Reaching A Point
Hanael realised he'd been staring at the contents of his wardrobe for some time, completely uninspired to wear anything housed within, and he made a snap decision: it was time to go shopping.
Sometimes he just reached a point where he hated everything he owned, even if he'd been happily wearing it for months or years. He didn't like to admit to or give in to vanity... but he couldn't deny to himself that he cared how he looked. He still remembered the days when his family's standing practically required that there were new outfits for every season; and he still remembered how much he'd enjoyed that.
He looked over at the bed. Khamuel was still sound asleep, curled up in the middle of the bed, practically buried in the covers but for his long hair. Hanael knew he'd be there for hours yet; Khamuel always came to bed when he did, but it seemed as much for Hanael's company as anything, and he tended to leave after Hanael had fallen asleep and not return until dawn. As a consequence, he always slept till after midday.
But Hanael had spent far too many years clothes shopping by himself to know that it was damned lonely. He pulled on the first shirt that came to hand, closed the wardrobe door, and left the room in search of Kashael.
He found him in the kitchen, seated in a lazy sprawl at the table, reading the newspaper as he consumed a chocolate bar. A cup of black coffee sat steaming in front of him.
"I hope you never eat breakfasts like that in front of Rafariel," Hanael said, and Kashael turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised.
"As if any of you ever let me within five hundred metres of the kid anyway," he shot back cheerfully, and Hanael couldn't help but blush, averting his gaze. It was true that he tended to play interference between Kashael and Rafariel, and he knew that Kael did the same... but he couldn't help the fact that he didn't entirely trust his brother. When Kashael was playing up his sexuality, he was more provocative than Kael -- and Hanael was worried that his long life may have left him with less scruples, too. It was enough that it got under his skin. Rafariel didn't need to be influenced by it.
"Oh ho ho, did I hit too close to home with that one?" Kashael grinned, and turned his attention back to the newspaper.
Hanael took a moment to regain his composure.
"Do you have any plans for the day?" he asked, purposely ignoring the jibe. Kashael looked up at him again, and then appeared to be considering.
"Well.. I was thinking about cutting my toenails... it's such a damn bother, you know, that they still keep growing after all these years..."
Hanael tried to hide his grin and failed. Kashael smirked easily back at him.
"But I suppose if you have something more important that needs doing, I could postpone it."
"My wardrobe is in woeful need of updating," Hanael told him, and Kashael's eyes lit up.
"Ahh, a shopping trip!" He threw down the newspaper, shoved the last of the chocolate bar in his mouth, and climbed to his feet. For a moment, he considered the still-steaming cup of coffee in front of him, and then he picked up the mug, sculling the scalding hot contents in one go. Hanael winced.
Kashael patted his belly, smiling contentedly, and then frowned a little at Hanael's expression.
"What? I like the way it feels going down."
"Please don't do that in front of anyone else." Hanael could only imagine how that would look to a normal human.
Kashael shrugged. "I can just tell them I have a strong constitution."
"Nobody has a constitution that strong."
Kashael eyed him warily. "Are you going to lecture me all morning, or are we going shopping?"
Hanael sighed. "We're going shopping."
"Good, then let's go already!" Kashael surged past him out of the kitchen, and Hanael followed, wondering if maybe it wouldn't have been better to go by himself after all.
They borrowed Gavrael and Raziel's old car, the 'hunk-o-junk' as it was fondly referred to, and Hanael let Kashael drive rather than fight with him about it. Seated in the passenger seat, free of the obligation of concentrating on the road, he instead concentrated on his brother.
Kashael had switched on the radio first thing, and he hummed along to it, totally off-key and apparently not caring in the slightest. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove, his upper body bopping along to the music, the wind from the slightly open window ruffling his hair. His expression was calm, relaxed, and content as he watched the road. There was something very cheering about the obvious pleasure that he took in driving.
Kashael glanced over at him. "What?" he said with a small smile, before turning his attention back to the road. "Don't tell me you don't enjoy driving?"
"I never really thought about it," Hanael replied.
