Hunter: Reunion and Rebirth (musc)

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“I cannot believe you talked me into this.”

Neil toweled off his hands as he stared at Hunter through the mirror. Both men wore crisp, expensive suits – Neil’s was khaki, Hunter’s was navy – and open-necked white dress shirts that showed off their well-developed chests and shoulders.

Neil nervously flicked his blond hair upward, spiking it slightly in the front, making sure it looked good.

“Look at you. You’re acting like you did before your first date with Mel.” Hunter put his large hands on Neil’s brawny shoulders. “Relax, Whale. Everyone loves you, remember?”

Neil spun around to face his best friend. “They have memories of me that I don’t have. Most of them think that I was friends with them, when I wasn’t. They made fun of me.”

“Nobody made fun of you. They may have ignored you, but you weren’t mocked.”

Neil sighed. “You’re right, you’re right. I’m just afraid.”

You’re afraid? You, the millionaire world-class athlete, with two beautiful sons and a smoking hot wife? The guy who’s been on the cover of Men’s Health, GQ and Esquire multiple times? The man who tied me for Sexiest Athlete Alive in People? He’s afraid?”

Neil smirked. “Yeah, yeah. He’s afraid. Nothing makes up for high school.”

Hunter laughed. “I’m sick of your bitching, man. We’re going out there.”

“Fine.” Neil stared at himself in the mirror, tall and blond and stunning, a man that could, and did, make anyone go weak at the knees. “I can do this.”

“Yes, two sons. My boys. Lachlan’s seven, Leighton’s two,” Hunter overheard Neil say to Jessica Holmes, senior cheer captain and the most flexible girl in school – or so Neil had said back in the day. She hung on his every word. Hunter smiled as his friend talked about his wife and children, blissfully unaware of the spellbinding effect he still had on women.

“Stop eavesdropping, you creepy boy,” Katie whispered as she snuggled up to Hunter and slipped her hand into his. “You having fun?”

“I am indeed. Are you?”

“Yeah, except I just threw up in the bathroom.”

Hunter instinctively put his hand on Katie’s slightly pregnant tummy. “Are you alright? Do you want to go back to the room?”

“No, no. I’m fine. I don’t want to leave.”

They had decided that it was time for two-year-old Burke to get a sibling, and their 10th high school reunion was timed perfectly for Katie’s first checkup with Max Rogers. Hunter’s hands slid around to Katie’s lower back and pulled her in close to his large body. She reached up and adjusted his collar, her soft hands running across his large neck. “You still make me melt, Mr. December.”

She stared into his face, ten years older than the man she had loved in high school. His hair was the same, black and wavy, shimmering a slight blue under light. His skin was thicker and his features more settled, the last traces of boyishness long since removed from his handsome visage, and she could see the beard lurking under his sculpted cheeks and jawline. Even when he shaved, it was slightly shadowy. It hadn’t been like that when Hunter was eighteen years old.

He simply wasn’t a boy anymore, she realized. Somewhere in those ten years, her husband had become a man.

They were kissing when Neil interrupted. “Hunter, did you see who just walked in?”

Katie looked around. “Where’s Mel?”

“Ladies room.”

“Oh, I was just there, but that sounds wonderful.” Katie took off to the restroom once again, spurred on by pregnancy.

“Who just walked in?”

“Travis Cole.”

“Oh, shit, I forgot about him,” Hunter said as he looked around. “He was a helluvan athlete, though.”

“Helluvan asshole, too.”

“Yeah. I thought he’d make the majors, but I never heard anything about him.” Hunter looked around for an older Travis, probably tall and muscled and slightly older looking, like all the former jocks were. Hunter and Neil were one of a small handful of men who played sports for a living, or who didn’t have the slight middle-age pudge creeping into their hips and stomachs.

“He’s not what you expect,” Neil said, unable to hide the slight vengeful glee in his voice. “Look.”

Hunter felt Neil’s hands guide him to look across the room at a man sitting across the room who he would never, ever have guessed was the cocky jock Travis Cole.

Travis Cole was a shell of his former self. His six-foot-one frame, once well-developed and muscled, was now pale and chubby. His hair line had receded and he wore thick glasses, and his short-sleeved bowling shirt couldn’t hide his paunch. He hunched forward, slightly, and his ass was fat in what looked like a case of “secretary spread,” from Travis sitting far too long at a desk.

“Holy shit,” Hunter muttered.

“Karma, motherfuckers,” Neil whispered.

“If your sons heard you saying such words-”

“If my WIFE heard me saying such words.”

They both laughed. “Fuck, man, it’s like you grew into his future body and he grew into yours.”

Neil shivered. “Don’t even say that. This is MY body.”

Hunter nodded. “The one you deserve. Just like…” They turned to look at Travis Cole, who was putting on a brave front, jovially chatting with old baseball buddies that now looked much better than he.

“I don’t think anyone deserves to fall that far,” Neil admitted.

Hunter was humbled. “You’re a good man for recognizing that.”

“I just…if that was my son, I wouldn’t want him to look like that. I don’t know how Lachlan treats other boys at his school. He’s a good-looking rich kid with famous parents, y’know? I hope he isn’t mean. I’m not raising him to be. But what if he can be cruel? What if he’s cruel and he grows up and life repays him to look a little worse for wear? I don’t want that for him. I’m sure Travis’ parents didn’t want that either. I’m sure they tried their best.”

Hunter Hardy was always privy to Neil Blue’s innate kindness and sensitivity. Deep underneath his confident, handsome façade, Neil was the same deep-thinking softie he had always been. With an internal twinkle, Hunter thought of Neil’s son and knew that nothing about an Adult Lachlan would be considered “worse for wear.”

Neil took a sip of punch and turned to Hunter. “I want you to help Travis.”


“Look at him, he’s miserable. I think he’s already gotten a divorce. He’s out of shape, he’s balding, he’s half-blind…he’s a loser, Hunter.”

“Travis Cole was the biggest asshole to you, and you want to reward him?”

