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The Conquered - Chapter 11: Fertile Earth
***** Andrew *****
Wednesday turned out to be worse than Monday. Instead of interviews, I got phone calls. Thanks, but no thanks. By Thursday, I was desperate enough to applied at a couple of the less-reputable gyms in the area. The first one was a meat market. The members were loose, older men, twinkie boys looking for sugar daddies, and muscle studs who were so overblown they could have been poster children for "bigger living through science". The gym owners didn't care about the drugs and steroids that were flowing through the doors. It wasn't for me. The second was so bad I was tempted to call the health department.
When I got home, I had a message on the machine from one of the gyms I knew little about. I called back and I had an interview late morning on Friday. Taylor was happy I had another interview. Since he was working half-days over the summer, Taylor asked me to meet him to check out a new gym right next to where the martial arts school where Don and Sebastian taught. I'd never actually been to "The Dojo".
Taylor wished me luck before he left for his morning swim, at least I think he did, my brain never registered much before six am. I looked at "Testoserone" with a growning sense of dread in my stomach. New was a figurative description at best. The only thing new was a coat of pain and the lettering on the windows. I stepped inside the gym for interview and I knew I should just walk back out. The place was dark, the equipment was less than mediocre, and smelled of old sweat and... cum? I found the manager overseeing the efforts of a wanna-be, builder near the back. The kid was maybe twenty and my immediate vibe was "will do anything to make it." The manager took me past the hopeful eyes of his trainee and into his office. We sat down to "discuss" my qualifications.
I assessed him as he did me. Late forties, still had the results of years of gym and probably more than a little use of steroids. The guy had seen far too many tanning beds in his life. The pictures on the walls showed him as a younger, impressively built pro or semi-professional body builder. That made me a bit more comfortable, but not much. The interview started normally enough. He asked me a few of the usual question about my experience, views on drug use and such, and then things went down hill fast. "Take off your shirt."
I swallowed hard. Did I just hear him correctly? "Excuse me?"
"Your shirt," he gestured at me with an intent stare. "Take it off."
He smirked. "If you're as good as you say, then I want to see proof."
The alarms went off big time, but I couldn't face another rejection. I stood, unbuttoned my shirt, and slipped it off my shoulders. The man was up and pressing his hands against my chest in seconds. It was something between a grope and a medical examination. Neither of which I liked without issuing an invitation.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking for implant scars." He tweeked one of my nipples, causing my dick to lurch. They'd always been a hot spot, but Taylor had taken them to all new heights. "But you're all you."
When his hand trailed down my stomach, I tried not to throw up. Memories of Coach flooded the back of my brain. It wasn't that he looked anything like the monster in my mind, but the feel was the same. Setting my jaw, I grabbed his hand and pushed it away. "I think you've felt enough."
He chuckled, low, deep, and almost sexy if it weren't so dominant and assured. "You want this job or not?" His palm mashed against my cock, causing it to throb.
My dick had a mind of it's own, responding to the fucker's touch like a cobra to a snake charmer. I was frozen. I wanted to run. This wasn't happening. "What?"
His smile was cold and his eyes held mine like a wolf's. "I've heard all about you. You're supposed to be a hot fuck, in the shower, on the benches, it doesn't matter." I actually had to brace myself be grabbing the back of the chair as his hand other hand snaked out and he twisted my nipple while massaging his palm against my shaft as his fingers teased my balls through my pants. "Show me what you got."
I flinched out of his grasp. It wasn't a question. It was a command. I grabbed my shirt and stalked towards the doors. The prick tried to stop me. "If you ever want a job in this town again," he threatened, his voice low, "you'd better start being really nice."
"You can take your job and your less than appealing offer and get real friendly with it."
I turned and looked in his eyes. What I saw there scared the shit out of me. A few months ago, I'd have taken what he offered, pushed him against his desk, and fucked him senseless. Within a few hours, I'd have owned the dump because the has-been-bastard would have been my sexual play toy. It would have been so easy. I could have taken him, his wanna-be boy toy, and fucked them dry. I got out of there as fast as I could.
"I'm not like that anymore," I tried to believe the words as I got to the truck. "I'm not." I started up the truck, gunning the engine as I pulled out onto the street. Fucking bastard! He wasn't Coach. He didn't have control over me. I wasn't like that anymore. I loved Taylor. He was everything.
The temptation's memory made me nauseous. I could still feel his fucking palm against my twitching dick. It would have been so damn easy to give in, fuck him, and take the job. I would have been like those porn stars who claimed only to be "gay for pay." I swallowed down the bile as I realized I probably would have enjoyed it. Taylor was all I needed. All I wanted. Imoaned when I pulled off the highway and saw Taylor's car in the parking lot. All I could think of was Taylor, touching him again, smelling his hair, and finding some sort of peace.
***** Taylor *****
"What do you think?"
I watched Tyron nervously as he looked over the space. He was the big unknown in this. Lee had already said he was tired of working for someone else and would make the jump if Andrew did. The problem was financing. I'd already called the bank and the paperwork was ready to put a second mortgage on my condo, but I wasn't sure it would be enough. A new business needed a minimum of two years of operating capital. I just couldn't swing that much.
Tyron looked at Lee. "You want to do this, babe?"
Lee grinned. "You already know the answer to that, big guy."
"Okay." Tyron raised an eyebrow at me. "You're sure Andrew will go for it?"
