but it is as if my tongue is broken Who: Kal and Vinnie What: Neighbors meet Where: Apartment gym When: June 8th
Kal adored traveling for Nat Geo. It was why he stuck with the job when previously he was flighty with his employment. He suspected half the reason he was so content with Nat Geo was because it allowed him to be flighty. After spending enough time in one location, he got the call to travel somewhere. And the locations always provided the exact amount of excitement that Kal desired in life.
Africa provided that. For two weeks he made his way down the Okavango river, his boots filled with mud and his skin raw with bites from the local mosquitos. He ate the vegetation like the locals and when he was lucky, and a village particularly kind, he’d feast on the meat they provided. But he lived out of a tent and drove either in a Jeep that was often stuck in mud, or on a boat that had to navigate around hippos.
And he loved every second of it.
The only thing Kahale Weber didn’t enjoy about these exotic trips was that it took him away from his daily gym visits. Gone were the protein shakes and schedule of leg day, cardio and weights. So he was always a little glad to make it back to America and wherever he called home, particularly now that his apartment had such a decent gym.
But he found himself lonely, missing Daniel’s presence at the gym visit and wishing for the jovial companionship the two shared. It had been a relatively silent workout--beside the loud music issuing from his phone on the floor--until a newcomer walked in.
Vinnie was not the type to hit the gym daily; or weekly, or really ever in his post-high school life. While he'd been known to do a few sit-ups and run around with friends whose idea of fun was bouncing off buildings (lunatics), generally speaking he normally kept his weight down by walking literally everywhere and unintentional food rationing as a byproduct of being poor.
It worked pretty well for him, until he took a job at a pizza place. Snagging bites here and there did wonders for his food budget, but given that his second job was at a movie theater and his third was babysitting a turtle (and Percy has got to be a secret trust fund baby or something, because only actors and rich people are that eccentric and Percy lives too comfortably to be the former), none of his jobs were providing enough exercise to burn off the calories.
Which led to a sober awakening this morning, when Vinnie had had been washing up and realized his stomach was getting a little softer than normal. An examination in the bathroom mirror confirmed that not only was he not feeling things, but his chest was starting to take on the barest hint of softness too. Oh hell no.
Ergo, the scene now: one Vinnie Romero making his way to the Pax gym, wearing an old tee with the sleeves roughly cut off and a comfortable pair of jeans worn out at the knees and hems. Maybe not the best workout clothes, but the only clean shorts he could find without unpacking more boxes were the gold shiny ones he wore that one Halloween and no (also why were those the ones he unpacked, he only wore them once?) He was distracted from scolding himself by the sound of music seeping through the doors, a scowl twisting a face made for smiling. He’d really been hoping the gym would be abandoned at this hour, so no one would see his shame.
For a brief moment Vinnie considered going right back home, but if he didn’t get started now he never would and he knows that. With a deep sigh the young man pushed right through and found himself greeted with a fantastic view of someone he assumed is his neighbor, doing something involving one of the machines that makes every muscle on his back ripple. Vinnie’s first thought was ’why is everyone here stupid hot?’, the thought that followed coming out of his mouth before he could filter. “God is real and she hates me.”
Kahale lowered the weights and glanced over his shoulder at the sound of the door opening and closing. There he found a man, younger and shorter than him and inappropriately dressed for the gym, watching him. “Hey,” he offered the man with a nod as he got to his feet and moving toward his cell phone that lay on the floor. “Sorry about the music, I’ll turn it down. I’m usually the only one in here at this hour.”
Vinnie blinked like an owl caught in daylight when Kal addressed him. A second later his brain caught up to speed and he began to shake his head. “Don’t. Not because of me, I mean.” The motion of reaching up to run a hand through his hair reminded him it was still loose, and he fished inside one of his pockets for the tie he’d nabbed. “Although if you’d rather be alone, I can go?” For a run, most likely; now that he’d gotten himself in motion, if Vinnie went back to the apartment he’d just end up pacing like a caged lion.
Kal smiled, his teeth white and his smile broad against his tanned skin. “The music stays on and you’re welcome to stay here. There’s enough room for the both of us, don’t worry about it.” He stepped away from his phone and adjusted the weighted bands around his wrist. “I haven’t seen you here before, you new to the complex?”
And of course the man has a pretty smile. Vinnie offered one of his, bright and easy like the man himself despite the twisting in his gut. “Um, kinda,” he answered as he pulled the tie out, went about the business of pulling his hair together. It isn’t a process he has to think overmuch about; two of his three jobs required long hair be pulled back in some fashion. “I moved back in April, but I’ve been crazy busy since then. How about you?”
“Oh, I moved here at the end of March,” Kal replied and moved toward the newcomer who was considerably shorter than him. He offered his hand with a smile to boot. “I’m Kal Weber. I live up on the third floor.”
Jesus Christ, he could climb this guy like a tree. Dude could probably take the weight too. “Oh, Vinnie Romero. No relation to the director,” he answered as he finished putting his hair in a low bun, taking the offered hand and shaking as though he hadn’t just been picturing anything but introductions. ’Quit creeping, Vinnie,’ he scolded himself, letting out the air in his lungs with a sigh. “End of March, huh? Were you here for that crazy week?”
