Originally published November 1, 2016.
Contains: contains weight-gain-related themes and physical intimacy.
With this story, I wanted to try writing two sister pieces that take place within the same narrative, but that could exist as their own separate stories, with the first one being lighter and fluffier and the second being darker and more intense. They ended up more like a part 1 and a part 2 than I intended, but I still wanted people who don’t want to read something as intense as part 2 to be able to read the first part and be satisfied, without feeling left hanging, and I think I’ve done that. As such, I decided to post this part of the story before I finished editing the second part, to emphasize that it can be read as a standalone piece or as the first part of a two-part story. You can read the second part here.
This one was also a challenge because it’s more exposition-based than story-based, which was definitely a change of pace for me as a writer. The plot goes as thus: Val, a lanky guy, accompanies his much heaver boyfriend, Ryan, to a barbecue full of full-figured guys eating big and getting physical. Though he’s initially nervous and shy, he opens up and becomes more familiar with the guys once he starts getting physical with them too.
One of this big inspirations for this story was this piece called “Summer Sausage Stuffing” by RAMZI on FurAffinity, and the three analogous character in this story have names based on those of the characters in that piece. Troy’s black nail polish is an homage to Roadhog from Overwatch, one of the few characters in popular media who’s about as big as I imagine Troy being.
Val and Ryan walked down the sidewalk hand-in-hand as Ryan lead the way from the parking lot to their destination. In spite of his bulky build, Ryan was often the one that Val had to try to keep up with when they walked together. Ryan’s excitement had him strolling ahead brisk as usual, leaving Val to occasionally have to pick up the pace to keep up. In contrast, Val’s slender fingers shook nervously in Ryan’s plush, cozy hand, in spite of all of his efforts to not let his worry show.
“You excited for this?” Ryan asked in his comforting baritone
“Yeah… mostly,” Val answered in his higher-pitched voice.
With a sigh, Val admitted, “Yeah, maybe a little.”
“Aw, come on,” Ryan teased. After pulling Val in closer, he let go of Val’s hand and wrapped his burly arm around Val’s shoulder. Ryan’s embrace usually made Val feel better, but now it could only do so much. After a weary exhalation, Val tilted his head to rest it on Ryan’s solid chest. “Hey. Talk to me. What’s eatin’ ya?”
“I dunno… just… standard meeting new people worries, I guess.”
“Hmm…“ In the time until Ryan figured out what to say next, he wrapped his arm more snugly around Val and rubbed his shoulder. Val occasionally looked up to take inventory of their surroundings, but spent most of that time with his head tilted on his boyfriend’s chest. His eyes couldn’t help but wander to Ryan’s round belly, still bouncing a bit with every step even now that they’d slowed down their pace. He didn’t get to see it from this angle very often.
“Think of it this way,” Ryan eventually suggested. “You make me really happy, and the guys at this barbecue make me really happy too. You already have something in common.”
After letting out a giggle, Val said, “That’s a stretch, Ry.”
“I know. Tell you what, if you want to stick with me, I’ll make sure you don’t get left out.”
“Promise?” Val peered up and saw Ryan looking down at him with a warm smile framed by his closely trimmed beard.
“Promise.” Leaning his head down toward Val, Ryan gave him a kiss on the forehead, the only part of his face he could reach in their configuration. As a smile spread across Val’s face, he leaned up to give Ryan a peck on the lips, and the two resumed walking hand in hand.
It wasn’t long until Ryan pointed to a large house with a fenced in yard and said, “This is the place.” The driveway had already filled with cars, most of them pickup trucks or SUVs. The fence was so tall and the slats were arranged so tightly that Val couldn’t see what was going on inside. He could hear the sounds of revelry, as chatter and occasional laughter made their way over the fence, many of the voices deep and booming.
Ryan lead Val across the driveway to a gate in the fence. As he took the latch in hand, he turned to Val and told him, “Don’t feel pressured to eat anything you don’t want to eat.”
Before Val could make Ryan elaborate on that, Ryan opened the gate to reveal a yard full of about two dozen men, all of them sporting impressive bellies and filled-out features to match. There were men in tee shirts, tank tops, button downs, sweaters, suspenders, and ties, all of them propped up by soft chests and hefty midsections.
