It starts when I get a call from Victoria. I'd kept up with it as best I could, but when the girl called me in her worry, telling me that Gabe hadn't answered anyone's calls or texts, wouldn't even answer his door, I knew it was worse than anyone thought.
Worse than I'd thought. He hadn't posted on social media in a while, but I knew Gabe well enough to know he sometimes went MIA when he was feeling particularly spiritual. Detox, he always calls it, and he says it in this obnoxious know-it-all tone.
So I hadn't really thought much of it until I'd received a few texts of concern asking if I'd try to get through and make sure he was okay. I'd seen Gabe and Erin fall in love via social media; between my relapses, and time and distance, I hadn't seen Gabe in two years or better, but it didn't mean I stopped caring. Sometimes life got in the way, and being one of 'those' FBR guys meant I understood that.
Pete had mentioned in passing that Gabe was going through a difficult breakup (I suppose sparing the details for my sake), and I couldn't deny that I felt a stab when I imagined Erin taking the ring from her finger and handing it back to him.
Pete, William, Victoria- me- there were a small number of people who understood Gabe on the deepest level you could, and we knew him well enough that it was a silent understanding that Gabe cares way more than he ever lets on.
Anyway. Victoria's call and pleading for me to check in were all it took, and next thing I know I'm standing outside Gabe's apartment with a backpack full of essentials (top shelf tequila, an ounce of weed, and some decent food, as well as a few changes of clothes because, hey, it's Gabe and you never know what could happen).
I swallowed the nervous lump in my throat, trying to remind myself why I was there in the first place. There was no answer when I knocked, of course, so I said loudly, "Gabe, it's Travie fuckin McCoy. I know you're in there, answer the fucking door, I'm freezing my dick off out here."
I heard a bit of shuffling around inside, but there was still no answer so I knocked again, making it as obnoxious as possible, until the door finally flew open.
Gabe stood there looking half asleep, and a little pissed, and only wearing boxer briefs and a tshirt with his curls long and messy. I hadn't seen him in forever, but there was something about seeing him in that state that struck a chord of distinct sadness and longing, and it made my heart ache a bit.
He looked surprised and definitely confused to see me, but he stepped aside and let me in regardless.
"Did Pete send you?" were his first words, sounding irritated, and I rolled my eyes as I shrugged off the backpack and my jacket.
"Everyone's worried about you- I'm worried," I said with a shrug, trying not to let my gaze wander as I glanced over to him. He looked tired, his eyes had dark circles under them, and he also looked a hell of a lot older all the sudden.
"I don't need a fucking babysitter, I'm fine," he said with a shrug, walking over to the couch without an invitation to follow.
"Your place is a fuckin mess and you're not posting a million pictures of yourself- you're not fine," I told him knowingly as I followed, and I was teasing but I made sure that my voice held the tone of sincerity and worry I felt.
He sighed heavily as he wiped a hand over his face, finally meeting my gaze again as we sat on the couch. I tried not to let my nostalgia get the best of me, because regardless of the history and feelings that had suddenly resurfaced, I was there to comfort him over someone else.
"I dunno, man," he allowed with a shrug, biting his lip as he tried to find the words. He seemed almost scared to talk, and I thought briefly to myself that he probably wouldn't want to talk to me of all people about his breakup. "I'm kind of losing my mind."
"Well- whaddya say we lose our minds together," I offered with a sad smile as I pulled the bottle of liquor out, the stash falling with it, and he gave me a meaningful, bittersweet smile in return.
Three hours later, most of the tequila was gone and we hadn't even touched the weed.
I'd gotten Gabe talking, and now it was like he wouldn't stop. It was mostly an endless stream of consciousness, only looking for the occasional response or validation, and I let him talk. I let him talk, simply watching him with a comforting and likely fond smile, because I knew it was what he needed. That thought stung, that I still knew what Gabe needed more than anyone else did, but I pushed it aside.
".…I just don't get why it's always like that, y'know? She knew how I was, she knew the man I was and am when we started dating. Why the fuck do they always think they can change us, why do they always want to," he slurred with a shake of his head, sounding exasperated at the thought. His expression changed, and my heart jumped a bit as he looked to me with wide eyes, a look I remembered all too well.
"You never tried to change me," he said aloud, and it sounded like it was more a realization than anything. "Trav- you're the only person I've ever been with who's never tried to fucking change me."
I didn't know what to say, even in the haze of the alcohol, so I just nodded slowly and shrugged a bit. My throat had suddenly gone dry, and I quickly realized that we were walking into a conversation we definitely didn't need to have while drunk. Fuck, maybe being drunk was the best time to have it, who knows.
