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Category Archives: Secrets

Taboo Request

Mike watched Crandall pace around the room. He’d remained seated on a wobbly old wooden chair for as long as it took for him to share the details of the vampire prophecy and Judas’s demands with Father Chris, and then he was on his feet, pacing, prowling, like a caged lion, waiting for his keeper to leave the gate ajar. He could smell freedom, taste it, but didn’t know when his chance would come.

Father Chris, on the other hand, reclined against the arm of the sofa, hands folded on his stomach as he stared toward the ceiling. Was he seeking Heavenly guidance, or just thinking about the best way to tell them both they were crazy?

“Tell me,” Chris said, “Why do you feel obligated to participate in this prophecy?”

Mike glanced at Father Chris, but the priest was watching Crandall.

Crandall froze midstep, his entire body tense. Slowly, he turned, glaring first at Mike and then at Chris. “They won’t leave us the fuck alone.”

“Crank…” Mike tried to interrupt, but Crandall plowed on, indifferent to who heard his foul mouth.

“Obligated? Hell no. Antagonized is more like it. I gotta do this to make them go away.”

Mike stood, and moved between them. Chris didn’t appear bothered by Crandall’s language, but Mike was. They weren’t in the church itself, but to Mike, the building and the priest deserved the same respect, even if they were in nothing more than a small reception room that was a part of Chris’s private quarters.

“We’d ignore them if we could, Father.” Mike heard Crandall’s soft footsteps resume behind him but ignored his friend for the moment. “They know where we live and aren’t afraid to show up at odd hours to put the pressure on. They’ve come to the dojo too, and the club.” Mike paused, the excuse sounded stupid in his head, but it was true, too: “We don’t exactly have a reasonable excuse to tell the band why we can’t go to a club run by vampires when it’s the best crowd we’ve ever played for.”

Chris smiled his understanding, patient smile. “Do you need more stakes, or blessed water?”

Mike shook his head. Crandall stepped up beside him and spoke. “We need information. We need another way to kill this vampire. He’s stronger than any other I’ve met, by more than I can measure. Stakes and water aren’t going to cut it. I doubt the four of us could bring him down with traditional strategies.”

“You think I have knowledge I haven’t shared.” Chris managed to sound as neutral as possible. Mike couldn’t tell if he was annoyed or offended or amused by this.

“Of course you do.” Crank shoved his hands deep in his pockets and fixed Chris with a hard, unwavering glare. “Everyone knows the church suppresses shit they don’t want out as public knowledge. How do we get our hands on that taboo research?”

Chris bit his lip and Mike was certain it was to hide a sudden smile. Interesting.

“The church does not–”

“Bullshit.”

Chris’s sort-of-smile faded and he hardened his look to match Crandall’s fierceness. “Sit down, please, Crandall.”

When Crandall sat, Mike did too, more because he was stunned Crandall complied so easily than for any need to sit. Crandall could be polite to get what he wanted, but he rarely did so without a lot more prodding.

“The church, as I said, does not have that kind of information.” Chris’s tone was low and steady, like a hypnotist. “However, I know a place that does collect ancient lexicons.”

“Great.” Crandall leaped to his feet. “Let’s go.”

Chris nodded to the chair. Silent.

Crandall stared for a moment and then another. Then with a small nod of his own, Crandall returned to his seat.

Chris continued, “The owners entertain by invitation only. I’ll make a call and see if I can arrange a visit.”

“Thank you,” Mike said.

“Don’t thank me. Prophecy or not, a vampire that strong should be destroyed. However, I can’t promise you two will get an invitation to view the collection. If you do, I strongly suggest you consider how best to approach such an opportunity. If not handled with respect, I may lose a valuable contact to a world the church would not assist us with.

“Crandall, I understand why you make the choices you do, but I’m going to ask you to let Mike do the research.”

“What if I promise not to pick a fight with your friend?”

Chris laughed and visibly relaxed. “If you are able to keep such a promise, I would accept it.”

Crandall snorted and shook his head. “It’s not easy.” Then he smiled an uneasy smile. “I hope I’ll be engrossed in research and Mike can do all the talking.”

