Fic post

Sep. 17th, 2014 01:03 am
sekritomg: (mew mew)
[personal profile] sekritomg
A short PG13 S/K fic, nothing to see here.

Stan is a patient person; he must be. It takes Kyle nearly 30 minutes to peruse the entire IHOP menu. Stan is starving, or the middle-class short-term equivalent thereof; it’s about 4 and he’s not eaten anything all day, except for two small doughnuts from the coffee shop on the corner, which he bought when Kyle went in there for a huge pumpkin-spice latte to bring along on this slog to the dealership. It’s the car that’s the problem, Stan thinks, knowing he’s going to order off the kid’s menu. It’s the car, it’s not them, they didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t crash into or hit anything; they didn’t neglect a service visit or use the wrong kind of gas. But it’s an old car, it’s been with Stan since he was a baby — in the metaphor sense of babyishness.  When he turned 16 and learned to drive Jimbo passed it on to Stan, an old Pontiac that doesn’t drive so much as sail down wide highways like a barge moving upriver against the tide. Paint is peeling off and the chrome bumpers sag; Stan is now 30 and the car is not much younger. It’s crossed the continent with him, from Colorado to Arizona, back to Colorado and down to Georgia, where Kyle is trying to finish a doctorate in human-centered computing. The key word is ‘trying’; Kyle and his advisor do not get along, and the longer Kyle spends on this the further away it seems. Still, he’s apparently too far along to go back now, much to Stan’s dismay; Stan hates it down here and would love for Kyle to can the whole thing entirely. He came only as the result of an ultimatum, “It’s me or Denver,” and at the time it felt as though Denver were a very stable thing, that Denver would be there forever, and that Kyle was fickle and might not be. He was in candidacy at that point, two years ago now, and at the time it felt as though a year or two was a small sacrifice to make. But here it is, the start of year three, and Kyle’s project is nowhere near completion and their car might be near death. It’s September, and cold in Colorado, but down here it’s still summer. Kyle fans himself with the menu he’s just finished scouring, sweating like the walk across the street has done him in. It’s not like crossing the street at home, Stan is willing to admit; the IHOP is just a sprint away from the dealership but it’s down a hill and then another hill to the crosswalk, then a wait of two minutes with the sun beating down until the it’s safe to walk without getting hit by a car. Then up another hill, the sun beating down the entire time, then bouncing up again from the asphalt in the lot.

Kyle is wiping his brow like an extra in The Ten Commandments. “The service here is horrible,” like he hasn’t been parked at this booth for a while, just reading and rereading the different descriptions of pancake toppings. “What are you going to order?”

“I don’t know,” says Stan, though he does. “Something from the kid’s menu.”

“Why do you do that?” Kyle puts the menu down, reaching across with his toes to swipe at Stan’s shin.

“Do what?”

“Order shit off the kid’s menu when you know I’m getting something substantial, like a meal.”

“Well, I’m not going to order food I don’t want just to match you,” says Stan. “It’s not a contest about who’s eating what.”

“It just makes me feel insecure.” Kyle shrugs. “That’s all.”

This sort of comment pisses Stan off, because it’s a ridiculous thing to say. He’s dismantled his whole life for Kyle, pulling himself and his disintegrating old car, his Persian cat (her name is “Currie,” like the spice; Kyle insisted the –ie was more befitting a living creature) and everything he owned away from a respectable job in grant writing for a resource management advocacy group and a nice apartment which is now rented out. When Stan arrived here with his car and his cat and his stuff, Kyle was living in a shotgun shack where Stan could stand in the front room and look straight out the back door, through the bedroom and the kitchen. It was big enough for Kyle but not for two people, and the smell of faint mildew haunted the place. The bathroom was astride the kitchen, and Kyle had planted pots on the rotting porch which he only intermittently bothered to water; half were always dying, the other half unkempt and scraggly as they spilt out of their small containers. Currie caught mice and often bugs; an overpriced pest control company failed to dispense with the rest. Now they live in an apartment in a complex, with two bedrooms and scratchy carpet. Some days Stan likes his job, which is now writing grants for an ineffectual arts organization that plans redundant street fairs. Today Stan’s taken a half day to take the car in, grateful not to be there but not exactly thrilled with this IHOP, either.

Before walking over for their pancakes Stan and Kyle took a stroll through the lot, looking at vehicle price tags. Kyle’s eyes went wide as he peered through windshields, his dick going hard with the kind of want that only visited when he had too much already. Technically it would be just shy of a month until Stan’s 30th; they had been planning a trip to Savannah, but it’s probably not going to happen if they need a new car. “What do you think of the 2015s?” Kyle asks. He’s running his fingers over the handles of the variety of syrup jugs that decorate the table.

“I don’t think much.” Stan’s coffee is long since empty. “I’m sure they’re just like last year’s.”

“But much improved over, what, a 1987 whatever the fuck?”

“Come on,” says Stan, “it’s a good car.”

“It doesn’t even have airbags. Look, you always knew that thing wasn’t going to make it back to Colorado.”

