A/N: Hello again! *waves happily* I have successfully completed my first semester of graduate school with straight A’s. Woot!! Now, let the blog writing recommence!
The song for this chapter is Little Light by Perma, an indie alternative duo. The song is a call-and-response between the two singers, so to make sure the lyrics don’t get confusing you’ll notice I color-coded them. In this case, you can think of blue lyrics as Joanne, brown as Gabriel, and the default white as them together.
Lastly, this chapter contains strong sexual content. If that makes you uncomfortable feel free to scroll past that bit—I promise I didn’t hide integral plot points between kisses.
Thank you all sincerely for your unfaltering patience with me. It is appreciated more than you know. To make up for my extended absence you’ll notice this chapter is quite long. Hope you all enjoy ❤
~*~*~*Gabriel’s Point of View~*~*~
I can’t speak, you know, I can’t speak
I walked down the street, my heart thrumming in my throat. Somewhere down the block two cars revved their engines while another honked angrily. The air was suffused with the choking smells of rotting take-out and piss.
My stomach turned with nausea; but it wasn’t because of the noxious smells. It was because I knew this place and I knew what I’d find. I’d been here so many times before. Still, I broke into a run, battered sneakers pounding against asphalt that glittered with broken glass. Maybe this time I could make it in time; maybe this time I wouldn’t have to watch her die.
Shouts sounded from up ahead and bile rose in my throat as I realized that once again, I was in danger of arriving too late. I redoubled my efforts, leg muscles burning as I raced forward as fast as I possibly could. Dark figures swiftly disappeared into the night. A small figure was lying motionless on the pavement, pale limbs jutting out at unnatural angles.
“Daisy!” I cried. I collapsed to my knees and pulled her into my arms, but the eyes that stared blankly into mine weren’t crystal blue.
“Joanne?” I choked out.
There was so much blood.
I awoke with a start, my chest aching fiercely because my heart was evidently trying to smash its way through the bones of my ribcage in a frantic bid for escape. My breaths came out in ragged pants as I struggled to calm myself. The dark, sickening sight of gleaming blood still shone brightly before my eyes; the acrid taste of bile still poisoning my mouth.
I turned toward Joanne, renewed panic coursing through my arteries until I noticed the subtle rise and fall of her chest—a blessed sign that she was perfectly fine. I carefully pulled her against me, burying my face in her dark hair. She felt so soft and smelled faintly of vanilla. It was comforting and sweet, but still every inch of me remained torturously tense. That nightmare had been a whole new level of fucked up. I didn’t even get them much anymore, but tonight they’d returned with particularly sadistic intentions.
I listened to the steady sound of Joanne’s breathing as I held her, but I knew that I would never get back to sleep tonight. Hell, I didn’t want to go back to sleep—not if my mind was going to betray me like that. I pressed my lips against her shoulder briefly and then slid out of bed. Finding my jeans, I pulled them on and then walked out onto the balcony.
The cool night air instantly assaulted me, but in a way the chill was a welcomed distraction. I walked up to the railing, looking out to the ocean only a few hundred feet away. The smell of salt carried on the wind.
I reached into my pocket for a cigarette and my lighter, the small flame briefly warming my hands before I extinguished it and put the lighter away. The first drag had an instant calming effect, though I winced when I heard the door open from behind me. I hadn’t meant to wake her.
“You sure smoke a lot for someone who doesn’t smoke,” said Joanne’s voice cautiously. A twinge of guilt settled in my gut.
“I know,” I mumbled, running a hand through my hair, but she didn’t say anything else on the matter. Instead, I heard her bare feet pad along the concrete as she came up beside me, hugging my arm and then leaning her head against my shoulder.
That had an instant calming effect too.
I’ll be your tongue, I’ll be your gums
“Couldn’t sleep?” she asked concernedly, gazing up at me. Her eyes shone impossibly green in the ebbing moonlight.
I shook my head slightly and then took another pull from the cigarette, feeling pained. Joanne’s question had brought the nightmare back to the forefront of my mind.
We both stared out to the sea, saying nothing. She seemed to be waiting for me to elaborate, but also seemed willing to be patient; something for which I was grateful.
After all, how do you say to someone that you dreamt they’d been murdered without them then worrying about you? How do you say to someone that you can’t go back to sleep because as soon as you close your eyes you see dark, sticky blood spilling all over your fingers? How do you say to someone that you’re so terrified of losing them, that sometimes you wonder if you wouldn’t be better off alone?
That is, until you’re reminded that somehow, some way, they’ve taken such a firm hold on your heart that you can’t possibly let them go…ever.
Joanne moved in front of me, sliding her arms around my waist and nuzzling her face into my chest as she held me closely. The action was so damn sweet that it just about ruined me. I stubbed out the cigarette, tossing it onto the ground for now and then enveloping her in my arms. The faint scent of vanilla consumed me once again.
“Do you remember how I told you I used to get nightmares?” I mumbled into her hair. She nodded, so I took a quick breath and said as casually as I could, “Well, I—I just woke up from one—the same one, to be specific, only this time it—it wasn’t Daisy I was too late to save, but you.”
“Oh,” Joanne uttered softly and then took a step back, gazing up at me with such a sad expression. Damn it. “Oh Gabriel, that sounds awful. I’m so sorry.”
I can’t breathe, girl, I can’t breathe
I will inflate your tiny lungs
I looked away, vaguely debating dropping the whole matter entirely, but then the next words tumbled from my mouth as if they’d already decided on their own that they would be heard, “God….How do I tip the odds in our favor? How the hell do I not lose you too?”
Joanne’s eyes widened as she stated emphatically, “You won’t lose me.”
I shifted uncomfortably, rubbing my neck. “You can’t promise that.”
“True,” she acceded, her eyes never leaving mine, “but I believe that it’s the truth because I think the odds have already tipped in our favor. I think they tipped the very moment we decided to be brave and let the other in despite our fears about what could happen if we did.”
I felt my eyebrows pull together as I considered her words. She looked so determined; so sure of what she’d said.
I can’t stop, no, I can’t stop
I let out a slow breath, closing the space between us once more and cupping her face in my hands. Her eyes closed as I pressed my lips to her bangs, to her nose, and then to her cheek.
