1. If everybody had an ocean or, The Jesus and Mary Chain vs. The Beach Boys
Dan doesn’t have a car in Dallas, but once he and Casey become thick as thieves (so, pretty much immediately) Casey offers to give him a ride to the office each morning. Sometimes, he lets Dan drive.
On those days, Dan gets to pick the music. Casey complains loudly about that, but with a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Dan brings his cigar box of cassette tapes, stashing it in the back seat.
“It’s only a ten minute drive, you know,” Casey points out the first time he sees Dan’s stacked to the brim box. .
“Hey, I don’t know what I’m going to be in the mood for at any given moment.”
Casey just shrugs, because of course he doesn’t get it. Casey owns exactly two cassette tapes: Greatest hits of the 70s—
(“Casey, you do realize this has Starland Vocal Band on it, right? And that no one on any planet should consider them a greatest anything”)
—and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. (Okay, Dan will give him that one, even though he still enjoys calling Casey an old dad.)
“I get by fine with the radio,” Casey replies when Dan questions the lack of music in his car.
Casey doesn’t feel music like Dan does, he just finds sounds that are either pleasant or unpleasant to his ears.
Dan pops in side 2 of Barbed Wire Kisses, which he’d left off in the middle.
He’s startled to find Casey distractedly humming along to Surfin’ USA. It lasts for the first full verse, and Dan busts out laughing. “You do know this isn’t The Beach Boys, right?”
William’s guitar screeches over the speakers, Jim starts screaming, and Dan laughs harder at Casey’s wide eyes.
“Do you even hear when people are singing, or...?”
“It was low in the beginning! It kind of sounded like them!”
Dan grins so hard his face hurts. “Casey, Casey, Casey,” he intones, shaking his head. “Please never change.”
Casey rolls his eyes but then he’s giving Dan a big dumb smile back, and it makes Dan remember how much trouble he’s in here. As if he could ever forget.
2. Living a life that I can't leave behind or, Joy Division vs. New Order
They’re driving home from the station, the highway gridlocked. Dan is flipping through the radio stations because Casey’s AC is on the fritz again; he’s too busy loosening his tie and rolling down the window to fully care what Dan is doing.
Well, much, anyway. After another minute of dial surfing, he says, “Jesus, Danny can you pick something already?”
So Dan stops on his old reliable New Wave station and is greeted with Bizarre Love Triangle.
“Oh, I think I know this.”
Dan does a double take. “You do?”
“Yeah, isn’t this — that band where you like the original band more? Even though they’re depressing?”
Dan’s mouth is hanging open now.
“What?” Casey’s face goes pinched, his hands tapping the steering wheel. Dan kind of wishes they were moving. “I do know things beyond sports.”
“No, uh. Despite that gross mischaracterization of Joy Division, I’m just surprised you remembered that.”
The conversation had taken place during the first night they met, at that not-a-shindig party. Bizarre Love Triangle had come on after Always on My Mind and Dan thought perhaps the universe was trying to tell him something. Later, when he discovered Dana’s pretty obvious crush (while also noticing the way Casey’s eyes lingered on her a little too long when she laughed) he was sure of it.
Dan knows Casey isn’t the cheating type. Hell, he’s pretty sure that Casey hasn’t consciously realized that he might’ve paired off with the wrong girl in college. But all it did was highlight that no matter how much Casey smiled at Dan or ruffled his hair, he was both married and, it would appear, exclusively interested in women.
So that first night, at the party, a mostly buzzed Dan Rydell had launched into a diatribe on Ian Curtis’ genius (while asserting that even though he did like New Order, Bernard just didn’t get to him the same way). He never expected Casey to remember what was playing that night, much less what Dan had rambled on about.
“Contrary to what Dana thinks, I do actually listen when people talk to me,” Casey is saying.
Then he flashes one of those TV-perfect smiles and Dan forgets how to breathe.
“Uh-huh,” Dan replies, dazed. He opens Casey's glove compartment and pulls out his cassette of Substance (Joy Division, not New Order). “All right, well, listen to this.”
“When did you put that there?” Casey’s voice sounds weird.
Dan falters as he pops the cassette in. “Uh, I don’t know, Monday? Is that okay?”
Casey chews on his lip. “Yeah, that’s. Yeah.”
