Vince wasn't planning on it, that was for sure; it just sort of happened. There was a party, somebody started truth-or-dare, he picked truth, somebody asked, "Have you ever kissed a guy?" and he said no. So far so good, except the cute-but-toasted girl curled up against him started laughing and said, "Come on, not even Eric?"
He'd said no again, obviously, but twenty minutes later, E came by and leaned over the back of the couch. "Hey, I'm heading home. You okay to catch a ride with Turtle?"
"Nah, I'll come with," Vince said, getting up without even thinking about it, and then he was in the car and watching Eric driving home, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and suddenly he wasn't sure why he hadn't. Just to know what it was like.
"Hey, promise not to punch me?" he said, when they got out of the car.
"What?" Eric said, but Eric wasn't going to hit him anyway, Vince knew that, so he went ahead and did it. They were just outside the door; Eric had the keys in his hand. Vince kissed him carefully, holding Eric's head still so he wouldn't mess it up by jerking around, making it serious and going deep, breathing in so he caught Eric's aftershave, licking at Eric's mouth. He tasted like beer, and his mouth was soft, and it wasn't all that different, except he had a little scrapey beard shadow around his mouth that felt kind of cool, and his shoulders, that was different. It was weird, because Eric wasn't a big guy, but kissing him they felt huge, big and solid, and his arms under his shirtsleeves were hard.
"What the fuck?" Eric said, shoving him off. "Are you high?"
"Come on, are you telling me you've never wondered?" Vince said, and Eric got all red and embarrassed. Vince grinned victoriously. "Oh, I see."
"Fuck you," Eric muttered, and opened the door. "I didn't have a lot of choice about it, you know how many girls in this town try to pitch me a threesome with you? It never made me jump you in the driveway."
"Yeah, but that's 'cause you're a pussy," Vince said, following him into the kitchen.
"Vince, I don't think not kissing you makes me a pussy." Eric tossed the keys in the basket and went for the Brita pitcher.
"It does if you wanted to and you didn't," Vince said. Winding up E was just about the most fun there was in the world.
"Hey, I wondered, I never said I wanted to," Eric said. And then, "Oh, fuck you," when Vince just grinned and grinned.
"Come on, E, admit it," he said, spreading his arms wide. "You want a piece of this."
"I already got ten percent, thanks," Eric said. He grabbed Variety off the counter and pretended like he was reading it.
"Sure you don't want to go for more?" Vince said. He sidled up to Eric and leaned back against the counter. "Bet I could talk you into it."
"Seriously, are you high?" Eric said.
"I had a couple of beers and three hits off a joint, I'm fine." He felt better than fine; he felt reckless and happy and irresistible, watching Eric's neck turn red, because he could, he totally could talk Eric into this. Eric would seriously fucking go there if Vince wanted him to, and Vince did want him to. He wanted to know for sure.
"Come on, E," he said. "Let's see what it's like on the other side," and he tugged the Variety out of Eric's hands and pinned him against the counter and kissed him again, sucking at his mouth, teasing his lip and giving him a little teeth, told Eric every way he knew how to tell someone that yeah, he really was all that, and he knew he'd won when Eric reached up and cupped the side of his head, and stopped leaning back and away.
After that, the sex was almost an afterthought: not that it wasn't good, but Vince was so drunk with power he'd have gotten off even if it had been a disaster, which it wasn't. Eric spread out on his bed looking halfway between turned on and freaked out, staring at Vince like he was seeing him in a whole new way. It was like winning the fucking lottery. Eric looked at him a lot, but Vince knew all those looks, from the impatient yeah whatever to the warm you asshole. This one was brand-new, and it made him feel like a movie star for real, Eric's eyes traveling over his skin when Vince sat up over him and peeled off his shirt.
He pushed Eric flat and kissed him some more, kissed him ragged. "Let me," Vince said, and Eric did, Eric let him have everything, lying there with his eyes shut and his jaw clenching, his hand leaving bruises on Vince's arm. It was so fucking hard to go slow, but he wanted it to last, too, wanted to remember Eric panting like this under him. He put his hand on Eric's cock and made him come with Vince's cock inside him, fucking beautiful, and he'd never felt this good in his life.
He woke up in the morning with Eric smiling in his sleep, a weird kind of happy and surprised expression on his face, and his hand curled over Vince's hip possessively. He slid out from under Eric's hand and went downstairs for coffee. Eric's shirt was lying on the floor where Vince had dropped it, and he picked it up and tossed it over a chair. "Hey, you want some?" he asked, when Eric came downstairs ten minutes later, and slid over a cup. "I almost forgot, I've got to go down to Santa Monica this morning. I promised Gillian I'd meet her for lunch."
Eric didn't say anything for a second, rubbing sleep off his face, and then he said, "Yeah, thanks," and took the cup and went upstairs, and when Vince got back that night, the rest of Eric's clothes were gone out of his bedroom.
"Hey, you guys want to go grab dinner at the Palm?" Vince said, poking his head into the living room. "My treat."
"Fuck yeah," Turtle said, "and hey, there's a thing going at Area, you wanna hit it after?"
Eric didn't say anything, just went along, and then halfway through dinner he said, "Sorry, listen, I've got to—" and just got up and left, and Vince looked away from the waitress and watched him walk out of the restaurant.
Johnny and Turtle were staring at him like he'd killed a puppy. "Hey, back off," Vince said, starting to get angry. "He went for it, okay? I didn't roofie him or something."
"Fuck that, are you fucking nuts?" Turtle said. "Jesus, no wonder he's acting like a headcase." He threw his hands up in the air. "This is a disaster of epic proportions. I can't believe you did this."
"E's acting like a headcase, and it's my fault?" Vince said.
"Bro," Johnny said, reproachfully, "you know what happens to E when he sleeps with someone."
"Right, so what, you think he's in love with me now?" Vince said.
"Man, you are seriously fucked," Turtle said.
