The doorbell rang again.

"I'll be right there," I shouted, and jumped out of bed. Anticipation quickened my heartbeats and made my breathing shallow as I hastened to the door. My hand shook so much that I could barely get the door open. Beneath the excitement, a niggling undercurrent of doubt warned me that there was no way Topher could have managed it.

Yet there he stood, on the other side of the threshold. He looked as if he'd run the entire way. A flush suffused his cheeks, and he seemed unable to stand entirely still. Sweat sheened his brow and matted down his brown curls.

But there was only one thing on my mind. "Have you got it?"

His eyes were sharp and green, like two shards from a broken bottle. They darted everywhere, settling on the potted ficus next to the door, my neighbor's open window, the ground underfoot--everywhere but my face. They held a feverish sheen. The silence stretched for a moment too long.

"Can I come in?" He asked. His voice caught in his throat.

I stepped to the side and let him pass. I knew not to push, but the voice of doubt crescendoed within me. He had screwed up somehow. The anticipation I'd felt a minute before took on a sour edge in my stomach.

Without speaking, he pushed past me and sat on the couch, cradling his head in his hands. To my chagrin, he had continued to sweat. A droplet beaded on his flushed forehead and dripped onto the area rug. I grimaced.

"What's up?" I asked.

Topher took a breath. "I'm not sure where to start."

"The beginning?"

He glowered at me. A shiver went through him, as if a sudden chill had cut through the room, but the windows were shut. Although it was night, my condo's poor insulation had let in the day's heat, and it had been slow to dissipate.

"The beginning," he said, once the shiver had subsided. "That's a way back. How long have we known each other?"

"I mean the beginning of whatever's going on," I said.

"A year," he said. "Give or take. Right?" He did not wait for an answer. "Yeah, it's been about a year. Get me some water."

The assertiveness in his tone took me by surprise. I was on my way back to him with a bottle of water before I knew it. My mind was racing. I'd known counting on Topher was a long shot, but he'd sounded so confident about his research. I wanted to throw him up against a wall and shake it out of him, but I'd never used my greater size to influence him in the past. Well, not directly, anyway.

He took the bottle from me and drained it in a great swig. Once the water was gone, he set the bottle down on the floor and let out a long, shaky breath. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

"Is he here?"

"Daniel? No, we're going out tomorrow. I thought maybe I could surprise him with--well, you know. I thought it would be a big surprise for him."

Topher looked at me, and his green eyes started to fill with tears. He blinked them away with little success, then turned away and scrubbed at his eyes.

"I screwed up," he said. "I screwed everything up. I'm sorry."

"Shit," I said, my spirits plummeting. "What happened? Did it just not work, or what? Can you go back to the drawing board?"

He sniffed. "What is it that you like about him?"

"Who, Daniel?"

"Daniel," he said.

"Are you all right? You're a little hard to follow."

"Daniel. What do you like about him?"

I fumbled for words. "He's great. I--he's nice, and, you know. He's a good-looking guy."

"What do you really like about him?" Topher's stare intensified.

"What's not to like? The guy's gorgeous. I can't wait to introduce you. He's big, I mean, he works out a lot. That's why..."

"Bigger than you?"

"A few inches taller. He must be six-two, six-three. Twice as wide as I am."

"Is he smart?"

"Is he--sure, I guess," I said, growing tired of Topher's interrogation.

Truth be told, I had no idea whether Daniel was smart or not. We had talked a lot, while we were out on dates, but I had trouble remembering our conversations. What I recalled was the artful glimmer of gold in his hair, the way his pale eyes and white teeth sparkled when he smiled, the unyielding swell of his chest beneath his too-tight shirts. He was practically perfect.

Topher sighed. He leaned back on the couch and put his hands on his legs. His hands had steadied. The unhealthy flush had faded from his cheeks, but the feverish glow lingered in his eyes.

He clenched his fists, and to my surprise, I could see tendons bunching in his forearms. His arms were slender as a girl's, but I recalled them as appearing soft, devoid of tone. Now there were little blue veins spiderwebbing through them, pushing up beneath the surface of his skin.

"What happened to the stuff?" I asked, unable to contain the question any longer.

