Sunday, August 10, 2014



*Story contains M/M relations*

Smooth, solid leather hit Everett jaw’s square. Distant tones were rung, the sound growing in his ears like an approaching crier, heavy bell in full swing. He locked his knees, shook his head, and tried to roll shoulders that felt too heavy to move. The voice that shouted directions still came from his right, but in that slow fade-and-recede that reminded Everett of trying to talk underwater. He shuffled to his left, the move clumsy and misaligned and jerked for balance at the same time the glove met his cheek. Flashbulbs popped behind Everett’s eyes, warmth bloomed from the spot of impact, and the weight of gravity lifted as smoothly as his body slunk to the mat. “Bring out yer dead...”

Before he’d even regained his wits, Everett was struggling to get up. He did everything he could to ignore the scowl he was getting from his trainer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Everett thought, whatever. He’d love to see how much stamina Bugs could pull off holding down two jobs. Everett would be willing to bet two-for-twenty that smug look wouldn’t last four rounds if their roles were reversed. “Easy to shoot your mouth off from the sidelines,” Eric grumbled unintelligibly.

Instead, Everett trained his attention on the eyes behind the headguard of his opponent. Former opponent, Everett corrected. That last hit had made Everett’s competitor his victor. Even flailing in defeat though, Everett had to give the kid kudos. The little shit had been fast, strong, and accurate as all hell. No matter how much he hated it, Everett could concede to a job well done.

He would also, no matter if it was just training, no matter if there were no points or belts or fans, feel the sting of failure just as strongly. If there was one thing Everett hated, it was losing. So when the other man reached a glove-clad arm down to assist Everett into verticality, Everett briefly considered smacking the leather away from his face and attempting to stand on his own. But firefly offspring where still occasionally flashing to life in Everett’s peripheral, and he didn’t quite trust his knees. Grunting, Everett reached out, looped his wrists around the man’s glove and let himself get yanked to his feet.

There were no words from Bugs. Just the trainer’s evil glare and an extended thumb shoved in the direction of the locker rooms.

Everett kept his back straight and his brow furrowed as he made his way towards the back of the gym. It would be no walk of shame for him. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t have all day to work out and throw punches. No parents paved his sidewalks with gold. No sixty-some-year-old with way-too-fucking-much money and an over-indulgent-appreciation for getting his cock sucked was forking him rent money. Everett had to work for a living.

With a huff Everett slammed his locker door open and whipped his headguard onto the top shelf. Gloves were hung haphazardly while the bag with his street clothes was wrestled out. His wounded pride was doing its best to finish the beating his sparring partner had started. And the worst part, the damn shame of it all, was there wasn’t a thing Everett could do about it. It was work – the jobs were making him soft.

Not physically soft; he’d be hard-pressed to agree that slugging shingles for ten hours a day, followed by another four slinging bags of feed, could make a man’s body weak. On the contrary, any parts of Everett that hadn’t already been choice stock had been quickly honed into prime over the last couple of years. Everett liked what he saw when he looked in the mirror – was damn proud of the way his body moved and what it could do. No, it was his mind that suffered. It was his brain that was getting limp around the edges. And without the focus, the fighting was a lost cause. Not that he’d ever really held out much hope for doing anything ‘real’ with the boxing. But he’d been good at it and he enjoyed it. It hurt to see it fizzling out. It made him feel old – and you weren’t supposed to feel old at the age of twenty-four.

He stepped into the shower without waiting for the water to warm. The cold would be short-lived – but the shock was always welcome. It made him gulp great gasps of air, made his skin bump and tremble, and zapped life back into that which was tired, achy, and bruised. He braced on the wall of the shower, hung his head between his shoulders, and let the stream fall directly over hair and spine.

“Everett?” The voice seemed far too soft and childlike for the space and Everett’s eyes flew open. He didn’t turn right away, just left his ears perked and his senses on auto-buzz.

“Everett, you okay?” The solid fall of feet told him the advancing form was far larger and, as such, probably much older than it sounded. Everett turned his head, pulled it out of the water, and with hair streaming, sought out the culprit who dared to disturb him.

