A Snake in the Grass, Part II


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Scene Title A Snake in the Grass, Part II
Synopsis Eileen comes to, finds herself chained a radiator in Gray and Sons, and faces one of fears only to discover that Feng Daiyu isn't the person she thought he was at all.
Date August 22, 2009

Gray and Sons

It's still dark by the time the world is coming back to her. A watch shop, you would think, would give you a sense of time, but the opposite is true at least for this one. Darkness gives no measure of how much time has passed - it could even be the next night. There's only candlelight on a stick of pale wax that illuminates the backroom to eyes finally prying open. Time and duration are things that can't be gathered from the flickering shadows in the corners of the room.

But she's alone. That much is clear.

A metal bracelet is secured almost too tight around her slim wrist, the closing pincers of a handcuff whose short chain extends to the twin loop of metal, which in turn is closed around the bar of a radiator that likely hasn't functioned in a long time. The chill of the evening is almost as invasive, settling on bare skin from where clothing, down to the bare essentials, have been removed. There's black, even stitches set into the knife wound on her thigh, and only the blanket she's settled down upon protects her from the dusty, cold floor of wooden slats over cement. Knife, gun, effects, these things are taken away too.

Maybe not so alone, when a creak of a foot steps sounds from a different area of the shop, but no one readily appears.

All old buildings smell the same to Eileen. If such things could be distilled and bottled, she likes to imagine that it would be a popular seller amongst people who — like herself — find comfort in the familiar, the memorable. Along with damp earth, baby powder, freshly varnished mahogany, and the scent of the self-service laundromat in Long Island City, all soap and heat and squeaky linoleum floors, its moth-eaten aroma is the sort that would, under any other circumstances, provide her with a sense of well-being.

As her eyes split blearily open, she draws in a slow breath through her nostrils and then lets it out again in the form of a breathy murmur. The toes on her right foot curl experimentally, but it isn't until she attempts to flex the muscles in the attached leg that she's rewarded with a sharp twinge of pain. As far as knife wounds go, she's had much worse courtesy of one Abdul-Aziz Nwabueze — she should probably be grateful that only anguish blossoms from her injuries when she sits up and gives the cuffs an abrupt tug. There is no blood that she can see or feel, only a bitter, acrid taste lingering like a bad meal in the back of her mouth that makes her want to spit… or vomit.

Truth be told, she really wouldn't mind doing either. Her stomach is in knots and her tongue feels swollen. What she wants, more than spitting or vomiting, is glass of water. What she needs is some sort of hacksaw.

Or a hero, at the end of the night. What steers around the corner doesn't appear to be one, the familiar shape and face of Feng having been summoned by the rattle of metal, the sound of movement. The leather coat has been discarded, leaving only his black suit, which doesn't entirely fit him correctly, expensive though it appears to be. The slash at one sleeve reveals only more black fabric with staining blood that doesn't show, and a sliver of olive skin.

"You're feeling better," he notes, in a voice remotely familiar to her, as he paces around towards a chair set out by a desk. He doesn't sit down, only places his hands against the back of it to lean, observing her with the glittering eyes of a reptile. The candle just a foot away from him does little to warm his presence, the superficial golden glow of its illumination fleeting and intangible.

Eileen's eyes move from the length of chain that connects one band to the other, metal tinkling against mental, and complete a cursory sweep of her surroundings as if looking for something — someone — before her focus eventually settles on the man standing behind the chair. The resentment on her face is as plain her nose and the dark discharge caking her nostrils, but only the discharge is wiped away when she drags the back of her hand across it, then smears her hand off on the blanket.

There's something recognizable in the cadence of that voice, something about the way the words are put together and summarily spoken, something she ultimately chalks up to anxiety and dismisses in the time it takes her to realize she and Feng are the only two people in the building. "Where is he?"

"There are better questions to ask." Feng's voice is sharp at the edges, and doesn't come from any kind of smile, his expression stoic and unfeeling. There isn't enjoyment in this predicament, as carefully placed as it is, from candle to chain. "Such as, why are you still alive? What did you hope to accomplish?" He doesn't pace, doesn't move around the shadows of the room like the predator he is through and through - simply stays where he is, hands knuckled around the back of the heavy, wooden chair, staring down at her as if looks could kill. "Answer these and I'll answer yours in return."

