Victoria's both the best and worst person to be around in situations like this. Succubi are intense anyway, but Victoria can't keep it under wraps, even when she isn't famished in a meat-marker bar. Gabe can feel her energy singing through her veins; it's dialed up so high it's making him light-headed, and she keeps sidling up next to him, pressing against his arm, and grinning, so he's getting a sensory-sensation feedback loop to go right along with the emotional whammy. It's a rush, but it's a rush the way a couple of tequila shots is a rush, but a whole bottle will leave you passed out in your own vomit in an alley somewhere.
“I'm hungry,” she says, looking up through her lashes and running one finger along the lip of her glass.
Gabe rolls his eyes. “Really? Because I had no idea.” He shoves at her shoulder. “Go take care of that, maybe? You're killing my head, La Joya.”
She smirks, and okay, so he just used to think she couldn't keep it under wraps. It turns out she doesn't because she's kind of a jerk. Usually he finds that endearing, actually, but right now he just can't even think, and she's, like, broadcasting horniness or something. It's fucking hot, but it also needs to stop.
“It's not my fault,” she says, “I've been on a bus with you assholes for ages.”
“Playing in front of crowds of people, many of whom want to sleep with you.”
“Appetizers,” she says, “or infants. And most of them are more focused on you anyway.”
Gabe takes a sip of his beer and nods, conceding her point.
God, “Rock Star” is a great occupation for an empath - at least when the rock star thing is going well. When it's going badly he sometimes starts to wish he was one of Pete's collection of siren lead singers like Urie or Bebe, but the rest of the time he's pretty sure nobody gets the rush quite like he does.
Ryland slides up behind Victoria, insinuating himself between them and looping his arms around both of their shoulders. Ryland is drunk and mellow tonight, a low hum of affection for them both pulsing through it. He's deeply relaxed or Gabe wouldn't be getting anything; typically Ryland's weird psychic block means he's shut down to Gabe and Alex completely, and immune to Nate and Victoria. He says it makes him “psychically dead.” Really, it makes him invaluable. “Come on, Saporta,” Ryland says, “Alex says you're thrown wide open and thinking unsavory things; do we need to have the 'care and feeding of your succubus' conversation again?”
Victoria snaps her teeth at him, grinning, and Ryland tugs her closer. She leans against his shoulder, scanning the crowd. “Who do you think? Over there?”
Gabe follows her line of sight. Two guys are leaning against the wall across the room from them, both with their eyes trained on Victoria.
“They are both watching you.”
Victoria narrows her eyes and links her lips when one of the guys inclines his head her way, winking at her and smiling. “Think they know?” She asks.
Gabe closes his eyes and reaches out and is nearly bowled over with the energy coming off of them. “They know exactly what you are and they are so into it."
Victoria wags her eyebrows playfully. “Kinky.”
Gabe says, "Please go say hi before they come over here because I'm not sure my head could take it.”Ryland pushes her forward and she squares her shoulders, slinking across the room, sleek and predatory. She's fascinating to watch once her mind's made up, but she's always that bit hesitant at first. She likes the ones who notice her first, before her charm is turned on.
Ryland gestures for another beer from the bartender, and leans in toward Gabe. “Your girl here?”
Gabe shrugs. “She was at the show.”
It's hard to separate out where the sensory input is even coming from when he's onstage. It's all bright colors and warmth rushing over him when he's on like that, and tracing out individual threads generally isn't something he can do. But there was something. It was lower, underneath the throb of the crowd, like a thudding bassline matching the beat of his heart.
He'd felt it twice before. The second time, about six months before, he'd actually seen her. He was boarding a plane from LA to New York and she was on the arriving flight. He was sealed down and turned off as much as he could be - the way he always was when he traveled - and he'd still felt her immediately. It wasn't even emotions so much as just a steady background hum of presence. When he looked up she was staring at him. He felt the eye contact like a jolt, but she just nodded abruptly and hurried away.
