Hunter: Hello, Houston (musc)

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Neil Blue’s Range Rover expertly navigated the roads on the way to his oldest son’s school. The car came to a stop at a red light and Neil looked in his rearview mirror. A sly grin formed as he looked at himself. You stud, you. Neil secretly delighted in seeing the other fathers at Lachlan’s school. They were men in their forties and fifties, usually a little on the portly side by now, bellied and jowled and beat down by a houseful of randy teenagers. In contrast to them stood the handsome golden-boy Neil Blue, blond, buff and bronzed at 36 years of age. His muscles rippled in response to every step his 6-4 body took, and his smile was so perfect, it scrambled minds. Having a whoops-baby at 21 was a little rough at first, but it was kind of fun to see everyone’s face when they caught sight of Lachlan Blue’s hunky, youthful dad.

Neil looked in the mirror and tousled his neatly cropped blond hair. The deep blue of his tight cotton t-shirt made his matching eye color pop magnificently. His biceps and pecs looked like boulders inside his clothes, and his two days of stubble was light against his deeply tanned skin. Once the fat kid, now the super-hot dad. Life was so funny.

With the passing of each day, Neil saw more and more of the future son he had met years before. Lachlan was growing tall and strong, becoming handsome, almost devastatingly so. Awash in hormones, he was fast leaving boyhood behind and changing into a muscular, self-assured young man. It had happened so fast. Too fast.

Lachlan was a good actor, and Neil was pretty sure it wasn’t just him being Lachlan’s father that made him think so. Lachlan got work, good work. It helped that he was stunning to look at, especially when compared to other boys his age, but Lachlan was already developing a little career. He was booking parts in TV shows and movies, carving out a small teen-idol status even before he could drive. Today he had a photo shoot for Seventeen, his first feature story.

Neil thought back to what he’d been doing at fifteen: sitting in his room alone, watching sports on TV and getting fatter by the day. That version of Neil didn’t exist anymore. That version of Neil would’ve never spawned a budding hunk.

Neil’s thoughts wandered as he drove. And then they snapped to one specific realization.

It’s today. It happens today.

For years, Neil had hoped it wouldn’t occur. Lachlan was a good kid. Respectful and well-behaved, good with his little brothers. Active, sociable. He wasn’t a bully. Neil had never seen signs of it. Sometimes he got cocky – who could blame him? – but he usually checked his ego before someone else did. And if it ever got out of hand, Neil put a stop to it.

Deep down, Neil still held onto hope that his intuition was wrong. But as he stepped out of his car and headed into the school to excuse Lachlan from class, he was unable to suppress the big lump in his throat.

By now, Neil didn’t even hear the gasps that people made when he entered rooms. He was immune to the whispers and the glances, mostly because the fat kid still buried within Neil was uncomfortable with the constant attention on his external beauty. So, as he entered the office, Neil didn’t even register the flurry of conversation that started. “Hi, I’m Neil Blue, I’m here to excuse my son.”

The secretary grinned flirtatiously. “Well, my my my, what’s Lachlan up to today?”

“Photo shoot,” Neil replied with a small smile, too filled with dread to make conversation. Hopefully JUST a photo shoot.

“Sign Lachlan out, please,” the secretary said as she slid over a piece of paper. “I don’t need to see ID, I know who you are.”

I know. You tell me that every single time. “Thanks,” Neil replied, spinning on his heel and heading out into the hallway.

It was already happening. There stood Lachlan, as handsome as a fifteen-year-old could be – inhumanly gorgeous. He practically radiated. Next to him was a short, chubby kid – the boy came off like a child when held up against Lachlan’s nearly adult beauty and confidence.

Neil couldn’t hear what Lachlan was saying. He could see the fat kid struggling with a locker, trying to hurry, trying to escape his tormentor. Lachlan, the tormentor. His son, the bully. Neil seethed with fury.

He saw Lachlan lightly shove the fat kid. He saw the kid stumble and some items fall to the floor. He saw Lachlan laugh.

Neil’s eyes clouded with sadness. Inside, he was screaming. I raised you better than that, son, I know I did. Stop!! YOU KNOW BETTER!

It was as if Lachlan could feel his father’s pain. The young man’s head turned to the side, and Neil could tell the exact moment that Lachlan realized who the man in the hall was. The younger Blue went white, his smooth tanned skin completely shifting colors. Next to him, the chubby kid gawked.

Neil was walking forward but barely realized it. It felt like slow-motion. The moment he had dreaded for so long had finally arrived, and he couldn’t believe it was here. Neil was afraid. Afraid to reveal to his son who he truly was, afraid that he would somehow mess up what Lachlan had said was one of the most “indelible moments” of his life.

Before he knew it, he was standing over the two younger boys. Lachlan stared into his father’s eyes and teetered for a moment. Neil knew this was the moment where Lachlan realized the effect of his actions, and considered literally running away.

Neil’s voice was low and husky. “Go get in the car.”

“Dad, I-”

Car. Now.”

“Yes sir,” Lachlan mumbled, throwing a backpack over his shoulder and scuttling down the hall.

The chubby kid had stood still, trying to be inconspicuous. When he saw the demigod Neil Blue turn his eyes and stare at him, the boy wanted to faint.

Neil stood several inches above Lachlan’s victim, so he placed his hands on his knees as he talked to the boy.

“What’s your name, son?”

“It’s…” Tears formed in the kid’s eyes, and Neil’s heart broke at the boy’s embarrassment. He knew it so well. “It’s Houston. Houston Roberts.”

