Woodward Avenue

by Aosora Hikaru (青空ヒカル)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/300451.html)

“Don’t mind the mess,” I said as I opened the garage door. “I don’t come out here very often.”

Nick shook his head with a sad frown. “I don’t see why not, if you’re telling me the truth.”

I grimaced as I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand. Summer had decided to come early — very early — and the June day was burning hot. “It’s complicated. There’s a lot of memories tied up in this.”

“Yeah, but it’s a Chevelle, dude. A goddamn 1970 Chevelle SS. You’re a fucking idiot to let it rot for five years.”

I pulled the cover off the car, fighting the urge to cough as the dust scattered into the air. Her navy blue paint still was just as shiny as I remembered, and behind me I could hear Nick suck in a quick breath.

“Jesus,” he whispered. “She’s beautiful.”

He’d started as only a co-worker at our engineering firm, but it turned out that Nick was good company and a better friend, so we started hanging out sometimes after work. He’s way more into cars than I am, and I could practically sense the jealousy dripping from his very pores. “I told you I was my uncle’s favorite nephew.”

“I wish he could have adopted me,” Nick grumbled.

“Do you want to look at the fucking car, or are you just going to store this shit in your spank bank for later?” I snapped. I felt guilty for yelling at him, piled onto the guilt for the general neglect this car had endured in my supposed care. My uncle had always trusted me, and now it was collecting dust in my garage.

The car, of course, not his trust. But maybe his trust, too. I bet he was staring down at me from heaven and shaking his head with all the disappointment his disembodied spirit could muster. He’d passed away about five years ago, and six months later, I had the Chevelle in my garage. Now my Focus had to weather the seasons in my driveway, instead. Poor Focus.

Nick had now moved forward, his hands gliding over the fenders with a tenderness I doubted he even reserved for his wife. “How could you just let her sit here for five years? What about… what about the Dream Cruise?! She’d be perfect for it! Come on, man, this baby in the biggest classic car show in the fucking country?”

“I don’t know how your wife would feel about you talking about my car that way,” I said. I was very familiar with the Woodward Dream Cruise, being a family tradition and all. I did grin, just to let him know I was only giving him a hard time, but really he looked like he was about ten seconds from humping the damned thing. “Anyway, I know it’d be perfect for the Cruise. My uncle drove this car in it every year. I even rode with him a few times.”

“Why don’t you take her out in it? I bet she’d get tons of attention. Even with all those other cars… She’d stand out, even in a sea of 40,000.” He really did look like he wanted to leave his wife for this machine.

“I don’t know, Nick. I just… I guess I’m not that into cars.”

He turned to me, his face set with determination, even with sweat dripping down his temples from the humidity. “What do you want for her?”


“I’m serious. How much?”

I blinked, stammering a few times. “I can’t — I can’t sell it! My uncle… this car was his baby! My mother would kill me!”

“You’re a grown man, Oliver,” Nick said. “You aren’t taking care of her, and this is a damn shame. I will pay you whatever you want for this car, I swear to God.”

“Wha– no! What would your wife say?!”

He shrugged, then ran his hand over the Chevelle’s fender again. “I’d find a way. I’d explain it to her. I just…” He shrugged again. “You’re wasting a fantastic car here. I’d give her the love she deserves.”

I blinked at him, at a loss for words only long enough to watch him stroke the hood as though he were making love to it. “Nick, it’s a car! A machine! Nothing more than metal and gears and — and tires!

“A car that you’re fucking wasting, Oliver. Fine.” He shrugged. “Your loss, I guess. Can I see the inside?”

I drew a deep breath, then nodded. “Yeah, you can. I haven’t opened it up in ages. It could probably do with an ass in the seat again.” I pulled my keys out of my pockets, running through them until I found the ones I was looking for, nestled between the keys to my Focus and the one to get into my house. When I opened the door, my heart jumped up into my throat. It still smelled just like I remembered. The faint scent of motor oil melded with the leather, rubbed into the seats and steering wheel from my uncle’s clothes and hands from every oil change and fine-tuning he’d given the car. If I closed my eyes and breathed deeply enough, it was almost as if I were right there in the passenger seat with the windows rolled down, the radio blaring, and the wind tousling my hair.

God, I missed my uncle.

I stepped aside, and Nick jumped forward like a kid in a candy store. “Oh, the interior is beautiful! It looks like the leather’s starting to show its age, you really should get some leather conditioner and keep a better eye on her…”

Truthfully, I started to tune Nick out as soon as he started babbling about leather care and how I had to be careful about the dashboard and door interiors. Instead, I thought back to when I used to help my uncle clean and detail the insides before every Dream Cruise. We’d spend late July and the first couple weeks of August cleaning every visible inch of the car. Even the tires would be spotless by the time we were ready to drive that car up and down Woodward Avenue, from Ferndale to Royal Oak, then all the way up toward Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills. It was a Detroit tradition, and one I had always been proud of participating in. I’ve gone to watch it every year since my uncle got sick, but I couldn’t figure out until today, with Nick, why it didn’t feel right.

“I need to do the Dream Cruise this year,” I said, interrupting Nick’s plans with my abrupt announcement.

In response, he stared at me as though I were the biggest idiot to have ever graced Michigan with my shallow intellect. “No shit, Sherlock. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Oliver. You’ve been sitting on a goddamn gold mine, and you’ve been wasting it.”

“Okay, then, tell me what I need to do next.”

Nick sighed and ran his hands over the steering wheel. I fought down the pang of possessiveness when his hands passed over the worn spots my uncle’s hands had preferred — two o’clock for his right, six o’clock for his left — and let him do as he wished. “There’s a mechanic I know of in Pleasant Ridge,” he said. “He’s real good. We’ve talked shop a few times, he really knows his stuff. He’d fall over himself to get his hands on this car.”

