"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 coveredin 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. But Gabriel hears sirens in the distance, carrying his sister away to the unknown. "But I can't now, Lorelai… I," he chokes on the panic in his throat, torn between his life and his sister's.
"No, no, of course, you need to be with her right now. But call me when you're ready, okay?"
"I will, I will, I promise," Gabriel vows, feeling a pang in his chest at the thought of hanging up. He hadn't heard Collin's voice in years, and he's afraid that if he hangs up he won't ever hear it again. But he has to, because he needs to take care of the only family he has.
Lorelai wakes up the next afternoon, groggy and nauseous. A saline drip is being fed into one of her bandaged arms. She looks around, blinking wearily at the bright afternoon sun shining through the open window. She's surrounded by crisp white sheets on a rolling bed. She knows what this is, she's seen it from a doctor's perspective with her dad. Lorelai wakes up in a hospital, completely alone. She closes her eyes, fighting against the knot in her throat as she lays back against her pillow.
About an hour passes before Gabriel arrives, awkwardly stepping into the room and seeing his sister, just as weak and frail as she had been in the barn the night before. He feels too cumbersome and coarse to be in a room with her. He fears that his presence will overpower her and his words will consume her thoughts, leaving no space for Lorelai herself. He doesn't want to make this about him, but he fears he doesn't have the words or the tact to heal her.
"Hey," he calls quietly, taking a seat in one of the chairs in the room. He situates himself just out of reach of the bed.
Lorelai opens her eyes and stares at him blankly. He imagines she'd be confused if she had the energy to be. "Hi," she croaks quietly.
He stares back at her, fighting everything in him to look at her eyes and not her wrists. He doesn't want to reduce her to a sickness. Gabe struggles to find words to say. They never talk under the best circumstances, so what is he to say now? Now that she's sick and needs help and he has no right to be the one offering it? He doesn't want to crowd her, press her for details that he has no right to know. But he also wants, needs, to offer his support, should she choose to take it. He just doesn't know how.
He picks at his nails, taking a deep breath. "I was the one that found you," he started.
He can visibly see Lorelai swallow, looking away as her face flushes. "Do you," he pauses, his own throat constricting. "Remember?"
Lorelai bites her lip, and he can almost see the thoughts running through her head, the conflict between honesty and shame. She finally opens her mouth. "I had a dream."
Gabriel watches her, giving her time to speak freely. "Ro was there." She searches Gabe's face.
He nods. "That was me."
Lorelai flushes even more. "I, I said," she trails off, looking away. Gabriel nods.
She looks back at Gabe, eyes full of questions. "And you said…?" Out of the corner of his eye he can see her fingers twitch.
Gabriel nods again. "Yeah, I did. And I do." His throat closed up, his body going cold at the confession.
Lorelai continues to stare at him disbelievingly. Gabriel continues, looking away. "And I know I've done terrible things, and I haven't been there, and I have no right. But we're the only ones that know what it was like, growing up in that house. And that means something to me." Gabe pauses, looking into her eyes. He sees a shimmer, indicating that his words are doing something. "And it's your choice, but we're adults now and I want to do more." Gabe swallows thickly.
Lorelai looks at him as if truly seeing him for the first time. "Gabe, I," she stops, her voice thick and wet with tears. "That would be good," she says after a few minutes, wiping at her eyes. "Can I have some time?" she sniffled.
Gabe nodded, standing up. "You can come back any time, okay?" she added as he left the room to her muffled tears.
Gabriel and Collin 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. Seeing 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. 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 wantsbut 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 poundingwith 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. "So I might have had a sexuality crisis while I was at school," he mutters.
Gabriel laughs whole heartedly. "I haven't, but we can make this work."
And then they fuck like rabbits.
When things settle down at home and Gabriel is absolutely certainthat Lorelai isn't about to off herself again, he moves out to California with Collin under the condition that he has to find a job or go 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 notthe 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 awesomebacon.
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 a family first. His apartment isn't quite crown molding, but he thinks it, and everything in it, is perfect. He watches his partner, his family, eat and gives his hand a squeeze.