“Not exactly. I…I want him to apologize. It’s stupid because I have everything, I’ve become the man he wanted to be…but if I can get him to say he’s sorry to me, if he can let go of that pride, then he deserves happiness. He really hurt me. I want to finally talk to him about it.”

“Neil, he doesn’t remember what he said to you.”

“You can make him remember,” Neil quickly retorted, having obviously thought this over. “I know you can. I need closure…and I think he does too.”

Hunter looked over to see Katie and Mel under attack, surrounded by ten to fifteen gawking women, voices chirping with fake interest. Katie’s eyes met Hunter’s and widened in a “help me” stare.

“We can work on Travis, but right now we’re needed elsewhere. C’mon.” Hunter grabbed Neil’s arm and pulled him toward the throng of women.

“Ladies, ladies, mind if I talk to my wife for a minute?”

Hunter slipped his hand back around Katie’s waist and pulled her away. “Thank you,” she groaned. “I didn’t know half of those girls in high school, and the other half were jealous bitches.”

“You okay?”

“I’m fine, my patience is just running low. I feel enormous, I wish I wasn’t pregnant right at the moment. Hormones are bananas.” Her blue eyes met his green ones. “I think there’s more than one baby in there, Hunter.”

“What? Are you sure? Women get bigger faster the second time around…”

“No, I know that. I’m pretty sure. I think we’re having twins.”

“Well, they do run in our family. Hank and Hugh would love it. And that would maybe help your theory…every time we were trying, I was thinking, two boys and a girl, two boys and a girl. Maybe we’re gonna get the girl and the second boy at the same time.”

She smiled. “What can I say? I’m brilliant.”

“Dr. Rogers, pleasure as always.”

“Mr. Hardy,” Max Rogers said with a big white smile, the men’s brawny hands meeting in a solid handshake. “Congratulations on another Super Bowl, good sir.”

Hunter laughed. “Thank you.”

Max Rogers was even bigger and better-looking than before. His handsome face was now accented by a neatly-trimmed goatee and mustache, the same sandy brown color as the short stubble on his head. He wore a shirt and tie underneath his white doctor’s coat, but the layers of clothes didn’t hide his well-worked muscles. His shoulders were broad and powerful, and his arms strained the fabric of his shirt sleeves with every movement. His neck had gotten thicker and was beginning to resemble a wrestler’s.

Katie leaned back on the seat before her examination began. “How are the boys, Max?”

“The boys are great, just wonderful,” Dr. Rogers said with a slight smile. “Porter is Burke’s age and Gareth – did you know about Gareth? Gareth happened so fast I still have to remind myself that I have two kids! He’s only three months. Thank you for asking. I usually have to take Porter with me to the gym, put him in the Kids Club, so whenever I see your Dad there he always asks too. You Hardys never forget a name.”

“Or a face,” Hunter nodded. “We sure try not to.”

“Well, now, Mrs. Hardy,” Max said as he checked his Rolex. The good doctor had always been a snappy dresser. “You ready for your first ultrasound for baby #2?”

“So ready.”

“I don’t usually do these, it’s usually one of my techs, but I consider you two to be my friends,” Max said with a wink as he rubbed the wand across Katie’s belly. “Let’s see who’s waiting in there, see if Burke gets a brother or a sister.”

Katie’s hand squeezed Hunter’s tighter. He brought it up to his mouth and kissed it tenderly.

“Oh, wow.” Max released a low whistle as he stared at the monitor. “I…this is a surprise. Katie, were you on fertility drugs recently?”

“No, no, not at all.”

“Well, I don’t know if you’re going to like this.”

Hunter’s heart dropped into his stomach. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, really. There’s just more than one baby.”

“I knew it!” Katie looked at Hunter with triumph. “Twins!”

They both turned to Max with expectant stares, waiting for him to confirm. His brow knotted and he nodded, tentatively. “Well, actually…there are three babies. Triplets. Hunter, you must have some powerful swimmers, because you and Katie have naturally conceived triplets.”

The room was silent for several moments. And then, a minute. And then a couple of minutes.

“Oh my God,” Katie finally said, breaking the silence. She looked at Hunter and saw an expression she almost never saw on his face: fear, and uncertainty. She knew he was thinking about the power – the power that Burke had inherited but, so far, was not using.

Katie started crying. Hunter immediately cradled her head in his strong arms. Max stood up awkwardly. “If you two need a moment, I can just…”

“No, no, stay, Max, I apologize,” Katie whimpered, drying her eyes. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m crying. This is great, this is great, I want babies, I love babies, Hunter and I both wanted more kids. I’m just, I’m just…” Hot tears rolled down her cheeks. “Shocked.”

“You want to have all three, I assume.”

Their heads both snapped up and they answered in unison. “Definitely.”

Max looked at the ultrasound. “Well, they’re positioned correctly. It looks like you’re having-”

“-two boys and a girl,” Hunter interrupted, punctuated by a sniffle from Katie.

”Dead on. Can you read these, Hunter? Another one of your many skills?”

Hunter smiled. “No, I just had a hunch.”

“Well, congratulations are in order. If there’s any couple that deserves to have triplets, it’s you two. Hunter Hardy will have three sons and Katie Snow will get a daughter. Beautiful.” Max smiled and placed a strong hand on Hunter’s shoulder, squeezing the muscle slightly, more friend than adviser. “You know, right now, it’s a shock, but the more you think about it the better it will feel. I see this with parents of multiples all the time. You slowly become accustomed to the idea of the little feet running around the house, and three tiny cribs, and a house that’ll be four times louder and four times more joyous, and pretty soon you won’t be able to wait for them to be here.”

Katie and Hunter sat there with plastered-on smiles and nodded, dazedly.

Katie finally exploded when they got in the car.


“I’m sorry! Calm down. Calm. Down. I didn’t realize, I swear!” Hunter grabbed her arms and looked her in the eyes. “Kate, truly, I’m sorry. Look at me. I don’t know what I did, but it wasn’t on purpose.”

“Victoria’s is going to KILL me! I’m going to lose my modeling contract! They can’t have the Goodyear blimp modeling swimwear! I mean, I love being pregnant, I want to have children. I want to have these babies, Hunter, I do, I do, but I just…three?! We’re going to go from having one baby in the house to having FOUR! I don’t know if I can do it.”

