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Beyond Kissing

Ash loved the night. He had since before that fateful bite that awakened the vampire hunter blood. It had been a night much like tonight – cold and crisp, the kind of weather that froze your nose from the inside out. Tonight was different. Tonight, instead of giving in to fear and walking away from the pretty girl making eyes at him, Ash was treating a wonderful woman who knew his secret to a special evening simply because she made his head swim with her cunning, playful, freckled smile.

It was weird and it was wonderful.

Ash stepped ahead of Ginger to push open the door. He stepped through and held it for her. He fell in beside her on the sidewalk, heading back toward the T-station.

“It was magical!” Ginger did a little skip-twirl move that was similar, yet nothing at all like a pirouette. She wasn’t tall and lithe like the ballerina on the stage, but Ginger’s happiness made her a hundred times more beautiful.

Ginger skipped ahead and spun around to face him. Ash stopped walking and just took in the vision of his lovely girlfriend.

His girlfriend. He never thought he’d be able to say that.

“It was,” he said. He nodded.

“I don’t want to go home yet.” Ginger reached for Ash’s hand and pulled him along as she turned and started walking again. “It’s a nice night.”

“It’s cold. I can see your breath.” Despite his objection, Ash didn’t steer them toward the steps to the T. He let her lead him right past.

“Nonsense.” She waved her free hand, dismissing his words. “Given the weather we’ve had so far this year, this is downright balmy.”

He chuckled. She had a point. Most of the snow had melted, but there were still dirty piles here and there. Before that last storm, the temps had been rocking into the teens. In November.

She squeezed his hand and slowed her walk. When he looked at her, her smile had faded from glowing to a normal level. “If you’re cold,” she started.

“No.” He brushed a hand down her cheek. “Well, yes, a little, but you keep me warm.” Cheesy, he thought, as soon as the words left his lips, but Ginger must’ve disagreed because her smile returned to a beaming grin.

Her voice dropped low and knowing. “I’ll keep you warm. Boiling, if you’d like.” Her gaze held a wicked glint, daring him to take her up on her not-so-subtle offer.

He didn’t know what to say. She knew he wasn’t normal. Maybe it’d slipped her mind. Instead of bringing the conversation down, he kissed her. As their lips brushed, he hoped she didn’t notice him trembling. She was a smart girl. By the time they returned to her place, she’d remember and he wouldn’t have to tell her no.

“Ash.” She did that often, whispering his name against his lips after a kiss.

“Ginger,” he whispered back, and kissed her again.

When he pulled away and nodded his head to the side to indicate they should keep walking, Ginger resisted. She squeezed his hand, and held his gaze for a long moment.

“I get it. You’re scared.”

“Don’t–”

“Okay, hesitant. But, Ash.”

He covered her mouth with one finger. “Can we talk about this later?”

Her gaze filled with doubt, but she nodded. When he moved his finger, she said, “Will we talk about this?”

He wanted to please her. He was attracted to her – that wasn’t the problem. The problem was, well, she knew. It’d gone beyond blurting out his secret at that first coffee date. She knew he still needed surgery. They’d talked about that. Briefly. Any attempt at intimacy beyond kissing and holding hands would result in frustration and embarrassment. He couldn’t.

Ash forced a smile. Already, she meant so much to him. He would hate every moment, but he would talk about it as much as she needed to. He wanted her to understand that if he could, he’d make love to her every single night, all night long.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Ash, Relationships, transgender

 

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

 

On The Tip of HIs Tongue

“Was that horrible of me?” Ash asked with a grin. He’d already figured out Ginger wasn’t Crandall’s biggest fan, so he wasn’t worried about her reaction. The relief on her pretty face when Ash sent Crandall back to his cubicle alone was almost funny. He couldn’t even say why he and Crandall were suddenly getting along, but he’d been through it too. Ginger needed a miracle to get on Crandall’s secret friends list. Or so it had seemed to Ash while he had suffered Crandall’s abrasive side.

“He’ll get over it.” Her smile wavered. “He will, won’t he?” She slowed her pace to look up at Ash.

“I think so.” He gave her a reassuring smile, and then they continued walking toward a small coffee shop with a scattering of tables along the sidewalk. “I still won’t claim to completely understand him.”