Vince didn't believe them, didn't let himself believe them, until the party the next night, and then Eric freaked out and took off after half an hour without saying a word, just because he came into a room and Vince was kind of making out with Katrina Nemacova. There was a repeat performance Saturday night, and then Sunday Eric wouldn't even go at all; he claimed he had some scripts to read, even though it was a bullshit lie.
Vince figured okay, Eric would get over it, life would get back to normal, except it didn't. All of a sudden, Eric had meetings all over town, he had piles of scripts and contracts coming in, and when he wasn't busy with work he was working out, getting up at six and out of the house by nine, before Vince even got up; he'd stay out all day and come back after dinner and say he was tired and go crash upstairs, even though Vince could fucking hear his TV or his laptop for hours after.
"Okay, this has got to stop," he said. "I'm going to have to talk to him."
"No fucking way. Just leave it, Vince," Turtle said. "Don't fuck this up any worse."
"He's right. Let sleeping dogs lie," Johnny said.
"He can't just keep avoiding me," Vince said. "I need to actually talk to my manager once in a while, guys."
"You're right," Eric said, after a minute, when Vince finally cornered him and said the same thing. "I'm sorry."
Vince let go of the breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding on to. "It's okay, E, don't sweat it. It's just, it's got to stop."
"I know," Eric said. He wasn't looking up. "I quit."
He was packed and gone in an hour, in a cab. "Take the fucking car, it was a present," Vince said.
"I don't want it," Eric said, standing next to his three bags in the driveway, waiting.
"You junked the old one," Vince said. "How the fuck are you going to get around L.A. without a car?"
"I'm not," Eric said. "I'm going to the airport."
"Oh, fuck you," Vince said, and went back in the house, and then he went back out to yell at him some more, and Eric was gone, just gone, just like that, like he hadn't ever been there at all, him and his three bags and the bed in his room straightened up like the maid had just been there.
Vince's hands were shaking while he called the car service, he was so mad, and he handed the driver an extra hundred and said, "There's another if you get me there in forty-five minutes," which wasn't humanly possible with the traffic, but the guy killed himself trying.
His cell phone rang while he was on the way. "What the fuck did you do to Eric?" his mom said.
"What the hell, how is this all my fault?" Vince yelled.
"Vincent, Eric just called his mother from the airport," his mom said. "He said he was taking the first nonstop going east of the Mississippi, and he'd call her when he landed. He wouldn't fucking tell her where he was going, do you understand me? And she asked if you were okay and he said you were fine, and not to talk to him about you again, so tell me right the fuck now what you did to my third son."
He ran through the airport looking at departure times and caught Eric outside the security gate at concourse A, just getting in line with his shoes already off, and he leaned over the band and said, "I swear to God, E, if you don't talk to me I'm going to tell security you've got a bomb."
"Jesus, keep your fucking mouth shut," Eric said, looking at the Homeland Security notices everywhere saying ALL THREATS WILL BE TREATED SERIOUSLY and ducked out of line and stood there with his laptop bag and his shoes in his hand. "Say what you've got to say."
People were looking at them, looking at him. "Come on," Vince said, "come on, let's go home, we can talk about this—"
"No," Eric said. "No way. I'm gone, Vince. I'm already gone."
"I don't fucking believe you," Vince said. "I don't—you're what, you're just taking off like this? You're ditching our entire friendship because of a one night stand—"
"You did that," Eric said. "Fuck you, Vince, seriously. Tell me something, did you even actually want me that night, or did you just want to see if you could get me to do it?"
Vince didn't have a goddamn thing to say. His mouth was dry. "E—"
"Don't," Eric said raspily, looking away. "Don't even—"
"E, listen to me, it's not—"
"Yeah it is," Eric said. "You got what you wanted, and then you spent the last two fucking weeks spelling it out for me that anything I wanted didn't mean shit to you."
"So what the fuck do you want from me?" Vince said. "You want a fucking relationship, is that it? You want to hold hands on Sunset Boulevard and get matching rings and get pissed off if I ever look at a girl—"
"All I want from you right now is to never see you again in my fucking life," Eric said, low and steady, like he really meant it, and then he turned around: the first-class line had cleared out and he showed them the boarding pass for wherever he was going and went on through.
Vince stood there waiting for Eric to come back to him for an hour, while planes blipped off the departures board one after another: Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, DC. A security guard came up to him finally and said, "Sir, can I help you?" and then did a double take when Vince looked at him. "No," Vince said, and went out and got a cab home. He gave it a week. Eric would be back.
Eric didn't come back. He called his mom and told her he'd landed somewhere, he had an apartment, he was okay, and he'd call her once a week. Apart from that it was like he'd walked off the face of the earth.
"Fuck him," Vince said, and spent a week getting hammered every night.
He came downstairs at noon on Sunday. "Yeah," Johnny was saying into the phone. "I get it. Listen, E—" and Vince lunged over the table and grabbed it out of his hand and said, "E, is that you? E, listen to me—" and he was talking to a dial tone without even hearing Eric's voice.
His hand sank down to the table. "You stupid fuck," Turtle said. "Now he's never going to call here again. I was gonna get a trace put on the line."
"Leave him alone," Johnny said, and he gently pried the phone out of Vince's hand to hang it up.
A week later Ari called him with a fifteen million offer to do Scorsese's new movie, The Medici Connection. "It's shooting in goddamn Florence," Ari said. "It's going to be fucking beautiful, kid. Put E on the line, I'll send him the script, we're going to get you that fucking statue this time. What the fuck's wrong with his cell phone anyway?"
The cell phone had been disconnected last week. Vince couldn't even get Eric's voicemail anymore.
"E's gone," Vince said. "I'll do it, I don't need to see the script."
