THINGS HAVE CHANGED

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 2 of Chapter 108 in the "Queer Theories" series.

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

The narrator is Brian Kinney, with Justin Taylor, Dorian Folco, Harry Collins, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin tries to take care of Brian. England, October 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.

"This place ain't doing me any good,
I'm in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood.
Just for a second there I thought I saw something move.
Gonna take dancing lessons do the jitterbug rag,
Ain't no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag.
Only a fool in here would think he's got anything to prove.

Lot of water under the bridge, Lot of other stuff too.
Don't get up gentlemen, I'm only passing through.

People are crazy and times are strange.
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

"Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan.

***

"Brian? Brian!"

I hear it, but I can't tell where it's coming from at first. "What? Don't wake me up! Not now." Because I know that I'm having a dream. Or a vision of some kind....

"Brian! Get up!"

I don't know how I got on the ground. I must have fallen down. I must have....

"Here," says the vision, leaning over me. "Let me help you. Give me your arm...."

"No! Oww!" He's pulling at my bad arm, my bad wrist, and a jolt of fire goes through me. This is too painful to be a dream. Too painful.

"I'm sorry, Brian!" He reaches for my other hand and puts his arm around my waist for leverage. "Here. Try to stand up."

"I'm okay," I say. "I... can do it." My head is spinning with the smell of wet horses and leather and manure and hay. And the smell of shampoo. Clean hair against my face. The smell of Justin. "I shouldn't have walked all the way down here. I... must have gotten a little dizzy. Justin." It's a statement, not a question.

"Here. Sit right here." I was standing at the door of the stall. I must have slipped... somehow. Justin eases me over and places me on a big trunk pushed against the front of the stall. The horse comes over and drops his face over the edge and looks at the two of us, curiously. He nips at the back of Justin's golden hair. "Quit that, Mercutio," he says, batting the horse's nose away.

"I'm okay," I repeat, trying to breathe. "I'm okay, Justin."

"I don't think so, Brian. You just got out of the hospital!"

"I'm all right. Really." But I'm shivering. It's too cold out. I don't have a sweater. October in England has a damp bite in it.

But then Justin sits down next to me. And suddenly I feel warmer. Calmer. He puts his arms around me and holds on. But not too tightly. He's afraid of squeezing me. Someone must have told him that I got kicked in the ribs again. I never mentioned that on the phone. I didn't mention much. Nothing, really.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" I say, finally.

"What do you think? I came all this way because I wanted to take a ride again and I know that Harry has horses," Justin sniffs. "Why else, you silly goof!" Then he reaches up and presses his lips against the side of my face -- the unscraped side. It feels like the softest flutter. Like my heart stopping for just one second before it starts up again.

"I... I guess I'm a little confused." That's an understatement. My Justin radar must be completely out of whack. First that incident at the loft with Wade -- and now... I didn't even realize it was him. Never thought that he might be here. Never hoped that....

"You're confused? What else is new, Brian?" he says, leaning his head against my shoulder gingerly. "Dorian called me Wednesday morning. He told me to stay at the loft and he'd keep me posted. He said that as soon as you were better, he'd send you back to the Pitts. So, the second I hung up with him, I called Cynthia and we started making arrangements for me to get over here."

"That figures," I say. "The pitbull to the rescue." Thank God! I put my left arm around him. The left is okay. It's got a cut on it, but it didn't get slammed against anything. I press myself against him, as close as I dare.

"If I'd been here with you in the first place, Brian...."

"I know, Justin," I admit. "I wouldn't have fucked myself up."

"Hopefully," he says. I can see that he's wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. Shit. I hate anyone to cry over me. Especially Justin. Especially now. I don't NEED any fucking tears! "Anyway, Wednesday evening Dorian called me back again and said it might be better if I DID come over. He was really worried about you, Brian."

"I know," I say, nodding. "I do nothing but screw up whenever I'm over here -- and Dorian is left to clean up the mess." My breath is smoother now, but I'm shivering. "And now you've had to come over here. And Cynthia is in on everything, too," I sigh.

"Better Cynthia than Emmett. He wouldn't be able to keep THIS a secret, Brian. And better than my mother," he says. That's certainly true enough. "I needed Cynthia to make my reservations and clear the charges and all that. She's really busy now with all her accounts at Ryder. But she was glad to help me. She'll do anything for you, Brian. Anything. And I trust her not to say anything to anyone. So when Dorian called me back on Wednesday night, I told him that I was already booked on Liberty Air to New York and then Trans-Com to London. I left Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon and landed in London early this morning. Dorian had me upgraded to First Class."

