Gavrael finished wiping the worst of the grime and grease off his hands, and tossed the old rag onto his workbench. He took one last look at the old car -- feeling, as he always did, a sense of pride in it -- and stepped out of the barn, pulling the door shut behind him.
Halfway to the house, movement out of the corner of his eye made him pause. He turned, and spotted a figure in the driveway. Someone was standing next to his bike.
He had his mouth open to yell something, loud and aggressive, when he recognised the spiky mess of hair and the giant sneakers. It was Xon. The words died on his lips, and for a moment he just stood there looking at the boy, wondering what he was doing.
But Xon was just standing next to the bike, hands in his pockets. Standing, and staring.
Gavrael wandered down the driveway.
"Hey kid," he said, as he got close, and to his surprise Xon jumped a mile, almost toppling over as he spun around to face Gavrael. His eyes were wide, startled, and a little fearful.
"I swear I didn't touch it! I was just looking!" His hands were raised, as if placating... and Gavrael was reminded suddenly of the forceful punches of the boy's father, and the hate in the old man's eyes. And somehow, he felt sorry for the kid.
He stopped where he was, keeping a safe distance, and shoved his hands in his pockets. He turned to look at the bike, keeping his stance neutral.
"I know," he said, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Xon seeming to relax all at once, his hands dropping to his sides, his head lowering for a moment.
"...what do you think of her?" he asked, and Xon raised his head again almost at once.
"She's beautiful!" he replied, and Gavrael could hear the longing in his voice. He glanced up at the boy; there was a wistful, yearning expression on his face as he gazed at the bike. It reminded Gavrael of when he was younger, too young to ride, but desperately envying the older boys as they revved past him on their gleaming machines, engines purring. And he remembered how he'd felt the first time he'd been able to experience that.
Without another thought he stepped forward, swinging his leg over his bike, settling down on the seat.
"I have to go up the road for some stuff," he said, and Xon nodded, his eyes still on the bike.
"Okay," he said. Gavrael looked at him for a moment longer, letting the silence hang soft between them.
"You wanna come along?"
Xon's head snapped up in an instant, his eyes wide and full of disbelief -- and bright, sparkling excitement.
"Really?!?" His voice was breathy and almost hoarse. Gavrael couldn't help but smile a little.
"YES!" The boy gestured with his hands as well, as if he needed to emphasise the enthusiasm of his response. Gavrael smirked, and jerked his head towards the back of the bike.
"Hop on, then. But you have to wear the helmet."
"That's okay!!" Xon scrambled on to the back of the bike immediately, and then dutifully took the helmet that Gavrael handed back to him. Gavrael listened and heard the clink of the strap being done up.
"I'm ready!" Xon chirped happily from behind him.
"Arms around my waist, then, and don't let go." Gavrael waited. For a moment he thought the boy hadn't heard him from within the helmet, but then thin arms wrapped tentatively around his waist. He reached down and yanked them tighter together, pressing the boy's hands firmly over one another on his abdomen.
"Don't let go," he repeated over his shoulder, more firmly this time, and then he turned the key, and his baby roared to life.
For a short while he just sat there, letting her purr between his legs, feeling the thrum of excitement he always felt when he rode his bike. Then he looked over his shoulder.
The helmet made Xon's head seem even larger, and from within the midst of it his eyes were sparkling, his face lit up with such childlike excitement that Gavrael couldn't help but smile.
He turned back to face the front, kicked off the stand, and then turned his bike around and headed out into the street.
He took a scenic route there, taking his time, enjoying just riding the bike, and figuring Xon was enjoying it just as much. The tight grip around his middle remained firm the entire time, and they were close enough that he could feel Xon moving his head left to right and back again, twisting this way and that as he looked around them. And since Xon couldn't see his face, he let himself smile.
Eventually they roared into the parking lot at the local shopping centre, and he found a spot in the bike parking area. He pulled the bike to a halt, and then let her rumble a moment longer before he switched her off. Then he turned his head.
"Okay, off," he commanded, and Xon's arms disappeared instantly from his waist as the kid scrambled off the bike. Gavrael waited till he was completely out of the way before he climbed off himself.
Xon looked like he was about to burst from the excitement; it seemed to radiate from him almost like light, and he could hardly keep still from containing it.
"That was awesome!" His eyes gleamed like two little stars up at Gavrael, and he couldn't help but smirk down at him.
"You can take the helmet off now," he said, rapping his fingers on top of it, and Xon laughed.
"Okay!" He unbuckled the helmet and pulled it off, and his hair burst forth in a wild disarray of spikes, reminding Gavrael of Raziel. Almost without thinking, he reached out and tousled the spiky hair, and Xon laughed again, ducking away from his hand. There was an infectiousness to his enthusiasm, and that was like Raziel too.
"I have to go get some stuff. You watch the bike, okay?"
He figured the kid would be okay with that, and was not surprised by the excited "okay!" that greeted his request.
There wasn't actually anything he needed from the shops, of course, but Xon didn't need to know that. It never hurt to stock up on smokes, and Raziel would hardly complain if he brought home some of his favourite junk food.
He took his time, not in any rush, and eventually made his way back to where Xon was waiting by the bike. This time, Xon was less nervous and more excited, and was actively inspecting the bike from all angles, leaning down to peer at the engine, the wheels, the frame... but always, Gavrael noted, with his hands carefully and respectfully kept out of the way.
"Welcome back!" Xon straightened up at his approach, his voice cheerful and bright. Gavrael nodded.
"I'm gonna have a smoke before we head back," he replied.
"No problem!" It appeared nothing could phase the kid right now.
Gavrael took out a smoke and lit it up, then half-sat, half-leaned against his bike. As he smoked, he quietly watched the kid watching his bike, and he wondered.
"...you're old enough to get your Ls, surely."
Xon's eyes raised to meet his, startled for a moment, and then there was a wry, somewhat twisted smirk.
"Yeah, but my dad --"
Abruptly he stopped, mouth half open as if stuck on his own words, and his eyes suddenly widened, and widened further still. As Gavrael watched, they seemed to fill with sudden realisation, and with it an excitement that set all his previous excitement that day to shame -- an excitement so strong it was almost a wonder he didn't disintegrate in pure glee on the spot.
He laughed suddenly, and it was a squeaky, breathless sound.
"You're right, I can get my Ls anytime I want." His words seemed to dance in the air, just like his eyes were dancing as they met Gavrael's.
Gavrael bit down on his own smirk.
"You're not learning to ride on my bike," he said.
"No, never!" Xon seemed half startled, half amused.
Gavrael nodded. Then he allowed himself to smile, finally.
"I can hook you up with a place to get a cheap bike for starters."
Xon blinked at him, and then there was a smile so sweet, so pure that it seemed almost wrong for him of all people to be on the receiving end of it.
Gavrael nodded and tossed away the remnants of his cigarette.
"Let's get back," he said, and climbed onto his bike.
"Okay!" Xon climbed on behind him, and he listened for the sound of the helmet being done up again. When the kid's arms wrapped around his waist again, more sure this time, he felt as if he could physically sense the happiness and contentment emanating from him.
He wondered if this was that thing Raziel did so easily without thinking, that reaching out to people thing. And if this was the reason why he did it; this odd but somewhat comforting warmth he felt in response to Xon's excitement. Maybe there was something to it after all.