Loose Ends Ch. 05byTangledinYou©
Author's Note: Thank you guys for all the feedback and votes! Can't tell you how much I appreciate it! I'm starting in on the next one, and I'll be sure to let you know when I submit.
Also, I was in a bit of a writing funk, and this chapter was ridiculously rough to get out for some reason, so some thanks are in order. I have to thank August Bouvier for catching some typos and keeping me thinking deep thoughts; TheKiss for sending me some funny randomness when I was bored, and for being my Scottish homegirl; M.C. (you know who you are) for making me laugh and feel like I actually know what I'm talking about; and of course my bookend, Soular, for being a whole bunch of talent wrapped up in a phenomenal human being. Thank you for helping me get through it and all those late/sleepless nights!
Hope you all enjoy! :)
Gabriel was standing behind Nicole, his arms wrapped around her waist, and his face nuzzling the side of her neck while she made him something to eat. They were recovering from what seemed to be an insatiable need to be tangled up in each other after a night of intense, nearly violent fucking. Now, after showering and getting dressed, they were taking a much needed break, if only to protect each others bodies from breaking down on them.
Gabriel's tan shoulders and back were covered in thin red scratches and bite marks, which were visible because he was still shirtless and only wearing his jeans. Nicole had stared in horror at her handy work that morning, but he'd just laughed not seeming to mind. In fact, he'd been quite turned on when she was making those marks, and he knew when he felt them ache underneath his clothes he was going to think of her. He also figured he'd returned the favor since Nicole was walking more gingerly than normal. He could relate since his thighs were stiff and he felt a little raw.
Both of their lips were swollen from kissing and sucking on various sensitive parts of each other, and their limbs were weak with exhaustion. They were a hot mess...and still, they'd probably have ended up fucking again if he didn't have to head into the studio later that morning. At least for the moment, their minds weren't on sex. Nicole was discussing work, which she'd taken off from so she could spend the morning with Gabe before he left.
Gabriel raised an eyebrow as he listened to Nicole tell him about yesterday, the shitty customers she'd helped and the evaluation she'd had to undergo with one of the regional managers that traveled in to monitor his stores. Despite being one of the top earners, which was the main reason she could afford her own place, and despite being the second best sales person in her store, she still got critiqued to within an inch of her life. The experience had confirmed her hatred for her job.
"I mean, I'm selling fucking furniture. And I gotta sit in an office and listen to some self important douchebag - who was an hour late, by the way - try to critique my sales performance based on a fifteen minute shadowing session?"
"You get critiqued?" Gabriel asked. He unwrapped his arms and hopped onto the counter so he could watch her face while she talked. "On what?"
She huffed and explained while she dipped a knife into a jar of peanut butter. "On how well we know the sales model; how we treat difficult customers and mistakes with the merchandise that the factory makes; what our goals are in the company; how driven we are to become slave masters -- Oh I'm sorry, I mean managers." Nicole said scornfully, her voice was dripping with sadness and frustration. "I fucking hate it there. Sometimes it's so hard to get up in the morning..."
Gabriel pinched her cheek to get her to smile. It worked, and when she nuzzled her cheek against his hand he couldn't help but smile too.
"When everyday is a bad day at work it's time to find another job, Nic. And hopefully one you actually like, not just tolerate. It's not impossible." Gabriel said.
Nicole sighed. Gabriel wasn't telling her anything she didn't already know. She'd been doing the job search thing off and on for a couple of months, but her mind had been elsewhere. Like on Gabriel. She had vacation time set up for when he went on tour so she could visit him, and the last thing she wanted to do was give that up for a new job, or spend the rare amount of time they had together clicking away on yet another job site. She didn't dare tell him that, though. It sounded immature even in her head to endure a job she hated just so she could hang out with her boyfriend more. Was she becoming co- dependent? Or was she just terribly aware of how little time they had together?