"First class -- that's great, Justin." I hate thinking of him flying all that way, smashed into a tiny seat back in the airplane boondocks.

"Oh, it was, Brian," he says, tilting his golden head. "The food was awesome. Filet mignon."

"Only YOU could get excited about airplane food, Justin!"

"Excuse ME, Brian, but it was SO good! Then Kenroy picked me up at Heathrow in the Rolls. Yup, I felt like a real millionaire."

"So, you had a great trip over," I say.

Justin takes a deep breath. "No, you big idiot!" he yells in my ear. "You are SO clueless sometimes, Brian! I had a lousy trip! A horrible trip! What do you think? All I could picture while I was sitting in First Class, with the flight attendants handing me stuff and trying to feed me a bunch of rich food, was YOU in a fucking HOSPITAL, Brian! All alone and in pain! THAT'S the great trip I had! And that's the honest truth! Geez." He sits up a little straighter on the trunk, leaning on me. "And your hair is all messed up." He smooths it down with his hand.

"I know. I couldn't really wash it right. They wouldn't let me take a shower. The nurses took turns attempting to sanitize me. They tried... but...."

"That's MY job, Brian." He tries to settle my cowlick, but it just won't behave. "I'll handle it from now on."

"You'll HANDLE it, huh? I know what you'll handle! And it isn't my hair!"

Justin snorts. "I told Dorian that I would be in charge of you. Completely. And I meant that. That's why I came here. To take charge of you. Somebody has to do it. Because you obviously can't take care of yourself. Dorian is a nice guy and everything, but he just doesn't know how to deal with you, Brian."

"Did you bring your whip and your gun?"

"Nope," Justin replies. "I don't need them. I kill you with kindness, remember? That's MY technique. I think that still works. I KNOW it still works."

It's getting darker. Much darker. Hendry, the groom, comes into the stable with the empty wheelbarrow. He nods at me and Justin. He doesn't seem the least bit disconcerted that Justin is practically wrapped around me. Then he leans the barrow against the far wall. "You finished with the horse, now, Master Justin?"

"Definitely, Mr. Hendry." Justin disengages himself and then stands up, pulling me up with him, slowly. "We're going to dinner now."

"Will you be riding tomorrow, then?"

"I might, Mr. Hendry," says Justin. He pets me like he was grooming the horse, with calming, deliberate movements. "But Brian can't. He just got out of the hospital."

"Oww, I'm sorry to hear that, sir," the groom says. "I hope you're feeling up to snuff now."

"Yes, better, thanks." But as I stand up I realize how much I hurt all over. Like I've been run over by a fucking bus. I wobble a little. Justin sees me wince and he holds on to me, firmly. Yeah, I'm really NOT going riding on this visit. I'll be lucky if I can get back to the fucking house!

But I make it up the path. Of course. After all, I have this blond motor moving me along. Supporting me like he's willing me forward with his mind as much as his body. Making certain that I don't fall down. Not anymore.

Travers, the butler, is waiting at the back door. He leads both of us into the dining room. Harry leaps up and comes over, fussing over me. And over Justin, too.

"Where's Kenroy?" says Justin. "I wanted to say 'Hi' to him."

"Mr. Smith had to return to London for another engagement," says Harry. Justin is disappointed, but Kenroy is running a business -- and he already blew off a lot of jobs waiting around the hospital and running errands for Dorian. Another thing for me to feel guilty about.

Dorian is sitting quietly at the table, chain smoking again. He's moved himself down at the far end, so his smoke doesn't bother me. He's watching me to make certain I'm okay. And he's watching Justin. Watching us together. It makes me think of Ron, how he used to observe the two of us when we were at the house, so suspiciously, so jealously.

But with Dorian it's completely different. He's not jealous of us. Not really. He just looks at me a little sadly as he puffs his French cigarette. And I feel like I've used Dorian. I know I have. I've used everyone. Even Justin. Yes, maybe sometimes they want to be used, but not the way I do it. Sucking people in and then crushing them. Breaking down their hopes. I keep thinking of what Ron said. Of how I'll destroy Justin in the end. How I destroy everyone I come into contact with. Everyone who loves me. And I know it's true. But... I can't stop myself. At least where Justin is concerned. I can't keep away. Even when I know it's wrong. And he can't seem to stay away from me.

