|in the moonlight on a side street in the wreckage we call queens
Sloan waits, which surprises everyone -- read: Vince -- more than Eric thinks it should surprise them. They come home from Colombia and all his stuff's still in her apartment, and Ari's got her smiling and waving on the tarmac at Van Nuys when the flight lands. He and Vince stumble out exhausted, sunburnt (Eric) and wavering on their feet a little (Vince), and Sloan is smiling and kissing Eric (on the mouth) and Vince (on the cheek).
The look that Vince gives Eric is unreadable, but Eric says, "I got to take Vinnie home, baby, I promise tomorrow I'll be there, dinner, I promise" anyway, and Sloan nods and agrees and kisses them both one more time and then trots away to her car, perfect ass in perfect jeans and heels.
Eric's going to say something else, something that will wipe the smirk off Vince's face, because even he's not sure why Ari brought Sloan but not Drama and Turtle, but when he turns to say it, Vince is wearing an expression that Eric's never seen before and he says, "Man, E, that was kind of ... weird."
Says it like he's not sure weird is the right word. Like Vince is not sure what actually just happened, which is weird because Vincent Chase always knows exactly what's going on at all times, even when Vince is high or drunk, even when it's not his own business he's messing in.
"No, it was Sloan," Eric says, which isn't an answer but isn't a deflection, either. He isn't sure what he means when he says it, which seems appropriate to the situation. "Come on, big guy, we got to get you into a bed, you're dead on your feet."
"I'm not dead," Vince argues when Eric grabs his arm and tries to stuff him in the limo that Ari has waiting for him. "I'm fine. I wanna go have dinner. I want to go dancing. You can bring Sloan, if we go dancing."
"What the fuck is wrong with him?" Ari demands from his corner of the limo. "You bring him back from fucking South America all fucked up, E? I trust you with my star commodity, you let him get all fucked up on some kind of South American jungle jive? See if I let you leave the country ever again. Give me your passport. I'm going to tear it up right now, you don't deserve to have a passport if you can't watch out for my boy Vinnie, come on."
Vince slumps over and presses his face against Eric's shoulder, snoring instantaneously. "Christ, Ari, chill the fuck out," Eric says. "He's exhausted. He was so wired for half the flight he couldn't sit down, and when he did sit down, he couldn't talk any sense. No South American jungle jive -- fuck, Ari, what the fuck is South American jungle jive -- it's just adrenaline, and it's gone now."
Vince mutters something indistinct and drools on Eric's shirt.
Ari glares at Eric, and then says, "You're not nearly good enough for a fucking girl like Sloan."
"You're telling me," Eric says, and when he tries to slide out from under Vince, Vince grabs Eric's shirt and shoves his face against Eric's neck and hangs on, which is maybe the weirdest part of their whole damn homecoming.
If Vince were awake, he would make a joke about how Eric's not good enough to fuck a girl like Sloan, but Vince isn't awake, and the joke goes unsaid, which Eric is unexpectedly grateful for.
Instead of being awake, Vince is curled against Eric's shoulder like some kind of baby animal with its fucking mom, all the energy that's hummed under Vinnie's skin for three months evaporated like rain in the desert the minute he's back to civilization, back to the lights of L.A. and limos and Ari. Asleep on Eric's shoulder in the back of a limo in L.A., Vince's face caught in shadow from the streetlights, he's not Vincent Chase, Movie Star, or Vincent Chase, Pablo Escobar, or Vincent Chase, Shooting A Movie And Making His Manager Crazy While He Does It -- he's just Vince, the guy Eric's known for 22 years.
Which is, possibly, the weirdest thing about the whole trip to Colombia and back, about Sloan and all of Eric's stuff in boxes in her apartment -- that it took knowing that Sloan's apartment was waiting for Eric for him to know that the only place he was really supposed to be was with Vince.
Vince wriggles in his seat and tosses an arm across Eric's lap, and Ari snorts in the corner. "Lots of good faggy loving in Colombia, E?" he says.
