Characters/Pairing: Gabriel, Luke
Rating: PG-13 for language (repeated use of the f-bomb)
Spoilers: Specifically 1x10 “Six Months Ago.” General S3 knowledge of Luke Campbell.
Disclaimer: Heroes belongs to Tim Kring, NBC et al.
A/N: Written for speccygeekgrrl’s birthday, a sequel to Special and Normal - an AU where Gabriel Gray and Luke Campbell grew up a few doors down from each other, and are BFFs.
Summary: Luke Campbell is in college when his friend Gabriel comes to tell him some “good news.” Except Luke has to convince him about the “good” part.
Luke shoved his books across the table like he was trying to score a goal using Gabriel as the net.
“All done, with an hour to spare, boo-ya!” Luke said, with the required fist pump.
Gabriel lifted his notebook out of harm’s way and stopped the practical engineering text with his chest.
“What did you get?” he asked.
Luke spread out his equations and pointed to the elegant draft of a sign support, which was where Luke tended to figure out his answers first. He worked backwards from his drafts, the graphics usually telling him more than flat numbers.
Gabriel took a look at the math and raised his eyebrow. “So, the cable can handle the load?”
“With some to spare in case of wind or pigeon shit,” Luke said.
Gabriel snorted and handed the equations back. “Professor Logran’s going to love that answer. He likes people to look beyond pure numbers.”
“Told you, if you could pass the class, I could pass it.”
“Hey, did I ever say you couldn’t?” Gabriel said.
Luke shook his head and leaned over to grab his book. Gabriel recognized the strained look on his face, and accurately guessed the cause.
“Your mom?” Gabriel asked softly.
Luke scowled and shoved his papers back into their requisite folders before answering. “I’m not going home for Thanksgiving.” Gabriel just waited, and Luke finally spoke again. “She was wondering how I got my scholarships and basically thought I’d suddenly started getting good grades just to spite her or something. Fucking claims she ‘doesn’t know me anymore’ or some bullshit like that. Told me never to ask her for money, because I was probably bribing someone to even get on campus…” Luke stopped himself and carefully shut his folder.
“I don’t even know what she wants anymore. It’s like if I’m not being a screw-up, she doesn’t know how to deal.” Luke stood up and jerked his head back towards his room as the other students wandered in to use the lounge.
“Maybe she can’t,” Gabriel said, keeping his voice low to avoid being overheard. “My mother still treats me the same as when I was seven. It doesn’t seem to matter how I change.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Luke muttered, and sighed. He unlocked his dorm room and walked in, flicking on the indifferent overhead along with the strings of spliced-together Christmas light strands that brought the illumination level above the medieval. His room was tiny, but at least he had it to himself. Luke tossed his folder down on the desk and went straight for the stash of microwave popcorn at the back of the room.
Gabriel shut the door behind him as Luke popped a bag barehanded and tossed the fresh contents in a bowl.
“Does anyone ever ask you why you have popcorn without a microwave?” Gabriel asked.
“Nah. Everyone just assumes I made up something in the lab. They don’t ask ‘cause one of the other engineering guys last year made some killer booby traps, and no one wants to be a guinea pig.”
“Made killer booby traps? Hell yeah. Not like anyone’s gonna rat me out though. I didn’t destroy anything and no one can pin anything on me. Professor Abner gave me extra credit for the water balloon trebuchet.”
Gabriel smiled. “He would.”
Luke shoved a mouthful of popcorn in his face and waved at Gabriel to sit on one of the cheap chairs. Luke swallowed harder than he needed to as he eyed the heavy satchel Gabriel had brought with him.
Gabriel tried to smile reassuringly. “Hey, we’re doing all right.”
“My ass. I am going to freak right the fuck out unless you stop trying to pussyfoot around why you came when you told me two days ago you’re up to your eyeballs in work.” Luke pointed at him with an accusatory finger. “Spill.”
“I did talk to Human Resources, and they’re up for it. I can get you in as an intern over winter and spring breaks.”
Luke was guardedly optimistic. “Cool, and?”
Gabriel spread his hands, an expression of combined pride and fear on his face. “They really like my work.”
Luke narrowed his eyes. “My bullshit meter’s going to eleven over here. If you ever want to go back to your apartment again and not wonder if I rigged something to blow, you’re gonna talk. Now.”
Gabriel blinked at him, bemused.
“Dude, you’re the only person I can talk to around here, really. Fuck if I’m ever going home again.”
“What about that girl you told me about, the one in your electrical theory class?”
“Elle?” Luke softened for a second. “Yeah, ok, she’s pretty cool. But I’m not going to spill my shitty-ass life story unless I think she’d be ok with it. I don’t wanna scare her off.”
Gabriel nodded expansively. “I hear you.”
“Did you dodge that chick again?” Luke accused.
