Supersize Him pt. 1

Drake and Conner own a struggling gym, and when their friend Adam offers a seemingly mystical solution, they are understandably skeptical. With debts mounting and permanent closure all but assured, they have nothing to lose when the perfect specimen to try Adam’s solution on walks into their establishment.

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Drake shivered as his partner’s fingers brushed, feather-light, along his forearm. They closed loosely around his wrist, their touch making his skin tingle. And then, they pushed his hand away.

“Not now, Drake,” said Conner, looking at Drake over his shoulder before rolling his eyes.

Drake chuckled and pulled his hand away. “Well, if you didn’t want me to play with it, then maybe you shouldn’t be flaunting it so openly.”

Conner, his partner of the better part of a decade, had been leaning over the front desk of the little gym they’d bought as an investment in their future. He was wearing a delicious workout shirt, one that hugged the curves of his body in just the right way, and a pair of compression shorts that framed his tight butt perfectly.

“Bold of you to think I’m doing it for you,” Conner teased as he stood up straight. “I’m just going over the takings for this month.”

Drake frowned. “Tell me it’s good news,” he said. It was unlikely to be. He knew that. But it was worth asking anyway. Just in case, by some fluke of chance, Conner’s grimace was a grimace of happiness.

Those hopes were dashed near-instantly.

Conner shook his head. “It’s bad. And that’s saying something.” He proffered a print-out to Drake.

Drake hesitated for a moment before he accepted the small bundle of documents. “I’m almost afraid to look,” he said.

The apprehension was well-founded. He winced as he looked at the numbers. “At this rate…”

Conner leaned forward on the desk behind the counter. He hung his head and shook it from side to side. “We might not last the rest of the quarter,” he said.

Drake sighed. “What are we going to do?” he said.

Conner shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t want to give the gym up. You know that. But at this rate, we might not have a choice.”

Drake nodded. Neither of them was willing to part with the gym. They had put too much into it: literal years of their lives and thousands of dollars, besides.

It wasn’t just about the money, either. They were both passionate about fitness. And more to the point, the gym was a safe space. There was no guarantee it would stay that way if they ended up having to sell.

They were pretty well out of options. They’d already tried everything to salvage the business. Renovations. Marketing. Sales. Promotions. Any uptick that followed—if there even was one, to begin with—usually didn’t stick around.

“Well…” Drake trailed off. There was one thing they hadn’t tried yet but he wasn’t sure how to bring it up.

Conner quirked an eyebrow at Drake. “Now’s not the time to hold out on me if you’ve got an idea, babe,” he said gently.

“I just don’t know how to say it without sounding crazy.”

Conner’s tired eyes lit up as he laughed. “Honey, that ship sailed a long time ago,” he said. “Just come out with it already. But just so you know, if you mention the word ‘influencer,’ we’re getting a divorce.”

Drake laughed. “No. Not that. Never again.” Of their failed attempts to drum up hype for their business, the “influencer incident” had probably been the most comically disastrous.

He sheepishly scratched his cheek. “I was just thinking… We haven’t tried that potion Adam made for us.” He liked to think he at least managed to not come off as unhinged.

Conner looked at Drake as if he’d grown a second head. He laughed and rolled his eyes. “Babe, I don’t think he was serious when he said he was an alchemist. I’m pretty sure he’s just trying to put a spin on the whole ‘mixologist’ thing.”

Drake lightly swatted his partner on the upper arm. “He’d kill you if he heard that,” he said with a laugh. “You didn’t go to high school with him, babe. His whole family’s weird—nor that that’s a bad thing—they’re all just really into this new age stuff.”

“So… You think it’s real? That this potion of his is going to… save our business?” Conner turned to face Drake, leaning with his elbow against the counter.

“Can’t hurt to try?” Drake grimaced. “It’s not like we’d lose out on anything.”

“Fair point.” Conner looked lost in thought for a moment. “So, let’s say that it’s real.”


A smirk tugged at the corner of Conner’s mouth. “Didn’t Adam say it needed a vessel to channel the magic through? The pure, untainted sort?”

Drake chuckled. “I mean, I like to think I’m pretty pure of heart,” he said.

“Right.” Conner wasn’t convinced. “I think Adam meant virgin, not deluded.” He cracked a grin.

“Fair enough. Can’t be pure if my head’s full of wicked things to do to your cute ass,” said Drake. He frowned after a moment. “A virgin, though? Where are we supposed to find one of those at this hour?”

The bell above the door tinkled to signal the arrival of a patron.

Conner looked up, blinked, and laughed. “Ask and ye shall receive,” he said.

Drake followed Conner’s gaze and saw a cute twink standing just inside the door.

The guy had dark, glossy curls that framed his cute boyish face perfectly. They also perfectly accentuated the wide, uncertain grey-green eyes that were presently taking in all the sights.

Drake could be wrong, but he was pretty sure that this guy had never stepped inside a gym in his life. The deer-in-headlights look on the guy’s face was all but confirmation of that.

Without taking his eye off the twink, Drake leaned over toward Conner and said, “How do you know he’s a virgin?”

“Seriously?” Conner slipped out from behind the front desk. He shot a look at Drake as if asking why he even had any doubt before making his way over to the twink. “Hey. Good evening! Do you need any help?”

The twink gave a bit of a start when he noticed Conner practically standing next to him. A tinge of red bloomed across his cheeks. “O-oh, y-yes! I-I just moved into the area a-and I was hoping to m-maybe start getting into fitness.”

A deep, shaky breath seemed to steady the twink’s nerves before he continued. “I didn’t really know where to start so I figured a gym might be a good place to get some advice?”

Conner grinned and held out a hand to the twink. He’d always been the more affable between him and Drake. “Conner,” he said. “You’ve come to the right place…”

The twink looked down and shook Conner’s hand. “J-Jared,” he said timidly.

The way Jared’s eyes widened as his gaze locked onto and lingered on the bulge in Conner’s shorts didn’t escape Drake’s notice. Maybe, just maybe, there was some merit to this virgin theory of Conner’s.

“Hey. No need to be so scared. We’re not the dentist,” Conner teased.

“S-sorry,” said Jared.

Conner chuckled. He reached across and patted Jared on the shoulder. “No worries, man. I’m gonna guess that you have zero experience with this sort of thing?”

Drake had to look to the side to fight down a laugh. The twink turned pink, he said to himself before taking a moment to regain his composure.

“D-does phys ed class count?” said Jared.

“Oh, honey.” Conner shook his head and laughed. The rest didn’t need to be said. And it looked like Jared understood the implication, anyway. “If you come over this way, I think we can help you.”

“T-thanks,” said Jared.

The pair turned toward the counter. As soon as they did, Jared noticed Drake standing back there. His eyes widened, his gaze drawn to Drake’s broad shoulders and muscular chest.

Drake stood straighter. If Jared was going to admire his chest, he deserved to see his pecs in all their glory. The faint tinge of pink in Jared’s cheeks darkened to a rich scarlet.

Conner came back around to stand beside Drake. “So… Are you just looking for advice? Or were you hoping to get started doing some exercises?”

Jared tore his gaze away from Drake with visible reluctance as he turned to respond to Conner. “U-um… Y-yeah. I-I was thinking of maybe running for a bit… O-on a treadmill, you know? Um… Do I need a membership for that? I-I really could use some advice, though.”

Conner smiled. “Unfortunately, we do require a membership if you want to use any of the equipment.”

“O-oh. I see. Y-yeah, I-I can do that. How much?”

Drake was about to answer Jared’s question but Conner literally stepped on his toes before he could.

“Well, what are your fitness goals, Jared?” Conner.

“I-I’m sorry?”

Drake found Jared’s look of utter confusion to be quite adorable. He looked so utterly befuddled, Drake would have thought Conner had asked him to solve a doctorate-level math problem if he hadn’t heard the question.

Conner gave Jared a small, sympathetic smile. “What are you hoping to achieve? Like… Why do you want to start working out?”

“O-oh!” Jared’s blush darkened even further. Not much more and he was going to look like a ripe tomato. “I-I mean… Look at me! I’m a twig!”


Drake gave Conner a look. It was pretty rare for his partner to needle anyone like this. Though he supposed it wasn’t a bad thing to figure this out at the start.

“I-I want to get bigger!” Jared finally blurted out. He’d turned so red that Drake was afraid his face might burst into flame at the slightest provocation.

Conner quirked an eyebrow. “How big?” he said.

“I-is this really important?” said Jared.

Drake nodded and took the opportunity to interject. This was more his field of expertise, after all. “As far as managing expectations, yeah. Body types are different. What one person can achieve isn’t necessarily going to be the same for another.”

Conner looked at Drake and smiled. “That’s right. Some people can get pretty fit but don’t get much bigger. Some people can just keep packing on beef with no end in sight. Just trying to get a handle on how far you want to take things so we can tell you if it’s a realistic goal for you.”

“O-oh. Sorry.” Jared sheepishly scratched his cheek and looked away. After a moment, he turned his eyes back to Conner and said, “U-um… I guess… Male underwear model? Kind of like that? Not anything super big but I wanna feel like I have muscles, you know?”

Conner chuckled. Under the desk, he bumped his knee into Drake’s leg. He gave Drake a meaningful look. No words needed to be said.

Drake could read his partner’s intentions like an open book.

“That’s a perfectly reasonable goal, I think,” said Conner. He cracked a grin. “Why don’t we do it this way: I’m going to give you a complimentary session. My partner Drake here can help you get started with some exercises. He’s a professional trainer, so you’ll be in good hands.”

Drake nodded. “Very good hands,” he said.

“You won’t have to pay a cent. We won’t hold you to anything. If you decide after that it isn’t working out for you, that’s fine, too. I’ll even throw in a free protein shake,” said Conner.

“A-are you sure?” said Jared. He seemed uncertain, but the way he kept looking at Drake at least suggested that part of him was interested in the prospect.

Conner nodded. “Yeah. We actually had some promotions just the other week. I figure it won’t hurt to extend a little courtesy since you said you just moved in.”

