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Take 1

He's dying.

There's a lot about the last few hours he's doubtful about, but he's pretty fucking sure about this. And that it's not supposed to happen. That's what he's got people for. So much for that old Jewish joke, Jerry thinks; apparently you can't pay people to die for you after all.

Strong arms are holding him, cradling him almost. Jerry thinks he hears crying, but are they tears of grief or regret? "You're supposed to die for me," he wants to yell at Steve, "that's what I pay you for," but there's blood in his throat and he can't get the words out.

To call this day strange would be the fucking understatement of the century. Why the hell did he get sent to Hell? He's not a bad person. He doesn't create the shit the losers on his show end up in. He just televises it. What's wrong with that? There was absolutely no reason to drag him down to Hell, even if it was to mediate in Satan's dispute with Jesus of Nazareth. On the other hand, he did get to see Jesus bitchslap Eve and that was pretty fucking awesome. If he weren't too busy dying he'd make plans for a future show about it. "I've Died And Gone To Hell," he'd call it.

You're supposed to see your life flash before your eyes when you die, don't you? All Jerry sees though is that Wierus loser. What's that cocksucker still doing here anyway? Steve should have escorted him off the set the moment Jerry fired him. To look at him now, standing there, at the edge of the stage, grinning with truly malevolent glee, it's not even that much of a stretch to believe he could be Satan. Slap a goatee and a red suit on him and you'd be halfway there. Besides, isn't Satan supposed to roam the earth, live in the heart of every man? Jerry can't think of a heart more deserving of the Devil than that of Jonathan Wierus.

Jerry knew he was trouble the first time he walked into the studio. He was too eager to please. Five minutes into the interview he had Jerry's dick in his mouth. Well, you couldn't let dedication like that go unrewarded, now, could you? So he offered the guy a job. Maybe that's why the Satan in Jerry's strange dream was remarkably gay.

To give credit where it's due, the guy wasn't half-bad at it either. There was something about the way he could put himself in their guests' heads. What Jerry understands now is that the guy's so good at what he does because he's as fucked up and as big a loser as the most pathetic guest who ever sat down in those green chairs. He really had no other choice but to fire him.

He should have fired him the first time Steve suggested it, but Jerry thought it was nothing but a lover's tiff. Of course he knew. Did those two think they could keep it from him that they were fucking each other?

(His mind flashes on the intimate way Satan caressed Steve, right before he ordered his minions to beat the crap out of him. Was it all in his head? He's spouted enough pseudo-psychology on his show to figure this one out, right?)

He's not stupid. You don't get to be mayor of a city like Cincinnati if you're stupid. OK, so the hooker thing had been less than smart, he will admit that much. Still, not stupid enough to fall for Steve's badly concealed attempt at getting rid of Jonathan.

It would all blow over, Jerry thought, or they would just have to learn to live and work with each other. Nobody could get a crowd worked up like Jonathan could. In all his years doing this show Jerry had never seen its like. If Steve thought he was going to fire him because the two of them had a falling out, he was sadly mistaken.

This is exactly why Jerry disapproves of his staff dating each other. It always comes back to bite Jerry in the ass. He should have put an end to it the moment he started noticing, but he always had a soft spot for Steve. Steve would put his life on the line for Jerry and Jerry thought he deserved a little break.

They were in the green room when Steve said: "Wierus isn't working out."

At first Jerry didn't understand. "Not working out? When we did the "I Married A Teenage Hooker" show last week, he got two of the little hoebags to bitch fight. That's what my audience comes to see, Steve."

"He's got no respect for the business, Jerry," Steve persisted. "No respect for the people."

Laughing at Steve's transparency, Jerry leant back in his chair and lit a cigar. "We all have bad days, Steve," he said. "Give the guy a break."

Maybe it was a coincidence, but after that conversation the atmosphere on set changed. It had been tense before, but now it became a powder keg, one that was constantly on the point of blowing. Then came the incident that proved he should have listened to Steve a little more closely.

