Moralistic Choices


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Moralistic Choices
Synopsis Confrontations don't have to involve hissing, spitting and snarling. Eileen approaches Gabriel about what happened at the Lighthouse and asks him to commit to a different plan.
Date March 16, 2010

Old Dispensary: Attic

The Dispensary may not be blessedly empty when Gabriel gets there— because other people live there too— but by the time he's even letting foot steps sound out to perhaps signal his presence for anyone listening closely, it's only when he's within its walls that he does so. It's nighttime, and a blizzard howls outside, which might work to anyone's benefit when it comes to wishing Gabriel stayed home more often — even lone wolf serial killers need to get in from the cold sometime.

Leaving behind bootprints of melting ice and dirt, Gabriel tips his head back to regard the hatch in the ceiling that leads on up to his room. He already knows someone's up there. He doesn't need to hear the pick of feet over ground, heart beats, draws of breath — a simple psychic radar sweep before even entering the building. Lazily, he lifts his left arm up to grip onto the chain making a slight pendulum from the horizontal door, and tugs.

It creaks down on its hinges without subtlety, and steps proceed to groan under his weight as he moves upwards.

The attic is one of the coldest rooms in the Dispensary this time of year. More importantly, it's Gabriel's territory and there are very few reasons that the Remnant's de jour leader would set foot in it without asking for the other man's consent first. That leaves Teodoro and Eileen, but there's no mistaking one for the other even when the lights are off because the figure occupying his bed is too slender, too pale and too small to pass for the resident Sicilian.

A small kerosene heater on the floor next to the bed bathes it in soft golden light and provides enough to read by, which is what the Englishwoman was doing before Gabriel's arrival and before she fell asleep while waiting for him, a dog-eared copy of Tahar Jelloun's The Sand Child in the author's native French spread open across her lower stomach with her fingers forming a fan across the sepia-toned cover.

Attempting to read a novel written in a language she's in the process of learning is a mentally exhausting task, and so was coordinating the Ferrymeet that took place at the Garden earlier in the evening. Although the sound of Gabriel's footsteps isn't quite loud enough to startle her awake, her dark-haired head turns on the pillow when he crests the top of the attic stairs and she draws up one bare leg, the satin material of her nightgown providing a glossy contrast with the wool of the blankets her body is warming.

For all the possibilities of what warm body Gabriel's psychic radar pinged off—

This one is intimidating for different reasons. If Eileen were awake, she'd hear hesitation, and then the slow and cautious sounds of Gabriel taking off boots, peeling off winter layers with care not only for her sleeping presence but his own injuries, as minor as most may be. The soft flump of fabric piling up, the pluck of buttons and then finally the softer sound of bare feet navigating across the stupidly cold floor. Chilly air prickles against the bared skin of his arms, chest, back, ugly bandages gone stiff taped to one shoulder that he keeps folded against his stomach.

Left hand goes out, not to touch her, but to rest the edges of his fingers against the book. As if he has no intention to wake her, Gabriel goes to shift it out from under her limp hand and off the warm rest of her satin swathed belly. He brings the scent of blood and winter with him, coarser, destructive aromas in comparison to musty wool and paper.

The book comes away with the scratch of lacquered nails grazing its cover. Eileen is still missing one where Danko pried it apart from her cuticle with the point of his knife, but her own injuries show signs of healing well, including the stitches above her eye where her head glanced off a concrete pillar in the remains of the Empire State Building as well as her split lip, mangled hand and the sutured knife wound in her back, which no longer causes twinges of pain every time she inhales and expands her ribcage.

Gabriel can tell because she doesn't wince when her green eyes crack open and she takes in a long, slow breath to drape her senses in the smells his presence carries with it. She's tired enough that her first instinct is to close them again and shield them from the same flickering glow that colours their irises gray, and she probably would if the sight of the bandages and the familiar scent of blood in the air didn't drag her the rest of the way into wakefulness or place her petite hand on his much larger one. "Attendez," she murmurs, but to her own ears it sounds like wait. Fall asleep reading French and wake up speaking it — she probably doesn't even realize what she's said even after the word has sleepily crawled from her mouth.

