"I fucking love Ikea." Gabe ran into one of the bedroom displays.

It was a child's bedroom. Inside the display, there was a multicolored rug, maple walls, a small flat screen television, dressers and curtains that matched the multicolored theme, a desk with a rotating gaming chair, and a bunk bed with a slide… a fucking slide. What bunk bed has a slide? And a gaming chair like that? What are kids growing into these days? It was unbelievable to me that Layla was expecting her third one.

Gabe rolled into the bottom bunk bed. "I always wanted one of these as a kid. This thing is ridiculous. Dare me to slide down—"

"All right, this isn't Six Flags or Disney Land. Come on, babe, we came here for silverware and maybe a new couch," I said.

"Only if the couch is a set that comes with a recliner!"

"Deal. That sounds amazing."

"Can we maybe get another cat tree, too?"

"Fugs and Gooters get along fine sharing one."

"I still can't believe you named that cat an abomination."

"Fugs isn't any better." I ruffled his hair and playfully tugged at his arm. "Come on. People are staring at you."

His cheeks turned pink when he noticed a family waiting to let their own kids explore. He got up in a hurry and apologized while he rushed out of the display. Three years, and I still couldn't get enough of Gabe's timid nature, or at least when he remembers that he has a timid nature. His whole face was red now as we made our way to the couches. He played with his beard using his middle and forefinger until the blush faded away.

"S-so… Recliner, right?" he asked.

"Yes, but first silverware."

Just like most trips through Ikea, it was a multiple layered labyrinth filled with unnecessary, cool things that are too ridiculous to buy, like that bunk bed with the slide, or a whole cat playground. Who would have space for something like that? Ever since Gabe moved in with me, the closet space has gotten a bit tighter. A small part of me wanted us to move somewhere bigger, but for that to happen I would have to do something big first to move our relationship further…

My phone vibrated in my pocket. When I checked the message, it said it was from Val.

You're not chickening out are you? she sent.

I kept my peripheral on Gabe, who was busy admiring the cat playgrounds, while I messaged her back. No. Is everything set up at his mom's?

Yeah. We're all here. Just tell us when you get here, so we can all go to the back yard. I'll tell his mom to send him a message to come over.

I quickly scrolled through the memes in my gallery and sent her a gif of Rihanna winking, pointing, and chuckling.

What are you? Twenty? You flop. She added a vomit emoji at the end.

I snorted, but I put my hand in my other pocket. The box was small, so I couldn't feel it while I walked. It would suck if I lost it here. Putting my worries aside since I kept checking my pockets every few minutes, I caught up with Gabe. "Silverware," I said.

"Right, right. Fugs doesn't deserve any of this."

"We need new forks and plates. Oh, and maybe a new tray I could use to bake more."

"I want to get an air fryer. Heard those come in handy," Gabe said, rubbing his chin.

"Fuck… Ikea…"

"Exactly."

So… Gabe and I ended up leaving Ikea with more than just a couch-recliner set being delivered in a few days and silverware: Shower curtains, a shower mat, windchimes for his mom, the air fryer, baking tray, picture frames, and new pillows and blankets. I had to pull Gabe away before he ran to try Ikea's food. When we got outside, and as we were loading my car with our stuff, Gabe finally checked his phone. He seemed a little concerned, and for a second, I was hoping Val didn't force his mom to send him something to make him worried. Regret washed over me. What the hell was I thinking?

"Huh… Weird. My mom just sent me this long rant about needing help with something in her backyard. She said something's in the garage, and it needs to be moved soon."

"Did she say what it was?"

"No. She went off tangent and started messaging me about my dad." He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "At this point I think she's just pretending that she hasn't forgiven him. They get along just fine now."

I smiled. "Why don't we go check it out? She's on the way home."

"Nah."

My smile tightened. "W-What do you mean? Don't you want to help your mom out?"

"Not really. We can probably go later when we're done putting the stuff we bought away." Gabe started tapping on his phone.

"I mean… Why don't we just get it out of the way before we get home. You know how much your mom complains. She's going to be on you all day if you don't check and see what she wants."

He thought about it for a moment. His finger hovered over the screen of his phone. "You know what?" He groaned and scratched his forehead. "Yeah… You're right. Don't get me wrong, I love my mom, but… that does get really annoying." He pressed down on his screen, I could see the text disappearing. He then rewrote it. "There. I told her we're on our way."

I sighed in relief. "Cool. Let's go."


