A Piece


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title A Piece
Synopsis Gabriel and Eileen reconnect after the events of November 8, 2011.
Date November 9, 2011

Staten Island

New York City is on fire.

Eileen understands this isn’t entirely accurate, although it certainly looks that way from where she’s standing on the lip of a roof somewhere on Staten Island. A burnt orange glow ripples in the dark water that separates the island from the mainland and Manhattan, interrupted by sleek black shapes that move through the night like sea creatures straight out of the Old Testament. They’re not leviathans — they’re boats, overflowing with evacuees who don’t know where they’re headed and are as confused about their orientation as Eileen is.

Things have always looked different after dark. Moreso in a state of societal upheaval. Gunshots answer gunshots in the middle distance, and Eileen sinks just a little lower on her perch, dropping down into a crouch that has her resting her arms across her knees. She cuts a small, unimpressive figure in her black peacoat and pants rolled up over the lightest but most durable pair of leather boots she owns, which are made for picking through ruins like the ones the fires and rioting will eventually leave behind. A headscarf covers her hair and protects it from the falling ash and misting rain that combines into a silt-like paste on her clothes and exposed skin.

This residue would make her stand out if it didn’t also coat everything else. She is camouflaged, at least for the time being, and moves like a nimble little black cat as she makes her way down from the roof via the building’s collapsed fire escape, trusting that her weight isn’t enough to bring it the rest of the way to the ground. A low, shuddering creak is the only indication she’s there — until she isn’t.

Her feet carry her swiftly through the empty streets, skirting Eltingville’s furthest border. She knows better than to look for Gabriel there, but she hasn’t checked the Old Dispensary yet, and that’s precisely where she’s headed.

His position is given up at the sound of chirping, a strangely creaky noise coming from dense, dark branches above her head. A flick of wings, and a bar of white feathers just visible in the gloom, and the nighthawk disappears up into the sky, under someone else's governance.

The Old Dispensary has a fine layer of dust on every visible surface, and some water damage at its weaker seams. It smells, now, of damp wood, instead of the way it did when it was a home to people, which was a cacophony of smells that changed on the hour: cigarette smoke, baked fish, antiseptic, gunpowder, woodfire. That last one is starting to permeate the air, however, Gabriel in the process of starting one only now that he's alerted to Eileen on approach. He crouches by the hearth, having uncovered just enough dry pieces they'd stored away to get something going, skinny flames licking at black bark.

Once that's done, he stands, and moves to intercept, more urgent than calm fire-starting should let on. He looks just as she left him: more or less recovered, but leaner and rougher than he usually prefers. Not enough to be mistaken for his evil twin. But moving at time-breaking speed from Washington DC to New York City has left him hungry and tired, with his main source of energy being

stupid worry, mostly.

Stupid worry makes you do stupid things. Like bargaining with higher powers that you don’t actually believe exist. Eileen knows because this is exactly what she’s been doing for the past few hours as she moved between abandoned safehouses and old Vanguard haunts in search of that tenuous psychic connection she feels vibrating at its lowest frequency right now.

They’re both exhausted.

The last few yards are the hardest; Eileen saps the rest of her energy closing the distance between them, but it isn’t until her arms are around him and her face is buried in Gabriel’s chest that her body can finally relax.

Her hands find fistfuls of his shirt and anchor her to him. The events of November 8, 2011, have put things firmly back in perspective and clarified the difference between love and responsibility. Eileen does not love the Ferry, but she does feel beholden to it in a way that isn’t as easy to shake as the soot off her clothes, much as she might want to. God does she want to.

She can cry, now. Silent and still. Hot tears darken the fabric of Gabriel’s clothes. They are of relief. The next breath she lets out sticks halfway in her throat, and at first this is the only sound she makes.

Gabriel holds her, one large hand at the back of her head and the other arm wound around. As quick as he is to feel things like anger, all other human emotions seem to take their time to kindle in him. Like relief. But he can feel stress leave her in the way her muscles unspool from tension and the gasp of breath, and he keeps her gathered close for the moment, fire gnawing away at over-large pieces of wood somewhere behind them. Smoke funnels up through brick. Despite his best efforts, some of the damp has crept into the pieces he's chosen, smoke thickened with steam, the smell of it sharp.

He remains tense. Relevantly, he's not sure who he could kill if something like the Institute mission had opened its great mouth and swallowed her down with the other doubtless casualties they took. But he'd find someone.

"I don't know what happened," he says, finally.

He could mean Massachusetts or New York. Exhausted as he is, he doesn't look like he just stepped out of a fight. He can still smell her last battle on her, in her hair, in her clothes.

“I don’t care.” And it’s not clear what she means, either. “About any of it. Anymore.”

Eileen tips her face up and feels the urge to wipe the wetness away contending with her need to hold onto him. If she lets go for even just a moment, he could disappear. Maybe forever, this time.

