This is Part 3 of Chapter 121 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Pale Blue Eyes -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, and features Ramon, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian has a surprise present for Justin on Christmas Eve. Los Angeles, Christmas Eve, 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.
We eat up the leftovers of the food Diane and Angie brought yesterday. Actually, I eat most of the leftovers. Brian still isn't eating. He really needs to get some food into him. He's always been thin, but he's lost a lot of weight over the past couple of weeks and I know that it's got to be affecting his health. Over Christmas I plan to have Brian at my mom's or at the diner every day, filling him up with meatloaf and lemon bars and turkey and Christmas cookies and... you get the picture. I want to see Brian waddling back to the loft every night, and I mean that!
I clean up the dishes and toss out any remaining food, since we'll probably be gone for at least two weeks. Then I head upstairs. Brian is packing his suitcase and I watch him fold some tee shirts and put them into his medium-sized Louis Vuitton bag.
"Brian, are you only taking one suitcase?" That's odd. Brian takes two suitcases just to go away for a weekend. I'm bringing two myself, but I needed the extra room for my Christmas gifts.
"I don't think I'll need more than one," he says shortly.
"Aren't you going to take one of your good suits, Brian? You never know if you might go out to dinner with Marty Ryder." I pause. "Or maybe you could even take me out to some exclusive bistro for a romantic tete a tete, huh?"
Brian smiles. "That was a broad hint." But then he turns away. "If I need it then I'll just buy something new. I'm fucking sick of all these clothes."
"But Brian, you haven't even worn half of them!" When Diane and I brought our clothes over here from the apartment I realized just how many things Brian has that he seems to have bought and then forgotten about. Diane calls it Brian's Retail Therapy.
"I know," he says, putting a pair of worn old jeans into the bag. Then he sticks in two bars of his sandalwood soap, his shampoo, conditioner, hair paste, and a bunch of his other grooming products.
"Brian, I have all of your favorite stuff at the loft. You don't need to bring more soap or shampoo," I tell him.
"I know," he answers. "It's just... in case."
We carry the three packed suitcases down to the kitchen. Brian is limping a little, but he insists on carrying the heaviest bag. I let him, but I take the other two myself -- no arguments! It seems a little early to be getting ready to go to the airport -- our flight isn't until much later tonight -- but Brian seems antsy. He's probably just anxious about going back home and facing all the Holiday crap. Holidays, and especially Christmas, aren't Brian's best times. I think they must have been extra traumatic at home when he was a kid, with his mother's religious obsessions and his father's drinking binges. No wonder Brian cringes when he hears 'The Little Drummer Boy.'
"We have to talk about something important," Brian says. "Come in here and sit down for a minute." He leads me into the living room and we sit on the couch underneath where Brian broke the mirror. The way he's holding my hand is making me a little nervous. Suddenly, I'm afraid to look him in the eye.
"Justin, look at me," Brian says. "Please."
And I do. I look at him. He looks tired. Sad. Vulnerable. His deep green and gold eyes are rimmed with red and his face is pale. He looks like a creature of the night revealed in the light of day -- beautiful, but abused, a dark angel fallen to Earth.
I know that if I can just get him home, get him away from all of the bad memories, the gossip, the cops, the reporters and photographers, away from the studio and Jimmy, just AWAY, then he can have a chance to heal. WE can have a chance. Just to live. Just to be ourselves. With no one intruding. No one getting between us. I know that I can make it happen. We DO have a chance to make a fresh start. To build a life. Together.
There's something I have always loved about Brian's demonic personality. About his danger. About how you can never be certain what he's going to do next. It was one of the things that attracted me to him that first night and it still never fails to get me excited. When I went home with him the first time I didn't know what he would do to me. I hoped that he would fuck me, but I didn't really know what else he might do. He seemed capable of doing anything -- kissing me, killing me, tying me up, hanging me out the window, falling in love with me -- anything. And I still never really know what he'll do next. That's the thrill of Brian Kinney.
