|Gabriel Bautista (xochipilli) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-12-05 20:52:00
|Entry tags:||hades, xochipilli|
see you at the crossroads
Who: Gabe & Obed.
What: Gabe takes his dog for a walk, and gets some advice.
Where: Pax letale lobby and then grounds.
When: Nov. 29
Elevator doors chimed as they opened, and Gabe had to half-drag Spot out from the car.
"Come on, old man, just once around the block, all right?" His voice was low, tired, his right arm all but strapped to his chest via his sling. Spot came to a heavy sit in the middle of the lobby, and refused to move further. Gabe sighed. Between his arm hurting, Spot being more insistent on being lazy lately, and now Rafe's peculiarities, he felt stretched thin. He crouched down by the elderly dog's side.
"I swear, there's a rawhide in it for you if you just walk." The hand holding the lead stretched out, passing over Spot's head and ears—the dog ducking its head, closing its eyes in pleasure at the caress—but the animal seemed unconvinced. Gabe's attention was so fixed on his pet that he missed the man at the mailboxes. This suited Obed, though only for a moment. Since the attack he had avoided interaction with others wherever possible. Isobel was trying her best to break him of that, and her efforts had met with no small success. Getting back into the habits of regular work—which now included, of course, regular meetings with the still-absent concierge—had also helped. But even now, faced with a friend who was clearly in need of some encouragement, it was hard to make his feet move in the correct direction.
With a sigh Obed closed the little door to his mailbox, locking it behind him. He slipped his keys into his pocket. The heels of his boots clicked sharply on the marble floor, echoing in the empty room.
"Would it help if I went up and got Hanni?" he asked. A smile briefly brightened his scarred face. "Maybe Spot just needs a workout buddy."
Gabe glanced up, his mouth already broadening into a smile at the familiar sound of Obed's voice, but he could not help the flinch that his face enacted the moment his eyes set on the other man's scars. He mentally chastised himself, rising to his feet; not to get away, but in some strange form of encouragement.
"That would be great, actually," he said, hoping his gaffe could be unnoticed. A sympathetic slant to his brow told the story of how he wasn't frightened of Obed, so much as he was worried—clearly Halloween had affected them all in ways they had yet to discover. "If you have the time. I don't know what it is, lately, but he's just been so...lethargic."
"I know the feeling," Obed said. "Getting old is hard, isn't it?" He reached down at petted the old dog, scratching behind his ear. "I'll be right back."
He straightened up, glancing away from Gabe in a vain attempt to hide his self-consciousness. He disappeared into the elevator without a backward glance. After a quick word to Isobel and a kiss to her pale, soft cheek, Obed departed with Hanni bundled in his arms, his slender black lead wrapped around Obed's wrist. Gabe's eyes landed on the dog as they re-appeared, unable to miss the black ring that was nearly highlighted by the man's white flesh.
Back in the lobby, Obed set Hanni down, and allowed the lead just enough slack to let the little dog dance around Spot's legs. "All right, all right. Let the old man get up on his own time…" But Hanni yipped and barked and stood on his hind legs, licking a greeting against Spot's muzzle.
Spot seemed to tolerate the attention well enough, though he still remained sitting. Gabe half expected the older dog to growl or voice some other complaint, but Spot was as patient as ever.
"It's definitely the most motivation outside of food that he's had in awhile," Gabe laughed, a little. He licked his lips, counting as he waited for Spot to be enticed to move, and he finally was—about a full minute after Hanni's arrival, the australian shepherd lurched to his feet and the group made a semi-wavering beeline toward the front door.
Gabe sucked in a deep breath once they were outside. Obed pulled his coat closer around him.
"Feels good, doesn't it? After everything. Not that... I didn't mean anything by that." Embarrassed, Gabe swapped hands with Spot's lead, gingerly tucking it into his right hand as he quickly passed his left over his face. "Sorry, things have just... We've all got a lot to deal with, more than we probably should, huh?"
