Benefit of the doubt

by BRK

 Pete decides to do something about the way people always underestimate him because of his size. His first step is to get a tattoo...

Added: May 2022 5,953 words 11,255 views 4.9 stars (20 votes) This story was commissioned via Direct Commission.


“First tattoo?”

Pete Greenwood smiled sheepishly at the burly ink artist sitting next to him over the tee shirt sleeve he’d pulled up, exposing the left shoulder where the artist, Jordan, was currently carefully tracing the simple, round, two-inch-wide Celtic shield-knot design he’d picked out onto his paper-white skin. It still amazed him that he’d even found the courage to walk into this place, though it helped that it was right next door to the Nut & Leaf Coffee Bar he patronized every day. Just a few extra steps down the sidewalk, he’d told himself. It had to be the most innocuous example of its type of business ever, anyway: what was visible from the street, the reception and consultation areas, was all clean white surfaces and mirrored chrome with a few large, rubbery ficuses lurking in various corners, more like the upscale hair salon his mom worked at than any tattooing business he’d ever come across in movies or comics. The guy who ran the shop was called Jordan, not Bulldog or Killdozer or anything like that, which was a good sign. Plus he was kind of hot in a dark, ripped-and-hairy comic-book antihero sort of way, his basic baby-blue tank showing off acres of hard muscle and a lot of ink of his own, including an impressive sleeve. “Is it that obvious?”

Jordan shrugged amiably, his eyes fixed on his work. “I’ve seen you peeking in in the window a few times,” he said conversationally. Pete couldn’t help thinking how his rich, soothing baritone was a far cry from Pete’s weedy tenor. “What made you decide to come in?”

Pete bit his lip. Their proximity and the intimate, sequestered feel of the private area in the back of the shop where Jordan did his actual work gave the moment a confessional feel, but Pete didn’t quite want this big, strong guy to know how insecure he felt, or how the new floor manager at the Colossomart where he was a stocker—sorry, “retail associate”—seemed to look down on him just for being one size smaller than most of the other peons she bossed around. Her attitude had been starting to infect some of the rest of the team, too, annoyingly. He didn’t have a lot of assertiveness, but seeing the tattoo parlor on his twenty-minute walk to work every day had got him thinking that a decisive kickstart like this might get him on a new track. He’d contemplated various drastic upheavals, like moving out his parents’ home, looking up college options to get an actual degree instead of the joke associates he’d picked up, dying his flat, mousy hair neon blue, even going to the gym for the first time in his life. In the end he’d decided that the glass door to Jordan’s Inkery was the easiest one to walk through, literally and metaphorically. “Just needed a change,” he hedged.

The inker nodded as he finished the trace. “Understandable,” he said. “Change is in the nature of things.” He sat back, finally looking up. His eyes were a warm, light brown, almost gold, that glinted in the clean, white lighting of the back room. “You married to just black on this?” Jordan asked unexpectedly. “Because I have this dark dragon-blue I just got in from a new supplier that I think would give this some great depth as an accent.”

“Uh, sure.” Committing to the idea of a tattoo was as far as he’d gotten today, willpower-wise. Jordan could make it green with purple polka-dots if he wanted. Well, okay, maybe not that. Anyway, dark blue and black felt right.

Jordan grinned. “Great.” He winked. “Ready to get poked?”

Pete huffed a laugh. “Poke away!” he said with a smile.

Two days later Pete was back at work, more grateful than usual that the Colossomart limited its uniform fascism to requiring the signature bronze vest and any solid-colored clothes underneath. He’d dug out his loosest, softest tee shirt in hopes of minimizing friction, a charcoal large his grandmother had gotten him by mistake, but even scheduling his inking for the end of his last shift before his two-day mid-week “weekend” hadn’t given him quite enough time to avoid the uncomfortable brush of fabric against his still-sore tat.

He’d just clocked in and was walking through receiving on the way to the floor manager’s office to get his assignments from Louisa when a heavy arm dropped over his shoulders. Pete suppressed a wince. “Hey, Pipsqueak, how was your time off? Do any partying?”

Pete aimed a dark look up at his handsy colleague. “Back off, Chad,” he said. He tried to shrug out of the taller man’s hold, but that only made Chad grip him tighter. His meaty hand was now pressing in near the site of his new tattoo, and this time Pete couldn’t hold back his wince.

