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Title: Mad Season 7/?
Rating: NC-17
Pairing(s): Matt Stone/Eric Stough
Word Count: 8,164
Summary: Matt and Eric. Falling in love, breaking up, and coming back together when Eric realizes he's contracted HIV from another man. Your typical tragic love story as only these two can do it.
Warnings: BDSM, HIV-positive character, and eventual character death.
Disclaimer: Matt Stone and Eric Stough own themselves. I'm certainly not saying this happened or ever would in real life except for the part where I have video of them both kissing boys, but whatever: semantics. I make no money off of this and write it simply for my own sick pleasure.
Thank You: To [livejournal.com profile] dancinbutterfly for keeping me up to insane hours to write this even when sleep calls my name. ♥



For the next two weeks, Eric spends most of his time seemingly lost in thought, and Matt can't blame him. Their therapy sessions go well, but they still don't have an answer to the problem. How do they help Eric accept his new life? Matt gets wanting to cling on to his pre-positive days. Who wouldn't? But at the same time, it's frustrating because Eric is no longer that guy. He's post-positive Eric now and post-positive Eric wants and needs things that he's having trouble accepting.

He confides in Trey because he tells Trey everything, but Trey's best advice is, "Just keep doin' what you're doin', man," which isn't really helpful at all.

And Matt's always heard that wounds heal with time, but Eric becomes more and more distant as each day passes, like he's having one last go at fighting it all before he finally accepts it.

And in a way, that's good. That's good that he's doing the hit-bottom-and-bounce-back thing, but until he hits the bouncing-back stage, it just kind of sucks because Matt can't take sleeping next to a cold, distant ball of what's supposed to be his partner for much longer.

He's trying, though. He spends time in Eric's cubicle whenever he can, despite the fact—or, possibly, because of the fact—that it's so small he's practically on Eric's lap. He takes him out for lunch every day, too, and cooks dinner or orders it in every night. They even watch movies together, though Eric always sits on the far side of the couch away from him.

But at least he's on the couch. That's what he keeps telling himself. It's better than nothing.

After their latest staff meeting, during which Matt tried to hold Eric's hand and Eric gently moved it away, Trey asks them to stay for a few extra minutes.

"Hey," he says, leaning against his desk and watching the two of them carefully. "So, um, I was wondering what the two of you were doing tomorrow night?"

"Oh," Matt says. "Um, I was going to order in Chinese, and then we were gonna watch a movie, I think."

"Okay, well, cancel that," Trey says.

"Um, any particular reason why?"

"Yeah. Toddy and I decided to invite you guys over for dinner."

"By dinner you mean...actual food will be served?" Matt asks.

"Yes, actual food. Toddy's cooking and I'm supposed to leave her alone and not make her have to hit me with a spatula. Those were her words, not mine. Anyway, come over. We'll have dinner, we'll play video games, and if you're very, very lucky, I'll break out the Pictionary."

"Well..." Eric says slowly, "Okay, but she knows I'm allergic to peanuts, right?"

"I'll tell her," Trey promises.

"Okay. Um, sure. Pictionary is good." A small smile breaks out across Eric's face and he laughs.

"What?" Trey asks.

"Nothing. I was just thinking about last Christmas. We—" Matt's heart leaps at Eric using "we" for the first time in what feels like forever and he feels like a total girl for it. "We played it with my parents and—"

"And your sister kept drawing her little stick-figure giraffe," Matt puts in, and joins the laughter.

"Yeah, and dad was like, 'A cow? A monkey?' and she kept—"

"Making the neck longer," Matt supplies. "That was so hilarious."

Eric smiles at him, an honest-to-God pure Eric smile and Matt reaches out to touch him because for the first time in over a week, he feels like it's okay. Eric lets him, doesn't even mind when Matt's fingernail accidentally snags on a strand of his hair.

"Um, right," Trey says. "Yeah. That's...great. Um. So you'll come?"

"Sure," Matt says, but he can't tear his eyes off of Eric.

"Yeah," Eric agrees.

"Okay. Good. So...Eric...you know. Go do your job. And Matt, your desk isn't just sitting there to look pretty."

He watches Eric as he leaves, feeling insanely giddy, then sits down and opens up the script they've been working on.

"You're welcome," Trey says as he sits down at his desk.

"What?"

"Dude, am I or am I not your best friend?"

"You're my best friend, but—"

"Dude. You're having the marital woes, I am all about solving them."

"With Pictionary?"

"Yes. With Pictionary. It requires teamwork. It requires you to be a cohesive unit. Ergo, problems solved."

"Okay, Trey? I say this as your best friend who loves you like family. First off, you're an idiot. And secondly? Who the fuck says, 'Ergo?'"

"I do," Trey says seriously. "And I am going to put your gay ass back on the path to marital bliss or whatever you guys are calling it these days."

"Why am I terrified all of a sudden?"

"Because you know I'm going to fix your problems and then you have to get fucked in the ass all the time. Dude, I'd be afraid, too."

"Oh, don't even start. I saw what Toddy did to you at the fetish club."

Trey pales. "I—we don't talk about that, okay?"

