g i r l s   l i k e   t h a t

He blooms soft and pink overnight. He stares at himself in the mirror in the morning when he wakes; bed hair grown suddenly long and soft, tangled and wild around a strange face that is at once his own and not his own, finely arching eyebrows and moist pink lips. He pulls the collar of his blue t-shirt out and stares; real breasts, the first he’s seen up close in real life, curving and china white, blossoming to dusky pink peaks. He can’t even think about investigating the contents of his boxers.

In his line of work Tegoshi has some pretty weird days. Once he came into the studio and was forced to put on a puppy costume and chase around a bunny-ear-wearing Yamapi. Once he spent an entire afternoon being taught how to blush on cue. Once he was sent to entertain a bunch of Japanese-American businessmen who kept pinching his cheeks and calling him Cutie-chan. It takes a lot to really throw him, now.

Even taking all that into consideration, this is pretty weird.

-

He goes to work as usual in a jersey and jeans but the others all stare at him, Ryo's eyes sliding lecherous over fresh new breasts and hips that press against the denim in unfamiliar ways. Yamapi's cheeks look suddenly red and sticky like toffee apples, and he can't meet Tegoshi's eyes.

"Aren't you taking the bishounen thing a little far?" Shige asks, but Tegoshi just thinks he looks jealous. He's pretty now, he knows, even prettier than before. He curls his bangs around his forefinger and Shige flushes bright red.

"Let's go shopping," Ryo says eagerly. "Let's go shopping right now."

Ryo says that when he's done with him Tegoshi will feel like a new woman, and it's true, but that woman is a total whore. It's winter but Ryo says he doesn't need to cover his legs; Ryo says hot pants are good for his career. "Do it for NewS," he insists when Tegoshi looks skeptically at a leather mini skirt Ryo is thrusting into his hands, but in the end Tegoshi doesn't need any convincing beyond the curve of black leather over his amazing new ass.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Ryo breathes when Tegoshi steps out of the dressing room. "This is the best thing you have ever done."

“Really?” Tegoshi says, but looking at the glazed interest in Ryo’s eyes, he has to admit that Ryo might be right.

-

He can’t go home because he doesn’t know what to say to his mum about the fact that he’s a girl now, and he’s pretty sure his dad would have to be hospitalized. He thinks about staying at Massu’s place but Massu’s mum is no better than his own. In the end he decides to crash on Ryo’s couch, because he lives alone. He calls his mother and tells her it is a work thing and not to worry, that he’ll be home soon, but he doesn’t even know if it is a lie.

Ryo’s place is small and squalid. Tegoshi has never met a person as messy as Ryo who wasn’t certifiably insane or living in a cardboard box in a park. To sleep, the first night, he has to clear discarded basketball shoes and music magazines and piles of half-folded laundry off the sofa. Ryo tries to convince him to take the bed but Tegoshi can’t be sure when those sheets were last washed, if ever, at all. Instead he takes the pillow and blanket that Ryo shoves gruffly into his hands and says, “Thank you!” with a grin. He wears one of Ryo’s t-shirts as pajamas. It has an apple and the words NEW YORK CITY scrawled across the top in red. Tegoshi pulls at the hem until it swims around his thighs, and feels small and girly and well cared for. It’s kind of hot.

When Ryo gets up the next morning Tegoshi is standing at the stove in that t-shirt and little else, and the tips of Ryo’s ears go pink.

-

People ask him if it feels different to be a girl, but to tell the truth Tegoshi feels the same, it’s just that everyone else treats him differently. People either get up and give him their seat or try to grope his breasts on the train; nobody will let him walk home alone late at night anymore; Yamapi can barely speak to him and hasn’t touched him at all; Ryo won’t stop touching him (not that that is much different); and people seem to assume he can’t open doors or carry bags, or do any kind of physical labour at all.

His arms feel weaker now, and his legs, but not all that much. It’s not like he was all that buff in the first place.

-

When they walk to the convenience store late at night now Ryo slings his arm over Tegoshi’s shoulders like they’re a couple. He says it’s to make the drunk businessmen they pass leave Tegoshi alone, because he’s a “stone cold fox”. Tegoshi always lets himself indulge a little in the fantasy; lays his head against Ryo’s shoulders and looks up at the moon, imagines they are on a romantic stroll along the beach instead of running out to pick up beer and toilet paper.

