Sexy Six Anniversary Short – The Icing on the Cake by Harry K. Malone

May 30, 2013

Mark tugged at his bowtie, wondering if he had tied it too tight.  He wasn’t sure he was able to breathe properly.  He moved in front of the giant mirror that leaned against the freshly painted wall of their bedroom.  He checked his hair, and though it didn’t need any additional styling, he smoothed it into place out of habit.  Then he tugged on the ends of the tie, not quite unraveling it but loosening it a little.  If he could just get some air, everything would be fine.

Despite the lack of oxygen, he looked good.  Damn good.  The Ralph Lauren Black Label was the right choice.  It was elegant and modern, perfect for Mark’s smart, all-American style.  He’d gone with a plain black tie and an understated white pocket square.  Nothing too loud for a day like this.  There were going to be pictures, after all, and they’d last forever.

Ross was wearing a Dolce and Gabbana jacket that was trimmed in velvet.  It would work on him, since the style they’d been cultivating for him was a little rougher, a little edgier than Mark’s.  But Mark had made certain their outfits would coordinate.  After all, everyone would be seeing them together.

The bowtie had somehow gotten tighter again.  Mark tugged furiously, and it came undone.  Gaping at his reflection in the mirror, he clutched it, wondering if it was a conspiracy.  Maybe the designer had made it out of especially slippery fabric.  Or maybe Mark was developing adult onset asthma.  Did such a thing exist?

As he gulped in a lungful of air, two hands slid around the smooth fabric of his jacket, and a solid body pressed into him from behind.  “You going without the tie?” Ross asked.  He nipped Mark’s earlobe.  “I like the look.”

“I told you not to see me until I said I was ready!” Mark protested, but Ross squeezed him tighter.  His hands began wandering farther south.

“Six months, Swoop,” Ross reminded them both.  “We’ve officially been together for six months.”

“Nine if you count from when we first started dating.”

“I thought we agreed to count from when we came out.”

Mark shrugged.  Either way, it had been several months, and his entire life had changed.  He was off the television series he’d starred in for four years, he had come out to the whole world, and he was standing in the bedroom of the brand new house he’d just bought with his boyfriend.

He undid the top button on his shirt, so he could get a little more air.  His neck looked a little red.

“Mm, even hotter,” Ross drawled.  He caught Mark’s eyes in the mirror.  “You okay?”

“Fine,” Mark lied.

Ross gave him a look that said he didn’t believe it.  It was one of the things Mark had first noticed about Ross, one of the reasons why he’d fallen in love with him.  Other people either bought his act or, at least, didn’t call him out on it.  But not Ross.  As much as Mark liked being challenged, that was another problem.  He plucked Ross’s hands off his waist and pushed them back to their owner.

“O-ka-ay,” Ross singsonged.  He turned to leave the room.

Mark thought he was off the hook.  He looked at his reflection once more.  Without the bow tie and with the shirt open, he did look hotter.  Yeah, that was the right look.  The bow tie had been way too stuffy and formal anyway.  This was better for summer.

Ross poked his head in the door.  “If it’s too soon, you should have just said something.  It’s way too late to cancel now.”

“I know.”

“And everyone will be disappointed if we don’t show up.”

“I know.”

“So get over it.  Ten minute warning.”

Mark scratched his neck.  His blunt fingernails left red streaks stretching toward his chin.  He cursed himself, adjusted the shirt collar to cover it, squirted on a little more Egoïste to cover his sweat smell, and steeled himself.  It had been six months, after all, and it was his idea in the first place.  And he loved Ross Lockhart with all his heart and soul.  He could do this.

* * * * *

On the way inside the room where the ceremony would take place, they passed the reception area.  The caterers were already covering tables with white linen cloths and arranging flowers on top.  One table near the door held the three-tiered cake that would be cut into after dinner.  When Mark saw it, his heart began racing again.

“I need some air.”  He hurried away from the cake, away from Ross, to the safety of the terrace.  A few yards down, two guys were smoking, but the breeze was carrying the smell in the opposite direction.  Mark leaned on the railing and took a few deep breaths.  A moment later, he felt a hand gently rubbing circles on his back, and he knew without opening his eyes it was Ross.

“You know, this was your idea,” Ross murmured.  It wasn’t accusatory.

“I know.”

“You’re the one who proposed to me.”

“I know.”

“So you want to tell me why you’re the one who’s freaking out right now?”

