Winner Takes All
Gavrael paused in the back doorway, eyeing the other figure sitting in 'their' sofa. But as his eyes became accustomed to the early evening dimness, he recognised the figure as Kael, and he relaxed, pushing the door all the way open and stepping onto the back porch.
Kael looked up at him, and tilted his head slightly, smiling a little.
"What, no Raziel?"
"He's working tonight." Gavrael stepped past Kael and opened the bar fridge, peering inside. Kael was apparently making short work of their remaining gin, but there was still plenty of beers left for him to enjoy, so he said nothing; instead he grabbed himself a bottle of beer, and moved back to the sofa, dropping into the opposite corner to Kael.
"Where's Rafariel?" he asked, popping the top off his beer and taking a swig.
"Where do you think? Studying his perfect little toosh off." Kael smirked, swirling the contents of his glass around before downing it in one gulp. "He has exams coming up. Not that he studies less at any other time, but that's his current excuse."
"Huh." Gavrael felt around in his pockets until he found his cigarettes. He considered how drunk Kael was by now. He sounded like he'd been drinking for awhile. And Kael, already disarmingly verbose about his personal life, was even more verbose when drunk.
There was something Gavrael wanted to know. Something that couldn't be asked when Rafariel was around. Something that Kael might only answer while drunk.
He pulled out his cigarettes and offered the pack to Kael.
"My, you're gracious tonight," Kael said cheerfully, taking one.
"Good day at work," he replied shortly, taking one for himself and lighting it. He didn't bother to offer Kael the lighter; Kael always carried his own, so that he could light whatever cigarettes he managed to scab off other people.
They smoked in silence for awhile, while Gavrael pondered how best to approach the topic. But he wasn't good at subtlety; Raziel always told him that he should just carry a brick and smack people with it.
"So tell me something," he said finally, and Kael turned a little to face him.
"Hmm?" His expression was coy. Never a good sign, but Gavrael hedged his bets and went ahead anyway.
"Are you cheating on Rafariel?"
Kael simply looked at him for a long moment, and he pondered if it wouldn't have just been easier to get that brick.
Then Kael smirked suddenly, his eyes narrowing, his expression wicked.
"You have a bet on with Raziel, don't you?"
Gavrael held his gaze for as long as he could, but he couldn't help but look away eventually.
Kael laughed. And after a moment, Gavrael found himself laughing as well. The main problem with getting to know Kael better was that Kael had also gotten to know him better. And Kael already knew Raziel far too well.
"Raziel thinks you're a changed man," he said, looking back to meet Kael's amused gaze. "But I think nobody changes that much that fast. Least of all you."
Kael seemed to be pondering his words, but then he raised one eyebrow at Gavrael, his lips quirked in a way Gavrael wasn't sure he entirely trusted.
"What's the bet for?"
Gavrael took another swig of his beer before answering.
"Fifty bucks," he said after he'd swallowed. It was partially true, at least, and Kael was drunk after all.
"And?" But Kael apparently wasn't buying it.
Gavrael looked away again. He took another drag of his cigarette. Then he found himself grinning, because ultimately, he was an idiot. He knew Kael well enough to know that he'd never tell. And he'd never judge, either.
"And a blow job," he admitted.
Kael burst out laughing, his eyes bright with alcohol and amusement.
"You two never fail to amuse me."
"It keeps Raziel entertained," Gavrael replied shortly, trying to hide his grin.
"I guess." He looked across the space separating them. "So are you gonna help further our entertainment, or what? Because it's stalemate without a response from you."
Kael chewed on his lower lip, staring out across the backyard. Gavrael waited. He waited further while Kael launched himself somewhat unsteadily out of the sofa and moved to the fridge, waited further still while Kael poured himself another drink and then plonked himself back down in his seat again.
"Well?" he said, when Kael still hadn't said anything in response.
"I'm thinking," Kael replied airily, and Gavrael snorted.
"I didn't realise it was that difficult for you."
Kael threw a bottle top at him, but he dodged it easily, smirking.
"I'll tell you on one condition." Now it was Kael's turn to smirk, and that made Gavrael uneasy.
"And that is...?"
"You tell me all about the blow job after. In detail."
There was a gleam in Kael's eye that Gavrael didn't like at all. He took another swig of his beer while considering. Then he took a drag on his cigarette too. Then something occurred to him.
"Wait, does that mean I'm right?"
Kael pursed his lips and shook his head disapprovingly. "I didn't say whether you'd be giving or receiving. Merely that you'd be telling me about it." Then he grinned again, and Gavrael cursed under his breath. He thought he'd caught Kael out with that one, but even with alcohol in him, Kael could still be on the ball.
He considered it some more. But then he remembered what he'd thought earlier; Kael didn't tell. So it wouldn't go beyond him. Sure, it might be uncomfortable relating the details, but after a few beers, he wouldn't mind so much. And he was just so sure he was right on this one. He wanted to win this bet.
"Alright," he said, and Kael made a crowing sound of delight. "But only after a couple of beers!" he exclaimed over Kael's noise, and Kael laughed easily.