Chad grinned callously. “Whassamatter, you sore?” he taunted. “Work out too hard on your days off?”

In that moment, as Pete was burning internally from the jibe, he felt something subtle and strange emanating from his new, soda-can-sized tat. Not the discomfort of bruised and antagonized skin, either, but something else: it was like a warm breeze sifting through his body somehow, like the tat was an open window to someplace else warm and sun-drenched, a pure otherworld he’d never tasted before. The pleasantly queer internal zephyr poured into him, sliding cozily around his heart and wafting through his insides with an almost purposeful thoroughness, and then it was almost as though it started to flow and curl backwards through Pete’s life-force, like it was seeping into all that Pete had been. The lighting in the receiving dock seemed to flare slightly, though as no one reacted to the brief flicker that was might have been more about what was happening inside him than any anomalies in the store’s overpowered electrical system.

Pete found himself matching pointed gazes with Chad, forgetting everything else, as though he were experiencing a moment of significance between them. He gave his tormenter a tight smile. In fact he had gone to the gym as usual on Wednesday, but he’d made it a leg day (deciding to favor the new tat) and even then had barely pushed himself. He never did, really, if he was honest with himself. The yearlong habit was only now starting to yield a hint of definition in the mirror, but the faint ghost of a four-pack and the ability to tell where his pecs ended on his pallid thorax seemed like meager rewards. Maybe he should up his game, he thought. Or at least go more often an hour once a week.

He sure wasn’t going to give Chad the satisfaction of knowing that Pete was trying to become more manly and failing at it. Chad wasn’t just tall and well-proportioned: he was naturally buff and hairy with firm muscle all over and negligible body fat, which meant he was rocking a pleasantly bumpy, olive-skinned swimmer’s bod under his tight tees and store vest without really having to work at it, from what Pete could tell. He oozed virility, always sporting a bit of stubble as well along his firm jaw and pleasantly blunt chin, and his thick, silky black hair seemed to feed on his excess testosterone. Twenty-one and cocky, he was the kind of guy who still basked in the afterglow of having been “Mister Manly Man” to all his high school friends and admirers while guys like Pete were trying to forget high school had ever happened. He even smelled nice, too, like spices gently sautéing in oil over a low flame, which was totally unfair and only added to Pete’s confusion and consternation.

“I bet it’s a new tat,” sneered a new voice. Pete whipped his head around to where Greg, Chad’s frequent partner in loafing, task-offloading, and general shirking, was leaning idly against a nearby pillar, arms folded over his chest. He was even taller than Chad, who had a good head of height on Pete, and had the doughy, entitled look of an ex-jock with all the once-impressive cuts smoothed out.

When Chad looked too, Greg explained, “Saw Greenwood here going into that tattoo place on Third while I was out with Gina.” Pete frowned at him. He sure hadn’t seen Greg that day, and Greg kind of stood out thanks to his height and the way his gold-blond buzz clashed unfortunately with his pink complexion. His attitude was hard to miss, too, always with a comment or an insult.

Greg’s news seemed to delight Chad. “No way!” he laughed. Pete shifted and Chad grabbed harder at Pete’s shoulder, accidentally or deliberately finding the new ink. Pete managed to duck out from under his arm and step back, his arm stinging. “He’s all tender from the little tat,” Chad said, exchanging a glance with his friend. He gave Pete a look of pretended commiseration. “Sorry, little guy, you’ll probably be sore for months.” What did that mean? Was that a genuine warning, or did he think real men healed faster?

Pete barely noticed the soft warmth seeping inwards and back from his shield-knot and the brief, subtle shift the lights seemed to go through, too focused on how fed up he was with Chad as his brohole buddy talking down to him. He gave Chad a hard look and silently lifted his shirt sleeve to expose his fully cured tattoo. The initial soreness was long gone, along with the redness and inflammation: it looked like it had been adorning the side of his left delt for half a year at least. “I heal quick,” Pete explained truthfully, with a slight quirk of his lips. Just how quick, not even his parents knew. Some things, you kept secret.

