SHOOTING STAR

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 1 of Chapter 120 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "I Shall Be Released -- Part 4", the previous section.

The narrator is Diane Rhys, and features Justin Taylor, Tess Hardy, Angie, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Diane tries to help Justin. 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.

"Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you.
You were trying to break into another world,
A world I never knew.
I always kind of wondered
If you ever made it through.
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you.

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me.
If I was still the same,
If I ever became what you wanted me to be.
Did I miss the mark or
Over-step the line
That only you could see?
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me...."

from "Shooting Star" by Bob DylanP>***

I've been in a meeting with my producers and the writers all Friday morning. It's getting to be crunch time, with my show set to premiere in the middle of January, three episodes in the can, and the Holidays coming up, we are all starting to get so freaking' nervous! But excited, too. Really excited. Because everyone connected with 'Here's Diane!' smells a hit. This could be IT! And I don't want to blow it.

Angie comes in just as we're finishing lunch. She has my cellphone in her hand and a worried expression on her face.

"I thought I said no fucking interruptions!" bitches Herb, my executive producer.

But Angie ignores him and goes directly over to me. "I think you better take this call, Diane. It's Justin on the line."

When I hear that I get an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's Bridie. I know it is. Something's happened. I take the call.

Thirty minutes later, after Herb has finished yelling at me for wanting to walk out of the meeting, Angie and I are in my new Lexus, heading for the boys' apartment near Venice Beach. Justin was talking pretty fast and furious on the phone, but all the crap he told me just makes me want to see him as soon as possible. I step on the gas and we get to the apartment complex before Justin does, so I let myself in. Brian gave me a key in case of emergency and I think this qualifies.

The place looks like a freakin' tornado hit it. There are magazines and CD's piled all over the living room and a basket of laundry is turned over, the clothes spilled out on the floor.

"Christ!" says Angie. "I thought gay guys were supposed to be neat? This place is a total shit hole!"

"This mess isn't like either Brian OR Justin," I explain. "This isn't like them at all. The stress of everything that's been happening in the past few weeks must really be getting to them!" I go into the bedroom and open up the closet. There are so many expensive designer suitcases jammed in there that it amazes me they can fit in any clothes at all.

"Where the hell do we start?" asks Angie. She's poking around the bedroom, full of curiosity.

"Why don't you start by making some coffee?" I say. I really don't even want Angie to be prying into the boys' personal business. "I know I could use some right now."

Angie raises her eyebrows. "Don't forget, Diane -- you're cutting down on the caffeine!" As a good personal assistant, Angie is keeping close track of my diet. She's worse than my freakin' mother, I swear to God!

"I know, hon, but I need a huge mug of coffee right now!" That or else a double Absolut! But I may need that later.

Angie goes into the puny kitchen and starts the coffee, while I try to sort through some of Bridie's clothes. And they are mostly Bridie's, of course. He has tons of things, some with the tags still on. Suits still in their bags. Stacks of expensive shirts with the pins still in them. The guy is a shopaholic -- among other things he's addicted to.

I've been with Brian on some of his depression-induced shopping sprees. He hits the stores like a maniac. Especially last winter. That's when I first started hanging out with Bridie. He was putting a good face on things, but he was in a major funk. I knew he was unhappy, but I didn't know why. I thought it was because Ron was kind of an asshole and a hard person to get along with generally. But eventually I realized that it was about a lot more than that. That there was someone else Bridie was thinking about. I figured it was a broken relationship that had badly hurt him and that he was trying desperately to forget. I tried, but he completely refused to talk about it, so I knew it was something cutting him very deeply.

It was only when Brian had his nervous breakdown and was hiding out at my place that I found out about Justin. That was exactly a year after that horrible prom night when Justin got attacked, which explained so much about why Bridie was in such pain. I could see how guilty the poor guy felt about what happened to this innocent kid who really looked up to him and expected so much from him and then got bashed in the head when Brian was supposed to be protecting him! I think that's really why Bridie ran away from Pittsburgh. I mean, why else would someone run AWAY from Justin and TO Ron, unless he was punishing himself?

Hey, I'm a Catholic and so is Brian, no matter how much he tries to deny it. Let's face it, once those nuns get their hooks into you when you're 6 years old, they have you by the balls for your whole life! And guilt -- that's the main thing they teach you! You're guilty from Day One. Original Sin and all of that stuff. The second you are born, you're covered with SIN -- in capital letters! I spent most of my youth rebelling against all the rules and regulations of the Church, especially about sex. It was all a reaction against my strict parents and the rigid control of the Church, even a doofus like me can figure that out! And I know that Bridie is in the same boat, always rebelling against authority. Plus, he's got the gay thing layered on top of it all. It didn't surprise me in the least when he confided to me that he'd had a fairly long (for Bridie) sexual relationship with a young priest. No, that didn't surprise me at all. Brian says it was no big deal, but he can't fool me. I'm sure screwing with a priest must just have added to his guilt in spades.