The mattress dips as Gabriel's greater weight comes down on the edge of it, his hand still under her's as if obeying the sleepily mumbled command, allowing silence to stretch on and on. He's tired but not unwell, as much as someone can look healthy at all when coming in after the godawful weather outside. Bandage plastic crinkles when he shifts his arm, springs under them creaking from age and protest. Then— "I don't speak French."

Just some Mandarin and a scattering of Hindu floating around the back of his mind, odd strings of Latin mostly faded from when he had the memory to hold it all. His gaze roams over her injuries, his other hand up to absently scratch his chest, fingernails grazing over the strange bruises accumulated from being kicked there enough to knock him off his feet.

"Let me see." This in English as Eileen uses her free arm to push herself upright, elbow bent and supporting most her torso's weight. When she's sure that she has her balance and isn't going to sink back into the pillows, she lifts her hand off the mattress and touches it to Gabriel's shoulder at the edge of the bandage, tracing its rougher outline against his skin with her fingertips and testing the sensitivity of the flesh there.

Peter neglected to tell her that he'd been hurt during the confrontation. The frown shaping her mouth and creating deep creases in the skin around it is reserved for the paramedic rather than the man seated on the edge of the bed in front of her, and yet it does not fade when she lifts her eyes to his face and shifts the hand at his shoulder to his jaw, turning his head to look it over for wounds she might have initially missed. "Do you need some codeine?"

Peeling off the bandage that has outworn its use and welcome, all crusted blood and wetness, Gabriel shakes his head, setting the used bandage aside upon the bedside table— more a crate than a table— and adds, "It'd be a waste." If the pain gets too much— he can will it away. The knife wound is clean, at least, hooks ragged towards the end where the bruising is the most, but it's been thoroughly cleaned and probably not as bloody as it should be, thanks to a power or two.

"It didn't go as deep as bone," he tells her, nose wrinkling as he observes the mark himself. "He's not as good as Wu-Long was." If it was Wu-Long, there's a chance he wouldn't have use of his arm. He shifts his gaze to her face, adding, "I'm assuming they told you."

Not for the first time, Eileen wishes she had better light to work with. The heater provides only so much and makes it difficult for her to judge the incision's depth. Fortunately, the reek of infection that was present when she confronted Sylar is absent from Gabriel and even if her nose is failing her, she notes that he does not instinctively flinch away at her touch. He doesn't feel any warmer than he should, either. All good signs.

"I want to take another look at it in the morning," she says. "Stitches will minimize the scarring, antibiotics for anything that hasn't started festering yet." Her thumb curves along Gabriel's jaw and comes to rest under his chin, angling it upward. "Why that one? It hasn't done anything."

Cautious surprise shows in his eyes as he studies her's, from one pale green-grey disc to the next. Like maybe this is a test. "I don't think pretending to be someone's dead sister is nothing," Gabriel says, eventually. "It's a lie. Pathetic. Besides." He slants a glance away from her, lifting his chin up from out of her soft grasp, a hand up to poke tentatively against the knife wound. "They all have to go eventually, moralistic choices and what they deserve aside. I didn't think Gillian would be stupid enough to get attached upon finding out."

The inherent flaw in Eileen's tests is that she doesn't make the results readily available, and even if she did it's often a challenge to interpret them. Gabriel can infer mild irritation from the firm but gentle fingers that clasp around his wrist when he moves to touch the laceration, but it's tempered by the quiet affection she has for him, much less noticeable than the tightness in her hands or the flat line of her mouth.

Love, emotion, reason — she could appeal to a lot of things. Somewhere between steering his hand away from his shoulder and making a small noise of malcontent, she realizes that these qualities don't have to be mutually exclusive. "Before I knew about Epstein," she says, "I was afraid for myself, for the people I'd leave behind if he did something to me. Just because I was wrong about why he was there to begin with doesn't invalidate what I experienced or how it caused me to feel."

