Chapter 13, part 2
I thank God when I hear the cops on the stairs and Brian's muffled voice briefly relating what's been happening over the last couple of days. Then I hear a strange commotion when Michael is freed from the closet, yelling and then the sudden heart-stopping sound of a gunshot. Everything is silent for a split second. Omigod! "Boys, stay here and DO NOT COME OUT!" I exclaim. I fly to the door, unlock and fling it open, slamming it behind me with a crash and rush into the hall; and nearly faint dead away at what I find. One of the cops is cuffing Michael and calling for a "bus" and there on the floor... and there on the floor…
Brian!! The other cop is crouching down holding his jacket to Brian's shoulder. I drop to my knees beside Brian and hold his head as I start to wail, unable to control myself. Brian's been shot. Shot. "WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?" I scream between the sobs wracking my body.
"Sir, calm down. Please. This man wrestled the gun from my holster," he nods towards the man he's cuffing. Michael. "…And he shot your friend.
"Please stay calm – hysterics won't help the situation."
I'm afraid hysterics is all I can manage at the moment. "HOW COULD HE GET IT OUT OF YOUR FUCKING HOLSTER? The gun is fucking FASTENED in there!!! You incompetent ASS!!!!"
The cop says something but I'm no longer listening as I look at Brian; he's conscious but looks pretty dazed. "Brian? Brian! Oh please don't leave me… please!" So what if I don't make sense.
He reaches out his hand and I grasp it in mine, holding it to my lips. "Choir Boy, I'm okay. But I'll never underestimate the power of lunacy again… or fucking guns. I never would have thought Michael could..." his voice trails away. "It was an accident I think. I believe he wanted to get to… you."
Pfft. I bodily push the cop next to me out of the way and rip the jacket from his hands, applying pressure to the wound myself. "Hey!" the officer protests. I vaguely notice the other cop who's holding Michael shushes him and he stays silent, allowing me to take over. Thank God there aren't any vital organs in the shoulder, at least.
Brian's breathing rapidly but is still aware. The cop who was just shushed speaks again, "Sir, keep the pressure on the bleeding. An ambulance is already on the way."
"Shut up! I know what to do!" I lash out at him angrily. I've seen ER. "You're both fucking incompetent asses!" I repeat. Yeah, yeah. They're idiots and I realize that I'm taking out my overwhelming anxiety on them. They're used to that though, right?
My hands are shaking so hard I can barely control them but I keep the pressure on the wound and continue babbling at Brian all the loving words he doesn't want to hear but I can't help saying. Even in his delirious state, I could swear he rolls his eyes a little as I beg him to be okay, to stay with me, to know how much I love him, etc etc.
Soon I hear sirens again and then the sounds of the paramedics clamoring up the stairs. "HURRY! HURRY UP!" I urge them unnecessarily. I finally move out of the way to make room for them to work on Brian. They strap an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and quickly lift him onto the gurney. One of them grabs the cop's jacket from me and takes over applying pressure on his shoulder. "I'm coming with you!" I announce and the medics look at each other. The older one nods after a beat.
"Come on," he says and we race down to the ambulance with Brian carefully in tow, leaving the stupid cops with Michael on the landing. I barely notice but I think Michael looks a little shell-shocked standing there, like he can't believe what just happened. I don't give a shit and I practically dive into the back of the ambulance next to Brian.
"Justin, the boys…"
Oh shit. Gus and James! How could I forget the boys? They're probably scared to death! Thank God I closed the door to the loft behind me before they could see Brian bleeding on the ground -- but they can't stay there alone! We're already tearing towards the hospital; shit. I try to get one of the medics' attention but he's already noticed what's going on.
"We'll radio the policemen at the apartment so one can stay with your boys until someone they know can get there to drive them to the hospital," he offers. "I suspect the cops are still there. They don't move as quickly as we do once they've apprehended the suspect," he says with a roll of his eyes.
Whatever. "Please do that! Radio them!" I plead, grateful to the man. He picks up his handset and calls the cops and after a moment listening, nods and then assures me that one of them will stay with the boys. Thank God. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," I say to the medic and he smiles slightly while simultaneously working on Brian doing God knows what.
