Garth is back and feeling better.
The rest is self explanatory.
Title: Follow-up Interview
It had been over eight months since Jonathan Marshall had last spoken to the Atlantean Ambassador to the UN and the young man had been on his mind more than he would care to admit. In fact, they had met several times. There had been the usual round of press conferences and receptions where the Ambassador, or rather, the Prince if you preferred, had made a point of coming over to say hello and address him by name. That had happened four or five times.
It was at one of these show and tells that the reporter had asked the young man if he would agree to a one on one interview. To his surprise, he had said that he would and the appointment had been made and kept two weeks later.
Marshall had come away from the half hour they had spent together impressed. Now, he had met his share of important people in his day and most of them weren't all that much once you got below the surface--mostly men and a few women who had somehow parlayed a few lucky breaks or family connections into something that they held onto with both hands, but the Prince seemed different than the usual run of diplomats or high born pretty boys.
He was more--well, he was more solid than the usual run Marshall met. There was something about him that made you know that he was tough and that his toughness came from having a really rough time of it somewhere along the line, and that whatever it was that he had overcome was more than you could ever even think of to throw at him so don't even bother wasting your time. He had an unconscious attitude about him that let you know that if he chose, he could dice and slice you for breakfast and then look around for a nice lunch. Not that he had ever shown Jonathan anything other than complete respect and the kind of courtesy that one expected from a high ranking diplomat. No, he was polite and well spoken, and obviously intelligent, too, but there was a core inside of him that wouldn't be messed with.
He was an interesting contrast, this young man. It was apparent that he was being groomed for bigger things than the UN, but while he was there he had gained a reputation for being one of the sharpest negotiators on the block and also for being one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet.
There wasn't a hostess that wouldn't give up the name of her favorite caterer to have him show up at a dinner party and he practically had to drive the women off with a stick.
Marshall had tried to find out if he was linked with anyone, but had drawn a blank. If the guy really had a regular significant other, he was damn discrete about it. The first time he had agreed to an interview, he had admitted that there was someone he was seeing and the person was from the surface, but that was as far as that had gone. No one knew, or would admit knowing anything more than that. And Marshall had tried hard. The readers always wanted to know about that stuff, especially with someone as hot as this Prince was. He'd keep at it until he found something out, but he wasn't getting too far.
Damn, some guys just seemed to have it all handed to them--or so it seemed. He was young, rich, titled and what Gloria at the desk next to his had called 'mondo drop dead gorgeous and a body that doesn't quit', but it was the other part, the strength that had Marshall coming back for another talk with him. Where would that come from, that toughness? What was it that he had to deal with that would make him--at twenty-three--able to calmly stand up to the best the UN had to offer? Who was this kid?
Well, he had been sick for a while, even had to be sent home to recover from whatever the problem had been, but he was back now and evidently wanted to get that fact out. Jon had received a phone call from his assistant asking if he would be interested in a follow-up interview. He had tried not to sound like he was jumping at the chance.
So, here he was, walking up the street to the address he had been given for a brownstone on the Upper East Side. Money territory, that's where the place was located. It was close to the park about one block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nice neighborhood. A lot of the Embassies had an apartment or something for their people to use and most of them were pretty nice to impress and intimidate the peasants. As he looked up at the building he admitted it. OK, he was impressed. He decided that he liked the Atlantean flag that was hanging over the front door. Pretty, really with all those blues and a few greens in it.
He rang the bell and waited maybe fifteen seconds before the Prince himself opened the door. He was dressed similarly to the way he had been months ago at the UN, khakis and a top of the line fleece pullover. Comfortable but neat. He was wearing shearling bedroom slippers, too. He had lost weight, a lot of it from the look of him, but he was smiling as he extended his hand. Marshall noticed that his hair was wet, like he had either just gotten out of a shower or a pool.
"Mr. Marshall, you're quite punctual, please come in. It's good to see you again and how kind of you to come all the way up town like this." He saw the man looking him over. "This is a day off for me, other than our talk, so I prefer to be comfortable, if I can."
"Hey, if I looked as good as you do in that, I'd wear it too. As for coming up town, I'm glad to do it, your Highness. Actually, I've been meaning to call you myself to ask if you would speak with me again, but you've beaten me to the punch."
