|Gabriel Bautista (xochipilli) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-09-10 20:25:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, xochipilli|
is it all in my head?
Who: Gabe & Rafe, with an Abel interlude.
What: Gabe tries to explain/apologize to Rafe, Abel makes things difficult (as he do).
Where: Pax letale elevator, then Rafe's apartment
When: Backdated to midday Saturday, Sept. 2.
Gabe filed through what little physical mail he had, tossing an advertisement for other apartment complexes and a huge spread of coupons waiting to be clipped for a local supermarket. His mind was not wholly on his task, and soon he was fishing a manila envelope that likely had a copy of a contract for another screenplay out of the garbage can.
It had been two weeks since Rafe's disastrous dinner party; two weeks since he'd pried details out of Eshan that had ended their relationship. He realized now how starkly in the wrong he'd been to put both Rafe and Eshan through all of that—his own emotional failings preventing him from fully committing to either. But hearing about how Eshan had told Rafe of all people to back off had finalized his decision to break it off between them, a decision he'd known was a long time coming. Distance, as ever, always made things easier on him when he rarely had to give much attention toward the object of his affections.
Except now there was little it seemed he could do to repair the distance wrought by his misunderstanding of the situation, now that Rafe was apparently taking Eshan's words to heart. He was avoiding texts and calls, doing everything he could to avoid Gabe; a feat in itself, now that they lived on the same floor.
So it went without saying that he was more than a little surprised to find Rafe waiting in the elevator lobby as he made his way out of the mail room. He paused, hesitating, a glance at Stephan noting the concierge's glee to see this awkward scenario unfold in front of him like it was being presented on a stage. Clearing his throat, Gabe let his footfall announce himself, allowing Rafe some small choice in whether he decided to stay or leave the situation before he was locked into it.
Rafe grew noticeably tense. Even those small sounds were enough for him to recognize who stood behind him; worse, he felt another pair of eyes on them, greedy for the inevitable Schadenfreude. He toyed with the cloth shopping bag that weighed down one arm, needlessly resituating it. White lines slashed tanned skin where the fabric straps had rested.
"Hey." Realizing his voice had been both scratchy and soft, Rafael followed up the greeting with a small, quick nod. His adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed too hard. His dark eyes flicked to Gabe's face, reading his expression in the brief moment he allowed himself. Then he pressed the elevator call button again, and shuffled a step closer to the doors.
"Hi." Gabe let them lapse back into silence, his hands playing with his mail for want of something to do, before taking one small, encroaching step forward in Rafe's direction. His voice, when it spoke, was low, a brief attempt to keep this would-be conversation private.
"Can we talk? Please? I want to apologize for what happened. If you have questions, or if you want to yell at me..." He trailed off, not sure what would merit forgiveness in Rafe's mind.
"Why would I yell at you?" Rafael turned to better face him. He caught a glimpse of Stephan from the corner of his eye, still watching, still smiling in his enigmatic way. He lowered his voice. "I'm not going to yell at you. I'm sorry I haven't answered you lately, I just, work got a little busy, I had this convention and then a weekend trip for a photo shoot…"
"OK, OK," Gabe said, letting Rafe have his excuses. He had no idea how true they were, if they were at all; one hand clutched at his mail, falling to his side as his gaze met Rafe's.
"I just... I'm sorry for how things went. I know what Eshan said to you, and I can't believe he had the audacity—"
Rafael opened his mouth to interrupt. Just then, the elevator doors opened wide, and Gabe stepped forward to press a hand to the doorway, inviting Rafe to enter first. "I had no idea that he would do that, and if I had, I wouldn't have brought him along—"
"No, I'm glad you did." Rafe lingered in the foyer for a moment. Then he moved into the elevator, just as hesitant as before, and pressed himself flush to the back of the car. He set the cloth bag on the floor beside him. He drew a deep breath, exhaling on a sigh. "Don't be mad at him. He's right. I was inconsiderate. I want to stay friends, but I should've thought about how it would make your boyfriend feel." He stumbled over that word as though it choked him; even that was unfair of him, a small manipulation he did not mean to perform, and he chided himself for it.