“That sounds like an excellent idea.” Father Chris stood, and Mike and Crandall followed him to the back door. “I’ll give you a call, Mike, as soon as I know anything.” He turned to Crandall. “You’ll need to be patient. Sometimes these things take time. My contact has a business to run on top of managing the collection.”

“I don’t know how much time we have,” Mike said, cutting off whatever Crandall was about to spit out.

“I understand.” Chris hugged Mike, and merely smiled fondly at Crandall, before shooing them out the door and into the fragile daylight.

 

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in Father Chris, Prophecy, Secrets

 

Stupid Boy

Originally I was going to make you wait for Ash and Ginger. Nica has a scene coming up, and Crank is, well, cranky over being blown off. But those scenes won’t take place after dark, and boy, wouldn’t I look foolish if I left Ash and Ginger at the coffee shop all day when she only gets a ten minute break? Feel free to thank your merciless bosses who’d never let you disappear for the afternoon, even for a cute boy.

~*~

Ash couldn’t breathe. He felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. What a scientific paper that would be – make a coffee shop into a vacuum by planning to confess a gigantic secret. He laughed, but then remembered she’d have no clue why he was laughing and cut it short. Despite his nervousness, he knew he sounded a tad bit crazy. And maybe he was, thinking this was a good idea. Any of it. Dating. Telling a stranger he was trans. Thinking anyone who didn’t already know him would accept it. Fuck, his parents knew him all his life, and they couldn’t.

Ginger squeezed his hand, bringing his focus back to her. She smiled, part sweet and curious and part wary and concerned. “What is it?” she asked, and she might have meant what he wanted to say, or why he was suddenly acting like a crazy guy who missed his afternoon meds.

Ash opened his mouth, but couldn’t speak. With his free hand, he picked up his coffee and sipped at it. It’d grown cold as they’d talked. Talked so much. Clicked every which way.

Don’t blow it now.

But she’ll find out eventually.

Maybe she’s not interested in more than a friend. I need a friend.

“Whatever it is, Ash, you can tell me, or not.” She smiled. She was beautiful when she smiled.

“It’s… hard.” He swallowed the lump in his throat.

Get it over with now. Don’t wait.

But if she gets to know me better first…

A disgusted look in her eyes will hurt more.

“As long as you haven’t killed anyone, I can’t imagine anything that would make me not give you my phone number. So whatever.” She shrugged her pretty little shoulders, and rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand. Her expression brightened, and she said, “Why don’t you walk me back to the office? You look like you need some fresh air, and I need to get back to my month end reports.”

Ash had his doubts over whether it was the best choice, but he’d already decided, and if he didn’t say something, it’d eat at him until he did. Hours. Days. Weeks. It wouldn’t matter. It’d crawl under his skin until he took it out on a vampire or blurted it out untactfully. The vampire idea appealed in that moment, but dusk was still hours away, and he tended to be sloppy when his mind was distracted. Tonight would not be good, or safe, hunting.

Unless… tell her!

Ginger was standing now, looking at Ash expectantly. “Coming?” She held out her hand, and only then did Ash realize he wasn’t holding it anymore.

Now or… Just now.

“I’m transgender.” Ash stared hard at the table. It anchored him. There, he’d said it, but he wasn’t ready to see the look on her face. He wanted to remember her laughing and smiling, and getting along with him more than any other person he’d met in… forever. If he stared at the table long enough, she could walk away unseen, and he could savor the memories up until those two words came out of his mouth.

She hadn’t moved away. He hadn’t been sure at first, but then, despite his effort not to see her, out of the corner of his eye, he saw her crouch down beside him. Her small hand landed on his thigh, near his knee, and her long, slender fingers squeezed gently. The touch was so kind, so gentle, that he couldn’t help but look up.

“Thank you,” she whispered softly when he met her gaze.

“I’m sorry,” he said just as quietly. “For wasting your time.” He looked at the table again, but the surface couldn’t hold his attention. She had moved, but not to stand up and run, instead to lean closer.

“Ash, look at me.”

