But, not quite. After all, it was just for Halloween. Just a garish, impermanent little frippery that would be gone the morning after, leaving her back in a body that was that little bit out of synch with the rest of her. The escape would never be permanent, there were too many imperfections drawing her back; her voice was too high pitched, her curves would never properly fade away no matter what she wore, and always in the background, her femme side threatened to step to the fore at a moment's notice. She could never be a man, not with womanhood bouncing around the back of her skull.
And by Monday, everything would be back to normal...
Of course, the optimist in her pointed out that this meant she had an opportunity to grasp for the next few days at least; the costume was in her possession for now, there was no reason she couldn't don it in the privacy of her own home and, for a few hours at least, strive to recreate that magic moment in front of the mirror. And this she did on several occasions, knocking about her backroom in a full suit and tie, feeling in part like an escaped character from Mad Men, and as a consequence even lighting up a cigarette or two when she felt bold enough to ignore the threat the ash would have on the finery she wore.
But her more deeply entrenched cynical side marred even this private enjoyment, directing her mind solely to the notion that being a man in private rather defeated the purpose; she already knew she had this inner masculinity. The point was never for her to see it; the point was to be seen being it. To project to all the world what lay within her, wrapped up in layers of soft skin and curves.
Very much in the spirit of Halloween...
The debate about actually taking this show on the road didn't go very far; without Marta's influence D lacked the courage to risk it. She could feel, in the back of her skull, that the first time she spoke with someone wearing that suit, without Marta around, and they called her "miss," or "ma'am," or something, it would be the end. The suit would go away, and she had no idea what Marta would have to do to convince her to try it again. This realization made her feel so frustratingly fragile, but it was the reality.
In fact, to guard against this outcome, she had called Marta with uncharacteristic timidity midway through the week to ask that the blonde give her a ride to the bar on the night in question; spending any amount of time outside, alone and in-costume was a risk she wasn't willing to take. For her part, Marta had cheerfully agreed, and with that taken into consideration D was far less hesitant about opening her door with her costume half arranged and only sporadically buttoned up; trick-or-treaters weren't so much of a risk in her neighborhood regardless.
Marta's smiling face proved all the justification D needed for taking such a risk.
'What up, Dapper Dan?' Her grin shone with internal light as she swept into D's home, adjusting the boi's tie with an automatic, affectionate air. 'Lookin' just as good as the last time...'
'You're...' D blinked, eyes sweeping down Marta's pale blue shirt and the kind of shorts that were the very definition of not playing fair; her lovely toned legs seemed to go on forever because of them. 'Wait... You're Finn? Or Fionna?'
'I've got the hat in my backpack,' Marta grinned, throwing a thumb over her shoulder at the distinctive green bag attached to her back. 'But what does it even matter? Either way, it's Adventure Time!'
D giggled as Marta pumped her fist into the air as she cheered, but it struck her that this costume may not be entirely insignificant by itself. Without either Finn's or Fionna's hat, the costume was gender neutral; it seemed like either Marta herself was trying to say something, or she was simply toying with people, waiting to see how people reacted.
At any rate, she seemed satisfied with D's noncommittal response.
Any further questions D might have had were quickly silenced, as Marta went into perfectionist mode again, fussing with D's costume until it had been reset into the same immaculate masculine perfection it had attained the first time she had worn it. She took a moment to peer into the mirror, applying Marta's lessons on posture and presentation one by one until they all settled into her frame like a kind of testosterone sediment, leaving her as pleasantly manly as the last time.
'You look great,' Marta supplied from behind her, leaning against the doorframe. 'Really, you do.'
'Still got my hips, though,' D answered skeptically, giving her butt a demonstrative shake at the mirror. 'And you can still see my tits through the shirt, no matter how much I bind.'
'That's because you're stacked!' Marta bounced the distance between them, looking at the two of them in the mirror as she ran her hand down the- admittedly now only slight- curve of D's breast, as if gauging how they looked together. 'You're kind of lucky that way, you know. You look hot as a boy and a girl, I bet... Not like me. I can't get the guy side down, even if I bother trying...'
