The day the returns on Pilot Light came in, Vince and Turtle and Drama took him out drinking at nine in the morning and didn't bring him back until midnight, three million dollars richer and so completely fucked up he had to crawl out of bed at six and go to boxofficemojo.com to look up the numbers and find out that was what his eleven-point-five percent of the gross was worth. "Holy shit," Eric said, vaguely, and crawled back into bed.
Vince opened the door and let Arnold run in and jump on his head at 5PM. "Oh, fuck you," Eric groaned, and pulled the pillow over his head. Vince jumped on the bed too and turned the TV on to Cartoon Network and poked him until he got up. "Turtle and Drama went out," Vince said, so the two of them made Kraft mac and cheese for dinner and ate it out of bowls in the living room and then spent the night making fun of bad scripts together.
By the time Eric got up on Sunday, his share was up to seven million, and Miramax had sent him a truckload of flowers. More importantly, they'd left a message on his voicemail about a meeting to plan the Oscar campaign, so the fuckers were actually going to put some muscle behind the movie. "Thanks for nothing, Harvey," Eric muttered, and called Billy to tell him.
"Yeah, whatever. Fucking suit is going to help us get a gold dildo from a bunch of other fucking suits," Billy said.
"According to you, I'm a suit, remember?" Eric said.
"Yeah, but you're a zoot suit," Billy said and hung up, but that was kind of the equivalent of getting a five hour hug from the guy.
"Hey, producer," Vince said, grinning, as he walked into the kitchen, and slid over a cup of coffee. Eric grinned back at him and dropped into a chair at the table. "So are you too much of a big shot now to come with me to this lunch meeting?"
"What, you think I'm going to throw you to the wolves or something?" Eric said. "I'm still your manager, pal. Besides, you think I'd miss the chance to gloat in Ari's face?"
"Hail the conquering hero," was the first thing Ari said, to be fair, "and start working on your speech now; with the buzz you already got on this thing, that fat fuck Harvey will blow everyone in this town to get you that statue. Let's get some beluga," and he took them to a private booth all the way in the back; Shauna was already there drinking mojitos.
"So why all the mystery?" Vince said after they'd sat down, looking between them. "A Sunday meeting, you wouldn't even tell me what it's about. There some big offer, what?"
"Christ, I want a cigarette," Shauna muttered.
"You don't smoke," Eric said.
"It's never too late to start," she said, and knocked back her glass.
"I told her not to tell you," Ari said: wasn't that predictable. "Look, if the movie had tanked, maybe this would've gone away—"
"Oh shut up," Shauna interjected. "It would not have gone away, asshole, it wasn't going to make less than forty mil, and he made it for ten, so fuck you—"
"It was projected at eighty, if it'd made less nobody would give a fuck about who produced it," Ari shot back. "All right, all right, whatever—" he held up his hands when Shauna would've gone after him again "—it wasn't worth worrying about until after, either way."
"Worrying about what?" Eric said. "Are you guys talking about Pilot Light? Vince wasn't even in the movie, what's it got to do with him?"
Shauna and Ari looked at each other. "You're the fucking publicist, you tell them," Ari said, and then, "Okay, look, it's got to do with you," he said to Eric, "so it's got to do with you-and-Vince, and so it's got to do with Vince, got it?"
"No," Eric said, starting to get pissed off, "because you're not making any fucking sense. Just spell it out already, what the fuck is going on?"
"You've got to move out," Shauna said flatly. "You've got to move out of the house."
"Oh, hell no," Vince said, after she laid it out on the table. "What the fuck do I pay you for?"
"I'm not fucking Rasputin!" Shauna snapped. "I can't make them ignore reality, okay, and reality is that as of Friday you are not living with your manager and your brother and the biggest fucking mooch in town, you are living with a major Hollywood producer who can afford his own six million dollar house, and oh, two other guys, who the fuck cares, and that is a story."
"Okay, just—" Eric caught Vince by the shoulder and pushed him back into the booth. "Just tell us what we're looking at here, Shauna, and then let's talk about how to deal with it."
"Yeah," Vince said, folding his arms, "like how about telling them we're not sleeping together, so it's going to be a fucking waste of their time?"
