SHELTER FROM THE STORM

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 1 of Chapter 110 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Something So Strong -- Part 3", the previous section.

The narrator is Justin Taylor, with Brian Kinney, Lindsay Peterson, Gus Peterson-Marcus, Mrs. Picard, Melanie Marcus, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin tries to reconnect Brian with his past. Pittsburgh, October 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.

"'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood,
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud.
He came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
'Come in,' I said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved.
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imaging a place that's always safe and warm.
'Come in,' I said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'"

***

There is something about morning. Something about starting a new day. Watching the sun come up -- again. Like maybe you thought that it wouldn't for once. That things wouldn't go on. Couldn't go on. But they do.

And that gives you hope. Gives ME hope.

I feel like I've run a marathon when I get out of bed -- exhausted, but proud that I finished. That I survived. That Brian survived. And he sleeps on, so peacefully. So quietly. As I get dressed I keep going back to check up on him, making sure he's breathing. And he is.

I leave a note before I leave for the Institute, telling him that I'll call as soon as my first class is over.

Lindsay told me that she is going to Gus' Halloween Party at his daycare center this afternoon and the whole time I'm sitting in Professor Carson's lecture on 'Primitive Roots of the Modernist Movement' all I can think of is how I can get Brian over there. It would be the perfect way to get him out of the loft for a few hours -- and for him to begin reconnecting with people again. And I know that Gus is the person that Brian wants to connect with the most.

I've already promised Lindsay that I would take Gus tomorrow -- Friday afternoon -- and bring him home after dinner, but I didn't tell her that Brian is here. I thought maybe Brian and I could take Gus out to the mall or to the park or something and just walk around, but last night Brian was beginning to balk even at doing that. It's like a stalemate that I have to do something about.

I know that Brian wants to spend some time with Gus and that he wants to see him in his Halloween costume. So I'm using that as the lure. I told him that if we stop by Gus' daycare for a few minutes then he can see him and I can finalize the schedule for tomorrow with Lindsay. He pretty much agreed with the plan yesterday, so on the note I left for him I told him to be dressed and ready to go when I got back from class. No excuses.

I pull the Jeep up to the building and keep my fingers crossed. Even as I go up in the elevator I'm still not sure if Brian will cooperate. And then I'll have to think of another plan -- like immediately! But I have no idea what.

"Brian?" I say, sliding open the door.

Brian is sitting at the kitchen counter, drinking coffee. And he's dressed. Jeans and one of his old dark blue v-neck cashmere sweaters. He looks really good. Almost... normal. And the scrape on the side of his face looks more faded today -- unless I just want to believe that and so that's what I'm seeing.

I put my face up to Brian's and kiss him. His mouth tastes like the coffee. "Hey! Have I told you lately that I love you?"

"Mush," says Brian, pretending to be annoyed. "And quoting Van Morrison, too. You HAVE been listening to my CD collection. I knew it."

"You like mush," I say. "Lots of mush! And anything you leave in the loft is fair game. What's yours is mine and what's mine is yours, right?"

Brian makes a face. "You'll be putting monograms on everything next! So, what time is Gus' shindig?" he says, setting down his mug.

"2:00," I say. "You all ready?"

"Yup," Brian answers. He gets up and puts his coffee mug in the sink. It's one I got for him in England over the summer with a picture of Wicked Willie, a British cartoon penis, on it. I bought it in the flea market at the end of Portobello Road. Brian says that no one else is allowed to drink out of that mug but him -- and I make sure that no one does.

I put away my portfolio and my backpack while Brian puts on his boots. Then he fidgets over which jacket to wear. Maybe that's what we can do on Saturday -- shop for a new jacket to replace the one that got ruined in London. Finally he decides to wear a suede jacket he bought out in Los Angeles. It looks very retro, very Western, with fringe on the back. "I like that," I say.

"Really?" he says, surprised. "I bought it and then never wore it. Ron said I looked like a member of the Manson Family in it. Or an extra in 'Easy Rider.'"

"So?" I say, keeping my face steady. But I really want to scream! He's still taking things that fucking Ron said to him seriously! "I think it looks tough. And there's nothing wrong with being an extra in 'Easy Rider' -- although it's always better to be the star!"

