This is Part 2 of Chapter 110 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Shelter from the Storm -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, with Brian Kinney, Emmett Honeycutt, Wade Anderson, Ted Schmidt, Michael Novotny, Ben Bruckner, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin brings Brian to Woody's. 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.
"Oh my God!" cries Michael from the gang's table at the other side of Woody's. "Brian!"
"We're spotted," I say. "Hang on." And I feel Brian brace himself. His left hand wraps around my upper arm and I hold him tighter around the waist.
Michael catapults himself across the room at Brian, not unlike the way Gus did at the daycare center, throwing his arms around Brian's neck. "When did you get here? How are you doing? Are you okay?" And I see Brian flinch as Michael bumps against his sore right side.
"Geez, Michael, let us get in the door, will you?" I say.
But Brian squeezes my arm quietly. "I'm fine, Mikey. And I got in the other day. I was going to call you, but... Justin suggested that I surprise you. For Halloween." He glances at me and I nod.
Michael steps back and smiles. "Come ON! We have a big table over here!" And he takes Brian's hand and leads over. I trail along behind, but I don't mind. I think Brian needs this. And at least he didn't bolt out the door -- which I was afraid he might do. But he's steady. And I have my hand against his back, steadying him even more was he passes through the crowd.
Since it's Halloween, about a third of the guys at Woody's are in costume, but most of the heavy partiers have already moved on to Babylon. Still, there are a lot of people here. And everyone is greeting Brian. Patting Brian on the back or the ass. Trying to shake his hand. Attempting to hug him. Guys I don't know at all, but Brian might. Of course, Brian might know any guy in town. But he just keeps moving, nodding and following Michael back to where the gang is sitting.
Emmett jumps up when he sees us approaching. He drags over two more chairs over to the table. Ben stands up and shakes Brian's hand. Brian offers Ben his left hand because the right is still hurting. Even Ted is smiling. And Wade is gaping at Brian, open-mouthed. They all seem so glad to see him that I know I've done the right thing in getting everyone together.
"Baby, you sit yourself down next to me!" says Em, pulling out a chair. Then he indicates the other chair. "With Michael on the other side over there. And Brian -- you sit HERE -- right in the middle!"
"Oh," says Brian. "Like Lucky Pierre?" And Ben and Ted guffaw.
"What does that mean?" I say, frowning.
"An old dirty joke," says Ben. "A VERY old joke."
"Which is why the more elderly gentlemen among us get it," says Emmett. "But you and I and Wade are completely clueless!"
"I get it!" pipes up Wade, guilelessly. "They demonstrated THAT one on Ted's website! Lucky Pierre was the guy in the middle of the threeway! Ted put a beret on his head!"
And Ted looks totally mortified. Totally.
"So, Ted," says Brian, smiling slightly. "Just how old is Wade again?" After all the jokes Ted has made about me and Brian over the past two years, Brian just can't help but try to get a little back. But Ted just smiles back and looks at Wade lingeringly. I think Ted might really be in love with Wade. I only wish that Wade felt as strongly about Ted, but I don't think that he does. He IS only seventeen, after all, and twinks like that don't always know what they want.
"Let me get you a drink, Brian!" Michael interrupts. "Double Absolut? Or how about one of those flavored martinis?"
"Um, no thanks, Mikey," Brian says. "How about a Coke? With lots of ice."
Michael's face falls. "A Coke?"
"I'm... taking some medication. Mikey. And I don't want to mix it with any booze just now," answers Brian. Which is simply the truth. But the other truth is that he's trying not to drink. Trying.
"And a Coke for me, too, Michael," I say. "If you're getting the drinks."
"Sure, Justin," says Michael. "Okay. Two Cokes. Anyone else?"
"I want another Coke, too! A Vanilla Coke!" demands Wade. And Michael rolls his eyes. Michael thinks that the whole Ted and Wade relationship is beyond bizarre. Even more bizarre than me and Brian, really, because I know that Michael has always expected the strange and offbeat -- like taking up with ME -- from Brian. But NOT from Ted. Never from Ted.
"I'll pay for that, Michael," says Ted, reaching for his wallet. The way Wade is bouncing up and down in his chair it seems like he's already had enough caffeine.
