Wrench stopped the car in the middle of the garage, throwing it in park and shutting off the engine. He stepped out of the vehicle and shut the door behind him, tossing the keys onto a nearby table. Riley was just a beat behind him, emerging from the passenger side and letting her eyes roam over the building's interior. If the car hadn't been parked there, Riley could tell it would have been open and spacious between the metal pillars supporting the roof. On either side, however, were shelves and boxes filled with parts, random equipment, trash cans, tables, and other junk.
The left side was obviously his main work area. Tables covered in tools and parts were set up in a half circle, with standing whiteboards and cork boards on the inside. Blueprints and other pictures with random things hung from these. Wrench pressed a button on a dangling outlet and the doors to the garage closed with a rattle.
Wrench must have spotted her staring at his stuff, because he gave an apologetic shrug and spoke over the noise of the chains. "It's not much but…it's home."
Riley gave it another quick examination, before turning back to him with a small smile. "I like it." His mask lit up with a happy expression, and she laughed a little. She spotted Marcus' bike and wandered over to check it out. It still lay in pieces, but her knowledge of vehicles of any kind was sorely lacking, so she wasn't quite sure what she was looking at. "So, what are you going to work on?"
"Well," he said, grabbing a few tools from the table that he'd need, "suspension will come before anything else, and then I'll start on welding the seat mount brackets to the frame."
Riley nodded mutely, smiling despite not knowing what any of that meant. She stared down at the pile of parts and the bike frame itself, wondering how she could help. She didn't just want to sit back and watch while he did all this work, but what could she realistically do? Hold the flashlight? How helpful was that?
"You don't know what any of that means, do you?" He asked, his voice sounding different from usual, and she glanced over her shoulder.
Wrench had taken off his mask, sitting where he'd placed it on the table, and walked over towards the mess on the floor. She caught a glimpse of those blue-gray eyes she'd been thinking so much about and forgot what she was trying to even say. When he noticed her looking he flashed a quick, tiny smile and shifted his eyes elsewhere. Riley realized her staring was probably making him uncomfortable, and so she brought her attention back towards the bike too.
"I'm not much of a car person. Or motorcycles, in this case. I took a single automotive class in high school but I don't remember a damn thing." She admitted belatedly, watching him sit cross-legged on the floor. He picked up one of the long, circular metal pieces and inspected it.
"That's alright. You can just watch and keep me company if you'd like." He said smoothly, and with a few taps on his phone a rock song began to play over the speakers in the ceiling. It was just loud enough to hear, but not too loud as to interfere with conversation. Standing there awkwardly, Riley sighed, not wanting to feel like she was just being lazy or something.
"Can I still help somehow? I feel useless just sitting here."
Despite his shy disposition, he still glanced up at her with a half-smile. "Sure, but you might want to put your stuff down."
Riley stood straighter and went to put her stuff on one of the tables further back. She grabbed a hair band and tied up her long brown hair. She knew as soon as she took it out, it would have a visible crease where the band had tied it all together. It was a bit disheartening, especially considering the fact she worked harder on her appearance today versus any other, but it was no matter. She'd rather be helpful than avoid dented hair.
The brunette returned to his side and sat back on her ankles beside him, waiting for instruction. He hefted the large cylinder where it belonged and gestured for her to come closer. "Hold this in place, and I'll bolt it on."
"Ok." She shifted over on her knees, grabbing the places where Wrench was supporting it. Their hands brushed together as the weight transferred to Riley. She admitted to herself that she let it linger longer than was probably necessary, just enjoying the quick touch.
The piece was heavier than she expected, but not unbearable. Keeping as still as she could, she held it while Wrench grabbed a bolt and wrench, fastening it into place securely. From her place beside him, she only had view of one side of his face. He was focused on the bolt, so she had the opportunity to watch him closely without him getting uncomfortable.
When the bolt was close to being completely fastened it became harder to turn, and he grimaced, having to pull harder on the wrench to secure it completely. He let out a grunt while tightening it as much as possible, then reached under him for the next one. This was closer to Riley's face, so she scooted out of the way a little to give him more room to work with.
The song changed over, forcing Riley to realize that she had no idea what to talk about while they worked. Normally a stagnation in conversation left her feeling uneasy. The brunette hated extended or awkward silences. But…maybe this was fine too. She liked watching him work like this, even if they didn't speak. There was something comfortable about this setting, the both of them close and nothing else to do except work on this motorcycle.
Wrench finished the other bolt and sat back. "Alright, now hold it here." He instructed, guiding her hands to another portion of the cylinder and adjusting the position in the same movement. He held it there a moment, making sure Riley had it steady, then set to work on the next set of bolts. It was a good thing he didn't notice the small blush that began to form on her cheeks.