I didn’t know how it was possible to love someone so deeply when I’d been so sure that it would never happen again. I didn’t know how it was possible for someone to instill such hope in me when I was so sure that it had ceased to exist in my life.
Joanne opened her eyes again, placing her hands on my chest and looking up at me apprehensively. “Do you…Do you maybe feel the—the same way?” she asked haltingly. “Do you believe that maybe the odds have already tipped?”
I pursed my lips, thinking for a moment. I thought about the new manifestation of my old nightmare and how that couldn’t possibly spell out anything good for us.
Then I thought about how she made me feel though. I thought about how the world looked different nowadays because for the first time in years I looked forward to the arrival of tomorrow. I thought about how I’d finally quit that soul-draining job at Valencia Records; thought about song writing and the prospect of performing again.
I thought about Ryan being the little fucker that he was and scaring the shit out of me one evening when I was getting a glass of water by throwing confetti in my face and shouting gleefully that that day marked the 7th consecutive day he’d seen me genuinely smile. Of course, I hadn’t been smiling when I chased him angrily out the door hell-bent on punching him, but if he’d been that excited by something so seemingly stupid and simple, then how bad had I really been?
I thought about the sound of Joanne’s laughter; that scattering of dulcet notes that never failed to make me…happy.
“You know,” I began, smiling a bit, “this time, Joanne, I think that I do.”
* * * *
~*~*~*Joanne’s Point of View~*~*~
Nailing you down, keeping you around
“GAH!” I shouted in frustration, grabbing a bunch of the scraps of paper on the table and tossing them into the air. I breathed heavily as the ink-spattered papers fell around us. Gabriel’s mouth was set in a small little ‘o’ of surprise. It would have been hilarious if I didn’t currently have the urge to tear the pieces of paper into shreds…with my teeth.
“Was that really necessary?” he asked, one eyebrow arched high. I shot him a glare, my nostrils flaring with anger. Gabriel pressed his lips together, looking as if he was trying very hard not to laugh. I was glad for it. If he’d laughed I probably would have bitten him instead. As it was now, he seemed at a loss for further words.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, massaging my temples. “I’m just so tired of sitting here day after day trying to figure this out. My fingers are always cramping, I’m losing my voice, and I’m pretty sure these ink stains are now permanent,” I declared, holding up my hands.
Creating a new band was evidently and by no means easy. Why had I thought that it would be? Jeez, we hadn’t even figured out a name yet!
Gabriel looked at me for a moment and then took my hands in his, kissing them softly. My heart melted a little at the gesture.
“We should probably take a break,” he suggested gently.
I agreed wholeheartedly, so that’s how we ended up at a small inland park, lazily basking in the gloriously warm sun. Daffodils, tulips, daisies, and hydrangeas surrounded us; a brilliant pallet of colors swaying on bright green stems as the cool breeze tickled them. They filled the air with their light, perfumed scent.
Yes, I thought to myself, the odds have certainly tipped in our favor. I could feel it within every fiber of my soul; could sense it within every fiber of his.
I took in a deep breath, languorously stretching my limbs out like a cat.
“This was a wonderful idea,” I sighed blissfully. “I could lie here forever. Well, as long as you were with me,” I said, turning to look at Gabriel lying beside me. We were using one another’s shoulders as headrests, our fingers loosely interlaced. I already felt about a thousand times better.
“I figured something like this was necessary,” he stated seriously. “You were gnashing your teeth and had this psychotic gleam in your eyes. Then you began to foam at the mouth.”
I laughed aloud. “You’re exaggerating horribly.”
“I am not,” Gabriel said grimly, though there was an amused spark in his eyes that caused me to break down into a fit of giggles. Once I recovered, I let go of his hand for a moment to sweep his bangs off of his forehead, then leaning forward to plant a gentle kiss there.
He caught my gaze, his autumn eyes appearing especially bright in the sunlight that shone down upon us. My heart skipped a beat as I lay my head back on his shoulder and took his hand—I would never get used to that sight, nor did I ever want to.
“Well,” I began with a joking roll of my eyes, “sorry I acted as though I’d contracted rabies.”
“Apology sort of accepted,” Gabriel remarked dryly, and I giggled again, watching as a small smile rose to his lips.
“You want to know something funny?”
A grin spread across my face and then I stated playfully, “I’m magically feeling a bit more inspired.”
Gabriel chuckled, looking up at the sky. “Yeah, I figured you would. Why else do you think I brought the guitar?”
I grinned excitedly and sat up, watching as Gabriel grabbed his guitar from beside him and then sat cross-legged amongst the blossoming flowers. The sight made me giggle, a fact which made him roll his eyes.
“You’re the cutest guy ever,” I announced happily. “Incidentally, you’re the sexiest as well. How’s that even possible?”
Gabriel opened his mouth to respond, but then finding no words simply shut it and shook his head, looking rather flustered. I kissed his cheek as he checked to make sure the guitar was in tune. The oddly sweet sound of the disparate chords made the swaying flowers look as if they were dancing.
In a way Gabriel and I were disparate chords; we gravitated naturally to such different musical styles that it’d been exceedingly difficult to make them come together in a way that suited us both. Still, I was confident that they could interlace in truly magnificent ways.
I won’t lie, swear, I won’t lie
I’ll be your queen, so here’s the crown
I moved to sit beside Gabriel, leaning my head against his shoulder. He began to play a simple melody I only somewhat recognized from his nearly illegible scribblings; soft sounds with an underlying melancholy. It made my heart ache.
He began to sing; beautiful words in a beautiful voice, but still that sadness dripping into my heart like morning dew off flower petals.
I sang back the verse. Not with his words, but instead a response; warm words arriving to soothe sorrowful sounds. Gabriel’s brow furrowed as he listened to my addition. He continued to play though, beginning another verse as soon as my voice faded. There was a small family here who’d been ignoring us thus far, but they were glancing toward us now, heads tilted curiously. I paid them no mind; the new verse was another challenge.
