eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Tokens
Synopsis Synonymous with a peace offering in this instance. Eileen gives Gabriel a letter.
Date January 13, 2009

USS George Washington

Near enough that the sun is going to be dancing oddly in the sky. Close to the bottom of the earth. No big deal, Gabriel's been there before, which doesn't account for the burning embers of anxiety threatening to fan flames into being, and if you discount the notion of apocalyptic death, he can't pinpoint its source. Feeling invincible and the fear of death is a tightrope walk, and at this rate—

Maybe Grigori is going to be correct.

Surprise: Gabriel is alone. The room can accommodate two, and doesn't, even if the presence of two people are shapes within it like the smooth lines of cots, of empty shelves, of the lack of window. Gabriel sits perched on his own, staring down the reflection-like visage before him. Reflection only in its mimicry, breathing as Gabriel does, moving a hand up as Gabriel does, each blink and quirk. It doesn't share his strain, which manifests in beads of sweat lining his tense brow. Wu-Long only sits on the opposite cot, staring back as if confused, but patient, all details in place, all save his voice. His will.

It's not the same. The experiment derails at the soft sound of an approach, and Gabriel lets go of a breath he didn't realise he'd been hanging on to. As if a sigh could dispel him, Wu-Long vanishes into the smoke he used to be able to turn into, but dissolves into the air entirely.

With enough practice and skill, it's possible to identify an individual by the unique cadence of their footsteps. It is easiest with Kazimir Volken, if only because the staccato crack of a cane punctuates the space between them. These, although equally familiar, are not quite as distinct and thus more difficult to place. As they draw closer, the interruptions lengthen, slowing before the person on the other side of the door comes to a complete stop.

It could be anyone, and short of employing Teodoro's ability there's no way for Gabriel to know for sure without opening the door and confronting the shadow in the hallway. It's late, which means most of the ship's crew aren't supposed to be out and about. The soldiers are in their bunks and the scattered remains of teams Alpha, Bravo and Charlie lingering on deck, in the mess hall and otherwise taking advantage of what freedom their arrangement with the U.S. government affords.

Normally, Eileen would be among them, but not tonight. Instead, her fingertips graze Gabriel's door as if contemplating the virtue of knocking. She isn't sure he'd answer and is even less certain that he's in at all.

No matter if he can't pick out the signature of her walk, the sound of her pace slowing and halting at his door is enough to have him listen, and wait. And nothing. Almost instinctively, the feeler that is Teo's ability extends out, shimmers over the vibrant mind he can feel across the barrier of the door. Gabriel's eyebrows go up, a twitch of interest. There are enough cues, ones he can feel— the stitches stapled into her forehead, the lightness of her frame, like a bird in that sense, her stature— that he can make an educated guess.

The mattress on his cot squeaks— and— he doesn't get up, only shifts to lean his back against the wall and half-watch through Eileen's own eyes as to what she does next.

The toe of Eileen's right flat slides back a step, then comes down on the metal flooring with an audible click like a small tapdancer in training shoes, exploring what sounds she can make for the first time. Her heel follows, bounces once, twice. The excess nervous energy jittering through her system does not reveal itself on her face, the distorted reflection of which Gabriel can almost see in the door's metal surface. Pale skin. Dark hair. The material isn't enough like a mirror for him to make out the colour of her eyes, but he already knows what they are. If her hesitation is any indication, then he can probably imagine the shape her mouth is making, too.

It flattens out, lips thinning, its corners turning down into an expression that resembles a frown that isn't really. Just stereotypically English. She's having second thoughts. Her hand rises, falls, rises— balls into a fist—

This is usually the part where she'd knock. Either her arm is suddenly feeling too stiff, or those second thoughts are becoming physical. Then:


Gabriel snaps back into the proper body with a start, eyes sliding shut in irritation and bringing up a hand to slide down his face, rub against the coarse bristle of overgrown stubble. It occurs to him to pretend to be asleep. To pretend to be not here. When he slides a glance to the locked, flicked open and incriminating, half-formed excuses vanish quick enough that he's not sure why he formed them in the first place.

