f_eileen_icon.gif f_gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Admissions
Synopsis Eileen comes clean.
Date April 20, 2019

The Gray House

The object makes a thud once set down onto the table, a soft billowing of dust catching the light as the table is shaken with the impact. Because it's an attic, Gabriel supposes, so inherently breeds dust, no matter how much he cleans. Then again, the sheer amount of organised clutter lends itself to the accumulation. Crates and clocks dominate the space, shelves, toolboxes, and underneath it all, general storage. Sunlight beams on through a circular window, but a lamp is switched on anyway, as a chair is pulled closer.

It's a new project, which means he could be up here all night. The box is wooden, its contents reasonably sparse as Gabriel cracks the lid open with his fingernails, inspecting mechanical innards. Incomplete, there are parts he needs, some parts he already has. Antique dealers know him reasonably well, especially for the fact he'll shell out the cash for these things, and does a better job at mechanical restoration than most. Sometimes he'll even sell it back to them.

The gramophone is reduced down to its clockwork parts. He turns on the radio, the volume kept almost too quiet for normal ears, and picks up his glasses. It keeps the mind occupied, keeps hands busy. Sated. He hums one bar of music, and then goes quiet, filling the attic with the quiet sound of delicate tools and the undercurrent of radio-static motown.

The attic above the house is a sacred space, hallowed ground where neither Eileen nor Bai-Chan will tread without implicit blessings from its keeper. This is Gabriel's domain, not his wife's or his adoptive son's, so it is with mild trepidation that she places her palm on the door and pushes it open just enough to glimpse inside and frame his back in her narrowed field of vision.

She's known him for over ten years and familiarized herself with his habits to the point of sometimes being able to anticipate what he might do next, but every time she attempts to sneak up on him, there's always a small part of her that hopes he won't notice the flutter of her heart pattering busily away in her chest.

This time, the hinges don't give her away. The slight hitch in her breath when she steps inside might. If he's sufficiently distracted by his work, such an insignificant sound might go undetected by Gabriel's ears, comparable to the delicate creakings of her feet on the study's wooden floorboards. If he isn't, then he'll undoubtedly hear her coming.

Head bowed, shoulders curled a little, hands working, there are rare moments when someone can sneak up on Gabriel Gray. Moments like these, when little else in the world matters. Less than the trance of bloodthirst when he finds something truly complex to analyse, such as the human brain with all its minute intricacies and complications, but a version of it.

He's dressed comfortably. Sweatpants, a now slightly faded and worn NYPD police academy T-shirt, the scrubbed away logo printed on the plane of his back, the letters corroded from god knows how many cycles of laundry. Smaller details - his wedding ring, his thickly framed reading glasses. A watch on his wrist, the gentle tick adding to the ambience audible only to his ears.

It doesn't take long to hear her coming, either, despite his work. Doesn't lift his head, though, doesn't stop, says nothing. Pretending.

Eileen's clothes are similarly plain and include an oversized tunic-style sweater, handspun, in varying shades of gray with pale green threads woven throughout as well as a pair of black cotton leggings that cut off mid-calf, accentuating what little height she has. That he doesn't appear to sense her presence in the room is cause for hesitation — if it weren't for Abigail's subtle insistence, the memory of which is still fresh in her mind, she might abandon her courage at the door and retreat back down the stairs.

She doesn't.

Instead, she continues on her current course, maneuvers around boxes of structured clutter with the slow, halting purposefulness of a cat stalking a mouse. There's nothing even remotely feline or predatory about her intent, however, and as soon as she's close enough she reaches out to touch his shoulder rather than launch herself into a pounce.

And he allows himself to be captured. No show of being startled, though, just a slight glance and a tilt of his head, brown eyes going back down to his work when he feels that small warm hand touch his shoulder through thin fabric. The radio shuts off with only a glance, the dial apparently turning on its own. It too is an antique, brown wood and plastic and poor quality, but it fits in.

His hand moves, settles on top of hers in just as subtle and quiet greeting, before Gabriel is setting down the slim silvery tool he'd been using with a surgeon's precision, toeing his sneaker against the ground to turn his chair towards her. Wearing the same glasses, at least in appearance, as he had been the very first time they'd met, he peers up at her now between the frames, through glass.