The first time had been over a year ago, in this same bar, the last time they played this town. He hadn't seen her then, and hadn't even realized what he was feeling until the airport incident. This place isn't anywhere near seedy enough for their post-show hangouts. He wouldn't have come back, except he'd felt her, he knew he had. If she was at the show, it was worth a shot.
“I think so,” he tells Ryland. “Hard to really differentiate anything. Everybody in here has a fuckton of feelings tonight.”
Ryland narrows his eyes. “Good feelings, I hope.”
“Yes, the vibe is generally a positive one.”
“Promise me you will shut it down before you get in a fistfight if somebody starts feeling mean things at you.”
“I'll be fine.”
“Last time you said that, you got into a fistfight defending Justin Timberlake's honor.”
“Oh, yeah. Was that the night Nate got stoned and shape-shifted into a cobra and couldn't remember how to change back?”
Ryland rubs at his temples. “Yes.”
Gabe laughs. “That was a great night.”
Ryland stares at him, and then gestures helplessly, motioning for the bartender's attention and mouthing tequila at her when she turns around. “Okay, fine. At least it was a great story.”
It gets later. Ryland gets drunker until he's dramatically acting out Shakespeare scenes in the back of the bar, tugging onlookers in to play the other parts. Alex is sloppily and blatantly cheating at cards. Nate might actually be high enough to shapeshift in public again and God only knows where Victoria went.
Gabe's tired, and he knows he's been operating at too high a frequency for way too long. He's still riding the high from the show, and it's starting to affect other people. The energy in the bar is still positive, but it's reaching fever pitch and he's no longer just sensing it, he's feeding into it. He feels...good, though. Really fucking good, where he should be feeling drained, and he doesn't quite register the centering energy; it's so gradual and understated and he's so high on the buzz he's been riding for hours, that he only barely knows that oh, she's there, until she's right fucking there.
She grinning up at him with one eyebrow raised, curls bouncing off her shoulders. She grabs his elbow, pulling him into the empty photobooth near the door.
Inside, it's like a curtain falls around them; he's still getting all the energy, but it's muffled, quieter, pushed to the back of his mind. There's that low bassline again, though, solidly pounding with his heart. He can feel it under his skin where her fingertips are pressed to his wrist.
“Is that you?” She gestures toward the door, clearly indicating all that madness out there and looking impressed.
Gabe shrugs. He hadn't meant to, but yeah, probably it mostly was. Sometimes he gets carried away. “I like a party.”
She nods. “I read that.”
She pulls a face and nods apologetically. “Google.”
“Don't worry, I took it with a grain of salt or I wouldn't be here.” She's smiling, and there's no bite to her words.
He gestures, indicating the silence surrounding them. “This is you?”
She laughs, sounding a little surprised. “I guess so. I'm a good dampener, but not usually quite like this. I mean, but we're.. you feel it.”
He nods. “Who are you?”
“My name is Sabi.”
She interrupts him. “Gabe. Yes, I know. I told you. Google.”He stares at her again. He wants to ask her questions. He wants to ask her everything. He doesn't know a thing about her, but he feels like he could tell her anything. He feels completely amazing. It's kind of freaking him the fuck out.
He says, “this is freaking me the fuck out.”
She says, “Oh, thank God.”
“I didn't want it to just be me. I didn't know what I was going to say to you tonight. I panicked last time.
He narrows his eyes. “Yeah, the airport. What was that?”
“Nobody expects to randomly see their soulmate sitting in an ugly plastic chair in an airport terminal in LAX. It freaked me out. Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm glad you're also freaking out. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with my soulmate not freaking out about this. I wanted...I don't know. I'm very independent.” She's smiling at him wryly.
It had mostly intrigued and fascinated Gabe, but he knew what she meant. He'd been thinking about her - sometimes looking for her - for months, but he'd barely been able to bring himself to think “soulmate” throughout the whole process. It was exhilarating and terrifying.. Actual soulmates were rare, and when it happened, it didn't seem to make anything easier for most people. Some people with one said it made it harder.
But then, they also said it made it worth it.
“But you're here,” he says.