"Fuck off, Ari," Eric says, because he worked his ass off and Vince worked his ass off, and when they weren't working, Eric was sleeping and Vince was sleeping with pretty Colombian girls, and that was that.
"No, you're fucking Vince," Ari snaps back.
Eric is tired, and he feels like he's a half step off from the rest of L.A. This is not my beautiful life; that was not my beautiful girlfriend. "Isn't that joke getting old?" he says, shifting under Vince's weight. Vince doesn't even stir.
"It's no joke, you homo," Ari says. "Keep your diseased penis away from my best client." After a beat of silence, Ari adds, "You can fuck Lloyd if you want, though."
Eric just gives Ari the finger and turns his head, stares out across the streets of L.A. with his chin on the top of Vince's head, and Vince just keeps sleeping.
Traffic hardly moves once they get off the freeway -- Eric hates this part of L.A., hates coming up from Van Nuys and sitting in the standstill traffic on Highland, but Vince hates commercial flights and the trip home from LAX isn't much better. It's 4 a.m. and they say New York is the city that never sleeps, but Los Angeles is throbbing around them while the driver crawls through tourists and beautiful people to make the turn on Sunset.
Eric watches the lights on Sunset and doesn't think about Vince drooling against his neck, or the way that Vince looked surprised, genuinely surprised, and almost a little disappointed, when he saw Sloan waiting for Eric.
Two things happen the week after they get back from Colombia: Sloan dumps Eric, and Vince is totally surprised when Sloan dumps Eric.
He doesn't take her to dinner the night after they get back, or the night after that -- Vince is weird, Vince is weirdly wrecked by finishing this movie, and he stumbles around the hotel looking lost and wiped out. He sleeps on the floor and in the bathtub and on the couch, 14, 15, 16 hours a day, and when he's not sleeping, he's curled up in a chair on the balcony, staring out over the city.
Vince wasn't like this after Aquaman, or Queens Boulevard -- he finished those and had so much energy to burn that Eric couldn't hardly keep up with him, but this time it's different, and this time, Eric's half afraid to leave Vince by himself. So he doesn't, he stays in the hotel and he watches Vince stumble through his day like a sleep walker.
And that's what eventually breaks Sloan, although she doesn't actually tell Eric that. He finally gets Vince to sleep in a bed, bribes Turtle and Drama to hang out in their hotel suite -- because it's hard to house-hunt from Colombia -- instead of Drama's condo, and goes over to Sloan's without calling first. Because she's his girlfriend, he shouldn't have to call.
Which is when he finds all his stuff in boxes in the hallway, and Sloan won't take the chain off the door when he bangs on it, waking up half her neighbors because it's 2 in the morning.
"What the fuck, Sloan," he says.
Her face is sad through the crack in the door. "I was okay with coming second to work, E."
"You aren't second to anything!" he says, because in his head, she's not. Sloan is first, Sloan's his girl, Sloan comes before anything else.
"Right, I'm not," she says. "I'm third or fourth or fifth, depending on what day of the week it is, and how hard Ari's yanking your chain, and what Vince is doing."
"Vince doesn't come before you," Eric says, and as soon as the words echo in the hallway, he knows he's lying, and he knows he's been lying about that for a really long time. Things have been fucked up ever since he got to L.A., and the only thing that isn't fucked up is Vince, because Vince is the only thing that's constant in Eric's life.
And he's as dumb as Ari says he is, since it took him this long to figure that out.
"Fuck," he says, standing in Sloan's hallway. "FUCK!"
"You'll wake my neighbors," she hisses.
"I don't fucking care, Sloan," he says. "I love you. I'm sorry. Can we just -- can we talk about this inside?"
"I'm sorry, E," she says. And then she closes the door in his face, and when he starts banging on it again, one of her neighbors comes out and starts shouting about the police, and in the end, he slinks back to Vince's hotel room, leaves all the boxes in the hallway, and tries not to think about how his life got so fucked up.
Drama and Turtle are baked when he gets back, and Vince is asleep in the armchair in the corner, curled up awkwardly like he fell asleep watching the door to the suite. "She kick you out after she banged you?" Drama says. "I like that in a woman, knows what she wants, plus you don't have to do the awkward morning after thing."
