A/N: Unedited – 2/17/16
A long one ahead, I think. More like a chapter meant to establish the relationship between two characters than anything.
Gabriel leaned back against the wall of the elevator, his hands pushing down against the floor in a stretch. Adelaide found it rather amusing how he very much looked like a large cat preparing for an afternoon nap but thought better of voicing her opinions and giving the man one more reason to start another round of pointless banter. Though her interactions with him had been limited so far, she was quickly coming into the conclusion that "smartass" was a word synonymous to his name.
She continued watching him as he took let out a shallow sigh before finally meeting her eyes with his. The mischievous grin he was sporting gave away the complete joke of an answer he was about to give her.
Oh boy. Here we go. She fought the urge to roll her eyes at him.
"Okay. My name's Gabriel Angeles. I'm turning twenty-six this year. I live in-"
"Stop." She held a palm out at him. Just almost three sentences out of his mouth and he'd already laid out the foundation of yet another fruitless conversation. "Would it kill you to pretend for at least a paragraph-worth that you're not about to mock me?"
"What? You told me to tell you who I am." Gabriel looked at her with pretend innocence.
"And that's what you're doing?"
"That's what I'm doing. You can fill out my scrapbook for me after I'm done, I promise." He smiled.
Adelaide couldn't hold it anymore and let her eyes do a three-sixty. "You are such an ass. You know that?"
"I've only been told four times my whole life. Including now."
"Make that five times." She looked at him pointedly. "You're an ass."
"Oh c'mon Ms. Santos!" Gabriel let out a laugh, which sounded a lot louder in the small elevator compartment. "You know you don't really think that."
"Yes I do."
Gabriel looked at her, smile still on his lips. He couldn't deny the truth that he actually found the girl amusing, despite how he'd treated her the first few times. The false hatred he'd displayed had been nothing but a ruse to mask the immediate attraction he felt tug at him the moment he laid eyes on the girl who was still slightly dripping and drenched from the rain. He had been inexplicably curious and fascinated with her and though it was not his first time feeling such things, he thought the whole ordeal was somewhat different – undeniable and inescapable. He'd acted in instinct and treated the girl like she'd done something to offend him if only to keep a distance between them and eradicate any possible bridging of it.
He was grateful he had a defense mechanism fitted especially for such situations – a necessity if he wanted to make it to priesthood with his virtues intact. He'd be lying if he said he didn't know how his appearance affected women, and how women can be such irresistible temptations. The way he saw it, just because some priests had indeed fallen prey to such immorality and had been forgiven for it didn't mean he'd want to go down the same road. And so he'd decided to keep himself away from the mystery that was Adelaide Santos, but the circumstances of their unusual case as well as the girl herself was making the whole endeavor seem impossible.
Remembering the night of the Salvatore case, the deacon imagined his actions got the girl wondering what she could've possibly done that pissed him off if she'd never met him before. But except for that one time when he'd all but shoved her mistakes down her throat and left her speechless, she nevertheless managed to match him jibe for jibe. Despite how it might sound wicked and inappropriate, Gabriel was thankful for the distraction of having to do his job, and even for Adelaide's major stumble into crazy which gave him a reason to lash out at her and override what he told himself was a hormone-induced state of mind.
But all thoughts of a hate-hate relationship slowly evaporated the more he got to be around her and the more he learned of her life. Granted everything he knew all came from people other than the girl herself, he still felt some semblance of empathy – not sympathy – towards her, who, like him, had sacrificed her life for the sake of something much bigger.
Gabriel half expected the girl to get back at him for staring at her in silence. But instead, he got to watch as evidence of frustration slowly painted her features – the crossing of her arms over her chest, the pursing of het lips, the arching of a brow, the clenching and unclenching of her jaw – while she continued to ignore him. He could've waited for her to explode all on her own but he knew she wouldn't give him a thing to feed his curiosity with if he didn't endure a grilling himself.
Stuck in a hunk of metal a little over three floors above the ground left them with no way of knowing if the weather had finally lightened up or if rescue was on their way. The deacon would've preferred spending time productively digging at the girl's life but their one-way, I'm-giving-you-the-cold-shoulder fight already had them wasting a few minutes. Not to seem too eager, Gabriel let another second of two pass before he broke the suffocating silence.
"Alright. I'm going to stop being an 'ass' for a few minutes." He tried to sound more resigned than he felt. "I suggest you take the opportunity to ask me what you really wanted to know."