The Ambassador looked blank for the briefest moment before he smiled and said, "Oh, an idiom, of course. Would you care to come in and sit down? The staff has prepared some lunch for us, if you're hungry. We could talk as we eat."
"That sounds great. Thanks. Do you always answer the door yourself?"
"I was walking past when you rang the bell. We're not that formal here, usually."
They went down a hallway to a formal dining room that was set for two people.
"Please be seated. I was just told before you arrived that it's ready."
The Prince sat at the head of the table, Marshall on his right hand. The room was formal, simply furnished but with only the finest antiques that could be had, from the looks of the place, and probably designed to impress.
Almost immediately, a waiter brought in bowls of soup for them and asked what they would like to drink. The Prince asked for still water, Marshall had a beer. Picking up his spoon, the Prince started. "Go ahead, you look hungry."
The reporter tried the soup, finding it amazingly good. "What is this? I can't identify..."
The quiet smile again. "No, I wouldn't think you could. It's kelp with spices from home."
Seaweed? "...It's good."
His Royal Highness laughed out loud.
"No, I really do like it."
"I can see that you get some on your way out." He was enjoying the look on Marshall's face, but the damn soup really was good.
"All right, sir. All right. Would you mind if I asked you some questions while we're eating?"
Still smiling to himself, he answered, "No, go ahead."
"You collapsed about eight months ago while giving a speech in the Security Council. Could you comment on that? The medical reasons given were pretty sketchy--and how are you feeling now?"
"Yes, I assumed that you'd ask about that. It was a combination of several things. I had strained my body by spending more time here than I should have and I went home for a few months to recuperate. That's pretty much what happened. I returned about three weeks ago and I've been put on a reduced schedule since then."
"Yes, that's right."
"Excuse me, but you seem to have lost quite a bit of weight since I saw you last, sir, that's related to your illness, I take it?"
"Yes, but I'm starting to gain some of it back. I've been getting better for a while now, it's just a slow recovery."
"And I take it that's why you're staying here rather than at your usual place?"
The Prince looked up from his lunch, took a beat and said, "This is closer to my office, and it makes for easier traveling for now."
"Are you staying here alone?"
"There's a staff."
"Yes, but I meant..."
"My personal life isn't open for discussion now any more than it was the last time we spoke."
A servant appeared, taking the empty bowls.
"I'm sorry, but people are still interested, sir."
"My private life is just that, Mr. Marshall--private."
Plates were placed before them, a salad for the Prince, salad with a piece of fresh grilled tuna for the reporter. Reacting to the look, the Prince explained, "I'm vegetarian."
"Oh, is that common where you come from?"
"No more or less than here on the surface. I simply don't like the taste of meat and dislike the way I feel after eating it. It's purely a personal choice."
"Did your diet have anything to do with your illness and did more of your people become ill?"
After swallowing a mouthful of cheese, he answered, "No, to both questions. I became ill only because I was here too long and no one else has been as careless as I was."
"You, forgive me, must have been sick when I last spoke to you but you certainly looked perfectly healthy. Did you conceal your condition on purpose or did it just hit you suddenly?"
"I knew that something was wrong, although I didn't know what. I had work to do, so I continued to do my job as long as I could."
Marshall had started on his tuna. "This is really sensational, by the way." He took another bite before continuing. "I was wondering, I read the press handout we received when you were sent home, but it was pretty sketchy about the details. Could you clarify what actually went wrong?"
"If you want a medical run down, you would do better to speak with one of the doctors."
"I will, but I would like your point of view. I mean, if you don't mind."
Garth looked at his guest for a moment as though assessing the reasons behind the request, gave a small sigh, almost a mental shrug, and spoke. "Being on the surface so long strained my lungs and respiratory system which in turn put a strain on my heart. There were also some vitamin deficiencies that contributed to the problem. I was treated with various medications and great amounts of rest and physical therapy. I'm medically recovered and am now recovering physically. I should be back to where I was in a few more months."
"I'm glad that you're getting better, your Highness."
"Thank you. Would you like some more fish? I'm sure there's plenty."
"I would, if you don't mind. It's terrific." Garth pressed a button under the table, in seconds a servant appeared. "More tuna for Mr. Marshall, please. Would you care for anything else? I'll have more water if you don't mind." Nodding, the young man left, returning almost immediately with what was asked for.