The script was terrific. The critics loved it. "Chase turns in the performance of his career" from Variety and "Vincent Chase's dark, bravura turn as Lorenzo Medici is the linchpin of Scorsese's latest tour de force" from the Boston Globe and even a grudging "the Hollywood pretty-boy looks ten years older and ten times more interesting" from the New York Times. He won the Golden Globe and the Oscar and gave a smiling speech, thanking his mom and his pals and Ari and Scorsese, and that night at the after-after-party, someone offered him some pills, and he washed them down with vodka and fucked three girls in the back room and woke up the next day at five pm in a stranger's house with someone whose name he didn't even know.
"Congratulations, honey," his mom said over the phone.
"Yeah, thanks," Vince said. He had an icepack on his head. "Listen, mom, I was thinking maybe I'll come out next week."
She didn't say anything for a minute, and then softly, "Vince, baby, you know it's Jennifer's birthday."
"So, what, I can't come?" Vince said, swallowing.
"If you come, he'll leave," she said. "Vince, she hasn't seen him for a year. She doesn't know where he's living, what he's doing—"
"Who the fuck even cares," Vince said, and hung up and went to lie down in his room.
It wasn't like his life fell apart. He did six pictures in four years off the Oscar buzz, and by the end of it he was worth some ridiculous amount of money, more than he could spend no matter what kinds of crazy shit he bought.
One year after Eric left, Vince hired a private detective to find him, mostly to shut Turtle up about it. It took the guy less than a week to deliver a manila envelope full of photographs of Eric on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, wearing sunglasses and a suit and holding Neiman Marcus and Cartier shopping bags for a beautiful woman with dark red hair and diamond earrings who had her hands on his arm, white teeth flashing in her laughing smile. Eric was grinning too.
Vince dumped the photos in the kitchen trash. "We're done, call him off," he told Turtle.
"Vince, come on man, give it more than a week," Turtle said. "We don't even know E's address yet—"
"I don't give a fuck," Vince said. "He's not on the fucking street, he can take care of himself."
After Nick Fury made him another thirty million, he gave Turtle a house and Johnny a house and bought himself a new place on the beach with a helicopter pad and hired a driver and a cook and a housekeeper from an agency. "Look guys, it's not that I don't love you, but I'm over thirty, okay? I just want some privacy," he said, but really he was sick and tired of getting lectured by fucking Turtle about how much weed he smoked or whatever else he did for that matter, and it pissed him off that they still talked to E once in a while when he wasn't around.
Ari called him a week after Journeyman opened. Vince stretched his arm out of the bed and grabbed the phone blind and said "No," without letting Ari actually say anything, and hung up: he'd told Ari he wanted to take the six months off before Carnivals and Hurricanes started shooting, and fuck it, he was doing it. Ari called back ten times over the next day, and then he showed up on the front stoop yelling at the security guys so loud Vince rolled his eyes and went downstairs and let him in.
"Jesus, Ari," Vince said, padding to the kitchen to make coffee.
"What, you're so fucking wasted you can't answer your fucking phone and talk to me for five minutes?" Ari said, spreading his hands. "Sit down, I'll do that, you look like you're going to fall over and break your goddamn thirty million dollar face."
Vince put up his eyebrows and watched Ari fucking around with the coffee machine. "Okay, seriously. What the fuck."
Ari put down a coffee mug and sat down at the counter. "Okay, listen, you remember that deal we negotiated with Domenici Productions, back on Hamlet? You know, the movie where we got you thirty percent of the fucking gross?"
"What about it?" Vince said warily, because if Ari was trying to score points by bringing up the gross thing—
"You remember that little contract provision we had in there—the sequel thing—" Ari waved a hand vaguely.
"What?" Vince said. "Ari—"
"Look, I know—"
"You swore to me it would never come up!"
"Well, how the fuck could I know!" Ari said. "It's fucking Hamlet, everybody's dead at the end!"
"So what exactly do I have to do?" Vince said. "Lie in a coffin or something for three days of shooting?"
"Uh, well," Ari said. "Look, apparently—apparently the lawyers didn't really tie up the definition of sequel all that tightly—"
"Oh, fuck me," Vince said.
"The script's great, okay, that's the first thing—"
"It's a backstage kind of thing," Ari said. "Shakespeare in Love, except it's set in the forties—it's all about making a Shakespeare movie in the studio days. You're playing the lead, it's great for you, it'll make a hundred million easy, maybe we'll get you another Oscar—"
Ari sank back against the counter in despair. "You start shooting next week."
"Like hell I do," Vince said.
"Vincent!" Pete Domenici got up from his table and shook his hand. "Great to see you, how are you doing? Yeah, come on, sit down—"
"Listen, Pete," Vince said, smiling, turning on the charm, "I need you to let me off the hook, okay? I just got done with Journeyman, seriously, there's just no way—"
"What?" Pete said blankly.
"The Hamlet sequel?" Vince said.
"A sequel to Hamlet?" Pete said. "How the fuck do you do a sequel to Hamlet? Everybody's fucking dead. Anyway, I don't have the rights, Vincent, Sony got them as part of the studio deal."
"Great," Vince said; that fucker Alan was apparently still holding on to his grudge. "Ari," he said into his phone, leaving, "this is your fucking fault, get me out of this. I'm not working with that asshole—"
"Vince, Vince—" Ari said, "Listen to me, Vince, it's not Sony. Sony's not doing it. Some fucking—you are not going to believe this, some fucking East Coast hedge fund bought a whole bunch of rights for post-DVD movies from them for like five million dollars; squat, right? And Hamlet was in there. Those fucking assholes sold the rights to a hundred million dollar movie for chump change."
"I don't give a fuck, Ari," Vince said.
"Oh come on," Ari said, "that's got to give you a little bit of a buzz. Just think about how Alan's going to look like an asshole in front of his board."
"Yeah, I don't give a shit, I still don't want to work right now," Vince said. "I want my six months, Ari."
"Come on, what the fuck are you even going to do, lie around and do blow all day and get VD from the party girls?"
"Fuck you, Ari," Vince said. "If I find out you had anything to do with this—"
"Yes, Vincent, because what I like to do is get my clients sued—"
"Then get me out, Ari. Now. I'm not kidding."
