WHEN I PAINT MY MASTERPIECE

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 3 of Chapter 114 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "When I Paint My Masterpiece -- Part 2", the previous section.

The narrators are Justin Taylor and Ben Bruckner, featuring Brian Kinney, Jimmy Hardy, Tess Hardy, Ron Rosenblum, Michael Novotny, Diane Rhys, Debbie Novotny, Vic Grassi, Penny, Bob Goen, Bill Brenner, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: The premiere of 'The Olympian.' Los Angeles, November 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.

I didn't think I'd be spending the morning of the 'Olympian' premiere doing laundry. Brian's laundry. In the basement of his apartment building on the outer edge of Marina del Rey. But you gotta do what you gotta do, as they say -- and I gotta take care of Brian. Meanwhile, the Man himself is sleeping off the effects of the shit he took yesterday. And shit is what he's going to feel like when he finally wakes up.

I'm stuffing piles of Brian's underwear and socks into the dryer. I think about that day Mom dropped off my things at his office and he came home and shoved that duffle bag full of my underwear at me. I have to smile when I think about how pissed off Brian was. I had never experienced that before, so I had no idea how angry he could get -- or how scary it was to see him angry. Little did I know that was nothing compared to what I'd see when the loft got robbed. I still shudder when I think of that!

And yet, as mad as Brian was he never lifted a finger to me. Ever. Especially not when he was furious. Maybe I wouldn't even have blamed him if he'd given me a wallop for being so stupid. But he never did. Brian is really a gentle person, even shy, I would say. I know that not many people believe that, but it's true. Brian could never hurt anyone. He can get defensive and cut people down with words, but never, ever with violence. I know his words can hurt badly, having been on the receiving end of his biting tongue more times than I would like to count. But he'll never let himself get physical. Maybe the thought of becoming like his father is always in his mind, but I think it's just Brian's nature. He turns the anger in on himself instead. Always onto himself.

He got so mad at me last night when I told him that I was taking a leave of absence from PIFA. I mean, his face got red and he was yelling, telling me what an idiot I was. It's really important to Brian that I finish my education. He wants me to have something that is all mine, something that no one can ever take away from me. For Brian, the degree is the important thing. He struggled so hard to get to college -- his asshole parents refused to pay a dime and Father Tim and some of his teachers helped him get a full scholarship to Penn -- that I know he wants me to also have that accomplishment. And my education IS important to me, too. But it isn't as important to me as Brian is.

I assured him that I'd worked it all out with Dean Ryerson and my professors. That I'd finished all of my main projects and that I'd take the two exams I still had scheduled between now and the end of term when I came home for Christmas. And since I won that special mention at the Austin Gallery Show and am also getting my 'Variations' prints shown at the Warhol Museum, I was able to get credit in an 'Advanced Studio' class, where upper level students get credit for having their work displayed at local galleries, which actually put me ahead of my class requirements. I told Brian that I had pointed out to Dean Ryerson the simple fact that I was an asset to the Institute and it would be to his benefit to accommodate me with this leave -- especially since I had 'special circumstances' due to the bashing and all of that.

I usually don't like to ask for any special favors. In fact, I hate to. But Brian always says to use the hand you're dealt and make it work in your favor. So I took his advice and used all of my 'cards' -- and the Dean agreed. I was also honest with him about the possibility of my moving to Los Angeles permanently and transferring to one of the universities or art schools out here. And the Dean said that if that was my decision, he'd make certain I got excellent recommendations. Dean Ryerson was very dubious about me when I started at PIFA -- I know that and I've always tried to prove that my work was as good as that of the other students at the Institute. Of course, Brian always said it was better and that should be obvious to anyone with even half a brain. But I'm beginning to think that even the Dean really thinks I have SOME talent, so he's willing to give me a break about taking this leave. And my other profs were very understanding, too.

The only one who seems uncertain about the whole business is Brian, of course. He kept asking if I was certain it was the right thing to do. And I am sure. I was sure even back in Pittsburgh when I asked for the leave of absence. But I was never more sure about anything than I was when I arrived and saw how he was doing out here by himself -- stoned and floundering. And then how he's living in that messy apartment upstairs. Brian and mess do NOT go together, so I know it's a major sign that he's depressed and just can't get his shit together at all.