'Come on...' D dropped her gaze down to the soft touch now running down her shirt, but notably, not even attempting to remove Marta's fingers. 'I have a hard time imagining you failing at anything.'
A moment of silence, as Marta's expression wavered infinitesimally, a quake of emotion that D couldn't quite place from the reflection alone, before...
'Anyway, let's get going, shall we?' That glittering smile returned. 'I want to show you off before the show...'
D couldn't help but stiffen at the last word; the show...
Perhaps it had been at the back of her mind all along, perhaps that was the reason her cynical side had been trying so hard to stomp her dreams for this evening down. She would be up on stage... dressed like this... with people watching...
It was hard enough to go through that just being butch, or whatever else they wanted to call her. She just tried to stop the catcalls and snatches of overheard conversations get her down. Drinking helped.
She experienced a moment of panic; how many of them would see through her? Would she even be able to stand that, now? Her best effort, the best she'd ever looked... if it failed, what would she do?
'Ah, no. I know that look, boy,' Marta draped an arm over D's shoulders, guiding her gently but firmly toward the door. 'You're not bugging out on me in the last minute. You'll do great, you'll see. Now, come on...'
D was silent the entire ride in, as the suburbs transformed gradually into the more densely packed city streets. The bustling new setting brought with it a multitude of eyes; rationally D knew they weren't looking at her specifically, but rationality rarely ruled when emotions could so easily come into play. Out in the waning light of the afternoon, D began to feel transparent, like even the most cursory glance could see right to the heart of her. Every set of eyes brought judgment, and every judgment deemed her false.
It was almost a mercy when they reached the bar.
It wasn't the kind of place D would usually frequent; the crowd was too loud, and too numerous, the atmosphere too grungy, appealing more to the college crowd than her type. She would feel too exposed being there as a patron, surrounded by the rowdy summation of countless weekends just beginning. Her confidence would collapse in on itself.
But that was the miracle of the stage, really; it was the one place where she could be herself without fear of exterior judgment. On the stage she wasn't just another person, she was a music delivery system. Yes there were a lot of eyes on her then, but when she was playing with the band she ceased to matter to them; they weren't looking at her, they were looking at the band, and besides, they had far more important things to look to when she was playing. Their drinks or partners, the cute girl at the bar... all D became was a silhouette in the spotlights holding a guitar. Yes, the guitar was a shield, but behind it, D could play, and move around the stage as though nobody was watching; invisible in a sea of people. The boi in plain sight.
It was odd, but she felt almost natural, there...
Of course, of course, Marta took the opposite tack; she spent most of the show behind her drums, at the back of the stage, and yet she still managed to garner the most attention of all, even eclipsing their singer. There was something to her enthusiasm that just attracted the eye.
Marta bounced ahead as they filed inside, acting very much like her costume's fictional counterpart. Daley the bassist, habitually early, was already waiting in the back when they arrived, and he grinned widely as Marta approached.
'Nice Fionna costume!' He chuckled, flaring the collar of his distinctive red jacket.
'People always forget that Finn has long hair too,' Marta sighed, bundling it up as best she could before hooding it beneath the requisite white, bear-eared hat. 'And what is that, Kaneda? How many years ago was Akira, Daley?'
'I like Akira...'
D tuned out the rest of the conversation, for the most part; she was more interested in Marta, anyway. Now that she had actually shown off what she had picked... all D could do was look for hidden meanings. She had gone as a boy too; what was she trying to say? Was this solidarity, or something else? Had she even really thought about it, or just chosen to dress as something she enjoyed?
This was the problem with having to deal with this kind of double life; one was always overanalyzing everything that happened. It was impossible to just let things wash over her, when she was always having to hide something about herself.
But Marta was always so free. Some people had all the luck, even with their queerness.
As the rest of the band filtered in, and the sounds of activity began to fill the bar beyond the backroom, D's nerves began to rise once more. The reactions of her ban members, mostly quizzical and amused, had been hard enough to take, but then... this was only serious to her; to everyone else her appearance would just look like a silly costume.
