"Hush up. It'll be fine." Gabe told Bailey reassuringly. They were in the coffee shop, waiting for Angela to arrive. Bailey was shivering a little beside Gabe, his foot tapping against the floor nervously. Finally, after almost half an hour late, Angela arrived, looking very tanned.
"Hi guys. Sorry I'm late." She breezed in and sat down at the table with them. She glanced at her phone for a second, before putting it down on the table and smiling at them. "Have you missed me?" She purred. Her foot nudged Gabe's under the table. He smiled back at her, but couldn't speak.
"We… need to talk to you, Angela." Bailey began tentatively.
"It's about our… arrangement." Gabriel said. "I can't carry on with it any more."
"Why not?" Angela asked sharply.
"Because…" Gabe glanced at Bailey, received a slight nod, and continued hurriedly. "Bailey and I have started seeing each other. We…" Angela's eyes moved to Bailey, frowning.
"You're… gay?" She asked in disbelief.
"Yes." Said Bailey in a low voice. His fingers found Gabe's and squeezed them tightly underneath the table.
"So, you see why-" Gabe began. Angela held up a finger to cut him off, and picked up her phone again.
"Did you hear that, Mrs McIntyre?" She asked. Bailey's bowed head snapped up at her words, his expression horrified.
"You…?" He whispered.
"Yes, Mrs McIntyre, that was Bailey. Yes, I'll pass him on." Angela held the phone out to Bailey, who stared at it for a moment, before he tentatively took it.
"Mum?" Gabriel could hear Bailey's mother shouting down the phone line. "I'll be back in ten minutes." Bailey said in a low voice, before hanging up. He looked at Angela, his eyes filled with tears. "Why did you do that?" He whispered. "Why would you…?" Angela smiled at him.
"Do you remember Jackson Williams?" Bailey frowned and shook his head. "He was my boyfriend in year nine. Remember, we'd just started going out, and I really liked him, when you told the entire school he was gay, and dating me as a cover? His parents moved him away when they found out about it?" Bailey gaped at her.
"You did this because of Jackson?" He whispered. "You… idiot!" He roared suddenly, making Gabe and Angela jump, and half the people in the coffee shop look over at them. "That wasn't me! That was Andrew Geller! He was jealous when he saw you and Jackson kissing after school!" Angela stared at him.
"What?" She asked faintly.
"You… you… you…" Bailey stuttered. "Y-You just outed me, for no good reason! M-My parents are going to kill me!" Bailey stared at her a moment longer, before he ran from the coffee shop, a sob ripping from his throat. Gabriel hesitated for a moment, before pulling enough money from his wallet to cover their drinks, and standing up.
"That was low." He said quietly. "That was really low, Angela." He shot her a disgusted look, and followed Bailey. He ran out of the shopping centre and looked down the high street, looking for Bailey's dark hair and broad shoulders. He could see no sign of the older boy. With a sigh, Gabe headed for home.
He unlocked the front door and let himself in. He went up to his attic room and started clearing up his room. He put in a load of laundry, changed the sheets on his bed, did most of the housework and flopped down on the sofa with a mug of tea. He was expecting Bailey to call any time now. He hoped the older boy would be okay… He'd never had to deal with talking to his parents about his sexuality, so he didn't really know how Bailey was feeling, but he could almost imagine.
At three o'clock, Gabe got up and started making a chicken soup and an apple crumble for dinner. At half past three, he heard a soft knock on the door. Bailey was stood on the doorstep, tears streaming down his face, one of his eyes swollen and blackened, and a rucksack in one hand.
"Can I…" He choked out.
"You can stay as long as you like." Gabe said quickly. He pulled Bailey into an embrace. He felt the boy's broad shoulders shaking against his own as Bailey sobbed. Gabe patted Bailey's back, and gently steered him inside. He made Bailey a cup of tea and sat him down on the sofa. "Do you want to talk about it?" He asked quietly. Bailey shrugged, stemming his tears and gulping.
"They gave me half an hour to pack and that was it." He wiped his eyes and sniffed. "And… they said they'd give me three thousand pounds to put towards rent on an apartment…" He sighed. "I guess I'll go to an estate agent at the weekend, and find a place… and a job… Are they any jobs going where you work?" Gabriel bit back a mirthless laugh.
"I'm afraid not." He said quietly. He leant over and kissed Bailey gently. Bailey sighed and leant against Gabe with a small smile.
"Thank you… for giving me the courage to face them… to face everyone." Gabe patted his back and pulled him to his feet.
"Come on. You can help me make dinner." They went through to the kitchen and finished slicing the chicken and mushrooms for the soup. Bailey worked out his grief and anger peeling and slicing apples, and laying the slices neatly around the edges of a Pyrex dish. He made a crumble mixture, poured it on top of the apple slices and slid it into the oven to bake. Gabe brought the chicken, stock, mushroom and carrot mixture to the boil, before liquidising the soup, ladling it out into bowls and sliding them into the oven beside the crumble to keep warm. He and Bailey washed up, made another mug of tea each, and went back into the living room.