"Why, no, Vince, I did not think to try that," Shauna said. "They think I'm lying, okay? They have decided that I am lying my sweet little ass off to cover yours, the Brokeback Hollywood saga of the year awaits them in your home, and you are fucking lucky that I got a week's notice on this thing—"
Ari sat up and waved his hands furiously in their faces and made them all sit back and shut up while the waitress came over with refills and the appetizers. The $500 tin of caviar sat in its bowl of melting ice untouched. Eric wasn't even a little hungry anymore.
"Okay," Shauna said, leaning forward, "this is what you're looking at. The innuendo's going to start probably tomorrow, to go with stories about the movie being a big hit. It's going to be all, the first movie from producer Eric Murphy, who lives in Beverly Hills with top star Vincent Chase, currently in talks to star in The Alchemist—"
"Fuck this, seriously," Vince said, and nudged Eric. "Come on, let me out."
"Calm down, okay?" Eric said. "It's not like anybody can make us do anything, and we don't want to get blindsided by this thing."
"Good luck with that," Shauna said. "The paparazzi will be on your asses 24/7 starting five minutes from now."
"They've been on my ass since I got to town," Vince said.
"Not like this," Shauna said. "Your babe-a-week routine doesn't make good copy. The gossip mags want relationships that they can sink their teeth into and rip to shreds for months at a time." Vince snorted. "Oh, you don't believe me? How about this: the offer on the table is a hundred grand."
"A hundred grand for what?" Eric said.
"A kiss and up," Shauna said. "Probably ten grand for anything that they can make look suggestive, five for the two of you together in the house, two for just hanging out."
Vince sat back and flipped a hand. "Okay, so how long until they get sick of trying?"
Ari flicked his fingers sideways in a shrug. "They've been staking out Tom Cruise for ten fucking years, so start the clock, baby."
"This is bullshit," Vince said over his shoulder from the front seat. "We'll close the shades, they'll give up after a month. Forget it."
"Yeah," Eric said, staring out the window on his side. Ari had kept giving him pointed looks the whole time at lunch.
"Uh, guys," Turtle said, from the driver's seat. "Maybe you oughta think about this some more."
"What?" Vince said.
Eric turned his head. "What is it?"
"This is going to sound fucking nuts," Turtle said, "but I think we got a tail."
It was a solid black SUV with tinted windows, and it followed them all the way home. It was still sitting there at 2 AM when Eric poked open the blinds in the den to look. By 11 AM there were two more cars, a Lincoln and a Benz, and when they went out to see Billy for dinner Monday night, flashes went off like popcorn while the four of them walked to the Hummer.
"Nice job, fuckhead," Shauna yelled, Tuesday morning. "Twenty-four fucking hours, and I'm already playing catch-up?"
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Eric said, and she messaged him a photo on his cell phone: they were in front of the car, and his hand was on Vince's back. He didn't even remember touching Vince.
"The Sun gave them fifteen for it," Shauna said. "I hope you enjoyed your privacy while it lasted."
The cars rotated some, but the same ones kept coming back. There were photos of them opening the door, in the driveway, in the cars. One guy caught them in Whole Foods on the way home from the clubs, right when Eric was handing Vince a carton of milk. Another night, the doorbell rang at 1 AM; Eric came out of his bedroom and saw Turtle opening the door groggily for a pizza they hadn't ordered. Five flashbulbs went off in his face, and Turtle yelled, "Oh, fuck you assholes," and ran outside.
"Turtle!" Eric yelled, and just managed to get down the stairs in time to stop Vince from going out after him, or getting close enough to the door to get photographed.
"Relax, bro, I've got it," Drama said, and went out to haul Turtle back in; they slammed the door with him still yelling and cursing the photographers outside.
The next day, Arnold started whining and pawing at the door. Vince was lying on the couch reading The Alchemist; he tossed it on the coffee table, picked up the leash, and then he stopped and yelled up the stairs, "Hey, Turtle, you mind taking him out?"
Eric looked up from his laptop.
"It's not a big deal," Vince said, when Eric caught his eye. "They're just trying to get to us, E, don't worry about it." He flopped back down on the couch and picked up the book again.