“It’ll be fine. If my parents can raise seven, we can do it. We have money. We can do it, Kate. I’ll make your stomach as tight and flat as it ever was, it’ll be like you were never pregnant.”

“It’s not all about the stretchy skin,” she sniffled. “I’m just scared. That’s a big responsibility, having three tiny people inside of you. Now, I don’t want to go anywhere. I just want to lie down until they’re born.”

“I’m going to take care of you,” he said in a deep, commanding voice, and she didn’t doubt it for a second. “That’s my job as your husband, to support you and love you and that’s what I’m going to do. I vowed that I would, and I will. Fuck the Jets. This is our family and you and Burke and these new three are the most important things in the world to me. Okay?”

She nodded. “Okay.”

“And you can’t get fired for being pregnant.”

“I know, that was just…hormones.” She finally laughed a little. “Besides, it’s totally your fault that there’s triplets. Your stupid sperm.”

“Fuckin’ sperm,” he agreed with a laugh, burying the fears of three more empowered individuals walking the earth. Maybe Burke would be the only one of his children with his power.

But would that be a good thing, or a bad thing?

“Hey, Dad.”

Hunter and Sean embraced in the driveway where Burke was pedaling around in a plastic toy car. Katie went and picked her son up and kissed his head. “You wanna go inside and see Nana and Uncle Henry? And Uncle Hank and Uncle Hugh?”

Burke nodded and clapped his two-year-old hands together. “We’ll be back,” she said over her shoulder as they headed inside. Her belly was only just starting to show through her form-fitting t-shirt, and a miniskirt topped off beautiful, slim legs that appeared to be miles long. Her blonde hair fluttered in the breeze and as Hunter stared at her walking away, holding their son, he felt intense peace.

“She gets more and more beautiful every day, son,” Sean said with a smile.

Hunter smiled back and folded his arms across his broad chest. “Thanks for watching Burke during our appointment.”

“Of course. Hailey is just head-over-heels for him. You know how little girls are with babies…Wendy watches her really carefully to make sure she doesn’t treat Burke like one of her dolls.” Both the men laughed. “Hudson’s so good with him, too. They just love on each other. How was the doctor’s visit?”

“Uh…it was big, Dad.” Hunter sucked in a breath and exhaled. “You’re about to get more grandkids.”


“Yeah. We’re having triplets.”

Sean laughed with joy and surprise and hugged his son again. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Triplets! Well, I’ll be damned. I didn’t know you had it in you.”

Hunter got a boyish grin across his face that mirrored his father’s expression. “Shut up.”

“I’m so excited for you. I know you’re scared, but this…this is wonderful. Your mother is going to be ecstatic. And Burke – this is so great for Burke. Now Burke’s gonna be just like you, the oldest, the leader.”

Just like me. You have no idea. “Thanks, Dad. We’re…we’re scared, yeah, but we’ll be ready.”

Hudson ran down the house’s walkway. “Hunter! Hunter!”

“Little bro! C’mere!”

Hunter crouched down and met the force of his brother’s hug. “Ohhh, it’s good to see you, Hud. I can’t believe how big you are, guy! You’re huge!”

“He’s grown two inches this year,” Sean said.

Ten-year-old Hudson had began to grow into the man he would one day become. His physical growth had started to speed up and his cherubic, flawless face had already began to thin out. It was almost scary how attractive the kid was. Sean looked at him with wonder, the last of the Hardy sons, this child so beautiful that it seemed as if a sculptor had expertly formed his features. One day, he would make them all proud. Hunter looked down at him with surprise, and slight sadness at living so far away and missing the final brother’s ascent to glory. Soon, they would all be grown, and Hunter’s little brothers would be his size. Hunter relished being able to wrap his arms around Hudson’s small body. One day, he wouldn’t be so small.

“Burke called me Uncle Hudson today.”

“Aw, yeah buddy, no way! He was so excited to come over here. He loves playing with you and Hailey. Guess what? When you get a three-day weekend at school, Dad said you can fly up to New York and spend a weekend with me, Katie and Burke.”

Hudson’s angelic face lit up. “I can?! Dad, can I?”

Sean chuckled and nodded. “Of course you can, son. If it’s alright with Hunter, then it’s alright with me. Here, let’s go inside, talk to your mom and Aunt Katie about it.”

“Is Burke inside?”, Hudson asked.

Hunter laughed. “What am I, chopped liver? Yeah, he’s inside. C’mon, bud.”

They watched Hudson run ahead and Sean rubbed his hand across Hunter’s back. With the sunlight bathed across their faces and smoothing out Sean’s more aged face, they looked more like brothers than father and son. “You look great, Hunt. They’re all gonna be so excited about the’s training?”

“Glad it’s almost done. The media’s really gotten invasive this time around. Katie and Burke can’t really visit anymore, it’s too distracting, so that makes it tough. Is Henry ready for Florida?”

“He’s ready but I don’t know if they’re ready for him. They don’t even know what’s gonna hit ‘em. Kid’s a tornado.” Sean smiled fondly. “You two are so alike off the field, it’s funny. But on the field, the similarities stop at you both being quarterbacks. You’re such a thinker, you’re methodical. Henry just goes psycho, lights out.”

Hunter thought of the few high school games of Henry’s that he’d been able to witness. His brother had passion to burn, that was for sure. He got so worked up that, after a game, Sean had designated a cool-down period where Henry could sit in the locker room, drink a Gatorade and pound out a few punches on his duffel bag. “Yeah, he’s real intense,” Hunter finally responded. “I love it. I can’t wait to play him in a few years.”

“Oh, that’ll be an epic showdown for sure.”

As they walked into the house, they threw their arms around each other’s shoulders, father and son. “I wish you lived in New York, Dad. I miss you.”

“Getting all sentimental and appreciating me more now that you’re a father, huh?” Sean teased. “Well, I miss you too. I’m so proud of you. The Super Bowls are great, but I look at you with your wife, and with Burke, and that’s what makes me the most proud. I raised a good man who can provide for his family.”

