This is Part 2 of Chapter 120 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Shooting Star -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Diane Rhys, Jimmy Hardy, Tess Hardy, Howie Sheldon, Lilith Rosenblum, Angie, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: The fallout on Brian -- and on Justin, too. 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.
Things are finally quiet at the house in the canyon. Everyone has left except for Diane, who is staying here with me so I won't be alone, and the security people keeping the reporters at bay out front. Howie went downtown earlier to meet with the lawyers, and even Jimmy has finally given up his vigil outside the door of Ron's room and gone home to his family. I think Jimmy believes that he'll wake up tomorrow and all of this will be just a bad dream. Yeah, I have that fantasy, too.
Angie stops by with some clothes for Diane and I get to see Armani for a few minutes before Angie heads back to her own place. I've really missed Armani. He yips with pleasure when he sees me and holding him in my lap and stroking him for a few minutes makes me feel a little better. But then I start sneezing and have to put him down. Angie also leaves some food for us. Ron must have been living on bottles of Jim Beam, cans of Diet Coke, and bags of pretzel sticks, since that's about all that was in the house to eat or drink, except for some containers of leftover Thai food and 3 practically empty wine bottles that were sitting open on the sink. Looks like the remnants of his dinner with Brian. I shudder as Diane throws it all into the trash.
I'm starving, but when Diane brings me a plate of the take-out Chinese that Angie brought, I can't eat it. Now I know how Brian feels much of the time. I put a forkful of lo mein into my mouth, but I can barely swallow it. I set the fork back down and Diane eventually takes the plate away.
I'm so fucking hungry, but I can't eat. I'm so fucking exhausted, but I can't sleep. I'm so fucking scared, but there's nothing that can be done about that. Until they let Brian go. Until he's back here with me. Until... I don't know what! That note Ron wrote is still in my pocket. Yes, I'm afraid to read that fucking note. Because I don't know what new disaster it's going to reveal. If I give it to the police it could clear up this whole mess -- or it could put Brian into prison. Because what if Ron blames Brian for everything? What if that's his final revenge? What if... but I can't think about all that now or I'll go nuts!
Diane leads me up into the guest room to try and get some rest. It's the same room where Tess cleaned up Brian's cuts. Diane is going to sleep in the other guest room, the one with the purple and white wallpaper that Ron's mother always stayed in when she visited. And the master bedroom -- that one is closed and I wish it would just disappear forever. I have no idea how anyone can sleep in this fucking house ever again!
But as I lie in bed in the dark, listening to Crowded House on the portable CD player I brought from the apartment, my eyes are so heavy that I find myself drifting off...
"Sleeping on an unmade bed,
Finding out wherever there is comfort
There is pain,
Only one step away,
Like four seasons in one day...."
I was so worried about the nightmares I would have in this house. Nightmares about Ron. About pills and video cameras and hustlers and guns. But instead I dream about Brian. I dream that he's in this bed with me. Holding me. His hand stroking my chest as he moves close up against my back. As his mouth rests against my neck and I feel his long eyelashes brush my cheek. It's so real. As I fall backwards into myself. Into Brian. As I feel his hand move down and stroke my cock, so gently.
And that's when I realize that I'm not asleep anymore. I'm awake. Really awake. And he's right here. Back where he belongs -- next to me. "Brian?"
"Shhh. Don't say anything."
"What happened? What...?"
"Later," he whispers. "Later." And I don't ask anything else. I don't want to know anything else. I just want the two of us to disappear in the darkness. I snuggle deeper into his embrace, finally feeling that I'm in a safer place. I close my eyes again.
When I wake up it's light out. Brian is here, really here. His clothes are in a pile on the floor where he must have dropped them when he came in last night. His face looks so peaceful, the way it always does when he's asleep and free from the mundane world. I get up to use the bathroom very quietly because I don't want to wake him up. Then I get back into bed and push myself up against him. I was scared shitless when they took Brian away, but now I'm even more apprehensive about the future. Because I can't see what is going to happen to us next.
