The first person Tim actually meets in town is the glowstick green haired gas station cashier who misgenders him and then gets all weird about it when he IDs him for cigarettes and sees the M gender marker and realizes he fucked up.
“Shit,” the dude says, turning around to grab a pack of reds off the wall, “I’m sorry man--”
“Whatever,” Tim says. He rips the cellophane off the pack with his teeth before the kid is finished even ringing him up. “Least you corrected yourself. Damn.”
“You moving into town?” the kid asks. Gestures to the UHaul in the parking lot.
“Nah, just rented a truck for shits and giggles,” Tim deadpans. The kid looks at him. “I’m fucking with you. Consider us even.” The kid laughs tensely, and Tim glances over when the other gas station employee comes out of the walk-in beer fridge in the corner and he stops dead in the doorway, staring at him. The kid is cute. Tattooed, couple job-stoppers on the hands, neck blasted even though he doesn’t look a day over twenty. Big nose. Doe eyes. Lip piercings. Tim grins at him, mouths a cigarette, turns back to the cashier to get his card and his ID back.
“Hope the move in isn’t too bad,” glowstick kid says, and Tim gives him a cursory nod.
“Thanks, ma’am,” Tim remarks, scoffing a laugh at him, and he heads back out to drive the truck the last half mile to the house.
Tim hasn’t actually met any of his new roommates, which. He should probably be more worried about that than he actually is. He’s talked to Paul on the phone a handful of times. He bartends at the club Tim’s ex dances at, and John’s never steered him wrong, even when she realized she was a lesbian dating a closeted man. He knows there’s three other roommates than Paul, but one of them is also trans and her boyfriend is also queer and Paul’s queer and the last roommate whose name is Shawn apparently never comes out of his room. Has multiple deadbolts on the door. Basically a cryptid. So. He’s not too worried about it. Worst case scenario he installs a deadbolt in his own door too, which he knows how to do on account of he used to ID as a butch lesbian. So.
He parks in front of 1313 Cherry Street, which -- 1313 is the most goth house number of all time probably except maybe 666 but he also thinks it would be cool to live next door in 1312. He drops himself onto the asphalt and looks across the street at the park on the other side and by the time he comes around the cab there’s somebody coming out of the house, hoodie, enormous grin splitting his face.
“Hey, Tim!” he calls out across the yard, and Tim rushes over as quick as his little girl legs can carry him. “What’s up, man? I’m Paul; we talked on the phone--”
“Yeah,” Tim says, smiling, on account of Paul’s gap-toothed grin is infectious. “Nice to finally meet you. Hope John didn’t give you too hard of a time trying to convince you to rent me the room.”
“She’s a sweetheart,” Paul says. “Come in; I’ll give you your copies of the keys and me and Corey will help you bring boxes in.”
Corey’s on the couch when they walk in, some superhero movie on the TV and a bong on the coffee table with a bunch of flowers in it. Corey practically bounds off the couch, goes to shake Tim’s hand but then hugs him anyway.
“We’re roommates now, dude, we hug each other in this goddamn house--” he’s saying, beaming, just talking his damn head off. Telling Tim about how his girl told him Tim’s also a Sagittarius, which, he’s not sure how Jim even got that information but then again maybe John sent his social media over to prove he’s not a fed.
“Gimme the keys to the truck; I’ll pull a couple boxes in,” Paul says, and Tim remembers the fucking cat.
“My cat,” Tim says, tossing his keys over. “His carrier’s in the passenger seat and he has a harness and a leash but he’s an asshole--”
“I heard there was a cat,” a voice says behind him, and Tim turns around to see Jim, who’s definitely well over six foot and oh right this is Corey’s girlfriend. She’s got her hair up in a bun and is wearing a tank top with a guillotine DIY stenciled on the front so clearly this is Tim’s new best friend.
“His name is Robert Smith,” Tim says, and Paul is already out the damn door. “I hear you are fellow former prisoner of gender who also chewed through the bars.”
“I tattooed GENDER IS FAKE on my own ankle,” Jim says.
“Fuck yes,” Tim says. “Wanna give me a dumbass tattoo someday?”
“All I do are dumbass tattoos,” Jim says.
“She won’t tattoo SLUT on my ass,” Corey says. “She’s full of shit.”
“I will not be responsible for that,” Jim says.
Paul reappears with the carrier and Robert Smith is hollering out the front grate. Tim takes it and Jim coos, squatting down to look in, and Tim lifts it a little so she can see in better.
“Oh my god,” Jim says. “He looks like a soot sprite from Spirited Away.”
“I know,” Tim says. “He’s basically a dust bunny with eyes.”
So then they get to work on helping Tim bring his shit in.
