchalantly. Dana looked down. "Yes. What's wrong with it?"

"Nothing. Except I thought you won't supposed to let them see you sweat." Casey pointed.

Looking down, Dana let out a monster groan. "Oh man. I have to go meet with these advertisers." She examined the huge damp patches on her pink blouse. "Wait, soon to be ex-advertisers."

"Are any of them deodorant companies?" Casey gently teased.

Dana gave him a frown that clearly stated she wasn't amused.

Casey smiled slightly. "Maybe they won't notice them."

"Honestly?" Dana asked with a slight tinge of desperation in her voice.

"No, the only way they won't notice them is if we douse you in water." Casey stood as well smiling.

"Wet t-shirt. Casey!" Dana was not amused. "I don't have time for this today."

Casey smiled. "Dana, relax. You can borrow my dress shirt and change before the meeting. I see women wearing men's shirts all the time in magazines."

"That's great, Casey except you're arms are twice the length of mine." Dana began briskly walking to the meeting.

"You're not going to fight me much on this are you?" Guessed Casey.

Dana retorted without even glancing at him. "You're sure."

"You know I'm right." Casey stepped aside for a speeding staffer.

"You don't necessarily know everything Casey. I might be prepared to walk in there and say 'look I have gigantic sweat stains. It's 300 degrees in this office. And this is what happens.'" She waved her hands in mild agitation.

A Pause.

Stepping into the rundown meeting, Dana nodded once. "You are right. I am desperate. I'll take the shirt."

Dana, Casey, Jeremy, Chris, Natalie, Kim, and the rest of the Sports Night senior staff began discussing Oakland, Dallas, and Green Bay in the sweltering meeting room. Training camp was in full swing. The temps in the office were on the rise; the hormones were as well.

Following the meeting, Dana led the way to Casey and Dan's office. To get to his hanging bag, Casey had to get Dana to move. He touched her shoulder and stepped into her space. Dana looked up at him with a certain reserve and a longing.

"I need to get my shirt." He said quietly.

"Of course." She responded. It took her several moments to gather her wits about her and move. During that time, Casey kept staring at her like he hadn't seen her in a long time.

He unzipped the bag unceremoniously. The light blue shirt was unsecured from the wire hanger. It actually took a little longer than necessary. Casey kept feeling the heat. Fumbling slightly, he handed the garment to Dana. Their fingers brushed and their eyes met. Swallowing hard, Casey tried to say something. Dana wasn't sure what it would be, but she definitely wanted to hear it. He looked away. Dana's hopes fell which was something she was used to.

Guessing what Casey was about to say Dana spoke it for him. "Don't sweat in it, I know. It's really hot Casey, but I will try and control my pores."

"No, that wasn't what I was going to say at all." Casey swallowed again as he took a step back from her.

"What were you going to say?" She asked curiously while trying to catch his eyes.

Looking straight into her, Casey responded. "I was going to say I think you'll look really great in my shirt."

Dana was at a loss for a moment. "Umm, thanks." She couldn't stop looking at his handsome face and gorgeous eyes. Her voice sounded shaky even to her ears.

"Sure." Casey nodded; he turned to leave. Dana couldn't see the grin that lighted his features.

The meeting with the advertisers was going very well. Dana had tucked in the excess length of Casey's dress shirt and rolled up the sleeves to her elbows. Oddly enough, it looked the height of fashion. It wasn't just how it looked though. It was how Casey's shirt made her feel. Dana could smell the starch the dry cleaners used to make the collars stiff. Underneath that, she could sense the vague essence of after-shave; Dana had known Casey long enough to know what his after-shave smelled like. The slightly spicy scent tingled her senses. The feelings aroused in Dana were an intriguing conflicting combination of excitement and comfort. It seemed so dangerous to be wearing a man's clothing. In fact, it felt doubly sexy to be wearing Casey's clothing. She felt powerful and excited. Below that initial layer of excitement though, lay much deeper feelings. Dana felt protected and cared for. The cloth against her skin made her think of the times she had embraced Casey and felt his heart beat against hers. She felt surrounded by his essence. It was a new feeling and an addictive one at that.

Bouncing his fingers against his keys, Casey McCall tried to think about his writing. Dan was across their office at the laptop similarly avoiding work. Dan spoke first breaking the silent tedium in their office. "So, Dana is wearing your shirt?"