“Hi Houston, I’m Neil Blue. I’m Lachlan’s dad.”

“I know who you are,” Houston replied with obvious anger, ignoring Neil’s extended hand.

“Right.” Neil bit his lower lip and thought for a moment. “Houston, I’m not going to apologize for my son. My son will apologize for himself. And if he doesn’t,” Neil said, taking a card out of his back pocket and handing it to Houston, “I want you to call me and tell me.”

Houston stared at the business card. It was expensive white paper, and on it was printed NEIL BLUE and a phone number, in wax. Houston looked back up. “What?”

“This is my personal number, Houston. Please don’t give it out. If Lachlan doesn’t apologize to you and invite you over to our house within the week,” he repeated, “Let me know. I want you to call me and tell me.”

“You want me to rat him out?”

“Yup.” Neil smiled and clamped a hand on Houston’s doughy shoulder. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Houston. Take care until then, okay?”

“Okay. Uh, yeah, okay.”


Neil calmly got into the driver’s seat of the Range Rover and buckled his seatbelt. The whole time, he could feel Lachlan’s eyes fixed on him. His fluid, graceful movements made his son even more ill at ease.

“We…” Lachlan started to speak, but stopped when Neil, with flawless posture, turned and stared directly down at his oldest boy, practically daring him to speak. Neil’s spine was completely straight, and his eyes flashed like black ice. Lachlan knew a trap when he saw one, and he wasn’t sure how to handle it.

“We’re going to be late,” Lachlan said, with great hesitation.

“I don’t care. We’re going to talk about what I just saw in there.”

“Listen, Dad…”

“NO,” Neil exploded, his face suddenly flush with anger. “No, Lachlan, you are going to listen to ME.”

Lachlan shut up quickly. Dad practically never spoke to him that way. If he did, something was really bad. Really bad.

There was another long pause.

“It’s nothing. Why do you care?”

As soon as Lachlan said it, he knew he’d fucked up big time. Neil’s eyes flared intensely and his anger segued into rage.

“Why do I care? Why do I CARE? Because I love you,” Neil choked, suddenly teary. “Because I care about everything you do, because I love you so much it hurts, because you’re the best thing I’ve ever done with my life, because you’re a part of me and I’m a part of you and that’s what family does: we care. Because I want the absolute best for you. Because you’re my son and ever since you were a baby I’ve taught you to be kind to others, to treat them the way you want to be treated. You’re fifteen, you can’t possibly fathom the kind of love I have for you, son. I would throw myself in front of a train to save you. I would die for you. I would die a hundred times over. Lachlan, look at me. Look at you. You’re…incredible. You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re talented, you’re handsome, you have parents that love you more than life itself, you have two little brothers that worship you. And Houston in there, there’s nothing he wants more than to just be noticed. You don’t know what it’s like to want that, to just wish that someone would want to be your friend instead of YOU having to do all the work.” Tears began rolling down Neil’s face, and his voice became rough and edgy through his grit teeth, words slicing like a serrated blade. “You have no idea what it’s like to not let anyone love you because you can’t see why they’d want to. You can’t possibly know. It’s horrible. It’s horrible. Houston wishes he had what comes to you so easily and you…you mock him and you despise him for it. You just broke my heart in there. I never, ever wanted to see any of my boys doing what you just did.” Neil’s hands grasped Lachlan’s tightly, and the teen’s face began to quiver. “You need to WAKE UP,” Neil continued, his voice crescendoing louder with each word. “I have to say something now, before you become one of those Hollywood assholes…I will be dead and buried before you start behaving like those tools. You need to see. You need to see how unbelievably blessed you are, because you almost…” He swallowed. “Oh, God, I’m about to say it. You almost…you almost weren’t. You were almost like Houston.”

“What do you mean…”

Neil placed a hand on each side of Lachlan’s face. "I'm going to tell you a story." Tears rolled down from Lachlan’s eyes and hit Neil’s hands. “Hunter changed me, son.”

“What?” Lachlan shook his head. “Dad, stop.”

“We were in high school together and I was just like Houston…”


“…and Hunter befriended me and transformed me, everything about me. You know he can. Remember when we had to explain what Burke did that night? Burke got that from his dad. Hunter is a powerful man. And he gave me this body. He gave me this face, this voice.” Neil smiled. “And it was my privilege, my greatest joy in life to pass them on to you.”

The voice was beginning to fail. “NO, don’t tell me that, Dad…”

“We’re blessed, Lachlan. I just want you to see, it’s one twist of fate that kept you from being Houston, or from not even existing…do you see, son?”

Lachlan was sobbing.

“Do you see, Lachlan?”

Neil hadn’t seen Lachlan reach this level of emotion in years. The last time Lachlan had cried like this, he was an upset child who’d broken a toy or wanted to eat; he’d been nowhere close to a young man of fifteen. Countless tears coated his striking face.

“Oh, Lachlan,” Neil whispered, wrapping his arms around his son tightly. “You’re a good boy, I know it. This is a lot to take in.”

Lachlan held his father tightly and shook with sobs. He felt like he had felt as a baby. He felt like he was his little brother Landon being carried to bed.

Finally, after crying himself dry, he slowly sat back up in his seat and wiped his nose and eyes. Lachlan was such a beautiful young man that even in his emotional state, he looked positively regal. He stared at his father. “That’s why my middle name is Hardy, because he made you. I thought…I thought…” Lachlan dissolved again. “You were my hero, Dad.”