Again I responded; him, and then me; and our voices were rising and falling together, disparate verses interwoven like threads in an intricate tapestry of both hope and pain. As always when our souls resonated, the notes lingered between us long after they’d ceased. We both sat still, frozen in a sort of trance until the family across the pond clapped their hands and let out a small cheer. Our eyes met one another’s and then we both gave a bit of a nervous laugh. I hugged his arm as I scooted closer to him.
“These divergent paths converge,” I pointed out shyly.
A small crease appeared between Gabriel’s brows before he said, thoughtfully, “Convergence.”
Gabriel raised both of his heavy brows high. “Convergence,” he repeated meaningfully. I opened my mouth, about to ask him what in the world he was on about, but then I felt my lips form a small ‘o’ of their own as I suddenly realized.
“Convergence,” I echoed one last time, and then large grins spread across both of our faces, for we had finally not only created the perfect sound for our band, but the perfect name as well.
* * * *
Well, you can have me….
The next few months passed in a frenzy of song-writing, which was both the most wonderful process and the most frustrating, for sure we had figured out our sound, but the process was still taxing. Both of us lost our voices at least twice already, during which time we’d resort to miming and sending each other texts even though we were right next to each other. This usually resulted in a fit of giggles because it was all so ridiculous, but still it wasn’t exactly fun having one’s throat sore and aching for days. Not to mention it made practicing difficult.
Tonight, however, both of us had our voices back, and while we tried to be careful it was difficult not to give it our all. This seemed especially true now as we reached the chorus of one of our latest songs; a rougher sound, voices rising together in impassioned shouts as Gabriel evoked notes from his guitar that sounded like the crackling of flames. Then those notes were fading, our voices growing soft, and the tinkling notes from my piano fell like rain.
I let out a yelp of excitement when the song ended, leaping off the bench of my keyboard and racing toward Gabriel as soon as he put down his guitar to fling my arms around him. “God, you sounded amazing!” I exclaimed.
“Me?” Gabriel laughed, shaking his head as he held me close to him. “You sounded incredible.” My cheeks grew instantly warmer, but I couldn’t have hidden the smile on my face even if I’d tried.
“We should audition to play at some of the local venues in town,” I suggested breathlessly. “Nothing too big; just something to get us started, you know?”
I pulled back some to look at him. Gabriel appeared uncertain for a moment, but then nodded slightly. “Yeah—we can do that. We should do that. That makes sense.” The words came out a bit like babbling; as if he were trying to convince himself.
My face softened. “We don’t have to yet if you’re not ready,” I reminded him.
Gabriel ran a hand through his hair, shrugging. “It’s fine, really. In fact I—I kind of look forward to it.”
“Really?” I asked hopefully.
And you can take me.
“Really,” he said with a genuine smile, and then stumbled backward when I threw myself onto him again, though this time capturing his lips in a passionate kiss. He seemed caught off-guard initially, but then he was deepening the kiss in that fiery, practiced way of his that never failed to send my heart racing. A wave of heat enveloped me, a soft sigh rising in my throat; but for once instead of the feelings scaring me, they only served to encourage me further. I wanted—no, needed to feel more of him.
I slid my hands beneath his shirt, seeking those deliciously defined lines that I loved so much and tracing them with my fingertips. Gabriel’s stomach tensed, his breath hitching in his throat as he threaded his fingers into my hair and coaxed my lips open with his tongue. He tasted like the hazelnut coffees we’d just imbibed. A deep-set ache began to settle beneath my navel.
He broke the incendiary kiss abruptly, trailing them instead along my jaw and to my ear, his tongue darting out to lick the sensitive skin there just as the hand that wasn’t entangled in my hair found its way to my breast. A helpless moan fell from my lips, but still this did not feel like enough.
I want to see you bright and bare
“Upstairs,” I breathed, finding it difficult to formulate a complete sentence. “Please.”
“Mmm,” Gabriel hummed in the way of a response, and then we both hurried up the stairs.
Fear initially began to constrict my chest, but as soon as his wonderfully full lips were on mine again the feeling melted away, leaving me wanting all over again. There was nothing to be afraid of—not with him, not with Gabriel.
I pushed up on his shirt and we broke the kiss to divest him of it, followed soon by my own as he pulled it out from the waistline of my skirt and tossed it aside. A surprised gasp escaped my lips as Gabriel lifted me and placed me on the bed with ease. We both hastily kicked off our shoes before scooting up to the pillows.
For a second it felt like it was all happening too fast, but whether he sensed this or whether he felt this too, our pace began to slow as we returned to touches and kisses that made me feel cherished. Neither of us tried to push the other further; that is until Gabriel broke our kiss again, this time to leave a burning path of kisses down my neck and between my breasts as he gradually crawled backward with all the litheness of a feline. A shiver ran down my spine. He pushed up my skirt so that it was bunched around my hips, his fingers finding the lacy blue fabric of my panties before he paused to look up at me. I nodded, but still was sure that my entire body blushed crimson when he slid them past my thighs and down to my feet, removing them entirely.
Well, you can touch me and you can have me
Gabriel slid down my stockings then, moving to place a kiss on the bare skin of my inner calf just as soon as he’d removed them. The kiss was whisper-soft and it was followed by another a few inches above that one. Meanwhile, he ran his hand up the length of my other leg; parallel caresses, kisses and touches moving steadily upwards.
I bit down on the knuckle of my finger, my heart racing now. My breaths came out in stilted pants and then I suddenly cried out, fingers threading within soft russet hair as his fingers and mouth met at the apex of my thighs.
I was beside myself; my skin flushed and my back arching under his ministrations as he elicited sounds from within me that I didn’t even know I could make. It became impossible to think; all I could do was feel, but that was okay because feeling was all that I wanted to do.
It was when I was positive that I wouldn’t be able to handle it for even a second more that his fingers and tongue moved just so and then I shouted; besieged all at once by a concentrated burst of sensations that overwhelmed me completely. The feeling seemed to last for a long time and afterward I laid there simply trying to breathe, but I had difficulties doing so because Gabriel hadn’t actually stopped. I tugged gently on his hair and he once again trailed his kisses upward, a small smirk pulling at the corners of his lips.
