Boys Keep Fucking Up My Car

by shukyou (主教)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/301537.html)

Zackery

“Hey, I know a thing or two about cars.”

Gabriel kept his expression pleasant, neutral. “Do you,” he said, keeping his voice as noncommittal as he could while at the same time yelling over a shitty club backbeat. When he’d started sneaking into clubs at seventeen, using his older cousin’s ID, no one had told him the real crime would be that he’d become sick to death of it all by the time he could do it legally.

“Sure do!” said the guy, who had a mean little grin. Sugar knew him, and Gabriel had come with Sugar, which meant that by some bizarre homo-social commutative process, Gabriel and he were at least minor friends. Problem was, Sugar had shit taste in men, cats, jobs, apartments, and pretty much everything but lipstick and vodka. They’d been friends ever since they’d gotten booted on the same night by the same bouncer. “I had an uncle who ran a shop.”

Gabriel did not point out that when confronted with a skinny twink with a nice ass and a falling-apart 1983 Toyota Corolla, suddenly everyone had an uncle who ran a shop. He glanced over toward Sugar, who ran long brown fingers through her (at least, Gabriel assumed Sugar was being a her when under that wig, though it could be hard to get a straight — ha ha — answer on that even at the best of times) bright pink hair and laughed. “I’m sure Zackery here will give you a nice lube job,” she said with a campy giggle. She liked to think of herself as one of those old-school faggots, too much for one gender but not inclined to abandon either. Depending on the day Gabriel had had, he found that alternately charming and tiresome. And he’d had one hell of a day already.

At least this Zackery was cute, if in that sort of chiseled gym-rat way. His shirt was way too tight, and he had a baseball cap stuffed in his back pocket, which might have been either some bizarre new hanky code or a sign that he actually wore it in real life. The way Zackery’s light brown hair stuck to his scalp, Gabriel was willing to bet the latter. Guys who looked like that were the ones who’d spent their whole high school careers shoving sissies like Gabriel into lockers, only to hit their twenties and realize what homophobia really meant.

He didn’t start out each day intending to finish it in a cynical, shitty mood. It just sort of kept happening.

Even so, he had to get to work again by noon the next day, so he didn’t have much else to lose. “Okay,” said Gabriel, taking down the last swallow of his beer before standing. Sugar grabbed his hand and kissed his fingertips, leaving bright orange smudges there. “Call you later,” he promised her.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t!” Sugar laughed and waved them toward the door. God only knew where she found her enthusiasm, or why days behind the Macys perfume counter didn’t suck it out of her. Gabriel had taken a seasonal position with her there one December; Sugar’s smile had never faltered while Gabriel had barely made it out of the two-week holiday rush alive.

The ten-minute drive to Gabriel’s apartment complex was quiet at this time of night, and though Zackery’s breath smelled like Guinness, he made his way through the streets like he was on his best driver’s ed behavior. “So how do you know Sugar?” asked Gabriel, trying for the only common conversational ground he was sure they had.

“Went to high school with Charlie,” Zackery said. Charlie was Sugar’s super-butch, super-straight older brother, exactly the kind of person a guy like Zackery could be found around in his natural habitat. “Said your name was Gabrielle?”

“Gabriel.” By this point in his life, Gabriel could hear the difference even when white people were talking between his name and the girl’s name. “It’s Spanish. Like Gabriel García Márquez.”

“Oh, neat,” said Zackery, with the tone of someone who obviously had no idea who that was.

While almost every other place he’d lived had been pressed for parking space, through some bizarre act of design foresight, Gabriel’s current complex had twice as many spots as were ever filled. Considering how many times he’d left his car languishing for weeks in one space or another while he’d scraped up the cash for a tow to a shop, he wasn’t going to complain. “Right there,” said Gabriel as they pulled in, pointing to the silver Corolla parked beneath the oily orange streetlight. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was his, and it was one of the only thing that was actually, legally his in the world. That counted for a lot.

Twenty minutes later, as Zackery removed yet another piece from the engine, Gabriel’s initial skepticism was feeling ever more justified.

“Well, there’s your problem,” Zackery said, holding a fist-sized chunk of metal in the palm of his hand. It was a cool night, but Zackery had stripped down to his pressed white undershirt and khakis — both of which were still as clean as they had been in the club, though Gabriel wasn’t going to come to too many conclusions about that. Maybe he was just so good with cars that he could dismantle them to scrap without so much as smudging his knuckles. It was a nice thought, but Gabriel wasn’t holding his breath.

“Where’s my problem?” asked Gabriel, squinting. Even in the daylight, he would have been hard-pressed to tell one chunk of machinery from another; here, with his car’s popped hood shadowing the only light source, for all Gabriel could make out, Zackery could have been holding the Hope Diamond.

Zackery tapped the indicated item. “Your air distributor. Let me clean it and put it back on, and by tomorrow it should be running good as new.”