“It’s not you,” Mark assured him.  He turned to look at Ross, whose piercing blue eyes radiated with sympathy and understanding.  “You know that, right?  I love you.”

“I know,” Ross echoed, giving Mark his patented crooked smile.  He shifted to Mark’s left, and they both leaned against the railing – giving them a direct view through the French doors into the reception hall.  “It’s only been six months since your divorce was finalized.  I know it’s hard.  I shouldn’t have pushed you.”

Mark hadn’t made a single comparison to this day and his first wedding day, when a bride in white was at his side.  “I wasn’t even thinking about Alex,” he admitted.

“Oh, so it’s all me then?”  Ross shook his head.

“Hey, you’re the one who turned me down,” Mark reminded them both.

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

Mark didn’t know what to say in response, and they lapsed into silence.  The past year had been a whirlwind, the past six months even more so.  His swift courtship with Ross had completely upset his life, and now he was standing in a tuxedo, waiting for a wedding to start.

“Why did you propose?” Ross asked.  “I mean, I think I know why you did, but I want to know why you think you did.”

Mark ran a hand through his swoop of bangs and then smoothed them back into place.  He squinted as the sun peeked through the trees.  He’d left his Louis Vuitton sunglasses in the car, since he’d thought they’d be indoors all afternoon.

He didn’t have time to answer Ross’s question before Sam Ledbetter, a former cast mate, came through the French doors.  “Mark!” Sam called.  “I am so glad to see you.”

“Hey, Sam.”  He came forward into a hug.  “Sam, you remember Ross Lockhart.”

Sam shook Ross’s hand with a grin.  “Of course.  We met last year in New York, at the upfronts.  I feel like I know you better than that, though, since…”

Ross returned the smile easily.  “Since I’ve been all over the tabloids with Mark?” he guessed.  “Don’t tell me you read that stuff.”

Sam shook his head.  He didn’t, Mark knew.  Sam was a classy guy whose personal life was usually kept private and who wanted the same for his friends.  “Since Mark started going on and on about you,” Sam corrected.  “And since we sat near each other at the Golden Globes.”

“Oh, right,” Ross remembered.  Mark wondered if he was nervous, too.  It wasn’t like Ross to forget his first time attending an awards ceremony.

“So,” Sam said, “it’s the big day.”

“Yes, it is,” Mark agreed.

Sam let out a shaky breath.  “I can’t believe this is happening.”  He looked between Ross and Mark.  “I’m really getting married, aren’t I?”

Mark looked at Sam carefully.  He appeared nervous on the surface, but underneath was a kind of serenity and happiness Mark had never seen in him before.  Marrying Corey was going to be the best thing that had ever happened to him.

And marrying Ross would be the best thing that ever happened to Mark.  If Ross would agree to it.  There was no need to be afraid of being seen at Sam and Corey’s wedding, he realized.  People had already seen him and Ross together – in the tabloids, at the Golden Globes, at Mark’s birthday dinner in early March.  Maybe watching Sam and Corey get married would remind Mark of his own wedding to Alex, but maybe it would make him think about what a wedding between him and Ross might be like.  Either way, with Ross was at his side, holding his hand and offering him reassurances, there was nothing to fear.

“Yes, you are,” Mark told Sam.  “Isn’t it about time to get in there?  We should probably get our seats before the place fills up.”

“I’m sure someone is looking for me.”  Sam shrugged.  He squeezed Mark’s hand and patted Ross cordially on the shoulder.  “Wish me luck.”

“You won’t need it,” Mark predicted.  Once Sam was gone, he turned to Ross.  “That.”  He pointed toward the French doors.  “That is why I proposed.  That look on his face.”

“It’s only been six months.”

Suddenly Ross’s tender reassurance made a lot more sense.  Ross was scared, too.  Mark sometimes forgot that Ross had his own fears and insecurities, since Ross tended to let Mark be the basket case in their relationship.

“I didn’t – I don’t mean this to hurt your feelings, so bear with me here, okay?  But I didn’t think this was where my life was going to go.  I thought I’d always be alone, and maybe sometimes date, probably get laid a lot, but I didn’t expect that this would happen.”

“What’s ‘this’?” Mark asked.

“Falling in love with you.  Totally, madly, deeply.”  Ross was conveniently looking in a different direction when he said it.  “Wanting to have a whole life with you.  Not just some new house, but all the messy stuff – taxes and health directives and whose turn is it to wash the dirty socks.  I guess as much as I want all that, I’m scared of it, too.”

