Title: Chances Are Fandom: Bandom (Cobra Starship) Pairing: Gabe/VickyT (past Gabe/Elisa and Gabe/William) Ratings/Warnings: pg-13, drug use portrayed in a positive light Length: 8400 words A/N: Plot points > logistical concerns. I know, for example, that the bands probably would not have a hotel night on the same night in the same place. But I needed Cobra Starship and The Cab in the same hotel. *hand waves* DISCLAIMER: THIS IS FICTION. If you recognize your own name or that of one of your friends, read at your own risk if you must. Just please don't tell me about it.
Thanks so much to neverneverfic for the beta and the handholding. ♥ ♥ ♥
After her first practice with Cobra Starship, Victoria waited for him outside and caught him by the elbow on his way out of the building. He was willing to be caught; at that point, he was willing to do just about anything she wanted. He wasn't sure if he wanted to kiss her or if he wanted to kiss Alex for finding her, but he was faint with relief. He was loose and aching with it, certain for the first time since Elisa that this was still going to work, that this crazy experiment, bitter and bright, was salvageable despite a misstep just as misguided and even more disastrous than the one that had cost him Midtown.
"Do we really need a keytar?" asked Alex.
"Yes," said Nate.
"No one needs a keytar," Alex said. There was a pause and the others looked at him. "It's a keytar," Alex continued, "a keytar. That's a keyboard and a guitar in the same instrument. Why?"
"You're not actually helping," Nate said.
"We need a keytar?" Ryland said. He was watching Gabe out of the corner of his eye as if to subtly gauge if Gabe was paying attention. It wasn't very subtle. And Gabe was always paying attention.
"We need a keytar," said Gabe, and they all turned to look at him.
"It speaks," said Alex, wide-eyed, and Gabe flipped him off.
The end of the last tour had sucked. The last couple months had sucked more after Elisa stopped taking their calls completely. They were exhausted from the tension, strangely cautious of each other, out of sync. The whole thing had been messy and ugly and it had cast the worst light possible on everything, especially on Gabe (well, especially on Elisa, but also on Gabe), who was left feeling punchy and drained and exposed.
The thing about losing Elisa was that she really had believed in him; she meant it when she said that and that had made it worse. The thing about losing her the way they had is that the whole debacle had torn down his shielding, forced a transparent candidness from him that he was trying to avoid, that he'd created a whole band in order to avoid. Gabe's okay with honesty, really. He's been pretty honest with this whole Cobra Starship thing, if you're paying close enough attention. He's not so good with candid.
Gabe was testy and sarcastic, covering any resurgent angst he might be experiencing with flippant passive-aggressiveness. Ryland was reverting to his pretentious, hipster ways; Alex was getting mean and Nate watched Gabe with huge, terrified eyes all the time until Gabe felt an overwhelming urge to sit him down and gently explain that he had, in fact, been kidding when he wrote "It's Warmer in the Basement." The huge, terrified eyes came out of concern, he knew, except Nate of all people should know Gabe wasn't actually going to snap. Nate had lived in that basement. There was nothing down there but a TV and papasan chair. The door didn't even lock. And when Gabe freaks out it might be intense, but it's subtle. He wasn't going to lock anyone in the basement or feed anyone to a giant cobra or curl up on his couch a vodka-soaked, drug-addled, self-loathing puddle and refuse to eat. Admittedly there might be some precedent for the latter, but it was never a phase that lasted long and really, he was fine. He was handling it calmly and rationally, with minimal internal panic and with only the occasional impulse to do something extreme.
Gabe's freak outs tend to manifest themselves in inventive ways and after the initial devastation of Midtown's (then still unofficial in an excruciating, dragging-out-the-inevitable kind of way) break-up. he'd mostly managed to convince everyone he was fine. At least he'd thought he'd convinced everyone he was fine until Bill cornered him in the middle of recording “Snakes on a Plane” and accused him of having a meltdown and starting an ironic post-emo band as a temper tantrum. That wasn't fair and forced Gabe to give Bill an hour long lecture on doubting The Cobra. Bill may not have been wrong entirely, but he was still completely missing the point and he should have known not to talk that way about Gabe's inspired brilliance.
So Gabe could handle his own freak outs; he just kind of wished that Ryland, Alex and Nate would stop watching him like they were expecting one. It occurred to him that he probably should have warned them about the way things tend to blow up in his face dramatically. He'd hoped it wouldn't happen this time.
It was unfortunate that it had, but he was okay; he didn't have any use for self-loathing anymore anyway. And yeah, obviously they needed a keytar.
"Okay . . ." Alex finally said, clearly spooked by Gabe’s prolonged silence and failure to elaborate. "Okay. I think I know someone."