Turtle punches Drama in the shoulder and says, "She's his girlfriend, you fucktard, they don't have awkward morning afters."
"Yeah, well," Eric says, and waves his hand for the joint. He can't remember the last time he smoked -- too busy in Colombia, falling into a hotel bed across the room from Vince every night, and since they've gotten back, Vince hasn't smoked up once because he's been too busy sleeping, and Eric hasn't smoked up because he's been too busy watching Vince. He exhales a cloud of smoke that hangs in the room like the smog on the horizon, and watches Vince through the haze as it clears. That's a metaphor for -- fucking something, but Eric doesn't know what it is. "Not my girlfriend anymore, didn't have sex, you guys got to help me move boxes tomorrow."
He doesn't know what day of the week it is. Vince sleeps whenever, wherever, and Eric just watches him.
He's been missing something, something big, for a really long time, and as the smoke clears out of the room and Drama crushes the roach out in the ashtray, Eric almost, for a minute, gets what he's not been seeing.
Vince is still sleeping when Eric gets up at 8 the next day, and he's still sleeping when they get back from hauling Eric's boxes from Sloan's hallway to the Mondrian. Eric doesn't have any appointments -- "take Sloan to lunch" being off the calendar for the foreseeable future -- and he thinks Vince is getting better, so he climbs back in the car and lets Turtle drive them out to La Brea, where Drama buys the ugliest couch (purple velvet, and uncomfortable to boot) that Eric's ever seen and Turtle talks non-stop about his girl.
Finally Drama says, "Shut up about your love life, Turtle, E just got dumped."
"It's okay," Eric says. And it really is -- he's not heartbroken so much as he's certain he's reading some totally different book than everybody else right now, forget even being on the same fucking page, certain that furniture shopping with Drama, Turtle, and Drama's bad taste is normal, except it doesn't feel that way.
Nine days after they get back from Colombia, Vince gets up from the kitchen floor at a normal hour -- normal for Vince, so 2 in the afternoon -- and takes a shower, orders too much room service, and is in the middle of smoking a joint when Eric gets back from lunch with Ari. "Where's Sloan?" Vince wheezes, choking out a puff of smoke, and passes Eric the joint.
"Dunno," Eric says.
"You guys break up or something?" Vince says, and the way he says it, it's a joke, only it's true.
"Yeah," Eric says, and Vince's eyes get real wide. The whole thing happened three days ago, and it feels like a million years already, but the threesome was months ago and it feels like yesterday, so maybe Eric should stop smoking so much pot or maybe he should just stop trying to be everything Vince needs. He doesn't know which.
"Seriously, E?" Vince says.
"Yeah," Eric says.
"How come you didn't tell me?" Vince says, and he takes the joint back and drags a huge hit off it.
"You were asleep when I got back," Eric says, which is a lame with a capital L excuse, but also true. Eric's dealing in truth these days, he's decided -- say what he's thinking when he's thinking it, and fuck everybody else. Being nice has only got him so far, and he's getting high with his best friend who's also his boss and he's single again, so fuck nice.
"Fuck, I slept for, like, three days," Vince says. "You could have woken me up."
"You slept for more than a week," Eric says. "I was starting to get worried."
"I had to order room service," Vince says. "I can't believe Drama bought a fucking condo, do we have to go there for breakfast now?"
"You could learn how to make toast," Eric says. He's feeling paranoid, suddenly, like he's about to get hit in the face with something he can't quite see coming, and he's not sure if it's the weed or it's Vince or it's something else entirely. And he isn't sure if they're done talking about Sloan yet, either, which just makes him feel weirder. They should have stayed in Colombia. He always knew what the fuck was going on when they were down there. "Drama's only got one parking space. Parking sucks over there and Vincent Chase doesn't take the bus. You can afford room service."
"Shit, you really broke up with Sloan?" Vince says.
"She broke up with me," Eric says.
"How come, man?"