Usually when Val and Ryan went out together, Ryan was the biggest person wherever they were. His rotund gut was full-bodied and solid, and he carried it gracefully and proudly. If it weren’t for the fact that Val got to look at it all the time, he wouldn’t have been able to take his eyes off of it.
But in this crowd, Ryan blended right in. Aside from Val, the smallest men in the yard still bore respectable bellies that were only small relative to their taller cohorts. On their shorter frames, their bellies looked completely proportional. And the biggest men in the yard made Ryan look like the smallest ones in comparison.
One by the grill in particular had a nearly-spherical belly that looked to be at least as big as a yoga ball, draped in a blue shirt that barely went down to his belly button, leaving a large swath of his gut hanging out in the open. Next to the grill stood the cook, who was only wearing a pair of cargo shorts and an apron that barely ran over his belly, which was about the diameter of a truck tire. The only other coverage he got came from a lengthy beard that ran down to his chest. Between them stood a third man with his red flannel button-down shirt undone, exposing a belly not quite as big as the blue-shirted fellow’s, but one that still dwarfed Ryan’s.
Val had a hard time scoping out the other guys at the cookout, as seeing all those hefty men made for a lot to take in. It wasn’t until he heard Ryan laugh that he realized his mouth was hanging agape and his eyes were practically bulging out. He had to shake his head side to side to regain his composure. “Uh… Ryan?”
“Yes, dear?” he asked cheekily.
“You, uh… didn’t mention how…”
Ryan couldn’t help but giggle at Val’s flustered voice. “I thought it would be a nice surprise,” he said with a shrug.
“Well… I mean, I’m not complaining, but–”
“Good,” Ryan interjected before grabbing Val’s hand and leading him in. “Don’t feel shy about rubbing a few bellies while you’re here. Most of the guys will appreciate it.”
Ryan strode ahead toward the nearest partygoer, a man in a tight grey tank top that hung over his round belly just low enough to meet his beltline. He had a clean-shaven face with a confident expression flanked by bulging cheeks and a thick double chin. In one hand, he held an open beer bottle, and in another, he held a hot dog that was drenched in relish.
“Joey! This is my boyfriend, Val.”
“Val!, Hey!, great to meet you!” Joey bellowed boisterously. “Ryan’s told me so much about you. Come on, bring it in,” he said jovially before enveloping Val in a hug. Holding his refreshments a distance behind Val, Joey wrapped him in his sturdy arms. Val found himself bent over Joey’s gut, which couldn’t have been much smaller than Ryan’s. At the very least, his compromising position made it easier to wrap his own arms around Joey’s chest in return.
“Nice to meet you,” Val mumbled into Joey’s chest before he could pull away.
“Is this your first time at one of these shindigs, Val?”
“Aren’t you in for a treat, then?” Joey asked with a chuckle. “Alright, well, come on in, grab a drink, get some grub, enjoy yourself!” Joey boomed before walking toward the grill.
Looking at Ryan with a timid smile, Val commented, “He seems nice.”
“All of the guys here are. I think you’ll get along better than you expected. Come on,” Ryan said before taking Val’s hand and walking off.
As Val followed Ryan, he scanned over the crowd again, taking in the sight of all the big men in front of him. While he enjoyed the view, he noticed Joey wasn’t the only one with edibles in both of his hands. He saw one man with a burger and beer in hand, and another with a hot dog and a soda. The man in the ill-fitting blue shirt held two cheeseburgers, both with bites taken out of them. Even the men without both hands full were holding something consumable. It seemed he and Ryan were the only ones without refreshments in hand.
Before Val could ponder the implications of that, Ryan had lead him to another rotund partygoer. He stood an inch or two over Ryan, with a belly much wider than his. His pants were held up by suspenders that draped over a shirt that fit a little too snugly for him, showing an inch-wide stripe of skin above the top of his pants.
“Rich, hey, good to see you. This is my boyfriend Val.”
“Val, hey! Welcome.” Rich tossed his beer from one hand to the other before extending his free hand to shake Val’s.
“Th-thanks,” Val blurted out, trying to keep his eyes off of the little bit of flab peeking out of Rich’s shirt and not being particularly successful.
“He’s a nervous one, isn’t he, Ryan?” Rich asked in an amused tone
“Wh-why do you say that?” Val asked.
“Is this your first time at one of these cookouts, Val?”
Val was briefly quiet. Elongating the first syllable of his answer, he replied, “Yes, it it.”