“What’s his name?”

Nick smiled as he ran his fingertips over the dashboard. “His name is Antoine Brown. I’ll get you his number.”

The shop itself was just off Woodward, not far from my house. Antoine was polite over the phone, if perhaps a bit too enthused by my standards to have the ability to work on the Chevelle. We scheduled an appointment for that weekend for me to take the car over, and then all I had to do was wait.

The thought occurred to me the day before the appointment that I hadn’t started the Chevelle since it was moved into my garage, and I wasn’t even sure it could start anymore. I went out to the garage, sat in the front seat, and enjoyed that familiar space for a few minutes before I put my key in the ignition and turned it.


Still in the car, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and scrolled through the recent texts from Nick until I found the number for Antoine he’d texted me again. It only rang twice before Antoine picked up.

“Brown’s Auto Repair.”

“Um, hey, it’s me, Oliver Kim again.”

Immediately his voice picked up from the bored monotone he’d answered with, and I heard some of that childlike excitement come back into his voice again. “Hey! With the Chevelle, right? What’s going on, man? How’s the car?”

I grimaced and ran my hand over the steering wheel as though I were trying to reassure the car — or myself. “Well, that’s what I’m calling about. I just came out and tried to start it, and the engine won’t turn over.”

“Can you hear the starter trying to go, or what? Is it just going vrr-vrr-vrr or is it silent? Are you by the car? Can you try to start her for me?” His passion was obvious through his words and through the barrage of questions he pelted me with. He’d hardly taken a breath between each one, much less given me the chance to reply before moving on to the next.

“I’m actually in the car right now. I just tried to start it. Here, listen.” I turned on the speakerphone then set it on the dash, then turned the key again only to be met with silence.

“And you’re turning the key right now?”

“Yeah. Should we reschedule the appointment, or… I don’t know how I’m going to get the car there.”

“I’ve got a tow truck. I can be there in…” He paused, like he was looking at a clock on the wall. “Well, I can leave right now. Where are you?”

I blinked a few times, then picked up the phone and put it to my ear again. “No, no, you don’t have to do that, really. We can reschedule, and I can call my own tow truck–”

“Where are you?” He asked again, and I flinched. I’d forgotten to turn the speakerphone back off.

“I’m in Ferndale, around 9 and Hilton.”

“I can be there in ten minutes,” Antoine said.


Antoine cut me off again, and the tone in his voice let me know he was very serious about this. “Let me make this clear. You said you wanted to drive this car in the Dream Cruise, but now she won’t start. We have two months to get this car up and running and I will be damned if I let an opportunity like this slip past both of us. Give me your address, and I will be there in ten minutes.”

I guess an advantage to this would be the ability to park my Focus in the garage again. After hanging up the phone, I leaned against the rear bumper of the car. True to his word, Antoine rolled up ten minutes later in a modified pickup truck. Plastered across the side was a modest hand-painted Brown’s Auto Repair, and after he backed into my driveway the engine rattled to a stop.

“That your Focus?” he shouted as he climbed out.

I nodded, and stepped forward to shake his hand. He took it and shook it firmly — almost too much, because my hand throbbed after he let it go — and then spoke again. “Your tires are balding. You gotta go get those replaced, man.”

I blinked a few times. Here we’d barely spoken to each other, and had never met before, and he was already getting on me about my car. “Nice to meet you, too.”

He grimaced, then extended his hand again. “Sorry, sorry. I forget to stop doing the job sometimes. Antoine Brown. You must be Oliver Kim.”

I shook his hand again, and this time he didn’t crush mine. “Nice to meet you,” I said again, more sincerely this time.

“Now,” Antoine said, a grin breaking across his face, “Let’s get that Chevelle ready for the Cruise.”

I followed behind the tow truck in my Focus. I was almost positive I knew exactly where the auto shop was, and I was right — a right turn from Nine Mile onto Woodward, the Michigan left to go southbound again, and there it was, just south of I-696. I’d driven past it I-don’t-even-know-how-many times, and it had never seemed remarkable to me before.

I parked in front of the shop and watched Antoine unload the Chevelle from the truck. I caught myself wringing my hands a few times and forced myself to shove them into my pockets instead. It was just a car. It was nothing to get worked up over.

I started to concentrate so much on trying to act like I didn’t care about the car as much as I did that I forgot to watch where I was looking. “Hey, you okay?”

“What?” I blinked a few times, snapping back to reality. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

He stopped what he was doing, his brows furrowed. I realized that when my eyes had gone unfocused, I’d been staring — without seeing — at him. “You sure?”

I grimaced. “Yeah, really. I was just thinking too hard.” My cheeks burned with the shame of being caught, both staring at him and for acting like he was making fun of me.

“Oh,” Antoine said, then went back to lowering the Chevelle’s tires onto the pavement.

Of course my brain had to continue to betray me, and I definitely watched him this time. The way the muscles played under his skin, contracting and relaxing again to stretch the material of his t-shirt over his arms was mesmerizing, and the sweat beading over his arms and collecting under that shirt were beautiful in their own way.

He glanced back over at me again and I flinched before looking away, but he didn’t say anything else about it. I felt like the world’s biggest pervert, staring at him like that.

He certainly was gorgeous, though.

“So you said you got this car from your uncle?” Antoine said as he stepped back, wiping a hand over his forehead. “Awful generous of him.”