But Michael shakes Ted off. "I think I can manage to get that, Ted. I AM a successful local businessman now. Just like YOU." There's an edge to Michael's voice that Brian picks up on. He tosses me a glance. Michael is not at all pleased with Ted's porn website. And he's even less pleased that Emmett is working at it. Michael is definitely uncomfortable with the whole situation. He mentioned it to me when we were sitting around the store one day, working on his books before inventory. "I just always expected something better than that from Ted," Michael told me. "AND from Emmett."
Michael goes up to the bar to get the drinks. And a few guys come over to the table, wanting to talk to Brian. One of them has a poster for 'The Olympian' that he won at the preview night and he wants Brian to autograph it. Brian takes out his fancy French fountain pen and signs his name on it, like he does it every day. Then he signs another autograph on a napkin and a third on a copy of 'Pittsburgh Out' with an article about the film in it.
"This is SO exciting," says Emmett. "I wish I was going to the premiere, too!"
"That reminds me," Brian says, turning to Ben. "Do you and Michael have your reservations confirmed for the hotel? Because you shouldn't wait if you don't."
"Oh, no," says Ben. "Everything is already set. We'll be staying at the Beverly Palms Hotel, the same as Debbie and Vic." Ben turns and looks at me. "It's too bad that Justin can't...."
"He's staying at my place," Brian says firmly, sitting back in his chair. "He doesn't need a hotel room."
"I am?" I say, turning and staring at Brian. "I don't?"
"You don't want to stay at a hotel by yourself, do you?" says Brian, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course not!" I answer. I feel myself grinning broadly.
"Of course not what?" asks Michael, bringing the Cokes and setting them at the table.
"Of course Justin will stay at my place when he's in Los Angeles for the premiere."
Michael looks at me. "I didn't know you were going out to L.A., Justin. Since when?"
"Since... a long time," I say. Like since three seconds ago!
"But won't it be a little awkward?" says Ben. "I mean... with Ron and everything?" Ben looks at Brian closely.
"No problem," Brian replies steadily. "I have my own place now. In Venice Beach. Near where I keep my boat."
"Do you have a boat?" enthuses Emmett. "Is it a big yacht? Do you have a horde of dishy sailors to be your crew? Do you need a cabin boy? Because I'm volunteering!"
"No, Em. It's not a yacht. And I don't have a crew. Just a First Mate." Brian winks at me. And I feel his right hand rest on my leg. I reach down and rub my fingers across the little shells on his bracelet. Brian took the wrapping off of his wrist before we left for Woody's. He said he didn't need it anymore, but I know that he really does. He just doesn't want the guys to see the bandage.
"When did you get an apartment, Brian?" says Michael. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Brian shrugs. "I'm still getting settled into it. I'll have you come down and we can all go on the boat when you're in L.A."
"Now I'm really jealous!" cries Emmett. "I'm missing everything!"
"Ted, I want to go to California, too!" says Wade, grabbing his Vanilla Coke and sucking it down. That kid can eat and drink like nobody's business!
"I think you should get a big mansion in Beverly Hills, Brian. Then we could ALL stay there. And they could put you on the Movie Star Tour Map!" says Emmett.
"That's all I need! Tour buses going by my house all day, yelling at me with a bullhorn!" Brian groans. "I'd rather be anonymous."
"Excuse me," says a guy who comes up to the table. He's dressed in fatigues, like a much larger version of the little G.I. Joe at Gus' daycare. "Will you autograph my copy of 'Vanity Fair'? Please, Mr. Kinney?"
Brian looks him up and down. The guy is seriously cute and I feel my mouth going tight. "Sure. And my name's Brian, not Mr. Kinney."
"Right!" says the guy, brightening. "Brian." He is cruising Brian very heavily. "Could you make it out to Evan? That's me. Evan." And he opens it to the page where Brian is almost totally naked on the bed, his dick just obscured by his leg. Of course!
Brian signs carefully. He may have taken off his wrapping, but his wrist is still stiff. And while he's signing, I see the guy reach over and slip a piece of paper into the pocket of Brian's suede fringed jacket, which is hanging on the back of his chair. That is impossible to miss. The guy glances at me and smirks.
"There you go." Brian closes the magazine and hands it back. "Oh, Evan?" he adds.
"Yes?" The guy is positively drooling. I'm about ready to get up and smack his face!