If Eileen knew why she was still alive, she wouldn't be squirming uncomfortably behind her defiant veneer. What she hoped to accomplished is easier for her to answer, upper lip curling back to reveal a set of teeth free of pink stains, too self-depreciatory to be a smirk, too rueful to be even an apologetic smile. "I put a bullet in you, came at your throat with a knife and you're asking me what I was trying to achieve?" Incidentally, he's right — there are better questions to be asking. She breezes on, the chain pulled taut, metal cuff biting into the skin of her naked arm. "Did Kazimir know you were one of us?" she demands. "Is that why you're doing this? So none of the others come after you when they find out? Ramirez and Rasoul are going to have such a laugh."

Her words are needling, visible anger manifesting in the stiff hunch of his shoulders, unveiled and unapologetic. Mouth twisted into a scowl, his knuckles going blanched white in their grip. Perhaps Eileen is correct - perhaps the nature of who Feng is drive his vendettas, and it certainly seems to be the case when, with a growl that might not characterise the man, he moves.

The chair is half-thrown, half-shoved to one side with an angry wrench, where it skids along at a crazy angle of two legs, one leg, toppling and slamming into a wooden cabinet that shudders in the corner. "You're an idiot," is hissed out between his teeth, rounding on her, though distance is maintained. A hand clamps down on his forearm, where her knife had sliced, undoubtedly bleeding anew from the exertion. "Who knows you're here? Does Ethan? Does Raith? Were you planning to tell anyone?"

All the while, in the dim candles, his own skin seems to ripple and crawl over his features, blanch and reshape over changing bones. "You certainly didn't think to tell me," is added in a distorted voice as vocal chords realign.

The expression on Eileen's face transforms like a pristine blue sky blemished by gathering storm clouds — there's even a crackle of unseen energy, electric in its intensity as it surges through her and sparks still more tension in the space between them. It's fury rather than relief that floods her eyes, their pale irises appearing more gray than green in the sputtering half-light. More colourful are her reddening cheeks, flushed with righteous indignation brought about by the accompanying sting of betrayal.

That isn't Feng Daiyu.

"You." The word is spat rather than spoken, teeth flashing, venom oozing from every pore of her vocal chords. Her anger is so profound that she lunges at him in spite of the chain, the cuffs and the broken-down radiator adhering her to the wall — an effort that is rewarded not with freedom but with a fine sprinkling of dislodged plaster and flakes of peeling paint that flutters uselessly to the floor. "I saw an opportunity and I took it," she snarls at the end of her chain.

"You would be dead," is snarled right back at her, the volume and growl of his voice unchecked, and completely Gabriel's from the start of the sentence, right to the finish. The last touches of Feng's form are smudged away, leaving only 6'1" worth of angry Sylar behind. The suit fits better, incidentally, although it's hard to tell with the way he's pacing from one end of the room to the other, out of range of her lunge and not about to move forward any time soon. "You saw an opportunity and pitted yourself against someone who is better than you. So I ask again—

"What were you hoping to accomplish?" His voice rips viciously from his throat, an angry bark if there ever was one. True anger is not something he's ever pointed Eileen's way - frustration, betrayal, maliciousness, cruelty, a whole myriad of emotions, but not quite this.

Eileen does not wilt, does not wither, does not curl at the edges and withdraw into herself, though she might have done any one of these things had he directed this kind of ire at her when Volken was still alive. She watches Gabriel pace through narrowed eyes, their lashes shadowing the volatile combination of emotions contained therein. "Kazimir was better than you," she hisses, accusation thin and snaking, lashing out at him like the crack of a whip, "and you still went after his blood." If she can't hurt him with her hands, she'll fall back on the only other weapon available to her: words.

"I find Daiyu hanging around your safehouse, and you expect me to back down? Slink off with my tail between my legs? What?" Considerably stronger than the last, another sudden jerk scatters more debris and causes the radiator to creak under the strain. The side of her mouth cocks up into a toothy sneer. "Would you rather I left you to rot?"

There's no telepathy that runs off Gabriel's hand like water through the air, and there's no blunt force lashing out as Feng's mistaken ability from before. Just a certain numbness from the waist down - or a remove, might be more accurate, because Eileen can certainly feel the way her legs collapse like the useless limbs of a wooden doll with cut strings. They're her's again in the next moment, just not before she's hit the wooden floor.