“Lachlan. Lachlan Hardy,” Neil said softly, rubbing the back of his son’s head. “Hunter didn’t teach me to swim or make me practice for hours and weeks, years…he didn’t win me those gold medals, he didn’t introduce me to your mother or make her love me, he didn’t create you or your brothers, he didn’t build us our house. I did those things on my own. I had help from my friends like we all do, except my situation was…unique. I may not have been able to do them had I been fat little Neil instead of big handsome Neil, but I did them on my own. Nothing will ever change that.”

Lachlan nodded and fell back into Neil’s chest. Neil held him tightly.

“Can I please still be your hero?”

Lachlan mumbled affirmatively and Neil exhaled. “Don’t ever think that I don’t love you.”

“I know you do. I love you too.”

Neil let Lachlan’s tears dissipate. He held his son tightly, happy that the moment had passed, happy that he had interfered and given Lachlan a lesson he would remember into manhood.

“Son, you know what I’m going to make you do now.”

“I’ll apologize to Houston,” Lachlan said truthfully.

“I want you to invite him to our house.”

“Aww, Dad, come on.”

“No,” Neil responded, strict and unmoving. “That’s not a request, it’s an order. My house, my car, my flesh and blood, and my rules.”

Lachlan sighed loudly and agreed.

“Don’t pout. You’re almost a man. Act like one.”

“I will. Can you drive now?” Lachlan said, before backpedaling. “I’m sorry, that sounded…rude…but this shoot is a big deal to me.”

Neil put the car in gear. “It’s a big deal to me too. We’ll get there.”

As they drove forward, Lachlan began tearing up again. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Dad. I want to be a good person.” There was a big pause. “You used to be bullied, didn’t you Dad?”

Neil kept his eyes on the road, and nodded.

“You used to be bullied by people like me?”


“I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t…” Lachlan sucked in some air and tried to wipe his face. “I don’t want to be a bully. Really, I don’t.”

Neil smiled. That’s all I wanted you to say. This was the breakthrough. And on the hour-long drive into the city, as the father answered his son’s numerous questions, Neil and Lachlan bonded like they never had before.


Houston took two books out of his backpack, dropped them inside his locker and took two more out for his next classes. He took a swig of warm water, made a face and then swallowed it anyway. Setting the bottle back in his locker, he popped a zit while looking in the mirror in the back of the compartment and then slammed the door shut, revealing Lachlan’s face directly behind it.


Lachlan was unfazed. “Sorry, did I scare you?”

“Uh, no…a little bit. Kinda. Yeah.” Houston shook his thoughts free and realized who he was talking to. “What do you want?”

Lachlan took a big gulp of air and blew it out, puffing his cheeks. “I’m sorry for what I said to you. You…you don’t deserve to be treated like that. That wasn’t a cool thing I did, it was stupid. Childish.”

Houston all but rolled his eyes. “Are you just saying what your dad told you to say?”

Lachlan’s face showed genuine hurt at the accusation. “No, Houston, really, I’m sorry. That was wrong of me. I’m not usually like that.”

“You’re not?”

Lachlan didn’t appreciate the question one bit, but it stuck in his mind for a long time. He never wanted a bad reputation, and Houston’s inquiry made Lachlan realize that he maybe wasn’t quite as beloved as he thought.

“Anyway, uh, I was wondering if, uh, I could make it up to you. Why don’t you come over to my house sometime? I could show you around.”

Lachlan saw Houston’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree. Still, the response was hesitant. “What would we do?”

God, just take the offer. “Uhhh, I dunno, it’s a big house. We pretty much have everything. We could play video games or work out or eat or just chill, watch a movie, whatever. We could swim.”

“I don’t know if I wanna swim with your Dad around. Didn’t he go to the Olympics?”

“Yeah, three times. My Mom’s an Olympic gymnast too. But don’t worry, they’re really nice.” Lachlan paused and smiled. “A lot nicer than me. My Dad’s, like, the nicest person on Earth. We’ll just do stuff you wanna do. I mean, what do you do with your friends?”

The simple conciseness of Houston’s response was staggering. “I don’t have any friends, Lachlan.”

“What? Yes you do. I see you with people in the halls all the time.”

“I walk to class with people, sure. People talk to me. But no one ever invites me over to their house. I’m not very fun.”

“Nahhh, don’t say that,” Lachlan said with a kind smile. “I’m sure that’s not true, man. Anyone can be fun.” Suddenly, he looked like his father. Houston looked at Lachlan and saw Neil Blue.

“I’d like to come over. I’d really like that.”

“Great. Great.”


“Your house is so…big.”

Houston stood in the circle drive and stared open-mouthed. This wasn’t a house, it was a SuperTarget. The roof looked big enough to land airplanes on. As Lachlan gave Houston a tour, Neil and Mel watched from the front hall.

“Maybe this was a mistake,” Neil said, looking at Houston’s wide eyes. “It wasn’t meant to rub in how well off we are.”

“He seems like such a sweet kid,” Mel said as she looked out. “I think this is good for him. Don’t worry so much.”

“I think it’s good for Lachlan, too.”


Houston met Neil again, and Mrs. Blue, and Lachlan’s little brother Landon. Leighton was at swimming practice. The Blues were so…beautiful. Each of them had something special within them, some kind of incredible coding that made them flawless. Their skin, their teeth, their hair, their facial features – all were perfect. Mr. Blue and his sons were well-built and muscular. Mrs. Blue was compact and fit, like a gymnast, but not squatty like some of them where; in fact, she seemed much taller than her actual height because her lean limbs moved with such grace. Houston, enraptured, watched the family interact. They were all so incredible. Lachlan was totally different at home, and Houston liked that Lachlan. He was funny and nice and didn’t care so much about what people thought about him. He let his guard down, and it made him so much more likable.