I hastily reach into Brian's pocket and take out his cell phone. Who do I call? James has never met Debbie and Gus is still a little scared of her after yesterday at the diner. He'd gone to bed already last night and didn't hear Deb's messages begging forgiveness. James and Gus both know Ted but Ted is usually impossible to get in touch with this time of day and I don't want to mess around right now. "Do you have Emmett on speed dial?" I ask Brian hurriedly. While I know James hasn't met him, I know he's great with Gus so hopefully he'll quickly put James at ease.
Brian nods weakly. "He's in there under 'Flaming Queen'," he smiles. "Number three," he says weakly.
I have absolutely no sense of humor at the moment so I don't smile back but I quickly call Emmett who readily agrees to go to the loft. "What happened, Sweetie? Are those sirens I hear?" he asks, concerned about the terrified tone of my voice and the ambulance blaring in the background.
"Michael shot Brian, that's what! We're in the ambulance right now!" I adore Emmett for all he's done but I have no time for chatty explanations. "Please. Just get to the loft, get the boys and meet us at Allegheny General; LIKE NOW. There's a police officer staying with Gus and my son James but they don't know him or what the hell's going on; they're probably scared shitless!" I yell and hang up.
I turn my attention back to Brian and realize there are tears of panic on my cheeks. Tears. Not surprising, I think to myself.
"My, my," Brian grins. "A no-nonsense, take-charge kind of guy, aren't you? I like that in a man." His soul is so big but his voice sounds so fucking small.
"Shhh. Don't talk. Let the paramedics do their thing."
"He should be fine, sir," the older one assures me. "The bullet didn't hit a critical region. His arm will be immobilized in a sling for a while, is all."
Brian winces when the ambulance hits a slight bump in the street. I can see how much excruciating pain he's in and it makes my chest hurt. He tries to cover. "Rats. A sling? And not the X-rated kind?" Brian jokes, sounding slightly muffled from the oxygen mask and sounding so fucking weak in general I want to scream. The medics laugh and I growl at them for daring to be even slightly light-hearted at this moment. Brian squeezes my hand. "I'll be fine, Choir Boy. Chill out."
I nod. Brian will be fine. That's good but it doesn't make my panic go away. It feels like hours but the ride only takes a few minutes before we arrive at the hospital. I race into the ER behind the gurney and the doctor there stops me from going into the back where they wheel Brian. A nurse looks at me sympathetically and points to the waiting room. I go there but instead of sitting, I pace like a madman. Fifteen minutes later, Emmett rushes in with James on his hip and holding Gus's hand. The poor child is bawling his eyes out. Shit, that kid has been through hell. He splits off from Emmett and comes running up, practically throwing himself at me. "Where's my Daddy?" he cries.
"The docs are taking care of him, Gus. The paramedics say he'll be okay. Just a little sore. I'm sure you're scared but your Daddy wouldn't want you to worry, especially because he's going to be fine."
"Can I see him?"
"As soon as the doctors say it's okay."
Then I'm shocked to see that Debbie is standing there just behind Emmett listening to all this. "Did Emmett really say…" she starts in a hoarse voice. She clears her throat. "Did Michael shoot him? Brian?" she finally whispers. "My Michael? My Brian? That's impossible!"
I grimace. Why'd Emmett call Deb? I guess since he talked to her and "straightened her out" about Brian, he thought Brian might want his surrogate mother here. But I don't. "I called her on the way here, Honey. I think she'd want to be here for Brian," Emmett tells me quietly.
Grr. Whatever. "Michael is insane, Debbie. Last night, he attacked me physically and Brian threw him out but he came back this morning and started to smash my fucking car. Finally Brian shut him in the utility closet to keep him out of the loft and away from the children and had me call the cops. I was with the boys when they arrived so I didn't see what happened but apparently Michael got a gun off one of the officers and in the struggle, he shot Brian in the shoulder." I take a shuddering breath. "I have never been more terrified in my life!"
"Jesus Christ!" she and Emmett both exclaim at once, looking absolutely stunned hearing the details, spare as they are.
"I can't believe this!" Debbie adds. "Michael's been pretty upset after realizing you and his best friend were an item; after all, Brian's always been his hero and you don't fit into the picture. But I can't believe he'd go this far!"
