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"Well, since my body left me." Victor carried a barbell, a weight collar, and a tune across the gym, The King singing backup from the tinny ceiling speakers. Too bad Elvis always got the words wrong!
"I found a new barbell." Victor ignored his boss, carrying on with his cleanup duties and his singing.
Restoring the smaller items to their proper places, he turned his attention to the big weights heaped carelessly near the squat cage.
"It's down at the bend of--"
"Victor! Your four o'clock is here."
Victor acknowledged neither Phil nor his four o'clock as he hefted the last of the hundred-pound plates from squat cage to weight tree. He struggled a little as he manhandled the awkward weight toward its home. Why was it the really big muscleheads--the only ones who ever used the really big plates--were also the ones who never felt compelled to put 'em back? Certainly all the "girly-girl" weights--the fives and tens and fifteens--were neatly aligned in glossy chrome rows on the rack paralleling the wall o' mirrors. Maybe that was the trick: install a mirror over the weight trees and see if the muscleheads and the juicers would condescend to put their own frigging weights away! Victor drew a deep breath, inhaling gym funk along with a drip of sweat that slithered down his face. It tasted like mousse and gel and hairspray. And sweat.
He labored clumsily with the weight, not that it was heavy to him--hell, he could bench-press his own body weight, no problem--but the angle was just so awkward. He felt gawky and graceless as he folded his more-or-less six-foot frame into a half-squat,half-crouch, balancing the weight before him. The hole in the big plate seemed ridiculously small for the metal pole that formed the lowest branch of the weight tree; its pyramid shape did indeed resemble a pine tree--a Christmas tree even, with weight-collar angels on top.
Victor rested the plate briefly on the ground, pleased with his analogy. He heaved it up again, arms trembling, muscles drained from his own workout before his shift began. Painfully aware of being watched like TV, he labored, self-conscious of his lack of cool. A few more elastic seconds while the pole finally found the hole, and the bulky metal doughnut slid home.
Rising, slightly winded, slightly embarrassed, he muttered, "You'd think I'd be better at that, what with all the practice I've had." Checking the mirrored wall on his left, he cruised a hand across his hair; craftily gelled, it grew aggressively skyward like spiky blond turf. Satisfied, he faced his audience and winked, just to make sure no one missed his terribly clever and subtle entendre.
Holy shit! His gut clenched as he experienced a major wow! moment at how amazingly good-looking the new client was.
New guy was about Victor's height, hair dark and plane-smooth: the bizzaro reflection of Victor's own punky-funky, chemically enhanced blondness. Victor sometimes felt his own appeal had more to do with attitude and style than with nature being particularly kind. Four O'clock, on the other hand, had classic features and coif--he'd never go out of fashion. But then, he'd also never get picked out of a lineup to get into a really cool after-hours club. Victor could, and did on a fairly regular basis.
Reminding himself that truly handsome guys were always trouble, Victor wiped one sweaty hand on his black muscle shirt, smirking expectantly as he waited for acknowledgment of his pithy pole-in-the-hole comment.
Four O'clock just gazed at him. Great. Another live one. More evidence for Victor's half-baked hypothesis that really good-looking guys were minimalistic in the personality department.
"Victor. This is Kirk Douglas." Phil Martini, general manager and mostly sales guy of Orr's Gym, passed the new guy's paperwork to Victor like an Olympic torch--one that had served its purpose and was now sputtering out.
The familiarly named Kirk Douglas coughed nervously, politely covering his mouth with his left hand, extending his right, "That would be Douglas Newkirk, actually. Please call me Doug." Looking slightly uncomfortable, he glanced sideways at Phil, as if correcting the manager du jour of downtown Toronto's Orr's Gym franchise constituted a major social gaffe.
Victor juggled the clipboard to free one hand, successfully regaining his client's attention. "Victor Brighton." He introduced himself and gripped the guy's hand a few warm moments, releasing it before it got awkward.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."
Victor was impressed. Very few people here ever called him 'sir'. He smiled at the new member. Phil gave a gotta-go cough, which Victor acknowledged with an I'll take it from here nod without taking his eyes off Newkirk.
