For my sabriel network homies: You guys are making my raging crush on a 43 year old married man about five times worse than is healthy. And this fic is all your fault. It was supposed to be a little oneshot and IT BECAME ALMOST 12K! I also have Arty and Kate to thank for helping me out a LOT near the end. Kate helped make Sam's poem perfect, and without her help I dunno that this fic would be anywhere near as awesome.
When Sam signed up for a creative writing class as one of his electives, he met with two surprises.
1) There were only ten students other than himself. Which was weird. Really weird.
2) The professor was hot.
And he didn't mean hot in an Idris Elba or Robert Downey Jr. kind of way. No, the professor—Gabriel Laufeyjarson—had a weak chin and a lopsided smile. But his cheeks dimpled when he grinned, and his hair looked soft as sin, and his eyes were striking, and despite being a full head shorter than Sam he managed to exude an air of control and power. When he walked into the room, all eyes snapped to his stocky frame. And occasionally Sam's eyes snapped to a more rear-oriented region. But he couldn't help it. Never had a man looked better in khaki pants. (And sure, maybe he wasn't open about his sexuality but he sure as hell wasn't going to go through the motions of hiding it.)
He tried not to stare, when Gabriel leaned on his desk, flicking a pencil back and forth between his rather petite fingers. He tried not to stare when Gabriel had to stand on his tip-toes to erase something from the whiteboard the previous teacher had left behind. He tried not to stare when Gabriel cracked some dirty joke and looked around the classroom with a smug smirk twisting his lips.
He failed at not staring.
Each Tuesday they were given a prompt, to be filled by that Thursday. (The class only met on those days. Two simple credits.) They had to write about something. The first week was to describe themselves . With honesty, and objectivity. Easier said than done, of course. Sam struggled to find anything to write about himself. He was just a kid from Kansas who hadn't gotten quite big enough of an award to be able to afford Stanford. (And so ended up at his last choice on a full ride—Springfield University, in Ohio. He hadn't heard of the school until they hounded him for an application after his SAT scores went through. He'd only applied on a whim. But there he was.)
But he sat down on Sunday night and held his notebook in his lap and he thought back to what he'd done as a boy in Lawrence, and to what he still did in Springfield. He made it like a journal entry. An introductory sort of thing—My name is Sam Winchester.
My name is Sam Winchester, and my brother cried when I got my award letter. My name is Sam Winchester and I am nineteen point two five years old. My name is Sam Winchester, and my mother had a stroke when I was six months old. My name is Sam Winchester and my father is an alcoholic. My name is Sam Winchester and my big brother always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grow up. When I told him I was bi my dad was unconscious and my brother smiled at me and said, "When do I get to meet your boyfriend?"
He covered it all over with black scribbles and wrote, instead, My name is Sam Winchester and I like dogs.
He listed the things he liked—Country music, drawing, the smell of his brother's leather jacket, the feel of the sun on his bare back in the summer, the satisfaction of a well-earned grade, a glass of lemonade in August, the sound of his brother's car in the driveway. He also listed the things he didn't like. The scent of alcohol and the tears of children and the burn of a bruise when he tripped over his own feet and the laughter of the kids in high school who made fun of him and called him a 'freak' for not having a normal family.
And he typed it all up, and on Thursday morning before class he stopped at the computer lab to print it out on stiff white paper.
Gabriel took it with the same ease he took every other paper, shooting Sam a warm grin, and Sam tried to ignore the way his gut twisted. Focused on the fact that professors and students weren't allowed to... "have relations." Focused on the fact that Gabriel Laufeyjarson was a man and Sam was a boy. Focused on that extra hard: on the fact that Sam was just over nineteen and Gabriel was probably around thirty-three or so. Focused on the fact that it was just a little crush.
The next week's prompt—other than daily journal entries and free-writing—was to describe a memorable event in their lives without stating explicitly how they felt. To describe the things the emotions did to them but not what the emotion was. Never to use a word like "sad," or "distressed," or "excited."
Sam wrote about his first night in the dorms. How, with his roommate not due to show up for another day, the silence pressed down against his ribcage until his throat constricted and he had to sing Led Zeppelin and Metallica to himself with tears burning the backs of his eyes until he grew so exhausted that he had no other choice but to succumb to unconsciousness. How he woke up at two in the morning with no idea where he was and how he wanted to scream and wanted to call his brother to come pick him up right away but instead he tore apart the room until he found the letter Dean had written him when he graduated from high school. How he read that and fell asleep again curled up at the foot of his bed with the lights all on and classic rock playing quietly from the tinny speakers of his cheap laptop.
He turned it in, handwritten and neat, on paper the color of lemon juice.
Things continued on like that. Once, when Gabriel prompted the class to write about their mother, Sam stayed behind after class.
Gabriel looked confused, but drew aside when Sam asked to speak with him. "Something wrong, kiddo?"
(Sam wouldn't ever admit it but he liked the way that nickname sounded from Gabriel's mouth.)
"Professor Laufeyjarson," Sam stumbled a little pronouncing his name. "I don't—" He bit nervously at his thumbnail, and looked down at the ground. "My mom died when I was a baby, so I don't think I can do this assignment."
Gabriel's expression softened, and it caught Sam off guard how absolutely understanding it was. Everything about his demeanor changed—but not in a bad way. Not in a "poor kid" way, just in an "I messed up" way. He smiled. "First off," Gabriel planted his hands on his hips. "Call me Gabe, like everyone else. You butchered my last name." He winked. (Sam's breath caught in his throat.) "And second off," Back to the kind look. "You don't really have to write about your mother. I shouldn't have made the assignment so specific—that was my mistake. You can write about anyone you care about, whether it's an uncle or a grandmother or a brother or a friend." He briefly clasped Sam's shoulder, and pulled back before Sam could get a handle on the strong heat of his palm through the fabric of his sweatshirt.
Sam nodded. "Alright... Gabe."
Gabriel grinned so that his eyes crinkled at the edges, and shooed him out of the classroom.
(Sam wrote about his big brother.)
It continued like that, for a few weeks.
In November, it changed just a bit, because of the fast-approaching Thanksgiving break.
"Alright, class." Gabriel crossed his arms, legs spread wide where he stood. Dominant. "Today I want you to describe a place you like from every angle you can think of. From above and below and within." His bowtie was red. "You're going to write it during class, and hand it in to me before you leave. Remember: No class on Thursday." He grinned at them all and plopped into the swivel chair at the desk in front of the room, pulling a notebook from his bag. Looked like he would be participating in the prompt—one of those teachers who wouldn't make their students do anything he didn't do, probably.
Sam stared down at the thin blue lines of his paper. Shitty paper, really. A leftover composition notebook he hadn't completely filled back when he used it for his high school Latin class. The first twenty pages had been torn out and the rest were, as a result, crinkled and coming loose from the binding. Most of his notebooks looked like that. Almost all previously used or just so cheap they might as well have been—whatever he could get his hands on, really. He sighed. (He did that a lot.)
Writing on the spot always gave him trouble. Usually, in his dorm room, while he ignored Andy, he would sit for hours with his headphones in listening to playlists of movie soundtracks and tapping his pen against his nose, until he thought of something.