"I don't want to talk about it," Topher said.

"Oh, come on!" I exploded. "You said you'd have it tonight. You know I need it. Daniel even told me on our last date. He likes guys who are buff. Are you listening to me?"

Topher's gaze had gone distant while I spoke. I had seen this behavior from him before. Something had irritated him, something that probably had nothing to do with me. Pushing him would only make matters worse at this point.

I let out a grunt of disgust and stormed off to the bathroom. I wet my face with cold water from the sink, angry at Topher and at myself for putting my trust in him. I'd wanted to impress Daniel so badly.

My body was nothing to scoff at, sure. At 5'11, I weighed a solid 175 pounds of tanned, solid muscle, much of it easily visible beneath my t-shirt. I ran my hand over the six hard bulges waiting just beneath the fabric covering my stomach and the dense bulk of my pectorals above them. I was toned, muscular even, but what I wanted--what Daniel wanted--was size.

A sound caught in my ear. I shut off the faucet and listened, my head tilted to the side. From out in the living room, Topher called my name again.

He was sitting where I had left him, toying with the empty water bottle. He took a deep breath as I approached, and indicated the chair opposite the couch. Only when I had taken a seat did he speak.

"Look, I'll tell you what happened," he said. "It's just--"

"I'm not going to be mad."

"No, that's not what I was going to say. I need to talk to you about something first," he said.

Topher drew in a sharp intake of breath, as if he'd just put his hand on a hot stove. He held it, and visibly settled himself. Pain tightened his features.

"Are you all right?"

He waved my concern away. "I'll be fine. Let me finish. You remember when we first went out?"

Of course I did. He had been like a skittish rabbit at first. I'd been afraid he would bolt from the restaurant. And when he had, at last, settled in to our meal, he'd started talking at a breakneck pace, zipping from subject to subject at a speed and trajectory I found impossible to follow. I'd found him exasperating. He had grown on me since.

"Yes," I said.

"Were you ever interested in me? You know, as more than friends?"

A block of cold ice settled in to my stomach. If I lied to him, he might take things the wrong way. But if I told him the truth, my chances with Daniel were shot. I considered the question as the silence between us stretched almost to breaking.

"You're a nice guy," I said. "I like having you as a friend. But you're not really my type."

"Your type," he repeated. "You don't like smart guys? Or guys who read too much? Or--"

"No, I mean, you know I like guys who are muscular. And you..."

I trailed off. I found my eyes drawn to his arms again. While listening to my response, his hands kept tightening into fists and releasing, and now I could clearly see the tendons jumping in his forearms, his biceps leaping into relief above them.

He cocked his head. "What?"

"Have you been working out?" I asked.

He shook his head. "No. So my formula. You know I was almost done with it."

I nodded quickly, putting an encouraging look on my face in hopes of keeping him on this track. "You said you needed some rare flower extract thing from some place."

"Brazil, yes. But that doesn't matter. I got it."

"So you do have the formula," I said. A tingle spread through my fingertips. Maybe he had been putting me on this whole time.

"In a sense," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked, slowly.

"I used it on a test subject already," he said. "But I ended up using it all up."

I swore. "How could you? You know I needed it. A few inches was all I needed, and then I'd be big enough for Daniel. I can't believe you. Wait. A test subject?"

He nodded, guilt burning in his feverish eyes. Suddenly realization came crashing down on me. The strange twitchiness, his odd behavior, the little muscles I'd caught peeking up beneath his skin.

"I'm sorry."

I let out all of my pent-up anticipation in one angry breath. Spent, I threw my hands up in the air. "Fine, whatever. But it looks like you wasted your time and money. It barely helped you put on any muscle."

"That's the thing," he said. "My best estimates had the changes starting six hours after dosing myself, and lasting for a few hours after that. I only took the shot an hour ago."

"But you're already bigger."

"Something--maybe the adrenaline--it's thrown my calculations off. It started sooner than I expected."

"Well, I'm sorry you wasted it," I said, more sharply than I intended. "I hope a little muscle was worth it."

"You're not getting it," he said, and another spasm of pain went through his body. "It's still coming. And I think it's going to be more than a little muscle."