I sighed. "No, actually, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure, but he's been adamant about -pulling his own weight-. He hates feeling like he needs anyone." I grinned. "He's getting over it, but I've only had a couple months to work on him."
Lee laughed. "If he can change this much in only two months, I can't wait to see what he's like by Christmas."
"What do you think, babe?" Tyron didn't give anything away. The man must have been murder in the boardroom.
"He'll go for it. Between Taylor and I we'll get him convinced." He wiggled his eyebrows at me. "You could always threaten to withhold that special rabbit action you give him that makes his eyes roll."
I blushed. "That bastard didn't..."
Lee laughed. "Yeah, he did."
Tyron laughed. "Don't worry about it, Taylor. If Lee gives you any shit, just call me. I'll tell you all about my patented 'corkscrew hips' that leave him blown and begging for more."
"Shut up, Bull."
"Bull?" I wiggled my eyebrows.
"Oh yeah, he is in more ways than just his endowment. He's a Taurus too."
I laughed. "Good thing I've asked him to help with finances then. No one is better than a Taurus at handling money."
I saw Andrew's truck pull into the slot beside my SUV. He got out and looked around. I had done it again. It wasn't the best way to handle this stuff. I should have talked to him about the idea. Was I feeling guilty for going behind his back? Yeah. I just wanted what was best for him. I wanted him happy. Sometimes he just didn't seem to know what those things were. Hello, Mother Theresa, nice to know you were still with me.
"I'll be right back."
I stepped out into the parking lot, wiped my now sweating hands on my jeans, and met him near the truck. "How'd it go?"
Andrew pulled me into a hug, pressed his lips into my hair and took a slow, deep breath. If I hadn't known any better, I'd have thought he was trembling. "It was a fucking garbage dump. The equipment we retired at the gym was in better shape than that place." He let me go, stroking my arm before he eyed the mostly empty storefronts. "You said there was a gym here I should check out."
I grinned. "Well, sort of."
"Sort of?" He looked over at Tyron's Mercedes. "What are the guys doing here?"
"Plotting your eminent demise. They want to take me home and make me their houseboy. We're just trying to figure out how to dispose of that hot body of yours." I rolled my eyes. "Come on, Andrew. I promise this will only hurt a little."
"Joy." His tone was flat but he grinned.
He followed me in and looked about. Limited focus training gyms were the up and coming thing. At least, that is what his training magazines talked about. Yeah, I'd started reading some of his magazines. He certainly didn't spend much time with them. I'd organized them, shelved them, and found some of them had some good articles on starting your own facilities.
"Ok, what is this I hear about you guys plotting to kidnap my boyfriend?"
Tyron grinned. "Well, we thought if we gangbanged you, you'd be willing to do just about anything by the fifth or sixth time we'd fucked the cum out of you."
Andrew looked defiantly at Tyron, but there was a curl to his sips that was all mirth. "You missed your chance, Tyron. Lee wanted you all to himself. You'll never know what you missed."
Tyron laughed. "So I've heard. I can live with it if you can."
Andrew draped his arm across my shoulder. "Yeah, I can." He looked about again. "Ok, now I really want to know why we're in a vacant storefront in the same strip as Don's martial art's school."
All eyes fell on me, and I started to sweat. "Well, I guess I've been meddling again." I could tell by the look he gave me that we'd be talking about this when we got home. "I thought it was time you got out from under someone else's thumb."
Andrew looked nonplused. His arm slipped off my shoulders as he looked at the place again, really taking it in. "Kind of small for a full gym."
"A training gym. Only people who can workout here would be our training clients." Lee looked about. "Don't need as much stuff, or as many duplicate machines."
Andrew laughed. "And who will be bankrolling this? We need equipment, supplies, and who knows what else."
"I would." I said in unison with Tyron.
Andrew's eyes narrowed. "I'm not a charity case."
Tyron didn't even blink. "Who said anything about charity? My boyfriend wants his own business and is smart enough to know he'll need a partner in it as good as he is. You're available; one of the best, and according to Taylor the two of you can come up with half of the initial investment to get this off the ground. This is all business, Andrew. I give my charity donations to Salvation Army and Ronald McDonald House. Sorry, but you don't get any."
Oh boy. This was going to be interesting no matter how it turned out.
***** Andrew *****
My own place? The idea was a dream, a fantasy, and nothing more. Lee and I had bullshitted about it many times when things were slow at the gym. But now, could it come true? If I weren't so shaken by my morning interview, I'd have jumped on it immediately. After Tyron's comments about charity, I turned to Taylor and cupped his face with my hand. "Let me look around a bit, okay?"
Taylor pressed up, kissed me briefly, and nodded. "Take your time."
I walked around the space, imagining all that it could become. The space was small, but not cramped. There would need to be an office and co-ed locker facilities. It would be very personal and one on one. I checked out the layout for plumbing and found that it would be adequate. Lee joined me near the back door.
"Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?"
I turned to face him, he had the same boyish wonder on his face that I knew I had. "Yeah, it does."
"Are you going to go for it?"
That was the rub, wasn't it? I had some money in savings, and the house was paid for in full. I could always mortgage it. Taylor said he had some financing options available. Money wouldn't be a problem. "I'm kinda overwhelmed right now. So much has happened so fast. I need a few days to think on it."
"Don't think too hard."
I chuckled at that. "I won't. But Taylor and I have some serious discussing to do."
Lee looked concerned. "Don't be hard on him. He really only wanted you to have this."
