Fortune Cookies

by Bara Akai (薔薇・赤い)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/120743.html)

You will make a change for the better.

Your lucky numbers are #33, 98, 47, 63, 24 : ).

Kyle crushed the cookie and its wrapper in the palm of his hand and shoved it into his small black purse. That was the ninth time he had gotten that fortune and he was starting to think he should take some time to find some other lame-ass two-bit Chinese place. Even most of the lower city had standards for food and when it seemed like the same thing kept getting shoved out in various stages of stale—it was. Still, creepy register boy, cheap fortunes, or greasy soup notwithstanding, the food was cheap and quick—and still probably better than some fast-food joint.

He checked his soup—egg-drop just as he ordered, soup was more filling than an eggroll and just as cheap—and popped the top off the soup bowl as he stepped back from the storefront and headed down the street. He flit-stepped over a curb and down another alley, until he hit a street that was nothing more than a handful of bars, plus two strip-joints that leant precariously over the edge of becoming homeless-stoops. The entire street was nothing but dirt-poor, glazed in flickering fluorescent lights and old electric screen boards that shorted out every other word. They streamed specials and prices, then wave after wave of static and mismatched lettering that spoke of owners buying second-hand two decades too late. The smattering of light reflected on Kyle’s dark purple dress, all muddy pink and green, as he ducked into an alleyway for five minutes of peace as he drank dinner. He didn’t want to pick up anyone before dinner was over, and streets were never the best place to pick up anyway.

He had standards. Sometimes.

Kyle’s stiletto heels caught on a patch of fragmented motherboard and he jerked them out so he could settle more comfortably against the water-stained brick wall. It took some doing, but he gagged down the slimy Chinese food by thinking of old articles. He had read, somewhere, that this sort of food really wasn’t Chinese food at all, but rather some sort of greasy version that Americans liked. He spent the remainder of his meal trying to remember what magazine it came from as he pinched the edge of the Styrofoam and swallowed. He pulled the bowl back from his nose and eyed it. Empty. He dropped the bowl at his feet and crushed it with the flat of his shoe.

This was the south side where nobody stayed if they had anything to lose. It was a dogpile of old, washed out technology, gray-green polluted skies, and scum. Kyle kicked off the soup grease on the forgotten motherboard and walked back towards the semi-civilization of the streets. No one would care if there were more litter piled up.

As he approached the door to FRANKS he whipped the fortune cookie out of his purse and tossed it haphazardly towards an overflowing trash bin. The heavy wooden door, two pieces of plywood bricked together by a mismatch of old work metal, swung out behind him as he strode purposefully towards the bar with a sway in his step and a smirk on his lips. It was all about the attitude—even if there was next to no one there worth hooking yet. He staked out his preferred seat, just shy of center and towards the right of the bar. Here he could see the dark board, the chipped TV bolted to the wall, and the front door. There was just enough light to see by—but not enough to invite the boys he haggled to see blackheads or old acne pockmarks he liked to pretend he had grown out of. He pulled out the fortune cookie dregs and threw them into a large, overflowing cigarette tray.

The boys Kyle tended to pick up were little more than that. Boys. Little clumps of slumming rich boys from the colleges uptown who came in inexperienced with loose fingers and looser wallets. They might be only bi-curious, and more than likely they had been dragged out to the bars by friends, but those were the ones he could charm out of an extra twenty or fifty at the end of the night. A little extra money went a long way—and a kind John went even further.

Locals were not on his list of preferred customers, though a couple were already tossing darts. They may have been free with the sexuality but they were hard with their wallets—saving most of their paychecks for drugs and drinks. Kyle didn’t begrudge them that, but he wasn’t about to offer his services for free or cheap beer.

“Hey, Frank.” He pulled a slick oil smile at the barman, eyed him as though he were surveying a possible conquest, and then gazed across the empty dance floor and booths. It was a dead zone. Not even a pile of used plastic bags from one of the seedier drug dealers was lingering on the few pock-marked tables. “Slow night?”

“Slow week,” Frank muttered. He was a large man with broad shoulders and patchy brown scruff on his neck. He didn’t bother to clean glasses or rearrange the bar. He wasn’t fingering the pretzels or even scratching off the expiration date on some of the fruit juices the uptown slummers sometimes decided that they wanted with their vodka or rum. “Slow month if you want the truth of it. The new club’s around the block and the police have been running everyone out.”

Kyle frowned and cocked his head to the side just as the doors opened up. The air in the bar was stagnant but the outside air rushed in to stir the stale cigarette smoke and buy some interest by FRANK’S low-level populace.

Jackpot.

It was a group of eight boys who filed in, already half liquored up and bright as some warped gay fraternity. College kids, the business college from the look of it—two wore college t-shirts and one had a ball cap. They looked lost, looked drunk, and none of them could have been more than twenty-three. They would all get served here, though.

“Aww, it’s empty!” One skinny boy with long blond curls and wide smile—Twink, Kyle’s mind supplied—yelled, the volume of his voice out of control as his foot caught on an imaginary dip in the floorboards and sent him tumbling into one of his more butch looking friends. The other boy caught him around the waist and swung him back in line with the open floor, steadying him.

“Not entirely. And we’ll have fun!”

“—Hey, darts!”

It was not the very drunk boy that caught Kyle’s attention, but his taller, handsome friend. Dark haired, slightly tanned, he was wearing a regular pullover and khaki pants. He didn’t fit into the trashy club and bar scene—and that was perfect. It meant he was probably clean and his clothes meant he probably had money.

“Looks like it might speed up, just a little.” Kyle winked at Frank and tapped his hand on the bar, leaning over its dull finish to grin cheekily at him. “Give me some devil shots.”

“You know I don’t make that shit here anymore.” Frank didn’t even look up. He had gone from looking bored to pretending to be cleaning glasses. Kyle knew the look, Frank focused especially hard on the glass edge when the particularly loud blond rounded on the bar and began rambling about liquors and mixing as if any fancy drink were possible in a dive bar like Frank’s. Beer and simple liquor—that was the fare here.

“—no Afterburns? Okay, okay, Jello Shots? You have to make jell-o shots.”

Kyle ignored the pretty boy and eyed Frank. “Come on now, I know you can make it. It’s simple. Your grandmother could make them. ‘Prolly did.”

He hated trying for a mark without some alcohol in his system, especially when the night was so quiet it’d be impossible to get lost in the crowd if things went sour or he screwed up. His fingers itched and he tapped on the bar again. “‘Come on.”

Apparently his battle with Frank made the drunk boy find Kyle somewhat of a curiosity—at least by way of what liquor he was getting and what he might be able to finally get for himself and the rest of his rag-tag college buddies. “What are you trying to get?”

The blond was in his face in an instant, kneeling on the stool to his left and putting their faces almost straight together. Kyle could smell the remains of a long island ice tea on his breath and resisted the urge to push him back.

“Something a bit strong for you, I think.” Kyle tried to smile winningly and found himself ever more thankful for the thin veneer of concealer he had brushed across his cheeks and nose before leaving that night.

That was the wrong thing to say.

“Gimmie two of whatever he’s having.” Blondie grinned. “I’ll pay your way too.”

“You drink what I drink and you’ll hit the floor before eleven-thirty.” Kyle rolled his eyes, the words biting. His carefully placed make up and red painted lips didn’t hide his derision and he turned his attention back to the bar as Blondie squawked.

As though bored, Kyle pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his cheap black purse and started tapping them against the palm of his hand. He eyed Blondie’s entourage. Most had filtered in and started a drunken game of darts with a couple of the locals just about five feet away. From the look of it, the locals were going to win and the kids would lose their wallets one blustered bravado game at a time. Only Blondie’s savior lingered near the bar, ready to reach out and pull the kid to safety at the barest hint of trouble. Kyle appraised the savior with a sweep of his eyes, as though he hadn’t already made up his mind to mark him, and then offered him his carton of cigarettes, “Smoke?”

The drunk boy’s friend gave Kyle a curious look that boarded on confused interest, hands in pockets. Kyle liked that—he had seen that look many times, though generally from behind a glass or when he turned around. He knew he was pretty, but he knew just as well that he was most obviously a boy—and he planned it that way. Boy in a dress, and someone who turned tricks to boot. The latter was all in the way he smiled, the way he turned his head. This was part of the seduction game that was played for a living, not for parlor tricks and fun.

“I’m not interested,” the boy said, and though he outwardly meant it to be towards the offered cigarette, Kyle understood.

“Oh, I think you would be if you gave it a chance.” Smooth, really. At least Kyle thought so. “What’s your name?”