"'Opportunity'? Really?" Her raised eyebrow went up a few more notches.
"Clock's ticking, Ms. Santos." His smile showed perfect teeth and Adelaide chided herself for thinking for second how it looked good on the deacon.
Shrugging away her inappropriate thoughts, she faced him with as much attitude as she could muster. "Fine."
Pursing her lips, she took a few seconds to collect her thoughts. Racking her brain for questions came easy but deciding where to start proved to be a little more difficult.
"You should really start using your time wisely here. I charge overtime."
Adelaide ignored him, not taking the bait and starting another round of useless commentaries. Though she'd been granted the chance to interrogate the shady deacon, she found herself at a total loss on what to ask him first. On one hand, she couldn't deny her curiosity about his past and what led him to a life of celibacy, but on the other she really wanted to know if there was anything to her suspicions.
Finally considering the latter more important, she started. "First question." She looked him dead in the eyes, a minor precaution so she could tell if he was lying. "Was it you who brought Father here?"
Gabriel pretended to be in deep thought though he already knew how he was going to dodge her question. "Technically, I rode with him, so he brought me." He knew he was only delaying the inevitable but he decided annoying the girl would be worth the extra effort.
"I thought you were going to stop being an ass?" He was rewarded with a sigh and another rolling of eyes. He almost laughed at her slight predictability.
"Right. Okay then." He bit the inside of his cheek, a habit he has when he wasn't too keen on answering. He knew she had her guesses but it didn't change the fact that he would still be uncomfortable confirming them.
"Tick-tock, Mr. Deacon. I won't let you take this out of my time."
Gabriel waved off his reservations. He wanted information and he needed to lay down his cards to get them. "Yes. I told him we should go find you."
"Ah. I forgot to tell you. I only answer yes or no questions." He blurted out, partly due to his natural smartass attitude and partly to make things a lot easier for him.
The incredulous look Adelaide sported was a sight. He remembered the girl from a few nights back and couldn't believe she was the same as the animated and facially transparent Vessel sitting in front of him. A part of him understood it was because of the demons she'd been repressing inside her for god-knows how long before then, but the idea that they had managed to change the girl that much disturbed him.
"What kind of fu–" Adelaide quickly collected herself before the curse was out of her mouth. She needed to find out what he knew and engaging the king of meaningless arguments was going to cause a detour in the conversation – one they didn't have a luxury to make given their limited, though immeasurable, time.
"Fine." She said in a huff before she could manage a more stoic demeanor.
She was never good at hiding her irritation and her face had long been like a canvass of emotions. There really was no point in trying for the unconcerned-bitch approach, but she hated having the deacon see how much, what she reckoned were his attempts at annoying her, worked.
"Next question?" He said rather sweetly.
She almost rolled her eyes again at his pretend innocence. "Did you know I was going to run into the demon today?"
Gabriel couldn't believe how spot on she was.
Maybe I underestimated her a little. He wasn't sure why the thought only made him more interested rather than cautious.
"A promise is a promise. Yes, I knew."
"How?" Her curiosity got the better of her and for a moment, made her completely forget about the rule she didn't want to concede to in the first place.
The deacon tutted, needlessly playing to be dramatic. "Yes or no questions only, Ms. Santos."
"Oh c'mon!" Losing what's left of her short patience, she whined.
He couldn't help but laugh. The Vessel having a fit was not something he expected to set off right away.
"Alright, alright. I'll give you this one." He said, simply because he knew his answer wouldn't really amount to anything. "I don't know."
"Seriously? You 'give me this one'–" She quoted the words in the air in mockery. "–and you tell me you don't know?"
"Pretty much." He shrugged.
Adelaide slumped on the elevator's wall behind her, shaking her head. This guy's fucking unbelievable.
Regaining a little of her composure he turned to him, a more serious look on her face. "Are you lying?"
Gabriel's face darkened ever so slightly at the question, though it was enough for the girl to catch it.
"I don't deliberately lie, Ms. Santos." For the first time, his tone held not even a tinge of humor and left no room for argument or further questions.
She cringed inwardly at his steeled gaze and noted to herself to ask about his issues with lying some other time; preferably when they weren't alone and confined in an enclosed space where she'd have nothing to shield herself with and no way to escape should he result to breaking something, or worse, wringing her neck, rather than answer her.
Adelaide didn't know how to continue and simply nodded, averting her eyes from his.
