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  1. This is my first story. It's going to have bite sized chapters and very regular updates (most likely daily). This is a m/m superhero romance. The first two chapters are mostly set up, but after that every chapter has plenty of sexy muscle and feats of strength, so please stick with it! Chapter 1 It began as all the best love stories do: with terrorism. The 24th of March 2013 is much like any other day. Hugo Chavez recently died, triggering what would go on to become an economic crisis in Venezuela, the UN security council has just slammed North Korea with harsh new sanctions, Justin Timberlake is topping the charts with ‘Mirrors’, protestors are waving signs outside Parliament, protesting about something, pigeons are shitting, rain is pouring, and I'm on my way to work. The newly opened Shard is difficult to miss. It towers over London’s skyline, jutting into the clouds like the lair of a comic book villain. I make my way inside, flashing my ID as I go. ‘Jake Langley’, it says in large capital letters, along with an employee number and my date of birth. I only show it as a courtesy - the security guards have all memorised my face by now. I sometimes wonder what they think of me. Am I ‘that cute, fresh faced little pastry chef with the dimples’ or do they just see me as a child straight out of college, coasting by on boyish looks, with no clue what he’s doing? I’d like to think it was the former. I’d like to. But I don’t. I wish I was the kind of guy who had the guts to ask. The kind who knows he's good enough, who knows he's not going to be rejected or shut down. But even if I wasn't gay, I will never be that kind of guy. It's not in my nature. I'm not assertive or domineering. I smile, wave, and make pastry. That's my nature. I slip by in this hyper masculine world by being too small for anyone to see as a threat. And for the most part, it works. The kitchens still shine like the day they were installed, which wasn't that long ago. Most kitchens are crowded, starkly lit places where you can barely move an inch without bumping into someone or knocking something over, but not this one. Natural light pours through the floor-to-ceiling windows, treating us to a view of London that millions of people would kill for. But I'm not here for the views. Okay, maybe a little bit. But mostly, I'm here to do my job. I find my little corner and start preparing for the day’s guests. It's a Sunday, so we're expecting a lot of traffic. There isn’t an overpaid banker in London who doesn’t salivate over the idea of lunch at the Shard. Russian oligarchs, Saudi oil barons, British royalty, Colombian drug lords - we serve them all. I don’t care who they are or what they do. It's none of my business. It sounds like a simple, boring job - making pastry. You’d be surprised at how much there is to it. There’s a reason they have pastry chefs – this is a difficult thing to get right. It's always come easily to me. I find something calming about rolling out a sheet of puff, spreading on the butter, folding it over, and rolling it out again. There's a rhythm to it. My movements soon become mechanical and I can feel myself floating away into a distant world where I'm someone interesting, somewhere interesting, doing something interesting. The kitchen hums around me as the first orders come in. Pans clink, hobs fizzle, water gurgles as it boils. I can barely hear the orders being barked over it all. But I'm not really paying attention. Boom. I can feel a wave of pressure pass through my feet, up to my head, and down again. Everything is shaking; the walls, the floor, the windows. Pots rattle above my head on their hooks. I turn to see the kitchen staff frozen, eyeing one another with pointed glares. I don't think I've ever seen this room so quiet. “What was that?” I hear one of them whisper, his voice carrying clear across the room. No one answers. Was it an earthquake? It couldn’t be. Earthquakes aren’t instantaneous, they're gradual. Then it comes again, much louder. BOOM. I don’t know if it's the ringing in my ears or the shaking beneath my feat, but I'm suddenly hunched over a table, flour covering my hands, gasping for breath. I don't know how long I spend there, trying to comprehend what's going on. It must be a minute or two, at least. My daze is broken as an alarm whirrs into life, high pitched and screaming. Red lights flash. All at once, the shock turns to chaos. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. They're coming faster now, from all over the building. I can feel them in my bones. While others run for the doors, I huddled under my table. What the hell is going on? My eyes drift to the windows, where black smoke is billowing up past our floor, carrying dust and paper. Fuck. I watched 9/11 unfold on live TV and I was here when they locked down London during the 7/7 attacks. It's impossible to ignore the reality of what's going on. This is a terrorist attack. I can see dark shapes floating past outside, just beyond the smoke. Choppers. News choppers. When I had dreamed of appearing on TV, I was thinking more along the lines of Deal or No Deal, not this. Anything but this. I'm now alone in the kitchen. I don't know when that happened. I presume everyone else has fled. My gaze flickers to the open door as I try to decide what to do. Maybe if I run now, I could get out before the building collapses. Or maybe the lower floors are experiencing the worst of it, and I'm best waiting up here while the blaze is brought under control. Is there anything here I could turn into a parachute? No, I scold myself. That’s pointless and stupid. I’d never break through those windows anyway. Turning on my phone, I check the BBC. The first result is a live video of the Shard, burning in a dozen places. The news anchors are speaking but I can’t hear a word of it. I watch the screen in horror as the fire begins to creep outward from the explosion sites. One of them is pretty close to this kitchen. Placing my hands on the ground, I feel warmth. There’s a rumbling sensation. Something is crackling not far from our door. As fast as I can, I slam it shut, backing away with a hiss as the handle burns my skin, leaving it red and blotchy. Now there’s smoke trickling in through the vents and the air is getting hazy. Pulling a wet cloth over my mouth, I run around the kitchen and turn on all the taps and block all the drains. They overflow one by one, spilling out onto the floor until there’s a pool of water an inch deep. This won’t save me, but it might slow the spread. It’s getting seriously hot in here. I clutch my burned hands around the wet cloth, which eases the pain, but nothing can stop the coughing fits. There’s soot clogging my lungs and in my eyes, causing them to water uncontrollably. The air is so thick now that I can barely see from one end of the room to the other. My only sign that the door has buckled is the red tongues of flame licking at the ceiling. At the same time, I’m hit by a wave of heat so overwhelming that my only option is to curl up on the floor and cover my face as I feel the skin of my back start to blister. Then something astonishing happens. Something so unusual that I wonder if I’m hallucinating. There's a silhouette visible through the smoke. A man. He's enormous, and seems completely unphased by the fire caressing every inch of his body. His eyes find me on the floor, and a look of relief flits across his face. I blink, and he’s suddenly leaning over me. How did he move so fast? I open my mouth to ask, but only a ragged cough comes out. Two huge arms gently scoop me up. I press my face into his chest to escape the heat. Somehow even in the middle of a burning skyscraper, his touch makes me feel safe. Protected. Isn’t that strange? I hear the sound of shattering glass, feel a rush of cold air on my neck. The arms wrap more tightly around me. The lurching in my stomach tells me we’re moving, and I try to look around, but one hand on the back of my head keeps me locked to his chest. As the adrenaline fades, my body starts to scream in pain. I’ve never felt such agony. It’s only a matter of time before blackness is creeping into my vision, clouding my mind. And then I’m gone.
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