“T-thank you,” said Jared. “I-I think I’d like to take you up on your offer. I-if that’s okay.”

Conner chuckled. “Wouldn’t have offered if it wasn’t,” he said. He placed a hand on Drake’s upper arm and added, “Why don’t you head on over to the workout area? Drake can get you set up while I grab you that complimentary shake I was talking about.”

“If it helps, I promise I won’t bite,” said Drake as he and Jared crossed over into the workout area.

“S-sorry. I-I don’t mean to be so nervous. I-it’s just…”

“Uncertainty. New experiences. Foreign territory.” Drake chuckled. It felt like a lifetime ago now, but he used to be in Jared’s shoes. The shy kid that was away from home for the first time. “Don’t worry, man. I get it. But there’s no judgment here, I promise.”

Jared gave Drake a small smile—as if he wasn’t entirely convinced what Drake was saying was true.

Drake gestured over his shoulder with his thumb, drawing Jared’s attention to the massive pride flag hung from the wall. “Trust me. We get enough grief for having that up. We’re not about to make our members feel unwelcome.”

“Oh.” Jared’s voice was small, but his posture visibly relaxed when he saw the flag. “That… That does make me feel better, thank you,” he said.

Drake chuckled. “So. Any sports?”

“Oh. No.” Jared shook his head. He looked mortified at the question.

“Jog at all?”

“Uh… Sometimes, when I’m late for class?”

Drake laughed. “Been there, brother. Glad it’s over,” he said, shaking his head.

Jared sighed. “I wish it were,” he conceded.

“Do you do any exercise at home? Aerobics? Crunches? Squats? Push-ups?”

The color in Jared’s cheeks darkened again. “N-not really. Mostly just video games. Um. VR Tennis. Does that count?” he said. “I-I’m sorry. I-I’ve just never really been the most active kind of guy.”

“Maybe like a quarter at best,” said Drake. “So you’ve never done any lifting? Strength training?”

Jared shook his head. “I-I meant it when I said I had basically zero experience,” he said.

Drake smiled. “I’m not disparaging you or anything. ‘Basically’ zero doesn’t mean ‘exactly’ zero. I’m trying to establish a baseline, you know? See what I have to work with.”

“O-oh! Okay. Sorry. Yeah. I guess that makes a lot of sense,” said Jared. “Um. No. Dodgeball and running around my high school gym’s about it. And I haven’t even done any of that since starting college.”

“Makes sense,” said Drake.

Jared looked down at himself and then back up at Drake. “I was honestly kind of looking forward to the freshman 15. I think I lost 3 pounds.”

Drake chuckled. “I think you’re the only person I’ve ever heard say that,” he said.

“So. Um. Is there anything you need me to do?” said Jared.

Drake looked around. Conner was taking a bit longer than he expected. He spotted a scale toward the side and nodded. “Yeah, actually. Come over here. Let’s get you weighed.”

“Oh, God…” Jared groaned. He did not attempt to dissuade Drake from his course, though, and followed him over. “Do I need to take my shoes off?”

Drake shook his head. “Nah. We’re just trying to get a general idea,” he said.

Jared slung his gym bag off his shoulder and hopped onto the scale. It was one of those old-fashioned ones that used a balance and counterweights.

Drake made quick work of the measurement. “Well, I think it’s safe to say that you’re probably way underweight for your height,” he said. “Turn around.”

Jared meekly obeyed.

“Yeah. That’s for sure,” said Drake. “Do you get enough to eat?”

“I-I mean, yeah,” said Jared. “I don’t eat a lot but I think I still eat enough to get by.”

“Can’t imagine it’s all healthy stuff though,” said Drake.


“You can hop off,” said Drake as he took a step back from the scale. “No worries. I get it. College. Been there. Might want to see if there’s anything you can do to fix that, though.”

“O-okay. Um… What can I do?”

“Eat more protein, for starters,” said Drake. “Ah. Here’s Conner. Let’s get you started on that with a nice protein shake.”

“Looks like you’re getting along,” said Conner as he came over.

“Drake’s been really helpful,” said Jared quietly.

Drake smirked. “See? You were worried for nothing,” he said.

Conner gave Drake the most cloying smile. “Who said I was worried? Anyway. Here you go. On the house. This should be a good way to start your journey. Make sure to drink every last drop.”

“T-thanks,” said Jared as he took the shake from Conner.

Drake and Conner stood together as they watched Jared gulp down the shake. “Here goes nothing,” Drake whispered.

“Still think it was just a fancy cocktail,” Conner muttered back.

Drake pursed his lips. “Guess we’ll find out soon enough. You didn’t taste it, did you?”

Conner shook his head. “What if it’s real? I don’t want to chance drinking something meant for a virgin,” he said under his breath.

“Good call… Oh! Looks like he’s done,” said Drake.

Conner nodded and took a step toward Jared so they wouldn’t look so suspicious. “How was it?” he said.

Jared looked a bit perplexed. “Well… It’s certainly like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” he said. “But it was nice! It was a bit more floral than I expected…”

“Ah. Yeah. I used one of the flavored powders. I figured you might appreciate that more than the plain stuff,” said Conner. He’d lied so smoothly that Drake had to resist the urge to shake his head and roll his eyes.

“Oh.” Jared stared at the empty cup for a moment before his expression brightened. “Thank you. That was nice of you.” He smiled. “Wow. I feel…”

Drake couldn’t help but lean in, hanging on to Jared’s every word.

Jared laughed. “This is incredible! Are all protein shakes like this?” he said, face practically split in half by his wide grin. “I feel so full of energy.”

Conner blinked. “Um. I’m not sure that’s the protein shake, necessarily. But you know what? I’m glad. Regardless. That’s a good start to your first session, I think.”

“Oh. That’s kinda weird. But wow. I feel so good it doesn’t matter.” Jared laughed again. He visibly shivered. “I feel like I’m going to start bouncing off the walls if I don’t do something.

Drake chuckled. “Alright. Alright. We’ll get on that right quick,” he said. He went over and gently grabbed Jared, steering him toward the workout equipment.

As he passed by Conner, he leaned in and said, “Maybe it was just a shot of pure caffeine,” he said.

Conner bit back a laugh. “Maybe. You better help him burn off that energy though. God knows what’ll happen if you don’t.”

Drake smiled. “Don’t worry, babe. I’ll put him through his paces.”

“You said you were thinking of hopping on the treadmill, right?” said Drake.

Jared nodded. “Yeah. Why?”

Drake chuckled. “Any particular reason?”

Jared took a moment to think about the question before he gave Drake a shrug. “It was the only exercise I could think of doing, to be honest,” he said almost sheepishly. “All the other machines seemed so intimidating…”

“Ah. Fair enough…” Drake smiled. “They’re nothing to be worried about, though. The machines aren’t strictly necessary. They just make things easier.”

Conner concurred. “Like any tool, the machines can be dangerous if they’re misused. But that’s what we’re here for. We’ll teach you how to use them correctly.”

Jared grinned at Conner. “Thanks. I’d appreciate that, actually. I don’t even remember why I was feeling so nervous… I’m just glad I’m not anymore.”

Drake patted Jared on the back. “That’s the spirit,” he said. “Now, I was thinking of getting you started with some simple exercises. Get an idea of where you are in terms of fitness. What do you think?”

Jared nodded. “That sounds great! When do we start? What do I do?”

There was certainly no denying the twink was brimming with energy. He was practically vibrating with it. Drake was almost concerned. Almost.

“Well, since you wanted to use the treadmill in the first place, why don’t we get started with that?” said Drake. “It would be a good way to figure out what your cardiovascular endurance is like.”

“Sure! Sounds good!” said Jared. “Do I just?” he gestured as they came up to the end of the row of treadmills lined up near the back wall of the gym.

“Yeah, go on ahead,” said Derek. He went around the side as Jared mounted the machine. He turned it on and worked the interface, setting the program to the standard fitness test that he used for new clients.

“Oh!” Jared laughed as the belt moved under him. “Wow. Uh. That’s new. Kind of awkward, to be honest.”

Drake quirked an eyebrow. “Something the matter?” he said.

Jared shook his head. The treadmill was gradually picking up speed and he was having to adjust his gait to match the pace. “I just wasn’t sure what to expect!” he said. “Can it go any faster?”

The treadmill was forcing Jared to go at a pace Drake would generously describe as a brisk walk. It wasn’t quite as leisurely as a stroll through the park but it wasn’t so fast as to be power-walking or a light jog.

“Well, just give yourself a little bit to adapt,” said Drake. “Let me know if you start feeling tired or achy or short of breath, yeah?”

Jared nodded. “Sure,” he said.

Although the speed didn’t get any faster, the starter routine was programmed to include an uphill portion as well. This was the part a lot of new clients struggled with—and for good reason. It was considerably harder to walk along an incline than flat ground.

Drake watched Jared closely as this happened. Another thing he’d learned was that new clients were bad at knowing their limits. Either that, or they felt they had something to prove and ended up pushing themselves harder than they had to.

It didn’t look like that was a matter of concern when it came to Jared. As far as Drake could tell, the twink was no more challenged by the 2% grade incline than the flat surface. Jared even seemed to be enjoying it.

Drake was happy to let Jared continue for another couple of minutes. He was fairly satisfied with Jared’s condition but he wanted to see how long Jared could endure.

Things didn’t quite turn out to plan.

“This… isn’t enough,” said Jared. He turned his gaze from the wall and looked down at the console of the treadmill. “Need more. Need to go faster,” he muttered under his breath.

Before Drake could react, Jared was already fiddling with the controls. “Hey, wait a sec—” he started.

The treadmill motor whirred. The interface wasn’t exactly difficult to figure out. The machine spooled up and in the space of a few seconds, Jared was lightly jogging.

“What is he doing?” Conner mouthed at Drake.

“I’ll deal with it,” Drake mouthed back.

He placed a hand on the console of the treadmill. “Hey, buddy?” he said.

“Yeah?” said Jared. He’d been staring straight at the wall but he turned his gaze to Drake to respond.