Greg’s impassive expression unmoved, but Chad looked surprised. He moved closer to examine the ink, placing a hand on Pete’s trap as he bent lower, though more gently than before. Greg stayed where he was. “This is pretty cool,” Chad admitted. “I like the hint of color against the black.”

It bugged Pete how nice it felt having Chad’s hand on his shoulder this way—fraternal, respectful, and maybe a little erotic. Why did Chad haver to be hot and a jerk? “Dragon blue,” he said, his mouth a little dry.

Chad nodded. “Hmph,” he said. He met Pete’s gaze and gave his trap a quick squeeze, then turned and wandered off, slapping Greg’s arm for him to come with as he passed. Greg gave Pete one last unfriendly look and followed his friend.

Pete blew out a breath and resumed his hunt for his obnoxious supervisor, feeling bemused at Chad’s reaction. He’d gotten the tat to give himself a boot in the ass so he’d start changing his life, but maybe just having the tat itself might turn a few things around all on its own.

It was late in the shift and Pete was feeling tired and sweaty. He was heading through the back area on the way to the break room for a quick drink of water when he heard Louisa, a barrel-shaped woman with a big voice, calling out to Chad from the hallway that led to her office. “Meroni! Load a dolly up from W4 and go restock in 13. They’re half out.”

“Aw, get Pete to do it!” he heard Chad whine in response. “He’s right there!” Pete looked at Chad, who was on the other side of the room chatting (surprise, surprise) with a bored-looking Greg, then at the shelf indicated—which Pete did happen to be standing near—and frowned. Shelf W4 was loaded up with cases of Happy Tuscan canned tomatoes in the 28-ounce cans, and Happy Tuscan was notorious for stupidly packing their cases with more cans than the other brands. Those things were heavy.

“Did I ask him to do it?” Louisa barked angrily. “He can’t do it. Someone like you needs to do it. In fact, McGann can stop propping up that wall and help you, if—”

She went on ranting, but Pete ignored her and the warmth in his tattoo as well. It was such a pain that everyone kept underestimating him just because of his size. With a soft sigh Pete abandoned his trip to the break room, grabbed the nearest squeaky-wheeled dolly, and dragged it over to W4 where he silently began effortlessly shifting cases of canned tomatoey goodness onto the bed. It felt good, showing his strength, knowing Chad was watching—a little erotic, even. His average but hefty dick twitched in agreement. Once he had three cases down he glanced over and saw Chad grinning, Louisa staring flatly at him, and Greg watching him with narrowed eyes. “Guess he can do it,” Chad said happily as Pete started push the dolly out toward the sales floor. Ugh—puns too? No one deserved puns this late in the day.

“Shouldn’t you be walking the floor right now?” Louisa shot back. She added a glower for Chad’s surly confederate. “Both of you?”

Chad sketched a salute, and the two men tromped out onto the floor and dispersed, not without giving Pete a final look each—Chad’s amused and half-impressed, Greg’s dark and ominous. Pete shook his head and trundled his supply of diced, crushed, and pureed vine-fruit off to aisle 13, forcing down his growing annoyance with boss and coworkers alike.

Half an hour later Pete was leaving the break room, having finally gotten his water and half a moment of peace, when Greg confronted him, blocking the doorway. His green eyes were hostile. “You’re not that strong,” he said, upper lip curled in contempt.

Pete let out an audible sigh. He’d been hearing this kind of thing constantly lately. Chad, Greg, Louisa… he’d even been getting guff from customers. Just fifteen minutes prior he’d been kneeling in aisle 13, pushing big cans of crushed tomato deep into the second shelf up, when he’d sensed a customer hovering next to him. He’d glanced up and seen an elderly African-American woman gazing forlornly at the jars of zesty Ragú lining the top shelf of the display above him. “Can I help you with something, ma’am?”

She hadn’t looked at him right away, her eyes fixed on the sauce. “Can you get me down three of those—” She’d looked down then at last, registering Pete, and interrupted herself. “Oh, I’m sorry. You probably can’t reach it either, dearie, can you? I’ll go find someone—”

Suppressing his exasperation, Pete had kept his customer service smile in place as he’d straightened up to his full six-foot-six and politely handed the requested products down into her shopping cart. The old lady had beamed at him. “Now, aren’t you helpful to have around?” she’d said, before continuing down the aisle.