"I know," she replied finally, dipping the knife in again and moving on to the next piece of bread. "But I have to think about more than just being happy. I have rent and bills and student loans to worry about. And, the truth is it's discouraging to spend all that time looking just so I can find a similar job. No one's willing to pay someone fresh out of college the kind of money --" she stopped and gave him a glance and an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, I'm just complaining. People put up with a lot worse everyday and they're not such big babies about it."
He stared at her for a moment, almost shaking his head. It had always been like this for him when it came to Nicole. He always seemed to have gone through the trials she was facing at the moment, like when she would talk about how stressful things were at school, or when they would talk about relationship drama. Before anything had happened between them, when she was just Jackie's baby sister, he'd gotten her because she'd been so similar to him. It was like he was looking at a tamer, younger, female version of himself. All that restlessness, all that fear of making the wrong decisions, or not finding the right path to walk down. He knew all too well what it was like to feel trapped by those feelings. And, he knew what he'd had to do to get through it.
"This isn't about anybody else and how they cope with jobs they hate. This is about you and what you want," he said finally. "What would you be doing if you could? What's your dream job?"
Nicole had moved on to thinly slicing a banana, nibbling on her lip. Dream job, huh? It made her think of those papers you had to write for school. What did you do over the summer? What do you want to be when you grow up?
She shrugged and said, "At first, I thought I wanted to go to school for Creative Writing, but my parents thought it would be better to major in something that would get me a decent job. Then I could write on the side so I wouldn't be a starving artist. So, I majored in Communications instead. While I was looking for a job to tide me over in my major this one came up, and it paid well, so I just stuck with it."
Gabriel tilted his head, his eyes widening a bit. That came as a bit of shock to him. He hadn't known she liked to write. "So what happened? Do you still write?"
Again that shrug, "Not a lot of time for that, and it was just a hobby, you know?"
His eyes narrowed. The words were hollow and rehearsed, as if she were used to telling herself that. He thought about all the books they'd read and talked about. She loved music, but her eyes always lit up when he gave her a new book to read or when they clicked over one of her favorites. She had a passion for the written word but he hadn't known that it extended beyond reading other peoples work.
"When's the last time you sat down and wrote something?" he asked.
Nicole placed the banana slices on the bread, trying to remember how long it had been since she'd written anything. Not even a journal entry in years.
"It's been awhile, huh?"
"Yeah," Nicole said, nodding.
"Maybe it's about time you start doing that again, instead of pretending like you don't miss it so you can cope."
She turned to see him staring down at her, looking like the older, wiser man he was. Sometimes that caught her off guard, and she would have to remind herself that he'd gone through quite a few things in twenty eight years.
"Look, I know what it's like to wonder if you're wasting your time doing something you like to do. I'm not even saying you should write for a living, unless you want to. But, no one is going to force you to do the thing that makes you happy. No one's going to hand it to you. You have to figure out what you want, and then go out and get it," he said, and his dark eyes were as serious as she'd ever seen them. "When I was doing the 9 to 5 bit, I just felt..."
"Empty," he said, finishing her thought out loud. "Like my skin was on too tight. No room to move or breathe. I had all these people around me telling me I had it good, that I should stick with what I know. And, I did have a good job. I could have done just fine for myself doing what I was doing." He grabbed a slice of banana while Nicole paused in finishing his sandwich to watch him speak. "But, after a while trying to pretend that I was okay with the way things were just wasn't cutting it anymore. Had to get back to what was really calling me."
She thought about that for a moment, and then said, "It's a little different for you, isn't it? You've known what you wanted to do since you were a kid. I just...I kind of stumbled into writing. I liked the idea of doing it, but... I don't know, I just tried something new and happened to be decent at it. It wasn't a passion like music is with you."
"You didn't really pursue it, so how do you know?" he said simply. "I may have been passionate about music, but I didn't take it seriously until a couple of years ago, and I have no one to blame for that but myself." He watched her turn away, piecing his sandwich together while nibbling on her lip again. "You're going to get tired of being hungry all the time, Nic. It can't hurt to try writing again, or to really look for something that interests you if you want a normal day job. You don't have to be miserable."
