Aches and Pains


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Scene Title Aches and Pains
Synopsis Eileen visits the Lighthouse with a package of non-perishables for the children and finds Gillian, who tells her about her mysterious encounter with a sunglasses wearing man on Swinburne Island.
Date August 13, 2009

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse might have been fixed up quite a bit in the last few days, with most of the work done on a single day, but there's always little things to do. It takes Gillian's mind off the pain in various parts of her body to do simple work… like sorting books on the bookshelf. There's two boxes sitting on the floor, next to the large bookcase against the wall. It had once had many books, but a lot of them got damaged in the explosion and the rains that followed. There's plenty of room on the shelves for the boxes she brought.

Each shelf is given a certain kind of treatment. The higher shelves for the bigger kids, the lower shelves for the younger. Each arranged in a certain order, by author's name. Fantasy novels, fairytales, young adults, children's books. None of the children are downstairs as the evening starts to set in, but there's sounds coming from upstairs. Likely one of the Brian's is helping them arrange their dorms again.

Her movements are slow, tired, and pained. It doesn't seem like she listened to Cardinal's orders and went to a healer right after leaving Eve's.

Outside, drifting in through a nearby window, the sound of a sputtering engine builds and combines with the crackle of loose gravel beneath rubber tires. It's too subdued to belong to a truck and too petite to belong to a car — a moment later, eclipsed by the curtains, a moped rounds the corner, comes into view between the trees and pulls up in front of the Lighthouse. Head protected by a lightweight helmet that looks like it was purchased from a military surplus store, the rider uses their booted foot to maneuver the vehicle's kickstand into place before turning off the engine. Fortunately, the rest of their clothes are civilian issue: leather jacket in shades of brown and faded denim jeans sitting low on a pair of hips so slim they suggest Gillian's visitor is either a woman or a teenage boy still grappling with puberty.

The answer presents itself when the rider's helmet comes off and reveals a familiar tangle of dark hair curling manelike at her temples and the nape of her pale neck. Eileen Ruskin swings over the side of the bike, plucks off her gloves and begins unknotting the length of twine that secures an unmarked parcel wrapped in brown paper to its rear.

By the time the woman gets her helmet off, Gillian's moved away from the bookshelf to look out the window. Any sign of noise from outside, and she's expecting to see a black van or something much worse pulling up from the street. A moped is a nicer sight to see, truly. Especially one driven by that woman.

The curtains drop back into place, and moments later the front door clicks as it's unlocked and opened. The young woman who steps out front is easily recognized, but also limping marginally in her steps. Both legs with equal signs of damage. Bruising is visible on her upper arms.

The parcel in hand gets a glance before she looks back up at the younger woman's face. It's been a while since they'd seen each other, but not as long as it might feel. "Eileen," she says in greeting, voice a tiny bit raspier than normal.

Eileen has given up loosening the twine with her fingers and is in the process of flicking out a balisong by the time Gillian emerges from the lighthouse. The knife's blade shimmers silver in the sunlight, distracting in the same gaudy way that fast-moving schools of tropical fish are, gleefully pulling eyes away from the less colourful animals that make their home amongst the coral. She offers the other woman a small smile as, with a purposeful jerk of her wrist, she cuts through one of the more stubborn sections of twine.

"Gillian." The warmth in her eyes, as always, is somewhat tempered by their gray colour, but it's clear that she's thankful to see her. Some of that contentment soon turns to concern, the balisong disappearing into her jacket again when she notices the bruising on Gillian's arms and the difficulty with which she appears to move. "Did something happen?"

"Yeah, I was going to try to contact you about it soon, I just haven't figured out how, since Brian made me paranoid that I'm being followed," Gillian says, glancing around the area with a visible grimace before she pushes the door open enough to let her inside. "You got more eyes than I do. If you spot anyone nearby with aviator sunglasses, have the birds peck him in multiple places or something. Asshole deserves it." A shift to touch her arms, she avoids looking around anymore. Paranoia isn't making her feel better about what happened.

