LOVE MINUS ZERO/NO LIMIT

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 1 of Chapter 30 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Fast Food" , the previous section.

Narrated by Justin.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers for the show.
Summary: It's Pittsburgh, a Monday afternoon in May 2002, and Justin comes home in the rain.
Author Notes: Takes place directly after "Fast Food."
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.

I dragged myself home to the loft after a bitch of a day at school. I had a run in with Jay's boyfriend who thinks I've been avoiding them -- and I have. I'm sick of putting up with their shit. And I'm not interested in hanging out at their twink bar and getting screwed up on crystal meth. I have other things to do with my fucking life.

I stopped and put some gas in the Jeep. It eats gas like nobody's business, even though I don't really drive much more than back and forth to school and to the store. I usually buy only a couple of bucks worth at a time, but occasionally I break down and fill the tank using the credit card. I don't feel good about it -- I'm already up to my ears in debt to Brian, let's face it, between the Jeep and the loft and my tuition and the studio. It will take me a million years to pay it all back. But I plan to. I'm no fucking slacker.

When I pulled up in front of the building there was a car already sitting in my spot. Well, it isn't MY spot, but I think of it that way. It's the place where Brian always parked and it's where I usually put the Jeep. But there was a big car, a BMW, there and I had to drive around the block a couple of times before I found another space.

It was raining like a bitch and I had to carry my portfolio halfway down the block. I was soaked by the time I got to the door. Talk about being in a bad mood. I stopped and picked up the mail. Flyers. For Brian. A magazine. For Brian. About a hundred credit card applications. For Brian. Oh, there was something for me. It figured. A bill. From the Institute bookstore. For art supplies. Ouch.

I took the elevator up to the studio and dropped my portfolio off. I thought about staying right there and starting to work on some of my projects, but I was damp and fed up with what I was working on. It was supposed to be a mixed media piece to encourage us to experiment with 'found objects.' My found objects were awful and putting them together in some coherent way was hopeless. I still had a while before it was due, but I kept putting it off to work on Michael's website and some computer art of my own.

Plus, I was starving. I tried to remember what was in the fridge. Probably a bunch of boxes from the diner filled with leftovers and take-out. The thought of cooking something just for myself was depressing. I even thought of driving over to Deb's house and snagging a meal there, but it was way too early yet.

I turned on the computer and checked my e-mail. Then I looked at some stuff for the website. I thought about sitting there for a couple of hours downloading porn or playing some Tomb Raider, but even that didn't seem too appealing. In fact, I hadn't done either for quite a while and never even noticed. Maybe I'm finally outgrowing some of that shit.

I know people like my mom and Debbie mean well, but sometimes I think they really don't want me to 'grow up.' My mom still doesn't know how to deal with me. One minute she's protecting me and meddling with my life -- all for 'my own good' she says. And then the next minute she's telling me I have to do everything on my own. I need to be self-reliant and all that, because she can't afford to take care of me. She means financially, but I know she means emotionally, too. She can't deal with my sexuality, no matter what she says or how many parades she marches in. She can't fool me. It's all skin-deep. I wish she would make up her fucking mind! I suppose that when Brian left, she thought I would be 'cured' somehow and everything would be back to 'normal' -- her idea of 'normal.' As if it were all due to his influence. As if I didn't know what I was ages and ages before I ever set foot on Liberty Avenue!

And Debbie was upset when I quit at the diner. I'm sure she would be happy if I spent all my life busing tables there. I mean, it's her whole life, so why would I want to leave, right? But the job at the store is more interesting and I can actually use my brain -- which proves that I still have one, even after all that's happened to me. I'm coping. I'm surviving. Maybe I'm not the happiest camper in the world, but who is? Who really is totally happy, especially at my age?

I shut down the computer and closed up the studio. I figured I'd come back down later and work on my stuff. I was too beat to walk up even one flight, so I took the elevator. I slid the door open, dropped my backpack, and headed for the kitchen. I turned on a couple of lights. Although it was still the afternoon, the rain made the place seem dim and gloomy.

I put the mail on the counter and went straight for the fridge. I really need to make up a new shopping list and go to the store and stock up on some real food. When Michael was staying here I cooked more because it's easier to cook for two. Plus, I like a little appreciation for the effort. Michael can't cook to save his life -- I think he and Emmett live on cereal, cookies, milk, and beer -- so he will literally eat anything. Lots of recipes I wouldn't dare try out on Brian, Michael ate without question. He was about the easiest possible roommate to have. Except for that one... thing with the phone, I kind of liked having him here. It was nice to have someone around. I even thought about getting a cat -- there are all sorts of cats in the alleys around here -- but my mother hit the fucking roof when I mentioned it. She's afraid I'll go into allergy-overdrive!

As usual, the fridge was full of beer, bottled water, and styrofoam boxes from the diner. I picked up the closest one to the front. Turkey sandwich. And some lemon squares. Okay. Deb is always giving me food to take home every time I just stop by t0 say hello. I think she's always handing me someone else's order -- whatever is ready to go. I can hear her yelling at the poor person who is waiting for his food to keep his shorts on, she'll make him another turkey sandwich! I couldn't even remember her giving me this, but it must have been recently, because the sandwich looked pretty fresh. I shoved one of the lemon squares right into my mouth while I carried the box and my newspaper over to the dining room table.

