Growth of the Business

Originally posted March 2, 2016.
Contains: long-term weight gain, romance, behind-the-scenes encouraging.

I had this idea swirling around my head based on a certain internet-famous bartender who’s known for flashing his belly while working. Usually gaining takes more of a central role in my stories, and that was originally my plan for this story, but it evolved into a more narrative-driven romance with gaining elements. Maybe not as titillating as my others, but I’m still happy with it.

Synopsis: Johnny is a portly and unintentially-growing bartender for Paco’s Tacos, well known among the locals for his antics behind the bar, including parading around shirtless when the night gets going. When his boss, Linda, notices that business stops growing at the same time Johnny stops putting on more weight, she wonders if she can get the business to grow further by making Johnny grow more. She’s left wondering how she can do that, until help comes from an unlikely source: Troy, the head chef, who also wants to make Johnny grow, albeit for different reasons…

Johnny had worked as a bartender at Paco’s Tacos for about five years. It was the kind of Mexican restaurant and bar that was more popular with white college students than actual Latino people, and had in fact never been owned or managed by anyone named Paco. But it was a living for Johnny, who was one of Paco’s best selling points. His reputation as a local character and veritable entertainer had helped bring Paco’s a new wave of business and him more hours and tips. It was a win for everyone involved.

Part of Johnny’s charm was his shamelessness about his figure. He’d started working at Paco’s with an already stocky frame, and years of free meals and hearty drinking with his coworkers after closing had packed on the pounds to give him a solid, round gut. He was especially known among the bar-goers for taking his shirt off when the night really got going, revealing an animal print thong resting above his low-rise jeans. He owned several thongs in different patterns, which he initially saw as a business investment, but soon took great pride in collecting. He even got the word “grande” tattooed on his stomach, a nickname given to him by the local college students putting their two years of high school Spanish to good use.

It all started one summer day when the AC wasn’t working. Johnny was especially hot from running back and forth waiting on people, and only took off his shirt for a moment to fan himself with it. But to his surprise, the customers got into it, cheering and shouting things like, “Now it’s a party!” The sudden increase in orders from excited diners meant his boss, Linda, could hardly get mad at him for it. In fact, Linda gave Johnny her blessing to try it again. Soon it became one of Paco’s selling points. When the night really got going, that was when Johnny’s shirt came off, with him parading his protruding stomach and fur-patterned thong for all to see, much to the excitement of the drunken crowd.

Johnny didn’t own a scale, as he was indeed as shameless about his body as he seemed, but his weight did seem to level off around the start of his fifth year at Paco’s. He’d settled into a steady pattern with his complimentary meals and after-work drinking, and his weight had steadied out too, with his gut much the same shape and size as a beach ball. He only noticed because he usually had to buy bigger clothes fairly regularly to keep up with his ballooning size, but his current wardrobe had served him fine for a while.

Linda had noticed too. Not just Johnny’s weight leveling off, but also the restaurant’s profits leveling off, and she couldn’t help but wonder if the two were related. Paco’s was hardly struggling, but years of constant growth had left Linda nervous about months when business was “only” steady. Not wanting to appear desperate and possibly ward off new and existing customers alike, Linda decided to start internal to try to kickstart growth again. And not just growth of the business.

But how to go about it? Linda didn’t want to come right out and ask Johnny to gain weight. Even if he said yes, if that got out, it could make his whole character seem like a put-on, like an act done to increase business. But how could she encourage Johnny to plump up without it seeming like there was any meddling involved?

The answer came from an unlikely source: Troy, the head chef. Troy had eyes for Johnny ever since he started working at Paco’s, and that had only become more true as Johnny put on weight. Linda couldn’t help but notice it, though she never said anything about it, reasoning that her employees were all adults who could make their own decisions about their romantic lives. If anything, she got a kick out of how clearly smitten Troy was with Johnny.

Linda’s breakthrough happened one night as the last of the waitstaff were cleaning up and stacking chairs, while Johnny wiped down the bar. Standing around the corner to the employees only area, Linda overheard Troy come out of the kitchen and tell Johnny, “Hey Johnny, somehow an order got put in for a beef burrito that no one picked up. You want it? It’s still warm.”

“Sure!” Johnny replied with his usual gusto.

“Cool, hate for it to go to waste. Let me grab you a box.”

“Oh, no need.”

“There is if I’m going to get this plate washed and go home soon,” Troy quipped back.

“You give me five minutes and this will all be gone,” Johnny boasted.