Which means that Brian needs me. It's that simple. I HAVE to be here. And when I said I really was certain -- well, he was so fucking relieved that I thought he was going to cry. Because as much as he wants me to stay here with him, he would never ask me to. Ever. Because he thinks it should be MY decision to make. My call. And when I said that it WAS my decision, that's when he got emotional. I mean, emotional for Brian. Of course, he was also still pretty high and that always makes his emotions go all haywire. And we'd just fucked again, so there was that, too.

But then when Brian finally crashed, he really slept. An exhausted, but revitalizing sleep -- I hope. I sat and watched him for a long time before I finally fell asleep myself.

So, I got up early this morning and began tackling the apartment. The first thing that's plain is that the place is way too small even for just Brian, let alone for both of us. I think he took the apartment when he just wanted to get away from Ron and get away fast. But there definitely isn't even enough room for all Brian's clothes. And even if he had any furniture -- which he doesn't yet -- there wouldn't be enough space for it. His big television takes up half the tiny living room just by itself!

What Brian really needs is a condo. Or a small house. We have to discuss this seriously. Because there's no way he can stay here. First of all, it just isn't suitable for a guy like Brian! It's in the wrong neighborhood, it's not stylish or interesting, like the loft, and it's way too small. Second of all, Brian is going to be a big movie star and there's no fucking security in this building. At ALL! Just buzzing you in. That's not enough! What if fans start coming around and bothering him? Bothering US? Or reporters? Or stalkers? I know Brian will tell me that it won't happen, but he's wrong -- it WILL. I know it will. And he has to be prepared. I'll have to talk to Diane about this. I'll see her at the premiere tonight -- we should have time to confab at the party that Terra Nova Studio is throwing afterwards.

A dark-haired girl comes into the laundry room with her basket. "Hi," she says. "I'm Penny."

"I'm Justin," I say, sorting out a huge pile of Brian's socks.

"Are you new? I don't think I've seen you before." She's friendly, but I'm not really in the mood for trading life stories. Still, it's very boring in the laundry room and I have one more load to finish.

"Yeah. Pretty new," I reply.

"I bet you're an actor, right? You look like an actor." She's flirting with me as she piles her jeans into the washing machine. It's kind of flattering.

"No, I'm a student. And an artist," I say, smiling. "But my boyfriend is an actor."

Penny laughs. "It figures! All the cute guys around here are gay! I can't catch a break no matter what."

"Sorry about that," I say.

"Is your boyfriend a real actor -- or just trying to be one, like most of the 'actors' I've met in this city?" she asks. She seems really interested.

"No, he's for real. He's been in a couple of movies and...." But then I stop myself. Here's the thing. What should I tell strangers? I don't know. If I'm going to be living here, then what's my status? Do I exist? Or what? I know what Brian would say -- he'd say that I'm... but then I pause when I realize that I don't really know what he'd say. Shit. This is something I haven't thought out. How DOES Brian explain me? Besides, there's that security thing. Better not tell this girl -- who I don't know from Adam -- who Brian is or anything too detailed. I have to be careful. You never know what kind of weird people might be around. Especially after Brian was attacked in England. Now THAT makes me really paranoid for his safety.

"Real movies?" Penny says. "Wow, that's great. Anything I might have seen?"

"Not yet. One is only playing in England. And the other two haven't been released... yet."

"You'll have to let me know when they come out. I'm sure we'll meet again in the laundry room, Justin. Everyone ends up down here eventually!" she says, grinning at me. "That's the common denominator of life -- doing the laundry!"

I finish folding up Brian's underwear while Penny fills me in on HER boyfriend and other stuff, but I'm only half-listening. I tell her that I'll see her around and haul my stack of folded socks and underpants and tee shirts back up the elevator. In the apartment Brian is finally awake and making himself some coffee in the little kitchen. He's moving waaaaaay slowly. Like it's painful even to be alive.

"I thought you'd flown the coop!" says Brian, pouring sugar into his big mug.

"Hardly! You're not getting rid of me that easily," I reply. "You can SEE how I've been spending my morning. You sure have a lot of underwear, Brian. What were you doing? Just buying new jockstraps whenever you ran out?"

Brian winces. "Sort of. Or else going without. I'm not really good at the laundry thing." He looks at the tower of clean, folded briefs and tee shirts. "Justin, I didn't want you to come out here to do the fucking wash!"