The next evening, Travis Cole had retired to his hotel room early. His small single room was a few floors above the reception hall where the reunion was being held, and his Type 2 diabetes was making him feel worse and worse. Hunter and Neil had watched him closely over the evening. He had seemed happy enough at the start, but he appeared to get more and more uncomfortable as the night wore on. A lot of guys had gotten chubby since high school – few looked as spectacular as Hunter and Neil – but few had fallen so far down the ladder.

Travis felt like a failure. He talked to his baseball buddies about their successful careers, about their wives, about their kids. He had none of those things. Even the guys who didn’t seem to have such great jobs had at least kept themselves in shape.

Finally, at about 9:15, Neil spotted Travis slipping out the door, looking positively miserable. He quickly got Hunter’s attention, and they slipped into spy mode, shadowing Travis up to his hotel room.

“This is your battle, not mine,” Hunter said under his breath as they walked down the hall. “Don’t get me wrong, I support you in whatever, but you’re gonna be running the show in there.”

“I get ya,” Neil reached up and yanked off his tie and unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt. His body language – hunched and slightly defensive – contrasted with his actual physicality, where his powerfully large arms and broad, built chest pulled the baby blue fabric of his shirt tight across his bronze-tan skin. “I’m nervous.”

“I can tell,” Hunter said with a kind smile, as he loosened his own tie. “Calm down.”

Neil Blue stood at the door to his former tormentor’s hotel room. Never before had memories of his old, nerdy self and his new, beautiful self been in such confrontation. Neil wanted to just deal with it and move on without talking to Travis, but a part of him wanted to see the former jock squirm just a little bit.

Neil reached his closed fist up to the door, and after a moment’s hesitation, pounded on it twice.

There was no answer.

Neil knocked again but couldn’t make himself do anything more. Hunter finally stepped up next to his friend and, in a quiet but firm voice, said into the door: “Travis, we know you’re in there. Answer the door, man.”

There was a moment of total quiet, and then the door opened and Neil was staring at Travis Cole.

“Hunter. Neil.”


“Can I help you guys?”

Neil had gone silent. Had Travis Cole always been so short? In high school, he seemed eight feet tall. But now, Neil was six-four and Travis was six-one at the most, and Neil’s powerful physique contrasted with Travis’ rotund one to make the swimmer seem even bigger. Neil’s mouth hung open slightly, and his pool-blue eyes flashed with a dozen emotions.

Hunter stepped in. “Can we come in for a second, Travis? We wanted to catch up with you.”

Travis opened the door wider and Neil and Hunter stepped in. “I, uh, wish I could tell you guys about how great my life has been since high school, but it hasn’t been nearly as good as yours.”

“You know about mine?” Neil furrowed his brow as he eased down onto the bed, rolling up his sleeves to expose his tanned, muscular forearms.

“Of course I know about yours, man,” Travis said with a smile. “If one of your high school pals had articles all about him everywhere, wouldn’t you read them? I read about your wife, about your sons, about your gold medals and your endorsement deals. I’m a little jealous, to be honest. That’s a great-looking family you have.”

Travis had turned his back to grab a beer from the minifridge, and Hunter could see Neil shut his eyes and visibly recoil as he listened to Travis.

“Beer?” Travis turned back and help up two Rolling Rocks.

“Thanks,” Neil said, taking a bottle and swigging it gratefully.

“And you, Mr. Hardy,” Travis said with a sad smile, “I think we all know about your accomplishments. The town’s three biggest stars in one graduating class, you two plus Katie,” he sighed. “And not me.”

Hunter and Neil sat there and merely waited for Travis to talk himself down.

“Not me,” Travis continued. “I thought I’d be playing professional ball right now, not fat and selling insurance.”

Hunter pushed without a hint of subtlety. “What happened?”

“Life happened. I married a girl, Jen, my junior year of college – about the same time that you had your first boy, Neil.”

Neil smiled weakly.

“I dunno what my hurry was. We got married way too soon, both of our parents told us not to but we just knew we were madly in love, y’know? I was gonna be a pro-ball player, we were gonna have all the money we needed and have a few kids and live in a nice house in suburban Cleveland or Boston or somewhere.”

“And then you got hurt.” Hunter had obviously done his homework.

“My knee had always been a problem, even in high school. It just isn’t very good and never has been. Senior year of college, I was stealing a base in practice – routine steal – and heard a pop when I was sliding. I tried to stand up and just fell back down. Damn thing was so fucked up.” Travis shook his head, remembering the frustration. “Took a year of physical therapy. I graduated on time but I was never able to get myself back up to the same condition I’d been in before. When you’re a cocky 22-year-old kid and you’ve got a hot sorority girl wife and the world at your feet, and then you suddenly can barely walk, it’s just…”


“Worse than that. But Jen, she stuck by me. Her Dad gave me a job and we decided to have a baby and put the whole baseball dream behind us, get realistic, y’know? And that’s when we found out that I’m basically sterile.”

Hunter saw Neil wince. Travis continued to ramble, his tongue loosened by beer. “So, no money, and no kids either. I have completely failed as a man. We tried and we tried and we just grew further and further apart. I started drinkin’ more and neither of us really enjoyed being around the other. She deserved so much better than a loser like me, and I told her that.” His free hand balled into a fist. “And I kept tellin’ her, and tellin’ her, and one day…one day she believed me. And she left, after a year of me telling her to. She gave me her ring back and moved back in with her parents. Didn’t take a penny from me because I didn’t have a penny to give.”

Travis set down the empty beer bottle. “I’ve gained a hundred pounds in two years, guys. I didn’t even want to come to this reunion but I thought, maybe, just maybe, I could reconnect with the glory days, get some happiness back in my life.” Travis moved his head up and made eye contact with Neil, whose blue eyes were burning with hurt. “The truth is, Neil, I’m not very happy. But you, you look great. Look at you! Your body is perfect, you’re in great shape. A few years ago, I thought I was going to be in your position, a pro athlete with a family. I don’t have any of that. I envy you.”

Neil stood up and sucked his breath in. “Don’t say that.”

