Dan has never been in New York for a winter storm before—the city gets quieter than he ever thought possible, blanketed in a sparkling silence. From the warmth of the car, he only spots a handful of people trudging through the snow as they make their way uptown slowly, as his driver takes care not to slide. Maybe he should have stayed closer to the studio, but he’s always preferred downtown. It’s kind of beautiful to see this city like this, white and clean, except for the streets, which are already gray and slushy.
The car stops in the middle of a nondescript block, the red neon sign both a landmark and a greeting of sorts. He wants to take a picture, but the fear of being caught aiming his phone at a place he’s supposed to be nonchalant about is too real. He’s been flipping between an eerie calm and an all-consuming anxiety, and the latter is firmly in position. He carefully steps out of the car and makes his way to the door.
He can’t believe he gets to do this, that’s he’s at 30 Rock—that he’s going to host Saturday Night Live. When he told his parents the news, the emotion in his dad’s voice nearly undid him—pride and affection and awe, Dan thinks.
He’s looking down, trying to avoid the big clumps of salt and the random puddles and small piles of snow, and he crashes right into someone.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry,” Dan apologizes immediately.
“I’m sorry—wasn’t paying attention.” Dan’s glasses are fogged up and it’s hard to see. It looks like it could be Steve Kornacki. “Better get in there before we freeze.” He holds open the door for Dan.
By the time Dan gets his glasses wiped off and checked into the building, whoever it was is long gone, swallowed up by the elevator banks.
Dan realizes, a sort of panic setting in, that this is only the second writer's room he’s ever been in. He can’t imagine doing this week after week, knowing you only have five days to create something to perform live. It’s a different kind of challenge—no narrative arcs, no character growth. Dan’s looking forward to an up-close look at the process, even if he’s currently feeling like he doesn't deserve it.
Dan snaps himself out of it before someone asks him a question he didn’t hear.
Kate is talking, pitching an idea for Bezos as Scrooge—more like the Scrooge McDuck version she explains, not really Christmas persay. The room devolves into praise for Steve Carrell, who played Bezos a few years ago.
“Like he’s visited by the ghosts of capitalism?” Dan asks.
Kate raises a single eyebrow at him, either amused or pensive, Dan can’t tell. “Yes, yeah okay. I was more just imagining him cackling surrounded by piles of money, but that’s better.”
They start brainstorming ghosts—Rockafeller, Regan, Buffet. Someone makes a vertical integration joke that Dan doesn’t quite follow.
Dan goes to take a sip of water and realizes it’s empty. “Be right back,” he says quietly, to the room, to no one. He heads off to find the small kitchen area that Bowen showed him yesterday on the tour, and after three wrong turns, he finds himself in front of a fridge, though not the one he was searching for.
Dan grabs a Diet Coke and turns to head back, colliding with someone.
Dan startles and steps back. “Sorry about that.” It is definitely Steve this time, in khakis and a sweater, in those atrociously adorable glasses, rolled up papers in his hand.
“Hey, You’re—you did that show with your dad.”
Dan nods, smiling. “That’s me.”
“It’s a good show. You’re doing SNL?” Steve asks. He moves around Dan and grabs himself a Diet Coke, too.
“Um, yeah. I am.”
“Maybe I’ll see you around again, but if not. Good luck, Dan.” With that, Steve is gone. Dan stands there, trying to process what just happened—Steve knowing who he is, how tall Steve is in person, the way Steve smiled at him—until he’s aware of how cold his hand is from the can of soda.
He heads back to the writer’s room.
The third time—it was definitely, probably Steve that time on the street—Dan is sitting on a sofa in a small office, reading and rereading the script, writing and rewriting his comments on the same handful of lines he keeps bumping on.
“It’s you again.” Steve is standing in the doorway, filling up the frame. He’s wearing lighter khakis today and a white button-down, sleeves rolled up. Dan wonders if the tie is stapled in the back.
“Here I am.” Dan gives a little wave, which he instantly regrets, feeling slightly awkward now.
“Want anything from the fridge?” Steve offers and Dan grins. That’s nice—really nice.
“Maybe a seltzer?”
“You got it.”
Steve returns, handing Dan a can. “Here you go.”
“Thank you.” Dan pops it open, and on impulse gestures to the other side of the couch. “If you wanted.” It’s a not-invite invitation, Dan can deny it means anything, until it means something, until Steve sits down.
“Do you mind if I?” Steve gestures at his mask. “I was tested this morning.”
Dan doesn’t mind, even though he probably should. Steve seems honest, Dan trusts him off-screen the same way he found it easy to trust him on-screen.
“How’s it going?” Steve asks.
“We have the table read tonight,” Dan says, though Steve already knows that probably.
“Those look fun. This whole show looks fun.”
“It is so far,” Dan agrees.
“Picked a hell of a week to be in New York.”
Dan laughs. “There is so much snow. There’s a reason we only shot Schitt’s Creek in the summer.”
“Don’t have that luxury with live television.”
“No, you don’t,” Dan says, trying to keep the nerves out of his voice.
