REALITY CHECK

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 32 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Songs of Innocence", the previous chapter.

The narrator is Emmett Honeycutt, and features Ted Schmidt, Brian Kinney, and Justin Taylor.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Emmett looks at Brian's return to Pittsburgh. May 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.

Monday night at Babylon.

NOT the most exciting night of the week.

Tuesday is a catch-your-breath kind of night, while Wednesday is Hump Day -- over that big old speedbump on the way to the weekend.

Thursday is all about anticipation. Fantasy. Plus the drink specials!

Friday, of course, is primo. All the expectation of the weekend, the fresh promise of meeting someone fabulous, someone new, someone who at least isn't a total waste of time.

And Saturday is the heights, the ultimate, the orgasm of the entire Babylon week. Everything all tied up in a huge bow and under the tree kind of utmost. Or, as Judy Jetson would say, 'the most ut'!

Even Sunday has its pleasures. The anticipation is gone, but the satisfaction still lingers. The doubts haven't set in. The worm has yet to turn.

And if the worm DOES turn, he's sure to do it on Monday.

Because of that, I almost skip the whole thing and stay home to give myself a pedicure. But Ted talks me out of it. Luckily.

Ted and I are standing on the catwalk, checking out the array of talent displayed on the dance floor below when suddenly he clutches my arm.

"God, no." His voice has a strangled quality, like someone has just stepped on his favorite Renata Tebaldi CD.

"Whatever is wrong with you, Teddy?"

I think maybe it is a case of vertigo from being so high and mighty above the crowd there at Babylon. It's always been MY favorite spot and the best possible place to stretch out and do my patented 'Praise Jesus' dance move. So I try to move him back from the edge of the platform. But Ted's problem seems more emotional than physical, as he begins mumbling almost incoherently.

"Oh, God -- OH! GOD! Have you ever had the feeling that you're inside of your own worst nightmare -- but you KNOW that you are actually awake?"

For a split second I think that Blake has returned and Ted has caught sight of him on the dance floor or in the twink gallery. But, unfortunately, extreme consternation would NOT be Ted's reaction to seeing that twinkie version of the Angel of Death. As I say -- unfortunately.

"What in the name of heaven ARE you talking about, Teddy?"

He grasps my arm and yanks me around, the better to look in his same direction. "Emmett --Can't you SEE it? Down there?"

He points somewhere down into the swirl of lights around, but not on, the main floor.

"Ted, with the trouble I've been having with my contacts and the lights flashing and all this dry ice fog, I can't see anything!"

"Come on, then!"

He takes my arm and pulls me along the walkway, down the steps, and through a thick throng of pulsing manhood congregating around the bar. Ted pushes and pushes the crowd and pulls and pulls ME until I believe my poor arm will come off. Then he stops and gestures with his head.

And that's when I see what has Ted's white cotton knickers in such a twist. A sight that I never thought I'd see again as long as I lived -- especially at Babylon, on Liberty Avenue, in Pittsburgh, PA!

Because it is The Diva himself -- now officially noted and registered in the Big Book of Total Divadom -- holding up the bar with his skinny ass, one hand wrapped around a beer and the other wrapped around Toy Boy, who is grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat.

For a minute I think I've walked into an Extended Flashback.

"Hello, boys. I wondered when you'd both show up to bask in my glory."

The smirk is completely intact.

And little Justin, my twink turned tornado, gives Ted an identical smirk -- and sticks his tongue out at him as if to say, 'Screwed again, Mr. Schmidt -- screwed again most royally!'

"Oh my GOD! Brian!"

Before I even know what I'm doing I launch myself at him -- straight into his arms. And, to my utter shock, he lifts me up in those amazing arms and spins me around a couple of times to the cheers and laughter of the assembled crowd of ass-kissers.

When he finally sets me down Justin is giggling into his bottle of Rolling Rock -- and I am suddenly and incredibly mortified. I don't dare turn and look at Ted.

But Brian is entirely collected and cool. He even gives me a slight smile that isn't anything like a smirk or a snark. There's nothing cynical at all in it. And I can only smile back.

"Nice to see you, too, Emmett."

"Erg-hum." Ted is making odd throat-clearing noises behind me to get my attention..

"Ted -- are you STILL having trouble swallowing things?" Brian asks with mock -- I think -- concern. "I thought you had that little problem licked? I've told you again and again -- practice makes perfect."

"If you have someone to practice ON, that is," the Toy Boy guffaws. He's got that extremely well-fucked look about him. I can't exactly explain, but, honey, you know it when you see it. I wonder to myself when Brian arrived in town and try to calculate how many times they've done it since his feet hit ground at the Pitts airport. The possibilities are mind-boggling, even to me!

