|Don't You Know That You're Paid To Be Funny
"We could get rid of it, you know." Danny was standing in the doorway, sleeves rolled up and hands in his pockets, watching Matt watch the clock. He had that rumpled look that said he'd been up doing blow, or worrying about maybe doing blow again someday, all night, and creases on the side of his face as though he'd slept in his office. "If it bothers you that much."
"No, it's growing on me. Except that I'm sort of afraid that one day I'll come to work and it will be counting down to my death, not our next air time."
"That's what I'll get you for your birthday," Danny said. "I'll get you a death clock. We can hang it right underneath the air time clock, and you can condense your daily freak outs about the show and about your own mortality into one simple stint at your desk." He sank down onto the couch and peered over his glasses at Matt, elbows on his knees, leaning forward like he was waiting for Matt to say something funny. Or stupid; Danny seemed to want funny and stupid in equal measure since they came back to Studio 60. Matt didn't know why, but he could do funny and he could do stupid - they were the only two things that he did really well.
"I don't sit at my desk," Matt said. "Did you sleep in your office last night?"
"Don't change the subject. No. Yes. You do sit at your desk; you're sitting there right now. I slept in Harriet's dressing room." Danny rubbed his hands across his face and scrunched up his nose, his I-haven't-been-sleeping-and-I-don't-want-to-talk-about-it gesture, one of those physical ticks that Matt knew as well as he knew what Danny would find funny on any given day in any given mood. As well as he knew what Danny sounded like when he was happy, when he was frustrated, when he was angry.
"You have a house."
"I have a house. It's big and empty and I sleep on the couch there, too, so I figured I'd cut down on the commute time and just sleep here."
"I have a couch," Matt said. He had a nice couch. Danny used to sleep on Matt's couch all the time, falling asleep with the TV Guide channel droning in the background, because Danny had been too high to drive himself home and he could never remember his own address when he was coked out of his head but he could always remember Matt's. He missed Danny sleeping on his couch.
He didn't miss Danny so fucked up he didn't know his own name.
Danny shoved his glasses up onto the top of his head and said, "You do have a couch. As I recall, I helped you pick it out."
"Danny," Matt said, and stopped.
"Matthew," Danny said.
Matt said, "Don't sleep in the studio." He meant, if things are that fucked up in your head, you can come to me, you should come to me. He meant, the last time you were this fucked up, you came and slept in my bed and we figured it out together.
"I was here late," Danny said. "I was too tired to drive home. I didn't feel like calling the car service and then sitting in inexplicable traffic on the 15 at 3 in the morning, not being able to change the radio station. I slept on Harriet's couch because Sim's has springs that dig into your ass when you sit down. And because you locked the door to your office."
"Oh," Matt said. "Sorry about that."
"The PA isn't stealing your pens," Danny said. "She thinks the sun shines out your ass, she's not stealing your pens or your coffee mugs or your jokes."
"What about you?"
Danny said, "I'm not stealing your pens."
"No, do you think the sun shines out of my ass?"
Danny smiled. 15 years, Matt had known him, and there were three failed marriages and more girlfriends than Matt could remember and four stints in rehab between the two of them, but the way Danny dropped his chin and turned his head and smiled still hit Matt in the gut, the tender spot underneath his rib cage, every time he saw it. Danny had a smile like a gut shot, and neither of Matt's ex-wives -- Danny smiling was Matt's weak spot. Danny, smiling, could get Matt to do anything Danny wanted Matt to do. "No," Danny said. "I just think you're full of shit."
The clock rolled from 04:10:31:00 to 04:10:30:59. Matt dropped onto the couch beside Danny and leaned back, wrapping his hand around the back of Danny's neck and pressing his thumb against one of the knots of tension. Danny twisted, rolled his neck back and forth under Matt's hand, and if Matt leaned back and focused on Danny, watching the pull of muscle under Danny's skin, he couldn't see the clock. "So what's changed?"
"Nothing," Danny said. "You know that first apartment we had?"
"The one with the roaches, or the one with the toilet that never flushed?"
"Toilet," Danny said. He was relaxing under Matt's fingers, just a little, and Matt had been blind not to see how tightly wound Danny had been, had probably been for months, before they took this job. He thought about Danny, mouth tight and eyes shadowed, sitting in the back of half a taxi. Danny, not telling him things because - and Danny would never say this, but Matt knew him - because Matt had enough problems without Danny in trouble. "I never slept better than I did in that apartment."
Never mind that Danny in trouble, Danny needing anything, was now and had always been Matt's first priority. He'd fuck over the show, and Jordan McDeere, too, if Danny couldn't handle this and was sleeping Harriet's dressing room, and they needed to go, again. Matt could think of a hundred better things to do than let Danny get that fucked up again.
"I'm still amazed that you slept like a baby through that whole night where the crack dealer was slapping his boyfriend around," Matt said. "You always could sleep everywhere."
Danny snorted a little, and his mouth creased. "Not anymore."
"Don't worry about it," Matt said.
"What is there that I shouldn't be worrying about?"
"What is there to worry about?"
Danny said, "Okay, now you're just being a jackass because you can."
"No," Matt said. "Because you like it."
"We made the right decision," Danny said. "Clock and Simon's shitty couch and all."
Matt tightened his hand on the back of Danny's neck, squeezed just a little, and tossed his pen blindly at the clock. It ricocheted off and landed in his trashcan. "Life, lemons, lemonade, et cetera and so on and so forth."
"And you're supposed to be the funny one," Danny said. He dropped his head again, rolling his neck, and Matt rubbed his thumb in the spot underneath Danny's ear, the one that made Danny putty in Matt's hands. Danny sighed, and slumped back against the couch, shoulder pressed against Matt's chest. The clock was in plain view again, and Matt stared at it, instead of staring down at the top of Danny's head.
It ticked from 04:10:26:38 to 04:10:26:37.
"Hey, if you want to sleep here," Matt said, "I got a clock, too. It's even got an alarm."
Danny laughed, the sound rumbling against Matt's chest, and said, "If I wake up just as we're going on the air on Friday nights, we have problems, Matt."
"At least you'll be well-rested," Matt said.
"Yeah," Danny said.
Matt said, "Get a roommate. Get a cat."
"Maybe I'll just sleep here."
"Or you could do that," Matt said. "That's not the worst idea you've ever had."
"This isn't a bad couch," Danny said.
"Wes had good taste."
"He was a pretty decent guy."
"Except for the clock."
"Except for the clock," Danny agreed, and tipped his head sideways, forehead resting against Matt's cheek. The clock flipped over to 04:10:24:18 and Danny's breathing evened out into the hiccupy whistle that meant he was sleeping, a sound Matt knew better than the sound of his own voice.
He thought about the toilet that didn't flush, and being funny. The clock said 04:10:24:04.
author's notes: lanas did beta duty. title bastardized from w.s. gilbert, of course, because where else? it's from "a private buffoon is a light-hearted loon", a patter song sung by the clown of the show, which appears in the second act of the yeoman of the guard.