I apologize for not updating in a while. I sprained my left elbow, and had difficulty getting my homework in on time as a result. My classes were cancelled for half the week due to Hurricane Sandy, so I was able to catch up on writing too. My thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected by the storm.

Chapter 3- Knowing One's Friends

September 18th, 2000.

The four of them sat in the Liberty Diner, eating breakfast.

None of them were much in the mood for conversation.

Aiden found herself sitting next to Brian and across from Emmett, more than aware that where she was sitting was where Ted should be sitting. Michael sat across from Brian and next to Emmett. The twins exchanged a look with each other before looking down dejectedly at their food.

"Would someone please say something?" asked Emmett.

"So it's late, and I'm leaving Babylon, and there's this really hot guy… and he's like, perfect," said Michael.

"How perfect?" asked Brian.

"Perfect. So we wind up at my place," said Michael. "We're making out and I'm already picturing him in a speedo with a flag on it."

FLASHBACK

"Have you ever been to Brazil?" asked the hot guy.

"Um, no… you?" asked Michael.

"I just came back, it's fabulous," said the hot guy.

"Great beaches, I hear," said Michael.

Michael took off his shirt and got on his knees. He didn't want to hear any more about Brazil. Michael wanted to suck this guy off – now.

"Yeah… only they have these things," said the hot guy.

"Things?" asked Michael.

"Parasite things," said the hot guy. "They live in the sand and they sort of burrow themselves right up in there."

Michael stood up with what he was sure was a look of horror on his face.

END FLASHBACK

"He had them – Brazilian beach parasites, in his ass," said Michael.

"Well at least you found out before you got too far," said Emmett.

Michael shuddered.

"Ugh," said Michael.

"The mental images shall haunt Michael forever," Aiden dramatically whispered.

Brian snickered then turned to Emmett.

"What about you?" Brian asked.

"We were just getting started," said Emmett.

FLASHBACK

Emmett felt the leather contraption Dungeon-master Don was strapping on him get tighter and tighter.

"Feel like a 1991 Madonna video… do you have this in a size larger?" asked Emmett.

"Can we hurry this along?" asked Dungeon-master Don. "I got a bride and groom to do in the morning."

"So you're… bi?" asked Emmett.

"No. They're dead. Car crash," said Dungeon-master Don.

Emmett didn't have time to think about it as Dungeon-master Don grabbed Emmett's legs and Emmett fell on the bed.

END FLASHBACK

"You went home with – " said Michael.

"An undertaker. Mm-hmm," said Emmett.

"I fucked an undertaker once," said Brian.

"You did? When?" asked Michael.

"He told me sometimes they sew the mouths shut," said Brian.

He then made a creepy face and waited for everyone's reactions. Emmett was unable to conceal the grossed out look on his face as he attempted to finish his breakfast.

"I fucked someone in a cemetery once," said Aiden.

Michael nearly spat out his coffee.

"Do tell," said Brian.

"It was in college," said Aiden. "I used to date someone who, let's just say, had a sense of adventure."

"I don't wanna hear anymore," said Michael. "No. Last thing I need while eating breakfast is to talk about my sister having sex! Ugh!"

"What about you Brian?" asked Emmett. "What did you do last night?"

Thoughts of Justin – his blonde hair, his tight ass – clouded Brian's head as he took a sip of coffee and hoped the others hadn't picked up that he was thinking about the sex he had had with Justin last night.

Aiden looked right at him and he watched her lips curl into a satisfied smirk. So she had figured it out. Big deal. He knew she would more than likely not say anything.

"I made it an early evening," said Brian.

"You know, when I go, promise you won't let them sew my mouth shut," said Emmett. "Because when I get to heaven and I meet Natalie Wood, I wanna be able to say 'Natalie! It's Emmett! What happened that night?'"

The four of them laughed.

"Hey!" said Debbie.

The four of them looked up to see Debbie balancing a tray on one hand. Aiden wondered why her mother wouldn't let her pay everything off. She hadn't realized when she had gotten her own show how much money she was going to be getting paid. She had had loans after going to law school, but those had been paid off years ago.

