Just Like A Tattoo: The Road Less Traveled By

Dawn was just breaking over the horizon when Ian stirred awake, blinking open foggy eyes to see Ray standing not too far away, leaning against a pine with his eyes half closed. When Ian shifted his gaze flickered to him for a brief moment before he nodded, turning his attention back to the forest around them. Ian stretched, moving his arm stiffly from around CJ's shoulders with a yawn. He paused then, realizing he hadn't had to take his left arm from anyone, and a spark of fear twisted its way through him when he confirmed his suspicion, the patch of ground Gabe had rested on the night before laying empty.

"Don't panic," Ray murmured from where he was, folding his arms across his chest, his breath coming out as a little cloud in the chilly morning air as he spoke, "He went down to the lake." He gestured to the water, Ian's eyes following his hand until he caught sight of the distant figure at the edge of the wind swept up waves, a sigh of relief escaping him.

Without a sound the blond rose, dusting off the back of his pants as he made his way towards the lake, ignoring the little lazy smirk Ray cast him. As he neared the shore he noticed Gabe was up to his waist in the water, his fingers skimming over it's unsteady surface, creating ripples upon the tiny waves. Ian chuckled at the sight, tugging his shirt over his head, quickly followed by his pants and shorts before he began to wade into the lake, shivering at how cold it was.

"Aren't you cold?" he called, pausing as Gabe stilled, startled.

Gabe turned, blinking at him behind his glasses, "Uh, not really. I've been in awhile." He shrugged, dipping his hands into the water again, looking away as Ian approached.

Slowly, remembering the things Ray had so nicely pointed out to him the night before, Ian laid a hand on the other teen's shoulder, "It's pretty here, isn't it." Gabe nodded mutely. "It's too bad we can't stay."

"Yeah," Gabe whispered, tracing a ripple across the water. He swallowed, shaking his head, "Ian . . . I'm scared," he whispered, almost too soft for the blond to hear.

Ian blinked, "I know," he replied, squeezing Gabe's shoulder reassuringly. "We all are." His thumb pressed against a thick white scar across Gabe's skin, following it down his arm, measuring it's length, "I've never noticed this before," he murmured, leaning down to give it a closer look.

Gabe shifted, glancing at the mark Ian was studying, "Oh, that. It's nothing, really. Another gift from Tower Prep, you could say." He shrugged again, as though it really were nothing, but Ian's eyes lit up with fury.

"They did this to you?"

The dark haired teen glanced at him, smiling slightly, "In part." He reached up, poking Ian in the chest playfully, "You don't have to get all worked up, you know."

"I-"

"I did it to myself, really," Gabe reassured, "The school doesn't allow tattoos."

Ian let out the breath he'd been holding, preparing some retort, "Wh-what?"

Gabe laughed, long and loud, "You're surprised? I've hinted at my life before I came here, Ian. Does the term 'Parole Officer' ring any bells?" He shook his head, glancing at the scar again, "It wasn't anything fancy, just something I did myself one night. A big capital G, to remind me who I am, and that I was my own person." Gabe rubbed at the spot, frowning, "But that was years ago. It doesn't matter anymore."

Holding up a hand, the other to his forehead as though quelling a coming headache, Ian muttered, "Wait, wait. So you had a tattoo."

"Yes," Gabe confirmed patiently.

"How old were you?"

"Thirteen," he reached up, closing Ian's open mouth with a smile, "Don't look so surprised, you're making me feel bad." He laughed, "Did you think my life was nice before I came here? It wasn't."

"Gabe-" Ian started.

Gabe tilted his head, moving to push Ian's mouth closed again, so that they stood waist deep in the water, practically skin to skin, "Don't ask. Not yet. I don't question your past, and you shouldn't question mine. I'll tell you if I want to." He stepped back, turning towards the shore, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm starting to get cold."

Ian stared after him, rubbing a hand over his face and the water from his eyes. Nope, Ray had to be wrong. If Gabe truly felt something for him, he'd have no reason to hide anything. Right?

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"Wrong," Ray sighed, "So, very, very wrong." He threw his hands up in the air as they walked, "Obviously he's hiding stuff because he doesn't want you to get hurt."

Ian raised a skeptical eyebrow, "Why would I be hurt by something that's already happened? That doesn't even make any sense."

