Roommates Meeting Who: Gabriel and Roman What: First meeting between roommates, set just before Gabe meets Scotty Where: Chopp 404, then after a tour of the campus, ending in the dance studio. When: Saturday, January 8, just after one. Rating: SFW
Rome nervously straightened his room, wanting to make a good impression on his new roommate. He picked up the small vase of flowers that he'd scraped together money for as Gabe's welcoming gift and moved them from the dresser to the desk. Then he frowned and moved them back. Then sighed and put them back on the desk.
Just after one, Arthur knocked on the door to Chopp 404. Gabriel stood a few feet off his left side, arms crossed, looking boredly disinterested as he stared at the number on the door. Arthur just shook his head. The boy had hardly said ten words to him since Arthur picked him up earlier today. Perhaps it was just nerves. Maybe the boy was shy.
Rome jerked and looked at the door. He took a deep breath and crossed the room. He paused in front of the door for a moment.
He'd debated for hours over what to wear. He'd decided on just going with the uniform, then half an hour later, changed into a knee-length white skirt with a pale blue shirt. This was who he was, and he shouldn't trick Gabriel. He smoothed his skirt and opened the door with a smile, "Hello, Mr. Holden."
"Hello Roman," Arthur said with a smile for the boy. Roman wasn't in any of his classes this year, but his long red hair was absolutely unmistakable around campus. The skirt was a bit of a surprise, but in his seventy-four years, there wasn't much Arthur hadn't seen. "This is my nephew, Gabriel. Gabriel, Roman Alexander."
Gabriel frowned a little at the sight. He had been expecting the long hair but not the skirt. This wasn't 'Rose,' the transsexual. Just what had he agreed to?
Rome noticed the frown immediately and drew back. He tilted his head and hid behind his hair, "Hello, Gabriel. It's nice to meet you." He stepped to the side, "Why don't you both come in?"
Gabriel pressed his lips together, giving his uncle a sideways look. Arthur raised one bushy brow at him, gesturing for him to enter first, so he gave Roman a short nod and stepped into the room, keeping his arms crossed defensively in front of him.
Arthur resisted the urge to sigh and simply followed the younger boy in. Dalton would be good for Gabriel, he kept repeating to himself. The boy needed to learn how to make friends.
Rome fidgeted uncomfortably. "I got you a welcoming gift!" He rushed across the room and held out the plastic vase of three carnations and some baby's breath.
Gabriel raised an eyebrow at the 'gift,' looking scornfully at it. "I'm not a girl," he said, finally speaking up. Arthur looked at him, though, and Gabriel sucked on one side of his cheek before reluctantly reaching up to take the vase from Roman. "Thanks, I guess."
This wasn't going well, and Arthur gave another tiny shake of his head. "I needed to meet with a student today," he informed both of the boys. "Would you be all right entertaining yourselves in my absence? Perhaps you could show Gabriel around campus, Roman?"
Rome winced at the barb from Gabriel, blushing lightly. He nodded at Mr. Holden, "I would be glad to. That is... If Gabriel is ok with it?"
Gabriel simply shrugged a shoulder, now looking at the vase he held. What was he supposed to do with this? Put it in his pocket?
"If you need anything," Arthur said, looking at Roman and hoping the boy understood the implied if you need to get rid of him, "just swing by my office, boys. Otherwise, Gabriel, I'll call you around five so we can meet up again and perhaps go out for some dinner."
Rome nodded, "I'm sure we'll be fine." He looked over at Gabriel, "Oh, I'm sorry. You can put it on your desk? I already had my stuff on the window side of the room, but when you move in, if you want to be near the window we can rearrange the room."
"Be nice," Arthur said to Gabriel before he turned to leave the boys alone.
Gabriel rolled his eyes as Arthur left before he crossed the room to set the vase on an empty desk. He wasn't a girl, he didn't like flowers, and he didn't care that it was the first time someone had ever gotten him a welcoming gift. He really didn't. "Why are you wearing a skirt?" he asked once his uncle was gone.
Rome blinked, speechless for a moment, "Because I prefer skirts. I mean, dresses are ok, but skirts are better in my opinion."
"You look like a girl," Gabriel said, turning to face Roman.
Rome tilted his head with a frown, "I'm not transsexual. I'm quite happy with my boy parts."
"I didn't say you were," Gabriel said. "I said you looked like a girl. And if you're not transsexual... why would you do something like this?" He gestured at Roman's skirt. "You're throwing away what little masculinity you can cling to. And for what reason?"
Rome frowned, "I'm not hung up on that stupid manly-man thing. I like skirts, so I wear them. I like feeling pretty, so I like skirts."
"But you are intentionally making your life more difficult than it needs to be," Gabriel said. "You may not be hung up on that stupid manly-man thing, but society as a whole is."
Rome was beginning to be upset, "I don't *care* what society thinks. I like the way I feel."
"Well good for you," Gabriel snarked, looking around the room again. This would be his home soon enough. A boarding school would probably increase the duration he was Uncle Arthur's ward. And after that... probably during the summer, Arthur would grow tired of him. After that, he'd move on again. "I hope your warm fuzzies cancel out the criticism from the rest of the world."
