UP TO ZERO

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 10 of the "Queer Realities" series.

Go back to "Queer Theories" for the beginning of this saga.

The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian tries to explain some things to Justin. Pittsburgh, January 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.

"Say you were split, you were split in fragments
and not all the pieces would talk to you.
Wouldn't you want to be who you had been?
Well, Baby, I want that, too.

So better take the keys
and drive forever.
Staying won't put these
futures back together.
All the perfect drugs
and superheroes
Wouldn't be enough
to bring me up to zero...."

from 'Humpty Dumpty' by Aimee Mann.

***

I've been dreaming of waking up with Brian ever since I left him in Los Angeles at the beginning of the month. Dreaming about it so hard that when it actually happens I think I'm still dreaming.

But not for long. Because Emmett and Michael come up into the bedroom and 'quietly' let me know that they're leaving. Of course, Michael and Emmett never do anything quietly. Emmett is giggling and Michael is bitching and all I want to do is pull the covers back over my head and bury myself in Brian.

Finally, they leave. I love Emmett and I even sort of love Michael, but I'm glad they're gone. I mean, thank God they were there at Babylon last night. Thank God they called me and thank God they helped me. And helped Brian. But now I want a little privacy, especially since Em was all too willing to let me know that they could hear us fucking last night.

Not that Brian even knew what he was doing, but I don't give a shit. I've only been waiting for him to make love to me for a fucking age! I'll take it any way I can get it. Even unconscious.

But he knew it was me. I heard him saying my name. Somewhere inside that thick, idiot, fucked up head -- he knew.

I sigh and turn over and wrap my arms protectively around Brian.

This is one of those moments that I don't want to end. But it will, all too soon. When the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.

I caress his hair. Smell him. Taste him. Mold myself against him. I stroke his beautiful hands and wonder what happened to them. Even his cowrie shell bracelet looks a little ragged. But the heart charm is still perfect. It's catching the morning light coming in through the louvers. I straighten it at his neck, turning the red enamel upwards. No one can ever say that Brian is heartless. Not as long as he has this. It's the proof. Right here. My heart.

Yes, it's sappy. Because I'm a sap. I don't care who thinks so. Brian makes fun of me for it, but the truth is that he's a sap, too. He's a Mick and they all pretend they are hard-headed and righteous and brutally honest -- and Brian is all those things. Except when he's mushy and sentimental and evasive. In other words, he's a total contradiction, always. Brian is a master at playing not just both sides of an issue, but about 47 sides of an issue. And he doesn't see the illogic of that.

Me, I'm a very transparent and naive little WASP. I don't need to wear a little enamel heart around my neck because I wear my actual heart on my sleeve. No apologies and no excuses for that. And -- so far -- no regrets. At least not while he's right here. Next to me. And safely asleep.

I drift back into my dreams.

Until the phone rings and practically knocks me off the bed. I scramble for the phone while Brian moans and rolls around in the bed. I grab the receiver. "What?"

"Justin? Is that you?"

It's a woman's voice. But it isn't my mom. My head is all fuzzy from too much sleep. "Huh?"

"Justin, it's Tess Hardy. Did I wake you? It should be almost noon there."

"Oh, Tess." I sit up. I look at the clock. She's right. It IS almost noon. And my head is going in all directions hearing her voice. "Tess, yes. I'm awake. So... what's up?"

What's up? That's the dumbest response ever! Because there's only one reason why Tess Hardy would be calling me on a Saturday morning. What's up? What's 'up' is about two feet away from my face. Brian's dick! And Brian. Here and NOT out in California. At that fancy-ass Haven of Hope. Because Brian has bailed on rehab again. That is what's up, Tess!

"Justin, I have to tell you something very important," says Tess. She talking to me like I'm about 5 years old, so I know that she thinks I'm going to freak out. "It's about Brian."

"What about Brian?" I say, trying hard to keep my voice steady. Tess has got to know that I'm the worst person in the universe at lying when asked a direct question. Brian says I'm like a walking lie detector.

"Brian left Haven of Hope, Justin." She pauses, waiting for my reaction.

"Oh, no, Tess!" I exclaim. And Brian mumbles so loudly I'm sure she can hear him all the way out in California.

"Oh, yes, Justin! They think he may have walked out either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Apparently his roommate didn't report him missing and no one started to look for him until he didn't show up for Mail Call on Wednesday. I guess he never misses Mail Call. That's when they began searching for him."

"Jesus, Tess! Do they... do they have any idea where he is?" Now I'm mumbling. Brian and Mail Call. I think of all those letters I sent to him, never knowing if he was reading them or what he thought of them. Just mailing them off into a vacuum. And he was there every day, never wanting to miss a single one. I reach over and rub his arm gently. "And if he's okay?"

"No, Justin, they don't have any idea. I didn't want to get you upset, honey, so I didn't call you earlier," Tess explains. "They thought he'd probably show up within a few hours, but so far he hasn't been found."

"Have they... looked at the house? Or what about the boat? I think Brian would definitely head for his boat," I suggest.

"They've checked all those places, honey. He didn't go back to Ron's house. And he didn't go to the boat or your old apartment or Diane's condo or any of the places where you would expect Brian to head."