Which was an idea D wasn't sure she liked; whatever anyone thought, this was serious. Looking like this, feeling like this... it was only a part of the attraction. It meant very little if all anyone else saw was a veneer covering the girl beneath. Being seen was important. But the moment she went up on stage, the façade would crack.
What would happen then?
'Alright gentlemen,' Marta waved the crew over from the door, bouncing on the balls of her feet. The moments before a show always left the blonde feeling energized, 'Let's get to this thing. One rule that matters, as always: don't fuck up.'
After that, it all happened at once; the stage was taken, D took up her guitar, and the music began to flow like wine. This was the way it had always been; while comfortable in practice, D found herself with a feeling as though she was just barely hanging onto her competency whenever she performed live. There was no time to think, no time to feel embarrassed... all there was was the music. Yes, there were people watching her, but as usual the sound was a cloak; she couldn't hear them... all they were was silhouettes in the distance.
But all that changed in the moment of silence following one song and before the next, as the set wound down toward its end. Marta took a swig from the beer she had set down beside herself, before standing up and pointing over the top of her drum kit.
'Hey, let's do Survive, next,' She grinned, rolling her shoulder to loosen the muscles, drawn tight and aching by a flawlessly performed solo in the last song. 'And I think D should sing it.'
'What?' D blinked, swinging around fast enough to tangle her feet in the cords, tripping awkwardly a few steps toward the grinning blonde.
'Yeah,' She replied, nodding. 'Everyone else sings, D. Even if it's just backing. But I've never really seen you get into it. I'd like to.'
'But I don't-'
'Come on. You know the words! Loosen up!' Marta's expression shifted, going from a wide, amused smile to a more reassuring, encouraging one; less teeth, more softness. 'You can do it.'
'Marta, I've never done that before for a reason...'
'Well shit, D, unless you want me to start playing Dude Looks Like a Lady, you'd better nut up,' She winked. 'We do have a gap in the setlist, after all...'
'You did this on purpose,' D accused, the realization dawning on her that Marta may be more of an evil genius than she understood.
'Possibly, but it doesn't change the facts,' The blonde's sly voice was low, just for D now. 'C'mon, I'll buy you a drink if you do it. Fuck, I'll buy you ten drinks, whatever. Just step up to the mike, boy...'
There was a sense of impending doom about this that D couldn't shake; yet another one of those things that Marta simply wouldn't be swayed on. In fact, this entire day was Marta's doing; ever since they had first spoken about costumes, all D had been doing was allowing herself to be swept along in Marta's wake. Why would that change now? Perhaps it was best simply to give the girl what she wanted; at least it'd be interesting.
To a point...
D had steady hands- a guitarist had to- yet she couldn't dispel the slight tremble that overtook them as she stepped up to the microphone. Normally she didn't have much trouble with public speaking, but this was different; D made no bones about her lack of a singing voice. She wasn't bad, or she never would have done as Marta asked at all; no, the word was unpracticed.
But, as Marta sat back down at her drums, D knew her chance to back out had long since retreated. As the first notes spilled out from the rest of the band, she took hold of her guitar; at the very least, she could perform her best on that count.
Her vocal performance wasn't up to the level of their actual singer, but then, there was no expectation that it would be. D allowed herself to cast her eyes around during the lengthy solo she had toward the end of the song, and found that she was surrounded by nothing but supportive expressions, on all sides. Not from the front, certainly; all the audience was experiencing was her shaky singing, but the people around her, the ones that mattered, were all there to bolster her. It was quite the feeling.
As the song wound down, the applause D received was noticeably more hesitant than it had been for the rest of the set. D couldn't help but blush as she stepped back from the mike for the last song of the night, safe in the knowledge that she would be behind her curtain of sound again soon. However, the feeling was tainted by attention this time; D's span in the spotlight had made her all too aware of the eyes again. There was nothing she could do to stop the creeping feeling of falseness that rose up her spine, making her feel like she was a teenager again, raiding her brother's closet for men's shirts and pants that wouldn't show off her ass.