And Brian smiles. A real, true smile. And I have to kiss him again. His neck smells like his herbal shaving cream. I bury my face there, sniffing. I don't care. I'm just so happy that he's here I can't keep it inside.

"You want to drive?" I ask, as we step outside of the building.

"You know where it is. Why don't you do the honors?" says Brian, walking over to the passenger side.

"Sure," I say. Usually Brian makes a big deal of being 'the driver,' but I want to show him how well I can handle the Jeep now. I used to cringe every time I shifted gears, but now driving it is second nature. And Brian never makes me nervous when I'm driving him. My mother makes me nervous, I guess because I make HER nervous. Whenever I drive her she's always saying, "Careful!" and "Don't forget to stop at the Stop sign!" and "You were awfully close to that mailbox, Justin!" I know she doesn't mean to make me crazy, but she does. I shudder to think what will happen when Molly starts driving!

I head for the daycare center. Brian seems fine while we're driving. Like there's nothing the matter at all. I look at him and find it hard to believe that we both spent most of last night curled up in a tight ball on the bed, crying. But maybe it was a good thing. I think it was cathartic for Brian. Like he was finally able to FEEL his emotions, and not just suppress them. And I feel like a lot of that internal tension is gone from both of us. Like the thunderstorm has finished and blown away all the clouds, letting in a little bit of light.

The daycare center isn't far from the Lesbian Love Nest. I pull into the parking lot and find a good spot. Brian looks at himself in the rearview mirror, fixing his hair. I like watching him fuss with his hair, trying to get it 'right.' So I lean over to kiss him and run my fingers through it, messing it up again!

"You Fiend!" Brian says, patting it down again. "I imagine Lindsay will be there."

"Definitely," I reply. "But I doubt Melanie will be. She's probably at work."

"It doesn't matter. I can deal with them. As long as Lindsay doesn't get all... weird. All... 'wifey' on me, like she gets sometimes." I shake my head. Brian moves his tongue around in his mouth, thinking. "Does she look like she's expecting yet?"

I shrug. "Not really. But maybe another woman would think so. But the word is definitely out about the baby. Once Debbie knew, then everyone knew. Deb saw Lindsay having about a half a glass of sherry at my gallery show opening -- and she flipped!"

"I bet," Brian sighs. "Debbie always knows what's 'best' for everyone else."

"Ladies aren't supposed to drink when they're pregnant, Brian. That's just a rule."

"I know, I know. But my mother smoked and drank and downed coffee like a maniac and probably did everything in the book they say you shouldn't do -- and I'm here. Against all odds -- I'm here."

"Lucky for me," I say, leaning over into his face for another kiss.

"You think?" Brian answers when his mouth is free. Then he jumps out of the Jeep and meets me as I get out. And we walk up to the center together.

"Daddy!" screams Gus as we walk in the door. The two-year-old hurls himself across the room and straight into Brian. Luckily, Brian is waiting to catch him, or they both would have gone flying backwards! Brian winces a little as he lifts Gus up, but then he hides the pain. He doesn't want Lindsay to see it. "Daddy!"

"Brian!" Lindsay runs over, smiling. She sees me -- but she doesn't really notice me. Brian is the only one she can see. Brian gives her a hug and a kiss on the cheek as he juggles Gus. He asks how she's feeling and she pats her stomach, very coyly. But then Lindsay looks concerned. "Brian, maybe I should be asking you how YOU feel?"

"I'm just fine, Lindz," he answers, looking into Gus' little face.

And once again I have to sigh and wonder how Melanie stands it. She must know -- she has to know! -- that Lindsay looks at Brian in a way she doesn't look at anyone else, not even Melanie. They both would deny it -- but I know what I see. I know what Lindsay feels about Brian -- and it's more than just as a friend. Her face lights up and her eyes shine when she looks at him. That's not friendship -- that's love. I know. Catching her off-guard like this doesn't give her any time to hide it, the way she usually does. But instead of being jealous, the way I usually feel, I only have pity for Lindsay. Because I know what's in Brian's heart. And I see the look on Brian's face, too. And he only has eyes for Gus.

"Look who else is here, Gus," says Brian, bouncing him.

"Dustin!" squeals Gus. And he reaches for me to take him in my arms and hug him.