Later, Gabriel would reflect that it had sounded far too good to be true, but as he stood there in the parking lot, not long after midnight with another double-shift waiting for him in less than twelve hours, groundless optimism got the better of him. “That’ll really do it?” He allowed himself an honest smile, his first one of the evening.

“That’ll do it!” said Zackery with a wink. And for a quick, cheap fix like that, Gabriel supposed he could ask a boy inside for a nightcap.

Gabriel was wiping the come from his lips, standing from where he’d knelt between Zackery’s knees in front of the sofa, when Zackery announced that he was so sorry, but it was late, he really had to go, he’d owe Gabriel one, he’d had a great time, good luck with the car thing, be sure to text, bye. He made his exit with such a sudden, tornado-like fury, in fact, that Gabriel wasn’t even left two seconds to mount an objection to any of it, such as pointing out that neither one of them had the other’s phone number.

The next day, Gabriel had to make three phone calls: first, to the restaurant manager, saying he’d be there as soon as he could; second, to the taxi company, scheduling a pickup to the park-and-ride depot; and third, to the nearest garage that offered tow service. It was going to be another shitty day.

~*~

Buckley

“You should maybe think about selling it.”

Gabriel sighed at Sugar, who was growing his moustache out again, and therefore it was now apparently his moustache, despite the sparkly pink tights and wedges a few feet below it. On the other side of the tiny bar, some shitfaced hipster fairies were wailing tunelessly at ‘My Heart Will Go On’. “No. And even if I did, I’d get, like, two dollars for it. I’d rather have a shitty car that gets me there half the time than no car that doesn’t get me anywhere.”

Sugar sighed and put his feet up, resting his calves over Gabriel’s knees. It was a nice enough bar, roomy and with good drinks, provided one could endure the beer-soaked caterwauling that passed for singing. “You get so damn attached to things.” He reached over and gave Gabriel’s hand a little squeeze.

“I know.” Gabriel turned his own hand palm-upward and squeezed Sugar’s fingers back. The trio on stage finished their number with a rousing attempt to recreate the ‘flying’ Titanic scene, which wound up with two of them pitched off the stage and into the front row of tables. Gabriel pointed in that direction. “You wanted to go get in line?”

“Hmm.” Sugar caught his lower lip thoughtfully between his teeth. “You think ‘I Will Survive’ or ‘It’s Raining Men’?”

“I think the longer you wait to put your name on the list, the more likely it’s going to be that by the time it gets to your turn, there’ll have been three covers of each already.”

Sugar tapped one manicured nail against his lower lip. “Mm, good point.” He hopped to his feet and made his way — sashayed, he would have said — up to the front. Where Gabriel had never engaged much with gay culture, Sugar rolled around in the production of it all. If Gabriel hadn’t loved him to death, he probably would have hated him — though that held pretty much true for everyone in Gabriel’s life.

“Mind if I keep you company while your friend’s up there?”

Gabriel turned and looked up to see a man standing beside him, his hand on the back of the chair Sugar had vacated moments before. His tattooed hand, in fact, which became a tattooed wrist and a tattooed forearm that disappeared beneath a cuffed plaid sleeve. The collar of his shirt was open, revealing bits of a tattooed neck that peeked out from beneath his lush brown beard. He even had suspenders and work boots, for the full lumberjack effect. Gabriel was impressed enough to nod him into place.

Introductions and brief come-here-often pleasantries turned into an offer to buy Gabriel a drink, and after Buckley (whether it was his first or last name, Gabriel couldn’t say) flagged down a waitress for a couple of beers, he made his opening gambit: “Didn’t want to eavesdrop, but I heard you were having car troubles, and I know a thing or two about cars.”

Through great effort, Gabriel did not sigh, and instead took a considering drink from his bottle. “Do you.”

“Well, engines,” said Buckley, giving Gabriel a toothy grin. “Worked on planes and helicopters when I was in the Navy.”

A quick glance toward Buckley’s beer-holding left hand revealed no dent where a wedding band might recently have been before being hastily removed, an examination Gabriel wished he hadn’t learned the hard way he needed to make, especially around guys who played it pretty butch. “Navy, huh?” Gabriel was irritated to hear the intrigue in his voice. He wanted so badly to be a world-weary cynic, especially in times like these, where he could be icy cool and let interest and rejection alike roll off his back. Damn his stupid squishy center.

“Two tours.” Buckley kept that smile going, charming as hell. “Initially, I was stationed outside of….”

That was when it all started to go wrong. He named a location, though it wasn’t one that Gabriel recognized, nor was it one that stuck in his memory — at least not after Buckley spent the next thirty minutes telling all the exploits of his stint in the United States Armed Forces in excruciating, self-aggrandizing detail. While Gabriel had no experience with military service himself, he was fairly certain that no one soldier would have been allowed to engage in so many exploits without some sort of commendation and/or incarceration. Beneath the friendly grin and easy lumberjack air of a handsome man lay a fellow so interested in puffing up his own legend that by the end of it, the only part of the tale Gabriel still unquestioningly believed was Buckley’s own name, and that only because Buckley hadn’t yet started to embellish on that.

