Before the Satisfaction


eileen_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif

Scene Title Before the Satisfaction
Synopsis Two enemies gather their bearings and assess their situation.
Date February 15, 2011

Ruins of Midtown


While Sylar is preoccupied blowing gaping holes in her flock that only contract and close again, the birds flying closer and closer together in tight formation to make up for the numbers they've lost, Eileen rounds the corner in her wool and leathers already at a lope.

She must move quickly, not only because she has only one chance— one syringe of Adynomine wrapped between her gloved fingers, but because her heart is hopping rabbit-fast in her chest and it's the adrenaline powering through her veins that keeps her limbs from seizing up with fright. As she closes the distance between them, he'll feel it— that familiar surge of strength on top of what Dora is already feeding him with.

He won't see its source until it's too late and Eileen is on top of him, the syringe punched through his coat and into his back to the left of his spine.

She slams down on the plunger.

Not unlike a house cat on the back of a feral dog, its claws small and mean, finding nerves to pinch and arteries to tear instead of the crunching damage in canine jaws in the same way he splits tears in the flock. He even howls, anger, spittal flying passed ivory teeth at the thud of her weight on his back and the deep bite of the needle.

A fist finds wool and leathers as he turns, both of them spinning together in violence and thrown limbs, the needle wrenching from her hand and tumbling out of his back, leaving her to wonder if she acted fast enough. It certainly feels like maybe not, when a fist impacts her face hard enough for her to see stars and drop her to the ground as if she were thrown. A tooth cracks, an eye aches in its socket, and he's reaching for her, all thick hands, his glasses fallen away.

The world opens up beneath them. Its maw is toothless, but deep like a sword swallower's throat.


Eileen's last thought is: This is going to hurt.

She has no idea how much. When the ground yawns and the pavement splits, her body demands to know why her brain isn't falling unconscious, because that's what it feels like. A hand goes out, making a feeble grab for something to hold onto, but everything within reach is going under too. The sidewalk bends, buckles, and by proximity so does the chain-link, still rippling.

One minute her life is about to come to an end. The next it may already be over as man, woman, and several thousands pounds of concrete, steel and aluminum fencing go pouring into a hole in the street that wasn't there before. Billowing dust and snow rise out of it, but no sounds of life — only the groan and scrape of settling debris.

Confusion, strange pain. These things dominate Sylar's world for long enough that by the time he's thinking coherently again, he's flat on his stomach, his ear clogged with water, his illusion disappeared to reveal his own self. No suit, beneath Epstein's coat, just jeans, black shirt.

Old run-off from the melting winter winds through the bottom of what has to be a tunnel, even obsured as it is by the debris that rained down. Not enough to form a hill, only littering the water-soaked, slimy tunnel ground and peppering both himself and Eileen with filmy, dusty grey. He lifts his head and shakes it in canine exuberance and irritation, breathing shaky, rattling in his throat. He feels—


Above ground, the birds disperse, streaming off in different directions, thinning out the flock until only the dead and dying bodies remain, including a pigeon weakly flapping its wings a few feet away from Dora's head, though no matter how much it strains to join the others in the air. Its back is broken.

Below ground, Eileen fares slightly better than the pigeon. She's aware of a sharp pain in her arm and the taste of blood filling her mouth from lacerations on the inside of her cheek and lip. Instinct has her craning her neck and tilting a disoriented look up, but it isn't that there's nothing for her to see down here in the dark — it's that she has nothing to see it with.

Vague realization creeps through her bones. She puts her head down again. Shallow, wet breathing fills the tunnel, audible to Sylar's ears more than her own.

He rises up in her non-vision like a disoriented monster from the lagoon, all dragging black fabric and head heavy. He's on his hands and knees, setting a foot on the ground, levering himself against the wall. He grunts, a noise that echoes back at them. Red makes a crescent moon around an eye, stubble on his cheeks and jaw and throat, hair jet-black in this light and dishevelled. If Dora is still up there, she isn't saying a word. Maybe she's running to get help.

That thought has Sylar pulling his lips back in a sneer, and he's halving his eyes shut, willing himself to transform into raw sound and eject himself out into the sky in effortless propulsion.


Which is okay. He got smacked in the head with something rocky. He can wait a few seconds, temporarily forgetting the sting in his back due to all the other owch. In the search for ladders and shallow incline, his stare sweeps over Eileen, and snags there, giving her the same expectant and dangerous look that chained dogs might of intruders.

Eileen makes a hoarse noise at the back of her throat that might be laughter — it's at least grating and mirthless enough to be. She purses her lips rather than spit, drooling out the blood and saliva that's gathering in her mouth rather than swallow it now and vomit it back up later. The nausea is crushing.

She folds an arm— the one without the broken wrist— under her chest and uses an elbow to lever herself partway up. The same hand searches for the pistol she wears under her coat and with effort she manages to free it from its holster.

Heavy in her hand, it clunks against the rock. With effort, she lifts it and points it in the direction she thought she last heard him move, aim wavering. Not that it matters — she's as wrong as he was when he first guessed who was attacking him.

He doesn't move with any kind of speed or grace that pays tribute to the powers under his influence. But he does move quickly, with thudding foot determination and efficiency, the toe of shining shoe kicking her hand hard enough to numb it from the feel of the gun skittering away.

It costs him. Sylar takes a knee in the dripping tunnel, but advantages himself with a grip on her hair — or rather, he clutches at the collar of her coat, but snags brunette threads in the process, a sharp pain that sets fire to her scalp, and he shakes her once. "You did something," he snarls down at her. "You were in my apartment. Did you come alone? Snap out of it and answer me!"

