WORKING OUT

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 1 of Chapter 64 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "All Tomorrow's Parties", the previous chapter.

The narrators are Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor, featuring Sir Kenneth Fielding, Rowan Conley, Gerard Milton, Charley Weston, Kenroy Smith, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin adjust to London, together and apart. July 2002.
Author's Note: Susan -- Cockfosters? Tooting Broadway? I don't make them up.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.

I try to wake Justin before I leave, but he is like a rock. So, I let him sleep. Last night, what with the party and then that fucking club where he got freaked out by that asshole, left him exhausted. Anyway, the kid needs his rest, so I didn't push it.

Rest is something that I've been needing, too, but I'm not likely to get it. The insomnia has been worse this past week than any time since I finished 'The Olympian.' I have preliminary meetings this morning with the director, Dorian Folco, and with wardrobe. I have to pick up a revised script. Probably meet with Sir Ken and whoever else from the cast is around. It's nerve-wracking. It makes me realize just how much Ron really DID act as a buffer to a lot of the shit and aggravation that might have freaked me out. Because I'm as keyed up today as Justin was last night.

I open up my kit and rifle through it, looking for something to calm the buzz. I end up popping a couple of Ron's Xanax before the car comes for me, but my nerves still cut through that floaty feeling the stuff gives you. I'm halfway to the office when I remember that I should have at least left Justin a note to tell him goodbye.

***

I wake up alone.

I should have figured that Brian would have to leave early to go to the studio or something, but it still leaves me in a slight panic until I realize where I am and what's going on. I call down to the front desk to see if there are any messages for me -- if Brian left a message before he left, but there's nothing. I'm not certain if he's going to be gone all day or whether I should wait around the room or go out and do a few things. I guess Brian would say to use my 'inner resources.' Which means that I'll decide AFTER I eat breakfast.

I take my shower and get dressed. I look out the window while I'm brushing my teeth and think that I might try sitting in the back garden with my sketchbook and my travel diary. I haven't been drawing much lately and my journal needs to be updated with what has happened since we arrived in London.

I go down to breakfast by myself and the hostess sticks me a corner, but I don't mind. Instead of the huge pig out of yesterday, I just get some cornflakes and plain toast. The thought of all those sausages I ate before makes me a little ill, but I'm sure I'll be craving them again before the week is out.

Rowan comes over with my juice.

"Hey."

"On your own?"

"Yeah, for today, anyway."

"Fancy goin' to the Photographers' Gallery, then maybe to the camera shop?"

I shrug. "Sure. I don't have any other plans."

I eat my cornflakes and write in my journal. I try to decide just how much detail I should go into about yesterday and last night, but Lindsay said that the journal is for me to remember what happened on this trip, so I write down everything -- including how stupid I feel in the aftermath of last evening.

After I finish breakfast I find a bench in the garden and make a few sketches. Just some trees and the back of the hotel. Nothing too detailed. I'm getting a lot of my precision back in my hand, but it still gets tired quickly if I push it too much.

"I wish I could do that with a pen. Then I wouldn't need a camera."

Rowan is looking over my shoulder. I close my sketchbook quickly. I get nervous when people look at things before I'm finished with them.

"I'm just doodling," I say.

"You ready?" Rowan stands very close to me. Almost like he's trying to press against me. But it's strange because, regardless of what Brian said about him making a pass at me, I don't really get a ping in my gaydar from him. I just can't read him at all.

"Sure. Just let me go up and drop this off and get my backpack."

I'm surprised when Rowan follows me upstairs on the elevator. I know Brian reminded me again not to get too friendly with people who work in the hotel because it could get THEM into trouble. But Rowan seems unconcerned.

"Once I take off that apron," he comments as we stand in the hallway. "Then I don't give a toss what the management says."

"That's the way I used to feel at the diner." I open up the door of the room with my key card.

"How long did you work there?"

I think. "Almost a year and a half. I liked it -- but then I had a run-in with a customer and I quit."

"He put the move on you?"

"They ALL do that! It's part of the job!" I laugh, but Rowan just stares at me. "No, Ted said something insulting about Brian and I... kind of decked him."

Rowan considers this. "You? Hit someone? Really?" He obviously doesn't think I look like the type to punch out anyone. "Did he call your friend a pouf?"

"Shit no! Ted is gay himself. Everyone at the Liberty Diner is gay, just about. Everyone on Liberty Avenue is gay! No -- it was other stuff. Personal stuff."

"Sounds too dramatic for my liking."

"Not really. It's just regular life on Liberty Avenue, I guess."

