Mike slowed as he crossed the living room. He could hear Crandall and Ash talking in the kitchen. While he’d fallen right asleep after fucking Crandall into another screaming orgasm, he’d woken feeling hung over and restless. They hadn’t had any beer last night, but Crandall had dropped a helluva bomb on him instead. He wanted to marry Ash. Nightmares of Ash and Crandall disappearing from Mike’s life haunted him all night. He knew – knew, without a doubt – that it was exactly as Crandall said, just for the health insurance, but Mike still felt nauseated, and his mind scrambled for another solution – any other solution – to help Ash without letting his lover marry someone else.
“The surgeries aren’t even covered by most insurance plans.” Ash. Smart Ash. He’d know, of course. Mike knew Ash would’ve long ago explored all of his options. He approached vampire hunting on instinct mixed with daily drills. His own life, he’d likely do the same. Going after what he wanted, but when he got stuck, researching all possible avenues to get to that goal.
“I’ll find out,” Crandall said. “Don’t write this off without finding out for sure.”
“It’s not just the money,” Ash said. “I love you guys. If this is going to weird Mike out, I won’t do it.”
“He’ll get used to it.”
“It’s not his fucking choice. Shit, Ash, didn’t you tell me you had to see a shrink too? I know my insurance covers that much.”
Ash laughed, but it was soft and sad. “That’s true, but I don’t really need the talking part anymore. I know what I am. I’ve done a lot of research, and chatting in online forums.” Mike could almost hear a shrug in Ash’s tone. “I’d only need the appointments to get an official sign off on surgery.”
In the silence that fell, Mike suddenly felt awkward and ashamed for eavesdropping. He hadn’t realized he’d stopped walking until that moment. He shuffled forward and, as he stepped through the kitchen doorway, Ash started talking again. Mike hesitated for a second, as if caught, but then grumbled at his own bad behavior and headed for the coffee machine.
“Anyway,” Ash said, “if you have the time, I’d like to meet up for lunch today. You pick your favorite place.”
“I don’t eat lunch,” Crandall said.
Mike filled his coffee cup and then turned and leaned against the counter as he sipped. Crandall glared at him from the kitchen table, but that could just be Crandall being Crandall. He didn’t tend to hold a grudge. However, last night wasn’t the first time he’d chided Mike about remaining so far in the closet he may as well be living in Narnia.
“Coffee break?” Ash offered.
Crandall turned his glare on Ash. “What do you want?”
Ash lowered his gaze, his fingers flexing and curling around a coffee mug. Quietly, he said, “I want to meet that girl.” He looked up, a rare coy glance, and then diverted his attention back to the cup in his hands. “Would you mind introducing me?”
“I don’t know her.” Crandall pushed away from the table and brought his mug to the coffee pot. Mike slide to the side, giving him room while watching Ash. Ash had firmly denied any interest in dating for the entire time Mike had known him. It took years for the reason to come out. He wondered what changed that Ash was asking about the woman at Crandall’s office.
“I’d owe you one.” Ash glanced at Mike. “’Morning, Mike.” And then, to Crandall, “You just told me I needed to do something other than hunt vampires.”
“Fucking use that against me,” Crandall muttered.
“What’s the big deal?” Mike asked. He moved behind Crandall as Crandall sipped his coffee in the middle of the room. “Introduce them, and then you’re off the hook. It’d be up to them to hit it off.” He wrapped his arms around Crandall’s waist and brushed his lips along Crandall’s neck. “And maybe you can cheer through the wall next time.”
Ash had the good graces to blush. “Sorry about that,” he said.
Mike attempted a smile, but it was more of a smirk. He’d been embarrassed last night, but despite his objection to Crandall’s wedding plans, he did believe in supporting his friends. If Ash wanted to meet this girl, Mike was all for it.
“Alright, fine, what-fucking-ever.” Crandall shrugged Mike away, and walked out of the room muttering about fucking up his work schedule to arrange “play dates”.
Mike laughed, and after a brief hesitation, so did Ash. When they returned to their liquid breakfasts, Mike asked, “What is it about her?”
Ash looked away, again shyness crept over his face. “I’m not sure why. I’m lonely. I’ve been lonely for a while, but for some reason when Crandall mentioned she asked after me, I felt disappointed that we wouldn’t have a chance to meet for a while.”
“Still no word on the apartments?”
Ash shook his head. “They won’t promise any ETA.”
“So meet her on neutral grounds?”
“Not very neutral when she works there too.”
Mike smiled. “Um, go for it anyway?” He laughed. “I’m not very good at this, am I?”
“Yes, I want to try. I’m going to tell her the truth right up front. I may fail miserably before we even get started, but if there’s going to be a chance, I can’t begin our friendship with a lie.”
Mike nodded, at a loss for words. He’d been living a lie his whole life. It came naturally now, and even around those who knew he was gay, he automatically pretended otherwise. It took conscious will, and a lot of it, to admit his feelings for Crandall in front of Ash and Dragon. He knew, deep down, they wouldn’t care, because Ash had come out well before him, and yet, it’d been one of the most difficult confessions of his life.
“I hope it works out for you, Ash.” Ash had a point. If this woman could get past the initial revelation and see Ash for who he truly was, they could create a strong bond. If. Hopefully it wasn’t a huge, impossible if.