"But—"

"We don't talk about it, Matt."

"Still happened."

"Dude, shut up."

"Nothing to be ashamed about—"

"I didn't say that. I just said we don't talk about it."

Matt rolls his eyes. "Whatever. And dude, you're not going to fix our problems with Pictionary."

"Would you just give me a chance? When have I ever steered you wrong before?"

"Um...when you sent me into a freezing river for a shot we could've used stunt doubles on and then made me stay in longer than anyone else?"

"Didn't you hook up with Eric for the first time that night?"

"I—okay. Fair enough."

"See? Will you just try it my way?"

Matt sighs. "You're crazy. You're fucking crazy."

"But I'm crazy in all the best ways, man. Just listen to me. Follow the Parker way of life. I'm going to get you and Eric all fixed up and then you're going to be thanking me for my insanity."

And the thing is, Trey says it with such conviction, that Matt wants to believe him. Trey has a way of doing that. It's pretty much how he got Matt to agree to throw so much of his own money into Packer and how he got him to agree to move to L.A. But Matt knows that whatever happens in this, it's going to have to come from Eric. Eric's going to have to decide to accept that things are different now, and that's nothing that's going to come from a board game. But still, he appreciates the gesture.

Eric is a little friendlier in bed that night. They still don't have sex—haven't since about two days after their first therapy session—but Eric actually lets Matt hold him as they fall asleep.

The next day at work, they don't see each other much, but Matt meets him at his cubicle at the end of the day and they head over to Trey's together.

Toddy cooks while Matt kicks Trey's ass at Madden, occasionally stepping into the room to take Trey's controller from him and help him out. Eric, for the most part, watches, but he lets Matt lean back against his legs and pets his hair as he plays, and by the time they sit down to dinner, Matt's wondering what kind of god he went down on to bring on this change in Eric.

It's still not back to the way it was before, neither before the threesome or even before Eric was diagnosed, but it's a drastic improvement from the last two weeks and Matt finally feels like part of a couple again.

When dinner is over and Toddy has sent Trey off to put the dishes in the dishwasher, she herds the two of them into the living room and gives them that thousand-watt smile of hers as she sets out the board game.

"So...couples?" she asks. "Me and Trey versus the two of you?"

"Yeah, sure," Matt says. "I just hope you know what you're getting yourself into. My boyfriend is an animator, you know."

She laughs. "My boyfriend drew them up in the first place."

"Oooh, it's gonna be a throw down," Matt teases.

Trey finally joins them a few minutes later and throws in his own smack talk, and finally the game begins.

The first round, Toddy gets the word "peacock." It takes Trey a while to guess it, but he finally gets it in the end, which puts them in the lead.

Eric smiles as he draws a word out of the hat they put them in, and says, "Don't worry. You know we got this."

Matt nods and waits while Toddy flips over the timer and Eric begins drawing an elaborate pointy thing on a stick.

"Um...a flower?" he guesses. Eric shakes his head. "A...tree?" Again, no dice. "Um...a...Eric, I have no idea."

Eric frowns, then draws motion lines next to the pointy parts and shows it to him.

"Oh, one of those spinny things? Where the wind catches it and it spins?"

Eric gives him the motion to keep going.

"Fuck, what are those called? Um...um, spinny wheel?"

Eric shakes his head. "Um...spinny...thing? Wheel of spinning? Fuck, what the fuck are those things called?"

Trey points gleefully at the counter as their seconds tick away.

"Shit. Okay. Um...a...fuck, I know this."

The time keeps slipping away and Matt knows he knows the word, he just can't remember it.

"Fuck. Okay. A...a...pinwheel?"

Eric holds his arms up in a victory stance, then hugs him.

"Damn it!" Trey mutters.

The next turn is Trey's and no one has any clue what the fuck is squiggle is supposed to be, least of all Toddy, and he huffs angrily when he turns it over and says, "Shower! A fucking shower! Don't you people ever bathe?"

"Are you calling me smelly just because I can't tell what those lines are supposed to be? Someone really doesn't want to get laid tonight, does he?"

Unfortunately, Matt's turn goes no better, though at least he doesn't inadvertently insult Eric in the process.

For the final turn, Toddy draws a can of gasoline, which Trey gets, and Eric draws—and Matt has no idea how the fuck he even gets it right, but he does—the wind.

"Tie breaker?" Matt suggests.

"Oh, please. Like we're going to come back from that," Trey huffs. "Honestly. Wind. How the fuck do you guess wind? You two clearly are just...psychically connected."

Toddy laughs. "Well, I want to do it. After all that smack talk, I need the closure."

"Okay," Matt says. "Me and you will draw the same thing, and the first one to say it, Trey or Eric, wins."

"Okay," she says, and they draw a slip of paper together and come up with "flea."

Matt frowns. If Eric were drawing this, he'd probably come up with something clever to make Matt guess it, but he's not. It's up to him this time, so he tries to think about what would make Eric get it. Drawing a dog with a dot on it seems stupid. That's a spot, not a flea. But, as he thinks about it, he gets an idea and when Trey flips the timer over, he draws a trapeze with a dot on it, then an arrow pointing to it. He taps the paper at the dot repeatedly as Eric hazards a few guesses.