The air around them feels odd now. Or maybe it’s just the heat.
He pops in side 2, lets the distortion wash over him.
Casey begins speaking after a moment, his voice slow. “I, uh. I’ve never had too many close friends. Like, I have friends, and I had a lot of friends in college, I was in a fraternity.”
Dan rolls his eyes but says nothing. If Casey were any other person, Dan would think the amount of times he’s mentioned his fraternity in the three weeks they’ve known each other was some kind of hint.
Besides, he’s pretty sure Casey is building up to something here.
“But, well, aside from Dana, I don’t really have many close friends and uh. I think you’re heading that way. Already are.”
Dan forces his mouth to work. “Feelings -- they’re just really not your thing, are they?”
Casey runs a hand through his sweaty hair, rolling his eyes at Dan’s shaky grin. “Shut up.” He laughs then pauses. “This music is dark as hell, Daniel.”
Dan throws his head back in a laugh. “Promise me you’ll never imitate my dad again.”
Casey crosses his heart and Dan’s stomach flips. Best friends with Casey McCall. He can handle that. Maybe.
The next week when Dan opens Casey’s glove compartment, it’s a lot cleaner. There’s enough space for quite a few cassettes. Dan transfers some of his favorites out of his cigar box while Casey is filling up the tank, and tries not to think too hard about Casey literally making space for him in his life, or the fact that he eventually has to go back to Dartmouth.
3. Come on, pretty mama or, Brian Wilson vs. Mike Love
They’re heading to the beach. It’s too hot and Lisa is too pregnant to want to join. Dana’s at a bachelorette weekend in Austin, so it’s just the two of them.
Dan’s got his seat tipped back and his feet up on the dash, while trying not to notice how sinfully good Casey looks in sunglasses with his hair ungelled.
Instead, he focuses on what’s currently emitting from Casey’s tinny speakers.
“I think my ears are bleeding.”
“Oh come on! It’s The Beach Boys!”
“This is not The Beach Boys, Casey. This is a Mike Love abomination.”
“This island doesn’t even exist!” Dan exclaims, as Mike creepily croons about afternoon delight in Kokomo.
Casey bursts out laughing. “Lisa thought it did, she wanted us to go there next summer. I had to let her down gently.”
Dan bites his lip before he can say something too assholish.
“Look, I’ll give you this: Uncle Jesse doesn’t look too shabby in the video.”
It isn’t the first time Dan’s made an off-hand comment about guys’ looks. He still doesn’t really know how to come out to people.
Dan groans. “You’re hopeless, man.”
Casey is either ignoring Dan’s subtle hints (which makes him feel — well, not great) or he really is just completely clueless.
So instead, they listen to Kokomo while Dan details the existence of Full House.
Dan doesn’t really have to worry about Casey catching him eying men on the beach, because he’s too busy watching the sun bounce off Casey’s unfair shoulders.
Dan jerks off twice when he gets back to his place, happy both of his roommates are out so he can moan as loud as he wants.
He really needs to get laid.
4. you left me with open eyes or, Sonny vs. Cher
Dan had scored a fake ID from his roommate shortly after he’d moved in. Casey was weird about it when they’d first hit up the bar near the office and Dan had ordered a beer.
(“I’m corrupting a minor.”
“For the millionth time, I’m nineteen. And please, like you never drank in college.”
“That’s different. You’re an intern, I’m a writer. I kind of feel responsible.”
Dan laughed fondly. “If I’m old enough to get an internship across the country for the summer, I’m old enough to have a Bud, man.”)
Casey’s still not totally comfortable when Dan flashes his fake ID, but he’s also not about to narc on him. Dan ignores Casey’s judging looks when he starts on beer number three. Casey’s on his fourth, so he really shouldn’t throw stones.
“Cher’s hot,” Casey says, apropos of nothing, or so Dan thinks until he realizes her latest single is playing over the speakers. Sometimes they go to a sports bar, sometimes they go to a dive bar. This is the latter.
Casey shrugs. “I appreciate the beauty of an older woman.”
Dan laughs. “She’s attractive, you aren’t wrong. Traded her hippie threads for leather.”
“Sonny’s loss. And nice of you to graciously admit that,” Casey deadpans. He’s beginning to slur his words. “What type of women do you go for?”
