Jancarlos Del Valle, who is typically reserved, was cheering along to a Club Q drag performance in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one night, when he caught the attention of fellow bar patron James Slaugh.
"Oh, he's actually cute," Slaugh remembers thinking.
The two traded glances throughout the night before Slaugh's friend eventually dragged him over to Del Valle to introduce them to each other.
They spent the rest of the night talking until the bar closed. The two shared a kiss that night -- Del Valle's first ever, he says -- with drag queens cheering them on.
The two men were previously closeted for years -- Slaugh is an ex-Mormon and Del Valle is an ex-Jehovah's witness. Together, they've found comfort in their queerness.
The two can now regularly be found draped in rainbow accessories, holding up dollar bills at drag shows.
"There's this energy to Jancarlos, especially when we go out to shows involving the queer community and things that I just never felt connected to. There was that level of energy that he brought that I finally was able to feel comfortable with myself," said Slaugh.
Club Q is also where Wyatt Kent, who doubles as a drag queen named Potted Plant, met the love of his life.
Kent and Club Q bartender Daniel Aston met when Kent walked into Club Q to perform on the club's stage for the first time a few years ago. Aston helped him find his way to the dressing room.
Kent told ABC News that about a week after he began his stint as a Club Q drag queen, "another queen turned to me and said, 'So what do you think of Daniel?' I was like, 'I'm gonna marry that man.'"
The two would sit on the couch talking for hours, Kent said. Aston would write Kent poems and Kent would encourage Aston to look at the clouds and see what images they could conjure up together.
Club Q is where they all say they found love.
It's also where Del Valle and Slaugh were shot in a November 2022 mass shooting that left five people dead, including Aston.
A tragedy like the Club Q shooting was something LGBTQ+ community members had long feared. In the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ equality, Slaugh had long felt as if a violent attack on the community could happen at any moment.
That fear was "one of the things that kept me back from being completely 100% authentic with myself," Slaugh, who was closeted for his young adulthood, told ABC News.
Slaugh was shot in the arm during the Club Q shooting. Del Valle was shot in the leg.
Lying on the ground amid the chaos of the attack, Slaugh recalled Del Valle telling him, "Just know that I love you and will always love you."
Kent, meanwhile, made it out of the club physically intact, but emotionally broken: Aston was fatally shot and "never left Q," Kent said.
It was Kent's birthday that night. Backstage in the wreckage leftover from the shooting was a love letter that Aston had written for Kent.
"Everyday I am enamored by you. I know I've told you a hundred times but I've never felt this way about anyone ever," the letter read. "Since I've met you, I've been short of breath. Now you're all I think about. I love you. So crazy much. I'm so happy you exist, that today is a holiday for me too."
Aston, a transgender man, also left behind a legacy of advocacy and community building within the Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ community. Kent said he is determined to pick up where Aston left off.
Exhausted and heartbroken, Kent said advocacy has played a role in his healing and that there's much work to be done toward progress for the queer community.
"It's part of our queer identities to confront death," Kent said, adding separately, "You never think that it's going to hit that close."
Laws restricting drag performers like himself and legislation targeting transgender people like Aston across the country have highlighted how much further there is to go in the fight for equality.
"We should be on the other side of queer history," Kent said. "That's not why that Pride flag should be hung off of city hall here in the Springs, it shouldn't be for five people murdered."
After the tragedy, as Slaugh was in the hospital recovering, Del Valle said he would stay with him through the long nights, sometimes crying himself to sleep.
They each said the other was vital to working through their emotions in the aftermath of the shooting.
The attack brought Slaugh and Del Valle closer, they said, and led them to live their lives as unapologetically queer in the face of hate as possible.
"I've already been shot with a bullet, what more can you do to me?" Slaugh said.
He continued, "I'm going to be fighting for every single person that is being forced back into that closet, that is being forced to be something that they're not."
Added Del Valle, "We're going to be loud and gay, because that's what we have to do."
Slaugh proposed to Del Valle in May with paper lanterns filling the sky, and one lantern of his own asking if Del Valle would say "I do." The two are now engaged to be married.
Kent and Aston had moved in together before the tragedy, planning for a full life ahead of them. The two joked often about marriage, Kent said, fantasizing about running off to a small Las Vegas wedding chapel, with Kent suggesting they dress up as Elvis themselves instead of having an Elvis impersonator officiate the wedding.
"It's so beautiful to find someone that you're just so at ease with," he said. "We would look at each other sometimes and say, 'Is this moving too fast?' But I never felt like this about another human being, really, either of us in our whole lives. It was just so clear."
Kent says he had never loved, or been loved, in the way Aston loved him.
"He just had these ways of creeping under your skin and making you feel safe and at home," Kent said.
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