Paul hung up the phone with a sigh and slumped back into the armchair next to the bedside table. The conversation with Martha had gone exactly as he'd feared it would, which meant that it hadn't gone well at all.
He poured himself another couple of fingers of Scotch; he'd had one glass to fortify himself before making the call, but he was going to need a bit more than that to chase away the bitterness. Hell, she was an actor, too; you'd think she'd understand about him having to stay in Vancouver for five days longer than he'd planned. But she'd sharply reminded him that he'd promised to be home for the kids, that he knew she had her own contractual obligations, that her movie was just as important as his miniseries. And he'd argued with her, and she'd snapped at him, and pretty soon their conversation had degenerated into the subtle bitching thing, the under-the-breath sniping, the remarks that started out perfectly innocent but shaded into insult.
"Oh, I'm not worried about you trying to get into Jessica's pants," he muttered, imitating her faux-breezy tone. "You're far too in love with yourself to pay any attention to blonde Hollywood-wannabe bimbos like her." Tipping his head back, he swallowed a mouthful of Scotch, savoring the burn in his throat.
"Well, she's right, of course," said a voice beside him, and he swiveled his head in shock. He was - he had been - alone in his hotel room. He hadn't expected anyone to answer. He certainly hadn't expected… The man held up a glass and motioned toward the bottle. "Mind if I have some?"
The man. Himself. Himself with tousled hair, rumpled clothes under an equally rumpled raincoat, leaning against the wall with a somewhat maniacal grin. Paul looked at the bottle - he hadn't had that much to drink - and then back at the man. "Is there some particular drunken hallucination you're supposed to be, or am I just generally going off my rocker?"
The man put the back of his hand to his head in a mock-tragic gesture and sighed deeply. "Ah, well. I assumed you'd know me. Actor's ego, as you should know. We're all in love with ourselves. It's a hazard of the profession."
Paul stared. That broadly theatrical delivery was unmistakably familiar; he'd rehearsed it enough to know. "Are you supposed to be Geoffrey Tennant?"
The man smiled. "I don't know if I'm supposed to be, but I'm afraid I am." Reaching across Paul, he took the bottle and poured himself some Scotch.
Drunken hallucinations were all very well and good, but when they started drinking his Scotch…. Paul shook his head. "And you're telling me that Martha's right? I'm in love with myself, is that it?"
"Exactly," said Geoffrey. "I believe I know you well enough to say that. Of course, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Martha's in love with herself as well. If she's anything like Ellen. Hazard of the profession," he said again, and took a long swallow of his drink. He sighed again and shrugged elaborately. "Might as well not bother. Go ahead and get into Jessica's pants. If she'll let you."
"Oh, and I should take advice on my love life from you?"
"You're the one talking to a drunken hallucination."
"Point taken," said Paul, and poured himself some more Scotch.
"Having an affair with someone else isn't going to solve your problems with your wife," came a voice from his other side. From the bed. From a man who looked just like him, who was sitting on the bed, an empty glass in his hand; and this one was easy, because he was wearing a blue uniform, and the patch on his shoulder said Police Department, Wilby Island. "Believe me, I know."
"There's only one way to solve those problems permanently," said another voice - another version of his voice - and Paul didn't even need to look up, because he recognized the derisive timbre, the hint of menace lurking underneath. He'd worked hard on that one, too.
"No thank you, Patrick," he said firmly.
"Just a suggestion."
Buddy poured himself a drink and handed the bottle to Patrick, then pulled a cigarette out of the pack in his pocket and turned to Paul. "You have a light?"
"There's matches in the drawer," said Paul. He accepted the bottle back from Patrick; the level of Scotch had diminished perceptibly, more than could be accounted for by the two glasses he'd had. Apparently his subconscious was having a hell of a party. Might as well join them, he thought, and splashed some more into his glass. "So, what's the occasion?"
Silence. Finally, Buddy said, "For what?"
"For this…this conclave, I guess." He looked at each one in turn: Geoffrey Tennant, Buddy French, Patrick Kelly. Himself, tripled.
Geoffrey smiled. "Actor's ego, of course. I told you, Martha was right. It's not Jessica that you want to have sex with."
"Not at all," said Buddy, nodding.
"To your one true love," said Patrick, raising his glass slightly. "To us!"
"Oh, for Christ's sake," spluttered Paul. "If I were even interested in men -"
"Actually, some psychologists speculate that homosexual attraction is rooted in narcissism," interjected his voice from the doorway.
Paul looked over toward the newcomer and groaned. The clerical collar was a dead giveaway. "Don't tell me I conjured you up by invoking Christ."
"Of course not," said Gus Knickel. "I'm not a believer, you know that. But I've learned a bit about psychology." He eyed the bottle with interest. "Anyone have an extra glass?"
"Take mine," said Paul, handing it to him. Based on the available evidence - four hallucinatory versions of himself, smoking and drinking in his hotel room - he had probably had more than enough to drink. Gus grinned and refilled the glass, and damn, had he really been that young? Long, curling hair, a sprinkling of dark stubble on his jaw; if he had been interested in men - which he wasn't, damn it! - he would have to admit that Gus was not bad, not bad at all.
"So," said Gus. "You were saying. If you were interested in men -?" He raised his eyebrows, encouraging Paul to continue.
Paul shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous. You think I'd be interested in you?"
"In yourself," said Geoffrey.
"Look, you're not gay. I played you! I know!"
"There's nothing wrong with being gay," said Buddy quietly.
"And you're not, either! Right?" Suddenly frantic, Paul swung around to face Patrick. "Or you. Or you," he said to Gus. "Don't try to tell me I want to have sex with you - Christ, that's not even possible, is it? I mean, you're me. You're all me. And anyway, even if such a ludicrous thing were possible, my characters have all been straight!"
"Actually, Paul," came a calm, steady voice - his voice, again - from across the room, "I believe you yourself have alluded to my implied bisexuality."
Oh, fuck, thought Paul, burying his face in his hands. He should have known he would show up. At least he wouldn't drink any of his Scotch.
"All right, Fraser," he said, not looking up. "You're right. But you're missing the point. You're all missing the point. I don't care if you're bisexual. I am not interested in men. I am attracted to women."
"You're attracted to yourself," said Geoffrey.
"Actually," said Gus, "some psychologists speculate that heterosexual attraction is rooted in narcissism."
"Oh, for Christ's -" began Paul, looking up; and then he stopped, and he stared.
Glossy shoulder-length hair. Long eyelashes and soft-looking lips, red and full. Legs that didn't quit. An artfully-wrapped scarf, the ends lying just above the breasts that he knew were fake, but still, he couldn't help but look at them. Damn, he had made one hell of a woman, hadn't he.
He gulped. His cock twitched.
He turned toward Geoffrey, but he was gone; Buddy was gone as well, and Patrick, and Gus. There were four dirty glasses on the table, and a mostly-empty bottle of Scotch, and a cigarette in the ashtray, still burning into a thin curl of smoke.
"Hello, Paul," said Ms. Fraser.
He selected one of the glasses - it didn't matter which, they all had the same germs, right? - and poured in the last of the Scotch. Lifting his glass towards her, he smiled.
"To my one true love," he said.