“This is all about figuring out where you’re at so I know how far I can push you, yeah?” Drake said gently. “You don’t have anything to prove. Just find a comfortable pace. Tell me how it feels.”

Jared nodded. “I know,” he said. He didn’t sound strained at all. “I just… It’s not enough. I’m still so full of energy. I… I need more!”

“Woah, hold on there, buddy, I really think you should conser—” Before Drake could finish, Jared had already increased the speed of the treadmill a few more notches.

Drake would have been more concerned but he could see that Jared wasn’t even slightly winded. People could grit their teeth and power through if they were in denial about their capabilities but that came with physical signs. They could pretend at being composed, but they sure as hell wouldn’t look it.

Jared was the real deal.

Leaving the rhythmic thumping of Jared’s feet on the bed of the treadmill for a moment, Drake walked over to Conner. “I can see why he wanted to use the treadmill first,” he said under his breath.

“No kidding,” said Conner. “Are you sure he’s okay?”

Drake nodded. “I don’t think he’s even broken a sweat,” he said.

“Holy shit. He’s going even faster,” said Conner.

Drake’s eyes widened as he looked over. Conner wasn’t lying. The treadmill was getting loud. “I’m starting to think this kid was born to run,” he said.

Think?” said Conner. “Look at his form.”

Drake had been too preoccupied with Jared’s reckless adjustments to the settings that he’d forgotten to actually look at the way the twink ran. To say Jared’s form was perfect would have been an understatement.

Jared’s posture was in perfect alignment. He wasn’t leaning forward too far. His head was high. His chin was level. His gaze was fixed to a point on the wall in front of him.

As his feet pounded down the belt of the treadmill, Jared’s shoulders were relaxed. His back was flat. His chest was steady. His core was engaged. His arms were at his sides, swinging in a relaxed but controlled manner that matched the rhythm of his gait.

“Christ. I don’t think I run that well,” Drake muttered.

The treadmill tilted higher. It was now at a 4% incline, if Drake had to guess. And the speed was only getting higher. “Hang on there, Jared. Like I said, don’t push yourself too hard.”

“No, no. It’s okay. This is good enough. Damn. That hits the spot,” said Jared. For the first time, there was a slight breathiness to his voice and a faint sheen of sweat on his brow.

Drake would have been skeptical if not for the fact he could see the expression on Jared’s face. It was clear the twink was enjoying himself. He let Jared continue for another 3 minutes or so before he reached over and set the treadmill to gradually stop.

Jared seemed almost disappointed as the bed of the treadmill gradually returned to level, bleeding off speed until he was able to step off the belt with ease. “So,” he said. “How was I?”

“Are you sure you’ve never done any sports before? Track and field? Cross-country?” said Conner, responding before Drake could even collect his thoughts.

“Pretty sure,” said Jared. “Why? Did I do something wrong?”

Drake shook his head. “Well… I wouldn’t want to encourage going off-script that much… But no, you didn’t do anything wrong. If anything, you did pretty good.”

If he were being entirely honest, Jared had done amazingly for his first time. Drake had clients that had been with him for months that couldn’t have lasted a tenth as long as Jared on the speed and incline that he had.

“Sorry,” Jared muttered sheepishly. “I just… I felt like it wasn’t challenging enough, you know? You wanted to see where I was at, right? I didn’t think I was showing what I was capable of, so…”

Drake chuckled. He reached across and squeezed Jared’s shoulder. “No worries, buddy,” he said. “How are you feeling?”

“Ready for more.” Jared looked up and met Drake’s gaze. He gave a small, self-deprecating smile as he scratched the back of his head. “Although… Honestly? I don’t even feel a little bit tired. Definitely feel like I’m all loosened up now, though.”

Conner smiled. “That just means you’re warmed up. On that note, it’s Exhilarating, isn’t it?” he said. “Always a pleasant surprise to realize that you’re capable of so much more than you thought.”

Jared nodded. “Ain’t that the truth,” he said with a light laugh. “Honestly, I thought I was going to croak right off the bat.”

It was Drake’s turn to give the twink a small smile. “Alright, well, clearly you’re in better shape than all of us gave you credit for.”

Jared laughed. “Apparently. Not sure if I believe it, but I can’t deny that I still feel full of energy.”

“Okay. Well. Clearly your endurance is pretty good,” said Drake. “I’m gonna have you do a few more things to accurately measure where you’re at so I’m gonna make you a deal: you do as I say for a couple of minutes, and then afterwards we’re going to do something heavier that will help with that surplus of energy of yours. How does that sound?”

Jared nodded and gave Drake a small smile. “Thanks. I think that sounds pretty good,” he said. “Okay. What do you need me to do?”

Drake motioned for Jared to follow him to a more spacious part of the gym. It wasn’t a lot—their gym was small and they had to pack in as much equipment as they could—but it was enough for his purposes.

“Come sit,” he said as he sat on the mat and patted the space next to him. “Do you know how to do a push-up?”

Jared looked at Drake and scratched his cheek. “I guess I have a vague idea of it?” he said.

“Okay.” Drake chuckled. “Watch me, yeah?”

Jared nodded.

Drake could feel the younger man’s eyes on him. Jared was watching him like a hawk. He would have been lying if he said he didn’t enjoy the attention. But crucially, he was glad that Jared was taking things seriously.

He crawled forward onto his hands and knees. “You’re going to want to put your hands on the ground a little wider than shoulder width apart,” he said as he demonstrated the correct form.

He’d been doing this long enough that he could support himself on just one arm. “Your thumb wants to be in line with your nipple, like this.” He used his free hand to gesture at himself and emphasize the alignment.

Drake brushed his hands over his stomach. “You’ll want to keep a straight line from your head down to your heels. Engaging your core is a good way to do that.” He reached over his back and palmed his ass. “You can clench your butt, too. That will make sure you don’t do this—” He raised his ass above the rest of his body “—because this isn’t right.”

Jared nodded along. It seemed he was taking in the information quite well.

Drake moved his free hand down to his thigh. “Since you’re just starting out, you can have your legs spread a bit like this—” he demonstrated for Jared. “—this will help make you more stable if you’re having trouble. Keeping them together is a bit more intense.”

“Okay. Gotcha,” said Jared as he crawled onto his hands and knees. He imitated Drake’s form perfectly. It was kind of uncanny. “Is this okay?” he said.

“Oh. Yeah. Fantastic,” said Drake. “Now you want to make sure you let yourself down in a contr—” Before he’d even finished, Jared had already started.

“When you go down you want to keep your elbows to your side. You should be shaped like an arrow not a T…” Drake trailed off.

“Holy shit! I’m doing it!” said Jared.

There wasn’t anything he could fault about the way that Jared had done his first push-up. He had to briefly consider if he and Conner were being pranked but he couldn’t honestly believe that they were such bad judges of character they wouldn’t know if someone was just bullshitting them.

“Oh, and you want to be steady and controlled on the way down…” It was practically second nature by now to give pointers while a client was going through push-ups but Jared clearly didn’t need it.

“…and a little bit faster on the way up…” Drake finished his little tip barely even enunciating the words. “Wow. You’re a natural at this,” he said.

“You really think so?” said Jared on the way down with his fifth rep.

“You’ve got better form than some of the clients I’ve been working with for months,” said Drake.

“Thanks.” Jared’s cheeks flushed a faint tinge of pink. And from his vantage point, Drake got to see redness spread to the tips of the twink’s ears. “I was just doing what felt right… Are you sure I’m not doing it wrong?”

“Hm. Keep going. But give me a second.” Drake got up and walked around Jared, keeping an eye out for any inconsistencies or flaws. He found none. It was almost scary how immaculate Jared’s form was. “No. You’re doing it perfectly. Can’t even find anything I’d want you to improve on.”

“Nice.” Jared grinned.

Drake noted that Jared even had the positioning of his head right. A lot of his clients—especially the newer ones—couldn’t resist the impulse to look down while doing push-ups. Jared was doing the right thing, looking just slightly ahead of him so that the first part of him that hit the mat on the way down was his chin rather than his nose.

“How many?” Jared grunted.

“Eight so far,” said Drake. “How are you feeling?”

Jared grinned. “Pretty good! And actually, I meant how many do you want me to do?”

“Oh! My bad.” Drake shook his head and laughed. “Sorry. A lot of the guys who come to us without any experience tend to hit their limit at around 10 but I mean… Clearly that’s not gonna be the case for you.”

Jared shook his head. “Definitely not,” he said. “I feel like I can go for another thousand!”

Drake quirked an eyebrow. Jared had certainly proved to be in better shape than any of them expected but he was pretty sure that a thousand reps was an impossible number—however perfect and efficient Jared’s form was.

Besides, even if it were possible for Jared to do another thousand push-up reps, he wasn’t exactly prepared to stand around to count them. “How about do another, say, 50?”

“Oh. Sure. I guess I can do that,” he said.

Drake had to wonder where all this confidence was coming from. Then again, Jared had first come all shy and easily flustered. The feat he’d managed to accomplish at the treadmill must have been a huge ego boost.

“Problem?” said Drake.

Jared shook his head. “No. Not really. I just think I can do more than that,” he said.

Drake laughed. “Of course.” It was about what he’d expected to hear. “We’re gonna have to do a couple more tests, so why don’t we do 50 now and circle back around later if you still have energy?”

Jared was silent as he mulled over the proposal. “Okay,” he said after a few moments. “That sounds good to me.”

“And that’s fifty! Right?” said Jared as he pushed himself up off the floor.

“Yep. Just about,” said Drake. He had to admit, he was impressed. He was coming around to the idea that Jared might have actually managed to hit a thousand reps if he’d let him go on. Of course, there was a world of difference between fifty push-ups and a thousand but Jared didn’t even look winded.

Jared scratched the back of his neck. “Sorry. I kind of got lost in the motion, you know?”

Conner chuckled. “Oh yeah. Getting in the zone’s one of the perks,” he said.

“It felt good,” said Jared.