"It isn't that. I'd always wanted this to happen, I just need to make sure that I... we can step up to the plate equally."
His smile was warm as he wrapped his arm over my shoulder. "You've come a long way Andrew. It makes me damn proud to call you a friend."
His words were so heartfelt, that they almost hurt. I swallowed hard. "Thanks Lee. Thanks for not giving up on me."
"I like lost causes," he teased, "they're full of challenges."
We had made our way back to Tyron and Taylor. I walked up to Tyron and put out my hand. His was one more fence I needed to mend. He took it . "Thanks for the pep talk. I needed it." The man actually grinned at me. "But I need a couple of days to talk it over with Taylor. Give me until Monday?"
"Sure. Take your time. But not too long."
"I won't, I promise." I said the last while looking right into Taylor's eyes.
When we left, Taylor asked if I wanted lunch. The truth was, after nearly losing breakfast, I wasn't in the mood to try and put anything more in there yet. The drive home was silent as I stared ahead and saw nothing. Taylor had fidgeted before getting into his SUV and followed. The talk had to wait till we got home.
Walking into the house, Taylor tried to speak to me, but my mind couldn't engage in conversation. Thoughts, dreams, snippets of old conversations, memories of my life before Taylor all danced in my head. He trembled as I cupped his face between my hands. I lowered my mouth to his and kissed him tenderly, sweetly, lovingly.
I pulled back to stare into his eyes. The worried look he gave me made me realize that he thought I was angry with him. Far from it. The man had saved me from living a nightmare, made me see how wrong my life had become, and made my every wish for love come true. But, the idea of exacting a little revenge was very sweet.
I took his hand in mine and led him upstairs to the bedroom. Once there, I pulled off my shirt and dropped my slacks, standing before Taylor in my boxer briefs and socks. I knelt before him, untying his shoes, slipping them and his socks off before shucking my own. I stood before him and undid his shirt, stripping him down to the briefs he always wore. "What are you doing Andrew?"
I kissed him quiet before pulling his underwear off him. Picking him up in my arms, I twisted around and threw him on the bed so he bounced then settled in the dead center of it. "I'm seducing you, Taylor."
Looking at my man's hardening cock had me plumping up even more. I moved my hand down and cupped my straining cock in the black cotton fabric, pulling it around the shaft and stroking myself under the material. "See how hard I am for you? See how much I want you?"
I pulled my underwear off, pulling my cock up towards my belly and with a finger, took a dip into the drooling precum at the tip. "See how much I need you?"
I walked to the bed, straddling his thighs with my knees. I took my sticky finger and rubbed it over his lips, watching with excitement as he licked his lips after I'd taken my hand away. My hips rested on his, his cock pressing hard under my balls. I rocked on him gently and watched as he arched his back. With a devilish grin, I lowered and took his nipple between my teeth. I shifted my hips restlessly until Taylor was pressed at my opening. I could feel his slick need drooling against me. I worked him, torturing his nipple and moving my ass over his shaft, letting him slick me with his excitement. I shifted to his other nipple and licked it, then suckled it into my mouth and bit hard. Taylor cried out and slammed his hips up, pushing past my ring. The moment he was in he came hard, flooding me. His body continued to shake and shudder as I slid down the length of him, feeling him against my prostate. He wasn't going soft. Not now. Not today. I needed him. Needed him so fucking much. God damn, I loved this man.
I groaned before taking his hands in mine and pushing them over his head. I lowered to his mouth and kissed him hard. Our tongues dueled as I rocked my hips an inch or so back and forth a few times, feeling Taylor shudder from his still oversensitive cock. "I love you Taylor."
His words were hoarse, his eyes clouded. "I love you, too." He arched his back and moaned loud. "God, Andrew, what are you doing?"
"I'm torturing you. I'm driving you insane."
I kept the pace slow, grinding my pelvis against his, barely making any motion other than to grind his cock against my prostate and aggravate the hell out of his cock head. It was feeling so good, so wonderful. I was so fucking hard and there was a slimy trail of my excitement coating all over Taylor's belly. "You feel so good inside me. I want to keep you there all the time. Fuck!"
Taylor kept trying to pull his arms free, but I wouldn't let them go. He kept trying to buck up into me, squirm his body, and give himself some room to thrust. But this was too good. I was on edge; he was turned on to the point of pain. I pushed him down. I used my superior weight and strength to keep him in place. The look on his face was frustrated and not fearful.
"Andrew, please... I need... I need."
"I know what you need. I'm going to give it to you. Just not yet." I moved harder against his hips, but still didn't move up or down on him, just ground against him. "Fuck, this feels so fucking good."
When Taylor tried to free his hands again, I pushed him back down and stared in his eyes. I needed the control. I needed it my way. Even if I wasn't the one doing the fucking, I needed to be the top. "Don't fucking move!"
He opened his eyes wide and stared at me. We held the gaze, silent, breathing with need. The love, acceptance and devotion I saw in his eyes tore at me. He relaxed under me, his resistance melting away as he nodded. "I won't. I promise." I ground myself against him. He closed his eyes, biting his lower lip, and moaned. "Do me, Andrew. I'll be whatever you need."
I stared down into his eyes as he opened them. Clenching my jaw I began to move faster, harder, grinding him against my button. I leaned back, rubbing him harder against me as I unlocked my hands from his wrists and then reached back for his ankles. My cock strained towards the ceiling, my hips grinding so fast. I knew I'd be sore tomorrow. So close, so fucking close. "Christ, baby. What you do to me. Oh fuuuuck!" Getting pounded was a way to be blown, but slow, constant, rubbing could take a man places no heavy fucking could take him.
