I SHALL BE RELEASED

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 1 of Chapter 119 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Key Card", the previous chapter.

The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Diane Rhys, Angela, Others.
Rated R.
Summary: Justin attends Diane's taping -- but where is Brian? 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.

"Oh my God! Is that your set, Diane?"

"That's it, Justin," she says, grinning. We are standing at the back of the studio, behind where the audience will sit, looking down at the standing set for 'Here's Diane!' "That's my apartment, which is the main set, my little bedroom is over here, and my agent's office is there." Diane is playing a young actress trying to make it in Hollywood. She says it's loosely based on her own life -- minus all the blowjobs! "Do you believe it!"

"It's just gorgeous. I'm so happy for you, Diane!" And I reach over and give her a gigantic hug. But then Armani gets jealous and starts barking and jumping up on us.

"Be a good boy, Armani! You know you have to behave on the set!" Diane tells him, shaking her finger, but the little dog just wags his tail and we both smile at him. "It's so funny, Justin. The first time I brought Armani to the set with me they all rolled their eyes and the producer warned me about him causing a disruption. NOW they all cater to him like he's freakin' Prince William! The producer even said something about adding a cute dog to the show! Wouldn't old Ron flip if his ex-dog became a television star?"

"I think it would be great!" I laugh. I kneel down and pet Armani. I miss Armani. I really wanted to keep him, but with the small apartment and my allergies, it was just impossible. But he loves Diane and she takes him everywhere. "I wish I had a dog," I say, standing up and sighing.

"I think you have your hands full enough with Bridie, Justin," says Diane, raising one eyebrow. "His care and feeding, not to mention his constant need for 'exercise,' must take up a big chunk of your time."

"Kind of," I reply, grinning. "But I don't mind. It's a pleasure, really. And a privilege."

Diane snorts. "You're still on your honeymoon, Cutie. Bridie is going to fuck up plenty before he finally settles down -- whenever THAT is. But it won't be boring, Baby Doll. No, it definitely won't be boring!"

'That's for damn sure!" I say. And Diane is right. Living with Brian may be a lot of things, but it's never boring!

Diane introduces me to her assistant -- yes, Diane has her own personal assistant! I tell Diane that Leslie, Brian's new personal assistant, is moving out here right after Christmas and setting up Brian's office. Diane's assistant, Angie, offers to show Leslie around and give her some personal assistant pointers.

"I worked on Peter Bridges' show for three years," Angie comments in her raspy voice. Angie is a tough-talking Italian girl from Queens in New York. She's like a character from 'The Sopranos' -- or 'Saturday Night Fever'! "But I really like the atmosphere on this set. It's very laid-back. Over on Peter's set it's all doom and gloom most of the time. Peter is constantly obsessing about the ratings -- and about his image." Angie makes a face. Everybody in L.A. knows Peter Bridges is gay -- he's the most famous closet case on TV! I mean, he's one of Brian's old tricks. Of course, 50% of the guys in Hollywood are old tricks of Brian's. But even Ron was fucking Peter Bridges a long while back -- at least according to Brian. But Peter is so caught up in his image as the 'All American Dad' that he thinks no one knows. Not even his wife. That's a laugh! The guy is only fooling himself.

Diane goes into make-up and I take out my cellphone to call Brian. But there's no answer. I punch in the number manually, but it still just rings. "That's funny," I say to Diane, who is climbing into the make-up chair. "Brian isn't picking up."

Diane shrugs. "You're out for the evening. He probably went down to pick up something to eat."

"I hope that's ALL he picks up!" I say, only half joking. I picture Brian the way I left him -- sitting in front of the television in his white wifebeater and red silk shirt, surfing the cable channels, looking for something to watch while I'm gone for the evening.

Diane smiles. "Cutie, he's so hung up on YOU it isn't funny!"

"I know," I admit. "But Brian is still Brian."

"And he always will be," Diane reminds me. "If he wasn't, then you wouldn't love him as much as you do. And that includes all the crap that comes along with the whole Brian Package. Am I right?"

"Yeah," I admit. "You're right."

"Now go and enjoy the taping. I have to get myself into character," Diane says grandly, sitting back in the make-up chair. She's surrounded by all kinds of make-up people and stylists and hangers-on.