It was his eyes Everett noticed first – blue so dark they could be storm clouds. The same eyes, in fact, that had watched from within the headguard as Everett had fumbled to his feet out on the mat. Everett recognized the red and white Grant Stock trunks that would have cost the man as much as Everett’s electric bill. He rolled his eyes at the newly-added matching jersey that would have been twice that.

“You okay?” the man repeated and Everett fought back the urge to swing at the supposed arrogance of the question – for so many more reasons that just his kind nature. Sweet little baby voice or not, Everett’s jaw more than recalled what kind of power the man kept in his left hook.

“You’re in my shower, why?” Everett replied, ignoring the question.

Everett watched with growing fascination as the other man’s expression drooped noticeably. “Oh,” he said, disappointment making his words heavy and those strange blue eyes darken. “You don’t recognize me.”

“Should I?” Everett replied without sympathy.

“Luke?” the other man prodded. “High school? You were a senior when I was a freshman. You assisted the coach on the wrestling team, right? Used to help with the practices and run us through our warm-ups.”

Everett frowned. That he remembered, yes. But this Luke? No, this Luke he didn’t recall one bit. There’d been a Luke... but that boy had been skinny, tiny – barely spoke a word. And when he had, his voice had been a shy, weak, baby-kind... Everett’s eyes flew wide. “Luke?!”

Luke’s expression softened into a smile. He lifted his hand in a quick, awkward wave. “Hi.” With a nervous cough, Luke averted his eyes. “So, yeah, um. I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You took a couple of good hits out there.”

Surprise aside, Everett snorted. Luke may have stood close to his own six feet, hell; Luke might even have an inch on him. But Everett remembered when the boy had been five-foot-next-to-nothing and could only have called up a hundred and twenty pounds on the scale if Luke had been holding two ten pound weights. “Take more than a hit from a little weasel like you to do any damage to me.”

Luke’s smile grew. “It was good enough to knock you on your ass.”

“Pffft,” Everett hissed and took a second to cast his eyes over this new Luke. Still slim, but well developed, tall, light brown hair cut very short and very tidy. Not bad. Took care of himself. He’d worked hard, obviously, the epitome of weakling-turned-hardass.

“What do you want Luke?” Everett scowled and waved at their surroundings. “Kinda busy here.”

Luke lowered his eyes and chuckled weakly. “Yeah. Sorry. I just thought, uh, well... Coach had said you were, uh, having trouble. And I thought you might like to train with me. You know. If you wanted...” Luke’s words trailed off to silence as Everett narrowed his eyes and stared Luke down.


Luke tilted his head. “Why?”

“Yeah, why? What do you need me for? Better yet, why do you want me?”

Luke’s eyebrows twitched up. “You don’t know? Really?”

Everett frowned and shook his head.

Luke lowered his eyes again, speaking to the wet tile and mildewed grout. “You changed my life, Everett. Without you I’d still be getting slammed around on the bus and chasing my backpack between snickering assholes. You told me I could be something. And then you showed me how to do it. You said it would be hard work but you said you knew it was possible. And then you proved it by doing it right alongside.” Luke shrugged. “You were my hero.”

Though the water steamed against Everett’s skin, he felt a shiver work up his spine. He didn’t know whether to be flattered or freaked out. After all, those were just words anyone would say to prod on a bunch of sweating, flailing grade-niners. Not that he hadn’t been sincere, he had truly believed in those rah-rah-go-go-go’s and the you-can-do-it’s. He’d just never taken it to heart that anyone else would. To see it in action though, knowing that it had transformed that little boy into this man was kind of cool. Kind of redeeming.

“Well, thanks for the offer,” Everett said, distractedly punching off the water and reaching for a towel. “But I think my days of training are probably over. I work and...”

“I know,” Luke said quickly. “My Dad owns the feed mill.”

Everett paused. His second job. Hunh, he thought. He’d never placed the name before.

When he turned back to Luke, Luke was blushing. “I’m just saying, if you want to train with me, I can make sure it works.”

As Everett pressed the terry against his skull and worked it into his hair, he laughed. “I don’t think I need any training...”