Now Aiden had more money than she knew what to do with, and simply wanted to make sure her mother didn't have to work so much and that her uncle Vic wouldn't have to worry about how much his medications cost.

"Shouldn't you guys be gettin' to the hospital?" asked Debbie.

The four of them looked down at their food, a somber atmosphere now present alongside them after having been reminded of Ted's dire condition.

QUEER AS FOLK

It was still morning when the four of them got to Allegheny General Hospital. The Neuro ICU was quiet. The silence made Aiden slightly uncomfortable. She had been in hospitals too often as either a patient due to her asthma or as a visitor to other people who were either sick or dying… like her uncle.

Nick hadn't been around once to either help Aiden out or simply listen to how she felt. Not once. If not for Melanie comparing Aiden's sex life to Brian's, Aiden would've dumped Nick months ago.

"Schmidt, Ted?" asked Michael.

"Are you family?" asked the nurse.

"Friends… we know he's, like, in a coma and everything, said Michael. "We'd just like to be with him for a little if that's okay."

"I'll see what I can do," said the nurse.

She walked away.

"The nurses' station. I always thought it had something to do with radio – all nursing, all the time," said Emmett.

"Hello," said a woman.

The four of them turned to the sound of the woman's voice.

"I'm Margaret Schmidt. Ted's mother?" said Margaret. "If you need permission to see him I'll give it. I've… I'm sure he'd appreciate it."

"I'm Michael," said Michael. "This is Aiden, Emmett, and Brian. We're Ted's friends."

"He's still in the coma. He looks like he did when he was a boy, when he slept," said Margaret. "They don't think he'll come out of it."

The four friends glanced at each other as Michael sat down next to Margaret.

"I sat by his bed all night. About five o' clock in the morning it occurred to me," said Margaret. "Loving someone's not the same as knowing them."

Aiden was snapped out of her somber mood when she noticed Brian checking out a nurse that was nearby. She couldn't believe this. Ted could die and Brian was cruising in the hospital.

She immediately glared at Brian. If looks could kill, his eyes would've rolled up in the back of his head and he would've dropped to the floor.

"Brian!" Michael whispered angrily.

Brian looked down at the floor.

QUEER AS FOLK

The four friends peeked into Ted's room. None of them were used to seeing Ted so still.

The nurse Brian had been eyeing was in Ted's room. The nurse noticed the group looking through the window and closed a curtain, cutting off their view of Ted.

"Who do you think it was? I mean, who do you think gave him the drugs?" asked Emmett.

"I bet it was that guy Blake who was cruising him all night," said Michael.

"You think we should tell someone?" asked Emmett.

"You're damn right we should tell someone! That asshole left Ted in his apartment to die!" Aiden snarled.

"No!" said Brian.

The rest of the group all looked at Brian as if he had two heads.

"His mom said she'd call us if there was any change," said Michael.

"Y'know he's a first… first almost-dead guy I sort of had sex with," said Brian.

"You had sex with Ted?" asked Michael.

"You never had sex with Ted," said Emmett.

"When did this happen?" asked Aiden.

"Sort-of sex… at this semi-orgy," said Brian.

"Semi? When?" asked Michael.

"You know that weekend John-John's plane went down?" asked Brian.

"How could I forget? I had to do a segment on my show," said Aiden.

"Oh, god… they kept showing him on the beach with his shirt off," said Emmett. "I didn't know whether to jerk off or weep."

"So did you… like… plan it?" asked Michael.

Aiden rolled her eyes. She doubted Brian had planned whatever he was about to tell them.

"Just sort of happened," said Brian.

Michael still had an odd look of surprise on his face.

"Things do!" said Brian.

Emmett laughed as Michael glared at him.

"Scott, Kevin… the Todds… and Ted shows up with my taxes and all of a sudden we're all doing it… and, he even tried to fuck me," said Brian.

"If at first you don't succeed… he didn't try, try again?" asked Aiden.