"Your apartment," Eileen repeats, her voice creaky but not without humour — bone dry, the sardonic kind. Talking causes her more pain than spitting did, and she instinctively turns her face away from his, kicked hand curling like a withered spider, legs folded in. She hisses the words out through her teeth to minimize how much her jaw has to move. "Adynomine.

"The negation drug." Her lungs rattle and she blows out a hoarse, racking cough through her nose. "They'll come for Epstein— find the Midtown Man—" If she wasn't laughing before, then she definitely she is now — a thin, wheezy noise that's uncomfortably tight in her chest, though she isn't laughing for very long.

She goes quiet and sags into the hand at her throat to dream uneasy dreams of little girls playing in the surf on the beaches of Cornwall.

Teeth bare in the dark and he lets her drop, crouched like a gargoyle and listening to her reedy breathing, the drip and flow of water around them, and the occasional rumbles of miniature mudslides, broken concrete coming down. Sylar darts a stare up towards the hole above them, far above, the tunnel sides curving wrong and the ground above it crumbling. Dora doesn't appear in its gap, typically, probably run away before anything can happen.

Do the machines come down this far?

To Eileen, the world is vague black beyond her fragmented dreams, and Sylar doesn't really think to wake her, doesn't think it would matter. When she does come to, the world is very much the same. A little achier, maybe, and her coat is open to the elements, turned on her back like a dead fish. It would take an extra pair of eyes to see, but if they do, they'll note unused bullets lying scattered on the ground, her gun gone, her cellphone dismantled in that it was probably flung against the wall at some stage.

Sylar crouches away from her, back turned, puzzling over something.

He knows she's conscious again when the rhythm of her breathing changes — he doesn't need a superpower to detect these subtleties, which include a low, croaking cry at the back of her throat. She was left like a dead fish and feels like one, stiff and clammy all over. Sylar can count, too, the number of seconds it takes her to piece together where she is and why as murky memories filter back to her and the smell of the tunnel floods her nostrils — for a moment, she remembers wrong, confuses this passageway for a different one and makes an effort at a more plaintive sound, willing someone to come back who was never there at all.

Eileen rolls onto her side, injured arm folded across her midsection and fingers clutching at a dull ache in her side somewhere between ribs that she's eventually coherent enough to count but won't. There are no birds down here. She does not see her cellphone's cracked plastic casing or the assortment of electronic parts scattered across the tunnel's floor, but that doesn't matter either. It's the other items missing from her pockets that cause her concern — the absence of a familiar weight close to her breast.

Just as he can hear her breathing, she can hear him, and knows that she isn't alone. "Sylar—"

Breathing deepens, a sharp inhale through his nose, eased out in an impatient huff. Beneath these small sounds, she can hear the sound of creaking metal — very small; a scrape, as knife edge pokes and prods into the contents of the pocket watch with skill if no intuition. The light is bad down here and Sylar can't really see what he's doing anyway. He certainly can't feel it.

"The princess awakes. How was your beauty sleep?" slithers sardonic back to her.

The response Sylar receives at first is silence, breath and all thought stalled to listen for confirmation that she's hearing what she's afraid she's hearing. It would be nice to be able to believe that he's taken the knife to her phone and not her watch. Eileen hesitates, either not wanting to give him the pleasure of her discomfort or the impression that he has some sort of power over her as long as he has her possession cupped in his hand.

She decides it would be unwise to demand that he give it back. Instead she asks, as neutrally as she can manage with a crusty mouthful of dried blood, "What are you doing?"

"It broke."

Lying or honesty, Eileen cannot tell. He goes on with, "It was stopped, when I found it. Probably from the fall. And I really had no desire to fix it; I didn't care. Not as interesting as a broken clock, but enough to get me to open the damn thing." His coat shifts wetly, sliding against the greasy floor, as he straightens his legs to stand. There's the sound of the knife closing, pocketed. "Tick, tock. I could make you swallow it. Hold my hand over your face until it lodges in your throat. Let you die down here, all alone."

"Not alone," is the correction Eileen makes, soft but not kind, her voice already strained from speaking. She cleans the blood from her teeth with her tongue and forces it against one of her back molars, which feels loose and unwieldy in her mouth, a hard clumsy thing that she can only be rid of if she had a pair of pliers, or if Sylar had a pair of pliers and the inclination to watch her suffer through it, and she's wishing he did because the pain is enough that she has to stop and haggardly breathe through it.

"I've you. What's in your blood won't run its course for thirty-six hours. More." She spits again. "If you aren't stiff when they pull you out, then you will be after they put you up against the wall."

Sylar does feel it, the trickle of human fear. Numbed though it is, a little more animal than the true complexities of emotional response, his first instinct to flee. He gives in to it, at least by some short, several feet — he sinks into the shadows of the tunnel, away from the gap above them. Gabriel faces negation with more resigned irritation, but Sylar's fear nearly fills the tunnel like a smell, Eileen able to detect it in his silence, the scuff of his feet and the rasp of his breathing.

The cellphone lies in glittering pieces on the ground, the result of his temper, and vague regret pulls a frown at his mouth. "Then I guess," he says, after a while, voice echoing hollow around the rounded tunnel, "I better go before I give you the satisfaction."

A splash of water indicates a deliberate step deeper inwards. Because he has two options only — that way, wherever it goes, or closer to Eileen.

Eileen is scared, too. He doesn't feel it the same way he did above ground — the patter of her heart and clenching gut do not fuel him down here, or affect him beyond how he chooses to let it affect him.

She doesn't want to end up against a wall, either. Her intention isn't to make her "Wait," come out like a plea, but there's no way she can twist the words so it doesn't sound that way to her own ears. "The air." An involuntary swallow causes her throat to contract, and she forces out a gasp so he knows there's more coming. Don't leave.

"There's a current."

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