The sun was glaring off the pavement into his eyes; if he squinted he could make out Alex, Ryland and Nate gathered by the cars, laughing and pushing on each other, riding the high of a crisis averted. Gabe felt like he was bleeding out all the tension and apprehension he'd been suppressing. Losing Cobra Starship was not even an idea he let himself seriously entertain; he wasn't proud of how wrecked and crazy he'd been when it crossed his mind that it might be an actual possibility.
Victoria cast a nervous glance over toward the others and tugged him closer to her, despite the fact they were well out of ear-shot. She was dressed all in black and her cigarette dangled elegantly from her other hand. She looked like a femme fatale from a noir movie, and he remembers thinking that she was a film student and that might be on purpose. Her plastic-rimmed sunglasses took up most of her face and were mirrored enough that if he tried to look at her eyes all he saw was his reflection. She also looked kind of like a hipster and he remembers thinking that they were really going to have to do something about that. Whatever, if Cobra Starship could cure Ryland (if it could cure Gabe himself), then it could cure anyone.
She inhaled absently, blowing the smoke over her shoulder and said, “I'm replacing Elisa on the keytar. Only. Do we understand each other?” She tightened her grip on his arm, betraying the calculated disinterest in her voice.
He blinked at her and swallowed back defenses that would have just been lies anyway, grinned and said, “Welcome to the band.” He promised himself he'd never so much as kiss her.
She said, “excellent” and squeezed his arm again, this time in excitement, dropping all her studied nonchalance in one motion. She smiled up at him, bright and open and he admitted to himself that not kissing her might be difficult.
He hasn't – exactly – broken that promise to himself, but he's kept it more in spirit than in letter. He's kissed her - both on stage and off - but Gabe kisses a lot of people, especially if they're on the label, in his band or from New Jersey. He's kissed Ryland, Alex and Nate. He's kissed Travis and Maja. He's kissed Tyler and Rob (not Heath, but Heath had a thing about heterosexuality). He's kissed Pete Wentz, Mikey Way, Nick Wheeler, half of the non-Bill members of The Academy Is . . ., most of Gym Class Heroes and all of Panic at the Disco. Also Victoria, sure, but it's not a thing. It's never a thing until it's a thing.
(He kissed Elisa, slick and fast, curled together on the couch in the lounge in the middle of the night, his lips against her jaw, tracing the line of her throat, one hand tangled in her hair, the other clapped over her mouth. They tried for silence and managed choked-off moans. They pretended they didn't leave marks on each other and the others pretended not to see. He kissed her even at the brink of disaster, and was somehow surprised when it actually came.
He kissed Bill, smoky and slow, whiskey on his tongue, sprawled for days on dirty hotel sheets. He kissed Bill on and off for years and no one bothered to pretend anything at all, and when there was no disaster, Gabe was surprised by that too. These days Bill still can't say Tom Conrad's name without sounding guilty and shell-shocked, but despite his turbulence he's still better at damage control than Gabe's ever been. Gabe's good at resilience, but that's not the same thing.)
Gabe's kissed Victoria, but he's never - really - meant it. He figures that's good enough.
He's not an insomniac. At least, he's not an insomniac like he used to be before he discovered irony and how much more fun you can have when you stop caring all that much.
It sounds bad when he phrases it like that. It sounds like apathy, and it's never been that. It's been anything but that. He just firmly believes that taking yourself or your vision too seriously will get you nothing but heartache and The Cobra showed him another way. (The Cobra happened too. Everybody thinks he made that shit up. Even his band thinks he made that shit up. He didn't. He really, really didn't. You can't make shit like that up. Shit like that requires a very precise combination of soul-crushing despair, insomnia, isolation, bad sci-fi and peyote - conditions he couldn't duplicate even if he wanted to, which he doesn't because as much as he might make light of it now, it wasn't actually his best trip ever, for all that it was enlightening after the fact. The Cobra is fucking scary. But. He's glad it happened. It was a sign).
He's half-kidding. He's - always - only half kidding. That's the point; Gabe's irony is completely sincere. Explaining that sounds stupid, so he wrote “Guilty Pleasure.”
So, he's not insomniac anymore; he's not even a light sleeper, really, but he gets twitchy when he's road weary and running on adrenaline and caffeine, when he's pushed past exhaustion to light headed delirium; he thinks too much and too fast.
It was too quiet in the bunks and it's too quiet in the lounge. He doesn't even really remember which city comes next on the tour. His surroundings tell him nothing; there's an undifferentiated wall of trees rushing by outside the window. He's restless and wired and bored of the unrecognizable landscape rolling by in blackness and the repetitive motion of the bus. The cliché says it's soothing. It's not soothing; it's boring. Alex would agree. Nate would say it was soothing, but Nate would probably be high. Ryland would say it was soothing, but he would only say that to fuck with Gabe. Victoria might say it and mean it, but she'd be thinking about setting the mood through a camera lens; she has a thing about mise-en-scene.
“Why are you sitting the dark?”