Ray scowled, pointing a finger at him before jabbing it into his shoulder, "To you. It doesn't make sense to you." He sighed again, long and suffering as though Ian was the bane of his existence. "Look, it's like this. You're his hero."

"Wha?" Ian's mouth quirked into a half frown, confusion written all over his face.

"To him, you're a hero," Ray went on, motioning to Ian and then vaguely over his shoulder to where Gabe and the girls were trailing along behind them. "You represent all the good in the world he's ever known. And apparently, there's something in his own past he doesn't like, and thus, doesn't want you to know. He doesn't want his hero to look down on him."

Ian growled, shoving his hands into his pockets, "S'stupid," he mumbled, kicking up some dirt along his ziggzaggy path through the trees.

"He cares," Ray argued. "You're both just a couple of stubborn idiots." He blinked and looked thoughtful, "I guess that means you match?" Snorting, Ian elbowed him in the side, shaking his head.

Behind them, Gabe made a face, crossing his arms, "Ugh, how come Ray suddenly gets to be all buddy-buddy with Ian? Who made him second in command?"

"It's only logical that he takes that position," Suki pointed out, flinching at the glare he gave her in return. "I mean, with his powers and his fighting skills, it makes sense for him to be in a position of power."

"You're just saying that because you like him," he muttered.

"And you're just complaining because you're jealous," Suki countered smoothly, CJ choking as she held back an amused laugh.

Gabe started, narrowing his eyes, "Of course I'm jealous. I've been in the group far longer and the new kid gets to be second in command. What's up with that?"

Suki groaned, rolling her eyes, "Boys . . ."

"Are so stupid," CJ sing-songed beside her. Turning her attention to Gabe she smirked broadly, taking in the little flickers of nervousness across his face, knowing she was scrutinizing him. "If you want to impress Ian, why don't you scout ahead a bit?"

"He'd never let me," Gabe said, staring at the ground.

"Don't tell him," Suki whispered, "Just sneak off. He won't notice and if he does, we'll say you went to take a leak, or something." She laughed at his suddenly mortified face, "If you find something, come running back and you'll look like a hero. It'd be great!"

Gabe looked skeptical, "Only if I find something . . ."

Suki let out a "gah!" and shoved him into the trees, "Just go!" CJ gave him an added push, just to make sure he actually went and they nodded in mild satisfaction as he stumbled off.

"This is either going to be terribly disastrous, or terribly genius," CJ muttered. Suki nodded in grim agreement. "Let's just hope he doesn't fall in a hole. Again," She went on, frowning at the thought.

"Or that Ian doesn't kill us when he finds out he's gone," Suki added, casting the boys ahead of them a wary glance. "After all, it's only a matter of time."

It took exactly six minutes and forty three seconds for Ian to notice, according to Suki's watch. Deep in a conversation with Ray as they trampled their way through the forest, he suddenly decided to turn around, probably to take a head count as he seemed to do unconsciously every ten or fifteen minutes, and immediately noticed Gabe's absence.

"Where's Gabe?" he asked, halting his steps, Ray glancing over his shoulder at the girls curiously, rolling his eyes as he took note of the missing member of the group.

"Great, just great," Ray hissed through his teeth, fisting a hand around the strap of his pack.

Suki tried her best to look as innocent as humanly possible, "Gabe? Well you know, Nature calls . . . And stuff."

Ian smacked a hand to his forehead, "Suki . . ."

"He knows you're lying," CJ whispered to her, "Think fast."

"Look, I'm sure he'll be back any second now," Suki continued, waving her hands in front of her chest defensively, "Any second . . ."

Ian opened his mouth, ready to snap out orders to search for him just as a yell echoed through the trees.

"Ian! Over here!"

The blond closed his mouth, shoulders slumping in relief as he turned towards the direction of the noise, stomping off through the trees. Ray sighed, "Nice," he growled at CJ, "What if he's hurt? Ian will be pissed."

"He's fine," CJ said, sticking her tongue out at him in response, "And besides, why are you only blaming me?"

"Because I feel like it," he stated instantly, earning a frustrated glare from Suki before he mumbled out a hurried, "Never mind, sorry." Straightening up again he shuffled ahead of them, ignoring the way the girls shook their heads at his back as he did so. As he caught up with Ian, Gabe came barreling out of the forest, practically crashing into them, Ray sidestepping just in time while Ian caught him by the shoulders before they could collide.

