This is Chapter 8 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the beginning of this saga.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Emmett Honeycutt, Michael Novotny, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin gets an emergency call from Emmett. Pittsburgh, January 2003.
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've got to have a biographical statement and a short essay on my 'Warhol Variations' ready by next week so that it can be printed up in the catalog before the exhibit opens, so on Friday night I'm sitting at the computer, slaving away at it.
I guess I could have gone to the movies with Marshall and his friends tonight. It might have been fun. Marshall is a nice guy and he said he just wants to be friends, but I can tell that he wants a lot more. Marshall wants a boyfriend. And, frankly, I have enough on my plate that I don't need to be dealing with some guy who is pushing his crush on me. It's already bad enough that Wade still thinks he can get all touchy-feely with me and I won't get mad -- he's wrong about that. I don't need another guy bugging me and starting to think he's my 'boyfriend' just because I drank a cup of coffee with him. What is it with these kids, anyway? Jesus!
The loft phone rings. I let it go to the machine. "Baby, it's Emmett! Justin, are you there? Pick up! Please, honey!"
The last thing I need to do is get sidetracked by Emmett, so I ignore his call. I'll get back to him tomorrow. But thirty seconds later my cellphone is humming loudly. I pick it up and look at the number. It's Emmett again. I sigh and take the call. "What's up, Em? I'm kind of busy right now."
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Baby, but... but I thought this was really important."
"What's going on, Em? It sounds like you're at a club." There's so much noise in the background that I can hardly hear him.
"I am, Baby. Michael and I are at Babylon. We got here about 15 minutes ago."
I look at my watch. It's just after 11:00. Things are only now getting started at Babylon. "Great, except that I don't feel like hitting any clubs. You know that, Em. I'm sitting on the shelf indefinitely. Which means Babylon is really not the best place for me."
"I know that, honey," says Emmett. "Only one thing.... Where is Brian? I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important."
Here we go again. Everyone has been trying to get me to tell them where Brian is. They know he's laying low these days and a few people here -- Michael, Lindsay, Deb, Vic, Tim, and my mother -- know he's in rehab, but they don't know where. The only ones who know that are me, Tess Hardy, Brian's personal assistant Leslie, Brian's lawyer, Howie Sheldon from the studio, and Detective Parra. Not even Jimmy knows exactly where he is. And none of Brian's movie friends, like Diane or Dorian, know he's in rehab. That's the way Brian wanted it and so that's how it is. "You know I can't tell you that, Em. I'm sorry, but I can't."
"Baby, I know that Brian's been in rehab, so you don't have to prance around the issue. Michael told me."
"Goddamn it, Em!" I explode. "I'm going to kill Michael! What the fuck was he thinking telling you that?"
"Hon, Michael just told me right now, so don't murder the poor guy yet, okay? And he told me for a very good reason. Which is why I'm calling, Baby, because... well, because Brian walked in here about ten minutes ago. Into Babylon."
"Impossible. He couldn't have, Em," I say. Because he's in California. At Haven of Hope in Malibu. Unless... unless he isn't. "It's someone else."
"Baby, I've known Brian for longer than you have," Emmett says impatiently. "And Michael has known him even longer than THAT. Do you think we don't know Brian Fucking Kinney when we see him? And I'm looking at him right now. He's at the bar. Michael is trying to talk to him."
I can't believe what I'm hearing. Brian at Babylon. Now. Right this second. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Em, are you SURE? Really sure? What's he wearing?"
I hear Emmett pause. "Faded, ripped jeans, white wifebeater, and a suede jacket with fringe on it, like a cowboy thing. And he hasn't shaved in about three days, I'd say. Very hot look."
My God! "Emmett, does he have any luggage with him?" I ask, stupidly. I'm picturing Brian walking into Haven of Hope, gripping his single suitcase in his right hand. Right, luggage at Babylon! Smart one, Taylor!
"Luggage? Baby, he doesn't have anything but his own beautiful but very screwed up self! And he BARELY has that!" says Emmett, sharply. "Wait... he's leaving the bar and heading for the dance floor. Michael is going after him. You better get your ass over here NOW! Because he's... well, let's just say that Brian Kinney is feeling NO pain. Do you need a translator for that, honey?"
