2010-12-21: Freeway



Date: December 21st, 2010


Exercising his new-found freedom quite profoundly, Laurie gives Maggie a ride. On his motorcyle. And a little bit of insight into what the last month was for.


Outside NYC

Previously on HeroesMUSH: Free As A Bird

One foot planted, it's knees and thighs that squeeze to keep the bike upright without the support of motion, as the stand is released by the other foot. Now, the helmet is brought to lay along his lap, against his left leg, as he charts that side to glance over at Maggie at last. "Errand." The pointed tip of his head behind him indicates the space of seating there. Between two hands, the helmet is hefted up and tossed to face the right direction. Message: last chance.


Increasingly intense consideration of the bike, the mysterious errand, and — more than the rest — of Laurie stems from Maggie's regard. Both brows move up in subtle but sharp arches, ambiguous; no decision there — until there abruptly is. Last chance: she takes it. As she steps toward the parking spot, a hand fights its way into her pants pocket and she brings her arms behind her head to secure her hair back — roughly, by gloved hands — into a practical ponytail. Some escapes without hesitation to wisp past the newly exposed arc of her cheek; ignored.

The motorcycle is eyed like some kind of challenge Maggie is assessing how to conquer. One fleeting moment, it requires no hesitation. She grabs the passenger back rest and commits to swing her right leg over the vehicle, sliding over the curve of the seat in one strong, smooth effort. There's no awkward clambering — if this isn't familiar, she at least takes to it like it is. Her feet hunt for purchase and she's almost set, making a solid a presence of herself at Laurie's immediate back. Her thighs come up higher than his because of the seat's placement and, more, to accommodate the length of her legs— her bent knees are at his hips, fitting like another piece of the puzzle.

She also looks for all the world like she belongs there— accidentally prepared for this venture in black boots that wouldn't go amiss in any biker's wardrobe, black jeans against Laurie's own denim, and fitted leather all the way up. Maggie messes with her scarf once she's settled, logically knotting it, and zips the bomber collar of her jacket up her neck. "You need another helmet," she comments judiciously.

A comment timed fittingly, with Laurie twisted around to the left, handing off the snug green safety-wear as it's said. There is no additional speech or motion around the matter of him having one or not; it is what it is. Having delivered that, Laurie addresses the wakening of the green beast. Keys slide into the slot eagerly, then twist. The bike jumps alive with a solid rumble, that then softens into a steady purr of idling. Laurie's legs flex, working every task, tensing or spreading as he moves his hands on and off the bars; the last task is to zip his leathers up as she did, tugging afterwards some matching gloves from his jacket pockets. This leaves only the last thing — a swift glance over his shoulder to mark Maggie's preparedness.

What he sees suits him; even before he's fully faced forward, the bike is kicked to immediate, enthusiastic life with an encore of that body shaking rumble from before. Laurie moves naturally when the bike does, following what will now be the constant vibrations underneath the body, claiming his legs, Maggie's legs, and the transfer between them where matching jeans brush snugly.

A knock back of his heel is him backshifting, his toe then resting on the front lever. There's no pause save for that before the bike rockets backwards, clearing the back-ends of all the rows of bikes who will be waiting still longer to be freed. The toe of his boot levels down. The green custom rears in a crisp turn that angles its riders towards a view of the ground, making a ninety-degree jolt out of what should have been a rolling arc to safely back out. All prelude to the last wrist-aided adjustment before the magnificantly green motorcycle tears out of the lot, and the parking, leaving the dark blue timidly in the dust of the growing evening.

The rocketing of the motorcycle brings about the time to hold on fast, a fact which Laurie's passenger may not be amply prepared for after all — through the bike's series of lightning movements, first comes an instinctive grab around his side lest she fall off. It turns into just grasps of leather, and a press of Maggie's weight against his back. The strong seize of her thighs makes up for he tenuous hold after this whirlwind takeoff — barely — and by the time they're truly on the go, she sensibly wraps both arms fully about Laurie.

However, her hold isn't as secure at first — it's not a hold at all, but a search to find one. The best one. It starts high — right in front of her, around the rider's chest — but hands slide down over layers of leather defenses until his hips. Their shades of black and reverberations become almost indiscernible from one another as Maggie's hold tightens there — the term for dear life may apply — close and secure. Squinting against the blast of cold wind, she looks over Laurie's shoulder into the night-time city bursting to life ahead, vigorously flying toward them.

City lights blur by like stars in hyperspace — the real ones just beginning to appear overhead through blots of clouds. Only the strongest blare through in the city. And the fastest — the motorcycle swerves in and out, struck by a mechanical inability to sit still — desiring the constant push forward that traffic doesn't always supply. The ride becomes a constant push and pull of instinct; the need for speed, and a conscious awareness of a less steady passenger, unable to keep her presence ignored while curves fit against curve. In each sweep and bend of motorcycle, Laurie moves too, fluidly along the line the motorcycle wants to take as soon as he urges it to go — a perfect partnership. Maggie, by her clutch to his hips, is privy to each sway.

