"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 74 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Life in Hammersmith", the previous chapter.

The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Rowan Conley, Sir Kenneth Fielding, Hughie Marsh, Kenroy Smith, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin must deal with Brian's excesses. London, July 2002.
Author's Note: Susan -- you are a hard task-mistress! I LIKE it!
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.

At 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning I finally can't take it for another minute and call Sir Ken's house. Hughie answers the phone. "What?" he says, obviously sleepy and pissed off.

"Please, Hugh, can I talk to Sir Ken?"

"Oh, bloody hell. Wait a moment," he grumbles. I half expect him to hang up on me.

But Sir Ken comes on the line almost immediately. "My dear, is everything all right?"

"Not really," I say. "Have you... seen Brian? I mean, when was the last time you saw him?"

There's a pause at the other end. A long pause. Is he thinking -- or making up a cover story?

"I saw him last night before I left the location. It was about 3:00 a.m., Justin. Isn't he home yet?"

"No," I say. "That's why I'm calling. I'm... worried. I'm concerned... I'm fucking terrified!"

"Now, don't panic, my dear. Brian was a bit... worse for wear last night after the rigors of the shoot. That Charley Weston and his crew and their women were plying him with drink and wanted him to accompany them on further debauches. But Dorian, our director, intervened. He, too, was concerned that Brian was not in the best of shape and, frankly, he doesn't trust Weston or any of the band members and their entourage."

"Then where IS Brian?!" I'm practically yelling at Sir Ken in my frustration.

"Dorian took him away in his own car. He's probably sleeping it off at Dorian's house in Bloomsbury. When he wakes up, he'll have a headache but be no worse off, I'm certain," says Sir Ken, trying to pacify me.

"Bloomsbury? Isn't that near the British Museum?" I pick up the map book that Brian gave me and begin leafing through the pages, looking for Bloomsbury.

"Yes, dear. But I wouldn't go over there looking for Brian," he says firmly.

"Why not? Why the fuck shouldn't I go over there? Why didn't this guy send him HOME last night?"

But Sir Ken avoids that question. "I'm sure Brian's fine, my dear. He'll return, contrite and feeling like twenty different kinds of hell, soon enough. Then you may -- how does he put it? -- chew him a new asshole. And you'll be well within your rights."

Rights, huh? All Sir Ken's words about my 'rights' aren't helping me at all. I feel like I'm right back at square one with Brian. I'm scared -- and I'm angry, too. Mad at Brian for all this shit he's putting me through. And mad at myself for putting up with it. One minute Brian is saying he's my 'boyfriend' -- whatever that seems to mean to him. But the next minute he's just acting like the same uncaring asshole he's always been. Except when he isn't. Except when he's wonderful... And now I'm so fucking confused that I'm ready to put my fist through a window!

"What rights do I have?" I say to Sir Ken. "It's fucking hopeless! That's what I'm beginning to think!"

"Now, Justin. Don't say that." Sir Ken sounds very serious. "You are in a relationship with Brian, are you not?"

"I'm beginning to wonder, Sir Ken. The other day he said I'm his boyfriend -- and you don't understand how fucking HARD something like that was for him to admit! And now he's acting like he doesn't care. He doesn't come home or call me. I don't even know he's alive!"

"Justin, perhaps that is part of the problem. YOUR expectations of Brian. And his belief in his inability to live up those expectations. If this is, truly, a big step for him to take -- perhaps he's preparing himself for possible failure."

"But why would he expect to fail?"

"Why indeed? Because he has no experience with success? Unless it is success with you? And if YOU give up, my dear, then who else will care enough to stop him from a path to self-destruction? And you MUST stop him, don't you know?"

"Yes, I know." But I don't feel that I can stop it -- how can I, when I have no control over anything? Over what Brian does or where he goes? And it's one thing to keep drugs away from him when he's at the hotel or when we are out together -- and even THEN he does what he wants half the time, like at the club the other night! But if people outside are supplying him, encouraging him to fuck himself up, then what can I do?

"Do you want me to come over there, Justin? Or I can call Kenroy Smith to pick you up or you can get a taxi to come over here?"

"Thanks, Sir Ken, but no. What if Brian comes back while I'm gone? He might call the moment I leave! I know he doesn't have his phone on him. Brian left it here yesterday because he says that cellphones aren't 'period' and he can't feel like Hammersmith with a fucking cellphone in his pocket! So I haven't been able to call HIM. But there MUST be a phone at Dorian's house. Can YOU give me that number, Sir Ken? Please?"