"Okay, Judi Dench. I'll see you after the show!" I say and leave her to her primping.

I find my seat in the audience. Pretty quickly the rest of the seats begin to fill up. I'm dying to call Brian again, but it isn't allowed in the studio because it might interfere with the taping. In fact, all members of the audience are told that they have to turn off any beepers or cells so they don't accidentally screw things up in some way. It wouldn't do to have Diane emoting frantically in front of the camera and then have some idiot's phone start to play 'Stairway to Heaven'!

But as the taping begins I start getting more and more nervous. Something is the matter with Brian. I can feel it. It's just a nagging sensation at first, but it gets stronger and stronger as the evening goes on. During a short break in the taping I go outside the studio and punch Brian's cell number again, but there is still no answer. I try the apartment, too, but I just get the answering machine -- my own voice telling me to leave a message and I'll get back to you. Shit. I have this overwhelming desire to get into the PT Cruiser and drive back to the apartment, which is stupid, because it's obvious that Brian isn't there. I don't know where the fuck he is.

When I finally see that man I'm really going to murder him!

***

The taping finishes at around 10:30 p.m. and Diane is still on a high. So after she gets out of her costume and make-up and changes clothes, she insists on taking me and Angie and her hairdresser, Richard, out to a late dinner. I don't really want to go, but when I try to explain why, it seems so stupid. Brian is probably fine. Just fine. I'm sure he is.

Diane takes us to a very trendy spot, Silk, not far from the studio. This is the main hang-out for the cast and crew. The management doesn't even mind when she brings Armani in with us -- he's a star's dog, after all! The hostess leads us to a table in a private area near a large picture window and they all treat Diane like a real star. She's giggling so hard and her little entourage is catering to her and the restaurant staff is fawning on her -- and I'm happy to see her in the center of all this admiration. I hope her television show is a huge hit, because she so deserves it!

While we are at the restaurant I try to call Brian again. "Will you put that freakin' thing away, Justin!" Diane orders. "Bridie is a big boy now. He doesn't need a blond nanny!"

"That's what you think, Diane!" I say as I put the phone away. But I still feel uneasy. The food at Silk is good, but I can't enjoy it. I'm glad when the little party breaks up and I can get home.

I finally walk into the apartment a little after 12:30. Brian isn't here. But I knew he wouldn't be because I've been calling all fucking night! That's why my anxiety level has been rising all evening. He's out somewhere and he's in trouble -- I can sense it. I go into the bedroom, looking for some kind of clue as to where he went. There is a slightly damp towel hanging on the rack, so he seems to have washed up before he went out. But it doesn't look like he changed clothes -- the closet door is in the same position and nothing looks disturbed. So where the fuck is he?

I pull out my cellphone yet again and hit his number hard. But it just rings. It isn't turned off. There's just no fucking answer.

I walk into the living room and look around. Then I go in the kitchen and see that a page has been ripped off the shopping list. There on the counter, in his loopy handwriting, is a little note: "Justin -- went over to Ron's for the 'Red River' schedule. I'll eat there. Won't be long. Later. B."

"Damn it!" I say, crumpling up the note. I'm angry, I'm upset, and I'm terrified all at the same time. I punch Brian's number again. "Brian!" I yell into my cellphone. "Please, pick up! For fucksake, PLEASE!" But it just rings and rings and rings. And no one answers.

So I begin pacing. Back and forth around this stupid, crummy little apartment. I keep kicking piles of our clothes and the laundry basket and magazines out of my way as I pace.

I look up at the clock and see that it's almost 1:00 a.m. Shit! Now I know what I have to do. I have to go over to Ron's house to find Brian. I'll break down his fucking door if I have to! I wouldn't hesitate for a second to break it down if I thought Brian was in there, in trouble. Because I can definitely feel that Brian IS in deep trouble. That feeling is now so strong that it's overpowering me, like the panic attacks I used to get when I first came home from the hospital.

I grab my keys from the table and race out of the apartment, taking the elevator down to the underground parking garage. It's dark and creepy down here and I have the sudden urge to turn and run away as fast as I can. Like I'm walking into one of those horror movies where the audience is yelling, "Justin, no! Go back! Go back!" I think I've seen too many of those crummy films.