For a while, it's city lights, and city high-risers, and those minions on legs and in bulky cars trapped inside these limits. Glances are natural, headed off by the telltale rumble of the bike as it comes up alongside some New York worker, who peers out his window, watching the bike carelessly move along ahead while he remains stopped. It's a freedom that Laurie wields absolutely, so that it seems barely a blink of an eye before high rises are falling off, giving way to more space between buildings, darkened by less glaring lights. Up above, the twinkle of the stars becomes more brilliant without all of the manmade competition. Finally, having left all those cars and red lights behind, bike and rider indulge in a straight-away gauntlet of impossible speed.

As the space grows, so do the houses, and the generous distances needed to travel their driveways. This description does not escape the darkened residence that the now very lone vehicle rolls in towards. Three stories of unlit windows quietly await human life. It rumbles up to the top of the arcing parkway in front of the walk and, as the engine is killed — the vibrations cut away — falls into the same contemplative, waiting quiet.

It seems perfectly still — the passenger, at least, doesn't immediately budge. Tiny rustles of movement fill the quiet, however. The buzz of muscles on muscles still holding onto the bike's reverberating energy. Breathing, faster than normal, visible in the air over Laurie's shoulder now that the wind no longer whips it away. Crackles of leather — impressions of movement as Maggie just barely shifts. Her hands could grasp each other where they've wound up, but were only holding to Laurie, around his hips, one near his belt-line and one above, digging into the jacket.

They shift apart now — Maggie no longer holds on for dear life — as she sits back slightly, but her grasp remains waiting. She looks up at the residence. Are they staying, are they going, is someone coming out… "That was…" she searches for a word and even sounds like she's coming up short when she says, half breathlessly, "… that was fast. Wow, you really um…" Her observations fade into a hazy place that doesn't quite manage to commit to being an accolade or an admonishment. She switches to a more relevant point: "Where are we?"

His wait for her to move first is not exactly gentlemanly, nor an attachment to their touch; he keeps the bike steady and upright, where it would be more inclined to tip over on her disembark. Though as her hands move, he slips forward an inch or two, encouraging their passage by him — off. Keys are tugged from ignition. They let out a tinkling jingle as they're captured up into his hand and then dragged by its means into his pocket. A few shifts of weight, his feet going back and forth to keep up a beast that, while mechanically dead, seems to sway still with a mind of its own, urging them move on. Laurie does not oblige this time; he waits until Maggie's leg is out of any danger zone and deploys the stand with a precise kick.

There now looms the waiting three stories, painted in white, tipped in grey roofing over its expansive length that includes a tall circular turret overseeing the rest of the house as well as a wide lawn, and surrounding porch. One side sports a small carport connected to a secondary entrance; its driveway leads not only to the main road they approached on, but one connecting — if you squint in the darkness here — to a second rising statement of white: a second house. Trees speckle up here and there for appearances — not for privacy; there's at least an acre before the first neighbor. It's kept up in a pristine, but haunted, condition, with no signs of life beyond the spotless facade. And, as Laurie describes it, no words could be less accurate: "Be it ever so humble…"

Parted, and on solid ground, Maggie is in the midst of removing the remarkably green helmet off to give her head some freedom when her motions slow. The helmet catches what hair is free, whisking it into a static halo, paused above her head in lift-off. Eyes still marked with the faint sheen of adrenaline after the breakneck ride here blink with clear surprise. She even appears taken aback for a moment before she lowers the helmet, setting it on the bike without a glance as she gives the expansive property a deeper, more meaningful study, as much as she can, in the dark. "Home— ?"

"Second runner-up, bronze medal," Laurie continues on about the third homestead when prompted, while he swings off the bike somewhat reluctantly, but no less gracefully. Fingers are yanked up on gloves, letting him pull one then the other off, shoving them into the pockets they came from. As he strolls towards the elaborate front entrance heralded by two pairs of solemn white columns, he tugs down the zipper on his jacket, letting each side hang independently again.

His keys do not make a reappearance as he reaches the door, and there's a bit of extraneous rustling about it as he stands, the knob blocked by his body. But the door does swing open on a push, and Laurie's arm fans out to the side as he crosses the threshold. Not to turn on a light, as it happens; he wanders right into the completely dark abode without a thought, navigating even darker silhouettes of furniture. Where the curtains are pulled across windows in the living room after a slightly naturally lit entryway, even the stars cannot help eyes adjust. Based on footsteps, Laurie veers to the right and reaches the creaking of a flight of stairs.