To make matters even worse, as soon as Sugar saw that Gabriel wasn’t alone at the table any longer, he grinned and kept a wide berth, and no amount of pleading eye signals Gabriel sent him could entice him to return and become a much-needed buffer, if perhaps not a full cockblock. Thus, Gabriel found himself running out of exit options — and, if he was being honest, wrapped into a conversation with a man he certainly wouldn’t kick out of bed for eating crackers. Thus, he looped them back as best he could to the start: “See, I’ve got this old car that…”

The karaoke bar was farther from Gabriel’s apartment than most of their other haunts, so Gabriel had another twenty minutes of biting his tongue to keep from calling bullshit on everything said and then some. Instead, he looked out the window, made noises of assent at proper moments, and reflected on how a better person probably wouldn’t exchange a hookup for car repair. But he wasn’t a better person; he was horny and poor, and Buckley was cute, and who knew, maybe once he stopped being too whatever he was to tell his real life story, he’d be a pretty great guy.

As he stood beside his car, Gabriel knew he was in no such luck. That wire reminded Buckley of the time he had fixed a helicopter for a guy who shot down something-or-other, and that battery made him think of the jet fighter he’d singlehandedly done a thing to, and the engine block was just like the time he was taking fire and had only his trusty wrench to blah blah blah. It was a combined lesson on modern war history and vehicle mechanics that Gabriel suspected wasn’t true to either.

He’d learned his lesson, though, and as Buckley pulled his head triumphantly out from beneath the car body, Gabriel asked, “Can I try to start it now?”

“Sure!” said Buckley, his beardy grin wide. Gabriel kept his hopes low as he slipped into the driver’s seat and turned the key — and then couldn’t keep the genuine surprise from his face as the engine actually turned over and sputtered to life. “Good as new!” Peering in through the open window, Buckley gave his own repair of the situation a thumbs-up.

He was as good in bed as he was at conversation at the bar — which was to say, he would probably have awarded himself the Congressional Medal of Valor for distinguished ass-fucking, while Gabriel was mostly bored. Being rebuffed for foreplay wasn’t that unusual; he’d been with a number of guys who’d wanted to skip right to sticking their dicks into something, and Buckley had a nice enough uncut cock that Gabriel had been agreeable to the idea of getting it in him as soon as he’d gotten his fingers down Buckley’s jeans and around its impressive girth. He didn’t even mind too much when Buckley tossed the lube to him with the expectation of not getting his own hands dirty with the unpleasant steps. But as Gabriel shoved three fingers into his own ass, seeing how much of a show he could make of it anyway, he caught Buckley instead checking himself out in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. He hated to say he wasn’t even surprised.

Gabriel lay there with his knees up nearly to his ears as Buckley plowed his rubbered-up cock into him; for a while, he tried to keep up some running monologue of encouraging noises, until he realized that they were absolutely irrelevant to Buckley’s performance. Gabriel wondered if he could just leave the space between his navel and thighs there, go do something else, and come back when it was all over. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how he chose to look at it), ‘all over’ was not too distant of a prospect.

The next morning he managed to get his car as far as the turnout from the parking lot to the street before he heard a great thunk and turned back with horror to see part of his engine in the middle of the lane behind him. He beat his head against the steering wheel for nearly a minute before hauling out his phone.

~*~

Kael

In retrospect, he should have smelled something fishy in Sugar’s invitation to a coffeehouse on the edge of the university campus at noon on a Wednesday, when it was sure to be busy. More than that, even, he should have listened to his good damn sense when he’d rounded the corner and had his eyes assaulted by approximately two million rainbow flags, streamers, banners, posters, and anything else that could hold six colors in a row. The pink triangle decals were wearing pink triangle decals. He’d once rimmed a guy while The Wizard of Oz had played on, unobserved, in the same room, and this was still the gayest thing he’d ever seen.

He couldn’t turn back, though, not after Sugar saw him and started calling for him. She (as she was always ‘she’ in her work clothes, at least until the customer insisted otherwise) seemed to have used Gabriel’s twenty minutes of lateness to find a seat on the porch of the packed-to-the-rafters establishment. That was the good news. The bad was that it was at a table for four, and two of the other seats were already taken.

“Sorry,” Gabriel said as he sat, “couldn’t find a spot, so I parked behind the restaurant and just walked over.”

Sugar pushed over a glass of iced tea so over-sweetened that it had its own little layer of white sediment at the bottom. “So this is Gabriel, that I was telling you about. Gabriel, this is Kael and Aiden.”

So far as Gabriel could tell, there were no fundamental differences between the two young men on the other side of the table, such that they could have both swapped seats while Gabriel’s head was turned without his noticing. They both had going for them the kind of nerd chic so severe that it threatened to cross the line between irony and sincerity, with not a prick, pierce, or mark anywhere visible on them that might someday disqualify them to conservative future employers. Dark-eyed and dark-haired, they were both incredibly handsome, though Gabriel didn’t think their identical near-bowl-cuts were doing a thing for either of them. “We’re in the engineering school,” said the one identified as Aiden, who had slightly fewer pens in his breast pocket than Kael did.