"I don't think that would be a good idea, Justin. I tried calling over there earlier and only got Dorian's houseman -- and he wasn't very helpful."

"In other words, you're telling me NOT to ask any questions and just sit around here and wait to see if Brian decides to call -- or finally decides to show up?"

Sir Ken's voice is soothing, but direct. "Justin, I'm telling you that he's quite safe. You must trust me on this. And I'm asking that you have some faith in Brian, as well. Yes, he's made some mistakes, but nothing irrevocable. Do you understand me?"


"My suggestion would be to go on and do something normal. Eat breakfast. Go for a walk. Get out of that hotel room and try to focus your attention on something else for a few hours. There is nothing you can do now. And going over and looking for Dorian Folco's house so that you can pound on the door and retrieve Brian is NOT the answer, my dear. He WILL come home as soon as he's able. And you must prepare yourself to deal with him when he does."

"I know that, Sir Ken."

"Good boy, then. Please call me back when the wanderer returns, will you?"

"I will," I say. And Sir Ken signs off.

I lay down on the bed and try to get some sleep, but it's impossible. So I take Sir Ken's advice and get dressed and go down to breakfast. Rowan comes over to my table immediately.

"Want to take your camera out to one of the markets? You can get some good shots of the stalls and goods. Portobello is right up the way. All the tourists will be over-running the place, but we can still get some practice in."

"Sure," I say, unenthusiastically. I'm thinking about how Brian was going to take me to the antique market today -- and now I'm going without him. And going without even knowing where the fuck he is. I eat very little -- I can't even finish my corn flakes -- and mainly just drink some weak tea. Then I go back to the room, hoping Brian will be back, or at least have left a message. But there's nothing.

I meet Rowan in front of the hotel at 10:00, after breakfast is finished, and we walk up towards Portobello Road. Rowan has his own camera and gear in an old camera bag. I have my new camera in a fancy leather bag, with an extra lens and my flash extension. It's all new, all expensive. Rowan basically picked it out for me at the camera store two days ago. I was going to pay for the equipment myself, but Brian handed me the cash in the morning before he left for the studio. He slipped the money into my pocket before he kissed me goodbye and said, "I'll add this to your 'educational package.'" And he laughed.

The market is busy and colorful. Rowan is right -- there are plenty of things to take pictures of. The market stalls and their tenders are the most interesting. Real Londoners, shouting with heavy Cockney accents. One old woman selling antique postcards begins posing like a fashion model, flashing a mouthful of missing teeth, when she sees me snapping her. "No nudes today. luv!" she cackles, pinching my cheek.

"She's not bleeding joking, are you, Daisy?" laughs a man at the next stall. "Daisy is the very devil for a sweet young boy, so you watch it, Sunny Jim!"

I take a picture of him, too. Rowan is going through the old postcards and picks out a couple. "Look at the shadows on this one," he says. "And the way the faces are lit. I wonder what kind of camera they used in those days? And what kinds of lighting?"

"I don't know," I say, thinking of something else other than Rowan's photographs. Thinking of Brian. What else? I start to take out my phone to call the room, but Rowan is right there and I don't want him knowing my business any more than he already does. I especially don't want him knowing anything about Brian.

"I'll have to ask my instructor. I like these effects. I wonder if I could get it by using a brown wash on my prints. Make them look old." Rowan pulls out about six that he likes and shoves them in my hand. "Buy these for me. The old lady likes you -- she'll give you a mark down."

"But...." And Rowan is off to another booth. I pay for the postcards. Of course, Rowan will never pay me back. I guess he thinks Brian pays for me, so I should pay for him. It's the natural order of things in Rowan's mind.

I see so many things I want to buy for people. There's an old framed print of some opera singers and I immediately think of Ted. And pieces of antique jewelry for my mom and Debbie. And old dolls with cloth bodies and china heads that I can picture sitting on the shelf in Molly's bedroom. And a framed selection of cards featuring old movie stars.

"What are these?" I ask the girl at the stall.

"Cigarette cards. In the old days you'd buy a pack o' smokes and them cards would come in 'em. See, these are ones from the 1930's. And these a bit later." She points to the stars. "These are American stars. Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Gary Cooper. And some British stars. Ivor Novello, Gracie Fields. This here is young Laurence Olivier. Only Pound20."