But I can't go back. No matter how freaked out I feel, I have to get to Brian. I walk through the shadowy garage to my PT Cruiser -- and that's when I see it.

The Jeep. It's parked in its usual spot right next to the Cruiser.

I approach it warily. It's so dark in that corner of the garage that I can't see inside until I'm right up next to the driver's side door. The window is open. And Brian is sitting there, his head leaning on the steering wheel and his eyes closed. He is so fucking still that he looks asleep. Or dead.

"Brian," I whisper. But he doesn't move. "Brian!" Now I'm screaming and my voice echoes all through the empty garage.

"I can hear you, Justin," he says, looking up slowly. His voice sounds flat and numb. And his eyes -- they look numb, too. Dead. Not the beautiful, alive eyes that I'm used to gazing into.

I jerk open the door of the Jeep and throw my arms around him, hugging him tightly. I'm so fucking relieved and so fucking furious at the same time. "Brian, I've been calling you all night! Why didn't you answer your phone?"

"I don't know," he replies. "It's in my jacket." He reaches over and pulls the cellphone out of the pocket of his suede jacket, which is folded on the passenger's seat. The cellphone shows my 10 missed calls. "I don't know, Justin," he repeats.

"Are you all right, Brian? You don't look good at all," I say. And he doesn't. "Are you sick? Tell me! You look so pale." Brian has been running around so much lately, maybe he's really ill and didn't want to worry me.

I try to feel his forehead, but he leans away. "It's okay. You don't have to do that."

"But I want to see if you're feeling warm." I take my hand away and look at him. Something is wrong. Really wrong. "Brian, I was just about to go over to Ron's and get you! Why the fuck did you go over there? When I read your note I couldn't believe it! Are you fucking crazy?"

"I'm sorry," he mumbles. "It's just that... I... I think maybe Ron gave me something. I'm not sure, but I think so. But I'm okay now. I think I am. I drove back here... okay. I didn't run off the road at least. Pretty much."

"Ron gave you something?" I parrot back, my mouth hanging open. "What do you mean -- gave you something? Gave you WHAT?"

"We had a little wine and then we smoked some dope, but... but I don't know how he did it. Probably in the food. Yeah, the food," he says slowly. "Probably a little tab of 'E' -- Ron obviously doesn't know where to get the good stuff, because that hit was for shit." And he laughs, but not humorously.

"You're over with Ron smoking dope and drinking wine? And he slips you something?" I say, incredulously. "What the fuck is wrong with you! And you look like hell! I can't believe you DIDN'T run off the road! That you didn't get yourself killed!"

Brian grimaces suddenly. He slumps slightly and I catch him. He's fucking scaring me even more now than when I didn't know where he was! "I guess you're right, Justin. I don't feel very well. Not at all." His face is ashen, but his neck is flushed. "Shit."

"You are so fucking stupid, I can't believe it!" I want to pummel him! "Ron could have given you anything! Put anything in your food! Because YOU let him, Brian!"

"I know. I know that," he says, closing his eyes. "But why would he do it to me? Why?"

"Why? Because he's fucking crazy, maybe?" I tell him. "Brian, what is your problem? How could you go over there? You promised me that you would never be alone with Ron. Remember that, Brian? Your promise to me? Do you hear me? How could you? Answer me that!" I seize his left arm, shaking him violently. I'm trying to shake some sense into him, but it's fucking hopeless!

And Brian is so very pale. He's wearing a white wifebeater, but not the red silk shirt he had on when I left for Diane's. "Where's your shirt, Brian? You didn't go over to Ron's in just your tee shirt."

He just shrugs. He's stoned -- I can smell the pot smoke clinging to his hair -- and he's drunk. He's been so good lately with drinking. Maybe just something light at dinner, like white wine or one beer. But not drinking to get himself numb anymore or to block out the pain. Not getting trashed because he can't deal with things, even when the stress has been hard on him. Until tonight, that is. Getting high with Ron! Getting drunk with Ron! Letting that bastard put shit into his food like a fool. I can't believe it!