People whispered when they walked into a club, or a restaurant. They'd always whispered, they'd always stared; Vince drew eyes like magnets. But now they were staring at both of them, together. Vince played up to it; he draped himself over chairs and ordered frozen girly drinks and gave Eric flirty looks, while Eric tried to kill him with his eyes because Vince wasn't taking this fucking seriously.
Nobody mentioned it at the Miramax meeting, but it was there. Eric went in braced for the sidelong looks and the embarrassed little coughs, even went in ready for them to pull the Oscar campaign or at least downplay the chances. "I'm sorry in advance, man," he told Billy, meeting him beforehand. "But I'm not letting them run my life."
"Fuck them," Billy said, succinctly. "So are you guys fucking?"
"No," Eric said.
Billy shrugged. "Piranhas. Don't let them eat you."
But then they went into the meeting and instead everyone was extra-nice, crazy enthusiastic; they laid out a campaign that was going to cost more than the actual movie had, told him they thought the chances were spectacular. It took him by surprise; he didn't get it until someone did give him a sideways look and Eric abruptly realized it was admiring, so he's banging Vincent Chase, like Vince was a trophy and Eric was the biggest stud in the room.
"Hello, moron," Ari said, "of course it doesn't hurt you. You're a fucking producer, you know how many producers in this town are fags? Nobody cares, you'll probably pick up votes for it in the Academy. Now go ahead and ask me how many calls I've gotten for Vince the last three days."
They let Turtle and Drama go out alone that night and stayed in eating chips and reading, old Marx Brothers routines muted on the TV. "So what'd you think?" Eric asked, after Vince put the book down.
"Yeah," Vince said, sprawled out with his head tipped back over the arm of the couch. "You're right, I love the character. Besides, working with Laurence Fishburne is going to be seriously cool. Tell Ari I want it." He sat up. "Hey, let's go swimming."
It was eighty-five degrees outside at midnight, with a full moon, and they got into a death match of water volleyball that ended up with them both mostly drowned and flopped on the deck side by side coughing.
Staticky photos of them wrestling were on the front page of Dlisted at lunch the next day, and fifteen minutes later they'd exploded across a hundred blogs. "What fucking good are you even doing?" Vince said, yelling at Shauna over the speakerphone. "Seriously, explain to me what the fuck I'm paying you and the lawyers for when this is ending up everywhere on the Internet."
"Vince, I know you're pissed, but believe me, you don't want to see the shit that we've been slapping down," Shauna said. "We've gotten three injunctions in the last week, okay? We're doing everything we can."
"How the fuck did they even get these?" Eric said. "You can't see the fucking pool from the road."
"Yeah, but they can sure as hell can see it from the second floor of 1425 Fiesta," Shauna said. "Look at the angle."
"Isn't that trespassing?" Vince demanded. "We can't be on our own fucking deck without getting photographed? Come on, Shauna, this is nuts."
"Vince, they were taken by a fourteen year old in her bedroom with a cameraphone and she posted them on her myspace for free," she said. "Sure, we can sue the kid for invasion of privacy, but it'll just make it more of a story."
"I don't fucking believe this," Vince said, and walked out of the room. Eric sank down on the couch and bent his head over his hands.
Miramax threw Billy a party at the Fairmont Friday night. One guy from the marketing department got completely hammered and kept trying to come on to Vince, who put his arm around Eric's shoulders and said, "Tim, seriously, you're going to piss off my boyfriend," in front of ten people who all laughed, ha fucking ha, and were probably going to run and text their pals at Hollywood Rag in a second.
"Fuck you, deal with your own drunk stalkers," Eric said, shoving Vince off, and walked away into the garden; and of course, Vince, the fucking idiot, came after him, because things weren't bad enough.
Eric whirled on him. "Are you trying to make this impossible?"
"E, these assholes are going to make shit up no matter what we do," Vince said.