"Okay, okay," Ari said. "Look, Rubens is producing-directing, he's out there on location now. We'll go by the lot, we'll talk to him—"
They walked on set the next morning: it was already halfway up. They really were going to be ready to start shooting in a week. "How the fuck are they moving this fast?" Vince said, shaking hands with some of the crew he knew from old projects.
"Double crews and overtime, man," one of the electricians said. "There's some serious cash sunk into this."
"Great," Vince said, and they tracked down Rubens, who was running around in his usual five-million-directions-at-once mode.
"Vince, thank God," he said, hugging him. "Thanks for coming out, costuming needs to do a couple of fittings—Angie, tell them Vince is here—"
"Keith," Vince said, "I'm not doing it."
"What?" Rubens stared at him. "It'll be fifteen minutes, Vince, I swear—"
"Keith, listen, let's talk, okay?" Ari said. "There's been a little misunderstanding."
They managed to get him off to the side. "But, wait," Rubens said, cutting Ari off about ten minutes into his schpiel, "I don't get it, why are you talking to me?"
"You're the fucking producer!" Ari said.
"I got the credit, I'm not doing it," Rubens said. "Are you kidding me? I go crazy enough directing, if I tried to produce on top of that my head would explode."
"So who the fuck is producing the goddamn movie?" Vince said.
"That would be me," Eric said behind him.
Eric's office was big and empty except for a computer that looked like something out of NASA, with three screens linked up and a fourth running what looked like a constant stock ticker in the corner. He sat down and tossed his sunglasses on the desk: he was wearing a razor-sharp suit, with a fucking tie, and he hadn't smiled even once. Vince had his hands clenched to keep from grabbing him and shaking him.
"E, baby, why didn't you just call me?" Ari was saying. "Look, you want to do this picture, that's fantastic, let's just postpone—"
"Shooting starts on Monday, Ari," Eric said. "We have an eighty-five day shooting schedule to come in on budget. Thanks, Tina." His assistant had brought in black coffee for him, designer water for them.
"You're going to have to do it without me, then," Vince said.
"You want to spend the time in court instead of on set, that's up to you," Eric said, shrugging. "We can always get Jake Gyllenhaal."
"You know what, fuck you," Vince said, standing up. "This is how you show up again after five years? Go the fuck ahead and sue me, I'm out of here."
Ari called and woke him up again the next afternoon. "Short answer: you're doing the movie."
"Not a fucking chance, Ari," Vince said. He had his eyes closed, he wasn't even out of bed.
"I talked to the lawyers. They say if you don't do the movie, he can sue you for the entire budget. We're talking a hundred million dollars—"
"Ari, I don't even know how Eric got himself attached to this movie, but you seriously think the people in charge are going to go for this kind of stunt?" Vince said.
"He is the people in charge," Ari said. "He's financing the goddamn thing. I made some calls, he made partner in Blackrock Investments last year. He's worth, and I am not exaggerating, a billion fucking dollars; Vince, he can sue your ass into the ground."
"You're always telling me we have more lawyers than God," Vince said.
"Yeah, well, he's got more lawyers than Satan," Ari said. "Listen, it's not just that either, okay? He'll get an injunction against Paramount and stop you doing Hurricanes, stop you doing anything fucking else at all. You've got to do it."
"Fuck him, and fuck you," Vince said, and hung up.
"Don't you fucking talk to me like that, Vincent," his mother said. "For five years he wouldn't be in the same room as you, and now you're complaining?"
"He threatened to sue me!" Vince said.
"You signed a goddamn contract, didn't you? For Christ's sake, Vincent, he came back and took a movie you have to do, you can't figure out why?"
"No question," Johnny said solemnly. "He's out for revenge, bro. You better watch your back."
Turtle said. "Did you say a billion dollars? Jeez."
"What, he didn't tell you guys?" Vince said bitterly. He was missing the buzz he'd been riding pretty much perpetually for the last few years, except he knew he had to have a clear fucking head for this.
"He doesn't tell us shit, Vince," Turtle said. "All he ever does is ask if we're 'all' okay." He made air quotes.
The two of them were all over Eric on Monday, though, even with the three am call time, son of a bitch; hugging him in the pitch black lot while makeup and costuming sat Vince down and started in on him. "Yeah, Chicago—" Eric was saying, and things like "started a new hedge fund" and "merged last year" and more bullshit that he'd never in a million years have expected Eric to be involved in, Eric who'd told him to fuck Matterhorn and go for Queens Boulevard and who'd made fun of guys wearing monkey suits to work.
"Uh, listen," Turtle said, after Vince finished the first two scenes, "how about we all do lunch at Spago?"
"With Eric?" Vince said. "You guys have a good time."
"Come on, bro," Johnny said. "It's been five fucking years."
Eric had a car and driver, a low-profile classic limo with a swing-out table and a laptop; he was talking to somebody in Japan when they got in. "So, selling out's treating you pretty well," Vince said, after he closed up his phone.
Turtle rolled his eyes. Eric said, "The guy with an Oscar and two action figures on his shelf seriously can't talk to me about selling out."
Vince made a point of being first out of the car and up to the hostess. She dodged a couple of people coming up to the podium to meet him. "Hi, Vince," she said. "Do you want a table in the back?"
"Nah, you can put us up front," he said, smiling, and took a seat on the edge of one of the U-shaped booths. Turtle and Johnny took the inside seats and tried to run interference and small talk all through lunch.
"So come on," Turtle said, "seriously, a billion dollars? That's like, a fake number."
Eric said, "Yeah, well. Most of it's in private stock, so don't get excited."
"Yeah, screw that," Turtle said, pointing at him. "Ribeye's on you, pal."
Leslie Dixon was walking in with a couple of her lawyers. "Hi, Vince," she said, and Vince stood up to give her a hug and trade a little chit-chat about her next script.