I feel that so many people are against us. It's like practically the entire world wants us to fail and that makes me go all cold inside. I know it's ridiculous, but I feel that sensation so strongly. It's not quite a vision, but something close to that. But they don't only want Brian and I to fail and be apart, there are people out there, like Freddy Weinstein and Jerry Baxter, who literally want to destroy Brian. They hate him! Really hate him! I don't know if it's because he's gay or beautiful or talented -- or just because he exists and they can't have him or they can't be him or they just can't stand that he's in their world. It's like wanting to destroy a beautiful work of art. It's something horrible. Ron loved Brian and even he wanted to destroy him! I don't understand it at all. That kind of hatred terrifies me. Hatred almost destroyed me, but I can't let it get Brian. I won't let it get Brian! I hold on to him even tighter as a feeling of helplessness washes over me like a cold sweat. I feel that I'm this close to losing him.
"What's the matter?" Brian mumbles into my hair. "Don't cry, Justin. I got time off for good behavior."
"Your behavior is never good, Brian, so they must have been looking at your dick," I sniff.
"Maybe you're right." He gets up slowly and goes into the bathroom. I hear the toilet flush and the water go on. He stands in the doorway, wiping his hands on a pink towel. This is the pink guest room, just like the one Ron's mother likes is the purple guest room. Brian told me that Ron was clueless when it came to decor and that this house was the proof of it. But Brian looks so amazing standing there naked, his skin golden in the dawn light. He also looks so thin. And so sad. He gets back into bed, sits back against the headboard, and holds me against him.
"Are you okay, Brian? Is it really all over?"
"Nothing is over, Justin. I'm still under suspicion," he explains. "Parra warned me that I'm not off the hook by any means. They brought in that fucking Dr. Hall for questioning, too. If the cops can take away his nasty little prescription pad they may actually do some good, although it's too late for Ron. As for me -- I don't know what's going to happen, and that's the truth." Brian leans over and pulls his jeans up from the floor. He takes a rumpled pack of cigarettes and a book of matches out of his pocket. "The cops gave me these cigarettes while they were grilling me. Good cop/bad cop, huh?"
I take a deep breath. "Brian, did you tell them about the gun? I gave it to Diane last night and she promised to hand it over to her cousin."
Brian sighs. His hands are shaking slightly as he lights a cigarette. I watch the bright end of it flare as he inhales. "That was probably a good idea. Walter will know what to do with it. If he thinks I should turn it over to the police, then I will. But having that gun would hardly clear me of anything. No one else knows what went on in the house that night. It would be my word against... against nothing! Against a dead man's! Against what I SAY that Ron did and said. How does that help me? How?"
"Because it's the truth?" I say softly. "That must have some meaning. The truth."
"Justin, when are you going to realize that no one in this town is interested in the fucking truth?" Brian says, his voice trembling. "Tell me, is Freddy Weinstein interested in the truth? No! He only knows that his good friend Ron is dead and that he fucking HATES me! That I'm to blame for Ron's death! Freddy is only interested in making sure that everyone knows what a treacherous cocksucker I am -- and what a saint Ron was. You heard him, Justin. He's going to repeat that crap all over this town. And you know how it will play out. Who is going to believe ME anyway, no matter what I say?"
I press my face against Brian's chest. "I don't care about that! And you shouldn't either! If the people here don't believe you, then fuck Hollywood! Fuck this business! We can go back to Pittsburgh and be happy there! Or we can go to London. They don't care about shit like sex scandals or stupid rumors over there. Sir Ken and Dorian will help you. They're on your side. You still have your talent. We can make a new start anywhere, Brian! We don't need Hollywood!"
"I know, Justin, but... it's complicated. So fucking complicated." Brian sighs again and takes another drag on the cigarette. "Right now, like it or not, Howie Sheldon and the studio are calling the shots. When Howie came downtown I know that he made some sort of fucking deal with Parra and the police. That's when they released me -- right after they finished talking to him and the lawyers. I was sitting in the holding cell, getting acquainted with my new surroundings. But then they came in and said I could leave. Just like that. It's possible that Howie traded info about Dr. Hall in exchange for them letting me go."
"What information about Dr. Hall?"
