"Thirty days – you're in, you're out. It won't be so bad. In fact, it'll probably do you some good. Your lucky that this is all you're getting, Vin, it could have been a lot worse. Just keep your head down and follow the rules. We can get you through this."
That was the promise that E made three minutes before walking him into the new-age rehab center somewhere in the Nevada desert between Los Angeles and Vegas. The last thing Vince thought he needed was to spend a month in rehab, but the courts had told him it was either this or spend the next thirty days with a cellmate named Bubba who thought he was as pretty as the girl he'd screwed a couple weeks ago at some club. He still didn't think he had a problem, but E said the scars on his face said otherwise. Vince had wanted to argue but then remembered how gnarly his face had looked that night in the emergency room. A standard-issue PSA and 100 hours of community service with a couple years of probation thrown in there weren't going to fix this for him. No, for once, Vince was actually going to have to deal with the ramifications of his decisions.
The sun was high in the sky as the two of them sat alone in the Aston Martin. Sasha was long gone by that point, and Sloan had broken their engagement almost a month ago. Eric had never told him why they broke up but Vince suspected that it definitely had something to do with him. Whenever he tried to talk to his best friend about it, E had only ducked his head and told him not to worry. They had other things to focus on, and like always, E had made it his personal responsibility to get Vince back on track. Not even the judge's threats, his mom's yelling or Ari's belligerent rant had scared him as much as the quiet way Eric had spoken to Vince the night he bailed him out of County. He had only said, "You really fucked up, Vince," once before the other guys had dragged him out to the car. Somehow knowing that he had disappointed E had been the worst part of all of this, and Vince had vowed to make the next month about making his best friend proud again.
He felt like a little kid now as he walked across the parking lot, clutching his bag in his hand. The rehab center looked more like a hospital, though there were a few spacious flower gardens on either side of the building and a nice fountain out front. "See, not so bad," E said, nudging his best friend as they walked along. Turtle and Johnny had offered to come with, but Vince had insisted that he only wanted Eric there. "You're quiet. You ready for this?"
"Not even," Vince answered honestly, stopping short to study his best friend. E reached out and squeezed his shoulder before pulling Vince to him. Vince hugged him back tightly, his shoulders shaking slightly from unshed tears. Eric pulled back enough to meet his eyeline, and Vince felt guilty all over again for seeing those little concern wrinkles forming in the corner of his eyes. "Come on, E, remind me that I can do this."
"You can, I have faith," Eric confirmed. "I'm just sad because you're leaving me with the morons for the next month while you get to flirt with pretty nurses and meditate and probably work on your tan." Vince smiled in the way that he reserved only for E, though neither of them really ever acknowledged it. "I'll visit every chance they let me. I think you can have visitors next weekend. I'll even bring the kids with me. I'm sure they miss you already."
Vince laughed at the mention of Turtle and Johnny. They had always said that it was terrible when Vince and Eric were fighting because it was like watching their parents not get along. Things had been pretty bad there for awhile, but now that Vince was getting help, the family was better that it had been in a long time.
A stout, African American nurse was already waiting for them when they came through the front door. "Hi, there Mr. Chase, I'm Lena, we've been expecting you." Vince looked at the nurse and mustered a brave smile while Eric handed over the requisite paperwork. "You can say goodbye to your friend here. I'm going to go ahead and take your bag so that the staff can look through it. And please don't worry, we act on a strict confidentiality clause, so I promise that your privacy will be respected as if you were any other patient."
Turning to his best friend, Vince suddenly looked like a scared little kid. It reminded E of the way Vince had looked in fifth grade that time E slept over and Vince's dad came home drunk. There had been a trip to the emergency room that night when Mr. Chase had nearly broken Vince's eye socket. Well, they had survived that, and now, they would survive this.
"Alright, man, it's just one week," E whispered as he hugged Vince again. It made him even sadder the way that Vince clung to him a little. "I'll be here on Saturday with the guys. Can you hang in there until then?"
"Besides the separation anxiety?" Vince smirked. "I think I can manage. Just come back, okay?"
"I'll be here, I promise," Eric pledged. "I think the paperwork said you can call after 48 hours. Just call my cell, I'll make sure that it's on me at all times. And if you need anything before then, you have someone at the hospital get in touch with me. This place is supposed to be the best, Vin. Trust me, I checked. You need this, try to remember that."
"Okay," Vince said, his voice small. He was willing himself not to cry as Eric hugged him again. "Thanks again for being here, E. I know that I probably don't deserve it, but I appreciate it more than anything."
Eric locked eyes with Vince and nodded slightly. "You need me, you make them call. Got it?"