"Um...dot. Spot. Speck. Person. Man. Um...help me out."

Matt draws three rings and all sorts of circus acts, pointing out the dots in each one. Eric gapes at him, still clueless, so Matt changes tactics.

He crosses it all out, and draws himself, indicating that it's him with lots of curly hair. Then he draws Eric, and draws between the two of them.

Eric gapes at him. "We're...dots? Gay? I don't know, Matt. Come on."

Matt sighs, draws a stick figure dog, and puts a dot on it, then draws an arrow back to the circus things he drew earlier, and he can see the recognition flash in Eric's eyes as he pieces the first and last things together.

"A flea?" he asks, and Matt throws the pencil down in victory.

He hugs Eric and kisses him on the cheek, then hugs him again and tells Toddy, "Score one for the homos!"

"Okay," Eric says, laughing. "Just explain to me what the two stick figures and the hair were all about."

Matt laughs. "I was trying to get you to think about puppy. 'Cause puppies get fleas."

"Yeah, 'cause that was obvious from your drawings."

"Aw, don't tease me."

Eric pokes him in the side and when Matt looks up, he sees Trey give him this ridiculous See? I helped! smile.

"You guys suck," Toddy huffs, only partially serious. "I want a re-match."

They play two more games, and win one of them, putting them up two-one. By then, it's late and Trey keeps reminding everyone that they have to be at work in the morning, which Matt is pretty sure is code for Go home and have sex so I can do the same, please.

Still, he's not expecting anything as he drives them home, not even when Eric leans into him as he waits for Matt to unlock the front door, but when they get to the bedroom, Eric sits down on the bed, takes Matt's hand, and guides him to sit next to him.

"I...I want to tell you something," he says.

"Okay."

"Here's the thing. I think I was always scared of commitment and testing positive made it worse. I think there was just something in me that didn't want to settle down with anyone. But...but I've been thinking a lot about us and...and I think that what we have is good. I think it's good for me, too. And I think that I'm happier now, as a couple with you, than I was back when I fucked around. And...and I don't know that I'll ever want to have a marriage ceremony, because I just don't see the point if everyone already knows we're happy and together and it won't be legal, but I do want to be your partner, Matt. I really, really do. And I can't promise that I'll never get scared, because I will and I'm sorry. But...but kicking Toddy and Trey's ass at Pictionary? Visiting our families at holidays? Finishing each other's sentences? Those aren't things I ever thought I'd want, but now that I have them...I couldn't give them up if someone asked me to. So...so I'm rambling now and you should just shut me up, but I love you and I want to be your part—"

He never gets to finish the word because Matt kisses him.

"You mean it?" he asks. "Like, for real?"

"Yeah," Eric says. "Yeah, Matt. I mean it. I'm sorry it took me so long to get it, but—"

"Shh," Matt says. "It's okay." He strokes his thumb across Eric's cheekbone softly. "I don't care. As long as you've got it now, seriously—"

Eric kisses him this time and tugs at his shirt, pulling it off and over his head. He stares at Matt with a hungry look in his eyes, like he's been wanting this but not letting himself have it for two weeks now, and is finally about to dig in.

It's evident in the a-little-too-rough way he bites down on Matt's nipple or the way his fingernails scratch at Matt's back, but Matt doesn't care. He wants it just as bad as Eric seems to and any potential pain sort of just flies by him without really hitting him square in the face.

He's not sure exactly when and how they become naked or at what point Eric rolls a condom onto him and begs Matt to fuck him, but it feels like hours that he stays inside of Eric, fucking him slow and deep until he finally has to come or he'll explode from the wait.

And then Eric curls against him, blissful and fucked-out, and sleepily tells him how amazing he is and how lucky he is to have found him.

Matt doesn't exactly believe in luck, at least not the kind you don't make for yourself, but just hearing Eric be grateful for him...it sort of validates everything he's gone through so far that hasn't been easy. It makes it all okay because this is why he did it. He did it because he knew in his gut that he and Eric could be happy together if they just worked it out, and now he's pretty sure they have, or at least are on the right path to it.

He kisses Eric's forehead and watches as he falls asleep, then drifts off into his own blissful, mostly Eric-filled dreams.

***


Rachel is there to greet them when they get off the plane in Denver, hugging them both before whispering, "He's cute," to Matt.

He grins and helps her put their luggage in the trunk, then spends a few moments arguing with Eric trying to make him take the front seat, but Eric refuses, so he sits next to his sister and Eric takes the back.

"So," Rachel says as she pulls out onto the highway. "I finally get to meet the infamous Eric."

"Hi," Eric answers.

"Be nice," Matt hisses, but she just chuckles lightly.

"So," she says again, "I'm glad you decided to finally come hang out with us."

"Decided?" Matt says. "Dad banned me from the house for Thanksgiving. Mom had to do God only knows what to get him to agree to this."

She waves her hand airily. "He'll get over it. He loves you." She glances at Eric in the rearview mirror. "Seriously, don't listen to him. Dad's not as bad as Matt wants you to believe."

