“Ah...this is the life.”
Derian took a long drink from the bottle of beer that Jamie had just brought for him.
“Hot night, cold beer, soft bed, and sweet ass.”
Jamie grinned, sticking the latter out at his lover as he bent over an open drawer of the dresser.
“Whatcha looking for?” asked Derian. “It better not be the Adonis Pouch.* I’m all jacked out.”
“It’s not the Adonis Pouch. I’m a bit more merciful than that.” Jamie stood up tall again. In his hand was a small, dark blue velvet box. A jewelry box.
Derian grimaced. He’d celebrated his birthday three months ago, and Christmas was three months away. And he was simply not a jewelry man. The only piece of jewelry he owned at the moment was his Stanley Cup ring, and he almost never put it on. (Only when Jamie wanted to play “Ball the Cup Champ”.)
Jamie slid his naked body between the ivory-colored flannel sheets, still warm from the men’s recent “expression of love” (according to Jamie) or “mad jackrabbit fuck” (according to Derian). He held the box in his open palm, offering it to Derian like a fresh, delicately scented apple.
“Open it up,” he encouraged.
Derian lifted the lid with his thumb.
Two gold rings shone up at him. They were large rings, men’s rings, but one was slightly larger than the other. Each ring was encircled with engraved text in a Gothic font. Derian picked up the larger ring and read it out loud, turning the ring so he could read it all.
“Ah mah vee dee coher enteer.” He read the text phonetically. “What language is this?”
“It’s French, Der.” Jamie snuggled close to his love. “Want to know what it means?”
“What does it mean?”
“A ma vie de coeur entier...you have my whole heart for my whole life.”
The words sank into Derian’s soul like a cube of sugar in a cup of hot tea.
“Where did you get these rings?”
“I ordered them from the Signals catalog. When I set eyes on them, I knew they were for us.”
“For us? Jamie, what are you talking about?”
“Well...I think it’s a beautiful way to show the world how much we love each other.”
Derian harrumphed. “That sounds like a fucking commercial.”
“But it’s true...isn’t it?”
“Jamie...” Derian dropped the ring into Jamie’s palm. “Send them back.”
“Send them back? Back where?”
“To Signals. I’m not wearing any rings.”
“Why?” Jamie blinked his eyes, not believing what he was hearing. “I’d thought you’d like these rings, Der. They’re a symbol of our commitment.”
“Symbol? What the hell do you need a symbol for?” Derian grimaced as if he’d stepped in something unpleasantly slimy. “We’ve been together for four years now -- what more proof of commitment do you need?” His voice rose to an angry growl.
“Something about these rings really bothers you, Der.” Jamie’s fingers closed around the ring Derian had dropped in his hand. “Is it because they remind you of past relationships?”
“No,” Derian spat out. “They remind me that no matter how much we love each other, no matter how long we stay together, the fucking government won’t give us the one thing that any man and any woman can get, even if they’d just met that morning. And don’t think it’s going to change in our lifetime, Jamie.”
Derian leaned back into his pillow, his face hard like granite.
“Those rings look mighty symbolic, but that’s all they are. Symbols. If I’m not allowed the substance...I don’t want the symbol.”
Jamie looked down at his palm, at the engraved ring he wanted to give to his man.
“Derian, don’t you think I know the difference between rings and marriage? Once upon a time, both of us had marriage as well as rings. But it didn’t mean anything, because we weren’t with each other.
“These rings won’t make us more committed than we already are...but symbols do have meaning beyond their appearance. When I look at our bare left hands, I feel that something is missing.
“Even if it means nothing to you...will you wear it, just for me?”
Derian closed his eyes. How many tasks had he performed, just for Jamie? What would he do, just for Jamie?
He would walk through fire, jump off a skyscraper, have both his arms and legs chopped off for Jamie’s sake. Wearing a piece of gold on his left hand was such a simple, small thing.
“All right, Jamie. The rings can stay. But if any smartass calls them ‘pansy’ rings instead of poesy rings --”
“-- you’ll kick them out of the world. Right, Der?”
Jamie held the ring between his thumb and forefinger, looking through it as if happily-ever-after could be seen through the circle. Then, he gently picked up Derian’s left hand.
“Derian...you have my whole heart for my whole life,” he intoned softly. “You are the strength that lifts me up when I feel that I can’t skate another inch. You are the heat that warms me in bed, the fire that inspires my wildest sexual frenzies. You are the sun my soul reaches for, the star ever so near. You inspire me to be the best man I can be. I give this to you...” Jamie slid the ring down Derian’s gnarled finger. “...because I love you.”
Derian gulped down the lump in his throat. Now he knew.
A ring...coupled with the most profound love...did have power.
Through glimmering eyes, he tugged the smaller ring from the box and held Jamie’s left hand.
“Jamie, you have my whole heart for my whole life. And those words mean more than any promise I ever made, any vow I ever spoke.
“When I found out that you were more than just a teammate to me -- that I wanted you, in my body and soul -- I fought it the way I fought Marchment after he sent one of his ‘messages’. I mean, a man like me isn’t supposed to feel that way for another guy. But love doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go. It’s a free bird, man. And when I stopped fighting it...I found the greatest prize of all. That’s you, Jamie. My brown-eyed, angel-faced, pouty-mouthed, fierce-playing, fiercer-loving Jamie. I give this to you...” Derian lowered the ring on Jamie’s not-so-gnarled finger. “...because I love you.”
Jamie wrapped his arms around Derian, and Derian held on to him. Their gold rings gleamed in the track lighting above their heads. They breathed in each other’s fading sweat, felt each other’s tears on their cheeks. Each man was as fragile and raw as a broken egg...and, paradoxically, as whole as an intact egg. They had become jamieandderian, two good men become even greater together.
“Imagine a picture of this ceremony.” Derian chuckled beneath his tears. “Two naked guys in bed together, drinking beer. That’s something to put on the mantle.”
“Hey, I think I can put the digital camera on the tripod -- ”
“Don’t even think it, Jamie.”
“You know...we didn’t have fancy clothes, a preacher, or a certificate tonight. But we did cross over to a new stage. I felt it, Der. Didn’t you?”
“I sure did.” Derian admired his ring. “How did you figure out my correct size?”
“I measured your finger while you slept.”
“You’re a sneaky devil...and a perfect angel.”
“Yup. I can give you a ring and the Adonis Pouch in the same night.”
“Later on the Adonis Pouch, man. Twenty-four hours, at least.” Derian kissed his mate. “Good night now.” He turned off the lights over his side of the bed.
Jamie smiled at his ring for a few moments longer. His was the smile of a man who knew that his coeur was in good hands...
*What is the Adonis Pouch?