Conner nodded. “Kind of liberating, isn’t it? Just flowing through the motions? It’s like all the rest of the world just… falls away. All those worries and concerns all tangled up in your head just feel so unimportant, right?”

Drake watched Conner with a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. It wasn’t often he got to watch his partner wax poetic about something, but it seemed perfectly justified on this occasion.

“Yeah!” Jared was practically beaming. “I was trying to figure out how to describe it, but you’re right! Man, I kind of miss it already…”

Drake couldn’t help but laugh. “Careful, baby. You’re gonna get Jared hooked.”

Conner shook his head and gave Drake a small smile. “Sorry,” he said. “Didn’t mean to get all weird about it.”

“No worries, man,” said Jared. “It helped me wrap my head around it.”

Drake met Conner’s gaze. If he had to guess, his partner was feeling a bit emotional over the state of their finances. While they’d been smart enough not to put all their eggs in one basket, they’d still poured years of effort into their gym. The prospect of having to part with it was a tough pill to swallow.

“Oh, shit.”

Jared’s voice drew Drake’s attention back to the present. “Something wrong?” he said, before breaking eye contact with Conner to look over at the twink.

What Drake saw wasn’t what he expected. Jared was staring at his arms, feeling one up with his hand before switching to the other and back.

“What’s up?” said Conner. “You didn’t hurt yourself, did you?”

Jared shook his head. “No, no. It’s not that.” He didn’t look up until he was done examining his arms, at which point he met Drake’s gaze and held his arms out in front of him. “Look. I’m not just hallucinating, am I? My arms are definitely bigger.”

Drake frowned. “Is it an allergic reaction?” he said as he stepped forward. He grabbed one of Jared’s arms by the wrist and the elbow, gently moving it through its range of motion as he looked closely at it.

“No! I mean, like… They feel more muscular!” said Jared.

Drake didn’t see anything particularly out of the ordinary. Jared’s arms seemed as slim as before, to him. “I can’t tell,” he said. He looked at Conner.

“Well, sometimes muscles may appear larger after a workout,” said Conner.

“Right.” Drake nodded. “To be honest, they don’t seem all that larger to me. But when you work out, more blood flows into your muscles because they need the oxygen. That can make them look larger afterwards. But it’s only a temporary thing. It’s called transient hypertrophy.”

Conner smiled. “I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Jared, but building muscle takes time, discipline, and dedication. There’s no such thing as a miracle work out that can make you bigger—” He snapped his fingers. “—just like that.”

Jared looked at Drake. “Well, maybe I’m genetically predisposed. That’s a possibility, right?”

Drake gently released Jared’s arm. “I mean, some people build muscle faster than others but not in the span of half an hour,” he said.

“I could have sworn, though,” said Jared as he pulled his arms back. He grabbed his bicep and squeezed. “Could you weigh me again? Just in case?”

Drake wanted to say the scale wouldn’t show anything different. He didn’t want to encourage focusing too much on the scale but Jared looked so convinced it was hard to let him down. He glanced at Conner for guidance.

Conner motioned for him to just go ahead with it.

Drake raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t convinced it was the best idea but if Conner thought it was alright…

Conner nodded.

“Alright,” said Drake. “Let’s take a look, yeah? But try not to get your hopes up.”

Jared nodded. He looked quite resolute. “Okay,” he said.

They made their way back over to the scale. Drake made quick work of the measurement.

“See! Look! I’m half a pound heavier!” said Jared.

“Well…” Drake was somewhat at a loss for words. The difference was pretty low as far as weight changes went. But people didn’t just gain a whole kilo of weight after two exercises.

“Let’s not celebrate yet… This isn’t exactly the most precise instrument… And we’ve had it a few years, so… There’s every chance it might be within the margin of error,” said Drake.

“… You might be right,” said Jared. He looked down at his arms again. “Is there any way to make sure?”

The situation was out of the ordinary. There was no doubt about that. But Drake didn’t want to get Jared’s hopes up, either. He glanced over at Conner and saw that his partner looked about as surprised as he was.

“How about this? Let’s do another set of quick exercises and then we can come back and see if there’s anything to it?” said Drake. If it was nothing, as he suspected, then things would be back to normal after a little bit.

“Sure!” said Jared. “I’m definitely up for more. What’s next?”

“Well, I was thinking of having you do some medicine ball goblet squats,” said Drake.

“Huh. Sounds good! You’ll have to teach me, though,” said Jared.

Drake gave the younger guy a grin. “That’s what I’m here for, buddy,” he said. “Over this way.”

As they walked past, Conner caught Drake by the arm. “Is this it?” he said, leaning in to whisper at Drake. “Could this be a sign that Adam wasn’t just talking out of his ass?”

Drake grabbed a medicine ball off of the rack. It wasn’t the smallest of the bunch they had, but it wasn’t particularly heavy either. He figured Jared would be able to handle it well enough.

“I don’t know,” he conceded. “And I don’t think I dare think that it is. I… don’t want to get our hopes up, you know?”

“Fair. Fair. But you know this isn’t normal, right?” said Conner. “Guys that don’t have any experience working out don’t just run on a treadmill at near top speed at near top incline without breaking a sweat.”

“Maybe he lied,” said Drake. He looked over his shoulder to make sure Jared hadn’t heard him.

“Seriously?” said Conner.

Drake pouted at Conner. “There’s a chance,” he said. “But you’re right. It’s not likely. I don’t know. Maybe we’re just overthinking. Maybe it’s just, like, a serious case of confirmation bias.”

“Maybe…” Conner pursed his lips. “But if it isn’t…”

Drake looked at his partner. “We would owe Adam one hell of a favor,” he said.

“Everything okay?” said Jared.

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Just had something to discuss with Conner here,” said Drake as he turned around with the medicine ball.

“Sorry. It couldn’t wait,” said Conner. “I’ll let the two of you get back to it.”

“Thanks, babe,” said Drake with a little smile. He turned his attention back to Jared. “You know how to squat, buddy?”

Jared chuckled and shook his head. “Nope!”

“Hah. I suppose that’s on me. Sorry. It’s a habit to ask at this point,” said Drake, shaking his head with self-deprecating exasperation. He turned to Conner and handed the medicine ball over. “Can you hold onto this for a bit, babe?”

Conner nodded.

“Alright. Squats are actually pretty simple. You want to stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart,” said Drake, demonstrating for Jared.

“Okay. Got it. Like this?” Jared copied Drake’s stance.

“Yeah! Awesome. You’ve got this,” said Drake with a little grin. “Okay. What you’re going to do is you’re going to hinge at the hips. Pretend you’re trying to sit down.”

Drake placed a hand on his stomach and on his chest. He moved it around to his back. "You’re going to want to keep your upper body as straight as possible. Keep your shoulders back. Don’t hunch your spine.

“Make sure your knees track with your toes. Try pushing them out a bit—you don’t want them collapsing inward. And then push through your heels…”

It was almost unreal, the sheer speed that Jared picked up on these things. Drake had to shake his head. “Yeah. Just like that. Perfect. You’ve even got the upward part correctly.”

Jared flashed a grin at Drake. “You really think so?” he said.

Drake nodded. “Absolutely textbook,” he said. “Any discomfort?”

Jared shook his head. “Nah, man. It felt pretty natural,” he said.

The corner of Drake’s mouth curled in a little smile. “Alright, that’s good.” He walked over to Conner and retrieved the medicine ball. “Okay. Now do fifty of those while lifting this. Hands under the ball. Like this.”

“Oh. Like a goblet. Gotcha.” Jared chuckled. “This should be interesting.”

Drake walked the medicine ball over and handed it to Jared. “Heavier than expected?” he said as Jared adjusted his hands under the weight.

Jared nodded. “Wow. I didn’t expect it would be that dense,” he said.

“You gonna be okay, buddy?” said Drake.

The ball shifted once more and this time it looked like Jared had managed to find its balance. “Should be,” said Jared. “Fifty, right?”

Drake nodded.

“Here we go!” Jared lowered himself into his first goblet squat and exploded back up with a “Hup!

Drake walked over to stand by Conner. He crossed his arms over his chest as he watched Jared go through his reps.

The uncanny accuracy of Jared’s form as he did his squats was impressive enough on its own, but Drake couldn’t help but admire the mentality that came with it.

Jared was laser-focused on what he was doing. His expression said as much. But that level of concentration was something that some people took a long time to properly cultivate.

“I really think he was born for this,” said Drake.

“You’d think, watching him,” said Conner. “Maybe it was Adam’s potion.”

Drake chuckled. “You don’t seriously think so, right?”

Conner shrugged and laughed. “Would be a hell of a coincidence,” he said. “Though, I suppose he might just be what they call a ‘late-bloomer.’”

A comfortable silence settled between them for a minute or so as Jared went through six reps. It was Conner that broke the lull in the conversation by lightly elbowing Drake in the side. “Hey. Did you clean up by the treadmills?”

“Huh? What do you mean?” said Drake, frowning as he turned his attention to Conner.

Conner jerked his chin in the direction of the treadmills. “I mean… Did you scrub the wall while I wasn’t looking?”

Drake followed his partner’s gaze and blinked with surprise. He and Conner kept the gym as clean as they reasonably could, but there were some things that just required more effort than they could justify.

Years of use meant that the wall behind the treadmill had picked up on some grime. They wiped it down regularly but they’d never managed to make it look as good as the first time they’d had the wall painted.

“What the hell?” said Drake. The wall in question was sparkling. There wasn’t a speck of dust or smudge of dirt. There were no cracks, speckles, or chips of paint. It looked as good as the day they’d first opened the gym—if not better.

“So… Wasn’t you?” said Conner.

Drake shook his head. “Do you think I would have had the time?”

Conner chuckled. “I’m not even going to ask if you’d hired a professional cleaner,” he said. “Because I know for a fact that’s not the kind of thing we can afford these days.”

Drake rolled his eyes fondly. “I’m not dreaming, right—Ow!”

“Nope,” said Conner. He’d pinched Drake’s upper arm. And quite hard, too. “Here. Do me,” he said as he rolled his sleeve up to expose his shoulder to Drake.