"He's not?"

"Well, he's not a ray of sunshine or anything, but he was a good dad and he's going to get over this eventually and it'll be okay."

"But we're staying with you, right?" Matt asks. "Because seriously, I don't want to have to argue about sleeping arrangements with Mom and Dad."

"Yeah, you're staying at my place. And I only have one guest room so all I ask is that if you get your gay on, just change the sheets before you go back to L.A."

"We can do that," Matt promises.

"Good." She glances at Eric again. "Um, I didn't really...know if you...needed anything? Like, anything special? So...if you do and I don't have it, let me know and we'll go get it, okay?" She gives him a small smile, one that says, I'm trying, here. Please don't be offended.

"Thanks," Eric answers, returning with a smile of his own. "That's nice of you."

She sighs, clearly relieved to have gotten past that part, and asks, "So what did you get mom and dad for Christmas? And please tell me it's not something ridiculously expensive that I could never hope to compete with now that you're all rich and shit."

"I'm not rich," Matt says, laughing. "I have a TV show that airs on a network that doesn't even come on here."

"Yeah, well, just don't tell me you bought them, like...a house or something."

"We don't even own a house yet," Matt laughs, and then realizes his sister is staring at him like he is a strange, foreign object.

"We?"

"Yeah. Eric and me. We have an apartment, which we rent. So...no, I didn't buy mom and dad a house."

She shakes her head, clearing it of the look, and says, "Or a car?"

"I don't own a car yet, either. I just drive Eric's all the time."

"You really do need to get your own," Eric says.

"Eventually," Matt says with a shrug.

When they get to Rachel's, she shows them to their room and lets them get settled in, then pokes her head in the door and asks, "Hey. So...are you two ready?"

"For what?" Matt asks.

"To go to Mom and Dad's."

"Today? I—I kind of thought we weren't going to see them until the day itself."

"Yeah, well, Mom wants a test run tonight to see if you and Dad can even be in the same room together long enough to have Christmas dinner. She said if you can't, then she'll just come here and have dinner with the three of us and Dad can stay home and be...Dad-ish."

"She really think it'll be that bad?"

"Well..."

"Christ, Rachel. I thought you said he'd calmed down. I mean, fuck. He invited us, didn't he?"

"Well," she says, twisting her fingers together absently, "it's more like...Mom invited you and told Dad it was her house, too, and she could invite her son over if she wanted and his partner, and Dad could do whatever he wanted. It was...it was a fight. She actually stayed over a couple of nights after it before she finally decided to go home and deal with him."

Matt sighs and rubs at his temples, dropping down onto the bed. "Great. Mom and Dad are having a fight over me."

"It's not over you," Rachel says, then pauses. "Well, okay, it is, but it's not your fault. I mean, seriously, so what? Dad's the one who's being a dick."

He feels the bed dip beside him as Eric sits down and takes his hand. He rubs Matt's back with his free hand and doesn't say a word, and Matt resists the urge to lean against him.

"This is why I never came out," he says. "I was never ashamed, just...fuck. I don't want them fighting over me."

Rachel leans against the doorway and shrugs. "Matt...I don't know what to tell you. I mean...it's gonna suck. Nothing any of us can do to change that. But what, you're just never gonna see Dad again? The only way to get through this part is to just...keep at it. And eventually he'll wake up, remember that you're his son and he loves you no matter what, and then he'll be buying the two of you housewarming gifts or something. But that day's not this one, so you have to get through this to get there. So come on. Get up off your ass and let's get over there."

He knows she's right, but it doesn't make it any easier to force himself to his feet and out to her car. It doesn't make it any easier to knock on his parents' door, and it doesn't make it any easier when his father hugs his sister and all but ignores him.

"Hi, sweetie," his mom says happily, wrapping him up in a hug. "And this must be Eric."

"Hi, Mrs. Stone," Eric says, and Matt can tell he's uncomfortable and trying not to show it.

"Oh, honey, call me Sheila," she says. "So, welcome to our home. How was your flight?"

"Good," Eric answers, and Matt sees his eyes dart to his father. "Um—It's...it's a nice house."

"Thank you," she says, and guides him into the living room. Matt follows, sitting down next to him, and trying not to do anything that might set his father off. Then he realizes that his very presence is setting his father off and says fuck it and holds Eric's hand.

Matt tries not to say anything, not even when his dad glares at their entwined hands like they've gravely offended him in some way, but his mom and Rachel are both giving him do something looks, so he clears his throat and says, "Um. Hi, Dad."

His dad's lips stretch out into a thin line, like he's chewing on the inside of them, and for a long moment, Matt wonders if his dad will ever answer at all. Then, finally, he says, "Hello, Matthew."

Matt flinches at his dad's tone and the use of his full name. It would almost be better if his dad had just went ahead and called him a fag or something because at least he could deal with that. What's he supposed to say to his dad just calling him by his whole name? Nothing, that's what, so he shifts uncomfortably and says, "Uh, how's...the...economy?"

He only asks because he knows that if there's any hope of getting his dad to speak to him normally, it's asking him about the economy, because at least then his dad can just go off on a rant about Clinton and that will be that. But it doesn't work, which makes him realize that no matter what he does, at least right now, he's not going to be back in his dad's good graces any time soon.

