Stress Relief

Part 1

"I'll be a goddamned sonofabitch," Roger muttered as he slid into the driver's seat of his beat up Ford Fiesta.

Another day on the job, another day having to endure the beyond inept supervision of J. Harvey Hightower.

"Yes, Mr. Hightower, no, Mr. Hightower, I can't read your fucking mind Mr. Hightower," Roger continued, while starting the car. "Ya think if you maybe got laid, Mr. Hightower, you wouldn't be such a fucking prick, Mr. Hightower?"

Roger's grip on the steering gave new meaning to the term white-knuckled.

It didn't help (the steering wheel, that is) that Roger was a big beef guy, 5'11 and 230 lbs., great big shoulders, powerful chest, thick lats, strong arms. At 39 he'd been training for the better part of 20 years, never quite making the progress he knew he could make if he hadn't been stuck in one goddam cube farm after another.

By the time Roger made it to Big Mac's, the big suburban gym just down the road from his seen better days apartment complex, he was pretty riled up. He slapped his membership card down on the front desk, not even glancing at the guy standing behind it, and snarled.

"Gimme a towel, and not one of those little hand rags."

"Whoah, big boy," a deep masculine voice replied. "No need to rip my head off."

The voice was a combination of He-Man, Clint Walker, Barry White, and every big-dicked action hero who ever lived. Roger looked up at the owner of the voice and felt his jaw hit the floor.

Mr. Towel was probably Roger's age, about the same height, but easily 300 lbs. of fur covered muscle, with not an ounce of fat, and ruggedly handsome to boot.

"Uh, well, uh, ya know," Roger stammered. "You're right. You didn't deserve that. I'm very sorry. Let me try that again, OK? May I have a towel, please?"

Mr. Towel laughed, a subsonic rumble that started somewhere deep within what appeared to be a legitimate 60-inch chest.

"No problem, bud," he said, extending a towel and his right hand. "I'm Gabe."

Roger, trying not to drool, took Gabe's hand and gave it a firm shake. Roger was no slouch but it was clear Gabe could crush his hand like a bug if he had a mind to do so.

"You seem like you're really stressed out, man," Gabe said.

Whoosh! Roger let out a big sigh -- he didn't realize quite how wound up he was!

"You got that right, big guy," Roger said. "You know how it is, sometimes work just totally sucks and today was one of those days."

Gabe shook his head.

"I am soooo lucky, dude, I totally love my job."

Roger gave Gabe a closer look.

"How come I've never seen you around? I figured today must be your first day!"

Gabe just winked.

"In this location, yes."

Roger smiled.

"Well, I hope I'll see more of you," he continued. "Not that many big guys work out here, OR work here."

Gabe looked Roger up and down.

"I see one of 'em standing in front of me," he pointed out. "You're what, 29? About 250?"

Roger blushed.

"Jeez, turn a fella's head, why don't you! Add 10 years and subtract 20 lbs. and you'll be about right."

Gabe grinned.

"If you say so! I guess I'm just really good at seeing someone's potential!"

Roger was torn. He was lapping up Gabe's compliments but he was also afraid of the inevitable let down. Any guy being this hot is just showing how nice he can be, he thought to himself, not for the first time. He can't really be into me.

"Hey, Roger, you ever try this new pre-workout drink?" Gabe asked, pointing to a big blue tub on the counter labeled Stress Relief.

"Heck, no," Roger replied. "Never even seen it. Besides, I'm afraid I can't afford much in the way of supplements on my salary."

Gabe pulled a Nalgene water bottle from under the counter, filled it with 10 ounces of cold water and a level scoop of Stress Relief, then shook it vigorously.

Damn, Roger thought. I could watch him do that all fucking day!

Gabe handed the bottle to Roger.

"Drink up," Gabe said. "On the house."

Roger looked Gabe in the eye. The big man looked excited, like he was a pusher, or a used car salesman.

Or a guardian angel, Roger thought, and wondered where in heaven's name that had come from!

Roger slurped it down.

"Jeez," he said. "That's the best tasting shit I've ever had!"

Gabe laughed.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know what good shit tastes like. But I'll take your word for it!"

Roger felt the smooth slurry of Stress Relief sliding down his gullet. It tasted like eggnog, a hot toddy, and a primo cocktail, all rolled into one. It took him less than a minute to realize whatever stress he'd been feeling was really, actually, literally, totally gone!

"Wow! This stuff is great! I feel like I could tear the gym apart!"

Gabe laughed.

"In a good way, I hope!"

Roger laughed, too.

"In the best way!"

Gabe slapped Roger on the back as the handsome man strode confidently into the locker room.