Several questions hesitate on the tip of Maggie's tongue, her mouth open as she follows behind, slow — so slow to cross the threshold that she may get left in the dark, forcing her steps to hurry at the last second to the stairs she assumes correctly are there, though she brushes past furniture unfamiliar to her in the process. Navigating it is an exercise in stepping into the unknown in more ways than one. Indecision follows her in, an almost reverent hesitance to the way she looks around the unlit space. A few of her questions find their way out after all. "Miles, did you just break in— ? Does anyone live here…?" she asks behind Laurie, her voice instinctively low and soft in the dark, quiet abode. She adds a creak to the stairs. "Do you want me to wait outside…"

"Oh!" Laurie's voice has reached the top of the stairs. There's the pitter patter of his quick feet as he takes them down again at a jog. It's louder and louder until, in the dark, he brushes right past Maggie, leather jacket to leather jacket. "Sorry…" Let there be! To the sudden blaze of oncoming light, that then dims as Laurie rotates the knob controlling the dozen or so connected lamps giving the place now a sweet, country glow. The new light show illuminates cream colored walls, with old-fashioned gold flavored accents, swirling real wood framed furniture matching the trim on glass cases, the frames around doorways, and the bannister of the staircase that Laurie trots back up. In various corners, a teal-tile laced fireplace, an old, quietly mediating grandfather clock, and the suggestive black edges of a grand piano.

"My father comes here sometimes," he elaborates now, from a crisscrossing stairway landing that gives way to both second floor and a second flight leading upstairs. It's this latter that Laurie skips over to, which turns him to glance over the railing to Maggie, "When he's doing time in New York. But he prefers the second house in Indiana." He runs again; light blossoms from the top of the stairs, issuing the third floor into visibility. From that same visibility, Laurie's vanished. Three doorways are offered like a puzzle. The first shows a sneak peek to a grandly wallpapered bedroom and strict, old furnishings. The second door is shut. The third shows hints of purple in the wall coloring and fanciful etchings.

That's approximately two of three questions answered, with just barely an "oh" of understanding from Maggie; Laurie's off, anyway. She remains momentarily flattened slightly against the banister from Laurie's running up and down the stairs, blinking from the sudden adjustment of lighting. She takes everything in — every detail swept up into her sights, every wall and even the ceiling as she climbs the rest of the way up without any apparent notion of where she's going. "Miles…?" she ventures on the third floor. The third door captures her attention first as a possible hiding place for the vanished — it's the most colorful. She nudges the door open further, tipping her head in.

By all appearances, the room itself seems conflicted between being that of a child and that of a woman. Purple walls are soft and pastel, not made of bright child's play — except for the odd tracings here and there, dabbed on with an occasionally deft and sometimes messy hand — and all creatures and shapes with no known names. High, towering bookshelves and full of not only books but odds and ends of all shapes, half of which seem to be trash of some kind. Buried underneath a few strains of loose fabric is the rounded screen of an ancient television set. Piled by its legs are a few highly worn VHS cases. Sorcerer's Twin says the label stuck over the official one. Another has no holder but is labeled in a child's bold print: (2+2) + LUCKY.

Various stains on the carpet have never been erased — some red. Like Maggie's seen before behind yellow tape, and like sits on the collar of the man in there with her. Where there's no carpet is a fireplace that's been crammed full of broken things, ratted blankets — all jamming the chimney and leaving but a small circular like space at the center, as if for a pet to curl in where it's been gently worn down. On that mantle, things have already been moved. A couple of candlesticks shifted out of place to segregate them from a monstrous brown and gold bound tome. Sitting on this, the sole relatable picture — and even that, distant. The subject is a woman who could have been beautiful, perhaps, but is face is lined with suspicion, and her posture stiff in her chair. In her hands, she clutches like a lifeline to an antique but well-kept pocket watch. This, and the unfitting, bland trim of the grey dress she wears are tinged with a ghost's like familiarity to Maggie. Echoes of the past that were present.

Echoes… there's noise from a doorway slightly inside this one. He isn't visible, but it would seem Laurie is yet present.

Caught by all of the oddities in the room, Maggie finds herself naturally leaning in until she's standing in it. Her study is one of wonder, though it's yet reluctant — out of respect. She's clearly viewing the sum of a person spread throughout a single room, trapped in time, a history that she is not a part of. But as wide blue eyes trace over everything they land on, they pick up not only wonder, but wrinkles. Every time she studies a detail, more. The walls, the blankets by the fireplace, the stain upon the floor; all of it worries the creases around her eyes with a certain sadness, and a rather heartbreaking realization.

Staring at the woman in the frame with sharp sights, and every detail in that in turn, she's drawn toward the mantle — she takes a step — she realizes Laurie's movement not far off. Maggie's study drifts from one to the other as she hunts down the doorway that hid him. "Miles…" That one searching word is profoundly full of empathy, but so quiet.

He appears, then, in that doorway, his hand in the second act of putting some unknown thing into his pocket like he's been doing all day. "Sorry," Laurie says on appearance, seeing her there — there, amongst all of these representative things, a life suddenly snuffed out, with only stuff to show. But his is not a deeply emotional apology pulled from his heart; he's sincere, but lively — and lightly distracted. "Sorry, just another minute…"

Where he skirts around her into the main room, he makes possible the view of the one he was in. A statically, unnaturally clean bathroom. Crisp white tiles seem stale, and the bath-tub has lost its curtain but not the hooks that would have held it up. No mirror. Its door must have been closed who knows how long, for the odd, done-over smell that's been trapped inside. It mingles now, poorly, with the overpowering and becoming more recognizable scent that permeates the main space. Familiarity takes a second, it's been there on the tip of the mind since entering— ah, yes. Peppermint. It's everywhere.