“Not surprising,” she said with a snort. She took a deep breath and sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I know he’s your friend.”

“It’s okay.”

“I’m not really this catty. Honest.”

“Crandall, he…” Ash paused. He didn’t know what Crandall’s story was. He only knew the man had been difficult – very difficult — at first, but Mike vouched for him, and finally, Crandall came around. But not until Max forced Ash to out himself to Crandall. He expected snotty comments from the man, at the very least, and possibly downright denigration, but Crandall had surprised him. He’d not only accepted the truth, but embraced their wavering friendship, supporting it with all of the same strong energy he’d previously put into being a jerk.

“You don’t need to explain,” Ginger said, interrupting his musings. “I’m sure he has a good side.”

“Yes, he does. That’s why he came for me the night of the fire.”

“That’s a true friend: one you can call at any hour of the day or night and know they’ll drop anything for you.” She stopped at the door of the café and studied Ash. “I bet you’re that kind of friend right back too.”

With a smile to hide his surprise at her declaration, he asked, “Why do you say that?”

She shrugged. “I just know.”

He raised an eyebrow and held back a smirk. “But you don’t ‘know’ about Crandall?”

She laughed. It was loud and musical. She wasn’t afraid of letting it out, but the sound was still feminine, like a playful ditty with no lyrics. “I tried to be friends before asking about you. He pushed me away.”

“Don’t give up.” Ash reached for the door, holding it open for her. He placed a hand at the small of her back, ushering her in. She didn’t pull away – maybe even slowed and leaned into his touch, though that could’ve been him reading too much into things – but it still gave his confidence a boost. He knew his way around vampires. He also made friends easily enough when he wasn’t distracted by work, and losing his home, and, well, vampires, but pretty girls had always been harder for him. He’d promised himself he’d start out with the truth this time.

It scared the crap out of him. More than any vampire he’d ever hunted. He doubted the decision all day long, but refused to let doubt change his mind. He’d tell her. Maybe not while they waited for coffee at the counter, but before they parted ways. Definitely before he asked for her phone number, so he’d know if she’d be someone he’d want to visit again.

As they sipped coffee and talked, Ash absorbed everything she said. They like a lot of the same music. She barely watched TV; he didn’t own one, not even before the fire. She found ways to relax him with gentle teasing and subtle flirtations, while he never struggled once to find a topic she’d find interesting. It was going well. Too well. Doubt crept in again, warning Ash against revealing his secret. He didn’t want to lose this so soon.

“What kind of martial arts?” Ginger’s gaze sparkled with curiosity sprinkled with flirtation.

Ash smiled, pushing aside the worried little voice in his head. “You don’t want to hear about my job.”

“I do,” she said. She spun the Styrofoam cup between her hands. “I took Jujitsu when I was a kid. I’ve always thought I should give it another try.”

“That’s one.” Ash tried not to get too excited about the common ground. It could just as easily become a chasm of disgust if he told her about his… He shook the angry, fearful words from his head, and refocused on Ginger.  “Wednesday evenings.” He felt the blush rising up his neck. “That is, if you’re interested.” He couldn’t seem to help himself. She was going to break his heart with one coffee date.

“I’m interested.” She glanced down to her cup, and when she met his gaze again her shy expression took on a mysterious, mischievous tint. “Do you offer private lessons?”

He returned her smile easily. “I’m sure I could arrange something.”

“Where’s your phone? I’ll give you my number.” She reached a hand across the table, her fingers brushing over his wrist. Her touch sent tingles through his body, making him crave things he’d denied for too long.

“I’d like that,” Ash said. He turned his hand to take hers. “But first I want to tell you something.” He squeezed her hand and lifted her fingers to his lips for a light kiss. “I like you, Ginger. A lot. So I have to get this out in the open up front. It just gets too weird to…”

He shook his head.

Just say it.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Ash, transgender

 

And All the Rest (part two)

“Look, dipshit–”

Ash looked up from his mug, his lips pressed tightly together to keep them from trembling. The night was catching up with him quickly, and Crandall’s suddenly harsh tone didn’t help.

“That cocky version of Ash isn’t sexy anyway,” Crandall said, apparently unaware of Ash’s reaction. Nothing new, Ash thought; he’d always thought Crandall was a bit self-centered, even if tonight he’d already revealed there was much more to him than those first impressions.

