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growth To Protect and Serve - Chapter 10.4b - (Posted 28 Nov 2021)


GymPredator

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Authors Notes:

  • This thread is a replacement for the merged threads that became partially disabled that this story was previously posted in.  That thread will be closed upon all the chapters of the story being reposted into this new thread.  But, there is quite a bit of discussion in that thread about the story - good feedback, questions answered and such..  So, to find and read that discussion, please follow the following link.  Closed To Protect and Serve Thread

 

  • I wish to emphasize in the beginning - as some feedback over the time of this story has asked or accused concerning this topic - that no political or current events allegory or commentary is being made in this story.  It is a story about love between two people and the monumental circumstances that their love must endure.  If there is any allegory or commentary or something thought provoking I wish to encourage in this story it is two questions: 
     
    • What makes someone, anyone, human?  Is it simply a matter of genes or is it something more?
    • Is the muscle growth scenarios we all love here REALLY something we would choose to do in the real world?  Is the fantasy really what the reality would be like?  

 

  • My thanks to everyone who has supported me with encouragement, suggestions and criticism,  questions, speculation, tips, etc.  Especially @dredlifter who suggested the original idea when I was looking for a new story idea and who has given me suggestions and proofreading help along the way, and @SeaMusc who graciously allowed me to borrow some of his ideas and the universe he has set his stories in for this one.  Please give a read to both of their sets of stories.  You won't be disappointed.  

 

  • I have included links to various videos, more information, music etc that can enhance the experience and give some explanation to what I am presenting in the chapters.  Feel free to use them.  I have also included at the end of most chapters a graphic showing the relative size difference between John and Gabriel at that point in the story.

 

  • I make references to and include characters based on the real world of bodybuilding.  Although these persons are real, they are referenced only to enhance the realism of the story.  Any actions described as being made by these real world persons is purely fictional.  None of these individuals endorse this work.

 


To Protect and Serve - Chapter 1 -The First Morning


“Take me to the magic of the moment / On a glory night / When the children of tomorrow dream away in the wind of change/”  ~ Scorpion, Wind of Change


 

Prelude: 

 

Just imagine - You’re standing at attention with your peers in your best Class-A Uniform.  All around you in the auditorium your friends, family, and fellow officers who can come are here to see the solemn occasion.  A freshly earned, freshly shined badge has just been pinned on your chest by the Sheriff.  You raise your right hand and take the oath.  The oath is a bit different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but we boil its meaning down to one phrase - “To Protect and Serve.”  So many have taken the oath.  Some who took it did little things that made a big difference, while some risked their lives and paid the ultimate price.  And some … well … some are special.  This is the story of one of those special ones - no, he is even more than that.  Though it was not his intention nor mine, he went beyond special.  How do I know?  He saved me. He has given me a life I could never have dreamed possible that first early morning.  And what happened to him?  Well, a transformation that is better in the telling.

 

To those who take the oath as seriously as he did; To those who give it a new and bigger meaning as he did; to those who change more than they can imagine by repeating those words as he did, this story is dedicated. This is the story of what could happen if you could protect and serve many thousands of people, and just one man, me, in ways beyond your wildest imagination.  ~ Gabriel York

 


 

A deceptively small man hung his duty shirt onto a dry cleaners hanger and placed it in his locker.  As he stood bare chested in the cool air, he appeared to be hiding his body, but he had nothing to be ashamed of - having a lithe but very tight build under that shirt.  Nicely shaped, mounded pecs accompanied hard small orange sized biceps.  A tight 6-pack graced his lower abdomen to an impossibly small looking waist. He was way better than most men of his age, no “dad bod” here to be sure.  But, the man always felt self-conscious in the locker room despite the room being empty.  He wasn’t one of THEM, something that had haunted him since high school.  He lifted one booted foot and then the other onto a wooden bench before him. Loosening the laces and pulling the side zipper, he removed each boot.  

 

He held them in his hands like precious artifacts for just a moment, remembering the first time he put these on.  Soon it would be his last, he mused.  His time could go on as long as he wanted.  But -- he questioned why.  What had he done to stay on? What good had he really done? REALLY made a difference?  

 

It took but a few more minutes for him to put on his civilian duty clothes (a departmental polo, slacks, and loafers), secure his badge to his belt, and close his locker.  Most locker rooms were replete with all sorts of combination locks, but not here.  A few men and most of the women officers used them, but it wasn’t exactly necessary. You couldn’t be in a much safer place after all. Deputy Sergeant John Declann closed his locker for the millionth time and went to collect his personal sidearm from the gun locker clerk.  

 

He had no sooner than entered the hallway from the locker room, he heard a truly tremendous booming upper bass voice:

 

“WHOA, ONE SIDE DECLANN.”  

Declann immediately pulled back into the doorway and looked up … and up, to see 5 men in a tight formation with shields and cell-entry equipment.  Each one of them was every bit of 6 foot 4 inches plus - although tactical boots always made you look taller than you were.  They were more like 6 foot 2 without them - but still, they all out-weighed John by at least 60 pounds of muscle. At his 5 foot 7 inches in height and in normal shoes, he felt positively TINY seeing them pass by. That was sort of the point of those uniforms - to try and intimidate anyone who saw what was coming - and it always did, at least it did Declann. They were in helmets and wore thick padded vests, under which were black t-shirt with black BDUs and those boots below.  While those clothes were technically “loose,” they did little to hide every oversized muscle in their massive bodies.  Gigantic arms stretched forth from sleeves that seemed to be straining to the breaking point.  2 pairs of arms were thick, powerlifter looking, and 3 more were supremely cut muscle.   

 

The CERT - Cell Extraction and Response Team - blew past him looking like they were heading to Mary-pod - the maximum security section. No doubt it was to remove an offender from a cell for morning counts who did not want to be removed.  There was no question, he WOULD be removed, no matter what it took.  The injury inflicted was entirely the offender’s choice.  And, that amount of muscle and its overwhelming power could do plenty of that.

 

Declann had tried out for both the CERT and SWAT teams years ago.  But at his 165 pounds, it was deemed he just did not have the physical size necessary.  “You have all the skills needed and more Deputy Declann,” he had been told.  “You should be proud of that.  But some other officers just beat you out in the scores. And we need you on the streets.  That is where you belong.” Funny, he thought in a moment of jealousy. It was always those guys who were of larger than life proportions that got the spots, even if their skills were not as good as his.  

 

After the group had passed, Declann walked down the hall toward the sally port and stopped. He always did it at times like this, halting at the Officer’s Gym. He looked inside.  It was rather quiet, normal at 0545 and shift change. Still, he could see some of the remnants of workouts by the big guys on the force.  45 pound plates left on the sides of incline bench press rack.  What looked like 5 plates on a side on the bar on the squat rack.  Dozens on the leg press sled. It was a bit of a mess, in truth, but most well used gyms were.  Now, Declann was no physical slouch. He always kept in shape and his skills honed as the primary martial arts instructor for the Sheriff’s Office.  He could have done well in that room, even though he was pushing 40 years old.  Could have grown. But, he sighed and went on.  There was just a part of him that never wanted to face big men in the gym. The injustice of being mocked for his smaller size and unfamiliarity with the equipment the one time he went in blazed in him still all these years later.  He guessed the big men thought it was good natured fun, but it hurt Declann deeply. So, he kept to his body weight fitness room and small dojo set up in the garage at home. That made him feel less conspicuous.  When it came to them, John always saw himself as a small man in boots that were a size too big.  And yet - to so many others, he wasn’t that at all.  He was everything that made police work an honorable profession.  

 

---

 

John Declann had wanted to be a police officer for as long as he could remember.  Since his youngest days, he had been fascinated by police dramas on TV, how they always seemed to catch the bad guy no matter the odds.  How they always saved people in distress.  In his mind, there was no better calling. No better way to spend his life.  He had the mind to be anything he wanted.  He excelled in most subjects in school and was a top flight musician. But, those pursuits were not where he heart lay.  He was a cop at heart by his teenage years, and he did everything he could to prepare himself.  

 

He took JROTC through high school, where he picked up his interest in martial arts and started Aikido lessons.  Though he wasn’t the best at team sports, he blasted through the competition at his dojo.  He became quite fit from the military style calisthenics workouts he adopted during ROTC summer camps.  And, that fitness matched perfectly with his blooming skills with his hands and feet on the mats.  Before high school was over, his featured had matured into those of a very fit, handsome young man with striking brown eyes.  And he had his first degree black belt, the first degree of many.

 

It took a nearly a year after graduating high school to get his first small town commission to the force.  He spent his first 18 months in the jails, and then took and passed his Colorado POST exams. He had been a road officer ever since.  Now, he was a Sergeant in the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office - an area not unknown for large scale crimes as it held the University of Colorado.  “The Berkeley of the East” though had its full measure of minor offenses.  But the area wasn’t exactly the worst gang spots in Denver either. He had for served with true distinction for nearly two decades since - being decorated for bravery multiple times for saving civilians lives under fire.  He had saved those intent on suicide. He had even delivered a baby once in a convenience store, and the story made the local news. He had had plenty of hands-on run ins with offenders, but he gave way more than he got, never having much more than a bruise or a black eye on occasion. He just never saw what the community and his immediate superiors did - a good man, serving the people Boulder and the kids of the University the best way he knew how.

 

---

 

John went out to his car - an unmarked Dodge - cranked it, and began the slow crawl toward the Turnpike then Wheat Ridge.  One of the things he learned in his own initial officer training long ago was to never live in the county you worked in.  It could always lead to problems with local offenders.  So, it was up and over the Flatirons toward home. Even though traffic volume was already increasing as it spread toward Denver in the morning rush, his mind wandered as if on empty roads. He made the necessary turns though the city and came proximate to the University entrances, but was running his schedule through his mind. He was due for a weigh in at the doc’s today.  And they usually took his measurements too.  Height, waistline, all that stu --

 

John’s senses caught something in the barely lit dawn. Someone moving way too fast to be normally jogging to the right of his car.  Moving toward campus.  John slowed his vehicle and his brain went into observation mode.  It captured the scene in moments with his practiced eyes and mind.  A young man -- looking to be just outside of college age but could still belong to the University.  Short, black hair.  Trimmed beard. White button down shirt and navy slacks.  Looked like there was some money invested in those clothes, certainly not cheap.   Behind him, perhaps eight or so paces, was running - and running faster than the first - a white young man, shaved head, jeans and ratty t-shirt, tatted with jailhouse tattoos that stood out even under the fading street lamps.  And, then John caught sight of a gun in the rear waistband of the second’s jeans.  Semi-auto by the outline.  

 

Instinct took over. John turned his car in an instant, hit the flasher toggle for his lights, and wound with wildly fast, yet practiced precision toward the danger.  Less than 20 seconds later, John pulled his car to a stop where his instincts said he could cut this off.  

 

“Boulder County Sheriff's Office -- ON THE GROUND NOW”  John yelled as he leapt from his car and drew his weapon virtually simultaneously.  

 

The running suspect didn’t listen, just as John had expected.  He instead broke his pursuit of the well-dressed man and taken off toward a side alleyway. But, John was good at his work.  The offender was fast, but John - was FASTER. He holstered his weapon as he calculated his movements nearly autonomously. He had chosen his intercept point well.  John calculated the takedown, knowing an almost undisputable, universal law - 95 percent of offenders have no idea of how to fight, and the remaining 5% seldom need to fight.  And this one looked like the former.  It took a few seconds, but just a few, for the whole pursuit to be over.  Exactly two PPCT strikes and a normal compliance take down and the suspect wa on his back, with John twisting his arms and putting the handcuffs on.  He never even had to hurt more than the punk’s pride.    

 

Once secured, John kept his knee in place just under the lower shoulder blades, cuffed arms resting on his quad, knowing a bodyweight advantage and leverage would be critical with this man who slightly outweighed him. “What’s your name?” John demanded as he patted down the suspect and quickly removed a 9mm weapon and several baggies of what looked like methamphetamine.

 

“Fuck you” was the response.  

 

John smiled a bit and gave a half chuckle under his breath.  He loved this a bit too much when it happened, and some mischievous streak in him just drove him to do it.  “OK, Mister Fuk Yu. I am placing you under arrest for possession of an illegal firearm and possession of controlled substances.  You have the right to remain silent …” John mirandized the “Mr. Fuck,” pulled him up to his feet, and maneuvered him the few yards to his car. He put the offender in the back seat and locked the door of his unmarked.  The guy was going nowhere.  Now, to more important matters.

 

John made his way toward the young man being pursued -  who had by now stopped and was almost collapsed on the sidewalk. Declann withdrew his cell, called 911, and requested uniformed officers to his location.  He was upon the man on the sidewalk just as he hung up.  John immediately knelt down to do a quick assessment of his condition.  There were no obvious signs of trauma at the first once over. He then took a more careful look at the victim’s features.  While he certainly wasn’t of student age, he was still under 30, John guessed.  And, he was a very nice looking under 30 to boot.  Blue eyes setting off dark, intense features. Old enough to just have the barest hint of a wrinkle at the eye but nothing else. John noted a rather slim body - the size of his own would have been were it not for his training in Aikido and Krav Maga.  

 

John felt a twinge of attraction. Yes, John was bisexual, but no one cared among his superiors anymore.  Besides, he had always kept that part of himself separate when on duty.  “You OK Sir?  I can’t see any obvious injuries.  Do you need an ambulance? ”John asked as he came and sat down at the man’s level.

 

“Thank you . . . . officer, thank . . . you.” The man panted in reply with a pronounced British accent.  “I was . . . just going toward my . . . lab . . .  after my tea  . . .  when this fellow . . . started chasing me screaming at . . me. ” The young man was now gathering his breath, becoming easier to understand. John was a bit surprised to hear that English accent coming from him.  Not unheard of, but still unusual in Boulder.

 

“Did he assault you in any way?”

 

The  Englishman finally looked up to see John’s slightly older but obviously concerned and kind face.  He visibly relaxed as he looked into John’s light brown eyes.  “No, he never caught me but he was close.  I am not exactly in running shorts and shoes here. But thanks to you, I’ll be OK.  I do not know what would have happened if you had not arrived when you did.”

 

“With what I found, I suspect he wanted to mug you.  You are rather well dressed for campus, if I may observe.  And, forgive me, if he heard you accent, you may have looked like an quick target as a tourist.  When the uniform officers get here, you will need to give a statement to them, or you can give it to me if you prefer.  We need to make sure this scumbag gets what he deserves.”

 

“Of course.  Anything I can do to assist, although I would be much happier speaking to you.” the man said giving just a hint of a smile.  It was then that the uniformed officers in their black and white vehicles showed up.  John excused himself for a moment, let the uniforms know what was going on, and allowed them to take the offender back to the jail for booking.  John then returned to the man still sitting on the sidewalk.  Pulling out a notebook he kept on him for times like this, John got all the pertinent information as he had done thousands of times before.  Name, description of what happened, when, and why, if he knew.  Any details the young man, who he had come to know as Gabriel York, may have remembered before, during, and after. As he took the statement, John became even more convinced this was an attempted mugging, perhaps for more drug money, maybe even more if that weapon came into play.  

 

Knowing he had all he needed, John said, “Finally, is there a way we can contact you if we have further questions. The staff from the District Attorney's office will be sure to want to speak with you about testimony if it comes to that.  Although with the evidence we have, this one will probably plea. This is not his first time in jail.”

 

Gabriel reached into his pocket for a very expensive-looking leather wallet and removed a business card.  “This is my lab contact information.  I am easiest to reach either here on campus or with my secretary.  My other lab is ...a… well ... it is easier to reach me here.  Again I can’t thank you enough, Sergeant.”

 

“Believe me, Dr. York, it was my pleasure.  I am just glad you are safe and sound.” John said. “Are you OK to go on your own or would you like me to escort you to your lab? I would be happy to do so.” 

 

“Thank you sir, but I think I’ll be fine.  My lab is just over the hill in the Biological Sciences building.” Gabriel replied.

 

“OK” John said, handing Gabriel a card of his own with his name, rank, and contact information on it.  “This is my card.  If you need anything or remember anything else, please do not hesitate to call me anytime, day or night.”

 

“Of course. Sergeant Declann.”  The Englishman arose with a friendly hand from John.  Almost as an afterthought as he was leaving, York turned around. “Oh, Sergeant Declann, by the way.  I do ….ah… certain work down at the Federal Center in Denver.  I will have to report this incident to my superiors there and to the British consulate.  In case there is testimony or something as you said. They may wish to speak with you.  Just to make sure.  You understand?”

 

John nodded.  Ah, he works with the feds as an international scholar of some kind, and the red tape must be dealt with. “Of course.  No problem at all.  I’m proximate to the Federal Center half the time anyway.”  York nodded an ascent and turned again to walk away.

 

John stood a moment watching - and admiring -  Dr. York move until he was sure he was alright AND that he was moving toward the Biology building.  He turned around and began to make his way back to his car.  As he did, he looked down at the card:

 

Gabriel York, MD. PhD., FACS

Research Director/Professor of Medicine

Advanced Bio-neurological Applications Project

University of Colorado School of Medicine

 

Hmmm, John thought.  He looked a damned sight young to be in such a prestigious job, a full professor under 30 and with two doctorates at least.  And a fellow of the ACS -- so why talk to the Consulate? John’s “detective sensor” started to sound off in his mind.  This advanced applications thing wasn’t a program he was familiar with, but there were so many new research projects on campus these days.  But, as soon as the “alert” came, he let it go.  Probably a government grant given what he said about the Federal Center.

 

John was reviewing the incident in his mind for his own after action report as he pulled onto the highway.  Suddenly, there was a loud roar of a horn and air brakes. John never even saw the tractor trailer that plowed into his car, crumpling it in an instant like so much tissue paper and driving it 30 yards down the highway.

 


 

Two Hours Later--

 

Trauma room one at the University of Colorado Hospital was abuzz with activity.  At least a dozen doctors, nurses, and specialist technologists in yellow plastic smocks and shields hovered over a trauma bed doing a myriad of tasks to the man laying there.  

 

“What do we have?” the lead trauma surgeon said as he came into the room and took up control of the life-saving operation.

 

On of the smocked figures raised up and stepped back, raising his shield.  “John Declann, Caucasian male, age 39.  Boulder County Sheriff’s Deputy. MVA - car versus tractor/trailer. Passenger was in a seatbelt with airbags deployed but required extraction by fire-rescue. Initial assessment shows superficial cranial abrasions, with most likely a simple concussion.  No evidence of other cranial, brain, or upper spinal injuries.  Seat belt bruising pattern is highly indicative of internal organ disruption, but nothing so far on physical examination and plain films of the abdomen.  Lacerated and collapsed left lung, re-inflated with chest tube.  Pneumothorax proximate to same lung injury also responding. Initial x-rays show compromised T-12 vertebral body and possible pelvic fracture.  No apparent lower limb trauma beyond cuts and bruises from extrication from the vehicle.  CT scans are coming up now for the spinal and pelvic injury areas. This was a driver’s side T-bone crash. I think that this guy’s level of fitness is why we’re talking about saving his life and not pronouncing him.” the lead resident efficiently rattled off.

 

The lead surgeon took a look at the patient, and agreed with the resident’s assessment.  John was alive because of his trained, flexible, body and more than a little random chance.  But what kind of life was it going to be? The doctor walked over to the computer terminal screens and pulled up the CT scans.  The pelvis showed a simple left side Ilium fracture.  Non-displaced.  Something the orthopods could deal with easy enough. He then flipped to the scan of John’s spine --  and frowned. “Fuck,” he said under his breath as he looked.  He sat down on a stool and zoomed, in, out, rotated, and closely examined the different views provided by the technology.  The burst fracture was unmistakable and at precisely the worst spot for leg function.  As he walked back to John, the doctor barked orders to the residents and nurses, while he removed an ink pen from his pocket.  He ran the pen up first one foot and then the other.  Goddamnit, he thought.  The veteran doc’s heart sunk even more.

 

“Get neurosurg here stat.  Tell them severe impact, burst fracture at T-12, CT visualization and reflex response indicative of cord injury.”  The room went silent for a moment before carrying on.  It was always hard to treat an officer.  Much less for this.  The supervising physician turned and again just looked at the radiology.  The soft tissue injuries were no walk in the park, but were easily fixable, recoverable in just a few weeks, the pelvis in a couple of months, except …. that.  There was no hope for that, in his experience.  This man would be paralyzed.

 

Five minutes later the head of neurosurgery looked at the same CT scans, and came to the same conclusion.  No hope.  They could do an exploratory, check and see if by some miracle there was just pressure on the cord from a fragment, but not likely.  Better to just do a vertebral stabilization with the orthopods, but his chances to recover function … 

 

Declann had been stabilized and was ready for transfer to have his lung laceration repaired.  As he was about to be moved, another man in a white coat burst into the trauma room.  One look from him toward John, and his eyes moistened.

 

“I...I...can’t believe it.”  the black haired man wept at the side of the bed.  “I had to be sure.” The man almost looked skyward, “Why him?”  Gabriel tenderly wiped a finger down John’s cheek.

 

“Gabriel?” the head of neuro looked up. “What are you doing here? Do you know this man?”

 

“This man, he saved my life this morning, not even four hours ago.  Kept me from getting mugged by this man with a gun.  Everyone heard the crash and when I saw that the wreckage was his car.  Is he going to be OK?”  Gabriel was out of breath and had obviously lost clinical detachment between the events of this morning and the shock of seeing the officer who had been so kind and patient with him lying there.  He would have been removed if treatment were still going on, but it was basically complete save moving him to OR.  The two attendings just nodded toward the computer screens with the radiology still on it.  Gabriel walked from John’s head side, looked, and was overcome with remorse and guilt.  Had he just been at his normal time, 15 minutes later, none of this would have happened.  But, he just HAD to check on a minor experiment.  And now, this man lay here because of him.  Gabriel zoomed in to the machine’s maximum sensitivity.  He looked again and again. 

 

Through a choking voice, Gabriel looked around and almost whispered. “Jack, can you send me these scans please? To my secondary lab.”

 

The lead neurosurgeon looked horrified, searching for a reason not to. “Gabriel.  You can’t be serious.  You know I can’t do that. It violates protocol, federal law--”

 

Gabriel cut him off, almost angrily “Jack you know I can take care of that with one call to Washington.”

 

“What are you going to do?” Jack asked, never having seen such anger in the young, brilliant surgeon and scientist.

 

“IF I can, if there is anything I can do, I am going to try and help this man.’

 

“You can’t have a man as a lab r--.  I can’t sanc---”  Jack stumbled.

 

Gabriel stood to his full height, taking on an almost military bearing. “You know I can and will go over your head if I have to.  I will have him removed if I must.” Gabriel took a breath and seemed to calm a bit.  “Jack I am not promising that I can or will do anything, I do not know if there is anything to do.  But I have to try.  I owe it to him.  He is here because of me. I have to try or I’ll never forgive myself.”

 

Jack knew Gabriel could follow through on his threats in an instant.  He had seen some small manifestations of Gabriel’s connections to political power before, and he knew that interference in hospital functions was the very least of what he could do. As much as Jack detested it, with this kind of anger Gabriel could bring down the mountain on top of his whole hospital.  But, as it was, there was nothing anyone could do for Officer Declann, not even York.  Jack just silently waved his fingers in a gesture of defeat, nodded an ascent, and transferred access to Gabriel as primary attending physician.

“Thank you Jack.  I owe you about 10 times over for this.”

 

“I WILL HOLD YOU TO THAT,” the older surgeon replied, his voice suddenly sharpened. “And I insist on one thing.  Before you present him any of those things you do that I do not have a clue about, you will at least get his consent.” 

 

Gabriel looked like he had been shot himself and his voice shook, “I would NEVER do anything to harm him.”  York turned on a heel and left the room, walking out of the ER doors, and toward his car in the parking lot.  As soon as he was in the vehicle with the door closed, he pulled from his pocket an encrypted cell phone with just one number it could access, locked to his fingerprint. 

 

A male voice answered in military precision, “Yes, Doctor York?”

 

“Codeword Ariana.  I want the full computer network prepped for simulator study based on some CT scans that will be coming from CU Trauma ER shortly.  Run the program with emergent parameters and stand by to report when I get there.  Not a proof of concept level scan, Don, but full cellular level calculations. I am leaving the hospital now.  We have 24 hours at the most to complete simulations.  And...ah.. Don.  This is important to me, personally.”


“Yes SIR,” the sharp voice on the other end said.  Gabriel could not quite understand what he was feeling, this pull toward this man.  He didn’t know the man existed six hours ago.  Sure, there was guilt and anger and sadness.  But, he just could not remove from his mind those eyes he saw this morning.  Those haunted, caring brown eyes.  Something about him. This John Declann.  He did not know what.  But he saw it in his eyes.  He deserved more than this, and Gabriel would find out why.  He would make it happen, he willed it to happen as he drove toward the freeway.  This good man would walk again.

John and Gabriel - Chapter 1.jpg

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To Protect and Serve - Chapter 2 - The Miracle of Denver


“Give me life / Give me love / Star lit angel from above /”  ~ Shinedown, Miracle


 

48 hours later -

 

Whirrr…..shhhhhhh.  Whirrr …….shhhhhh. Beep.  Beep.  Beep-Beep-Beep.  

 

All around the large semi-circular room, there was constant noise from the medical machines.  Breathing machines, movement monitors, heart monitors, IV machines.  Sixteen beds all facing a large central nurses station in the Neurological ICU. Staff dressed in all manner of multi-colored scrubs moved about making notes and updating orders.  And laying in the middle of it all, John Declann was awake and silently afraid -- afraid of the future.

 

“Look at them,” he thought bitterly.

 

“Look at them move."  

 

“Like it was nothing."

 

John almost wanted to scream.  It was so much.  Too much.  Too much noise.  Too many people.  Too much chaos.  He just wanted quiet. He would give his right le--

 

“But I don’t have a right leg to give anymore,”  John spat out in his thoughts. He raised his head from his pillow and looked down.  For what must have been the hundredth time since he awakened, he started again with the same useless ritual.  

He willed his legs to move.  Nothing.  

 

“MOVE” he thought.  Nothing.  

 

“FUCKING MOVE DAMN IT.”  Nothing.  

 

From rage to a plaintive wail. “Please … please … move.” Nothing. 

 

“Please……” Nothing.

 

John’s head fell back again to his bed, and a single tear rolled from his eye toward the pillow.  “Why, why, why won’t they move?” He begged.  But then he could always hear the doctor’s voice as clear as he had heard it yesterday:

 

“I’m very sorry Mr. Declann, but there was just nothing that we could medically do.  The damage is just too extensive.  Although you may get some sensation back with intensive therapy… I am so sorry, but you are paralyzed from the waist down.”

 

John fumed at those words.  He spat on them, cursed them. His rage could have filled the entire room to overflowing if he could have let it out.  All he had ever done was try and help people.  All he had ever done was try and make a difference. And this is how God or the Universe or whatever thanks him?  It makes him an invalid. 

 

Helpless. 

 

Hopeless.  

 

“Why didn’t I just die in that crash?” John thought.  “It would have been far more merciful.”  Maybe he should just fully “retire” when they let him out of here.  Would whatever this is  - it certainly isn’t a life - even be worth living ….

 

As he lay there swallowed by the pain of what he could never feel again, two young men wearing the colors of hospital transport approached John’s bed.  They leaned over and said, “Mr. Declann, we are going to move you to a private room just down the way here.  The nurses aides need to help you get clean, and we want to preserve your privacy down here.”

 

“Fuck my privacy,” John spat out weakly. “What do I need it for now anyway?”

 

“Mr Declann, please?” the one on the left asked.

 

John relented.  Resignation swallowed him as he shook his head no, but said, “OK.  Just do what you have to do.”  With the efficiency of hands as practiced at this work as Declann’s had once been at his, the two young men disconnected the monitors, released the wall oxygen and pushed John perhaps 50 feet down a corridor and into a small, private room.  The two transport men maneuvered John into the center of the darkened room, then pushed his headboard against the wall. They assured him that someone would be with him in a moment.  Then, the two just left.

 

John looked around a bit confused.  This looked like a hospital room you might see anywhere - a computer terminal, multi-colored plugs in the walls, but - nothing else.  He couldn’t see anything that might be used to wash him and --

 

There was a small knock at the door. “Ah, that must be them.” John thought and swallowed his pride.  There was no use fighting this.  The door pushed inward to reveal three semi-shadows silhouetted against the bright hallway light.   

 

“Hello Sergeant Declann.  May we come in?”  As the voice spoke, someone raised the lights inside the room.  That voice, the accent, the lower tenor range of it. The black hair, the eyes?  No, but --

 

“Dr. York?!” John asked out of shock as Gabriel entered the room.  What astounded John even more was that York was flanked on either side by two gorilla-sized men in navy blue suits.  He was certain these were some sort of guards - police, military, something -  but hell, why would York need that?

 

Gabriel walked up to the side of John’s bed while one of the men pulled a stool from a corner of the room for Gabriel to sit on.  He then took a guard position near the door inside the room while the other man closed the door and remained outside.

 

“Yes, John.  It’s me.  I am glad you remember.”  Gabriel was genuinely happy John remembered him through the crash and the aftermath.  Not only was he personally thrilled, but clinically, it was a very good sign given the nature of his visit.  “How are you feeling?’

 

“About as good as can be expected under the circumstances, “ John replied, trying to stay nice to the young doctor.  But, why was he here?

 

“John, you do not know this, but when you were first brought in here, I asked to be your primary physician.  All the other doctors you have spoken with have done their work admirably, but I am ultimately in charge of your care.” Gabriel sighed. It was better to just spit it out. “I know that the other doctors told you about the condition of your spine and that it was unrepairable.”

 

“They certainly made that VERY clear.” John vented with barely controlled anger.

 

“Well … that.” Gabriel said rather awkwardly, his mouth twisting as he tried to say what he wanted. “That is why I am here.  Now, John, I do not want to raise any false hope in you, but … that assessment may not be totally accurate.”  

 

If Declann could have raised up from the bed, he would have bolted toward the ceiling like a cat in shock. “What does that mean ‘not totally accurate?’”

 

“John, I am going to have to ask you to trust me on a few things right now.  There are certain aspects of what I am going to propose to you that are … well … frankly dangerous.  Most of it I cannot even tell you at this hospital.  But, I will tell you all that I can.  First, let me say … if you had not rescued me the other morning, you would not be in this bed like this right now.  You rescued me, and now I am going to try and rescue you.”  Gabriel said.

 

“OK.  So, what exactly are we talking about here?  I may be in this position, but I am still a cop, and I can hear someone skirting the truth from a mile away.”

 

Gabriel reached into his pocket, pulled out a small device, and activated it. “This will not last for very long, but it will scramble any patient monitoring equipment and the hospital microphones nearby.  John, do you remember when I said that I had certain dealings with at the Federal Center and had a well … different lab than at CU?”

 

“You didn’t exactly mean to say anything, but that was the best supposition to make given what you did not say.” John replied.

 

Gabriel blushed realizing that John had read him so thoroughly though just a minor mistake.  No wonder he was a good cop.  “Well, my area of research is neurological trauma, much like the trauma you have experienced.  Very advanced and very top secret work.  I can give you a better explanation once you accept my offer, but, for now, I can tell you that this therapy can offer you some hope.  However there are also certain risks such as possible shifting of your bones or permanent damage to your muscle fibers.  

 

“AND, most importantly, and I cannot emphasize this enough.  This therapy cannot be done under sedation.  You must be fully conscious and … John, I am sorry.” Gabriel almost choked up as he said it.  “But, it will be excruciatingly painful.  Far more painful than anything you have ever felt before.  I cannot help that, I wish I could.  

 

“There is a chance you will be in a far better position if this works, but you will pay for it in ways I can scarcely even describe.  That is all I can say here.  It is your choice.  But I hope you can trust me.”

 

For John, there was not a second’s hesitation.  “I am nothing without my work. And I cannot work like this.  I choose what you are offering, even knowing the risks, and that it might not work.  Some chance is better than none.”

 

“Are you sure John?  This is the last chance to reconsider.”

 

“Dr. York….Gabriel, “ John looked into the young researcher’s eyes almost pleading, begging, “I want a chance to have my life back.”

 

York took a breath and smiled. “OK.  First thing, I cannot allow you to see exactly where we are going.  Security reasons.  And, assuming this works, you are going to be staying with me at “my place,” so to speak, for a couple of months.  So, I will need to sedate you for the trip.”  York withdrew a hypodermic needle and injected John’s IV lead with a clear liquid.  “And we have a suitable cover story that you are going out of state at a rehab facility.  I can also tell you, no one will ever know what was diagnosed here.  I can and will make sure of that.”

 

Declann’s eyes began to fog.  “See you in a little while John.  Rest easy.”  And with that Declann fell asleep.  Then, Gabriel went over to the suited man at the door.  “He is ready.   Take him up to the helipad on the roof and load him on.  I will come with you if anyone asks questions.”  York then opened the door and addressed the other large statured man. “We are ready.”

 

Gabriel and the two men pushed the gurney with Declann on it toward an elevator to the roof.  No sooner than they had passed around the corner, another fellow entered the same hospital room.  Although he was dressed as a hospital employee - he seemed a bit too large for what he was wearing and just a bit too military for an ordinary worker.  The man walked to the computer terminal and entered a username and password.  Once he had access, he placed a USB stick into the terminal.  After that all he had to do was wait.  Inside the machinery of the entire hospital, all the memory, the scanning devices - every microchip and resistor of it - any record, note, log, ANYTHING relating to Deputy Sergeant John Declann having been paralyzed simply melted away, as if it had never happened.  His task done, the man closed the terminal and left the building.

 


 

Three Hours Later-


 

The first sign John had of regaining consciousness was hearing things.  Voices around him:

 

“The subject is secured, doctor”

 

“Extraction process complete. Beginning Replication and Modification Procedures.”

 

“The subject is regaining consciousness.”  

 

Light, fuzzy at first, began to register to Declann’s eyes.  As the glare cleared, he found himself in a place he could have scarcely imagined.  John saw he was inside a white room that seemed to be covered in flat panel monitor screens.  He himself was lying on some sort of strange metal table.  Going over and above his head, in a large C shape, was some sort of armature and camera device. Above that on the ceiling, facing down, was a massive LCD.  The overhead screen had an outline of a human body on it with several numerical readouts.  And, John also noticed, he was tied down.  Every part of him was tied down by thick leather straps. Only his eyes could move. If he cast them low enough, he even thought he could see that his useless legs were tied down.

 

At his side, he felt a presence approach as Gabriel came into view.  “Welcome back John.  I apologize for restraining you like this, but considering what is going to happen, it will be for the best.  Now that you are here, I can fully explain what we have developed and what we are going to --”

 

“Ah . . . Gabriel,” John said rather sheepishly.  “You might want to give me the dumbed down version. I am no slouch but what little I can see of this place suggests that this stuff is going to be way beyond me.”

 

Gabriel laughed, “I doubt that John.  Without the unnecessary technical details, the ideas are simple enough.  

 

“What we have developed is a form of experimental genetic engineering-based surgery.  Nothing like in sci-fi TV but, maybe at the very early stages of that sort of thing.  We created this for the military, for soldiers who have sustained serious injuries on the battlefield who are considered irreplaceable. But I hope that one day this can be released to the public for folks like you.  But, John, I must be upfront.  You are the first human we have ever attempted this on.  We have done plenty of simulations on our computers, but you are the first flesh and blood.  

 

“While you were asleep, we took samples of your neurons, muscle cells, and stem cells.  And, right now in the lab, we are genetically modifying and cloning these samples en masse to create an army of very specialized, augmented cells.  With me so far?”

 

“I think so.  So what do these augmented things do?” John asked.

 

Gabriel smiled.  “Think of the new cells as something like living knitting needles.  We will transplant the new augmented cells into you. The modified nerve cells will lay down a copy of your entire nervous system running parallel to your native one, including the damaged area of your spinal cord.  At the same time this is happening, the augmented muscle and stem cells will lay down a series of connections between the new nervous system and your native muscles that will allow the modified nerves to work.  

 

“When all of the augmented cells are in place, we will give you a special kind of drug that will activate the knitting process.  Your native nervous system and muscle cells will be “knit together” with the new nervous system and muscles, kind of like how a broken bone heals by knitting new bone tissue together with older bone.  Once the knitting is complete, your native cells and the augmented cells are fused into one nervous and muscular system, just like the one you have now, EXCEPT this new one will be whole and fully functioning. 

 

“If all goes well, your spinal cord damage along with any other damage in your nervous system and to the muscles of the body will be as repaired.  Once they has served its purpose, the augmentation DNA we introduce in the cloned cells will die away, leaving only you behind.  And the new you will be as solid and healthy as any broken wrist that is healed.  Making sense?”

 

John replied “So, you’re basically going to make me a second set of nerves and muscles to heal the ones in me that are broken?”

 

“More or less, yes.” Gabriel replied. “That is the theory.  Now, this is the important part for you. The practical parts of this -- what is actually going to happen to you that you will see and feel.

 

“The first thing we will do is a create a real time virtual model of your body inside of our computers.  It is something like the TSA body scanners used in airports only far more sensitive and powerful.  This virtual model of you will be continuously updated throughout the process, and we can watch that virtual you on the screen over your head.  When we release the modified cells into your body, we use the scanner and to see that the modified cells line up as they should.  Then, when everything is correctly laid down and ready, we will release the drug into your system.   

 

“The drug will be the part that hurts John.  The drug causes a series of events that is going to fire every nerve and every muscle in your body all at once, over and over again.  And not just little twitches but full power flexing and relaxing, like thousands upon thousands of cramps but worse.  Much, much worse.  And not just your muscles. Pain, heat, cold. What you can see, what you can smell, what you can hear. Everything.  We will use the equipment we have here to keep you alive, but we can’t give you any drugs to dull the pain or lessen the cramps or the process of repairing your nerves would be damaged.  All of your new nerves and muscle would be permanently “dulled” exactly like the pain killer would dull the nerves receiving pain signals.

 

Declann again saw the look of anguish in Gabriel’s face and knew what was coming would be bad. “If there was any way we could localize this to just the damaged areas we would.  If I could spare you what is coming I would.  But, it is just too far beyond us right now.” Gabriel reached down and took John’s hand.  “Do you have any questions for me?”

 

John thought a moment.  “No, just … stay with me down here when you do it.  I do not want to go through this alone.”

 

Gabriel smiled down on John and became brave enough to caress his cheek.  “I will never leave you alone.  Not through this, and not for a long time after it is done.”  John seemed to ease a bit at this.  He didn’t know what it was about the doctor, but it just felt so right to face this together with him.

 

A voice over an unseen intercom spoke. “Doctor, the augmented cells are ready for introduction.”  Gabriel first looked down to John, who tried to nod his ascent one last time.  “Then let’s start.  Phase one everyone.” Gabriel said.  

 

Upon that cue, an unseen door opened and someone dressed like an operating room nurse entered with three very large IV Bags full of a darkly tinted liquid.  She efficiently connected each bag to one of the IV leads in John’s veins, and the liquids began to flow into his body. Above him, the screen lit up and showed John’s virtual body along with the following numbers:

 

Subject 0001: Declann, J.

Height: 5’7” (1.70 m)

Weight: 165 lbs  (75 kg)

Neck:15.5 inches (39.4 cm)

Chest: 39 inches (99 cm)

Waist: 28.5 inches (72.4 cm)

Forearms: 13 inches (33 cm)

Upper Arms : 15.25 inches (38.7 cm)

Thighs: 22 inches (55.9 cm)

Calves: 15 inches (38 cm)

 

On the screen, Declann watched as over the next hour, area after area of his “body” began to alight with green lines and shading.  The virtual avatar zoomed in and out, rotated and seemed to go right down to his very DNA as what seemed like mile upon mile of material lined up and connected itself right next to his current nervous system and muscles.  It made him a bit dizzy to watch as one area after another lit up and spun around until there were just two left - the area of his injury and the brain itself.  Another nurse came in with a large needle full of the same liquid, and through a method he could not see, injected all of the material into an area he could not feel. Suddenly, the spot along is back that was black began to glow along with the rest of his body.  Above his body avatar, red letters flashed: Phase One Introduction Complete.

 

Gabriel sighed. “Oh John, this is it.  I will stand by and watch with you, but the computer will take over from here.  I am sorry.  This will be the longest two minutes of your life.” Only now, after over an hour, did Gabriel let go of John’s hand, “But it will be worth it.”

 

Gabriel moved away from John and as his voice cracked said, “Begin Phase 2.  Inject the reagent.”

 

At first, all John heard was a small hiss coming from under the table, followed by a mild tingling sensation.  Like an itch that was spreading from his back, through his arms and neck and head.  An itch that was inside him, straight through him.  Everywhere. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if his heart could itch until --

 

CRAMPING.  EVERYTHING CRAMPING.  John began to scream violently.  Gabriel and the rest of the staff watched as John suddenly became a writhing mass of twisting, boiling knots.  All of John’s muscles began to roil, seemingly at random.  Sweat began to pour as even the muscles in the pores of skin began to violently cramp.  It looked as if John’s whole body was boiling from the inside out. John’s inhuman screaming made even the most hardened military man in the control room stop and offer a silent prayer.  Visibly shaking and crying, Gabriel looked up at the status board above John’s bed.  The entire board was flashing red - and only 30 seconds had elapsed.

 

“Heart rate 163 beats per minute and rising.  Dr. York, the heart is leaving sinus rhythm as expected.  Monitoring for any deviations from simulations.”  But Gabriel wasn’t listening.  He was watching as John’s screams mercifully weakened, not because the pain was any less intense, but because the muscles used to control breathing were now in spasms of random, intense flexion and relaxation as well. 

 

“Heart rate now 187 beats per minute.  60 seconds elapsed.”  An alarm sounded as John began to convulse.  Even his once dead legs began to fight against the restraints, as if he were in the car crash again, and his body was fighting the seat belt. John’s eyes began to flutter.  His hair began to stand on end across his body.  Gabriel fought the constant urge in his mind and soul to try and stop this, to spare the man he cared for so much pain.  But, he knew he must not.

 

‘Heart rate 217 beats per minute.  Erratic multi rhythm patterns.  Breathing at 60 breaths per minute, shallow.  90 seconds elapsed.”  Gabriel knew the heart rhythm pattern was to be expected, a sign that this was going to plan.  Two entire complete nervous systems, telling the heart to beat at different times.  Now, was the most dangerous time.  

 

“Heart rate 236 beats per minute.  Patterns synchronizing.  Wait --”  Gabriel saw it first.  The spasms were beginning to subside.  He rushed over and looked at the status board.  The red was slowly turning green.  The signature of the augmented cells was fading away as a new white signature appeared, John’s fused nervous system and muscles.

 

“Heart rate 154 beats per minute slowing rapidly.  Breathing more regular.”  Gabriel rushed to touch John, now that the worst was over.  He caressed his sweat soaked forehead.  In fact, John looked like he had been through a shower. Even his facial sweat was mixed with tears as the tear ducts too had flexed open. John was so exhausted that all he could do was lay there, barely able to respond at all to Gabriel, but he managed in a very quiet, breathless whisper.

 

“Is …. 

 

It….

 

over?”

 

“Yes, John.” Gabriel leaned in close.  “Yes, it is over.”  Gabriel could not help it.  In a shear wave of relief, he kissed John’s cheek.  John gave an weak smile. Gabriel marveled.  Was it real or just a reflex? There was little time to find out, as staff rushed in and began to hook up IV bags of saline, glucose, and electrolytes to replace all the materials the procedure had drained from John.  Now, all Gabriel could do was wait.  Wait for the clock, wait on the saline and glucose.  Wait for John to recover just enough to see if it had worked.

 

The following hour seemed like an eternity.  But, slowly, the IV infusions allowed John to recover some strength.  He was still exhausted, but at least he was more coherent.  

 

“How do you feel John?”

 

“Like crap.” John whispered.  “Gabriel.  I still cannot feel --”  Gabriel responded with a “Shhhhhhh.”  John fell silent as the young doctor moved with trepidation toward John’s feet.  He very lightly ran a fingernail up John’s right foot.  

 

The response he got was the last thing in the world he expected.  There was no movement, but a very slight giggle erupted from John’s lips.  Gabriel changed feet and again lightly touched.  Another even stronger giggle resulted.

 

Finally, Gabriel tried both feet at once and a full out, gravelly, whispered giggle and a tiny shiver issued from John.  John tried to raise his head as far up as he could while still strapped down to the table.  He could not see anyone, but he knew Gabriel had not left him.  

 

“Hey Gabriel?” 

 

“Yes John?”

 

“Why is someone tickling my feet?”  

 

Every person in the facility erupted into wild laughter and cheers.  Gabriel ran up to John’s head and embraced him.  It had worked.  Somehow, some way, it had worked.  John’s toes began to slightly wave under their own power as the team celebrated. And the policeman and scientist shared a moment of awe and relief together. 

 


 

One week later -

 

“Come on John.  I know you can do this.  Just concentrate and make the muscles work.  Not your weight, the muscles,” Gabriel said.  John took another deep breath at the end of the raised walking platform of the facility physical therapy room.  He was standing balanced on crutches, frustrated, but willing to give it one more try.  Slowly …. VERY SLOWLY, John used the crutches to stabilize himself.  He swung one leg forward. One step. Another.  Two steps. Again.  Three steps, and four steps...before he collapsed into Gabriel’s arms covered in sweat.  Gabriel carefully moved John’s small but hard muscled body down into a nearby chair as he breathed heavily.