Phil started off, but turned back for a second. "Hey, Victor. Ms. Amorotique wants to see you after your shift tomorrow. Time for your six-week review." He sing-songed the latter as he made tracks for the elevator, no doubt headed back to the front desk to make another sale. He'd got this Douglas guy's credit card, so he was done with him. Victor wouldn't be surprised if Phil's middle name was "commission."
The ball was now firmly in Victor's court. He studied the clipboard, scratching behind one ear with his worn-down pencil.
He took his job seriously, even though management was pretty ambivalent about whether a member stayed on or not. They seemed to feel that showing the ropes to new members was largely a farce. Victor had been told during his one hour of training that the gym actually made more profit on people who paid their dues and then disappeared.
That's not what the fitness industry wanted people to think, though. We're dedicated to your success! they all claimed. One all-women gym downtown even promised wake-up calls for morning workouts and incentive calls if you didn't show for a couple of weeks. Hah! Sit by the phone and wait, girlfriend. They ain't never gonna call. They also promised the lowest rates in town--for the crappiest equipment and tiniest facility. If the sign-me-up-quick, bargain-greedy, no-pain-just-gain, wishful-thinking, deliberately misled consumer only knew...
Where was I again? New guy. Right. Right. Vic studied the clipboard like he was back in school it would count for 50% of his final mark.
Each new member was asked a series of personally tailored questions and given a custom program--not! The same questions for everybody, the same custom program: guy, girl, young, old, fat, thin. Made no difference. The printout said this guy wanted to lose weight and get in shape. Christ, who didn't? Okay, Victor could work with that.
He shifted his focus from clipboard to client. "Okay, um..." Oh, shit. He'd forgotten the guy's name already. McDougall was it? No, something Douglas. A sly peek at the paperwork, "Doug. Let's have a look at you." Vic stalked around Doug in a protracted arc, peering at front, side, back, then front again. Doug's sweat suit was baggy and unflattering, with some kind of faded crest on the sweatshirt ... post office, maybe? Victor stared at the new guy's front so long that Doug began fidgeting, cheap running shoes squeaking with newness. He finally clasped his hands in front, small gym towel obscuring his crotch completely. Bright red towel, eh? Nelly must be behind on the gym's laundry again.
Victor ran his professional gaze back up the somewhere-around-six-feet of Doug's body, spending way too much time on the fine-looking face. The guy had a faint discoloration on his sculpted jawline, a fading purple-green shiner that clashed badly with the dark blue eyes, and a small cut in one eyebrow that would probably scar. Good. A scar would be a nice contrast with the matinée idol looks--go a long way toward making him more approachable. Probably thought he was hot shit, anyway. Victor yanked himself back from his mental exercise in prejudgment and continued his tour of Doug's face.
Were those stitches in the cut? Probably not a good idea to ask. Instead, he headed into his work spiel--the paperwork said Douggie here had paid extra for ten sessions with a highly qualified personal trainer. He'd be mighty surprised if he knew the job qualifications were largely the ability to speak English and a willingness to work for shit wages, the former being less important than the latter. No actual training in health and/or fitness required.
Victor did, however, happen to know a thing or two about health and fitness, having boxed and danced competitively in his younger days. It was why he'd been selected for this job.
"So, Doug. You want to be flattered or hear it straight up?" Victor's favorite line, and while no one had yet said, "Flatter me," he could tell by the response when that was indeed the way to go with a new client, although he always made sure they got the information they needed to reach their goals--just couched it differently. The gym might make more money on those who came and went quickly, but Victor made sure his clients got their money's worth from him.
Doug fingered the cut in his eyebrow, clearly pondering his response. "Well, it hardly seems productive to ask you to be less than truthful with me. Besides which, I do own a mirror, albeit a small one. And a scale."
Good answer, although who the hell said albeit? "Okay. But remember, you asked for it." He paused waiting for additional acknowledgement, additional commitment.