Cocky bastard, I thought to myself, but pulled his mouth down to mine just as soon as I was able to while simultaneously pressing myself against him. He let out a quiet, earthy groan, and with that sound I felt my desire spike again. “I want you so badly,” I whispered feverishly.
Gabriel pulled away slightly, his darkened autumn eyes staring into mine. It was clear that the words had had a profound effect on him and it seemed to be with some difficulty that he asked: “Are you sure?”
I nodded; taking note of the subtle sense of relief that seemed to be overtaking him as I did.
“Are you sure that you’re sure?”
I want to feel you
I cupped his face in my hands, my heart swelling with the unending love and trust I had for this man before I answered sincerely, “I am absolutely certain.”
“Okay,” he said quietly, and then kissed me again; gently, tenderly. I kissed him back, breath catching in my throat. My fingers ran down his chest, past the taut skin of his abdomen and then to the waistband of his jeans. There was a brief, awkward scramble as he helped me take them off; followed by the removal of my skirt and then my bra, my breasts finally freed. Gabriel cursed softly after this, seeming unable to resist the urge to touch and lavish them with kisses. I was glad that he gave into the temptation.
I reached down between us once more, tugging on his boxers until they were divested as well, leaving not a single layer of clothing separating us. I was sure that my face turned permanently pink when I felt him firmly against me. My lips met his again in a hard kiss that lingered before Gabriel stopped to cast me once last, questioning look.
I nodded. His mouth sought mine again, and then I was inadvertently breaking the kiss by gasping sharply when he pushed into me. I tensed up quite badly, mild panic creeping up on me even though I knew I wanted this. Gabriel paused, looking down at me in concern.
“I’m okay,” I hastened to assure him. “Just—slow, maybe,” I said, my breath already catching at the wonderful feeling of him.
“Alright,” he agreed, and then moved carefully, causing my eyes to fall shut and a soft sigh to escape me. I leaned up to kiss him, running my tongue along his bottom lip and reveling in the soft sounds that he was making too.
Gradually, I felt myself relax, nervous gasps devolving instead into uninhibited moans. He buried his face in the crook of my neck, his breathing ragged and his movements becoming so much more deliberate. I tightened my grip on him and oh it was like when we sung together—the world fading as we became hopelessly absorbed by one another.
You and I
I brought my hips to his, raked my nails down his back. Encouragements fell from my lips like desperate pleas. I was soaring like a crescendo. Gabriel gripped my thigh, nipped my collar bone; kissed my neck. A crescendo could not continue indefinitely. Bright, silver lights began to dance before my eyes. He leaned into me purposefully and then I was crying out his name without even intending to; my hips pressing up against his and my entire body tensing in the most incredible way. Gabriel pushed into me hard, a heady moan sounding in his throat as he crushed his lips to mine and then shuddered.
We both trembled afterward, holding onto one another and forced to cease our fervent kiss so we could catch our breaths. We were covered in sweat and the room felt about ten degrees too warm, but neither one of us could quite bring ourselves to move.
You shine a little light on my life when I can’t believe it
“Christ,” Gabriel breathed, and I couldn’t help but laugh a little, my head swimming with feelings of ultimate bliss.
“I know,” I murmured. I hugged him close, kissing him once more and then nuzzling my face into his neck. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too.”
You and I
You shine a little light on my life, light in my life, yeah yeah
We stayed intertwined for another long moment and then Gabriel moved off of me and lay down beside me, immediately pulling me back into his warm and comforting arms. I was grateful for the continued embrace. I could feel his heart beating against my skin—somewhat fast, but steady. I closed my eyes. My mind was so blessedly calm. I was suddenly exhausted.
“I want you with me for the rest of my life,” I whispered wearily.
“And I want you with me,” Gabriel responded softly, and then slowly we drifted off into the most peaceful sleep.
* * * *
You and I
You put a little light in my heart and I can’t conceal it
As agreed upon, Gabriel and I did audition at some of the local venues. There were all sorts—from cozy coffee shops, to lavish lounges, to sprawling stadiums. Starlight Shores was certainly not at a lack for places to make yourself known, and these places always hoped that you would, for that would bring them prestige as well. It seemed all of them sported walls of photos with famous musicians who had “started” in that very establishment and proprietors who took great pride in adding to them. One of the largest venues, on the festival grounds, even had a picture of Jade for some of my very first concerts had been on that stage. Seeing the image, however, made me want to gag.
You and I, Oh
You and I, You and I
So we didn’t audition at that particular venue, but there were still others and it seemed like we got fairly positive feedback from the proprietors. They always smiled at least after we performed, and considering they tended to be rather sullen people, that had to be a good sign.
Still, we wouldn’t actually know until they called us. That was how the process typically went: every season, the proprietors of the more public venues would hold open auditions and then personally call back the ones they wanted to add to their lineups while everyone else got generic “sorry” calls from someone else on the venue’s staff.
Will you say yes? Will you cry no?
It was a nerve-wracking wait, but somehow there was actually a part of me that felt, well, even if we weren’t called back, these auditions alone were already enough to make me happier than I’d ever been performing as Jade.
While we waited to hear back from them we spent countless hours refining our sound; practicing the songs we did have and occasionally attempting to add another song to our repertoire.
Consumed as we were by our music (and admittedly each other), Gabriel and I hardly ever spent a moment apart and as such it became the case that he began spending disproportionately more time at my place than at his. It was at this point that we realized it would simply make more sense if he moved in with me officially.
He’d needed to discuss it with his roommate first, but thankfully Ryan hadn’t minded at all. In fact, he’d apparently expected it to happen a lot sooner since Gabriel hadn’t been around much anyway.
“Just don’t forget about me, you know?”
“How could I possibly forget someone so chronically annoying?” Gabriel asked with an arch of his eyebrow and then, to my surprise, pulled his best friend into a hug.
“Damn it! If you make me cry I’ll never forgive you,” Ryan complained, but he hugged his friend back regardless. He said something else too that I couldn’t quite make out, but whatever it was seemed to crack the casual façade Gabriel had adopted and when they pulled away they both looked a little less easygoing about the move.