"Whoa! Slow down," the blond laughed, eyes scanning the bespectacled boy for any signs of injury as he spoke, "What is it?"

Gabe, grinning from ear to ear, tugged on Ian's red jacket, pointing the way he had come, "Over this way, you're going to love this. If we'd kept going due north we would have missed it." He pulled on the other's jacket again, dragging him along as he maneuvered through the trees once more while CJ and Suki high-fived in silence close behind before following.

Ray stared up at the trees as he walked, pretending to be oblivious to Ian's worried whispers to Gabe, and Gabe's reassurances that he was fine, and that no, Ian didn't need to check to make sure he hadn't hurt himself and not noticed. He blinked up at the foliage, realizing that as he had said the night before, the trees were starting to become fewer and farther between, and he was so engrossed in that thought that he smacked right into Ian's back when the blond stopped suddenly. Rubbing at his forehead and wincing, Ray peered around the taller boy to see why they'd halted just then, and gasped.

There was a road, narrow and winding made of black asphalt twisting it's way through the trees and out of sight. Ian's mouth was hanging open again, and Gabe closed it patiently, smiling, pleased with himself. After a moment Ian paced out into the center of it, standing on one of the pale sun worn yellow lines, "Gabe, you're amazing," he breathed, smiling too when Gabe stared down at his shoes, embarrassed. He inhaled again before letting out a triumphant whoop, "We did it! We found civilization!" He yelled, screaming up at the trees, "You hear that Headmaster! Ha!"

Gabe laughed, the sound coming out in a startled whoosh as Ian ran at him, hugging him tight. The smaller teen chuckled, pressing his face briefly into Ian's shoulder, "I'm glad you're happy," he whispered, too soft for anyone to hear.

CJ toed the edge of the blacktop, and Suki prodded her in the side, "Have you never seen a road before?" She huffed as CJ returned the jab, "What? You were confused about records, can't I make assumptions?" "You're never gonna let that drop, are you," CJ sighed, groaning when Ian and Gabe looked up from their hug with a loud, "Never!" She glared at them until they silenced again, "Anyways, I have seen movies you know."

"That's like saying you've seen the grass through your window but never touched it," Suki said evenly, obviously exasperated at her friend's lack of outside experience. "It doesn't count."

Ray snorted, dodging a slap from CJ as he did so, "Sorry, but I have to agree with Suki on this one." He waved a hand, amused at her annoyance, "So come one, come all, let's follow the yellow brick road!" Ray laughed, stepping out onto it and watching as the other's followed.

CJ blinked, "But this road is black," she pointed out, looking confused as they all groaned, "What?"

Ian shook his head, laughing softly as he patted her on the shoulder, "Let it go, Ceej. But from now on you might just want to try and keep your mouth shut if your confused about something." He sidestepped when she glared, grabbing Gabe by the arm, "Aaaanndddd we're off!"

"To see the wizard!" Gabe added, linking arms with him before they chuckled and began to skip down the blacktop.

Ray rolled his eyes, "Try and stay on the left side so you can see the cars coming!" he called.

"If there are any," Suki whispered, Ray putting a hand on the top of her head.

"If there aren't, all roads have to lead somewhere," he murmured.

At least, that's what he hoped.

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Hours later, however, Ray was starting to become scared that he had been wrong. They continued to walk just inside the left of the yellow median lines, Suki entertaining them with various animal noises at CJ's request. Ahead, Ian was still apparently highly amused by the Wizard of Oz analogy and had snagged Senior Guapo some time back, currently throwing it too high for Gabe to reach while yelling, "Flying monkey! Flying monkey!" while Gabe danced around, trying to snatch his toy back.

"All roads lead somewhere, huh?" Suki muttered, crossing her arms and glaring at him.

Ray slumped, "I never said they lead anywhere anytime soon, okay? Roads like this can stretch on for miles and miles before hitting any real civilization. And considering we walk about two or three miles an hour, we could still have a day or more to go. It's not like riding in a car."

Up ahead, Ian paused in his steps, lowering his arms so that Gabe could grab his sock monkey back, "Wait," he hissed, whirling, "Something's coming!"

"Gnome?" Ray asked, freezing in surprise as his first thought made its way out of his mouth. Suki slid over to his side instinctively, CJ clinging to her arm.