Rowan looks around our hotel room, touching things, glancing out the window, peeking in at the bathroom. He checks out the big tent-effect over the bed.

"Jesus, this place is overwrought."

"It is rather much, I guess. But it's a nice hotel."

Rowan keeps moving around. "Costs a bit of change to stay here, ay?"

"I don't know how much, but I'd say a lot. You work here, Rowan, you ought to know better than I do how much it costs."

"You're not paying for it on your busboy bit, huh?" He narrows his eyes at me.

I don't really like the way this conversation is going at all. "I've got my backpack. Why don't we go?"

Rowan fingers Brian's Hugo Boss leather jacket, which is hanging on the back of a chair. "Not a bad lot." He looks up at me. "Not bad at all."

"Let's go," I say, getting more uncomfortable.

"Sure."

***

The studio driver takes me to Wardour Street in Soho where the production company has offices. I'd hoped that Kenroy Smith would pick me up -- I feel comfortable with him -- but the studio has its own driving staff, as usual.

The first person I meet is Dorian Folco, the director. He was going to be at that 'bash' at Sir Ken's last night, but he never showed. He's supposed to be straight, so maybe it wasn't his kind of scene. I don't know. Folco has a queer vibe about him, but a lot of Brits have that even when they are pretty straight. Note I say 'pretty straight' -- believing, as I do, that there's no one who can't be unstraightened. With the right motivation, of course.

But Dorian Folco is business-like. He comes directly to the point. Sir Ken wanted me for this gig and he has his doubts. That's no surprise. But he's looking me up and down. It isn't as if it's a part that will need an Olivier to put it across. The main character trait of this guy is his leather pants, and I can handle that with my eyes closed. My dick has always done most of my acting for me, on camera and off. But I have to be convincing on an actual stage, too. Look like a real member of the band. That's the primary thing. And that will be harder.

He sets up a meeting with the band for later this afternoon. They have a practice space not far from here. Most of them are veterans of various punk and post-punk outfits around London throughout the 1980's and '90's, but one guy interests me. I mean, musically. Charley Weston. He was in a couple of well-known punk bands back in the '70's when he was just a teenager. Opened for the Pistols, the Clash, Buzzcocks, and others. That interests me. He's also writing the songs the band will be playing on the soundtrack. So, this might be a fun gig after all. A little rock star fantasy can never be a bad thing. It'll be just like when Mikey and I had our band -- except on a larger scale. And with an actual audience. And no one will give a shit whether I'm any good or not, because the magic of movies will convince them all that I'm brilliant. Or so I'm told by Dorian Folco.

Sir Kenneth has an office in this same building. I drop by after meeting with Folco and stopping by the wardrobe office to get measurements taken. More fucking standing around. That's really what films are all about -- standing around. No wonder so many actors are alcoholics -- the boredom is soul-killing.

While I'm standing, having the measurements done, I start to feel a little funny. I can sense a headache or something coming on. I scrounge around in my pockets for some Tylenol and find something that looks about right. Some kind of painkiller to stave off the throb. I bolt it down with some Evian that one of the flunkies brings me.

No wonder I'm getting headaches. I skipped breakfast again this morning. It seems that if I don't go down to eat with Justin I can't be bothered. And with Folco scrutinizing me to within an inch of my life, looking for something to criticize, and then these vultures pulling and poking at me with their tapes and pins -- Christ! Who wouldn't have a migraine?

Sir Ken's secretary ushers me right into the inner sanctum, like I'm expected. And it looks like I AM expected. Sir Ken is behind a big antique desk, not unlike the one Ron has in his study. And sitting in there with him is Gerard Milton.

It looks like a set-up to me.

"Brian -- Gerry just happened to stop by." Right. At 11:00 a.m. When he was up late at the party the night before.

"Brian! So delighted! We were just having a sherry!"

"Sure. Hi." Just happened to be having a sherry. I believe that one. They offer me one and I sip it, even though I put sherry on a par with Raspberry Ripple or those nauseating Poolboy Wine Coolers I had to push last year.

Gerry perches right next to me. I try to be as cool to him as possible. I know I may have fucked him ten years ago, but I have zero interest in him right now. Even if I didn't have Justin with me, I'd have no interest. Gerry was mainly a novelty back then. A cool drama student with an accent and a sports car. His parents had money. Big house in the country. Expensive designer clothes. What was NOT to like? But now he's just an old trick. A REALLY old trick. And everyone knows how I feel about hanging out with former tricks.

"Er, Gerry was just saying that he's having a house party this weekend at Firelands. That's his place down in Sussex."

