They arrive in France; in Cannes, and just being there, being a legitimate part of it, feels like making it. Brilliant white sunlight bounces off brilliant white yachts blanketing the harbour and everywhere – absolutely everywhere – brilliant white teeth flash.
E isn’t impressed. He hasn’t said anything, but Vince knows none of this impresses E. E, incidentally, is wearing a brilliant white shirt tucked rigidly into navy chinos; with his belt and his watch and his aviators, he sure looks part of everything he’s so deeply unimpressed by. Vince is close behind him in the cool gleaming marble of the hotel lobby, close enough to smell E’s cologne but not close enough to pick up the scent of sun-on-skin that Vince knows is there; warm baked earth and salt. Vince zones out while they check in because, fuck, if Medellin doesn’t go down well, if they can’t get a studio… if that happens, honestly, he figures E and Ari will find a way to fix it. But he doesn’t want this to need fixing and he wouldn’t break character to tell anyone, but he’s nervous. His heart keeps racing on surges of pure adrenaline and his stomach is churning enough that he had to fake drinking the champagne on the jet and get rid of it with an unprecedented number of bathroom visits. The guys are talking about getting lunch and getting drunk and getting girls, but what he really wants is some time alone to nap before tonight’s charm offensive.
He realises that Johnny is yelling furiously, vein thrumming in his forehead, palms smacking down heavily on the check-in desk.
“I booked this room months ago for the express purpose of scoring non-stop hot French ass. You took my deposit, I gave my details, I want. My. Room”
“I am very sorry Mr Chase. There is just no record”, says the girl checking them in. She is beautiful in the same forgettable way that every person in Cannes is beautiful. Perfect, polished and bland.
The argument goes on for another twenty minutes, but ultimately Johnny loses because the hotel is physically incapable of creating extra rooms.
“It’s ok Johnny, we’ll work it out,” says Vince and knows that the boys are all thinking it’s easy for him to say that because he’s the one guaranteed to not have to share. Which is probably why three heads snap round and look at him like he’s losing it when he says:
“Tell you what Johnny, I’ll bunk with E, you take my suite. You deserve it man”
“Seriously baby bro?” says Drama, at the exact same time E says:
“No you fuckin’ won’t Vince”
Vince pulls that face at E. The face that E can’t ever really say no to, sometimes because he’s Vince’s best friend, sometimes because he’s Vince’s manager and sometimes because he just likes making Vince happy.
So E pulls his counterpart to that face. Resigned to indulging whatever it is that Vince wants and, really, doing it willingly.
“Fine. But you’re on the couch”
Vince slings his arm over E’s shoulder.
“You’re a good man E”
E shakes off his arm and gives Vince a serious I’m-not-taking-your-shit look.
“I mean it; couch. And if you bring a girl back, I’m throwing water over you and calling security”.
E lets them into the room and it’s spectacular. Vince looks over at E, wonders if he can tell him how worried he is, but notices the tiny furrows above E’s eyebrows and decides not to. Instead, he just draws a long breath and opens the minibar deciding that actually, instead of being too nervous to drink, maybe he’s nervous enough that he needs to drink. He takes out a bottle of champagne and twists out the cork, swigging from the neck before handing it to Eric and pushing through the doors onto the balcony. Sunlight casts the sea a shifting molten white in the distance and people mill thickly underneath them on the pavements. The balcony – more of a deck, really – has its own plunge pool and a choice of seating areas. E steps out behind him, bottle to his mouth and Vince watches his Adam’s apple jerk as he swallows. He snatches the bottle back and takes a long drink himself, eyes fixed on the horizon.
“You ok Vin?”
“Kidding me E? We did it man, we’re here. We made Cannes”
“Yeah… yeah” his tone is flat and Vince can’t miss the way he reins himself in. The tell as he rubs his fingers over his mouth like he wants to physically keep the words in.