He did. Her face was inches from his. Her eyes met his and held none of the pity or disgust or anything that he’d braced for. Instead, she smiled, and he knew it was not forced because her eyes crinkled and sparkled when she truly let her emotions free. He smiled back, glad that he’d noticed that – that he’d been watching her so intently to learn the difference between a regular smile and an I-like-you smile.

“Thank you for trusting me with that,” Ginger said.

He blinked. Sure, her smile said she wasn’t disgusted, but could she be supportive and understanding too? It was too good to be true. He must have read too much into her words. Afraid to sound foolish, he remained silent. Instead, he covered the hand on his thigh with his own, and nodded once.

Her smile widened, and he couldn’t be sure, but he thought she might be holding back a laugh. He frowned and opened his mouth, but wasn’t sure what to say. She had him completely tongue tied after not having to think a moment about a topic to discuss during their entire coffee date.

“You’re adorable,” Ginger said. “So confident and outgoing all along, but now, suddenly this adorable little introvert. Oh!” She covered her mouth with her hand. When she lowered it she smiled shyly. “I’m sorry, not little. I know guys don’t like that, though it’s probably closer to a pet name than anything serious when girls say it. Like we need an extra word and little and cute go together and…” She laughed then, waving her hand in front of her face. “Never mind me. I’m just nervous. Since you suddenly seem to think I might not want to continue, I feel it’s up to me to ask you to dinner tonight, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked a guy out before. How am I doing?”

And with her brief rambling giddiness, the self-imposed spell broke over Ash and his true nature rose to the surface once more. He smiled and brushed his fingers lightly down her cheek. He was nervous still — he hadn’t tried dating much at all – but he liked her, and it would seem he couldn’t chase her away so easily. Instead of answering, he leaned in and brushed a light kiss over her lips. It was so quick and light she didn’t have a chance to kiss him back.

“Hey!” Ginger pouted, her lower lip sticking out. It looked comical. Ash laughed. Her pout turned to a frown, but the corner of her lips curled upward. She couldn’t seem to help the smirk. “Don’t you laugh at me, buddy,” she said. She poked his shoulder.

When Ash stopped laughing, Ginger leaned in again and whispered, “Do that again. I’m ready this time.”

He did, and this time, she caught him with an arm around his neck, and held him still so she could return the kiss with a quiet urgency that spoke more than words could ever say. That kiss said: You stupid boy, how could you think I’d walk away?

He wasn’t sure how he could’ve thought that either. Not anymore.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Ash, Ginger, Secrets, transgender

 

And all the Rest (part one)

Mike was already back in bed by the time Crandall returned to his bedroom. “Just let it go,” Mike said.

“Why hasn’t Ash had that surgery?” Crandall sat on the edge of the bed and looked down at Mike.

“I said, let it go.”

“I pissed him off, and I didn’t mean to. I want to know so I don’t fuck up again.”

Mike sighed. He rolled to his side so he could wrap his arms around Crandall’s waist. “Tomorrow, okay? I’m exhausted. It’s been a long night.”

“Mike–”

“It’s okay,” Ash said. Mike and Crandall looked up to find Ash standing shyly in the doorway. “I won’t be able to sleep anyway. we can talk if you want.”

“You don’t have to,” Mike said.

“I do.” Ash looked at Crandall. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I’m obviously self-conscious about…” He shrugged. “Them. Do you have any cocoa?”

Crandall said no, but Mike spoke up. “Yes, in the cabinet above the fridge.”

Ash turned and walked down the hall. Crandall leaned over Mike and kissed his cheek before snorting and shaking his head. “Fuck. How often can you be wrong?” he said.

Mike frowned, but Crandall laughed and kissed him again. As he headed out of the room, Crandall said, “And you think I don’t know how to fucking joke.” He laughed. “Get some sleep, Mike.”

* * * *

Crandall sat at the table when Ash insisted on making the cocoa. He wanted a distraction while they talked.

“I don’t usually talk about this stuff,” Ash said. “Maybe because I’m so frazzled from the fire, but I want to tonight.”

Crandall got up and went to a cabinet. He pulled out a bag of chocolate chip cookies from the grocery store’s bakery, and then ripped several pieces from the roll of paper towels lying on its side next to the sink.