"Yup." Casey replied looking up from a paragraph that was headed nowhere.

Dan folded his hands and leaned across his work surface. "Dana is parading around in broad daylight in your shirt." His tone had obvious relish. Danny enjoyed amiably teasing easily flappable Casey McCall.

Casey knew to play cool. His buddy would lose interest if Casey didn't respond. Then, Casey could inquire about Rebecca. "Yeah." Nonchalantly said Casey.

"Um." Dan voiced with an attitude of mild condescension.

"What?!" The playing it cool plan wasn't panning out.

Leaning back in his black swivel desk chair, Dan exposited. "This, my friend, is very serious." He propped up his feet into his relaxed thinking pose.

Casey was losing the nonchalant battle with himself. "I think it's not."

"I think it is." Dan responded quickly.

"As long as I'm not in the shirt myself, I think it's not." Casey gave up even the appearance of working. Pushing back from his workspace and flat CSC-QV green screen of his computer, he twirled a red round pen in his right hand.

"She must be pretty hot for you to want to borrow your shirt." Dan settled his hands in his lap, the picture of relaxation, confidence, and contentment.

Twisting the pen right and left, Casey responded tensely. "That's crazy." "Oh yeah, things have to be pretty far along in a relationship before a woman asks to borrow my shirt." Dan responded.

Casey continued to decapitate his fountain pen. "Well," he paused. "It was my idea."

"Really?" Dan asked.

"She couldn't wear hers to the advertisers meeting. So, I loaned her mine. It was hot." Casey attempted a rational explanation. Even to his ears, it sounded strained. The keep it cool plan was falling apart.

Leaning back further, Dan relaxed into his favorite hobby of teasing Casey. "I'll say."

Casey twisted the top off his red pen in frustration. This was sounding more portentous than it was. He desperately wanted to stop this dangerous line of thinking. "It's just a shirt, Danny."

"Whatever you say!" Dan said in a tone that left no doubt he meant the exact opposite. Dan Rydell loved chiding his best bud, but he would enjoy seeing Casey and Dana together even more.

"It's just a shirt." Casey muttered to himself. Trying to keep his heart in line was more difficult for Casey in this heat. Casey finally lost his battle to keep cool when this next thought crested. Dana Whitaker, beautiful sexy Dana, was walking around CSC-QV in his shirt. The woman he loved was clothed in his light blue dress shirt. His shirt was against her skin. This he had to see; Casey dropped his thick fountain pen, smudging his notes. Jumping to his feet, Casey started toward the square patterned glass door.

Dan looked up questioningly.

"IÉI need to go look over the Hawks game tape." Casey lamely attempted to explain.

Picking up the appropriate paper, Dan nodded to it. "We already have a shot sheet on it."

"I know." Casey wasn't sure what to say next. Blood was pounding in his ears and all he could focus on was Dana.

Smiling, Dan dropped the bright yellow paper. He cheerfully asked. "You're going to see Dana?"

Moving toward the exit, Casey retorted. "No!"

Dan dropped his feet off his desk. As he prepared to get back to work, he added casually. "Can you ask her to move Seattle to the ten block?"

"Will do." Casey threw back over his shoulder.

The meeting had dragged long. Things had gone will, but the end of the meeting was basically V.I.P. ego stroking. It was time to get Casey back his shirt; Dana felt rather letdown. Interestingly enough, Dana had no clue she would either appreciate this heat or enjoy wearing Casey's shirt this much.

Normally, Dana didn't take off her clothes in her office. The fact that there was a giant plate glass window behind her desk was only one reason. The small window in her gray speckled office door was the other. Today, she just couldn't face going into that broiling ladies room. The sun was down, but the heat had persisted.

Taking off Casey's light blue dress button down shirt, Dana patted the garment with more than dutiful attention. She laid it out on the back of her black leather desk chair; she didn't want to risk anymore perspiration stains. It had been kind of Casey to help her out of this jam.

As long as no one needed her for five seconds, Dana would get away with this. No one would be the wiser. The hallway outsider her door wasn't much used on the way to anywhere. Her favorite cream silk camisole still duly covered her. While Casey's shirt was at her desk and her dampness-daubed blouse was across the room, Dana was between the two.