"Dustin?" says Brian, puzzled.

"He has a little trouble with his 'j' sounds," Lindsay answers.

"What is this he's dressed as?" Brian asks, fingering Gus' costume. He disentangles the squirming toddler from my arms and holds him up. Gus is wearing a little green coat and green tights. "He looks like some kind of Irish ballet dancer!"

"Here," says Lindsay. "He keeps losing his hat." She plops a little felt hat on Gus' head. It has a big green feather sticking out of it.

Brian frowns. "Robin Hood? Peter Pan? Give me a clue, Lindz."

"He's a leprechaun!" explains Lindsay. "It was Melanie's idea. Just look at his ears!"

Brian and I both look at Gus' little ears poking out from under the hat. Sure enough, they both come to a slight point at the top. "Oh my God!" says Brian. "Just like MINE when I was a kid! Jesus, Lindsay!"

"I think his ears are very cute! And he makes an adorable leprechaun!" says Lindsay, very pleased.

Brian winces. "Couldn't you come up with something a bit more butch? I mean, like a construction worker? Or a cop?"

"I'm sure we'll work through ALL of the Village People before Gus is finished with dressing up for Halloween, Brian!" Lindsay answers, laughing.

A woman with graying hair comes over. Lindsay introduces her as one of Gus' daycare teachers, Mrs. Picard. "And this is Gus' father, Brian Kinney."

"We are delighted that you could come today, Mr. Kinney," gushes Mrs. Picard. "We must not have met at Parents' Open House."

"I... I was out of town," says Brian. I don't think Lindsay even told him anything about the Open House, but I know that Lindz and Mel went and met all the teachers. I think they must have explained Gus' family situation, but I don't know how much they talked about Brian -- if at all.

"You were lucky to come today to see all the children in their costumes!" says Mrs. Picard, beaming. And the kids are running all over the room in their Halloween outfits, screaming at the tops of their lungs!

Gus begins to squirm again and Brian sets him down. Gus immediately takes Brian's hand and leads him over to a little chair in the play area. "You -- sit!" he orders. And Brian sits. Gus runs to get a toy to show Brian, but the minute Gus leaves his side three other little boys make the move over to Brian -- a G.I. Joe, a Batman, and a Dracula. The little Batman tries to hold Brian's hand. Gus sees this and storms over, pushing Batman. "Mine!" he yells, his face red. But Batman won't let go.

"Leave it to Brian," I whisper to Lindsay. "All the cute guys make a beeline right for him!"

"Oh, hush!" says Lindz. But then she starts to giggle, seeing the truth in it.

"Maybe the daycare center better send a note home to Mom and Dad -- 'Your kid is a little queen at age two'!" I say.

"Justin! You're bad!"

"Better they find out now and start to get used to it," I insist, watching the little Batman boy try to climb into Brian's lap and getting shoved off by a very upset little leprechaun!

"Mr. Kinney seems so good with the children," Mrs. Picard breaks in. We watch as Gus brings Brian a toy pick-up truck and Brian sits down on the floor with the boys and zooms the truck back and forth, making noises.

"It's because Brian is about the same age as they are -- at least emotionally," I say. "I'm Justin, by the way," I add. Lindsay didn't bother to introduce me to Gus' teacher.

"Justin. Hello," she replies, shaking my hand.

"I'm Mr. Kinney's partner. Just in case you're interested," I say. Lindsay's lips press together and then open, as if she's about to say something, but she doesn't. Which is a good thing.

"Of course," says Mrs. Picard, smiling blandly. This woman obviously has no clue what I'm talking about or why I'm here. She glances at Lindsay and gives her a funny look. Then she bustles over to mediate between Gus and Batman. Now I'm wondering what the heck Lindsay and Mel told these people. They MUST have explained about their relationship and Brian and everything -- I think. But with Lindsay, who knows? Maybe she's still indulging in her little 'Brian's Family' fantasy, with her as the mommy. And Mel? Or me? We're nowhere, I guess.

"So," I say to Lindz. "Are we still on for tomorrow?"

Lindsay looks at me, confused. "On?"

"About taking Gus for the afternoon. I thought Brian and I would take him to the mall. Or the park. So what time should we pick him up?"

