Here's To Trying
Gavrael wasn't sure at first what to make of the figure sprawled on their sofa. Hanael's brother looked a lot taller, a lot more broad-shouldered than he remembered; he seemed to overwhelm the sofa with his presence. And the number of empty bottles of alcohol scattered around his feet was... somewhat alarming, to say the least. Gavrael could be a heavy drinker at times, but he wasn't sure he'd even be conscious if he'd drunk that much.
As he stood in the doorway, silently gawking, Kashael turned his head slowly to look at him. They stared at each other for a moment, and Gavrael noted that for all those empty bottles, he did not look all that drunk. He wondered how long the man had been drinking for.
Kashael smiled, and it was a disarming smile, and Gavrael could see something of Hanael's gentleness in it. But it wasn't quite the same.
"I don't suppose you have a spare cigarette?" Kashael's voice was deeper than Hanael's, more throaty, but with that same smooth, somewhat cultured tone to it. "I'm willing to trade alcohol for it." He held up the almost full bottle of Jim Beam that he was holding.
Gavrael considered it for a moment. But he couldn't deny, if anything else, his curiosity.
"Okay," he replied, and sat down at the other end of the sofa, fishing around in his pockets for his cigarettes. He found them, and tossed the packet down on the sofa between them.
"Thank you," Kashael smiled again, and proffered the bottle he was holding, and after another moment, Gavrael took it from him. Kashael picked up the cigarettes, extracted one, and then looked around, seekingly.
"Here." Gavrael passed him his lighter, and he took it gratefully.
"Thank you." He lit the cigarette, and exhaled with a slow sigh, the smoke clouding around his head. Then he smiled somewhat shamefacedly at Gavrael.
"I don't smoke that often. I hope you wouldn't mind not mentioning it to my brother."
Gavrael wondered at that.
"Sure," was all he said, though, and received another smile in response.
"Thanks. I appreciate it." Kashael turned his attention to the backyard and the slowly setting sun.
Gavrael sipped at the bottle of alcohol he'd been given - he was about as interested in using a glass as Kashael apparently was - and watched Kashael silently. Since the older man's arrival, Raziel and he had theorized aplenty, but there was little to be gleaned from the few interactions anyone had had with Kashael; or with Kashael and Hanael together. Neither seemed interested in sharing anything about their relationship, but the tension was so strong in the air that it was almost impossible not to wonder about them.
"You seem to have drunk an awful lot," he ventured aloud. Kashael looked back at him, and then down at the rather large pile of empty bottles at his feet.
"I guess so." His lips quirked in a wry expression. "Unfortunately I have an incredibly high tolerance for alcohol. It's a side effect of... well, it runs in the family, I think." He looked up. "Have you ever tried drinking with Hanael?" Now their was curiosity in his gaze as well.
Gavrael thought about it for a moment.
"Once or twice. He doesn't seem to get drunk easily either." He hadn't really thought about it at the time, but now that he considered it, Hanael's alcohol tolerance was unusually high as well.
Kashael nodded knowingly. "I thought as much. It's sad, but.. there you have it. That's us." He smiled wistfully. "It makes drinking to actually get drunk a rather pricy endeavour."
Gavrael considered how much the bottles at Kashael's feet must have cost him.
"No kidding," he said. "Well, I'm glad I don't have.. whatever you have."
Kashael produced another full bottle of Jim Beam from somewhere around his feet.
"Be very glad," he said, and laughed softly, opening the bottle.
Gavrael reached for his cigarettes and lit one for himself, but he was watching Kashael the whole time. It was almost hard not to. Raziel had told him from the start, Hanael's got this presence, ya know? Like you can't not notice him when he's in a room, and Gavrael had had to agree with him after knowing Hanael for awhile. And now he felt that Kashael had the same sort of thing; almost like they were both of them larger than life, more real than anything around them. He wondered if that ran in the family too.
"Why are you drinking to get drunk, anyway?" he asked, almost without thinking, and Kashael looked up at him sharply. He looked away. Subtle as a brick - he could almost hear Raziel taunting him.
"Sometimes you just want to forget everything." Kashael's voice was softer than it had been, and Gavrael looked back, surprised; he hadn't expected a direct answer. Kashael was still looking at him, a small wistful smile on his face. "Sometimes, you just want to relax and exist in a simple, comfortable, happy 'now'." He shrugged. "Haven't you ever had that sort of feeling?"
"...yeah." Gavrael could understand that, all too well. "I guess you make me even gladder that I can get drunk easily."
"I imagine so. Still, here's to trying, right?" Kashael held up his bottle towards Gavrael, and he felt compelled to raise his own bottle and clink the bottoms together in a 'toast'.
