THE AIR THAT I BREATHE

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 71 of the "Queer Realities" series.

The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Dorian Folco, Professor Minton, Professor McHenry, Marshall Meyers.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin gets news from many sources. Pittsburgh, May 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit.

I'm only half awake when I feel a movement, then an absence in the bed. But I roll over and fall back to sleep for a while. When I finally open my eyes I focus on the alarm clock. 8:00 a.m., Thursday morning.

"Brian?" I yawn. My back and legs feel stiff from last night. "What's up? Why did you get up so early?"

He's taking a jacket and pants out of the closet. "I'm going to head over to Ryder and see if I can talk to Marty before Gardner Vance's SWAT Team descends on the place and imposes Martial Law. I heard Cynthia's take on this corporate coup, now I want to hear what Marty has to say." He takes out a shirt and considers it. Puts it back. Selects another. "I have a couple of other errands to run, too, before Gus comes for the weekend."

I sit up. "I almost forgot about Gus. When is Lindsay bringing him over?"

"She's dropping him off after pre-school tomorrow and we have him until Sunday." Brian hangs the chosen shirt on the edge of the closet. "What are you going to do today?"

I almost give him a smartass answer about lying around the loft and smoking his dope, but think better of it. "I'm going to unpack those boxes. I need to decide what I'm going to take with me to L.A."

"Good idea," Brian says. "And bring stuff for the location shoot, too. Think 'cowboy.' Sturdy and simple. It's going to be hot and dusty out there."

I shake my head. "I don't have a lot of cowboy clothes -- except for my riding crop!"

Brian snorts. "That's English-style, not Western, twerp! Anyway, you have jeans. And riding boots. Just bring clothing that's easy to clean. I know we'll have a trailer with a small shower and a toilet, but I don't know if there will be a decent washing machine. Or dry cleaning. The nearest town will probably be miles away and who knows how big it is or what kind of facilities it has?"

Leave it to Brian. He's going on location for a big movie and he's obsessing about dry cleaning! "Will we really be going to Cowboy Camp before the shoot begins? Will we sleep in tents and cook over a fire?" I've never been a huge fan of cowboy movies, but the thought of going to camp with Brian and watching him act all big and butch riding horses with Clint Eastwood and Patrick Swayze gets me pretty excited.

"I'll be the one going to Cowboy Camp," Brian corrects me. "You'll be the one staying in the trailer -- out of the way and safe!"

"But it sounds like fun! We could sleep in the same sleeping bag," I pout. I look cute when I pout. But Brian isn't buying it.

"Listen, brat," Brian says. "We're all going to be riding some unfamiliar horses and herding a bunch of bad-tempered and very large cattle. If you get thrown from your horse you could end up with a hoof up your ass! It's not a place to fool around. It's not supposed to be fun -- it's work. The rest of those actors have done these kinds of films before -- most of them can ride better than they can walk! I'm going to be the one who has a lot to learn so I don't look like a fucking idiot. And I don't want to have to be worrying about you when I should be looking out for myself."

"I get it," I reply. "I guess I'll just hang out at the chuckwagon and help pass out the beans!"

"Sounds like a plan." Brian goes to take his shower and I pad down to the kitchen to get some of the coffee that he's already made. My throat is a little sore and the warm coffee feels soothing. While I'm drinking, I survey the boxes. I'll unpack mine first, and then start on Brian's. I also need to change the sheets on Gus's air mattress.

Brian comes down looking great. Very 'business casual' -- brown trousers with a dark blue blazer, ivory shirt, no tie. He looks hot.

"I should be back around noon -- unless Marty wants to treat me to a meal. Which I doubt." Brian checks the clock in the kitchen. "Do you need the Jeep this afternoon?"

"Well, I need to go to PIFA and pick up my video from Professor Minton. And my Graphics portfolio from Professor McHenry. But I can do that anytime before we leave for L.A."

"Do it today or tomorrow," says Brian. "I'm not certain what day we're flying out next week. It depends on when Dorian needs me for costume fittings. I don't want you queening out because you have a million things to do at the last minute."

I almost spit out my coffee. "Me? Queening out? Pot, kettle, black, Brian!"

"Yeah, I know," he admits as he checks himself in the full-length mirror. "Perfect, as usual."

I set down my cup and cough. And then I cough again. "Excuse me. Tickle in my throat."

Brian frowns. "I heard you coughing last night, too. Are you getting a cold?"

"I don't think so," I say truthfully. "Maybe it's my allergies."

"I've never heard you cough with your allergies," says Brian. "You usually sneeze and your eyes get all red."

"It's nothing," I tell him. "Really. My head doesn't feel at all congested. I've been taking my medication."

