AN:

Two things!

Spinner is going to be hit on by an OC I came up with after it was suggested to me that he get together with...Simon.

Spinner: Say wha now?

SHUSH! It'll work itself out.

Also, the end...is really SAPTASTIC. So...Kleenex people...no one dies, but your heart may melt into a puddle on your shoes because of the sap content.

That's it! READ NOW!


Lap 8:

Shotgun

a.k.a.

Don't run when I ask you this…


"Whoa…what happened to you?" Grace asked. "You all look like you've been run over by your own cars."

The gang of them kept trudging through the door, either worn out or looking like they had taken the test of their lives and barely passed. All of them managed to fit into their usual booth, some blearily raising their hands in greeting and the rest plopping their heads or torsos on the table without much protest to the hard surface. Grace was sure if Spinner had the chance, he would be snoring on that table. Luckily Sherman managed to prop him back up before he could do just that.

Grace gave them the once over. They needed some serious coffee, and not just the usual stuff that had Sheriff Johnson perked up in the mornings when he stopped by. No, they needed something much stronger, and she wasn't above asking Zeke to make it, though it would be murder on their systems later on.

"Zeke! Make a pot of your special coffee!" she called. "I need enough for your regulars!"

Zeke peeked from behind his grill. "Oh my…better make it two pots," he mumbled running back in. "Musta had a tough run…"

Two pots? Grace mentally reminded herself that she was going to need to soak those pots for a good hour afterward. Until then, she turned back to the others as she slid from around the counter to tend to them. "So, what's up? Did your jobs make you run extra laps or something?" she asked. "Seriously, you all look like utter shit."

Vert propped his head back up from where it had been leaning against Stanford's on the table. "Something like that…" If you counted being nearly blown to bits twice, working with the enemy, and still losing the prize a tough run. His hands were sliding from underneath him. He gave in, dropping forward in time to land in the groove of Stanford's space, practically nose to nose with the exhausted Brit. He opened one bleary eye.

Stanford was half gone.

"Babe…wake up."

"I am, awake…I just don't want to open my eyes for a little while."

Vert managed a small smile, inching forward a bit to kiss the corner of that twitching mouth. "I'm no prince, but you have to get up for me," he said softly. "I promise you can sleep in a little while."

"Right…and when I wake from that slumber, it will be with a proper kiss."

It didn't stop Vert from kissing him anyhow, which was fine with the redhead. He sat up, lips moving from Vert's with a soft pop to kiss his cheek before falling to lie on his shoulder. Vert rested his head against Stanford's, tempted to sleep but fighting it valiantly. Stanford's light but firm cling to his shirt was ten times lighter than it had been when they'd gotten back from their latest adventure. It was quite the fright, one that had the Brit seeing red in a whole new light that had nothing to do with his Mohawk.

Kyrtus was certainly misled, but when it came to his own life and destroying the multiverse, he was like a scared kitten that'd climbed way too high. Working with him was not pleasant, saving him was even less. Still, there was always that god awful chance that they wouldn't have made it out of there, and that his days of riding would come to an abrupt end because of some left over dimension named the Shadow Zone.

He'd already been in there twice. Zoom, while he hadn't been on this mission, had given him a sympathetic look. The Shadow Zone was no joke.

After everything had settled down to a tolerable level and the adrenaline had left them, Stanford had hopped out of his car and belted for Vert's. Vert had just gotten out, still unbelieving of what just happened when Stanford tackled him and planted the two of them into the side of his car. Vert didn't quite know what to make of it all, until he'd felt the hot stinging tears dripping into the collar of his suit. He'd wrapped his arms around Stanford to ease him, but it didn't seem like enough. How could it? He'd been forced to work with a being that would slice him in half if he so wished it, and barely managed to get out without being blown to bits! He'd hugged the Brit closer, unable to stop himself from shaking at the thought of how close death had actually been.

It gave him a moment to think about the future, and how much more careful he was going to be when diving into these situations. Krytus was a manipulative maniacal bastard at heart and nothing would change him.