It wasn't a second after she had that thought that she heard her door open and a rap sound on it. Dana pledged her eternal soul if it would be Natalie who needed her. Inwardly cringing, Dana could imagine the look on Isaac's face or worse J.J.'s.

Spinning around, Dana opened her mouth to tell whomever it was she needed a minute. Be professional, she counseled herself. When she saw Casey on the threshold, her jaw actually dropped. Hers wasn't the only surprised facial expression. Casey looked like he had swallowed his tongue.

"This is not my day." Dana whispered. Her skin instantly flushed bright red above the line of fine lace edging, as she felt warm and feminine. By Casey seeing her in so intimate a way, it wasn't just sexy. It made Dana's heart yearn for him. Casey knew her better than anyone; yet, there was still so much he didn't know and hadn't witnessed. She wanted him to touch her, hold her, and know her. In essence, she wanted Casey McCall to love her, not just as a friend, but as a lover.

Casey could cognate no witty banter. His entire cerebrum was focused on Dana Whitaker. Her skirt and hose were of soft matching beige that hugged her form. Looking from the curve of her calf to the slope of her bare shoulder, Casey's mouth went entirely dry. Her contours had become more rounded with time, but it had served to make her only more beautiful. Focusing on the cream camisole was impossible due to the delicate skin visible above it and the pronounced swell of her bosom below it. Dana had only become more sexy and smoky.

Allowing the door to close behind him with an almost inaudible whoosh, Casey boldly stepped further into her office domain. Looking into her sparkling blue eyes, he felt the normal flood of emotions he felt in her presence multiplied by a thousand times. Well, the thousand was a conservative estimate by McCall standards. Casey had somehow grown accustomed to the burning he felt in his chest for Dana. Today though, it was a giant raging conflagration gone out of control.

"Umm." Casey, the brilliant conversationalist, croaked. He could ask difficult questions of Michael Jordan and fill dead air time with his witticisms, but he couldn't say a word now. The sight of Dana had taken his breath away. "Umm." Perhaps, his brain was gone as well.

Unconsciously, Casey strode closer to Dana. Dana automatically took several steps of her own toward him. The aching gap between them had begun to close. "Maybe you should leave." Dana said unconvincingly.

"You want me to leave?" Casey asked as he advanced another precious few strides. He wasn't buying it. His tone was one of passion coiled.

Dana shook her head. "No. I just thought I should say that."

"You want me to stay?" A tiny smirk graced his lips. After suffering under the Dana Whitaker dating plan, Casey wasn't minding this at all. He knew the emotions he evoked in her. However, her reaction brought some pretty powerful feelings to the surface in him.

"Oh yes." She breathed out. When the air left her lungs, she wasn't sure it would ever return. She wasn't even sure she wanted it too. All she wanted in the entire world in this moment was Casey. Specifically, she wanted Casey's lips against hers. "If you don't leave, I won't want you to ever."

Now, Casey was practically close enough to Dana to feel her heart beat. "I'm not going anywhere. You know you look incredible, don't you?" He asked softly.

Dana put her hands flat against his chest. Through the thin purple athletic shirt, she could feel how working out had made his chest firm and muscular. "Casey."

"Yes." He responded savoring their closeness. Naturally, his shaking hands came to rest lightly on her hips.

"Please, kiss me." Despite the heat still in the office, Dana wanted it hotter.

Casey leaned down and kissed Dana. It was an incredible kiss. Both had wondered if the wonderful kiss in his office more than a year ago had simply been an aberration. Leaving no doubts, this intimate contact proved they were a magical match. The electricity sizzled between them as lip glided against lip.

For a moment after they separated their faces, Casey couldn't speak. He simply cupped her face with one of his large soft hands. Then, he gently said. "I don't know if I want to go back there."

"I don't know either." Dana responded sadly. "It's just--" Stopping to breathe and collect herself, she brought her brows together in an unintentional sign of distress. "I was finally going to ask you out. I had been planning how to ask you for months. I care so much about you. I-"

Casey brought what might become a rambling speech to a halt with one word. It was spoken with a certain amount of gravity. "Forward." Then, he smiled.

"Huh?" Dana didn't understand. Tensing her body to step away from his strong warmth, she was way past hiding her feelings now.