"Sorry about that, guys," he said, sliding back into his seat, tossing off a half-smile insincere apology. Eric just flicked his eyes over Vince and back to Turtle, barely acknowledging he'd said anything.
It was a good day for the place: Michelle Monaghan came by, so did Ben Stiller; Mark Charpentier kept the waitress and his own entourage standing around waiting for almost five minutes, talking to Vince about the Carnivals and Hurricanes shoot. Vince spread his hands, sitting down again. "I guess maybe we should have sat in back after all."
"Yeah, well maybe you should quit glad-handing everybody who walks in the place," Turtle hissed at him.
"No kidding," Johnny muttered. "They're going to start thinking you're the host, bro."
"Let's get the 1970 Château Mouton-Rothschild," Eric told the waitress, who'd finally gotten through, and handed back the winelist.
Turtle really did get the $50 steak; Eric went for salad and sea bass, like some fucking cholesterol-watching yuppie. Vince snapped his menu shut and smiled at the waitress. "You know, do me a favor and ask Wolfgang if he'd come up with something new for me?"
"Of course, Vince," she said.
"Thanks," he said, and smiled across the table, without teeth, all fuck-you.
Except Eric was answering his cell phone. "Yeah, I'll hold," he said, and then he said, "Senator Durbin? Thanks for calling me back—Yeah, how'd you guess? Look, it's not the reporting provisions, we can live with that, it's not even the trading restrictions—" and he spent the next fifteen minutes arguing goddamn securities legislation with the senior senator from Illinois, which Vince had to admit trumped air-kissing with Stephanie Courtney.
Eric hung up and said, "Sorry about that, guys," overplaying the casual, and Vince was suddenly fighting off a grin, because how fucked up was this, the two of them trying to top each other with this shit neither of them cared about at all. He caught Eric's eye, and for a second he thought Eric was with him, they were both going to crack up like lunatics in front of everybody at Spago, and then Eric picked up his glass of wine and looked away, and it was like he'd just taken off all over again.
The whole fucking shoot went like that. Eric was on set every day, even if he was on his cell phone half the time talking to people in Chicago and New York and D.C., and every time something crazy or funny happened, Vince looked for Eric, like it was five years ago and Eric was supposed to be there, watching his back. And if Eric wasn't looking at him anyway, he'd usually turn around like he was on a switch. They'd click again for a second, a minute, and then Eric would turn away on purpose, go back to his phone call or his paperwork or his laptop.
It hurt every single time, it pissed him off, and Vince still couldn't fucking help it, because even thirty seconds at a time of having Eric back was a hit he couldn't turn down, even the time he blew off his own rules and smoked up before shooting, just trying to break the habit of looking. Instead he just flubbed half his lines, and after he looked over a third time, Eric shut down the set early for lunch. Vince went back to his trailer feeling like his legs were dragging weights, and one of the PAs came by with a glass of ice water, a triple espresso, and a fifteen-minute Pilates routine that left him feeling awake again.
"Did Eric send you?" He didn't want to know, and he asked anyway, even though it only made him get angry all over again when she nodded. He went over his lines ten times before going back out, so he wouldn't mess up and look over again, and then he was just on fire the whole afternoon, nailing one scene after another, and he kept looking to make sure Eric was noticing, instead.
They were filming on a soundstage, but he spent the weeknights in his trailer anyway; the pace they were going, it was too much of a pain in the ass to go back to his own place every night. Everybody who was left after the day's shooting wrapped ate together at long tables, chinese or pizza or sushi, and he always ended up at Eric's table because that's where Turtle and Johnny dragged him.
"So listen, guys, tomorrow's the big day," Johnny said, rubbing his hands. "Think you can make it? I know you've got to shoot, but we'll be going late, and I plan to be there until the bitter end."
Eric stopped with his chopsticks halfway to his mouth. "Seriously, you got in?"
"Of course I got in," Johnny said, insulted. "I told you my rendition of 'Walking In Memphis' would slay them."
"Yeah, but we thought you meant it would actually leave them dead and bleeding from the ears," Turtle said. "What are you, like ten years over the age limit?"
"They're increasing it again," Johnny said coolly. "I won't say it was just for my benefit, but clearly, they want me on there badly."
"You know, are you sure you're up for this?" Vince said. "Simon Cowell's gotten even meaner since season nine."
"Hey, bro, I can take it," Johnny said, patting his chest. "A real artist should never be afraid to face honest critique."
Vince shrugged helplessly. "Hey, if you're sure, I'll be there as soon as we wrap."
"Excellent," Johnny said, rubbing his hands together. "How about it, E?"
Eric hesitated, and then he said, "Yeah, Drama, I'll be there."
"Hey, cool, then you can give Vince a ride," Turtle said immediately. "That way I can go over early and catch the whole thing."
Vince looked at Eric, who was looking right back at him involuntarily, we walked into that as clear as if they'd said it out loud, and Vince dropped his eyes back to his plate as Eric looked away.
Except the next day in the middle of the last takes of the day, Vince's cell phone went off. "Uh, yeah, listen," Turtle said. "Could you, and E, maybe—"
"Where are you?" Vince said; it was noisy as hell.
Turtle mumbled something, and then louder, "Fuck, look, we're in jail, okay? Can you guys come bail us out?"
"How the fuck did they end up in jail?" Eric demanded, in the limo on their way over.
Vince flipped a hand. "Do I know? At least they're going to be let out on bail, so I'm hoping that means they didn't kill anybody."
"Great." Eric started making phone calls: by the time they got to the courthouse, Turtle and Johnny were waiting for them outside, with three lawyers in suits and a massive phalanx of reporters. "Don't even fucking think about going out there," Eric said, and put his hand on the door just when Vince did, so their hands met.
They both jerked back, and then Eric cleared his throat and said, "Switch places with me, get further back in the car so they can't get photos of you."
"I don't care," Vince said.
