Role Model (MM)
Journalist Paul Bradley reports on an act of heroism by paramedic Drew McGregor and goes on to have him nominated for a bravery award. Drew's heroism is a great story that Paul wants to make the most of, but he has other reasons to want to see the great-looking and openly gay Drew again. Ones he doesn't dare speak about, since he's deeply closeted and terrified of being outed, fearing losing his career.
When Drew accidentally finds out Paul is gay, he's initially angry at the deception, but he's sympathetic too and his kindness encourages Paul to confess his feelings. Drew likes Paul, but won't date a closeted man, saying that leads to too many lies, too much pain. Paul will have to reevaluate all the choices he’s made for the sake of career and family, if he wants Drew to give him a chance.
The next time he saw Drew was a week later at the inquest. Drew hadn't called, so either he'd had no nightmares, or he hadn't taken Paul's offer seriously.
Paul was in the press gallery for the inquest, and he spotted Drew in the public gallery. He wasn't giving evidence. The case was pretty routine. The police presented their report, that the truck has skidded on wet roads, jackknifed, and struck the Winslow's car, smashing in the driver's side and pushing it into the ditch, where the car rolled over and then got stuck under the truck turning over on top of it. Both drivers had been pronounced dead at the scene.
Paul caught up with Drew outside. He was smart in a gray suit but didn't look especially comfortable.
"Hi," Paul said. "I didn't expect to see you here."
"I wouldn't usually come to an inquest unless I was called to give evidence. But I wanted some closure on this one."
"How's Lily getting on? Have you heard?"
"She's home with her mother. I guess they're organizing the funeral."
"Have you visited?"
"No. I don't want to intrude."
"I'm sure Mrs. Winslow wants to thank you for saving her daughter."
"She has. She sent me a letter. I might go to the funeral. For Lily's sake. But ..." He shifted his shoulders in his suit, as if he found it uncomfortable. "We're not supposed to get emotionally involved. I visited Lily in the hospital, and I probably shouldn't have done that, but I think she needs closure too. She just lost her dad, so I don't want her to think I came along and then abandoned her." He ran a hand through his hair. "It's a balancing act. I'm a paramedic. My job ends once I hand someone over to the hospital. But sometimes it's harder to let them go."
"I'm sure. Ah ... have you got time to go get a coffee? I've got some news for you."
They found a coffee shop near the court. The place was infested with lawyers and a couple of prominent local criminals Paul recognized.
"So what do you have to tell me?" Drew asked when they sat with their coffee.
"My editor has got you a nomination for the 'emergency services workers' category for the Britain's Bravest awards."
"That was you? I got a letter this morning. I thought it was a hoax until I rang them up. They wouldn't tell me who nominated me."
"It was actually the mayor. Him and my editor play golf together."
"But it was you, wasn't it? Your idea, I mean."
Paul tried to look casual. He wouldn't flat out lie. He was a great liar, of course; it went with the job. But he felt a reluctance to lie to Drew. "I may have suggested it. You're a hero. You deserve recognition."
"I was just doing my job."
"You know that isn't true."
"Then I was in the right place at the right time. I told you, Paul, lots of people would have done the same."
"Maybe," Paul conceded. "But you did it, and you deserve the nomination."
"God, this is going to be so embarrassing at work."
"The awards are in London in two months. You'll need a nice suit, preferably made to measure."
"What's wrong with the suit I'm wearing?" Drew asked, looking affronted. "It's my best one."
"It's off the rack. You don't look comfortable in it."
Drew sighed. "I'm not really a suit kind of guy. I'm either in my uniform or casual nearly all of the time."
"Doesn't anyone ever take you out to a nice restaurant?"
"Is that an offer?" He was teasing. Paul blushed, drank some of his coffee to cover it. "Anyway, knowing my luck, if we went to a fancy restaurant, I'd save someone from choking and you'd have to write a series about me."
Any reason to see him again ...
"I assumed rich doctors would be lining up to take you out," Paul said.
Drew looked at him narrowly. "Really?"
"Yeah. Maybe one of them can be your date for the awards ceremony. It will look better if you have a date. Unless you're already seeing someone, of course. Then you can bring them."
"That's the most convoluted way anyone has ever asked me if I have a boyfriend."
Paul's heart hammered in his ears. "Do you?"
"No. Why are you so bothered about me taking a date? A guy? Think it spices up the story?"
"No. But if you are ..." He dropped his voice lower. "Gay I mean, you're a good role model. You can show that gay people can be heroes too."
"Why?" Drew asked coldly. "Is that in doubt?"
"In the minds of some people."
Drew shook his head impatiently. "I'm not anybody's role model. I'm just a man. And before you ask, no, I'm not in the closet. But I'm not going to be your model poof either."
"I've seen the way the papers work. How you build someone up as a hero, then take even more pleasure in finding the dirt on them, cutting them back down to size, punishing them like you hadn't built them up in the first place."
Paul would bet that on his days off Drew used to tune into the live coverage of the more interesting Leveson inquiry witnesses.
"I swear I'm not going to do that to you. I have a lot of respect for you."
"You aren't the only journalist interested."
Well, those bitches can get their hands off my story.
"I think you could make a difference, make a statement. The event is televised, you know. All you have to do is come along with a date, not make a speech about it. That's the point, make it all seem ... ordinary."
"Why are you so interested?" Drew asked. "Why about this in particular?"
"I guess you've caught me out ... It is a good way to spice up the story.