SOLITARY MAN

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 63 of the "Queer Realities" series.

The narrators are Emmett Honeycutt and Lindsay Peterson, and features Michael Novotny, Brian Kinney, Melanie Marcus, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: How do you solve a problem like Brian Kinney?
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit.

Michael calls me from the store and he's almost incoherent. I listen for a few minutes before I interrupt him.

"Michael! First, take a Valium," I instruct him. "Then repeat everything you just said in the past five minutes, because I couldn't understand a single word!"

Michael pauses and catches his breath. I can hear him wheezing on the other end of the phone.

"That's it!" I encourage. "Take nice deep breaths."

"I am," he gasps. "I'm trying!"

"That's much better!" I enthuse. "Now -- you were saying?"

But when he tells me, I wish I hadn't heard it.

Long story short: Brian, Justin, Dylan Burke, total freak out. Then Brian, Michael, nasty scene in Red Cape Comics. Result: Michael on the phone to me, hyperventilating.

"What am I going to do?" he moans again and again. "Tell me, Em!"

"What are you supposed to do?" I say. "Nothing! I think you should step away from this train wreck. Turn around and walk briskly in the other direction. In other words -- stay the hell out of it! This is Brian's problem and there's no way you can ever do the correct thing. The Great God Kinney is looking for someone to blame for his relationship fuck-up -- and you're IT!"

"But he's right, Em," Michael whines. "I didn't tell him about Justin and that other kid. I let him get blindsided. I knew what was happening, but I didn't say anything and let him walk right into it!"

"Listen, sweetie," I remind him. "Brian Kinney would be the first person to tell you that other people's sex lives are their own business. Remember when Brian saw David at the baths? He didn't exactly run right over to tell you all about it, did he?"

"Thanks for bringing that up, Em!" Michael spits into the receiver. "Thanks a fucking lot!"

"I'm not trying to upset you, honey," I retort. "I'm simply pointing out the truth. Brian Kinney has always been of the school of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' -- and it has nothing to do with the Army!"

"What do you think Justin is going to do now?" Michael asks. "Brian kicked him out of the loft. You think he's going to move in with his new boyfriend?"

I think about the last time I saw Justin and Dylan at Babylon. Justin in the backroom with his cargo pants around his ankles and Dylan moping at the bar like there was nothing he could do about it. That so-called relationship is no relationship at all, in my humble opinion. As I told Michael, it's a fucking train wreck!

"I have no idea what Justin will do," I reply. "But whatever happens will be all over Liberty Avenue within five minutes. And you can take that to the bank!"

I spend a few more minutes trying to calm Michael down. Then a customer comes into his store and he signs off.

As soon as I get off the phone with Michael I call Justin's cell number. But he's got the thing turned off. It figures that he doesn't want to talk to anyone right now. But he should talk to someone. Preferably a licensed professional. Because that boy needs some heavy-duty therapy. Like, yesterday!

Brian and Justin! I'd love to take the two of them and thump their pretty little stubborn heads together like a pair of coconuts! Booooing! Maybe that would knock some sense into them. Or maybe not.

My phone chimes 'People' and I think that maybe Justin is actually calling me back.

But it's a client. Dinner party for ten. The client's hubby's 40th birthday. Theme: Spring, of course! Medallions of beef tenderloin with asparagus for the main course. And Vic is making a special dark chocolate concoction for dessert. Delish!

However, the woman is beginning to panic. The party is next Saturday, May 3rd, and there are a hundred little details she wants to double-check.

"Yes, Mrs. Acton, I have everything under control," I reassure her. "Trust Emmett Honeycutt. It will beperfect. Just perfect." I massage her ego for about ten more minutes and then let her go.

Now she's happy. I'm in charge. Nothing I can't handle with my eyes closed.

If only everything was that easy.

***

"Brian!"

I'm so surprised to see him standing there at the door. Surprised and delighted.