Bridie has always been so anal. A neat freak. When things are under his control, that is. The minute he loses control everything goes to hell, and that includes his ability to clean up. His apartment. His clothes. His life. Himself. This is obviously what's been happening in this rat trap of an apartment. And it's been going on for a while -- it took him some time to make this big a mess. Poor Justin can only follow Bridie around so much, tidying up after him. And this new disaster with Ron's death, this is the biggest freakin' mess of all! Bridie can't clean THAT up all by himself, either, although I'm sure he thinks he's expected to!

In a way I can understand why Howie Sheldon wants the boys to leave this apartment and stay at Ron's house for the time being. I think it's a big mistake myself, but no one is asking me my opinion! Sheldon thinks that since the house is fenced and gated and has a long driveway it's easier for his studio security army to guard. The press can be kept away better up there in that narrow canyon, so it seems a good place for the boys to be safe. Not to mention that's where they will be sitting shiva after Ron's burial. But personally I wouldn't want to sit ANYTHING in the freakin' House of Dysfunction! I wouldn't want to sleep in the room next to where good old Ron offed himself! No freakin' way! So Howie Sheldon is an idiot for doing that to them. But he's taken charge of the situation, and with Bridie in the clink -- temporarily, I hope to God! -- Sheldon is calling all the shots. Poor Justin doesn't have much choice but to just go with the flow.

I start rifling through the dressers and bedside tables. I push the half-smoked joints and foils of condoms to the back of the drawers. I expect to see tubes of lube and wads of $100 bills in there, but what surprises me is how many photo albums Bridie has. He doesn't strike me as the sentimental type who likes to look at family snaps. I pick up one of the albums and see that it's filled with pictures of him and Justin. Smiling, with their arms around each other. Sitting on a boat -- not 'La Diva' but a much smaller boat. One of Justin holding a fishing rod. Another of Brian kissing Justin in a restaurant, with Brian wearing a silly tie. One of the boys in front of a big rock -- looks like England or somewhere very green like that. I smile, but I also get so sad when I look at these pictures. Because they look so happy in every single one of them. And I just want them to be happy! Is that too much to ask for? It doesn't seen like a hard thing -- just a little happiness for my boys.

Another album is just of his kid, Gus. Sounds like the name of one of my dad's old pals from Pollacktown in Buffalo! God, but that little kid looks just like Bridie! No one could ever doubt that baby belongs to Brian! I wonder what that woman, his lesbian friend, said to him to get him to fork over some sperm? She must be pretty persuasive. And now he's got a second one coming! Maybe, if my show is a big hit, and if I've got some big bucks put away, and am getting some residuals from the reruns, and everything in my life is all set... Maybe I could find out exactly what that Lindsay said to Bridie. Maybe....

I mean, Bridie does have some cons on his rap sheet, but I think the pros definitely outweigh them. If he can settle himself down, if he can get himself straightened out -- no pun intended! -- if he can quit the drinking and drugging and get into a stable relationship with Justin, then he's certainly the best father material of any of the guys I know, no question about that. And not just because he's gorgeous and tall and sexy and brilliant, although those are important points to consider, but because he's a truly decent, moral person, not like most of the assholes I have to deal with out here in La La Land. The guys I've had relationships with have all been jerks. That's what I get for choosing boyfriends based on what they could for me professionally and not on whether they were nice guys or whether I actually liked them! That's the nature of Hollywood. When you screw around it's about business, not pleasure. But having a kid -- that's a whole different story. I want a father that the kid won't be ashamed of when it gets old enough to know what a real asshole is! I want a father that the kid can be proud of. Someone I can count on. Someone like Bridie.

God, I have to put these photo albums away before I start crying -- or knitting booties. With my series premiering in a couple of weeks the last thing I should be thinking of is having a baby! Damn that biological clock! I never believed in it until I started to feel it myself.

I'm still going through drawer after drawer of designer underwear -- who knew that Bridie even WORE underpants? -- when I hear the front door open. I go into the living room as Justin and Tess Hardy are coming in. I'm surprised to see Tess, but I'm glad that Justin didn't drive all the way over here by himself. I go over and give Justin a big hug. "Everything will be okay, Cutie. Don't look so glum."

But Justin only shakes his head. "You weren't there, Diane. You didn't hear the questions that cop was asking Brian. Like he already thought Brian was guilty of something!"

