All About Control


gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title All About Control
Synopsis Gabriel and Raith reach their destination in Baltimore, and although the weather there is more pleasant than what they've grown accustomed to in New York, the answers that the former receives from Martin Gray are anything but.
Date May 1, 2010

Harbor Watch Shop, Baltimore

In the phonebook and on the sign hanging above the storefront, the text reads Harbor Watch Shop, but the small, squat business several blocks off Baltimore's fog-swathed waterfront deals in more than just timepieces. Through the slats belonging the Venetian blinds on the other side of the shop's front windows, tall shelves separate high ceilings from a tile floor and showcase a wide variety of wares including antique televisions and radios dating back to the fifties and sixties, old VCRs and even a dusty gramophone or two interspersed between a collection of both mechanical and quartz clocks of every size, shape and design imaginable to someone like Jensen Raith whose experience with one of the oldest human inventions is limited to the digital one he sometimes wears on his wrist.

To Gabriel Gray, the selection isn't too impressive and represents only a small percentage of what passed through the doors of Gray and Sons while he still managed it. There's no one tending to the jewelry and more expensive timepieces under glass at the front counter that either man can see, but the neon OPEN sign in the window is lit, blue and red illumination gathering in the beads of rain collected on the glass.

They should have brought an umbrella.

Dark hair gone black and polished with the falling rain— wait 'til they tell the kids back home about rain— and pale skin dotted with moisture, Gabriel is the first to step into the watch shop, perusing only with a limited glance around as much as he the compulsion to touch things has him fidgeting with the cuffs of his winter coat. His reflection crosses over the glass counter as he peers in at the glimmer and shine of precious metal and clock faces beneath it, before his head goes up like a dog scenting blood on the wind.

"Back rooms," he notes, in the same tone of voice he does when alerting the Remnant of an unseen threat with one of his varied abilities, except that he's not, presumably, detecting a ninja. Hand in his pocket palming over the hidden photo within the lined wool, he glances at Raith in indifferent invitation— stay or tag along, up to you, soldier— before he's quietly making for the door that leads deeper into the building, as opposed to finding a bell ringer to alert his presence.

Not, presumably, detecting a ninja, but these days you can never be too certain. Indifferent or not, an invitation is still an invitation, and being inside the shop is much more appealing than standing out in the rain or even waiting in the truck. After Gabriel steps in, Raith follows, one arm tucked underneath his long coat- for full winter gear is not needed in this more temperate climate- to keep the plastered cast from getting wet and ruined. "Nice digs, at least," he comments back to Gabriel as he shuts the front door behind him, not letting it slam, "Old timey. I like it." While Gabriel is intent on charging straight into the lion's den, as it were, Raith hangs back, following more slowly and several feet behind. Maybe just in case there is a ninja lurking just ahead.

A business of Harbor Watch Shop's size doesn't have a lot of storage space available, and unlike many of the buildings in New York City, there's no apartment above it — only an attic that Gabriel passes under on his way, its trapdoor sealed shut and handle removed. The sound of rain fills the store, masking the sound of the pair's footsteps squeaking across the grimy tile, and it isn't until Gabriel's large shape fills the back room's doorway that the man who had been unpacking a FedEx box stuffed with packing peanuts and spare parts bundled in bubble wrap stops what he's doing, adjusts the pair of thick-framed glasses he wears on his face and directs a hard look over his shoulder—

Freezes, then, thin lips slightly parted into an expression of surprise as his eyes widen behind their lenses. Martin Gray hasn't changed much in the years since he pulled on his coat, placed a hand on Gabriel's head and left to get a pack of cigarettes one February night. He's older, hoarier with a head of thinner hair and more creases around his eyes and mouth than Gabriel remembers there being.

There's a shotgun laid out on a low table nearby, and although Martin's knuckles flex under the strain of anxious fingers, he does not yet reach for it. Removes his glasses from his face instead and tucks them into the front pocket of a woolen vest worn over a plaid shirt and drab brown tie.

The last decade and change has been a period of transformation for someone younger, and if there's anything of the boy that Martin knew in the serial killer standing in the doorway, it might be in the owlish regard up and down he's given until steely analysis lines tension under Gabriel's expression. Of course, to most people across the nation, and occasionally beyond, Gabriel Gray isn't hard to recognise. He glances to the shotgun close by, and only raises an eyebrow, listing a few steps inward and aside.