"You could have killed me," Gabriel states, his voice veering sharply from its former volume to something low. "And at the same time, you missed your mark. What, about any of this, is correct?"

The topic of Kazimir is left on the wayside, too prickly a subject to pick up, or perhaps discarded for what it is. "Here's what you should have done. You should have sent a bird back to this place and given me a warning. Because I wasn't here, you wouldn't have had anything to worry about. Don't pretend like this was calculated or altruistic - it was stupid and you did it for what has happened to Ethan, not what was going to happen to me."

Stripped of circumstance, what happened to Ethan and what Eileen mistakenly believed what would happen to Gabriel are the same, but his accusation includes an uncomfortable amount of truth as well — there were other tactics she could have employed, other solutions she might have pursued that didn't involve pulling a pistol on someone whose hands and feet are more deadly than most edged weapons. She hits the floor with a grunt blown out through her nostrils, her free hand braced against the floorboards in a failed attempt to soften her fall and save some of the skin on her knees.

"As if you'd have understood," she breathes raggedly, tears of pain and frustration beading in the corners of her eyes without fully forming. "Petrelli took that away from you. You wouldnt've had any way of knowing—" The hand on the floor wrenches back in an abrupt jerk of movement, bone white fingers curling around her injured thigh, nails dimpling flesh. "Who did you tell, Gabriel?" she asks. "Does anyone else know you've been walking around in Daiyu's skin?"

It's probably a good point, one of more merit than reminding him of what he had failed to do to Kazimir, enough to draw steely silence from Gabriel, who finally spits out, "No one. But I can take care of myself. You're the one chained to a radiator." As quickly as it came, anger slowly begins to diffuse, and he takes a few steps over towards where the chair is toppled over, picking it up and moving to set it back down by the desk once more.

He doesn't look at her, hand gripped the chair still and studying the play of light over his knuckles as he speaks, quietly, "You sent me to Kazimir. We both know it was a mistake, and without Phoenix, I'd probably be dead. Do yourself the dignity of not repeating that error."

How Gabriel can talk of dignity after relieving her of her clothes and chaining her to the wall, Eileen does not know and cannot quite bring herself to even consider. As he rights the chair, she rotates her wrist in the cuff, deathly quiet. When she speaks again, her voice lacks the heat it possessed before, flat with resignation. "You're going to unchain me," she says, "and then you're going to give me my clothes, my knife and my gun. I'm going to get dressed, put my weapons away, and do myself the dignity of walking out that door. If you refuse, I'll find another way to leave. One you won't like."

"Oh? I don't think so," Gabriel says, turning his gaze up to her, an eyebrow raising. He pushes the chair with some finality under the desk, enough to rattle it and have the candle shake in its holder. "When you put it like that, I can't trust you. And I don't want you to leave." Trusts her enough to, apparently, not use his power to simply steal away her own capability of movement, beyond simply making a point.

Finally, he walks close enough, within the radius of what the handcuffs attached to her wrist permits her. "What if I told you, you're going to stay here. You're going to cool off. You're going to think about why I'm doing this and then we're going to figure out what to do next. Together."

Eileen's shoulders touch the radiator, its metal coils like ice against her skin as she leans back into it. Gray-green eyes lid shut, the rest of her body relaxing, and a long breath is released through her nose. It's impossible for Gabriel to know exactly what it was he said that so dramatically changed her attitude in such a short period of time, but the pained expression on her face makes it clear that all it took was a few well-chosen words, delivered with the clinical precision of a surgeon's blade.

Her breast rises, falls, finds a steady rhythm to match the flutter-beat of her heart and the distant sound of water dripping from the tap into the porcelain basin back in the shop's single bathroom. It takes her more effort than it should to swallow. "You decide what you want to do," she says, finally. "I won't have a part in it."

There's an audible moment of reining in his impatience, jaw clenching and swallowing around something that could be pride, bristling skin at his throat shifting along with the movement. Then, Gabriel crouches down, lets a knee hit the ground as he comes to kneel just in front of her crumpled form, an arm draping across the raised one, the backs of his knuckles grazing beneath his jaw, thumbnail running a harsh, fidgeting line. "Why? Because I'm right? Because I'm wrong?" And then, he repeats; "I don't want you to leave."

