A Different Way


eileen_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif

Scene Title A Different Way
Synopsis There are many reasons to regret something said in the heat of the moment — this is one of them.
Date February 25, 2011


She will find them or she will find something to bury — there is no compromise, no in between, and until Eileen knows which one it's going to be, she isn't leaving New York City. What she did leave is Brian's apartment in Chinatown, and she's grateful that Delia provided her with more clothes than the selection that he made available; the pair of low-rise denim jeans, lacy blouse and a coat she picked up after bidding them farewell give her a respectable enough appearance that the man downstairs behind the motel's front desk didn't spend too much time thinking about the bruising along her jaw, the stitches gleaming between the knuckles of her right hand, or the brace she wears on her left wrist while she insisted on paying for the room in cash. ("One with access to the fire escape, please, if you would be so kind.")

That was last night.

This morning, she leaves the room unlocked with the keys glittering on the windowsill in the pale winter light for the motel's cleaning staff to find, and exits through the rear doors instead of the lobby. It does not occur to her that she's picked up stranger habits since coming to America than the ones taught to her by the Vanguard; either she's acknowledged this to herself before, or there are more important things on her mind.

People. Ethan. Gabriel. Coat drawn tightly around her but feeling like she isn't wearing anything at all without her knife or her gun, she steps out of the alley mouth and onto the street, heading in the direction that she knows Brooklyn to be. From Red Hook, it's a short boat ride to Staten Island.

The Dispensary is one place she knows her brother hasn't checked.

There's a woman approaching her, sidling through the crowd, her own oversized coat gripped closed. It's the kind of face that would catch attention — full lips, big eyes, if slightly too wide apart to be conventionally pretty. A high forehead, and then locks of blonde that— dare we say it— cascade past her trim shoulders in waves of gold that would have made her mom proud. But part from Virginia's pedantic efforts with a comb and a vat of gel for Sunday morning, Sylar doesn't have any memories Helena Dean might have of her mother brushing her hair.

Other reasons that her face might be noticed, too. Two terrorists, converging on a street. And no one has any idea.

Her ocean-green eyes are appropriately wide in their innocence as she roams her gaze over the streets, her feet in practical but cute boots, her legs clad in skinny jeans, a thick sweater beneath a man's coat. But when they set on Eileen's face in the scattered sea of people, her focus sharpens, and she smiles wide.

That is not a Helena Dean smile.

But it is Helena Dean. Eileen stops, as oblivious to the people passing her on the street on their way to wherever it is they need to be as they are to her, and draws her narrow shoulders back, chin lifted in acknowledgement of the other woman who may not actually be a woman at all. In this city, the chances of it being Phoenix's former leader are as good as the chances it isn't; stranger things have happened than crossing paths with someone who used to be an enemy but now Eileen only thinks about from time to time.

A gentleman walking a dachshund has to tug hard on its leash to keep it moving as it strains on its lead, sniffing furiously at Eileen's boots — they've been so many interesting places! — but she seems not to notice, or care.

Her jaw sets. She does not call out.

Helena continues to walk. She doesn't rush to embrace Eileen — Dean and Ruskin were never that amicable — but she does keep her pace so that they may meet at a midpoint. Wind makes spells and curls of her hair, but not for much longer as the bruise-clotted sky begins to spit down on them. Mist-fine, with sharper droplets skimming over flesh as thin as needle tracks, biting cold rather than capping warmth within the city. Just chilliness.

If she were really the weather witch, maybe she'd summon some sunshine. Or maybe she wants to make it rain, with that weird smile, that strange, electrical hostility that comes off her as she halts several paces away.

Has anyone checked on Helena, lately?

"I hate when we fight," she simpers.

Eileen's breath leaks silver from her nose and mouth as the moisture gathers as beads in her hair and on her exposed skin — high cheekbones and bruised jaw, the gentle point of her chin and curving neck. The tension is most visible in her small hands, also bare, and her knuckles stand out white against the angry shapes they make. Her finger with the ring on it feels tighter than the others under the pressure and she forces herself to relax, flex, straighten.