"That's not what love is," I finally said softly, meaning my words. I remembered well what it meant to be with Gabe, remembered that before anything else you had to give him the freedom to be exactly who he was.
"Were we really in love?" he asked honestly, not hesitating in his curiosity to find out what my thoughts were. I didn't really know how to respond to that, almost hurt by the fact that he'd asked. There was something in his tone, though, and I realized that he was likely just asking for the sake of hearing it. Egotistical fucker, some things never change.
Then again, maybe he needed to hear it as much as I wanted to hear it from him. Validation that whatever feelings I'd held onto weren't just in vain.
"We were young," I began with a slow nod, distracting myself with the mostly empty glass in my hand, swirling melted ice around, "but I don't think that means we weren't in love. We didn't know what the fuck it meant, but- it was real. For me," I added with a shrug, glancing back up.
Gabe didn't answer right away, his out of focus eyes scanning mine for a long moment before his lips curled up slightly.
"It was real for me, too," he said quietly, still staring at me in a way that made my insides twist. Fuck. I hadn't seen him in so long, and I wasn't sure I could handle him with the way he was talking to me then, the sincerity back in his eyes.
See, Gabe and I hadn't ever labeled anything. We were, and then just as suddenly we weren't. There had been vocalization of having no expectations, no labels- but what we hadn't expected were the feelings that surfaced too quickly for either of us to know what to do with. Everyone had known, or least seen, what was happening, but we kept diving straight down without heeding their words of caution.
The lifestyle we'd led back then, it didn't really make room for falling in love, but somehow we'd done just that. We started slowly enough, being the best of friends who not-so-accidentally slept together one drunken night. Then it happened again and again over time, and suddenly he was the only person I was sleeping with. Suddenly there were hurt feelings, passive aggressive texts and calls, and then a deafening silence that very clearly meant, "It's done."
Neither of us had talked about it with the people closest to us, being as lowkey as we were anyhow, but I remembered quite well when Pete showed up at my place with a bright, comforting grin and enough whiskey to kill a horse, claiming he was just bored from being off tour. I also remembered the bitterness I felt when I realized that William was likely comforting Gabe in an entirely different way. It wasn't that William had ever been an issue, he was our best friend and I still considered him one of the best I've ever had, but he and Gabe had the tendency to be there when the other needed it most and didn't want words.
I wasn't quite sure what it was that had made me hold onto Gabe for so long, considering we'd never technically been more than fucking, but in my relapses I had vague memories of muttering about him and checking his social media obsessively. I also had a not-so-vague memory of the sinking feeling when I discovered that he was engaged.
"What about you?" Gabe asked suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts as my gaze snapped up to meet his in confusion. "How have you been, Trav? Seriously, I've been fucking talking about myself hours, how are you?" he asked softly. There was something about the way he asked it that made warmth flush through me. I was used to people asking how I was, but most of the time their voices held a tone that very clearly told me that the real question was, "Are you clean?" But I didn't get that from Gabe, and I was almost thrown off by the sincerity of him.
"I'm-" I hesitated with a soft laugh at myself, not actually sure how to answer that. "I'm doing really well, actually. I've been diving headfirst into project after project, keeping myself busy with stupid shit. Mostly being a hermit and working on artwork 24/7, but- I've been clean for eight months," I added proudly, and Gabe's bright grin seemed to set my heart on fire.
"No shit. I'm fucking proud of you," he said sincerely, giving a quick nod. "You working on any music?" he asked curiously, and I couldn't help but smile at the way he slumped into the couch, meaning he'd likely be asleep within a half hour.
"Yeah, I've got a few things in the works. Feels good to finally be back in the studio. How's the band? I heard- about Ry and Suarez, I'm sorry, man," I said with a sad smile, and he sighed and gave a slow nod.
"It sucks, but shit happens, you know? It's all an experience, something to learn from. I just hate how torn up the fans are about it," he admitted softly, and I felt a surge of affection as I was reminded just how much Gabe loved his fans. He gave an exaggerated yawn then, and I laughed loudly in response.
"I say we get some fuckin sleep, we can finish this tomorrow," I held up the bottle and let out a yawn of my own as Gabe rolled his eyes in protest.
"We're getting fucking old," he said with a giggle, shaking his head even as he stood from the couch and stretched his back. "Alright, fine. You're still my voice of reason, so I guess some things never change," he said with a grin, but he seemed to hesitate as I didn't stand to follow him.
I saw something flash across his face, and then something that looked very much like disappointment, and I realized with a pang in my chest that Gabe had subconsciously thought I was coming to bed with him.
"So, uh- pillows and blankets, I guess you know where everything else is," he said with a nod, suddenly seeming unsure what to say.