Ash waited until Crandall settled at the table again. As he set several cookies on two different towels and then folded three more in between them, Ash found his voice.

“I always bind my chest,” he said. “I hate them. I hate seeing them in the mirror. I hate feeling them… move, jiggle, just…” He shook his head and moved to the fridge to find milk.

“I can’t sleep like that though, so when I woke, and the room was already getting smoky, I didn’t even think of it. I rolled out of bed and rushed to the door.” He set the milk on the table and then returned to the microwave to check on the water.

“As I was running down the stairs, I realized I had nothing. No shoes, no wallet, and my ugly fucking tits were uncomfortable as I ran. I almost went back, but there were so many people coming down, I didn’t think I could get back up without getting knocked down. Several of them were panicking, screaming and pushing already. I already wish I did go back.”

“We’ll go shopping tomorrow. Is there a place to get one of those binding things around here, or do you have to go online?”

Ash poured the hot water into two cups already prepared with instant cocoa mix. He carried both to the table before answering.

“Yes, but I have to get new credit cards, ID, clothes, all of that stuff. I don’t think I can afford everything, and the binders aren’t cheap.” He added a splash of milk to his mug and then wrapped his hands around the mug, seeking the warmth.

“Don’t worry about that,” Crandall said. “I can help.”

“I can’t, but thanks.”

“Like fuck, you can’t. I’ve saved up some money, and I know where you work, so you’re not going to run off and not pay me back.”

Ash grimaced. “I have a little saved. I’ve been setting money aside when I can.” He lifted his cup, sniffed the cocoa, but didn’t drink any. “Maybe you know already, but we don’t have health insurance at the Crane. For vampire related medical emergencies we go to the church.”

“I met Father Chris.”

“Right, him. I really want to start hormones, but I can’t afford it, or the therapy that’s required. Either way, it’d be nice to do the therapy so I can talk openly to at least one person.”

“You can.”

Ash smiled but he knew it was a pathetic effort. He met Crandall gaze for the first time since they entered the kitchen. “I usually try to stay strong in front of my friends. I have this picture in my head of who I was meant to be, and that’s who I show to the world. I should apologize now for any moping I do. I save that for home — when I’m alone I decompress – but until I have a home again, it might slip out.”

“Don’t you fucking dare apologize to me,” Crandall said. “You are who you are, and if you’re frustrated, or whatever, then that’s what you are.”

“I am, but that’s not your fault.” He wanted to cry, but he forced the smile to stay. He’d been getting glimpses of the Crandall beneath the snarky exterior little by little, but tonight, Ash was happy to get the full experience. Tonight, he understood why Mike put up with Crandall’s attitude. It wasn’t only a small part of the man, and friends, apparently, got to see what no one else could dare imagine.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Ash, Friends, Secrets, transgender

 

A Friend with Breasts

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.

“I wish.”

* * * *

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?”

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–”

“Crandall!”

“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.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Ash, Identity, Relationships, Secrets, transgender

 

A Look in the Closet

“God. Damn. Fuck. Yeah.” Crandall was rambling incoherence, but he didn’t care.

“That good, huh?” Mike put an arm around his shoulders.

Crandall rolled into Mike, snuggling closer and burying his face against Mike’s armpit. Mike squeezed Crandall closer and kissed his temple. “Mm, good. Great. Excellent. Fan-fucking-tastic.” Crandall flicked his tongue out, making Mike jump.

Once he settled again, Mike said, “That had to taste nasty.”

“Nope.”

Crandall took a deep breath. He knew about pheromones in the animal world, and while humans didn’t necessarily work the same way, they must have some. Mike’s scent put dirty, wild thoughts in his head. He was tired, sore, and probably incapable of getting it up again for a few minutes, or maybe an hour, but Mike filled his senses and turned his thoughts to what he’d like to do to him next.

It was difficult to be around Mike sometimes. Especially after a show. When Crandall rode the high of performing, and they were both sweaty and exhausted from the show, Crandall never could focus on much more than Mike’s ass in his tight leather pants, or the way his long hair hung in sweaty, damp clumps around his head, or the way he grinned and laughed like there weren’t any numbnut vampires fucking with their lives…and Crandall wanted to jump him. After every gig, he wanted to slam Mike up against the wall and devour his mouth, lick the sweat off his chest, wrapped his fingers around his cock as he dropped to his knees and sucked that thick, weighty boner into his mouth.