Ryan cleared his throat, turning to me then, only his usually smiling face looked unexpectedly grave. My heart sunk a little. “You know, I’ll be honest with you, Jo—I didn’t really get it when Gabriel showed an interest in you, but he did and that was all that really mattered to me. Now, well, I think I’m beginning to get it. I mean, you clearly make this idiot happy,” he said, slapping his friend on the back and earning a scowl from him. “Still though—just know that if you ever break him, I will personally break you.”
“What the fuck?” Gabriel cut in, but I shook my head, glancing at him meaningfully.
“It’s okay,” I said quickly. After all, it was understandable that Ryan would be protective, not only because he obviously cared about his friend, but also because he didn’t exactly have the best impression of me. It was a wonder really that he was giving me a chance at all.
I looked at Ryan again. “I won’t do that,” I assured him firmly. “And I should add that—that I’m sorry for—for treating you so badly; for treating you all so badly.”
Gabriel’s best friend seemed skeptical for a moment, but then he shrugged his shoulders.
“Ehh, don’t worry about it. Actually, it’s kind of funny now. Remember the time you tripped over a sound cable on the stage and shouted, ‘What the fuck kind of irony is it that my lighting specialist is so dimwitted? I can’t see shit!’?” he asked, and then promptly burst out into shouts of laughter. Gabriel stifled a snicker of his own, clearly remembering the incident himself, but trying not to laugh for my sake.
I flushed in embarrassment and then mumbled, “Like I said…I’m really sorry.”
Ryan continued laughing for a while and then finally took a deep breath and said, “It’s officially water under the bridge.” He held out his hand to me and I took it, still feeling a little stupid, but glad at least that he seemed willing to put it behind us. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would have been able to be quite so forgiving.
We exchanged a few more words and promises of hanging out soon; Ryan slapped Gabriel on the back again which this time caused him to retaliate with a jab to the gut; and then we were off to our place on the coast.
If you say so, we’ll be betrothed
The car ride was quiet at first, but then Gabriel said, somewhat uneasily, “Just so you know, if for some reason things didn’t work out between us, I wouldn’t let him break you.”
I laughed a little, tucking my hair behind my ear. “Thank you, but I don’t think it’ll ever come up because I never plan to leave your side.”
Gabriel glanced over at me briefly and then took my hand firmly in his. “Me either, love,” he assured me quietly. “Me either.”
* * * *
Will you come near? Can’t you come here?
It’s not that easy, don’t you know?
It was an uncomfortably warm evening. A light sheen of sweat was collecting on the small of my back and the air was thick with humidity; remnant moisture from the rainstorms that had taken up most of the day. I lifted my long hair off the nape of my neck, wishing that I’d chosen a lighter dress to wear.
From beside me, Gabriel looked uncomfortable. I thought that it might have been from the heat, but then I noticed that his gaze was fixed on the house looming before us.
I looked at too—looked at the expansive garden sprouting initial shades of green; at the wooden trellis that wrapped around the house, vines interwoven within diamond-cut gaps; at the three visible floors lined with dozens of fine windows revealing dozens of fine rooms; at the steep slope of the hill that rose just beyond its boundaries, concealing the residence within its protective embrace.
A flurry of emotions rushed over me all at once—home.
“Are you nervous?” I whispered once we’d made our way up to the porch.
He hesitated a second and then looked down at me with a small smile. “Should I be?” he asked, arching one eyebrow.
I hesitated for a second too and then shook my head decisively. “No. They’re going to love you.”
I gave his hand a gentle squeeze. He squeezed it back, and then I reached out to press the doorbell at last. A soft, melodic sound echoed from within the house.
A moment later, the door opened.
“Dad!” I cried out, and then immediately flew into his arms, unable to help myself. No matter how much older I grew, it seemed that the sight of my father would never fail to make something deep within me give way. Used to this as he was by now, he hugged me in return; his familiar embrace serving to make me feel both comforted and safe. “How are you?” I asked him softly.
“Doing just fine,” he assured me.
I pulled away from him, noting the genuine smile on his face and the surprisingly relaxed way in which he held himself. He did look just fine—so much better than the last time I’d seen him. The carefully constructed stability he’d established over the years was securely set back in place.
I wiped my eyes before stepping aside some so that the two most important people in my life could finally meet. My heart was pounding in my throat.
“Dad,” I began timidly, wringing my hands. “I—I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Gabriel Peters. Gabriel, this is my dad—James Winters.”
Gabriel, who’d been looking at me with some concern, hastened to meet my father’s eyes instead as he extended his hand out to him and carefully said, “It’s good to meet you, Mr. Winters. Joanne speaks very highly of you—it’s clear that you mean the world to her.”
Dad looked briefly taken aback, glancing at me for a moment before he took Gabriel’s hand and said, “Likewise, actually.”
This time Gabriel was the one to look flustered.
“WELL, this is all really awkward,” a voice suddenly sounded from the door, and Mom appeared like a bright light, her brown eyes sparkling when she caught sight of Gabriel. She looked as stunning as she’d ever been.
“You must be the boyfriend. I’m Candice; Joanne’s stepmother,” she said with a smile, and then completely threw Gabriel for a loop by pulling him into a hug.
I giggled as he stammered out a similar greeting to my mom, honestly not surprised myself by her warm welcome.
As soon as they pulled away I rushed forward to hug her too. The spicy scent of cinnamon reached my nose before she pulled away and ushered us quickly into the significantly cooler house. She led us into the living room, where my siblings were sprawled out on the couch chatting lazily. They got up as soon as we walked in though, coming up to hug me and then casting Gabriel curious looks as I introduced him to them.
To my surprise, he shook their hands too, which caused Gemma and Augustus to get all oddly smiley, Tobias to look bemused, and Thomas to practically burst from excitement since he was probably used to people greeting him in a high-pitched voice or ruffling up his hair, which he hated.
They proceeded to ask him questions, but didn’t get a chance to hear the answers because we were called into the dining room for dinner. As soon as they turned to go Gabriel let out a breath. It made me realize that he was clearly trying very hard to make a good impression on them, a feat that was probably made all the more difficult by the fact that he’d become so used to sinking quietly into the background. I took his hand, kissing it softly and wondering at the fact that the incredible love I had for this man could still continue to grow.
