Emory gave up boxing years ago, and his boyfriend, Jonah, is glad he has stuck with that decision. But when Emory loses his job and an old friend offers him a chance at something great if he's willing to go in the ring again, Emory will have to make the hard choice of whether to go back to his old life or stay the safe route and leave boxing behind forever.
Emory walked into the tiny one bedroom apartment on the upper west side of Denver that he shared with his longtime boyfriend at just after six o'clock that evening. His footsteps were slow and heavy, which was perfectly reflective of the train of thought his mind had taken.
Only an hour before coming home, the bombshell had fallen. He'd been sitting at his desk at a downtown law firm where he was a clerk. Without warning, at five o'clock he’d been quietly told to pack his things and go home.
It was the first time he had been fired, and the shock of it all hadn’t worn off even as he set his messenger bag down by the couch and went to see what Jonah was making them for dinner before he had to leave for his job at the strip club.
“Hey,” Emory said, taking off his suit jacket and placing it over the nearest chair as the sirens from the police station down the street started up. “The night is starting early.”
Jonah smirked and spooned some pasta sauce over the spaghetti squash he’d made. “It's usually noisy about this time. How was work?”
Emory tried for a smile and hoped it was convincing. “Decent. Missed you.”
“You could come watch me work. You know the bouncers wouldn’t mind. You’re not like those crazy jealous asses the other strippers are dating.”
Jonah handed him a bowl full of food and he took it to the small dining table they’d found at an antique store the summer before. Dinner was simple, just the way Emory wanted. After being fired he hadn’t wanted more than that. Now he merely had to find a way to tell Jonah what had happened. He’d tell him soon. Just not tonight.
“Yeah, but just because I don’t want to hit them all doesn’t mean I’m not capable of it,” Emory reminded him.
Jonah blew him a raspberry. “Yeah. I know. My big sexy boxer.”
“Ex-boxer,” Emory was quick to remind him. He hadn’t been in the ring since before he was twenty. And that was only for a few months, anyway. He'd never even been paid for it. Now, nearing thirty, he knew he'd given that life up for good.
Jonah gave him a critical once over. "True… But it's also not as if you've lost any shape since then. If anything you've actually filled out more. I look tiny next to you. But I'm not complaining. Far from it, actually."
Emory snickered, shook his head, and went back to enjoying his dinner. Spaghetti squash was a usual thing for them, and though Emory sometimes missed real pasta, Jonah was good about putting enough cheese on the vegetable that he didn't mind it.
Besides, living with someone who had gluten issues meant he wasn't tempted to bring sweets home all the time, which was a big reason he'd been able to stay in shape so well these past few years.
He cleared the table and started the dishwasher while Jonah got ready for work. It was their usual routine since he’d taken the job at the firm. Before that, he'd worked nights at the local hospital. The pay hadn't been as much, but at least they’d had the same schedule back then. It had made missing Jonah easier to know that they would have the afternoons when they both got up to be together. Emory decided to give his old employer a call in the morning. Maybe they'd have an opening for him, and telling Jonah about getting fired would be a lot easier if he already had a new job lined up to replace his old one.
By the time Jonah came out of their bedroom looking comfortable in a pair of old jeans and a sweatshirt, Emory had found a horror movie to get into. He looked up and smiled at his boyfriend as the usual twinges of jealousy started up. The twinges been bad in the beginning when Jonah had first brought up dancing shortly after his twenty-first birthday. Back then, Emory couldn't understand why his shy boyfriend would want to subject himself to being ogled and treated like an object nearly every night.
But it was because he was shy that dancing worked for him. Emory hadn't understood until he'd seen it for himself. Up there on stage with loud music and flashing lights all around him, Jonah became someone else, someone confident and completely unattainable for everyone in the room. Except him. He knew the man behind the teasing smile and assless leather chaps.
Jonah lay down next to him and put his legs over Emory's lap. He started rubbing Jonah's feet in the few minutes he had before leaving for work.
"If you get bored all alone here, you're welcome to come to the club, you know," Jonah reminded him as he lay back over the arm of the couch and closed his eyes.
“Yep. I know. You just want to show me off to your friends.”
Jonah snorted, but they both knew it was true, at least partially. “Maybe I just miss you.”
“You know I miss you, too. And if I get really bored and desperate for overpriced alcohol and bad music, I'll stop by.”
Jonah stuck his tongue out at him.
“But I think I'm just going to watch this movie and then head down to the gym for a while before bed.”
Jonah looked interested. “Shirtless?"
Emory shrugged. “Probably. I get pretty hot there after a good workout.” He honestly didn't think much about what he wore to the gym as long as he was comfortable.
Jonah licked his lips. “Mmmm. Shirtless Emory all tattooed up and sweaty. If people knew they could see you for free, strip clubs all over the country would be out of business.”
Emory highly doubted that. “You'd hate that, though.”