by Kikuna Matata (菊菜 瞬)


Phil takes Joaquim down from the clinch with a standing leg sweep, but Joaquim is fast, the fucker, and he gets Phil’s face once on the way down and again on the ground, trisecting Phil’s head with two searing lines of pain. Phil’s head is spinning, but he drags himself together and pushes through, slamming the meat of his hand into Joaquim’s head twice before Kiet calls it and Phil releases, staggering up and back, then bending in to help Joaquim up. Everything is roaring, everywhere, and Phil’s right eye is stinging.

“You all right, man?” he yells to Joaquim, patting his shoulder. The promoter’s assistant, the skinny Asian guy with hipster glasses and a blue plaid shirt, is still watching them so intently Phil can feel it.

Joaquim nods, looking a little out of focus, but Kiet is leaning in and saying, “Borrell, Dr. Jake better look you over—Navarro, get yourself cleaned up,” which is when Phil realizes he’s bleeding.

Hipster Glasses holds the cage door open while Phil helps Joaquim out.

“Need a hand?” Hipster Glasses asks.

“Nah, thanks,” Phil says, trying to maneuver Joaquim down the narrow aisle through the crush of folding chairs and loud, standing bodies. This time, they’ve got something like a real backstage setup, almost, with a half-height folding partition set up to block off the little wedge of space next to what Phil suspects must’ve been the manager’s office, back when this was a working warehouse. Phil has to pound his fist on the frame of the open door, though; Dr. Jake’s asleep at the desk with his chin on his hand.

“Dr. Jake,” Phil hollers. On the other side of the half-height partition, the crowd is losing their shit—Sarah and Alicia’s match, probably; they never whistle like that for the men. Dr. Jake startles up, lurching to his feet to help Phil get Joaquim across the narrow step and a half to the exam table. It’s not a real exam table, just a folding banquet table, but Dr. Jake’s covered it with a wrestling mat and a roll of exam table paper. Dr. Jake’s a good guy.

“Wipes and gauze on the desk, Navarro,” Dr. Jake says, “and close the door.”

Phil closes the door. The noise is cut by a third, at least, leaving Phil’s ears aching with the absence. He grabs two wipes to clean off his hands, then tears open a gauze square to press against his bleeding forehead and drops down onto Dr. Jake’s abandoned rolling desk chair, kicking his aching legs out. The door opens in a rush of sound, and Hipster Glasses slips in with two bottles of Kirkland-brand water, then closes it behind him. He tosses one bottle to Phil, who catches it with his left hand—gracelessly, but grateful.

“You with me, Borrell?” Dr. Jake is asking, shining a light in Joaquim’s eyes.

“Yeah,” Joaquim mumbles. Hipster Glasses cracks the top on the other bottle and holds it out to him.

“Because you don’t look like you’re with me,” Dr. Jake says.

“I’m with you, Doc.” Joaquim takes three huge, desperate gulps of water. “You should see the other guy.”

Hipster Glasses straightens up, looking uncomfortable, but Phil and Dr. Jake both laugh, so Hipster Glasses eventually does too.

“Well, if you can still talk trash,” Dr. Jake says. “Go away, come back before you leave for the night; don’t think it’s a concussion but you should probably see Dr. Chang in the morning. Your turn, Navarro.”

Joaquim clambers down stiffly, and Phil knocks his knuckles against Joaquim’s hip on his way past. “Good fight, man,” Phil says.

“You hit like fucking truck, you shithole,” Joaquim tells him, then pats Phil on his less-torn up cheek and lurches out, probably to track down a beer and chat up Beatriz before her match against some Vancouver nobody who’s been wasting her energy shadowboxing in the back corner since she showed up. Beatriz has thighs with roughly the same girth and muscle density as Phil’s and has never once deigned to give Joaquim the time of day, two facts which both fill Joaquim with irritatingly boundless delight.

“Mr. Navarro,” Dr. Jake says, “my congratulations.”

“Aw, shucks, Doc,” Phil says, heaving himself up onto the table. From over by the door, Hipster Glasses laughs as the table creaks under Phil’s weight. Phil wonders why Hipster Glasses is still hanging around, but instead of asking that, he says, “Is this thing actually going to support me?”

“How much do you weigh?” Dr. Jake says.

Phil smiles. “Says two oh three on my card, doesn’t it?”

“Right, so…” Dr. Jake leans his hip against the table. “Two fifteen, two twenty?”

Phil shrugs, and Dr. Jake sighs and yanks the gauze off Phil’s face. “Ow,” Phil protests, wounded, looking over at Hipster Glasses, who shifts—hmm—and—

“Shut up, you big baby,” says Dr. Jake, as he goes to town with antiseptic and Avitene.

* * *

Hipster Glasses waits the whole time Phil’s getting patched up, then hangs back to talk to Dr. Jake, which is… well, not quite what Phil expects, he’ll leave it at that. The cuts on his face are really not as bad as they look—just messy, mostly—so Phil’s still left sweaty and buzzing with adrenaline without enough pain to slow him down, but with these under-the-radar fights, he doesn’t even have access to a shower to cool himself off. Instead he ducks into the bathroom and washes himself as best he can with hand soap and paper towels, then balls up his jock and cup in his shorts and stuffs them back into his bag. He pulls on sweatpants, socks, sandals, then yanks on his t-shirt—he leaves his hoodie—and sidles out the back door of the warehouse into the late-night Seattle mist. It hits his bare arms like a blow, startlingly cold; it feels amazing. Phil closes his eyes.

He’s actually starting to get a little chilly by the time the roar of the crowd billows out, then dies down again as the door snaps shut behind it. Phil looks over just as Hipster Glasses leans back against the wall just on the other side of the door, rooting around in the chest pocket of his shirt and tugging out a pack of American Spirits and a cheap plastic lighter. Hipster Glasses lights up, then turns his face up towards the sliver of sky hanging low between the buildings, and exhales a thin, white stream.

Phil shifts. He doesn’t smoke, but he likes the smell.

“Good bout,” Hipster Glasses says, without looking over. His voice is deep, Phil’s noticing—surprisingly so, for such a skinny guy. Hipster Glasses shoots him an off-side look, then adds, “That takedown,” voice dropping even lower, in a way that sets Phil’s skin buzzing all over again.

“Thanks,” Phil says. He clears his throat, then rubs the back of his hand over his mouth, then turns to lean over. “I’m Phil,” he says, and holds out his hand. It’s awkward: he’s ended up leaning across the door, and Hipster Glasses is holding his cigarette in his right hand.

He sticks it in the corner of his mouth and shakes Phil’s hand. “Corey,” he says, then smiles, eyes dropping down to Phil’s mouth and back up again fast enough that Phil almost misses it—almost, but not quite.

Phil’s face is still stinging: his slit eyebrow, the line running down the right side of his nose. He knows what he looks like; apparently Hipster Glasses doesn’t care. “I’m done for the night,” Phil says, because subtlety is overrated, and Hipster Glasses drops his cigarette and stomps it out.