"So we should save them the fucking trouble?" Eric started turning away; Vince caught him by the shoulders and pulled him back around, and all of a sudden Vince stumbled forward. Eric managed to catch him and keep him from falling on his face, and there was a flash going off right in their eyes, blinding white light: some paparazzo had jumped out from behind a fucking bush and shoved Vince—
"Son of a fucking bitch," Eric said, and he would've gone after the guy, but Vince grabbed him and the asshole was already running for the wall. Eric shook Vince off and flipped open his phone and called Shauna and left three messages on Ari's voicemail and home answering machine.
"The guy rented a room in the hotel the night before and hid out in the fucking gardens," Shauna said at breakfast at the house the next morning. "It's a public place, it was part of a celebrity event, we can't prove he touched Vince. There's no way to kill it."
"Yeah, whatever, I'm done caring," Vince said, and went inside to get some more coffee.
Shauna's head shot across the table like a freaking snake the second he'd gone. "Are you seriously going to let this keep happening?" she hissed.
"These pricks are shoving cameras up my ass and you think I'm having a good time over here?" Eric said. "Fuck you, Shauna, I'm not walking out on him."
"Fuck you, Eric," Shauna said. "He is never going to ask you to move out, not in a million fucking years, no matter what it's going to cost him. And you know that, so suck it up and save his fucking stupid ass from himself and let me call you a broker."
Ari didn't call back over the weekend, and meanwhile they pretty much camped out in the house playing Xbox games with the shades drawn. "Maybe we should go somewhere," Vince said. "Lie on a beach in Hawaii or something until it all calms down."
"They'll just follow you, bro," Drama said. "Back when I was working with Brad, he always used to complain that every time he went on vacation the paparazzi got to expense the trip on their taxes—"
"Get off, when the fuck did you work with Brad Pitt?" Turtle interrupted, and they were squabbling over it for fifteen fucking minutes, and Eric got up and went to the kitchen and poured himself a Scotch.
Vince silently followed him and sat down at the island. Eric got him a glass and they sat across from each other, not talking.
Monday Eric got sick of listening to Ari's voicemail and drove out to his office and went right past Lloyd and slammed the door behind him. "You're not returning my fucking calls now, Ari? What the fuck."
"I'll call you back," Ari said, and got off the phone with whoever the fuck he was talking to. "Eric—"
"You want your ass fired, just say the word, seriously," Eric said. "Jesus fucking Christ, you and Shauna, and you're supposed to be on our side."
"Okay, Eric, calm the fuck down—"
"I drove here with three cars fighting over who got to tailgate me, last night my mom told me it was okay if I was gay, and I called you about The Alchemist almost a fucking week ago and haven't heard word one back, Ari," Eric said, "so don't tell me to calm down. You know, if the heat's too much for you, maybe Terrance can handle it—"
"I can't get a fucking offer!" Ari yelled.
Eric stopped. "Two weeks ago they were begging you for Vince to read the script." He felt cold.
"Yeah, well, that was two fucking weeks ago," Ari said. "Welcome to the brave new world. They don't want this to be the story about their movie, Eric." He paused. "I hear they're talking to Columbus Short."
Eric drove home slow and came in to find Vince sitting at the kitchen table with a manila envelope full of photographs that Turtle and Drama were trying to make into a joke. "I made Shauna give me the ones she kept out of the papers," Vince said, with half a shrug.
Eric looked at the top ones. Him at the kitchen table in boxers, working on the laptop, Vince standing at the fridge drinking orange juice from the carton with his hair wet and a towel around his waist; in the next one Vince was batting him over the head with the newspaper; the third, Vince was walking out of the room, bare-assed, the towel in his hands. They were in crisp focus, framed between the blurry edges where the window frame ended and the curtains began.
There were more, taken between slices of venetian blinds, through curtains that weren't thick enough, between the fence slats. Pictures of them naked, asleep, showering, eating, scratching. "Oh, man, I didn't need to see that," Turtle said, dropping one, and Vince got his hands on it before Eric could: Vince stretched out on his bed naked, talking on his cell phone, one hand between his legs just kind of casually on his dick. The camera loved him like it always did; he looked like he was posing.
"Hey, at least they got your good side, bro," Drama said, awkwardly. Vince tried to smile and couldn't; he looked kind of sick.
