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ignorance is a thing to be envied

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She sees him for the first time in a bar with a crappy name, and Claire can't breathe.

"Oh, my God," Claire's friend Phil gasps. "Don't tell me that's Casey McCall and Dan Rydell."

"Who?" Claire asks, laughing a little.

"Casey McCall and Dan--look, they're anchors on that show, Sports Night, I watch it all the time with my boyfriend...if Mike was here, he'd totally freak. Look, look, over there—"

Claire obediently looks. Tall, blondish-brown hair, great ass, now if he would only just turn around—

And he does, and that's when Claire stops breathing for a moment.

 

*

The haircut's all wrong, as are the clothes, plus Nate's dead—but.

But. But the man in front of her smiles, drinking his beer and fuck, that smile's a punch to the stomach because he really does look just like—

Claire finally tears her eyes away and notices another man who's standing next to the stranger with her dead brother's face. This guy—who thank God, does not at all resemble any of her dead relatives—looks at her oddly.

Probably because she's staring at his friend like he's a ghost.

"Huh," Claire says faintly, and downs half her drink.

 

*

Claire ends up watching the show with Phil, mostly to prove she's not insane or hallucinating, there really is a guy walking around New York City with Nate's face and smile.

And yes, Casey McCall is real. He's real, he's been on Sports Night for years.

Watching him on TV becomes a habit.

The show's funny, the anchors are cute together (Phil has this insane theory about how McCall and Rydell are doing it behind the scenes) and it's not a bad way to spend an hour each night.

And Casey McCall has her dead brother's face. And his smile.

 

*

The thing is, it's not like Claire can't spot the differences. Nate would never have a haircut like that. Nate would have never sounded like that, he'd never have that kind of solemn not-quite cadence that everybody who's on TV for a living seems to have.

But God, that smile. Claire can still remember seeing that smile across a crowded bar, saw it once on the show, and she hasn't seen it for so long until now—

And now, for an hour each night, she can watch a man with an eerie resemblance to her dead brother talk about sports.

*

Claire actually does realize that it wouldn't be a good idea to go back to that bar. But on a scale of fucked-up-ness (of course adjusting for the fact that she's a Fisher and can't be judged by ordinary standards) hanging around a bar to catch another glimpse of a minor celebrity who looks exactly like her dead brother hardly registers.

Or if it does, she doesn't care.

She knows she's going to go back even before Phil suggests it. She'll go back and wait around until he shows up, and if he does—

Then she doesn't know what'll happen.

 

*

Of course he shows up. Of course.

"I'm telling you, straight guys don't touch each other that much. And I would know," Phil says importantly.

"Cool it, Phil," Claire says impatiently. "You want me to go get the autograph?"

"Yes, please," Phil says, rolling his eyes. "You know I turn into a babbling idiot whenever I see a celebrity. Don't even remind me of the time I ran into Conan O'Brien."

"Alright, then. Hand me the damn pen and paper."

And then, almost before she knows it, Claire's walking forward. Towards him.

She still can't breathe. But she'll fake it.

 

*

In the end, it's nothing. She introduces herself smoothly, and neither McCall nor Rydell acts like a jerk about her request for an autograph. They're gracious, don't even blink when she utters the phrase, "my roommate and his boyfriend." They actually wave at Phil, who gives this totally dorky wave back.

It's nothing, and Claire almost wants to laugh at herself for freaking out. This isn't the weirdest thing to happen to a Fisher, not by a long shot. There must be a million guys out there who resemble Nate, after all.

She looks at the handwriting. It's completely unfamiliar.

 

*

 

Claire doesn't go back to the bar again.

It was stupid of her. What, did she think that Nate was resurrected? Reincarnated into the body of a sports anchor on a cable show? What a joke.

Claire doesn't go back to the bar, but she still watches the show sometimes. On the TV, she can see Casey McCall grinning at something his partner just said.

God, it's one hell of a resemblance. But she doesn't care anymore. She doesn't.

But still. Claire hopes that Brenda, or her mom, never gets the urge to turn the channel to CSC at night.