Now this. He looked Greg right in the eye—satisfying to be the same height as the tallest of the people who had it in for him, at least—and wondered, not for the first time, just what the guy’s deal was. “Seriously?” he said, with the greatest possible condescension.

Greg put a hand on Pete’s more-or-less flat chest and pushed him back into the break room. “What the—?”

The ex-jock pushed past him and sat at one of the two small, round tables. Incredibly, he placed his right elbow on the table and extended his hand upwards in the universal sign for “I want to express my dominance by arm wrestling”. Pete looked over at Jessie, the very muscular receiving guy he’d just been talking to, then back at Greg. “You gotta be kidding.”

Greg was giving him a very slight, twisted smile. “Bet you can’t beat me,” he growled.

He looked back at Jessie for backup, but he seemed to be happy to be getting a free show and was avidly watching to see what happened next. Any second now he’d set aside his blue Gatorade and start popping popcorn in the microwave.

Fine,” Pete said. He sat down at the table next to Greg, planted his elbow, and clasped palms with the blond trouble-maker. He met Greg’s gaze steadily. This was not his first rodeo, and it was not the first time he’d been challenged to prove he was stronger than he looked.

He wondered if Chad might wander by and look in on the match. Pete wanted him to see this, too.

Pete’s world reduced to his immediate senses. Greg’s palm was dry and rough, his eyes flinty. Without warning, Greg began pushing. Caught unprepared, Pete’s hand dipped, but he easily brought their arms back to the vertical. Greg’s face registered surprise, then concentration as he redoubled his efforts to force Pete’s hand down to no avail. Pete kept their position unmoving for a few moments—a move he’d found was often as intimidating as the actual win—then started driving his hand down. Greg fought him hard but without effect. As soon as Greg’s knuckles hit the gleaming white surface of the table he disengaged and began rubbing his biceps. Pete sat back.

“Jessie!” Greg snarled. “You’re up!”

“What?” objected their massive spectator. “No way. I’ll snap him like a twig.” He looked over at Pete. “No offense, hon.”

Pete was done backing down. Pursing his lips, he got up and, without a word, sat down in front of the larger man. To all appearances Jessie was right to demur: he was the size of heavyweight bodybuilder, his shirtsleeve straining around his upper arms like he wasn’t meant to wear clothes at all, and for added leverage he was almost Pete’s height as well. Only Pete knew how freakishly strong he had been from childhood on, and how he’d actually started secretly working out back in middle school not to gain strength but to build just enough bulk to seem to explain the strength he’d already had. Even with his present buff, athletic physique, though, he knew he still looked like a stick figure next to Jessie.

Finally, Jessie offered him a friendly smile and put his hand up as well. “I’ll go easy on you, Greenwood, seeing as how I like—”

As soon as their hands were clasped Pete began powering Jessie’s hand down toward the table. Jessie’s eyes widened and he started putting up real resistance. It was hard work this time, but after several minutes of mutual struggle he was able to pin Jessie’s hand firmly to the tabletop.

They both sat back, a little red-faced. Jessie was looking at him with something like awe. “Jesus, Greenwood!” he exclaimed.

“Don’t spread it around,” he muttered. He looked over to see Greg’s reaction—his head was down, and his face was red for an entirely different reason than the two combatants—and unexpectedly caught sight of Chad behind him, leaning against the doorjamb. He must have seen at least the end of the match, because he was now observing Pete with frank admiration in his bright, hazel eyes. By some trick of the ventilation Chad’s scent brushed his nostrils, and that combined with Chad’s yummy bod, good looks, and the strange certainty that he’d been watching intently as Pete showed his strength made his dick start to chub dramatically in his black chinos.

Quickly he got to his feet and rushed out of the room. There were, he was certain, two people who did not want to know that he liked Chad: Chad, presumably, and Pete himself.

Fifteen minutes to go. He didn’t even have to check his phone or glance up at the nonexistent wall clocks Colossomart never installed in their sprawling superstores. After eight months at this job, between his own internal clock and the rhythms of the store and its customers he always knew exactly how long he’d been working and exactly how many minutes he had until punch-out. The flip side was he always woke up at 5:45 a.m., alarm or no alarm, even on his days off, but that he could deal with.