"I understand that when you first collapsed, you requested to be taken to your home here on the surface. I mean the apartment or whatever it is where you live before you would allow yourself to be moved to the boat waiting to take you back to your country. Why was that, if you don't mind my asking?"
Marshall was again aware of that assessing look. "It's simple. I didn't feel well, I wanted to go home to be in my own bed and surrounded by my own things, just as anyone would prefer. After a while, the doctors became convinced that my condition was serious enough to warrant my being taken back to our country for treatment."
"I heard that you refused to be loaded onto the boat until you had a chance to speak with your friend."
"It was a ship, Mr. Marshall, not a boat." He took a sip of water. "Forgive me, but your continued insistence of returning to questions about my personal life is becoming tiresome." It was clear that the reporter had overstepped and that it would no longer be tolerated.
Marshall realized that he had gone too far and that the young man would have no more of it. He had another glimpse of the steel beneath the pleasant exterior.
"I'm sorry, your Highness. I really am. I'll stay on topic if you'll permit me to continue."
"Are the treaty negotiations proceeding as you had hoped? I mean, were they set back by your illness?"
"I think that you overestimate my importance, Mr. Marshall. There is an entire delegation of people who are working on this, not just myself. Everything is moving along." He saw that the reporter seemed to have finished his meal. "If you're done, we could move to another room. You might be more comfortable than just sitting here."
"I don't want to seem pushy, your Highness." Garth glanced at him at this remark, suppressing a smile. "Would you be willing to give me a tour? I've heard that there have been some modifications made to this place since your government bought it."
"If you'd like, but I think that you'll probably be disappointed. It's not all that different than it was." They left the dining room and the Prince led them down a circular flight of stairs down a level to what had been a standard basement. It now housed a pool taking up almost the entire floor. At first glance it looked empty until he realized that there were two men doing laps. They were moving smoothly and soundlessly so as to barely disturb the surface of the water. It could almost have been a "Y" except for the fact that the pool was painted a rich dark sapphire and he saw that the men swam better, faster, more efficiently than anyone he had seen and they didn't come up for air. Then he saw a third man also swimming, but he was doing his laps underwater. They all seemed to be nude. Trying for cool, he asked, as nonchalantly as he could, "Is that fresh water or salt?"
"Fresh at the moment. Sometimes we add salt. We avoid other chemicals, though."
"How long do you have to stay submerged?"
"Immersed? About four or five hours a day, personally. The others need longer, up to twenty, depending on the individual."
"I noticed when I walked into the building that the air seemed a bit humid, too. That's on purpose, I take it?"
"Of course. The added humidity helps our lungs and does surface dwellers no harm." A slight smile again. "We find that it's good for the plants, too"
They continued the tour. The Prince was right. The place looked like a well-appointed town house of some rich New Yorkers, although ones with particularly sophisticated tastes and a flair for history. They moved through the reception rooms, the solarium, and the library. That brought up another question.
"Your Highness, I heard through the grapevine that you, or some of your people tried very hard to have you removed from the list of People Magazine's sexiest men of the year issue. I'd have thought that you would have taken that with a grain of salt. Did it really bother you?"
"I don't really care one way or the other. The problem is that we're trying to be taken seriously. That didn't have quite the depth that we're looking for." Marshall thought that he saw a smile in there.
"You have to admit, that was a striking picture they managed to get of you. Did you pose for that?" It had been taken as he leaned, shirtless and dripping wet, against the railing of a ship which he had been diving from. All he had on was the bottom half of an Atlantean wetsuit. In essence, they were a pair of midnight blue satin tights that looked as though they had been painted on. It had been quite a picture.
"No, it was a candid someone took while I was diving a wreck. That's not quite the statement we're trying to make. I said that in the letter I wrote to their editor. They printed an apology."
Passing a staircase, Marshall looked up expectantly.
"There are just bedrooms up there. Accommodations for whoever might need them while working here."
They continued walking through the building, coming to a door that led out to a surprisingly large rear garden. Going outside, Marshall was impressed with the sculptures that had been carefully placed along the path. He was no art critic, but he could see that this stuff was the real deal. He also noticed that the small pond was stocked with some kind of fish and plants he had never seen.
"I read recently that you had agreed to a DNA test for some historians and geneticists over at Oxford. You gave them a sample of your blood. They proved that you were descended from Alexander and Rameses. That's quite a family tree that you came from."