Obed nodded. Hanni launched himself in front of them all, straining at the end of his leash, but Obed was unmoving; he wrapped the leash's end around his hand, reeling the little dog in. "We do," he agreed. "Everyone seems to be holding up… well. As well as can be expected." His scarred brow raised, skin drawing taut and strained around it. "How are you, Gabe? I heard we nearly lost you at the party." He nodded toward Gabe's sling. "I'm glad to see it's not as bad as I thought."
His walking partner chuckled, the sound low. The arm in a sling bounced a little with each step, but it wasn't enough movement to hurt—at least, it wasn't anything he couldn't deal with.
"I certainly wasn't expecting quicksand. But I guess after everything, we should come to term with expecting the unexpected, huh?" Spot carried on with a slow, lumbering gait; Gabe thought he seemed pained as well, but erred on the side of sheer stubbornness. He reminded himself that they needn't go far. "I'm told it'll be a couple of months for it to heal completely. Dislocated shoulder. Good thing my publishers were all right about extending deadlines..."
"Very good indeed," Obed said.
He shook his head, and changed the subject to happier things; Obed's scars weren't something that were going to go away. "It looks like you've been busy, though. Congratulations? I hope? I'm glad someone's relationship is faring well, amid all this insanity."
"Oh, thank you." Obed's smile flashed again. He glanced down at the ring, turning his hand to examine its still-new shine. His thumb toyed with the band, turning it around his finger. "There's nothing quite like a near-death experience to remind you of what's important. It's a work in progress, of course, but what isn't."
Gabe nodded, sucking his lower lip over his teeth. "At least there's progress? I..." He went quiet, debating even broaching this topic further than he already had. But they were there, and Obed could always change the subject, he reasoned. Gabe knew he needed some kind of sounding board, and there were so few other people he could talk to on this subject.
"I feel like Rafe and I are spinning backward. It's not just Halloween, it's... I guess everything, or it's me, or I just don't know, and I don't know how to get him... to just say something."
"I can relate to that," Obed said. He cut his eyes over to Gabe as they walked, carefully observing his expression, gauging just how welcome his attempt at advice-giving might be. Isobel would have encouraged him to speak up now; of that, at least, he was sure. So he inched out onto this new social limb, tentatively at first.
"I keep a lot to myself," he began, "as I'm sure you've noticed. I didn't realize just how much until Isobel came along, and started trying to get in where no-one else really had. It can be… very uncomfortable. Even when the person is someone you want to let in.
"You said it isn't just Halloween… was this a problem before, or just since the party?"
Gabe started to reply, and then caught himself. His jaw worked for a moment.
"Before," he finally acceded. "It was a problem when we dated... It was years ago. The first time we did this, he... He always had problems telling me what it was he wanted. He's so obsessed with making everyone happy and pretending nothing's wrong. He's..." Spot slowed, and Gabe stopped for a minute, putting a hand on the old dog's head to scritch an ear. He kept his gaze carefully fixed on the animal.
"He's running himself into the ground, and I don't even know where to start to help if he won't let me."
Obed frowned. A small line of tension creased his brow, darkening the cast of his face. "Maybe that's how you need to frame it," he offered. "He isn't making you happy by hiding things. I understand the drive to handle things on his own, believe me. But that's not really how it works when you have a partner."
He reeled Hanni in; the little dog had begun to nuzzle his way between Spot's forelegs, whether attempting to warm himself in the old dog's fur or simply encourage him to move, Obed could not be sure.
"Lies of omission are still lies," he said. "That may sound… dramatic. But if he really wants you to be happy, maybe being a little forceful about the honesty you need is going to be necessary."
Gabe had opened his mouth to refute Obed's point, but gently closed it when the other man acknowledged how his own phrasing sounded. And it wasn't that Obed was wrong; Gabe found himself uncomfortable with the prospect of being so open and honest with Rafe. It had, after all, brought them to their first breakup. Not that they had never been honest with one another, but he felt antsy about broaching the same topic that had broken them before.