“Thought so. Well,” Rich grunted as he reached to grab the bottom hem of his shirt between the suspenders, “let’s break the ice.” Without any hesitation, he lifted his shirt up, unveiling his grand belly. A rounded dome-like top rested above two hefty love handles and stomach more inclined to growing out than down. A moderate smattering of body hair surrounded a line of fur that ran from the top of his belly, down the center, and over the belly button, before spreading out as it crept out of sight beneath the bottom of his gut. “Go on.”
Val stared blankly before he could stutter out a reply. “Wha… what?”
“Rub it,” Rich insisted. He gave his gut a smack, making it jiggle, before rubbing his hand along the side. “Just get it out of your system so you won’t be so tense.”
Val stared at Rich with wide eyes before those eyes moved down toward Rich’s belly. He gave the hefty gut a captivated look before he looked at Ryan, who gave him an encouraging nod. With a long inhalation, Val stuck both of his shaking hands out in front of him. They crept along until he felt his fingertips collide with the warm mass and froze in place.
Val looked up at Rich with wide eyes, waiting for a cue on what to do next. In return, Rich looked at him with raised eyebrows. “That’s it?”
Val let out a chuckle, feeling relieved by Rich’s casual attitude, and let his palms touch down before his fingers dug in. Rich’s belly was warm and soft under Val’s touch, swaying easily with his pushing and giving way underneath his touch. Val enjoyed the hands-on icebreaker for as long Rich let him, before he pulled his shirt back down, pushing Val’s hands out of the way. “Alright, enough of that. Let’s save some for everyone else, yeah?”
Val gave Rich a nod before giving him a few more pats on the side of his belly. “Thanks for the warm welcome.”
“Hey, sure. I’ll catch up with you later, Ryan,” Rich said before he took a swig of his beer and wandered toward the grill.
“See?” Ryan asked as he wrapped his arm around Val’s shoulders. “I knew you’d fit in here.”
Val brought his hands up to hold onto Ryan’s hand, which was dangling in front of his chest. He gave Ryan a warm smile which soon curled into a smirk. “Maybe you could introduce me to some of the other guys here, and I could get some more warm welcomes.”
“Of course!” Ryan chuckled. “Come on,” he beckoned before pulling Val toward the crowd.
Most of the partygoers seemed to be crowding around the grill, with only a few stragglers chatting elsewhere in the yard. Everyone around the grill had something in their hand: a drink, a burger, a hot dog, a sausage dog, or a piece of chicken, at least. Yet they still watched the grill intently, as the portly chef tended to the cooking meat.
Once Val got a closer look, he saw just how huge the grill was, appropriate for the men it was feeding. It was twice as wide as any grill he had seen at a cookout before, and all that space was being utilized to cook. It took Val aback to see just how much meat was being cooked at once. Leaning toward Ryan’s ear, he asked, “Isn’t that a lot for this many people?”
“Just wait ‘till you see them eat.”
As if on cue, the chef turned toward the crowd and announced, “Come and get it!”
At once, every one of the hefty men, including Ryan, made a beeline for the grill, like seagulls diving for a thrown piece of food, albeit moving more like penguins. Personal space seemed to not be a concern for the partygoers as they bunched up around the grill, their massive midsections all bouncing and bumping against each other as their heads bobbed over the sea of blubber. Val knew he would probably be squished if he tried to push through the crowd to get any food now, but at least he had a show to watch until they cleared out. Seeing that many fat men crammed together in such a small space, watching their flabby bodies bounce against one another in motion, gave him a lot more patience.
It took longer than Val expected for the crowd to finally clear out. Once it did, however, he was disappointed to see that all of the meat had been taken. Now he understood why they’d all rushed the grill like that.
“Hey!” Val heard Ryan call out from the side. He turned to see his boyfriend holding a cheeseburger in one hand and a hot dog in the other. “I managed to grab one for you,” Ryan told Val as he handed him the hot dog, Val’s favorite barbecue staple. “I, uh, had a feeling you might not come out so lucky on your first round of the rush.”
A pleasantly surprised smile spread across Val’s face before he took the hot dog. “Thanks, babe.”
“Sure thing. Condiments are over there, but you might want to wait for the crowd to clear out first.”
