Just One Starfish

by Grasshopper

Midnight Blue/Sunrise Gold
Chapter 15

It felt just like the old days, when they'd go out the back door in the morning and be gone all day, not doin' much, just being together, talkin' and sharing space. It was like that, just brothers, hangin' out. The only thing wrong with the picture now was that they had this huge ball of anger bouncing, whacking back and forth between them, not wanting to be talked about, but scratching to be heard.

"Gabe, did they know where you were all this time?" Dominic couldn't get past the lies. He was raised a good Catholic, raised to respect his parents, raised to believe them and trust them. His world had fallen out from under his feet. "Did you talk at all?"

Gabriel chugged the last of his water and tossed the bottle in the trash. "Yeah, they knew where I was. Easy called them several times for records and stuff. He needed my birth certificate, junk like that. He called once to ask Papa if he'd sign a paper so I could apply for a scholarship. He refused and said if I wanted to go to college, I'd have to find my own way. He didn't have a son named Gabriel."

Dominic cursed under his breath. "I would have helped. God, this is so wrong."

"Well, look at it this way. I'm in college. I've got a great family now. I'm in Arizona and best of all, I have my brother back. Believe me, I know a lot of kids who aren't as lucky as I was."

"You've had five years to come to terms with all this shit," Dominic sighed, "I'm doing it crash style in two days. It's tough to get my head around all this."

Gabriel was sitting on the floor, his back resting up against the sofa in his apartment, his head resting against Dominic's knee. "This was a great day.

How long can you stay?"

"I need to get on back soon, probably tomorrow night. My shift started today and I've got a friend covering for me, but I can't be gone too long."

"My brother, the fireman. You always said that's what you wanted to do. I'm really proud of you, Dom."

"And I'm proud of you, little brother, for keeping your head above water and staying true to yourself. I only regret that I wasn't there to help you. I don't really know what's gonna happen when I go home or back to Baltimore, I should say, cause that house isn't my home anymore."

"I'm never going back to that house," Gabriel muttered, "But we need to be closer."

"I was kinda thinking about that. Maybe the Tucson Fire Department could use another hand."

"Really? You'd do that?"

"Somebody's got to watch out for you and I like the sun as much as you do. We'll see." He ruffled Gabriel's hair.

Dog had been out running in the woods and then visited with Sam for awhile.

He scratched on the front door and Dominic leaned over to open the door.

He watched as Dog nudged at Gabriel. Dog made a weird snuffling noise and nudged again. "What? You've got food. What?" Dog nudged a third time, a little harder. "What? Water?"

Dog barked, one short crisp bark, as if to say, "GABRIEL!!!!!"

"What's up with him?"

"Got me."

Dog snuffled again, louder, grabbed the small blue pillow off the sofa and held it in his mouth in front of Gabriel, his eyes darting back and forth from Gabriel's face to the door.

Suddenly, Gabriel got it. "Oh shit!! Brian !!!" Jumping up, he headed for the door. "Dom, what time is it?"

Dominic glanced down at his watch, "1:20. Why? What's wrong? Who's Brian?"

"Uh, nobody.... somebody.... a guy.... a friend.... gotta go. Be back later. Oh, shit !!!!" The door slammed, the Jeep cranked up and Dominic could hear it fade off into the distance.

Brian, huh? Sounded like more than just some guy. Dominic settled down on the sofa to relax for the first time in four days, ever since Jordan Lawrence's phone call. He knew he had some tall thinking to do. He'd never been homophobic, not really, even knew people who knew gay guys, but he didn't know how he felt about Gabriel being gay. His mind usually just slid away from thinking about what gay guys did. He wondered if this Brian was Gabriel's uh... boyfriend?

Gabriel couldn't believe he'd just forgotten about Brian. Fuck! What time has he said he'd pick him up? 7:00 ? 7:30? And now it was past 1 o'fuck in the morning! Jesus, was Brian gonna be pissed.

The doors to the dorm were locked as Gabriel rattled the handles. Okay, he whipped out his cell phone and punched in Brian's number. It rang and rang. At least he hadn't turned it off. The voice mail came on and Gabriel yelped, "Brian, I'm sooooo sorry. I have a reason. Swear. Come out here. I know we can ----" Click! He punched redial. "Brian, come on. I fucked up. I'm really sorry. Just come out he ------" Click! He'd give it one more shot.

The phone rang three times and a grumpy voice grumbled, "Brian says he's dead."

"Wait, Chester, hold on, I just need to talk to him for a minute."

"Shit, man, it's like five thousand o'clock and I've got an exam first thing tomorrow."

"Tell him I'm sorry." **He says he's sorry.**

Gabriel heard noises at the other end. "He says that you hurt his feelings real bad."

"I know and I'm sorry." **He says he knows and he's sorry.**

Mumbled voices, hand over the phone. "He says if you've got better things to do than remember him, then go do them."

"Tell him to come out here." **He says come out there.**

He heard a snort of laughter. "He says that you're not the boss of him."