A crackling sound cut through the air. I scanned the room for the source. My eyes found the plastic water bottle in Topher's hand, crumpled by his grip. He stared down at it as well.

"It's starting," he said.

As if invoked by his words, another seizure gripped Topher's body. He let out a groan. Aftershocks from the fit rattled down his slender arms. His legs jerked. It looked as if all of his muscles were spasming at once. And as they spasmed, they grew.

It was tough to tell at first. One minute, I was looking at the least impressive body I had ever seen on a guy, and in the next, Topher had begun to look almost average. His arms had lost any hint of softness, and had taken on the sharp contours of a swimmer's limbs. Gone, too, was his pencil neck, replaced by one that looked significantly more solid.

Sweat streamed down his face and tears rolled from his eyes. With shaking hands, he fumbled at the top button of his shirt for a few minutes, but every time he got a grip on the button, a fresh spasm loosed it from his grasp. With an angry grunt, he snatched at the shirt's collar and tugged.

The fabric gave way, sending buttons flying everywhere. Hidden by the shirt, Topher's chest and abs had undergone a similar transformation. He had always been slim, but never possessed even a hint of definition. His chest was still flat, but the foundations of striated pectorals pulsed into being as he writhed in the grip of his transformation. Muscles over his abdomen sharpened and tightened with every hoarse breath he took.

Freed from his shirt, he began fumbling at his pants. I thought he was trying to get them off, but then I saw his fingers grasping at a throbbing shape there, flopping about beneath the fabric like a fish out of water. As I watched, the outline of his concealed cock swelled longer and thicker.

I tore my eyes away from Topher's bulge as an answering stirring began in my own pants. I reminded myself that Topher was my friend. There was nothing hot about him. What's more, he had stolen this opportunity from me.

On the couch, Topher had given up trying to get his pants off. His muscles were still spasming, but the rate of it had slowed, and he seemed to be regaining control. His eyes looked more focused, and his breathing was almost even, if still ragged. His back arched as one final spurt of growth traveled through him, and then he went still.

"Fuck," he breathed.

"Is it over?" My words came out as an uneasy croak.

"I don't know. I think so." His hand rose to cradle one of his newly grown pectorals. "Wow. How do I look?"

I surveyed the changes the stuff had worked on his body. Topher now had the physique of a regular gymgoer, a lean musculature accentuating his previously slender frame. Even though he was seated on the couch, six solid bricks peeked from his abdomen, and the overhang of his pecs was enough to cast a shadow on the muscles below. As if satisfied with the growth of his pecs, his hand traveled to cup a mounding biceps that had to be at least fifteen inches around and tangled in a spiderweb of pulsing veins. From the state of his bulge, still safely concealed by his jeans, I could tell he was enjoying his transformation.

I swallowed. "Good. You look good. Really good."

"Help me up," he said.

I extended a hand, which he took with a surprisingly firm grip. When he stood to his full height, I was in for another surprise. His muscles weren't all that had grown. Topher stood only an inch or two shorter than I did, now.

"That's... unexpected." Topher moved closer and looked me over. "I must be... what, five-ten now?"

"Yeah," I said. Heat washed off of his skin, carrying with it a pleasant, masculine scent. It was hard to breathe, and I was still painfully hard from watching his metamorphosis. The close proximity of his body made it hard to ignore how much he had changed. He wasn't as big as I was, of course, but it had taken ten years of self-inflicted agony to hone my body to athletic excellence. Topher had gotten his in a few minutes, and if I wasn't imagining things, his transformation had been almost as pleasurable as it was painful.

"Not as big as you," he said. His voice, I noticed, had grown deeper. He took a step closer, and the solid mass of his chest pressed against mine.

"No," I agreed.

In the space between breaths, my lips were on his. Our bodies pressed against one another, hungry hands groping and seeking. Mine journeyed across his unexplored, newborn physique while his savored my hard-earned muscles. He was hard everywhere, his back, his ass, the firm cock pressing against mine through our jeans. With surprising strength, he guided my arms up and tugged my shirt over my head, finding the flimsy barrier of cloth between us unacceptable. Then I found myself guiding him toward the bedroom, desperately drinking breaths between hot kisses.

