Title: A Poor Substitute
Author: Annie (
Fandom: Sports Night
Rating: G
Summary: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Notes: Well,
[info]shellah posted a fic, and I had to try too. *g* (In other words, All Her Fault.) Quote comes from Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. Exactly 1000 words of rambling Dana pov.

A Poor Substitute

'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.'

Dana knows the line. She's sure of it. She just can't place it.

It's a line she remembers. It rings in her head every morning when Casey comes in bleary and sullen, looking as if his world is collapsing around him. It repeats every time Natalie looks pointedly at them both, as if staring hard enough will make them a couple.

It's the type of reasoning that seems logical, that seems right. The type of logic that governs those cheap romance novels, the ones she buys at airport bookstores, and half-reads on the plane, and loses before she has a chance to read the end.

It's the type of logic that makes women like Sally Sasser start to pay attention. Dana isn't blind. She can see that woman start to hover, start to circle like a vulture waiting to pick at the carcass of Casey's failed marriage. Sally's just waiting for some sign of life from Casey, waiting for him to notice her long legs and ample cleavage. It almost makes Dana laugh. Casey wouldn't notice Sally's body unless she flaunted it right in front of him. Casey tends to come at a high cost. He makes you choose between your desire and your dignity.

She doesn't even talk to Lisa anymore, but she saw the price Lisa paid. She watched Lisa swallow her pride, standing back as Casey entertained workmates and colleagues; as he left her waiting at home for hours, while he informed and amused the nation. Dana knows how hard that would have been for Lisa.

Lisa had always been the life of the party. Her bright smile, strawberry blonde curls and musical laugh had ensured she was never short of suitors. Dana had been her socially awkward roommate, the one who got invited because Lisa would come too; who laughed too loudly and spoke too boldly; who wanted to watch the game with the guys and was never quite sure of what to say to the girls.

Dana had been self-conscious and uncomfortable in college, and Lisa had been cheerful and gracious, but they'd been friends. They'd laughed over boys, talked about lecturers and compared terrible assignments. They'd played the radio loudly while they lay on their beds and studied, slogging through chapters of readings.

She'd taught Lisa about sports; about baseball, football and track; about the rules of boxing and how to throw a strong left hook. About growing up with six brothers, rough-housing one minute and being protected and smothered the next.

In turn, Lisa taught her about fashions, the classic elegance of tailored skirts and soft blouses; about the hidden art of make-up and how to wear it with subtlety. About growing up with three older sisters, "borrowing" their clothes and disliking their boyfriends.

Lisa had dragged her along to parties and introduced her to future lawyers, doctors and businessmen. They'd smile and make small talk, and she'd feel out of her depth. She had dragged Lisa to training sessions and laughed with her about the cute guy in the gymnastics team. Of course, the cute guy hadn't looked twice at her, but it had only taken a toss of Lisa's curls and he was smitten.

Dana had seen the appeal. Lisa was charming, eloquent, elegant. She was the type of girl that guys opened doors for, that looked stunning in a summer dress and breathtaking in an evening gown. And Casey had been an intriguing mix of dork and charisma: intensely confident on the gym mats, adorably uncertain on the rest of campus, and handsome in a home-grown, boy-next-door way that made mothers smile and girls giggle.

They were the type of couple that you expected to date steadily throughout college, that you expected to get married a few years after graduation. It wasn't surprising that they did.

It was surprising that they were so bad at it. Marriage brought out the worst in both of them. Lisa became haughty and cold, demanding when she used to be gracious. Casey became harsh and egotistical, extremely critical of his dear wife. For a few years, Dana heard both sides of arguments. When they fought and Casey stormed out, she'd get a tearful call from Lisa and she'd try to be supportive, even while she mentally calculated how long she could sleep before a drunken call from Casey woke her up.

Of course, that stopped after L.A. L.A. was the official gravesite of her friendship with Lisa, killed by a few celebratory drinks and a drunken dance with Casey. They'd danced too close, and hands had roamed too far. If she'd been sober, she never would have danced that way. If she'd only been half-drunk, she never would have danced that way with Casey, while Lisa was in the next room.

It's still one of Dana's worst moments, looking up and seeing Lisa's hurt expression. She wishes Lisa had let her explain, or had lost her temper, or had told Casey his behaviour was unacceptable. Instead, Lisa just smiled frostily at them and turned away.

After that, Lisa had still attended the parties, but always left early. Lisa barely spoke to Casey's co-workers, was always frosty to them, noticeably snubbing her and Dan. Casey started staying out later and coming in earlier.

To be honest, Dana's surprised their marriage lasted this long. They spent so long forcing it to work, that in the end, there wasn't anything left but cold, empty fury.

As Natalie's looks point out, Casey will soon be a single man in possession of a good fortune, but Natalie doesn't grasp the real meaning behind Casey's wounded, angry glares. He isn't in want of a wife; he wants the wife he used to have. She almost wants to believe Natalie's match-making, but Dana understands. Despite their history, Casey still wants Lisa, and at best, Dana's a poor substitute.