THINGS HAVE CHANGED

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

Go back to "Things Have Changed -- Part 1, Page 1", the previous page.

Later in the afternoon, after my 'bath,' Kenroy shows up and he has my clothes. Thank God! Once I get dressed I'll feel like I'm alive again and not just a pawn in the British National Health game.

Kenroy tries to help me, but I insist on getting dressed by myself -- which is a fucking chore, between the pain I'm in and all the bandages. But this is something I need to do myself. I feel sore, but I can stand it. I've been bashed around before. Like when Justin's father smashed the Jeep, and then smashed me. But other times that I'd rather not think about, too. Plenty of other times. I think I'll live.

I shave and comb my hair and I can't believe how much just doing simple stuff like that makes me feel like myself again. I also get a long, hard look at myself in the bathroom mirror. Oh, I've seen myself since I got in here, but I didn't go out of my way to take a good look. I do now. Yeah, it's messy, but what the fuck? It'll heal. It's only surface. It's only my face, after all. At least I don't have two nasty scars on the side of my skull, like someone else I can think of. I'd be pretty stupid to worry about such minor wounds when Justin has to go through his whole life with a physical reminder of....

I rinse the suds off my face and comb my hair again. And then again. It's one of those days.

So, I'm dressed and looking halfway human when the cop and his partner show up again. The inspector sort of does a double take when he sees me sitting in the chair instead of the bed. When I stand up and shake his hand. When I look so much better than I did before. Like a person and not a 'victim.' Come on, I think -- let this GO! I'm not going to freak out. I'm... not.

"Dr. Armstrong tells me that you are being released."

"I'm all ready to go," I say. I glance at Kenroy and Dorian, who are hovering in the background.

"Do you have anything to add to your statement, Mr. Kinney?" asks the inspector. It's coming to an end. Face it, man!

"No," I say. I'm steady. I have nothing to add. And I don't want to look at any more pictures, please. Please.

"If you remember anything more, please contact me. You have the number, Mr. Kinney."

"Right here," I say. Dorian hands me my Filofax and I hold it up, managing a small smile.

The inspector looks at me a long time. He wants to arrest somebody. I know he does. But he doesn't have any suspects. He doesn't have anything. Just some test results. And his own idea of what... happened. I know he wants to 'see justice done' and all that shit, but I just want to let it go. Forget everything. Erase it. Rewind my entire life and fucking get rid of THAT -- among other things.

Then the cop steps back. "We may need to call you in again. Please contact the office if you are planning to leave the country."

Dorian stands up. "Does that mean that he cannot leave, Inspector McCain?"

"No, Mr. Folco," he answers. "Mr. Kinney isn't a suspect. He's the victim. We just want to know where he is in case there's a development in the case. For instance, if we track down the owner of that club, The Black Door...." I flinch when he says that name. "Or anyone else who can give evidence."

"Thank you, Inspector," says Dorian. He can hardly wait to hustle me out of the hospital and the only thing standing between me and the door is the cop. But he leaves. Finally. Then Dr. Armstrong comes by with the release papers and I'm sprung.

***

In the Rolls Dorian chain smokes like a maniac. He pulls out one of those brown French cigarettes and puffs at it like a schoolgirl afraid he's going to get caught. Then he throws the thing out the window. Then five minutes later he lights another one.

Finally, I can't take it anymore. "Dorian, could you cut off the smoke, please? It's making me ill." If there's anything to aversion therapy, then I'll probably never smoke again. England itself is like being inside a fucking ashtray, so many people smoke, so I don't need it in here. I can't believe that Kenroy allows it in the Rolls -- until I recall that he smokes like a chimney, too. What the fuck.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Brian." And he tosses the cigarette out the window. "Brian, I must tell you that..." he hesitates a moment. What NOW? It must be something unpleasant.

"Just spill it, Dorian. Go ahead. Whatever it is." Jesus, I can take it. After everything that I've been through, what else could go wrong?

"Ron called my office -- more than once. He talked to Clive. And he called my house." He pauses, looking for my reaction. But I don't give him one. "And my cellphone. And... your cellphone. Ivan took that call. Your phone rang while it was sitting on the dresser and Ivan picked it up."

"So?" I say. I'm not really at all surprised to hear this. I'm more surprised at how little the news affects me. I feel nothing. Nothing at all.

"Ron... knows that something... happened to you. I don't know how he knows, Brian, but he does."

"How the fuck do you THINK, Dorian?" I say. "His usual way. He probably has video tapes of your Romanian blowing Prince Charles or something."

"Brian, don't make jokes about it!"

"Who's making a joke?" I respond.

"I spoke to Ron myself," Dorian continues. "And I put him off. I convinced him that nothing at all is wrong."

I sigh at Dorian's naivete. "Ron is NEVER put off! And if you think that he really believes that nothing is the matter with me just because YOU said so -- well, that's bullshit, Dorian!"

Dorian starts to reach for another cigarette, but then stops himself. "I feared as much. Which is another reason I wanted to get you out of that bloody city as soon as possible, Brian! Even if Ron comes over here, looking for you, he'll never get to Firelands."