Once we were in the bedroom, Topher broke from my embrace and shoved me toward the bed, a wicked little smile spreading across his face as the push actually staggered me backward. He would never have been able to do that before. Nimble fingers undid the top button of his too-tight jeans. He had trouble getting them off over the thickness of legs. Beneath, his boxer briefs were plastered to his crotch like a second skin, damp with copious amounts of precum and pulled impossibly tight by the swell of his new ass. They left little to the imagination, not the bulge of a fat, swollen cock or the low-hanging balls beneath it. As he strained to get them off, they tore, and he let out a hoarse laugh.

I watched as inch after inch of dick came in to view. The amazement on my face mirrored the marveling look in Topher's eyes as the eighth and final inch of his cock sprang into view. Once he had gotten the boxer briefs down over his ass, they came away easily. Then it was my turn.

I shucked my pants with practiced experience, then tugged my boxers down and threw them onto the floor. My dick was larger and thicker than Topher's, but only just. He slid onto the bed, his movements a study in athletic grace, and then straddled me, shoving our two tools together, caressing the hot flesh with his hand. The rising ecstasy awakened by his touch banished the last shreds of my judgment.

My hands rose to grip the breadth of his shoulders. I had thought to flip him over on his back, but he resisted me with surprising strength. We wrestled about on the bed, muscle straining against muscle, cock straining against cock, and our mouths locked again. At last, he relented, and I knelt over him. I'd thought to position myself to give him a good fucking, but that was when I felt the hard, wet tip at the entrance to my hole.

He wriggled beneath me, teasing my ass with his cock, and I settled back on my haunches, stretching to allow him entry. His dick strained me more than I had expected as it entered. I squeezed my eyes shut against the euphoric agony that went shooting through me. As if sensing that he was difficult for me to take, he lay there, hands exploring the firmness of my lats, while the pain subsided.

Slowly at first, but with increasing speed and intensity, I began to pump up and down on his cock. His mouth parted and his eyes went distant. I knew how he felt. I could barely see for the commingled pleasure and pain shooting up my spine. Mindlessly, he joined in, his hips bucking in time with my movements. I cupped his dense pectorals, digging my fingers into them as I rode him for all I was worth.

Disappointment shot through me as I felt his dick begin to swell inside of me just minutes later. I had thought he had more stamina than that. The sentiment lasted only a few moments, though, as another pulse traveled through his cock. I thought it the beginning of an orgasm. I was wrong.

A spasm rippled through his body, soliciting a hoarse, baritone grunt from the depths of his chest. His eyes went wide with shock as his muscles began to spasm again and again. I could feel his pecs jumping and retreating, but every time they swelled, they were a little larger beneath my fingertips. I tugged my hands away. Faint sounds of rustling fabric from the bedsheets accompanied the growth of his shoulders and back as they widened precipitously. His hands came up to grip my wrists, his fingers jerking involuntarily. Try as I might, I could not free myself from the unyielding strength of his grip.

His physique was not just expanding outward in all directions. It was refining itself. The striations on his pectorals sharpened into stern relief. A fourth row of abdominal ridges forced themselves into existence as the valleys between them deepened. His biceps and triceps ballooned outward, taking on extraordinary definition even while unflexed. Even his face was not immune to the changes. Perhaps it was his thickening neck, but his jaw had taken on an unmistakable, chiseled edge, lending his features a hypermasculine accent that was almost painfully beautiful to look upon.

The most unmistakable transformation he was undergoing centered around his dick. He had long since ceased to thrust in to me of his own volition, but his expanding cock had other ideas. It felt as if it was burrowing down deep inside of me as it continued to expand, inch by inch, its girth increasing so that I could feel every ridge, every vein pressing into me. In its expansion, it pressed against something vital within me, sending blinding pleasure arcing up my spine.

I lost it. There was no prelude to my orgasm, just a sudden torrent of cum boiling up through my cock in a hot wash, spurting sky high and raining down around us. It pattered down on to Topher's expanding mass in sticky droplets, practically steaming against his hot skin.