Her eyes ended up settling on his hands, watching as they flexed and gripped and moved. The tattoos were something to behold. She'd always known they were there, and had tried discerning their meaning before, but now that they were this close she was able to really get a good look.
Each one looked hand-drawn. Maybe he applied them himself. Maybe he intentionally had them professionally done to look that way. With Wrench, you could never really tell what something's purpose or meaning was. That was what Riley liked so much. There was always a surprise waiting at the end of every question's answer with him. She was never able to quite figure him out.
"Let it go and let's see how it sits." He said, and she released her hold on the cylinder. It stayed firmly in place where she'd been holding it. Wrench nodded in satisfaction. "Alright, just one more."
They repeated the same process with the second cylinder, and Riley's arms were beginning to ache from holding the metal in place for so long. It hadn't been very heavy to start off, but as time went on with holding it there, it wore at her over time. She didn't say anything though, not wanting to be a hassle. Plus, with that expression of concentration on his face, she didn't want to disrupt his work. He looked more comfortable now than before.
With one last pull on the wrench, he tightened the last bolt and set his tool to the side. "Suspension: check. Onto the others." He said with a small smile and a gesture to the rest of the pile of parts beside him.
"How much are you wanting to get done today?"
He gave another glance at the bike frame, tilting his head. "Eh, as much as I can while still taking my time. I don't really have a set goal in mind and Marcus doesn't need it in any big rush either."
Riley nodded, understanding. She went to rub at an itch on her face, but she saw streaks of black grease coating her fingers. Lowering them again, she looked around for something to wipe them on, but found nothing.
Wrench reached for the next few pieces out of the pile and looked them over in his hands which were even dirtier than hers. He didn't seem to even notice. Giving her a glance, he smiled. "Hold that end for me?"
She nodded, doing as he asked. For about an hour, she helped him bolt and insert components of the motorcycle back onto the frame. The middle was filling out nicely. It was looking more like a bike with each new piece added. Riley's hands grew dirtier and dirtier as they worked, but she gave up caring. Her jeans were dirty and probably ruined by now anyway, what would it matter anyway?
Eventually raising his head, he pointed towards the tables. "Think you could bring me the blowtorch?"
"What do we need that for?" She asked incredulously, and he laughed a little.
"I have to weld the seat mount brackets on." He answered, holding up the smaller pieces he'd been inspecting. He set to work on temporarily securing them in so he could weld it after.
"You say that like you expect me to know what any of that meant." She joked, already on her feet and walking towards the table, searching the many tools strewn about for something that looked remotely like a blowtorch. She heard a low chuckle behind her, but she was too busy trying to find the tool to look at him.
Wrench couldn't help but stare at Riley's back as she picked through the junk and shit all over his tables. He knew exactly where the tool was sitting, as well as the welding rod he'd need too, but he'd let her figure it out. Besides, it gave him time to just observe her without her knowing.
She carefully sifted through his stuff, being cautious not to break anything that might be fragile. It was cute, really. She was so terrified of doing something wrong, or touching something she shouldn't, Wrench had to hold back the desire to tease her for it. But the atmosphere was nice just as it was. Quiet and calm, and he could have her close to him without it being awkward. The last thing he wanted to do was ruin that with his own big, fat mouth.
His chest still stirred uneasily because his mask sat on the counter and not covering his face, but Riley was trusted. There was no danger, and he'd shown her before. Regardless, it would take some getting used to having her around without it on. But the other part was warmed by how she didn't treat him any differently than when he had it on. She didn't fawn over the fact that it was off, didn't make a spectacle out of it, and she tried her best not to stare openly. It was human nature to look at something you were interested in or curious about, but she attempted to keep it to a minimum, which he appreciated.
Plus, she wanted so desperately to be of use. Riley wasn't one to sit back and let others do things for her. She wanted to take the reigns herself and do something. A welcome change to other girls he'd known in the past who batted their lashes and dismissed his interests because they didn't understand or didn't want to get dirty.
After another minute or so of searching, she sighed and carded her fingers through her hair. "Uhh…I can't find it?" She called, turning to look at him helplessly. Aww, and here he'd thought she couldn't get any cuter. But that little pout was adorable. He smiled, setting the brackets down and rising to his feet.
Without any difficulty, he snatched it and the welding rod from the table on her left and held it them for her view. "Right here."
Riley pouted, miffed that he'd been able to locate what he was looking for so easily. "How do you find anything in this mess anyway? There's no order to it at all. Nothing's designated or anything."
Wrench pretended to think about it as he snatched two welding helmets from the floor and lead them back towards the motorcycle. "Hmm, call it…organized chaos."