"I'll be fine, baby boy. Get some sleep," I told him with a fond smile, and he curiously held my gaze for another moment before nodding and bidding me goodnight.
Once Gabe had disappeared into his bedroom, I realized with a heavy sigh that I wasn't actually going to get sleep anytime soon. I settled into the couch and left on the late night television as I uninterestedly browsed my phone. When I opened twitter out of rare impulse, the first tweet that popped up made my heart jump, and I tried desperately not to read into the words.
@GabrielSaporta: Do you think the universe gives us second chances at shit we fuck up?? How do you know when it is?? #drunken4amthoughts whatever, night
Gabe woke up before me the next morning, rather, the next afternoon. When I finally and reluctantly sat up on the couch, having passed in and out of sleep over the course of the last hour, I glanced back into the kitchen to see Gabe making coffee and doing something on his phone, clearly unaware that I was awake. I stood, not bothering to put on any of the clothes I'd shed, and yawned as I made my way over to him.
He looked up in surprise, a small smile appearing. He was hesitant, and I realized that I was too. Sure, it was easy to act like it was 2008 all over again when we'd had a ton of tequila and the words came easy. But this was different. This was a flashback of a different kind, and I could see on Gabe's face that it struck the same sort of nostalgia inside of him. His eyes flickered over me quickly, taking in my shirtless frame, before he glanced quickly back to my face.
"Uh- morning," he greeted awkwardly, honestly looking a bit dazed as I leaned my hip against the counter.
"We have two options-" I began matter-of-factly, deciding not to address the tension between us and instead focus on other things. "We can go grab brunch somewhere- or we can smoke a fat blunt and make something here," I offered with a grin, already knowing which he'd choose.
He seemed relieved at the subject change, and he also seemed to sense my motive, because he gave a playful eye roll and offered, "I've got enough eggs for an army."
An hour and one overpacked blunt later, we were sprawled across the couch and had still made no attempts to make ourselves something to eat.
"I'm just saying! If Harry Potter was real, I'd use magic for more useful shit!" he defended in exasperation, but even he was giggling as he looked over to me with wide eyes. I couldn't contain the laughter that was easily bubbling over, shaking my head as I sat up a bit to gasp for air. I was hit with the realization that, more simply than anything else, I'd fucking missed laughing with him.
"Let's make something to eat, you're fucking delirious," I said with another laugh as I stood and made my way to the kitchen.
He simply watched from the couch for a few moments as I threw together a brunch for the two of us, and my heart jumped into my throat as I felt a hand on my waist and sensed Gabe standing closely behind me.
"Sorry-" he apologized quickly, and I stepped aside as I realized he was trying to get into the cabinet, my face hot with embarrassment.
He didn't seem to notice, though, simply jumping in to help me prepare the meal. We sat in happy silence after we'd finished, nodding proudly at our work and exchanging a few smiles.
The rest of the day was spent in a haze of burnt throats and laughs, with a few intermissions of serious conversation. Gabe had slowly begun to open up, though it seemed that unravel was the more appropriate word, because it was clear that he was pretty torn up.
The thing was, it didn't seem like Gabe's meltdown was entirely because of the breakup. It seemed more a catalyst, the pain that caused him to take a step back and question everything up to then. He talked and talked, and I listened eagerly almost out of habit, used to picking the guy's brain. He talked about taking another trip to the desert, about disbanding Cobra, and then in the next moment about his band's future.
We talked about drugs and alcohol and music, about life and how things happened, and I listened to him in awe. It hit me, somewhere in our conversations, that Gabe was having a midlife crisis of some sort.
We'd somehow ended up in a two-person jam session, me fiddling with his keyboard while he strummed the guitar in his lap, and we were mostly messing around but something about it felt right. We attempted a few poorly executed covers, laughing all the way through them, and it was still the best music I'd heard in a while.
After deciding we were too high to cook for ourselves and ordering a pizza instead, we finally let our brains relax while we watched a movie, sitting closely enough that it made my heart jump into my throat when our knees brushed.
"Y'know-" he said suddenly halfway through the movie, making me jump a bit after the companionable silence, "It's been fuckin years and I still can't read you, Travie."
He turned to me with a grin, but there was a question in his eyes, asking what it was I was hiding from him, and I shook my head in response.
"I say what counts," I reasoned with a shrug, reading his eyes for a moment and giving a smile. "Why do you always assume I've got some detailed novel goin' on inside, you've always done that," I teased with a shake of my head, lightly elbowing him and glancing back to the screen.
"Do you think I'll ever stop being so fucking crazy?" he joked with a laugh, and I could still feel his eyes on me.