"Here's to trying," he repeated, and took a swig, and Kashael did the same.
Several hours later, Gavrael had made most of his way to the bottom of a second bottle. He'd lost count of how many Kashael had drunk in that time, and he wasn't even really sure he wanted to know. He'd also had to raid their stash of cigarettes, for once started, Kashael was quite the smoker. But considering the free alcohol, he wasn't really complaining. Kashael had also been something of a talker, but that hadn't been a problem, either. He was easier to get along with than Gavrael had expected.
Gavrael realised he was feeling sort of warm and fuzzy, content and relaxed. He'd reached that decent point of drunkenness that he liked, the one he felt more than happy to stay at. He wasn't sure about Kashael, though.
"Are you drunk yet?" he asked, and Kashael turned his head slowly to look at him.
"I hope so. I think so." Kashael tilted his head and smiled; his smile was somewhat lopsided, and his eyes looked, even in the dimness, more than a little red. "Do I look drunk?"
Gavrael smirked. "Yes."
Kashael laughed. "Well at least that's something, then." He leaned back against the sofa, linking his arms behind his head, stretching his legs out in front of him. Several bottles clinked together in annoyance and span away from his moving legs, and he chuckled softly. "I should probably clean up after myself more."
"There's always tomorrow." Gavrael was a big believer in 'tomorrow' when it came to cleaning.
"True enough. Hanael was always so tidy, though, it made me feel bad to make too much of a mess." He paused. "Is he still that way?"
Gavrael pulled a face. "Yes." He guessed he ought to be grateful that there were at least a few tidy people in the household, but he still hated being tidied up after.
Kashael laughed. "Some things never change."
Gavrael looked over at him. There was something so wistful in his expression whenever he talked about his brother.
"You always talk like it's been forever since you saw him," he ventured to say, and Kashael smiled again, a little sadly this time.
"Hanael was ten when I left," he said.
Gavrael's jaw dropped a little at that; he didn't think he could actually imagine what Hanael might have been like at age ten. There was something so grown-up, so knowing and experienced about Hanael, that it almost felt like Hanael had never been a child.
Kashael glanced over at him, and the sad smile turned into a grin.
"Hard to imagine, isn't it? He's so much the adult now. And yet.. I remember him all young and cute and unknowing of the world... following me everywhere and wanting to hold my hand all the time... asking me why the sky was blue and why cows only ate grass and what happened to the bees when they died... or waking up scared from nightmares and climbing into my bed for a hug..." Kashael trailed off, closing his eyes, and Gavrael wondered if he was picturing Hanael at that age. His expression had gone wistful again.
He wondered what it would be like to leave a brother that young and trusting of you, and come back into their lives when they were adult, suspicious of your every move. He didn't know what had befallen Hanael -- or Kashael -- since that time, but from everything Zafkiel and Raziel said, Kashael's mere presence changed everything about Hanael's attitude.
"You still really care about him." He knew he was prying, that he shouldn't be snooping into their private lives, and yet, he couldn't help himself; not when it came to these two. For all he affected disinterest in Raziel's fascination with gossiping about others, when it came to Hanael and Kashael, he was full of morbid curiosity... because there was so much about them that was odd, so much that stood out, so much that didn't seem to add up. And so much that they never, ever seemed to want to say. Particularly Hanael, who was more closemouthed about himself than anyone he'd ever met; up to and including himself.
"I do." Kashael sighed. "I didn't want to leave, but I had no choice. All I ever thought of was going back. But... I wasn't able to contact him, and then I didn't know where he went, and... no matter how hard I looked for him, I couldn't find him. He's.. moved around so much, since he left home. This is the first time he's stayed in the same place for more than six months at a time, you know."
Gavrael remembered what Raziel had told him, about Hanael wanting to live with them; about the importance of friendship and being with people you cared about. But the way that Hanael touched other people's lives, the way that he was constantly reaching out and bringing people close to him... it was hard to imagine that he didn't do that everywhere he went. That he wasn't always finding people he wanted to stay close to. Had Zafkiel really been the first one?
"What's different about us?" he wondered. Kashael looked over at him, and then shrugged his shoulders, smirking a little.
"I can't rightly say either, but I'm grateful for it, whatever it is. It meant I could find him at last. Even if he still hates me for leaving him."
And there it was: a prime piece of information that Raziel would be bound to leap on later and dissect every which way. Gavrael couldn't just leave it alone.
"That's why he's so suspicious of you now?" he asked, and Kashael pulled a wry face at him.
"I... think so. I don't really know what goes on in his head; I never have. And... I haven't been as plain as I could be either." He looked away, out over the darkened yard, where the moon was just rising above the treetops.
