IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

"A Queer As Folk USA Alternate Stream FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 2

The other sections in "The Angel Stream".

Pittsburgh, February 2005

The police van was filled with guys who had been picked up from all over town.

From parks and alleys and public restrooms and even a long-time couple who had been in their car, making out in front of their apartment building. But the Stormtroopers didn't make any differentiation between tricks and committed couples. A queer was a queer and queer behavior was anti-Family-Friendly. Anti-Pittsburgh. Anti-Stockwell.

A couple of the men were crying. Their names, maybe even their pictures, would be published in the newspapers. Many guys had already lost their lovers, their wives and families, their friends, and even their jobs in Mayor Stockwell's 'Public Decency' crackdown.

The guy who had been blowing Brian in the alley kept repeating, "Fuck! Fuck!" over and over.

"Buck up," said Brian. "Tomorrow you'll pay a fine and they'll let you go."

"But Jake is gonna find out!" the guy moaned. "He's gonna kill me! And what if my mother reads my name in the 'Clarion'?"

"That's the chance you take for being a faggot in this city," said Brian, cynically. "And pretty soon it's going to be the whole country. Maybe they'll round us all up and put us in camps? Or make us wear Pink Triangles? That would really ruin the look of an Armani suit, don't you think?"

"You think this is funny?" spat the guy. "You think this is a big fucking joke?"

"No," said Brian. "I don't think it's funny at all. And I'm not joking. You don't know these people. You haven't worked with them and heard them talk. I have."

"Oh my God," whispered the guy. "What am I gonna do?"

"Survive," Brian advised. "Keeping going. Prevail. It's like the man said -- 'Living well is the best revenge.' That's what I do."

"I'm gonna lose my job! I know it!" said the guy. "And my truck. And... and Jake, too. He warned me not to fuck around on him!" He hung his head and wept openly.

Brian shook his head. This had happened to him before and Brian knew that he wouldn't lose his job. He was a partner at Vangard and although Gardner would be pissed about it, getting picked up by the Anti-Sex Squad wasn't grounds for dismissal. If worse came to worse, Brian would call Carl Horvath to come down and bail him out. But other guys weren't so lucky. Their lives might well be destroyed by an arrest.

That was the nice thing about having no one who really gave a shit. Brian had no lover to hurt or to disappoint.

But Justin's face suddenly flashed into his head. Justin asking, "Why?" Then Justin saying, "Don't worry. I'll be there for you. I'll stand by you, no matter what!" And Brian was glad that the kid was far away. Far from the taint of Brian Kinney.

At the Central Jail the men were unloaded from the van and herded into the main hall, where they waited to be processed.

Some of the regular cops gathered around to stare at tonight's catch of fags. Brian recognized at least two of them. One had been a regular at Woody's until the crackdown began. The other was a guy Brian had tricked with about a year before. Brian tried to catch his eye, but the cop turned away, afraid to acknowledge Brian's existence.

Fucking hypocrites, thought Brian.

But who am I to point the finger? I helped Stockwell get into office. I knew what he was -- a fucking homophobe -- but I did it anyway. For business. For Vangard. Because selling a product is what I do, even if the product is shit. Even if it's harmful. That's not my business. That's not my decision. Not my problem.

Except when it is.

Except when I've fucked myself without lube one too many times. Except when I'll finally have to pay the price.

"You!" One of the Stormtroopers pulled Brian out of the line and shoved him towards the front desk.

"Name?" the desk sergeant grunted wearily. It had been a long night and looked to be getting longer with this new batch of fags to process.

"James Dean," said Brian, loudly. Some of the waiting men laughed.

"Just what I need tonight -- a comedian." The sergeant glared at Brian. "Let's try this again. Name?"

"Oscar Wilde," Brian replied.

The Stormtrooper who had cuffed Brian in the alley stepped up and slapped him firmly across the face. "Answer the fucking question, faggot!"

Brian's face stung. He blinked, but he didn't recoil. "This guy says the sweetest things, boys. I think he has a crush on me. Don't you, Officer Darling?"

"You are going to get yours, queer," the cop breathed, his face crimson with anger. "Wait until I get you in the Queens Tank!"