“If you say so, big guy,” Troy replied as he walked back into the kitchen.

This seemed fishy to Linda. The manager who’d worked at Paco’s before her, Tim, had been a real stickler for not letting any food go to waste, especially meals getting made accidentally. Linda wasn’t that much of a hard ass, but it had still left Paco’s with a workplace culture of not letting orders slip through for anything.

Wanting to do some investigation, Linda walked towards the servers still cleaning the tables, showing a friendly smile. “Hey folks, did every diner you served tonight get their meals?”

All three got wide-eyed, not sure if this meant any of them were in trouble. “I’m pretty sure they did,” one chimed in hesitantly, the other two quickly agreeing.

“Just checking,” Linda reassured. “Good work tonight,” she offered happily as she turned toward the bar. When she reached it, she leaned in to talk to Johnny. “Hey Johnny. Having a late dinner?”

“Oh, no, Troy said no one took this order, and didn’t want it to go to waste,” Johnny replied jovially before eating some of the fries. Johnny started working at Paco’s after the previous manager had left, and being a bartender, he’d never been privy to that fear of wasting food all the waitstaff and cooks shared.

“Did everyone you serve get the meals they ordered?”

Johnny nodded. “All the ones that ordered something, anyway. Not a whole lot of them ordered anything. You know how bar goers are,” he said, before taking a big bite of the burrito. Watching him eat, Linda believed that he could finish the whole plate in five minutes.

“As long as everyone got what they ordered,” Linda said as she started to walk back toward her office, intentionally putting distance between her and Johnny so she’d have to talk loudly enough that Troy could hear her. “That’s what matters. I don’t mind if a meal or two slips through and one of you good folks has an extra treat. I’d rather that than a customer not get their order,” she nearly shouted due to how far away she was. Johnny nodded and took another bite, not giving much thought to what she’d said.

Linda returned to her office to finish her work for the night. Not long after, there was a knock on the door frame. She looked up and saw Troy standing in the threshold in his usual purple bandana, tank top, and messy apron. “Knock knock?” he greeted.

“Hey Troy, what’s up?” Linda asked, feigning ignorance about why he was in there.

“I overheard you talking to Johnny and I just wanted to apologize for letting an extra order go through.”

Linda was already smiling and shaking her head before Troy could offer an explanation. “It’s fine, Troy. I’m not going to ride your ass for it like Tim would. I care less about an extra meal or two slipping through than I do about all our customers getting what they ordered and getting it in a timely manner.” Linda was careful to not to add any language like, “Just don’t make a habit of it,” in her reassurances. Nothing that would discourage Troy from doing it again. “And it sounds like they did. As long as you keep that up, something like this is…” She shook her head again. “Not even a blip on my radar.”

Troy smiled at Linda’s reassurances. She could see a hint of a slyness in his smile, something he was obviously trying to hide, but she was quite glad to see it. “Now come on. It’s late,” she sighed. “We should all be home in bed.” Troy laughed in agreement as he turned around and walked back to clean up the last plate.

It didn’t take long until Troy was regularly making extra meals to hand off to Johnny at the end of his shift, and since Johnny worked five nights a week, that meant plenty of extra food. Linda kept an eye on the proceedings, wanting to be ready to switch to a plan B if Troy and her weren’t on the same page.

But that didn’t turn out to be necessary. A few days after Troy offered Johnny the beef burrito, he came out of the kitchen after closing and gave Johnny the same story about an extra order getting made accidentally. This time it was a sharing-size order of chicken quesadillas, which Johnny ate as happily as the beef burrito before.

It was only two more days before Troy had a conversation with Johnny that really got things moving with Linda’s plan.

“Johnny, buddy,” Troy greeted as Johnny was stacking stools at the end of the night. “Bit of your time?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

Linda was on her laptop at a table in the restaurant snacking on some chips and salsa. She’d been responding to emails, but she shifted her attention to the conversation between Troy and Johnny. Thankfully for her, Troy was not as quiet of a talker as he liked to think.

“You know those two meals that were left over at the end of the night that I passed on to you?”


“Truth is, that happens more often than I’d like to admit. In fact, most nights we’re left over with one or two, or even a few dishes that get made by accident and need to be thrown out.”

“That many?” Johnny asked in disbelief.

“Hate to say it, but that’s just how it is in the industry.”

Linda knew this wasn’t true. Troy had been at the restaurant for ten years, plenty of which was spent working for Tim. There was no way he’d let that much extra food slip through his kitchen.