I have no clue whether that's a good price or not. But I make a note to come back -- something like that would be perfect for Vic, our #1 old movie addict.

Before I know it, it's past noon. Rowan drags me over to a pub and we jostle with a bunch of tourists to get a pint and a sausage roll each. I pay, again. Of course.

"You still drinking that lager?"

"I don't like the other stuff."

"Try some Guinness," he urges, holding up his glass of black, foamy beer. "It's a real man's drink! It'll put some hair on your chest!"

"I doubt that," I reply. I peek down the front of my shirt, looking for a stray hair. But there's nothing to be found.

"How old are you -- I mean, really?" Rowan leans in at me.

"Nineteen. Really."

"So you say -- but I don't believe it."

"Want to see my passport?"

"I have. But I still don't believe it."

I stare at Rowan. "When did you see my passport?"

He shrugs. "It was lying about the room and I looked."

Rowan is much too nosy for comfort. I've never left my passport just lying around the room. Which means that Rowan has been snoopy around the suite, looking at my stuff. Looking at Brian's stuff, too. And I remember Brian telling me that he saw Rowan sniffing his underwear. I thought Brian was kidding -- or imagining it. But now I'm not so sure. And that is completely creepy. I look at Rowan and think that there is something majorly weird going on with him.

But if I didn't have Rowan to talk to I'd be by myself -- and I don't want to be alone today. I would be back in the room, looking out the window every five seconds or calling the front desk. I'm practically doing that NOW! And I take out my cellphone and call the room. I've been calling every half-hour. There's still no answer.

We walk down Portobello, checking out the stalls and going into some of the antique stores. Sir Ken has loads of antiques in his house in Chelsea. I wonder how long it takes to know which ones are really valuable and which ones are junk -- because a lot of the stuff looks like junk to me. I know Brian would say ALL of it is junk. He likes modern furniture, preferably Italian or Scandinavian. He says the rest of it is shit. But he especially hates Early American -- he says that every time we go to my mom's condo he has a duck-and-eagle-motif overdose. But it feels comfortable to me. Like home. Like my family. And I start to feel homesick all of a sudden. And sick for Brian.

I take out my phone and call the room again. There's still no answer. Then I call the front desk. No message from Brian, just one from Sir Ken reminding me to call him if I hear anything. Now I'm not just worried, I'm feeling panicky. I stop at a fish and chips stand and buy a soft drink and take one of my own anti-anxiety pills. Why not join the club?

At the end of Portobello Road is a big flea market and some clothing stalls. This is where Brian said he bought clothes cheaply. Some of the stuff is inexpensive, but a lot is over-priced and so ultra-trendy you can't imagine anyone really wearing it, especially me. Brian is always joking about my taste in clothes, but whenever he buys something for me or suggests something, it's always the kinds of polo shirts and pullovers I feel the most comfortable in. He doesn't try to force me into any kind of other style or mold. Like he wants me to stay the way I am....

"It's all shite," says Rowan, interrupting my thoughts. I start wishing that he'd go away and leave me alone. But instead we continue on. Rowan gets a couple of pictures of people trying the clothes on in the street and pretending to model them. Rowan always gets an interesting angle or a weird twist in his pictures. I try to see what he is seeing, but it's hard to focus on what is coming through the lens. It makes me want to take out my sketch-pad and draw some of the things I'm seeing. Draw my impressions of the people. My drawings feel like they capture something in the scenes and in the people I see that I just don't feel through the camera lens. Maybe next week I'll come by myself and sit and just draw as long as my hand holds out. By myself.

I watch an Asian man doing caricatures of some tourists, the quick way he works, picking out some physical characteristic and exaggerating it. One woman wants a straight drawing and he does that, too -- again quickly outlining, shading, sketching in the details of the face. It's a good likeness. I wonder how long he's been doing this and if it's the way he makes his living.

But Rowan is dragging me along to another stall, then down another side street. He's being even bossier than usual, hauling me along like he's my mother or something. And given my already pissed off mood, I'm about ready to take a poke at him if he pulls at my arm again.

Rowan goes into a little record store. I stop and gape when I see the sign over the door -- 'Minus Zero/No Limit.'

"What ya waiting for?" Rowan motions me in. "I want to see if they got some import CDs I've been looking for."