"Is that a date?" Brian asked, doing his best impression of Emmett Honeycutt. "Ooo! I'm all a-flutter!"

The Stormtrooper reached into the back pocket of Brian's jeans, pulled out his wallet, and slapped it open on the desk.

"Brian A. Kinney," the sergeant read from Brian's driver's license. He wrote down the information. "Next!"

Then Brian's 'date' frog-marched him out of the main hall and down into the bowels of the building to the Queens Tank.

***

Dartmouth College, February 2005

"What do you think my greatest contribution to the graduate program in Museum Studies would be?" Justin asked Kyle.

Justin was sitting at his computer in his dorm room trying to write an essay for his application to the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Art.

"Fuck if I know," said Kyle. He was flipping through the Cliff Notes for 'Middlemarch.' He had to have the novel finished for his English Lit class by tomorrow and he'd only gotten about three chapters read, so he was trying to figure out the plot. But the Cliff Notes were as confusing as the actual book!

"Kyle, you said that you'd help me here!" Justin said in exasperation.

"What do you want me to say, Just?" Kyle shrugged. "Why are you applying to that museum thing anyway? I thought you wanted to be an artist? You should go to New York or out to California and start doing it! Why are you thinking about fucking around Pittsburgh for two or three more years going to grad school?"

"How am I supposed to support myself in New York or California?" Justin asked. "Not everyone has a big trust fund that they can live on like you do, Kyle. And my dad isn't going to give me money to be an artist after he just finished doling out four years worth of tuition at Dartmouth for me to become a fucking businessman!"

"But you're not going to do that!" Kyle returned.

"I know," admitted Justin. "But my dad doesn't know that. He still thinks I'm going to spend my whole fucking life in an office! But at least if I get into the Master's program I'll be at the Institute of Fine Art. I'll be able to audit some studio courses. And I'll be around other artists, too. And with an MFA in Museum Studies I might be able to get a job at a museum or a gallery. At least I'll be part of the art world that way!"

Kyle sniffed. "I think that you should get OUT of fucking Pittsburgh! I've been reading about what's going on there in 'The Advocate.' It's like a police state if you're a queer, Just!"

"I know," said Justin, softly. "It's pretty bad. But it's my hometown."

"You only want to go back there because of that guy," Kyle said smugly. "Brian. Because he's there. And you're SO in love with him! Jesus!"

"Yes, Brian's there," said Justin. "And I want to be with him. I know that we can have a real relationship if we're in the same city. But if I go to New York or California it'll be impossible! We'll never get to see each other. Long distance relationships almost never work out."

"I know," Kyle sighed. "When I came to Dartmouth I was sure that Gregory and I would be together forever. But forever didn't even last my first term. When I went home for Thanksgiving he'd already hooked up with some guy from U-Conn!"

"Sorry, Kyle," said Justin.

"It happens," Kyle replied. He tossed away his Cliff Notes. "Fuck that! I'll have to fake it tomorrow in English class. That George Eliot must have been a real jerk-off. Talk about a stupid book. And it's so fucking long! The guy must have been paid by the word."

Justin snorted. "Good thing you're a History major, Kyle. George Eliot was a woman. Didn't you even read the introduction to the book? There's a picture of her there."

"Christ," said Kyle. "I thought it was a really ugly guy! What was she? A dyke?"

"No, Kyle," said Justin. "I'd look at the Cliff Notes again before class -- and before you say something really stupid in front of Professor Jennings and the entire Lit class."

"I guess you're right." Kyle reluctantly picked up the Cliff Notes and tried again.

"I think I'm going to call Brian," said Justin suddenly. He had a funny feeling in his gut. Like Brian was in trouble or something. He tried to push it out of his head, but the feeling wouldn't go away.

"I thought you called him earlier and left a message?" Kyle rolled over on the bed and looked up at Justin's wall. There were at least ten drawings of Justin's older boyfriend taped up over Justin's bed, as well as a photograph of the two of them together on New Year's Eve tacked to the bulletin board.

"I did. But Brian should have called me back by now," said Justin. "It's after 11:00 and he always calls me before then because he knows I have early classes."

"Maybe he got sidetracked?" Kyle wondered if the guy had another boyfriend he was seeing while Justin was at school. That's what Gregory had done -- the cheating bastard! Found another guy the minute Kyle was out of the picture.