"No," I say, feeling shaky. "I don't need a translator for that. I'll be right over." I flip my cellphone shut and race out of the loft, heading for Liberty Avenue.
It's freezing and sleeting out, but I drive like a maniac to get to Babylon as quickly as I can without killing myself. As cold and miserable as it is outside, it's still Friday night and inside Babylon it is hot, sweaty, and packed. The minute I walk in heads turn and the whispers begin. Everyone in the fucking place must have seen Brian make his big entrance -- and now they see me, Brian Kinney's twink, come to retrieve him.
I find Emmett and Michael standing by the bar. Em looks very worried and Michael has his face turned away.
"Well, where is he?"
Em opens his mouth, but before he can say a word, Michael turns and looks at me. His face is red and his eyes are blazing. "He fucking HIT me! Asshole!"
I gape at Michael. "What the fuck happened?" But he turns away from me again.
Emmett shakes his head. "After I got off the phone with you, Baby, Brian decided to take a little detour...."
"Yeah, into the backroom! And I tried to stop him!" Michael breaks in. "I... I grabbed his arm and he... he fucking hit me!"
"Don't exaggerate, Michael," says Emmett. "Brian just pushed him a little, Baby. But a little too hard. And Michael fell down."
"He hit me," Michael mumbles. "Fucking asshole! When I was trying to help him!"
"I'm sorry, Michael," I tell him. But I don't have time to stand around and sympathize right now. "Is he still in there?"
"Where the fuck else?" complains Michael, rubbing his elbow. "He could have broken my goddamn arm!"
"Michael, Brian obviously didn't know what he was doing," Em says, which makes me feel just great. He looks at me with an expression halfway between worry and pity. "Sorry, Baby, but I don't think he even knows where he is right now."
That's all I need to hear. I push my way through the crowd toward the backroom, ignoring some of the catcalls and snickers directed at me.
"Look, it's Kinney's twink!"
"Just in time, I'd say!"
"Come to get your man, sweetie?"
"Have a drink over here, Justy. You're going to need it!"
"Where's that Sunshine Smile now, huh?"
Fucking creeps. Someone grabs at my arm and I slap him away.
It isn't very difficult to find Brian, since he has quite an audience gathered to watch two guys, on their knees, fighting over who has first dibs on his dick. They're grabbing at it and licking it and each one is trying to shove the other one out of the way all at the same time. It's pathetic, really. But that's the kind of thing that Brian brings out in guys. I've seen this scene so many times before. Brian in the backroom. But never has it looked so disheartening. I sigh and walk straight up to him.
"All right," I say, "The show is over." I push one of the guys aside. The second guy won't budge, so I give him a swift kick in his Diesel jeans. That makes him move out of my way and fast. I push Brian's hard cock back into his jeans -- with some difficulty -- and button him up.
Then I move up close to Brian's face. He's leaning back against the wall, staring. He looks just as Emmett described. Disheveled, but still hot. Totally out of it, but still incredibly beautiful. A damaged Brian is more remarkable to me than a hundred supposed perfect and 'normal' guys. Maybe that's my curse in life. Or maybe it's my privilege. I still don't know.
"Brian!" I shout at him. "Brian?" I repeat, a little softer. But he doesn't respond. He just stares. "Brian, are you okay? Brian?"
I look around at some of the men gathered to watch. They are all just standing there. "Does anyone know what he took? Did anybody see anything?" They shake their heads. No, no one ever knows anything! "Thanks a fucking lot!" I shout at them all. "You guys are a real big help!"
But one young guy steps forward. "Out on the dance floor they were passing around something. He was out there and he might have snorted some. It was some kind of Special K, I think. I didn't do any myself, but I saw it being handed around."
"Thanks," I say sincerely. "Could somebody go get Emmett Honeycutt? You know -- Fetch Dixon? Please? He's at the bar." And the guy who told me about the K nods and goes out. At least not everyone in the fucking world is a complete jerk.
I shake Brian, but he's not responding. His eyes are open and his breathing is shallow. It's like he's awake and unconscious at the same time. "Brian? Say something! Anything!"