“Is that a fact,” said Gabriel as he braced his tongue for what was about to come up through his straw.

Whatever had transpired before Gabriel’s arrival, it had resulted in Aiden’s only having eyes for Sugar, who was flirting right back with him, which meant that by process of elimination, Gabriel and Kael became half of the impromptu double date. If Kael felt any discomfort over this, he didn’t let it show. If he felt anything, for that matter, he didn’t let it show, not even as he and Aiden continued the conversation that had apparently preceded Gabriel’s arrival, one for anyone else might have been a heated discussion: “Recapitulation of butch-femme dynamics only seeks to reiterate heteronormative power,” Kael said to Aiden over his coffee, as though in response to a claim Gabriel hadn’t heard.

“But they create structures of organization and identity,” Aiden responded, his affect only slightly less flat than Kael’s. “One cannot approve of the middle without implicitly approving of the structures on the margins from which its compromise is created.”

Kael shook his head and drummed on a textbook beneath his fingertips. “The identity they create is illusory and penalizes anyone who does not conform to binary gender notions. Furthermore, it is not only a binary, but a hierarchy that is antithetical to an egalitarian taxonomy of being, one further reinforced during coital activities that mimic prescribed notions of ‘proper’ intercourse.”

Aiden took what might for him have been an angry bite of his scone. “To accept as valid a synthetic construction of presentation while rejecting more quote-unquote authentic representations of established categories penalizes and polices with equal consequence.”

Sugar winked at Gabriel. Aren’t they so smart? she mouthed. Gabriel frankly had no way of telling.

What he did have, however, was a convenient excuse. He put up with nearly twenty minutes of this, enough to work his way through the whole glass of iced tea and a sandwich (both of which Kael had insisted on paying for, and that was quite nice of him), before looking at his watch and pretending to be shocked by the passage of time. “Sorry,” he said, gathering what few things he’d brought, “but I was going to check my oil before work–”

If Kael and Aiden had been dogs, their ears would have pricked at that. “Sugar said your car was having troubles,” said Aiden.

“Probably the computer,” said Kael.

Gabriel used every voluntary facial muscle he had to keep his expression fixed. Right. Engineers.

He didn’t know what Aiden and Sugar were getting up to, and he frankly didn’t care to. But whatever they were doing, it required Kael as little as it required Gabriel, so the two of them made the trip back to Gabriel’s car together. Kael, it turned out, was studying to be not only an engineer, but a mechanical engineer. Gabriel had no idea what that meant or whether or not it meant the guy should be trusted with a car, but it didn’t appear that he was being given a choice.

The dingy, cramped alley that served as the employee parking lot was a bit of an eyesore, and a lot of employees paid for spots in the better public lot across the street because it looked safer. Gabriel figured the joke was on anyone who stole his car. “I don’t actually know if it has a computer,” he said, popping the hood.

“All cars have computers.” Kael pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Since at least 1980.”

Gabriel frowned as he looked at the engine, which bore no resemblance to any computer he’d ever seen. “I … think everything in there’s from later than that, yeah,” Gabriel said, though he wasn’t willing to lay any money on that. Before it had been his, the car had once belonged to a distant cousin who’d needed to sell it when he’d been deployed overseas, and its history before that point was a mystery to Gabriel. It could have had parts in there from Sputnik and a toaster oven, for all he knew.

Kael reached into his back pocket and pulled out what looked to Gabriel like the graphing calculators he’d used in high school. “This may take a while.”

Gabriel glanced over to the door to the restaurant just in time to see his manager emerge, then frantically start waving Gabriel over. The lunch shift must have gotten out of hand. “Um, yeah, well … I’ve got to at least go check in, so I’ll be back in … whenever I can.”

“All right,” said Kael, staring at the screen of what probably wasn’t a graphing calculator. He didn’t even look up as Gabriel walked away, though as Gabriel was about to enter the kitchen’s back door, he heard a very un-confidence-inspiring sentence from behind him: “Okay, Google, how do I repair a car engine?”

He didn’t get a moment’s pause for nearly an hour; four different large parties had shown up, all without reservations and all demanding special treatment about one thing or another, running Gabriel ragged trying to keep up with orders. He’d almost forgotten about Kael entirely, in fact, until one of the dishwashers came back in from the alley smelling of smoke. “There’s some white boy out there messing with your car,” he told Gabriel in Spanish.

Gabriel sighed. “No, he’s supposed to be there,” he replied before letting his manager know he’d be back in fifteen.