She nods. “Yes. That day, I got home and there you were on my television making good girls go bad.” She sings the last of it, playful and lilting. Her voice is gorgeous. “After that, you were everywhere.” She grabs his hand and brings it to her chest just above her heart. She taps her fingers against in rhythm with her heartbeat, in rhythm with his. “This,” she says, “I can feel you through the fucking radio. Do you know how distracting that is?”
Gabe's grinning. “So you found me.”
“You were easy to find. Everything about you is very loud and your tour schedule is on the Internet.” She's grinning too. “I should have waited. My album comes out next year. Then you'd be hearing me through the radio and going out of your mind.”
“I was already going out of my mind.”
She breathes in sharply and looks up at him. There's that vibration through him from the eye contact again; his skin is tingling.
“I'm glad you came,” he says.
“I didn't know for sure you'd be here. I figured if you were then we'd go from there.”
He still can't really feel her, per se. She's not the blank wall Ryland is most of the time. He doesn't feel shut out; it's more that what's coming from her doesn't feel distinct. He feels calm, soothed and centered and really fucking good, but he's not even sure which pieces are coming from him.
“You knew,” he says.
She laughs. “Cocky. Okay. I knew.” And she kisses him, going up on her toes to put her arms around his neck. It's a little tentative, but he feels it all the way through him. Fiction talks about electricity and fireworks, but he's had all that before. This is bigger than any of that. It's warm and steady and grounding. He feels stable in her arms.
When they pull apart, he cups her face with one hand, fingers curled into her hair. “You know about me. I want to know everything about you.”
She winks. “Eh, Google lies. We'll learn together.”
“How do you I feel to you?” He's curious if she's getting anything more clearly than she is.
She bites her lip and closes her eyes, like she's trying to focus. She's worrying the collar of his shirt between her fingers. When she opens her eyes she shakes her head, smiling and looking puzzled. “It's hard to get specifics, isn't it? Just...kind of vivid and bright.”
“How do you feel?”
She laughs again. “Energized,” she answers immediately, “like everything's heightened. Like I could fly.” He pulls her close and kisses her again.
They find Alex, Ryland, and Victoria at the bar, where Alex is buying yet more drinks with his ill-gotten poker winnings. The energy around them is still ratcheted up, but it feels manageable. “This is her?” Alex asks, cocking his head. Sabi looks indignant for a moment and then bursts out laughing, slapping him lightly on the shoulder.
“Yes,” she says, “now stay out of my head.”
Ryland spins around on his bar stool, clasping one of her hands in both of his. He is really exceptionally drunk. “At last, fair maiden!” He says, in a ridiculous and unplaceable accent, “you don't even know the hardships we have endured in our quest for you.” He drops the accent and squints at her, tugging on her hand to pull her closer. “And I really do mean that. You don't even know.”
Victoria waves at Sabi, over Ryland's shoulder. She's toned down, but she's not shut down, and Gabe feels it when Sabi gets a wave of emotion off of Victoria and steps back. She pulls out of Ryland's grasp and steps back into Gabe, looking back up at him over her shoulder. “Are they always like this?”
“Yes,” Gabe says, and then looks around. “Where's Nate?”
Alex and Ryland exchange a look. Victoria wrinkles her nose daintily and says, “well, he was here, eating a hamburger as big as his head, but I'm not sure now. I turned around and he was...kind of gone?”
Gabe blinks, one hand held tight in Sabi's; she's got her other hand pressed to her mouth and she's smiling behind her fingers. Gabe says, “Tell me Nate is not shape-shifting while stoned again.”
“Nate is not shape-shifting stoned while again,” Ryland says obediently.
Gabe sighs. “Is Nate shape-shifting while stoned again?”
“I think probably so, yes,” Alex says.
Gabe slides an arm around Sabi's waist and grins at the rest of them. He almost hopes Nate's turned himself into a snake or something, because man, that shit is hilarious. “Well, that's always an adventure. Let's go find him. I have a feeling this is going to be a great night.”