"He's fucked up," I hear a voice behind me murmur. "Looks like a K-hole."
"Yeah, that's scary shit," says another voice.
Now I'm beginning to sweat.
Then Emmett is there next to me. "Stand back, Baby," he says, taking charge. "Brian!" he yells right in his face. Em feels his neck, touching his pulse. "This is NOT good, Justin. We have to get him into the bathroom."
Michael is right behind Emmett and they both take a strong hold of Brian and half carry, half drag him out of the backroom and to the nearest restroom.
"Clear the fuck OUT!" Emmett commands in a booming, butch voice -- and the place clears. Em and Michael lean Brian over one of the sinks and turn on the water full blast until it runs icy cold. They splash it on his face, trying to shock him back into sensibility. But nothing is happening.
"Emmett, I think we should get him to the hospital!" I'm getting scared now. Brian is fucking scaring me!
"Hang on, Baby. Sometimes you just have to wait it out." Emmett and Michael and I ease Brian down to the floor, propping him up between us.
"What is it, Em? What's the matter with him?" I ask. I've seen Brian do a lot of drugs, but I've never seen anything like this. Never!
"He's in a K-hole," answers Em.
I swallow. "One of the guys in the backroom said that, but I didn't know what he was talking about." I thought I knew something about club drugs, but this is something beyond me. I feel really stupid for asking, but I have to know the truth. "Emmett, what's a K-hole?"
Em takes a deep breath. "Special K is an anesthetic and it sort of paralyzes you, you know? I mean, if you take too much of it. Or if it mixes with something else. Which it obviously has, because Brian was already flying high when he got here tonight. So that's where our boy is right now. In a K-hole. He's just a little... frozen. But he should come out of it. Eventually."
"Eventually?" Now I'm panicking. "EVENTUALLY? Like WHEN eventually? In a few minutes or in a few hours?" I think of what happened to Ted a couple of years ago when Blake gave him some shit that put him into a coma. "Has this ever happened to Brian before? Has it?"
Emmett glances at Michael and then Michael nods grimly. "At least once before. But that was a long time ago. Brian usually knows exactly how much to take. And he usually knows who he's getting it from. But he was out there on the dance floor just taking anything that anyone handed him. So who the fuck knows, Justin?" Michael runs his hand through his hair, looking like he's about to cry.
"Jesus! We have to get him to the hospital! We have to call 911!"
"Calm down, Baby," says Emmett, the voice of experience. "You want this on the front page tomorrow? Is that what Brian would want?"
"I don't give a shit!" I tell Em. "I don't give a fuck about the front page, I just don't want him on the obituary page!" I shake Brian again. "Wake up, Brian!" I feel like I'm watching 'The Wiggles' with Gus, when we'd sit together and call out, "Wake up, Jeff!" at the television screen to the character that's always falling asleep. "Wake the fuck up, Brian!" I plead now. "Please! Wake up!"
"I think he's coming around," says Michael. "Let's see if we can get him standing up."
The three of us pull Brian to his feet. He's thin, but he's a dead weight and it takes a lot of effort to get him moving. But he is moving. Slowly, unsteadily. And he's blinking. He doesn't have that empty, lights-out-nobody-home expression anymore. Now he looks more sick than dead.
"That's it, honey! One step at a time!" coaxes Em. I push open the men's room door. A knot of gawkers springs back. "Get the fuck out of the way!" Emmett hollers. "Because I'm taking names!"
We manage to steer Brian back to the bar. The bartender, who I recognize as one of Brian's old tricks, hands Emmett a bottle of water, which he then forces into Brian. Most of it dribbles down the front of his stained wifebeater, but I see him swallow a little, too. I begin to breathe a little easier myself. But I still think we should get Brian to a hospital. I'm still scared shitless and this still seems really serious to me. Like an emergency. But Emmett is calm.
"Do you think he's going to be all right?" I ask hesitantly.
"Of course, Baby. Just leave it to me and Michael." Emmett leans up against Brian. "Brian? Are you in there?" asks Em, more softly this time.
Brian blinks a few more times and groans. Emmett nods and he and Michael settle him onto a bar stool. Brian wobbles a bit, but Michael and I steady him.