"I know. I keep thinking if I just keep asking, keep giving him the opportunity to say something, to know I won't be mad if he does want to say something..." He tugged on Spot's lead, and the group started moving forward again. "It's just, this place, the people in it—a lot has happened to him, and I think he refuses to admit it." Gabe's mind wandered to Abel, to Rafe's former boss who had killed himself in Rafe's apartment. Who knew what else had happened that he wasn't even aware of.
"He is seeing someone, a therapist. He's in group, with another neighbor—Nishka Bariss? Maybe he's telling her things he hasn't told me." Part of him hoped Rafael was getting help from somewhere; he still wasn't entirely sure about the depth and emotional weight that had been their relationship, and he wouldn't lie that he felt a little jealous that someone else was giving Rafe the help he needed, but neither would he stop it if he felt it was helping. The problem was, it didn't seem like it was helping, at all.
"It's possible," Obed admitted. "He may feel he has more to lose if he tells you. Someone less invested often seems safer."
Obed slid his hands into his pockets, pulling Hanni's leash further in. His voice remained even and soft as he dug a bit deeper. "I do remember there was a suicide. A coworker, or something like that? I can't imagine that's easy to get past, even though he moved. But he's seeing someone, and that's good… is there more you think he's keeping from you?"
Gabe started to shake his head, but his body defied him by ending with a shrug.
"To be honest, I don't know. Sometimes it feels like it. I think it's... It's more he's keeping things from himself. Refuses to deal with them, and instead pretends they never happened, so there's nothing to deal with.
"I don't know, I think... I'm just talking in circles. You're right, I need to be more up front with him..." He fell quiet for a moment. "I guess I'm just scared. The last time we were together, we broke up when I told him I couldn't handle his career choices. I can now, at least, I'm telling myself I can, but I'm starting to wonder if he believes me, or if he thinks it's better that I don't know things."
Obed hummed a nonresponse, filling the silence as he carefully considered what to say. It was a difficult situation, one with no easy answers, and one that, to Obed, felt uncomfortably familiar. He could not tell Gabe his partner would not leave, or that Gabe himself would not, in the end, want to end things. Obed remembered all too well the terrible weight in his chest when Isobel had left, and the fear even the possibility of it happening again elicited.
"I think… it sounds like you both want this relationship to work. He's not handling that correctly, but we've all been there before. All you can do is talk to him." A nervous smile flickered at one corner of his mouth. "At the risk of oversharing," he said, "Isobel and I… we had to have a second start, too. It can work, I promise. It can be better than it was before. But you both have to get on the same page. Even and especially when that's difficult to do."
Gabe nodded, his head bobbling as his lips pulled back over his teeth.
"Thanks," he replied. "And sorry, if I put you in a position... I don't think it's oversharing. It helps to know that this kind of thing works out, you know? Most of this, sometimes I feel like I'm trapped in a Lifetime movie or something." He laughed, his steps slowing again as his dog demanded to sit once more. "This helps a lot, though. Just to know I'm not going crazy, or asking for too much. Or... I don't know, not doing enough. I mean, you guys are doing well, if she said 'yes' and all that?" He glanced back at Obed, one brow arched, looking hopeful.
Obed's smile was small but bright. "We are," he said. "Thank you. The second engagement turned out to be the charm. Maybe your second time around will, too."
Hanni finally settled down, as though their numerous breaks had at last convinced him his companion was not so spry as he. He sat next to Spot as Obed watched him, mindful of any irritation the elder dog might begin to show. Satisfied Hanni would behave himself for a moment, he looked back to Gabe, a look he hoped was reassuring crossing his face. "You're not crazy, Gabriel. I think you're doing all the right things. I really hope you can get through to him."
A thought occurred to Obed, dampening his smile. He glanced around them; once he was certain there was no-one to overhear, he turned to Gabe once more. "I almost forgot," he admitted, his voice lower than before, "and honestly I'm not sure if it even actually happened. But you may want to ask Rafael how he's sleeping. I believe he's been having some fairly unsettling dreams."