“Not a lot of the staff here is willing to have more of our food to eat after already getting their free meal.” Also not true, but Linda was starting to get a sense of where Troy was going with this, and she liked it. “But you have been, so, how would like if I handed off those extra meals to you?”

After a pause, Johnny chuckled. “I certainly won’t say no to that.”

Troy smiled. “That’s great to hear. Because we actually have quite a bit left over tonight. I’m going to go ahead and box it up for you. I know what you said last time about being able to finish it here, but I’m ready to go home like now.”

Johnny nodded and resumed stacking stools. Troy returned to the kitchen, and before long he came out with a stack of three to-go boxes.

“Wow! Thanks, Troy. This’ll be dinner for a few days at least.”

“Hey, as long as it doesn’t go to waste.”

“Oh I’ll make sure of that,” Johnny boasted while patting his gut.

Troy nodded and smiled, his eyes lingering on Johnny’s belly before he turned back toward the kitchen. On the way back, he made eye contact with Linda. He looked nervous at first, but she gave him a sly smile before turning back to her email. Troy’s eyebrows shot up, followed by a sly smile of his own before he walked back into the kitchen.

True to his word, Troy walked out soon after with his coat on. “Have a good night, everyone!” he bade to the two waitresses still there, as well as Johnny and Linda. He looked at Linda in particular, giving her a slow nod that she returned. She looked back to her emails with a smile, confident that she and Troy had an understanding, hoping this plan would work.

The next night, Linda kept the door to her office open to eavesdrop on whatever happened next. When she heard Troy come out of the kitchen to talk to Johnny, she crept toward the door to hear better.

“Hey, bud. Have any of those leftovers yet?”

“Oh man, Troy, they were so good. I had one of the tacos as a late night snack, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I ate all of it.”

All of it?” Troy asked, sounding only half surprised.

“Food coma knocked me right the hell out afterward. I slept like a baby. I even had to undo my belt afterward; it was just too tight.”

“Well, glad you enjoyed it,” Troy replied, sounding quite pleased with himself. “Hope it didn’t ruin your appetites, because there’s more food left over after tonight’s shift. Obviously you don’t have to take it, but it would be a shame for it to just get thrown out.”

“Hey, I’m always happy to give food a good home,” Johnny responded jovially. “Especially if it’s as good as it was last night.”

“I only make the best,” Troy boasted before Linda heard the door to the kitchen swing open.

When it opened again, Linda heard Johnny say, “Good timing. I’m actually heading out of here right now.”

“Alright, you have a good night.”

“I sure will,” Johnny replied as he shook the bag of to-go boxes.

At this point, Linda’s curiosity had gotten the best of her, and she was watching all this happen from around the corner to the employees only area. Troy caught her watching and seemed a bit taken aback. “Something wrong?” he asked.

“No,” she answered coyly. “Just seeing who’s still here.” Started to turn back into her office, she looked out again and added, “Keep up the good work.”

After a pause, Troy showed a sly smile. “I’ll be out soon. My work here is done. For tonight, anyway.”

“Mmhm,” Linda affirmed with a smirk, before going back to grab her coat so she could head home herself.

Things continued that way for the next few months. Troy sent Johnny home with extra goodies at the end of each night they both worked, which Linda ensured was as often as possible, and Johnny ate it all up, unable to resist the extra love Troy put into each “accidental” extra dish.

And it was showing. Having grown accustomed to never needing to think about replacing his wardrobe, Johnny was starting to show some skin under the bottom of his shirts. Some nights, the bottom hem of his shirt was nearly up to his belly button. Granted, it didn’t matter much when his shirt usually came off by the end of the night anyway. But Linda still noticed, and the fact that business was slowly but surely growing again made her quite pleased to see it.

Troy seemed quite pleased with his handiwork too. Though he hadn’t exactly been subtle about his fondness of Johnny before, once Johnny started showing some skin, Troy always seemed to be continuing to undress him with his eyes when Linda saw them together. Not that Johnny noticed. As good of an employee as Johnny was, Linda wouldn’t deny that he could be a bit oblivious. It never affected his ability to do his job, but he did seem as unaware of Troy’s especial interest in him as he was of the fact that his shirts didn’t quite fit anymore.

But Linda sure wasn’t. One night, after Troy sent Johnny home with an extra large haul–two bags’ worth of food–she and Troy were walking out together after she’d set the alarm, and she couldn’t help but ask:

“You sure do like Johnny, don’t you?”