"No— no, take your time…" Maggie encourages. Her voice is one of reassurance — she truly does not mind the wait — but she seems distracted, herself. She takes in the white space, and the placed smell of peppermint, and turns slowly on her heel to once again exist fully in the main room. This, all with the big sad gaze of having been transplanted into a haunted world.

She finds where Laurie has gotten to, and follows to stop at a distance. She pulls her gloves off, curling her hands together amongst them as though cold. She tips her head slowly toward the mantle. It's likely that no real gesture is needed. "Is…" Her soft voice cuts out, picking back up even subdued. "Is that your mother?"

No following gaze is needed, so Laurie doesn't commit to one. Positioned in front of a bookcase, he remains staring there, focused on weaving his hand around the bits and bobs — torn up sections of newspaper wrapping who knows what, next to porcelain figures whose heads have been removed. "That's the only picture of her she ever allowed," he explains, an informative lilt, plain in fact, and nearly whimsical with that note of pleasant reminiscence. "Getting pictures. Keeping documents. Jotting anything down — that's how they got to you."

Behind him, Maggie smiles the tiniest amount at his words — not the words themselves, but the way they're said. She steps up beside him at the bookcase. All of her steps are careful in here, cautious against stepping on any detail of the room. Though she faces Laurie's task, her eyes don't pry into it; she sees the things on the shelf but doesn't focus on them. "They…?" she asks, barely prying in voice either, beyond the nature of the word — a question. She looks across at him— that's where her focus lies, in clear compassion. "She was the patient," she adds gently — not with realization, that had already arrived; it's spoken as knowledge. Just a quiet revelation. Now it's out there.

"They…" he echoes, non-committed, "She never told me who…" Laurie's hand very carefully nudges aside one piece of a winding figurine lake monster — Loch Ness. "It was probably everyone." All of his focus narrows away from the room, bringing him up to nearly his toes as he navigates the kept treasures of a paranoid. His lips part, breathing controlled. Two fingers slip in between copies of Huckleberry Finn and its twin in German. Somewhere beyond his film of concentration, Maggie's revelation lingers, untouched. He tugs; every so gently, he encourages what's between them to come out.

As the old, folded over yellowed note comes away with his hand, Laurie flattens to the floor, swiveling to face Maggie beside him. "For her, where writing meant giving someone your secrets, my mind— my memory— was some kind of miracle, given as a gift for her diligence. I was… her lock-box, in a way." Mouth winding upwards, his eyes roll humorously to the ceiling — though there's less good-naturedness to be found in the rest of him. He's only casually wry as he turns about, striding for the fireplace, "Of course, I woke up one night to her attempting to pick this lock with a fork… sooo," he hesitates, pausing mid-step and then finishing it, slower. "Yes." His hand, having risen to indicate the exact ear his mother had jammed a utensil into that particular evening in the past, drops. Whimsical, still: "She was the patient."

Maggie couldn't appear a single ounce more sympathetic than she does now. It seems the most natural thing to spring to her face, that brand of caring. Far more than what is reflected in Laurie's own. So much sympathy she expresses with her expression alone bears no pity, however — she only appears to understand. The room, and what seems like its ghost, are given the same glimmering blue look as she drifts after Laurie, stopping a few paces before she reaches him near the mantle.

She brushes a few fingers at her temple, moving her hair behind her ear — more escaped now than at the beginning of this journey, and something of a mess besides. Her hand stays there paused while her features slowly rearrange in preparation to say something. It takes a few moments. "O-oh. I'm sorry…" Maggie says softly; not condolences for the past he's shared, but, "for what happened to her." She nods in acceptance and gives a small smile, rather sad and warm at the same time.

Laurie overshoots the smile; on Maggie's words, his gaze quite naturally shifts to the doorway of that bathroom, its overly scrubbed smell and clear reflective tiles. What happened to her seems to shine off every cleaner treated surface. Forcibly, his chin drops, and his blue eyes find that Maggie is standing there, too. A wispy, reassuring smile of his own. "Wasn't your fault," and he shrugs.

With a new air of timeliness, an arm goes up to scoop the brown-gold tome and the sole matriarchal photo from the mantle, all tucked at his side. The picture disappears into a jacket pocket, but the book remains too large and only thumps against his leg at every upbeat step out of the room. For everything preserved so clinically in time, there's now subtle disturbances in the years old taint and air, shifts of long abandoned possessions. When they leave, it will settle again into dust.

Now, Laurie pauses not at the top of the stairs but at the landing, where he glances off down this hall to other, untouched doors and what old stories they might hold. They're left to rot; he moves on, down and down. "Come on, detective," his voice floats on up, "I shan't be keeping you out all night."