“What? It’s true. Everyone envies you two guys. You’re handsome, you’re ripped to hell, you’ve got a smokin’ wife and healthy kids, you’ve got money. You’ve got what everyone wants. In that room down there, every person either wants to be you or be with you, if you know what I mean.”

“Every person down in that room used to look at me with sympathy,” Neil finally snapped.

Travis’ smile faded with surprise. “When was that?”

“When I was short,” Neil spat with a pointed gaze. “And fat.”

“When was that?”, Travis chuckled. “Second grade? Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been built like-”

Then Neil saw it hit Travis. The memories slammed back into him like a tornado in a trailer park. His eyes clouded over for a second and then snapped open with growing, horrified clarity, and his chubby body reared back in stark horror. Hunter sat and watched the scene closely, with concern and care.

“Fuck off, Whale. Shouldn’t you be stuffing your face? It’s lunchtime.”

Neil’s fists were clenched, making the veins in his arms bulge, tightening his shirt. His handsome face was intense and almost frightening. “Do you remember now?”

Noooooooo.” Travis darted back like a terrified animal, scrambling across the room. “Wh-wh-what happened to you?! How did you do that? You…I…you…” He went silent, completely horrified, and then burst into tears. Travis slid down the wall and rolled up into a ball on the floor, sobbing and horror-struck, a completely broken man.

“Look at me, Travis.” Neil crouched down next to the weeping man.

“You’re not the person you used to be! You can’t be! It’s impossible! It’s not possible…”

“Travis, I wanted you to know. I wanted you to remember. You hurt me back then, and I’ve grown into this man, a powerful man, and I wanted you to remember because if you remember, then I can help you.”

Travis didn’t say anything, but just looked up at Neil with hot tears rolling down his round face. His heaving sobs were the only noise in the room, and he cried for what seemed like hours.

Finally, he spoke.

“H-how could you want to help me? How can you ever forgive me?”

“Life’s been good to me, God’s been good,” Neil said, turning to Hunter. “My friends have been kind. I’ve made a family. And without you, Travis, saying what you said to me, I don’t know if I ever would have been noticed.”

“N-n-noticed?”, Travis stammered.

“He’s talking about me,” Hunter said from his seat.

“You’ve been best friends for more than ten years! I didn’t do that. I didn’t do anything,” Travis cried. “I’m worthless. I’m a piece of shit.”

“You’re not.”

“I am. I can’t have kids, I can’t play sports, I’m fat, I’m sick, and the people I mocked in high school have, have, have…transformed. You’re – you…how did you DO that?”

“He had some help,” Hunter said with a smile. “From me.”

“F-from you?” Travis sat up and wiped his round face as the tears continued to flow.

“Hunter has some, uh, special abilities. He made me over.”

Travis laughed for a second. “I’m so confused. I don’t get it. What, did he give you a new face? He made you like a foot taller? That’s impossible.”

“For most people, yeah,” Hunter said as he stood, stretching his amazing body and stealing a quick, prideful look at his chest as he flexed. “For me, though, it just takes a thought. A few well-placed, well-planned thoughts.”

Travis looked at Hunter then back at Neil, utterly and totally clueless.

“I don’t think I’ll ever understand, and I don’t know why I’m so calm now. I don’t understand any of this, but I’m glad it happened to you, Neil. You deserve it. You’re a good guy. I mean, look at you two – we’re not in high school anymore. You’re wearing suits and you have rings on your fingers and you have families. I don’t have any of that, and it’s like…it’s like karma. I don’t believe in karma, but here I am. I’m a living example of it. I’ve been lowered and you’ve been elevated.”

The tears started again and Neil’s big blue eyes were full of sympathy. “Travis, I didn’t mean-”

“I’m sorry, Neil,” Travis interrupted. “I’m so sorry. I deserve everything that happened to me. I wasn’t just cruel to you, I was cruel to everybody. But, I wish I had back some of that testosterone that I had when I was 18. I feel like an old man already. I feel like life has passed me by. I’m so…” He sucked in a breath through his flapping lips, tears rolling into his mouth. “So, so, so, so sorry. I wish none of it had happened. I wish I’d been nice. I wish I could take everything back. If I could ever have a son, I would teach him to be kind. To be like you.”

“Travis,” Hunter said, placing his hands on his hips. “Ever wonder what life would be like if your knee hadn’t gone out?”

“Um…better?”, Travis said sadly. “Better than the shambles it’s in now.”

“How about that day never happened. You never slid incorrectly, in fact, you never had problems with your knee. It has always been a faithful, sustaining part of your body.”

Travis noticed a sensation in his right knee – it felt heavenly. Although the knee hadn’t been specifically injured for years - just weak - he could swear he felt the tendons and the ligaments strengthen and improve. In fact, for the first time in a long time, Travis just didn’t feel his knee at all.

And that felt great.

His hands flew down to his leg and wrapped around his knee. “That…that feels great! Is that some kind of hypnosis or something? Like what you did with Neil?”

“No. It’s real life.”

Confusion clouded Travis’s eyes. “Huh? I don’t get-”

“Baseball players used to be able to be chubby, but not in these juicy times. You need to slim down a bit.”

And with that announcement, Travis Cole appeared to collapse in on himself. His ponderous gut and large ass shrank and dwindled until they were attractively flat and shelf-like, respectively. The latent fat on his arms and legs disappeared, and even his face became more hollow, revealing a man who looked much more like the Travis Cole they remembered, instead of the rotund, porcelain-skinned cubicle-dweller. His puffy hands became slender and the beginnings of man-boobs disappeared into a flat, untoned chest. His XL clothes hung comically on his newly svelte frame. The fat was now gone to reveal an unworked body – not chubby but not muscular either. The man looked starved for a Big Mac and a workout bench.

“Whu-whu-whu-whooaaaa…stop! No, I don’t mean that, I don’t want it to stop, but I…” Travis puffed with shock. “Hardy?! What, how did you…” He looked up at Neil Blue, now standing and watching, as he always did. “You really were that nerdy kid I remember,” Travis gasped with growing shock. “Oh my God, he changed you. Th-that doesn’t happen. I don’t get it, but you must have been changed.”