"Anjo, don't," Gabe started, stepping into the elevator. He very nearly closed the space between them, mail passing from one hand to the other as he tried to reach out for Rafe's shoulder. It stopped halfway, dropping to his side as he carefully moved back to his own side of the elevator, giving the other man space.
"It wasn't your fault, it was mine. You know... You know how... I guess indifferent is one word for it, and I swear I've tried to be better, but I've just..." He didn't know how to adequately summarize been more careful since you without making it sound like he was trying to be overly sympathetic, or lay the blame at Rafe's door. The elevator started to close up, swallowing them into an awkward companionship to their shared floor; Gabe welcomed the fact that they'd be forced to interact, hoping he'd be able to explain himself.
Unfortunately, they were not going to be allowed to be alone. Just before the doors closed completely, a hand thrust through the small space between, parting the doors again. Abel smirked as he glanced between the two men already inside the elevator car.
"Room for one more?" Without waiting for a reply, he stepped inside, hitting the fifth floor button as he did so. Then his gaze fell on Rafe, the smirk growing somehow more malicious. "Hello again, Rafael. I don't think I've seen you since you moved."
Rafe had no verbal response, but none was truly required. He said enough with the slight shrinking of his body against the wall, the subtle motion—not even a full step—closer to Gabriel's side. He picked up the cloth bag again, plainly ready to bolt the moment the doors opened again, no matter the floor. His jaw worked, but he seemed to be doing little more than chewing his own tongue.
He shifted again, turning one shoulder toward Abel, the closest he could manage to turning his back on the man. "You really don't have to apologize," he said, almost whispering now. "You're both welcome again, you know. I don't have any cake left, but I was wanting to try this new pastry recipe…"
Tension in the elevator car thickened the moment the other man stepped into it; Gabe didn't recognize him, but Rafe clearly did, and Gabe did not like the reaction he was seeing. His free hand instantly reached out to cup Rafe's elbow, offering what little comfort he could. At least this other man was getting off before they were...
But it was also clear that Abel wasn't content to let sleeping dogs lie. He leaned back against the entryway itself, arms coming up to cross lightly over his chest.
"Eighth floor, right? I should ask Stephan which number. Then again, I'm sure it'd be easy enough to figure out; you let me in so easy the last time." Gabe's eyes went from Rafe's face to the other man's, doing his best to calm himself even as his grip on Rafe's elbow unconsciously tightened.
Though Rafe did not turn around, he could feel Abel's eyes on him. His face flushed hot, streaks of color darkening his sun-kissed cheeks. Shame shone plain on his face. He slid the bag farther up his shoulder, more to have something to do with his hands than out of any real need. Though he wanted to, he could not keep his eyes on Gabe. His gaze fell to the elevator's floor, as though simply ignoring the situation might make it dissipate. Inside the bag, glass jars clinked quietly together. He counted off the floors that passed and cursed the elevator for its abysmal slowness.
Abel was more than willing to fill the silence left by the other two men; Gabe's grasp on Rafe's arm did not go unnoticed.
"So quiet," he continued. "Know how to fix that, don't we?" He winked at Gabe, aggressive and taunting eye contact only heightening Gabe's furor. "This one's a little screamer, if you know how to press his buttons just right. 'Course, figuring that out isn't hard; it's splayed out all over the internet for anyone to see."
"We'd appreciate it if you shut up," Gabe finally said, his voice curt and clipped. Abel had the gumption to look surprised.
"We'd? Maybe you, but Rafe still hasn't spoken up. Maybe he's into this kind of thing; I mean, he was into some weird as fuck shit back when the building decided to morph itself into seven versions of a bio—" Gabe missed whatever was coming next as a hollow sound filled his ears. His mind went back to that week with ease; Rafe turned black and blue, making excuses for what had happened. Gabe remembered how even touching the other man had made him wince. Before he completely knew what he was doing, he'd stepped across the elevator and hit Abel full in the face, making the other man rock back against the elevator doors.