Someone whose name Dan can’t remember pops their head into his office. “Oh good, you’re both here.”
Right, Steve is here for work. Of course. He works here. Well, not here, but in this building, for this network.
“Am I supposed to be here?” Steve asks, his face concerned. “I was just talking to Dan.” Dan fiddles with one of his rings. He’s glad Steve found him sitting here.
“We left a note on your desk.”
“Ah, I didn’t see that.” Steve looks embarrassed. Dan’s seen the photos of the mess he calls an office and he should be embarrassed.
It turns out they want to do a sketch where Steve delivers stats and figures to each house individually like a data-driven, khaki-clad Santa, never sleeping along his route. Dan nods along—it’s a good idea.
“I’m not sure—I’m just going to be talking about the electoral college math. It’s not going to be funny.” Steve’s grip on his can of soda tightens. He turns to Dan. “What do you think?”
“I think it has potential,” Dan says, slightly surprised Steve wants his opinion.
He turns back to the person at the door. “Okay, let’s give a shot.”
The whole week feels surreal—a flurry of nominations, hosting SNL, even being in New York after so long. Even though it doesn't feel real, it is. They just finished the table read, which went well. In 72 hours he’s going to be doing the monologue, which definitely needs work. Dan’s going to look at it again tonight.
He spots Steve across the room and gives a small wave.
Steve's eyes light up and he walks over to Dan. “Hi—that was… you’re gonna be great.”
“I hope so. I want to be.”
“I like your glasses—who makes them?”
“Oh, I actually—I designed them. I have a line of eyeglasses.” Dan likes that Steve noticed his glasses—that Steve notices him.
“There’s a level of—you make everything seem so easy,” Steve says and his eyes go wide, as if he’s surprised himself. Dan blushes at the compliment, and hopes his mask hides it.
“I—thank you. That means a lot.” Dan is pretty sure he’s never made anything look easy.
“You did it on Schitt’s Creek, too. I wish there had been a Patrick when I was younger—I wonder what would have been. Back then, there wasn’t anyone who looked like that who didn’t have a sitcom wife.”
“Steve.” Dan's voice is soft and he reaches out, wrapping his fingers around Steve’s shoulder and gently squeezing. It’s the kind of compliment that means the most to Dan, when he helps someone feel seen.
Dan gets pulled away then, but his eyes linger on Steve’s as Megan leads him across the room.
On Thursday, Dan finds himself in the same small office, on the same small couch. Kate just told him they’re shelving the Bezos idea until next week because Lorne wants to focus on the Super Bowl this week. Dan thinks it’s a good idea and worth including, but this isn’t his show.
He’s been in fittings all day. It’s fascinating to see how they manage the quick costume changes—where they make concessions, where they dedicate the extra time. It’s a different metric than he’s used to, his concessions for Schitt’s Creek were largely budget based.
He works through some emails, and answers a couple of texts from Erica when Steve knocks against the door frame. “Bad time?”
“No, you’re good.” Dan closes his laptop. “How’s it going?”
“Pretty good. Seltzer?” Steve holds out a can for him.
Dan nods and takes it. “Thanks. Did you have fittings today too?”
“What? No. Needed to stretch my legs.” Steve smiles at him, and it makes Dan feel like he was the destination.
“Oh. Well, how nice for me.”
Steve grins at him then and sits down next to him on the sofa. Dan is glad to see him. “Is there any sketch you’re really excited about?” Steve asks.
“The Zillow one probably.”
“Do people do that? Just look at houses they won’t live in?”
“I—no. Moving is so stressful, I hope I never have to again.”
Dan laughs. “Well, that’s why you just look at the houses. Imagine what could have been.”
Steve shrugs. “I like my place.”
“I miss my house. But LA is a mess.”
“And there’s no SNL there.”
Dan laughs. “And there’s no SNL there.”
“Well, I shouldn’t keep you.” Steve stands up, smoothing a hand over his tie. Dan tries not to stare at Steve’s hand sliding down his chest.
Dan wants to say stay, say it’s okay, reach out and stop Steve from leaving. “Thanks for the seltzer,” he ends up saying instead.
“Same time tomorrow?” Steve asks, his hand lightly touching Dan’s shoulder for the briefest of moments.
“See you then.” Dan smiles, he likes that Steve seems to be popping up everywhere this week. He's even starting to believe he might be the reason. It’s not like Steve seems this invested in anyone else’s hydration.
Dan checks the time, wondering if Steve will really stop by again today. Dan wants him to, wants Steve to put his hand on Dan’s shoulder again, wants to feel that connection again.
And then, true to his word, Steve appears again, two cans in one hand, the other hand wrapped around rolled papers.
“Do you not have a smartphone?” Dan asks, suddenly nervous that Steve is one of those people who eschews technology and still has a flip phone.
Steve looks down at his hands and laughs, really laughs. “You’re funny. I do, but I like to see more information at once than that small screen.”
Dan nods, mollified by the answer and slightly embarrassed for blurting that out. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Steve sits down next to him and hands him a Diet Coke. “No seltzer today, sorry.”