 

“Gabriel . . . . why . . .is this . . .so hard?”  John asks in breathlessness.  “I ….thought my arms ….would be fine ….but it is like they are stuck in molasses as much as my legs are.”

 

Gabriel now unhesitatingly grasped John’s hand.  In their week together they had built a bond beyond doctor and patient and now something closer to very intimate lifetime friends.  “John, I promise you your progress is remarkable.  Truly more than we expected, more than even the most optimistic projections.”  

 

Gabriel then let out a sigh.  “But - remember how I told you there were some possible side effects that we did not expect to happen but could?  Well, our tests show something like that has happened that explains this.  We thought that the augmented cells DNA would fade out over time after the native and augmented cells fused.  That it would only remain in your spine, and only then until your healing was complete there.  But that is not what has happened.  The tests show that the augmented DNA is in your entire body still AND is stable.  It isn’t breaking down.  It has integrated.  Your nervous and muscular systems are now different from every human who has ever lived.”

 

John looked suddenly frightened, but Gabriel smiled and waved him off, “No, no, no.  That is the thing.  We cannot find anything bad from it at all.  Everything seems to be functioning quite normally, even though it is different.  You are just feeling stiff and tired because of that new DNA.   You are having to learn how to use everything in your body again all at once instead of just your legs.  That is why this is so remarkable.  I mean.  John, flex your quad.”

 

John looked down and with just a bit of concentrated effort, his lean but well defined muscles sprang into life.  Gabriel took his hand and John’s and rested it on the small, hard muscles.  “THAT IS PROGRESS JOHN!” Gabriel raved. “Just remember this will get easier.  Your strength is returning at an astounding rate.  And every time you doubt that.” Gabriel patted the now hardened muscle that felt totally lifeless and limp only 8 days before. “Reach down and touch this.  You WILL do it.”  

 

John reached out and hugged the young doctor.  “Thank you.  Just remind me when I get cranky, huh?”

 

Gabriel beamed.  “Deal.  Now, let’s head for some lunch before the afternoon session.  You know Jack likes you fed before he starts his part of your training.”  Gabriel brought John’s wheelchair over next to him.  Declann then used the crutches to push himself to his feet, take one step toward his wheelchair, and sit down.  Gabriel began to talk animatedly as he pushed John out the door toward the cafeteria.

 


 

Three weeks after surgery- 


 

“Two minutes John.  Fantastic.”  The PhD/personal trainer John had come to know as Jack said.  “Keep hanging as long as you can.  You’ve got this.  We have already past your personal best.  This is just icing on the cake.” 

 

John was sweating just a bit from exertion as he hung from the pull up bars of a gym-style multi-station inside the training room.  John slowly kicked his legs back and forth from the hip, back and forth, while holding himself as still as he could with balance and upper body strength.  Gabriel and all the doctors said his upper body must be back to near what it was before the accident. Holding himself up like this had become easier by the day during the week that Declann had been doing this exercise.  And John had to agree.  He was feeling like his old self again.  Not 100% back, but much much closer.

 

A bell sounded and Jack got up, “ I have to step outside for a second John.  Just keep going as long as you can.  And then drop into the foam.  I’ll be right back.” Jack stepped out, and the door closed.  

 

John kept up with the exercise, back and forth, back and forth.  But, something … he did not know why, just another mischievous urge perhaps, but --  he wanted to try it.  Once again, when no one was looking.  John allowed himself to come to a stop.  Hanging in the air, he used his biceps to slowly pull up and rotate his body to a 45 degree angle.  He froze, holding himself there, and then pointed his toes and pulled his legs UP at the hip.  His legs rose, fully elongated, almost as straight as a male gymnast in competition. He looked like he was doing a hanging leg raise at first, but his legs kept going past that point until they were almost perpendicular to the floor.  He stopped there, looking folded up, and hung motionless for a scant second. Then he began to sweep his legs at the hips, slowly, to the right and to the left, right and left.  Each sweep ending with his legs parallel to the floor.  The motion was fluid, perfect, with not so much as a bend or quiver from any muscle in John’s body.  

 

After 5 complete sweeps, John allowed his legs to come down and stop at 90 degrees to his torso.  Then, he used his arms to pull his upper body out and flat until it was aligned with his legs, John held his entire body suspended parallel to the floor.  He then began to raise and lower himself up and down doing totally unsupported horizontal air pull ups.  5 more full range of motion reps before he relaxed his arms, and dropped onto the soft cushions below.

 

John smiled to himself.  Gabriel would be so proud when he showed him this, but he was planning to keep it a surprise for a few more weeks until he could do 10 or 15 of each without stopping.  It was funny. He had never been able to do this kind of ab work and pullups with such total control and precision, even before the accident.  And it seemed to be getting just a bit easier everyday when he was left alone to attempt it.  It MUST have been all the training he had been doing here learning how to move again that gave him this control and relative strength. He knew that once he showed Gabriel what he could do, Gabe would be so proud of his staff for getting him this far.  He just shook his head as he smiled as he repeated in his mind how hard this sort of thing had seemed before the accident.  He didn’t seem like he was bigger, but somehow, he thought he felt just a little stronger.  That thought was greeted by stomach growl.  John chuckled again.  Weird how he had the biggest appetite lately . . . 


 

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Chapter 3 - Facing the Demons


“Your eyes they shine so bright / I wanna save that light / I can’t escape this now / Unless you show me how.”  ~ Imagine Dragons, Demons


2 months after the Accident


 

The evening shift meeting in the Boulder County Justice Center was winding down.  It had been a generic one like many thousands before it. The officers assigned to jail posts were briefed on any pressing situations in their pods.  Road officers were given their assigned patrol areas.  A drug interdiction raid was planned for that night, so SWAT was also here to listen in while waiting on their specific briefing with Federal agents and the county narcotics task force before heading out.

 

“Any questions?”  asked Captain Elliot Hernandez, the incoming night shift commander. 

 

No one said anything, and a roar of metal chair legs grinding on the floor sounded as people began to rise to leave.  But, Hernandez held up his hands, surprising everyone, and said,  “Whoa, just one more thing before we are done.  Please take your seats.”

 

At that moment, Sheriff John Cook popped through the rear door that lead to the administration section.  Everyone in the room quieted immediately and sat down. It was almost unheard of for the sheriff to come to a basic shift briefing unannounced.  Cook, a tall white haired man with over 35 years experience before winning election, walked to the front of the room.  “I guess you are all wondering what I am doing here tonight?  Well, as compelling as county council meetings can be...,” Everyone laughed a bit at the bad joke, knowing the sheriff’s disdain for local politics. “Gentlemen, ladies, something is happening tonight that I can safely say most of us have been anticipating for a while.  He is still technically a guest with us but he is one of our own … Well, I don’t want to steal his thunder.  Come on up, John.”

 

Everyone turned to look as the side door to the briefing room opened.  There was a momentary pause, then a wave of cheers and applause erupted as John Declann entered, walking into the room on a pair of crutches.  While everyone recognized him, it struck many of the D-shift staff that the man walking in was somehow different.  Some chalked it up to the street clothes he was wearing, as they had never seen him out of uniform.  Others thought it was the boots he was wearing that made him look taller than before.  But what everyone there could agree on was that this Declann looked in vastly better physical condition than the man who had left this building the day of his accident.  

 

While he was wearing a loose long sleeved shirt, his pecs were still visibly pushing out, with biceps that were noticeable even under cloth.  His jeans fit a bit oddly.  While they seemed almost loose in the waist, even with a well cinched belt, his quads and hamstrings pulled at the denim.  Declann had also changed facially.  He was now more angular with a square jaw, looking like he had shaved off a few years somehow.  He had grown a goatee - trimmed, neat, and within regulations, but it was something the old John would never have done.  Even his hair had a bit of styling.  None of it was over the top on its own, but when the whole package was taken together, Declann looked far more masculine and imposing than before. To the women present - that meant a LOT more handsome. 

 

As Declann moved toward the lectern, the deputy shift commander - affectionately known to all as Ms. Carla - shifted in her seat.  Carla was a tiny woman with a truly gutsy personality, who could put any man of any size in that room on his ass in a moment and had done it. She was closer to John than perhaps anyone on the shift as she was also a PPCT instructor for the Office.  Seeing this new version of her friend, she just couldn’t help but let out a LOUD wolf whistle that sounded over all the cheers.  John instantly paused and looked at her, embarrassed out of his mind.  Carla yelled out, “Yep, you might look different,   But, that is still our Declann.” The entire room, including John himself, cracked into a uproar of laughter.

 

The cheers and laughing slowed and stopped as John stepped up to the lectern.  “Thank you all.  And thank you Ms. Carla for that particularly warm welcome.  I’ll have to pay you back for that someday.”  Everyone let out a good natured “Ooooooohh” and a chuckle.  John became a little somber as he reflected, “You know, I seriously missed this place.  All of you.  You know after what I went through … well, it really makes you think.  I am fast coming up on 20 years here.  20 years - that is a long time.  Longer than I ever thought I would be here.  I was wondering if I should retire.  This rehab was the hardest thing single thing I ever had to go through in my life.  But, even while I was learning how to walk again, I thought about you, this place, these people we serve, and I arrived at a decision.” 

 

John hobbled around to the front of the lectern.  As he did, he gathered his crutches in one hand and tossed them behind him where they landed on the floor.  Standing up to his actual fully healed posture, he said, “I decided I will stay on for a while. I’ll be back on shift next week.”  A huge round of applause went up from the group.  

 

At that point, the sheriff held up his hand, “But, not on the road.”  John turned and looked around surprised as much as everyone else. “Seems we have a opening in the drug and narcotics taskforce for a new detective.  After 20 years on the streets, I can’t think of a better person to fill that job.  It’s yours Detective Declann.  Congratulations.”

 

Everyone in the room got up and nearly mobbed John with pats and handshakes and congratulations.  Even two of the big men from the STAR Team - Corporal Janes and Deputy Quinn -  came up and easily tossed John up on their shoulders.  “Hey, Hey, you damned big ass lugs.  You’re gonna put my head through the ceiling here.”  Everyone fell over in laughter again.

 

The old John would have hated the theatrics - but the new John's mischievous streak had only grown stronger in the last month. And when Hernandez had suggested this as a way to boost lagging morale on his shift, John just could not say no.  

 

Everyone was in high spirits as the group slowly moved toward their duty posts.  Everyone save a couple of men at the back wearing SWAT vests that barely contained their muscle mass. Ripped to shreds was an understatement for the imposing look these two had.  And right now, they were looking at John.  They knew what they saw.  They’d been around this sort of thing for far too long not to see the signs.  They knew what it had to mean.  8 weeks in rehab? And learning to walk again? And do that? No way.  No way in hell.  Not without help.  The help they were all too familiar with.  They saw that proper introductions would need to be made on the way thing were run.  

 

They had nothing against Declann.  They were fine to see any officer recover from a big injury and get back to it.  They had nothing against his promotion.  It was deserved.  But, that promotion meant John would be working with them much more closely.  And with John Declann, that could mean trouble.  Not that they truly expected it, but it was best to just make sure that the newest guy understands from where the shit rolls and who would get crushed under it if he should he get in the way.

 

***

 

Ten minutes later,  John found himself in an empty room.  He looked up to see Gabriel standing just inside the door he had entered.  It had been Gabriel’s idea to change his look.  He had always liked facial hair and told John it would make a good impression.  John knew the real reason behind Gabriel’s suggestion as much as Gabriel did, but he liked it nonetheless.  Over the last month, the bond between them had only grown stronger.  They often talked far into the night at the facility, finding commonalities between them they loved and differences that intrigued them.  And as they had, John had fast become attached to the idea that his own happiness was bound to the happiness of Dr. Gabriel York.  

 

John walked over to Gabriel.  Gabriel looked into John’s brown eyes. He still thought it a bit odd to have to look up now, when 8 weeks ago John was an inch shorter than he.  But he chalked it up to the traction and other rehabilitation exercises that were shown to make men temporarily taller. 

 

John grabbed Gabriel and put him into a tight bearhug.  “Thanks for coming with me.  You don’t know what it means to me to have you here right now.”  John let go, and Gabriel grabbed a quick gasp of air.  “I’ll have to talk to Jack about how he trains anyone in the future.  I think the lessons took too well.”  Gabriel laughed as he reached out and gently, but slowly brushed a hand across John’s right pec - and John let it happen.  He let Gabriel explore just a bit before he reached up, took Gabriel’s hand, moved it over to the left muscle, over his heart. Gabriel felt the strong heartbeat, its pace slightly quicker than normal.  “Gabriel, I want to ask you something, and before I ask it, I want you to tell me the answer will be yes.”

 

Gabriel looked a little puzzled by John’s inquiry, but he trusted Declann completely. “Alright DETECTIVE Declann. As long as you don’t deport me, the answer is yes.”

 

“Good.  Gabriel - will you do me the honor of going out with me?  Friday?  The whole afternoon and evening, just you and me.”  Gabriel tried to hide his glee that John had finally asked what he had been waiting on for two months, a date. John pulled Gabriel a bit closer. “You are so dedicated to healing others, but I think sometimes you forget to heal yourself. So, what do you say?  Are you ready to come with me?”

 

Gabriel smiled, “Remember, I already said yes.”

 

John put a hand against the now smaller man’s chest and pushed him back just a few more steps.  Having worked in this place for so long, he knew just where the blind spots were in the camera network.  This tiny alcove was one of them.  John leaned over and kissed Gabriel on the cheek. “You mean the world to me.  I hope I can show you --”

 

“Shhhhhhh-”  Gabriel said as he put a finger on John’s lips.  The pair shared the briefest of eye locks, where souls exchanged wordlessly that which could not be spoken openly.  Then, like that, they released each other and started to walk out of the facility.  As they did, John paused again at the doors to the officer's gym, just as he had 8 weeks ago.

 

“What is it?”  Gabriel asked.

 

Something felt different inside now, as John looked at those doors.  For the very first time -- he was not afraid anymore.  He knew it was time to conquer this one last room in all the Sheriff’s Office complex.  “Just a thought.  I think I need to start lifting weights here now instead of at home. Put all of Jack’s teaching to use.  Maybe I should pop in tomorrow.”

 

***

 

John was happy that he found the gym empty when he came in. It wasn't that he felt out of place as he once did.  Jack’s pushing and instruction made sure he was much more comfortable among the dumbbells and plates and bars.  No, it was just …  easier for him to do his warm ups and calisthenics where he would not be seen.  While he loved being able to do it, and it amazed him every time, he was still a work in progress.  He did not like this being witnessed - not yet.

 

John started out on the treadmill walking, just to get the blood flowing.  Following that, he carefully and calmly went through the now almost ritual behavior of stretching.  Jack allowed him to do nothing before doing this; so much so that it was now rote.  Nothing fancy though.  John just fluidly moved between stretching his arms and pecs, his quads and hamstrings.   

 

Now for the part that made John secretive, the calisthenics warm up .  He started by falling to the floor in a pushup position.  He started to crank out reps - FAST.  Very fast. Almost too fast. So fast it was almost hard to count them. His bodyweight was just not much of challenge now, so he had stopped trying to count.  He was just going off feeling.  When he was ready, he spread his feet and  launched himself off the floor a bit, adding a clap to each rep.  The strange thing was that adding the launch and clap barely impacted his speed. He was cranking reps out almost as fast as before.  

 

When he felt blood flowing, John stood, without do much as a hint of change in his breathing.  It was as if he had done nothing but sit.  He grabbed onto the pull up bar, and began to do muscle ups.  He pulled himself up, then around, and popped up over top of the bar to full extension. He repeated the process over and over and over, barely becoming winded at all.  After a couple of sets, he changed grip to do his favorite - the slow hanging leg raise/Russian twist combination that started all of this off in the facility.  Now, John was up to sets of 25 on each of the super sets -- and again he found it easy.  It was just a way to connect with his body, feel his muscles move.  Enjoy the sensation of making himself slowly stronger.  Finally, John finished the body weight part of his workout with one arm chin ups, his newest addition.  He wasn’t quite as good at these yet.  His form wasn’t perfect, still had a bit of momentum swing.  But he was adding strength and stability almost by the day.  Not a lot of reps per arm but improving.  Always improving.

 

Just as he was finishing, but still hanging from one arm, John heard a low whistle come from the direction of the small attached locker room. “Damn John, you keep doing that shit, and you’ll make the guys at the Olympic training center sorry they never recruited you.  Plus fuck with the minds of half the staff here.”

 

John almost fell off the bar as he saw Captain Hernandez standing in the doorway in a towel.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.  I just like to take my runs this time of the morning, after my duties are pretty much over.  So, did all this happen to you just from body weight or have you actually added in ‘proper lifting’ to all that monkey business that I can’t do.”  The captain laughed in a way to let John know it was sincere admiration, rather than needling.  

 

John’s tension dropped by twenty notches.  “Well, I have started to do a few things.  The head therapist at my rehab knows everything there is to know and he taught me the basics.  Still learning though.”

 

“Well if you’ll give me a minute, I can get something on and I can spot you.”  Hernandez replied.

 

“Thanks Captain. I could use some good eyes to make sure I have this down.  Kind of gotten used to it.”  Hernandez popped into the locker room while John went over to the squat rack and popped a pair of 45’s onto the waiting bar.  Just as he was finished putting the lock collars on, Hernandez came back shirtless, only in a pair of BCSO running shorts and sneakers.  His physique was that of a well honed, seasoned lifter, but he had the first signs of age that inevitably come.  

 

Hernandez stopped for a moment when he saw the 45’s on the bar.  That was not exactly the weight he expected.  “You sure about that weight John.  I know your strong, but you are still way new to this as far as I know.  And just out of rehab.  My first coach wouldn’t let me put even a nickel plate on for my first 3 months.”

 

“Nah.  Not a problem,” John replied matter-of-factly.  “I’d go up another set of 25’s if I want to work.  Like I said, this is just learning.”

 

“OK, your call. But like I said, you’re new here.  House rules: When the ladies are not around, pull of the shirt.” Hernadez said.  John looked sheepish at first, but then the new part of him was like, what the fuck.  John reached down, grabbed the bottom of his t-shirt, and pulled it off. Hernandez was taken aback.  This was not the body of a 40 year old fit martial artist.  This -- this was the body of someone else entirely.  John was like perfect genetics on display. Ripped abs, well capped delts, solid, hard looking biceps and triceps.  Pecs that were quite wide for his height, and all with staggeringly perfectly proportions. On the bottom, diamond balls of calves that were just as perfect in proportion and the hint of a teardrop emerging from his shorts.  The insertions and and origins were textbook of a body born to be on stage, not in a cop gym.  Hernandez was taller, sure.  Had more mass, sure.  But beyond that - John had him totally outclassed.

 

“Whoa?  Why the FUCK have you not been in here before John?  You have damned potential. One thing is for certain.  I am sending you out for the State LEO pinup calendar.  Well make that two things…. that shirt is going back on YOU before anyone else when the ladies are here.  They might grope you to death. Especially Carla.”  Hernandez laughed and popped a quick bro tap John’s shoulder.  “OK, let’s see what you’ve got.”

 

John took a quick couple of breaths as he grasped the bar at a relatively close position, his elbows ready to flare up.  With one last breath, he popped under the bar and pulled his traps back as they, his elbow position, and his hand position came together to create a shelf of muscle on his upper back.  He rested the bar on the shelf and centered under it. John stood up, took 2 steps back, and set his feet just past shoulder width apart.  Hernandez just stared as John went down perfectly.  Slow negative, controlled, and then almost exploded his way up out of the hole. John was right, Hernandez thought.  This was light for him.  Hernandez walked around.  Not a sign of butt wink or being on the toes.  Chest out.  The chain was perfectly aligned. This was a damned thing of beauty, not a beginner learning the ropes.

 

John got out 10 reps and carefully re-racked.  Hernandez let out a whistle.  “Bro, you don’t need a coach if this is how you were taught.  That was a scene of perfection.  I should be getting you to help me with my form,” Hernandez said. “Hey would you mind indulging me.  Let’s see a few others.”

 

“Sure, Captain.”  John said, a bit pride starting to creep in.  This stuff - his ability with weights he liked to show off.

 

“Oh drop the Captain shit, huh?  In here, off duty, it’s Elliot.  Although I think you are going to pick up a nickname in here way fast.” John looked inquisitively at that.  “I know your new division. Just call it a hunch.”  

 

Over the next 30 minute, John and Elliott went through all the basic power compound movements - deadlift, overhead press, bench press.  Every single rep was virtually perfect.  Hernandez could see John was holding back though, that he had a lot more in him.  He just needed to unleash.  So, he decided to try something.  “John, you mind if you do one more thing for me.  I want to drop another couple of 45’s on the squat and see what happens.  Might be pushing you some, but I’ll be behind you and the safety bars are here if you need them.”

 

John was unsure about doing a weight so much heavier than what he had tried before. It sort of went against the very structured gain methods he was accustomed to.  But he decided to go along, now facing 225 on the bar.  No one with less than a month of experience under their belt would normally be doing this.  Especially at John’s body weight. It was damned near unheard of.  But Hernandez had a hunch.  John would not hold back.  

 

John set himself again, in what Hernandez had recognized as his pre-lift ritual, getting his mind in the right space.  He got under the bar and stood.  He was a bit wobbly at first, but he stepped back and planted himself.  John went down … and exploded up in that same perfect form.  A strong GRUNT escaped his lips as he forced through the sticking point.  A second rep, a third, and a fourth.  John re-racked at 5 reps - 5 flawless reps.  John looked up with a shit-eating grin on his face.  His legs were shaking and near-overflowing with blood from a massive pump, but he had done it.  

 

Hernandez was just as proud.  “Aw shit bro.  You were born to do this.  I’ve never seen that done by someone so perfect who is so new to this.  Never.”  

 

John was smiling at the complements yes, but also at something he felt.  The pump … but this was different.  He knew what a normal pump felt like.  This was more, like some wild endorphin running through his muscles that would let him do anything.  It was damned near intoxicating this feeling.  He knew he was never going to hold back again.  Do it safe, sure.  But push, and push his body hard.  He had gone through literal hell to get to be able to use these legs again.  He decided then and there, he was going to make himself - different.  

 

Hernandez asked as they took the plates off the bar, “You want to do anything else?”

 

“After that, my legs are pretty spent.  Think I am going to do some benching before I go.  That is what I was going to work today anyway.”  

 

“Well, you ever need a spot or a lifting partner, you’ve got one here.  Anytime, any place.” Hernandez and John clasped hands.  

 

“I may take you up on that.”  John smiled in reply. Hernandez took his leave and John moved back to the flat bench he had been using earlier.  He put 175 on the bar - his new bodyweight - and moved under it.  Just like he had been taught, he started from the bottom up, positioning his feet and legs, ass, back, arms all in the proper positions.  He took a couple of deep breaths and then lifted up.

 

“Damn, this feels way lighter for some reason,”  John thought as he began to push out reps.  

 

John’s thoughts became almost primal as the world seemed to fall away.  Slow.  Controlled.  Keep the bar over his nipple line.  Push my body through the floor. But soon, within a couple of reps, John wasn’t thinking about even that.  He was FEELING the muscles.  Feeling the pull and the push, squeezing at the top that felt second nature.  He closed his eyes just to revel in it, even though he knew he shouldn't.  This was fuckin glorious.  John had pushed out 6 reps and started to fatigued when --

 

He felt something.  Off balance.  A new weight.  He opened his eyes. 

 

Standing above him,  leaning down looking into his face with his hand on the center of the bar was Heath.  Heath was one of the SWAT team.  5’10”, 220 lbs. of solid as a rock muscle.  Heath began to smirk as between his leaning his body weight down onto the bar and a bit of his own power, John was quickly overcome.  The bar collapsed onto his chest. It was not hard enough to hurt him, but this amount of weight and leverage was just beyond his ability to fight.

 

Heath’s grin grew wider as he knew John could not fight back.  He was pinned under the bar.  There wasn’t much question in Heath’s mind about John being able to fight back when he came up to him in he first place.  The growing but older man wasn’t nearly up to his level.  “Hello Detective.” Heath began in a fake, almost sing-song voice, “Glad to see you up and around.  Really I am.  That was a hell of an injury.  And look at you now.  Fully recovered and ripped to boot.  Almost a little celebrity in our office. That must have been some rehab facility you were at.  Might have to ah … look into it myself sometime.  With your new job, we will have plenty of time to talk about it I’m sure.

 

“I am glad to see you here,” Heath said smiling that superior smile that had never broken. John tried to struggle, but Heath just dumped more power into the bar keeping it in place.  “You should have come in a long time ago.  Way past time you were putting some meat onto those bones.  Our division believes in keeping your body at its prime.  

 

“I kind of always have this chat with the newcomers, though.  Sort of explain things.  See, I am all for you lifting here.  And it looks like you are getting all the tools you will need - supplements and whatnot - to get you into good shape.  But, our division has a rule. Things that you might see that do not concern you, well they do not concern you.  It looks like you have your own hook up and do not need my services.  That’s cool.  Competition keeps things healthy.  You just stay in your lane and keep your focus where it belongs and we are all good.  You have my back and I have yours.  Got me?”

 

John could do nothing but nod. “Good man.  Now, it looks like you went to failure.  Good set, but it was a good thing I came by when I did.  Never know what kind of accident can happen when you go heavy without a spotter at your back.”  Heath’s hand and wrist swung around from on top of the bar to a position cupping under it, and with an EASY lift, pulled the 175 pounds off of Declann and racked it.  “See you soon John and welcome.”  Heath said as he turned his ripped bulk around and walked out the door.

 

John lay on the bench and breathed.  The old John - he would have been scared, run away, and never come back to this room.  The new John - that was different.  This John Declann was PISSED.  Something was happening here, in this room, under the very nose of the sheriff.  His fear of coming in here had made him blind to it. As John got up and went to collect his shirt, thoughts blazed in his mind, ripping apart what Heath said.  Dissecting it, analyzing it, and forming a stratagem.

 

***

When John got home, thoughts of the day were still whirling.  And after what Hernandez had said, how much he had gone on and on.  And then Heath … John went to his bedroom and removed a small quad ruled notebook from his bed stand.  The notebook was filled with a series of charts, all neatly written in John’s meticulous small script. Most of the rear pages were tables of weights and reps, his workout logs which he did from memory every day.  But in the front, across the top of the page was a series of dates, each column having the one day.  Falling under each date a series of numbers.  

 

John took the book to the bathroom, pulled out his scales, and a myotape tape measure.  John carefully took the measurements and recorded them. 


 

Height 5’9” (1.75.m)

Weight 175.3 lbs (79.7 kg)

Neck: 16.5 inches (41.9 cm)

Chest: 44 inches (111.8 cm)

Waist: 28 inches (71.1 cm)

Forearms: 13.5 inches (34.3 cm)

Upper Arms - 16.75 inches (42.6 cm)

Thighs - 24 inches (61 cm)

Calves - 16.5 inches (41.9 cm)

 

John looked down and smiled.  He was growing.  Growing like a weed.  He did not know why, but he was. And he LOVED IT.  God, what it made him feel like he could do.  Maybe it was all the food he had been eating.  Maybe it was what Jack said - that his martial arts had primed his body to grow once he began lifting weights.  But -- he had never shown Gabriel what he could do.  In fact, he had never shown anyone until today when Hernandez saw him warming up the extent of his new found strength. His capability seemed to be growing as fast or faster than his body was changing.  He would have to tell Gabriel eventually.  But how.  How to make sure Gabriel did not think he was taking …

 

That was when it it him.  How to approach this Heath business.  It was perfect.  The perfect cover.  He would need to talk to the sheriff once he had a bearing where to look, but he was sure Cook would approve.  He let the problem of telling Gabriel what was happening go for the moment.  He had better things to think about as far as Gabriel was concerned.  Tomorrow… 

 

John felt energized -- and hungry.  John replaced the book and the measuring tape and went to the kitchen for some food.  Some chicken, steamed veggies,  and a salad would hit the spot ….  

 


 

“John, where are we going in the middle of the afternoon?” Gabriel asked, truly puzzled.

 

Declann just smiled and responded with “Shhhhhhh.” He wanted to laugh so hard, finally doing that to Gabriel just once.  Gabriel watched as John deftly moved down Broadway and made a left turn.  What at first was just a random run of Victorian era homes mixed with light industrial buildings gave way to something on the right that took Gabriel’s breath away.

 

“Welcome to Washington Park, or as the kids call it, Washpark.”  John said.  What unfolded before Gabriel was an oasis in the urban desert.  Two large lakes surrounded by green hills and trees. Scattered over the hills, young adults were laying around catching the sun or playing Frisbee.  Several volleyball games were going on in sand pits.  People walking their dogs.  Parents sailing boats with their children and feeding the ducks. 

 

John found a parking spot, got out of his vehicle, and filled the parking meter for several hours worth of stay.  Gabriel followed him, and, together, they walked into the fields of grass.  John reached out and took Gabriel’s hand.  “This is what I wanted you to see and feel.  This is what all these kids do when they are not in classes.  And not just the kids.  Working people, parents, the retired.  They all come here. You worked so hard to get where you are that I think you've forgotten what it is you’re fighting for.  What I fight for.  This is it.  People just living life.  Seeing life not in criminals like me or inside of hospitals and labs like you. … Ah, there she is.”

 

John veered Gabriel to the left toward the shore of one of the lakes.  He had no idea how John spotted her among the huge wash of people.  He didn’t catch sight of who John was even talking about until they were almost standing on top of her - an old, small Hispanic woman surrounded by Coleman coolers; the coolers stuffed full of foil wrapped small bundles.  “This woman is a Denver institution.  All the kids just call her ‘The Burrito Lady.’  And I promise you that you haven't had food this good since you came to the US.”

 

“Señora,”  John said, and the old woman's face lit up.  “Officer John.  Nice to see a grown up again,” she laughed.  “The usual?”

 

John smiled in return, “Make it 4 with some guac.  I'm kind of hungry.”  

 

The woman’s eyes widened a bit. “You certainly are,” she said as she reached into a cooler. She placed 4 bundles and a small plastic container of guacamole into a bag and handed them to John.  “And for your friend?”

 

“Do you have any fish tacos?”  Gabriel asked sheepishly.

 

The Burrito Lady laughed heartily, “Even if you were not English, I would know you are not from Colorado asking for that.  If this were tonight at the clubs, you would be out of luck.  But as it is.” The woman went into a very small cooler and withdrew 3 bundles and placed them in another bag with some salsa verde and guacamole.  “Homemade Chips?” she asked.

 

John looked surprised, “Señora.  When did you start that?  Of course. Anything you make is welcome.”

 

The woman grabbed a small paper bag and handed it to Gabriel along with his tacos.  “Ordinarily these would be just for my family and me but ...” She leaned over and gave one of those smiles that only mischievous grandma’s can make and get away with. “He is a keeper that one.  Really cute.”  At that, both John and even Gabriel flushed bright red, and the Burrito Lady laughed so hard it almost burst a seam in her clothing.  “I'm sorry, Officer John.  I saw you holding hands and just had to say it.  Besides, it's the truth.”

 

“Thank you ma'am.  How much?”  John said as he stumbled over the compliment. 

 

“I've never charged you before, and I won't start now.”

 

“But …” Before John could say a word, she cut him off.  “I still owe you after you took care of those hooligans that night.  I'm an old woman.  Being here you see a lot of things.  A lot of people. Call it … an old woman’s intuition. And my contribution to the cause.  Now shoo.” She started waving her hands at the pair like they were suddenly a couple of pests.

 

“Thank you ma'am.  But you don't owe me anything…” John trailed off as the woman had already gone onto the next two customers as if John and Gabriel were not even there.  

 

Gabriel was about to say something when John said, “It's no use.  Once she has made up her mind, that's it.  Trust me I know.” Gabriel now reached out for John’s hand, and John took it.  The pair turned around and started to walk around the lake.

 

“What did you do for her?  Something about hooligans?”  Gabriel asked.

 

“Oh, that.”  John demurred a bit when he talked about the things he had done for others during his time as a LEO.  It was a trait that Gabriel found endearing.  “The señora doesn’t just do this here.  She and her family also sell outside many of the larger dance clubs in the city, including the gay ones.  She has never been one to discriminate, and the gay community has sort of embraced her, as much as she is embraced in this park.  

 

“One night a few years ago, several homophobes started to bother her in front of a club she was selling at.  I happened to be there, and I put a stop to it. It really is amazing what just a simple flash of a badge and standing up to bully shit can do.  Anyway, I made sure that they were dealt with by DPD, and she has never forgotten it to this day.”

 

The two men turned toward a small rise that had benches and sat down next to each other.  Gabriel pulled out a fish taco, loaded it with guac, and took a bite.  His face lit up with glee.  

 

John laughed, “I told you they were good.” He took out one of his own barbacoa burritos and wolfed it down, almost without chewing he was so hungry.  John’s foray into carnivore-land was so fast that he left a rather large smear of guacamole in the corner of his mouth.  Gabriel saw it and tried his best not to laugh.  “What is it?”  John asked. 

 

Gabriel reached a finger to John’s mouth and removed the green smear, wiping it on the wrapper his taco was in as he took another bite. “Nothing except something the ah… Burrito Lady? … said.  Just something cute.”  Gabriel smiled a smile that could have melted a glacier. 

 

John took a deep breath, and after seeing that smile, he decided to go for it.  He didn’t think he could keep it in anymore anyway.  He slid closer and looked into his companion’s hazel eyes.  “Gabriel, since that first day I saw you running down that alley, there has been something about you.  I...I can look into your eyes and see it. I can see it now.  An inner light that is so genuine. You gave me something back that I can never truly repay.  And you have given me so much more in the weeks since.”

 

John reached down and grasped Gabriel’s hand.  “Yes, you gave me my legs back, but that isn’t it.  I was ready to give up.  To quit.  Just lie down.  I was ready to leave everything behind that I ever loved.  You gave that back to me.  Your mind, your skills, in so many ways, we are different.  But...you make me feel something that no one else has.  You make me want to LIVE.  LIVE like these kids here.  You make me want to become more than I am.  And, if you’ll let me, I want to see how much more I can be ... with you.”

 

Gabriel looked on the verge of tears as he slid closer to John, almost touching John’s pecs with is own chest.  John was about to say something, when Gabriel put his finger on John’s lips, “Shhhhhhhh.”  Gabriel and John’s lips moved together until they met halfway.  The first moment of the kiss was tentative, as if they were both making sure this was real.  But, as the chemistry they felt for so long finally overtook them, the kiss became more passionate and deep.  It was not fernetic or frantic.  This was a kiss that could teach passion to even the most barren soul.  They held it for a few precious seconds and then their lips parted.  The tear that Gabriel tried to hold back finally fell, and John reached up to wipe it from his cheek.  “No more tears for you Gabriel.  Not anymore.”  John cupped Gabriel’s head with his hand and more powerfully their lips locked together.  In that kiss, John and Gabriel completely crossed from being friends to lovers.  They would never depart from that path again.

 


One Month Later-- Three Months After the Accident


 

“Hi Justine.  I believe that I have an appointment with the Sheriff.” The young secretary looked up from her terminal to see Declann standing in his newly purchased civil uniform.  It was the same style BCSO polo shirt, pants, and shoes he wore the morning of the crash.  He wore his badge and sidearm on his belt.  Nothing much had changed EXCEPT John had outgrown his previous set - by a lot. What he had on now was designed for his new size.  His muscles now clung to the polo with his unflexed biceps slightly stretching the short sleeve gathers. Two thick veins moved down his arms, with several smaller one spreading out across his exposed forearms.  Wide shoulders swept to well-proportioned pecs and a V-taper to that same small waist he has always had.  John now cut a path through the Justice Center, all parts of it - even the gym, where he was now an accepted and respected lifter.

 

The secretary’s pupils dilated just a touch showing her attraction to the man who had taken on the look of a cut physique competitor rather than a thin martial artist.  

 

“Of course, Detective Declann,”  Justine said, trying to hide her thoughts and not doing well at it.  John inwardly smiled.  He had been getting more and more reactions like that.  And the attention was starting to grow on him.  Gabriel had been away most of the month, visiting his family in England.  But when they had been together just after their first date, Gabe had been having a bit of fun with the reactions too.  But Gabriel had not seen John like this.  Not yet anyway.  It would happen so fast it was like he was a teenager again…

 

Justine lifted her phone and pressed a button.  “Detective Declann is here to see you, Sir.”  She smiled as she hung up the phone.  “Go on in, John.”

 

Declann thanked the woman and unconsciously bounced a pec, almost making her squeal.  But she was able to stifle it, even as she tried to get a look at the tight, round squatter's ass that filled out those trousers so well.  John knocked at the door of the Sheriff’s private office.  “Come in.”

 

John opened the door, “Thank you for seeing me, Sir.”

 

“Of course John.  Anytime.  And what is it that the SWAT team and taskforce are calling you now -  “Dec” I think.  Sort of fits this new you.”  The sheriff stood, walked around his desk, and took John’s weightlifter calloused hand, shaking it.  John closed the door and sat down in the chair in front of the sheriff’s desk as Cook retook his seat.  “Now, what can I do for you?”

 

John cleared his throat.  He had been mulling this over for days, but it had to be done and done now.  “Sir.  This may be indelicate at best.  And if there is an internal investigation going on that I do not know about just tell me it’s being handled and I will go on.  But --- do you know what is happening inside the Officer’s Gym.  With the SWAT team?”

 

Cook shifted in his seat, took a deep breath, and blew it out through pursed lips.  He steepled his index fingers but never looked up at the detective, choosing to listen instead.   “What have you seen John?”

 

“Nothing super overt.  A few weeks ago, I got a...let’s just say a not so subtle hint from Heath to mind my own business with what he called “the way things are.”  They haven’t actually made a transaction right in front of me or anything, but the talk, the actions that are not quite right.  I know what is happening.  What they are doing.  And they are doing a hell of a lot if I am any judge.”  John confided.

 

“Damn,” Cook replied. “I had half-hoped with new eyes down there that you had seen something I could use.”

 

“Then you know?”

 

“Yes, I know.  I have for a while now.”  The sheriff cleared his own throat.  “In fact, John, this was part of the reason for your promotion.  You deserved it on your own merits.  Don’t get me wrong.  This just solidifies to me that the decision was the right one.  You were just in the perfect spot for me to get someone I can trust near them.  

 

“John, you know as well as I do how prevalent use is among LEOs and in the military.  It kind of goes as accepted if they keep it to themselves and out of the workplace.  I do not like it, but that is the way it has been since I came here as a trainee.  But this - this is something totally new.  They are not just using -- they are moving product.  And you’re right, from what small bits I can gather, they are moving a lot of it.  Enough for the Feds to make a case for trafficking, not just distribution. But, they are good, you know that.  They know the methods.  They are hiding it well.  I cannot get any evidence that will stick.  I want it gone John.  I want them where they belong and out of my Office.  But I just have nothing to hang on them.  Nothing I can bring to the US attorney and DIA to charge them with anyway.”

 

Declann nodded.  He knew John Cook was a proper lawman.  He would have done something if he could have.  “That is partly why I am here Sir.  I have a proposal to make to you.  Something of an undercover assignment.  You need someone who can track the route, follow the sources.  I think I have seen enough of them and followed the scuttlebutt that I can do that now.  It is almost the perfect cover.  New to the gym, making gains that --”

 

“Look suspiciously like,” Cook interrupted. “I know.  John, before you go any further I have to ask, are you using?”

 

“No Sir.  And I am happy to test for you to prove it.  Even mass spec testing if you want.  But they believe I am. Just from another source. Which plays into this even more.”

 

Cook made a hand gesture as if to take in John’s body  “Then this is part of --?”

 

“I really do not know SIR.  It has nothing to do with drugs or the accident or my rehab so far as I am aware other than the fact that they taught me whole new ways of working out there.  Dr. York said as much before he left for England.  But, he said he is going to look into what is going on more thoroughly when he returns. He is a brilliant man, and I’m sure he will find an answer.”

 

Cook half-smiled as he heard Declann refer to his boyfriend like that.  Cook didn't care about the sexuality of his people, so long as they did not violate the law.  Besides he'd seen them together.  They looked like they could make it, and Cook was glad for it.  

 

“OK, then.  We do not have to go as far as testing yet.  Or investigating you.  Besides, if you were in with them, I doubt you would be sitting here right now.  So, you are proposing?”  Declann and Cook spent the next hour going over what John wanted to do.  It was potentially dangerous.  Very dangerous.  This was not small man corner dealing they were talking about.  And if word ever got out … But, John definitely had the know how, the experience, and he looked and acted the part.  Declann may be the break the BCSO needed.

 

John reached Gabriel on the phone later that day and explained that he had been given an undercover assignment.  He would not be back in Denver for two months, but John promised he would contact Gabriel how and where he could.  Gabriel sounded very upset, but he also knew that this was part of John’s work.  

 

Gabriel did have something to ask John of his own.  His reports had piqued some interest, and the general in charge was considering allowing Gabriel additional personnel to try the technique with when spinal injuries arose that fit the profile.  Gabriel asked if when he got back, would John be willing to sit down with his superiors and talk about his experiences?  It may move the project along greatly.  Right now, it was in a total backwater with a very limited budget, despite what it may have looked like to John.  But that may change if John could show the results of the therapy in person.  John agreed instantly.  When he got back, they would sit down and work it all out.  The two expressed their love to each other and again promised to talk as often as they could.  John had arrived home by the time he had hung up.  

 

He went inside his condo, pulled out a couple of duffle bags, began to pack.  He had an idea of where to begin his search for the network.  A gym in Colorado Springs.  All Cook wanted John to do was map out the network from the source labs to Boulder.  He was to do nothing to try and stop the flow - not yet.  This was just evidence gathering, nothing more.  

 

First thing John grabbed to pack was his measurement book. He looked the day’s data he had recorded before work.  He cocked a smile, wondering what this would be when he got home.

 

Height:  5’11.5”  (1.82 m)

Weight: 187 lbs (85 kg)

Neck: 17 inches (43.2 cm)

Chest: 46 inches (116.9 cm)

Waist: 28.25 inches (71.8 cm)

Forearms: 14 inches (35.6 cm)

Biceps: 17.5 inches (44.5 cm)

Quads:  25.5 inches (64.8 cm)

Calves 17 inches (43.2 cm)

John and Gabriel - Chapter 3 (Begin).jpg

John and Gabriel - 3 (End).jpg

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Chapter 4 -  Investigations


“When I’m weak I draw strength from you / And when you’re lost I know how to change your mood / And when I’m down you breathe life over me / Even though we’re miles apart, we are each other’s destiny/  ....”  ~ Zero 7, Destiny


9 weeks After Declann Left Denver - 5 Months After The Accident


 

Spring was having one last gasp before the early June heat came to the Southwestern United States.  Along with such amazing weather came an army of thousands of people on the move.  Motorcycles were out barreling down the highways.  RV’s and vacationers were making their way west to the Grand Canyon and to the California beaches.   But, one man was bucking the westward trend.  He was driving east, driving toward the place he called home and the arms of the man he loved.  

 

Detective Sergeant John Declann was cruising down the I-40 toward Albuquerque, New Mexico and his turn north on the I-25 to Colorado.  Driving down the road, with his newly evolving taste for hard rock blaring through custom audio, John’s mind began to wander toward the near future.  This John Declann was so different from the man who had left Denver two months ago.  There were physical changes sure.  He was not minimizing that as he thought about how things were about to change.  Minimizing him was VERY hard to do anymore, he thought.  He would have to talk to Gabriel about the physical changes first before anyone else, even before he went to his own home to drop off his bags.  But, he couldn’t think about Gabriel yet because what if his Angel did not like-- Gabriel had not seen him since he was 5’9”.  What if -- No, not yet….

 

John forced himself to move from thinking about his angel and how his body had changed, to the other things that came with this “incognito kit” he was wearing.  This muscle jock bodybuilder persona had started out as a cover.  But now - now he had become that man more than he ever thought possible.  Here he was, John Declann - a man who 5 months ago would not have been seen anywhere in public without a short sleeve shirt and slacks - running down the highway in a Jeep Wrangler with the top down, dressed in a stringer tank from Gold’s Gym Venice, short workout shorts that left most of his legs easily visible, and no bull sneakers.  And what is more, he was not embarrassed or self conscious - HE LOVED this.

 

Through the months, he had become addicted to this, looking like this, feeling like this.  In many ways, John - the real John - had been freed.  He felt such freedom.  He was still the old John at his core - still a dedicated law man.  Still a sense of justice and right and wrong and protecting the innocent.  But, it was as if the changes in his body had also changed his confidence.  The “good natured” cocky jock which had started out as a role play in Colorado Springs had integrated into his life.  It was not a role he was playing anymore.  It was HIM now.

 

And what is more, people treated John so differently now.  It never ceased to amaze him just how much.  Some of it was innocent enough.  Like the time he stopped into Best Buy for a new sd card for his phone and a salesperson tried to sell him a 10,000 dollar home theater setup.  He was sweaty and smelly and dressed in rather filthy gym clothes after a workout and shirtless outdoor run in Phoenix.  There was no way he looked like he could afford something that extravagant. Yet, the staff seemed to want to be near him and please him.  

