This is Part 1 of Chapter 121 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Shooting Star -- Part 4", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Howie Sheldon, William, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin tries to stand between Brian and the world. Los Angeles, December 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 thought of you as my mountain top,
Thought of you as my peak.
Thought of you as everything,
I've had but couldn't keep.
I've had but couldn't keep.
Linger on your pale blue eyes.
Linger on your pale blue eyes."
From "Pale Blue Eyes," by Lou Reed.
I turn the PT Cruiser around. Back to the house.
"I think there's been an accident!" I yell at the two security guards. They're just sitting in their car, drinking coffee. "Come with me! Help me!"
But one of the guards shrugs. "Call 911. We were hired to guard this gate. And we aren't supposed to leave it!"
I can't fucking believe this! "But the guy you were hired to guard just left in the Jeep! I think he's in trouble! I think he crashed his car! Don't you care?" But they just shrug again.
I call 911 and tell the woman who answers that I think there's been an accident. I give her the address of Ron's house and tell her about my cellphone call. "He's up here somewhere in the canyon, but I don't know where!"
"I'll alert the police and Emergency. If you see anything please call back and give the location as best you can."
"Thanks," I say. "I'm looking now!" I drive up and down the main road, looking. I drive all the way down and out of the canyon, but I don't see anything. It's still raining and there are no lights on these roads. I turn around and go back up again, searching. Then I hear a siren in the distance. I try to find where it is. I end up on a cul-de-sac. I turn around and go back again. I don't hear the sirens anymore, but I keep driving. Keep looking.
Finally, I see some flashing lights. A cop is directing cars away. But I pull up and put down my window. "I think my friend was in an accident!" I tell the cop. "I was the one who called 911!" He lets me through. I see the Jeep. Off the road and on its side in a ditch. I go completely cold. I pull the Cruiser to the side of the road and jump out, racing towards the white Emergency van.
A cop grabs me. "Please stand away."
"That's my partner's Jeep! I was on the phone with him! I heard the crash and called 911!" I'm babbling, but the policeman actually listens to me. He looks me over. I'm soaked and crying and just this side of hysterical.
The cop looks me up and down. His eyes soften. "Okay. Come with me." He leads me over to the van. "They had to pry him out of that Jeep, ya know? If the airbag hadn't deployed he'd be in a hell of a lot worse shape, I tell you." The cop speaks to another policeman and an EMT medic. "It's okay. But just for a minute. They're taking him to Cedars-Sinai to be evaluated."
The medic lets me climb into the van. "Brian?"
He's strapped onto the stretcher, his neck held immobile.He's got a gash on his head, and there's blood on his face and neck. "Hey, Sunshine. Could I fuck up any worse?"
"Not really," I say. He doesn't look too bad -- considering. "You really ARE an idiot! You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah. I know." His voice sounds raw and pained.
I want to put my arms around him, but I don't want to jiggle him. So I gently touch his cheek instead. "Does it hurt?" I ask.
He closes his eyes. "I guess I'm feeling no pain."
"I'd kill you, Brian, but you're already doing a good job of that yourself," I tell him, not kidding. "You scared the shit out of me! I followed you and I could have gotten in an accident, too!"
"I'm sorry, Sunshine," he says. "I didn't want anything to happen to you. I... Fuck!" He tries to move around, but he's held into position. "You're all wet. Where's your jacket?"
"I kind of ran out without it -- because I was chasing YOU!" I retort.
"Go get my suede jacket. It's... it's in the Jeep. If you can find it. Put it on."
The medic comes to the door of the van and tells me I have to get out. "You can follow us down to the hospital."
I climb down and walk over to the Jeep. It's stopped raining. The smell of gasoline and rubber hangs over the whole scene. I see Brian's cellphone lying in the road, smashed. There's broken glass all over -- but I want his jacket. It seems important to retrieve it. The Jeep is on its side and I can see the jacket in there. The door is open and the remnants of the deflated airbag are hanging out like a big tongue. I reach in carefully and pull out the suede jacket, shake it a couple of times, and put it on. Then I get into the PT Cruiser and follow the Emergency van down out of the canyon and on to the hospital in West Hollywood.
After they've done the basic evaluation of Brian, they let me sit with him in the cubicle where they've stashed him. There are no outward injuries other than the big gash on his head, some scrapes, and a couple of bad bruises. So we wait until they are ready to take him to have an MRI and some other tests. I pull a chair up close to the bed and hang onto his hand. They've also medicated him, so Brian is pretty out of it. Every once in a while he says, "Justin?" as if to make sure I'm really still here.