“Nah, nothing. I just hope everyone likes Medellin as much as you and Billy do. I’ll celebrate when we’ve got a buyer and distribution”
“Can’t you just be happy we’re here?”
E meets his eyes and Vince gets a genuine smile out of him. A small one.
“I’m happy Vin. Give me that champagne, I’ll feel a little better”
Vince puts his arm around E’s shoulder and hands over the bottle. This time E doesn’t shuck him off and actually slips his own free arm briefly around Vince’s waist before they slouch down onto antique-looking Lloyd loom chairs at a low marble table.
“I can’t believe you gave Drama your room” he says, raising his eyebrows at Vince over his sunglasses.
“E, come on, it’s not like we haven’t shared a bed before”
“That was a long time ago Vince”
He knows what Eric means. He’s really reminding Vince that they haven’t shared a bed since Vince told Eric the thing they never talk about.
He rolls his eyes.
“Relax Eric, this isn’t about you, and it’s not even about me. I don’t need Johnny being… Johnny this weekend. If a room keeps him happy, fine. I’ll take the couch, ok?”
“Relax a little, ok E?”
E looks like he’s about to say something but is interrupted by a knock on the door which is, of course, Johnny and Turtle.
“Are we going out or what?” Turtle is raiding their minibar even as he asks.
“Yeah, baby bro. I owe you a bottle of somethin’ fancy for sorting out my room”
“Thanks Johnny, but guys, I could really do with a nap first. I’m still tired from the flight”
“What, you’re gonna nap on E’s couch? Or are you two gonna snuggle in the bed together? Come on Vin, we’re going out”
“Turtle, I’m tired. You guys go, I’ll meet you later”
“Whatever man. E?”
“Nah. I need to catch up on some work stuff for tonight”
Turtle and Drama look at them both incredulously, but they leave anyway, Turtle taking the beer that’s in his hand.
They stay on the balcony, next to each other on the cane chairs until the champagne is gone, which doesn’t take long. Vince feels slightly buzzed, which is probably why, when he stands up, he pauses and steadies himself on Eric’s shoulder and then squeezes it. Eric looks up at him and Vince feels a rush of something in his chest that courses out and makes his cheeks flush with heat. He wonders if E really does have work to do.
“It’s going to be ok, right E? They’re going to like it”
Eric pauses, and Vince knows that’s his real answer. But he says “They’ll love it”
“I’m gonna nap, ok?”
“Remember you’re on the couch”
Vince closes the sliding door behind him, pulling the curtains, shedding his jeans and t-shirt and getting under the sheet and comforter, lying on his stomach and shaking out the curls that trap themselves under his cheek. He’s asleep, snuggling one of the down pillows, by the time Eric comes in to get his laptop and quietly says “you fucker” but doesn’t do anything about it.
That night goes well. They charm and schmooze their way round some of the biggest names in the industry. Ari being as aggressively sycophantic and smarmy as he usually is aggressively aggressive and insulting. By the end of the night they have two rival offers – real offers, both pending actually seeing the film.
Vince should be happy, and Eric should be happy, but there is a taut rise across and between his shoulders and he’s drinking too quickly. By the time the parties die off and they head back to their one room, E is very drunk. He’s barely speaking and Vince is fairly sure that without his arm around Eric’s waist, holding him up and guiding him in the right direction E would either slump down in a heap or stumble down the corridor, trying to open doors that aren’t theirs.
When they get to the room, it’s Vince who lets them in and organises E through the door and onto the bed, which is a role reversal for both of them. E sits for a moment before suddenly groaning and sprawling backwards, arms flung out to the side and eyes rolling shut.
“E? Are you ok? If you’re gonna barf, tell me”
“I’m not” he slurs, which does not convince Vince. Although he hopes E doesn’t, because he is not at all good with puke. He can feel his jaw tighten even thinking about having to deal with E being sick.
“I’m going to get you some water, ok?”