Part 2

Normally Roger just hit one body part on a given evening but that stuff Gabe had given him was so good and he had been so stressed out that he decided to go all out.

He did back first, then legs, then chest, then shoulders, then arms. He'd finish one set, take 30 seconds, do another set, take 30 seconds, do another set, have another sip from the Nalgene bottle Gabe had given him, over and over again.

Eventually, the overhead lights flashed on and off.

Roger looked up, confused, and then looked around. The maintenance guy had the vacuum cleaner out, there were only 3-4 guys left in the gym, and it was pitch black outside. Big Mac, the gym owner, sauntered over and stuck out his hand. Big Mac was called what he was called because at 6'4 and 350 lbs. he was still one heckuva powerlifter, even though he was pushing 60 years old.

"Buddy," Mac said, shaking Roger's hand up and down. "I gotta tell ya, that's the most impressive work out I've ever seen anyone do. You're a fucking beast!"

And then he wandered off, leaving Roger speechless, and not just because he was getting a great view of Mac's awesome back.

Roger staggered into the locker room, showered, changed, had his hand shook by the three other guys who were left, who all said variations on what Mac had said, and then dragged himself to the front desk.

"Yo buddy," Gabe said. "I wondered when you were going to finish up."

Roger felt like he'd been run over by a truck, he was that tired -- and yet he wasn't remotely sleepy or in pain, in fact he felt, he realized, fucking wired, and totally starving.

"Uh," Roger said. "What time is it?"

Gabe winked at him.

"Closing time, Big Man, 11 p.m.," Gabe observed.

Roger's mouth fell open.

"How long...?"

Gabe chuckled, an event that surely showed up on most seismometers in Western North America.

"Mmm, I make it about 5 1/2 hours," Gabe pointed out.

Roger's eyes widened.

"How is that possible?" he asked.

Gabe clapped his big hand on Roger's shoulder.

"Well, man, you did a LOT of work. I guess you didn't keep track, huh?"

Roger shook his head, causing Gabe to grin.

"That's OK, I did," Gabe said, and showed Roger a list of what all he had done:

Bench squats
Hack squats
Lunge squats
Leg press
Alternating single-leg leg press
Standing hamstring curls
Prone hamstring curls
Leg extensions
Dead lifts
Bent over rows
Single-arm dumbbell rows
T-bar rows
Seated low rows
Lat pull downs
Upright rows
Barbell shrugs
Dumbbell shrugs
Inverted dumbbell shrugs
Bench press
Incline press
Decline press
Floor dumbbell press
Dumbbell flyes
Pec deck flyes
Cable crossovers
Military press
Behind the neck press
Push press
Side-lateral raises
Front raises
One-arm dumbbell kickbacks
Preacher curls
Concentration curls
Cable curls
Freemotion curls
Reverse wrist curls
Overhead cable triceps extensions
Cable triceps pushdowns
Barbell skullcrushers
Behind the neck one-hand dumbbell triceps extensions

"Oh My God," Roger said. "And what's this X30 mean?"

Gabe looked at him.

"Sets, of course," he drawled.


Gabe chuckled.

"No, doofus, S-E-T-S, sets! You did 30 sets."

Roger was trying to wrap his head around it.

"But, I mean, that doesn't add up. Look at all these..."

Gabe interrupted.

"Well, I know you were in la-la land but the fact is: You, Mister Man, did THIRTY sets of each exercise. Got it?"

Roger looked like he was going to faint, then perked up.

"Holy moly," he said, finally. "No wonder I'm so tired!"

Gabe handed him his refilled Nalgene bottle.

"Drink up," Gabe said. "And let's go get you something to eat!"

* * *

They went in Gabe's Prius since Roger didn't really trust himself to drive or for the Focus to actually hold Gabe!

"Gee," Roger said, when they started up. "This is a lot roomier than I would have expected."

Gabe just nodded and rested his big hand on Roger's leg, like that was where it belonged. In a few minutes they were pulling into Big Boy, the oldest, most popular all night diner in town.

"How did you know?" Roger said. "I love this place!"

They went in and sat and ordered and talked and ate and ordered some more and talked and ate and Gabe kept refilling Roger's Nalgene botte with the pitcher of water Gladys, the elderly waitress, left on the table. Eventually...

"Ahem," Gladys said, refilling the pitcher once again. "I really have enjoyed you boys's company but I'm about to go off shift."

Roger jerked upright in his seat.

"Oh, yeah, sorry, please bring the bill," he said, then looked at his watch.

"Four a.m.?! Holy cow!"

Gabe settled the bill, gave Gladys a huge tip, and steered Roger back to the Prius.

"So where are we headed?" Gabe asked.

Roger just looked at Gabe. He suddenly realized he was totally in love with this man, not to mention totally in lust with him.

