"Seriously, Keith. You can't just announce you're getting married in fifteen minutes, some of us are actually working!" Jon says.
Stephen leans in closer to be better heard over the speaker phone. "Las Vegas? You're getting married in Las Vegas in fifteen minutes? How in the hell did you think we were going to get there in time? Transporter beam?"
"You two need to be supervised. Next time you leave New York, Anderson chaperones!" Jon adds.
"My understanding is that one does not need a chaperone once one is married," Keith says, sounding tinny and pedantic over the phone.
"You're marrying Rachel Maddow!" Stephen exclaims. "I don't know if you need a chaperone or a psychiatrist."
"Hey!" Rachel interjects from across the hotel room, where she is digging through Keith's suitcase. "I can hear you, you know."
"I didn't mean it like that. I meant he's crazy for the sham marriage, not for you. Also, I might be trying to stall him so I can come and sweep you off your feet instead," Stephen says.
"Don't be macking on my fiancee, Colbert!"
Jon shoves most of his fist into his mouth, trying and failing to keep from laughing so hard he falls off his chair. He lands with a painful thud and quickly scrambles back into his seat, fearful of missing anything.
"Boys!" Rachel scolds sharply, and Keith and Stephen quiet down.
"Yes, dear?" The words are an automatic response for Stephen, and once he realizes he said them, he directs his attention toward Keith. "Bit of advice, Keith: you'd do well to learn that phrase."
"As much as I'm grateful for the whole sweeping-me-off-my-feet offer, I just wanted to reiterate the part about it being a sham," Rachel says. "I'm still a lesbian. And Keith is still...whatever he is."
"You're going to have to explain to us how this works," Stephen says.
"And keep in mind that we don't have the benefit of whatever illegal substance you two have gotten your hands on out there. Whatever it is, though, make sure to bring us some when you come back."
"We're the ones getting married. Aren't you supposed to be getting us presents?" Keith asks, and he puts his hand over the phone so Jon and Stephen can't hear Rachel telling him to wrap up the phone call. With a sigh, he takes his hand off the speaker. "The ol' ball and chain says we have to go. Ow! What was that for?"
Rachel leans over Keith's shoulder so she's closer to the phone. "Stephen, when we get back, I'm gonna need you to explain to my dear and darling husband that the secret to a happy marriage is probably not calling your better half 'the ol' ball and chain' while she's standing behind you with the Las Vegas yellow pages in her hands."
"You know, Maddow, they call that spousal abuse," Keith grumbles.
"Not for another ten minutes, honeybun."
"This is surreal," Jon mumbles, rubbing his temples. "Didn't you say something about needing to go?"
"Oh, shit. The camera crew's going to be here in ten minutes." Rachel barely finishes the sentence before hanging up, and Jon and Stephen can only look at each other.
"Camera crew?" Jon echoes.
Stephen grins. "This is going to be awesome."
"I am not wearing a dress to our sham wedding, Keith!" Rachel says, flopping on the hotel bed.
"You can't wear jeans to our wedding!" Keith says in response, pacing around the open floor space with a tie in each hand. He knows he won't win this argument, but that won't stop him from having it.
"Keith, put the purple tie on and let's go. You really want to be late to our own sham wedding?"
Keith sighs, but he puts the tie on. "While I understand we are doing this for publicity and to further the cause and all that, can we not call this a sham wedding in front of the minister?"
"What minister?" asks Rachel.
"The minister. You know, the person who is going to sign the papers?" Keith says.
"Keith, seriously. Did you think I was going to get a minister?"
"Wait, what? I just assumed.... Who did you get? A justice of the peace?"
"What the fuck, Rachel?" Keith feels like his eyes may have bugged out of his head, cartoon style.
"An impersonator, I didn't go dig up Elvis' corpse or anything. I thought an actual minister would be bad form, even if I tracked down one of your Unitarians. The whole point is that religion shouldn't be involved in things like state-approved marriages."
"There is a big difference between a JP and Elvis, Rachel," Keith says.
"Elvis lends an air of kitsch."
Keith buries his face in his hands. "Why did I think this was a good idea again?"
"Remember the whole 'I don't have gay colleagues' thing?"
"Right," Keith says with a nod, his determination back. "Let's get this show on the road."
The Elvis impersonator is older and only bears a passing resemblance to the King, but he doesn't blink when Rachel and Keith walk in with a local camera crew. They go over the paperwork quickly and get down to the five minute event: Rachel had refused to pay for or take part in anything more elaborate. She's not going broke on a sham wedding.
"Can we just stand here and get this over with?" she says to Keith, who looks affronted, but motions for the camera to get ready and for Elvis to get on with it.
"We are gathered here today to join these two people in matrimony," Elvis says, laying on the accent for the cameras. Rachel had actually tipped him extra not to sing. Keith had tried to top her offer, but Elvis was apparently either too wily or too scared to accept.
"Do you, Keith Theodore Olbermann, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?" Elvis asks, the King's famous lip curl gracing his face.
"I do," Keith says.
"And do you, Rachel Anne Maddow, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?" Elvis asks.
"I do," Rachel says.
Elvis says, "You may kiss the bride," but Rachel just shakes Keith's hand.
When they get back to New York, they're immediately shanghaied into a wedding party.
"We heard you weren't having a reception," Stephen says.
"And we thought, seriously, if you're going to take one for the team, you should at least get cake," Jon says.
"It's really good cake," Anderson says. "Stephen and I went and did the taste testings."
The room is dim and filled with tipsy journalists, comedians, and journalist-comedian hybrids.
"We offered to fly your parents out," Anderson says to Rachel. "Your mom said she was waiting for you to bring a nice girl home."
"We tried to explain to her that Keith was a nice girl, but she wasn't buying it," Jon chimes in.
A waiter passes with a tray of champagne, and Rachel grabs one of the glasses. She downs half of it in one swallow. "That's because she's spoken to Keith. Once. Against my wishes."
"Briefly," Keith says. He jerks a thumb in Rachel's direction. "She all but tackled me to get the phone back."
"Speaking of tackling, any plans for the honeymoon?" Stephen says, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
"Big ones, actually," Rachel responds, twirling the stem of her champagne flute between her fingers. "We're going to hit up all the romantic hotspots: The View, Regis & Kelly, Conan, The Daily Show, and of course AC360."
