The usual disclaimers apply. If for some legal reason you shouldn't read this...don't.
A special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing. Finally, a shout-out to Trab for the final tweaks to get the story 'just right.'
Comments are appreciated at email@example.com.
Chapter 2, JUST ANOTHER EVENING
There were just enough aches in his abs and obliques to signal that Jeremy had pushed himself to a satisfying completion in his workout. 'Tomorrow will definitely be a legs day,' he decided as he saw some of the guys who only worked on their upper body - their legs looked scrawny and unbalanced. There was just enough time to take a quick shower, shave and dress for his job at the gym's front desk. At this point in his soon-to-be adult life, he got by with putting a razor to his sparse beard only a couple of days a week...usually before work.
Several regulars nodded as he returned his hand weights to the rack. A few made very brief comments. Stuff like "How they hanging?", "How's school?", "Your biceps are really pumped", "Getting any?" Jock throwaway lines. Jeremy had worked out a series of pat answers that would satisfy the politeness police without any further dialogue. The people he really joked around with were either friends from high school or a select group of guys he had met at the gym and with whom he had developed a good rapport.
These were buddies who he had learned to trust. They would trade confidences and share gossip while spotting for each other while lifting or working on the arms in front of the mirrors. Most were single: students in high school or college and men just starting out in their careers. Jeremy observed that the married guys, especially the ones who had children, took a more serious, measured approach to their life and tended to be more philosophical. In this group, he looked to one or two as 'older brothers' to whom he could turn for advice that only another man could provide.
"Hey, Jer, you wanna get together with me and a few other guys for a movie an' a pizza this Saturday?"
Without looking, Jeremy knew that it was his childhood friend, Robert Stein. Only a few very old friends called him 'Jer': he had made it known years ago that he preferred his full name. The same with Robert...but he was still 'Bobby' to a few close friends, Jeremy included. It was something from their past they reserved for each other. They had dropped the Can and Shroom nicknames years ago. 'Although the names still apply...very well,' Jeremy thought with a smile. 'Even more so.'
"I should have enough time to get my homework done and I'm not seeing anyone right now, so you're on, my man." Jeremy turned to his school pal - tight since second grade - and added with a smile, "What's up with Rachael?" Robert's girl, Rachael, was another friend from grade school.
"She's got some family stuff going on. Her sisters are dragging her along to buy Christmas gifts for the folks. An' I don't know if this thing is going to go on much further between the two of us. I'm going to have a talk with her this week and figure out how to cut loose. We've got some Christmas parties to go to an' I don't' want to leave her high and dry."
"Bud, you're almost as bad as me on changing gals." He squeezed Robert's firm arm and thought, 'Bobby is really taking care of himself.' The two friends were both serious about their workouts...had been since their after school get-togethers had begun four years earlier. Robert, who leveled off a couple of inches shorter than Jeremy, looked a little older because of his dark hair. It had grown with more abundance...especially on his well-defined chest and the accentuated trail from his stomach, downward. And at this late afternoon hour, Robert had a 'five o'clock shadow' beard that Jeremy judged a mature, sexy look.
"Thank God it's time to move on to college. We've run out of women in high school," Robert replied with a grin and wink. Both guys were planning on attending neighboring DePaul University in the fall. Another thing the two had in common were credible SAT's and grade point averages in the top 5% of their class.
"But first let's get through Christmas break and the final semester." Jeremy returned the grin and rolled his eyes.
"Gottcha. And first on the list is the flick this weekend."
"Since it's just the guys, let's go see one of the films that Leo is in. Or, McConaughey." Like most young males, anything that featured Leonardo DiCaprio, Toby McGuire, Mark Wahlberg, Matthew McConaughey or Matt Damon was 'must see' on the priority list when it wasn't a date night. Jeremy stopped at the entrance to the locker room and said, "It's only Tuesday, so let's confirm at the end of the week. By that time we'll figure out where to meet, what to see and who's going to come. Bobby, I gotta change and get ready for my shift."
"Cool. I'll see you at school or here." Robert 'high-five'd' and went back into the gym.
Jeremy walked into the locker room and stopped by his locker. Being a staff member, he was assigned a permanent large locker and kept a supply of toiletries on hand. The space was just large enough for a few extra uniform shirts, gym shorts, towels, a stash of Power Bars and his health drink mix. He nodded to another guy next to him in the U-shaped locker bay as he pulled off the sweat-soaked workout tee and used it to wipe the beaded moisture from his forehead. He continued to his chest, underarms and torso before tossing the shirt aside. 'Definitely need to do laundry tonight,' he thought as he took off his trainers. He added the socks to the pile before pulling down his gym shorts and briefs.
