"Gabriel?" the voice on the other end says in disbelief.
"Collin." And even though it's probably the shittiest night of his life, and Gabriel is literally covered in his sister's blood, he can't help but smile a little.
"Collin, I'm so sorry," Gabe begins.
"Gabe, stop." He does and so does his heart. "You don't need to apologize. I forgave you a long time ago."
Gabe would literally be sobbing if he had any tears left. There are a lot of things he should be saying, amends he should be making. But as is the story of his life, the wrong thing comes out. "My sister tried to kill herself."
Collin is silent for too long. "Gabe, what the fuck happened while I was gone?"
Gabe can't help but laugh. "A lot of shit."
"I'll come down there right now." Gabe can hear Collin getting up, dropping everything.
"I'll meet you halfway." And it's a start.
They meet in Albuquerque two days later at a cheap motel because they'd spent literally all of their money on gas. It was a long fucking drive but seeing Collin again, God was it worth it. Gabe had to decency to change out of his bloody clothes so Collin isn't at all freaked to see him. To Collin's pleasant surprise, Gabe goes in for a hug and Collin hugs him back, squeezing tight and not wanting to let go.
"I missed you," Gabe admits. Christ, it's like he can't stop opening up.
Collin softens and nods in agreement. "Come on, let's go back to the room. It sounds like you have a lot to tell me about."
They sit on their respective beds and Gabe tells him about Lorelai. He tells him everything, the anorexia, how she's been slowly falling apart for years now, Max cheating and Gwen leaving and finally closes the tale off with her attempted suicide. And it was just an attempt, as he learned on the drive to Albuquerque. He even tells Collin how in a moment of weakness he hit her and how it's probably the worst thing he's ever done. He does not once say anything about himself.
Collin looks at him, frowning. "I can't excuse what you did, but I think you've repented enough. You were there for her, in the end. Apologize to her, and I think you can stop hating yourself for it."
Gabriel doesn't understand how he can ever stop hating himself. "Gabriel, you're human. Humans make mistakes," Collin soothes.
Gabriel chokes. "My entire life is one big fuck up after another."
Collin frowns. "Gabriel, most of your problems are caused by your insistence that you can't fix anything. You do just as much good as you do bad." Gabe scoffs. "I mean it. You're my best friend, Gabe. You mean so much to me and I can't understand…" Collin sighs.
"You're a good person, Gabe, and I'll believe it even if you don't."
Gabriel lets Collin talk for awhile. About Stanford, romance, California. It sounds perfect, and just by watching Collin talk about it he can see all the growth he's gone through. He's a different man than he was the last time they talked. Gabriel is still the same jaded, surly teenager that Collin left behind. Gabriel flops back on the bed.
"Gabe, you haven't said anything about yourself. What happened after I left?" Gabriel shrugs, throwing his arm over his eyes.
"There's nothing to tell. I flunked out of school. Other than that I've just kind of… done nothing." Collin can't seem to grasp the concept of doing nothing.
"You're lying, Gabriel," Collin challenges. "You've always been lying to me, haven't you?" No response. "Gabriel. Let me in."
And Gabriel does. He tells him everything, from the time he was eight and his mother hit him for the first time, to now where he's sobbing uncontrollably in a motel room in Albuquerque. He tells him how much it hurt, about the bruises and the stinging cheeks, but more than that was the worthlessness. The one women who was supposed to love him unconditionally failed him. And how does someone teach themselves how to recover from that? He tells Collin that he's always felt worthless and everything he ever needs leaves him eventually and he can't even hate them for it because who would stay around for him? He tells him that he needs and he wants but he doesn't deserve any of it.
When he's finished Collin is laying alongside him on the bed. Gabriel peeks out from beneath his arm to stare at the other man. "Why didn't you say anything?" Collin blinks away tears.
"I couldn't. I've never told anyone before," he gasps.
That probably means something.
"I love you." Yeah, it definitely does.
And like any one-night-stand, it's awkward as hell in the morning. Gabe groans and rolls out of bed. His head is absolutely pounding with emotion. And he's sore, too, but he finds he can live with that. He comes face to face with Collin as the other man steps out of the bathroom, towel wrapped around his waist.
They stand awkwardly for a moment, soaking in the uncomfortable silence.
As usual, Collin is the one to break it. "Dude, you cuddle," he accuses.
Gabriel snorts. "Yeah right." And the silence returns, slightly less awkward.
Collin thumbs the towel around his waist. "Having sex with you doesn't make me gay," he mutters.
Gabriel laughs whole heartedly. "Good, because I'm not gay either."
And then they fuck like rabbits.
When things settle down at home and Gabriel is absolutely certain that Lorelai isn't about to off herself again, he moves out to California with Collin under the condition that he has to go back to school. Collin refuses to support him financially just because Gabe can't get his ass out of bed without him. Gabe doesn't have any problem with that, because for the first time in his life he can get out of bed in the morning.
Collin kicks him awake. Gabe groans, looks down and groans again. "Dude, I am not the fucking little spoon."
"Get your ass in the kitchen and make me breakfast," Collin demands.
"Bite me." And he does.
And it's actually pretty fucking awesome.
Gabriel stumbles into the kitchen, pants hanging off his hips as he maneuvers like an elephant, gathering the pots and grease he needs to make some bacon. It's his job because Collin would burn the apartment down. And he also makes fucking awesome bacon.
Collin walks in a minute later, in his boxers and with his shirt on backwards. Gabe smirks and decides not to comment because it's funnier to see how long he'll go before he realizes his mistake. "Mornin' gorgeous," Collin murmurs, leaning over the counter.
Gabe gets the hint and gives the guy a kiss. "Morning," he hums.
In a minute he slaps some bacon down on a plate and takes a seat next to Collin. Their knees brush and Collin reaches over to take Gabe's hand like the contact iss just natural for him as he eats his breakfast with one hand. Gabriel's taking a page out of Collin's book and just watches the man eat.
Their apartment is pretty threadbare, two bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchen. He thinks back to his half brother, Leo, and that burning question that wouldn't leave his mind. How did you do it? Gabriel thinks he knows the secret now, even if Leo himself didn't. He has a feeling that before the gorgeous house and the amazing job, Leo found Isabella first. His apartment isn't quite crown molding, but he thinks it, and everything in it, is perfect. He watches his partner eat and gives his hand a squeeze.