The boy peered at Kyle as if he couldn’t help but be intrigued, or perhaps he was just confused as to why Kyle kept focusing on him when he had already rebuffed him. “You get right to the point. It’s Angelo.”

“Aaaaangel!” One of the other boys in the group crowed from the dartboard. It was another tall, skinny one, this one with a ball cap screwed on backwards and hair cut so short there was no fringe. He nearly missed the dartboard all together as he lurched around to yell towards the bar. “Though he’s anything but!”

Angel snorted and gave a short, nervous laugh. He rolled his eyes.

“Mmm “Fallen Angel” then?” Kyle grinned, playing along and knowing very well just how corny that line was. He glanced back at Angel’s friends who were half listening and likely to egg their friend on. That was all the better for him, really—peer pressure could sometimes help. Sometimes. “I like that.”

He pulled out a cigarette with his lips and glanced back up at Angel, “Have a light?”

Angel shook his head, but his blond friend took out a lighter and tapped him on his shoulder, waving it slightly. Kyle didn’t give him the chance to drunkenly fumble with it. He plucked it from between his fingers instead and flicked it on. One cigarette lit, he flicked it off and passed it back to Blondie’s hand. “Thanks.”

The cigarettes Kyle carried were nothing special. Just cheap slips of paper and tobacco bought at a corner store. He was mostly an alcohol boy, though he wasn’t stupid enough to say no anything that came his way. The cigarette lighter was one of the more expensive lighters he had handled in the recent past but he made sure that his appraisal didn’t show on his face. He wasn’t here to pick up some kid’s lighter, even if the pawnshop might give him a good price for the embossed, metal trinket.

“So what are you fine young gentlemen doing down here anyway?” Kyle waved a hand and trailed smoke, before leaning back across the bar so that he could more easily address both the blond and Angelo. By that time Frank had finally relented in making his shots, since no one else had ordered anything he could mix up. Kyle ignored them for a moment and they practically steamed on the wooden face of the bar. “This can’t be your normal venue.”

“How’d you know?” A third boy joined them and pushed Blondie playfully. Blondie laughed and nudged him back, like goofy kids in overgrown adult t-shirts. They had to realize that most of them simply didn’t fit in here. At least half had tried to dress down for slumming and utterly failed. Their clothes were still far too new for this neighborhood and not even ripoffs of new fashion either. The few who put effort into dressing down made Kyle try to stifle a little sardonic smile at their failure.

“Well, you’re all so stylish I knew you couldn’t possibly be locals.” He glanced over at Angel again as he picked up one of the shots and then toasted it to him. It was the color of gasoline and just as greasy looking as his Chinese. He drank his shots the same way as he had his dinner—smooth but quick and mind on other things. Blow-jobs and good Johns. “Just like you would know right away if I came to your college campus and tried to pose as a sorority girl.”

Half the group laughed; Blondie and his new friend, mostly. Angelo stood slightly to the side and might have chuckled but he looked mostly uncomfortable, making Kyle surer than ever that this was not his idea and that he’d be the perfect mark tonight.

“I don’t know, you’re prettier than a lot of the girls I know.” A new friend, newly struck out from the darts game, joined them. He was a cheeky, dimpled boy with shaggy brown hair. He took the other stool beside Kyle and put his arm around his shoulders, leaning in close. “Want to come check it out?”

“Dude, don’t invite—” One of the three on his left started and Kyle glanced over at the hesitation.

“Him, her, whatever.” He sucked on the end of his cigarette, unconcerned as he gazed up and over at Angel and blew out smoke. He didn’t mind talking to the other boys, but he was giving his attention to one person. Angel was the guilty sort, Kyle thought, the kind that would overpay him at the end of the night. He might be a sweet sort of lover.

For the time he paid for at least.

“But I’m more comfortable here.” Kyle continued. He was not going to go gallivanting along with them to their college. He had better things to do than be their freak trophy. Besides, there were better people for the boys to find for a trophy. A boy in a cheap dress wearing makeup to cover his freckles and a blond bobbed wig was simply par for the course nowadays.

“Come dance with me, sweetheart!” The boy on the right said, but Kyle shook his head and batted his eyelashes towards his intended.

“Sorry, dance card’s full. Right, Angel?”

The boy on the right grinned with good humor, apparently fine with throwing Angelo to the wolves instead of taking Kyle to the dance floor. “Of course it is—right, Angel? Going to keep this sweet honey all to yourself?”

“Mmhm, that’s exactly right.” Kyle nodded in Angel’s stead and grinned over his shoulder at the steadfast blond who had joined him earlier. “Why don’t you try getting your drinks now, hm? It seems to me that Frank’s all juiced up now and might be ready to give you alcohol poisoning.”

A few drinks would loosen his mark up. Drinks meant he might be able to work him easier and if he did it just right—and Kyle liked to think he was very good at his job—there could be something quick in the alley or bathroom and a much bigger reward than anyone local would offer for his services. Unfortunately, though, the blond, the playful boy next to him and the right-stool boy all turned to bother Frank some more with fancy drink names that could never be served in a dive like this—Angel stayed where he was and no one turned to ask what he wanted. Kyle pursed his lips and pulled his second shot before getting up to wrap an almost comforting arm around Angel’s shoulders.

“Oh, I see, you picked the short straw—didn’t you?” Kyle shook his head, grinning, the fake blond hair bushing his chin. “You’re the one going to keep your buddies in line until they get home tonight, huh?”

“Someone has to.”

Kyle really couldn’t argue with that. Most of the boys here were a mess, and the rest were going to be by the time they left the bar. “Good thing it’s you, then. I can’t see anyone else sticking with this lot.”

He was lying it on a little thick, he knew. His fingers trailed little circles around Angelo’s shoulders and he leaned in close, just over a head shorter than the other man which put him at the perfect angle to look up at him. It made Angel look even more uncomfortable than before and Kyle found that incredibly endearing. He slid his arm off Angelo’s shoulder, took Angel’s hand, moving to stand in front of him. “I know I don’t disgust you.”

Angel blushed and shook his head sharply but didn’t take his hand away. He stared at Kyle earnestly and gave the hooker a chance to admire his brilliant blue eyes. “But I’m not—”

“Gay?”

Angel relaxed and smiled. “I am.”

“You have a boyfriend?”

He didn’t have to answer. Kyle followed his eyes towards the very drunk, smaller, blond boy that was currently leaning against his playful companion of a similarly slight build. “No,” Angel said finally.

“Ah, I see.” No one had bothered to share their names and Kyle much preferred his nicknames for them. Ball-cap, Blondie, Playful, and Cheeky. The other two or three had not joined in on the conversation yet. They would get nicknames when and if they did. “You like Blondie.”

“What does—who the—” Angelo scrambled back again. “Look, I’m just not interested, okay?”

Kyle smirked, his painted lips peeling back from bright white teeth. “How do you know unless you try?”

“Because I’m not interested in…Whatever you are.” Angel probably didn’t mean for that to sound so bad, and luckily Kyle wasn’t terribly wounded by a stranger’s opinion of him.

“I would be male.” Kyle grinned. “Which is, technically, the gender you fancy—though you seem to like the more flamboyant type.”

“I—what?” Perhaps Angel thought it was hard to get more flamboyant than a crossdresser but he couldn’t quite get the words out. It made Kyle grin wider—he liked making Angel flustered and wondered if he would look the same way when he undid his pants later that night.

“Like small, flamboyant, gay men—or boys if Blondie’s an example.” Angel sputtered but didn’t make anything out so Kyle continued. “But he’s interested in the Playful one. Too bad. Maybe if he gets drunk enough you can grab him later.”

That did make Angel start and he almost pulled his hand away, “What?”

Kyle smirked. “Well, they did say you weren’t an Angel.”

“I would absolutely never take advantage—” Angel frowned when Kyle put a finger against his lips. They were ridiculously painted a sparkling purple color that matched the hue of his eye shadow and the color of his dress.

When Angel was suitably silenced, Kyle pulled Angel’s hand to his waist and placed one of his own hands on the taller boy’s chest. “I’m guessing it’s more than an infatuation then. Really, very cute. You don’t meet a lot of honorable people down here.” He stroked a line down Angel’s chest and smiled again, “Come on then. Let’s have a drink.”

“I already told you—”

“I thought you were smart, Angelo. I’m not going to take no for an answer.”

There were drinks waiting on the bar for him. Two beers and two more shots—Kyle smiled his thanks towards Frank. He picked up the beers and pressed one into Angel’s empty hand. “One isn’t going to kill you.”

