eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Better
Synopsis Gabriel meets with Eileen to accompany her back to the Dispensary.
Date July 22, 2010

Condemned Tenement

There are hundreds of abandoned tenements in New York City's Lower East. When Eileen tells someone over the phone to meet her at the abandoned tenement, it reduces the risks associated with her message being intercepted by a technopath. Only a handful of people know the building that she refers to, and those who do need no further instruction on how to get there.

It's as he remembers it: derelict and crumbling with plywood-covered windows and a chain-link fence that surrounds the property but fails to serve any real purpose thanks to strategically-cut entrances that numerous wirecutters have carved out over the years.

There are much worse places to lay low in Manhattan. Here, the building's roof is at least partially intact and provides shelter from the drizzling rain. Pinpointing her exact location would be difficult, too, without the right set of tools, but Gabriel needs only one.

There's a crow waiting for him on the front stoop.

It suffered in the snow, too, minor cave ins and floodings and there are better functioning buildings for better people in the city that would be the focus of clean up — the abandoned tenement is not one of them. But it's standing, still, on its empty street, with faded graffiti on the brickwork, and its new guardian bird. There's a strange moment for the animal, when abruptly, just in its range of focus, the figure of a man cuts itself into reality, moving at a walk towards the building. The man halts, as if sensing the flow of time rushing back around him, turns on a heel to inspect the street until his dark eyes focus on the bird.

Explanation enough for him. The bird will bristle feathers when an intrusive psychic presence flows through its limited mental capacity, burning brightly to sense the echo of the other one within, and with a mental push from the avian empath coming up towards the building, the crow takes flight, though it probably won't stray far.

Gabriel takes wing, too, in a sense. His feet lift off the ground when he no longer has any, navigating like a sheet of black ink through the air in a wide leap, touching down on rain damp ground only to climb the face of the building, and squeeze through the cracks of the boarded over winds, flowing down onto hallway ground with the ease and pace of viscous liquid, which then carpets itself in its journey to the room at the end of the hallway, an open window on the farside allowing in ghost-pale light that does little to illuminate the depth of darkness that his higher-energy form is.

She'll know, by now, that's he's here and it's him, when he squeezes through the cracks of the door to ease on into the room she's taken for herself.

She can't see him, but she can feel his presence filling the room and imagine what it must look like. Her hands rest on the windowsill covered in a fine layer of dust and microscopic debris with a texture somewhere between silk and sand beneath her fingers, slender back facing the door. In the absence of sight, the way she physically orients herself in a room has become less of a concern now that she has to rely on the literal eyes on the back of her head.

Tonight it's a starling perched on the collar of her lightweight wool coat, but as Gabriel is trickling into the room it gives a swift flick of its wings and flutters up onto the topmost shelf of an empty bookcase that's been standing in one place so long a grimy seal has formed where it meets the apartment's peeling hardwood floors.

Facing him would be polite. She doesn't immediately.

By the time his bulk has eased into the room, both her and bird have had the opportunity to know they're not alone. There's some sense of bracing himself, as Gabriel takes a moment before morphing back — whether for the tiring transition itself, or for the conversation about to follow. Insidious rain has soaked him through, a long journey from the Old Dispensary to here, and rain water carried with him pools in shallow footprints as he takes a couple of steps further inside.

"I'm guessing it wasn't one of the nice ones." He says nice like retarded, and brown eyes glaze a little as a psychic kind of scan flows through Eileen, registering back to him every complaint, minor and major. She doesn't feel damaged, in the two seconds it takes.

The double gunshot wounds beneath the gauze Eileen wears under her clothes are still healing and the source of very little discomfort at this stage. A strict regimen of antibiotics will see her the rest of the way through. Either way, it's an injury that can be anticipated and already accounted for — not the kind that he's seeking.

"No," she says, and there's tension in her neck and shoulders making it seem like she might shake her head to emphasize her answer, but the only movement she makes is to lift one hand from the windowsill and fold it protectively across her chest, fingertips curling at the hollow of her throat.

"I'd like it gone."

It, brings a rueful curve to Gabriel's smile, small and understated for all that his gaze drops to the ground. There is the rising urge to mock her words, to recall their brief disagreement outside the Old Dispensary and turn it around, but they'd left that conversation there, and Gabriel does so too, now. "Yeah, well." His boots creak floorboards under them, but it only takes a few steps for Eileen to pick up on the fact that's he not coming for her, just wandering closer to the rain-smeared window. "He's good at hiding from me. You wouldn't happen to know where he went?"

A moment's hesitation has Eileen wondering whether or not she'd tell him if she knew. She remembers Sylar's reluctance to fight back the last time he was face-to-face with his maker, but he'd also adamantly refused the help the Remnant offered him when they still thought he was Gabriel. Is there any guarantee?

