Never Less Than

Alan walked into his and Denny's bedroom one Sunday afternoon to find his husband sitting on the king – sized bed looking down at something he couldn't quite see. As he moved closer, Denny ran his hand along a sleeve and asked, "Remember this, Alan?"

The younger man sat in the recliner next to the bed and stretched his neck to see the cheerleader's outfit that Shirley had owned and had given to Denny to help his "blood flow" problem. "How could I forget? I danced with that skirt on our balcony!" He sighed. My God, that was three years ago! Where has the time gone?

"I was cleaning out my closet; it was still in the box she used to give it to me. It had completely slipped my mind," he grinned and added, "In a non – Mad Cow way, of course."

Alan smiled at the joke and said, "What are you going to do with it? Frame it, perhaps and hang it up in here?"

Denny grunted, "No, of course not; that would be disrespectful to our marriage. I think the thing to do is give it back to her. She can model it for Carl, you know, spice up their love life. What?"

The look on Alan's face was part surprise, part love and part wonder. "You, you think that keeping that outfit would be disrespectful to our marriage?"

Denny nodded. "And, not just ours; Shirley's and Carl's too. I mean, Carl wouldn't like it if he thought I still wanted to have sex with Shirley. That's in the Bible, you know." At Alan's confused look, he clarified, "Coveting someone's wife is a no – no. The Tenth Commandment."

"Oh, I understand what you mean about Carl's point of view but…our marriage is sexless. Why do you think the uniform is disrespectful for us?"

Denny looked at Alan like he was a teacher and Alan his cherished but, slow student. "Because, Alan Shore Crane, our marriage may be sexless but, it is not loveless. We are together because we want to be and because of that, I will never do anything to make you feel less than. Yes, there is a part of me, deep down, that will always love Shirley but, she is in my past. You are my present, Alan; you are my right now and my gift. You are my husband, not a consolation prize. I am very happy to be married to you."

Alan coughed and blinked rapidly. "Denny, you always tell me that you hate sentimentality and call me a girl if I cry but, you always seem to say things to me that hit me right in the heart." He stood and went to stand by the armoire. "I'd always felt that, at my core, I am basically an unlovable person and thus, 'less than' by definition. Before you, everyone who said they loved me left and, it didn't matter if it was because we drifted apart, or she died or I was betrayed. The end result was always the same: I was alone. But you, Denny, you make me believe that I will not end up alone and I know," he added hastily when Denny's eyebrows shot up toward his hairline, "I know how that sounds given our age difference but, being with you gives me hope because…well, because I'm not 'less than.'"

Denny had placed the cheerleader uniform back into the box and put the cover on and stepped closer to the younger man. Patting his shoulder affectionately, he affirmed softly, "No, you are not." In his normal voice he said, "Let's go into town for drinks. I'll call Carl and Shirley to join us. I'll give this to her then."

Glad to be pulled away from the emotional edge he was standing on; Alan cleared his throat and replied, "Yes, let's do that." Turning around, he picked up the box and headed to the door. "I'll alert Dave to bring the car around, you call Shirley and Carl." As he walked down the stairs, he thought, After three years of marriage, Denny's feelings about me still surprise me. I am a lucky man.