One turned into two—because, really, what man could get drunk on two beers? And they were all taking a taxi home anyway so why did they need someone to stay sober? The worst that could happen to them here was a little mugging.

A little mugging was a lot scarier to these boys then it was to Kyle, but the rest of Angel’s friends had already gone to dance at the back of the bar or throw darts—they were all safe and sound. There weren’t even any real drug dealers around. Kyle had Angel sit at the bar next to his preferred stool.

“I never told you my name, did I?” Angel’s friends were gone and it was quiet enough to have a real conversation—not that Kyle really ever had those. “I’m Kyle.”

“Kyle?” Angel gave him a disbelieving look. “Not Christie? Or Caroline?”

“I already told you I’m a boy.” He frowned at him and reached to flick some ashes off the shoulder of Angel’s nice blue shirt. “A boy in a dress if you like.”

“But you don’t—”

“No. I don’t, actually. I’m not a girl. I just like the fashion,” Kyle murmured. “Sure, I could wear a dress shirt and a pair of slacks—some nice loafers or wing tips—but you have to admit. There’s nothing quite like a dress.” He resituated himself, crossing his legs as he gently pushed one of his illicit shots towards his guest. He picked one up himself, but he didn’t drink it. Not just yet. “Try these.”

“No, I…what’s in these?”

Kyle grinned and leaned forward. His dress was low cut. And though he didn’t have cleavage, it did actually look as if he might. And Angel couldn’t stop himself from staring—which is just how Kyle knew he had gotten him.

“A little of this. A little of that. You’ll like it.” By then, more than Kyle’s friends had filtered in and he nodded to one or two as he continued to talk, plying Angel with drinks and brushing his fingers over the back of Angel’s hand—simple signals. Music was playing and Frank was finally starting to look busy. A quiet night had turned into a good one. Kyle lifted his shot when Angel lifted his and they downed them together with Angel’s drink ending in a cough.

“What was in that!?”

“Estrogen.” Kyle laughed at the look he was given and waved his hand. “I think it’s a bit of cheap vodka with a splash of something else hard but I’ve never been able to get Frank to tell me what it is exactly.”

“You’re a bastard.” Angelo was smiling a little, though, and staring—both of which were perfectly fine with Kyle.

“Just a bit of one.” He tapped his nails against the edge of the empty shot glass. “So, are you really that curious about what’s under my dress?”

“Uh—”

“You keep staring.” Kyle pointed out. “It’s all right, I don’t mind.”

“I’m not staring. You’re sitting in front of me. It—”

“Would be rude not to look? I’ve heard that one before. Many times. It’s okay. You can be curious. Most men are.” Kyle leaned down against the bar, his fingers dancing across the laminated surface. He couldn’t help but smirk, amused, when Angel literally leaned back to get away from him. “Don’t be afraid of me.”

“Afraid?” Angel tried to laugh, but it came out a little sick and somewhat twisted. He looked away, but it only lasted a moment.

“Yes,” Kyle said, tilting his head. “You’re afraid of me.”

“No I’m just not—”

“You are interested—and luckily, so am I. Let’s go somewhere. They won’t miss you for a while.”

“No, no.” Angelo shook his head. There were plenty of his friends here, but not so many of his friends outside. It would be dangerous to go out with a stranger—a strange, crossdressing, stranger at that! Kyle could thought he could read Angel’s mind and he showed his teeth as he smiled.

“Still scared of me?” He let out a breathy laugh. “I’ll have to put this in the record books, I haven’t had someone so scared of me they can’t step outside or get a cup of coffee before.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” Angel stated, emphasizing the words as though Kyle would ever believe him.

“You certainly act like you are.” Kyle pursed his lips. “If you were disgusted then you wouldn’t be staring so much.”

“Why are you trying so hard?” Angel finally asked, settling back against the bar hard when it seemed like Kyle was just not going to give up.

At that, Kyle sat back. His lips even fell slightly, the corners of his mouth twitching. “You’re in a bar. I’m in a bar. People come to bars to get laid. You’re also my type.” Kyle knew that this was going downhill. If things didn’t change soon he wouldn’t get money out of this and would be in the hole thanks to his bar tab. That is unless Angel went a little crazy after he left and came back to try to pay him off so Kyle didn’t tell embarrassing stories about him later. Unlikely as that was, Angel’s nervousness did seem to make it a possibility.

Angel swallowed and gripped the edge of the bar as though that would hide how much Kyle rattled and excited him. “Now wait—”

“Wait? You’re not going to get that cute little twink.” Kyle pointed at the blond with a sharp, well painted nail. “And believe it or not, I’ve got the same thing between my legs as that blond does—and I’m willing to put out. Or to grab some dinner. I am dressed to go out.”

Kyle grinned as Angel’s face went splotchy.

“Oh, did you think I didn’t eat out like this?” Kyle quirked an eyebrow at him. “I certainly do. It makes the waitresses giggle.”

Angelo struggled with his recovery, and the attempt made Kyle laugh. “You would be kicked out of any of the places I’d want to go.”

“Honey, I haven’t been kicked out of a restaurant in years. Uptown or Lowtown.” Not that Kyle made a habit of going uptown. No restaurant would kick him out so long as he had money, or a moneyed man with him. Kyle saw the words for the challenge and scare tactic they were. Angel could very well afford a nice dinner somewhere—and that sort of loss was still a gain.

“Really? In that?”

“What’s wrong with this?” Kyle glanced down at his dress. “It’s very classy. The only problem is I reek of cigarettes now.” He turned his eyes up, his face angled towards the dress. “Want to test it?”

“Huh?”

“Come on. Let me prove it. Let’s get a nice meal.” Kyle stood up and took Angel’s hand to pull him straight out the door with him. The faster they moved, the more likely Angel was to just go with it. He was a slow moving boy, that was for sure. “And if you’re a very good boy I might fuck you after that.”

“What makes you think—”

Except when he refused to move. Kyle let out a slow breath between his teeth as he paused, then turned to stare back at Angel bold-faced. “Because I know men. I know the straight-looking men. And they might be adamant about wanting a boy, but they like the feminine ones. I’m as feminine as you can get without being a girl.”

Angelo screwed up his mouth, working on some sort of retort and failing at that too. “Listen—”

Kyle adjusted his hand in Angel’s and tried pulling him to his feet again. This time he succeeded. “Come with me.”

Once up, he wrapped his arm around Angel’s waist and played with his belt loops as he half manhandled Angel out the door and waved down a taxi. “Now, either you can choose a restaurant you like, or I can choose one I like.”

“I don’t think…” Angel seemed simply flabbergasted. “You know this could be considered kidnapping.”

“Oh, you like it.” Kyle pulled Angel into the cab behind him. “Trio’s, uptown, please.”

“I thought you said I could choose?”

“I did. You didn’t answer so I chose.” Kyle smirked at him again, like a cat catching a canary, and reached over to grab his seatbelt. “You might want to buckle up.”

“What if I don’t like Italian?” Angelo was still trying to protest; Kyle decided he would consider that endearing.

“Everyone likes Italian, and since you know the name—you must love it.”

In the cab, seated comfortably together so that their knees brushed, Kyle reached out to take hold of Angel’s hand again. At first, the boy in the khakis didn’t do anything but blink at Kyle, letting the crossdresser note the length of his eyelashes and the texture of his gelled back hair.

Angel studied him back, and Kyle smirked. The curve of his jaw was still exceptionally masculine, but softened by make-up. The false lashes against his eyelids, the slick rose color on his lips, and the way he held himself was feminine. It was an odd dichotomy. It was one Kyle enjoyed employing.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because you’re embarrassed to be seen with me, but you’re too intrigued to mean ‘no’ when you say it.” Kyle looked up at Angel through his eyelashes. The taxi driver didn’t even bother to turn around, even when Kyle brought the other boy’s hand to his knee and pushed it up his leg, through the slit in his gown.

“I’m not—”

“You are. You’re trembling.”

“I am not.” Angelo repeated and tried to draw his hand away. The taxi driver didn’t mind, but Angel did, and that made Kyle’s smile sharpen as he firmly held Angel’s hand to his thigh.

“It’s okay, you know. I don’t mind. You’re buying me dinner, after all.”

“Am I?” Angel shook his head and looked out the window instead. Watching the slums turn into posh little neighborhoods and shopping districts.

