The first thing that surprised Mac about weeks three and four of his training at The Gym was that it wasn’t the clients he had to worry about.
“Man, I’m fucking dying here,” he panted, fighting the very real urge to vomit.
“Don’t be a tiny little baby, Mac. You can do one more, and then I’ll let you cool down.”
“I would kick your sorry ass right now. If I could breathe. Or see.”
Weight training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. He was supposed to be doing cardio on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but at this point he was happy when he could stay upright for a whole shift.
“You’ll get used to it,” Travis told him on Wednesday, when they were finishing up. He patted Mac’s thigh. “We’ll get you built and then you’ll know exactly what all the pain was for.”
“Is Mac questioning your methods?” Coach called over.
“He look dumb to you, Coach?”
Coach’s voice had an unexpectedly hot effect on Mac’s guts, and he was glad he’d been lifting hard enough to hide whatever was happening on his skin right now. He’d hardly seen Coach since he left last Friday, and it was stupid, but he missed Coach’s voice. Missed his everything.
“Looking good, Mac,” Coach said, walking over to offer a hand.
Travis laughed again. “Coach, you’re such a fucking slut. Let’s do this again Friday, Mac.”
“Yes, drill sergeant.” When Travis’s face fell, Mac remembered. “Aw, shit, I didn’t mean—”
“I know. It’s cool. Drill sergeants are supposed to be pretty ruthless, so it’s really a compliment. Don’t worry about it.” He waved and walked toward the hall and Mac didn’t even realize he’d clenched his fists until Coach held out a hand, flat, in front of his eyes.
“His fear is not on you.”
“Well, the fact that right now he’s thinking about his brother dying on a front line somewhere’s at least a little on me.”
“He’s also aware that you respect him, and that you pay close enough attention to apologize for reminding him.”
Mac shook his head. “You want me to tell you it’s cool I just made Travis think about his brother when his head should be here, or at least at home?”
“I want you to understand that you don’t have control over other people’s emotional responses.”
“You know when you say shit like that I hear blah blah blah, right?”
Coach smiled. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in weeks, Mac.”
“Me too.” Oh fuck. “I mean—”
Maintenance started setting stuff up, chatting to each other. Jem appeared, grinned, and went to the touch screen on the wall inside the arch to activate the computers so clients could start logging in.
“Check in with me after shift,” Coach said.
He rolled his eyes and called, “Jem? Make sure your roommate checks in with me after shift.”
“He’s my ride home, so I can do that for you, Coach.”
“Sharing a commute?”
“Seems stupid not to,” Mac muttered. “I gotta go shower.”
“Don’t forget to smoke first.”
He shot Coach a sour look and escaped.
The roof was, as ever, peaceful. Halfway through his cigarette Lupe arrived, and stood beside him at the wall, looking up into the sky.
“You buff yet, hermanito?”
“Bite me, Lupe.”
She laughed, blowing smoke into the wind. “Everything’s going well, as far as I can see. You’re performing when you need to, engaged when you can be.” She squeezed his shoulder. “Good boy.”
This wasn’t the paternal thing Coach did, it was something else, and Mac let himself accept it.
“You’ve been watching?”
“Honey, everyone’s been watching.”
“Do they always do that?” It was his least favorite part. Staying on the floor right now was his insurance, the way that The Gym protected him before he was free to go into the private rooms with clients, but Mac could hardly wait to be free of the floor. Eyes everywhere.
Lupe took another drag before answering. “Yes. We always watch the new people, both for entertainment, and because it’s the way Coach and the Professor ensure that when you are most vulnerable, you are also most supervised.”
“I’m getting a real but on the end of that sentence, sister.”
She pressed her lips to her fingers and touched his heart tattoo. “You are already the man who moved into Jem’s house. You are the man who didn’t bat an eyelash when you found out my dirty little secret.” She paused. “Well. Hardly little.”
“I thought women say size doesn’t matter.”