She placed his sandwich on a plate and handed it to him while she took a bite of the remaining banana. She had some things to think over later, but for now she was too busy staring up at him and feeling grateful that she could talk to him about what was bothering her. That had always been the case, no matter what stage of their relationship they'd been in. She could talk to him about pretty much anything.
"You know, you're kind of a grown up, aren't you?" she quipped. "All sage and stuff."
"Don't tell anybody, okay?"
She smiled, watching him take a huge bite of his food. "No one would believe me anyway when you eat shit like that."
Gabriel lifted an eyebrow, barely chewing before he swallowed.
"That, my friend, is a sandwich that only a third grader could love," she elaborated, shaking her head. "You need some fruit roll-ups and a Scooby Doo lunchbox to go with that thing."
Gabriel paused mid chew, looked down at his sandwich, and then back up at her when she hopped up onto the counter beside him. She was trying desperately not to laugh while she polished off the rest of the banana and tossed the peel in the garbage.
"Says the girl with a Cracker Jacks fetish." he said out of the side of his mouth. He swallowed, asking, "And what's wrong with my sandwich?"
"Peanut butter and bananas, babe? For serious?"
He shook his head. "Hey, hey, hey, no talking bad about peanut butter and bananas. This is culinary creativity at its finest."
"Oh yeah, it just screams high class cuisine." she said with a snort.
"Have you ever tried it?"
Nicole smacked her lips. "Peanut butter gets stuck to the roof of your mouth. It's not a pleasant sensation to me."
"Is that a 'no'?"
"That's a 'no thank you'." She shook her head and pursed her lips for emphasis.
"Have some of mine first before you start criticizing."
He held it up to her lips and she turned her head away, but he was having none of it. He was holding her to him by looping his arm around her neck
"C'mon, open up!"
"No!" she screamed, fighting him off enough to slip her head out of his arm and hop down from the counter. But he was right behind her wrapping his arm around her waist and spinning her so that she was looking up at him. She turned her face away to avoid the sandwich he was pressing to her lips.
"No means no! No means no!" she giggled trying to push him away as he pressed her back into the other counter.
"I'm not going to let you go until you try some."
She huffed, her hands pressed to his bare chest. But they were little more than decoration because he wasn't going anywhere. He lifted his sandwich to her lips, and though she wasn't looking forward to the taste, she was willing to tolerate it when he looked at her lips as if he couldn't decide what he was hungrier for. She took a quick bite with a growl, chewed quickly, swallowed. Her eyes were darting back and forth while her taste buds categorized the sandwich as a 'yay' or 'nay'. Then she looked up, gave a tiny shrug of concession and said, "It's aight..."
He smiled and leaned in. "Told ya."
"Hey, I said it was 'aight', not that I just have to have one right away --"
Nicole forgot what she was saying. Hell, she almost forgot her name when his tongue swiped at the corner of her mouth.
"Got some peanut butter right there..."
She giggled when he started suckling on her bottom lip and licking it. "Was this your plan all along?"
He just smiled and kissed her deeper until she was moaning and wrapping her arms around his waist.
"I think I'm liking peanut butter and bananas more already," she whispered with a smile when she came up for air.
She nodded and ran her fingers through his hair, looking up at his dark eyes with as much warmth and love...
"What?" Gabriel asked, his brow furrowing a little at the sudden change in her expression. Her mouth had dropped open and her eyes had widened slightly. She looked spooked.
"Nothing," she whispered. "I just..."
Gabriel tilted his head to the side, grinning at how tongue tied she'd become. "You just what?"
She let her eyes rove over his face for a minute, taking in his features; the softness in his chocolate brown eyes that made her melt, his full lips which she couldn't get enough of, and that indent in his chin. How many times had she looked at him and dreamed of the moment when he would look at her like he was now. How many times had she dreamed about him touching her, being inside of her, and saying that he wanted her? He'd done that and more. He wanted her, enjoyed being around her. That was enough wasn't it?
It should be enough. It's what she'd told herself when she said she would take things slow, that she wouldn't jump the gun and give more than the person she was with was willing to give in return. She couldn't think about anything else now; she found that as soon as the thought entered her head she wanted to say it. She wanted to tell him and hear what he would say.