The lower city was oozing with trash and piled up castoffs from a hundred failed business ventures. There were collections of old electronics, useless bits of paper and wiring, old teletype and data that was so old the images inside were formed by mathematical codes and strips of flat, basic color. These were the dirty remains of industry booms that had flourished and failed in a matter of months—or surged uptown, beyond lower town’s scummy little borders, without dropping a dime on any beggar’s open palm.

Uptown emerged from the waste, plastic and clean with bright white street lights and carefully manicured yards. Kyle was bored of watching the transition before it had even begun, and took Angel’s hand to pull it the rest of the way up his thigh, all the way to the edge of his black silk panties.

Angelo turned his head so fast he must have almost had whiplash, his eyes widening and narrowing in clear disbelief. He looked like a child playing with a flashlight, shining it into his eyes. Still, his fingers curled along the shaft hidden behind women’s underwear, and Kyle let out a light hiss, arching his back and letting his mouth open in a loose smile. No matter how many times he had had sex, no matter how often it happened in a day, he always loved another man’s hand on his flesh.

The first touch could tell him a lot about his partner—and Angel might have seemed prudish, but he had some skill just the same. A tiny half stroke, the curve of his fingers. Kyle turned his head slowly, gazing right up into Angel’s astonished eyes.

“You see?” He laughed softly, reaching over to gently stroke the inside of Angel’s arm. “I told you that I was properly equipped.”

“I guess you are.” Angel let go, not that Kyle expected anything else, but didn’t fully remove his hand from Kyle’s thigh. That, now, was a welcome surprise and Kyle smirked at him.

“If you’re still guessing you might want to take another look.”

Angelo stifled a laugh and shook his head; he was sure enough not to double check, which suited Kyle just fine too. The cab pulled down the street, turning from the carefully lined neighborhoods with their rent-a-cop streets to the restaurant district. Trio’s was a small, classy Italian restaurant nestled at the corner just before the business district. Its front was painted an artfully flaking orangey-beige, and there were veins of ivy climbing the walls. The best part of it was its small cozy tables lit by candle light.

Kyle smothered a soft smile and climbed out of the cab, leaving the fare to Angel as he straightened his dress and checked his makeup in his compact. Angel blinked at him, hesitating only a moment before shaking his head.

“You’re really expecting me to pay, aren’t you?”

“Which one of us is dressed for the part of a lady?”

Angel rolled his eyes and shuffled off the car fare. “And you’re expecting a free meal, aren’t you?”

“And a free ride—but only if you’re very good.”

Angel actually smiled and gave a soft laugh, shaking his head in mock disbelief. Kyle put his compact away and watched as a bit of ebony hair fell down, out of place. He almost reached up to fix it, to tuck it away, but decided against it. He didn’t need to get familiar with anyone. He didn’t need to find anyone attractive.

But he did. That was the problem with picking marks that really were his type.

The realization made him pause. Wasn’t that the reason he had forbidden himself? Kyle found himself frowning. The last man that had been like Angelo had been a mistake. A terrible one.

“Kyle?”

Kyle paused, glancing up at Angel, who had just offered him his arm. “Hmm?” He took Angel’s elbow, a dimple in one cheek.

“Let’s go see if we’ll be kicked out.”

They weren’t, just as Kyle had said they wouldn’t be. His clothing was uncomfortable to look at in this part of the city, his gender questionable and therefore looked down upon, but Angel had money and Kyle was, more or less, tastefully dressed. It had been fashionable once, and the material was still good—Angel couldn’t see any rips or tears or too many spots where the fabric had been worn down. It even shimmered just as much in the soft candle light as it had in the smoky bar.

Nevertheless, Angel was not terribly surprised when they were seated in the back corner. Had this been any other time, Angel would have noted the space as the perfect spot for lovers or first dates. As it was, he knew it was to keep them out of sight.

Kyle shook himself just before they took their offered seats, and Angel didn’t comment as he settled in the seat opposing him and began looking through his menu, half using it as a barrier. It didn’t work. He had been here more than once, but never on a date, and never with someone who smirked over the lip of the leather-bound menu while sliding his high-heel clad shoe along his date’s calf.

Angel tried not to blush.

“We can get through all that generalized ‘get to know you’ crap after we order,” Kyle declared over his menu. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be a salad and bread date. Kyle was too flashy for that, if what Angelo had seen so far as any indication. “But you can start thinking about my first question now, if you’d like. It is: when was your first fuck?” Angel gave him a look. “Are you expecting me to believe you’re a virgin?” Kyle pretend to gasp. “Will wonders never cease!”

He knew very well Angelo wasn’t, and it was his confidence that had Angel stewing over the question more than the answer. Angel couldn’t focus on the menu and that was fine, overall, since he didn’t really care about the charge: he had money—both cash and cards. He hadn’t even looked at the receipt from the cab either. Money was not an object.

“Before the pleasantries then,” he offered after a moment, putting down his red leather covered menu, “what will you be having?” Angel had already decided on the linguini and scallops, it was an old favorite. Kyle kept his eyes on the menu a moment longer so he continued, “So that I know the wine to order.”

Kyle raised both his eyes and an eyebrow. “Wine?”

“If I’m going to take a lady out, even a very pushy one with less than ladylike manners, I’m going to do it right.”

The look of shock that momentarily passed over Kyle’s features would have almost been worth the dinner itself and the inevitable hazing. He seemed to hesitate for just a moment before answering, “I was thinking…shrimp and penne with garlic.”

“Perfect. We’ll get white.” Angel lifted a hand to signal the waiter.

A few minutes later Kyle was spacing out at the wine glasses, and Angel was spacing out at his supposed date.

“So, what was your question again?” Angel knew exactly what the question was but it was the easiest way to get Kyle’s attention.

“Hm?” Kyle blinked, then looked back over at Angel and seemed to shrug himself out of his melancholy. The vicious, self-serving grin was back. “Oh, yes. Your first fuck, I believe? Or did I ask about your coming out, assuming you’re out that is?”

“First fuck.” Angel had decided to not stutter or avoid the questions. Kyle was trying to rattle his cage and it suited Angelo just fine to keep him from getting what he wanted.

“So you’re not a virgin.” It wasn’t a question.

“No.” Angel shook his head and pushed a fallen lock of hair back in place, which Kyle seemed to watch with interest. “High school, back of a sports car after a football game.”

His focused attention didn’t keep Kyle from laughing and sipping his wine in please assertion: “An all-American Classic.”

“Close enough.” Angel nodded back—the questions were almost fun when he stopped taking them seriously. “What about you?”

Kyle simply smiled and turned to the waiter as he brought over a basket of steaming bread and two small plates of oil and spices. “Perhaps I could tell you about having sex with my brother…or maybe my best friend at thirteen? Teacher in high school?”

He reached out and pulled one of the ends off the loaf of bread and dabbed it in the oil before taking a small bite. It left red lipstick smudges on the edges of the bread, and Angel caught himself staring just as much as Kyle had the moment before. “I’m afraid it’s not all that interesting, actually. I was drunk and horny and my roommate at the time decided to forget his homophobia.”

That was actually a little depressing.

“How did you end up with a homophobic roommate?” Angelo asked instead of asking the other questions he might have liked to ask, like, what happened after that? How would saying you had sex with your brother make it better? You went to college?

Perhaps Kyle just thought that made more sense with his lifestyle. Angel considered that he probably would have believed any of the other stories just as much, or more.

“Colleges do surveys for student housing, but they don’t normally ask the important questions.” Kyle seemed to enjoy the look of surprise on Angel’s face. “Yes, I went to college. Graduated with honors too.”

“Is this some kind of joke?” Kyle didn’t really look the type to have gone to college, much less graduated with honors. Kyle was a prostitute from the wrong side of town wearing a Salvation Army dress and cheap dime store make-up.

“I think I have a copy of my degree somewhere.” Kyle shrugged. “It’s not like I use it, but I like to have a copy—just in case.”

“What did you—”

“Computer Science.” Kyle’s face was firm. And Angel’s mouth hung open. Luckily, the waiter had come around to refill their water goblets by then, and Kyle turned to thank him with a batting eye and a gentle smile. “Don’t be insulting, now. Even pretty people can be smart.”

He pulled off two more pieces of bread, placed one on Angel’s plate, then dipped his own into the plate of oil again.

“I’m getting my MBA,” Angel offered, though he was quiet, his mind trying to wrap around the idea of a crossdressing computer programmer grabbing his hand to shove under his dress and feel him up in the back of a cab. Somehow the latter idea seemed too lewd for anyone respectable and most computer programmers Angel knew were just that. At least on the job.

“Rich want to get richer then? You look like the MBA type. You’ll make the man you marry very happy.”