"I'm just fine. Thank you both very much." Ted tries to step back into the crowd, but there just seems to be more and more people pressing forward, trying to get near the closest thing Babylon has had to a celebrity since one of the dancers got a bit part as a poolboy in a Zack O'Toole's extravaganza.

As they schmooze and flatter him, I feel like telling Brian what most of these two-faced bitches have been saying about him for the last five months -- and it hasn't been pretty.

Of course, Ted has been one of the biggest of the big mouths, so maybe I better skip that part.

Or let Justin tell Brian HIS version of the Catfight in the Liberty Diner back in February. And then hope that Brian doesn't come looking for Ted.

Ted sidles away from the bar. I follow and find him leaning against a post near the main dance floor. He turns to me pitifully and shakes his head. "I feel like my life is now firmly on Square One. It's bad enough that Brian is back here insulting me, but he has to be fucking famous, too? And his protégé is taking lessons from the master. First he beats me up, and now he gives me dirty looks in front of half of the queers in Pittsburgh. Like I need to be reminded constantly that a 19 year old twink with arms like rubber bands can kick the crap out of me."

"Ted, they only pick on you because YOU let them. I think Brian actually LIKES you. You're like the foil to his one-liners. That doesn't necessarily have to be negative role." I always like to put the most positive spin I can on things. "What would Abbott be without Costello? Or Hardy without Laurel? Or Moe without Curly? Or Larry? Or Shemp? Or that other guy whose name I can never remember?"

"Hey, whose side are you on in this, Emmett?" He turns and tries to walk away from me, but I put myself right in front of him.

"I'm not an anyone's side, Teddy! I just think that you need to realize that not everyone is always persecuting you. Especially Brian. And I HAD begged you again and again about NOT riling up Justin. Or Michael. But you wouldn't heed my warnings. So, I think you should tone down the bitching for the moment, go back to the bar, and just carry on."

"Maybe."

"Isn't it nice that things are kind of like they used to be? All we need is Michael to make everything perfect!"

"Right," Ted says, tragically. "And Michael isn't speaking to me still -- after how many months?"

"Three."

"But Michael will HAVE to talk to you now that Brian isn't holding a grudge!"

"It won't be the same, Em -- and you know it."

We return to our places next to the star and the starlet. Brian has, interestingly enough, saved our spots from being eaten up by the crush.

Finally, the manager -- that sleazeball who is practically bowing and scraping at the Kinney feet with sycophantic expertise -- clears back the crowd with the Babylon bouncers. I think he's afraid Brian and his entourage -- which now consists of Justin, Ted, and myself -- will eschew his establishment if he doesn't keep the riff-raff away.

But Brian only shrugs. Nothing seems to be bothering him tonight. He's so -- laid back. I wonder what is the matter with him?

Ted reaches past Justin to get a beer from the bar. And Justin whispers something I can't quite hear to Ted. He flinches. It's something rude. Something particularly nasty. Perhaps an invitation to another butt-kicking, courtesy of a kid half his size and a fraction of his age. Poor Ted looks stricken.

"Hey!" Brian, who HAS heard the comment, grabs the lad by his collar and pulls him up short. "Don't be a fucking brat!"

Both Justin and Ted gawk at Brian in surprise. Especially Justin. He's obviously been playing the Royal Concubine to His Majesty all evening -- and now the King has put him in his place for being beastly to the hapless Court Jester.

"You owe Ted a drink. Now apologize to him."

Sunshine gets all petulant. A bit whiny. The last thing he wants to do is apologize -- and to Ted, of all people. He tries to rationalize by going on about the diner. The fight. Ted looks ready to shrivel up and blow away.

"I know all about that, so let's not rehash."

"You do?" I pipe up.

He rivets me with his eyes. "Yes. I know. But it's in the past. All that shit is in the past." He looks down at Sunshine. "Let it go, Justin."

Ted and I exchange looks. Something is definitely up here.

"But Briiiaan...." Justin has certainly perfected the combination whine and full-body-press. But it isn't having the desired effect.

"Just do it." He leans down against Sunshine's blond head and breathes into his hair. "Now."

"I'm sorry, Ted," he says, only mumbling a little bit. "I didn't mean to be such a prick."

Poor Teddy is grateful. "No harm done. I'm sure that I'm as much at fault at anyone. With my mouthing off. I'm sorry, too."

At this point I'm about to break down and cry! It's like a 'Steel Magnolias' moment!

"This calls for cocktails all around! I'm having a Mimosa! Teddy?"