E doesn’t respond, but when Vince hands him the sweating bottle he does prop himself up enough to drink it.
“Uh… are you going to puke?”
“No! Jeez, I’m not gonna puke. Seriously. No, I wanted to ask… The thing we talked about”
“Yeah?” Vince swallows deeply, heart suddenly pulsing in his chest like a bird in a fist. There isn’t enough air in his lungs.
“That was, I mean, You don’t… We’re ok, right?”
Vince had thought they were at least pretending to be. He looks at Eric, trying to understand what he’s really saying, but his eyes are slipped and his face is slack.
“We’re fine, E”
He wants to ask Eric why he’s bringing this up now when he’s been putting every effort into making Vince think he was done talking about it forever.
“Why are you brining this up now? I didn’t think you wanted to talk about this” Shit. That was definitely out loud. He must be drunker than he thought.
“Vin, of course I-“ he cuts himself off, suddenly jerking bolt upright and swinging his legs off the bed in a single clumsy motion “-Oh fuck, I’m gunna be sick”
Eric spends a good 20 minutes throwing up and when he finally leaves the bathroom he’s visibly clammy and pale, smelling of toothpaste mint over the alcohol and sweat and stomach acid.
“Yeah” His voice is hoarse “Are you ok if we sleep? Tomorrow is gonna be a big deal”
Vince isn’t sure if he’s actually forgotten the conversation they were having or if he just thinks it’s believable that he’s forgotten.
“You want me on the couch?”
Eric shakes his head, then strips off his shirt and pants, crawling under the soft sheen of the sheets in just his boxers.
Vince copies him and even as he’s getting comfortable he can hear from Eric’s heavy, even breathing that he’s already asleep.
He’s lying on his back and in the half-light of the room, because they forgot to close the curtains, he can make out E’s silhouette, cast in greyscale. He wants to press himself against E’s back and nuzzle the nape of his neck, tuck his arm over him and rest his hand lightly on his stomach. He is so used to the frustration and wanting that he feels for E, that even lying here under the same sheets in this not-quite-there facsimilie of what he really wants, he feels no worse than he has for the past 15 years. He turns over and goes to sleep easily.
Vince wakes the next morning with that kind of bubble of anticipation in his gut that feels the same whether you’re waking up to an exam or a funeral or Christmas, until you remember why it’s there. As he grasps sleepily onto what today is, he’s still not totally sure what kind of anxious he should feel. Next to him, E shifts and moans quietly. E is facing him and he squints at Vince “Oh god”, he says. “I’m dying” and after a long pause “What happened last night?”
“Nothing much. You managed to keep it together out there, then we came up here and you treated me to a 20 minute toilet bowl solo”
“Fuck. Sorry. I was ok out there though? I don’t remember anything at all after talking to Harvey”
“Huh.” Vince toys with making up something else just to watch E’s eyes go wide and wild, but everything he can think of is a little too close to his real life NC-17 fantasies, so he just tells him the truth except that he doesn’t mention the conversation they almost had. E looks embarrassed and also a little like he might puke some more. He fits the crook of his elbow over his eyes and quietly murmurs his thanks when Vince puts a cold damp wash cloth on his forehead and water and aspirin on the table next to him.
He knows it sounds a little sadistic, but Vince likes it when E is hungover. It’s one of the only times he lets Vince take care of him. He’s slightly less sure of his decisions, less sure of himself, less abrasive. More vulnerable. More likely to let Vince hug him a second longer than necessary, want it, even.