"Oh, honey, what happened to Ron was just a horrible accident," I tell Justin. "No one is to blame for something like that!"

"You don't know, Diane!" he says, turning away. "I better get busy and pack some of this shit." Justin pulls back from me and marches purposefully into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

Tess stands there, watching Justin go. She looks pretty somber. Tess is usually dressed to the teeth in designer clothes and her hair is always perfect, but today she's wearing pink sweats, no make-up, and her curly black hair is up in a ponytail. She must have gotten the word about Ron and rushed directly out of her house. "The scene at Ron's place was brutal, Diane," she says.

"Jeez, what the heck happened over there, Tess?"

Tess bites her lip. "Jimmy found the body early this morning and he was hysterical. He called me first thing and he was losing it on the phone. He didn't want to call the police, but I told him that he better do it pronto or else I would! When someone is dead you can't fool around! Right after he hung up with me he started calling Brian and Justin's phones, but he couldn't get through. Finally, Justin turned his cell on -- and Jimmy told him that something was the matter at Ron's place. Brian and Justin got there not that long after the police and the paramedics -- and the cops started in on Brian immediately, I guess. By the time I arrived, Howie Sheldon and his studio goons were already on the scene, 'managing' things."

"I don't think that even Howard Sheldon can spin THIS, Tess!" I say.

"Well, he was sure as hell trying to!" Tess replies. "But then Freddy Weinstein showed up."

"Oh no!" I moan. "Freddy was so close to Ron! He must have been freaking!"

"It was worse than that," Tess answers somberly. "Freddy was ranting and raving! He accused Brian of having something to do with Ron's death. He was totally out of control! Sheldon tossed him out of the house -- but Freddy must have gone straight to the cops, who were still hanging around, and mouthed off some garbage to the detective in charge. Because they came back in -- and took Brian away for further questioning."

When I hear this I get really scared. "I thought they were just questioning Brian as a matter of procedure!"

"They did that at the house -- and they questioned Jimmy, too, and took a statement," says Tess. "But when the police came back after that little chat with Freddy it seemed a lot more serious."

Hearing this really puts the fear of God into me! No wonder Justin is so shaken up.

"Maybe the cops were just trying to look like big shots," suggests Angie, coming out of the kitchen. "You know, it might be a macho thing to arrest a movie star."

"Luckily, they didn't actually arrest Brian. Or they hadn't the last time I heard," Tess adds. "Howie decided to go down to the police station and meet with the studio attorney to see if they could wrangle some kind of deal. You know Howie -- everything is a negotiation with him. But this might be something even Howard Sheldon can't fix."

"Maybe we shouldn't talk about this right now," I say, glancing at the bedroom. Justin is in there and can probably hear every word we're saying.

But Tess just makes a face. "Believe me, Diane, we aren't saying anything that the poor guy hasn't already heard -- and more. You should have heard the filth that was coming out of Freddy Weinstein's mouth! He's a prime asshole! He's always hated Brian and now he's got his chance to get some payback."

"But why would he hate Bridie? I don't understand!" I say. I guess I can't understand anyone hating Brian! He's so dear to me, it just doesn't make sense! Unless it's jealousy? Homophobia? "Brian's never done anything to Freddy! Just because he didn't sign with him as his agent doesn't mean that Freddy should want him arrested! It's ridiculous!"

"I agree, Diane, but Freddy wasn't exactly being rational. If Freddy Weinstein truly believes that Brian MADE Ron into a fag, then he might believe anything! And it could be big trouble for Brian if the authorities believe he gave Ron the drugs that killed him. And there's more," Tess says, hesitating. "Ron changed his will recently and apparently left a lot of money, his house, and most of his stuff to Brian. That could look fishy, too, to someone looking for a motive."

"That's all crazy!" I say. And it is! Brian doesn't need money! He likes nice clothes and everything, but by Hollywood standards he hardly has extravagant tastes and what he buys he can easily afford. Besides, he is no more capable of hurting anyone than Armani! Why, I would say that Justin, as mild mannered as he is, is a lot more likely to do violence to someone than Brian is. Justin has a very tenacious streak in him and I can see him lashing out at anyone who was harming Brian. If Brian was ever really going to clobber Ron, he would have done it a long time ago. Brian mostly seemed to feel sorry for the guy lately. All of his anger towards Ron was pretty much gone.

"Well, it may be crazy," Tess replies. "WE know Brian wouldn't do anything like that. But the reality is that the police took Brian away -- and no one knows what the hell is going to happen now!"

Angie pours Tess a cup of coffee while I go into the bedroom. Justin is going through some of the piles of clothes and things that I started sorting earlier. He looks up at me. His face looks so lost it's breaking my heart!