Ian stood stalk still, closing his eyes and looking for all the world like he was listening, but Ray knew better. "No," he said after a moment, the his vision clouding for a moment as his Pre-flex took over, "Car. A truck."

Ray took a step back, grinning, "Well that's another matter entirely."

Suki's eyes widened and she tugged on his sleeve, "What? What are you going to do? Don't be an idiot."

"Worried?" Ray smirked, amused as she made a face at him, "Then stand back." He shook her free, stepping out into the middle of the street, waiting as he felt the tiny vibrations of the car approaching in the soles of his feet. "Gabe," he called, "Be ready, okay? I'm going to need your help in a few seconds."

Gabe swallowed as Ian drew him back, pushing the girls behind him and keeping a tight grip on Gabe's arm as they moved to the side of the rode. Ray had widened his stance, cracking his knuckles just as the car came rolling around the corner into view. Ian held his breath, watching as the driver, unawares, looked up from his phone a moment too late, mouth open as he noticed Ray only feet from the hood of his car, hands held out.

The world slowed as Ray stopped the car with sheer strength alone, sliding backwards across pavement so hard that the smell of burnt rubber that arose came from the soles of his shoes. The back wheels of the navy blue truck spun as the force of the stop lifted them almost a foot off the ground before gravity kicked back in. the driver, gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles had gone white narrowed his eyes as time seemed to snap back into place once more, opening his mouth to yell something but Gabe was suddenly right there, pulling the side door open with a smile as fake as any Ray had ever seen, and then some.

"Why hello there," Gabe said pleasantly, making the driver close his mouth in shock. "Would you mind giving us a ride? I really think that'd be a good idea, don't you?" He gestured the direction the truck had come, "Just over that way, thanks. Until we reach the next town or city or whatever."

The driver stared, blinking stupidly for a moment before he nodded, "Uh, there's room in the bed . . ."

Gabe grinned toothily, pushing his glasses up his nose with a finger, "Great! But could the girls ride in the front with you? No funny business though, it's just safer for them that way." He turned, glancing over his shoulder at where Ian, Suki, and CJ were all still standing on the side of the road, "Come on guys, pile in," he called, winking at Ray who lifted his hands away from the hood of the car, frowning at the hand prints left in the metal.

"Impressive," Ian whispered as he passed, making sure the girls were seat belted in on the passenger side, "And that's without the Rooks' drugs?"

Ray snorted, "You know it is." He pushed past him, pulling himself up into the back of the truck, sitting down on the hump above the right tire before he offered a hand to Gabe, heaving him up as well while Ian scowled at him. "Come on, get in before this bozo decides it's time to drive off."

"He won't," Gabe piped up happily, "Not until I tell him to." Ian clambered into the bed and Gabe nodded, slapping a hand to the navy blue side, "Right! Let's haul ass out of here!" He let out a rather unmanly squeal as the truck revved forward, making a sharp U-turn that sent him rolling across the bed and into Ian, much to Ray's amusement as he was the only one with enough forethought to hang on.

Ian huffed as Gabe collided with him, wrapping an arm around the smaller teen's shoulders to halt his tumble. "Having fun, Gabe?" he teased as the other shook his head, looking a little worse for wear.

"Not especially," Gabe muttered, sitting up, "when can we eat? I'm starved."

Ray laughed, leaning over the edge of the truck as it barreled down the road, heading god knows where and getting there who knows when. And for once, he didn't really care.

Gabe whooped, coming to crouch next to him and hanging over the side, Ian holding on to the back of his red jacket so he wouldn't fall.

This was what freedom was all about.

RANDOM AUTHOR RAMBLE

And it is now a minute to midnight. Lol. Backstreet boys are counting down and I am babysitting. Alone. Sucks, yah? ;_; so here u are, a new chapter. One secy while I count down.

Anywho . . . As of now, I am still working on my Big Bang Gabriel SPN fic, which is due soon. But I'm also TP obsessed since 1x10. And Gabe telling Ian he loved him and kissing him. Hysterical, but so fluffy I thought I was gonna die.

ALSO, I'm working on two other TP fics now as well, mini-verses in fact. The Broken!Verse (What Must We Do To Restart) and the Headmaster!Verse (With Great Power). So check them out to absorb more Ian/Gabe fluff, kk? :D