tell me all the things I don't know Who: Nish and Jen [NPC] with Gabe and Rafe. What: Exes run into each other with their new beaus. Where: The Palm. When: Saturday, October 7th
"Thank you." Gabe accepted his credit card back with a smile, encased as it was inside the little black folder that all restaurants used to make paying for good food less crass. He flipped it open to sign the receipt, tucked his credit card into his wallet, and made his way toward the lobby of the establishment, having already agreed to meet Rafe there once his boyfriend was finished in the bathroom.
The two were on their way to a small event he'd been invited to; a friend of a friend was having a red carpet at the ArcLight, and Gabe was treating both himself and Rafe to a nice dinner before heading over for the festivities. It wasn't a black tie affair, but he was casually dressed up all the same; Rafe was matching, having a closet that far surpassed what Gabe kept in stock for events like this.
As he removed himself to the lobby to wait, Gabe pulled his phone out of his pocket to leaf through some work emails as he recognized a blond woman he was certain he'd seen before. She looked like she was waiting, and Gabe was never one to be shy.
"Excuse me," he said, after crossing the short space that separated them in the small lobby area. "It's Jen, right? We met at the L.A. Pride March?"
Jen looked up at him and smiled widely, “yeah,” she said, glad he'd reminded her where she'd seen him before. “Right...Nish’s neighbour. Gabe? How’re you doing? I'm just waiting for her; we have a reservation.” She glanced at the door as she said this, but there was still no sign of her.
Gabe returned her smile, nodding. "On the nose, and I'm doing very well, thanks. We're actually just wrapping up; waiting for my date to come back from the bathroom. Are you guys celebrating anything? Or is it just a date night?"
She grinned and checked her watch. “Ahh, we're going to see a movie,” she said, sounding slightly less than enthusiastic. After a beat she explained, “she wants to see It, but I'm not much of a Stephen King fan. I wanted to see a nice safe comedy,” she laughed, flipping her hair behind her shoulder nervously.
"Oh man," Gabe chuckled, one hand reaching out to gently brush Jen's arm. He retracted it just as swiftly, the gesture merely meant to be comforting. "Well, horror movies are also great for basically a free pass on cuddling in public? I'm on your team about all of that, though. Science fiction horror, I can handle, but yeah, clowns? No thank you." His grin was wide and easy, and he reached up to push his glasses back on the bridge of his nose.
"We're actually on our way to a movie ourselves, sort of; friend of mine finished his indie picture, and we got an invite to the premiere. It's really not as big of a deal as it sounds—"
"He downplays everything," Rafael interjected. He smiled, fetching up close alongside Gabe. Without looking he reached down, lacing his fingers through Gabriel's own. "These things are always exciting. You never know who you'll see at them. I still keep hoping to bump into Helen Mirren at one. I have no idea what I'd say, but still."
Jen’s eyes shifted to Rafe, and it took her a moment to place him. Recognition dawned on her face then, and she gave him a smile that was only slightly hesitant. “Wow, that would be awesome,” she said, “though I think I’d be a little more tongue tied if I met Judi Dench, but that’s my mom’s fault,” she chuckled.
"Kristen Wiig was in this, but I'm not entirely sure if she'll be there," Gabe offered, glancing at Rafe with a smile as he tightened his fingers around the other man's. Just as quickly, though, he turned his attention back to Jen.
"Jen, this is my better half, Rafe; not sure if you two have met? And Rafe, this is Jen, she's Nish's girlfriend." Just as the words came out of his mouth, he felt a touch awkward, wondering if he'd brought the conversation into sticky territory.
"Jen, it's a pleasure," Rafael said. The words came easily, sincere as they were; he caught himself glancing around the restaurant in search of his ex. His smile never wavered, though a hint of anxiety eked into his expression. "How, uh, how are you two doing?"
“Great,” she said happily, “I'm just waiting for...ohh here she comes…” she said as Nish finally breezed through the front door. And then hesitated just a little before heading over to join them.
“Hey, sorry I'm late,” she greeted, leaning in to press a light kiss on Jen's cheek. “Gabe...I didn't know you knew Rafe,” she said with a smile, turning to Rafe with a nod, “I guess you guys are neighbours now.” Her eyes chose that moment to drift down, to their very obviously joined hands, and understanding dawned. Her shock was only slightly mitigated on her features with a forced smile.
"Uh, yeah," Gabe returned, though made no move to release Rafe's hand. "We were just having dinner here, and I ran into Jen in the lobby. Obviously," he chuckled, rolling back on one foot. "But, yeah, living on the same floor has its perks, doesn't it, anjo?" Gabe spared a glance in Rafe's direction, his smile bleedingly warm as his eyes landed on the other man.
"Absolutely." Rafe was all but grinning, his grip on Gabe's hand still tight. "Gabe and I met years ago. It's been nice to have an old friend around. I'm glad you three had already met! I was at the march but I kind of stuck with coworkers…" He trailed off, unsure just how much Jen knew of his work and unwilling to share in any great detail in such a public place. "Anyway, it's good to see you both. Small world, huh?"