The pool in the basement was the crown jewel of the Blue mansion. Lachlan flipped right in, displaying his inherent comfort with water. Houston lingered at the side, watching Lachlan glide perfectly through the aqua glass, all of his muscles moving in perfect, visible unison.

“My Dad does laps down here for two hours every morning. When I was younger, I’d sneak down and watch him.”

Houston dawdled by tracing the tiles on the side of the pool with his toe. “Why’d you do that?”

“I mean, it’s what you do when your Dad’s an Olympian. It’s his job, right? Everyone thinks they’ll do what their Dad does. I wanted to be just like my Dad.”

“Why don’t you swim at school?”

Lachlan chuckled and floated on his back. “Because I’m not that good at it. I’m decent, maybe better than average. I’d probably even do well on the team, maybe get to State, but people would always be comparing me to Dad. And I’m not Dad. My brother’s the swimmer. He’s amazing. He’ll go to the Olympics, I’m sure of it.”

Neil was sitting in the stairs leading down to the basement, listening intently. He smiled as he listened to Lachlan extol Leighton’s abilities. Lachlan was so proud of his younger brother, just as Neil was.

Neil thought back to watching seven-year-old Leighton annihilate his classmates in an impromptu swimming competition during their lessons. His little blond doppelganger had finished, heaved a few breaths and popped right up onto the side of the pool. “Was I fast, Dad?”

“You were great, buddy. You won!”

“I wanna go faster than that,” Leighton had huffed hungrily. “I can go faster.”

Neil had grinned then, just as he grinned now. As soon as he’d heard those words, he knew that was it. Leighton had the mentality. He was a swimmer through-and-through.

Neil flipped back to listening to Houston and Lachlan. He heard Lachlan’s coaxing tones echoing through the room.

“Jump in, man. It’s heated.”

“I dunno…”

Neil stood and peeled off his shirt as he walked down the stairs, revealing himself. “Hi Houston.”

“Uh, hi. Hey, Mr. Blue.”

“Call me Neil,” Neil said as he hopped into the pool, splashing his oldest son in the process, who competitively shot a splash back. Neil paddled to the side and placed his elbows on the edge, staring at Houston. “C’mon in, bud. It feels great.”

“Oh, uh, not today, I don’t think so. It’s okay,” Houston shook his head, before repeating, “It’s okay.”

Mr. Blue had eyes that could read your soul. Houston wasn’t sure if he liked it. He felt like this man already knew him better than his own parents did. “Houston, do you know how to swim?”

“Of course I do,” Houston responded, a little too defensively.

Neil dropped his chin skeptically and put on his best don’t-lie-to-me tone. “Houston…”

Lachlan and Neil could see the cogs in Houston’s head whirl furiously. “Houston, it’s okay if you can’t swim,” Lachlan said with a helpful smile. “Sorry, I was just assuming you could.”

“I can’t,” Houston said as pink flooded his cheeks. “I never learned because I…because…”

“Because you didn’t want to take your shirt off,” Neil finished.

“Yeah. How’d you know that?”

The left side of Neil’s mouth turned upward. “Oh, I knew a kid just like you once.” Peripherally, Neil could see Lachlan’s head turn and look at him knowingly.

Neil scaled the ladder and walked up to Houston, towering over the teenager. “Do you want to learn how to swim, Houston?”

“Yeah. Yes, please. I really do.”

“Okay. We’ll teach you. Swimming’s really great because it’s so much cardio and it also works your muscles without pounding your joints. I think everyone should swim as part of their workout,” Neil said excitedly. Lachlan watched the passion of his dad. Dad loves helping people.

“The first thing you need to do, Houston, is to not overthink it. Swimming isn’t rocket science, unless you’re an Olympian,” Neil winked. “But really, for someone just getting started, it’s just coordination. You kick your feet and rotate your arms in whatever stroke you’re doing.”

Houston nodded, listening attentively.

“We’ll work on the arms first. Let’s get you treading water and figuring out how to float. This’ll be fun.” Neil could see Houston hesitate. “Houston, it’s okay to take off your shirt. Really, it’s okay.”

“I won’t make fun of you anymore,” Lachlan promised.

“I’m not worried about that. I’m just…I’m embarrassed,” Houston said, with watery eyes. “It’s really embarrassing all the time and especially around…people like you and your dad. I hate being like this.”

“Houston.” The boy looked up at Mr. Blue at the sound of his name. Neil crouched to Houston’s level. “I know it’s scary, but we’re going to help you. You can come over every day after school if you want and I’ll teach you about swimming and working out and whatever you want to know. You’ll be looking great and feeling confident in no time. I promise.”

Houston stared at his benefactor with huge puppy-dog eyes. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

“Because I believe in you, Houston,” Neil said while placing his hands on the boy’s shoulders. “I know you have a lot of potential.”

“I don’t think I do.”

Neil smiled and stood. “Oh, I disagree. And if you give me the chance, I’ll prove you wrong.”

“But why me?”

“Talk to Lachlan. He’s the one who picked on you.”


Houston loved hanging out with the Blues. They were like the perfect family. Clearly, they were all related – especially the younger two to Neil. Landon and Leighton looked, and acted, just like their father. Lachlan had more of his Mom in him, but he still had plenty of the Blue traits, most of all the desire to help people.

