There was nowhere near enough seating, and more than half of them were sitting on the floor, but Zafkiel didn't care. So long as they were all there with him, that was all that mattered.
There was no food in the apartment to speak of, either, and the only drinks were a dozen cans of iced tea that he'd received from a friendly neighbour right after moving in. But as he handed out the cold cans, and looked at the familiar smiling faces around him as they took the drinks from him with thanks, he felt nothing but content.
He plonked himself down on a spare piece of floor between Raziel and Hanael. And then, for a little while, he just listened to the flow of the several conversations going on at once around him. Just enjoying being a part of them again. It had only been a few days, and yet the loneliness had seemed to drag on forever.
Then something Gavrael was muttering about hotel clerks looking down their nose at him jumped out of the conversation, and Zafkiel realised he had no idea where they were all planning to live.
"Wait... you're all in a hotel?" he asked, as the conversation momentarily lulled.
"For now." Gavrael's drawl was sardonic. "And the less time spent there, the better."
"So... where are you all planning to live?"
He looked around at them all, but it was Gavrael who answered again.
"Hanael's handling it." He waved his hand in Hanael's direction, looking completely unconcerned... or perhaps simply completely disinterested in wanting to deal with the logistics of searching out apartments, signing leases, and paying key money.
Zafkiel turned to look at Hanael, only to find his gaze had shifted elsewhere. He looked almost uncomfortable for a moment, and Zafkiel wondered why.
Then his eye shifted back to meet Zafkiel's querying gaze, and he smiled, gently.
"I'm handling it," he said, repeating Gavrael's words, but with more reassurance. "It appears there may be several apartments in this very building with the lease about to come up."
Zafkiel stared at him, wide-eyed; for a moment he was too overwhelmed with sudden excitement and hope to be able to speak. At most, he'd hoped that they would all be able to live in the same suburb, at least within walking distance of each other. But the same building? That would be almost too good to be true!
"Hanael..." he said, and then stopped. But he couldn't help himself; he threw his arms around Hanael and hugged him tight. "You're amazing!"
Hanael laughed softly, and he felt arms around his waist in return.
"If it makes you all happy, then it's the least I can do."
"It does!" Zafkiel pulled back again, beaming up at him. Hanael smiled back at him gently, and once again, Zafkiel felt grateful for the moment of chance that had allowed the two of them to cross paths, all those years ago.
He looked around at them all again, and felt both the gladness that they were back with him, and the sudden pang of lonely realisation that they'd all be heading back to their hotel this evening. And he realised that, even if they moved closer to him, he wasn't sure he wanted to live completely on his own. Especially right now.
He looked past them all, to the hall leading to the two rooms of his apartment.
"Though you know... I almost feel like even this apartment itself is too big just for me..."
He glanced at Raziel, then looked down at the floor. He didn't expect Hanael to join him -- he knew there was some complicated... something... between Hanael, Khamuel, and Kashael, and he fully expected them to get an apartment to themselves. But Raziel and Gavrael had been sharing with him longer than anyone. (Except Mikael, his lonely mind whispered, and he clamped down tight on it.)
Thin arms snaked their way around his waist, and he jumped. A moment later, he felt the weight of a chin on his shoulder.
"Does that mean if Gavrael and I decide to be total freeloaders and take over one of your rooms, you won't say no?" Raziel's voice was full of the threat of laughter; a tone so familiar to him, that he loved so well; a tone that tumbled through him with relief, toppling his uncertainty and loneliness, and brought a beaming smile to his face again.
"So long as the smell of your laundry doesn't reach my room..." he teased, looking up, and Raziel broke into real laughter. Then his impish face turned towards Gavrael.
Zafkiel looked over too. Gavrael's entire posture was relaxed, and that was enough to confirm to him that everything was going to be just fine.
"Sure. But you're doing the laundry, brat."
"Geez, you two!" Raziel stuck out his tongue, but he was still laughing, and Zafkiel knew that things were settled, just like that.
Sometimes he envied how easily the two of them could come to an agreement about anything (not like him and Mikael, his mind whispered, and he shook it off) but in this case, he was entirely glad for it. So long as he had them by his side... he could get through anything. And if Hanael could arrange things for the rest of them, then he would have them all by his side in no time.