"It's tanking," his dad says flatly, even though the last Matt heard it wasn't doing too bad. "How's..." he makes a face like the word makes him sick to his stomach, "California?"

"It's...it's good," Matt says. "Um. Sunny. Hot. But uh, we live right on the beach, so..."

"Yes," his dad says, almost spitting the words out. "'We' as in the two of you."

"Yes," Matt says, trying to steel himself. "Me and Eric. This is Eric. Since you didn't ask."

He almost expects some kind of insult thrown in Eric's direction, but his dad doesn't acknowledge Eric at all.

"So you live with this man on the beach. Well. I guess that just is what it is, Matthew."

He leans back in his chair, opens the newspaper, and disappears behind it and Matt looks at his mother and sister for some kind of guidance as to what the hell he's supposed to do. He could deal with flat-out insulting. He's good with that. He's got things he's been planning to say right back. But this...this weird, cold indifference...it's an unknown and he has no idea how to deal with it.

"Gerald," his mother prompts. "Aren't you going to say, 'Hello,' to Eric?"

"No," his dad says simply.

His mother sighs. "It really is nice to meet you, dear," she says to Eric.

"Thank you," Eric says. "Um...maybe if I left? It might be—"

"No," she says, shaking her head. "I'm afraid this really isn't anything to do with you. He's taking it out on you, but—"

"He can also hear you," his dad says angrily, then storms upstairs with his paper and slams a door once he gets there.

Matt sighs and runs his free hand through his hair. "You think if I yelled at him, it would do any good? Because that's what I want to do."

"I really don't think that's a good idea," his mom says regretfully.

"It'd make me feel better," Matt says glumly.

"I know," she says. "But let's not talk about him. Seriously, sweetie. Tell me about California. Tell me about this adorable boy holding your hand. I want to hear about your new life."

Matt smiles. Talking about Eric is a good distraction and he knows his mom well enough to know that's why she asked. He's grateful anyway and he leans back against the couch comfortably and says, "Well...we met in college and we've been together for like...what, two years now?"

"Yeah," Eric says. "And we've been living together for the last year."

"Sounds serious," she comments.

"Yeah," Eric says. "It is. And Matt's great, you know? He's always there for me no matter what, and trust me, I've had a lot of matter whats."

"You have not," Matt says, poking him in the side. "Don't listen to him. There were no matter whats."

There were, but they're all water under the bridge now, so Matt doesn't want to think about them.

"And you share an apartment?" she asks. "Have you thought about getting a house? Now that you're famous?"

Matt laughs. "Mom, I'm not famous."

"Honey, you had a movie come out this summer."

"And it flopped."

"Well...still. There was a premier and everything."

Matt rolls his eyes. "Anyway...I don't know. We like the apartment."

"Isn't it small?"

"We don't need much room," Matt says, then clears his throat and clarifies, "I mean, we're not home much, anyway. Trey's like a slave driver at the office."

Eric nods. "Yeah, Seriously. We barely have time to f—free time. We barely have any free time."

"So," Rachel says, "when Trey's not cracking the proverbial whip, what do you guys do for fun?"

"Um...watch movies," Matt answers. "And there's this place right down the street with crazy good ice cream."

"I surf," Eric says. "And work out a lot. Which isn't always fun, but...I try to do it at least an hour and a half every day and more if I can manage it."

"Oh, right," Rachel says thoughtfully. "Because of—um."

"It's okay," Eric says. "You can say it if you want. Or you don't have to."

She gives him an uncomfortable smile. "Um...Matt? Do you work out with him?"

"Sometimes," Matt says. "But mostly I just swim in the pool."

"You live on the beach but you go to the gym to swim?"

"Well...there are sharks in the ocean," Matt huffs. "Just because Eric's crazy enough to get out there..."

"Matt, a shark isn't going to attack you," Eric says. "You're not yummy enough for it to eat."

"I'm delicious," Matt counters, then realizes that this conversation could very quickly go to places he doesn't want it to when he's with his mother and sister, so he coughs and says, "So...yeah. Mostly it's just work. Trey's crazy and the network is always on our backs for more episodes. We're lucky we got Christmas off, seriously. I mean, I guess it's cool that so many people are watching, but..."

"But nothing," Rachel says. "It's just cool. Or it would be if people around here had seen it. I mean, I tried milking it for a while, you know? 'I'm Matt Stone's sister.' But no one here has seen South Park so they're just like, 'That gay dude from BASEketball?' It's horrifying."

Matt groans. "I will never live that movie down, will I?"

"No. Mostly because I won't let you."

"I thought it was funny," his mom says, but he can tell she's only saying that to be nice because she's his mom and that's what mothers do.

"Thanks," he says. "But um...yeah. We have an episode due in January and then we get like...a little time off before we have to turn in episodes for April. Eric's actually directing this last episode."

"Really? That's interesting," his mom says.

"Yeah," Eric says. "Trey wanted a break, so he asked me to direct. Sometimes he does that. He asks me more than Matt, come to think of it."

