Listen to me now, I'm lasting twenty rounds Who: Daniel and Kal What: Basically Chris’s biggest nightmare: his bff and boyfriend meet without his supervision Where: Pax Letale Gym When: Evening
Beside surfing, Kal tried to get to the gym regularly. Beside outdoor activities he enjoyed the repetition of weight lifting and ensuring his strength remained. Pulling his weight up the side of a rock wall wasn’t for the weak. Of course with all the moving in he had to do, complete with throwing around furniture and boxes of odds and ends he got on his travel, he hadn’t been to the gym since arriving at Pax but found now to be the best possible opportunity.
The boxes were unpacked, his furniture in place, and he was preparing to head back to work. Next week they were discussing what his next travel opportunity could be and he was definitely ready to get the ball rolling again. Short trips or long, he definitely had the wanderlust bug and he was itching to travel somewhere new. He needed it after all the hecticness of moving. Despite traveling so much, he liked having a secure home base. Somewhere to store his things, somewhere to come back to that was his own.
With the news Chris broke to him and the upheaval of moving, Kal needed to get back to being centered and focused. He had his place to call home but his body was in need of some attention, so the gym was the place to be and he was happy for that.
Standing at the pull-up bar, Kal fidgeted at his gloves before grasping the metal bar and pulling himself up with ease. One chin up, another, and the gym door opened as a man walked in. Kal dropped to the floor, sneakers landing softly because it wasn’t a very far way down, and he gave a nod to the man before reaching up again and doing another set of pull ups.
The newcomer's brow, already at a high arch when he arrived, only climbed higher. His expression made plain Kal looked familiar to him in some way; his gaze lingered a bit too long, then flicked away with a quickness that betrayed some degree of discomfort. For a moment it seemed he might pass without acknowledging his apparent neighbor. Then he stopped in front of the high bar, unabashedly staring up at the broad-shouldered man, a quirk of a smile on his lips.
"Hey, I know you. Sorta. Kal, right? Just moved in?"
Kal dropped to the floor again. “Yeah, that’s me,” he replied, eyeing the man as he brushed off his hands, getting the ache from the gripping the bar out of them. With one dark eyebrow arched, just as the other man’s had been, he gave a small jolt of his head. A nod almost, as he seemed to direct it at the man. “Sorry, I don’t know you though. I’m assuming you’re one of my many new neighbors?”
He gave a slight tip of his chin in answer. "Yeah. Daniel Ciin. I think I'm one floor down from you." He flashed a grin, recalling snippets of the forum's discussion that had caught him off guard. Remarkably he refrained from commenting upon it, uncertain what, if anything, Chris had disclosed to his friend. "Sorry I didn't post anything. Looked like you were gettin' a warm enough welcome from what I saw."
Kal’s eyes grew gradually wide, followed by his shark’s smile brightening his face. “You’re Daniel!” He nearly shouted, his arms going wide as he squatted slightly with excitement. “I know all about you. Well. Not everything but I know of you! Chris is my best friend. We’ve known each other since we were kids. It’s fucking great to meet you!” Standing up more straight, Kal jutted his right hand forward, offering it to Daniel for a shake. “Chris will be so pissed that we’re meeting without his watchful eye.”
Daniel took the offered hand immediately, giving it a firm shake, though his hand was easily swallowed up by Kal's grip. Relief and amusement washed over him, though he couldn't help the quick glance he cast about the gym, reassuring himself they were indeed alone. That done, he could not help but laugh.
"Probably better this way," he said. "Now you can tell me honestly how much shit he talks about me when I'm not around." His eyes lit up, an impish gleam brightening their deep near-black. "An' I bet you've got real good stories about him..."
“Oh, he doesn’t say anything bad about you. You’re the first guy he’s shown so much interest in in awhile.” That Kal knew of, at least. But Kal wasn’t going to be the one to say that. There was that small kernel of doubt that Chris was keeping other things from him but he always seemed relatively upfront about his relationships, so Kal had to believe all that he heard in regard to that.
Shoving his hands into the pockets of his gym shorts, Kal grinned as he continued to yammer to Daniel. “Nothing but good shit, I swear. And if you want embarrassing stories, I’ve got them. I remember Chris before he hit puberty, I’ve got all the awkward years covered.”
Daniel's laugh was very nearly a cackle. He clapped his hands together, fingers lacing tightly. The prospect of such tales was enough to briefly distract him from the knowledge that Chris not only spoke of him, but spoke well of him. His earlier fears -- that Chris was embarrassed of him, that he was only a diversion, some meaningless bit on the side -- seemed all the more foolish now. He could have hugged the stranger before him for giving him such comfort. Had they known one another better at all, he likely would have.
"Oh man. I will buy you a case of beer for that. And I have excellent taste in beer. But God, where to even start…" He seemed to remember himself after a moment. He raised his hands in mock surrender, giving a shake of his tousled head. "I'm bein' rude. Tell me about you. What's Chris's best friend like? I gotta admit, you do not look like how I pictured Chris's crowd. You're more… potentially homicidal rugby player. Lacrosse, maybe. UFC."