“I’m not,” he says, “but,” and then hooks his finger in the waistband of Phil’s sweatpants and drags him down the alley and up towards Lander, walking backwards. He tucks his other hand in his pocket and the lights on a dark-colored Accord flash, just to Phil’s left, as Phil’s pulse picks up and Hipster Glasses’s knuckle slides down Phil’s belly, under his sweatpants.

“Shit,” Phil gasps, and pushes Hipster Glasses back against the door before Hipster Glasses can get it open. Hipster Glasses laughs, right up against Phil’s mouth, and wraps his hand around Phil’s cock.

“This commando thing,” Hipster Glasses asks, his baritone rough, “is this a fighter thing, or—”

“It’s a fucking ‘no fucking locker room’ thing, Jesus,” Phil gasps, pressing up into his fist, “fucking—”

“Christ,” Hipster Glasses groans, and slithers down to his knees, digging a condom out of the nowhere space in the front pocket of his jeans and rolling it on Phil’s cock practically before Phil has time to blink.

“Oh my God.” Phil braces his hands on the window frame, panting, as Hipster Glasses drags him into his mouth. “I’m really,” Phil manages, just barely, “I haven’t—I’m, fucking, drenched in sweat, I smell—”

“You smell,” Hipster Glasses groans, pulling back, “amazing,” and then swallows Phil back down, and Phil stuffs his own fist in his mouth to keep himself quiet. Hipster Glasses sucks him off hard and fast, and Phil comes, he thinks, faster than he ought; he can’t bring himself to care. He drags Hipster Glasses up by the lapel and shoves his tongue in Hipster Glasses’s mouth; he can’t get Hipster Glasses’s fucking skinny jeans open so he just rubs him through them, hard enough to bring Hipster Glasses, gasping, “Shit, shit, shit,” right up to the edge, grabbing Phil’s wrist and holding him still long enough to unbutton, and Jesus. Phil can’t stop kissing him long enough to suck him off, so he jerks him instead, once, twice. Hipster Glasses, groaning and coming all over Phil’s wrist, doesn’t seem to mind.

“I was,” Hipster Glasses says, between kisses, “going to get you into my car,” as he squeezes Phil’s hips, and Phil laughs.

“You’re a real romantic, aren’t you?” Phil pulls on Hipster Glasses’s hair, and Hipster Glasses fucking whimpers, Jesus. “Because nothing says romance like—”

“I swear to God,” Hipster Glasses says, “if you make fun of my car,” and Phil laughs.

“Would I do that?” Phil kisses him, and Hipster Glasses makes a series of soft, low noises, and then lets go of Phil’s hips to zip up his jeans.

“I,” Hipster Glasses says, and then laughs, then says, “I think my smoke break’s over,” and then kisses him again, and then says, “I’ll see you around, though? Or, do you—if you stay, I can give you a ride, or—”

“Yeah,” Phil nods, brushing his mouth over Hipster Glasses’s—Corey’s—mouth. “I could use a ride, actually. Thanks.”

“Yeah.” Corey laughs, and eels out from in between Phil and the Accord, which flashes its lights. “Yeah.” He rubs his hands on his jeans. “I.” He laughs again. “All right.”

* * *

Phil ends up hanging out and drinking four successive bottles of the free Kirkland water while Hipst—Corey does his thing through the last four fights. As far as Phil can tell, Corey’s mostly there to get yelled at by the promoter, deliver unwelcome news to the various coaches and trainers, and run what seem to be completely pointless errands between the promoter, Dr. Jake, and Kiet’s son Johnny, who’s playing security guard tonight. Phil ends up getting caught up talking Charlie down after his last round with with Vince Heller, which leaves Vince—never stable—cursing and spitting blood into Charlie’s face outside the cage, which is really just unnecessary; but Phil manages to get Charlie cooled off and into a cab, then ducks back into the warehouse just in time to find the promoter paying Corey by way of a totally classy envelope full of cash.

“Thursday,” the promoter is saying, “if you want the extra—”

“I know, I know,” Corey’s saying. “I’ll be there, seriously.”

“Sure.” The promoter nods. “And on time, Ikeda.”

“Yeah,” Corey says, grinning, and the promoter rolls his eyes, then glances at Phil and frowns. “I’m giving him a ride,” Corey explains, folding the envelope in half and, impossibly, tucking it into the front pocket of his jeans. He extracts his car key, saying, “C’mon,” so Phil shoulders his bag and follows.

“Ikeda!” the promoter calls after them.

“I know, I know!” Corey holds the door open for Phil to step out into the late-night drizzle. “Thursday, six o’clock!” He drags the door shut behind them, then turns and looks at Phil, who is pulling his hoodie up over his head.

“He seems cool,” Phil says, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“Oh, fuck you,” Corey says, laughing.

Phil says, “Please.”

Corey raises an eyebrow as he heads up towards the Accord and asks, “That line work for you often?” but he ends up following Phil up into his apartment and fucking him on the sofa, so Phil thinks it was probably rhetorical.

* * *

Phil’s roommate Joe works nights, but even though Corey’s already gone home and Phil’s fixed the couch cushions and showered and—very, very carefully—shaved, it takes Joe about a third of a second between walking in the front door in the morning and asking, “Good night?” with deadly sarcasm.

“Yeah,” Phil says, pouring him a second mug of coffee and sliding it across the bar. “Want me to tell you all about it?” He leans his hip against the counter and takes another bite of his bagel.

“Nah, that’s cool.” Joe sets his grocery bag on the carpet, drops his keys into the bowl by the door, and shrugs off his coat.

Phil tucks the bite bagel into his cheek. “Because his hands,” he says, and moans theatrically, while Joe is dumping oranges out of the bag and onto the bar.

Joe grabs an orange and lobs it at Phil’s head, but Phil catches it, laughing around his bagel. “I’m going to make you watch me and Annmarie’s home videos,” Joe says, sliding up onto the stool on the other side of their kitchen bar.

“Fine, fine, I’ll spare your delicate heterosexual feelings.” Phil peels the orange. “Thanks.”

“Sure.” Joe gulps his coffee. “You win?”

“Yeah,” Phil says, then shrugs. “But it was Joaquim. We’re not really evenly matched.” They’re not. Phil’s been fighting since he was sixteen. A year ago, Joaquim was one of those punks who thinks a black-belt in karate counts a lot more in the cage than it actually does—namely, not at all.

“Well, congrats anyway,” Joe says. “You coming out with me and Annmarie tonight?”

Phil finishes off his bagel and wipes his hands on his jeans. “Sure,” he says, “if I don’t look too gruesome.”

“I dunno,” Joe says casually. “I could take or leave the facial lacerations, personally, but the four massive hickeys really add something.”

Phil throws a piece of orange peel at Joe’s face.