Eric took all of the photos out of Turtle and Drama and Vince's hands and shoved the whole pile back into the envelope and opened his phone. "You win," he said when Shauna answered. "Get the fucking broker."
Shauna called him back an hour later. "She'll meet you at 115 Green Acres at nine tomorrow morning," she said, and hesitated. "Listen, Eric, I'm sorry—"
"Shut up," Eric said. "I don't want to hear a fucking word from you right now. And if you ever send Vince any photos like that again, you're fired." He hung up on her and went back to talking through Vince's bedroom door.
"Come on, open the fucking door and just talk to me, okay?" he said, leaning his forehead against the door. Vince didn't answer, and he didn't unlock the door, and when Eric tried calling him, the phone rang once inside and went straight to voicemail. After that Vince turned up the stereo so loud he probably wouldn't have heard if Eric fired off a cannon outside the door.
Eric gave up and went back to his room. He'd had the blinds down already; now he yanked the curtains across too and fell back on his bed and stared at the ceiling, Vince's stereo going on the other side of the wall. You could get anything in L.A. if you paid enough for it. He could buy a house tomorrow morning and move in by evening, if he didn't have much, and he didn't: the clothes in the closet and the dresser, the laptop, his books. Everything else belonged to Vince.
He'd been so fucking happy about the movie—he'd known it was going to be good, he'd known he could make it happen, make it on his own, prove he belonged here in this crazy fucked-up California town. Prove Vince had been right about him. The ten million dollar check coming his way was going to be a ceremonial trophy, it wasn't like he needed anything. The only thing he'd bought was a fucking $1.6 million custom-detailed Bugatti Veyron that was supposed to be delivered in two weeks with the title in Vince's name. The rest was going to go into the retirement fund he had going at Morgan Stanley with the four million he'd earned off Vince in the last five years after paying off his student loans and his mom's mortgage. Vince wasn't saving a damn thing, that was for sure, so one of them had to.
Now instead he was going to get to spend it on turning his whole fucking life inside out. He'd made a point of having the guest house back when he'd first moved out to L.A., but he'd been happy to move in by the time Vince bought the house. It wasn't like he'd been using the place for anything but sleeping and showering. Those lines he'd been planning to draw, keeping his own life separate, not getting sucked into Vince's drama, having a normal life, whatever the fuck that was, they'd all gotten wiped out anyway. And fuck it, so his life wasn't normal; he liked it, work and play all mixed up together.
He liked coming downstairs in his boxers, just relaxing in the mornings without having to get dressed like he was going to a job just to come over and have coffee with Vince and watch the Turtle and Drama show. He liked having somebody there when he came home, he liked being the guy at home when Vince rolled back in; Christ, he even kind of liked it the times Vince got a cold and came down and lay on the couch and fucking whined for a week straight to make Eric bring him soup and orange juice. It felt like home.
And it was gone, because however much he wanted it, he didn't get to have it, not at the price of blowing Vincent's life to hell. Even if Vince would sit there and let his life get blown to hell.
He got up and started packing.
The next morning, he went out to the car. The passenger door opened before he started the ignition, and Vince got in. "I let you do this on your own, you'll probably end up in some dump in Pasadena," he said, and sat back and put his sunglasses on.
The first house covered an acre and a half in north Beverly Hills, with manicured lawns and an oval pool and tennis courts and a fountain in the driveway. It had crown moldings on the walls and marble stairs and wood paneling. There were even imitation Roman statues in the garden.
"Actually, those were imported from Italy," Jessie the broker said. "I've got the certificates of authenticity. It's a landmark property in fabulous condition, a classic colonial style—"
"Come on, E, you can't seriously want this place," Vince said. "It'd be like living in a fucking museum."
The second place had a pool "the size of a postage stamp," Vince said, "and what's up with having three bathrooms for seven bedrooms?" The third one sat right on Benedict Canyon Drive, with cars going by every thirty seconds. "You're going to spend six million just to hear highway traffic?"
Jessie was starting to look annoyed every time Vince opened his mouth. After he rejected house five for a crappy view, she said levelly, "You know, Eric, if you're willing to move to a slightly higher price point, there's another property I'd like to show you," and led them through the canyons and up a steep quarter-mile driveway to a house made out of stone and wood, where they walked through the front door and into a sunken living room that looked straight out on the mountains through a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, giant wood-burning fireplace on the side.