The thing is, Vince has loved E for as long as he’s had conscious memories. When he was six he told his mom: “I’m gonna marry Eric when I grow up” and his mother scowled at him and gripped his shoulder fiercely her false nails digging into his flesh and said: “boys don’t marry boys, Vinny. You can’t say things like that”. And it had always been like that. When he was 12, and he’d started thinking a lot about what kissing E would be like, Dom had started talking a lot about fags and how disgusting all of that was. By the time he was 16 and he’d figured out that, yeah, he definitely liked girls, but his best friend was still the one who brought him to shuddering, sticky climax alone in his twin bed, he knew that liking girls was the only thing a 16-year-old in Queens could realistically do. And after that… after that, Vince was just too scared. E had never shown any sign of being interested him or any other guy and having E like this – having at least half of him – was better than having nothing at all. And he does like women. The girls over the years haven’t just been a front. He’s attracted to them, they turn him on. They help him forget that what he wants more is smooth flat planes of a chest and neat lean hips and firm kisses that scrape with stubble and the raw, hot, fullness of someone inside him, fucking him. Every so often it gets too much and he has to be with another guy; get the need out so he can go back to normal. He has never found a way to tell E, and he’s not completely sure why. Maybe because if E knows he likes guys and he still doesn’t want Vince it would be too close to rejection. Just too fucking sad. It’s safer this way. Or it was.
Not so long before Cannes, Vince got drunk. That very specific drunk that is consuming enough to temporarily deaden the noise of everything else, or at least scream over the top of it. Eric (of course) had helped him out of the cab and into the house and, actually into the bathroom where he’d been so drunk he managed to pee in his pants because he’d thought he’d taken out his dick and he’d started pissing but actually he’d had hold of one of his balls. Eric, sighing and rolling his eyes only a little, had hung around while Vince cleaned himself up and got into bed, and then hung around some more to make sure he didn’t throw up and choke in his sleep.
It hadn’t happened then, but the next night, when Vince was in bed by 9pm feeling a tired ache in all his limbs, queasiness finally settling but sharp jags of shame still rising in him like a tide on every remembered snippet of the night before. Eric had come and knocked on his door. They’d sat on the bed together and Eric had said: “Recovered yet or do I need to go get you some Depends?”
“Ha fucking ha Eric” he’d scowled, unable to keep his cheeks from going a little red
Eric had smiled an apology then drawn in a deep breath and looked at him, face serious and concerned.
“Vin, is everything ok? You were really drunk last night”.
And something in Vince had snapped. Not with any drama or noise, just unexpected and abrupt and everything that usually held him together was flung wide apart and drifting and he’d said: “Eric, I… I think I’m attracted to you, maybe”. Because even in that moment, he hadn’t totally lost sight of the fact the full truth was just too much.
Eric had looked at him, checking if he was joking then swallowed and said: “Vin, I don’t know what to do with that”
“You don’t have to do anything. I just needed to tell you”
“Has it been, uh, long?”
“Yeah”, he said quietly. “Yeah, a while”
“Does anyone else know?”
“Oh yeah, E. I’ve been doodling Mr Vincent Murphy all over my trig text book” Vince knew his bitter tone wasn’t right for this and he’d looked at Eric from under his eyelashes, mumbled that he was sorry. “Nobody knows” he’d added. And then wondered if that was true. He’d often thought his feelings for Eric must beam out of him like sunlight cracking its way into gloom.
“Vin, I… I don’t know what to say”
“I’m sorry” he’d said again
“I don’t want you to be sorry, I just don’t-“ and he’d cut himself off before either of them had to hear him say again that he had no fucking idea what to do with this.
“It’s ok E. I can’t imagine how weird this is for you. I didn’t want to tell you, but then… I just did”
And Eric had leaned over, patted the comforter close to Vince’s hand and said:
“I have to just go think about this, ok?” And Vince nodded. Eric had gone to his room and they had barely spoken for the next few days, which was painful. They’d avoided each other’s eyes and looked away quickly if they came close to catching each other’s glance. There was none of the usual easy touching and they only talked about business, or in four-way conversations with the other guys.