He was fronting and resupplying in the pet food aisle, Chad behind him untangling leashes and straightening the pet beds and such, when a customer at the other end of the row caught his eye. Pete couldn’t help but stare a little as the man browsed the oversized bags of feed, the ones meant for big, galloomphing dogs like Pete’s uncle’s goofy black lab. The guy was tall, tanned, and well-built, his light jacket not hiding his broad shoulders or the taper to his waist where his snug tee-shirt was amorously clinging to rippling abs. His long legs topped out at a truly pert ass that made you envy his faded jeans, too. As if that weren’t enough he was ridiculously good-looking, with a sharp, clean jaw, honey-brown skin, eye-catching lips, and sky-blue bedroom eyes set off by dark, auburn eyebrows that matched his lush, flowing hair. Pete hadn’t even realized his breathing had slowed down until the man bent and found the bag he was looking for on the lower shelf and smiled a big smile that almost sent Pete’s heart fluttering and actually made him bone up a little. The handsome customer hefted the bag into his cart, oblivious to the microdrama he’d incited, then steered himself calmly out of the aisle and disappeared, off to treat his woof-dog to his favorite repast.

Pete was still staring after the guy when he felt the familiar weight of Chad’s arm drape over his right shoulder. The four inches or so Pete had on his constantly tactile bro-buddy coworker made it tough for Chad to wrap his arm solidly around Pete’s shoulders the way he obviously wanted to, so he usually settled for throwing the crook of his arm over one side, into that little cleft between trap and delt, and letting his hand dangle tantalizingly close to Pete’s squarish, moderately thick pecs just slightly pushing out his buff-bronze Colossomart vest. Pete knew he shouldn’t let him get away with shit like this, but his crush on the guy kept him tolerating Chad’s easy touches despite the man’s chronic, low-level douchery. And why did he dig Chad’s spicy smell so much? There was definitely something wrong with both of them.

“Out of your league, man,” Chad said amiably, staring after the customer with Pete, like he was talking Pete down from chasing after the stranger and throwing himself in the guy’s cart to take home with his Best Boy brand Big Dog Beef Kibble.

Pete’s heart twitched, his low-simmering umbrage restoked. Chad was still bloviating. “I mean, you’re both tall and hunky, really well put together and all that, but looks wise—”

He felt the heat inside him—even his tat felt warm. The lights seemed to flicker slightly, too, just for a nanosecond, like even the gods of retail were miffed at the clueless jackass. Pete’s jaw tightened as he turned to stare silently down at Chad.

Chad faltered. Their faces were close, and Chad’s irritatingly beautiful hazel eyes filled his vision, partly obscured by a lock of his long, jet-black hair that had dropped over his face. Even nettled as he was, Pete founding himself wanting to brush the hair away, then keep going, feeling the thick, silky strands sifting through his long, eager fingers.

“I mean, you’re more than okay-looking,” Chad temporized, staring hard into Pete’s eyes. Pete hardened his expression, not even sensing the fresh gust of warmth from his hidden shield-knot ink, and Chad actually drew in a breath. His eyes seemed to darken. “Actually, you’re fucking beautiful, man,” Chad admitted. He swallowed, and Pete had to command himself to hold his stare and not to look down and see that bristly throat move, or, worse, let his gaze catch on Chad’s tempting lips on the way back up.

He must not look at Chad’s lips.

Even as he thought the words, he saw Chad’s eyes flick down and fix on Pete’s mouth with what seemed to be growing fascination. Fuck. He’d had plenty of guys stare at him like that over the years, drawn irresistibly to him by the combination of his ludicrously good looks and the gymnast physique he’d forced himself to acquire and hone to account for his freakish strength, but… usually he dealt with it better than this.

He wanted to lick his lips—it was a nervous gesture—but refrained at the last second. That would be throwing gasoline on the bonfire for both of them. “It’s, uh, time for me to clock out,” he said instead, low and quiet.

Chad watched him say the words. They seemed to register a heartbeat later. “Right,” Chad breathed, finally meeting Pete’s eyes again. “Me too, me too.” Chad’s heated gaze was full of interest, curiosity, and purpose.

