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song for one (thousand)

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All things considered, it is really weird that Gabriel hasn’t been to a single concert of Uriel’s in their long, sitcom-like roommateship, but their schedules always overlap and she’s not exactly in the best position to be skipping shifts, so it works out this way despite her best efforts. Still, though, as she watches Uriel bounce onstage and throw strange, shimmering machinations at her adoring fans, she thinks it’s worth it to come at all.

“The last song tonight is gonna be a little slower,” Uriel breathes into the microphone, eyes bright and wild with performance adrenaline. Idly, Gabriel wonders how the same girl tripped over the five towels she left on the floor in the bathroom this morning. “I wrote it last week for,” her eyes flit over the audience, looking for someone, “a friend of mine.”

Before Gabriel can ponder upon Uriel’s list of friends, she begins to sing — soft and low, the echo of something Gabriel heard her play on the piano when she pretended to be asleep days ago. It’s a love song, Gabriel realises, and for just a moment, she lets herself pretend it’s about her.

Uriel says something that Gabriel won’t remember later: like I love you, maybe, or someday we can be together like I want , and her eyes flicker across the crowd again, searching. Gabriel’s suddenly struck with the weight of her emotion — the magnitude of it, sticking to her as if to replace the beads of sweat rolling off her skin. 

When Uriel sings the final notes, quiet and melancholic, Gabriel feels like she’s drowning.

The crowd cheers, and as Uriel gracefully bows for them, she catches Gabriel’s eye. Good job, Gabriel mouths, though she’s afraid it might look like wood jaw or something worse. Uriel laughs anyway.

After the concert, Gabriel walks to the curtain backstage, checking her phone for updates. Uriel said she’d be let in, but Uriel also said her concerts were all lowkey events, so she doesn’t consider her the most reliable source. Sure enough, a bodyguard takes one look at her and says, “No fans allowed, sorry.”

“I’m her friend,” Gabriel says, eye twitching as she tries her hardest to stay calm. He throws her an unimpressed once-over.

“Sure.”

She glares — sure, she’s not dressed like a pop star, but she wore a nice shirt today, she thinks, or at least nothing warranting that kind of gaze. “I — we live together. Do you need the proof of housing, or should I run back and call our landlord myself — ”

“That’s Gabriel,” a sweet voice calls from behind the curtain. “Let her in, please.”

Gabriel’s lulled by Uriel’s manners, which is why she’s caught off guard when she’s immediately attacked with a hug and lifted into the air. She makes an ugly wheeze that’s stuck between an oof and an ah .

“That was the best concert I’ve ever had,” Uriel says as she finally lets Gabriel down, arms still encircled gently around her. Her cheeks are stained with glitter, and she wipes some over Gabriel’s nose before she can complain. “You have to be some kind of — like — good luck charm or something.”

For a moment, Gabriel’s tempted to argue, but instead she sneezes, glitter flying off her like dust. Uriel makes a face. “Cover your mouth.”

“You haven’t let go,” Gabriel points out. Uriel steps back, suddenly pink.

“I forgot.” Her gaze wanders to the curtain, an ugly mauve color, before she looks back at Gabriel with something new and unreadable in her eyes. “Did you like the last song?”

Gabriel feels like she’s being tested. She doesn’t know what the right answer is, though, so she just says, “It was nice.” She grabs an unopened water bottle off of Uriel’s dresser and takes a sip. “Was it the same one you played the other day?”

Uriel, now in the middle of an odd stretching routine, splutters. “You were awake for that?”

“Sort of,” Gabriel says truthfully, because it was more like drifting on the edges of sleep. Without lyrics to overanalyse, it sounded a little like a lullaby. “Why?”

Uriel’s ears stain red, then her cheeks, then her neck. “No reason.” She laughs, nervous. “Do you ever go to bed?”

“I’m asleep all the time.”

“Not when you need to be — ” Uriel seems to realise she’s being lazily goaded into an argument, because she pauses to frown. “Anyway, you’re my good luck charm and tonight was perfect. That’s what I wanted to say.”