Again Luke cut him off. “Maybe I do.” Everett lifted an unbelieving eyebrow and Luke’s blush deepened. “Come on, Everett. You can finish the job you started, right?”

Luke made a marked effort to keep his eyes away as Everett stepped out of the half-stall and wrapped the towel around his waist with a tug. “I’ll think about it.”


“Got a second?” The words were phrased as a question but spoken as command, and Everett dropped the bag of corn with a slam, already gritting his teeth. It had been a bitch of a day and Everett really wasn’t in the mood to deal with any of Jack’s bullshit. Besides, he was more than sure that he already knew what the conversation was going to be about. Luke.

Everett shut the office door behind him and dropped with a bounce. Casters moved with him as Everett swung the chair in front of Jack’s cluttered desk. “S’up, boss?”

“Got a call from Davis, regarding his boy,” Jack said without looking up from his paper. “You know him?”

Everett didn’t reply.

“Kid needs a trainer,” Jack continued. “You know that?”

Silence followed.

“S’posedly, he wants you.” His foreman finally looked up and caught Everett’s eye. “But I guess you already knew that too.”

Everett held Jack’s gaze level. “Your point?”

“He wants to pay you. How’s that for a point, wise guy? Bet you didn’t know that, did you?”

No, Everett thought. As a matter of fact he hadn’t known – hadn’t even considered the possibility.

“Can’t say I’m happy about it,” Jack huffed. “It’s hard enough finding decent help around here, especially one with a back like yours. But I’ll deal.”

“Wait... what?” Everett titled his head. He wasn’t sure what shocked him more, the hidden compliment or the implied meaning. “You mean I’m fired?”

Heavy brows knitted into confusion as Jack glared back. “Hunh? Who said anything about getting fired? Kid wants to come here in the evening. Have you train him while you should be working. Says they’ll keep paying your rate but instead of slinging bags for me, you’ll be getting your ass kicked by him.”

Everett let the news sink it, stunned. It didn’t cut down on any of the time he was away from home, no. But it meant he’d still bring in the same amount of cash andhe’d get some time to train. With a fairly decent opponent, too.

“Come on,” Jack urged. “Do me a world of good and tell me no way.”

Everett shook his head, patted both of his own knees and stood. “Sorry, boss. As the saying goes, my Mama didn’t raise no genius but she didn’t raise a fool either. I think I’m gonna have to say yes to this one.”

Jack nodded, and retrieved his paper. “Ayup. Kinda figured.”


“Don’t just swing blind!” Everett hollered above the noise of the fans. “Focus!” Everett’s eyes never left Luke’s torso as he stood and watched Luke beat the bag. Rapid jabs, arms fully extended and sweat sliding down Luke’s spine; while late summer sun set behind, reflecting the dusty heat of the empty loft. It was a sight worthy of artwork.

What had once been dry storage now boasted heavy bag, speed bag, and double-end bag. Luke’s father had even gone to the trouble to install MMA floor and wall mats in the far corner; their own little make-shift gym, complete with ‘ring’. Instead of clock, a timer flashed above it all, persistently advising in a descending roll of numerical insight that time was almost up.

“Watch your landing, not your fist,” Everett corrected, circling the heavy bag and stopping behind it. He grabbed the equipment to steady it and leaned. “Come on, Luke. Do it. One minute. Show me what you got.”

It had been three weeks: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, leaving the weekends for them to do their own thing at the gym. And it had been awesome. Everett loved working with Luke – he was good. Luke had no issues with training hard and putting his whole soul into the effort.

More so though, Everett just plain-old loved watching Luke move. Luke’s body was like a young god’s. More than one instance had found Everett back to mattress, eyes screwed shut and cock in hand, while Everett recalled flexing muscles, musky sweat, and blue eyes hardened and transfixed to his own.

“All right,” Everett called out. “Enough for today.” One more resounding fist slammed into unforgiving leather and Luke dropped both arms, panting. Everett smiled. “Nice work, Luke. I’m really impressed, buddy. You gave it all you got and you gave it fucking hard. You should be proud of yourself.”