 

Like the time he pulled into Ruby Tuesday in Las Vegas for a steak, sweet potato, and broccoli.  Nice, quick, on-the-go muscle building meal, and good staff that took care of him.  But as he left the restaurant and made his way to his vehicle, there was a loud wolf-whistle behind him.  John turned around to see that several male and female staff had come out, and his own waitress held up her arm and flexed.  John could not resist and flashed a cocky smile and popped his arm up and flexed.  All of the staff smiled and clapped and genuinely looked a bit turned on to see it.  John smiled again and dropped his arm and drove away.

 

Then there was his Jeep.  This beauty really made John chuckle at the thought of how he got it.  His old “sensible” car had become rather -- claustrophobic -- as the weeks of his assignment went by.  Besides, putting aside the fit and comfort issue, he had always had an idle daydream of having a Jeep.  It was not that he could not afford one.  He could.  John was always careful with money.  It was just that he never felt like he belonged in one.  Jeeps were for other men, not him, he had once thought.  But now - now he was different than before.  So different that it seemed perfectly natural when he pulled into the Jeep dealership in Los Angeles. John remembered the salesman gawking a bit as he came into the showroom though he was in a t-shirt and well fitting jeans.  

 

John had power over others for years through his badge.  That was power through fear.  John understood that and was careful of its use and who he used that on.  This power though. This was almost a positive power rather than the power his badge gave him.  The power of attraction, he wondered?  The power a natural leader has over people who want to follow.  Was this what some of the bodybuilders and models he had talked with and gotten to know over his investigation meant about how some people seemed to naturally follow them in what they wanted, even though they were not trying to take advantage of anyone.  John decided on a whim to push on this feeling he inspired in others and see where it led.  Just to see what would happen.

 

The results were magical.  John wound up in a Jeep that matched him so perfectly, he thought most of the sales staff at the Jeep dealer were going to cream in their pants when they saw him sitting in it. Moreover they gave him an incredible deal.  Gave him more for his trade than his car was worth.  An extremely low interest rate, far too low in fact.  They gave him rebates and even the REAL employee discount.  John never asked for any of that - he was just being friendly, but they wanted to give it to him.  He even protested at some of what they gave him, but the staff would not hear of being told no.  So, he drove off the lot in a brand new, fully loaded, gunmetal grey Jeep Wrangler for less in monthly payment than he had on his old car.

 

Now, this beauty he was in was a God send.  He knew that the way he was now, he would not have been able to drive his old car without great difficulty.  He would have looked like a clown in one of those circus car gags.  Even though he still had to take the seat all the way back in the Jeep to drive comfortably, at least he didn’t feel balled up anymore. 

 

John had also learned one thing about all of this “influence” he seemed to be developing very quickly.  How those people responded to him now could be very intoxicating.  The attention, the ego boost.  He was certain even the people back at the Sheriff’s office would treat him differently.  Hell, a fair few might not even recognize him.  It could make anyone not only cocky, but things far more negative and cruel.  To think he was somehow better than others.  But he also resolved never to forget who he was just a few months ago, and to never let the attention get to his head like some he had met. 

 

Now John could have some fun, could enjoy what he was building, could even have some fun being cocky and humble a few people, but he would never let it consume him.  He would never leave behind the people who got him here - and most of all, he would never leave the best parts of the John Declann who existed long before the accident and before Dec came along.

 

John glanced back in the rear view mirror to check out cars behind him, since traffic was mounting as he came into the outskirts of the city.  As he did so, his eyes fell to the items on the back seat.  Behind his duffle of travel clothes (almost all of which were replacements as his clothes from home had not fit in a while) and his gym bag, there were two computers locked in cases.

 

In one was his secure laptop that allowed him to connect to law enforcement agency websites he needed to use through this case.  But, what was more important was in the other one.  This one had been specially built for him before he left Denver. Even greater security.  Evidence collection and tracking software installed.  In it, John had all of the items of evidence he had set out to find, all of it and more.  It had taken time, patience and ... whatever it was that was happening to him that made doors open to make the pieces fit together.

 

Along with his growing charisma, the growing HIM had seemed to grease the wheels more and more as he had driven west, following the trail of leads and the flow of steroids that he had come to recognize in Boulder to their source.  That was not to say he had it easy.  He had run into more than a few dead ends and false leads, until three informants along the way helped him connect all the dots.  In fact, his stop off in Albuquerque was to check on one of those informants, to make sure he had all the resources he needed when the shit hit the fan with what was to come.

 

But the most important thing was --- HE HAD THEM NOW.  The chain of distribution of illegal anabolics that followed military bases and nearby civilian gyms from the introduction point at the US border outside of San Diego and the Naval bases there, all the way to Boulder and Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and beyond.  He even had “samples” of products that he had been able to purchase along the way documenting the flow from the labs.  The small time underground labs he had encountered, he took note of, but they were nothing really worth prosecuting.  They were not even connected, and all that would ever come of taking those down was “slap on the wrist” time and a lot of people in the sport who would be driven toward the more nasty, violent suppliers.  

 

What was amazing was the sheer size of this ring he had cracked.  This was even larger than he had suspected in Boulder.  With what was collected in that case - in investigation notes and photos and observations and recorded conversations - he had dozens of men, maybe hundreds, by the fucking balls, and all he had to do was close his fist and listen to the howl.  John smiled almost fiendishly as he thought about it.  Grown men and women taking the risk was one thing.  If they understood and wanted to roll the dice, OK.  John did not approve of the crimes that were happening in the distribution, but they were adults.  What made John’s blood boil were the kids.  He had seen the leftovers of kids, fucking children, who these fuckwads had sold to just to make a buck, and it had devastated them.  So many gay and bi kids, wanting a “perfect body” when they were still growing pups.  But no more. 

 

Those kids would be avenged legally and properly.  And even more personally, he knew he had Heath, Palmer, and Strickland, by the throat and they did not have the foggiest idea of what was coming. From Heath's old army buddy in Salt Lake, right down to Strickland's nephew distributing in Omaha, he had it all.  He was going to enjoy tossing their asses inside the pods as prisoners.  John’s veiny hand thrummed mindlessly as he thought about what would happen to them when they had to live with people they had thrown into jail in the first place.  He had everything to shut down the entire operation.  But, then his mind switched gears.  The one thing he was truly afraid of in all of this wormed its way into his thoughts.  Gabriel.

 

God, how would Gabriel react to him?  Would Gabriel accept him as he was now?  Would he be comfortable?  What if his angel left him?  His eyes began to mist even at the thought, causing him to blink hard to keep his vision clear.  He had called Gabriel just 24 hours prior, on his personal phone and not one of the burners that they had become accustomed to.  John heard his angel’s voice, and Gabriel guessed immediately from the tone of his words what had happened.  John was done, and he was ready to come home.  

 

For weeks, Declann had dreamed of what this moment would be like, when he held Gabriel in his arms again.  What it would feel like now that he was so much … more.  He had been pawning off his deepening voice as a cold for weeks now.  Gabriel said it was sexy.  At least that lie, the only one he had ever told Gabriel, would be over soon. He would have his Gabriel back. At least he hoped so.   And he would never leave him, not again.  Not for this long. 

 

But, John was nervous about how to even start.  To just blurt it out on a phone would sound like a joke.  To just showing up on the door and … could be even worse, but what choice was there?  John wished and prayed and cajoled anything that had more power than he that Gabriel would like this.  All he wanted to do was make Gabriel happy.  God, he wanted his angel as happy as he was now.  He knew Gabriel would figure out what was going on.  He would have to do this test or that and wade through some wild medical waters, but Gabriel would know.  That was the nature of his lover.  And they did need to know. He just wanted so much for Gabriel to be able to adjust to the new him and accept him for who he is becoming.

 

John whipped off the freeway into the Albuquerque suburbs.  All over the road, people were looking at the Jeep and its occupant.  John was still getting used to that.  It seemed so foreign, yet, so much damned fun.  He pulled into the gym parking lot that was his destination.  The informant he wanted to check on was a trainer here, and he needed to do some legs, and … John paused and laughed at himself.  Look at how much of him had become so invested in lifting.  Sure, it was part of the investigation, and he needed to look the part.  But, it wasn’t acting now.  Now, he could not imagine life without this.  He loved the power he felt as he got a pump,  as the weights kept going up,  the attention he kept getting everywhere he stopped as he … Fuck he loved it.  He had been at this gym last one month before, and he wondered what the reaction would be as he secured the jeep and walked through the door.

 

***

 

Gabriel sat on his couch in his apartment watching BBC Online.  He could never quite divorce himself from TV from home when he got the rare opportunity to watch.  Besides, John would be home soon and he just wanted to sink into his arms and share a kiss, a kiss he knew would be so much better than the last one they had those months ago.  Absence had definitely made his heart grow fonder.

 

As an old episode of Blue Planet began to play on the set, Gabriel’s door buzzed.  Someone had put his personal code into the security gate keypad.  He almost lept to his feet and skipped to the door like an excited school girl, since there were VERY few who knew that code. But as he came close to the door, he stopped and gave a cursory glance at the hidden door monitor. His heart stopped cold.  Some behemoth, easily dwarfing almost everyone on his special forces protection detail, stood at the door.  Fear swept over him, and he was about to hit his panic/response button to alert the military that he was in danger when he heard a voice.  

 

“Hello Gabriel.  It’s John. It’s OK, Angel.  You can let me in.”

 

Gabriel seemed to have a mental disconnect in that moment.  Here coming from the speaker was the voice he had come to know over the phone in the last few weeks as his lover who had been suffering with a spring cold.  But the body the voice was coming from....  This person was nothing like the slightly taller, solid build man, he had last seen those months ago. Gabriel responded like a zombie, reflexively, as he slowly took the handle and opened the door.  His eyes went WIDE as he looked up and UP at a man who might have a hard time fitting through the opening without bending and turning sideways.  His jaw literally fell open a bit as he could not believe it.  

 

Gabriel began to back away from the door in fear, but then, it was the face of the giant man that made him stop.  That face.  His face.  It was John in every way that mattered, but more refined than he remembered.  Square chin, angle jaw, a face more like Henry Cavil than John Declann if you were not SURE who you were looking at.  And then - shit -  that body.  Huge slabs of muscle seemed to pour out of everywhere.  The tank top and shorts John had on seemed to barely be able to contain him, although they had to be BIG just to fit him.  Gabriel’s hindbrain responded instinctively at the sight of the man, but his higher brain struggled to stay in control.

 

“John?” Gabriel said, barely above a shocked whisper. 

 

John could not stop himself.  He took a step in, grabbed Gabriel around the back and waist and lifted him up into a hug.  John inhaled Gabriel’s scent.  “Fuck, I missed you SO MUCH.”  John’s deep rich bass voice said, a voice that was beginning to crack with emotion.  Gabriel was tense in the hug until that moment, when he felt HIS MAN under all this muscle.  John was so much bigger, but it was still him.  The same feeling, the same eyes, the same scent, only more powerful.  Gabriel relaxed and sank into those arms and pecs, feeling tears begin to well.  He  put his trembling hands around the now chiseled jawline of John and leaned in.  Their lips locked and mouths opened into a devastating kiss.  Their souls mixed once again as they slowly explored each other.

 

They seemed frozen in time, locked in that kiss.  The only give away that any time was passing at all was the rapid heart beats of both men.  Finally, John broke the kiss and buried his head on Gabriel’s neck, just nuzzling and taking in the smell that calmed him so.  Gabriel returned the hug as best as he could around Declann’s much wider shoulders while he still hung motionless in the air suspended by John’s arms.  They held that hug for what seemed like forever.  John held Gabriel off the ground, as close as he could, Gabriel hugging him back, his head resting on the mammoth shoulder before him, just inhaling each other.

 

John walked them both into the home before releasing Gabriel from the hug and putting him down close to the couch.  Gabriel almost fell over from the sheer release of emotion.  John steadied him, guiding him to be seated along with him - the sofa creaking softly as John’s weight hit it.

 

Gabriel was still speechless, and all he could manage was another soft whisper, “John …” Gabriel sounded almost pained.

 

Hearing that tone, John’s emotions overtook him and tears began to well up in the great man’s eyes.  “Gabriel, I'm so, so sorry.  I tried to tell you over and over.  But I couldn’t.  It never felt right.  You would have never believed me.  I barely believe it myself.  Just, please, please say you are OK with this.”  John trailed off.

 

Gabriel took the man’s huge mitt of a hand and rested it into his rock hard crotch. Gabriel smiled and the cloud over John seemed to instantly lift.  He let out a sigh, “You are still my John.  I will never stop loving you.  It is just …  a shock is all. How, how big are ...?”

 

John smiled.  “6’5” as of yesterday.  The rest of me, well I tried my best to keep a log for you.  I knew you would want that.  But it started to be hard for me to measure myself.”  John turned red at the admission.  “I was able to get a few coaches at other gyms to take measurements of me when they were trying to get me to sign up with them and…”

 

“Sign up with them?”

 

John’s smile widened and just the hint of a cocky smirk crossed his face.  “Well, wouldn’t you want to try to get me as a client with this?”  John lifted his arms up and pulled them down into a huge double biceps.  Gargantuan balls of muscle sprang into existence, looking more like mountains rising up, covered with rivers of veins, big and small.  Gabriel could not help himself but reach up to feel, and he pulled back almost instantly.  The flesh was warm, but so hard.  He thought a sledge hammer would shatter like broken glass if it was to hit them, they were that hard.  Gabriel’s crotch developed a tiny spot as a spasm shook his cock as he again experimentally touched the monstrous muscle.  

 

John dropped the pose.  “I was undercover as a bodybuilder after all.   I kind of had to learn this stuff.  But strangely,” John’s mouth again turned into a sexy half smile as he made the admission, “I think I like it.”  

 

John then sat back and related the whole story.  Heath.  Discovering the steroid distribution ring.  Tracing it.  How he had all that he needed to take back to the Office.  How he just seemed to grow and grow.  The more he lifted the bigger and stronger and taller and better he became.  But also how he was even more flexible, better at his martial arts despite the size.  

 

Gabriel sat back, now much more composed as he had somewhat adjusted to the sex god boyfriend cop he had sitting before him.  “John, before any of that, we have to know what is happening.  If it is a threat to you --”

 

John put his hand out and placed the massive paw over Gabriel’s now dainty, by comparison, hand.  “I know babe.  I know.  No one knows I am back yet.  Not even the sheriff.  I wanted us to have the time we needed.  Besides we need to tell Cook something, and I figured I would need your help with that as soon as we know what to tell him.  All the steroid abuse in the world can’t make you get taller.”

 

Gabriel put up a finger to John’s lips, and John went quiet.  He reached over to the small couch table behind where he was sitting and grabbed that same government issued cell phone he had used months before in the hospital parking lot.  “Yes, Doctor?”  came the reply.

 

“Jack, is anyone else there?”

 

“No Dr. York, not at this time of night.  Just myself and the guard details.  Do you need-”

 

“No, just you is fine.  In fact, I prefer that it be just you and me.  John and I will be there shortly.  Something … well it is just easier to see to believe.  But, I want you to get the system ready for a full analysis.  And, get those guards out of sight of anything except… Jack have them help you move some of the training equipment into the procedure room.  I want the scanners to get a crack at you working out John so I can run some simulations.” Gabriel looked up to John and asked, “What is a good exercise --”

 

Jack was totally confused, thinking the comment was meant for him, “Good exercise, what?”  Then he heard a bass that sounded oddly familiar say, “Flat bench press should be easiest for them to move without a lot of hassle.”

 

Gabriel started to relate what John had said, when Jack replied.  “I heard him.  Gabriel is that John?”

 

Gabriel blew out his breath a bit.  He didn’t want to get into this over the phone.  But he needed Jack right now.  No one knew this area of the research better.  Jack knew musculoskeletal physiology better than even Gabriel did.  “Yes. It’s John.  Like I said, you need to see him.  BUT, no one else.  Do you understand Jack?”  York paused for emphasis. “No one else.”

 

“Of course Dr. York.  I’ll make sure the guards are all out doing something for a while.  They’re bored anyway. And I’ll put the security system into diagnostics for a few hours.  If I am understanding what you are wanting...”

 

“Exactly Jack.  You know exactly what I mean.  We are on our way as soon as I hang up.”

 

“Gabriel, is it appropriate to show John where we are with everything shut down?”

 

“Jack what does John not already know about what we are doing?”  Gabriel said matter of factly.

 

Jack chucked.  “That’s true.  I’ll be ready when you get here.”

 

“Thanks Jack.  We both owe you one.”  Gabriel hung up the phone and looked at John.  “Well, are you ready to come with me?”

 

John stood up, remembering the day Gabriel had accepted his invitation for a first date.  John smiled a smile that would have made millions faint.  “I already said yes.”  And Gabriel immediately understood.

 

“Just where are we going though?”

 

“Idaho Springs.  Isolated mountains northwest of town.  You would never even know the facility was there unless you knew what you were looking for.  On the outside, it looks like a small rural health doctor’s office.  Anyway, you’ll see.”

 

Gabriel grabbed his car keys, but John held a smile. “No offense Angel.  But your Volvo is a little cramped these days. We will take my car.”

 

Gabriel wondered how John’s sensible car was any more roomy than his own, but what did he know.  Maybe John had made some modifications.  He dropped his keys on the table, and the pair held hands as they left the apartment.

 

---

 

A few hours later found John and Gabriel pulling into a small dirt parking lot surrounding a nondescript house.  The only real distinguishing feature of the home was a placard attached to the wooden gate surrounding the property.  Just as the Jeep pulled in, John was able to make it out: 

 

“P. Seaton, M.D.  Colorado Rural Health Consortium.  By Appointment Only”

 

Gabriel told John to park in a very particular space, three of John’s Jeep widths to the right of the porch stairs, which would alert Jack that they were there.  Gabriel and John waited in the Jeep for a moment until they saw light appear from the overhead lamp on the house’s porch.  “OK, “Gabriel said, “Jack should be coming up the elevator now.  We can go up.”  John and Gabriel exited the Jeep and began walking to the porch with Gabriel taking the lead.  As they did, the door opened, and both men recognized Jack coming out.  

 

“Gabriel, what’s so important that we had to take such precautions for Johnnnn… “ Jack’s sentence trailed to a stop as John came up into the light.  “Oh my God.”  Jack said.

 

“Hello Jack.  It is good to see you again.” John said, smirking just the smallest bit. 

 

Jack started trying to take the scope of John in for a few moments, just as Gabriel had. Declann stepped up to Jack and extended his hand, enveloping the six foot tall trainer-physiologist’s hand in his own.  It was disconcerting for Jack to feel small.  Jack usually outsized most people in the gym.  But Jack felt almost microscopic right now as he looked up into John’s eyes.  

 

“This is what is so important Jack.  I think you understand now why I wanted everything recording off. John has been away for 9 weeks.  No one has seen this.  We need to find out why.”  Gabriel said.

 

Jack took his slightly shaking hand away as John released it.  John could not help but smile openly now.  He loved Jack.  Jack had a hand in giving him this new life, a big one.  But there was a certain amount of satisfaction in being the bigger and stronger one now.  Of outgrowing your mentor and inspiration. 

 

Gabriel led John and Jack into the house, which John could now see was empty, a total facade.  They went through a metal security door and then down an elevator, which led to the underground facility that John had so recently called home.  Once on the subterranean ground floor and again familiar with where he was, John stode as confidently as ever toward the procedure room where those few months prior he had gone through such agony.  But before going in Jack asked them to stop.  Having now seen John, he asked if they could grab more plates from the physiotherapy area.  Jack said he knew they would not have enough.  

 

Gabriel went on into the procedure room control area to make sure the system was set up the way he wanted, while Jack and John fetched the extra plates.  Moments later, Jack came in with a 45 plate in each hand.  John, however, carried 4 in his hands, two 45’s in each, as if they were as light as good china dishes for the table.

 

John noted that the large table that he had been operated on was still there, but it looked like it had been moved on some grooves in the floor to one side.  Now, under the sensor was a standard flat bench with an Olympic bar and collars.  

 

Gabriel’s voice came over the loudspeakers.  “John.  I am going to let the system get a new baseline scan of you first, OK.  Just stretch out on the bench and be still.”

 

John reclined leisurely on the bench and relaxed, as if he were getting ready to do a set.  Just as before, the system above him came alive.  But, before the screen display posted John’s measurements, Jack and John heard, “HOLY FUCK” come across the speakers.  When the screen display came up, Jack was not far behind in the sentiment.

 

Subject 0001: Declann, J

Height: 6’5” (1.97 m)

Weight: 286.92 lbs  (130.4 kg)

Neck: 21.75 inches (55.3 cm)

Chest: 59.03 inches (150 cm)

Waist: 33.71 inches (85.6 cm)

Forearms: 20.02 inches (50.8 cm)

Upper Arms:  23.19 inches (58.9 cm)

Thighs: 32.68 inches (83 cm)

Calves: 21.13 inches (53.7 cm)

 

John looked up and smiled a smile only bulking bodybuilders seem to have, “Hey, pecs really are bigger than the last time I was able to get a good measure. I told Gabriel that I was having a hard time with the measuring tape. Guess it was the tape only going to 60 inches that was messing me up.”  An unconscious ripple went across the thick slabs as John was thinking about them.  Both Gabriel and Jack were mesmerized just looking at the numbers.  John waited for a moment before he realized what was happening.  He then burst out laughing.  “Hey.  Earth to Docs, Earth to Docs.  Weren’t you going to test me building muscle instead of just looking at me? Granted, I am totally irresistible to you mere mortals, but-- ”  John just could not help the smartass remark, his confidence and tendency for mischievousness having grown right along with his body.

 

Jack just looked at him and smiled broadly, “You keep up with that shit and I’ll put the electrodes back on.”  

 

John immediately held up his hands in defeat.  He HATED being connected to the nerve stimulation machine they had used to test his repaired neural pathways the first week of his stay.  “OK, OK. You’ve got me.  I went to kindergarten.  I’ll play nice with others.”

 

“That’s better you muscle bound hunk of meat.” Gabriel said through the speaker which made Jack and John burst out laughing again.  Gabriel’s absolutely proper Queen’s English accent had no business speaking like that, and the two Americans found it hilarious.  “Stop laughing at me, you two.”

 

“OK, fine.  But, you know you are cute when you get upset.”  John yelled up.

 

“John, you wanted me to be serious.  So, I am.  OK.  What I want you to do is start at 135 pounds for 10 reps and then start going up in weight.  Oh, how far CAN you go up in weight?”

 

“I think I brought enough in for you to see.  495 stresses me some toward the end, but I should be able to get some solid reps out of it with a spot.”  John replied matter of factly.  That again brought silence and looks of shock from the pair of scientists.  “Gabriel, Jack.  I told you that I am even stronger than I look.  Have been since this all started.  It is like I get stronger before I get bigger.”

 

“OK John, just do the lifts the way you know how.  I want to see this.” Gabriel said.  

 

John placed himself on the bench and prepped his body and mind.  Even though this didn’t amounted to a warm up weight for him anymore, he always followed the exact same pre-lift ritual.  After his paralysis, even just 48 hours of it, he had become extremely wary of injuries that could be prevented by just doing things right.  John easily lifted the bar and cranked out 10 reps.  John racked the bar and got up to add a second plate.  He again set himself in position and put up 10 easy reps.  With the third plate, Jack asked, “You need a spot John?”

 

John just chuckled.  “Nah, not yet.  I’ll let you know.”  John then sat under 315 and cranked out the same ten reps as easily as he had 135 pounds.  To see such perfect motion, Jack just marveled - and looked a little downcast.  Seeing this in a man who could not bench press at all just 5 months ago, was a bit emasculating to the lifelong brilliant athlete. John noticed.  While he had fun doing this to some asses in the gym, making Jack feel like he was anything less than a man was not what he ever wanted to do.  

 

“It isn’t so hard when you have a good teacher who showed you what to do in the first place.”  Jack looked up at John and thanked him with his eyes.  John then went to the 405 on the bar.  John lifted the bar and cranked out 10 reps, although he started to slow a bit on the last few.

 

As John re-racked, Gabriel said down, “Jack, you are going to want to see this.”  John was putting the fifth plate on.

 

“What is it?”

 

“I’ve never seen anything like this on anything we have ever done.  But I want the last challenging set to be sure.”

 

John looked over to Jack as he crawled under the bench.  “I could use that spot now Jack.  Thank you.  I can lift it off fine.  Should be able to make at least 5 on my own.  Hey Gabriel - do you want us to force out a couple of reps.  I have been doing that while I’ve been gone.”

 

“Yes, please.” Gabriel replied.  “That might help me understand this.”  John grasped the bar, blew out a breath and then lifted the bar up and into position.  Slow, but clean and fluid, John put up the bar for 1...2....3...4...5 reps.  He went down for 6.  John let out a roar as he came up from his chest and powered through the sticking point.  

 

“Jack” John said as he went down again, signaling his former mentor to move into position.  This time, John hit the sticking point and stopped, but just a pair of fingers sliding under to touch the bar was enough for John to power through for 7.  Jack gave a more substantial spot for reps 8, 9, and 10.  John re-racked with a “Fuck Ya.” escaping his lips, his breathing slightly pushed more rapid from exertion and a light sheen of sweat glistening his body. He felt GREAT - and that was a new record.  If he had actually taken rests, he knew he had a lot more reps in him.

 

Jack looked at John.  It was amazing.  John has just cranked out 50 reps.  Most at a weight seasoned gym guys would have difficulty with, if they could do it at all.   And he did it with essentially no rest in between.  50 reps, 30 of which were over 315 pounds with no rest.  The power was extraordinary, and, even as a straight man, Jack felt a small stir in his crotch for the incredible display of sheer manhood before him.  “Come on John, I’ll take you upstairs.”  John followed Jack up to the control room where Gabriel sat staring at the readings intently.  Jack pulled up a chair beside him, while John stood towering behind, looking down at the monitors, but not really understanding the long list of numbers he was seeing.  Jack however let out a loud “SHIT” as he saw what the computer had recorded through the last lift.

 

“What do you make of it Jack?  I have a feeling, but that is just impossible.  I don’t see how it could be.”

 

Jack replied, “Let me see all of it develop in real time.”  Jack watched for fifteen minutes as he replayed each set’s data over and over again.  As he played them, his face became more and more stunned.  Finally he said, “Gabriel, if you are thinking a full multi-organ systemic adaptation response of some wild kind, you are seeing what I am seeing.”  

 

John piped up in his loud, deep voice, “Care to interpret for us laymen.”

 

Gabriel and Jack turned around in their chairs.  At a gesture from Gabriel, Jack took the lead.  “John, you might want to sit down for this.”  John walked a few paces, grabbed another rolling chair, and brought it back sitting down.  

 

“OK. The easiest way I can explain this.  You have been around bodybuilding a few months and you remember what I taught you briefly.  Do you remember the process your body goes through to put on muscle mass?”

 

“Yes, you told me that first my nerves would adapt, making me lift more weight but not growing any muscle at first.  The nerves would make the muscle I have more efficient.  Only once the nerves had adapted all they could, would my body grow more muscle to make up for that.  That’s why you can lift more weight at first, but you don’t see new muscle growth for a while.”

 

“Yes, John, basically that is right.  Now, what is happening to you is this same idea, only taken to a whole new level I have never seen before. The new DNA in your system is making it so that your nerves adapt to any stimulation incredibly fast.  Which is making you grow new muscle and get stronger incredibly fast.  You with me so far?”

 

“Yes”

 

“Well, the part we have never seen before is … when your body’s muscle mass has adapted all it can, like your nerves do, the new DNA is forcing your skeleton itself to grow taller and bigger to be able to handle growing more muscle mass.  It is like a third level in hypertrophy - literal skeletal hypertrophy.  You are growing taller and bigger as you push yourself to lift more weight.  Your whole body is growing, just like a muscle would grow in anyone else.”

 

John sounded both intrigued and scared.  “How big will I get?”

 

Gabriel rolled himself over to another computer terminal which accessed the lab’s simulation mainframe.  He fed the computer all the data they had just collected along with John’s previous scans while he was a patient and ran a simulation.  Gabriel watched and mumbled as he put his hand over his mouth, “Oh my God.”

 

John became concerned at the tone.  “Gabriel, babe, what is it?”

 

Gabriel turned around almost ashen faced, “John, according to this, there is no theoretical limit.  As long as you stress your body past a certain point of needed strength, you will keep growing.  Putting on more muscle mass and getting taller and stronger.  Without end.  Now, I can tell you that the computer doesn’t know all that there is to know about physiology.  There are certain limits that a human body just cannot grow past because you cannot pump blood effectively, bones can’t handle the load put on them, that sort of thing.  That is where you will stop getting taller because you will not be able to stress your body much more.  But, it is just a guess, my love.”

 

John said quietly, “Gabriel, you didn’t answer me.”  John became very quiet and almost whispered, “How tall?”

 

Gabriel blew out a breath, “I can guarantee at least 9 feet tall, maybe more if your bones get stronger and heart gets stronger to handle the load, and there are indications of that now.  I can’t know specifically.  But … you still have at least ⅓ bigger to grow past where you already are now, and I am guessing you will grow more than that if the adapting strength of your heart and bones now is any indication.”  

 

Jack wheeled over immediately and looked at the simulation.  And as he took it in, a look came across his face.  One of unmitigated horror.  His voice was cold, but trembling,  “Gabriel.  Erase that now.  Erase it all.”

 

“Jack--”

 

But Jack was already wheeling to the sensor computer terminal and starting to type deletion commands, “Gabriel JUST DO IT!!!”  Jack yelled out.  John stood up immediately, not liking any threat to Gabriel, though he had no idea why Jack would do such a thing.  Gabriel started the data erasure program, purging the system memory.  Jack was doing the same with the sensors, mumbling, “No, no, no.”  Over and over.  Jack’s hands practically danced over the keyboard until every byte and bit of data that showed John had ever been there that evening evaporated.  Jack then entered a code, and up on the screen flashed: 

 

“WARNING! Magnetic Security Breach Erasure Protocol.  Enter Purge Code:”  

 

Jack typed in a long sequence, and the machine complied, scrambling every tiny bit of the data that had once been there until it was unrecoverable.  It was as if it nothing that had happened to John Declann had never happened.  The only people who knew were the people who had actually seen him, and those people … the people up the chain who had read the reports.

 

Jack looked at both of them, “We need to leave here. Now.  We need to get to your vehicle.”  Jack then mouthed but did not say, “Not safe to talk here.”  John looked at Gabriel who looked equally confused, but they both followed Jack up and out of the facility.  They piled into John’s Jeep, and John cranked it.  They peeled out of the facility and turned on the road back to the I-70.  

 

“Why can’t we talk in our own lab?  Jack, you are scaring me.” Gabriel said.

 

“Gabriel … you should be scared.  Oh my fucking God, we should all be scared.” Jack said with a blankness of emotion that only stark terror can bring on as he stared into the night sky.  If they had had a film of the New Mexico desert in 1945, Jack would have looked much like J. Robert Oppenheimer, at the moment of the Trinity blast, realizing what he had unleashed and the passage from the Bhagavad Gita that came to his mind as he saw the nuclear light. John immediately hit the brakes and wheeled around in the driver’s seat.. 

 

“Why should he be scared Jack?”  John said, a short threat coming into his voice.

 

“Gabriel think, what will THEY do when they learn what this process is capable of?  We invented this to heal not to…”

 

Gabriel went sickeningly pale, cleanly visible even in the starlight night, as he understood.

 

John became a bit angry, not understanding what was travelling between the two scientists.  “OK. I am going to get very upset if you two do not start making sense.”

 

Jack looked sympathetically toward the Man in the front seat.  “John. Something is happening to you that I think you are scarcely prepared for.  God knows Gabriel and I NEVER intended this.  You are very soon going to become the largest, tallest, and strongest human who has ever lived in recorded history that we can verify.  That cannot be stopped.  But, what would happen if there were not just one of you, but a thousand, or a million.  What would governments do with that?”

 

John’s eyes lit up, “Fuck me.”

 

“Yes, exactly that.  They would make all of their soldiers into you. John.  By the hundreds of thousands.  You, John, you are the best of the best.  You are a moral, upstanding man.  You have a compass, a sense of right and wrong that is the strongest part of your personality.  You will not act against that.  Of anyone on earth, I could not hope to trust that there could be anyone better to have the kind of power you will.  But. what would an immoral person do with what you will be capable of?  What would an immoral government do with what you will be capable of?  What kind of army would they make? And what would they do with it?”

 

Jack continued, “Gabriel and I created this process in order to heal people.  Make them walk again.  Make their hands work, make them be able to speak again.  We did not do it to create some army of supermen - forgive me - to conquer innocent people in their millions.  We cannot allow them to ever do that.  We can’t.”

 

John said, “But how can we stop them?  It is not like I can hide being 9 feet tall or…. Or more.  Or 6 and a half when I started out 5’7”. ”

 

Gabriel chimed in, “I do not know, but I do know we need time to think.  I can delay things.  Buy us some time.  This is still a backwater project that few are taking any interest in.” Gabriel then realized the wisdom in what Jack had just had them do. “Jack just made it look like there had been a malfunction in the computer memory while the security system was in diagnostics.  All the data on you is gone.  So at least there is that.  We can’t fully hide what happened to the computers from competent investigators, but we can hide 90% of it.   I can bury you to a point, John, but only to a point.  Sooner or later, you are going to stand out to them as much as you will in any crowd right now.  And they will not stop until they know what we did to you.  They will do anything John.  ANYTHING. To have you and to have what is locked up in my head and Jack’s.  The others - they know a lot, but only Jack or I can fully replicate the process.”  Gabriel’s voice broke as a fear of anguish and fear rolled down his face, as the full import of that statement hit him.

 

John reached out immediately and dried the tear.  His voice became VERY determined, the barely controlled rage of a man whose loved ones were threatened popped out from him. “Angel, I do not care who it is.  NO ONE is ever going to do anything to you.  Ever. Jack, same goes for you.  They will not touch either of you.  I DO NOT GIVE A FUCK WHO THEY ARE.  Now, if you can buy the time, I know you can figure it out.  But I promise you.  NO ONE WILL EVER TOUCH YOU.”  John’s hands and knuckles turned white, as he unconsciously put the rolled aluminum of the Jeep steering wheel into a deathgrip.  No one seemed to notice the slight creaking sound of straining metal and hint of the tube beginning to ripple and and bend under the onslaught of John’s hands.   

 


One Week Later - 5.25 Months after the Accident


 

Two days after the night at the lab, John and Gabriel met with the sheriff to discuss his condition - as much as Gabriel was willing to let on.  He spun quite a tale, and John stayed totally silent throughout.  Gabriel did not answer all of Cooks questions, citing classified programs for any questions that came too close to the truth.  But, it was enough for Cook to allow John back in some capacity as regarding this investigation.  Cook made clear after that there would be a lot more questions to answer after this was done.  Questions that might very well impact John’s position, even if he had done nothing criminally wrong.  Cook did insist on a test for every anabolic and androgenic substance imaginable, and they all came back negative.  So, in the meantime, he had set up this meeting with the head of Air Force military police in the US Northern Command to go over the evidence John had collected and plan a course of action.

 

“Well, Deputy Declann.  The evidence looks conclusive.  I mean, we certainly know we have our issues with this kind of thing, but we suspected nothing on this kind of scale going on.”  said Colonel Warren Dougherty, USAF SECFOR.  

 

“Have to say that I am a little dismayed with the ease you were able to gain access to posts, especially our own.  But, it is obvious you're competent as hell, and you certainly look the part.”

 

John smiled at the compliments, “Well Sir, not so much your lack of security.  Most of the time I was a guest on post of some of these fellows after they got to seeing me in civilian gyms.  Looking the role, just garnered some trust is all.  I am sure if I tried more direct access or didn’t stay in areas where civilians are often seen, things would have been different.  Kind of helps too that I have manned some posts for you during missile maintenance out in the fields.  So, I have a bit more legal access than a typical civilian.”

 

Doughtery laughed and looked at Sheriff Cook, “Looks like you had the perfect man in the perfect position, Sheriff.  Hell I could not have chosen better myself and I have thousands of men I could have enlisted in this investigation.”

 

“John is the best.  He was the natural choice to break into this.  So, where do we go from here.  I can take care of what is happening in my own house obviously, but interstate trafficking and as much military involvement as there is, is going to require you and your other service counterparts, FBI, DEA, and the Marshalls at least.  Keeping this contained is not going to be easy.”

 

“Granted.  I can bring in my counterparts from the other branches and FBI.  Think we can keep this need to know among us five and you two.  Only letting in the other offices and departments in once this is set.  Command may want to set up a task force, but I think we can keep that small too.  I will need Deputy Declann to help brief the Army, Navy, and the Corps and lay out a plan of action.  You know this material better than anyone.”

 

“Happy to do all I can, Colonel.  With the sheriff’s permission of course.”

 

“Of course, John.  You have been on detached duty long enough that no one will miss you a few weeks more. Colonel?”

 

“Well, I was hoping you would say that.”  The colonel opened his briefcase and removed a small wallet containing a new set of credentials and a federal badge.  “Deputy Declann, with the Sheriff’s permission, I have the authority to bring you into Air Force Civilian Police right now.  Temporarily of course, but with this, you will not need to use more clandestine methods like you did before.  Will also get you access to other military and civilian federal agencies without much trouble.  And it will expand your jurisdictional powers to make legal arrests to anywhere in the nation that is necessary as it pertains to this case.  Anyone says anything, a quick call to me or our JAG can clear that for you in about 30 seconds.  Since the sheriff is here I can administer the oath now and not need another witness.  You were in the Corps, were you not Sheriff?”

 

Cook laughed, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.  It has been over thirty years though.  Am I still that obvious?”

 

Daugherty smiled, “I’ll try and overlook your poor choice in service branches.” The three men laughed.  John raised his hand and within a few moments was properly installed as a detective the Air Force Civilian Police.

 

“Thank you Detective.  And you too Sheriff.  Without you, none of this would be possible.  AS much as you want your house clean, I want to remove a lot of filth from the Force and I will happily throw away the key. As soon as we can get them into Leavenworth and Miramar the better.”  

 

The three men stood. “Detective Declann, I’ll be at Peterson for the next few days getting together for a meeting to get up the operation.  Would be a lot easier if you could come to the office tomorrow to get the ball rolling, and we can go over this material in a lot more depth.”

 

“Will be there at 0900, Colonel.”

 

“Excellent.  Again, thank you both.”

 

****

 

Heath was making his way around the administration offices with some paperwork to turn in when he stopped.  Seeing the sheriff step out of his office wasn’t unusual, but the Air Force military police bird colonel was weird.  And then - Heath whispered a “Holy Shit'' under his breath at the tall MASSIVE dude there with them walking between the colonel and sheriff.  They were moving toward the front doors and the visitor parking area beyond.  Heath could not move around to see who the giant guy was without attracting too much attention. He had gotten the quickest glace at the guy before he turned his back to him.  The guy looked familiar in an odd way, but he knew there was no way he would have ever forgotten a dude that huge.  So, he dismissed the feeling of familiarity as maybe some bodybuilder he had seen pics of at a contest.  

 

But, he did get a glint of two badges on the guy’s belt.  One looked to be federal law enforcement of some kind - would make sense he were  Air Force civilian police since he was not in uniform but with a colonel in the military police.  But the other badge he recognized as just like his own.  Heath put two and two together, and thought there must be some kind of federal law enforcement operation going on with military being investigated off post, and as a courtesy, Cook had put the fed LEO into the office to give him a lot less red tape to go through in the county and off Air Force property.  That meant the guy would be here a while to go through the formalities of detached duty with another agency. So …  he would be working out nearby.  And with that size -- he HAD been on Heath’s side of the line.  He took a few mental notes about possible avenues of approach before looking away.  Ordinarily, he would have at least had to see his face clearly to make contact later, but with a body like that, there was no need.  Hell, he would stand out anywhere in the office, anywhere in the county.  He just needed to keep an eye out, and then make a new friend.

 

Heath turned in his paperwork, while his mind was a thousand miles away. 

John and Gabriel - Chapter 4 (When He Gets Home).jpg

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Chapter 5 -  Predator and Prey


“I can feel the animal inside / And my resolve is weakening / Pounding at the doors of my mind / It’s nearly overpowering / ”  ~  Disturbed, The Animal


5.5 months after the Accident


 

“As best as we can determine at this point, this is the approximate flow of the drug pipeline. As you can see, there are three major trunks that parallel military posts and freeways coming out of Southern California, roughly north paralleling the coast, northeast, and east.   And, thanks in no small part to our Albuquerque and Los Angeles informants, I have been able to put together that these major lines run to at least San Antonio on the eastern branch, from San Diego to Seattle on the coastal branch, and at least as far as Omaha along the main northeast line.  

 

“Of course, those lines will branch further to individual bases such as Hill in Utah.  But, I am almost certain the main lines run until they come into contact with the East Coast flow coming up from Florida.  But this is what we have been able to establish for certain at this point.”  

 

Even in the darkened, secured briefing room at Peterson Air Force Base, it was plain to see that John towered over the assembled military officers and civilian officials.  Behind him as he slowly paced at the front of the room, was a presentation he and Colonel Daugherty had put together for the briefing.  Over the previous hour, John had walked the six law enforcement officials  - the 4 USNORCOM heads of military police of each of the service branches, the FBI Special Agent-In-Charge for California, and the DEA Special Agent-In-Charge for the El Paso DEA Intelligence Center - sitting around the conference table through the particulars of the evidence developed in his undercover investigation.

 

The lights came up in the room.  “Thank you gentlemen for your attention.  Colonel Dougherty and I are happy to answer any questions you have.”

  

Captain Richard Lehman, USN, was the first to speak up, “First, thank you Detective Declann.  This is no small amount of work. Warren, we all knew we had issues with this.  But to this extent.  The sheer scale of this.  It seems unlikely that this could be hidden from us for so long.  Are we sure about this?”

 

“John?” Dougherty said, fielding the question to Declann.

 

“It is as sure as we can make it at this point, Captain.  The flow direction and the volume is a certainty.  As for particular individuals and suspects, I have only listed those that I have direct, first hand knowledge of.  However, how it has been kept under the radar, is known.  I am sure you all noticed that those I have been able to identify are attached to law enforcement in some capacity.  Military or civilian police, JAG - the leaders of the drug ring selected these men very carefully.  While all are not consumers of the product, they all serve a function.  In one way or another, they are in positions to pay off or bury any evidence that surfaces.  That is exactly what we saw in Boulder that got my work on this started.”

 

“Rick, I can substantiate some of this too. Four of the individuals Detective Declann came into contact with have popped up on our radar in the last couple of years.”  DEA SAC Ron Michaelson interjected.  

 

“The infuriating thing has been that as soon as some sniff of evidence develops, it just disappears.  We could never trace it, but this makes all the pieces fit.  As Detective Declann said, the total volume coming in we know from street level investigations on our own.  That has never been in question.  Just how it was moving without being seen was what stumped us.  But, even I must admit this kind of operation and coordination surprises me too.  However … it just brings together a lot of pieces.  Of course, we will have to fill in the blanks.  But it makes sense.”

 

FBI SAC Jeff Wilson spoke up in an exaggerated “smitten like a teenage girl” tone, “First, I have to say, Detective -- where in the hell have you been hiding all my life?”  All the men around the room laughed, but then cracked up that much harder when John’s reflexive blushing made an appearance. The laughter calming, Wilson continued, “Seriously, I have about a hundred investigations I would love to let you loose on.  This is some of the best investigation and documentation on a case of this scope I have ever seen.  And for just one man to do it … when the time comes, I think we will get a shit ton of guilty pleas.  

 

“But, my biggest concern is why I gather it is only us here instead of a full task force.  Operational security.”

 

“Jeff is right,” Marine Lieutenant Colonel Jack Johnson replied.  “I have no idea how we are going to investigate this and keep it hidden.  If they are as connected into our ranks as it appears, I do not know who in my own office I can trust.  If only they looked like you Detective Declann - no offence intended - we could get everything coordinated and executed in a week.  But, these men and women are not exactly screaming ‘Please test me for steroids’ like the obvious inclination to test you would be.”

 

“No offense taken Colonel.” John replied as he took his seat at the table.  Even seated and in a suit, John looked like he was bigger than any two of the men in the room put together.  

 

“And that is the largest single issue that is in front of us.  The more I keep pressing, the more even I am going to give this away.  Too many questions from the same source.”  

 

Dougherty spoke up, “And that is what we need to determine now.  Because at best we have 2 months for planning, investigating, and execution of an operation.  We can hold up orders for transfers and such maybe that long without attracting attention.  And God help us, if any of the people involved get scattered around the planet.  We will not be able to touch them outside of US territory before they collapse this thing, and we will be left with nothing.  We can’t risk taking more than 60 days maximum.”

 

Nods and verbal affirmations sounded at once around the room.  “Well, let’s get to brass tacks.  With your OK Jeff, Ron, the easiest decision is to put John in charge of the civilian end of things in Colorado and Wyoming.”

 

Wilson chucked, “Wish every man we need to bring is as easy and obvious as you Detective.” 

 

“As long as I can hire you away later…” Michaelson accented.

 

“Trust me, it won’t work.  I’ve already tried.”  Dougherty quipped.

 

“Can’t blame a man …”  Michaelson said with a half smile.

 

“And Warren, I think I can speak for Bill,” said Johnson, “when I say we would both like to meet with you Detective and get our ducks in a row for Fort Carson and the marines we have stationed here who could be involved.”  

 

Colonel William James, USA, nodded his accent. 