"Hey, Lindz," he says. His voice sounds a little raspy. He leans over and kisses me on the cheek.

"Why didn't you let me know you were coming? I thought you were..." I pause, not certain how to put it. "Still out of town."

"You mean still in rehab?" Leave it to Brian to insist on the truth. But that's what I love about him. No excuses. No apologies. "I got out yesterday. So I rushed right over to see you." He smiles shyly.

"You look wonderful, Brian!" And I mean that sincerely. His face doesn't have that drawn look it had the last time I saw him. He looks strong. Handsome. Like my old Brian. "Come in! Mel and Gus should be home from the mall shortly."

"Great," he says, following me into the living room. "I'm anxious to see Gus." He takes something out of the pocket of his leather jacket. "I brought something for him. It's not anything big. I haven't had a chance to go shopping yet."

It's a toy car. "Oh, Brian, I'm sure he'll love this. Gus is obsessed with cars and trucks."

"It's a Matchbox car. A Mustang." Brian holds it in his hand and gazes at it. "It was mine when I was a kid. I was going through my dresser and I found a bunch of old stuff. I thought Gus might like it."

"I'm sure he will." I take Brian's jacket and hang it on the hook. "Isn't this weather heavenly?"

"Yeah," he says, sitting on the sofa. "Heavenly."

"Where's Justin?" I ask. "He must be very busy. Don't classes at the Institute end next Friday?"

"I guess so," he says shortly. "Justin is... He didn't come with me."

"Why not?" I frown. "He loves to come and visit with Gus. But he hasn't been over to see him and the baby in weeks."

"Like you said -- he's busy." Brian gives me that closed-up look. That's the end of this discussion. Period. But something is wrong. Definitely wrong.

"It's almost time for Charity to get up from her nap," I say. "I'll go upstairs and get her, okay?"

"Please," he says.

I bring the baby down. She's a little fussy from being woken up, but then all little babies are fussy. Gus was much, much worse. He was colicky and used to spike a high fever for no reason. That drove me crazy! I remember the time Mel and I rushed him to the hospital in the middle of the night and they wouldn't let Melanie into the examining room with me. That was horrible. But thank God Gus was all right.

I put Charity into Brian's arms. She's beautiful, if I do say so myself. When Gus was a baby, he was beautiful, too, but boyishly beautiful. Charity is lovely in a very feminine way. She's delicate and dainty. And while Gus has hazel eyes, like Brian, Charity has my brown eyes. Brian and I have two amazing children -- and that isn't only a mother's boasting!

She reaches out and touches Brian's face, as if memorizing him. That makes my heart jump with happiness. I want Brian to be connected to his children. Not only to Gus, but to Charity as well. I want him in their lives, always. The fact that he's far away from Pittsburgh so much of the time concerns me. He needs to settle down. Rehab was a beginning, but he needs to do so much more. He and Justin should buy a house here in Pittsburgh. Somewhere not too far from me and Mel. That way he can see the kids regularly. We can all do things as a family. Together. That would be the best thing in the world for Brian -- and also for Gus and Charity. And it would make me happy, too. Very, very happy.

"She's so fucking small," Brian marvels. "Was Gus ever this small?"

I have to laugh. "She's only a month old! And she's already grown quite a lot. Before we know it, she'll be toddling around the house!"

"Jesus," Brian says. "Things happen so fucking fast."

I sit next to him on the sofa. "I know. It seems like only yesterday we were at Penn State. And then I was in grad school at Carnegie Mellon and you were starting out at Ryder. We've been together longer than a lot of married couples I know."

"Yeah," Brian replies blandly. "And so have Mikey and I. But that doesn't make us some fucking married couple."

"I was only making an analogy, Brian." He gets so touchy about certain things!

"Whatever the fuck," he whispers. "Relationship are fucked up. It doesn't matter whether you're married, or shacked up, or just fucking. It's all a disaster."