Justin frowned. "Brian has work in the morning, too." He tried Brian's number again. "I'm still getting his voicemail. Shit! Brian? Is everything okay? Please call me when you get home. I'm worried about you. Goodnight for now."

Kyle got up off the bed. "Are you going to stay up all night waiting for him to call you back?" Kyle rolled his eyes.

"He's going to call, Kyle," Justin insisted. "I know he is."

The door opened and Justin's roommate, Denny, came in.

"Hey, guys," said Denny, dropping his backpack on his bed.

"I was just on my way out," said Kyle, stretching. He put on his coat and tossed his scarf around his neck. "I'll see you in class tomorrow, Justin. And don't wait up for that guy to call."

"Fuck off, Kyle," Justin said, but not in an angry way. Justin wasn't mad at Kyle. He wasn't mad at Brian, either. But now he was getting anxious.

"Fuck you, too, Just," said Kyle, going out the door.

"I think Kyle likes you," said Denny. He and Justin got along all right. Denny didn't mind having a gay roommate as long as he didn't bring guys back to the room and make Denny listen to them fucking in the dark. But Justin rarely had anyone over, and when he did they were only friends or guys he was studying with, like Kyle.

"Kyle still has a crush on Tyler," Justin explained. "But Tyler won't look twice at him. Kyle's only a friend, Denny. Brian is my boyfriend."

"I still say that Kyle likes you." Denny flopped onto his bed. "He's not bad looking -- I guess."

Justin turned back to his computer and his application essay. "He's not Brian. And I'm in love with Brian!"

"Okay!" Denny gave up. He was sick of hearing about Brian-Brian-Brian! "I believe you. So when am I going to meet this Wonder Man?"

"I don't know," said Justin, glancing at his cellphone. Willing it to ring. But it was silent. "He's busy working. He's a partner at his ad agency, so he has a lot of responsibilities."

"Then why don't you go home and see him?" asked Denny. "I'm going home to see Carole this weekend. That's how horny I am!"

"But you only live in Boston," said Justin. "Do you know how far away Pittsburgh is?"

Denny yawned. "Where there's a will, there's a way, dude. If you supposedly 'love' this guy so much, who the fuck cares how far away Pittsburgh is?"

Justin stared at the computer screen, rereading the words he'd written. His essay was nothing but shit. He didn't want to go to grad school, even at PIFA. He didn't want to work with his father in his business. Justin didn't want any of that. All he wanted was to be with Brian. And to be an artist.

And both were looking more and more in doubt every day.

***

Pittsburgh, February 2005

Krause could hardly wait to get the big-mouthed faggot downstairs to the holding pens.

He thought he was so fucking good-looking, the smug bastard! He wouldn't be so good to look at after Krause got through working him over. These fags thought they could get away with murder! Thought they could flaunt themselves in public. Parade themselves in front of decent, hard-working people. Shake their asses all over town. Thought that real men would be interested in them. It was disgusting.

And this queer was one of the worst. Because he didn't look like a queer from far away. He looked like a regular guy. Tall and handsome. Too fucking handsome, thought Krause. I bet he thinks every guy in Pittsburgh should go on his knees and worship his big prick! He'll find out. He's just a faggot after all. And who gives a shit what happens to a faggot?

The Stormtrooper pushed Brian down the stairs, almost making him fall.

I should have kept my fucking mouth shut, Brian thought. Why do I do these things to myself? Now this creep is going to make me sorry that I was ever born.

He thinks.

Brian took a deep breath. He could take anything they wanted to give him. He wouldn't feel a thing. He was already numb to the core as it was. Life had numbed him. They couldn't do any worse.

The Stormtrooper slammed Brian hard against the concrete wall at the bottom of the stairs. Brian gasped and tried not to fall to the floor.

"Stub your toe, sweetheart?" cracked Krause. Another patrolman coming down behind him guffawed.

But Brian tried to keep his head clear. He had to keep his head clear. Survival. That's what it was all about.

A line of grim-looking bare cells stretched in front of them on the right. The Queens Tank. Brian could see the shadows of men who had been picked up earlier in the evening slumped inside. The smell of piss and sweat and ancient dampness was heavy in the air. A smaller room was on the left, the steel door gaping open.