 

John looked at both men.  “Of course, gentlemen, I am happy to help anyway I can, but how can I explain my involvement on posts that aren’t Air Force?”

 

James looked at Johnson and smiled as he half questioned, “The show?”

 

Johnson laughed, “Jesus Christ, is that not too fucking perfect?  Too bad for the others competing that the fix is in. ‘Cause I don’t see any way in hell Detective Declann isn’t going to win the whole thing.  Well, what about it John, fancy a trip to Norfolk later in the summer?”

 

Declann looked at Johnson confused, “Sir?”

 

Johnson just smiled more broadly, thinking of more than a few asses he would be happy to see John paste at this thing. “The Southern Colorado Bodybuilding Show.  It is in a month, and it is also the mountain states area qualifier for the Armed Forces Nationals later this year in Norfolk.  It is open to all active duty personnel and DOD civilian employees.  As long as Warren keeps you on the payroll, that means you.”

 

Dougherty laughed, “Well heaven help anyone else on that stage.  None of you have seen him in short sleeves even.”

 

Wilson said, “Don’t think there is much of a need.  He could be in that suit and still win.”

 

Declann spoke up, “But, Colonel, won’t me doing something like that compromise the investigation.  I would have to use my real name and all.”

 

Dougherty looked at his counterparts.  “JAG?”

 

The other five men nodded at once.  Dougherty continued, “John, we have a provision just for this.  If we are conducting an investigation that requires one of our men to act undercover but in a public capacity or performance of some kind, we have a JAG hearing officer sign off on allowing that agent, in this case you, to act in that public performance and everything associated with it under an assumed name.  Functions basically as a sting operation and will cover anything you may do or evidence you develop from an entrapment accusation.  I can have our JAG sign off as soon as the meeting is concluded.”

 

John smiled, “It will be my first bodybuilding show you know…”

 

“No way,”  Lehman replied in shock.  “You?  Your first?”

 

“Yes, Sir.  While I have worked out for most of my life, bodybuilding never really interested me until I came onto this investigation.”  John replied, telling the absolute truth no one could believe.

 

“Well then it will be nice to have a hand in discovering new talent.” Dougherty said.  “OK, let’s get on to the hard stuff.”

 

---

 

After another 2 hours of discussions, the preliminary plans had been made.  Each state along the pipeline would have one and only one military investigator and one civilian agency investigator.  John’s military pairing was one of Dougherty’s men at Peterson he had already met.  So, that was not a worry to John’s competing in the show to develop arrests for the rest of his assigned areas.

 

As the meeting broke up, John knew the questions would begin … and they did.  First was Lehman.  “Come on, son, fess up.  You really have never done any competition bodybuilding in your life.  Ever?  You look like the definition of the brick shithouse?”  

 

John couldn’t help but laugh.  “It’s the truth.  My interests are or were limited to martial arts until this.  But, I have to admit, the idea of doing more formal bodybuilding has been in my head since I started this investigation.  It was amazing just how many coaches, who I learned were of some repute in the sport, were tripping over themselves to get me to sign on with them.”

 

“Forgive me for speaking my mind, son, but they would have been fools not to.”  John laughed again.  “What did I say that has you so tickled?  Kind of odd to hear a man of your size giggle.”

 

“I’m sorry, Captain.  Just what you called me.  How old do you think I am?”  John asked, his confident smirk first starting to show itself for the first time now that the meeting was done.

 

“Late 20’s if I had to guess.”  Lehman said, to which John openly grinned. 

 

“OK.  How old?  30?”

 

“I’ll be 40 in the fall, Captain.”  John said.

 

“NOW, I am calling bullshit,” Lehman said to everyone in the room. “This man claims to be 40 years old.”  The entire room save John and Dougherty appeared to be in shocked disbelief.  “Warren, how old is Detective Declann?”

 

Dougherty, however,  never looked up from his briefcase.  “John, just show ‘um.  They’ll never believe it otherwise.”  John pulled out his wallet and took out the driver’s license he had just renewed when he had gotten home. He handed it to Lehman.

 

“Well, I’ll be fucked …” Lehman said now truly stunned.  “You really are 40?”

 

“Yes Sir.” John replied and both he and Dougherty laughed.  “Don’t feel bad, Captain.  It has been happening more and more lately. Including to a certain Air Force colonel, who shall remain anonymous.”

 

“I have no idea at all who that could be.” Dougherty said, feigning ignorance.

 

“Well, wherever you have stashed the fountain of youth, can you give me a bottle?” Johnson said.  “You and I are only 2 years apart, but you look more likely to be my son’s age than my brother’s.”

 

“Well, I will ask, but I have it on good authority, the proprietor closed up shop.”  John said jokingly.

 

“Well, if you see him again, send him my way, huh? You’re making me look like a slouch, and I got ribbed as a baby face even when I made captain.”  Johnson said.

 

“If I do, I’ll send him your way.”

 

“Don’t think I won’t hold you to that, kiddo.” Johnson laughed.

 

“My boss in Boulder is a Marine.  I know better than to doubt that you won’t.”

 

Everyone began to leave, and within a few minutes, Declann and Dougherty were alone.  “That went way better than I expected.” John said.

 

“You know your shit, and you are prepared.  Goes a long way with us.” Dougherty replied.  “I need to go to Washington and read in top brass and keep the lid on things there.  Be gone for a few days.  Should give you and the Army and Corps plenty of time to get things sorted on their ends.”

 

“Colonel, about the show.  Before I do it, I will need to speak to my better half to make sure it's OK.”

 

Dougherty looked at John’s ring finger, but he didn’t see anything.  “Didn’t realize you were married.  Lucky lady.”

 

John smiled thinking of his angel.  “I’m not … well yet.  But I am thinking about him a lot these days.”  Dougherty did look up at that remark but saw the expression on John’s face.

 

“Well … kiddo.” he laughed. “Any one at all who can make you look that smitten.  Life is too short not to be happy, John.”

 

“Will see.  That is a ways off either way.  Cops and doctors do not always mix.”

 

“You mean the British doctor I met … “  John didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have too.  Gabriel was the one subject where his ability to hide his feelings crumbled.  Dougherty reached up and patted John on the back.  “Like I said, life is too short.  And, before you even say it, I have been in combat. Before I joined the Force, I was Army special forces.  In my enlisted days. man on my team was gay.  Back during ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ but where we were and doing what we were doing ...  you get to know someone.  I never met a finer soldier in my life than him.  And now, never met a finer cop.  So, you two need something that I can help with, just ask.”

 

“Thank you, Colonel.  From both of us.”

 

---

 

Gabriel walked out of the kitchen with a medium-sized plate of grilled chicken salad.  He sat it down with his glass of wine, and in mock pouting, John quipped, “Hey? Where’s mine?  I can’t survive on that little plate.”

 

“What is it you love to say, ‘Hold your horses,’” Gabriel chided with a smile. As he turned back to the kitchen, he said loud enough for John to hear, “Never thought I would fall in love with a bottomless pit.”  John laughed deeply, marveling at just how lucky he was.  Whoever or whatever it was - God or fate or fairies - who had brought him Gabriel, he didn’t know how to repay if he ever could, but the brilliant little man was the answer to so many of his dreams.  John never imagined he could be this happy.  It was like he was picking the winning lotto numbers over and over.  If only what he had to bring up wasn’t even money to ruin the evening… 

 

John snapped himself out of that thought as Gabriel came out again, only this time with two large dinner plates filled to near overflowing with chicken, rice, and steamed veggies.  Gabriel struggled a moment with even getting them on the table, before John reached and took one of the plates from his hand.

 

Gabriel sat the other down and looked at the man who every moment took his breath away.  “You have abs you know.  It is scientifically impossible for you to eat all this for just one meal and do it over and over all day long and still have this.” Gabriel lifted the tank top John was wearing and lightly smacked his love’s deep 6 pack.  “I should know, I am a doctor.”

 

John cocked a smile. “Jealous?”

 

Gabriel laughed.  “Why should I be jealous?  I get ALL the benefits, and I do not have to eat like forty people.  But you know what?”  John cocked an eyebrow.  “I love you, bottomless pit and all.”  Gabriel kissed John on the cheek, which sent shivers down the great man.  Gabriel pulled back and smiled, “Now if I can do that, just think of what I could do with 20 inch arms.  You’re lucky I’m small.”  Both of them laughed like smitten teenagers, as Gabriel sat down to his salad.

 

They spent the first half of their meals going over their days, what they had done.  John talked a lot about a new max squat in the gym, but it wasn’t lost on Gabriel that he had skipped the meeting he was supposed to have had with Colonel Daugherty.  John tried to be normal, well as normal as circumstances permitted, but he sighed. He was unsure how to do this.  Ever since the night they had erased the computer files at the facility,  he and Gabriel and Jack had been talking about how to get more time, to extend how long John could run under the radar.  John knew this -- this request could ruin all of what they had thought of.  But it was his duty, and before anything except his love for Gabriel, John Declann was a creature of duty.    

 

John looked up and met Gabriel’s face with a look of apprehension.  “Angel.... I need to ask you something.  And with how things are, I don’t know what you are going to think.  But, it is a request from the Colonel and everyone else at the meeting today.”   

 

Gabriel inwardly prepared himself for something he knew he would not like.  He tried not to show it as he answered in the most cheerful voice he could muster, “What is it, handsome?”

 

John took a deep breath.  Better to just spit it out, he decided.  “Angel, they want me to go under cover again.”  Gabriel very nearly dropped his fork mid-bite, and a look of terror came over his face.  Setting aside everything else, all the changes and the fear of the people that John had never seen, there was something much more fundamental.  He didn’t think he could stand being away from John again.  

 

When John saw that look of agony, he realized how it sounded. “No, no Gabriel.  This isn’t travelling.  Not much.  This is in the Springs is all.  I’ll be home everyday.  

 

“Babe, they just want me to do a bodybuilding show down there next month. Can’t say everything about what they want me to do, but basically to make sure the op is ready to go after the show.  It lets me have a reason to be at the bases around here and down there, and it is an armed forces show....”

 

Gabriel’s face changed from a visage of panic to one not of anger, but of concern.  “John, how can we hide if you’re getting on a stage in front of the whole world in a few weeks? Jack is coming over tomorrow so we can try and start actually doing some of the things we have been talking about.  How do I tell him we have to deal with THIS of all things?  You mostly naked on a stage right in front of all of the local military.  A few low level brass is one thing.  But - a show?”

 

“Believe me, I asked the same thing without getting into what is really happening to me.  Warren said that they would have me working under an alias.  No one will know my name except for the six who already do and Sheriff Cooke.  You know how hard it is for people to even recognize me these days.  If Dougherty and I are careful, it should be safe…”  

 

John stood up and moved his chair to be next to his man.  He sat close and took Gabriel’s hand.  “I promise Angel, this is a one time thing.  It works for the investigation and, honestly, we can have a little bit of fun with this. With everything that happening, we need to have some small amount of fun with it, with me--”  

 

John raised a hand and pointed to his own mammoth muscles. “With this. I mean, they were busting a gut laughing thinking about ME with all of this against those cocky active duty kids.”  John lifted Gabriel’s hand to his chest, started to bounce his pecs quickly, and smiled his killer cocky smile.  Then, he became serious again resting Gabriel’s hand under his own against the plate of muscle covering his heart. “But, if you say no, then it is a no.  I won’t do this without your permission.  Anything that you think would put us in danger more than we have to be until we are ready, I will not do.  I told the Colonel not to do anything until I called him.  So, it is in your hands.”

 

Gabriel looked down and considered for a moment.  Then, he looked up, smiled, and said quietly, “It would be fun to see you on stage properly showing off all that stuff you have been learning about bodybuilding …”  John smiled and lifted Gabriel’s hand to his lips and kissed it. Gabriel let out a breath.  “OK.  Since it is for work, and you will be careful, go ahead, John. You can do it.”  

 

John reached across the table and returned Gabriel’s earlier kiss on the cheek.  Gabriel closed his eyes and sighed. He brought John’s incredibly strong, calloused hand to his other cheek, feeling so much pass between them in that simple touch.  

 

Gabriel opened his eyes.  “There is just one condition…” 

 

“What?” John asked.

 

Gabriel smiled mischievously.  “I think I want dessert now.”

 

John’s need had been amping up since he got home, and after that, he couldn’t resist anymore.  He stood up and almost ripped Gabriel up out of his chair and into his arms.  John dove into his lover, kissing him deeply.  John wrapped one arm around Gabriel’s back, while at the same time, Gabriel wrapped his legs around John’s ridiculously small waist.  Never letting up for a moment from the passion kiss, John started walking toward the bedroom, enjoying the feeling of Gabriel’s cock growing against his abs.  

 

---

 

Seven o’clock the next morning was greeted by John trotting up to his Jeep.  Like every morning since that first shirtless run in Phoenix, he was dressed only in a pair of running shorts and his new size 16 trainers.  He jogged in place for a moment as he felt his pulse - and was more than a little frustrated.  

 

Five miles just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  John had done a 30 minute early morning run for years, and it had always gotten his blood pumping and his heart rate up.  But now, he was consistently dropping under six minute miles without even trying.  And as he was again confirming from his pulse, the entire five miles had barely increased his heart rate over normal or made him break much of a sweat.  It felt like he had just finished a gentle jog rather than making a better pace than most marathon runners.  As he popped the top of the liter bottle of water he had left for himself in the passenger seat, he decided to find a secluded spot where no one would see, so that he could pick up his pace and add miles to at least challenge himself.  

 

John pulled on a stringer, jumped up into the Jeep, and cranked it.  Almost automatically, he reached down to slide the driver’s seat back for comfort …. And it would not move.  The seat was as far back as it would go.  John chuckled.  His growing was marching right on, no matter what the investigation or Gabriel or Jack or anyone else might want.  Strange thing was it was just a week ago that he had moved the seat out. He had never had to move it so fast before.  

 

Hell, he thought, at this rate, he would have to have the Jeep elongated to get some extra time in it before he outgrew it.  John smiled at the thought of needing a custom Jeep to carry his new body.  But, after their talk last night, he decided he would ask Gabriel about it later.  Sometimes, small thoughts swirled in his mind, worried about what it might be like to be so … different. Then, those thoughts were immediately squashed by some new feat of strength, some new angle he noticed at a new height, or the rush of conquest as he got a new PR in the gym.  He had never imagined this bodybuilding life could be so much fun.

 

John popped the stick into reverse and moved out of the parking lot.  He had two phone calls to make this morning.  The first one was easy.  Speed dial 2 and --

 

“Doughterty,” the clipped voice of his nominal boss sounded on the other end of the line. 

 

“Good morning Colonel.  Just wanted to tell you, the boss said yes to the show.”

 

“Excellent.  I’ll call with the presiding officer - they selected one this morning - and get all of the orders taken care of.  All we need is a name.”

 

John thought a minute and like a bolt from the blue inspiration struck.  He recited the name to Dougherty.  “That’s oddly specific.  Any play on words or connection to you that could unravel this?”

 

“None that I know of.  Just seems to fit the person I am going to be.”

 

“Fair enough then.  I would suggest you go to Boulder and get a set of identity documents made by your office.  I am sure the sheriff will be more than willing.   You can read him in as far as you feel necessary.  And once I have the order, I can do a verbal auth with him to keep the paper trail down. I can have the new Force credentials with my secretary by the time you get down to Colorado Springs today.”

 

“Will do.  After that I will head to Fort Carson.” John replied.

 

“I’m sure Bill James will be looking forward to being made to feel small again,” Dougherty said.  “When he was a lot younger, he competed in bodybuilding.  That’s how the idea came to him so fast.  He’s still a fan, so it would not surprise me at all if he is in the audience for your show.  Just make sure to rub it in a little bit, huh?  We have a bit of a game to “one up”  each other whenever we can since I left the army, and you’re one big ass “one up.””

 

Declann laughed.  “I’ll do my best to be as cocky as fuck.”

 

“I’ll get hell from him for this but it will be worth it.  I’ll give you a call when I am back in Colorado.”

 

“Yes Sir.  And I’ll let you know if there are any major changes on the investigation front.”  John and Dougherty hung up.  

 

Now, for the fun call.  John pulled off the road into a parking lot, dug through a few business cards he had collected from the undercover investigation, and found the number he was looking for in Los Angeles.

 

“Hello” the voice on the other end answered.

 

“Hey man.  It’s John Declann.  How’s it going?”

 

“Hey Big Guy.  Going well.  Is this anything to do with the weather out here?”  The person on the other end of the line, his LA informant, did exactly as he should have.  John had given him the prearranged code should he call back unexpectedly, and if the answer was yes, that meant trouble.  This wasn’t trouble though.  John was smiling broadly on his end, just waiting for the reaction he knew would come in response to this question.

 

“Nah.  We are all good.  Wanted to ask a favor on a whole other subject.  Remember that show you kept after me abou--”

 

The guy on the other end of the phone nearly shouted, “Holy FUCK, you can’t be serious.  You are every bodybuilding coach’s wet dream.  You would win this year’s Olympia if you wanted.”

 

John laughed, “Think smaller.  Been asked to do a local military show for work, and I know I need help with posing and prep diet.”

 

The voice scoffed, “Diet help my ass.  You could have done any show,  anywhere from your conditioning 4 weeks ago.  And, if anything I’m guessing you’re even better now with summer coming on.  

 

“Now.  That show rings a bell…” The guy trailed off in thought for a few seconds.  Then he said. “You mean the little one that Jeff Taylor puts on near Fort Carson?  Think I remember some guys from San Diego go up there every year.”

 

“That’s the one.”

 

The guy roared in laughter.  “Oh shit -- Can you say curb stomp?  To see that, not only will I be HAPPY to coach you, but I’ll do you one better.  I’ll rearrange with my other clients, and I’ll fly up to see you do it.  

 

“Then you can do the Colorado State and quality for USA’s, and then win the USA’s, and win the Tampa Pro, twist Jim Manion’s arm to give you a special invite, and still make that Olympia and win. Be a damned shame to get off the train before the final destination.”

 

John rolled laughing.  “Down, boy, down.  I know they call you Mountaindog, but damn.  Almost having to say heel.”

 

“That’s not a no.  Means I have a few weeks to convince you.” the man on the other end laughed. “At the very least you have to do something for me. You’re working out at Armbrust right?”

 

John started to let his gym jock out by telling a truth only three people on earth knew that sounded like a cocky boast. “Ya.  If it can handle Shaw, it can handle me… for a little while.”

 

Both men laughed. “Just tell me you’re going when Phil is there and making sure he sees you squat.  If he thinks you’re doing the Olympia, you’ll make the man swallow his teeth.  

 

“Listen, when you get done for the day, hit me up.  We will set up Skype and start working on things tomorrow.  I’ll make sure Dylan helps you with getting a good poser in time and using his posing room.  And - can I send you a text?”

 

John replied, “This number? Go for it.”

 

“Got another friend there.  Young guy in his 20’s. Got his open pro card a couple of years ago.  He still has some physical development to do, but he has an incredible eye for posing.  He can help you work on what I can’t see on video and be there when I’m working with my other guys for their shows.  But, you won’t need much. I can already tell you that. From just seeing you mess around at Venice learning, you’re born to posing the way a duck is born to water.  

 

“All he will want is to workout with you when he sees what you can do.  And that quiet rage you get when you’re working hard - I think that will drive him to push harder when he sees it.  He needs to develop that instinct too.  That OK?”

 

“Fine by me, but since this is work-related, whoever you tell, you just can’t use my name.”  

 

“What name?  The fucking Lone Ranger is gonna take bodybuilding by storm.”  John laughed, told the other man his alias for the show, and set up a time when he thought he would be back home. He thanked his friend and pulled back onto the road to the Sheriff’s office.

 


 

 

By the time John reached Cook’s office, the man already had new credentials made up and ready for him.  Damn, John thought, Cook was efficient, and sneaky as fuck when he needed to be.

 

Cook chided Declann a bit for coming into the administrative offices in tank top and shorts though.  Cook said that he was making too many of his staff stop and stare.  He was costing the taxpayers money.  Both of them laughed as Cook said it.  John said it happened so much now, he really didn’t notice.  But he promised he would be more careful in the future. John then took a few minutes to update Cook on what was happening on the local front of the investigation, his assignment to Colorado and Wyoming, the bodybuilding show cover, and the tentative timeline to execute arrests so that Cook could have the sting within BCSO ready.  

 

When Cook stood up to give John the new credential cards for his local ID, he had made a comment that John seemed bigger than last time he was here.  Declann kept it to himself, but Cook seemed shorter to him too.  Not a tremendous change, mind you, but still smaller than he remembered. Cook thought for a second, but just shrugged it off as getting stooped in his old age.  John laughed at that and said he wished he would be nearly as good at 55 years old, and the issue seemed forgotten. 

 

Finally, Cook asked John to head to the locker room before he left for Colorado Springs.  Cook had changed everything in the BCSO computer system to reflect his new “identity.”  Cook knew it had been months since John had been in the office to even open his locker.  So it was best to clean out anything that was connected with “John Declann'' since that spot belonged to “someone else” now.  John immediately accepted Cook’s advice, as it was something he had overlooked.  With that, John stood up, shook Cook’s hand, and walked out of the office - again bringing business in the administrative area to a near halt as people stared at him.

 

John took a moment and went out to his Jeep for his gym bag.  It would be plenty big enough to get the things he remembered being in his locker out and away with no one seeing inside.  Maybe it was just a faster pace or his longer legs, but it took Declann less time than usual to get to his vehicle and then back inside to the locker room doors. 

 

John had to stoop slightly as he pulled open the metal fire doors and entered the officer’s gym and locker room.  When the door closed behind him, he paused for a moment looking around and smiling.  It wasn’t even 6 months ago when he was petrified of this place and now it was all kind of small.  Looking from station to station around the workout area, he realized he would actually be hard pressed to get much of a workout in here now. Maybe some biceps or something high rep but that’s it. John then looked at the incline chest station and chuckled.  He decided to get in a few reps, if nothing else than for nostalgia.

 

John crossed the gym, turned left through an open archway, and walked into the men's locker room.  His locker was clearly visible from the gym, the seventh inside the arch.  He stopped in front of it and popped the key on his key chain into the small padlock hanging there.  Cracking the lock open and pulling open the metal door revealed … things that made Declann literally laugh out loud.  It seemed like such a lifetime ago he could wear what was in here.  Well, the duty belt would still fit - just.  But fuck … he pulled out the shirt and then BDU’s and held them up. He would break every stitch and then shred the clothes themselves like the Incredible Hulk if he tried to get into them now. Even the boots were 7 sizes too small.  He held the now tiny shoe against his foot and saw that his toes were over 3 inches past the ends of the boots. He truly wondered if he could split them open if he tried to pull them on.

 

John pulled out all his old clothes and uniform, and after each he had a moment of astonishment, wondering how he could have ever been so small.   Then, he folded and stacked everything neatly on the end of a small bench near the door, putting the boots on top.  He decided he would grab them all after he got in his chest reps.   With the gym empty and being the middle of the morning, he thought no one would come in to see it anyway.  

 

John went back into the gym area, ripped off his tank, and dropped it next to the incline bench.  After a moment of stretching, like the workout machine he was, John went straight through his normal warm up progression for chest.  135, 225, 315 pounds, each for 10 reps, back to back.  His only rest was the time it took to put on a new plate.  

 

The difference between now and when Gabriel last saw him benching flat at the facility, John had added 405 for 10 to his warm up progression.  As John stood up and added a fifth 45 to each side, he flashed back to 3 months previous. When Heath had pinned him under that light bar.  If that John Declann had seen anyone move what he just breezed through, it would have left him almost shaking with inadequacy.  And now, here it was -- doing it and it felt just slightly harder than carrying groceries into his house or picking up Gabriel.  He knew he could do these in his sleep.

 

John popped over to the water fountain before his first working set with 495, and pulled a deep draw of water.  As he was bent over, he was surprised to hear the door behind him open. A very familiar voice sounded, one that once caused him dread.  

 

“Damn it, Brenda,  Just get it fucking done….” which was followed by a short pause and then a cold tone, “Brenda, when I get home, you and I are gonna talk and I will straighten you out on where your priorities need to be.  And you damned well better be waiting on me.  Don’t make --” Heath broke off as he saw that the room was not empty like he first thought.  Someone was at the water fountain.  “We will finish this later.”  

 

John quickly swallowed the bile that had washed up into his mouth.  Brenda was Heath’s wife, and hearing that shit, especially from an asswipe like Heath always incensed him.  But now was not the time for confrontation.  John let go of the fountain trigger and raised up to his full height, allowing his back to spread out like a raised topographical map of the mountains that surrounded their city.  John heard a stifled “Fuck” from behind him.  John was now accustomed to quiet curses of amazement at seeing him.  But that tone, that was different.  That wasn’t upset about being overheard.  That was … what?  John could have sworn there was a hint of sexuality in that tone.  He put up his undercover cop shield before he turned around.  No one here but Cook was supposed to know who he was, but John was ALWAYS by the book.  

 

He turned around to reveal his immense chest and ripped abs and a face so hyper-masculine, so refined, yet perfectly chiseled that a model would lust after them.  And the man he saw - it took all of John’s well-honed discipline not to burst out laughing.  Heath had not changed one bit.  Still the well muscled guy he always was.  Still the strutting prick he always was.  Still the criminal he had always been.  He was the same; it was John who was not.  All John saw of the man who had once pinned him under a bar and threatened him was … small.  Just … small.  Tiny.  A frail thing.  Something that would break like a dropped glass if he were not careful.  The smallest flash of calculation passed though his mind, considering whether he could put Heath over his head into the ceiling tiles with one hand.  But, he didn’t finish the thought for what it might make him tempted to do.  And he could not afford those thoughts --- not yet. 

 

Instead, John channeled his new identity.  The intimidating, dominant jock Cop he now was.  Someone so practiced and perfected that he may as well have had a split personality.  

 

“Oh, Hello.  Just thought I’d take time for a quick lift while I was here, and they told me you guys are shirtless when chics aren’t in here.  Hope they told me right...” John said, not giving so much as a hint that he knew who was standing in front of him.  

 

John noticed Heath breathing quickly, just staring.  Eyes almost … dilating.  No way, went through John’s mind.  That’s crazy, but the signs were all there. 

 

John took a step forward as his resonant bass voice sounded again.  “You OK, dude?”  

 

“Oh … oh yeah,“ Heath replied, starting to regain his composure after his brain short-circuited when confronted by the titan in front of him.  “Just wasn’t expecting someone quite so … so tall in here.”

 

“Oh.  Well, I am taller than most that I have seen in the office.  Don’t think about it much to tell the truth.  Anyway, something I can help you with?”

 

Heath was walking around toward the locker room, but his eyes never left John, not for a second.  It was then, when he almost tripped over the bench John had left his clothes on, that Heath latched onto … “Oh, yeah.  You haven’t seen a small guy around here?  Kinda dark red hair like yours.  He is thin though.  Name is Declann.  This is his stuff here.”

 

John smiled inwardly, thanking fate that he had left those clothes there.  Heath had no idea who he was.  PERFECT, he thought.  Let’s run with this and see what he gives me.  John began to slowly walk toward the locker room bench and Heath.  To see John move, it felt a bit like seeing an apex predator stalking prey.  The guys at the gym called John “The Predator” when this side of him started to come out.  A small, cocky smirk began to form on his lips. 

 

“You know when I came in, there was a small guy here. Kind of like you describe.  Didn’t catch his name tho. Didn’t speak much, either. I think he’d been ordered to clean out his old locker cause they assigned this locker number to me. When I showed up, he just took off and left his stuff. Don’t know where he is now.”

 

By the time he had finished, John was within a couple of feet of Heath and right on top of his old things.  With his cocky smirk on full, John reached down and picked up his old boots. “Nice boots, good condition.  They are small though. Might fit my little brother,” John idly mused as he glanced down at Heath’s legs. “Or you.”

 

John put the boots back where he found them and the Predator stepped back for a moment.  “But, no I never caught his name.  And speaking of - didn’t catch your name, man. Haven’t been here long enough to meet many people.”  John said.

 

“Uh.  Sorry.  My name’s Jeff Heath.  I'm a senior deputy on the county SWAT team.” Heath’s voice wavered a bit, confronted by the shirtless muscle giant.

 

John came up just a little too close to Heath and extended his hand.  Heath was staring straight into John’s upper pecs and had to crane his neck up a bit to look John in the eyes.  John was smiling as he looked down.  His eyes bore into the smaller man.  

 

“I’m Brady.  Kyle Brady.  On loan from Air Force Civilian Police.  Good to meet you Jeff.”  Heath took John’s much bigger hand and tried to squeeze it in a proper firm handshake, but John squeezed back JUST hard enough to break Heath’s grip and press his knuckles together without really hurting him. And not for an instant did John’s eyes ever move from drilling a hole straight through Heath’s head.  Heath had this small feeling in his bladder, like he should wet himself.  The statement was made.  An alpha male was in the room, and Heath wasn’t it.  

 

John lingered for just a moment and then dropped Heath like he had not even been there.  John turned around and started walking back toward the bench.  And if he had calculated correctly … 

 

“I’ve sure as hell noticed you.”  Heath said, voice with just a slight tremor.  

 

Bingo, John thought.  

 

Heath continued, “You’re kind of hard to miss.  You must have been lifting since before high school.”

 

John never turned around as he replied. “Believe it or not, I ran track in high school.”

 

John heard Heath walking toward him but the voice was still shaky, unsure. “What the fuck? Track?  No offense, but I’ve never seen a track runner who wasn’t skinny as hell.”

 

John turned around.  “Yep,  Track.  But I was different back then for sure.  You might say I was a late bloomer.”

 

“Well damn, you’ve changed.”

 

“You would be surprised just how much.” 

 

Heath tried to maintain his composure and reassert himself after that weird feeling when this Kyle shook his hand.  “Yeah, I’ve seen that happen sometimes.  Guys keep just growing after high school.  Me - I got to 5’11” in tenth grade and only filled out after that.  Not taller at all.  But, maybe it was better that you did track in school.  Hitting gear too early can stunt your growth, they say.”

 

John’s eyes flashed cold for just an instant, locking onto and catching the little man again. “Seen that with kids sometimes.”  John’s deep voice dropped slightly lower, making Heath flinch in spite of himself.  “Fucking shame too…”

 

Heath backpedaled a bit, “Yeah, I used to look down on skinny runts, but some of them sprouted, and if they got into the weight room, they ended up fucking huge --- Like you.”

 

John pulled back slightly in response to Heath's compliment.  John decided it was time to play, and time to see if he really was right about what the signs in Heath’s responses to him showed.  The Predator started to come forward again.  

 

“Thanks man.  I certainly do try.  Can’t claim any credit for getting tall though.  Just kind of happened.  The muscle though --” John walked back to within a pace or two of Heath.  “That I had to earn.  Still came on pretty quick.  Guess you could say I have a talent for it.”

 

Smirking down, John bounced his mountainous pecs in Heath’s face.  His grin grew a little more as he saw a few beads of sweat break out on Heath, and his eyes definitely bugged out being so close to a man who literally dwarfed him.  

 

“But,“ John said as he stopped the display and took a step back, “was gonna say that you do not look like you’re a stranger to the gym.  Great build for sure”  He paused and then added, almost as an afterthought “…. for a little guy.”

 

“Thank you,” Health said, almost - flattered, John thought.  “But, you… you’re just damned impressive.  And I am not a man that is easily impressed.”  Heath tried to hide what happened then, but John caught it.  A quick glance at his cock and a breath.  Too quick of a breath.  It was then that all the pieces came together.  

 

John knew EXACTLY what was happening.  The scrawny little fuck is hot for me, John thought. He wants ... John almost lost it, but then something else came to mind. The Predator came on in full force.  He was going to either reel Heath in or put him in his place.  Either way, this was going to be fun…

 

John stepped back toward the water fountain.  With his back toward Heath, John held a barely contained laugh under his voice.  “Impressive, huh?  Well  I can appreciate that.  But, you know.  I always found what you can do with mass even more impressive.”  John got a quick sip of water before turning around and “mindlessly” rippling his pecs as his devastating sexy smile cracked on his lips.  He cocked his head in the direction of the incline he was on.  

 

“So, let me ask the gym noob question.  What’s your bench, man?”

 

Heath became almost sheepish under the mental onslaught of MAN John was dishing out on him. “Ahhh… 4 …. 425.”

 

John said in reply as he came back toward the bench, “425.  That’s respectable for just about anybody.  How about what’s on the bar now?”

 

Heath questioned. “10 plates….ah 495?”  

 

John cocked his head again, inviting Heath to come closer, as he sat down on the bench’s seat.  “Bet I know what you’re thinking when you look at this much weight.”  John’s voice lowered as the Predator came out even more.  

 

“You stand alone, ten plates in the hole. It’s you versus the weight.”  John popped his neck back and forth, loosening up.  His voice drops lower again, softer.  Bringing Heath in closer.  John locked eyes with Heath.  “You're thinking, ‘I'm going to get fucking crushed.’ You're thinking, ‘I am not gonna get up.’ 

 

“You'll puke. You will feel like your gonna die, and it will be hell getting off the shittter the next few days.’ 

 

“But, I’m here to tell you, it will all be worth it. ‘Cause when there’s chalk on your hands and sweat running down you, there's no better place in the world.” John leaned back as he grasped the bar. He looked up one last time at Heath with eyes that seemed to drill straight into Heath’s brain.  “Can you handle it?”

 

John lifted the bar off of the rack, and then, slowly, methodically, without so much as a groan or stress at all started, lowered the bar to his chest and then started pressing.

 

1...2....3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10.  

 

John seemingly effortlessly racked the bar and then stood up.  His pecs were already pumped, deep red with blood, fine veins starting to cross the muscles of his pecs and delts.

 

Heath was breathing like he was watching a porn.  “Oh my GOD.  You made that look easy…”

 

John looked at him, his voice switching subtly to the command tone he took in the gym.  He flexed his pecs a few times as he walked almost into Heath’s face he was so close.  But John never slowed, just walked to the weight rack and grabbed a pair of 25 pound plates in one hand.  

 

“Let’s see what I’ve got.  Here. Toss a quarter on there.”  John said, putting the weights he was carrying in into Heath’s hand.  

 

Heath’s grip broke immediately under the width of the plates. He was barely able to bring his other hand around to keep them from falling.  Heath almost ran to put on another 50 lbs on the bar as John sat down to a 545 lb press.  Heath stood back slightly, like he was going to spot the giant, but the question was humble, something akin to a little boy. “Do… do you need a liftoff?”

 

This time, John couldn’t hold it back anymore.  The chuckle that came from his mouth was nearly derisive.  The look he gave was as if he were looking at a specimen in a petri dish.  

 

“What do you think?” John replied.  He sat under the bar.  The bar flexed, warped under the strain, as John brought it to his chest again and pressed smoothly.  

 

1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8.  

 

John re-racked with a crash as the entire apparatus under him shook with the forceful impact of a quarter ton of steel.  

 

John sat up, veins popping over his forearms, chest and delts even thicker, bigger.  John lowered the pretense now and simply commanded Heath.  “Pull ‘um off.  Put on another 45.”  

 

Heath walked almost zombie-like, removing the 25 plates.  He walked to the squat rack to get more weights, the closest place with another pair of 45’s.  When he turned around, he saw John, eyes locked on him, the Predator was fully out now.  Heath didn’t even notice the small wet spot on his groin growing.

 

Heath finished preparing the bar, 585 lbs on it making the bar bend before John ever touched it.  Heath was nearly incredulous now, as he simply said, “But that’s …”

 

The Predator replied with contempt, “That’s what...?”  

 

John slid back down, set himself, and grasped the bar.  The bar distorted as it slowly rose again.  The Predator let out a low primal growl now as the bar moved 

 

1...2...3...4...5...6.  

 

The bar looked like it would almost snap as it racked, and John’s chest looked like it would burst through his skin it was so red and full.  Heath was nearly drooling, mind more than blown, overloaded by what he was seeing.

 

The Predator commanded, “Put the quarters back.  That will be...635.  That’s what --- 3 of you, little man?”  

 

Heath obeyed without thinking, and John’s cock began to fill slightly.  Dominance poured out of him, so strong it was as if he were born to control all human life.  When the collar locks were back in place, the Predator’s eyes gleamed into Heath.  “Hop up on the step.”

 

Heath moved to stand in place behind and above John where one would normally give a spot.  John leaned back onto the back pad.  Heath began to move his hands as if to help in a liftoff when the Predator stopped him with a word, a growl that made Heath’s balls feel like they should shrivel and pull back into his body.  “LOOK.  DON’T TOUCH.”  John commanded.

 

Heath’s hands backed away and dropped, and he turned his head down to watch the mountain below him.  Heath’s eyes consumed the vision, John’s semi-hard cock peeking out of the bottom of his shorts, contrasting with the living rock under his command.  The bar looked like it would snap as it bent …. And John lifted it off….

 

1……

 

2…..

 

A roar erupted as the Predator forced the bar through the sticking point. 

 

3…

 

Heath’s eyes were wide as plates, his mouth agape at the raw power he was seeing.  The bar slowly lowered again.  

 

John paused as it touched his chest.  The Predator’s eyes locked onto the crumbling once-a-man that was Jeff Heath.  John killed any momentum, any hint of mechanical advantage that might aid him in the lift.  1...2...3 seconds he waited.  Then the Predator let out a near primal scream as he poured power into the bar, and it moved slowly, but relentlessly up.  Quarter way, then to the sticking point, then to three-quarters, then his arms locked.  John moved the bar back and racked, making everything, Heath included, shake.

 

A light sheen of sweat covered John’s body now, just like what he told Heath when he started.  John stood towering over Heath.  Even with the smaller man elevated several inches on the spot platform, John was STILL more than a head taller.  He stepped forward grasping the bar. He pressed his arms into an insane triceps flex and leaned over it. The smell of musk and sweat pouring over Heath, his eyes only seeing someone, something beyond a man in front of him.  The Predator softly growled.  “Well…  Can.  You.  Handle.  It?”

 

Heath’s dick was clearly outlined in his BDU’s, the spot of pre so large it was starting to actually make a trail down his leg from his groin.  Heath’s face and eyes were no longer those of a cocky prick.  Instead what was looking back at John was shock, fear, submission, and pure lust.  Heath seemed to tremble as a leaf in a very mild wind.  

 

The Predator took in the entirety of the tiny man but not giving away even a hint that he was doing so.  He was right, and he knew it.  The Predator knew the shitstain had tasted the bait.  Now it was time to set the hook and reel him in.  

 

After what felt like hours, but was really perhaps three seconds, John stood, took a couple of steps back, and turned around.  As he bent to pick up his stringer from the floor, he said, as if nothing at all had happened, “I don’t know.”  

 

He raised back to standing with the tank dangling from his fist at his side, “I don’t think that bar can handle much more weight without flexing too much.  I don’t want to permanently warp it.   Not much use to you then.  But, you really need to get some stiffer power bars in here to handle proper weight.  Clear that off for me, will you?”  John’s tone sounded like he was asking a favor, but both men knew it was an order.

 

Heath instantly hopped down and began to take the plates off the bar, much to the bar’s relief as it raised back up into place.  Heath removed a plate on one side and then the other, replacing them on the plate tree.  Even through unloading the bar, Heath kept glancing up at John, his breath haggard as he watched the giant get a big gulp of water from the fountain, wipe his brow with his stringer, and walk into the locker room.  

 

Heath mumbled as he was finishing clearing plates, “You’re the only one who would need it…”

 

John replied again, as if nothing had happened, “What was that?”  John was now in front of the mirror at the sinks, flexing his pecs and pulling a side chest pose.

 

Heath, finishing his task, said, “Nothing.  Just that you’re the only one who would need it.”  Heath moved into the locker room but stopped dead as he saw John posing.  

 

“Oh really?  I supposed that’s true.  Sometimes I forget that most guys are weaker than me.  Gonna do the armed forces show in the Springs in a few weeks.  What do you think?”  John said as he pulled back and SLOWLY, flexed his titanic arms, bringing them forward and squeezing his pecs in an open hug, dropping into a most muscular.

 

Heath’s eyes nearly exploded out of his skull.  He briefly wondered what it would be like to be inside that crushing pinser, if he would even survive it.  “Ahhhhhh ……. Ahhhh….. I don’t think they stand a chance.”

 

John smiled, “Think so?  Kind of you.  And you haven’t even seen my best pose.  Been told my double bi’s my money shot.”  John set his feet, put his arms above his head, and then pulled them down into the biggest double biceps Heath thought had ever been seen on earth.  Heath’s eyes could not stop moving - first it was biceps the size of Heath’s head, then it was lats that looked like he could outspan a 747, to two veins that looked as thick as his index finger running across the peak with branches upon branches smaller and smaller veins crossing everywhere, to the reflection of absolutely perfect abs and obliques clearly visible in the mirror, to the delts staring him in the face from his rear vantage that seemed to have bowling balls stuffed inside.  

 

“Holy shit….” Heath let out, barely above a whisper.

 

John’s smile began to gain the faintest hint of the Predator’s gleam.  “Come on, take a closer look.  Really like your opinion.  And put yours up while you’re at it.  I’m showing mine….”  

 

Heath couldn’t refuse, but a knot formed in the pit of his stomach behind his abs.  He knew what was coming, but … he couldn’t or didn’t want to stop it.  He walked almost robotically toward John. When he was within a foot of the cop muscle god, Heath stopped.  John relaxed for just a moment and took a step back, putting Heath just in front of him.  John set again and pulled the pose even HARDER.  Heath didn’t think it could be any bigger, but everything about the Predator behind him was larger now.  Heath had no choice but adopt the same pose.

 

It was striking.  Heath’s own, large for most men, 19 inch biceps were totally dwarfed. John’s FOREARMS were larger than the fattest part of Heath’s peaks. In the mirror, the top of John’s split peak was perfectly visible, rising higher than the back of Heath’s head.  It looked like a pro bodybuilder in his prime posing with a noobie young teen looking for inspiration.  

 

John noticed and this time, he could not hold the laughter back.  John could see it in Heath’s eyes looking back in the mirror.  The little man was not only defeated, but totally crushed.  The tiniest sound of a whimper escaped Heath’s mouth.  It could not be clearer who was the MAN … and who was the boy.  

 

John had made the exact impression he had wanted, but the laugher sounded totally good natured … almost.  John dropped the pose, allowing his right arm to just brush down Heath’s back.  Heath gasped almost in fear.  “Oh Shit.  Sorry, man.  Like I said, sometimes I just forget how short people are.  So, what do you think?”

 

“I don’t think anyone has a prayer against you, Kyle.  I mean it.  Not a hope in hell.”  Heath said, still looking at the reflection of the arm that had sent shivers through him.  Heath didn’t even realize it when his thoughts accidentally poured out of his mouth.  “Kyle, you have to tell me.  What supps do you take to look like… like...like THIS?”

 

John looked at Heath via the mirror.  “Well you know, usual stuff.  What about you?”  

 

“Mostly natural stuff, but sometimes.  Sometimes I need a little help, you know?”

 

John took a step up to the counter in front of the mirror and picked up his tank.  “Yeah…. Happens to us all sometimes.  Needing that little extra kick.”

 

John started to pull the stringer over top of his head.  Heath took the moment to stare dead into the reflection of John’s bulge in the mirror. He thought he had been fast enough to avoid detection as that mass of XXXXL cloth that made up the tank obscured John’s view…. He hadn’t been.  John knew it almost the moment it happened.  

 

Gotcha, John thought. Hook set.  Reel him in.

 

Heath replied, finally turning around.  “Forgive me, but you sure don’t look like you need any help.”

 

“Well, some things you need help with.  Others … not so much.”  John smirked.  “Some things are just genetic gifts.  You know that.”

 

“I wish I had your gifts.”  Heath said, so close to total defeat that the last few inches wouldn’t have mattered.    

 

John turned around and walked to grab a folded towel from the rack near the lockers.  “Looks like you have some gifts yourself.  That little ass of yours looks like it has had a lot of heavy squats put into it.”

 

Heath blushed immediately.  The way Kyle said it, he couldn’t be sure if Kyle just hit on him, or if he were making an actual comment about his glutes. But he had to be sure.  He HAD to.  “Uh, so Kyle.  After you finish up and take a shower, you wanna grab some food? You’re new here, so it’s on me.”

 

John seems to totally ignore the man talking to him as he turned on the water inside a shower stall.  But after a pregnant moment, he replied, “Thanks for the offer man, but I have to go and talk to the boss.  But…. I'll tell you what.”  John tossed his towel down onto a bench closest to his shower and walked back to where his locker contents were folded on the edge of the bench closest to the gym door.  One of his own old notepads was just barely visible, poking out of his old uniform shirt.  He looked back at Heath, while cocking his head toward the small pile.  “Think he would mind?”

 

“He wouldn’t say fuck if you burned it all.”  Heath replied.  John cracked a half smile as he removed the pad and then pretended to rummage for a pen.  Pulling out the pen exactly where he knew it was, John wrote the number of his Air Force burner phone on a piece of paper.  He ripped it out, and then just dropped the pad and pen back onto the bench as if the man who owned them was beneath his contempt - exactly the way Heath would have dropped them before today.

 

John held the piece of paper JUST out of Heath’s reach, while still looking like he was offering it.  “If you’re willing, I might just take you up on that a little later.  Shoot me a text and when I find out what the boss wants and when, we can set up a time.”  Heath almost fell over himself to grab the paper out of John’s hand.  

