Tamir Drake © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Pierce walked into Steve’s studio, the bell jingling cheerily as the door swung open and closed, and hung up his coat. He pulled off his boots, switched them out for his sneakers, and then stepped out onto the empty matted area.
“Steve?” he called.
“Coming! Pick some music!”
Pierce shrugged and headed over to the speaker system and fiddled with the iPod Steve kept plugged in there, scrolling to one of his playlists. Steve kept music for all his clients on it, which was one of many personal touches that made him the best personal trainer ever.
By the time Pierce had settled on a playlist, Steve had come into the studio. He was barefoot today, and Pierce winced. Bare feet meant it was going to be a hard-core cardio day.
Plus side to cardio: he was often so focused on what he was doing, time passed fairly quickly.
Downside to cardio: it made him kind of want to die.
“Hey,” Steve said, smiling. “How you doing today?”
“Not bad. Almost done with a couple of projects.”
“Awesome. Is one of them the book covers?”
Pierce couldn’t help but smile. Another reason Steve was so great was that he truly cared about his clients and remembered the details of their lives. “Yeah, the publishing company and I have pretty much settled on everything.”
Pierce was a graphic designer, and he worked primarily from home, which was one of the main reasons he’d found Steve and his studio. Because he spent most days sitting, he needed the exercise, and a reason to leave his house unrelated to getting groceries.
He did have friends he socialized with of course, but working from home was a lot of time to spend by yourself. Hence seeing Steve three times a week.
“So let me guess.” Pierce sighed. “We’re focusing on cardio first.”
Steve laughed. “What gave me away?”
Pierce stared pointedly at Steve’s feet.
Steve laughed again and wiggled his toes. “All right, all right. Sounds like I don’t have to introduce the program. Shall we get started?”
Pierce groaned and went to the center of the mat.
An hour later, and Pierce was taking another breather. He stumbled to the bathroom to splash some water on his face, and when he emerged later, feeling somewhat more human (and slightly less wobbly), it was to find Steve on the phone.
Steve gave him an apologetic look and held up a finger. One sec. “No, yeah, if you’ll be in town, it’d be great to see you… When?… Oh you fucker! I have a client. Yeah, yeah, hang on…”
He pulled his phone away from his ear and said to Pierce, “Hey, my friend James is in town for a game this week, and he came in early to say hi. By which I mean he is, apparently, about to be outside my door right now. Do you mind?”
“Mind that I’ll be getting a longer break?”
Steve snorted. “You pay for a full hour and a half, you’ll be getting a full hour and a half, this break aside.”
“Okay,” Pierce said with a laugh. And he wasn’t going to complain about more time with Steve, even if he spent most of it sweating his ass off. “But sure, say hi to your friend. I’ll be over here. Resting.”
“I don’t work you that hard.”
“So you’re saying I don’t get my money’s worth with you?”
Steve grinned. “Love you too, man.”
Pierce’s stomach absolutely did not do a flip-flop. Steve was just like that. He said those sorts of things all the time.
Fortunately, the door swung open then, bell jingling cheerily again. Pierce turned to look over at the newcomer.
And holy fuck, it was James Pieczenik.
Pierce wasn’t huge into sports, but hockey was one he kind of sort of followed. Enough to know power players on power teams.
“Pierce, this is James. James, this is Pierce.”
“Hey,” James said. He held out a hand.
Pierce shook it. “Uh, hey. Nice to meet you.” Wide-eyed, he glanced at Steve. “How do you two know each other?”
Steve raised an eyebrow. “Pierce, the fact that I used to work as his trainer is on my résumé.”
Pierce flushed. “I guess I never connected James-your-client and James-the-hockey-player.”
“It’s cool,” James said, grinning. “I’m sure there’re a lot of James Pieczenik’s around here.”
“Stop it,” Steve said, crossing his arms. “My client, I get to tease him.”
James held his hands up in surrender and smiled. “Whoa, okay, okay.”
Pierce, if possible, turned redder. “Well, you two catch up. I am going over there.”
“Nah,” James said, “Don’t. Sorry I interrupted your session. I mostly just wanted to throw Steve off.”
James grinned and turned to Pierce. “But hey, I’m taking Steve out to dinner tonight—”
“You are?” from Steve.
“—and you should come with.”
“I should?” Pierce asked incredulously.
“Yeah, why not? My treat, duh.”
“Awesome! Like seven thirty?”
Pierce glanced at Steve, wholly unable to interpret his expression. “I…okay?”
“Great. Seven thirty works for you too, right Steve?”
Steve sighed. “Seven thirty is fine.”