She's hovering in the doorway, bracing herself with her left hand on the other side of the doorframe so she can lean forward into the room with her arm stretched out behind her. She has the ubiquitous video camera clutched in her other hand and it's trained on him.
"I'm communing with the Cobra," he says and pulls his hood down to block his face, making the fangs up sign in front of his bowed head. She laughs and comes the rest of the way into the lounge, curling up on the couch opposite him and pulling her knees up to her chest. She balances the camera on them absently and steadies it with one hand. To the untrained eye it might look haphazardly placed, but he's lived in confined spaces with her too long to believe that. She's still filming. Victoria Asher, documentarian. “I catch the Cobra in his natural habitat” she'd said once. She was smirking at him, and she was wrong. He's always too aware of it for that.
“Your lighting's bad,” he says.
She switches on the light over the couch and smiles. "We're on the bus. The lighting's always bad."
She's wearing a black tank top and pajama pants printed with margarita glasses and her hair is loose and soft around her face. She pulls it back on stage so that it falls in smooth lines, stark against her skin. The stage lights shadow her, highlighting edges and angles, beautiful but sharp. He's never known anyone who can slide so easily from quirky to seductive in one breath, but for all that she's intentionally untouchable on stage, self-possessed and collected in a calm counterpoint to everything going on with the rest of the band, her stage persona falls away in the stillness. She doesn't live her defenses.
She cocks her head questioningly, like she's considering something. He can't always read her. She throws herself completely into video shoots and touring, but she's been known to gently mock the mission. She giggles when he talks about The Cobra, but only when it's just the band, never in front of anyone else. She keeps a video diary of everything that happens, everything the others do; the more ridiculous it is, the more likely she is to grab her camera and look on, delighted, if a little sardonic. She's committed to this in a way that's genuine but could never be earnest and he appreciates that most of the time, but sometimes she watches him and her eyes go dark and wary and he's not sure what she wants from him. Most of the time he doesn't care what people want from him anymore, but she's an exception. This whole band, for what he owes them, is an exception.
“Tell me something, Gabriel Saporta,” she says, subtly adjusting the video camera without looking at it.
“What do you want to know?” He says, leaning forward and catching her lightly under the chin with his right hand and tipping her head up toward him, the way he would on stage. She lets him, but there's a defiant tilt to her head, and the moment is different, more intimate in the quiet of night on the bus. He can hear one of the others snoring from the bunks. (Alex, his brain supplies. He can tell them by their snores. It's a good feeling.)
They're both whispering. They don't have to. There's no way even a normally spoken conversation would wake the others up. She tips her head away, but she's still leaning toward him conspiratorially.
She says, “tell me a story” and she lifts the video camera up, holding it close to her face again.
Victoria won't ask about Midtown; she doesn't want all the gory details about Elisa, but she came in late and he respects the fact that she feels like there's a context she's missing. She asks guarded questions, anything invasive always masked with playfulness and so sometimes he tells her about the Jersey Scene and being in that kind of band and how that's different from being in this kind of band. And about how things were different (rockier) in the early days of Cobra Starship.
Once he gave her peyote and dragged her out into a gas station parking lot in the middle of the New Mexico desert. They could see too many colors in the blackness, the desert horizon blending sand into sky, flat out into the end of the world. Even at night the air was too hot on their skin. The few buildings of the town were like an oasis of light, everything else, the ramshackle structures in the distance, the mountains dark against the stars, looked like some surrealist landscape, black shapeless patterns cut by tracers of light. It was the first time he'd done peyote since that night – he'd done other things, but not that – and it was different, lacking in fear and immediacy, missing the essential, desperate nature of the kind of experience that shakes something foundational. But, then, the conditions couldn't be duplicated. And it was good; the desert was gorgeous and glowing. He'd stood there with his arm around her shoulders and his face buried in her hair, and she'd held onto him and they'd laughed at nothing, at the sand, at the sky.
Once he told her too many details about Bill and she told him about Adam, the boyfriend who knew Alex, who got her here, and how Adam had thought he could handle a girlfriend who was also on tour all the time, but he really couldn't. She told him about her friendship with a girl named Chloe and how it hadn't always just been friendship and how the touring thing wasn't the first insecurity Adam hadn't been able to get over.
Once, early on, when all she said was "tell me something" he dug out a copy of Forget What You Know and gave it to her. When she came back an hour later she sat down on the couch next to him and just looked at him and when he looked back at her questioningly, she leaned on his shoulder and nodded and just said, "Oh. Okay."
Tonight he shrugs and says, “Nate put a dozen grass snakes in the The Cab's van.”
Victoria smirks, “I know. It was awesome. Johnson ran all the way across the parking lot. And Singer kind of . . . squealed? And Marshall did this kind of shimmy dance because he thought they were in his clothes. I got it on tape. Want to watch?”
Gabe laughs, “Later, definitely.” He pauses and says “You tell me a story for once,” and reaches for the camera, but she leans back away from him, holding it behind her between her back and the arm of the couch.
