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Do You Even Lift, Bro?

Posted on Sat May 16th, 2020 @ 8:36am by Comm Tech Wulf Edevane & Medical Officer Alex Garcia

Mission: The Forgotten Arm
Location: Albatross - Gym
Timeline: 20 hours after leaving Mars

With a final grunt, Alex lifted the heavy bar upwards, curling it, using his biceps to pull all the weight. Granted it didn't actually have weights on it, it was a system based entirely on resistance bands built into the machines so it could be used in zero gravity, but the concept was the same.

It had paid off, he'd spent the last couple hours down here, running on the treadmills, doing a few other cardio workouts, and finally settling down to do his normal weight routine. He was dressed in a pair of short workout shorts, and a tight-fitting tank-top that wouldn't restrict his range of motion. He was completely drenched in sweat, and he was damn near exhausted.

Putting the bar back into the holster on the machine he turned and grabbed his water bottle, sucking a mouthful of water into his mouth, and grabbing the towel he'd adhered to the wall to start mopping some sweat off his face. He had just finished doing so when he heard footsteps coming into the gym, and glanced up to see Wulf walking into the room. Despite the previous awkwardness they'd begun to build a friendship, and so he smiled as he caught Wulf's eyes.

"Hey there," he said, as he involuntarily gave him an up and down glance, taking in the sight of him in his workout gear.

Wulf came to a hard stop in the middle of the room and simply stared at the medic. "Duuuuude," he elongated the word like a rich kid at some posh party, and didn't lower or shift his gaze any. "You're ripped!" He added with a big dumb grin. Course, he already knew that, on account of he'd seen just as much of Alex in that unscheduled 3am wake-up, but still. It was a more impressive display mid-workout.

Then Wulf realised something and conversationally backtracked. "Oh, uh, sorry man. Um..." He fidgeted on the spot and shot Alex a lopsided smile from a sideways cant of his head. ""Nah, I'm not sorry." He did feel ever so slightly emasculated though, this fourth beefcake addition to the crew making his own workout feel kinda pointless. He brushed a self-conscious hand down his jersey shorts and then tugged at the hem of his loose sleeveless t-shirt a little self-consciously.

Alex smiled wolfishly, watching the other man look him over, and he could see that he was judging himself. Stepping closer he reached out and tapped his finger on Wulf's chest, and trailed it down, just barely making contact with the fabric of his shirt. "Don't do that. Don't compare. Trust me, you are perfectly fine the way you are," he said. "And I mean that. Perfectly fine," he added with a meaningful glance, head lowered, eyes peering out from under his strong brows.

Then, before he made the man any more uncomfortable he stepped away, and smiled, "And besides, would you really want to have to take all the injections and do all the gym work to look like this? Unless you really, really like it, it sucks..."

Wulf held his breath as Alex's touch lightly teased the way the ladies of paid affection did when they wanted his hard-earned money in their pockets. Just that subtle promise of something more to come. It wasn't unpleasant, but definitely confusing, and it had been a good while since he and Ken had ventured into those expensive rooms with their very welcome arms. The younger man gulped, and risked an upward look at Alex. Perfectly fine? He didn't know how to respond to that yet.

Then came the rescue, and the medic offered an easier out. Wulf sucked in a breath of air and attempted a half-grin to show all was forgiven.

"Injections?" He asked, curious. Then the inevitable follow-up. "So why d'ya do it if it really sucks?" He asked outright.

Alex gave Wulf a curious look, and then nodded as a thought occured to him. He really didn't understand. "I didn't really have a choice. Part of my training in the MCRN was battle preparedness and physical training. They bulk us up so we are ready to take on anything that comes our way," he explained, leaning against a piece of machinery.

"Injections are to stimulate calcium absorption to strengthen bones, and a few to stimulate more rapid muscle growth, then they give you a gym regimen that can be hours per day, depending on your level. After a few years of that it sort of become ingrained. I couldn't stop working out, I'd go stir crazy..." He admitted.

A stunned look took up residence on the comm tech's face as Alex spoke about his lack of choice. He'd been aware of injections being used on Belters for strengthening bones and suchlike, but Wulf had never really considered what happened when you joined the military. To the tech, this was something that happened to other people, people who wanted their lives to be controlled and steered by those above them, and all those people went into it willingly for some reason that escaped Wulf's comprehension.

"Okay," he said, though in his mind it really wasn't. Shock turned to a crinkled brow as Wulf worked the numbers of this equation. "But you joined the Navy - because you wanted to - right? So you kinda did have a choice?" He wasn't arguing, just trying to fathom this stuff out.

Alex pondered that question for a few moments before answering, his gaze dropping to the floor as he considered it. Finally, he looked back up. "I had a choice to join the Navy, but it was something I'd wanted to do since I was a kid... It was like a family tradition that I wanted to continue. I'm sure that sounds idiotic, but it's the only answer I have."