"I wish more things in this house were as unmysterious as all this," he says. She came here to tell him something, he knows that much. He doesn't know what, just that she is, and his imagination can get ahead of him. Likely why he's talking first. "The main springs are giving me some trouble. Got told it's a common problem, that I should just take it in for repairs, finish the rest off myself. What do you think?"

The physical contact is reaffirming — Eileen needed a gesture of consent for this to go any further, and there it is. As the chair swivels, she takes that hand, lacing her fingers through Gabriel's own and giving them a brief but affectionate squeeze. He's asking for her advice on a subject she knows nothing about. That too is a gesture, she suspects, considerably more subtle though it may be.

"I think there have been plenty of books written about common problems," she concedes after a momentary pause in which she takes the opportunity to trace the tip of her thumbnail along his wedding band, "and with a library card you might get away with forgoing the middleman."

Whatever she encroached on his sanctuary to discuss, it isn't urgent. Her voice is soft without sounding subdued, the expression on her face relaxed and forthcoming. Eileen leans down, brushes a kiss across his brow. "Spare a few minutes in the meantime?"

He's still for the kiss, but by the time she pulls away, there's uncertainty there in his eyes. Like maybe Gabriel is seriously considering telling her that the gramophone will explode if he doesn't see to it right this second. Likely she'd take such an excuse too. This is, after all, his room. Gone, though, in the next moment, free hand moving to draw his glasses off his face and set them down just behind him. He's too curious to delay.

The chair squeaks a little as he inches it closer, arms going around her, low around her thighs and linking together with his hand around his wrist. Subtle. "I can spare a few minutes," Gabriel responds, head tilted to look up at her. "I need a library card anyway."

It's easier to broach these things when she's the one looking down at him rather than the other way around. Eileen feels small enough as it is without having Gabriel's shadow looming over her, stern and solemn even on the occasions he doesn't necessarily mean to be. Her hands move to his face, settle on the defining curves of his jaw with the tips of her fingers resting just behind his ears.

She's either making an attempt to put him at ease by cradling him in her palms, or she wants to ensure he won't be able to turn his head away from her. Knowing Eileen, it could well be a case of both. "Do you want to be angry with me now, or later?"

His eyebrows go up at the question, keeping his eyes on her's not only due to her hands gently holding him in place, which does simultaneously work as a comfort. No, trying to read her, anticipate her. Oddly defensive, his first instinct is to backtalk a little more, but he swallows the urge, head tilting a fraction in her hands. Honestly considering it. Again, it's a matter of curiousity. "May as well get it over with." At least he's being truthful, not even giving thought to the idea of peppering the conversation with reassurances that he won't.

It'd be easy to just take the answers from her, but Gabriel has enough Eileen in his head to last him a lifetime. Various snapshots, different ideas, changes, attitudes. Without knowing what he's in for, he's not sure he wants a snapshot of whatever's on her mind now. Around them, clocks tick in time with each other, and his hands play with the edges of her sweater, as if to tempt her into reconsidering saying anything at all.

And she is tempted. Once upon a time, in a world not entirely dissimilar to this one, Gabriel told Teodoro Laudani that Eileen doesn't talk — and while that isn't the gospel truth, it sometimes comes close. She prefers touching to verbal articulation, using body language to work through problems in place of words. It's really too bad there isn't another way to tell him what she needs to without spelling it out loud.

'Tis one thing to be tempted, another thing to fall. The closest she comes to actually succumbing is toying idly with his ear as she goes over what she wants to say in her head one final time before lending it a voice. Straightforwardness is the best thing next to honesty, and if Gabriel is going to be truthful with her then she owes him the same courtesy by extension. "I stopped taking my medication."

Yeah so. That was several light years away from where Gabriel thought she was going with this. Honest and open confusion draws lines on his face and angles his eyebrows, the expression lessening in the next moment. Medication. What possible medication would she— oh. The fabric of her sweater being played with between thumb and forefinger is abandoned as he leans back in his chair, not quite out of her grasp but angled enough so that the circle of his arms about her legs breaks loose.

