Winners to be announced June 15, 2013.
It’s the 2013 annual meeting of the Fictional Badass Association (FBA), and the keynote address is scheduled to commence in twelve minutes. There is the usual low, echoing roar of scraping metal chairs and mostly phony expressions of friendship. The wide, vaguely beige hall boasts poor lighting—overhead canisters that glare, yet somehow manage not to throw enough light for Luki Vasquez, with his sometimes uncooperative left eye, to read the program.
Luki (mumbling and fumbling on his hated pince nez): “God damn it, these chairs are fucking uncomfortable! This is the badass association, people, not numb ass. Or maybe I just shouldn’t have let Sonny have his way with me before I left.” He chuckles without smiling and tries to find a spot of light to situate the program in. Then, suddenly, someone’s large feet are standing close, and someone, presumably the owner of those feet, is clearing his throat overhead. Luki looks up to find a rugged looking man with a good-natured smile—a man who looks familiar. Recognition strikes. “Oh, Todd… uh… Todd Ruger.”
Todd: “Hey, Luki Vasquez, right? I think we met briefly on Lou Sylvre’s blog? Listen, do you mind if I sit here? Most of the people here….”
Luki: “Yeah, sure, join me. I know what you mean. Slash is seriously underrepresented. And have you seen who’s on for the keynote? Fucking Frodo!”
Todd: “No shit? Well… you know one doesn’t simply walk into Mordor.”
Luki shakes his head: “Yeah, well if any of that bunch should be involved with FBA, it’s Sam Gamgee. Not Frodo. Although I admit in the movie version he made sounds of pain a human male could not reproduce. But how about Boromir, eh?”
Todd: “I've never seen a movie, not actually sure what one is, but I've read and, Hell no! Aragorn has my vote.”
Luki: “I would never vote for Aragorn! I mean… Sonny really likes him, and all.”
Todd: "So, your idea of a badass is to sit around and watch stuff? I didn't manage to get rid of a few shifters and fight in a war, you know an actual war with bullets and explosions and stuff sitting on the side lines watching some wannabe badasses pretend."
Luki: "Geez, dude, this is a meeting, not a boxing ring, calm down. I suppose the people in the movie might be wannabe, pretend badasses, but I’m not in a movie—and if you want to know what one is just sit tight for a while, they’ve got clips cued up to demonstrate Frodo’s alleged badassness. You might even see Aragorn whining around. But you know besides Boromir, there’s also Gimli! That dwarf can throw an axe, baby.”
Todd: “Aragorn. To hell with the rest.”
Luki: “Broken record.”
Todd: “What’s a record?”
Luki: “But as for me, I've got bullets, and explosives, and I hate to boast and so forth, but I can pretty much take a guy out and make it seem I’m hardly moving. Tai chi. And more. Then, should I need it, I have a security team—all badasses in one way or another, especially Jude, who runs the office.."
Todd: "I don't need a team. Just me and Nicky, he’s psychic. As for entertainment, I'm not sharing the details of what we do."
Luki: "Oooh such a gentleman. What in the hell would make you think I’d be telling you what I do in private with my husband?”
Luki chuckled, shook his head, and put his own muscled arms, in their tailored shirt sleeves with their white gold and sapphire cufflinks behind his head, mirroring Todd. “Fuck you, Ruger. Or rather I wouldn’t. But if we’re all done playing cock o’ the walk, for now, I have a serious question for you.”
Todd: “You are a rude son-of-a-bitch, aren’t you.”
Luki: “Leave my mama out of it. Here’s the thing, though. See I’m ridiculously in love with my husband. So much that I can’t imagine living without him. What’s it like for you, Todd? I mean… don’t get me wrong, but Nick’s your slave? Would you love him even if he wasn’t? Would he love you?”
Todd heaved a long suffering sigh. He couldn’t believe even someone like Luki Vasquez couldn't get it. "There is no law that says an owner, or a slave, have to have fond feelings for one another, or even love. I have to provide for him, nothing more. I worked hard to earn his love and I work to keep it. I've known Nick since he was five and I was twelve. Let me ask you, would your husband so much as give you the time of day if he'd known you that long?"
Luki: “Todd, relax. I get it. I do. I asked you an honest question, I’m not so sure the question you asked me is in kind, but I’ll respond as though it is. "
Todd: “I asked an unfair question? You're the one who insinuated that because my relationship with Nick started out differently from you and your husband's it's not real. We still chose to mate, both of us, freely. Nick was never forced."
Luki: “I said I get it, about you and Nick. Do you think I’m lying, or do you think I’m too dense to understand? Or maybe you’re just on the defensive. I don’t need a response, though. I’ll say it one more time. I get it. You love the man and he loves you. That can’t be bad. As for whether Sonny would love me under those circumstances… who can say? The first decades of Sonny’s life he endured horror stories piled one on the other—no less than what Nick went through. He pulled through it and made something beautiful of his own life, and thank the saints, when I stumbled into his domain, he was able to open up for me. So your question makes no sense, because in the world Sonny knew as a kid… well, there just wasn’t any room to admit someone like me. But speaking for me, I’m 42 and I’ve never been in love, until Sonny. But to my heart it feels like he was always there and I just didn't know it.”
Todd: "And you didn't answer my question. Would he still love you having known you since you were twelve?"
Luki: “As I tried to explain, the question makes no sense in the context of Sonny’s life. And I don’t have a backward crystal ball any more than I have a forward one. And when I was twelve, he was one year old, for god’s sake. As I said, my husband and I love each other, and I’m willing to accept that though your relationship is not one I understand, you and Nick love each other, too. And you’ve told me about evil in your world—demons and things like that, horrifying! Well my world is full of evil, too, and just because it’s human doesn’t make it less horrifying, or less deadly.”
Luki waited for Todd to speak, but the man just stared straight ahead, so eventually he concluded. “I know what it’s like to be willing to give up anything, even your life, in a fight to save the man you love, Todd. People will be reading soon, Ms. Sylvre hopes, about how I had to win against a man who kidnapped my husband and poisoned him—yeah, evil. Every bit as awful as those demons you fight. Believe that love and goodness and strength matter in my world. And in that weird world Ms. Noble created for you, the same things matter. So as annoying as you’ve been, I want you to know, young man, that I’m glad you’re there to fight that brand of evil, and I’m glad you and Nick have your brand of love…. Hm, I think Frodo’s at the podium.”
Todd: “Yes, I know what you mean, about fighting for your man’s life. I recently spent weeks getting Nick from the clutches of a psychic vampire, and a few more getting him to stop blaming himself for something he had no control over." Todd stretched in his seat and stared forward. "I can’t see anyone up there.”
Luki: “I know. But I think Frodo’s at the podium.”
Todd turned in his chair and looked Luki up and down, speaking in a soft voice, "For the record, some people are worse than demons and are monsters."
Luki chewed his lip in order to stop the smile that wanted show itself. “Yes,” he said, “ and short."