It was a show like any other; a guy confessed he was sleeping with the daughter, the mother and the father. Nothing special really. Jerry was just doing his "you seem surprised!" bit to the daughter, the mother and the father, when out of nowhere, that Wierus asshole came running onto the stage and started chanting "Loser! Loser!" until the crowd picked it up. For a moment Jerry was so confused he just stood there and smiled awkwardly, but he was fuming inside.

"Oh," Jonathan said, when Jerry called him on it after the show, "I didn't think you'd have a problem with it. I'm sorry, Jerr. It won't happen again."

Jerry thought the situation dealt with and for a while it was. A week later Jonathan stood before him again, that same genuine enough looking smile on his face as he assured Jerry he would never rip a drag queen's wig off again. There wasn't much Jerry could say to that, seeing as he was holding an ice-pack to his nose, where he'd been hit by an errant fist, aiming for Wierus and too fast for Steve to intercept.

Today should have been a good show. They had the Ku Klux Klan, always a ratings booster. Instead he's lying in a pool of his own blood, shot by a man in a diaper and knows that somehow that little scrotum sucker has something to do with it. Throughout the show, everywhere Jerry turned, there was Wierus, making an ass of himself and in the process Jerry and his show. Steve was right. It was time for him to go.

"Jerry, the ambulance is on its way," he hears Steve whisper in his ear, but it's already too late. He left it too late.

Take 2

He's dying.

From his corner of the studio floor Jonathan watches, his heart filled with triumph. Did that fucking faggot really think he'd go peacefully? You don't fire someone as good at his job as Jonathan is and get away with it. And look at that motherfucking Steve, cradling him so lovingly as if he were a baby. Jonathan will bet his life that if he could have, Steve would have taken the bullet for Jerry. It makes him want to be sick.

Jonathan can still remember the first day he walked into the studio, the awe he felt, not just at meeting the great Jerry Springer, but at the knowledge that this could be something he was good at. It was a feeling he wasn't particularly familiar with.

His entire life he'd felt invisible, the misfit in a family of five boys, all of them plumbers, or bricklayers, or mechanics or something equally useful. They had a skill, did an honest day's work, as his father kept reminding Jonathan as he threw him a scornful look. At those times especially Jonathan was almost convinced he'd been switched at birth. No way could he belong in this nest of unimaginative, unremarkable people.

It had been his favourite childhood fantasy, to pretend he was really the secret lovechild of some famous movie star and her handsome lover. Perhaps he was married and she had to give him up to avoid scandal and one day she would be there at their door to reclaim him. The fantasy always lasted until he caught sight of himself in the mirror and saw his mother's dark eyes, his father's mouth.

"You're a fucking nutjob," his father once said, when he'd caught Jonathan in front of his mum's mirror, her curling iron as his microphone. "I'd take you to a shrink if it weren't such a waste of money."

That night was the first time he thought of killing himself. His father would be sorry then! The only thing that held him back was the question whether his father would even notice that he was gone.

The job interview came as a godsend, his chance, his one chance to get out of this hellhole and by god, he wasn't going to let it slip through his fingers. He lied his way into the interview, his resumé a work of fiction more fantastical than the Grimm fairy tales. It had gotten the job done. Well, that and some major sucking up (and sucking of dick).

A whole new world opened up for him. After a lifetime of feeling out of step with everybody around him, Jonathan finally found a place where he fit. These people were his family. They understood him. They respected him.

"Hey, Jonathan," they'd say when he walked through the door each morning, "got any action last night?" And then they would smack him on the back and they'd laugh and for the first time in his life Jonathan felt like he belonged.

And then they all turned against him. Even that dickhead Steve.

Working for Jerry made him feel ten feet tall and when Steve started noticing him, well, he thought he had it all. He didn't expect it to happen and even after working up to it for weeks, flirting outrageously with him at every opportunity, the first time Steve kissed him still took Jonathan by surprise.

There was no warning, just Steve grabbing his tie and pulling him into the janitor's closet after a particularly successful show. He was pushed against the wall and before he could ask what was going on, there was a mouth on his and oh, god, just thinking about it now is enough to make Jonathan hard. His hands found Steve's shoulders, the strength holding him against the wall such a turn on.

