Gabriel was driving to the park with Carly, having procured a simple car. They were wearing masks. Carly was wearing a soft knit sweater dress and fleece leggings and Gabriel was wearing a felt sweater, woolen pants and his new fleece coat. The park was decorated with Christmas lights.
"It's so beautiful...!" Carly marveled, making Gabriel chuckle softly.
Gabriel occasionally glanced at Carly, who returned the glaces. Afterwards, Gabriel and Carly went to a drive-in diner. Carly ordered buffalo chicken and Gabriel had a burger.
"H-hey, Carly...?" Gabriel asked. "What kind of music do you like...?"
"I'm mostly into rock and heavy metal." Carly replied. "Mostly bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Rolling Stones."
"Oh..." Gabriel responded. "I-I prefer The Beatles, T-Rex, and Pink Floyd."
"You got good taste then." Carly commented, making Gabriel blush. "I also like Venom, a proto-metal band."
Gabriel chuckled as he turned on the music. He gently touched Carly's hand, and kissed it, causing their heart to pick up speed. Carly felt their face warm up from the affection. The two stared into each others eyes, before Carly kissed Gabriel's hand. They then touched each other's faces, their hearts fluttering from the mutual affection.
Gabriel and Carly returned home and had hot chocolate. Carly played some Glenn Miller music, inviting Gabriel to dance with them.
"O-oh, y-you want to dance with me...?" Gabriel chuckled.
"If you want to." Carly replied.
"O-okay..." Gabriel said. "But I got two left feet."
"That's okay." Carly responded. "I got two right feet."
Gabriel laughed as he got up to dance with Carly. He laid his head on Carly's as the couple danced close.
"Oh, sorry...!" He apologised as he accidentally stepped on Carly's foot.
"Baby, you're doing fine." Carly responded.
Carly rested their head on Gabriel's chest, listening to his heavy heartbeat. Gabriel kissed the top of Carly's head before they finished dancing.
"Happy Winter Solstice..." Carly said, smiling softly.
"You too..." Gabriel responded.
When Christmas rolled around, Carly made coffee and muffins for them and Gabriel to eat before opening their gifts. Gabriel was holding the small box containing Carly's gift. Carly handed him a gift wrapped in cloth. Gabriel handed Carly their gift.
Gabriel opened his gift. It was a set of Beatles shirts. Gabriel cried as he held the gift, shedding tears of joy. Carly then opened their gift, surprised by the simple necklace.
"Oh, Gabriel..." Carly. "It's so beautiful…"
"S-so are you..." Gabriel responded, causing Carly to blush.
Carly got some Christmas video out to watch with Gabriel. He watched their face as they saw the films. Carly got up to make dinner, with Gabriel volunteering to help. It was stuffed bell peppers, leafy greens, and pasta. Carly opened sparkling grape juice and poured it for both of them. Gabriel had become fond of their cooking.
Carly and Gabriel fell asleep together, cuddling each other. Gabriel started having a fit in his sleep, as if he was struggling with nightmares. Carly was startled awake by the fit and Gabriel calling for help.
"Gabe?" Carly said as they attempted to wake him. "Gabe, are you okay...?"
Gabriel woke with a start, only to realise it was just Carly.
"Carly...?" Gabriel said, confused. "What happened?"
"You were muttering something..." Carly replied. "You sounded like you were panicking."
"Oh..." Gabriel responded.
"Baby, if something's wrong, please don't be afraid to tell me..." Carly said, comforting him.
"It was that accident..." Gabriel responded. "But you were in Gladys' place... I-I should leave."
"Gabe..." Carly said. "I'm not going to leave you... Whatever you're going through, I'm sticking by you..."
Gabriel lightly pushes Carly away. He had a look of heartbreak in his eyes.
"I don't want to lose you..." Gabriel said as he was on the verge of breaking down. "I don't want you to die too…"
"Gabriel, look at me..." Carly said. "I'm not going anywhere... I'm right here..."
Gabriel broke down in tears as Carly hugged him. They rubbed his back to soothe him. He was crying and muttering "no".
"I'll bring you to get help." Carly said.
"Please, no..." Gabriel pleaded. "They'll lock me up…"
"I'm talking about support groups and therapy." Carly responded. "You can't be locked up anymore without consent."
"S-support group...?" Gabriel said.
"Yes." Carly replied. "It's where people with similar circumstances talk about the issues bothering them. Grief counseling helps people dealing with loss."
"We didn't have those in my day..." Gabriel said as he dried his eyes.
"Well, we have them now." Carly responded. "I want to feel better."
"I want to feel better too..." Gabriel said. "Okay, I'll go..."
Gabriel sat with Carly at a meeting. He was terrified of being around people, holding Carly's hand through the whole thing.
"H-hey..." Gabriel said. "I-I'm Gabriel... and I have unresolved grief..."
The other people took turns telling their progress or situation. Eventually, it was Gabriel's turn.
"It started on a dark, icy night." Gabriel started.
Gabriel was driving during an icy winter night. Gladys was beside him, wearing a fleece coat Gabriel had gotten her. They were returning home from a party after Gabriel had a panic attack.