Kal smiled and shook his head, “Man, you don’t know how often I get that. Or something along the lines. But Chris and I go so far back it was before I hit six feet and I was a hell of a lot more skinnier. So was he and a lot shorter than he is now.” Pulling his hands free from his pockets, he began to undo the straps for the weight gloves, taking them off and tossing them onto the floor next to his water bottle. “The short version about me is that I just moved in, tried to let Chris know first, he didn’t answer his damn phone, and he acted all shocked and dismayed. I do a lot of business travel but I like having a home base to come back to. I was living in different states before all of this but came back to be closer to kuku... which is my grandmother.
“But, I met Chris when I was held back in science and he was in middle school.” Kal bent down and grabbed his water bottle, pulling off the cap and taking a swig. “We absolutely hated each other at first. We both had the hots for this girl--well, me more than Chris--and ended up beating the snot out of each other over it. He hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet and his voice had yet to change fully. It was all squeaky and kept breaking while he yelled at me. But he gave me a bloody nose, so I kind of respected him right off the bat.”
Daniel could barely speak for laughing. "Jesus, I'd give my left nut for a time machine," he said. "I would love to have seen that. Now I'm kinda disappointed he didn't have to fight anybody for me." He folded his arms loosely over his chest, shaking his head as his laughter died down. "Why's he so bummed about you movin' in? It's not a bad place, and most of our neighbors don't suck."
“Man, I have so many stories, so many. I will take you up on that beer and tell you all, just so long as I get to enjoy Chris’s face being all red. He might kill me after, too. But it’ll be worth it.” Kal smiled at the man, already firmly liking him. Oh the stories he could tell and if Daniel was a willing recipient, even better. But his smiled dimmed slightly from Daniel’s question and he gave a shrug as he glanced around the gym, still noting that they were alone. “Originally he said he didn’t want his babysitter living down the hall from me. But now I think it’s because of his job.”
Kal licked his lips and furrowed his brow, he looked across the gym, at the mirror that reflected the two men standing casually. “He told me about what happened, just so you know. The pick up and what happened to you both. He never wanted me to know but finally fessed up. I think that’s part of why he originally didn’t want me here. It’s easier to keep secrets with someone when they aren’t living in the same building as you.”
A small frown twitched at one corner of Daniel's mouth. His throat felt dry; he swallowed hard, focusing more on the fact that he had someone else he could talk to, and less on the still quietly-lingering fear the event had left in him.
"You didn't know?" He raised a hand to his nape, a sheepish look crossing his face. "Well, I guess I don't feel so bad now that he kept it from me. I get that it's not a conversation you wanna have, but damn. Um. He tell you he's tryin' to get out?" His words stopped there, but his expression was clear: He wanted it to be true. He needed it to be.
“Yeah, he told me,” Kal replied. He let out a gush of air, as if withholding his breath for some while. “He actually told me about his ‘business’ because you had taken it so well. But he kept guaranteeing that he is getting out of it while also denying any offers of help. He’s such a pain in the ass sometimes, you willing to deal with that?”
A deep smirk twisted Daniel's lips. "Well I've heard my whole life what a pain in the ass I am, so I think I'm pretty well prepared. I have a feelin' he's worth the trouble. So I'm helpin' him whether he wants me to or not." He grinned, raking a hand through already mussed black hair. "I imagine you're gonna do the same."
“Fuck yes I am. That pain in the ass should know better, too.” His grin matched Daniel’s. “I’ve been trying to drill it into his brain he deserves to be happy for ten goddamn years.” Kal crossed his strong arms over his chest and looked Daniel over before giving him a nod.
“You know, I can see why he likes you. You seem good for him. I mean, if you hurt him, I might need to kill you, but I have a feeling you won’t do that.” In fact, Kal thought, if anyone is going to do the hurting it would likely be Chris...but Kal didn’t say it outloud. He thought it though, vividly, as well as the ass whooping he’d give Chris in return, but he kept that to himself as well. “But really, you seem a good fit for him. Plus you’re at the gym so that’s a win in my book.”
Daniel laughed, and hoped it distracted from the faint color that dusted high over his cheekbones. "Yeah, well. It takes work to look this good." With a wag of his brows he gestured down to himself, as though his lean-muscled form was anything to turn the head of a mountain like Kal.
"Listen, though, we should go out some time, the three of us. Grab a beer or somethin'. Gettin' him out of the house can be… well." He shrugged. "I mean it's easier lately. But maybe he'll be a little more comfortable with the idea if you're around, too."
Kal nodded, his smile already on his lips and not going anywhere any time soon. “No, no, I get it. I’ll just threaten to carry him out of the apartment like a suitcase. That normally gets him moving. But we should definitely go out for an evening, it’ll be great--for us at least. I’m sure you’ve already figured out that Chris is going to hate that we’re teaming up to improve his life.”
Daniel's grin turned more than a little suggestive. "That's fine," he said. "I'll make it worth his while." He chuckled, winking playfully, then tipped his head back toward the orderly section of free weights. "Now. Come spot me an' tell me about all this travel of yours…"