 

“No problem, Kyle.  Looking forward to it.” Heath said.

 

“So am I.  Catch you later, Jeff,” John replied.  John turned around and started for the shower.  He lingered just long enough for Heath to leave - or at least appear to.  John slipped off his shoes and socks, his tank and shorts and walked with the confidence of any gym jock cop into the shower.  But John knew Heath was still there.  He hadn’t heard the metal fire door to the hallway outside open or close.  John cracked a smile and turned just enough to show what he wanted as he soaped himself.

 

Trying to stay hidden, Heath was able to catch John’s reflection in the mirror.  Heath nearly swallowed his tongue as he finally got to see the cock and balls John was packing … and they were every bit as enormous as Heath expected.  He stared entranced for a good thirty seconds before John turned to wash his face.  Heath wondered just how long he would need to wait to text so he didn’t look too desperate to feel that cock inside him, as he opened the door and went into the hall.

 

John heard the door close and snickered.  Snickered at how truly EASY that was.  The tiny man really was pathetic.  Finishing his shower just a bit sooner than he normally would have, John slipped his gym clothes back on and laced his shoes.  That little display was just an appetizer for what his real workout would be later.  But now, the wheels were turning.  He knew that Heath was hooking up with men on the side, probably using the steroids as some way to meet men.  Whether his wife knew or not had to be determined but … how he spoke to her on the phone.  That tone.  The tone of a coward.  The tone of an abuser.  IF that were true.  John unconsciously pumped his fist, making his forearm writhe.  IF that were true, he knew what he wanted to do.  He just … damn it.  Gabriel.  

 

No, John thought, before I cross that bridge I have to know first.  And, Gabriel also needed to know that everything looked a little smaller.  Jack was supposed to be at his place with Gabriel still.  He would call and have them both wait until he got home from the Springs.  They would both want to know.  After Jack had gone, he could talk to his angel about the scrawny prick and what he wanted to do.  Though he was sure Gabriel would not like it.

 

***

 

John burst through the door of his apartment.  “Angel, Jack?  Where are you two?”

 

Gabriel’s accented half shout came in reply.  “In the kitchen, John.”  John dropped his gym bag beside the door in its usual spot, made his way through the dining room, and around an L corner to the kitchen.  John couldn’t help but laugh at the sight -- Gabriel making tea.  “Do you EVER not drink tea, Gabriel?”

 

Gabriel looked up and scoffed.  “I’m English.  I can’t move without tea.  It's just not done, and it's too bad American’s have lost this little bit of civilization.”  John walked up, bent down and kissed Gabriel on the cheek.  John then turned around to see Jack, his back turned to John and Gabriel, rummaging the cabinets for a snack.

 

“John, do you have anything here that isn’t macro friendly?  I need something nasty and sweet and --”.  Jack turned around and then stopped in mid word.  “John, are you taller?  Already? And you’ve gotten more muscle mass too.”

 

John became less jovial for a moment as he touched Gabriel’s shoulder, a message to turn around.  “I was actually wanting to talk to you two, since you’re both here.  At work today, people, rooms, all felt a little smaller.  I mean smaller than when I was there a week ago.  And Jack… you look smaller too.”

 

Jack turned and had to take a couple of steps to actually see both men at once.  “Gabriel?”

 

Gabriel looked quizzical. “I hadn’t noticed.  But then again, I do see John everyday.  Daily changes are not going to register to either of us as much.”

 

“Grab your tape measure John.  We need to measure now.”  Jack said.  

 

John went to his gym bag and removed a 10-foot cloth tailor’s measuring tape.  “Gabriel, bring the step stool.  I think you both will need it.”  John said, both matter-of-factly, but also with a hint of gym jock pride.  After his run-in with Heath earlier, he had been rather cocky all day long, and it just happened to fit in with Warren wanting him to “one up” his collegue.

 

“Wipe that smirk off your face, you gorilla.”  Gabriel said, already bringing the small step that John had once used to change lightbulbs.  John hadn’t needed anything like that in a while now.  

 

John lightly tossed the measuring tape to Jack, who caught the lob easily.  Gabriel handed him the folding step, and John lined himself up on a flat, floor to ceiling wall.  “Slip those shoes off,” Jack reminded John, who complied.  Once set, Jack climbed to the top step, and found himself just barely at the top of John’s head.  He let the tape measure end go until it hit the ground and examined the measurement closely.

 

Jack took a deep breath and let out a low whistle.  He stepped down and looked at John.  “How long did it take you to grow your first two inches?”

 

“Assuming I began inside the facility, two months.” John said, “Why?”

 

“John, you are 202 centimeters tall.” 

 

Gabriel instantly said, almost incredulously, “WHAT!?!  Jack --”

 

“I can take a measurement Gabriel.” Jack snapped, showing his concern.  “John, you are now just shy of 6’8” tall. You’ve gained over 2 inches in 10 days.  Not 2 months, 10 days.”

 

“John, we need to do everything.  Where is your pad that you used to keep measurements in for me?” Gabriel asked.

 

“In the bedroom in my nightstand, “John replied.  Jack was already moving around, struggling to maneuver around John’s muscle mass to get accurate measurements.  Meanwhile, Gabriel brought in John’s bathroom scale.  The measurements were not as accurate as the lab body scanner, and John was dangerously close to maxing his bathroom scale.  But what was happening was obvious once they saw it all in black and white.

 

Height: 6’7.5” (2.02 m)

Weight: 343.9 lbs (156.4 kg)

Neck: 24.25 inches (61.6 cm)

Chest: 64.125 inches (162.9 cm)

Waist: 34.125 inches (86.7 cm)

Forearms: 21.75 inches (55.3 cm)

Upper Arms:  25.125 inches (63.8 cm)

Thighs: 35.5 inches (90.2 cm)

Calves: 24.75 inches (62.9 cm)

 

Gabriel collapsed onto a soft oversized chair, and put his hand to his mouth. John knew this mannerism, Gabriel was afraid.  “Oh my God.  I am such a fucking idiot,” Gabriel mumbled.  “The more you challenge your body the more it grows.  I just didn’t think.  But it's obvious.  John, it’s not linear growth, it's exponential.’  Gabriel stopped, his lip almost trembling “We do not have a lot of time.  John…. John, its accelerating.”  

 

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Chapter 6 - Cage the Beast


There is a devil in all of us.  Some can control him.  Some can summon him when the time is right.  Others don’t know how to make him submit.


6.25 months after the Accident


 

John was practically shoehorned into the tiny fart of a midsize SUV he had rented.  But he needed something nondescript, and this was it.  He pulled into the by now familiar spot he had scoped out on his first visit to this place.  It was perfect to capture all of Heath’s movements and get the evidence, but otherwise not be noticed.  This was John’s fifth trip here in the last 3 and a half weeks, and this would be his last.  After tonight, he would have all the evidence he needed to do what he had planned.

 

John cracked his window a bit, shut off the engine, and waited.  He had about half an hour to wait before dusk.  Creature of habit that he was, dusk was always when Heath arrived here.  Habit had been Heath’s Achilles heel, and John had been making extensive use of the flaw.  He took a deep breath and tried to center himself.  But here he was again, alone with his thoughts.  No distractions.

 

Where had it all gone so wrong? he wondered.  But, John knew the answer to that before the question even formed in his mind. The rift between him and Gabriel began the very same night they learned his growth was accelerating. It seemed like such a small thing that set it off now, but small things have a way of crushing a relationship if they are allowed to fester.  

 

Perhaps the small thing originated out of the panic Gabriel and Jack felt when they learned the time they had counted on to figure out what to do was much shorter than they thought.  Perhaps it was just the way scientists are when they are obsessing about their work -- the same way John could obsess over a case.  But however uncertain the origin was, the results were harsh and terrible.  

 

What made it worse was that it could have been avoided or at least stopped before it really took root. John had violated one of the only pieces of advice his grandfather had ever given to him.  “Never go to bed angry.”  But, it was too late to fix it now, and as the knot of darkness behind his abs twisted again. John remembered.  It was still so vivid.... 

 


25 days before the last stakeout --


 

The longer Gabriel and Jack kept talking, the more frustrated John felt.  He knew even as he sat there he shouldn’t have.  He knew the scientists were trying to come up with a way to help all three of them. What was eating away at John was something so simple.  Most of the time, the two doctors were in their own little world.  John tried to contribute, but they just ignored what he said and kept on going.  

 

The longer they kept talking, the more involved in themselves they became. And the more insular they became, the more John resented it.  John HATED to be reminded of the days when he was small and so easily ignored.  Now, because of panic or fear or … worse, he found himself reminded all too much of what he had once been.  And for the first time since he met them, John found himself emotionally pulling away from the now little men.  

 

A tangled knot of dark emotions began to slowly form behind his abs. “Maybe they think I can't keep up with them,” he thought.  “Maybe they think I am getting more and more stupid as I get taller and stronger.”   

 

It was in the middle of this simmering brew of isolation and resentment, John heard it.  The smallest of things that sent him over the edge. Gabriel was harping on and on about some ridiculously trivial bit concerning John’s DNA. Jack’s own body language gave away how inconsequential it all was.  So, John made a suggestion that it might be more useful to move to something else, but Gabriel replied, “If we do that, we will automatically let them see just how physically advanced the experiment is and he ---”  

 

John didn’t hear the rest of the sentence.  He recoiled as if he had been smacked in the face with a metal pole.  The experiment.  Gabriel had reduced him from a man to an experiment.  The person who held his heart, the man who not even a few hours ago John would have done anything for, didn’t even consider him a human.  John knew that it was in moments of real pressure that people’s mental filters fell away and what they revealed what they really thought. That’s why interrogations of suspects followed the methods they did. So, what was he to Gabriel really?  A freak.  All this time, all this talk - it was just to protect a lab rat.  

 

Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore.  John stood up and told them he was going for a run to clear his head.  And then the proverbial cherry on top came - Gabriel just nodded, waved somewhat in his direction, and said, “That’s a good idea, John.  Have fun.”  John felt as if he had been dismissed like a 6 year old.  He had just been told to go play with his toys while the adults talked.  Gabriel was so absorbed his eyes never even moved from Jack’s face in John’s direction.

 

Tears of hurt and anger welled in John’s eyes as he slipped on his trainers and walked out the door.  It was near midnight, and in his section of the city, that meant things were very quiet.  John took a deep breath of the relatively cool Colorado night air as he stretched.  He tried to calm the pain that was quickly transmuting into rage … but it wasn’t working.  

 

“FUCK IT, John thought.  Fuck it if anyone sees me.  Fuck it if some runt films me.  Fuck what the little people think.  JUST FUCK IT!!”  

 

John ripped off his tank, threw it on the ground,  and nearly shattered his phone screen as he got his GPS run tracker started.  He popped in his earbuds and let loose with the first song that came up randomly (Red - Losing Control).  And then, finally, for the first time in over six months, John and the Predator fully let loose.  

 

John allowed his legs to unleash, to properly pump and move through the run.  He had not moved even a few strides before his anger began to fuel him, pushing his legs harder,  his stride lengthening from a jog into a flat run, his cadence moving faster and faster.  His pulse at last began to rise, and his breathing became faster.  He dealt with so much every day they could never understand.  Always having to hold back, always being careful, dealing with the constant looks, the constant lies that went with the investigation … and as much as he loved Gabriel, always having to bite his tongue when the scientist in him made John feel exactly like what Gabriel’s lab computer knew him as -- “Subject 0001.” 

 

John charged through an intersection and pressed himself even harder, making his great body move even faster.  (Disturbed - The Animal) He let his mind wander to what had happened earlier that day.  How easy it had been to reduce Heath to a whimpering, broken, hollow little thing.  If he had wanted, John knew he could have gone on and totally crushed him.  It would have been so easy to break the fragile cunt that was Jeff Heath.  

 

John turned and crossed another intersection, and the dark knot within him grew.  It would be so easy to break anyone if he really wanted to.  Anyone at all.  All eight billion of the little humans around him.  Physically crushing them was no challenge, but neither was it a challenge to flatten them mentally.  Just like snapping an elbow in his martial arts training, all it would take was the right amount of pressure, in the right spot, at the right time, to snap a soul.  All of them, everyone he knew, everyone he saw, they were all the same.  All it took was what he was so fucking good at.  Observe the runts, see the point of weakness, press on it - 

 

Until it cracked

Until it broke

Until they broke

Until he broke.  

 

Heath.  

 

If it were just Heath in the equation, he would be beneath notice, beneath him like the rest of the dealing scum.  John took another intersection and turned right, powering through it. (Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare)

 

He had many men - no, John thought, they were not men.  Whatever the stunted little bitches were, they were not men.  And he was going to take them all down and make sure ones like Heath had a dose of the bandits on the inside.  Ordinarily, he would just let Heath get swept up with the rest.  But, it wasn’t just him.  There was her too … So, no.  Heath was special, and he deserved special consideration.

 

John knew from what happened today exactly where to press.  And when he was done, there would be little left of the shit stain that was recognizable.  Before the waste of space was carried away in cuffs, there would be nothing but worthless little fragments of his manhood.  BUT - if what he guessed was correct about HER, and he laid 95% chance that he was, then John decided he would take a different course all together.  Then the asswipe would wish he had never been born.  They wouldn’t need cuffs for Jeff Heath.  They would need a straitjacket. 

 

As John ran, he laid out how to gather the evidence he would need to do it, what would be needed to convince her.  (Metallica - No Leaf Clover) How to document it.  How to approach her properly.  What to say, when to say it.  And then … John decided that when the runt texted, he would set up the lunch.  And he would make it weekly.  It was the perfect way to press his shatterpoint.  Too damned perfect.  It would take no more than a few weeks, he calculated.  Plenty of time before the close of the operation to lead Jeff Heath to his own emasculation.

 

John rounded one last corner and headed for home. (Godsmack - 1000hp)  When he caught sight of the lights of his parking lot, John opened up his legs even more, more power, more speed, an open sprint.  Blood poured into the tree trunk pistons, driving him forward.  Sweat flew backwards as the wind peeled it off his face and lats.  It felt SO GOOD to finally open up, to finally open up. By the time John had slowed himself down to a trot and then to a stop next to his untouched stringer, he was smiling broadly.  He KNEW what HE was going to do with the next few weeks, even if the fucking docs didn’t have a clue what they were going to do.  He would tell Gabriel what was going to happen, of course, and he knew how he would react.  But the knot within him didn’t care anymore.

 

John started walking around the lot, allowing his muscles to cool down.  He pulled out his cell phone and flipped the tracker app.  He had run just over 45 minutes … and had made just over 12 miles in that time.  His fastest speed was his sprint … at 23 miles per hour.  John smiled at the numbers he knew were good, but he had no real idea just how good until he googled it.  

 

It was a rush every bit as good as the ones he got when he made a new PR in the gym.  His normal running pace was now better than the fastest marathon time ever recorded, and his sprint was approaching Usain Bolt’s.  Except he was carrying at least 150 pounds more muscle mass.  

 

John looked down to see his legs in the light of the street lamps.  They were ENORMOUSLY pumped.  What’s more, his definition, even through the pump, was looking as good as any stage bodybuilder in immaculate condition.  As he slowed his walk to normal and slid on his tank, John laughed to himself.  He may never show his speed to the world like Bolt does.  John knew that very shortly though --- he would be faster.  He decided to sit on this little revelation as he walked to his door.

 

“John is that you?”  Gabriel yelled as he heard the door open.

 

“Ya.”  John replied. “Just gonna grab a shower.”

 

“OK. We should be done when you are.  I’m beat.”  Gabriel said.  Gabriel never turned around and John never slowed his pace as he closed the bathroom door.

 


 

John focused the camera into a tight zoom and started to snap some photos.  The car, Heath’s body and face.  The male companion. The room rumber.  The door.  It was an out of the way, roach motel of a place, but for what Heath was doing, John admitted it was perfect.  Deep in Weld County, on the way to Wyoming.  No one would especially know who Heath was here.  

 

Jeff had a habit of checking in on his own, without his companion for the evening present.  The clerk had been very friendly when John asked to see the check-in records.  Heath always paid for a single overnight stay in cash, though he never actually stayed that long.  No doubt, he was telling his wife he had to work some nighttime meth raid or something.  

 

This night, he had a very respectably built, younger man with him in his rental car.  Heath always came in a rental the same as John. Basic tactic both men knew and used.  That made tailing Heath hard sometimes, even for someone as extremely well practiced in tracking a vehicle as John was.  When the younger man got out of the car, John noted he was dressed in a well fitted short sleeve muscle shirt and shorts.  Costly looking fashion sneakers.  His size and structure had the promise of much more muscle ahead of him if he kept up with his training.  The swagger in the way he walked, the look of apex in his eyes, maybe a just graduated college jock or military.  Dominant personality -- a Dominant Top.  Exactly the type Heath ALWAYS brought to this place.  Both men entered, and the motel room door closed. 

 

Now John had to wait again. Wait with only his troubled thoughts for company.  John’s mind leaped to the last night he had a man with him in his own bed.  The same night as the run.  The night he told Gabriel what Jeff’s fate was going to be ...

 


24 days before the last stakeout --


 

John had already been in bed for hours by the time Gabriel came in.  Normally, John was so massive and Gabriel so light, that he could come and go without John ever knowing.  He had always been cursed as a light sleeper. So, he would tend to wake up and take an hour or two and work until sleep started to take him again.  Ever since he and John had been sleeping together - every day since John had gotten home - Gabriel always felt guilty about his sleeping habits.  He never felt safer or more loved than when he was next to John.  All his heart ever wanted to do was jump into John’s arms and never leave.  But Gabriel’s head had always ruled his heart,  especially on a night like tonight when so much was racing through the gears of his mind.  

 

But, now, standing here, Gabriel thought maybe he had made a mistake.  John was so damned devoted.  All that time with Jack, it didn’t even occur to him to include John.  It was his life after all, but hour after hour - Jack and he talked about John, and most of the time with John sitting there, and they ignored him.  A pang of guilt went through him - God, he loved this man.  But explaining things to John slowed them down.  It wasn’t that John wasn’t smart.  He was - brilliant in his own area.  But this wasn’t his specialty, and he wasn’t the subject of an experi -- 

 

OH SHIT ... 

 

Gabriel’s thought lurched as he realized what he had done. No wonder John had left.  Gabriel felt nearly distraught as, for the first time since they took measurements, he actually listened to himself.  “Oh I REALLY need to apologize. Now,” he thought.  “I hadn’t intended to -”

 

“So, are you coming to bed now?” icily erupted from John.  His resonant bass and the sheer cold of that voice made Gabriel jump.


“Oh my God.  John.  I thought you were … John … I ... Look the way I was talking earlier, I’m-” Gabriel stumbled.

 

“It’s alright.” John said, not exactly convincingly.  He tossed an arm that seemed as wide as Gabriel’s pillow under the sheets and flipped them open. “After all, it wasn’t the first time.”  That remark cut Gabriel to the core.  He felt so much smaller than he normally felt with John as he crawled into bed.  And for the first time in all the nights they had spent together, John didn’t immediately reach over to hold him.  Gabriel scooted a bit, but John didn’t offer at all.  Instead came the dreaded words, “Gabriel, we need to talk.”

 

“Oh God, John --”

 

“No, Gabriel really it isn’t that.  THAT we can talk about later.  But this is …”  

 

“About the case.  About Heath.  This is serious.  Gabriel I need to do something. I decided on the run.  And I know you are not going to like it.  But I owe it to you to tell you.  If for nothing else than for you to include it in your planning for me.”

 

John started to talk, explain, and as he did a knot started to form in the pit of Gabriel’s stomach.  NO, he didn’t like this at all.  Not one bit.  And the longer this went, the more Gabriel realized, John wasn’t asking for approval; he was dictating what WOULD happen, whether Gabriel objected or not.

 

But, in what felt like an afterthought when he was done, John asked, “How do you feel about it?”

 

Gabriel lay there, shaken to his foundations.  Of all the things he ever thought he would hear from the mouth of John Declann this …. this plan.  It is frightening.  Sickening.  And most of all - Gabriel for the first time was scared of the giant laying beside him.  Was Jack wrong about John’s morals?  Was John - 

 

“Well?”  John again interrupted Gabriel’s silence with something akin to aggravation in his voice.

 

Gabriel’s much smaller voice quivered as he responded. “John, I… I need to think.  I do not know.  I think you can accept that this is sort of … shocking.  I just… I don’t know.”

 

“Alright.  I can accept that.  But I would like an answer, sooner rather than later, especially if what I suspect pans out.  Can you agree to that?”  John was so cold.  Gabriel had never felt this, heard this.  He wondered who this even was next to him.  Had he pushed John into this?  What had he done to…

 

Gabriel heard a low rumbling sigh and groan almost shake the bed.  John was getting pissed and that scared Gabriel more than anything. “OK.  OK.  I can do that John.  Just can I have time to think?”

 

“Fine.” John replied.  “We should sleep.  Big day tomorrow I am betting.  I know for me at least.  Good night.”  And with that John stopped communicating, and it was like he had never been awake.  Gabriel felt ice next to him, a cold that sank into his soul despite the season, the covers, and the radiant warmth John’s muscles always seemed to put off.  Gabriel pulled as far away as he could, turned his back to John, and tried to sleep.

 


 

Three hours was the usual time John had found for the hook ups to last. And not much more than three hours later,  he was at the camera again, snapping photos showing the two men departing.  The young jock looked a little damp, wet hair, obviously showered.  But, he walked totally disinterested now.  Another notch on the belt, and looking like he was ready to call his girl to get on with some real fucking.  

 

Heath -- John snickered to himself to see Heath walking rather tenderly.  “Good man,” John thought about the top.  That was a good, solid fuck - for the shrimp at least.  John silently patted the jock on the back.  Yes, he was small, but he was kindred, and good work deserved the pat.

 

John kept snapping until the car pulled away.  Later, he would use the snaps of the car plate to get rental records to show Heath had rented this car during the time stamp on the photos.  This was the fourth set of these photos with four different men.  John wheeled through the pics, keeping the good ones, noting the ones he should delete.  As he did, John slowly fumed. He needed to wait to make sure Heath did not pick up on being trailed.  This felt so much like ---

 


24 Days Before the Final Stake Out --


 

While John and his workout partner were destroying delts at the gym the next morning, it happened.  Over the sound of a solid pump up song,  (Godsmack- When Legends Rise ) a very specific chime sounded through John’s headphones, signaling the arrival of the expected text:

 

Jeff Heath: Hi Kyle.  It’s Jeff Heath.  Wondering if today might be a good day for that lunch.

 

Typically, John would never allow something like a non-emergency text to interrupt a workout.  He would usually turn on airplane mode so that he could listen to music but not be interrupted by anything else.  Everyone who knew him knew if it went straight to voicemail, he was in the gym.  But, just for today, he had decided to keep the burner on, for the text he KNEW would come.  

 

He had just re-racked his last warmup of overhead press - with 315 on the bar - when the bell sounded.  John went ahead and picked up a couple of 25’s to bump it up to 365.  With the bar set, he stepped away for a second and he decided to reply.

 

Kyle Brady: At the gym right now, little dude.  Prob another 2 hrs on my workout, but might be nice to collect on the offer.  As long as ur sure u can afford to feed the beast, meet u at 2. Where should I pick you up?

 

John had not even gotten the chance to enter into the first step of his pre-set pump up ritual, when the bell of the text sounded again.  He laughed.  Shit he is fucking desperate.  John picked up the phone and flipped it on.

 

Jeff Heath: That would be great.  Here is my address.  Just swing by.

 

John dropped the phone and let it go at that, still laughing at how this person who he used to think was intimidating and frightening was in reality a cock-hungry little bitch.  

 

That amusement changed instantly when John got close to Heath’s home after his workout.  In the text listing 2 PM, John had deliberately overestimated the time it would take him to finish his sets and cardio.  He took the chance to go early and to watch Heath’s place, to get a feel of the man at home.  It was in those few minutes of looking at the house and lawn that John got his answer to the question he had the day before, and it made his blood boil.  He got a look at Brenda Heath - the fresh bruising and swelling.  The way she pulled back in fear as he guessed she delivered some bad news of some kind.  The way that scum grabbed the petite woman by the arm and practically dragged her inside.  

 

John decided he would put a stop to whatever Heath was going to do, at least for the moment.

 

Kyle Brady: Got finished earlier than expected.  Be there in a couple of minutes.  Don’t make me wait.

 

John waited about thirty seconds, cranked the Jeep, and pulled toward the curb in front of the address Heath had given.  He hadn’t even put the transmission back into first and stopped when Heath popped out of his front door.  John smiled coldly as he saw … Heath must have changed clothes.  Gone was the usual tight shirts and in its place a loose polo and khakis.  Made quite the contrast to John’s sleeveless t, shorts, and trainers.  But, he guessed the runt had at least some modicum of pride left in not wanting to be compared to him again.  John decided right then to make sure that hope evaporated like a puddle in the summer sun as soon as Heath got in.

 

Heath opened the passenger door and needed to take the side step up to aid him in getting into the door.  “Jesus man, this is a tall Jeep.” Heath said as he pulled himself inside.

 

John laughed, “Well, for short people like you, probably so.  I’ve never had to use that step myself.  A little low to the ground for me.  So, how are you Jeff?”  John extended his hand, and Heath took it, but this time, he didn’t try and squeeze at all.  John smiled as he took a firm grip, just enough to plant the same superiority into Heath that was there when they had finished in the locker room yesterday.

 

“I’ll do.  Issues with the wife, you know.  Just don’t understand how a man needs things done sometimes. Nothing I can’t handle though.”

 

“Suppose it is hard for her to understand without the example of a real man being there.”  John gave a pregnant pause, before he added. “most the time.  So, how is Chipotle for you? Decent food for post workout, and the coach gave me the OK for a refeed, before finishing dialing in for the show.”

 

“That’s great, Kyle, great but … you aren’t dialed in yet?”

 

John smirked down at the man in the passenger seat.  “Not quite, little dude.  Maybe I should take you for my next workout.  It’s leg day and like I said, looks like you are no stranger to a squat.  I’ll take you through what I do, and we can hit the posing room and go through everything.  Together....”  

 

Heath swallowed deep, “Thanks but…” His voice descended into that tone he had the day before of submission and defeat. “I would just slow you down…”

 

John allowed his voice to strike just a hint of a prick “know it all” tone.  “Never gonna grow if you don’t push, and I enjoy helping out guys like you who seem stuck in a rut with some motivation to start growing again.  I mean, not to be cruel, but it's something I noticed yesterday.  Flex your biceps.”  Heath looked like he wanted to crawl under the seat, but he held up his arm and flexed.

 

John reached up and put his mammoth paw on top of the mound of muscle completely covering it, his fingers reaching three-quarters of way around Heath’s triceps too.  “Now, you have what looks like a solid arm at least on the surface. But --”  John then started to close his hand, harder and harder around Heath’s flexed arm, until John felt the muscle give way under his fingers.  He saw Heath start to wince. Now, with John having repaid Jeff for the way he gripped his wife, he relaxed his hand … a bit.  “But it's just a solid shape.  Pretty boy.  Nice enough to look at, but, honestly … you’re soft man.”  

 

“Dude, when was the last time you made any actual gains to your physique? I mean you were talking about high school kids yesterday.  I’m starting to think last time you added to what you have was in high school. We have a few 18 year olds your size at my gym, and they are busting their asses to grow.  Hell, even have a 16 year old phenom benching 405 plus.  Kid is gonna have an awesome body when he matures because he has the work ethic. All of them will. 

 

“And, my workout partner is a men’s open pro in IFBB.  Big man to any normal sized person like you.  I out lift and out size them all, but they feed off of it.  It makes them stronger.  Makes them men.  And seeing them feed off of it pushes me to be better.  If you don’t bump up your game, gonna be embarrassing as fuck to be beaten by a fucking 16 year old kid who is more of a man …”  John let go of Heath's arm, and Heath dropped his flex, trying to hide the rubbing he was doing to dull the pain.  

 

John pulled back and seemingly shrugged.  “But, it’s your call .. still the invite is open.  Let’s hit the food.  I’m starving.”

 

John shifted into gear and started the couple mile drive to the closest Chipotle.  He was driving in his habitual way, one arm on the gearshift and center console, while the other was partially propped on the open window with the hand on the steering wheel.  As they drove, Heath noticed everyone in the adjacent lanes seeming to slow, looking up at them as they breezed past.  “Does that always happen?” Heath asked.

 

“What?” John replied matter-of-factly.

 

“Everyone around is slowing down.  Looking up -- they’re looking at you.”

 

“You think they're looking at you?”  John quipped, and then heartily laughed.  Heath looked down sheepishly as John said through the end of his laugh, “Sorry little dude.  Just couldn’t resist you left yourself so open for that one.  Seriously, it happens so much I don’t notice like I used to.”  

 

John calculated in a fraction of a second and decided to use this question to his advantage.  He upped the pressure.  “I wonder though -- since you noticed, it must not happen to you that much.  You either don’t like to show off, or …”  They came to a stop at a red light, and John looked over, seeming to appraise Heath as he sat there.  “Or, you don’t have as much to show as you like people to think?  I mean, if you have it, might as well flaunt it. Not to hurt people or rub it in their face, Jeffy.  But to inspire them maybe.  Move them to be their best.  Just like I try to be in everything I do.

 

“But, hell, you think this is attention, just wait until we get into the restaurant.  I know.  Maybe we can call it, Professor Brady’s class teaching little Jeff why he should be hungry for more mass.  If you're afraid of being kicked in the ass in the gym, maybe being kicked in the ass from another angle might help.  Just watch.  Now, just to be clear.  You sure you can feed this beast driving ya?  I am betting I’ll eat a little more than you.”

 

“I said my treat and I meant it.” Jeff replied.  “I’ll stick to it.”

 

“Good for you.  Keeping your word.  Make a man out of you yet, Squirt.”  John said jokingly, but with just the smallest edge. 

 

John pulled into the restaurant and they both got out of the Jeep.  As they walked in the door, John reached forward with one arm and made Heath practically fall backwards as he pulled him close.  John whispered, “Now watch this.”

 

Heath went first and ordered a steak burrito.  As he was going down the line having his order made, he looked back to John.  John smiled his freaky gorgeous smile, looked down at the first staff person, and said, “I’d like a double chicken burrito bowl, brown rice, black beans, and everything on it.  FOUR of them.”  Heath’s jaw looked like it would fall on the floor, as the hot 20 something college student behind the line made 4 massively overstuffed, almost triple portion sized bowls.  Each of them was so full of food, the staff had to actually press a single lid down to compress the food mounds enough to allow a second lid to actually hold all of the food in.  When John got to the cashier, he cocked his head down to Heath and told the cashier, “Work lunch.  He’s buying.”  

 

The cashier rang up the cost, and while it was nearly 50 dollars for John’s food alone, something didn’t seem right to Heath as he paid the bill.  When they walked far enough away, Heath looked up at John and said, “First, how the fuck can you eat all this in one sitting.  And second, wasn’t that too cheap?”  They found a four top that was comfortably wide enough for John to sit on one side.  Heath sat on the other.

 

John smiled as he sat.  “First answer is simple.  Gotta eat big to be big, and it takes a lot of food to fuel me.  I did ask, remember?  Part of your problem is you eat like an overweight dork playing Fortnite in his parent’s basement when you should be eating like that jock you said you were.”  John then cracked a smirk, “As for number two, look at your receipt and you tell me.”

 

Heath looked down and his eyes grew wide, “She charged me normally, but you … shit she didn’t charge for the double meat on any of them.  You must have gotten triple everything for how much they gave you, but only charged like a single!?!”

 

John’s smile grew wide as he dug in, “Muscle has its privileges, Junior. Shit like that happens all the time.  Surprised it doesn’t happen to you more.  But, then again, maybe I shouldn't be getting to know you.”  

 

“Long time ago, I tried to get people to not do that, but they would get offended if I didn’t take it.  Jeff, when you are a strong, Alpha male, people naturally want to do what you say or do things for you.  It is WAY more powerful than what you can do with a badge.  They try to get close to you in any way they can.  Even when you’re not trying, they do it.  Sometimes they don’t even realize they’ve naturally taken on a beta role …” John’s voice took on an undertone of knowing, “or even a delta like....” John paused a moment to let the line sink in before taking several forks full of fuel.      

 

Heath seemed confused, “When people are around someone like you, I can see that.  But me, I mean I am OK, but --”

 

John immediately interrupted, instantly knowing how to mind fuck the little man.  “See, that’s your problem.  Look, man, I would do this for you or anyone else if you asked.  But now, you're my brother officer - at least for a while.  Helping you get out of this - this bitchy funk - is not just helping you, but the entire office.  Fuck, must be fate that made you walk though that little gym door and that I happened to be in there warming up.  It’s my fucking duty to this whole county to make you into who you were born to be, who you are supposed to be, instead of this … wannabe whatever-the-fuck is sitting at this table.”  

 

“Step one is owning up to who you are.  Whoever that is, whatever that is. Own it and be the best you can be at it.  That’s what gets you respect.  Shit, even the lowest fucking dork on earth gets some grudging respect from an Alpha like me, even if he is something to be stepped on. He may only be a cocksucker, but by God, he owns what he is and is gonna give the best blow jobs around.  That’s worth something.  I mean, I’ve asked around about you.  Do you REALLY think the men who are on your team respect you as a man?”

 

“Sure, they--”

 

“JEFF,” John emphasized.  “Do they really?  Be honest.  You can’t be a man if you’re not honest with yourself, even if that means admitting you’re not the man you think you are if it comes down to it.  And you sure as fuck can’t lead other men and women if you’re not one yourself.”  

 

Heath dropped his gaze a bit. “Well -”

 

John’s tone became more serious and his volume lowered to a whisper that still shook Heath through his core. “Would you and your wife be having issues if there was respect?”

 

Heath seemed pained enough to want to shrink down and have John step on his shriveled up corpse rather than to admit it, but John’s gaze was relentless until he quietly said, “No.”

 

John was into his second plate, “And what does that tell you?  Your woman doesn’t respect you, your team doesn’t respect you, you bitch and moan about this and that, you won’t push yourself to improve at all.  You just … sit there.  Jeff, even a little boy at least tries to be a man.  You - don’t.  Your mind is just like your body, soft, weak.  Looks good on the surface, but what is inside you is just … well, that is what you need to find out.  And what that really means about who you are.  I can help ya, but in the end, you have to find it out for yourself.”

 

Heath looked up with a small amount of fire in his eyes, “I don’t know where you get off telling me I am not a man.”

 

John smiled.  “Truth hurts, doesn’t it?  But you want more proof how just - nothing you are?  Gonna make you a small bet right here and now.”  John held up an arm and waved toward one of the staff behind the counter.  The guy immediately ran over.  “Hey man, do you happen to have a quiet table somewhere?  Need to talk to this guy in private and then be right back here to finish up.  That cool?”

 

The employee said, “We do have the employee break room, but we are not supposed to allow customers back there.  I’d really like to help you but that’s the rules and my boss would eat my ass for lunch if I let you in there.”

 

John reached into his pocket and pulled out his Air Force badge.  “Does this help the issue with your boss ?  Just a couple of officers who need a quiet spot.  Not anything at all with anyone here or with the restaurant.  Nobody is in trouble or that kind of thing.  And, if there is any issue with your boss toward you, I’ll leave you my card and I’ll stop by and straighten out anything.”

 

The employee smiled, “That fixes everything.  Right this way.”

 

John looked at Heath, “Come on Jeff.  Doubt this will take more than a minute and no need to do it out here where everyone can see.  I’ll show you how I can get off saying it.”  John towered over the entire restaurant, keeping Heath in front of him as they followed the employee to the breakroom.

 

The young man punched the key code to open the locked door.  “I can’t give you the code itself officer, but here you go.  Hope this will work.”

 

John saw that inside was a wider version of the dining room tables with several chairs around it.  “This will work perfectly.”  John reached into his identification wallet and took out one of his Air Force business cards. As he handed the card to the employee he said, “That should take care of it.  Any problems just give them that.”

 

The employee smiled, “Thank you, Sir.  And hope you don’t take it the wrong way, but you’re about the most jacked dude I’ve ever seen.  Makes me want to go to the gym.  Don’t think I’ll ever reach your level, but fuck if I won’t try.  Thank you for showing me what’s possible.”

 

John reached out his hand and shook the employees, “Anything is possible man.  ANYTHING.  Trust me, I didn’t start out this way.   Now if I can have the room for a few minutes…”

 

“No problem … ” the employee looked at the card, ‘Detective Brady.  Anyway, you need help with something that we up front can do for you, just let me know.”

 

“Call me Kyle, and the best help I can get is not letting anyone clear our table.  I’m still eating.”  John laughed.  

 

“Sure, Kyle. No problem.  Be waiting for you when you come out just the way you left it.”  the employee said, as he left the room.

 

Once the door closed, John turned to Heath, “See, Jeff.  That’s respect.  Man to man, given and gotten.  Now you on the other hand …”  John cracked a knowing smile.  “Time for you to fess up Squirt.”  

 

John walked toward Heath, the Predator suddenly on full display.  Heath, now suddenly afraid of the changed being before him, backed himself into a corner.  But John followed until he literally surrounded the tiny man, overshadowing him.  “Remember what I said about how the first part of being a man is being honest.  I am six foot eight, and you said you are five foot eleven.  Bullshit, runt.  The only other man to use the passenger side door of my Jeep who had to use that step is five foot eight.  My doc has to use a step stool on me.  He is that tall too.  And looking at you now, you’re almost exactly like them.  No fucking way are you almost six foot.  So, tell the truth, Junior.”  John then put his arms on the walls on either side of the corner, flexing his tri’s at what seem like miles above Heath’s head, his fingers easily hitting the ceiling.  Heath was sealed in by a wall of man.  “How tall are you really, little man?”

 

Heath looked up scared, completely defeated, and totally turned on.  “Five….five foot…. seven and a half.”

 

John smiled wider, “So how do you pull off the lie on people that you're five - eleven?”

 

“I put height inserts in my boots for work. You know tac boots raise you up anyway and then the inserts.  No one ever bothered to look … until you.”

 

John smiled more and then dropped to one knee.  Finally for the first time in months, John and Heath saw eye to eye.  John held up his arm and massively flexed it.  Heath’s eyes bugged out to be so close.  “Felt your squishy ass biceps too, didn’t I?  19 inches?  I’m calling bullshit again.  Go on.  Feel mine.  Want you to see and feel the difference between me and you.”

 

Heath timidly reached out and put his hand onto the warm granite that was John’s arm. “That Squirt is 25 inches.  So, tell me the truth.  How big is your arm?”

 

“Sev…. seventeen and ….and a half.”

 

“You sure about that Junior?”

 

“Yes Sir.”

 

“Hold it up.  Take a look and let's compare again.”  Heath held up his arm and flexed.  It was still sore from John grasping it, but John smiled seeing the normally bigger than average male arm made to look microscopic against his 8 inch larger arm.  “Good.  I think you’re telling the truth now.”  John lowered his gun, while Heath’s shaking hand remained exactly in place as if the boulder was still there under his fingers.  “Was that so hard?  That dude who brought us back here.  Scrawny little shit.  But he was honest, lived by the rules to work here, got respect.  Lying to yourself and lying to your men and your wife and the entire office and to everyone.  Lying about something as stupid as your height and the size of your arms? Fuck boy, that’s why I say you’re not a man.  But I’ll show you even more. Come with me.”  

 

John stood back upright, spun around, and walked toward the table.  He sat down and motioned to a chair at the other side. “Remember I said I was going to make you a bet.  Here it is.  Very simple one.  Arm wrestling.  Man versus … well you.  Stakes are simple.  You win and I buy you lunches every week for the next month.  I win - the same exact thing.  I buy you lunch for the next month, but you also agree to let me help my brother officer find out who you are and own up to it.  Win-Win for you.  Deal?”

 

“There is no way I can beat you.  We both know you're stronger than me.”  Jeff said shakily as he robotically obeyed John’s unsaid command to sit.

 

John put his massive arm on the table.  “Uphill battle for you, that’s true.  But, I’ll let you use both hands if you want and your full bodyweight leaning into it.  Me playing by the rules and you can cheat.  I’ll let you.  You can prove me wrong about you … or not.  Choice is yours.”

 

John opened and splayed his fingers waiting.  Heath sighed a moment, and then put his arm up,  He tried to reach John’s hand with his elbow down on the table in a proper position.  But his hand came up inches short.  John laughed, “Looks like you have a problem there, Junior.  But it's OK.  I thought you would need to stand up to come close to making it.  Don’t feel too bad.  One of the reasons I said you could cheat.  You put yourself in any position you want.  I’ll stay sitting here and won’t move.  You say go when you’re ready.”

 

Knowing he really had the green light, Heath arranged himself so that he was able to put not only all his upper body muscle, but quite a bit of his body weight in a position ready to lean into John.  “Ok, Go.”  Heath pushed with all that he had … and nothing at all happened.  He leaned in more, put more of his body weight into trying to push John’s arm, but nothing.  Heath looked down at John’s arm.  -- The monstrous ball of muscle didn’t even look like it was flexing.  It looked perfectly relaxed.  Heath then looked into John’s smiling face.

 

“I thought you said go.  I’m waiting.  Don’t think it's fair for me to put anything into it before you even start.”  The smile of The Predator grew even wider as Heath looked like he was dumping all 220 lbs of his weight, trying to do something, but John didn’t so much as flinch.

 

John began to mock him.  “Oh… I get it now.  You are trying.  Damn,  And I thought I was exaggerating a little when I said you were soft.  Fuck.  You said you have a 425 incline?  Damn little man, you didn’t have to lie about that too.  It was damned well obvious I could outlift you before we ever started yesterday.  So why not tell the truth?  Wouldn’t have shamed you one fucking bit.  That just makes me even more right about you.  Shit…” John said incredulously.

 

“Well, I'll tell you what.  This might even be too much for me, but you can go on the other side and try and pull my arms down to win rather than push.  You can even let your bodyweight hang against me to try and pull me down”  John balled up his hand into a fist and looked over at Heath as he almost dejectedly did as he was told and went around to John’s right hand side,  John grinned at him as he took hold of his fist.  “Whenever you are ready Junior.”

 

Heath tentatively began to pull on John’s fist.  “Jesus, a two year old could beat that.  Either fucking try or not.”  Heath seemed to rage at that remark and pulled as hard as he could, even trying to put his legs into it and pull back.  And, to Heath’s credit at this point, John’s biceps did bulge and begin to expand and it seemed to creep back perhaps a few millimeters, before the arm again stopped moving.  “Hell, kiddo, you did move me a little.  Not bad.  But.  Just fair warning.  Hold on.”

 

John opened his hand the tiniest bit, splayed his fingers and closed them again, catching the ends of Heath’s fingers in between his own.  Satisfied that between his own slight grip and that if Heath didn’t let go he would actually be safe, John’s biceps fully inflated.  Heath’s eyes grew wide with shock as he felt the pressure on his fingers explode and then felt himself bodily moving across the table as John relentlessly rotated his arm at the shoulder and pulled down .. and down … and down.  Heath actually felt his feet leave the floor as John pulled him the last few inches until his fist rested on the table.  

 

“Looks like I win Shrimp, and your ass is mine.”  John laughed.  John rolled his arm back up slightly letting Heath have his balance before he let him go.  The look on Heath’s face was like he had seen an alien.  He looked up at John with near pleading his face. Pleading to stop.  

 

“And THAT.” John sent shockwaves through Heath as his voice raised, “THAT is why say you are not a man.  That look right there most of all.  You look like you’re about to fucking cry.   A man, like my workout partner, like those high school kids, would take it, congrat the winner, and use that to make them better and stronger.  That is what makes them men.  But, you … you look like you’re gonna melt into a puddle and cry like some fucking toddler who lost his favorite toy.”  

 

“You don’t have a fucking clue what you are do ya?  Not one clue.”  John stood up and loomed large over Heath, but instead of dominating him again, John pulled him up to standing tall by the shoulders. “Well, don’t worry Jeff.  As long as you are willing to stand behind your word, and honor the terms of our bet, if there is still a man in there somewhere, I’ll help you find him.  And if there isn’t, I’ll help you own what is in there now.  And then we will see what steps we will take.  Deal?”

 

Heath looked up at John, and a look of near hero worship slid across his face.  “You really would?  After I met you just yesterday?”

 

John became DEADLY serious, “Now are you questioning my word?”

 

“No, no.  Just ... surprised is all.”

 

John reached down and slapped Heath’s ass rather hard.  “Like I said, your ass is mine.  And I am a man of my word.  Told you I owe it to a brother officer.  And since you were too scared to just accept … I just made sure you had no choice.  And now you don’t have a choice, Junior. 

 

“Jeff, if I wanted to embarrass you or mock you, I could have done that without even thinking out in that restaurant.   But, I didn’t because I really want to help you.  I can show you what I needed to just now, and not ruin you.  What is gonna happen is gonna hurt you, is gonna make you feel tiny.  No doubt about that.  But, to fix this, you have to see what you are for yourself.  And I will be there all the way.  Trust me when I tell you, I have nothing in mind but making you into the person you deserve to be.  Now, are we good?”

 

Heath looked up and for the very first time, genuinely meant it when he said, “Ya, we’re good.”