"Sorry, Sunshine," he says in a flat, slightly hoarse voice. "I shouldn't have gone over there, but... I didn't think that Ron would... I mean, I thought it would be okay."

"Fuck right you didn't think!" I want to hit him. I want to kiss him. I just want to cry with frustration and relief that's he's home and he's not hurt. "You waited until I was away for the evening and then you went over to Ron's house. You knew I wouldn't like it, that I know it's not safe for you over there, but you just blew me off. Ignored my warnings. Thanks a fucking lot, Brian!" I spit the words at him. I can't even think, I'm so upset. "Thanks for listening to me! Thanks for treating me like what I have to say counts at all with you! You're a fucking idiot!"

He turns away from me and picks up his suede jacket from the passenger seat. I can see that it's wrapped around something. He unfolds it and I see what he has there. It's a gun. He takes up the gun in his right hand and we both stare at it.

"Where did you get that, Brian?" I say, fearfully. "Brian?"

He swallows. "I took it away from Ron."

I can feel my heart stop. It literally stops -- and then the next second I'm alive again. "What the fuck was HE doing with a gun?" I breathe, trying to control myself. But even as I say the words I know the answer. The scene from Brian's vision comes into my head so clearly. Ron with a gun -- this exact gun -- pointed at Brian. And Ron pulling the trigger. "Oh my God! Brian, tell me! What the fuck happened?"

"Ron... he took this thing out and started waving it around. Pointing it at me. I knew that it was bullshit, that he'd never shoot me for real, and I called him on it. But he was saying stupid things. Crazy things." Brian's forehead is screwed up, like he's in pain. "He pointed the gun at my head and told me to get undressed and lie down on the bed... but I refused."

"Undressed?" I say. "On the bed? Where were you? I thought you went over there to eat dinner!" My face feels hot, like I'm flushed with a sudden fever.

"I did, Justin. But... it's... we were up in the bedroom... watching some stuff on the VCR," he says, haltingly. "I... I'm sorry."

"Brian! He was trying to rape you! So don't tell me that you're sorry! Just tell me what else happened!" I want to shout at him, but I'm also aware that anyone could walk into this parking garage and hear us. I lower my voice. "Tell me, Brian."

"I... I tried to leave. But he was blocking the door. I told him he was nuts and he needed to stop all this shit. Then he showed me all these bullets he had in his hand. But he said he only needed two -- one for me and one for him. And... he called me 'Jack.'"

Now my whole body goes completely cold. Because it's the scene from the vision -- exactly. "Brian, that's what we saw. What Fiona showed you. Ron. The gun. Those words. Everything! Don't you remember?

His face is all screwed up. "That's when I started to freak out, Justin. It seemed like I knew what was going to happen, but I couldn't do anything to stop it. Like it was supposed to happen...." He stops and looks at me. "Like it HAD to happen. It was so weird."

The hair on the back of my neck is standing straight up. "Ron is fucking insane, Brian. You know that, don't you?"

"No, Justin," he answers, his voice thick. "He's not insane. He was just upset about... something. Something he was on about. About me and him and Fate...." Brian sets the gun down on the passenger seat and rubs his eyes with his hand. "He pointed the fucking thing right in my face. I mean -- right at me! Between my eyes. And... and then...."

"What?" I wait. His eyes are closed. "What, Brian?" I hold my breath.

"He pulled the trigger," he says. I flinch. "But nothing happened. It wasn't loaded." Brian pauses. "I told you, Sunshine. It was all bullshit."

I feel like collapsing with relief. "Jesus Christ, Brian! It isn't bullshit! Ron could have killed you! He TRIED to kill you! Don't you KNOW that? Can't you SEE that?"

"No!" Brian insists. "He was just trying to scare me. But Ron scared himself more. After he pulled the trigger he sort of stared at the gun, like he couldn't believe it was in his hand. And then he... he sort of slid to the floor in a heap. He was completely freaking out." Brian rubs his eyes with his long fingers, like it hurts to remember the scene. "I took the gun away from him and put it on top of the dresser. I asked him what the fuck he was trying to prove with that shit?" Brian looks right at me. His eyes are red and they still look dull. Dead. "He was crying, Justin. I... Ron never cries. Never! That shook me almost as much as the gun. He said to me, 'Jack is dead and I should be, too.' And that was like a kick in my gut. Because I knew then that it was all my fault. The way his life turned out. The reason why he is so fucked up. It's always my fucking fault."

