Finally feeling able to move, he shifted his weight on the bench until he could reach the towel with his fingertips. Towel in hand, he wiped his sweaty face and sat up slowly, allowing the blood to flow to all areas of his body once again. He sat hunched over, towel pressed against his face as he recovered.
"Pushing yourself a little too hard aren't you?" Justin asked as he leaned against the machine in front of him.
Nick grimaced and removed the towel. "I have to, to be able to keep up with you."
Justin threw his head back and laughed before coming closer and sitting on the edge of the bench that had previously been occupied by Nick's head. "You're never going to be able to keep up with me baby, so you might as well give up now."
It was Nick's turn to laugh. "When have I ever given up on anything? Especially when it comes to showing you up."
Justin smiled and then reached out to place a hand on Nick’s arm. Nick turned at the touch. “Seriously though, are you doing okay?”
Nick nodded, his eyes tired. “I’m okay. I had to put down Mr. Jefferies chocolate lab this morning. He was thirteen and was in so much pain. I hate doing it, every time it breaks my heart, even though I know it's the best thing. It’s hard being the one who has to actually do the procedure while trying to console the client. I’ve been taking care of Buster since he was a puppy. Sometimes there’s those families and pets you connect with more than others and it hurts just as much.”
Justin pulled the older man into his arms and hugged him tight. “Justin, I’m all sweaty.” Nick tried to protest, but Justin just held him tighter.
“I don’t care. You needed a hug and I wanted to give it. I’ve been wrapped around your sweaty frame before. It's not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last.” he teased. He continued to hold Nick, much longer than was normally necessary for an ex-boyfriend, but nothing about their relationship had ever been normal.
Nick and Justin had grown up together, and as they grew older and entered high school, they found themselves wanting to spend all their time with each other. They were both on the football and basketball teams and did every social activity together they could. When Nick was 17, he finally admitted to Justin that what he had been feeling for the past several years went way about the call of friendship. Justin had immediately agreed and before either one of them knew it, they were falling hard and fast. They dated for two years, until the threat of college and joining the real world was too much for both of them to try to maintain a healthy relationship. They had split on good terms, right before Nick left South Carolina to attend college in New York. Justin had stayed behind in Mount Pleasant, choosing to do odd jobs and attend the community college a couple of towns over.
When the owner of the local gym, Project Me, was going to close up and move further south, Justin had gone to the bank and begged for a loan. He’d purchased the property and continued the gym in the same manner it had always run, but expanded to offering personalized training sessions, boxing competitions and even allowed the high school sports teams to use the facility to practice. He loved working in the community they’d grown up in and giving back was very important to him.
Even though their romance didn't work out, they still cared deeply for each other and were each other's biggest fans. Justin made it his mission to make sure Nick was getting enough rest and taking care of himself.
They broke the embrace, but Nick didn't make any motion to leave the comfort of the younger man. Justin smoothed the sweaty blonde hair off of Nick's forehead. "How's the adoption event coming?"
Nick groaned. "It's a nightmare. There are probably close to 30 puppies now that need to be adopted. It keeps growing. I've called around to find more volunteers but so far it's not looking good. Joey offered to provide some light catering so hopefully food will help bring adopters out. “
“You know I’ll come out and help if you need it. I can call around too and see if I can get you come help. Is it earlier in the day? Maybe AJ will let us borrow Brian for the afternoon before they open.” Justin said as he hit Nick’s shoulder, trying to cheer up his friend.
“Thanks Jus. I really appreciate it.” Nick said with a sigh.
“You work too hard.” Justin said softly as he leaned down and kissed Nick’s forehead.
Nick sat up and gave him a smile. “I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me.” He tossed the towel over his shoulder and headed towards the treadmill. He glanced at the clock on the wall and decided he could run for twenty minutes before he had to be back at the office.
“I always worry about you.” Justin said softly as he shook his head and went back to the front of the gym to greet the waiting customer.
“Are you going to sit here and sulk or are you going to embrace your new home and actually leave the house?” JC asked as he threw open the curtains in the small living room.
All he got in response was a hrump from the mound of man and blankets on the couch. Once the room was full of natural light, he turned back to the buried man with his hands on his hips. “Well? What’s it going to be? I leave tomorrow. Do you want me to show you around before I go or do you plan on wasting away alone on the couch.”
JC watched as the lump man sat up, sending the layers of blankets cascading to the floor. Kevin glared at him from the couch. “Why do you insist on doing everything in your power to annoy me?”
JC smiled wickedly. “Because I enjoy it very much.”
Kevin crossed his arms and gave him a dirty look. “Bet you won’t like it if I fire your ass.”