"Yeah, well, from the look on his face after he shot Brian, I'm not sure he believed it either. Particularly because I don't think Brian was the one he wanted to shoot. I suspect it was me and so does Brian; he told me so as he lay there bleeding. But obviously things got out of control. I know he's your son but I hate him, Debbie. I hate him more than I hate anyone or anything!"
She nods and then shakes her head, still trying to wrap her mind around the situation. "And Michael's in jail now?"
"Yeah. They should lock him in some psych ward on a remote island if you ask me. And throw away the fucking key.
"Pfft. Or simply prop him up in front of a firing line. That sounds even better." I'm not joking in the slightest.
She doesn't look at me directly, her expression bothered and distracted. "That might be the best thing for him, you're right… The psych ward, I mean. He needs help."
Emmett is still holding James who appears confused if anything and Emm backs away quietly to keep my boy from the drama, whispering kind words to keep him calm. I think I love Emmett. I have to deal with Gus who has quieted some but he's still sobbing, tightly grasping my hand with both of his and there's nothing I can do but reassure him that Brian will be okay. About a half hour later the doctor comes up to us. "You're Brian Kinney's family, right?"
"Yes! How is he?" I exclaim.
The doc smiles. "He's resting but he's asking for you. If possible, he'd like to see his son and someone named 'Justin'." The doctor looks at us questioningly, like we may not fulfill his favorite patient's wishes. Pfft. "He's a strong man and he'll recover completely. Indeed, after some of the meds wear off and the test results come back, you can take him home in a couple of hours."
"Please take us to him!"
"I'll stay here with James," Emmett says. "He really doesn't know what's happening and I'll try to explain it to him before we join you. Give Brian our love."
I want to kiss him. "Thanks, Emm."
The doctor leads the three of us to a small private room and the sight of Brian laid out in a hospital bed is daunting at best - bone-chilling at worst. He sees us enter and smiles wanly. I know he's aware of how frightened we all are and is trying to be strong, despite the fact his former best friend shot him; that the bullet was just dug out of his shoulder; and he's in terrible pain, meds or not. Gus runs immediately to his side bawling his eyes out and Brian grins a little, touched by his concern.
"Gus Love, I'm okay," he reassures the child. "Come up here with me." He pats the bed with his good hand and Gus immediately and gingerly climbs up to lie next to his beloved father.
"Jesus, Brian, what you won't do to get drugs!" If I don't say something flip, I'll cry. And I know Brian wouldn't want that. He's already got that in spades as Gus clings to him gently, sobbing.
He rolls his eyes at my comment and then spots Debbie. He looks a little surprised and the mood in the room shifts. "I'm sorry, Deb," he offers a bit sadly. Sorry for WHAT?
She gets a surprised expression, herself. "What on earth are you fucking sorry for? You're the one who got hurt and at the hands of my own blood son! You were trying to help him! Shit, Brian! I don't know why but hours of Emmett chewing me a new one yesterday opened my eyes. Not to mention what happened this morning, of course." She drags a for-crap chair over, sits heavily and takes a deep breath.
"Okay, Brian Kinney. Listen up and listen up good 'cause I'll prob'ly only say sumpin' like this to you once in my lifetime: I'm real sorry. I am. Emm pointed out all sorts of shit I should have seen plain as day but didn't; I do now. He basically screeched at me all fuckin' afternoon after my shift was over, telling me how you take on responsibility for Michael and how pig-headed I can be about you sometimes, not seeing what you do for him and all of us.
"That queen is terrifying when he's on a mission, I'll tell you that much," she chortles. "Even to this old battleaxe! Shit, he didn't shut up. He also kept at me about how you haven't actually been leading Michael on for years now; that you had long outgrown that "phase of immaturity" as he put it… whatever. But y'know, I dunno how Emmett knows you so well but he reminded me about this "phase": When you were real young and still insecure 'cause of that damned family of yours; when you were scared to lose Michael so you led him on. Those fuckin' Kinneys did a number on you. They convinced you that you couldn't be loved from day one I think. Hell, that damned "I don't believe in love, I believe in fucking" philosophy of yours had already started developin' in your brain by the time I metcha at fourteen. It was pretty much your motto by the time you left for college. And unfortunately, you were too beautiful for your own good and that didn't help one bit. You could have any guy you wanted; they didn't care that you didn't do "repeats" or "relationships" so you could keep all your beliefs firmly in place in your head and scoff at all the tricks who wanted more." Deb looks over at me. "I'm so happy that part of your lifelong set of rules has finally changed. It's 'bout time," she adds and I feel my cheeks get warm. Thank God that Gus is totally not paying attention to anyone but Brian and being safe in his arms again and that Emmett and James aren't in the room. This is embarrassing enough to hear just in front of Brian. I feel put on the spot and this isn't really even about me. Brian simply snorts, though it's half-hearted.