Emmett frowns. "He needs a little shaking up, I'm afraid. This is going to hurt me more than you, Brian honey," Em says. And then he slaps Brian soundly on the cheek. And then again, even harder. "Well! That's the only time I'll ever be able to do THAT and live," Emmett deadpans.
"Em! What the fuck are you doing?" I grab his arm so he can't hit Brian again.
"I'm just trying to clear out the cobwebs, Baby," Em says firmly. "Brian? Are you alive in there? Talk to me!"
Brian grunts something that isn't exactly words, but it's something. It's communication. "Brian -- I'm right here. Okay?" I tell him. I grab his hand and squeeze it. His hands are ice cold.
"Give me the keys to the Jeep, Justin," says Michael. "I'll bring it around to the door and you guys can get him out of here."
I hand Michael the keys. "I'm parked in front of the Swan," I say. "Thanks, Michael."
Michael's face is bleak. "It's nothing, Justin." He pauses. "I thought I was finished cleaning up after Brian. I guess not." And he turns and goes out to get the Jeep.
"Here's his jacket, Baby," says Em, reaching across the bar. "He didn't have anything else with him."
I take it from Emmett. It's Brian's suede fringed jacket, but now it's filthy and some of the fringe has been torn off. I check the outside pockets. A couple of condoms, some kleenex, a folded ticket holder with the remnants of his one way ticket on Trans-Con from LAX to Pittsburgh International, made out, for some reason, to a 'T. R. Hardy.' It looks like he came into town earlier today. I also feel something hard inside the jacket. I reach inside and unzip the inner pocket.
"What's that, Baby?" asks Em. He's trying to force more water into Brian, who is now a bit more alert and pushing the water away.
"Nothing," I say, turning away. My fucking eyes are tearing up in this smoky club. What I've found in Brian's jacket isn't nothing. It's my Christmas present to him. The photo of me posing on the bed under the blue lights, frame and all. It's just small enough to fit in that inside pocket. When he left rehab in Malibu -- however he did it and why ever he did it -- that's the only thing he took with him. I shove the photo back in the pocket and hug the jacket close to my body. It smells like stale cigarettes and sweat -- and Brian.
"Come on, Brian," I urge. "We're going outside to get some fresh air. You're going to need your coat. It's cold out there."
Emmett helps me slip the suede jacket over Brian's thin tee shirt. He stands and passively lets me zip it up.
"He obviously didn't dress for Pittsburgh in the winter," Em comments. "And look at Brian's shoes!"
I glance down. I didn't notice them before. They look like some kind of cheap plastic shoes you'd buy at the Big Q. I've never seen Brian wear anything like them in my life.
"I'll never let him live those shoes down, Baby!" snarks Emmett. Even in a crisis Em can't resist a wisecrack.
"Let's get him out of here first before we do a complete fashion critique, okay?" I answer. I'm not in the mood right now.
"Hey, Boytoy? What's the matter with your Superstar?" I hear a voice call out as Em and I guide Brian towards the door.
"Fuck off!" I tell him. Some people can hardly wait to knock Brian when he's down. I bet he's one of the creeps who was lined up for a chance to suck his cock 30 minutes ago.
The cold air hits us like a blast after the stifling atmosphere of Babylon. Michael has the Jeep pulled up as close to the door as he can get. He sees us and jumps out, opening the back door.
"Don't you think we should take Brian to the hospital, Em?" I say nervously. Because I have to admit that I'm still scared. Seeing Brian blank out like that is more than I can take. I know that he's emotionally fragile, but seeing him so physically fragile is a whole other thing. He's always such a strong physical presence. Even when he came back from California last spring and he was so exhausted, he was never like this. No, never like this!
"Not necessary. Auntie Em has things under control."
"Emmett? What if it happens again?" I say fearfully.
"It won't, honey. He's out of danger now. But you'll want to keep a sharp eye on him for the rest of the night -- just in case," Emmett warns.
"In case of what?" I reply in alarm.
"Shut up, Em!" says Michael. "Let's get Brian into the backseat."