The break in eye contact told Gabriel of his unintentional moment of transparency and he quickly gathered himself. He used to think of lying as an inescapable sin all people will commit at one point of their lives, no matter how virtuous one may be. It came as easy as breathing – a quick "no" to a supposedly "yes" question, a simple "I'll be there in five" for a journey that would take at least thirty. Lying was something people did to get out of situations ranging from simple to delicately dangerous. Even intentional withholding of truth was a lie of a different form. There was just no going around it. But after one deliberate lie that caused Gabriel's brother's life, the deacon had sworn never to deceive anybody ever again in the course of denying them the truth, and risk a repeat of his past. It wasn't fair to ask for others to do the same, but it he didn't stop him from feeling uncomfortable learning of such things. Which was why he felt a strong disapproval towards the Church – his Church – concealing the truth from the girl.
Gabriel knew he was in no position to remedy the situation yet – at least not until he was appointed as Adelaide's guardian – and settled in finding peace with the fact that he will be able to when the Padre retires, or worse, dies. But the latter was a possibility he simply refuses to consider.
He knew his personal resistance against lying was in no form perfect – he still hides behind his smartass comments as a form of evasion and had been known to go around some truths he'd rather not say – but he'd never told a deliberate lie ever since his brother and that was enough to appease him.
A short silence followed as Adelaide struggled with her next inquiry, surprisingly finding herself carefully thinking of things that would lighten up the mood a little. The deacon saw this as his window of opportunity to get the information he wanted.
"You know, Ms. Santos. It's only fair that I ask you a few questions of my own." He said in an easy tone that made the girl look at him again.
Whatever internal distress Gabriel had just shaken, she decided not to prod at. Instead, she focused on responding to him.
"You wanna ask me questions." It was a dumbfounded statement.
"Yep. For the sake of fairness."
She eyed him suspiciously. She couldn't think of anything he might want to know.
"You look suspicious." He stared at her, entertained.
She looked at him intently, bothered by the fact that she couldn't get a read on him. She shook her concern for the moment. "Whatever. I don't care." Lies. "Shoot."
Like an after-thought, and because he wanted to get back at him a little, she added, "Ah. But we take turns. And if you only answer yes or no questions, then I get to do the same."
"You got a deal, Ms. Santos." The smile that Adelaide was slowly warming up to reappeared on his face.
She turned her face away, praying it looked natural enough by pretending to shift into a more comfortable position. "And stop calling me Ms. Santos. Or 'Ms. Anything' for that matter."
He chuckled, for once glad that he can make women feel uneasy. "Okay, I'll go with Marie then."
"Pain in the ass." He heard her mutter to herself, shaking her head. "Just get on with it will you." She said louder.
Gabriel wanted to ask about her family, her past, and about being a Vessel, but he knew she wouldn't answer them right away – not when they still barely knew each other. So he decided to take the longer route and ask the useless questions first, hoping it would pave the way to what he really wanted to know.
"How old are you?"
To say that Adelaide was surprised would be an understatement. She knew he was curious about her deeply buried secrets. Sure, she wasn't about to hand him over the answers he wanted, but what the deacon asked instead wasn't something she'd expected.
He shrugged in response.
"I don't know how my age is any of your business but, twenty-five."
She watched him nod, now certain that it had nothing to do with what really concerns him. She decided not to comment on it if it moved things along. "My turn."
"Oh no, not yet." He waved a finger at her. "You had two, remember? I have to ask one more."
"You know, for a deacon, you're surprisingly being petty about this. But whatever." She shooed him with her hand to continue.
"What do you do when you're not shunning away demons?"
Where's he going with this? She wondered, her eyebrows furrowing. To him, she simply remarked, "You're weird."
"Hey, I wanna know what I wanna know." His shoulders lifted slightly.
"Stay at home, mostly. Reading, watching T.V., cooking –" Curling up in a ball in the corner of my bed praying for the demons in my head to shut up. "– you know, normal stuff."
He reacted with more dismissive nodding. He then gestured for her to ask her question.
Adelaide decided to take the opportunity up by its collar this time. "Since we're finally beyond your childish 'yes or no' questions, I'll ask this again: how did you know the demon found me?"
"You're really not letting it go, are you?" Though he was up against the wall this time around, he couldn't help but find her persistence fascinating.
"Not even if you bribe me."
Gabriel bit the inside of his cheek for a second time. "I don't know what to tell you. I don't understand it much myself." He started which earned him another raised brow. "Plus, I'm going to sound crazy if I told you what happened – not a very good way to start our working relationship."