Val looked where Ryan was pointing and saw a table surrounded by a smaller crowd of rotund partygoers. It didn’t look as impenetrable as the crowd around the grill, but the men were still packed belly-to-belly, love-handle-to-love-handle around the table. When the partygoers were as large as they were, it didn’t take a lot of them to make an effective blockade.
“On the contrary,” Val told Ryan, “I think now is a great time to get some condiments.”
Giggling under his breath, Ryan gently waved the back of his hand toward Val, their unspoken sign for, “Do your thing, but you’re on your own.” Val was not dissuaded, and he strode toward the condiments while trying to downplay his giddy smile.
While the barricade of men around the table was dense, the men themselves were not inconsiderate. Val spotted the mustard while looking between two of the hefty fellows and politely said, “Excuse me.” The two pushed to the side, making just enough room for Val to slip through.
But once Val stood between the two men, they ceased straining to stay apart and fell back into formation, with Val between them. At once, he was sandwiched between their hefty love handles and bulky arms, feeling their warm flab enfold him like a foam-top mattress. They rocked him back and forth with their own motions, for Val’s scant body had too little inertia in comparison to resist their push. It made keeping a steady hand as he squirted the mustard a challenge, but Val didn’t mind needing to take his time.
Once Val put down the bottle, he heard an unfamiliar, deep voice behind him say, “Excuse me,” before a hefty arm reached over Val’s shoulder toward the mustard. At the same time, Val felt the man’s firm, expansive belly push against his back. Through his thin tee shirt, Val could feel the warmth of the man’s gut all along his body, for his belly was so big that it pushed against Val’s entire back. The force of the man’s gut against Val pushed him against the table, and he felt close to being bent over. If the table weren’t held fast on the other side by another line of hefty man, it would have surely skid forward.
Soon the man’s other arm reached over Val’s left shoulder, holding a cheeseburger with the top bun removed and propped in the crook of his palm. As he brought his hands together to squirt the mustard, Val felt the man’s belly push even more forcefully into his back, and Val was enveloped by his embrace. Soon he felt the scruff of the man’s beard tickling his neck as the stranger leaned forward to see what he was doing.
Looking to the side, Val saw the face of a man he hadn’t yet met that day, making for the best introduction of his day so far. He returned Val’s gaze with eyes that conveyed the gentle smile hidden by his beard, his eyelids hanging just low enough to put Val at ease. “Sorry about the intrusion,” he said smoothly, like he knew he had nothing to apologize for.
Val snapped out of his frozen state and let his free hand wander down to the side of the man’s belly. “It’s a tight fit. What can you do?” Val didn’t have to reach too far around before he touched the man’s gut. Once his hand made contact, he dragged his fingers along the man’s firm midsection, the smooth cloth of his shirt pulled snugly over his solid, spherical belly and not leaving much to Val’s imagination.
Val watched the man’s beard lift up around the corners of his mouth as his eyes closed a little more, compressed by his smile. Once he put the mustard down, he pulled his arm back while letting his free hand trail around Val’s hip, as if he might try to pull Val towards him, before he let go and stood up straight. “Name’s Howard.”
“Val,” he said over his shoulder.
Howard gave Val a nod before he wandered off back into the crowd. Val watched Howard until he was out of sight, disappearing into the horde of well-fed partygoers. Val followed suit, walking around until he found Ryan again. “Hey!” he called out.
“Hey!… Don’t you usually get ketchup too?”
Staring at his hot dog, Val quipped, “Oh yeah,” before looking back at the condiments table. The crowd around it had started to clear out, and it looked like Val wouldn’t have to scooch up against anyone to get to the ketchup, which was disappointing. But he still walked over to top off his hot dog properly.
After a few hours, things had mostly settled down at the party. No longer was the grill totally cleared of meat as soon as the chef announced there was more, and the partygoers could take food at a more casual pace. In turn, the chef didn’t have to load up the entire grill at once, able to cook a more reasonable volume of meat and still keep up with demand.
Val was amazed the food was still going at all after how much the partygoers had already eaten. But he supposed it wasn’t that surprising, as the men in attendance were clearly not ashamed of either their size or their appetites. He’d rubbed at least a dozen bellies in his time at the party, some in passing, some more intimately. And as Ryan had promised, all the guys whose bellies he rubbed had appreciated it.