All through dinner I can't stop looking at Justin. I still can't fucking believe that he's here! He moves his chair right up to mine so that our legs are pushed together, and then he practically force feeds me. With my sprained right wrist, I can't maneuver the fork very well and I can't work the knife at all, obviously. In the hospital it was a given that one of the nurses would cut everything up and help you eat. Here it's humiliating. But Justin does it so quietly and unobtrusively that Dorian and Harry hardly seem aware of it. Or they are pretending to be unaware. Like gentlemen.

I can't even really taste what I'm eating. A roast, with potatoes and vegetables. Good food, like we always get at Harry's house, but it's wasted on me. Justin eats enough, but not the way he usually does. His mind is on other things, too -- mainly on getting something into my stomach.

Harry carries the conversation along, but no one is really in a talkative mood. Dorian leaves the table first, to go and make a bunch of phone calls. Probably one to Sir Miles to see how the release of the statement went. Another to Clive about the cancellations. And to ask whether Ron has called again. Whether he's showed up in London, even. But Ron can't get down here. That's a relief, at least. It's safe here at Firelands. For now.

As soon as they take away the last of the dessert dishes -- I just push mine away, no offense to Mrs. Jones, the cook -- Justin excuses us and assists me upstairs. And I'm so tired. I'm creeping up the stairs like a fucking old lady! I was so anxious to get out of that hospital bed, and now all I want to do is get back into bed. And not for the usual reason, either.

All my suitcases are in the room and Travers has unpacked some things, hanging up my suits in the old fashioned clothes press, and setting my shaving kit and brush on the dresser. Justin only has one small bag, which is open on the floor. True to Harry's word, there's a little blaze smoking away in the fireplace, making me feel warm for the first time in days. Yes, even that hospital was cold. I was always shivering. Shuddering under their thin blankets. And I'm happy to be in this familiar room again. It brings back a lot of memories of last summer. Of being here with Justin. Good memories. Yes, even I can remember that we were... happy. Once.

After plopping me down in the big chair next to the bed, Justin immediately begins moving around the room. Taking charge. Taking care of everything. He sorts through one of my suitcases, then opens another one. He takes some things into the bathroom. I hear the water running. Then he comes out and begins going through his own bag.

"Brian, I thought you might want this," he says, shaking out something.

It's the wool sweater I bought here last August. The one Justin said smelled like sheep dip. After airing it out in the loft for a while, it lost that odd smell. But I didn't take it with me out to Los Angeles. Who needs a heavy wool sweater in La La Land?

"I can't believe you remembered this thing!" I take it from him and feel the rough wool.

Justin rolls his eyes. "How could I forget? After all the arguing we did over the silly thing."

"We weren't arguing. We were discussing."

"Loud discussing, then. Anyway, I thought it might be cold here. I... I didn't know that your leather jacket got... lost. So I'm glad I brought it. It's a little itchy, but it's nice and warm."

"How would you know it was itchy, you little fiend?" I ask. I sniff the sweater. It just smells like the cedar of my sweater drawer. No trace of sheep at all. But a slight scent of lemon soap. Justin's soap.

"Because... I've worn it a few times. If you don't mind, Brian."

"Why would I mind? I know you wear my clothes. If you want to, go ahead."

"I like to -- sometimes," he says, smiling. "It makes me feel close to you when you aren't in the Pitts. When you're far away." He takes the sweater and folds it, setting it on the dresser. Then Justin goes over and turns down the bed. I watch him and think about how exhausted I am. And also how I want to grab him toss him down on that plush mattress and those big pillows and fuck him until we both pass out.

But even as I'm thinking about it, I realize that I can't do it. My legs feel heavy and I can hardly even lift my arms. Justin comes over and guides me over and sits me on the bed. He literally undresses me like he would Gus, patiently and unerotically -- if that's possible! He strips off my shirt, taking care of not knocking my wrapped wrist. Then he pulls off my tee shirt, very slowly. I flinch, not so much because it hurts -- even though it does -- but because I don't want him to see the tape on my ribs. Or the bruises. Or the cuts.