“Yours are better,” she says. She's still smiling, but he knows she won't give it up. It's not that she likes being behind the camera more than in front of it. She's all confidence and quirky charm. On stage and in front of the camera, Victoria knows she's beautiful.
He's pretty sure it's that she doesn't trust him to document. Whatever it is about them she's trying to capture or preserve, whatever it is that makes her laugh at their antics, file and label them, half saved into cryptic files on her laptop, the other half on youtube, she won't let the thread of it out of her hands. They don't know what she's doing, so they don't know how to take it seriously enough.
Gabe gets that. But still. He talks a lot.
He says, “It's still your turn."
She shrugs, sets the camera down, leans forward and kisses him. She's warm and she smells like generic hotel soap and she tastes like peppermint and he's freaked the fuck out because they're alone and it's dark and this is hardly the first time they've kissed, but it's the closest to real it's ever been. It's light, a brush of lips, a flick of her tongue against his and before he really has time to respond because he really can't think beyond surprise because she had actual, verbalized rules against this, she's pulled back and is looking at him again.
"Okay . . ." he says and she raises her eyebrows. He can still feel her pressed against him even though she's sitting back and they're barely touching. "Okay. Interesting. You said . . ."
She shrugs, though she looks a little unsettled herself, and says, "that was then" and goes to smoke a cigarette out the bathroom window.
Gabe touches a finger to his lips and thinks, well, fuck.
Gabe says, "So Victoria kissed me," by way of greeting when Bill answers the phone. He's sitting on the couch in the lounge again, rolling a mostly empty beer bottle between his palms.
"Shock and awe," Bill murmurs with no hesitation at all, though he sounds kind of groggy, like Gabe woke him up. "Gabe Saporta kissed a member of his band. Really. I don't know what to do with such surprising and unprecedented information."
"She kissed me."
Bill says, much more slowly, "Gabe Saporta was kissed by a member of his band. Shock and awe. I don't know what to do with such surprising and unprecedented information."
"Not like that," Gabe says.
"Not like that?"
Bills sighs. "Oh, God."
"Is that all?"
"You're probably the last person on the label who actually needs the lecture on how intraband relationships fuck shit up, but I can give it to you if it'll make you feel better."
"Oh, do they?"
"Come on, asshole. You know I don't mean us. I just mean your band won't survive another Elisa incident, and you know that and I know you know that, which is why we're having this conversation even though you're just going to do whatever you want anyway."
"There were so many other factors involved there."
Bills says, very quietly, "Do you want me to talk you into this or out of it? Yeah, I know. Okay? But I don't want to watch you try to survive another Midtown."
That was a whole different thing on a whole different level that Gabe isn't about to try and articulate in this conversation. He swallows around memory and says, "It would be hard for anything to be like that again.”
There's a long pause and then Bill says, "You say that. You might even think it's true. But if Cobra Starship actually broke up, and I acknowledge that as a far-fetched worse case scenario, but if, no, it wouldn't be like that again. It would be worse."
Huh. It's possible Bill knows him really well.
Bills sounds exasperated when he says, "Are you listening to me? You have no ability to resist doing ridiculous and impulsive things just to see what will happen. Just. Try not to fuck shit up."
Gabe kisses Victoria on stage the next night right before “The World Has It's Shine” and normally that wouldn't be that weird for them, except that they're kind of in a place where everything is weird for them. The kiss lasts a beat too long and stuns them both just enough that Victoria fumbles her fingerings and Gabe rushes “I'm not one for love songs.” They manage to cover, and it's not a big deal because it hasn't been a great set anyway since Nate's been off all night. Still, it throws everyone, and Ryland glares at the back of Gabe's head for the next two songs. After the set, Ryland hovers near Gabe backstage until the others leave.
“Hi,” Gabe says.
Ryland smiles and it's just as friendly as usual, and yet also somehow terrifying. “Hi,” Ryland says. Gabe nods at him and Ryland leans against the wall, looking at him as though he's considering something and then says, “You know, I liked Elisa well enough. It's not really her fault that this wasn't for her. Some people just don't take to it. But she wasn't really ever part of the team, and she didn't ever seem to really want to be. She wasn't easy to get along with and she caused a lot of tension and I'm sorry about the way all that went down because it sucked. But I just want you to know that I value your friendship and I like you better than I liked Elisa.”
And Ryland says, still smiling, “And I like Victoria better than I like you.”
Gabe nods and says, “Okay, wow, cool. I feel like that's fair.” His voice comes out a little choked.
Ryland smiles again and says, “Okay, then” and pats Gabe on the shoulder before he goes out to greet the fans.
Gabe stands blinking at the floor for a minute before Victoria pokes her head around the corner and says dryly, “It's really cute that Ryland thinks I can't take care of myself.” She pauses. “And by cute, I mean patronizing.”