“The right man can make his size a non-issue. But a little bit of size can make up for a whole lot of wrong in a man.” She waved her cigarette and continued. “There is a rumor that you went into a rage and yelled at the Professor, which is intriguing for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that the people in a position to know you were even mad at her would not be spreading that story.”
No. Lupe and Jem would never say anything like that. “I guess Punky knew I was pissed that night.”
“And if she did, than others may have as well. When you didn’t return to the floor, perhaps the myth formed itself. In any case, it adds to your mystique.”
“No one’s saying much about Coach, which—given how devoted he is to your training—is even more interesting.”
She only smiled. “Do not act dumb with me. You aren’t tripping over his heels in puppy mode the way Jem did, but when he says ‘jump,” you jump.”
“Not the point.”
“Then what’s the point?”
“Oh, Coach. Coach is the point. It’s pretty rare he tells anyone to jump, honey. That makes you special, but he’s been careful to hide it, which is good for you.”
Mac contemplated this as he finished his cigarette—the entire cigarette, now that he had a little bit of money to his name—but he couldn’t come up with anything clever to say. Or anything real. So he said nothing at all and waited until Lupe was done to follow her back down to the locker room.
His clients had mostly been cool. Walking through the arch on Wednesday was the most relaxed he’d been since he started working there, and he was ready for almost anything.
Or so he thought, for most of his shift. Blowjobs, hand jobs, rub downs, teasing, “helping” in a way that left him open for fondling (which he pretended not to notice). All pretty common stuff. When a guy bent him over and fucked him, Mac was momentarily panicked, but the guy took his time, and Jem made sure he was directly in Mac’s line of sight until they were through.
Being fucked in the ass on the floor? Not really something he looked forward to doing again, but then again, not nearly as difficult as he’d thought it would be. And the guy, Joey, shook his hand before heading to the showers. “Good fuck, man.”
“You too,” Mac replied, automatically, about thirty seconds before he understood he almost meant it.
Jem squeezed both of his shoulders as he walked past, on the way to a private room with a client Mac thought might be the famous Malcolm, though he wasn’t sure. Travis definitely nodded approval.
Right. Travis probably knew exactly. Because he was straight and married, and he still let clients bend him over on the floor. Because that was the job, and it was a pretty damn good job.
Mac stood a little straighter and went back to work.
Everything was totally cool until the last hour. Which was when a skinny lady with blond hair in a ponytail approached him. “Hey, new guy.”
The opening was a variation on what pretty much everyone had been saying this week.
“I’m Mac,” he said.
“I’m Seely. Um, you’re not allowed in the private rooms yet, right?”
“Not yet. A week and a half, though.”
“Oh, um, sure.” She giggled. “I don’t even know why I led with that. I actually like staying out here.”
Mac raised his eyebrows. He’d been working on being flirtatious, even though he felt like an idiot. He’d picked up the eyebrow-raise from Jem, and it worked like a charm on Seely.
She giggled again. “Can I take your shoes off?” His confusion must have showed, because she added, “I like feet.”
“Oh. Sure.” She likes feet. Right. What does that mean? “Should I sit down, or—”
“Yeah. You have to sit down. I usually take the bench, there.”
Mac sat down and she lifted each foot with reverence, untying his shoes, carefully peeling down his socks. He wanted to apologize for any foot odor, except before he’d figured out how to do that flirtatiously, she began to lick him.
His foot. Specifically his toes.
Mac squirmed, but Seely only held tighter.
Okay, seriously, what the fuck?
“Your feet are so fucking sexy,” she whispered, just before taking his big toe into her mouth and sucking on it.
It probably should have been hot—this woman sucking any part of his body should have been hot—but Mac’s brain was so totally shocked and flustered his dick wasn’t exactly showing up for duty.
He wanted to stop her, but obviously this was also the job. And it wasn’t making him uncomfortable like he felt like she was taking advantage; it was making him uncomfortable like he couldn’t decide if he was going to laugh or cry or scream.
Seely, oblivious, continued to tongue-fuck his toes. And moan. She’d started moaning.