Neither of them moved.

“Greenwood—Peter—” Chad began cautiously.


A flicker of a smile crossed Chad’s kiss-me-now lips, like he truly appreciated the gift of Pete’s name. “Pete,” he said, more confidently. “You… want to go out for drinks? After?”

They were still close, Chad’s arm over Pete’s shoulder like it belonged there, and Pete realized that Chad’s other hand had found Pete’s chest and was pressing gently but firmly against his sternum through the uniform vest and the shirt underneath, almost as though Chad couldn’t help himself.

So, yeah. Pete didn’t actually quite like the guy—or did he? But he was cute, he had a nice body, and he was clearly into him. Maybe he might as well see where this went. He and Chad could mess around, Chad would get it out of his system, and then they’d both move on. A little fun. No harm in that, right?

“Sure,” he said.

Chad smiled wide, making Pete’s heart flutter for real. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

After clocking out the two of them walked out of the store together, heading by silent consensus for the combination tavern/family eatery that was easily the most congenial establishment in the festering chain-restaurant hell that had blossomed across the road from the Colossomart. Inside it was busy but not too noisy, and Pete found himself forgetting his grudges as he allowed himself to have a good time with Chad, laughing over their beer bottles and thin turkey-bacon jack cheese quesadillas at the foibles of their various coworkers and bosses. At one point Chad surprised Pete with a story about Greg coming in green and hung over one morning after a twenty-first-birthday drinking binge and abruptly hurling all over the Children’s Blu-Ray section five minutes after store open.

“That was him?” Pete exclaimed, setting his drink down and grinning at Chad. He’d heard about the spectacular vomitus—two copies of Hotel Transylvania 3 and a Boss Baby couldn’t be salvaged, apparently—but no one had known who’d done it. Most of the staff had assumed it was a vindictively unwell customer.

“Totally,” Chad said, snatching a few of the restaurant’s signature matchstick fries from the basketed pile in front of them. “He didn’t tell anyone or clean it up, either, just left it there for people to find. Dickhead.”

Pete took a pull from his beer. “I thought you guys were tight, though,” he said, curious about the dynamic between them. Chad had been finding a way to be in Pete’s space a lot lately—even now, their knees were brushing together friskily under the little table—but this was the first time he’d felt like there was any actual intimacy between them.

Chad shrugged noncommittally and grabbed a few more of the thin fries. “We knew each other in high school,” he said. “He actually got me this gig, so…” He shrugged again. “I know a jerk when I see one.”

Pete couldn’t resist. “Because you have a mirror?” he teased.

Chad just grinned wide and raised his beer in a salute. “Absolutely!” he agreed happily. Half-charmed despite himself at Chad’s genial lack of rancor, Pete lifted his own bottle and tapped it against Chad’s. “To jerks!” Chad toasted when they clinked, then downed a long gulp. Pete huffed a laugh and did the same, wondering what he was getting into with this imperfect, easy-going extra-virile bro-guy guy he was more than crushing on.

Just then the waiter who’d been serving them appeared, a nice-looking wiry redhead called Monty who’d been flirting shamelessly with Pete the whole night. “Anything I can get you guys?” he asked as he brazenly eye-fucked Pete up and down, ignoring the younger, dark-haired man next to him completely. “Anything at all?” he pressed, his wide mouth curving suggestively.

“Oh, we’re good,” Chad told him with a cocky smile. “Real good,” he added, shifting his gaze to Pete and eyeing him with speculative appreciation.

Monty gracefully ceded defeat. “Lucky you,” he told Chad with a wink, before moving on to his other tables.

Pete watched him go, then turned back to see Chad still looking at him oddly. “What?”

“You can’t possibly be as hung as you are gorgeous…” he murmured distractedly. He blinked and seemed to pale under his dark olive complexion. “Shit, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”

Pete stared intently back at him, not really noticing the swell of warmth slipping through him from his tat and back along his lifeline. The lights in the restaurant shifted for just a nanosecond, but he didn’t notice that either. The fact was that even he though his thick, blunt equipment was a little big, but it was an undeniable fact that most dudes seemed to like his size and heft rather a lot, and he could tell Chad was definitely going to be one of those guys. He leaned forward, shifting a little in his seat to give his bunched-up junk a little room, and aimed a calculated smirk at his soon-to-be-fuckbuddy. “Want to find out?” he said.

