but for now let's get away Who: Gabe & Rafe. What: A beach day, well after the Halloween shenanigans. Where: Pax Letale beachfront property. When: Nov. 15.
Gabe wetted his lips as he leaned back into the folding chair, the towel beneath him stopping his skin from sticking to the plastic even in the November California heatwave; his right arm was in a sling over his bare chest, the rest of him clad only in swim trunks. Eyes closed underneath his sunglasses, his nose twitched and he raised his left hand to scratch at it after remembering that he could not move the right without a brief wave of pain coming over him. Part of him wondered at the pain medication he should have taken more of (or perhaps, at Rafe's suggestion, brought with), but he frowned at the idea. He was fine. He was going to be fine. Opening his eyes, he glanced at the other chair beside his, set up with a towel but empty of its occupant. Rafe's surfboard was leaning against it, his better half gone to get them both some drinks.
The only thing missing from the scene was Spot; Gabe had tried to lure the older beast down to the beach with them, but the dog had seemed tired and, with his arm as it was, Gabe was persuaded to let the dog lie where he wanted to. He double checked the dog's water dish, given him a few more scratches, and then headed down to the out of doors. He leaned back against his chair, closing his eyes again; it had been a good idea, in the end, to get out. He was going a little mad, being unable to do much more than stare at his typewriter. Gabe frowned, the look pressed so hard into his face it seemed like he was mad at the sun itself for shining.
"Your face is going to stick that way." There was a quiet laugh in Rafe's voice and a smile on his face as he rounded Gabe's chair. Gabe opened his eyes, this time making a face more for Rafe's amusement than his disapproval. In Rafe's hands were two massively oversized Caipirinhas, lids carefully affixed to the tops of the plastic cups. A tall bottle of water was pinned under his bare arm, held close against his ribs. He held one cup out to Gabriel, who immediately leaned up to a sitting position to take it. "To be fair, I think I'd still like it like that."
"Oh, hush," Gabe teased back, his cheeks blooming pink for a moment until he took a long sip of the cold drink.
Carefully Rafe took a seat on the other chair, watching his surfboard as he did to be sure he didn't displace it. It stayed firmly where it was, due in part to the pleasantly rough material of the beach blanket draped over the chair itself. Rafe rolled his shoulders as he settled back against towel and chair. Dark Ray-Bans covered his eyes, concealing his too-wide pupils.
"How's your arm, gato? Should I have brought some painkillers?"
Gabe settled his glass on the small table just behind their chairs, and shook his head. "It's fine, I'll survive." Seated to Rafe's right, he reached over with his left to seek out the other man's arm, fingers treading down dark skin to his hand. "I think I might invest in one of those chipsets or something for disabled people. Then I'd be able to just think type onto a computer. I'd get so much done, anjo, it would be amazing." He wound fingers through Rafe's, feeling more at peace with the other man's presence.
"That, or a wheelbarrow for Spot. I hope he doesn't pee on the floor while we're gone."
"If he does I'll clean it up," Rafe said, squeezing Gabe's hands. He brought the thin straw to his lips, sucking down a generous sip of the cocktail. "You know, I'm not sure you'd actually like one of those. The chipsets, I mean. It seems so…" He sipped again. Shrugged. "Impersonal. Not real. Not the way touching a key is. Like digital cameras versus real film, only… I don't know. Even worse, I think."
He seemed to slowly become aware of his rambling, and set to work distracting them both from it. The pad of his thumb brushed light over Gabe's skin, tracing a pattern there over and over again. "We shouldn't talk about work today. It's too nice out for that. Let's talk about something else. Have you thought about what you'd like for Christmas? It'll be here before we know it."
Gabe flashed a smile in Rafe's direction. "I have everything I want for Christmas," he quipped. He rested his head back on the lounge chair, still facing his boyfriend.
"I don't need anything, anjo. Really; maybe just a nice dinner, and to spend some time with you. We've both been through enough that I think we deserve the break." He squeezed Rafael's hand. "Is there something you want? Trying to direct the conversation a little, huh?"
Rafe chuckled, shaking his head against his own chair's high back. "Not at all. What could I possibly want?" he asked. "I'll cook for you. Anything you want. We could stay in and watch a movie, let Spot have some rest as well… that would be a perfect Christmas to me." He smiled over at Gabe. "And if you have a deadline or something, I'll be very quiet and let you work. You'll hardly know I'm there."
"I doubt that'll be a problem," Gabe said, glancing down at his semi-useless arm. He frowned, but then forced his attention back toward Rafael. "My publishers extended the deadline. If George RR Martin can do it, so can I, right? Not that I'm, you know, quite as well read as him..." He shrugged, the motion eking out a small whimper of pain as he moved his still-healing shoulder.
"I think I'll be more of a pain for you, anjo, but I'm not going to let you fuss over me just because I stupidly dislocated my shoulder." How stupidly qualified into his remark befuddled even him, but the events of Halloween were still something Gabriel was wrapping his head around. It seemed like a waking dream, almost, even when he could still somewhat feel Xochipilli moving around in the back of his head. Thankfully, in that moment, the god was too pleased with merely being outside under the sun to complain.
"Really, though, I just... A quiet December. That's all. No presents. A tree, though, maybe," he started, his mouth curling thoughtfully. "Do you think there's a delivery service for something like that?"