"She says you always come first," Eric says, and Vince blinks at him, sleepily, and then grins at him, sleepily, and Eric's seen that smile a million times over the last twenty years, seen that smile drop thongs off models and seduce hot bartenders into bathrooms, but he doesn't think about it when it's directed at him, because it's just Vince.
Except this time it's not, this time it's something else entirely, and Eric's stomach flips over in the same way that it did when they all went to bed together.
"Well, that's crap," Vince says. "You just got to convince she comes first. Girls like that, you just need to win her back."
Eric thinks, but the thing is, I'm okay this way. He doesn't say anything, just waves his hand for the joint and takes another hit.
Vince raises his eyebrows at Eric but doesn't say anything, either, and they pass the afternoon in silence, odd and comfortable all at once, watching the sun slip down in the sky. Eric doesn't think of Sloan once, just sits in the comforting quiet of Vince's company and wonders if he's really been missing anything after all.
Two weeks after they get back from Colombia, Vince puts on pants and doesn't burn the eggs he's cooking. Eric is sleeping in the living room because the Yanks/Angels game went 17 innings and he fell asleep during the 15th, and when he stumbles into the kitchen, blinking slowly, Vince is smiling at him again, that quiet private smile that Eric had never considered before.
"Mornin'," Vince says, and shoves a plate at Eric.
"Are you cooking now?" Eric mumbles, and Vince shoves a cup of coffee under his nose.
"It only took me eight eggs to get them not burnt," Vince says proudly, and he's made millions of dollars and women sigh when he passes them on the street, but he's proud that he made eggs for Eric.
Eric's always thought that Vince didn't stick with women because he was a movie star, because he was Vince, because leaving a trail of broken hearts was what Vince had always done, but he's never broken Eric's heart, and Eric's been around longer than any of the women.
The suite is weirdly quiet because Drama and Turtle don't live there anymore, and Eric spends a couple of days doing nothing but reading scripts, ignoring Ari's phone calls about scripts, convincing the concierge that Vince really doesn't want to order room service instead of dozens of eggs at a time, and sleeping. He doesn't know what Vince does -- Vince spends a lot of time closed up in his bedroom, and Eric doesn't ask. Vince gets better at not burning eggs but worse at burning anything else, and two weeks and three days after they get back from Colombia, Eric throws up his hands and makes Vince take a shower, put on clean pants, and go out to dinner with him.
"Have you left the hotel since we got back to it?" Eric says.
"I go out on the balcony," Vince says. He's oddly sullen and quiet in the passenger seat, but everything about L.A. is weird right now, and Vince is just part of it. Vince is teetering on that mark between weird and normal in Eric's life -- weird because Vince is acting weird, normal because it's Vince -- and the time Eric thought would fix whatever Escobar did to the inside of Vince's head is taking longer than Eric would like.
"Los Angeles has sidewalks, too," Eric says. "And restaurants, and girls who want to fuck you."
Vince shrugs. His hair is growing out again, after he cut it off for the movie, and he peers at Eric from under his bangs. "I'm taking a break from women," he says. "And sidewalks. Definitely a break from sidewalks."
Eric says, "You can kick me out whenever."
Vince shrugs again, streetlights shadowing his face the way they did the night they came home from the airport and Vince slept on Eric's shoulder. Eric realizes that he hasn't seen Vince touch anyone since they came home -- anyone but Eric, because Vince touches him all the time. "I'm not tired of you yet," Vince says, and the laughter doesn't make it all the way into his voice. He just sounds tired, and ... honest. "I think I'll get tired of you sometime, oh, never."
"Seriously, Vince," Eric says.
Vince says, "Seriously, E." He yawns, hugely, and says, "Do we have to go have dinner? I kind of want to go back to sleep."
"Yes," Eric says.
"You're the only person I don't get tired of," Vince says. "I'm glad Turtle and Drama moved out, man. A guy can only take so much of his own brother before he just wants him to go away."
It's the most words Vince has said in a row since they got home, and when he's done, he smiles at Eric, and Eric grins back, because that's the way it is: him and Vince, against the world.
