Chapter Thirty Nine
"Two months after I moved in with her, she died." Gabe said quietly. "A heart attack in the night." He brushed the tears from his eyes. "The diner closed, and I ended up on the streets again. I found out that the bank repossessed the house when I missed four mortgage payments and didn't tell them why. Obviously, I couldn't because I was in a coma, but…" He sighed. "I don't know what happened to the kids." Jordan hesitated.
"Someone told social services about you. Someone, I think it was Billy Cartwright, told the entire school about you, and one of the parents called social services. The kids were taken into care." Gabriel went pale. Jordan reached across and squeezed his hand. "We'll try and find them." Jordan said firmly. "I've got a friend in the police who might be able to help." Gabe nodded blankly.
"Thanks." He said quietly. He returned the pressure on Jordan's hand. They drove in silence for a while, before Jordan spoke.
"There's something I have to tell you." Jordan said quietly. "The reason I got so angry with you when I found out what you did… and because of Bailey… I was a bit confused at the time." He sighed, trying to ignore Gabe's look.
"What, you thought you were bisexual, or something?"
"Not exactly." Jordan sighed again. "A few days after you first introduced us to Angela… I started to… have feelings for you." He saw Gabe's jaw drop from the corner of his eye, and felt his cheeks warm in a blush. "I, erm… T hen Bailey came along, and… you were happy." He said awkwardly.
"Oh…" Gabe said finally. "Do you… still have feelings?" He asked finally.
"I… don't think so, no." Jordan said quietly, remembering the jealousy he'd felt when he'd mentioned Bailey and Gabe's eyes had lit up. He passed it off as a one-off thing, and shook his head. Gabe nodded slowly.
"That's… good. Saves us from being… awkward." Gabe said softly. Jordan looked at him, and they both burst out laughing at the same time. "Thank you for coming to find me." Gabe said quietly, when their laughter had abated.
"Thank you for coming with me." Jordan replied. "I thought… you'd still hate me."
"I never hated you. You just had the guts to say what no-one else did."
"I didn't have the right to say what I did. Not after everything you did for us." Gabe shrugged.
"Doesn't matter anymore." He said quietly. He hesitated for a moment. "When Bailey called you… did he say…?"
"He has a partner." Jordan said gently. "Jacob… From the sounds of it, they've been together for a while."
"Oh." Gabe said softly.
"It's alright… I just thought…" Gabe turned away. "I told him about… what I do for money. He didn't mind. He just… laughed and made jokes about it. It made me feel better about it." Jordan flushed guiltily. Gabe sighed and rubbed his eyes wearily.
"We're almost home." Jordan said after a short silence. "Five miles or so." Gabe nodded.
"So, what's Ellen like?" Jordan shrugged.
"She's… like a girlfriend." He said. Gabe laughed.
"How long have you been with her?"
"Almost four years. She's nice. I think you'll like her." The car pulled onto a long driveway, lined with trees on either side. To the left, and down a sloping hill, Gabe could see a small lake. A little wooden jetty projected from one bank, about twenty feet out onto the water. A small boat was bobbing on the gently waves. At the end of the drive, stood a little cottage, built in the style of an old log cabin. Gabe smiled when he saw it.
"You live in a log cabin?"
"Yeah. It doesn't look much, but it's lovely in winter. It's cosy with a fire in the living room, and when it snows, the lake looks lovely."
"How long have you lived here?"
"Six years. Just after I joined the army, I was posted up here and bought this place." Jordan parked the car outside the cottage and clambered out. "Come on. I'll introduce you to Ellen." Gabe nervously got out of the car and followed Jordan up to the front door. "Ellen! I'm home!" Jordan called. He took Gabe's coat and hung it on the peg, before showing him through to the living room. A tall, willowy woman came out of the kitchen and kissed Jordan. She turned to Gabe, her eyes curious.
"You'll have to excuse me if I look surprised to see you." She said smoothly. "I didn't find out until yesterday that Jordan had a brother." Gabe felt a flash of hurt at her words, but quickly smothered it. Jordan shot Ellen a look.
"We had a bit of a falling out, as I expect he told you." Gabe said smoothly. "I'm Gabriel." He held out his hand and, after a moment, she shook it, looking as though she'd rather not touch him at all. "Thank you for agreeing to let me stay for a while."
"Well, it's not like I really had a choice." She said coolly, before disappearing back into the kitchen. Gabe and Jordan watched her walk away, the former a little hurt, the latter feeling nettled.
"She seems… nice." Gabe said quietly after a moment.
"She is, normally." Said Jordan wearily. "She's probably just angry at me for leaving her in the lurch so suddenly and she's taking it out on you." He flopped down on the sofa with a sigh, rubbing his eyes.
"I… don't have to stay." Gabriel said. "If it'll make things awkward for you, I can leave."