They ended up making out for almost half an hour, until the oven timer beeped to signal the crumble had cooked. Gabe quickly turned the oven off, left the crumble and soup inside to stay warm, and returned to Bailey. The front door opened about five minutes later, and they separated quickly, smoothing their clothes and hair.
"Dinner's ready." Gabe called through to his siblings, who were hanging up their coats in the hall. "Get washed up and come back down." He didn't miss the nasty look Jordan shot Bailey as he went past. Frowning, Gabe turned to Bailey. "Could you get spoons out, please, and get the kids some drinks." Bailey nodded and obediently went into the kitchen. Gabriel went upstairs, knocked on Jordan's bedroom door, and went inside. Jordan saw him, and scowled.
"What's he doing here, again?" Jordan asked wearily, pulling off his shirt and rooting through his dresser for another. "He's always here."
"Yeah, well, he'll be here a bit longer." Gabe snapped. "His parents have kicked him out."
"Why?" Jordan asked, sounding disinterested. Moved towards Jordan, Gabe forced his brother to sit on his bed, and sat beside him.
"Jordan, if I told you I didn't like Tracy, would you stop dating her?"
"No. Why? Don't you like her?"
"I didn't say that." Gabriel said. "But… I like Bailey, Jordan. I really like him. And because I like him, I've agreed to help him for a few weeks. If you don't like it, that's okay, but please try to keep the fact you don't like him to yourself, okay? He doesn't need to think he's causing me trouble right now." Jordan scowled.
"It's not just that I don't like him." He said.
"Then what is it?" Gabe asked, frustrated. "Is it the fact he's rich and we're not? What?"
"I…" Jordan sighed. "It's nothing particular, Gabe. I just don't like him, alright?" Gabe sighed.
"Fine… just, please, try to hide it… For me."
"Fine." Jordan muttered.
"Thank you." Gabriel leant across and hugged Jordan. "Come on. We made an apple crumble… Your favourite." He wheedled gently. Jordan rolled his eyes, but followed Gabe back downstairs. Bailey sat quietly during dinner, only speaking when one of the twins or Phoebe asked him a direct question. Gabe saw Jordan frowning slightly at Bailey several times, and kicked his brother under the table until he stopped. Gabe listened to the twins talk happily about their day, which involved more leaves and twigs, apparently, and Phoebe gently tried to cajole him into letting her go to a whole-weekend birthday party.
"Pheebs, you'll be exhausted when you go to school on Monday." He said wearily.
"Please, Gabe." She whined. "I promise, I'll get loads of sleep. Please!" With a sigh, Gabe relented and nodded. "Thank you!" She squeezed him tightly. Jordan rolled his eyes, and took another helping of apple crumble.
"Push over." He muttered. Gabe stuck his tongue out, while Bailey smirked. Gabe put his empty plate in the sink and dropped a kiss on Phoebe's head.
"I've got to go to work. Jordan, can you make sure everyone gets to bed alright?" Jordan nodded. Gabe ran upstairs and quickly pulled on his dark denim 'hot pants', black mesh tank top and brown ankle boots, which he'd hidden behind his wardrobe, and pulled on his trench coat. Heading back downstairs, he kissed the twins goodnight, was collared into helping Phoebe with her homework for ten minutes, and was finally able to kiss Bailey goodbye and leave.
"You're late tonight, Gabe." Daisy handed him a coffee as he entered the diner that evening.
"Mm…" Gabe sat down at the counter with a sigh. "My boyfriend's moved in with us." Daisy stared at him.
"I don't think I've ever known you to have a boyfriend before." She said slowly.
"He's my first." Gabe muttered. "His friend outed him to his parents today, and they kicked him out."
"Poor thing." Daisy said sympathetically. "Is he alright?" Gabe shrugged.
"He's holding it together. He says he's going to find a place of his own at the weekend. Jordan's not too impressed."
"If you ask me, you're too soft on that boy, Gabriel." Daisy said firmly. "If he knew-"
"Daisy." Gabe said patiently. "Jordan and the others are not, if I have anything to do with it, ever going to find out what I do to pay the bills." He sighed and drained his coffee mug. "He's just going through a… rebellious phase." He took off his long trench coat, hung it on the hook beside the door, ignoring a few glances he got from the other customers in the diner, and stepped out into the night.
He wandered along to his usual alley, fully expecting to be waiting a long time for a customer. He'd not been out for several days. Soon after starting this 'job', Gabe had learnt that regular customers were only regular if he was. He could miss one day, and at a push, two, but after three or more, he started losing regulars, and they rarely came back again.
He was surprised to find two of his regulars already waiting for him when he arrived at the alley. It appeared that they were arguing over who would get him first.
"Now, now boys," Gabe purred as he approached them. "I can handle both of you, you know that. Let's stop the squabbling, and play, shall we?" The men were unbuttoning their jeans before he'd finished speaking.