If anyone has checked on Helena lately, the Englishwoman was not made aware.

The water beads grow fat and heavy, swollen where they bleed together, then run down her face in thinner streams like tears shed from her temples. "What do you want?" she asks in a voice that's too gentle to be genuine, her fear disguised as careful neutrality, or maybe the other way around. Her mouth betrays very little in either the way of words or emotion, though it's clear this composure isn't the kind that's easy for her to maintain.

Helena's wide smile tightens like a screw turned it, becoming a wry slash through her face, teeth disappeared between closed lips. She thinks for a second, beads of water in blonde, her eyelashes pale— did Helena used to paint them?— and clogging the intensity of her stare. She sniffs, then drifts closer, only a little taller than Eileen. She doesn't suffer the effects of a shapeshift. She's an illusion, if anything, down to the last strand of spun gold, the last fingerprint.

"Your ability," she admits, frankly, moving to circle Eileen. "But maybe we can find a different way. New age, alternative medicine. Marijuana for medication, love for war." Almost to Eileen's back is when she snags a very gentle fistful of inky curls, swerving in close enough as if to smell them.

"Let's be girlfriends," she suggests.

He's touching her. Eileen's hand reaches up and curls fingers around Helena's wrist, thumb pressed into the softest part, the vulnerable thread of blue veins beneath her skin, and while the temptation is strong to dig down with the edge of her nail and inflict pain, she resists, applying just enough pressure to convey a warning she cannot verbally deliver on a public street without causing more heads to turn.

There are a few, mostly fleeting glances — obligatory snaps of attention paid to the two young women on the street, one light and one dark, fingers tangled in damp hair and cinched at slender wrists. If it was the other way around, he could feel her pulse hammering against him; instead, the biggest cue he has to work off of is the rhythm of her breathing changed by the tightness in her chest and lungs.

"I can think of someone who wouldn't like that."

A wriggle of skinny fingers loosens Eileen's hair off them, Helena's eyes going hooded, lazy and cattish and therefore still alert. "You?" she guesses, a kind of sassy tilt to her head that could well be plucked from the pages of the woman herself's book, but it becomes neutral again. More like Sylar. "Did you know that Gillian made love to me once when I turned into her? Her idea. That's how he gets love. The big secret is that you could do anything to him if you wanted, and it's why he makes a big show of resisting.

"Kazimir did. Others have. Odessa got to stroke his hair and ego like you would a prized poodle." Sarisa, crawling on his lap, her hungry fingers digging for memory. Green-blue eyes dull, briefly, and Sylar tugs against the grasp at his wrist. Gets some of the fire back with a grin and a backtrack. "We can be Thelma and Louise. Off a cliff."

Eileen does not fight to hold on. Sylar wants his wrist back— Helena's wrist back, and she's glad to give it to him. "Off a cliff," she repeats, like maybe she's considering what he's saying even though her body language tells a completely different story, and if there's one thing Sylar knows about Eileen it's that her body is more honest than the words its mouth forms.

"Try a bridge. You choose to remember the most interesting things." She pushes back the hair he'd swept through his fingers and holds her hand there as if prepared to protect herself from another assault, which would be too strong a word for this if it was almost anyone else. "Why would I ever want a fraction of something when I already carry the whole of it in my heart?

"Why would I ever leave him for you?"

He laughs at her, then, a brief braying sound with shiny white teeth showing. Helena was always the Red Riding Hood, the Alice in Wonderland. But it's a mask for the Wolf, the Mad Hatter. The characters that want flesh and unbirthdays. "I didn't say I wanted you, little girl. Just what's in your head. And if you're going to be a bitch about it— I really don't mind, killing you in the street. Not a single person here could stop me. Look at them," and a tilt of his head invites her, a swinging curtain of gold.

New York's people have been through a lot, but they're still out of touch, murky shapes under the ice. They crowd through obliviously, and the air only smells of a military vehicle that passed through here a handful of moments ago.

Sylar doesn't touch her again, but his eyes pin her in threat. The smile is gone. "Show me how he did it."