The reflection in the mirror pleased him. He had a locker that was close to the walkway and the mirrored wall. Jeremy briefly studied his trim, muscular form. Just enough definition in the deltoids, triceps and pecs to accentuate his flat six-pack and narrow waist. After the other guy left the area, Jeremy gently pulled his relaxed penis away from the sweat lock of his scrotum slowly turned to inspect his glutes. 'Yep. Everything's okay in that department.' While he regretted that family responsibilities precluded going out for school sports, he had more than compensated with his daily workout regimen at Bally's. He was pleased with the results and was aware that not many of his schoolmates could match his build.
After grabbing his shampoo and shaving gear, Jeremy made sure the lock was in place and his sweaty clothes were pushed under the bench. He stepped into his flip-flops, wrapped a towel around his waist, went over to a sink, dropped off the gear and walked to the shower room. Only a few guys were in the wet area as Jeremy nonchalantly hung up the towel, found a showerhead that had adequate pressure, adjusted the water and soaped up...everywhere. The images of Uncle Win surfaced as he closed his eyes and he thought about their conversations concerning his post-pubescent modesty. He smiled as he playfully stroked himself just a few times to clean his dormant organ. 'No show tonight,' he decided. Occasionally, he would accidentally get wood in the shower and need face the wall while 'Jer, Junior' settled down. The infamous seven inches that he had been concerned about in his earlier teen years had settled in to a respectable eight and was reserved for only a few special people. At this point, the list was null and void - he had just broken up with the latest gal pal.
The warm water pelted his head rinsing the shampoo off his scalp. Jeremy tentatively opened his eyes and became aware that someone a couple of showerheads away was watching him. He slowly turned to position the shower stream on his back and casually looked to his left. A young man in his mid-20s was applying soap to his torso and underarms - nothing suggestive - while he intensely watched Jeremy. The first image that came into his mind was that of a guy in a CK briefs commercial...without the briefs. When the mystery man nodded, Jeremy reacted with an immediate shaking of his head that signaled a friendly 'thanks but not interested' rejection. 'I've seen this guy before,' he thought as he moved around so his backside was the only view. 'Maybe he's a model who's looking for some action on the side?' Even if he was remotely curious, Jeremy knew better than to encourage any contact with a member of either sex in his place of employment.
He finished the shower, grabbed his towel and discovered the guy had disappeared when he turned around. 'Just as well. The last thing I need is some sort of confrontation before my shift begins.' He looked at the wall clock and noted that he was due at the front desk in 12 minutes. 'Just enough time to get squared away,' he thought. Squared away included grooming, getting dressed in his uniform and mixing the energy drink with tap water. The drink and two Power Bars was dinner. Jeremy purposely had a big lunch at the school cafeteria each day to pound in 'real' protein and vegetables. He dried off, wrapped the damp towel around himself again and went out to the sink area.
Mystery man was not in any of the visible locker bays when Jeremy scanned the locker room's image in the mirror while lathering his face. With a trusty Bic in his hand, Jeremy took care of the spotty three-day growth with a minimal amount of effort. As he took a final few strokes on his chin, another man arrived at the next sink. He let his eyes move slightly to focus on his shaving neighbor. The two men made contact with their eyes and Jeremy mumbled a "Hi." Jeremy's attention immediately returned back to his reflection as he rinsed the razor and splashed some water on his face. 'Christ,' he thought, 'It's Gay Gordie in the nude as usual. That's all I need.'
The late 40's man, completely hair-free except for his eyebrows, routinely showed off his steroid-enhanced body, cock ring and Prince Albert in the locker room. He always hit on a new guy...at least once...while shaving. Most members were used to Gay Gordie's nude form at the sink and had given up complaining. Jeremy was a little taken aback the first time he had seen the piercing a couple of years ago but Uncle Win had patiently explained the Prince Albert ornament, its history and the various reasons some men preferred it...information that the young teen filed away for reference only. 'Different strokes,' Jeremy thought as he gathered his gear and returned to the locker for the final 'squaring away' process.
'4:58 p.m. Another on-time performance,' he proudly judged while signing in at the front desk. "Hey, dude, whazzup?" Jeremy bumped knuckles with Pete - the receptionist with whom he worked most evenings. During the crunch period, two staff were needed to check I.D.'s, direct prospective clients to the membership consultants, handle personal trainer appointments, man the phone and answer general questions from the members.