But what if she spoke those words and he changed? What if he started thinking she was dreaming of marriage and babies, and a two car garage? What if he got scared of what her words could mean? And, worse than that, what if he just didn't feel that strongly about her? She needed to say something soon, or he was going to ask her what was wrong, and she didn't know if she would be able to get around it, if she would be able to resist telling him if he asked her outright.
"I just can't wait to taste the rest of you," she murmured, lifting her lips up so that she could kiss him again, and in the process wipe her mind clean of the thoughts that had come up without warning. That was better. His kiss would turn her mind to mush, and she would be okay while she figured out how to handle this. She could hide from the realization fluttering in her stomach and chest when he was touching her, reassuring her with the way he held her that he wanted to be there.
She could make this enough. For now.
The day had finally come. The album was finished and Phantom Records was throwing Fool the World a release party. Soon the album would drop in stores and then luck and lots of publicity would take care of the rest. In the meantime, the celebration was in full swing and the band was giving everyone invited a taste of their music.
Nicole stared up at the stage in awe, feeling warmth flood her veins and ripple just under her skin. That was what their music made her feel. And watching Gabriel play... There was nothing sexier in the world next to the way he looked naked over top of her. Her eyes roved over his ripped jeans, his legs shoulder width apart and the muscles cording under his brown t-shirt, his mouth against the mic while he lent his voice to the back up vocals. And then he would step back and let his fingers take over. His teeth would scrape over his full bottom lip, his fingers would strum nimbly over the strings, and he would arch his back into the chords that filled the air. She could feel every movement of his fingers like they were on her skin.
It didn't hurt that the drumbeat was intense and had her moving, that the bass and the high screech of the other guitar meshed perfectly with the energy of the lyrics and the vocals. They all looked so good up there, doing what they did best, each of them so talented on their own that when they came together they were seamless. But, watching Gabriel, just him, made her swell with pride and she never took her eyes away from him for long. He would smile at Jonny as he strutted on stage, singing the lyrics they'd written together before pulling the mic away from his face so that he could shake that blond head of hair to the riffs that Gabe made look so easy to play. It was a preview of greatness, and everyone at their party could feel it. All she had to do was look at how pumped all the guests were listening to the few songs they played to sense that this was just the beginning of good things for them.
All too soon the preview was over, they thanked everyone, and then stepped off the stage to mingle with the crowd again.
He came straight to her when he was done, and she greeted him with a big kiss and huge beaming smile to go with her hug.
"Can I be your groupie?" she teased.
He ran his hands through his dark hair and laughed. "Sounded good?"
"Mm-hmm." She nodded emphatically. "And looked even better."
"Ohh, you're a good groupie, aren't ya?"
She grinned and took a sip of her drink, licking subtly at the rim of her glass before purring, "Actually I'm a naughty groupie. Very naughty."
Gabriel's eyes lit up and he was about to say something when he was interrupted by Nuke and their manager coming to tap him on the shoulder so they could introduce him to an editor of a big time music magazine.
"Go ahead," she said. "I'll elaborate later." That earned her a broad grin from him before he sauntered off and blended into the crowd.
She mingled for a little while with Trish, Ian, and Jackie, meeting and chatting with some new people and nibbling on the food available. Soon she separated herself from the group and their acquaintances to go to the bathroom. She squeezed through the crowd, making her way to the lavish restroom, but stopped when she ran into a very tall, very unfeminine body coming out of the bathroom.
She stared up in shock and then "tsked, tsked" around a laugh.
"Jonny, is there a reason you're coming out of the girl's bathroom?"
Jonny had the good grace to look sheepish. Well, slightly sheepish anyway. It was a hard to look to pull off when he was grinning from ear to ear and pulling on the arm of his jacket.
"I got lost?" he offered with a shrug.
"Yeah, and who'd you get 'lost' with?"
"Too many chicks to remember," he joked, putting his finger up to his lips in a mock gesture of silence, though Nicole knew that as soon as he got the chance he was going to share his escapade with anyone that would listen.