"I'm sorry, Tess, but I don't know where else he might be!" The sound of my own voice is so completely hollow I can't believe that Tess can't pick up on it. But Tess has her own troubles right now. I realize that. And I feel bad that she's now caught up in Brian's latest drama. I feel sorry for Tess and I want to be honest with her, but my first loyalty is to Brian. Always.

"I called Brian's lawyer, Walter Urbanski, and he's got some of his people working on it. Walter wants to find Brian before Howie Sheldon's studio detectives track him down. Or before that cop who was such a pain in the ass about Ron's death starts making a lot of noise."

"Yes, Tess," I mutter lamely. "That's a good idea." This is bad news. Howie Sheldon and Detective Parra. The studio AND the cops are looking for Brian. Meanwhile, Brian is snoring away next to me, totally oblivious.

"So, I want you to tell me truthfully. Have you heard from Brian? Please tell me, Justin. I need to know."

"I... I haven't talked to him," I say, truthfully. And I haven't. Not really. I mean, moaning, "Fuck me again, Brian!" doesn't really count as a conversation! "I'm sorry, Tess." What can I say? I think again about how I hate to lie to this woman who has been so great to us, but there's no way that I'm going to squeal on Brian! Especially not until I get his side of the story.

Tess sighs loudly. "Jimmy seems to think that Brian will head up to Toronto to see him. Like the first person that Brian would think to turn to was him! But that's Jimmy's one-track mind. I told him that it was highly improbable that Brian could make it all the way to Toronto, since Brian had no clothes or money or any way to get to Canada, but you know Jimmy." Tess pauses. "He's completely delusional. Just like Ron was. It's beginning to scare me. But that's my problem, Justin, not yours."

"I wish there was something I could do, Tess!" And I mean that. Something besides telling her that Brian is right here. I certainly understand Brian's effect on other men, and I'm used to it by now, but Jimmy Hardy is way over the top. Most guys just fall in love with Brian, but they don't really believe that he loves them back! I think of Dorian, in particular. But Tess is right -- Jimmy is like Ron. No wonder they were best friends!

"You know, Justin, I went to see Brian at Haven of Hope on Monday. He seemed fine then," Tess asserts, but her voice isn't very convincing.

"You... you went to Haven of Hope? You saw Brian there on Monday?" Now I'm very surprised. They told us NO visitors were permitted. At all! And now Tess says that SHE got in there to see him! That pisses me off! The whole reason I left Los Angeles was because they assured me that I could NOT see Brian! "What was the place like? How did he seem then? Did he act like he was going to run away?" I'm sure Tess can hear the edge in my voice.

She swallows. "He was pretty subdued, Justin, but I thought it was because he was taking The Program seriously. I never thought he'd just... take off -- again!"

"Well, he did!" I say sharply. I reach over and stroke Brian's chest softly. "If he left rehab, Tess, he must have had a damn good reason." Yeah -- and I want to HEAR that reason -- in detail!

Tess' voice sounds resigned. "The thing that really worries me, Justin, is that another man also escaped -- I mean, walked out of rehab along with Brian. He's a hard-core addict -- heroin, crack, you name it. The fact that Brian left with him isn't good news, honey. It might mean that... that Brian is holed up somewhere, getting high. That may not be the case, but I want to warn you, Justin."

"Great! Those are the kinds of people Brian meets in rehab? Great roles models, Tess!"

"Honey, that's who is IN rehab! Other addicts," Tess replies.

"Thanks loads for reminding me why rehab is such a GREAT idea!" I say. Now I'm angry. I know Brian is safe with me, but what if I didn't know that? I'd be totally freaking out right now! And for good reason! "It's FUCKED, Tess! And I mean fucked!"

Tess apologizes, but it really isn't her fault. It's the whole system that is screwed up. I ask her to keep me posted and then I hang up.

And once again I thank God that, as stoned and fucked up as he was, Brian came HERE when he left Haven. He may not be in rehab, but at least he's not 'holed up' with some scuzzy crack addict in L.A.! Or, at least he isn't holed up with the guy anymore. Because that probably explains where he's been between the time he left Haven of Hope and the time he showed up at Babylon on Friday night.

I get up, stretch myself, and limp to the kitchen to make a pot of the strongest coffee we have in the loft. On the way I see Brian's fringed jacket lying on the floor next to one of the kitchen stools. I pick it up, shake it out, and take it up into the bedroom to hang in the closet.

Eventually, the animal noises from the bed get louder and louder. The grunts and growls and coughs that tell me Brian is awake. So I go up there and pull him out of bed -- and directly into the shower. I'd rather we make love right now than take a shower, but as much as I want to kiss him and tell him I love him, I also want to kill him. But not immediately. I make the water just cold enough to make sure he's really awake without giving him pneumonia.

"Okay! I give up! I'm alive!" he sputters as the cold water hits him full force. "Justin! Have a heart! Jesus Christ!"

"Are you okay now?" I ask.

Brian sneezes and nods, so I turn up the hot water slowly. Now I'm almost as soaked as he is, so I stay in there with him. Help him soap himself up. Rinse him off. Wash his hair. I love doing that.

Then I ease him out and dry him off. "Get dressed and I'll get the coffee. How about some toast, too?"

To my surprise he doesn't bitch about carbs or his stomach or anything like that. "Yeah," Brian says. "I'd like a piece of toast."

Continue on to Page 2 of "Up to Zero".