Gabriel lets a smile slip onto her face, and Uriel goes through around six expressions before settling upon one of her own. You looked perfect, she almost says, but that would be too revealing and too sappy for her. “Don’t say that; you’re that good all the time.”

Uriel brightens at the praise. “I’m not!” she says anyway, grabbing her bag and ushering Gabriel out. “I swear. I always mess up the bridge on the opener, but this time I got it perfect — and one time my voice cracked during a high note and it was so embarrassing — ” She continues rambling about every mistake she’s ever made while she fixes on a black face mask, obscuring everything except her eyes, glimmering with all the charisma of a pop star and something else only Uriel has. “Anyway, let’s go.”

Before Gabriel can move on her own, Uriel’s tugging her by the wrist, their hands one movement away from clasping each other. This in itself isn’t new, but something in the glitter must have gone to Gabriel’s brain, because the touch is making her feel as if she’s burning up from the inside out.

“I was so nervous before the show,” Uriel confesses, small and slow like she always is when she’s embarrassed. “I thought maybe I’d fall offstage or something and you’d laugh at me.”

“I wouldn’t laugh at you.” Uriel shoots Gabriel a thoroughly unconvinced look. “I’d only laugh a little,” Gabriel amends. “Besides, you didn’t have to worry.”

“Of course I didn’t.” For a moment Uriel sounds uncharacteristically haughty and it makes something twist in Gabriel’s gut, but then she cheerfully adds, “Because you’re my good luck charm!”

Gabriel waves a dismissive hand, yanking Uriel’s arm up with her own. She hadn’t realised they’d still been touching, but she doesn’t want to let go and neither does Uriel, it seems, so she just adjusts her grip so that their fingers intertwine. Uriel shoots her a quick glance — she can’t read it as well as she usually does with the mask — before she turns her face to the sky and lets her eyes fall shut, lashes glistening against her skin like falling stars.

“I’m really glad you came,” she says finally, in the nakedly honest sort of way that always makes Gabriel feel kind of like a ragdoll being torn apart. “It was — I couldn’t find you in the crowd, but — “

With a start, Gabriel remembers the love song, Uriel mentioning a friend, her eyes constantly searching. If she were just a little braver — if she were a little more certain — if Uriel didn’t look so pretty right now, moon reflecting over her hair like a halo — 

“Are you even listening?” Uriel asks. They’ve stopped moving entirely, and she’s taken off her mask, revealing a familiar, luminous smile. Her nose is pink with the cold. Gabriel wants to kiss her until she’s warm again.

“Um,” she says aloud. “Haha. Yeah.”

“There’s no way you know what I just said,” Uriel teases, grabbing her other hand and pulling her forward again. Gabriel stumbles over her feet until she finds her grounding by Uriel’s side.

She shifts her eyes to the stars. “You said you couldn’t find me in the crowd.”

“Why is that the only part you paid attention to?” Uriel clicks her tongue against her teeth, letting go of one of Gabriel’s hands only to wrap her arm around her, comfortable and secure. “I said you made everything feel safer anyway.” She throws her words out simply, like she just said the grass is green or the Earth is round. Gabriel wishes she could grab them out of the frosty air, tuck them into her mouth and swallow them until this easy reassurance is part of her forever.

“Good,” she murmurs instead, because that’s all she can say without everything spilling over and flooding the street.

Uriel beams. “And that’s why you’re my good luck charm.”

Gabriel makes an undignified snorting noise and immediately regrets it when Uriel’s eyes turn to her, delighted. “I’m your friend.”

“That’s not all,” Uriel insists, and Gabriel almost asks what else she is. The answer is good luck charm , but if she dreams hard enough, she can imagine it’s girlfriend. She doesn’t feel particularly desperate enough to go down that path, though, so she just leans into Uriel’s touch and lets herself laugh.

Later on, she’ll think about whether she wants to confess — whether that’s worth the risk — whether it’ll change everything for the better or the worse, but for now, she thinks being the cause of Uriel’s smile is enough.