Gabe glanced sidelong at Obed, taken more than aback at the man's sudden admission of intimate knowledge regarding what was going on inside his boyfriend's head. His jaw worked, throat dry of the questions he wanted to ask. It was too stark a reminder of what they supposedly were, and what they could do.
"I shouldn't ask, but...," he finally said. "What did you see?"
Obed's lips parted, but at first only a small sigh came out. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Obed opted, after some delay, to tell his friend the truth. If later Rafael took issue with it, that was a bridge he was willing to cross. In the meantime it might at least provide some greater understanding for Gabriel, and perhaps a glimpse into Obed's unexpectedly departed friend.
"Well… do you remember Abel Parrish?"
Gabe didn't have to verbally respond; his mouth pressed into a hard line, a pained look coming over his face. Finally, he managed to nod.
"It's hard to forget him," he said, just barely keeping the ire out of his voice. "He did a pretty good job of strangling me in the elevator." And that was just the tip of the iceberg where the former Pax tenant was concerned, but Gabe kept the rest of his complaints under a tight lid.
Obed was equally at a loss for words, but for an altogether different reason. His lips parted, his brow knit, and his feet stopped walking entirely without his consent. "I'm sorry," he mumbled, after a moment. "I… really?" He pushed a hand through his hair, shaking his head. He had no reason to disbelieve Gabriel; his expression, particularly coupled with Abel's hasty departure, spoke to the truth of his claim. Obed's face was flushed, his scars standing out in stark relief.
"Well, that… that may explain what I saw, then, if Rafael knows about that. In his dream, Abel was chasing him. Had caught him, actually. When Hades stepped in, Abel was… well, strangling Rafael."
His dog walking companion remained frozen in place for a moment, his gaze cast down but unfocused. After a moment, his jaw tightened.
"There's... Abel and Rafe have history. I've tried to get Rafe to see it, but I think he prefers to pretend it never happened. Just like everything else. I'm sorry, I don't mean to get personal, but... I'm glad Abel's gone. I'm just sorry I never got to press charges." He gave a tug to Spot's lead, and the dog unhappily climbed to his feet.
Again Obed fell into step alongside him, casting surreptitious glances over to him at intervals. He knew he should dig deeper, but Gabe's pain was evident, and he had no desire to worsen that. "I apologize," he said. "I thought I knew Abel, but I… obviously I didn't. He never mentioned Rafael… I'm sorry I brought up something difficult. If there's something I can do, or something Isobel can do… she does know Rafael, far better than I do, and I'm sure she'd be happy to help. You'll let us know, right?"
Gabe nodded, effusive but tamped all too quickly.
"I appreciate it. I'm glad he has a good support system—Isobel, Alice. I know I can't be the only person he leans on, but I'm scared he's not leaning on anyone and... I'm sorry, we're just going in circles." He fell quiet for a moment.
"How are you, though? I think the last time I saw you, you were being taken away in an ambulance." He looked down at Spot, then to Obed, ready to change the subject to something and someone else.
Obed nodded. He was less uncomfortable with the conversation than he would have been in weeks past; Isobel in general, and his birthday celebration in particular, had gone quite a long way toward helping with that. "I'm, ah… getting used to this, I suppose." He gestured to his marred face. "It's made going out a bit of a chore but I can hide the worst scars, at least. I get stiff and sore from time to time. I'm mostly healed, though, I think. I'm very lucky Isobel and Persephone were there or I wouldn't have gotten out at all."
Gabe mirrored his friend's motion. "So am I. Though, honestly, part of me is wishing we hadn't gone at all," he tried, his mouth turning up at one corner in a dim parody of a smile. "It's probably good that we did, just in that... we sort of got more answers? But I could've done without the rest." His left hand motioned to his arm. Obed nodded his ready agreement.
"I guess the only thing left to do is to keep on keeping on, huh? And maybe figure out a little more about who and what we are." The comment drew from Obed's comment about Rafe's dreams, which prompted a different question. "Has Hades been in my head? I'd probably remember if he was, wouldn't I?"