And he was helping Houston. For his sixteenth birthday, Lachlan got a Jeep. It was a brand-new top-of-the-line one, but it wasn’t souped-up or anything - that wasn’t Neil or Mel’s style. Lachlan knew he had partially gotten a car because it enabled him to cart around his two younger brothers and himself. But on this day, he was picking up Houston at 6 AM, two hours before school. They were going on a run.

As Houston plopped his sleepy frame into the passenger seat, he saw Lachlan grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

He had to ask why. “What?”

“You’re looking skinny, dude. I can see it now.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you aa-arreeee,” Lachlan said in a sing-song voice.

“Nahh, no…I, I have a ways to go.”

“Not that far. I can see your chin,” Lachlan said as he tweaked the feature he was mentioning, like a mother cleaning dirt off her child. “And you don’t even have a belly anymore. You’re turning into a jock, dude.”

Houston blushed and laughed. “Stop. I’m not.” It was oddly foreign to hear himself IDed as an athlete. He couldn’t even understand it.

“You like working out more than I do. You’re Houston the animal. Pretty soon I’ll be helping you hit the weights.”

“I wanna do that now. I know I need to wait but I just can’t!”

Lachlan laughed as he cranked up the hip-hop blasting through the speakers. Houston looked at his friend. Lachlan was just perfect. So attractive, so confident, so at-ease with himself. He really was just a beautiful person, like his dad and mom. Houston idolized Lachlan and felt privileged to spend time with him, but as time went on, Houston was starting to realize that he was growing less worshipful of his buddy and more competitive with him. And that was terribly exciting.

“I’m really glad I hang out with you, man,” Houston said, his speech patterns slowly becoming less meek as he spent more time with Lachlan. “You and your family are just awesome.”

“You’re a good guy, Hou. We like you too.”

As they pulled into the high school sporting complex’s parking lot, the early dawn was just breaking. Lachlan shivered as he stepped out of his car, knowing full well that he’d warm up as soon as he got moving. He shut his door as he addressed his friend. “Houston, will you grab my gym--”

Houston wasn’t there. He was already disappearing into the complex, peeling off his hoodie to reveal a physique that was in transition from fatty to athletic. He was built bigger than Lachlan, and broader; while Lachlan was built for beauty and lean muscle, Houston was more powerful and prone to building straight mass. It had only been a few months, but he looked like a completely new person already, and everyone in school was noticing. That loser Houston Roberts was hanging out with the coolest, richest kid in school, and that kid was changing Houston. A lot. He was dressing better, acting cooler, looking cuter.

Lachlan chuckled and got his own gym bag out of the backseat. “Houston the Animal,” he muttered under his breath, jogging onto the track in a race to catch up.


Houston sat in the Blue family room, watching college basketball with Lachlan and Neil. Lachlan had fallen asleep, exhausted from his increasingly demanding schedule of appearances, shoots, filming and school. Houston saw a chance. “Mr. Blue? Sorry…Neil?”

“Yeah, kiddo, what’s up?” Neil chuckled. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t call you kiddo. That’s a habit with my two younger boys.”

“It’s okay. Remember how you said you would teach me anything?”

“Well, yeah. What do you need to know?”

“Will you teach me how to shave?”

Neil looked over at Houston and saw traces of beard that hadn’t been there before. Just some peach fuzz, but certainly more than Houston had ever had before. “You’re sixteen, Houston, haven’t you learned?”

“I’ve never needed to. I’ve never had anything to shave.”

“Got some hormones going now, huh?”

“Yeah,” Houston said with slight embarrassment, but he knew it was true. All the athletics he’d suddenly started were beginning to contribute to his puberty. His hair was getting darker and thicker, and his voice had developed new tones and depth. He looked less puffy and more lean - more adult. And now he had light whiskers on his chin. It scared the boy. It excited him, too.

“Doesn’t your Dad want to teach you? I don’t think that’s my place. That’s a father-son thing. I remember when I taught Lucky how to shave. It blew my mind that he was old enough.”

Houston always laughed when he heard Lachlan’s family nickname, but he also used it on occasion, usually in some modified form like Luckster. Good old-fashioned male ribbing.

“No. I talk to my dad, like, once a year on my birthday. He doesn’t care about me.”

“What? You’ve never mentioned this. I’m sure he…”

“No,” Houston interrupted, by now knowing what people were going to say. He’d heard it all. “He left when I was six. He was too busy going to bars and having affairs with ugly cocktail waitresses to bother with my Mom and me. We were, uh, we were an inconvenience.”

“Houston, I…I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“It is what it is,” Houston shrugged. “I’d probably be just like him if I didn’t look like, uh, me.”

Oh, I get it. The fat was armor. Armor against becoming a man you hate. For the first time, Neil could see there was a boatload of hurt lurking under the calm exterior. This boy wanted a father. He needed one.

“You’re too smart for that, Hou. There’s no payoff for living a life like that, I promise. It’s miserable,” Neil replied. “I’d be happy to show you how to shave, if it’s okay with your mom. I’ll teach you whatever you need to know.”

“Well, I’m not very good at talking to girls either, if you want to help with that.”

Neil’s laughter woke up Lachlan. “Well, it’s been a while since I was playing that game. I met my wife years ago and times have changed. But I’ve seen a lot of evidence indicating that Lucky here is pretty good at it,” Neil said, rubbing his son’s head with affection. “This one’s a smooth operator, why don’t you talk to him?”

“Because we’re competing,” Houston grinned, and Lachlan smirked back.


Houston stood in the master bathroom, staring into the mirror after wiping off the last of the shaving foam. Neil sat a few feet away, on the side of the bathroom’s jacuzzi. “Something wrong, Hou?”