"Okay," Brian says. "But take care. I'm not dragging you on location if you're sick."

I roll my eyes. "Yes, Mom!"

Brian throws me an exasperated look and takes off. I shower and then get busy going through the boxes. So much stuff. I have a lot more clothes than I thought. Some of it is stuff I'll never wear again -- old hoodies and worn tee shirts and a couple of pairs of battered Nikes. So I sort things out into piles -- clothes to leave at the loft, clothes to take to L.A., and clothes to discard. I also note what might be suitable to bring on location and put those in the L.A. pile. I wonder how big the trailer will be? Will we really be out in the middle of the desert or will it be more like a movie set? I was around a lot when Brian filmed 'Hammersmith,' but this will be very different. They're only doing a small part of it in the studio, with the rest at locations in Texas and Arizona.

Around 11:00 the loft phone rings and I answer it. It's Dorian calling from New York. "I take it that Brian isn't there. Or are you screening his calls?"

"He's over at Ryder talking to his old boss," I say. "You want to call his cell?"

"No, I'm getting on a plane for Los Angeles in a few minutes. I just flew in from London and thought I'd remind Brian that he needs to be at the studio first thing on Monday the 19th -- no excuses! He has costume fittings and make-up tests to complete before we leave for Arizona." Dorian pauses. "I'm a little surprised to hear your voice, Justin. Brian said the two of you had a bit of a dust-up after the video shoot."

"We did," I acknowledge. "But everything is fine now. In fact, I was just going through my clothes, trying to decide what to take on location. Do you know how big the trailer is going to be? Does it have a double bed? And a washing machine?"

"The trailer will be splendid, I assure you. Not as big as Eastwood's, surely, but big enough for the two of you. And it will have all the amenities. That's in Brian's contract!" Dorian laughs. "Oh, I meant to ask how your video turned out?"

"Great," I say. "But you already know that, Dorian, since you talked to Richard -- and offered him a job."

"Well, yes," Dorian answers. He sounds slightly flustered. "I merely offered him an internship, not a job. But he is a talented young man. He'll do well working with Mark Carson. Mark is a film school graduate, too. From NYU."

"I'm happy for Rich," I tell him. "And I'll bring a copy of the video to show you."

"Thank you, Justin," says Dorian. "I have to board soon, so tell Brian I'll call him tomorrow. Oh, by the way, have you heard the news? It's front page on the 'New York Post' this morning. It was the first thing I saw when I stepped off the plane from London!"

"What news?" I ask. "Should I turn on CNN?"

"Better to tune in the E Network!" Dorian guffaws. "Howie Sheldon is undoubtedly screaming into a telephone at this moment working on damage control for Terra Nova's big summer release, 'Crash Course'!"

"'Crash Course'? Isn't that the movie Jimmy was making in Toronto? What the hell happened?"

"It is Jimmy's new picture," says Dorian. "And his co-star, Chuckie Ranger, was arrested last evening on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. He was parked near a particularly infamous gay bar and being orally serviced by a young lady who was -- how shall I put it? -- not exactly what she appeared to be!"

"Shit!" I exclaim. "Are you kidding me?"

"No, I am not," Dorian continues gleefully. Apparently Chuckie Ranger is not a popular guy in Hollywood, to say the least! "He was in the midst of being blown by a tranny hooker when they were interrupted by the authorities. She told the police that Mr. Ranger was one of her regular customers! Their mug shots are on the front page of the 'Post' with the headline, 'That Was NO Lady!'"

"Wait until I tell Brian!" I say. "He'll die laughing! He told me that Chuckie Ranger was an asshole to him when they were all on 'Letterman.'"

"This will certainly give the gossip columnists plenty to chew over for the next few weeks," Dorian comments. "And it may be the best publicity Howie will get on the film, since the word is out that 'Crash Course' is a dog! But I must ring off, Justin. Ta for now."

I turn on the television and catch the headline crawl on CNN about Chuckie and the tranny. It's too funny to think of the homophobic Chuckie Ranger 'caught in the act'!

Brian finally comes home around 2:00. He's shaking his head. "Fucking Marty Ryder!" he exclaims.

"What now?" I ask. "Did you have lunch with him?"

"Yeah, we had lunch," he says, taking off his jacket and kicking off his shoes. "He's taking Gardner Vance's big payoff and going on permanent vacation -- and leaving all his employees in the lurch. And when I say Marty's leaving -- I mean tomorrow!"

"Tomorrow?" I frown. "But Cynthia said they only got the word yesterday!"