"Emmett believes you thought that you'd only have Mikey as a best friend if he had hope you'd be a couple someday, so again: y'led him on; you didn't believe anyone would love you for just being you. You had to be the hero, the stud, the asshole everyone loves and hates - and loves to hate and hates to love. Emm thinks Mikey loved you for you but built you into this sort of God in his mind and that it never changed."
She pauses a moment, her brows furrowed and a deep frown creasing her face. She looks so unhappy as she talks about this. I know I'd be pretty fucking devastated were I Deb right now, after getting lectured by Emmett for so long yesterday about the reality of Brian versus Michael (and herself) and then especially being in the hospital after her son shot his best friend: A man who is essentially, her other son. "Yeah, back in those early years, you got by solely on your looks and smarts but never believed you had anything else to offer." She pauses again.
I'm admittedly fascinated by all this stuff about Brian and I look at him. I knew Emm was insightful but wow! I think Brian told me he didn't even meet Emmett until he got back from college so he wasn't around to see all this shit. Brian must have been totally wasted if Emmett learned these insights from the horse's mouth but I don't think Brian would reveal it no matter how much Beam he'd drunk or how many pills he'd popped.
I think Emmett's just really observant, perceptive and likes to figure out what makes people tick; and Brian's a particularly intriguing person to try to understand. I sure as hell know that much. Emmett probably just caught the little tidbits Deb, Michael or even Brian would toss out in random situations and watched the group dynamics and pieced this all together. Who knows?
Anyway, Brian's staring incredulously at Deb but then peripherally he notices me gawping at him, so he rolls his eyes dismissively at what she's saying just for my benefit. Pfft. I'm so onto him. She doesn't notice and continues. "But as Emmett said, at some point you started growing up and Michael was too stubborn to listen when you finally told him you were just friends. And would always only be just friends." She cracks her gum thoughtfully. "Ha!" she barks ironically, making me startle. "I knew you'd told him that countless times by the time he'd found David and again more recently when he found Ben; I, myself, actually talked to Michael about quitting his hopeless crush on you but he didn't even listen to me. He'd whine how he knows you're just friends but I knew I hadn't really gotten through to him. Not really. So I told myself it was still all your fault; that you really were still leading him on. You know all about that, of course, when I told you to push Michael off a cliff so he wouldn't keep pining after you and would feel free to love David completely. What I didn't know is that you simply didn't like David 'cause he was a possessive snob who tried to control Michael.
"But you did it. You pushed him off a cliff." She sighs. Gawd, she's more thinking and remembering aloud now, it would seem. But I'm learning a lot so I don't say anything to interrupt – not that I'd dare to anyway. I'll have to ask Brian more about some of these things later, though I know I'll have to pick my moment and my approach wisely. Brian is not liking that I'm hearing all this. However, he doesn't dare interrupt her either. "Hmf. Emm says I was 'in denial' or sumpin'." She shakes her head and smacks her gum again. "But I admit I saw you grow out of that "phase of immaturity" once and for all when beautiful Gus was born. But I still turned a blind eye. I was always on Mikey's side."
Deb shakes her head so unhappily and lost in thought that that her wig threatens to fly away. It's a bit scary. "Brian. You were like a son within a week of my meeting you. 'Member that, hun?" She smiles sadly. "You came over to our house to see Mikey, standing at the door with a black eye and a busted lip that you passed off as the handy-work of school bullies. I soon learned that you were the one protectin' Michael from the bullies at school but you lived under the same roof with a huge, drunken bully who used you as his punchin' bag." She isn't really asking Brian for a response.