I came so hard it hurt. My body was a taut arch, folded back from the knees, and my palms press into his shins. I kept pumping long ropes of cum all over the place as I cried out Taylor's name. When it was finally over, I wasn't sure I could move. I finally pushed myself forward, nearly collapsing before I could get my hands to the mattress and looked down at Taylor. He had a stunned expression on his face, and a good heavy dose of cum from chin to forehead. I smiled, exhausted, as I fell forward and kissed him.
"I love you Taylor. That was... amazing."
His voice was strained. "Yeah. I've never seen anything like it." He wiggled his hips and I whimpered. "Andrew... I'm dyin' here."
I sat up and looked at him. "Shit, I'm sorry. Let's see what we can do for you."
I started moving hard, up and down on him, giving him exactly what he needed. Three or four heavy bounces and Taylor grabbed my hips and arched into me as he scalded my insides with his second blast.
Much later, cuddled after a long shower, we started to talk. Taylor was lying fully on top of me, his fingers trailing through my chest hair, pensive. "I think it's time we talked Taylor."
He nodded, doubt dwindling his contented smile. "I'm sorry I didn't discuss it with you first."
I sighed heavily. "I'm not angry. I was so damn shocked I couldn't say anything."
He looked up at me, shifting off me so he could lie against me, but still see my face. "I thought you'd be furious because I'd gone behind your back. Again."
"Was I angry then?"
"Taylor," I sighed. His name was like a mantra for me. "I keep forgetting that I don't have to face everything alone. I have friends and family." I smiled, pulling him up and kissing his forehead. "I have you." His smile came back. Mine faltered. "Forgive me for being pig headed?"
His chuckle was warmer and more sure than I expected. "You've had twenty-eight years of having to go it alone. I can't expect everything to change in two months."
"Thank you." I kissed him, nothing to start passion, but just because. "Now, how in the hell do you propose we raise half the starting costs?"
I listened as Taylor rather animatedly told me how he could mortgage his condo, how renting it out would cover the mortgage cost, and he'd still have an investment. "...so as you can see, it isn't much of a risk."
"Taylor, it's a big risk. There's no guarantee that we'll make it."
He kissed me soundly. "I have faith in you."
"Have I been wrong yet?" He eyed me, raising an eyebrow for emphasis. Damn him for playing a trump card. I sighed, knowing I'd give in, but feeling like a selfish prick for doing it. "I don't want to fail you."
I actually saw the tears form in his eyes. "You won't. You haven't. You never will."
I closed my eyes, remembering all my dreams about my own place. So close. All I had to do was reach out my hand and trust in Taylor. No, trusting him wasn't the problem. I had to trust myself. Could I do it? I opened my eyes, seeing love and understanding there. With Taylor's help, I knew I could. "Okay. We'll call Tyron and Lee tomorrow."
I spent the rest of the night telling Taylor every single idea I had, and I know I bored him to tears, because he yawned several times. At least that's what I thought, until I saw the clock. It was two in the morning. I cuddled against him, pulling him tightly to me, and forced myself to go to sleep. We had a lot of work ahead of us.
***** Taylor *****
Looking around the training studio while I finished some more of the paperwork for equipment leases, I couldn't believe it had come so far so fast. A good third of the equipment was already in place and shipments came in almost daily. Andrew and Lee had argued more than a few times over the specific equipment needs, but it never got heated or personal. They would have been great on a debate team. As soon as the lease was signed, I'd spent every afternoon for the past two weeks either painting, working on paperwork, shopping or waiting for deliveries. Thank God it was summer and I only worked half days at the school.
The sound of the front door opening drew my attention back to the present. A handsome man, maybe six-four, with blond hair and a close trimmed beard stepped into the studio. I smiled and set the papers down. "May I help you?"
"I'm looking for Andrew Jackson?" Though he hid it well, I could tell he was nervous.
"He's running an errand, but he'll be back shortly." Stepping around the desk, I put out my hand. "I'm Taylor."
The man shook my hand, gripping firm enough that proved we were both men but he wasn't competing. That was a nice change. "Matthew." He looked about while we shook. "I'd heard that Andrew was opening a place of his own. I wanted to make sure he was alright."
I blinked as he let go of my hand. "Why wouldn't he be?"
Matthew shrugged. "News got back to me that Alex was gloating about fucking Andrew for what he'd done."
My heart sank. This guy knew Alex. "Yeah, well, there wasn't any fucking involved."
Matthew looked at me. I think the anger in my voice surprised him. "I'm not surprised. Alex wouldn't have been a challenge for him. Andrew never went for the easy lays." He must have seen my confusion. "I'm sorry, I guess I should explain. I'm Alex's ex."
God, was I living on the set of "Gays of our Lives"? If this wasn't a soap opera, nothing was. "I'm Andrew's present, nice to meet you." I slid back around the receptionist desk to get some distance. The guy made me uncomfortable. It wasn't that I didn't believe him. I did believe him. I got the feeling I was about to learn more details of Andrew's past. I knew I could handle it. It wouldn't be anything new, but I really had no desire to know all the things he'd done in full color.
"Shit, I'm sorry. I guess I should go." Matthew turned for the door.
"Would you like something to drink?" He blinked, surprised at my attempt to keep him there. I smiled. "I know all about Andrew's past. Not in fuck-by-fuck detail, but he hasn't lied about it."
