Cats In The Cradle


gabriel_icon.gif samson_icon.gif

Scene Title Cats in the Cradle
Synopsis On his way to meet with Liette at the Garden, Gabriel Gray finds himself distracted by an unexpected discovery…
Date May 13, 2010

The Rookery

For the first time in days, the skies are relatively clear. Now snow is falling down from those clouds that have stolen the sun from New York City for the last two months. The cold is unbearable, a bone-numbing chill that has driven all but the wolves from the once lighted streets of the rookery. This place holds strong memories for Gabriel Gray, memories hidden in the crumbled structure of the Pancratium, memories hidden in the ashes of the Happy Dagger, memories hidden in blood-stains on the floor of Constantine Filatov's old clinic.

Half an hour ago he emerged here, out from the docks and piers that bristle like teeth from the neighborhood's shores, from a Ferry brave enough to venture across a half frozen river to the ice-crusted carcass of a once neon-lit infection.

The Rookery is silent now, like a tomb, a frozen footprint in the history of Staten Island. Candle light shows the survivors, felt as easily as it is heard on Gabriel's skin, the way light has a tactile presence ever since he met Colette Nichols out here on these shores. Every point of candle light is like a small breeze blowing across hairs on his arms, brushing the skin of his cheeks.

It's even more otherworldly when he doesn't have skin to feel.

Like ink bleeding onto parchment paper, Gabriel's umbral body burbles and swirls over the snow like spilled ink. It surges and slithers, undulates and bends as if some lissome snake caught on the breeze.

Color too has a tactile impression on Gabriel, even in this energy matrix, and red on the white of snow is like fingers pressed on skin; a noticable change. He slithered right over it, a happenstance collision of black white and red, beneath a familiar building half swallowed by snow on one side. Windows of this building are frosted over, cold and uninhabited, but the tiny droplets of blood already being covered by the snow say otherwise, tracking a drizzled trail to one of the cracked open windows on the ground floor of that old, creaky wooden building.

More notably, mixed with the blood in the snow, is a trail of chalky ash leading to the window, and conspicuously lacking in footprints. Of all the places, the one where he nearly lost Eileen.

Filatov's Apothecary.

Out here, you don't want to linger. People move in a rush, aiming for their destination with all the determined trajectory of an arrow to escape the chilling cold — that is, unless it doesn't matter to you. For all that Gabriel can sense light as readily as temperature, even in this shape, actual temperature evades him, or at least, doesn't harm him. So he has time to pause, to turn his route, to slither over the red pigments, the ashiness ground like dirt into all the white. Like a hound's nose pressed to an interesting smell, the black pool of shadow sticks close, lazily swarms along the path someone else took.

He gathers at edges of the building, continually shifting like disturbed ink in water before it reaches up a formed limb, clings a delicate hook onto the edge of the window, and pulls itself up — briefly a reverse waterfall of thick ink, only to flow back down over the other side. He has infamously more lives than a cat — he can afford to be curious, especially when that curiousity is lined with sharp suspicion.

Were it not for the facy that the walls were nailed to the frame, Constantine probably would have taken them as well when he left his clinic and relocated to Manhattan. The abandoned interior of the Filatov clinic is like much of the rest of the rookery, empty and cold. There is little distinction to show what used to be a cozy and antique looking apothecary's to the vacant feeling that frozen hardwood floors and ice frosted windows give.

There's a dark stain of blood on the floor near where Gabriel emerges as a sea of undulating shadows, one spot Eileen's where she lay bleeding from John Logan's battery, another where Teodoro Laudani nearly bled out from his injuries on a now missing gurney. The memory of this place bleeding black and white, and the emmory of the seating heat of Kazimir Volken's power in Gabriel's veins clings to this place like a familiar stink. None of the memories here are particularly plesant ones.

Insubstantial as he is, Gabriel can feel the presence of light somewhere in this otherwise empty place. Light where they should not be any especially. Stairs descending from this ground floor are narrow and old, rotten planks of wood that give way to a closed cellar door with a thin line of light shining out bright from beneath. Someone's home.

On the other side of the door, there should be nothing at all— visibly— that indicates a sneaking shadow's approach. Even when it presses into the gap between door and floor, it only seals off the shine from the wrong end. Within the lit room, darkness is darkness. For the shadow pressing into that minute sliver of space, he obtains his glimpse before pushing through all the way. It occurs to him that Agent Hanson had proposed the words danger sense.