“You don’t have to be scared alone,” Mark promised him.

“I want this,” Ross pledged.  He gestured toward the French doors.  “I want that.”

“So let’s do it.  Maybe we’re not ready to get married, but we can still do the messy stuff.  We already have the house –”

“That you paid for.”

“And your name is on it.  We can register as domestic partners.”

Ross grinned.  “How is that different than getting married?”

Mark shrugged.  “We don’t have to cut a cake in front of people?”

“No top tier with two grooms?”

Apart from today’s little freak-out, Mark’s ease at accepting his newfound homosexuality had surprised even him, but a double groom cake topper was maybe a line too far.  Next he and Ross would be swapping clothes and feeding each other and calling each other “honey boo” in public.

“You know I want to marry you, don’t you?” Ross said.  “I’ve wanted to since we started dating.”

Mark leaned into Ross’s chest and let himself be embraced.  “It was back in July for me,” he confessed.  “I knew then.”

“When we were just roommates?  Before you knew how awesome I was at blow jobs?”

“The blowjobs are just the icing on the cake.”

Ross kissed Mark’s temple as the string quartet inside began to play.  “Do you need to get out of here, or are you up to a little more stifling romance?”

“What are you thinking?”

“Well, I’m not sure, but usually at these things, the bride tosses the bouquet.”  Ross raised his eyebrows lecherously.  “I can be a good catcher when I want to be.”

That was true.  He was a pretty good pitcher, too.

“There’s also dancing,” Ross said enticingly.

“We can’t dance together.”

“Why not?  There are, like, five other gay couples in there.  Sam invited you, and he knew you were bringing me.”

“Yeah, but…”  Mark’s chest grew tight again.  At this rate, he would never get to see his happily ever after with Ross because he’d be dead of a heart attack before he was thirty.

“Dance with me out here then?”  Ross didn’t wait for his answer.  He put one arm around Mark’s waist and took Mark’s hand in his own.  They shuffled along awkwardly to the strains of the music coming from inside.  “I should warn you that I’m terrible.  Nightclub playing Kelly Clarkson remixes, I can do.  But this fancy stuff…one time I had a football coach who made us all take lessons.  He said the footwork would help us on the field.  I looked like an elephant trying to walk the tightrope.”

“I suck at that club stuff, but this I can do,” Mark told him.  “Let me lead.”

“Don’t try to dip me.  I will kill you.”

Mark felt the subtle shift as Ross let his body become pliable.  Mark was in charge for this moment, the one making sure they didn’t look stupid and didn’t step on each other’s toes, and it occurred to him that their relationship was like this dance.  Ross took the lead when Mark panicked about the future, and Mark took over for the little day-to-day stuff Ross didn’t know how to do.  There was symmetry in that.  Or maybe symbiosis.

“Why, Mr. Lawler,” Ross teased, “you’re very talented.”

“I have a good partner.”  He made Ross spin under his arm and then reeled him in close.

“So do I.”  Ross held his gaze seriously.  “Domestic partnership now.  Marriage when it’s legal, and in the mean time it sure looks and feels like a marriage to me.  And no freaking out.  I don’t want to be seen with someone with a rash all over his neck.”

“How did you…?”

“Happy anniversary, Swoop.”

“Happy anniversary, Spike.”  Mark let the dance slip away as he folded Ross into a tight embrace.  He felt a little silly that he’d panicked at the idea of bringing Ross here.  Maybe he’d have to accept that he’d always have moments of panic over their relationship.  Maybe it was the result of thinking he was straight for his entire life.  But it didn’t mean he didn’t love Ross, and it didn’t mean his proposal hadn’t been genuine.  And wedding or not, the idea of the two of them together, helping each other out with their different strengths, leaning on each other when they were weak, in a real partnership – yeah, that he could do.   Forever.

——————————————————————————————————————

Read more about Mark and Ross in The Hollywood Version.

2 Responses to “Sexy Six Anniversary Short – The Icing on the Cake by Harry K. Malone”

  1. lore says:

    OK, this made me add the novel to my wishlist. Thanks for the peek!

    love, lore

  2. Susan says:

    I really enjoyed The Hollywood Version and am glad to see Mark is not suddenly supergay and that Sam got his HEA.

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