JC laughed, throwing his head back, his curls bouncing as he did. “Do you not understand that I get a new job offer every day? I could walk away at any time and be just fine. Hell, I would probably even make more money. But I stay, because there are times I think I am the only one who cares about your ungrateful ass and I don’t want to find out from TMZ that you’ve drove drunk and wrapped your car around a telephone pole. But keep up your bitch ass attitude and you’re going to find both of us out of a job.”
Kevin continued to glare at him, but his face had softened some. “Fine,” he growled. “I’ll do whatever you want.”
JC beamed at him. “Great, you can start with a shower. I don’t think you’ve moved from that couch since we arrived and frankly, you stink. Go get yourself cleaned up and I’ll make you some coffee. Then I’ll show you around town. We can get you some groceries so at least I know I left you with everything you need. If you’re a nice boy I’ll even take you out to dinner before bringing you home safe and sound.”
Kevin shot him the finger, but stood anyway and shuffled out of the room, leaving the pile of blankets all over the floor for JC to clean up. JC shook his head as he bent down to grab the first one. He folded them all and left them on the arm of the couch. At least he was out of here tomorrow. He momentarily felt guilty for dropping the egomaniac on the simple small town, but JC was counting on the charm of the town to make a difference in his boss.
“That’s the library,” JC said pointing, his finger dangerously close to Kevin’s mouth. Kevin resisted the urge to lean up and bite the digit. He didn’t want to deal with JC crying though, so he swallowed his urge and pushed himself back further into the seat. “They have books there you can borrow. Maybe you can check out a cookbook and finally learn how to cook for yourself.” JC quipped.
“I know what a fucking library is JC. I’m not a moron.” Kevin grouched.
JC smiled, but didn’t respond. At least he’d managed to drag the older man out of the house. JC wondered how much he would go back to living like a recluse the moment JC left for the airport. His next visit wasn’t scheduled for three weeks and he hoped desperately that Kevin would figure out how to take care of himself in the meantime and possibly even make a friend, but that would be pushing it.
Kevin crossed his arms over his chest and crouched lower in the seat. JC noticed out of the corner of his eye and laughed. “You’d better come to terms with the town knowing who you are real quick. I can bet you that more than half of them already know you’re here.”
Kevin looked at JC in horror. “You told them?”
JC laughed. “No, but I can almost guarantee my aunt did. She would have reached out to the first person she found and it would have spread like wildfire from there. That’s how small towns work. There’s no use hiding here. They know who you are, but they don’t know why you’re shacked up here, unless you actually make a friend and you tell them yourself. “
“I doubt that will happen.” Kevin said solemnly as he continued to gaze out the window of the car.
JC rolled his eyes. Kevin making a friend was about as likely as the ocean dying up in the short stay he would have in the small coastal town.
“Stop!” Kevin yelled, pointing out the window.
JC turned quickly to see what the fuss was about and saw the gym Kevin was pointing at. “Can we go there and sign up? Maybe working out again will help me channel some of my anger.”
“That’s actually not a bad idea.” JC said nodding as he turned to enter the gym parking lot. “Hey look, they have a boxing class. If nothing else, you can punch out your aggression on things that aren’t bouncers at bars.”
Kevin turned and glared at the younger man. “You know, maybe I would be nicer if you weren’t on my ass all the time.”
JC laughed. “Not likely.” He parked the car and got out, stretching his long frame as he did so. He hadn’t been to Mount Pleasant for more than ten years and a lot had changed in that time. He’d only spent half a summer here as a boy, many years ago and they had spent several weekends over the course of his life visiting.
Kevin continued to sit in the car. JC rolled his eyes. He was not opening his fucking door. Instead of giving his boss another look, he headed for the door of the gym, convinced once Kevin realized he was done being waited on hand and foot he would get over himself and get out of the car.
The smell of sweat and testosterone hit JC square in the face the moment he stepped through the door. The little bell above him jingled, alerting his presence, but still no one came to the main desk. He took the few moments of solitude to glance around the building. There appeared to be adequate workout equipment and a few weight benches. He knew Kevin preferred to lift and figured at least it would be one thing that would keep him happy.
He was interrupted from his thoughts by a pretty blonde man with curly hair bounding towards him. "Sorry to keep you waiting. I'm Justin, I own this place. Are you interested in a membership?"
JC had to laugh at the absurdity of himself owning a gym membership. The man's brow furrowed and he tilted his head to the side in confusion. "I'm sorry, yes I am here for a membership, but not for myself, for my boss. He's a bit prickly and he's currently pouting in the car so I'd like to start getting things set up for him."
Justin eyed him curiously and nodded, ducking beneath the counter to get a membership form and a clipboard. "If you can start filling these out, I'll grab him a welcome kit and a brochure. What's his shirt size?"