"Coming…" her voice floats on down — and down she comes, giving the room from Laurie's past a look over her shoulder on the way, leaving her with many an unspoken question in her eye. Right this second, they're content to stay there, and she's content to descend the stairs after Laurie, trailing a hand along the banister. "Yes," Maggie says, a lighter smile, around those lingering sympathies, bringing her words up with it buoyantly… and honestly, "because you're delaying so many of my invisible plans." Honestly — she has none.

Just a loud snort echoing through the furnished yet cavernously empty household; it marks Laurie's passage past the stairs and through a portion of the living room previously untrodden. It's into a kitchen area that he wanders, if the sound of cupboards opening and closing is so easily recognized. Then the squeal of a tightly shut, and much older door. The distant thumping of more stairs, these ones also of a more base make than the posh ones of the upper portions of the house. On these, Laurie descends into a basement level, leaving Maggie on the main floor with only the lighted living room and her own air of unquestioned questions.

Maggie follows the sounds by memory. Cupboards — kitchen; she finds her way in. Door, stairs — basement; she notes its entrance. This time, however, she doesn't follow Laurie's unexplained jaunt into the unknown — she leaves him to it. She only looks down, down, down the stairs with a briefly curious peer before simply standing off to the side, arms folded. A moment after that she frowns. A moment after that she paces back and forth once. A moment after than she stills perfectly — save for roaming eyes — and she patiently waits.

A moment after that and there's the musical creaking of the stairs, and then Laurie rising up out of the basement. He hasn't come alone; his arms are loaded up with a collection of wine bottles whose labels look like a gourmet restaurant's exclusive list. Already one cork is being wrestled out between his teeth and, without a moment's hesitation, he strolls up to the expansive kitchen sink surrounded by stainless marble gleaming in the light off the living room. A spit out of the cork — it rebounds in the sink — and then spins in the sudden onslaught of rushing liquid. The wine bottle's overturned in Laurie's hand, as he carelessly knocks back one's entire contents away and away, swirling into the oblivion of the disposal and piping.

From her post by the basement door, Maggie follows Laurie's return with interest — and an increasingly quizzical evaluation. What he's doing isn't immediately obvious, but then— as the liquid spirals away— she blinks, slow, and a muted smile calmly edges the very corners of lips upward past her bemusement. She strolls over to join Laurie and the collection of wine and says only: "Want some help with that?" An an empty, available hand is offered, prepared to take a bottle or drop just as easily.

Her offering and his giving are nearly simultaneous, as he turns anticipatory to her decision. The first wine bottle lays into her palm as if telling her it was only waiting for her hand, in turn. When Laurie has given her the first, his is just on its last, gasping drops. With a clean rattle, there's nothing left to cling to that glass rim and then bottle is turned right side to stand like a salute on the counter, its label proudly facing forward, announcing the contents it no longer contains. For the second, he has to pull out a drawer in between them to retrieve a bottle opener, twisting this less agreeable cork away before the process begins anew.

The second Laurie has his open, Maggie claims the corkscrew and silently sets to hers. It's like an assembly line; while his pours, she plants hers on the counter and gives its cork several good twists and a hearty pull that very nearly threatens Laurie with an elbow in the face. However, the process remains calm and focused: Maggie's dispensing of the liquid into the sink is almost serene, the way she watches it fall, splash and disappear.

Expensive swirling efficiency for several quiet minutes filled only with the passionate glugs of the wine out of one bottle after another, and the downpour of the faucet as he turns it on, letting clear liquid erase red and champagne. Laurie does nothing to hurry his along, always tipping and then waiting till the last surviving droplets to give the shake out that finishes it off. But everything runs smoothly and, like Maggie, in soothing peace. Perhaps too soothing, in the end. After he has a few bottles under his belt — more specifically, up on the counter, lined straight forward like good soldiers — Laurie's hand passes under the crisp running water. Then rises and flings all of that excess over onto Maggie.

Maggie is setting a bottle of what was once champagne upon the counter in the row with the rest of the collection, completely studious and calm in her task to the point that she is unsuspecting. Her zipped jacket and winter scarf catch the brunt of the shenanigans, but those little splashes attack her face too. Successfully elicited is an unguarded, high-pitched squeal of surprise and alarm, and she twists about to suddenly brings her arms up in defense. Above her arm, she looks at Laurie with her face scrunched up in both complaint and amusement. "Cold, Miles."

Not even a tinge or miniscule betrayal of amusement on Laurie's face. No, no; he's as innocent as can be, flashing her only a wholly affected skepticism — as if she, perhaps, were going crazy. Meanwhile, the completely guilty hand returns to its task of selecting the next wine to go. There aren't many more, and he gets to the task with an ounce more hurry than he started. Wine splashes over the edge of the sink eagerly, spare droplets leaping towards Laurie's temptingly white shirt. On and on, until there's nothing left but empty bottles in a criminally wasted line-up.

Laurie levels a satisfactory eye on this blatant display — available to anyone who will stroll into the kitchen after them. His damp hands are dropped to wipe along the sides of either leg, dashing away extra spots of wine here and there. As he reaches over to stopper up the running sink water, his hand passes under the flow before it's turned off. No surprise, then, when most of this ends up on Maggie's cheek.
Giving a faint childish whistle, Laurie rotates on a heel and begins to wander off from the sink.