But I take a few pictures of the sign. I'm thinking of my found art project and this is perfect for it. Inside, the guy behind the counter gives me his card. Asks me where I'm from. I say Pittsburgh. "I prolly have something from some Pittsburgh bands. That near Cleveland? I got a lot of American imports. You familiar with a lot of local groups?"

"Not at all," I say. The guy shakes his head at my ignorance.

Rowan picks out some CD singles and puts them on the counter. Then he looks at me.



"Are you expecting me to pay for those?" I say. I can't believe it. What fucking nerve!

"Why not? I'm your mate and you're flush -- so?"

"Rowan, I'll pay for a beer now and then, but I'm not buying your fucking CDs for you!"

He and the guy behind the counter exchange glances. But I'm not paying for them!

"I'm spending my time here, teaching you photography, so why not? My time's worth something, isn't it?" Rowan now acts like he's pissed off at me! That really makes me fucking boil.

"Yeah, you take me around and point at stuff for me to shoot! That's not exactly a class, Rowan."

"Sure," jokes the record guy. "School o' the streets, like!"

"Who asked you?" I say to the guy. Then I turn to Rowan. "I'm sick of this shit! You are a total asshole when you claim to be my friend, Rowan!"

I turn and stalk out of the store and head towards Portobello Road. The crowds are thinning a little because it's started to rain. And I didn't bring my umbrella. I hear Rowan calling out to me from the door of the record store, but I keep going. It's really raining hard, now, and I'm practically running, like you can run between the drops and not get wet. I used to believe that when I was a kid.

Finally, I stop under an awning and just wait out the storm. I check my camera, but it's nice and dry in it's new leather case. And I think about Rowan, who Brian seems to think has some kind of 'romantic' interest in me. That's a big laugh! He should see the reality -- that I'm just a rich kid who is stupid enough to pay for Rowan's way and let myself be pushed around by him because I'm lonely. And because I miss Brian when he's not around. Which is all the time.

But my mother is always warning me not to let myself be used by people. Of course, she meant Brian. But Rowan is using me, to pay for things he wants and can't afford. Pretending to be my great friend. Right! Hughie was using me, too, to get away to see his boyfriend. Michael used me for a place to live. Debbie used me as a surrogate son. Brian said that Senator Baxter used me for her political campaign. My parents used me as an excuse to get divorced. Chris Hobbs used me for batting practice. Everyone uses me to one extent or another, don't they? Except maybe Diane. Unless she uses me as someone to feel sorry for. Yes, that's a good one, too. And Brian uses me the most of all. I guess Rowan would say that I'M using Brian. For my education. For the things I need for school. Money to live. To travel. Fuck money, I guess. So why shouldn't Rowan get a piece of it? He's being practical, I guess. Why the fuck not? What else IS there? Why not....

The awning is soaked and leaking right on my head. As long as I'm going to be wet, I might as well keep walking. And so I do, trudging up the road, past the stalls covered with tarps and plastic to keep the rain off, past the tourists with their fancy umbrellas.

I know I'm just feeling sorry for myself. The rain is washing down on my face, but it feels like tears. But I'm too angry and frustrated with Brian and the world -- and furious with myself for what I'm thinking. What I'm feeling. I AM a fucking drama princess! I admit it! But how can I help it?

And at the end of the street I see a black Rolls, pulled over. As I walk up to it the door opens and Kenroy Smith gets out. He has a big towel in his hand. "I've been waiting for you, Justin. Get in and get dry."

And I do.


"I was becoming worried, Justin. I didn't have your mobile number -- please give it to me, if you will. And when it began to rain I became very concerned about you," says Sir Ken. We are sitting in his living room on his antique sofa.

"But how did you know where I'd be?"

"The chap at the front desk. You told him where you were when you called to retrieve your messages."

"But there is STILL no message from Brian," I say. My stomach aches from worry. From grief.

Hugh brings out a tray with a pot of tea and some cups and sets it down on the coffee table in front of Sir Ken. "The British believe that there is no problem that can't be solved over a cup of tea," says Sir Ken. "So let us have one and then we'll talk."

I drink the tea. I'm still chilled from being soaked, but the tea helps to warm me up from the inside.

"I called Dorian and, yes, Brian IS over there."

I sit up straight, relieved that Brian is okay. "Then why didn't he call me?" I say, now getting mad. "What the fuck is going on over there?"

"Dorian definitely took him back to his house last night because he was close to passing out. I'm not certain what he ingested Friday night, but it was quite a lot. Dorian is now threatening to fire Charley Weston and the entire band. But you and I know that Weston, as detestable as he may be, is not really the one at fault."