“Yeah,” Nish said quietly, and this time the smile didn’t sit right on her lips. She turned to Jen with a meaningful look, which the other woman seemed to understand right away. She nodded, and Nish squeezed her hand and let go. “Uhhm Gabe, do you mind if I borrow Rafe for a second?” she asked, this smile a little more genuine.
Brief surprise flashed over Gabe's face, and he glanced down to a silver watch around his wrist.
"Uh, yeah, it should be OK; we've still got some time before we have to be at the venue," he replied, glancing at Rafe to ensure he was OK with this turn of events. Nothing in his face showed otherwise; he seemed far too pleased with the evening in general to make any big ordeal of this now.
Rafe nodded, and gave Gabe's hand another tight squeeze before drifting away. He arched a brow as he looked to Nish. "Parking lot?" he asked. "I could use a smoke." He set off without waiting for her answer, waving behind him for her to follow. He held the door open for Nish, letting her slip outside first. His hand dipped into the inner pocket of his coat, withdrawing a lighter and a crisp packet of cigarettes.
"Jen seems nice."
Nish smiled and walked next to him, crossing her arms as he lit up. “Yeah, she’s...just what I needed,” she said, glancing back at the door where she could see Gabe and Jen chatting. She looked back at Rafe, meeting his eyes. “Gabe, huhh? Didn’t see that coming,” she admitted, but there was no judgement in her voice, more surprise. “He’s a good guy; I’m happy for you.” She said the words, but her smile still didn’t reach her eyes.
Rafe's, on the other hand, was bright enough for both of them. He nodded, and exhaled a thin jet of smoke. "Thank you. He's…" He shook his head, finding what he felt too difficult to properly put to words. "Like I said, I knew him a long time ago. I never thought…" He shrugged. Still at a loss, he filled the silence with another long drag. Only after that was he able to collect himself, to find something to say that wouldn't seem crass or self-congratulatory. "I'm, uh, I'm getting clean, too. Meetings and all that. I thought… maybe you'd want to know that."
This time her smile was far more genuine. “That’s...wow, that’s great,” she said, a sense of relief dissipating some of the tension in the air. “You look like you’re doing a lot better.” Rafe smiled, nodding. She hesitated, glancing back to the door again and then stepping closer, biting her lip.
“I can hear him. In my head,” she said quietly, nervously. “I can’t talk to anyone else about this. I just...needed to tell someone.”
At once a deep crease marred Rafael's brow. He shook his head. "No, it's OK. You know you can tell me. What's… what's he saying? Is it about that note?"
She frowned, shook her head. “No, and it’s not all the time. He’s...well, he’s angry. At everyone, it seems. It’s like...he’s a caged animal lashing out at whatever’s closer, you know?” She winced, “it’s...really hard to listen to sometimes.”
He nodded. Though he did not understand, he could guess at how she felt.
“Rafe, I need you to...if I start acting…different, I need you to tell me. Slap me if you have to,” she added, forcing a smile. “I trust you.”
He twitched a smile that just as quickly turned into a frown; the cigarette perched at the corner of his mouth jumped in response. "You know I won't slap you," he said. "But I'll do what I can to get through to you. Even if I have to get some help." He nodded toward the restaurant's interior, where Gabe and Jen still kept up what appeared to be a pleasant, if slightly stilted, conversation. He reached out and patted her shoulder. "You're not in this alone. OK? Try to remember that, even when it's tough."
She smiled, following his gaze and nodding. “She doesn't know. I...wouldn't know how to even start. Does...Gabe know? About Freyr?” As she watched, Jen turned and caught her eye, and she nodded to her. Time’s up.
Rafael caught the gesture, and knew it for what it was. He ashed his cigarette, took one last drag, then dropped it to the ground, crushing it out with his heel. After a long, slow exhale he said, "He knows. He's… had dreams..."
Gabe was likewise waving to Rafe through the window; he turned to Jen and said something, then moved away from her out into the parking lot. He approached Nish and Rafe, one hand sliding inside a pocket.
"I hate to steal him away from you, but we should really get going. Jeremy's kind of on my ass about traffic," he said, looking to Rafe about the latter part. Rafe would know the true meaning of his words—that he was getting texts to not be late, as anyone who knew him well would have done—but it hardly mattered.
"You guys can always catch up back at Pax, right?"
Rafael nodded, giving Nish a soft smile as he moved closer to Gabe's side. He took Gabe's hand in his again, eager to regain that touch. "We'll talk soon," he told Nish. "Text me if you need anything, OK? Really."
Nish smiled and nodded to both of them, backing off when Gabe moved in. “Yeah,” she nodded, “and thanks. I should get inside,” she tilted her head to the door. One last meaningful look to Rafe and she turned, heading back inside.
“What was that about?” Jen asked, leaning in to give her hand a squeeze. “You two okay?” Nish squeezed her hand back, leaning in for a quick kiss.
“Yeah; let’s eat, I’m starving.” Without realizing it, she’d added a little push into those words, stopping any further questions about what she and Rafe had been talking about before they started. A slight twinge of guilt flared and died in her stomach. She’d never used her voice to control her before; she’d never needed to. But now, with Loki back, she realized things were changing. And what Jen didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her...right?