It was a good thing that Kael was hot, despite his hairstyle failings, because Gabriel was sucking face with him only a few minutes later, hidden mostly from sight by the buildings and the dumpster (and wasn’t it lucky that today had been garbage day, or Gabriel didn’t know if he could handle the smell of rotting food and the feel of someone’s hand on his dick at once). Kael’s pants were tight, but Gabriel’s narrow fingers slipped down their front just fine, finding Kael’s cock and wrapping around it in a way that made Kael shiver and buck against him. Okay, that was nice; they could definitely get somewhere with that. But his break wouldn’t last forever, so he started to sink to his knees — only to feel Kael grab his shirt, holding him upright. “Fellatio is so heteronormative,” Kael said.

“What the fuck?” Gabriel asked, or started to ask, but the question was preempted by Kael’s mouth on his again. Somehow Kael managed to fish both their cocks out of their pants and get them both in one of his hands, so that they rubbed up against one another, slick only with their own precome. It was great in theory, except Kael had really small hands — smaller even than Gabriel’s skinny paws, and that was saying something — and Gabriel’s cock just kept slipping out of his grasp. Gabriel tried to rub against him on his own, hoping that pushing Kael back against the wall might give him some ideas about the proper support for (authentically gay, he supposed) sexual acts in alleyways. It didn’t.

For not the first time in his life, as he used Kael’s orgasm to fake his own, Gabriel was glad the restaurant dress code included bistro aprons.

Gabriel was so happy that the damn car started at the end of his shift, well after everyone else had gone home, that he almost didn’t notice that every warning light on his dash was lit or that neither of his radio presets were there anymore. What was unmissable, however, was how the car lurched when he pressed the brake pedal, then again every time he put it into gear. By the time he reached his apartment, his neck was sore and his back was shot and his teeth were rattled and he was absolutely done with everything forever.

~*~

Dallas

Half an hour and two beers after he arrived, his phone buzzed in his back pocket. It was a text from Sugar, a little sad-face emoji followed by gt 2 wrk l8 sry. Only because it was worth more money than he had did Gabriel not pitch the phone into the ice bucket just on the other side of the bar. For this, he could have stayed home and jerked off.

Under cheerier circumstances, he might have pushed his luck a little farther, but he was exhausted and he’d had a shitty shift and if he didn’t have to put his best face forward for Sugar, he wasn’t going to do it for anyone. He gave one last look to the lackluster crowd, most of it even thinner and twinkier than he was, then settled his tab. The bartender didn’t even bother flirting with him; that was how his night was going.

When the familiar rattle started beneath his feet less than a mile out of the bar’s parking lot, and several miles before he reached his own apartment complex, Gabriel’s heart dropped into his stomach, where the beer was poor cushion. The sputter the car gave was of type he’d never felt before, so severe that he thought for a second it might be an earthquake. But no, the steam that started trickling from beneath his hood indicated this was a much more localized phenomenon. He remembered little from all the Sundays his abuela had dragged him to Mass, but he did his best to mutter a Hail Mary as he gripped the steering wheel white-knuckle tight and willed the car off the street and into a nearby parking lot. The engine gave one last grind as he pressed the brake pedal, then did nothing at all.

Gabriel burst into tears. He didn’t mean to, he didn’t want to, it was so stupid crying over a stupid car that had never given him anything but trouble, a stupid car he should have gotten rid of years ago, but the more he tried to stop, the harder the tears came. He shouted and smacked his hands against the dashboard, giving in to the impulse to have a full-on temper tantrum. Everything was stupid, his whole life was stupid, it was gross and awful and he was just so tired of everything going wrong. Even the car was a perfect metaphor for his life: junky, past its prime, and falling apart. And now totally busted.

By the digital clock on his dash (which was still working, despite all the reasons he could think of it shouldn’t), he let himself have a full five minutes of wallowing in his misery before even that was too tiring. He grabbed a clean Burger King napkin he’d jammed down in the gap between the seat and armrest, unfolding it before using it to scrub clean his snotty face. With any luck, when the taxi he’d have to call arrived, he could fake not just having weathered a crying jag inside his (now-defunct) car. He could give it a shot, anyway.

Just when he thought the night couldn’t get any worse, he opened the car door to find that despite the late hour and the somewhat-empty section of the parking lot, he wasn’t alone. A man stood only a few spaces away, shadowed from the streetlight by a big white pickup, the kind so tall it needed little steps to get into. “You okay?” the man called.

“Fine,” answered Gabriel, hoping whoever this stranger was, he was polite enough to let the obviousness of the lie go unchallenged. “Thanks.”

“Because you look like you got a little–” Pointing to Gabriel’s car, the man stepped forward. Still with his face in shadow, he had a wild shock of dark hair that caught the light and became a halo. The closer he came, the more Gabriel realized that the truck had made for an odd optical illusion; the man was tall, at least a head taller than Gabriel, and he wore cowboy boots that sure as hell didn’t make him any shorter. “A little problem.”

Oh, this was it, this was the universe’s salt in every one of his wounds. “Why,” asked Gabriel, opening the back door so he could at least retrieve his bag before he set the car on fire and washed his hands of it, “you know a thing or two about cars?”

