He stopped taking unnecessary breaths years ago, so he doesn't smell the man's approach. He hears it, though, soles scuffing along dirt and gravel, a thumping, even rhythm echoing the pumping of a heart. There's no need to look to see who it is, heartbeats and footsteps are as unique as fingerprints; and after all the years, he knows these vibrations well.
The complaint had been that the car shook when the gas pedal was pressed, and it never seemed to really accelerate. Simple problem, most likely something wrong with the spark plugs. Behind him the man was entering the small garage, swearing lightly as he walked into and stumbled over a tire.
"Fer fuck's sake, ya wanna turn on some lights?"
Oh, he probably should actually have some more light in the area. He tended to work in the near dark, needing little more than the glow of a swollen moon to see by. "Maybe you could bring a fucking lamp with you. It's called thinking ahead. Try it sometime." The spacing between the spark plugs looked right, but there was some obvious black char going on. Smirking, he removed the spacers from the coil pack and turned to lean against the front of the car.
"Maybe you should try not bein' a snotty bitch sometime. Ever think ahead ter that?" Light suddenly blossomed close to his face and he grimaced, temporarily blinded by the brightness. "'s called not wastin' fuel. I ain't walkin' all over creation with this thing lit if I don't gotta."
"Mmm," was the noncommittal reply, attention focused on removing a spring from the spacer held in a pale hand darkened by grease. Spring safely removed, he took the man's hand, pressing it into the upturned palm while smoke curled around their heads. "Here, make yourself useful for a change."
"Figure it out, then?"
"Spark plug was arcing," needle-nosed pliers delicately fished within the spacer, locating and clamping around a coil, pulling it, stretching it. "Happens when the coils compress and aren't sitting right, causes the spark to ground out. Easy fix. I just have to tug the coil a bit, decompress it, then reassemble everything. So, really. Don't lose that spring."
"What happens if I have a whoopsie?" The grin was clear in the voice.
"Then I have a whoopsie in the general direction of your skull."
"Bah, 's thick. Ain't gonna make a difference."
"Truer words have never been spoken." Satisfied with the placement of the coil, and not wanting to give the man any more time to plan ways to create "whoopsies", the spring was quickly snatched back and carefully reinserted.
"S'how long ya gonna be out here tonight, anyway?"
"Mmm, not sure," he was bent over under the hood, putting the spacer back into place. "I need to change the oil in the Deans' minivan and check the gear shift on the Tomlins' tractor." Spacer set, he pulled back and carefully wiped his hands off on a rag from the back pocket of his coveralls. "Why?"
"Jus' wonderin' if I gotta come fetch yer pansy ass b'fore ya crisp up or if yer self-sufficient enough ta make it in on yer own."
"Temperature drops to its coldest just before sun up. Stiff fingers ought to drive me indoors long before then. I'll be fine."
"Yeah. Better be," the spent nub of the cigarette was flicked out onto the concrete driveway, "or else I'll send Hanna out here ter yap at ya till ya come in."
"Oh? Good to know you care." Amused, he tucked the rag back into his pocket.
"'Course I do." The man was frowning, the lines of his face so much deeper than they had been years ago when they first met. "Mechanics 're hard ta come by. Yer actually valuable these days. 'Bout goddamned time ya started pullin' yer weight."
"Oh, well, in that case, I'll be terribly careful. Since I'm useful. Wouldn't want you to have to get your hands dirty with machinery. I know how dainty types like yourself feel about it." His head tilted as he placed a hand on his hip. "Interferes with your manicures."
"Heh," the frown disappeared, replaced by a grin, the skin around the man's eyes wrinkling. The man stepped closer, hesitating only a moment before bending slightly to allow their lips to meet briefly. "Getcher ass inside b'fore I go ta sleep."
He could hear a slight stutter in the man's heart, something similar to the sound the car had made before he'd begun working on it, an echo of what he was sure his own heart would be doing if it could. It was...odd. Confusing. Not really normal, not that anything between them or in his life had been anything remotely close to normal in a very long time, but they had developed their own sense of normalcy. Right now he didn't know how to respond or what to think or feel about this new development. Hell, it had only been a few months since the first time they had kissed. So, the best option was to ignore it and hide it away in the back of his mental filing cabinet.
Clearing his throat, he turned, hands occupying themselves with fumbling motions within the rubber and metal guts of the vehicle. Look busy. Look distracted. Whatever you do, don't look at him. "I'll try," he said simply.
It was a weird unspoken thing; kissing was okay under two circumstances. One, lying in bed in the pitch black and not fully conscious moments before dawn or shortly after rising in the evening. Two, frenzied, angry, violent clashes of fist and mouth directly following a mission. This moment hadn't really fallen into either of those two scenarios. Either way, whatever unspoken rules remained, the largest one was that they didn't talk about it. Ever. It was not an acknowledged part of their interactions past an occasional "saved yer ass" accompanying a knowing narrowing of eyes. There was some level of comfort with the lack of verbal acknowledgement.
Shortly after receiving a reply, the man left, giving what sounded like a kick to the pile of tires as he headed out. Once the lamp was extinguished, its light no longer reaching into the garage, he had turned, watching the man sauntering his way to the end of the driveway, becoming a familiar, thin shadow on the road. Red eyes looked up at the moon, fang pressing against a lower lip. He would probably have to take the file folder out and go over its contents soon, which wasn't exactly something he was looking forward to. It meant really thinking about things, and possibly, ugh, possibly actually talking to the man about what was going on. It wasn't exactly their strong suit, and what if it was all a giant set up, or just another game, pushing, pressing, waiting to see when he would snap.
Or maybe it wasn't even that. Maybe he was misreading entirely and it was just the man being a bizarre creature and it wasn't even a game. What if he misinterpreted these evolving physical interactions and actually did something himself or said something. What if he got that look. He'd seen it before. The one where you're no longer you but something suddenly foreign and distasteful and unwanted and wrong. He didn't know how he would handle that. His whole life had evolved, had become a them, an us, a we. Everything he did was inextricably linked to the man now; this was his new normal. They would take bullets for each other without a second thought, and had, actually. They bitched and laughed and risked their lives together. Truly, even when he genuinely wanted to strangle the life out of the man, he couldn't imagine a life without him. And maybe that was part of why it was so hard, why that lump kept forming every time the potential fall out from putting himself out there or the cold truth of the man's mortality was suddenly staring the vampire right in the face. It meant facing the very real possibility of...an oil change. He really needed to get that oil changed.
Swallowing once, pushing thoughts away, he returned to his work under the light of a pale November moon.