They order pizza to celebrate the new roomie and smoke a bunch of cigarettes and talk about themselves. Paul’s got two boyfriends, Sid and Chris, who he assures Tim he’ll meet soon enough. He also shares that he peed in the fountain outside the local Mexican place so many times they had to remove it and tells a couple stories about John fighting people in the middle of the strip club floor and managing not to lose a pastie. Corey’s in a band called The Rejects and Jim works at the garage cuz she loves working on cars. The one out front is her baby though, a red early 70s pickup. She tells Tim if he sees any radical graffiti around town that she did it and they also plan to join horrible forces for evil to tag together. Corey says mostly they just hang around and loiter at the Circle K cuz there’s two kids that work there that are cool, and Tim honks a laugh.
“Glowstick hair and throat tattoo even though he’s like twenty?” Tim asks. “Glowstick called me ma’am and apologized so many times I ma’amed him back and throat tattoo looked at me like he’d never seen a five foot four punk in a battle jacket before.”
“They’re both queers too,” Jim says. “There’s only so many of us. Gotta stick together.”
“Glowstick’s Justin,” Corey says. “Tattoos is Chris. He works nights a lot so if you start going on midnight gas station runs with me I’m sure you’ll end up talking to him. Chris is friends with some other trans kid who’s like 17, what’s his fuckin’ name--”
“Ricky,” Paul says.
“Right, yeah,” Corey says. “You should meet him cuz he’s tryna get on the man juice last Chris told Jim and it’d be cool for him to meet another trans guy--”
“Yeah?” Tim asks. “Chris is kinda cute. Deer in the headlights lookin’ ass though.”
“Probably wigging out cuz there’s another weirdo in town,” Paul remarks, lighting up another cigarette.
“That or he saw you flagging and wants to try to get his gay little hands on the only unclaimed top in this shithole,” Corey says.
“Oh my god,” Tim says, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Gay little hands isn’t even a joke,” Jim says. “Dude has KISS BOYS tattooed on his left hand cuz he’s an idiot and got KISS KISS and LOST BOYS on each set of knuckles--”
“Jesus Christ,” Tim says. “How did nobody notice?”
“I think he’s getting the top set lasered with his graveyard shift money though,” Jim says. “I keep telling him I’ll redo them for him but I think he’s afraid of me.”
“You’re six six and a witch,” Corey says. “I’m dating you and I’m afraid of you.”
“Good,” Jim says. “Keep it that way.”
“Maybe I’ll go bother him later and give him some shit about it,” Tim says.
“Sagittarius flirting,” Jim remarks.
“Hey,” Corey says, sounding wounded, and they end up talking astrology for a few cuz Jim’s into it mostly for witchy reasons. She offers to show Tim her collection of tarot decks and Tim tells her he’ll show her his collection of dead stuff and they’re best friends automatically by default at this point.
They bullshit till about one, which is when Corey and Tim decide to hoof it to the Circle K to grab some slushies and get Jim one of those individually packaged pickles and Paul gives Corey cigarette money and Tim figures he might as well tag along if Chris is probably gonna be there. He’ll buy a Monster or something like the crusty asshole he is.
Sure enough when they walk in, Chris is sitting in a folding chair behind the counter on his phone, which he is clearly not supposed to be doing if the way he bolts up and pockets his phone as soon as the door beeps indicates anything.
“What’s up man?” Corey says, and Chris relaxes visibly when he sees it’s him. Chris somehow looks cute even in his horrible red work polo. He has a little spiral drawn on his name tag.
“Fucking nothing,” Chris says, offering his fist, and Corey bumps it with his own. He looks at Tim and Tim grins on account of Chris looks nervous again which is cute.
“You still here?” Tim remarks, and Chris huffs, sighs.
“I was just starting my shift when you were in here earlier,” Chris says, turning around to grab the appropriate packs of cigarettes off the wall. “How do you guys know each other?”
“I just moved in with them,” Tim says. “My ex girl works at the club Paul works at and they had the extra room, so. Here I am. Corey, grab me a Monster—“
“Chris. Hey, so,” Chris says, “sorry about Justin, he—“
“I don’t care, man,” Tim says. “I’m five foot four and still have the butch lesbian haircut. I get it.” He grins and Chris laughs once, relaxes a little.
“My best friend is a couple years younger than I am and just starting out transitioning, so—“
“Corey mentioned,” Tim says. Corey appears next to him at the counter, unloading an armful of junk food and nearly spilling his slushie. “Speak of the fuckin’ devil.”
“Watch it, short shit—“
“Oh come on, you have a Y chromosome, at least I have an excuse—“
“Well we can’t all be over six foot okay—“
“How tall are you?” Tim asks Chris, who’s piling Corey’s snacks into a paper bag.
“Huh? Me?” Chris asks. “Oh. I’m six foot two.”
“You got any scratch paper?” Tim asks.
“Uh,” Chris says, his face suddenly flushing pink, “I got some extra receipts—“
“That’s fine,” Tim says. He plucks a pen from the holder and scribbles his number down on the back of the receipt Chris gives him, flicks it back across the counter at him. He cracks open his Monster, grinning as Chris looks at the paper and realizes it’s his phone number. Corey fucking wolf whistles so Tim elbows him on their way out the door.