Neil smirked. “That I was, that I was.”

“Oh my G-God, what have I done? What have I gotten myself into?” Travis panicked slightly and scooted backward across the floor. “Please be good to me, guys. Life hasn’t dealt me a very good hand recently. Don’t make me live it all over again. I’m not strong enough.”

Neil knew that Hunter was still slightly controlling Travis, even without any huge changes. Travis was relatively calm for someone who knew they were being physically and emotionally manipulated. The years of built-up guilt and regret could have given a normal person a heart attack, but Hunter was so careful, and made sure that Travis just let himself be confused instead of borderline suicidal.

“We’re helping you,” Neil said, so softly and kindly that Travis had to believe him.

Travis felt heat and life fill him, and suddenly he felt like he was going to burst with it. He began to sweat and awkwardly tug on his clothes. “H-H-Hunter, are you doing this? This is crazy, man…I dunno if…if…”

It felt like his genitals had been stuck into a furnace. Travis felt himself get wildly hard and winced in pain from the most intense erection of his life. And then, he swore he felt his dick get longer. He was embarrassed and tried to hide it, but the way his underwear began to feel constricting was undeniable. He thrust a hand down his pants and felt his balls get bigger in his hand. “No waaayy.” He held a testicle between his fingers and couldn’t help but smile as it became as big and plump as a juicy plum. Hot cum begin to seep out of his long shaft, and it was so warm, so perfect,…male…

“Still think you’re sterile, Trav?”

“Oh God, what’s happening to me?!” Travis whipped off his glasses and wiped his eyes free from the sweat that soaked his vision. He cramped and slid onto his knees, feeling his too-large pants slide down his legs and reveal a pair of briefs that was stuffed with his meat. Immediately his ass reformed into two solid globes of power, nerves going insane around his nether regions as a beautiful bubble butt tightened the briefs to breaking. The crack peeked out over the waistband, sitting in between two luscious glutes.

“That’ll give you some liftoff when you’re stealing bases now, huh, Travis? Like an engine on a Mack truck.”

“I…I…haven’t…played ball in years…” Travis huffed as he sweat more and more profusely.

“We’ll remedy that shortly.”


Travis’s question went unanswered. He felt a pop in each leg and a pop in each arm, as if he was being stretched – “Did I just grow?”

“Just an inch.”

Then the muscle started.

For many baseball players, at least the ones who spent time in the company of steroids, a physique was a slightly unnatural thing. A little too much muscle in one area, while others got neglected. But Travis Cole suddenly felt heavier, evenly, all over. He appeared to swell, writhing on the ground in stark pleasure. Hamstrings and quads became thick and powerful, into his perfect knees. His feet got larger fast. And his calves blew into something completely different, big diamond-shaped gems, stuffed with muscle.

“I remember you saying in the weight room senior year that your arms didn’t grow as fast as you wanted,” Hunter said, deadpan. “Let’s beef ‘em up a bit.”

Travis’s arms exploded through his sleeves, followed quickly by a pair of broadly-built shoulders and a slightly barrel chest. The jock, returning to the glory of youthful body, came explosively. His neck tore through his collar, tendons shooting down into his brawny shoulders, traps bulking and delts bulging. His arms became knotted with muscle, triceps swelling to match the circular shape of his biceps, into meaty forearms that were topped by beautifully shaped hands. A tattoo of wire around his right bicep, stretched from years of uncontrollable fat, returned to its shape of years past. His arms swelled into 18-inch pistons, a perfect size for batting and throwing. Travis’s chest pushed into the curves of his biceps as he felt his pecs sensually swell, as he felt his abs overheat and harden. He rubbed his torso, begging for release from the pressure, and pulled the shirt off to reveal a rock-hard set of pecs and abs, slick with sweat. “That’s…ME,” he said with shock. “I haven’t seen myself look like that in so long…”

He looked just like he had in high school, save that puberty had finished with him and left him more filled-out than the slender 18-year-old jock he had once been. His chest was more barrel than before, his collarbone longer. Hair dotted his chest and accentuated the deep grooves of his eight-pack, and a treasure trail disappeared into his tight waistband. His spare tire was gone, replaced with sharp obliques from years of dedication at the gym. His back was, once again, powerful and large. His lats flared outward and made him look wider up top, and his lower back tightened beautifully, two dimples popping into view right above his ass.

The perfect body of a man who devoted his life to athletics: that’s what Travis Cole had. His skin was tight over delicious muscles, every minute of weight-training showing on a body that looked like it had jumped off a page of Muscle and Fitness. The hair accentuated his masculine beauty. Travis felt a warmth on his cheeks and rubbed them to feel a week’s worth of beard. His hands wandered down as the skin of his jowls tightened to show off a perfectly lantern jaw, squared at ninety-degree angles, and wide, high cheekbones. His eyes got bigger as his vision became perfect, and the glittering orbs contrasted with his ultra-masculine bone structure and gave his face a needed dose of boyish beauty. Long lashes stretched out, the same color as his dense brown brows. Travis Cole was back and better-looking than ever, finally seeing how the face he had in high school would look 10 years later. A few sun-drenched creases and marks of age had formed the dreamy jock into a sinewy, rugged man; his skin became thick and tan and tough, and he slowly became so achingly handsome that Hunter and Neil knew that women’s attendance would spike at his home games.

The shade of his skin now matched his head all over, as he became tanned, the muscles standing out more than ever with his sun-soaked, ruddy skin. His bald spot disappeared and his hair line pushed forward, but his hair was not long, just a quarter-inch buzz that brought more attention to his masculine mug. His voice, soft from years of indoor talking, became raspy and sexy within his thicker neck. He was just what America’s Pasttime needed: a stunning, drug-free muscleman who could charm a crowd with his Colgate smile and charm a ball with the swing of his bat.

Travis slumped forward, wrung out and exhausted and covered in cum and sweat. He slowly wriggled out of his clothes until he lay in the middle of the floor clad only in ludicrously tight briefs. He was afraid to look in the mirror, afraid to speak – not afraid that the change had happened, but afraid that it hadn’t. He lay on the floor and silently wept.

