...And Now They're Even


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Scene Title …And Now They're Even
Synopsis Howard Phillips leads Elle Bishop off into the dark of Hunter's Point…
Date February 4, 2011

Hunter's Point Waterfront

Cold, damp air makes for a miserable night.

Loose pieces of broken brick clatter underfoot, tumbling down a mound where crumbling stone once was a wall. Climbing up one side of the mound and skidding down the other on sneakered feet, Howard Phillips crosses through the dilapidated metal skeleton of a demolished wall, landing in a hop to the broken concrete at the bottom. Fissures in the gray stone are filled with ice, shadows are cast from overhead by the metal framework of this burned out warehouse's ceiling. Dull, crimson light burns coppery on the horizon, beyond the pitch black silhouette of Roosevelt Island across the river.

"This works," is the first thing Howard has had to say since leaving Long Island City and crossing into the ruins of Hunter's Point a half an hour ago. Sneakered feet scuff at the icy ground underfoot, and as Howard turns around, his blue eyes square back on the redhead clamboring up the pile of broken bricks he'd just ascended. It's the only way in to this warehouse, through a hole in the crumbling walls. It still stinks of soot in here from the fires that tore through in November.

Tonight, it's home.

Normally, Elle really wouldn't be doing this. Climbing around in the dirt and soot and getting dirty and messing up her clothes— she only has one change in her bag, having left the rest at the Brick House. She hates being dirty. She would kill for a hot shower right about now. A hot shower, hot meal, maybe a bit of the cannabis that is hidden in her dresser drawer. She's so going on a spa day whenever this stupid dome thing goes away.

With a frown on her face, she climbs up the mound of brick and rubble, her boots knocking loose a few brooks. Then, a fair deal more carefuly than her travelling companion, she skids down the other side with a determined frown on her face.

Once at the bottom, she dusts herself off, peering around the old warehouse and rubbing at her nose. Better than nothing, she supposes.

Kicking an empty beer can across the floor with a clatter, Howard turns to look over his shoulder at Elle, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown. "Pull up a chair," he offers, nodding towards a few stacks of flame-licked wooden palettes, a fire-blackened metal folding chair, and a plastic crate warped by heat.

Howard himself turns to pace the floor of the warehouse, hands tucked into the pockets of his hooded sweatshirt, nose rankled. He reaches up after a moment, grabbing at the back of the sweater before pulling it up and over his head. As the sweater travels up, it pulls up the thin shirt he wears beneath, revealing the narrowness of his torso, visible ribs, and a line of horrible, puncture-wound scars traveling in a straight line down his back, each one the size of a quarter and spaces between his vertibrae.

When the sweater comes off, he tugs the black long-sleeved t-shirt down, then turns around and tosses the hoodie over to Elle.

"Trade," he explains, motioning to her with a nod. He wants the jacket back.

This place sucks. Dark, gloomy…at least cold isn't something that she and Howard particularly have to worry about. Doesn't stop this place from being outright depressing.

When faced with the choice, Elle pulls out the folding chair and unfolds it, flopping down in it and watching Howard— those puncturs wounds on his back make her wince slightly in sympathy for whatever suffering may have given him those scars. She watches him, catching the hoodie. Then, after a moment, she leans forward, pulling off the jacket. She peers down at it for a long moment.

Then, she holds it up toward Howard. He can walk over and take it from her. "Thank you, by the way." She watches him with blue eyes, having long since discarded the contacts when they started making her eyes itch. "For helping me out so much." She pauses, watching his reaction for a moment.

"What makes me so special?"

Sneakers scuff across the cold concrete on the way up to Elle, and wordlessly Howard takes the jacket back, swinging it over his shoulders. "You're not special," he clarifies, voice small and hesitant to admit. "I don't want your thanks, either. I didn't do what I did for you." Adjusting the tightly fitting jacket over his skinny frame, Howard rolls his shoulders and lifts the collar up against the back of his neck.

Blue eyes look down to one of the heat-warped folding chairs, then back up to Elle. Silence is Howard's conversational contribution for a long while as he circles around the redhead and settles down onto the bent chair, its joints creaking in protest of use.

Elle watches Howard thoughtfully, pulling one foot up to rest on the edge of her chair, resting her chin against her knee. "Well…even if you don't want my thanks, I'm giving it to you. Thanks for being my guardian angel, even if it's unintentional." She watches him quietly as he settles into the chair, her head tilting to the side. "I met Adel. She really cares about you. Almost initiated a catfight over your jacket." She's glad she held onto it, now. "She was shocked that you left the jacket with me, I think. Maybe jealous, too."