"Justin," Lindsay says, changing the subject. "Why didn't you tell me that Brian was in town? I left you all those messages and then talked to you yesterday -- but you didn't say a word about Brian being here. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he walked in here!"

I stare back at her, coolly. "He didn't want anyone to know until he was ready to let them know. And he still doesn't want everyone to know. So please don't go spreading the news."

"Of course I won't, Justin." Then she frowns. "That big scratch on Brian's face -- did he get that when he was mugged?"

"Yes," I say. And that's all.

But Lindsay's curiosity isn't satisfied at all. "Justin, do you have a problem with something?" she says, obviously annoyed with my non-answers.

Maybe I'm being a brat, but I don't give a fuck anymore. "No. Do you, Lindz?"

She starts to open her mouth, but just then Mrs. Picard comes over with Brian and Gus in tow. "The Halloween Party is winding down now, Ms. Peterson. But it's been so nice to have Gus' father come. Did you take off work, Mr. Kinney?"

Brian does a double take. "I... um... No. I'm an actor, so I'm chronically underemployed," he deadpans.

Lindsay bristles. "He's only joking, Mrs. Picard. He's very busy and took the time especially to come here and see Gus." And she gives both me and Brian a look that challenges us to say anything to contradict her.

"Well, Gus is quite high-spirited," Mrs. Picard goes on. "And he's a little devil with the girls in the class. Always trying to kiss them! I've had to mention it to him a number of times."

Brian rolls his eyes. "It figures! Another Jack Kinney!"

"Would that be so awful, Brian?" says Lindsay. "You like girls, don't you, Gus?" Gus shrugs.

"Don't you want to belong to the He-Man Woman Haters Club along with Daddy and Justin?" pleads Brian. But Gus just stands there, his finger in his mouth, looking completely confused.

"Brian! Don't say things like that!" Lindsay has absolutely no sense of humor at all!

But the little Batman comes over again and stands on Brian's other side and tries to grab his hand, smiling broadly. "Brian, I think we have another member right here, even if Gus doesn't join the club," I crack.

"Great! That's JUST what I need!" Brian says, squeezing my arm. "Someone even younger than YOU!"

"Not while I'm still breathing, Brian," I say. And Lindsay frowns again. But I don't care. Let her frown. I don't give a fuck at this point.

"Come on, boys! Let's get ice cream!" And Brian picks Gus up and takes my arm and carries us both out of the building. We leave Lindsay and Mrs. Picard standing, staring as we leave.

***

While Brian fills Gus with ice cream at the Vermont Creamery, I slip outside and make a few phone calls. I leave messages at Emmett's and Ted's to meet me at Woody's tonight at 10:00. By then most of the heavy Halloween partiers should be heading over to Babylon. I don't want Brian to be too overwhelmed by too many rowdy guys. It would make him too nervous. The irony of Brian wanting to avoid a bunch of drunk party boys is not lost on me. Then I call Michael at the store and offer the same invitation to him and Ben.

"What's up? I didn't think you were in a party mood lately, Justin," says Michael.

"I thought it would be nice to get out. And it IS Halloween, after all."

"Right," Michael laughs. "That's like a gay national holiday! Is Emmett doing anything? Isn't he dressing up and going out?" Michael sounds a little wistful. He used to know everything Emmett was doing all the time. The gang all knew what everyone was doing because they were doing it together. But not anymore.

"I don't know. I just left him a message. Ted, too. I hope they come."

"I'll be there, then. And Ben. He doesn't have an early class on Fridays, so I think he'll be into it. But I'm not dressing up."

"That's okay, Michael. Neither am I. That's not the point. It's just...." I pause. "Just to go out. Like old times."

"Not quite," Michael sniffs. Then he sighs. I know exactly who he's thinking of. "Heard anything from Brian? Did they catch that guy who mugged him?"

"No," I say. "They didn't. They probably never will."

"Bastard," breathes Michael. "Oh well, Brian is probably out partying his ass off in London, anyway. Do they have Halloween over there?"

"I think so," I say, but I have no idea, really. I'll have to ask Brian about that. "See you tonight, Michael."

"Catch you later, Boy Wonder."

