“How about another game, Kid?” Jimmy asked as they all settled into a booth at Pike's. “Give me a chance to win my money back?”
Kid shook his head. “I just want a nice quiet evening. I’m in enough trouble already for just being here without adding gambling on top of it.”
“So why didn’t you just stay with your girlfriend like a good little boy? You came to have some fun with the guys, let loose a little, right? And show her she doesn’t own your ass. Maybe we should have gone to the strip club across the street. Hey. It’s still not too late,” Cody said excitedly.
“Hold on! I’m not going to a atrip club!” Kid protested.
“Guess it is too late for some people. The wife has you on a short leash, huh, Kid? Can’t party, can’t play pool …” Jimmy smirked.
“Fine, Jimmy. I’ll play your stupid game with you. Easiest $200 I’ll ever make.”
Jimmy smiled triumphantly as he followed Kid to the pool table, the others on their heels to watch.
Kid set the balls on the table. “Want to flip a coin to see who starts?”
Jimmy just waved his hand as he downed a shot of whiskey.
“All right then,” Kid said, applying some chalk to his cue. “Time to take you to school, Hickok.” Setting the chalk on the edge of the table, he relaxed his neck muscles and aimed his cue for the breaking shot. The balls scattered around the table. Kid leaned over the table and pocketed the first ball easily. He stood and looked at the table, considering his next shot. Rounding the table he came to stand at Jimmy’s side.
“Can you give me some room here?” Kid asked and pushed Jimmy’s shoulder gently.
Jimmy took a step back and took a shot glass off a tray as a waitress happened to pass by. He gulped it down without looking at it and stood clutching the small empty glass with a blank expression.
Kid pocketed the next two balls and smiled as he heard Cody cheer him on. He glanced at Jimmy who sat sourly and downed another drink. Kid bit his bottom lip, to restrain himself from saying anything, and focused on the pool table. After pocketing the fourth ball, Kid looked up, just in time to see Jimmy following a shady looking guy into the men’s room. Kid straightened up and frowned.
“I’ll be right back,” Kid mumbled and headed toward the men’s room. He heard Jimmy call, “Thanks, Pike,” before the tavern owner and bartender Frank Pike bumped into him on his way in. Kid stared after him a second before he entered the men’s room.
Jimmy was standing by the sink, head down on the counter and a rolled-up dollar bill in his hand, a line of white powder on the dirty counter in front of him.
“Jimmy, don’t do it!”
Kid rushed over and grabbed Jimmy’s collar, jerking him up from the counter. “Are you crazy?” he hissed. “After all the work you did in rehab? Look at yourself, for God’s sake.” He turned Jimmy toward the mirror over the sink. “Snorting lines in a dirty bar bathroom. Mr. Oscar-winning actor!”
Jimmy’s eyes were blurry, unfocused. “It’s my life, Kid. Don’t - don’t lecture me - -”
He fell silent, and the two of them stood looking at their reflection in the mirror. Shaking his head, Kid swept the cocaine into the sink and flicked on the faucet, and Jimmy’s face crumpled as the powder was swirled down the drain.
Cody came into the bathroom, slamming the door against the wall with a clang, making Jimmy wince. “Party in here?” he laughed, and then fell silent at their serious faces.
“Not anymore,” Jimmy slurred, shoving Kid away from him past Cody.
“Everything okay with Jimmy?” Cody asked, and Kid sighed.
“I don’t know, Cody. I’m not his keeper.”
Cody went over to the urinal and unzipped, while Kid collected himself, washing his hands to make make sure no drugs were still clinging to them.
I should report him to DeWitt, or at least Teaspoon. If Jimmy’s using again, there’ll be an explosion sooner or later. We’re behind schedule as it is, and never mind the production … Jimmy could end up in the hospital or worse. Kid sighed, drying his hands.