He sends a blink of psychic radar backwards, haphazardly locating Raith in the back of his mind, feeling for a fractional amount of time the other man's physical presence before withdrawing again. It's nothing Jensen will feel, or meant to feel. It's to the man Gabriel has in his line of sight when he confirms: "Martin Gray?"

'Martin Gray.' That's all that Raith needs to know to confirm that, yes, they have found who they are looking for. For the time being, he hangs back, casually examining some of the articles occupying shelves. Those closest to Gabriel in particular, and he doesn't not stray from them. Meeting your father after such a long time might be very distressing, and any support that Gabriel needs for this, Raith is on hand to provide, even if all he needs to do is stand within the area.

Martin's eyes flick between Gabriel and the man looming behind him, uncertainty in the weak shape of his mouth and cloudy brown irises. That the latter half of his name lifts up when it's spoken seems to give him pause, and for a few moments there's only staccato pattering, ticking minute hands and the uneven hiss of Martin's breathing as he returns Gabriel's regard, more mouse or rat than owl, and swallows back whatever it is he might have said if his 'son' hadn't spoken first.

No is the most tempting answer. You've got the wrong address.

It's also not the one he ultimately decides to offer. "What do you want?"

It might occur to him that having brought Raith along will also mean that one other person in the world will suffer Gabriel's humiliation at his dad asking what do you want when perhaps there are obvious answers to that question, even if— even if he doesn't have an answer in words immediately on hand. "Answers. Mainly." Drifting closer, Gabriel drops his gaze to take in the workspace, a hand up to run along the edge of a bench that lines the wall. "I met a guy who said he didn't have any.

"But then he gave me your address. It's been a while. Do you remember me?" The accusation in his voice implies that he knows that he must be recognised, for all that he only barely resembles the boy in the dorky glasses he was— not all that long ago.

There is little family resemblance between the man by the shotgun and the one trailing his hand over the bench. Gabriel is taller, broader, darker, and his features more pronounced than Martin's; it's a difference, too, that has only a small part to do with their disparate ages. Everything about Gabriel makes a statement, from the strength in his jaw to the way that his near-black eyes dominate his face with brutal intensity, while Martin has so little physical presence that when he lifts his chin and searches the younger man for signs of the man he once knew, Raith does have to question whether or not they have the right man.

Gray is a fairly common name. Martin, too.

"You killed your mother."

Gabriel would also like to announce that he was a successful watchshop owner. Better than this one. He met a girl, too, and saved the world a couple of times. Almost died more than that. Murdered a whole lot of people, too, and even that is a strange source of pride that he knows he shouldn't bother detailing for people outside of his orbit. He fixed the clock Martin left behind. To sum up: Gabriel has done a lot of things that his absent father wouldn't know about. And he also killed his mother.

Something breaks, with a twitch of his hand — invisible through the air, a baseball swing's worth of force makes a spiderweb pattern in one of the near by windows at a loud crack that does not culminate in a shatter. The only sign might be a hand's twitch, and the way he steps back. "That was an accident," he says. Of the window, of his mother, and either one is a lie. "God. What do you even care?"

It isn't the exchange of words that shifts Raith's focus wholly back to the situation unfolding, but the smashing of glass. Things are getting slightly out of control. The ex-spy's entrance into the conversation isn't vocal, but comes in the form of a hand on Gabriel's shoulder to let him know that he is not alone in this. "Past doesn't matter," he says to his compatriot in a low whisper, "What you do right now matters. Be strong, soldier. Live now, not then."

Martin's reaction to the sound of splintering glass and the cracks that spread like veins through the windowpane is a visible flinch. His hand twitches, too, but it's to finally lay his palm across the butt of his shotgun in an attempt to hide the fact that his whole arm is trembling.

If he cares about anything, it's his life and the continuation of it. "Is it an apology?" Martin asks, his voice bordering on a sneer, but just he lacks the courage to actually heft the weapon and bring it to bear, so too does he lack the courage to cross the line that separates resentment from scorn or contempt. His tone is full of the former. "Is that what you're after?"