When Doug nodded, Victor continued. "According to the chart here, you're in pretty lousy shape. Your heart rate was way up when you ran the treadmill. You barely made a full mile. I'm surprised they didn't ask for a doctor's note before signing you up." No, he really wasn't. They'd take anyone. They had insurance. And signed waivers. "Plus..." he ran his gaze up and down Doug again, "...you look to be carrying about thirty extra pounds there." He sketched a quick arc in the air indicating Doug's chest-stomach-waist.
Doug placed a hand on his belly, raising his gaze to meet Victor's again. Victor couldn't tell what the guy was thinking so he hurried on.
"You don't look bad 'cause you're tall. The fat is distributed over your whole body. Some guys just carry it in their gut, but you got it spread around pretty even. You're going to feel a whole hell of a lot better when we get rid of it, though."
The raised eyebrow clearly said bullshit, even if Doug himself worded it differently. "I've lost rather a lot of weight over the past ten months. I'm now well within the weight range for my age and body type, according to a variety of medical journals and Web sites."
"That's great!" Vic said, slapping Doug's bicep. Doug winced and rubbed the spot. "Good for you." Vic figured Doug was going to take some convincing. "Now here's the first thing we're going to do. Consider it ... motivational." Doug in tow, Vic proceeded to the north wall, plucking a thirty-pound weight from the lineup of dumbbells. "Here. Hang onto this. We're going to need it later." Doug accepted the weight, almost dropping it when Victor let go. Doug had obviously assumed he could manage it with the same ease as Victor. Looking somewhat disconcerted, Doug used his free hand to center the weight in his grasp, fingers curling over the little grooves.
Pointing at the scoring on the bar, Victor explained, "That there's called a knurl. Lets you get a better grip, especially if your hands are sweaty or chalked up. Gives you some pretty nifty calluses, too." Victor displayed one horny palm proudly. "Did you get a tour of the place yet?" At Doug's headshake, Victor launched into his tour-guide patter. "Okay. This is the top floor. Here we work legs, arms, chest. See that guy over there?"
The tour and particulars took about twenty-five minutes, including the aerobics area located behind the reception desk and the muggy locker room housed on the floor below street level. Doug must have seen that when he first arrived and changed from street clothes to his saggy sweats.
Heading back toward the staircase, Victor stopped and looked around, taking a deep sniff. "Mmmm. Love that really old building smell, eh?" Victor sucked air, noticing Doug's flared nostrils and horse-about-to-bolt look. "I think it's a national monument or something."
"It's not actually been approved by the Historical Society of Greater Toronto yet, but I believe an application has been made." Doug shifted the thirty-pound dumbbell to his other hand, resting it on the staircase railing.
"And you would know this because...?"
"Why, because I did the research before I decided to join this particular fitness establishment." His look said, "Wouldn't anyone?"
"So to decide which gym to join, you check out the building? That's very ... um, thorough. Yeah, thorough. I like that. You're a thorough kind of guy. Me, now, if I had to research every single decision like that, I'd die from boredom before I got in a single rep."
"Actually, I think you'd find this particular building has a fascinating history. It was erected in the early part of the last century, originally as a government office. If you stand outside on the sidewalk and look up, as I did before entering, you'll see the building has maintained some outstanding architectural details, such as the pillared stone railing rimming the balcony on the uppermost floor.
"Did I say something funny?"
"You said rim ... Never mind. Go on with the history lesson." Victor cut the heh heh noises. It made him sound like a dirty old man, anyway. But who worked rimming into a conversation? This was getting interesting.
The history lesson continued for some minutes. "And finally, you'll notice that above the main entrance on Isabella Street, gargoyles, eroded by time, painted by pigeons, still stand guard on the concrete façade."
"Hey. That's better than the Discovery Channel. Where'd you find out all this stuff?" He fiddled with the hole where his earring usually was--no stud today.
Doug spoke of a number of Web sites where you could investigate business, architecture, health and fitness.
"The Internet, you say." Victor scratched his stubbled chin, the stairway's fluorescent light painting a scruffy halo against his jawline. "I'll have to check that out one of these days."