I touch his arm. "Brian, what's the matter? You can confide in me. Did something happen between you and Justin? Did you come home and immediately have a fight?"

"A fight?" he sniffs. "What's there to fight about? Justin's found a new boyfriend. And that's all she wrote."

"A new boyfriend?" I look closely at Brian, hoping that he's joking. But I can tell by the pain in his eyes that he's not. "I can't believe it!"

"Why not?" says Brian. "Wasn't it inevitable? That he'd wise up. That he'd realize he has his whole fucking life ahead of him. So why tie himself down to someone a decade older? Someone with more baggage than a fucking 747. Someone... like me."

"This can't be true!" I insist. "Justin is devoted to you! He always has been. Even when you... when you were perhaps less than considerate of his feelings."

"You mean why would he keep loving me when I was a complete asshole to him?" Brian snaps. "Only to stab me in the fucking back just when I was getting my life together?" He stops and blinks, like he's trying not to let his emotions run away with him. "I have no fucking idea. Payback, maybe. Fucking Fate. But better that it happened now. This way I can make a fresh start. I'm leaving soon to start my new film. And I'm planning to use the time until then to settle my affairs here in the Pitts. Then I can make a clean beginning out in L.A."

That startles me. "What do you mean, Brian? Settle your affairs? That sounds so permanent!"

"It IS permanent, Lindz." Brian stares down at Charity, his face full of conflict. "I'm going to sell the building. Get rid of the Jeep. Cut my ties to this fucking town. That way I won't be dragged down by my past. By all my mistakes. I won't be constantly reminded of... of everything."

"Brian, don't make any rash decisions! Please!" I urge. "Don't burn your bridges before you know what's on the other side!"

"I'm sorry, Lindz," he shakes his head. "I won't forget Gus and the baby. I'll still send money for things they need. And I'll make sure their trust fund is the first thing I take care of every time I get paid for something. But it's better this way. You and Mel are their parents. It's better that I butt out of their lives, especially while they're young. I don't want them confused. Especially Gus."

"They won't be confused!" I tell Brian. "And Gus will need you more than ever as he gets older! He'll need a male role model."

"Let Mel do it," he answers. "She's got the bigger balls -- if not the bigger prick."

"Lindz! We're home!" The door opens and Melanie and Gus come in.

Gus races into the living and sees Brian. "Daddy!" he shrieks. "Daddy! Daddy!"

"Careful, Sonny Boy," he says, as Gus leaps on the sofa and tries to climb into Brian's lap -- right on top of his little sister.

I take Charity into my arms and stand up. Gus is practically bursting with happiness to see his father.

"Hello, Brian," says Mel, coolly. She glances at me in a strange way.

"Melanie." Brian nods. But he and Gus are wrapped up in each other. "Look what I've got for you, Sport." He takes out the little metal car. "It's a Matchbox car. A Mustang. Just like your Old Man has out in California."

"Mine?" asks Gus, grabbing it gleefully.

"Yup," says Brian, smiling at his son. "All yours."

But Melanie frowns. "I don't think so. You better give me that, Gus, honey." She reaches out her hand to take it.

"No!" says Gus, clutching the toy car in his little hand.

"What's wrong with it?" Brian glares at Mel and then at me. "Why can't he have it?"

"It's too small," states Mel. "Gus might choke on it. Or the baby might get a hold of it and put it in her mouth."

"Mel...." I try to warn her.

"Bullshit!" Brian blasts. "I had a dozen of these Matchbox cars when I was a kid. Gus won't choke on the thing! He's not a fucking idiot!"

But Melanie scowls back. She's spoiling for a fight, but I have no idea why. "Listen to me, Brian -- I'm Gus' parent, not you! I'll decide what he can have and what he can't have. And I say he can't have it. End of discussion. I also ask that you please stop using offensive language in front of OUR children. Not YOUR children, but Lindsay's and mine!"

Brian looks like he's been slapped. But then his face goes blank. The mask goes back into place and my heart breaks.