"I said, shut up."
Abel's eyes went wide for a moment, but it seemed he'd been trying to coax such a reaction out of either man; a mad little grin curled his lips as he lunged forward, hands wrapping around Gabe's throat as he thrust the slightly shorter man back against the elevator wall next to where Rafe was standing. Rafael let slip an animal cry.
The cloth bag fell; the jars inside cracked and broke, spilling red liquid out onto the elevator's floor. Rafe wrapped his hands around Abel's, futilely tugging to get them away from Gabriel's neck. A stream of curses fell from his lips, interspersed with pleas and anger in his native tongue. Short nails bit into skin, opening shallow wounds but accomplishing little else.
"Abel, leave him alone," Rafael said, his hands still clawed around Abel's strong hands. Desperate, he looked around the elevator for some sign of the cameras he was sure would be there. He found none, but bluffed anyway. "There are cameras here, OK? Stephan's going to see this and call the fucking cops. Stop."
His pleas fell on deaf ears; the most Abel did in reply was loose an arm to shove Rafe back, pushing him the short distance to another far wall of the elevator car. Gabe was gasping for breath, his own hands clawing at Abel's grip; one hand moved down, faintly trying to hit the other man in the chest before moving back up to the grip that was slowly turning his face red, then purple. A crazed look was in Abel's eyes, eyes that didn't seem to see a man in front of him; he pulled back, lifting Gabe away from the wall for a moment, before shoving him back against it, striking the wall hard. Gabe gave a tiny, plaintive cry, his head jostled forward with the force of the blow.
Slowly, the elevator came to a stop on the fifth floor. The doors opened, a cheery ding announcing its arrival; the sound of Gabe's gasps echoed into the empty hall. Rafael was grateful for that minor blessing. The picture inside the elevator was not a pleasant one: Gabe turning macabre colors, Abel gone utterly feral, and Rafe with a jagged shard of tomato-covered glass in his hand. The elevator doors closed, the car starting to rise again to carry its passengers to the next floor.
"Put him down, Abel," Rafael snapped. Increasingly desperate and already knowing Abel would not comply, Rafael lunged. The makeshift blade unzipped a line of flesh across Abel's cheek; on the downward stroke, it did the same along his neck. As Rafe darted away he kicked one foot out, the heel of his flimsy flip-flops connecting between Abel's legs. Abel flinched back, his body curling in around his injured area, even after he'd already released Gabe following the slashes Rafe had delivered to his face. One hand that had gone to touch the cuts was immediately rerouted to his genitals, the absence of both around Gabe's throat allowing the other man to drop to his feet. Gabriel's hands came up, clutching at his throat as he coughed.
"Jesus Christ," he muttered, his voice strained, his face still not properly colored. He veered away from Abel, who was shrinking back into a diagonally opposing corner of the elevator car. "Rafe—" he started, reaching out for the man he'd named, trying to draw him away from the threat Abel presented. Once his fingertips brushed Rafe's shoulder, his eyes drifted up toward the floor numbers: six, seven…
The elevator doors opened and Rafael grabbed Gabe's arm. He pulled his friend from the car and ran down the hallway. The bag and its contents lay forgotten, smashed and spattered across the floor; the pair did not stop until they reached Rafe's apartment door. His hands shook as he pulled his keys from his pocket, jingling with an incongruously cheerful sound. The door opened, and Rafe nearly fell in through it, dragging Gabe behind. He slammed the door shut, breathing hard as he threw the lock and deadbolt.
"Are you OK?" He wheeled to face Gabe, his brow furrowed, his face fearful. He pulled his cell phone from another pocket. "Do you need an ambulance or something? There used to be a nurse here, fuck..."
The target of his worry nodded, then shook his head, rolling his shoulders; whether he was making a reply or merely trying to regain control of his throat was unclear. A hand remained near his collar, fingers lightly cupping the still-tender flesh of his throat. Imprints of fingers could be seen in his skin, an angry red like welts delivered from a whip. Gabe finally nodded again, stumbling through Rafe's abode toward somewhere he could sit, coughing. He belatedly realized that his glasses were gone, probably still in the elevator car with his attacker.
