"So I'm finishing up this last round of premiere stuff and then… I'm going to Berkeley!" Zach's eyes flip from Chris to Chris' parents, who are looking at each other as if Chris had started speaking Esperanto out of his fourth head.
"But why aren't you doing the sequel?" his dad asks. "Because I think --"
"Honey," his mother interrupts. "Chris, this is a little sudden. Tell us --"
"Mom, seriously, don't turn this into a session," Chris replies. "I'm not having some kind of breakdown or anything -- I'm doing this because if I don't, I will have a breakdown."
"A breakdown?" his father asks. "From what? You're thirty years old, riding out your first huge movie in a guaranteed successful series, and you want to quit? This is job security you're walking away from."
Zach re-evaluates his thoughts on Chris' dad, who at first seemed like the sweetest old man on the planet. Damn did the Pines get ugly when the charm was off.
"Is that all you're worried about?" Chris asks. "Job security rather than my whole life being stolen from me?"
"And you think that's going to stop when you walk out on acting?" his dad laughs. "Chrissy, I hate to tell you this --"
"Wait, you call him Chrissy?" is Zach's contribution to the conversation and roundly ignored.
"-- but this is work, and if you think running from your problems is --"
Chris stands up, takes a deep breath, and smiles at his parents. "I'm going to step outside and smoke the half-dozen or so cigarettes I brought just for this occasion." Chris' dad rolls his eyes and leans against the back of the couch, his entire attitude screaming volumes just like his son's would. This one says take all the time you need Chrissy, you're still a moron.
"Oh," Chris adds, an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth, "And you should probably get to know Zach, because we're moving to San Francisco next month -- into the really adorable house he's just bought for us." Chris digs the lighter out of the fifth pocket of his jeans, lights the cigarette, and adds, "Yeah. Us. We're together. I'll be back."
Zach watches Chris leave and frowns. He's torn between punching Chris in the balls for abandoning him with his furious parents, and fucking him in broad daylight against the back of the car because that was hot. It was a once in a lifetime middle finger of a moment and Zach was almost hard from witnessing Chris at his most gorgeously defiant.
Suddenly he remembers the Pines, the scary motherfucker from CHiPs and the psychotherapist, and that he should start winning them over about now.
"It's funny," his dad begins, "This is what we wanted originally."
"This?" Zach asks. "What?"
"He came to us after graduation, told us he was moving to Los Angeles with his girlfriend." His dad lets out this long suffering sigh that sounds a little too familiar and Zach wants one of those cigarettes a little too badly all of a sudden. "There we were, begging him to consider graduate school, but he was set. He wanted acting and he wanted Beau."
Zach swallows because no, he hadn't considered that he could be the second person Chris had ever been madly in love with.
"You see why we're concerned, Zach," his mother says in that professionally calm voice. "Not only for him, but for you."
"Does Katie like you, at least?" his dad asks, not even looking at Zach but rubbing his face and seriously, the sighing, is this some kind of genetic condition?
"Yeah, Katie likes me," Zach says. "We double date with her a lot. Sorry I kind of joined your family behind your back."
"And you're working?" Chris' dad asks.
"Yeah," Zach replies. "I'm also a producer. That's going okay."
"'Okay' isn't enough to support our son for the next ten years while he makes $8000 a year as a TA."
"He gets a stipend, too" -- which is true but still sounds pathetic. "I'm not going to leave him," Zach adds suddenly. He's great with parents, but the Pines aren't parents so much as demons. "We've been living together for about a year now; he's bruised my kidney while we slept. I think we can put up with each other forever."
The Pine Collective nods and Zach can breathe again. He's earned at least a cigarette.