Maggie is a little more prepared this time, her cold-shocked "ah— !" much less shrieking to show for it, if undeniably girly all the same. She quickly uses her scarf to swipe her cheek dry and, to the tune of Laurie's childish whistle, turns the tap back on. She rinses her hands — a quick and practical task, for as long as it lasts. She's sure to get her hands good and dripping before turning it off and striding to catch up with Laurie — to flick water at the back of his head and neck. "How are your errands going," she says as if she didn't just exact silly vengeance; there is, in fact, no sign, save for a lingering grin. "Did you get to everything you needed to do?"

There's no denying that Laurie would be able to hear the water coming back on, but his meandering, unchanging pace does not spare him from Maggie's retaliation. She catches him as he reaches out an arm to secure the cellar door shut. A flinch passes along him from that point of origin at his neck, and it takes an extra stuttering second before he pushes the door the rest of the way closed. "Oh, I don't know," he speculates leisurely, passing from the kitchen to the living area, "Maybe thinking about taking a spin around the field on the riding mower. Perhaps make a few long distance phone calls…" Eyes dart about the room, scraping up inspiration. Falling on the very appealingly furry looking rug in front of the fireplace, his eyebrow raises, "Can't do that one…" is muttered quieter, a stage whisper to himself.

Drying her hands casually on her makeshift towel of sky blue about her neck as she follows, Maggie has a hint of a smirk for Laurie's would-be list until she tracks an innocent eye to the subject of his stage whisper in passing through the living area wherever he may lead. After a second or five, and a pause in her toweling— "Uhh," she murmurs, determining with questionable seriousness, "you have a funny list of errands."

Her comment throws his look over his shoulder at her, untraceable expressions becoming a vague bashfulness — but not for that furry rug. "Eh, I'm actually making it up as I go along," he admits, as his hand trails to give his right jacket pocket a measured pat, "I only came for the picture before he got here. We can go." To prove it, Laurie's steps veer him around a stylishly curvy love-seat and to the front door. Here he pauses, at an angle, with his hand against the wall next to the light-switch.

"I'm glad you have it now," Maggie expresses quietly. There's a sincerity to her conclusion. She pauses at the door as well, only to pull her gloves out of her pocket. As they're fitted on, she looks to Laurie with one of her small soft smiles that have become more frequent. "I never think I have enough pictures of my parents. I can't imagine not having any." Yet she does — it's a thought there in her eyes on Laurie. Interrupted by a blast of cold air; she's taken the initiative to open the door to head on out to the waiting green chariot.

Into his eyes as she watches filters something abashed, apologetic. Cold air turns his head, but only towards it. Laurie flicks off the lights by feel, casting the house once again into a pit of dark and shadow, and old memories. Gloves don't instantly reappear, though his hands dive into his pockets. "It's— not for me." A slow, wary admittance, hinting at that regretful look from inside, even if not expressly apologetic itself in tone. It's enough to slow him in his follow down the walkway towards the motorcycle.

The photo has found its way into his hand. He rubs a thumb over the cracking quality, but the examination is strict, not affectionate. "No detail in this is more precise than… what's up here," the picture is brought along with the hand and taps to his temple. Memory versus photograph. One can even be described using the other. Photographic: that piece of evidence, as his paces meet her in front of the green custom, is offered over to the detective for processing, instead. No — not exactly. Though it's held out, it seems to be on display in front of him, not shoved across to Maggie, breaching no space, making no assumptions as to her taking. "I thought you might like it for reference— whenever I got around to asking you."

"Oh, I suppose that's right, isn't it…" Barely having traversed the walkway at all, Maggie offers a small apologetic tug of her own lips for forgetting he can't forget in that way. Her regard is first for him— sort of— it seems past his eyes, the indicated lock-box, rather than the picture, his asking. "Still, it would be nice to have something to hold onto… I— " Her eyes fall to the photograph and she shakes her head, not with dismissal but with the confusion that turns her brows in and darkens her face. Her hands come up — almost toward it — and fall down. "Reference…" Questioning, uncertain— but her features soften suddenly and alight slowly with a smile. "You can ask me now."

"Powers." Very serious, this mood that's fallen over Laurie — earnestness that makes laughter behind that seriousness. "Dear Powers…" The corner of his mouth tries to betray him at a grin; the oddity of the impassioned sentiment next to the impersonal surname. In the same moment, his hands come forward, framing her — with that photo tucked carefully between two fingers — he plays at clasping her shoulders, "I swear I'll be a saint… I'll let you win every— Hold on." A troubled look passes into his eye and his hands drop, one coming to wrap his chin in most determined deliberation, "No, that's not right…" Aborted a handful of seconds later, the thought ends with him tossing his hands to his side with a shrug, "Well, now I've lost it.