Raith will feel more than hear Gabriel take a breath, the rise and fall of his shoulder beneath his palm before temper has him shifting away from the companiably clasp — not quite shrugging him off, let alone raising a hand against it, but step he takes away is a deliberate one before it degenerates into a restless, wolfish pace across the length of the workroom. That he's not lashing out again can be enough, for now. "No," he sneers back at Martin, biting back further words, a glance dealt to Raith.

His hand disappears into his pocket, and out again with the photograph that he moves to plant down perhaps half a foot away from the shotgun he seems to have zero problem with. His eyes are dark and hard when he lifts them to Martin's face. "I want answers. A man named Samson Gray gave me this. Someone like me. I want what you know."

"That's all," Raith adds to Gabriel's statement. Not to steal his thunder, as it were, but to keep things from spiraling further out of control, "We don't want trouble, or anything except for answers. And then, we're gone." That shotgun has Raith on edge, but he keeps that hidden, waiting until Martin Gray is not looking at him before he steals a glance at it, just to judge where it will be in a moment. Raith is armed, just like he always is, but he's not looking for a reason to bring his Glock out into the open, much preferring it stay under his coat and out of sight where it won't be making anybody jumpier than they already are. Otherwise, it's up to Gabriel to steer the conversation.

"Like you," Martin echoes, suddenly sounding very hollow. He lowers his eyes to the photograph, and without his glasses he has to squint to bring it into focus. Hyperopia. Farsightedness. You don't need intuitive aptitude to figure that out. His hand moves from the shotgun to the picture, uses blunt but impeccably clean nails to peel it off the surface of his workspace. Like Gabriel had done, he turns it over, locates the address on the back and chokes back a huff of aborted laughter before bringing his other hand up to his face, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose to relieve the tension swelling there.

Raith's promise probably doesn't do much to alleviate his fears. When Martin opens his eyes again, they've adopted a watery kind of quality that has nothing to do with tears and everything to do with the sudden onset of exhaustion that makes a wilting pot plant of his frame. "Samson Gray is my brother," he says finally. "Your father." Then, tentative again, "He gave you to us."

Gabriel is abruptly unsure if confirmation was what he'd expected, or wanted. His expression is difficult to read, hidden in the focused intensity with which he stares at his old man, a hand rested on the edge of the table supporting his lean in. "Gave," he repeats, the simple word sounding bizarre and foreign in his mouth as he repeats it in roughly the same intonation in which it was initially delivered. Had he had telekinesis, there might be some shimmer of energy in the air, some push that makes the curtains sway and skin shudder.

None of that, his powers one's firmly beneath his control and the wrong kind of volatile for indications of emotion. The two men in the room will only be able to infer the tension beneath Gabriel's coat. He says nothing more, allowing the repetition to be a prompt.

"Gave?" Everyone seems to be saying it. The difference is that the intonation of Raith's echo rises at the end, changing it from a statement to a question. "Gave why?" comes a second question from the ex-spy, "Who gives their kid to their brother?" It occurs to him then that he should maybe shut up. Gabriel is already on frayed strings: It would be unwise to push him until he snaps.

"Virginia," because if Martin is telling the truth — and he has no incentive not to — the woman who collected snow globes is not the same one who carried him inside of her, "wanted a child but couldn't conceive. I wanted a way out of a loveless marriage to a sick, infantile woman, and Samson—"

The derision with which he speaks his brother's name is what he couldn't bring himself to direct at Gabriel in his presence; it's the fact that he, his adoptive son and Raith are the only three men in the room that he's able to fully communicate his dislike. "I don't know why he wanted you off his hands," he says. "It wasn't the money. He's never wanted a lot of that."

For all that he has a lot of mixed feelings for Virginia, mixed enough to murder the woman, Gabriel's mouth pulls in a scowl at Martin's words for her, but doesn't interrupt — rather, he hangs on every word, without further hints as to what he thinks of them. By the time Martin's done, the table shudders a little from the force at which Gabriel straightens his back, steals his hand off the wooden surface. There wasn't a lot of money. Blood rushes to his head, but not quite enough to flush his face warm.

"You left me with her," is all he states, his voice as flat and cold as the Antarctic desert he came to know so well. Raith is right in that the past shouldn't matter, but occasionally it does, a little. Enough. "What do you think he wants from me now?" is a toneless Next Question.

Wordlessly, Raith's eyes drift from Martin to Gabriel, and then back to Martin. Ball's in his court: 'Dad's' input is not needed right now, so he continues doing what he was doing earlier and keeps quiet, waiting for an answer. If the man that time has been unkind to even has one to give.