"Meaning only you know where everything is?"
"Exactly. So nobody will touch my stuff." He reasoned with a tilt of his head, and she rolled her eyes dramatically.
"Men and their tools, I swear." She muttered just loud enough for him to hear. He smiled wider, handing her one of the helmets. She held it awkwardly, most likely never having worn one before. Noticing this, Wrench set the blowtorch, welding rod, and his own helmet on the ground.
"Here," he reached out to help her put it on, "it's not gonna sit perfectly, but it'll do." With a few more adjustments to the plastic band, tightening it to fit her smaller head, it wasn't so loose and held less of a risk of accidentally falling off while he worked. The last thing he wanted to do was somehow make her go blind because of an oversight on his part.
"Ok." She said from under the mask, her voice muffled and echoed. He stood back and sat on the floor. Wrench pulled the hood off of his head, replacing it with the helmet. It fit snugly and comfortably compared to Riley's. Grabbing the blowtorch, he turned it on and picked up the welding rod. Flipping down the mask to protect his vision, he shimmied forward towards the bike.
"Don't look without the mask!" He shouted to be heard over the blowtorch, and she nodded obediently beside him. Satisfied she'd be safe about it, he turned his attention back towards the bike and set to work.
Riley watched as he slowly welded each piece to the frame of the motorcycle. It was so calming, watching the sparks and lights of the blowtorch as it made contact with the metal. Logically she knew what welding was and how it worked, but watching it first hand was something else. Riley wished she knew how to do it properly to try it herself. But she doubted she'd have the confidence and steady hand that Wrench did.
He was so steady and skilled. No doubt, he'd done this a thousand times before. Where did he learn to do all of this? Riley doubted he received any formal education in any engineering field, but he appeared to be able to do anything.
The heat of the blowtorch and the afternoon sun outside began to make the garage pretty hot, and Riley shifted to take off her light jacket. It had been a bit chilly that morning, but now it was much too hot to be wearing so many layers. She chucked it somewhere off to the side, hearing it land on the concrete softly.
She watched as he easily put on the first two brackets without problem. The third, however, gave him a bit of trouble. Riley couldn't tell the difference but all of a sudden, Wrench shook his head and cut off the blowtorch, setting it down and taking off the helmet.
"Shit…" He muttered, leaning closer to inspect his work.
"What happened?" She asked, lifting the helmet off of her own head once she was sure he wouldn't start welding again. She didn't want to risk accidentally going blind from being careless. Wrench gestured to where he was just welding.
"Got distracted, made a bad weld." He explained, backing up on his feet to stand.
Riley frowned, having thought he'd been hyper focused the whole time. Now that she compared it to the rest, it was much sloppier and non-uniform to the others. He'd done so well up to this point, why was this one so different? "What distracted you?"
"Just…thinking too much." Was all he said without meeting her eyes, heading over to the table again. Riley raised a brow, wondering what he could have been thinking about, but she let it go. She too often got lost in her thoughts during tasks.
Riley stood and walked towards where Wrench sifted through a box of parts on the ground. Seemed like he was looking for something in particular, and sighed after not finding it. "Fuck."
"Don't have something?" She inquired, and he looked up at her.
"I ruined the bracket and I don't have another one." He said, tossing a few of the wrong parts back into the box dismissively. "I'll have to go get a replacement."
"Oh." Riley said, not sure what to do now. Were they going right at that moment? Did this mean he was done for the day until he was able to get the part? Riley wasn't sure. Wrench swiped his mask from the table and put it on, adjusting it with a few presses. The Xs flickered to life again. Then, he reached up and pushed the button to open the garage door.
Instead of grabbing the keys to the car they'd arrived in, Wrench snatched some that were hanging on a peg on the closest pillar, underneath which was another motorcycle. This one was finished though with a splattered graffiti paint job. He rolled it away from the wall and hopped on. It roared to life, and he held out the helmet that had been hanging on the handlebar to her.
"You coming?" His mask flashed question marks.
"Yeah." Riley smiled with a nod, walking to his side. She accepted the helmet and pushed it onto her head, clicking the strap into place under her chin. With a helpful hand from Wrench, she hoisted herself up onto the back, placing her feet properly and wrapping her arms around him. He revved the engine up and shot them forward out of the garage.
Wrench pushed through the door of the motorcycle shop, immediately going up to the front desk and leaning against it casually. A young store attendant walked up from the back and greeted him warmly.
"It's been awhile, Wrench. How's it hanging?" The man asked, fist bumping the hacker with enthusiasm. The blonde man had a wide smile. Riley glanced between them, wondering if the blonde man knew about Wrench's affiliation with DedSec, or if this was just a casual acquaintance.