“I did not know that.”

“Stan. It has hundreds of thousands of miles on it—”

“Well, so what, if it still drives fine?”

“If it drives so fine it wouldn’t be in the shop!”

“Cars just need maintenance. I’m not buying a new car until that one won’t roll out of the service door at the dealership.”

“I want a new car,” Kyle seethes. He’s starting to paw at the syrups with disturbing sensuality. Outside the IHOP windows the road fills with an increasingly greater number of vehicles, including regional buses and tow-trucks.

“Well, I’m so fucking sick of being an adult.” Stan takes an ironic moment to grab the syrup out of Kyle’s hands and put it back in its row with the others. Admittedly the line between youth and age is blurry; Stan realizes even as he says this that he’s still driving a car that was paid off in full in the mid-90s, and by someone else, and also, he woke up with his dick in Kyle’s mouth this morning and was so late for work he didn’t even get a chance to have breakfast. “I will drive that thing into the ground if I have to.”

It’s been ages, Stan thinks, since he felt the romantic idealism of his youth that dictated that he would be fine so long as he was with Kyle. Their home was supposed to be together, wherever they were, a union knit together by history and sex, a long and continuous association that made Stan heartsick when it was broken, in college and in between, after Kyle spent a year back in Denver being going off to graduate school. As soon as he got there Stan came to visit, and it was evident stepping off of the small plane and into the muggy oppression of the jetway that this place was not going to be for him. This IHOP is a bit too much like the chain diners Stan sat at by himself on weeknights in middle and high school, occasionally doing his homework but mostly just drinking coffee, feeling both of the world and not of it, but pleased to exercise the kind of autonomy only the parents of an older child would let their kid taste.  Kyle was watched much more carefully, his younger brother then allowed to run amok. Not that Ike did, though he was now a couple of years out of college himself and at a loss for what to do as he made impressive money through idle online trading. At least Ike wasn’t stuck in greater Atlanta, worried about how he might get home through the choke of afternoon traffic. Stan and Kyle might sit through rush hour if they’re lucky — that is, if their car is diagnosed, fixed, and returned to them shortly. It’s been over an hour and they’ve heard nothing. But even if they get into their Pontiac and drive back to Midtown, they’re still going back to a box-shaped apartment in a thousand-unit complex behind an ever-malfunctioning automatic gate, it’s still full humidity and 87 degrees in mid-September, and their nearest car dealership is still 40 minutes away in good traffic. This isn’t home, Stan realizes; this place isn’t him. They’re never going to be home in this noplaceness, their Pontiac too long to fit into one of the cramped spaces in the campus garage where everyone else owns cars manufactured in the past five years.

The cynicism that Kyle accuses Stan of when they’re fighting — there it is.

“I really don’t want to fight about getting a new car,” Kyle sniffs. He slides the menu away and waves over the waitress. “I hate fighting.”

“Kyle, you love to fight.”

“Well, not at IHOP.” He sits up in the booth, which is easy since it’s so rigid, and folds his hands on the table to look serious for the waitress. He orders french toast stuffed with cheesecake, with sides of eggs and hashbrowns and sausage. Stan gets a little dish with one pancake that comes with fruit and a sad swirl of whipped cream at the center. The idea is to arrange the banana slices into a grin, but Stan eats the whipped cream immediately before spreading the bananas into a gap-mouthed moan of misery. Two strawberries make the eyes.

“That’s so juvenile.” Kyle reaches for the butter pecan syrup over his lukewarm mug of coffee, the empty cardboard cup that held his latte, and his sausage and eggs on a side plate. He looks up at Stan for a moment and their eyes lock, Kyle’s sunglasses pushed upon his head into a shocking mess of choppy hair. It doesn’t get curly until it’s longer, when it goes from boyishly sloppy to clownish between breakfast and dinner. He’s inadvertently stylish, and Stan loves how he rolls his jeans up to mid-calf and wears low-top sneakers without socks, shaves prohibitively, keeps his nails cut short enough that his soft fingers always look a little red at the tips. Today he’s wearing an old yellow shirt Stan gave him in high school, a vintage thing that says “Queen of Puddings” with a posh crown graphic and the date of April 19, 1991. Neither has a clue what it means; Stan once made a queen of puddings as a kind of experimental investigation into the shirt’s truth, but it turned out much too sweet, even with the bland custard base. It tasted and smelt like paste to him. On either side of the crown Kyle’s hard tits emerge, and Stan can only appreciate them for a moment before Kyle knocks over the syrup and it begins to coat the table.

“Come on,” Stan says, toward no one in particular. He sets the jug upright as Kyle lifts his hands into the air, the text of the shirt dragging toward his nipples.

“No one got hurt,” Kyle points out, “though someone could in a very old car.”

“I’m still paying a mortgage, in Denver.” Stan eats a banana slice off of his pancake, the illusion of the gaping face destroyed. “At least I have a car.” Kyle never did, living a rather provincial life in Fort Collins, Denver, and then in Atlanta, until Stan showed up. “We’re not getting a new car.”