"How long?" Somehow, that question pushed it's way to the front, elbowing past Why? and— well, mostly just variations of Why? He's reasonably sure it's gonna come up eventually. As for anger, it's not showing, save for in the subtle shift of body language.

"A few weeks." No exact date, though she has one balancing on the tip of her tongue in case he asks for it. This certainly explains the strange behaviour Gabriel has witnessed since their argument in the verdant heart of Unity Park closer to the beginning of the month — her less-than-tactful appeal hours before the fundraiser gala at the Marriott Hotel, mysterious disappearances in the middle of the evening, the brazen way she'd confronted him afterwards, demanding answers with pointed inquiries about what transpired during the time she'd been absent.

She can sense the next question lurking beneath his composed exterior, too. The why. Something he shouldn't be forced to ask with anything other than his eyes. "I was upset," Eileen continues. "And I wasn't thinking."

Finally eye contact is broken, gaze slanting away from her in a gesture well known to Eileen. Irritation, mostly at her, some at himself for bring caught off guard, slouching back a little further in his seat. Hands go up, hands go down in a limp, defeated gesture. "Well you did always make the decisions for the pair of us," Gabriel says, with snide resentment, which fades into something else slightly less catty. "You were upset— it doesn't make sense. One day you're telling me you want to see the world, and now— "

Now. His hands go up again in that gesture, chair squeaking a little as he shifts it over perhaps with the intent to go back to work, hand even drifting towards the pliers he'd set down before the movement is aborted, hand returning to his face to rub over his mouth.

"If I can't have the world, then why shouldn't I be able to have my second choice?" Eileen asks. It's impossible to miss the umbrage in his voice, compounded by the guardedness of his body's movements, so much more difficult to interpret. She was upset. Now he is, though she's fairly certain Gabriel won't turn around and do something as impulsive or thoughtless as her own misguided actions. "I wanted to feel something. Take a chance. We never risk anything anymore, and if I'd told you what I was planning, you'd have just—" Said no.

Eileen's arms drop back to her side, hands falling away from her husband's face as he pulls away from her and edges his seat. She didn't come up here to argue. She came up here to apologize, and now that this is mostly done, she takes a single step back so Gabriel can have his space. "I'm sorry. It was a shitty thing to do."

Understatement of the year, that.

She's fixed with a hard look at the end of her incomplete sentence. For presuming what he might say. For acting against the presumption anyway. And he wants to drill it home, but the fact she's apologising undercuts that, makes him restless with unspent anger. Let it go, Gabriel. The pliers are picked up again, but not to use, just to fidget with in an almost adolescent gesture, letting its curving bite rest against the scuffed table, grinding along a groove in the wood.

"Yeah," he agrees, somewhat icily. "It was. You've never said anything about it. Maybe I would've said no, and you don't know why." A clatter as the pliers fall from his grip, looking back up at her. "You figure it's because I'm afraid of doing anything different? Because I'm happy, because I have all the time in the world?"

A snort of laughter, an inappropriate smile alighting his features suddenly at some perceived irony. He explains it, at least, if bitterly. "I thought you were going to tell me you were leaving me. I guess I should be happy."

Leave him. Eileen can't say she hasn't ever thought about it. All her doubts, reservations, momentary weaknesses in resolve — they date back further than their marriage does, stemming from a time when she didn't know how she felt toward him, or how he felt toward her. There will always be lingering questions. Uncertainties. What ifs.

She likes to think there isn't anything wrong with that. Especially not when she arrives at the same conclusion every time she makes the journey. "I made that mistake once," she says at last. "Leaving you. You saw what it did to me when you took those memories. All the hurt, heartache, suffering. I still haven't forgiven myself for what I did to Tavisha. Do you really think I could do it again?"

"With the way things have been lately…" But the excuse trails into nothing, Gabriel looking up towards the circular window of the attic and breathing out a sigh that communicates, no, I don't. Doubtful Eileen is so weak-willed as to force herself to be paired with someone she doesn't want to be paired with, despite her words as to their marriage.

