Be Happy


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Be Happy
Synopsis Gabriel Gray is visited by the dreamer and is shown a side of her most never see.
Date August 20, 2009

Logic doesn't factor into dreams. It's probably what makes them something of an escape. Logically, Gabriel is not on Swinburne Island. Logically, he wouldn't be, having told Peter why not more than 24 hours ago.

But here, this isn't anything he knows, creeping like a panther through the desolate hallways of the abandoned hospital of the man-made island, where moonlight makes strange, nonsensical angles through grimy, shattered windows, holes in the roof, the patches in the wall where it's worn down to skeletal wooden boards. It plays off black clothing - a well worn black woolen coat that's been stained with blood, ocean water, bullet holes, although he moves as though he's never experienced any of this damage, the mud-spattered hem of the coat drifting behind his heels as he moves.

Hunting something. Being hunted. There's a blade in his hand of grey ceramic, rotating in a white-knuckled grip, and the sound of birds as if there were rafters tall enough to accommodate them. There isn't, but that doesn't mean the shadows don't writhe with ravens out the corner of his eye.

Dirty tiles are marked with watery footprints, too small to be Gabriel's. He knows what phantom of his dreams leaves that drizling trail of water behind her, what gurgling noises in the dark means when bare flesh slap-taps on tile with each footstep. But the haunting silhouette of Jennifer Childs isn't the only ghost in these halls, too many shadows here have a life of their own, fluttering voices and whispers that linger on the edge of Gabriel's hearing, just far enough away not to make clear sounds, but close enough that he knows they're out there.

This dream is always the same, always hunting one of the phantoms of his mind, to be ambushed unexpectedly by another that demands of him unknown wants. Tonight, the shadows seem quiet, save for the rustling of feathers and the distant caw of birds that echo always a few rooms away. The wet footprints lead where they always do, through a pair of double doors in the hospital and out into a shipping crate incongruently connected to the hospital, one filled with an ankle deep briny water and floating trash in the murk. She's always in here, always rises up from behind Gabriel and drags him down below the few inches of water, into what feels like a bottomless abyss.

Tonight, though, when those corrugated metal doors open, there isn't the brine and the water, there isn't the shipping crate, there's just a play of light and shadow, concrete, wood and cloth. Beyond those swinging doors, over dusty concrete, pale shafts of moonlight filter down through high windows within the spacious warehouse. One particular beam, falling at a severe angle on a high-backed chair wrapped in swaths of dusty white cloth that spread out over the palettes below; a throne fit for a king wearing a crown of ruin.

This is a familiar dream too, but an older dream. Perhaps not even a dream at all, but reality, a memory cobbled together to form someplace entirely different. Still, Gabriel steps forward, towards the shape of the chair with the ghostly swatch of white linen protecting it from the coating of dust. The motes of which swirl and dirvish in the shards of moonlight to such a particular and specifically detailed degree that perhaps he woke up at some stage when he wasn't aware of it.

Wooden slats creak and groan underfoot as Gabriel steps up onto the platform that the throne is set into the middle of, to witness the shiny shards of scattered glass debris over the floor of the warehouse. Dust is disturbed, swirls up beneath the gravity of each step. He runs the pad of his thumb against the edge of the ceramic blade, along the edge of the razor rather than against. Thinking.

Then, he makes a decision. As he'd done so many times before, Gabriel moves to sit down, to take that place as king of nothing at all.

Arms are an unusual accompanyment to the chair, long and thin like Eileen's, but swathed in ink black cloth that trails wide from loose sleeves stitched with white at the hem. The arms wrap around from behind the chair, crossing over Gabriel's chest as pale hands rise up to brush along either side of his cheeks, fingertips gliding against the soft bristle of stubble there. "It's not you," a husky voice breathes out from behind the chair, and those hands slide back and away, moving towards Gabriel's shoulders where they squeeze, before a pale face leans around from one side of the narrow and tall back of the chair.

Parchment white skin framed by thin strands of ink black bangs, a dark gauze blindfold is drawn over her eyes. "Get up," she whispers against his hair, breath cold as she untangles her arms from around him, beginning to come around from the chair with muffled thumps of wood sandals against the carpet-shrouded palettes, "this isn't you."

Sensations are limited at best but Gabriel will hear no argument about whether or not he felt the hair at the back of his neck rising upon her touch, because he does. He sucks in a breath at the feel of bone-white fingers touch his face, the words whispered through his hair, just as black as her's even beneath the moonlight that falls on him so severely. With a movement that is slow enough to be tracked, avoided, but fast enough to create a blur through the light, Gabriel is bringing around the knife in his hand.