"They did," Brian agrees. "And Vance's yes-men were already there when I arrived, kicking people out of their offices and locking down the computer system. The fucking place was like an anthill that someone kicked! Luckily Cynthia took all her files and personal stuff home with her last night -- at my suggestion. But everyone else was standing around with their mouths open. Jesus, what a scene!"

"Why did Ryder do this? What did he say?" I follow Brian up to the bedroom as he strips off his good shirt and pants and puts on a pair of worn jeans.

"Not fucking much," he says. "Except that the money Vance offered was too good to pass up -- so he didn't. Thank God I got out of there when I did or I'd be in there kissing Vance's fake limey ass with the rest of them!"

"I'm glad, too. Everything's worked out okay, hasn't it, Brian?"

"Yeah, it has." He pulls me into a hug and I feel him kiss my hair. "I almost forgot. Bring up my jacket."

I go down, pick his blazer off the sofa, and bring it back to the bedroom. "Here, let me hang it up for you so it won't get wrinkled."

"Wait," he says. Brian reaches into the pocket and pulls out a small box.

"What's that?" I ask.

"This." He opens the box and I see the red heart charm resting on some white cotton. Brian takes it out. A new gold chain is hanging from the loop. "The old chain got broken somehow, so I needed to get a new one." He hands it to me. "You want to do the honors?"

He leans his head down and I put the chain around his neck, closing the clasp. It rests just belowthe hollow of his throat.

"I made sure it was the right length," he says, fingering it.

"It looks perfect." And I mean that. Perfect. Then I take a deep breath. "Can I have my slave bracelet back?"

Brian raises his eyebrows. "In the dresser. Top drawer."

I go over and open the drawer. It's right on top of his cufflink box. I rub the empty spot on my right wrist where Brian angrily yanked it off. I've missed the feel of it. The regular weight of it. But now that spot won't feel empty anymore.

I take the bracelet over to Brian and give it to him. He looks at the twisting strands of metal. "Remember the day I bought this?"

"Of course. I used to think about London every time I touched it."

"We'll go back there," he says. "I promise."

"And stay at the Chatterton?" I smile.

"Why not?" He smirks. "We'll even ask for the Bordello Room again, if that's what you want."

"Yes!" I laugh. "I love that room!"

"What was it that Sir Kenneth said? That the Chatterton is the perfect place for a dirty weekend?" Brian pulls my tee shirt over my head.

"Wherever we are is the perfect place for a dirty weekend," I remind him. "Or a dirty weekday. Or a dirty holiday. Or..."

"Okay!" Brian puts his hand over my mouth. "I get it!" Then he walks me backwards to the bed and we both fall down on it, Brian on top of me.

We're just getting to the good stuff when my cellphone begins to chime.

"Shit," Brian breathes. "Fuck Alexander Graham Bell!"

"That reminds me," I say, untangling myself from Brian's arms. "Dorian called from New York this morning."

"Maybe that's him again."

"I doubt it. He was about to catch a flight to L.A."

"So why are you answering the fucking phone NOW?" Brian gripes as I roll off the bed.

"Because it might be important. Like it might be my mom and she's already mad at me." I grab my pants off the floor and pull my cell out of the pocket. "It's Marshall." I hit the button. "Hey, what's up?"

"Justin? Where are you?" His voice sounds far away.

"Speak up, I can hardly hear you," I tell him. "I'm at the loft."

"I figured," Marshall says. "I was at the Video Festival and saw Brian there. I heard his speech. It was great. I'm glad everything worked out between you guys."

"So am I. So, what's up? I'm kind of busy right now." I glance at Brian, who is stroking himself.

"I need to talk to you," says Marshall. "As soon as possible!"

"Well... I have to get my projects from Minton and McHenry anyway. Are you on campus now?"

"Yeah, I'm at my dorm," he says. "I'm packing up to go home. My parents are picking me up tomorrow. That's why I HAVE to talk to you right away! It's really important, Justin!"

I look at Brian, who is gazing at me, his hand on his dick. "What if I meet you in an hour outside the Art Building?" Then I look at Brian again. "Make that an hour and a half." Brian shakes his head. "Um, I might be a little late, but I'll be there. Eventually."

"Please don't forget," Marshall pleads. It must be something serious. "I'll see you then."

Brian gets up and takes the cellphone out of my hand, hanging up on Marshall. "No more fucking interruptions!"

I grin. "Or interruptions to fucking."

"My cock needs some attention." Brian flops back down on the bed and points at my brass slave bracelet. "You only have an hour and a half to worship it, so get cracking, slave boy!"

"Yes, sir!" I salute. "It'll be a pleasure to service -- I mean, serve you."

And so I do.

Continue on to Page 2 of "The Air That I Breathe".