Angel made a sound of agreement—he had let his own mouth find a piece of bread for fear of having his foot find it instead. “So how did you—”

“So serious on the first date?” Kyle interrupted, as though he knew what Angel was going to ask. His eyelashes fluttered, “Let’s try: Kyle— what do you for a living?”

He smiled, which annoyed Angel as he continued on, answering his own hypothetical question. “I make sure innocent college boys don’t get bad smack from corner drug dealers, and give people who are lonely companionship. A perfectly worthy job, don’t you think?”

Angelo nodded a little and glanced at the wine glass. “So I’m supposed to thank you then?” He wasn’t just getting annoyed; he was starting to feel foolish. It was clear he was being taken advantage of. He didn’t really want to be seen with Kyle, he had never cared for flamers or men in women’s clothing. Neither were attractive and Kyle was both of those things in addition to being exceptionally demanding.

“Yes,” Kyle said, cutting off his train of thought. “I saved you from being somewhere you did not want to be. You’re not made for a bar like that.” He waved a finger up Angel’s form. “Look at how you’re dressed.”

“I’m the designated driver.”

Kyle actually smirked at Angel’s repetitive answer. “That’s not a reason. If I didn’t bring you here, you’d have to watch that pretty little crush of yours be picked up by someone – probably another friend of yours.” He nodded, as if Angel had just confirmed his belief by breathing. “And from the look on your face, it wouldn’t be the first time, either.”

Angelo opened and closed his mouth like a drowning fish. “Don’t pretend to know me.”

“I’m not pretending. I just know your type. Doomed to love silently, afraid to take risks, and left to watch the boys you love pair off with the more adventurous. Think of me as your teacher for the evening.”

“I don’t want to think of you as anything.” Angel wasn’t sure why he was angry at Kyle. It could have been for using him, for being pretentious, or for being somewhat right in all the worst ways.

That nearly made the smile fall off Kyle’s face, but he scraped it right back on there with perseverance that would have made Angel’s grandmother proud. “Well, then, don’t. But at least I’m the one being straightforward with you. Have you even told that little toy you like him?”

Angel didn’t have an answer for him; he took a sip of wine instead, stewing. “He’s not a toy.”

Kyle ignored that and leaned back in his chair. “You find me annoying, intriguing, and far too flamboyant—but you knew right away that I was interested, didn’t you? That’s better than your game – the wait and see until the cover’s clear.” He reached for his wine glass and trailed his index finger around the rim as he gave Angel a superior look. “Let me tell you something: if you just sit back and wait, you’ll probably get just as hurt as you would if you threw yourself out there.”

He released the rim and picked the glass up by its stem to take a deep sip. “And I’m not speaking from experience. I just see it.”

“Should we really be talking about other men on our date?” By the end of the tirade Angel had found an out and was attempting to smoothly transition between the uncomfortable topic and one perhaps a little…less…uncomfortable. “Why don’t we talk about you? Why do you find me so interesting? The size of the wallet in my back pocket?”

Kyle smiled but narrowed his eyes, as though considering. “You’re not bad looking, either, though I tend to prefer older men.” He took another sip of wine, lipstick smudging the glass. He raised it to the light to sigh at it. “I can put all the sealer on I want and it always comes off.”

“The companies never want to make something that actually works.” Angel grinned a bit, relaxing again against his chair. “They would lose a lot of money from… people buying the newest type if they did.”

The near trip over gender made Kyle smile a little back. “I suppose not. I have to admit I do spend quite a lot of money on my makeup.”

“Is that all you spend your money on?” Angel didn’t mean it in an insulting way, and he certainly didn’t want a laundry list.

“Oh, no, I spend it on normal things too.”

“Food? Or do you just look for hapless young men in seedy bars?”

“I’m quite fond of cheap Chinese food.” Kyle shrugged. “They keep giving me the same fortune, though. I think they’re trying to tell me something.”

“Oh? What fortune?”

“You will make a change for the better.”

“All the time?”

“I think it’s the only type that they have.”

“Is it from the same restaurant?”

The conversation flowed. Though Kyle had been trying to keep it sexual and oriented on Angel’s experience with previous partners, or that boy he seemed so interested in, it shifted into something else. Chinese food and fortune cookies. Books, movies, art. It really started turning into a regular sort of date, as strange as that was.

They both were laughing by the time their food arrived and Kyle was into his second glass of wine. “You shouldn’t have gotten a full bottle.”

“You don’t have to drink it all,” Angel retorted.

“Maybe I just trust you. You’re not interested in me after all—I don’t have to worry about date rape, now, do I?”

“I would never take advantage of anyone.” Angel blustered and Kyle smiled again.

“Even if they want to be taken advantage of?”

“Then it wouldn’t be taking advantage of them… well, not really.”

Kyle hadn’t meant to get drunk, but after the shots, a few beers, and his share of the wine he was definitely not sober anymore. As they left the restaurant he gave Angel his arm and swelled in pleasure.

“This was just—really great. Really.”

It was cold by then, outside on the pavement two hours after they had first exited the cab. Angel clearly hadn’t realized the time, and if he had he certainly wouldn’t have been there at that moment—allowing his school friends to drunkenly wander around alone. Still, Kyle was pleased in the only way a good meal and enough alcohol could make him.

The meal had been fun—as many times as Kyle had said it, it was true. However, in a pair of black heels and more than a little tipsy, taking the three steps from the door of the darkening restaurant seemed a little foolish. And, true to his thought, as Angel tried to hail down a cab Kyle felt his ankle turning.

He never expected to actually be caught, and his thin, bare, white arms immediately wrapped around Angel’s neck as he fumbled out a startled. “Y-You saved me.”

“It wasn’t all that heroic to catch you.”

No, Kyle would have acquiesced, but others would have let him drop to the cement. He was not use to this sort of treatment—or being with someone who smelled so clean. Cologne mixed with bar smoke and good Italian food.

“Thank you.” Kyle finally said. There was nothing else to say—Angel couldn’t possibly know how much it meant to him. He was also fairly sure now that he would have to stay away from Angel or else he’d be even more attracted then he already was. It would hurt when Angel left in the morning and didn’t come back. Kyle couldn’t afford that, he had no resources left to be infatuated with someone who would be here for one night then gone the next.

“Come on, let’s get you into the cab.” Kyle still hadn’t let go so Angel awkwardly helped him into the cab before following him in. Kyle watched him from the other side of the seat, leaning against the door. “Where do you live?”

“Excuse me?” Kyle blinked in surprise. First, he was unlikely to get any tonight, and now Angel thought he should get the privilege to know where Kyle lived? Fun night or not, somehow that sounded even more dangerous than the harmless flirting and growing infatuation.

“Where do you live?” Angel repeated. “I want to make sure you get home.”

“Just go back to the bar; I can get home from there.” If his heels didn’t kill him beforehand.

“Don’t be stubborn,” Angel said gently, but Kyle refused to tell him where to go, so he did end up telling the driver to go back to the bar that they had started from.

Though Kyle refused to tell him where he lived, even when the cab was idling next to the bar and Angel didn’t rush to rejoin his friends, Angel was determined to see him home all right. The prostitute, for it was hard to deny what Kyle must do most nights, seemed so oddly earnest when he was drunk. The irritating smile slid from his face, smoothing it into something calming and actually quite pretty.

“Maybe you can even invite me up for some coffee?” Angel offered as he climbed out of the back of the cab and offered his hand to help his date from the back. He had been hoping to get a chance to catch the dimples in Kyle’s cheeks again, but he only got a blank skeptical look.

That wasn’t nearly so fetching, though Angel had decided that underneath all the makeup Kyle was likely extremely attractive, especially because he was already lovely with it on. That thought might have been the drink talking. Angelo reminded himself that he didn’t much care for crossdressers.

“You don’t want to come to my place. I don’t think I have any coffee.” Kyle didn’t wait around for him. As Angel ducked in the window to pay for the cab fare, Kyle hit the pavement and started walking away. Angel had to jog to catch up.

“Hey, wait.” He took Kyle’s arm again when he reached him, to steady him. “I want to make sure you get in all right anyway.”

“I can get back fine. It’s not far.” Kyle tried to pull away, and nearly sent himself tumbling again. He narrowed his eyes at his savior.

“Then I can make sure you get back easily.” This time it was Angel’s arm around his waist. This time it was Angel who had the infuriating smile. “The sooner you get home, the sooner I’ll leave you alone.”

Kyle stomped his foot and sent a piece of old plastic skittering across the sidewalk. He watched it, seemingly thinking, then waved a hand towards the street. “Fine. Fine.”

