Stray Birds


eileen_icon.gif kazimir5_icon.gif

Scene Title Stray Birds
Synopsis Kazimir finds Eileen on Marion Island and asks for one last favour.
Date January 7, 2009

Marion Island

There aren't many places aboard the USS George Washington that allow solitude, and for someone as private as Eileen is, it doesn't take more than a few days of being surrounded by strangers before she's ready to just disappear. Or at least as close to disappearing as she can come. Although none of her teammates know where she is, including Gabriel, she made a point to leave a message for Sanderson and Aviators when she decided to take the next boat to Marion Island and explore the flooded tunnels under the Midgard.

Here, she has only the sound of the water lapping against the concrete walls for company, corridor lit by what little illumination the intermittently-placed florescent lights provide. There are no birds down here, either, but an attentive ear may detect the distant cry of circling terns outside carried into the tunnel by the breeze wafting off the Indian Ocean.

Fractured wrist in a proper sling and midsection taped off by fresh gauze, Eileen has plenty of healing left to do, but the injuries she received while in Madagascar aren't so severe that her doctors insist she be confined to the infirmary any longer. Armed with a piece of charcoal, wisps of hair floating freely around her fatigued face, she considers the wall in front of her and the outline of the swallow flock that she's spent the last ten minutes sketching out. When the charcoal scratches across the cement again, it's not to add shading to the piece, but to add an addendum in elegant Spencerian Script.

Stray birds of summer come to my window
to sing and fly away.

And yellow leaves of autumn,
which have no songs,
flutter and fall there with a sigh.

Finding stray birds, metaphorically, had become a pastime for Kazimir Volken years ago when a young British girl was adopted into the Vanguard. She has, and likely always will be, a free spirit set to roam and wander as she will on the winds, uncomfortable in confined spaces and at home whenever she is allowed to run barefoot in rainy streets, or toe curiously thorugh an overgrown field beneath an overcast sky. It is these moments of freedom that Kazimir had always been certain to afford her, unable to keep her — like most domesticated birds — locked in a cage all her life.

It is also that freedom that led her to turn against him. It's like what they say about letting something you love go, if it was truly yours it would return to you. That very notion is why Kazimir Volken cannot abide her privacy and freedom this time. Why he must ask her to do something difficult, something she will not want to do.

From down that concrete corridor, with rusted iron railing on one side and waterstained stone on the other, the sound that echoes far ahead of its source is a hauntingly familiar one. Long has it been since Eileen had heard the step-step-click of Kazimir Volken's metered footfalls accompanied by the touch of a cane. But that very sound, his brisk but thoughtful pace, it is like the rhythm of a familiar song; and music is an evocative source of memory.

Not far away, she can see him on his approach; black suit and gray undershirt, a dark tie and hair nearly combed to one side. Kazimir Volken's approach wound up tightly within Peter Petrelli's body is an unexpected one, and the way the dim lighting of the corridor shines down on him, makes that typically cadaverous countenance he bears softer, slightly less skeletal in its structure of high cheekbones and strong brow.

O troupe of little vagrants of the world,
leave your footprints in my words—

If there is more to the stanza, it goes unwritten, charcoal dropping away from the wall with Eileen's small hand, ashen stub clenched between pale fingers smudged black by carbon residue. When she wipes a strand of hair from her face, it leaves a dark smear across her cheek that she either fails to notice or does not care enough about to wet her sleeve and swab messily away. Instead, she pauses to observe Kazimir's approach without fully turning her head, his progress tracked in her peripheral vision. She's only known him as Richard Santiago and, for a few weeks, Gabriel Gray. The recognition that flickers across her face's taciturn features is reserved for the man she believes him to be — if she could remember what he did for her when she was ambushed by Feng Daiyu, she might not look immediately away again and bring her work back into focus.

The world puts off its mask of vastness to its lover.
It becomes small as one song,
as one kiss of the eternal.

It is the tears of the earth
that keep her smiles in bloom.

The mighty desert is burning
for the love of a blade of grass
who shakes her head and laughs
and flies

She does not realize it, not at first, but the tap of her charcoal against the cement falls into step with the click of Kazimir's cane every time it hits the pavement. "Hello, Peter."

"I believe you are unfortunately mistaken as to the identity of your guest." Kazimir's brows furrow, blue eyes settled on Eileen as he comes up to her side. Tucking his cane under one arm, he regards the poetry written on the way with scrutiny, brows furrowed and eyes narrowed. "You wrote something similar on our way to Amsterdam that summer, when we were on the train…" Blue eyes narrow subtly, a faint smile creeping up his lips in lopsided quality.