“I hope so!” The man laughed and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Else I don’t know why my uncle hired me.”

That caught Gabriel’s attention, and as he turned, he looked not at the man, but at the truck — at the side of his truck, in fact, where the words HUERTA AUTO REPAIR were stenciled above a drawing of a wrench and two phone numbers. What he’d first taken to be a gun rack on the back of the cab looked on closer inspection more like a reinforcing frame, maybe something that might hold a tow bar. “Your uncle actually owns a shop?”

Instead of answering, the man reached for a set of keys at his hip, and the truck’s lights flashed the warning of having been remotely locked. “So you want me to take a look?”

He should say no. He needed to say no. This was just gearing up to another wave of disappointment and annoyance, and now he was probably going to get charged for it, since the circles of guys who worked in legitimate garages and guys who would accept payment for repair in blowjobs didn’t tend to overlap. And at any other time, he would have said no. But he was so tired and beaten down that he just shrugged and reached inside to pop the hood. Let the guy look, bluster for a while, make noises about how all the parts Gabriel’s car didn’t have were busted, flex his macho repair muscles. At least if he did get billed, Gabriel couldn’t pay with what he just plain didn’t have.

As the man leaned in to look at the guts of Gabriel’s poor old car, Gabriel could see that he was younger than Gabriel had first thought, probably not even out of his twenties. He had a stocky build and knobby hands with thick knuckles and skin almost more red than brown. He was dressed casually, not in mechanic’s overalls, but by the headlights of a passing car, Gabriel could see a smudge of grease at his temple, just by his hairline. “Well,” he said after less than a minute’s consideration, “this old thing’s had a hard life, hasn’t it?”

It was the understatement of the year. “Yeah.” Gabriel sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose; between the crying and the beer, he was getting a bit of a headache. “This where you tell me to take it out back and shoot it?”

That made the man laugh a deep belly laugh. “No,” he said, taking down the bar that propped up the hood. “I mean, unless that’s the advice you want me to give, in which case, vaya con Dios.” He gave the engine a little farewell wave before shutting the hood. “But I could get it back up and running. You’ve got some fine parts. You just need somebody to put them together right.”

That was either the harshest or the kindest thing someone had ever said about Gabriel’s car — or his life, for that matter. “Can you?”

“I can try.” He glanced around the lot, then pulled out his phone and began tapping something in. “Our shop’s in charge of towing for this lot, but I’ll make sure nobody bothers your car overnight. Tomorrow, I’ll get it into the garage, get underneath it, see what I can do. Fair?”

‘Fair’ didn’t begin to cover it; ‘miraculous’ was a little closer to the mark. But he wasn’t ready to start dedicating his life to Jesus just yet. “I don’t–” Gabriel screwed up his hands into fists for a moment, digging his nails into his palms, then powered through with it: “I’m kind of broke.”

That made the man laugh again, and it was such a sweet, honest sound that it tempered Gabriel’s humiliation of admitting his dire financial status to a stranger. “I didn’t see you driving that thing home to dive into a big Scrooge McDuck vault of money. Tell you what: I’ll tow it down and take a look, no charge, and then we’ll see what it needs and what to do about it then. Call it my offering to San Cristóbal. Deal?”

Gabriel supposed if anyone needed to be in good with the patron saint of travelers and car accidents, it was a mechanic. “Thank you,” he said, extending his hand in the manliest fashion possible; he didn’t want to have good fortune like this sour on him because he swished a little too hard at the wrong moment. “I’m Gabriel.”

The man took Gabriel’s hand in his own warm one, giving it a firm shake. “Dallas.”

He couldn’t help it; the last thing he’d expected to come out of this guy’s mouth was the same kind of douchey name he associated with pasty club boys. “Dallas?” he repeated before he could think better of it.

But instead of seeming offended, Dallas just grinned. “My mother loves her shows. She says I should be glad I wasn’t christened Juan Life to Live Huerta y López.”

The pun made Gabriel snort out a laugh, and having been crying so recently meant he had to break the handshake to go rummaging through his bag for another clean fast-food napkin. “Oh, God, I’m sorry, I–” He wiped his nose before looking up again, beyond grateful to see that Dallas was still smiling. Dallas was really handsome when he did that, and Gabriel needed to stop this before he started thinking bad thoughts. “Thank you. I can’t — I just — thank you.” Shit, he was going to start crying again.

“No problem. Say, do you live around here?” Dallas glanced around at the distinctly un-residential area around them, as though answering his own question.

Gabriel shook his head. “Got a friend who owes me big,” he said, opening his recent contacts list and scrolling down to Sugar’s name, “so I can get a ride.”

“Nah, come on. I’ll give you a lift.” Dallas jerked his thumb toward the truck, then clicked the key to unlock its doors.

“Oh, no, I–” Gabriel began, but Dallas was already walking over, his long legs and heavy-heeled cowboy boots cutting a martial tempo. “I’ve really got someone I can call.”