"You're fuckin insane, baby boy," I turned back to him with a grin that he returned, and then I shook my head a bit. "You've gotta stop thinking that you're being punished for something, though," I said knowingly, and his smile faded as he listened to my words. "You've gotta stop questioning yourself and your path, Gabe. You're intelligent as fuck, you're headstrong, you're smart, fucking talented as hell. Do what feels right in the moment, and let that be it. Stop thinking that everything is a fucking sign and just live your life. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and stop reading further into everything than you need to," I said with a nod, keeping my tone gentle so he knew it was coming from a good place.
He looked at me for a long moment, mulling over my words, and then he suddenly straightened his back a bit.
"You're right," he muttered, and I was opening my mouth to reply but suddenly his scent was overwhelming me with familiarity and he was catching my lips in a deep kiss.
I tried to pull away, really I did, but with the way he was squirming into my lap and holding my face in his hands I felt like putty.
Before I knew it he was seated on my thighs, and I was returning the kiss with a soft hum of both approval and surprise. We kissed deeply, hungrily, and I tried not to think about how much I'd been imagining a moment just like it for… too long. He broke the kiss first, pressing his forehead to mine and gasping for air.
"Sorry- I just-" he panted out with a shake of his head, and I kissed him again just to shut him up.
"See- this is what I’m telling you. Stop thinking so damn much," I teased with a soft laugh after I'd pulled away, finally meeting his eyes with uncertainty.
"Do you ever wonder how things would have turned out- if we'd actually done this the right way? You and I, I mean. If we'd been a little older, a hell of a lot smarter," he said with a laugh, shaking his head and glancing down to my collarbones that he was tracing through a thin tshirt, and I could tell he was avoiding my gaze.
"Minus excessive drinking, life on the road, and a drug habit," I added softly, no hint of joking in my tone.
My drug addiction had definitely affected a lot between Gabe and I over time, and though he'd definitely had his fair share of experiences with drugs of all kinds, mine was much further down the rabbit hole.
I remembered a time, before my trip to rehab while we were together, when Gabe would sneak onto the bus at 4 AM, and after we'd both come and I was sleeping soundly he would search through my things and flush every pill he found. He never said a word, but I knew it was him, and I knew he was worried. I'd see flashes of concern and hear the strain of his voice, and maybe he never felt like he could vocalize that because we weren't technically together.
"There's a lot I wish we could redo," Gabe admitted with a nod, studying my expression and biting softly at his lower lip. We stared at one another for a moment, and my heart felt like it had dropped through my stomach and all the way to the floor, and I'd been holding my breath without realizing.
There was a lot I wanted to tell Gabe. There were paragraphs and paragraphs I had written and even more I'd kept inside of my head, and yet no way to collect it all and organize it to make sense. I was sure he'd get it either way, but that's besides the point. I had no idea how to vocalize those things to him. Writing lyrics was different; it was an expression, I could ball it up and throw it away if it didn't make sense, and even then it wasn't the same as confessing emotions to someone you cared about.
He'd always said that was the reason for my addictive tendencies; I didn't know how to get the words out of my heart and head, so I turned to substances that helped me do so, or at least in my mind helped me do so. I had told my therapist, one of my therapists, about that and she readily agreed.
Gabe had never judged me, though. He never told me I had to quit, never threatened me with anything if I tried to refuse his wishes, and anytime he asked a series of questions when it came to my whereabouts I could tell it was out of concern, not angry paranoia.
He'd sit for hours and talk to me about what was on my mind, he encouraged me to eat better and go outside and distract myself with art. When I thought back, Gabe made me better. In the time that we'd been together, I only experienced one relapse in the course of about two years, which up to that point (fuck, even since then) was a personal record.
My revelation seemed to show on my expression, because when I looked back up with wide eyes Gabe's eyebrows were stitched together in concern, afraid he'd said too much.
"Gabe- you made me better," I said seriously, my gaze flickering between his dark eyes. "I mean- I dunno, we fucked up a lot. We were never even-" he cut me off with a shake of his head, smiling sadly at me.
"We never said it, we never did it the right way but- c'mon, Travie. Everyone else knew just as well as we did. You were mine, I was yours," he said with a shrug, giving me a meaningful look. I stared at him for a long moment before nodding slowly; he was completely right, but I'd never give him the satisfaction of admitting that.
"We were young, and really fucking stupid, but- we were good for each other in a lot of ways, you know," I told him softly. "When we were- I didn't relapse at all after I went to rehab, Gabe. Do you realize that? Not one single relapse in the time that we spent together, after you convinced me to get help," I could hear the disbelief in my own voice, as I'd never realized that fact myself.