 

John gave Heath a quick bro-pat on the back.  “Alright.  Then, Professor Brady here has his first homework assignment for you.  Easiest one you will get.  When I drop you off after lunch, you are gonna bring me every single one of those fake foot lifts of yours, and you’re gonna destroy them with me.  Time you were standing on your own two feet and them alone for the first time in a long time, BRO.

 

“You gotta learn that a man can be six foot eight or eight foot six or three foot six.  That doesn't matter.  25 inch cannons for arms or a respectable 17 or a fucking set of pipe cleaners. That doesn't matter either.  It’s being honest with what you are and embracing all you are, even the parts you don’t like, that’s the first step in owning up to who you are. And owning up to who you are, warts and all, is part of being a man.

 

“Like I said, it will make you feel small for a while.  You might get a little ribbing if someone at work notices. But at least it will be YOU and not some fake ass prop. Now, you gonna get an “A” on your first homework assignment, Jeff?”

 

Heath gave a quick laughing snort, looked down and shook his head.  “Never thought I would have to swallow my pride this much meeting you, but … ya.  OK.  I’ll do it.  Just what if it gets too…”

 

“Too much?  I might just think you are bitching and moaning already, but I’ll forgive it since this is new territory for ya.  Jeff, a man protects what is his.  

 

"You’re my student in how to be who you are and own it class.  So, if it gets to feeling too much, you talk to me.  Right now, you don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks but you and me.  Take what they say and make that criticism part of you.  But, it goes too far, and their ass is mine too.  Got it?”

 

Heath smiled in relief and nodded yes.

 

John smiled, “Good, now let’s finish eating.  Gotta teach you about fucking bodybuilding too.  And lesson one in bodybuilding is FOOD.”    

 


The Morning after the  Last Stake Out --


 

John whipped around the rental and went the opposite way of Heath.  He would take the seldom used Denver toll road beltway to get back to DIA to return the rental.  He had the best part of an hour to think as he drove.

 

After that first lunch with Heath, things became a little crazy for him and Gabriel.  John was all over Colorado and Wyoming, getting his suspects narrowed down with some intel from DEA.  Now that they had a pipeline and contacts to trace from his investigation, the DEA intelligence men were FAST at providing potential suspects and contact lists.  It took John almost no time to sift through and narrow them all down to a list of 22 total key suspects with proper warrants applied for in his area of supervision.  

 

Along with the work on the case, John was getting his show prep done at whatever gym he could be at if he wasn’t able to be at Armbrust.  Justin, his new workout partner/posing coach, was floored every time they trained together at just how amazingly strong John was and how perfect his form was in every single rep.  How his body seemed to naturally want to come into contest condition with just a small amount of nudging here and there.  How his posing was fucking amazing when he brought in some of his martial arts flexibility and dexterity to the routine.  And it really did, as his LA informant suspected, fuel Justin in his own bodybuilding.  Everyone who knew him before John came into his life agreed, Justin had not looked this good coming into IFBB show season in his entire career. And after he dropped off the rental, John was headed to Armbrust to run through his final posing routine practice with Justin, Brett, and Dylan and for the first time, to do it in his poser.

 

And, at least once a week, but sometimes twice or three times a week, right on time, John had his lunch with Heath.  John had absolutely expertly moved the man’s psyche slowly, relentlessly, toward the end he had in mind.  Heath was almost ready now.  Heath hero worshipped John.  He didn’t just lust after him; this was so much more.  While at the same time, Heath happily accepted John showing him over and over how he just wasn’t a man at all.  That even boys were superior to him.  Big ways, small ways.  Telling him it was for his own good.  Stripping away every point of pride he had efficiently, and relentlessly.  The result was that his once nasty bravado in the office was gone. 

 

As John suspected, people noticed something different about Heath the very next day at work.  His team said something about him not quite seeing eye to eye with them anymore, and the double meaning was plain.  A whisper campaign started, people all over both genuinely concerned, but also those who were all too happy to see the cocky prick brought low.  Over those weeks, John took everything away from Heath that he could stand on mentally and replaced them with the assured knowledge that the 13 year olds in the juvenile facility next door were way harder, stronger, more resilient, and it was all his fault because he didn’t accept who he was.

 

Three weeks later and the transformation was even more shocking than the one John had been through.  Heath was now close to the mousiest cop to ever walk through the doors of any city precinct or sheriff’s office anywhere in the US.  John internally laughed when he got wind of rumors that the sheriff was even going to remove him from SWAT and make him a desk bound paper pusher - rumor said that Cook believed Heath just didn’t have the mentality to be out there anymore and not get himself, his team, a suspect, or god forbid, a bystander hurt.
 

Even as part of him smiled about his climaxing revenge, another part of John sighed.  For all the fun and his life exploding in the best ways imaginable, he felt hollow as he had made Heath.  He and Gabriel had not spent the night together for over three weeks.  They barely spoke.  Gabriel and Jack were apparently working feverishly long hours on a project designed to make the “engineered failure” when they erased the computers look like a real failure of the project.  Some sort of major setback.  Gabriel explained it in layman’s terms, and it made sense.  But, everything else… everything else was empty.  They had late dinners a couple of times a week when their schedules provided for it.  Their conversation was cordial and seemed warm.  But, John could tell from the looks he would occasionally catch, from the tone, from the way Gabriel pulled back - he was afraid.  He was afraid of John, and he thought he knew why.

 

John tossed it back and forth in his mind.  Was he going too far?  Was it the end game he was going to play with Heath?  It sure as fuck wasn’t something old John could have countenanced, but Heath was such a small, scum, waste of space that he deserved it.  They were all so fucking small and stunted, so easy to just play with, in some strange way like living toys and even Gabriel --

 

John took a deep breath and swallowed.  

 

OH SHIT…  

 

John pushed himself back so hard in the drivers chair, he came close to breaking it right off the guide rails.  What had he done?  The one thing he swore he would not do with all the gifts that were growing inside him.  Thinking everyone was beneath him.  He had fallen into the trap, and it had been so fucking easy.  Is this how Gabriel felt that night when Jack was over?  Catching himself thinking like… like an arrogant ass?  Was this what Gabriel felt like when he saw people who were just not up to that incredible intellect he had?  Were he and Gabriel more kindred than he knew?  At that moment, all John wanted was to sweep Gabriel up and scream an apology.  Scream to make it right somehow.  Fix this before it was too late.  Even if it meant letting go of what he wanted to do to Heath, even if it meant quitting policing, at that moment, he didn’t care.  He just wanted his Angel back.  He wanted to be forgiven and not feared anymore.

 

“Hey Google. Send a text message to Gabriel York.”

 

“Gabriel.  Can I come by tonight? I … I need to tell you something and I can’t do it and not be there in person.  So much I need to say.  Angel, will you let me?”  John confirmed the message.  John hadn’t called Gabriel Angel since before the run.  He, he hoped he could fix this.

 

A couple of minutes later, there was a chime of a message.  Google assistant’s voice rang out.  “Message from Gabriel York: My place.  10 pm.  We need to fix this John.  I hope we can.”

 

John took in and blew out a long breath of air from his great lungs.  He had bet everything on one roll of the dice.  He hoped by the end of the night it was seven and not snake eyes.

 


 

“Come on.  I know you’re a pretty boy Kyle, but shit.  You’re taking longer than my girl.” Adam yelled out.  Inside the posing room at Armbrust Gym, the gym owner Dylan, John’s workout partner Justin, and another one of Justin’s IFBB Pro clients and partner in his coaching business Adam, sat in folding chairs in front of the mirrors surrounding the room, that allowed a competitor to see each pose from every angle possible.

 

In a small closet attached to the room, John yelled back loud enough to be heard all over the gym.  “Hold your fucking horses.  I’ve never put one of these things on before.”

 

“It ain’t like it is rocket science.” Justin retorted.  “I know it takes you a little bit longer, being the fucking Jolly Green Giant, but that’s a few seconds, not-”

 

The three men froze in silence, the words of the jock banter insult caught in Justin’s throat the moment John walked out.  Dylan reacted first after a few moments, but was only able to let out a low whistle.  Adam and Justin pretty much said at the same time in unison, “Holy Shit.”

 

John finished walking up and looked down from the slightly raised platform mimicking a stage he was on. “Well?”

 

“Well, first thing I’m glad it fits,” Dylan laughed, “It wasn’t exactly easy to find something big enough to fit you and to hide that damned thing between your legs.”  All four laughed at once.

 

John smirked.  “Ain’t my fault EVERY muscle on me is big.  Sounds like cock envy... “John became more serious then.  “Come on, really.  What’s your honest opinion?”

 

Adam piped up, “Honest.  I have never seen a more complete tall man in my life, dude.  Not even close.”

 

Dylan continued, “Kind of fun to see a new future Mr. Olympia walk out in a poser for the first time.”

 

“Shut up.” John snapped. “You sound like fucking him.”

 

“I sound like him because he is right.  Just adjust to it now, dude.  Swallow that big ass pride of yours and accept the inevitable Sandow’s you’re gonna get.”  Both Adam and Dylan looked at Justin who had been quiet.  “Justin???”

 

“I wanna see it first.” was all Justin said in reply.  “So, take me through the mandatory poses and then let’s see it.”  

 

John gave a slight nod and stepped back.  He took a moment to center his mind, draw a breath, and let the world fall away.  He crawled into “the zone” like it was an old, familiar huggy blanket.  He connected with his body and felt his way through mandatories in order, pose, after pose, after pose. Quarter Turns.  Right side chest, Right Side Tri.  Rear Double Bi.  Rear Lat Spread.  Left side chest and side tri.  Front Double Bi, Front Lat Spread, Abs and Thighs. John then threw in his favorite most muscular.   

 

When he finished, John went over and pressed play on his phone, and his posing music  (Song for John’s Posing Routine -  Shinedown - DEVIL ) began to erupt through the sound system.  He took his spot and began to work through what he, Justin, and the LA informant, who was also named John, had come up with for his evening routine.  Like something akin to a dance - sometimes hard and jarring, sometimes fluid and graceful - he went through each pose of the routine.  After less than 5 minutes it was all over.

 

John was slightly winded from the exertion of all of the continuous flexing as he looked down at his friends and his lifting partner.  Justin just gave the slightest hint of a smile, a slight nod in his head, and gave the slightest sound, “Huh…”  Then he stood up and walked to John. Justin had to crane his head up to look John in the eye. 

 

“Only one way to do this and I’ll look like a fucking dork, but…” Justin held his hand up and was met by John’s gigantic paw.  They clasped hands and Justin wrapped his huge 20 inch plus -- but tiny compared to John’s over 25 inches  -- around John as best as he could.  It was nearly a comical sight as the crown of the professional bodybuilder’s head barely made it to the downward pointing nips at the bottom of John’s pecs.  “Goddamn,” Justin said.  “I finally get to be proud of something I taught you. What they said big bro.  I will always be able to say I taught the soon to be best bodybuilder of all time his first posing routine.”

 

John put his arm around Justin’s shoulders and pulled him in, “Not before you get your own fucking Olympia medal you little shit.”  Both men laughed and let go of the congratulatory hug.

 

“Well, I think we can officially say Saturday night will be a fun trip for all of us, “ Dylan said.

 

John looked over to the older man, “You can’t be serious, dude.  You all?  Just how many is all?”  The three men gave looks of totally fake timid embarrassment and slowly raised their hands like school kids who had been caught.  “So, you three, and John is flying in tomorrow.  I know it isn;t just you either.  Who else?”

 

Justin reached over and up and gave John a light, playful shove, “Everyone who know what a fucking class act my star pupil and teacher are.  We promise we won’t make … too much of a scene.”  All of them laughed as John turned red.

 

“You little fucks better not, or I’ll find you and I’ll put you through the fucking door, not just throw you out of it.”  John said as he cocky-jock flexed his biceps over all their heads and then turned his hand into a C-shape like a pro wrestler.  “Just imagine the chokeslam I can put on your little asses.”

 

Adam laughed, “Quit with that shit, or I’ll choke slam your balls.  And I am the perfect height to make your giant ass squeal, “PLEASE LET ME GO SIR.’”  They all rolled laughing as John backed up in fake fear.

 

“Alright, I know who the real ALPHA is here.  Please…”

 

“Alright yourself, you fucking ox.  Go get yourself dressed.  Got another couple of guys who need the room for the State.  But remember, keep that thing on as much as you can before the show to get used to the feeling of it.”  Dylan said.

 

John got a HUGE smirk as he cracked, “Yes Daddy.”

 

Dylan got a big smile and stomped forward, “If you were not the size of Godzilla, I’d …”  They all laughed again.  Each man came up and clasped John’s hand and gave him a bro hug to whatever part of his back they could reach, and began to break up after that.  John went back to the small room to grab his tank and shorts.  After he had dressed, John grabbed his gym bag and started to stroll out, thinking the room was empty.  But instead he found Dylan waiting on him.

 

“Kyle - seriously.  I didn’t want to ask this in front of the kids, but are you OK?  Really? When you came in you looked a little - preoccupied.  And I think I know the look.  Seen it way too fucking many times on too many good men and women at this point in a prep.  And, honestly, I have felt it myself.  Something up at home?”

 

John blew out a deep breath.  “That easy to spot?”

 

“After seeing it a few thousand times yeah.  Anything I can do?”

 

“Nah.  Guess I have been avoiding it.  Not a conversation you ever want to have to admit you were wrong.  Especially for someone like me.  But … just can’t take anymore you know?  I don’t want to do this the first time alone.”

 

Dylan smiled a knowing smile.  “We all go through this shit on a prep, even though you were practically prepped from the start.  Say things we don’t mean, take things wrong.  Seen it torpedo so many relationships.  I don’t know who but I am guessing he doesn’t workout.  Well not like us anyway?”

 

“No.”

 

“Ah.  Not understanding how you feel.  I guess all I can tell you is to fix it as soon as you can.  Get busy living or get busy dying.  And I think you want to get busy living.”

 

“Ya.  Going over right after I am done here and grab some food.  But, can I ask one favor, if you are going?”

 

“Name it.”

 

“I have never done this on stage before, but he … well this whole lifestyle may as well be Mars to him, especially a show.  You mind if?”

 

Dylan smiled at the big man.  “Dude, he will be one of us from the moment he comes in.  We take care of our own.  You care about him and that’s enough.  If he can handle us going on about it, he will be a fucking expert before the night is out.”

 

John reached out and took the smaller man’s hand.  “Thanks.”

 

“Pleasure is mine.  All of us.”

 


 

Gabriel sat on his couch trying and failing to distract himself.  He tried the television.  Tried reading an old book.  Tried making a snack.  Tried to work.  Gabriel tried everything he could think of not to do exactly what he was doing now - watching the seconds tick by on the clock so slowly that it was making him sick.  

 

One thing above all others about John Declann, one of those things that would never change no matter how much his physicality changed or his outlook on life transformed was his punctuality.  “Early is on time, on time is late.” John had told him once where he had picked up that saying, but Gabriel didn’t remember where just now.  He only knew that John would be a few minutes early.  Just not too early.  

 

Gabriel looked up at the clock again. 9:45 pm.  It would not be much longer.  He so wanted this to be over.  These bad feelings … this, this wall.  But most of all, he wanted this fear to be over.  He didn’t want to be afraid of John anymore.  He needed to purge the fear, no matter what happened, even … if … John… left… him …  Gabriel was almost in tears to even think those words, if John left, then at least they should be in a good place together.  Friends, brothers, soul mates.  If not lovers then some --

 

The bell signaling the entry of his gate code into the security system chimed.  Gabriel quickly looked at the camera feed and saw a truly giant man in a Jeep come into the parking lot.  Now that he knew what he was looking for, every time Gabriel saw him, he saw changes in John.  Taller, more muscle, yes, but even more refinement to it all in a way that was difficult to describe.  John’s structural changes were making him even more handsome, more hot, more whatever you wanted to call it.  Gabriel never said it, but more and more the appellation “Angel” seemed to belong to John rather than him.  Religious beliefs held that angels were indeed beautiful creatures, and John, despite the size and strength was in many ways just beautiful.

 

A knock came at the door.  John tended to not use doorbells, and Gabriel knew he had to be holding back severely. Even so, the knock was loud enough to make him jump in spite of knowing it was coming.  “Gabriel. It’s me.”  John’s resonant voice announced. 

 

Gabriel opened the door.  Unconsciously, he virtually hid behind it as he pulled it open.  John noticed.  Another sign of fear.  John couldn't stand that Gabriel was afraid of him. 

 

“Come in John.” Gabriel said.  The stiffness between the two, it felt so unnatural.  If someone else were there to feel it, it would have been as if gravity itself were out of true somehow.  Something fundamental to the nature of the universe was off and all you wanted was to fix what was messed up.  To make the universe work properly again.

 

John stepped in and Gabriel closed the door.  John started to walk toward the couch, but stopped short of sitting, waiting to be invited.  Gabriel felt just as awkward, “Would you like something to d---.” Gabriel shook his head.  “Fucking hell, we weren’t this bad that first day in the park.  How… how did this happen to us? We can barely talk.  Please John let’s fix this.”

 

John looked downcast, as he nearly crashed into Gabriel’s couch causing the furniture to groan in protest.  John’s dour look was briefly broken by a chuckle and embarrassment.  “I’m sorry.  Sometimes I forget…”

 

“I know.  I think we all forget.  Forget a lot of things…” Gabriel moved to sit on the far side of the couch.  A small gesture of trust, but they had never been so far apart, literally and figuratively.  They looked at each other for a long moment. Then, Gabriel decided to just jump.  “I guess I should start.  It is my fault after all --”


“No Gabriel, it’s not.” John interjected.

 

Gabriel held up his hand in a gesture to allow him to finish.  John gave a silent small nod that he would wait.  “Yes, John it is.  Or, maybe I started it.  Either way, I should start this too.

 

“God John, I am SO SORRY.  I’m sorry for everything.  I didn’t even realize how stupid I was.  I guess I could make up some excuse.  Shock or fear or just that it’s how I have talked for so long.  But none of that makes up for what I did.  Here you are … the,” Gabriel’s voice cracked and he swallowed hard.  He took a deep breath and tried to compose himself.  His voice quaked as he continued. “The man of my dreams, and what did I do in the heat of the moment.  I reduced you to a science experiment.  I couldn’t see past my own fear to even let it register that this is changing you most of all.  Or maybe I just didn’t want to face it.  It was just so much easier to try and detach than to let myself feel.  

 

“And then to feel you so cold.  So, pulled away.  I can’t blame you.  I hurt you.  It seems so impossible to look at you to think that I could ever do anything to hurt you, but… I did.  And I can never forgive myself for doing it.  But then when you told me about what you are doing, and … You don’t even know do you?”

 

“Know what?”  John said, his own voice cracking and on the verge of tears.

 

Gabriel stood up, shaking slightly as he did so.  “John stand up.”  John looked confused but he stood.  Gabriel took a couple of steps toward him and then stopped.  Instead of craning his head up as John looked down, Gabriel just looked straight ahead.  “John, do you know what this feels like to me?  To any of us?  I am looking straight ahead and you know what I see?  All I can see is muscle, no matter where I look.  I see the bottom of your pecs and the top of your abs.  You fill my entire field of view.”  Gabriel then looked up.  “John, you may not know it, but do you know how scary it can be just to be near you?”

 

John’s face began to fall as he took a noticeable swallow.  Gabriel went on. “Now, I just want to try and help you understand.  Pick me up.”  John began to reach down, and sweep Gabriel up in a hug or cradle carry him as he once did, but Gabriel stopped him.  “No, John.  Really pick me up.  Don’t hold back.  I trust you to do this.  Pick me up and mean it.”

 

It took a moment, but John thought he understood.  He shifted slightly so that he could place his hands on either side of Gabriel’s waist.  John easily lifted the 160 pound man well over a foot into the air until Gabriel was looking John dead in the eye.  But Gabriel went on, “Higher, John.”  John lifted Gabriel a few inches more.  “John, don’t hold back.  I know what you’re capable of and so do you. Now, do it.”  John sighed and lifted straight up until Gabriel’s head and neck rested against the ceiling.  “John, I am an average sized, average weight man and you are holding me against the ceiling and not so much as breathing hard.”  Gabriel shifted slightly so that his hand could touch John’s left wrist.  “Your pulse is dead normal. Your arms are not shaking.  It doesn’t look like they are even flexed under the strain very hard. How long could you hold me like this?”

 

John looked up, beginning to understand what Gabriel was REALLY meaning.  “A long, long time…” he said as his voice trailed off.  John lowered Gabriel gently to the ground.  Gabriel looked up again.  “Answer me one last question.”  Gabriel’s voice trailed off and that quake of fear returned as it became deadly serious.  “If you had wanted, if you didn’t stop.  Could you have put me right through the ceiling?”

 

John sighed and sank, defeated back on the couch.  “Probably … I … ” He paused a long moment. “Something that weighed the same as you, definitely.”  John’s voice was hollow, haunted.  The great man seemed to have the life slowly drained from him as he sank under the import of what Gabriel had made him realize.  

 

Gabriel, knelt down and took John’s massive hands into his tiny ones.  “John, do you know what you can do if you were really and truly angry at me?  How frightening you can be? And 3 weeks ago, you were smaller than you are now.  You’re a lot bigger, by the look of it.”

 

John’s voice was broken, quaking in tears.  “I would never hurt you.”

 

“I know.  I know you wouldn’t.  Not intentionally.  But John, you have to understand.  You could do something and not even mean to.  You could hurt me just by taking my hand too hard.”  John looked to say something, but stopped.  He knew … he probably could.  He thought back to Heath at the sheriff’s gym a few weeks ago.  When he wondered if he could put the man through the ceiling.  He probably could have then, but, now - the last three weeks of show prep and so little Gabriel, he had put everything into his gym time, more so than usual.  He had fed his body BIG time and it had responded just like Gabriel and Jack thought.  The more he challenged, the more he grew.  That 635 lb incline he had to stress to move up for four reps.  He was stronger now.  A lot stronger.  Could he put them through the ceiling? He knew the answer to that question without a shadow of a doubt now.

 

“Gabriel, I don’t know what to say.”  John said, feeling lower now than even when he lay in his hospital bed.  Here was the man he loved, one of the two men he had sworn to protect with his life, against all the frightening things the government could do.  And here he is terrified of John instead.

 

“You don’t have to say anything.  Because I brought this on.  Not you.  Me.”  John looked up from his slouch to see tears rolling down Gabriel’s cheeks.  “I made you this way John. Because I wasn’t thinking to include you in the decisions that impact you the most.  Because I was so arrogant to think you wouldn't understand, when you understand so much more than me.

 

“Gabriel don't -”   

 

“No, let me finish. And then I felt what it was like to be without you.  You pulled away.  Your voice was SO COLD. I didn’t know if I could come, how I could come back, how angry you were.  John when you told me what you were going to do with this Heath … John you scared me.  But I drove you to it … God, I drove you to it ....”

 

“Gabriel, please.  This isn’t … all your fault.”  John fought the urge from every cell in his augmented body to stop all this.  To sweep Gabriel away from this pain and protect him.  But he couldn’t.  Anymore than Gabriel could take away the awful realization of what John was doing to those around him.

 

“Gabriel please look at me.”  John reached down and guided Gabriel’s gaze up, and he gently guided him off the floor to sit on the coffee table before the couch, facing him on more equal terms.  “Gabriel you are right.”  John looked up gathering his thoughts before he began again.  “I don’t know how to deal with this.  You are the most precious thing in the world to me and I drove you away.  I look at … at everyone and you all feel… so small.  The whole world is small.  And it's so exhilarating and exciting.  But, at the same time… it’s so alone.  It seems like I have so many friends and I guess I do, but at the same time, it’s so alone.  And when you said what you said, the last person who didn’t make me feel alone, did make me feel alone.  And… I messed up.  

 

“It's so easy … God it is so easy now, to make most people do whatever I want.  It’s like looking at kids.  And fuck me, if I haven’t done just that.  To you.  And then there is Heath…”  John related what he had done to Heath, how his mind fucking was to the point that the man was close to losing his job.  What John had seen happen to Brenda Heath.  How he had everything to finish what he had planned to do.  Was he any better?  Abuse is abuse.  Physical or psychological.  It is the same.  John saw the look on Gabriel’s face.  “And then, I make that happen.  That look.  Gabriel I never want you to be afraid of me, and there you are… Afraid.  I...took my anger at feeling alone and let it twist me into something I said I would never let happen to me.

 

“I want to share all of this with you Angel.  We were both so alone when we met.  And I do not want to be alone anymore.  If you can forgive me and let me come back … I will stop all of that.  Let it all go.  I will not follow through with the rest of it.  I do not need to do what I was planning to see her free of that bastard.  And I do not want you to ever think of me as a monster.  Please.  I want my angel back.”

 

“I should be asking you that.  I miss you John.  All of you.”

 

John stood up, as did Gabriel.  He expected John to pick him up, but he didn’t.  Instead John was the one who dropped to his knees.  “This needs to be as equal as we can make it.  Because no matter what happens, you are always the best half of me.” John wrapped his giant arms around the small man, and Gabriel instantly did the same.  Neither moved to do anything more except to enjoy the warmth and the scent of the other.  To feel anger and pain and that wall that had been building slowly dissolve.  The magic that was between them flowed again, making time seem to stop.        

 

Finally Gabriel pulled away just a bit, but remained very close.  “Thank you.  John whatever this,“ Gabriel patted John’s huge pec, “becomes on the outside.  That feeling is the most powerful answer I can have that you are still you.”

 

Gabriel reached to hold John again, but John demurred as he said, “I hate to ask, but, if you are still willing, I would LOVE for you to come with me for the show.  I want you to be a part of everything.  If you are comfortable, even to introduce you to my friends from the gym who will be there.  I know we need to keep a lowish profile, but I do not want to hide you.  Besides, most of them know about you already.  I … can’t stop talking about you.”

 

Gabriel smiled his crooked little mischievous smile, a mannerism he had picked up from John.  “Look in the bedroom.”  John glanced over Gabriel’s shoulder to the bedroom door.  It was open and he could clearly see a rather large duffle beside the bed.  John looked back surprised but smiling broadly. 

 

“I took the liberty of packing for the weekend -- just in case you asked.”  Gabriel said.  He hugged the giant man once again, as he said in his ear, “This is part of you now handsome.  And anything that is part of you, that means this much to you … is a part of me.”  Gabriel pulled up slightly to look at John.   “If you will let me share it with you.”  

 

John latched onto Gabriel, hugging him tightly. “I’m yours again, Angel.  Always… always was.”

 

Gabriel half squeaked, “At least until you uncase my insides like a sausage…”  John turned red as he immediately loosened his grip.  Gabriel leaned forward to kiss John on the cheek.  “You are welcome to stay with me tonight if you would like.”

 

John stood finally and looked down. “No place I would rather be….”

John and Gabriel - Chapter 6.jpg

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Chapter 7 - How Did You Love - Part 1


“Oh for muse of truth that we could descend into the darkest hells of our own inventions. A kingdom, a stage, a cage.” ~ Shinedown, How Did You Love


Immediately following the events of Chapter 6 - 6.25 months after the accident


 

John stood finally and looked down. “No place I would rather be….”

 

Smiling his devastatingly handsome smile, John reached down.  He had his Angel again, and he swore he would never let him go. Gabriel stood back as he was expecting John to sweep him up into his arms in a cradle carry like he had so many times before, but he didn’t.  Instead, Gabriel felt John’s thick right forearm, every bit as thick as a solid tree limb, slide under his ass.  The attached huge hand grasped him loosely at the hip, and John lifted up.  “Wrap your legs around my waist,”  John said.  Gabriel marveled as he felt himself slightly tossed into the air as John positioned him properly.  Gabriel wrapped his legs around John … and for the first time since he was perhaps five years old, Gabriel found himself being carried in one arm, like one would carry a paper bag of groceries … or a toddler sized child in a sling.  Gabriel had never felt so tiny and helpless, nor as utterly safe and content as he did now with John’s iron muscles, his heat and musk and love all around him.

 

Holding his man the way he was, John was able to look slightly UP and into Gabriel’s face while standing for the first time in over four months.  “God, I have missed you, Angel,” John said.   John’s eyes began to mist just a bit.  “Remember the last time we could do this?  The night I went back to work and you were there…”

 

Gabriel smiled, “You stood with me in that doorway where no one else could see.  Invited me to the park with you.  You were already growing.  5’8” then, I suppose, the same as me.  I remember it being a little weird to have to look at you in the eye when I used to look slightly down.  I weighed the same thing you did back then and I thought it was just the rehab that had made you more muscular.”  

 

“And now, look at us.  I barely come up to the top of your abs. And you can carry me in one arm…”  Gabriel grew wistful remembering times that would never come again, “You couldn’t even fit under that doorway with me now.  You are so much more than ...”

 

John’s eyes bore directly into Gabriel’s, “You are my heart and soul, Gabriel York.  No matter what happens,” John’s deep voice cracked again with emotion, “NO MATTER WHAT, no matter how far all this goes … You will ALWAYS be the bigger man.  I am sorry I forgot that.  I promise you, I will never forget again.”   

 

Gabriel rolled into John, cheek to cheek.  He threw one arm over John’s shoulder and pulled himself even closer into his man.  He took a moment to reflect as they walked across the living room that everything did seem so different from up here.  So much … smaller, fragile.  From here, seeing what John sees, feeling a bit of what it feels like, what it sounds like, Gabriel connected even more with what it was to BE like his titan lover.  If he had helped John understand what it was like to be a normal person around him, then right now John was helping him to understand what it is like to be someone akin to a growing demigod. 

 

“Watch your head.”  Gabriel broke from his thinking to see them closing in on his bedroom. They both bent their heads down, as John carried them through the “low” top of the doorway and into the room.  Gabriel felt John’s arm shift, and the familiar click to turn on the bright overhead light.  Only now, the light wasn't overhead at all.  He realized that from John’s perspective, overhead lights were much closer to staring directly into a floor lamp with the bulbs in his face.  

 

"John, how do you deal with these lights everywhere?"

 

John stopped dead and began to laugh heartily.  “I got used to it. But it is why I like vaulted ceilings now…" John paused and then laughed even harder.  "Oh, damn.  I forgot all about this Angel.  This will be a bit of a problem.  But it will help you see what it is like to be me now.”

 

“What is it John?”

 

John walked them around the light.  “Your bed.  Take a look.  You have a queen size, right?”  

 

Gabriel looked over and DOWN to his mattress but didn’t as yet see the problem. "Yes.  What about it?"

 

John smiled.  “Remember when you said I looked bigger…” John sat Gabriel down onto his feet and then laid himself out spread-eagle on the center of Gabriel’s bed.  Both men began to laugh hard at the sight.  John’s body took up almost all of the bed.  At the bottom, his feet, ankles, and part of his lower calves hung off the end, while his arms more than easily spanned the bed from end to end with his hands to the elbows hanging off the sides of the mattress.  “I have a Cal King at home, and even that is starting to get short.  This is gonna feel like sleeping in my kid sized twin bed when I visited my parents when I was in college.  Adventure sleeping with my little Angel.”  John said, laughing, causing the entire bed to quake and moan slightly under his weight as he shook in deep guffaws.

 

Gabriel knelt beside the bed and planted a kiss on John's cheek and then dove for his bed stand drawer.  “OK, this can’t wait.  I have to know how big you are, you giant ox.” Gabriel said as he was rustling through the contents for a measuring tape.

 

John maneuvered and sat up on the edge of the bed, smirking.  “Fine with me.  I would like to know myself before the show, but make sure it's the 10 foot tape.  We may be using most of it.” 

 

Gabriel let out a small triumphant noise as he put his hands on the large tape.  He secured the drawer and grabbed John’s hand.  John laughed as he made a show of it, Gabriel trying to pull him off the bed, but John resisting, pulling Gabriel back into a small kiss over and over again. The sexual tug of war was nothing of the kind. In reality it was John easily sliding Gabriel back and forth at will, both of them getting more and more turned on as the play between them totally demolished what was left of the hardness that had been between them not an hour before.  

 

Finally, John allowed Gabriel to "pull" him to his feet.  He led John back into the living room, but on the way through the dining room, John grabbed a kitchen chair.  “You’ll need this Angel, and I don’t think you have a ladder or stool.”

 

Gabriel suddenly let go of John’s hand and started for the master bathroom.  “Let me get the scales and some paper.”

 

John raised his voice slightly out of habit.  It was a small raise to him. Like speaking to someone in another room; yet, to a normal human's lungs, the volume John was speaking at was almost a yell. “Angel, that is going to be a bit of a problem…”

 

“What do you mean?”  Gabriel asked as he rounded the corner of the bedroom again, the scale, John's measurement book, and pen in his hands. 

 

“Maybe it's just better if I show you.”  John said, as he walked a few paces at his full stride to meet Gabriel in the middle of the living room floor.  John took the expensive, digital scale, switched it on, and placed it haphazardly on the floor.  When the machine read 0.0, John stepped on it, smiling.  “I figured this out last week at the gym, which kind of has me wondering exactly how to do this at the show since  … There it is.”

 

Gabriel looked down to see EEE.E flash up on the screen.  He looked up quizzically at John, who just kept smiling.  “It isn’t your scale.  It is me.  My home scale is the same as this and the one at the gym.  I do not register on them anymore.”

 

“But John, this is rated to… four … hundred …” Gabriel’s voice trailed off as he understood.

 

“I know.  I know I weigh over four hundred pounds.  But just how much over, I have no idea.  But remember when you said we weighed the same when we met?  I am closing in on weighing three of the old me.  And we will have to figure out how to actually get the number somehow.”  John said, a slight chuckle in his voice as he reveled in the problem of his muscle outgrowing another scale.

 

Gabriel was taken aback, but he tried to hold his shock in.  “OK.  What can weigh 3 of me…" He blew out an exasperated sigh, "I guess we are going to have to sleep on that one.  Let me do the easy measure since you came in with them on.  What is your shoe size now?”  Gabriel said as he walked over and picked up the veritable gunboat of a Nike trainer that looked almost new.

 

“I'm sort of glad I am getting two paychecks right now.  The replacement clothing bill is getting kind of expensive.”  John said as Gabriel pulled on the tongue tag.  Facing him was US 20.  Gabriel looked up almost speechless.  “I know.  They were 16’s the last time you took measurements.  And my sweats for checking in -- Dylan kind of helped me get some 6XL custom stuff made from his friends in Dallas.  Without you, all I have had is the gym.  So, I guess that means I have been pushing a lot harder.” John walked over to Gabriel and smiled.  “OK.  Let’s get to the fun stuff.”

 

John strolled over to the wall where he had placed the kitchen chair and stood with his back against it looking straight ahead.  He stripped off his shirt to reveal … a body so close to perfection, it made Gabriel stop and stare with a look of near awe.  He put a knee into the kitchen chair, and as he did, John reached down and took a hand to assist Gabriel into a standing position.  Gabriel turned around and stopped dead again as he was looking at John eye to eye.  John laughed, “Well hello, stranger.  Been a while since we have done this standing up.”

 

“But John it’s too fast, you shouldn’t be this …”

 

“I know, babe.  I’ve been living with it for a while, remember.  Knowing how tall your kitchen chairs are and what you are, I have a pretty good idea about me.  Still, best to get the measurement to know for certain.”

 

Gabriel released the metal end of the tape measure and allowed more than two-thirds of the tape to roll out … and he needed still more.  He let even more roll down until the metal just touched the floor.  He put his hand on top of John’s head, touched the wall, and then held the tape close to his fingers for as precise a measurement as he could get.  Gabriel’s voice was almost shaking.  “John… you are almost seven foot one.  MY GOD, you’ve grown five inches in 25 days.  But… but how haven’t people…?

 

John laughed as he turned his head to look at Gabriel again, “Noticed?  A few people have said something but five inches when you’re already head and shoulders taller than most people doesn’t seem to register with them.  Besides, most people are floored by the muscle and the height is just sort of secondary.  Speaking of muscle, let’s get the upper body measurements while you‘re standing there.”

 

John turned 90 degrees to face Gabriel head on, bent down slightly, and moved so that Gabriel would not have to reach very far to wrap the tape around his neck. Gabriel stretched the tape, but with the initial shock of John’s huge leap in size wearing off, he was more composed when he read, “27 and a quarter inches.”

 

John chuckled again. “No wonder the collared shirts for work have been an issue.  I thought it was just for being tall.  Haven’t worn anything but tight 5X polo’s and t-shirts for a while now.” While he was talking, Gabriel had stepped down from his chair to the floor to write down the measurements in the log he had left on the coffee table.   “And, babe, maybe I should be the one writing.  That way you do not have to step up and down so much.”

 

For the next half hour, John and Gabriel struggled to find ways to allow Gabriel to take measurements accurately, with some hilarious results.  They next TRIED to measure John’s shoulders and chest, but try as he might, Gabriel could no longer reach around John at chest level.  John had to wrap the tape around himself and allow Gabriel to grab the ends once he had wrapped it properly.  John couldn’t help but be mischievous, bouncing his pecs every time Gabriel tried to get an accurate reading.

 

“Stop that you oaf.”  Gabriel said, lightly smacking the inches thick muscle.  “You know this was a lot easier with a scanner.”

 

John bent down and gave Gabriel a peck on the cheek.  “You know you’re hot when you are frustrated.”  John smiled.  Gabriel looked up and both of them laughed.  Then, John held still to allow Gabriel to do it accurately, and he had been right.  A regular measuring tape was now too small for John’s chest as Gabriel read out, “69 and one quarter inches.” 

 

The pair went for biceps next.  When John raised his right arm and flexed, he began to bounce the massive globe up and down, chuckling as Gabriel tried in vain to even start to get the tape around it.  But, then Gabriel decided to turn the tables on the antics.  He started to wield the tape measure like a lion tamer’s whip, slapping the titanium-hard split peak with the cloth strip.  “Down, boy, down,” Gabriel cried, which made John weep in hysterical laughter.

 

After a few moments, John stopped and allowed Gabriel to hug his arm and take the measurement.  When he read out the measurement, “27 and 7 / 8 inches,” they were stunned again, realizing that his arms alone were now as big as many men's physique competitors’ waists and closing in on Gabriel’s own 30 inch waist.  Yet when it came to John’s own waist, “35 inches flat” it was just as incredible that anyone his size could be so narrow.  By the time Gabriel got the last measurement, John’s calves, “27 and three quarter inches”  John was nearly beaming with pride as he spoke down to his kneeling lover.

 

“Hey babe, I need to buy a volleyball.  According to Google … my calves are bigger than one now.  What do you think?”  John smirked as he looked down and began to rear up on his toes.  The massive diamonds that were his calves expanded and lengthened right in Gabriel’s face.  

 

“What do I think?” Gabriel replied.  He smiled, pulled his fist back, and smacked John’s hard calves over and over like he was serving a volleyball.  “Take that, you overstuffed meathead.”  

 

John feigned pain and let out an “Ow.  What are you, one of those damned massage Theraguns trying to give me a cramp?” But they both knew it was just a game, that the strongest punch Gabriel could possibly muster would never make the smallest dent into the hyperdense, vascular muscle.

 

When they were finally done, they both went back to the couch to look at the results.

 

Height: 7’1” (2.16m)

Neck: 27.25 inches (69.5 cm)

Chest: 69.25 inches (175.89 cm)

Waist: 35.0 inches (89 cm)

Forearms: 24.5 inches (62.5 cm)

Upper Arms:  27.875 inches (70.75 cm)

Thighs: 38.875 inches (98.83 cm)

Calves: 27.75 inches (70 cm)

 

“My God, John.  I can’t believe it. You're so much bigger than you were just three weeks ago.  It is getting even faster.  How are we going to--”

 

John reached up, took Gabriel’s cheek gently in his hand and stroked it. “Shhhhhh….”  Gabriel instantly stopped as he fell into the rhythm of John’s caress.  To be so big and incredibly strong, so fierce when he wanted but also so gentle, Gabriel fell into the emotions.  He closed his eyes, leaned into John’s mitt of a hand, and his cock stirred instantly.  John stroked his cheek for a few moments until he knew Gabriel had slowed down.  Then, he stopped and slowly directed his Angel’s gaze up to his own eyes. “We can talk about all of that after this weekend, OK?  All I want to do for the rest of the night is take you into that little bed.  It is small enough that you won't have much of a choice but to sleep tight up against me.  Maybe even on top of me.  And I can’t think of a much better place in the world than you laying on me with your head right on my chest, holding you close as you fall asleep.”  John smiled devastatingly sensually, “Come with me, Angel?”

 

Gabriel held John’s palm next to his cheek as he sighed.  He closed his eyes again and breathed slowly and exhaled in a soft, muffled moan through his nose.  Gabriel opened his eyes.  “I already said yes…”  

 

John leaned down and said, “I love you, Angel.”  He fell onto Gabriel, ravaging his mouth and tongue in a stupendous kiss.  John pulled the little man in, falling contentedly into his own world of passion as they made out.  After a few minutes of this, as if reading each other’s minds, John and Gabriel stood in unison and walked under their own power to the bedroom and the now relatively tiny bed, and the bliss each knew they would find, leaving a trail of discarded clothes in their wake. 

 


 

The converted competitor check-in room that had once been the cafeteria at Doherty High School was abuzz with excitement, but not for the usual reasons.  Of course, there were a large number of competitors checking in, making sure paperwork was in order, getting height and weight taken for physique and classic divisions.  Male and female competitors making sure their reservation with the spray tan folks were in line.  But that was not the reason everyone in the room was buzzing.   

 

“Yeah, it really is him.”

 

“But why would John Meadows be HERE!?!”

 

“I overheard him say he was here for a client but who?” 
 

“He wouldn’t say the name.”

 

“I heard a rumor that a LOT of IFBB pros were coming here too to see someone compete.  Are they wanting to see the guest poser or what?”

 

“But why are they coming to a natty show, and the smallest one in the state, when they aren’t close to natty?  Who is going to compete here against them?”

 

Sure enough, in a corner of the expansive room, one of the most famous pro bodybuilding coaches in the world stood waiting in casual short-sleeved shirt and shorts that hugged his own muscles built from over three decades of hard training.  Competitors were coming up, shaking his hand, asking for a photo or occasional autograph.  Usually when the man was with a client, he would not indulge in that sort of thing, but with THIS client - there wasn’t a worry.  And he was a little more flexible since they were mostly all armed services people, and he respected that.  

 

At the moment, Meadows was standing with the chairman of the NPC Colorado, chatting about the first time competitor.

 

“He really is THAT big and a natty?” Jeff Taylor asked.

 

“When you see him he will BLOW your mind, but yeah.  Clean as can be. Even had the military run the tests twice to be sure.  Came back with nothing.  Once in a couple of generations, if that, are you ever going to see one like him.” Meadows replied.

 

“This is going to be seriously unfair…”

 

Meadows laughed, “And just how many unfair small shows have we--”

 

There was the sound of the metal entrance doors opening again, but unlike the hundreds of previous openings, every peep of conversation ceased when the eyes of everyone in the room looked to those doors.   It was not the totally average size guy in polo and casual pants who made them go speechless.  It was the man next to him.  The man who had to BEND DOWN and TWIST his shoulders to fit between the doors so as to walk into the room.  He was dressed in a GASP tracksuit that, while covering him well and somewhat loose, made no effort at all to hide the muscle mass of someone who was at least two whole people wide.

 

The pair stepped inside fully, and the giant man rose to his full height.  His head going right over top of the door frame with the small man beside him on his right.  People in the room could not help but compare the size of the average guy’s head to the biceps of the titan, since they were directly side by side.  Everyone decided - the arms looked BIGGER. 

 

As if there were actually something metaphysical about it, Meadows could actually feel any and all confidence in the room pour out of the other competitors and flow into the man at the door.  The giant looked over at Meadows and Taylor and smiled, which made most of the women in the room gasp at the sheer perfect seduction of it.  Taylor, who was as starstruck as the rest was only able to mumble, “HOLY FUCK” under his breath.

 

Meadows laughed, “Told you Jeff.  Come on, I’ll introduce you.”  Meadows almost had to guide Taylor by the elbow toward the door.  

 

As soon as he saw them approaching, John slightly knelt, leaned down to Gabriel, and quickly whispered in his ear, “Remember, I am under cover here.  They will all call me Kyle. But John Meadows is an informant and knows who I am.”

 

Gabriel chuckled seeing the room go silent as he whispered up, “Gotta bring you to a Premier League match someday.  If you can make the hooligans go this docile and quiet, Scotland Yard will tell you to name your price.”

 

Within a few seconds, Meadows and Taylor arrived.  Meadows offered his hand to the giant, and the giant took it warmly.  “Damn it, I have heard of growing into a show, but can you EVER stop putting on muscle?  I would swear you are even taller.”  Meadows laughed at what he had said in jest. “Kyle” really did look taller, but also he surmised was an illusion.  Tall men with a lot of muscle often looked even bigger and taller than they really are, and he guessed it had to be that.  “Kyle, this is Jeff Taylor, head of the Colorado NPC and the event promoter.  Jeff, this is my client and friend Kyle Brady.”

 

Taylor was still in a bit of a stupor as he automatically offered his hand, which “Kyle” took.  His giant paw nearly enveloped the promoter’s hand whole.  “N...nice to meet you Kyle.” Jeff stammered.  

 

“Kyle” smiled as he gently shook.  “Likewise, Jeff.  John, Jeff, this is Gabriel.”  