I grab his chin in my hand and pull his face against mine. "No! It isn't your fault! Ron is either trying to manipulate you, like he always is, or else he's completely lost it. But either way, he's crazy, Brian! He IS!"

But Brian pulls away and shakes his head. "I ran away the first time and ruined his fucking life. Then I came back and ruined it again! He was just trying to show me how desperate he is because of what I've done to him. And so I... I needed to help him... somehow... Like he helped me. Back on the Bowery." Brian puts his head down on the steering wheel and can't continue.

"That's such crap, Brian! You haven't done a thing to Ron! So you think he's desperate? Well, I think he's a fucking lunatic! And you are almost as crazy for falling for his big melodramatic scene. It's so typical of him, Brian. He's a movie director, for godsake! He thrives on creating horrible scenes and then making people play them out." And I ought to know.

"You don't understand, Justin." He looks up. His eyes are staring blankly at me. That dead look. "You can't understand."

"You're wrong, Brian. I CAN understand. Ron manipulated me, too. Made me do things that... that I never should have done. Things I never wanted to do, ever. So try me, Brian," I say, directly. "Let me understand! Explain it to me. Just for once, don't shut me out!" I'm gripping his arm so tightly that my right hand is beginning to cramp up, so I have to let go. "What did you do then?"

Brian's voice sounds even more hoarse now. He swallows again. "I... I pulled him up off the floor. I couldn't just leave him lying there like that. And I picked up the bullets -- they were scattered all over the carpet -- and I put them on the dresser next to the gun."

"Why didn't you call me and tell me what happened? Why didn't you answer your cell? I was going out of my mind when I came home and saw your note! You must have known how I'd react when you went over there? About how fucking worried I would be?"

"I'm sorry I didn't call you, Sunshine," he whispers. "So fucking sorry. But... you would have still been at the taping when I left and then ... anyway... I... I... fuck," he says. "Fuck."

"Diane's taping finished a couple of hours ago, Brian," I reply. "Why didn't you call me then? We went out to eat, but I had my phone turned on. And I was still trying to call you. I fucking called you 10 times! Where were you?"

"I... I can't... I forgot...."

Now I'm feeling sick. Sick with suspicion. "You didn't forget, Brian. I know you didn't. What time did you go over to Ron's house? You ate and got stoned. That couldn't have taken so long. So when did this all happen? All this melodrama? With the gun? When? Tell me!"

"I don't know," he says, evasively. "About 10:00. Maybe later. I don't fucking know exactly. I don't wear a watch."

"It's past 1:00 a.m. now, Brian. Where have you been since then?" I badger. "Where?"

"I fucking told you!" he shouts at me. "At Ron's! Where the fuck else?" Then his voice gets quiet. "I was trying to help him."

"Help Ron?" I say. Now I have no feeling in my body. It's like I'm anesthetized. "He wants to fucking kill you and you are HELPING him? What the fuck is wrong with you? Brian? BRIAN!" Now I'm the one shouting. And I don't care who hears me! Because I know now. Helping Ron -- sure! I know how Brian 'helps' people. How he manages pain. For himself and for others. Because that's the only thing he knows how to do to comfort anyone. By fucking. Fucking Ron! Being fucked by Ron! That's how Brian helps people. That's how he helped me. Now I AM sick. Really sick. Sick at heart.

"Justin...I...I can't tell you...."

But I have to know. For sure. "You didn't -- did you? Brian, tell me that you didn't! Tell me!" The tears are so hot behind my eyes. After everything that's happened. After the Deal. After he was raped. After all we've been through together... I don't want to believe it! But he doesn't have to tell me. Because I know. I always know.

And he says nothing. He won't deny it. He won't look at me. He can't. Instead he picks up the gun again and cradles it in his lap. "I'm a shit, Sunshine," he whispers. "If you want to give up on me... I... wouldn't blame you. Just give up. No, I'd never blame you for anything. Some things are just... too fucking much for anyone to take."