"Well, I know that! Tell, no ask him to please come out here." **He asks that you please come out there.**

"This is freakin' ridiculous. Mulder would never be this ridiculous. Go on out there, Juliet. Romeo wants to talk to you. I swear to God, if Celine Dion starts shrieking that Titanic song in the background, I'm gonna shove you both under that raft."

Gabriel heard the doors rattle and saw Brian slip out quietly. He took Brian's hand and they walked over to the Jeep. The cold air made their breath come out in puffs.

"I did forget about you, but it's not what you think," he said softly. "Something happened that took everything out of my mind for awhile."

Brian didn't say a word. Obviously, Gabriel was gonna have to do better than that. "I haven't seen or talked to my brother in five years. He came here today and we, I, it just overwhelmed me." He reached for Brian's chin and lifted his face to the light of the street lamp. He could see the tracks of dried tears on his cheeks. "Can you forgive me? I didn't mean to hurt you. I was just so happy and we spent the time talking and well, I don't have any other excuse. It's the truth."

"You haven't seen him in five years?" Brian asked, the hurt sound still in his voice. "You didn't know he was coming?"

"Hell, I know what you must be thinking." Gabriel looked way into Brian's eyes. "No, I don't. What are you thinking?"

Brian sighed, "I figured you found someone bunches better than me; some one who wasn't such an idiot and had experience. You hurt me, Gabriel."

"I didn't mean to. I'm not like that. You don't know me well enough to know that yet, but I'm not." He felt Brian shiver. "Let's go to the diner and talk. I'm freezing."

He piled the army blankets over Dog when they got to the diner and he opened the door for Brian. They got a booth at the front window so he could watch the Jeep. "I have a story to tell you and I hope it fixes all this, okay?"

The waitress yawned as she plunked down two cups of coffee. "Want anything else?"

Brian just wanted Gabriel to talk, to explain. He's never felt so hurt in his life. Looking at him now, Brian wanted to believe whatever he said, but being forgotten about was an awful feeling.

"Five years ago," Gabriel started, "I lived in Baltimore, Maryland. I had lived there all my life." He played with his napkin, folding and refolding nervously.

"My mother, uh, she caught me with a boy from school in my bedroom. We were just experimenting. She had a shit fit and when my father got home, he threw me out." His voice was so low now, Brian could barely hear him.

"Oh, Jesus, Gabriel, I'm sorry. I didn't know." Brian's hand shot out and covered Gabriel's.

"I don't tell people. It makes me ashamed to say it."

"But, I'm not just people; I'm me. You can tell me anything." He squeezed Gabriel's hand.

"I know, I know that, but it's real hard for me to talk about it. It was like being tossed out with the garbage. I've never been back until last August when I was headed out here. I went by to see if they felt differently."

"Did they? I hope so. They must know how wonderful you are."

Gabriel sighed, "No, they tossed me away again. I'm done with them. They don't want me? I don't fucking want them either."

Brian couldn't begin to imagine the pain. His parents loved him totally and he'd just disappear into the dirt if they didn't care anymore. He got up and moved to sit beside Gabriel. "I'm so sorry." Gabriel moved closer and seemed to ease into Brian's warmth. "Your brother? He threw you away too?" Anger flashed in Brian's eyes. Some brother.

"I thought so. My parents told me that he hated me and wished I was dead. I believed them all this time. But really, he didn't know. They told him I ran away and he didn't know where to look, so he couldn't help me."

"And he's here now? In Tucson?"

"Yeah, he flew here last night and found me at the apartment. I couldn't believe it when I saw him."

"How did he find out where you were?"

"My adopted family, my adopted dad, they found him and told him just four days ago."

Brian was trying to keep all this new information straight. He decided to just let Gabriel talk and ask questions later. All he cared about knowing at this moment was that Gabriel had a VERY good reason for forgetting about him last night.

"Wow, that's some story."

"So, is everything okay now? Are we okay now?"

"Yeah, we're okay now. I do want to know you better. I want to know you all I can," Brian smiled.

Brian: I think he needs me.

Gabriel: Maybe he's the one I could tell.

They argued over who'd pay for the coffee (Gabriel did) and walked back out to the Jeep.

Brian had seen the old pain in Gabriel's eyes, felt it in the way his body had hunched over the table as he talked about his parents, heard it in his voice.

Brian might never have felt the pain Gabriel had gone through, but he could feel it channeling into him from Gabriel's hand. For this moment, he was the stronger of the two. He felt something flip inside. He had to be strong for Gabriel. Underneath that beautiful outer shell, Brian was learning that Gabriel was really vulnerable . Brian could understand now why Gabriel seemed so defensive sometimes. But he was letting Brian in, little by little.

"Gabriel, you've got your adopted family. You've got Sam. You've got Dog and now you've got your brother back. I'd say you're doing pretty good."

"What about you?" Gabriel murmured, "Do you think we've got a chance?"

"A chance at what?" Brian held his breath. He would take it as slow as Gabriel needed. He had no experience, no way of knowing what was expected here, but he did know what he'd seen between Steve and Whit and Brian knew that's what he wanted; to be needed and trusted and loved.

"I guess to be friends, good friends."