Mac tried to get the look off his face that must be broadcasting how horrified he was, but it was fucking hard, because now she seemed to be bathing his toes. With her tongue. And lips. And ohfuck, god, no, not his arch, no, he couldn’t laugh, but it tickled, fuck—
“Oh man, your foot is so fucking hard,” she said, and began undressing the other one.
Seely eventually came rubbing one of his feet against her crotch while sucking the toes of the other one. He had to prop himself backwards on the bench to make it work, and he was seriously regretting all those squats Travis made him do. But at least she seemed happy, and she put his shoes and socks back on with reverence.
“Thanks, new guy. See you around.”
Oh, I sincerely hope not.
It was probably bad form to avoid clients, right? Then again, the floor was pretty open, so aside from hiding out in the pool area, there wasn’t really anywhere to go.
A guy he barely knew approached. When he spoke, his voice was low. “You’re done. Come on.”
He was done in a lot of ways, not the least in his head, because some lady just spent ages sucking on his fucking toes, so Mac followed the guy upstairs. He wasn’t exactly shocked when the guy kind of placed him in the kitchen.
“I’m Rhys again.”
Rhys nodded. “I know.”
“Yeah. Right. Uh.” Mac didn’t know what to say. And he didn’t want to talk shit about clients—both because it was tacky, and because Coach was kind of a bitch about it—but…shit. Toes.
People started filling the kitchen and the locker room, but for the most part Mac just sat there until Jem arrived.
“What’s up with Mac?”
“Seely,” Rhys said. (Rhys was still there? Mac had lost track of him while contemplating his toes, now covered in saliva, which was definitely not something that had ever happened before.)
A chorus of “oh” and “ah” met the woman’s name, and Mac finally looked up.
“She fuck your feet?” Travis asked.
“Um. I guess?”
“Nah, then she didn’t. You’d know if she had.”
“Hey, it was their first time. Seely doesn’t go all in until at least the third time,” one of the other guys said.
“She had me and Trav tag-team her last time. Remember, Trav?”
“Yeah. She fucked my feet while she blew you. I’m just saying, one of us got—”
“My happy little family, all gathered in one place to support their newest arrival,” Coach said, and who knew how long he’d been standing there.
Travis dropped his eyes. “Anyway, she’s all right, as long as you don’t laugh.”
“I couldn’t fucking help it,” yet another guy said, this one was named Miller, Mac thought. “I’m super ticklish. It’s not my fault!”
“Mac did good,” Rhys said. “Though you’ll probably want to look a little less like you’re getting an enema next time. Seely doesn’t notice, but some of the fetish clients need you to look really into it.”
Mac nodded, a little numbly, because this was a pretty fucking surreal conversation.
People started clearing out, since Coach’s presence meant the conversation wasn’t going to any really exciting places. (Jem had explained this to Mac over the weekend, after they’d talked about Coach, and the Professor thinking maybe he was taking Mac home. “Coach isn’t as much of a wet blanket as the Professor, as far as the staff’s concerned, but he’s still The Man.” When Mac had only shaken his head, dumbfounded, Jem had kissed his cheek. “You and me both, Mac.” They didn’t go into it, but Jem wouldn’t have been real shocked about his slip earlier, admitting he sort of missed Coach.)
And anyway, on the subject of missing Coach, there he went, to his office.
Jem winked across the table. “We should take showers.”
Showered and fresh, they met back at their lockers.
“I’ll wait here,” Jem said.
“Why? Come with me.”
“Coach didn’t invite me.”
“I’m just checking in or something, Jem. And I’m clocked out. Come on.” Also, it would have been seriously fucked up to leave Jem, who considered Coach family, out in the locker room. When he still looked like he needed convincing, Mac rolled his eyes. “Coach will kick you out if he wants to, right? Nothing to lose.”
“That sounds familiar. Like I might have said it last week.”
“No idea what you’re talking about.”
Jem seemed to debate putting up more of a fuss, but decide against it. “Okay. We’ll see if he minds.”
Coach, naturally, did not mind.
“My boys.” He smiled at them from his desk. “Come in. Talk amongst yourselves for a minute.”
