Drew had been waiting for me outside the classroom and bounded in with his camera as soon as the clock ticked up to signal the end of detention. I slung my bag over my shoulder, stood and turned to face him.
“C’mon, Jer! Let’s see those guns! Give the readers a show!” he called out to me as he raised the camera.
I hesitated a moment, then tried to relax some and let the body take over. Almost like magic, my arms went up and flexed into a double bi. I tried to give Jeremy’s trademark sexy grin that I had envied for so long, but even as I tried I knew it was tentative, and I could tell from the look on Drew’s face that I had failed miserably. I was thinking too hard about it again, damnit.
“Andrew French and Jeremy Lassiter, this is a classroom, not a photo shoot!” The harsh voice of the detention monitor from behind me made me jump a little. “I know you want material for the school paper,” she continued, “but please take this elsewhere, preferably off school property since the school day is now over. And Mr. Lassiter, I’m not sure what got into you today, but perhaps having to miss practice for detention will be a sufficient reminder to you that the rest of the school is not the gym, and you are to keep your shirt on in the halls and during class. Being popular does not give you license to flout the rules of this institution. Now go! You make my nose itch.”
“Yes, Mrs. Pruitt,” I said meekly. I didn’t have to feign the embarrassment and shame. It felt like my whole body was flushing red. I headed for the door and an escape from this fucked up day. Thank god I could finally get out of here.
“Jer, what’s wrong?”
I’d been wanting to talk to Joey all day to find out what happened with him and Drew, but I missed him at lunch because I was hiding out in the restroom. Being around so many others outside of class was taking too big of a chance.
God, how was I going to deal with this situation? We needed to get home so we could figure out what to do next.
No, not home since that meant Jeremy’s house now, or Drew’s. Well, somewhere quiet so we could be alone and think.
Hearing my name shouted at me startled me and broke me out of my thoughts. I stopped still in the middle of the hall. I had been so preoccupied that I had forgotten Drew was right beside me with questions of his own, and hopefully some answers too.
Seeing he finally had my attention, Drew went on. “What the hell is wrong with you? I kept calling your name and you just kept walking like a zombie. And where were you at lunch?” he asked quietly, but urgently.
“I had to hide during lunch. It didn’t work, Joey!” I said with an edge of panic in my voice.
“What do you mean it didn’t work? You’re Jeremy now, just like we planned! And you’ve got to remember to call me Drew.” He looked at me with a perplexed expression on his face.
“Okay, so I’m in his body, but it didn’t work all the way! You said I would have access to his memories so I could really be him, but inside I’m Mikey. Just Mikey, no Jeremy at all.”
“But I have all of Drew’s memories, his photography skills, everything. You got nothing?” He had a shocked look on his face, and I realized I had to tilt my head back to look him in the eye.
“Well, I figured out that I got some kind of muscle memory. If I detach my mind enough, my body will automatically start to react like Jeremy. It’s the weirdest feeling, like I’m just along for the ride while my body takes control. If I try too hard, though, my brain overrules my body and I lose it.”
“But you’ve been flashing those muscles all over school all day long,” he protested. “Mikey would never do that. How could you have gone through with something like that if you were just Mikey? It was even a little extreme for Jeremy.”
“I know, but I had to get out of gymnastics after school, and the only thing I could think of was to get detention. Without Jeremy’s skills, practice would have been a disaster. And showing off my body was beyond awful. I knew everyone was drooling over Jeremy, but to me it was like they were staring at ‘Fat Mikey,’ not some muscled hunk. That’s why I hid during lunch. It was too much.”
“But isn’t this what you’ve been wishing for? I mean it’s one of the reasons we picked Drew and Jeremy. We both got the bodies we wanted, and we get to stay best friends without people wondering so we can help each other through this. All you’ve talked about forever has been how you wished you could be like Jeremy. To have his face, his hair, his eyes, his muscles, his confidence, the sexy way he grins, the way everyone stares at him. Now you’ve got it! Why are you so freaked?”
I dropped my gaze uncomfortably. “Because I’m scared. I don’t think I can possibly be all that. I’m just me, Fat Mikey the Nerd. I feel like they’ll all see the real me somehow and realize I’m not worth anything.” I felt a lump start to build in my throat. Shit, I didn’t want to cry.
“Oh, Mikey,” Joey’s voice softened.
I looked up at him again and it really hit me how tall he’d become. “Oh wow, I really am looking up at you now,” I said distractedly.
“Yeah, I’m tall all over, if you know what I mean,” he said, smirking and raising an eyebrow. “That’s one of the reasons I was fine with you being the muscle stud. We had different criteria for what we wanted to be.”
I got a strange feeling in my gut when he looked at me that way that there was a lot more he wasn’t saying. The day kept piling weirdness on top of weirdness, and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.
“Well now what?” I asked. “I can’t go home to Jeremy’s house when I don’t have his memories. How can I pretend to be him in front of his parents without screwing up?”
“Come on, let’s go to my house,” he replied as he led me out to the senior parking lot. “We can go up to my room and figure this out. I’ll drive so you don’t have to worry about the stick shift.”