"I would think so. He makes quite an impression. I don't recall having seen anything of your dreams. I think he's probably let you alone. I'm not sure what draws him to people, or why he intervenes sometimes and not others. He does seem to have been more active since Halloween, though. Or maybe I'm just more aware of it."
He looked to Gabe as though he might read the effects of all he had shared written on his friend's face. "Have you been having bad dreams lately as well?" he asked. "If you'd like him to get involved, I could probably see to that."
Gabe's one free hand instantly came up, waving away the offer. "No, oh, no... I've been fine, really. Sleeping like a baby, probably between the painkillers and the mental exhaustion. I just... I guess I'm trying to understand. Xochipilli's been... quiet," he added, as though using the deity's name might rouse him. "And I'm not sure what he would do. Or should be doing? I guess gods should be doing things, because that's what they're meant for? I still can't quite get my head around any of this, but I think we're all in the same boat on that.
"Works out well that you and your missus ended up being from the same group, though, huh? Makes it feel a little pre-destined." He chewed on his lower lip. "Freyr and Xochipilli, Norse and Aztec? Sounds like the whole opposites attract, except that rarely ever works out." He shook his head. "Sorry, I don't mean to be such a wet blanket lately. Maybe I haven't been sleeping as well as I thought."
Obed chuckled. "Gabe," he said, "I'm a natural pessimist of German descent who shares a body with a god of death. You never have to worry about being a wet blanket around me. Really." He clapped a hand on his friend's back, a rare display of affection that somehow served to bolster his own spirits.
"Look at it this way. Your gods can hardly get bored with one another. They aren't playing out some story they've already lived at least once. Which is good for Freyr, I might add, since his story ended pretty badly the first time around. They have a fresh start, just like the two of you."
Gabe's jaw worked for a moment; he enjoyed the sentiment Obed was suggesting, but referencing Freyr's story washed up old fears.
"I certainly hope so," he finally replied, opting to sweep those under his mental rug. "To be honest, I'd take the rut just because it was familiar. Better the devil you know than the one you don't, right?"
He shook his head, sighing. "Gosh, there has to be a topic we could talk about that isn't this depressing," he said, trying to laugh. "What are your plans for the holidays?"
Obed latched onto the topic, eager to allow them both a respite from weightier things. "We'll probably stay around here," he said. "We've talked about doing something with the other tenants, maybe a dinner or something quiet like that. Nothing overly stressful or demanding. What about you two?"
"About the same," Gabe replied; Spot walked dutifully alongside his master, his pace seemingly ever slowing. He started to turn them back around, coming up alongside the back of the building. They'd gone barely a block, but it was better than the dog doing absolutely nothing all day (and by extension, himself).
"Rafe talked about cooking, and he seemed excited, which makes me glad. He's really a very good chef; I wish it was what he'd done with his life..." Gabe shook his head, biting his tongue to keep from apologizing again that he was circling back to the same topic over and over. "He was excited to make stollen, which I have to assume you're quite familiar with? Talked about comparing it with Alice's, if she was up to making some as well."
"Oh, I am," Obed said. "If I was any kind of baker I'd throw my grandmother's recipe into the ring. As it is I'll be happy to be a judge. As though you'll have any shortage of those." He offered a soft smile to Gabe, hoping he could pull his friend on toward brighter things. "That sounds like a good way to spend the holiday. I imagine Spot here will be glad of a few quiet nights in. Maybe Isobel and Hanni and I can stop by, bring a few dog-safe Christmas cookies over…"
A wide grin spread over Gabe's face.
"I think we'd both appreciate that, don't you think, old man?" Spot's ears hiked for a moment, but if it was due to his master's voice, it did not entirely register. Gabe frowned, but shook it off just the same as he had much of their conversation.
"And I think Rafe would, as well," he added, unable to leave his better half far from his thoughts. "Something to remind him that there's no reason to keep punishing himself. Something good for all of us."
The conversation wound on as long as it took their slow-moving steps to reach the Pax front door, which did not take much more to pass. Gabe's mind was too full of worry for Rafe to recognize that someone else dear to him needed just as much attention and care.