In a way I don't want to lose that. It's such a part of what makes Brian himself. But it's also what terrifies me, too. Because I don't want him to hurt himself. I don't want him to kill himself. To go so far one day that he damages himself permanently -- or damages me. But I guess I already know what that's about because I've already been damaged permanently and so has Brian. We've both been bashed, but in different ways. I want him to be safe. I so want him to be safe and to live and learn just how valuable he really is. Because he doesn't know that yet. But I know that I can show him that he's valuable. Not just to me, but to himself. I know I can.
"Justin, the last week has been... very strange," he begins. "More than strange -- it's been a fucking nightmare! And you've been so great, so supportive... I just have to tell you that I couldn't have gotten through this without you."
"Brian, you don't have to tell me that! It was US, not ME. The two of us, together, that got through it!" I say.
"Please, don't interrupt. Because this is hard enough as it is," says Brian.
"What's hard?" I ask, getting that cold feeling in my gut. "What do you mean?"
"After the incident with Ron's gun and then his death and all the shit connected with it, capped off by my incredibly intelligent move in wrecking the Jeep... well, I had to take a long look at myself. I mean, really look at myself. And what I saw was someone I recognized all too well, but didn't want to acknowledge. A side of me that I never wanted to acknowledge. A true fuck-up. Someone who... who disgusted me. Who made me sick to my fucking stomach! I remembered all those things you said to me on the boat. About how I was selfish and only thought about my dick. About how I didn't pay attention to you or listen to what you said. How I made you feel like you didn't matter. And I knew how much those things were true. You were right, Justin. That person is what I was and what I still am. Someone who thinks with his dick. Someone who will say anything, do anything, fuck anything, just for the hell of it -- and damn the consequences! Damn what it does to me in the long run. Or what it does to you, Justin. To you."
"Brian, I was angry when I said that!" I insist. "I... I didn't mean those things...."
But he stops me. "Yes, Justin. You did mean them. I know you did. And I knew they were true when you said them. And I agree. You don't have to put up with this kind of behavior from me. And you shouldn't, Justin. You're too good a person to stand for my crap. You're too important to always have to make excuses for my fuck-ups. To justify to your mother or to Deb or to Diane or Tess or the whole fucking world -- or even to yourself -- why you are with me. Why you still put up with me."
"I put up with you because I love you! You know that, Brian!" I tell him. And I mean it!
"I know you do, Justin. But you aren't the problem here. I am." Brian pauses and swallows. "I did things to myself and I let Ron do things to me that I can't fucking understand. And I have to understand them, Justin. I have to understand why I did those things -- and why I still do them. So many miserable, thoughtless things. Because my behavior is out of control. I know it is. I've been on the edge before too many times for me to ever want to admit. If I keep going like this I... I'm going to hurt myself, just like Ron did. I know I am. I'm hurting myself right now. But Ron didn't only hurt himself. Ron hurt other people, too, and he just went on blindly. I don't mean that he hurt me -- I'm not important anymore -- but good people, like his mother and sisters. Like poor Ivy. And... just so many people. It's too late for Ron to fix himself. Too late to fix the damage that he did. And too late to figure out what the two of us, Ron and I, were all about anyway. I don't think I'll ever fully understand that. But it's especially horrible because I know that Ron hurt YOU, Justin. And I allowed it to happen. I fucking let him! And that feels like I did it to you myself. That's the worst thing of all. I'm just like he is. Like he was."
"That's not true, Brian! You're nothing like Ron -- and you never could be! You're a different person."
"I know, Justin, but... but I feel like I'm losing myself completely. I've always done things that I thought weren't really me. I mean the me I felt I was deep inside somewhere. The me that no one else could see. But I could never stop myself from behaving that other way. That image of 'Brian Fucking Kinney'! And recently I've seen myself doing all of those things that I fucking hate! Especially to you. Like... like fucking you without a condom. You downplay it, but it's a symptom, Justin. A symptom of me being out of control. It is. I feel like it would have been no big deal if I'd wiped myself out in the Jeep the other night -- but I can't stop thinking how you could so easily have been in the Jeep with me. About how I could have wiped you out, too. Because I can't think clearly anymore. I just can't."
"Then we'll work on changing it, Brian!" I say, grabbing his hand. "Together. We can do it! I know we can! We'll go back to Pittsburgh for the Holidays and things will be good. It will be okay. I know it will be!"