It had six bedrooms and seven bathrooms, including one in the master suite with a jacuzzi that deserved to be called a pool, and a walk-in shower big enough for six people with the showerheads to match. After she showed that off, she took them into the home theater in the basement and pushed the one button that made the lights dim and the screen come down from the ceiling while she talked about financing options. When the lights came back on, Vince had disappeared.
"I need a few," Eric said. Smelling blood in the water, she said, "Take all the time you need. I'll be waiting out front, I have to make some phone calls."
He found Vince on the deck outside and sat down next to him. The pool was also made of stone, sunk into a platform built out from the side of the house that ran straight into the mountainside. You couldn't see another house in either direction except straight down.
"It's a great house," Vince said.
"It costs eight million dollars," Eric said.
Vince shrugged. "You've got the money."
It was getting late; the sun was going down and the mountains looked like someone had taken a paintbrush to them.
"It is a great house," Eric said. "It's a fantastic house, it'll get those assholes off our back. And, I've gotta tell you the truth, I love the guys, but I'm ready to not be living with Turtle and Drama anymore."
Vince looked down at his hands and didn't say anything.
Eric swallowed. "And I seriously fucking don't want to go."
He didn't even know exactly what he was saying, except it was the truth, and it felt like jumping right off the cliff in front of them and all the way down. He could see Vince swallowing too.
"Fuck it," Vince said. "Just, fuck it. What's the point of any of this, everything we've got, if we can't have anything that actually matters." He looked at Eric. "Buy the house."
"What?" Eric stared at him.
Vince said, "Buy the house, and I'll move in with you." He grinned suddenly. "I'll give Johnny and Turtle the other one."
"What?" Eric said, laughing a little just because it was so nuts. "Like that's going to solve anything?"
Vince waved a hand around. "They're going to have a fucking hard time getting photos of us in here, man."
"Great, so we'll fucking barricade ourselves in," Eric said. "And then they'll come by with a helicopter or something. If you move in with me, they aren't going to think they know, they're going to know they know, and they aren't ever going to give up."
He stood up and walked out on the deck. "What the fuck are we even doing here? I mean, seriously, move in together? We're thirty years old, Vince, what are we—" he turned around and stopped. Vince had stood up and was facing him, and he looked scared as fucking hell, and oh yeah, there was the bottom of the cliff headed right for them at top speed. Eric took two steps towards Vince, and Vince took two steps towards him, and Vince bent down and Eric put his hand on the back of Vince's head and Vince was kissing him, or he was kissing Vince, either way, both ways, and then Vince broke it off and put his forehead against Eric's and murmured, "There's got to be a bed somewhere in this place, right?"
"You do realize Jessie's waiting for us out front," Eric said, wrestling with Vince's belt buckle and getting his shirt out. "And no, there's no fucking bed, Vince, it's an empty house."
"So what are we going to do?" Vince peeled his shirt off over his head and dropped it, and Jesus, Eric wasn't sure how he'd managed to spend twenty-four years before today not letting himself know that Vince was the most fucking gorgeous thing he'd ever seen, but he sure as hell wasn't spending another fifteen minutes.
"Come on," Eric said, "we're going to check out the water pressure," and he dragged Vince upstairs to the master bathroom. The giant Jacuzzi took too goddamn long to fill, though, and Vince said, "Fuck this, I don't care if the floor's hard," and pushed him into the shower before Eric could even get his pants off. He turned on all the showerheads and wrapped his hand around Eric's dick and started slowly and methodically jacking him, steam rising in clouds around them. Eric's pants got soaked and water-heavy and cold, but the water was hot, Vince's hand was hotter, his skin was slick and wet under Eric's hands, and he was kissing Eric off-center and crazy: his neck, the side of his mouth, his shoulders; and his hand was moving—
"Vince, Vince," Eric said, and he was coming in Vince's hand. Vince didn't let him go, just kept stroking him through it, until Eric gasped and shoved Vince up against the wall and went down to his knees.