I coughed and rubbed my hand over the back of my neck. “I inherited it from him when he passed away a few years back.” I shrugged, only the smallest movement of my shoulders. “He wasn’t using it anymore, so it went to me.”

“And then you didn’t use her,” he pointed out.

“No, I didn’t,” I admitted. “But I know why he gave it to me.”

Antoine stepped closer now, probably because he wanted the keys to the Chevelle. “Why?”

I held the keys out, but he didn’t take them. We stood there for a few minutes in silence. I didn’t particularly want to spill this story, not so soon. Not to someone I barely knew. I shook the keys slightly and he finally reached out for them. His fingers brushed my hand and I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t expected them to feel as rough as they did, considering what he did for a living.

“Why?” He said again, quieter this time.

“Because my uncle knew I deserved better than what I got,” I said.

He stared at me for a few more minutes, waiting for me to elaborate, but I would say no more. Not yet. With a small nod he walked back to the Chevelle and opened the door, then stuck the keys in and tried to start the car again.

He sighed. “I’m sure you don’t want to help me push the car.”

“I can try,” I said. “No promises. I have tiny, weak engineer arms.”

“It’s too bad you can’t use that brain of yours to push cars.” He grinned, and I cursed the butterflies in my stomach.

“Yeah, too bad,” I said. I hadn’t shown anything but general stupidity in his presence, and it sure didn’t make my brain feel any bigger to hear him say that.

I ended up pushing from the driver’s door so I could steer while he pushed from the back. It was rough, but we managed to get the car parked in the bay between the lift arms. I sat down on the edge of the driver’s seat and leaned on the door, doing my best to catch my breath. I really needed to work out more. Antoine hardly looked out of breath and here I was, practically dying right in front of him.

He draped a forearm over the door and extended a hand to me. “You did good.”

“No, I didn’t. I hardly did anything,” I panted, but I took his hand and allowed him to help me up.

He laughed and shook his head. “You helped. I promise.”

I dusted my hands off on my pants and sighed as I looked back at the car. It had been so beautiful once, treated so well by my uncle. It had been up and down Woodward in many a Dream Cruise, and I had just let it rot. I didn’t deserve what he had given me, but I could try to earn it. “Do you have any ideas what might be wrong with it?”

“I’m thinking it’s probably her alternator, but I’m open to other possibilities,” Antoine said. He ran his fingertips over the top of the door, caressing it in much the same way Nick had. Jesus, it was like every guy ever had a hard-on for my damn car.

“I don’t know the first thing about cars, so you’re on your own,” I said. “I can’t even keep my Focus’ tires in good shape.”

Antoine grinned at me again, that damn smile setting off another explosion of small winged insects in my gut. “I can help you with that too, you know.”

“I can’t take up all your time like that. This Chevelle is probably one of like a bajillion cars you’ll be working on before the Cruise. Don’t let me add the Focus to that too.”

“I enjoy the work,” Antoine pointed out. “Just another opportunity to do what I love.”

I sighed and rubbed a hand over my forehead. “I already have a guy.”

“Do you?” Antoine raised an eyebrow.

Some quiet, distant part of my brain seemed to whisper something about this being a trap, being something more than talk about a mechanic.

The louder, more rational part of my brain was insistent that this was merely wishful thinking on my behalf. There was no way Antoine — tall, dark, strong, beautiful Antoine — was into dudes, more specifically Asian engineer dudes named Oliver Kim.

“Yeah. He’ll get me tires.”

Antoine shrugged. “Whatever you say, man. All I’m saying is that you already have this baby–” He patted the Chevelle’s door with the most gentle touch– “here, and I am willing to give a volume discount.”

I snorted. “Volume discount for two cars?”

“You heard me. Final offer.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Let’s schedule an appointment for the Focus’ tires.”

“Alignment, too. I bet you haven’t had that touched in a few years, either, and last winter fucked all our roads up.”

I groaned and rolled my eyes again, harder this time. “God damn, you really do never turn it off. Yes, fine, we’ll do the alignment too.”

With a grin, Antoine shut the Chevelle’s door and started leading me back to the Focus. “When was the last time you changed the oil?”

After Antoine got his hands on it, my Focus ran better than it had in years. Honestly, it probably ran better than it had when I first bought it. All for just a few hours of my time on Saturdays and Sundays. I didn’t mind the work much; it got me out of the house on the weekends, and watching him work was enjoyable. Not entirely because he was nice to look at (though he was), but also because he had such a depth of knowledge about cars. I barely knew where to put the oil, and hadn’t even known where the dipstick was on the Focus before these afternoons. I wasn’t much better at car maintenance after that, but he at least showed me the basics.

“Hey,” he said one Sunday afternoon in early July. “You need to know how to change her oil.”

“No I don’t.” I grinned, leaning back against his tool cabinet. “That’s what quick-lube places are for.”

He laughed and shook his head, then took a wrench from the bench next to me. “If you’re okay with that extortion, sure.”


“Yeah, extortion. They charge you way more than you’d pay for just the materials yourself,” he said, then leaned back over the Chevelle’s engine. While I’d been “helping” him with the Focus, the Chevelle was still entirely his pet project and I preferred it that way. I was terrified that I’d break something if I even laid a finger on the engine block.

“I doubt that.”

He straightened again and wiped a hand across his forehead, leaving a smear of grime and engine dust behind in its wake. “How much do you pay for an oil change? Thirty, forty dollars? You can get oil and a filter for, like, twenty bucks.”

He made a valid point. I weighed this for a few minutes. “I could pay that, or I could pay you.

“You might not have me forever,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t I?” I stepped forward again. I fought back a grimace at how my shirt peeled away from my back drenched with sweat. He had fans set up there in the shop but they didn’t do much against July’s oppressive humidity. “You’re a talented mechanic. I pay you money, you change my oil. Done.”