"And, once I was in, no, I didn't have a choice anymore. You can't just quit, you sign a contract when you first join up. If you break it they break you. Granted, now, looking at how it all turned out, I guess I did that for them..." he added.

As the other man's gaze dropped, Wulf winced. He had a habit, it seemed, of saying the wrong thing, but he couldn't take it back now. But Alex's words weren't embarrassed or angry, they were surprisingly humble where the tech might have expected a harsh rebuke. That relaxed his shoulders some as he walked across to sit on the free bench and notch the levels down some from where they'd previously been.

"Doesn't sound idiotic," Wulf said, apologetically. He hadn't followed in the family tradition, but he wasn't about to get into that here and now. He was also, he realised, definitely outnumbered by ex-military on the Tross. Not necessarily a bad thing in their line of work.

"But you had fun, right?" He asked, curious and somewhat intrigued by this quiet, sensitive response in the place of the expected cursing and silence. Alex almost sounded as if he wanted to talk about his past, but that could very well be a trap. No one else on the Tross liked delving back into their personal history. Wulf proceeded with caution.

"You broke the Navy?" He asked, tentatively, readying himself for a bad response. "Or you broke yourself?"

Watching Wulf get the workout equipment ready Alex readied himself to stand as his spotter if he needed it, and then answered, "Honestly, I broke myself. And thank you for saying it didn't sound idiotic..." he replied. "I guess you could say I threw everything I'd ever worked for away. All over something completely idiotic," he added.

He had never planned to tell anyone on this ship anything about his past. They had the official records, that's all that mattered. If they wanted more they could go digging for it. He'd like to see them try to get past the MCRN redacting teams though. They were notoriously tight-lipped about anything and everything to do with their people, even those in disgrace. Now, here he was, in the room with someone he found wildly attractive and apparently preparing to spill his guts about the whole stupid thing.

As Alex spoke, Wulf went through a gentle warm-up, then lay back on the bench and started benchpressing at about half his bodyweight. He listened to the medic talk, noting the inflection of the other man's voice, but keeping his eyes upward to the ceiling of the room. "Doesn't sound good," Wulf said, in time with the motion of his arms. "For what it's worth, you don't seem like an idiot," he added, with a slight smile. He couldn't ask outright, Ken and Mickey had mostly drummed that questioning out of him, but Wulf was definitely intrigued and Alex was leading him in the direction of direct questions already. "Okay," the tech said. "I'm real curious," he screwed up his face, "but I'm not 'sposed to ask people about their past."

Alex drew his brows down, furrowing them in confusion, "You can ask me anything you want. I may not answer you right away, or you may not like the answer I give, but you can ask me anything," he said, looking back up at Wulf's face.

"And to answer your curiosity, well, it's pretty simple really. I was on leave, had a couple weeks saved up and figured I'd use them. I went back home to Mars, and spent a few days with the family, and then decided I wanted to have a little more fun than an MCRN can really have on the homeworld, so I headed out to the Belt.

"It's sorta frowned upon for us to do that, but most of the time they just look the other way. So, I booked passage and lodging for a week to stay out on one of the smaller pockets of humanity where I knew I could just let loose and blow off some steam. Spent the first couple of days just relaxing. It wasn't a great place. It damn sure wasn't pretty. But it had bars, and it had people eager to please if you get my drift..."

"So, after about four days I guess I was getting a little ballsy, needed to up my game, and I decided to check out one of the more upscale bars I'd heard about. It was supposed to be open to everyone but was a particular hangout spot for the more well-to-do, and more well connected OPA elite. It was pretty clear when I walked in that what I'd heard was right. Lots of nice clothes, lots of expensive drinks, and lots of open hostility on the faces of the people around me when they saw that I was clearly from the inner worlds.

"Somehow I ended up getting into a fight, it was after I'd been there for a while, had a few drinks, and apparently I'd pissed off the wrong people. I don't really remember the fight, I just know I woke up in an alleyway, my head killing me, as well as a few other places on my body, and a really bad burning pain on my right forearm."

Holding out his right arm, wrist exposed, he showed Wulf the spot of scar tissue just above the wrist on the inside of his forearm. "They'd branded me with an OPA tatt," he said.

"So, I freaked. I didn't know what the hell to do, but I knew one thing, there was absolutely no way I could go back to my posting sporting an OPA tatt. If I survived the ass-kicking for being so stupid, I'd still probably end up in the brig.

"I looked for hours, trying to find someone that would help me get it off, but no one was willing to do anything about it. They just told me to fuck off or got really quiet when I told them what I needed. Found out later my picture had been passed around by internal security, and they'd been told not to help me under any circumstances.