You know that moment where you're about to go up on stage or up next during a presentation and you feel like you need to take a piss and take a shit all at the same time? For me, the worst part was going right before someone, especially if the performance or presentation would make mine crap in comparison. The expectations were high. I know the audience wasn't going to be as big as a classroom or auditorium, but… everyone was waiting for this even before Gabe met me. His mom must be bouncing on her seat right now, Val might be clapping excitedly, my brothers were probably exchanging knowing glances, Zach was most likely saying some mixed up pun or proverb, and Arsenio was definitely getting annoyed at Zach.

Yeah… The nervous shits, that's how I felt right now. Too many high expectations.

I glanced at Gabe again from my peripheral, something I caught myself doing a lot when I was around him. I liked seeing what he did when he thought no one was watching. When he thinks, he stares at the floor, out the window, or at the ceiling. If we were in some sort of comic, I'd be able to see the thinking bubbles floating over his head. I loved that far off stare he always had. I was happy that I was going to see that for as long as he wanted me.

I pulled up into his mother's street. Thankfully, everyone had parked a block away, so Gabe wouldn't suspect a thing. When we got out of the car, his mother was already waiting for us in the front yard. She really couldn't wait, could she? I was surprised to see Mr. Ishmael with her. I guess he wanted to see this, too. No pressure.

"What took you so long? I've been waiting here forever! I thought you weren't going to come," his mom greeted. She gave Gabe and I a big hug, pulling us together. "Things are going to be a lot better from now on."

"Uh… Hi?" I heard Gabe pat her on the back. "You're… acting weird. You okay?"

"She… had a glass of wine! N-nothing out of the ordinary." He chuckled awkwardly, but he was avoiding eye contact, stood straight as a pole, and had this goofy, tight smile on his face.

I raised a brow. And he's the detective who found my father and kept him safe?

"Okay…" Gabe drawled.

"Oh, the problem. Yes! It's… the backyard! Yeah let's go to the backyard," his mom said.

I wanted to face-palm.

"Is it me or are they acting really weird?" Gabe whispered as we walked behind them.

"I don't know. Isn't your mom always weird?" I felt my pocket again for the box. A sense of relief washed over me.

He snickered. "Right. But I don't know. Just seems a bit…" His eyes narrowed when we stepped down to the backyard. He first laid eyes on Val, who was already bouncing like I expected.

"Hey, Gabe!" she squealed.

"Hey, Champ!" Carmine said.

Emilio waved.

Zach held a thumbs up with a wink.

"Hey, guys!" Arsenio cheered to us with a beer in his hand.

"W-what is everyone doing here?" Gabe's gaze wandered between everyone.

His mom and Mr. Ishmael joined everyone else, his mother's arm around her boyfriend, her head leaning on his shoulder. Her eyes glistening, she had a warm smile on her face.

At the same time everyone greeted Gabe, I grabbed the box from my pocket, but, unfortunately, because of the pressure I was feeling to make everything just right, all the careful planning I did leading up to this day, it fumbled out of my hand.

I got down on one knee, then picked it up.

Gabe turned around with a confused expression. "Barrett?!"

Everyone waited in anticipation.

My face turned red because of my mistake, but he didn't see me drop the box like an idiot, so I was good. I took a deep breath and looked him in the eye. I wanted this, everyone wanted this, he didn't know what he wanted yet, so I had to take the initiative. It was a chance I was willing to take. Val knew him longer than I have. His mom knows him better than anyone. There was no doubt I made the right choice when I bought it. The color, the size… I knew it was perfect. The performance didn't matter, right?

I cleared my throat. "Gabriel Solos…" I held the box behind my back. "These past few years have been the best in my life. I'm so glad I got to meet you again after so many years. You're very special to me, and I want to take care of you the best way I can… I know this is a pretty drastic gesture, and I know how you're going to react, but… I just want to know that wherever you go, you're going to be okay."

I saw Mr. Ishmael going towards the garage.

"So, please, do us all a favor…" I held the black box in front of me and opened it. "Can you get rid of your goddamn old car already?"

"Surprise!" Everyone shouted.

Gabriel turned around again, and saw the Toyota Prius sitting inside his mother's garage. "No way… NO WAY! Barrett!" He held his hands to his face. "No, I can't. You didn't! W-what… What… I'm going to pass out."

I stood up quickly and held him by the small of his back, holding the box with the key inside it. "Whoa! Then you won't be able to drive it home."