It also gave him pause to think about Stanford, and just what he meant to the Brit, and what the Brit meant to him. While it hadn't been quite that long since they started dating, trying to picture himself apart from Stanford brought an ache to his stomach that made Vandal food seem appealing. His chest was no better; tight and constricting as if he'd gone and ate a tub of cholesterol and expected to live. Just thinking about it made his head hurt and made sleep all the more appealing.

Thankfully Grace put those pots in front of them. The smell alone had his eyes watering and his body a little more awake than it had been.

Tezz, usually the last to do anything, was the first to grab his cup. While the whole bloodshot eye thing wasn't new on him, it was unusually bad this morning. "I thank whatever deities decided to let this man make this brew," he muttered around the rim of is cup. "Otherwise, I hate to think what I might do in my car in about a half hour."

"You? Pfft, I'm lucky this one here is used to late shifts," Spinner said. He smacked Sherman playfully. "Otherwise we wouldn't have a car."

"Can we get back to the garage before we even think about crashing cars?" Agura asked. She yawned loudly, he own cup in hand as she leaned against Tezz. "I'm ready for a long nap."

"I think you're all ready for a nap," Grace chuckled. "I'm sure the garage will let you off for a day if you look this bad."

Maybe. Then again evil never slept. "We'll see," Vert muttered. For now, he drank his cup of coffee gratefully and thought about a developing plan in the back of his mind.

By the time they had properly ingested that coffee with some complimentary muffins, Vert had decided it was time to drag their butts back to the garage. Their beds were waiting for them to get in them, and he wasn't sure of how long Zeke's coffee would keep them up. With a little prodding from his insistent hands, he managed to get everyone up and out of the dinner in a somewhat dignified manner. The one to trail them was Spinner, and that was only because he'd dozed off despite being prodded awake several times by Sherman. The smaller Cortez brother yawned loudly as he walked out of the door, ignoring the giggles coming from Grace watching them leave.

"Zoom, we're still going to the movies this weekend right?"

Zoom spun around, darting to the side of Spinner's half sleep walk. "For Sure, providing my job doesn't get in the way. I'll text you tonight, okay?"

"Make sure you do!"

The Muai Tai fighter couldn't quite keep the grin of off his face when Grace winked his way. While they weren't officially dating by their understanding, it was looking more and more like it was headed in that direction the longer they hung out together. While it would have been nice to just flat out ask her out and put an end to the "just friends" phase of their relationship, the girl was pretty cool…and he had his reservations about getting involved with someone who didn't quite know about the actual logistics of his job.

It was something to think about on another day. He stepped out of the dinner into the midday sun, expecting the others to be in their rides already waiting on him. Instead he caught them staring at something in the distance, closing in on their general location with a stream of dust trailing behind whatever it was headed for them. He joined their ranks, trying to make heads or tails of what it was.

"We got a newcomer?" he asked.

Vert shrugged. He didn't know and he was too tired to deal with anything wayward this morning. "I'm not sure if I want to know," he admitted. "Whatever it is, it looks fast."

"That's because it is," Agura said. "I think we're looking at…an actual replica of the Camero in Transfomers…"

That car was coming in on the road at speeds that would have had Sheriff Johnson giving himself a heart attack. Vert was mildly impressed, but too tired to really think about who it could be or why they decided that this diner was as good a spot as any to show up. Stanford yawned, letting out the breath he'd been holding with good reason. The last time anything fast had come zooming through here, it had been an unexpected, unwelcome, and most undesired visit from what had to be the most annoying person on the planet.

"At least it's not Simon," Agura muttered aloud. "I don't think I can take two Rhodes today."

Stanford refrained from saying what came to mind. "Yeah, well…as much fun as it would be to harp about my brother, I think the bed is worth more than drudging up that unpleasant subject. Can we go?"

"Aw, can't we wait a moment?" Spinner asked. "I wanna see who's driving that sweet thing…"

Whether anyone would have said yes or no, the car that had their attention came swerving into the parking lot. It shot past them and their rides, parking at the very edge of the lot to come to a perfect dime stop. The doors, Lamborghini style in every way imaginable, opened themselves without anyone to help them, allowing anyone who was remotely interested to peer into the depths of it.

A slight mutter came before the body. Out came the hand, gloved and reeking of possible money, alongside a phone that looked an awful lot like Stanford's model. The thumb on it was rapidly screening through something, abruptly giving up the moment there was a melodic notice of his getting a message.