Emmett laughed.

"He's in there!" Michael hissed. "Lines up and down on a screen. That could be us."

"No, it could not be us – because we know better," said Brian. "We know not to believe pretty little blonde boys who tell you it's really good shit, because it's what they all say. Ted didn't know that – and that you only do drugs with your friends because they're the only ones who give a fuck about you."

Aiden would rather they not do drugs period but it wasn't something she was going to fight them on, especially Brian. He had been through a lot growing up – if he was messed up, it wasn't because of his drug habit. It was because of his mother.

QUEER AS FOLK

Aiden did her show later that day from 3pm to 6pm.

It was an election year – her ratings always went up during an election year, even if it was only a midterm election during that year. This year, it was a presidential election and she had interviewed every candidate up until the primaries, which George W. Bush and Al Gore had won in their respective parties.

She would probably be conducting one or two more interviews with each of them until the election.

While Aiden was going to vote for Gore, she was also hoping this would be her chance to move to the 12pm to 3pm timeslot. It was the timeslot everyone in radio wanted, as it was when the most listeners tuned in. It meant ratings shooting through the roof and a bigger salary, but those weren't the things Aiden cared about.

What she cared about was that if that happened, more people would know who she was. Maybe, just maybe, it would be the beginning of more people becoming open-minded about gay rights.

QUEER AS FOLK

After her show, Aiden went to the Big Q and picked up Michael. She noticed some of the employees giving her dirty looks. She responded by smiling in their direction. Aiden hid behind a display and laughed at the confused looks on their faces. She then saw Michael and walked over to him.

"You're almost off, right?" asked Aiden.

"Yeah," said Michael.

"Good," said Aiden. "I got my Ducati Monster outside – wanna go to the diner?"

"The Monster? You want me to ride behind you on the Monster?" said Michael. "No way!"

"Neither of us have cars, so unless ya wanna walk…"

"Okay," said Michael.

"Relax – I always carry a spare helmet," said Aiden. "I'm gonna wait outside. Your narrow-minded coworkers are pissing me off."

The two siblings exchanged a look before Aiden went outside.

QUEER AS FOLK

The twins walked into the diner and stared at their mother for a moment. Debbie then noticed them, waved, and walked over. She noticed her children were still staring at her.

"What?" said Debbie.

"That thing you do with your hands," said Michael, repeating the gesture his mother had made before walking over.

"I do that huh?" asked Debbie.

"Yeah you do," said Aiden.

"You two outta know," said Debbie.

"Yeah," said Michael and Aiden.

A mother always knew when her babies were hurting – Debbie could see it in her babies' faces. Even Aiden, who always tried the hardest to hide her pain, had the faintest look of sadness on her face. It was enough that Debbie could pick up on it and knew that Ted's condition was what had the twins upset.

"Honey, sweetie… people come out of comas," said Debbie. "Your uncle Vic, how long was he in his?"

"Nine days," said Michael.

"Ten," said Aiden.

She could still remember those ten agonizing days – they weren't too long ago. Late 1999, perhaps early 2000, but Aiden couldn't remember the exact dates. She wasn't sure how she had gotten through those days of constant vigils in the waiting room, bracing herself for the worst. Nick hadn't been much help. He had spent most of his time in his office and barely even acknowledged something was wrong.

Now I'm stuck marrying that asshole. Thanks a lot, Melanie, thought Aiden.

"I thought I'd lost him," said Debbie. "I couldn't tell your grandmother it was AIDS at the time – she couldn't have dealt with it – 'I want to hear about the white light and the tunnel, and did Ant Teresa get to heaven?'. First words out of his mouth – 'Did I miss the Golden Globes?'."

The three of them laughed at the thought of that moment. Aiden had witnessed it firsthand. He had missed them – but Aiden had taped the show for him. She could still remember, despite how sick he'd been, the look of happiness on his face when she had brought that tape and her VCR to the hospital so he could watch the Golden Globes that year.

"So how is he?' asked Debbie.