Matthew exhaled. "What have you got?"
Moving to the drink case that had just been installed the day before, I studied the selection. "Energy drinks, several juices, water, and a couple protein drinks."
I pulled out two and mentally noted to mark them off the inventory. "Why were you worried about what Alex had done?"
Cracking the top of the bottle, Matthew took a swig and shrugged. "He blamed Andrew for 'ruining our relationship'." Matthew grinned. "Or specifically, for ruining me."
I laughed. "You look none the worse for wear."
Matthew nodded. "Let's say that one night with your man changed my outlook and that change didn't bode well for Alex's and my long term prospects." At my confused expression, he shrugged again, embarrassed. "Before Andrew I'd been a consummate top. No man was ever going to get my ass."
I grinned. That seemed to have been Andrew's specialty; he picked 'difficult cherries'. The guys may not have been virgins, but what they all appeared to have in common, according to Andrew and Lee's accounts, was that they had never been fucked before Andrew. I laughed as Matthew shifted uneasily. "I think if Andrew had any super powers it would be to sniff out 'cherries'."
Matthew smiled, relaxing before taking another swig. "Yeah, I guess he would." He drank down the last of his water and looked about for a trashcan. We didn't have any.
"Just let me have it, I knew I forgot to get something at Office Depot." I added another thing to my never ending, honey-do-list.
Matthew sighed. "Alex couldn't see that it wasn't Andrew's fault. Sure, sexually he made me want more than what we had." When I cocked my head he grinned. "Alex is a total bottom. He has never and vows he will never top. He likes to be fucked and is one hell of a bottom." Matthew shook his head. "Put simply, he wouldn't try and I realized that though I loved to fuck, I wanted more than a one sided relationship." His smile was resigned. "It was at that point I started noticing more inequities in our relationshp than just in bed. Alex couldn't see them. All he would do was insist that it had all been fine until Andrew." Laughing, he leaned against the wall. "That's bullshit, of course. I wouldn't have been hunting for a hot fuck, though I'd been planning on claiming ass not getting claimed, if everything had been okay. It just took a major eye opener to make me see where the problems were."
I flinched. I hadn't really thought about the fact that I couldn't bottom for Andrew in quite a while. All sex, any sex with him, was new to me. It wasn't new for Andrew. The emotions were new, the life changes were new, but the sex wasn't. Would he become dissatisfied once the newness wore off? "Yeah, sometimes it takes something severe to shake you out of your old patterns."
Matthew nodded in agreement. "Anyway, I'd just come by to say I was sorry and ask if there was anything I could do."
"Sorry about what?" I turned to see Andrew leaning against the back wall. He must have come in through the delivery door. Matthew looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
"That his ex, Alex, is a total fuck up and decided to get back at you for things that had nothing to do with you," I said, crossing the room to get to my man. At that moment I couldn't help but slide my arm around his waste and slip under his arm. I had the sudden need to confirm he was mine.
Andrew squeezed my shoulder as he pushed away from the wall. "Alex is your ex?"
Matthew nodded. "Yeah, and good riddance."
"What can I do for you Matt?" Andrew's voice wasn't cold, but he wasn't putting up with any shit either.
"I was hoping I could just say I'm sorry and thanks. I know it's weird, but I think I opened my eyes after we..."
"Fucked," I smiled. I was still surprised how it didn't bother me. I guessed when you started out knowing, having the "old fucks" showing up wasn't as hard.
"Anyway," Matthew looked around as he changed the subject, "looks like this is going to be a great place."
Andrew laughed. "Wouldn't happen to be looking for some training would you?"
I smiled, squeezing my man. "Another week and the guys will be open for business."
Matthew smiled. "Actually, yeah. Alex has been haunting the gym we used to belong to together. I think something more private would be a good change."
I pulled out of Andrew's hold and headed back to the desk. "I'll let you two talk that over. I'll have the paperwork up at the desk if you decide to join." I hoped he'd join. Though Lee had gotten verbal commitments from several of his and Andrew's old clients, we still didn't have a single actual contract.
Andrew sold him a six-month training package, signed and sealed before Matthew got out the door. He smiled at me as he dropped the paperwork on the desk. "You're my good luck charm, you know that?"
I pressed up, brushing my lips against his. "Well, I have been told I resemble a rabbit, but I'm not giving you my foot."
Andrew chuckled, chewing on my lower lip. "I can think of other things I'd rather have you give me."
Though Matthew's words came back for a moment, I pushed them aside and smiled. "You know, we still haven't christened the studio yet."
Andrew wiggled his eyebrows before stepping over to the front door and locking it. "Good thing the glass is tinted to be one way viewable."
I was already hard. I'd worry about the inequity of it all later. I had a man to breed.
***** Andrew *****
The night before the opening day, I hardly slept a wink. The excitement of my own place plus a heavy dose of worry made sleep a fond but elusive memory. The grand opening party the night before had seemed like a cakewalk. That was showmanship. It was easy, because all my friends and family were there. But the first day, that was when I had to really prove I could do it. Compared to the openning party, I felt like I was walking into the seventh circle of hell.
As I fixed a pot of coffee, making sure Taylor had plenty for when he got up, I remembered all the prep work we'd put into the opening night. The gym was open; there were streamers and signs, membership forms, plus a few well-chosen people working out on all the equipment to give everyone an idea of what we could do. They were all people either Lee or I had worked with in the past, so they could honestly testify to our stuff.