"That's it…I'm so changing my number when I get back…"

He stepped out of his vehicle, violet eyes trained on the phone for a moment more. He had the grace of a cat, slipping from his seat and out into the open, absently closing the doors and turning to lean against the yellow mount of gorgeousness. He sighed, pulling his hood back, revealing a short crop of black spikes that looked about as soft as Spinner's. Gelled or not, he rubbed the side of his head in disgust, sliding his foot to cross the other with only his back to support him on the yellow metal.

"Dude, that ride is wicked," Spinner breathed.

It obviously wasn't meant to be heard aloud, but the stranger had heard it and whipped his head to see who said it. He saw Spinner practically drooling, and then noticed the rest of the team staring at their member in amusement or embarrassment. "What was that about my ride?" he asked. "You said it was wicked?"

"Well, chyeah dude," Spinner snorted. "It's just about the coolest thing you'd see around these parts."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Dude, what do I have to lie about?"

The stranger twisted the side of his mouth. His strange half smile seemed to flow with his hand, gesturing to the other cars sitting in the lot waiting on their owners. Oh. Their cars. "I dunno, bruh," he said grinning a bit. "Looks like those are pretty wicked rides in their own right."

Spinner gave him a sheepish grin in response. They'd been with their rides for so long he tended to forget that others were awed by them now and again. "Um…right. I tend to forget that little fact sometimes."

"I don't see how. You've got some pretty sweet rides here." He motioned to the Gear Slammer and the Buster, more than amazed at the size at design of the two biggest vehicles there. "Looks like they've been designed for combat almost," he mused lightly. "The way the world is today, it wouldn't be a surprise."

"So, what's up with the Bee inspired ride?" Zoom asked. "It's totally ripped…I thought it might get up for a minute."

"Oh? This? Well, it's a replica I built with a few modifications in the blue prints," he explained. "It doesn't quite turn into a robot, but it does run pretty fast…amongst other things. I could show you."

"Thanks, but we all have a date with the bed," Vert said. He stifled another yawn, barely managing to keep it in and keep Stanford from dozing where he stood. "We've…had a long day."

The stranger smiled in understanding. "Yeah. I can tell. I had one of those a few days ago." His phone chirped again, and this time he scowled at the thing. "I might have one today. You guys live around here or in the city?"

"We stay at the race course a couple of miles into the flats. I run a garage and keep a track for anyone who wants to practice their driving. Today, however, I'm closed…but if you want to visit I don't see why you can't tomorrow."

"Tomorrow sounds good. Oh, my name is Nick by the way. Nick Rivera."

"I'm Vert Wheeler. The ones around me are Agura, Tezz, A.J., Sherman, Spinner, and Zoom. This one trying not to drool on my shoulder is Stanford Isaac Rhodes IV." Stanford absently waved, no longer caring who or what was around him. He just wanted to get home and close his eyes and pretend that he didn't have to get up again for a year. "Like I said, he's tired."

"Rhodes? He wouldn't happen to be related to someone named Simon, would he?"

"Unfortunately yes, I would…" Stanford muttered. "Has he done something else he deems worthy of bragging about, or is he planning another unscheduled visit with the intentions of trying to show me up again?"

His reaction had the unintended effect of making Nick laugh quite a bit. He shook his head just as much, unable to keep the smile that stretched his lips to reveal perfect teeth sitting in that mouth. "He's not doing much of anything at the moment," he explained when he finally stopped laughing. "I'm surprised you weren't contacted."

"What do you mean he's not doing much of anything? He's never still!"

"Yeah? Well that last stunt he pulled has him in a leg cast…and out of the racing circuit for about two months. Seriously, that jerk didn't tell you?"

Stanford couldn't say yes or no. The way they've been fighting as of late, they barely had time to keep up with their family and friends. It was just enough to keep up with the others, and he lived with them. "We…don't keep contact like we should," he allowed. "Besides, he's older than me. I bet he thought I would laugh or something."

"We all laughed," Nick chuckled. "And that was only because the fool had it coming. Trying to impress some chick on the slopes…things like that has taken out worse idiots."

