Mike set Ash up with a towel and a quick lesson on the trick to make the hot water work in the shower while Crandall dug up some sweat pants and a t-shirt for him to wear. Once Ash was closed in the bathroom, Mike sunk onto the couch and hung his head in his hands as he rested his elbows on his knees. He sighed audibly, and ran his fingers through his hair. Crandall dropped onto the sofa beside him, their thighs pressed together.
“You should grab what you need from your room,” Crandall said, “and I’ll help you change the sheets.”
Mike turned his head, resting it on one palm. Before he could say anything Crandall leaned in and pressed their lips together. Then Crandall said, “If you’re worried about hiding our thing, we can throw a blanket and pillow on the sofa so it looks like Ash is sleeping out here if someone drops by, but don’t make him sleep on this piece of shit when he already knows about us.”
A tired smile spread across Mike’s face. “I’m not a jerk,” he said. “I just hadn’t thought of that.”
“I know you’re not really an ass, but you do act like one when it comes to sex.”
“Sexuality,” he corrected, “and only because it’s no one else’s business.”
“It’s no one else’s business to say what’s wrong or right.”
Mike’s smile became a smirk. “I know,” he said. He took Crandall’s hand in his. “You’re never going to be okay with this, are you?”
Crandall stared past him, whether in thought or withdrawal, Mike couldn’t tell. It’d been a busy night, and while Crandall’s panic attacks were far between since they’d started sleeping together, they hadn’t been cured.
After a long moment where Mike decided he wouldn’t get an answer and should go ahead and get the bedroom ready for Ash, Crandall finally spoke. “I don’t know.” He frowned at a point in space six inches from Mike’s right knee. “I’m trying, Mike, but it’s so unnatural to hold that part of me back.” He met Mike’s eyes with his unnerving stare. “Next to singing, this thing with us is the best thing in my life.”
Mike snorted and shook his head. “I’d like to be the best.”
Crandall rolled his eyes and stood up. “Get over it,” he said. “You are. Singing is a couple of hours a week, maybe a few more if we get a second gig. You’re all the rest of the time.” Crandall started toward the bedroom hallway, but stopped and looked back. “Except work, which just plain sucks. I still can’t convince them I should focus on computers and not have to talk to people.”
As he walked away, Mike fell sideways, laughing. He was still snickering when Crandall returned to throw a pillow at him. “Yeah, I’m coming,” Mike said.
* * * *
Once the bed was made with fresh sheets, Mike filled a plastic laundry basket with a couple of changes of clothing so he wouldn’t have to disturb Ash to dress one days their schedules conflicted.
Mike went to the doorway. “What’s up?” he asked, trying not to frown at the way Ash hugged the bathroom door jamb, just his head peeking out.
“Can I borrow one of your shirts?”
“Yeah, I guess so. It’s going to be big on you.”
“Shut up, Mike,” Crandall said from behind him. He squeezed past with one of Mike’s band t-shirts. He handed it to Ash. “This band sucks anyway. Keep it.”
Ash managed a strained laugh as he took the offering.
As he stepped back into the bathroom, Crandall’s gaze fell, and he said, “Whoa.”
“What?” Ash looked up and blushed. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Just don’t,” he said. “I don’t have my things.” He dropped his gaze and turned away, shutting the door.
Crandall caught the door before it latched and stepped inside. “You got–”
“Leave it be,” Ash snapped.
“I assumed you’d–”
“What?” He’d been staring at Ash’s chest, but his gaze snapped up when Ash growled his name.
“I thought you said you read up on what it means to be transgender?”
“Yeah, I did. So fucking what?” He looked away.
“So I’m not comfortable in my own skin, so get out and stop staring!”
Crandall’s raised his gaze from the swell of breasts Ash had never had before, to recognize the shame and anger in his expression. Crandall couldn’t read people well, but Ash was clear as glass. “Shit, okay.” He started turning toward the door, but paused and glanced back. “I’ll take the T to work and you can use my car to pick up what you need tomorrow.”
“Get out!” Ash slammed the door in his face.