"Snowed under with exams, thank you." Pete was a student at DePaul majoring in Computer Sciences. "Um, could I ask you to do me a big favor and close for me tonight? I really need to be with a study group if I'm going to ace the test."
"Ah, I really don't have a way to get home that late." Jeremy had hitched a ride earlier with a friend and didn't want to be wandering the Fullerton Street area going home at midnight.
"Trust me...a guy like you will have no problem getting a ride," Pete replied with a wicked grin.
"Looking for a pickup is the last thing I need or want. Plus, I'm still under-age until next month." Jeremy liked Pete but thought his mind wandered into the gay gutter too much. His co-worker was completely out and loved to harmlessly flirt when no one was near the desk. Jeremy would usually play along verbally - up to a personal boundary that Pete respected - and had developed a casual friendship with the college sophomore.
"Just joking...not. Ah, what if I gave you five bucks for a cab? That should be enough and you'll get your studly bod home without complications."
"I think that's the dealmaker, buddy. Let me use your cell to call home and make sure everything's okay. If so, you're on."
"Here ya go," Pete said while fishing his cell out of his backpack. He gave it to Jeremy and continued, "I'll hold down the fort."
Jeremy took the cell, nodded and walked outside the gym and stood across from the entrance. Bally's was located on the top floor of the Century Mall - a vertical shopping mall that years ago had been a humongous movie palace - and there was always foot traffic coming and going. He wanted to blend in and not be spotted by his supervisor making a call on company time. Naomi, his sister, answered on the third ring and verified that everything was quiet. Jeremy said he should be home by midnight and purposely mentioned that he would take a cab. 'No reason to worry Mom or Sis.'
"I'll trade you the cell for a five," Jeremy said when he returned to the front desk. "Mom's fine and sis will be home for the evening."
"Thanks. I really mean it. The test coming up is 'make it or break it' time for my scholarship." A $5.00 bill and the cell phone traded hands and the two receptionists proceeded to handle their duties as the early evening crowd began flowing in.
This was time for the 'see and be seen' exercise class and machine circuit workout crowd to arrive. With Step aerobics, Spin, and yoga classes at 6:00 p.m. start times, the desk was frantic. The women - several surgically enhanced - arrived in full makeup, not a hair out of place, ready to change into a designer sport bra and stretch shorts combo. Men were more realistic about dressing for their gym appearance. Tightness of the tee or tank top depended on how fit and trim the body was. In contrast, almost all guys wore baggy, knee-length shorts. Universal amongst the 'cool' ones were low-cut, no-show socks with the newest Nike or New Balance shoes.
The younger personal trainers and their groupies privately amused Jeremy. The two he was closest to were recent college graduates and ACE-certified. Although they were serious about fitness training, Zach and Gio liked to play the role of strutting, proud peacocks on the gym floor. They were very aware that their well-honed physiques were walking advertisements for the training business. Jeremy knew that several female clients had crushes on these two hunks and was sure that a few of the men signed up because of the same attraction. For the trainers, a good clientele base meant an average $25.00 per hour after Bally's got their cut.
Zach had confidentially told Jeremy that he was just biding time until a position became available at the prestigious East Bank Club. By the time he turned 26, Zach planned on making 45 grand a year as a trainer. His goal was to be partner with Gio in an exclusive private workout facility by the time they were 28. He also shared that Gio was his roommate and 'very close friend.' Nothing more had been said but Jeremy assumed that the two guys were in a relationship. There was a certain intensity that Zach and Gio projected when they were together. On a few occasions, a touch by one or the other would linger just a longer than usual - something that Jeremy picked up on from being with his uncles.
When Zach and Gio didn't have clients they would go through their personal fitness routines, frequently with a few of the guys who liked to hang and work out with the trainers. There was a close bond between all of these young men who enjoyed the companionship of like-minded fitness devotees. The trainers would share workout tips with their friends when they lifted weights or worked out on the machines. On their own time, the two would wear their own gear rather than the Bally's generic personal trainer uniforms. Zach, with features that favored his Nordic heritage, wore snug tank tops that were tailored with different colored materials to accentuate his muscular deltoids, lats and tapered torso. Gio preferred stretch sleeveless tees that clung to his lanky body like a second skin in colors that accentuated his darker Italian complexion. Nothing was left to the imagination above the waist...and that was their intention.
