Catch Without Hands


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif ghost2_icon.gif

Scene Title Catch Without Hands
Synopsis Three categorical villains come together to talk about the future, of tactical plans — and of how it used to be. It helps.
Date July 9, 2009

Queens — Calvary Cemetery

There are more than three million souls interred in Queens' Calvary Cemetery. As she stands in the shadow of a mausoleum, its wrought iron gates casting intricate shadows across the leather material of her coat, Eileen Ruskin is reminded of a line from a film she once watched on the family's old Sony portable — the one with the broken click-stop tuner. The soil out here is full of rocks, but the soil of a man's heart is stonier. You plant what you can and tend to it. And you always reap what you sow.

Her chapped lips move, forming the words without sound as she inspects the face of the pocket watch she holds cupped in the seat of her left hand. It's ten to nine o'clock in the evening, and she still can't remember the movie's name in spite of having racked her memory for the past fifteen minutes. Something to do with a cat. Something to do with a cat and eyes like live coals, death and a busy street outside a white house by the water. She could ask Teodoro, she imagines — he might know — but there are already so many questions she intends for him that she probably won't find the time.

They're both very busy people, these days.

Or, perhaps depressingly, he might not know even if he'd used to. It would've been ten years ago, for him, and the intervening ones clotted with half her lifetime's worth of other silverscreen swill, pictures and scripts and photography that might now never come to pass. What with the economy. The impact of tragedy on creative inspiration and barbarism upon culture. Things change.

People aren't supposed to. Not so fast, anyway. Ghost was a little surprised she'd called, but he is punctual correct to a margin of two minutes, one hundred and twenty seconds spared for brief reconaissance, uninterrupted this time by any voices from within. Eileen has brought a semi-auto, its heft hard and dense but acclimated to the temperature of her bird-boned body, but nothing else. Perhaps ironically, the presence of a weapon indicates that this is not Arthur Petrelli.

He trawls up through the headstones. Shoving through the gate, he starts out with his feet making noise, in the style of braggy boy bravado and articulated arrogance, but only seven steps in, he unthinkingly defaults to a quiet, trackless tread. From here, she looks like a cat, eyes like live coals, besieged by a radius of silent death with the skelter of distant streets made the more recognizable by it, and the white houses and water further still. It's cold tonight. He doesn't really notice.

"Good evening," he says.

"Buona sera," Eileen returns in an accent that, most assuredly, isn't Italian. The words taste strange in her mouth and sound acerbic to her hears — she regrets speaking them almost immediately. She hadn't meant to mock. The pocket watch snaps shut with a pointed click and is slid into her jacket's interior pocket, nestled against the firearm she keeps in the shoulder holster strapped across her chest. "Thank you for coming."

Green-tinted eyes assess Ghost's shape, scrutinizing the set of his shoulders and the straightness of his hips. She should thank Salvatore for taking Teo's face from him. This would be infinitely more difficult if she was looking at a friend and not the man she's come to know as Ian. "You have two things that are very important to me," she says. "I was wondering when you might give them back."

Predictable as tides, Ghost pushes Ian's eyebrows up. At Buona sera, at her latter request. Demand. Assumptions. She used to yell at him for making those. It is either that recollection or the size of her, even her palm dwarfed by the span of the pocket watch, that suddenly shrinks his features around a smile. His smile almost looks the same. So does hers. (Which the reader may take to mean: she isn't smiling.) "Next few weeks, I think.

"Wireless and I have picked up a few doses of that Evolved suppression neurotoxin. It's a little bit annoying, Daystate hasn't come out with their air-activated pistol yet, but—" A shrug hikes the shoulders of his coat. A longer, blacker garment than Teodoro had ever been wont to wear. "Beggars can't be choosers. I assume that wasn't what you were going to do." He's either talking about the proximity of her hand to the firearm inside her coat, begging, or both.

Belatedly, a little blankly, he adds: "You're welcome."