Furrowing his brows, creasing that scar across them, Kazimir lowers his head and looks down to a stagnant puddle of seawater underfoot, then up to the bound wing of her damaged arm. "I'd heard you were recovering slowly, I'm sorry that there wasn't opportunity to visit you until now. I'll have to get Gabriel to help me fix your arm." Blue eyes alight to Eileen again, "But… there's something I wanted to ask you."

"Tagore," Eileen answers carefully, her shoulders tense, a ruffled garden sparrow with a sunflower seed pinched in its beak and prepared to spring into flight at the slightest crackle of sound. "The Bengali polymath. I bought his book in Oslo and read it in two days, memorized it in a month and a half. Stray Birds. This," she gestures to the wall, "isn't a poem. It's five."

Her reaction isn't one Kazimir might expect from someone whose last physical encounter with him almost ended in self-inflicted evisceration. She might be more frightened if she believed she was talking to a real ghost and not just a cheap imitation of one. "I don't know who you've been talking to," she adds, "but I strongly recommend that you stop. Anyone can put on a suit and hoist a cane. It won't fool Wagner."

"That implies I want to fool Wagner." Blue eyes narrow a touch, and Kazimir takes a step closer to Eileen, and when he starts to clear the distance to her, that pin-prickling sensation of pins and needles on the edges of her skin is a sensory memory of too many cautious hugs and pats on the head with gloved hands from her youth. "I know better than to try and fool Mikhail, he's a sharp one, and sharper than anyone else seems to give he — or I — credit for." He's completely unbothered by her criticisms though, she's young, and she's always been able to get away with more than she should.

You know, like killing him.

"They have Yvette in the brig…" Kazimir intones in marked seriousness, breaking in to the meat of his concern, brows tense. "They managed to capture her in Russia, I'm not sure how. She and I spoke, after a fashion, the other day." There's a tightness at the corners of Kazimir's eyes, played off as scrutiny to the writing on the wall.

"They won't release her," he states with an equal measure of tightness in his voice, "not to me, not to anyone. I couldn't— I can't think of a way to persuade them." Clearing his throat, Kazimir takes a look down to Eileen, jaw set and silent for a moment. "I need you to help her escape." His eyes apologize for the request in ways words could never.

Cautious hugs. Pats on the head. Fingers burning off the flesh of her cheek and jaw, desiccating skin, turning muscle and tendons to fragile cords of ash. The piece of charcoal cracks against the floor and scatters across it, brittle enough that it breaks upon slipping from Eileen's fingers. Her trim form recoils, back flush with the swallows, their stationary wings scissoring past her dark-haired head as she sinks away from Kazimir and into the shadows.

The nearest light outlines her shape in a white glow but does little to make visible the expression she now wears on her face. Eyes flash white. A lip curls and teeth join it, mouth bared around a grimace.

Kazimir Volken is supposed to be dead. The only thing that isn't surprising about this revelation is the nature of his request, which draws a hoarse breath of laughter from her so rough that it physically makes her ache. "Yvette."

He assumes the reaction is from something else, something he cannot control, and much like a beaten dog he recoils from Eileen, looking down at his gloved hand and frowning visible, a saddened expression of weariness crossing his too-youthful face. "I— I'm sorry," he murmurs, curling leather-clad fingers to his palm, "I forgot how you must feel about that." Eyes averted to his feet, Kazimir regards the way fluorescent light reflects in shoe polish for the second time today.

"Yes, Yvette she— during what was happening in New York," blue eyes alight to Eileen again, "I had gone to Sweden to, ah, discuss the matters of my bank accounts that had dried up. Yvette joined me for the interrogation, and I had requested she bring my cane to Grigori to repair it." There's a furrow of his brows. "Like the very impetuous young woman she reminds me of, she came all the way from Ryazan to New York to deliver the repaired blade inside of the cane herself. She stubbornly stayed around, until I realized where— " his voice hitches for a moment, eyes averting to the wall again, "where things were headed. I sent her home, back to Grigori. It seems the team that was sent to Russia found her, and— fortunately, she's well enough."

Rubbing gloved fingers together, there's a crease of Kazimir's brows. "I need you to make certain that nothing else happens to her. That's— " he swallows, tightly, then looks back to Eileen with an intent expression. "I need you both to leave immediately." Reaching into his suit jacket, Kazimir retrieves keys on a ring, offering them out to the brunette. "These are to the brig cells. Get Yvette out and get to one of the other ports on the island, go anywhere— anywhere. Find high ground, just in case, and save yourselves."

