Rebecca Chambers was a science geek through and through.
Although her recruitment as a medic in the STARS branch at the RPD was an incredible feat, she acknowledged that her rookie status would impose plenty of challenges. Perhaps one day she’d trade her bulletproof vest and STARS badge for a lab coat and thick-framed glasses, but until then her law enforcement career took precedence above all else- and her highly coveted position required she keep her health and dexterity in tip-top shape.
Fellow officer Chris Redfield had offered to help with her marksman skills at the RPD’s shooting range. His partner, Jill Valentine, offered to share her hand-to-hand combat technique. Even Barry Burton, a seasoned officer with a wife and two kids, had offered to help “in any way he could”, as he casually put it one morning, donut in one hand and coffee in the other. He’d made several Starbucks runs for her since then.
Rebecca knew they all meant well, but she figured she ought to take the initiative in maintaining peak physical fitness. Embracing a newfound sense of resolve, she looked into her local gym and sought a personal trainer. It was a nice place, boasting three levels complete with state-of-the-art equipment, a cycling studio, an indoor track, and an Olympic-size pool.
A tall muscular man greeted her with a smile as she walked up to the front desk.
“I’d like to set up a membership,” Rebecca said, determined.
The man nodded in compliance and ran through a few different pricing options. “We’re having a special promotion this week,” he began. “If you go with the premium membership, we’ll add on three free sessions with a personal trainer of your choice.”
Perfect. Exactly what she needed.
“That works for me,” Rebecca replied. “Any recommendations for a trainer?”
The man mulled it over, sizing her up to procure an assessment. “Depends on your goal. Are you looking to tone up? Are you training for a triathlon?”
“I’m mostly conditioning, but I need someone who will challenge me and hold me accountable at all times,” Rebecca answered, omitting her status with the RPD to avoid further questioning. (“But you look so young!”)
The man grinned. “You’d probably work well with Billy. He’s here Tuesday through Friday.” He took out a piece of paper and quickly scrawled down a phone number. “You should call him as soon as possible. He gets pretty booked.”
Rebecca nodded and thanked him for his help.
A new job meant a new place.
Rebecca had moved from her hometown to accept her position at the RPD a while back, and it was a bit hard to adjust at times. Her apartment still had boxes full of clothes and décor pieces, her new furniture had yet to be delivered, and until she had time to stock her fridge and pantry her diet consisted of Chinese takeout and coffee from Starbucks. (Barry often shared the occasional donut but she was trying to avoid sweets.)
Truth be told, that wasn’t the real problem.
The real problem was the man who lived in the apartment directly across from her own.
Perhaps it was the unfortunate result of poor infrastructure, as Rebecca’s living room window could see into four other apartments as well- but at least they had curtains and embraced its practicality for privacy on a respectable basis.
Her neighbor across the way on the other hand was a different story.
Rebecca dismissed the first time she saw him strip down to his boxers, and luckily he hadn’t noticed she’d seen him, merely standing there with his perfectly sculpted muscles and tattoos adorning his right arm. The second time it happened she stared for a few absentminded moments, slightly curious, slightly flustered. Shockingly enough, he still hadn’t noticed. The third time she clocked in at twenty seconds of unaltered gawking; not her proudest moment but again, her stealth was superb.
The fourth time, she huffed in annoyance and drew her own curtains closed to avoid accidentally staring at his gorgeous physique. Seriously, what was his deal? Had he no shame? Was he even aware he was putting it all out there for everyone to see? It was almost as if he was purposely flaunting his… assets.
By the fifth time, Rebecca gave up. Sun up, sun down her exhibitionist of a neighbor would saunter about his apartment, cook his meals, engage in menial chores, or even something as mundane as talk on his phone completely and unapologetically shirtless. At this point it was quite possible he didn’t own any shirts.
She considered super gluing her curtains shut when she caught a glimpse of him fresh out the shower- right as he was about to strip off the towel nestled around his waist.
Close call. Too close.
About a week after officially joining the gym, Rebecca called personal trainer Billy Coen to set up an appointment.
“Yeah,” was how he answered, nonchalant.
“Billy… Billy Coen?” Rebecca was sure she had the right number. He confirmed with another nonchalant ‘yeah,’ so she carried on with introducing herself. “My name is Rebecca Chambers. I was referred to you for personal training at the RC Gym.”
“Ah, okay,” he replied. “You want to set up a day to meet for a session?”
“Alright well I have an opening Wednesday morning, nine to ten, at the earliest. I also have Friday night from five to six.”
Rebecca rummaged through her schedule in a nearby stack of papers at her desk. She should be out of the station early on Friday, as indicated by the preliminary caseload.
“I can do Friday,” she said. An introvert like her rarely had plans Friday nights anyway. Not unless Chris and Jill wanted to do dinner or something. Third-wheeling with those two was fine and all but the conversations occasionally took a turn for the weird.
“Sounds good,” Billy affirmed. “I’ll meet you at the front desk. Five pm sharp.”
Rebecca showed up for the first session at 4:45pm, expecting a decent workout followed by a hot shower to top off her Friday night.