“I…I look different.”

Neil smiled. “Yeah, you do. Hair-free.”

“No, no, I mean – I REALLY look different. Like, from just a few weeks ago.” Houston got a big grin across his face. “I look thinner. Like, my face…my face looks thinner.”

“Well, how much weight have you lost, bud?”

“Almost forty pounds.”

“Almost forty…holy…WHOA,” Neil chuckled. “That just melted off! Houston, no wonder you look different! You’re what, 5’10”? 170, 175?”

“I just hit six feet. I’ve grown two inches too, that probably helped. But yeah, I’m around 175. I’m just naturally fat.”

“I don’t think you are,” Neil replied. “In fact, I know you’re not. If you’ve lost forty pounds in a matter of months, you’re not naturally fat. Get that out of your mind.” A smile spread across Neil’s face. “You’d better stop thinking that, because you’re gonna be gaining weight really soon. It’s just not gonna be fat. It’s gonna be muscle.”

Houston tried to hide his excitement, but was no good at it. “You really think so?”

“I practically know so. Guys your age, your bodies are just begging for it. It’s like flipping a switch.”

“I think I want to play football,” Houston said, completely unprovoked.

“I, uh, oh. Okay…uh, that’s definitely possible. You can do whatever you want.”

Houston’s speech sped up. “I’m scared to but I want to, y’know? I’ve never done it before but I feel so much better about myself than I used to and I, I want to play a sport. I’m just not a born swimmer,” Houston said, although he had learned, “but I think I could do javelin or football or something like that.”

“My buddy Hunter played football and threw javelin in high school. He did weightlifting and basketball too. He can help you figure out what you’re good at, trust me. He grew up with five little brothers so he knows pretty much everything about every sport.” Neil went through an itemized list in his head. “Yeah, football, basketball, javelin, weightlifting, wrestling, soccer, discus, baseball, long jump, hurdles…they pretty much did it all. Except swimming, they just left that to me,” he chuckled. “Don’t know how their parents handled it.”

“Are you talking about Hunter Hardy? The Hardys?”

Neil laughed. “Word gets around.”

Houston’s eyes got wider. “I’d love to have him help me. That’d be so great! That’d be so cool, like, he’s famous. Not like you’re not…I mean…but he’s probably really busy, I mean, he’s a pro quarterback.”

Neil smiled at Houston’s excitement. “Yeah, and he has five kids. But I’m sure he can squeeze you in somewhere.”




“God, Burke, wake up, c’mon.”

“What the…” Burke looked up to see his best friend’s older brother standing over him. “Lucky?”

“Lachlan to you.”

“Sorry. Why’re you waking me up?” The sentence sounded like one word as Burke’s words tiredly slurred together.

By now, Leighton was stirring too. Lachlan had hoped to not awaken his younger brother. Whatever, what’s done is done. Burke was sleeping over at the Blue house, so Lachlan was fine with Leighton participating. It was only fair.

“I need you to do me a favor. Follow me, hup hup, up and at ‘em, there we go.” The younger boys shimmied out of their sleeping bags and wobbled onto their feet, still half asleep. Burke stared at Leighton, who just shrugged.

Burke and Leighton’s tired ten-year-old frames lumbered behind Lachlan’s larger teenaged one. Although the size difference would certainly not last, Burke and Leighton hadn’t even entered adolescence, while Lachlan was more than halfway done with it. At six-feet, Lachlan Blue was nearly a foot taller than Leighton and Burke. “Lachlan, what is it you-“

“Shhhh. I’ll tell you in a second.” They reached Lachlan’s bedroom door. “Be really quiet,” he pointed at Leighton, “especially you.”

Leighton – who had developed a reputation in his family for being talkative - feigned confusion at the order. Lachlan smiled down at his younger brother. What a goob.

The door slowly swung open and revealed two more sleeping bags on the floor. The TV was still on, and Lachlan was relieved to see that there weren’t any boobs on it at the moment. He turned it off before he corrupted his younger brother and got in deep shit with his parents.

One sleeping bag, obviously Lachlan’s, was empty. The other was occupied by a slumbering Houston.

“Okay, Burke, make him stay asleep.”

“Uh, okay.”

Lachlan stood still for a moment, expecting something to happen. He waved his hands in a gesture for Burke to hurry up. “Do it, Burke.”

“I did.” Burke’s tone was flat and impatient.

“Nothing happened.”

“What did you expect to happen, a puff of smoke or something? It’s my mind. You could punch him in the face and he wouldn’t wake up. But don’t do that.”

“I’m not gonna punch him in the face. I’m not gonna do anything to him. You are.”


Leighton’s eyes got wide. He scooted closer to Burke.

Lachlan spoke in slow, soft tones. “Burke, this is really important. Listen carefully.”


“I want you to make Houston twenty years old.”

“What?!” Burke shook his head. “No, no, Dad says I shouldn’t do stuff like that.”

“I don’t mean permanently, Burke. I’m trying to help him. It’s just for, like, thirty seconds. Promise.”

Burke took a step back. “I don’t want to.”

Lachlan opened his mouth and shut it without saying anything. He was about to say how his own father had been helped by Burke’s dad, but then he saw his younger brother, eyes now wide and alert, and thought better of it. Leighton doesn’t know, and that’s probably a good thing for now.