"Uh..." Roger said.

Gabe turned to Roger and pulled his face to his own. He gave Roger a deep passionate kiss. If Roger had been light-headed before, he was positively dizzy by the time Gabe finished.

"You're bunking with me tonight," Gabe said. "That OK?"

Roger settled back into his seat, nodded, purred, and dozed off.

* * *

Roger's eyes flew open.

He was in a king size bed, nude, the sun streaming through unfamiliar windows.

Next to him in the bed was a giant hunk of a man.

"Gabe," he whispered, and then it occurred to him.

It wasn't a dream!

They had made love, passionate, frenetic, tender, comedic, awe-inspiring love, for hours on end. Roger remembered all of it!

"Damn," Roger said, "I'm late for work!"

He took a hurried shower and then pulled clothes out of the spacious closet, pulling on the hand-tailored silk suit, the Egyptian cotton monogrammed dress shirt, the hand-dyed Italian tie, and the bespoke fine leather shoes.

Roger kissed Gabe's cheek, grabbed his sleek briefcase, and climbed in behind the wheel of the expensive car in the driveway.

At the corporate headquarters Roger strode into Hightower's office, placed his briefcase on Hightower's desk, and clicked it open.

"Please don't hurt me," Hightower said, cowering behind his desk.

Roger caught his reflection in the window looking out over the landscaped parking lot. The $5000 suit did nothing to disguise his massively muscular, 330 lb. Olympia calibre body.

When I'm standing here like this, he thought. Hightower can't even see the fucking door! No wonder he's pissing his britches.

"Dont be silly, Hightower," Roger continued. "I think you'll find the severance package more than adequate. Maybe you can go back to school and find something you're suited for. No point in making yourself miserable along with every one else!"

Hightower glanced over the provisions, his face flushing with relief.

"Roger, I just don't know what to..."

Roger put his hands up.

"Let's not get into that, OK? It didn't work out, that's plenty. Jenny will be along in a few minutes to go over the exit check list."

You slimy little bastard, he added to himself, then he turned on his heel and exited Hightower's office.

Striding into the executive suite, Roger sat behind his polished marble high-tech desk and automatically reached for the Nalgene bottle that always sat to the left of his big screen monitor and...

What the hell?!

Roger looked around the room. He looked at the desk. He looked at the monitor. He stood up and looked in the mirror. He reached his thick powerful insanely muscular hand into his pocket and pulled out the Bentley key fob.

At that moment Gabe came through an adjoining door that appeared to lead to an equally plush office and sat down in the Art Deco leather arm chair facing Roger's desk.

"I'm sure about now you're wondering what's going on, aren't you?"

Roger stared at him.

"What the fuck did you do to me?"

Gabe smiled.

"I made it possible for you to have what you deserved, that's all."

Roger snorted.

"Don't I wish!"

Gabe's smile grew wider.

Uh oh, Roger thought.

"Well, first, please tell me I'm not delusional, OK? As I recall, yesterday I was a middle-aged wannabe bodybuilder stuck in a third rate cube farm and a crapped out Ford Focus."

Gabe nodded.

"Yes, you were."

He must be the devil, Roger thought.

"So is this some kind of trick? Did I sell my soul or something?"

Gabe just shook his head.

"It wasn't like that, babe. I just tweaked something, that's all. Remember?"

And then Roger did remember.

He remembered meeting Gabe when he was 24. His parents were pressuring him to take that job with Quomedia, the one he knew he was going to hate, and to give up on his idea of opening a supplement shop and a bodybuilding career. And then he'd met Gabe, sweet, beautiful, sexy Gabe, who'd given him a bottle of Stress Relief, and said.

"You can do whatever you want with your life, handsome. Make sure it is what you want!"

Which is what Roger had done. Building his Olympian physique, using Stress Relief to turn his little supplement shop into the premier supplement company in the U.S., retiring from bodybuilding after his sixth Olympia win, not quite 40 but already a billionaire success story with a physique every bit as good as it was when he was on stage.

And Gabe.

His husband Gabe.

The man who had shared his life for the past 15 years.

"But how? And why?"

Gabe smiled.

"I was your guardian angel, darling. The first time around you made the wrong choice and I watched you all those years, getting sadder and sadder. Last night in the gym I decided it was time to give you a second chance. Not something I'm really supposed to do..."

Roger looked at Gabe.

It clicked.

"You were my guardian angel, you mean, right? You gave it up to be with me."

Gabe chuckled.

"Heaven is what you make of it, Roger, you know that."

Roger thought about that a moment, then went around the desk and gathered Gabe in his arms.

Indeed, I do, Roger thought.

I do!