"Gabriel...come riding with me tomorrow. It'll be fun and exercising for ya.'' Gabriel arched an eyebrow at her. ''Because I need to loose weight,'' there was sarcasm dripping off that comment, but Tristian chose to ignore it. ''Hell yes, chunky boy.'' They both knew that Gabriel's male biological parent drank most of the money, and the government took the rest. The weekends and evenings at Tristian's apartment saved him from starving, though Tris did complain about the amount of food that he ate. Not that she ever stopped him from eating, just complained that there would be no food left for her and no money from her dad. As Tris put it, several times, "I'm too sarcastic for my own damn good. But I don't know any other way to live. I guess it's a defense mechanism or something. If it bothers you, just smack me on the head and tell me to shut the hell up. It usually works, and again I go with the sarcasm.'' ''I've never been riding in my life, you've been here for how long and now you ask me to go riding with you?'' There was some suspicion in his voice. ''Now that I've gotten to know the people and the horses, I'm sure that I can find a gentle one for you. I think there's a couple of people on vacation, and their horses need the exercise. Come...please?" Gabriel had no chance. Not with the threat that she could stop feeding him. Not that she ever would... but the threat was there, and Gabriel chose to take it seriously, for the moment. ''Ok. When?'' Score two for the Tristian! Now all she had to do for the moment was hope that Jamie would be there. ''Eh, I'll pick you up. Sometime kinda early. I'll probably be out there all day, but if you want to go, I c'n take ya back.'' ''Nah Anything's better than being at home all day. But early...how early are you talking?'' ''6:30 or so.'' ''...'' she laughed at the expression on his face. ''Fine. Just for you I'll pick you up at seven.'' ''Seven is way too early for any normal human being to be up. But I'll be ready. Jeans ok?'' ''Yah, and good shoes. It kinda hurts if you get stepped on by a 1500 pound piece of dog food. See ya in the morning.'' "Dogfood?'' Tristian laughed and waved. Gabriel took off, preparing to face his parents and another long night hoping that his dad wasn't too drunk. Tristian watched him leave, knowing some of the horrors that he had to face at home, wishing that she could make it all easier for him. She couldn't fix his home life, but she could try to help, in whatever way she could.

Jamie listened to the music teacher with half an ear, the other half of his brain concentrating on what he would have to do during that art class last period every day for the rest of the semester and beyond. At least he would have time with Dustin tomorrow.

''Gabriel... come on. Wake up. I got coffee...'' There was too much light, he couldn't ignore it. And the smell of coffee. Mmm..coffee was good. ''G'way. I gotta get some sleep. Tris' comin' at seven.'' he rolled over in another attempt to ignore whoever it was that was bothering his sleep. ''Damn right I am. It's five till seven, and you have to get up. Come on, clothes are...wherever they are, and coffee is right here, and you aren't getting any until you get your ass out of bed.'' ''Damnit Tristian, it's too early. I take it back. I don't want to go. I'll just sleep the rest of the day.'' he sighed when the pillow hit his face and started to get up, but stopped when he realized who it was he had been talking to. ''Don't worry. I'm in the hall, and the door's closed. Get up and get dressed. There's coffee for those who need it, just don't come out until you have some clothes on. Jeans would be preferable, especially if you're gonna ride.'' ''The hell I am. Horses scare the crap outta me. I can't ride.'' he frantically tried to change Tristian's mind, but somehow knowing that when it came to horses there was none of that. The ride out to the stables was rather uneventful, with the exception of Gabriel spilling what was left of his coffee on his shirt. Thank god for anti-lock breaks [1]. At least the shirt was black. ''Man, that's one of the things that I really don't like being around stables,'' Gabriel complained as they stepped out of the car into the early morning smell of horses, and all the accessories that came with being around those particular animals. Tris breathed in deeply. ''You mean the smell? I love the smell. What do mean, you don't like the smell?'' Tris acted like he was a Californian saying they didn't like the beach. Gabriel didn't honor her with an answer, looking everywhere but at her. ''Come on! We got horses to ride and peaks to conquer...or not on the peaks.'' Half an hour later, Gabriel was on the back of what he knew to be the fattest horse in the whole damn stable. Yes, Tris was that cruel. When a black pickup pulled into what passed as the parking lot, Gabriel nearly fell off his horse. Again. Out of the truck came his worst nightmare, the one person he really wanted to see, but not in this condition.