Hunter and Neil stood and looked at each other, then at the hunk in between them, physically reborn after a very rough decade. All the frustration and all of the sadness –years worth – rolled down Travis’s face in the form of tears.

Travis’s gorgeous face was worn and tired from its change. His beautiful eyes sparkled with tears but were utterly exhausted. His wide, chiseled jaw quivered with emotion. “Thank you,” he mumbled with humility, unable to make eye contact with his benefactors. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“Here,” Neil said, offering his hand. Travis took it and was pulled up, suddenly looking much more physically comparable to the tall swimmer. He threw his arms around Neil and collapsed onto him, and Neil took a step backward with surprise before returning the hug. “It’s okay, Travis. It’s okay. I forgive you. We’re grown now, it’s behind us. I forgive you.”

His head resting on Neil’s muscular shoulder, Travis just sobbed.

Getting Travis to go back to the party downstairs was like coaxing an animal out of its cage. Hunter provided Travis with a perfectly-fitting polo that showed off his brawny, masculine upper body and a pair of khakis that showcased his butt and long, muscular legs. He couldn’t stop flexing his powerful arms and popping his chest up and down. He kept reaching back past his shoulder just to feel the muscles in his chest and arms collide. Feeling the muscles – his muscles, his body – was almost too much for Travis. He was in a positively euphoric state, but was scared to leave his room. After much convincing, he walked down to the hotel lobby, a step behind Hunter and Neil, continually checking out his guns and adjusting his new large equipment.

Travis stopped right before they entered the reunion. “Guys, I don’t think I can do it. Nobody’s going to know me.”

“Everybody will know you. You’re a major-leaguer. There aren’t too many of those in our class.”

Travis’s face was uncertain and fearful, a stark contrast to the beefed-up power and confidence that his body radiated. “I don’t know,” he said, taking a step back.

“If you don’t go in there by choice, I’ll make it happen by force,” Hunter said with a smirk that showed he meant business. “You can either walk in through the door or descend from the chandelier. Don’t think I can’t do it.”

“I don’t doubt you.”

“You want to go in there, anyway, trust me,” Hunter said smiling. “There’s a surprise waiting.”

Travis looked down at his shirt, tight across his pecs and showing them clearly, and flexed to remind himself of who he was. “They’ll know me as the new me? Promise?”

“It’ll be the strangest and best day of your life,” Neil said, thinking back to that fateful day senior year when he blossomed into a confident, popular, sexy young man. The new Neil had found himself up onstage among people he had revered, people like Hunter Hardy and Katie Snow and Travis Cole, getting introduced as a member of Homecoming Court. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and almost literally awesome. “Do you remember the day we were announced as Homecoming Court? That was the day I became me.”

“Really? I do remember you seeming kinda subdued.”

“I was scared shitless, having visions of everyone seeing me as dumpy and short, like a nightmare,” Neil said before turning a mischevious gaze to Hunter and continuing, “Although I knew I wouldn’t win.”

“Well, some of us were already just too popular,” Hunter, the eventual King, smiled. “Did I tell you Henry’s on Court this year?”

“Ten years later, huh? That’s fuckin’ beautiful. He’s got it in the bag. I bet all of you Hardy boys will be Kings. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hank and Hugh tied in a couple years. Start clearing out a space in the trophy case for all of your crowns.”

“Henry think Heath’s gonna beat him,” Hunter said with a laugh. “He doesn’t realize that Heath would give up his crown if he beat Henry. Bean worships the ground Henry walks on.”

“They remind me a lot of you and me, back in the day.”

“Oh, fuck yeah they do. And just like you and me,” Hunter winked, “the Hardy will be crowned.”


“Guys?” Travis interrupted the ribbing. “Can we go in? I’ve got a rush of courage and I want to get it over with before I puss out.”

“You’re an outfielder for the Mets. That’s how everyone knows you…that is you, okay? You need to realize this isn’t some trick of your mind; time and space is altered and that’s all you’ve ever been.” Hunter put his hands on Travis’s shoulders and stared into the scared man’s eyes. “You’ll get used to it. You’ll be great.”

Travis looked like he was going to vomit. “You just made me nervous again.”

Without responding, Hunter nudged Travis inside the door.

Travis felt a million stares on him as people noticed his entrance. The three professional athletes of the class – the Jets QB, the Olympic swimmer and the Mets outfielder – had entered all at once. Women took notice. Men, enviously, did the same.

Travis plastered a cocky smirk on his face, proud of his new form and trying to make himself comfortable with it.

And then he saw a beautiful redhead with a gorgeous body. She wore a simple white tank top and designer jeans tucked into brown leather boots. Her face was fresh and clean, open and cute, with freckles dotting her cheeks. She was talking to another woman and laughing, and Travis had never seen her look better.

“Jen,” he gasped softly. “Oh God, you didn’t. No. I, I, I can’t do this.” Travis reached up and wiped the beginnings of tears from his eyes before noticing the gold band that had returned to his once bare finger. He reflexively grabbed it with shock.

“You couldn’t have. How did you-”

“I didn’t do anything with her. You yourself said, that after your plans didn’t work out, your frustration and ineptitude pushed Jen away. But if everything had gone as you intended, which it now has, then Jen never would have left. That wrinkle in time has been ironed out.”

“I just can’t believe it,” Travis said, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Remember, it wasn’t just your pro ball dreams dying that made Jen leave. There was another thing you couldn’t do.”

Travis snapped his head back and looked again, and noticed a slight belly bump underneath Jen’s tank top. His eyes lit up and his face became awash with unspeakable joy, and Neil and Hunter couldn’t help but smile at his expression.

“She’s pregnant,” he gasped again. “With a baby. With our baby.”

“That’s usually what women are pregnant with, man.”

“I’m gonna be a Dad.” Travis turned to Hunter, practically speechless. The tears flowed. “I’m gonna be a Dad! I can…I can have children! I’m a father!”

Neil clapped his hands on Travis’s new shoulders. “Congratulations, Trav.”