Tonight was busy for the trainers and the two guys wore the official uniform: a Bally's polo shirt, workout pants and a jacket. Jeremy and Pete continued to handle the front desk flawlessly. Several times Zach or Gio would come up to greet someone with an appointment. By 8:15 p.m., Jeremy felt confident that he could handle reception by himself and, after a short break, sent Pete off to his study group. About the same time, Gio came to the desk in his street clothes and coat.
"I'm outta here. There's no more clients and I need to go home."
"Zach's not leaving?" Jeremy asked.
"He's got a last minute appointment that was booked on the floor. Chances are he won't be able to leave until 9:30 or so. Take care, my man. See ya around." Gio 'high-five'd' Jeremy and walked to the door.
"Later." Jeremy watched Gio walk out to the mall area. Over at the railing by the atrium was another young guy that Jeremy only knew as George; a preppy stockbroker-type who came to the gym a couple of times a week. George smiled broadly when Gio walked up to him. 'Whoa, what's that all about?' Jeremy wondered when he saw Gio grab and squeeze George's denim-covered buns. The two guys laughed and walked towards the elevator while they chatted. 'Man, that's a little advanced for just a friendship.'
"Um, earth to Jeremy." A shorter guy in a Bally's exercise outfit drummed his fingers at the desk in a good-natured way.
"Oh, sorry, Seth." Jeremy was embarrassed that his supervisor had caught him not being alert at the desk. The Gio and George thing really had gotten Jeremy rattled. "I was just thinking about some family things I've got to do this weekend." He hoped that his nose was not growing with that fabrication.
"No problem. Pete told me you were covering the closing. Do you have any problem if I boogey around ten? It should be pretty quiet by then and you know the closing drill."
"Yeah, that's fine with me. I've got the security code and have all the lock-down procedures memorized. You can trust me."
"I have absolutely no worry about that. Double-check each locker room to make sure we don't leave anyone here for an unauthorized late workout session," Seth said with a loud laugh.
"No midnight nooky?"
"You got the picture. I'll see ya before I leave." Seth walked back onto the workout floor and greeted a few members along the way.
Jeremy was helping a 'walk-in' prospective member fill out the profile application when Zach, dressed in street clothes, strolled over to the opposite corner of the front desk. 'Wow, this doesn't look like a happy camper,' Jeremy judged from his friend's expression. He nodded to Zach and put up his finger to indicate Zach should wait. A membership consultant arrived and steered the stranger over to a bank of desks off the entry area.
"What's with the change in clothes? I thought you had another training appointment?"
"The client had a last minute change of plans...his wife called him on his cell. So, I'm going home."
"Um, maybe it's not my business...ah, is everything okay? You seem a little agitated." There was no traffic at the desk and Jeremy decided to devote a little quality time with his friend.
"Oops, is it that obvious? It's just, ah, that me and my par...ah, roommate are having some piddle-ass conflicts about something. That's all...I guess we'll work things out." Zach slowly zipped up his coat and pulled out a cotton cap.
"Zach, maybe I'm just a kid in your eyes but my uncle and his partner - they were also roomies - hit a few rough patches and I understand what you're going through. Talk it out with Gio. My uncle always told me that keeping things bottled up is a sure way to experience disaster."
"Ha, I guess that Gio and I haven't kept our relationship very well hidden."
"Naw, not at all. There's been no talk that I'm aware of. It's just that I'm a guy who lived around two, close gay men since I was a baby. You might say that I know what to look for." Jeremy stuck out his hand for Zach to grab it for a shake. "I'm a straight guy...well, I think I am...but very gay friendly."
"Your uncles...wait, you said 'lived' in past tense. Are they..."
"Uncle Karl passed a couple of years ago and my real uncle, Win, died last year. They were neat and kinda the dads who helped me grow up. What about you two? Gaydar's one thing; picking up on a troubled guy is another."
"We met at school about four years ago at Penn State and both decided to get jobs in Chicago when we graduated last year. We're sharing a one-bedroom over in Wrigleyville until, um, we can afford to buy something. The last couple of months just haven't been good between us...that's all. I suspect that...well, um, Gio is a horny guy and I think that he's...ah..."
"Finding a little extra on the side?" Jeremy asked.
"Ah, he and I have a different view of what's a relationship. He's been fucking around on the side since we were in school. Not often, but often enough to piss me off. I give him the silent treatment and he gets the message."
"Tell me to screw off if ya wanna...but I hope you guys are, er, safe an' everything?"
"I don't mind telling you that I've, um...I'm the one who, ah...you know...I always use protection. I love the guy but I can't handle this open relationship stuff he seems to want."