"Not too bad, Isaac, not too bad…not a whole lot of time to work on my projects though." Wrench shrugged, mask flickering to his amused expression. "Too many fuckers to hack, you know?"
Ok, so definitely someone who knew about DedSec.
While he was busy in conversation with the attendant, Riley wandered off down the aisles, deciding to look over what the shop sold. She wasn't at all familiar with anything there, unable to tell what half of the items did or were for, but it was at least something to look at until Wrench was ready to go. Plus, she didn't want to encroach on their conversation by hovering.
"Don't I know it." The guy said with a toothy grin, placing his hands on the counter and facing Wrench. "I saw the newest video. Is it really true that the FBI kidnapped you?"
"'Taken into custody,' if you want to put it in the proper terminology," Wrench quoted, eyes displaying quotation mark in tandem with his fingers before switching to irritated dots, "but yeah. Stole my mask and tried getting me to turn on my friends. Even threatened me with Gitmo and shit."
"No way." Isaac said, looking almost as if he didn't believe him.
"Heh, doubt they'll try that again though." He said confidently, eyes sweeping behind him to find Riley. She wasn't immediately there, so he swung his gaze further to include the aisles deeper into the store. He saw her through some of the gaps on the shelf, slowly wandering through the store just looking at everything. He hoped she wasn't bored.
"Crazy shit, bro…so anyways, who's your friend?" Isaac asked, lowering his voice and tossing his head in her direction.
"A friend." Wrench said quickly, daring Isaac to say anything on the contrary. The blonde's eyebrows rose sharply, holding his hands up defensively, but that knowing grin was still in place.
"Whatever man, all I'm saying is she wouldn't be a bad catch."
"Hey!" Wrench whispered harshly, head swiveling to make sure Riley wasn't close enough to have overheard that. Thankfully she was out of sight, perhaps at the back of the store. The hacker pointed to the store clerk. "Don't start with that shit."
"I'm just fucking with you, dude. Me personally? Not the girlfriend type, but you do you." Before Wrench could try to strangle him or something for running his mouth, he smiled wider and tilted his head. "What can I get you though? You're here for some part or other right?"
Deciding to let it go, Wrench dug into his pocket for the bracket, placing it square on the counter. "I need another of these. Might as well make it two so I don't have to make another trip just in case."
"Ah," Isaac said, picking up the bracket and finding the manufacturer's number on the bottom, "working on that bike again? How's it coming?" While carrying on the conversation, he looked up the part in the system to see if they had any in stock.
"Taking my time with it but it's made good progress. Should be done by the end of next week, hopefully."
"Cool. You'll have to show me pics once it's done."
"It'll turn out great." Wrench promised, happy expression returning. He was looking forward to seeing the whole thing put together and finished too. Completing projects was so satisfying. And this one would be even better, since he'll get to see Marcus' excitement when it's all complete. Doing favors for his friends was even more fun like that.
Isaac tapped the computer keys a few more times, finally nodding. "Alright, looks like we've got them in stock. I'll go grab you some." He put the bracket down again and walked into the back room, disappearing from sight. Wrench watched him go, then turned back to the rest of the store, looking for his female companion.
He found her looking through the row of helmets. They started out simple and cheap at one end, but as the line went down became more expensive and unique. Riley was all the way down at the end, holding up one that had pointed devil horns on either side and a smiling motif of the devil under the visor.
"Thinking of getting a motorcycle?" He asked, seeing her grin in amusement.
"Nah." She put the helmet down where it belonged, looking through a few more beside it. "Motorcycle helmets just look really cool is all."
"And masks?" He asked with a flourish of his hands to indicate the one he was wearing. She laughed, poking him right between the eyes playfully. He changed his mask to be inward Vs when her finger made contact, simulating his eyes closing from surprise.
"They're pretty cool too."
He flashed her a wink, and she looked away with a shy smile. Turning to play it off, her eyes scanned over the other parts of the store. Wrench followed her quietly, wondering if that light red tint to her cheeks meant anything at all, or if he were just seeing things where they didn't exist because he wanted them to.
Wrench heard Isaac return from the back room, ringing up his purchase at the register up front. The hacker tapped Riley's shoulder, silently asking her to follow. She put away the small little trinket she'd picked up to inspect and let him lead her to the front of the store again.
"Alright, it'll be $32.89." He said easily.
Wrench pulled out the bills from his wallet and paid, scooping up the bag containing the brackets he'd need. "You're the man, Isaac." He bid with a nod.
"Heh, oh yeah. See you around." He said, waving to Riley too as they turned and left the store. She raised a hand in farewell, not wanting to be rude since this was a friend of Wrench's.