I climb in first and drag Brian after me, while Michael and Emmett give him a push from behind. He's in. Michael and I buckle Brian into the seat. His eyes are fluttering. He really doesn't know where the fuck he is.
As Michael drives to the loft, I try to talk to Brian. To reassure him. But he only blinks and mumbles a little. I hang onto his hand. It feels rough and chapped. I open it and run my fingers across his palm and over the back of his hand. It's like he's been doing manual labor with his bare hands. But that doesn't make any sense at all. He's been at a rehab center, not a work camp! This isn't what they told Tess and me it was going to be like at Haven of Hope. Unless this happened after he left Haven. But that's an awful lot of damage to have happened in just the last couple of days. I also notice that Brian's nails are all bitten and ragged. I haven't seen him biting his nails like that since just after I got out of the hospital. Pair all that with the ratty clothes and the vacant expression on his face, and I hardly know what to think. Jesus, he's a mess!
And now he's run away from rehab for the second time. I'm afraid for him. Afraid of what could happen to him not just from the fucking studio or from the cops, but from himself. Afraid of how he'll be when he sobers up and realizes what he's done. That he's failed -- again. And Brian doesn't deal with failure very well.
Michael parks the Jeep while Em and I get Brian up to the loft. He's sort of stumbling along with us, but he's no longer a dead weight. Em keeps up a steady, jokey banter as we move him through the loft and up to the platform. My sketchbooks and papers are still spread all over the place, so I scramble to clear the bed of my refuse while Emmett carefully pulls off his suede jacket. Then the two of us tip Brian -- gently -- on top of the duvet.
He's there on his back, lying utterly still. But his breathing is steady.
Michael comes into the loft and joins us next to the bed. "What now?" he asks. Fuck if I know.
"I think we should stay tonight," Emmett says determinedly.
"You guys don't have to do that." I just keep staring down at Brian, unable to believe that he's really here. Back where he belongs.
"No," says Michael. "Em's right. If you need any help in the middle of the night, we'll be right here." Michael must see the fear on my face because he squeezes my shoulder. "Don't worry, Boy Wonder. We'll camp out until morning."
Em and Michael pull out the air mattress we use when Gus is visiting. They pump the thing up while they snipe at each other over who'll get the mattress and who'll get the sofa. Meanwhile, I struggle to undress Brian. I remove those awful plastic shoes and toss them on the floor. Brian's not wearing socks and his beautiful feet, like his hands, look all fucked up, scratched and torn, like he was walking over rocks or something barefoot. Maybe he was, I think. Haven of Hope is at Malibu -- maybe he ducked out by way of the beach somehow and had to walk a long way over rough ground. But where did he get those shoes?
I pull Brian's stained wifebeater over his head. His clothes are nasty, but Brian himself seems fairly clean. His hair is shaggy, but not dirty. I'd say that he's been growing his beard for only a few days. It grows in pretty quickly and heavily when he isn't shaving. Some of his chest hair is also sprouting, especially around his nipples, which I love. I love Brian with hair on his body, even if he is obsessed with waxing, shaving, and plucking it off at every opportunity.
Michael comes up as I'm unbuttoning his jeans. "I was going to ask if you needed any help, but I guess not," he says sadly. Michael must have done this a hundred times over the years, or maybe even more than that. Undressing a semi-conscious Brian is an art that takes practice. And for as long as Brian has been getting wasted and then needing help, Michael has been there. Yes, when no one else was there. Long before I was there.
"Thanks, Michael," I say. "Could you pull down at his feet?"
"Sure, Justin," Michael nods. And between us we ease off this old pair of jeans. Brian doesn't even sigh, he's so out of it.
"I can't figure out why he's wearing these ripped up jeans," I tell Michael. "We only put them in the suitcase in case he needed an old pair to slug around in or do stuff outside. Tess had warned us that he might be 'required' to do chores around the rehab center as part of his therapy, so we packed this pair so he wouldn't ruin any of his good pants."
"Maybe that's how he escaped," suggests Michael. "Maybe he was working on something outside and he made a break for it!" That sounds like something from one of Michael's comic books.
I grimace. "But that sounds so fucking melodramatic! Brian wasn't on a chain gang, after all! And Haven of Hope isn't a prison!"