Kyle lived about three blocks away, in a rather trashy looking apartment building featuring poor men’s barbed wire on the two bottom floors. It was simple enough to make—a bit of cement, and layers of up-facing broken glass and bits of metal. The building itself must have been handsome at some point—it was old, built of brick, with what must have been at some point an attractive bit of cement casting on the front entranceway stairs. Now the swoops cement castings of the stair railings had been broken. Some of the larger bits still littered the steps and the ground around the front windows. Kyle didn’t try to brush him off at the apartment room doorway, so Angel followed him up the creaky wooden stairs.

Kyle lived on the third floor under a leaking roof and oddly-stained carpet. It smelled like a mixture of stale cigarette smoke and old carpet cleaner. Kyle, his face set in a grumpy frown, fumbled with his keys a moment before he was able to swing open the red painted door with the number 324 on it. He paused there, turned, and then gave a grand gesture towards his apartment. His display over, he stepped in, leaving the front door open, though he didn’t bother to give Angel a formal invitation. Angel followed him in anyway.

The first room was a den which bled into a small kitchenette. The front room was small, maybe eight by ten feet, and only had three objects of personality. One was a large, squishy, brown couch with two black patches and dips in the sides. Another was a degree from a local university framed and hanging on a wall. Last there were pictures, just a small collection—maybe three. All of them looked cut from magazines.

Kyle stood in the middle of it and turned around, hands on hips and looking sour. “I told you I don’t have any coffee.”

“I didn’t actually feel like coffee, to be honest with you.” Angel shrugged and turned to shut the door as Kyle flopped onto his couch and started pulling off his shoes.

“Then why are you here? To see how the other half lives?”

Angel cocked his head to the side, slipping his hands into his pockets and rocking back on his heels. “First you won’t take no for an answer. And now you want me to leave?”

“Pretty much, yeah,” Kyle said as he dropped his heels to the floor. He didn’t bother to sit like a lady this time. Instead he sat sprawled, knees apart.

“Do you always change your mind so radically?” Angel milled around the front of Kyle’s apartment, taking it in even if he wasn’t here to ‘see how the other half lived’. He was curious by now, understandably so. Kyle wasn’t the type of person he met at school—a computer scientist crossdresser who worked by prostituting himself? Hardly something that was commonplace.

“No.” Kyle shook his head and started removing the carefully placed pins that he used to keep his cheap blond wig in place. He dropped them on the floor next to the leg of the couch and then dropped the wig on top of them. He looked so strange with the wig-cap just barely holding in his mousey brown hair, a few of the strands escaping and whisping his neck. “Were you really looking forward to me fucking you? ‘cause I don’t conduct business in my home.”

He yanked the cap off as Angel watched, then struggled back to his feet and left Angel watching his back as he went into the kitchen for a washcloth to start washing his makeup off. It was not a pleasant solicitation when he bit out, “Though I guess I could make an exception.”

“Business?”

Kyle glazed over his shoulder at Angel, a few strips of newly freed hair sticking to his face. His hair was almost past his shoulder blades—light brown and tangled. Tousled was a good look for him, Angelo decided, though he preferred shorter hair cuts on boys. His mascara was starting to run.

Kyle grabbed hold of his unruly, shoulder length locks and wrapped it around his fist until he could knot it loosely against the back of his neck. “Don’t play dumb with me. I know you know what I am.”

The words were almost vicious and Angel shook his head. “You didn’t tell me you were a mean drunk.”

“What,” Kyle demanded, spinning on the balls of his feet, “do I have to go to make you leave?”

Angel was a little surprised to see him so upset, but that only rooted his resolve to stay. Not to torment Kyle…but to calm him, perhaps. “I want to see you without the dress and makeup on.”

“I look like everyone else.” Kyle bristled, his hands tensing and jittering in irritation. Angelo watched how he held himself, protective—one arm around his waist as though his stomach were sore.

“I still want to see it.” He thought it might help if Kyle dressed down, though it might have just have easily been his own curiosity and selfish desire. He had spent nearly three hours with a made-up hooker, all plastic smiles and self-assurance—it was only here and now that Angelo saw anything else.

Kyle stared at him, jaw slightly slack before his features hardened. The water on his face was milky with concealer and Angelo could just make out a few freckles as he frowned and jerked his hands down against his thighs. “Fine.” Kyle swallowed and jerked his head back towards the two foot hallway and his bedroom beyond. “You know what? Fine.”

He marched, back straight as a rod, to his bedroom and slammed the door. Angel stood watching. A minute later he settled back against Kyle’s couch. It didn’t take long for his host to reappear in the living room with a pair of red-plaid sleeping pants on and no shirt. Kyle’s hair was still a mess, but the makeup was off his face save for a few dark smudges from his eyeliner and mascara.

Without the makeup he looked like any other boy. His skin was two shades darker and he might have been in his early twenties. His brown hair was bit too long and ratty, his bones a little too skinny without the layers of clothing and masks of makeup. Freckles dashed across his nose and bags hung under his eyes. He looked vulnerable.

“There, happy?” Kyle clearly wasn’t. His smile was gone and eyes listed to one side. His hands were open to his sides as if halfway into a shrug.

Angel gazed at him, sized him up from the outline of his ribs to the tattoo on his shoulder. He didn’t care about the freckles, the bags under his eyes, or the half grimace that pulled at the corner of his lips. This was a man he had spent three really amusing hour with, above all. They had poked fun at each other, shared off-color remarks, and even eaten from each other’s plates. Kyle really did seem to know him.

Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the fact that Brian, the drunk blond he had left at the bar, never seemed to look at him except as a free pair of hands when he got too drunk. Maybe it was because Kyle looked like the sort of person he could desire, along with the personality that Angel already had learned to enjoy.

Yes, Kyle slept around. But he was also smart. He had a degree, though Angel couldn’t imagine why he wasn’t using it. Angel stood up and crossed the old gray shag carpet that covered the living room so that he could gently brush a lock of hair from Kyle’s shoulder.

“You’re prettier this way.”

Kyle groaned, “Don’t.”

“You are.” Angel said seriously and Kyle shook his head again, grabbing Angel’s hand and pulling it back to his side.

“Don’t.”

“Why not?” Angelo stepped closer and watched as Kyle stepped back. It was strange to watch the shift in personality: the smug warmth and self-assurance melt into nerves and stark disapproval.

It had to be the wine, but if it wasn’t Angel wanted to know that too.

“I think you ought to leave now.” Kyle stared at him as though betrayed, which seemed so out of place considering his propositions throughout the night. “Your friends will miss you.”

He was probably right, but as Kyle had pointed out earlier, they really didn’t need a designated driver when they were taking cabs. Plus, Angel couldn’t be a designated driver now anyway, not with how much wine he had had. He stayed where he was, standing at the mouth of the hallway, between the tiny kitchen and living room. “I don’t think they need me.”

“And you think I—”

“In a word, yeah, I do.” Angel replied with a gentle smirk. His hands were warm and large against Kyle’s cheek. The other man closed his eyes, for just a second and that made Angel smile wider. “Why are you fighting me now?”

His eyes snapped open. “You can’t afford me.”

If the reminder that he was a prostitute was supposed to drive Angel away, it didn’t work. Angel removed his hands from Kyle’s face, but only to reach into his back pocket for his wallet so he could thumb through the twenties. “I have four hundred dollars in cash.”

He wasn’t thinking about sex. He just wanted to stay. He reached around Kyle and pressed the roll of bills on the island that broke the kitchen from the den. Kyle had pressed his lips into such a hard line that they turned white under the pressure.

“I don’t want your money.” Kyle seemed like he wanted to yell. His voice came out taut and slightly high as he let air out in short bursts. “I want you to get out.”

“Four hundred not enough for a night?” Kyle probably didn’t make half of that in a night. The bar he had found him in was likely often empty, and there was so little in the apartment it was clear he didn’t spend much. He bought cheap Chinese with fortune cookies so old they could be unfolded.

But Angel wanted to stay, and he would pay if that was what he had to do.

Kyle was quiet for a long moment, staring to the right of Angel and blinking through his options. When he finally responded it was with resignation and a heavy sigh. “Fine, fine.”

Angel waited and watched. Kyle didn’t look at him, or move for another long moment. Angelo was about to ask him what he was thinking when the smaller man shoved him back hard against the counter-line lip of the kitchen island.

“H-hey!”

