Never Alone

Gabriel groaned as he let his head fall forward onto his books with a loud thud. The carolers were back outside the room he'd managed to rent for the month of December, and he wished for the third night in a row that they'd just go away. His room wasn't much, but the space heater plugged into the wall was enough to keep the chill from the marina at bay. In addition to the heater, he'd made himself a giant mug of hot cocoa. Sure, he'd had to reheat it three times in the microwave as it sat untouched next to his textbooks and laptop, but it was still part of the comfort he'd tried to fabricate.

The holidays just didn't seem as cheery when you had to research nearly a dozen paranormal sightings and hit the ground running the day after Christmas. It had been easier in college, when the end of final exams meant he could go to parties and maybe get laid after a drink or two. Those days were gone, though. He'd graduated with a degree in Paranormal Studies.

Yeah. Would you like fries with that?

Only in the Bay Area could you get a degree in something like that. Then again, San Francisco was probably one of the few places you could actually get a paying job in the field of paranormal investigation without having to start up your own ghost hunting business. He shouldn't have been complaining.

He turned his head to stare blankly at his laptop screensaver. Why did the sight of the multicolored ribbon curling and dancing across his screen suddenly make his loneliness feel worse than before? The sight coupled with the sound of "Joy to the World" sung slightly out of tune made him depressed rather than uplifted. The carolers just made him envious because they were outside enjoying the holidays in their little group while he was stuck inside, alone, with work to do.

It wasn't fair, but there was nothing he could do about it.

'Stop brooding.' An annoyed voice so much like his own huffed above him, so real that he batted next to his upturned ear in an attempt to get it to shut up.

"I'm not brooding," Gabriel argued weakly, but the voice just laughed at him.

'You are, and it's annoying as fuck. You're the one who took the job in the first place, and they told you holidays were gonna be like this.'

"They didn't say I'd be alone on Christmas two years in a row," Gabriel muttered unhappily, his eyes still on his computer screen.

A short silence followed, and Gabriel started to think the voice had understood his point and would let him brood in peace to the tone deaf rendition of "Ding Dong Merrily on High". A minute later, though, the voice was back, just softer than before.

'No, they didn't warn you, but... at least you have me, right?'

There was a warmth and uncertainty to the question that made Gabriel's chest feel a bit tight, and he looked up to the space above him, where he knew his dead twin lingered just out of normal sight. "Yeah," he admitted with a small smile. "At least I have you, Michael."

'That's more like it, Gabe. But don't forget the specter in the stairwell, the ghost in the attic, and the spirits that linger around the singers down there.'

Gabriel shot upright in his seat, his heart pounding in his chest. "You said the building was clear!" he yelped, panic chilling the blood in his veins as he scrambled stiffly from his desk to the kit of paranormal gear he had stashed under his bed, nearly tripping over himself in the process.

The momentary silence was broken by a breathy laugh that floated around him like an echo, and the sudden panic that had hold of him was transformed to relief, anger, and the smallest hint of humor. "Oh, that joke is so going to cost you, asshole!"

Michael's voice came closer again, became clear in his mind. 'But do you feel as alone now?'

Gabriel clenched his jaw. The answer was no, but he'd be damned before he said it out loud to his brother. He wasn't sure if he wanted to reach up and try to strangle Michael or hug him.

'I rest my case. Now take a break so you can drink your hot chocolate and laugh at the carolers with me for a couple minutes.'

Gabriel let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding and shook his head, his anger leaving him in a rush as he went back to his desk, grabbed his huge mug, and took a seat by the window. Whether he liked it or not, Michael was right.

He might have felt lonely in some ways, but he wasn't alone.

He'd never be alone again.

All works contained here are copyrighted to K. Piet. No reproduction or usage is permitted without written, express consent by the author.