As they returned to the top floor, Victor surveyed his workplace anew, trying to see it through Doug's eyes. He'd already figured Doug for the observant type; he'd make a hell of a witness. Doug hadn't mentioned it, but Victor was fairly certain he, too, had noted the second-rate interior renovations done to the place. Money had been poured into the fancy reception area; it made promises of style that the rest of the gym just couldn't keep. The prefab walls throughout wore builder's beige, scarring easily each time a weight thunked against one. Twelve-foot ceilings bared their pipes and ductwork and were covered in a hideous spray-on foam that was supposed to provide sound dampening. Unfortunately, it just looked like thick gray fungus growing over the entire ceiling. Victor shuddered and looked at the floor instead.
Victor noticed, not for the first time, the way the carpeting curled and lifted where the polyester squares were gradually losing their grip. The tweedy-gray texture didn't really do much to hide the stains and ghosts of leaks past.
He inhaled deeply. While the basement had smelled of locker rooms and forgotten sneakers, the three other floors smelled uniformly of mildew, warm vinyl and, depending on the immediate mix of clientele, perfume, cologne, hair care products, and steroid-laced sweat. The weights and equipment lent that metallic smell of iron and steel, although how metal could smell was a mystery to Victor. Sometimes it seemed the gym was rife with iron-y smell.
Victor rambled on about health and fitness as he and Doug toured their way through all four floors, ending up back where they'd started, on top. Dutifully, Doug lugged the thirty-pound dumbbell with him every step of the way, including up and down stairs since Victor had bypassed the elevator. "Stairs count as aerobic activity, don't you know?" he'd cheerfully informed his new client.
"Got any questions at this point, Kirk--Curt--Doug?" Victor corrected himself. He really needed to learn this guy's name, although a tiny voice in the back of his mind suggested babe or some other term of endearment. Mentally, he bitch-slapped the tiny voice into submission.
"Yes, actually. I do." Doug gestured half-heartedly with the dumbbell, panting a little. His candy-pink tongue slipped out to run along his upper lip, replacing the damp sheen of sweat with a wee hint of saliva. For just a moment, Victor was the mongoose, hypnotized by Doug's cobra-like tongue.
Which Doug was currently using to ask, "When will we be employing this weight I've been carrying?"
"Getting heavy?" Victor waited patiently for the response, gaze sharp and expectant on Doug.
"A little." Doug ran his tongue across his lower lip now. "It's only thirty pounds, after all." Balancing it on his thigh, he shifted the weight to just one hand. He gingerly flexed the cramped fingers of the now-free hand, the criss-cross knurl pattern clearly embossing his palm.
"Yeah, but after a while, carrying thirty extra pounds around gets pretty exhausting. A pretty inconvenient pain in the ass, right?" Victor cocked his head slightly to one side and waited for his new client to get it.
Doug maintained eye contact, but eventually dropped his gaze.
Doug switched hands again, fingering the stitches in his eyebrow.
"Oh. I see what you mean. I'm carrying an extra thirty pounds of subcutaneous fat around with me and you're saying I'll feel much better without it."
"Bingo!" Got it in one. "That's exactly my point. And to extrapo ... eluci ... elaborate, I'm also saying that joining a gym is not the magic answer to all your problems." Damn, he'd wanted to impress Doug with his vocabulary since Doug's own was obviously huge, but he'd ended up stumbling over the big words instead. Victor figured he'd better stick to things he was good at from now on. Luckily, there were some things he was very good at and maybe he could impress Doug with those instead.
He focused on Doug, who was giving him another skeptical look. "No. See," Victor answered, though Doug hadn't asked, "you'd be surprised how many people figure once they've paid their membership fees, they've paid their dues, if you know what I mean."
Doug's body language still read unconvinced. Victor pushed some more. He was certainly good at this. At making people come to the conclusions he wanted them to, at making people reveal more of themselves than they realized they were. He'd spent a lifetime learning how.