"But Michael was my flesh an' blood son. I s'pose that sometimes I couldn't admit that he had some… more selfish and less noble qualities than I'd like. He wasn't very driven. An' while you were brash and headstrong and rude as hell sometimes (still are), you were selfless and noble deep inside (still are) - when it counted. And you were one of the most ambitious and driven people I'd ever met, even at the age of fourteen. And to this day you still don't like people seeing that you have a heart of gold buried in there so you hide it behind your arrogance, blunt and brooding aloofness and…" she's at a loss for words. Amazing. "…Assholeness." Hmm. "It's always been so easy to let you take the blame for whatever went wrong 'cause you never protested even if you had nothing to do with it. It's like you think you deserve to take the blame for any and everything, so you do. And then you try to fix it. So Mikey got away with a lot of shit 'cause you took the blame but I knew deep down he had caused it one way or another.
"I'm ramblin' which you can blame on that deceptively kind but fierce queen who read me the riot act for hours on end yesterday but you see, long and short, you have no reason to be sorry. I'm sure you're shocked as hell to hear me say all this after these many years but well… I'm saying it. It sure shocks me to say it. But it's long overdue, I guess. I'm so proud of you. Mind you, sometimes you seriously deserve being swatted upside the head and called an asshole, so this isn't a blanket apology. Not by a long-shot, Mister. But I admit that I've chosen not to see all the times you've done good for your friends and yourself, too. And unfortunately or fortunately, especially for Michael.
"There. I'm done 'cause it ain't natural for me to be saying sorry to Brian Kinney."
Brian's mouth has dropped open as has mine. "Umm. No problem?" he finally ventures lamely. I mean, what can he say? "Christ. Are you trying to give me cardiac arrest here, Debbie? I had a bullet dug out of my shoulder a half hour ago! I can only take so much!" He's sounds like he's kidding but I suspect he's totally serious. He looks like he's in mild shock and it's not the bullet or the meds. While I've only personally known Debbie two days, I've known Brian for months so I can tell that was quite the declaration on her part by his expression alone.
"Hey, why don't you call the gang?" he says, a moment after he regains his game face and wits, effectively changing the subject. A classic Kinney move when things have wandered into the realm of overly-bizarre and/or emotional. This definitely qualifies.
I clear my throat and follow his lead because I sense he's much more uncomfortable than I am right now, and that's considerable. "Emmett's already here with James; they're still out in the waiting area," I tell him.
He blinks. "I was wondering. I thought you called him and not Debbie from the ambulance. Well Deb, maybe call the others and while you're at it, I think I'd like Father Charles to know what's going on and visit if he can."
"Father Charles? The Father? The one man you used to talk to all the time but haven't seen in years? You haven't been to church in ages, except where Gus's singing is involved! Does this have to do with Justin here?"
"Umm. Not at first. But I took Gus and Justin over to see Father C. after that drama at the diner; Gus was pretty upset. He likes the Father a lot. The Father also obviously knows his favorite choir director so, as I said, I dragged Justin to see him too." Guh. That's not how it happened (I wanted to go) but whatever.
She grins. "Good for you, Brian! I know how close you used to be with that lovely man. I'm so pleased you've reconnected with him!" She clears her throat. "I'll just go outside to make the calls."
Once she's gone I sit at the edge of the bed gently.
"I'm not gonna break, Sunshine. You don't have to treat me like a glass dildo."
I laugh. "Sorry." Gus has fallen asleep under his father's uninjured arm.
The door opens and Emmett pokes his head in. "Someone wants his Daddy and 'The Pretty Man'…" he says quietly. "Can James come in? I'm going to go help Deb with making all the calls."
I nod and James runs in. He hops onto my lap once I've settled more comfortably on the edge of the bed. "Hi, Daddy! Hi, Pretty Man! Are you okay now?"
Brian smiles. "I'm on the mend, Goof Number Two!"
"Goody." Then James, obviously exhausted, leans against me and starts to suck his thumb which I normally try to discourage but right now don't mind one little bit. Within a few seconds, he's dozing.
I notice Brian's still smiling at him before he looks to me. "Well, what Debbie just said was sure a kick in the head. I never thought I'd hear her apologize. Certainly not to ME. Let alone go on and on like that."
"You're talking about Deb right now and not the fact that your former best friend just shot you?"
"Well, that's old news now. I mean, it was what – forty-five minutes ago already?"
I smirk. "Well, about Debbie apologizing and all the things she's been thinking about since yesterday: all I can say is that from what I know, it's about time."