"Sure, I'll stop," he says. He moves Gus off his lap and stands up. "I'll get lost. You won't have to listen to my language or look at my fucking face again." Brian leans down to kiss Gus. "I have to go, Sonny Boy. I'll see you another time. Maybe your Mommy can bring you over to the loft once more before I leave town."

"NO!" Gus wails. "Daddy!"

Brian gently brushes Charity's delicate forehead with his finger. "Sorry, Lindz. Bye." Then he's gone from the room. He grabs his leather jacket off the hook and is out the door before I can say another word.

Gus runs after Brian, crying. And Charity starts to cry, too, as if in sympathy with her big brother. I try to soothe both of them, to little avail.

I turn to Melanie. "What the hell did you do that for?" I demand, trying to keep my anger in check. "Brian came over here to see the kids!"

But Mel stands her ground. "That toy is dangerous. Brian Kinney can't come into this house and do whatever the fuck he wants to do -- even if YOU let him! These are OUR children and I'M your partner -- not Brian! So I expect you to back me up!"

I count to ten. Then another ten. I don't want a confrontation with Mel. Not now. Not today. So I speak to her slowly and carefully so I won't start screaming. "Brian wanted to see Gus and the baby. And I want him to see the kids as often as possible. He's trying, Mel, he really is! He just got out of rehab and... and he has some other problems, too, on top of that. I would think you'd be a little more compassionate. He told me that he and Justin have broken up again. He says Justin has another boyfriend, but, frankly, I can't believe it."

Mel rolls her eyes and gives me a look that seems almost like pity. "It's true, Lindz. Justin does have a new boyfriend." She turns and walks into the kitchen.

"What?" I follow her, stunned. "You knew about this? And you didn't tell me! How did you know?"

Mel opens the fridge and takes out some juice. "Dusty told me."

I'm floored. "Dusty? How did SHE know?"

Mel shrugs. "I have no fucking clue. Ted told me about it, too. He got the news from Emmett. Everyone on Liberty Avenue knows, Lindz. Brian must have done something really rotten to Justin, and that poor kid finally had enough. I don't blame him for finding someone else. I think it's the best possible thing that could have happened. The last person Justin needs screwing up his life is Brian-The-Whole-Fucking-World-Revolves-Around-Me-Kinney."

I want to tell Mel that she's full of shit, but that'll definitely start a fight. Another horrible fight. Melanie and I seem to be having a lot of those lately. So I clasp Charity tightly against my breast and walk away from her. Back into the living room.

Gus is sitting on the rug, still holding the toy car in his hands. He looks up at me sadly.

"Daddy?" he asks.

***

I LOVE Karaoke Night. Love, love love it!

Sundays used to be kind of blah. I'd get up, go to Mass, call Michael, do my laundry, call Teddy, do the dishes -- usually a week's worth -- call Michael again, eat dinner, and then call Teddy to find out if he wanted to go out. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't. In other words, the same old yada yada yada.

But ever since they hired Tommy to do Karaoke Night at Woody's, Sundays are a blast! And it doesn't hurt that Tommy is a hottie who knows EVERY song ever recorded, especially those from the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. So when Tommy steps up to the microphone and asks, "Who's ready for Karaoke?" I'm always the first one who jumps up and cries, "I am!"

My specialty, of course, is Barbra. Barbra Shall Have No Others Before Her! But I must also say that I do a bitchin' Aretha, not to mention a rip-roaring Reba. Emmett Honeycutt is nothing if not versatile -- at least on stage!

At 4:30 Vic and Tim pick me up and we head over to St. Christopher's. St. Chris's is a tiny church on the North Side. Very low-key. Very progressive. And the only Catholic Church in the area to have a special Mass for gays and lesbians at 5:00 every Sunday afternoon. Vic and Tim are both members of Dignity, the gay Catholic organization, but I'm not. After my experience with See the Light I'm not into joining things, not even something pro-queer. But I do like to go to the Dignity Mass at St. Chris's. I love the statues and the smell of incense. I love Father Pete, who is as cute as a bug! And I love the singing. It gets me all revved up for Karaoke Night! I know I'm not the smoothest singer in the world, but at least I'm loud and enthusiastic!

