Asking, Telling


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Asking, Telling
Synopsis After a night of deliberation, Eileen returns to the Dispensary to inform Gabriel and Raith of her meeting with Hiro Nakamura.
Date September 11, 2010

Old Dispensary

It's raining.

As it often does. Water patters against the Dispensary's roof and windows, creating a gentle symphony that fills the building's attic, yawning hallways and the open rooms downstairs on the first floor that its occupants use as communal living spaces like the kitchen with its cast iron stove and the dried herbs and flowers Eileen has hung above the cabinets, and den with furniture gathered around a hearth that burns in the winter but sits cold and empty in the summer. The words Absit Omen in charcoal on its mantle are still as dark and bold as though they were written yesterday.

The crackle of wings rather than a creaking door or damp footsteps on the floor signify the Englishwoman's return to the home she and the others have made for themselves. She's careful not to make too much noise in the kitchen when she lights the stove and puts the kettle on, partly because she doesn't want to disturb Gabriel and Jensen if they're sleeping, and partly because she doesn't want to alert the dogs to her presence. One will almost certainly lead to the other, anyway.

The pocket watch in the brown silk jacket she wears over her dress would tell her that it's a few minutes after two o'clock in the morning if she wasn't looking at it. She isn't, and neither is the starling she coaxed inside with her. It sits perched on the windowsill, a black silhouette with only the faint light of the stove top to give it definition.

The mysterious things that summon people from their bedrooms are intangible and wordless. An empathic tremor of understanding through animal telepathy. The knowledge of home invasion on some sixth sense. The need to pee.

It's some combination of these that, after a while, the sound of footsteps hedge in on Eileen's senses, and she's rewarded with the knowledge that she did not successfully return home so late without gaining someone's attention. Maybe everyone's attention. But Gabriel probably hasn't been sleeping — he doesn't usually sleep in jeans, even if his feet are bare and the shirt he wears has a looseness to it that implies it doesn't see much going out.

He moves up to the kitchen table with the lazy drifting of a boat coming into dock. Doesn't stop, either, until the edge of the table hits midsection, and he folds against it to lean, eyes sleepy. "Wild night?"

The dispensary does not have an elaborate system of alarms set up: Rather, the simple system of simple traps should serve to alert its occupants to any intruders. It is therefore not a bell, or sirens, or gunblast, or explosion, or even rapid and loud cursing that tells Raith that someone is paying them a visit, but is rather when Franklin and Clay wake up- thumping the ex-spy in the stomach as they do- and start to growl.

Clicking nails is not the sound that fills the corridor on the second level, the stairwell, and finally the ground floor, dashing for the kitchen. Both pups are still behind a closed door. The soft padding of Raith's boots, however, are a different matter, and they do fill the corridor on the second floor, the stairwell, and finally the ground floor, how ever quietly, cautiously trekking towards the kitchen. The Glock in the ex-spy's hand is just in case. You never know when a mysterious night visitor is actually a homicidal maniac, unlikely though that is: Johnny hasn't been around for years.

But then, Gabriel's voice. Looks like there's a homicidal maniac in the kitchen after all! Without vocally announcing his presence, Raith casually ducks his head around the entry-frame several seconds after the Midtown Man has passed through it to see what he can see. Perhaps this play will unfold in an unexpected way.

Eileen's hair had been tied back, but several loose strands stick to her nape and cheeks, including one errant ringlet that curls against the corner of her mouth. She becomes aware of it when she opens it to speak, and reaches up with one hand to peel it away and tuck it behind her left ear where it belongs. "Long," she corrects Gabriel gently, taking down one of the ceramic cups from the cupboards for her tea.

It clinks against the counter top. Even without the starling to aid her, her intimate familiarity with the Dispensary provides her with the ability to confidently navigate her surroundings in spite of her blindness. The same cannot be said of foreign environments, but like most things she hides her discomfort well.

Hiding her emotions from Gabriel is a little harder. He'll sense the quiet anxiety at the core of her and the way its grip on her seems to fractionally relax when he enters the room. She hasn't noticed Raith yet, and probably won't unless he says something or comes into the starling's field of view. "I feel like I'm about to crumble into pieces."

"Then even tea can't save you now," Gabriel feels the need to remind the Briton, hands folding together and not deigning to get out of his slouch. Not even when he twists enough to look over his shoulder at peeping Raith, a heavy eyebrow raising, before squaring his focus back on Eileen. It doesn't completely occur to him to alert her to the other man's presence, nor to invite him in, a hand up to scuff through dark hair to scratch at his scalp, the remnants of healing injury making pinkish tracks on his knuckle.

Hand comes back down on the table with a bony thud. His gestures slightly looser and freer since he became somewhat more indestructable. Not that there aren't still bruises blossoming inky blue and purple along one side of his face from his last endeavor to test his limits (the drop test, as he started referring to it).

His query doesn't get vocalised. It's a nagging, empathic pluck of curiousity.