They have dinner at Yamashiro, because Erik's craving sushi after three months of rice and beans and meat, and Vince agrees, after Eric promises that he can have a paper umbrella. Girls circle the table like moths, Vince smiles at all of them (except Eric can see that it's not a real smile, that there's something starting to crack underneath Vince's public persona), and three different tabloid photographers take their picture, because Vince hasn't been out in L.A. for months. Then three different tabloids end up with VINNIE CHASE IS GAY headlines the next morning, because somehow that dinner was different from all the other dinners that Eric and Vince have had together since Eric moved to L.A. except that nobody told Eric that it was different, and then Ari yells at Eric for 45 minutes before Eric's even half awake, and then Ari hangs up and calls Vince.
Vince listens to half a minute of Ari's complaining, tops, before he shuffles into Eric's room and thrusts the phone at Eric. Eric rolls over onto his back, puts the phone against his ear, and lets Ari keep ranting. Vince yawns, stretches, and crawls into Eric's bed, putting the pillow on his head and going back to sleep.
Ari only manages another ten minutes of fresh material before Lloyd takes the phone out of Ari's hand, apologizes to Eric, congratulates Eric on coming out of the closet, and hangs up.
"Did we come out of the closet?" Eric says to the pillow beside him.
"I guess I did," Vince mumbles, lifting the pillow off his face with one hand. "Did Ari hang up?"
"Lloyd hung up for him. What about me?" Eric says.
"Oh, honey," Vince lisps, "nobody actually thought you were straight."
Eric hits him in the face with a pillow, and then Vince wriggles up onto one elbow, gives Eric a look that Eric's only ever seen directed at women before, and kisses him.
It's not weird at all, it's the most normal thing that's happened since they got back from Colombia. It's Vince. Vince is as familiar at the freckles on the backs of Eric's hands, as the way the sun rises and sets in the smog of L.A., and he kisses Eric like he means it.
When Vince pulls back, sleepy and sloe-eyed, Eric says, "Is this why you didn't make more of a fuss about Sloan?"
Vince shrugs, one shoulder up and down, the same gesture he's made for years, every time Eric's asked a question Vince didn't want to answer. "Yeah, a little," Vince says. "Plus also you deserved better."
"Like you?" Eric says, and Vince just laughs and kisses him again, one hand creeping along Eric's ribs, and Eric kisses him back. Digital alarm clocks don't tick, but the minutes pass in Eric's head, as he rolls onto his side, puts a hand on Vince's chest, keeps kissing him. It was 6:45 when Ari called, it's almost 8 now, and the sun is sliding through the blinds like a wake up call.
He breaks the kiss off again, sits up, and Vince flops back onto the pillows, looking rumpled and happy and smiling at Eric like this isn't the strangest, stupidest thing they've ever done. Eric says, "What the hell are we doing?"
Vince laughs and says, "Okay, I take it back, you've been out of the closet already."
Eric thumps him with the pillow again.
Vince flaps a hand at Eric weakly, his arms tan and his chest pale, from weeks of shooting in the sun. "You were dating Sloan, and you want to talk about our feelings, so clearly you're a lesbian."
"Oh, shut the fuck up," Eric says, and Vince reaches out to grab his arm, and Eric lets himself freefall for the first time since he got to L.A., just goes with Vince's flow and doesn't fight it. He doesn't think about what the best thing for Vince is -- just, for once, thinks about what Vince wants and what he needs, and goes there.
Three weeks after they get back from Colombia, Drama walks into the suite when Vince is on his knees (and Eric is clutching at the counter so he doesn't just collapse on the floor while he comes in Vince's mouth) in the kitchen. "Oh, sweet Lord in heaven," Drama says, clapping one hand over his eyes. "I think I'm fucking blind, don't you faggots lock the doors anymore?"
"What's going -- " Turtle says, and he goes backing out of the doorway as fast as he appeared in it. "Okay, somebody call the front desk, get me some bleach for my eyes."
Drama is still standing, hand on his face, in the doorway, and Vince sits back on his haunches and grins big before he wipes his mouth against the sleeve of his t-shirt.
"You could knock," Vince said.