"The same… no change," said Aiden.

"I'm gonna go back a little later, I thought I'd take something to his mom," said Michael.

"I'm going too. Thought I'd bring her some coffee," said Aiden.

Debbie almost cried as she gave her children a big hug and kisses. While she had raised them to be kind and loving, such acts of kindness always reminded her how lucky she was to have them around.

"What was that for?" asked Michael.

"You okay Ma?" asked Aiden.

Instead of answering, Debbie loaded takeout containers with turkey meatloaf and the diner's signature lemon bars.

QUEER AS FOLK

Aiden brought Mrs. Schmidt a big cup of coffee from the hospital cafeteria and saw Michael waiting for her.

"What's going on?" asked Aiden.

"Not here," said Michael.

They went outside and Michael told Aiden about how Ted's mother was planning to go to Ted's condo and getting pajamas.

"Me and the others bought him those dildos for his birthday, remember?" asked Michael.

"How could I forget? That was so – shit! We can't let her find his stuff!" said Aiden.

"Do you mind helping Emmett and I?" asked Michael.

"I've seen worse – let's go," said Aiden.

QUEER AS FOLK

Aiden, Michael, and Emmett went to Ted's condo later that night. Emmett opened the door and peeked inside.

"Ladies first," said Emmett.

"Thanks," said Aiden.

To Aiden, Emmett was like a second brother. She could still remember when she had met him – it had been in 1990, during the summer she had been home from school and had decided to pick up a summer job waitressing at the Liberty Diner. He had walked in one morning with an urge for pancakes – Aiden had noticed his suitcase and decided to get him to open up. They had hung out after her shift, and had been friends ever since.

Aiden was snapped out of her thoughts as Michael began tossing things at her and Emmett from Ted's refrigerator.

"Poppers… cheddar… brie…"

"I don't think there are particularly strong shame issues attached to cheese, Michael," said Emmett.

"Fine. You two check out the bedroom, I'll work out here," said Michael.

"Okay – and put the cheese back, Michael. Throwing it in the trash will stink up the condo enough to cause a strong shame issue of smelly condo," said Aiden.

Michael rolled his eyes as he threw the poppers into a nearby trash can. How had Aiden known he was planning to throw out the cheese?

QUEER AS FOLK

Michael was looking through Ted's porn collection when five dildos suddenly flew into the room.

"Found them!" said Emmett.

"Look at this one!" said Michael.

"That looks painful!" said Aiden.

The three of them grabbed the biggest dildos they saw and began a sword-fight with them. The silly mood was broken when they found pictures of Michael in Ted's closet.

Aiden wasn't sure what to think? Was it a crush, or was it creepy?

QUEER AS FOLK

The three of them went to Woody's after getting Ted's x-rated items out of his apartment and talked about the pictures.

"I think it means he's in love with you," said Emmett.

"I guess I shouldn't have seemed so freaked out – I'm just overprotective of my brother, I guess," said Aiden.

"It's okay – at least we know that you'll always have our backs," said Emmett.

They began to share their secrets – Emmett's harrowing experiences growing up in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, Michael and Aiden about not knowing anything about their father.

All they knew was that he had died in Vietnam, about a month after they were born.

QUEER AS FOLK

Aiden found out from Brian that Ted had woken up that night. He was able to go home three days later, much to his chagrin – Aiden couldn't blame him. She had been in the hospital enough with her asthma that she knew how bad hospital food could be, and how emotionless the sterile environment was.

The important thing was that Ted was okay. He was alive, and he was still Ted.

"You ever scare me like that again, I'll kill you," said Aiden.

"I'm sorry," said Ted.

"I forgive you – I just don't want you taking chances like that again, okay?" said Aiden.

"Okay," said Ted.

Aiden gave him a hug as she and their friends brought Ted back to his condo.

There is definitely more to come - and Aiden has secrets of her own, though I decided this chapter wasn't the right place to divulge them. What are they? You'll just have to keep reading to see what happens with the twins and their friends next!