“32:10,” Michael called out as he tugged off his helmet. “Think that’s a record?”
“For that car, it sure is,” said Aaron. “You were pushing, what, 190?”
“Yeah, most of the time. Slowed down a little on the turns, but picked it up on the straights to make up for it.” He set the helmet on top of the car and arched back for a long stretch, his arms snapping up over his head. Aaron couldn’t help but notice the way it pulled his teeshirt up his well-toned stomach, or the way Michael didn’t bother to correct it. Everything looked exaggerated in the hard spotlights that blasted the track at night.
“No, that’s- that’s great, Michael. I think we should run a full test next week, not just half, for endurance.” Aaron sat in the driver’s seat to check the odometer, and suddenly had a much better view of Michael’s torso as his driver stripped off the sweaty teeshirt and wadded it up.
“Mmm, that’s better. I got all the laps, right?”
“Yeah, you did. You’re great. She give you any trouble?”
“Nope. Whatever you did the last time you had her in the shop worked out the kinks.” Michael slid into the passenger’s side, still shirtless, his helmet on his lap. “So, we’re done here?”
“Yeah, I guess so. You want a ride home?” He was doing fairly well at not staring, but their eyes met in the rearview mirror. Michael’s sharp eyes were small for his angular face, and they searched his for a moment.
“Sure. That’d be nice.” Michael frowned briefly and then reached into the back seat to rummage for his jacket, providing a nice view of his side, his hips peeking out of his jeans. Aaron did up his own seatbelt as a distraction, and then waited as Michael slid his arms into the garment, neglecting to zip it up, and then remembered his seatbelt as well.
Aaron navigated the car out of the track space, down through one of the service ramps and by the gate. He waved casually at the young tech who had let him in earlier, and pulled out onto the street.
“So how’s home life?” Michael asked, casually.
“Oh, you know. Same as always. Finn’s growing up so fast. He’s starting to ask so many questions.”
“Cute kid. When are you gonna bring him around to the tracks?”
“I dunno. Nikki doesn’t like me racing around him.”
“What about Nikki? How’s she?”
“God, Nikki. I don’t know where to start. I told you she went back to work, mornings, but she doesn’t seem to be feeling any better. Your classes going okay?” Aaron tried to change the subject, merging onto the highway.
“I guess. It just makes me feel old. Everyone else is like, eighteen, nineteen-“
“And you’re, what, 25?”
“More like 29.”
“Woah. You sure don’t look it.”
“Yeah, I know. Its just hard to make friends with kids. You still fighting with her?”
“Yeah,” Aaron admitted, letting Michael fall quiet after that. He didn’t really want to get into it again. After a few minutes, Michael switched on the radio and surfed the channels, unsatisfied by anything for more than a minute at a time until they pulled up in front of his apartment building.
“So, you wanna come up for a drink or something?” Michael tried to keep the question casual, though he already knew the answer.
“I can’t, I’m sorry. I have to get home. Nikki-” Aaron knew he gave the same excuse every week.
“Its not like Nikki cares if you’re home or not,” Michael tempted with a smirk, but when Aaron didn’t respond, he sighed, the expression fading. “Look, why are you so afraid of just hanging out? Afraid I’m gonna put the moves on you or something? You don’t have to worry. I won’t do anything you can’t tell your wife about.”
“Michael, I- that’s not-“
“Nevermind, then. I’ll see you later.” Michael left his helmet and his teeshirt on the seat as he shut the car door behind himself and stalked into his apartment.
He just drove himself home, put out and frustrated. It was a terrible idea to tell Michael that the real reason he wasn’t getting a drink with him had more to do with his own actions than with Michael’s. He’d certainly pictured it enough times, what it would be like to pull Michael onto his lap, to kiss him and not let his mouth go. He was sure it was just his dick talking, but why did he feel so bad about it?
When he got in he thought he could hear the muffled sounds of his housemates, Liz and Karl, going at it. He suspected they liked to wait until it was late and the kids were asleep. They’d lived here so long he wasn’t even bothered by the couple having sex anymore. He got himself a beer and turned on the television, setting it to mute before it had a chance to make any sound.
Automatically he flipped the channel to racing, though the last thing that did was distract him from Michael. For a second, he considered waking up Nikki and trying to initiate lovemaking, but the last time he’d tried that she’d called him a pervert and chucked a pillow at him. He knew he shouldn’t, but he found himself thinking about the box he kept on a shelf in the garage, the one he’d labeled ‘Racing Videos’ in the hopes that no one would pry. When the camera showed a close-up of the winning driver with the same flushed joy he saw in Michael after a victory, he went to retrieve it. He’d told Nikki he’d thrown this out when they’d had Finn.