"Oh, you never know," I say. "He might drop down into Harry's garden in a helicopter. That wouldn't surprise me at all. Although why he would give a shit... why he would bother after... what I did to him -- I can't understand it. It only proves what a nutcase Ron really is, I guess." I lean back and close my eyes. Why the hell?

I try to doze off, but every bump in the road feels like a punch. I think of taking this drive with Justin, when he was blasting his music so loud. Goofing off. Beginning our little vacation. It's a different story now. I took a painkiller before we started out, but it isn't enough. Dorian is 'in charge' of the drugs. I guess with my 'history' he figures that he better dole the things out to me so I don't just swallow the entire bottle all at once. My reputation precedes me.

Eventually I begin to recognize the road to Firelands. It's getting darker much earlier now, but it's still light enough for me to see the house. To see Harry and the dogs come out on the front steps. And Travers, the butler. I guess that Gerry Milton won't be coming down this weekend, thank God. The last thing I want to do is socialize and pretend that everything is normal. That's it's simply a little weekend houseparty and I'm a-okay. All I want is to hide in my room and let Dorian hand me the pain pills. Maybe read a little. Anything so I don't have to think. I remember how cold this house is and I hope that they have that space heater going full blast, because I'm already shivering.

Shivering like crazy.

"I was afraid you wouldn't make it, Dorian! And Brian! I am SO glad to see you!" Harry opens the door of the Rolls before Kenroy can even climb out of the driver's seat and do it.

"Brian had another interview with the police before they would allow him to go," says Dorian, emerging and embracing Harry with relief. Yes, poor Dorian looks like he's been through the wringer, for sure. That makes me feel shitty. All my fault.

"No further difficulties, I trust?" Harry says, with concern. But Dorian shakes his head.

"Brian, I hope you'll have a lovely little stay here," Harry tells me as I get out of the Rolls. Then he puts an arm around me and guides me up into the house. The dogs, the Yellow Lab and the two terriers, are wagging and woofing and Harry tries to hush them up. "Dinner will be at 8:00. And I know you are both tired, so I don't expect you to stay up and keep me entertained."

"Thanks, Harry." I look around. The place looks spooky in the autumn gloom.

"I've put you in the same room you had before, Brian. If that's satisfactory?"

I balk for a moment -- but what the hell? It's only a room, after all. "Sure. It's fine."

"They are still making it up, Brian. And laying a nice fire up there, as well. I know you Americans like a warm room. So why don't you take a bit of a walk and then come and have a sherry before dinner?"

"I don't know, Harry. It's getting a little chilly out." I really don't want to go wandering around the grounds. But my legs feel all cramped up from lack of use. First staying in bed, then the long drive in the car. So maybe....

"Go ahead, Brian," urges Dorian. "You've been cooped up in that horrid hospital room for three days. Get some air. You'll feel much better. Perhaps a turn in Harry's maze?"

"Yes, Brian," says Harry. "You know, I've had Mercutio groomed up especially for you. In case you might want a ride over the weekend. Why don't you go down to the stable and have a look at the old boy? Gerry rarely gets down here to pay any attention to him."

"Harry!" says Dorian, with alarm. He takes hold of my arm for a moment, as if to physically restrain me from leaving the house. "I don't think that Brian ought to be riding yet. He's not well enough! He might fall!"

"Of course. I wasn't thinking," says Harry. He gives Dorian a look, but I can't read it. Then he gently removes Dorian's hand from my arm. "But I think that a nice walk down to the stables would do Brian some good. A world of good," Harry suggests again. "And then some dinner."

"I suppose," says Dorian, and he turns away.

"Sure," I say. "Why not?" Harry leads me out to the back garden and points me down the path to the stableyard. Then he goes back into the house to join Dorian. I have a coat on, but it isn't as warm as my leather jacket was. I'll need a new one. Maybe I'll go shopping when we get back to London.

The path down to the stables is a bit steep. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I'm more unsteady than I thought I was. But I'm almost there, so I keep going.

The groom, Hendry, is pushing a wheelbarrow full of manure across the yard. "Evening, sir," he says, and gestures to the stable. But I remember where Gerry's horse, Mercutio, is kept. There's a light on inside. I think of Billy Phillips-Smythe trying to corner me in there and how I sent him on his way. I can't believe that Sir Ken has hooked up with him now!

I can smell the horses and the leather. There's something about a barn that feels warm, even on a chilly evening. I push open the door just enough to slip through. A bare light bulb is hanging in the corner.

"Hey, Mercutio," I say. I should have brought the horse a treat. A carrot or sugar. Then I see that the stableboy is still grooming him in the dim light. Pulling a metal comb through his rough mane. "Oh, I didn't know there was anyone in here."

The stableboy turns around, his long blond hair swinging against his turned up collar.

"Well," says Justin. "It's about time you got here."

Continue on to "Things Have Changed -- Part 2", the next section.

©Gaedhal, February 2003.

Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions. I welcome all of your feedback on this chapter.

Updated February 5, 2003.