JC took the clipboard and began filling out the forms. "Large." he said without even looking up.
Justin nodded and headed into the backroom where they kept the t-shirts and other various marketing materials. He grabbed the necessary items and headed back to the counter, stopping in his tracks when his eyes landed on the gorgeous musician standing in the middle of his gym. He swallowed hard and made his way carefully back, hoping like hell he didn't trip or do anything else to embarrass himself.
"All finished?" He asked casually as he took the proffered clipboard and put the items he was carrying on the desk. He quickly glanced down and tried not to respond visually as his eyes danced across the name, Kevin Richardson, on the forms. So it was true that the celebrity would be living in their little town, and now apparently working out in his gym. His eyes scrolled further down the page and he felt his heart stop, he'd checked the box for personal training. Justin would be providing him one on one assistance for his fitness goals.
"I see you are interested in personal training?" he questioned, hoping his voice didn't sound too excited.
"Yes," JC answered for the other man. "He needs someone who can help teach him control and a healthy way to deal with his anger."
"Fuck you." Kevin mumbled, crossing his arms.
Justin bit his lip to keep from laughing. "I handle all personal training. Hi, I'm Justin, I'm the owner here." he said with a friendly tone as he offered his hand for a shake.
Kevin glared at it, but after JC elbowed him in the ribs, he leaned forward and shook it. "Nice to meet you." He grumbled.
JC rolled his eyes. "Yes, he's always like this and honestly with you he will probably be much worse. He hates being told what to do, but he needs it. If you feel he deserves an asshole charge, don't hesitate to apply it to his account. I pay all his bills and I can completely understand that he needs to pay for being a constant dick."
Justin laughed then, immediately feeling comfortable with JC, but still unsure of how he felt about the musician. He knew that a lot of celebrities were oftentimes not very nice, but he was still surprised by the surly attitude of the other man.
Kevin continued to glare around the room. While it had been his idea to stop and come in, he didn't like the way JC spoke for him and it made him feel like a child incapable of doing anything for himself. He took in the equipment. At least there was a weight bench that he could get some good use out of. His eyes drifted to the other equipment, a row machine and several treadmills. His eyes widened and he felt his breath catch as he took in the beautiful blonde man who had just stepped off the treadmill and was in the process of wiping the sweat from his face. He was quite possibly the sexiest man he'd ever laid eyes on. He blinked a couple of times, trying to make himself turn away. The last thing he wanted was to be caught staring.
"When do you want to start your first session so I can get a good judge of your form and where you are fitness wise?" Justin asked.
Kevin brought his attention back to the desk. "Josh leaves tomorrow, so does sometime tomorrow afternoon work?"
Justin nodded. "Sure. After your first session we can set up a schedule that works for both of us."
Kevin watched as he went back to typing something in on the computer. Justin's head shot up and he smiled.
"You're not even going to shower?"
"No time. I've got to get back to the office. Apparently Bugsy swallowed a toy soldier and I'm going to have to remove it. Thanks for everything Jus. I'll give you a call later tonight or tomorrow." the voice came from behind him.
Kevin turned and casually glanced over his shoulder. It was the gorgeous blonde. He tried not to stare, but he was even better looking up close.
"Okay. Don't worry about anything though. I'll take care of things." they smiled at each other and then the blonde was gone.
Justin went back to finishing the registration while JC continued to stare at Kevin. He'd seen the way the older man had reacted to the blonde and had to fight back a smirk. He wasn't sure what was more entertaining, the way that Kevin had reacted to the blonde, or the way the blonde had reacted to him. Or his apparent lack of reaction. It wasn't often that Kevin went somewhere and wasn't accosted by fans. Either the man wasn't a fan, or had no idea who he was. This was going to be a fun six months. The only downside was that he wasn't able to spend more time here. From just the two guys he'd encountered so far, South Carolina was hiding some majorly hot men. Like the curly headed blonde standing right in front of him.
"Who's that?" JC asked nosily, knowing Kevin would want to know but was too much of an asshole to open his mouth.
Justin glanced up. "Who? Nick? He's the local veterinarian. He's also my best friend." he said with a grin.
A vet. Beauty and brains, JC mused to himself.
"Alright Mr. Richardson," Justin said, handing over the welcome bag and a key card. "The gym is open 24/7. After 6pm the doors are locked and you can only get in with your card. If you lose it, give me a call and I'll have another one made for you. Please don't break down the door to get inside."
JC snorted with laughter as he leaned against the counter. "Has that happened before?"
Justin nodded sadly. "A couple of times. It's expensive to replace so I just prefer you call me in the middle of the night for a new card. I only live a block away, you won't be waiting long. We will meet tomorrow at 2pm for your fitness test and then we'll go from there. Welcome to Mount Pleasant."