"It's not enough to give money to some gym; you have to also give blood, sweat and tears. Well, mainly sweat." Victor zapped his new protégé with his laser beam smile. He was pretty sure already that Doug would be one of the few that stayed, who achieved a measure of success. He seemed like a very determined guy. Plus, Victor wanted to see him again.
"And you can't just work out with weights and machines. You have to get some aerobic exercise, too. Hell, half the muscleheads--the really big guys--who come in here five times a week are actually in pretty shitty shape. Especially if they're juicing it."
"You know. Juice. 'Roids."
Vic rolled his eyes as Doug said "Huh?"
"An-a-bol-ic ster-oids," Victor enunciated clearly, keeping his voice low. He surveyed the room, praying no one heard him filling in the new guy. He'd get in royal shit if that got back to either the users or the boss lady. The local cops were onto it, of course; even suspected Orr's was a major depot for illegal steroids and human growth hormone--not just the synthetic crap, but, if you had the coin, the real stuff harvested from human cadavers. And not always healthy cadavers, either ... if a cadaver could be...
Victor refocused on Doug, who was saying, "There are individuals working out here who employ performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals?" Doug looked appalled. And was speaking way too loud.
Victor grabbed Doug's elbow and dragged him over into the corner behind the ab crunch machine, taking the dumbbell from him and replacing it on its designated rack as they passed. "Shhhh. We don't discuss stuff like that out in the open. Okay?" He lowered his voice, speaking up a bit as they stepped directly below a ceiling speaker. Some '80s pop diva was scratchily belting out a techno-ballad. Orr's really needed to invest in a better sound system.
Doug nodded and ran one thumb down his nose. Victor got it instantly, returning the sly gesture. "Yeah. Steroid use is a whole hell of a lot more common than people think. Especially in a hardcore bodybuilder gym like this one."
Doug's gaze jumped suspiciously from one to the next of the gym's current patrons, those few people lucky enough to get in their training before the afterwork rush began. "Perhaps I have joined the wrong gymnasium. I'm under the impression I have thirty days to change my mind and pay on a pro rata basis for only those days that have passed since joining. Perhaps you could recommend a more suitable establishment for me, then. Or would that put you in an awkward position professionally?"
"Jeez, Doug." Victor clenched and released Doug's bicep. When had he grabbed his upper arm? And why the hell had he brought any of this up? Doug was so obviously not the kind of guy who had any info on steroids. "I didn't mean to scare you off. Just show you the ropes. Don't worry 'bout it. There's never any trouble here, leastways, not very often. And besides, steroid use is pretty universal--you're going to find it in any gym or health club you join. It's even in high schools, for Chrissake."
Victor was seriously worried he'd lose this client and get in shit with Phil and the boss; Ms. Amorotique seemed pretty tough. And he really needed to stay working here, at this particular gym. "Look, I got way off on a tangent here. What I wanted to say is that you need to do more than just come in here three times a week and haul chunks of metal around. You need to incorporate some aerobic exercise into your workouts, too. No. No. Not aerobics classes per se. Those aren't for everybody. Besides, they charge extra for 'em. I'm thinking stationary bicycle or stair climber. Or treadmill. Whatever. They got a few downstairs in the aerobics area, but you have to get here at off-hours to get a turn on them. They're usually signed up well in advance. Oh, yeah. And they charge extra for them, too."
Victor watched as Doug's gaze ran appraisingly over his own well-defined, whipcord body. He'd never make the cover of Muscle Mag; more like some fitness and health rag, maybe. He leaned back in his stance a bit so his torso was properly showcased, knowing the black spandex bike shorts made the best of his long, long legs. Pirouette, plié, laugh to cover the twinge of insecurity at this handsome guy's scrutiny. Well, turnabout's fair play, right? He'd stared his fill earlier, strictly professional, of course. Plus you really have to consider the source of any fitness advice you're given. So let the guy look. If Victor played his cards right, maybe they could see a whole lot more of each other later.
"What do you do for aerobic exercise, if I may inquire, Mr. Brighton?"