Spinner snorted a bit, not surprised at the outcome. "What? You've never done something nuts to impress some chick?"

"No. I don't see the point," Nick offered. "I can't allow myself to do something that absurd for a girl that would probably hop to the next hottie within moments. Now...if it were a cute looking guy…I might be inclined." He leaned forward a bit, gloved fingers gently but playfully waggling in front of Spinner's confused but oh so cute face. "Got any stunts you want me to do?"

What Zoom would later dub the gaping fish effect took over Spinners face. His brain seemed to have short circuited then, unwilling to believe that someone, a guy, and a rather good looking guy at that, would even joke around with him. Unintended flirting, perhaps, but it had the nice quality of having Spinner blush horribly and getting Nick to really smile; a smile that seemed to make the Salt Flats hotter in a not so heat draining way.

"Um…I think it's time for that nap. Uh…it was n-nice meeting you, Nick…"

Nick waggled his brows and smirked. "The pleasure was mine."

Spinner turned on his heel and practically ran for the Buster. "Yes…definitely time for that nap…" He was having sleep deprivation induced hallucinations, and there was no way that Nick winked after him. Nope. It just didn't happen.

"Hey, be honest," Agura asked. "Are you messing with him?"

"Ah, I'm afraid that's the one thing I don't do," Nick replied. He winked her way, laughing at the open scowl on Tezz's face. "I'm quite honest about most things, and I don't tread where I'm not wanted. So you can relax, Tezz was it? I'm not into your girl."

"More like you're into Spinner…" Stanford mused.

"Perhaps. He is a cute fellow, but I doubt he'd stand still long enough to think about it. Oh well. So, you said something about a race track?"


One well earned nap/snorefest later:

He could give himself credit where it was due. He didn't jerk himself awake this time and run without knowing why. He didn't crash into the door trying to get somewhere he didn't need to be. He wasn't being laughed at by his blonde boyfriend trying to figure out why the alarm tended to draw that conditioned response out of him. Stanford was still in the bed, still rubbing his eyes of sleep, and still being held onto by his very heavy, slightly snoring boyfriend who had needed the last seven hours of sleep more than anyone else.

Gently reaching out to snap his phone's chirping off, he briefly checked the screen for any messages. There was one from Grace reminding him about their little shopping excursion this coming weekend. He hadn't forgotten it, and he was sure that Zoom wasn't going to forget it either. For a quick moving youngster, he was sure slow on the uptake to officially being something to Grace other than a cool looking hang out buddy. It was a good thing that he had a thing for blokes, otherwise Zoom would have missed out on a very good thing.

Speaking of blokes, Stanford turned around in his bed the moment those hands tightened themselves around his waist. Vert was yawning, hand over his mouth and one eye tearing from yawning so big, stretching like the canine he tended to resemble on his less refined days. Hair sticking in every which way but in its usual fashion, he ran a tired hand through it and gave Stanford what had to be the silliest but well rested smile he'd seen on Vert's face in quite some time. He couldn't keep himself from kissing that face, or laughing when Vert shoved his face away with a grimace.

"I had Zeke's coffee for crying out loud," he muttered. "I thought you loved me…and now you're trying to commit suicide?"

"Well, a love like ours does have its risks," Stanford chuckled. He moved Vert's hand from where it was trying to keep him at a distance, kissing him despite the backdraft of Zeke's potent coffee. "Besides," he whispered, "You're dealing with a man who had eaten some rancid stuff for the sake of society's ill begotten standards. This is nothing."

"Well if that's not proof…"

"You need more?"

"I wouldn't mind…afterI have toothpaste and mouthwash for dinner. Mmm…what time is it anyhow?"

Stanford glanced at his phone again. "About…six. If we get the others up we might make it in time to grab a bit to eat at the Diner."

"Sounds like a plan. Only…"

"Only what?"

"Only…you have to convince me to get up aside for breath related issues…"

That wasn't a problem.

Within the next twenty minutes, Vert was waltzing out of the room whistling a tune all his own. Stanford was smugly aside him, one arm wrapped around Vert's and his free hand admiring the new hickey on his collarbone. Soon enough everyone was admiring it. It was the first thing that they noticed when they walked into the hub, not that Stanford was wearing anything low enough to show it off. Vert just happened to like that one spot, and was quite the territorial man; one that marked what was his openly shy of pissing on it like a dog would.