Dan blinks at him, and nearly falls off his bar stool. They don’t really have this kind of friendship. The “bros talking about girls and sex” kind of dynamic. Not yet, anyway. Casey’s married, for one, and well — he’s never really asked if Dan had a girlfriend. Or a…
He’s just never asked.
“I uh. I don’t really have a —”
“I saw you flirting with Jeanie from marketing the other day.” Casey cuts him off. “I’d say be careful with inter-office romance, but otherwise she’s a nice girl.”
Dan groans. “Thanks, grandpa.”
Dan is still pretty awkward around women, is the thing. He’s tall, gangly, and uncomfortable in his own skin. He hopes one day he’ll become some sort of smooth operator (or at least fake it well), but he’s nowhere near there yet.
Dan wasn’t consciously flirting with Jeanie, but he can see how Casey would think so; he gets kind of fidgety when making small talk. Dan thinks back on the other day, to Jeanie’s bright smile and long, dark hair. She’s cute and all, but not as cute as the guy who sucked Dan off in the bathroom of a club on Friday night.
Dan doesn’t tell Casey that, or that he reciprocated. Or that he might just like the feel of a heavy cock in his mouth more than he likes getting blown.
He needs to not be thinking about dicks and sex when he’s sitting so close to Casey.
“Summer lovin’, s’all I’m saying.”
“If you start singing Grease songs, I’m out of here.”
Casey laughs. “We put it on for my high school play year, senior year. Parents nearly rioted.”
“Well I’m sure. Indiana and all. Please tell me you were in it and there’s footage.”
“I’m sure my mother has some somewhere. And yeah, I was Kenickie.”
Dan’s brain nearly short circuits.
“Between that and the gymnastics, my dad had a few choice words.”
Dan grimaces, not really caring to hear about another father’s surely homophobic insults. His own dad was enough.
Casey hasn’t talked about his family much. Dan knows he has an older sister, but Dan’s skirted the issue of family himself since they met, so it’s not really a big topic of conversation. He’s not sure how much longer he can avoid it. Or wants to.
“My dad’s an asshole too,” Dan offers up, hoping Casey isn’t the type who defends his parents at all costs.
He blinks for a moment, before raising his glass. “To asshole fathers.”
Dan laughs, a little forced, and takes a long pull of his beer.
“That why you chose an internship clear across the country?”
“Something like that.”
Casey lets it go, and they talk about sports, which is better than talking about women and family.
Dan gets the last round of drinks at the end of the night. Casey’s a little unsteady on his feet by this point, leaning a little too close over Dan’s shoulder as he fumbles out the bills from his wallet.
“Who’s that?” Casey asks, his breath hot against Dan’s ear as he points to the picture encased in plastic.
“I didn’t know you had a brother!” Casey’s voice is too loud and it echoes in Dan’s ear.
He throws the cash on the bar and turns to Casey. “I don’t, anymore.”
“Danny...” Casey's eyes go wide, sympathetic. Everything Dan can’t deal with.
“Come on, you lush. Home to your wife.”
He puts Casey in a cab. Casey pokes his head out of the back door while it’s still open and says, “We could share.” His eyes are bloodshot, but Dan can see traces of concern there, maybe some pity.
He doesn’t trust himself to get in the car -- all the things he might say, or not say. Maybe he’d just break down crying; it’s been a while since he cried over Sam. Best case scenario, he’d get snot all over Casey’s stupid faux brown leather jacket that he for some reason wears in August. And make a fool of himself. Worst case scenario, he’d try and kiss Casey.
And make a fool of himself.
“I’ll see you Monday, Casey.”
Neither of them mention Sam on Monday. Dan isn’t sure if Casey even remembers it.
5. But a train can't bring me home or, Tom Waits vs. Dan Rydell
By mid-week, Dan’s still feeling a bit vulnerable over that night in the bar, so he digs to the bottom of his cigar box and pulls out Franks Wild Years.
Casey’s eyes are on him almost immediately, and Dan can catch part of his puzzled expression out of his periphery. Dan ignores it, lets Tom’s raspy voice wash over him.
“One of these things is not like the other,” Casey finally says, and it’s so damn corny that Dan has to laugh.
“I’m not just a New Wave aficionado. I contain multitudes. My musical encyclopedia is voluminous, my young friend.”