Jamie squinted as he thought he saw a familiar figure in the outdoor ring, but stopped as he thought of the lifestyle that this particular person led. And that lifestyle did not have him out on a horse at eight o' clock on a Saturday morning. Unless that same person associated with Tristian Granaliel, who had the most beautiful horse that he had ever seen. Yes...unless he passed out and was hallucinating, that was Gabriel in the middle of the ring arguing with Tristian about something. ''Did you know he was going to be here?'' Gabriel asked her as he tried not to watch Jamie walk to one of the barns that were scattered around. ''Some weekends he's here all weekend, others, he's not. But if he's not, he usually has me or one of the other girls exercises his horse. So, no, I technically did not know if he was going to be here today.'' ''But you thought he might.'' There was an exasperated weariness in his voice that she had heard all too often. ''You know, you sound like those girls who went to one of my old schools. And that's not a compliment. Better get ready, here he comes.'' With that, she rode off, flashing him one last smile before she left for the other end of the ring. ''Hey. T'sup?'' Was Jamie really talking to me? Or is this some sort of wishful thinking? ''Not much, you?'' There, was that really that bad? Yeah, the answer to that was yeah. ''Hey, man, you ok? Those 'r some pretty bad cuts.'' Gabriel took a look, and realized that he had taken off his overshirt when the damn horse sneezed on him. ''Shit.'' Gabriel managed to dismount, and hopped the fence, hoping that nobody would react fast enough to follow. ''Umm...what'd ya do?'' Tris trotted over, concern all over her face, and possible anger at anybody who pissed her off with the wrong answer. ''I don't think I did anything. He had some pretty bad cuts on his arms, and I thought that maybe he fell in a rosebush or something.'' Jamie looked in the direction that Gabriel had taken off to. ''I think maybe I said the wrong thing?'' ''No shit, Sherlock.'' Tris muttered, and immediately felt bad, the dude was just tying to help. ''Sorry. Yeah...um...want to come and untack and let me explain?'' She flashed an apologetic look at him, and started in the direction of the barn.

''Alright, from the beginning, this could take a while. Even though I've only known him for a while. Since the beginning of summer. 'K here goes: I moved here at the very end of the school year and Gabriel was the only one who would look at me, much less talk to the freakish new girl.'' Noting the flush that spread up Jamie's face, she grinned, and continued, ''I got to know him pretty well over the summer, we had a lot of time together, and we talked a lot. His home life is pretty screwed, his dad's drunk maybe 23/7? Something like that, and his mom's trying to keep the family together, but it's not working all that well. His older brother ran, taking his little brother and sister with him, so Gabriel was left at home. He didn't want to leave, though I offered him a place to crash for a while, something not wanting to leave his mom. So, anyway, he's been having a lot of trouble with his home life, and his school/love life isn't that much better.'' ''So... you two aren't...'' Jamie trailed off, trying to find a tactful way to ask what he was trying to ask. ''Together?'' she laughed, ''Nononono...please, don't think that. That's asking you...wait, do you have siblings?'' "A sister.'' "That's like me asking you if you're going out with your sister. Kinda weird.'' she sighed, and finished grooming her horse, and went to put him away, leaving Jamie with his thoughts about the things that he discovered. ''She told you everything, didn't she?'' a quiet voice from behind him, near the edge of the barn startled Jamie, and he dropped the curry he was holding. ''Not everything. Just enough that I might be able to figure things out, if I really thought about it. But I won't, if you don't want me to.'' ''Not that it matters much, I mean, if you spread it around, people won't care. Most think some of these things anyway, and if you spread it around that Tris and I aren't together, people will laugh at you.'' he sighed and looked at the ground, ashamed at what he had said, but didn't stop himself. ''If you told the principal, and he told my dad, on the hopes that he would be sober for once in his meaningless life, they wouldn't do anything about it. He would just go out and get drunk again, and forget about it.'' ''I won't.'' Jamie wished for Tris to be back. He didn't know what to say without incriminating himself or sounding stupid. ''Did she tell you about anything other that my wreck of a home life?'' Gabriel blurted out, throwing caution to the wind. ''Only that your 'school/home life isn't much better' than your home life. She didn't give me any details, though.'' Jamie said, trying to remember. ''Oh. Well, that's good.'' Gabriel said, not sounding like it was all that good at all. ''What's good?'' Tristian asked, walking over. ''That you didn't tell Jamie about my lack of a love life.'' Gabriel said, hoping that she would get the message and not tell any more than she already had. ''Oh, that. I was, but I ran out of time.'' she grinned. ''But then I decided that I would let you have the honors. I only came back to grab some of the stuff I left, not keep the two of you entertained.'' ''Thank you for that honor.'' Gabriel rolled his eyes. ''I'll be sure to get right on that.'' ''See y'all. I'm off. Have fun. Don't get arrested. I don't think that I have enough money to bail ya out.'' with that, she walked off, leaving Gabriel and Jamie all to themselves. ''What was that she meant about your lack of a love life?'' Jamie asked, as they walked over to a groove of trees and lounged. ''But, I mean, if you don't want to tell me, that's cool.'' ''I don't know...typical teenage stuff. I have a crush on someone I know doesn't return the favor.'' Gabriel grimaced. Did he really just tell Jamie that? Apparently he did, because Jamie started naming names of people he thought eligible. ''First off, please tell me you don't like Tristian.'' the look on Gabriel's face was proof enough of that question. ''Sophomore? 'K, Alexis, Whitney, Ryian..." he trailed off, waiting for more names to appear. ''Uhhh... I don't know if that tactic is gonna work very well.'' Gabriel trailed off and found the rather dirty floor fascinating. ''What, you mean I don't know her? Or do you mean something else?'' Jamie looked at Gabriel trying to guess what the other meant by his comment. ''Uhhh... nevermind. It's stupid anyway. I shouldn't have said anything. Wait, damnit. I didn't say anything in the first place. It was Tristian. I am going to kill that girl.'' Gabriel seethed. ''Don't worry about it. I don't mind... wait a second. Are you sure that you didn't mean anything else by that comment about what I was saying not working?'' Gabriel stared. "What did you just say? I think I need a translator.'' ''I said what I meant. I was asking you about girls and you said that wouldn't work very well. It's not a girl that you like, is it?'' Jamie barely hoped as to what the answer would be. "Dude, don't take off on me again.'' Jamie warned as Gabriel started to get up. ''No.'' Gabriel whispered as the urge to run came on him like a tidal wave, clouding his mind and delaying all actions that were not automatic. ''No, are you happy now? I don't and I think I'll take off now. Can you tell Tris that she doesn't need to take me home? I'm gonna walk. Thanks.'' without waiting for an answer, Gabriel took off through the bushes and though he wanted to, Jamie had the sense not to run after him, not quite knowing, but wondering if that would make it all worse. It was the one good thing that he was able to do all day. ''Tough, isn't it?'' the voice was no surprise to Jamie, he suspected that Gabriel never had to go through things alone, for all that his family life seemed. He had Tris to look after him, like some watcher always in the background. ''He doesn't know what to do yet. For all that he seems tough- ass, he hasn't had anyone to really look up to and learn from. His older brother was there, but he took off, which I think made him really wary of trusting others, afraid that they would leave him like Logan did.'' ''Yeah. That and I get the feeling that he hates the ground that he has the misfortune of stepping on after I walk there.'' Jamie said bitterly, waiting for the agreement that he was sure to follow his epiphany. ''Deceiving some looks can be,'' Tris said in her best Yoda impression. ''Just wait, give it some time. He needs to know that you're not gonna ditch out when things are bad.'' she stopped and grimaced, ''Shit. I sound like Miss Abby or someone of that mental capacity. I don't get to give out help because most of it backfires and it makes me sound all sappy. So don't tell anyone that that's what I am at heart. It would ruin my reputation.'' she grinned and motioned back to the stables. ''I'm gonna head back. See ya later.'' She headed off towards the stables, apparently carefree, but thinking hard as to what she was going to do about this problem that she had to solve before both involved combusted and dragged her with them. Well, that and Jamie had some pretty cute friends, they just needed to be trained properly. Or re-trained properly. She grinned, then sobered as she thought about... him, him who turned her life around and changed her forever. She grimaced, damn she sounded like a sap.

