An Island For Two


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Scene Title An Island For Two
Synopsis Once upon a time they built trust. But that was so long ago.
Date December 27, 2019

The Inn sounds like it should be cozy, all firelight and old world charm, but that’s really just a clever marketing ploy thought up by the hotel’s proprietor. Reality is very different, and Avi is experienced enough that maybe he’s come to expect it. It’s been more than two decades since the carpet in his room was replaced, which makes the floor under his feet older than the woman nursing a cigarette by the window with her hip leaned against the sill.

The weather outside is still too cold to crack it. Fortunately, the smoke detector affixed to the ceiling is also ornamental. Eileen pulls the curtain back with the crook of her index finger to get a better look at the snow-choked street below. She can easily make out the shapes of cars trapped in the ice, their silhouettes lit up bright by moonlight.

That’s good, she thinks. It makes it harder for anyone to sneak up on her.

Her attention shifts from the world outside the hotel room to Avi’s reflection in the glass a few inches from her nose. She doesn’t expect him to sneak up on her anymore, but that’s the thing about old habits. They die hard.

“It isn’t very fair,” she says in a tone that’s much lighter and more conversational than her words imply. “You’ve read my file. You know everything there is to know about me, but I know almost nothing about you except your name.”

She lets the curtain drop. “And the fact that alcoholism is usually genetic.”

“I’m not an alcoholic,” Epstein says, flat on his back on the bed with his legs below the knees hanging off the edge, “I’m fun.” Staring up at the ceiling as he is, Avi looks to be a million miles away. The vacant look in his eye seems as glassy as the prosthetic replacement in the other socket. “Besides,” he continues, “you already think so highly’f me. I wouldn’t want the polish t’come off.”

It had been a couple hours since they’d come here, since Epstein had allowed her to clean him up from his drunken mess. Since they’d sat in silence while he drifted in and out of something vaguely resembling sleep. It wasn’t restful enough — he wasn’t restful enough — to really be productive, though. So instead Epstein has just laid there, arms straight out at his side, staring at a murky brown water stain on the ceiling.

“That sounds like something an alcoholic would say.”

Eileen surrenders her position at the window and the warmth of the cast iron radiator ticking steadily away in the space between floor and sill. Feng Daiyu is a snake; they do not fare well in weather like this, so she suspects he’s coiled up somewhere dark and dry to wait out the storm, just as they are. The chances of being ambushed by Nidhogg tonight are slim.

Her boots sit pooling water closer to the door where both their coats and her little cloche hat hang to dry. Although the carpet is worn, it’s at least clean enough for bare feet — or stockinged ones. She crosses it to join Avi by the bed, settling on its edge somewhere in his blind spot. His weight already causes the mattress to dip into its center, and her frame is too light to move that scale in any meaningful way.

A solitary spring creaks. That’s all.

“Also,” she says, “you don’t strike me as someone who cares what I think.”

His response is a guttural sound in the back of his throat, one as inscrutable as his distant-eyed expression. He lets that be his answer, allowing her to interpret it however she’d like. “The only thing that’s genetic in my family is being dead,” sounds unnecessarily bleak, but in spite of his protests he doesn’t seem like a fun drunk. More the depressive episode kind. “Dead, in prison, or dying. That’s the three kinds of Epsteins.”

Epstein turns his head in Eileen’s direction, nose rankling and brows furrowed. He doesn’t like her in his blind spot, especially since it’s grown so much with the loss of an entire eye. “I figure I’ll be any one of those three any day now, y’know?” In prison, dying, or dead.

Eileen takes a drag from her cigarette. She’s close enough that he can hear the paper crackle as it burns down, producing a wan orange glow. Her eyes are focused somewhere past him. The peeling wallpaper, maybe. Or the loose metal chain strung across the door’s latch.

Contemplating his not-actually-a-question, she rolls the smoke around in her mouth, then blows it out through her nose like a diminutive, well-dressed dragon. Her dress is red, at least. The comparison fits.

“You’re familiar with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy?” she asks, and that isn’t a question either. He’s an asshole, not stupid.

“If I say yes does that make that a uh…” Epstein grunts, looking back at the ceiling, “self… uh, something, question? Fuck.” He closes his eyes and rolls his head slowly from side to side. It’s hard to be clever when your head is still swimming. “I dunno,” he finally mumbles. “Tell that t’Emily,” he says as if that name means anything to Eileen at all. “B’cause she’s in the dying category an’ I figure it’ll be dead before she’s 13.”

Lifting one hand to scrub at his face, Epstein seems to be struggling with more than just the alcohol in his system. “Life’s what y’make of it. Nobody’s in charge of it, there isn’t a fucking plan. It’s just a bunch of monkeys, fucking and murdering each other, until the end of time.”


Eileen’s brow knits. She remembers seeing a mug with the words World’s Best Dad curved around it when she searched Sylar’s— searched Epstein’s apartment cupboards during a recent break-in. At the time, it had been an interesting piece of new information to be filed away for later consideration.