"I'm.... I think I'll be OK." He sat, leaning back, stretching his neck tentatively until a sudden stab of pain caused him to wince. Even as he did so, he fixed a wary gaze on Rafe. "Anjo," he started, his voice an octave lower than it should have been, scratched and thready, "was that the one, the man who...who raped you?"
Rafael froze, like an animal struck and still trying to remain unnoticed. "What? No. No." He shook his head too vigorously, tousled hair falling over his dark eyes. His hand slipped into his pocket, but there was no plastic bag there to provide even the promise of comfort. He moved through the living room, tossing his cell phone down to the coffee table as he passed. He did not speak again until he was hidden away in the kitchen, noisily rummaging through the freezer.
"That was… I told you, Gabe, that was a… misunderstanding. I asked him in, you know? It's OK. Are you OK?" He padded out into the living room, a small cloth bag filled with rice in his hand. He passed the little chilled bag to his friend. "Here. It'll help the swelling." He peered at the wound, his pulse racing anew at the sight of those horrible marks.
Fingers brushed Rafe's hand as Gabe took the proffered treatment, but his gaze was unwavering.
"It's not OK," he rasped harshly, both the action of speaking and the words themselves causing him visible pain. "It's not—" He stopped, swallowing, his eyes closing with the movement. He reached out and tugged Rafe to sitting next to him on the couch, his grip insistent and yet loose if Rafe decided he truly wished to preserve the distance between them.
"It's not your fault. That's what... I was saying. With Eshan." Gabe swallowed heavily, keeping a level eyelock with Rafe. "You didn't do anything. I did. I'm still in love with you, and I... didn't even realize it." He stopped, swallowing again, more words filling the dam that had been erected just behind his tongue.
Rafael, by contrast, could not find any words at all. His lips parted, his face flushed, and his thoughts raced, bouncing from one revelation to another. His heart thudded in his chest. He was grateful for this last, perfect thing, this profession of love that so easily swept aside any further discussion of his past assault. But he had no idea how to respond to it, left reeling and stunned to silence with one knee pressed close to Gabe's.
Rafael swallowed around the lump suddenly risen in his throat. His lips felt dry; he wet them with a flick of his tongue. When words finally did come, they spilled over one another, each sentence a tangle leading into the next.
"I love you, too, gatinho," he said. "I'm so sorry I dragged you into all this. I'm sorry I fucked everything up. I'm sorry about Abel, and Eshan, and dumping so much on you, and just..."
Gabe made shushing sounds, the arm of the hand not pressing the rice bag to his throat wending its way around Rafe's shoulders.
"You didn't drag me into anything I didn't agree to," he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. "None...of this...is your fault. You didn't....fuck anything...up... I should've...realized." He swallowed again, putting the rice bag down on the coffee table before them to instead pull Rafe more firmly into his embrace. As he did, he sighed like a weight had come off of his shoulders. Then he gently pushed Rafe back so he could look in his face, his own still slightly red, bags under his eyes more defined than before.
"Alice told me...you still had feelings. For me. I thought... I was just making things up. In my head. I should've seen...it sooner. Instead of...trying to force...you and Eshan to be friends.
"I'm not asking for anything... I know... you're with Robbie... I just had to say...something." He paused, swallowing, deep breaths running in and out of his lungs. He felt like he had better control over the pain; not suppressing it, but instead diffusing it. "I care about you, anjo. More than I should, probably, since we're not together, but I want to help you." One of his hands passed over Rafe's shoulder, climbing his neck to cup the side of his very familiar face.
Rafael leaned gladly into that touch, but already he was shaking his head. "You can't help me," he said. He bit down on his tongue, regretting the words the moment they were free. "I just mean everything… I have to fix everything. For myself. I know nobody else can. Robbie…" He laughed, a hollow and unhappy sound. "I like Robbie. He's a good person. But he knew at that stupid dinner party…" He pulled a hand through his mussed hair. "He knew. He knows. He'll understand."