"That's because he knows I can't direct my way out of a paper bag and you're at least competent."

"Competent? Wow. What a show of support," Eric teases.

"I meant 'cause Trey's so...you know. Anal about it all. I think you're a great director, but Trey's—"

"I was kidding, baby."

"Aww," Rachel teases. "You hear that, mom? He calls him 'baby.' What does Matt call you?"

"Puppy."

Rachel actually doubles-over laughing.

"Please tell me that's not a reference to your favorite sexual position."

"No," Matt huffs. "It's because...it's...well, it's not about sex and leave it at that," he says, because he doesn't want to have to tell the story of how that name came about.

Rachel gives him an oh, sure—whatever you say look.

Everyone falls into a comfortable silence until Matt says, "Uh, I'm gonna go use the bathroom."

"Are you sure?" his mom asks. "Maybe...maybe you should wait. Or...not go up there?"

"I'll just...not talk to him," Matt lies, because talking to him is exactly what he wants to do. "I'll be right back down. Really."

She frowns but lets him go and as soon as he clears the stairs, he slips into his parents' bedroom and leans against the door.

His father is sitting at his desk in the corner of the room, reading the newspaper and dutifully ignoring Matt's presence. He clears his throat twice, but his dad never looks up so finally he says, "So...I come out and I just don't exist anymore?"

His dad says nothing.

"Fine. Then your non-existent son is going to talk. I don't know if you're mad because I'm gay, because I never told you, because I'm living with a guy, or because he's positive, and I don't care which one or ones it is. But I would hope that you'd be able to move past it eventually and realize that I need my family. Because Eric's positive, Dad. So beyond even just the normal needing my family, I need people to talk to when he gets sick or something. When he was in the hospital 'cause he hit his head on his surfboard, I needed my family and I couldn't turn to them because of how bad you're taking this. So...look, if you can't accept that I'm gay or any of the other stuff...could you just...please stop ignoring me? Because I exist, Dad. I do. I exist and Eric exists and what I feel for him exists and I'm still your son and you should love me anyway."

Nothing.

"Fuck," he says. "Come on, Dad. Just...just yell at me or something. If you hate me that god damn badly, then just bitch me out and have it over with because this ignoring me shit is getting old."

"I don't hate you," his dad says quietly, so softly Matt almost doesn't hear.

"What?"

"I don't hate you," he repeats again.

"Dad—"

But he gets nothing more out of him after that, so he takes at least that as a small blessing. His dad doesn't hate him. It's not much, but it's a step or something. Whatever that bullshit Mary's always spouting off means.

***


Matt grins as Eric finishes decorating the tiny tree they put up in a corner of their living room when they got back from the airport so that they could have their own, private celebration. He sets the mugs of cocoa he made down on the coffee table and holds a sprig of mistletoe over his head, bouncing expectantly on his heels.

"What?" Eric asks. "Thought you hated all the holiday traditions? I had to blow you just to convince you to buy the tree."

"I do," Matt answers. "But this one isn't so bad."

Eric laughs, stands on his tiptoes, and kisses him, then sits down on the couch and sips from his mug.

"Mmm. It's good. Now, presents."

Matt laughs. "You don't want to sing carols? Deck the halls? Hang up stockings? What kind of Christmas-lover are you?"

"The kind who loves presents. Now give me mine."

"Close your eyes," Matt says.

"Is this going to involve sex in any way, shape, or form?"

"Not unless you have a kink you haven't told me about. Now shut them."

Eric obeys and Matt sneaks the puppy he got Eric for Christmas out of the guest room. He had Trey bring it over before they got back from the airport and he's been playing stupid Christmas songs loudly on the stereo since they got home to drown out the noise of any barking, but luckily there hasn't been any. The puppy is pretty docile and Matt plops him down on Eric's lap before saying, "Open your eyes and merry Christmas."

Eric opens them, then stares down at the dog in his lap with his jaw slightly open. "Oh my God. You got me a puppy?"

"Mhm. I thought it was...oddly appropriate."

"Oh my God, Matt. This is...wow. Thank you. What's his name?"

"He doesn't have one. I thought you should get to name him. He's your puppy."

"Our puppy," Eric corrects, and lifts the dog up to face height and studies him carefully.

"What are you doing?"

"Trying to figure out his name. I mean, he's clearly not a Chad, but...you know. He could be a Greg or a Scout or who knows what? This is going to take some thinking."

"Just name him Spot and have done with it."

"You can't just name a puppy! You have to figure out what his name is." Eric sets the puppy back down on his lap and pets him. "And to think I just got you like...a lame-ass video game 'cause you said no big gifts."

"Well, the puppy isn't big. He's small. That's why he's called a puppy and not a dog."

Eric rolls his eyes. "Thank you. Seriously. He's adorable."

"You're welcome. Just tell me when you figure out his name."

"Yeah. Okay. Um, your present is under the tree."

It's a video game like Eric said, one of the newer shoot-'em-ups that Matt hasn't bought yet, and he thanks Eric for it before settling down next to him on the couch to sip his cocoa and pet their puppy.

"Good Christmas?" he asks.

