Count: ~1100 words
Summary: "I think the Bert and Ernie sketch is more subversive than it seems." A Studio 60 crossover.
Spoilers: General spoilers only for both shows.
Notes: Thanks to slodwick for the beta, and to scrunchy and out_there for sketch inspiration.
Bert and Ernie
by Celli Lane
It started with Studio 60, which meant it was Matt Albie's fault.
Although really, if you thought about it, it started with Sesame Street, which made it Jim Henson's fault.
Dan started snickering as he flipped through his script that morning. Casey looked over at him in alarm. "What?"
Casey turned pages hurriedly. "Is this better or worse than the one where we're Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan?"
"I think that depends on your definition of 'better.' Or maybe Matt's," Simon said from across the table. Next to him, Harriet and Tom grinned. The three of them, Dan and Casey had agreed their first day in LA, were evil incarnate, and pretty much lived to see the guest hosts squirm.
Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty--"Oh, boy," Casey said faintly.
Dan started laughing again.
"Bert and Ernie," Tom said mildly, "are beloved icons to the gay community."
"So you're sending them to a gay bar?"
Tom beamed. "I pitched it. It was supposed to be me and Dylan, but we decided the two of you were better suited."
"I have to do the laugh, don't I?" Dan said, still clearly amused.
Harriet stopped smirking at them long enough to do the laugh perfectly. Dan and Casey both stared at her, a little wide-eyed. "I'll teach you," she said.
Casey turned to the next page. "A-ha. You also get the rubber duckie joke."
"What rubber duckie--?"
"Oh," Dan said, looking substantially less amused.
"Somewhere, Jim Henson is laughing his ass off," Simon said.
"You know what I think?" Dan asked.
Casey turned as far as he could towards Dan. "That the prop people should have checked to make sure the handcuffs were fake before they gave them to us?"
"Well, that too."
There was a long pause. Casey sighed. "What else do you think, Dan?"
"I think the Bert and Ernie sketch is more subversive than it seems."
Casey mouthed the word 'subversive' to himself. "Really?"
"Don't you think?" Dan tried to turn around; the handcuffs clanged into the "fence" between them. Casey winced. "I mean, make all the jokes about them you want, but they're two of the most familiar fictional characters of the past thirty years. Watching Bert and Ernie get along, not get along, argue, make up, is a big part of how kids learn about relationships and conflict."
"And pigeons," Casey muttered.
"To place them in the context of an actual romantic relationship, given all that—I really think it is subversive. What do you think?"
"Have you been reading literary criticism in your spare time again?" Casey asked the set wall opposite him.
Dan drew a deep breath, but before he could launch into a speech that would send Casey straight over the edge, Cal hurried up to them. "Good news, guys. We've got a guy with a hacksaw on his way over. We'll have you out in no time."
Dan and Casey both stared at him, horrified.
"Has anyone seen Danny?" Casey asked a room full of writers.
They all looked at him, confused, and Casey waved at Danny Tripp, who was discussing something with Matt at the other end of the room. "Rydell."
Matt pointed in the general direction of north. "Wardrobe. Final touches on the Tonya Harding sketch."
"Crap, I thought that was at three." Casey checked his watch. "Oh."
Twenty minutes later, he was in bad hair, tights, and fake skates, and letting makeup test various things on him. Across from him, Dan was trying to keep his ponytailed wig from slipping off and staring in fascination at the exaggerated wound on his knee. "I'm pretty sure she didn't even bleed," he said.
"Artistic license," the makeup woman said. "Don't move your nose."
Dan, who had been very well trained by the Sports Night crew, stayed perfectly still, except his eyes, which met Casey's with a look of sheer panic. Casey smirked.
"So are you still pondering the subversive nature of Bert and Ernie's love?" he asked.
"I've changed my mind—ow!" The makeup woman had grabbed the bridge of his nose and pinched it hard.
"It's not subversive?"
"I've decided," Dan said slowly and carefully, keeping a watchful eye on his tormentor, "that I prefer progressive."
Something about his tone caught Casey's attention. He looked at Dan, trying to figure out if Dan looked so—so cautious—because of the threat to his face, or because of this strange three-day conversation they'd been having.
Dan was looking carefully away from him.
"You're all set," Casey's makeup guy told him, scrubbing his face down like a mother with a toddler. "Go practice walking in those skates some."
"Okay." Casey started for the door haltingly, then teetered to a stop to look back at Dan. "See you at dress."
They stood behind the set, well out of the way of rushing stagehands and stripping cast members. Dan was practicing the Ernie laugh as quietly as possible; Casey was battling a case of nerves that had nothing to do with stage fright.
"Man, I thought the dress was crazy," Dan murmured. "Makes me wonder what our set would be like if we had props."
Casey knew he was supposed to say something ponderous about their coffee cups, or make a joking reference to Jeremy and a rubber chicken, but air seemed to be trapped in his lungs.
"Hey, which one are we in after this one? The one where we're weather reporters or the one where we're superheroes?"
"Dan," Casey said suddenly--and probably a little too loudly.
"Do you really think it's progressive, not subversive?"
Dan's head came up in surprise. Casey made himself breathe. Twice.
"Well," Dan said slowly, "it's a little of both, don't you think? But--but I'd like to think it's progressive."
"Yeah," Casey said, almost soundlessly.
When Bert pulled Ernie into a passionate kiss at the end of the sketch, Danny Tripp's glasses fell right off the back of his head. All the writers went flying back through their scripts to see what they'd missed. The president of the network choked on a dinner roll and had to be Heimliched. (Strangely enough, back in New York, so did Jeremy.) All the cast members who'd watched this in rehearsal stared open-mouthed. And the audience? Roared with shock and delight.
Casey never noticed any of it. All he'd ever remember would be the look on Dan's face as they faded to black.