"I don't mind plying you with alcohol to get what I want."
"No, I didn't think that was unusual behaviour for you." That earned him another laugh. "So are you going to tell me which of us is right, or what?"
Kael eyed him over the rim of his glass.
"Go and confirm where Rafariel is first." He sounded serious, even though still obviously drunk.
Gavrael took that as a good sign that he was right; so he was more than happy to stalk back into the house and do the rounds until he spied the boy. It was no big surprise that Rafariel was in the study, head bent over half a dozen open books, scrawling busily in his unfailingly neat handwriting, only stopping now and then to flip a page over. He looked like he'd be at it for awhile, and he didn't even appear to notice Gavrael peering in discreetly from the doorway.
"He's studying hard," he reported when he returned to the back porch, flopping into his spot on the sofa. "He's not moving any time soon."
Kael smirked. "Shocking," he drawled.
"So..." Gavrael only had so much patience.
"So give me a smoke." Kael beamed at him, and he sighed, reaching into his pocket again. He offered the pack to Kael, and waited while he took one and lit it.
"So..." Kael breathed out a plume of smoke, and then he looked away, out over the now-dark backyard, as if he could see something out there that was more interesting than their conversation here.
"So... you're right, and Raziel's wrong."
"I knew it." Gavrael felt that moment of sheer delight in knowing that he was right and that he could lord it over Raziel when he got home from work. He was already looking forward to it, anticipating the expression on Raziel's face when he realised he'd lost the bet.
Then he looked at Kael again, and stopped thinking about the bet.
"...but you're a changed man in some ways, aren't you?" he said, before he stopped to think, and Kael turned to look at him, eyes narrowed, expression suddenly flat.
"What are you implying?"
Gavrael shook his head, and looked away, discovering just what it was that Kael had found so interesting in the backyard; looking into the absolute darkness was better than meeting a gaze you didn't want to meet.
He wasn't good with words, or people. He never had been, and he'd done a lot to make it stay that way. But he was a changed man in some ways, too; Raziel had made him care more about one person than he'd thought was ever possible. And that had taught him how to care for other people too, even if he didn't always want to.
He'd hated Kael at first, hated everything he stood for and just how easily he'd seemed able to pull Raziel away from him. But over the last year, Kael had come to be friend not just to Raziel, but to both of them. Their sofa and fridge were out here not just for he and Raziel, but for Kael, too, and many nights had been spent out here talking, laughing, and sharing not only alcohol and cigarettes but also thoughts and feelings.
Kael was a friend now, and that made him want to do something more than just sit here and crow over winning his bet; or at least, when he saw that expression on Kael's face, that sort of sad, confused look that seemed to say that he was doing something without really knowing why anymore.
But Gavrael didn't know what to do, and he cursed himself; he should have let Raziel ask this one, should have let Raziel be the one to not only get the answer but also deal with Kael afterwards. Raziel always knew the right thing to say. Even to Kael.
"I am. Or maybe I am. But I still have... needs... that I can't deny. Can't change entirely." Kael's voice was soft, and Gavrael looked back over at him. Kael was looking out into the backyard again, but his gaze seemed even more distant, focused on something that wasn't even there.
"Maybe I'll change more. Who knows. But in the meantime... well, at least I've learnt how to be discreet." Kael looked back at him, and smirked, and it was Kael as his usual self, confident in who he was and what he did. And Gavrael had a feeling of having missed a chance. But for what, he wasn't sure.
He sighed softly. And then something occurred to him.
"I hope you don't mind hearing about a blow job from the giving end, then," he said, and Kael blinked at him, his expression clear and obvious confusion.
"...I can't tell Raziel that. Any of it. So I'm just going to have to tell him he won."
Kael stared at him, eyes wide, and then his expression wavered and Gavrael saw something more in it; something almost gentle. Then Kael stood up and walked over to the edge of the porch, his arms folded across his chest.
"I hope you're not going to blame me for that," he said, and his voice was rough.
"No." Gavrael stared at his stiff back, at his tense shoulders. And then they relaxed a little, and Kael glanced back at him with a smile that was almost wistful.
"Thank you." He turned away again. "I'd... feel better, if Raziel... didn't know."
And Gavrael felt like maybe he hadn't missed that chance, after all.
"So would I. You want another smoke?"
"Yes please." Kael moved back to throw himself down on his side of the sofa. "And I'm still looking forward to hearing about it all... afterwards." He gave Gavrael a grin, that old, I'm-still-a-bastard Kael grin.
Gavrael grunted as he offered his cigarettes again. "I hope you're paying for the beers then."
Kael paused in the motion of removing a cigarette from the packet. Then he slid it out and slipped it between his lips. As he lit it, he squinted through the rising coil of smoke at Gavrael and smiled.
"Considering the circumstances.. I'll pay. Just this once."
Gavrael wondered if Raziel would be proud of him for what he'd managed to accomplish this night, for himself, and for Kael. If only he could actually hear about it. But Kael was right -- he was better not knowing any of this. It was enough for Gavrael to know.
"Good," he said, lighting his own cigarette.