The bike coasted to a stop inside the garage, the engine humming low as Wrench stopped revving it. The sound of the motor echoed in the spacious garage until it cut off entirely when he took out the keys. Riley used Wrench's shoulders as leverage to hoist herself off the bike, allowing him to roll it back into place beside the pillar.
She tried smoothing down her hair, but it was doomed to fail. The fly away was too much to tame. Riley watched as Wrench returned the keys to the peg and took off his mask again. She smiled, happy to know he was getting used to the idea of being maskless around her. It was comforting.
They hopped right back into working on the brackets. Wrench welded the fourth into place, this time keeping his focus. It turned out looking like the first two, even and smooth against the metal. Once done, he flipped up the helmet and inspected it with satisfaction.
"That's better." He said, taking off the helmet and rising to his feet again. Riley looked down at the odd one out of the brackets, still welded unevenly to the frame.
"What about that one?" He looked back to see what she was referring to, then shrugged.
"I've gotta wait til it cools off, then grind it down and start over. It's gonna take a bit though." With that, he wandered back over to the table and searched the tools there for something specific. "In the meantime, I'll see if I can switch out the brake pads. Or, I've been putting off the-" He stopped, seeing her nodding cluelessly with a smile, then laughed. "Right, sorry. Keep forgetting."
"No worries. What can I do?" She asked sweetly, and Wrench had to resist reaching out to ruffle her her when she approached. Instead, he looked at the pile of components on the floor surrounding the bike and tilted his head.
"Umm…right now, not much. I just have to fit some of the components together which is a one man job. You can relax in the meantime though."
Riley nodded, taking her welding helmet and putting it on the table. Now that she'd been able to help a little, she felt a bit better by letting him work. She could only do so much without getting in the way. Wrench returned to the floor with a screwdriver and began working on some of the inner parts of the bike.
The brunette wandered slowly between the tables, taking her time to inspect his space. Now that she really looked at it, her assessment of everything being a mess wasn't quite right. The shelves pushed against the wall were certainly unorganized and overflowing, but the tables set closer to the middle of the garage weren't. They were just full of various projects he was in the middle of working on instead.
The most prominent was what appeared to be a gun in progress laying across the furthest table. It was in pieces, the barrel and stock separate of each other. Various kinds of tiny screws and tool littered the space around it, and a written schematic of what the end result should be sat folded up next to the gun. It looked complicated, and Riley wasn't really able to interpret it.
She moved on, seeing several small metal spheres with wires and small electrical parts sticking out of them. She wasn't sure what they were supposed to be, but her gut feeling told her they were probably explosives. Knowing Wrench, they were definitely explosives. She grinned, tearing her eyes away and looking at the next thing.
The guy had so many little projects and plans laying around his space. How did he keep track of them all? All of them looked equally crazy and cool at the same time. For fuck's sake, there was a sledgehammer underneath the table that looked like it had gotten a lot of use out of it already. She shot him a glance, seeing that he was busy with some part of the motorcycle in his lap, screwing some sort of panel in place for it.
"You know, everything in this garage fits your personality so well." Riley started, smiling as her eyes wandered back over to the cork boards with pictures and memes plastered all over it. One of the corners seemed to have an empty spot though, and the edges of a picture that used to be there was still tacked in place. She wondered what it had been.
"How's that?" He called from the floor.
"Loud and destructive-looking." She joked with a grin, catching his eye. Screwdriver still in hand, he bowed at the waist and waved a hand dramatically in response.
"Thank you. You're too kind."
Laughing under her breath, and Wrench went back to working on his component. Now that she didn't have much to focus on besides his stuff, Riley's mind started playing over the events of the day, finally deciding to think about everything that suddenly happened.
Her little outburst in the alley kept coming to mind. She didn't regret feeling the way she did, but felt embarrassment that it had happened in public All those people looking at her, and not to mention having Wrench take the full brunt of it and still managing to calm her down after. The guy was incredible. That brought up another thought, and she shook her head.
"Sorry about my little uh, tantrum earlier." She said, crossing her arms protectively. "I'm not normally that loud when I'm mad. Hopefully I didn't give you a bad impression of me."
"What?" Wrench asked, pausing what he was doing to look up at her. He looked confused. "I didn't mind. And everyone's allowed a good tantrum every once in awhile. Keeps you sane." He concluded.
Riley shook her head. "Yeah, but it seems like you've seen me at all my worst moments lately. I mean, you even saved my life. I just haven't done anything to return the favor to you." That weighed heavily on her mind. She was turning out to be a regular damsel in distress at this rate. How was she supposed to tip the scales back into balance when he kept swooping in and dragging her up from her sadness or anger? Wrench was almost too compassionate.