But Dorian must have prepared him. Warned him. Because he doesn't hesitate. He doesn't even blink to see the mess I've made of myself. He reaches over to the table by the bed and opens up a tube of antibiotic ointment. The nurse gave it to Dorian, who must have passed it to Justin, along with my packet of drugs, which Justin also has sitting on the table.

He smears the ointment on carefully, dabbing each cut. And he touches the little heart charm gently as he slides some ointment on a scratch along my neck. Dorian handed me a little envelope in the Rolls, once we got out of town. It had the necklace and my cowrie shell bracelet inside. They've been cleaned of any trace of the... of my accident. I thought they'd been lost forever. Either thrown away by the Emergency Room staff or else smashed by... But I have them back now. The bracelet is still in the pocket of my coat. I couldn't get it on with the bandage on my wrist anyway.

Justin finishes applying the ointment and then eases my tee shirt back on me. "I don't want you to mess up Harry's nice linens, Brian." Jesus -- he's just like Sister McGinn! Only much more beautiful. And without the Irish accent.

Then he pulls off my pants and hangs them up. I only have a few cuts and scrapes on my legs. And some nasty-looking bruises. But those are fading. He leaves my jockeys on. But he also traces the tattoo on my right thigh with his finger. Gently. He always likes touching it. As if reassuring himself that it's still there. It is. Always.

"You better pee, Brian -- because I refuse to bring you that chamber pot thing in the middle of the night!"

"Oh, you remember that, do you?" I smirk. "Maybe I'll piss in that thing, just to give you something else to do. Or maybe you'd like to help me in the bathroom? You could hold my dick for me."

"Get in the bathroom now!" he orders. "I put a new toothbrush in there, too, for you. Call me if you need any help. REAL help, Brian."

But I manage to do what I need to do without any aid. By the time I come out of the bathroom, Justin is in his little grey briefs. He helps me into the bed, then he goes and does his thing in the bathroom.

"What about the fireplace, Brian?" Justin asks when he comes out. He turns off the main light, leaving just a little lamp going on the bedstand. "Are we supposed to put out the fire?"

"No. The screen will keep the fire in there. It will probably burn itself out before morning. Maybe Travers will come in early and get it going again so it will be warm when we wake up."

"I remember how chilly it was back in July!" he says, getting under the covers. His feet are freezing. "It'll be like the Arctic in here by morning!"

"Then stay in bed next to me and keep warm. And don't run around in just your underpants."

"I forgot to bring a bathrobe, Brian. That was stupid. But I packed so fast. I was kind of in a hurry."

"I'll ask Harry. He must have an old bathrobe around here somewhere. Maybe Gerry Milton has one here that you can wear."

Justin wrinkles up his nose. "I don't want to wear HIS old bathrobe, Brian!"

"Then I'll wear it and you can have mine. What difference does it make, as long as you're warm?" And I turn carefully onto my left side to face him and then pull him against me. It hurts my right side a little, but I don't give a shit. With Justin pressed up next to me, I'm finally feeling warm again.

I can also feel his dick poking up against me. It's as hard as steel. And mine... isn't. He reaches down and strokes the front of my jockeys, but he only gets a little twitch in response. Maybe it's just as well. Maybe....

"Sorry about that," I whisper. Jesus, I feel like Ted when he needed that Viagra just to get his cock working. I think back to when I was in The Spencer Pavilion. When my dick was out of order. But it's never been shy with Justin before. Of course, I've never been this... out of sorts when I was with him, either.

"There's nothing to be sorry about, Brian. Didn't you just get out of the hospital? I mean, only a few hours ago? Didn't I tell Mr. Hendry that you weren't exactly ready to go riding yet?"

"But that shouldn't affect my cock, Justin. It... shouldn't. After all, I just got knocked around a little. No real harm done."

He's quiet for a while. Then he reaches over and switches off the little lamp on the bedside table. It's dark in the room except for the fire. Justin hugs me and kisses me gently, carefully avoiding the swelling where I bit my lip, the ugly scrape on the side of my face.