Later is now.

She extends a long, pale arm and taps compacted ash off the end of her cigarette into a tray on the nightstand.

“What is she sick with?”

“The Epstein family name,” is his glib response. “It doesn't matter, it's incurable, her life is measured in years not decades. I'm just gonna put my last kid into the ground and…” He closes his eyes and shakes his head. “She's sick with being my kid. Because no matter what, she'll never be able t’shake that. She’ll die knowing she's an Epstein.”

Sighing, Epstein looks at Eileen. There's frustration in his eyes, bitterness. When he looks away, he stares up at the ceiling. “Thanks for making sure I didn't puke myself to death,” he mumbles almost to himself. “But you're just delaying the inevitable. We’re all gonna die…”

“…it's just a matter of time.”

Nine Years Later

Somewhere Below Rochester, NY

Reality is harsher than memory.

Eileen’s reality has been redefined by darkness. What should have been the numbing release of death has changed into something more purgatorial. Her waking is met with indeterminate dimensions of cold concrete and the smell of stagnant water.

The space Eileen awakens to is just tall enough for her to stand up, but not wide enough for her to lie down. A metal pipe runs along the ceiling, three walls of bare concrete and one wall of thin metal that gives just enough to imply that it's locked or barred. The crinkle of plastic and fabric beneath her shirt where she was shot indicates a hasty bandage. Cold and trembling fingers trace out the oblong outline of a menstrual pad adhered over her bullet wound.

She is crammed in this space, knees bent to her chest, confined and dying, in lightless and uncomfortably warm and humid darkness.

No concussion. That’s the first thing Eileen assesses, and it’s impressive when she thinks back to her spill down the stairs and the fact Epstein clubbed her unconscious with a metal stool. The first deep breath she pulls in through her nose tells her that Francois’ bullet did not punch all the way through to create an exit wound.

She thinks she can feel it floating somewhere in the cavity of her chest, radiating pain through muscle, bone, and all the interstitial tissue between, or maybe that’s just her imagination. Everything hurts.

“Help,” she says, to no one in particular. She means to shout, but her voice lacks the strength to manifest as much more than a hoarse, breathy croak. “Hhh—”

Swallowing back an involuntary gasp, she braces her right foot against the metal barrier and pushes.

But it doesn't give much. Maybe if she had her strength, maybe if breathing wasn't agony, maybe if the circumstances were different she could kick the door right out of its frame. But the situation isn't different and she's here, somewhere in the claustrophobic dark, bleeding through her clothes.

While Eileen may not have a conclusion, her skull still throbs. Her eyes ache with the beat of her heart, the back of her neck aches with the throb of her pulse. Each and every waking moment redefines the level of discomfort she's experiencing, introduces her to new aches and pains that lance between joints and shoot up limbs. All she can taste is blood.

Then she remembers Francois. She can still feel the vibration in her hand, the scraping sensation of her knife grinding against his ribs on its way into his chest. The last hour she recalls comes flooding back. The darkness does not abate with clarity, the light cannot find a way in.

Her breathing quickens, heart palpitates. Eileen is sitting upright in her own coffin.

She swings her train of thought all the way back into reverse, past Francois, past Epstein surprising her in the hall. She’d taken Warren’s motorcycle when her fear and anxiety became too much to suffer through. Promised herself she was only going to Rochester to look for the Frenchman’s blood in the snow.

Something changed. She can’t remember what. She does remember deciding to search Epstein’s office for any physical record of the Entity, or of Kara Prince. Then—

“Fuck,” she hisses thinly through her teeth. Once.

Eileen spits.

Avi,” she tries instead, on the off chance that he might still be within earshot. Her tone takes on a plaintive edge only a handful of people have heard before. This version of Epstein isn’t among them. “Avi, please.”

She’s already crying, not for show. Who would even see it?

Silence, save for the pounding of blood rushing in her ears and the tinnitus ring that may never go away. Silence, and the reverberation of her own pleading echoing in a vibration off the metal door. Silence, save for the screaming in her head of distant birds sharing her panic.

Silence, then

“How long have you been on negation drugs?” She recognizes Avi’s voice on the other side of the metal door. He isn't close. “Because my estimate is if you're popping zodytrin you're gonna’ go back to life sucking vampire within five hours or so.”

She can hear a scuffing sound on the other side of the metal door. Wet slaps of footfalls in shallow water. “So I figure I have four hours t’get as much information out of you as I can, then put a bullet through the door into you.” Avi pauses, thoughtfully. “Do you think you’ll turn into an evil fucking cloud, even if you're negated?”


Eileen leans forward until her head rests against the door. It makes no difference whether or not she closes her eyes, so she keeps them half-lidded. Blood tastes like salt. Tears taste like salt. She spits again.

There’s a decision she needs to make: Tell him who and what she really is, or don’t.