"In fact they descended from a branch of my family, not the other way around, and it was for Cambridge, actually. I only agreed because the request was made by both my and the British governments." He paused while he looked at an Egyptian sculpture from around 2500BC. "We are a very old people."
A movement in an upstairs window caught Marshall's eye. He thought that he'd had a glimpse of someone looking at them. "Who was that?"
"Up in that window, someone is watching us."
"It's entirely likely, Mr. Marshall. There is a staff here and I do have people keeping an eye on me, as you must realize. It was probably the maid, no one to be concerned about."
He decided not to pursue it, at least not now. "You speak nonchalantly about having people around and seem to take the trappings of royalty and diplomacy pretty much in stride, but I gather that your childhood wasn't all that easy. Would you comment on that, sir?"
They strolled another twenty yards or so before he answered. "My biography is public knowledge for anyone who cares to look for it. It's fairly straightforward. There isn't much to say about it."
"Perhaps because it is public knowledge is reason enough to discuss it, your Highness. You've survived a number of things that would have knocked other people into the wings and you've accomplished a tremendous amount for someone your age. Could you tell me what it is that you're the most proud of?" That was usually an easy question. The answer was generally "My kids", if they had any or something similar. If the answerer were a jerk, they would go on about some award or sports record or something like that.
The Prince looked at him and then transferred his attention to one of the sculptures nearby, obviously thinking about his response. Finally, he spoke, thoughtfully and with some hesitation.
"I think that I'm most proud of the fact that after everything, I'm still sane. And I'm still capable of loving someone." He gave a small smile, almost an apologetic one and a small shrug.
Marshall returned the look. This kid kept surprising him.
They continued walking, going back to the townhouse.
"What plans do you have now, sir?"
"I'm easing back into work, attending various meetings and doing what I can to aid in negotiations. There are a number of treaties on the table that we're working on. I'm keeping busy."
"Yes, but what I meant were the rumors I've heard about your transfer away from the UN to another post. I've heard that you're in line for either the Ambassadorship to either the United States or possibly Australia. Any truth to that?"
"I am the King's man, a servant of the crown. I go where I'm sent. I've received no orders to move but if I do, I'll obey them."
"Surely you would have some input, your Highness."
"Of course, but the final decision isn't mine."
"That sounds like a hint. Would you elaborate on that?"
"No. I have no further comments to make on that."
They went through the door back into the building.
"Sir, we've heard rumors up here that there is a fair amount of discord among your people as to whether or not to even establish contact with the surface nations. There have been reports of near riots. Any truth to that?"
"Any nation, any people which has been as isolated for as long as we have will naturally have some concerns about breaking that solitude. In some cases this concern has become--passionate."
"So the rumors are true?"
They went into the library, the Prince indicating chairs facing the garden. "You'll excuse me if I have to sit, Mr. Marshall. I'm afraid that I still tire rather easily."
"Of course, your Highness, please, whatever makes you comfortable."
He continued. "There will always be a section of our people who will disagree. There's no possible way to have everyone agree with whatever position the government takes. The facts are that surface technology is advancing to the degree where we must accept that we can no longer pretend that we're alone."
"So you believe that this contact is now unstoppable?"
"I believe so, yes, and I also believe that any problems that may arise are better dealt with directly that to hide behind a wall of xenophobia."
Neatly handled. The kid had a head on his shoulders; there was no getting around that.
"I was curious about something else. We know that you're a prince, that your father was a king. Does that mean that you'll become King in due course and are you expected to get married and produce an heir? I don't mean to sound ignorant, but there's so little that we know about your country at this point."
"When my father died the throne passed to another line of royalty. Although I'm still in the line of succession, King Orin has his own child who precedes me and he and the Queen may very well have more. I have no expectation of coming to the throne."
"Are you under any obligation to marry, your Highness? On the surface that's usually part of the job for royalty."
"If I had a realistic chance of seceding I would be expected to make an alliance with a suitable partner, but that's not really a factor for me. I can marry or not as I wish."
"And do you so wish, sir?"
He paused. "I would like to have what anyone wants. To love and be loved. I know that sounds trite, but it's a basic human need. Whether that takes place with a marriage ceremony or not doesn't make much difference to me." He looked at Marshall, the smallest of smiles again in place. "And no, I'm not answering your next question."