Suddenly, the car started swerving on its own as the wheels made contact with patches of black ice. Gabriel freaked out as he attempted to maintain control over the vehicle. He regained control shortly before skidding over more black ice and slamming into a tree. Gabriel feebly reached for Gladys before slipping out of consciousness.
Gabriel had been in a coma for a month. He stumbled out of the bed, struggling to gain footing. He had an intravenous drip attached to his arm, which hurt greatly as he accidentally pulled on it.
"Augh!" Gabriel cried out in pain.
Henry tried to help Gabriel into a chair. Gabriel was shiver and dazed.
"Gabriel, take it easy." Henry said. "You just woke up from a coma…"
Gabriel tried to talk, but was still dazed. After a while, Gabriel managed to utter a single word.
"G-Gladys..." Gabriel uttered.
"She died..." Henry said. "I'm sorry…"
Gabriel fell into a state of shack, as if he had fallen into ice water. The ground fell from under him before he began to wee. He let out screams of agony in between sobs, curling up into a fetal position.
In the present, Gabriel was sobbing as Carly hugged him.
"I never got to say goodbye..." Gabriel said. "I'm having nightmares about it…"
"Sounds like you're suffering from untreated trauma." Another grief support member suggested. "Trauma often manifests in nightmares and maladaptive coping methods."
Carly held Gabriel's hand and dried his tears. They hugged Gabriel to comfort him. After the meeting, Gabriel left with Carly.
"Thank you for taking me there." Gabriel said.
"You're welcome..." Carly responded.
Gabriel cuddled Carly after the two returned. He started to doze off for a nap. Carly put a blanket on him before going to cook a vegetarian meal.
"Gabe...?" Carly spoke. "Are you hungry?"
"Hrm...?" Gabriel mumbled. "Oh, y-yeah..."
Carly served dinner and sat by him. Gabriel enjoyed the meal, which consisted of brown rice, peas, and vegetables.
New Years Eve had arrived and Carly was purchasing vegetarian snacks.
"Aren't you a little young to shop on your own?" A woman piped up.
"Aren't you a little young to be my mom?" Carly retorted. "I'm thirty."
"Rude..." The woman muttered as she walked off.
Carly also got ingredients for dinner. They acquired potatoes, salt, olive, and garlic paste. After they got home, Carly started making salt potatoes. They boiled the baby potatoes in heavily salted water for 20 minutes.
Gabriel and Carly munched on their dinner, the potatoes creamy from the elevated boiling point of the water. The potatoes also had a light dusting of salt from the evaporation. Gabriel watched Carly as they ate, smitten with them.
"Hey, you want to play video games?" Carly asked.
"Sure..." Gabriel replied.
"I have some multiplayer games here..." Carly said as they dug through the games.
Gabriel picked an E-rated game. He and Carly played until the New Year's countdown. Gabriel and Carly then looked at each other before their lips touched. Their hearts began to flutter from the kiss before they drew back. their faces flushed.
"S-sorry..." Gabriel apologised. "I-I overstepped, didn't I...?"
"No, you didn't..." Carly reassured him.
"Carly..." Gabriel started. "You could have anyone you wanted, but you kissed me... Why...?"
"Because I like you." Carly replied.
Gabriel covered his face in bashfulness. He wasn't used to affection from anyone besides Gladys. He shyly gave Carly another kiss.
"I'm glad to start the new year with you..." Gabriel said.
"Me too." Carly responded, cuddling him.
Gabriel and Carly retired to bed, cuddling each other. Carly held his hand as slept. Gabriel took a while to sleep as he processed what just happened. Gabriel finally drifted to sleep after a couple hours.
The next morning, Carly made breakfast. Gabriel rubbed the back of his neck as he entered the kitchen.
"You okay, Gabe?" Carly asked.
"Yeah..." Gabriel replied. "Still thinking about last night…"
"You too?" Carly asked to which Gabriel nodded.
"Carly..." Gabriel started. "I'm not a young man... You really want someone like me?"
"Gabriel, we're both adults." Carly replied. "We can consent. And besides, I love you."
"I love you too..." Gabriel responded.
Carly kissed Gabriel again before sitting down to breakfast, which was cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. Carly looked at Gabriel, smitten with him.
"Do you have any plans today?" Gabriel asked.
"Mostly work." Carly replied. "Yourself?"
"I gotta meet Henry later for work." Gabriel replied.
Carly and Gabriel got dressed for work before kissing each other goodbye. Gabriel was wearing a black turtleneck sweater and tan slacks. Carly wore a kelly green polo and black jeans.
Carly felt as if they were on cloud nine as the worked, thinking about the kiss. They tried to remain focused on their tasks. They were glad the mask hid their reddened cheeks.
Gabriel was practicing his music in the recording booth. The song was about living with grief. As Gabriel finished, he felt a kind of relief. While he still had a little weight on his chest, it was made lighter by the song being an outlet.
Gabriel went to Carly's workplace as they clocked out. He greeted them with a tight hug, which Carly returned.
"You ready to head home...?" Gabriel asked.
"Yeah..." Carly said, lifting a shopping bag of food.