He sighed again. Scribbled a little curl in the corner of his paper before meticulously printing, "There is a black 1967 Chevrolet Impala that sits in front of my brother's apartment building." He smiled to himself. Dean would be picking him up the next day for the break, and was going to take him back to Kansas for the entire weekend. "She belonged to my father, when she was new. But now she is my brother's, because no one trusts dad with a car and because my brother loves her. If you look from the sky, she gleams like tar. Sleek and beautiful." He nibbled on the cap of his pen. "If you look at her from the soil, her chassis is perfect and her bumpers glitter." He closed his eyes for a split second and continued as best he could, pausing every few words to get his bearings.
"But if you look at her from the inside she is perfect in a different way—she houses the childhood of two brothers. There's a little green army man jammed into the ashtray. That's my fault. But my brother went maybe a step further, and even now when he turns the heater on it rattles from the Legos he shoved into the vents." He smiled. "We carved our initials somewhere in there too, when I was little and still shorter than Dean. The car smells like leather and oil and French fries, and she's pretty old, but she still runs smooth and despite her flaws she is beautiful, because she's a lot like home."
He couldn't think of anything else to write. Had a suspicion he'd done the task a little wrong anyway. Too up-front, too clear. Not the right kind of description, to his mind. But he really didn't know what else to do so he leaned his forehead on his notebook and tapped his pen against the desk, eyes closed, listening to sound of the air vents and the other students writing.
After a few seconds of that, someone tapped his shoulder.
He looked up to see his professor's concerned face. Gabriel ducked low, and asked, "Everything alright, kiddo?" He seemed genuinely worried.
Sam had to gather his wits about him before he could find any words to say. "Uh..." He shook his head. "No, I—" He found himself at a loss, and looked down at his notebook. "I'm fine, I think."
Gabriel tilted his head, perhaps a little disbelieving, but he gave Sam a nod and a pat on the shoulder and retreated. Occasionally he stopped to help another student if they had questions, but for the most part he sat up front and continued to scribble away in his notebook. Sam stared at him for a while—at the way a few stray strands of hair fell into his face and at the way his already-crooked mouth twisted while he thought.
He almost got caught in his staring, but luckily managed to turn his eyes to his paper the second before Gabriel looked up. (Like Gabriel could sense his gaze.)
The class ended as it normally did, and Sam felt rather dazed having spent an hour and twenty minutes sitting in a silent room. He clamped his headphones over his ears the second he made it out the door and hunched into the chill breeze. A few early flakes of snow struggled down from the clouds. He pulled his hood up. It started to rain instead of snow, as he trudged across campus to his calculus class.
Sam immediately stripped down to his underwear when he finally got back to his dorm room. He slung his damp jeans and jacket over the back of his desk chair and snatched his pajamas off of his bed. The relief of soft, dry fabric on his cold legs was a godsend. His old, worn Star Wars blanket was even more of a godsend. And it smelled like his brother so it put off an extra layer of comfort.
"Hey man, you forgot your phone today." Andy tossed Sam's cell to him over his shoulder, chewing on an unlit joint. "Your bro called like ten minutes ago."
Sam frowned at the missed call notification. "He did?" He pressed speed dial and held the phone up to his ear. It rang for a while and he thought, for a moment, that Dean might not pick up. But at the last moment he heard a click and his big brother's voice.
"Dean?" Sam scooted up his bed to lean against his pillows, and tugged his blanket up over his knees. "Sorry I didn't answer when you called. Forgot my phone."
Dean laughed on the end of the line. "Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. What'll I do with you. You'll forget your shoes next."
Sam snorted. "Anyway," He pushed his bangs out of his eyes. "Did you need something?"
"What, I can't call my baby brother just to hear his annoying little voice?"
"You're such a jerk." Sam grinned to himself.
Dean laughed again, but quieter. He paused for a while and Sam almost asked if he was okay but Dean finally said, "Seriously though, Sammy... I got some bad news."
Sam immediately felt like his stomach had dropped out of his ass.
"No one died!" That was a relief. "But, Sammy, I'm sorry—I can't get you for Thanksgiving. Something happened with dad and Baby's totaled and..."
Sam didn't hear most of what Dean said after that. All he heard was a shrill buzz of disappointment, curling in his eardrums. He rolled onto his side, turning his back to Andy. "What do you mean?" He hunched his shoulders as he lay there. "You promised. Dean, you promised we could spend Thanksgiving together." He refused to cry, but his eyes burned. He felt stupid and small.
"I know, Sammy. I know. I'm sorry." Dean's voice came through the speakers thin and tired. "But you know we can't afford to get you tickets, and I can't get my hands on a car at this point." He sighed.
"I know, Dean." Sam rubbed at the corner of his eye. Still no tears but he had that pain in his throat and that itchiness under his eyelids that meant the floodgates were due to open any second. He curled tighter in on himself. "I just miss you, is all." He even sniffled. Pathetic. "Sorry."
"Hey! Hey, Sammy, no, don't apologize." It sounded like Dean was settling down in a chair or on a couch or something. Shocking, that he would be want to talk about feelings, but clearly when it came to his brother he was willing to do anything. "I know you miss me, and I miss you like hell, but you can get through this. I know you. You're a stubborn kid." He huffed out an affectionate laugh, and Sam couldn't help but smile a little at his brother's words. "Just wait. Christmas time? I'll have you all to myself for a whole month, and by the end you'll be desperate to get rid of me!"
Sam laughed—just a little bit. It came out watery and thin, but it was a laugh nonetheless.
"I'll mail you something, okay?" Dean yawned. "Some hardcore bondage porn or something."
Sam grimaced. "You're so gross."
"Shut up, bitch. You love me. I'll call you on Thanksgiving, okay?"
Dean hung up, and Sam snapped his phone shut. He took a deep, shuddering breath. Reached out to his ratty stuffed dog he'd had since he was three years old (a gift from his uncle Bobby) and wrapped himself around it like a long-limbed octopus. He buried his face in its threadbare fur with a deep inhale—it smelled like leather and home.
Andy tentatively cleared his throat. "You okay, Sam?"
Sam waved his arm, and muttered, "I'll be fine."
They fell into silence.
Sam spent the next day on a rather tedious trip to the grocery store with what little money he had left over from his financial aid. The dining halls (and everything else) on campus would be closed all through Thursday, Friday and Saturday, only opening up again for dinner on Sunday. So he grabbed a few boxes of microwaveable pasta and some cereal and milk, and tried not to freeze when he had to walk back to campus after missing the bus.
He wound his way along the pathways past the Humanities building. A damp piece of paper on the ground caught his eye—bright pink with black print. A few languages covered it, and Sam finally found the English part: "No place to go for Thanksgiving? No way to feed yourself? Call Prof. Gabriel Laufeyjarson for a place to stay and food and fun." He frowned at the paper. That seemed... unorthodox, at best. But he figured his teacher wouldn't just throw his phone number about without a good reason. He chewed on his thumbnail, thought a bit, and finally shoved the paper into his pocket.
He rushed his way back to his room.