“Talk amongst ourselves, ha, Coach.” Jem tugged him across to a couch. “So, Seely.”
Mac shuddered. “Dude. Don’t remind me.”
“Do you not like anyone touching your feet? Or do you just object to someone with a fetish touching your feet?”
“You think there’s a difference?”
“Hm.” Jem laid his head back to stare at the ceiling. Beyond him, Coach glanced over. “For me, yeah. I don’t have a problem with fetishes or people who have fetishes, but some of them—huh. That’s so weird. I guess it feels like some of them take something that should be intimate and make it cheap. But I don’t want to feel that way. I didn’t know I did feel that way.”
Mac considered it, but he didn’t have a huge frame of reference. “I don’t think I want anyone touching my feet, but then again, no one does.”
“I touched your feet.” Coach sat down across from them.
“Yeah, well, you don’t count.”
He smiled, but didn’t allow the distraction. “Was it different with me?”
“Coach, this woman, like, licked them. And sucked my toes.” Mac shuddered again.
“Hmm. I wonder if we should do a little experiment.” Coach stood up and reseated himself on the coffee table thing. When he reached for one of Mac’s legs, Mac shook his head.
“Uh. I don’t think, um, I’m not sure—”
Jem interrupted. “Coach, you sit on the other side. You, Mac, come here.”
Jem pulled him insistently down, until he was lying with his head on Jem’s thigh. He still tensed up when Coach moved.
“Hey.” Jem carded fingers through his hair. (Which, to be fair, was something Jem really liked to do at home, when they cuddled and steadfastly did not kiss.) “It’s not good for me with clients. Not the foot thing. But with people I care about, that changes. You want to try it?”
Not fair. Not fair when Coach was already pulling his feet over so he was lying across both of them.
“Jem could do this side and I could do the soothing comfort thing,” Coach offered.
“How would that help?” Mac stared at him through slitted eyes.
“The power dynamic’s different. You might be more willing to accept pleasure from someone you don’t see as having power over you.”
“I’ve accepted pleasure from you before, Coach.”
“Bet your ass you have.”
Jem laughed. “Next time, you guys should invite me to play, too. Sounds hot.”
“Oh, Mac is definitely hot.” Coach pulled off his shoes. “Yes or no, Mac?”
“It’s not a commitment,” Jem said, still playing with his hair. “If it freaks you out more than it turns you on, we’ll stop.”
“You always say that.”
“It’s always true. It’s just that usually the stuff we try turns you on more than it freaks you out.”
“Shut up, Jem.”
Jem leaned down to kiss his forehead. “I like it when you let us in.”
“So do I,” Coach added, fingers toying with his socks, massaging the skin beneath them.
Bastards. “You guys don’t play fair.” Mac pulled Jem’s arm down over his eyes. “Fine,” he mumbled.
“If Mac had a higher level of training, we could restrain him and give him a real blindfold.”
“We’re off the clock, Coach—”
“No, Jem. We are not restraining Mac.” Mac had time to think Thank god before Coach added, “That’s a different kink. Tonight we’re doing feet.”
Did that mean they’d restrain him some other night? Oh shit.
Coach’s hands, sure and strong, kept massaging him through his socks. “I don’t have a foot fetish. But I do delight in my partner’s body.”
“Do you have any actual fetishes, Coach?” Jem asked. “I don’t think I have any, like, real fetishes.”
“None that I have yet discovered.”
“I think it sounds kind of interesting, having a fetish.” Jem’s fingers felt so fucking good it made Mac ashamed he couldn’t possibly give this comfort, which was more about affection than sex, back to him. “But all the things I thought I needed to get off—I kind of don’t. Like dick, you know?”
This wasn’t a joke. And Coach didn’t treat it like one.
“The Professor thinks this place is my fetish.”
“Oh, she doesn’t mean as a judgement. She’s trying to be helpful.”
“She made that observation after I hadn’t gone back to the house in a few days. Now I go back to the house, and she keeps her observations to herself about how much I need The Gym to survive.”