"Not sure if the guy was that Feng guy or not— what little I saw of him didn't look like a Feng— but he might have been with him. Could have been Company either, or any number of jackasses." While she gets most the way inside, intending the close the door behind her if the smaller girl comes in, she's lowered her voice. There's some heavy footsteps coming from upstairs, some noise, possibly a Brian keeping order, and then it quiets a bit again.

"Whoever it was he was looking for Gabriel."

Parcel cradled in her arms, Eileen follows Gillian inside. Errant flecks of gravel wedged between the ridges of her soles click unobtrusively against the floor underfoot as she makes her way from the threshold and into the kitchen, listening to Gillian's explanation in relative silence. "Gabriel has a lot of enemies," she says, only after she's finished,. "You're right." She places the parcel on the kitchen counter with a glance up at the ceiling, head canted at hawkish angle. Paranoia might not be the right word for it, but Gillian isn't the only one in the room who seems to be on edge.

"I'll have a look around before I go." Returning her attention to the parcel, she begins to unwrap it by using the edge of her fingernail to slice cleanly through the tape that holds the paper wrapping in place. "Feng's priority is Holden. He's interested in Sylar, but as far as I know he hasn't got any reason to believe that you two share a history. Where did he find you?"

"Whoever he was, he knew we had been together," Gillian says, grimacing a bit at the past tense, as well as other things going through her mind. The door's closed, there's still a lot of decorations and other things that need to be added to the living area, but it's nearly functional now. The kids could get read to from one of the chairs, and all sit around. Not comfortably. She intends to add throw pillows or even big beanbag seats if she can find them. That might have been a thing from her childhood, but no reason they can't still work!

"This guy didn't seem interested in anyone else— just asking about Sylar. By that name. He must have thought I was meeting him there, but it wasn't him I was looking for. I'd…" She limps back over to the bookshelves, to occupy her hands as she explains, not pleased with the situation at all.

"I was trying to find Peter." Shuffling books around, there's going to need to be resorting later, cause she's not paying too much attention. E is not B. "A guy down at the docks recognized the description and said he'd been on Swinburne Island, which is where I went looking. Guy said he'd give me an hour— I saw it was a training ground at least, there were animal remains, dead plants… but I got shot. With darts. In the back, and then in the legs. Went numb. He asked me who I was there to see and I was… uncooperative. He'd already shot me a few more times before I even found out he wasn't asking about Peter at all. Told him he was barking up the wrong tree, and he left me there paralyzed with a Christmas bow on my forehead. A present in case I was lying about not being with him anymore."

The stranger's modus operandi sounds like Feng, but his line of questioning as described by Gillian doesn't ring particularly true to Eileen. "I'll let him know what happened if I see him," she promises, peeling the paper away to reveal several smaller packages inside the parcel, but unlike the parcel itself these are bundled in transparent plastic, appropriately labeled and include bags of wild rice, couscous, powdered milk and lentils in olive green, dark brown and vibrant orange, each separated by colour.

"I'd heard he was keeping Peter out on Swinburne, so you were at least looking in the right place," she adds, almost as an afterthought as she crumples the paper wrapping between her hands and works some of the tension from her bone white fingers. "Better no one goes back if this Aviators of yours was able to track Gabriel that far." The wrapping is summarily discarded in the nearest garbage can. "I'm glad you're all right. They will be, too."

Foodstuffs? Gillian vaguely hopes that one of the Brians learns cooking, cause there's only so much she's capable of doing. Cooking for herself is easy enough, cooking for a household… The kids have started to get used to more peanut butter and jelly on her cooking days than anything else.

They will be, too?

Sliding a book back, she leaves it there and doesn't reach for another one, "I guess it's impossible to warn him without telling him why he's being…" There's a pain that isn't physical under the grimaces of standing and moving. "I don't know how much the man had known about us, but he recognized me. Said I was a hard person to find, that I— he said that he had files that I was connected to him." There's a pause, as if she's trying to make sure she's remembering correctly.