There was no denying anymore. Jimmy needed help, real help, before this situation got even more out of control. But something held Kid back. The same something, he guessed, that kept him cleaning up after his dad when he’d find him passed out behind his own bar, in his own vomit. That kept him lying to his mother about how much Dad drank while tending bar. Trying to help, to be loyal, not to be a rat. But maybe … only enabling. Jimmy’ll never forgive me if I squeal on him. Kid looked a final time in the mirror. But … if Jimmy overdoses one night, I’ll never forgive myself.
Jimmy was still slamming back the liquor, the game totally forgotten, when Kid returned to the pool table.
“Maybe we should call it a night,” Ike suggested, seeing how upset Kid was and how drunk Jimmy was getting. “We’ve got to work tomorrow morning.”
“No, don’t wanna go yet,” Jimmy slurred, signaling a waitress to bring him another shot.
“Jimmy, you’ve had enough!” Cody said, trying to catch Jimmy’s arm.
An out-of-control Jimmy shoved Cody off violently, sending the skinny boy crashing into a huge man standing nearby with his friends, and spilling the man’s drink all over his neatly pressed, if gaudy, three-piece suit.
A dangerous look passed over the man’s face as he withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped at the spill.
“Sorry, pal,” Cody said, but the man ignored him.
Re-folding the pocket square and replacing it calmly in his pocket, the giant said, “I believe it’s your friend over there who owes me an apology.”
The man lifted an eyebrow above his silver-rimmed glasses.
“He’s not worth it, Longley,” one of his friends said, but Longley raised a hand to silence him, never taking his eyes off Jimmy.
Longley spoke slowly, as if to a child. “For the whiskey bath you gave me just now, when you shoved your little friend.”
Jimmy looked at Kid, and smirked. “Well, I didn’t mean to.”
“Our friend’s had a little more than he should, sir. We apologize. How about we buy you another one,” Kid offered, but the man shook his head with a dangerous chuckle and a glint in his eye.
“That didn’t sound like an apology to me.”
Jimmy’s eyes widened. “Sorry.”
Kid breathed a sigh of relief.
Jimmy smirked drunkenly. “But apologizing’s something I only do on Sundays. This is Tuesday.”
Kid slapped a hand over his face in despair.
Longley looked confused, which Kid figured was understandable because it wasn’t Tuesday. Jimmy was doing the scene from that morning, hitting every line even while barely standing upright.
“Maybe we oughta take this outside and settle it like men,” Jimmy ranted, still following the script. “Pistols at twenty paces, you low-down coyote! You insulted my mother!”
Incredulously, Longley glanced at Kid, who shrugged.
“We really are sorry, sir. We’ll pick up your tab, and take this one home. Once he sobers up, I’m sure he’ll be sorry too.” Kid grabbed Jimmy by one arm, gesturing to Cody to get the other.
“You do that,” Longley sneered. He turned away. “Crazy idiot.”
Jimmy shoved Cody off him and unexpectedly launched himself at Longley, catapulting the both of them across a nearby table and sending glasses and bowls of peanuts into the air amid his flailing punches. Longley’s friends jumped into the fray, and Buck and Ike fended them off while Kid pulled Jimmy off Longley.
“Jimmy, that’s enough!” Kid growled, dragging a still-fighting Jimmy with him to the exit, where Cody stood helpfully holding the door open.
“Buck! Ike! C’mon let’s beat it!” Cody screeched, and Buck and Ike scrambled to the exit.
“We’re sorry, sir. I’ll make sure he’s sorry too,” Cody shouted back at Longley, whose friends were now holding him back. Cody took off like a shot toward the parking lot, while Kid, Buck and Ike staggered behind, half-dragging, half-carrying Jimmy along with them.
Cody was cowering in the back seat when Kid reached it, shoving Jimmy in head first. “Take us back to the studio, Sally,” he shouted to the studio driver, while the others scrambled in. He saw Longley tearing out of the bar after them, and yelled, “And step on it!"
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Lou was curled up next to Jesse on his couch, cuddled against his shoulder with his arm around her. They were watching Jesse’s favorite show, “Glee”, as they did every week without fail. Lou wasn’t quite as into it as Jesse was, but watching Jesse’s reactions was entertainment enough. Just now, Blaine was proposing marriage to long-term off-and-on boyfriend Kurt through a Bollywood-style musical number, and Jesse sat, transfixed by the screen, his eyes lit up like stars.