"He is if he's giving Brian shit and encouraging him to take it!"

"Yes, Justin, Weston and the others are partly to blame, that is certain. But this problem with Brian must date back a while, even years, in fact. It isn't anything new, is it, Justin?"

"No," I say. "It's not new." I just want to crawl away somewhere. Because I feel like I've failed my job. ''Don't let it all go to my head,' Brian said to me on the plane coming over. "It's YOUR job to keep me grounded.' And I haven't kept him grounded. I haven't done my job. Are the drugs, the partying, and the acting out all part of that fantasy that's gone to his head? Brian playing the role of the 'rock star'? Doing what's 'expected' of him by the band? But there's more to it. Something has set him off on that self-destructive road -- and I don't know what the fuck it is!

"Now, here is the more immediate problem, my dear."

"What? What more could there be?"

Sir Ken takes hold of my hand. "It appears that Dorian is being... how should I put this? Difficult about Brian."

"What do you mean? Is he being fired?" My mind races. This is horrible. Brian will feel like he's completely fucked up his big chance, proving Ron right that he can't do anything without Ron's assistance! On the other hand, if I can get Brian back to Pittsburgh and away from all this temptation... the only trouble is that there are plenty of drugs in Pittsburgh, and plenty of booze, too -- and Brian knows exactly where to get them if he wants them.

"No, he isn't being fired. Regardless of this little set-back, the scenes went very well last night. ALL the scenes are going well. Brian is extraordinary in the film. And Dorian is delighted with Brian...." Sir Ken hesitates and looks at Hughie, who just shrugs. "Too delighted, I'm afraid."

Now I'm standing up. "What the fuck is THAT supposed to mean?"

"He wants Brian to stay at his house for the remainder of the shoot. Where he can keep an eye on him...." He looks at me. I know THAT pitying look.

"But that isn't everything, is it, Sir Ken? This guy is fucking around with Brian, isn't he? For how long? When was I supposed to know about this? It can't have been happening very long! It can't have been!" I know that now I'm REALLY being an hysterical drama princess, but this was the last thing I expected! The drinking and the drugs -- those I'm trying to deal with. Those I was ready for to some extent. And I'm even helping Brian deal with them. I KNOW I can help him, little by little. But having an affair with his director? Shit! Now I really feel like I have been kicked in the gut!

"Now, dear, please sit down! I don't even know for certain that it is actually happening. It's only a feeling I have -- and also some things that Dorian said the other day to Gerry Milton."

"I don't want to sit down! And what's Gerry Milton got to do with all this?"

"He stopped by the studio looking for Brian yesterday afternoon. Then Dorian came in. Gerry and Dorian went at it like a pair of babies playing tug o' war over a doll. I believe that row started this whole process. Because Brian was completely sober all day and has been all week, but by the time we reached location he had already started drinking."

"Fuck! Now what am I supposed to do? Get a gun and shoot these guys? All those fucking guys!? Is that the only way to keep them away from Brian? Is THAT my only alternative? Maybe I should just shoot BRIAN -- and then shoot MYSELF!" I'm screaming now. I feel that I'm out of control, but I can't help it. I think to myself that I should just give up now. If I felt hopeless before, it really comes home to me just how helpless -- how useless -- I actually am. What am I doing here, really? Am I helping Brian? Or just fooling myself?

"Now, Justin, please be calm, my dear." Sir Ken stands next to me and eases me onto the sofa next to him.

"What's the fucking point?" I try to shout, but it comes out a whisper. I'm trying not to burst into tears, but find my anger has pushed them all inside, making my face hot and feverish, while my body feels cold and clammy from my damp clothes.

Sir Ken tries to push more tea into me, but I thrust it away. "I don't want any more fucking tea! You can't solve THIS with fucking tea!"

"No, you can't, Justin," Sir Ken says, quietly. "But it's a way to sit and think about what you WILL do. Just holding the cup, sipping the tea, is a way to clear your mind so that you CAN think."

"Now you sound like Ben Bruckner and all his Zen bullshit!"

"Well, I don't know Mr. Bruckner, but, yes, it is a similar concept."

I think of the irony that Ben is one of Ron's oldest friends. And yet, I've always had a lot of respect for Ben and what he has to say. It seems strange to hear similar words coming out of Sir Kenneth Fielding. I wipe my sleeve across my eyes. "So what does your teacup tell you to do, Sir Ken?"