* * *

Here’s the thing: Phil has plenty of shit going on. He has a job he likes, mostly because it involves zero client contact, and a bunch of coworkers who are all pretty bizarre in their own rights, and if they kind of don’t get why Phil has a hobby that ends with him coming in a couple times a month with his face half bashed in, they don’t make a big deal about it, either—or, well, other than Karen, their fundraising intern, who’s twenty years old and has red hair and big, worried brown eyes, and who insists on bringing him cups of tea from the cafe down the street and homemade cranberry muffins; but Karen’s solicitude is harmless, if misguided, and Phil likes cranberry muffins, so he doesn’t really mind. Phil works forty-five hours a week and trains another twelve to fifteen; he has friends living all over the city and more scattered around the Pacific Northwest; and the Friday after his fight with Joaquim he and Joe accidentally adopt a puppy; so basically, the point is, Phil has a lot of shit going on. He’s not, like, pining by the phone, or anything, but he did give Corey his number, and by the time Corey actually uses it, nine days later, Phil’s self-aware enough to admit that that week and a half was kind of stressful.

do u like metal? unknown number asks.

Phil licks his lips. corey? he types back.

hi :-)

then yeah, Phil replies, feeling a little dangerous, I like metal.

So Phil goes to watch Corey’s band—which, yeah, Phil should’ve seen that coming—play a really pretty decent set on a Thursday night and then ends up hooking up with him out on the residential street behind the club—though, this time, they do actually make it inside Corey’s Accord. It’s objectively a pretty embarrassing date, for two guys in their late twenties, but it’s not exactly bad. It just makes Phil feel a little bit like he’s in high school again, except he didn’t know anyone who could give head like that when he was in high school.

“So,” Phil says, breathless, with his arm draped heavily around Corey’s skinny shoulders, legs crammed up against the back of the passenger seat, currently occupied by a Corey’s comically battered bass. “You’re, like. In a band.”

Corey cleans his glasses on the hem of his sweaty BlöödHag t-shirt and says, “Depends,” then, giving him a kind of lopsided smile, “Is it hot?”

Phil tilts his head to the side, considering, and Corey laughs and punches him in the arm, so Phil’s basically obligated to mess up his glasses again.

* * *

Joe and Phil got drunk and named the dog Merengue, and she is—to Joe’s endless amusement—a boxer mix. Joe and Phil first heard her crying through their open window and then went down to check it out and found this tiny little puppy, all feet and ears, tied to a tree in the park and then left all night in the cold. They had to take her home.

So. That was pretty much the end of that.

Merengue is a good-natured little guy: she adores Joe; snuggles up with Annmarie; flirts with Corey, when he’s over, with her nose down on the carpet and her butt up in the air, squeaking her toy aggressively to persuade Corey of its immeasurable superiority to anything else he might happen to be doing—like, say, Phil—but it becomes pretty clear pretty fast that she’s without a doubt Phil’s dog. It’s mostly because he works just down the street and has semi-flexible hours, so he comes home four times a day to walk her; but it still means that she tolerates Joe leaving just fine, but when it comes to Phil leaving, she just cries and cries and cries. Her partiality isn’t the end of the world or anything—it’s honestly kind of flattering—but it does mean that Phil and Corey have been… hanging out, or whatever, for two and a half months, and they still always, one hundred percent of the time, hang out at Phil’s place—or, well, sometimes in Corey’s ridiculously ancient green Accord, but that’s really more of an emergency stopgap measure than a conscious decision.

Not a big deal. Except—except that Corey lives alone, and Phil’s building is old and has thin walls, and he figures if he can hear every word of Mrs. Birn’s soap operas she can probably hear everything going on in their apartment, too. Also not a big deal, except—except. Phil doesn’t date much. The—well, the fighting, and everything. It tends to be an issue. Except that in Phil’s next fight Oscar breaks two of his fingers, and Corey forgoes his end-of-night envelope of cash in favor of watching in silence while Phil sits in the ER waiting for a real doctor to set his hand; and then, back in Phil’s apartment, uses one hand to pin Phil’s hands up over his head at the wrong angle and rests the other over Phil’s mouth while he slides his cock in and out of Phil’s hypersensitive hole, rough and slow, as Phil tries not to cry.

That’s. That’s the thing. Phil likes Corey’s stupid glasses and decent metal band and deep, braying laugh, and the sex is really, really good, but it’s really good by accident, and Phil doesn’t have any illusions that that’s going to keep happening forever. And there are some things that Phil’s starting to think he maybe can say to Corey, but he definitely can’t say them to Mrs. Birn and her soaps.

All through December, Phil babies his hand and has a lot of sex with Corey while, just on the other side of Phil’s bedroom door, Merengue sniffs interestedly along the carpet; in January, Corey shaves his hair into a mohawk that Phil probably should not be as into as he actually turns out to be; at the start of February, Phil’s cleared by his trainer, and on the twenty-fourth he invites himself over to Corey’s place for after the fight (with his hands in Corey’s pants, because Phil likes to set himself up to win); talks Joe into looking after Merengue for the night, no matter how much she may complain; and then KOs Mark Christie forty-two seconds into the second round, but not before Christie, getting Phil flat on his face with a takedown Phil should’ve seen coming, pounds Phil’s upper back halfway to a pulp and re-dislocates his right shoulder.

Phil spends a truly agonizing half-hour breathing through gritted teeth while Dr. Jake talks him through popping his shoulder back in, as Corey, just on the other side of the portable screen—no convenient manager’s office, in this warehouse—yells at the promoter about something Phil can’t entirely understand. Money, Phil thinks dizzily; seems confirmed, when Corey, red-faced and furious and empty-handed with four fights to go, ducks back in to Dr. Jake saying, “There—but you really need to go to Dr. Chang in the morning, Navarro,” and Corey says, “I’m taking you home.”

“Your place,” Phil says, just outside, while Corey digs out his keys.

“Fuck, I’m not going to—” Corey stops and breathes out through his teeth, hard. “Don’t you think—”

Phil laughs. “I’m fine,” he says. “And Joe’s probably screwing Annmarie on the kitchen counter, so—”

“Phil,” Corey says, head tilting, not looking at his face, and Phil tugs at Corey’s shirt, even though it makes his arms and shoulders complain. He has pills, from Dr. Jake. He’s not going to take them.

“Your place,” Phil says, and rubs his hand over Corey’s crotch, his cock already obvious through his painted-on jeans, and Corey breathes out. “I’m fine,” Phil adds, and stretches his arms out above his head by way of demonstration. “See?” He flexes. It hurts, just enough, so he strikes a couple body builder poses to make Corey laugh, then puts his hands back on Corey’s waist. Hips. Ass. “Your place,” Phil repeats.

“Yeah,” Corey says, breathing out, “all right.”