"I know," I answer. "But it needed to be done, so I did it. That's what I'm here for -- to do what needs to be done. Do you know what I mean, Brian?"

He sighs. "Yeah. You're taking care of me. Because I'm sure making a fucking mess of things so far." He drops onto the sofa and tries to smooth down his hair. As usual it's an impossible job.

So I sit next to him and smooth it down for him. Then I put my arms all the way around him and hold him close. "How DO you feel, Brian? Really?"

"Like hell. Like someone kicked the shit out of me -- from the inside." He takes a deep breath. "It's been a while since I've taken any stuff like that... and coming down with a crash is getting to me." I can see that his hands are trembling slightly.

"Where is the rest of the stuff, Brian?"

He shrugs. "In the bedroom. Top drawer of the dresser."

I go in and open the drawer. There are some folded handkerchiefs, pairs of sunglasses, random keys on rings, some British coins and bills, a spool of thread -- all kinds of odds and ends. I dig around under the junk and pull out a container of Xanax, another of Percocet, and a third of mild sleeping pills -- all prescriptions written by Dr. Hall. There's also a piece of plastic wrap folded around five of tabs of 'E' and a couple of joints. That's all I can find. I check the cabinet and the drawers in the bathroom and only find some Motrin and Tylenol, as well as a bunch of different large containers labeled as vitamins. I look them over and they really are only vitamins -- horse-sized multiple vitamins. I also check the drawer in the table by the bed. Condoms, lube, the brag-book I made with photos of Gus, and tissues. No drugs. In my own suitcase I have the Xanax that Vic gave me, as well as the container that Jimmy made Peg hand over. But I take Brian's stash out to the living room and set it all on the coffee table.

Brian puts down his mug. "That's it, Inspector. The whole candy store. It's not that much -- but it's enough to fuck you up good."

Brian and I stare at the table for a minute. I can hear that little wheeze in his breathing from his deviated septum. I guess I'm so used to hearing it that I don't think about it consciously anymore. But at night in the dark it lets me know that it's Brian who is really there, next to me. And it was that sound that told me it was Brian on the phone, calling me in at the loft last winter. Diane says that Brian has a bad drug nose. Those years of snorting up various nasty substances is what has caused that funny little wheeze.

"Who gave you the prescription drugs, Brian?" I ask, quietly. "The ones written by 'Dr. Feelgood'? I know you didn't go to see him. And I can't believe you would take anything he'd prescribe for you."

"I didn't," he replies. "I haven't touched the Xanax -- until yesterday. Open it up and look. You can count them and compare the number of pills to the amount on the label. I took two Xanax yesterday. One from the first bottle in the morning and then one from the container Peggy had when I got to 'Larry King.'"

"That one is from Dr. Hall, too, Brian. Peggy gave me the container and it has his name on it." Brian just looks down and doesn't answer. "And Ron gave Vic one, too. But Vic gave it to me instead. He didn't trust Ron."

Brian frowns. "Justin, I've had the Percocet and the sleeping pills for a while. Yes, Ron gave them to me when I was living at the house and I've been taking them. After I came back from England and I was... hurting and I couldn't sleep... well, I have no fucking excuse for that. But I've had that Xanax for almost a week. Ron must have put it in my jacket at the office last week when I did a photo shoot over there. He came in with Howie Sheldon and my stuff was hanging up right there. But I didn't take any. Really!" He pauses and swallows hard. "But I didn't throw the container away, either, Justin. I should have, but I didn't. I thought that if it was THERE and I knew I could take it if I really needed it -- then that might help. And it did help. At least until yesterday morning and that run-in with Ron. Then I had to take one. I... just did. Sorry."

I touch his shoulder. "You don't have to apologize to me, Brian. Or to anyone. But what about the 'E'? I can't believe you took that before doing a live TV show!"

"I can't believe it, either," admits Brian. "But one of the make-up guys had it. And he gave me the packet along with his fucking phone number! I threw the number away -- but I swallowed a tab. And right after taking the second Xanax. I can't believe that I broke my own fucking rule and took something from someone I didn't know." Brian looks at me. "The last time I did that I almost got murdered in an alley. You'd think I would've learned my lesson. But I haven't -- obviously. I'm too fucked up." He sits back and closes his eyes.