"I haven't knocked since I walked in on you banging Cindy Mihalik when you were 14 and I got to see those glorious tits," Drama says. "God, are you fucking done yet?"
Eric laughs and turns red and buttons his pants. Vince says, "Yeah, we're done."
"I'm gonna have to sterilize the counter," Drama says.
"You don't live here anymore," Vince says.
"And thank God," Turtle shouts. "Because you know they're going to be fucking each other everywhere they get the fucking chance, Drama."
"Like you don't," Drama shoots back. "Shit, E, you could have said that Sloan dumped you because you're a fag."
"Sloan didn't -- " Eric starts, and then he stops, because Vince is laughing into his hand, flat on his back on the floor, and Drama's face is all twisted up like he's trying not to laugh. "Oh, fuck all you guys."
"Looks like you already are," Turtle shouts.
Drama crosses the kitchen and kicks Vince in the ribs. "Don't steal my fucking press," he says to Vince. "The show's getting great reviews, don't go screwing this up by being my faggy movie star heartthrob brother."
"I promise I won't," Vince says, and then he starts laughing again. Eric sinks down to the floor, thinks about the look on Drama's face when he walked into the kitchen, and starts laughing, too.
Drama wrinkles up his nose and Turtle turns up the sound on SportsCenter. "I can't believe you're fucking my brother, E," Drama says. "You know where his dick has been." He pauses, makes another appalled face, and then says, "I can't believe it took you two this fucking long, either."
Vince and Eric just sit on the kitchen floor and laugh.
A month after they get back from Colombia, Eric walks into Ari's office and shuts the door and closes all the blinds. He gets four words out before Ari starts shouting, and Eric's glad that Lloyd insisted on soundproofing the office and that Vince stayed home.
Eric gets back to the hotel and he's sort of wrecked from all the yelling, but Ari hasn't fired them or quit or done anything Eric was scared he was going to do, and for a short, single moment at the end of the shouting match, Ari's face went all soft and he said, "Is Vince happy?"
"Yes," Eric said, because Vince smiles like the sun shines out of Eric's fucking ass every time Eric walks into a room, and Eric isn't sure how he missed the fact that Vince has been looking at him just like that for almost 20 years.
"All right then," Ari said.
"You going to ask if I'm happy?" Eric said.
"Fuck, no," Ari said. "I don't give a flying monkey fuck if you're happy, you little shit, you're banging my best customer."
When Eric gets back to the hotel, Vince has real estate listings spread out on the table and he's wearing pants and a shirt and shoes and watching SportsCenter.
"Hey," Vince says. "You want to buy a house?"
"It'd be nice to not live in a hotel anymore," Eric says. "But I can't afford a place on my own."
"I meant, like, us," Vince says. "You want to buy a house with me?"
"You can't afford to buy a place," Eric says. "Ari yelled, by the way."
"I won't expect a wedding present from him," Vince says. "Us, E. Like, you and me together."
"You're allergic to commitment," Eric says. They've been home from Colombia a month, stumbling through whatever this is for two weeks. Vince hates commitment.
"You want more than twenty years of commitment, you little shit?" Vince says. "I promise, when I throw you out, I'll hire movers so Drama doesn't have to carry the boxes."
"You slept through that," Eric says. Vince slept through a lot, and he woke up like Sleeping Fucking Beauty when Eric took him to dinner. L.A.'s not some fairy tale kingdom and Vince is only a handsome prince in the press, but Eric guesses it will do.
"Nobody could sleep through Drama complaining," Vince says.
"Yeah, okay," Eric says. "Let's buy a house."
Vince smiles, and it's the like the sun that streams through the curtains onto the rug, brilliant and sharp and completely honest.
author's notes: thea did beta duty, and by "beta duty" i mean "kept this story from being a steaming pile of suck". she held my hand and walked me through making this a story about l.a. instead of a story that was just about some place, and i owe her big time. all remaining mistakes and omissions are mine. title from the old 97s, "doreen". i'm going to get jossed by the season four premiere this weekend, i know, and i don't care, because this is how it goes in my head.