-

Tegoshi has some weird questions about being a girl, and he doesn’t know who can address them. He worries that he is going to start bleeding internally every month and feels like he has to be prepared; he tells Ryo this over breakfast and Ryo laughs and laughs and tells him to ask Kamenashi, says he’ll pay him to ask Kamenashi.

Tegoshi does. “Ryo-chan said you’d know,” he says, laughing a little inside at Kamenashi’s pale, anxious face. He doesn’t know Kame that well, but it’s still pretty funny.

He’s kind of touched the next day when Kame shows up at their practice studio with a brown paper sack and shoves it awkwardly into his hands. “I had to ask my mother,” he says, and his face is pale with misery and humiliation. Tegoshi opens the bag and it is full of different kinds of tampons and sanitary pads. “She gave me a list and sent me to the supermarket.”

In the corner of the room Ryo is practically having a demented fit laughing, but Tegoshi feels kind of thrilled to have that problem covered.

“Thanks, Kamenashi-kun!” he chirps, and presses a kiss to his sharp cheekbone. Later he’ll bug Kame about this kind of thing all the time, just because Kame is the only person he knows who will actually go out of his way to solve any of these problems.

“He’s like a big sister to me,” he tells Yamapi happily when he comments on how much time they’re spending together.

Ryo never stops finding it funny.

-

Ryo paints his toenails one Sunday afternoon when they have nothing to do; holds Tegoshi’s fine boned foot in his hand and smoothes the brush over each tiny round nail. His fingers brush over Tegoshi’s ankle and make him laugh; he’s always been kind of ticklish. His foot jerks in Ryo’s lap and he feels pampered and happy.

-

After two weeks in his smooth new skin Ryo declares that he’s taking Tegoshi out on a date, that Tegoshi is going to be the hottest girl in the club and they’re going to dance all night. He adds jokingly that he expects Tegoshi to put out at the end of the night and Tegoshi promises that he will, and feels a secret thrill at the idea that Ryo might actually mean it now, all those jokes that never went anywhere when he was a boy.

“You ready?” Ryo says, appearing in the doorway in a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. Tegoshi is wearing hot pants because they make him look like a slut, and Ryo’s into that kind of girl. He wonders what kind of girl he’d be if he were left up to his own devices, but he doesn’t really think it would be all that different. He likes the way men look at him now, eyes sliding longingly over the smooth curves of his legs, the arch and sway of his hips when he walks. He likes to make the boys around him blush.

“Sure,” Tegoshi replies, smearing a touch of pink gloss across his bottom lip. He links his arm through Ryo’s as they leave the apartment, and imagines they’re a couple.

-

Tegoshi dances with strangers. Ryo spends the first couple of hours lingering by the bar and sulking into his beer. Sometimes it seems like he’s ignoring Tegoshi completely but every time he turns around suddenly it’s to see dark eyes darting away.

In the taxi on the way over the driver kept telling Ryo he had a very beautiful girlfriend. At first Ryo seemed to find it hilarious, throwing his arm possessively across Tegoshi’s shoulders and pressing a warm, wet kiss to his cheek, crooning, “My pretty girl” in English. Tegoshi had laughed too, had felt soft and squishy inside, had slid his hand up Ryo’s knee and along his thigh, and then Ryo had just seemed kind of mad. Sometimes Tegoshi thinks that Ryo knows, deep down, that none of this is a joke to Tegoshi, that it never really has been.

Sometimes Tegoshi hopes that Ryo knows.

The people in this club are beautiful, all glossy hair and exposed limbs. Tegoshi dances with an investment banker, the kind of guy who keeps a firm hand in the small of Tegoshi’s back and murmurs things into his ear as they grind. He tells the guy his name is Aiko and he’s 22. “Aiko-chan,” he croons into Tegoshi’s ear. It makes Tegoshi shiver. He thinks that if Ryo weren’t here he might go home with this guy, might stretch out in his bed and twist in his sheets. He has a brief fantasy of becoming this investment banker’s kept woman, lavished with diamonds and chocolates in some hidden apartment somewhere, of being this man’s secret. He’d have to leave Johnny’s, though, and he thinks he’d get bored.