"And me," Stephen says forcefully.
Rachel opens her mouth to explain why they hadn't booked The Colbert Report, but Stephen is steamrollering her before she can get the words out. "And me," he says again, just as forcefully as the first time. "I'll call and get it set up. The character will approve and it will be fun."
Keith and Rachel look at each other.
"You might as well give in now," Jon says with a weariness that comes from years of suffering Stephen's persistence. "He's been planning the interview since you called us from Vegas."
Rachel nods her head once and starts looking for more champagne or a clean break to the open bar. "I'll concede. We would be happy to appear on your television show, good sir," she says to Stephen with a half bow. "Now, however, the three of you are supposed to be throwing me a wedding reception. Lead me to the booze."
Stephen leads her to the bar, leaving Keith with Jon and Anderson.
She doesn't see Keith again until she's had three shots and a mojito done right, and Stephen declares it time to cut the cake.
Rachel leans over and says softly into Keith's ear, "You know I'm going to smear this all over your face, right?"
Keith nods gravely. "I understand."
"Shall we, then?" Rachel says, smiling sweetly and picking up the knife. Keith smiles a little less enthusiastically and places his right hand over hers on the handle. They hold the knife over the cake for a moment, giving their friends and colleagues a chance to snap pictures before they cut into the bottom tier of the cake.
Hoots and hollers accompany the camera flashes as Keith delicately feeds Rachel a small bite of the cake, and she grins at him. "Ready?"
Keith doesn't get to answer before he experiences the odd, not entirely unpleasant sensation of being hit in the face with a piece of wedding cake. He can't see anything, but he can hear Rachel laughing and the crowd laughing and someone -- he's pretty sure it's Stephen -- yelling, "You go, girl!"
As he takes off his cake-covered glasses and sets them on the table, he says, "Hey, Rach?"
"Hmm?" When she looks at him, she's still grinning broadly until the moment he grabs her shoulders and she realizes what's coming. Then she's laughing and trying to squirm away as he moves in to kiss her cheek and rub his face against hers like an affectionate cat, smearing cake all over her in the process.
It might have turned into an all out food fight but for Anderson stepping between them and offering two damp washcloths.
"You're prepared," Keith comments.
"I know you two so well," Anderson replies as Rachel wipes the icing from her face. "Maybe you should try eating some instead of smearing it all over yourselves. Stephen dragged me to eleven bakeries for this cake. It's amazing."
Anderson is right, the wedding cake is amazing: a lite orange flavor with a lemon cream filling. The wedding alcohol isn't too bad either, and the girl mixing drinks is hot. Rachel controls herself though, since hitting on the bartender at your own wedding reception, however sham, is probably in poor taste.
She does, however, end up with a perfect martini, and she finishes it off in one large swallow when she sees Keith heading her way.
"May I have this dance, Dr. Maddow?" Keith says in his best faux-gallant voice.
Rachel smiles and accepts, letting Keith lead her onto the dance floor.
It's not quite a slow dance, but it's not the jumping and gyrating that was going on earlier, either. She's a little surprised Keith isn't stepping on her feet.
The next song comes on and Rachel stays out on the dance floor with Keith.
Stephen has dragged Jon out onto the dance floor as well, and they are both trying to lead.
"No, look," Stephen says. "I'm taller, therefore I lead."
"But wait," Jon protests, "every time I've danced with women taller than me, I still led."
"Well, I asked you to dance, so I get to lead," Stephen counters.
"Fine. I'll just step on your toes then!"
As Keith swings her past them, Rachel gives Jon a big smile, and she realizes that for all the craziness, she is actually having some fun.
Anderson watches as the sea of bodies around him gets progressively drunker and wilder. Rachel has just enticed the girl tending bar out onto the dance floor, and Keith and Stephen are playing a demented game of quarters. It's a good thing Anderson is a millionaire, because there is going to be one hell of a bill for the open bar.
He knows he's a little bit buzzed, too, when he lets Jon and Stephen drag him out on the dance floor for the chicken dance.
"It's traditional," Stephen yells over the music.
"It's bad luck if you don't," Jon adds, though Anderson is sure that's a lie. He joins them anyway, because that's what friends do. But even friends draw the line at the Macarena, so after he has flapped his wings for a sufficient period of time, Anderson heads to the bar for a drink before remembering that the bride has commandeered the bartender. With a sigh, he stuffs his hands into his pockets and moseys over to where Keith is sitting.
"Not a Macarena man?" Anderson asks, stealing a sip of Keith's drink.
"I'm saving myself for the Electric Slide," Keith deadpans.
"You know, I could never figure out how to do the Electric Slide."
Anderson is hoping to get a straight story out of Keith as to exactly how he ended up getting married in Vegas, but Rachel chooses that moment to throw herself into the chair between them.
"Dancing is harder work than it looks," she says and smiles at Anderson. "You two don't look drunk enough."
Anderson waves her off, but she manages to drag Keith to the bar. The bartender, having lost her dance partner, is back to work, and she makes small talk with Keith and Rachel as she mixes their drinks. Keith can't help noticing Rachel only has eyes for the bartender, and he's drunk enough that it makes him smile.
At 3:00 am, John Oliver and Rob Riggle are the only people left on the dance floor. They've convinced the DJ to put on techno music and are doing their very best impressions of short circuiting robots. At least, that's what Anderson thinks they're trying to do.
Jon and Stephen are passed out in a corner, and Anderson gets a good close up shot with the camera on his BlackBerry. He's one of the few people still wandering around. Even Rachel is mostly asleep, drunk and tucked under Keith's arm at a table near the door. Anderson should probably kick the stragglers out and make sure Keith and Rachel get home safely, but he's still enjoying the moment.
For all that the wedding is a sham designed to protest the revocation of civil rights, his friends look genuinely happy.
When they are finally ready to leave, he helps Keith walk Rachel out to the cab. She sways between them, and he wonders just how much she drank and if perhaps he should insist on going with them, but butting into someone's sham wedding night is probably not kosher. "Try and get her to drink some water before you put her to bed," he says to Keith.
Keith nods and places his hand on Anderson's forearm. "I'll take care of her."
"I know," Anderson says before helping Keith get Rachel in the car.