I stand there next to the Jeep. Next to Brian. Leaning against him. It's so silent that I swear I can hear his heart beating louder than my own. "Do you want me to give up, Brian? Do you?" My voice rises. "Is that what you really want? For me to give up? So that you can just give up, too? Give up and give yourself over to Ron? Is that what you really, truly want? IS IT?"

His face is so still. So beautiful. I almost can't bear to look at him. Almost. "No," he whispers. "Don't give up, Justin. Don't."

"Brian...."

"What the fuck can I say?" he says, wretchedly. "Maybe Ron really should have shot me and put me out of my fucking misery! It would have been better for everyone. For... for everyone concerned. But I... I had to do something, Justin. He was... he...." Brian voice falters. "I really did love him -- once upon a time. I really did. When he was the only one who cared."

"But that has nothing to do with NOW, Brian! Can't you see how he hurt you then? How he's still hurting you now?" I say, the tears streaking down my face. "You and Ron -- that was over a long time ago!"

"Nothing in my life is ever over," he says, dismally. "That's my fucking curse, Justin. I can never stay away. I couldn't stay away from you even when I knew it was wrong. When I knew that I would only fuck up your life. And I can't stay away from Ron. I don't know why. I don't love him like I... like I love you, Sunshine. As much as I'm fucking capable of loving anyone. But it's like an addiction. Always has been, always will be, I guess. I can't seem to stop it. Not any more than I can stop drinking. Or drugs. Or stop all the other shit. Even when I want to. Even when it's fucking killing me. And it will kill me, Justin. I never thought I'd live to see 30. Every minute beyond that has been a crap shoot. It's just a matter of time now."

He touches the cylinder of the gun, the place where you load the bullets into the revolver, stroking it in a way that scares the shit out of me. And after that disturbing little speech I have a horrible feeling that he really wants to use it on himself. That if I wasn't here to stop him, he might just be stupid enough to do it. I wonder if he took any of Ron's bullets for the gun and how I can get my hands on them and throw them away. Before tonight I wondered about Ron's sanity -- but now I'm worried about Brian's.

"Brian," I say leaning closer to him. I put my hand over his and squeeze it. I can feel the coldness of the metal gun under his hand. "Listen to me carefully. This isn't about a... a fuck. I don't care about that!" I lie, trying to keep myself steady, to keep myself from screaming. "And it isn't really about Ron. Because I don't give a fuck about Ron! But I DO give a fuck about YOU, Brian. And this is about you. About how your life is worth so much more than you realize. About putting yourself into situations where you are vulnerable. Where you're in danger! Real danger! Like putting yourself into Ron's hands after you promised me you wouldn't, no matter what! Because he could have done anything to you tonight! Anything! And I don't care if he IS depressed or if you think you have to prove something by... by helping him." I take a deep breath. "Because Ron IS going to hurt you, Brian! He wants to KILL you! Isn't this gun the proof of that? Isn't it? Listen to me, Brian! Believe me! Just fucking BELIEVE me! Don't you know that I care about you? That I love you? And if something happened to you, I... I don't know what I'd do! When you say shit about... about not living...." The words choke in my throat.

The dashboard lights of the Jeep reflect off the shiny black metal of the revolver. Brian fingers the barrel of the gun. The cylinder. "I have some of Ron's bullets in the pocket of my jacket, Sunshine. Maybe you'd like to help put me out of my misery."

"Brian -- no!"

He pushes the cylinder open with a click and I hold my breath. We both see them at the same time. Four empty spaces in the chamber, but two bullets in the remaining spaces, right next to each other.

"Jesus," I say, staring down at the revolver. Feeling faint. I clutch at his left arm, trying not to fall down.

"My God." Brian blinks. "Fuck! It WAS loaded. But the bullets weren't lined up with the barrel." He swallows hard. "Ron really DID have two bullets in here. One for me -- and one for himself." Even as I try to hold him, Brian begins to shake uncontrollably.

And so do I.

Continue on to "I Shall Be Released -- Part 2", the next section.

©Gaedhal, September 2003.

Updated September 21, 2003.