He sends a glance to the previously occupied (kind of) cot, before kicking his feet up onto his own, bare skin against sheets neither particularly soft nor uncomfortable. "It's open," he tells the door, resting his skull back to the wall, and adds, upon its opening, "Took you long enough."

The door opens, and Eileen appears in its frame. A larger woman would fill it — everything is narrower here, from the ship's corridors to its galley and the lines of hungry sailors that, on occasion, stretch into the hall outside on nights when the cooks in the kitchen run behind schedule and can't plate comfort food fast enough. Incidentally, Eileen has already eaten; from where Gabriel is sitting, he can faintly smell the aroma of loose tea leaves and honey in such cramped quarters, mingling with the softer, more subdued scents of lavender and what might be — but probably isn't — dry oatmeal.

It's a step up from the sweat, blood and other bodily fluids that clung to them both like death in the sopping Malagasy jungles on the way to Antananarivo. For the first time in weeks, the skin under her nails is clean.

There's something white and flimsy in her hands, obscured by the bent fold of her long, pale fingers forming a protective shield around it. "I'm sorry?"

It's probably what she came here to say, but in this context it's a request for clarification rather than an apology.

The words themselves are tricky enough to earn Eileen a dubious glance, until he takes her meaning. "The knocking. Never mind." Gabriel's quarters are as clean as one would expect, in that there isn't much to clean. Any belongings he has are stored in the duffle bag slid beneath the low cot, and everything else are clean lines and precision, with only the rumpling of his bedsheets beneath him taking away from military spotlessness. As if to match, he only carries with him the scent of a shower, hair slightly damp.

Dogtags and a lion tooth necklace both mark themselves as personal belongings, sitting on his bedside table fixed into the wall. He picks up the latter to restlessly wind the leather chord around his fingers. "What are you doing here? Is there another briefing?"

If there's another briefing, Eileen hasn't been told about it, and there's an instant — but only an instant — where her confusion manages to find a foothold in the knit of her brow. "No," she says, and the tension in the delicate creases of skin between her eyes smoothes back out, reforming that carefully neutral mask. Her eyes themselves, however, can't be any further from impartiality. A fawn's lashes shadow the look she's giving him, which is one that somehow manages to combine both caution and want. Want for what is harder to ascertain.

She steps into the room but, out of politeness rather than habit, leaves the door open behind her as she crosses the short distance from the entryway to the cot, stepping past Gabriel, and fingers the edge of whatever it is she's holding. "I just needed to drop something off."

Dark eyes glance from her hands to her face, confusion now written on doggish features after cynicism's been broken through. One assumption to make is that Eileen wouldn't be here if it wasn't important. Gabriel pays her respect enough to sit up, crabwalking himself a 'step' away from the wall, back straight and legs folding. A hand goes out, fingers splayed expectantly, and silence could be hostile if not for the fact that most others don't even get that courtesy from the Midtown Man.

Of all origami figures, bird models are among the easiest to make. A piece of paper has four corners, each of which corresponds with the four parts of a bird: head, tail, and two elegantly folded wings. Eileen's resembles a crane but isn't quite — its neck is too long and tail too short, its wings molded into a stationary position that allows it to balance in the seat of Gabriel's hand when she places it there.

One of the edges that forms the left wing is folded in such a way that suggests there may be more to the model that initially meets the eye. As peculiar as Eileen's behaviour can sometimes be, it seems unlikely that she'd go to the trouble of delivering a paper bird to Gabriel's quarters unless the bird itself is just an excuse to see him and not a cryptic message of some kind. Or maybe she wasn't expecting him to be there.

He blinks, once, heavy eyelashes framing the narrowed look he gives the paper bird. Swan, goose, hard to tell when it's a geometric cluster of triangles, paper crumpled where fingers fidget to mold it into its shape, and his own fingers curl up as if tempted to crush it. He isn't, really, just cages the paper creature and slumping back into his formerly relaxed position. Takes a breath through his nose, releases it, and delicately pursues that asymmetric fold in the left wing, brow furrowing as he does so. Rough fingertips seek out edges, gently peel back. Gabriel is suspicious, yes, confused. Fool me twice.