“I told you that you weren’t sterile anymore,” Hunter explained. “Once again, I didn’t make that baby, you did. Once I powered up your swimmers, time changed, and you’d already gotten Jen pregnant because you always had that ability.”

“You’re God. You must be.”

Hunter shook his head vigorously. “I’m not. I’m really not. I promise. Otherwise I think everyone in this room would be, like, dead right now. Raiders of the Lost Ark-style. I don’t know what my purpose here is, yet. But my abilities, they do come in handy. And I might as well tell you, you’re not going to be able to tell anybody about them. You’ll know, and you can talk to Neil or to me, or to my wife, but other than that the words just won’t come out.”

“That’s fair. You gave me my life back.”

Hunter saw Jen’s companion walk away, and the beautiful redhead took notice of her handsome husband. “She’s looking at you. Go talk to your wife, man.”

Travis turned, took a deep breath and walked up to Jen. Then he planted a huge kiss right on her lips, dipping her slightly, like he was in a 1940s movie.

“Oh, God. Smooth operator,” Neil muttered, watching the scene. “She’s gonna be like-”

“What the hell was that for?”, they heard Jen say with a laugh.

“She’s gonna be like that,” Neil smirked.

Travis smiled, placed his large hand on her belly and kissed her a second time, very tenderly. “I just want you to know that I love you more than anything.”

“Triplets. Oh my God.”

Neil semi-collapsed into a seat at an empty table, and Hunter sat down next to him. “I just can’t believe it, Hunter. Triplets! It’s just…damn. I’m afraid I’m never going to see you again.”

“It’s going to be nuts, but we’ll make time. I just didn’t think I’d be a father of four before I turned thirty. What a trip.”

“At this rate, you’ll make your Dad look like a chump.”

“I think this may be it. Well, we may have one more after this. I wouldn’t be surprised, it’s all up to her. We might try to have another single. Kate immediately got worried that the three would bond so quickly that Burke might feel left out and, in some ways, be a sort of only child. We originally wanted a second baby for him, to give him a sibling. We just never thought in a million years…”

“Two boys and a girl, huh? You mean in twenty years there are going to be three hulking six-six behemoths like you, you freak? My boys won’t be able to keep up!”

“I think Lachlan and Leighton will do just fine in the looks department,” Hunter said with a knowing smile, before joking, “But you’re right, it’s hard to keep up with the Hardys. I’m gonna raise some heartbreakers.”

“You’re gonna be too busy peeling boys off of that daughter of yours to care about your jocky sons. She’s going to be a knockout.”

Hunter turned serious. “I can’t even imagine. She’s the one I can’t wait to meet.”

“Watch, you’re gonna have two boys that are built all skinny and pretty like Katie, and your daughter will be some huge beast like you. Maybe a softball pitcher.”

Hunter shuddered. “Don’t ever say that again.”

Neil laughed and clapped his hand on Hunter’s back. “Look at us. Look at us. Ten years ago, I never would’ve thought.”

“Me either.”

“I drove past my old Target today.”

”I forgot you worked there.”

“I did too, for a bit. Then I got mad at myself for forgetting. I think I’ll make Lachlan work a semester there when he’s a teenager, show him the other side of my life,” he joked. “Every time I come back here, I think back on how miserable I was. And then, in the span of a week, I went from stocking shelves to tearing through the water. The first time I did a lap, the same day of Homecoming Court, it all came so naturally…I didn’t know anybody could feel that fast. I thought I’d get a speeding ticket for swimming that fast.”

“Nobody swims as fast as you, Whale.”

“You’re the best friend I ever had. I mean, Mel is my best friend, she’s my partner, but it’s different with women. But my connection with you, with a male friend – I just love you, Hunter. I’m a married man with two children, but I have no problem saying it. I would do anything for you. I love you with all my heart. I thank God every day for you.”

“I love you too, Neil,” Hunter said, getting uncharacteristically emotional. “My brothers are all much younger than me, and I had always wanted a brother my age, a man who understood me. You’re that brother. My brother. I love you so much.”

Their hands, which had been resting on the table, clenched together. The two men, for once, ignored the jokes that could be made, and just held hands at a time when that was the only gesture that would show the love, tenderness and appreciation each had for the other.


Travis Cole walked up behind them and crouched down next to Neil’s seat. Hunter and Neil’s hands quietly separated as the moment passed.

“I just…relatively speaking, we didn’t have that much time to talk tonight while you two changed my life forever,” Travis said. “And I was just wondering – hoping – that I could take you both out to lunch or coffee or something, whatever you have time for, and just…talk. It’s been a while since I got to really talk to friends. I didn’t ever have too many. I have so many questions, and I know you both have kids and wives and family in town, so it’s okay if you can’t do-”

“I’d love that, Travis,” Hunter interrupted.

“I would too,” Neil said.

“Great,” Travis said, relieved.

“How about breakfast tomorrow, sometime early, before our kids wake up? I know a great place. Burke’s been staying at my parents’ house anyway so that can occupy him in the morning. Y’know, Lachlan could sleep over too. He could stay in Hudson’s room, and Hailey already loves boys. They’d have a great time.”

“That’d be great. Mel would love it, too. She could just spend the morning with Leighton.” Neil turned to Travis. “We’ll work it out. How’s 8 sound?”

“Good,” Travis nodded. “I’ll have already worked out by then.”

“Man’s already acting like a major-leaguer. There’s a reason I made your team the Mets,” Hunter said proudly. “How’s Jen?”

“Perfect. She’s perfect.” Travis’s eyes sparkled like a lovestruck schoolboy. “She’s going up to our room right now, and if you don’t mind,” he said as he stood and pulled up his pants in an exaggerated fashion while puffing out his chest, “I’m going to go meet her.”

“Ah, a night to remember.”

“Damn straight.”

Neil waved him away. “Time’s a-wastin’. See you tomorrow morning, Travis.”

They watched as Travis walked away, his broad back and well-structured ass bounding. His walk was tentative, at first, but slowly became a confident swagger, and right before he walked out the doors, he raised a thumbs-up behind his back.

Hunter and Neil nearly doubled-over laughing.

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