"No, Justin. You can't trust me. And I can't trust myself at all! What if Gus had been in the Jeep when I totaled it? Or Lindsay? Or Michael? But, especially, what if it HAD been you, Justin? Sitting next to me? Been you being taken away in the ambulance -- again! I've already injured you so much. So fucking much. And I don't just mean when you got... got bashed. I mean what I did to you a year ago, with Ron. Leaving you alone. Running away like a fucking coward! Hurting you. Like I'm still doing! What I continue to do to you, every single fucking day. Christ, Justin! I can't take care of you anymore. I can't even take care of myself! I'm not capable of it. When you were in the hospital and I was in total denial, Michael accused me of being a falling down fucking mess. Well, that's what I am now. And I can't get myself back up again to stand on my own two feet."
But he's wrong! He's so wrong! "Yes, you can, Brian. I'll help you 100%! You don't need to feel that you have to take care of me. I can take care of myself. We'll take care of each other, Brian." I lean over to kiss him. And then I smile. "You really aren't such a bad guy, you know. You're beautiful. Bad and beautiful. And I love you that way," I say, trying to show him I'm not worried.
Brian looks away from me. His voice feels far away. "I don't just mean the way I am on the outside, Justin. The way I act in public. The stupid fucking things I do. I'm a mess on the inside, too. And it's ugly. That's the true me. Like the man with the beautiful facade, but upstairs, locked in the attic, is hidden the hideous portrait that tells the truth. And it's better that you not see that truth. That no one does."
"Brian, please don't talk like that. Please don't! You're not a mess. You have some issues, but we can work on them." And now I'm scared again. Really scared.
He laughs at me. It's a weird kind of smirking laugh that seems so self-hating that I feel a chill. "Justin, I have to tell you. Everyone thinks I went on that last bender, that I got smashed and crashed the Jeep because of Ron. Because of... of what he did to himself. And maybe that was a part of it. But it was only a part. You and I both know that it was really because of you."
"You mean because of the condom thing? Brian, I already told you that...."
"No Justin, it's more than that. I've been running from so many things in my life. From the past. From the truth. But especially from you. I haven't been able to face certain things I know I need to do. Things that other people have been warning me about for a while. Ron's death brought it all to a head. But I didn't want to face the reality of... of...." He stops, his face anguished.
"What are you talking about, Brian? Tell me!" I hold my breath, fearing the worst.
But just then we can hear a car coming up the driveway. "That must be the limo," says Brian, standing up suddenly. "Do you have all your stuff?"
"Yes. It's all in the kitchen." I stand up, too, and start breathing again. I'm glad to be leaving this house. The shadow of Ron and all that's happened hangs over this place like a shroud. I'll be happy to get to Pittsburgh. It will be a fucking relief! Brian and I can talk freely there. In the loft I know we can make things better. We can make a few decisions about our life. We can start fresh with the New Year. We can face reality together.
Brian puts his arm around me as we go into the kitchen. Brian opens the door and one of the regular studio drivers, Ramon, the hot Chicano guy, comes in. He smiles at Brian and nods at me. Brian gestures to my two suitcases and Ramon picks them up. I grab my jacket and my carry-on and we follow Ramon out to where the limousine is idling. Brian takes my hand, squeezing it tightly as we stand next to the car.
It's a cool night in Los Angeles, but in Pittsburgh it will be freezing and snowy. I shiver and Brian notices. He takes my jacket and puts it on me, zipping it up. He's looking at me so oddly.
"Where's your jacket, Brian?"
"I... I'll get my stuff in a minute," he says.
Ramon loads my suitcases into the trunk and then opens the back door for me. Brian helps me inside and then hands me my carry-on. Ramon gets into the driver's seat and I hear a click.
Brian leans over and kisses me. "Have a safe trip, Sunshine," he says softly. Then he steps back and slams the limo door.
"Brian! What the fuck are you doing?" I grab the handle of the door, but it's locked. Ramon turns around, looking at me. He's locked the door from the driver's seat.