"Mr. Brighton?" Victor had been expecting the question, but not the formality. "That's, like, my dad or something. Call me Victor, 'kay?" That taken care of, he answered the actual question. "I box. I dance. I..." He'd been going to say, "I fuck." It was his stock reply to this inevitable question, and tended to get a nervous laugh, or sometimes a welcome invitation. But for whatever reason, he couldn't say this to Doug.
"Yes, Victor? You...?"
"I ... run." Quick save. Brilliant save.
"Running, hmmm. I used to run a bit. When there weren't several feet of snow on the ground. I'm from up north--Northern Ontario." Doug gestured toward the water fountain, presumably indicating the north side of the building. And of Canada. "I think I could take up running again."
"Running, yeah. Good idea. But now, let's run through your custom designed workout developed exclusively for you by highly trained professionals." Victor was mighty good at pretending--his job depended on it.
He led Doug to his first station.
Victor spent the next hour putting Doug through the standard "custom" workout, although he did personalize it a bit after Doug said he couldn't put too much strain on his back due to a recent injury, one he didn't wish to elaborate on even at Victor's insistence.
They were almost done when a swarthy, well-cut young man came onto the floor wearing the same black muscle shirt as Victor. Unlike Victor, however, this guy had ripped out the sleeves, enlarged the neck and cut off the bottom till there was scarcely enough material left to contain the word Staff screenprinted across the back in bright red. "Hey, Vic," he called in greeting. "Weren't you off shift half an hour ago?"
"Yeah, Gus. Yeah. Just finishing up with the new guy, here." He nodded toward Doug as he put away the last of their free weights.
Doug finished his final set on the leg press rather faster than Victor had demonstrated. "Oh, dear. I certainly didn't intend to keep you after hours on my account. Will you be compensated for the overtime?"
With his back to Doug, Victor used the mirror in front of him to see Doug behind him. It was a habit most gym rats picked up, and sorely missed when they were out in the real world and had to look directly at things. Doug seemed genuinely upset. A few other bored lifters stared at them intrusively, no doubt hoping for some entertainment between sets. Lifting large pieces of metal over and over could only hold your attention for so long.
"Nah. Not a problem, though. I wouldn't have left you hanging." He grabbed his faded and frayed black towel and headed for the exit. "Shift's over. Workout's done. Let's go." Doug followed dutifully as he had for the last hour and a half.
As they headed down the stairs they crossed paths with a group of young men in extreme muscle shirts and outrageously baggy shorts ringed with peeking-out designer underwear. The lead guy, a camo do-rag over his hair, sang out, "Hey, Victor," the tone mocking. "Or should I say Vicky?" The buddies on the stairs laughed meanly. "Butthole surfer," he jeered under his breath.
Victor paused for just a second, then seriously, coldly, deadly: "That would be Mister Surfer to you, Levon."
A few nervous chuckles from the other boys, obviously uncertain exactly who to root for now that Victor had failed to rise to their ringleader's bait.
Victor continued down the stairs, ignoring Levon and crew--but just a step past the mocking boy he reached back and yanked off the scarf.
Protesting loudly, Levon tried to cover his hair, which was squashed and flatted from the headgear. "Fuck you!" he yelled, obviously pissed that his homies were now laughing at him rather than at his intended target.
Victor tossed him the scarf; Levon fumbled and nearly dropped it. Cackling and pushing, his friends moved him bodily away from any possible confrontation and on toward their evening workout.
Victor shook his head, trying an avuncular chuckle that didn't quite sit right. Off duty now, Victor didn't really feel inclined to deal with Doug, who, on the stairs behind him, looked stricken at the insulting byplay. Victor continued on his way downstairs.
When he reached the lowest level, he jerked open the door to the musty change room with a bit too much force. It whumped noisily on the cement-block wall behind him. The tips of his ears pinked up a bit at this display of pique he didn't want anyone to see. He moved quickly across the room, and, with a few precise movements, he opened his lock and locker. He stripped, grabbed a larger but no less scruffy towel and showered, ever vigilant of getting his artfully spiked hair wet, aware he was just as vain about his own "do" as young Levon.