* * *

Corey’s place turns out to be a third-floor studio in Capitol Hill, containing a pretty impressive collection of random musical instruments crammed into dusty floor-to-ceiling industrial shelving along two of the walls, a pocket-sized kitchen looking disgruntled along the third, and an afterthought of a bed, covered in rumpled navy blue sheets, along the fourth, tucked in between an upright bass and a life-size cardboard cutout of Boba Fett. The ride wasn’t long enough to give Phil’s heart a chance to entirely stop thumping behind his ears, so he grabs the back of Corey’s head while Corey’s still trying to hang his keys up on the hook by the bookshelf by the door. It’s weird; Phil kind of thought Corey might need some convincing—Corey did have to switch his focus enough to drive the car, after all, parallel parked it and everything—but the keys thunk against each other on the carpet instantly, and Corey pushes Phil’s sore back against the door. Phil can feel Corey smiling, just a little. Corey’s hands are fisted in the front of Phil’s hoodie, his knee pushing between Phil’s as he licks into Phil’s mouth, and Phil gives up on trying to predict how any of this is going to go with, he thinks, remarkably good grace.

“What do you want to do?” Corey asks, casually enough, and Phil wants everything but Corey’s grinding into Phil’s thigh and Phil can’t help grinding back, which seems like—

“Not,” Phil manages, “not, not anything you can do to me standing up, I—” but he doesn’t finish, can’t, not with Corey dropping his hands to shove Phil’s sweats down, grab his ass, pulling him apart.

“Want to bet on that?” Corey asks, around half a laugh.

“Shit,” Phil says, and Corey laughs for real. He knees at Phil’s sweats, which, stretched tight, pop down over Phil’s calves and drop to his ankles. “Jesus.” Phil tightens his hand in Corey’s mohawk, saying, “You can’t—there’s no way you can,” and then, as Corey’s hand hooks Phil’s left thigh up around his side, “I weigh two hundred and nineteen pounds.”

“Better hold onto the shelves, I guess,” Corey says, breathless, and pushes his first two fingers into Phil’s mouth.

Phil tells him, “You’re fucking crazy,” but it ends up sounding more like Yo hucking kay hay, but Corey just laughs against his cheek, then rubs the pads of his fingers over Phil’s tongue and licks at the corner of Phil’s mouth. Phil feels like he’s going to fall over, so he grabs onto the bookshelves, which pulls a stretched, delicious ache out of his deltoids and trapezius, but he doesn’t drop his leg down from around Corey’s side. It feels like a terrible decision; Corey can’t really believe he can hold Phil up, but Phil still, illogically, wants to find out if he can. Corey is pressing Phil’s body between his body and the the door, his fingers dripping spit trails across Phil’s chin as he drops his hand to Phil’s throat—Jesus—then ass—Christ—and Corey digs his fingers into Phil’s crack, spreading him open as he pushes Phil up, and Phil’s right heel lifts off the floor.

“Shit,” Phil gasps, banging his head back against the door, hard, twice, “I—unh—”

“Yeah?” Corey asks, low, and drags Phil’s standing leg forward; Phil tenses up, his foot sliding inside his sandal as all his joints lock up. Corey stills. “Or.”

“No, no, I—” Phil’s heart is slamming around in his throat, going in every direction at once, and when he laughs, it hurts. “You’re trying to pull me off my feet, and I’m kind of—I’m pretty w-well trained to—”

“Yeah,” Corey says, low, and presses the tip of his finger just into Phil’s asshole, then keeps going.

“Jesus,” Phil gasps, and kicks his foot out, squirming, probably too fast and definitely without warning, but Corey gasps, and then presses his knees against the door under Phil’s thighs, just barely catching Phil’s weight. “You,” Phil says, “I’m going to—to throw out your back, or—” falling into a wide-open endless vowel as Corey, panting, fucks him hard and shallow with one finger, his other hand flexing on Phil’s ass. “You—” Phil groans, face hot, scrubbing the back of his head against the door for something to think about other than Corey’s finger, relentless and hard and fast, like he could go for hours, fuck Phil through coming and softening and then fuck him hard and start over again, like Corey’d ever be able to hold him up half that long. Phil clings to the bookshelves, which rattle, and his cock leaks all over the hem of his hoodie and the front of Corey’s skinny jeans, and they kiss and kiss and kiss until Corey pulls back bare millimeters to say, breathless, “You—you’ve got to, I have a condom in my pocket,” and then, lower, “I need you to undo my jeans.”

“Your jeans—” Phil swallows, breathing hard. He’s hanging onto the shelves so hard his knuckles are going numb. “I’d need—need a fucking crowbar to—”

“Get my cock out of my jeans,” Corey interrupts, voice rough, “and I’ll put it inside you.”

Phil groans. Fuck. He, he can’t—no one could possibly expect him to—he can do this, he has to; if he can just force his muscles to listen, force his hand to obey, so he works on his grip one resistant knuckle at a time until he can make himself let go of the bookshelf. He puts his hand on Corey’s face—scrubs at the fabric over Corey’s chest—jerks himself once, just so he won’t actually die—and then finally gets his fingers down to Corey’s waistband and works on his fly. Corey’s jeans are button fly, with five buttons, none of which are cooperative even when Corey’s not fingerfucking Phil in this too-fast-too-shallow way that makes Phil’s blood feel like it’s all about to vaporize out of his ears; and Corey’s jeans are so tight that even fully open they stay just in place, baring Corey’s wiry pubes and thick cock without actually falling down enough to let them actually fucking fuck.

“Christ.” Phil hisses, shoving at Corey’s jeans while Corey gasps, “Okay, um—condom,” and Phil groans but digs it out of Corey’s right pocket anyway.

“I,” Phil grits out, “hate you really a lot,” trying to tear it open with his impossibly clumsy and uncooperative hands.

Corey shakes his head, mouth rubbing against Phil’s cheek, and presses the tip of his middle finger in too, just barely, then swears, “Shit, this angle fucking sucks, just—” and then groans as Phil rolls the condom on—maybe—and then Corey drags Phil up higher, knees over his arms, and slams up into him, with Phil desperately trying to drag his weight up, up, while everything in the apartment rattles against its shelves.

“Oh, shit.” Phil’s eyes are rolling back in his head, Corey moaning into his throat as his hips work hard, fast, a little too dry and perfectly hard, Jesus. Phil wants—Christ, he wants—he wants to get on his hands and knees, wants Corey to fuck him until all his joints ache; wants to lie on his face with his ass in the air while Corey does him with his cock or his tongue or those long, skinny fingers, a toy when he doesn’t have the energy to do it any other way; wants Corey to touch him harder and more and harder until every nerve in Phil’s body is screaming from it; wants Corey to hold him down with his big hands squeezing new and better marks into his scraped and battered hands. Corey shifts him up, slamming the overheated, mushy bruise all over the back of Phil’s shoulders right into the door, and then fucks up into him as Phil gasps, “Ah—Christ, yeah, there, there—”

“Shit,” Corey is gasping, somewhere far away, his hips stuttering, and Phil’s cock is already starting to spurt, just—just a little bit more

“Don’t,” he can hear himself groaning, “don’t, don’t stop,” as his toes clench up in his socks, his abs clenching as he shoots onto Corey’s shirt.