"He boarded a train," is all she has for Gabriel, regardless. She doesn't take up much space by the window, only a fraction of its rotted frame. Moisture beads on both sides of the glass, and if he's looking carefully, he might notice the foggy outline of a tall, threadbare tree summoned from memory and drawn onto the pane by the tip of a finger at some point during the last hour. "When did you decide you weren't going to kill me?"

In his eyes, the apartment is falling away, masked by an illusion contained within fall walls that makes the whole space seem far bigger than it is. And he knows full well that the illusion falls on blind eyes for at least one of them, that what would have been the familiar makeup of the black and white cut-out forest world of deep shadows and bleached out sunlight is only appreciated by him. But it's the other parts of the illusion that matter, anyway, the whisper of a breeze past her ears, the sound of leaves clapping above them, of birds rustling in the black silhouette canopy.

She can still feel damp glass should she touch the window, still feel the gritty floor under her shoes, and Gabriel's voice still rings like it's within a room instead of a wider forest. "I never decided to kill you," he starts. But it's not a defense. Ties into explanation. "It's kind of the way I am. The decision isn't made for me, it's just there. Like breathing.

"It was when you showed me what addiction looked like. How ugly it was. How familiar it is."

She's been here once before in this special place of Gabriel's making, and on an intellectual level understands that they haven't left the tenement, but emotionally—

Emotionally, the fluttering leaves and susurrus of feathers weaves a calming thread through her center and pulls her back together again, reinforcing the stitching that connects her different pieces like patches on an antique quilt. She's still a little frayed and worn around the edges, but this has been true for the entire time he's known her, and like colour of her eyes, the unique shape of her mouth and the milky scars on the pale undersides of her arms, it will never change.

"I can accept that Sylar is a part of you," she says. "What I was is a part of me, too, but we're one heart. You're two. I don't want you to think that wanting him gone means wanting you to change who you are now."

Turning his back to her, he moves towards the nearest, skinny barked tree, its curves angular, and touches its flaky surface. Coal-black bark breaks beneath the light touch of fingertips to show the bone-white wood flesh beneath it, unnatural contrasts taken from some obscure memory of his own, half-formed and misremembered. "He's a threat," Gabriel offers, a shrug in his voice, though his shoulders remain still. "It is a threat. And I'm not.

"It's practical. I'm not offended." He wipes his hand clean of illusioned tree sap and bark traces, and when he steps back, she can hear the mimicked sounds of forest ground crunching under foot. "And you know I'm better than what he is." There's a hidden question in his tone, seeking confirmation, a glance over his shoulder. It should be obvious, and to her it might be.

Eileen is oblivious to the glance, but it isn't the glance that tells her he's seeking more than affirmation in the form of a respectful silence. She takes a step away from the window and turns toward the sound of his voice so he can choose whether or not to search her face for sincerity when she says, "I took your name in the Ghost's future, and if he's to be believed then I also chose to carry your child."

The hand at her neck finishes curling in on itself and forms a tight knot in the soft indentation where her collarbone meets her throat. "I would do neither for a man who wasn't superior to what he is. Now, that future's changed — my feelings about your worth haven't."

The illusion drops like a stack of plates — abrupt and startling to the eyes, if less loud. The audio landscape of New York City slots sharply back into Eileen's perception, and the gentle forest air falls dead and stale. Gabriel, meanwhile, has turned an incredulous look back at her, if not at her, exactly. If Teo was here, he'd be the one to be studied, and then maybe injured? The flash of mixed feelings— hurt and anger and that more sour kind of emotion that Gabriel always gets when he realises that no good deed goes unpunished, and let all Oz be agreed—

Whatever. He had resolved to never do a favour for that guy ever again anyway. Though it had flared briefly through empathy, that brightly warm emotion is stifled down with all the matter of factness of sand poured over a campfire. Not even smoke remains.

His arms fold across his chest. "Let's go home," he proposes. "I have a feeling it's smart enough to not go anywhere that it might run into me."

Eileen relinquishes control of the starling, and although it's probably safer and drier inside than it is out, the little bird decides that it would rather have the open sky than a roof over its head, and flits out the window as the Englishwoman is picking up her cane. That flare, brief though it is, burns hot enough to scald her through the connection they share and produces an outward flinch.

The accompanying realization has her pressing out a slow breath. "He didn't tell me, either," she says, which has nothing to do with going home, but she must not have any objections because she's already moving toward the door. "Not until just before the Park." The somber note of apology in her tone is either on Teo's behalf or her own for not having shared this with him sooner, but the only explanation she has when she steps out into the hall is a softer, "There's never a right time."

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