He shook his head and started to speak, but stopped himself and only shook his head again before bending back over the engine.

That voice which often tried to convince me he and I weren’t talking about the same things started to make noise again. I was being an idiot and I knew it, but I couldn’t bring myself to truly believe he was interested in me.

Until, of course, I found myself up against that tool cabinet again, his hands on my arms and his lips on mine. He tasted sort of like how the engine smelled, and part of me wondered how often he ran his hand over those lips of his, but all I could really focus on at the same time was how good it felt. I had just started to move to kiss him back when he stepped away again.

“Shit, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed… listen, it won’t happen again.” I wasn’t sure I was imagining it, but I thought somewhere under all that dirt and grime, his rich dark skin flushed a little darker. “I swear. I won’t touch you again.”

My brain was screaming, my pulse had quickened, and every nerve felt alight, but I knew for absolute certain I didn’t want that. I wanted him to touch me again, and again, and again. After a few failed attempts to catch my breath again, I managed to force out, “Why not?”

Antoine looked back over at me, and I could see his own chest rising and falling faster under that shirt clinging to him, translucent with his own sweat. I didn’t even let him get in another word before I stepped forward and stretched up to kiss him again. Blindly I pushed him back, aiming for the car — I didn’t know why, just that I really needed us to be there — and he let me. He stumbled over a couple of tools and I caught his hands, then he took me by my shoulders and turned us around. Once again, I was the one pressed up against something, and while it wasn’t the most comfortable to have the door handle digging into my back, I couldn’t find it in me to complain. His hands moved over my shoulders, my arms, up my chest again to cup my face. I wrapped my own arms around his neck, holding him close while we kissed there. The weeks of tension melted away and I wasn’t even sure how long we kissed until he stepped back. I noticed more sweat had gathered under my shirt and I was pretty sure I didn’t smell that great anymore, but he didn’t care and neither did I. We stared at each other for a few minutes, completely silent, until I felt the need to speak. “So, um, I need to ask: what the hell just happened?”

“Are you asking if I’m still just your mechanic?”

I pursed my lips in thought, then nodded.

He laughed, a soft sound. Not a malicious or teasing laugh, just quiet amusement. “What I was aiming for there was getting it through your head that I was interested in more than that.”

“Yes, I see that now,” I murmured, then grimaced. “Smooth, Kim. Real fucking smooth.”

With another laugh, he moved back half a step. “While you were really damn frustrating, I found it sort of cute.”

“I’m kind of surprised you put up with it this long.”

“I’ll admit,” he said, “the prospect of the Chevelle was too good to pass up.”

I raised an eyebrow. “So you just want me for my car, is that what this is?”

“Nah,” he shook his head. “Car’s great, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely want you, too.” He smiled, and I noticed his eyes move down, then up. “Yeah, definitely want you too.”

“Not sure what you see in me,” I muttered.

His smile grew wider and he dropped another gentle kiss on my lips. “Plenty. And I’m excited to get to see more of you. Not just this–” he ran a hand along my side as he spoke, “but this, too.” And then he tapped a finger against my temple.

I lifted a corner of my mouth in a small, shy smile, partially because with my track record, he’d want to see brains and I’d just show him more spectacular acts of stupidity. It had been way too long since someone complimented me like this, though. It felt better than I’d remembered. I decided then and there that I would stop being an idiot and appreciate what I had while I had it. I would say no more of this self-deprecation, only the truth. “I’m excited to get to see more of you, too. I want to know what you’re hiding away.” I was grinning by then, and he rewarded it with another firm kiss.

We didn’t get any more work done on the Chevelle that day.

The July days stretched on, hot and muggy there in Antoine’s auto shop. He passed the time on the weekends by working on my car. I passed that time by reading and watching him work. More watching than reading, really. I hadn’t realized I had a fetish for watching men work until meeting him, but I’d be damned if watching his muscles move under his shirt didn’t drive me insane. He’d gotten more than one blowjob up against the side of the Chevelle.

I kind of wanted to give him another right then, but he looked more deep in thought than usual and I figured it would be rude to interrupt him by shoving his dick down my throat. I watched him for a few minutes longer, studying how his eyebrows knitted together.

Something was definitely eating at him, that much was obvious. We hadn’t been seeing each other long enough for me to ask the tough questions though, so I stayed silent.

Of course, all this meant was that the silence got longer and more awkward. The only sound in the shop, aside from the general noise of Woodward Avenue outside the shop, was the sound of the ratchet wrench clicking.

And Antoine looked more and more unsure. I couldn’t bear it anymore. Short time together or not, I couldn’t let him suffer like that. “Hey… penny for your thoughts?”

He started, and I heard a clatter. When he straightened up he didn’t have the ratchet anymore, so it must have fallen into the engine. I’d probably be fishing it out later with the advantage of my smaller hands. “What?”

“Something’s bothering you,” I said. “You’re not very good at hiding it. What’s on your mind?”

He grimaced and rubbed his hand over his forehead again. No matter how many times he rubbed engine dust over his face, I never stopped finding it endearing. I allowed myself a moment to appreciate it, then focused my attention on him again.

“I… I want to invite you to something. But I don’t know if you… if we…” he raised his shoulders in a useless shrug, then bent over the car again.

I stood up from the small camp chair I’d been lounging in, and leaned against the Chevelle’s bumper. “If we what?”

“If we’ve been together long enough,” he mumbled.