“Crank?” Mike nudged him, breaking through his thoughts.

“What the fuck?” He shoved back, and rested his head on Mike’s shoulder.

“You’re going to bruise me with that thing,” Mike said. “What are you pounding that you’re hard again already.”

“I was thinking about sucking you off.” Crandall grinned to himself, knowing damn well that talking like that would get Mike’s blood flowing too. Tired or not, Mike couldn’t resist a good blowjob. And he was always good.

“Why think about it when you can do it?”

“And you say I’m demanding.”

Mike shrugged, and the motion made Crandall’s head fall into Mike’s armpit. Crandall licked him again and then pushed up on one elbow. “Mike, why do you hide it?”

“My cock? Because I don’t want to get arrested.”

Crandall narrowed his eyes, scowling at Mike’s chest. He could tell by how Mike looked everywhere but at him, he knew exactly what Crandall asked. After a moment of waiting, Mike sighed loudly.

“Don’t be passive aggressive. Just tell me to fuck off if you don’t want to answer.”

“That would be passive aggressive.”

“No,” Crandall said. “That would be aggressive.”

“Whatever, man, we’ve talked about this before.”

“I want to know why you hide. I’m not trying to talk you out of it.”

“Or maybe if you know why, you think you can change my mind.”

“Asshole.”

Crandall met Mike’s gaze, but Mike pressed a hand to Crandall’s chest and then watched as he caressed a path up and over his shoulder. Crandall studied Mike’s face. Mike could be so confident on stage, or in the dojo, or in bed, but whenever they talked about hiding their sexuality, he closed up, withdrawing almost as bad as Crandall’s own anxiety attacks, but without the dysfunctional lungs and blinding tunnel vision.

Crandall caught Mike’s hand and stopped it from roaming. He said, “I want to understand why it scares you so I stop wondering if I can convince you otherwise. You’ve always trusted me. I don’t understand why you won’t with this.”

Mike looked up from where Crandall’s hand covered Mike’s. “I trust you,” he said. His eyes filled with disappointment, maybe at himself by the tone of those three words.

“You think I’d use this to hurt you.”

He shook his head. “No.” He swallowed, his adam’s apple bobbing twice before he spoke again. “No, I don’t think you’d hurt me. Not intentionally, but Crank – Crandall – you can be, uh, abrasive… about stuff you don’t like.”

Crandall snorted and let his hand fall. Mike had a point. His nickname had been well earned, and he didn’t care to change that for anyone else, but when it came to Mike, Crandall needed his friendship, his trust, his faith… Crandall stood. Mike tried to catch him before he left the bed, but Crandall needed to move. He eluded Mike’s grasp and paced across the ancient carpet and over landmines of dirty clothing, shoes, and computer equipment.

“I’m sorry,” Mike said. “Come back to bed.”

 

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in confrontations, Identity, Secrets

 

Ruling Out Intent

“Different how?” Crandall asked.

Ash sat back against the matted wall. “I’m living as a man. That’s who I am. The only thing I’m hiding is my biological defect, and that’s no one’s business unless they’re looking to get naked with me.” Crandall grimaced and Ash said, “And, at the same time, I agree with that naked goal.”

“I don’t want to picture you naked,” Crandall grumbled.

“Because we’re friends, or because I’m broken?”

Crandall scowled at the floor, and then shrugged and looked up at Ash. Ash faced the other way, and Crandall didn’t understand why, or his question. “Because we’re fucking friends,” Crandall said as if it was the stupidest question with the most obvious answer. “I already knew you weren’t as perfect as you think you are.”

Ash faced Crandall, confusion on his face.

“Oh, was that a secret too?” Crandall snorted. He rolled his eyes and pushed himself onto his feet. He was about to head for the locker room when Ash startled him with a laugh.

“You really don’t hold back, do you?” Ash said in sudden revelation. He rose to his feet in one fluid motion. “I had figured the abrasion was a defensive mechanism, but it’s just… you.”