"Ramon has your ticket, Justin. It's for First Class on Trans-Con, of course. I know how much you like First Class," he says, without any irony. Then he walks around and shuts the trunk of the limo.
"I'm sorry, Sunshine," he says, backing away from the car. "But this is the best present I could possibly give you. Merry Christmas."
"Brian!" I cry again. "Listen to me! If you fucking think I'm leaving L.A. without you, then...." But he turns and begins walking back towards the house. "Brian!" I scream behind the thick glass of the window. Ramon puts the limo into gear. I'm pounding on the window with my fists. "Brian! Don't do this! Don't throw me off the cliff! PLEASE! You promised you wouldn't do this! Never again! You PROMISED! Brian! BRIAN!"
But it's too late. The limousine is halfway down the long driveway. The security men are opening the gate. Then the limo is turning onto the canyon road. Merry fucking Christmas!
In Brian's head, I'm already gone! I'm over the cliff! But I'll never hit the bottom. Never! Never! Never....
I sit for a long time by the pool in the dark after Ramon's limousine leaves. The limo with Justin in it. I empty the bottle of vodka that I started earlier in the day while Justin was finishing his packing, and then I begin the bottle of Jim Beam. I waited on the Beam because I knew Justin would smell it on me. The vodka is cheap and tasteless, but it also has the advantage of no tell-tale odor.
Justin thought he got rid of all the booze, but I know hiding places in this house that he could never dream of. Ron had his stash downstairs, behind the gym equipment. I found it pretty easily -- what was left of it. The bourbon and the bottle of no name vodka. And then there was my own stash of dope. That was in the last place Justin expected me to hide anything -- Ron's room. I knew that Justin would never search in there. I knew he'd never imagine that I'd go into that room and hide anything under the mattress of that bed. But he underestimates me. Yes, Justin actually has faith that I can behave decently and that will always trip him up.
Justin took my Percocet with him in his suitcase, but I have other ways of easing the pain. I've already snorted the last of the smack, so I light up another joint. I need to smoke everything I have. I need to drink up every bottle in this house. Well, both of them. I'm halfway there. And I still have plenty of time. Plenty of time....
I hear a car pull up outside. For a minute I think that it's Justin. That he's come back. For me. But that's just a fantasy. That's not reality. I've given up on anything but stark, ugly reality.
The kitchen door is unlocked. I hear it open. Footsteps. I've been expecting him, but he's early. It's inevitable, I guess. No more trying to avoid that reality. He knows where I am. Where else would I be? The door out to the deck slides open.
"What are you doing?" he asks. "Haven't you had enough yet?"
I laugh. "You know that there's never such thing as enough."
"Oh, I think that there is -- at least for now."
"Fuck it." I clutch the bottle of bourbon. It's the last thing I have left. "I'm trashed. So what?"
He walks over and stands next to me, looking down and frowning. "Bri -- are you ready?"
"Your face is going to freeze like that, Jimmy," I say. "And then where would your fucking career be?"
"In the dumper -- along with yours." He leans down and kisses me on the mouth. "Is Justy gone?"
"As gone as gone can be," I reply, staring at the bottle.
"Did you even try to explain it to him, Bri? I mean a real explanation?"
I shake my head. I don't do explanations. No apologies, no excuses, no regrets, right? "What's the point?"
"No, you wouldn't explain," says Jimmy, sadly. "Not you. But did you have to do it like that? Was it really necessary?"
"Yes," I say, taking one last, strong toke on the joint. "Never more necessary. And never a longer way down to the bottom of the fucking cliff."
Jimmy pulls at my hand. I feel like my arms and legs are no longer connected to my body. "Come on, Bri. It's time to come with me."
"But I haven't finished with my fucking bottle yet!" I complain.
Jimmy takes the Beam out of my grasp. "You're finished, Bri," he says, dragging me to my feet. "Yes, you're definitely finished."
I look down at the ground.
"You know it's for the best, don't you, Bri? You know that?"
I nod. For the fucking best.
And I let Jimmy lead me away.
Continue on to "Boats Against the Current -- Part 1", the next section.
©Gaedhal, November 2003.
Updated November 7, 2003.