I frowned, and pressed my fingers under his chin to lift his face. “What haven’t we been together long enough for?”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them again to look at me. “Okay. Are you familiar with Hotter Than July?”

“No, I’m not. I’m guessing it’s happening soon.”

“Next week,” said Antoine with a nod. “It’s, uh, a gay pride event.”

“I’ve never heard of it.” I found that odd, considering I’d marched in a fair few in my time.

He laughed, the same soft amusement that managed to never make me feel as though I were being teased. “Well, if I’m the first Black guy you’ve dated, that wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Is it only for African-Americans?”

He shrugged again. “It’s a celebration of African-American LGBT culture. And this is the 20th year. And, well, I… I’m really happy with you, Oliver.” He cast his eyes down, like he wasn’t sure how I’d react to it. “I really care about you, you know. And I want you to come with me.”

I did my best to pull up a reassuring smile, then gave Antoine a kiss. “I’d love to.”

“Really?” His face brightened immediately. “It’s next week. I know that’s short notice, but I finally decided today I wanted to ask you and–”

I shushed him with a finger over his lips. “It’s okay. I want to go. I think it’ll be fun.”

“Good.” He grinned, then looked down into the engine again. “So hey, while I have you over here, can you get the socket back out of there?”

Hotter Than July had been just that — hot, both in temperature and in experience. The crowds that day for the walk had been loud, but exuberant, and I loved every second of it. It showed me another side of Antoine I hadn’t seen before during all those afternoons in his shop. There he was normally reserved and soft-spoken. Here, he was just as cheerful and outgoing as everyone else. I really liked the quiet Antoine, but I also was finding myself increasingly fond of the outspoken Antoine, too.

After the day’s festivities we found a quiet spot in the grass there in Palmer Park, and stretched out next to each other in the shade of a tree.

“Hey,” I said. “Thank you for bringing me today.”

He rolled onto his side, propped up on an arm. “Why wouldn’t I have?”

I shrugged. All sorts of excuses came to mind, but I remembered my promise to myself to stop putting myself down. “I know you were nervous to bring me at first. I’m glad you didn’t listen to yourself.”

“Me too,” he smiled.

I closed my eyes as he ran his fingertips over my cheek. After so much of my life had been spent semi-closeted, being so open here in front of everyone was a terrifying thrill. I thought back to that first conversation we’d had about the Chevelle and why my uncle had left it to me. He deserved to know, now, after inviting and sharing this with me. “So you remember that first day we had the Chevelle in your garage?” I asked, opening my eyes to meet his gaze.

“Yeah, what about it?”

I drew a deep breath to find the courage to continue. I hadn’t shared this with anyone, not even Nick. “Remember the question you asked about me and my uncle?”

He started to look concerned here. “Yes…?”

“He left it to me because he knew almost all my other family had abandoned me. Once they found out.”

“Found out about… what?”

I gestured between the two of us. “About the fact that I wasn’t going to give them the little babies they wanted.”

“Are you serious?” He said, with a deep frown. “So your parents–”

“Not my mother,” I shook my head. “She’s fine. But she’s the only one now. Her brother, my uncle, accepted me faster than she did, even. Took me under his wing. He was there for me when none of my other family would be. And he tipped my mom over from being unsure to supporting me.”

Antoine grimaced, and laid his hand fully against my cheek. “I’m sorry to hear that. It must have been so hard to lose a big part of your support system.”

“Yeah. It sucked, but I’ve found others. Friends, mostly. Nick was great. We’d just started working together when my uncle passed and he was there for me.”

With a nod, Antoine said, “Yeah, Nick is awesome.”

I thought that was a sort of weird response for someone Nick had only ever talked shop with a few times, but that thought was quickly banished from my mind when Antoine leaned over to kiss me. I had a moment of panic due to the public nature of the act and stiffened accordingly.

“Sorry,” Antoine mumbled, “I didn’t think about it.”

I shrugged as best as I could there in the grass. “I should get over it.”

“Don’t let me rush you if you’re not ready,” he said, his voice as gentle as the touch on my cheek.

“Don’t let me force you to date a closeted guy,” I retorted.

He made a face I couldn’t quite describe, like he was irritated but also sad? “You’re not forcing me to do anything.”

I realized this conversation was going very far south very fast and I needed to do something about it if I didn’t want to end up dumped at a fucking pride event. “I’m sorry. Listen… Why don’t we go somewhere a little more private? Like a dark corner of a crowded bar. I will totally make out with you in the dark corner of a crowded bar.”

“I don’t want to go to a bar.”

I bit back the next suggestion I was going to make. I would only make everything worse, I was sure of it, and it was going to be the most awkward thing ever to tell every guy I ever date again that I got dumped at Hotter Than July.

But I wasn’t getting dumped. I shook my head. “What was that?”

“I said, why don’t we go back to my place? I live close to here.” Antoine was smiling now, and I couldn’t help but grin in return. This was definitely the opposite of being dumped.

“Sure! We can go get our cars and drive over to your place. It shouldn’t take long,” I said as I pushed myself up to a seated position.

“We don’t even need to do that,” Antoine laughed again. “I live like two blocks away.”

“Really?” I stood up and dusted off the seat of my pants. “That close?”

He nodded, then picked a piece of grass out of my hair. “Convenient commute up Woodward to the shop.”

“Better than my drive to Farmington Hills,” I laughed.

He grinned again, then nodded westward. “Come on, follow me.”

It was actually even closer than he’d said, and before I knew it he was opening the door to a comfortably small apartment. There were framed posters of cars all over the walls, and something that would have appalled me as a teenager was somehow more endearing in my thirties.

“Sorry about the mess,” he muttered as he kicked a pair of boots out of my way.