Don't take me in there, Brian prayed. Once you were out of sight they could do anything to you.

Krause steered the faggot towards the smaller room. Where they could have some privacy.

"Hey!" a voice called. It was a third officer, coming down the narrow stairway. Brian recognized the guy who used to frequent Woody's, the closeted cop.

"What the hell do you want?" snapped Krause.

The newcomer pulled Krause aside and urgently whispered something to him.

Brian saw the Stormtrooper grimace. But the closeted cop nodded and pointed at Brian.

"Goddamn it!" Krause cried. He pushed Brian against the patrolman who had followed them both downstairs. "Put this queer away, Murray." Then Krause turned and stomped back up the stairway.

"Here," said the closeted cop to Murray, the other officer. "I'll do it."

Murray shrugged and turned Brian over.

The closeted cop guided Brian down the row and opened the door to one of the cells. He took the handcuffs off Brian and motioned him inside. "Get some sleep and try to be quiet while you're in here. You're not making it any easier for yourself."

Brian looked him in the eye. "And are you making it any easier for yourself?"

"That's my own business," the closeted cop said tightly.

"And this is mine," Brian replied. "So do what you have to do."

The cop locked the cell and went away. Brian found a place on the wooden bench and sat down. One guy was lying on the cold floor, snoring. Another was huddled in the corner, wiping his red eyes on the sleeve of his jacket. A drag queen, her feather boa limp and her fur coat muddied, sat dejectedly picking at her long red nails.

Brian leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. His forehead ached where the Stormtrooper had shoved him against the bricks. Brian took his handkerchief out of his pocket and touched it to his brow. No blood. That was a relief. That's all he needed -- a fucking head wound!

He remembered the time when he and Michael and Ted had been taken in after Mikey mouthed off to the cops during a traffic stop. That's when Carl had just begun dating Debbie and Michael couldn't deal with it. That was a long time ago, Brian thought. Jesus, he'd been hungover the next day! He pictured himself crawling home to the loft that morning with a bitch of a headache. And now it was going to be another long fucking night.

He dozed fitfully. Occasionally he heard someone walk down the row of cells. Heard a door clang shut. Heard someone crying. But the Stormtrooper never returned.

Brian's eyes flew open with a start. Daylight was streaming in through a high, barred window. He had to piss like mad. The toilet in the corner was filthy, but there was no alternative. He stood up and used it, then sat back down on the bench.

"Not the kind of accommodations you're used to, huh, baby?" asked the drag queen. In the light of day Brian was surprised at how young she was, probably no older than Justin. She even reminded him a bit of Justin -- short and pale-skinned and extremely brave. But her large blue eyes were lined with smudges of black mascara and her blond hair was long and disheveled. "Well, the County Lock-up is even worse, believe me! I'm looking at 30 days in there and I'm not looking forward to it."

"What did they get you for?" asked Brian, curiously.

"Same as usual," she said, shrugging her thin shoulders. "Soliciting. They pick me up, they put me away, and then they let me go -- until they pick me up the next time. It's the story of my life, honey."

Brian shuddered. All sorts of unpleasant memories flashed through his head. The streets. The johns. The cops. "Sorry."

"About what?" the queen sighed melodramatically. "They took away my purse. I wish I had my mirror! I hate to go before the judge looking less than my best."

"You look fine," Brian assured her. He didn't know what else to say.

"A real gentleman!" the queen cooed. "I know it's a lie, but thanks anyway, handsome!"

A cop walked down the line of the cells. "Kinney! Brian Kinney?" he called out. "Step to the front!"

"Here!" shouted Brian. He went to the door of the cell and nervously wrapped his long fingers around the bars. "I'm over here."

The cop came and opened the cell. Brian stepped out.

"Bye bye, honey!" called the queen. "Good luck!"

The cop nudged Brian up the narrow stairway.

Standing at the top was a familiar figure in a long, black topcoat. His face was grave.

"Brian," Jim Stockwell, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, said sadly. "Whatever am I going to do with you?"

Continue on to "In the Bleak Midwinter -- Part 3".

©Gaedhal, March 2005.

Posted June 9, 2005.