Vince hugged Eric once before before the nurse ushered him into the hospital and out of E's view. He could hear him talking to the admitting nurse in a soft voice, giving her his contact information in case of an emergencies. "Just this way, Mr. Chase," Lena directed him, pointing him toward a private room. She was quick with the pat down and patted his shoulder comfortingly afterward. "The first day is the hardest, and your friend already got you through the hard part. Detoxing is the worst. If you survived that, you can make it a month in here."
Over the next hour, Vince met his counselor briefly, took a quick tour of the sprawling estate that would be his home for the next four weeks and completed a full panel of blood and urine tests to prove that he was clean. A male orderly showed up eventually with his bags, which Lena told him had been searched without finding anything. Vince smiled proudly as the nurse smiled at him kindly. "C'mon, Vincent, let me show you to your room so you can meet your roommate."
He hadn't shared a room with anyone since he was twelve and his brother moved out to live with his girlfriend in the Bronx, so he wasn't exactly thrilled to be confined to close quarters with another guy that wasn't in his inner circle. There were a pair of twin beds, both made with uncomfortable standard-issue blankets and flat pillows. However, there was a sweatshirt thrown absently over the one nearest to the door, and a menagerie of junk spread across one of the cheap oak dressers on either side of the small closet.
"Hey, you must be my new roommate," a man called as he walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. He had sandy blonde hair and immediately reminded Vince of E with his size and stature. The stranger extended his hand toward Vince. "I'm Brett."
"Brett here is a pro at rehab," Lena said, narrowing her eyes at Brett. Vince took it that it wasn't his roommate's first go-round in rehab and made a mental note to steer clear of the man's bad habits. "Dinner is in an hour. You must be at the dinner by six if you want to eat or you will go hungry. You have your first appointment with your counselor in the morning, Vince, and group meets at ten sharp. I'll leave you for now to get settled in. If you have any questions, you can stop by the nurses' station."
"Thanks, Lena," Vince said warmly before dropping his bags onto the floor next to his bed. He immediately pulled back the comforter and sheets, stripping the mattress bare. Brett watched him curiously as Vince spread his own linens from home over the bed. Ari had had enough clients in rehab to give him a few pointers going in. Once the bed was made up with Egyptian cotton sheets, a down comforter and hypo-allergenic pillows, Vince felt a little more at home. He tossed an old t-shirt beneath one of the pillows and tucked a photo album along with the leather journal E got him for meetings into the bedside table. It wasn't a lot of personal effects, but it would do until he could talk to and see his boys again.
"Wait a minute!"
Vince looked up at Brett suddenly. "Yeah?"
"I just realized who you are," Brett chuckled proudly. Vince had dreaded this moment and suspected that there would be many more like that during his stay here. "You're that actor guy. You're Vincent Chase. You're Aquaman!"
"I am," he confirmed. "But in here, just call me Vince. I don't want to stand out or be any different."
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised," Brett lamented. "This is the place where all the pretty people are. They all have a story. What's yours, Vince? How did you end up here?"
So Vince told his story, how he had went on a six-month long bender between movies because he was a bored, self-absorbed star whose ego was too big to see how good he had it. He left out the part when his best friend got engaged and quit paying attention to him. Vince wasn't sure he was ready to deal with that part, figuring that the shrink would have a hay day with it. He talked about how he had dated a porn star who had given him drugs as freely as she had given him sex, how he had managed to hide it from the people who knew him best and how it all came tumbling down around him because he couldn't get his temper in check around Eminem.
"Wow, man, that's fucked up," Brett finally said once Vince was finished telling his story. "Who's this E person? Is that your girl or something?"
"Hmm," Brett pondered. "I don't know, man. I've had the same best friend since fourth grade, and I don't think I've ever talked about him as passionately as you just talked about that cat."
Hours later, after dinner was over and the lights off were in his new bedroom, Vince stared up the ceiling and thought about his bed at home. It was just down the hall from E's room, the new one he was living in since he broke up with Sloan and moved back into the house. They had been staying up all night lately, Eric sitting dutifully by his side while he went through harsh withdrawals. They talked about old times when Vince wanted to keep things light and how things had changed when E wanted to get deep. They played virtual golf and watched the movies they'd grown up on and ate junk food on the living room couch until they fell asleep on either end. It felt a lot like that first year when E had come out to L.A., only with a lot better toys and a lot fewer girls. There wasn't any beer, no pot and definitely no other extracurricular chemicals allowed in the house. E was strick and Vince was thankful for it. His best friend was always strong for him when he was weak, but Vince knew that it was turn to be strong now for E. He had to get past this, to learn how to deal with his addiction, and he had thirty days to prove to Eric that he could do it.