"No." Jordan said sharply. "You're staying… she'll just have to get used to it." Gabe looked at him curiously. Jordan, interpreting the look, grimaced. "We've been rocky for a few weeks now. I don't think we'll last much longer, to be honest." He said quietly, glancing over towards the kitchen. He patted the sofa, and Gabe obediently perched on the end of the sofa too. With a sigh, Jordan reached across and pulled Gabe firmly onto the sofa and closer to him. He squeezed Gabe's shoulder affectionately. "I'll take you down to the base with me tomorrow. I'll take a blood sample and run some tests, and give you an injection of general antibiotics, and a shot of iron." Gabe shuddered.
"I don't like needles." He said stiffly.
"Well, you'll have to get over it." Jordan said firmly. "We want to make sure you're alright, don't we?"
"You mean, no HIV or anything?" Gabe said bitterly. "I never did it bareback, you know. Except with Bailey. I do have a brain, you know."
"I know." Jordan said calmly, blocking the mental image of Gabe and Bailey together with a wince. "I just want to be sure." Ellen came back out of the kitchen, ignoring Gabe completely.
"I've made a beef casserole and steamed some vegetables. They're on the side in the kitchen. I'm going to get ready."
"Where're you going?"
"I'm going away for a week with some of the girls."
"Oh… alright. Short notice." Jordan said.
"So was your little road trip." She replied icily. Jordan opened his mouth to snap at her before sighing wearily and nodded.
"Fine. Have a good time." Ellen looked at him hopefully for a moment, expecting him to kiss her goodbye. But when he didn't move from the sofa, she scowled and went into the bedroom, slamming the door behind herself. Jordan ran a hand through his hair, before getting to his feet and going into the kitchen. He tasted the casserole and winced. Gabe, who had followed him through, saw, and giggled.
"Nope. She tries, bless her, but she can't cook for toffee." Gabe stepped forwards and tasted the casserole.
"It's alright." He said. "You're fussy, Jord. Either that, or I've spent too long on the streets eating… well, anything." Jordan shrugged, and poured himself a glass of apple juice. Gabe smirked at him suddenly.
"You didn't tell me off for calling you 'Jord'." Gabe smiled. Jordan rolled his eyes and smiled back.
"Well, perhaps I've grown up." He said quietly.
"You've grown up well." Gabe whispered. Jordan looked at him. "I mean, you've done well… for yourself." Gabe blushed, thinking that Jordan had grown up very well indeed. He was several inches taller than Gabe, which he hadn't been the last time they'd met. He'd let his jet-black hair grow out a little, and is near-black eyes now held a maturity and… wisdom, that Gabe hadn't seen before. Plus, he was good-looking as sin, Gabe thought absentmindedly. Realising what he'd just thought, Gabe blushed more deeply. Jordan smirked at him.
"Just… warm." Gabe muttered, looking away. "I'm… not used to wearing jumpers." He winced at his pathetic-sounding words.
"Well, take it off then." Jordan said easily. Gabe didn't miss Jordan's eyes watching him as he did so. However where he'd expected - expected? - to see heat, he instead saw pity. Gabe found himself disappointed that Jordan wasn't looking at him with… lust. "You're so thin." Jordan mumbled, his hand gliding over Gabe's ribs. "We need to fatten you up." Jordan said firmly. "As soon as Ellen's gone, I'll order a pizza. I've got some films we can watch tonight, and… popcorn." He wheedled gently. Gabe smiled, and nodded.
"Just get pizza for you, though. I'm fine with casserole."
"Yeah, but you won't be tomorrow." Jordan smirked.
"Don't be mean." Gabe chided gently.
"If I was mean, I'd tell her. Unfortunately, I'm too kind, so she insists on still making me dinner." Jordan grimaced, before sighing dramatically and turning away. "I suppose it's a good weight loss technique. I never put on weight." Gabe laughed and shoved him gently.
Ten minutes later, Ellen had left them alone, and Jordan had ordered a large pepperoni pizza, garlic bread, a large bottle of coca cola and a tub of chocolate ice cream from the local pizza parlour. Gabe warmed up the casserole and vegetables and settled down in an armchair with the plate balanced carefully on his knee, working his way steadily through his dinner. Jordan watched him from the corner of his eye.
"I'm just wondering how you can eat so quickly, but with such good manners." Jordan said, grinning. Gabe shrugged.
"Practice, I guess." He put his empty plate on the side and curled up in a little ball with a soft sigh. Jordan's food arrived and he eagerly spread it out on the dinner table. He poured himself and Gabe a glass of cola, before tucking in to the pizza. Gabe listened to the quiet noises of satisfaction Jordan was making as he ate. Gabe leant across and stole a slice, grinning when Jordan shot him a scandalised look.
"I didn't think you liked pepperoni. You always used to get margarita." Gabe shrugged.
"Margaritas were cheaper." Jordan looked at him for a moment, before he shoved the last slice to Gabe and put the box in the recycling. He took the tub of ice cream into the kitchen and divided it between two bowls, before adding chocolate sauce and sprinkles. He handed Gabe the fuller bowl and stretched out on the sofa with a sigh.