One of those more intimate rubs happened when Val was grabbing a soda from the drink table. The space around the table was clear of people, so he expected a break from the excitement of the party. That was, until he heard a deep, familiar voice say, “Excuse me,” and a burly arm reached to grab a soda from the bucket in front of him. Turning around, Val saw Howard standing to his left.
Now that Val could get a clear look at Howard, he was even more enthralled than when he was looking at him over his shoulder. Howard looked at Val with wide, warm blue eyes, as if he were opening his eyelids extra wide in surprise at running into Val again. But his relaxed smile, visible in the middle of his bushy brown beard, suggested his eyes were like that naturally. His belly was round and wide, jutting out like a bass drummer’s drum in a marching band. He carried it just as stately, standing up straight to let his gut stretch out into as much space as it needed. And it needed a lot, expanding out from Howard’s frame like all the food cooked at that party had gone into his gut.
“No worries,” Val replied, trying to put on a calm, friendly smile in spite of the butterflies in his stomach.
“Not quite so packed this time,” Howard observed with a smile.
“No, certainly not,” Val concurred as he ambled toward Howard, getting quite close to his protruding belly. “But that doesn’t mean we have to stand this far apart…”
The smile on Howard’s face curled into a smirk as his eyelids lowered and his eyebrows shot up. “Let’s not block the drinks table,” he said before he raised his burly left arm behind Val.
Howard lead Val to a less crowded part of the yard. As he turning to lean on one of the trees, he kept his arm on Val’s back, pulling him close until he was right up against Howard’s warm, solid gut. Howard gently pulled Val closer, running his hands tenderly along Val’s back and looking at him with lowered eyelids and a placid smile.
Using one arm on the tree to prop himself up, Val let his weight come to rest on top of Howard’s personal beanbag chair of a belly. His gut pushed back against Val’s stomach like a yoga ball. “You alright with me leaning on you like this?” Val asked softly.
“Oh yeah,” Howard assured him. “I wouldn’t have pulled you close if I weren’t.”
After giving Howard a smile, Val let his free hand wander down to Howard’s belly. It was just as firm as he remembered. Even as Val’s gentle touch turned to more enthusiastic rubbing, Howard’s belly barely budged underneath his fingers. It was as smooth as it was firm, the fabric of his shirt revealing his perfectly rounded figure as it stretched taut over his belly
It wasn’t long until Howard’s plush fingers made their way from Val’s back to his front. He let out a contemplative “Mmm,” before he returned his hand to Val’s back. “How much have you had to eat, Val?” he inquired in a way that reminded Val of his grandmother.
“I had a hot dog earlier.”
“Yeah…” Val answered, turning his head to look at Howard out of the corners of his eyes. “Why? What about you?”
With a snort, Howard replied, “I lost count.” He resumed running his hands over Val’s body, putting Val at ease again. Letting his left arm slack a bit, Val leaned into howard’s gut a little more and resumed rubbing it. “So what brings you to an outing like this, Val?”
“You know Ryan? He’s the one who brought me along.”
“Mm, Ryan’s a good guy. How’d he drag you into this?”
“I think he just wanted me to meet his friends,” Val said with a shrug. “He said I make him happy, and you guys make him happy, so he figured it would be a good match.” Leaning in closer towards Howard, Val cooed, “I’d say he was right.”
“You guys close?”
With a chuckle, Val said, “You might even say we’re boyfriends.” It was like those moments when he showed photos of him and Ryan to someone straight and they asked things like, “Who’s your friend?” Val expected it from oblivious straight people, but not from another man who’d taken Val in his arms.
“Oh!” Howard exclaimed before letting go of Val and putting both his hands up at his side. “I, uh, I didn’t know you were spoken for…”
Initially surprised by how quickly Howard had pulled away, Val let out a laugh and pulled himself closer. “Don’t worry; we’re not belly rub monogamous.”
Howard’s eyes remained wide for a moment before his eyelids relaxed and he brought his arms down. “Alright,” he said as he took Val in his arms again.
The two chatted for a while longer, until Howard looked up over Val’s shoulders and called out, “Ryan! Uh, Val here was just telling me you two aren’t… ‘belly rub monogamous’?”
“Correct.” Val could hear a happy tone in his boyfriend’s voice. Turning around, he saw Ryan smiling at both of them. “Glad you’re having a good time,” Ryan beamed as he looked at Val. Turning back to Howard, he continued, “Yep, we’re open when it comes to belly rubs. If we weren’t, Icouldn’t rub your belly either.”