So, I was eating and turning the pages of the paper. Not much interesting in the news. The Pitts is pretty much in a lull, like my life -- ha! My clothes were still a little damp, but I was feeling too lazy to get up and change.

Then I looked over at the kitchen and noticed something odd sticking out of the trashcan. Odd because Monday is trash pick-up on this street and I had emptied all the cans that morning and put the garbage out to be taken.

I put down my sandwich and walked over to the trashcan. There was a newspaper stuck in the top part that swings back and forth, like someone had shoved it in, but not all the way down. I suddenly got a very creepy feeling.

I pulled the paper out. 'The New York Times.' I looked at the date. Today's paper. I almost dropped it on the floor. The only other person with a key and the code to the loft was Michael and he would never in a million years read 'The New York Times' unless there was an article about comic books in it.

That left only one other person. Who wouldn't consider the day underway until he HAD read 'The New York Times.'

The sandwich. I turned around and looked at the table. Turkey on whole wheat, no mayo.

My first instinct was to grab my backpack and run like hell.

Instead, I looked up at the bedroom. All the panels were closed and the blinds drawn tightly. I'm pretty casual about that -- since I'm in here alone, I usually leave everything open. That way the sun wakes me up in the morning, even if the alarm doesn't. I never leave things closed up like that.

Or the neons on. I could see the glow through the spaces between the panels.

Why had I not noticed before? Because I wasn't looking. Wasn't thinking. How could I have ever thought of it?

I didn't know what to do. I pulled out my cellphone, but didn't know who to call. If I called Deb she would be like the person in that horror movie who yells, 'Get out! Get out! The maniac is upstairs right now!'

So, I turned and walked right into the maniac's hands.

I pulled open the door and stepped up onto the platform. I saw the big suitcase on the floor. Some odds and ends of clothing piled by the closet. And, there he was, sound asleep. I felt like the fucking Bear finding Goldilocks. If I'd had a gun, would I shoot? Would anyone blame me?

But, of course, I tiptoed over and just stared at him.

I didn't know what the fuck to think or what the fuck to feel. How can people look so innocent when they are asleep, even when they are so fucking guilty?

I couldn't imagine how he had gotten here. It was like he was deposited by magic or a UFO, without any warning or explanation.

I don't know if my movements disturbed him or if he had been sleeping a long time and was waking up anyway, but he started to turn a little. I retreated out of there fast and closed the door behind me. I also went around and turned off the lights I had turned on. If he woke up, I didn't want him to know I'd ever been there.

I put the remains of the sandwich and the other lemon square back in the fridge and had every intention of taking my stuff and hiking. Then I heard him moving around in the bathroom. He was up and taking a piss. Then the water went on. He was washing up. I heard him cough and spit into the sink a few times, rinsing the taste of sleep out of his mouth.

I full expected him to come out of the bedroom and catch me. And I was fully ready to bolt. But then I could hear him get back into bed. And then -- nothing. I listened at the door and could hear that little wheezy snore. It gave me a chill. He was asleep again. Now, that was peculiar. First off, it wasn't like him to be asleep in the afternoon, even with jet lag. And then he would never go back to sleep like that. He'd prowl around, he'd toss and turn, he'd make a few calls, he'd want to fuck. But instead he was asleep again.

I picked up my backpack and started for the door. Even if he woke up right now I could be out and away before he ever could stop me.

Then I saw his coat, thrown over the back of the sofa. How the fuck had I missed seeing it when I came in? Which just shows you what you don't see when you aren't looking for something.

I went over and touched the coat. Light-weight. Some soft, creamy-feeling material. Cashmere? I don't know, I'm no fashion queen. The lapels had satiny trimming down the outside. The sleeves were still slightly damp. I stroked the shoulders of the coat. Then I reached into the pockets. A pair of leather gloves. Some wrappings from cough drops. Kleenex. I felt inside the coat for the inner pocket. I pulled out a leather travel wallet and, of course, two condoms. Well, some things never change.

I looked behind me, like he was watching, but there was no movement from the bedroom. I snooped inside the wallet. His passport. Plane tickets: LAX to Pittsburgh, by way of New York, round trip. So he didn't take a UFO, just plain old Liberty Air. I flipped the leaf of the wallet. Credit cards. The VISA card I'd stolen a million years ago. And....

I stopped.

Two photos.

First, Gus at his first birthday party. Looking very cute. Looking exactly like Brian. Making that same screwed up little face. Funny how you can see the resemblance more in a photo sometimes.

And the other photo. Daphne and me. Dressed in our prom clothes. Posing in front of some fake backdrop, silly smiles plastered on our faces. I don't remember it being taken. But there is was.

I shoved the tickets and everything back in the wallet and crammed it back into the inner pocket. I started walking, but I was still holding the coat. Stroking the coat. Smelling the coat. I went back and draped it over the sofa, where I'd found it.

I needed to get out of there. Fast.

So why was I moving in the opposite direction? Back towards the platform?

Continue on to "Love Minus Zero/No Limit -- Part 2", the next section.

©Gaedhal, May 2002

Picture of Randy Harrison from Showtime.

Here is the link to the lyrics to "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" from Bob Dylan's album Bringing It All Back Home.

Updated June 17, 2002