Exhaustion blossomed into satisfaction. “Thanks, Coach,” Luke grinned.

Everett wrapped an arm around Luke’s wet shoulders and dragged him close. “Come on, shower time.”


Everett half-listened to water fall and the soft-spoken ramblings of the man underneath it. The ‘shower’ was nothing more than a pipe with a spigot, half-propped, half-hanging over a floor drain, but at least it offered warm water.

“So? What do you think?” Luke asked, and it took Everett a full second to realise Luke was waiting for him to respond.

Everett shook his head, dragging his mind back from where it had been frolicking in the land of bubbly foam sliding over ass cheeks. Probably not a bad time to pull back from that, either, Everett thought. It didn’t exactly prove kosher to pop a boner while standing beside the man who you were supposed to be training while said man soaped up his body. No matter how enticing the view.

“Sorry,” Everett frowned. “I distracted myself. What do I think about what?”

Nervous eyes sought out Everett’s. And why that was the case, Everett had no idea. Only that something lit in Luke’s face and that particular something had caused a flush of... concern?... to rise in Luke’s usually mild expression. Everett lifted away from the wall and reached for a towel, but was stopped when Luke caught his wrist. “Everything okay, Coach?”

Had Everett been standing anywhere near something electrical, he would have sworn he was being shocked. Perhaps it had been the daydreaming, or just the fact that Luke stood buck-naked and was touching Everett at the same time, but the energy that came from Luke’s fingertips and raced through Everett’s blood was enough to make him feel dizzy.

Luke frowned and stepped closer. “You all right?” And what had just been a moment of breathlessness suddenly shifted into a full-blown craving to press into Luke’s neck and suck in the scent of shampoo and soap; to wind his fingers into Luke’s soaked hair and wrench Luke’s head back so he could taste the water sliding down Luke’s neck. Everett shook his head and took a step back, sucking in a gulp of air.

Which did nothing to help Everett’s situation as Luke merely stepped forward to match the movement, and Everett found his eyes dipping to watch body parts swing as Luke advanced. Body parts that Everett had no right watching. While Everett’s mind told him to keep backing up, Everett’s hand defied it, sliding up Luke’s arms and gripping Luke’s bicep in the pretence of keeping balance.

The concern in Luke’s eyes deepened to outright panic. “Everett, what’s wrong?”

Everett gave himself just one moment to revel in the feel of Luke’s body underneath his palm; to take that one extra breath of Luke’s scent, before pressing Luke away.

“Whoa,” Everett chuckled hollowly. “Sorry ‘bout that. I’m all right. Just one of those things.” Again he shook his head, significantly harder, laughing to ease the moment. “Didn’t mean to freak you out. What were you saying?”

Luke licked his lips but didn’t move away. “That we should go for a beer or something. But I don’t know now...”

Relieved, Everett barked out another laugh. “Beer would be awesome! Beer would be perfect! Yes, good.” He patted Luke’s arm and watched Luke’s eyes fall to follow the gesture. Everett quickly yanked his hand back. “Dressed. You should. Right. Get dressed. I’m going to, uh, grab something from the... you know... training room. That thing. That I left there. While you get dressed.”

Everett was gritting his teeth and mentally bashing his head against hard surfaces as he stalked from the room.

“Everett?” Luke’s voice stopped him at the door. Everett didn’t turn, just waited, his cheeks hot. “You didn’t freak me out.”

Everett stopped at the doorway, frowning into the darker hallway beyond. He didn’t say a word. Had no idea, in fact, what he would even want to say if he could find the ability. By the time he did look around, Luke was already wandering away from the shower, body wrapped and attentions elsewhere.


“Last one!” Everett laughed above the noise of the bar. The game played way too loudly above them, the jukebox played way too loudly to the right of them and a table full of tiara-wearing young women cackled way too loudly to their left. Luke, the sound lost, but the movement of chest and shoulders obvious, provided his own hearty chuckle to Everett’s statement and lined up the two beer mugs beside each other. He passed Everett the shot glass of whiskey, picked up his own and lifted his left hand.