When I get back to the table the ice cream is all over Gus and all over Brian, too. He's trying to wipe the melted cream off Gus' face with a napkin. "Jesus! This stuff is messy!"

"You never complained before," I say, leaning my forehead against his. Brian raises that eyebrow at me. "Should I buy some of this ice cream to take home for later? What do you think, Brian?"

"I think that you WANT to spill some all over yourself just so I'll have to 'clean' it up!"

"Well, duh!" I say. And I buy a quart of French Vanilla. For later.

We wipe Gus and his leprechaun suit off as well as we can with the napkins and then go back out to the Jeep. I always keep the carseat strapped in the back of the Jeep for when I take Gus out, so we just buckle him in it and head back to Lindsay and Mel's house.

Lindsay seems in a better mood and even Mel is cordial to Brian as we drop Gus off. "Tomorrow at 3:00? You can pick him up at the daycare center and bring him back after dinner," Lindsay says. She notes the sticky ice cream remaining on Gus' hands and face and green costume. "And I'll include a container of Baby Wipes. They are a necessity."

"Thanks, Lindz," says Brian, giving her a quick kiss. And then we head back home.

Brian and I eat some of the food that Debbie left here yesterday and then I coax Brian into the shower. It doesn't take that much coaxing, actually. He's in a good mood and therefore he's feeling feisty. I don't try to blow him, wanting to avoid another traumatic scene about the condoms, but we do a lot of slipping and sliding around. And a lot of laughing. That's the best part of it. To hear Brian laughing. And we end up in the bed, of course, for another round of 'slipping and sliding.'

So when I suggest that we might go over to Woody's for a hour or so, Brian doesn't immediately say no. He doesn't say yes right away, either, but I'm able to work on him. While I'm kissing him I tell him that it will be fun. A good way to unwind.

"I thought I was unwinding right now," he says as he works his way down my neck.

So I challenge him to a game of pool that he knows I'll lose. And I make a bet that I know he won't be able to resist. A bet that involves my tongue and his anatomy. Finally Brian gets up and starts looking through the closet. If he's thinking about what he's going to wear, then the battle is already won. We ARE going to Woody's.

While Brian gets dressed, I put on one of my 'new' outfits. My brown leather pants and boots and a new blue silk shirt. Also my cowrie shell necklace and my brass slave bracelet, of course. Brian is putting on his jeans and another sweater as he watches me getting ready.

"You're getting way too dressed up, Justin. You'll make me look like a slob!" But I can tell he's pleased. And turned on, too! No more hooded sweatshirts and baggy cargo pants! Brian comes over and buttons up my shirt and arranges the collar. Then he begins to tuck the blue shirt into my leather pants -- but he's doing as much feeling around as he is tucking in!

"Brian, if you keep doing that then I'll have to get completely dressed again afterwards," I say.

"So?" he answers.

"But I want to go to Woody's." I look at the clock and it's already after 10:00. "We have that pool game, remember?"

"We can play pool right here," he replies. "Eight ball in the side pocket." And Brian reaches right for that side pocket!

I think about staying here -- except that the guys are waiting at Woody's. And it's important that we see them. Important for Brian to see them. I'm convinced of that. I finally detangle him from my ass and get him motivated to the door of the loft and down to the Jeep. He lets me drive again. And he's wearing that suede jacket. I really like that look.

Liberty Avenue is booming tonight. Teaming with guys in costumes, most of them heading for Babylon. But as the crowds are leaving Woody's and moving on, we are just coming in. It's still busy in there, but not like it would have been earlier. The place has cleared out enough so that I see Michael and Ben at a table in the far corner, their heads together, laughing. And Emmett is just sitting down with a drink in his hand. And Ted is there, too -- with Wade right next to him. Brian grabs my hand tightly and for a second I'm afraid that he's going to bolt. But he doesn't. Instead, we go forward. The only direction we CAN go. Forward.

***

"He was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
'Come in,' I said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

He's living in a foreign country but he's bound to cross the line.
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If we could just turn back the clock to when God and we were born.
'Come in,' I'll say,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'"

from "Shelter from the Storm," by Bob Dylan.

Continue on to "Shelter from the Storm -- Part 2", the next section.

©Gaedhal, February 2003.

Updated March 4, 2003.