It wasn’t a level Drake would usually stoop to but this was a special moment. He pinched Conner.

“Ow! Well. Certainly not dreaming,” said Conner. He closed his eyes and opened them again—slowly—as if doing so would change the facts of what they were seeing before them. “Not really a rational explanation for that, is there?”

Drake shook his head. “Nope.” He looked at Jared. “No, there isn’t.”

Conner looked at Drake. “So…”

“So Adam’s a fucking wizard, for one thing,” said Drake.

Conner laughed. “Yeah. I don’t think just dinner will cover this.”

As Jared continued his reps, Conner and Drake watched as an invisible force swept through their gym. It went back to front, a sharp line on the walls where the old, weathered paint gave way to a crisp, immaculate new coat.

The paintjob wasn’t the only thing that changed. It had been difficult to see before, given their vantage point, but as the wave of magic—Drake couldn’t think of any better term—swept over the workout space, it also cleaned the equipment.

Whatever was happening, it didn’t fix everything. The weights, benches, and machines all practically sparkled. Every single piece of equipment looked like it was cleaned thoroughly and often but any damage and weathering remained.

“Wow,” Drake muttered.

Conner shook his head. “Amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to a place,” he said.

The gym still retained the casual, home-y, somewhat cozy atmosphere Drake and Conner had taken care to cultivate. But it looked sharper. More modern. It was as if all the wear and tear of the past couple of years had been wiped away.

Before they could say anything else, Jared stood up for the last of his fifty reps and released the medicine ball. It landed with a muffled thump on the mat—spotless now, thanks to the magic—as Jared rolled his shoulders and shook his legs out.

“How are you feeling?” said Drake after sharing a meaningful look with Conner.

“Good.” Jared grinned. “I actually felt that, this time.”

“Yeah?” said Drake.

Jared looked down. He turned somewhat, running his hand up and down the back of his thigh a few times. “A little bit here,” he said. He moved his hand up to his ass, cupping one of his frankly modest cheeks in the palm of his hand. “But definitely here.”

Drake chuckled. “That’s where you should be feeling it,” he said.

“Wait…” Jared looked over his shoulder, palming both ass cheeks this time around. “Did my butt get bigger?”

Drake and Conner shared another look. This time, they couldn’t exactly dismiss the outlandish claim. Sure, normal people with normal circumstances didn’t grow their ass after doing just a few squats. But Jared wasn’t exactly a normal person, and these were far from normal circumstances.

“Are you sure?” said Drake.

Jared craned his neck first over one shoulder and then the other, looking down his back as he experimentally squeezed his own ass cheeks a couple of times. “Fairly sure. I felt like my thighs were thicker too but I thought I might have just been imagining it…”

“Well…” Drake trailed off for a moment as he looked at Conner. “There’s only one way to find out, yeah?”

Jared grinned. “Another weigh-in?”

Drake laughed and shook his head. “You’re way too enthusiastic about this,” he said.

“Look, seeing the number go up instead of down is like seeing bigfoot for me!” Jared chuckled.

“Alright,” said Drake. He lightly placed a hand on Jared’s upper back and steered him toward the scale. It took all his effort not to show his surprise when he realized that he could feel some genuine development in Jared’s traps.

It was minor and so subtle that most people wouldn’t have been able to tell even if Jared had been shirtless. It was just that Drake had a lot of experience, not to mention the fact that he’d already touched that area before and there was now a marked difference in the way it felt under his hand.

“Please, please, please give me more,” said Jared—more to himself than anyone else—as he climbed onto the plate of the weighing scale.

Drake chuckled as he adjusted the counterweights. “You can say please all you like but I’m not giving you a couple of extra pounds of weight,” he said with a wink.

Not that he would need to give Jared any extra pounds. The boy seemed to be managing well enough on his own. “That’s another half a pound,” he said. That made for a whole pound in barely even half an hour, all in all.

“Seriously?” said Jared. The excitement in his voice was palpable. And for good reason. His growth was nothing short of miraculous. It defied all rational explanation.

The only conclusion possible was that Adam’s potion had worked. Which left the question of what, exactly, the potion was supposed to be doing.

Drake hadn’t exactly been in the headspace to pay close attention while Adam was explaining the potion. He looked to Conner, hoping that maybe his partner had managed to pick up on more than he had. The look of shock didn’t exactly bode well for them.

Ah, well, he thought to himself. There was only one way to find out, and that was to forge ahead. Adam had been a good friend for a long time and Drake and Conner had no reason to think that Adam would do anything to hurt them.

“Let’s keep going, yeah?” said Drake.

“Sounds good!” Jared was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Drake looked around. Fortunately, there was enough space next to the scale that they could do the next thing right there. “Let’s check out your muscular endurance this time. Got any idea what a plank is?”

“It’s like a piece of wood, right?” said Jared.

Conner burst out laughing. “He meant the exercise,” he said.

“Oh! I think… Maybe?” Jared lowered himself to the ground next to the scale. He lay himself across the mat, arms at his sides, legs together, ramrod straight and stiff as a board. “Like this?” he said.

Drake had to take a moment to appreciate the ridiculousness of what he’d just witnessed before he shook his head, gave the twink a good-natured laugh, and said, “No. That’s planking. But you’re actually in a pretty good position to start with.”

“Oh. Nice!”

“Mhm. Now just push yourself up a bit. Just like that. Elbows under your shoulders. Arms parallel…”

As ever, Jared’s form was immaculate.

Drake looked at his watch and set it on a timer. “Try and keep a straight line going through your body. Now hold that position. Okay. I want you to stay in that position for 10 minutes max. Think you can do that?”

Jared pushed half of his body off of the mat to give Drake a quick thumbs up. “Ready,” he said.

“Here we go.” Drake started the timer. As he did, he couldn’t help but wonder what else would change this time around.

It wasn’t even a minute into the plank when Jared looked up at Drake and asked, “Is there any way to make this more difficult? I’m barely even feeling it,” he said.

“It is about endurance,” said Conner.

Drake nodded. “Let’s circle back in another minute or so. If you’re still not feeling it then, we can talk about options.”

Jared seemed a bit disappointed but nodded anyway and said, “I guess that makes sense… Sure! That sounds good.”

Another minute came and went without much fanfare. Jared didn’t seem the least bit fazed. He wasn’t even sweating. “Has it been a minute?” he said.

“Yep. Still not really feeling it?” said Drake.

Jared shook his head.

Drake nodded even though Jared couldn’t see him.“Alright. Wait here.” He went to retrieve a weighted plate to place on Jared’s back.

He could have chosen the lightest one but since the twink was looking for a challenge, opted for a moderately heavy plate. It wasn’t in the best condition, but then again it had been in regular use for years.

The cast iron was dented in a few places and the plate wasn’t exactly the perfect circle it had been when Drake and Conner first bought their gym equipment. A few hairline cracks had begun to form as well but there wasn’t anything they could do about those.

The fact of the matter was, Drake and Conner couldn’t afford to buy replacements. Not when there were other expenses that took priority. For the purposes of weighing down someone doing a plank, however, the plate was heavy enough that no matter its condition, it would do its job well.

So Jared wouldn’t be taken by surprise, Drake said “I’m going to put a weight on your back. Try and stay as stable as you can and let me know if it’s too much, yeah?”

Jared nodded. “I can take it,” he said. He seemed pretty confident. “I’m pretty sure, at least.”

The confidence wasn’t unearned, Drake had to admit. Jared had been performing really well all night. He stepped over Jared, straddling the younger man’s hips as he lowered the weight onto Jared’s back. He took a moment to make sure it was balanced before backing off.

“Oof. That’s heavy,” Jared grunted.

“Too much?” said Drake.

Jared shook his head. “Should be fine… But maybe check back in a few minutes,” he said with a light laugh.

The weight certainly had an effect this time. Drake could see the strain in Jared’s expression. It wasn’t a lot, but he could tell Jared had slipped into that state of intense concentration once again.

He turned to Conner and shook his head. “I don’t know what was in that potion but I feel like it’s turned him into a fucking beast.”

Conner shrugged. “Confidence is a good look on him though, you have to admit,” he said. “And besides, aren’t you curious how far this goes?”

Drake chuckled. He leaned his head against Conner’s and said, “You know me so well, babe… Do you think that’s bad?”

“What? Wanting to see how far we can push him?” said Conner as he cast a pointed look at Jared.

Drake nodded. “Yeah.”

Conner shook his head. “I think it’s only natural to be curious. I mean… How often do you have an encounter with actual magic?”

“Still can’t believe that’s something we can say with a straight face now,” Drake laughed. As the two of them watched and the seconds on Drake’s timer ticked away, they got to witness a second miracle take place.

The dented, weathered cast iron plate on Jared’s back repaired itself. The cracks sealed themselves, zipping up along their length as if the metal were fusing back together. The dents flattened out. The weathering faded.

“Amazing,” said Conner. There was genuine awe in his voice.

Drake shook his head in disbelief. “No kidding,” he said. It took all of a minute for the plate to look good as new. It practically gleamed. He wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that it smelled like it had just been pulled out of a box.

He and Conner didn’t have much of an opportunity to look around and see what else had changed. The timer beeped insistently that the ten minutes was up.

The first thing Drake did was silence the incessant beeping. He removed the plate from Jared’s back afterwards, carefully and gently setting it aside. It looked as good as new so he was going to treat it as if it were new.

Jared grunted as he pushed himself up off the floor. “Wow,” he said. He gestured at his middle, moving his hand in circles over his abdomen. “I really felt that here.”

“In a good way?” said Drake as Jared turned to face him.

Jared nodded. “Oh yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything that intense before. It burned around here.” He placed a hand on his belly. “But it was so good… huh?”

“You okay?” said Conner.

“Yeah. Yeah. It’s just…” Jared moved his hand around his belly area as if he were searching for something. He frowned. “That’s… No… I can’t…”

Drake was now getting concerned. “I didn’t push you too hard did—”

Before Drake could finish, Jared had yanked the bottom hem of his shirt up to expose his stomach. His eyes grew wide. “Holy shit! I have abs!” he said, touching them as if to make sure they were real.