"It wasn't until I got back to Mars three days later that I found out they'd also sent a vid to Mars showing the fight, showing me getting my ass kicked, and the branding. They even claimed that I'd wanted the tatt, and they had to have drugged me, because in the video it looked like I had actually gone along with it all there at the end. They made a pretty detailed, and involved story up, and the MCRN brass weren't interested in hearing my side of the story. The only one that finally did listen still recommended my dismissal because I had been stupid enough to even risk it, knowing that the bar was crawling with higher placed OPA.

"So, a week and a half spent in a jail cell on Mars, brought out only to go to my court-martial hearings, and then a summary dishonorable discharge for the embarrassment I'd caused them. It was publically broadcast for all of Mars to watch. Meant to shame me for my stupidity. And that's how I ended up here. For the first few months, I couldn't even get interviews for jobs. They just didn't even call back. Then, as the story faded, I started getting called back, but then, as soon as I showed up, they either recognized my face, or they found the record of my dismissal, and the job opportunity suddenly just disappeared..."

Suddenly realizing he'd just told this man the entire story Alex shut his mouth, with an audible click, and clenched his jaw. "Sorry, I don't know why I just told you all that..." he mumbled, going stony-faced, and his body language taking on clear signs of his embarrassment.

Wulf had paused mid-workout to simply stare up at Alex as the medic began a seriously involved tale of woe with a familiar name supplying the bad guys. He watched, wide-eyed and somewhat stunned, for the first bit, then pushed up the weight limit a little and kept exercising. He figured Alex didn't need him watching him outright through the whole story, and Wulf kept his mouth shut too, just let the guy talk.

Usually this kind of download required a major drinking session to unravel, but for whatever reason, the ex-MCRN medic was going full-out confession utterly sober. Wulf winced a few times as the words kept coming, but he didn't make a comment until Alex lost his momentum and finally withdrew into a state of personal humiliation.

"Whoa, dude," said the tech, letting go of the kit, sitting upright and wiping perspiration from his brow. "So, did you really go flat out looking for a fight with the OPA?" Wulf hit Alex with a look that confirmed he didn't truly understand why anyone would. "They must have thought they'd won the lottery when you strolled in..."

Alex looked up, a bit sheepishly, "Honestly, no. I don't really know what my motivation was for going there. In the back of my mind, I had to know it wasn't going to end well, but it's like I couldn't keep myself from it. I rationalized it as my wanting to go somewhere a little less seedy, and run down, at the time.

"I dunno and I really don't know why I felt like you needed to know all that," he added with a light chuckle. "Probably think I'm either incredibly stupid or really really crazy."

"Self destruct," said Wulf, quietly, and he looked up at the other man's expression, his stance, his furtive gaze. "Sounds like you wanted something bad to happen?" He asked. "I've seen it before." His sister, but Wulf wasn't sure that was a helpful topic right now. "You needed out, but you didn't know how to do that on your own, maybe?" He ventured bravely, taking the deeper personal line from Alex himself.

The tech checked behind him, decided against upping the weight limit any further and stood up. "Secret's safe with me. And I don't think you're stupid or crazy, dude. But either way, the Tross? It's kinda a new start."

"That it is, sir, that it is," Alex replied with a lopsided grin. He still had a bit of awkwardness from the situation in the galley between the two of them, but he thought he was starting to get over it, and no matter what he felt like Wulf was the kind of guy he could really build a friendship with. He was really glad what he'd just said hadn't made the guy see him and differently.

"Sir?" Wulf chuckled, then looked worried and shook his head to emphasize his next request. "No way, don't call me that," he pleaded, adding quietly. "Freaks me out."

He sighed, grabbed his towel and motioned to the door. "I'm gonna go grab a shower." There was a loaded pause in which Wulf considered the words he'd just spoken, then grinned. "Just in case you're wondering," he continued. "That's not an invite. But - wanna grab some movie time after? I've got pretty much everything and we can sit up in Ops with headsets on if you want."

"I didn't mean anything by it, just a turn of phrase," Alex replied in reply to Wulf's response to him saying sir. "And I didn't think it was an invite, but I would love to catch some movie time. Ops, and headsets it is," he added. He could sense that there was still a little residual awkwardness, with Wulf feeling the need to say that he wasn't inviting him into the shower, but it would pass. He suddenly began to wonder what movie they would settle in to watch, and his mind wandered as Wulf exited the gym.

Wulf blushed a little and stared at his own feet. He'd made it worse, when he'd meant to make it easier, and he wasn't sure how to fix that. So he looked up, slowly and apprehensively, as Alex responded. Maybe not totally made it worse, the guy seemed to be taking it pretty well considering.

"Okay, cool," Wulf responded, somewhat lamely as he shuffled towards the door. He turned back as he stood just outside it, looked up at Alex in all his muscled glory and offered a lopsided smile. "Pick any movie you like, I'll have it."

End Scene

 

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