Bound to this life. It's still bothering him. As much as the notion of time running out, now more of a worry than before. Probably why he hasn't said anything. "So this is what you want? To leave everything behind or make everything we have more meaningful?"

"I could leave my job," Eileen says, "the house, New York. America. None of those things give me any real pleasure anymore, but if leaving them behind means losing you— no. You're my family, Gabriel, and if my family won't go then I can't either. Nothing's worth abandoning someone I love." Except the fate of the world on the eve of an impending viral apocalypse, but that's all in the past, isn't it?

Abigail told her that relationships are about compromise. She owes it to them both to try. "I may have to go away for awhile," she admits, a caveat to her previous declaration, "but that's nothing we both haven't done before. Leading separate lives. They always come back together, in the end."

They've always come back, but might they always continue to follow such a pattern? Gabriel's doubt is communicated only in silence, even though he nods once in perceived understanding. God, how much time is left? Ultimately there's not much he can do, not without telling her, which isn't acceptable. Nothing they can do, if it's true, besides make them both miserable. "I've gotten used to this," he admits. "The past several years. And I'm not bored yet."

"I'm not you." It's a good thing Eileen doesn't know what Gabriel is thinking or she might react differently, but it doesn't take a telepath to sense his unease and suspect he might be hiding something. And he's entitled to. He has his secrets, she has hers. "I've only been given one lifetime," she says. "Kazimir's gifted you with an infinite number. When your body dies, you'll find a new one, start over. New face. New identity. New wife. Or maybe you won't. You could be Gabriel Gray forever if you wanted. All I'll ever have is this."

The heels of his shoes hook against the floor and he pulls himself and his chair closer. Once upon a time, Gabriel— Sylar— even Tavisha had been uncertain about physical contact, as if some other unpleasant meaning came with it, or maybe he didn't deserve it, or some unknown instinct that made him recoil. It was a slow evolution of a few years for that to change, for him to desire human contact, culminating now in the simple move of him reaching out and taking her hand.

He hopes she isn't wrong. He's pretty sure she is, for reasons she doesn't know. "Would it change this if I couldn't do that?" He's not watching her eyes. "If you knew we'd die together?" As if to throw off suspicion, Gabriel adds, "If the ability didn't work that way, somehow, if it stopped or got— removed."

Gabriel volunteer to have one of his myriad abilities taken away from him? Ha, ha, ha. That's a funny joke, and yet Eileen isn't smiling. She holds his gaze long enough to betray her indecision, eyes dropping down to his hand holding hers. Fingers curl. Her pulse jumps in her wrist. Silently, she thumbs the slope that divides four of his digits from the fifth and gives his hand what she hopes is a reassuring squeeze.

She could lie. It would be easy to just say "No," and leave things at that. Allow them to play out and run their course with the burden of guilt resting on her shoulders instead of his.

It would also be wrong. "It wouldn't change anything for me." But I think it would for you.

Okay. No reason for her to lie and Gabriel accepts this quietly, because, you know. Even difficult decisions would be too easy. No shortcuts, not when it comes to people. With godlike control over everything ever, Gabriel never did learn control over what makes people them. "So what now?" he asks, hand loosely joined with her's. "What do you want to do?" Children. Travel. Either way.

Eileen crouches down in front of Gabriel's chair, resting the majority of her weight on the balls of her feet. She'd been looking down at him before, but addressing him at something closer to his own level seems more appropriate now. "I want to find a middle ground," she says. "Something that might make us both happy. Something that doesn't mean going behind your back. We don't have to decide today, or tomorrow, or even this week. Month. Just as long as we do it."

This is almost too mature for them both. Suspiciously so. Compromise. Gabriel studies her for a moment, and finally, leans forward. A kiss to the corner of her mouth, where light from the high window dapples sunlight on her cheek, hand settling at her throat. He smells like a recent shower, and the scents that come with the attic - polish, dust, iron, rich woodiness. "Soon," he says. Perhaps after he's sure the world isn't going to blink away. "I promise."

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