Lou bit her lip to avoid chuckling, as Jesse reached over her to grab a handful of the popcorn, dropping half of it over Lou as he transferred it back to his mouth.
“Erm. Hello,” Lou said, holding out her blouse at the collar and fishing out several kernels. “Earth to Jesse.”
“Not now!” Jesse hissed.
Kurt tearfully accepted Blaine’s proposal amid cheers of the rest of the characters on screen, as rose petals rained down over the kissing couple, and Jesse sighed, his head cocked to the side wistfully, and clutched her hand. “Finally,” he whispered, wiping a tear from one eye, and turned to her as the show went to commercial.
“You were saying?” he asked.
“Nothing important. Boy you sure like this show a lot.”
Jesse shrugged. “Well, TV is better than it used to be a few years ago as far as showing stories about people like me, but still … there isn’t that much about it. So I take what I can get. And I love Kurt and Blaine. I want what they have … love, romance. You know. So I live vicariously through them at this point.”
Lou raised an eyebrow. “So what’s keeping you from having it yourself?”
“There’s not exactly a lot of options on this set,” Jesse complained. “Just totally hot, but totally straight guys. It’s like a buffet with all my favorite food laid out on a table and a sign saying, ‘not for you, Jesse’.”
“I guess so, but what about off the set?”
“We’re in an out-of-the-way southwestern town in the middle of nowhere. There’s a strip club on every corner but no gay bar,” Jesse muttered. “And I don’t want just meaningless anonymous hookups anyway. I want - -” he cut himself off suddenly and got up, taking the bowl with him.
“Hold up there. This just got interesting,” Lou said. “C’mon. There’s somebody you like. Is it someone back in LA? Spill.” She followed him into the kitchen, where he had his head stuck in the freezer contemplating his selection of premium ice cream. “Don’t do that, you want to be in good shape for Mr. Dream Man. Who is he?”
Jesse took out a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby. “I can eat all I want. Jimmy Hickok will never be mine,” he said dramatically, ripping off the lid and grabbing a plastic ladle from the utensil jar on the counter.
“Jimmy! But he’s … he’s got so many problems,” Lou said. “And … well. Yeah, he’s super straight. I saw Sarah Downs stripping down and getting into the hot tub with him today.” She got a canister of Redi Whip topping out of the refrigerator and handed it to him. “Here … sorry, pal, but I think you might as well drown your sorrows with this. The two of us are in the same boat for different reasons.” She took a spatula out of the canister and took a scoop of the ice cream.
“Kid... Lou, I think that’s just asking for trouble. He’s in love with Doritha. You know that.”
The two of them sighed as Jesse sprayed the whipped cream right into the carton and they stood glumly devouring it together.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Kid opened the door to Jimmy's trailer and shoved the other man inside, dropping him on the sofa. "You stupid, self centered son of a bitch," Kid cursed, losing his temper. Jimmy looked up at him from where he was sprawled, and smirked at the unusual display of temper from Kid.
"What's wrong with you? Why are you doing this?" Kid demanded.
"Doing what?" Jimmy asked innocently, knowing it would enrage Kid even more. He rose and went to the bathroom, leaving the door open on his way.
“You know what!” Kid fumed.
“Kid, stop making such a fuss," Jimmy griped, zipping his pants down. “You sound like an old woman.”
Kid started the coffee machine and took two mugs out of the cupboard.
“What’s this? Inviting yourself up for a cup of coffee, are you?” Jimmy remarked over his shoulder.
“Just trying to sober you up.”
Jimmy joined him in the small kitchen, wearing only a pair of tight boxer-briefs and unbuttoning his shirt. “You don’t need to mother me, Kid. I’m old enough to take care of myself.” He reached into a cabinet and took down a bottle of vodka, uncorking it and pouring a shot into each of the two mugs on the counter. “See?”