"I'm not going anywhere, okay?" I reassure him. I can still remember when it was me lying in a hospital bed, wishing to God that Brian was next to me, holding my hand. A woman in green scrub pants and top comes in a couple of times to check on him. She nods at me, but she doesn't say much.
"I have to piss so fucking bad," Brian mumbles after we've been in the cubicle for over an hour. "There's nothing the matter with me. Can't they just let you take me home?"
"Brian, we have to wait. You haven't had all your tests yet. You might have a concussion. Or something worse."
"Fuck that. Maybe we can sneak out." He moves around and I can tell he's hurting, but he won't admit it. "I want to be anywhere but in this fucking place! I HATE hospitals! Where are my shoes? And my shirt and pants?" He's wearing one of those awful gowns they give you in the hospital.
"Brian, you weren't wearing any shoes. You ran out of the house without them. And they cut your shirt and pants off when they brought you to the E.R."
"Oh," he groans. "That was a $170 shirt! And my Armani pants. I'll sue the fuckers!"
"I don't think so, Brian. That's their job. To try and save your life, whether you want them to or not. But even so, you can't leave here without any clothes. I'll have to go back up to the house and get some. Or I'll call Diane to go up there and bring something down, okay?"
"No! Don't call Diane! Or Tess! I don't want anyone to know I was so fucking stupid!"
I have to laugh grimly. "It's too late for THAT, Brian."
"I know." He lies back on the hard hospital pillow and closes his eyes. "Jesus. Where's the bathroom? I'm not kidding about having to piss."
"Hang on." There's a counter in the cubicle with some plastic cups and other things sitting on top. What the heck. I hand him one of the cups and he pisses into it. Now what to do with it? I wrap the cup in a towel and slip out of the cubicle and down the hallway. No one pays any attention to me. There's a room that says toilet, so I go in and empty the cup and toss it into the trash. Then I take a piss. I look at myself in the mirror as I wash my hands. I'm a mess, too. The past few days haven't been a walk in the park for me, either. I wash my face then dry it off with a paper towel. I comb my hair with my fingers and try to look a little less like a homeless person.
As I come out of the bathroom I see Howie Sheldon walking into the E.R. William is trailing after him and also another man, who I recognize as one of the studio lawyers. Shit. They see me and push by one of the attendants.
"Justin!" Howie Sheldon grabs my arm. "What happened?"
"Brian totaled his fucking Jeep!" I jerk my arm away from Sheldon.
"I know. My security man called me at home to tell me that the two of you tore out of the house like a couple of bats out of hell. So I called one of my connections at the LAPD and they gave me the word."
"Then why the fuck are you asking me if you already know it all?" I say sarcastically.
"I mean what happened BEFORE you two left the house?" Sheldon snaps at me. "Did you have some kind of a fight? Was he drunk? Stoned?"
"It's none of your fucking business!" I answer. Fucking jerk!
"Oh, yes! It IS my business. I need to know so I can take care of it." Howie's eyes are like fucking lasers.
"Aren't you even interested in whether Brian is all right?" I reply. I look over at William. He looks like he might be a human being. I try to see if he has a little sympathy for the two of us here. Or at least for Brian. But William doesn't say a single word. And the lawyer's face is a blank. I realize that these people don't give a royal shit about Brian! It's only me. I'm the only one who cares. I'm alone, standing between Brian and the goddamn world.
"I assume Brian is fine -- or else they'd be sedating YOU," Howie Sheldon snarks at me.
I just want to punch this guy's lights out! I fucking hate him! I hate all of them! But instead I count to 10. Then I turn around and go behind the curtain and back into the cubicle.
"Nice work, Sunshine," rasps Brian, trying not to laugh. "I could hear you all the way in here. I guess the Marines have arrived -- led by General Howie. Is the fucking lawyer here, too?"
"Yes," I say shortly. "The whole studio contingent."
Brian sighs. "Howie's a bastard, Justin, but if he can get me the fuck out of here...."
"Nobody's getting the fuck out of here, Brian!" I direct him. "You aren't leaving until the doctors say you are all right! They haven't even done the MRI on you yet! You could have internal bleeding or something!"
"I said I'm fine," he insists. "I have to piss again. And I'm thirsty, too."