Their fourth of the evening, and only an hour and half in, both of them had a glow around the edges that, enhanced by the chaotic environment and pounding music, had them both acting like high school kids on spring break. Luke lifted a finger and Everett nodded. Then a second, and then a third, and then both of them were rushing to drop the shot, glass and all into the mugs.

Glass hit glass, beer foamed and alcohol mixed as the mugs were lifted, sloshing hands and table with frothing liquid, before being pushed to lips and swallowed until empty. “Gah!” Everett heard Luke yell out and grinned as a violent shiver hit Luke’s body. Everett caught the descending shot glass between his lips, draining the rest of the beer around it, and lowered the mug before smirking and spitting the shot glass into his hand.

“Nice!” Luke laughed, slapping Everett’s shoulder and suddenly the world began to tilt dangerously. Everett grabbed for the table, fought back a wave of vertigo and grimaced.

Luke leaned into his ear. “You okay?”

Everett took a deep breath.

“Gonna hurl?” Luke asked.

Everett lifted a shaky hand and made a see-saw motion. Maybe-yes, maybe-no. Luke grabbed his arm and dragged him to the door. Cool air hit Everett’s clammy forehead and began to cool skin through sweat-dampened cloth. Everett was dragged to the side of the roadhouse and gently propped up against brickwork.


Everett leaned into the pressure of Luke’s arms. Just for a minute, he told himself. Just until the spinning stopped. He’d be okay – shots always hit him hard at first. He would level. He just needed a few to catch his breath.

“I’m good,” Everett said. “Be all right in two minutes. Just... give me two, okay?”

Luke shifted his weight; put both arms up to hold Everett’s shoulders back. “I’ll take you home,” he offered.

Everett sighed and leaned his head back against the wall. “In a second.” He let his eyelids slip shut.

The night was far sweeter than the bar. October breeze played through his hair and the nutty, smoky scent of burned leaves long since left to char hung heavy in the air. Booze had left Everett’s belly warm and his mind woozy – his shoulders sagging and his lips quirked. Everett’s head spun playfully against reality and he enjoyed the break. Why the hell didn’t he do this more often?

“I love your smile,” Everett heard. That same soft, baby-sweet voice he knew to be Luke’s, and Everett opened his eyes at the same time that his lower lip was brushed with something. He tried to force himself to focus, because surely it was not Luke’s thumb that ran itself across Everett’s mouth. Surely Everett’s mind was playing tricks on him when it told him that Luke was staring at him in half-lidded concentration. Nor would Luke be dragging a heated gaze up to meet his own.

Sobriety was obtained instantaneously as mouth touched mouth. The arms that hung loose at Everett’s sides were lifted to cling to Luke’s t-shirt, bunching the material in his fists just so he could feel the press of Luke’s chest under his knuckles. And how could a man, who felt this hard, and held the power of Ares in his right arm, kiss so gently?

Everett had no idea what pulled Luke away. The need for breath? Pure fortitude? He only knew that once the kiss was broken, Luke stood absolutely motionless for a long, quiet minute with his eyes closed and lips parted.

Bliss, Everett thought. If anyone ever asked him to describe perfect bliss that would be the picture Everett would paint.

From a million miles away, Luke slowly returned, eyelids fluttering open with a sigh before they suddenly widened in horror. “Oh, God,” Luke choked. “Oh, God, Everett, I’m so sorry.” Everett watched, in masked confusion as Luke dropped his hands and wrapped them behind his own back. “Everett, I’m sorry!”

There were a million things Everett could have done – pulled Luke back, told him not to start what he couldn’t finish. For that matter Everett could have simply traded places with a quick move, forced Luke back against the wall instead, and taken charge. But Everett saw the fear. And the guilt. The embarrassment. It hurt Everett’s chest in all kinds of weird ways.

He slumped against the wall. “Home,” he mumbled with exaggerated inflection. “Drunk. Need sleep.”


The gym was crawling with people. Saturday morning was always a crappy time to try and get in the ring but Everett had been itching for it since he got out of bed. Because if he didn’t get some of the tension out of his shoulders in a controlled, refereed environment, there was a good chance when it did come out, it wasn’t going to be pretty.