I shook my head. “I don’t care. I didn’t come here to critique your housekeeping skills.” With a grin, I turned to him and pulled him into a deep kiss. “I came here to make out with you. Maybe more.”

Antoine hummed, then kissed me again. “That sounds great. Maybe we should go to the bedroom, though. It’s a little less cramped.”

It was difficult to make our way to his bedroom, mostly because we could hardly keep our hands off each other. The tension had built fast, and I needed nothing more at that point than my hands on him. We stumbled into his bedroom and collapsed onto his bed, and I had the vague realization that I was laying on a pile of laundry, but then he had his hands up under my shirt and I didn’t care anymore.

This was the first time we’d actually been together outside of the shop. We’d grabbed lunch a couple times here and there, but we’d had no intimacy outside of making out or quick blowjobs in the shop. It was thrilling, but also scary.

Antoine had pushed my shirt up around my armpits and moved down to pepper kisses over my chest. He was moving lower and while he was wasting no time, I don’t think he could possibly have moved fast enough for my taste. I pressed my fingers against his scalp, urging him down while I rolled my hips up against him.

I could see the wide grin on his face as he sat up enough to unbutton my jeans. “I can’t wait to do this,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

“Me neither,” I said as I raised my hips again to allow him to drag my jeans and boxers down. My dick was already so hard, already standing nearly straight up from my body. It only took a single touch to drag the most exquisite pleasure from me, and I let my eyes fall closed.

“God, I bet you’re beautiful when you come,” he breathed.

I couldn’t help but laugh at that, despite my need to continue to move, to stroke my own cock through his hand. “Not like you haven’t seen it before.”

“No,” he said, “but I couldn’t watch your face while I blew you.”

I had to concede the point, but with him moving his hand along my dick faster now, it was impossible to string enough words together to continue the conversation anyway. Antoine was just as talented with his hand as he was with his mouth, and I fought my building urge as long as possible in order to savor the moment. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open anymore, though I knew Antoine was watching me closely. While his hand kept that same slow pace, his words grew more encouraging as the time stretched on. I didn’t even register most of what he said anymore, all of it just a low drone under the static of pleasure in my brain.

And then, too soon but not soon enough, I came across my stomach with a hoarse shout.

“I was right,” Antoine murmured. “You are beautiful when you come.”

It took me a few minutes to catch my breath enough to reply, but Antoine was patient and busied himself with cleaning me up while I tried to find my bearings again. By the time he was drying off the clean-but-wet spot on my stomach, I was pretty sure I’d come back enough to try to talk. “That was fantastic.”

“Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed that as much as me.”

I sat up and pulled my shirt over my head, then kicked my pants off onto his floor. I was sure it would be hell to find them in the morning, buried as they were now amongst the wardrobe scattered over Antoine’s floor, but I didn’t really care right at that moment. All I wanted was to see him splayed out on his bed, extra clothes under him or not, with that same look of rapture he’d wanted to see on me.

Before I knew it, August was more than half gone. It was about halfway through the second week in August, and Antoine and I sat in his shop, shining the chrome on the Chevelle. We’d been spending more time here as time had gone on — the car ran like a dream now (a testament to an actual mechanic working on it as opposed to a hobbyist), so all we needed to do was make it look as though it had just rolled off the showroom floor.

“Looking forward to the Cruise?” Antoine asked from the floor. He was shining the rims with more detail than I’d ever seen anyone put into the equivalent of someone’s feet.

I was looking forward to it, but I was also growing more anxious about it. What if it didn’t feel the same? What if it felt wrong to be in the car without my uncle? What if it felt wrong, period? I focused my attention on the dashboard while I tried to come up with the words to avoid those heavy topics and reassure Antoine. In fact, I focused so much, I forgot to answer.

“Earth to Oliver,” he said as he rapped his knuckles against the door frame. I jumped, and as soon as I settled he continued. “I said, are you looking forward to the Cruise?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, but I knew I was unconvincing with my hesitation.

Antoine stood there next to the car for what felt like way too long, and after a few minutes his face softened. “Tell me, Oll. What’s wrong?” The nickname was newer, and I found its use reassuring, but it wasn’t quite enough to soothe all my nerves.

I scrubbed at the dashboard for another minute or so. “I’m afraid I won’t have fun.”

“That’s it?” His eyebrows had shot up, and he took a moment to collect himself. “Oll, I’m sure we’ll have fun.”

“But it won’t be the same. It won’t be like it used to be with my uncle.”

“Of course not! But that doesn’t mean we won’t enjoy ourselves. We’ve worked hard on this car. She’s beautiful. I’m sure once you get out there on Woodward with the wind in your hair and the sun shining you’ll feel fine.”

I picked at a piece of lint on the towel I’d been using to shine the dashboard. “What if I don’t?”

“Then we’ll come back, Oll,” Antoine said, his voice gentle. “As much as I’d love to take her all the way up to Pontiac and back, I wouldn’t force you to do anything you didn’t want to do.”

That soothed me when nothing else I told myself could. Just knowing that I had an out if I needed it, if I wanted it, was reassuring. I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. “I really appreciate that.”

“It’s the least I can do,” Antoine said. He carefully leaned into the car to kiss me, but he made it fast when I wanted more. I whined when he pulled away, but he shook his head with a grin. “No, Oliver. We can’t mess up the car after all this work we’ve put into it. The Cruise is this Saturday, be patient. We can do all sorts of stuff after.”

I raised a single eyebrow. “Is that a promise?”

“If you want it to be.”

I grinned, then picked up the cloth again. “I’m holding you to that, you know.”