"You miss understood." Casey looked into her eyes with a tenderness that made Dana's heart melt. "I want to go forward." He beamed "With you." Stroking her face, he ran the edges of his fingers lightly along the planes of her beautiful visage. His touch was so gentle and caring it made Dana want to cry.

She couldn't speak. Her throat had closed over, and no speech was possible. Longing was her soul to hear those words. She felt like she had stepped into a waterfall of emotion. Love was raining down on her skin; Casey was right there holding on to her. He was with her. Her Casey was here.

After several long moments of kissing and embracing, Casey finally said. "I accept."

"Excuse me?" Dana spoke wiping her eyes.

"I'll go out with you." Casey grinned. "Where are you planning on taking me?" Tears started from in Dana's eyes. Empathy crested in his eyes.

With absolute honesty, Dana said. "You're incredible?"

"That's a good thing, right?" Casey asked with more than a hint of joie de vivre.

"Yes." Dana said and got back to the business of expressing her affection.

One glance at the clock would have told the couple that the rundown was coming up fast.

Natalie and Jeremy decided to take this opportunity to go and speak with Dana. Since she was their boss, they felt a minor obligation to tell her they were back together, relationship wise. Both felt like this might be the last time anyone would need to know they were dating anyone. This time it felt like would be together forever.

"You don't think Dan told her, do you?" Jeremy sighed. Already knowing the answer made this question rather redundant, but he asked it anyway. Jeremy walked beside his girlfriend with the speed and dispatch Sports Night employees were regarded for.

"This is Sports Night, sweetie." With her own ounce extra vigor, Natalie responded.

"No one can keep a secret." They rounded the corner to Dana's office; and Jeremy pulled to an abrupt stop. Natalie had to put on the proverbial brakes not to go speeding by him.

Swirling to face him, Natalie gave her paramour her full attention as her light yellow sundress came to a slow stop around her thighs. Jeremy questioned with the nervous energy Natalie found so cute. "Do you think we need to apologize about the editing bay?" Adjusting his glasses, Jeremy tried to swallow past the lump in his throat.

"We were just kissing!" Natalie defended their actions.

Answering with his characteristic intelligent rationalism, Jeremy voiced. "Somehow I don't think that is listed in the CSC-QV employees handbook as a proscribed personnel interaction."

"Does it help any that we have done worse?" Natalie asked with enthusiasm and verve.

Jeremy smiled sardonically. "I don't think so." He half turned and addressed an absent Dana with all the flourish and pomp appropriate to classic oratory. "Hey, Dana, we got caught kissing in the editing bay, but it's not as bad as you think. In case Natalie forgot to tell you, we have also consummated our relationship on Isaac's desk. Sorry you missed that."

"You're right. We'll just promise not to let it happen again. You looked so cute." Natalie whirled around and completed the journey to Dana's door.

With a rather accusatory tone, Jeremy asked. "My cuteness not withstanding, why does everyone know everything around here?"

"Why can't anyone keep anything to themselves?" Natalie added spontaneously.

"Why couldn't Dan just keep it to himself?" Continued Jeremy self-consciously.

Brightly, Natalie chimed in. "Doesn't he have any respect for our privacy?"

They pulled to their final stop in front of Dana's office door. They took a quick peek through the office window just to see if she was in. The tableau required a second look. Dana and Casey were kissing in a pretty determined manner. Dana's hands were curled around Casey's head pulling him closer to her. With one hand on her face, Casey's other was stroking her bare shoulder. Their lips didn't seem to separate long enough for them to breathe. Most startlingly of all, Dana seemed to be without her blouse. All they could see covering her was an off white silk chemise.

The silence held between Natalie and Jeremy for awhile. Finally, Jeremy clearing his throat broke the hush. "I don't think we need to apologize."

"No." Natalie responded subdued. The wind had been ripped right out of her sails.

Beginning again, the cessation of speech lasted almost as long this time. The noteworthiness of this piece of information was taking some time to settle in. Natalie finally turned to Jeremy excitement brimming over in her voice. "Let's go tell Dan."

"Well, everyone else too. We can't keep this to ourselves." Jeremy was as enthused as his girlfriend was. This information wasn't going to be a secret for long.

As they speed off, Natalie threw her hands apart. "It's big news!"

"Real big!" Jeremy confirmed cheerily.

The End