Maggie follows along — to some degree — with a bob of her head and an overly expectant arch of her brows at his attempts, amused, if her smile is any indication. There lingers the tiniest bit of seriousness behind her eyes when they land, briefly, on the photograph. She swings a long, trailing end of her scarf at Laurie for being silly. That in itself is silly — the cheerful blue fabric is, of course, harmless. "It's ask and receive, Miles — you did say ask," she reminds him, encouraging in a good-natured, almost teasing tone. "I have some kind of inexplicable faith that you can do it."

But Laurie's hand darts up to protect himself from this sky blue lashing despite and both, in returning to his waist, have lost all inventory. "Nahh, not here," he elects finally, eyeballing the overhang of the front of the house they've barely passed under. "I feel like someone with a shotgun is about to come out of that house for my trying to give his daughter a goodnight kiss." Both eyebrows up in measure, he passes this look to Maggie and then, right heel casting backwards, he rocks off of it to stride the rest of the walkway. His jacket is zipped up with a swift jerk and he tosses a leg cavalierly over the body of the bike, fitting again into the place of legs and cool machinery curves.

A one-brow-raised, much-furrowed, very silly look appears upon Maggie's smiling face in response and follows Laurie down the walkway — all the rest disappears and a bit of a smile stays when she, herself, follows down the walkway, her head down. She shoves her hair back toward its small ponytail. The reason— the helmet that she straps on again. "Is that a familiar feeling?" she questions quite casually as she casts her leg over the bike also and reclaims her seat with the same ease as before. This time, however, she wastes no time in wrapping her arms about Laurie. They pick up securely exactly where they left off, though the stronger grip she'll need once the motorcycle springs to life just waits in the wings. At his shoulder: "Being chased off someone's property with a shotgun?"

Laurie has been tugging his gloves into place waiting for her, and there's a slight hitch in his casual lean forward, elbows on the bike bars, as Maggie's grip nestles in. Just his weight slipping a notch, really; he readjusts the elbow once, zips the ends of the gloves, and then leans back to get into riding position. Of several movements here and there to get the bike balanced, his hips also buck forward on the seat, shedding a good deal of the hands on them. His legs, moving in and out so close to the edges of her fingers, support the rest of the haul before the stand vanishes in a kick that also slides him, her. They could bump together if she's so close, sliding on that sleek surface they're both wrapped on.

"Not for the reason you're thinking of." Bam— thunder. The bike roars hungrily to life, eating up the surface of the driveway in anticipation for the heel-toe maneuver that shifts it to gear. A turn of the wrist pumps the engine, chewing through gas as they leap into a crisp turn around the other side of the front of the house. Returning to the night, the stars of the sky out in full-force now in the clear darkness penetrated as Laurie ignites the headlights on the vehicle, the beacon illuminating the path they blaze.

Maggie settles in for the ride, eyes to the night road. Really and truly, she settles in — is it the roaring vehicle beneath them that does bump them together, or is it her when her grip tightens? Either way, she prepares for the rocket trip she's being taken on— getting comfortable. Shifted further apart and jostled by Laurie's motions, her hands readjust, finding purchase atop the front his hips, almost at the bend of his legs, where it's easy to hold on.

Eventually, along the straight-ahead route away, in the icy December wind that determinedly batters their leather — and in an opposite image, whips Maggie's loosened scarf out behind her like that of an old movie star — she leans slightly ahead without interrupting the bike's equilibrium. There is a warmth to her close fit that has nothing to do with temperature. It's subtle amidst the rumbling of the Kawasaki, but persevering. The line between a hold for dear life and an embrace is as blurry as the landscape they race by.

Icy in the air, blissfully not as much on the streets as they stand — though the wintry state of the seasons makes the green beast a lone crusader for motorcycles where others have been benched, covered and protected in their garages. As sole inspiration, the Ninja drives a hard, fast bargain down the road same as it came — yet the stretch of time rolls out longer ahead of them. The motorcycle eats the road, threatening always to catch up to the beam of its own headlights, but the nighttime loops in rolling hills and darkness. Vibrations off the ground, through the bike, seal body parts together by force and charge, electrifyingly traveling from one person to another, and riding on top of that snugger air of embrace.

The truth of Maggie experiencing each movement is detailed now, her hands cupped where it all radiates from. It'd be physically impossible to not tell as that whole body fitted in front of hers tenses, dipping forward over the arc of the bike's bars, transforming into a racer's pose. Her lean translates into his, and the more that he flattens towards the road, putting pressure on the fingers clenching the throttle — the faster they go.

What is the speed limit on this road? If the question springs to the mind of the cop behind Laurie, it goes unasked. It wouldn't be the first rule broken tonight. She's close enough to try to shout into his ear; she doesn't. Faster and faster it is — faster and closer. It's against the odds, when it seems like they were already riding as one— but the lean they adopt especially bears passenger down against rider's back, defining further the shape of the former, and making known the hitched breath past leathers that carries into this upped velocity.

Maggie settles into these new, speed-devil silhouettes right away. One hand adjusts, sliding up Laurie's abdomen to spread atop a jacket zipper as he bows toward the handlebars, her grip more protective of him than her, and more supporting of their tight arrangement than protective. Knees press in from either side — secure — or as one might do when encouraging a horse to go faster.