I roll my eyes. "Jesus, Brian!" But I get another little plastic cup and hand it to him and we do the toilet drill once more. When I come back from the bathroom I take a wrapped plastic cup out of the cupboard and give him some water. "Brian, you must be dehydrated after all the shit you've taken. Do you want me to call the nurse?"
"No! Don't say that to anyone, Justin," he whispers. "I keep thinking they are going to come in here and get a piss sample to test. Then I'll be facing a fucking Driving Under the Influence charge -- among other things."
"Brian, they've already taken your blood. So I don't think your piss is going to matter all that much."
"I guess not," Brian sighs. I reach over and straighten his heart charm. "Hey, at least they didn't try to remove my expensive jewelry like they did in England. I still have my cowrie shell bracelet and my heart," he says, touching my hand. "I'm thinking of writing an article comparing the amenities of British jails and hospitals versus those in Los Angeles. Do you think the 'New Yorker' would be interested in publishing it?" He smirks at me.
"Just shut up and relax, you crazy asshole." I squeeze his hand.
About 15 minutes later they wheel Brian down to MRI. They let me follow along behind the gurney, but make me wait outside while they do the tests. I can't sit still, so I pace back and forth in the cramped waiting area. A red-haired woman is also sitting there, waiting for her husband to come out of the MRI. She starts talking to me and tells me that he had a stroke. "He's only 41," she says, her face a mask of worry.
"I'm sorry," I tell her. In a hospital everyone has their own tragedy, their own heartbreak to deal with.
"Thank you," she replies. "What happened to your friend?"
I sniff, trying not to lose it. "His Jeep rolled over."
"Oh, that's terrible. Were you in the car, too?"
"No," I say, sniffing. She's the first person who has acted the least bit concerned. I guess we are bonding in our fear. "I was following in another car. It was raining and... dark." I don't add that Brian was also stoned and completely freaking out.
"I'm sure he'll be just fine, honey," says the woman, patting my arm.
"Thanks," I answer. I sit down on one of the plastic chairs. My clothes are damp, I'm exhausted, I'm fucking scared, I... I just feel like I want to scream. Like I'm at the end of my rope. I want to call Diane, but I know that she has an important rehearsal for her show early this morning -- and it's already Monday morning. I can't keep calling her and expecting her to come and help me with my life whenever things fuck up. Diane and Tess, too. They are always there, cleaning up things. Wiping my fucking tears. I need to do this stuff myself! I need to! But I'm so tired....
They finally wheel Brian out of the MRI. I say goodbye to the woman and wish her luck, then follow Brian back to the E.R. Unit. There's no sign of Howie Sheldon or William or the lawyer, thank God.
"Can I get out of here now and go home?" Brian bitches at the male attendant. "Or are you going to put me in another fucking torture chamber?"
"You do nothing but complain, you know that?" the attendant replies serenely. The guys cocks his head at me. "Is he always this much trouble?"
"Yes," I say, while Brian says "No!" at the same time. The guy rolls his eyes and goes out, leaving us alone again.
"What did the doctor say about the MRI, Brian?"
"Nothing. They never say anything." Brian sits up a little. "Can you get this fucking thing a little higher?" I find the lever and raise the end of the bed so he can sit up. "You'd think that in a hospital they'd have something more comfortable. How are people supposed to get better when they're so fucking uncomfortable?"
"Maybe it's an incentive for patients to get better and go home."
"Christ!" says Brian. "That's all I've been asking to do -- go home!"
Finally a woman in a white coat comes in and does the whole examination maneuver on Brian. She looks into his eyes with a penlight, checks his vital signs, asks him some questions, pokes him, prods him, then gets ready to leave.
"So? Can I go now?" asks Brian, hopefully.
"I don't know," says the woman, smiling. "I'm just a medical student. But thanks for letting me look at you, Mr. Kinney. Do you think I could have an autograph?" Brian just glares at her until she finally backs out of the cubicle.
Brian stares after her. "Fuck! Now they're sending in students to practice on me!" He turns to me, his eyes pleading. "Justin, please get me the fuck out of here!"
I go out to the desk and ask the nurse how much longer it will be, but she tells me that we just have to wait. So I go back into the cubicle and perch on the edge of the bed. "I guess it's a good sign that they aren't rushing you into the operating room or anything, Brian. I think that means you're probably going to live."
Brian snorts. "By the time they'd find out I'd be stone dead! My God, I hate hospitals!"