“I have to go find my boyfriend,” he says instead, pulling away. As he walks away he realises there’s a business card in his back pocket, and he slides it out; Kotani Yuu-san, and the name of an office building in an upscale part of the city. On the back, a mobile phone number is scrawled in blue ink. Tegoshi tucks it back into his pocket; an escape route, maybe, if worst comes to worst. Lately Tegoshi has been thinking about how he’s going to survive in this world if nothing changes any time soon. He doesn’t want to be a whore, but a lot of girls marry for money, right? It’s not hard to picture himself as some nice man’s trophy wife, raising his kids, cooking his meals. He could be the kind of old fashioned girl his grandmother is always talking about. It could be a happy life.

“Who was that?” Ryo asks angrily when Tegoshi reaches him at the bar. Tegoshi takes the beer from his hands and drinks from the long neck; it’s ice cold and bubbly and makes him cough.

“Just a friend,” Tegoshi says. “Are you going to dance?”

“Give me a minute.” Ryo lifts the beer bottle to his lips.

Tegoshi sighs and reclines against the bar on his elbows. Under these lights the people all look like strange, mythical creatures, skin all blue and pink and alien like they might have come from an anime. There’s so much bare flesh. Most of the people aren’t very good dancers. There’s a beautiful girl with long, white-blonde hair in the centre of the floor. Tegoshi assumes she is a foreigner but when she turns around she has tiny Japanese features, fine bones and perfect lips. Tegoshi watches her dance for a while; the slightly mesmerizing tilt of her hips in her short skirt, the long bare stretch of thigh.

“God she’s hot,” Ryo breathes beside him. When Tegoshi turns to look his lips are slightly parted and his eyes are dark and Tegoshi feels something ugly and fierce sink its claws into his back and tug. “Look at her ass.”

He can look at her ass because it’s practically framed for him to see in that little skirt, in the roving spotlights. It’s a nice ass but his is better. His breasts are better, too, though he’s noticed with some discomfort that one is slightly bigger than the other. He looked it up on the internet and apparently that is completely normal, but Tegoshi had never been able to quite dispel the notion that having one breast bigger than the other meant he had some terrible disease and was going to die. He’d even mentioned it to Massu.

“Um, is one bigger than the other?” Massu had said, cheeks flushed scarlet and trying not to stare. “I never noticed. They look, um. They look pretty good to me.”

So yeah, Tegoshi has a great rack.

“She’s okay,” Tegoshi says. “Don’t you think her thighs are kind of fat?”

“What?” Ryo squints, as if trying to get a better look.

“I bet she has a lot of cellulite,” Tegoshi says. It’s a lie, she probably doesn’t have a single bit of cellulite on her perfect body, but the idea of Ryo going home with some other girl tonight is horrifying. He can’t take the thought of lying on Ryo’s couch listening to them. Having to listen to Ryo lie to the girl in the morning; this has happened before. Officially, Tegoshi is Ryo’s cousin. Ryo’s cousin who has been evicted and doesn’t want her overprotective parents to find out and send her back to the country. Ryo told a story that made him look like a total hero and Tegoshi like a pathetic, distressed bimbo.

“I’ll examine them when they’re wrapped around my shoulders,” Ryo laughs, and pushes off from the bar. He’s a bit cocky and predatory now, beautiful as he slices through the crowd. He moves in close behind her back and murmurs in her ear and she laughs. Tegoshi watches the lazy grind of their hips to he beat; Ryo doesn’t like this kind of music but it works well for him, a building, swelling, throbbing beat.

Tegoshi moves toward them without really thinking about it; he’s in front of her before even consciously registering that he’s left the bar, his girly hand and pearly pink nails fluttering over her arm. It feels weird to touch a girl when he is a girl, his skin soft and warm as hers, like two kittens rubbing together. She looks at him with a wide open mouth and gasps, chest hitching in Ryo’s embrace.

Ryo stares at him over her shoulder as Tegoshi steps closer, and Ryo can’t tell if he’s annoyed or turned on, because it always looks kind of the same on Ryo.

“Hi,” Tegoshi murmurs, right into her ear, feels the soft crush of their breasts together like bruising raspberries. He puts his hand on the curve of her waist, where stomach swells into hip. “What’s your name?”

“Ayumi,” she breathes, and he can feel her nervousness in the tension of her fine shoulder beneath his hand, quivering slightly and flushed. “What’s yours?”