"It's not a debt to pay back or anything. Besides…you've done more than you think." Wrench said quietly. Riley turned her gaze towards him, not understanding, but he was focused on the part in his lap. He wouldn't look at her.
Wrench remained silent, never taking his eyes away from his lap. Riley thought he swallowed nervously, but maybe she was just imagining it. The same discomfort she'd recognized in his face at the hospital was present again now. Riley backtracked and tried playing it off by changing the subject, laughing nervously.
"You know, I don't know if I'll ever be able to really pin you down. You're like a paradox. One second super outgoing and extroverted, and then quiet and mellow the next."
"Only with you." He let slip, and she saw his eyes widen minutely, flicking back and forth on the part he was still holding. As if he'd surprised himself by even saying it. Riley's heart suddenly ached, wondering if it meant anything at all. How was she to interpret that? Did it mean-
"I mean…because you're a great friend and someone I feel comfortable talking to." He hurried to explain, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand.
The ache pulsed through her chest again, but this one from pain. Oh. Was that how he felt? Well…she supposed that was a good confirmation of his feelings. They were no more than friends, in his eyes. Good friends, mind you, but nothing further. Riley didn't know what to say, but quickly schooled her features into an easy smile. Nothing was wrong, she told herself.
"Aww, thanks." She said casually, turning her attention back to the tables so he wouldn't see the pain there.
Wrench wanted to punch himself in the face. What the fuck was he thinking? Right there. That would have been the prime opportunity to say something. Right that second. And he goes and runs his fucking mouth and obliterates that chance. A great friend? Was he trying to give her the impression he wanted nothing further? When he'd let that little bit of truth slip, he'd panicked, not sure what to say that wouldn't risk ruining the relationship they already had.
He saw right through the fake smile she tried giving him in return, turning away to apparently continue perusing his stuff. But he'd seen the brief disappointment. Despite his stupidity…had she been hoping for something more? Is that what it meant? Or was he reaching? He just didn't fucking know.
Wrench looked down at the component in his lap, finally admitting he didn't have the right size screwdriver for the screws it needed. The correct one was sitting on the table over where Riley was. He'd been prolonging going to get it once she'd started talking, and now he didn't know what to do. Great, he'd made things awkward and put himself in this position. He had no one to blame but himself.
Taking a silent breath, Wrench stood from the floor and set the component down, pushing past the fear and discomfort to find himself the right tool.
She heard Wrench stand and start to walk towards the table. She glanced to the side, seeing him looking through the box of tools on the table. She started walking away behind him, then stopped. This was ridiculous. The brunette felt ridiculous. She was tired of skirting around how she felt. She liked him, no doubt about it. If she really wanted to be something with him in the way she hoped, Riley would have to commit.
Her chest hurt from all the emotional aches, as well as fear that he'd reject her and never want to speak to her again. Nothing worth pursuing in life was ever free or easy to obtain, she told herself, setting her face in determined lines. Her fists clenched despite the worm of doubt in the pit of her stomach.
When Wrench turned to walk back to the bike, she stood herself in the way, surprising him. "Uhh…" His eyes darted between them with concern, then back up to her face. "Riley?"
Somehow even with all her sudden courage, she still had trouble looking him in the eye. Ignoring the fear that threatened to make her freeze in place, the brunette bit her lip before speaking, unable to stop the flow of words once they began pouring out..
"Wrench…I like you. Like…really like you. More than just a friend and everything…" She found herself shaking her head, trying to get the words out in a way that wouldn't be muddled and confusing. It was harder than she expected it to be. Her eyes fixed onto some of the spikes on his vest. "You're interesting and funny and you've been nothing but kind to me. I love spending time with you and just being around you all the time. I understand if you don't feel the same or can't feel that way for me. I won't take it personally and I won't think badly of you…I just…needed to say it and you had to know and…"
Riley forced her eyes upwards, seeing the shocked or terrified expression on his face, but they finally settled on his lips, parted a sliver as he looked at her. The brunette's lungs were on fire from not taking a breath, and she let out the air that had built up. Now that she'd confessed, her reservations and worries were rapidly being ripped away. It was out in the open now, and a weight seemed to be lifted from her shoulders. Wrench still hadn't responded though.
Eyes unable to look away from those enticing lips of his, she sighed with a mutter. "Oh, fuck it." Grabbing the edges of his vest, she pulled him down and herself upwards with the same momentum, capturing his lips with hers. She heard the metallic clatter as he dropped whatever he'd been holding to the floor.