Gabe already knew that because he recognized her tone of voice. He spends a minute trying to figure out whether Victoria or Ryland is scarier when crossed, but they're probably tied.
When Gabe doesn't respond, Victoria shrugs and says, “Well, I guess it is kind of sweet, but seriously, I know the stakes by now. Now come on; are you going to come sign autographs or what?”
Gabe says, “I think Ryland thinks I can't take care of myself.” When she raises her eyebrows at him and motions with her head toward the door, he says, “yeah, okay” and follows her out.
At the show the next night, Johnson's tom falls of its stand the first time Johnson hits it and Nate nudges Gabe in the ribs and cackles gleefully about "that's what he gets for switching my cymbals." Cobra Starship's set is one of the best ones they've played all tour and Gabe feels good about it. He also doesn't kiss Victoria during it, though he reaches for her during “My Moves Are White Hot,” changing his mind and pulling away just before they touch. She meets his gaze and rolls her eyes, but she's smiling and he still not totally sure what it means that she seems to want what she seems to want.
Gabe goes out with Ryland, Alex and We the Kings and spends a couple hours at a bar with pool tables and too many neon Budweiser signs. When they get back to the bus, the door is locked and, apparently, blocked from the inside since his key does nothing.
He knocks and Victoria cracks the door open just enough that they can hear her ask, "What's the password?"
Gabe looks at Ryland and Alex, who shrug.
"Fangs Up?" Ryland tries.
"No," she says, sounding annoyed.
"Cobra style?" says Alex.
"Obviously not, Alex.”
Gabe says, "Get your Cobra blessed? Come on, Victoria. Let us in."
Victoria shuts the door completely and there's a long pause before she cracks it open again, this time enough that he can see her roll her eyes. “No one is blessing your cobra, Saporta, so banish the thought right now.” He nods, trying to look agreeable, and she opens the door and peers around them before hustling them inside. "The password was 'The Cab have emo pain.' Nate picked it. And none of you have any concept of stealth. Seriously, Cobra style?" She sounds frustrated and she goes back to sit on the couch, inspecting her nails, which she's painted metallic purple.
The lounge is actually completely dark except for the light by the couch. Nate's leaning over the back of it with a drumstick clutched in each hand like he's prepared to do battle with them. He's banging them together in an agitated kind of way and he doesn't look any happier than Victoria does. It's all very suspicious.
"Why did we need a password?" Alex asks nervously, looking back and forth between Victoria and Nate.
Nate says, “because making drunk people guess a password is funny.”
Victoria shrugs. "That's true. That could have been many times more hilarious if you all were drunker or more imaginative. But I'm glad you're not drunker because sober people are better at plotting vengeance."
"Vengeance against . . .?" Alex asks.
"Nate needs more vengeance against The Cab?" Ryland asks, "Because I'm all for band solidarity, but the drum thing was pretty good."
Victoria smiles in a way that is truly frightening and says, “Go look at the bunks. We'll wait.”
The bunks are a mess. The bunks are a mess. Clothes are flung everywhere; there's something that looks like shaving cream mixed with maple syrup all over everything. And it smells even more like feet than usual. Gabe walks back into the lounge to find Victoria still inspecting her nails nonchalantly. “My underwear is missing,” she says, “I would be thoroughly freaked out and offended on feminist grounds except that Nate's is too so you might want to check your suitcases. If you can find them.”
Gabe sits down beside Victoria and she turns to him, tapping her fingers against his leg. “We shouldn't hurt them too badly,” she says.
Alex ducks back into the lounge and asks, "How did they even get in here?"
"Who knows?" Nate says, gesturing widely with his drumsticks, "Obviously I underestimated them."
Victoria ducks Nate's flailing and hits him in the shoulder. She says, "Did you hear what I said about not hurting them too badly?"
Ryland sighs, all look what they made me do and says, "Well, we have to get in their van. Right? I mean, clearly."
Gabe nods and realizes the others are all looking at him. Victoria is still drumming her fingertips against his thigh. He says, "Well, yeah. Obviously." He leans back, thinking and then offers, “I can hot wire cars.”
Victoria grins. "Seriously?"
Gabe shrugs agreement. He can. Mikey Way taught him, because Mikey Way can do all kinds of awesome and random shit.
Alex steeples his fingers together and says, "Okay, then. We wait. We bide our time and the opportunity will present itself."
"The Cobra is infinitely patient," says Gabe.
Victoria starts laughing. Ryland and Alex smirk at each other and Nate, Nate of all people, says, "Oh, yeah? Since when?"
Gabe flips them all off and says, "Since always. You all suck. And you should go clean up at that mess like good minions." The others exchange a silent look and obediently go into the other room. They come back seconds later and drop all of the blankets covered in maple syrup and shaving cream into his lap.