“But Joey, Drew’s parents will know Jeremy just as well, won’t they? And thanks for remembering about Jeremy’s car. I’d forgotten.”
“You’ve also forgotten that they’re not ‘Drew’s’ parents,’” he said as he mimed air quotes. “They’re my parents. I’m Drew now. Joey’s gone,” he stated flatly as we approached his car.
I stopped and stared at him in shock and horror. “Wh-what do you mean Joey’s gone?” I stuttered and backed away. “Have Joey’s memories been wiped out? If it had worked on me the way it worked on you, would I be gone too?”
“No, no, no! You’ve got it all wrong!” He paused and brushed his hair back from his forehead while he appeared to collect his thoughts. “Damn I wish you could be feeling this too so I wouldn’t have to try and put it into words. It’s really hard to explain. Joey’s in here too, it’s just… complicated. Come on. Please trust me and get in the car. I’ll tell you everything I can when we get to my house, but let me try and figure out how best to say all of this.”
I got in the car reluctantly and seat belted myself in. As the car pulled out of the parking lot, the fever pitch of fear and adrenaline I’d been living with all day finally began to recede a little, and I started to become conscious of things I hadn’t paid attention to before. My shirt for starters. It clung to my body and the arm and neck holes felt constricting. I had been so used to wearing loose, camouflaging clothing that the feeling of my chest, sides and back pressing out against the black cloth in all directions was an unusual sensation. I glanced over at Joey, and our eyes met briefly as he glanced back at me before turning his gaze back to the road with a slight frown of concentration creasing his forehead.
We continued to drive in silence, and I felt my thoughts draining away. After the maelstrom that had been churning in my mind since this morning, it was nice to sort of go mentally numb and just not think anymore. I looked down at my hands as they rested on top of the bag that I had almost forgotten I was carrying. As I continued to stare down at them, I lifted my right elbow slightly up and inward away from the passenger side door and held my forearm out in front of me with the palm down. I slowly opened and closed my fist, much larger and stronger than the one I had had before, and as I did so, I watched and felt the powerful muscles and tendons move underneath the smooth skin.
My eyes drifted in fascination up to my bicep and lingered on the bulge there. I felt an urge to flex it, and I watched it pop into higher definition as I did so. I repeated these actions with my left arm, raising it parallel above my right, almost mesmerized by the thought that I was controlling this. I kept trying to come up with another word for the feeling, but my vocabulary failed me. Power, power, power, power. The word seemed to pulse in my head and move to the core of my being. I suddenly started feeling confined in the car, like I had to move, to run, to use every part of my body. What on earth was happening to me? I flexed my chest and felt my pecs respond to my command. I tensed my stomach and felt my abs, something I’d never experienced before. I tightened my ass and felt power there too. I had to concentrate to keep my legs from twitching uncontrollably as if to run. I started to panic again and my breathing became labored.
“Joey? How much longer?” I gasped, on the verge of hyperventilating. “I think I’m starting to have a seizure or something. Something’s going wrong, and I’m losing control.” I started to tremble as I tried to clamp down on everything and make all of the twitching and flexing subside.
“Hang in there, Mikey, we’re almost there.” He made a turn onto a street in a neighborhood I only vaguely recognized and pulled into a driveway several houses down from the corner. I was still trembling and sat frozen in the passenger seat, afraid to make the least motion. He stopped the car, undid first his seatbelt, then mine, then got out of the car and walked around to my side. He stretched out his hand to me to help me out of the car. I grabbed it like a lifeline to a drowning man and practically fell out into the driveway. The thought of neighbors staring at the spectacle I was sure I was making helped me gain control of myself, and I let Joey, no Drew, pull me to my feet. He headed for the front door, and I trailed weakly behind him.
“Mom!” he shouted, “I’m home! Jer and I are going up to my room!”
“Will he be staying for dinner?” a woman’s voice called, no doubt from the kitchen.
A woman who was obviously mother to the boy next to me came around the corner from the back part of the house and into the foyer where we’d been standing.
“Well, your father will be late, so we won’t be eating until 7:00 or so. Do you boys want a little snack?” she asked.
“Maybe in a bit.”
“Well, just let me know,” she said with a smile. “Jeremy, did you call your parents yet, or would you like me to?”
“I…” The words stuck in my throat as panic rose in me yet again. What do I say? What do I do? How should I be reacting?
Drew intervened by grabbing my arm to pull me up the stairs to the right. “Would you mind, mom? I’ve gotta show Jer something important.” He turned to me and said, “Come on,” as he dragged me along behind him.
“Okay, okay. You boys go ahead.” Her chuckle faded below us as we reached the top of the stairs and walked straight into the room in front of us.
Drew sat me on his bed, closed and locked the door, then went to sit in the chair in front of his computer. I yanked the strap of my bag over my head, tossed it aside on the floor, and allowed myself to fall backward onto the mattress with my eyes closed.
Neither Drew nor I spoke as I lay on the bed, and the silence stretched out until I finally said quietly and tiredly, “So are you going to explain all of this to me or what? Who are you now? I thought you’d be Joey with Drew’s memories, like I expected to be the same with me and Jeremy. But you said you’re Drew and Joey’s gone, but not gone. It doesn’t make any sense.”