'Why did you make me do that, Marta?' She asked after the show, as they sat at a table at the back of the bar, secluded away from the rest of the patrons. As the night had worn on, their table had become increasingly dotted with empty bottles, and now the two of them peered over their little collection.
'I wanted to see you put yourself out there,' Marta shrugged, sliding her chair around the curve of the table to get closer to D, no longer obscured by the mess.
'Well, mission accomplished, I guess,' D allowed herself to stretch out, her normally compact and hunched in body language giving way to the far more masculine expansiveness that Marta had taught her. 'But why like that? You should know I can't really sing.'
'Ah, but the singing wasn't the point, grasshopper...' She leaned in, discarded her hat with one hand and pointed D toward the bar, specifically to a pair of men that had, until that very moment, been surreptitiously watching them from across the floor. They quickly pretended they hadn't been, the second they had been caught, 'Listen.'
'So, the blonde's pretty cute,' One of the men said, as D focused in on his conversation mid-stream. 'But she's with that guy, I guess.'
'Well, at least the dude's cute,' His friend added. 'That makes it a little better.'
D blinked, and looked askance to Marta, who simply smiled mysteriously and directed her attention to the table next to them, where a group of women sat with their back to the pair. Their voices rose and fell in a tide of mostly illegible noise, but D could pick the occasional sentence out of the chaos.
'Hey, what was up with that guy they got to sing at the end, there?' One said, during a lull in the conversation. 'His voice was kind of high pitched, wasn't it?'
There was a series of agreements, as their conversation took a new turn, but before D could eavesdrop some more, Marta turned her attention to yet another group, talking away further down the bar, their conversation moving to the band as one of them gestured toward Daley, who was chatting up a woman in a corner. As D listened, they too made reference to the boi guest singer, and one thing stood out there, as it had with the others:
'You, my good sir, passed,' Marta smiled warmly, laying a hand on D's shoulder. The boi turned, eyes wide, as Marta continued, 'Welcome to manhood, I guess.'
All at once, D lunged at Marta, enclosing the blonde in her arms, hugging her tightly. Marta's soft body pressed against her, wrinkling her suit, but she hardly cared about that; a sense of joy she had never felt before had welled up in her, and it was all thanks to Marta. All at once, her body slid into synch with her mind for the first time, and though it felt like an elusive state that she might spend weeks or months trying to recapture, D was overjoyed to be experiencing it now. She savored every second of it, tried to commit the feeling to memory; out there, people could look in, and what they saw matched what she felt. She had leapt the binary. Balanced out her number.
For the first time in her life, D felt like she had stopped being a zero, and become a one.
'Whoa now, this is kinda nice,' Marta said, and though her words were jovial, her voice had dropped into a soft, almost tender register. D could feel her return the hug, warm arms at her back, those strong muscles ever present.
'You're the best,' D whispered, when she felt she could trust herself to speak clearly.
'I know that,' Marta's lips grazed D's cheek. 'But it's nice to hear it from someone else occasionally.'
The moment stretched on a while longer, and in it D allowed her imagination to take flight. If anyone was watching, what did they see? When they saw this, did they think Marta was hugging her boyfriend? Or did it just seem like a friendly hug? What kind of man did D come across as? She felt sure she had the goofiest smile on her face.
But of course, like all pleasant moments, this one fell away, and D allowed herself to be gently pushed back into her seat by Marta. The blonde was still smiling, and there was a definite, adorable blush cresting her cheeks. When D noticed and shot her a quizzical look, she turned away.
'Anyway,' She said, as if to change a subject that hadn't yet been broached. 'Now you don't need to drink to forget tonight, at least. So allow me to propose a new plan: let us drink to celebrate, my friend, your first day of manliness. Onward!'
And with that, the blonde drained the last of her drink, leaping up to obtain more. With Marta's enthusiasm returned, the night seemed far longer to D than it might otherwise have been.
But now, that actually seemed like a good thing.
Which led inexorably to...
Though Marta's presence certainly went some way to alleviating D's concerns about waking up naked and shackled to a bed, she still found herself pulling uselessly at the restraints that had, thus far, kept her firmly anchored.