Ryan stuck his hand on Howard’s gut and got to rubbing as soon as he made contact. He wasn’t as timid or gentle as Val, belying a confidence that came from having done this many times before. Howard let out a low chuckle and returned the favor, taking a hand off of Val’s back and giving Ryan’s belly some attention of its own. The two looked at each other’s bellies with eyelids half-closed and curled smiles, before looking up and into each other’s eyes just as gleefully.
As Val was starting to feel left out, Ryan put his other arm on Val’s back and pulled the group in closer. With both Ryan’s and Howard’s arms around him, Val found himself pressed against both men’s bellies. As exciting as being propped up against Howard’s belly had been, being pulled into both bellies at once topped even that.
Once Val got his bearings, he pulled his left arm off of the tree and into the huddle. His left hand settled on Howard’s belly, his right hand went on Ryan’s, and he started rubbing both in unison. His hands were synchronized as they rode across the two spheres pressed together in front of him. With Ryan’s belly on-hand for comparison, it became abundantly apparent to Val just how firm Howard’s belly was. As his right hand sunk comfortably into Ryan’s flab, his left hand could scarcely make a dent in Howard’s unyielding gut. He found himself having to move his left hand in longer strokes to give Howard’s gargantuan belly full coverage, as it stuck out of the huddle a few inches wider on either side than Ryan’s did.
With Val’s hand sinking deeper into Ryan’s belly, Ryan stated swaying back and forth to the rhythm of Val’s touch. Howard stood more steadfast, unwavering like his unyielding gut. But once he saw what was happening, he took to moving back and forth to match Ryan, making the whole group sway together. Val put up a bit of resistance to the sway, so when Ryan and Howard moved toward him, he felt their big bellies press into his stomach. When they did, his head arched back.
The group continued like that until Val arched his head a little too far and felt himself fall backward. Thankfully for him, Ryan and Howard’s grips held fast, and they caught him before he could go down. “Whoa there!” Howard called out before pulling Val back up. “Having a bit too much fun, kiddo?”
With a nervous giggle, Val admitted, “I guess so.”
Once the two pulled Val up, Ryan put his hand on Val’s shoulder. “You okay?”
“Yeah! Sorry about that.”
“Hey,” Howard said as he patted Val’s back, “you’ll get better with practice.” His promise made Val’s eyelids shoot up as he took a quick breath in.
“Well, while we’re taking a break, how about we get some food, guys?” Ryan asked.
“I could always go for more of that,” Howard said proudly. Turning to Val, he asked, “What about you? You said you’ve only had one hot dog. You’ll never get any meat on your bones at the rate.”
“Let him be, Howard.” There was a sternness in Ryan’s voice that Val hadn’t expected in a conversation as light-hearted and jovial as theirs. “He’s not here for that.”
“‘Not here for that’?” Howard parroted facetiously. “Then why did you bring him along?”
“You mean to tell me you didn’t enjoy what happened just now?” A smirk returned to Ryan’s face as he looked back at Val, who looked at him blankly.
“Alright, fair enough.”
The two ended the conversation there and ambled toward the grill. Val stood in place at first, trying to figure out what all that had been about. But once Ryan and Howard were a ways ahead of him, he snapped out of it and followed close behind as they walked toward the grill.
For once, the area around the grill was clear of people, save for three men who’d been standing by it since the beginning of the party: the shirtless chef, the blue-shirted fellow whom Val concluded had the biggest belly of anyone there, and the relatively smaller man with the open red button-down shirt. If Val didn’t know better, he would sworn that the two men who weren’t cooking had swelled up since the party began, for both of their bellies looked bigger.
“That’s why he wears his shirt open like that, Art,” the man in the blue shirt told the cook. Turning back to the red-shirted man, he continued, “I bet that shirt wouldn’t even fit if you buttoned it up”
“Says the man who’s letting his gut hang out of his shirt,” the man in the middle said as he jabbed the blue-shirted man with his elbow.
“This shirt used to fit me. I bet you bought that shirt too small for you intentionally. Since when do you wear flannel?”
“Since it fit; I just wore it everywhere else. Now this is the only place I can wear it.”
“‘Everywhere else’,” the big man echoed mockingly. “You haven’t grown that much since these started.”
“Are we interrupting, gentlemen?” Howard asked with the tone of a stern school teacher.