Though the first few tendrils of shadow that creep out from under the door go slow, tentatively, the rest is a rush — spurred on by this memory or perhaps eager for the fighting words he'd delivered back at her — that'd he get there first. Though the agent is not on his heels however incorporeal they may be—

He hasn't been patient in a long time. The swarming mass of shadow seethes out into the lit room, delayed only be the necessary drag of pulling itself through the tight space.

The narrow and high basement windows are blocked from view on the outside thanks to dozens of feet of snow and ice layered outside, insulation that keeps this abandoned basement surprisingly warm with minumal effort. Dust and dirt are settled on the panes, smudged with so many years of grime that they can no longer reliably be seen through, even if it were not for the snow. There's an oil lamp hanging near the basement door, an old round-bellied lantern that casts flickering and irregular light across the dusty cellar. It's like an erratic, sick heartbeat; throbbing in silence to add surreal lighting to rows of old wooden shelves and racks of glass jars, bottles and milk crates.

The shelves down here all have tiny jars in them, filled with murky fluids of inscrutable origins, none of them labeled. Some of the jars have opague lumps of reddish-brown color floating in the center, globules of what might be flesh connected. One batch of pieces is clearly a human eye, staring green out towards the carpet of darkness rolling across a shadowed concrete floor.

Seated on a stool near a wheeled operation table framed by a wood post doorway, a tired and wheezing old man is a familiar sight. His head is shaved bald, stubble only now starting to grace his scalp and jawline. Reading glasses are perched on his prominent nose, gray eyebrows thick and bushy.

Hanging from Samson Gray's lips is a smoldering cigarette, a long, crooked finger of ash extending from it. He is dressed like an old school teacher, courderoy pants, a sweatervest and white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Beside him a kerosene heater burns dangerously close to jars of highly flammable formaldehyde. Leading to him, almost like a trail to follow, is a drooled line of thick, dark blood.

It comes from what Samson sits in front of in that adjacent room under the glow of what must be hundreds of candles melted to tables, shelves, benches and chairs. It's a body, naked as a leaf, laid out on a gurney and pale. Tubes extend from it, thick and red ones; but the plastic is clear. The process is known as exsanguination, Gabriel is familiar with it in a more visceral sense. It's performed by taxidermists when they want to preserve something; in this case, Samson Gray wants to preserve the body of a middle-aged white male with the tattoo of a snake coiled across one arm.

"Knocking is only polite…" grumbles the old man on his stool, cigarette bobbing up and down with his words, a few flakes of ash falling from it. "I figured you'd know better by now."

The phased form of high energy is not indestructible, and he's limited in the things he can do when in it — though it is neither fear nor an automatic desire to kill that has Gabriel solidifying, his lanky body's shape rising up from the pool of shadow once it's all trailed inside the room. He is not wearing Craig Christman's face, now — just his own, his face its configuration of heavy, unsubtle features that have a similar shape and cant to them as seen in Samson's.

Black hair, though. No vagueness, no mingled tones. There's the shadowy grain of unshavenness lining his jaw and throat, clothes pragmatically black. "I don't think you want to get into a conversation with me about manners," is a low growl from the closed door, and amber-brown eyes wander to take in the sight of the corpse laid out.

Gabriel's boots step out from the trail of blood. He doesn't tend to clean up after himself either.

There's more to the surgery room when Gabriel comes in thorugh the doors, a shelf that was out of sight on his way in, one that looks as much like a trophy case as it does something more educational. Jars, large clear glass jars labeled with names, and floating in that clear preservative fluid are the neatly and surgically removed lobes of human brains. Archie Rasmussen, Danger Sense one jar reads, Marie Anne LePlante, Smoke Manipulation another says, Wendy Hunter, Power Discernment is a familiar name that Gabriel was beaten to the punch on, while Angelina Jackman, Molecular Combustion sounds particularly dangerous, though not nearly as bad as Karen Lau, Temporal Manipulation.