"You aren't fucked up, Brian!" I say, leaning my head against him and closing my own eyes. I feel his arms go around me. "You're under all sorts of pressure. Deb and Vic told us what happened with Ron when you returned the Mustang. And about how he came to the studio and bitched you out there. I know how hard it is for you. I understand."

"But that's no fucking excuse!" he says, angrily. "NO excuses, remember?"

"I don't believe in that 'motto' anymore, Brian," I say, softly. "And neither do you. Sometimes you ARE only human, after all. Sometimes there ARE reasons. Excuses. Regrets. Even apologies. Sometimes."

"I know all about apologies, that's for sure. I have too fucking much to apologize for to too many people."

"But not to me, Brian."

"Especially to you, Justin."

I look up at him. "No, not to me." I get up and pick up the containers from the coffee table.

"Down the old toilet, huh?" Brian says.

"No," I answer. "I'm putting them back into your dresser. Under all your other crap."

Brian follows me into the bedroom. He watches as I open the drawer and put the containers inside and place the handkerchiefs over them. "Justin, what the fuck are you doing that for?"

I slide the drawer shut. "You've always told me that what I do with my life is -- ultimately -- my own choice. That it HAS to be my choice. My choice to be with you. My choice to be an artist. My choice to be HERE and nowhere else." I look Brian right in the eye. "That goes both ways. You have a choice, too, Brian. And you've been choosing pretty fucking well. The choice NOT to be using this shit until it's absolutely necessary. The choice NOT to be screwing everything that moves. The choice NOT to be with Ron anymore -- but to be with ME."

"Yes, I know, but...."

I look him right in the eye so he knows I'm serious. "And that means I'm making the choice not to be your policeman, Brian. Not to be your 'warden.'"

He blinks. "Don't use that word, Justin. Please!"

But I continue. "I'm using that word on purpose, Brian. Because you told me once that if we're going to be together it wouldn't be like other relationships. That we wouldn't be like my parents. Which is just as well, since my parents pretty much detest each other now. But I don't want to duplicate the relationship of YOUR parents, either, Brian. I WON'T be your 'warden' -- the person who is always judging you and looking at you like everything you do is wrong. The person that you can't wait to escape from. The person who forces you to change the way you are. Because you'll only hate that person in the long run. We would end up hating each other. Then we really would be like your parents. Like MY parents. And I don't want to be that. I WON'T be that. I love you and I have to trust you to do what's right. But it has to be YOUR choice."

Brian stares at me in wonder for what seems like a long time, although I know it's only a few seconds. "Where the fuck did you come from? And how DID you find me? How did it happen? What did I do to make you give a shit when no one else does?" He just looks at me like I stepped out of a spaceship.

I smile at him. "You already know the answer to that, Brian. Fate. Destiny. Kismet. Go back a thousand times and live a thousand different lives -- and I'll always be standing under that streetlight, waiting for you to find me. It's just the way it has to be," I say, a little smugly. Well, more than a little.

"I know something else that has to be," says Brian. "I HAVE to be inside you. Now!" And I find myself being pushed backwards. Not very far, because the bedroom is small and the bed is big. Not as big as the one at the Wyndham or as fancy as the one at the Chatterton, but big enough. His mouth comes at me, filling up my vision until I have to close my eyes. He eases me down onto the bed, slowly, and pulls my tee shirt off over my head and then drags my jeans down and lets them fall. He's only wearing his blue robe, so that only takes a moment to be gone.

"Do you... really love me?" he asks.

I open my eyes and stare at him. What a question! "No, Brian, I've been faking it for the last two years."

He smirks. "We BOTH must be fucking crazy! You know that, don't you?"

"Probably. But I don't mind. As long as I don't have to be crazy by myself. Or far away from you. Which is exactly why I'm here."

"I think that I... I kind of like you, Mr. Taylor," he says, burying his face in the hollow of my neck.

"Like me?" I breathe.

"Love," he says, but the rest of his words get lost somewhere on my body.

And at the last minute I remember to kick the quilt out of the way. Because Brian promised Debbie that we wouldn't mess it up. Sometimes in the heat of the moment Brian can forget things like that. So it's a good thing that I'm around to remember what's important.

Continue on to Page 2 of "When I Paint My Masterpiece -- Part 3".