In the end, they don't wait long. There's a hotel night the next night, which means The Cobra is on their side (Gabe seriously thinks shit like that all the time now, with capital letters and everything; he worries about it sometimes because it was a joke, but it's like he's brainwashed himself or something. Also, he's got his whole band doing it). That's the only way to guarantee that The Cab will be away from their van. But they are away from their van and it's easy enough to sneak out into the parking lot and sneak into the van without incident. They're in some Motel Six just off the interstate and the lighting in the parking lot is horrible, but there's also no one around. It's way too easy actually; they'd been counting on more of a challenge and Gabe thinks to himself that this is probably the tamest prank war in the history of Fueled By Ramen. Seriously, he barely dares to sleep when they're anywhere near The Academy Is . . . or Gym Class Heroes. Given his previous tour prank war experience he half expects the van to be booby-trapped. It's not, but The Cab is still new to this. They'll learn.
They hide the van three blocks over in the parking lot of a Village Inn, which is closed at this hour and also not well lit. Victoria keeps the camera trained on Gabe the entire time he hot-wires the van, all the while keeping up a running commentary of what she's going to tell the cops if they get arrested. She hands the camera over so Gabe can film her stuffing the air vents with confetti and turning the air on full blast so that it'll blow out when the van turns on, all the while giving point by point instructions on how to make the biggest mess possible. Ryland glues tampons to the dashboard and Nate writes "Fangs Up" in shoe polish across the windshield. Alex is playing lookout and he's on his cell phone to Gabe the whole time, also giving a running commentary on what's going to happen if they get arrested. His commentary is less amusing than Victoria's.
Gabe sort of feels like he's in high school again, but The Cab practically are in high school, and they covered his bunk in dirty socks that don't belong to anyone in his band and the half of his underwear that isn't missing is covered in maple syrup and a substance they finally definitively identified as strawberry lube, so he figures high school antics are fair game.
They have the sliding doors of the van open and Victoria is staring at the seats. Nate peers over her shoulder and says, "I wish we had more snakes."
Gabe shrugs and slides his arm around Victoria's shoulder and says, "The confetti is a nice touch."
She puts her arm around his waist and leans into him, knotting her hand in his hoodie. When he looks at her, she's staring at him again, with the same expression she had on her face that night in the lounge. He tightens his arm, pulling her a little closer to him. Nate slides the door closed with a bang giving them an odd look. "Come on, let's get out of here."
Gabe's sharing a hotel room with Nate; Victoria has her own. She always says it's silly when they give her her own room, since she lives with them in one room of a bus the rest of the time, and there's nothing they haven't all seen. It's probably true, but still, half the time she ends up with her own room and the other half she ends up either sharing with Alex and Ryland or Nate and Gabe. It's never just her and one of the guys. That's just how it's always worked out, but Gabe suspects the others are trying to avoid Elisa round two and don't really trust him to not molest the keytar player if given the opportunity. It's ridiculous because it's not like he hasn't had opportunities; it had just never occurred to him to take advantage of them before now. It's also incredibly heteronormative thinking coming from three guys who have all had his tongue down their throats; nobody seems all that worried about Nate's honor. Still, he feels bad, partly because they don't trust him, and partly because apparently they were right after all since he's seriously considering taking advantage of any and all opportunities that might present themselves in the future.
She catches him in the hallway later, with her hand light on his arm and says, “Hey.” She's dressed all in black, because Nate insisted it was “necessary for crime.” There's confetti in her hair and shoe polish on her shirt and she looks a little silly, but they all looked a little silly. Gabe followed Nate's fashion advice for breaking and entering too.
“Hey,” he says, picking a piece of confetti out of her hair, and he's still willing to be caught by her. It's possible he's still willing to do anything she wants.
"So that was fun," she says.
He grins. "I will commit grand theft auto with you any time you want, VickyT."
She nods, but doesn't really move and he reaches out and catches her hand. Her palm is warm and she squeezes his hand before leaning up to kiss him on the corner of the mouth. It's light, like every kiss they've maybe sort of meant so far.
He says, “Hey, what . . .” because he's not saying no. He is really not saying no if he's actually allowed to want this because who is he kidding? But when he makes bad decisions he likes to know whether or not they're bad going in, just so he can plan accordingly.
She opens her mouth to respond when the door across the hallway opens. Alex stares at them and Gabe has no idea how incriminating they look. Alex's expression is unreadable, and he doesn't say anything before he closes the door again.
Alex is at breakfast when Gabe comes downstairs and sits down at the table across from him. Alex has coffee and is doing the crossword puzzle out of the morning paper. Without preamble (and without looking up) Alex says, "Hey, remember that whole thing with Elisa?"
Gabe drops his head into his hands and says, "Can we not?”
"That sure sucked."
"Really? 'Cause you know I didn't notice.”
"Okay," Alex nods and erases something on the paper, staring at it in concentration. He still doesn't look up. "What's a five letter word for bad ideas Gabe has when he's bored?”