There's an empty jar laid out on a wheeled table near the corpse, a roll of scotch tape and a Sharpie marker. Apparently this is one for the shelf as well, though the cranium on this one is still, nominally, intact. "Tear your eyes away from what you're looking at," Samson grouses as his tired eyes drift to a candle-laden table nearby, where a thick old leather-bound book rests, the corner of newspaper clippings sticking out from different pages.

"Go over there, and stay out've my light…" Samson instructs with a wheeze as he sucks in one the cigarette, the ashes finally tumbling from the head to land on the corpse's thigh, revealing a glowing orange ember at the tip.

A crawling gaze over the row of jars breaks away from them to stare across at Samson, vague affront flaring just visibly beneath the otherwise stoic mask of Gabriel's expression. For a moment, he stands there in stupid silence, before the skin of his throat works around a swallow and he— moves as instructed, deeper into the room that smells mostly of chemicals and meat and wax, the near-silent fall of his footsteps as unobstrusive as the brief fall of his shadow that him moving on by brings. His attention ticks up to the nauseous glow of the light—

Before it stays as is with half a thought paid towards keeping its source sustained and still in its shine. There's only the quickest of glances to check to see if his ~old man~ noticed, before coming to stand at the table with its candles, the book and the flop of newspaper hanging thinly from its edge. His fingers go out to brush the cover, to nudge it back, and forever keeping Samson within his line of sight.

Mysterious Murder Baffles Authorities

It's the headline printed on the newspaper clipping somewhere about the middle of the book. There it shows the depiction of a one-floor ranch, and the text below brings back memories of a time that feels like it may as well have been a lifetime ago: LOS ANGELES — Authorities responding to a frantic call by neighbors in the neighborhood of Red Oak Falls discovered a grisly scene on Monday, when the bodies of James and Eliza Walker were discovered in their home. While the LAPD has not yet revealed all of the details surrounding the condition of the bodies found at the home, they have stated that one survivor, the Walker's 11-year old daughter, was found alive at the scene. LAPD homicide detective Francis Munez has stated that… the article is clipped off there, but others surrounding it show similar stories of tragedy.

It's hard not to notice the picture of a bloodied homecoming banner on one of them.

"Some fathers… keep scrap books of their children's accomplishments thorugh school. Scholastic awards, photographs, plesant reminders of how they helped form who their children are and what they've become…" Samson's voice commands attention, despite not having a great volume. Something about his presence, something very Gray in the way he speaks, presents himself and carries on.

Pinching the cigarette from his lips, Samson flicks it down to the floor with another cigarette butt from earlier, his eyes focused on the hoses that are not starting to sputter and run clear at times. "I didn't make you…" Samson admits ruefully, looking over his shoulder and up over the frames of his glasses to Gabriel, "and yet, here we are."

"Maybe you did. I mean— " Gabriel closes the book, a troubled connotation in the way he rapidly blinks down at it, a tense knot in his brow, before meeting the look the older man trades over his shoulder. His hands release the book, pages falling together in a whisper. "I have your power, right?" Carefully, he goes to lean back against the table, now studying Samson with more analysis than he had before — but rather than try to pick out similarities, it's as if he's trying to size him up. There's steel in his stance and expression, a wintry caution.

And anger, too. It's not the disgusted, hostile brand he'd reserved for Martin when he'd deemed him useless, a liar, and largely unimportant. This one is quiet and lurking, winds the tension in his muscles as tight as the tension in the room for all that it might just be him. "But you're right — you don't get to be proud of me. You left me. You killed my mother.

"And Martin says hi," he tosses out, with a more facetious sneer in his voice.

Tired and wheezing is the sigh Samson draws in, turning on his stool away from the corpse, covering his mouth with a sleeve as he coughs into it noisily. "I did…" is the croaking answer Samson offers to the accusations, his brother's distant greetings rolls off him like water off of a stone, there's little sibling love left there, it may as well be the name of a stranger at this point. "I killed her because I couldn't control myself, because I wanted what she had." There's a narrowing of Samson's eyes as he looks up to Gabriel, one hand lifting up glasses as if to better inspect the younger man.

"Your mother was a beautiful, patient woman. She was attracted to danger like a moth to fire, attracted to the unusual and the bizarre…" Samson's hazel eyes go distant, vacantly staring past Gabriel. "She had the most beautiful gift… and I envied her for it. But the worst, most disgusting part of our relationship, is that she knew what I was and she loved me for it regardless. She loved me for who I was and the thing that was living inside of me, waiting coiled behind my eyes…" one hand comes up to his head, making a motion beside his temple, "like a caged tiger pacing back and forth, waiting for someone to come too close."