“I,” Corey groans, and then thrusts up, yes, Jesus, “the condom,” and Phil moans and bears down, hard, and Corey says, “Shit, shit,” and fucks up into him, again—and again—and again—

Phil feels like he’s in free-fall, but he still has enough self-preservation instinct to grab back up at the shelves when Corey’s balance slips as he comes, and Christ. Phil can feel him. Phil can feel him, and his back muscles stretching to the limit, and this was—this was either the worst idea ever, or—

“Jesus,” Corey is gasping, “you—fucking hell—” and then he pushes his hand out against Phil’s battered right shoulder and Phil cries out and grabs the base of his own cock, squeezing hard. “Oh my God, did I—” Corey blinks at him, clumsy as he tries to ease Phil back on to his feet, but Phil grabs Corey’s hand and squeezes and Corey gasps, hard, and Phil presses his forehead to Corey’s forehead as he squeezes his hand over Corey’s hand, digging it in tight to his shoulder as he says, barely hearing himself, “I want, I want you to, I want you to—to,” as he starts to stroke himself, already half-hard again, because he—he can’t, he can’t words. The best he can do is just jerk off with his left arm crossed over his chest, digging Corey’s hand into his shoulder until Corey says, “oh, okay, oh, holy shit,” and squeezes down on Phil’s shoulder without coaxing, and squeezes, and squeezes. Phil’s orgasm feels like someone’s punching him in the toes.

“Oh my God,” Corey is gasping, somewhere very far away.

Phil’s eyes are squeezed shut tight, chest aching, as he gasps for air. He keeps trying to speak and can’t. Shit.

“Phil,” Corey is saying, up against Phil’s jaw, with his hand slipping up to Phil’s neck, “Phil, Phil—”

“Sorry,” Phil gasps, and Corey turns their faces together so Phil kisses him.

“Ice,” Corey gasps, then moans, then says, “your shoulder, I—”

“I’m okay,” Phil says.

“Phil,” Corey says, and Phil shakes his head.

“I’m okay,” he repeats, “I’m fine,” and Corey gasps, “Jesus,” voice strained and aching, and drops his face down against Phil’s good shoulder.

* * *

Corey ends up getting him ice anyway, and makes him take two of Dr. Jake’s pills.

“You know he’s not a real doctor, right?” Phil asks, around the lip of one of Corey’s green dollar-store water glasses.

“Yes,” Corey says, glancing up at his face, just for a second. “But they’re real Vicodin.” He looks away again. “Please,” he says, so Phil swallows the pills.

Corey sits down on the edge of the bed next to Phil’s folded-up knees, then puts his head in his hands.

Phil finishes off his water. There’s no nightstand, so he stretches forward to put the glass on the floor. Corey looks exhausted.

“I’m clean,” Corey says, after a minute. “I mean—I’m not saying we shouldn’t, like—I mean, get checked out and everything, but—”

“That really what you’re worried about?” Phil asks, very quietly.

“No,” Corey says, and sighs. “Just. One thing at a time.”

Corey is quiet for a long, long time, his hands dug into what’s left of his hair.

Phil rubs the back of his hand over his own mouth. “Is it a problem?” he asks. “I mean. The other thing.”

“I didn’t know,” Corey says, without looking at him.

“Is it a problem?” Phil repeats. It’s usually a problem.

Corey rubs at his face and says nothing.

“Right,” Phil says, then slides his legs over the edge of the bed.

“Don’t,” Corey says, quiet, and puts his hand on Phil’s hip.

Phil stops, and Corey slides his arm around Phil’s waist, then rests his forehead against Phil’s shoulder. The left.

“I didn’t know,” Corey repeats, very softly, and Phil looks up at the ceiling, then down to Boba Fett.

“I know,” Phil says, and sighs. “I always feel like I’m not supposed to bring it out of the cage,” he explains, even though he knows it’s a weak excuse. He obviously has been bringing it out of the cage. Not telling Corey he was bringing it out of the cage doesn’t mean he wasn’t.

Corey’s breath is warm against his shoulder, a little damp. “I don’t want you to get broken,” Corey says quietly. His wiry arm is loose around Phil’s waist.

“I think you’re making a bigger deal out of this than it really is,” Phil says, and Corey says, “I take bets.”

Phil blinks. “What?”

“I take bets,” Corey repeats. He rubs his forehead against Phil’s shoulder. “I take bets, on fights. I’m good at the odds; it’s why Sam keeps me around.”

Phil stares at Boba Fett.

“Sometimes,” Corey says, very quietly, “I end up betting against you.”

Phil can feel Corey’s heavy breath, skinny arm. “I,” Phil says, then stops.

The thing is, there isn’t really anything he can say. Phil has a salaried job at a hippie not-for-profit that doesn’t mind if he’s a queer cage fighter with an overly neurotic puppy; Corey plays bass in a metal band and works odd jobs to be able to buy groceries. Somehow I don’t even get paid doesn’t seem to mean what Phil thinks it ought to mean.

“I don’t want you to get broken,” Corey says again, very quietly, and Phil sighs, and turns his mouth against Corey’s stupid mohawk.

“Okay,” Phil says, very quietly, “okay, it’s okay,” and Corey breathes out, and nods.

* * *

It’s not okay.

Phil—okay. Phil tries to be cool about it, he really does, he tries—he tries to believe what he knows: that it isn’t about him, specifically, just an unfortunate side effect of him turning up in a sport that Corey happens to make money from; but it’s hard to not be weird about it when he’s thinking about it all the time. A couple weeks after the fight with Mark Christie, Phil and Corey end up running into Dr. Jake at the Comet—total coincidence, not even a fight in the works to keep Dr. Jake in the city after business hours, but the Comet has cheap Rainier during happy hour and Dr. Jake’s a drunk, not a moron—and when Corey goes to piss, Phil asks Dr. Jake point blank what the line was on that fight with Christie, and then immediately wishes he hadn’t.

Phil can’t decide if it’s better or worse that he was favored; can’t decide how he feels about Corey probably losing money on Phil’s loss to Oscar at the start of December and then pinning Phil’s broken fingers up over his head at a sharp-painful angle and fucking him halfway insensible. It just makes everything… muddy. Phil feels pretty fucking selfish that he keeps seeing it that way, that somehow it got weird that Corey maybe wins and loses in dollars and cents when all Phil has to lose or win is his pride; especially when Phil hadn’t exactly been totally simple and straightforward about everything he might possibly be getting out of near-strangers trying to beat the shit out of him in the cage and Corey fucking him after. But it doesn’t seem to matter what Phil knows. His guts don’t listen. He’s on the bill for a fight with Vince Heller at the beginning of April; and three days beforehand the line is -237/+192, with Vince favored. Phil gets the numbers from Kiet’s son Johnny at the gym after a long training session on a rare clear Sunday, with Corey still at home in Phil’s bed sleeping off his band’s Saturday night set. -237/+192, Jesus. Phil goes for a run.

Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. Phil doesn’t do it for money, never has. It’s not the point. It’s completely irrelevant. Except somehow it’s different to get beaten to a pulp and then convince his boyfriend hold him down while they’re fucking, and to have his boyfriend have a vested financial interest in him getting beaten to a pulp before he holds him down while they’re fucking. It doesn’t matter, except that Phil keeps thinking about it; and after Phil picked up a black eye from a bad block in a training bout against Joaquim at the end of March, Corey had iced it for him and fucked him tenderly, gently, breathing into Phil’s mouth with his eyes closed, like in that moment that was what Phil wanted at all—so clearly it matters to Corey, too.

* * *

The run was probably a bad call. His left knee hasn’t been 100% since his last bout with Tom Lundy before Tom went legit in 2009; but of course it doesn’t start acting up until Phil’s about two miles out from the gym. He’d guess he’s only about half a mile from his apartment, but all his shit, including his keys and phone and ORCA card, are at the gym, in his locker. He just doesn’t know if he’ll be able to make it back. He ends up heading towards his apartment and hoping someone is still in; it turns out to be a good call, because by the time he hits 24th, he’s actively hobbling.

He limps the last half-block to his building. Corey is sitting on the bottom step out front, smoking, with Merengue, who is desperately trying to convince him that she is allowed to play tug with her lead. Corey doesn’t seem like he’s buying it, but he’s smiling around his cigarette as he untangles the leash from her teeth, and he keeps petting her huge, ridiculous ears every time they flop into reach. His feet are bare. It’s not raining, but it was in the night, and it’s still about fifty degrees out. Phil wants to put his hands around Corey’s arches. When Corey looks up at him, Phil’s heart is going too hard for him to smile.

“Hey.” Phil puts his hand on the stair rail, so he can take his weight off his knee, while Merengue rubs her whole little self all over his calves in ecstasy. It’s kind of awkward: sitting on the bottom step, Corey’s mouth is more or less at crotch height, and Merengue or no, Phil’s body is having a completely predictable reaction. “I hope you propped the door,” Phil says, catching her collar with a finger so she won’t accidentally headbutt his boner. “I left my keys at the gym.”

“Joe made coffee cake, Annmarie’s making a frittata,” Corey explains, “I had to look it up in Wikipedia,” and Phil says, “I’m in love with you.”

Corey doesn’t say anything for a second.

“Also,” Phil says, “I think I kind of fucked up my knee.”

“Oh,” Corey says, and then stubs out his cigarette. “Like… ER fucked up, or—”

“Like take me upstairs fucked up,” Phil explains.

Corey’s whole face goes bright, bright red, but he doesn’t look away.

“Because, I mean,” Phil says, “if the problem is you making money off it—”

“It is,” Corey says, fast.

“—you’re not making money off it, right now,” Phil says, very quietly, and Corey’s breath makes a noise in his throat.

“It’s just,” Phil adds, after a second, “for me, it’s.” He clears his throat. “Important.” He clears his throat again. “It’d be a stupid thing to have to tap out over, but. For me, maybe.”

Corey looks away. “You know when to tap out, do you?” he asks, under his breath.

“Yes,” Phil says.

Corey nods. “Because this isn’t—”

“I know when to tap out, Corey,” Phil says.

“Because I mean,” Corey says, “you could get seriously hurt, if—”

“Yeah, let’s not,” Phil says, real quietly. “Because there are ways for that to not happen. So let’s talk about the actual issue.”

Corey rubs at his face. “I’m in love with you, too,” he says, under his breath.

“Yeah,” Phil says.

“But I still need to pay my bills,” Corey says.

“Yeah,” Phil says.

“Seems like it maybe doesn’t say such a good thing about me, making money off people breaking you,” Corey says, very quietly, “when I’m going to get off on it later, too.”

“Maybe,” Phil says, and clears his throat. “But maybe it doesn’t say such a great thing about me either, that I got into fighting when I was sixteen.”

Corey looks away. “Under the radar?”

“Subterranean,” Phil agrees.

Corey says, “Fucking pervert,” without looking up, but he’s smiling.

Phil’s not going to argue with that one. “I mean,” he says, “I guess you could always beat me up independently,” and his cock twitches, which makes him want to laugh even as his skin crawls. “But.”

“That does seem really inefficient,” Corey says, and then laughs, shaking his head.

“Yeah,” Phil agrees. Merengue whines, tugging against his finger, so he bends to take her by her lead instead, as Corey pushes up to his feet, unwinding the handle loop from his wrist.

Merengue puts her front paws up on Corey’s thighs, and Corey says, “Down, baby,” and turns to the side to make her fall back onto all four paws. To Phil, Corey says, “Do you need help up the stairs?”

“Nah,” Phil says, grabbing the railing. “But. I could use a ride to the gym, later, if you’re not doing anything?”

“Yeah.” Corey touches the small of Phil’s back. “I’m not doing anything.”

* * *

The knee turns out to be a problem.

“Ow,” Phil gasps, rolling onto his side, “shit, shit—”

“So,” Corey says, naked, breathless, and red-faced, “that’s a tap-out?”

“Shit.” Phil rubs at his face, blinking hard. “Maybe. Yeah. Shit.”

He spends the next thirty-six hours so focused on keeping it iced and getting it to calm down that he doesn’t really have a lot of time to think about whether or not it’s going to be a longer-term problem—like, not in the cage, it’s not so serious an injury that he doesn’t know how to handle it in the cage—but then all of a sudden he’s jammed into the gym’s rank-smelling sauna trying to make weight and being yelled at by his trainer over a possible excess of weekend coffee cake while Corey bags groceries at the PCC in Fremont and doesn’t text him, because it’s Tuesday and Tuesdays are, apparently, always inexplicably crazy at the PCC in Fremont.

Phil has a lot of time to think, in the sauna.

He doesn’t want his knee to be a problem. He doesn’t want a totally rational tap-out in the middle of the first time Corey knew what he was signing up for to have soured him on it for good. Corey bit his own lip and panted and watched, and it’d been absolutely fucking perfect right up until it wasn’t. But Phil has a fight this week, and he’s careful enough to suspect that if Corey’s going to freak out over Phil’s needing to stop, he’d’ve freaked out ten times worse if he found out later that Phil had needed to stop and didn’t say.

And yeah. For Phil, not a whole lot has changed. The betting still bothers Phil, on a few levels, but Phil’s spent enough time doing kind of mildly shameful searches on Google to know that it’s probable that Corey doesn’t make real money unless the underdog wins, and Corey hates bagging groceries at the PCC in Fremont. Phil always tries to win, always gives it his best; it seems cheap if he doesn’t, and he would never, ever throw a fight, but knowing that Vince is favored, -237/+192 on the money line, makes Phil want to fucking destroy him. When he gets out of the sauna he texts Corey, three times: I want to win for you; and then, I’m going to win for you; and then, hands shaking, after saying exactly the same thing to Johnny and to Dr. Jake—just Jake, during the day, who stops by in his scrubs and hilarious white nurse sneakers to say hi while Phil is hanging out in Dr. Chang’s office waiting for a final checkup on his knee—Phil texts Corey, If I ever ask on another fight, don’t tell me the odds.