“Okay, this is ridiculous. What happened with Elisa would have happened anyway.”
Alex nods, “But probably with less screaming and fewer lawyers. Maybe with no lawyers. That would have been better.”
“This is different.”
Alex looks up, meets Gabe's eyes and says. “Yes. I know. That's sort of my point.”
Then Singer comes running in, looking panicked, and the moment diffuses. Gabe glances at the doorway and says, "And here we go."
Alex grins and nods and they smirk at each other. Alex shakes his head and says, "Hey, I trust you, okay? Just try not to do anything that's going to make us want to kill you in your sleep."
Gabe feels a tap on his shoulder and looks up to find Cash and Johnson glaring at him. Cash says, "Which member of your band do we need to kill?”
“Not kill!” Says Ian, coming up behind them. “Just maybe maim a little bit.”
“Maim a little bit,” Johnson says, like it's the best idea he's ever heard and he's maybe fantasizing about it a little. He turns to Gabe and says decisively, “You should give us your drummer.”
Gabe shakes his head and tries very hard to look innocent. Johnson's continued glare tells him that he failed, but that's not surprising. He's never been so good at looking innocent.
By the time The Cab finds the van, Cash, Ian and Marshall have sworn retribution. Johnson still blames Nate for everything, and Singer already swore retribution after the grass snakes incident, even though he should have been grateful that footage of that didn't end up in public. There's no show that night and everyone involved is very, very grateful, especially because the epic search for The Cab's van takes awhile. Gabe doesn't know why they were so worried. He wasn't going to let anything get too far behind schedule.
Gabe is not scared. He is not frightened by amateurs. Besides, once you've been up against Gym Class Heroes everything else looks pretty weak in comparison. Gabe's a tour prank war veteran and he figures that if Travie got over that time with the bucket of very-real-looking fake blood, then anyone can get over anything. Confetti and some grass snakes? Please. They got off easy. But he's feeling benevolent and kind of sympathetic anyway. After all, Nate did start it, for reasons known only to Nate. Which is pretty much true whenever Nate does anything.
Gabe is really, really bad at avoidance. He used to be good at it, but he also used to be earnest and emo. Then he got over it. He knows now that there's just really no point in fucking around feeling sorry for yourself and worrying about things you can't change. If you really want to do something, you do it and then you deal with the consequences. If you don't want to or if the consequences aren't worth it, then you don't do it. Gabe's philosophies on life are pretty well developed. He has a philosophy on this too and he's about done with his band meddling when Nate catches him that night.
“Gabe, can I talk to you a minute?” Nate asks.
Gabe sighs, “Et tu, Brute?”
Nate shakes his head. “No; I mean, yeah, don't be an idiot obviously, but I just wanted to say that I'm going out with The Cab. To parley since it was, you know. Kind of my fault. And Ryland and Alex are coming as backup. Just, you know. So you know.”
“Just so I know that the three of you are leaving?”
“Yep, we're leaving. Victoria is, uh. Not going.”
Gabe nods, “Just so I know.”
“So is there actually going to be a truce?”
Nate looks aghast. “I offered to parley and they accepted. They will abide by that if they are honorable.”
“Right, obviously. And you're honorable?”
Nate looks even more affronted. “Of course. I have a flag of truce and everything.”
“Where's your flag of truce?” Baiting Nate is fun, but it's important to keep a straight face.
Nate holds up a stick. It has a dirty sock tied to it that maybe used to be white. Gabe's sure the dirty sock is one of the ones that does not belong to anyone in his band.
Gabe loses the battle to keep a straight face and starts laughing. “Victoria and I should stay and guard the bus is what you're saying?”
Nate shrugs, like he's trying to act unconcerned. Gabe is not convinced. Nate says, “Well, sure. That too. If you want.”
"Okay. Don't drink anything they give you unless you open it yourself."
Nate nods. "Right. Do I look stupid to you?"
“And don't eat anything they give you unless you see them take a bite of it first.”
“Right,” Nate says, edging backwards out of the room.
“And don't forget to remind them that we still have blackmail footage,” Gabe calls after him.
Nate rolls his eyes and calls back, “I don't think they forgot.”
Victoria's smoking in the lounge. They'd agreed that she wouldn't, but the others aren't here and Gabe doesn't care. She can smoke if she wants. That's the least of his problems. As for the biggest of his problems, he's not actually sure it's a problem anymore. He's starting to think it's a really fucking good idea, actually. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything.
She's perched on the arm of the couch and he sits down next to her. They have the whole lounge, they don't need to be touching. He could go sit down across from her and start a serious conversation about professional relationships and bad past experiences and how whatever they decide affects people other than just them. If he were someone else he would do exactly that.
But he isn't, and she's not any less willing to take risks than he is, which is a huge part of her appeal in the first place. She turns to him and slides her feet under his leg and puts out her cigarette in a cup of water on the table.