"I... I don't know how much stuff to bring back to the house, Diane. If... if they keep Brian... down at the... jail for a while, can I bring him some clothes? Or his photos? Or whatever?"

"Baby, they aren't going to keep him. Don't worry about that!" I try to reassure him. "But he'll need something to wear to the funeral. And so will you. I'd just bring what you two need for now. I'm sure you'll both be back in the apartment in a few days."

Justin looks away so I can't see his eyes. "We're supposed to go back to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night -- Christmas Eve. I guess I better pack for that, too. I really don't know when we'll be able to come back to this apartment. Howie Sheldon told me he doesn't want Brian to return here at all. He says it isn't secure."

"Well, Howie is right about that, honey. You have to get out of here. But I don't know if staying at Ron's house is the best solution." I cringe, thinking of having to live in that house for any length of time, even a couple of days. Talk about bad memories!

Justin picks up one of Brian's unworn shirts. "He'll need some ties. To wear with his suits. I better take a couple." Justin opens another drawer where rows of beautiful ties are carefully folded. "Howie Sheldon also said that if what Freddy Weinstein said is true, then it's Brian's house now. And all the cars. And Ron's movies, too."

"That could be true, Justin. I don't know. We'll have to wait for Ron's lawyer and the will and everything. That may take some time."

"Will it be like in a movie?" Justin asks me. "With everyone sitting around, waiting to hear what they got? Like Ron's mother? And his other relatives?"

"I really don't know, Baby, but I kind of doubt that." But the truth is that I don't know what is going to happen.

"Diane, will people really think that Brian would... would kill Ron for a fucking house? For a lousy car? Ron gave him that Mustang and Brian gave it back to him! Brian doesn't want that shit!" Justin says passionately. "How can people think like that... about Brian?"

I put my arms around him. "I don't know, hon, but some jealous people are always willing to believe the worst of anyone. My cousin Walter is down there with Brian right now. I called him the minute I got off the line with you and he dropped everything to rush over there. Tess says that Howie Sheldon and the studio lawyer are down there, too. None of those guys are going to let anything happen to Brian. Walter will call us as soon as they are finished and they tell Brian he can go home. It will all get cleared up right away, I'm sure. Then you guys can go back to Pittsburgh for Christmas and have a great holiday and everything will be a-okay!"

He sniffs a little, but he's otherwise dry-eyed. "I wish I could believe that, Diane," Justin sighs, his voice breaking slightly.

"Let's pack up what you need and get the heck out of here. Brian might already be on his way back to the house. You'll want to be there to meet him, won't you, Cutie?"

"Yes," he says. Sometimes Justin seems like such a grown up and confident man, often much more so than Bridie, but right now he looks about 12 years old. I want to pick him and carry him off to safety somewhere -- but where? Where in the world is there any safety for these two guys? I don't freakin' know!

Justin picks out a selection of suits for Brian, as well as his own good, dark suit, and he lays them in Brian's suit bags. The other fancy suitcases we fill up, too -- Justin decides on things while Angie and I pack them. Tess is out in the living room on the phone, calling Ron's colleagues and checking back with Jimmy at the house. Brian is not back yet. Meanwhile, the afternoon wears away.

Finally Tess has to leave and pick up her daughter Annie at school. "She's really going to be upset about this. Ron spent a lot of vacations and holidays with us over the years. He wasn't exactly kid-friendly, but Annie knew him and she liked him well enough. She's never known anyone who has died before. And if she thinks that anything might happen to Brian..." Tess lowers her voice. Justin and Angie are walking through the living room, carrying some bags down to the car. "If they end up arresting him -- God forbid! -- she'll be devastated."

"Poor kid," I say. Annie won't be the only one who'll be devastated, I think. Not the only one at all!

Tess waits until Justin and Angie come back up from the parking garage before she goes. She gives Justin a long hug. "I'll come over to the house tomorrow, honey. If Howie plans for Ron's family and everyone to go back there after the funeral, then someone will have to call the caterer and hire people for the kitchen and... so many things will need to be done."

"Tess, you don't have to do all this," Justin says forlornly.

"Hey, kid, this is my area of expertise! I'm the 'Perfect Hollywood Wife,' remember?" Tess smiles slightly. "Do you have any idea where Carmel and her mother disappeared to? We could use them right now. They know that house inside and out."

"I don't know, Tess," Justin answers. "There might be something in Ron's address book, but I wouldn't know where they are. Brian didn't know, either."

"That's another thing for my list of 'to do's' for tomorrow, then!" Tess gives kisses all around and then she splits.