"He doesn't want you dead," is all that Martin has to offer initially, trading the photograph for a greasy cloth on the counter with which to wipe the sweat from his palms. He drags it over his fingers and tugs the fabric over his knuckles, teasing the material with his hands to keep them occupied even after they're dry. "You'd already be if he did. Same as your mother."

There's a pause. A slight hitch in Martin's breathing as he realizes that yes — some extra clarification on this point is necessary. He closes his eyes again and rubs the back of his hand across them, cloth still clutched between his fingers. "Your real mother," he adds, and before Gabriel can ask— "We never met. I can't even remember her name, but it was in the papers. Right after you came to us."

Martin lowers his hand and fixes Gabriel with a level look, though there's still a great deal of nervous energy behind his eyes. "You are like him. Proud. Maybe it's forgiveness."

"You don't know anything about me," comes out as a growl from deep in Gabriel's throat, severe, the barest edges of tension that acts as the tip of the iceberg in comparison to how much he truly feels towards the elderly man in front of him. This is turning over the rock in the damp soil to see the ugly things beneath it, as honesty can often be. He takes back his photo in a brisk swipe, fingertips smearing their marks over its glossy surface, a corner bending when its tucked back into his pocket.

He feels like there's more to say, but it's a nameless desire, an ambient and inarticulate pressure where lashing out doesn't have to be in words. Gabriel finds himself glancing to Raith after a second of helpless silence, but before he can truly give 'Dad' the stage, his hands come down on the edge of the table to hurl it — the shotgun atop it and whatever tools and objects stacked along side the weapon are tipped and flung to the left along with the capsizing furniture, using that shimmer of nervousness in Martin's system to give the shove some extra oomph.

The overturn of furniture surprises Raith, sure. Maybe it even worries him a little bit, given that it wasn't as simple as it simply changing its upright state and scatter a few things on the floor as it was flying several feet into the wall and throwing objects everywhere. Overturned less by a man than by a grenade, the key difference being that all of them are still alive despite it. But unlike the near-panic Martin is most likely in right now, Raith is still generally calm, is only because he is confident that his partner won't turn on him. Once more, the ex-spy intervenes.

"Gabe," he says, allowing a brief pause if only to increase the likelihood that his words will register, "Easy. It's not in control here. You are." Whatever 'it' is, Raith doesn't expand on it. Whether it's Gabriel's temper, or one of his abilities or even the situation is for him to know, and for you to guess at.

The shotgun does not discharge when it hits the floor. Glass crashes against tile, goes scattering across the floor with a flimsy tide of packing peanuts, fluttering plastic wrap and spare parts that tinkle and chime when they bounce. That shimmer of nervousness bloats into a fat bubble of terror ready to pop; Raith might not be afraid of becoming Gabriel's next target, but Martin very much is.

Shards of broken glass crunch under his feet as he takes two quick steps back, his shoulders coming into sudden contact with the wall, but pride is something that runs in the family. He spares himself the indignity of retreating into the nearest corner and opts to shrivel where he stands instead.

The display of power does what it was meant to— if meaning to do something counts if it only occurs to you after an impulsive, dramatic gesture. Gabriel looks Martin up and down, a slow once over as if to emphasise everything he's apparently choosing not to do to the man, and a shuddery breath is let go of. "I'm all about control," is almost facetious reassurance in Raith's direction, a glance back an a slight raise of an eyebrow before Gabriel is backpedaling from the man that was both his father and then his uncle and at the same time, neither thing at all.

Just some old guy, is what his brisk turn away from him is meant to be say, and Gabriel's stride out from the back room, towards the storefront, is an even-paced one.

For a moment, Raith watches Gabriel's retreat, and then shifts his attention back to Martin, where it hovers for a moment before he offers to the other man a genuine plastic smile. "Thank you," he says, before turning and merrily walking after Gabriel towards the exit, leaving Gray the Elder alone and, almost certainly, confused and terrified. "Sorry about the mess!" he calls back over his shoulder as an afterthought.

Whether or not the apology is accepted, Raith will never know. Even after Gabriel has disappeared from view and his footsteps are ringing sharp through the shop, Martin does not move except to tangle his fingers in the wool of his vest, knuckles bulging around folds of skin as he clutches at his chest and lets the cloth dangle limp from his palm. He's forgotten that he's holding it.