While I sipped my coffee I remembered back to the first week. We still couldn't come up with a name for our place. We had our business licenses, but no name. Lee and I sat in our new space, bandying around names for what felt like forever.
"I think Lee & Andrew's Gym is a cop out."
Lee glared at me. "None of the other names have worked."
I ran my fingers through my hair, frustrated. "Yeah, I know. And it is better than The Perfect Pec. I don't know what the hell I was thinking."
Lee chuckled. "We were tired, and I'd had one too many margaritas."
"I didn't drink. What excuse did I have?"
"None I guess." Lee looked around the place, smiling at the unpainted walls, the drop cloths, brushes, buckets and all. That weekend we were painting. "This place needs a great name."
We painted all weekend. Ate, slept and breathed the business, and by Monday we were no closer to a name than we'd been the Friday before. We spent most of the day dealing with the contractor and making lists of everything we needed but names. Sebastian walked in after class, sweaty but with a big smile. He was great at detail work and was more than willing to help us with paint touchups. Lee and I had dinged the wall pretty good carrying in some used equipment we'd found for a bargain. "Sorry I'm late guys. So, did you decide what to call it yet?"
Lee and I both rolled our eyes and answered together, "No."
Sebastian peeled off his shirt and grabbed the paint cans from the back room and a brush. He started painting while Lee and I argued.
"Come on Lee. The name sucks and you know it."
Lee rolled back and stared at the ceiling. "This is a dream. We set goals and help people achieve them. Damn it. Everything else seemed to just fall into place."
"I know, Ló"
Seb looked back at us, shrugging, "Why not call it Goals & Dreams?"
Lee and I stared at each other while Seb went back to his painting. I felt the grin spread across my face. Lee's smile was as big and goofy as mine. We stood and stalked over to Seb who took notice of us and stood, dropping his brush back into the paint. "What? What did I do?"
We gathered him up in a hug. "God damn! If you weren't taken, I'd kiss you." What the hell I figured. I leaned down and gave Seb a big, smacking kiss. "Thanks."
Lee kissed him too. "Damn. That was perfect. Why didn't we think of it?"
Seb was about three shades of red. "Because you were too wrapped up in it?"
We both laughed and I could only agree. "Lee, if you can take in the DBA forms tomorrow and update the license, I'll get to the printer and get the cards and fliers started."
If only I had known that that was the easy part. As I canvassed the area, spreading the fliers, I met a lot of the local business owners, made friends with our neighbors, and probably bugged the hell out of Jackson, offering him a discount for his students if they'd take some of our fliers out to the college and high schools.
Mom, Taylor and I spent hours going over what to serve at the opening. It was a gym for Christ's sake. Mom wanted manly, hearty food. "I don't see why you can't have meatballs, cheeses, sandwiches, sodas, things like that."
"Grace, this is a gym. We need to serve protein shakes and tofu." Taylor had said it enough times.
My head was throbbing. "Stop it! Jesus. It's only food. This shouldn't be so hard."
Taylor rolled his eyes. "Andrew, this is important. The menu needs to be just right."
Mom nodded her agreement. "Damn straight."
"At least you can agree on something." I muttered it beneath my breath, but Mom smacked the back of my head and Taylor gave me that look that said I'd be sleeping on the couch, or at least not getting any sex tonight.
"Okay, okay. Why don't we offer some of both? No one eats perfect all the time. You can still have the bad, as long as you balance it with the good." Why couldn't they just compromise. It would be so bad. "We should make some classics, but make them healthy. Show people you can still eat, but have it taste good."
Mom perked up. "You don't mean tofu meatballs do you?"
"Why not? Think about it, if we can show these people that you can make some of this crap taste good, you can still eat pretty healthy."
Taylor and Mom put their heads together, sparked on another round of ideas, talking about healthy alfredo sauce, fat free cheeses, low carb dishes, and other such foods. Thank God Taylor cooked. I could do breakfast. I loved making breakfast, but the rest; I was lucky I didn't starve. If it hadn't been for Mom, well, I'm sure I would have. Her care packages were lifesavers.
After a few minutes of the "masters" work, they turned to me with a list of items. I read it over, liking what I saw. Vegetables, lots of fresh, crispy ones, tofu meatballs in a reduced calorie and fat pare down from Mom's recipe, protein smoothies made with fresh fruit and fruit juice, bottled water, fresh fruit with an orange juice and yogurt dip, low fat cheese and meat trays with low carb breads. After reading it all, my stomach rumbled. "Sounds good guys."
I stood and walked into the kitchen and grabbed a pint of Ben & Jerry's. As I took my first bite, Mom and Taylor looked at me funny. "What?"
Taylor only chuckled, but Mom rolled her eyes. "Why are we doing this when you eat that? What's the point?"
Looking down at the ice cream, which no longer tasted as creamy and heavenly as it once had, I looked back at her. "I can cheat."
Mom couldn't stop the snort before she started laughing. "Got any more to share?"
After that, the rest went by so damn fast; I was surprised we even slept. Thank God Taylor helped out so much. The night before our open house he spent doing last minute touches, carting food from Mom's and our house, dusting, vacuuming, everything. Watching that man push a vacuum was becoming one of my turn ons. It made his ass flex invitingly. Later, I'd have to ask him to do it naked. Okay, at least stripped down to his underwear.