Eileen can't ever remember Kazimir apologizing for anything. What she does remember is a pair of blue eyes set in a familiar face and the wind blowing through her hair as she stood on a precipice, chunks of cement crumbling like wet mud under her feet. Like her conversation with Gabriel on the floor of Gray and Sons, her time spent under Logan and flashes of Rickham bearing down on all of them in Pinehearst's basement, it's a memory that she instinctually knows is hers even if she lacks the context to comprehend its meaning.

She also gets the distinct impression she should understand what's happening. This makes it all the more frustrating and frightening that she doesn't. Still, she reaches out with tentative fingers, slivers of light creating alternating stripes across her bare arm, and takes the set of keys that Kazimir is offering her. I haven't been practicing, she signs with her other hand, the movements painfully slow but resolute as she works through the words. "What makes you think she'll come with me after what I did to you?"

"I told her to." Kaizmir states with such a flat tone that he almost sounds disgusted that she listened to him. "She has, and always will be, your more obedient sister." There's a tightness in his throat, and the ring of keys jingle as they slide off of his gloved fingers into Eileen's hand. "I slipped a syringe of counter agent to the neuro-toxin they had given her, she has her ability back, but only for another day or two before they inject her again. I won't be able to steal another one without drawing attention to myself."

Curling the fingers of the hand that held those keys closed, Kazimir draws the hand not to his side, but up to the wall. He watches the way charcoal dust collects on his covered fingertips. Then, thoughtfully, he withdraws the hand and tugs off the glove, carefully brushing bare fingertips across the writing, not enough to smudge, but just enough to feel. "Likely… the closest I will ever come to you again," he admits to the writing, more so than Eileen.

Turning his head, Kazimir looks at Eileen with those cold blue eyes, somehow conveying the strange warmth they always had in his older, and yet equally scarred countenance she is more familiar with. "She will listen because she loves me," he offers in addition, "because she feels that we will be reunited again." He smiles, painfully, at that idea.

"There will not be any escape," Kazimir states with an emotional certainty, "not this time."

Eileen watches Kazimir remove the glove and maneuver fingers with not enough calluses to belong to the Volken she knew. Peter's voice lacks the same sandpaper quality that she associates with him, but the cadence of his speech is the same. Intonation isn't something Petrelli can fake — he and Kazimir never met.

The keys bite into her palm as she curls her fingers around them, grasping the loop so tightly that her knuckles form a knobby ridge across the back her hand, bulging beneath sickly skin which resembles tissue paper. "No," she says. "I won't punish Yvette for what you've done, but I'm not going with her either. Ethan needs me. Gabriel." She'd like to believe Kazimir still needs her as well, but the steely quality of her voice suggests she's under the impression that the exact opposite is true insofar as everything except Yvette's freedom is concerned. "Do you think I don't love you too?"

That causes him to halt, fingers jerking away from the words on the wall as if they had electrocuted him. Blue eyes move too quick in the way they settle on Eileen, wide with both emotion and surprise. Words, along with breath, are held tight behind Kazimir's lips as he stares fixed on Eileen, one brow giving the mostly subtle of twitches, over-emphasized in scope by the shadows that cast across his face from the lighting.

"I…" He is given to careful consideration of words spoken. "I would not be undeserving, if you didn't." Jaw tensed and neck muscles working awkwardly under his skin, Kazimir carefully curls bare fingers to his palm, turning to face Eileen fully. "But… I can't let you go with me, not to Antarctica. Wagner may realize what is going on, he may…" blue eyes scan across Kazimir's feet silently, "I can't risk losing you. Not after what I did to you— not after you survived." They seem bluer now, those eyes, behind a sheen of moisture that has only one meaning.

"I owe so many things to so many people," Kazimir intones in a hushed, choked-up voice, "and this mission is the only repayment I can think of for any debt."

"You don't owe me anything." A sharp contrast to Kazimir's, Eileen's voice is short and harsh, rasping in the thin way that one of her birds' might if they had the power to articulate anything. They don't, which is just one of the many things that sets them apart from human beings and made Eileen place more value in the Vanguard's company. "The birth and death of leaves are the rapid whirls of the eddy whose wider circles move slowly among stars. The poem you remember me writing on the napkin on the train. I taped it to the inside of my closet in Amsterdam for the maids to find because I wanted to share it with someone."