"Yeah? As the producer of your next movie, I do," Eric said. "Move." Vince swallowed and moved; it was too much like the way it used to be when he could just put his life in Eric's hands and let him steer.
Flashbulbs went off like crazy when Eric pushed open the door, and Johnny and Turtle dived in. They pulled the door shut. "Okay, go, go, go," Eric yelled at the driver, and they took off and away from the hordes running after the limo. "So what the fuck?" he said, turning to Johnny.
"This whole thing has been blown way out of proportion," Johnny said.
"Come on, guys, what the hell happened?" Vince demanded.
Johnny and Turtle looked at each other. "I might've punched Simon Cowell," Johnny finally admitted.
"You did not," Vince said, half grinning, not sure if he believed them.
"Yeah, he really did," Turtle confirmed.
"Yeah, well, the guy was way out of line," Johnny said. "He said my voice was like a gagging crow with laryngitis, and my performing style was worse than Pauly fucking Shore, okay? There are limits to what a man can take."
"Jesus." Eric jerked his chin at Turtle. "So what did you get arrested for?"
Turtle looked uncomfortable. "It was a total accident, okay? I was just trying to help out, I figured Drama was gonna get busted pretty hard by the security guys—"
"You punched Simon Cowell too?" Vince said.
"Nah," Turtle said. Then he sighed and shrugged. "I kinda accidentally sorta clocked Paula Abdul in the face. It was an accident," he yelled, while Eric and Vince both laughed so fucking hard Eric was wiping tears off his face.
"Jesus," Eric gasped, and groped in the minibar for water.
"Yeah, great, laugh at my misfortune," Johnny said sulkily. "This is a fucking disaster."
"Hey, give me one," Vince said, coughing, and after a few gulps, he managed, "I'm sorry, man, really."
"Yeah, sorry, Drama," Eric said, and then he broke and cracked up all over again, which set Vince off too.
"Look on the bright side, Drama," Turtle said, while Vince lay choking on his back on the seat, trying to catch his breath. "I guarantee you this is going to get on the air."
Johnny brightened. "Hey, pal, you're right, I didn't even think of that. No way they're not going to show it."
He made Eric break out the champagne from the limo bar, and the whiskey after that. By the time they got to Vince's place, they were all so plastered that they all just crawled into the house and collapsed on the couches in the living room.
Vince got up early while it was just starting to get light, used to the three am call times by now, and he went to the kitchen and got the coffee started and poured out OJ. When he went back into the living room, the sun was starting to come up and the door to the deck was open; Johnny and Turtle were still dead to the world.
Eric was outside, leaning on the railing comfortably and looking out at the Pacific, suit jacket off and tie gone, shirtsleeves rolled up, like he just belonged. Vince took the two glasses of orange juice and walked up to him and handed one over. Eric looked at him a second, then he took the glass, and Vince knew that in that moment there was something he could say or do that would fix everything, fix the last five years, the one night before that, and he had no fucking clue what it was, so instead they just stood there together, silently, watching the sun coming up in the reflections on the water.
"Vince, we don't have time," Rubens said desperately. "It's period, come on, you're killing me."
"Not a chance, Keith," Vince said. "The dialogue I can sell, but I am not wearing those pants, sorry."
Rubens folded his arms. "It's those or it's nothing."
"I'm fine with nothing." Vince tossed his robe over a chair, walked out of the costuming shed naked and took his spot for lighting.
"You're ready, Vince?" the lighting designer Lisa said distractedly, then did a double take and said, "Oh, for Christ's sake," as the crew started to snicker.
Vince grinned and shrugged at her. "Snag with costuming." He tried not to notice that Eric had looked up from his laptop, and also not to notice that he'd looked right back down, that fair skin going red.
"Yeah, very funny," Rubens said, running out after him. "Vince, I have eleven fucking days of shooting time left, don't do this to me."
"I've been telling you about the pants for three weeks, since I saw the sketches," Vince said. "It is officially not my problem right now. Let me know if you want me for another scene." He went back to his trailer and dropped down on the bed and flipped on his stereo and waited.
The knock came after five minutes. Eric came in and shut the door and took off his sunglasses and gave him that pissed-off look, head cocked to one side. "You don't have costume approval."
Vince tipped his head back. "Going to sue me over this?"
"Rubens might. He loses a $5 million bonus for coming in on schedule if he extends to let costuming make something else," Eric said. "Also he'll be pissed at you going into post-production."
"I'll live," Vince said cheerfully.
"Quit being a prima donna," Eric said. "It's a pair of pants."
"Have you seen them?" Vince demanded. "It looks like they stuffed two beach balls into tights."
"It's fucking Elizabethan," Eric said.
"It's fucking stupid looking," Vince said. "And it doesn't work, either. The guy's a studio movie star, I'm wearing these great forties suits the rest of the time, there's no fucking way he'd look worse in the movie-in-a-movie."
Eric glared at him, and Vince said, "Come on, E, go look at the damn things, you'll see I'm right. What do you want from me?" He stretched out, settling down and getting comfortable.
Eric rolled his eyes and looked off to the side for a minute, then he said, "The Globes are in three weeks."
"Yeah, I'm skipping them," Vince said. "Seeing how you blew away most of my vacation, I'm going to spend the rest of it in Hawaii." He pulled the line out of his ass, and it only hit him after he'd said it: eleven days of shooting left, and then he was done and gone. Eric might stay on for post-production and the pick-up shots, but this wasn't fucking Aquaman; they'd be done in ten weeks, and then Eric would go back to Chicago. Vince didn't even have his cell phone number.
Eric said, "Do the Globes, talk about the movie on camera, and I'll give Rubens the extra week. I can budget it as publicity."
Vince stared at the flat ceiling of the trailer, thinking fast, and then he said, "I'll do the Globes if you come with me."