Crandall shrugged. It was true; what more was there to say on the matter.

“One of these days you’re going to out Mike.”

“Nah, though it’s tempting to do so and blame my mouth.” Crandall frowned at Ash’s feet. “Mike’s different. He’d get over it, maybe even be happier for it, but I can’t make that choice for him.”

“That’s big of you.”

“Don’t get pretentious again. We’re finally getting along.”

Ash held up his hands in surrender. “You’re right.”

“So instead, help me convince him to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.”

“Oh no, I’m not getting in the middle of that.”

“In the middle of what?” Crandall and Ash spun around. Mike stood at the edge of the Pit, looking down at them. Before they could answer his first question, Mike asked, “You two done, or can I join you?”

Ash relaxed, and said, “If you’re not worn out from that yoga class.”

Mike sighed. “I think I pulled a muscle trying to dodge Dottie and Michelle.”

Ash laughed and motioned for Mike to join them. Crandall slipped past him as Mike stepped through the Pit door.

“Where are you going?” Mike asked.

“I need to think,” he said. “Start without me.” He waved a hand in a go-on gesture, and then ducked out of the room.

Mike turned to face Ash. “Anything I should know about?”

“He’s anxious about your run in with Judas last night.”

“Am not!” Crandall called from the door. “And fuck you.”

Ash waited until he left the room, and then said, “I get the impression he doesn’t exaggerate?”

Mike shook his head. “Why?”

“Judas.”

“Ah, yeah,” Mike took a deep breath, sighed, and then shook his head. “I don’t know what we’re going to do about this mess. We’re going to have to take him completely by surprise, and I’m not so sure that’s even possible at this point.”

“What about the vampire with a crush on your man?”

“The one he treated like dirt, who then told us off and stormed away?”

“Ouch.” Ash tossed his towel aside and gestured toward the center of the Pit. “Blow off some steam?”

Mike nodded. He pulled the elastic from his hair, and used his fingers to comb back what had fallen loose during class. Once his ponytail hung down his back again, Mike moved into the middle of the circle, and Ash joined him, already dropping into his favorite stance.

For several minutes, the only sounds in the room were the rush of breaths and the sharp slaps of hits and blocks. Once they were both breathing heavy, and sweating profusely, Ash spoke. “So how are you and Crandall doing?” he asked.

“Besides that vampire shit last night?”

Ash worked a shrug into a block and then went on the offensive with several combinations strung together until he had Mike up against the wall. Then he said, “Sure. You’re still all lovey-dovey?”

Mike tensed and dropped an arm just enough for Ash to get in a good hit, doubling Mike over. He backed off, but kept his arms up and his gaze focused on Mike’s torso, prepared for a counter attack.

Once Mike found his breath and voice again, he said, “I wouldn’t say lovey-dovey ever fit. What’d he say?”

“Nothing much,” Ash said. He started to circle to his right as Mike eased away from the wall, ready to fight again.

“C’mon, man, you had to have a reason for asking that.”

“I know you’re a couple now. It’s what friends talk about.” He stepped forward, but Mike anticipated his move, so Ash backed up again, looking for another opening.

“We’re good,” Mike said.

“Are you sure?” As the question had its intended effect, and Mike hesitated to think about the meaning behind it, Ash rushed in with a flurry of blows that pushed Mike backwards until he had to side step to avoid being trapped. As he did, Ash lashed out, tripping Mike and following him to the ground.

With one arm over Mike’s windpipe, freezing him without choking him, Ash said, “Got’cha.” He eased backward and rose to his feet. “Keep your mind in the fight, Mike. You know that. Come on, let’s try again.” He offered Mike a hand, and wondered what worries Mike had about Crandall’s love.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Friends, Identity, Secrets, transgender

 

The Rule Is: Listen

Crandall punched. And punched. And punched. He shuffled forward. Light on his feet. Just like Ash showed him. And he missed every fucking time.

With a growl of frustration, Crandall launched himself at Ash, intent on taking him to the ground the old fashion way. Dirty.

Dirty didn’t work either. One moment Ash stood in his sights, and the next, Crandall sprawled face down on the mats. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuckfuckfuck.” Crandall punched the mat to emphasis every word.