Stowed his milk in Andy's mini fridge, and jammed the non-refrigerated food under his bed. Then he sat down with the yellow paper clutched in one hand. He took a breath. Carefully, he dialed the number, hoping it wasn't some joke by a student or something equally awful.
Gabriel picked up after three rings and chirped, "Yello, this is Gabriel speaking. How can I do you for?"
"Uh—" Sam couldn't believe he was doing this. "I—It's Sam. I saw... the posters?"
A surprised laugh (and Sam worried he'd made a terrible mistake). "Heya, kiddo! I take it you can't go home for the break?" A rustle came from the end of the line. "I run a little Thanksgiving slumber party for the whole weekend, for exchange students and anyone else who needs somewhere to stay." He paused. "There's only a few of us, so, if you want... Just give me your information and I'll mark you down. I'll be picking everyone up at nine tonight."
Sam nodded to himself, biting his nail. "Okay. Okay, that sounds good." He hoped Gabriel wasn't secretly some kind of murderer, and told him which dorm he lived in. A few more quick words back and forth, and Sam found himself packing his suitcase and running back and forth through his room—his very empty room. Andy had left that morning. Sam took a deep breath and sat on his bed.
His suitcase stood between his feet and he stared at his phone. It was only three in the afternoon. But now he was bored and nervous and excited all at once. He could call Dean but that wouldn't last more than an hour or so. He'd packed his laptop, like the idiot he was, and really didn't want to dig it out.
He hummed to himself distractedly. Metallica. Dean always sang Metallica for him when he was sick, so it comforted him. He let himself sprawl out on his stomach in bed and murmured the words to himself, and closed his eyes, with his head pillowed in his arms.
His thoughts drifted, from the silence of an empty room, to the fact that he now had food he wouldn't need, to the sound of a crow through the window. They strayed, after a long half hour, to homework. A dreaded calculus assignment and a paper due for his class on Greek literature. No homework for Gabriel's class though. Just the order to "Have fun or else!" He grinned.
Of course, that led to him thinking of his professor.
Of Professor Laufeyjarson's cheeky grin and animated eyebrows.
The way his pinky stuck out when he wrote on the board.
His small feet and well-muscled arms.
Thoughts of his wildly styled hair, and the bump along his nose.
Of how he had the slightest lisp and a sunny laugh and a little scar on his right eyebrow.
Sam sighed into his arm, and ran one hand back through his bangs. He'd begun to blush. Could feel it, in the heat across his face and the back of his neck and all over his body. He couldn't stop thinking about Gabriel's smile. And every other part of him. He liked his professor's crow's feet and his dimples and his bowties and his penchant for carrying around candy in his dumb army jacket.
He allowed his mind to waver toward what it might feel like to hug Gabriel. What it might feel like to kiss him.
But he shied away from that thought about as fast as he got to it, too embarrassed to really ponder it in any serious way.
Still, his brain returned to it.
What would those thin (but strangely pretty and sculpted) lips feel like on his own? Would they be soft? Dry? Damp? What would he taste like? Definitely candy. Chocolate and peanuts, or sugar? Maybe artificial cherry flavor, or whipped cream, or vanilla. He was probably a good kisser, with a lot of experience. He'd have to be. No way he hadn't been with plenty of people, with how charming he was. He probably knew how to tie a cherry stem in a knot with his tongue or something stupid like that.
"Shit." Sam covered his head with his arms, shoving his face into the sheets. "Shit." He couldn't be thinking about that. No. He was not going to fantasize about kissing his creative writing instructor—his middle-aged creative writing instructor—or about the agility of his tongue. That was... Well for one thing, he was like seventeen years older than Sam. And for another he was probably totally straight, and for another thing he was Sam's professor so even if Gabriel wanted to hook up they'd be breaking all sorts of rules.
Sam rolled onto his back.
Just thinking about it wouldn't be bad, would it? Fantasies never hurt anyone, except maybe the fantasizer. And it wasn't as though Gabriel would know if Sam thought about wanting to kiss him and wanting to hold hands with him and wanting to be wrapped up in his arms and pushed down on a real bed and—
Sam covered his red face with his hands.
Eventually, the clock finally clicked to nine pm, and a few minutes later Sam's phone rang. "H... hello?" He licked his lips.
"Hey there, kiddo!" Gabriel sounded cheerful. "We're out in the parking lot, so just look for the red minivan!" A few voices filtered through just under his.
Sam nodded. "Alright, I'll be out in a sec."
He hung up and snatched his suitcase and practically ran down the stairs to get outside. When he got to the parking lot just beside the dorm complex he saw the van immediately. It was the color of strawberry hard candy, and the sliding door hung open. Sam slipped inside, and the girl beside him pulled the door shut.
She was stocky and round-faced, and introduced herself as Haru. Her hair was short and bleached and spiky.
On Sam's other side sat a girl named Sakimi with curly hair to her waist. She was Haru's roommate, and they were exchange students from Hokkaido. In the passenger seat there was a boy about Sam's age from Brazil—Lucas—and in the back were two upperclassmen whose parents lived in Salem, Oregon: Karim and Ahmed. Sam shook each of their hands.
With introductions finished, Gabriel cranked up the radio and pealed out of the parking lot. Nicki Minaj's voice filled the interior of the van. Sakimi let out a little cheer and Sam grinned. He had a feeling he would enjoy this Thanksgiving a lot more than he'd expected.
Turned out, rather than use his own home, Gabriel had booked a three-bedroom vacation home in Beavercreek, that was apparently near skiing. (Not that they were going to ski. It was just advertised.) He parked out front beside a white Oldsmobile and hopped out of the van. Before he did anything else, he circled around to the back and pulled out two boxes. Then he ran to the front and kicked the front door until someone shouted at him from inside and opened the door for him.
He beckoned the students to follow him in, as he explained, "There are three rooms with one bed each so what we're gonna do is set up these," He held up the boxes—inflatable mattresses. "In two of the rooms and you each get to share with one other person." He dropped his boxes on the floor. "Sakimi and Haru get a room to themselves because they're girls. Names are on the doors." He scooted one boxed mattress toward the boys. "You guys can figure out who's sleeping where. Your room is across the hall from the girls." He turned to the tall blond man who had let them in. "Lucy, take this mattress up to the grown-ups' room." He smirked.
Lucy—that couldn't have been his real name, but Sam didn't want to ask—grumbled and heaved the little cardboard box up in one arm before disappearing up the stairs.
Gabriel returned his attention to the students. "Ground rules!" He planted his hands on his hips with a grin. "One: don't make a mess, and if you do, clean up after yourself! Two: Bed by eleven o'clock and wake up at ten. Everyone helps cook and clean." He paused, giving them all a stern look before he continued. "And three: have fun! Now get your butts to your rooms so you can figure out who's going where and all that boring stuff!" He made a shooing motion with his hands and spun on his heel to head toward the kitchen.
Sam followed Lucas to their room.
One bed was pretty large. Karim and Lucas did a round of rock, paper, scissors for it and Lucas won, much to Sam's relief. He doubted he would fit on the inflatable bed. He tossed his suitcase down on the floor, rummaging in it for the extra sweatshirt he'd packed. He pulled it on over his sweater.