Troy’s eyebrows shot up. “Is it that obvious?” he asked half jokingly, putting his hand over his heart in an exaggerated display of shock.

“You spoil the boy rotten,” Linda teased, thinking that, from a liability perspective, she’d be better off not explicitly mentioning the ogling.

Troy looked around, maintaining his embarrassed smile. “I mean, can you blame me? He’s ravishing,” he fawned, no longer trying to hide how smitten he was.

“Mmm, I don’t think I’m legally allowed to comment on that,” Linda joked. “But hey, if you think he’s a catch, why not go for it?”

Troy’s smile faded and his eyebrows shot up even farther. “You think he likes guys?”

Linda shrugged. “We don’t have any evidence that he doesn’t.”

“But he’s so butch!”

“Since when are leopard print thongs butch?”

Troy raised his hand to answer, but he paused with his mouth agape. “That is a good point.”

“Could be worth a try. As long as you both treat each other well,” she asserted, putting on an air of sternness like an overprotective mother.

“Oh, I would never!” Troy insisted as he turned to walk home, before turning back to Linda and hastily adding, “Treat him badly, that is.”

Linda’s idea wasn’t as far-fetched as she thought, though it took them a while to figure that out. It started small, with Troy trying to be flirtatious, but still workplace-appropriate, when he passed off a night’s haul to Johnny.

“Hey Johnny, here are tonight’s leftovers.”

“Oh cool! Man, you really spoil me with these meals.”

“Hey, anything for you, big guy,” Troy would say more coyly as he glanced over Johnny from top to bottom.

“Thanks, man. That means a lot,” Johnny would reply, before turning back to finishing his closing-time duties.

And Troy would walk away, dejected but not discouraged.

A few weeks of this passed without Troy having much success, but it did help him and Johnny get on more casual terms than just knowing each other as coworkers. The simple passing off of more “accidental” dishes turned into small talk that became more full-fledged conversations. Until one night, when Troy and Johnny got to talking about that night’s shift.

“Before it got busy, one of the college girls was in here crying about her boyfriend breaking her heart.”

“Probably her ex-boyfriend now.”

“Heh, yeah. I overheard her friends comforting her about it. They wanted it to be the kind of night where she goes out and has a good time and forgets all about him.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Mmhm,” Johnny affirmed as he wiped down the counter, his rounded gut hanging down as he bent over and peeking out quite noticeably from in his shirt. “Makes me not miss it so much.”

“You don’t have a special girl or… guy in your life?”

Johnny shook his head back and forth. “Been awhile since I did. My last girlfriend didn’t like all the attention I was getting from bar patrons, even though I’m sure it’s all a joke to them.”

Troy felt dejected at the mention of an ex-girlfriend, but he pressed on. “There must be some people who come in who are genuinely smitten with you.”

With a mild chuckle, Johnny replied, “Some of them, sure. It’s easy to tell who’s who when they get that liquor in them.”

“Oh yeah?” Troy chuckled.

“The ones who take it as a joke will cheer when I take my shirt off, but they do it for show as much as I do. They do it to join in the revelry. The ones who are genuinely into it will stare shamelessly, then apologize when they realize I know they’re doing it, or say “woof” or something.”

Troy laughed, knowing he’d been guilty of using that particular pickup a few times, and thinking that if Johnny knew what “woof” meant, there was hope for him yet. “You get some “woofs”, huh?”

Nodding with a proud smile, Johnny replied, “How could I not?” He puffed out his chest in a way that also pushed up his belly, which Troy couldn’t help but stare at. His swollen globe pushed out from under his shirt, causing it to ride up his gut and well past his belly button. When Johnny relaxed his muscles, his shirt stayed in place, much of it crumpled up on top of his belly, with Johnny either not noticing or not bothering to pull it down.

Troy pulled at his tank top while trying to keep his composure, but he was screaming internally at getting to see this much of his portly coworker. “I, uh… I can’t say I blame them,” he laughed nervously.

Johnny was looking down at his belly with a smile. Moving his hand to pull his shirt down, he paused before looking up with a quizzical look. “What do you mean?”

“I mean… you are… quite a handsome man,” Troy stuttered with one hand behind his neck.

Troy’s stammering seemed to be the clue Johnny needed. As his quizzical look softened into a smile, his hand bypassed his shirt and started gently massaging his gut, rubbing his hand in slow circles over his spherical mass. As Troy couldn’t help but stare obviously, Johnny’s smile widened and his eyes closed halfway. “You think so?”