"You're such a fucking tease," Steve ground out between biting kisses. "You gonna make good on all the promises?"

"I didn't think you'd wanna kiss," he admitted.

Steve grinned and Jonathan was on his knees, literally and figuratively. Steve's hands were in his hair, 225 pounds of solid mass holding him down and it was always always like this, always so good when they were fucking - Jonathan can't think of it as making love any more. Perhaps it was all that repressed military crap coming out when Steve was with Jonathan, but whatever it was, it was good.

It was Steve's fault that things started to turn sour, Steve and his precious Jerry. Their employer strongly objected to relationships within his ranks, the reason why they sneaked around the set like naughty children.

One day, Jonathan was walking through the set in search of Steve, hoping to find him in a good mood, perhaps up for a quickie before lunch. He was smiling, he remembers that vividly, when he passed the green room. Eavesdropping was the last thing on his mind, but he heard Steve's voice. It wasn't the voice that drew him closer to the door; it was the words being said.

"We gotta get rid of Wierus."

He stood frozen. Blood was pounding in his ears and for a moment he wasn't even sure he'd heard what he had. There had to be a mistake. They were good together. What would make Steve say that?

There was laughter behind the door and Jerry said something Jonathan could barely understand but sounded like: "Something something fuck-buddies."

Unable to breathe, Jonathan put his ear closer to the door. "Pussy," he heard Steve reply and "not my thing."

A feeling of such blind rage, of such betrayal had swamped Jonathan, consumed him until he couldn't think straight.

Jerry didn't fire him that day and Jonathan couldn't see it as anything other than a sign. He would show them! Show them all how indispensable he was to this show. Most importantly he would show that traitor Steve how much more important he was, how much more Jerry valued him.

He began to take risks. Anything really to get Jerry's attention. Sometimes it felt like some evil spirit took over his body and without Jonathan's consent just ran onto the stage and spouted obscenities. He got rapped on the knuckles by Jerry, but that was OK. Jerry would soon understand. He would see how much he needed Jonathan.

The first time Steve forcefully removed him from the set, something inside Jonathan snapped.

Today Jerry did fire him. He didn't even look at Jonathan. Dismissed him and lit a fucking cigar and Steve gloated while he stood watching. It was Jonathan's father all over again, loving the other kids more than he loved Jonathan and the only thing going through Jonathan's head was: "Just you wait, you motherfuckers! You'll see! You don't fuck with Jonathan Wierus."

The gunshot still ringing in his ears, Jonathan watches Jerry heave a final sigh and sag in Steve's arms, sees the look of failure and grief in Steve's eyes and smiles. Lesson learned.

Take 3

He's dying.

Right here in Steve's arms. Steve's the head of security. It's his job to protect Jerry. Today, Steve has failed.

Across the studio floor, Wierus is sneering at them. It makes Steve wonder what he ever saw in the guy.

He still remembers meeting him. This guy, dressed in a black suit and black shirt, with immaculately groomed hair and trendy glasses walked up to him, hand extended. "Jonathan Wierus. I've just been hired as warm up guy."

"Steve Wilcos," he said, shaking the surprisingly firm grip, "head of security."

"As if I don't know that!" Steve remembers noticing his smile. "You're almost as famous as Jerry himself!"

Plenty of women have thrown themselves at Steve; he knows when he's being flirted with. And it's not like he'd never fucked a man before, despite the two ex-wives he's got under his belt. Women aren't only more difficult to control on the Jerry Springer Show. Sometimes it just feels good, relaxed, to be with a guy and not have to go to so much trouble.

He was a skinny kid in school, got picked on a lot and that didn't change until high school, when he suddenly, overnight almost, grew six feet tall and went from zero to hero. He was popular with the jocks and the cheerleaders, and to be quite frank, Steve's never been all that bothered whether it's a boy or a girl sucking on his dick.

And there was a queer vibe about this one, pun intended. "You've got a stain on your shirt," he said, out of lack of anything else to say.

Jonathan looked down at himself; for a moment a look Steve couldn't read crossed his face. Then it was gone and Jonathan was smiling again. Yep, great smile.