They all went about finalizing their arrangement, changing into pajamas—or in Sam's case, changing pants but not bothering to remove his other layers. (He was cold, dammit.) When they had all settled, a smell began to waft through the door. Ahmed perked up like a dog, ventured to the doorway, and leaned out into the hall. Sam peeked out behind him. Across from them, Haru and Sakimi peered from their own doorway—one in a nightgown and the other in Batman boxers and a t-shirt, respectively.
Downstairs, they found Gabriel in the kitchen in front of the stove. He stirred a pan full of some kind of cream sauce beside a large pot of pasta. That was definitely the source of the smell. Along with something in the oven, judging by the crumpled garlic bread packaging on the counter.
He looked up at them with a big grin. "You guys are lucky I'm nice." He ducked down to check the bread through the oven's little lit up window, and hummed thoughtfully to himself. "Tomorrow you get to help make all the food, but tonight I figured you're all hungry and shy, so... I'm cooking for everyone." He shrugged, and pointed to the other room. "Go set up the table, kids."
"We're not kids!" Karim laughed. But he went with everyone to set out silverware and plates, while Gabriel drained the pasta and mixed it up with the sauce, and dumped it into a massive ceramic mixing bowl.
Gabriel wrapped his arms around the bowl and shot back, "You're all kids to an old man like me!" He hefted and carried the pasta to the table where it thudded loudly against the wood when he set it down. The oven beeped and he grumbled, stretching before retrieving the garlic bread. Sam and Haru helped dish out dinner to everyone in suitable amounts. Gabriel set a slice of bread at the edge of each of their plates, smiling as he did so.
"If you want more of something just raise your hand to ask, or throw something at me, or whatever."
He turned away and cupped his hands to his mouth.
Then he shouted, "MICHAEL! LUCIFER!" He took a deep breath. "DINNER!" He whirled back around and took his seat at the head of the table. Surveyed everyone. "Before you ask: he really is named Lucifer." He snorted to himself. "Hippy parents, and all that." So-saying, he twirled his finger over his temple and winked as the other men entered the room.
Lucifer—Sam assumed it was Lucifer, because he was the one Gabriel had called Lucy earlier—sat down at Gabriel's right and Michael sat directly beside him.
Rather than eat in total silence, Gabriel told a story in between bites. About a time in his youth (his college days, more specifically) when he had gone to the state fair and been spat on by a llama.
It was a nice meal.
They woke right when Gabriel told them they would: ten in the morning. Because Gabriel put a Ke$ha CD on full blast and ran into each room shouting, "Wake up, my adult children! Wake up!" before running downstairs. Sam rolled out of bed pretty easily. He was used to waking much earlier for classes, or to help Dean out at the garage. Lucas, on the other hand, groaned and grumbled his way upright. Karim and Ahmed were grumpy but quick.
When Sam wandered out into the hallway he saw the girls' door hanging open and their room standing empty. Probably already downstairs, then. He wandered into the main room. Haru and Sakimi both sat on one of two couches, speaking in hushed whispers and watching the fireplace. Gabriel could be heard in the kitchen, so Sam padded his way over to him, followed closely by Ahmed and Lucas.
Gabriel greeted them with enthusiasm.
Sam was tasked with making sure the bacon didn't burn while Gabriel went to fetch Lucifer and Michael.
When he returned with the other men in tow, Gabriel began to give everyone little tasks. Sam was to continue with the bacon. Sakimi was in charge of toast. Haru and Ahmed made batter for scones, while Karim made the eggs and Lucas set the table. Gabriel wove his way through the kitchen every few minutes to make sure everything moved smoothly and without accident. Lucifer and Michael tended to the fire, speaking to each other in hushed voices.
When he had just about finished the bacon, a little drop of oil managed to pop out of the pan and burn Sam's finger. He flinched, sucking on his knuckle with a frown and turning off the burner. He dumped the final pieces of bacon onto a paper towel and slowly they all began to separate things out onto plates. Haru slid the scones into the oven. Ahmed set about cleaning the counter while Sakimi piled the toast onto a platter, with their elbows only a few inches apart in the small kitchen.
Gabriel noticed Sam's frown, and ducked between Lucas and Haru. "Hey, kiddo." He pulled him off to the side so they weren't in the way. "You okay?"
"What?" Sam tilted his head, then realized he still had his finger in his mouth. "Oh! Yeah. I'm fine." He smiled down at his professor.
Gabriel grinned. "Good. Don't want any of you guys to get hurt on my watch!" He gave Sam a light slap on the back and bustled back out into the dining room to right a chair someone had accidentally knocked onto its side.
Sam paused on his way to the dining room to look out a window. It was snowing, just a little bit. Enough to slowly begin obscuring the ground and to lighten the air. For a second, he leaned his forehead against the cold glass and sighed, fogging up the area around his mouth and nose. He pushed away, then, and headed to the table with everyone else as they each began to pick and choose what they wanted for breakfast. Lucifer and Michael joined them—and Gabriel informed the two men that they would be doing the dishes because they didn't help cook.
Sam looked around at the people around him and smiled to himself.
"So, Thanksgiving is basically a great example of this thing called hegemony." Gabriel gesticulated, as he spoke. "Which is some fancy-ass word that technically means 'leadership,' but in anthropological contexts it can refer to things that have been painted in what may or may not be an incorrect light so it seems nicer than it is. You know," He leaned back where he sat in an armchair beside the fireplace. "That whole 'winners write the history books' kind of thing." He paused, licking his lips. Rummaged around in his pocket and pulled out a bag of skittles which he began to eat while he spoke. "Basically, in school, Thanksgiving is taught as 'the pilgrims and the Indians had a big party and ate food,' but really it's more like 'the Europeans came over and killed a bunch of Native Americans and gave them diseases and took their food.'" He smirked. "That's US history, though. Always twisted in favor of patriotism." He shook his head and sank deeper into the chair. He looked content and warm, and Sam couldn't help but focus on the way his eyes glinted copper in the firelight.
"We Americans are rather racist, hm?" Lucifer, standing by the back door, raised an eyebrow and glanced over his shoulder.
Sakimi leaned forward. She rested her elbows on her knees. "So are Japanese." She tilted her head, so her curls shifted over her shoulder. "And many other people. England, India, Mexico, Canada. It is a problem that should be fixed, but not just for Americans."
"You're damn right." Gabriel nodded in her direction. "And it's a crying shame."
From the couch, Sam watched the way Gabriel shifted in his armchair. He sighed, and noticed a slight burnt smell. Frowned. Opened his mouth to say, "Professor Laufeyjarson—Uh. Gabe." He worried at his lip with his front teeth. "How long is the turkey supposed to cook for?" He didn't necessarily mean to stop the conversation—in fact he had found it pretty engaging—but he figured Gabriel might prefer the food not to be blackened.
Gabriel swore and jumped to his feet. Lucifer laughed at him, and Sakimi stifled a giggle.
The poultry was rescued and set on the stovetop to cool, while Gabriel transferred a pan of rolls into the oven. Most everything else had been finished already, leaving just that one batch and a couple dozen deviled eggs to be topped off. Gabriel dragged Michael and Lucifer into the kitchen and ordered them to set about filling the eggs.