Gerry is leaning in my direction, oozing 'interest.' He obviously thinks that he's being seductive in some way, but he's laughable. I'm wondering if this technique really works with anyone. Surely, he was a little more subtle back when I knew him when we were students. Of course, I didn't give a shit about subtlety back then, that's true. All they had to be was male, willing, and able.

"Yes, DO come. Lots of fun people will be there. Good food and lashings of drink. And the countryside is such a relief after spending the entire week in town. You'll adore it."

I don't think so. "I was thinking of renting a car and driving up to Cambridge or out to Bath this weekend. I wanted to show Justin some places I liked when I was studying here."

"That won't be necessary, dear boy," Sir Ken breaks in. "Mr. Smith will be driving Hughie and me down -- you can catch a ride and won't have to fuss with renting a car. It's a bore driving. You'll see plenty of country on the way to Sussex!"

Sir Ken is really pushing me on Gerry. And I begin to wonder if something else is going on here. If Gerry has something to do with this film that I don't know about. But that can't be it. He didn't know I was in it until last night. He barely remembered me -- and I barely remembered him -- until the party. Truthfully, I remembered his fucking CAR better than him. The car was a lot more interesting.

Gerry is, I take it, some sort of protégé of Sir Ken's. The more I watch them, the more I'm thinking he's a former lover. But something more than just a friend or even an old trick. I shake my head. How the fuck do I get out of this without alienating Sir Ken? Because if he suddenly goes off me for this project, then I'm out on my ass and Dorian Folco will bring in whoever HE had wanted in the beginning.

That's NOT how I want my first post-Ron attempt at acting to end. With a complete fuck up. That will just prove to Ron -- and to everyone else, as he's constantly telling me over and over -- that I can't do anything without HIM. I'm thinking that I might need another Xanax, because my nerves just jumped up another fucking notch.

"I'm not sure this house party thing is my scene," I say. "I'm pretty casual...."

"This is COMPETELY casual, lovey! Everyone will be in jeans and whatever they wear on the farm! Firelands isn't the least bit stuffy, Brian. The guests have cart-blanche, so do what thou will!"

Gerry is just a little too TOO. He makes me uneasy, even in this office. Thinking of being trapped in a house with him in the middle of nowhere is beyond my imagination.

"I don't really think Justin will feel comfortable in that kind of atmosphere. I also think he didn't care for someone at the party referring to him as a 'rent-boy.'"

"Who said such a thing? I'm certain it MUST have been a joke. The boy simply misunderstood."

Now I KNOW that Gerry said this to Justin. Justin told me last night and was perfectly clear about it. These guys can't resist taking a hit at a young kid who is as open, as honest as Justin. It isn't in their understanding. So, they have to attack him.

"Maybe some other time." I put down the sherry, only half-finished. It's making me feel sick. And a little lightheaded.

Sir Ken and Gerry exchange glances. "Why, there will be plenty for the boy to do in the country! We have horses and there are walks all over. And Rye isn't far. He and Hughie can go sightseeing, right Kenny?"

"Certainly. The boys will have a marvelous time."

"So, you MUST bring little Jason."

"Justin."

"Whatever." Gerry's smile is pasted on. But Sir Ken is nodding at me vigorously. He really wants me to go to this shindig. Shit.

Fuck it. My mind must be going soft to agree to this, but.... "Okay. But we might not be able to stay the whole weekend." I want to give myself an out so we can blow out of there if it gets too weird. And I'm expecting it to get pretty weird.

***

Rowan takes me to the Photographers' Gallery. He says there's always some kind of exhibition going on there. And lectures. Classes. Meetings.

"And it's free," he says, looking over at me.

We duck inside just as it begins to shower.

There are some color photos that are really nice. I know black and white photos are supposedly more 'artistic,' but I'm a painter and I like color. In another room there are really old plates of some turn-of-the century women in a whorehouse. They wouldn't look that out of place at the Chatterton, actually, but I don't say that to Rowan.

In the little gift shop I see some postcards and remember that I promised to send some to Molly. I've already been here two days and haven't sent a single one. I buy a pile of them to make up for it and make mental notes about who I need to send them to, starting with Molly and my mother.

Other than calling my mom for about five minutes after we got to the hotel on Sunday, I haven't really been thinking about my family that much. I guess it's because I've been too busy with everything that's happened since we arrived. And too busy thinking about Brian, as well. He does tend to shove everything else out of my head.

"Do you live with your parents up in....?" I can't remember the name of the place.

"Finsbury. Yeah. And my sister. My two brothers are out of the house already. One works up in Manchester. The other has a place in South London. He's a teacher."

"That's nice. I have a friend who's an art teacher. Lindsay."