As his hand lowers, Samson turns slowly, reaching for a pack of cigarettes on the operating table, shaking out the second to last one and rolling it between his fingers. The silence is heavy, to cut a story off like that and let it hang, lifting his cigarette up to his lips and then holding two fingers near to it. The front begins to smoke, glow orange and then in a puff of smoke combusts. It's not the most elegant way to light a cigarette, but it's more utility than the original owner ever thought to use.

"Your mother was a good woman… and she loved you." Samson's eyes narrow, hazel rings tracking a wavering path along cracks in a crumbling brick wall. When he finally makes eye contact with Gabriel, there's a bitter smile on his lips. "I thought I could give it up, quit cold and become a father to you. I tried so hard… tried to raise you as my own and put everything behind me and live a normal life. You can't ever put down what we are, Gabriel. I was young, I was… foolish."

Samson draws in a breath, lungs filling with hot, acrid smoke before he exhales it out his nostrils in thin jets. "When I killed… for the first time since you were born, I knew what was going to happen. I knew you'd turn out either like me, or I'd kill you before you got the chance if you were special." There's a dry, parched laugh and Samson plucks the cigarette from his lips, motioning to Gabriel with it. "I thought… I thought I was protecting you by giving you away. But I wasn't. I was running because I am, and always have been, a coward." He swallows, saggy throat working up and down and lips pulling back into a smile to reveal yellow teeth.

"You hate me…" Samson begins to ask, both brows lifting, "don't you?"

Gabriel's eyes resemble black riverstones or water-worn glass — dark and perculiar in how unforthcoming they are, if yes, damp, and it's this last descriptor that has him rolling them off to the side, a defensive-sounding stream of air through flaring nostrils at this query. His expression is otherwise passively neutral. "I should," he says, studying more the jars on their shelves instead of the old man and his question lingering in the air between them. "I should hate you. I could have learned so much from you," and now he looks at Samson, with blazing if understated accusation in his glare. This is a greater transgression than the next point. "Had a mother that loved me and wasn't damaged." His words falter out, as if condemning Virginia like so still tastes bitter, even after the truth's come out.

The table shudders a little as he takes his weight off it, a jerking movement that makes the candle's lights dance and waver. "I asked him why you came to find me," he adds, after a delayed moment wherein would have been better timing to confirm hatred or a lack thereof. It remains unanswered, hypothetical.

Pending, maybe. Gabriel's eyebrows go up, mouth managing to twist in a wry, sardonic smirk. "He said it might have been for forgiveness. Maybe hunting ground permissions — don't you know you're on my turf?" The strain in his voice isn't quite effectively disguised by this banter — the same wound tension that has to give eventually.

Samson watches Gabriel thoughtfully, his silence one accompanied by that thin tendril of smoke wafting up from the head of his cigarette, eyes never turly leaving his son's until Gabriel breaks the contact. Samson never meets them again, just focuses down on the concrete floor, then over to the scrapbook, then to the cigarette in his hand as he rests his forearm across one bent knee.

"You're on my turf…" Samson corrects without mirth, more factual than anything. "I was a boogey-man on Staten Island before I even met your mother. People went missing, never to be found again, and the media would blame anyone— anyone— for what I did…" glancing across Gabriel's chest, Samson's stare is fleeting before he turns around in his seat to face the corpse again.

"I met your mother here on Staten Island, met her at an old church. I was in the cemetery… she was too." Samson smiles faintly, "I was sitting there, crying, covered in blood and she thought I was hurt. I was," he admits, bringing the cigarette back up to his lips to free his hands, allowing him to pull the hoses from the body, "but not like she thought. It was a long time ago, people were different…" it's as if he's trying to explain, but at the same time meandering away from the topic.

"Come here," Samson instructs, motioning to his side, "pull out the hoses in his legs, you've got to apply a little pressure around the ah…" he yanks at one of the plastic tubes, popping it out with a wet noise, "around the sides, otherwise it'll drool everywhere. Just pinch the skin around the hole, it'll stop."