His hand rose to Gabe's cheek, brushing the thick beard that hid the boyish face he had once known better than his own. He studied his former lover's eyes, desperate to read the truth there. "Gabe… you're not… this isn't a pity thing, is it?"
"No!" Concerned brows drew together over Gabe's brown eyes, the word a touch louder than he truly wanted to handle in that moment, making him wince. The hand on Rafe's face stroked a thumb over his cheekbone before falling away. "God, no. I just want you to be happy." His voice lowered, the softer sound passing more easily through his wounded throat. Rafael frowned at Gabe's evident pain, but let him continue uninterrupted. "I'm not going to white knight you, anjo. I just... I want you to have the support you need, the help you want when you need it. Yes, you need so much more help than I can give, than any one person can give. But I want to help."
He went quiet for a moment, his face warming as his eyes drew over the outline of Rafe's face. Without realizing, he was smiling. "You work so hard to make everyone else happy, at your own expense. I want to be the one to make you happy, whatever form that takes. I made a mistake, all those years ago, I know I did, and now I have another chance and I... I'm not gonna let that slip away. I'm not gonna let you slip away, meu amorzinho."
Whatever reservations Rafe might have entertained, whatever wall he wanted to keep standing between reality and hope, crumbled utterly at that. He reached for Gabriel's fallen hand, clutching too tightly at it. His smile was a weak reflection of Gabe's; he felt it waver even now, felt himself overwhelmed by all that had happened in so short a span. He leaned into his friend's shoulder, resting in the place he knew he most belonged.
"I'm sorry for how all that happened," he whispered. Color burned on his cheeks again, warm against the crook of Gabe's wounded throat. "We both handled it… like kids. That's all." His fingers laced with Gabriel's, hungry for a touch he had gone without for far too long. His thumb traced warm, tanned skin. He laughed again, a small, ragged bark of a thing. "I'm even more a mess now than I was then," he said. "Are you sure you want to deal with that?"
Gabe made a hushing sound, turning his head so his lips found Rafe's forehead. Despite the pain in his throat and the bruising he knew would more than likely soon appear, he felt calm and whole.
"I'll deal with whatever you dish out, anjo," he replied, his jaw working pressed against the side of Rafe's head. "It'll be worth it." His arm came up around Rafe's shoulders; he swallowed, the movement reminding him of his injury. He ignored it, in favor of other things.
"Alice told me. About the drugs," he said, tepidly, wondering if everything he'd said up until then would be washed away by that statement. "Are you still using?"
Again Rafael froze, going tense against Gabe's form. The heat that deepened on his cheek was answer enough. He was not angry with Alice; he knew now he should have expected this turn of events, and that someday, when he was less stung by her well-intentioned betrayal of his trust, he would thank her for it. For the moment, though, it left him ashamed, and even more laid bare than he had been before. "Less," he said, his voice small. It broke when he started again. "I'm… it's hard, Gabe. But I'm trying. I promise. She… I'm going to therapy, like I told her I would, and I'm going to stick with it." He shook his head. His shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry."
"Shhhh," was Gabe's only reply as his embrace tightened around Rafe, gently rocking him back and forth. "No, that's good. I'm so glad you're seeing, talking to someone. That's really good." The fact that Rafe hadn't completely sworn off substance abuse still sent a cold lance through his form, but the man's answer had been more than Gabe had expected following Rafe being caught by Alice. He'd have to thank the redhead for her good influence.
"I want you to keep going. And I'll do whatever helps, anjo, so you feel like yourself. Even if I have to try and break more noses doing it," he teased gently, pulling his head back enough to glance down at Rafe's face. He'd had enough of confessions in that moment; it seemed that most of their skeletons were laid bare. What more there were could be surfaced in time. "What did you have in the bag? Ah," he started, diverted for a moment with another cough. "I'll replace it. It was my fault it was broken in the first place. I shouldn't have let him get under my skin." Even as he said so, hands unconsciously tightened on Rafe's form possessively; if he had the opportunity to hit Abel again, he certainly wouldn't pass it up.