"I guess I could teach, but I'd rather do my photos full time. It's hard, though."

"Do you sell a lot at the park? I mean, at places like that? Craft fairs?"

"Some, but you couldn't live on it. Some weeks I'm lucky to sell one or two prints. I'd do better if I made crap jewelry like the hippies. They pull in some change from the tourists." His eyes go to my brass bracelet. I look down at it. I don't think it's crap at all. It's great, in fact. I put my hand over it and give it a solid rub.

We go through some other rooms and then out and onto Charing Cross Road. The rain has cleared up. We walk up until the street changes to Tottenham Court Road and then it's one electronic store after another. We go into a couple and Rowan looks at some photographic equipment.

"Nothing but shite. And the prices stink, too."

He fingers some photography paper.

"Do you develop your own pictures?"

"Yeah, there's a darkroom at the college. Plus, I belong to a club up in Finsbury. They have a darkroom, too. But it's old equipment."

He moves around, picking up cameras and flash attachments and lens. "You could get a camera like this one. Single lens reflex. Not too complicated." He looks through the eye-piece, then hands it to me.

I look through it, too, trying to pretend I know what I'm doing. "Nice camera."

"You could afford it. And some good attachments."

"I don't know. I'm still trying out my automatic. I haven't even finished one roll yet." I take out my little camera and look at it.

"That's for kids and tourists."

"But I am just a tourist, Rowan. I'm not a photographer."

"You could be -- if you gave it a try."

"I don't know."

He shakes his head, like I'm impossible for not doing what he says.

It's way after noon already and, naturally, I'm hungry. "You want to get lunch? My treat."

"Why the fuck not? Especially if you're payin' for it, I'm game."

"Want to go to Covent Garden? Brian and I walked around there yesterday and there are a lot of places to eat there. We could sit outside."

"Sure," he shrugs. "I'll sit with the tourists."

And we head back down the way we came up, on the way to Covent Garden.

***

Sir Ken and Gerry try to get me to go to lunch with them, but I'm definitely not up to any more of them. My head still aches and all I want to do is clear it before I have to meet with the band at 4:00.

I wander around Soho, avoiding the Hari Krishnas chanting on the corner and the guys handing out flyers for strip shows. It rained a little while I was inside and I dodge the puddles in the rutted sidewalks.

I end up at the same restaurant Justin and I went to yesterday afternoon. I used to come here when I was a student and it was a big gay hangout even then. Of course, with its location in the middle of the Soho Queer Ghetto, I guess that's to be expected. But back then, it was a revelation to me. A bunch of fags, with their own restaurant! This was when the Liberty Diner was just a regular food dive and not a pitstop between Babylon and the loft. There was no Babylon then, either. And Woody's was still a mysterious place to Mikey and me.

The waiter greets me by name. After one time. That's not bad. He's not bad, either. He seats me at a table inside, near the window. And brings me a Newcastle Brown Ale, on the house. I drink it right down, my mouth is so dry. The ale seems to push my headache into the background a little.

I've vowed actually to eat some food at meals, but I end up drinking most of my lunch, as usual. I eat part of a sandwich. At least it isn't Spam. I put it down and drink some more ale. Justin may not like that warm ale, but it goes down pretty well, especially with a couple of shots of good scotch that a guy at a nearby table has sent over.

He's another American. He finally comes over and sits down. He's here on business. A lawyer. I'm not that fond of lawyers, especially after the Kip incident. They are all like Melanie with dicks. Or with bigger dicks, since I'm convinced that she has at least a little one concealed somewhere on her. A really little one. No wonder Lindsay prefers me! Ha!

But after all the ale I've ingested even a lawyer doesn't look half bad. And the waiter is still working. No use waiting for him. Waiting for the waiter! Right! That's a good one.

But something is wrong here. Where the fuck is Justin? I look around because I know he's here somewhere. He was right here a minute ago. Or was that yesterday?

I have to meet the guys in the band at 4:00, so I've got a few hours to kill, that much I know. And the lawyer says he's at a hotel near Covent Garden and that isn't far to walk, even when you're half-loaded. Am I? I haven't had THAT much. So, I can't be, right?

Something is definitely wrong. But I can't remember what. Something is missing here.

The lawyer has his hand on my leg. This isn't right. But it feels right, so it can't be wrong, right? I don't know what the fuck I'm thinking.

He's paying the bill. He's got his hand on my arm now. Where are we going again? Some hotel. I don't think I can walk. But I'm walking anyway.

We head out. The trick is talkative, telling me all about how he just LOVES London. Shut up, already. I feel like my feet aren't touching the ground. And not in a good way, either. The Xanax -- that makes you float. Way above the sidewalk. Another one and I'd really be flying.