Hesitantly but inevitably drawn over, despite everything, Gabriel drifts where instructed after some dubious glancing up and down. His hands are ungloved and he's never worried about getting his fingers dirty, nor his clothes. Gripping the pipe of plastic, Gabriel mimics Samson's motions as he draws it out from flesh, fingers moving as instructed to stem the leak that follows. Even he never quite played with his food this much — apart from artful configurations for others to find, a degree of fingerpainting aside.

"Making trophies?" he asks, gruffly, his brow knitting into a quizzical expression. It seems, suddenly, like safer territory than asking about his true mother, for all that this is more likely a reprieve.

Samson's eyes tip up to Gabriel at the question, but it doesn't elicit an answer. He just goes about the gruesome process of removing the hoses that helped exsanguinate the body, letting them dangle and drip bloodily on the floor from the remaining fluids in the lines. "There's a lot of different methods that can be used for the preservation of a body, more specifically the preservation of a brain." Samson creakingly rises from his stool, cigarette still bobbing between his lips. "The longer a body remains full of its own juices the faster rigor mortis sets in, blood congeals, it's a mess. The brain… the brain's a remarkable thing." Samson moves over to the head of the table, "It can— "

A sudden, wracking cough cuts Samson off entirely, and his cigarette spits out onto the floor from his lips. Staggering to the side he jostles a shelt of candles, resting one hand against the wood and bracing himself, bringing up a sleeved arm to cover his mouth. It's a long, wet, painful sounding cough that leaves him gagging breathlessly at the end. Chest rattling, Samson offers up a look to Gabriel, wiping at his mouth and silent afterward.

"Cut him open…" Samson rasps out after the fact, taking a step back and away from the body, shakily lifting a hand to adjust his glasses and slide them up the bridge of his nose, hazel eyes darting to the corpse, then back to Gabriel again. "I want to see how you do it." There's a smudge of red on his sleeve.

Gabriel's avid stare is that of a cat observing a mouse — in this case, weakness is something he studies, quite abruptly, before he drops his gaze. Almost as if abashed. Of course, it's this offer that has him derailed, a suspicious flicker of a glance turning into more intrigue as he switches attention from elder Gray to corpse. "You do?" he asks, absently, but isn't waiting on a response as he moves around to the head of the table. It's been a while, the last cracked skulling belonging to someone whose grave shares the same desert as his almost did.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's a knife he takes from his pocket, fingering it open, as opposed to anything preternatural — or at least, not yet. "I used to have a power that let me do this with a thought," he explains, coming to set the edge of steel against the dead man's temple. "I had to get creative when I lost it."

With a jerk, the knife sinks into flesh and bone as if cutting through butter, though there's no bleed or even any damage visible. Not until the next moment, as the knife turn's solid, and fluid begins to ooze from suddenly split skin and bone. With a care negotiation between phasing and solidity, Gabriel gently begins to part the crown of the man's skull from the rest of it, teeth showing between his slightly parted mouth, eyes showing an avid concentration — or anticipation. It's kind of like Christmas.

The presence of something as mundane as a knife has Samson disappointed, visibly disappointed, until Gabriel plunges the intangible blade down into the skull and then solidifies it and begins wedging the cranium open. It's a bit brutal and a bit rough, but it's clever. The yellowed smile Samson offers is one of thoughtful consideration as the head is cracked apart, and his eyes venture up towards Gabriel before he leans in and peers down at the body.

As the skull is sawn through, Samson offers a studious inspection of the method, all the way until that final, satisfying crack when the top of the skull comes off and the still glistening brain is revealed. It's dryer than Gabriel is used to, given the exsanguination process that's not surprising. Samson looks back up to his son, once, then reaches down to the table to withdraw a small surgical scalpel.

"Preservation is important," Samson instructs, "I learned that in 1977, met a man who could… you know I'm not even sure what he did. Turned back the genetic clock? I'm not sure, but whatever it was," Samson's brows lift slowly and his eyes settle on the gleam of the scalpel, "it set me back."

Carefully cutting away the membrane that connects the brain to the skull wall, Samson shows practiced patience in his surgical skills. He reaches fr the frontal lobe, pulling it up jingerly with his bare fingers, then reaches down in to slice through the optical nerves. "I started keeping these afterward, keeping the things I found. Replacing them one by one as I went, that way if I ever lost my abilities again…" he looks up to Gabriel, "I'd have a starting point again."