“Burke, uh…” Lachlan’s actor mind went into overdrive as he thought about how his dad would handle this. “It’s really good that you’re being careful. You should always be careful with, uh, that thing you do. But Houston here needs a little help. He won’t even know he’s been helped, because he’s going to do most of the work himself. I just want you to grow him up a little, so we can see how he’s supposed to look, and then we can change a few things here and there on him that’ll look even better. And then you’ll make him my age again and when he wakes up he won’t remember any of it, and he’ll just grow up normally like the rest of us.” I can’t believe the things I’m talking about, holy shit.

Leighton’s eyes narrowed. “Lucky, does Dad know about this?”

“NO,” Lachlan hissed, “and he’s not going to, either. Got that?”

“Just askin’.”

Burke wasn’t sure what to do. It seemed like it would be okay. He was just helping someone out, not really changing their thoughts or anything. He’d seen his dad do it a couple of times, make people stronger or better at something. Plus, if he felt bad about it later, he could always undo it and make Lachlan forget all about it. But that was kind of worse…

He sighed out loud and Lachlan stared at him. “Please, Burke?”



“Okay,” he sighed again. “I’ll do it.”

“Thank you.” Lachlan could see Leighton become anxious, but excited. Burke’s heart was pounding.

All three boys crouched down around Houston’s frame. The sleeping boy’s mouth was slightly open, but he didn’t snore.

To Lachlan, it felt like there should be musical accompaniment or some kind of noise to signal the beginning, but there wasn’t – just ghostly silence. Just like that, it began. Houston started getting older. And bigger – much bigger.

“Unnngh,” the sleeping boy moaned. Lachlan’s eyes widened. Every teenage boy recognized that tone, that noise. Uh-oh.

Houston arched his back severely, pushing his butt up into the air and pressing his neck flat to the ground. “Huh, huh, hunnnhhhh,” Houston gasped for air as he grew. The bottom of the sleeping bag was zipped shut so he had nowhere to grow but out of it. Slowly, more of his torso was exposed, revealing a shirtless chest and stomach that were rapidly losing their fat deposits as he stretched taller.

“UNNNNFFGGHR,” Houston growled loudly. At this point, Lachlan realized that he should be seeing Houston’s boxers…but he wasn’t. Are they caught down there on something? Lachlan theorized that maybe Houston’s thighs were bigger now and holding the boxers tight. He tried to look but realized a few pubes were visible above the hem of the bag, and soon Houston would grow tall enough that all of him would be on view.


Houston’s hands slipped underneath the sleeping bag, and a smile formed on his face as he entered sexual maturity.

Leighton’s confused voice broke through the darkness. “Lucky, what’s he do-”

“Out, out, OUT,” Lachlan interrupted in a panic, quickly forcing the two younger boys into the room’s connected bathroom. “Just a second, Hou needs a second!”

“But you need me in-” Burke’s protests were broken by the bathroom door shutting. “Stay in there,” Lachlan ordered through the door as he spun around to face Houston, who was now far too big for where he’d been sleeping.

This was a lot scarier than Lachlan had intended it to be. Watching his friend’s face disappear into the visage of a man he barely recognized…it was frightening. Houston’s bone structure became more prominent on his face as the baby fat dissolved. His eyes were deeper set, his nose was wider and his lips less puffy. A little bit of a fatty neck, maybe…he didn’t grow a beard, but whiskers were certainly visible under the surface of his skin, like he’d shaved the day before.

But not only was Houston a man now, he was a big one. Lachlan estimated him to be about Dad’s height, six-fourish, all brawn. Big blown-out shoulders and bulky arms, a broad back and a hairy, powerful chest. All were covered in a slight layer of natural body fat, making Houston look looming but undefined, a man who didn’t spend much time being active.

His face widened out as he left the teens behind, and his chin jutted outward suddenly, giving him a much more masculine air. “OOGH,” the man moaned, his dick sticking straight up. Houston’s chest heaved and he threw his arms back, ready for orgasm.

“Fuck, Hou,” Lachlan muttered, slightly terrified. He grabbed a Kleenex and stood over the writhing body. I can’t believe I’m about to do this. “I would never do this if this weren’t my fault and you weren’t such a good friend,” Lachlan clarified to the sleeping bulk.

He clamped his eyes shut and held the Kleenex over Houston’s rock-hard, adult dick. The fabric moistened as Houston happily came into it, and Lachlan winced in disgust as he felt the vibrations slow.

“You done yet? Sheeez…”

Houston, of course, didn’t respond, but lay there with a smile as he gasped out short breaths, unconsciously regaining his breathing rhythm.

Lachlan tossed the Kleenex in the trash and crouched next to Houston’s head. He’s a stranger. It was so weird how much people changed when they grew up. This Houston was a real luggish, sparkplug-looking dude, like someone you’d expect to see working construction or doing landscaping.

Lachlan knew that wasn’t what Houston wanted to do, or be.

“Behave yourself, my little brother and his friend are here,” Lachlan whispered as he unzipped the sleeping bag and pulled it higher to give Houston some modesty. The now-man just lay still, grinning.

Lachlan sprang up and released his captives from the bathroom. Both boys looked non-plussed. “I should leave him like this and get you in trouble,” Burke said darkly.

“You’d get in trouble too,” Lachlan retaliated.

“Yeah, that’s why I won’t do it. Why’d you shut us in there?”

“Uh…” Lachlan looked down at the two friends. Man, ten-year-olds are way more innocent than they think they are. “Houston had to do something kinda…personal.”

“What, like pee?”

“Yeah, like that.”

“Aw, GROSS, he wet the bed?!”, Burke grinned like the boy he was. “Tripp used to-”

“He didn’t do that, let’s just change the subject. I need you to help a little more.”