He was absolutely determined to reject this far too generous of an offer, right up until the moment Dallas grabbed the handle of the passenger-side door and swung it gallantly open. Gabriel could all but hear his resolve crumble around him, and it was all he could do to keep from swooning flat onto his ass. Feeling mousier than he usually did, Gabriel secured his bag over one shoulder and hopped up into the cab. It was like some funland version of a car, or maybe he was Alice in Wonderland today. He was almost surprised that his feet reached the floorboard.

As he set off following Gabriel’s directions, Dallas steered with his left arm, letting his right one stretch out along the back of the bench seat, his hand resting just at the base of Gabriel’s headrest. “I should probably be thanking you. I was just going to go to the bar, and man, that’s a depressing scene.”

“Tell me about it.” Gabriel sighed. “That’s where I was coming from when I had my major malfunction.”

“Yeah?” Dallas glanced over. “Which one?”

While he hadn’t strictly been trying to play it straight, Gabriel had done his best to keep from sending his savior into a gay panic. But as he considered lying, he realized that he didn’t know enough straight establishments in that area to make the lie believable. And anyway, he figured he could be honest here, on account of how the place had been enough of a dive that the odds that it was known — or known as a gay bar — were pretty slim. “Corner Pocket,” he said, pointing back in the direction they’d come from. “Never been before. I was supposed to meet a friend but got bailed on, so I left, and the rest is kind of history.”

Dallas’ eyes went wide for a moment, causing Gabriel’s heart to seize up. “No shit,” he said, his voice soft. “That’s where I was going.”

It took Gabriel’s brain a good long moment to parse what Dallas had said, and another several after that to believe he’d heard it at all. “No shit,” Gabriel said at last, unable to keep a grin from his face.

Conversation on the rest of the drive consisted mostly of directions given, and when they pulled into Gabriel’s apartment complex, Gabriel asked Dallas up to his place to exchange contact information, as though they couldn’t have done that right where they were sitting, so Dallas had parked and agreed that sounded like a good idea. Gabriel was so excited he all but flew up the stairs; his hands shook so much he could barely get his keys in the front door, a situation made no easier by how close Dallas was standing behind him. And it was close, close enough that he could feel Dallas’ breath against the back of his neck — close enough, in fact, that he could feel the bulge in the front of Dallas’ jeans when he leaned his ass back. So he did exactly that, and another spike of excitement stabbed at his stomach when he heard Dallas groan in response and felt a strong, knobby hand come to rest on his hip.

They barely got the door shut behind them before they were tearing at each other’s clothing, shedding it in laughing fits and starts as Gabriel dragged Dallas back toward the bedroom. “Hold on, hold on,” said Dallas as they passed Gabriel’s couch, and he plopped himself down there long enough to kick off his boots. For good measure, Gabriel grabbed the cuffs of Dallas’ jeans and yanked them all the way down too. His reward was to see Dallas’ shapely, strong legs, a pair of navy boxers, and a thick cock peeking its way out of the slit in the fabric. He stood there for a moment, transfixed, licking his lips — then yelped and ran as Dallas leapt up from the couch, vaulting over the arm.

It was a short pursuit, largely for how Gabriel’s apartment was only a one-bedroom and not a studio by the most technical of definitions. Gabriel landed on his bed and flopped over onto his back just in time to catch Dallas, who fell on top of him with a playful pounce. For all their prior disrobing, Gabriel’s t-shirt had remained in place, and Dallas grabbed the hem of it. “Got to check under the hood,” he said as he yanked it up, exposing Gabriel’s belly. He then pressed his mouth to Gabriel’s skin, just above his navel, and proceeded to blow a long, sonorous farting raspberry into Gabriel’s tummy.

Gabriel shrieked with laughter, kicking and swatting at Dallas with just enough force to make it known that he didn’t actually want this kind of treatment to stop. “You monster!” he cried, loud enough that he was certain some neighbor probably wanted to complain, but did nothing to free himself as Dallas took a deep breath and did it again. Gabriel was now laughing so hard tears were flowing from his eyes, which was the exact opposite of all the club-kid cool he’d so carefully cultivated over the years, trying first to look older than he was, then more put-together than he was. But fuck it; this was objectively better.

As Dallas came up for air again, Gabriel grabbed his shaggy, rust-brown hair and dragged him up for a kiss. “Monster,” he repeated against Dallas’ mouth, and when Dallas just grinned at that, Gabriel was helpless against his desire to kiss that grin right off his monstrously handsome face. So he did just that, with no complaints from Dallas’ end.

