COUNTING THE STEPS TO THE DOOR OF YOUR HEART

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 68 of the "Queer Realities" series.

The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Richard, Jennifer Taylor, Professor Young, Professor Minton, Brian Kinney, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: The PIFA Video Festival. Pittsburgh, May, 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit.

"Now I'm walking again to the beat of a drum,
And I'm counting the steps to the door of your heart.
Only shadows ahead barely clearing the roof
Get to know the feeling of liberation and relief.

Hey now, hey now,
Don't dream it's over.
Hey now, hey now,
When the world comes in,
They come, they come,
To build a wall between us
Don't ever let them win."

(Neil Finn)

***

"I don't think I'll be going to the Video Festival tonight."

"But Justin -- you have to go!" Richard protests, waving a flyer for the PIFA Video Festival in my face.

We're standing in the living room of my mom's condo. Richard stopped by to give me the running order of the videos tonight. Mine is the last one to be shown. That's the featured spot. I should be feeling proud, but I'm not. Instead I feel disconnected from the entire project. The same way I feel disconnected from everything else in my fucking life.

"But you're the director!" Richard continues. "This is your video! Don't you want to see it on the big screen? In front of a real audience?"

"Yeah, I'm the 'director,'" I sniff. "Listen, Rich -- I'm an Art major, not a Film major. You and Dorian did most of the actual 'directing.' The other guys in the crew did all the technical stuff that I don't even pretend to know anything about. And you did most of the editing."

"That's not true!" Richard retorts. "You were in the editing suite as much as I was. This is YOUR project, Justin! Your original concept! There'd be no video if you hadn't created the storyboard and put it all together. If you hadn't gotten me to shoot it and everyone else to work on it. And Brian Kinney to be in it! You and I worked our asses off and you know it looks fucking amazing!"

"You go, Rich," I tell him. "And take all the bows -- if there are any. It's not up for an award, so what's the difference if I'm there or not?"

Richard looks at me in disgust. "You can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, you know that? The whole crew is going to be there tonight -- and we're having a party afterwards at Jon and Carlos' place. If you don't want to be there because you and Brian are on the outs, then fine! Be a fucking little prima donna! But I'm not going to let your hissy fit ruin things for me." Richard shakes his head and shoves the flyer into his backpack. "Oh, by the way, I got a call from Dorian Folco last night. He offered me an internship at Terra Nova Studio for the summer."

That brings me up short. "Are you going to be working on 'Red River'?" What a fucking irony that would be -- Richard on the 'Red River' set. But not me. No, not me.

"No," he admits. "He'll be on location for most of that shoot. I'm going to be working with some young director who's doing his first feature. But that'll be perfect for me. If his film does well, then maybe I can move up along with him. Maybe he'll hire me after I graduate next year. That will really get me started in the business."

"Is this guy gay?" I ask candidly. After all, Richard and Dorian hit it off during the shoot. That's probably why Dorian is doing this for him.

"I have no fucking idea!" says Richard, angrily. "Dorian recommended me to him and he said okay. But if you think Dorian is only doing this because we fucked -- well, then fuck you, Justin! I'm at the top of my class in the Film School. I'm a good cameraman and a good editor, too! Dorian thinks I have talent. He's not arranging this internship because of a fuck. If that's what you think...." Richard shakes his head. "I guess that's how you get what you want, Justin -- by fucking for it. But don't think that everyone else works that way!"

I feel my face get hot, but I don't say anything. Because he's right. I get what I want because of a fuck. And then lose everything because of a fuck. My video would be nothing without Brian. He's the centerpiece. He's why it's getting all the attention. Brian is why it's being featured at the PIFA Video Festival. Brian is the only reason Dorian agreed to help me. And without Dorian we wouldn't have gotten the crane. Or all of Dorian's directing expertise. Then my video would have been... ordinary. Just another crummy four minute student film.

Richard waits to see if I'm going to say anything. Then he picks up his backpack, getting ready to take off. "I don't give a shit whether you're there tonight or not, Justin. But I'm going to be there. We all put a lot of work into that video and I'm proud of what we did. If you aren't, that's your problem."

My mom comes into the living room. She smiles at Richard. "Would you boys like something to drink?" she asks.

"No, thanks, Mrs. Taylor," Richard replies. "I was just leaving." He nods to me before he goes out. "Maybe I'll see you tonight, Justin."