"Yeah. You? I mean...I know with your dad and everything..."

"No," Matt says. "It was good. I mean...my mom and sister really like you and...and now we have a puppy, and I have a new first-person shooter and...really. What more could I ask for?"

"A hug from your dad?"

"Well, besides that."

"I don't know," Eric says, then looks at the puppy again. "I think I know his name."

"Let me guess. Spot."

"No."

"Fido?"

"No."

"Um...Barry Manilow?"

"No. Also, you're a freak. His name is Richie."

"Richie? How the hell'd you come up with that one?"

"Your middle name. I mean...one of the things parents freak out about when they find out their only son is gay is that there won't be anyone to pass on the family name. So his name will be Richie Stone."

"Because that's going to make my dad feel better?"

"Well...no. But...but it's cute, isn't it?"

"Yeah, Eric. It's cute. You're sweet. Thanks."

Eric grins. "Hi, Richie. Say, 'Hi,' to your daddy Matt." He picks up the puppy's paw and waves it at Matt. "And I'm daddy Eric. And you are just the cutest little puppy I've ever seen. Yes, you are."

He dissolves into a series of unintelligible baby-talk noises and Matt rolls his eyes as he watches. But then it catches up to him and he realizes that Eric just called them "daddies" and he's pretty sure that's another huge step forward towards the partners and lifetime stuff.

He grins, takes a sip of his cocoa, scratches at Richie's ears, and thinks home.

***


Matt makes a note on his notepad about an idea he had for a show, then looks up and smiles when Trey walks in.

"Hey," he says. "Have a good Christmas?"

Trey walks stiffly to his desk and hisses as he sits down, then says in a choked voice, "Yeah."

"Uh. Dude? You okay?"

"Sure," Trey says. "Um, that meeting with Paramount is at lunch."

"Yeah, I know," Matt answers. "But dude. What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Trey frowns. "Nothing."

"Come on, Trey. Just tell me."

"No, 'cause you'll tell Eric 'cause you tell him everything."

"He's my partner, man. Of course I do. But tell me anyway."

Trey sighs and rubs at his temples. "Um. Toddy...she...she really liked that stuff at the club you dragged us to."

"The S and M?"

"Yeah. And she's been nagging at me to do it again and I finally gave in last night."

"Oh," Matt says knowingly. "Yeah. Don't worry about that. You'll get used to it. You're just not used to it, so you're all tender and—"

Trey shakes his head. "It's not just that. She wanted to finish it the same way as she did at the club."

Matt tilts his head to the side as he tries to remember, then says, "Oh."

"Yeah. Except she's had like...what? Over a year to get ready for it. So she uh...she didn't just use her fingers this time."

Matt tries not to laugh. He really does. But it's too fucking funny.

"Shut up," Trey says. "Like you don't do it all the time."

Matt shrugs. "No, I do. But it's just...you."

"Yeah, well, it fucking hurts, man. How do you fags do this?"

"Practice? Lube? The fact that it feels good after awhile?"

"Yeah, but...but I mean...not to get into specifics, but I assume you've done it sometime within the last month?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I couldn't tell. I can barely sit down and you...you're just always fine. Same with Eric. I mean, every now and then, I guess, when you did it..." he coughs awkwardly, "harder than normal, but usually, I can't tell. And you could tell the second I walked in."

"Well...dude, you were being obvious."

"You never were."

"Yes, I was. Don't you remember? It was right after we finished filming Packer and the rest of us had gone back to school, and I came over to hang out with you and Jun one day and you were like, 'Dude, did you hurt your back or something? You're sitting funny.'"

Trey frowns, then nods in recognition of the memory. "That was 'cause—"

"Yep. Night before was the first time I let Eric fuck me."

"Well...but I'd never noticed before then."

"I never did it before then. And then after that, it didn't hurt as bad, so I could hide it. It's the same with you, man. Next time she does it—"

"Woah. Next time? Who said anything about doing it again?"

"What, you're not going to? Don't tell me you didn't like it."

Trey looks away. "Shut up."

"Dude...it's okay to like it. I mean...I like it."

"Yeah, well, you're gay, aren't you?"

"Dude, liking that has nothing to do with being gay. It's called, 'having a prostate.'"

"Is that what that was? I thought it was just that thing that got all swelled up when you got older and then you couldn't pee."

Matt shakes his head and stifles a laugh. "No. It's like...like, I don't know. Um, you know how girls have G-spots?"

"Yeah."

"Well...kinda like that. Not the same thing, but sort of. Anyway. If you like it, then let her do it again."

"It hurts."

"Well...not if you do it right."

"How else can you do it?"

"Well, I mean...you know. Um..."

Trey looks at him half-hopeful and half-embarrassed about it all and Matt stares down at his notepad instead of looking at him directly.

"This is not...something we should be talking about," he says finally.

"I had to listen to you whine for months about how Eric couldn't come on your face. You can tell me this, man. At least this time it's something I actually want to hear."

Matt sighs. "All right. Um...did she use her fingers on you first?"

"Well...sort of. Like, she used one on me for awhile."

"But she didn't stretch you?"