Rome wrapped his arms around himself, "Your side of the room is ready for you to move in. I can.. I don't know, put up a curtain to change behind if you'd like?"
Gabriel lowered his gaze back to Roman, frowning a little. "Despite the skirt and the hair, I assume you are still a guy, due to your reference of being happy with your 'boy parts' you mentioned earlier. I don't see why a curtain would be necessary--I'm not saying you're some disgusting pervert I don't want to ever see again. I'm just saying it's stupid for you to wear girls' clothing when your masculinity is already compromised by your physical features."
"I'm having a hard time telling if I offend you or you're trying to look out for me. It's really confusing."
"I know only too well what it's like to be mocked for a feminine appearance," Gabriel answered, not really answering Roman's unspoken question. "It baffles me that someone would intentionally make that worse."
Rome sighed and sat on his bed, "No one will mock you here. Not *just* because it's school policy, but because we're not like that."
"So?" Gabriel asked, still standing cross-armed and motionless. "'Here' isn't the real world. Here is a fabricated bubble of good feelings and 'nice' people."
"We're teenagers. We're *supposed* to live in a bubble. A lot of us never got to when we were kids." Rome looked out the window with a sad expression.
"It's just setting you up for disappointment and failure when you inevitably leave the academic world," Gabriel answered sharply, turning to stalk to the window. He moved easy, effortlessly, as if he were only on the ground because he chose to be, and not anything to do with gravity's wishes.
Rome spared a moment to stare enviously at the way he moved before sighing, "There will be disappointment anyway. There always is. Better to grasp onto any good that there can be now and use it to hold you over when it's gone."
"Better to take this time when you are considered young and irresponsible to build up your defenses for when you will be held accountable for the entirety of your actions," Gabriel answered, resting his hands on the windowsill and looking out over the campus.
"Yes, but don't build defenses against the very people who will help shore them up later on. When you do leave here, and when you have to live behind those defenses completely, you can use the good memories of people who cared about you to cushion the inside of the walls. So you don't batter yourself to death against them."
"No one here will remember who you are in five years," Gabriel countered. "No one here will give a damn once you're outside the bubble. And you'll be left clinging to fading memories of people who have already put you aside and moved on."
"But at least you'll have those memories." He looked away and his voice became softer, almost like he was talking to himself, "Memories of people who told you that you were pretty while some frat boys slap you around for dressing like a sissy fag."
"Or you could not dress like a sissy fag," Gabriel pointed out bluntly, glancing back at Roman. "And spare yourself the pain in the first place."
Rome looked up at him, eyes piercing, "What would hurt worse? To be hated for who you are, or try to be who they want and *still* be hated?"
Gabriel looked coolly at Roman. "Some people will always be hated."
"Then wouldn't you rather they hate you while you're happy?"
"Are you happy?"
Rome shrugged, "Most of the time. Isn't that all you can hope for?"
"No," Gabriel answered, looking back at the window. "To be happy is to have something that can be taken from you. Far better to remain neutral than to attempt to survive the dizzying roller coaster of joy and despair."
Rome thought of his mother and how she still cried at pictures of his father, "It's better to have that happiness for even one day, than to have never known. The only person you hurt by never letting yourself be happy is *you*."
"Someday you'll learn how wrong you are," Gabriel said, watching a few students mingling in the snow outside.
"Well, one of us will either be wrong or we both will. We'll see one day. In the meantime, while you're here, will you try to give us a chance?"
"I see no reason to," Gabriel answered. "I'll probably only be here the one semester anyway."
"If not for you, then for us. Don't you talk to Scotty a lot?" Rome stood up and moved to his dresser to fidget with the makeup and jewelry on top of it.
"He talks to me." Gabriel narrowed his eyes, turning his head just enough to keep Roman in the corner of his sight.
Rome turned to look at him, "Try for him then. If you try to keep everyone out, it will hurt him. Because he cares about you."
Gabriel scoffed quietly, looking back at the window. "Cares for me? He hasn't even met me..."
Rome shrugged, "Doesn't work like that. He's talked to you, chatted with you. He cares about you. And nothing can change that fact now."
Gabriel remained silent, choosing to simply give a roll of his eyes at Roman's words.
Rome sighed, "Believe me or not, like it or not. He does care about you. And he cares about how you feel. You should give us a chance for him."
"I won't be around long enough for it to matter," Gabriel finally said, pushing away from the window and looking around the room again. "Just six months."
"Why do you insist on thinking you know the future? Were you right about not even coming here?"
"Didn't you notice?" Gabriel asked, looking almost amused. "Uncle Arthur already tires of me. And I haven't even stayed with him for twenty-four hours."
Rome blinked in confusion, "He's not tired of you. Why would you think that?"
"You can hear it in his voice," Gabriel answered. "The way he talks, the way he looks at me. 'Be nice,' he says..." He gave a little shake of his head, almost smiling. "Once you've seen it two or three times, you learn how to recognize the signs."
"That's not what it was at all. He's *worried* about you. He probably doesn't want me to scare you away. But he just wants you to make friends. Not get rid of you."