It should be easy, but it isn’t. The more people who know, the more likely that information is to fall into the wrong hands regardless of whether it was surrendered willingly. There are too many telepaths in the world.

She thinks about Iago Ramirez. About Joshua Lang. About everything she stands to lose and what little there’s left in the world for her to gain.

So: A compromise, maybe.

“Don’t even need another bullet. I haven’t got it anymore.”

She can hear Avi’s bitter scoff through the door. “Bullshit,” is his casual response. “Bullshit. What’d you forget it in a little dish by the fucking door when you left your crypt?” His voice gets closer to the door. “D’you have a hole in your pocket and drop it somewhere?”

Avi is practically leaning against the door now. “Don't fucking lie to me!” He shouts at the door and she can feel his voice ring off the metal. “You are a fucking ghoul, one more fucking— zombie in the history of dead people I used to know. Where are your little fuck buddies?” the venom in his voice is seething. “How soon’re they coming t’look for you? Why’re your people coming after us?

“Avi,” Eileen says again. She keeps coming back to his name like it’s something she can hold onto, because it is. The knowledge that there’s someone on the other side of the door has a sobering effect that keeps her present. Keeps her sharp, even though her voice has taken on a quality like worn velvet.

Be calm. Be calm.

“No one’s coming,” she tells him. Now her eyes do close as she makes a conscious effort to stymie the flow of tears. She has the presence of mind to know better than to ask him about Francois, desperate though she is for an answer.

Be calm.

“I know you cared about me. I’m sorry this is hard.”

“You don't know shit!” Avi punctuates that explosive comment by kicking the metal door, sending a jarring reverberation through the small space beyond. “The person I cared about died on a fucking island and then— just when I thought that maybe— just fucking maybe a piece of her survived she was gone!

Avi kicks the door again, this time denting it and allowing a little dim, amber light to spill into the confined space between the frame and the bent door. “Your fucking Vanguard cronies came for her, and I fucking murdered that son of a bitch. But then you just wouldn't give up you— fucking bad xerox copy!” His voice cracks, and only now can Eileen smell the alcohol in the air. Hear the slosh-dook of a bottle being upended.

Where the fuck is she!?” Avi screams, further away now, and clearly ranting as he leaps from one topic to the next. “You know Francois is going to fucking die. All these fucking years and— I had to be the one to call Teodoro and tell him his fucking husband or whatever wasn’t gonna make it!” She can hear him storming back over. “So congratulations you fucking ghoul!

But there's Nathalie. He had to have called her, someone had to have. It can't be as bleak as he's making it out to be. It may just not be that easy to see through the haze of anger and alcohol.

Eileen flinches at the kick, withering. Her fingers tangle in her hair, damp and disheveled, and curl up until nails bite at her scalp. What pride she has left prevents her from sobbing out loud; she’s grateful he can’t see her shoulders judder, or the expression her face twists into. It is ghoulish.

Francois is dead or dying. She’s the one trapped in a prison. Neither of them are Epsteins and none of this is fair.

Her right foot slams into the door twice. Unlike’s Avi’s blow, there’s not enough force behind either strike to leave a dent, and the booming sound it makes is much louder to her ears than his.

So much for calm.

“She’s safe,” she rasps through the door, which is a lie, although the next part isn’t. “Gabriel fixed it, fixed her. She isn’t just a piece. She’s everything.

She remembers everything.”

Gabriel fixed it.

Avi goes silent, and Eileen can hear his breathing on the other side of the door. There's a moment, panicked and shuddering, where it sounds like he may we'll just scream in terror. But something forestalls that. He swallows, dry and painfully, exhaling one more shaky breath.

Then all Eileen can hear as his footsteps making a hasty retreat, splashing in the wet darkness. Many people flee at the presence of Gabriel Gray, but few flee at the name alone. But like some fairytale monster whose weakness was shouted aloud, Avi retreats into silence.

“AVI!” Eileen is shouting. Her voice splinters down the middle and she delivers another kick to the door. Louder.

Then again. And again.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

When he returns only silence, she escalates his name into a frustrated, banshee-like scream that persists much longer than her lungs should allow.

He’s called her a lot of names tonight. Now they fit.

Avi can hear her screaming from the concrete stairwell covered with decades-old trash, a floor up from where he was. The dim, jaundiced light of a wall-mounted emergency lamp casts everything a flickering goldenrod hue. A sign by Avi’s shoulder reads water service with an arrow pointing back behind him.

Pausing, Avi pulls his phone out of his pocket, checking it as he breathes in hastily. One bar. He dials a number from memory, waiting through the static pops and hisses.

“Hey,” Avi says once someone on the other end picks up, “hey some— something’s come up. It’s— it’s an emergency.” He tries to quell the tremor of his voice. “How soon can you get to Rochester?”

“No, alone.” Avi says back, “It has to be alone.”

Then, sucking in a breath he waits.

“Emily, it’s about Eileen.”

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