Stanford didn't mind it at all, or the smug knowing look Agura was giving him from where she was seated against Tezz.

"Whoa…someone has a new trophy, I see…and quite recent!" she teased. "I'd say…from the last ten minutes?"

"If it were any newer, we'd see it happening," Zoom laughed. "But please, no demonstrations."

"What? And miss out on an educational moment in your life you'd probably never witness ever?" The brit rolled is hands lazily in the air, eyeing the Muy Thai fighter with interest when he visibly paled at the thought of seeing something like that live. That definitely answered the question about boundaries. "Don't worry your spiky head off," he said. "That's completely under wraps…and no demonstrations are required."

"Not that anyone else is going to get one," Vert smirked.

Stanford elbowed Vert in his side. "They'd better not."

"And the bossiness has come full circle," AJ joked. "So when's the wedding since we know who's really in charge?"

Vert rolled his eyes and Stanford snorted, although neither one sought to answer that. Vert unconsciously stuffed his left hand in his pocket, his fingers curling around the item he hadn't quite gotten around to doing something about. He hadn't forgotten, but he hadn't quite had the time or the nerve to really do anything about it. Rather, he gave AJ a sideways glare and got a laugh in return. The Canadian was not without his comments without just reason, which was all the more reason to punch him later.

"Pfft, even if that was a possibility, I'd doubt he'd stay with me after meeting the rents and realizing Simon was going to be his brother in law," Stanford said. He shook his head, idly scratching the bottom of his chin. "Not to mention Aunt Mable…I think I mentioned to you that she cries at everything once."

"Well that would be interesting," Vert mused. "I wonder if she'd cry because of the wedding or because she's getting a cool handsome man that's not like Simon as an in law?"

"I'd cry at that point just because."

"I think everyone would cry for that," Sherman remarked. "Oh, hey, did you find out anything about Simon?"

Stanford shook his head, remembering that the messages on his phone were from anyone and everyone except his brother. Granted he'd only shot him a quick message, but then again his brother's phone was much worse than his own when he was in England. Everyone who could text was sending him a message and anyone who was bored and looking for a cheap DJ was calling. He didn't miss the harassment but so much. "I'll ring him later and see if he answers," Stanford replied. "If that doesn't work, I'll bomb his email account. I can't believe he broke his leg…"

"I can't believe he's not bragging about it on his facebook account," Zoom said.

"You're on his facebook?"

"Everyone got a friend invite after he visited," Agura said. "Personally I only friended him to see just what idiotic things he's been up to. Your brother has issues."

"Of course he has issues…but this is just weird if he's not bragging about it on facebook…"

"We can talk about it at the Diner after DINNER," Vert announced. "I'm hungry, I want to eat before I die of starvation, and for once, I don't want Za. So, everyone who's coming, let's go!"

"T-the Diner?" An unusually quiet Spinner lifted his head from where he'd been sitting in a light daze. His gaming console sat in his hands turned off, nothing more than an ornament for a guy who wasn't sure about what he'd missed in his brain fog. Mention of the diner seemed to wake him up some, more so when the thought of this morning came spinning back. "What about the Diner?"

"We're going there for dinner, rather than suffer through Zoom's attempt to cook anything other than his own food," Agura chuckled. Zoom gave her the finger which was readily tossed back his way with a wink. "Come on Spinner…you might even get to see Nick…"

"W-why would I want to see him?" he asked, already defensive. "It's not like I know him."

"Looks like he wants to know you…"

"Right…so, how about you shush and we go find food and not talk about Nick? Hmm? Sounds good? Great, let's go."

Spinner slid out of his chair and ran for the buster again, Ignoring his flaming cheeks, the laughter of the others, and his brain automatically bringing up this morning with Nick smiling.

It was official. He'd been around too much testosterone.


"So then, he turns harder than he thought, bounces over a hidden root, and BAM! Snow face-plant. No winnings and no girl…most of all, a nice little cast that we marked up before he was out of the hospital. Someone might have doodled something a little obscene on there…"

"And what would that be?" Stanford asked.

"His worst nightmare…another penis beside's his own."