Dinner was a noisy and hectic affair; silverware clinking and multiple conversations occurring all at once. I was quite used to it by now, but I could tell Gabriel was a little overwhelmed, even if he was doing his best to keep track of it all. This meant that he remained fairly quiet, but he listened carefully and politely answered any questions that were directed at him and that was honestly all that mattered to me.
It was as we eating dessert (a lovely key lime pie), that Mom suddenly tapped Dad on the arm and exclaimed, “Hey! Since everyone is here you should tell them your big news!”
Everyone fell quiet and looked over at him curiously, a fact which made him shift uncomfortably even if it was all family here.
“Oh,” he said, adjusting his glasses. “Well, uh….Starlight Films bought the—the rights to turning some of my books into movies a while back and actually hired me to…to co-write the screenplay for Shattered. We worked on it for over a year, but I never mentioned it because the project ultimately fell under….”
“Then I got the word that they’d hired a producer to pick it up again though and well, cutting a long story short—filming starts late this year and they want me to be a part of the entire process!”
The reaction this pronouncement evoked could only really be described as madness as everyone (including myself) began to shout congratulations and about a thousand questions all at once. Dad answered them the best he could, looked both flustered and pleased as he did so. This was such an incredible opportunity for him! Plus, given the current popularity of adapting books into films, it was likely that if this one was successful, more of his novels would be turned into movies too.
“Maybe they’ll even give you a cameo in the film…like they do with Stan Lee in all the Marvel movies,” Gabriel added cheerily, which then resulted in a renewed buzz of excitement and giggles as we all tried to imagine Dad in a film. Perhaps needless to say, Dad rather hoped that they wouldn’t.
The enthusiasm continued as we all finished up our desserts, the mass conversation eventually breaking back up into smaller ones once again.
I was in a particularly good mood as I subtly dipped my finger into what remained of my slice of key lime pie, stated exaggeratedly, “Oh dear, Gabriel. It seems you’ve got a bit of whipped cream on your nose, just…there,” and then tapped him on the nose, giggling as the fluffy cream stuck.
Gabriel scrunched up his face, which made me giggle even more. “Do I now?” he asked, suppressing a smile. “You know I hadn’t even noticed—it’s almost as if it just now appeared or something.”
I lost myself to a fit of laughter.
“Gabriel,” I suddenly heard my dad ask, having apparently teleported directly behind us, “do you think we could talk for a second?”
Gabriel hastily wiped off his nose before saying, “Yes! Of course.” He looked like he rather wanted to sink into the floor, but Dad just nodded and headed out of the dining room. I hoped I hadn’t imagined the look of amusement on his face.
“Sorry about that,” I said, my face feeling hot.
“It’s okay—having food all over your face makes for a good impression, right?” he asked with mock seriousness. I laughed a little, unable to help myself.
“Most definitely,” I managed to say. Gabriel smiled and got up to follow my dad, but before he left leaned down to kiss my cheek softly.
As I watched him go I wondered what on earth Dad was planning to say to him…and very much hoped that it was nothing too bad.
~*~*~*Gabriel’s Point of View~*~*~
Down, I’m too deep. Girl, I can’t sleep
I’m your alarm, weak to your charms
The evening was still warm, despite the aging hour. It was also so humid it was as if, instead of the rain falling down from the clouds, it had dispersed into millions of microscopic droplets that hung suspended in the air.
It sort of smelled vaguely like whipped cream too, although that could have been because I’d had some dabbed on my nose a second ago. I reached up to make sure it was entirely gone, but halted in my steps when the so-called “backyard” came fully into view. The same uneasiness that I’d first felt when I lay eyes on this enormous and lavishly decorated home descended upon me once again.
After all, there was a creek back here; complete with a wooden bridge running over it and a pond filled with blossoming lily pads and cattails. There were also two long rows of fruit trees, dozens of glowing lanterns, and a sunroom that I was fairly certain was about half as large as my grandparents’ entire house back in Bridgeport.
I tried to remind myself that Joanne already knew exactly who I was and exactly what I had, yet still wanted to be with me, but it was difficult to accept this when surrounded by such an opulent and expansive property. It made me feel suddenly and decidedly shitty—what in the hell could I offer her?
“Are you okay?” I heard Joanne’s father ask, and I realized he had continued walking to the edge of the pond while I was still standing by the backdoor like a fuckface. Good job, Gabriel. You’re doing great, I thought bitterly, and then hastened to catch up to him and stand by the pond as well.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, and then fell quiet for a moment, his hands in his pockets. I could hear muffled voices coming from within the house, as well as a few crickets chirping from the other side of the pond. As a kid I probably would have wanted to find them. A small part of me still kind of wanted to find them.
“So,” Joanne’s father said then, rocking back on his heels a bit, “I suppose this is the part where I interrogate and threaten you, right? The part where I judge your worth?”
I hesitated to answer, somewhat thrown off by this odd introduction.
“That was my original plan anyway,” he continued, “but I don’t actually feel the need to do any of that. After all, it’s clear to me that you care about my daughter. It’s clear to me that you only want the best for her, and it’s clear to me that you would do everything in your power to keep her safe. Something I do feel the need to do though I guess is…thank you. Not only because I couldn’t ask for anyone better to love her, but also because it is thanks to you that she’s still with us today.”
He stopped, turning his head to look at me. “I won’t ever forget that it was you who called me that night.”
I cleared my throat, forcing myself not to avert my gaze. I was so thrown off by this that it was difficult to compose a response. “It was you who ultimately saved her though,” I settled on saying.
“Something I wouldn’t have been able to do if you hadn’t made that call,” he said firmly. I fell silent, now really uncertain what to say. It felt like too much praise for such a simple, impulsive act. All of this felt like too much praise, actually. I braced myself for the catch that I knew had to exist.
As if on cue, Mr. Winters sighed, watching the small ripples gather in the pond before saying, “I worry though. I worry that the two of you are a little too attached. You rarely let her out of your sight and she in turn rarely lets you out of hers. You’re both quick to respond to one another’s needs—to listen to one another, to comfort one another—but you almost…depend on one another, and as a father I have to admit, that it’s…a little scary for me to see that. I worry about what would happen if, god forbid, anything ever happened to either of you.”