I heard Drew sigh and shift in his chair.
“When you jumped in this morning where were you?” he asked.
“I was sitting in Jeremy’s first period class, practically in his lap. My eyes were closed, but I could feel him holding me. That’s how I knew something had gone wrong right away,” I said. “I knew we couldn’t both be there, so I shoved him away, but when I opened my eyes, he was gone somehow, and it was just me inside his body.” I sat up abruptly. Drew was grinning at me.
“You just figured it out, didn’t you?” he said, not really asking the question.
“That was just me feeling his body and his mind for the first time, wasn’t it? It was just me inside his body, but I was still sitting at my desk. No one noticed anything had changed except me! Oh, I know I’m not saying it right…”
“Close enough. You got the gist of it!” Drew replied, as he grinned wider.
“But if Jeremy and I were both there where’d he go? And what happened to Joey?” I asked, still confused.
“I was trying to figure it out while we were driving over here, and I think I know,” he said. “Neither of us were happy being who we were, right? I mean, that’s why we took this chance in the first place.”
I nodded. “Very right,” I agreed. “All I’ve wanted for the longest time was to live someone else’s life, any life that was better than mine. Both of us wanted that.”
Drew took a deep breath, let it out and continued, “Yes. Well, even though you talked about it way more than I did, I think deep down I wanted it more than you, and I think I was able to accept what was happening in a way you weren’t. That’s why I said Joey’s gone, but not. When I, Joey, jumped in, I, Drew, was still walking to first period. He, I, stumbled a bit and I could tell right away I was in Drew’s body with no Joey around, but with both Joey and Drew in my head. I’ll admit that the way it happened wasn’t at all what I expected, but you know how rushed the whole thing was.”
I nodded again and waited for him to go on.
“At any rate, here’s the part I don’t really have words for, but I’ll do the best I can. It was like time stopped, and I could see all of Joey and all of Drew, all of who we both were—emotions, personalities, memories—all of it, laid out for me on a table, and I just knew instinctively that all I had to do was put myself back together from the pieces. Once I was done, I realized that I was mainly Drew, but with the negative parts removed and filled with the best parts of Joey. I kept all the memories, chucked the rest into a mental recycling bin, and voilà! A new Drew!”
I realized I had been holding my breath and exhaled explosively. “So you’re Drew plus Joey now?”
“More like Drew tempered by Joey, but yeah,” he said. “The Joey part was carrying so much negativity—anger, frustration, sadness—all the things he, I, wanted to escape and leave behind. Why keep it to just drag me down all over again?”
I shook my head in amazement.
“Yeah, pretty wild, huh?” he said in answer to my unspoken question. “It felt like it took hours, but it only took the moment between when I stumbled and when I caught my balance again.”
“Well then what do I do now? I panicked and kicked the Jeremy part out. I screwed myself and didn’t even realize it!” I groaned at my own stupidity.
“Ah, but there are two things we still need to consider,” Drew countered, coming out of his chair and sitting next to me on the bed. I shifted to look at him, and he looked back at me intently.
“What two things?”
“First off, haven’t you been experiencing what you termed ‘muscle memories’ all day? Body movements that only happened when you let your mind detach?” he prompted. “And haven’t they been getting stronger? Like in the car?”
My eyes widened as Drew continued, “I don’t think you kicked Jeremy out, I think you locked him down. All we have to do is get you to let him free.”
“I think we need to get you to give up your control and let Jeremy’s ‘muscle memories’ take over completely.” His voice grew hushed, and as he leaned towards me with that smirk/raised eyebrow look, he almost whispered, “And I think the key is in the second thing we still need to consider.”
I leaned closer and whispered back, “What’s that?”
“I know something you don’t know,” he chanted in a little singsong voice, then quickly closed the distance between us and locked his lips on mine.
To say I was stunned would not do justice to the moment, and in that moment where no thoughts would come, my body reacted on instinct. My arms wrapped themselves around Drew and pulled him down on top of me as I went backwards again onto the bed. My mouth opened to let his tongue in, and mine went out to meet it. My cock inflated to full hardness and I dazedly thought to myself, Dear god I’m huge! How did I get through today without realizing? The moment started to break and Drew felt me start to tense up and pull away.
“No, no, don’t think. Feel. Feel with me! Please!” I could hear longing in his voice as he pressed his hardness against mine. I closed my eyes and felt. The intensity was too much. We were still fully clothed and yet in what seemed like only moments I came as my mind exploded along with my body. Time stopped.
I was still panting as I held Drew tight to me and buried my face in his neck. God he smelled good. I loved his smell and I loved holding him close like this. He waited a moment until I loosened my grip, then raised up so he could see my face clearly.
“Mikey?” he asked cautiously.
I gave him my sexy grin. He smirked back and raised his eyebrow. “There you are,” he said. His smirk turned to a grin to match mine, and he began to idly trace the number 78 on my chest, sending pleasant shivers across my skin.
“Mikey’s just a part of me now. Better start calling me Jeremy,” I said and pulled him with me back down onto the bed.