For the open house we decided to open the doors at noon, give the curious a chance to stop by on their lunch hour, and then we'd have a slow spell before the build of momentum as people got off work. From what Tyron had promised, I knew that several people from his office would be there. Don had spread the word at the place he worked at. Jackson's studentsl were pulling in the college crowd. Taylor was still skirting the issue, offering some fliers at the school, but I knew we couldn't be overly open about our relationship. Matthew had been great. He'd gone to Charlotte's place and dropped off some fliers. Brash wasn't a strong enough word to describe Matt. He even talked to some of the members before he'd stopped his membership. Not that we'd take all of Charlotte's business, but Lee and I both knew that we'd get some of it.
Tyron rushed to be on time for the opening. He barely did more than wave as he ran into the back room to change out of his crisp suit and throw on some exercise clothes. Taylor did the same, but without the rush. It gave us a wide range of body types, proving that the big and meaty people weren't the only ones who could work out and achieve a goal. Lee and I had Sebastian help out behind the counter and made Don work out too. Don's control around a half-naked Seb was very questionable. Taylor was open with Becca, and even though we hadn't worked out with her, she agreed to be our female example. I think she just wanted to spend time around a bunch of nervous gay men.
I had spent a few hours trying to figure out what to wear. Did I go almost formal, or did I wear what I normally wore? The big question, to be sure. After an early morning at Goals & Dreams, Taylor and I had gone home so we could shower. I stood in front of my closet, buck-naked. Taylor came up behind me, wrapping his arms around me. "Don't be so nervous."
"Fuck. What do I wear?" I rolled my eyes. My self-consciousness was ridiculous. "And don't make any cracks about how faggy that sounded."
Taylor started laughing, having to sit on the bed to keep from falling down. "Oh Andrew. You nut!"
Nut? I growled low and spun around, seeing my man wearing only his briefs. "Them's fightin' words."
I pounced on him, kissing him feverishly, pushing him into the mattress. When he whimpered into my mouth, I pulled back to see his face, and caught a glance at the time on the bedside clock. "Fuck! We don't have time." I grinned down at him. "Later?"
"That's a promise."
I decided on some jeans and a tank top with a dressier shirt over it that I left unbuttoned. That way, I could easily slip it off and get down and dirty with the equipment.
We had several curious shop owners stop by at lunch, one or two college kids, but nothing memorable. Our first guest for the evening was an older man, perhaps in his late fifties. He walked in with a cane and looked around. Lee came out from the office with a smile, hand already extended.
"Hi, I'm Lee. Welcome to Goals & Dreams."
"Buck Jacobson." "Do you have any questions, Mr. Jacobson?"
Buck smiled wistfully at Becca jogging on the treadmill. "I'd love to not need this cane anymore."
I walked up to him. "Why do you need it?"
He looked up at me; being six-four causes that a lot. "I had my hip replaced a few years ago."
"Most hip replacements allow better motion, not less."
"Right you are. Only I had my hip replaced after a car accident. The hamstring was torn and hasn't mended right."
I knelt down. "Do you mind if I take a look?"
When he nodded, I placed my hand against his muscle, feeling how they knotted about halfway along his leg. "Do you get leg cramps?"
I switched to his other leg, and noticed that there wasn't too much over compensation. "I think we can help you with this."
Buck looked back and forth from Lee and I. "How?"
"Well... it's gonna hurt like hell. I can't avoid that. But we can at least give you some more mobility, less of the cramping after a bit. The muscle was torn pretty bad, but it isn't useless. Didn't you get any PT?"
Buck scoffed, a brief, quick snort. "The guy who hit me didn't have insurance, and mine only paid until I could walk."
I shook my head. Insurance was a great thing, when it did what it's supposed to. "How much time can you put into it?"
I smiled at him; feeling that great warm feeling I always get when I know I can help someone, not just make him or her look better. "If you'd like to sign up, we'll get a schedule for you."
I'd like to say that of the dozens of people who came in, that we signed them all up. We ended up with seventeen new clients. Some people came in out of curiosity. Others came looking for something that we didn't offer. A couple of guys, who knew that Lee and I were gay, were looking for a new cruising spot. They left quickly. Hell, a couple of people only showed up for the food. But with Tyron and Taylor, Becca and Don working out, showing people what could be done, especially when Tyron explained that he wasn't a triathelete or a martial arts instructor, but just a regular businessman looking out for his body, it helped.
A few days later I set out before the sun rose, driving to my place. After parking in the back and unlocking the back door, I shut my eyes and breathed deeply. Plasterboard, new carpet, and fresh paint filled my nostrils, but it was starting to fade, sweat and disinfectant taking over. I flipped on the lights and stared at my dream. The back wall was painted a deep blue, almost electric in its brightness. Mirrors made up the opposite wall, the back of which was the office and reception area. The carpeting was a kaleidoscope of squares in deep burgundy red, gold, rust, and muted blue. The other walls were a softer, but no less bold shade of gold and rust respectively. I didn't pick the colors, Don had, but they added a bold, bright, almost powerful feel to the room.
When the customer came into the place, the double doors would open to a reception desk that was perpendicular to the door. The administrative office door was next to the desk. A cooler filled with juices, protein drinks, and bottled water stood behind the back half-wall of the reception desk. The rest of the front wall was all windows that let in natural light to offset the harsher but slightly muted fluorescent bulbs overhead. To the right of the back door were two bathrooms that served as both showers and changing rooms. It felt odd not to have full shower rooms, whirlpools and saunas, but we weren't looking for large numbers of clients, just a few dedicated, honest people looking to set goals and discover them.