We walk across Leicester Square and up towards Covent Garden. I realize that we are backtracking the same route that I brought Justin down yesterday. Then into Covent Garden.

Wait. I stop in the middle of the sidewalk. I start to feel queasy. Too much beer and not enough lunch. And no breakfast, either.

I wonder if Justin ate another one of those ridiculously huge and fattening breakfasts after I left. And I wonder what he did all day, too. If he remembered to take his fucking map with him on the Underground so he wouldn't end up in Cockfosters or some other godforsaken place. Cockfosters. That's the end of one of the Tube lines. The name always used to crack me up. That and Tooting Broadway. Upminster. Elephant and Castle. Wapping. Those crazy fucking names.

"Aren't those crazy fucking names!" The trick looks at me like I'm crazy. I AM crazy.

I'm stumbling across the Covent Garden piazza when I suddenly feel dizzy. Really dizzy. Like the bottom just dropped out of something. I didn't drink all THAT much, did I? I look around for Justin. I know he must be here somewhere. He's keeping track of my drinks. He's going to drive me home.

Wait. I can't process it. I shouldn't have had that beer -- and the scotch -- on top of the Xanax. I can't remember how many of those I took. Or when. Sometime this morning. And another one in the office. Or was that an aspirin? A Darvon?

I have no idea what the fuck time it is now. I can't see a clock anywhere. I'm in some square. This isn't Leicester Square, it's too small. Right -- it's Covent Garden. I remember now. There's a church in front of me. I look up to see if there's a clock on the church tower....

And the vertigo catches me full fucking force.

I drop onto the curb and put my head down. Jesus. The streets are wet and water is rushing by my feet. The trick is tugging at my arm. What's he doing here anyway? Give me a break. Why doesn't he just fuck off?

"Fuck off!" I say.

He starts bitching at me. Who the hell is HE, anyway? But then he thinks better of it. It isn't worth it, is it, to piss me off? Not really, fucker! Not when everything is turning upside down. Is it ME upside down, or everything else? The trick leaves me sitting there on the curb. I start to lean forward....

***

"Brian?"

He looks up at me. "Hello, sonny boy. Wha's up?"

"Brian, what are you doing here?" He's sitting with his feet in a gutter, staring down. He's fucking smashed! There's run-off from the rain coursing over his boots and his hand as it trails in the ditch.

He looks around. "I don' know. Waiting for Godot?" He starts to snicker, then laughs like crazy.

Rowan is standing behind me. He has a slight smile on his face, which pisses me off. I bet he's been drunker in his life. I know I have and I'm strictly an amateur drinker compared to Brian.

"The fuckin' Irish Disease," Rowan says, staring at Brian. Then he looks across the plaza. I look up, too, where we both see the guy Brian was with retreating into the distance.

Rowan and I each take an arm and pull Brian to his feet. His eyes look all messed up, like he can't focus.

"Brian -- what did you take?" How many times have I asked this question? How many times has Mikey? Ron? Maybe even Diane?

"I was just nervous -- tha's all. A little pain management?" He leans against me, putting his face against mine. "Where've you been, Justin? We were gonna to eat lunch, weren't we?"

"Brian, did you take that anti-anxiety shit and then drink?" I try to feel around in his pockets to see if he still has anything in there, but I can't search AND hold him up at the same time.

"I needed to wash them down with something, didn' I?" He barks out a laugh and then tries to kiss me.

"I think it's time to get a taxi."

Once he's walking a little, Brian seems to shake off some of the fog. He looks around and scowls at the sight of Rowan. "I can walk. I have to get back to Soho. Have a meeting."

"No, you don't. We're going back to the hotel."

He tries to push away my hand, but I'm not letting go. "You ARE like a fuckin' pitbull, you know that?"

"I have to be," I say. "If you're going to be a fucking pussy."

"WHO'S a pussy?"

"I'll show you in the mirror. Back at the hotel." I'm trying to keep my temper. Really trying.

Rowan hails a cab and we manage to get Brian into it. I climb in after him. Rowan still has that superior smirk on his face.

"I'll see ya, Justin," he says, slamming the cab door. "Good luck. I think you'll be needin' some."

"Right. Whatever."

"WHO is a fucking PUSSY?" Brian is still protesting, even as he sinks a bit on the seat of the taxi.

"You are -- you little twat," I say. And the cab pulls away from the curb.

Continue on to "Working Out -- Part 2", the next chapter.

©Gaedhal, August 2002

Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.

Updated August 6, 2002