Chased by the Past
Part XI: Red Faced
The midday sun shone down but I could see looming clouds that hinted at rain later. The plane was long gone and I realised one of us should probably say something.
“So, what now?” I asked.
“After two days of family things, I need to move some, I’m feeling kind of sluggish. I was thinking getting some football practice done. Want to join me?” Sanjay replied. I nodded, murmuring to myself in German.
“I’ll happily wrestle on the ground with you…”
When we were back at Ravenhold we headed to the gym to grab a ball. We make some trees makeshift goals outside and played. Admittedly I had been watching the team and England had such a huge footie culture it would be difficult to not know the basics of the game. However I certainly wasn’t about to play fair if the opportunity to tackle him to the ground presented itself. Which is why when Sanjay was about to score I yanked at his shirt, making him fall backwards on top of me, the both of us laughing.
“That is so not fair!” he fumed, rolling off me and into a sitting position.
“I didn’t agree to any rules,” I smirked. “You ought to know, I always play rough.”
“Fine,” he said getting up. “The gloves are off, no more rules.” I wiggled my eyebrows at him.
“Bring it geek boy,” I joked. Sanjay just grinned as he got the ball. I paced myself and then made an attempt to get it from him. Instead he thrust his ankle out at the last moment and sent me crashing to the floor. I was stunned he’d managed to get something like that over me but stood up grinning. I loved a challenge. After a while the ball became less important as we simple tried to trip the other over in some shape or form. Eventually we were both lying on the ground, out of breath with laughter and covered in sweat and mud.
“Well, that might not have been proper football, but it was one hell of a workout,” Sanjay sighed.
“I can’t deny that,” I said, still grinning and fighting another wave of giggles.
“You know what? I’m starving.”
“Me too, I could eat a whole cow.” I immediately thought of sauerbraten. Heppenheim would always make it with beef, his was never as good as the one Kellen and I could make, but it was one of the few dishes he would go out of his way to make me. Especially when I was sick when I was younger.
“Does it have to be a cow? I’ll let you know make a killer lentils stew,” Sanjay proposed.
“That does sound pretty good,” I nodded. Slowly remembering old stuff wasn’t as painful. I wondered if spending time with Sanjay had something to do with that? I shook away the thought, I didn’t want to overthink right now, just exist. I let Sanjay help me stand and we headed to the house.
“I better take a shower.” I said the moment we walked indoor, lifting my shirt and fanning myself. I could feel grim and sweat sicking uncomfortably to my skin now that the moment had passed.
“You do that, I’m going to start something to cook and join you,” Sanjay said. I blinked at his word choice, immediately picturing indecent things. I shook them from my mind and turned to the stairs.
“Join me… Right, I’ll be showering,” I murmured. The moment I stepped in the shower I hit cold to get rid of those thoughts. Then I switched the water to it’s normal warm temperature and took my time cleaning myself. I couldn’t help thinking over the days events again as the water poured over me. I had never imagined I’d actually make a friend here, let alone a best friend. I didn’t know how normal friendships worked. Every relationship in my past had involved give and take. I couldn’t help paranoia creeping in; was he using me for something? Did he expect something in return? What were the unspoken rules in these friendship contracts? I just didn’t know. Kellen had been the closest I’d had to a best friend and she had abandoned me; just like Heppenheim. And Ace…I shuddered and finished my shower. I wasn’t going to think about him.
When I got downstairs Sanjay had apparently showered and changed, I hadn’t realised how long I’d be in there. He was looking out the kitchen windows and I couldn’t help observing how the sunlight fell nicely across his skin. I internally groaned at myself for the thought.
“It’s such a nice day, want to eat outside?” he asked, noticing me.
“Sure,” I said. Sanjay put some of his lentil meal in some tubs without asking for help. I at least handed him a bag to put them in. We went into the grounds and found a shaded area near some trees. We claimed some ground and he handed me a tub. It wasn’t until I lifted the lift that I realised how hungry I was.
“That smells amazing,” I said, breathing deeply. I tasted some and had to suppress a literal moan of pleasure. “If everything you make is this good, I’ll have to consider becoming vegetarian,” I joked, quickly eating more.
“Thanks, my mum taught me how to cook. She’s a heart surgeon and a brilliant cook.”
“That your step mum or your bio mum?”
“Step, I never met my biological mother,” He said. I cocked an eyebrow for him to continue. “She died when I was just a baby,” he sighed. “My dad had a little, let’s call it a marital slip up, with one of his childhood friend. She was dying of a chronic illness and shortly before she passed I was born.”
“Oh,” I murmured.
“My family has quite a bit of drama to it.” he sighed. “I mean, it’s probably not that much, and there’s definitely people who had it worse…”
I hesitated, well aware he had just shared something quite personal. Which meant he obviously trusted me. And he hadn’t done anything to not earn my trust back, right? I couldn’t pretend like I didn’t have this strange sense of safety around him, even if I didn’t understand the why.
“I don’t have any memories of my biological parents,” I said quietly. I chewed my lower lip for a moment. I couldn’t go into detail but I could tell him vague details.. “I was adopted.”
“Happily adopted or…” he trailed off, leaving me to fill in the blanks. I moved my food around, watching the grains move while I mulled over what to say next.
“It’s complicated…” I sighed. “But I was accepted. I don’t know if that would’ve been the case with my biological parents…” I hesitated. I’d had no issues telling Sage or Alison because they were both transgender as well. I very rarely disclosed to cisgender people just because my experiences of doing so were usually negative.