Another thoughtful silence passes between the pair as Elle quietly observes the man who she personally views as her extremely rude, grumpy guardian angel. "Why'd you run right up to me when Sylar was attacking us? Other people were hurt and could've used the help a lot more. And…you stuck by me." Another pause. "And then, you run right up to me again when I was at the Brick House."

"Why?" Elle's blue eyes level on Howard's.

"I'm a sucker for a redhead," Howard admits with a sarcastic snort, sitting forward and resting his elbows on his legs, hands draped lazily past his knees. "'Del's sweet, but she's more possessive than a housecat. We've known each other since before I can remember, since I was born I guess…" Howard's tongue rolls across the inside of his cheek, brows furrowed and lips pressed together tightly, as if he were trying to keep himself from talking.

He falls quiet again, letting his fingers lace together and eyes stay focused down on his hands instead of Elle's eyes. "That jacket belonged to one of Adel's mothers." Plural. Mothers. "She practically raised me… She was there the day I was born, wrapped me in that jacket because they didn't have a blanket to put me in." Howard's eyes close, his head shakes slowly and a deep, calming breath is taken.

"I don't let people touch my coat," he feels compelled to add, though for reasons obvious.

Elle smirks quietly, hugging her leg as Howard explains. As she quietly examines his responses to everything she says, everything he says. Something weird about him. He acts like he doesn't want to talk about himself. That always makes her raise her brows just a little bit, when people talk as if they have something to hide. Certainly, everyone has something to hide…but Elle just gets so damn curious.

"Adel was nice, aside from trying to wrestle me for your jacket." She tilts her head to one side. Probably would've turned into an all out catfight if Cardinal hadn't made his ghostly appearance. "She seemed to really care about you…was worried about you, I think." She shrugs.

She keeps her gaze on his eyes, even if he doesn't meet her gaze. "Why'd you leave it on me, then? I mean…I didn't even have my arms in it, it was just on me like a blanket." She looks down toward the jacket, rather amazed that it fits on him when it fit almost perfectly on her. He's tiny. Skinny. He needs to eat a sandwich or five.

Speaking of sandwiches, Elle's stomach growls. She blinks a few times, frowning, before she reaches into her bag, pulling out a bag of barbeque beef jerky. This is held up to display to Howard, before she opens it up. One piece is taken for herself, and then she holds the bag out toward Howard.

Blue eyes consider the jerkey, then lower back down to the floor without a word. Howard stares at the concrete between his feet, letting his thumbs rub together in the cold. He doesn't answer any of Elle's questions, just rubs his palms together slowly and lets his head drop into a bobbed nod. When he looks up again, Howard's brows tense and his lips sag into a frown. Cold wind blows through the hole in the wall, sending damp chill straight through Elle.

"Doesn't matter," Howard dismisses to all of her questions equally. "Won't matter…" is a later clarification. "Nothing fucking matters, not me, not you, not the goddamned city. It's all— " One of Howard's hands flippantly comes up in a wave, falters, then drops back down between his legs, caught by his other hand in a tense wringing.

"I just… wanted my coat back." Is the eventual answer to only part of Elle's questions, followed by a slow closing of Howard's eyes as he shakes his head slowly.

Huh. Maybe he's an anorexic or something. Probably the only way he can fit into that coat. At least Elle can add that to her list of people she's met. A guy with anorexia nervosa.

Chewing on the dried meat, Elle quietly watches Howard with raised brows. For a long while, the blonde turned redhead simply watches Howard, quietly eating a few chunks of the beef jerky. The bag is still held out to Howard, even if he's not taking any.

She shivers slightly as the cold wind blows through; quickly, she's pulling on that hoodie that he traded her. It looks almost comically large on her. "What do you mean by that?" She shrugs, pulling the hoodie around herself and hugging it. "That nothing matters…I refuse to believe that. I mean, I'm usually a bit of a pessimist, but…" She cuts herself off, watching the blonde man.

"You took me an awful long way from people who I was safe with for all you know, just to get your coat back from me, you know." Not that she minds this in the slightest. His sullen silence is much preferrable to that creepy stalker gleam in Eric Doyle's eye that she isn't quite so fond of. "Now that you have it back, are you going to leave me alone out here?" She can't help but frown. After all, he did leave last time.