"They bore me to fucking tears," Vince said. "If I've got to suffer, so do you," and Eric didn't fight him all that hard, so two weeks later they were on the red carpet together. Vince wasn't up for anything this year, but it still gave him an excuse to smile for the cameras and put his arm around Eric's back, and when the first shlocky tearjerker clips from West Hollywood Landslide went up, Eric leaned over and whispered, "Jesus, kill me now." It beat winning by a thousand goddamn miles.
"If you want publicity, we've got to do the after-parties," Vince said, and dragged Eric around to the Paramount and Dreamworks and Viacom gigs, the two of them breezing by the security guards and the cell phone punchers trying to make it in. The reporters and the gossip vultures were all over them, hungry for photo ops and pull quotes, and Vince said things like "You'll have to ask E what his next project is" and "I'm doing Hurricanes next, but we haven't discussed after that," making it sound like Eric was back for good, like they were a team again, as if that would make it true.
"Vince," Lauren Bowles said, "some of us are headed back to my place, you two want to come with?" after about an hour.
"This is going to be publicity too?" Eric said, but Vince said, "Come on, E, it's not even midnight yet, live a little," and he caved.
There was plenty of everything at the party, but Vince passed up all the trays for once and stuck to beer and Eric, dodging a couple of supermodels and Amy Sloan, although they had to slip down a hallway to get away from what was threatening to turn into either a conga line or an orgy. Vince tugged Eric into a guest room and shut the door behind them. "Think we're safe here?"
"We can always jump for it," Eric said, unlatching the balcony doors, and he went outside and tugged loose his bowtie and the top buttons of his shirt. He was leaning on the railing, tipping up the bottle to drink, and Vince went out on the balcony and took the bottle out of Eric's hands and kissed him, and kissed him again, and then he was trying like crazy to get Eric's clothes off, desperate for it. "Get a room!" someone yelled from the yard. Vince ignored them; Eric muttered, "Jesus," against his mouth and pulled Vince back into the bedroom.
Eric had to shove him down to the bed hard because Vince didn't want to let go of him. "E—" he said.
"Shut up," Eric said, through clenched teeth. He was stripping his own shirt off, cufflinks rolling away over the floor. "Don't fucking ask me for anything, Vince, not a single goddamn—"
And then he was on the bed, pushing Vince flat, kissing him, and Vince didn't have to ask him, because Eric was doing everything anyway, wrestling him out of his clothes, almost ripping his pants open. Eric leaned over and yanked the drawer out of the end table, frantic, dumping half of it on the ground, and Jesus, thank God, there were condoms and Wet. Vince helped Eric strip him down and then he lay back and wrapped his legs around Eric's waist and bit his lip so he wouldn't ask, wouldn't beg. Eric's cock pressing into him, Eric on top of him, and he felt fucking alive for the first time in years.
He woke up when somebody opened the door and came stumbling in to go puke in the bathroom. "Sorry, man," the guy muttered going by, and Vince sat up in the empty bed. Eric was gone.
He got up and put his clothes back on a little numbly, some of them anyway; he didn't bother with the jacket or the tie or the shoes and socks, just left them on the floor. One of Eric's gold cufflinks was tangled in his shirt. He went downstairs barefoot and went outside and tapped on the window of the first limo parked on the street. "Need a ride, Mr. Chase?" the driver said, before he'd even pulled out his wallet, and Vince said, "Yeah," and crawled into the back and stretched out face down on the seat for the drive, trying not to think. When he got home, he dug the bottle of Ambien out of his medicine cabinet and took two and fell into bed.
Ari called at noon. "Hey, baby, where the fuck are you? Rubens has been calling me for the last three fucking hours, you're supposed to be on set and you start shooting in an hour. Come on, I know you're hungover and in the middle of a Brazilian twin sandwich, but pull it together, do a triple-shot latte and get down here."
"Is Eric on set?" Vince said.
"How the fuck should I know?" Ari said.
"Ari," Vince said.
"Look, what difference does it make, okay?" Ari said. "You wrap in two days, come on down and get it over with—"
"I'm not coming," Vince said, and he hung up on Ari and threw back the covers and grabbed a pair of loafers and a jacket and called a helicopter to take him to the airport.
"It'll be about an hour," the private jet company told him over the phone, so instead he went into the main terminal and found the first airline with an empty first-class line and parked himself at the counter. "I'll be with you in one second," the busy attendant said; he turned on the smile and her head came up almost instantly, staring.
"Hey," he said, "can you help me out? I need to get to Chicago," and she stammered her way through getting him a seat on the next flight out, leaving in eleven minutes, even though it was on a completely different airline. "Thanks, you're a lifesaver," he said, and took off; security gave him a double-take and let him race through, and the attendants were holding the plane for him. "Sorry," he said, shrugging to the other first-class passengers, and signed autographs for most of them and the flight crew to apologize.
He called Eric's mom from the cab. "I need to know where his office is, and don't tell me you don't know," he said.
She didn't say anything at all for a minute, and then she said, "Vince, if you fucking break his heart again—"
"I'm not," Vince said, "I swear to God, Jenny, I just don't want him to break mine," and she gave him the address, and when he called, Eric's assistant told him he was in a meeting. "No, no message," Vince said, and he got out at Three First National Plaza and went to the front desk. "Hi, I'm here for Blackrock," he said. The shirt was hanging out, unbuttoned at the top because the buttons had gotten popped off last night, he had a night's growth of beard, but he'd damped down his hair, put on the jacket and folded the collar back over, and he was smiling, so the security guard let him up without calling.
The receptionist clearly made more money than the building's security guard. She stared, but she managed to say, "Can I help you?"
He pulled the cufflink out of his pocket and leaned forward confidentially to show it to her. "Eric left it at my place last night. Don't call, I'll just surprise him," he added, while she was goggling, and sauntered right by, ignoring her faint, "Uh, Mr. Chase, I need to—" from behind him.
Eric was in a big glass-walled conference room at the back, with ten other guys in suits, most of them a lot older than him, all talking; Vince stopped right in front of the door and just stood there until Eric glanced over and stopped to stare. Vince looked pointedly at the doorknob and then looked back up and tilted his head, putting up his eyebrows: you want to try me?