“I’m a transguy.” I watched Sanjay’s expression, looking for the signs of disgust and horror I’d seen in the past but all I saw was initial shock.
“Okay, eh, I’m not sure what to answer to that without saying something really stupid and possibly offensive…” he said, letting out a little nervous chuckle. “But it’s really cool with me.” My eyes widened at his words before a grin broke out on my face without warning.
“I don’t expect you to be an expert don’t worry,” I quickly said, not wanting to scare him off with my complications.
“Well, I definitely should pick up a book or something on the subject so I’m on the safe side of not being a dummy. But, thank you telling me, I know it’s not something that’s easy to share.” I opened my mouth to reply when my phone beeped. I checked it and saw it was a text from Harley. They were awake and wanted to hang out. Admittedly, I wanted to stay here but I was also worried I’d overstay my welcome.
“Oh it’s Harley, they’re finally awake so I probably should go and see them. If that’s alright?” I asked.
“Of course it is, you go do that, I’ve got some work to catch up on,” he said. I stood up, brushing grass from my jeans. Sanjay followed suit, although he stood a little awkwardly watching me.
“Wait,” he said. When I turned I noticed he’d also starting to reach a hand towards me.
“Are you okay for a short hug?” he asked.
“Oh, erm, sure.” I still wasn’t used to this hugging thing but it was nice.
“Alright, you can go now. Thanks for sharing. Oh and if you and Harley need the room, just send me a text?” he said.
“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, knowing I was smiling again. It was just something I couldn’t help doing around him. I met Harley at the gym just as they were finishing up.
“You got enough energy for another arena?” I joked, knowing from looking at them that they definitely weren’t.
“Too tired,” they huffed. Then their expression suddenly brightened. “I have enough energy for other things though.” Then they grabbed my hand and I followed them into the gym showers. As it was midday the gym was surprisingly quiet.
“What are you-” then he led us both into a private shower stall and I understood. We striped and left our clothes hanging on the wall.
“I didn’t realise you needed a helping hand getting washed,” I murmured as we kissed and enjoyed one another under the warm stream of water. They just giggled in response.
Well, at least no ones roommate had to sleep elsewhere this time. When we were both flushing furiously we actually probably helped each other wash and then dried and got dressed. Luckily the shower stalls have a separating wall between the general changing room area so we didn’t catch any stares when we left. Harley also wearing a skirt today which probably helped. Unfortunately we were still in a world where someone with a deep voice wearing a skirt was viewed as ‘wrong’.
“So, I see you eventually left my bed then?” I teased.
“Yeah, saw you and your friend getting sweaty outside as well,” they replied. “Made me remember I should keep on form myself. However you two seemed to be having a lot of fun and I didn’t want to disturb you.” Their eyebrows did that knowing wiggle thing at the word ‘fun’.
“Oh no, it’s not like that,” I explained quickly.
“Not like that yet,” they laughed.
“No. That’s not happening,” I said, my jaw clenching. Harley blinked at me, surprised by my sudden change of demeanour.
“Right, sorry. Can I ask why?”
“You just misread the situation. We’re just friends,” I shrugged. I could tell they wanted to push the issue but opted not to.
“Is there food at your place for lunch?” they asked.
“Sanjay made some really nice food, there should be leftovers if you want to heat some up and eat it?” I said.
“Sounds wonderful!” they beamed. Sanjay had already disappeared to hs lab but Ahti was around. Harley immediately took to them which wasn’t surprising. Ahti was so innocent it was hard not to like them, even after the whole ‘chimera’ thing.
“Allen’s going to show me more scary films later if you want to join,” Ahti said. “I could use more hug friends since I think Allen finds my hugging weird for some reason.” I got looked at for barking out a laugh.
“It’s nothing,” I said.
“You do that a lot when people talk about Allen,” Ahti observed.
“I guess I just find the guy funny,” I shrugged.
“Oh, Allen thinks you hate him,” Ahti replied, taking my words at face value.
“Well, if he’s spending time with you and Caroline then I guess he’s getting better,” I sighed. I had kind of been avoiding thinking about him for obvious reasons. Maybe I ought to give the guy a second chance.
“Ohh, this is really spicy,” Harley commented as they ate at the countertop.
“Do you want me to try making a milder version?” Sanjay offered.
“Oh no, it’s fine. I like hot things,” they smirked, sending me a wink. It took a second for Sanjay to compute what just happened.
“Don’t hot things burn you?” Ahti asked from the couch.
“I guess that depends on if the sensation play is consensual.” I blushed upon that comment.
“How about we go eat elsewhere,” I suggested. I was not going to answer the myriad of questions Ahti was no doubt going to ask. Harley’s smirk grew larger at the site of my embarrassment.
“But I’m having fun getting to know your housemates. I like getting close and personal to everyone I meet,” they said. Sanjay blushed at that comment and shot me a wide-eyed glance.
“Playtime’s over,” I muttered, rubbing my forehead.
“I don’t want it to be daddy,” they threw back. I choked on spit.
“Why-” Ahti began.
“It’s not important,” I interrupted Ahti. Then sent Harley a pleading look. They giggled before finally suggesting we hung out upstairs. As I headed upstairs I heard Ahti start asking Sanjay questions. I mentally wished him good luck.