He makes sure to press his lips against the shell of her ear so she can feel their heat, so she can feel warm, wet breath. “I’m Aiko,” he says. “I’ve been watching you all night,” he says. “I couldn’t let my friend steal you away.”

In the end it’s almost pathetically easy to draw her out of Ryo’s arms and into his own. Ryo is hot but what Tegoshi is offering is new and exciting, an adventure she’s never been on before. Ryo stares dumbfounded as Tegoshi pulls her away from him and crushes her against his bodies; as he slides his bare thigh between hers and grins over her shoulder.

Ryo is definitely annoyed now, but he’s also definitely turned on.

Ayumi giggles and clutches at Tegoshi’s shoulders, mewls and twists her hips. “I’m not usually into girls,” she says, burying her hands in his hair like she might kiss him.

“Funny,” he laughs, and slides his hand beneath her skirt, feels the scratchy edge of lace panties beneath his fingertips. “Neither am I.”

Ryo seems like he wants to storm off in a huff but can’t force himself; he hovers on the periphery of their friction like he is absorbing their static electricity. When Tegoshi kisses her for the first time he hears Ryo swear behind him, low and pained and needy. She tastes like cigarettes and appletinis and gasps into his mouth, keens and clutches his shoulders.

This is only the third time he has ever kissed a girl; the first time he was twelve and she cornered him at a classmate’s birthday party, pressed a sloppy and terrifying kiss to his unresponsive lips. The second time was the first time he got drunk with Ryo, some swooning crying fangirl and a need to satisfy his curiousity. He’s never been into it before, but here with Ryo’s jealousy throbbing at his back it’s kind of hot. It’s really hot, in fact, like a deep fever breaking out, all short breath and cold sweat.

“Fuck,” she gasps in his ear and clutches his wrist, tugs at his arm. “Come on,” she says and drags him off the dance floor. He casts a slightly panicked eye in Ryo’s direction; his friend is staring in slack-jawed awe.

She takes him to the girl’s restroom. They’re painted violently red and darkly lit. She drags him by the wrist into a cubicle and slams the door behind him, presses him up against the door, and then she’s kissing him again, her open mouth smearing the glitter on his collarbone. He feels taut and desperate, thighs clenched and knees shaking. He can hear girls shrieking and gossiping at the mirrors outside, and beyond that the reverberating thud of dance music; he imagines Ryo lingering outside, Ryo imagining them, Ryo hard and wanting. He groans and gropes around until he can grab her ass and crush her against him; shivers as she bites his lips, as her tiny hand slides up his ribcage and over his right breast, the larger one, as sharp fingernails circle his nipple through the stiff lace of his bra.

“Oh my god,” Tegoshi breathes. He has never done this before, with a girl, with a guy. He has never done this before with anybody. Whenever he pictured it he imagined soft lighting and silk sheets and being completely, totally alone with somebody he loved.

“Wait,” he says, and gasps. “Wait.”

“What?” she asks, sliding her hands up over his cheeks. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t,” he says. His body throbs in rebellion, but he really can’t. “I’m sorry, you’re beautiful, but I really can’t.”

“What?” She steps back and crosses her arms defensively over her flushed chest. “What was this, some kind of joke?”

“No!” he shouts. “No, I promise! It wasn’t!”

“Then what?” In this light she looks so young and Tegoshi wishes he had approached this night differently; wishes he had not acted so impulsively.

“It’s –“ He realises, suddenly, that she is a girl, that she might understand in a way that Ryo or any of the other guys wouldn’t. “It’s just, it’s my first time.” She stares at him. “I’ve never done this before. I wanted it to be…”

She smiles crookedly, “Special. Okay, I get it. Okay,” and presses a soft kiss to the apple of his cheek. “Okay.”

They hug and when he leaves she asks him for his number, says that she might be able to make it special next time. Tegoshi scrawls a number on her arm in pink texta, but when she calls it some stranger will answer and they will never see each other again.

-

Ryo grabs him the second he leaves the ladies’ room, hauls him against his body and down a hallway lined with pay phones. “What the fuck was that?” he asks, clutching Tegoshi’s wrist hard.

“I know I’m a girl,” Tegoshi says coolly, tilting his chin up like a rebellious child. “but I’m still a guy. I have needs.”

“You little asshole,” Ryo growls, but that’s when he kisses him, and it’s completely different to Ayumi, all teeth and sharp corners where she was round and smooth like a lozenge.