There is no lack of giddy-up. She presses, the engine is stoked, fuel-injected, ripping suicidally into an all-encompassing, all encouraging night. Faster, and better. Beneath her hand, the heartbeat of the rider matching the machine, steady in speed. Laurie's chest rises and falls more with the swells of the road than his breathing. Now, more. Now, faster. The flow of the speedometer needle makes a clean arc, stuttering only as it inches towards the top, nudging towards its climax with each mile marker passed. Flow of leather, bodies. Cutting wind defining the heat of pressure. Two people sharing that forward impulse as the needle spikes— Now —

Civilization hits like a hammer, a bomb going off of lights and sounds — other vehicles buoy in around the motorcycle, trapping it into shapes; the forward is gone. Glancing, skeptical, or jealous eyes peer out from underneath hoods and winter jackets; they're not alone. There's as many of them as the lights they supply in tall, clustered buildings. A stop-light looms ahead, the first towering guard-post of the city.

From full-throttle to immediate stop turns green streak into green point, with tires screeching pridefully as the bike tosses itself to a halt, rebounding with excess energy. Laurie flies upwards on that rebound, his whole body shifting backwards and then forwards forcefully. The left leg jerks quickly out to catch the newly stalled bike, moving under Maggie's hand, even as that, and jean against sleek glove by reaction invite her fingers to slide in around the motion.

Everything ricochets with that whirlwind end. Maggie follows the surge back and forth — rougher in the suddenness, thrust in backward then forward momentum against her driver. Elicited is a hint of her voice before she's rocked to stillness in the aftermath of the jolt— not a word but a small noise forced out, not quiet, but easily muffled in the closed-in helmet. Handholds shift naturally on Laurie— slick on denim and jostled, the slide of her fingers curve around the leg's bracing thigh like it's supposed to be there. In, close. The red light blares on. Out, far— the gloved hand just drifts off. The other only wraps further, anticipating.

But in the interlude, Maggie is left looking around the city with lights in her eyes — literally: the traffic lights and looming neon of the city intermingling with holiday decorations and leaving everything awash in colour, reflecting lurid patterns along the helmet's visor. She watches the city with a sort of wonder in the brief repose, seeing it for the first time from this particular point of view.

Green means go. Leg, freed thigh, pop into place as the motorcycle's gassing levels it up and forward. Ins and outs are taken reckless and wild, but under the secret control of Laurie's expert manipulations. Whipping in and out of traffic is comfortable — and stealthy, besides. Often the green machine sneaks up on hapless car drivers, before blazing away beyond them. A couple of car horns, native to the landscape of New York, blare in their wake — always too late; the motorcycle is long gone.

The endless weaving begins to pace itself near the end, slowing to a more fluid path, more relaxed. Tires dip and curl around smooth figure-eights as if on ice, making elaborate shapes of tracks and exhaust. Hence, the pull into the impound visiting lot is exceedingly more eased than that first stoplight. Just a small, playful, whip around the shape of Maggie's car, lining her up to dismount at its driver door as if nearly climbing straight from one vehicle to the other.

Just like that, the wind has barely settled and Maggie disengages her wrap-around and leans back. First things first, she hauls the helmet off her head, leaving her hair a wilder mess and freeing her into the cold air. Also is revealed is a smile, a small little hint at the corners of her mouth that makes her look perpetually amused at something. The helmet and its bold green patterns are given an eye; she reaches an arm around Laurie's shoulder to bump the colorful protective gear lightly against his chest for him to reclaim it. "Coulda saw you home," she says in a light, easygoing tone, "or… wherever it is you're staying." With a little heave, she manages to gradually slide toward her car. One boot crunches onto the pavement. "What's my car going to do, get impounded."

The other leg is hauled over— she uses the top of her car for convenient support. She stands close to the motorcycle, brushing against all its curving, dangerous metal parts— and steps close to its rider, turning to him to lay her other hand on his shoulder. "Thanks for taking me on your errand. And the answer will be yes, by the way. Whennnnn you get around to asking."

He startles a small amount at the bump, looping his arm around the helmet to accept. "Coulda," Laurie admonishes her coolly, but a rivet of a riddle beneath, tempting her to listen more carefully to his breezy delivery — breezy, or short of breath? "Well, you did one of those. The other— might've begged a different question." The grip to take it is turned fluidly into one that fits it over his head, "We, at least, would've had to say 'goodnight'." With a pull, his secretive face vanishes entirely, locking all those unspoken things in behind a dark visor.

As her weight vanishes from the bike, rocking it gently against Laurie's steadying foot, he immediately swivels a glance over his shoulder to mark her placement. Her hand coming near finds his shoulder lifting away as he switches from one foot to the other — the right needing to access the shifter. Heel, toe. The bike opens its pipes to roar louder than Maggie. Apologetically, Laurie's hand swoops up to tap at his helmet near where it covers — blocks — his ear. It's as final as that before green dips around her legs, spinning away in one of those ground-tempting controlled arcs. Speed, and the night, once again claim bike and rider.

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