Fingers unbuttoned his khakis, and ripped down the zipper. Angelo wasn’t so much undressed as ripped open; his boxers hooked by inquisitive fingers and then shoved out of the way. There was no ceremony or pleasantries, only a hot mouth sucking on the underside of his cock and a warm hand rolling his balls. Angel would have staggered backwards but there was no place to go, the island corner was already digging into his back as he tensed and shifted in indecision. Kyle’s knees hit the carpet and he held Angel still with a languid hand on his waist.

Kyle’s mouth was warm and wet and Angel was just drunk enough to not be entirely sure he wanted to stop him. His cock was more than willing to make up for his indecisiveness, and hardened as Angelo fumbled with his hands, clawing the air just to the side of Kyle’s head until, finally, he grasped a handful of knots and loose hair.

His heart pounded, he fisted the hair in his hand and then pulled it together in an almost ponytail. Up and down, his hand jerked like it was guiding the motions of Kyle’s open mouth and sly tongue. His eyes closed as he relaxed and tensed, muttering his ‘Oh, gods’ and small directions, which Kyle ignored. Angel didn’t thrust hard into the back of Kyle’s throat, or yank out fistfuls of hair. He might have been too surprised for that.

Kyle didn’t ask. He made little choking sounds as Angel came in his mouth and jerked back to breathe harshly through his mouth and nose. He didn’t look up at Angel as he brushed a streak of cum from the corner of his mouth and stared at the carpet. “So, you wanna fuck me for that four hundred or that enough?”

Angel didn’t say and Kyle stood up, wipping his mouth again and looking both tearful and defiant as he arranged himself as an upright sack of bones. He tensed and shook ever so slightly, and Angel pulled him over into his arms instead of saying anything at all. The embrace was followed by warm kisses, salty and bitter. Tender.

Kyle balked, from it all, twisting in his arms half-thinkingly and attempting to propel himself away. It didn’t work, and the movement was joined by fists against Angelo’s chest, pushing. “What are you doing!?”

“Kissing you.” Angel stared at him, watched how Kyle’s hands clawed at his shirt and the air, like he was getting ready to reach up and claw out his eyes. Maybe pull out his heart. Angel didn’t let go. “I want to get to know you.”

It was crazy to say. Who wanted to get to know a whore who had forced a dinner date, who cursed him and changed personalities in what seemed like an instant?

Kyle nearly flung himself from Angel’s arms, jumping a foot back as he yelled, face red, highlighting as his insecurities, “You’re an asshole!”

“Mmhm.”

Angelo drew him back closer and they stood there for a long time. Kyle jerked when he thought Angelo was letting go and then, eventually, he subsided against Angel’s chest, spent. He couldn’t fight forever, and just as Angel had had to relent to him just a few hours before, Kyle had to stop sometime.

Half an hour later found them on the slightly dingy couch, Kyle piled onto Angel’s lap and slowly peeling off his shirt.

“I like shirts off.” Kyle had muttered before starting. He had calmed down by this point and his fingers were soft and imprecise as his head nodded slightly forward. The wind was out of his sails, and it took a long time for him to rid Angelo of his shirt and then press his forehead drowsily against Angel’s shoulder.

Angel decided it was endearing. Even when Kyle lifted his head to mutter drowsy insults under his breath.

“Fucker. Bastard. Asshole. Cumsucker.” His head jerked up, then swung back down in Kyle’s losing battle with consciousness. “Sheet biter. Sister fucker. Bitch.”

He was pretty cute—it only took peeling off his makeup and ripping the know-it-all smile from his lips to see it. Angel gently stroked Kyle’s hair and felt himself drifting off as well. He had gotten a blowjob for the price of nearly four hundred dollars. He had paid nearly fifty for Kyle’s half of the meal. To say he hadn’t enjoyed it would have been a lie—but he hadn’t needed it. Not really.

Still it was oddly rewarding to be here; slouched against a broken down sofa with a drowsy, angry, adorable prostitute in plaid pajama pants. He was almost asleep when his phone went off and he jumped and fumbled with both Kyle and his hands to fish it out of his pant’s pocket. He muttered an apology to Kyle, who stared at him through a thin veneer of consciousness, and thumbed the cover open. “Hello?”

“It’s five.” A loud, almost girlish, voice said on the other end. It was loud enough for Kyle to hear both sides of the conversation and he shifted, yawning and rubbing one eye with his thumb.

“Yeah, it is. Did you get home?”

A pause, then a breath, “I’m waiting for you. I need you.”

“Vince still there?”

“Yeah, but I need—” Another pause then, “Hey, are you with someone?”

Angel ran his fingers through Kyle’s hair. “That’s right. Have Vince take you home.”

He snapped the phone shut again, and then stared at the dark plastic in his palm. On a normal day he would have gone running to play hero. Today was anything but normal.

Kyle yawned again and rearranged himself. “Didn’t go running.”

“No, he has Vince there.” Angel shifted Kyle again and continued running his fingers carefully through the other man’s hair, just waiting for him to start his cycle of muttering and nodding off again.

“Normally would go there.” Kyle insisted, rubbing his eyes again in a stubborn attempt to stay awake.

“Yeah.” Angel agreed, “I would. But you were right.”

“Hmn?”

“He’d just have me come over to watch him pull another guy home with him.” Angel almost smiled. It still hurt, but it was a reality he was acknowledging. At least here, tonight.

“You’re a bastard.” Kyle seemed quite content to fall asleep on him anyway and drool on his shoulder when Angel finally hoisted him up and began toting them both into Kyle’s spartan bedroom.

It was a little too easy to follow Kyle into his bed and cover them both up with his green sheets. Kyle would likely curse him when he woke up, but it was too much of a chore to get up and leave now.

At least he was rewarded for now. Kyle seemed even needier when he was mostly asleep. He hooked his hands around Angel’s waist and looped their legs together as he situated himself. It made Angelo laugh, low and quiet in his throat. “I’m not leaving, I paid for the entire night.”

Kyle just held him more tightly and pressed his face against the back of Angel’s neck. “I could murder you. In your sleep.”

Angel laughed again, patting his head and matted hair. “Yeah, you could. But you’re not going to.”

“I could,” Kyle repeated and Angel let that slide, allowing him to grumble his way into sleep and then following him into the land of Nod.

When morning woke him, Kyle found someone still in his arms. His head ached and throbbed, his body felt stiff, and he peered down, disturbed, at the body half encircling his waist.

“Hey,” he muttered, giving the large man’s shoulder a push until he rolled over and gazed up at Kyle.

“You didn’t murder me.” Angel garbled, and Kyle frowned, confused. It took him a few more moments to place Angelo and the reference—and it was only after that that he laughed, dimples flashing.

“O-okay, yeah.” He rolled off the bed to stretch out the aches from the night before. Coffee sounded good, and Tylenol. He glanced back at Angel who was still lying comfortably in his bed. “Coffee?”

“I thought you didn’t have coffee.” Angel teased back, then watched as Kyle paused in front of the door, detoured, and opened the blinds, just enough to light up the room. There wasn’t much in it. Just a bed. A desk. A few knickknacks like a small collection of boxcars and a laptop that had to be at least eight years old.

“Bite me.” Kyle veered back to the door and the hallway leading to the kitchen. “It’s not instant.”

Kyle muttered under his breath as he searched for the tiny pot he used for coffee. It was always hiding under some other larger pot, or slipping out and into the wrong place—which was just what he didn’t need now. He wanted to give Angel coffee and then send him on his way, better mood this morning or no.

He found the pot on top of the refrigerator and jerked out his bag of Turkish coffee grounds. He spooned in sugar, then filled the ibrik with water and two heaping tablespoons of coffee. He was just starting to watch the grinds seal the neck of the ibrik with the boiling water underneath when Angel finally appeared, smelling of his mouthwash and cinnamon toothpaste.

“What type of coffee takes any length of time to make?”

“Turkish.” Kyle sighed without look at him. Angel had made his chest ache enough the night before. “Slow boiled in a pot with sugar. Black.”

At least he had a compelling reason why he had refused to make coffee the night before, even if it just seemed to amuse Angelo that he made something other than instant coffee.

“Sounds wonderful.”

Kyle turned his back to Angel, glancing sidelong at him twice before trying to concentrate on the brew and the way it foamed along the edge of the neck. He hated not feeling in control and with Angel here he had anything but control. This was his home and he felt as though he were at the mercy of a relative stranger. Resentment simmered under his veins.

“Sit down if you’re planning on staying, then,” he muttered and gestured towards one of the two small stools by the tiny breakfast bar that served as the table.