"You're not—" Eileen stops, but whatever the latter half of that objection is, it goes unvoiced and bitten off. You're not supposed to open it is a believable contender. Also in the running: You're not supposed to open it while I'm still standing here. As Gabriel peels back the wing with a crisp crinkling noise, she moves away from the bed, showing him her back on her way out the door. She's glad she left it open — it makes escape straightforward and an almost guaranteed thing.

Most people deliver letters in envelopes. Eileen isn't most people. She likes going outside when it rains. Winter, with its bare trees, charcoal sky and crackling ice underfoot, is her favourite season. Ask her what flowers smell best and she'll argue that the wet mulch they grow from is better. While none of these things make her entirely unique, they're all distinctly Eileen. Folding her apology into the shape of a swan — goose? — seems like something she'd do, memory intact or not.

The language of birds is very ancient, and,
like other ancient modes of speech very
elliptical: little is said, but much is meant
and understood.
I was wrong.
- e

Eyebrows only arch in tandem at her aborted correction, and otherwise ignoring it completely as Gabriel crinkles open the paper bird. Loudly, though careful not to tear anything. If you put anthrax in the folds of paper, you're not supposed to open it while the deliverer is in the same room too. As for apologies, well, if there was no need for one, then perhaps discretion can be claimed. As it stands, Gabriel opens it while she's in the room, a little obnoxiously, with snide glances at her back when she turns it to him.

He reads silently, the sentences that uncomfortably fall over to the next one down in poetic breaks and snaps that aren't his language. But are her's. Thumb skimming over the edge of paper, a fraction away from slicing, he regards it rather than her.

"I find this, open it while you're not here. Then what am I meant to do? Find you?"

In the doorway, Eileen stops, grips the frame and wrestles a look over her shoulder at Gabriel's figure on the bunk. "No." There's a pause in which she flattens out her mouth and presses an exhale through her nostrils with enough force to visibly sink her shoulders. That didn't come out quite as intended, her tone a little too brusque to accurately convey her reaction to the question. For the record, there's no anthrax tucked in the swan's tissue seams — only that same lavender smell that diffuses into the room when she's in it, and that's likely unintentional. Nobody leaves their scent on things unless they're dusting a love letter with their perfume, in which case—

Never mind. "When someone writes you a letter," she says, "usually you write them back. Or not. I didn't have my heart set on a response of any kind."

"Well." Not quite painstakingly, just methodically, Gabriel pushes the paper back into place, going over the folds already made, like guides, and reforming the goose and-or swan into its proper figure. A couple of missteps along the way that has him backtracking, recalculating, but never impatiently. "You know how I like being right." The reformed bird is set aside, although this time, the words are worn on the outside, tracking over it on odd angles, disappearing beneath a white slip of bent paper, otherwise plan. "Thanks," he adds, again, looking at it and not her, and coy facetiousness has drained from his voice enough for the word to come across flat.

Flat is worse than facetious. Eileen's gaze ticks between the bird, Gabriel's hands and his face. It's either indecision or an implicit expectation that causes her to linger there as if waiting for something, though she gives no indication whether this something is meant to come from Gabriel or something external. Fingers curl, knuckles bulge beneath skin that vaguely resembles the material the bird is fashioned from.

He isn't looking at her. That's enough. "You're welcome," she says, withdrawing, feet like tacks clicking against the metal beneath them. This isn't how she wants to spend what might amount to their last few minutes alone together. The sullen silence. Tension winding her belly into knots.

He knows he's probably supposed to get over it, the thing that she's apologising for, but he's left her alone this long. It's not not tempting to want to seek comfort, but Gabriel is not a particularly sexual creature, just a proud one. Pride doesn't do much to nurse loneliness, it doesn't put balm on wounds, and it doesn't even make him feel better. It's a token, like the lion tooth, and now like the paper swan, and he doesn't want to let it go.

Not yet. As she withdraws, she can hear him settle to lie down on his bunk, but no words follow her out.

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