Pete leaned against the wall just to one side of Chad’s bathroom door, naked and sweaty, waiting for his chance to soap up and clean off for the third time that night. To his left dawn gleamed past the houses silhouetted in the kitchen window, casting an orange tinge over the shadowed hallway. He smiled at the snatches coming through the door of Chad singing old Springsteen anthems as he showered. Too bad they wouldn’t both fit in Chad’s cramped half-tub shower stall. They’d have to go to his place next time for sure.

Next time?

He rested his head against the wall, feeling disbelief at the thought that he’d actually let himself follow up on his infatuation with his sometimes-thoughtless bad boy coworker. Not that he had any complaints over the dirty pleasures that had ensued. Far from it. After their little “check, please!” moment at the restaurant they’d quickly ended up back at Chad’s cozy and only moderately slovenly bachelor pad for some heavy-duty shenanigans, barely making it in the door before they were all over each other, impatient to consummate the burning connection that had been building between them. While Pete was aggressively undressing Chad—in fact he’d been pulling Chad’s zipper down with his teeth—the other man had joked about how crazy high his libido was and how no one seemed to be able to keep up with him in the sack, so Pete had just rolled his eyes and set about putting his partner’s (pretend?) concerns firmly to rest, tossing him on his own bed and spending several amazing hours matching him for stamina, passion, and intensity of orgasm, while Chad’s Bluetooth speakers surrounded them with a steady soundtrack culled from a string of Spotify futurepop playlists. Chad’s long, talented, eight-inch uncut tool had blown three times in Pete’s ass and twice in his mouth, delivering massive bursts of hot, delicious spunk each time, and Pete had more than matched him climax for climax. Even now, completely sated and buzzing all over with the deep-tissue pleasure that all that hot, sweaty loving had accrued through every inch of his flesh, Pete knew he could go again if he wanted. He really wanted a crack at Chad’s ass, actually, but there was no way Chad’s hole was able to take Pete’s beautiful palm-wide monster tool—not yet, anyway. Something to work up to, he told himself with a crooked grin. Chad wasn’t the only one grateful for meeting a guy as ready to cum big as he was. The only thing left to worry about was that he might be feeling more for this guy than the lingering ecstasy of multiple awesome fucks.

The shower cut off, and a moment later the door opened and Chad stepped out, still toweling his tight, hairy abs, clouds of steam escaping past him. His long hair was wet and pulled back, and Pete found himself imagining himself slowfucking the man under a tropical waterfall, their contrasting skin-tones gleaming in the dancing, water-refracted light.

Chad himself seemed thoughtful, however, and he wasn’t looking up at him with lust and desire the way he had been all night. Damn, was Chad done with him already?

He gently lifted Chad’s chin so he could see his pensive expression. “What’s up? he asked, letting his thumb stroke Chad’s cheek.

Chad’s lip twitched a little, like he knew he was being silly. “It’s just—I like you, Pete,” he said. “And I want to do things to you, even apart from the fucking. Like, just, kiss you a lot, for one thing.”

“Sold,” Pete agreed with a grin. He wanted that too. Right now, actually. Below, his half-soft monster started to stiffen again, though he ignored it for the moment.

Chad gave him a crooked grin back. “The thing is, you’re… you, and I’m, well, I’m a jerk sometimes, and I’m not—I mean, it’s not like you making out with me could make me a better guy, or hotter, or whatever. You know?”

His hazel eyes glinted as he stared up at Pete, like he was willing him to understand. His naturally muscled body was a warm presence so close to Pete’s larger form, and Pete felt that warmth flow through him—especially from his tattoo, for some reason, as though the heat of Chad’s body and desire and the steam billowing from the shower was entering him through the tattoo and drifting all through his being and his life.

Pete blinked, or maybe it was the lights flickering. Then he smiled, letting his hand slide down to cup around the back of Chad’s neck under his long, damp hair. “Only one way to find out,” he said. He drew Chad into a deep, passionate, and subtly transformative kiss that lasted a very long time, the first of many, many more to come.


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