She raises his hand to her mouth and presses a kiss to the backs of his knuckles. Her lips are cold; the sentiment behind them is not. "It doesn't make me stupid, and Gillian isn't either. Help me understand why this one has to go."

"It's not the same," is Gabriel's graveled condemnation, eyes lowered from her's and watching the interaction between his hand and her mouth instead. Thick fingers splay, the backs of knuckles bending to brush against the cut of her cheekbone before relaxing again. "Love. Fear. Opposite things. You can still fear that one. Gillian shouldn't love a lie." Because he's doing this for her. Clearly. His eyes dart up to check to see if this excuse worked, and knows it didn't before he can even get a proper read.

A sigh streams through his nostrils. "They're unstable. Both of them. They lack control — just differently, and I don't want a piece of me out there that— knows everything I know, is everything I am, and there's nothing I can do about what they do, where they go. If you were in my position, you'd want them dead too."

Eileen can't say what she'd do if she found herself in Gabriel's position. His ability and all the others he's collected save one are so far removed from her own that the most she can acknowledge is that she's having difficulty looking at the situation from his perspective. It's too unique.

"If you had any influence over what Gillian chooses to love, the two of you would still be together." She follows the shape of his hand between index finger and thumb with her nose and lowers it from her face, turning his palm over in her lap to examine the lines that crease his skin. Two months is a long time to be without someone, and although she hasn't forgotten what his body looks like or how it feels under his fingers, she's compelled to reacquaint herself with him as if discovering and exploring it for the first time. "It's those children more than anything," she says. "They need the extra protection."

Maybe they would, until a natural disaster hits, a plane crashes into a skyscraper, and Gabriel decides actually he loves Eileen. There are a lot of factors, not just what catches Gillian's hazel eye, but the point is made— he hasn't had much of a willing sort of impact on Childs' heart in a long time. Back when he'd been playing her like a violin, maybe, but ever after that, no. He forgot how. He gives up his hand to Eileen's perusal, and rests back on his other elbow. "And if that thing is the danger?" he asks, sandpaper rough voice easing with uncertainty over jagged edged attempts to expand beyond his more self-interested horizons.

"It's an incomplete version of me. It could snap. It still has my ability." And he doesn't mean phasing or bird whispering or light wielding. It's the one that listens to clocks tick and dissecting puzzles and people's grey matter.

There are some people who view compromise as a sign of weakness or an admission of defeat. Eileen is not among them. The counterargument that Gabriel presents is simplistic, but it's also very powerful and she can no longer say that she's never experienced firsthand what it's like to be the one to be on the receiving end of his brutality. "We owe this to her," she insists in a much quieter voice, a comparative whisper to the coarse tone his naturally takes without losing any of its firmness. "Just one chance, Gabriel. You can assess it in a controlled environment, study its behaviour over the next few weeks to ensure it doesn't pose a threat to Gillian or the children. Clinical examination is one of the things you're best at, and if she and I are wrong then you can handle the situation at your own discretion."

He blinks at her, a slow sliding gesture, and when his eyes are open again, they're a little vague with fatigue and— defeat. Or compromise, as she puts it. "The other one's more of an immediate threat anyway," Gabriel mutters. He doesn't touch on what he owes Gillian. It's either nothing, or too much, and why try? There's some kind of desperate irony involved if Eileen is right — that they owe this to her. "I thought you'd see it my way. But fine." Fine.

It's not as pissily passive aggressive as it looks. He means it. Stomach muscles tense, pull him up to sit enough for his forehead to rest against her's. "When you're wrong," he says, "you're going to wish you trusted me." He swallows, then pulls away enough to study her. A beat, then; "It's not Wu-Long. Wu-Long's dead."

"I know that." Eileen's words come out terser than she intended them to. Her fingers close around the hand in her lap and give it a tight squeeze that does not immediately relent. It works over his knuckles and joints, presses her thumb into the hollow of his palm. "But it's not you, either. Accumulated knowledge and abilities aside. This has nothing to do with trust."