Eileen's hand drops away from the pistol's grip and finds a place to rest upon her slender waist. While she might not be smiling, there is also a distinct lack of malice in the shape of her mouth and the rigidity of her jaw. Sobriety is more to her benefit than his; maintaining a neutral mask allows her to focus on the muscles in her face rather than the emotional python constricting her heart. Her eyes, on the other hand, are cool and bright — not unfriendly, but still a far cry from true graciousness.

Catlike was an apt descriptor.

"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be angrier about," she admits. "That you've taken his body, or that you abandoned Gabriel's for Arthur Petrelli to find. Are things so bad where you come from, Teodoro? Our deaths aside."

"I didn't think Arthur was—" Defensive, and it galls him to realize he's being so. Ghost locks up talking behind his teeth for a brief moment, hard enough that a twinge sets up in his jaw. "I'm going to get Gabriel's back. And I'll leave Teo be, after. I realize I've outstayed my welcome." He was trying to sound bored. Comes off bitter instead, and he's intelligent to realize that's ridiculous.

He hadn't come here to make friends. It had been a mistake, that short-lived, initial slip into trying to keep his old ones, that brief attempt at play when he should've been working, the pointless subterfuge— fuck it.

It's just pride, anyway. There's no way anybody here, now, can hurt the real flesh of him; time and Israel have long since carved that off the brittle bones of his character, healed the breaks and the scars twisted, misshapen, for all that he can walk and talk and work just fine.

"Your deaths aside," he repeats, blandly, as if he is expecting a punchline; a comment on his priorities or dry self-deprecation at her own.

The bitterness in Ghost's tone does not escape Eileen. Crow's feet wrinkle at the corners of her eyes — still, no smile. "I'd ask if they can hear this," she murmurs, "but I don't suppose it matters much. When it comes to discretion, other people's privacy isn't worth shit to you." There's anger there. Remnants of lingering guilt and shame. She hasn't forgotten that Ghost announced to a room full of people, disembodied, corporeal or otherwise, that she'd been spreading her legs and raising them over her head for John Logan.

"It's too late to steer the future back onto the path that leads to what I've seen in my dreams. Damage's done, but if you could tell me why it happened the way it did, then—" Eileen's eyes flick from Ghost's face to a point in the distance, past his shoulder. "I'd like to understand."

No, no, she's quite right. There's more than enough bitterness to go around. This time, though, Ghost has the good grace enough to lower his eyes, look a little sorry, but it takes him a moment to actually place the words: "I'm sorry."

There's a lagging beat's silence, one that is turned slightly inward, despite that Ghost's regard remains steadfast, unwavering, unblinking. "I don't think they can hear this right now," he answers, "but these things have a way of catching up. I don't doubt they're going to have plenty to say about this when they do. S'pose I could make an effort at being careful, this time." Not the same thing as being kind, but the nearest available facsimile thereof that, one might well think, this incarnation of Teo is capable of.

He tilts his head to the left, a fractioned degree, as a hawk might regard something on the ground. Shifts the rest of his weight the other way, until it parks a shoulder carelessly against the cold, gritty end of a stone cross. Some corpse formerly known as Aymery. He doesn't say anything for a bit, but there's a twitchy weight to it, and the square of Ian's jaw, that indicates that's more because an answer is forthcoming than because the question confused.

"Long, short, tragic: Arthur Petrelli has a vision no one else can really pull off."

Which simultaneously explains everything and nothing at all. Eileen's features adopt a more sympathetic slant, mouth turning down into a slight frown, forehead creased with what looks like anxious tension. As Ghost leans against the marker, she pushes away from the mausoleum gate and steps over the bundle of plastic flowers left on its steps. The distance between them is comfortable; she doesn't appear poised to close more than a foot or two of it.

"I'm not talking about Arthur Petrelli," she says, boots scuffing against the marble underfoot. The sun didn't set too long ago — 8:28 by Eileen's watch, and as a gift from Gabriel Gray you can trust it to be precise — but some light still lingers, shimmering in the highlights of the young woman's hair and in the lettering emblazoned across nearby headstones that jut out of the earth at awkward angles like rows of granite shark's teeth. "I'm talking about you and me.