"Touché." The reporter looked at the notes he had stuffed in his jacket pocket when he had first arrived. "You mentioned your father being deceased. Is your mother still living?"
"I know that your bio says that you're an only child. Usually when that's the case the child and surviving parent are quite close. Are you, sir?"
"Am I what?"
"Close to your surviving parent, your mother. She must have raised you."
There was a pause a beat too long. Marshall saw the cool look come over the Prince's face and the guarded look in his eyes. He looked as though he were deciding just what to say. He was on to something here. Finally the young man answered with an understated "No, we are not close."
"When did you last see her, your Highness?"
"I have no further comment about this, Mr. Marshall. This is part of my personal life and not for public consumption. Have you any more questions that you would like answered?"
The Prince was becoming pale and was obviously nowhere near his full strength. "Well, yes, I do, but if you're getting tired, sir, we can continue this another time."
The Prince regarded the other man. "I apologize, Mr. Marshall. I'm afraid that I was abrupt with you just now. My mother and I are not close. We never have been and I see no circumstances under which that will change. This is a mutual decision and one that I've lived comfortably with for most of my life."
"I'm sorry, your Highness. I didn't know that--I-I know that must be difficult for you."
"In fact, it isn't. You play the cards you're dealt, Mr. Marshall, isn't that the expression?"
Marshall was getting to see more of what the kid was made of. His father dead, no relationship with his mother and an only child.
"If I may, how old were you when your father passed away, sir? I don't mean to belabor the point, but you're still a young man, the loss of a parent is always a major event in someone's life."
"He died before I was born. I doubt if he even knew that my mother was pregnant."
"Did you miss having a father? I know that sounds obvious, but..."
The Prince stopped him with a look. "You can't miss something you've never had"
The reporter looked up as the study door opened and an assistant quietly entered. Approaching the two men, he was deferential. "Forgive me, your Highness." He held out a small paper cup with several pills in one hand and a glass of water in another. Taking them, the Prince thanked the man and swallowed the medicine.
He then handed the Ambassador a folded note that was opened and read immediately and without the slightest expression.
"Yes, thank you. Please tell him I know and will attend to it shortly." Bowing slightly, the man withdrew.
"Were there any further questions, Mr. Marshall?"
"Just one, sir, if you don't mind."
The Prince shook his head. "No, go ahead."
"Your eyes, sir. Everyone remarks on them and they certainly are striking but I understand that there are some superstitions concerning their unusual color where you come from. Is that true and has it ever been a problem for you? Also, I was wondering what would cause their color, I mean, is it common for your people?"
"The color is caused by a recessive gene which happens to run in my family. It shows up now and then. I've been told that my father had the same eyes I do."
"What about the superstitions I've heard about? Any problems with that?"
"Superstitions are generally only truly believed by people who are either ignorant or uneducated Mr. Marshall. The vast majority of our people are neither."
"The belief is the violet color indicates the owner is evil or possessed by the devil or something along those lines, isn't that it?"
"Yes, that was the original thinking. Fortunately for me, it's largely fallen out of favor."
"What would happen if you had been born when that was still accepted as true?"
"There was a time when I'd have been killed at birth."
"How recently would that have been a possibility, sir? What I mean is, does this go back millennia or centuries or could that have been a problem recently?"
The Prince spread his hands in a gesture of dismissal. "There are always some who hold onto old beliefs. Our people are no different than any other."
Marshall looked up in surprise. "You mean that it could have happened to you? You might have been killed at birth if circumstances had been different somehow?"
"Mr. Marshall, I'm don't concern myself with 'what ifs'. There's no point in that. Obviously, I'm here."
"Your Highness, do you ever encounter problems because of your eyes? Have you had any--incidents--because of them?"
"It happens, both here and at home. It actually is more of a concern on the surface than at home because it's more unusual here to see this color. At home, it's generally not much of a problem."
"But you have had some problems, sir?"
"Yes, but I don't consider them important."
"Could you give me an example, sir?"
"I'd rather not. They are the usual type of thing. In all honesty, the vast numbers of my encounters with people are positive. I would rather focus on that side of things. Perhaps I'm being naïve, but I think they are more representative of the general feelings towards us, anyway."
"What sort of reactions do you find, sir, usually? I mean, most people up here have never met someone from your country."