Brian smiled, and tugged Gabriel closer, their heavy jackets blocking any intimacy except through their hands and faces. "Sure we do. Come here, you. I may not know much about the big stuff, I do know when to kiss somebody." Their cold noses rubbed as Gabriel leaned down and found Brian's mouth. At first just softly touching, their need turned hot and tongues stroked and pressed.

"Can we go to your place?" Brian gasped in a breath.

Gabriel groaned, "My brother's there."

"Well, I haven't even got a place," Brian rolled his neck, the hot flush of about to explode sex burning his skin. "How about the Jeep? Jesus H. Christ, how about right here?"

Gabriel rocked back and forth, his body screaming. But, this was wrong. It was wrong for Brian and it was wrong for him. It was too much like what he'd done in Wrightsville. He's been on his knees too many times in dark parking lots, in cars parked in the shadows. He wasn't doing that, not with Brian. "Bri, not like this. I can't explain, but not like this." He let go of Brian's jacket and walked toward the Jeep, climbing in and cranking the engine.

Brian stood in the ghostly flickering neon light of the diner, his conflicted emotions arguing in his head. Gabriel wanted to be with him, Brian knew that. He could hear it in Gabriel's voice. They had gotten closer by Gabriel opening up about his parents and his brother. Just coming to apologize meant he cared. He wanted to run to the Jeep and yell, "Explain what? Not like what?"

But he was beginning to understand Gabriel now. It wouldn't work to push. Things had happened, bad things, things that were eating him up. If Brian ever wanted to help Gabriel get past his memories, he'd have to just be there. Not pushing, just waiting and using his patience. Tomorrow, he decided, he'd call Steve and Whit. Ask their advice. He climbed in the Jeep, rubbed Dog's head and looked over at Gabriel. "You okay?"

"Yeah, sorry. I just have a thing about foolin' around in public places. It's not something I do."

"I understand," Brian said softly, "I shouldn't have said what I did. I just wanted you worse than hell and I wasn't thinking straight."

Gabriel laughed "If you'd been thinking str8, none of this would have happened." He shoved the Jeep in gear and headed back to the dorm.

Before Brian got out, he held Gabriel's face in his hands gently and said in a whisper, "It's gonna be real hard to get rid of me. I want to be your friend and whatever else you need. I won't push, but one day, you'll trust me enough to let me in."

Gabriel pulled Brian to him and they kissed gently, then harder, wetter, hotter. Breaking apart, panting for breath, Gabriel said, "Call you in the morning as soon as I know what's happening. I want you to meet Dominic."

Brian grinned, "Great, drive safe. Talk to you tomorrow." He rubbed Dog's ears and hopped out. He stood on the sidewalk, watching the tail lights until Gabriel turned the corner.

Wandering back to the front doors in a haze of happy, he pulled on the door and nothing happened. Peering through the glass in the door, he read the time on the lobby clock. 4:47. Oookay! He'd forgotten that the doors locked automatically at 1:00 and getting out was fine, but getting in was um.... not too easy. Great idea, if he was Freddy Kruger, but kinda bad for Brian Jenkins.

He pulled out his phone and called Chester. His phone was off. He called Alan. Same thing. Damn! Okay, pawing his way through the cactus and prickly sage growing around the building, he tapped on his window. "Ches, Ches, wake up." Tapping again, he waited for the lights to come on. Nothing. "Chester. Hey, Farling. Let me in!!" He rubbed his hands and then stuffed them in his pockets.

A flashlight glared into his eyes. "What's out there?"

"Dang, Chester, it's me. Let me in. I'm freezing."

"Let me see your hands."

"Chester Farling, I'm going to kill you." Brian raised his hands.

"Five fingers on each hand. Turn around and show me the back of your neck."

Brian rolled his eyes. He guessed he deserved this. Turning around, he pulled the collar of his jacket away from his neck. "See? No alien technology.

Just your roommate. Will you please go open the door?"



"Password. How do I know it's really Brian?"

"Jesus. Um, password. Uh, X-Files."

"Would I be so obvious with my safety, stranger?"

"I'm gonna throttle you."

"Can't if you're not in here. Password."

Brian tried all the obvious words, then he remembered the new t-shirt Chester's mom had sent him the other day. "Oh, okay, is the password

X of Redlum ?"

"Bri, good to see ya, buddy. Let me go open the door."

Brian crawled out of the shrubbery and jumped on Chester when the door came open. "You're so gonna pay for that, you idiot."

Jordan and Dan sat on the sand, watching the sun rising over the horizon. The cold air blew, making their noses red and frozen. It was always their favorite time of day, sitting here watching another 24 hours start. Another day in their lives. It had been hard work getting to this happy place in their lives, but oh, was it worth it.

"I wonder how Gabriel and Dominic are doing?"

"I'm sure Ez will hear soon. It'll be so good for Gabriel to have family again. I know he's got us, but a brother will be even better, especially with his parents being total fuckups."

"The world's a weird place," Danny sighed. "We want kids of our own, to love and protect, and other people just throw their kids away."

"We've got JD and Nikki and Bug. Remember what they say; It takes a whole house on the beach to raise a child," Jordan smiled.

"Love you, Jordy."

"Right back at ya, Darlin'."

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