It's not that Phil isn't a nice guy. That's his problem, actually. He's way too nice. Phil is the equivalent of asking your best friend's neighbor's cousin's dog walker who played middle school orchestra to take a look at your songs as a casual favor for a not-even acquaintance. Nice and well-meaning, maybe even with smart stuff to say. But he's not what they need in the end. Not really.
Phil is the one who sees their first show. Phil is the one who sees their potential. Phil is the one who answers all their questions, who sends their demos out, who convinces them to come out to New York, just one summer, and introduces them to everyone they still know. Phil is the one who tells them about the Larson. Phil is the one who tells them about everything.
But Phil never meant to be an agent, not really. And he was never meant to be theirs.
Everything about Alex is intense, down to the whites of his eyes which never seem to blink. Bobby feels the need to not blink back, and he suspects that little smirk means Alex has noticed.
"And that Smash thing? What was that about?"
He also feels the need to not cringe. "They - " didn't want us, is what he'd blurted out to Jamie, unknown parts furious and humiliated. But Alex is not Jamie. He doesn't trust him with his life. He doesn't trust him with his toenail clippings. "Had something different in mind for us," is what he says to him, this stranger with the infuriating teeth. "Then the show got canceled. Didn't work out."
"Uh-huh," says Alex, obviously unconvinced. "And it had nothing to do with your agent taking a bad deal because he didn't know how to negotiate for a better one?"
No way to negotiate when only one side wants it, but no one has to know that. Even if a small part of him feels traitorous for letting Phil take the fall for this one, even in a stranger's mind.
The stranger is already moving on. "You shouldn't be wasting your time on other people's visions anyway. I hear you guys have a new show in the works? Completely original?"
"And you're sure Phil is the right guy to help you with that?"
"What do you mean? He's - "
"I'm just saying," Alex is saying, "Dogfight."
Bobby bristles. Alex notices. Goddamn it. "What about Dogfight?"
"Don't get me wrong, it was a great little show. Spent what, six years on it? All that build up, right after the Tony nom, and it just kinda fizzled out."
Bobby has been making excuses for Dogfight for months now. It never sounds more convincing.
"I'm just saying," Alex is saying, "could've gone better. Could've gone to Broadway."
"I know," Bobby snaps without thinking, and then realizes Alex has him.
Alex does too, if the slow unfurling smile's any indication. "So you'll think about it."
"I'll think about thinking about it."
Bobby's a great liar, unless he wants something.
It's not that Phil isn't a nice guy. It's nothing to do with being nice.
This is what he repeats, over and over, to the back of Jamie's head as he's slumped over the piano.
"I know," he's saying, and he knows he knows because Jamie's a smart guy and Bobby wouldn't love him so much otherwise, wouldn't have stuck around, wouldn't still be working despite every last odd with him. It's a good thing Bobby's smart too, because God knows he gives Jamie more reasons to leave than he does him.
"So what's the problem?"
But of course Bobby knows what the problem is.
Jamie says it anyway, like they both need to hear it, and maybe they do. "It's still a shitty thing to do, nice or - "
"I told you it's - "
"Not about nice or not."
"Yeah, but - "
"He's gotten us this far - "
"And this is where you want to be?"
And then Jamie's quiet, because Jamie is like Bobby. He's never had to lie to get what he wants.
Jamie's the one who keeps in touch with Phil, like his last words before they walked out his door were a genuine invitation and not a courtesy tag. Jamie's the one who sees him for coffee, sends him Christmas cards. Jamie's the one Phil tells about seeing the trailers for La La Land, about Christmas Story at Madison Square Garden. Good job, boys. Bobby's sure he means it. He was always such a nice guy.
Jamie always comes back from these coffees and lunches and children's dance recitals in a bad mood. Bobby knows that look, the one that says they won't be getting any work done. He stifles a sigh, just barely contains an eyeroll. Inefficiency like this is what didn't get them the Emmy.
"Come on, it's not like he's mad," he says, again, like he doesn't know it won't do any good. It's habit at this point, another pointless ritual.
"He's not," Jamie groans, "he's happy for us."
"He's a good guy and I feel like a piece of shit."
"You're not not a good guy," Bobby offers, teasing, almost hoping he can joke his way out of this, but there's no pulling Jamie out of his wallowing pool once he's situated himself in.
And maybe that's what finally makes him crack.
"Though you're kind of being a shitty one right now."
Jamie is scientifically impossible to be mad at. That's why it's so weird when he is.
But he's sick of feeling bad and he's sick of seeing Jamie sad. So the only thing left to do is get mad.
"Do you think I enjoyed doing that to Phil?"
Jamie sits up. The pillow lines already indenting his face are not endearing, not adorable, not making him look like a sleepy sweet child. "I didn't - "
"You're acting like I'm the one who forced you into this, like - "
"I'm not - "
"Like you wouldn't have. Like you don't know I wouldn't do anything you didn't want. Make out to be the bad guy but you knew what we had to do."
Jamie must be magic, he swears to every god. Like the Music Meister, or some kind of sonic empath. A single word can shut him up, though it can't stop him from being mad.
But that's what the other words are for. Other words and that infurating dimple every time his face moves. "I know we had to do it. I know it was best. That's why I agreed."
It's just like Jamie, to be like this. Even when Bobby's picking a fight, he's the one who backs down, who makes things nice. It drives Bobby crazy sometimes. He shouldn't be the one apologizing. He's not even apologizing.
Instead, Jamie's reaching out to take Bobby's hand. "You always look out for me. For us."
This is true, except for when it's not. Bobby would put their collaboration ahead of just about everything except for himself. That's the real reason he's so angry. His selfishness is careless but not callous, doesn't leave casualties he regrets. Not usually. And so far it's just happened that what's been best for Bobby has been what's best for the team, but what if one day it's not?
Jamie must know, Bobby thinks. He's smart too.