Well, that's that. Mostly, at least. On the one hand, Raith's heard all he needs to hear to confirm that everything is fine. But on the other hand, there are an awful lot of stairs to go back up. And 'an awful lot of stairs' is not something Raith is willing to brave just yet. Rather he ceases to duck his head inside the door and enters the next room proper, taking a seat at the same table Gabriel boneily thumps his hand against. At least for a bit, until he feels ready to challenge the stairs. They really should consider adding an elevator.

Eileen's response is to send her starling fluttering across the short distance between herself and Gabriel, where it settles on the edge of the table, collecting itself before it hops off the wooden surface and onto his wrist, its little hooked feet pinching skin. He won't come to her, and she won't leave the stove unattended — this is how she physically conveys the same meaning that wrapping her arms around him and slipping her hands under his shirt for warmth would. Bent, it ducks down to nibble fondly at the tips of his fingers, though the metallic-sounding twitter that accompanies the gesture is meant to serve as a hello for Raith.

She may as well, while she has them both here. "I went to a meeting tonight," she says. "Hiro Nakamura— the time traveler. He was there."

Gabriel easily turns his hand for the bird's benefit, palm open and fingers loosely curled as the faint prickle of claws and beak tease at nerve endings. Gentle giant quality to it, in that it would be very easy to harm the delicate creature that's come to keep him company, but has no cause to. Then, at this announcement from Eileen, his attention hits three points. A glance up, first, and though his expression is free of surprise, anger, or anything in particular, the amber-brown discs of irises briefly show in a stare.

Then, it slides to Raith, as if to check that the name is recognised from the other man, and then finally, back down at starling. Renewed tension settles its weights along Gabriel's shoulders, turns tighter at the hinges of his jaw, but he only tilts his head and teases pecking beak with wriggling fingers as he leaves the questioning to fearless leader for now.

Raith's heard the name Hiro Nakamura before, although he has no face to which he can pin that name. "Fucking time travelers," he half-growls. Whenever temporal manipulation is involved, nothing ever ends well. "Okay," the ex-spy continues, "And what was Hiro Nakamura doing at this meeting besides making my future miserable?" He hasn't even bothered to turn his attention towards Eileen or the starling, instead resting his face against the palm of his hand, elbow propping his head up off the table.

Inside the kettle, the water is boiling and making a very different noise than what's glancing off the windowpane. Eileen removes it from the heat and measures leaves into the pot, then replaces its lid, scrapes off the spoon she used on a dishtowel and sets it aside. As tired as she is, worn down rather than invigorated by the rain, she has no trouble recollecting the conversation or the analogies used to describe their situation.

"Time is like a river," is her soft-spoken attempt to explain while the tea steeps. "It flows in one direction, and the course of things is dictated by the obstacles it encounters along the way. The decisions that people make, the actions we take— they carve out paths.

"Someone is attempting to go back and change how it winds."

Rough fingertip marks out the curve of the starling's wing, an affectionate kind of gesture that serves to potentially feel nice to the little animal as much as it grants Gabriel an opportunity to feel out the delicacy of its hollow bones and the pattern of feather stalks pressed in place. The warm trembling of tiny prey. His eyes roll beneath heavy lids. "Time is like a metaphor. It becomes whatever shape you describe to it to further your own agenda. What did he want?"

He doesn't seem annoyed at Eileen for going to a meeting without saying anything, at least. The Remnant do that, sometimes. But there is, as ever, reserve for old enemies, for people who have wanted to kill him, for people he's almost killed himself. "Really," he adds, to qualify his query, unsold on the threat as described.

It works, at least. Eileen has Gabriel's attention, and now she has Raith's as well. "That's bad, right?" he asks, "Or do we even care? I mean, I'm no physicist, but don't prevailing theories about time travel make it pretty clear that you can't destructively interfere with the past? Like, the timeline just writes it out, or splits, or something? Christ, what time is it? Why are we even awake right now?"

The starling yields under Gabriel's touch, wing lifting as his finger tracks along it to expose a round, plump underbelly and matchstick thin legs tipped with clawed toes spread apart. "I don't understand how it works," Eileen says, "I'm not a scientist, but it's a risk I'd rather not take. Nakamura's people seem to think that the Vanguard's place in history is being threatened, and if that's the case then so is mine."

She hovers a hand above the kettle, feeling the steam lick at her palm as it rises from the spout like smoke from the belly of an angry volcano. "So is this. If not for Kazimir, I wouldn't have either of you.

"I don't want to go to bed with you, Gabriel, and wake up alone without any memory of us. I don't want to go to bed and never wake up at all." Eileen lowers her hand. "Nakamura asked me to go back and make sure that whatever they attempt to do fails."

This is probably where Gabriel would be lending his voice of agreement to Raith's theorising, not that anyone of them are scientists. Instead, he says, of the hour; "I was reading." So there. His hand retracts from the starling, and he lays his hand loose and lax on the table for the bird to hop over or off as it wishes, turning his attention reluctantly back towards Eileen. It's not quite a trip to Russia, not so simple this time, a cross-dimensional trip of which there is a dependency on someone else.

At the same time, intrigue filters into his expression.