Mac pushed away Jem’s arm and opened his eyes. “You go to the house by yourself, Coach?”
“Mm, that’s an irritating insightful streak of yours, Mac. Yeah, that was her point. This is the only place I can claim to have companionship of any kind, barring the clerk at the grocery store, and all of you work for me.”
“We clocked out,” Jem said.
Coach sighed. “You don’t count, my Jem.”
“Thank god for that. I was about to be offended. You know you can’t get rid of me, right? Like, you could fire me, but I’d probably still hang around your truck after shift and force you to interact with me.”
But Coach didn’t exactly believe that. He smiled and didn’t argue, but Mac thought he was still thinking about the Professor’s words, whatever they’d been.
“Why?” he asked.
Instead of rushing it, Mac considered. The only way to get a real answer out of Coach was to be very specific, or he’d dodge. But if Mac asked the wrong question, he’d declare it off limits.
“Why do you go home alone? The Professor stays here, and she obviously wanted you to take me with you so she’s not possessive. So why do you go home alone, if that’s not what you want?”
“How do you know it isn’t?”
Jem made a noise in the back of his throat. “Obviously if the Professor’s on your ass about it, it can’t be.”
One of Coach’s hands began massaging Mac’s calf while the other peeled off his sock. “Finding lovers—even finding casual partners—takes time and energy I’d rather not spend. This place is not my fetish. I’m useful here, and it will take all the time and energy I allow it.”
“Hm,” Jem murmured. “I’m hearing that we’re really serving Coach’s need for intimacy right now. Is that what you’re hearing, Mac?”
But Mac couldn’t speak because Coach leaned down to suck his big toe, and he almost scrambled off the couch.
“Whoa, boy.” Jem’s hands held his shoulders. “So no feet for you.”
“Oh god, that’s so fucking horrible.” Mac tried not to jerk his legs into the fetal position and hide his face, but it was hard.
Coach shifted, placing both of his hands over Mac’s jeans-covered thighs and leaving them there. “I have another idea. This one I know you have some interest in, and while it isn’t as common as a foot fetish, we do see it from time to time.” He reached out. It took Mac maybe thirty entire seconds to realize Coach was waiting for his hand, and then to un-latch it from the protective comfort of Jem’s arm.
“What’re you gonna do?” he asked. Okay, whispered.
“Show you something new. Well. Newish.” Coach pressed his lips to Mac’d palm—no—to the part of his palm that formed the base of his middle finger.
Warmth. Hint of wet.
He kissed, then stayed, lips moving just slightly. Looking right at Mac, gaze so fucking intense Mac could hardly breathe.
Coach’s tongue snaked down and began to play with the sensitive center of his palm, and Mac gasped.
That, that, was incredible. Coach was tongue-fucking his goddamn palm right now, both sensual and obscene, and Mac bit his lip to keep from begging.
Then Coach’s tongue moved up, wrapped around his middle finger, bathed the space between his middle and index fingers, and shit, yeah, okay, feet were a definite no, but hands were a definite maybe.
“Oh damn,” Jem breathed. “That’s so fucking hot. I may have to take it back, about not having a fetish.”
Without even knowing he was about to speak, Mac said, “Me too.”
Coach sucked each of his fingers like little dicks, but when he got to Mac’s thumb, he bit the pad of it, teeth flashing, and Mac groaned.
He couldn’t look away. If Vesuvius blew right now, beside them, Mac figured he’d turn to ash just like this, with Coach’s teeth framing a very small patch of his skin, and Coach’s tongue fucking it.
“Guh.” Jem tugged his hair. “Like this is good because it’s Coach, but if a client was doing that to you right now I’d be ‘meh’ about it.”
Mac had no idea how he’d feel about a client, but he knew damn well no client would look at him like his desires were written on his skin, and more than that, they were deliverable.
He used his other hand to pull Coach toward him, and when Coach let go of his thumb, Mac kissed him.
“Point taken,” he mumbled, shying away from the kiss, even though he’d started it.