He doesn't recognise this phantom, but he's pretty sure it'll come to him eventually. Best to deal with it now. His body twists with the momentum of edged ceramic gliding like a shark fin through water, tapered edge seeking flesh, even that of an apparition.

All he finds is Eileen.

A choking jerk of bone and muscle, pale lips parting open in a wet rasp of breath as that brutally efficient blade is leveled between her third and fourth rib. Gabriel is familiar with the thick and warm feeling of blood over his fingers, the way it slicks his grip and threatens to become tacky even just moments after having left the body. Eileen's face pales, sweat beads on her brow and she slides off of the knife with a squelching noise, her dark hair matted to one side of her face as she stumbles back, a hand grasping at one side of her chest where blood pulses between pale fingers, the other reaching back to take a hold of the chair before she falls down into it.

White cloth is darkly stained with blood, the same that colors the edges of her lips now; pale eyes wide in horror at the violence brought upon her by someone she trusts, someone who would do no harm to her. The whimper of both betrayal and confusion comes equally wet, contrasting against the dry noise of disapproval behind Gabriel, where the dreamers stands, arms folded within the dark sleeves of her robe. "You have a unique way of showing affection," the blindfolded woman murmurs just a hair's breadth away from the back of Gabriel's neck, "do you afford all your lovers that measure of final comfort?"

Eileen's back arches as she chokes up a mouthful of blood, dribbling down her chin from her lips, rolling down across her jaw and the front of her throat. She drowns in the viscous red fluid, eyes rolling back in her head as her feet scuff and scrape on the floor. "Or is that how you intend to keep everyone at arm's distance?" Bitter is her voice, bitter and frustrated. "Just a knife in the dark, is it?"

The ceramic's turned a deep, violent red, and as blood runs with drops off the edge of the blade, the material remains the same colour until it's a shining shard of deep crimson, barely recognisable as a knife at all. It falls from sticky fingers, hits the ground where it promptly shatters into pieces of glimmering ruby. Gabriel nearly falls out of the throne in an effort to catch her, as if stilling her fall would do anything to delay the inevitable.

He doesn't. Damp cloth escapes his reaching fingertips, gravity dragging Eileen down to the wooden platform with all the grace of a butchered carcass. Gabriel's knees hit the ground, too, as he comes to kneel beside her.

Doesn't touch her. His dry hand still grips the arm of the chair, even from his crouch nearby Eileen's guttering, dying body, the other hand braced against the wooden floor and likely to leave a print behind. "I keep everyone at arm's distance before there's ever a knife in the dark," he growls, then finally turns an accusing glare the phantom's way, expecting to recognise her. Still nothing.

"That's why your're haunted." Bitterness courses thorugh the dreamer's words like venom courses through a snake's fangs, but it is not so much an offensive bitterness, but a distasteful bile that wracks the back of her throat, one of displeasure and frustration; regret. "That's why when you're the one who's laying on the ground, bleeding and drowning in your own breaths, there won't be anyone to hold you, because you've driven everyone away even when their hearts are yours in everything but name."

Stepping towards where Gabriel kneels, Hokuto Ichihara's black wood sandals tread in Eileen's blood, even as her rail thin body convulses and writhes on the white cloth beneath her. "You cannot see how much you mean to her, how much you have woven your way into her heart despite that you are deserving of no one's love or affection." Dark brows lower behind her blindfold as ash gray lips spill resentful words past them. "She cherishes you as much as plants cherish the sun, but you are both so badly damaged that neither of you can appreciate what you have, not until it's bleeding out at your feet."

As Hokuto walks, the setting around her begins to warp and break away. Cloth cracks at the seams and drifts upwards like ash caught on hot wind from a fire. The concrete walls peel with paint that should not be there, bleeding back and away from itself to reveal the matte wallpaper finish. Eileen's bleeding body cracks and splits like a hot, burnt log, crumbling to ash in front of Gabriel like brittle heat-baked paper, her ashes swirling up into the air to form into a ceiling fan spinning on a low roof overhead. Sunlight is blocked behind drawn blinds, twelve stories up where verdant green vegetation crawls over the concrete carcasses of what was once the ruins of Midtown out the windows.

From this highrise hotel room, everything should be serene, save for the players on this stage, formed out of the swirling ash and shadows to take on human form. Familiar forms, all standing around — or in two instances laying — like the aftermath of some haggard bender. "I've seen nightmares, Gabriel. I've seen one man's guilt eat himself alive, for taking from you what you are too resentful and too blind to accept on your own. Something you don't even deserve for the life of cruelty and horror you wrought."