"What did he mean? Maybe he'll see you?" Mom says. "You're not thinking of missing the Video Festival, are you?"

"I don't know." I walk by her, on my way into the kitchen.

"But you put so much work into that video!" she says, following me. "And now you're not going to the screening?"

"I already got my grade for it, Mom," I say. I open the refrigerator and pretend to look for something to drink. I grab the first thing I see. Cranapple juice. "I've seen my video a hundred times. I don't need to see it at PIFA."

"Then why did you even bother to make it, Justin? Why bother even to leave this house? Why bother to do anything?" she asks me pointedly. "I have to pick up Molly in a few minutes. If you decide that you need the car tonight, let me know." And she walks out of the room.

I know she's tired of my attitude. I've been a prick to everyone lately. I yelled at Wade while we were getting my stuff at the studio and made him cry. Then I had a big fight with Marshall over something stupid -- I can't even remember what started it. Now Richard and my video crew will be pissed at me for blowing off the Festival. And my mom... she just doesn't understand, so now she's mad at me, too. But who gives a fuck? Not me. Why should I give a fuck about anything? Especially about myself.

I turn on the television and stare at it. I don't even know what's on. Some talk show. A woman screaming at her deadbeat boyfriend. I switch channels. CNN. Stuff about Iraq. More war. Another trial of some has-been celebrity. I switch again. Sports. A movie. Old sitcoms. I keep clicking. What difference does it make what I watch? Or what I do?

Classes are over for the summer and I guess I should start looking for a job. Start pulling my own weight, if I'm going to live here. Or else look for an apartment. And a car. I'll need to draw some money out of my trust account. That's so fucking ironic. Ron left me the money that I need in order to leave Brian.

Or maybe not so ironic at all. Maybe it simply proves what Ron thought about me all along. That I was a mercenary little twink. That the only reason I was with Brian was for what he could give me.

And it's true. I was with Brian for what he could give me. But it had nothing to do with money. It was about amazing sex. His mocking sense of humor. His intelligence. His knowledge of the world. The way he always encouraged me to be the best homosexual possible. The privilege of looking at his face any hour of the day or night.

I was with him because he loved me. I knew he did, even when he wouldn't say it.

And I was with him because I loved him.

I still do.

My mom goes out to pick up Molly, leaving me alone in the house. Everything is so fucking quiet. Like it was when I came home from the rehab hospital. When everyone was walking on eggs around me. When everyone was talking in hushed tones. Poor little damaged Justin. Everyone except Brian. And I'll never forget that. Never forget that he gave me back my fucking manhood.

I start watching some program about the Civil War on the History Channel. The Civil War and Hitler -- that's all they ever show on the History Channel. I imagine a demographic of Neo-Nazi Civil War buffs, all watching the History Channel in their bunkers. I click the TV off. I have to get out of this house and start doing something with my fucking life!

The doorbell rings. It's usually some little girl for Molly. She's quite the social butterfly these days. She has a million friends and is busy with some activity every single day -- Girl Scouts, ballet, art class. Makes me feel even more like a fucking hermit. But I'm not anti-social -- I just hate people. At least I do right now.

I drag myself off the sofa and go to the door.

It's Michael.

"What the fuck do you want?" I feel like slamming the door in his self-righteous face!

He gives me that pathetic puppy dog look he uses when he wants something. "I... I need to talk to you."

"So talk," I say impatiently. If he thinks I'm going to invite him inside, he's mistaken. "I'm listening. But hurry up. I don't have time to stand around all day while you blab on."

He coughs slightly, as if he's about to recite a speech he's carefully memorized. So fucking typical! "So... have you talked to Brian yet?"

Un-fucking-believable! "Fuck you, Michael!" I tell him. "You have some fucking nerve asking me about Brian! I don't have to deal with this shit -- or with you!"

"Okay!" he says. "I'm sorry! I was only wondering. The real reason I came over was to ask you if... well, if you were still interested in doing our comic book."

"OUR comic book? You must be joking," I huff. "What makes you think I'd ever want to work with you again? You're not my friend anymore, Michael, and I'm not yours. So why are you here?"

He makes that scrunched up face again. I wish he'd get to the fucking point. "I heard from the publisher who's thinking of putting out 'Rage' -- and he hates the new artwork. He hates the way Rage looks. He hates the way Edwin draws. He wanted to know what happened to my original illustrator. And he said he'd reconsider putting it out only if I resubmit the sample storyboards in the style they were before. That's why I'm here."