"I wonder how in the hell Emmett got through to her so… so thoroughly or whatever. I mean, it's been fucking eighteen years of her being wonderful but never truly cutting me any slack. Not that I deserved any slack. I was a handful."
"No, you weren't, Brian. I think you were simply a normal kid. Well, actually, more like an extraordinary kid." I lean down and peck him on the lips.
"I'm so glad you're going to be okay, Brian," I blurt, unable to hold back my relief anymore. "I have never been more petrified in my life. Never. I can't lose you, Brian. I can't. Gus was scared, too. He's sure calmed down now, though."
Brian gets a broad smile and pulls his son a little closer, kissing the top of his head. Hearing his name, Gus's eyes blink open and he smiles, his eyes focusing on his father's and looking so much alike. "Sorry. Sonny Boy, I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay, Daddy. You're okay. I'm happy you're okay."
"Well, same here. When will they spring me outta here?"
"Once the meds wear off a little and the latest test results come back normal, the doc said you could leave today no worse for wear, save for a sling to keep your arm and shoulder immobile for a while," I tell him.
"Good. I wanna get out of here sooner rather than later. I hate hospitals with a passion. These meds are pretty powerful though, even for me. Remind me later that Deb's little monologue wasn't just a drug-induced hallucination on my part. Or if I ask and it WAS, tell me that too."
I snicker. "Promise. I'll tell you now that it wasn't but I'll remind you later, too."
"Um. What happened with Michael? Do you know?"
"God, Brian. Just after you got shot everything was a blur. I even forgot the kids were in the loft in my hurry to ride with you to the hospital! It took you to remind me in the back of the ambulance and thank God one of those cops, no matter how incompetent they were, stayed with the kids after the medic radioed him. Then I called Emmett to go get the boys as soon as he could. But all in all, I couldn't even remember my own name; it's pathetic that I couldn't remember my own child and Gus but I was operating on panic.
"Do you remember any of that?"
"It's a little fuzzy but yeah. I hope you don't feel bad about the kids, though. Even in my state, I could see that you were scared shitless but you still took charge like the big, brutal he-man you are." I smirk at him. "It all turned out okay. You sure yammered a lot of ooey-gooey non-he-man crap, though. I've never heard so much drivel about loving me, not being able to live without me and other shit I don't feel like repeating."
I frown, starting to get pissed. "It wasn't drivel, Brian! I was terrified yes, but I meant everything I said! Fuck you!"
He smiles disarmingly, picks up my hand and kisses my knuckles, mimicking me. "I'm just saying, no-one's ever said that kind of stuff to me. I call it "drivel" because…well, never mind. But thanks all the same. I'm glad you were there," he whispers.
I'm getting even more pissed off. I yank my hand away from his lips. "Brian. First of all, you already knew and know I feel all "ooey-gooey" about you. Don't deny that. Ass.
"I don't remember what I was babbling at you when I was scared you could die on me but I know it was honest and it could hardly be news to you. Second of all, if you keep up this freakish combination of self-deprecation and condescension, I'll leave right now and James and I will catch a cab home. You're lovable and I love you. Period. So either deal with that or I'll go tell someone else to cope with you and your shot-up shoulder from now on."
He's still smiling and I want to smack the grin right off his face whether he's wounded or not. "Thanks, Sunshine," he repeats simply, reaching for my hand again; at first I resist but then I let him take it and kiss it. That's about as much acknowledgment to what I just told him that I'll get right now: A smile and a kiss as a response to "I love you". It actually says a lot when it's Brian Kinney. I now know that a derisive sneer and a "get lost" would have been typical not so long ago.
Suddenly Debbie's back. "Everyone is coming." Predictably, Brian groans but the fuckwad asked for it so I'm hardly sympathetic. "Emmett's getting cleaned up – someone waiting to use the payphone he was using accidentally spilled coffee all over him. Thank God the stuff in hospital vending machines is always lukewarm shit." She eyes Brian's less-than-thrilled reaction to the fact that everyone's on their way. "And as a member of your makeshift family, Brian, I'm frankly very pleased that Teddy, Father Charles, Lindsay, Mel and even Cynthia dropped everything they were doing so they could come visit right now. So quit bellyaching, don't be a shit and be grateful. Asshole," she adds and I grin.
Brian rolls his eyes but wisely says nothing.