Eileen can detect his closeness without having to open her eyes, his presence pervading the senses that haven't been closed off. His voice in her ears. The heat of his body curling warmth against her exposed skin, clammy with perspiration, gooseflesh covering her legs and arms. The smell of him tickling at her nostrils. She can't decide whether she liked him better when he was standing on the other side of the room, and this somehow makes it all the worse.

The chain hanging from her wrist jangles with movement so slight that the undercurrent of tension in her body's implicit language would be imperceptible otherwise. "Either I sent you to Kazimir," she says, lowly, "or I was wrong to deny you as Tavisha. Pick one. You can't have it be both."

"Either you weren't punishing me, or Kazimir wasn't better than me," Gabriel counters, just as lowly. Though her eyes aren't seeking out his, his own gaze, dark with the long shadows stretching through the room, his back to the only light source, studying her bloodied and bruised features. There's a sliver of tooth, the slightest of sneers, but it doesn't come across in his voice; his voice is borderline monotonous, and much softer. "Pick one."

Before she can, however, his hands are going to clasp and cup her jaw, angling her face up towards him whether she opens her eyes or not. "Pick neither. That's my choice."

There's a faint shimmer of apprehension that shudders through the muscles in Eileen's neck and shoulders when she feels his hand on her face, and in that initial moment she moves as if to turn away, though she either lacks the willpower or desire to follow through. Her eyes open again, tired and unfocused, bloodshot around the edges and pink along their rims. The hand dangling from the cuff reaches up, fingers tightening around a fistful of radiator coil while the other shifts from her injured thigh to her stomach, palm splayed across it in an instinctive and self-protective gesture.

Pick one. Pick neither. "How long are you going to keep me here?"

His eyes dull, a little, tracking down from her gaze for a moment before his hands withdraw, shifting back and resting on his haunches. Though he doesn't back up much further, it doesn't stop Gabriel from sliding his hand into his pocket, picking out the small metal ring with the equally small key attached to it. It glimmers like a minnow for the time it takes to dangle from his fingertips. Disappears a moment later, but only to fall, bouncing off the wooden ground between them.

Still not backing away, but certainly not looking at her anymore, half-kneeling and half-crouched where he is.

Eileen could easily extend her leg, use her foot to drag the key across the floorboards to her and thereby avoid drawing any closer to Gabriel than is necessary. She doesn't. Instead, she reaches out with the hand that was on her stomach and gropes around in the dust, fumbling to secure it between her fingertips. It's turning in the lock a few seconds later, release punctuated by a sharp click and the sound of noisily clattering as the cuff that was affixed to her wrist falls away, bangs against the radiator and rattles its coils.

She pulls the blanket up around her shoulders, cocooning her upper body in scratchy cotton that provides no immediate relief from the cold, only some of the modesty she'd previously been lacking. "Do you just sleep on the floor?"

The question has him steering his gaze across the room, inevitably pulling towards the usual chosen spot. "Yes." Simple answer; no excuses or assurances coming after, a look tracking back to her, then off towards where the bathroom door is open by a sliver, showing off a dark interior. "Your things are in there," Gabriel thinks to add, without particular prompt in his voice. Distributing a fact that she should probably know and nothing more.

A handful of fabric in each fist, the key to the handcuffs lost somewhere along the way, Eileen encircles Gabriel's neck with her arms and folds the blanket over them both like a bird's wings covering its nest and the clutch of eggs in its seat. Her face finds his shoulder, cheek rubbing along the shape of his collarbone beneath his suit jacket. That he won't look at her is inconsequential — his eyes aren't what she's seeking out with her touch. "Come here."

In the same way her body had coiled with defense upon his approach, so does his with her's, a shimmer of tension that lasts a moment as her arms ease around him, her head tucking against his chest. Her words are, therefore, valid instruction, and Gabriel opts to obey. Beneath the cotton of the blanket draping around both of them, his hands brush against her sides, his arms curling around her with a hiss of expensive fabric against skin and blanket, drawing her against him. His breath curls against the arch that makes up her shoulder through to her throat. Though the blanket offered little in the way of warmth, it shields body heat from escaping, his own warmth shared and trapped against her.

Gabriel had offered neither excuses nor assurances. Eileen, in contrast, asserts her intentions by lifting her head and touching her nose to the very bottom of his chin, her lips brushing the hollow of his throat when she speaks, unable to keep the quaver from her voice. "I'm tired," she says plainly, "I'm hurt, I'm angry." In emphasis of this last statement, the hands at his shoulders sink nails into his suit, their points pricking, biting at skin. "But I don't want to leave.