Anderson goes back inside the hotel to wake Jon and Stephen up. The DJ has finally stopped playing music, and the dessert buffet is gone. John Oliver is sitting next to Jon and Stephen, wide awake and playing guard.
He stands when Anderson comes over. "I didn't want anyone to mess with them," John says, sparing a fond glance for his employers.
"Thanks," says Anderson, wondering at the devotion Jon and Stephen seemed to inspire in the people they work with. "I'll make sure they get home safely."
John nods and wanders over to Rob, and then the two of them disappear.
"Wake up, sleepyhead," Anderson says, ruffling Stephen's hair.
Stephen half snorts, half startles. "Wha...? 'm 'wake."
Jon snores softly into Stephen's shoulder, undisturbed by the commotion.
"It's time to go home."
Jon drags Stephen and Anderson over to Keith's the next afternoon, loaded down with wedding presents and a gallon of orange juice.
"You got a toaster," Keith says through his laughter, setting the box next to the two other toasters he's just unwrapped.
"It really did seem like the most appropriate present at the time," Jon says ruefully as Rachel laughs.
"You don't get a toaster for getting married, Jon. And I really don't think this counts as recruitment," Rachel explains.
"I am completely heterosexual," Keith says in his usual bravado, and everyone else in the room breaks into laughter. "Yeah, yeah," he grouses.
"I didn't expect to get presents when we announced up front that the wedding was a sham," Rachel says, looking out into a small sea of wrapping paper.
Keith nods as he looks at the mess covering the room, already trying to figure out how everything will fit into his modest apartment. "We should have sent out a memo and requested they make donations to the HRC instead," he says without thinking.
Rachel glares at him. "You know how I feel about the HRC."
Keith sighs, but he knows it's already too late to stop her. The others know better than to ever consider trying. "I know."
"They won't even put 'gay' in their name, Keith. The Human Rights Campaign...great. Fantastic. What kind of human rights do you guys support, anyway? Six-fingered humans' rights? Green-eyed humans' rights? The rights of exceptionally lily-livered humans? The world may never know because you won't even put it in your name. You want to support the rights of an oppressed minority, but only while keeping as much distance as possible between your organization and the minority you claim to support. That's just pure class. And you know what else, Keith?"
"What else?" he asks, crumpling up a piece of wrapping paper.
"They shunned me," Rachel says, grabbing the paper from his hands. She sits far back on the arm of the couch. "That's right. I got dissed by the HRC. They didn't invite me to sit on the panel for their don't-say-'gay' presidential debates. Instead, they had Fred Thompson's ex-girlfriend and Melissa Etheridge. But I'm not bitter. Do you know why I'm not bitter, Keith?"
"Why aren't you bitter?"
"Because I got married, they got bupkis, and I got new china." She kicks her legs like a contented child, her heels banging against the side of Keith's couch.
"Technically, we got new china," Keith says.
"Yeah, but when we get divorced, I'm taking it." She tosses the wrapping paper ball to Keith, who catches it easily. "You can keep the silverware, but I haven't had matching plates in at least -- actually, I don't think I've had matching plates since I moved out of my parents' house for college. So, I want the china."
"Give her the china," Stephen interrupts, and Keith turns to glare at him. "What? I'm only trying to help. How often do you use china?"
Keith beans Stephen with the balled up wrapping paper.
"Dude," Jon interrupts, "they just got married. Hell, they just unwrapped it. Let him enjoy his china before you go negotiating their divorce settlement."
"Thank you," Keith says to Jon, and Stephen throws the ball at Jon, muttering, "Kiss-up."
Keith hates The View. Not because it's girly or because the hosts don't agree with him, but because they make him look like the Jolly Green Giant. The only saving grace is that with Rachel beside him they both look like they're taking a tour of the land of the Lilliputians.
"What's the most surprising reaction you've gotten so far?" Barbara Walters asks them.
"The most surprising reaction? Well, I wasn't expecting to get wedding presents, but I guess everyone loves a good wedding. And my mom swears she's still waiting for me to bring home a nice girl, but she sent Keith a box of her snickerdoodles, so I think she's reconciled to the idea," Rachel says.
"My mom is still a little bit miffed she's not getting grandchildren out of the deal," Keith says under his breath.
"I love snickerdoodles," Elisabeth says, ignoring Keith. "Did you get any other good wedding gifts?"
"We got five toasters," says Rachel with a laugh.
"Rachel's called dibs on the one Stephen Colbert gave us. Apparently it makes the best bagels."
"That's important," Whoopi agrees, nodding. Rachel looks pleased and slightly smug until Whoopi adds, "Because it's very difficult to find a good bagel anywhere in New York."
"Well, you know," Rachel says, "you find a place you like, and then nothing else really measures up. There's this great place by my apartment -- well, what used to be my apartment. I'm living with Keith now, sixteen thousand blocks away from my old neighborhood, and getting back there for a bagel just isn't feasible most mornings. I mean, I have to walk the dog in the morning, but going that far is probably a little excessive."
"I'm curious," Barbara says, leaning in. "Why did you decide to live together? You could have just as easily continued to live apart while still being legally married."
Keith answers, "We wanted the reminder. Not just for ourselves, but for the public. It's still relatively difficult to convince people that you're married unless you meet at least some of the social and cultural expectations of what a marriage entails. Plus it gives us good stories for the talk show circuit. Like I can tell you that Rachel snores like a lumberjack when she's not talking in her sleep."
"But as much as you want to hear about how Keith sleeps with a pink rabbit, our cute stories about our misadventures in cohabitation do distract from the point we're trying to make, which is this: It is patently ridiculous that opponents of gay marriage support laws recognizing our marriage -- which bears no resemblance to their idea of traditional, family- and love-oriented marriage -- while at the same time denying marriage rights to gay couples who have love- and family-oriented relationships. If they want to quote-unquote protect marriage from same-sex couples, they're going to have to figure out how to protect it from opposite-sex couples, too. And I really can't wait to see how they legislate that."
All of Keith's phones are ringing, and he's considering locking himself in the janitor's closet just to get some relief.
"Dear Lord," Rachel says as she comes barreling into his office. Before he can say anything, she's ripped the landline out of the wall. "Give me your BlackBerry."