Out front, there are no other customers perusing Martin's wares, no one to be drawn in by the thunder of the overturned table or the shriller symphony of clattering glass and instruments that immediately followed it, no one to stick their noses where they don't belong.

Even the street outside is empty except for the truck parked out on the curb and the rain glancing off its rusted hood and roof, outlining its shape in a fine film of silver.

It's miserable and raining outside, and Gabriel blusters out into it, the speed of his walk picking up momentum as he moves through the front door and pushes his way out into the wet with enough force for the door to bang on its hinges. There's only a moment of halting, between the store and the pickup — Gabriel bring his arm up to wipe his sleeve against the his forehead, the edge of his hand pressing to his temple for a moment as if to will down his own blood pressure.

Incidentally, that's exactly what he's doing — the thump of his heart slows and the rush of anger driving blood through his veins lets up until he's practically chalk white, if not unhealthily so, in comparison to the red tinge that had risen into his features.

Gabriel is outside, and not long after, so is Raith, although he exits in a somewhat calmer manner than his knight does. "Hey," he says, although it is not an accusatory or scolding told that he takes. Once again, he lays his left hand on Gabriel's shoulder, the right already tucked under his coat, and asks him, with a mixture of concern and nonchalantness, "You alright?"

The automatic thing would be a yes, and maybe it's what Raith expects, too. Buck up. Move forward. The affirmation dies long before Gabriel can even open his mouth to bleat it, glancing sidelong at the older man as rain patters down on both their crowns, a lock of black making an almost quizzical squiggle against his forehead before its brushed away, hands diverting back into his pockets. "I have a lot of thinking to do," he says, instead, voice back to toneless before he twists a mournful look back at the watch shop they just vacated.

Raith's gaze follows Gabriel's back to the store front, but it only hangs there for a moment, before it's back on the other man. "Yeah," the ex-spy replies, patting his partner's shoulder twice, "I hear you. But I don't think you ought to do all that thinking out in the rain, you know? Maybe flu's taken care of, but you can still catch a cold. Let's go, yeah?"

A glance heavenwards confirms what chilly damp already does — it is raining. A novelty, if not enough of one to stand there forever regardless as to whether Gabriel actually minds it. Standing in the rain after crushing self-discoveries sounds like the right amount of drama for him, if not enough to verbally insist on. Yeah. "Yeah," he agrees out loud, drifting away from Raith's clasp on his shoulder to head back for the driver's door, his brow in a knot of thoughtful tension even as he does so.

It's over the metal roof the truck that he speaks again, before the other man can round around completely and duck inside. "Thanks— " he starts, hesitates, finishes with, "thanks for coming." Gabriel's tone is more reserved than grateful. Thanks, he guesses. Like most of the Remnant, backstory and secrets and pasts are commodities kept close to the chest.

But still. And the driver door opens creakily to permit him entrance.

"Anytime," Raith says, likewise over the truck's roof before his own door creaks open and he climbs inside, the slam of it closing a signal to anyone nearby that, yes, they are indeed leaving. As soon as Gabriel is likewise inside, Raith has, perhaps surprisingly, a few instructions for him. "Head for the Beltway," he begins, "And then pick up I ninety-five south." Heading in exactly the opposite direction that would take them back home to New York, New York.

Starting up the engine, Raith's order distracts Gabriel enough out of his self-absorbed reverie to lend the older man a quizzical glance. He doesn't protest as he steers off the curb and onto the road, windshield wipers kicking up and shedding water off the windshield in liberal sprays. It takes a moment of thinking to decide that no, that's not the way home. "Where are we going?" seems a relevant question.

"To think," Raith replies, as if that would somehow answer the question entirely. Fortunately, he seems to understand that 'to think' is not an answer, or even a sentence, but is only a verb. With a smile that is wholly genuine, he turns his head to Gabriel and asks him happily, "You ever been to Churchill's in Williamsburg?"

Is this about that thing about knocking over a liquor store? is what Gabriel almost asks. Instead, he breaks his watching of Raith to navigating the road, and just mutely shakes his head, still half-distracted by everything he overturned back in the watch shop, if not enough to entirely put his faith and trust in Raith. You can put your life in his hands — just not necessarily your road trip plans.

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