"The others went off to give The Cab an opportunity to catch them off guard and torture them," Gabe says.
She shrugs. "The Cab's too nice to torture anyone. That'll be their downfall. Besides, Nate's scrappy. And Alex and Ryland are . . . tall? And all of them are trained by you. They'll be fine."
Gabe says, “We should . . . talk.”
“So Alex gave me pretty much the same speech Ryland did.”
Victoria nods. “It's okay. I figured. He talked to me too. And then I had a very interesting conversation with Nate about the importance of respecting the mission.”
“Nate feels strongly about the mission.”
Gabe takes a deep breath and says, "Tell me something, Victoria Asher."
She leans forward. "What do you want to know?"
"Tell me a story."
“I'm pretty sure Nate started the prank war because he thought The Cab were taking themselves too seriously.”
Gabe nods and rolls his eyes. “Of course. That would make sense”.
Victoria snickers, but breaks off quickly. The silence is a little off, a little awkward. She looks up at him with narrowed eyes. "I could give you a list of all the ways I'm not Elisa."
“I know you're not Elisa. Elisa would never have helped hot wire a car. That's not really the point.”
“I meant it, you know. What I said that first day."
"I figured you did. You seemed . . . intimidatingly serious."
"You missed her then," Victoria says, like that explains everything, and Gabe looks up, surprised. Everything was such a disaster at the time, there'd been so much bitterness. It had been such a relief to see Elisa go by the end. But things had been different, at the beginning. Gabe had felt differently, then.
"I did," he says. Because it's true.
"Adam and I were already falling apart because he couldn't handle things we both thought he could handle. I was tired, and I didn't want to be a distraction or a symbol of the band's salvation. I wanted to play the keytar. I needed you guys to take me seriously. Or, you know. As seriously as you take anything."
She laughs and says, "Exactly. That's what I'm saying. Things are different now."
“Victoria.” He says, and it's not that easy, but maybe it's easier than he thought.
“No. Listen to me. One, I am in the band for the band. Not because I believe in you, but because I believe in this as a whole, this thing that I am part of. Two, I am in this for me and not because of what it can get me, but because it's where I want to be now. I haven't done a fucking thing on impulse. Trust me on that.” She's looking at him with something that's almost exasperation and not quite amusement, and he doesn't really believe she hasn't done anything on impulse because he recognizes bravado and saw the shock on her face the first night she kissed him, but he believes the rest of it.
“Doesn't mean there's no risk."
"Of course it doesn't," she says and she's smiling, shining and reckless. She shrugs, “Worst case scenario: We end up hating each other, Ryland takes my side and leaves the band and Alex follows Ryland. And then you cry.”
“Oh, yeah. That's all. When you put it that way it doesn't sound so bad," he says, and she ducks her head, biting her lip, but he can tell she’s smiling. He continues, "I drink myself into a stupor. And do way too many drugs. And start taking myself seriously again like an emo hipster. Nate plays drums on my solo album, which is full of elaborate, Wentzian metaphor and, like, experimental yodeling or some fucking thing, I don't know. Bill and Travie spend all their time talking me off ledges. No one wants that, Victoria.”
She says quietly, “No. No one wants any of that. But think about the best case scenario.”
“You're persuasive,” he says and he's watching her eyes and it's too late. He's in, he's been in, and she knows it. Gabe's not so good at being the voice of reason, that's a large part of the reason he keeps Alex and Ryland around, though honestly, just because they're better at it than he is doesn't mean they don't kind of suck at it too. Everyone in his band has a well-developed sense of whimsy and spontaneity - yet more reasons why his band is better than all other bands.
“I am, it's true. But you didn't need that much,” she leans back and lowers her lashes suggestively and says, “I have not yet begun to persuade.”
Then she loses her balance and almost topples backward off the arm of the couch until he catches her hand to pull her upright. Neither of them pulls away once she regains her balance.
“All right. But by this point I have had many lectures on how we have to not fuck up,” he says.
“I thought all we had to do was go out in style,” Victoria says and Gabe shakes his head, but it's not a denial. He sort of has to concede her point. She asks, “Do you want to kiss me?”
He does want to kiss her. He really, really fucking does want to kiss her. “Yes.”
“Then you should.”
So he does and she tastes like cigarette smoke and she's still perched above him so the angle is awkward, but it sparks through him all the same.
When he pulls back she slides off the arm of the couch into his space and he makes room for her, just enough that they're pressed up close together and everything in him is thrumming and pulsing. Whatever else she is, she's a rush.
“I care about this band, Gabe,” she whispers, squeezing his arm. “I really fucking care about this band. You have to know that.”
“So this is going to be fine?” He asks her, but it's rhetorical and amused. He knows she cares about the band. He also knows she can't answer the question, not for sure. Guarantees are overrated.
“This is going to be fun,” she says, and kisses him again.