"I turned off the light because I think that maybe if it's dark, if you think that no one can see you, maybe then you'll tell me the truth. Because you know, Brian, it isn't your dick that concerns me, it's your head. So, please -- tell me the truth for once! Because if you can't tell ME, then you can't tell yourself. You can repeat it to the police and to Dorian and to whoever else asks you all about how you got mugged and how you fell down and that was that. Maybe you'll even begin to believe it. But it would be so much better if you told me the truth. Told yourself the truth. Because until you do, you won't get over it. I KNOW, Brian. I know better than anyone. Because I've lived through something that I couldn't face because I couldn't remember it. That parking garage. And getting bashed there. Whatever else I can or can't remember is something I have to live with. But until I was able to remember THAT one moment, to admit THAT one thing -- I couldn't even begin to get past the pain."

"I... don't know what you're talking about, Justin."

"Keep saying that, Brian. Just keep denying it. Because you aren't just hurting yourself -- you're hurting ME, too!"

"I'm not! It was... nothing. NOTHING! Really. So just fucking forget about it!"

"Yes, I'll forget about the alley outside that club and what happened to you there when YOU forget about it. Which is never, Brian. Anymore than you forgot about that alley next to the little store on the Bowery."

I feel my insides go all sick and hot. "That was just a dream you had. It wasn't true. You imagined that."

"No, I didn't, Brian. I didn't imagine it. I SAW it in my dream. You know and I know that I was seeing YOU. Your life. Your past. Your reality. But you're STILL denying that it even happened! And how much else? How many other things that you just want to forget ever happened? And they all just sit inside you, and eat away at you. And one day... they'll kill you inside. They'll kill US! Because you won't be able to feel anything anymore. You won't even be able to feel ME anymore. All those years of denying will take their toll -- if they haven't already."

And he starts to cry. And I don't fucking know what to do. What to say. I can only keep holding him. But he's wrong. So wrong! There's... nothing the matter with me! Nothing!

"I know that you're trying to hurt yourself because you believe you aren't good for me, Brian. That you aren't GOOD for anyone. Not even for yourself. That you believe you aren't worthy of love. Especially from me. But it isn't true, Brian. It isn't. You ARE worthy! You ARE okay!"

"I'm not, Justin! And that's the truth. That's my reality," I say. My head feels all hazy again. My eyes are unfocused. "You shouldn't be here -- and it's my fault that I keep wanting you to come back. Forcing you into this... crummy existence. With me."

Justin sighs again. But his voice sounds strong. Certain. "What will it take for you to believe that I'm EXACTLY where I'm supposed to be, Brian? With YOU! That we are MEANT to be together. I SAW it, Brian. Last summer. I saw it for myself."

"That's bullshit, Justin. I don't believe in all that Fiona stuff -- that 'Alternate Stream' crap! And neither do you."

"Oh, no? How do you know WHAT I believe, Brian? Have you ever asked me? About what I believe? About what I know is true?"

"Not THAT shit, that's for certain."

"Then why does it scare you so much, Brian? Why are you constantly trying to run away from what you know is the truth? Away from seeing what you really are? Who you really are!"

"I KNOW who I am, Justin. And it isn't a very pretty picture. Especially right now."

"That's what I mean! You are full of such stupid ideas about yourself, Brian. That you aren't any good. That you are somehow hurting me, when I... I can't live without you! Always running away from ME! And don't say that you do that kind of stuff 'for my own good'! Because THAT is what's bullshit! THAT'S the real lie, Brian!"

I can't answer that. But I can't deny it, either. That's HIS truth. HIS picture of me. Then why can't I accept it?

"I know that you're hurting, Brian. That people have hurt you all along. At every step of your life. Your own family. People who said they were your friends. People who pretended to love you. They hurt you! Emotionally. Physically. But stuff happens. Stuff that is NOT your fault! It could have happened to anyone, Brian!"

"Nothing happened to me, Justin. Nothing!"

"Don't keep repeating that! Stop it, now! You can say that to Dorian. Or the cops. Or 'Time Magazine'! But don't say it to ME, Brian! I know that bad things HAPPEN! And it isn't because you're a bad person. Did Chris Hobbs hit me... in the head because I'm a bad person? I don't think so. I don't think I'm bad, Brian."

"You're NOT! Don't say that! Don't even THINK it, Justin!"

"What happened in... that alley... in any alley, Brian... it could have happened to anyone. Even me."

"No, it couldn't have, Justin!"

