Beginnings: Ace

Nik groaned dramatically as he picked up a box of empty frames. He hid his smile and pretended the box was far too heavy for him to handle. Turbo jumped over to him, grabbing hold of the other end. “Just a few pieces left,” Turbo assured him.

“I really don’t think I’m the person for thisth job,” said Nik.

“Well…” They walked from the car into the LGBT community center. Turbo walked backwards, carefully up the stairs and through the doorway, and Nik walked forward and alerted him to what was coming up. “Sweetie had to coach and Rich is out of town and—”

“Stho, basthically, I wasth the only one available?”

With a sly smile, “The only one available who I could convince to do it.”

Nik groaned again.

“Why don’t you stay inside and unpack? I could use your eye with arranging.”

Nik agreed at once, eager to avoid any more manual labor. There was plenty for him to do, anyway.

Every year, Turbo’s work was part of the center’s silent auction. Indecisive as he was, he’d brought several dozen pieces of various sizes. A few years ago it had been a few paintings, but now the display of his art took up the largest wall. On the wall adjacent to Turbo’s was a stunning display of mirrors with elaborate frames of metal, colored glass, and tile mosaics.

“You like ‘em?”

Nik turned to see an incredibly adorable young man standing there. He was short but his smile and eyes more than made up for that shortcoming. Stunning green eyes, cleanly-shaven chin, short brown hair, and dimples to kill you dead. He wore a black t-shirt with a red abstract design on the front, and baggy jean shorts that came down to his knees. Immediately infatuated, Nik could only muster a “Yesth.”

“Well, you’ll just have to bid for them like everyone else,” he said. “Those yours?” He nodded to the wall.

“No, no. My friend Turbo did them.” Nik gestured awkwardly towards the door. “He’sth out getting the restht. D’you like them?”

The man nodded as he looked them over. “They’re quite bold, aren’t they?” They were at that. Most in some way blatantly displayed or conjured up images of the sort of sex Turbo preferred. There were naked men bound to tables. There were beautifully detailed whips in the center of pieces and chained men in the corner, out of focus as they waited their turns. There were elaborate harnesses with only flashes of skin showing around them. “Not really my thing, though.”

Nik nodded, and grinned. He couldn’t say the same, especially given the way he and Turbo had first met, and he certainly had an appreciation for the art, but he understood it wasn’t for everyone. “What do you think about the arrangement?”

“Not bad,” the guy said approvingly.

“And… what about the arranger?” Nik asked smoothly, without missing a beat.

“Excuse me?” The man’s smile was fading, the adorable dimples going with it. He coughed. “Sorry, I think you’ve got the wrong idea about me.” He rubbed two fingers against a sideburn then ran his hand through his hair. “I’m only attracted to women.”

Nik’s eyes widened. “Ohhh! I’m sthorry!” Nik took a step back, instinctively. “I don’t usthually sthee a lot of sthtraight men here. And usthually my gaydar’sth better than thisth.”

The man shook his head. “No, it’s not like that, either. I…”

Nik’s eyes grew impossibly wider. “You’re a woman!” Instead of the guilt, Nik suddenly felt a bit sick to his stomach. He’d been hitting on a lesbian. He’d been attracted to a lesbian.

But there was another head shake. “Not exactly. I’m neither; I’m genderqueer.” With a smile, “My name’s Ace.” And Ace extended a hand.

Nik shook it without hesitation, though he looked a bit confused still.

“I identify as about forty percent female, sixty percent male. Which is why I present as male most of the time. But I still consider myself a lesbian sexually, though usually I just say I’m attracted to women so I don’t have to label myself. So, ah, don’t apologize. There’s no need.”

Apart from confusion, Nik also felt a bit overwhelmed. He’d heard the terms, but he didn’t actually know anyone who identified this way. Still, this was definitely a first. He’d never felt guilty about hitting on anyone before.

“I rattled you, didn’t I?” Ace said in response to Nik’s silence. “Look, you seem like a nice guy. So long as you quit trying to pick me up, you wanna grab a drink or something and talk?”

Nik wasn’t so sure, but found himself looking into Ace’s eyes, which really were pretty gorgeous, and nodding. He’d tell Turbo on the way out. Turbo would understand him flaking, since it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. “So… if I may ask… your body…”

“Is none of your damn business,” Ace replied with a smile then a head shake. “But I like you. Don’t know why; I don’t like most people.” Nik gave his most charming smile. “So I’ll tell you. I pack so I can feel comfortable.” As Ace rocked forward, Nik’s gaze was drawn down to a bulge at the crotch. “And I bind so I can pass.” Ace clapped a hand against a flat chest. “Ace bandages over an undershirt… hence the name.”

“Nice nickname,” said Nik, smiling as he took Ace’s arm. “I think I’m going to like you just fine.”