Eric got the message loud and clear. A couple of the other guys at the table had noticed him by then and were staring; Eric stood up and said something to them and came out and closed the door behind him. "What the fuck are you doing here?"
"So, what," Vince said, "you got everything you wanted, and you took off?"
Eric turned his head away and then looked back at him. "Yeah, something like that."
"Bullshit," Vince said, and he felt like a fucking moron; why the hell hadn't he come here all those years ago, why hadn't he come and gotten Eric—"You didn't get anything you wanted, because you left me behind."
"Oh, is that what you think?" Eric said, shoulders straight, pissed off and tense. "You think after five fucking years I'm still hung up on you?"
"Well, I'm still hung up on you, and you've got to admit, I'm way hotter than you are," Vince said. "E—"
"Jesus, you asshole, don't even try it," Eric said, looking away again.
"Fuck you," Vince said. "I am, I'm asking, E, come home. Come home with me. I can't—"
"You can't live without me?" Eric said, sarcastic, but he still wasn't looking at Vince. "Don't make me fucking laugh."
"I'm not going to," Vince said. "I'm not going to, and you're not going to either." He grabbed Eric's face and kissed him, ignoring Eric's muffled, "the fuck!" and the rest of the billionaires staring at them from the other side of the soundproofed glass, and then he put his forehead against Eric's and said softly, "Please. Please, E, don't make me. Come home. Be with me—"
Eric had his hands over Vince's on his shoulders, but he didn't pull free. His voice was cracking. "And when you get fucking tired of—"
"I won't," Vince said. He was shaking, he was so fucking relieved. Eric still couldn't say no to him, Eric still—"I love you. Come home."
"Jesus," Eric said, helplessly, and this time when Vince kissed him, Eric kissed him back, cupped Vince's head in his hand and kissed him deep and sweet and slow, and then he broke it off and said a little unsteadily, "Okay, you're going to have to wait, I'm going to go get fired for the most seriously unprofessional thing anyone's ever done in this office."
"So wait," Vince said, "does this mean you're not going to be a billionaire anymore?"
"What, you're after my money?" Eric said, rolling his eyes.
"Nah, but it would be cool if you gave up a billion dollars for me," Vince said.
"Just so you know, I'm foreseeing some serious domestic violence in your future," Eric said, and went back into the conference room. Vince beamed at all the suits when their heads swiveled from Eric to him, and then Eric came back out and towed him away, muttering, "You're such an asshole."
"Yeah," Vince said, light-headed and happy, and he slid his hand under Eric's jacket and tucked his fingers under Eric's belt and kissed him some more in front of the receptionist while they were waiting for the elevator.
The alarm in Eric's penthouse went off at six-thirty am next to Vince's head. He groaned and hit at it feebly until Eric finally crawled over him and managed to turn it off. "Fuck," Eric said, muffled, draped limply over Vince's body. Vince rolled him back off and snuggled up around him and said, "G'back to sleep."
"Mm," Eric said, and they both fell asleep again.
Vince woke up again three hours later and snuggled meaningfully closer to Eric until Eric cracked an eye and peered over his shoulder at him. Vince grinned. "Hey."
Eric shifted over onto his back, still in Vince's arms, and looked up at him. "Hey," he said softly, a different kind of hey, and Vince swallowed hard.
"I don't believe you left me, you asshole," Vince said, his voice cracking.
"Don't you even fucking start with me." Eric pulled him down and they curled up into each other, kissing, Eric's hand cupping his hip and Eric's thigh sliding between his legs, a lazy comfortable heat building.
The phone on the other side of the bed rang. "Fuck," Eric groaned.
"Ignore it," Vince said, kissing his neck. "It's not me, it can't be that important."
"You really do need a beating," Eric said, and groped for the phone. "Yeah?" He jerked it away from his ear as Ari's voice squawked out tinnily, "Where the fuck is Vince, you asshole? If my client fucking ODed and jumped in a river because of you—"
"Ari!" Eric yelled. "Ari, shut up, he's fine. He's here, I'll have him back tomorrow." He cautiously brought the phone back and listened. "Yeah. Yeah? Fuck you too. I'll see you in L.A." He flipped off the phone and tossed it back on the nightstand.
"Aw," Vince said. "I didn't know he cared." He kissed Eric's shoulder, nuzzling up against his neck.
"He cares about the fucking movie," Eric said, pushing Vince over onto his back. He started working his way seriously down Vince's chest.
"He can't still be afraid you're going to sue me now," Vince said, stretching out and stuffing a pillow behind his head, prepared to enjoy the ride. Eric had an awesome bed. He'd paid a decorator something like a million dollars to get the furniture for his house, how come Eric had a better bed? They were going to have to ship it out west.
"No, but he wants his fucking one percent of the gross," Eric mumbled against his skin.
"His what?" Vince said, raising his head up.
Eric looked up at him. Vince got momentarily distracted by the view. "What, you didn't know? He's an exec producer."
"You're fucking kidding me," Vince said. "Why did you make him an EP?"
"He put Blackrock onto the deal," Eric said. "He told our West Coast agent about Sony putting up the rights cheap. I didn't even find out you were attached to the main project until after the firm bought in." Then he paused. "Oh, fuck me."
Vince propped himself up on his elbows and stared at Eric. "Wait a second—that asshole set us up?"
Eric was shaking his head, half laughing. "He must've found out I was working for Blackrock."
"I don't fucking believe this," Vince said.
"What, you don't believe Ari would lie?" Eric said, raising his eyebrows.
"This calls for some serious payback," Vince said.
"Oh yeah? You think so?" Eric said, and bent down and kissed his hip.
Vince let his head thump back into the heaped pillows. "Okay. Okay, yeah. Maybe a yacht," he said, breathlessly. "You think Ari would like a yacht?"
= End =
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