"D-Drive it… home? It's… You really… You…" He was beginning to pout. "This must've cost you so much money! Why?!"

"We all pitched in a little," Val said.

"Your car was beginning to fall apart, sweetie," his mom said. "You almost had an accident on the free way when the power steering stopped working."

"Or that time with your brakes last year when you were going down the hill," Carmine said.

"And when your front tire just randomly rolled away while you were driving," Emilio added.

"All right, I get it!" Gabe growled. "But… Barrett, I can't. It's too much… How can I ever—"

I gave him a quick peck. "I did it because I love you. We love you. We just want you to be safe. You don't ever have to repay me."

It took him a moment, but his face eventually softened. "Barrett, I…"

"I call the first ride around the block!" Val chimed in.

"Shotgun!" his mom said, running to the car.

Mr. Ishmael already secured a spot by standing next to one of the passenger doors.

Zach pushed Arsenio out of the way to get there first.

"You okay if they get a ride first?" Gabe asked.

I put this key into his hand. "Of course."

He had a huge grin on his face, then puffed out his chest before excitedly joining the others. I watched as they all got in the car. In awe as the got inside. They all waved as they passed by while Gabriel pulled out of the driveway. Zach, Carmine, and Emilio stayed behind with me.

"Damn, you picked a good one," Emilio said.

"Thanks. Couldn't have done it without Val or his mom."

"Good thing you didn't tell them about the other thing, huh?" Carmine had an impish grin on his face.

"Oh, god. They were terrible. His mom, Val… and even Mr. Ishmael. They're horrible at keeping a secret. This whole month has been a struggle. And today when we walked up here? I wanted to die."

"What other thing?" Arsenio asked.

I thought about it for a moment. I glanced at my brothers, and for a moment, I didn't want to say anything because of the history he had with Gabe, but throughout the whole month, he had kept the secret, and there had been no bad blood between us. I knew a little part of him would always have feelings for Gabe. I couldn't blame him for that since he always kept a respectable distance. Or… maybe he was completely over him now. It has been a few years, and I didn't know him that well.

I reached into my back pocket. I pulled out another box and opened it. "What do you think?"

"Oh, shit… No way!" Arsenio's eyes widened. "When?!" His excitement seemed genuine.

Relieved, I smiled back. "I don't know yet. I was going to do that first, but… the car was more important right now. His old one wasn't going to last another week."

"Gabe's really lucky, Barrett," he said. "Don't wait too long."

"I won't," I said.

There was only the future to look forward to anyway. And it was a very bright one.


Author's Note:

That's it. It's done. :)

The epilogue is a tiny bit shorter. Didn't want to drag it out. I had you all going there for a second, huh? haha

Thank you everyone for reading my story! I know I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be, but I finished it like I promised. I'm sorry it took so long.

First let me say that this story meant a lot to me. I put a lot of myself in Gabriel. I started this story when I was 202 pounds! Now I'm at a healthier 135 pounds. I'm a pretty short guy, so I'm good. Trust me. But with Gabriel it wasn't just about the weight. A lot of other stuff about myself was reflected in him. I guess you could say I was putting a lot of my hopes and dreams into Gabriel. And a couple of them came true. Still very, VERY single though. Haha

Again, I'd like to thank everyone for following this story to the very end. I did want to make it a little longer, but I also didn't want to drag it out too long, so this is a fitting end.

Thank you for those who left favorites and follows!

Thank you Kyt Lestrange for reviewing every single chapter. Haha I always knew you'd comment on here.

And thank you every guest, Leah, XxfolkthunderxX, LadyDe, A, Lee, Faye Forehand, asd, AyEIOuU, SteveKazutoSAO, TMaureen, TMi The Dork in the Corner, Momo, Boolsajo, leobthxxx, Black Violin Prince, zahlnadia1995, randomjun, Fryvi, lynwithonen, Lavi, Collins-A, Iamperson111, Daneeno, Shirri, Saint Wilde, AbyssScript, InsanityAndBeyond, Lavi1443, Chrislovesstories, and LynnReneeEvans for leaving a review, too!

Phew... I think that's everyone!

I'm studying for my master's degree. Two more years of school... and we'll see where I end up from there. :)

As always, thank you for the support. I'm still working on that fantasy story! I'm also working on some short stories.

Also, follow me on Instagram! It's private, but if you follow me, I'll accept you. Don't be shy and keep up with me! My Instagram is kero356.

I'll be back as soon as I can!

And now I can mark this story as "complete."