He's not stupid; he does as he's told. She powers the phone down and then throws it into his filing cabinet with a satisfying thunk.
"The bigwigs saw The View," Keith says.
"I kind of figured. We're meeting the rest of the gang for lunch. Hiding out as it were."
"Well, we can only hide out until two," Keith says, trying to sound upbeat and failing miserably. "We have a meeting then. We're going to get yelled at."
"We do?" Rachel asks. "And we are?"
"You didn't really think we were going to get away with this just by hanging up the phone, did you?"
"I did a little bit, yeah," Rachel says, wearing a look that's somewhere between incredulous and annoyed. "This is personal, not professional. It shouldn't concern them. It's not worthy of a meeting, much less a meeting where they yell at us. Are they going to have a divorce lawyer there or something? And why the hell didn't I know about the meeting?"
"I was told to 'inform my wife.'" He sounds disgusted over having to do someone else's dirty work, and over Rachel being reduced to an appendage. "And of course they're going to yell at us, Rach. They're certainly not going to make us sign divorce papers on the spot, but what we're doing reflects on the network."
"Like hell, Keith. We don't have to clear it with them every time we go on a date. We don't even have to clear it when we want to express an opinion on our shows. This is bullshit. We're not using network resources for any of this. We weren't in Vegas on their dime, we're not going to talk about it on the air, and we're not even going through them to schedule our appearances. Our...our celebrity or our status or whatever you want to call it, that isn't even something they can lay claim to. This isn't Frankenstein; they didn't create us. This is not something we should be taken to task over, and I'd expect you to be a little more pissed off about this."
Keith shrugs. "I've been here before," he says. "It's old hat. We sit there, they titter at us, and then we go back to doing whatever the hell we want. They might not be happy, but we didn't do anything we can actually get in trouble for. They just want plausible deniability. Besides, as you pointed out, there's not much they can do short of having us sign divorce papers."
"This sucks," she says, dropping into a chair. She perks up slightly. "You think we can use this to con Jon, Stephen, and Anderson into paying for lunch?"
They meet for lunch at one of their favorite spots, and while things feel normal for a moment, they're still shifting chairs and taking off coats when the ribbing about their appearance on The View begins.
"Stephen's toaster is the best toaster?" Anderson asks, almost sounding like a kicked puppy.
"Its slots are just right for bagels. I'm sure your toaster is wonderful, too," Rachel answers and pats Anderson on the arm.
"But how will you know unless you try it?" he protests. "I mean, doesn't it at least deserve a trial run?"
Jon shoots Anderson a look. "Forget your toaster, Cooper. Your toaster doesn't even do anything. Mine does eggs."
"Yeah," Rachel says, "about that: no."
"No?" Jon repeats, taking on Anderson's kicked puppy tone. "I schlepped all the way to Brooklyn for that and it doesn't really do eggs?"
"Rachel, be fair," Keith says. He turns to Jon. "How do you like your eggs?"
"Think carefully," Rachel says. "If your answer involves the words 'warm' or 'cooked' or 'solidified,' I'm going to have to ask you to try again."
"I was going to go with sunny side up," Jon says.
"Over easy," Stephen says.
"I like scrambled," Anderson mutters.
Rachel gives Keith a shove. "That's where we went wrong," she tells him, as if she's having an 'ah-ha!' moment. "We forgot to try scrambled eggs."
"Is it possible that it's just you two?" Jon asks. "No offense, but neither of you can cook for shit. Maybe you should let Stephen try."
Keith and Rachel trade looks. "Maybe Cooking for Dummies would have been a better gift," Keith concedes.
Jon looks crestfallen. "You threw out my toaster, didn't you?"
"Only after we ruined it," Keith says. From the pointed way he looks at Rachel, there can be no doubt who did the actual ruining. "On the other hand, it sacrificed its life for a good cause. I get breakfast in bed for a week now."
"Are you sure you want that?" Anderson asks. "I mean, isn't that a pretty big risk you're taking?"
Stephen chimes in with, "You're married now. If you die when she poisons you, she gets to keep all your stuff."
"Shoulda got a prenup," Jon says, nodding. He thinks about it for a moment. "Or made a better bet. 'Whichever one of us is the worse cook has to make the other one breakfast in bed for a week?' What were you thinking?"
Before Keith can answer, Rachel says, "Actually, the bet was my idea. Thanks for ruining my plans, by the way. Now I'll never get his baseball cards."
"Tonight, we have two guests: Rachel Maddow and her new groom Keith Olbermann," Jon says and Rachel and Keith come onto the stage, already bickering.
"So, you've been out pretty much your entire adult life and now you've married this lug," Jon says after Rachel and Keith are seated.
"I have been and I did. Keith and I watched as California's Prop 8 passed and wanted to do something about it. Our employer would prefer that we didn't lead protests from the pundit's chair and that felt very constraining to me. So, when Keith came to me after his now famous Special Comment and said he felt like he still hadn't done enough, I had an idea."
"And look," Keith says, "when Rachel has an idea, it's best to just duck and go with it. So I did."
"Wise man," Jon says, pointing at Keith with his pen. "So, how did your bosses take this? I'm assuming they know since you're here right now talking about it."
"They found out about an hour after we did The View," Rachel says. "It was kind of like getting called to the principal's office over something you did at home."
"I don't think it helped that we made the announcement on The View," Keith says.
Jon scoots his chair in and leans across the desk. "About that... The View? Really? I mean -- really? Doesn't your channel have some sort of inane morning programming you could have made the announcement on? Like, I don't know, Morning Joe? Just go on there and be like, 'Yeah, we fucking did it. We got married. By mutha-fuckin' Elvis, be-yotches.'"
Keith looks thoughtful. "He does have that seven-second delay now..."
Rachel throws her head back and laughs. "Oh, God, that's right. After the fuck incident." She frowns. "I can say 'fuck' on here. That's weird."
"I have to ask," Jon says. "Why Elvis? Was there a reason?"
Keith points to Rachel. "She is an admirer of kitsch."
"I do love kitsch," Rachel says, nodding, "but there actually was a reason we went with Elvis."
"Hang on," Jon interrupts. "Do we have -- can we get the clip of Elvis up? There we go. Look at that -- it's, it's, he's not even young Elvis. You got married by old, fat Elvis. He barely even looks like Elvis."