“No one is perfect, and you pretend you are. Fucking Karate Kid. While you’re too depressed now to see it, and you’ll probably deny this, it’s a fucking relief to see that you are a real person.”

Ash snorted and looked away. He reached deep down and forced up some anger at Crandall’s mini rant. He’d rather be offended than mopey and depressed any day.

Crandall waved a finger in his face, forcing Ash’s attention back to him. “Don’t fucking argue with me either. Yeah, you’re in the wrong body — I get that — but you’re cute, and you’re smart, and you’re damn fucking quick when fighting. Fuck, Ash, you’re alright, and I’ll help you figure out what to do about the girl shit.”

“You don’t have to help with that. It’s an expensive dead end right now.”

“I don’t have to sit here eating cookies and drinking instant chocolate either, but we’re friends, and that’s what friends do.”

“We’re friends?” Colleagues, yes, but he hadn’t realized Crandall thought of him as a friend. It wasn’t like they’d had any heart-to-hearts before tonight. Well, Ash cocked his head thinking, they’d both come out after that incident with the blond vampire. That didn’t really count though, did it? Crandall didn’t give a fuck about being out, it was Mike he’d been protecting.

“We’re not?” Crandall actually sounded hurt.

Ash laughed, but in a friendly way. He had to let the sudden release show somehow, so it was laugh or cry. Crandall scowled at him, so he quickly explained. “Yes, we’re friends,” Ash said. “I wasn’t sure that’s how you thought of us.”

Ash waved a hand between them, and then relaxed enough to try a cookie. He’d been watching Crandall dunk his in his hot cocoa, but Ash’s stomach churned at the idea. Now, having dumped some of his stress on Crandall, he found the idea delicious, and quickly finished one and grabbed a second.

“Marry me,” Crandall said.

Ash dropped his second cookie into the mug. Chocolate splashed over his hands, his shirt, and the table. He stared wide-eyed at Crandall, who didn’t look like he was joking. “Excuse me?” Ash asked. “I don’t think I heard you right.”

“Marry me.” Nope, he heard right. “You’d get on my insurance. You’re legally a girl, so we could, and my insurance covers therapy. I don’t know about the hormone meds or cutting you up, but I’ll check that.”

Ash stood. His legs shook. He grabbed onto the back of his chair. His mind reeled with the sudden and strange change in conversation. “That’s nice, Crandall, but we can’t.” He briefly wondered if Crandall really was teasing, but both Crandall and Mike had said Crandall didn’t make jokes. Heck, half the time, he didn’t catch the sarcasm and jokes passed around the Pit. He wouldn’t kid about this. Would he?

“Sure we can. You’re already living with me.”

“And your boyfriend.”

“Shit, Mike’s more your friend than I am. He’d be fine with it.”

“I don’t think so.” Besides it was wrong, but Ash didn’t think that’d be an argument Crandall would consider. “Gays can marry in this state. Shouldn’t you marry Mike first?”

Crandall snorted. Ash frowned. He’d seen Crandall and Mike in a couple of uninhibited moments since they’d come out to him and Dragon. He was certain they were very fond of each other, probably even in love, so the attitude didn’t make sense.

“Trouble in paradise?” Ash asked.

“Huh? You mean me and Mike? Hell no. It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t trade him for anything. Not even a music deal.”

Ash smirked. It was close enough to a compliment. “But you don’t want to marry him?”

“Marriage is for people who doubt their relationships. Lock it in. Put it on paper. Fuck that shit. I know Mike loves me. I don’t need some judge to approve it.”

“Justice of the peace.”

“What-fucking-ever.”

Ash fished the cookie out of his mug and ate what he could as it disintegrated into a mushy mess. He took all the extra towels and wiped up the mess. “Mike’s a bit of a romantic,” Ash said. “You should talk to him about this.”

“It makes sense, Ash. Don’t argue.”

Ash looked up and met Crandall’s intense stare. “Talk to him. I refuse to consider anything until you two talk about this. I don’t think Mike will like it, and frankly, it’s weirding me out.”

Crandall shrugged one shoulder, and then took several more cookies out of the bag. “So where in Boston do we buy boob binders?”

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Ash, Crandall, Relationships, 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

 

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