“So if we don’t get a new car, what then? We just pay to fix the old one?”

“Yeah, if that’s cheaper. Which it would be.”

“What if it’s not, Stan? And even if it is, that’s still a lot of money.”

“I know. That’s like, Savannah money.”

“Forget Savannah,” says Kyle, “if it’s in the four-digits that’s taking-out-a-loan money.”

“I’m not taking out a loan to fix a car!”

“Then you’d better have some idea how to fix it yourself.”

Stan has no idea, none whatsoever. “Maybe there won’t be anything wrong with it.”

With a roll of his eyes, Kyle returns to his food, blanketing a sausage in blueberry syrup and stabbing at it to eat in one bite, with french toast, cream cheese smearing everywhere. Stan can only appreciate Kyle’s eating, watching lovingly from across the table as he slowly chews banana slices picked off his plate with his fingers.

“Stanley, use a fork.”

“Forks are overrated.”

Another eye roll, and Kyle switches to regular syrup. “This tastes like ethanol.”

“You don’t know what that tastes like.”

The waitress passes and Kyle asks for the bill. As he’s filling out the credit card slip, Stan’s phone rings. Picking it up at a meal is the sort of thing Kyle would snap at, but now he puts down his fork, even as it’s speared a piece of french toast, and leans forward to try and make out the voice on the other side of the line: “We’re across the street  but we’ll walk back over,” Stan is saying. “We’ll be there in as long as it takes to walk back across the street.”

“What’s the problem?” Kyle asks.

Stan turns off the screen and puts his phone back into his pocket. “I don’t know. He didn’t say. But the car’s ready to be picked up, so—”

“Great.” Kyle rises. “I’ll use the bathroom.” As he hustles away Stan stares at the half-eaten food on Kyle’s plate. He pops a strawberry into his mouth and turns to watch Kyle’s ass as it pushes into the men’s room. Kyle would never touch a bathroom door in a public place with his bare hands.


They wait at the corner, and wait, and wait. It’s about a three-minute wait that takes forever, traffic sputtering along the thoroughfare at a regular and daunting clip. It’s later afternoon now and the sun is low; it’s cooled off slightly but Kyle wails at the sun, slipping his sunglasses on and clutching Stan’s hand as they jog across the street. “I swear to god,” Kyle pants, and though he doesn’t elaborate Stan sort of knows what he means.

Their old car is parked outside the service department, the driver’s side door open. The pudgy man who helped them earlier stands astride it. “The problem,” he says, more or less directly to Stan, “is the brake fluid. Change that out and you’re good to go.”

“Oh.” Stan sighs, letting go of Kyle’s hand; he hadn’t realized he was still holding it. “How much to do that here?”

“Don’t do it here. Take it to a Firestone or something, they’ll do it for half. Or you can take it here—” He starts writing something down on paper. He tears the paper out of the notebook and ands it to Stan. “First thing in the morning, you take it here.”

“Thank you!”

“It’s in good shape, you know, considering. Don’t see many of these in this good shape.”

“Thanks,” Stan repeats, “I try to take care of it.”

Behind the wheel, Stan is shocked when Kyle grins widely, snaps his seatbelt on, and leans over to grab Stan by the ears and plant a huge kiss on his flushed face. “We can drive it to Savannah,” he says. “Thank god.”

“Dude.” Stan twists the key into the ignition. “We can drive this thing anywhere.”

“Yeah,” Kyle agrees. “We totally could.”

In that moment there is a knowingness between them that they probably won’t, that this car has had its best days already, perhaps years in the past. It’s probably never leaving Georgia, much less making it back to Colorado.

“This is cause for celebration,” Kyle says. “Let’s stop and get ice cream.”

They do, at the Zesto near Lindbergh, with its squalls of children and frazzled parents and general vagrants, a collection of patrons for whom a chrome-bedecked drive-in on the outskirts of Buckhead is neither origin nor destination, just a way station between two points on the floundering roads that intersect the greater metro area. There are apartment complexes on either side of them, but Stan has noticed over two years that they are perpetually vacant, seemingly if not in actuality. Surely people live there, yet from the vantage point of the driver’s seat (Kyle does not drive; never learned) these complexes have no visible door. Their complex is like that too, and Stan hates it, though as he sits behind the wheel of his Pontiac watching Kyle lick at a towering cone of vanilla soft-serve, he gets the feeling that maybe it shouldn’t matter.

At home, the cat has knocked over a vase of miniature ornamental pumpkins that Kyle bought at Trader Joe’s; she has leaves in her hair and the industrial berber is soaked.

“I’ll get the dust pan,” Stan says, careful not to step on any glass. He keeps his shoes on; it could be anywhere.

“I’ll deal with this.” Kyle picks the cat up and she hisses before softening into his arms.

They each have their own very real and distinct problems; Kyle’s advisor will force him to toil his youth away, and Stan will always hate the world outside of Colorado to the point of depression. But they also have problems together, a fact for which, in this moment, Stan is oddly and blessedly grateful.
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