As much as she dislikes Doyle, his company would be preferable to being left alone.

"You weren't safe with him," Howard admits in a small tone of voice. "Or there. The gang knew where the place was, and they'll be back. Maybe this time with guns, maybe not. I don't fucking know. But…" Howard slouches forward more, holding his head in his hands and running fingers back through his hair. "I don't know why I brought you here, fuck if I even know why I saved you before." Blue eyesopen, narrowly, focused down on the concrete still.

There's so much doubt and tension in Howard, so much frustration that it practically ebbs out of him in visible tide. He is terrible at concealing his emotions, wearing them visibly on his face and in the air around him. The cold, damp wind blows in through the opening in the wall again, and snowflakes look to be turning to sleet outside.

"Why're you here?" Howard feels compelled to ask, out of the blue.

He's horribly right. She really wasn't too safe with Doyle, Ferrymen or not. And that house…she's pretty glad that she's not there. Because there is the chance that those gangsters will rally more people, and who knows who has weapons. The woman falls silent, watching Howard. He's an interesting guy. Troubled. He seems like he could use a hug.

She pops another piece of the meat into her mouth, before returning it to her bag. It is her turn to fall silent once more, quietly considering her new guardian angel with raised brows. "If you're asking why I'm in here, it's because I was taking a walk with a friend. She was behind me. I got stuck in here…the dome was only a few feet away from me." She pauses, frowning at the memory.

"This guy…his legs got cut off at the knees by that thing. I had to cauterize his wounds…and I don't know if he's even going to make it or not. If he's even still alive. I— I tried to save him…he was bleeding to death." Sociopath or not. seeing something like she saw…she's tried not to think of it, but it still leaves disturbing stains on her conciousness.

She closes her eyes, shaking her head slowly as she composes herself, turning to frown over at Howard. "…What happened to your back?"

"I meant the city," Howard grates, looking up to Elle as he boosts himself up out of his chair, starting to pace. "New York City's got the highest murder rate of any city— probably in the fucking world, and that isn't going to god-damned well change. What the fuck could possibly be so important that you have to be here?" Howard's blue eyes flick back to Elle as he turns to face her, frustration more evident in his features now.

One hand brandishes accusingly towards Elle, and Howard isn't done lobbing questions at her. "Of all the fucking cities in the world, you're in this one. You want to know what happened to my back?" He voices raises a little, and Howard steps closer to Elle, brows furrowing and eyes narrowed. "The Institute happened to my fucking back." One hand shakily rolls up a sleeve, showing off similar scars on his forearm and one at his elbow at the joint. "The fucking Institute that's right across the river— " Howard's voice hitches in the back of his throat and both of his hands shake in front of him.

"Why did you have to get stuck in this fucking dome!?" His voice cracks at his shouts that question, and the explosive spark of a few bolts of electricity arc between his fingers.

Two plus two equals four.


Elle's blue eyes travel over the scars on Howard's arms. Over the electricity that arcs over his fingertips. The Institute, which he…definitely hates with a passion. She doesn't flinch as the electricity sparks over his arm— even if it could very easily harm her these days, with her ability switched out as it is, she actually hasn't been shocked without it, just yet.

"…You're like Aric Gibbs…they did the same thing to you, didn't they?" Elle's voice is soft, even in light of Howard's shouts. She watches him, frowning quietly, still hugging her knee to her chest. Still resting her chin against her knee. "That— that's what they want to do to me?"

She falls silent for a moment, staring at those scars. "Why does it matter? I'm not important, I don't matter— you said as much yourself. Why are you so upset that I'm stuck in here? Who are you really, Howard?" Her tone remains level, steady. Calm in the face of Howard's explosive outbursts. She wouldn't have been as collected as she is now if this conversation had happened a few months ago.

She falls quiet, turning her gaze down toward the ground. "Why are you making a big deal about me being in this city? Why do you care?"

Howard flinches, one eye narrowing more so than the other. Confusion paints itself across his face. "What— the fuck does any of this have to do with //Aric Gibbs?" The name is spat out as if it tasted bitter on the tip of Howard's tongue. But in consideration of the other things that Elle had said, his jaw tenses and brows furrow together. He looks away, taking a step back before wheeling around and looking to Elle again with blue eyes narrowed.

"What the fuck did the Institute do to him?" Accusation suddenly rises up in Howard's voice, one lip curling as he edges closer to Elle. "What makes you think the Institute wants anything t'do with you?" None of Elle's questions are getting answered, and Howard has a deluge more all of his own.