What she hadn’t expected was to discover that her personal trainer, Billy Coen, was also her infamously shirtless neighbor.
No way… it can’t be!
He met with her at the front desk, as he said he would, clad in a standard issue RC Gym employee uniform, sleeves rolled up to reveal his tattoo.
Rebecca wasn’t sure what was more baffling; the fact that he of all people was her trainer or the fact that he indeed owned a shirt.
Their meet and greet passed in a blur. Rebecca averted her gaze and couldn’t focus on what he was saying half the time because her thoughts were ravaged by innumerable memories of his shirtless escapades.
For warmups, he led her to the elliptical and instructed that she properly stretch first to avoid risk of injury. When they moved on to the weights section, Billy tried engaging in casual chit-chat to make things less awkward, mindful of her apprehensive demeanor.
“So, you going to school?” he asked, arms folded across his chest.
Rebecca focused on her next rep to avoid looking him in the eye. “No, I finished school about a year ago.”
Billy quirked a brow. “You look awfully young for a recent grad,” he said. “What do you do for work then?”
“Ummm…” Rebecca paused, completed a few more bicep curls, and then obliged his prying. She reckoned it would help distract her from any more dizzying thoughts about what he was hiding underneath that damn uniform. “I’m an officer for the RPD force.”
Judging by the shift in Billy’s expression, the revelation took him by surprise. “Really?” he asked, eyes wide. “Well then, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Give me another three sets.”
Rebecca immediately regretted informing Billy of her career- but not as much as she regretted asking for assistance at the pull-up bar station.
Clearly, she was too short to reach it on her own. The opportunity to joke about her small stature was too good to pass up.
After demonstrating a series of pull-ups for his trainee (probably just to show off because holy hell those back muscles were a thing of art), Billy shot her an amused smirk.
“Can’t reach it?” he teased.
She answered with a look of disdain that read ‘what do you think?’
At least her nerves had eased a little since their initial meeting- until he helped her reach the pull-up bar, anyway. A small yelp escaped her lips as he placed his hands around her waist and lifted her up, holding her steady.
“I… I think I got it,” she stammered, face coated entirely in red. Her death grip on the bar made her knuckles go white.
“Glad I could be of service,” Billy replied, patting the small of her back as a means of encouragement.
Rebecca nearly died after five excruciating sets on the bar, her arms as wobbly as wet noodles. Throughout the hour long session, she’d tested the limits of her arms, her legs, and her core each in methods she never even knew existed. She was going to be relentlessly sore the next day. She could already feel the pulsating tension in her muscles.
The session concluded with stretches to ease any strains and improve flexibility. Billy emphasized post-workout stretches that focused on the lower portion of the body, specifically the legs and hips. Rebecca obeyed his instruction, retaining the information to practice at home. Her hamstrings and quads were most grateful for the hip flexors and knees to chest pose.
When tasked with the side angle pose, Rebecca had trouble properly positioning her torso, to which Billy aimed to correct her form.
“You almost have it,” he said, hands on her waist to keep her balanced. He held her there for a few beats and then moved on to ensuring her raised arm was stable, gently grazing her shoulders as he made slight adjustments.
Rebecca sweated bullets, low-key terrified by how warm his palms felt against her back, how she nearly shivered in nothing short of pleasure when his hands firmly grasped her waist.
“You’re looking a little pale,” Billy said after the session had ended. “Want me to get you a bottle of water?”
Rebecca gulped, unable to string a cohesive sentence in response. He had nice eyes, she thought in what was possibly the worst moment to think such a thing. Deep blue. Studious. Probably intimidating when they needed to be. His hair was styled differently than the unkempt messy look he’d fashioned back at the apartment complex. Odd. He was wearing something around his neck, she noticed. Something resembling dog tags.
“Umm no!” she finally blurted, rousing herself from her trance with a graceless shake of her head. “I can get it myself.”
Billy chuckled, a little confused but dismissive. “Okay, Miss Do-it-yourself.” He walked with her to the water fountain. “You did good today. Next time we’ll incorporate more lifting and strength training.”
Next time? Rebecca thought, dreading a repeat scenario of melting under his touch.
“Wanna schedule your next session now?” he asked once they’d reached the front desk.
Rebecca quickly drummed up an excuse. “I should check my work schedule first.” It was a set schedule; therefore, she’d always have the same days off. She just had a lot to think about and process.
He seemed to fall for it. “Sure. Just give me a call when you’re ready.”
Over the next week, Rebecca was tested.
She forced herself to meet with Billy for her second free session- even after being exposed to more of his shirtless (and in some cases, pantless) antics. Not once did he ever bother to look out his window, as if the act would expose him to an epidemic of hideous sights. And he was always preoccupied with something. Lately, his thing was the pull-up bar in his living room.
A typical morning for Rebecca included coffee, the news broadcast on television, and a spectacular view of Billy performing hanging crunches on the bar like a champ. It was awful but it was awesome.