“This is perfect, honestly I could use the caffeine.” It’s been a long week, and tomorrow is Saturday. Dan’s going to be running on adrenaline by then.
“How’s it going?” Steve asks sincerely, angling his body slightly toward Dan.
“Surreal, hectic. Fun. A lot of fun. I'm in the early stages of so many projects, it’s been really great to just make something, start to finish. We filmed some shorts today, it felt good.” Dan gestures vaguely and catches the golden glint on his finger. He pulls off the wedding band, setting it down on the small table in front of them. “Have to return this to props.”
“Thought maybe you eloped while you were here.”
It’s Dan's turn to laugh. There’s no one—no chance of that. “No, nothing quite that dramatic.”
Steve smiles and takes a sip of his drink, and Dan thinks he might catch the tiniest bit of relief passing over Steve’s face.
Steve’s sketch ends up getting cut at the eleventh hour after the dress rehearsal, and sadly, the one where Dan has to touch chili with his bare hands doesn’t. Dan’s disappointed—he was hoping Steve would be around after the show. Maybe they could have… Dan doesn’t even know. It doesn’t matter, the sketch is out. Steve will probably go home.
“You were good,” Dan runs his hand over Steve’s shoulder, in a small circle before he realizes what he’s done and pulls his hand away. “Really.”
“Thanks. I was more nervous than I thought I’d be, and it was only the dress. Probably for the best,” Steve admits. Dan could tell, he thinks. Steve seemed more himself in the small office than on the tiny sound stage set.
“I’m feeling surprisingly okay right now, so I’m hoping that lasts.” The show starts in about an hour, and Dan is trying not to think about it.
“You were amazing, you’re going to be great tonight.” Steve’s looking at him, serious and sort of fond, and the focused attention makes Dan feel a little flushed. They stand there for a second amid the chaos, just the two of them.
“You should stay—and watch. If you want,” Dan blurts out, realizing he doesn’t want Steve to leave. He wants to see Steve after..
“I—yeah. I want.” Steve looks relieved and happy. “I’ll stay.” He brushes his fingers lightly against the back of Dan’s hand. It’s quick but feels surprisingly intimate.
Dan sees Erica out of the corner of his eye holding up his first suit. “I have to go get ready—but I’ll see you after?”
Steve’s face lights up. “After.”
After ends up being overwhelming, Dan is congratulated by what feels like a million people, trying to accept praise while not replaying his missteps, getting to see his dad and his sister, and Trevor and Michael are here. He keeps trying to look around for Steve, but can’t find him. Dan wouldn’t blame him for leaving—it’s late. There's a toast, champagne passed around in paper cups to everyone still there and Lorne congratulates everyone, singling out Dan, for a great show. He takes a picture with Phoebe in the hallway, then a selfie with Megan, and then slips in into his dressing room to change.
The quiet is nice, a temporary cave of silence, and Dan pulls off his sweatshirt. He glances at his phone, but it’s a mess of notifications. He doesn't bother with any of that.
There’s a soft knock on the door, the silence was shorter-lived than Dan hoped. “Come in.” Dan figures it’s Megan or Erica or his family.
The door opens and it’s Steve, awkwardly holding two cups of champagne in one hand.
“I knew you were an odds-on favorite—you were outstanding.” Steve hands him a glance of champagne, and the way he’s looking at Dan makes him feel like he’s fizzy too.
“Thanks,” Dan whispers, his hand brushing Steve’s when he takes the cup.
He takes a step closer. It feels like the past year has funneled down to this moment, about learning to take chances, about not ignoring the signs. Dan takes another step toward Steve, so close now, there’s barely any air between them.
Everything slows down, Dan tilting his head to look up at Steve. This close, Steve is definitely taller. Dan likes it. He leans in, feeling out of control and completely measured, and then all at once, pressing his lips to Steve’s, heart-racing.
Dan feels like he’s in slow motion and double time, Steve’s mouth is soft against his and then Steve’s kissing him back, one hand wrapping around the back of Dan’s neck pulling him closer. Dan tries to get his cup out of the way, but he’s not quick enough—kissing Steve is scrambling what little coordination Dan usually has. They pull apart, and set their cups down.
Steve looks surprised, caught off guard, and Dan panics that he got it wrong, the high of the night maybe made him impulsive.
“I’m sorry—I didn’t plan on…” Dan trails off. It’s one thing to take chances but there should have probably been some more steps before Dan threw himself at Steve the second he showed up.
“Don’t be sorry. I came to see if—to see if you’d like to get dinner tomorrow night. With me.” Steve stands there, still flushed from their kisses.
“I’d—yeah,” Dan says nodding. “I’d like that very much.”
This time Steve steps forward first, looking less surprised and more sure of himself. Dan wraps his arms around Steve’s neck, Steve’s hands on his back, pressing them together. Dan loses himself to this minute, this moment, to Steve’s sweet, unhurried kisses. When they pull apart, they’re both a little breathless and Steve presses a kiss to Dan’s cheek before stepping back.
“I’m so glad I ran into you.”