Rafael wrinkled his nose, the motion pushing his glasses briefly upward. "I can take care of it," he insisted. "We can go together. You pick it out, I'll get it in the Jeep. Or on it. That might work better…"
He trailed off and settled back in his chair, raising his straw up to his lips. "Stupidly" had stung him more than it had any right to; after all, he had not truly been the one to let Xochipilli go, to fail so utterly in helping him out of that frightening pit. And yet it felt like his fault, yet another responsibility he was not up to facing. He forced a smile to his face and grasped at something, anything, pleasant to say.
"I like fussing over you," Rafe decided. "And you need to take it easy. Doctor's orders. So you can come with me to pick out a tree if you want, or I can just text you pictures until I find the one you like. Simple as that."
Gabe grinned even as he shook his head. "It's not just the tree, anjo, it's getting to do it with you. Silly couples' things, liking picking out a tree together, decorating for the holidays, you know... Being around the ones you love." His grin shrank down to a happy smile, his eyes trailing all over Rafe's face from behind his sunglasses. He released Rafe's hand for a moment, moving his hand up to tilt his glasses down so he didn't have the barrier over his vision; he squinted a little in the light. "It's been awhile since we spent Christmas together. I just want to do stupid, normal things with you. And, you know, if you really want to fuss over me, you could..." He shrugged, wincing, ignoring it to instead brush fingers over Rafe's warm arm.
"You could totally move in. For a few days, I mean, nothing permanent. What we have right now is good, it's really good, just, we could have a sleepover for a little bit? You know there's plenty of room in my bed, and you could bring Mr. Fishy II with you." He trailed off, running out of silly support for his suggestion, eyes wide and hopeful that Rafael would find no fault in the prospect.
Rafe had always found that expression difficult to say no to. It felt no easier now, even with every fiber of his being straining against him. His stash had been replenished, his sleep fitful and infrequent, avoided altogether more often than not. The risk of Gabriel catching him at his worst vice was already real enough; he planned to do nothing that would increase that chance.
"I don't know, gatinho…" He withdrew from Gabe's touch, choosing instead to toy with the straw in his melting drink. He looked down into the glass as though it held the answers he so badly needed. "I, um. I don't want to rush things, you know? And with work, you know, I keep strange hours, and you need your rest.
"I'll come over for the tree, obviously. And we can bake cookies, and I'll make some mulled wine... " He looked up, smiling over at Gabriel, trying to soften this blow. "I love you, gato. I'm just… I'm not ready yet."
His partner was quick to nod, covering up the hurt he felt. "I know, I know, I wasn't... I swear I wasn't trying to rush things. Just that, I miss you, and... that's all." Gabe certainly didn't mind the separate apartments; he knew it was the healthier choice for them and their relationship. He turned the suggestion over in his mind, kicking himself for the way he had worded it. He turned, reaching for his drink, letting the alcohol soothe his slightly bruised ego.
"But you know you're always welcome," he started, immediately feeling bad for goading Rafe. "Is there anything else you want to do, for Christmas? Traditions, events... I want this to be something we do together, anjo."
It was Rafe's turn to nod, glad to have something to latch onto that did not feel so dangerous. His smile, when he turned it once more to Gabriel, was sincere. "I do, too," he said. "There's no-one I'd rather spend that time with, I swear." He grinned, nipping suggestively at the end of his straw. "Make sure you hang some mistletoe, OK?"
He reached over to Gabe, tugging at him until he could take his hand again; Gabe eagerly returned the touch, reassured, his drink returned to the table behind him. "Have you ever had stollen? I could make some of those. I wonder if Alice would want one…"
Gabriel shook his head. "No, and I'm sure she would, even if she makes it herself. And to be honest, I'd be surprised if there's anything she hasn't made before, but you two could compare notes? But it's... It's like a fruitcake, right?"
His fingers wound around Rafael's, his thumb tracing a lazy figure eight on the back of the other man's hand. Rafe leaned into it, mirroring Gabriel's gestures without conscious thought.
"I think so," he said, "but not as… plastic? I use more nuts and dried fruit. Less… chewy. And I make it a little spicy, you know. I think you'll like it. Don't judge it by all the fruitcakes you've seen before." He chuckled. Squeezing Gabe's hand, he leaned back, letting his head loll against the chair. "And I'm getting you a Christmas gift, too, so you'd better think of at least a few things you might want. Don't say 'things for Spot,' either."
Gabriel's lips curled into a smile, his form loose against the chair as he lay connected to and staring at Rafe. His brows pulled together as an unvoiced thought worked its way across his expression.
"I just want you to be happy, with me, of course," he said, adding the second bit as a hurried afterthought. "But... you're happy, right, anjo? You'd tell me if something was wrong?" Old fears hovered in the back of his mind, wondering if there was anything else he was 'rushing'.
"Of course," Rafe lied, more smoothly than he liked. Guilt settled leaden in his chest, but he smiled in spite of it. His words came more quickly now, spilling over one another as he tried to prove how very happy and perfectly fine he was. "I love you, gato. And having you right across the hall…it's better than I ever could've hoped for. Really. I try not to be too much of a distraction from your work, but it's so good to have you close again. I didn't realize how much I'd missed you."
"I missed you, too," Gabe replied, his smile brightening a little. He squeezed Rafe's hand, staring at him a moment longer as though weighing a number of responses. Some decision reached, he squeezed Rafe's hand once more before letting their fingers simply lie entwined, and laid back on his chair, eyes closed while his head turned once more toward the sunlight.