"How can you not? I'm really looking forward to the day when they finally invent cars that can fly. Now that's going to be some fun." Kashael turned the wheel gleefully, his whole face lit up with enthusiasm.
Hanael was struck by a memory from his childhood -- Kashael on horseback, urging his favourite mare around the jumping course that he'd had set up, his face bright and excited as he crouched over her back, vaulting the obstacles with ease. Hanael had never had the courage to ride, but Kashael had loved it. And worn exactly the same expression he wore now when he rode.
"You always loved anything that could go faster than you," he mused, and Kashael looked over at him sharply. Then he looked back at the road.
"...it's rare of you to reminisce." Kashael's voice sounded carefully neutral, and Hanael looked away, out the window, wishing there was more view than just the walls surrounding the freeway.
"You just reminded me of... you back then. When you used to... ride."
His faltering words were met with silence, and he looked back over at Kashael again. His brother was watching the road, his expression serious.
Then he glanced over at Hanael and threw him a sudden mischievous grin before looking back at the road.
"I don't think my hair was quite this cool back then, though."
Hanael couldn't help but laugh.
"I remember when you used to peek over the fence, watching me ride," Kashael continued, and his expression relaxed into something gentle. "Always ready to run at a moment's notice if we came too near. You were so scared of my horses, yet you couldn't keep yourself away..."
Hanael stared at him. There was such warmth and fondness to Kashael's voice as he reminisced. Hanael had spent a lot of his life avoiding thinking about his childhood, yet he could never forget just how much of his time Kashael had given over to being with him. And he wondered if anyone else had ever devoted that much of themselves to him.
"I think I was jealous of your horses for keeping you away from me," he said aloud, and Kashael's head jerked around, staring at him. They blinked at each other for a long moment, and then Kashael quickly turned his attention back to the road. And Hanael wondered how much he'd put Kashael off with his attempts to keep a distance between them. Had he not mentioned enough how important his brother was to him? It wasn't easy, to show his caring and yet keep himself removed at the same time.
"Considering how much time I spent with you, I think the horses ought to have been the jealous ones," Kashael said lightly, his smirk back in place.
"Maybe so, but I was more deserving," Hanael replied, trying to keep with the lighter tone. Kashael's smirk relaxed into a smile.
"Well, I can't say I disagree with that," he replied, glancing over, his gaze intense enough to be almost uncomfortable.
Hanael looked away. He didn't think Kashael truly understood what an effect he had on other people, and particularly on Hanael himself... but enlightening his brother on that would've been far, far too awkward to be worth it. Instead he focused on other things.
"It's the next turnoff," he said, pointing to the sign coming up on their left.
"And just when I was starting to really enjoy the drive." Kashael sighed, smirked at him, and put the blinker on, and Hanael resolved to stare out the passenger side window for the rest of the trip.
He had to admit, though, that Kashael was undoubtedly the best person to have brought clothes shopping with him. Somehow his brother had an infallible talent of looking at a rack that seemed to be filled entirely with clothes that Hanael wouldn't wear in a million years, and find the one item hidden amidst the rest that was perfect for him.
After he'd done it five times in a row, Hanael felt moved to comment.
"How do you do that?" he asked, and Kashael looked at him, surprised.
"Do what?" He held up the shirt he'd pulled out. "You don't like it?"
"I like it. That's what I mean. You keep unerringly finding the one thing that suits me." He took the shirt from Kashael and held it up against himself, checking the size, but out of the corner of his eye he noticed his brother's beaming smile.
"What can I say? I know you. And your tastes."
Hanael smiled a little, shaking his head. "But you just reach into the rack and pull the right thing out, every time. Almost without looking. That's not normal."
Kashael raised an eyebrow at him. "They just say 'Hanael' to me. And the others don't. How is that not normal?"
Hanael just looked at him, and Kashael laughed suddenly.
"Come on, I hardly think that clothes shopping is a useful 'gift' to have developed since dying." He had the presence of mind to drop his voice slightly on the last word, and Hanael breathed a small sigh of relief. Then he shrugged.
"It's about as useful as some of the other random 'gifts' we've developed," he replied.