 

Meadows thrust forward his hand, which Gabriel took.  “At last.  Good to meet you.  You know this gorilla never stops talking about you.  More than even bodybuilding if you can belie--”

 

There was another whine and grind of metal doors bursting open on the other side of the room.  Everything went silent again as a veritable who’s who of top amateur and IFBB pro bodybuilders in Colorado came through the door.  “Kyle” looked up to see the three he expected - Dylan Armbrust, his gym's owner, Justin Vetters and Adam Young, his training partners and coaches throughout his prep - but also along with them wandered in Brett Wilkin, Martin Fitzwater, Dylen McKenna, Russ Allen - more.  There were ten of them in all.  “Kyle’s” gym buds had turned out en masse. 

In an instant, the room full of lifetime amateurs and natty military men and women was awash with several tons of pro bodybuilder beef. "Kyle" smiled and laughed out loud seeing them all.  He projected his deep voice which filled the room, “I’LL FUCK ALL OF YOU RAW AND SCREAMING FOR DOING THIS!”  The stunned room seemed to part like the Red Sea before Moses as the two groups started walking for each other.  They met in the middle of the room, a gaggle of 14 bodybuilders and one doctor, surrounded at a discrete distance by the entire rest of the competition roster. 

 

“Kyle” immediately towered over the three conspirators with fake menace.  “OK, you three.  What the fuck?  Did you bring out the whole gym?”

 

Justin and Adam laughed hard while Dylan smiled up to the glowering face looking down.  “Blame the old man, here.  I … might have let it slip here and there and your friends… Well, like I said, none of us want to miss your first show.  Even when we compete against each other, we still support our own.”  Dylan chucked, “Though rumor has it Phil is gonna slide in for the night show to scope the phenom in action.”

 

“Kyle” shook his head, “Fuck you all.  Just can’t let me do a small show, can you?”  They all laughed.  The next few minutes were spent with Gabriel being introduced to all of the core of “Kyle’s” gym family.  Gabriel seemed nervous at first to be surrounded by smaller versions of John, each of whom made two of him in their own right.  But, within a few moments of each one saying hello, Gabriel was adopted.  A little brother maybe, but still fully family.  It took Gabriel a few minutes to warm up to the jock and muscle banter going on between everyone.  But soon enough, he was enjoying feeling at home.  He even got in on the wise cracks occasionally, since as a distance runner, he might not be one tenth as strong as any of them. But, he could run circles around all of them, except John, and he let them know it.

 

After about five minutes, Meadows raised his voice a bit.  “We need to get the man of the hour signed in before he doesn’t get to compete at all.”  There was a short chorus of “Fuck ya’s” and “Good Luck”s as the guys began to file out and move toward the audience area on the auditorium floor.  When they were gone, “Kyle”, Gabriel, Meadows, Taylor and Justin walked over to the table where the officials from the NPC and the military were registering competitors.

 

Those officials were as floored to silence as the rest of the room as “Kyle” gave his pertinent information, military ID showing he was able to compete, and the results from his latest drug screens which Colonel Dougherty had arranged - both a blood and urine mass spectrometer test and a hair follicle analysis that were 100% legit showing “Kyle” was a lifetime natural as far back as the tests could measure.  

 

Then, came the not-so-simple, simple formality of getting his correct height and weight.  “Kyle” snickered a bit as he stood on the digital medical scale that went to 400 lbs.  As was now normal, all that was measured was “EEE.E.”  At the same time, another official was using the height stick - or trying to since he could not get it over John’s head to lower down, the stick having a maximum of seven feet.  The officials looked at Jeff confused as to what to do, when John pulled his tape measure out of his bag.  Jeff smiled and silently chucked.  “Go ahead.  Sometimes the old fashioned way works the best.”  

 

With Gabriel giving a few hints, the officials had John do exactly what he did the previous night, where they arrived at the not quite accurate but close enough 7 foot 1 inches tall.  But, when it came to the scale, they were all flummoxed.  “We can go and try to find another scale, or try to find a doc’s office with one with a high enough range, but that is going to take a while.”

 

Gabriel looked at Jeff.  “Well, I tried to weigh him last night at home and got the same thing.  But I think I have a quick solution, if it is a bit unorthodox.”  Gabriel leaned down and quietly told Jeff his suggestion.  Jeff pulled back laughing like crazy.

 

“Well, I will say it would be a first time THAT method has been used for any bodybuilding show.  Maybe any show of any sport period.  BUT - we know Kyle is a super heavy no matter what and this is just a formality for you… How long would it take? 20/30 minutes?”  Jeff asked.

 

“Waze says yes.” Gabriel replied.  Jeff shook his head in astonishment at what he was about to do, but he grabbed one of the officials and the men walked back out the door the way they came.

 

***

 

It was about ten minutes later when the four men inside of John’s jeep pulled up to the El Paso county landfill.  Jeff and the official hopped out for a moment to walk into the office to talk with the city sanitation worker inside.  It was not 90 seconds later when they both came out.  “The fellow says to help ourselves.  Gabriel, how the fuck did you come up with this anyway?”

 

“I had to take some things to the landfill when I first came to Colorado from England, and I remembered having to do this up there.  Thought this scale would fit him quite easily without a high capacity physicians scale.”  Gabriel replied.  He then looked at John. “Drive it on up.”

 

John cranked the Jeep and then drove himself and the vehicle onto the landfill transportation scales.  John stepped out of the Jeep and off the scale platform until the man inside the office signaled a thumbs up to Jeff.  John then hopped back into the Jeep, drove off and made a loop, and again drove on the scale, only this time, staying inside the Jeep.

 

At the second thumbs up, the county worker stood up and walked to the door.  Opening it without looking, he said, “Well, that comes to 420 lbs.  That must be some guy …” The worker’s voice trails off as he saw the behemoth that was John get out of the Jeep, his head rising well above the ragtop roof.  “Well, hell, was gonna say he must be some man, but damn.”  He looked up and grinned as he yelled at John, “Anytime you want to get some extra cash, I’d be happy to hire you to replace one of our machine compactors.  Looks like you could crush things better than they do.”

 

John laughed, "I'll keep that in mind.  Thanks again.”  All of the men piled back into the Jeep for the return trip to the venue and the start of pre-judging.

  


 

It wasn’t hard for Gabriel to find where he was supposed to sit for the pre-judging.  Squarely in the middle front of the auditorium was a tangle of massive men, animatedly talking to one another.  Gabriel began to slowly walk toward them, but as soon as they caught sight of him, Armbrust was waving him into an open seat they had saved for him.  Dylan, Brett, and Martin all stood and allowed Gabriel to slide in and sit.  Instantly there were several large hands patting him on the shoulder, from the men who were fast becoming his friends as well as John’s.

 

“How does the tan look?”  Brett asked.

 

“He looks really dark to me, but it's not streaky or anything like I thought it would be with an airbrush.” Gabriel said, to which everyone laughed and explained tans need to be that dark for the stage lights.  Nodding, he continued, “But if it says anything, as soon as he took the jacket off and started pumping up, everyone was silent again watching.”

 

The men all around laughed, “Well, he has that effect on people.  Even in our gym and we are all used to seeing massive guys,” the young Dylan McKenna piped up.  “How did you two meet, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 

Gabriel softly smiled thinking back to all those months ago when the world was so different, “Believe it or not … I am his doctor.”  Another roar of laughter and a few well-worn jock jokes about “Kyle” and Gabriel playing doctor poured down, making Gabriel blush.  But, just as quickly he channeled John and said, “Well, I am way better at it than just playing doctor.”  Said in Gabriel’s British accent, the roar of laughter became even louder, with several “Hell ya’s” and “That a boy’s” coming out from the guys.   

 

Less than five minutes later, the emcee stepped onto the stage. “On behalf of the US Armed Forces and the National Physique Counsel of Colorado, we want to welcome all of you to the Southern Colorado Armed Forces Bodybuilding and Fitness Show.  We will begin pre-judging with women’s bikini momentarily, but we first off wanted to thank all of you for coming today to support these great athletes who not only spend a lot of time in the gym, but also give their time and lives serving this nation.  And for those who are family and friends, thank you for your support of these men and women serving to protect all of us.  If our lead judge is ready, it is time to begin.”

 

The next two hours proceeded through all of the other classes, progressing through their individual and group compulsory poses and call-outs.  The bodybuilders surrounding Gabriel divided their time between cheering on people they knew or who caught their eye, and teaching the smaller man about the details of what was going on. Meadows taught Gabriel how physiques were judged and how the poses worked for each class.  Sometimes one of the guys would flex a muscle on their own bodies, pointing out what to look for, how the relationships between proportion, fullness and hardness, and bulk and definition all worked.  Justin and Martin showed off their biceps, quads, and calves to teach Gabriel how genetics entered in, how the muscle was shaped differently between even these professional level physiques that were essentially the same size.  Everyone was surprised how fast Gabriel caught on, but it was easy with his intimate knowledge of anatomy and physiology from his work.  By the time the middleweight bodybuilders were on stage, Gabriel was asking about what he was seeing and making the right calls about who should be first callout, who should be center, and why.  Adam joked that they needed to call New York to the head judge of the IFBB since they had a competent judge in the making for once.

 

“Now ladies and gentlemen, because of limited numbers, we will have a combined class of our heavyweight and superheavyweight men’s open bodybuilding.  And, I dare say, you are in for a rare treat to see a man who the term SUPER HEAVYWEIGHT fits better than on anyone I have ever seen.  Let’s welcome out our twelve competitors.”

 

A number of what at any other time would be large, muscular men started to walk out onto the stage.  Everyone in the audience noticed however that they were all rather decidedly downcast.  They were trying to concentrate as they came out and took up a basic relaxed pose, but something seemed to be weighing on them.  What that was was revealed when John walked out onto the stage beaming.  There were literal gasps from everywhere around, even at the judges table, as John was literally more than head and shoulders above the rest.  

 

Cheers went up automatically from the guys, “OH HELL YA. WHOOOOO!!!”  John wore a dark green high waisted poser that seemed to set off his skin and natural size perfectly.  Everyone agreed too, his tan was done to perfection.  Armbrust reached over and patted Gabriel on the hand, as Gabriel’s expression was … amazement.  He had seen John almost everyday for six months.  But, he had never seen him like this.  John looked like a god.  Standing there as they took their spots in line, it was literally like twelve years olds standing around someone straight out of superhero comics.  John’s single quads looked to be big enough to totally hide the other competitors abdomen’s behind.  Each pec, wider than the other competitors' heads.  But what was even more crazy - though he out-weighed them all twice over, John’s waist was more narrow than several of the much smaller men beside him.

 

“Alright gentlemen, let’s start with quarter turns.”  The athletes took their positions, raising their arms to the side and their chests out and up, pretending to relax, but in reality, every muscle possible was flexed.  John raised his arms and chest, and laughter went up from the crowd, as the next competitor’s head and neck disappeared behind his extended delts and lats.  The assistants stepped in and moved the line to the right and the left to give enough space for John to pose properly without blocking his neighbors.  

 

Once they were adjusted and assumed posing again, Gabriel leaned over to Justin, “I know Jo-,” Gabriel almost kicked himself for slipping to say John, but quickly recovered, “Kyle is bigger than them all, but from what you have taught me his shape is better, proportion better, condition better … everything.”

 

Justin smiled back, “Oh yes.  That’s why it has been such a great time to workout with him everyday and to plan this.  Even compared to us … honestly, he just outclasses any bodybuilder here, even us,  myself included.  And, I am not ashamed to say it.”

 

Meadows leaned down from a seat directly behind Gabriel, “Kyle outclasses any bodybuilder any of us have ever seen.  That is part of why we are here.  Gabriel, he is going to win every show he enters.  Kyle will be a phenom in this sport, maybe more legendary than Arnold himself.”

 

Gabriel was bursting with pride at that remark.  He was beginning to understand much more fully the meticulousness of the work John had been doing.  What Gabriel and Jack had accidentally done was intricate, complex.  Revolutionary.  But, even with what the procedure had done to him, none of this would be happening to this degree without John’s constant work at it.  The meals, the doggedness about the gym, even with work, John’s ability to hyperfocus on his goals - even more than last night, Gabriel was at that moment able to see the world through John’s eyes.  Feel the world through John’s hands.  He could see why he loved it so much.  But, at the same time, little alarms in the back of his mind were going off.  If John is going to be so huge in this sport, make such an impact, could he never be hidden again after tonight.  As proud as he was, a small voice began to say maybe this exposure had been a mistake.  Gabriel banished the voice for the time being and decided he was going to enjoy this moment as much as John obviously was.  

 

“Turn to your right,” the emcee said as the men assumed the next pose.  From there, each quarter turn went the same way.  If anything John looked even bigger as he swept through the 360 degrees.  As he kept flexing, veins stood out more, muscles seemed to fill.  Definition seemed to come out that much more.  And with every pose, the cheers from the guys and the larger crowd spread and grew.

 

Once they came back to the front relaxed, the emcee announced,  “Alright gentlemen, front double biceps.”  John paused for a moment seeing what he wanted to do in his mind.  He raised his arms, smiled, and brought them down HARD into the largest double biceps pose ever seen in bodybuilding.  John seemed to have muscle control well beyond any other person on the stage as he could flex everything, every muscle group, head to toe.  Massive and small intricate veins crossed every part of his body.  The separation was insanity itself to see, and what’s more, those massive biceps were above the heads of everyone else on stage.

 

“Hit it Kyle, YA!! That a boy.”  came out of the gym guys along with a general roar of cheers from the other bodybuilding fans scattered in the auditorium.  

 

“Front Lat Spread.”  the emcee said.  Again, John breathed a moment as he put his clenched fists behind the lower waist, smiled, and then pulled lats the size of a 747's wings into existence. Obliques and serratus muscles deeply etched into his ribcage, setting off the pose all the more.  Flexing as hard as he was, Gabriel could tell --- John was having fun.  Their eyes locked for a moment.  John gave a wink, smiled even more fully, and pulled the pose harder.  The crowd picked up on the slight bit of cockiness and fed into it with more cheers.  Gabriel could not help but laugh.  John was showing off for him.  He wanted Gabriel to see him like this, for the first time truly showing all that he was - what in John’s mind, Gabriel had helped him to become.  Gabriel couldn’t help but feel a twitch in his crotch.

 

The same thing went on and on through every pose the emcee announced.  Side chest, an truly inhuman back double biceps and rear lat spread, an abs and thighs that showed abs so perfectly shaped, deep and separated to call them simply washboard was insulting.  John’s side triceps was no less impressive, with a hanging horseshoe thicker, yet more perfect than anyone had any right to ever have.  Through it all, with each pose, more and more people in the crowd began to cheer, calling out “Kyle. Kyle.  KYLE.” John seemed to feed on the cheers, pleasing the fans, and his friends and his lover, bringing out the new John side of him more than he ever had before.

 

The last mandatory pose concluded, the emcee asked the men to relax for a moment, while the head judge came up to him, handed him a card and whispered something in his ear.  The emcee laughed and then raised up.  “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I admit that this is another new one for me.

 

  “As you know, we traditionally have callouts now.  But this is going to run a bit differently.  You’ll see as we go along.  Now, as for the first call, let’s have the following men up front.  And this one should come as no shock to anyone - contestant 47.”  The entire place erupted into cheers as John smiled and pumped his fist in the air a couple of times.  He moved down to the front center stage.  Big rounds of applause and cheers went up as four other men were called out and stood together with John.  Everyone in the room KNEW what was about to happen, but that didn’t take away from the appreciation of what every man on the stage had done, and the crowd showed it.

 

"OK.  Let's start with the money shot.  Front double biceps."  All of the men assumed their best crack at the pose again with John looking even more titanic than before.  

 

Another cheer went up as before, with more than a few very vocal yells for “Kyle.”  Suddenly, the much smaller contestant to John’s immediate right dropped his pose.  The man - who looked to barely made it to 200 pounds to cross the line into the heavyweight division - came up to John, standing directly under his flexed right arm.  The huge volleyball sized muscle was many inches above the smaller guys head as he stood there looking up with a mock quizzical expression.  John glanced down and smiled at the smaller man, and kicked his head in a motion that seemed to say, “Hop on.”  The smaller bodybuilder smirked and then jumped up and grabbed onto the massive peak as if he were about to do a pull up.  Literally dangling in the air with his bare feet almost a foot off the ground, the tiny lifter let go with one hand and flexed his much smaller biceps. The entire place opened up in a massive roar of laughter and a bit of astonishment at the display of mind-boggling power John was putting on.  200 hundred pounds of muscle hanging from his flexed arm with no stress in his pose at all.  John didn’t even flinch when the guy jumped and grabbed on. Both John and the smaller guy were hysterically laughing as the small guy dropped down and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I had to try something.”  They both turned to each other.  John shot out his hand, taking the smaller’s into his own fist.  They gave each other a solid bro hug and resumed their spots.

 

The emcee wiped laughing tears from his eyes as he said, "Alright.  After that little bit of unorthodox posing, abs and thighs."  From then on, the callouts went through something unusual.  As the poses were changed, each man was moved next to and around John in a different pattern, sometimes literally a new man next to John with each pose.  Brett caught on first - "Shit, they're moving the other guys with the next best pose or conditioning beside him. And he is pasting them all over and over, no matter what."

 

After an unusually long time going through each pose, the emcee concluded. "That's all gentlemen.  You can leave the stage."  The entire building let up a massive cheer.  On stage, John at first held up his own hand to the crowd, waving and thanking them for all of the cheers.   Most of the competitors came up to him, talking, hand shaking, and light bro hugging to keep the spray tans from streaking.  

 

"Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our pre-judging.  The evening show begins at 5 pm and we invite you all back to cheer on your favorite athlete and to see our special guest poser, US Army sergeant and IFBB pro bodybuilder Cedric McMillan posing for us.  See you at 5."

 

The audience arose and began to break up as the Armbrust crew made their way toward the left side of the stage.  Easily seeing over everyone's heads, John saw them coming, his angel in the front.  John excused himself from the other competitors and made a detour to the edge of the stage. He rather easily took a single step down to the auditorium floor from a height that most guys would have needed to hop to make.

 

"Well, what did you think?" John asked as soon as they surrounded him.  A chorus of praise came from all his friends, but his first look was a silent question to Gabriel.  Gabriel smiled and, very uncharacteristically, returned John's wink.  It was all the answer he needed.  John plunged into his friends talking and taking congratulations, with almost as many handshakes and bro hugs for the littlest man among them who had been with John every step of the way.

 

***

 

In the back of the auditorium, Jeff Heath looked at the scene of bodybuilders surrounding the man who stood more than 18 inches taller than himself.  He couldn't believe it.  It made his stomach turn.  Kyle having a ton of bodybuilding friends, most of whom he recognized from social media as pro bodybuilders.  That he could believe.  No, what he couldn't believe was the small guy, the dark haired thin one who was so out of place, but was so obviously one of them.  All his life, Jeff lusted to be accepted by the big guys, wanted his place with them.  A place he thought he had more than earned a right to have.  It's why he started working out, why he started to deal steroids.  Why he tried to act like he thought big guys were supposed to be - cocky, arrogant, picking on small guys and beta males.  Fuck, he even made a delivery earlier in the day to a customer and had another this afternoon just to get in with a pair of new guys.   And yet, those same big men had never accepted him - not until Kyle took him under his wing anyway.  But, Kyle hadn’t invited him here.  He had come on his own since he knew Kyle was doing this show.  HADN’T EVEN BEEN INVITED, and then to see that skinny … dork in a polo that they all seemed to include as an equal?!?  What the fuck did the tiny guy have that he didn’t?  Why did he get included when he had never even picked up a weight?  Jealousy made Jeff's blood begin to boil.  Kyle may have shown him that he wasn't the same as the big guys - OK.  But that scrawny fuck?  He had to know.

 

The large group of bodybuilders and Kyle moved toward the backstage doors, leaving the small guy alone with an older jacked man Heath recognized as the pro bodybuilding coach John Meadows.  Heath took it as a moment to move in and figure this out.  He got within about five paces and put on his best “fake smile.”  

 

Right at that moment, he was close enough to hear Meadows say, “I’ll go in the back and see what’s keeping them.”  Meadows walked off toward the metal doors to the back stage.  

 

Heath stepped to within a couple of paces, taking Meadow’s former position and said, “Ah, Hi.  Hope you do not mind me coming up to you, but I noticed that you know Kyle…”

 

Gabriel seemed taken aback that someone who he did not know would approach him about John and not one of the guys from the gym.  His instincts told him to be careful.  A bit defensively, Gabriel replied, “My friends and I know Kyle, yes.  And you are?”

 

Heath extended his hand, “Name’s Heath.  Jeff Heath.” Jeff took Gabriel’s hand, and much as John did to him a month earlier, clasped his hand around Gabriel’s harder and harder.  Gabriel understood at once what Heath was trying to do.  Gabriel tried to resist, but Heath was able to outpower him.  Gabriel stopped resisting and allowed his hand to crunch together in a slight amount of pain.  Smiling his once practiced intimidating smile, Jeff let go once he knew he had accomplished what he wanted and as he did he let his untucked t-shirt slide up to reveal a badge at his belt.  Gabriel put every defense he had on full.  “I work with Kyle up north and I happened to be here to see another friend competing.” Heath lied.  “Wanted to say hi to him and congratulate him.  That was some showing.”  Health then slowed and dropped his tone, a bit of the old, cocky pretentious cop slipping into his voice.  “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you to all those guys?”  Heath started to flex his muscles menacingly.  Heath was smaller than all the gym guys Gabriel had just been with.  But Heath would be able to easily manhandle Gabriel if he had wanted, and they both knew it.  “I mean … you do not look like you do not workout much.  What would you be doing at a bodybuilding show?”

 

Gabriel was becoming scared, though he tried to hide it. He started thinking how he could extricate himself to get to John or one of the others.  “One doesn’t have to be a bodybuilder to be friends with them, ahh, Jeff was it?”

 

“True,” Heath said. “I guess Kyle is friends with ALL kinds, even little guys who haven’t seen a gym in their lives.”  Heath changed his tone again to slight disdain, but his meaning was obvious as he said.  “Kyle could do SO much better though …” Heath smirked and paused, “Present company excepted of course.  You know a little guy like you might fit in better if you went to --”

 

An odd ringtone erupted from Heath’s pocket - [Stone Temple Pilots - Sour Girl] - and his eyes instantly rolled.  “Fuck not now.  Excuse me,“ he said to Gabriel.  He took about two steps away, and tapped the phone on.  He tried to keep his voice low, but Gabriel was still able to hear as the crowds had mostly left.

 

“Brenda, what the fuck?”  A pause.

 

“I don’t give a damn.  You know you are not to interrupt me...Shut the fuck up.”  His voice dropped. “Bitch, you know you are not going to talk to me that way.  If you want another lesson, you are sure as fuck doing a good job--”

 

Gabriel was horrified.  He recognized the names at that moment.  John had told him about this but, until he heard it with his own ears, he never really believed it.  Never really thought that someone in such a position of trust could be THAT low, that much of a scumbag.  Gabriel tried to take the interruption as a way to move away toward the backstage, but at that moment, Heath looked up.  He held up a finger, in a condescending gesture commanding him to wait, and took a step closer to Gabriel, effectively corralling him.  

 

“I don’t have time for this.  And if you go to your parents … you know what will happen.  You WILL wait on me, and you WILL do what you have been told to do with my business partners.  Are we CLEAR, or do we need an attitude adjustment?”

 

---

 

Meadows was crossing the backstage warm up area.  As he walked, he came on a gap in the rear curtains that allowed people to look out onto the front stage and the auditorium beyond.  Curious, he happened to pause a moment to glance through and out.  What he saw made him stop in his tracks.  A small time lifter next to Gabriel.  A guy who looked like he had a badge on his belt under a loose t-shirt. The small lifter was on his phone standing between Gabriel and the door looking very animated.  But the look on Gabriel’s face.  Something was wrong.

 

Meadows looked up immediately and saw John surrounded by competitors and friends, pulling on his tracksuit.  Meadows moved across as fast as he could.  He barely had the pants pulled on - “Kyle --”

 

John looked up, and from the tone, he knew it was serious.  Meadows tilted his head toward the stage and the gap.  John looked around and said - “Excuse me a minute.”  He stepped around everyone and in a couple of strides was next to Meadows.

 

“Something is up.  Some guy with what looked like a badge is next to Gabriel, and Gabriel does not look good.”

 

John immediately put his hand to Meadows' back, practically pushing him forward faster than the smaller man could walk, as they made their way to the gap in the curtain.  John positioned himself to look through the gap without being seen by someone on the other side.  What he saw instantly transformed his jovial mood into one of white-hot seething rage.  Heath was standing next to Gabriel - a bit too close - talking with a smirk John recognized and his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder.  John could see Heath’s muscles flexing and Gabriel trying to hide a wince from pain.  John knew another expression his lover was trying to hide.  Gabriel was afraid.

 

Meadows looked up and saw the change in his client and friend.  If the giant man’s eyes could glow red with anger, Meadows swore they would have been.  The Predator came alive and started to walk fast, muscles flexing with anticipation, straight toward the stage doors. He would be fucked if he ever let that pissant even close to his man.  Meadows had to run to catch John and get in front of him to slow him down a moment.  “Whoa, man, what is it? Who is that?”

 

 The Predator grabbed Meadows by the arm, nearly lifting him clean off the ground to throw him aside. Meadows almost yelled in pain and surprise, but was able to keep quiet. “John,” Meadows virtually whispered in concern for himself and that man. Coming to himself for a moment, John raised Meadows up to be closer to his mouth.  With Meadows being one of his informants, John was able to be open.  His voice barely contained raging fury as he said, deeply and ominously in the Predator's voice, “That little bitch is a wife beater, an adulterer who has been after me to fuck him, and … a big target in the ring.”

 

The tone startled and frightened Meadows.  Frightened but also angered him.  Meadows has no problems with steroids, but dealing to young children for a buck.  A fucking abuser.  That was different.  He looked up at John and said with all the firmness he could.  “Then, let me get the boys to take care of this.  Don’t endanger what you have been doing for months.  You hear me, John?  Let us take care of it.”  

 

The Predator let go of Meadows' arm and looked down, “Then do it NOW.  I’ll give you 30 seconds before I rip the prick’s head off.”  

 

Meadows nodded and almost ran over to the group.  Seeing the earnestness in Meadow’s face, the group stopped in mid-conversation.  “Gentlemen, we have an issue.  Someone is messing with Gabriel.  Someone who Kyle says is making unwelcome … ah …  advances.  We need to teach him some manners.”  The fun-loving mood stopped in a moment.  Armbrust looked up and saw John, saw the rage, and understood.  

 

He looked at the young bodybuilders.  “Go.  Mountaindog and I will stay with Kyle.”  he said.

 

Martin was the first to speak up.  “THOSE kind of advances?”  Meadows nodded yes in reply.  

 

They were already moving fast, passing the Predator who was pacing and seething but keeping his word.  Meadows and Armbrust came to a stop, and as they did, Brett looked through the crack in the curtain.  “Shit, I think I know about that one.”  Adam looked up at the Predator slowly calming, “Don’t worry bro.  I know just what to do.  Trust me, little man is safe with us.  Let’s go guys.”

 

---

 

Heath hung up his phone and quickly returned to Gabriel.  Gabriel looked at him, and Heath could see something - fear.  It had been a while since he had seen that look and it made the man feel good.  He raised his hand, put it on Gabriel’s shoulder, pressed down, and squeezed.  “Thank you, Gabriel was it?  Sorry for the interruption.  Like I was saying, I know those guys respect - well, you know power and looking like a MAN.  Something Kyle told me just the other day.  Maybe you can talk to those friends of yours.  Favor for favor. Because I CERTAINLY know how to watch out for little guys like you.  Never know what kind of harm can come to someone in the city --”

 

The stage doors blasted open with a loud bang.  Brett, Martin, and Adam came bounding through the door looking perfectly innocent, the facade of joviality back.  Immediately Heath dropped his hand from Gabriel and took a couple of steps back.  Gabriel looked up and, unseen by Heath, pleaded with his eyes with the three for help.  The three nonchalantly walked up, “Hey Gabriel, sorry we were a minute.  Oh, who is your friend here?” 

 

“Oh,” Gabriel said, his voice wavering with emotion, “This is someone Kyle knows.”

 

Adam spoke up, “Really?  Well, any friend of Kyle’s.” The three moved around expertly to separate Gabriel and Heath.  “You look like you workout some.  Tell you what.  The three of us were about to go to the gym and catch a workout before the evening show.  As a friend of Kyle’s, I am sure you can hang with us.”  Heath looked like he was going to explode with pent up desire.  He had finally made it.

 

As the three walked toward the door, Heath subtly trapped between the three big men, Adam said, “Who knows?  We might be able to teach each other a few things.”  Adam then turned and flashed Gabriel a knowing smile and a wink.  “We’ll catch you later, man.”  Gabriel’s eyes lit up just a bit, knowing he had just been rescued by his new friends.  

 

Martin said, “Since we are at a bodybuilding show, and I am doing the USAs next month, maybe we should do a little posing first....”

 

---

 

As soon as the group with Heath in tow left the auditorium floor, the Predator practically ripped the metal entrance doors off and rushed to Gabriel’s side.  The barely contained rage poured out of him as he said, “Angel are you OK?  What did that prick do to you?”

 

Gabriel couldn't help but hug John to feel secure.  Gabriel swallowed hard as he allowed the fear to release. “He didn’t hurt me or anything, John.  Just … John is that the way he really is?  REALLY?”

 

“Gabriel, what did he do?”

 

Gabriel sighed and opened up.  What Heath had said to him, the belittling, condescending, and most of all - what he had heard talking on the phone.  Seeing that Gabriel was indeed safe, the Predator stepped back and John returned. 

 

“Did he use a name?”

 

“Yes, Brenda.  Is she that Brenda?”
 

“If the ring tone was a song that talked about a sour girl, then, yes, that’s her.”

 

“Oh my God, John.”

 

“I know.  Angel, I made you a promise, and I will keep it.  But can you see now?”

 

Gabriel took in another calming breath.  “Yes, I see.  But, don’t do anything here, OK? Not for me.  I will be OK.”

 

“OK, Angel.  OK.  But, the guys are … well.  Going to explain to him that you don’t mess with family.”  Gabriel began to look scared, not for Heath, but for his newfound friends and John.  John smiled down, with hints of the same vengeful smile Gabriel had seen some weeks ago - only now he understood.  “Don’t worry.  I have a feeling they won’t hurt anything but his pride.  Something that guys in the sport have to do sometimes with unwanted advances.”

 

As soon as John said those words, the doors opened to the other guys from Armbrust.  As they passed, Justin came up and patted Gabriel across the shoulders.  “Gabriel, man, you have no worries.  Promise you, the prick won’t have so much as a bruise, but he will know he doesn’t ever mess with us.  If I know Martin, this won’t take long at all.  Him and his college workout partner - they got a kick out this kind of thing.  See you two in a few.  You both have other things to think about.  The big man has to keep his mind in the game and take in a little food before the night show. That’s your job, Boss.”  Justin patted Gabriel again and trotted off to catch up.

 

John quickly closed his eyes, released a long breath, and with it some tension.  “Now, come with me. I guess we still have some unfinished business with this show, and Heath will come later.  I need to grab my jacket … and,” a bit of a mischievous smile crept across John’s face as he tried to help Gabriel and himself calm down.  “Since you’re THE BOSS, are you SURE, you won’t let me do more than this one show???”

 

---

  

Adam spoke up, “The school is kind of empty right now, being summer vacation and all.  Maybe one of these classrooms will do.  It’s,” he smiled knowingly at his bros, “private enough to teach our new friend a lesson in posing. What do you say guys, right here work?”  

 

Brett laid his hand firmly around the back of Jeff’s neck with enough power to guide him to a stop and control where he moved without being too forceful.  “Sure, “ the other two said, Heath being conspicuous by his silence.  Having noticed that as well, the three bodybuilders smirked at each other as they popped open the door to the first empty classroom they came to and turned on the lights.  Brett corralled Jeff inside and closed the door.  Martin immediately slipped off his kicks, pulled off his sleeveless shirt and jeans, and dropped them on the floor, leaving himself in a pair of black boxer brief underwear.

 

“Have a seat ... Jeff.”  Brett said. Brett clamped down on his neck grip, practically manhandling Heath into sitting down on the teacher’s desk in the front of the classroom.  Jeff looked up, trying to figure out what was happening, but as soon as he did, his vision was filled with the 250 pound wall of vascular muscle that was Martin standing barely two paces in front of him.  The vision of raw power and size made Jeff automatically gasp and his pants began to shift.

 

Heath tried to look around at Brett perplexed.  In all this time, he had not told any of the three his name.  But, Brett still held his neck firmly, making him look at Martin. “How do you know my name?”

 

Adam chuckled and leaned close to Jeff’s ear, “Oh, I know a LOT of things about you. But, first things first.  Posing lesson time.  My bud here is showing you what he is packing.  Let’s see what you are, you fucking poser.”  

 

Adam tilted his head at Jeff, cocking it as a que for Martin to go ahead.  Brett let go of Jeff’s neck.  Martin stepped forward and pulled Jeff’s shirt up and off revealing both the badge and the comparatively small body underneath.  The three large men burst out laughing as Health looked little more than a boy compared to them.  Adam was almost holding his sides laughing in derision.  “Jesus, you are a scrawny little shit.  And I thought we were gonna teach you to pose.”

 

 “I don’t think you will need this for a while,”  Martin said as he pulled the badge off Heath’s belt.   As he did, Jeff’s dick involuntarily throbbed in his jeans and a tiny dark spot appeared in the denim.  The three men saw it and their mocking became even harder.  “Oh SHIT, so you ARE one of THOSE, aren’t ya?  And here I thought you were just a fucking crooked cop.”

 

Martin tossed the badge on top of his pants and shirt.  Adam put both of his hands onto Jeff’s traps, just the way Heath had once been holding onto one of Gabriel’s.  Adam started to squeeze forcing Jeff to sit where he was.  Jeff tried to move, to get up, but Adam had more power in his grip than Jeff could ever hope to overcome.  “Goddamn.  You are a poser.  Poser cop.  Poser bodybuilder.  You’re nothing but a weak as shit pussyboy.”  

 

Jeff yelped under the vice like-grip, but said, squeaking under the strain, “You want to be in prison for assaulting an officer?”

 

Adam laughed, clamped his hands a bit harder, and leaned down, “You want to be in prison as the jailhouse bitch, little shit?  I know EXACTLY who you are and what you do.”  Adam scoped Jeff’s pants pocket and saw the lump.  He reached in and pulled out a folded ziploc bag full of small pinkish squares.  Adam then looked up to his friends, “See, THIS is the asswipe who sold some overpriced shit to the Elijah kid who used to workout at the gym a couple years back.  Really messed up his progress for awhile.  What’s more, tried to lord that fucking badge over him if he ever said anything.  But, he talked to me.  Kid told me what you looked like, so I asked around.  Found out who you were.  Imagine my surprise when we came out just now to see your girly ass standing there trying to fuck with our friend.“

 

"Boys, this weak ass fuck is a gear dealer, although,” Adam snickered, “you don’t exactly look like a poster-child for what you are selling.  And probably trying to use the little man as a way to get to us to gin up business.  Well, business is about to take a turn for the worse, pussyboy.”

 

Martin walked forward, his hand shot straight out, and clamped onto Jeff’s balls.  He squeezed, “So that’s what is going on.  You know I heard there was some queer dealer out there, trying to use gear to get fucks.”  Martin smiled down, “What do you want to bet this is the one?”  Martin squeezed his right hand around Jeff’s balls a bit tighter, rolling them slightly.

 

“I don’t know, Adam.  With these tiny ass, shrunk balls, he has gotta be shooting a fuck ton of gear.” Martin then grabbed Jeff’s right biceps with his left hand easily crushing it.  Jeff yelped. “He has to be runt of the litter, though.  So much gear you have fucking shriveled raisins for balls just to get that soft, weak ass body, got to be something different about you.”

 

Immediately, Jeff pants began to tent.  “Hahaha.  Damn boys, he is popping a boner.  That’s it, isn’t it?,” Martin lowered his voice to a tone of mocking seduction and leaned in.  “Are you a little gay boy poser?  Jeffy the little twink boy?  Jeffy who lusted after muscle so much that he shot himself full of enough gear to turn ten real men into fucking monsters, but it just made you into even more of a weak pussy fuck?”

 

Jeff’s eyes grew large and began to panic. “N...n...noooo.  I’m straight.”

 

Martin just squeezed a bit harder, rolled Jeff’s balls around a little more, and as he did, he began to bounce his pecs in Jeff’s face.  Within seconds the small damp spot expanded.  Martin laughed, “Really? Because the way you're reacting to my pecs alone tells me you might a little bit queer.  Jeff the gay boy poser.”

 

Brett took a step forward and with his left hand thumped Jeff’s chest.  His soft pecs sank in slightly at just the thump despite Jeff trying to flex them.  All three men laughed again.  “Aw shit.  You know, I know a few gay lifters, and they are strong as shit.  Love being big.  But, look at you.  Hiding little gay cop dealing gear.  Shooting that little ass full of it.  And you are smaller and weaker and softer than my girl.”  

 

Suddenly the classroom door opened and the rest of the bodybuilders, save Armbrust and Meadows, came in and closed the door.  Justin started to speak, but as soon as he saw Jeff’s face, McKenna laughed out loud.  “Aw fuck, it’s that queer dealer.  One of my buds told me he fucked him so raw he was barely able to walk not two days ago.  You really are a tiny little fuck just like he said.  Hey Martin, are his balls really shriveled up?”  The entire room roared in laughter and more than a few shirts pulled off.  Jeff was petrified.  There was no way he could take on ten men as strong as these were.  And all the muscle around him … 

 

Martin felt Jeff start to shake as he turned white.  “Oh shit, pussyboy thinks we're gonna pound him. But the kinky fuck’s little dicky is getting harder.  You are a twisted little pussyboy, huh, Jeffy?”  They all roared again.

 

Brett got into his face, while Martin began to grind his balls continuously in his tight powerlifter grip.  “Nah, little gay boy.  We aren’t gonna beat ya.  Men don’t slap around little girls like you.  Like, I said, we are gonna teach you a lesson.  If you are good, we won’t even tell Kyle he has a crooked pussy cop he works with.  See Jeffy, we’ll make this simple for ya.  Nobody messes with our family and gets away with it.  Nobody.  The little man is family to us.  And you shitstain - you were messing with family.”

 

Martin stepped up very close, his pecs almost burying Jeff’s face in the slabs of meat as he looked down menacingly.  “Gabriel may be small, but he is a MAN, way more of a man than you will ever be pussyboy.  As much as you might crave it, you don’t deserve to even get on your knees and kiss his cock.  And there you were, trying to use those weak ass, wannabe muscles of yours to mess with him?  Nah, that ain’t happening.”

  

“So, you be a good fag, mind your own business, and you’ll be just fine.  You can even keep selling that shit.  None of us will say a word, just like we left you alone when we found out who you were. But, you so much as see the name Gabriel anywhere, and you don’t tuck your tail between your legs and run away?”  Martin pulled up his 21 inch arm and flexed it hard in Jeff’s face, and as he did, he clamped onto Jeff’s balls hard.  “My buds and I here will finish this little talk with you - and then we will give Kyle that badge and this bag with your prints on it and tell him all about you. I have a feeling after that, he will make sure you have a LONG vacation with a lot of someones who will fuck you inside a cell until you bleed morning, noon, and night.”

 

Martin clamped harder and then roared in laughter as Jeff moaned and involuntarily shook.  “Fuck, the little shit just lost his load.”  The whole room died laughing and the mocking and degradation came fast and furious.  Jeff turned red and then began to cry - his humiliation before his idols was total.  Martin let go, barely able to contain his laughter.  Brett pulled Jeff up off the desk, grabbed the back of his pants and almost lifted him off the floor in a classic middle school wedgie.  

 

“Act like a bitch, and we will make sure you are treated like one.  I hope you enjoyed our little lesson, pussy.”  He opened the door to the classroom, “Now, get the fuck out of here, and remember.  Mess with the little man,” he reached down for the badge, “and we know who you are.”  Brett threw Jeff’s shirt out into the hall, followed seconds later by Jeff himself.

 

---

 

“You done dressing, pretty princess?  Man, you are slow.”  Armbrust asked.

 

John laughed as he zipped up the massive, but still tight jacket.  “Damn it, will you ever give me more than 5 seconds to put on clothes?”

 

“Nope.”  Dylan replied, causing all to laugh.  John, Gabriel, Armbrust, and Meadows, walked through the dressing area to backstage, through the auditorium and toward the doors.  They were excitedly talking about tips for the evening, a few minor tweaks to John’s water intake and carbs before the night show.  As they opened the outer doors to the school’s main hallway, they all stopped in their tracks.  Jeff Heath was running down the hall, his back toward the group and the auditorium, trying to leave the school as fast as possible.  Within seconds, he was out the door, and never once looked back.

 

Gabriel looked up with a mix of surprise and humor on his face, “Is that who I think it was?”

 

There was a rumble of voices coming from the other end of the hallway as the massive throng of bodybuilders made their way down.  Justin spoke up, “I don’t know?  Who do you think it was, Gabriel?”  All of the men laughed.  They all looked at Kyle and then to Gabriel, “All taken care of.”   

 

Adam walked up to John and handed him Heath’s badge inside the ziploc bag of dianabol tablets.  “You might be able to use that someday if he causes you any more trouble.  Hell, you might even know him.  My partners in crime even got the whole thing on video.  I’ll airdrop you the file.”  John looked down on the bodybuilder totally amazed as he took the badge and drugs and put them in his duffel.

 

“Remind me not to pick on you devious little shits too much,” John laughed.  “I know just what to do with this.”

 

Justin then patted Gabriel on the shoulder again, “Nobody messes with family, man.  And you two are family.”  Immediately, the entire incident was forgotten as Justin went on, “Now, where is that hotel.  You have food to eat and 4 hours before the night show.  Wonder if Phil is actually gonna get that sorry ass in gear and come …”    

 


 

Twenty minutes later, Jeff Heath was sitting in his truck driving down the freeway toward Denver.  Humiliation had turned to rage.  Tears again welled in his eyes but they were now of anger.  They had the goods on him.  There was nothing he could do himself and not lose everything.  The embarrassment and rage grew though.  He did have one option.  It would cost him a lot, but … they’ll see who is the fucking poser.

 

Jeff pulled out a plain black flip phone from his glovebox and dialed a number.  

 

“I need an incident taken care of in Colorado Springs.”

 

“I don’t fucking care what it will cost.  Just arrange it.  Today, tonight, as soon as possible.”

 

“Bodybuilding show.  5 o’clock.  Doherty High School.  Look for a large group of bodybuilders in the stands cheering on a massive dude competing.  He will be impossible to miss.”

 

“No, don’t touch the bodybuilders at all.  They are too well known and too much risk.  But, there will be someone with them.  Very small man.  Black hair.  Totally out of place.  He is the target.  No need to eliminate him.  Just cut him up good.  Make them all hurt.  Teach them a lesson of who they do not fuck with with that tiny guy.  Just watch.  There is bound to be an opportune time when he is alone or almost alone and then take it.”

 

“I know what it will cost.  Just get it done.”  The phone went dead.  

 

John and Gabriel - Chapter 7.jpg

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Chapter 7 - How Did You Love - Part 2


“A champion isn’t made of muscle.  A champion is made of heart.” ~ Liang Chow


 

The sight of a nearly superhuman giant bodybuilder driving a "small" bodybuilder and a seemingly out of place normal guy in a top down, oversized Jeep ragtop was turning more than a few heads in Colorado Springs that June afternoon.  John, Gabriel, and Justin had spent a few hours at their hotel and had pumped John up with a meal of oats with a bit of sugar and salt.  After a short time to relax, and with John's fullness from the carbs quickly developing, the three were driving back toward Doherty High School and the evening show.  

 

John dropped his third pancake-compacted, drained plastic water bottle onto the floorboard, and groaned as Justin handed him another bottle of liquid, a pre-mix protein, one of two more bottles he had to drink.  "More?" John said, almost exasperated in tone.

 

Justin replied to John, lecturing like one would talk to a child having a tantrum.  “Goddamn.  I’ve never seen anyone bitch so much about eating.  I would think you would be used to it by now.”  

 

“But I'm filling out even more.  You’re gonna make me come in bloated and soft drinking all of this,” John complained as he took the bottle and began to drink it.

 

“Jesus Christ, am I gonna have to make airplane sounds to get you to just do it?  'Open up the little hanger and let the protein plane in.  Buzz, buzz, buzz." Gabriel tried and failed to stifle a snicker at the idea of talking to a 7 foot tall behemoth acting like he was a baby not wanting carrots.

 

Justin went right on, "Toddlers don’t whine this much.  Yes, dude, it is more than the usual competitor eats and drinks between pre-judge and evening, but in case you haven't looked in the mirror lately, you are not exactly the size of the usual competitor. I have to do a lot compared to most, and I can sit on your lap like a kid for God's sake. So, you need way more than anyone else on stage."  Justin mockingly threw up his hands and turned toward the little guy all three knew was the boss in the vehicle, "Gabriel, can you talk sense into him??”  Justin asked.

 

“Usually he is like an industrial vacuum cleaner when it comes to food.  He will down liters of water in a single gulp.  So all of this is new to me.  But what is it you fellows like to say, 'Trust the Process.' I think you should just drink it.”  Gabriel smiled as he patted the rock hard, enormous quad next to him.