Brian laughs shortly. "His pill peddling. His prescription drug racket! Giving anyone with the cash and an addiction whatever they wanted. Ron and I aren't the only ones who Hall has been 'treating' -- and all with the studio's knowledge! Jimmy is one of his 'patients' and so is Peter Bridges. That's the really cynical part of it. The studio hooked me up with Hall in the first place in order to get me through the filming of 'The Olympian.' Hall gave me painkillers when I was hurting, Xanax when I was anxious, uppers when I was exhausted and needed an extra boost, and sleeping pills when I couldn't come back down. I was a regular Judy Garland on that set. I think that's why I went off the rails and ended up in the Spencer Pavilion. There was so much shit in my system that I couldn't think straight anymore. That's when I thought I'd be better off dead. When I tried to... to purposefully OD. But I fucked that up, too."
My heart lurches in my chest. "Brian, you really could have died then!"
"I know," he replies. "I could have. I wanted to. But I didn't. I lived, strangely enough. Filled up with smack, not to mention all the 'legal' drugs given to me by my eminent psychiatrist. What a fucking joke!" He holds me tighter, remembering. "But what saved me was you, Justin."
I look up. "Me?"
Brian nods. "The trick I picked up that night, the last trick I was ever going to do before my big send-off, he wanted me to say his name while I was fucking him. I bet you can't guess what his name was?"
"Justin?" I reply, my heart thudding loudly.
"That's when I knew that my plan was fucked up. It wasn't going to work. It wasn't meant to work! It was... a kind of sign, I guess. Stupid thought, huh, about such a crazy coincidence?"
"Maybe it wasn't a coincidence, Brian," I say. "Maybe it was like I was there... to save you."
"Then I guess it worked," he answers. "But after that Ron began taking his own share of pills out of my stash because HE couldn't deal with things, either. I think he started doing it when I was in... in Spencer. He couldn't deal with what I'd done any more than I could. That's how it started with him. Dr. Hall was only too happy to oblige Ron with more prescriptions written in my name. So Howie and the other studio geeks are a bunch of fucking hypocrites!"
"That just proves it isn't your fault, Brian!"
"No, Justin," he says, blowing smoke out of his mouth in little rings. "That doesn't mean I'm not at fault. Freddy is right. Ron never took any drugs and never drank very much before he met up with me again. It was... was my fault. Both his and mine. I'm a constant fuck-up. So, I guess I should be grateful that the important Howard Sheldon thinks I'm still worth his trouble to get me off the hook."
I sit up and stare at him. "Brian, you don't need Howie Sheldon to get you off the hook! You don't need the studio to make any deals for you! You had nothing to do with Ron's death! You're innocent!"
But he just gazes back at me sadly. "Then how come I feel so fucking guilty, Justin? How come?"
"I don't know, Brian," I reply, pushing him back on the pillow and taking the cigarette out of his hand. I toss the cigarette butt into a cup of herbal tea that Tess placed on the night stand when she put me to bed last night. "I don't know and I don't care right now! I just care that you're here with me. So just fuck me! Do it now, while there's still time."
And he does.
All Saturday Tess and Diane plan the reception that is scheduled here at the house after the memorial service and burial tomorrow. Tess sits at Ron's desk in his office making calls while Diane confers with her and writes notes on a little pad. Later in the afternoon Angie arrives with Armani and she and Diane start vacuuming and generally straightening up the place. It's pretty obvious that no one has been cleaning the house since Carmel and Maria left, so they have a lot of work to do. I try to help by cleaning up the kitchen, washing dishes and mopping the floor. My busboy training comes in handy again!
Meanwhile, Brian doesn't say much of anything. He sits next to the pool, smoking the last of the cigarette pack and gazing into the water. Armani is ecstatic to see him. The little dog jumps all around, trying to sit in his lap. Finally Brian pulls Armani up, stroking him absently. I put on some soothing music on the system and then try to get Brian to eat something. He must be as sick to his stomach as I've been, because he can't get down more than a mouthful. Then it starts to rain and Brian moves his chair closer to the house, out of the downpour. He and Armani just sit and stare at the rain coming down.
"Poor Bridie," sighs Diane as she and I stand in the kitchen, making pancakes. There isn't a lot in the cupboard, but Diane found some pancake mix and Angie brought milk and eggs, so we're going to have breakfast for dinner. "This whole thing about Ron is hitting him hard. And getting dragged down to the police station didn't help, either, I'm sure. He must feel guilty enough as it is."