“I don’t like getting ambushed after work. Maya cannot take a hint.”
“No, you just need to take the stick out of your ass. She’s not being that weird! You hide yourself in your office most of the day; when is she supposed to ask you out? Some guys would kill to have a chick like that asking them out for coffee. You said she was an easy seven-and-a-half, right?” Luke said.
“She’s got a protective twin brother,” Gabriel said, looking a little panicked.
“So? Take some boxing lessons so you don’t look like a wuss and don’t be a jerk so you never have to use them. Protective twin can’t kick your ass if you don’t give him a reason,” Luke said.
“Yeah, and you didn’t answer my original question,” Luke said. He picked up a kernel of popcorn and held it in his palm, letting energy stream from it to char it to a crisp. He gave Gabriel a pointed look.
Gabriel sighed in defeat. “My manager wants me to take the San Francisco project.”
Luke stared at him for a second, mouth agape. “Dude, that’s… I was looking over the specs you gave me for that. That’s a huge fucking project. And the commission for… Wow. You’d be loaded. And like, fucking famous!”
“It’s six months on the West Coast. I’d have to live in the city,” Gabriel explained.
Luke waited for the rest of it, the other reason to explain Gabriel’s reluctance to take the biggest damn opportunity either of them had gotten since Luke had managed to get enough scholarships to get into college despite not having a hundred bucks to his name.
“Is Maya going?”
“Yeah, her and her brother and also Mrs. Petrelli.”
“Whoa, you’d be working under a senior partner? Is she hot?”
Gabriel tried to smother laughter. “She’s sixty.”
“So, you’re not hot for teacher?” Luke persisted.
“Do you think about anything but sex?”
“Lemme think, I’m nineteen, I’m in college, I have access to free porn, so… no.”
“My ass,” Gabriel countered. “If you take a few more summer courses, you can graduate a year early. You’re thinking about more than sex.”
“And what, you’re worried I’m gonna pine away if you’re in Frisco for part of that? You wanted that project. That’s the biggest set of problems you’ve ever had to solve. Get that done, and people will take you seriously when you want to save the world. This is what we’ve been planning since we found out about the thing.” Luke waggled his finger at the popcorn bag and at Gabriel’s head in explanation. “Don’t wuss out on me now. We’ve got the internet and e-mail and phones and shit, I’ll be ok.”
Gabriel took a deep breath and tried to put on a brave face. Luke suddenly sat up, looking stricken. “I’m such a jerk. Do you even know anyone else out there other than the Company people?” Gabriel shook his head. Luke scooted his chair closer and slung an arm around Gabriel. “Fuck me, I’m a dork. Hey, this wouldn’t start until January, right?” Gabriel nodded, still not quite able to speak. “Ok, then let’s work on this together, you and me. We can sure as hell find something or someone else out there for you to hang with. And if nothing else dude, pick up the phone. I talk too much anyway.”
“Yeah,” Gabriel said softly. “Look, you’ve been doing great-.”
“Hey,” Luke stopped him. “Who do I thank for that? You could have told me to get the hell out of your shop that day I ran in there. I could have spent the rest of school dealing weed and setting shit on fire until they expelled me. And then I would’ve gotten shot trying to lift beer from a gas station. You were the first person who told me I didn’t suck.”
“You were the first person who told me that and made me believe it,” Gabriel said.
“If it makes you feel any better, it kinda freaks me out that you’re going,” Luke spoke as if Gabriel accepting the job was a foregone conclusion, “But hell, I’d rather stay at college every break and know you’re out there doing awesome stuff than go home to Mom and fuck myself up in the head again. Aren’t we gonna fix the world together?” Gabriel nodded again with more conviction. “So, that hasn’t changed. Go be awesome-.”
There was a knock at the door, and Luke shut up to go answer it. With a wondering expression, Luke opened up the door enough for Gabriel to see the petite blonde who’d come calling.
“Hey Elle,” Luke said.
“Hey. Came to give that book back to you.” She passed over a comic book and caught sight of Gabriel. “Hi! You must be Gabriel; I was wondering when you’d show up again.”
“Um, you were?”
“Yeah! Come on, they mentioned your name in Forbes about being the new wunderkind for The Petrelli Company, and Luke’s all-so-casual, ‘I grew up with that guy, he’s my best friend.’ Seriously, that’s the big time.” Elle’s smile was vivacious and bright, and Luke seemed to stand up taller around her.
“I keep telling him that, but he keeps trying to sabotage himself. Tell him he needs to go to San Francisco,” Luke said.
“You need to go to San Francisco,” Elle said, with an overly serious tone. “Then I can tell my dad I know someone famous.”
Behind Elle, Luke was giving Gabriel the patented I told you so expression. Then he held up eight fingers, eyed Elle, and grinned. Gabriel struggled to keep a straight face.