''Shit, shit... What the hell did I do that for?'' Gabriel muttered, walking aimlessly. It was the wandering aimlessly that got him into the trouble that he found himself in when the first raindrop fell on his face. He looked up to see the blackest clouds he had ever seen gathered above and more to the west, ready to move in once the others had moved out. Once the first drop fell, the rest were soon to follow, and Gabriel found himself soaked to the skin, lost in the country somewhere. The thunder arrived, like a freight train in intensity, and soon he found himself in the middle of a light show that could prove painful. He found a tree and sat down about 10 yards away from it, far enough away that if the tree was going to fry, he wouldn't go with it, and close enough (he reasoned) that he wouldn't be hit. While he sat, he wracked his brains trying to guess what direction he had gone when he left the stable, and how far he had gone. All he managed to find out was if you think too hard, you get a headache, and the rain wasn't helping much. Now wet and miserable he resigned himself to a while out in the wet. As he sat, his brain wandered around to the things that he had learned, ever, about the people that he actually cared about. They numbered 2, Tristian and Jamie. Tristian had lived in Hawaii and moved when a guy at her school had blown his brains out in front of her. A guy she liked, and probably felt responsible for, as she did for him. Yeah, Gabriel could tell that she felt bad for him, and that she tried to make life easier for him. Jamie, he didn't know much about, but what he did know depressed him. He was a sweeper in soccer and rode horses (English) and, apparently, the love affection of most of the girls in school. All of that was enough to send Gabriel to the madhouse.

[1] Think that Chevrolet commercial where there's two guys and one's trying to drink coffee and the other keeps stepping on the breaks really suddenly, so the guy can't drink the coffee without spilling it all over himself. ^_^