She casts a baleful glance at the swallows and the words that accompany the swooping flock. "I'm better at using other people's thoughts to convey my own than I am at telling them how I feel, but these are mine." As Eileen steps back out into the light, the glow passes over her face, streaked with tears. They gather on her lashes and in the corners of her mouth, the very tip of her chin. Curls of damp hair make patterns on her sallow cheeks and brow. "I'd do it all again if I had to," she whispers, her tone fierce, turbulent, "but I never stopped loving you. I won't ever."

Guilt traces across Kazimir's stolen face in equal measure for past and future. His bare hand moves, as if to reach out, but hesitation and truth cause him to withdraw, slide that leather glove over his hand, and only then reach out to do as he had to Yvette just a day ago, brushing his thumb beneath one eye, to wipe away tears he had given her all right to shed. "Ever," Kazimir states gravely, "is a very, very long time." He's only seen the barest end of ever, and it is enough to frighten him.

"I deserve neither the love nor dedication that you and your sister share for me," Kazimir utters in hushed regard, "and yet I have never been able to shy away from it." That gloved caress gently cups her cheek, even if the sensation is awkward, pin-prickling numbness that sinks just beneath skin. "This world does not deserve people like you and Yvette… your capacities for love," he swallows in awkward pause between words, "has always been greater than anyone deserves. Let alone a world as sick as this one."

Letting his gloved hand fall away, Kazimir's blue eyes lay solely on Eileen, not quite able to shake away from the ghost of his reflection in her eyes. "None of us might make it back from Niflheim," he intones gravely, "least of all I. Why…" he doesn't understand, "why would you go to your death?"

"Because you're going," Eileen says, reaching out to catch Kazimir's hand as it falls away. "Because Ethan and Gabriel are going." She winds her fingers around his, squeezing tight, and brings his hand back to her face to murmur thickly against his knuckles. "The world isn't what's sick, Kazimir. It isn't even a small percentage of the people in it. What's sick are the things we do."

She bows her head, resting her brow against his chest, his gloved hand held tight between them, captured by clasped fingers. Her other hand folds around it to keep from trembling as Eileen is finally overcome by a deluge of emotion that causes her voice to crack. "I'm not special. Neither is Yvette. You can't measure a capacity for love or hate — we're all human."

Posture straight and shoulders squared, Kazimir presents himself like a man trying to hold a great weight steady on both shoulders. But it isn't so much any metaphorical burden, as it is the presence of Eileen that he is trying to bear the brunt of, and emotionally he is failing. When gloved fingers squeeze gently around far more delicate ones, he stares down into her hair, unable to give that comforting kiss to the top of her head that would be so natural to any father. Instead, all he can do is mindfully be cautious of her proximity, and the duration thereof; all while drawing in that insatiable vortex of entropy that is at his heart.

"What we do is exactly why the world is sick," Kazimir says in a hushed, murmured voice. "I poisoned this world, by creating the Vanguard. I turned— " memories of what he saw in Argentina cross his mind like scenery past the window of a speeding car, "I turned whole countries into individual circles of hell for what." Where once there would be anger in his tone, Peter's voice — and perhaps his subconsciousness — turns it to a strangled, emotional sound.

"Every… single damaged mind that I twisted to sate my ego; every one of them is a worse virus than I could have ever unleashed." Perhaps it is the Petrelli in Kazimir that is giving him this gravitation towards guilt, towards shame, or perhaps their emotions simply overlap just enough to create this synergy of sorrows.

"You were always my free bird…" Kazimir finally murmurs, nose precariously close to the top of her head, unable to commit to that last bit of movement. "You will always make your own decisions in life, no matter the direction they take you." Equal measure pride and sadness comes in those words, but only one is voiced. "That is why I will always be so proud of you, and who you became." The woman she can't remember.

Eileen's tears dampen the front of Kazimir's shirt, bleeding through the material and warming his skin — Peter's skin — at the same time the breath blown through her mouth and nostrils does. No matter how much effort she puts in, she's unable to formulate a verbal reply that might reassure him. Instead, she lifts her chin just enough to brush her hair against his without risking his face grazing her scalp, and kisses the left side of his chest through his clothes, mindful of the prickling numbness that spreads over her lips in response.

There comes a point when it's impossible to speak, when vocal muscles seize up and refuse to cooperate without causing pain deep inside where the resides — the same spot where Eileen's mouth pressed just a few moments ago. She can only lean against him and breathe, lungs rattling with every inhalation and subsequent release.

Nothing else is left to say.

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