Keith lays his arm across the back of Rachel's chair. "That's because Rachel is cheap."
"I didn't see you offering to pay for the wedding," she shoots back, turning to face him.
"You nixed all of my ideas."
"Because your ideas were absurd."
"Absurd?" Keith repeats. "We got married by an old, fat Elvis who didn't even look like Elvis. And you paid him extra not to sing. That's not absurd?"
Jon clears his throat. "Yeah, so, about the old, fat, non-singing Elvis..."
"Right," Rachel says. "We -- I chose Elvis because part of the point we want to make is that marriage isn't just a religious institution. Our marriage is a legal contract that no church is forced to recognize, but we're still married."
"She makes it sound so romantic, doesn't she?" Keith says.
"Hush," Rachel says. "And, like Keith said, what we did is absurd. I'm a lesbian, and he's a straight guy. We weren't dating, we're not in love, we're not having kids, we're doing the whole I Love Lucy-style sleeping-in-separate-beds thing. We got married by an old, fat, non-Elvis-y Elvis. We know that we'll eventually get divorced. Meanwhile, there are same-sex couples across the country who love each other, who have been together for years, who want families, and who intend to be together for the rest of their lives. We can get married and enjoy all the legal rights that marriage affords us. They can't. How does that make sense?"
Jon half nods as he taps his index cards against the desk and shuffles them slowly. Looking at the cards, he says, "I see. So you're saying that you and Keith are doing more damage to my marriage than, say, two dudes in Massachusetts who love each other."
"It's true," Keith says gravely. "Rachel and I are out to single-handedly destroy the fine institution of marriage."
"If the gays can't have it, no one can," Rachel agrees, deadpan. "Marriage for everyone or marriage for no one."
Jon breaks into giggles as he rips up his note cards. "You two are going to get into so much trouble."
"Oh, we already have," Keith assures him.
"Nevertheless, it's a fine thing you're doing, and we really appreciate it. Best of luck to you in your crusade-slash-sham-marriage." Jon turns to the audience and makes a sweeping gesture toward Keith and Rachel. "Pundits and gay rights advocates, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, everybody! Watch 'em weeknights, from eight 'til ten on MSNBC. We'll be right back."
Jon leans across the desk for some post-interview chatter, and Keith says with a sigh, "You said 'advocates.' Now we're gonna get bombarded by phone calls from the network again."
Jon grins. "Anything I can do to help. You guys want to stick around for the toss?"
"Rachel!" Keith yells. "Poppy ate my shoe!"
Rachel sighs. Keith and Poppy do not get along. It's not that Keith doesn't like dogs; it's that Poppy doesn't like Keith. Either that, or the dog is still mad about the move across town, which had taken him away from his favorite sidewalks and fire hydrants. Poppy has taken to expressing his displeasure with Keith on his shoes. These are the third pair he has already managed to chew into oblivion. It couldn't have been easy for Poppy to get them, either -- after Poppy had eaten two pairs of good shoes within the first twenty-four hours of moving in, Keith had stopped leaving his shoes on the floor and looked for more creative ways to store them.
"Where were they?" she asks. Sometimes Rachel gets exasperated with Keith. It's not a new thing, but now she lives with him, is married to him. That makes it harder to escape. She wishes she could take out her frustration by chewing on his shoes like Poppy, or at least chucking them at his big head. Instead, she ends up feeling guilty for both Poppy's actions and her own exasperation and ultimately buys him new shoes.
"My closet," he says. "The shelf in my closet. The circus would pay good money for a spiteful, acrobatic dog. Probably enough for me to buy a couple pairs of shoes."
Rachel sighs. "Maybe keep your closet door closed from now on," she says. "And remember, if I come home and Poppy's missing, I'm going to know you're the culprit. And I will never, ever forgive you."
"He hates me, Rachel." Keith realizes he sounds a little too depressed by the prospect and covers with, "Either that or he's offended by my taste in shoes."
"I don't know, Keith. Maybe he likes your taste in shoes, or at least the taste of your taste in shoes." She gets a dog biscuit from the kitchen cabinet and breaks it into pieces. "Give him this as a peace offering," she says, putting the pieces in Keith's hand.
Poppy comes trotting into the kitchen, already familiar with the sound of his treat cabinet opening after just a short time in the new place. He sits at Keith's feet and wags his tail.
"Why am I the one making a peace offering? He ate my shoe."
"You're doing it so I don't kill you," Rachel says, rubbing her forehead. "Honestly, Keith."
Keith holds his hand out, offering Poppy the treat. "Ow!" Keith yelps, pulling his hand back as Poppy enthusiastically snatches up the biscuit pieces. "Did you see that? He bit me!"
Poppy gives Keith a bored look and walks away. When Keith turns to Rachel for sympathy, the look on her face isn't much different.
"He nipped you," she corrects. "He didn't mean it and he didn't break the skin."
"He worked all that aggression out on my shoes," Keith grumbles. He looks at his hand. It's covered in dog slobber, but there isn't a mark to be seen. "Maybe I'll just shop at Payless until the divorce."
It's the first time Keith has mentioned the impending and inevitable divorce, and even though Rachel has been joking about it nonstop since the wedding, it hits her hard to hear Keith say it so easily. For the first time, Rachel feels unwelcome in Keith's apartment and wishes she still had her place, somewhere she could go to give them both a little space. With a sigh, she decides to blame his words and her reaction on their mutual exhaustion. "I'm going to take a nap," she declares, calling for Poppy as she disappears into her room.
"Uncle Pat sent us a wedding present," Rachel says, turning the box in her hands.
"Is it a bomb?" Keith asks, backing slowly away from Rachel and the package.
"Keith," Rachel says with a glare.
Keith puts up his hands. "Sorry," he says, more for self-preservation than from feeling truly apologetic. He wonders if being sham-married to Rachel means being fake-related to Pat, but he quickly decides he doesn't want to think about the possibility.
Rachel reads the card out loud: "Dearest Rachel, congratulations on your marriage. I contemplated many gifts before deciding on this. I hope you will enjoy it. May God bless you and hold you. Uncle Pat."
Keith looks at her. "I couldn't help noticing that my name is conspicuously absent from that card. And in no way do I intend that as a complaint."