I wasn’t sure what I’d thought the catch would be, but I was sure I hadn’t expected that. I frowned, absently running my hand through my hair. What was he getting at exactly? Was he telling me to back off? Was he asking me to promise that nothing would ever happen to either of us? I hoped not, because lord knew I couldn’t make that fucking promise.
I tried to ignore my abrupt craving for a cigarette. I let out a breath. “So…what are you saying?” I asked.
“I’m only saying to be careful,” he answered calmly. “I know that you want to jump to Joanne’s aid every second that she seems even a little upset, but you can’t do that. You can’t let her become that dependent on you. It’s unfair to her and it’s unfair to you. Be her support; not her means of living.”
My stomach lurched. I wasn’t doing that…was I? If so, that hadn’t been my intention. My intention had always been to help her stick up for herself; to face her fears; to free her, not entrap her. In the process though, had that been what I’d done?
“I…thought that was what I’d been doing,” I answered with care, though a hint of uncertainty began to creep into my chest.
“So it seems,” he began, “but I have seen some signs of dependency—from both of you—which alerted me to the disconcerting fact that it could escalate to that point. That’s why I’m bringing it up now—in the hopes that it doesn’t end up happening.”
“I see,” I whispered.
Joanne’s father surveyed me for a moment and then said, slowly, “I am wondering though.… Why is it that you’re trying to do that? Why do want to help her so badly? And don’t say ‘because I love her,’” he added with a slight smile. “That’s a cop-out.”
I felt myself relax a little. This, at least, was something that I could respond to easily. “Because she makes me happy,” I answered at once. “Because I don’t—feel like I need to be anyone but myself around her. She accepts me for who I am and yet, makes me want to be a better person for her,” I admitted with a laugh. “It doesn’t really make sense, but it’s true and that makes me want to be there for her too. That makes me want to be as helpful to her as she’s been to me, if not even more so because…because she deserves that. She deserves everything that I could possibly be for her.”
“Oh, is that all then?” he asked with a smirk.
I glanced away, feeling my face grow a little warm. Fireflies were beginning to appear in the night; glowing brightly and then fading and then glowing brightly once more. Somehow the sight seemed to reflect how I felt.
“I stand by what I said then,” Joanne’s father conceded. “I really couldn’t have asked for anyone better to love my daughter. You’re…a genuinely good person, Gabriel, and I know that you’ll do right by her.”
My face fell as I felt something within me crumble. Why did so many people seem to think that? What had I ever done to give them that impression? I’d never felt like I went particularly out of my way, and it seemed like someone who was truly ‘good’ should.
Mr. Winters placed his hand on my shoulder, giving it a brief squeeze. The gesture gave me the troubling sense that he had somehow read my mind. It also reminded me strongly of my grandfather. I felt my throat tighten, but luckily he turned to go then; footsteps muffled in the soft, dampened grass.
As soon as he was gone I rubbed my temples, feeling the start of a dull headache. An interrogation and a barrage of threats would have ultimately been preferable—they were far less pressure in comparison to this. I felt like, maybe, I could live up to it though. After all, I would do right by her. I would be careful. I wouldn’t ever allow myself not to.
The backdoor opened then, effectively startling me, but the sound of soft singing reached my ears soon afterward; sweet soprano notes falling from even sweeter lips. My heart skipped a beat. I would of course recognize that mellifluous voice anywhere.
The words became clearer as she came up behind me, sliding her arms around my waist.
Sing sweetly, you sing so sweetly
I’ll be your ten-part harmony
“I want to dance on the words that fall from your mouth.”
“I want to…” I sang back quietly.
“Kiss, your melody,” we finished together.
Joanne laughed lightly. I turned around, tilting her head up toward mine and then tasting those sweet lips for myself. She made a soft sound in her throat which had me immediately wishing that we weren’t at her parents’ house. I pulled away slightly. Her emerald eyes were sparkling. She looked beautiful, but to be fair, she always did.
“You seem really happy,” I said pointedly.
“I am happy, Gabriel, because there is much to be happy about!” Joanne dramatically announced.
I felt a smile rise to my face. “Oh, is there?”
“Absolutely,” she answered earnestly. “For one, I think my dad really likes you because when he saw me he didn’t have a single critical thing to say. He just kissed me on the forehead and told me that he was happy to see me so happy.”
“I can relate to that feeling.”
Joanne grinned. “There is another thing to be very happy about though, my love.”
“And what’s that?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
Joanne reached into her pocket, pulled out her phone, tapped a few buttons on it, and then held it to my ear.
“Hello, this is Molly Magdalena calling from Los Sueños Private Club. After listening to hundreds of auditions I am pleased to inform you that Convergence was selected to have a position in our summer line-up. As we do have a number of waitlisted acts, we ask that you please call us back before the week’s end to let us know whether or not you’ll be accepting this offer. We sincerely hope that you do. Have a wonderful evening. Take care—bye.”
The message ended. My heart seemed to be beating very fast. “Well now….” I hedged. “That is something, isn’t it?”
Well, you can have me and you can take me
I want to see you shed your doubts
Joanne’s expression flickered from one of utmost happiness to one of slight apprehension. “Something…something good?” she asked hopefully. She was bouncing on her toes, her hands clasped in front of her as she waited anxiously for my response. It was no surprise that she looked as if she wanted nothing more than for me to say yes. What was a surprise though was that I found myself feeling the exact same way.
A small smile began to pull at my lips. “Not something good—something great,” I corrected, and then laughed when she let out an excited squeal and hopped into the air.
“But wait,” she said then, freezing in place as she looked up at me wide-eyed. “Do you really mean that? Can we actually say yes?”
“Joanne,” I stated seriously, “I honestly can’t think of a single reason why we wouldn’t.”
* * * *
~*~*~*Joanne’s Point of View~*~*~
Well, you can touch me and you can have me
There’s something special about…
You and I
“I’m Joanne Winters—”
You shine a little light on my life when I can’t believe it
“I’m Gabriel Peters—”
You and I
You shine a little light on my life, light on my life, yeah yeah
“And we are Convergence.”
