~14~

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Mr. Blackbourne joins Vic and myself for a short lunch in our apartment and shows us the video he took last night of Sang beating North in the challenge.  It's a glorious thing, watching her leap across the pit and latching onto the net.  Vic promises to find the best still frame from the reel and to get it framed for her.

He doesn't stay much longer than that.  He is on stakeout duty this afternoon.  We're still trying to find who is supplying the drugs to the kids on campus, but so far, it's been a bust.  We know that they're coming from someone at the hospital, but Doc hasn't been able to find the person responsible, and we haven't been any more successful on our end with finding the distributors. 

Vic loads the video to his computer and then grabs his messenger bag.  "I've got symphony rehearsal in Denver tonight, so I won't be back until late."  He sighs.  I know he hates performing, but it's not as bad without his parents calling the shots.

"Do you need me to come with you?" I question. 

He shakes his head and smiles.  "No, Kota.  I know that you've got a lot more on your plate than the rest of us.  You have to actually do well in those classes so that the TA doesn't suspect you of anything."  He's right.  I'm pretty sure that the teaching assistant in my planetary sciences course is involved somehow.  I've got to get him to show his hand to me, which means I have to go to class and turn in papers.  It's annoying.  Half of the stuff in the text isn't even correct.

"If you're sure," I hedge.  "Call me if you change your mind and one of us will be there." 

He nods and leaves.  I have another hour before I have to be anywhere.  I decide to drop in on Gabe and see how everything went last night.  I give him the respect of knocking before I enter.  Everyone made a big deal about it being Sang's first place last night, but truly, it's Gabe's first too.  He's lived with Nate and Silas, sure, but somehow ended up using the living room as his sleeping area, and he hasn't really had his own room since he moved out of that awful trailer where his stepmother lives.

I step in and see that he's in his element.  Trays of paint and brushes are lined up on the table, and Gabriel is drawing something on a large sketchpad.  He looks up when I enter and grins.

"I'm going to paint her room into a fucking garden paradise.   There'll be flowers and trees and a stream, and I'm going to put a mural of the night sky on the ceiling.  It's going to be my best, I think."

I lean over his shoulder and am impressed with what he has already planned out.  "She's going to love it, Gabe."

I take a seat beside him on the couch and wait for him to finish.  "How about you?" I ask.  "What are you going to paint for yourself?"

His eyes cloud slightly, and I'm almost sorry I asked.  I lean forward and rest my elbows on my knees.  I flip back to the beginning of his book and find the drawing I'm looking for.  I hand it to him and he stares hard at it.  "It's time, Gabe.  You've got to let go of the past and look ahead.  You're in your own place now, and every single one of us is jealous of you.  You've got the best roommate, and I don't see her leaving us anytime soon."  I can feel a smile creep onto my face as I think about a future with Sang in it.  "Think about it, okay?"

He nods and puts his sketch book away.  I know I'm asking a lot of him, but I only want my friend to be happy. 

He leans his head back and stares up at the white popcorn ceiling.  "She was sick in the middle of the night.  I woke up to the sounds of her fucking wretching.  I think she should go and see Doc.  I watch her eat and I'm afraid for her.  You've seen it too, how she picks at her food, and she's so god damned thin.  I know that sometimes dancers can have problems with food, and I'm fucking terrified that she's doing this shit on purpose."

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