They were hardly the washboard six-pack that a lot of guys strived towards but judging by Jared’s reaction, the faint four-pack that had appeared on his midsection was an improvement.

“This just used to be… slim… and flat!” said Jared. He was practically ecstatic with glee. He kept dipping his fingers into the shallow crevices between the bundles of muscle. “Fuck yeah!”

“Congratulations!” said Conner. He placed a hand on Jared’s shoulder and grinned. “Look at you taking your first steps towards becoming a stud.”

Jared lit up. “You really think I can become a stud?” he said. Had he been a puppy, his tail would have been wagging.

“I’m 100% sure,” said Conner.

Drake laughed and nodded when Jared looked to him for validation. “As far as I can tell, you’ve got the right drive, attitude, and genetics. If you keep at it, I’m sure you can become all you want—and more, honestly.”

Jared released the bottom hem of his shirt and pumped his fist. “Fuck, yes!” he said. He smoothed down the front of his shirt and looked back at Drake. “What are the chances that I walk out of here tonight looking like one of those really hot underwear models?”

Drake shook his head and gave Jared a fond little smile. “It takes more than just a single night to do that,” he said. “But hey. You’re putting on muscles faster than anyone I’ve ever seen so who am I to say no?”

Conner squeezed Jared’s shoulder. “Only one way to find out, buddy,” he said.

Jared grinned. “Let’s try it! What’s next?”

“Well… We’ve worked your lower body with the squats and your core with the plank… So let’s do something for your upper body,” said Drake.

He looked around, mulling over the possibilities. On the one hand he wanted to give Jared something challenging but doable for a beginner. On the other hand, he wanted to choose an exercise that would lead to visible results.

It was all but certain now that Jared’s growth was a result of the potion but Drake wanted to confirm. He didn’t want to assume only to figure out he was wrong down the line. God knew how badly things could turn out when magic was involved.

Drake’s gaze settled on the pull-up bar. That was going to work. “Let’s get you doing some chin ups,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be challenging enough that you won’t ask me to make it harder for you, huh?”

Jared scratched the back of his head and said, “Sorry.”

Drake shook his head. “It’s okay. That’s what this is for. To get an idea for where you are and what we have to work with. Come on. Let’s head over to the pull-up bar.”

As he was passing by, he hooked his arm through the crook of Conner’s elbow. He leaned in and whispered, “I thought you didn’t approve of my wanting to see how far Jared can take this.”

“Whatever gave you that impression?” said Conner as he looked at Drake and quirked an eyebrow. “I said no such thing.”

Drake chuckled. “Oh. Right. I see how it is,” he said. “It’s bad when I’m curious but perfectly fine when you do it?”

Conner rolled his eyes fondly and pinched Drake on the upper arm. “Don’t put words in my mouth,” he said with a quiet laugh. “I was just wondering if you were as curious as I was.”

“Oh, I bet you wouldn’t complain if I put something else in your mouth, babe,” Drake murmured, nipping at the lobe of Conner’s ear.

He pulled back and laughed, shaking his head. “As curious as you are? Please. You seemed more excited than Jared when he asked if we could turn him into an underwear model after one session.”

Conner chuckled. “What can I say? Don’t you think it’d be hot to watch a twink swell up into a twunk?”

“Well. You’ve got me there,” said Drake with a little smirk.

Jared, for his part, was examining the pull-up bar. He seemed largely oblivious to the conversation Conner and Drake were having. He didn’t disturb them until he noticed they had finished their conversation.

“Am I supposed to hang off of this or something?” said Jared, tilting his head quizzically.

Drake chuckled. “After a fashion,” he said. “It’s more controlled than just dangling from the bar, of course.”

Jared nodded. “Of course.”

“Should I demonstrate?” said Conner.

Drake shot his partner a look. He had to resist the urge to shake his head fondly. “Sure, babe. Go ahead.”

Conner positioned himself below the bar and winked at Jared.

“Grab the bar with your hands facing toward you. A little bit narrower than shoulder width apart,” said Drake, narrating as Conner showed the proper form for Jared. “Grip the bar nice and firmly. Then bend your knees. Take your feet off the ground until you’re supporting your full weight.”

Jared’s eyes widened a bit as he watched Conner.

“You’re going to pull yourself up. Get your chin above the bar. Hold there for a second. And then lower yourself back to the starting position. Make sure you’re doing it nice and controlled like Conner,” Drake continued.

“You can also have your hands closer together if you like. That activates the pecs better,” said Conner. He did another rep to demonstrate before releasing the bar. He shot Drake a pointed grin before stepping away to give Jared a chance.

Jared stepped into the space Conner had just vacated. He looked up at the bar and gripped it just as Conner had demonstrated. He took a breath, took his feet off the ground, and pulled himself up into his first chin-up.

“Take it easy,” said Drake. “Quality over quantity. Give yourself some time to get used to the movement. Once you’ve got it down, you can push yourself harder.”

Jared nodded. “Thanks,” he said, cheeks puffing out with a breath as he did his second rep. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he grunted as he lowered himself in preparation for his third.

The twink seemed to take Drake’s advice this time. He was still going faster than most people, but Drake could hardly fault him for that. He was taking to the exercise like a duck to water.

Ten reps in and the extra effort was starting to show. Jared wasn’t struggling overmuch, but he had begun to sweat, his cheeks having taken on a faint tinge of pink.

Drake had stopped paying close attention to Jared’s form. He’d never seen anyone more consistent. Not even he was as consistently perfect as the twink was.

His focus was elsewhere. He watched Jared’s arms, in particular. It was hard to see because the boy was so thin but he kept an eye on the individual muscle groups, watching for any sign of change.

After a few false alarms, Drake finally saw something shift at around the 20th rep. It was a subtle difference, but more noticeable than before. The effect was most pronounced around Jared’s biceps. Every time the muscle contracted, it would swell.

It wasn’t much, but it was prominent enough for Drake to notice. And it wasn’t just the muscle fibers shortening, either. He could see the bulge of Jared’s biceps grow even when they were at maximal contraction.

Much of the growth would subside as Jared relaxed his arms. But not all of it. If Drake hadn’t been paying close attention, he would have missed it. But that tiny fraction of muscle growth that remained with every rep eventually added up.

“That should be fifty,” said Drake. His gaze remained focused on Jared’s arms as he called out. “Come back down.”

Jared released the bar and landed gracefully. He rolled his shoulders and shook his arms out. “Whew,” he said. “That was tough.”

He looked down at his arms. He traced his fingers over his biceps. They were far from substantial but they were actually visible now.

Jared grinned. His eyes lit up. “Worth it, though,” he said.

Drake nodded. “The results speak for themselves,” he said, giving Conner a pointed look.

“I could go for another round,” said Jared.

Drake chuckled. “I appreciate the enthusiasm, and normally I’d have you do two or three sets, but since tonight is about learning, why don’t we do another exercise?”

“Oh. Sure,” said Jared. “Which one?”

“You won’t have to go far. We’re doing pull-ups this time. Conner?” said Drake.

Jared stepped away as Conner resumed his earlier position. He grabbed the bar, this time using an overhand grip, hands further apart than before.

“The motion’s pretty similar. You’re going to want to make sure to pull your shoulders back before you try to pull yourself up,” said Drake as Conner demonstrated a few reps.

“And it probably doesn’t need to be said, but: muscles, not momentum,” said Conner as he stepped away from the bar. “Controlled the whole way up and the whole way down. No kicking. No swinging.”

Jared smiled. “Got it. Thanks,” he said as he grabbed the bar and adjusted his grip to something comfortable. “Starting!”

Since Drake couldn’t see the muscles of Jared’s back from where he was standing in front of the pull-up bar, he walked around while keeping an eye on what Jared was doing. There were no mistakes that he could see. Besides maybe a tad more zeal than he would have liked for a beginner. Then again, he supposed Jared wasn’t your average beginner.

Unfortunately, Jared’s shirt was loose enough that Drake couldn’t quite make out the muscles moving underneath. He got a general impression, but not to the level of detail that he would have liked.

With nothing to observe, Drake’s attention was drawn elsewhere. He looked at the frame of the pull-up bar. Some of the rusted spots he’d been afraid were worse than surface-deep were still there. But the rust was fading, replaced at first by shiny new steel, and then covered over with a fresh layer of paint.

The changes weren’t isolated to the pull-up bar either. As Drake watched, they rippled outward to nearby pieces of equipment. The second pull-up bar which had been in worse condition than the first was rapidly improving. The weight rack that was slumped to one side because of a busted wheel gradually leveled off as Jared did his reps.

The second of the two rowing machines that had had an “out of order” sign for a few months because of a broken chain and a snapped handle, suddenly looked good as new. The piece of paper that had been stuck to the front of it with a square of electrical tape had inexplicably vanished.

Drake’s heart hammered in his chest. It hadn’t hit him until then. Not truly. But the gym was going to be saved. They weren’t going to be forced to sell. They would get to keep the business they’d sunk years of money and effort into.

He turned his attention back to Jared. He didn’t know how many reps it had been, but he could tell that the younger man had grown again. The shirt sat differently on his shoulders. It wasn’t as loose.

Whereas before, the fabric had largely obscured the movements of Jared’s muscles, they’d developed to the point that Drake could just about make them out. He could see the shoulder blades move underneath, the way they pushed up against the fabric.

Drake waited for Jared to finish another ten reps before he asked him to come down. “How do you feel?”

“Pretty good,” said Jared as he hopped down from the bar. “Great, actually!”

Drake walked back around to the front of the bar. Jared was looking down at himself, grinning practically from ear to ear. He’d lifted his shirt again and was admiring his body.

Not much had changed around his midriff, but then again, they hadn’t been doing much about that area. His chest was a different story.