Rachel carefully slides a finger beneath the wrapping paper to avoid tearing it. "He's just trying to be polite and nice. He's just a little confused about the whole thing."
"You discussed our sham marriage with Pat Buchanan?" Keith asks.
"Also with the rest of the English speaking world," Rachel says with a roll of her eyes. "Did you miss the part where we were on every talk show in America?"
"So you didn't discuss this with him specifically? He just saw it on television?"
"Why are you so afraid of me talking about this with Pat?" Rachel rips the tape holding the wrapping paper together, revealing the gift.
All she can do is stare at it and blink in disbelief.
Keith, hovering over her shoulder, is the first to say anything. "I like it. We can hang it over the television." He nudges her and moves to take the plaque from her hands, but she yanks it back.
"'Wives,'" she reads, and she sounds like she might choke on the words, "'be in subjection unto your own husbands as unto the Lord'? Really? I mean, really? Ephesians? What, was Leviticus too subtle?"
Keith successfully snatches the plaque away from her and holds it up. "'For the husband is the head of the wife.' On second thought, let's just get rid of the television altogether. We can get that blown up to about fifty-two inches, and -- "
"Darling?" Rachel interrupts. "If you keep it up, I'm burying the two of you in the same shallow grave out on Long Island. No. Staten Island. Do you like Staten Island, Keith?"
"I'm more concerned about being buried in the same grave as Pat," Keith says. "You are a cruel, cruel woman."
"It's one of my best qualities," Rachel agrees, grinning.
"Oh. My. God," Rachel says.
"You got us a fountain? A dog fountain?" Keith asks, bewildered.
"My mother thought you might like it," Anderson says, glad he's not within reach of Keith, whose face is turning ever more red. "Or rather, she thought I should buy you a chef to make up for the toaster, but she did point out the fountain."
"How do you buy a chef?" Keith asks, momentarily distracted from the fountain.
"Yeah, I don't actually know," Anderson responds. "It's just Mom being...Mom."
Poppy wanders into the room, his ears perking up and his tail wagging when he sees the dog-shaped fountain.
"You think we can exchange this for a chef?" Keith asks.
"I think you're stuck with it now," Anderson says, watching as Poppy tries to get the statue to play. "He seems to really like it."
"Camera," Rachel mutters, looking around the living room. "Keith, have you seen my BlackBerry? I need a picture of this. Isn't it cute?"
"Adorable," he says flatly, not looking at Poppy. "It's on the kitchen counter, by the toasters."
"Thanks." Rachel walks backwards down the hall, not wanting to take her eyes off Poppy, who has started making whining noises at the fountain, trying to get his new friend to play.
Anderson scratches his ear. "The toasters?" he repeats. "Plural? You realize you don't have to keep all of them, right? It's not going to hurt our feelings if you don't have three toasters."
"Four," Keith corrects, holding up four fingers to illustrate the number. "It was five, but I convinced her to let go of Jon's after the egg debacle. She's...extremely sentimental, to put it nicely. Obsessive compulsive wouldn't be an overstatement."
"Has Anderson seen your baseball cards?" Rachel asks, coming back into the room. She kneels down at Poppy's level and starts snapping pictures. "I'm just saying, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones at their roommates. Especially when the person in question has a room full of baseball cards."
"An entire room?" Anderson asks, incredulous.
Rachel grabs Keith's waist and hauls herself up from the floor. "An entire room," she confirms. "And he doesn't keep them because they're worth money, either -- not that Mr. Multimillions over here needs the cash. It's all about sentimentality."
"She's exaggerating," Keith says. "It's really more of a walk-in closet than a room."
"For who, Oprah Winfrey? I think it's bigger than my bedroom."
"Well, they were here before you," teases Keith.
"And they'll be here after me," Rachel says easily.
Anderson doesn't miss the almost heartsick look Keith gives her.
By the time they appear on The Colbert Report, Rachel and Keith have already made the rest of the talk show circuit.
"My guests tonight are Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, my favorite liberal elitists," Stephen says before he bounds across the stage to the interview desk.
"Rachel, Keith, good to have you both on again," Stephen says, shaking their hands.
"It's good to be here, Stephen," Keith replies.
"I understand the two of you have gone and gotten married. Now, I've heard that you guys are the latest threat to my marriage?"
"That's right," Rachel says. "We've set out to undermine the institution, to destroy it from the inside. As I've been saying, if the gays can't have it, we want to make sure the straights don't want it."
"Having been married to this one for, oh, two weeks, I can assure you, I don't want it," Keith says, pointing to Rachel. "So, as a straight man, I think we're doing a pretty good job."
Stephen laughs behind his hand. He pulls it together and asks, "Let me see if I understand this. Your own gay agenda -- the one that forced you to get married in the first place -- is making you want a divorce now? You've gotten so close to it that it's actively destroying your sham marriage?"
"Actually, Stephen, it wasn't the gay agenda that forced us to get married. It was the aliens," Keith manages to say with a straight face.
"My financial adviser, Gorlock, has been suggesting that he and his kind have a vested interest in traditional marriage lately," Stephen says. He leans in closer to Rachel. "I think they might be planning on eating our young."
Rachel smiles uncomfortably. "Well, he'll be waiting a long time if he thinks our marriage will produce food."
"Speaking of food, I hear that my toaster is the best toaster," Stephen says. "Tell me, what kind of perks do I get for that? I mean, that's a pretty big deal. You guys got a crapload of toasters, so mine must be pretty special and deserving of an award of some kind."
"Isn't our undying gratitude reward enough?" Keith asks in response.
"Undying gratitude doesn't pay the bills," Stephen says. "Does it at least come with a plaque? A trophy? A solid gold watch? Anything at all that I could pawn for cash?"
"I can toast you a bagel," Rachel offers, while Keith sits next to her, shaking his head and making exaggerated 'say no' gestures. She ignores him. "I'll have it bronzed and mounted for you, like baby shoes."
"As long as you don't make him eat it," Keith mutters, just loud enough for the mic to pick up.
"Do it," Stephen says. He grins, turning in his chair to gesture toward his fireplace. "I'll put it over there with my Emmy and my Peabody."