“I already told you, Everett,” Bugs was saying, “I don’t got no time in the ring for you this morning. It’s booked.”

“But Coach, I…”

“Whining’s not gonna change anything.” Bugs reached into the ring and slammed his fist onto the mat. “Stop your dancing and start your swinging or I swear to God I’ll let someone who wants to fight in there!”

He turned back to Everett. “Hang around. Beat on some leather. If you’re lucky one of the bookings’ll show up without a partner, okay? Now, get out of my face. I’m training here.”

Everett huffed and slunk away, his eyes scoping the gym for any available equipment, finally settling on a speed bag. With his training gloves in place Everett eyed the bag, bent his knees and rolled his head in an effort to relax the shoulders and neck that were way, way too tight to perform a proper move. He started with a single roll, left hand first, and found a slow, easy rhythm. Once that was in place, he added his right and worked it until he could push to a double hit on each side. From there it was just focus – rocking in place, hands held high, and tap-tap-switch, tap-tap-switch.

He wasn’t even really sure why he was annoyed. Okay, he thought, scrap that. He knew why all right. It might not be reasonable but there was a reason. Everett had no problem with Luke trying to kiss him. Hell, the guy was gorgeous. But… the embarrassment? The guilt? No. Everett wasn’t going there. Everett had been a wrestler and member of the football team in high school. He’d never had to worry in a fight. He was tough and he was strong – a typical boy’s boy, a man’s man. But he’d never spent one single moment in the closet. If someone didn’t like him because he was gay that was just fine. He defied anyone to try and call him out on it.

So it hurt to think that Luke could only ball up enough courage to try something when (a) Everett was drunk and (b) no one was around. Worse yet, that Luke had acted like it was some kind of sin.

That just pissed Everett off.

It made him feel small inside. Like, if Luke thought it was so evil and shameful, then obviously, by default, Luke thought Everett was too.

The speed bag bounced at a dramatic pace, every second of thought pushing Everett that much harder – until his bicep was grabbed and Everett spun with a look of fury. “Got a sparring partner for you, Everett.” Bugs said. “Come on over if you’re warmed up.”

Everett took one final shot at the bag, leaning in to use his elbow and watched the leather bounce viciously off the board and back again. “Be right there.” He grabbed his other gloves, threw them over his shoulder and began to peel the training ones off his hands. It took a few minutes to finish the process of exchanging small for large, pausing at the side of the ring for Bugs to help him into the final glove, so Everett was already on the mat before he lifted his eyes to his opponent.

And God be damned if it wasn’t Luke that Everett was staring at. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle. Lips curled further over Everett’s mouth guard. He tightened his fists harder into the gloves. Even with a good twelve hours behind them, Luke’s eyes still shone with the hateful emotions. Instead of the sympathy one would expect when confronted with a kicked-puppy-dog look, Everett could feel the anger boiling up in his guts.

“Okay, gents,” Bugs said, “let’s take this back to where you two started, okay? See if we can work on that…”

Everett swung. He didn’t wait for the okay to start and he didn’t wait for Luke to get ready. It was by pure luck that Luke tilted back at the last minute and Everett ended up over-swinging. Following the punch through, Everett lurched forward and had to regain his footing.

It was, however, long enough for Luke to pull back, get in stance, and throw his own jab. A slam rocked Everett’s jaw.

Everett twisted jerkily, anger making him clumsy. He could hear the coach hollering in the background, no doubt furious at the impromptu start and disregard for the rules. Everett would pay for that later. Hopefully not with a full ban, but at that point, he could have cared less.

They circled each other, Everett’s eyes on fire, Luke’s pleading. Everett rushed him. Warmed up from the speed bag, Everett had no trouble landing a half a dozen quick jabs in Luke’s side before Luke found his bearings and rotated to get out of the way. Everett grabbed Luke in a bear hug, flung him to the side to throw his balance off, and landed two more hits before Luke bent down, shifted his weight and hooked with a left. Everett’s entire face felt the force. He gasped, shuffled, and was instantly hit with another. Nerves already weeping were shocked into frozen pain. A right punch caught Everett’s jaw, snapping it over to meet yet another left. Which hit Everett like a train.