“Uh-huh,” Casey replies, and Dan can hear both the amusement and disbelief in those two syllables. Casey really shouldn’t be able to read him so well.
It isn’t until the ride home, when Dan is fighting back tears while listening to Train Song, that he starts talking.
“I got into Tom Waits after my brother — it. He just helped. I heard one of his songs on a pretentious indie college radio station while crying in my car in an abandoned parking lot, and it just makes sense. He just made sense. I usually only listen to him when I’m alone but I — needed it today.”
They’re parked in front of Dan’s apartment, Dan’s fingers shaking on the ignition.
“Okay. Do you -- um, you can talk about it,” Casey says, and his voice is so soft and kind that Dan almost does cry then. He knows how awkward this must be for Casey. He starts to shake his head, but then there’s a hand on his shoulder, warm and solid, and Casey’s eyes are serious when he says, “I’d like to hear about him, if you’d like to tell me.”
The thing is, he hasn’t actually talked to anyone about Sam. He hasn’t really had anyone he felt he could talk to. His college friendships have, to date, been superficial at best, and friends from back home -- well, they know how Dan’s dad is, saw glimpses of what growing up in that house was like, so he hasn’t even tried with them. Has felt too raw over everything to even attempt it.
He’s still raw, sitting in this car with Casey, his eyes shiny and his throat dry. But the difference here is -- he actually wants to, with Casey. Casey has been breaking down his barriers since day fucking one, and Dan isn’t sure if he will ever be able to rebuild them.
So he inhales shakily, nods a few times.
And then they go inside and, over beers and shitty microwavable pizza, Dan tells Casey about his little brother.
6. I wanna be with you everywhere or, The Battle of the Power Ballads
Dan hangs out at Casey’s cubicle a lot. It contains a bean bag chair, a window view, and most importantly: Casey.
Casey’s got his FM/AM radio set to music instead of sports when Dan wanders over, which means he’s trying to write rather than research.
He’s humming absently to the tune. It’s that Cheap Trick power ballad that’s been all the rage this year. Casey knows it enough to even sing a few bars.
Dan smiles to himself. He throws himself down on the bean bag, which gets Casey’s attention finally.
“Don’t tell anyone you heard me sing.”
Dan salutes him. “Scout’s honor.”
Casey shakes his head, smiling. “Yeah, right.”
The song morphs into yet another power ballad, this time from Aerosmith. Which means he probably has the Adult Contemporary station on; the Rock ones are still mainly playing Dude Looks Like a Lady.
“You really are such a dad.”
“Not yet.” He gets this dreamy far off look on his face, any time his unborn kid is mentioned.
Dan swallows hard.
“Last week,” Casey says, trying for nonchalant and missing by a mile.
Dan’s been trying not to think about it.
Casey spins in his chair to face him. “You did good. I know Dana agrees. We’ll both recommend you for next summer’s program.”
Dan nods, throat tight.
“And, uh, we’re gonna throw a little party Friday. Not much, but be prepared.”
He holds up his hands. “Dana’s idea!”
“Right,” Dan replies, eyeing him skeptically.
They don’t talk for a few minutes. The song morphs into the Fleetwood Mac one Casey is “digging” lately, because yes, that’s how he talks.
Dan is going to miss the hell out of him.
“Maybe you can come back and visit? After Lisa has the baby?”
Casey doesn’t look at him when he says it.
Dan hasn’t really gotten along with Lisa. They haven’t seen one another all that much, but it’s like she knows that Casey has let him in, and is oddly territorial about it. Dan doesn’t think she can detect his crush, but who even knows anymore. His feelings for Casey are all jumbled into one big ball of friendship and desire and something that’s probably love. Probably been love since day one.
Dan watches him as he waits for Dan’s response. The thing is, Dan can’t comprehend what life without Casey McCall and his dumb face and his bad singing will even look like anymore.
“I’d like that.” Dan’s pulse is racing.
When Dan flies home on Sunday, he has three new cassette singles in his backpack. All are songs Casey likes. He feels pathetic analyzing the lyrics to find some sort of deeper meaning, some connection as to why Casey gravitated toward the songs, beyond them being pleasant to his ears. It’s an incredibly teenage move, but then again, he’s still a teenager.
And like every cliche in the book, he just left his heart in Dallas.