"Well" he said, winking at Steve in the dirtiest way he'd ever seen, "it wouldn't be the first time I've spilled on myself."

That was, Steve now recalls, what attracted him: the sense of humour. Jonathan was funny. Of course as a warm up guy he had to be. And nobody could work a crowd into a frenzy like Jonathan. The first time he saw him in action, Steve was amazed.

That was one hell of a show. Everything came together. One of the transsexuals got into a fistfight with his brother in law, the audience went nuts and at the centre of it all stood Jonathan, playing the crowd like a virtuoso, grinning and challenging and mocking. It was fucking hot!

Still high from the show, he grabbed Jonathan's tie and dragged him into the broom closet. Not much a little guy like Wierus could do against Steve's bulk and for a second he'd looked scared, as if Steve was going to pound him instead of kiss him, as he did.

"I didn't think you'd want to kiss," he said and Steve grinned.

Jonathan was funny. Past tense. There's a part of Steve that's acutely aware that he's not entirely blameless for the transformation.

"You know that little faggot Jerry's hired as the warm-up man?" Todd said one morning as he and Steve were preparing the set for the day's show, "that mouth of his was made to suck cock."

Steve laughed in reply, not because he knew the truth about that statement, but because it was none of Todd's fucking business. "Jerry wants us on stage today." It was a coming out of the closet show and that usually meant trouble.

"Hey," his dad said, the next time he dropped by to visit, "we had the funniest phone call the other day. One of your lads at the precinct saw you on the show. You know, the one with the gay guys? They wanted to know when you came out of the closet. Ain't that a hoot?"

And again, Steve laughed, because it was the only thing he could do. Of course it was funny. The guys at the precinct knew damn well that he wasn't a fag. Wouldn't suspect him of being one for a second. Only called up his dad as a joke.

Then Dan saw Jonathan wink at Steve across the stage and teased him about it afterwards, and it stopped being funny. Steve's a lot of things but he's not a faggot.

He started avoiding Jonathan, but some people seriously need a sledgehammer to get a point. Utterly oblivious, he kept hanging around Steve, until Steve wanted to punch him.

Steve suspects... No, he knows that he could have handled things a lot better, but it was eating at him. Every time he heard the guys laughing he was convinced they were laughing at him. When he walked into the room and all conversation stopped, he imagined them saying: "Heard about Steve and the warm up guy?" Or whispering the moment his back was turned: "Steve likes it up the ass." And he couldn't stand it.

He's not a bigot. He's got no problem with gay people. As long as people don't think he's one. He's a cop, for christ's sake! Not only can rumours like that kill his career, they're fucking dangerous. Some whack job out there hears about it, decides to make his life miserable. The next thing you know, people are dying.

Like right now.

He doesn't regret getting Wierus fired. Nope. Jonathan did it all to himself.

It's an intoxicating, heady feeling to be in the spotlight, addictive to have a crowd chant your name and Jonathan was never the most emotionally stable person to begin with. Once he'd had a taste of the spotlight, Wierus refused to give it up for anyone, even Jerry.

It just so happened that the first time Wierus started his little tricks, it was the day after Steve had first hinted to Jerry that maybe perhaps it would be a good idea to get rid of him. Maybe that's why Steve still felt enough loyalty (maybe it was guilt?) towards him to try and cover it up. Until every show became an exercise in outwitting Jonathan, in beating him to whatever distraction he had planned this time. As if he didn't have his hands full with the rabble in the audience, he now had to be on the constant lookout for Wierus as well.

The way Jonathan could turn an audience into a raving mob, a mob Steve's security people could barely control, stopped being admirable, stopped being hot. It was a nuisance. It made him hate Jonathan, until every time the crowd turned against Jonathan, hurled abuse right back at him, Steve couldn't feel sympathy anymore, only a thrill of guilty amusement.

"Wierus has to go," he told Jerry. He doesn't regret it. He didn't have a choice.

Todd bends down and whispers something in his ear. In turn Steve whispers it into Jerry's.

"The ambulance is on its way."

He'll never know if Jerry heard him.