"I think you've made that very clear," I say. "I'm not exactly crazy about them, either, you know."
"I'm sorry, Justin. I didn't mean to suggest that you were any more happy to be here than I am. It's just that... that coming over in that ambulance, being here in the middle of the night, the fucking smell of this place -- it's too much like... like that night they brought you to the E.R. Or like all those nights when I sat in that fucking hallway, waiting for... for something to happen. First for you to wake up. Then for you to sleep through the night without screaming. It's... too...." Brian swallows and gazes at me sadly. I think about him sitting there. About how he must have felt. How he must have really loved me, even then. And how he didn't know how to show it at all. "You might as well get in here with me and get some rest, too. You look as bad as I feel." Brian moves over a little and I climb up next to him on the narrow bed.
"Thanks a fucking lot!" I whisper. "I wonder whose fault that is?" I put my feet up on the bed and lie back on the pillow next to Brian. Then I kiss him softly, avoiding the bruise on his cheek. "You know that there was no reason for you to freak out back in the poolhouse, don't you?"
Brian looks away. "Yes there was, Justin," he answers. "Because I forgot myself. I was so out of control, so fucked up, that I couldn't remember to do something that I should never forget to do. Something I've always been very careful of with you, Justin. So there's no excuse for it. I told you once a long time ago never to let anyone fuck you without a condom. And I'm no exception -- ever!"
"And I told you before, Brian, that it's not that big a deal."
Brian shakes his head. "It's always a big deal, Justin, especially when I'm so fucked up I don't know what I'm doing."
"Brian, you were tested after... after what happened in London. And since then you've only been with me... and one other person," I say. "Unless the other night, when you disappeared...?"
He shakes his head. "No, I only bought some dope. That was all. I didn't trick. I... I just didn't. But that's still no excuse. And it doesn't mean that I'm safe. Not by a fucking longshot."
"And the dope?" I ask. "I know you took some this morning at the synagogue. And I know you must have taken some later, too. How do you feel? Are you... feeling bad?" Meaning, is he feeling the dope wearing off yet? Is he feeling that nervous sickness that comes when it begins to leave your system.
"No," he says. "They gave me something for pain in the ambulance. A shot of something. I was trying to tell them not to bother, but..." He laughs, but it's a ragged, sore-sounding laugh.
"You are hurting, aren't you, Brian? Where?"
"Everywhere. Nowhere. It doesn't matter." Then he leans into my ear. "Justin, my suede jacket." Which is draped on the back of the chair in the corner of the cubicle. "The rest of the dope is in the inside pocket."
"I just realized it. Get rid of it. I don't want to see that crap again. Please."
I get off the bed and grope around inside the suede jacket. I feel the glass vial and pull it out. It's almost empty. I shudder, thinking of a similar little glass bottle in London. I wrap the vial in a paper towel from the roll on the counter and slip it into my pocket. "I'll be right back." I walk down the corridor, looking around. I go out the front door of the E.R. and see a big dumpster pushed up against the building. I walk over and toss the vial into the dumpster. Then I amble back inside as nonchalantly as I can.
Brian is still lying, all alone, in the cubicle. "It's gone," I say. "No problem."
He gazes at me as I climb back up on the bed next to him and put my arms around him gently. "Your eyes -- they're so blue. Just like the sky." He sighs. "I'm a fucking menace to myself -- and a danger to you. You realize that, don't you, Justin?"
"Which is exactly why you need me, Brian. Especially now."
I close my eyes and doze for a short while. When I open them again Howie Sheldon is staring at me. He's standing in the cubicle with William and the lawyer and a doctor -- and Detective Parra.
"I went back to the house and brought you some clothes, Brian," says Howie, holding out a plastic bag. "And a pair of shoes. Put them on." He's not smiling. None of them are smiling.
I climb off the edge of the bed. "What's going to happen now?"
Howie Sheldon looks at the detective. "Justin, please step outside."
"No!" I say. "I won't! I want to know what's going on!"
"William, would you please take Mr. Taylor out into the waiting room?" says Howie Sheldon.
Brian sits up. "I want him to stay!" He holds onto my hand.
"What you want, Brian, is irrelevant at this moment," says Howie, his voice like ice. Detective Parra stares at me, like he's warning me. Now I'm really fucking scared. "William?" Howie repeats.