He didn’t spread the contents of the box on the table like he had some nights after they’d been fighting. Tonight it wasn’t defiance that got him here, but need. Bi Accident 2. That was a good one for now. A straight guy getting lured into gay action during a threesome. He put that in the player and went to work on himself, not drawing anything out, just getting much-needed release.
When he was finished, it hit him how exhausted he was, and he cleaned up, stashing the box in the bookcase for the night. It was high enough up that Finn couldn’t reach it, and he’d have time to move it back to the garage before work. With that task accomplished, he climbed the stairs to slide into bed beside his sleeping wife.
Muffled sobbing from down the hall pulled him into waking. Oh god, what time was it? He sat up, folding the blanket back on the bed so as not to disturb Nikki, and his eyes glossed over the clock. 3:04. Aaron groaned softly and slid his feet into his slippers. Nikki had never been able to hear Finn’s crying in her sleep, even when he was still a baby.
The next door down the hall was Finn’s. The rotating stars from the night-light spilled a little bit into the hallway, though they didn’t seem to be too comforting at the moment. Finn tried to calm his crying down into sniffles as he saw his father.
“Hey, hey, what’s wrong, little guy?” Aaron cooed, as he ran his fingers over his son’s hair.
“The- there were robots. They broked you and mommy. I- I don’t want them to broked you and mommy.” The sobs returned in full force.
“Who told you about robots?” He turned on the bedside lamp and sat down next to Finn. It was easier to ask that question and figure out what he’d meant.
“Uh-uncle Karl… he said robots broked people up. I’on’t want them to broked you.” Finn nuzzled his head between Aaron’s chest and arm, using his shirt as a tissue.
“And why was Karl telling you about robots?”
“Go’zilla was gonna smash em, and ‘andra cried. She didn’t want Go’zilla to smash the robots.”
“Godzilla? Was Karl showing you Godzilla movies last night?”
“Yah. ‘andra too.”
3:13 was the wrong time to get into an argument with his housemates. He could save it for the morning. Why the Norths were showing their five-year-old girl monster movies before bedtime… well, that was their choice, but they weren’t the ones who had to deal with his three-year-old in the middle of the night.
“So, are you ready to go back to sleep?”
“No.” Finn pouted up at him through his tears. “Read a story?”
“Okay. How about…” Where the Wild Things Are? No, that was a bad idea, seeing what the threat of robots did. Dr. Seuss? Too late to attempt rhyming. Love You Forever? That looked like a winner. It was sappy and with any luck it would put him out like a light. “Love You Forever?”
“Kay. Mommy doesn’t read that one.”
It wasn’t a wonder why. The book was about a mother who took obsessive, almost creepy care of her son and liked to watch him while he slept. It had been a hand-me-down from Liz. Liz was that kind of a mother, but Nikki wasn’t. He hummed the melody of the poem in the book as he tucked Finn into his bed and turned out the light. He’d been right; it had only taken three pages to get Finn back to sleep.
The next morning, while Nikki was toweling her hair dry and he was shaving, Aaron happened to mention, “Did you hear Finn crying last night?”
“No. Did you get up?” She frowned, rubbing the towel over her scalp.
“Well, yeah, of course-“
“Sorry. I didn’t hear him. I guess dinner with Mom wore me out.” She frowned softly, mostly at her imagined crow’s feet.
“He was up ‘cause Karl and Liz were watching MechaGodzilla last night and it gave him nightmares.”
“Wait, why didn’t you stop them?”
“I thought I told you. I was down at the track with Michael. I called Liz, she said it was okay and she’d feed Finn-“
“You’re always at that stupid track. You don’t spend any time with us anymore, Aaron.” Nikki jerked the hangers to one side suddenly as she poked through the closet.
“That’s not true at all. I take Finn to school in the mornings and I’m around most evenings. Its just lately-“
“Lately you’re not even around evenings. You want me to go tell Karl how to raise our child? Because I’ll do it.”
She left the bedroom. He could practically count the beats of silence to five until he heard a raised voice, Nikki’s, the murmur of a calm one, Liz’s, and some more tense words from Karl. It seemed like a good idea to tug his socks on slowly, one by one, and lace up his work boots. Oh look, he’d gotten better at tying bows since he’d been teaching Finn. And then he remembered where he’d left his stash.
“AARON!” Nikki demanded. “What is this box doing down here?”
Aaron jogged down the stairs to catch Nikki fuming over the box, the case for Bi Accident 2 accidentally left out next to the television.
“You fucking pervert!” she hissed at him. She grabbed the box by the handles and hauled it out to the curb, ducking his attempts to snatch it out of her hands. “How could you even have this in the house while there are children living there?! Our child, Aaron, he could have seen this.”