“You can’t be serious. Do you not even care what you’re doing to your body with this?”
“Worried about my health, are you?” Jimmy jerked open the door to the refrigerator and pulled out a jar of olives with a fork left standing in it. Fishing out an olive, he dumped it into his mug. “There ya go,” he said. “Nice and healthy. Eating my vegetables.”
“I know, I know. It needs vermouth to be a real martini, but we’ll just have to rough it. You like roughin’ it, Kid? I guess that prissy little fiancée of yours probably don’t.”
“God, Jimmy, you really just want to piss everybody off, push away everybody who cares about you with this asshole attitude, don’t you?”
Jimmy looked startled, then defeated. “Nobody cares about me. Only what they can get from me. That’s all you care about, keeping this shoot going, because this ridiculous horse opera’s your big break.” He took a swig from the cup and grimaced. “Don’t pretend to care when you don’t.”
“I do care, Jimmy. I’m trying to help you, and it’s not just because of the show. I mean that.”
Jimmy fell strangely silent, staring into the mug in his fist. Kid leaned on the opposite wall, his left leg bent. He stared at Jimmy for a long moment, encouraged when Jimmy met his gaze and seemed to be letting his guard down, listening.
“I don’t get you, Jimmy. I’ve worked for years just to get a break, and you made it. Do you know how much I looked up to you?”
“You did?” Jimmy whispered. “Really?”
“You were one of the people who inspired me to be an actor. Your work … it’s amazing, Jimmy. You’re amazing.”
Jimmy clutched the mug tighter to his chest and looked unblinkingly at Kid, tilting his head and seeming to try to focus.
“And you give it up for what? For alcohol and cocaine. I don’t understand, I really don’t know why someone like you, who had everything -- - ”
“Not everything,” Jimmy whispered huskily, his eyes growing dark. He dropped the mug on the floor with a crash. “God, Kid, not everything.”
In one swift, cat-like stride he closed the gap between them before a startled Kid could react. Somehow, Jimmy’s bare chest was pressed against his, slamming him against the wall, and one large hand snaked around his waist, pulling him tight. Kid gasped in shock, and Jimmy forced his tongue into Kid’s mouth.
It took Kid a second to get out of the shock and he pushed Jimmy off him and wiped his mouth disgustedly. “Jimmy - what the hell - - what - -”
Jimmy looked confused, backing up on swaying feet before stumbling past Kid and flopping face down on the bed in the next room. Kid took the opportunity and fled the trailer, stunned and disbelieving.
When he reached his trailer, he found Doritha was already sleeping. He paced the room, shaken and unsettled.
Why on earth had Jimmy done that? What could possibly have given that crazy fool the idea that he … ugh. He shivered, and stripped off his shirt and pants, flinging them across the room into a heap on the floor, and opened the door to the bathroom. He started to brush his teeth, staring at himself in the mirror and trying to figure out what had just happened.
It was ridiculous. He was clearly not gay, and he clearly hadn’t given Jimmy any signals to the contrary. He was as straight as an arrow. None of that weird stuff for him.
He tiptoed back to the bed, and saw that Doritha hadn’t woken up while he was opening and shutting the door or running the water. He ran a hand over his hair, and coughed, banging into the night table deliberately.
Doritha stirred in bed, stretching and yawning.
“Oh, honey, did I wake you?” Kid said contritely.
He got into the bed and pulled Doritha towards him. He started caressing her, pulling the edges of her nightgown up.
“What the heck are you doing, Kid? Are you drunk? It’s 3:00 in the morning and I was asleep,” she said grumpily. “I hate when you do that. I need a little buildup, you know that.”
“I know, baby, but I need you so much right now,” he whispered as he nibbled her ear.
“Kid, I’m sore from the riding I did this morning and I’m really not in the mood…”
“Please, honey? I’ll make it quick. I really need you right now.”
“Gee, you’ll ‘make it quick’? That sounds appealing,” Doritha said, pushing him away. “Glad to see the romance isn’t dead.” She turned over and was asleep almost as the words left her lips.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~