Now that I had cleared the air of any concerns or fears I had, my stress melted away and those last few days flew by. Before I knew it, I was standing in Antoine’s garage on Saturday morning, staring at the Chevelle. “I can’t believe I get to ride in the Cruise again,” I said.

“I can’t believe you’re letting me drive her.” Antoine looked nervous, and I wanted to kiss those nerves away. I didn’t, though, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop myself, and we hadn’t spent two months fixing up the Chevelle only to throw it all away in a sex-fueled procrastination session.

Instead, I rested my hands over his, closing his fingers over the keys. “You deserve it. You worked so hard on this car. It wouldn’t be right for me to take that away from you.” I grinned and gave him a wink. “Besides, if I really want to relive my old glory days with this car, the passenger seat is where I belong.”

“It was your uncle’s car, though.”

“I swear to God, Antoine, if you do not get your ass in that driver’s seat I will put you there.”

He laughed, that same gentle laugh. “You couldn’t even if you wanted to.”

“Then get in so we don’t have to see me try. Or have to drive me to the Beaumont ER because I did try.” I let go of his hands, then walked around the car to climb into the passenger seat.

We started out going south on Woodward, with the windows rolled down to enjoy the breeze. It was still stifling, as mid-August often is, but the movement of the car helped keep the air circulating enough to make it tolerable. We followed the Dream Cruise route down to where it ended, then turned around to start heading north again. For all the worrying I’d done about how weird it would feel, or how much fun I wouldn’t have, it turned out to be the best Dream Cruise I’d had in years. We were surrounded by thousands of other cars, and the sidewalks and grassy areas alongside the road were packed with people. Antoine’s joy in driving the Chevelle was palpable, and seeing how much fun he was having distracted me from the sadness I might have otherwise drowned in.

Since it was the 20th anniversary, much like Hotter Than July, it was somehow even more spectacular than usual, with much fanfare and signs advertising the milestone. We stopped a few times in some parking lots, and Antoine propped open the hood of the Chevelle for people to look at. They mostly ignored me, since I knew precisely none of the technical stats, but it was still enjoyable to watch Antoine interact with curious attendees. We ate from some food carts, laughed with some other classic car enthusiasts, and overall just enjoyed being out with other people who enjoyed being out with us.

It was late evening when we rolled back into his garage again there in Pleasant Ridge, and once he shut off the engine we sat in silence for a few minutes. I was thinking too much about what had happened to speak yet, and I think he was similarly processing the day.

“Thank you,” I said, after a long silence. “Thank you for… for all of this.”

“I think you’re the one responsible for this.” Antoine smiled at me. “You’re the one who called me in the first place.”

I laughed. “If you’re going to play it like that, it’s Nick we should really be thanking. He gave me your number.”

Antoine nodded, then slid over on the bench seat to wrap an arm around my shoulders. “Remind me to thank him next time I see him.”

“Thank him the next time you see him,” I murmured.

With a chuckle, Antoine leaned down to kiss me. I sighed against his lips and relaxed into his embrace. I had felt this building all day, both in my desire for him, but also in how he lingered in my immediate presence a little too long while we were out in public. I’d felt the burning in my hands like I needed to touch him. This only proved that he’d been suppressing that all day too.

It really didn’t take all that long until we were groping at each other. The kiss grew more intense as we desperately shoved our hands under the shirts of the other. Before long, he lay back on the seat and pulled me on top of him. I straddled him, and while still kissing him, I started to rock my hips against his. He groaned low in his throat and pulled me closer, his body moving up against mine with more desperate presses. My loose cargo shorts allowed for my own cock to grow as hard as possible, but it sounded like his jeans were severely limiting his own pleasure. I kissed him once more, then sat up enough to allow me to open his jeans. I started to pull this zipper down–

Fuck. No, not in here. The goddamn leather–” Antoine spat, pushing me up off of him. “Out.”

It definitely took some creative rearranging but we managed to get back out of the car. Without hesitation, Antoine shoved me up against the side of the car and yanked my shorts down around my ankles without even bothering to unbutton them. I gave a strangled gasp, but then he shoved his hand in my boxers and wrapped his hand around my dick. He kissed me again, thrusting his tongue into my mouth without preamble while he stroked his hand lazily along my shaft. I felt blindly over the front of his body until I found the waistband of his jeans, then I unbuttoned them and pushed down his underwear with them. I took his dick in my own hand, stroking it as best as I could from the strange angle. We were both panting heavily into the kiss, both our hands making more stuttering movements than anything smooth, each distracted by the other.

“Love how this feels,” Antoine panted, his hand moving a bit faster.

Right then, all I really wanted was for Antoine to fuck me. I hadn’t brought any condoms or lube though, and I was so angry with myself for it. I figured a pair of hand jobs would have to do, and I’d have to bring Antoine back to my place after to get the rough pounding I was craving.

I must have looked disappointed, because Antoine stopped and pulled his hand back slightly. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I said, shaking my head. “I just… I like this, but…”

“What is it?” Antoine said. “I can’t read minds.”

I couldn’t look him in the eye. “I want you to fuck me. Hard. Like I want to feel this tomorrow. But I didn’t bring any condoms or lube.”

“That’s it?” He raised his eyebrows and stepped back, out of his jeans. I had a slight moment of panic when I realized there were windows on the shop doors, and that if someone were to look closely enough they’d probably see us. Then again, I also couldn’t really bring myself to care, especially when I realized Antoine was pulling a duffel bag to the end of the workbench. He rummaged around in it for a few seconds, then came back and produced a condom and small bottle of lube. “You thought I wouldn’t be planning on that, and the possibility that I may not have been sleeping in my own bed tonight?”