This only served to excite Topher. Two huge, meaty hands gripped my waist with nearly enough force to break bones, and he thrust me down to the hilt of his massive, still-expanding cock. I could feel the torrents of cum bubbling up in his mammoth balls. Every second of his orgasm stretched into an eternity as I felt the fluid traveling up his arm-thick shaft. The first spurt sent me into paroxysms of ecstasy as it spewed into me, filling me with heat. Then came a second, third, and fourth. I lost count by the time he let out a satisfied groan and released me.

I pulled myself off his softening cock, barely able to see. My heart was pounding. Blackness threatened to crowd in around my field of vision. I would have gotten up to get some water, but I knew I would barely be able to stand, much less walk, so I contented myself in the hard, huge bulk of my friend. Heat still poured off of his body in waves.

"You're hot," I said, when I finally had breath enough to speak.

"The fires of transformation," he said, sitting up and letting his legs dangle over the side of the bed.

It was hard to fathom the size of him until I saw the breadth of his back. He'd outgrown me for certain. Hell, he'd outgrown Daniel. Topher's lats were inhumanly wide, possessed of a thickness most serious bodybuilders would spend their lives failing to attain. He turned to look at me, and the sight of those green eyes beneath his sweat-dampened curls was heart-stoppingly beautiful.

"You're amazing."

"I didn't expect it to change me this much," he admitted. His voice rumbled through the bed, through my bones. It was almost enough to make my spent cock stir. Almost. "We shouldn't have done that."

"I wanted to. I wanted you," I said.

An inscrutable expression played across his preternaturally handsome features. He stood up. And up. He must have been half a foot taller than I was, maybe more. The thought of little, five-foot-six Topher now towering at 6'8 or so sent a twinge of disappointment through me that I hadn't been the one to experience such a transmogrification. It also made my cock stir in spite of my exhaustion. He walked to the window, treating me to a glimpse of his thickly muscled ass. Due to the size of his thighs, I glimpsed a pendulous eight inches of soft cock dangling between his legs.

"You wanted this," he said, running his hands down his sides.

"Yes," I said. "You're perfect."

"Earlier, you said I wasn't your type."

"I'm sorry I said that."

He leaned against the window frame. It creaked in protest against his weight, and he relented, standing straight. To me, he was a silhouette against the starlight, but in my mind's eye, I saw his green gaze searching the deepening night.

"I thought this would be different, you know," he said. "I've been in love with you since the day we first met. I've watched each new guy as he passed through your life, wishing with all my heart that it could be my turn. When I took the serum, I thought it would change things, and you'd finally see that I've been here the whole time. But now that we're here, I just feel empty inside."

"Everything's changed. You've changed," I insisted.

Topher shook his head. "But you haven't."

"We could make things work. We get along." I forced myself to a sitting position.

"It doesn't work that way," Topher said. "This isn't some story where the ugly duckling turns into a swan and everything works out all right in the end. It might be your fantasy, but my feelings are real. I'm real. I need someone who will want me for who I am on the inside, not what I've become on the outside."

"That could be me. Please."

He turned to look at me. "All right. Then answer me this, Tyler. When you look at me, what do you see? Do you see the guy who's waited for you for the past year, the guy who's been in love with you since the moment we met? Or do you see the muscle stud you've wanted to be all your life?"

I opened my mouth to answer. There was something about the plaintive look in Topher's sparkling, tear-brightened gaze that made me reconsider. I couldn't lie to him, not now.

Topher nodded. He stepped over to the other side of the bed and picked up my pants, then tugged them on. The seams strained as he struggled to get them up over his tree-trunk legs and the immense globes of his ass, and when he tugged my shirt on, it looked comically small, or would have, if more than two hundred pounds of muscle hadn't been waiting on the other side.

He smiled at me, and it was a sad smile. "I should go."

"Wait," I said, without thinking. "What about me and Daniel? Do you have any of that stuff left?"

Topher paused at the doorway. "If Daniel really loves you, you won't need any magic potions."

His hulking form retreated into the distance. I sat there, considering his words. As the front door shut, and Topher vanished into the dead of night, I wondered if I would ever see him again. And I felt empty, too.