"When did we stop being friends?"

A beat.

"It started with Arthur Petrelli." It isn't contradiction, by the tone of him, but clarification, stilted from some very real and profoundly rusted effort at gentleness. "He changed everything. Took my friends away— took Alexander away, saved the world, gave me this ability. We didn't stop being friends, exactly. I think I just stopped being a good one a long time ago. Then friendship — got in the fucking way, more than anything else.

"When you tried to stop Helena and the others from coming back. It was hard for either of us not to take personally. Real life analogue would be something about discourteous hosts and guests." Except, you know. In their real lives, the way things are here, they hold their meetings clandestine in cemetaries, talk about bodies like licensed vehicles, this one on loan, this carpool going poorly.

The tick of the clock is quieter in her ribs than the beat of her pulse but he notices that, too, is the furthest thing from screaming panic.

This is the part where Eileen feels like it's her turn to be apologizing. She doesn't. Instead, she exhales slowly through her nostrils and allows her guarded posture to deflate with her lungs. Not the answer she'd been anticipating. "You can't go back," she reminds Ghost just in case he's forgotten, and she's fairly sure that he hasn't. "But you can't stay here, either. Not like this."

Another step. Two, three. That distance is closing at a steady rate, feet clunking on stone, whispering through grass. She maneuvers around a horizontal marker that bears a name too weathered and encrusted with earth to make out. This is the man who killed her in another life. Screaming panic wouldn't be inappropriate at a time like this, but at the same time it isn't necessary. If Ghost intended to put her in the ground twice, she doubts he'd have bothered to help separate her from someone who wanted to do the same.

"What are you going to do?" she asks. "When this is all over."

This produces a measuring sort of silence, less calculated, mmmore. Confused. Ghost defaults to assuming that everybody is out to get him. This is more practical than grandiose on his part, or so he honestly believes.

After a few indeterminable seconds largely spent wondering whether or not she has a small blade on her somewhere, the ghost determines that he has no way of knowing what, precisely, the erstwhile bird girl is getting at; that the best he can do, for now, is to take her words at face-value. In any case— in any case, he hasn't backed down yet, and he isn't about to fucking start now.

"I dunno. Figure I'll either be dead or nearby. Either way, you shouldn't have to worry." There's a lopsided grin that squints one of his eyes closer shut than the other, gallows humor, if nothing theatrical.

The only bulge beneath her jacket belongs to the pistol in its holster, but — friends or not — experience dictates caution where blades and Eileen are concerned… lest Ghost end up with another knife buried several inches into his gut. Her hands, at least for the time being, are where he can see them, palms held out in either a gesture of surrender or unspoken beseechment. She hasn't stopped moving, doesn't plan to. "Sometimes dead is better," she suggests, "but I wouldn't mind nearby."

That is to say: She isn't. Worried. Or if she is, her concern doesn't stem from what Ghost will or will not do when Pineheast lies in ruin and Arthur is as dead as she is in the timeline from which he originates. "You aren't going to hurt me again if I touch you?"

What kind of fucking question is that? Besides a difficult one, apparently, judging from the disconcertment the ghost's face, though that might well be in answer to the woman's remarks, too. What she wouldn't mind, after all the things he's done. In 2019— to she and her husband; now, to Cardinal, Eileen herself, Eileen's reputation, Gabriel, Salvatore, oh, the list does go on.

She doesn't have knives. They say she doesn't have Julian Kuhr's ability, either. God knows why he's inclined to think someone's going to get hurt if she touches him.

"Has it ever occurred to you," says the stranger in the dark, effulgently deadpan, heatlessly, almost fond, "maybe if you stopped touching monsters, you'd be less of one?"