Troy slowly nodded, trying to take his eyes off of Johnny’s belly and not having much success. “Mmhm.”

Johnny let his hand down and looked at his coworker contemplatively. “Would you like to go out for dinner some time, Troy?”

Troy snapped back to reality, not having expecting the conversation to lead to that. “Why don’t you come by my place for dinner instead? If you think my cooking is good here, you should see how good… taste how good it can be when I’m in my element.”

Johnny seemed quite happy with that idea, his smile remaining as he finally pulled his persistent shirt down. “Sounds good to me.”

Linda had been sitting at a nearby table nibbling on some churros as she checked her email while all this was going on. She’d kept her eyes fixed on her laptop for most of the conversation, but the last few moments had her looking up to see where it would go. As Troy turned to look her way, Linda broke eye contact and darted her eyes back to her email.

“I think we both have this Monday off,” Troy said. “How about then.”

“It’s a plan,” Johnny confirmed as he picked up his to-go boxes, nearly leaving before he stopped and said, “Oh, um…” his assuredness having left his voice. “I’ll need your address to do that, won’t I?”

After a brief pause, Troy laughed an embarrassed laugh before he agreed, “Yeah, you will.”

With Troy able to spoil Johnny outside of work as well, Johnny swelled up even more. It wasn’t long before Johnny had to relent and buy bigger shirts, for his old ones didn’t fit well enough even just for him to wear before he took them off. Though he certainly made them last. In the weeks before Johnny replaced his shirts, his old shirts were riding so far up his gut that his belly button was consistently in full view.

Not that Troy seemed to mind; when they’d walk in together, Linda would see Troy give Johnny a pat on the belly as often as he gave him a kiss before they went off to do their separate jobs. After closing, they’d be even more shameless, with Johnny often starting on his leftovers before they left, while Troy encouraged him to eat with a bit more gusto each time. And it was showing. About six months after Linda had kicked off her little experiment, Johnny’s beach ball of a gut had ballooned out even more, growing about three inches in all directions.

Linda didn’t mind all this food going towards Johnny’s expansion, because business was growing along with his waistline. Johnny’s shifts were drawing even larger and more enthusiastic crowds, crowds whose enthusiasm translated into greater sales. Johnny proved to be more animated and energetic as Troy’s pampering started to accumulate on his gut. His added size seemed to embolden him, allowing him to command more presence while bartending and causing the crowd to react more strongly to his antics. Feeding off of their enthusiasm, he was able to put on an even better show. Business grew so much that Linda had to add additional tables and hire additional wait staff to serve everyone.

Things were progressing well between Troy and Johnny too. They had long gone past the point of Troy trying to justify Johnny’s hauls as “leftovers” or “accidental extras”. It was now typical for Troy to send Johnny home with two bags full of to-go containers every night. In turn, Johnny had come to accept this as the way it was, never wondering how the kitchen seemed to make even more dishes accidentally as time went on. He took them happily, resolute in eating them all, as he could tell it made Troy happy for them to not go to waste.

Johnny didn’t seem to put two and two together about Troy wanting him fatter, perhaps never considering it as a possibility. But he knew his boyfriend liked his belly, as the two’s public displays of affection after closing time involved belly rubs as often as they involved kisses. Not that they were excessive about it, but when they chatted as Johnny was cleaning up the bar, Troy often gave him a kiss and a caress of the belly before returning to the kitchen to clean up.

More than once, as the two left together and thought no one was watching, Linda watched Troy grab Johnny by the bottom of his belly, his thumb in Johnny’s belly button, and lead him out that way. They held hands too, but Troy seemed especially keen on grabbing Johnny’s belly when he was at a size where his current shirts were too small. The bottom hem rising above Johnny’s belly button gave Troy the opening to go for it.

They went through several periods like this, for Johnny kept outgrowing shirts as the years went by. The process continued in much the same way, as Troy kept feeding Johnny, Johnny kept growing bigger, his work at Paco’s became more animated and entertaining, and Paco’s saw an even bigger explosion in business.

Things seemed to level off again as they approached Johnny’s ten-year work anniversary. By this point, Paco’s had acquired the neighboring property to expand its location even more, a necessary step to accommodate their increase in business. Linda was quite happy with where the company was, and was content to see things level off.

Johnny’s weight seemed to level off too. Troy had gotten him as big as he could with extra entrees and home-cooked meals, but he was hardly lamenting his boyfriend’s now-steady weight.