It didn’t take much to imagine that Jared must have been quite flat-chested when he first walked into the gym. He was just too thin to be anything else. Now, his chest had more definition. There was a faint but visible crevice down the middle, the beginnings of pecs on either side. It wasn’t a lot, but it was a start, and Jared certainly seemed pleased to see it.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of where you’re at now,” said Drake. He gave Jared a thoughtful once-over, watching as the twink slipped his shirt back on. “You’re definitely in better condition than most people who have no experience.”

Jared’s cheeks took on a tinge of pink. He scratched the back of his head and said, rather sheepishly, “Honestly, man, I’m just as surprised as you are.”

Conner chuckled. “Hey, better to have underestimated yourself than overestimated,” he said. “But now you know, so hopefully it’s the pleasant kind of surprise.”

Jared held his arms out in front of him, turning them over and back a few times. “Yeah, definitely!” he said.

Drake smiled. “As far as I can tell, you don’t seem to have any problems with strength, mobility, or endurance…” He crossed his arms and tapped his chin.

“Most people, for their first time, need to build up to a good starting point. You’re there already so we can just focus on getting you to your goals.” He looked at Jared. “You said you wanted to get bigger, right? Do you have any idea what you might want to work on at first?”

The words tumbled out of Jared almost as if they were in a hurry to get out. “Abs!” he blurted out. Then, sheepishly, he elaborated with, “I’ve always wanted to have abs. The… The kind that you’d see on the cover of a fitness magazine.”

Derek chuckled. “Nothing to be embarrassed about,” he said. “Most guys want abs. Luckily for you, it looks like you’re gonna be one of the guys that get them.”

There was a twinkle in Jared’s eyes. “You think so?” he said.

Derek smirked. “You’ve got a good start already, don’t you think?” he said, gesturing toward Jared’s stomach.

Jared placed a hand on his belly. “Ha! Guess you’re right!” he said. “So… Do we get started now?”

“Eager,” Conner teased.

Jared laughed. “Excited! I just feel so pumped. I’m ready to have the body I always dreamed of. Thank you so much for this.”

“You’re the one that will have to put in all the hard work. We’re just showing you the way,” said Drake. “Speaking of which, we can start nice and simple with a couple of sets of crunches.”

“Sure! What do I need to do?”

Drake looked at his partner and quirked an eyebrow. “Up for a demonstration, Conner?”

Conner cracked a grin. “More like down for it,” he said as he sat on the floor. “Sit,” he said, patting the empty space next to him.

“Oh nice. Another floor exercise?” said Jared.

Drake nodded. “The basic crunch is, at least. There are a couple of variations we can do with the machines. We’ll get to those in due time, don’t worry.”

“Just do what I do,” said Conner.

Drake watched intently—not that he thought he had to keep too close an eye on Jared—he just wanted to make sure. Jared copied Conner’s form perfectly. Drake just had one pointer after he saw Jared do a single rep. “Try and keep your feet on the floor while you do it,” he said.

Jared looked at Drake, nodded, and said, “Thank you.”

“Could have told him that,” said Conner.

“Trying to put me out of a job, babe?” said Drake.

Conner grinned. “I think I’d make for a pretty good sugar daddy,” he said.

“With what money?” Drake mouthed. He laughed and turned his attention back to Jared. “Start with a set of 50. If that’s not enough, keep going. I’m going to quickly get something to spice things up if you end up needing something more challenging.”

Conner put up his hand, signing a two. “Bring me one too,” he said. He had a mischievous twinkle in his eye—one that Drake knew all too well. He turned to Jared and said, “Why don’t we make a little competition of it?”

Jared stopped mid-crunch and looked at Conner. He quirked an eyebrow. “A competition?” he said.

Conner nodded and smirked. “We see who can do the most crunches. Tap the mat twice if you’ve had enough.”

“Don’t you think that’s kind of unfair?” Jared chuckled. “You’ve been doing this longer than I have!”

Conner shrugged. “Meanwhile, you have been tearing it up all night. Trust me, I think you can put up a good fight.”

Drake wasn’t sure if he should sanction this sort of thing. Conner certainly had the advantage of experience, but Jared had the help of magic that gave him a seemingly boundless well of energy and a body that built muscle like nothing else.

“Alright,” said Jared. “You’re on. If nothing else, I’m kind of curious to see how I measure up.”

“That’s my boy,” said Conner. He looked at Drake and grinned. “Two of whatever you’ve got planned, please!” he said.

Drake rolled his eyes. There was no reasoning with his partner when he got like this. “Sure. Will do,” he said. “Proper crunches, yeah? No shortcuts. Both of you,” he added somewhat sternly.

“Yes, Sir!” said Conner with the cheekiest grin Drake had ever seen. Jared said the same thing, but he sounded a lot more sincere about it.

Drake could guess what Conner was thinking. Competition made people push themselves further. From the looks of it, Jared seemed pretty engaged with the idea.

He went to retrieve a pair of medicine balls as Conner and Jared got started.

Drake nearly tripped over his own feet as the floor itself changed while he was walking back. The transformation came in waves. The first saw that the pits and cracks in the rubber mats that covered the floor were smoothed out.

He’d noticed the change coming but hadn’t anticipated the way that it would change the texture and traction of the floor. That part took him by surprise.

Drake managed to catch himself and adjusted the way he was carrying the medicine balls to make sure he didn’t drop them. The next wave of transformation gave the floor a bit of a shine. The wear and tear had dulled the finish of the rubber mats, but all of that disappeared in a matter of moments.

By the time that he got to Conner and Jared, the magic had replaced the flooring in its entirety. He and Conner had always wanted to rip out the old floors but never had the money. Now they had brand-new Studly floors, the exact brand they’d dreamed of getting installed once they had the money.

Both men were sweating. Conner, more so than Jared, though Drake hadn’t truly expected to see any different. “How’s it going?” he said.

“32,” Conner grunted as he did a crunch.

Jared didn’t look the least bit fazed. “34, actually,” he said so nonchalantly Conner took it personally.

Conner whipped his head to the side and glared at Jared. The younger man, for the most part, seemed blissfully unaware. “Whatever. Around 35,” he said.

Drake shook his head and laughed. “Well, let me know when you get to 50. I brought some toys.”

Conner groaned.

“You can always tap out,” Derek teased.

Jared, on the other hand, seemed galvanized by the prospect of a greater challenge. He pressed forward with his crunches, picking up his pace in a way that Conner couldn’t quite keep up with it, all without breaking his perfect form.

As Jared was doing his reps, his shirt… shrank. It wasn’t exactly getting smaller, the fit was just improving.

He had walked into the gym wearing a somewhat loose-fitting, breathable cotton shirt. It had been a bit too long and had draped over his narrow shoulders in a way that made it look bigger than it was.

The shirt shrank against Jared’s skin. Excess fabric vanished into nothing. He still didn’t have much definition to speak of, but the shirt showed off what he had managed to earn so far.

Instead of hanging off of his shoulders, the shirt was now shaped to the muscles that had grown there. It pulled taut around his belly, allowing the faint impression of his four-pack to show through.

As the threads changed from cotton to nylon, the shirt hugged Jared’s body even tighter. It wasn’t so tight that it was practically a second skin but it clung to the few curves and many angles of his slender physique.

Jared, for his part, didn’t seem to notice that his shirt had been transformed into a compression top. He carried on doing his crunches, entirely unperturbed.

Drake had to admire the dedication. And he had to admit, he was sure Jared could really rock the look if only he had more meat on him.

His suspicion didn’t remain conjecture for long. Once the magic had added the finishing touches to the shirt—a small logo right above the left breast—it turned its considerable abilities to Jared’s body.

As Jared was wrapping up the last few of his fifty reps, his compression shirt pulled tighter around his stomach. His 4-pack of abs turned into 6. The definition did not much increase, but Drake found himself unable to look away as a new pair of lines was etched into the muscles of Jared’s abdomen.

“Fifty,” Jared said as he lay back down.

“One sec,” Conner grunted. He was two reps behind but powered through, pointedly ignoring the look Jared was giving him. “Okay. There. Fifty.”

Drake chuckled. “Think the two of you could take on more?” he said.

Jared turned his gaze to Drake. He practically lit up as he said, “Hell, yeah, man!”

Conner sat up and gave Drake a withering look. “Give me a minute. I’m not as young as I used to be,” he groused.

It was adorable. “Alright. Just a minute,” said Drake as he retrieved the stopwatch from his belt.

He’d already pushed the button to start the timer when Conner rolled his eyes and said, “Screw you, babe. Here. Hand it over.”

Conner caught the medicine ball with a grunt. “I expect you’re going to make me show the proper technique first?” he said.

Drake nodded. “Of course. Someone’s got to teach him. And you’re already down there, after all.” Turning his gaze back to Jared, he tossed the second medicine ball at the younger man.

Conner lay back down. He placed the medicine ball right over his crotch as he did. He then grabbed it and held it up with both hands as he turned his head to the side to look at Jared. “Just like this. Ready?”

Jared kept an eye on Conner and nodded. “Kinda excited, to be honest,” he said.

Conner took a moment to breathe before he started. Jared followed close behind, following the movements with the ease that Drake had come to expect.

Jared needed only a handful of reps to get into the swing of things. After a few pointers from Conner, he was doing his weighted long-arm crunches as if he’d been at it his whole life.

Five reps turned into ten. And then twenty. 30 had Conner huffing and puffing, red in the face and sweating profusely while Jared was entirely undeterred.

Conner gave up at 35. He dropped the medicine ball to the side and lay spread-eagled on the ground. “It’s been a long day. You win. But I’m not gonna tell you to stop because you probably won’t,” he said, cracking a wry grin at Jared.

Drake walked over and crouched next to Conner. “You did great, babe,” he said, patting his partner on the shoulder.

His gaze was firmly fixed on Jared, however. The definition of the boy’s abs had only gotten better as he did his crunches.

The muscles swelled. The valleys between them grew deeper. Jared’s shirt was practically sucked down into the crevices as they became more pronounced.

The individual segments of Jared’s abs had been only barely distinguishable when he started. But as his core grew tighter, they became more distinct. Like cobblestones slotted together and chiseled into a perfect fit.