"I wasn't aware that sociopathy is contagious." Eileen halts an arm's length away and lowers her hands, slim things with bare fingers limned with silver in the dark. She's always been pale, but the contrast is never so stark as it is when the moon is in command of the sky and its light illuminates her skin and paints it in cool shades. "My mother, the Vanguard, Kazimir, Sylar — you. If it's true, then I'm already beyond help."

If Eileen knows anything at all about herself — and she likes to imagine that she does — then she thinks this is what she would have wanted. "You gave me the courage I needed to see Kazimir for what he really was. I nestled in the crook of your neck when you sat across the table from Logan and Muldoon. You held vigil at my bedside after what they did to me. I think I'm allowed to forgive."

Long fingers fold their joints around mantid angles, straighten again, shut, not quite fists. As if belatedly self-conscious about their restless overaction, he ends up hitching them up at his sides, shunting them into his pants pockets.

There's tends to be something peculiarly choreographed about the way he holds himself, courtesy of ten years of martial arts and a dozen of immaculately cultivated facades, but there's an edge there, of choke-chained disquiet, that he can't quite flatten out of his spine or the splay of his stance. Disquiet— not to be mistaken for discontent, this time.

"Well," he answers, eventually, then nothing else, for the length of a vespertine breeze. 'Well.' There's a smile peeking out of the corner of his mouth. If it's true, he wouldn't be one to complain, anyway. "You'll be happy to know, after ten years, I handle absolution better. What can I do for you?"

"You said you were going to get Gabriel's body back." Which is really only one of the myriad reasons she's here. It is, however, the most straight-forward and therefore the easiest subject to discuss. "Incidentally, so am I. I sent Gillian into Pinehearst to talk to Peter, but she didn't bring anything back except for more emotional baggage. Assuming your aunt is still alive, she either isn't sharing or Phoenix has decided to play this one close to the chest. I've got shit to go on, Teo, and flying blind is for bats."

While it's not the most elegant way to ask for help, it will have to do. Eileen watches Ghost's face in anticipation of some physical reaction, no matter how slight. "Please. I'm running out of people I can turn to."

There's a staccato pause shoehorned there, as Ghost pauses reflexively to check whether or not the other dark passenger in Teodoro Laudani's head is going to have some kind of reaction to the mention of Gillian and Peter in tandem with 'emotional baggage.' Either Gabriel isn't awake or he doesn't deign to respond, though. Not yet.

There's a smile intimated by the feline half-shutter of his pale eyes, the sliver of tooth that splits his cheek. She's going to get Gabriel's body back. "Of course you are."

There's a sliver of stiffening, then, the man drawing his frame up, a physical manifestation of mental effort. "I believe I can help. I got Doctor Ray circa '09, Matt Parkman and Molly out of the basement the other week— it's where Pinehearst keeps its more sensitive subjects and experiments, and it's where Gabriel's being kept now. There's a ventilation system you can get through, if not with a lot of gear. Air-conditioning and restroom pipelines are where the walls and floors are weakest.

"Floor map publically available on the lobby floor is otherwise correct. Cat wants to see me soon," he adds, cocking a bright eye down into the pale severity of Eileen's face, above the rim of her coat. By 'soon,' he means 'days ago'— "Would you like me to bring a very long lever, the better to get the bird's head out of its burning rectum?"

Amusement pinches Eileen's features into something a little more impish, fleeting. "If you feel you have to," she concedes. "I trust Catherine, Cardinal," even if Chesterfield's "Mr. Redbird" isn't one of them. "When the three of you are ready to move, we'll move." We being the remnants of the Vanguard and whoever else she's been able to convince that this suicide mission against the Jersey biotech firm is worth their time. It can't be a very large number.

"It just has to be soon. I promised him that we would." Who she's referring to this time is a little less clear, foggy in the way that mist beginning to creep up from the waterfront is. She could mean Cardinal or she might mean Holden — most likely, she's talking about that other dark passenger of Ghost's. The one with the mordant presence and hiss.