Kal’s eyebrows quirked up, “Oh, the floors changing? Yeah, I was there. Spent the majority of it stoned or drunk but…” He nodded, smiling, his broad arms crossing over his even broader chest.“So, were you here for that? Or was that just before you moved here in April. Either way, some welcome, huh?”
“Me too,” came the distracted reply as Vinnie’s eyes followed the movements of his neighbor’s arms. Christ almighty did this man have muscles ever--Focus. “I mean, yeah I was there for that, I moved in at the beginning of the month.” Looking up, Vinnie offered a sheepish smile, hoping to god the other dude assumed he’d been distracted thinking of that week. Or just lost in thought. “And yeah, I spent most of that week taking advantage of the kegs. Probably not my smartest move,” especially considering he woke up next to a pile of guts after a nightmare he’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to forget, “but hey. I’m pretty sure I’m not dead.”
“No you look pretty alive to me,” Kal offered with a smile. “And hey, all this weird shit only makes me want to work out more, you know? It’s like preparing for the apocalypse. Not that strength did anything when the floors changed. I tried to break windows and they wouldn’t budge. Not even a dent.”
Kal took a step back and dropped his hands at his side. “Speaking of, I don’t mean to keep you from working out. If you need a spotter or something, let me know. I could use one too if you have the time but if not, it’s fine.”
“Dude don’t get me started on apocalypse scen--arios,” Vinnie’s retort trailed off as an impish smile faded into a frown of confusion. How could this dude fail to break a window when he’d succeeded in his own apartment? Sort of; while there’d been glass on the floor, the window had remained intact, and after everything was over with the trash bin he’d tossed the shards in had been empty..
’Did I hallucinate that?’ he wondered, and immediately shoved the thought away. Maybe he’d bring it up with BB, or Perce (though probably not.) His hesitation only wavered slightly when Kal offered his services as a spotter, torn between honesty and trying to bluff it off. He entertained the latter idea for exactly a second before deciding to go for broke. “Actually.. I’ll be honest with you? I haven’t set foot in a gym since high school and I only remember how to use about half of the stuff in this room. I was probably gonna spend most my time either watching you on them or googling it, so if I didn’t just creep you out I can go ahead and spot you? I can get a refresher course, and then you can be done and not witness my shame when I try.” Vinnie punctuated with a bright, slightly nervous smile that nonetheless lit up his face.
Kal’s smile was crooked but happy. “Actually, how about something better. I can show you how to use the machines. I’ll use them, then you try it. Sound better?” His knuckles gently bumped Vinnie’s shoulder. “Consider it a free gym class or whatever. Then you can work on all of this on your own.”
He moved away and toward the closest machine, holding out his hand to indicate the machine and get Vinnie’s agreement before sitting down.
Vinnie blinked up at him, expression warring between a relieved smile and hesitation. “Dude, are you s--I mean yeah. If it ain't--isn't any bother, then yeah, sure.” ’Oh my God shut up,‘ he internally hissed at himself, following Kal to the first machine. ’Hot and half-naked is offering to let you watch him, stop sabotaging yourself!‘
“I'm really not joking about the shame. Be kind and don't bust a gut when it's my turn?” he added with a smile, only half-lying; in comparison to his unfairly hot neighbor, yes. But working in two moderately physically demanding jobs had kept him from completely turning into the marshmallow ghost. “I mean, stomach like that I'm pretty sure someone would charge me with a crime if you injured yourself laughing at me.” Smooth, Romero.
“Promise I won’t laugh. It’s better to learn how to do it the right way so you don’t get yourself hurt.” Kal reassured the man as he took a seat and fidgeted with the weights. “When it’s your turn, make sure you have it set on an embarrassingly low setting and just keep going a little higher until you find the weight that provides some resistance. I know the weight I can press, so I just hop to it. And you gotta do reps.” He stretched his arms out, gave them a shake, then grasped the handles of the shoulder press and pushed up. “See? Easy.”
“Yeah, last thing I need is a bad back in my twenties.” Vinnie leaned against one of the other machines and shut his mouth, as much to concentrate on what Kal is teaching him as to keep himself from making an even bigger idiot of himself. At least the former is moderately easy, though having a hot teacher certainly helps keep Vinnie’s eyes on what he’s doing. “Alright,” he answered, drawing out the middle vowel. “I’m guessing starting at sixty pounds would count as embarrassingly easy?” He lifted that every day, multiple times, at two of his jobs.
“Not embarrassing at all. It’s more than some people can do.” Kal replied with a grin as he lowered the weights and got off the machine. “Try it yourself, see how it feels.”
Vinnie nodded as he passed Kal, crouching easily to fiddle with the weight. After a moment's consideration he set it at seventy, then took the other man’s former seat in the machine. His eyes closed, his stance and grip shifting to mirror his neighbor’s. “Here goes,” he muttered with a crooked grin, and pushed up on the shoulder press. The handles moved with little enough resistance that Vinnie’s eyes flew open. “I.. Think I need to put a little more weight on. That's awesome!” A laugh followed, drifting after as he slipped from his seat to do just that.