When he returned, Haru leaned over the arm of her and Sakimi's loveseat and whispered, "Are they...?" She raised her eyebrows.
"Are they what?" Gabriel smirked.
"恋人ですか。 I mean... together?" She blushed.
Gabriel burst out laughing, and even shielded his face from view with both hands as he slid down in his chair. He trailed off into giggles, pink-faced. "No, no, no!" He shook his head. "No, those are my brothers! Brothers! 兄貴と弟だよ！"
"Ah!" Haru covered her mouth in mortification. "Sorry, sorry!"
Shaking his head and still giggling, Gabriel muttered, "Don't apologize. It's fine. It was funny!" He snorted.
Sam bit back a laugh as well. He had also thought Lucifer and Michael were an item—but now that they were revealed to be siblings he could spot some similarities in their facial structure, despite them all being fairly different from each other. He ducked his head and rubbed the back of the neck and listened to Gabriel and Sakimi's laughter dissolved into low conversation as Lucas asked what Haru had asked.
Gabriel explained that she had thought the two were lovers, and Lucas turned the color of a beet and half-laughed.
Sam drooped against the cushions, resting his head on the arm of the couch, watching Gabriel continue to speak of whatever things that came up within their little group. Around three in the afternoon, with the fire low, Lucifer strode into the room and announced that everything was officially done and ready to eat, so they all relocated to the dining table where each person piled his or her plate high with food—there were mashed potatoes and turkey, mushroom gravy, stuffing, rolls, baked tofu, deviled eggs, and even a pumpkin pie that Michael had made a store-run to get upon Gabriel's insistence.
Sam took a little bit of everything. He wanted to try it all. And he found it all to be good. None of it too dry or too moist or too strong or under-seasoned.
Sitting in the warm house, with fellow students and Gabriel and his brothers, Sam felt happier than he had in quite a while. It couldn't compare to a holiday at home with his family, but it was much better than his previous plans of living on cereal and pasta for the entire weekend, alone in his room with only the internet to keep him company. He grinned.
"This is great." He half-mumbled the words into his glass of water but Gabriel clearly heard him, and shot him a broad grin with dimples and crow's feet. Sam blushed and looked away. He heard his professor let out a low chuckle and felt himself heat up even more.
He focused on his food.
Later in the evening, Sam sat in the chair by the fire and curled his legs up beneath him, with a mug of cocoa in hand, waiting for his phone to ring. (Dean was meant to call in less than five minutes.) He shut his eyes and hummed into his mug. The soft heat warmed his hands and the steam curled up around his face.
The house was fairly silent but for muffled laughter from outside. Gabriel and a few of the others were outside making a snowman in the sudden accumulation of snow. Sakimi had gone upstairs to read and Lucifer and Michael had retreated to the adults' bedroom as well.
Sam sipped at his hot chocolate. His phone buzzed, startling him as it vibrated against his leg, and he flipped it open.
"Hello." He smiled.
"Hey, Sammy!" Dean sounded a little tipsy, but cheerful. "How are you?"
Sam huffed. "I'm good. Way better than I expected—I'm with some people, for the weekend, and it's fun." He burrowed deeper into the chair, trying not to think of the fact that Gabriel had been sitting in it just hours earlier. "And I'm well-fed, so don't worry."
"Well-fed? Always good. Who're you with, eh? I thought your friends all left for break?"
Sam shrugged, though Dean couldn't see him. "Professor has this little party thing for exchange students and kids who can't go home—I think a few other teachers do it too." He grinned. "We all made dinner together and now they're making a snowman."
"I'm glad you're having a good time. But man, goin' to a teacher's house, Sammy? You know, you shouldn't go to strangers' houses." Dean laughed. Yeah, definitely not totally sober. "Could be a murderer in disguise."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Dean, he's not a stranger! And there are seven other people here! It's not dangerous, and it's a vacation home he rented or something, just for the occasion." He took a gulp of his cocoa and licked his lips. "I'm perfectly safe, I promise."
"Better be. If you get hurt, you tell that teacher of yours I'll kick his ass straight into next Tuesday."
Sam snorted, but continued to grin to himself. "I'll be sure to let him know."
Dean made a soft noise of affirmation, and said nothing. They remained in relative silence for several drawn-out seconds. Enjoyed just the knowledge that if they needed to speak they could, but that it wasn't fully necessary. Sam curled himself tighter into the chair. The fire put off a gentle glow and heat and he felt sleepy and warm and pleased. After a while, he murmured, "I'm gonna hang up now, Dean."
"You do that, Sammy." Dean's voice was quiet. "Sleep well tonight, okay? Don't want my baby brother to be tired in the morning." He laughed.
Sam snorted. "You too. Bye."
The line clicked. Sam snapped his phone shut and slid it into his pocket, eyes closed, breathing slowly. The world had gone a little fuzzy at the edges and he thought he might like to take a nap, but a bang disrupted his half-awake ruminations and he frowned as he straightened up and looked toward the stairs. Some muffled shouting and thuds sounded from above. He heard the patter of footsteps and Sakimi ran into the living room with her book clutched to her chest and eyes wide. She hurried to the back door and threw it open to shout Gabriel's name.
Gabriel was by her side in a moment, voice low. "What's wrong?"
"Your brothers!" She gestured widely just as something crashed, and she flinched. "Fighting!"
Gabriel closed his eyes for half a moment. "Fuck." He stepped into the house, steering her toward where Sam sat—he would have sent her outside but she was barefoot in her pajamas. "Stay there." He was about to head to the stairs, then, but had no chance to make it there before footsteps thundered across the floor and Michael burst into the room with Lucifer hot on his heels.
Lucifer caught up fast and tackled his youngest brother to the ground with a grunt. Michael elbowed him and tried to dislodge him but Lucifer held tight, pulling Michael into a headlock, scowling fiercely.
"Hey!" Gabriel moved closer—but hovered at least two feet away from them. "Knock it the fuck off!"
Michael jammed an elbow into his oldest brother's chest and Lucifer rolled off of him with an angry, wounded noise, but when Michael stood, Lucifer whipped his hand out and snatched his ankle so he fell heavily to the ground. Michael twisted his wrist when he tried to catch himself and swore.
They ended up with their limbs tangled, locked together in a squirming struggle on the floor which neither seemed likely to win. Lucifer bit Michael hard on the shoulder and Michael held back a shout and tried to knee his brother in the groin. (Unsuccessfully.)
Gabriel, unable to stand by any longer, threw himself down into the fray, wrapping his arms around Lucifer's waist from behind and snarling something into his ear. Lucifer elbowed him off and turned on him.
Hesitant at first, but finding determination when Lucifer pinned Gabriel to the floor with a violent shove and raised his arm for a blow, Sam leapt forward. He wrenched Lucifer upright and away from Gabriel, and kicked him in the back of the knees so he was forced to kneel with a thud, and then he pulled his arms tight behind his back. The heavier man tried to shake him off but Sam held tight—he had experience play-fighting and training with his older brother and Dean had done his job well in teaching Sam to fight.
Sam wrestled Lucifer to the ground so that his cheek pressed into the floor, and gave a sharp nod toward Gabriel.