"Um...I don't guess."

"Okay, next time, tell her she has to stretch you out first. It's like...like when you exercise, you have to warm up your muscles first. Well...it's a muscle. So like...I don't know. Keep going until you're okay with like...three or four fingers inside you. And lots of lube. And um...relax and don't...don't squeeze. And um...is any of this helping? Because this is horrifying to talk about."

"A little," Trey says. "But um...once it's...you know. In progress. Um...what do I do?"

"What do you mean, what do you do? You...you have sex."

"Dude, I don't know about how you have sex, but when I have it, it usually involves my penis entering some kind of orifice."

"Well...you know, you...you can...kiss. And touch. And um...I don't know, Trey. Jesus, can't you just figure that part out on your own?"

"I just...it's backwards."

"Well, yeah. You're getting fucked, Trey. What do you expect? It's gonna be backwards. But...you know. It's nice and you just...ugh, I'm not going to be able to speak to you for a week."

"We have a meeting with Paramount."

"Don't remind me."

"Look, I was just wondering. 'Cause I don't know how to do it and she keeps trying to make me watch porn about it but it freaks me out and then I can't get it up anyway and seriously, it's very confusing."

"Well...dude, I don't know what to tell you. I mean...the stuff I said makes it feel better for you, but you have to figure the rest out on your own. I mean...criminey."

"Well, what do you do?"

"I'm seriously not answering that."

"Come on, dude. I'd help you out if you wanted to know how to fuck girls."

"But I don't, so."

"Dude, be a friend."

"This is not under the job description for, 'friend,' man."

"You're a jerk," Trey huffs.

"Yeah," Matt agrees. "And you're a loser who's asking your gay best friend how to sleep with your girlfriend, so. We're even."

The meeting with Paramount goes well and they agree to turn in a script for the movie before they get the definite go ahead. The whole way back, they pitch stories to each other, but they finally decide to get Pam in on it because she always comes up with good shit.

Matt leaves it up to Trey to convince her to co-write with them and heads to Eric's cubicle instead, but finds him on the phone.

"And you're sure he's okay?" Eric asks. "All right. Thanks. And don't forget his afternoon walk. Okay. Thanks. Right. Bye." He sighs, hangs up the phone, and spins around to face Matt. "Hey."

"Hey, puppy. You look stressed. Who was on the phone?"

"The dog walker. I called to ask if Richie was okay and she sounded shifty."

Matt laughs. "Jenny doesn't have a shifty bone in her body. You're just paranoid."

"Someone has to be. He's just a baby."

Matt laughs. "Aw. You're so adorable worrying about him. I mean, I love him, too, but he's just a dog, you know."

"Yeah, but he's probably the only," he holds up his fingers to make air quotes, "'kid' I'm going to get, so...I have to take care of him."

Matt leans against Eric's desk and touches his hair gently. "Kid?"

"Yeah, you know. 'Cause we're his daddies and..."

"I know. But the way you said it...never mind. It's okay. Richie's okay. And we're okay because the meeting with Paramount went really well. They asked us to turn in a script."

"Really? That's awesome."

"Yep. I was thinking we should celebrate."

"Celebrate in the, 'Let's have a quiet dinner with some friends,' kind of way or celebrate in the, 'This will only end in sex or tragedy, except also probably both,' kind of way?"

"Oh, don't be so dramatic."

"Last week I ended up tied to the bed for over an hour because we got interrupted by a phone call from your mom."

"Oh, come on. That was one time and it was an emergency."

"Oh yeah? How about the time when I was blowing you in the backseat of Trey's car and he opened the door and you fell out backwards and hit your head?"

"Well...that was...an accident."

"Or the time—"

"All right, all right!" Matt says. "Fair point."

"Thank you. So which kind of celebration is it?"

"Um...nice dinner with friends that has the potential to end in sex and tragedy? Especially since Trey is likely to corner one or both of us to ask for advice on being fucked up the ass."

Eric stares at him. "Please tell me you're referring to some kind of inside joke between the two of you that I don't get."

"Nope. Toddy pegged him last night and he's all freaked out about it."

Eric groans and drops his head against his desk. "Maybe we can just skip the dinner and sex and go right to the tragedy. Sounds like that's what's going to happen, anyway."

Matt laughs. "Maybe we could just celebrate at home by ourselves and skip the tragedy instead."

"Now you're talking," Eric murmurs, tilting his head to the side and looking up at Matt. "But only if we put the phone off the hook."

"We could do that," Matt agrees. He smiles and pets Eric's hair softly. "We'll figure it out later. I should get back to work."

"Yeah. Me, too."

Matt leans down and presses a kiss to the corner of Eric's mouth, then turns to leave and bumps into Trey.

"Oh. Hey. I was just coming back to the office."

"It's fine. I just wanted to talk to Eric."

Matt can tell by the look on Trey's face that he wants to talk to Eric about the same thing they talked about earlier, so he coughs and says, "Okay. I have to use the bathroom, though, so...see ya."

He feels a little bad leaving Eric alone with Trey, but then again, whatever conversation they're about to have, he doesn't want any part of it.




[ Part 8 ]
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