“Do it. I hear the Bay area is awesome.” She turned back to Luke and handed him a tangle of wires and circuits attached to a small bulb.
“Two hours to solve it.”
“One,” Luke countered.
“You’re on. And don’t help him,” Elle said, pointing at Gabriel. She waved at him, smiled at Luke and left. Luke closed the door carefully behind her and grinned.
“She doesn’t know I helped you fix every rat’s nest of an electrical junction in every apartment building in a twelve-block radius,” Luke said, examining the bundle of wires. He followed a few, checked a few circuits, and finally flicked one of them with a pen. The light bulb blinked on, and Luke set it on his desk.
“If I hadn’t bet her in the comic shop first, no way in fuck would I have talked to her,” he confessed. “But she likes Uncanny X-Men.”
“You’re going to be fine when I go,” Gabriel said, looking away.
“And so will you, dude. Don’t go all martyr on me just ‘cause I met a girl.”
“A hot girl who likes comic books and electrical circuits.” Gabriel sounded bitter.
“Gabriel, chill for a second.” Luke put both his hands on Gabriel’s shoulders to force him to look him in the eye. “Maya isn’t really crazy, is she?”
“I bet she’s the first girl whoever talked to you, right?”
Gabriel paused for a long minute, and finally admitted, “Yeah.”
Luke pointed to the door where Elle had left. “Same sitch, dude. I thought she was joking when Elle talked to me the first time.” Luke let go and sat back, looking Gabriel up and down. “Bro-jectively, you’re pretty hot. You work with Maya every day, you fix everything you look at, and you’re about to get a huge fucking promotion.”
Gabriel took a deep breath and focused. For the first time in their conversation, Luke could see him using his power, putting all the pieces of his life together. Suddenly everything clicked into place, and Luke could see the understanding in Gabriel’s expression.
“This is what we talked about when we were fixing water heaters. Don’t you dare fuck it up because you’re afraid of Maya, the project, or leaving me behind,” Luke said fiercely.
“How long did it take you to talk to Elle?” Gabriel asked.
Luke grinned. “She talked to me. I solve her circuit puzzles. She reads my comics. We kinda got a thing. Could really be a thing.” He hesitated. “I think her dad’s kind of an ass, from what she’s let drop.”
“At least you know what not to say,” Gabriel pointed out.
“Yeah, we’re not the most fucked up guys in the room anymore.”
Gabriel closed his eyes for a moment, and Luke could see the nervous tension leave his body, his shoulders no longer rigid, his spine no longer a double for a flagpole. He opened his satchel and pulled out the San Francisco folder, opening it up on the table.
“I’m going to be designing and modifying buildings to withstand earthquakes on reclaimed land with keeping gross structural integrity. Even if the rafted foundations only prevent a partial drop into the ground, these buildings would keep people safe. They’d have air pockets and escape routes.”
Luke smiled as Gabriel laid out the specs, pointing to alternate solutions to all the problems involved.
“And once these buildings are up, and we know they work, then we can take them anywhere else.” Gabriel unfolded a world map and pointed to other cities in disaster-prone regions. “Earthquakes no longer have to be such a huge problem; I can modify these solutions for anywhere!”
“Dude, this is what Maya is looking at when she’s trying to talk to you. You know shit. She thinks that’s hot.”
“How the hell do you know so much about Maya?” Gabriel demanded.
“Facebook. I got your back, bro.” Luke jerked a thumb back towards his computer.
Gabriel suddenly laughed at Luke’s fiercely projective expression.
“Hey, I got a plan. How about we do the Thanksgiving thing with a double date? I can’t cook for shit, but that’s what take-out is for. If Maya ends up being flaky or Elle goes weird on me, I’ll have the table rigged to blow or something. That way we can make sure neither of us is being too stupid. We can try for our version of normal,” he said, grinning.
“That’s… comforting,” Gabriel fell silent for a moment, as he looked down at the San Francisco plan. No, he wouldn’t fuck this up, would not be afraid of trying for something he’d been working towards for years. He wouldn’t disappoint Luke, who’d worked so hard, and would not disappoint himself. Wasn’t that the whole point of his and Luke’s plan, to become what they wanted to be? They could have some stab at normalcy, even if that meant spending time apart and letting others close on their road to fixing the world. They could learn to trust others, because as great as he and Luke would become (and he didn’t doubt that they would, in their own way), they didn’t have to do this alone.
Luke didn’t spend all his time hiding in his dorm room, like Gabriel had, and it was time Gabriel was willing to step outside his office and try life on for size.
“Deal,” Gabriel said, relaxing. “Well take Thanksgiving by storm. Maya can’t be as scary as my imagination is painting her.”
Luke grinned at him and sat down to examine the San Francisco project side-by-side with Gabriel, offering his insights as the two of them together mapped out part of their future.