He bit out, "Find some rope."
Lucifer continued to struggle under him, somewhat like an alligator that knew it was caught but would stop at nothing to break free. Nearby, Michael sat with his knees drawn up, glowering darkly.
Gabriel floundered, briefly, trying to find some kind of rope or string, but sudden realization lit in his eyes and he tugged his belt off before dropping down beside Sam to fasten it tightly around Lucifer's wrists—luckily it was the kind of belt pierced along its whole length so it could tighten as much as needed. He buckled it a little harshly and stood up. Sam rolled to his feet as well, crossing his arms.
Lucifer managed to stand, though he swayed a little without the use of his arms, and glared at the both of them.
"You're an asshole."
Gabriel just raised his eyebrows. "Really, Lucy? Because I think that might be a better description of you than me or him." His expression darkened. "I have been trying my best to give these kids a good experience, and you two fucktrucks decided to try and beat the living shit out of each other? Thanks. I appreciate you frightening a twenty year old Japanese girl out of her wits. Real classy." He shoved his hands into his pockets, leaning back on his heels. "If you broke anything you two get to pay me back for the cost of this entire rental." He smirked. "It's a few thousand bucks, by the way."
And then Gabriel left the room.
Went upstairs, presumably to assess the damage, or to get a breather, or something. Sam honestly couldn't be sure. Sam ignored Lucifer and Michael's presence, and went over to Sakimi, who looked shaken but not hurt.
Both flinched when they heard a door slam upstairs, and then a string of expletives, as Gabriel shouted at himself or the world in general. Sakimi took Sam's hand and led him to the front door, where their shoes sat along the step, and smiled at him. She took her signal. They both pulled on shoes and jackets and went outside, crunching their way around the house to the back.
The others stood quiet and huddled a ways from the back door. Obviously, they had seen what had transpired, after Sakimi had called Gabriel inside.
Sakimi went to Haru and leaned on her shoulder.
Sam shuffled around in the snow.
The snowman's arm fell off.
Gabriel shoved all of his brothers' things into the white Oldsmobile parked out front, scowling fiercely the entire time. He made two trips, and when the last bag sat in the trunk, he slammed the lid shut hard enough to make the car squeak on its tires. He dragged Lucifer and Michael out, shoving them with little tenderness to the car, and then went back inside the house and slammed the door shut with a rattle.
Inside, Sam and everyone else sat near the fireplace, quiet and nervous.
Gabriel leaned back against the door. He covered his face with his hands as he heaved a great sigh, and pushed himself away from the wood. "Kids," he said, softly. "You can do whatever you want. I'm going to make some cookies." He looked... guilty. Regretful. Mouth turned tightly down, eyes lowered, posture slumping and soft. He shrugged, and disappeared into the kitchen.
Lucas chewed on his lip before heaving himself off of the couch and heading upstairs. Haru followed, as did both Ahmed and Karim. Sakimi lingered in front of the fire, and Sam sat in the armchair. Eventually, Sakimi stood, and she too went upstairs. Sam did not. He pulled himself to his feet and went in the opposite direction, toward the sounds of clattering dishes. He paused in the doorway.
Gabriel stood at the counter, elbow-deep in cookie dough, with a bag of chocolate chips nearby. Rather than use a beater or even a spatula, he kneaded the dough with his bare hands, taking out his emotions on it. He took a break for half a moment to grab a handful of chocolate chips, but rather than pour them into the bowl like Sam expected he just shoved them into his mouth. Sam cleared his throat quietly, and Gabriel flinched. He tensed and turned, but relaxed when he saw who it was.
"Oh. Hey, kiddo." He shot Sam a half-hearted smile. "Somethin' the matter?" He turned back to his big mixing bowl of cookie dough and sized it up, as if he were considering eating the entire thing without cooking it.
Sam shook his head. "I'm fine. I just... Can I help?" He scratched at the back of his neck, nibbling on the edge of his thumbnail.
Gabriel looked up at him. His eyebrows pulled together for a brief second but then his face cleared and he even smiled a little bit, nodding. "Sure thing." He met Sam's eyes. "Wash your hands and then you can grease the baking sheet."
Sam scrubbed his hands within an inch of their lives, and dried them on the kitchen towel. He cast around for the sheet and found it on the counter beside the stove. Rummaged in the fridge for butter—labeled "Laufeyjarson" with a little pink star-shaped sticky note—and set to work rubbing it all over the baking sheet. He heard Gabriel humming to himself and glanced over to see him forming a little ball of dough, studded with chocolate, between his hands.
Together, they lined up a dozen blobs of cookie dough on the sheet, while the oven preheated.
When Gabriel slid the pan of cookies into the oven a burst of heat curled out against them, and Sam stepped away. It was hot enough to be unpleasant, at too close a range, but the kitchen itself slowly begun to grow to a comfortable warmth. He leaned against the counter, and Gabriel turned away to rummage through the fridge, mumbling to himself about something to drink. He made a triumphant noise in the back of his throat and pulled a jug of chocolate milk out of the fridge—it too had his last name scrawled across the side, in sharpie.
He unscrewed the top and snatched a clean cup from the dish drainer beside the sink, filling it to the brim before putting the jug back in the refrigerator. Sam watched him throw back about half the glass in one go and laughed. Gabriel smirked.
Sam licked his lips.
Gabriel tilted his head, expression turning thoughtful. "Do you wear lip gloss?"
"Wh—" Sam gaped, forehead crinkling. "What?"
Gabriel raised his hands up in front of him. "Just—Sorry! You just have a really pink mouth so I thought maybe you wore... Never mind... Sorry. Wow." He looked away, pushing his fingers through his hair.
Sam felt himself turning red. "I—I don't wear makeup." He trained his gaze on the tiles under his bare feet, catching his lip between his teeth. "Um." What was a person meant to say to that? What was the proper response? He had no clue. He looked up, with an earnest look. "Not that there's anything wrong with wearing makeup! I just don't... is all..."
Gabriel broke into a laugh, grinning broadly. "It was just a dumb question, Sam, you don't have to uh... defend yourself for not wearing makeup." He sipped at his milk. "Sorry, though. For real. That was kind of inappropriate of me to ask."
"Oh," Sam shook his head. "I don't really mind too much." He flipped his bangs out of his face, definitely still blushing, and smiled. "I was just kind of... surprised?" He slipped his hands into the pockets of his jeans and leaned on one foot, hooking his toes behind his ankle. He bit his lip again and grinned.
Gabriel nodded. "Thank you for not thinking I'm a creep." He winked and drank the rest of his milk. He looked like he wanted to say something else, but frowned. Finally opened his mouth again. "And thanks for cheering me up." He gave Sam a small, sincere little smile—just a bit crooked.
Sam shrugged. "I didn't do anything." He couldn't help but continue to grin, and glanced back down at the floor.
"Nonsense!" Gabriel came closer. "Kid, you did wonders just by standing around and greasing some old cookie sheet. And before that, if you wouldn't have taken my brother out I'd probably be sporting a broken nose right now. You're great." He beamed up at Sam, clasping his shoulder. "I'm glad you're here."