In a shaking, pale hand, the hammer of a pistol knocks back and the muzzle drags the chalky curve of Eileen's forehead unsteadily, tik-tik, catching, as if her skin is dry. Teodoro Laudani — older, deader in the eyes — lets her proper herself on his leg for the convenience of them both. Teo spares her the affectation of Italian; the words would be ugly in any language he chose. "I'm very sorry." With the silencer screwed on, the bullet sounds off like a spit. Her head jettisons a red roostertail out of the other side, through the stupid symphony of falling white scurf still presiding the air. He has to move soon after.

"Guilt," Hokuto murmurs as she walks behind where Gabriel kneels, near a copy of his own form, not a day older than he looks now, but cleaner shaven. "Guilt over taking someone from you that you don't even appreciate, and his nightmares are so vivid, so clear and yet— they clearly have not happened." Even prescient dreamwalkers have a hard time understanding the things that have not been, were not, will not be.

Gabriel is both curled on his side and kneeling next to himself, his prone form with a hand pressed to his forehead as if trying to keep his own mind contained in his skull as the world spins back into place and his headache is reduced to something of a dull roar. There's a wet sound, somewhere distant, and something inexplicable makes his body give one last twitching convulsion. A thread of tension snapping, one he didn't even know was there until it was—

Gone. He dares to open his eyes, and the carpet glitters with shattered glass and something wetter. Teo's boots are making strides for a door no longer held shut and disappear around a corner. It takes a few seconds to consider going after him but by then he sees her.

Sees, not hears. The clumsiness in his movements can't be attributed to psychic tasering, it's all his own. Gabriel doesn't get up, exactly, as he makes a desperate crawl towards her, hands reaching demandingly for her coat and jerking away again in the next moment to see her skull caved in the way it is and throat ripped apart—

I'm very sorry. That's what Teo had said. Not enough, actually.

The Gabriel of another's nightmares eventually lays his hands back onto her and draws her inwards, all ragdoll limbs and death leaving her as the sum of broken parts and him not much better, muffling something between a gasp and a groan against her shoulder. Smart enough to not try and heal her, to draw life into her, but not enough to let her go.

"She cherishes you…" Hokuto breathes out those words, staring down at Gabriel behind the shield of her blindfold. "Yet I'm left to wonder if you harbor the same feelings for her, or just say what she wants to hear out of some misplaced sense of entitlement to her." The dreamer breathes in a slow breath, then exhales as she looks down to the way the vestigial nightmare of Gabriel and Eileen cling together. "You're more important than anyone to her, despite yourself."

This isn't unfamiliar, which makes it all the worse. Gabriel knows where he is, knows why, saw it through a different set of eyes. As soon as the other form of himself starts to move, he does as well, with all the shuddering irrationality of human reaction when a spider crosses by. It's not natural. His shoulder blades hit the hotel wallpaper walls as he crab-walks away, compulsively, from where his older analogue self clutches Eileen to him and mourns.


Dry as the ash that had formed this place, Gabriel's words crackle dry. Rather sharply, he connects the back of his head against the wall, and as if he were tuning a television, both figments - himself and the the corpse - flicker into nothing, leaving he and the phantom alone. The furniture is still ruined - a TV lies cracked on its side in the corner, the bed overturned and the mattress split with gunfire.

"What concern is it of yours?"

His voice comes razor edged from his throat, dragging his flaring, amber-brown gaze from the spectacle in front of him to narrow on the blindfolded woman. "About what I deserve, or what she deserves? We're both monstrous. And I don't recognise you." He presses a hand against the wall, where it slips just a fraction, leaving a smearing handprint behind in the same glittering crimson that makes a spatter on the carpet. "Which means you don't belong here."

A leg shifts beneath himself, flank coiling with tension like that of a predator. Gabriel is both a solid form, flesh and muscle and bone and clothing, when he leaps, but also intangible smoke that could well be Wu-Long's phased form, or Kazimir's death-soul. It streams off him, coils within him, demonic as he moves through the air with a wolf's savagery, an attack against the woman of white and black.

Yet like so many things in Gabriel's life, she slips through his fingers like smoke, in literal and figurative terms. Her essence sublimates into a thin black vapor that passes behind Gabriel and reforms in scraps of cloth and smoky darkness, much akin to the same black smoke he bleeds out of his very form. "That you are both what you are is why you deserve one another," she states smoothly behind Gabriel, arms still folded. "What concern it is of mine, is that despite my personal feelings towards you— I am a bringer of happiness— even to those whom do not feel they deserve it. No matter what self-aggrandizing thoughts you may have, everyone deserves to be happy…"

Those words make the ground ry, make Eileen's crumpled form and Gabriel's overwrought phantom simply no longer be present, no sign of them, as if they were never there. "I empathize with her more than you, and it pains me to allow you even a modicum of happiness, but— I would be just as monstrous to deprive you of what she seeks, and what you could have."