A week later, Stephen makes a show of adding his bagel-shaped Best Toaster Ever award to the Colbert Report mantle shelf.
When Friday night rolls around, Anderson stops by 30 Rock so he can surprise Rachel with a night out before she goes home to Keith. It has been a stressful week, more for Rachel than either Keith or Anderson, so alcohol is the order of the day.
He can tell this is all starting to eat at Rachel. She smiles when she sees him, but her eyes are tired, and she has no witty greeting for him.
"Come on," he says. "Girls' night out."
She smiles. "Sounds good."
Anderson bundles her into a cab and pays the cabbie to take them to one of his favorite bars. It's a little hole in the wall place where they know him, no one will disturb them, and the bartender is charmed by Rachel.
They settle into one of the private rooms upstairs. Rachel usually tries to convince him to sit at the bar, her favorite spot, but tonight she makes no move to complain as he leads her up the stairs.
The bartender sends up martinis just the way Rachel likes, and they disappear as soon as they arrive.
"I thought I knew what I was getting into when I came up with this idea," Rachel says, three martinis and thirty minutes of silence later. "It's harder than I thought."
"It's just cohabitation," Anderson says. "You've had roommates before, right?"
Rachel shakes her head. "That's what I thought, too. But the more I think about it, the more it's like I'm trapped in one of those bad soap operas, the kind you watch when you're home with the flu. You know how you get invested in them even though you sit there and wonder how the hell the characters can be so incredibly stupid?"
Anderson nods. "I usually watch The Real Housewives of wherever instead of soap operas, but I understand the feeling."
"Maybe that's more apt," Rachel says, taking a sip of her martini. "I mean, I did invite the media into my life like it's some sort of reality show. And, you know, I never really got the whole need-for-privacy thing. I thought it was kind of ridiculous, especially for people already in the spotlight. In college, I used to go out of my way to make my personal life everyone's business. I shoved it in their faces and told them to go to hell if they had a problem with it. It blew up in my face a lot, like when I came out. I made up fliers and hung them all over the dorm, and then I was shocked when someone mailed one to my parents -- which went over great, by the way; I totally recommend it. But I still kept doing that sort of thing."
She stares into her martini, stirring it with the plastic cocktail sword as she speaks. "I'm still doing it. I didn't realize it at the time, but I made what might have been the stupidest, most impulsive decision of my life in Vegas. Then I jumped up and down, waving my hands in the air and yelling, 'Look at me, look at me!' until I got everybody's attention. Now everyone is staring at me in that stupid soap opera way while I fuck up my life."
Anderson leans forward and rests his arms on the table. "How are you messing up your life? I mean, talk shows are bad, but they're not that bad. And, no offense, Rachel, but the media's gonna get sick of you and Keith the first time J.Lo sneezes."
"It's not really about the ongoing media attention, not exactly. It's about being the last person in the country to realize what I did."
"Second to last," Anderson says. "I still don't get it."
"I got married," she says. She picks up her napkin and tears it neatly, slowly pulling it into thin strips. There's sadness, not anger, in her actions. "Maybe I'm a sap, but I always thought that marriage should be a once and forever thing, where you try your damnedest to get it right the first time. I forfeited that. I don't have a chance to get it right on the first try; I already know how this is going to end. Maybe I gave it up for something bigger than myself, but I still gave it up. I didn't even realize I wanted it until now."
"Do you really think anyone's going to hold it against you?" Anderson asks. "Everyone knows why you did it. You made sure of that."
"I'm going to hold it against me." Rachel meets Anderson's eyes. "Anderson, we don't have the right to marry the person we love. When we get that, when we get it in every state, it's going to be..." She looks away, tears filling up her eyes as she thinks about the possibility and searches for words. When she looks back at Anderson, there's still a faraway look in her eyes. "It's going to be incredible. It's going to mean so much. But I feel like doing this cheapens that, that I'm...it's like peeking at your Christmas presents. In my case, it's like peeking at your Christmas presents and finding out that what you're getting isn't all that great."
"That's because what you got is Keith," Anderson teases gently. "Like you said, it's about marrying the person you love. That's what's going to make it special."
Rachel smiles slightly, understanding but not swayed. "I still feel like I have something I shouldn't."
Anderson lets a few moments of silence hang between them, enough to show he isn't trying to dismiss her feelings when he says, "You mean something like your fourth martini."
"Yeah, something like that." She takes the last sip anyway, since it can't hurt at this point.
The alcohol combined with the cab ride to Keith's has lulled Rachel into a half-asleep state, so Anderson has to guide her into the building, through the lobby, to the elevator, and up to the apartment she shares with Keith. When he reaches into her pocket to get her key, she laughs and slumps against the wall, her head thrown back. "I'm not that drunk, Anderson," she says between laughs as he roots around in her pockets.
Keith, looking like he just rolled out of bed, opens the door while Anderson has his hand down Rachel's front pocket. "Are you molesting my bride, Cooper?" he asks, his voice gravelly from sleep.
"Not yet," Anderson replies. He gives Keith a boyish grin that manages to be both innocent and wicked.
"What does a girl have to do to get molested around here, anyway?" Rachel pouts. She pushes her way past Keith, still talking as she heads down the hall. "I can't get it from my husband, I can't get it from my husband's friend.... This marriage thing is going to drive me to drink."
Keith raises an eyebrow as he looks at Anderson.
Anderson fidgets. "It...may have already driven her to do so. And I may have willingly aided and abetted."
"You want coffee?" Keith asks, stepping aside. "We have two coffee makers, you know."
"Thanks, but I'm not a coffee drinker," Anderson reminds him. He gestures over his shoulder in the general direction of the elevators. "Besides, I should get going. I left the cab downstairs. Meter's running."
Anderson turns to leave but stops halfway through the motion. "Keith?" He waits long enough to be sure he has Keith's undivided attention, but he doesn't meet Keith's eyes. "Look, it's not really my place, but...you should talk to her."
Keith sighs and scrubs his hand over his face. "Yeah. Okay." He looks back into the apartment, where he can hear Rachel doing something in the living room. Closing the door, he mumbles a goodnight to Anderson, but the words are an afterthought. He's already disconnected from the conversation and moved on.
"Rach?" he says, walking down the hall.