Eyes closing of their own volition, she savored the moment as much as she could. Even if Wrench rejected her and pushed her away, she could still have this memory and this experience of kissing him. She'd wanted to for so long. Why had she waited so long to do this? He was so warm and gentle and just…comforting. She felt him slowly begin to reciprocate the kiss, and her heart pulsed another ache. It might not mean what she wanted it to, but he hadn't pushed her away. it was a start. She let out a little sigh, smiling against his lips despite herself.
Wrench could barely hear himself think. She really felt the same way? About him, of all people? Riley looked so vulnerable standing in front of him like that, staring at his chest out of fear for seeing rejection in his face. How could he reject her? She was amazing, everything she described him as and more. He was barely paying attention to what she was saying, yet also hanging onto every word like his life depended on it.
And then, she looked up at him and he couldn't have said a word even if he tried. And dammit, did he try. He watched as her gaze fell just below his own, the barely restrained desire they held, and then he was pulled closer to her and she was kissing him.
The screwdriver he'd been looking for, now completely forgotten, fell to the ground with a clatter. Wrench's eyes closed, feeling a stab of pleasure in his chest. Realizing he was just standing there like an idiot, the hacker slowly moved his lips in tandem with hers. Hands gripping the edge of the table to hold himself back for fear of scaring her, Wrench was light as a feather in that moment. Holy shit, he was actually kissing her.
Too soon, she slowly pulled back and opened her eyes to look at him. Neither knew what to say or do, but Wrench knew her confession couldn't go without some sort of response on his part. She'd think he was rejecting her or something. He internally kicked himself in the ass to get into gear. She'd had the guts to risk their relationship when he hadn't. He had to say what was on his mind too, his nerves be damned. She deserved as much.
"Back at the hospital," he started, his breath coming out faster and deeper than it had been before, "I lied to you."
Riley frowned, not connecting the points, but Wrench shook his head.
"You asked if you were any different from the others and I said no. But you are. In a good way." He reached out to cradle the sides of her face with his hands. It wasn't until after he was already touching her did he realize just how filthy his hands were, but she didn't appear to mind. "I like you too. As more than a friend. And I've been too much of a fucking pussy this whole time to tell you."
His eyes searched hers for any sign of repulsion at all but there was none, and she listened intently to every word. He shook his head, pushing a strand of hair out of the way with one of his thumbs. "I can't believe you accept both sides of me and still think I'm a good person." He continued, eyes trailing back down to her own lips. They'd been so soft against his. "And normally I couldn't say any of that without the mask, but I'm done hiding behind it as an excuse…"
He swallowed, then let out a shaky breath, leaning forward an inch or so before stopping himself. "I really want to kiss you again." He admitted, and the corner of her mouth twitched upwards in either amusement or happiness.
"Then why don't you?"
Whatever restraint Wrench was placing on himself was released, and he swept in for another kiss. Riley's fingers tightened in his vest, pulling him closer as he tilted her head to an angle that suited him best. He was taller, enough so that she still had to lift herself up by her toes to reach.
His fingers slowly slid back through her hair, feeling the strands methodically, all the while tasting her deeply. She loved the feel, and let out a tiny breath in satisfaction. He still heard it and smiled through the kiss, glad that he was the one making her feel that way.
Riley felt him shift his feet, and one of his hands slipped around her waist. She almost opened her eyes to see what he was doing. Before she could, he turned her in place and pushed her back against the table. It hit against her lower back, surprising her from the force. Wrench didn't seem to notice, too far lost in the feel of their lips together to care about much else. Caught up in the feel of her pressed against him, kissing her so deeply, he squeezed her into his embrace tighter.
Riley broke away with a cry of pain, her still-injured ribs sending shards of pain through her chest. Wrench immediately let go and his eyes snapped open. "Fuck, I'm sorry. Are you ok?" He asked in a panic, still hovering close but afraid to cause more damage by touching her.
She nodded, wrapping her arms around her chest to lessen the pain, but Wrench winced with guilt.
"I totally forgot about that, I'm so sorry…" He shook his head, no doubt internally beating himself up over this. Riley honestly didn't mind, brain clouded by desire to really get upset about it. Once it subsided enough so she could breathe properly, Riley straightened and stepped closer to him again, relishing the warmth of his body.
"It's alright." She reassured in a breathless voice. She leaned up to kiss him again, but he stopped her.
"Does this mean you're staying here?" Came his sudden question. Riley frowned, having trouble thinking too much after all of that. A small amount of fear returned to his face, and she finally figured out what he was asking. Did he really think she'd want to find a job elsewhere now? He worried about the strangest things sometimes.
"Of course I am. How could I leave now?" She joked. "I'll take the money that was sent to Tri-Valley and work with DedSec full time. I'm not going anywhere."