"But it's likely he had been on the island already, waiting for Gabriel… Pretty sure he wasn't Evolved, at least I know I wasn't holding in my ability and I didn't feel my power going anywhere— but he was a sadistic fucker."

The last time Eileen visited the Lighthouse, it was still in shambles. It takes her a few moments of pause, consternation crinkling at the corners of her eyes and mouth, to remember how Brian likes to organize the kitchen. None of the items inside the parcel require refrigeration — that narrows things down considerably. Overhead cupboards creak open, shuddering on their hinges. "There's a lot of that going around lately," she agrees as she finds a suitable shelf on which to store the lentils, couscous and rice, each bag stacked on top of one another to save space. If Brian wants to transfer them into jars, he can do so at his own convenience. The powdered milk finds a place with the other cooking supplies.

"Sadistic fuckery, I mean. I wish it had been Feng. Then we'd only have one of them to worry about." Eileen closes the cupboards, wipes off the dust from her hands onto the front of the top she wears beneath her jacket. In doing so, she gives Gillian a glimpse of her shoulder holster and the attached pistol, gunmetal appearing matte in comparison to the Batangas knife she'd been using earlier and flicking around like a toy. "Is there anything else you'd like me to pass along?"

Moving to get closer to the kitchen, Gillian nods slowly at the mention of wishing it was Feng. One person is easier to deal with than two, or three, or god knows how many. The bruises on her arm have a central point, a small red speck that's long stopped bleeding, but the bruise had been caused likely by it being fired far too close to her. The needles went deep, even if the pain didn't last long once the numbing agent kicked in.

"I don't… If either of them wanted to see me, they would have by now," she says, casting her eyes down. "I'm not the one hiding…" There's a mild tremor to her voice. "Seems I just get hurt whenever I try to find…" Him. "You think I'd have learned better after the first couple of times…" Maybe now she has, or perhaps the wounds are just too fresh.

There's little pause before she runs toward another topic, "Cardinal mentioned something to me, about a guy called Norman White. A terrakinetic, source of all those earthquakes. Phoenix is tracking info on him too, cause he was a Moab escapee, but Cardinal thinks he's going to be threatening Staten Island, maybe even trying to sink it entirely, or something. He wanted to make sure you and the others got warned if I saw you first."

"Cardinal thinks a lot of things. So does Catherine." Eileen leans her hip against the counter and folds her arms across her chest after sneaking a sidelong look out the kitchen window to ensure that the moped outside isn't in danger of being tipped over by one of the children. Not that there's really any need — perched on the handlebars is a stately-looking shorebird with a mottled brown back, white breast and two black bands that encircle its ruffled throat. There's a flurry of movement as it darts out its neck and snaps at a mayfly buzzing precariously by, then settles back onto its perch with a set of iridescent wings fluttering uselessly in its beak.

She should let the subject of Gabriel and Peter lie. Should, however, does not always translate to will. "Peter can't touch anyone without watching them wilt under his hand," she tells Gillian. "It's difficult to come to terms with that sort of power. I had something similar when Case switched my gift for Delphine's brother's and it almost killed me, never mind the people I cared about. If he's keeping his distance, maybe it's because he's worried for your safety. Volken's ability isn't something to fool around with."

There's sounds of footsteps running upstairs, then another set of voices. Gillian looks away to the direction of the staircase, but no little feet appear running down them. The smaller kids should be getting put to bed soon… One thing she can do is read to them each night, but she's not entirely in the mood to do such right now, especially with the talk of… Maybe she wishes one of them would come down and keep her from having to continue this line. No rescue. Never when she wants it. Eyes close as she steps back to lean against the door frame.

"I know his power isn't something to fool around with, neither is mine. Together he'd be even more likely to kill me without meaning to." It's not the risks that worry her…

"I'm not asking to touch him, or… I just want to see him. Talk to him. Hell, I'd settle for a fucking phone call at this point." There's a small laugh, and she shakes her head a bit. The island might sink like California, and she's more worried about… personal things. Little as they may seem in the grand scheme of things, they have the biggest impact on her.