Once she got to the street corner, she began to chuck DVD cases out into the street, one by one. 100% Amateur NASCAR Moms was followed by Girls Hunting Girls 15 and a pile of magazines that came down in a flutter of pages and advertising leaflets instead of skidding across to the other curb like the boxes did.
“Asia Dreams 7? Really?” This almost brought her to sobbing, which gave him an opportunity to start collecting his videos from the pavement. She hadn’t actually damaged anything, and he was relieved she hadn’t gotten to Autorotic or Bi Accident 2. “Are you still in love with Liz? Is that what this is about?” She let the box slip from her hands, and its contents, explicit boxes and the rest of the magazines, spilled over the grass for the whole neighborhood to see.
“Mekkago’zilla gonna smash you!” hollered three-foot terror Alexandra, as she chased Finn out onto the lawn. If he hadn’t seen the porn collection before, he did now.
All things told, it had been a long morning. It was afternoon by the time he’d gotten down to the shop. He’d started to work on an engine replacement but found himself too agitated to focus properly on anyone else’s car. It was easier to just work on his personal projects. Right now, that meant airbrushing a pinup of the track car’s namesake, Mayor Mary Evans, on her side. She’d donated the body of her Ferrari to him when she’d wrecked it, with the promise he’d name the resulting product after her.
It wasn’t much of a shame, really. She was pretty hot, for her age. He’d taken a picture from the local paper and done some sketches from it, lowering her shirt neckline, and was currently adding highlights to her cleavage.
“Hey, looks good. Bet Mary’s gonna get a kick out of it.”
He hadn’t heard Michael come in, and tensed when he felt him lean against his back to better view the paint job. He still hadn’t gotten used to how close he liked to be, or how nice casual contact could feel.
“I think so. Maybe it’ll get her down to the tracks sometime. She keeps talking about it.”
“Well, if I was her, I’d like this a lot.” He could almost feel Michael’s eyes on his neck instead of the drawing. It looked like their argument yesterday hadn’t changed anything.
“Yeah, I hope she does.” He stilled his hand, as it was too difficult to paint with Michael so close. He’d never found Karl, or even Nikki this distracting to just be around.
Michael took the hint and stood to pace around the shop, glancing over the other car he’d been attending to earlier. It didn’t hold his attention for long, as the only car-related interests he had involved making them go fast.
“Hey, what are all these boxes doing in here?” Michael had peeked into the office attached to the shop.
“Moved my stuff in.” He pulled back to examine the painting. Hm, her glasses could use a glint across them. Enhance the sexy librarian thing.
“You’re… leaving Nikki?”
“I dunno. I just had to get out.” It was a little tough to discuss with Michael, mostly because he and Nikki hated each other, and Michael had been advocating him to leave Nikki since they’d met.
“That’s good to hear. At least you- wait, what’s all this?” Michael sounded like he’d just hit the jackpot, and began eagerly pawing through the box. “Oh man, Aaron, this is a serious collection.”
“Yeah, Nikki was tossing it in the street. Then Finn saw it.”
“Wow, no wonder you left.”
He decided to just continue painting. It wasn’t worth going into details. Wasn’t worth the custody battle he was already thinking about, whether he wanted to fight to get Finn for himself or leave him with Nikki.
“Ohh, hey, Aaron, I didn’t know you were into this stuff.”
“What stuff?” he asked, knowing exactly which disk he’d picked up.
“The only thing these men love more than their cars… is a hard dick up their ass? Watch as our studs… grind each others gear boxes? Christ, man, this is hilarious.”
He finally looked up from his airbrushing to catch Michael leaning against the door to the office, the case of Autorotic in his hands. His eyes were curious, lips slightly parted, and his hips were tilted forwards to make them all the more obvious. The afternoon sun hit him just right, making him look too good to be real.
“So, is it any good?”
“Michael, I don’t -“
“Look, I’m… trying to help. Bet you’re dying to. You said Nikki hasn’t put out since…“ Michael trailed off awkwardly.
“I shouldn’t.” But he wanted to. He didn’t want to give that answer today, to shove off his desires because of his wife anymore. Finn would love him anyway.
“I’m gonna go watch this in your office. You can come with me, or not. But it’d be good for you. And if you want, I’ll pretend you’re the racecar.”
Michael disappeared into his office. But between the bad joke and the wolfish grin he’d given him… it wasn’t a tough decision. He glanced between Mary’s cleavage and the empty doorframe, and followed.
They lay in each other’s arms, Michael draped across his chest, the movie still playing itself out on the computer in the office. They were silent, watching each other’s faces, and Michael murmured, “Move in with me. Don’t stay here. Don’t go back to Nikki.”
“What about Finn?”
“Bring him along?”
“Yeah.” Aaron exhaled against Michael’s shoulder, wrapping his arms more securely around his waist.