"You are so naive," Gabriel said, shaking his head a little. "I know when I'm not wanted."
"You're jaded and I don't think you would know acceptance and worry if it danced naked on your bed." Rome rubbed his temple, feeling a headache start.
"How charming," Gabriel said dryly. "What a way with words you have. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to see what else this school has to offer." He crossed the room again, pulling the door open to leave.
Rome jumped forward, "Wait! Wait! I'm sorry! I.. I didn't mean to make you mad."
"I'm not mad," Gabriel said, pausing to look Roman's way again. "Merely bored."
He sighed and rubbed his forehead, "I'm sorry. Look, we can just drop it and I'll show you around?"
Gabriel's gaze drifted down to Roman's skirt again before he sighed and looked out into the hall. "Fine. Whatever."
Rome winced and looked at his closet, "If you'll give me a minute, I'll change clothes?"
"Wear whatever you'd like," Gabriel said, folding his arms again. "It's your choice."
Rome clenched his hands, "Gabriel, I want to make you comfortable. I want you to be able to walk around campus with me and not be distracted or upset or whatever about what I'm wearing. So just wait a minute, and I'll change."
Gabriel lifted a hand dismissively and stepped out into the hall. Roman could change in privacy if he wanted or he could start the tour in the skirt.
Rome quickly grabbed one of his very few pairs of jeans left, a threadworn pair with the knees ripped, and slipped them on. He changed his blouse for a faded green tshirt. After grabbing one of his uniform blazers as a coat, he walked into the hall. "Ready?"
"You looked more put-together in the skirt," Gabriel commented, looking Roman's new outfit over. "Let's just get this over with."
Rome blushed, somehow this boy had the singular ability to make him feel ashamed of being poor. It was something no one else could pull off and he managed it with condescending looks and one sentence. He nodded curtly and started down the hall, "Do you know what classes you have? I'll make a point to show you where they are."
"Gym," Gabriel said. "English 10. Biology, Spanish I, European History, and Pre-Calc. Not necessarily in that order."
Rome nodded, "Alright, I'll show you all of those as well as the other dorm, the common areas, and the cafeteria."
Gabriel was silent for a few minutes as he started to follow Roman out before he spoke up again, a note of genuine interest in his voice this time. "Uncle Arthur mentioned a dance studio...?"
Rome smiled slightly to himself, "Yeah, it's a pretty awesome one too. I've always wanted to learn to dance. Used to watch Swan Lake when I was a kid and pretend I was a prima ballarina." He trailed off and shook his head, "Anyway, I'll show you where it is. Do you dance?"
"Ballet," Gabriel said, that one word actually warm on his lips. His expression even softened for the half-second it took to utter it. "Bit of everything else, but ballet has been my focus for the past... eight years."
"Oh, that's wonderful. Could... Could I watch you some time? I still love to just *see* ballet." Rome looked over at him, hopefully.
Gabriel shrugged, tucking his hands in his pockets. "I suppose. As long as you don't distract me."
Rome bounced and smiled happily, "Quiet as a mouse, I promise!" He thought for a second, "Do you do any crafts? Like knitting or anything?"
The bouncing earned Roman another disdainful look. "No."
"If you like, I could teach you to crochet or cook or something?"
Gabriel just raised his eyebrow further. "No."
Rome drew back, smile fading, "Oh.. Ok then. I just thought..."
"No," Gabriel repeated, looking away from Roman and forward down the path.
Rome wrapped his arms around himself and led him to each of his classrooms. After detouring to show him the common rooms and cafeteria, he headed to the dance studio. He stopped outside the door, "This is the one you've been waiting for."
Gabriel had looked bored for the entire tour, glancing around each new room with only the minimal interest. The dance studio, however, he went to willingly, pushing the door open and stepping inside. He toed his shoes off before moving into the room properly, moving slowly, testing the floor beneath his feet and turning to look at his reflection in the mirrors. After a moment, he glanced back at Roman and he did smile (almost a smirk) before lifting his arms and racing into the room, performing a series of jumps, dancing a wide circle around the studio before coming to a stop in front of Roman again. He straightened up and straightened his jacket (probably should have stretched first, but he had felt the urge to show off). "This will do nicely," he said. calmly, brushing his hair out of his face.
Rome watched with wide eyes as Gabriel danced around the room. He smiled at the happiness he could see in the other boy, "Glad it meets your approval."
Gabriel gave a curt nod at Roman, sharing clearly over, as he walked back to pull his shoes on again.
Rome cast around for something to say finally settling on, "If you like, I'll go back to the room for a while. Let you have some time alone here? When you're done you can head back up and we'll wait for your uncle to call?"
Gabriel gave another short nod. Time alone right now sounded perfect.
Rome turned to walk out of the studio, then paused at the door. He turned back around and smiled slightly, "I really am glad that we're roommates."
Gabriel glanced Roman's way, tilting his head to let his hair fall in front of his eyes, frowning a little. He still remained silent, refusing to pass judgment until they had actually roomed together.
Rome's smiled faded and he nodded, seemingly to himself. He turned and quickly walked out, uncomfortably tugging on the clothes he wore.