Gabe's expression softened as well at my words, and his gaze flickered between my eyes for a moment as he took a deep breath.
"Travie-" Gabe began, and there was a determined tone to his voice, one that made me sit a bit straighter. "I know you're technically here to comfort me over Erin, and- god, this is so fucked up," he shook his head as he glanced down and heaved a sigh, only continuing when I put a gentle hand over his. I was holding my breath, heart racing wildly in my chest as I waited to hear his next words. I knew, deep down, what he was about to say, but I wouldn't believe it until I actually heard it.
"I think we should try," he finally said, looking up to meet my gaze and he had a look of determination, one that said I couldn't have disagreed even if I tried. "I think- obviously we need time, but- I think that we should try to be together. For real. Not just in between friends and fucking, I want to be with you," he said firmly.
I knew Gabe was high out of his mind, as we'd been steadily smoking the entire day, but there was a glint in his eyes that I hadn't seen since I'd been there, even since we'd been together.
"I've thought about you, about us- all the fucking time, Trav. All the time. I've tortured myself with knowing we could have done better by each other, that- we could have made it last," he finished softly, shrugging uncertainly.
"It's going to take work," I said reluctantly, almost too scared to believe the man in that state, too scared to let myself be hopeful. I knew Gabe, and I knew that he was more apt to jump into something without thought when he was having a crisis. "It's not going to be easy, Gabe. We're fuckin insane, both of us. I may relapse, you may lose your mind. It's gonna take a lot of work-"
"We can do it, Travie. You know that we can do it," Gabe said in a whisper, and I felt all of my resolve melt away when I met his eyes. I bit my lip and gave a slow nod, my throat tight and my eyes suddenly hot.
"Yeah-" my voice broke, "yeah, I've always known we could do it."
Gabe stared at me for what felt like an eternity, and a slow smile appeared on his face after a few moments.
We spent about two hours, sitting there with smiles that wouldn't fade even as we talked seriously about us, about the future. We made a lot of promises, to ourselves and to one another, to be sure that we were making the right decisions and doing things the right way.
We weren't together, not yet, because we agreed that Gabe needed to work through the split and that I needed to be entirely on my feet (and one year clean) once he did. We needed to rebuild from the ground up, as we hadn't been in one another's lives in a long time. But my head was spinning with happiness anyway.
We also agreed to keep quiet about it for the time being, that for all anyone else knew I'd gone to help a long-time friend through a breakup.
The next week went by in a blur. We stayed up through the night enough to see the sunrise a few times, made ourselves meals at fuck-all hours of the day and night, and smoked enough to challenge even a younger version of myself.
There was always music of some sort, and a movie or television show as background to that. I distinctly remembered Gabe looking at me one night and telling me that it was the most alive his apartment had been in years.
He'd avoided phone calls and text messages for the most part, but I'd convinced him to at least reply and let them know that he was okay.
"You've been avoiding them for weeks now, Gabe," I'd told him with a meaningful look.
With the exception of a few passionate kisses and some drunken cuddling, we remained surprisingly platonic through the week, and I assumed it was because we both knew, deep down, that we needed to wait.
Gabe pouted like a fifteen year old as I packed my things on a Tuesday afternoon, as I had a flight to Chicago that night.
"I just don't understand why you can't stay for one more night," he said stubbornly from the couch, where he had a laptop on his knees and a glass of water waving around in his hands as he spoke.
"Because I have to go take care of my dogs," I told him apologetically, though I couldn't help but laugh at his melodramatic tendencies as I walked over and sat on the coffee table in front of him.
"Plus, you gotta see your friends, and your band, your dad- let everyone know you're okay," I told him seriously, and his lips quirked up as he pushed the laptop aside.
"I guess I finally have to face the real world," he agreed reluctantly, and god knows how long he'd been holed up in his apartment at that point, lost in his own philosophical bullshit and then lost in me, I suppose.
"I'm gonna miss you, is that cheesy as fuck?" he asked with a smile.
"You're fucking right it is," I agreed with a soft laugh, leaning forward to kiss him deeply anyway.
"Have you bought your ticket yet?" I asked after we'd broken the kiss, smiling as the hand around the back of my neck kept me close.
"Mmm no- I've been distracted," he accused with a smile, kissing me as I began to protest.
"Don't forget to do that that today, then it will only be three weeks til I see you," I said with a smile against his lips, pecking them quickly before pulling away to finish packing.
As I rode to the airport with a surprisingly heavy heart, I opened twitter out of boredom, and I simply grinned and shook my head at what I saw.
@GabrielSaporta: When you know, you know. You know? And I know you know.