Eileen lowers her hand. She couldn't stop him, not even with a syringe of Adynomine and the coveted element of surprise — she does not disbelieve him when he makes his point or call the bluff, because it isn't one. Fingers drift down to the front of her coat and ball in a defensive gesture, one arm drawn across her chest and the other at her side, stiff as the brace its wrist is in.

The pigeons roosting on the concrete lip over their heads watch the street below intently and with inhuman fascination. They are her eyes, the whole nest of them, and they crowd together, jostling for position with delicate nudges of their violet-hued wings.

Show me how he did it invites an obvious question that she deliberates over before asking. It would be rhetorical if she didn't absolutely need the clarification. "You don't know?"

There's that twitch at his mouth — ugly on Helena's face, weird, but very him, the brink of a snarl. But Sylar stems his argument, the urge to lash out, allowing her words to run considered through his head like a designer silk scarf over the palm of a trophy wife, observing its make, its worth. Does he know, really? Is that the right way to think about it? He lifts Helena's face for the sky, considering the vertical streaks of coming rain, its light patter.

"I know," he decides, after a second, offered up, neck exposed fractionally. "You were wrong. I don't remember the interesting things." His fingertips press against his own temple, where viking blonde grows in sunny streaks. "And you said gave."

Eileen doesn't know whether she should regret that or not, whether it's the truth or just the way she perceives the truth to be — whether she said it because she believes it or because she thought it would hurt him in a moment of anger so intense that it consumed her sensibilities completely. Her eyes appear to focus past him without focusing on anything at all, the pale gray of her irises ringed in green and with a texture like glass, frosting over.

She blinks and the water that had gathered between her lashes curves down her cheeks. There is very little colour in them, or in her lips, but enough that the shadows under her eyes only make her look tired, not dead.

She did say gave. The conclusion she arrives at is that this is only half-true. "I was open," she says, "and so was he. We connected; it held."

Doubt reflects back at her, as clear as the rocks in a fresh water stream. That sounds easy and impossible at the same time, unsatisfactory and intangible. Rain snags diamonds in rough wool and blonde but it never dampens to the brassier yellow that it should, doesn't dwindle into the rats tails, he doesn't concentrate that much on the illusion as he stares at her from behind its facade. Stands motionless and without response to the world around him.

Doesn't speak this time either, as if to milk her of answers.

"You have to want more from a person than what's in their head." Eileen elaborates with words pressed out on a slow, measured breath. "Zhang Wu-Long, the Nichols girl, Teodoro — me. He has a capacity to recognize something in someone, and then it's his; I feel that part of him in the dark, the part that's strong without needing to be kind or unkind, the part that knows what the heart does but the mind can't."

This isn't very scientific, Eileen knows; Gabriel has never told her what he sees when the heads come off, but she imagines that if he did this is not exactly the kind of language he would use, and not as straightforward an answer as Sylar is looking for. "I tried to help you when we thought you were him. Maybe if you'd let us."

And Helena's mouth already crescents into a cynical smile even before Eileen is through in her attempt, that nagging doubt and curiousity frosted over again with ego. "I'm not letting you shape me," he says, primly, that sharp chin lifting, ocean eyes bright. "But you might be on to something, Munin." Sinuous and feline, he moves passed her, then, but close enough for his shoulder to brush hers — this close, she can smell the man through the image of the woman, the staleness of too few showers, a masculine musk that brings up connotations of stubbled facial hair, muscles, height and hands.

Not the weather-waif that the birds see for her, that leans in close on the street. "Or at least," he adds, as if to correct himself, "you better hope you are. I'll see you around." He doesn't tell her not to run, to skip town. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe he knows she won't. He moves down the street with the ponderous but unstoppable energy of lava.

That's the sort thing with a path Eileen doesn't want to be in the way of.

She often puts herself in places she does not want to be, but not today. Sylar is gone, and then so is she, disappearing into the drab, murky colours of the people filling the sidewalk, some with umbrellas floating above their heads, others soaking up rainwater like dry earth pulls it into the ground, saturating their hair and clothes. Eileen will be shaking by the time she reaches the boat.

Mostly because of the cold.

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