Before leaving her apartment to meet up for their third session (this time Billy had called her to confirm the appointment), Rebecca contemplated a solution to her predicament. She toyed with the idea of writing an anonymous note and taping it to his door. Seemed less intrusive and less accusatory than confronting him face-to-face.
A cursory glance at her watch suggested she would be late unless she got a move on, so she postponed her anonymous note for after the session.
Her procrastination in confronting Billy proved fatal later that evening.
She was mid-stretch in a rather compromising position when the flood gates opened.
“Rebecca,” Billy began, releasing his grip on her thigh when he noticed how tense she’d become. “Do I… make you uncomfortable or something?”
‘Or something’ was definitely it.
But Rebecca couldn’t manage anything other than: “What?! No. Why do you ask?”
She couldn’t tell him the truth; that she’s flustered every time his hands innocently roam over her body or that she’s seen him almost nude on a daily basis for the past month. Not here. Not now. Not ever.
Billy was not exactly satisfied with her answer. “You shrivel up every time I offer to correct your form. You avoid eye contact half the time. I mean, shit… it’s obvious you’re uncomfortable around me.” He raked a hand through his hair, looking absolutely gorgeous but remorseful all the same. “Do you want a different trainer or…?”
Oh, great. Now he has the wrong idea. Either he’ll think she hates him, or he’ll think she’s a creep. Rebecca never liked choosing between two evils.
Backed into a corner, she settled on the latter. She could suffer the consequences.
“Billy, it’s not that… I really like having you as my trainer,” she reasoned, standing at full height. Her knees were weak, and she felt as though she would crumble under her own weight. She sucked in a deep breath, preparing for the worst. “It’s just that… well it turns out… you see… we live in the same apartment complex.” God, this was humiliating.
“Is that a bad thing?” Billy struggled to follow.
Rebecca sincerely wished it could have ended there. “No but… my apartment...” Another deep breath. Here goes. “It can see into yours… and there’s no blinds and it’s wide open… and you’re always…”
Billy caught on, and when the realization fully dawned on him, it hit him like a bus.
“Oh,” was his only reply.
They stared at each other for a long stretch of silence, equally mortified and rendered utterly speechless.
“I’m not a pervert,” Rebecca finally broke the silence to assure her intentions were never malicious.
Billy rubbed the back of his neck, a tad guilt-ridden. “Neither am I.”
The air was suffocating.
“I’m… I’m gonna go…” Rebecca quickly excused herself and power-walked out of the gym, lowering her head in shame.
Rebecca hadn’t gone to the gym in weeks.
It took her about as long to risk peeking through her blinds towards Billy’s apartment across the way. She was relieved to see curtains drawn, sheathed behind his window.
A part of her felt bad for pointing out the travesty. Another part of her felt bad for ditching the gym and not scheduling any more personal training sessions with him.
He hadn’t tried calling her either, which was understandable all things considered.
So she thought nothing was particularly out of the ordinary when fellow rookie officer, Leon Kennedy, approached her desk one morning and informed she had a visitor. He was nice and excessively courteous like that. Ever since they’d first joined the force, they’d developed this weird but pleasant camaraderie. Rookies gotta stick together.
“Who is it?” she asked, falling in step behind him to the main entrance.
“Didn’t get a name,” Leon replied. “But he says you know him.”
Rebecca pieced it all together a little too late and before she could mentally prepare herself she was met with Billy Coen after not having seen him for weeks.
He’d brought smoothies. A peace offering.
“Officer Chambers,” he greeted, handing over a peach protein smoothie. “It’s been a while.”
“Nice shirt,” Rebecca said before taking a sip. She had no filter today.
“Glad you like it,” Billy deadpanned. “Still not as nice as the new curtains I bought.”
“I had noticed.”
“Of course you did.” He paused before changing the subject. “Any way I can convince you to come back to the gym?”
“Well…” Rebecca tapped her chin in thought. “I guess we’ve already got the weird stuff outta the way.” It simply could not get any more awkward between them. Not after that whole fiasco.
“By weird stuff do you mean your habit of checking me out when I’m at my most vulnerable state?”
Vulnerable? Ha! Hardly!
“Billy…” Rebecca chuckled nervously. “That’s not… I wasn’t…”
“Relax, I’m joking,” Billy interjected. “I’m not accusing you of fantasizing about me or anything.” He smirked. “But I’m open-minded. I wouldn’t judge you if that was the case.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes and gave him a lopsided half-smile. “That’s not the case,” she asserted, unleashing the sass. “But… I’d like to see you again. Under less awkward circumstances.”
“I have an opening for a session tomorrow night. We could do the usual. Five to six.”
“Okay but I… um… meant that we could also meet for coffee or something… sometime…”
“Oh… I see.” Billy gave in to the small grin tugging at his lips. Then he cleared his throat. “I mean, yes. Still got my number?”
Rebecca nodded. “Mmhhmmm. Still got mine?”
“Of course.” Unbeknownst to her, he’d applied the nickname ‘short stuff’ when saving her number in his contacts. “I promise I’ll wear a shirt the next time we meet up.”
That earned a small laugh from her. This was certainly one for the books…
“I would appreciate that.”