Rocco and Ridley from David Connor’s Christmas story Iced Out and Sawyer from E.F. Mulder’s holiday tale Angel Wings and Bullets are finally recognized for their heroic acts. Along with Sawyer’s new boyfriend Bart, they meet up with a much younger couple who not only give them valuable relationship advice, but also show them how heroes come in all different incarnations.
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
"Kiss him," Sawyer suggested. "Right in front of people."
"Perv." Rocco said it with a smile. Then he did kiss Ridley. There was something so liberating about it, he did it again. "I'm getting wood." He wasn't joking.
"Me, too." Sawyer raked his hand through his reddish hair.
"And I don't want to quit." Rocco knew he was getting carried away. He was yanking at Ridley's stupid rainbow tie, and maybe he wasn't going to stop there. But then a piercing musical note rang out from the bathroom, and all four men turned toward it.
"The feeling I feel is no different than yours. The heart doesn't see. Love it doesn't need eyes. Holy fuck!" The singer emerged, as startled by his audience as they were to see him. "Sorry." The scruffy, pudgy teen pulled out his earbuds. "I didn't know anyone was in here. I'm done. I'll get out."
He was tiny, even shorter than Rocco, and never looked up from the floor.
"Relax." Naturally, Ridley had to engage. "You have a powerful voice."
"Thanks." He looked at Ridley, but just for a second.
"I didn't recognize the song. And I know popular music." Ridley had a couple years on the cleaner -- maybe more than a few -- but he did know every tune on popular radio.
"It's not a hit -- yet. I wrote it ... the lyrics. Kick wrote the music."
"Kick?" Ridley asked.
"My boyfriend. He works in the kitchen. Husband to be, actually, in another few weeks."
"Congratulations." Sawyer got in on it. "You're young."
"When you know it's love, why wait? Who knows how much time any of us have? Besides, Kick and I have been in love since he was a little boy and I wasn't. I'm Adam."
"Nice to meet you, Adam." Ridley shook his hand.
"It makes the point, don't you think? The parents get it, even if they don't get me. My dad still calls me by my given name -- Eve. Sometimes I answer. Point is, Kick and I are finally where we're supposed to be, so the time is right. Trust me. We even have the license."
"Good deal," Sawyer said.
"I better get back to work. Sorry for the life story and for not clearing out in time, or did you all ditch the cocktail hour early?"
"Sorta, kinda," Ridley said.
"Cool. It's your fault, then." Adam smiled. "Sorta, kinda. Either way, your toilet's now spic and span."
Ridley pointed toward Sawyer. "His toilet. His room."
"What's the pairings?"
"What do you mean?"
"I assume you're all here for the Pride Heroes thing. Ipso facto -- I'm bringing that back, by the way -- you're all probably gay."
"Probably," Sawyer said. "I'm with him." He put his arm around Bart.
"So you two ...?" Adam elbowed Rocco playfully.
"Next door." Ridley nodded at the wall behind Sawyer and Bart's bed.
"That wasn't the question." The kid's smirk grew. "You a couple?"
"Do we look like a couple?" Rocco asked.
Adam shrugged. "Not really, but neither do Kick and me. He's tall and athletic, nerdy and smart, and I look like ... you. So, I tend to keep an open mind."
"Good thing to do," Ridley said.
Adam turned to Bart. "Which one of you is boxers and which one is boxer briefs?" He slugged him in the shoulder. "Nah. Just kidding. You both have lousy aim when it comes to a hamper, either way. No wonder people think gays suck at sports. How long you been together?"
"Since last Christmas," Sawyer said.
"How come you're not married? We can do that now, you know."
Bart chewed on his lip, but offered no response.
"Apparently, size matters." Sawyer gave one instead. "Mine's way bigger, and he's got issues with that."
"Sawyer ..." Bart looked like he wanted to crawl under the bed.