Howie Sheldon's boyfriend takes my arm and firmly escorts me out of the cubicle and out into the waiting room. It's full of women sitting with their exhausted kids. Single people, their faces strained. An attendant in green scrubs walks through, holding a cup of coffee and humming. In the corner a television is tuned to CNN. I look at the clock on the wall and see that it's almost 5:00 a.m. I have no idea where the time has gone.
William pushes me down in a seat and then sits down next to me as if I'm going to make a break for it. I glare at him. William is good-looking in a faded way. Brian told me that he was an aspiring actor until Howie Sheldon picked him up. Now he's only a pitiful appendage of his boyfriend. Because Howie is sleeping with half the male 'talent' on the Terra Nova lot. He's infamous for using the casting couch as his personal dating service. Brian told me that Ron was rabid about never letting Brian alone in the same room with Howie Sheldon, Ron was so afraid that Howie would make a move on Brian.
"And?" I'd asked, already pretty much knowing the answer.
Brian sniffed dismissively. "Howie thinks he's a lot better than he actually is," is all Brian would say. And I didn't ask for any more information on that subject.
"What's going on in there?" I ask William. "Are they going to arrest Brian now?"
William frowns. "Why would you think that?"
"Maybe because the cop who gave Brian the Third Degree at Ron's house happens to be in there with your two-faced lover. Oops -- I mean your two-faced ROOMMATE! And that ass-kissing lawyer from the studio!"
"They aren't going to arrest him, you pissy little twink," says William, glaring back at me. "So just shut up. They're in there making certain that he DOESN'T get arrested. Which is a miracle since he obviously wiped out his car while he was drunk or high or whatever. He's lucky he didn't kill himself -- or some innocent bystander. Which he will if he doesn't get some help -- and soon!"
"You have a lot of fucking nerve calling ME names!" I spit back at him. "You pathetic queen!"
"Just sit there and be quiet," says William, nervously. Some people are looking over at us. A couple of fags sniping at each other is always entertaining in the E.R. of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at 5:00 a.m. Better than watching CNN.
About a half-hour later I see Detective Parra come out of the examining area and leave through the front door of the E.R. A few minutes later Howie Sheldon and the lawyer come out, too. William and I stand up.
"Brian is getting dressed and the doctor is signing the paperwork for release," says Howie. "As soon as it's ready you can drive him home."
"Is Brian all right? Really?" I ask hopefully.
Howie nods. "As all right as anyone who had to be fucking pried out of his smashed Jeep can be. If he hadn't been so doped up and limp I'm sure he'd be in traction -- or dead," Howie says, his lips pressed together angrily. "Is there any more shit at the house? Any booze, dope, anything at all?"
"No," I say. "I got rid of everything." At least I hope I did.
"You better have." Howie glances at the lawyer and nods. Then he turns back to me. "Take him directly home and keep an eye on him. My security people have been alerted. I don't want him to leave that house! I mean it. Not until I say it's okay."
"We're leaving for Pittsburgh tomorrow night," I say. It's now Monday morning. "On Christmas Eve."
Howie nods. "Okay, but I don't even want him to set foot in the front yard until then! Security is under orders NOT to let him leave. You got that?"
I nod back. "I got that." But I'm still glaring at Howie. At all of them.
Howie Sheldon sighs. "Look, I'm just trying to keep him safe. You understand that, don't you, kid?" Howie pauses. "I have a fucking investment here. In Brian AND his career. And... and Ron was my friend." I think, yeah, what a great friend! But Howie's voice softens slightly. "I fucked up with Ron -- badly. But I made a promise to myself -- and to the memory of Ron -- that I wouldn't let the same thing happen to Brian. And I mean that. But you have to cooperate, kid."
I swallow. I fucking hate Howie Sheldon, but I also don't want the same thing to happen to Brian. "I think we're on the same page about that," I reply, holding my head up. Howie offers me his hand, but I don't take it. I'm not sealing any fucking deals with these people, but especially not with Howie Sheldon. I'm only doing this for Brian. Because that's what being a partner is all about. Taking care of each other. The way Brian would take care of me if I were in trouble. The way he watched over me in the hospital. The way he saved me. Took care of me. And now I have to prove to everyone that I can take care of Brian in the same way.
"Okay. Good," Howie says, dropping his unshaken hand awkwardly. Then he and William and the lawyer leave. And I go back into the examining area to sit with Brian while we wait for them to release him to finally go home.
Continue on to "Pale Blue Eyes -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, October 2003.
Updated October 31, 2003.