Tegoshi clutches Ryo’s back with his nails and moans, but even as they kiss and grind he can’t help but wonder if Ryo remembers who he really is.

-

He wakes up naked in Ryo’s bed, under soft worn sheets that smell a little stale like they need a good wash. Ryo is asleep beside him, the slight shadow of whiskers on his familiar jaw and messy black hair spread across his pillow. When he fell asleep Ryo was touching him, everywhere, but now they’re just lying side by side like parallel lines. He can feel the heat from Ryo’s body on his skin, and a strange ache inside that reminds him what they did; Ryo’s thin body and bones colliding with Tegoshi’s pink softness, Tegoshi’s claws digging rivers across Ryo’s back. It hurt and he didn’t have an orgasm, but he’s heard that a lot of women don’t, the first time. It was Yamapi and Shige who told him that, one day while they were all going through Shoujo manga and talking about the weird fantasies women seemed to have. At the time he hadn’t said so but he thinks most of those fantasies are pretty awesome. He imagines Ryo tying him up and violating him.

It still hurts when he moves, a little, but it feels kind of good, a kind of meaningful pain. When he’d started bleeding Ryo had breathed an apology and kissed him, licked at his collarbone and called him a good boy. He’d nearly cried then, at that inadvertent sign that Ryo still remembered who he was on the inside, that maybe he wanted that person and not just his tits and the white lace trimmed panties he’s been wearing.

He rolls onto his side and stares at Ryo; his lover, he thinks. His only lover. He’s kind of terrified about what will happen when Ryo wakes up. What if he opens his eyes and realises he slept with someone who used to be a boy and freaks out and calls him a dirty little queer and kicks him out of the apartment, and then he has to sleep on the streets and sell himself to gross old guys just to survive? What if he opens his eyes and it is awkward and Ryo says he just wants to be friends, that he was drunk and doesn’t think of Tegoshi that way? What if he wakes up and doesn’t remember anything at all?

In the end all the anxiety tires him out and he falls asleep, and when he wakes up Ryo is awake in bed next to him, reading a novel about an American spy lost in Brazil. He looks tired and disheveled but he’s naked and his leg is twisted over Tegoshi’s. It feels a bit like they’re married.

“Hey, kid,” Ryo says when he notices Tegoshi is awake. “What’s up?”

Tegoshi presses himself closer into the curve of Ryo’s side and his stomach growls. “I guess I’m hungry,” he says. “Go get me food.”

“Jesus, aren’t you supposed to be the girl?” Ryo bitches. “Go bake me a pie.”

“Don’t be a chauvinist!” Tegoshi scolds. “Besides, I’m not really a girl.”

There is a tense, awkward moment where they both seem to be waiting to see how Ryo will respond to that. “That’s weird, huh,” Ryo says. “I stopped thinking about how weird that is.”

“I keep thinking it’s some kind of bizarre dream,” Tegoshi admits, rolling onto his back. His breasts jiggle on his chest. “And you actually wanted to sleep with me, so it probably was.”

“Nah,” Ryo says, and leans over, close to Tegoshi’s face. “You’ve always been kind of hot.”

Tegoshi threads his hand through the back of Ryo’s hair. “Would you still want to fuck me if I was a boy again?” he asks, and presses his face into Ryo’s neck so he doesn’t have to watch his face while he waits for the answer.

“A hot slut like you?” Ryo says, and even he is laughing at how ridiculous that sounds. “Of course.”

“I want to be,” he confesses. “I liked being a boy. I miss being a boy. Having boobs is kind of cumbersome and annoying and I’m sick of missing out on so much work.”

“Look,” Ryo says. He kisses Tegoshi, softer now, unsure. “I always wanted you, I just didn’t have an excuse for it before, okay?” he says gruffly.

“Okay,” Tegoshi says, and pulls the dirty sheet over their bodies. Ryo had better be sure because Tegoshi will not give him much chance for escape.

-

The morning he becomes a boy again he wakes up in Ryo’s bed with clean sheets because Tegoshi has started doing the laundry, has started tidying up a little because Ryo’s apartment gives him a headache and they’re supposed to be kind of partners now. Ryo is pressed up against his back, drooling into his neck, and they both have morning hard ons.

“Jesus,” Ryo says when he wakes up and sees. “You just can’t make up your fucking mind, can you?”

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