His hand was warm through Sam's shirt.
Sam wanted to kiss him so badly.
The timer went off and Gabriel drew away to check the cookies.
Sam closed his eyes with a sigh.
The rest of the weekend proved entirely uneventful, but pleasant. Gabriel separated the cookies—two dozen—out into little bags so they each got four, and on the ride back to campus he put in Michal Bublé's Christmas album and they sang along to what words they knew. Gabriel himself could flawlessly sing each and every song. Sam knew a few, Sakimi and Lucas knew about as much as him, and the other three remained mostly lost.
Sam found himself a bit disappointed to leave them all, but he gathered his things into his arms and gave everyone a little wave as he backed away from the minivan. He turned and walked toward the complex. A layer of frost crunched under his shoes as he made his way to his building, and he fumbled with the lock.
Once he made it into his room he dropped his things on his desk and collapsed into bed. The room stood empty and cold, and he hadn't bothered to turn the light on so it was also dark, lit only by the orange glow of streetlamps streaming through the blinds. Andy would be back the next morning—or so he'd told Sam. Sam reveled in the chance to be completely alone again. He liked people, but he was tired and he wanted privacy. There was a big difference between being around people, and not having a space of one's own. (Even the dorm room didn't really count as a space of his own, when Andy was there.)
He let out a deep breath, glad to relax.
He found himself thinking back to the moment in the kitchen. The firmness of Gabriel's grip on his shoulder had been... nice. Surprisingly so. A little electrifying, too. But Sam usually felt pretty charged around Gabriel anyway. Something about the color of his eyes and the cadence of his voice and the curve of his lips always set his heart rate on edge. Like he might explode at any second.
He liked the way Gabriel, despite calling him "kiddo," treated him like an adult instead of an overgrown child. Liked his joking demeanor. Liked how concerned he could be with his students—how much he genuinely cared about what few people took his class.
He liked how, if someone needed help, Gabriel would go over to them and speak gently and explain everything as clearly as possible. He liked how Gabriel sometimes drew on the whiteboard to help explain prompts, or to illustrate a point he wanted to make. He liked how Gabriel spoke just loud enough to be clear without being too noisy. He liked the gestures Gabriel made when he got excited—waving his arms around and bouncing. Liked how, when Gabriel got an idea, he snapped his fingers. Liked how he stashed candy in his pockets, and how once when one of his students was sad he had given her an entire king-size Hershey bar.
He liked everything about Gabriel, really.
From his slight lisp to how he looked in khaki pants to the shape of his eyes.
He needed to find himself an outlet or a distraction—something like porn or a book that wouldn't remind him of Gabriel Laufeyjarson in any way, shape or form. Like his calculus textbook, or a documentary. Instead of finding either of those, he continued to lay on his stomach with his face buried in his pillow, resolutely avoiding all thoughts of his professor. He didn't do a very good job. He found himself unable to avoid images of Gabriel and himself talking together in a little coffee shop, or watching a movie, or just sitting somewhere with their shoulders brushing, maybe kissing. Definitely kissing. That idea filled his head up like a balloon. Maybe he was just deprived, but he really wanted to kiss the man.
Dean would have told him, "You just need to get laid, man! Hook up with some nerdy friend of yours!"
But Sam knew that wasn't quite it. This was different. He would never say it out loud, but he had a full-blown crush. He like-liked Gabriel. How embarrassing. Dean would tease him if he found out. (He could never find out.)
Sam rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling in the dark.
Class continued as normal through the next weeks.
On the last Thursday of his creative writing class, Sam left the room humming to himself. Even though he had to go to his math class next, he was still in a good mood. For finals, Gabriel had instructed the class to write a simple poem. Subject: anything. Type: any. Length: any length as long as it was longer than a haiku and shorter than two pages. Due the next Friday (finals dates were skewed, and their class met at 8 am on the Friday before break for their "test") to be read in front of the class. Sam had an idea of what he wanted to write about—a very dorky idea, and probably a very terrible, stupid idea. But an idea nonetheless.
When he got back to his dorm room he said hi to Andy and pulled his notebook and a pen out of his bag, immediately sitting down on his bed and crossing his legs as he leaned against the wall. He stared at his paper for about twenty minutes, twirling his pen, before tossing his notebook down empty and grabbing his laptop. He booted it up and pulled up Google. Put in "poetry forms" and clicked the first link he saw. He found himself at a list of different type of poems.
He browsed, and clicked a few links. He lingered over the page for sonnets, but decided he'd rather use something less regulated—he like sonnets, sure, but he didn't feel like figuring out iambic pentameter and then shoving everything into a set number of lines with a rhyme scheme. So he exited that page. Found himself on a page about epistles. He skimmed it. Letter-like, non-rigid. He bit his lip. Then set his laptop aside and took up his pen once more.
He scrapped the first poem he managed to get down. Too... stilted. Too strange. Too obvious. He managed half of another try—"To you who in his hand/Holds my thoughts/In eddies of smoke" it started out—and then he ripped the page from his notebook and crumpled it up before throwing it at the small trash can beside his desk. He settled down on his stomach, resting his forehead against the paper as he thought. Perhaps he was trying to make it too much like a letter. He groaned.
Andy glanced over at him, moderately concerned. "Need help?"
"No," Sam rolled onto his back, lifting his notebook into the air and staring at it. "Just trying to write a poem for my creative writing final." He huffed and sat up.
Andy frowned. "Gross."
With a quiet laugh, Sam settled his notebook on his lap and tapped his pen against his mouth.
He scribbled down a few words. Possible endings, a couplet that might be nice. Sighed and chewed on his thumbnail. "In the confines..." He shook his head and crossed out several lines he'd managed to write. He pulled his laptop close again to look up several more types of poem. He kind of wanted to try something like a terza rima, but he was much too tired and distracted to even bother with that kind of structure. Instead, he scratched out his own little pattern: two rhyming lines split by a non-rhyming six-syllable phrase of some kind, repeated several times.
With these thoughts in mind, he slowly began to transcribe a little poem onto his paper.
He finished in something like thirty minutes—not bad—and went over it. Here and there he tweaked phrases and meter, until he was as satisfied as he could make himself be. He re-wrote the entire thing in neater handwriting on a clean sheet of paper, carefully tore that sheet from his notebook, and put everything into his backpack.
He and Andy went to the dining hall together for dinner. There wasn't much in the way of quality that night, but he contented himself with making a sad, wilted salad, and snatching a couple of slices of pizza and a hamburger on his way to the seating area.
Sam didn't speak much, while they ate. Andy prattled on about some TV show he'd been watching recently, and told jokes, and Sam listened and nodded when he needed to but he wasn't in the mood to actually speak much. He wanted to finish eating, check his mail, and go to bed. So he did—told Andy he was heading back, and Andy waved at him with a grin.
He found nothing in his mail box. Unsurprising. Walked back to his dorm room through the cold air and the freezing drizzle. Once inside their room, Sam stripped and tugged on his pajama pants and turned off the lights and bundled himself into his bed. His mind would not stop racing. He thought of the poem in his bag. He thought of the single cookie he had left from Thanksgiving. He thought of Gabriel's warm eyes and warm hands and warm smile.