The Brit snorted around a mouthful of food and tried not to laugh. He wasn't in the mood to choke to death because it was absolutely hysterical that his brother was so self absorbed that anything that wasn't something in relation to himself was considered obscene and unworthy. He had hoped that changed, but that didn't seem to be the case in the story Nick retold for the hell of making conversation entertaining.

They'd gotten to the Diner in a record amount of time. Vert's insistence on driving his Reverb had a lot to do with it, and being that it was evening and Sheriff Johnson was pleasantly content with his evening meal and coffee, he wasn't about to speed after them when they zoomed right by the patrol car with Vert in the lead. Vert wasn't kidding when he said he was starving, and he also wasn't joking about not wanting pizza. He'd gotten an actual honest to god meal which almost frightened Zoom.

Of course in the midst of their waiting, the tall handsome stranger known as Nick had made an appearance. He had on a helmet this time, pulling it off the moment he walked through the doors and looking like he'd had better days. He didn't have to ask if he could sit with them because Stanford had practically dragged him over to their combined tables and sat him down with the instruction for him to spill about Simon and how he broke his leg.

Now, meal eaten and steaming cup of coffee sitting under his nose, Nick idly sipped the warm liquid as the others tried not to choke and laugh as his retelling. He smiled into his cup, eying Spinner sitting adjacent to him with his thumbs going to work on that gaming console he'd been fiddling with for a while now. He hadn't said much, and Nick figured it had a lot to do with that blush on his face that hadn't left since he'd been dragged over here. He'd been teasing earlier, but now he wasn't so sure if it was just teasing anymore.

He glanced at the game in play. "So, you're playing Rise of the Damned?" he questioned.

"Yeah…but I can't seem to figure out how to knock this one Vampire out without him getting back up," Spinner grunted. "It's annoying…"

"I see…Can I?"

Spinner paused his game. Nick's hand was out, gesturing for it. He hesitated slightly before handing it over. "You've played this?"

"Mmm hmm…when I'm not busy. See, when you fight this dude…if you don't stab him in this pattern…he comes back like a bad rash."

Spinner found himself leaning over to see his character stabbing the vampire in question as Nick described. The stake was supposed to hit the runes upon his skin, and then bury itself in his heart! He nearly slapped his forehead in annoyance. It didn't quite reach up that far. He stopped part way, noticing the fine smell of faded cologne and something sweet mingled with the scent of coffee and something chocolate. He looked down at Nick's half eaten chocolate cake, focusing on it rather than the sudden shock of realizing that he'd been sniffing the man.

Nick, on the other hand, slid Spinner's game back into his hands, hiding his smile behind his coffee mug. "You're welcome to the other half. I don't bite."

"No...I-It's fine. Thanks…and thanks for the uh…assistance."

"No problem. We should totally play one another one day," he mentioned. "I have a feeling you're quite the gamer."

"When our job allows," Sherman said. "Sometimes we have plenty of time, and sometimes it's a miracle if we get any sleep. Not that some of us know what that is anymore."

"I must say, I was used to my all nighters prior to my recruitment into my current employer," Tezz mentioned, "but now I truly understand the meaning of sleep deprivation and have a new appreciation for caffeine."

Nick blinked. "Oh? What do you all do?"

"Test drive cars, amongst other things," Vert said. "They work for me, at least until my Dad gets back from vacation…"

If Stanford rubbed the small of Vert's back absently, Nick didn't comment on it. "Must be interesting."

"Interesting is not the word for it," A.J. chuckled. "More like, amusing. What do you do, if you don't mind us asking?"

"Me? I do quite a bit of traveling…racing mostly, finding things to get into." Things like avoiding his phone if he could help it, much like now when it went off for the first time in a solid hour. He reached into his pocket, not amused to see it was the same number he'd been ignoring for the longest. "Although, I might be staying around here for a little while…it really depends on my current job and if I don't murder this person blowing up my phone."

"Why don't you just block the number?" Spinner questioned. "Or change it?"

"Too much of a hassle. Blocking it only brings up withheld calls, and I don't answer withheld calls."

"Annoying friend?"

"More like…person who doesn't understand no."