“Leave them be,” Art said as he tended to the grill. “You know how they get. Take whatever you like,” he said as he pointed to trays to his left with his tongs, all filled with burgers and dogs and sausages and wings. To the right were bags of buns, along with a trash bin filled with empty bags.
“That’s Fred and Troy,” Ryan whispered to Val. “They’ve had a rivalry going since these barbecues started. It’s kinda funny, because Fred’s never been able to catch up to Troy in weight or appetite. Only thing bigger about Fred is his ego.”
Val let out a giggle as he looked back to the two men arguing next to the grill. “I know for a fact I’ve matched you two-for-one so far today,” Troy boasted. “But I bet I could still eat you under the table if we went blow-for-blow now.”
“Ha! You got a lot of guts making that kind of bet with that many burgers inside of you,” Fred taunted.
“You’re damn right I do,” Troy boasted as thumped his giant belly. Even with all his might, the ripples in his gut barely made it across it’s entire width. They seemed to weaken greatly when they passed the middle, diminishing about where his stomach was. “But let’s be real: we both only have one gut apiece. Let’s see whose can hold more.”
Fred’s eyes flared as he stared Troy down. “You’re on.”
Howard and Ryan both instinctively stepped back from the trays with their food in hand. Val thinking another hot dog sounded good about then, but based on Howard and Ryan’s movements, he decided against it.
“Keep ‘em coming, Art,” Troy told the cook. Turning back to Fred, he boasted, “I’d say you’ll eat your words, but you won’t be able to eat anything when we’re done here.”
The contest between Fred and Troy took the form of each man taking turns picking something for both of them to eat. Fred picked a burger first, and both men wolfed them down so quickly that Val was astounded they didn’t choke. Troy built two cheeseburgers with all the fixings, passing one to Fred with a smirk before he took a big bite out of his. For a split moment, Fred seemed taken aback by the size of the burger, but he quickly squashed that reaction by shoving it in his mouth.
The two continued their challenge as Ryan, Howard, and Val stood by, too enthralled to walk away. It didn’t take Val long to lose count of how many rounds the two had gone through. But around a half-dozen in, Val could see that Fred was at a clear disadvantage. As Troy kept confidently wolfing down the burgers, hot dogs, and sausages, Fred had slowed down his eating, giving Troy time to lick his fingers before tapping them in exaggerated impatience.
“I’m still in the game,” Fred huffed as Troy pretended to examine his fingernails out of boredom. At least, Val thought he was pretending, before he noticed an opaque coat of black polish on Troy’s nails.
“That you are,” Troy sighed. “I’m not sure why you’re pretending we don’t know how this is going to end.”
Fred’s eyes flared before he wolfed down the rest of his sausage dog, finding a burst of motivation to finish it off. “Let’s see about that,” he said as he took a cheeseburger.
But Fred’s second wind was short lived, as he fell behind Troy only half way through the next round. After a few more rounds, Troy was completely finishing his food by the time Fred got halfway through his. But Fred stubbornly refused to give up, right until the end.
At the end of the challenge, the two had gone through well over a dozen rounds by Val’s estimation. Troy had certainly lost his voraciousness, but he was still holding his own, eating his final sausage dog at a steady pace. As he did, he gave his bulbous belly a rub and let out a satisfied groan.
It was then that Val noticed that Troy’s shirt had ridden even farther up his gut than it was when they’d begun. His belly button, previously barely hidden by his shirt’s hem, had come out of hiding with about two inches of belly to spare above it. Val could scarcely look away from the firm globe. As Troy wavered back and forth and moved around in place, his belly accentuated his movements, too firm to yield to the bending of the rest of his body.
Fred was having a harder time keeping up. Val wasn’t sure how much his belly had grown since they started eating, but it had certainly rounded out, any sag or spare space filled with meat and buns. While his belly wasn’t as big as Troy’s, Val would have certainly believed it was rounder.
“Ya hangin’ in there, bud?” Troy panted as he gave Fred’s protruding gut some pats, a firm rub, and a squeeze. When he squeezed, his fingers could scarcely make a dent in Fred’s mass. Fred’s only response was a groan, mouth still full of sausage dog, a food of his own choosing. “You got a few more in ya, right?”
Fred let out an audible gulp as he swallowed another laborious bite. If it were possible to convey a “no” with a guttural noise, Val reasoned Fred had come as close as one could.