"I find that most people are mostly just curious and usually pleasant, given a chance."
The Prince stood; indicating the end of the interview had arrived. Marshall knew a cue when he saw one. The poor guy was obviously exhausted and probably wanted to go lie down for a while--maybe in that big pool in the basement.
Marshall stood. "Your Highness, thank you for giving me so much of your time. You've been generous with me about this interview and I know that you're still not fully recovered. It's good of you to see me like this."
The moved out to the entranceway. Opening the door, the Prince extended his hand, laughing. "Well, we called you, but thank you for coming, Mr. Marshall. You're known to be one of the best writers the Times has, I'm flattered that you would be interested in our small country and it's concerns."
A servant appeared with a sealed kitchen container. It was silently handed to the reporter. He looked a question at his host.
"The soup. Did you think we'd forget?"
"My wife will be impressed."
"I thought you told me that you live with a man the last time we spoke, Mr. Marshall." The Prince seemed amused at having caught him out.
"Yes sir, I do. My wife. You're one of the most fascinating stories I've had in a long time, sir. Thank you." The Prince closed the door behind him as he left.
Walking down the steps to the sidewalk and making his way along the street he decided to turn down 5th Avenue, past the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Passing the large building he saw the blue banner hanging off the front of the façade, above the main entrance: "Treasures From Atlantis". It took up over thirty galleries on the second floor, one of the largest exhibits ever mounted. It would leave here in a couple of months and was booked at major museums around the world for the next six years solid. Tickets were so in demand that the scalpers had practically sent the Embassy a thank you note.
Hell, the Atlanteans had even insisted that their cut of ticket and gift shop profits were to be given to charities in whichever city the stuff was being shown in. That was another of the Prince's ideas. He was a PR genius.
After closing the door, Garth made his way upstairs to the room he used as his own.
He smiled as he saw his lover waiting for him, sitting propped on the bed, leaning against the headboard and a pile of pillows, a book in from of him.
"I got your note." He put his hand out to have it gently grasped as he was pulled down to lie on the bed. He slipped his arms around the strong body, resting his head on the chest, breathing in his scent.
"You're tired, you should sleep."
"I know. I will in a while. You could help me have good dreams, Robbie."
"You're shameless, and insatiable. And I love you." They kissed, tongues caressing one another, tasting, feeling each other. "How did it go? Did I interrupt anything?"
"It was fine. He seems to be doing a character piece on me since I'm so fabulous. And I managed to keep a straight face, no thanks to your note."
"What? What did I do?"
"I'm hard for you?" He pushed himself up to look down at Dick's almost innocent face. "I'm in the middle of an interview with the New York Times and you write that you're hard for me?"
"You're the one who insists on sharing and that whole honesty thing that you have going."
"You're hard for me?"
"Well...and you said that you'd, what was it, attend to it?"
"You said that I'm tired. Perhaps this could wait." His hand was working its way down the front of Dick's loose sweatpants, fondling what was there. "You're the one who seems to be asleep here."
Without warning Dick put his arms around Garth's back and rolled them both over. Looking down at the beloved face now beneath his he asked, "You know what I'd really like?"
Laughing, "I'm sure you'll tell me."
"I'd like to go down to the pool and make love underwater. Can we?"
"I saw Marcus and a couple of the others doing laps a while ago. You care if we have an audience?"
Garth burst out laughing. "You? Mr. Oh, Please Close the Curtains wants to put on a show? Robbie, I'm shocked. Scandalized, really upset and surprised. What other secrets have you been keeping from me besides exhibitionism? Troilism, perhaps?"
"We could use the shower in here, you know."
"Not the same." Dick's hands were starting on Garth's nipples and his eyes were starting to lose some of their focus. "Of course, I wouldn't want to compromise your royal dignity, your Highness."
"My staff is very discrete. They'll see nothing."
"Damn. We'll have to make an effort then, won't we?" Dick rolled off of him, took his hand and started to pull him off the bed.
"You're serious? C'mon, Rob, the others really are down there."
"Yeah, I know that. You don't have any fantasies?" They were now standing together, arms around each other and Dick was starting to divest the Prince of his clothing, or at least most of it.
"Plenty of them--if we do one of yours, do we get to go with one of mine?"
"Do you never stop negotiating?"
"Those are my terms."
"Fine, all right, fine!" A beat. "But first, the pool."