He was down on one knee before Everett even realised he’d lost footing. “Fucking enough, I said!” Bugs screamed in the background and Everett could see feet fumbling as Luke was pushed out of the way. Everett’s chin was lifted by a rough hand, his eyes slowly focussing on the enraged face above him. “Get the fuck out of my ring now!” Bugs growled, shoving Everett to the ground.

Everett tried to mumble something, though he wasn’t exactly sure what. “Now!” Bugs hollered, and Everett knew better than to argue. He spit his mouthguard into his glove and stood. He could feel every eye in the gym on him as walked to the change room.

An ass. He’d made a total ass out of himself. How dare he pull something like that? It showed a total lack of respect for his coach and the rules of the gym, not to mention his opponent. OK. In all fairness, he had very little respect for his opponent.

Except, his conscience pinged at him, that wasn’t true. Luke was a great fighter. Luke had been, up until that point, a decent friend and certainly a worthwhile acquaintance if nothing else. But, damn it! Just…

Damn it.

Everett didn’t even have the heart to throw his gloves or punch the locker. He dropped them to the floor and sat hard on the bench. Elbows found his knees and his forehead found his palms. Fuck.

The door opened twice and at each breach of the space, whichever member had decided it was a good time to enter the locker room reconsidered and walked back out. It was the third time before Everett heard footsteps approaching.

He lifted his head, certain it would be Bugs, fully expecting a ban of indefinite length, yet wasn’t totally surprised when it turned out to be Luke.

“Ev,” Luke said, with lowered eyes and clenched fists. “I’m sorry.”

Everett held up his hand, palm out. “Don’t. Just don’t. I don’t want to hear it.”

“Please,” Luke whispered, falling to one knee in front of Everett’s bent form. “If I can just explain…”

“No.” Everett insisted. “I don’t need your explanations. I don’t want them. For Christ’s sakes Luke I’ve got enough of my own shit. I don’t need yours on top of it. Take your games and play them with somebody else.”

Luke kept his eyes down, his fingers twisting the cords of his gloves so tightly Everett almost felt obligated to scold him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to let things get out of control like that. Please don’t stop training me, Everett. Please.” When Luke lifted his eyes, Everett was sure they were shiny with tears. “I promise it won’t happen again. You’re an awesome trainer and I love working with you. I should have told you a long time ago but... I don’t know. I was hoping you already knew I guess. Or that you wouldn’t care.”

Confusion began to buzz in Everett’s mind. Twist, twist, twist went fingers on leather straps. Tick, tick, tick snapped the hand along the clock in the locker. Luke’s voice softened. “No matter how much I like you, or for how long, I promise I will never, ever pull something like that again.”

Everett straightened his spine and shook his head, frowning. “I don’t understand...”

Luke parroted the expression. “Which? What?”

“You think I’m pissed off because you kissed me?”

Luke’s eyebrows knit together. “Yes?”

“Are you stupid?”

“No?” Luke replied. “I mean, maybe? I don’t know?”

Everett picked up his gloves and threw them into the open locker. “I could care less that you kissed me, dumb ass. I’m pissed that you got so fucking stupid about it. So… embarrassed by the whole thing.”

Luke’s frown deepened. “Of course I was embarrassed. I pulled my drunk buddy out of a bar, that we went to on my recommendation, after getting you drunk, and then tried to take advantage of you when you were too fucked up to stop me.”

Everett sputtered. “You weren’t just embarrassed, Luke! You were frightened!”

Luke shrugged. “You can hit pretty damn good too, you know. And if anyone’s going to have reason to beat a person down, I’m pretty sure getting forced into a lip-lock with another dude would be a darn good one.”

“So...” Everett pressed fingertips into his forehead and tried to work everything together in his mind. “You weren’t embarrassed because you were gay? Or felt guilty because it was, I don’t know... wrong or something?”

“Of course not!” Luke answered quickly, offense obvious.

“And you weren’t frightened because you thought somebody was going to see? Or find out? Or, I don’t know... any of that other closet-shit?”