“Alright,” Art finally stepped in. “Leave the poor guy alone. He’s clearly done.”
Another groan came out of Fred, this one even more contrarian. He took a big bite of the sausage dog, a bite that he kept chewing as Troy finished the rest of his.
“Phew, alright. How you doing now, pal?” Troy asked with his dog fully eaten.
Fred stared ahead blankly with his eyes glazed over. His mouth hung open as he chewed, his jaw moving slowly through the bite of sausage. Yet in spite of how fatigued he clearly was, he stood with his back arched, his gut likely refusing to let him do otherwise.
“You done?” Troy asked. That time, there didn’t seem to be impatience or sarcasm in his voice, just a genuine wondering and possibly worry.
After his eyes closed slowly, Fred hung his head, before raising it up and letting it fall again repeatedly, in what resembled a nodding motion. He held out the rest of his sausage dog, which Art took and tossed in the garbage. “You alright there, Fred?” he asked, extending a hand out to rub Fred’s swollen gut.
In comparison to the noises he’d made before, the groan Fred let out as Art rubbed his gut sounded relieved. The one that followed sounded more like a moan, and his head arched back with his eyes closed and his mouth open.
“Troy, take him into the house and find him a place to lie down. You owe him that much after doing this to him.”
“I’d say he did it to himself,” Troy grunted as he slung Fred’s left arm over his shoulders, holding onto it with his own. “Come on, buddy,” he said more tenderly, before leading Fred off.
As the two walked, it was clear that all the food in their crammed stomach was affecting their gaits. Troy walked with a hobble in his step as he tried to support Fred’s weight while also giving his gut the room it needed to stretch out. Fred waddled ahead like his at-capacity stomach prevented his knees from bending. He had to sway back and forth as he moved to step from one leg to the other, and he leaned back as far as he could to not compress his bulging gut. Even in comparison to the casual speed Ryan and Howard moved at as they approached the grill, Troy and Fred walked at a glacial pace, unable to move much faster.
“How?” Fred groaned quietly.
“Hm?” Troy asked.
“How do you… do it? How do you eat so much?”
Troy chuckled as he lead his stuffed companion across the yard. With his free hand, he gave Fred’s distended gut a few gentle pats. “You’ll get there someday, bud.”
“Talk about the blind leading the blind,” said Ryan once the two were out of earshot.
“I think it’s more like that saying, ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,’” Howard added.
“So in the land of the stuffed, the man with room to spare is king?” Val asked.
“Hey, the kid’s getting it!” A smile spread across Howard’s face before he looked back to Fred and Tony and took on a stern expression again. “Tell you what, I’m gonna go help them out. I’ll catch up with you two later.”
Ryan and Val both bade Howard farewell as he walked across the yard. He couldn’t move particularly fast, but compared to the two overstuffed blimps floating slowly toward the house, he caught up quickly.
“We should get going, actually,” said Ryan. Val turned to see him looking at his watch with a pensive look on his face.
“Aw, since when are you not game for the nightlife, Ryan?” Art teased.
“I want to get this one home before things get too crazy around here.”
After taking a look at Val, Art nodded, seemingly not needing an explanation beyond that. “Take care, you two.”
Ryan took Val’s hand and walked him out of the yard, saying their goodbyes and “Nice to meet you”s as they left. Once they were out of the gate, Ryan closed it behind them and turned to look at Val. “Well?” he asked with an expectant smile.
“What did you think?”
“I mean…“ With a chuckle, Val continued, “It’s not like any barbecue I’ve been to before.”
“In a good way or a bad way?”
“I think a good way,” Val concluded, a modest smile spreading across his face.
Ryan took Val’s had again and the two started the walk to his car. Ryan walked a bit slower than he usually did, and Val soon noticed that his belly seemed to be a bit more voluminous than usual. Not that he was going to complain. With a smirk, he pulled his hand from Ryan’s and rubbed his belly.
The rubbing coaxed a guttural chuckle from Ryan. “How’d you like to come to the next one too?”
“There’s a next one?!”
“Yeah, they do these regularly, in fact. You free two weeks from now?”
Val gave his boyfriend a smile before looking down at his belly with lowered eyelids. His smile widened when he gave Ryan’s belly a good squeeze and found it was noticeably firmer than usual. “Same time?”