It was incredible to watch and Drake would have been lying if he said it wasn’t a turn-on to see someone’s body change so dramatically in a matter of minutes. He had no doubt Conner was feeling the same sort of way.

Unlike Conner, Jared gently lowered the medicine ball and set it aside before sitting up. “Fifty,” he said with a grin. “How did I do?”

Drake gave Jared a thumbs up. “You did great, buddy. Your form was great. I could tell you were pacing yourself. Nothing else to add, really. Just a good job overall,” he said.

Jared had the grace to look a bit bashful. “Thanks, man,” he said. He looked down his torso and placed a hand on his stomach. His eyes widened. “Oh, shit. When did those get there?” he said.

Conner chuckled as he sat up. There was a twinkle in his eye as he said, “You should take a closer look. You know. Just to make sure they’re real.”

Jared flashed a grin at Conner. He grabbed the bottom hem of his compression shirt with both hands and tugged it up—with no small amount of effort given how tight it was against his body.

He sucked in a sharp breath as the lycra peeled off of his abs. They were even more gorgeous in the light. A perfect washboard. Jared couldn’t resist the urge and splayed his fingers over the tight bundles of muscle, very clearly marveling at the fact that they were on his body.

“Amazing,” said Drake. It took all he had in him not to whistle at the sight.

“Damn, son. Those abs are yummy,” said Conner in a teasing sing-song voice. Though Drake knew his partner well enough by now to hear the faint undercurrent that was more than just playful ribbing. Not that he disagreed.

Jared licked his lips and allowed his gaze to linger on his abs a few moments more before covering them back up with his shirt. It didn’t look like he disagreed with the assessment, either.

“You’re definitely starting to look the part of an underwear model,” said Drake.

Jared sheepishly scratched his cheek and said, “Thanks, man…” Afterward, he held his arms out in front of him and said, “So. Um. Arms next, yeah?”

“If that’s what you want,” said Drake with a grin. “Maybe if you ask nicely, Conner would like to continue your little competition,” he added as he cast a pointed glance at his partner.

Conner rolled his eyes and said, “No. No more for me, I’m afraid. It’s been a long day. I’m tired. And I don’t think I could keep up with you even if I wanted to, anyway,” before Jared could even actually ask.

Jared chuckled. “Alright. Sounds good. It was fun, though. Never thought I’d say that but it was kind of exciting to compete with someone.”

Drake placed a hand on Jared’s shoulder and gently ushered him toward the next stop. “That’s only natural,” he said. “One thing I’ve noticed is that competition really helps with motivation.”

He set Jared next to a rack of dumbbells of varying weights and picked out a set that would work for him as he continued. “You have to be careful not to let things get too competitive though. Because then that just incentivizes shortcuts and it’s not really healthy or productive if you’re not doing your workouts with proper form.”

“Gotcha. Gotcha,” said Jared nodding thoughtfully at Drake’s words.

“Next thing I’m gonna have you do is some alternating curls. Fairly simple exercise. Just do it like this”—Drake demonstrated—“and you should be good to go. Before you start, take your time and find a weight that works well for you.”

Drake set his dumbbells back down and motioned for Jared to follow him. “If you’re starting to feel like you’ve done enough with your biceps, you can move on to this machine. Just follow my posture. Grab this bar. Pull it down like this. This will work for your triceps.”

Since Jared hadn’t used one of these machines yet, Drake walked around to the side and showed him how to adjust the weight. “Just move this pin up or down—up if you want less weight, down if you want more—try and find something that’s challenging but not too hard, yeah?”

Jared nodded. “Right. Right. Should take an effort but it shouldn’t make me strain.”

Drake smiled. “Exactly.” He took a step back to stand next to Conner and said, “Take your time. Get familiar with the weights. Once you’re happy, just do, let’s say, four sets of fifteen reps for each exercise. That should do for a good workout for right now.”

It took Jared the better part of a minute to find a pair of dumbbells that he liked. But he wasted no time getting right into the workout.

Drake would have personally chosen lighter for Jared but the younger man had been exceeding his expectations all night so he wasn’t really too surprised. “I have to admit, I’m kind of jealous,” he murmured.

“Come on, babe. You know I wouldn’t. Not without permission,” said Conner as he playfully bumped against Drake’s side.

“No. Babe. Not that,” Drake said, stifling a laugh. “I meant I’m jealous that he can put on that much muscle and definition in minutes.

“Oh. Yeah. Imagine. If only it could be that effortless to maintain this,” Conner said as he gestured at his own body with a quiet laugh.

The magical changes they’d expected to come arrived about halfway through Jared’s second set. The weight rack, which had been listing to one side forever, and the wheels, which had long since given up, looked like they were actually functional again.

The two of them turned their attention back to Jared as he crushed his reps. He wasn’t even breaking a sweat.

Muscle tone was the first thing Jared developed. Not that he had had much in the way of flab to start with, but it didn’t take long for what little loose skin he had under his arm to tighten up.

Bulk followed shortly thereafter. While Jared was wearing a compression shirt, it was still somewhat loose around the sleeves. It didn’t stay that way for long.

Through Jared’s third set, his biceps swelled. He wasn’t going to be winning any bodybuilding awards but the sleeves of his compression shirt actually began to stretch around the muscle. His arms certainly couldn’t be called twigs anymore.

The triceps workout only helped to improve Jared’s arm muscles. The extra tone and bulk weren’t as dramatic as what had happened to Jared’s biceps but they helped stretch those sleeves even wider.

Jared wasn’t quite ready to burst out of his compression shirt sleeves but they actually had something to compress now. And boy, was it a sight.

Conner whistled when Jared finished the last of his reps and walked over. “Damn, boy. You’re looking hot,” he said.

“Hell, yeah,” said Drake. “You made great progress there, buddy.”

Jared held his arms out in front of him and grinned. “Oh, shit. You’re right!” he said as he felt up his biceps. “I actually have guns now! Think I can go get a better look?”

“Sure! You probably saw earlier but just in case, the mirrors are over th…” Drake trailed off as he glanced over his shoulder.

Most commercial gyms had a wall of mirrors. Drake and Conner’s gym had started that way, too. After a few accidents, they just couldn’t afford to replace the whole installation, so they just kept a small section.

Apparently, at some point during Jared’s workout, they’d gotten a brand-new mirror wall. It was astonishing to see. Every single panel was polished to perfection and there weren’t any visible distortions.

“Nice. I didn’t notice that when I came in,” said Jared.

Drake and Conner shared a look. Drake would be lying if he said seeing the mirrors hadn’t made him giddy. Things were definitely changing in their gym, and all for the better.

Jared jogged over to the mirrors and Drake and Conner followed close behind. He flexed his biceps and whistled to himself. “Damn, I look good!

It took Jared a moment to remember he wasn’t alone. When he realized Drake and Conner were there, he flushed a bright red. “Sorry,” he said. “That was embarrassing…”

Conner shook his head. “It wasn’t!” he said as he walked up behind Jared and placed his hands on his shoulders. “You do look good. You should be proud of what you have.”

Jared scratched his cheek and turned his gaze back to his reflection. “Sorry. Just… I’m not used to seeing myself like this,” he said.

“You should take a picture,” said Conner.

Jared hesitated. “Should I?” he said.

Drake stepped forward. “Yeah. You don’t have to post it online. But it would be a good way to see how far along you’ve come.”

Jared frowned thoughtfully for a moment. “I suppose you’re right,” he said. He fished his phone out of his pants.

“You should post it online, though,” said Conner. “You look great. You’ll probably pick up a few hundred followers for your trouble.”

“I-I dunno…” said Jared. His earlier confidence seemed to flag at the prospect of putting his picture out there in public. “I don’t even use social media all that much. What if people get… toxic?”

Conner waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about the haters, man. They’re not worth your time. Trust me, most people will be encouraging.”

Jared looked to Drake for guidance.

Drake could speak to the truth of Conner’s words. His experiences online had been relatively positive, so far. And the detractors were easy to ignore or just outright silence.

“It’s not a bad idea,” said Drake. He’d encouraged clients to post their progress on social media before. “Having a great community to encourage you is a good way to build confidence and motivation.”

Jared nodded. He didn’t look 100% convinced just yet, but he seemed more receptive, at least. “Okay. Okay. Let’s give it a try. Just one can’t hurt, right?”

“I’ll take your picture,” said Conner as he plucked the phone from Jared’s hands. “Give us a pose.”

Jared frowned thoughtfully. After a moment, he settled on a pose. He raised his arms in a double bicep pose. “Like this?” he said.

Conner chuckled. “A little basic for a first post, but not bad,” he said, snapping the picture before handing the phone back to Jared. He’d also entered a pretty basic caption to go with the picture.

Making some progress! 💪

#gym #workout #muscles #twigtobig

“Twig to big? … I mean, I guess it’s true.” Jared laughed and shook his head. “Okay. Here goes nothing”—he pushed the post button—“I hope you’re right and that this doesn’t come back to bite me.”

Conner squeezed Jared’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, buddy. It should be fine.”

Drake peered over the pair’s shoulders. Conner had barely finished speaking when the notifications flooded Jared’s phone. In a matter of seconds, Jared had gone from having 12 followers to over 300.

“What did I tell you?” said Conner.

“Wow…” The awe in Jared’s voice was adorable. Drake almost wanted to squeeze him.

Comments filtered in. One or two were mocking but most were pretty positive. A handful were praising Jared’s dedication. Most were asking for more progress pics in the future.

The look on Jared’s face was precious. He had a little smile he was trying and failing to fight. It didn’t escape Drake’s notice, though. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” he said as they scrolled through the comments.

Jared flushed red. “I-I’m not sure if I enjoy this… I’ve never had so many followers before…” he said.

Conner lightly elbowed Jared in the side. “Come on. You love it. Admit it.”

Jared chuckled. He had the grace to look sheepish as he said, “…Maybe it’s growing on me.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: This story was written as a paid commission. If you are interested in commissioning your own story from me, please see the [Commissions] page for more information!

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