“I just don’t see what’s stopping you, Raylan.” Piper adjusted her thick-framed glasses before jamming her fist back into the pocket of her hoodie. Raylan’s show at The Xanadu Carousel had been over for awhile, but the rain outside had only now just stopped. Piper and Raylan didn’t own cars, and this wasn’t the first time they had shared each other’s company after a show.

“It’s the knives, child. The knives,” Raylan said. Piper was always impressed by the way Raylan managed to navigate the slick pavement in his high-heeled boots. Even in puddles, he continued to gesticulate and sashay just like he was still on stage. “Besides, I have a fan-following to consider. Why, those little bald men who always sit in the front row would just be crushed!”

“I don’t see how. I mean, you totally look like a real girl alre–”

Raylan cut her off. “And you’re a sweet pea to say so, Piper. God willing, I hope I hope I never look like poor Belieze. I don’t care how much chiffon you put on a linebacker…takes all kinds, I suppose. But anyway, I enjoy a certain amount of sensual border straddling in my life. Plus, there’s the knife issue, darling.”

“They don’t use knives.”

“Lasers. Whatever. You what a laser is? It’s a knife made out of light. And I ain’t letting any doctor get all Obi-Wan Kenobi on my nethers. Not for nothing, child.”

Piper jammed her tiny fists deeper into her pockets. She had transitioned relatively recently, and was still getting used to being smaller. Her slight frame was overwhelmed by her sweatshirt; it had fit perfectly a few months back. “It’s gene therapy. They alter a few chromosomes and the–”

“Messing with far too much of the Lord’s handiwork, you ask me. Why be ashamed of the way God made you?”

Piper turned from Raylan and tried to hide even deeper in her hoodie. She started to run away, but didn’t get more than five steps before Raylan and his long legs overtook her. Piper felt swallowed in Raylan’s powerful embrace.

“Oh, honey, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean that. This mouth of mine just goes off on it’s own. You know that. You know that if I ever have a son, I’d want him to grow up into a beautiful young woman just like you.” Raylan removed Piper’s glasses and wiped off the moisture from their lenses. Raylan was taller than Piper even before the transition, and now with his height enhanced by six-inch heels, Piper felt extraordinarily vulnerable. Tears tumbled down her teenage cheeks.

“It’s just…it’s just you sounded like my–”

“Hush, honey. Hush. I know who I sounded like. And I am so sorry. God just made us different, is all. He made you able to change, and me perfectly content to wear a gaff for the rest of my life. It takes all kinds, All kinds.”

“Stupid hormones,” Piper said, wiping her nose on her sleeve. “I know I’m not a real girl…”

“Didn’t I just tell you hush?” Raylan petted Piper’s dark hair reassuringly with his painted nails, “You’re more of a girl than any of those painted tramps your age I see walking down the street, And you are my friend, which ought to make you real enough for anyone. Now, why don’t you dry those pretty blue eyes of yours and let me buy you a hot chocolate.”

Piper gave Raylan a weak grin. “Don’t try to butter me up.”

“Who said anything about butter?” Raylon said, hands on his hips. “You and I are going to get chocolated up, like real girls.”