I grabbed him and kissed him again, desperate both to thank him for his foresight where I had none, and also for his willingness to fulfill my desire. I shoved my boxers down with one hand and did my best to kick them and my shorts off without moving or letting go of Antoine.

He let the kiss continue for a few more seconds, then he was turning me around, moving us over, pressing on the spot between my shoulder blades. I found myself bent over the hood of the car, my hands resting on one of the bold white racing stripes interrupting the blue paint. After a moment I felt his fingertips pressing against my asshole, slick with the lube. I was so ready for this, so incredibly turned on by the amount of time we’d spent together and how long I’d been hyping this up in my mind, that my body presented no resistance to his intrusion.

Antoine groaned softly as he fucked me with his fingers. “God damn, you weren’t lying when you said you wanted me to fuck you.”

“I love it when you do,” I said, my voice quiet. “Love to feel you inside of me.”

I felt bereft when he pulled his fingers back out, but I was only empty long enough for him to apply more lube to them. He worked hard to prepare me properly, and though I was impatient I appreciated his care. After a few minutes more he pulled them back again, and I was left to tolerate the feeling of emptiness for longer this time. He seemed to be having trouble opening the condom, but soon enough the rustling had stopped and something much larger than fingers was nudging against my ass. I bent over a little more, resting my chest on the hood, arms crossed under my cheek, to give him better access. Once I did, he slipped in easily.

“Oh my God, Oll,” he breathed as he took a moment to steady himself while buried fully inside of me. “I can’t wait to fuck you like you want.”

“Just do it, then,” I said as I rolled my hips. The movement was enough to give me some sensation, but it wasn’t anything like I truly wanted.

Antoine followed my lead, starting with shallow thrusts. I whined wordlessly, but he would not be persuaded to go straight to full speed. He built, very slowly, each long stroke moving faster. My nerves were screaming, and my fingertips pressed hard against the clear coat on the Chevelle’s hood, but I loved every second of it. After a couple of minutes the sound of his hips against my ass echoed through the shop and I was practically clawing at the car. My gasps and cries punctuated every deep thrust, and Antoine’s grunts and groans ran counterpoint to them. Something was missing, some layer of sensation I truly needed wasn’t there, but I didn’t have the words for what I wanted, nor did I have the brain capacity to voice them even if I did.

Antoine, though, seemed to know intuitively what I needed. When he grabbed a fistful of my hair and used it as leverage to pull me back into each thrust, I nearly came right then. All I had to do was be. Just be fucked. Just be the object for pleasure. Just be Antoine’s.

Antoine didn’t have words anymore either, and as he fucked me harder and faster yet, even his groans just blended together with hard panting. The grip on my hair grew tighter, and with a shouted curse he slammed into me one last time and shuddered.

It took him a moment to gather his wits again, but once he did he reached down and took my cock in his hands. He was still buried inside of me, and he used that to his advantage by rolling his hips while he stroked. It only took a few pulls until I was coming onto the floor of the shop, right next to the Chevelle’s front tire.

I felt completely boneless, and I made no motion to move as he cleaned the two of us up. I honestly was surprised to still be upright, even if the Chevelle was supporting my weight. After a few minutes, he kissed my cheek, then helped me up to standing. “Want me to take you home?”

It took a great amount of effort to speak. “Only if you stay and give me that again in the morning.”

“I think I can manage that.”

Monday morning came too soon, though I still felt the lingering effects of Antoine’s weekend with me. I found it hard to focus on work because my mind kept wandering back to the shop after the Cruise, and finally after a few minutes, Nick caught me.

“Earth to Kim. Come in, Oliver Kim.” He waved his hand in front of my face, and sat back again with a slightly annoyed look.

I grimaced. “God, I’m sorry. I really am miles away, aren’t I?”

“Only ignoring every word I’m saying. While I have your attention, let’s try this again: How was the Cruise?” His eyes were bright, and I saw that same childlike intensity come back into his expression as I saw in my garage months ago.

“It was great. Antoine got the Chevelle running better than ever.”

“Really?” Nick grinned. “I told you he was good. Have you been spending every weekend there helping him out?”

“Not every weekend. One weekend we ended up at Hotter Than July together–” I stopped, because I noticed Nick’s grin had grown even wider. “I am starting to suspect your motives for giving me his number.”

Nick burst into laughter, and it took him a good thirty seconds to gather himself again and wipe the tears from his eyes. “Now, now, I wasn’t lying when I said he was a good mechanic. You know that. You’ve seen his work first-hand. But I also knew you were pathetically single, and so was he.”

“I wasn’t pathetic,” I muttered.

“Oliver, you were, like, two months away from full-on crazy cat lady status.” When I opened my mouth to argue again, he put a hand up. “You know I am telling the truth.”

I rolled my eyes. “I would have put that estimate more around six months, really, but fine. How did you know so much about Antoine?”

“Well, we met up through a local car group a few years ago. My wife won’t let me own an actual classic car, so this is the only way I can get my fix.” Nick sighed. The lack of car in his life was really sad for him. I’d have to invite him over to see the Chevelle more often. “We started hanging out outside of the group sometimes, and that’s when the discussion came up about him being single. I offered to ask my wife if she had any single friends, but he informed me that he’d be better served by me searching my own circle of friends.” He gestured to me with a smile. “And there we are.”

“You are a way better friend than I deserve,” I said.

“Just let me ride in the Chevelle sometimes and we might be even. Let me drive it and you’ll be completely forgiven for any past transgressions I may or may not have forgotten about.”

I laughed and shook my head. “Only if you can convince Antoine to let you.”

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