"Hmm?" she answers, barely awake. He can smell the alcohol coming off her, and he wonders what led to so much drinking. Obviously whatever it was, it's his turn to take care of it, so he plops on the couch beside her. Poppy gives him a look, like the dog is trying to decide whether right now is the best time to kill Keith, but instead decides to save the fight for another day and ambles out of the room with a low grumble.
"You okay?" he asks and she leans into him, pulling the afghan with her.
"I know. Bad day?" Keith asks.
"I guess I'm just realizing that I went and got married. Really got married, even though we didn't exactly mean it," Rachel says. She regards him seriously, as seriously as she can considering her eyes won't quite focus. "There's no such thing as a fake marriage, Keith. It's like a technical virgin. You can say it doesn't count, but by any reasonable person's standards, it does. No matter what we tell people, we're going to live the rest of our lives as divorced people. If we get married, they'll be second marriages, not firsts, and...I kinda wanted it to be my first."
Keith rubs her shoulder and wraps the afghan around her a little tighter. "You didn't want me to be your first?" he asks, gently teasing. He sighs and looks away. "You deserve better than this, Rach; you're right. You should have had the chance to make it work the first time, but you don't, and you won't until someone does something to change that. So instead of sitting around and waiting for other people, you did something. You made a sacrifice, not a mistake, and maybe you regret it now, but the day you marry the woman you love, I promise this is going to be the furthest thing from your mind or hers."
When he looks back to her, she's fast asleep with her head on his shoulder.
"We're throwing you a 'happy divorce' party," Jon says without a hint of sarcasm. "Or better yet, a 'you survived Keith' party."
Jon dodges as Keith tries to kick him.
"We thought you should be well and thoroughly trashed before you sign the papers," Stephen adds with a nod.
"I even hunted down the same bartender from the wedding reception," Anderson says.
The divorce party is nowhere near as large as the wedding reception. Just their closest friends, some food, and a well-stocked bar.
"Congratulations on the divorce," Ana Marie says, giving Rachel a quick hug. Kent is there, and some of the crew from Air America, as well as various people Rachel has interviewed and/or gotten drunk with.
Jon and Stephen banter over the food. Something about the relative evil of shrimp versus baby carrots; Rachel isn't really paying attention. She's looking out at all their assembled friends who've come to celebrate this divorce with them and is a little astonished that they are so well loved that people showed up for their divorce party.
There is music playing in the background, nothing Rachel recognizes, but Keith must, because he smiles and looks at her like she knows too. She looks back at him in clear invitation to explain.
"We danced to this at the wedding reception," Keith says, leaning in closer to her so his voice carries above the noise.
"I always knew you were the romantic in this relationship, Keith," she replies, setting her hand on his arm.
"Well, this romantic needs one last drink before we do this," Keith says. "I'll even let you pick something for me."
"And you'll drink it?" Rachel asks with narrowed eyes.
"Just this once," Keith says. "Go say hello to that bartender of yours Anderson so laboriously tracked down."
Rachel grins. "Sure."
"Just don't forget to bring back my drink! We're not divorced yet," Keith says as Rachel heads off to the bar.
Rachel finally gets the bartender's name: Stephanie. Stephanie, who smiles as she mixes Rachel's drink and says, "Too bad there's no dance floor this time, huh? I had fun last time. Doesn't usually happen when I'm working."
"Yeah, it's too bad," Rachel says, suddenly feeling shy. "We could, uh, go find some place to dance, later?" She can feel the blush rising up her neck.
Stephanie smiles and takes pity on Rachel's rusty pick up techniques. "Sure. Maybe after your divorce." She grabs a nearby pen and scrawls something on a cocktail napkin, handing it to Rachel along with the drinks. "Call me."
Rachel offers Stephanie an enigmatic smile, but she's pretty sure Stephanie can read the 'I will' in her eyes. Rachel is okay with that, though. She's going to be a divorcee in a few minutes; that officially makes her too old and too tired to waste her time playing coy. She is done pretending she doesn't know exactly what she wants.
As Rachel returns to the table with their drinks, Keith leans in and says, "I see you're already shopping for a replacement." He smiles as she blushes again. "Don't worry; I approve. She's hotter than me. Just don't step on her toes when you take her dancing."
"I thought you found my lack of dance skills endearing," she says, folding the cocktail napkin and tucking it into her pocket.
Keith grins. "Well, I'm just a nice guy like that. But I should warn you, they broke the mold when they made me."
"That they did," Rachel agrees fondly. They clink their glasses in a private toast, sharing a last quiet moment as sham husband and wife before the signing of their very real divorce papers.
Just as he did for the cutting of the cake, Stephen gathers everyone around for the signing of the papers. He presents Keith and Rachel with pens he bought just for the occasion. "Your weapons, sir and madam. And to think we trusted you with a knife and cake last time." The line draws a few chuckles from the gathered crowd, but this event is much more sedate than the cake cutting.
Rachel actually tears up a little bit when they sign the divorce papers. For all that she hadn't really meant to marry Keith, it had been an experience.
Keith signs his name under hers, and then pulls her into a hug.
Someone clicks a photo of them there like that. Later, much later, the print shows up framed on Keith's desk.
Rachel uses her pocketknife to open the box, cleanly cutting through the packing tape.
"What's that?" her wife asks as Rachel holds up a plate.
"This is the china from my straight marriage for gay rights," Rachel responds with a fond smile on her face. "Keith let me have them in the divorce."
Stephanie leans over Rachel's shoulder to examine the china. "It's gorgeous," she says. "How many settings are there?"
"Seven," Rachel says.
Stephanie winces. "Broke one, huh?" she asks sympathetically, and then breaks into a teasing grin. "I bet you threw it at him, didn't you?"
Rachel shakes her head, smiling. "Actually, Keith kept a place setting," she explains. She's still slightly bemused by the idea of sharing custody of their wedding china. "I told him if he ever expects us to feed him, he has to bring the plate with him. Otherwise he doesn't get to eat at all, unless I'm feeling generous -- in that case, he can eat out of Poppy's dish."
"And this was an amicable divorce?" Stephanie asks, laughing. "Remind me never to divorce you."
Rachel turns around and grabs Stephanie by the waist, pulling her close. "Oh, believe me," she says, "now that I have you, I'm never letting go."