Setting down the scalpel, Samson purses his lips and looks upt o Gabriel, offering a thoughtful nod of his head as his bare hands cup around the bottom of the brain, then with a twist snaps it from the spinal column where the tough, fleshy tissue is its weakest. Lifting it up, Samson's eyes peer over the frames of his glasses again, staring across the wrinkled lobes of the brain to Gabriel.

"I was terrified…" Samson admits in a grumbling voice, "that one day, you'd turn out like me." There's a waver in his weak tone, a furrow of his silvery brows, "You didn't turn out like me…" he admits in hushed tone, "you turned out better. Better than I could ever be." With a look from the brain to Gabriel, Samson holds it out in his hands, like an offering.

"Is it too late to start being a father?"

If saying no, not at all means that he can take whatever it is that Samson is offering, information written into the fine details of the grey matter offered out between them, then it's on the tip of his tongue. It's the same urge that drove Samson into killing his lover, a raw edged addiction that Gabriel knows well enough to recognises when it rattles its cage bars. Ruining the moment, somewhat, as rather than taking the dried out brain tissue to crack open the mysteries, the gift it holds for him, Gabriel hitches a minute step back, as if stung.

Almost. But if Kazimir taught him one thing, it's what not to do.

"No. But it might be too late for me to be a son." The words come reluctantly, unwillingly, and as if Gabriel isn't even sure of them anymore. "I'm not Sylar anymore. What you know?" A glance to the scrap book, the killings — the mechanic named Dale, the Homecoming murder, the dead Walker parents. "It doesn't apply."

It can't apply. He saved the world and everything. "You need to get out of the city. You need to— you need to go. Homeland Security want you more than they want me right now."

Samson's expression falters when Gabriel steps back, his jaw tightens and his brows furrow like a boy trying to piece together the last corner of a puzzle that is cruelly missing a piece; there's some innocent confusion in with the hurt. "They'll never find me…" is the dismissive answer, and Samson offers a mild look to Gabriel before turning away, left with a severed brain in his hands, left holding the proffered basketball to a son now too old to play the game with him anymore.

There's a song that goes something like that — Cats in the cradle — where the father has no time for the son, but when he's a lonely and weary old man and has time for his child, the son has no time either.

Lowering the brain, Samson rests it down on the edge of the surgery table, his head bowing down and fingers curling around the slightly raised lip of the metal table, silent save for the noise of his tight swallow. "You should go," is a heavily delivered thing to say, through clenched teeth.

Samson leans up and away from the table, turning his back to Gabriel, rolling his fingers and thumb together from the slightly tacky sensation on his fingertips. "I was wrong…" It's something like goodbye.

It's a bizarre dichotomy, between the waste of years and education in an attempt to be a watchmaker just like his father, before stumbling into the business of serial killing much to the approval of this wasted man in front of him. Gabriel's mouth opens as if he might try to deny this claim, to protest at this unfair statement and make his argument that he is so much more, maybe deserves the pride he'd denied Samson just earlier — until, as with the last two directions of where to stand, what to do, Gabriel obeys this request too.

In a haze of adolescent frustration and certainly confusion, Gabriel makes for the door in an abruptly turn and heavy steps, if not necessarily quick ones — does not liquid-squirm through the cracks or even effortlessly phase through the solid wood. Fumbles instead with the handle before shouldering his way out.

It swings towards a close without shutting, the footsteps up creaking steps and into the clinic echoing in his wake.

Slowly slouching down onto his stool, Samson lets out a weary, wheezing breath and looks towards his pack of cigarettes on the edge of the table opposite of where he's settled now. He blinks his eyes a few times, clearing them of the glassy quality they'd taken on and as he raises his hand, the cigarette pack begins to flutter. It twitches and skitters, almost moving, and then with a concentrated effort, Samson struggles to will them into his awaiting hand.

He lets out a wheezing cough afterward, and looks to the brain settled beside the corpse laying next to him, eyes distant and thoughts somewhere far, far away from here. His thumb and forefinger draw the last cigarette out of the pack, roll around between calloused digits, and then slide the cigarette back in.

It can wait.

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