As if to emphasize her point she abandons his hand and takes his face in hers again. "If I didn't want to give it to you so completely, do you think I'd be waiting for you here instead of stewing downstairs and telling Jensen and Teodoro what you tried?" His mouth is close enough to catch, but for now she limits herself to brushing her lips against his in quick, fleeting touches as she speaks. "I'm ready to hear everything you've been through. All that you're willing to tell me."

When it comes to decisions such as kissing or not kissing, Gabriel tends to fall to one particular side. Now is no exception, though his mouth grazes against her jaw almost in invitation as he moves to crawl further onto his bed, winding around her like a particular oversized housecat. Without the sinuous grace, however, cold still not shaken from his bones and fatigue making his motions heavy with canine plodding in contrast. His arm brackets around her, pulls her down so that his heavy mass can burn like a furnace against her.

Okay, is what he says first. After that, his own display of trust occurs as an unfurling story. From playing dead. He tells her— something— about Julien Durmont, and other significant characters. About why Epstein is alive. About why he's alive and the woman who enabled it.

Cool story bro. At some stage, the kerosene lamp is turned off out of a sense of conservation, and the darkness is kind of warm, in a way. Blankets the senses, pretends. It takes a while and there are still gaps. Things he doesn't include. But she did say, all that you're willing. Not doubt that at some stage, she'll be able to pick out the other stuff too. Secrets are harder to keep than water in cupped hands. He has a loose clasp of satin in his hand, brow furrowed as if maybe this story should be more dramatic than simply— survival and then what counts as hiding at the bottom of the world.

"You should thank Kershner," he eventually says. "It wouldn't have mattered at all, wanting to stay, wanting to leave — I'd probably still be hopping boats and planes trying to find a way back." Or not, no, he might be in New York by now, but it also might be too late.

Being small has its disadvantages. Eileen is easily overpowered, expends more energy just to keep up with the taller, longer-legged members of the Remnant and sometimes has difficulty managing equipment meant to be utilized by larger hands, though this isn't to say that her size doesn't have benefits too. She doesn't take up much space in Gabriel's bed and fits snugly against him when his arm forms a protective circle around her, something that they both could have taken advantage of in Madagascar if either of them had any desire to share their bedroll with the other.

They of course didn't. She listens to the explanation for his absence in deferential silence broken by the occasional murmur of assent and other sedate sounds meant to let him know that even though her eyes are closed and lashes fluttering against his chest, she hasn't yet fallen asleep. "She took my memories from me," she says tiredly into his neck. "Kershner and Epstein. I don't want to thank that woman for anything." But that doesn't mean she won't. Because of Kershner, she can also get away with staying at the Dispensary for a little while longer, delaying the inevitable.

"You said you wanted to recreate yourself. Have a chance at creating a new life." Eileen pulls the woolen blankets over the crest of Gabriel's hips. "If things hadn't gone so horrifically wrong, what do you think you'd have done?"

Horrifically wrong is a bit of a— no it's. Pretty much accurate. His eyes shut against darkness, a hand reaching down to blindly encourage the shifting of blankets, and his body turns to enfold her's in response to the way her's shapes against his own. Her skull fits neatly beneath the arch of chin to neck, sharing of body warmth and percussion of heartbeats. "I think I would have headed west," he mumbles, the significance of which maybe lost on this one, but it's not untrue.

Hit cruise control of anywhere that isn't New York City and see what happens. Not that. Not that any patch of America is safe, but no where else in the world is quite so tangled, polluted with meaning as this place.

"Ethan left," Eileen feels obliged to tell Gabriel. "I think to find Delphine, but it's good that he did. Russia followed Charlie home." His breath and the vibrations caused by his voice fill her, making this conversation easier than if they were having it an arm's length apart on opposite sides of the bed with what may as well be an infinite amount of space between them.

What matters is that she's has him now. The future is so uncertain that it seems unnecessarily obtuse to speculate about it, and yet that's exactly what she's doing. "Will you go when Sylar is gone and this is over? Head west?"