"Yes!" he insists. "It almost DID happen to me! In that club that I went to with Hughie when we first came to London. That skinhead who grabbed me and pushed me against the wall, Brian." His voice is softer. "I was fucking terrified of what that guy was going to do to me. I was calling... for help. Calling for YOU, Brian! Begging SOMEONE to help me! But Hughie wouldn't do anything. No one would do anything! It was only because YOU finally came along, Brian, and stopped him. Or else it would have been ME. I don't have any doubt about that."

And I remember that incident. I came barreling in there, furious because Justin had taken off without even telling me. All I could see was some guy trying to fuck him. I never thought about how petrified he must have been. How close he came to being really hurt. Because I was only thinking of myself. Of taking back what was mine. Just like I was only thinking of my own 'pain management' when I... I picked up those two assholes and.... "Justin, I can't think about this now. I... can't...."

"Then don't, Brian. But someday very soon you'll have to. You'll have to face it. And when you do, don't push me away. Just don't."

His soft voice echoes in my head as I fall into an exhausted sleep.

***

Justin insists that I spend all of Saturday in bed, resting. He has Travers bring a breakfast tray up to the room and I actually eat a lot of it. Justin finishes off the rest.

Dorian and Harry both stop by to see me, but they don't stick around. They don't try to make small talk or keep me company, because Justin is filling that role. After two years of living with me, on and off -- which in itself is amazing to me! -- Justin seems to intuit the right mix of talking and resting and reading and listening to CDs on Harry's portable player. If I was in better shape there would be a liberal amount of fucking in there, too, but I can't. I just... can't. Not yet.

Justin leaves me alone for brief periods of time, giving me some peace and quiet, whether I really want it or not. Because I don't mind him just sitting here with me. Or talking to me. Doing little things.

Justin goes down to the stables for a while, but he doesn't ride. He returns smelling like leather and hay. He must have been down there grooming or playing with the horse. Or chatting with Hendry, the groom. He has loaded himself up on his allergy pills and he only sneezes a couple of times. "I'm definitely getting used to it, Brian. I think I'm actually outgrowing my allergies," he tells me, lying down next to me on the bed. Travers has the fire roaring again, but it's warmer in the bed.

"Well, don't push it," I say. "No asthma attacks. Your mom would murder me. Which reminds me -- does Jennifer know you're over here?"

"She knows I'm out of town," he says. "But she thinks I'm on a PIFA trip." Justin shakes his head. "Cynthia is... kind of covering for me."

"Do you want to call her, Justin? And let her know where you are?" I say. "You were telling me last night about facing the truth. Call your mom, Justin. Tell her you're here -- and what you're doing here. With me. It's the right thing."

Justin smiles slyly. "You ARE changing, Brian! So full of surprises!"

"Just like YOU, brat!" But with Justin they are always good surprises. Like coming all this way to take care of me. Only good surprises.

We have dinner quietly in the room, but then Justin wants me to get dressed and go down into the drawing room with him and Harry and Dorian. "Just casual. I think you're rested enough to sit up for a while, Brian."

"But I'm still tired!" Yes, I'm whining! I know.

"You don't need to sound like Michael now. Just do it." He lays out a pair of jeans and clean underwear and my wool sweater. "Put those on and come down. I'll be waiting for you." And he goes downstairs. I figure that I might as well make an appearance. After all, I'm eating up Harry's food and sleeping in his guest room, so I'd better be a good guest -- for a hour or so. I think I can manage that.

I get dressed slowly and make my way down the big main staircase. I walk into the drawing room. I expect to see Harry and Dorian there, sitting on the sofa, maybe having a sherry. But the room is empty.

I can see the big hearth burning brightly, but I feel a weird chill. A cold, cold chill. Like someone has opened the window and let in a Northern wind. And it's very windy out. The old house rattles with that wind.

Usually I'm so warm. In the loft, even in the middle of winter, I walk around naked or in my shorts and I rarely feel the cold. Justin is always complaining about the temperature. But now I'm freezing. I have been ever since I've been in this country. Since I was in the hospital. And now at Firelands...

That chill goes right through me again. Like a knife.

I hear the door of the room squeak.

"Justin?" I say. "Let's go back upstairs... I feel a little...."

"Brian," says a female voice.

I turn around.

Fiona.

Continue on to "Nowhere Man 25 -- Confront", the final chapter of "Nowhere Man," and then....

Continue on to "Things Have Changed -- Part 3", the next section.

©Gaedhal, February 2003.

Updated February 8, 2003.