I slowly nod. "It figures. You're only here because you want something from me. You don't really give a damn about me -- or about me and Brian. It's all about your fucking comic book!"

"I do give a damn," Michael hisses. "I give a damn about Brian, mainly. But what you do impacts him! Don't tell me that you didn't lie about Dylan Burke, Justin, because you did! You fucked up. Okay, fine! Brian has fucked up, too. And so have I. We all fuck up! But don't cut off your nose to spite your face! You know he's leaving town, don't you? He's selling his building! He's really going! Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

"Of course it does." I blink. My fucking head begins to ache. And my throat feels sore and thick. "It means everything to me! But he threw me out, Michael! I tried to tell him that Dylan and I were... that we were finished! That it didn't mean anything! But he wouldn't listen! He believed what Dylan told him. And he didn't believe me. So that's that. It's over. You think that's easy for me to accept? Well, it's not! I'm fucking miserable! If that's what you want to hear, you've heard it. Are you happy? Now you can go."

"No, I'm not happy," Michael states. "And neither is Brian. He's miserable, too! What do you think? But don't let him leave town thinking that you don't give a shit! If you really want to end things, don't end it like that. Don't just walk away without... without letting him know how you really feel." Michael squeezes his eyes shut. "Don't do what I've done."

I know he's talking about Ben. He's living with Dr. Cameron, but he's still in love with Ben. That's so obvious. "Then you do something to change it," I say. "Go to Ben. Tell him the truth."

"I think it's already too late for me," Michael whispers. I know he's trying to be honest with me, but it's hard to be sympathetic. After all, no one is forcing him to be with David Cameron. And Ben didn't throw him out on his ass. Michael made that choice on his own. "But not for you and Brian!"

"Brian already let me know how he feels," I retort. "He threw me out of the loft! He packed up my stuff. He's selling out and leaving town. He wants to move on with his life -- without me. That's what he feels. And if that's what'll make him happy... what can I do?"

Michael shakes his head sadly. "I don't know, Justin. I really don't know what else to say. But... think about the illustrations. You don't have to be my friend or even like me to work on them. A lot of collaborators work separately. 'Rage' was your creation, too. I have to get going now and pick up Hank at school. He's enrolled at St. James' Academy. Did you know that?"

I'm surprised. The last place I'd think a couple of queers would send their kid is St. James' Academy! "No, I didn't know. Why would he want to go there?"

"David thought it was the best private school in the area," Michael informs me. "And things have changed there since... since what happened to you."

"You mean since I got my head bashed in?" I say bluntly.

Michael winces. "They have a new headmaster who is more open-minded than the guy who ran the place when you were a student. David and I talked to him and all of Hank's teachers about any issues they might have with same-sex parents, but it doesn't seem to be a problem. They even have a Gay-Straight Alliance there now. Hank joined it."

"Great," I say without much enthusiasm. Everyone at St. James can go fuck themselves as far as I'm concerned. "But tell Hank to watch his back if he decides to bring his boyfriend to the prom."

Michael starts to say something else, but then he seems to think better of it. "Call me," is all he says before he leaves. I notice that he has a new car to replace that broken-down Volvo he used drive. A silver Camry. Go for it, Michael Get whatever the fuck you can out of Dr. Dave. See if that car and your new designer clothes and David's pretentious house can replace Ben in your heart.

I glance at my watch. It's almost 5:00. The Video Festival starts at 7:00.

What the fuck. I could go over and just watch a few of the videos. See what they look like. See if any are as good as mine.

But I already know none of them are.

Because none of them have Brian in them. Brian and me. On the screen. Larger than life.

"Hey now, hey now, Don't dream it's over." I can't get this fucking song out of my head. The words and the images from my video keep coming back to me. "Hey now, hey now, When the world comes in. They come, they come, To build a wall between us." Which is what Brian and I did. We let other people build a wall between the two of us. And that wall became so high that we couldn't see each other anymore. Couldn't hear what the other was saying. I forgot what my video was trying to say. We both forgot. "We know they won't win." But they did. We fucking let them win.

My whole video is a fucking lie.

But now it's all I have left.

That -- and my dream that it's not over.

Continue on to Page 2 of "Counting the Steps to the Door of Your Heart".