The notion of Sylar being gone— that configuration of words together, less the actual meaning— makes Gabriel smile in a grim kind of distant way. Some would say that this is quite literary. A purging. Gabriel feels unwillingly dragged into a role and a story and so— "No," he confirms with his sleep rough voice, jagged also with how many words he spent on explaining himself tonight, and gives a slight shake to his head to emphasise. "What are you going to do?"

"Alpines aren't as loud or lurid as roses and dahlias," Eileen says, and if this kind of absurdity came from anyone else it would probably be construed as a non sequitur, but everything that leaves her mouth has an underlying meaning no matter how ambiguous or incomprehensible it sounds. "Iceland poppies, bellflowers, baby's breath — they're rock garden plants, Gabriel. They grow in the high mountains where there's summer frost, drought, shitty soil, and when they open, their blooms are always very small, but they're also very hardy. You've got to be. Robust."

She caresses his mouth with the tips of her fingers, careful not to catch him with their nail edge. "I'm going to plant seeds in the earth," she whispers, sounding strangely content in spite of her words. "It's frozen now. They'll need the extra time to take root."

His other return to New York once had involved a promise to keep flowers alive. Sunny petals that an atmokinetic might have better luck with than a psychopath, something proven correct over time had starved them. Maybe Gabriel would have better luck with the small blooming robust kinds. And cacti. Mouth parts a fraction at the touch of fingertips, before he's tucking his chin in, nose pushing up against her palm in the way dogs do when they want more. His hands grip her waist, pulling her up further long the length of his body.

"So you're sticking around too. Coincidental."

The combined heat of their bodies makes skin feel like satin and satin feel like skin. Eileen drapes her leg over Gabriel's hip, and it's impossible for him to determine where the material of nightgown ends and her thigh begins. The fingers that had been at his mouth rake through his hair, tangle in its dark mane and angle his face against her frail neck, residual traces of her perfume lingering in the hollow of her pale throat. He could crush her just as easily as a daisy if he wanted to.

Her head dips, nose and mouth spreading more warmth across his scalp all the way to through wound at the back of his skull. "Promise me one thing."

She can feel his frame beneath her rise up, an elbow jutting against the bed to lever his torso from the bed and against her, mouth open against her neck before a hiss curls warm air to her skin when her fingertips find the still healing wound. The noise Gabriel makes in response to her query is reasonably— male. Monosyllabic, suddenly impatient, but a token effort all the same, more noise than vocabulary that vibrates against the delicate skin of her throat. Yesss…?

It's almost cruel to do this to him now when he's wanting and vulnerable, but unless he's in a position where he just might yield to her sighed demands, why ask at all? She's suddenly finding it very hard to concentrate herself. "If I die," Eileen purrs into his ear, "or if I become ill and turn into an invalid, or something equally terrible happens to me before I've finished— help protect my work."

He can guess that maybe she doesn't want to hear his denial about anything bad happening to her at all, though a rough scissoring sound of irritation might communicate that this is what he wants to express. "I promise," Gabriel says, against her jaw, "that we can talk about it later." You know. Later. It's not unlike when he'd shoved her to the wall some short while ago — it's what he does when he's done playing, apparently, although this is kinder, with the groan of a mattress instead of aging wood behind her back, and a kiss pressed to her mouth instead of an exchange of argument.

At the end of the day, which this is, Eileen's plans for the Ferry will always come before physical intimacy. She is not so blinded by her ambitions or the dark to fail to see what's right in front of her, however, and sometimes more simplistic needs like being touched and held and loved exceed her desire for other types of validation. A promise to talk about it later is better than no promise at all. She can do no more than ask, and the asking's already done.

Her whimpered protest doesn't last longer than the noise the bed makes or the sharp, involuntary sound her unspoken objection combines with. Gabriel isn't hurting her, and much the same way she reassured him that she was still awake with low, breathy reminders interspersed throughout his story, she lets him know by moaning a quiet plea for more against his mouth.

Later means tomorrow, and tomorrow is good enough for Eileen.

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