She floats back, like smoke on the wind, settling down by the doorway that Teo's ephemeral dream-like form had fled through. "Whatever this nightmare is, it isn't." Her dark brows crease together with visible consideration and uncertainty, even if her eyes hide her anxiety. "Her desire is you, Gabriel, but it is neither my place nor my desire to force you onto her if you will not love her as she loves you. Whether or not you think you deserve it, or think she deserves it… her feelings are true."

She shies away a touch, dark eyes lingering in the corners of the hotel room as the colors of the walls begin to change, paint peels away to reveal old wood, carpeting smolders and blackens until it has become tile, and soon it is the Garden and not a bloodstained hotel that consumes Gabriel's dreams. "Everyone deserves a chance at happiness." Hokuto echoes those words again, then tilts her head down slightly, "You are hers, but…" her head tilts up, assessing the savagery of the man standing before her. "What is it you want most in life? What would bring you the most…" it pains her to ask, "happiness?"

Despite the ethereal nature of the smoke he'd partially become, he makes a solid sounding thud against the wall where his hands connect, catching the momentum of his attack. He twists to face her, anger written into the pale plains and darker angles of his face - frustration, too, and intrigue in the way a predator might find something that runs faster than expected to be intriguing. As the hotel room burns away, however, so does that anger, drains away the tension as he watches the place transform.

"According to some," Gabriel says, over the memory of words that Hokuto may or may not hear, "it means being a hero. A husband. A father." The smile he cracks isn't one that communicates the subject at hand - happiness - but bitterness, shared amusement. "What do you think? Think it suits me?"

Gentle sunlight, quite unlike the harsher, pointed shards of moonlight from within the warehouse, filters through the glass windows of the Garden's kitchen. Bounces off the polished wood of the counter, freshly cleaned from a few wipes of a cloth, back and forth. Water marks make marks and he almost knows the compulsion to wipe it dry.

Almost. He still has blood on his hands. "But the only thing I can think of doing next that might satisfy me has nothing to do with Eileen, or— so we all hope."

One slim, black brow rises as Hokuto regards Gabriel from across the cozy dining room and kitchen floor, otherwise motionless save for that small gesture. "A leopard cannot change its spots, but it can learn to be happy with what it's been given." That brow stays raised, even as one of her hands move, dragging thin trails of shadowy threads behind her fingertips. "Hero, husband, father. None of those titles matter, what matters is you being Gabriel."

The black threads slither around the room, reweaving the design of the memory. Wood walls are forsaken for white sheetrock hung with uninteresting black and white photographs. Rain is now pattering on the window panes, tiles underfoot become hardwood flooring, and a familiar bloody piece of quartz lying on the floor brings this very memorable location into context. "If this is what you want," Hokuto says with a sharpness in her voice, "what will bring you happiness," and from the cynicism in her tone, it isn't, "then Gabriel…"

He's standing on a chair, looking down at her with the rough texture of hemp rope wound around his neck, the knot tucked behind one ear carefully. She waves a hand towards the chair Gabriel's standing on, the ultimate expression of his own imagined resentment towards what he so clearly spoke of as unintentional request to her.

And as the chair is flicked out from beneath him with a wave of two of the dreamer's fingers, there is neither happiness nor amusement in her tone as she mutters, "be happy."

The crack of thunder that comes reverberates through the walls of Gray & Sons, loud enough to rattle the windows. Bolting up from a laying position, blankets tangled around his legs and sweat rolling down his brow, Gabriel can almost feel the wet crunch of his vertibrae in his neck as he rouses to a waking world, thunder rumbling in the distance and lightning flashing in the night's sky.

He slumps back against the cabinets, hands coming up to clasp against his neck as if he could still feel the hemp rope slicing into skin, marking it red. It's night time, not daylight, and he's alone, but it's still striking familiar enough to make his breathing catch up high in his chest. Gabriel remains perfectly still, and despite being dressed and positioned exactly as he'd fallen asleep, on the floor of his personal foxhole, he cannot help but wait to see if this is still a function of his dream.

Because it could be. God knows. His gaze tilts up towards the beam of wood, where rope has roughly caught splinters around it, and waits.

Memories of his dream slide away from him like water running off a wall, but before it can all go, he lifts a hand. Concentrated shadows, like ink through water, collect together in the air, coil together to twist like paper and form shapes. A woman, with hair that moves like the shadows of seaweed, and though he can't replicate where pale skin would have glimmered, he can replicate the darkness.

It disperses in the next moment, Gabriel resting a hand over his eyes, fingers coming to pinch and squeeze the bridge of his nose. As if he needed more ghosts in his head. But one thing he knows about them—

They usually have a reason.

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