"How the fuck do you know what made these scars? Why— " Head shaking from side to side, Howard's eyes grow wide, one brow twitching as his mind starts to piece together awkward and confusing corners of a puzzle.

Equal amounts of confusion paint their way over Elle's face, her brows raising as she pieces together her thoughts, puts them into a rational line of explanation so that Howard can understand. A frown completes the look of confusion— and concern that shows on her face. "The Institute has done a lot." She pauses, watching Howard.

Then, she gestures for him to sit down. "Sit. I'll tell you everything that I can tell you— if you tell me what the hell is going on." She frowns up at the man. Once he is seated, she closes her eyes for a moment. Centering herself for the entire bullshit story of her life for the past few months that she will be telling to Howard.

"First off— back in December, I think, a man named Tyler Case attacked my company's building. His intent wasn't to hurt anyone…he swapped people's powers. I was given Induced Radioactivity. A friend of mine," if you could call Harmony a friend, "was given Aric Gibb's telepathy. And Aric Gibbs got my ability." She goes quiet for a moment, letting thta part sink in. Whether he already knows all of this or not, she is unaware, but she'll fill him in.

"Aric was taken by the Institute. They put metal in him— tried to use my ability in him to power some kind of machine." She turns blue eyes up toward Howard's face, watching him. "Is that what they did to you? Tried to use you as a battery?" She frowns up at him. "What did they do to you? Please. It's— important."

"They…they said something about me being next."

Howard is struck silent for a long time, his blue-eyed stare locked on Elle. When he does finally look away, it's to the opening in the crumbling wall. Jittering one foot up and down, he looks back to Elle and then quickly away. His throat tenses, works up and down in a ragged swallow, and then he just turns for the opening in the wall.

"I need to go," Howard quickly blurts out, hastily making his way up the pile of crumbling brick and broken stone, resting one hand on the metal frame beside the opening, turning to look back over his shoulder at Elle. "You follow me I'll fuckin' electrocute you into unconsciousness. I— I gotta go." Howard's jaw tenses as his teeth clench together, blue eyes angle out the opening to the falling sleet, then back to Elle again.

"Stay here."

The frown on Elle's face only deepens as Howard suddenly decides that he has to leave. She quietly raises up from her chair, a frown on her face. She looks like she wants to follow, but…she takes no steps, instead only raising a hand toward him as if reaching for him will bring him back, make him stop his hasty retreat from her and the subject at hand.

"You— you're just going to leave me alone out here? What if they find me…what if they know I'm here?" Her brow furrows, as her hand drops back down to her side. No act here, her jaw is trembling. Those scars made it real, what the Institute wants to do to her. It's a rather frightening thing to think about, those painful scars.

And he's just leaving.

"Please…don't leave me alone." Her voice is small, only just barely carrying to Howard's ears across the empty warehouse space.

Howard tenses up by the hole in the wall, sleet falling down in a curtain in front of him and icing up the ground. His head hangs, fingers curl against the metal frame, and when he looks back over his shoulder at Elle, there's something more bitter in his expression and in his tone of voice. "Now we're even," he breathes out in a shuddering breath, jaw trembling before he hastily turns around, hopping over the crest of the debris hill, sliding down the ice coated broken rock and disappearing into the dark of the freezing cold and wet night.

Now all Elle has to keep her company, is the sound of the freezing rain pattering down on what remains of the metal warehouse roof, and the hooded sweater that Howard had traded with her for his jacket. It's getting darker, and all that she can see through the hole in the wall is the distant red glow of the horizon through the grimy surface of the dome.

That, and the sound of her own breathing.

"What'd I ever do to you?! I don't even know who you are!" Confusion creases over Elle's features, mixed with fear, while tears sting at the back of her eyes and throat. She moves forward after he disappears, climbing up the rubble heap— not to follow, but just to see where he's going. "Please, don't leave me!" The cry is a bit more panicked as she reaches the opening.

Suddenly, she's alone, with nothing to stand between her and the Institute, except for the possible blessing that they don't know that she's inside of the dome. It's not much of a reassurance, given the potential circumstances that she is facing. Those scars— they looked painful. And that— that must be what they want to do to her.

The weight of the situation she's in has suddenly become extremely clear to Elle Bishop. It's heavy on her, hitting her so unexpectedly.

And she's terrified.

And he's gone.

And now they're even.

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