Rafe shook his head. He turned slightly in Gabe's arms, looking up to his downturned face. "Just stay away from him, Gabe, please. He's… he's dangerous. I know that sounds stupid, but really… just avoid him if you can. The next time he sees you he'll try to goad you again. He's good at that. So please, just… avoid him. Ignore him."
He reached up, stroking his hand over Gabriel's jaw. A small smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. "Your glasses," he said. "I should replace those. I'll call Stephan and ask him to check the elevator. Maybe they're still in there..."
Gabe laughed, shaking his head; he pushed a little harder against the light touch of Rafe's palm. "I've got another pair across the hallway. I don't even really need them, just...more for reading. It's just part of the look now; people buy more books from people who look bookish." His gaze moved over Rafe's eyes, nose, mouth, seeing both their familiarity and the differences from when they'd been younger. Lips mirrored Rafe's, matching that small smile that attempted to break the surface. "I have a better idea of something you can replace, anyway," he said, feeling corny even as he did. But then he was leaning forward, bringing his mouth to Rafe's, catching it in a soft kiss that deepened quickly.
That small motion cut short Rafael's rising laugh, and caught his breath right along with it. His hand fitted tight to the line of Gabe's jaw, pulling him closer, into his hungry embrace. His tongue pushed over Gabe's, reclaiming what he had lost years ago. Relief overwhelmed him, a flood so strong he might have wept for it. Instead he pressed deeper, pulled Gabe closer, one hand clasped tight at Gabriel's nape, the other clutching at the broad line of his shoulder.
"I love you," he said, when he broke their kiss to draw a single, ragged breath. Then he kissed Gabe again, finding all the response he wanted in that renewed touch. Gabe pressed back in return, his own hands rising to grasp Rafe's shoulders, smooth down his biceps. He tried to turn his head to the side, slightly, and was rewarded with a sharp pang reminding him of his earlier bruising.
He pulled back, gasping partly from his neck and partly simply from the kiss itself, upset to be ending this so quickly, but smiling still because it had been and would be again. After all, Rafe lived just across the hall now, instead of in his memory.
"I love you too, anjo." His hands grasped at Rafe's elbows, his arms, every piece he could now touch without feeling the sharp smack of guilt. "And I really hate to cut this short, but I think I should see a doctor, just to be safe. I'd really like it if you could maybe drive me to the hospital, but if I should call a cab or something instead..."
Already shaking his head, Rafael untangled himself from Gabe's grasp. "No, of course not. I'm sorry, I should've…" He rose from the couch, finding his keys alongside the cell phone on the coffee table. He scooped up both, then returned to the couch for the now lukewarm bag. "I have another one in the freezer," he explained, then disappeared, bag in hand, to the kitchen. He returned with a fresh cold pack, handing it off to his friend who had risen from the couch in his absence. The renewed visibility of Gabe's injury lessened Rafe's smile somewhat.
"We can file a police report there if you want," he said. "They'll probably ask what happened, and we have the video. It's up to you."
Gabe nodded. "I certainly plan to. But it's something we can handle after the fact; a hospital report will help give anything I say to the police weight." Not like my bruises wouldn't, he added. He also declined to add that if Rafe wouldn't say anything about Abel, he was definitely going to file a report that he hoped put the scumbag behind bars and far, far away from ever hurting Rafe again.
He let Rafe lead him out of the familiar apartment, eventually catching hold of the other man's hand as they made their way into the hall. Pausing at the elevator, Gabe tugged on Rafe's hand to pull him close again, their time spent waiting better used toward other pursuits they'd been stuck on pause with for too long. Somehow, Rafe tasted just like he remembered—salt and sand and an actual taste for the word sunkissed if it were thrown in a blender with ice and citrus—so much so that they nearly missed the elevator as it began to close upon waiting too long.