You and I
You put a little light in my heart and I can’t conceal it
Our first official concert.
My heart thrummed in my chest as I glanced over at Gabriel, seeking silent confirmation that he was ready. After all, it’d been less than an hour ago that he’d had his head between his knees, having what I could only describe as a mild anxiety attack. It seemed like it was out of pure anger at himself that he got over it, and he’d been rather irritable afterward as he adamantly assured me that he was perfectly fine now.
As a testament to his determination, Gabriel nodded.
You and I, oh, you and I, you and I….
I pressed several keys on my piano at once, holding out the notes as they soared throughout my being and cast away any lingering worries I’d had. I could feel the anticipation rising off the audience, which included, much to my delight, my very own family members.
Closing my eyes, I listened as Gabriel’s voice rose above the haunting tone. The sound made the hairs rise on the back of my neck and I couldn’t help but glance over at him, entranced by that lilting melancholy and the way he blossomed into life on the stage. Gabriel slammed his guitar then, the notes hard and loud as they intensified the song. One, two—
I joined in singing with him.
So please believe, So please believe
So please believe, So please believe
Our music swelled—impassioned voices, that forcible guitar, and the resonant notes from my piano swirling around us like crystalline lights.
We were floating, the world falling away and I knew without a single shred of doubt that we had achieved transcendence.
* * * *
You and I, we’ll get by on the pattern of the embers in your eyes
The weeks continued on in that transcendental haze as we performed not only at Los Sueños, but at other venues as well.
Most of the concerts were fairly simple; primarily small venues for primarily small crowds, but slowly I began to notice that the audiences were becoming larger as we accumulated what seemed to be a decent fan base.
Sometimes we’d even be approached afterward for pictures or autographs. I’d been a little worried at first that Gabriel wouldn’t like this, but he was always really kind to anyone who asked and again I felt myself fall ever more deeply in love with him.
Thin-skinned, I’m sinking in, sun bursts above and we begin
Perhaps that was partly why I found it so difficult lately to keep my hands off of him. There was just something about seeing him in this light that drove me positively insane. He seemed to feel the same way too though because sometimes we wouldn’t even make it home; Gabriel lifting me up against the wall of our dressing room and pushing my dress up around my hips before we became completely lost to and undone by the other.
You and I, I think I’m floating
It only served to further the feeling that we were drifting along upon clouds made of light and it wasn’t until we had some much unexpected visitors that we gave anything else a thought at all.
I’m gonna lose my mind just knowing
“What is it?” I asked, for Gabriel had nearly dropped the pen he was holding, having just signed an autograph for a young girl who amusingly seemed rather keen on him. He recovered quickly though, smiling and handing back the pen and pad of paper before he became distracted once again. I followed his gaze, watching as a man and a woman made their way toward us.
The man had messy black hair with white streaks interspersed throughout it and was wearing shades even though the lighting was dim in here. The woman had short, pumpkin-colored hair with pink tips and distinctive, almond shaped eyes. They were both smiling and as I stared at them I realized that they somehow looked vaguely familiar.
You and I, you and I
“Long time, no see,” the man voiced dryly, and as he looked at Gabriel I couldn’t quite chase away the suspicion that he seemed sort of bitter. I moved closer, feeling suddenly protective.
“Dante,” Gabriel said, and I realized that must have been the man’s name because he smirked.
“Glad you remember.”
“Sammy,” he said then, turning to the woman, and unlike her companion she let out a squeal of excitement at being acknowledged, throwing herself onto him so fast that she nearly knocked me over. I looked on sourly as Gabriel returned the hug and then stepped back, looking at both of them in surprise. “What are you two doing here?”
“Such a warm welcome,” Dante remarked, and this time Sammy smacked him in irritation.
“Hey! You’re the one who insisted on coming with me, so if you’re just going to stand here being an asshat about something that happened years ago you can walk out right now and I’ll talk to them myself!” she snapped, stomping one high-heel against the ground. Her words made me realize why they looked so familiar—these were Gabriel’s old band mates from Bridgeport.
Dante initially seemed as if he might take her suggestion, but then he glanced at Gabriel again and his face became apologetic. It sort of gave me the impression that perhaps Dante had once looked up to Gabriel, which would explain why he was upset with him. I suddenly felt a good deal friendlier toward him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“Don’t worry about it,” Gabriel said dismissively. “I get it, which…although I am glad to see you guys, makes me even more confused about why you’re here.”
“Totally understandable,” Sammy quickly admitted. “I mean it doesn’t make much sense, does it? Not after so long, but well—do you know what we do now, Gabriel?”
He paused for a second and then, looking somewhat uncertain said, “You guys are sound technicians at Bridgeport Music Group.” It was the same position Gabriel had worked at Valencia Records.
“Were,” Dante corrected, though this time his voice was free of resentment and he even took off his sunglasses. His eyes were silver-gold and lined heavily with eyeliner.
“Right, we were,” Sammy affirmed with a nod, “and we were damn good at it too. So good, in fact, that we actually, well, co-founded our own independent division of BMG.”
“Freezer Bunny Music!” Dante chimed in enthusiastically and then the two of them lifted up their hands, pointer and pinky fingers raised in what I supposed was meant to be a bunny. They laughed together and I took the moment to glance at Gabriel. He was looking at them with a nostalgic expression—it seemed like he recognized the symbol quite well.
“But then,” Gabriel began to say, and then stopped, looking stricken. Both Dante and Sammy laughed again, looking terribly excited now. “Wait, seriously?”
“Only if you want you two want to,” Sammy said with utmost sincerity, but apparently I had failed to make the connection that Gabriel had because I was still hopelessly lost.
“Want to what?” I asked, flushing a bit when they both looked in my direction.
Dante smirked, folding his arms across his chest as he cryptically answered, “Want to join us….”
“For you see,” Sammy continued, her forest-green eyes glittering and her glossy pink lips pulled up in a smirk of her own, “we’re here because we want to offer you two….”
“A record deal.”
You and I