"Good." Wrench smiled shyly. This time when she leaned forward to kiss him again, he did too, meeting her halfway. This kiss wasn't as desperate than the last, but no less meaningful. It was slow and exploratory, taking its time as they learned each other. Riley's arms wrapped themselves around his neck, and he slowly pulled her to his chest by her hips. He was much gentler this time, remembering that she was still injured.
They both smiled against each other's lips, oblivious to everything around them.
Marcus pulled open the side door to Wrench's garage, hearing the sound of the stereo as soon as he entered. He stepped inside, hastily coming up short as he spotted Riley and Wrench wrapped up in each other by his work space. Holding a fist to his open mouth in both surprise and pride, Marcus held back the noise he wanted to make, backing himself up so he wouldn't be so obvious standing there staring at them.
The hacker pulled out his phone and snapped a zoomed-in pic of the two, still attached at the mouth. He wondered if anything would even tear them apart at this point. They didn't appear to be registering their surroundings at all. With a few quick taps, he sent the picture off with a gloating message attached. That ought to be proof enough.
Within seconds, his phone vibrated in response. Marcus grinned.
Sitara Dhawon has transferred $100 to your account.
"Shiiit, I knew there was something up between you two."
Startled, Wrench and Riley pulled away from each other, spotting none other than Marcus sauntering closer. She was sure her face was bright red. The hacker looked smug as he approached, surveying the both of them. Then, he pointed behind him at the way he'd come.
"I was just stopping by to check on the bike but, you know, if this is a bad time…"
"God dammit, Marcus." Wrench swore, walking closer and looking like he was gonna throw a punch. Marcus back pedaled a few steps, holding out his hands to calm him down.
"Ah, relax Wrench, I'm happy for the both of you. It's about time you stopped running in circles around each other." He said, smiling proudly like he was witnessing two of his children finally growing up.
Riley glanced at Wrench, figuring that he had said something to Marcus about liking her. Which only caused her to blush further. It seemed Wrench didn't know what to say to that, but luckily Marcus continued on anyway.
"I'm here for another reason too, though." He said, pulling his phone out and bringing it back to business. "Ray got me into the Galilei building, and I tampered with the rocket set to launch tomorrow."
"You tampered with a rocket?" Riley repeated, almost not believing her own ears. No matter how long she'd been with DedSec, they still continued to surprise her.
Marcus only shrugged it off. "Long story, but just the satellite relay it was launching, not the rocket part itself. We should be able to access the network once it's in orbit."
"Hell yeah." Wrench said and exchanged a fist bump with his friend, temporarily forgetting his earlier irritation with Marcus for barging in while him and Riley were having a moment. The sheer amount of awesomeness with that whole sentence was distracting. "What time does it launch?"
"According to the schedule, 1:30 pm." Marcus held up his phone to show them the countdown. "So, thought I'd swing by and let you guys know. Everyone's gathering at the hackerspace to watch."
Riley nodded her enthusiasm, always up for watching rockets launch. Wrench stooped down to pick up the screwdriver he'd dropped earlier.
"Sounds like a plan." He agreed.
Satisfied he'd communicated the plan, Marcus walked backwards towards the exit, but gave them both a pointed look. "I mean, unless you two have more important things to do, then don't worry about it. I'll save the vid so you can watch it another time."
He narrowly dodged the screwdriver that Wrench sent flying towards his head, ducking out of the way and jogging a few more feet out of his range. "I'll see you both later!" He called, escaping out the side door before they could stop him.
Wrench sighed heavily after Marcus left, rubbing at his face with both hands. He'd forgotten they were covered in grease and dirt, and ended up smearing some of it on his face. Riley thought about the conversation with Marcus and let out a quiet chuckle.
"Did you notice he didn't even take a look at the motorcycle?"
"And that he could have just texted you about the rocket?"
"Oh yeah." Wrench finally looked back towards her, and she got a good look at the smeared dirt on his face. She bit her lip, trying not to laugh. He noticed her expression and then glanced at his hands. "What? Something on my face?"
Riley glanced upwards, shaking her head with a smile. "Nope."
"Uh huh." He said doubtfully, prowling closer to her with a predatory smile. She moved to place the table between them, giggling when he came closer. They squared off across the table, Wrench pretending like he was going to move just to see her react. Then, he sprinted around the table as fast as he could, and Riley went running the opposite direction.
She ran between two of the tables, trying to get away, but he easily caught up with her. She giggled and tried kicking herself away, but Wrench held fast, turning her in his arms to face him. The brunette's laughter slowly died down, but her mischievous smile remained in place.
Wrench narrowed his eyes and sported a smile of his own, intent on kissing that smirk right off her face.ns184.108.40.206da2