Phil would never throw a fight. He wouldn’t.

He just doesn’t want to know, if he’s wrong.

* * *

Phil used to fight as a light heavyweight, before he got careful enough at cutting weight to routinely make it to under 205, and Vince’s only just dropped down, so they’ve fought before.

Vince is a psychopath.

Phil normally doesn’t like to throw that word around, since he’s pretty damn fucking aware that most people think that dudes who spend a lot of free time smashing each other’s faces in for kicks aren’t exactly normal, but Vince would rather injure someone permanently and lose than win a clean and easy fight. Vince, too, is one of the guys who fights in both unlicensed and licensed amateur bouts; he’s probably good enough to go totally mainstream, but mainstream isn’t really vale tudo. The under-the-radar bouts aren’t either—it’s too risky—but they get a hell of a lot closer.

That’d all be fine, except that Corey takes bets. Except that Corey sets the odds, and he knows exactly how Vince fights.

“He’s going to go for your knee,” Corey says, hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel of the Accord.

“He’s actually almost certainly going to go for my shoulder,” Phil says evenly.

“Fuck,” Corey gasps, and when he pulls to a stop at the next red light he puts his forehead on the steering wheel.

“It’s actually good news,” Phil says. “My shoulder feels fine, and my knee’s a way older injury—no one knows I tweaked it again—but he saw Christie put out my shoulder.”

“You need to work on your definition of good news, Phil,” Corey says, rough, and Phil puts his hand on the back of Corey’s neck.

“The light’s green,” he says.

Pretty much the second Kiet sets them off Vince goes for Phil’s shoulder. Phil sees Corey flinch, outside the cage, and then has to maneuver Vince around so Phil isn’t facing Corey anymore. He really can’t afford to be distracted. No one actually weighs what it says on their card, but Vince must be cutting twenty, twenty-five pounds to make it with the super middleweights like Phil; he’s a fucking tank, and he’s fast, and he’s good. He catches Phil with a brutal right cross and then spits in his face, and Phil has to use everything he’s got just to not go down fifteen seconds in to a hammerfist that, in the year and a half since he and Vince last went head to head, Phil had almost forgotten was incredibly aptly named. Vince pounds at Phil’s ribs, his shins; keeps trying to get Phil into a guillotine, which Phil remembers seeing in Vince’s fight with Charlie, too. Phil and Charlie both used to panic in choke holds, but that was a long time ago. Phil kicks Vince twice in the upper thigh, just to get him off-balance, and then ducks and slams into Vince’s abs. Phil started out on his high school wrestling team and he’s still strongest on the mat, so he gets Vince down as fast as he can and then just tries to maintain control. It doesn’t work. Vince gets Phil’s knee by accident and doesn’t miss it when Phil stumbles, trying to get away; Vince aims at his knee, dead-on, the kind of shit he pulls because it’s dangerous and it’s scary, not because it’s actually likely to get him a submission. Phil goes for Vince’s head and neck, feeling desperate; Vince hooks Phil’s legs out from under him and then slams the side of his hand into Phil’s face, and Phil feels his right eyebrow tear in two as hot blood spatters all across his face and the mat.

Phil tries to roll over and push up to his knees—he sees Corey, mouth set, shoulders hunched with his wiry arms folded tight over his chest—Vince gets on his back and gets him down flat, typical fucking ground-and-pound—and Phil—

—Phil tries, but—

—he can’t quite—

—breathe, and—


—Phil taps out.

Above him, Kiet is calling it. Vince takes a little too long to get off him, and Phil closes his eyes.

“Up,” someone is saying. “Up, up—come on, Navarro—”

Phil pushes up to his hands and knees, then up to his feet. He shakes Vince’s hand, he thinks. His knee doesn’t want to support him, but as soon as he gets to the door of the cage, Corey’s arm slides around his waist.

“ER bad or Dr. Jake bad?” Corey asks, breath warm against Phil’s ear.

“Dr. Jake,” Phil says. He nods, even though it makes his skull ache. “Just Dr. Jake.”

* * *

Dr. Jake’s not in the old manager’s office—”I texted him,” Corey says, mouth tight, “he’s on his way”—but his gear bag is open on the desk, so Corey helps Phil up onto the banquet-slash-exam table and gets out instant ice packs, gauze squares, wipes. Corey gets the Avitene out, but he leaves it on the desk, looking pale. Phil presses two gauze squares against his eyebrow to stop the bleeding while Corey carefully wipes Phil’s blood off his face.

“Thanks,” he says, and Corey shakes his head and reaches for an icepack, pops the inside bag and shakes it, then presses it against Phil’s eyebrow.

“You,” Corey says, very quietly, “scared the hell out of me.”

“Kiss me,” Phil says, quiet. Corey leans down, and Phil brushes his mouth over Corey’s mouth and then puts his hand over the bulging crotch of Corey’s jeans, and Corey exhales, and rubs the tip of his nose over Phil’s nose. “I’m sorry,” Phil whispers, and Corey shakes his head.

“Am I going to have to learn how to fight?” Corey asks, mouth curling up, just at the corner. “Just so I can trust who’s doing it to you?”

“You’d never make my weight class,” Phil reminds him, sliding his arm around Corey’s narrow waist. Corey has a smear of Phil’s blood on his cheek, so Phil licks it off.

Corey laughs, rough. “Well, there goes that plan, then,” he says, and then puts the icepack aside to press his forehead to Phil’s.

Phil could count Corey’s heartbeats. Probably wouldn’t, though. Maybe.

“Kiss me,” Corey says. Phil kisses him. Corey sighs, hand sliding up over the back of Phil’s neck, and Phil does one better, drops his mouth down to Corey’s rough jaw, the divot between Corey’s collarbones, framed by his open collar. Corey is sweaty. He spent an awful lot of the time leading up to Phil’s match out back, smoking, and around the lingering coppery thread of his own blood, Phil can taste tobacco and ash and the accumulated bitter-earth tang of Corey’s day.

Corey’s pulse is trembling just under his skin, against Phil’s tongue. Please, Phil thinks, as he mouths at the tendons in Corey’s neck. He licks up under Corey’s stubbly jaw, Please. Corey is already panting, his ribs rising and falling fast and heavy, like he’s been the one in the cage, and he’s rubbing his hand through the back of Phil’s hair, like he can’t completely focus. Phil presses up off the table to put his tongue in Corey’s mouth, and—and there, as Corey groans and digs his hand into Phil’s hair properly. Corey pulls Phil’s head back and kisses him, bruisingly hard; bites Phil’s puffy lower lip and sucks on his tongue; twists his fingers in Phil’s hair and rubs his mouth over Phil’s mouth, already feeling hot and stubble-raw, and then licks a long stripe over Phil’s cheek.