This is becoming normal, woefully so, of saying nothing. Drifting in and out of subconciousness, of that placid lake silence that's either voluntary or not, doesn't hardly matter. Gabriel is listening, though, and only now realises he could ask to say something. That he isn't simply watching a film beyond foggy eyes, one he has no control over.

For a while, words jumble together like an echoing mess in Teo's skull, confused, a little out of practice, before they dial in, line up, switch on. Her this. Last. Confused silence, before another attempt. Tell her this is the last time.

Ghost is in the process of nodding his acknowledgment, agreement, acquiescence, when he hears something that comes more from the recesses of his skull than from outside, even if the veil of distinction between those two quarters seems to grow thinner every day. There's a sharp, raptor-like cant to his head, very visible, a shading of different focus behind the wintry white-blue of his eyes. He closes and then reopens them.

Fails to understand, and studies Eileen the next moment, thinking she isn't going to, either. "He…" Out of benevolence, morbid curiosity, or some mangled mixture of both and debt, however, he says these words, in the end, without preamble or further clarification, intuiting that Eileen won't need any. "He says this is the last time."

Eileen's eyes narrow to slits, eclipsed by dark lashes, and she lifts her chin a fraction of an inch so that her gaze is level with Ghost's, brows set into a flat line low on her forehead. There is no spark of recognition, no moment of epiphany visible on her face or in the subtle shift of her body language as it grows tense, the muscles in her bird-boned neck and shoulders pulled taut over their delicate frame. She's as clueless as he is.

"I'm sorry," she says after a moment of stilted silence, forcing herself not to blink, "I don't understand what that means."

The notion of disappointment, rather than articulated into words, is what Eileen's statement and apology gets in reply. Dismay not for her, exactly, but at himself. Didn't he complete that thought? Why can't he— quite abruptly, Ghost will know a feeling of nausea, low in his stomach, not unlike what he's felt before from Kazimir's influence. A spike of pain before it's gone again in the next moment, leaving no damage in its wake.

Silence. No apology, until he thinks to put words back together again, sinuous, whisper-hissing. Last time she has to save me. Last time I have to be saved. No more. Petty, disjointed frustration is the echo in those non-words.

This makes Ghost kind of want to sit down, but that would be kind of rude to the dead. The ghost probably empathizes enough with your average corpse to think better than that. Either that, or he has some sort of reputation to uphold. He stays on his feet. Courteously, his stomach doesn't burst through its own walls.

Obscurely, he thinks he can sympathize with that, too, despite having played the part of the white knight for the better part of his career. Being saved isn't— has never been— his area of expertise. "This is the last time you have to save him," he says, roughly.

The color blocks back into the gaunt of his cheeks, and there's a fragment of a smile for Eileen, an assembly of piecemeal, vanishing sentiments. Rue, for once, among them. "I think this is his way of saying thank you, and promising there is a learning curve to his catalog of theatrical mistakes. Forgive his boy-bravado."

He's forgiven. That much is made clear by the feline twitch at the corner of Eileen's mouth, upper lip lifting just enough to expose a pearly crescent of tooth. The tip of her tongue slides across it, banishing the smile before it has the chance to manifest and split her lips into a wide Cheshire grin. She could laugh. Doesn't. Settles for a faint shiver of mirth that passes through her shoulders instead.

"He should know better than to make promises he can't keep," she says, chin sinking back down behind the collar of her jacket, "but he's probably right. I don't expect that all of us who are going in will come back out again. I know I'm not anticipating the opportunity for a repeat performance."

Strange that Ghost's words actually bring Gabriel out of his shell a little further - easier to hear and petty enough to distract him from the darkness and claustrophobia that keeps threatening to consume him every passing day. There's a bristle of irritation, the texture, headache equivalent of you jerk before it fades out, listening to the somewhat more distanced sound of what Eileen has to say.

No reply, this time, no shimmer of nausea or rattle of his cages bars anymore. Grudging silence, unhappy at this conclusion that the woman has come to. Faint disdain, too, communicates itself through the psychic membrane between himself and Ghost.