“Hell, no!” Luke said defiantly. “My parents have known since I was sixteen! My friends before that. I’ve been out and quite happy about it since grade eleven, thank you very much!”

Everett lifted his eyebrows, “But, I only went to school with you when you were in grade nine.”


“I didn’t know you were out,” Everett lifted and dropped his arms in frustration. “I didn’t even know you were gay. So when you got all embarrassed...”

Luke’s eyes softened into surprise. “You thought I was embarrassed.”

Everett nodded. “And when you acted all guilty and scared...”

“You thought I felt guilty. And scared.”

“Because of the kiss,” Everett said.

“Not in spite of it,” Luke added.

Everett reached for the gloves once again being massacred in Luke’s hands and wrenched them away. “Right. I thought... well, all kinds of things. Mostly that you were just using all of this,” he lifted the gloves, “so you could hide all of that,” he pointed at Luke’s crotch, “and still get to play with it.”

Luke looked horrified. “You thought I was using you?”

Everett shrugged. “I don’t know. Rich kid. Closet dweller. Works up a really cool scheme to keep me at his beck and call and then makes a move when nobody’s around to witness it. Yeah, that seemed a little suspicious.”

Luke’s head was slowly going side to side, an unconscious negation of everything Everett was saying. “God, no. I’ve been in love with you since high school.” Luke laughed, a tangled, choked sound. “But I am guilty about one thing. I’ll be honest. As good a trainer as you are, and you are a damn good trainer, the motive was to get you somewhere alone so I work up the nerve to tell you.”

“That first shower would have been good,” Everett deadpanned.

“I, yeah, well... probably.” Luke ran a nervous hand over his mouth. “I guess I fucked that up. It’s just; I’ve liked you for a really long time. And… I was scared of making the wrong impression. I didn’t know what to say.”

Everett stared into the locker for a long, quiet moment. Finally he turned his head back to Luke. “Oh,” he said. “Hey there. Aren’t you Luke? From Hawthorne High? I think I used to train you back in grade nine.”

Luke blinked. It took a second for the game to dawn on him. And when it did, a smile lit Luke’s entire face. “Oh! Yes!” Luke grinned. “You did. It’s been a long time.”

“Too long,” Everett said quietly.

“Way too long,” Luke agreed.

Everett wasn’t sure if Luke leaned in, or if he’d made the first move. But the inches between them disappeared in a slow, steady slide. Lips met – timid at first, much more cautious than the previous night had been. But now that Everett understood the fear, it was so much more tolerable. He lifted his hand, gripped the back of Luke’s head, and pressed them together, transforming gentle inquisition into heated insistence, swallowing the soft whine of surprise and want that Luke sang against his lips.

“God, Jesus, and Hell-fire,” Bugs voice cut through their reverie. Neither of them rushed to pull away. Neither of them turned sluggishly opening eyes towards the ground. Rather, Everett shot Bugs an annoyed glance over his shoulder and could only hope that Luke was doing the same.

“I shoulda fuckin’ known,” Bugs said, shaking his head. “Do everyone a favour? Keep your goddamn domestic disputes at home next time, okay?” He lifted a finger and shook it at both of them. “Don’t make me ban the two of you. ‘Cuz I will. I don’t mind you taking it out in the ring, but you follow the same rules as everyone else.” Bugs eyes flipped from Everett to Luke, back again. “And keep the damn kissy-kissy shit at home too. You’re freaking me the fuck out.”

“Whatever you say, Coach,” Everett nodded, his hand still gripping Luke’s hair. He felt Luke’s hand fall on his thigh.

“Sure Bugs,” Luke agreed. “Your gym, your rules.” The touch on Everett’s thigh tightened and Everett turned back to Luke.

And anything else Bugs had to say was lost to the restoration of their kiss. “Pleased to meet you again, Luke.” Everett mumbled.

A sigh, the slide of arms around Everett’s shoulder and a drag of body just that much closer...

“No, sir,” Luke whispered. “The pleasure’s all mine.”

The End

Copyright © 2011 AF Henley

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