For a while, they lay twined like that on Gabriel’s bed, legs and arms and mouths tangled, just making out like teenagers — or at least like Gabriel had always heard that teenagers made out, as his formative sexual years had seen him tossed into the deep end pretty early. But this was nice too, all loose and aimless as hands wandered slowly downward. Freed from the confines of his boxers, Dallas’ cock flopped stiff and heavy against their thighs, and Gabriel certainly didn’t want it to feel unappreciated, so he let his fingertips trace the slick slit at the tip. Dallas groaned into the kiss as Gabriel learned the contours of his mushroomy head, the veins running in sharp relief down the shaft, the low, heavy balls at the base. Maybe it was nothing a size queen would write home about, and it was nothing he’d ever see in a porn movie or find cast in silicone on some sex toy site, but it was good and warm in his hand, and most important of all, touching it made Dallas make beautiful gasping noises. In light of that, Gabriel didn’t know how he’d ever want to touch anything else, probably for the rest of his life.

Dallas’ own hands were clean but callused, with little knobs of texture and interesting rough spots that felt amazing as they wandered up and down Gabriel’s dick, doing the same slow explorations. He kept his grip on Gabriel’s shaft just strong enough to make his interest known, but light enough that he didn’t seem concerned with reaching any particular end anytime soon. More than that, even, all his actions were geared toward making Gabriel feel good, and Gabriel definitely couldn’t remember the last time someone had put more than perfunctory effort toward that. And every time Gabriel pulled back enough to see Dallas’ face, he saw that gorgeous grin just waiting for him to kiss it again.

But Gabriel wasn’t new to this, and he knew that to keep a guy interested, some things had to happen. “What do you want?” he asked, petting Dallas’ stubbly chin.

Dallas shrugged. “What do you want?”

Gabriel hadn’t expected to have the question turned back on him. “Do you want to fuck me?”

“Do you want me to fuck you?” Dallas shot back with a wink.

Gabriel did, he really did, yet the thought threw cold water on his libido in a way that confused him at first. But then he thought more about the prospect — sure, he wanted to be fucked, he wanted Dallas’ dick in him and all that good stuff. What he didn’t want was for Dallas to get up afterward, make his excuses, and walk out the door, satisfied that the car repairs had been paid for. Of all the things that had happened to him that night, that was the one he thought he couldn’t bear. So when he opened his mouth again, despite every sex-kitten instinct he’d ever developed, he found himself asking, “Do you … want to order pizza?”

Dallas blinked at him for a second, surprised, before barking out a laugh. “Pizza sounds awesome,” he said, and his reaction set free butterflies Gabriel hadn’t even known had laid siege to his stomach. “You got a good delivery place?”

“No,” Gabriel admitted, laughing in kind. “Got a shitty delivery place. But it’s that or sketchy Chinese.”

“Shitty pizza gets my vote.” Dallas settled on the bed next to Gabriel, petting Gabriel’s bare hip and looking in no way disappointed by this turn of events. “Maybe watch some awful late-night TV while we eat?”

“God, yes.” Gabriel nodded, then closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to Dallas’. “And then, yeah, I want you to fuck me. I really want you to fuck me. And not because you’re fixing my car. Or, uh, not just because you’re fixing my car.”

Dallas leaned forward and nuzzled their noses together. “That sounds perfect. …Can I suck your dick while you’re calling, though?”

In high school English, Gabriel had been forced to read a lot of boring-as-shit novels by dead British people, and his best friend had once asked the teacher what the fuck (in those exact words) a ‘swoon’ was. Now Gabriel knew. “Can I suck yours while it’s out for delivery?”

“Deal,” said Dallas, reaching for Gabriel’s right hand and giving it a comical businesslike shake. Gabriel laughed and leaned forward to kiss Dallas, and they stayed like that for a few minutes more, just kissing and giggling and caught up in one another. Dallas’ bare thigh found its way between Gabriel’s, then pressed up enough that it pushed against Gabriel’s balls in a way that made Gabriel’s cock throb without getting him any closer to coming. Damn, the man was good at this.

There was pizza to be had, though, so at last Gabriel leaned over the side of the bed and started rummaging through his jeans for his phone. A thought struck him, though, as he clicked the screen to life and saw his missed text messages. “Wait, before I call, can you do something for me?”

Dallas sat up and raked his fingers through his hair. “Sure, what?”

“Just…” Gabriel fired up the camera app on his phone. “Flip me off. And look real smug.”

The request made Dallas laugh, but he did so, widening his mouth into the shit-eatingest grin Gabriel had ever seen on an actual human face. It was stupid and sexy and gorgeous all at once, which was the literally perfect storm of factors Gabriel hadn’t even known he’d been waiting for all his life. “What’s that for?” Dallas asked after the shutter made its clicking noise.

Gabriel dropped the picture, with no further comment, into a text message to Sugar. “Thanking someone for standing me up tonight,” he said, and with a triumphant tap, he sent it off. “Okay, that’s done, so … what do you want on your pizza?”

“Sausage!” said Dallas, and Gabriel — who supposed he should have expected that — held tight to his phone as Dallas grabbed for him and pulled his boxers down. He’d never before made a phone call while a gorgeous man gave him expert head, looking up at him with dark lips in a pretty o and wide brown eyes, but as tonight was proving, there was a first time for everything.


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