Burke sat down next to Houston and Leighton followed suit. Lachlan squatted behind his brother and placed his hands on Leighton’s shoulders. “This isn’t a bad thing, is it?” he whispered into Leighton’s ear, looking for some reassurance.

Leighton shook his head. “I don’t think so. It’s kinda cool.”

Lachlan exhaled and stared down at Houston critically. “Okay, Burke, do you see how Houston has kind of, like, a layer of fat over him? Can you get rid of that?”

Burke nodded. Houston’s skin sank in toward his body and stretched taut over his muscles. His face became leaner and more angular as areas like his collarbone worked to be more pronounced, the fat over them disappearing. At 6-4, his feet stuck out from underneath the covers and he was exposed from the bellybutton upward, and his body fat plummeting to 5% made him shiver dramatically. He turned on his side and pulled his legs up into the fetal position, shaking.

“Poor guy,” Burke muttered.

“Okay, he needs more muscle. That made him skinnier than I thought it would. Buff up his chest and arms, legs…just make all his muscles grow, I guess.”


Houston rolled onto his back and growled, his teeth grinding into each other. “Owww…” He made noises of pain as his head pushed deep into his pillow, biting it slightly.

“It’s okay, Hou, it’s okay, I’m here,” Lachlan said softly, letting his fingers rest on Houston’s head as sweat poured down it. From his perch above Houston, he could see his friend’s adult body swell. Houston’s chest pushed out proudly, making the curls of hair across it look incredibly masculine instead of dumpy. His shoulders got broader and broader, ballooning to match the thick, quivering biceps and triceps that led into his hairy forearms.

“Ow ow ow owwww…OW! UNNNH…” Houston rolled onto his front and screamed into his pillow. His back was flaring dramatically, muscles bursting outward and rolling proudly, but Lachlan was too concerned to notice. “Are you sure he’s asleep?”

“I’m sure,” Burke confirmed with equal concern.

“Hnnnnnn,” Houston rumbled, his entire body shaking with tremors. He wriggled back and forth and couldn’t decide whether he was more comfortable on his chest or back, so he flip-flopped in between and gave the three spectators a full view of his spectacular growth. Again, he pulled his legs in to his chest and gave a pathetic squeal of pain, before kicking his legs out hard and almost hitting Leighton, who leapt back in surprise.

The man was a straight-up bodybuilder now, with an upper body that looked pumped full of iron and eight hairy abs that looked able to take a direct kick. His shoulders were wider than the sleeping bag and spilled onto the carpet underneath. His thighs pushed out past the measurements of his waist, and his ass was powerfully structured, pushing out so far that his lower back hovered above the ground without touching it.

Houston’s jaw was coated with brown whiskers as a result of his testosterone levels skyrocketing. His arms shot upward, reaching into the air with balled fists. Lachlan slipped his hands into Houston’s. “I’m helping you, man. Calm down, we’re helping you.” He turned to Burke. “Make this quick, but work on his face.”

“What do I do?”

“Uh, make his nose like my Dad’s.”

The slight hook in Houston’s nose was filed down into a nice, straight slope. The nostrils became slightly smaller. Burke took off from there. Houston’s eyebrows pushed out further over deepening eye sockets. His cheekbones got thicker as his jawline became diamond-sharp. The lips took on a slight upward curve, as if he had a secret he wanted to tell. He was handsome, more than handsome – hot. But manly hot, not too pretty. A different kind of attractive from what Lachlan would be.

Lachlan held up a hand. “That’s good. Let’s stop while he still looks like him.”

“Wow, look at him.”

“He looks like a magazine guy,” Leighton muttered.

“Good job, Burke.”

Burke’s mouth formed a small smile. “Thanks. I’ll make him your age again.”

By the time Lachlan looked down, Houston was Houston again. Nothing was different yet, but Lachlan knew that over time, his friend would grow and change into the perfect stud that he was meant to be, as a result of the years of hard work he was aching to dedicate himself to.

Time-release Houston, Lachlan thought. The best part was that the changes really hadn’t been that drastic...Houston’s hard work had already paid off a lot, and now instead of being merely above average, he’d belong in the group of rare, sensational men. It’ll be interesting to watch him happen. “Thanks Burke. Thanks Leighton.”

“What’d I do?” Leighton looked unsure.

“Not tell Dad or Mom. Or anyone. Ever.”

“Oh, yeah,” Leighton said, looking down. “I won’t.”

“Thanks.” Lachlan opened his arms and Leighton hugged him back. “Sorry I’m mean sometimes. I do love you, y’know, little bro.”

“I know. I love you too.”


Lachlan barely slept. “You up, Hou?”

“Yeah,” Houston muttered, propping himself up on an elbow. “God, I feel like I didn’t sleep at all.”

Lachlan tried to not start sweating. “…really? Did you have any dreams?”

“No, I can’t remember anything. I’m just so…” Houston’s brow knotted in confusion. “…tired. I feel like I ran a marathon. I’m sore all over.” He tried to lean up but wobbled and fell back. “My stomach hurts…and my legs…shit.” Houston grimaced as he sat up, successfully this time. “I feel like I’m made out of jelly.”

“You’ve been working out,” Lachlan offered, spotting a cover. “Your body’s healing.”

“Yeah, that’s probably it,” Houston agreed. “I’m starving though. Do you think Bianca made breakfast?”

“She’s not here today, it’s the weekend. My parents might’ve, though. Let’s go see.”

Houston jumped up on teetering legs and bolted out of the room. “Beat you there!”

Competitive fucker. “Right behind you!”

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