"Fucking time travelers," Raith reiterates. He face slides from the palm of his hand down to the top of the table, his forehead bumping it with a half-audible 'thump.' Half of a second later, that face back in the air, although it doesn't look any happier than it did a moment earlier. "Does he have a plan?" the ex-spy asks, turning from questions about whether or not this matters, to questions of what they're going to do about it. Looks like he's convinced, too. "Or is this one of those, 'Here's a time vortex. Go,' kinds of things? Answer fast, before I finish waking up and change my mind."

"I don't know." Being honest about some things doesn't mean that one has to be honest about others, but at least in this particular situation it's true of Eileen. "I'm not asking either of you to go with me," she clarifies. "I'm only telling you that if I disappear, it's where I am. Why."

She lowers her hand from above the steaming kettle and traces the rim of her waiting cup with the edge of her thumbnail. At the kitchen table, the starling steps off Gabriel's wrist, skips across the wood surface, spreads its wings and floats back to the stove. Eileen's shoulder provides it with an excellent vantage point of the room. "We've been through this before. Going places with the possibility of not coming back. I don't want you to think you've been abandoned."

He's seen the past change the present, or someone's present get changed by the past. He'd been stalwart, once, that no deliberate method could fully change anything, faith in the course correction methods of the space-time continuum. Gabriel's brow twitches a little in consternation at the minor obstacle that is Eileen's lack of invitation, and he glances across at Raith, then towards Eileen. With his hand given back, it tucks against the inner of his other elbow, unmoving from his slouch against the table.

"Maybe you should be asking — usually, when we tell each other where we are, there's the remote possibility that we can go fetch. He won't let me go back," Gabriel admits in addition, in a tone that implies why should that stop us. "But he doesn't have to know its me either."

"He's right, maybe you should be asking. Or maybe we should be telling, I don't know." It's becoming clear that Raith is, in fact, beginning to wake up. Changing his mind, however, does not appear about to happen. "I'm pretty sure that I'm not cool with you just, disappearing. If you're going back in time to mess with someone's plans, or if you just going down the block to mess with someone's plans, fuck that, I'm going to. Better you get stuck with people that know what they're doing than people whose key accomplishment is dressing themselves. Or… listen. I'm going to guess this'll be sooner rather than later. So, when are we leaving? Just, tell me a day of the week, even."

Eileen doesn't benefit from turning to look at Gabriel and Raith. It's a habit she's begun to break with other people, but there are occasions — like now — when it's important to communicate that she's paying attention. That steeping tea is not as important as the men at the table, or the offer they've extended to her. The hard lines etched into her face soften. So does her mouth.

When she exhales, it's softly, through her nose, and with a shaky sort of quality that betrays the tumult of emotion beneath her white marble exterior. Gabriel will feel the tightness in her chest reflected through their shared connection. Sometimes gratitude hurts. This does. "We," because now the pronoun is, "aren't the only ones he's sending back. There are other people, other undertakings. He could come for me as soon as tomorrow."

A sharp click shuts off the stove. It's fortunate that Eileen prefers her tea strong because she's left it and is moving toward the table. "I wasn't given the impression that we've a lot of time to prepare."

"I wouldn't know what to do with time to prepare." If she was looking for argument, she isn't finding it in the kitchen. Gabriel's posture straightens, finally, after a skimming test of thumb along the ridge of bruises that colour his face, hands then coming to rest against the edge of the table. This was easy. TOO EASY. Maybe. He can't completely disguise the shimmer of anticipation that affords itself down the empathic thread that connects the two animal empaths in the room, although Raith doesn't have to be totally blind to it himself, in the very subtle curl of a smile at the corners of Gabriel's mouth.

He's looking forward to it.

Looking forward to it or not, Raith is still somewhat on top of his game, despite being roused at such an early hour. "I know what I'd do with time to prepare," he grumbles, pushing himself up from the table just slightly shakily. "I'd sleep. I think I may go do some of that now, if nobody minds. Wake me up if there's a paradox, huh?" Despite indications otherwise, Raith doesn't make his exit just yet, either waiting for 'permission' to go, or staying around just a bit longer in case there's something else worth mentioning.

"Go to bed, Jensen," is a gentle suggestion rather than an order. Eileen's hand brushes across the flat of his back on her way past, but his chair isn't her final destination. Her starling, however, decides that this is where it gets off and jumps the short distance between her shoulder and the back of Raith's seat. Tiny claws click against polished wood — there's no upholstery for it to hook its feet in.

Eileen places her hands on the lower half of Gabriel's chest and spreads her fingers across his abdomen. Her brown leather flats don't elevate her more than an extra half inch, and to press her mouth to his neck, she has to ease her heels off the floor and shift her weight onto the front of her feet. "Thank you," she mutters against his stubble before turning her head to address Raith as well, her damp hair wet against his chin, "both."

She can feel skin and the things beneath it shift with a breath, loose muscles tensing reflexively under the light settle of her palms and sharper fingers. Gabriel's face angles more towards the kitchen and away from the door and Raith's departure, rough hands smoothing up the skinnier stalks of Eileen's, elbow to shoulder, in a gesture that translates as you're welcome.

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