He'd get out alive.

'You jerk.' You'd think that Gabriel could've mayyyybe used some of that considerable alone-time to come up with more inventive, instructive, or incisive insults. Ghost is, by now, overly intimate with that three-bit string of annoyance. Awww, there's a niggle of a psychic elbow, an nod in the direction that he is pointing his physical eyes. Look: she's smiling.

No doubt, the reciprocal wave and static of glibe exasperation is commensurately familiar to the erstwhile serial killer caroming off the walls of skull and dream. "Knowing better is for people who don't know jack and shit about what we do. You never keep promises you don't make." Sagacious or merely confusing— it makes sense to him anyway. After a moment, his face changes. "'M I gonna get to meet Ethan Holden?"

That Ghost has apparently never met Ethan, even with the additional ten years of worldly experience under his belt, causes some concern for Eileen, though she's careful not to let it show beyond a slight furrowing of her brow. "You will. Cardinal's agreed to enter the building with us as well, along with a man named Jensen Raith. Ex-Vanguard, ex-CIA. I have five grand in my back pocket for Deckard if he agrees to sign up. Five's a good number."

She doesn't bother telling Ghost to play nice. Whether or not she continues to hold a grudge for the wrongs he's committed against her, perceived, real or otherwise, Eileen has too much respect for him to descend quite to that level. He knows better. So does she. "Take care of him. Them."

"Deckard tried to kill me," Ghost observes, brilliantly. "That's going to be interesting."

'I didn't let him,' he means. And, 'I will.' He motions down at the dark crown of her with his head, once, a gesture too much like concession to be anything but a farewell. She's already begun to intimate such, anyway. It's for the better. People to meet, stuff to steal, recollections to go back to avoiding with violent diligence. He opens one backward step across cold concrete, only to be brought pause by curiosity.

"You don't have your birds back," he observes. "You aren't even trying."

"Birds aren't going to help in Pinehearst's ventilation system," Eileen points out. "Never mind the basement. If I live through this," extra emphasis on the if, "I'll speak with Catherine about getting an appointment with Delphine Kuhr. Otherwise I'm just wasting her time." She straightens, shoulders squared, and shows Ghost her back as she turns to look out across the misty sea of markers, the wrought iron fence and the twinkling city lights beyond.

"It's not a matter of trying."

It is. The backseat driving psychic copy of Gabriel Gray apparently has an opinion, and one in concurrence with Ghost's observation. They both feel like Teo - the Teos do, that is - and so agreement comes easily and without grudge, that familiar irritation sparking up again for the woman in front of them.

You should tell her it would have been easier. Would be easier if she got it back. For us. Hesitation. Is that too cryptic. No, decidedly not, and just in case she disagrees, Gabriel adds, And you can tell her she knows what I mean.

Isn't it? Skepticism's no stranger to Ghost's face. Or Teo's. Same difference. "Gabriel thinks it would have been easier for 'us' if you got it back, and that you know what he means.

"Me, I'm going to put an uncharacteristically optimistic spin on your fucking stubbornness," and he's smiling, must, even if she can't see him: there is that tug to his voice, recognizable, despite that she had so very rarely seen the other Sicilian speak in mirth or unconcern. "And make believe you're waiting to do something worth the reward, rather than punishing yourself 'til then.

"Buona notte." He speaks with fluency, despite everything, diminished now by distance though she can not hear his tread.

Eileen's feet revisit the winding path as she weaves her way around markers, past the mausoleum, her shape camouflaged by the long shadows they cast. Beneath her jacket, the muscles in her shoulders and back stiffen, tighten, vertebrae standing out against the garment's faded leather material like a length of bicycle chain stretched thin. There's more truth to Ghost's statement than she's probably comfortable with.

"Good night."

The soil of a man's heart
is stonier, Louis.

A man grows
what he can,
and then he tends it.

Because what you buy
is what you own.

And what you own…
always comes home to you.

- Stephen King, Pet Sematary

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License