Kashael considered him for a moment, and then he shrugged as well, and smiled.
"Well, if it means I can be of use to you, then I'll bless whoever decided to give it to me." There was no mocking, no teasing in his tone; he sounded quite serious.
Hanael felt his cheeks grow warm and he looked down at the shirt he was holding again.
"I think I need to try this one on to be sure," he said, and hurried in the direction of the changerooms before Kashael could say anything else.
Several hours of shopping supplied him with a considerable expansion to his wardrobe, and Hanael considered suggesting that they give it a rest and get some lunch. Then something in one of the shops they were passing caught his eye, and he paused.
The store seemed to specialise in fashionable children's clothing, and he moved towards the rack that had grabbed his attention; sleeveless hoodies in camouflage print.
Khamuel's favourite complaint about his small wardrobe was that so few people made anything in his size that he actually wanted to wear. Hanael flipped through the sizes until he found Khamuel's, and pulled it out. There was no doubt in his mind that Khamuel would wear this -- heck, would be delighted to have it in his size.
Hanael smiled to himself, feeling even more glad that he'd come shopping today.
"You really do think about him all the time, don't you?" Kashael's voice intruded on his thoughts, and he looked up, startled. Kashael was watching him, his expression thoughtful, serious... and a little sad.
He looked away, feeling confused, and a little guilty. Hadn't he said just today that he'd been jealous even of the horses who took Kashael's time away from him? And here he was, thinking about Khamuel.
And yet, that was only right. Khamuel was not just friend but lover, and that was at least if not more important than blood ties, wasn't it?
"He's an important part of my life," he said, returning his gaze to the hoodie in his hands, only to find that he'd clenched them tightly and was crushing the fabric between them. He forced his grip to loosen.
"So I'm starting to realise." There was a wry tone to Kashael's voice, and out of the corner of his eye Hanael saw him turning away.
He raised his head, opening his mouth, wanting to try and tell Kashael that he was important too, wanting to stop him from leaving again... if only he knew how to express it. But love, affection, closeness; these were the things that were hardest for him to be honest about.
Then he realised that Kashael was heading into the store, rather than away from it, and his fear and worry vanished in a sudden burst of confusion.
A moment later, Kashael re-emerged from the store, carrying a pair of pants, a typical cheery Kashael grin on his face.
"My clothes shopping 'gift' says that he'd also like these pants," he said, holding them out.
Hanael stared at the pants. Then he stared at Kashael. He couldn't think of what to say. He wondered if he could take this as a peace offering. Or if, like many other things, this had no meaning but that Kashael was in the mood for it right now.
"Don't tell me I'm off? Are they that ill-suited?" Kashael's face pulled into an expression of mock-concern, jolting Hanael out of his musings, and he realised that it didn't matter what it really meant; what mattered was that Kashael was trying. He grinned up at his brother.
"They're perfect," he said, and Kashael beamed back at him.
When they finally got home, it needed both of their full efforts to carry all the bags out of the car and up to the house, and Hanael wondered again about his supposed lack of vanity. He hadn't meant to buy that much, really... but Kashael had had such a knack of finding things that he liked.
When he struggled through the front door, he found Khamuel perched on the stairs, waiting for him.
"You've been gone for ages," the vampire stated sourly.
Hanael glanced at the hall clock, then back at Khamuel.
"And you've been awake for how long?" he asked, and Khamuel smirked, one tiny fang flashing for a moment, before pouting again.
"That's not the point." He looked past Hanael at Kashael, just making his way through the front door with the rest of the bags, and then back at Hanael. "I take it you went clothes shopping? Don't tell me that's all for you?"
Hanael was surprised at the lack of reaction to Kashael's presence, but he kept that thought to himself.
"I got you something," he said, instead, and Khamuel's pout disappeared instantly, just as he'd known it would.
"You'll have to help me carry these upstairs if you want to find out."
Khamuel rolled his eyes, then stood up, dusting himself off.
"Fine, fine." He stepped down and took all the bags from Hanael's left hand, then turned and clattered his way up the stairs with them, completely unmindful of the weight of them despite his small size.