“I was planning on staying, actually,” Angel said, as though sensing that the tides had somehow turned in his favor. He didn’t sit down where he was told, though. He watched Kyle from behind, then wrapped his arms around the other man’s waspish waist. He kissed Kyle’s neck.

Kyle wanted to hate him. Relationships weren’t worth it, affection wasn’t worth it. Not when both had the power to warp his world and set it on a collision course with reality. Angel wouldn’t understand that, he wouldn’t even think of him twice once he left this apartment.

“Can I pay for your time today?”

Kyle stiffed, not so surprised by the question, and trying to see that as empowering. Getting paid for little was the best part of his job—but it still hurt to be subtly called a whore again by someone he had started to grow truly attracted to. A good reminder why he should never choose a mark from someone who was his type. “Do what you want.”

“I want to know what you think.” Angel insisted, and Kyle left the slowly foaming coffee to dig around his mostly-empty fridge. Four eggs, some milk, and a handful of cheese. He could make some scrambled eggs. It wouldn’t be filling but it would keep him busy and maybe then Angel would decide on his own to leave.

After last night Angel should have had all he wanted, or didn’t want. He could even brag to his friends that he had banged the crossdressing freak if he wanted; it wasn’t like Kyle would hear him.

“I don’t think anything.” That was a lie. He didn’t push Angel away but let him shadow his movements with his eyes as he pulled out a pan for the eggs.

“You don’t have to lie to me,” Angel murmured. “I’m not much of anyone, am I? Just some guy you picked up in a bar?” He meant it jokingly, but the look Kyle gave him was poisonous and painful. Angel narrowed his eyes, as though trying to decipher the puzzle that was Kyle.

“You can just go.”

Angel shook his head, “What else did you have planned today?”

Kyle banged the frying pan on the stovetop, “Exactly what you’d thi—”

“I’m not judging you!” Angel yelled back. “I just happen to enjoy your company, even if you’ve stopped enjoying mine.” He reached for his wallet again. “I have more money if that’s what it takes.”

“I’m not anyone’s boyfriend.” Kyle spat back, mixing in some cheese and then some pepper onto the pan. “I’m just a prostitute—one you really didn’t like last night if I recall. Just because I got a little drunk doesn’t mean I need you to be my knight in shining armor.”

“I’m not trying to be!” Angel’s voice went high in irritation and Kyle smothered a smirk.

“No one just wants to be with a prostitute.” He glanced back over his shoulder and pretended to size Angel up. “So, what fantasy have you been hiding?”

That might have been too much. Angel came back, right up behind him. “What about you?” Kyle could feel a hand at his and forced his eyes back down at the coffee, which was threatening to boil over. “You have a fantasy, don’t you? Or something’s bothering you.”

Kyle knocked the small metal pot of coffee right off the burner as he turned. It splattered across the tile and cooled in thin brown puddles. He stepped forward and stepped on Angel’s foot while Angel grabbed his wrist and held tight. In an instant Kyle’s face twisted up, his eyes narrowing with the first flush of anger that spilled over his cheeks. Angelo pulled him from the danger of the stove and wrapped his arms around his shoulders before he could do much of anything, though. He held him tight as he thrashed and tried to claw at the other man’s constricting arms.

“You’re so much better than this,” Angel muttered, Kyle’s painted fingernails still caught in his shirt. “I like it better when you’re not trying to claw my eyes out…or make me want to punch you with your fake charm.”

“Charm can’t be faked.” Kyle said, biting into his shirt he was held so close. “Get away from me.”

“The more you fight me, the tighter I’ll hold you,” Angel said, putting up with another twenty seconds of lashing before he forced Kyle to the ground and pinned him to the floor. They were both sweating by then, Angel’s hands holding Kyle’s wrists against the linoleum. Coffee soaked the edges of their pants.

“Get off—”

“You don’t want me to.”

“I didn’t want you to come home with me!”

“Do you really want me to leave?” Angel didn’t wait for an answer. Kyle whined under his breath, shifting and jerking so Angel leaned down to kiss the rest of the fight out of him. Kyle decided then and there this had to be one of Angelo’s fantasies: after-fight sex on the kitchen floor.

“You like me like this, don’t you?” He bit down on Angel’s lip and arched under him, pressing their hips together. “Or is this how you like to imagine taking your twink?”

He wished it sounded more scathing than it did. Angel sucked on his lip, a drop of blood bleeding into the lines of the soft skin and giving the impression of watery red lip balm. Kyle tried not to smirk.

“I like it when you’re quiet.”

“I like it when you’re moaning.” Kyle shot back, twisting his wrists around in Angelo’s hands and letting out a hitching breath. “I like to push you around.”

Kyle was hoping to surprise him into letting go, or moving back, but Angel shook his head. “Shut up.”

His hands squeezed the bones in Kyle’s wrists and Kyle winced, kicking out at the pain. It did nothing. Angel simply shifted his hold, pressed their bodies closer together, and Kyle decided he could use that, too, to his advantage. If he could get Angel focused on his body, fuck if needed, then he might save himself the heartache and avoid the conflicting emotions that twisted in his chest. It was too late for that, but he could hope anyway. Desperation and he were old friends.

“You want me?” He could feel the heat in Angel’s hands, the erection that tented Angel’s khakis as it met the more tentative one in his own. Kyle arched up against him again, then leaned forward as much as he could, brushing Angel’s jaw line with warm moist air. “Why don’t you take me?” If he tried, the way they were, he could brush his teeth against the edge of Angel’s cheek. “Fuck me like a good little whore on the kitchen floor. Shut me up real good.”

Angel hesitated. Kyle felt the line of the man tremble slightly, watched his blue eyes cloud over, then turn towards him. “Even a good fuck couldn’t shut you up.”

It might have been biting, but Angel smiled and Kyle felt his stomach flip. He breathed, lips trembling, then swallowed. “Finally figured that out, huh?”

“Yeah.” Kisses along his jaw made Kyle turn his head away to stare at the cold coffee still dripping from his cabinets. It was a cold reception and Angelo pulled back after a moment, kneeling over his chest with one leg on either side of Kyle’s thighs. He let Kyle’s hands go.

Angel didn’t move for a moment. Instead he stared down at him, watching how Kyle’s hair had fallen around his head, curling and leaving patterns of wet coffee on the floor. “Is there a real reason you’re trying to drive me out or are you always just this awful?”

“Just that awful.” Kyle checked his wrists, twisting them and turning them, and then used his hands to shove himself out from under Angel. He stood, grabbed a roll of paper towels and began ripping off sheets and dropping them on the ground, scatting them over the spilled coffee and along Angel’s outline. “Not that it’s any of your business.”

Angel got up, coffee on his khakis, and crushed some of the paper towels under his feet. “You dragged me out of the bar last night, we had a nice night, and then you started freaking out on me.”

It was clear he wanted an explanation, but Kyle had no intentions of giving him one. He turned away again, facing the stove and the skillet as he reached for the eggs. “I don’t want you in my apartment. I didn’t want you in my apartment. You aren’t a friend. You’re a mark, so what?”

“If I’m a stranger, a ‘mark,’ why not tell me what your problem is?”

Kyle turned, dumping the eggs onto the skillet—eggshells and all. “I am asking you to leave.”

What was the point, Kyle thought, in telling him anything? It would just mean heartache later—relying on people and trusting them, especially people like Angelo, always meant more pain than pleasure.

Angelo waited, paused and poised, and then reached for a small pad of paper that was hanging on the refrigerator. He scrawled his number and name, maybe an address—Kyle didn’t look so closely at it—then put it back before leaving the kitchen. Kyle waited a total of two seconds before following. His eyes tracked Angel as Angelo stood by the couch, fingered his wallet, then emptied the rest of the cash out on top of the small pile next to his blond bobbed wig.

Angelo’s hair was dark and curled—perfect for grabbing during a kiss. His eyes were bright blue and warm, or were the night before. Kyle knew better than to give in, to hope, or to believe in hooker fairytales.

The smile Angel gave him was painful. “I’ll see you some other time, then.”

Then he was gone. Kyle stared at the door. Listened, but didn’t hear his footsteps as Angelo walked down the hall, down the old stairs covered in ratty brown carpet. Kyle picked up the money, every dollar, every ten, every twenty, and flung his door open. There was no one in the hall to see him as he yelled, a guttural cry of frustration, and threw the money in the hall. He slammed the door closed behind him and leaned against it, his eyes closed and chest heaving as though he were about to cry.

Two minutes later, five minutes later. Kyle opened his door again, stepped out on quiet feet, and picked the money back up. Every dollar. Every ten. Every twenty.

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