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red route

Chapter Text

“Six singles for the red route, please,” Fraser said, plastic out ready at the mountain bike center service point.  He smiled out the window, peaceably, serene.  Because after four visits to the outdoor sports-center, he still couldn't meet Rockin' M-Bike Girl's eye.  Especially not now she'd started smiling at him, and making conversation, the last two rides he and the gang had taken here.

It was a little bothersome.  Girls who smiled, and expected you to have a suggestive answer ready when they said unanswerable things about the weather and the route and what model bike you were on.  Crazy out-there philosophical issues like that.  Now, being an extremely apposite case in point: Fraser focused more earnestly on the rather interesting birds pecking at thrown-away burger out the center window -- not that breed's usual migration pattern, surely? -- as she said, “Enter your PIN number, please. So, you're the captain of this crazy bunch, right?  I mean, going by your headgear.  D'you demote 'em if their performance isn't up to par on the route?  Last one to the finish line gets a spanking and a time-out?”

A what?  Fraser gave her an uneasy sideways half-look, as Kowalski sniggered, and leaned into him from behind.  He was probably giving her a much more confident eye, being as he was the default ladies' man of their off-hours amateur mountain bike crew.  And suddenly he had a captain's helmet from the Great War pulled down over his eyes.  Which was when he realized that someone had skilfully purloined  his campaign hat.

Well, darn it.  And all of the lectures he'd given these reprobates, about his hat.  Even when before they'd set out at 5.45 a.m. this morning, the Rays had gone on a caffeine-fuelled rampage through his wardrobe, storage cases and loft.  What was currently planted on his head was the end result, which he'd somehow forgotten about on the journey between his apartment and the bike trail center. His great-uncle's helmet from WWI, and a precious heirloom besides.  Not to be treated with hilarity, a party favor to be tossed around.

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"Now, you know darn well that's not my bike helmet, fellas," he began sternly.  But Kowalski was already talking with Bike Girl, and Fraser cleared his throat indecisively.  There was something about Bike Girl that he found very intimidating, and it wasn't just her fierce sparkling eyes, her fountain of wavy dark hair, or her perpetual power pose.  

“Yeah, Captain, that's Fraser,” Kowalski agreed, snickering.  And Francesca prodded him in the hip with a disrespectful toe, showing off her impressive balance and agility, and also her new road shoes.

“He's gonna lead us to death or glory over hill and dale, that right, Frase?  Or at least over the berms, that right, Sergeant Major sah, yeah?"  Oh, and there was Vecchio, enabling as usual.  Lord darn it.

"Well, let me know if you run into any trouble.  I'll come and lend you a hand, okay?" Bike Girl responded.  Totally ignoring the Rays, and looking directly into Benton's eyes.  Good Lord.  "Just holler for Victoria.  I'll give you my number, in case."

And Meg, possibly feeling her territory slightly threatened, pulled both Rays backwards, and planted herself comfortably in front of Fraser, resting a friendly arm on Francesca's shoulder as she took over the conversation like she always took over anything.  “Don't worry about it,” she said, and Fraser wasn't sure if she was talking to him or Rocking' M-Bike Girl.   Er, Victoria

So now they knew her name was Victoria.  But he was pretty sure only Kowalski and Vecchio would get as far as actually using her first name.  The rest of the gang, barring the ladies, were as nervous as Fraser around women.  He could hear their nervous murmurs from the back of the center's reception desk area, pretending to be absorbed in the microfiber cycling shirts and cycling magazines. 

“No-one's going to die on Fraser's watch,” Vecchio added.  “Fraser here,” he said, scruffing Fraser's hair up, and ruining its careful order in a brotherly talk-'im-up-big way that Fraser was going to have to talk to him about later, “is the man.  He'll leave no bike-nerd behind, eh, Frase?  Not just a pretty face, right, Benny-boy?”  Fraser really didn't like being mangled and tousled about the head.  But he had to give Vecchio some leeway and fair play, because he knew the fellow was doing his best as a protective buddy. It was just a really terrible best.

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And he turned, to give their favorite scary biking chick a charming smile, all white teeth and glossy hair -- what there was left of it -- like a well-fed labrador.  If he wasn't queer as a three-dollar loonie, then he'd have been the ladies' man of the group, and Fraser hoped that scary Victoria wasn't getting the wrong idea about the smooth operator.  He risked a quick glance, as she handed him the route leaflets and his entry slip, though, and it was still him she was smiling at.  It might have been less scary if she hadn't been wearing a T-shirt that read I DON'T BITE on the front, too.  With SINCE THEY MUZZLED ME on the back.

And maybe Vecchio was having trouble looking away, but who could blame him?  Cherry lips and no bra and a ponytail like an Arabian stallion, she was mesmerizing and, and, and just gorgeous.  And he was never going to work up the balls to talk to her like Vecchio or Kowalski, never.  And then she uttered the death knell.  “It is a pretty face, though,” she said sweetly, and folded her arms at him in a way that flexed the question-mark tat she had on her left bicep, and the Popeye on the right.

Maybe Vecchio was still sulking, when she came out from behind the desk and said, very seriously, “Now, guys, I want to give you our standard safety talk.  You've all signed your waivers for insurance purposes, right?”

“Ah, I don't think it's really necessary to go through all that–-.“  Yeah, that was the best effort of Margaret, putting her two cents in.  On the basis that they'd been there enough times to have the spiel down, completely down, and what did Hot Bike Chick think she was anyhow, some kind of air hostess?  You never had to go through this bullshit at any of the other bike centers.  (Yep, they'd all heard this bit from Vicky before, too.)

But then they didn't have ladies like Victoria at other routes, so there were admittedly compensations.  Yeah.