I sit with Vic, Tim, and another friend of theirs, Rodney, who's also a member of their Poz group. A lot of the guys who come to the Mass at St. Chris's are Poz guys. I keep expecting to see Ben Bruckner here because most of the men are friends of his, too. But Ben's already a Jewish Buddhist, so I guess adding Catholic to the mix might be too confusing even for a professor!

Every time I think about Michael living with David I have to shake my head. I have no idea what that boy is thinking, but it's SO wrong! On paper David looks like a dreamboat -- rich, handsome, great body, and a doctor. But once you get on board you realize that instead of setting sail on the Good Ship Lollypop, you've actually landed on the Titanic! And that's not Celine Dion singing either, sweetie! But there's no talking to him about his rekindled relationship with the good Dr. Dave. I'm afraid poor Michael is going to hit that iceberg full force -- for the second time!

After Mass is over I ask Tim and Vic to drive me to Woody's. "Why don't you gentlemen join me for Karaoke Night? Loads of fun and the price is right -- Free!"

Vic laughs. "Maybe next week, Em."

"But you say that every week!" I wheedle. "Come on! It'll be fun!" Then I turn to Tim. "If you come with me I'll buy the first round of drinks! Virgin Cosmos all around!" I lean over to Tim. "If you sing, I promise to go to Confession this week. And actually tell Father Pete the truth for once!"

But Tim only shakes his head. "It's not working, Em. Give it up."

"At least I tried," I sigh. I wish Tim and Vic would come with me to Woody's. Tim has a beautiful tenor voice and he'd wow them at Karaoke. But Vic says their days of hanging out at bars is over for good. That's what happens when you get partnered up -- you'd rather stay home and cuddle.

The boys drop me on Liberty Avenue and I stop at the diner to get some supper before I trot down the street to Woody's. It's quiet on Sunday. The special is pot roast, so I load right up. And a nice piece of cherry pie for dessert. Yum!

Tommy is just setting up when I sashay into Woody's. "I've got some new stuff for tonight, Em." He shows me a box of tapes. "The Carpenters. Marvin Gaye. And this one is my favorite -- Neil Diamond."

"Oh, goody! I want to do 'Song Sung Blue'! And maybe 'We've Only Just Begun'!"

"You got it, Em."

The new stuff goes over great. Tommy is a fabulous master of ceremony. I start off with both 'Song Sung Blue' and 'Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.' Some people think Neil Diamond is a bit over the top, but not in a gay bar. Nothing is over the top at Woody's! I especially get into 'Brother Love.' It reminds me of my carefree days in Hazelhurst.

"'Pack up the babies, And grab the old ladies, And everyone goes, 'Cause everyone knows, 'Bout Brother Love's Show'!" I howl. So what if I'm a tad off-key? It's the spirit that matters. And I have plenty of spirit!

After taking my bows, I sit down and check my watch. Teddy said he might stop by, but he doesn't show. That's typical of Teddy these days. He has other 'friends' -- and I use the term loosely -- and other priorities. If Ted isn't careful, he's going to be in big trouble! That is, if he's not in big trouble already with Lady Crystal and her nasty pals!

And that makes me think of someone else in trouble. Justin. I've left four messages on his cell since I talked to Michael yesterday afternoon, but he hasn't called me back yet. I'm hoping that he's staying at his mother's or with his friend, Daphne. That would be the best thing for him. I hope he hasn't moved in with that Dylan. That would be a catastrophe! Justin needs some space to think. And he needs someone to talk to. He should have seen a therapist after he was bashed, that's what Tim says. The longer you wait, the worse your problems get. All the things you've been running away from only dig themselves deeper and deeper inside you, making it harder to get to the bottom of them.