"I'm not going to leave." She winces as she adjusts, bruised ribs and knifed thigh sending fresh waves of undulating pain through her gut and ribs. A sibilant sigh escapes through clenched teeth, pursed lips. "Feng wasn't why I came."

He breathes in at a hiss, though not out of pain, unless her nails truly have become cat claws. "I'm angry too," he mutters, although it's muttered into her hair and likely loses much threat in the process. Gabriel's arm tightens around her waist, and he shifts, trusting she'll grip onto him in the time it takes to push and lean her down onto the floor, going with. His arms fold against the ground beside her shoulders, the blanket splayed beneath her, drawn up only by her hands.

"I didn't know it was you. Not until…" Gabriel glances down, as if to indicate this particular position, and without slyness. No visible slyness. "Not until I was right about here." The excuse might be as close to an apology, for all the bruises and slices, that he can come to.

Whether or not it's a true apology, it satisfies Eileen's need for one. "You weren't supposed to." Her left leg, the one without the stitches in it, bends at the knee and slides across his flank as she lifts her hips, fidgeting, trying to find the most comfortable position that the shop's floorboards are willing to afford her. "One shot in the back of the head to put you down. Two to be sure. If I hadn't missed—"

Realizing for the first time the precariousness of the situation they'd both walked into, she's suddenly very quiet, whatever she'd been about to say swept away with the overwhelming sense of fear that encompasses her next. He'd said she could have killed him, but only now does she consider the plausibility of the accusation. "Shit."

To be fair, Gabriel has had hours of consciousness to think it over, whether that be while stripping her down for weapons, stitching the wound at her thigh or simply pacing back and forth. All the same, a smile plays out for the first time since she opened her eyes, a dry sounding laugh fluttering at the back of his throat. "Welcome to now." A hand curls around to comb fingers through the loose, chopped curls of her hair, finding more mirth in the prospect of his death than he has a right to.

"I had a dream the other night." His head dips down, pressing his mouth against the column of her neck in a gentle, nuzzling kind of kiss. Unshaven skin grazes against her's, and a whisper resonates louder into her ear than it would have otherwise. "It told me that we don't realise what we have until it's bleeding out our feet."

When Gabriel lifts his head, that smile is gone. "I'm starting to think it has to be easier than that."

A groan reverberates through Eileen's throat at the kiss, more growl than whine, though not in protest. She turns her head into the hand raking fingers through her curls, neck arching. Bleeding out, locked up in the bowels of Pinehearst, sprawled on the floor of an alley, possessed— it applies to any number of things, and there's no humour in her tone when she slants a glance up at his face, eyes narrowed. "Your dream's wrong."

Her hands glide from his shoulders down his back, following the bow of his spine and taking the blanket's loose folds with it. "You realize. You know." She reciprocates, returns the kiss, captures his mouth in hers rather than aim for his neck or tease along his jaw. "I'm not Gillian, Gabriel. This is enough for me."

In rhythm of her palms smoothing down his back, his own palm travels up the side of her lifted thigh, allowing gentle, temporary red marks where his blunt fingernails bite. The kiss is soft, fleeting, and afterwards, Gabriel is looking at her as if trying to put a comb through the words dealt him, finding the barb, the shard of razor slid into them for him to cut his tongue upon unwittingly. Not for the first time, in all fairness, he finds none. So he feels it fine to reflect them back at her; "Me too."

His turn to kiss, paying heed to bruises beyond it by being gentle if as direct and demanding as can be expected. Fabric shifts and whispers around them and against them as he draws himself closer against her, settling. Both of them are bruised and sliced into; the dream was wrong about that too. Damage has nothing to do with it.

Eileen's hands find a place at the base of Gabriel's back where his spine dips, tapers out into tailbone. She holds him to her, imploring his attention with breathy noises of encouragement and the occasional grimace, mumbled reprimand or hoarse bark to signify when it's becoming too much, too painful to continue. As he settles, it pulls a contented sigh from her lungs and then nothing after except for the heavy sound of laboured breathing and the powerful drub of her heart hammering in her chest as she nestles against his.

Sleep will come eventually, but not yet.

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