Justin gathers up some books and photo albums and puts them in a cardboard box. "Diane, can you come downstairs with me?"

"Sure, Cutie," I say. I pick up some odds and ends and shove them into a Rodeo Drive shopping bag. I follow Justin down to the parking garage, leaving Angie to tidy up the apartment. Justin's PT Cruiser and Brian's Jeep are parked side by side in the garage, with my Lexus pulled up next to the Jeep. Angie is going to take my car, while Justin drives the Jeep and I take the Cruiser back to the house. I'm going to stay at Ron's house with Justin until Brian comes back, while Angie will go to my place to pick up Armani and take him home with her. I don't want poor Armani to be by himself all night!

Justin loads the box into the back of the Cruiser and I add the shopping bags I'm carrying. Then Justin turns to me. "Diane, I want you to... to do something for me."

"Sure, Baby. Anything."

Justin takes out his key and opens the front door of the Jeep. I can see that his hands are shaking. He unlocks the glove compartment. "Diane, there's something I want you to take to your cousin. I... I don't know what to do with it, but I can't keep it here. Especially now...." He retrieves something from the compartment.

"What's that, Justin?"

"It's... Ron's gun." Justin shows it to me. A big black revolver. Jesus! I grew up around guns. My old man was in the military and he had guns all over the house, but they still give me the creeps. This one -- a Smith & Wesson six-shot -- looks evil.

"Honey," I hiss. "What are you DOING with that freakin' thing?"

Justin takes a deep breath. "Brian took it away from Ron. The last night he saw him. Right before Ron... killed himself. Ron threatened Brian with it. I think that Ron meant... meant to kill both of them that night. That's what I think. But Brian took it away... and so Ron used the pills to kill just himself instead. That's what I think happened." Justin stops and stares at the revolver. I stare, too. "Please take it away, Diane. Give it to your cousin. He's Brian's lawyer. He'll know how to hide it. How to get rid of it!"

"My God, Justin. Why didn't Brian tell the police all this stuff?"

Justin coughs nervously. "I don't know. Maybe he has by now. While they were questioning him. But Brian didn't want anyone to know about what Ron tried to do. He's probably still trying to protect Ron, even after he's dead. He's... he's in major denial about everything!"

"No crap!" I exclaim. I go over to my Lexus and pop open the trunk. I have some old towels in there to flick off the dust or wipe off any mud that gets on my beautiful new car. I take out a big old beach towel to wrap the revolver in it. "Is it loaded, Justin?"

He swallows. "It was. Two bullets. But Brian removed them." He reaches back into the glove compartment. "Here are the bullets."

There's a handful of them. I rip off the end of the old towel and tie up the bullets in it. Then I fold the rest of the beach towel around the revolver. I lay the wrapped up gun in the trunk, inside the box with the tire-changing tools. Then I stash the bullets in my own glove compartment and lock it. The last thing I want is for poor Angie to be picked up driving my car with a loaded gun in it! Although Angie is a tough New York girl -- she'd probably deal with it much better than I would! Cops make me a nervous wreck!

"I'll make sure that Walter gets this," I reply. "I'll tell him everything you told me, Justin."

"No!" Justin cries. "Brian told me not to tell anyone! I shouldn't have told YOU, Diane! Just give it to your cousin -- and don't tell him what I said!"

I pull Justin up close to me. "Justin, pay attention. Walter is Brian's lawyer. He has to know this stuff. It could be important! It could be VERY important! What if this gun is the only proof that Ron WAS suicidal? The only proof that he was planning to kill himself before Brian ever went over to his house Wednesday night? It could clear Brian of any suspicion in Ron's death! Understand?" Justin nods, but his mouth is firm. "Is there anything else, honey? Anything you aren't telling me?" Justin hesitates and then shakes his head. There IS more. Justin is the world's worst liar. That adorable face carries every emotion on it openly and I can easily read that he's still hiding something from me. I'd like to kill both of these guys! Brian AND Justin! What AM I going to do with them? "Please, Baby -- just tell me!"

"There's nothing more," he says, his face frozen into a stubborn mask.

"Okay," I say. "But if you change your mind -- call me! Or call Walter. Here's his number." I take out an envelope and write Walter's office and cellphone numbers on it. "Call him, Justin! I mean it!"

Justin puts the number into his pocket. His hand lingers there a moment, like he's going to take something out and show it to me. But he doesn't. "Let's get going," he says instead. And we get ready to return to Ron's House of Dysfunction, which now belongs to Bridie -- for better or for worse.

Continue on to "Shooting Star -- Part 2", the next section.

©Gaedhal, October 2003.

Updated October 13, 2003.