 

As was his new habit with empty containers, John put his hand on the spout of the now used up bottle, put the base against his quad, and pressed down absentmindedly.  The bottle flattened instantly into a wafer as thin as a stomped aluminum soda can ready for recycling, and he tossed it back with the other plastic hockey pucks.  These displays of strength associated with everyday tasks were so common to John’s personality now that while they made outsiders stop and gawk at the sight of them happening, the feats didn’t even register to him and his close friends and Gabriel.  To John, crushing a used container was no different than wading up a piece of paper.  And to his friends and Gabriel, the way John handled everyday living lost its novelty and became perfectly normal to see him do after just a few days being around him.

 

John glanced over to his small companion, showing the sexy-as-fuck smile he reserved for Gabriel and Gabriel alone, as he dropped the now poker chip shaped bottle on the floorboard.  “Remind me to put you in a headlock when this is over.  Traitor.”  John laughed as he grasped Gabriel’s upper leg and gave it a very firm, but for him, gentle and loving squeeze.

 

“It’s the truth and you know it.”  Gabriel laughed.

 

“Now, he is using my own workout mantra against me.  I can’t win.  I just can’t win.” John said in a fake exasperated sigh.

 

“Only took you six months to learn you can't beat me?”  Gabriel dead panned, causing Justin to roar laughing.

 

Justin patted John’s bowling ball round shoulder in front of him in a signal to lean back, which John did.  “I see why you like him." Justin said in a reduced volume. "Doesn’t take any shit from you.  He is every bit your equal and then some and for someone like you, that’s fucking hard to find.”  

 

John's voice dropped the bravado and jock banter for a moment. He glanced down into the rear view mirror at Justin, “More than my equal, more than I think even he realizes.”  

 

Hearing that Gabriel sighed and wished he could kiss his man. But, Gabriel filed it away as one of many kisses he would cash in in private after the show that night.  John took the last offered bottle, drained the contents, compacted, and tossed it.  Less than a minute later, he expertly took a left turn and pulled back into the high school parking lot.  It was a bit after 3 pm, and the doors had opened for the night show.  

 

As John was getting out and closing his Jeep door, he held up a hand in salute as he saw John Meadows walking up.  Meadows looked around John straight to Gabriel and Justin.  The first question was all business.  “Did he eat?”

 

“Yes Sir, every bite.”  John said.  “Although I swear if they make me bloated…”

 

“Shut up you giraffe," Meadows replied.  "You could drink five gallons and a whole box of salt right now, and it would just make you more conditioned.” They turned and started walking to the entrance.  Meadows reached up and patted John on the center of his lower traps, "Trust the process kiddo."  

 

John looked down and pretend-pouted again, "Damn, not you too…" causing Justin and Gabriel to laugh as the four walked inside the school.  Once through the doors, there was again a hush as everyone was silenced by John's sheer scale compared to the men he was standing beside.  

 

Cedric McMillan was signing autographs and taking photos alongside Jeff Taylor, as was traditional for a guest poser at a show.  But John could tell - even he was calculating what the hell kind of body John was hiding under his tracksuit.  John smiled to himself liking the thought.  He would never breathe a word of it to his coach yet, but maybe Mr. Olympia did have a ring to it.  He would be in for some serious time off after the ring was taken down, and he wouldn't be THAT much bigger before he could do the USAs next month and get a pro card.  Tampa Pro was two weeks later to quality, and then Olympia weekend was only 5 weeks after that...

 

Taylor, on seeing the four, waved them over to the table he and McMillan were at.  As soon as they got within range, Cedric stood up. He was accustomed to being taller than most open bodybuilders being almost 6 foot 2 inches tall.  And he did comport himself better than most around the titan - coming up to John’s mid pecs.  Cedric laughed, “Holy Shit.  Where the hell did they shoot you full of Miracle-gro.” McMillan extended his hand, and John shook it warmly.  He looked at Jeff.  “Is this the kickass prodigy you were telling me about?”  which comment made even cocky John blush.

 

“The very same.  Kyle Brady, this is Sgt. Cedric McMillen of the US Army.” 

 

“Christ, now I know what everyone was going on about.  First thing’s first, though.  Where the fuck have you been hiding?”  It took but a very few minutes of talk for Cedric and John to plant the seed of a fast budding friendship.  Laughing, sharing a few anecdotes, hitting it off as only those in the inner circle of strength sports can, since they have so much of life in common anyway.  

 

While the bodybuilders were talking, Meadows’ cellphone rang.  He pulled it out of his pocket, listened for a moment, and laughed.  “Thanks, Dylan.  I owe you one.”  He hung up and turned to the two bodybuilders.  “It is official.  Phil is popping in for the open class routines and the posedown.”

 

Cedric almost giggled, and it was as out of place for the massive Army soldier to do as it was when John did it.  He obviously had an idea.  He looked up at John.  “Bro, how are you at posing, not mandatories but real posing?”  

 

John smirked and popped his head down and back, gesturing toward his coach.  “Ask the expert.  This is my first show remember.”

 

Meadows piped up, “He is so good it will move you to tears to watch.  Next silly question.”

 

McMillan's smile broadened.  “Then, what do you say to doing a little fucking around with the one-time master of the mind game?”

 

John looked curious, “What do you mean?”  

 

McMillan leaned over to Taylor and whispered something that no one else could hear.  Then, pulling back to standing, he asked, “Is there anything in the rulebook against it?”

 

Taylor thought for a moment, “I have NEVER heard of that even being thought of.  But, this is a show for firsts, and I can’t think of anything in the book against it.  It wouldn't be judged or influence that…  Besides," Taylor smiled, "I sort of like it.”

 

McMillan signaled for John to bend lower, and he started to talk to him in a muffled voice.  As he explained what he wanted to do, John’s own smile got wider and wider.  John pulled back up to standing and put out a hand for a fist bump and clasp.  “You’ve got it.  Just tell me what to do, Mr. Miyagi.”

 

McMillan almost choked as he laughed.  “You are going to be one hell of a firebrand.  Been needing one of those in the IFBB for a LONG time.  OK, Daniel-san, let’s learn wax-on, wax-off.” 

 


Four Hours Later:


 

Word had gotten around the Front Range bodybuilding community about the muscle god on display at pre-judging. So, the auditorium was filled to standing room only in anticipation of the chance to see the new phenom that was John.  The lights were down, and there was a smattering of cheers and general applause as the second of three open heavyweight bodybuilding competitors took the stage. The Armbrust gym crew was assembled back in their prime location seats from the morning, watching, cheering, waiting - all except Gabriel.  He had his phone out texting.

 

John Declann: Did you get it done?

 

Gabriel York: All done, my love.  Have it here in my pocket.  What you put together in just a few hours is amazing.

 

John Declann:  Met a few guys back here today.  Have to thank Dylan for reaching out to him.  Hard enough to contact and keep it quiet.  He isn’t exactly the most social type for people outside his circle.  But, I know this would mean the world to you.  It is tied to your research in a way.  If we can’t do for them what you did for me --

 

Gabriel York:  Well, put that out of your mind now.  You ready?

 

John Declann: As I’ll ever be.  I have done this enough it is rote.

 

Gabriel York:  Then do what you do, babe.  Do it the only way you know how to do it.  Bring the house down.  And give me that sexy, cocky smile.

 

John Declann: I’ll make you proud.

 

Gabriel York: You already have.  XOXOXO

 

Gabriel changed his open app from messaging to camera.  He was going to film this and nothing would stop him.  He knew that John had an idea of his effect on people, but he needed to see what everyone else sees.  What it feels like to see him on stage, not just being on stage doing it.  He wanted John to experience everything about today.   

 

The music for the second competitor was winding down.  As he took his bow to a solid round of applause, Dylan and Justin leaned to Gabriel.  Dylan said, “Are you ready?”

 

“I just asked him that.  I guess I am.  I just -- don’t know what he is going to do that will wow me more than this morning.  That was magic.”

 

Justin patted Gabriel on the shoulder, “I thought that too until I saw this.  This is - well.  Unique.  There might be a few calisthenics guys who could pull this off.  But, Kyle makes about four of them.  It’s -- very special.”  Dylan’s phone pinged a text message.  He opened it and laughed.  He pulled the phone down and tapped Gabriel so he could read it.

 

Phil Heath: We are in the back of the room.  Don’t think anyone has noticed with the crowd and you all down there being a distraction.  So, what’s “the Predator” gonna do?  LOL.

 

Gabriel chuckled as he saw the reply.

 

Dylan Armbrust: Make you shit a brick and shape up, if he ever chooses to go pro. Just watch this.

 

The emcee stepped forward into the light at the left side of the stage.  “Now, if you were here this morning, you should be looking forward to seeing this man again.  And if he is as freaky as he was this morning - and I can tell you that he is since I can see him getting ready to come out.  Well - let’s give it up for contestant 47 Kyle Brady.”

 

John walked onto the stage, again in his green posers, to another massive round of cheers that brought a killer smile to his face.   Already around the room, there was a scattering of the chant of “Kyle. Kyle Kyle.” as if he had never walked off stage at the end of the pre-judging.  Gabriel stood, focused his phone cam, and pressed record, as around him, his and John’s friends let out a chorus of vocal cheers, encouraging their massive friend. John looked down to them, and seeing Gabriel filming, let out a small chuckle and gave him a cocky as fuck wink.

 

Justin, Adam, and Dylan recognized John’s expression change just a bit, as he let the commotion fall away, fully connected mentally with his body, and entered the zone.  He stood at the center-front of the stage and took up a starting pose position that very few had ever seen before.  He knelt on one knee, his right foot and leg on the floor in front of him, his left under.  He planted his left fist onto the ground flexing and pressing into the floor to create in a massive triceps pose.  Then, twisting his back so that his traps and lats were visible and flexed, he raised his right arm straight up, high into the air, then curled it into an amazing single rear biceps. The radical position achieved, his whole body exploded into cuts like few ever achieve.  Then, John became a statue, frozen, fully flexed in that position, waiting on his music.

 

The music began, so loud it startled everyone. 

 

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.   Perfectly in time with the musical thumps, John dropped flat into the stage floor.  

 

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.   John rose into the air, everything on his massive body, even feet hanging in the air perfectly straight and flat into an incredible side triceps version of a planche, only John was supporting all 400 plus pounds of his body on JUST TWO OF HIS FINGERS ON EACH HAND.  Below every person in the crowd gasped in astonishment seeing the triceps explode like horseshoe shaped boulders at the incredible feat of strength 

 

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.  John took the planche one step further, and began to actually crank out planche fingertip pushups, still balanced on those two sets of two fingers. Every lockout at the top of the pushup, John's entire body pumped bigger and bigger as he hit the titanic side triceps view over and over.  Non-verbal screams of incredulity at the raw, superhuman power on display erupted from all over the audience.  The guys around Gabriel who didn't know what was coming, all stood up in unison and screamed "HOLY FUCK!"  They had seen the calisthenics street workout guys do things like this before, and this move pushed the best in the world to the limits.  John did it without so much as a quiver of strain in his muscles.  At the top of the fifth rep and last rep, he held the pose again and turned his head toward the audience.  He flashed the Predator’s cocky, brilliant smile, looking like a kid toying with a small insect, as if to say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

 

The music began to rise, and as it did, John pulled his feet in to stand on them.  The crowd again began to chant in unison “KYLE-KYLE-KYLE” in time to the music. In one fluid motion, as John’s legs began to raise him to standing, he slowly raised his arms above his head, rotated his fists and forearms and flexed HARD, so that the sheer scale of his thick bis and tris came into view.  The movement resolved into a perfectly hit  victory pose as he arrived at his fully erect seven foot one inches of height.

 

The music crashed into its opening.  John pulled his arms down, forward, and around into a devastating crab style most muscular. Biceps that looked like vein covered basketballs and pecs that looked to literally be as thick as melons blew forward as John smiled into the pose.  Many bodybuilders strain so hard in posing that their smiles looked forced, but not John.  It was equal parts cocky, sexy, and total enjoyment - as genuine a smile as you can get.  After holding it for a moment, he raised his arms up, extended his lats forward, and pulled down hard into his best pose, a front double biceps.  Standing there, John looked like a god so perfect he would have made the even the most asexual person on earth feel their heart rate rise.  He swung his arms around almost in a cradle movement, cocking his wrists, his forearms popping wildly with so many veins that you would lose count trying to keep up with them, as he hit and held one of Arnold’s favorites, a perfect mantis pose.  After a couple of seconds of the crowd truly taking in what he was, the cheers got even louder, the chant even stronger, and John began to feed on it.  His smile slid sideways a bit into a cocky smirk.  He turned and walked, but mostly strutted, across the stage.

 

About two-thirds of the way across, John stopped, turned to the audience, planted his feet, and made his legs warp his thin skin into mountains of muscle as they locked in place and quads flexed.  He briefly crossed his fists at his lower abs and then raised his right arm into a titanic front single biceps pose.  But, as he did, he seemed to look at the melon-sized peak a moment.  He then raised his left hand, slapped the right peak, and instantly the peak blew up even bigger, growing taller and thicker and even more vascular before everyone’s eyes as he hit the pose harder.  John looked out at the crowd, gave a totally smug half-smile and a nod as if saying “that’s better.”  Seeing that, the crowd again went nuts, shouts of “shit,” “fuck,” and every other term anyone might say when they see perceptions redefined pouring up to the gigantic man.  Then he put his arms behind his head, popped out his right leg, and crunched hard, his entire body flexing into a monstrous abs and thighs.  Veins covered the inch deep grooves between his eight pack, thick adonis belt sweeping to his groin, obliques and intercostals the size of a normal guy's ab bricks appeared; yet, on John the aesthetic of it was so pleasing.  It seemed the perfect balance of everything you could ever want in a real man.  And to top it off, John’s eyes nearly glowed as a wide, toothy smile came across him.

 

John then walked/strutted part way back across the stage, and as before, he planted his feet, but this time with his back to the audience.  He put his hands behind the small of his low back and pulled forward, lats booming open into something that looked like a delta wing fighter as he did a crushing rear lat spread.  Holding the pose for a fraction of a moment, his arms shot straight up and then pulled down into a rear double biceps.  The muscles were giant, but perfectly outlined and exhibited, so massive and yet in optimum proportion to each other.  Then, John started to rub that perfect proportion in.  First he allowed one arm to shoot out 45 degrees, and then pulled it back into the pose.  He did the same thing with the other arm.  Three times he did it and every time the pose got better and better.  Finally, after the third, he allowed one arm to shoot out, the other opened and curved.  His fists became open palms, and he relaxed into a version of an overall open handed Atlas pose that was a trademark of Frank Zane  The crazy thing was - Gabriel and the guys who lifted with John knew - John really was relaxed in the pose.  He wasn’t not even flexing.  But, to all the world, his muscles were so big, his conditioning was so crazy that to everyone else in the room it looked like he was flexing all he had.  

 

John then made a quarter turn, pulled his left arm back and down into a side triceps so large that no one had ever seen this kind of size on a bodybuilding stage before.  But, just as with his single biceps, he smiled his cocky smile, winked at the crowd, and like magic he pulled even harder, making the muscles seem to balloon even bigger, growing right before their eyes.  The crowd roared and the chanting got even louder, seeing how John took the stage and made it his own.  

 

The posing music slowed at that point, softened, and John’s routine softened with it.  What followed was perhaps ten seconds of the most beautiful fluid posing anyone had ever seen.  John seemed to perform a ballet from pose to pose to pose - never quite hitting the pose but always perfectly hitting them.  A single heartbeat split one pose to the next, and the fluid motion of John’s body and his muscle control was like watching a work of art.  

 

But then, John faced the crowd and stopped everything.  The Predator’s eyes locked onto the entire crowd like a wolf ready to take down the elk before it.  He mouthed the lyric that came out at that moment: “You need to know your place.”  Anticipation at its peak, every bodybuilder in the place got the message.  The new god of bodybuilding was going to show them their place, and that place was beneath him.  The chorus hit like a ton of bricks, and so did John, destroying any chance of anyone remotely thinking another man on earth was in his league on this or any stage.

 

It’s about to get heavy/ 

John put his hands to his lower waist, flared his lats and arms, and roared out an upright most muscular that made him look wider than the stage backdrop behind him as veins exploded all across his body, arteries thicker than index fingers plowing down his arms and legs.

 

It’s about to be on/  

He pulled his hands up.  The giant then appeared to suck his his abs and abdominal organs inward and up, before flexing.  They move back into a nearly impossible, wafer thin vacuum pose even Frank Zane would envy.  The contrast between being so wide one moment  to being so incredibly narrow now, started to fry the brains of judge and fan alike.  John started to bounce his head confidently, arrogantly in time with the music, even with the force he needed to maintain the vacuum pose.  It signaled one thing to everyone there - John KNOWS this stage and everyone on it is his.

 

Ya, I’m bangin’, slingin’ napalm/  

Napalm did indeed fly into the competition as John quickly bounced his pecs, causing he chant of his name to instantly morph into a chorus of “Oooooh” before he turned to the side, popped his outward facing leg with its gigantic hamstring dwarfing most men’s waists, spiked his calve, and pulled his biceps back. He hit a side chest, with pecs that were literally inches deep living armor that looked like you could not crack them with hammer blows.

 

So nobody move.  Cause I was sent to warn you, the Devil’s in the next room/  

John rotated at the waist, following his left fist around as he held the side chest a moment through the shift.  Once his back had turned, he twisted and flexed his arms into a three-quarter back double biceps that Arnold would have been humbled by.  John held the lookdown at his biceps, then raised up, smiled, and pumped the pose bringing out even more perfect veins.  

And so it went.  The crowd was going nuts, a thousand people shouting in unison, “Kyle.  Kyle. Kyle. Kyle.” John feeding off of it and putting on a literal posing clinic of what the ultimate bodybuilder was capable of.  His friends down on the auditorium floor right along with everyone else, getting caught up in the positive feedback loop of the crowd making John grow bigger, which made the crowd chant more, making John grow even more.  Everyone was so into it that no one seemed to care if he had gone past his allotted maximum routine time.  The crowd would have stayed watching and cheering for days if given the chance.  John had tapped into something primal, connected with something deep in the primitive part of the brain.  The human fascination with seeing a real Alpha male, a champion in every sense, fully in his element dominating everyone and everything before him. The feeling being there was very nearly religious, with John performing for himself and for them in a way that had to be felt to be experienced.  

 

But, as it always does, a posing routine must end, and so did John’s.  People heard the music wind down, but as it did, John had one last surprise for them.  He began his closing pose with his patented front double biceps. Only now, he held his upper body frozen as he kicked out his left leg perfectly straight. John began to lower his body on the right leg under him. settling toward the ground in a monumental double biceps pistol squat.  The crowd roared again to see such a massive feat of strength, muscle control, and balance.  John held the squat/double biceps in the hole of the movement for a moment, before smiling as his left leg swung out and around into a traditional kneeling on one leg stance.  At the same time, as if in another muscular ballet, one arm held the biceps pose, while the other went straight and pointed out.  The homage to both Frank Zane and Arnold Schwarzenegger complete, the music died, as John smiled one last time holding the pose.  

 

It took at most microseconds for a roar so loud it could have shaken the foundations of the building to consume the auditorium.  Every person in the room, every competitor, every judge, every soul in the audience and backstage, all of them were on their feet alternating between clapping and fists pumping in the air.  John stood up, held his fist to his mouth and kissed it.  He raised it high to the crowd smiling, thanking them for all their cheers.  He brought his hand down, and waved briefly at everyone before he locked eyes with Gabriel.  John brought his fist back down to his lips again, kissed it, but this time held it close as his eyes never wavered from the small man in the crowd he loved more than his own life.

 

Even with the cheering and chanting all around so loud as to make hearing anything verbal almost impossible, Adam leaned over to the blushing dark haired doctor.  “He has NEVER done it that well before.  NEVER.  I think that sign is all you need to know about who he is really doing it for.”  Adam patted Gabriel briefly on the back, as John stepped away out of the spotlight, stopping just before would have exited the stage, waiting. 

 

At that moment, Dylan felt his phone buzz and lit up with a text:

 

Phil Heath: Well, at least I know he is worth all the hype on stage too, and not just his size and the heart of a champion.  This is going to be fun.  Been a while since I had a challenge.  Mrs. Heath says we are good to hang around until they hand him the overall trophy.  And now she definitely approves of the donation.  Send me Kyle’s number will you?

 

Dylan laughed and showed the text to Gabriel, who nodded his ascent that it would be fine to send the eight time Mr. Olympia John’s number.  

 

The emcee stepped forward into the light, still clapping himself.  “I don’t think we need to ask for another round of applause for these great men we have just seen.  So if the judges are ready?”  A card was handed to the man.  “OK, let’s have the top five heavyweight and superheavyweights back out here to the stage.”

 

John returned to the stage with the four other much smaller men.  Walking out, each of them was still patting John’s back or shaking his hand.  The men took their places on the stage.  The emcee began, “Well, I dare say there would be a riot if this were not the decision.  So, let me just say it.  The winner of the heavyweight class is competitor 47 - Kyle Brady.”  The crowd again blasted to life as Jeff Taylor stepped out onto stage and gave John a very nice crystal goblet trophy.  John shook the small man’s hand, put the trophy on the stage floor, and decided to give his kneeling front double biceps pose behind the trophy as cameras all over the building flashed capturing pics of the winner.

 

After perhaps thirty seconds, the emcee said, “Kyle, you feel up to going on to the final posedown with the other class winners?”

 

John stood and smiled.  He held out his hand in a gesture and gave a brief nod as if to say, ‘Go ahead.’  

 

“I thought that would be the giant Energizer bunny’s answer.”  Everyone chuckled for a moment before the emcee said, “Let’s invite the other open bodybuilding division class winners onto the stage for the final posedown.  Give them a big round of applause.” 

 

The crowd let out a more muted cheer, seemingly recovering from the wave of emotion and more than a few scratchy throats, as the other class winners emerged on stage.  As they walked on, each man briefly came up to congratulate John, which he returned warmly to each of them.  The odd thing was when the bantamweight class winner came up.  Though ripped so beyond belief that he even gave John competition in that department,  the tiny fellow was noticeably smaller than Gabriel.  Several of the guys got a curious look as John bent down to listen to something the small man had to say.  As they were talking a massive smile ripped across John’s face.  Gabriel knew John so well, he was able to read his lips.  The reply to whatever was said to him, “You’re on.”

 

Dylan leaned over to Gabriel.  “What’s he planning?”

 

Gabriel looked a bit perplexed and replied honestly, “I have no idea. He just said ‘You’re on.’”

 

The emcee spoke up, “Alright gentlemen.  You know the drill by now.  Let’s start with front relaxed.”  Just like every other time anyone else was on stage, John put every man alongside him to shame, crushing the smaller competition pose after pose.  Though now, the squashing was even more intense as John had a crazy pump from his routine that if anything made him look better than his friends and coaches and even Gabriel had ever seen.  Equal parts ripped, shredded, wildly thin-skinned and vascular, but mixed with an aesthetic proportion and flow of his muscles that rivaled the most marketable, photoshopped Instagram bodies.  Every single guy up there understood that they were competing for second overall.  But that didn’t stop them from putting up their very best.  Not a single man got angry, quit, or let on any emotion other than enjoying the moment.

 

The judges went rapidly through the last poses, and then the emcee came back on.  “Alright gentlemen, the stage is yours.  Get out there and show us your best.”  The men immediately hit a variety of different poses - except John and the bantamweight.  It took exactly half a second for them to find each other in exactly center stage.  They looked at each other - or rather they at least faced each other.  Standing there for just a second, John totally loomed over the ripped little guy who standing fully erect was staring straight into the top row of John’s abs. They gave each other their best most muscular before they turned and faced the crowd.  Half the audience started cracking up immediately seeing the two men together as it was now obvious what they had decided to do.  Out of every man there however, only Gabriel saw another dimension to this display.  He saw it in John’s face, the only man besides John himself who had a hope of understanding.  The ripped little man who was currently walking to stand in front of John was exactly who John was six months ago.  Same height, same weight, even somewhat the same superficial looks.  John was posing with himself.   The old John versus the new John, side by side, and both of them were having fun with what they had become.

 

The little guy stopped and stood barely a pace in front of John.  He held up a single arm, flexing into a nicely ripped single biceps.  John looked down, smirk/smiled, and nodded approvingly as if to say, “Not bad.” Then, as if a God from above, John lowered his own right forearm over the little man’s head.  He paused when it was lined up in front of the small peak.  Then John twisted his wrist and flexed and cranked back his elbow slightly.  The smaller man’s entire arm disappeared behind the length and thickness of John’s forearm alone, so large they rivaled the flexed biceps of the pros in the audience.  The flexed arm completely eclipsed, the crowd laughed as John cocked an eyebrow with a look that screamed, “I win.”

 

The smaller lifter cranked his head totally vertical and looked up , while John looked directly down.  John was cocky smiling like any schoolyard bully.  The little guy gave a mock pout and harrumphed in fake frustration.  He got a look of determination in his eyes and held up both arms in a front double biceps, even better than the single arm pose just before.  John held up his hands as if saying “OK. Let’s see”  John then took a step around the little man and dropped fully to his knees.  The crowd gasped for a moment seeing that even on his knees, John was STILL taller than the smaller lifter.  John then pulled into his massive front double biceps.  John’s left arm was right in front of the tiny guy’s face and his head was instantly eclipsed by 28 inches of peaked muscle.  The little guy dropped the pose, stepped forward, and put both hands on John’s flexed arm.  Then he started jumping up and down, pulling himself up so that his head occasionally popped over the peak, as if he were a child trying to look above a fence, which caused even John to crack up laughing. 

 

John then pointed to his back, and the challenge was set.  The little guy  pulled his arms forward into a front lat spread for all he was worth.  John replied with a meme worthy slow clap before he slid himself over just slightly and pulled his own lat spread.  The little guy’s entire body, all of it, flashed out of existence behind John’s wall of muscle.  The little guy ran forward again and with another wave of mock frustration, he pretended to pull back and try to kick at John’s quads and punch at his abs. After a moment of fighting,  he turned and did a very nice, ripped abs and thighs.  John got a devilish twinkle in his eye and responded by holding one relaxed arm down beside the outstretched, flexed thigh and calf of the small man.  To everyone’s astonishment - John’s relaxed arm condition simply outsized and out-ripped the little man’s leg.  John then stood and gave his own version of the pose side by side. John then looked down and folded his arms, as if to say, “You give up?”

 

Then came a rapid scene of pose after pose, first from the little guy with a pose and John following with his own version or John blowing away the crowd and the little guy not far behind with his own version.  It didn’t take long for some of the others to join in.  John smirked as he made the middle weight winner’s entire torso vanish behind a quad.  He outmassed the lightweight’s quads and hamstrings with just his flexed calves held next to them.  And after every comparison the crowd laughed more, got louder, and the John/Predator superiority display came out more and more.

 

After maybe ten poses, the bantamweight guy let out a very nice crab most muscular.  John laughed, held up his hands to signal he was going to end the competition.  He bent down slightly, and wrapped his massive gun around the little man’s head, almost swallowing it whole in a painless, loose headlock.  John used a couple of false “cranks” to show off his own biceps development, before he pulled the little guy around in front of him.  John dropped to one knee, with his right quad extended.  He let go of the little man, and as if planned, the small guy took a couple of steps back, sat down, and straddled John’s quad like he was riding a horse.  Sitting with his entire body weight on John’s leg, it was if he was a toddler bouncing on John’s knee.  He held up his arms in a flex, looking more like a little boy “making muscles” compared to his grown father behind him.  High above, John responded with his own version of the pose, the lowest hanging flesh of his triceps well over a foot over the little man’s head.

 

They were both smiling with the crowd going nuts, as the posedown music wound down to a finish.  The little man stood, and John dropped to be on his haunches so that they were mostly equal in height as both he and the little guy embraced warmly.  Every man on stage was having fun with it, fist bumping, clasping, and patting either John or the bantamweight on the back.   The emcee said, “Give it up one more time for all of our class winners.”  John smiled broadly as he stood up, came to his stage partner-in-crime, took his hand, and raised it.  He waved to the crowd to get LOUD, and they responded in kind, giving a tremendous roar for the little guy.  They both took a moment to thank the crowd and all the men walked backstage with John and the little guy actively laughing and talking.

 

After the crowd settled for a moment, the emcee came back on stage.  “Ladies and gentlemen, while the judges complete their final calculations on the scorecards, determining our winners, we have a special guest.  Coming out on stage for us guest posing is Arnold Classic champion, and more important, active duty staff instructor in the US Army, “The One” Sergeant Cedric McMillan.”    

 

The crowd gave it up warmly as the huge bodybuilder walked out on the stage wearing a long leopard skin loincloth and shoulder drape.  The man strolled deep in character, as if he did not have a care in the world.  He stood center stage and dropped the cloth from his shoulder,  revealing what would easily have been the biggest body in the building if John had not been there.  His music began, and the man began to pose, an incredibly fluid style as he moved almost softly from pose to pose, flexing effortlessly with the skill and experience of a man who knew how to connect with his body through many years of work.  

 

The crowd noise began to rise as McMillan settled into his routine showing off his amazing shape that was slightly off season, but still truly titanic especially for active military.  However, not quite a minute into his routine, he looked up, hit a slow, strong most muscular, and then stopped.  A sly, cocky grin came across his face as he looked first out into the audience where he spotted Phil Heath earlier.  Upon seeing him and knowing he was still there standing and watching, McMillan looked to the side stage and waved his hand in a “come out” gesture.

 

The crowd went totally insane as John stepped back out on stage.  On the floor, all of the Armbrust guys went nuts around Gabriel, shouting cheers, wondering what was going to happen.  John waved to the crowd and walked to about ten feet to the left of McMillan.  From that position, they were splitting the stage exactly in half.  McMillan smiled as he resumed his most muscular.  Then, the Armbrust guys saw the unmistakable change of expression on John’s face as the Alpha Predator came out.  Smiling like he was going to eat someone like a Great White Shark, John took up the exact same pose in the exact same manner as McMillan was doing. They both held it together for just a moment before they began to move.

 

What happened next blew away every single person in the room away.  Gasps of shock replaced the cheers of the crowd for a few moments as they realized what was happening. The world of bodybuilding would talk about it for years as one of the most insane displays of raw dominant masculinity they had ever seen.  The videos on social media would circulate for as long as there was a platform remotely interested in muscle sports.  

 

John and McMillan began to pose together in absolutely perfect sync.  Pose for pose, move for move, even muscle fiber for muscle fiber, John performed perfectly what McMillan had told him his routine would be a few hours before.  Just from memory, his peripheral vision, and gut feel of the poses and tempo, John mirrored McMillan PRECISELY.  Watching it was akin to a new sport, synchronized swimming crossed with bodybuilding.  It was the perfect dominant mind game to put Phil Heath, the master of mind games, in his place - a brand new novice in his very first show, only his second every posing routine, matching an Olympian in every movement, every step.  Indeed, if truth be told, because John was larger, taller, and in show condition, he looked even better than the pro beside him on stage and would have beat him if it were being judged.  And with every pose, the astonished crowd got louder and louder for both of them.  

 

For over two minutes, there wasn’t so much as a breath that the two men did not take at the same time.  Finally, both men hit the last stage pose together - a crab most muscular - and as they did, John shifted out of unison for the first time since the Predator had emerged.  He shifted his eyes to the back of the room and locked them onto Phil. When the Predator knew he had his attention he smiled his unmistakable hard smile, a smile that would either make a person orgasm or freeze in fear, and gave the slightest of hand gestures.  The gesture was unmistakable to the few who saw it - “I’m coming for you.”  In the back, Heath let out a laugh and returned a gesture of his own.  “Bring it.”  But the Predator could see his body language, the enhanced breathing, the attempt to hide emotions.  McMillan’s suggestion had played perfectly.  He knew he had the champion beat whenever he was ready to collect.   

 

John stood relaxed and turned toward McMillan who slaughtered a front double biceps.  John cheered him on as the crowd went crazy in appreciation of the veteran champion who had brought this to them.  There was an expression on McMillan’s face only John got.  John replied by giving the seasoned pro a wink and a cocky smile.  The game was on - the man with the nickname “The Gift” had taken on the challenge of the most gifted bodybuilder anyone had ever seen.  McMillan laughed.  He raised up and pointed back to John, and what erupted may have been the biggest cheer of the night.  

 

Then, McMillan waved John over to the stage edge.  He hopped down onto the stage floor, and John took his usual single step down.  They had this planned too.  McMillan took the far side of the room and John the side closest to Gabriel and the Armbrust gang.  They started to  wander through the crowd posing right next to the fans.  John made a bee-line for Gabriel.

 

He stood for a moment and waved all of his friends to stand up.  John leaned down to them, “Let’s give them a show.”  All of the big guys smiled and in unison all eleven of them blasted out a front double bi for the crowd.  Gabriel was sitting there smiling, looking at it all, but that didn’t last long as John reached down, picked him up, and plopped the little man sitting on his shoulder.  All of the Armbrust guys laughed and again, they posed, with Gabriel perched above it all.  To the crowd, it looked like a stunt with his best friend sitting up there laughing as John dwarfed him.   But, John leaned over briefly and said, “I love you, babe.  Thank you.”  Gabriel embraced John’s neck briefly, before he sat Gabriel down.  As he did, a lady caught John’s eye.  She was sitting in the audience with a larger bodybuilder next to her.  But she was looking transfixed at him.  John leaned over to Gabriel, and asked something, to which Gabriel laughed and nodded affirmatively.

 

John made his way posing up to right in front of the woman.  He flashed his orgasm inducing smile and invited the lady to have a feel of his pecs.  She stood up in her chair and as John flexed and almost danced like a lap dancer, the woman ravaged John’s upper body.  The Predator glanced at the small bodybuilder in his chair next to them and on his face was equal parts beta male embarrassment and pure lust.  John loved the moment, completely dominating the smaller man before he gave the woman a small peck on the cheek.  John then motioned the man next to him and instantly restored the once crushed soul.  John thanked him for being a sport and his indulgence in the fun.  John motioned for him to pose and they posed together for several moves, bringing big cheers from the audience for both.  When they were done, John patted the smaller guy on the back - and smiled broadly when he felt the bodybuilder feel up his arm for a moment - before thanking him.

 

John and Cedric continued through the crowd flexing and taking pics.  After a couple of minutes, both men went back toward the stage.  The Armbrust gang swarmed both with fist bumps, pats and cheers, knowing just how incredible what they had just seen was. All of them did, but one.  Gabriel stood back, his heart bursting with admiration and pride in his man.  He had seen a new John come alive here, and it was so perfect.  Gabriel caught the eye of his lover standing back, and John saw Gabriel had a slight mist of tears in his eyes - good tears, happy tears, for him.  John’s reply was perfect.  He held his fingers to his lips, kissed them, and raised his hand straight toward Gabriel.  To the rest of the people there, it looked like a gesture of thanks to the crowd and again to Gabriel for the earlier stunt.  But to those who knew about them, they knew John showed his love for his man.  

 

The crowd kept rocking their cheers for what seemed like forever...  

 

***

 

All of the class winners of open bodybuilding emerged onto the stage and took their places, as the emcee took a piece of paper from the judges.  “Well ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I am a bit of a loss.  Usually I try to make this suspenseful, but I think every one of you out there and every man on stage knows that the winner of the overall title is - Contestant 47, Kyle Brady.”  Yet another wild cheer erupted from the crowd as John stepped forward to pats and handshakes from everyone surrounding him.  Jeff Taylor and Cedric McMullin brought forward the much larger trophy and champion’s sword and handed them to John as he did a front double biceps over everyone's heads.  

 

John held the pose for just a second before he waved at the emcee and motioned to ask for the microphone.  The man stepped over and handed the small silver ball and stem to John.  He held up his hand for a moment to get everyone to settle down.

 

For the people who had never heard it before, John’s deep, sultry, all-encompassing voice just made him seem even more perfect.  “Thank you.  Thank you all for the cheers and support, and a special thank you to my friends who came to support me and a few future on stage rivals too.  But, that isn’t why I asked for the mic.  I wanted to ask all of my fellow class and overall winners to come up and stand here with me, and everyone backstage and in the audience who competed today to either stand up or come up on stage.”  There was a loud rumble and shuffling as the stage filled, competitors stood, and the winners of men’s and women’s physique, classic, fitness, and bikini joined John in the front.  After a moment for everyone to settle, he began again.

 

“You know, it was a bit unfair today and tonight for everyone up here competing with and against me.” John cockily popped his pecs quickly and everyone began to laugh, “But seriously, it isn’t quite for the reason you think.  You know, I am a civilian, just a cop who works for the Air Force.  Everyone else here, I have them at a disadvantage. Because every day they are out defending our nation, our way of life,  and their loved ones and mine too, in addition to training throughout the year for shows like this one all the way up to the Olympia for Sergeant McMillan over there.  I do my duty and uphold my oath the best that I know how, but theirs … theirs is so much more and they do it so damned well.  I think you should join me in giving a cheer to all of them.  It has been one of the honors of my life to get to know some of you today in the back, having a bit of fun back there and on the stage, but in that getting to know you, learning just how much we owe you.  Kind of feel like Einstein.  If I am a tall or a big guy, it is because I stand on the foundation you giant’s laid for me.  And for that I will be forever grateful.”  John put down the mike and began to clap, and as he did,  the entire room stood up as one and gave what was unquestionably the loudest cheer of the night.  Several of the men and women who had won their classes who he had come to know came up to John and gave him a handshake or hug, which he returned the best he could.

 

After a few moments, John collected the mic again and he went on.  “And now, if you will indulge in one more thing.  I wanted to ask Sgt McMullen to come up with me and Jeff.  I’m also told by a couple of the 4ID guys, that their commander, General Matt McFarlane is here in the audience too.  I hope that the General doesn’t mind indulging all of us on stage for just a second.  And out there, my own boss did me the honor of coming to see me.  Colonel?  And since it was kind of hard for me to hold onto it - dressed in a poser anyway - Gabriel?”  A sound of confusion went through the crowd, save for strangely several knowing smirks and glances, one of them being Gabriel York.

 

When General McFarlane, Colonel Dougherty, Sergeant McMillan were on one side of John and Jeff Taylor and Gabriel on the other, Gabriel reached into his pocket and handed John a small folded piece of paper.  John addressed the soldiers and airmen.  “You know, there are a few people who cannot be here tonight who should be.  You know more about them than most.  Those who have been called on to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe here at home and you all safe there on the battlefield.  All of us division winners and runners-up and myself have agreed that we are dedicating our wins to those men and women who can’t be here.  And - for the families of those men and women - I sort of took it on myself to speak to a few people.  General, Colonel, Cedric, all of us have pooled all of the winnings that would have been given out and those friends have graciously multiplied those winnings tenfold.  We want to give this back to you to help the gold star families of those men and women.  They had to leave their families behind, at least physically.  If I have learned nothing since I came to work for you Colonel, is that we care for our own, and we leave no one behind.  This is a small payment toward that debt we owe to those families.  All of us here, even a civilian like me made those people who are no longer with us a promise.  We will not leave their husbands and wives, parents and siblings and children behind.  And all of us here keep our promises.”

 

John stepped forward and handed McFarlane, Dougherty, and McMillen a check for over twenty five thousand dollars.  The roar from the crowd and chant of USA was so great that it nearly deafened everyone inside.  John shook all of their hands, but when he got to McMillen, John leaned over and pointed toward the back.  Near the doors back doors, McMillen could just make out Phil and Shurrie Heath standing there.  Phil had a sideways smirking smile that screamed “Gotcha.”  John put up two fingers and gave the quickest of salutes to Phil, which he returned laughing, as the couple left the theater.  John grinned down at McMillan, “Sorry bro.  I just couldn’t resist.”  Both men clasped hands and bro hugged.   

 

General McFarlane flagged John to hand him the mic.  “Well, there is not much I can say to add to that, son.  Nothing much except my thanks.  I think it is safe to say, though, that there is a seriously big man on stage who’s heart and soul is even bigger than his body.  And that IS saying something.  Thank you, and I give you my word that every cent of this will go to those families.”  McFarlane again shook John’s hand as the crowd cheered its enthusiastic agreement with the general’s words. 

 

McFarlane handed the mic back to the emcee.  “It has been an amazing show and I can’t think of a better way to have capped it off.  Thanks to Jeff Taylor and everyone working behind the scenes to give us a great day.  Have a great night folks and see you in a few weeks at the Colorado State Championships.”    

 

***

 

It was nearly an hour after the show wrapped before the people who were asking for pics and handshakes with John had all made their way through and left the building.  John took time with every single one, shaking every hand, posing for every pic, doing a few stunts and feats of strength if someone asked and it wasn’t too outlandish.  It was quiet in the auditorium when John came from behind stage to see his friends and Gabriel standing and talking.

 

“Well, I think I am finally done.  You boys ready for home?” John said.

 

Gabriel smirked, “Home?  What does that mean, “home”?  We have a hotel, and I have been learning a lot about all of this thanks to these blokes.  And one thing they have told me about is some ritual called the “post show refeed.””

 

John folded his gigantic arms across his chest.  “OK, just what the fuck have you all been poisoning his mind with?”  John said as he laughed looking down at the assembled crowd.

 

“You’ll find out, big boy.”  Adam said in a passable Mae West impression, which brought down the house in laughter.

 

Gabriel pulled out his cell phone and looked at the time.  “Damn.  Mr. Overall Winner  here is going to make us late.  We have to be there in fifteen minutes.”

 

John looked quizzically. “Be where?”

 

Gabriel smiled.  “A reservation for one man, ten bodybuilders, and one super-massive black hole for sushi.  I am told that it is the perfect bodybuilding food...”  Gabriel looked up devilishly.

 

John could not resist, “Payback’s gonna be a bitch, Squirt.”  John smiled as several “Ooooooohhhh’s” came from the young guys.

 

Gabriel's smile widened as he blushed just a bit, “You’ll have to tell me what it is like to be on the receiving end.”  Everyone died laughing again.

 

“You have turned him into a monster.  I knew I shouldn’t have brought him here and let you plant your shit in his head.”  John said, as they all started walking toward the doors.  “Gonna take me weeks to get that ego back in check.”

 

Dylan looked up, “Good luck with that.”  Everyone patted Gabriel on the back as the gym fam headed out for the time honored ritual.  As they were walking, John’s phone gave a ding with a text message.  It was an unfamiliar number, so he opened it.

 

303-555-1212: Hell of a night Big Dog.  Gonna be the most fun in years teaching you what I can do.  See you at the gym on Monday.  You and Justin can workout with me if you want to learn something … Let’s play the game.  ~ Phil

 

John laughed.  He might never actually get on stage with Phil Heath.  He had promised Gabriel just one show, but Meadows had said once you start, you get hooked on it.  John felt the urge to do a late entry into the State show.  But Gabriel would decide that.  What was going to happen in the gym the next few months, however, promised to be the most fun he had ever had.

 


 

When it all fell apart, it started so innocently. So innocently… 

 

 It was nearly 11 pm when John and Gabriel left the restaurant, the last two of the group to leave.  They were very nearly the last customers to leave.  Both glass doors opened, with Gabriel easily passing through on one side.  John, on the other hand, had to do his usual twisting and bending to exit.  They were both laughing, deep in conversation, as they started walking toward the parking lot and John’s Jeep.

 

“My God, even I have not seen you scarf down that much.  Do you EVER get satisfied eating anymore?” Gabriel said in jest.

 

John put his massive mitt of a hand gently onto Gabriel’s neck and back and rubbed,  It was the best he could do given their difference in size, to walking with his arm around his lover’s  shoulder.  “Is THAT my fault?  You are the one who gave me this appetite.”  John was barely containing his laughter.

 

“I will admit - the thought did cross my mind to check the chef for a stroke when you ordered the entire menu.”

 

John feigned a half innocent smirk.  “But, but. Sushi are such small little th--”

The next moments were a blur. Just a few seconds. Thirty at best. Yet, those seconds seared themselves onto the mind of Gabriel York as surely as if they had been inscribed with a white hot branding iron.  Frame by frame, imprinted forever.  

 

Faster than Gabriel could see, almost faster than he could perceive with any of his senses, he felt John’s hand leave his back and spread across his chest.  Gabriel felt his shirt pull tight and then --- a sudden rush of strength like nothing he had felt in his life as his feet left the ground.  Gabriel felt himself flying helplessly backwards as he was literally thrown away from John.  From walking happily to sailing through the sky took less than a second.  

 

The next thing he knew, Gabriel felt himself hit tolerably hard on a large pile of landscaping mulch in a parking lot divider - the better part of eight meters from where he had been.  He found himself laying on his back, looking up at the night sky. Gabriel began to raise up with the intention to ask what the hell happened.  But that flashed out of his mind as he heard three crisp, yet wet sounding snaps.  Snaps loud enough to echo around the parking lot, and almost at the same instant - a scream.  A blood curdling, nightmarish, male scream of agony.  Gabriel went white.  He had only heard such a high pitched wail once before in his life.  When John had been on the table being given his new augmented nervous system - and everything else that came with it.  That was a sound he would never forget that chilled him to the bone, that haunted his dreams still … except this time, the sound was wrong.  This was not that scream.  It was slightly different.  The pitch was wrong.  Instinctively Gabriel knew, whoever it was in such pain, it was not John….


 

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