“I want your Jaguar and a road that leads to nowhere,” she says. “I want open skies and dark winter days on the other side of the planet. I want to crawl into bed with you and never climb out again and I. I. I.”

It takes her a second to realize she’s stammering, which is more of an embarrassment than the tears that are filling her nose and her mouth as she speaks in sentences belonging to thoughts she hasn’t curated yet. So everything spills out all at once. “The rest of my life. I could give it all to them and it still wouldn’t be enough. We should leave America.”

This time of year, three years ago: he doesn't remember who suggested it first, Gillian or that version of Gabriel. The dream that they should leave New York, aiming westwards. Whether they were serious about it or not, he remembers that hopeful tug with more keenness than he remembers the place they were when they said it, or who said it first, how it had felt genuine beneath all of the lies he was operating under.

And he remembers how quickly everything came apart just after. It's just a moment, a fragment of a memory that does not all the way draw him out of the present, but feels like a cold undercurrent beneath everything else. Like maybe when people start talking like Eileen is talking, it's just because they've recognised the shadows on the floor as prison bars. He isn't thinking about Gillian. He's thinking about himself.

He's not a very tender person, but he pushes her hair from Eileen's face, taking tears along beneath his palm.

"You want to run," he says. Without judgment. Apex predators run too, sometimes, but what he truly is is something that survives at whatever cost. Regardless, he says what he thinks she'd think to herself tomorrow morning.

Gabriel’s hands on Eileen’s face keep her from breaking completely apart. She simply fractures instead, and he’ll feel the aftershock of it in their psychic connection. Her eyes squeeze shut. Her fingers, white-knuckled, grasp at his wrists with the ferocity of a dangling rock climber clutching rope.

He’s right, of course. He doesn’t need their shared ability; he can see it in the way her mouth twists into a snarl and flashes teeth. Agony and disdain both compete for control over her expression, but ultimately lose out to an emotion that’s much more understated.

It’s acceptance.

Without opening her eyes again or attempting to find her voice, she shakes her head. No. Of course she isn’t going to run.

All it took was four short words to walk her back. Gabriel might mistakenly interpret that as a lack of true conviction on her part if he couldn’t also sense how conflicted she still is. What Eileen wants and what she’s going to do are not always the same thing.

Rarely ever the same thing.

Gabriel can't help the feeling of grudging disappointment, but it doesn't feel like the sharp recoil of hurt feelings that so often occur when they come down on opposing sides or create a chasm of misunderstanding. What little Eileen can feel of it through their strange link has the same kind of inevitable slide as a mudslip, settling heavier than before, but otherwise—

God knows they wouldn't be together if she wasn't like this. If he didn't know her.

"I won't let you," he says, finally. His hands, resting on either side of her face, fingers buried in dark curls. "Give the rest of your life to them. I want a piece."

There is a timeline in which Gabriel chooses a different sequence of words other than You want to run. And maybe, in this timeline, that is exactly what they do.

Neither of them have any way of knowing. The possibility is as strange and foreign as the other worlds they’ve visited in dreams, or in stories told to them by those who’ve traveled back. Teo, Eileen guesses, has a few. She keeps meaning to ask him what life was like in the future someone decided to label Bright, but never does for exactly the same reasons she’s yet to demand the specifics from Benji.

Or Astor.

This world is the only world that matters.

“I will always find you,” she promises Gabriel. Her lips find his mouth, his cheeks, his eyelids and their dense black lashes. “You are my heart.”

Gabriel bows into her touches, the world shrinking in around them, shrinking down into this intimate capsule of peace while New York City burns across the Narrows. Much like all that wide world, the past and the future both remain at bay while he stills holds her, and then kisses her, and some of that heaviness— doesn't lift, but dissolves, sinks beneath the surface, becomes irrelevant.

"I love you," he says, and for once, it doesn't sound like a plea, or like the words are being crowbarred out from beneath his ribcage with creaking reluctance. Normally spoken through companionable silence and action, and it sounds like that feels. Just a touch of left over anxiety from the long wait, from the uncertainty, in the way where there's just a hint of rough in gentle touches. "And I don't care about the rest."

The Ferry, certainly. But the hunt, too. The mindless drive to be better, what he's seen it do to Sylar (and what he's seen it do to himself, and to her). It doesn't mean it's gone, in much the same way Eileen will go back to them, too, but it means something that it isn't his world.

He presses his nose, his mouth, to the top of her head, and mumbles into her hair, "I made a fire."

It's been there the whole time, crackling away.

She needs no fire. The warmth of Gabriel’s body is enough.

Eileen burrows deeper into him and reaches out with her ability weave her presence through and around his, intertwined in the way that their fingers sometimes are.

He feels her pulse in the cavity of his own chest and her energy settling all the way into the marrow of his bones.

This is what it’s like to be alive and in love.

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