But then Ari sent them this bottle of aged rum that came from Cameron’s office as a token of good luck for Medellin (and, Vince liked to think, a belated show of solidarity over Aquaman 2). Turtle and Drama had taken out a pair of desperate girls they met at a party apparently arranged exclusively to distribute freebies and facilitate Z-list hook-ups, so Vince and E tackled the rum alone. And that was how it happened. Halfway down the bottle, outside on loungers with the pool black in the moonlight and the LA night throbbing below them Eric had said: “I’ve been thinking about what you said.”
“So, is it..uh, are you not straight?”
“Vin, I’m not being funny but you’ve never even been with a guy. Maybe you’re just curious y’know?”
Vince looked over at him and pulled a ‘seriously Eric’ expression.
“E, I’ve been with guys”
“A bunch of times”
“Fuckin’, what then, Vince? Always? You’ve been getting with guys this whole time?”
“Yeah, pretty much”
For a few seconds, or maybe it was longer, Eric just stared at Vince and Vince ran through a thousand worst-case scenarios of what E might be thinking and Jesus fuck, not now, he felt a hot stone swell in his throat and his eyes burned, but he was not going to fucking cry about this.
Eric exhaled through his nose and put his face in his hands.
“Fucking Christ Vin. This is something that would have been pretty fuckin’ useful to know. What if one of these guys decides to talk to TMZ or Us Weekly?”
“I’m careful E. C’mon, even you didn’t know, right? I’m like Clarke Kent”
“Yeah, well you’ll need more than a pair of glasses to protect you if anyone decides to go public on the fact Vincent Chase likes dick” He spat the phrase out like it was dirty and Vince mentally recoiled, feeling hurt and unsure. It must have shown on his face because Eric reached over and bumped his fist lightly on Vince’s bicep.
“Vin,” he’d said gently “I’m sorry. You know I don’t… have a problem with that, I just… It’s kind of a shock, ok? I feel like you’re about to tell me all this is a joke and Drama and Turtle are gonna come out here so you can all laugh about what a dick I am”
“It’s not a joke” Vince said, his voice sounded thick and he’d wanted to clear his throat.
Neither of them had spoken after that and it was obvious that the only conversation they’re going to have about the other part of this, the part where Vince unloaded a secret that has been a pebble at the back of almost every thought he’d had since he was a child, is silence.
Vince topped up his rum and knocked it back fast.
“You know I love you Vin” the way Eric said it, it might have been a question and it might not have, either way Vince hadn’t thought it needed an answer.
“You want more?” he’d asked instead and for a half beat of a second he saw Eric completely misunderstand the question, before realising Vince had tilted the rum towards his glass, was only asking if he wants more of the drink, and he’d composed himself.
So they drank some more rum and they talked a little, about other things, before Vince said he was calling it a night and they’d gone to their separate bedrooms which was where Vince gave in and let himself cry, just a little.
In the morning, it had been a lot like normal. Vince hadn’t asked Eric not to tell anyone and he hadn’t asked Eric to prepare for him coming out. They had the same conversations they always did and if the guys noticed that Vince wasn’t touching Eric as much as usual, they hadn’t mentioned it.
Life kept on happening, they went to meetings in Ari’s office – one time, Vince zoned back in to see Ari right in Eric’s face, incandescent with spittle-flecked rage, screaming that: “If you don’t get me a copy of Medellin to watch you tiny green-cocked leprechaun looking streak of cunt butter, I will personally launch a second Holocaust with the single aim of wiping out you and any of the freakishly tiny hypothetical offspring you will probably never fucking find anyone to carry for you anyway, you fucking fuck”. They’d gone for brunches and lunches and eaten the breakfasts that Johnny cooked; they’d gone for drinks at home and in bars and in clubs. They’d smoked, they’d sunbathed and when Drama noticed that Vince hadn’t fucked anyone in at least four days, Vince shrugged and made out like Drama just missed the action, which Eric knew wasn’t true.
And now here they are in Cannes, and this should be the best weekend of their lives, and they should be on top of the world, golden boys living through their own golden time. But it’s not like that at all.