"Did you talk to your cousin?" I ask. "I mean, about the... the gun?"
"I talked to him this morning while you guys were still in bed. Walter said he'll take care of it, Justin. But right now he's just waiting for the other shoe to drop."
Diane raises her eyebrows. "Meaning that they could still decide to charge Brian with something. I don't know what, but something. A lot depends on what the Medical Examiner says about the cause of death. Also what Howie Sheldon can strong-arm the cops into doing or not doing."
"Does Howie have that much power that he can really make deals with the police?" I ask, remembering what Brian told me earlier.
"Yes, he does, Honey," answers Diane as she stirs the batter. "And we should probably thank God that he does. Or else Bridie might still be sitting on his beautiful but flat ass in the L.A. County Jail!"
Eventually I hear Brian move inside. It's raining harder now. Armani trots into the kitchen, looking for his dinner and I open a can of food that Angie brought for him. That's why Angie is such a great personal assistant -- she takes care of all the details. While the dog is eating, I go to see if Brian wants any pancakes or scrambled eggs. He's sitting in the living room, on the couch underneath the broken mirror, drinking Jim Beam straight from the bottle. All the glass from the mirror has been cleaned up and it's just the frame and the backing, but I make a mental note to have the thing taken down. It looks creepy hanging on the wall all empty inside.
"Brian," I say quietly. "Give that bottle to me."
"Sure, Sunshine. Have a swig." He holds out the Jim Beam and I take it away. "Hey! Fucking give that back!"
"No! This is no time for you to get drunk, Brian!"
"If not now, then I don't know when, Sunshine!" he says, standing up. He yanks the bottle back and takes another drink. "If you won't join me, then I'll have to be rude and drink alone." He sinks back down on the couch.
"Brian, don't do this! Please?"
He looks up at me bleakly. "I have to, Justin" he says. "That's all I know how to do. Can't you let me alone -- for once? Just let me alone?"
"No, I can't!" I say. "I'll never let you alone, Brian! We're in this together. Don't lose yourself now. It's too important! Don't go backwards when we've come forward so fucking far!"
"Sorry," he mumbles. "Fucking up again." But he lets me take the bottle away. I go out to the trash container next to the garage and shove it in, slamming the lid down tightly. It's raining harder now. I make another mental note to remove the rest of Ron's liquor and have it hauled away with all the other the garbage.
A little later Diane gets a call from her cousin, Walter. They are releasing Ron's body for the burial tomorrow. "That's actually good news, Justin. It probably means that they don't think there's been a crime committed," she says. "Otherwise they'd probably want to investigate further. Walter seemed pretty upbeat."
Tess gets a call, too, from Howie Sheldon. Ron's mother and sisters and their families have arrived in L.A., Lilith Rosenblum from Florida and the others from New York. So the services tomorrow are a definite go. Tess tidies up Ron's desk and gets ready to leave.
"I'll see you in the morning, Justin," Tess says. "Keep a close eye on Brian. I wish you guys weren't staying in this depressing house. Why don't you two come over and stay with us? I know what Howie said about security, but that's when he was comparing this place to your little apartment. And our house is very secure."
I think of spending the evening listening to Jimmy whine about Ron. No thanks. "It's okay, Tess. Diane is here with me. We'll get through."
After Tess leaves Brian and I go upstairs and Brian suggests that I take a long, hot bath. He knows how much I love to relax in the tub. And maybe Brian will even join me. I soak for a long time in the warm water, my eyes closed. I hear Brian moving around the bedroom very quietly. I'm hoping we both get a good night's sleep to face the funeral and all those people tomorrow. But when I come out of the bathroom he's not in the room. Diane, exhausted from cleaning the house and helping Tess plan the reception, is already in bed, asleep. I look out the side window, but it's very dark and the rain is coming down in torrents. I rush downstairs to the kitchen and go into the garage.
The Jeep is gone -- and so is Brian.
Continue on to Page 2 of "Shooting Star -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, October 2003.
Updated October 13, 2003.