Brian reaches into the pocket of his jacket and pulls out the slip of paper, which I know has the guy's number -- and probably his dick size! -- written on it. But Brian hands it back to him without looking at it. "I'm flattered, but no thanks."
Oh," says Evan, holding the paper. "I thought that... maybe... I mean I've heard so much about you and...." and he pauses, looking embarrassed. Emmett stifles a giggle and Ben coughs lightly.
"Yes, but that was a while ago," says Brian. "And I'm in an exclusive relationship now, so I'm sure you understand."
"Yeah. Sure. I'm sorry about that," says Evan, backing up. "Thanks for the autograph." And he melts away into the crowd.
"Brian...." I start.
"Not now," he says. "Later."
There's an awkward silence for a minute -- and then Emmett launches into a story about someone from another office in the same building as Jerk-at-Work taking a wrong turn and walking into the studio just as Emmett was doing a number in a French Maid's uniform. And now Ted is afraid that his landlord is going to make a big stink about it.
"And that just proves that you should ALWAYS be sure to lock the door!" says Emmett.
"Oh Geez!" I say. "Just like at Firelands!" I pause and look over at Brian. He shrugs as if he doesn't mind if I tell this story, but I want to make sure it's okay.
"What's Firelands?" asks Wade, popping a handful of peanuts into his mouth and then washing it down with more Vanilla Coke.
"A house we stayed at in England. Owned by this actor that we know, Harry Collins." And I tell them the story about how Brian and I were in the middle of 'acting out' a scene from 'Maurice' when Travers, Harry's butler, walked in with fresh towels. And how he never even batted an eye, even though he could see everything that we were doing! And how Brian -- of course! -- never skipped a beat in fucking me.
"Oh no, Baby! What did you do?" screams Emmett.
"Nothing," I say. "Brian thanked him for bringing the towels."
"I think I would just DIE!" says Wade. "Ted, can you imagine if my MOTHER walked in and...."
"Yeah, yeah," says Ted, putting his hand over Wade's mouth. "I can just imagine."
"And then," I continue. "It happened AGAIN! When we were in England this last time. Except we were in the bathtub when Travers walked right in. I forgot to lock the door again."
And they all laugh. All except Michael, who is frowning. "When were you in England recently, Justin?"
"Last weekend," I say, watching Michael take it all in. "Just for a couple of days. And then I came back here with Brian." Michael stares at me -- and then he looks at Brian intently. Brian glances back at him, but doesn't say anything. Then Brian puts his arm around me.
"Must be nice," interrupts Em. "I'd like to jet off to Paris for dinner and then be back in time for my shift at the 'Jerk'!"
"Ted," whines Wade. "You said that you were going to take ME away for a whole weekend! Remember?"
"I know, Wade. Maybe sometime in the future," Ted says, uncomfortably. "But I can't exactly march up to the front door and ask your mother if I can take you away for a two day stay at the No Tell Motel."
"Then Justin can ask her! She'd let me go away with Justin for a weekend. I know she would," says Wade. "My mom loves Justin." And Ted winces.
"Oh, is that so?" says Brian, giving me the evil eye. He glances at Wade and then back at me. I still feel a little guilty about that time Wade jerked me off -- and I let him. Brian knows all about it and has made enough little comments to me about the incident that I know he's jealous -- a little bit.
"He's kidding, Brian." I wish Wade would keep his big mouth shut! His mother still thinks that I'm Wade's boyfriend and she's always asking Wade to bring me to dinner at their house. And I think that Wade is right -- if I asked her if her son could go away with me for the weekend I think she would say yes! And she still has no clue at all about Ted.
Emmett stands up to get another drink and a few minutes later I hear a familiar sound coming from the jukebox. "Oh shit," breathes Brian. It's 'Baby Blue' booming out of the speakers right over our heads. Some guys over at the bar start applauding.
Emmett comes back over from the bar, very pleased with himself. "It's the 'Hit Parade' starring Brian Kinney! I LOVE to play this tune!"
"I'm going to have to murder you, Emmett Honeycutt!" says Brian. He's really embarrassed whenever he hears the song. I think it's wonderful, but Brian hates the sound of his own voice. I heard 'Baby Blue' on the radio a bunch of times when I was in England and I'm starting to hear it playing on the radio over here, too. "Whose brilliant idea was it to bribe the manager of Woody's to put THAT thing on the jukebox?"