"Sounds like talking time is definitely in order - if I can be so bold to toss that out. Tell Gio what your expectations are as a couple and see if they match up with his. I got a gut feeling that he doesn't understand what the deal is. He seems like one of the good guys and I'd hate to see something like this mess up your friendship."
"Buddy, you're definitely not a kid in my book. Thanks for the suggestion." Zach pulled on his cap and added, "I'm going home and try to get this worked out. But if he doesn't agree to being just with me, well...I might be single the next time you see me." He waved with his hand and left Bally's.
"Uh, oh," Jeremy said to himself. Something, after putting the pieces together, told him that Gio hadn't gone straight home. 'This timing might be lousy.'
For the next two hours, the traffic was primarily flowing to the exit door as the members left for the evening. Shortly before 11:00 p.m., the gym floor was vacant and the staff had signed out. Jeremy flipped through the security camera screens and determined that no one was left in the gym and pool spaces. With an Allen wrench, he tripped the crash bars to the front doors so they were locked to anyone on the outside. This would allow him to perform a final walk-through in the lockers, toilets and showers...the only spaces that weren't covered by cameras. He grabbed a large, long flashlight and proceeded with the final security check.
The ladies area was quiet and fairly messy. 'Women can really be pigs,' he thought while checking the toilet stalls. Sometime in the early hours of each morning a maintenance crew cleaned the entire fitness center prior to the 7:00 a.m. opening. Jeremy turned off the lights and left to do a final check of the men's area. However, as he walked into the men's locker room, a noise in a distant corner alerted him to proceed with caution. He quietly crept forward and gripped the flashlight a little tighter.
"Yeah, urmph...ah...give it to me." came a male voice that announced that at least two people were in the final bay of lockers.
"Fuck, you're tight," said a second voice.
"Move it in faster and...oh, man, that's a big one."
'Oh, crap. Why do these guys have to screw while I'm trying to get closed and go home?' Jeremy thought as he arrived at the location of the voices. He saw two guys; one propped up on the bench lying on a towel with his legs spread, and the other man plowing his cock into a willing butt hole. For a moment he thought about the time he had walked into his uncles' bedroom as the two were screwing. These guys were probably in their 30's and, Jeremy considered with relief, rather slight in build and muscle. 'Okay, here goes the spoiler.'
"Sorry to break up your little party, boys, but I'm giving you one minute to get your clothes on and get out of here. Now." Jeremy stood with his legs apart, tapping his flashlight on a locker, and glared at the two nude men.
The aggressive man on top appeared startled as he exited the other man's ass. He spun around, stood up and clumsily tried to hide his wilting, slick erection while the man on his back lost balance and fell to the tile floor. Jeremy automatically mentally labeled them as 'top guy' and 'bottom guy.'
"We weren't harming anybody," top guy said with some defiance in his voice.
"Just my job security and the license of this gym, asshole," Jeremy barked back. "Help your fuckmate up and leave immediately after you find your clothes."
"If you're not gone in one minute, I'll suspend your memberships. I should do that anyway but this is the Christmas season. After that I'll call 9-1-1 and get vice to handle this." Jeremy stood there as the two men, without saying another word, scrambled to their lockers and quickly put on their clothes. Jeremy shook his head as he spotted a wedding ring on the 'bottom' man's finger. He wasn't sure what the police could do but he wasn't challenged.
"I'm sorry about breaking the rules. We'll be invisible in 30 seconds," bottom guy mumbled as he put on his shirt.
"Meet you guys at the entrance in 20 seconds," Jeremy replied as he walked away. He still had to change into his clothes, after the lovebirds departed, and finish the lock-down. 'Jeez, these guys are too old to be doing it like rabbits,' he thought from his teenage point of reference. 'On the other hand, maybe I'll still be ready for it when I get to their age.'
He waited at the entrance and saw the two men, slightly disheveled, walking rapidly with coats and gym bags in hand. When they approached the desk, Jeremy said, "I want you guys to stop for a second and look up at the corner of the room. That's right, you're on candid camera...for the record. I'm not going to do anything this time - just a word of warning. Don't do anything like that at this gym again, ever again."
Top guy had apparently thought things over and nodded in a contrite manner. "Man, I'm sorry that this happened. You're right; we shouldn't have done this at the gym. Thanks...I really appreciate it and apologize for being such an asshole."
"Okay, we're cool. This is not the place for, um, you know." Jeremy watched the men push the crash bars to exit the gym and depart. He pulled at the door to make sure it was secure before he returned to the locker room to change. 'Crazy shits,' he thought as he took off his uniform shirt.
TO BE CONTINUED