He lifts the cup. "It tells me to wait for Brian to sober up. Because when he does, his choice will be obvious."

"Right, Dorian is the director. Brian knows the score. He knows what he has to do to get along on this picture. Even I know THAT score. But it doesn't make it any easier to deal with." I know my voice sounds resigned, even fatalistic.

"No, my dear, that's NOT what I mean at all, Justin. Because as soon as Brian sobers up well enough to be in his right mind -- which will have to be sometime very soon -- he'll be rushing as fast as he can back to the Chatterton, of course. Where else?"

"That's nice for you to say, Sir Ken -- but I wish I could be so sure. I always feel like I end up as a fucking afterthought. The stop-gap. The convenient fuck, just like my mother warned me about," I say, putting down my teacup and standing up.

"Is that ALL the faith you have, my dear?"

I look at him. "I thought I knew differently. I thought that Brian really... loved me, but...."

"YOU have to be there and YOU have to be persistent. I imagine you are quite the persistent boy already?"

"Some would say that. But it's so exhausting...."

"So is making a film. Or writing a book. Or drawing a beautiful portrait of a beautiful person -- of someone you love. It's dirty, frustrating, tenacious work done by stubborn, determined, and often annoying people. Like me. Like Brian. Like YOU, Justin. You don't strike me as a man who would ever give up on something he wanted."

"I don't know anymore."

"Yes, you know, Justin. You know that the effort, as painful as it might be, is worth the end result. Will be worth what you gain in the end -- especially if that is your heart's desire."

Sir Ken walks me to the door. Kenroy Smith is outside in his car, waiting to take me back to the Chatterton.

Now it's raining even harder than before. When we reach the hotel, Kenroy ushers me to the door under his big umbrella. "Call me if you need a ride anywhere," he says. "You have the number. Any time, day or night."

"Thanks for everything, Kenroy." And then I go in.

I open the door with my key card and the first thing I see are Brian's jeans and leather jacket lying on a heap on the floor. Then his tee shirt thrown on the couch. The relief I feel that he's safe and back in this room almost overwhelms me.

I go into the bathroom and he's in the tub, surrounded by the bubbles of my fancy bath oil. "I thought you hated baths, Brian" I say, keeping my voice even, trying to hide the hysteria that has been just below the surface all day. "I thought baths make you all wrinkly and smelling like a French whorehouse?"

He's leaning his head back, eyes closed. "They do. But it's the only way to soak away the last twenty-four fucking hours. I tried the shower and it didn't work."

"How come you aren't with your new boyfriend?"

"I thought I was. Right here."

"I meant Dorian."

"Shit," is all Brian says.


"What a fucking nightmare."


"Please don't ask me anymore. Why do you think I'm in this bathtub?"

"So, what am I supposed to do now, Brian?" I say. "What?"

"Why not get in the tub? There's room for two." He stirs around in the water.

"And that's what it's always reduced to, Brian? That I should be quiet and get into bed? Or pull my pants down? Or get into the tub? That's what it all means to you, Brian? All that I mean?"

"Does that mean you don't want to?" he opens his eyes and blinks at me. "Please?"

So, I take off my wet clothes and get into the tub, sitting in front of him. He reaches his arms
around my waist, and pulls me back against his chest. It feels so good to be in his arms again that I come close to losing it.

"You're already so warm. Did you get overheated?"

"No. I got caught in the rain and soaked to the skin," I tell him. "I'll probably catch pneumonia and die right in this room."

"Shut up!" he says fiercely, tightening his grip around me. Brian is intensely superstitious, although he'll never admit it. I can feel his shoulders trembling. And I realize that Brian himself is on the verge of hysteria. That's why he's in the tub. He doesn't have his pills -- and he doesn't seem to have taken any other drugs or had anything to drink since he woke from his crash of last night. This is his way of trying to calm himself. Of trying to keep control. He's as fucking terrified as I am! Maybe more. "Never fucking say ANYTHING like that again, Justin! It's tempting Fate."

"Everything we do is tempting Fate, Brian. That's what it's all about," I say, quietly.

And that's what it IS about. Always tempting Fate, Brian and I. Always. And I'm fearful about what we will be tempting Fate with next.

©Gaedhal, August 2002

Continue on to "Positively 4th Street", the next chapter.

Updated August 23, 2002