Ash hovered nearby, a hand extended. Crandall ignored the offer and pushed himself to his feet, still spouting curses. He flexed his fingers and then formed fists, digging his fingernails into his palms.

“Let’s take a break,” Ash said.

“No.” Crandall turned around and raised his fists. “Again.”

“No,” Ash said drawing out the word. “We’re taking a–”

Crandall leapt forward, swinging a wide right hook. Ash ducked to the side and then stepped into Crandall’s attack, wrapping an arm around his waist as he grabbed his wrist and twisted. Crandall found himself propelled forward until his face pressed against the wall of the Pit and Ash’s weight pinned him in place. Crandall, breathing hard, squirmed and swore like a wild animal. He arched his body, trying to throw Ash off.

Ash leaned closer, his lips near Crandall’s ear. “Let’s revisit the rules.”

Crandall sagged momentarily and then threw his whole body into one more attempt to break free of Ash’s restraint. He slammed his head into Ash’s and then sunk down to squirm away, stumbling into the center of the Pit. Crandall fell to his knees. He looked back over his shoulder before slumping down on his stomach, gasping for breath.

Ash slumped against the wall of the Pit, holding his nose as blood dribbled between his fingers. Even with his hand over his face, Crandall recognized the look of no return. He’d fucked up. Again. And Ash was pissed.

“The rule is,” Crandall said, and then gasped. “When you say it’s time for a fucking break, we take a fucking break.” He took a deep breath, wheezed it out quickly, and then flopped to his back to stare at the ceiling. He rolled his head to the side, watching Ash glare at him. “I’m sorry.”

One black eyebrow arched. Crandall scowled back, and then turned his glare at the ceiling again.

“You don’t apologize,” Ash said.

When Crandall said nothing, Ash sighed and rose to his feet. He crossed to the door where they’d left their towels. After wiping his face, he returned to the spot where their altercation occurred to wipe a spot of blood off the mat. He sat down and leaned against the wall with his knees drawn up. “Want to talk about it?” Ash asked.

“Nothing to talk about.”

“So this bout of uncontrolled aggression is just for me?”

“No,” Crandall said with a huff. “Mike wants to go over everything after his stupid class.”

“Do you want me to act surprised when he joins us?”

Crandall snorted, but a small smile crept over his face. “He knows I don’t know how to keep secrets. It wouldn’t surprise him.”

“Yeah?”

He rolled his head to the side, looking in Ash’s general direction, but not meeting his gaze. He wasn’t sure if Ash was being sarcastic. “I don’t censor myself,” Crandall said. “I can’t be bothered.”

“What about Mike?”

“What about him?” Crandall shrugged and rolled to his side. He slid his hands under his ribs and pushed himself into a sitting position. “That fucking hurt, you fuckwit. Is it really a part of training to hit so fucking hard?”

“I have to do something to get it through your thick head.”

Crandall snorted and rolled his eyes. “They don’t hit hard,” he said. “Fucking Fangs use Jedi mind tricks instead.”

When Ash didn’t respond, Crandall glanced over at him. “I don’t joke either,” Crandall said.

“So what happened?”

Crandall crawled across the mat and sat beside Ash, mirroring his posture, his legs pulled against his chest. “Judas,” Crandall said. He lowered his chin to his knees and stared hard at the mat under his feet. “I couldn’t move. Mike couldn’t either. He comes swooping in, and fucking freeze frame, we can’t do a damn fucking thing until he leaves. How the fuck are we supposed to kill that?”

“He wants to die,” Ash said quietly, not bothering to muster false confidence. They both knew Judas would fight for the life he no longer wanted.

They fell silent for several minutes.

“I don’t want to keep Mike a secret,” Crandall said.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I didn’t expect you’d have an answer for that one.”

“I will. I don’t have to like it, but I will.” Crandall sat up and stretched his legs out in front of him. “Don’t you ever get tired of hiding who you are?”

Ash took a long time to answer. By the time he did, Crandall’s mind had wandered down a different path that led to carnal thoughts of Mike and their secret.

“It’s different,” Ash said.

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Ash, Crandall, Friends, Secrets