The phone chirped again, and Nick sneered at it in disgust. He was all for shoving it back into his pocket but Spinner's quick hands plucked it from his fingers and answered it before he could say anything.

"Hello? Who? Nick? Nah buddy…you can't talk to Nick."

There were snickers rising, AJ and Sherman going red quite quickly as they tried desperately not to laugh. Nick couldn't quite decipher what was so funny, but Stanford nudged him in the shoulder and pointed with a whispered, "Just listen. It'll be worth it."

Nick blinked in confusion but listened.

"Why can't you talk to Nick? Because he's busy…busy doing what? Oh, I'm not sure. He could be doing anything…" Spinner rolled his eyes and reached for something in his pocket. "Hm? His what? Oh…I see. Well you still can't talk to him." Whatever he pulled out was quickly turned on, and the sounds of copulation filled their little area much to the amusement and extreme embarrassment of Grace when she passed by with another pot of coffee. She hadn't heard that much moaning since the last time Zeke had tried to enhance his Chili. "Mmm? What's that? I can't….oh fuck…not there…NICK! I am on your phone for fuck's sake, so can you PLEASE wait before you fuck the hell out of me? Hello? Oh…they hung up."

He handed the phone back with Agura wiping her eyes, Sherman breathless, and AJ unable to form words from laughing so much. Vert and Stanford were also quite red in the face, more amused that Spinner had done that so easily. Tezz was too immersed in his cake to really pay much mind to it, and Zoom gave Grace a sheepish look. Grace rolled her eyes and playfully tapped him upside the head. "That is the last time I find sound bites for you," she muttered playfully.

"But it works so well," Spinner smirked. "Thanks Grace."

"From one perv to another."

Nick stared between his silent phone and Spinner going back to his game. "Did you just fake having sex with me?" he asked.

"I bought you like, five days tops," Spinner remarked. "You're welcome."

Nick turned his head and covered his nose. "I didn't think anyone could be that cute…" he muttered.

"What?"

"Nothing. Uh, thanks for the save."

"It's no prob. I figured it'd freak him out more with that rather than rapidly spout off in Spanish that his mother was a coyote who fucked the ugliest bear around and somehow managed to have that face only he could love…or something like that."

"Bi-lingual as well? You're proving to be most interesting…"

"Yeah well…I gotta make up for the height deficiency."

There was nothing wrong with his height, if you were to ask Nick. No one did, but he hummed in response. "You're fine the way you are, and funny, too." Spinner ducked his head a little at this, and Nick thought his nose would bleed right then and there. "So…can I treat you to a slice of pizza one day? Before we have fake sex again?"

And the blush on Spinner's face was back. Nick leaned on his hands, admiring that face that blushed so readily. Yes, he would be staying here for a while.


"I wanna talk to you…"

Stanford stopped at the soft tug of his fingers, turning to stare at Vert in the evening light. There was nothing to illuminate the way save the dim lights of the Diner's outside lighting arrangements, including that one blinking light that just never quite wanted to go out. Despite this, he could see that something was bothering Vert, enough so that he tugged a little more, enticing the Brit to follow outside of the hearing of the others. It probably wouldn't have mattered. Zoom was loudly praising the other bike in the lot which happened to belong to Nick.

They walked a little distance away, coming around the side where they could hear nothing else but the buzz of that annoying zapper that popped every few moments. The lighting was dimmer and the skies were clearer, enough so that they weren't totally obscured. Stanford, while admittedly the last to be thankful for most things, was indeed grateful for that lighting. Vert's face troubled him, and he wasn't so sure he wanted to look at it like this.

"Vert?"

"Um…yeah…Sorry, I didn't want the others overhearing this," Vert murmured. "It's rather important…"

Stanford fought not to snatch his hand away from the warm one clinging tightly to his. He felt his heart lurch, flashbacks of another place coming to mind. The last time someone had said words similar to those, he had been left staring at the backside of his retreating boyfriend and wondering what kind of world allowed people like that jerk to roam free of one relationship and have another not even an hour later. After sulking for a good hour and wishing that he was old enough to drink down that pain, he'd wandered aimlessly only to find his then ex hooking up with his best mate.