There's something about that Dylan I don't trust. Maybe Brian Kinney isn't the world's best boyfriend, but Dylan Burke certainly isn't any improvement. I guess poor Justin is fated to fall for the beautiful bad boys. And that means nothing but heartbreak!

Donald, who has a pretty nice voice and a lot of feeling, gets up and begins singing one of my favorite Neil Diamond numbers -- with a few minor changes, of course!

"Johnny was mine
'Til the time
That I found him
Holding Jim,
Loving him.

Then Drew came along,
Loved me strong,
That's what I thought.
Me and Drew,
But that died too.

Don't know that I will
But until I can find me
A guy who'll stay
And won't play games behind me,
I'll be what I am,
A solitary man.
Solitary man!"

Speak of the devil, but as I'm listening to the music and thinking about Justin, who should stride into Woody's but the Top Dog of Bad Boys himself -- Brian Kinney!

Every head turns to look at him and the comments surge through the place. "That's Brian Kinney!" "I'd fuck him in a heartbeat!" "I thought he was out in Hollywood?" "He's been in rehab. I heard it from someone who knows." "I wonder if he's looking for his twink? He better check out Babylon's backroom!"

Brian stands for a moment, his eyes searching the room. Maybe he really is looking for Justin? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I hope the kid isn't actually over at Babylon in the backroom or there'll be hell to pay when Brian discovers him!

But then Brian sees me -- and comes right over! And I can tell by his expression that he's NOT a happy camper.

"Brian!" I pull out a chair for him. "Sit down. You're just in time for Karaoke Night. Tommy is doing a Neil Diamond Extravaganza! Do you like Neil Diamond?" And I smile at him the same way you'd smile at a rabid dog who's got you trapped in a corner.

"Do I look like a fucking moron?" he replies, looming over me.

"Not everyone is a Neil Diamond fan," I swallow. "More's the pity."

"You and your fucking big mouth!" he barks. "Have you been running all over town, spreading lies about Justin? Tell me the fucking truth!"

My mouth hangs open in disbelief. "Me?" I squeak. "I don't know what you mean!"

Brian leans over and grabs the front of my new hot pink shirt, crushing the satin between his strong fingers. "You told Michael that Justin has been getting fucked in the backroom at Babylon, didn't you? And you've told other people, too! You've been spreading that fucking story all over Liberty Avenue, haven't you? Well, Emmett, you better shut the fuck up! Because it's a fucking lie!" His voice rises until it's louder than the music and everyone in Woody's can hear him quite clearly. Which is exactly his intention, I believe. "And if I hear you -- or anyone else -- repeating it, I'll make you sorry your nelly ass was ever born! Got it?"

"Yes, Brian," I nod like a bobble-head doll. "Got it. Now will you kindly release my new shirt?"

He lets go and stands up straight. Donald has stopped singing, but the backing track to 'Solitary Man' keeps playing. Everyone is staring -- and who wouldn't be? Brian Kinney is the biggest drama queen ever to hit the Pitts and he's proving it right now!

"What the fuck is everybody looking at?" Brian snarls.

All eyes immediately snap in a different direction. Up on the stage, Donald puts the microphone back up to his lips, but he's lost track of where he is in the song. "I'll be what I am -- a solitary man!" he finishes limply. But the music has already stopped.

And when I look around I find that Brian Kinney has left the building.

***

"...I've had it to here
Bein' where
Love's a small word,
Part-time thing,
Paper ring.

I know it's been done,
Havin' one
Guy who'll love me,
Right or wrong,
Weak or strong.

Don't know that I will
But until I can find me
The guy who'll stay
And won't play games behind me,
I'll be what I am,
A solitary man.
Solitary man."

(Neil Diamond)

Continue on to "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today".

©Gaedhal, January 2006.

Posted January 21, 2006.