Hanael followed at a more sedate pace, silently breathing a sigh of relief that no-one was around to notice Khamuel being unhumanlike. Between Khamuel and Kashael he sometimes felt like he had to be permanently on alert.
"Hurry up!" Khamuel called impatiently from their room. He heard Kashael snicker behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder. His brother was following at his heels, shaking his head.
"Are you sure he's older than us?" he said, and Hanael laughed softly.
"Sometimes I wonder."
By the time they reached the bedroom, Khamuel had long since dumped the bags unceremoniously in the middle of the room and was sitting on the bed, kicking his heels against the side of it.
"What if your present is in those bags?" Hanael asked him with a smile, moving over to put the bags he was carrying down next to the ones Khamuel had dropped.
"Well, it's up to you to find it," Khamuel reasoned, shrugging.
"And if it were breakable?"
"You wouldn't buy me something breakable."
Kashael laughed at that, and they both turned to look at him.
"Well, he's right," he said, dropping the bags he was carrying next to the others.
Hanael sighed, shaking his head, and leaned over the bags, hiding his smile. He searched through them, trying to remember where they'd put Khamuel's items. Finally, he found the bag that contained them, and stood up again.
"A-ha!" said Khamuel cheerfully, and held out his hands expectantly.
Hanael moved over, putting the bag in his outstretched hands, and then sat down on the bed next to him. He looked up at Kashael for a moment; his brother was standing in the middle of the room, arms folded, watching Khamuel curiously.
"Where the hell did you find this?" Khamuel's tone was awed and happy all at once, and Hanael turned his attention back to him. Khamuel had pulled out the hoodie, and was holding it up, admiring it from all angles.
"Random luck," he replied, which was true enough, and Khamuel grinned up at him.
"It's awesome," he said. Hanael knew that was his way of saying thank you, and he smiled down at him.
"Good," he replied. "Now check the bag again."
"There's more?" Khamuel was reaching back into the bag instantly. He pulled the pants out, shaking them out till he could see them properly.
"Woah, these are even cooler!" he exclaimed, and he looked up at Hanael, his beaming smile all that Hanael needed as thanks. Except that he hadn't been the one who'd found the pants.
"Kash picked them out," he said, and Khamuel's mouth opened slightly, his eyes blinking up at Hanael in obvious shock.
He looked down at the pants again for a long moment. Then he looked at Kashael, finally, and his expression was serious, contemplative. Kashael stared back, his lips quirking just slightly.
"You have good taste in clothes," Khamuel said, his expression still serious, and Kashael smiled at last. Not a smirk, but an honest smile.
"They've got 'Khamuel' written all over them," Kashael said, shrugging his shoulders easily, as if to say that it was no big deal. And Khamuel grinned at him.
"They really do." Suddenly he was on his feet, bundling up the pants and the hoodie all at once. "I'm going to get changed!" He dashed out of the room, his footsteps thudding down the hall towards the bathroom.
Hanael looked at Kashael, to find him watching after Khamuel's vanished figure, still smiling. And Hanael had a sudden urge to hug him... except for all the other problems that that might cause.
So he stayed where he was. But he felt that he had to at least say something.
"Thank you, Kash."
Kashael turned back to look at him, his expression querying. "What for?"
Hanael shrugged, dropping his gaze, unable to put into words what he was feeling.
But somehow over the last month and a half Khamuel and Kashael had reached some sort of comfortable camaraderie with each other, without him entirely realising it. Watching them both today, and remembering how much they'd been at each other's throats beforehand, made him feel overwhelmingly grateful to both of them.
The only way they'd reached this point was by trying hard; and the only reason they'd done that was because they cared about him. And he could feel nothing but gratitude to have not one but both of them at his side.
"Neither of us is ever going to give you up." Kashael's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. He stared at his brother, not sure what to make of his words -- which were serious -- or his smirk -- which was not.
"So I hope you can learn to live with us both." His smirk widened, and then without warning he turned and left.
Hanael stared after him, trying to fathom what exactly Kashael was trying to imply. But he was still staring, lost in confusion, when Khamuel returned.