"A beer is okay for me."

"And I'll have an Absolut. A double," says Brian. "Justin's treat. Right?"

The boy looks green as he takes out his little change purse and counts out the money for the drinks. He's not used to paying when he has obviously expected to be living high on the Kinney bankroll. I think I see little moths coming out of that purse.

"It's too bad Michael didn't show up tonight -- but he and Ben had some kind of getaway this weekend, so he's probably still basking in the afterglow."

Justin turns around with the drinks. "Oh, he's back. We're already... seen him."

"Where? Where did you see him? Why isn't he here."

Justin hands me my Mimosa. He would make a fine cocktail waitress. "He came by the loft. Unexpectedly." The blush on his face tells all.

"I hope he didn't catch you with your pants down, young man!" I say in my best schoolmarm voice. Justin goes an even deeper red.

"Let's just say that Michael has yet to understand the uses of that new invention -- the doorbell." Brian says it jokingly, but the look on his face is anything but amused. His reunion with Michael has not gotten off to a very good start it seems. Now I'll have to strive to get Michael back together with Ted AND Brian. I will surely have my work cut out for me!

"How long are you here for?"

"Two weeks."

"Is that ALL? That's barely time enough to see all the sights that Pittsburgh has to offer."

"I think I've already seen most of them. If I discover any new ones I'll let you know."

Brian is smirking again. But when I look over at Sunshine he is not smiling. Not smiling at all.

"Well, Brian -- now it's time to DISH! I want to know all about every face lift, hair transplant, closet case, and secret pervert you met while out in La La Land!"

"Maybe a little later, Em."

"But I can't wait!"

"I said -- later." His voice takes on that hard edge that always puts a little scare -- and a tiny thrill -- into me.

"Sure," I say. "Later."

At this point Brian drains his Absolut and takes the Toy Boy by the hand, leading him out to the middle of the dance floor. Of course, the herd opens up and leaves a huge space for them alone. I have to be honest and say that individually neither one of them would give Fred Astaire anything to worry about. Shoot -- I am ten times the dancer Brian is and way better that Justin could ever to be -- King of Babylon or no King of Babylon. But together they have that sum-is-greater-than-the-whole thing going on. Brian could always draw a crowd to gape at him even when no one knew who the fuck he was. But now -- well, it's just too much for me to comprehend.

I go and use the little girl's room and then go up and find a quiet place on the catwalk. If you can call a spot where they are blaring disco music into your ear at full volume quiet. But I mean quietude. Just a moment to myself to contemplate everything that happened in the past year or so and how it's changed us all so utterly. I suddenly feel a bit desolate, but I can't imagine why.

"Emmett."

I pivot around and am surprised to see Brian there, his hand firmly on my arm. Brian has this oddly possessive thing about certain people. He feels he can put his hands on me any time he wants to and I better not get offended. It must date back to a particular incident between us that neither of us ever alludes to, but which always seems to be there at the foundation of our friendship.

"Don't tell me you have torn yourself away from the adoring masses for two seconds to mingle with the old time throng?" I try to pull my arm away, but his grip is like the bite of a bulldog.

Now he is giving me that half-smirk, half-glare that only he has perfected. For a moment I'm not certain if he is about to smack me or hug me.

"I wanted to thank you."

I'm nonplussed. "Thank ME? For what?" It must be a trick. Or is it? Just when I think I have Brian figured out, I usually have to start all over again from the beginning.

"For watching out for Justin... while I was away. He told me about the crystal thing. About what you told him." He smiles. It's that un-ironic smile again that has no strings attached to it. "Your advice means a lot to him. Probably more so than anyone else here. Maybe that makes me a little bit jealous."

Now, I'm thunderstruck. "Well, I... I mean... I was just giving the boy a few words of wisdom. Not that I'm such a sage myself. But I did want to warn him about getting involved with those little crystal queens. I've been down that road and would hate to see anyone else follow it."

"I know. I appreciate it."

As he stands there I look at him. I mean, really, really look at him. And it is the oddest thing, but there's something translucent about him. Oh, he's solid enough, strong enough -- he proved that when he lifted me up over his head! -- even if he is on the thin side, even for Brian. But there's also something missing. As if he's been drained of one of his primary colors. I can't put my finger on it, but the impression stays with me.

He turns to go back to the bar.

"Brian."

He stops and looks back. "Hm?"

"I'm pleased to see you back. I really mean that."

But he just shakes his head sadly and walks away.

Continue on to Chapter 33 "Later", the next chapter.

©Gaedhal, June 2002

Pictures of Gale Harold from Showtime.

Updated June 19, 2002