Wrapped tightly in his ratty old comforter, Sam fell asleep with the picture of Gabriel's grin stuck in the edges of his head.
Sam felt a little like he might throw up, as he sat down in his seat (as always) five minutes before class started. When Gabriel waved at him, he smiled. But it felt like a stunted smile. Gabriel didn't seem to suspect anything was wrong, though, so he must have been better at pretending than he thought.
When the class filled, Gabriel turned around—wearing a maroon sweater, its front emblazoned with a shark wrapped in Christmas lights—and clapped his hands together. "Alright, class!" He raised his eyebrows. "Who's ready for winter break?!"
The class cheered.
He beamed. "Now, who's ready to read their poems in front of everyone?"
A few groans, and Gabriel laughed. He rubbed his hands together. "Excellent." As he sat at the desk up front, he continued, "Once you read your poems you are free to go, if you so desire! And then you get a whole three weeks to fuck around at home!" He winked. "So who's first?"
Normally, Sam would volunteer, but he felt a little sick to his stomach at the thought of reading this particular poem in front of anybody, let alone ten college students and his professor. He ducked his head and avoided Gabriel's eyes. He knew that probably seemed suspicious but he didn't care. He let Gabriel use the name cards to call out people at random, and focused on relaxing—on slowing his breathing and heart rate—instead. He allowed himself to drift. Paid enough attention to get the general idea of what the others' poetry was about, and to keep track of how many had gone.
Gabriel called his name sixth.
Sam stood, with his paper in front of him.
Opened his mouth.
And abruptly sat down. "I'm sorry, Professor Laufeyjarson." He kept his eyes fixed on his desk. "I can't..." He ran one hand through his hair with a harsh breath. "Sorry."
"Hey, hey." Gabriel's voice was soft. "It's fine, kiddo. You're fine. Just stay after class, okay? So you don't have to read in front of everyone."
Sam nodded, swallowing back his embarrassment and anger. (Anger at himself. He hadn't even made it thirty seconds before he chickened out.)
The rest of the poems went mostly without a hitch. Although one girl, reading about her dead best friend, started crying before she could finish. But she powered through her tears and Gabriel let her leave right away.
Finally, the class emptied.
Gabriel cleared his throat. "Normally, I wouldn't force you to read it, but I gotta make sure you're not a threat to society, you know?" He sounded like he was smiling. "Can't have you dropping a murder confession on my desk and then running away!" His shoes came into Sam's line of sight.
Sam finally looked up.
Gabriel grinned down at him, amused but clearly a little concerned, with his hands planted on his hips. His voice gentled, and he said, "Really, though, kiddo. I can't give you special treatment. Everyone else read their poem, and you've never had trouble before so I know it's not a debilitating shyness sorta thing." He sat on the edge of Sam's desk. "Gotta have you read it." He gave Sam an expectant raise of his eyebrows.
"I know." Sam scrubbed his palms over his face. "I'm just nervous, is all."
Gabriel nodded. "Stage fright's a bitch." He smirked, and stood back up. "Start with the title."
Sam closed his eyes and breathed deeply to calm himself. "The title." He avoided Gabriel's eyes. "The title is... 'Ode to the One I Love.'" He pushed his hair out of his face. Cleared his throat. "It goes—uh... 'My love is neither tall nor slender,'" He paused, closing his eyes. Swallowed down his nerves. "Let me start again."
Gabriel just put his hand on Sam's shoulder with an encouraging smile.
Sam felt himself grow calmer.
He recited his poem.
My love is neither tall nor slender
Nor smooth nor soft, nor kind
Laughing too loud and far too tender
They stomp and whine and snort
My love, when angry, storms around
Bright and quick as lightning
Shouts with fierce and violent sound
To break open my mind
My love smiles as crooked as wire
That when it cracks, cracks wide
Teeth hide behind the lyre
That sets their lips to bend
My love teases and chides and calls me out
If ever I misuse
Pieces of language they have reason to doubt
Mean anything at all
My love is, despite all this
Understanding and kind
Takes me aside when I am amiss
Anchors me to ground
My love's eyes are glasses of mead
Shining gold in the light
Their figure, fair, and all I need
Looks fine to me, always
My love knows not I love
But love I surely do
And smiling from above
I show my love to you
He handed his paper to Gabriel, who took it without a word. Gabriel moved toward his own desk. His messenger bag hung from the back of the chair. Sam stood and hovered a little, tugging his backpack on, before moving closer to Gabriel. "Um—Prof—Gabe." He rubbed the back of his neck.
"Yeah, kiddo?" Gabriel tilted his head as he glanced up, with a slight quirk to his mouth.
"Thanks, for... not making me read that in front of the class." Sam shrugged.
"It's fine." Gabriel's smile widened.
Sam steeled himself. He leaned down and pressed his lips quick to Gabriel's. Gabriel's breath hitched, and Sam realized what he'd done. He backed away, raising his hands, and muttered, "Shit, sorry. Sorry, I—" He tripped over a chair. "I'm sorry." He hauled himself to his feet, wide-eyed and bolted out of the classroom. He bumped a desk, and hit his shoulder against the doorframe in his haste to leave.
Gabriel swore and tugged the strap of his bag around his neck, running after him. He just caught sight of Sam turning the corner and hurried after, shouting for him to wait. Of course, Sam didn't listen and yet again Gabriel found himself with only the barest of ideas where the boy had gone. He reached a hallway with no clues as to which direction Sam had bolted. He closed his eyes, spun around, and pointed.
Left it was.
He ran down the hallway and saw Sam getting into an elevator. Cursed again and sprinted to the closing doors. He slid into the narrow mirror-paneled box just a split second before the doors shut with a hiss, and found himself panting and staring at Sam.
Sam's eyes were wide and he backed against the railing. "I'm sorry, Professor." His forehead creased, and he looked down at his shoes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have—I'm your student. I know it's inappropriate and I know it was unfair of me to... do that." He fidgeted, chewing at the corner of his lip. "I'll make sure I never take any of your classes or anything—"
Sam's gaze snapped to Gabriel. He stood much closer than he had a moment before.
"Shut up." Gabriel reached up to grab Sam's face and pulled him close so their mouths could meet.
Sam held his breath, and when Gabriel pulled back just enough to meet his eyes he let it out in a slow gust. Gabriel smirked up at him expectantly. Sam had no idea what to do. He just stared at his professor. Gabriel raised an eyebrow. Tilted his head.
"Help me out here, kiddo." Gabriel's hands moved, and he threaded his fingers through Sam's shaggy hair. "Gonna leave me hangin'?"
Sam finally seemed to find his agency, and as the elevator dinged to signal they had reached the correct floor, he surged forward and kissed Gabriel, bringing his hands up to cradle the back of his head. Gabriel let his arms fall around Sam's shoulders and grinned against his lips. When no one left the elevator, the doors slid shut again, but it didn't move. Gabriel laughed quietly, not bothering to pull away, and trailed his hand around from the back of Sam's neck down his chest. He kissed his jaw. Sam couldn't help but huff out a small, relieved laugh as well.
He kissed Gabriel again.