“Thank you, James. I’m looking forward to dinner and catching up with you, James.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Shut up and get out. Pierce has half an hour left, and I’ve got another client at six. I do have a schedule to keep.”
“Sorry, sorry.” James caught Steve up in a hug. “But good to see you, man.”
“You too. I’ll see you in a couple hours.”
James stepped back, tossed Pierce a salute and a “nice to meet you,” and opened the door, cold air blasting in as he left.
“Okay.” Pierce turned to Steve. “So, on a scale of one to things I was expecting to happen today, that was like a negative three.”
Steve smiled. “I still don’t understand your rating system.”
“Okay, okay. Yeah I…I wasn’t expecting it either, to be honest. I knew he was playing this Wednesday, and sort of expected to hear from him then, but yeah.”
“Dinner tonight was news?”
“Yup.” Steve stretched his arms over his head. “You, uh, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
“Are you kidding? Why would I turn down dinner with James Pieczenik?” Pierce grinned. “Also, something tells me he has all sorts of dirt and embarrassing stories about you.”
“Uh. Well.” Steve’s gaze darted to the side.
“Okay, wait,” Pierce said, sobering. “Do you really not want me to go? ’Cause it’s totally fine if you want to catch up with James without a third wheel.”
“No! I mean…no, that’s not…” Steve cleared his throat. “You should come. If you want to. James is a good guy. Even if he will probably insist on telling stories about me.”
“Hey”—Pierce grinned—“you can tell me stories about him in revenge.” He lifted up his shirt to wipe at his face.
Steve averted his eyes like he always did, the dork. “A-anyway. Back to your workout.”
“We’re having dinner with James Pieczenik and Richard Packer?” Pierce asked Steve in a furious whisper when he got into the car and saw who was riding shotgun.
James twisted around in his seat. “Pierce, you know Richard?”
“Cool. Richard, that’s Pierce.”
“Hey,” Richard said over his shoulder.
“Didn’t realize you were in town too, Richard,” Steve said, completely unaffected, like this was normal.
Richard shrugged. “We got in a couple hours ago. James and I are doing a meet and greet thing tomorrow morning and then an interview in the afternoon. The rest of the team is getting in tomorrow night.”
Pierce was quiet for most of the drive, letting the conversation wash over him. It was sort of sinking in that he was a bit of a fourth wheel here. It didn’t help that Steve kept glancing over at him.
“You sure you’re okay with this?” Steve asked. He sounded nervous.
Pierce smiled, if only to put Steve at ease. “A bit late for me to back out now, but yeah, I’m fine. Just wait; once we’re eating dinner, I am going to grill them about you.”
Steve laughed, so points to Pierce. He loved making Steve laugh.
They got to the restaurant James had picked out and rushed out of the car to avoid being blown down.
“Fuck, it’s cold,” Richard said as they shed their coats. “How do you guys stand it?”
“Your job is literally to skate around on ice,” Pierce said before he second-guessed himself.
James laughed. “Yeah, Packer, it’s only a little cold.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “Like you weren’t whining about it last night.” A barely-there pause, then, “When we got in from the airport.”
James snorted, and then they were being led to their seats, James pressing a hand against Richard’s back on the way over.
After the waitress had taken their drink orders, James grinned at Steve. “Glad to see you’ve still got a fanbase.”
James nodded at Pierce. Steve sputtered.
Pierce just laughed and tried to pretend he wasn’t being teased by a famous hockey player about a man he was (absolutely not) interested in. “I won’t deny that. Steve’s great. Best trainer I’ve ever had. And, you know, a good friend too, I guess.”
Steve glanced at him. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
James looked from one to the other of them, and then, still grinning, turned back to Pierce. “Okay. So you mentioned some Steve stories.”
“Awesome,” Pierce said with fervor. He leaned forward. “Please go on.”
James launched into a story about Steve going with him to grocery shop—something Steve did with a lot of his clients, to show them healthy options and help build meal plans—and getting chatted up by at least two people who worked there.
“According to James,” Steve muttered. “It didn’t seem like they were flirting.”
“You never think someone’s flirting with you,” James said, rolling his eyes. And, well, Pierce could attest to that a little bit. He didn’t flirt with Steve a lot—or he tried not to at least. Steve was a good friend and a professional, and Pierce didn’t want to ruin their relationship. But sometimes, how they talked slipped a little into flirty banter on Pierce’s end. Steve didn’t ever seem to notice, but then again, if you weren’t interested in someone…
And now he was being stupid and was overanalyzing things. Best to just sit back and enjoy the night and the company.