Gavrael wasn't sure entirely how to interpret that; but he didn't want to push it too much, either. There was talking and commiserating, and then there was pushing. And.. he'd come to like what he'd seen of Kashael over the last few hours.
"He still cares about you, too," he said instead, and Kashael looked up at him, his expression surprised.
"What makes you say that?"
Gavrael shrugged his shoulders; once he'd thought it, it seemed obvious. "He wouldn't be so angry, so upset, so confused, if he didn't still care for you so strongly."
Kashael stared at him for a long moment, and then he smiled, slowly.
"I guess you're right, at that." He turned to look back at the moon. "Yeah, I guess you're right." He closed his eyes and sighed, still smiling.
By the time Gavrael had smoked another cigarette, Kashael's figure had slumped slowly into the sofa, and soft snores emitted from his direction. Gavrael smirked to himself. He guessed Kashael had found that comfortable, happy 'now' that he'd been looking for.
It was less than a half hour later that Gavrael had the feeling of someone watching him, and looked up to see Hanael hovering in the doorway. Hanael beckoned to him, and he frowned a little. He looked over at Kashael, but the older man was still asleep, so he got up and followed Hanael into the kitchen.
Hanael glanced past him to the open door, then sighed and gave him a somewhat shameful smile. He seemed tense.
"I hope he's not bothering you --" he began, and Gavrael frowned again.
"We're fine," he said shortly.
Hanael looked at him sharply, opened his mouth as if to speak, then stopped again. His eye moved to the doorway again, and then back to meet Gavrael's, and then he seemed to relax a little.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply anything. I just... I know he can be overwhelming at times, so I didn't want you to feel like you had to... well, entertain him... if you didn't want to. But if you're fine, then I'm sorry to intrude."
"He's not as bad as everyone keeps making out," Gavrael replied, as much to see Hanael's reaction as anything. Hanael winced a little at his words, and then looked down at his hands.
"I never meant to give anyone a bad impression of him. I just..." he trailed off.
Gavrael waited, but Hanael seemed unable to finish his sentence. It was like always with him; he just was too unwilling to share anything of himself.
Gavrael sighed. Well, there was one thing he could share, at any rate, that he'd learnt from the last few hours he'd spent with Kashael.
"He really cares about you, you know."
Hanael looked up at him, startled, and then glanced past him to the open doorway again. His gaze moved to meet Gavrael's again, and it seemed almost... beseeching... for a moment. Then he looked down at his hands again.
"When I was a child... he was my everything." His voice was so soft, that Gavrael thought at first he was imagining things. Doubly so, to hear Hanael actually talking about himself. "He raised me, he taught me, he took care of me. Always. He was.. the sun, and everything in my life revolved around him. Then he left... and everything went dark."
Gavrael was silent, but his mind was working overtime; trying to imagine Hanael's childhood, trying to imagine Kashael as Hanael had seen him then. Then he realised that Hanael had stopped talking.
"And now?" he asked, and Hanael started a little, as if jolted out of some reverie.
"Now..." Hanael looked past him to the open doorway again. "Now, I wonder if all the things that bother me about him are things that I merely failed to notice when I was a child. Or if he's changed as much as I have."
Gavrael thought about that. And about what he'd said to Kashael earlier.
"Or maybe you're just looking for things to dislike about him to justify yourself."
Hanael's gaze snapped to meet his, and he was surprised to see sudden anger in it; a real fire that he'd never thought he'd actually see from Hanael. And coupled with Hanael's larger-than-life presence, it was actually more than a little off-putting.
He took a step back without even thinking, and Hanael's eye widened, and then closed, and he bowed his head.
"I'm sorry," he said, and his lips quirked in a rueful smile. "I guess, like most people, I don't like being told things I don't really want to hear."
Gavrael relaxed a little, and shrugged. "Maybe I was out of line."
"Maybe not. You might be right." Hanael opened his eye and looked up at him. "Did you enjoy spending time with him?"
Gavrael shrugged again, and nodded.
"Well, that's something, then." He smiled, and it was that gentle, friendly smile, and Gavrael found it hard to believe that a moment ago he'd actually found Hanael quite scary. Had he imagined that?
Hanael glanced past him to the porch again. "He's... probably okay to sleep out there, isn't he?"
Gavrael looked over his shoulder. "Yeah. I'll toss a blanket on him before I turn in."
"Thank you. And... I'll think about what you said." Hanael smiled at him again, and then turned and left, as quietly as he had come.
Gavrael moved back to the doorway and looked down at Kashael, still sleeping quietly on the sofa. He still wore that wistful smile, and Gavrael wondered if he was dreaming about a time when he and Hanael were friends again. And inside his head, where no-one would ever hear it or know that he'd even considered it at all, Gavrael wished for that dream to come true.