While things like that didn't quite come up in conversations, it was reason enough to have a scar or two that made it damn near impossible to stand still and look into those eyes wavering in the darkness. It was the reason he hadn't approached Vert in the first place, and why he might have stayed pining from afar had Vert not taken that first step. It was the reason he tended to curse himself for getting wrapped up in this little bubble of bliss before he could stop it, and why he wondered people like him who were hopeless romantics at heart usually found their hearts broken somewhere in the middle of their bliss induced waltz through life.

It took everything in him to keep his hand were it was and stay silent when Vert slipped his free hand into his left pocket.

"My family has this thing…" Vert explained softly, "…when a child is about eight or nine, their parents give them something special on Valentine's Day. My…dad wasn't into it, but my mother did hand me something special…"

"Y-your mom?"

"Yeah. I don't talk about her much…because I keep thinking she might show up any moment. It's a hope that hurts…but a sweet hope…and one that makes this easier to do."

The same hand he held Vert let go of, only to grasp it again and slip something warm onto Stanford's left ring finger. He grabbed that christened hand before the redhead could see it, tugging it and him closer than they had been a moment ago. "She gave me this ring…and said to me…that I was to give it to the one person I can't see leaving my sight for more than a day…the one person who makes my heart ache sweetly…the one person I see with me despite their faults….and the one person who makes me want to be a better man." He could swear to hearing his mom's voice echo in his ears as he said these words, remembering every single moment he'd hugged his mother after she'd given him that ring. He hadn't let go of it, or what it meant, or her gentle smile when she teased him that he'd fall hard for a redhead like herself.

She wasn't far off the mark.

"I'm not…asking you to…marry me, exactly," he said before Stanford could and would possibly freak out on him. The Brit did neither, but the look on his face was quickly crossing into a dangerous territory that would flood the desert if left unchecked. As such, he wiped the first tear before it could fall, leaving his hand over that warm cheek pressing into it. "But I am asking you to think about it…to allow me to promise to come home…to you…when this war is over."

"Vert…"

"After today, it's not going to be pretty at all. I don't think that, I know that…and while I would like for nothing more than to march in there and kick Krytus' ass from here to the moon, it's not possible right now. However…what is possible is making sure I have an anchor to bring me back every time…no matter what I may do, say, or what may be…I don't…like…no, I hate thinking about not being here with you…" He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat, hating that small things like that could choke him up so readily. It wouldn't do for him to start sobbing as well. Stanford was already doing a good job of it now. "I know we've only been together for a couple of months…and maybe…it might not amount to anything…but I'm serious enough to give you this ring…as a promise…to do what I can to come back home. I love you."

He was sure his face was quite the sight. Stanford wiped what tears he could from his face, sniffling loudly in between his bouts of sobbing. "That has to be the most sap drenched thing I've ever heard!" he bawled, "And I c-can't…stop…c-crying…because you…you…"

"Stanford…you don't—"

"You idiot! Of course I do! I bloody love you…and you have to bleeding well love me a hell of a lot for you to even consider having Simon for an in-law!"

That horrible ache he'd felt building in his stomach was swept away with a burning joy that frightened him to no ends. He wiped at his face, unable to keep it together a moment longer when Vert wrapped his arms around him and held him close. Anyone with a modern brain would have told him he was rushing into this; that this was nothing more than the results of war bonding those for a common cause and that it would wear itself off after all was said and done. Even Vert had said it. Stanford didn't believe it. He wouldn't. He kept a firm hold of Vert and promised to whoever was listening that he'd keep the one thing that managed to keep him sane through this despite his own overbearing personality. He was a spoiled rich brat and was the first to admit it, and it took a special kind of person to accept that and still want to have his brother as a possible in-law.

"Aw hell," Stanford muttered against Vert's shoulder, "Look at me blubbering. Aunt Mable would have flooded the parking lot by now, but it'd be worth the tears to see Simon try to outrun that flood with his leg."

Vert couldn't help it. He laughed and kissed Stanford's tear soaked lips, the glint of that plain gold band the brightest thing in their little world.


*dabs her eyes* It's not a proposal, but it sure is close to it.

Okay, to explain something, these chapters take place over the course of several months, so it's not out of the blue premature, alright? Fillers and flashbacks come LATER! :D

Reviews are awesome.