"Jesus fuck, E," Vince said, and let his head fall back while Eric sucked him—and okay, the angle was seriously not working, and he had a minute of what the fuck am I doing when he put Vince's cock in his mouth, but Vince was shaking like he was going to fall down, and after he came, he did slide down the wall, boneless and limp. He looked up at Eric and gave him a drunk-happy smile, soaking wet and so fucking beautiful, and Eric leaned forward between his knees and kissed him and said, "Let's go buy a house."
"Yeah, the closing went through yesterday," Eric said.
"To Eric's house!" Ari said, and raised his glass of vodka. Shauna smiled briefly, but she still looked kind of down and guilty.
Vince waited until Ari was in the middle of his drink, and then he said, "And I moved in with him this morning."
"Maybe that wasn't the best strategy," Eric said to Vince, mopping vodka off his face with his napkin.
"Kinda worth it," Vince said, taking it to blot his shirt.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," Shauna said, throwing her own napkin down on the table. "Are the two of you out of your fucking minds? You thought it was bad before—"
"Shauna," Vince said, leaning across the table, "we're engaged."
Ari and Shauna stared at them.
Vince shrugged and spread his hands. "Hey, look, if it wrecks my career, at least I landed a rich husband." He grinned at Eric. "I'm kind of looking forward to being a kept man."
"Wait, wait," Shauna said. "You're getting married."
"Yeah," Eric said. "They passed the law in New York last year, we're going to go back home for it."
"Jesus, I don't believe you fuckers," Ari said. "Five goddamn years and you didn't even tell me?"
"Don't be a fucking moron, they just started," Shauna said, rolling her eyes. "No way have you two been sleeping together all this time without getting fucking caught, you are so not that smart."
"I promise, Ari, you're the first to know," Vince said, hand over his heart. "After Turtle and Drama."
"And our moms," Eric said. "The broker might have figured it out, too."
"Oh, and the maid," Vince said. "And the pool guy—"
"Yeah, yeah, fuck you," Ari said, going for his phone. "Okay, let's work this."
Shauna was frowning. "It's New York, we'll get Daniel Boulud. When are you guys thinking? Listen, we should do the reception at the Metropolitan, in the Temple of Dendur—"
"What?" Eric said.
"What, you don't like it?" Shauna demanded. "Come on, it'll be fabulous. Do the ceremony at St. Patrick's—oh, wait, I guess not. It's okay, never mind, we'll get a judge, do that at the Temple too." She pulled out her cell phone. "Kristi, I need a weekend at the Temple of Dendur with Boulud catering, for, hm, make it three hundred people; get me a price. Oh, and check on the Brooklyn Botanical Garden too, although if you want that, we need to move fast," she added, lowering the phone for a second. "September's still nice, but past that, who knows what the weather's like."
"Uh," said Vince.
"We'll do a press conference Monday," Ari said, thumbs going on his blackberry. "We'll get The Alchemist lined up, announce it, announce the wedding, bang bang, it'll be beautiful."
"Wait a second, I thought you didn't have an offer," Eric said.
Ari rolled his eyes without even looking up. "I didn't have an offer when you guys were skanking around like Britney and K-Fed. If you're stepping up to Brangelina, that I can work with." He paused and lifted his head. "Have you thought about adopting?"
They escaped to the parking lot as fast as they could. "Okay, that wasn't what I was expecting," Vince said.
"Yeah," Eric said. He looked at Vince. "If Ari and Shauna think this is a good idea, is that a bad sign?"
"Don't even think about it," Vince said. "You're so not getting out of this now. All my stuff's already in your house."
"Um, Vince," and they looked over; there was a teenage girl with a cameraphone at the restaurant door, a couple of friends hanging back just behind her. "I'm so sorry, we just—could we maybe get your picture? Together?" she added, and her friends burst out giggling nervously.
Vince paused and looked at Eric. Then he grinned and said, "As long as you post it online for free."
Eric started laughing. "You are seriously nuts," he said, sliding his hand onto Vince's waist, and Vince grinned and caught Eric's face in his hands and gave him that hundred-thousand-dollar kiss, just as the flash went off.
= End =
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