“Unh—ye—yes,” Phil manages, heart slamming up against his ribs. His skin feels hot. His hands are knotted in the back of Corey’s stupid plaid shirt, the fabric taut in his grip. He tugs at it until he can get his hands on Corey’s hot, flat back, with Corey’s mouth on his jaw, his temple, and moving upward, his tongue curling out against the corner of Phil’s eye. Phil gasps and drops the gauze, his whole body jerking, and digs his hand between them and under his shorts to push his cup away from his body, anything for some fucking relief.

“Oh,” Corey gasps, hot against Phil’s stinging eyebrow, “oh, shi—I just, I have to,” and then pulls away and pushes Phil back. Phil catches himself on his elbows, and Corey drags Phil’s shorts and jock down to his thighs, then bends and swallows him down bare, so fast that Phil has to stuff his fist in his mouth to keep himself from crying out. Corey makes a muffled noise of frustration around Phil’s cock and presses his hand flat against Phil’s stomach, rubbing up; he scratches his blunt, bitten nails over Phil’s bruised ribs and then pushes down as Phil arches up. Corey moans, then gags, then moans. “Cor—” Phil gasps, trying to pull back, but Corey makes another unintelligible noise and takes him deeper and is silent. “Oh.” Phil drops his head back, eyes stinging, “oh, God, Corey,” with Corey’s throat everywhere tight and wet around him. Outside, there is a roar, leaking into their silence—and Corey pulls back just enough to breathe, and then takes Phil down again.

Phil’s hips snap up. “Shit,” he gasps, but Corey, Corey is grabbing at Phil’s side, his whole face red as he tries to get Phil deeper, like Phil could get deeper, and Phil is always a little self-conscious when it’s quite this quick, but under the circumstances he feels like he probably has an excuse. He does manage to say, “Cor—Corey,” by way of warning, but Corey just looks up at him with his mouth stuffed full of Phil’s cock and a deeply exasperated furrow between his eyebrows and Phil comes and comes and comes.

“Holy shit,” Phil gasps, dazed, even as Corey is pulling back, pushing Phil back, putting his knee up on the table between Phil’s thighs. Corey’s foot hits Dr. Jake’s desk chair and it rolls away, squeaking, even as Corey is opening his skinny jeans and pushing them down so his cock bobs free, hard and red and Phil, Phil wants, Phil doesn’t even have words for what he wants. Corey pushes Phil back onto his back and Phil gets with the program, pulling Corey in by his stupid half-grown-out mohawk and putting his tongue in Corey’s mouth, rolling onto his side with his leg up over Corey’s hip on the improvised exam table, while Corey slides his cock between Phil’s asscheeks and presses him close together, the head of Corey’s cock just catching against Phil’s hole on each of his hard, irregular thrusts.

“I,” Corey is gasping, into his mouth, “I just have to,” and Phil tells him, “Do it, you can, you can do anything you want to me,” and Corey jerks and groans and jerks, pulsing hot and wet against Phil’s skin. Corey’s voice sounds ripped out of his throat, his fingers bruisingly hard on Phil’s ass as he pushes and pushes, fucking those last few shivers out of himself while Phil’s heart is still pounding in his throat. Corey groans, long and low, and then slides his fingers over Phil’s skin, presses down in between Phil’s cheeks and rubs his fingers through his own come, rubs just over Phil’s hole, until Phil can feel himself starting to get hard again, just barely, and Phil, gasping, hears, “—just look over the kid from the second bout, first,” and Phil’s eyes snap open and Corey gasps, “Shit” and falls off the table.

Phil struggles dizzily up to sitting, and Corey pops back up off the floor, flushed and sweaty with his hair a wreck. He’s half-hopping, half-wriggling back into his jeans, just enough so he can take two steps and grab Phil’s shorts. Corey stuffs himself back into his jeans and zips up, flinching a little, while Phil gets his shorts on, just barely, and then the door opens just as Corey and Phil both see Phil’s jock, lying in plain and highly incriminating view over just next to the trash can.

“Navarro,” Dr. Jake is saying, as he stumbles in, looking down at his fingers as he clumsily unbuttons his coat, as Corey bends and picks the jock up and stuffs it in the trash, which clanks when it shuts. Dr. Jake looks up and over at him, startled.

Corey is rubbing his palms on the thighs of his jeans. “I’ll just,” he says, shifting, “I could get water, or—”

“Yeah, hi, Dr. Jake,” Phil says loudly, because Corey’s idea of acting natural is just fine, for a man selling 100% genuine Levi’s jeans out of the back of his truck.

Dr. Jake, frowning, looks back over at Phil, so then Corey looks over at Phil, too. Corey blinks. Dr. Jake is saying, “Jesus, Navarro, why don’t you have something on that?” and grabbing gauze and a fresh ice pack out of the gear bag, even before as Phil feels the trickle of blood working its way sluggishly down over his eyelid.

“Oh,” Phil says, feeling like an idiot. He wipes at it without thinking. “It’d mostly stopped, I—”

“Don’t wipe at it with your hands, what are you, some kind of newbie?” Dr. Jake hands him a wipe. “Christ, Ikeda, you ought to look after your buddy better.”

“He looks after me just fine,” Phil says.

“Sure, sure,” Dr. Jake says easily, but he doesn’t sound like he believes it. Behind Dr. Jake, Corey is leaning against the wall and looking Phil right in the eye, his arms crossed over his chest. Phil’s heart is pounding in his throat. Corey’s face looks hot. Phil can still feel Corey’s come, slick between his ass cheeks. It is very nearly uncomfortable, but not quite.

“How was the bar?” Phil asks, looking up at Dr. Jake.

“You’re a smartass,” Dr. Jake says, as he cleans Phil’s eyebrow, “and they had a special on Patrón. Couldn’t keep yourself out of trouble for five minutes, could you?”

“Not in my nature,” Phil says agreeably. “Besides, you should see the other guy.”

It’s a complete lie, but when he wrinkles his nose at Corey, Corey looks up at the ceiling. He’s almost smiling, Phil thinks. It makes the knot under Phil’s stomach loosen up, a little.

“I heard he kicked your ass,” Dr. Jake says.

“Yeah,” Phil says, “but I looked way better while he was doing it,” and Corey laughs.

Dr. Jake just pats Phil on his good shoulder, and breaks out the Avitene.

* * * * *

A/N: About 90% of what I know about MMA comes from YouTube and Wikipedia, and I was drunk for the other 10%. Unlicensed fighting is not, to my knowledge, a substantial institution in Seattle, but authorial license, et cetera. Apologies for any accidental implausibilities. In other news: thank you to EJ for epic story-coddling and a super-speed beta. ♥

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