"He barely even spoke to me. The two times I've seen him since… he talked to Helena and Eve… but he barely spoke to me. With Helena he just included me when he talked to her."

Maybe it's because Eileen thinks she knows what Gillian must be feeling — the uncertainty, that ache. Or maybe it's because she enjoys pretending that committing enough acts of kindness might one day absolve her of her involvement with the Vanguard. Whatever the reason, she lifts one of her hands from her arms and, as if considering, pretends to take an interest in the way the light plays off one of the silver rings she wears on her fingers — an ornate little thing she picked up when she and Ethan were on assignment in Mexico, twisted into the shape of a snake with specks of turquoise for eyes.

"I can send one of my birds to find him for you," she offers with a rolling shrug of her left shoulder as her hand falls back to her side and she pushes away from the counter. "When I do, I'll wait until Gabriel is gone and then tell you where he is so the two of you can have some time alone to talk things out. Acceptable?"

Eyes raise up at the offer, and Gillian lets out a breath through her nose that might almost mimic a laugh. There's an ache, certainly, an uncertainty that's digging at her in ways she's not sure she can even explain to anyone. Laying alone, paralyzed and helpless, unable to even close her eyes and sleep for very long… It'd taken seven hours before she could move enough to pull the insulting ribbon off, then she had to pull out the darts, and then call Cat to get a boat out to take her to the mainland. It took most the day before she could explain to anyone what happened…

It gave her a lot of time to think about things.

"Fuck, I don't… Maybe I'm not supposed to find him." It'd pretty much been the conclusion she came up with as the night drew on and no one came… Even then, the offer tugs on something that's not quite killed by the darts. Her hand tightens against the counter. "I won't say no, though. If you can find him and you can contact me, then I'll try it."

"Not supposed to find him," Eileen echoes, sounding dubious. She gives Gillian a skeptical look on her way out of the kitchen. "Si vis amari ama. Amato taught me that one. If you see him at the Garden, ask him what it means or otherwise look it up yourself. You used to be a librarian, right?" Her footfalls echo through the entryway as she heads toward the front door, straightening the cuffs of her jacket and then adjusting its collar. "You get back what you put in."

Her hand finds the handle and she gives it a twist. Sunlight filters inside as the front door swings open and illuminates the infinite particles of dust hanging in the Lighthouse's stale air, stirred up by all the work that's been done during the past few days. "I used to believe in fate. God. Not so much these days. It's all on you, Gillian."

Whatever it is, it's Italian. The rest is hard to tell. There's a couple people she could ask for a translation from, but Gillian just nods, thinking it over. The words that follow make sense, too, even if… "I guess so," she says, shaking her head a bit, even making that breathy nose laugh. "I'll just have to hope my next attempt to meet up with him doesn't end that badly." There'd only been one other person who'd ever made her feel that completely helpless, and she still wants to punch him in the face for it.

"Let me know if you find him, and when he's alone. I'll try to think of a way to talk to him without making him too uncomfortable about hurting me, if that's really his only reason for running away." And if it isn't… she should be informed of that too.

"Thanks, Eileen," she adds softly, shifting her head to the side, hair falling into her face a bit. There's a mild flash, of a sin not her own. Speaking of Amato… A slow inhale through teeth and she says, "Take care of Gabriel. As much as he'll allow anyone to, at least."

"I'll watch his back for both of us," is Eileen's response, carefully neutral. "You're welcome." This said, she steps outside and closes the door behind her, booted feet crunching through the gravel. She doesn't appear again in the window where the moped and the shorebird, now preening its feathers, still sit — instead, she takes a turn around the property as promised and picks through the saltgrass in search of nightjars and plovers, sandpipers and willets, all of the usual shorebird suspects that might have caught a glimpse of polarized sunglasses glinting in the earlier afternoon light.

She finds none.

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