"Nobody, Brian! It's a real hit song!" says Michael. "Just like we always dreamed of having with our band!"
"Not quite, Mikey. Christ, I can't escape that stupid song anywhere!" moans Brian.
"Don't be a baby," I whisper. "People LIKE it! They LOVE it, in fact, Brian! It isn't a stupid song. It's beautiful."
"Johnny said that they were going to put it on the machine for the next Karaoke Night!" Emmett puts in.
"Jesus! Can you picture a parade of queens caterwauling to 'Baby Blue'? It might make MY hideous rendition sound almost like music." Brian downs his Coke and I know that he's wishing it were something a lot stronger. He's also looking really tired now. I try to think of a graceful way to let the gang know that we have to leave. Especially let Michael know, because he's not going to want to let go of Brian so soon.
When they hear 'Baby Blue' playing a few more guys come over for autographs or just to gape at Brian. And some men come over from Babylon, too, because word must be spreading that Brian Kinney is on Liberty Avenue. More and more guys in costume are packing into the bar as it gets later and Brian is squirming in his chair and running his hand through his hair, nervously. I keep my hand on his leg to brace him, but as it gets more and more crowded I feel that it's time for us to take off.
Brian is trying to be a good sport and signs some more autographs, but I can tell he's getting nervous. Michael and Ben realize it, too, and Ben gets up and asks the bartender to have one of the bouncers keep the men away so we can sit in peace. But it gets to be impossible to have a conversation at all. It's too loud and too crowded.
One fellow comes over to the table, a big muscled guy with a blond crewcut, and tries to get Brian's attention. "Fritz Jennings," says Emmett. "He thinks HE is God's gift to steroids!"
I peer at this Fritz and I know him from somewhere, but I can't place him. Then I feel a crawling sensation up my spine. Like I've seen him through another pair of eyes, maybe. In another place. I glance at Brian's face and I see him stiffen.
"I'm sure you remember ME, Kinney. From the baths?" says Fritz. He's going through a big show of flexing his pumped up arms and tits to impress Brian. He's wearing leather pants and a black leather vest. I'm not certain if that's his Halloween costume or if he always dresses like that, but he's so extreme that he's not the least bit hot -- he's just gross.
"I must have been AWOL that night," says Brian, shortly. He's staring at this guy too intensely. I look into Brian's eyes and see... what? Anxiety? Fear? I'm not certain, but I don't like that look. I want to push myself between Brian and this man in the black leather vest.
"Come ON! You remember me, Kinney. Don't give me that!" he insists.
"I... don't remember...." And Brian stops. He suddenly clutches my hand. "I... I think I have to go now." And Brian stands up.
"Brian -- what's wrong?" I say. I stand up, too, snaking my arm around his waist.
"Are you all right?" says Michael at the same time. He leans over and gently touches Brian's face where the scrape is healing over. "Where did you get this, Brian?"
"Don't Michael!" Brian recoils from his touch. "I have to get out of here, Justin -- now." I brush past Emmett, pulling Brian through the crowd and out the door of Woody's.
Michael is right on our heels. "Justin! Wait up! Brian!" he calls.
"We better stop for a second," says Brian. And he leans heavily against the railing of the stairs that leads up into Woody's.
"Brian, are you really okay?" says Michael. I can see that he's truly concerned. He puts a hand on Brian's shoulder and tries to rub the back of his neck.
"I just... had to get out of there, Mikey. Claustrophobia," Brian replies, shaking Michael off. I can see that Brian's right hand is trembling.
"We can go over to the diner," Michael suggests. "It'll be quieter over there."
"No, thanks, Mikey. Really," Brian pats Michael's back. "We have to go home now. I'm... tired. And we have Gus tomorrow, so I don't want my ass to be dragging all day."
"As long as everything is all right," says Michael, skeptically. "Bring Gus over to the store tomorrow. I've got some new action figures he might like. I've been saving them for him."
"We'll bring him over around 4:00, okay?" I say. "And then maybe you can go to dinner with us?"
"Yeah! That would be great!" says Michael, smiling. "Like old times."
"Sure. Old times," repeats Brian. "Old times." And his eyes look far away.
Continue on to Page 2 of "Shelter from the Storm -- Part 2".