For Johnny had ballooned to a size where he barely resembled the man who’d started working at Paco’s ten years ago. As he strode around behind the bar shirtless, his yoga-ball-sized belly bounced imposingly in front of him, announcing his coming. It was a good thing Paco’s had plenty of space behind the bar, or else Johnny would have had a hard time maneuvering his expanded form around. His belly had grown so much that the word “grande” tattooed on the front of it had faded from the ink being spread out. His face had swelled out as well, his cheeks plumped up even farther from the sides of his goatee and his second chin hanging down even lower

And the customers came in droves to enjoy the environment this legendary rotund bartender created. Now more than ever, Paco’s had a reputation for the jovial atmosphere everyone on staff helped create, with Johnny at the center of it all. It certainly helped that his infectious enthusiasm has rubbed off on the other servers and bartenders, ensuring Johnny’s charisma spread even beyond the bar.

On the night of Johnny’s ten-year work anniversary, Linda came out of her office after closing to find Johnny still walking around shirtless, still riding the rush from a particularly jubilant night. He was starting to clean up, humming along with the music playing over the speakers, needing to turn to the side to reach the bar and wipe it down.

“Hey Johnny!”

Johnny jostled like Linda had startled him. “Oh, h-hey.” He looked around behind the bar, trying to figure out where his shirt had gone too. His gargantuan belly swung side to side as he looked over the floor, the shelves, wherever it could have gone too. When he turned to the side, Linda could see a tiger print thong sticking out above his jeans. She understood that he might be conscious about his boss seeing him like this, but it was hardly shocking to her at this point. Though the contrast between the two–Linda’s business attire and Johnny’s jeans and thong ensemble–was rather amusing to her.

“I just wanted to let you know, it’s your ten year workiversary today.”

Johnny paused his search and looked at Linda with pleased surprise. “Oh really?”

“Yeah, congratulations!”

Johnny leaned his head back with a smile. “Man, sure does fly by.”

Linda nodded back. “Well hey, it’s been great to have you as an employee here. Here’s to hopefully many more,” she hailed as she extended her hand for Johnny to shake it.

Johnny nodded back and turned to the side to extend his hand to hers. In doing so, his gut stuck out to the side, demonstrating just how much he’d grown. He likely would have struggled to make his hands touch each other had he tried to reach underneath it. The word “grande” now stretched nearly two feet wide across his abdomen, faded from its stretch.

“Might want to get that tattoo touched up, if that’s still part of your performance. The ink is spreading pretty thin.”

“Is it? It’s kinda hard for me to see over there now,” he said with a chuckle, pretending to try to look over his belly. “Nah, I know you’re right. I’ll get that taken care of soon.”

Linda nodded one last time and turned back to her office, shouting out, “Have a good night!”

As she rounded the corner, Troy emerged from the kitchen. Looking around, he saw the restaurant empty of anyone except for Johnny, who was still shirtless as he cleaned up behind the bar. Troy raised his eyebrows at the thought of Johnny talking to their boss dressed like that.

When the two made eye contact, Troy smiled sultrily and sauntered over to Johnny. “Ten years, huh?”

“Doesn’t feel nearly that long,” Johnny admitted.

“Well hey, that’s a good sign, right?” Troy asked as he wrapped his arms over his boyfriend’s shoulders.

Johnny paused to ponder it, before looking back at Troy with a smile. “Yeah. Means it hasn’t dragged by,” he replied as his beefy hands flanked Troy and pulled him in close, at least, as close as he could get with that massive gut in between them. “I can certainly see myself here for another ten.”

“Hmm, that’d be nice,” Troy said as he pulled himself closer to Johnny, having to lean forward to bend over the his gut. “We need someone to make sure those accidental dishes don’t go to waste.”

“Oh yeah, ‘accidental’,” Johnny mimicked.

“What do you mean?”

Johnny’s eyes shot up as he shook his head back and forth. “I know you haven’t really been accidentally making all those dishes all these years. If you were, you’d have figured out where those orders were coming from and squashed it by now.”

Troy was frozen, not sure how to respond. Here he was, sure that Johnny had no idea about his machinations, and now it turned out that he did and… was playing along?

“But hey,” Johnny interjected as he pulled Troy in close. Smiling with eyes half closed, he added, “I’m not complaining.”

Troy’s nervous wide eyes and flat mouth softened into a smile that took on a devious curl. “Good thing,” he asserted with a soft voice, “because there’s a lot of food back there waiting for you to scarf it down.”

Snickering back, Johnny boasted, “I can’t wait.”

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