"It's gonna take a lot for me to think anybody crazy, Mr. Deacon."
Adelaide's expression quickly changed from one of impatience to another of confusion.
"My name is Gabriel – not 'Mr. Anything'."
She rolled her eyes at him, knowing she should just accept the fact that the boy would never run out of detouring tactics. "Angeles it is."
He chuckled, but then failed to give an actual answer to her question.
"You're deflecting again." Adelaide stated frankly. "Just tell me already."
The deacon leaned forward, arms now resting on knees, and sighed. He knew he'd reached the end of his procrastination. "Thing is, Marie, I didn't exactly know what kind of trouble you were in – just that you were. Well, I felt you were."
She remained silent, urging him to continue.
"Somebody told me the demon found you." He finally said. "That he's coming."
"And who was this 'somebody'?"
"I don't know." He made a gesture of resignation. He didn't like what his answer would be either and voicing it out made the whole fiasco more real, which was why he didn't want to say it in the first place. "'Somebody' was just a voice."
"A voice in your head told you it found me?" Adelaide's face mirrored the confusion in her head.
"See? When you put it that way even I think I'm losing it."
"I'm not jumping to that conclusion yet, Angeles. Hearing voices don't always equal crazy." 'Cause that would mean I'm ten times insane.
Adelaide wasn't sure why he had been so adamant on dodging the question, but she certainly wasn't expecting the answer she got. She thought it only had something to do with his gut feeling. Turns out "gut feeling" has its own voice now.
"You only have a right to say that if you've been hearing one too." Gabriel remarked, though he didn't mean anything by it. All the same, what he said caused the girl to shuffle slightly in her seat, which made him wonder. "Have you?"
Not when you're around, apparently. She simply shrugged and shook her head, not feeling confident enough to open her mouth. But there was something in the way she reacted that told the deacon otherwise.
"You can trust me, Adelaide." He looked at her, willing her to meet his eyes and see the sincerity in them. Why he was so concerned with the girl eluded him, but he'd decided to try figuring her out either way and saw no reason to hide his worry. If anything, seeing the honest concern in his eyes might make her open up to him.
Adelaide was surprised to hear him call her by her name, but managed to stop herself from turning to face him and shook her head.
"Yeah well, I don't know that yet, do I? I barely know you." She tried waving off the serious atmosphere away by sounding indifferent.
"I think you do. I haven't done anything to earn it yet but I can see you want to trust me."
Hearing her own inner turmoil come out of his mouth was enough to make her stand up from the floor if it got her a few more feet away from his searching eyes. She did want to trust the deacon. Hell, she already did. But the trust was unfounded and she didn't know where the feeling of empathy came from. She was never quick to believe in anybody and the peculiarity of the whole situation was making her nervous to some extent.
She scoffed it off. "What are you, a psychiatrist on your spare time? Spot trying to read me, Angeles. I'm not a book."
Gabriel recognized the reaction – the girl was closing herself off – and decided not to push. Another time.
"Well if you were, you'd be one of those mystery novels that make their readers want to pull their hair out in frustration."
Adelaide fought the sigh of relief that wanted to get out of her chest and thanked him silently for letting the topic drop.
"You'd probably be one too. Only the lead character will definitely be less likeable."
"At least I know the cover would be gorgeous."
"There you have it." She leaned on the elevator wall, standing with her arms crossed over her chest. She smirked. "Less likeable."
Gabriel stood up, patting at his clothes, just as the elevator jarred alive. The sudden movement made Adelaide gasp. She lost her footing and embarrassingly, found herself stumbling towards the deacon, who grabbed her by her hand and arm to stop her momentum. He caught her just before her face made it on his chest.
She looked up with a start and froze at the proximity of their faces as he, on the other, looked down at her, concerned.
"You oka–" Gabriel stilled.
He could feel the distinguishable warmth from where he was touching her skin, the tingling sensation travelling up his arm, and he was reminded of the day he carried her to a bed after a purging.
Adelaide felt it too. She had no idea why she didn't pull away the moment the spark-like sensation shocked her fingertips. On the contrary, she felt like a magnet was pulling at her to move a little closer.
The rattling sound of the moving cabin echoed in the background as she watched his eyes darkened a fraction. She recognized the feeling as attraction and her mind nagged at her to step away from the handsome deacon.
Her rationality was about to have its win when she felt Gabriel pull at her hand, his eyes still locked with hers. Against her better judgement, she found herself leaning up to do the same thing he was doing – closing the gap between them.