Along the mirrored walls were a couple racks of dumbbells, two adjustable benches; a squat & barbell cage with free weight stands on both sides of it, and then the mats. In front of the tinted windows were the cardio workout equipment, treadmills, stationary bikes, stair climbers and a rowing apparatus. In the nook between the back door and the jutting out bathrooms was a fully loaded nautilus machine. Between the back door on the left and the far wall was the leg press. Near the center of the room was the pull station and cable stand. There was a bit of spare space for storage and if necessary could be used if we wanted to expand. Massage was an idea we thought about, but Lee and I didn't really know one we could trust. We knew of several good ones, but since we couldn't guarantee the hours, we thought it best to hold off for now.
Because we didn't know exactly when our hours of operation should be, Lee and I decided to be flexible. By the end of our first week, we had our schedule pretty much set up. We would open at 6 three weekdays a week, stay open until 9 three days a week and be closed on Sundays. Today was one of our open at 6 days. Lee showed up a few minutes after I did. Our first client was scheduled for six. "Glad you could join me."
"Fuck you too sweetheart."
"Not anymore, Lee." I walked up and hugged him, no longer shocked at how easily I could bring myself to do it.
At five minutes to six, we unlocked the front doors. Our first client of the day, Amanda Sampson came in with a large satchel over her shoulder, and a baby carrier slung over her wrist. I ran to help her. She was a woman in her mid-thirties who had had two children right out of college, and then she and her husband had had a surprise. She was working with us to try and shed the eighty pounds she'd gained while pregnant. I took her shoulder bag from her and got a smile for my efforts. "Sorry, guys. My mother-in-law has the flu, but I didn't want to stop now that I got started." She looked flustered and hurried. Hell. I wasn't comfortable around babies, but he was asleep at least. "Micah won't be a problem, I promise."
Yeah. Right. Since it was Lee's client, I went into the office and signed a few pieces of paperwork and a couple of checks, and then I heard the baby cry. We kept some music going all the time, something soft and muted but we could change it to acid pumping techno, depending on the client's mood. "Andrew? Could you come out here?"
Shit. I went out to the floor and saw Lee and Amanda working through some leg presses. I knew what he wanted, Lee pointed at the baby carrier. Shit. I knelt down by the carrier and rocked it back and forth a bit. The little guy stared at me with big eyes for a second before scrunching up his face and screaming. "Umm... what's wrong with him?"
Amanda laughed and almost lost a rep. "Nothing... he's just needy and wants to be held."
Held? Shit! Fuck. No way. After a few more seconds of his bellowing, I reached out tentatively and scooped him up. Something I had read said that his head needed support. Hell, he fit in my two palms. I didn't want to break him. The little guy was still squawking in my hands. I sat flat on my butt, holding him out, afraid to let him get too close. Lee laughed.
"You have to hold him close. He wants to be held. He needs to feel your body heat."
Was he nuts? I looked over at Lee and Amanda; they were both trying not to laugh. Okay, so I probably looked pretty panicked, but still. I lifted the little guy against my chest, cradling his head so that he rested against my shoulder. Almost immediately, he quieted down and snuggled against me. His little hands burrowed against the wall of my chest and his face rubbed into my chest hair. I kept one hand against his head and the other cradled his butt. This wasn't so bad. Little guy was warm and soft and his hair smelled good, like baby powder and something sweet. I looked up at the two so-called adults with a big grin on my face.
"First time you ever held a baby?"
"Yeah. That obvious?"
Amanda chuckled. "Yeah. But it's still a sexy sight."
I felt my cheeks redden. "What?"
"Nothing finer than a good lookin' man holding a baby."
Lee nodded in agreement then laughed. "You look like a natural father if I ever saw one."
I rolled my eyes. "Like you'd know."
Lee put up his hands in surrender. "I know. But it still looks good on you."
They went back to their workout while I held the little cuss in my arms. After a while, I stopped flinching with each burble of sound or twitchy fidget and just held the little guy while he slept. When Amanda was done and heading into one of the shower rooms, the little guy woke up and looked up at me, blowing bubbles and grinning. Lee and I sat there, making silly faces at Micah until he laughed. It was then that I realized that he had a clump of chest hair in his little fist. He kept pulling on it, making me wince. Then he saw his mama come out and practically threw himself out of my arms, taking a handful of hair with him. I couldn't help it and cried out.
Amanda came up to us, smiling. "It happens to my husband all the time. Let me help." She undid the little fingers until he had let go of my chest before scooping Micah up into her arms. She leaned down and kissed my cheek before placing Micah back into his carrier then picked up the rest of her things and left. Lee was grinning at me as I watched the two of them leave. That had been nice. Really nice.
"Andrew, my friend, you've come a long way."
I spun to him. "What do you mean?"
He hesitated for a moment as if weighing his words. Not so much to select the right ones, but to determine how pissed I'd be by them. "You've let the walls come down. You never would have held a baby, let alone admit that you didn't know what you were doing."
His words were true, but that didn't alleviate the sting of them. I tried to play it off as if it didn't matter, but when I spoke, I couldn't keep the bravado up. "I didn't really like myself when I was like that. But it was all I knew."
Lee stepped closer to me, wrapping his arm around me. "I know. Trust me, I know. I was there for a while too. Welcome to the real world kid."
Lee wasn't that much older than me. He was thirty-four. "Okay, you old fart. Who's next?"