"Jesus, Justin, who can tell?" Michael looks at me seriously. "He must have been gone from that place for a while."
I shake my head. "He couldn't have been gone too long, Michael. He's been growing his beard for at least two days, maybe three. But you'd think that I would have heard something about it. Tess would have called me by now. SOMEONE would have called me to ask if I had heard from him! Or if he was here."
"Unless they assumed there was no way that he could get this far without any money," Michael offers.
"Or decent shoes in the middle of winter." I kick the plastic shoes away from the bed in disgust.
"Then they sure don't know Brian Kinney!" Michael smiles sadly. "Nope, they sure don't know him at all! Or what he can do when he puts his mind to it. I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd hitched, walked, or fucking crawled all the way from California to get home! That's Brian, you know. Just like when he came back from New York City and...." Michael stops suddenly like he has a pain in his gut. "Just like when he showed up at my mom's house that night. In the snow. Scratching at the back door like a dog. When he could hardly walk."
"Jesus, Michael," I breathe.
"Will he... will he have to go back there?" asks Michael as we pull the sheets and duvet up around him. I can see the real concern in Michael's face. "He won't, will he?"
"I really don't know the answer to that," I admit. "I don't know why he left yet!"
"Something bad happened there, I know it," Michael suggests darkly. "Because Brian wouldn't just take off for no reason. Won't he get into big trouble?"
I shake my head. "I have no fucking idea, Michael. But he's here now." Yes, messy and wasted -- but here. Which is better than having him wandering around Los Angeles in this same condition. Maybe he did get a little sidetracked, but he had the right idea -- to get to Pittsburgh. To get to ME. So I could take care of him. I'm certain of that.
"Do you want to sleep up here?" I ask Michael. "On the other side? There's plenty of room in the bed." Which is true. Brian's bed is big enough for a crowd.
Michael hesitates. "No, I don't think so, Justin." We both look down at Brian. The man that we both love. "It's not where I belong. We both know that."
And I nod. Yeah, we both know it.
Michael glances up at me like a lost soul. I feel so bad for him. Brian has been beyond his reach for a long time now and he doesn't even have Ben anymore. Michael is like a man adrift with no help in sight. But as much as I want to reach out to him, I have other things to deal with. My own life. My own problems. And Brian. He's my main priority.
I give Michael and Em some pillows and blankets and they settle themselves down in the living area, Michael on the sofa and Em on the air mattress. I can hear them talking together in low voices while I undress and get into bed next to Brian.
I turn off my little reading light by the bed. The loft is quiet now, except for Emmett's snoring and Brian's soft wheeze. I move myself up against him, feeling the heat his body radiates. The Kinney Furnace. When Brian is in the bed you don't really need extra blankets.
I've been dreaming of this moment ever since I left Brian behind in L.A. Dreaming of when Brian would be back here where he belongs, with both of us together in this big blue-lighted bed. But this isn't the way I'd imagined his homecoming would be. Not anything like this.
I put my arms around Brian. He's so thin that I can feel every bone. I run my hands down his body. His hipbones are so sharp they feel dangerous. Then I stroke his face in the darkness. His hair. His neck. He's so frail. So fragile. So damaged. If he hadn't been so strong to begin with he'd be broken in a million pieces! This is what happens when I fucking let Brian out of my sight. He's not safe! And I don't give a damn what anyone else says is good for him. Not the studio, the cops, or his so-called doctors! Because the way he is right now can't be good for him. This can't be right. This can't continue. I won't let it fucking continue!
Brian moves his arm around me and makes a little moaning sound. He's pulling me to him in his sleep. THAT is what's right. Reaching for me even when he doesn't know that I'm here. That and nothing else. So fuck anything else!
I want so much to know what happened to Brian, to ask him a thousand questions about why he left and how he got here. But all of that will have to wait. Right now I only want to get us both through this night. To make sure he's okay. Then in the morning, we will figure out what the fuck to do next.
And we hold tight to each other. Like we're drowning and our intertwined bodies are our only life preserver. So we try to hang on. For dear life.
Continue on to "I Shall Believe".
©Gaedhal, February 2004.
Posted February 26, 2004.