He emerged a few minutes later, surprised to find Doug, changed into blue jeans and a plaid shirt, waiting for him by his locker. Well, well. The plot thickens. He was glad to have something to take his mind off that ungrateful young bastard on the stairs.
He noticed Doug holding his wallet in both hands, bills peeking out from the shadowed interior.
"What?" Victor asked, suspicious and maybe a little paranoid.
"Well, um. I feel I must compensate you for the overtime you put in on my behalf." Doug kept his eyes focused on the worn, brown leather wallet, turning it over and over in his hands. "So if you would just be so kind as to suggest an appropriate dollar figure, I'd, ah..." For a fraction of a second, Doug had looked directly at Victor, then whipped his focus back to the wallet again as if it could answer the question itself. Was he blushing?
Oh. Right. New guy. Not used to a lot of bare-ass nudity. Victor realized the towel he carried in his hand might have been more wisely wrapped around his waist. Another gym rat habit, parading around naked in the change room: Looky what I got. He reached across his chest to scratch the old tattoo that had decorated his bicep since long before they were trendy.
"Forget it, Doug." He grabbed his Calvin Klein boxers and pulled them on as efficiently as possible over still damp skin. They bunched around his thighs, and his temporary lack of grace made him wish Doug was looking somewhere else. Oh, wait. He was. Great.
Doug had put the wallet away and was now searching for the secrets of the universe in the bank of lockers along the left wall. Victor watched as Doug tried turning his back completely to Victor but swung immediately toward the lockers again. Victor guessed Doug had noticed the huge, full-length mirror blanketing the rear wall. Mirrors were one thing the gym hadn't skimped on.
"Well, then. You must at least allow me to buy you dinner, then." For one surreal second, it seemed like Doug was asking the lockers to dinner. "That is, of course, if you're not busy. I mean. Well, that's certainly presumptuous of me. Of course, you must have plans. Well, I just thought that..."
For a few moments, Victor let his inner bad guy savor the spectacle of Doug struggling to ask him out. It was petty of him, but he couldn't help himself and briefly enjoyed this revenge against all the beautiful people who'd rejected him over the years. He was a fast wallower, though, and felt adequately avenged before Doug had even finished speaking.
"I'm sure that someone like you must have dozens of--"
"Okay." Victor interrupted.
Doug's head snapped around to face Victor, saw him making final adjustments to his briefs--to what was in his briefs, to be specific--then whiplashed away so fast Victor feared for Doug's cervical safety. Victor ran a mental review of his first aid training: asphyxiation, bleeding, broken neck. Check. What was with this guy?
"Yeah. I said okay. What part of o and kay don't you get?"
"Yes. Well, then. What are you hungry for?"
Hmmm, what indeed? Victor let his gaze travel up Doug's body. The jeans were certainly an improvement over the crappy sweats. He pulled on his own black jeans as he pondered the question. "There's a new Thai place on Church." Safe bet. There was always a new Thai place on Church.
"That sounds like an excellent choice. I don't believe I've had Thai food before, although certainly everyone seems to ... I'll just wait outside, then. Right you are." Doug fled Victor's side just as a colossal naked man emerged from the showers.
Victor snickered at the spectacle that was Doug Newkirk's hasty departure. Trying to head directly to the exit without looking at the other men in the change room, Doug careened off the freestanding bank of lockers, rebounded against the privacy wall and managed to catch his gym bag on the door handle on his way through. Victor shook his head hard; had Doug just apologized to the wall?
The locker room door closed on the strap of Doug's gym bag, then it slowly creaked open again as a disembodied hand reached back in to liberate the trapped strap.
Still sniggering faintly, Victor nodded to the large and powerful-looking man now toweling off, one foot braced on the bench not far from Victor's ass. Victor pulled on his other boot. "Hey, Danny."
"Jeez, Vic. You sure can pick 'em. He's pretty enough, but I hope he's less clumsy in the sack."
"Yeah. Me, too." Victor stood to zip up. Checking the mirror one more time, he decided his hair was spiked to his liking, slung his gym bag over his shoulder, and headed out to find the promising Douglas Newkirk.