eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Changed
Synopsis Eileen and Gabriel confide concerns in one another.
Date August 2, 2010

Old Dispensary: Attic

Blindness has no true advantages; Eileen wishes she still relied a lantern to safely navigate the Dispensary after dark. Wishes she was capable of appreciating light the way that she used to, whether from a candle weeping wax or the hands of the man seated beside her on the bed. With Bran roosting downstairs by the empty hearth, she relies on touch rather than sight to guide the movements of the needle she holds pinched between her fingers, but the cadence of Gabriel's breathing and the tension in his muscles also provide her with a wealth of information about the nature of his injury and whether or not she's pushing too deep.

Her head is bowed out of habit rather than necessity, chin tucked against her collar and dark lashes lowered halfway over pale eyes that appear more silver than green at this hour. If the cut was on his right hand instead of his left, this is something he could have taken care of himself — unfortunately, it's difficult to treat an injury with a dominant hand when the dominant hand is what's injured, and the Englishwoman is careful not to damage it any further as she threads him back together again.

She used to joke that she could apply sutures with her eyes closed. She isn't laughing anymore.

"If we had the antibiotics to spare," she's saying at a low volume that only lovers use, "I'd put you on them, but if you notice any redness or swelling, I'll need you to tell me so I can have Constantine fill a prescription."

Figures that he has at least three different ways to escape bullets more or less unscathed, has withstood a nuclear explosion that took out one hundred and fifty thousand people in the single hit, has died, that Gabriel would slash his hand in every day situations. One leg half-bent, right elbow set against it and chin cupped in untorn palm, he watches down the length of his nose and through a slight squint of eyelashes, not allowing himself to switch off the sensation of feeling because feeling is better to understand what she's doing than seeing.

The same cannot be true for the doctor herself. Despite the casual shape his body language makes, every muscle seems tense. Jaw set, bowels clenched, and watching the glimmery silver minnow of a needle between her careful fingers.

"Just worry about stitching straight," he mutters, hand still and yielding beneath her work without being too loose, though his fingers twitch a little at the next pierce of the needle. Intake of breath, but no words follow. "I can take care of the rest."

Eileen pauses to run the edge of her thumbnail over her work, either to measure it or to test the thread's durability against a firm but gentle application of pressure. She's two thirds finished, and what little there is to go doesn't run nearly as deep as what she's already closed. Sensing the nervous strain in him, she cups her free hand around his and fractionally coaxes his fingers apart at the next twitch, a silent request to relax. Telling him to hold still isn't necessary.

It's taking longer than he's become accustomed to, but she at least heeds his words with motions both fluid and precise, deliberately conscientious of where the needle is and what it's doing at all times. Dark hair looped back into a loose twist at the back of her head and porcelain nails scrubbed clean, her groomed appearance reflects a similar philosophy now that she's had a few weeks to adjust to her condition. She hasn't allowed herself to fall into disrepair, and she won't let Gabriel's hand heal crookedly either.

"Exactly how did you manage this?"

His fingers twitch again, but this time it's to reciprocate the gesture as opposed to react, nerves tingling the pain sent from the needle driven into skin, fast than light mapping through his brain, down spinal chord, to finally jerk the puppet strings. Thought takes longer, but impulse is meant to be mastered. It's why Gabriel does stop twitching, and it's why he still has friends of any kind. Taking his head up off his hand, that arm curls around bent knee to hangdog rest his chin in the crux of his elbow in an effort to relax, that hand snagging to the cotton of his opposite T-shirt sleeve. Raises an eyebrow.

"What do I get if I tell you that?" is almost coy, a little defensive. The answer does come, though, without negotiating for money, a favour, or a kiss, maybe. "Scaling a fence on my way back from scouting around the Institute. Scraped it on the way over. It wasn't worth it — I didn't see anything."

What Gabriel gets is a rueful smile that embraces Eileen's whole mouth even as she laces the thread between her teeth and snaps it apart with a sharp lift of her chin. Scissors would be safer, but scissors also require her to go fishing for them in the first-aid kit spread open on her lap. "I've not had much luck either," she confesses, "but if you're willing to learn, I can teach you how I do it.

"It's very liberating." She wipes down the needle with a small piece of cloth that has a texture similar to the gauzy white cotton of the nightgown she wears and places it back in the kit along with an unused section of thread and the cloth itself. The lid closes — click — and her fingers find the snaps — clack. "Thank you. For making the effort."

Steering his glance to the sewn injury, Gabriel lifts his head to inspect the shallow railroad of black stitching tracing from the swell of where his thumb joint connects with his palm, up to the delicate web between that and index finger, and tentatively, makes a fist, feeling the pull of thread.

"Thanks," he utters, distractedly, heels setting against the mattress of his constructed bed to better push himself back enough to lean against the headboard. He's had a lot of time, to make the attic his own, and it's only been since he returned from the dead that he's striven to do anything with it, to depart it from the bare bones storage space it's meant to be. Maybe out of a sense of belonging, but it could just as easily be boredom, his desire for projects.

Now if only he'd let her near his hair with scissors as readily as he trusts her with injuries and a needle. "Tavisha bled out from the inside," he tells her, seemingly apropos of nothing. "I think it took a while. Now he's trapped that way. I'm kind of hesitant to jump off the cliff to learn how to fly."

"Tavisha," Eileen repeats, contemplation thickening her tongue. She makes a thoughtful sound with lips pursed, though her she appears to be concentrating on Gabriel's hand rather than any reservations he has about her proposition. The tips of her fingers seek out the muscle formations beneath his skin with only as much force as is necessary to ensure there won't be any lasting damage and that the appendage still functions as it should.

Satisfied, she brushes a kiss over his knuckles and lays his hand back down across his middle. "Think of it like Madagascar," says the woman who was too afraid to jump out of the plane with everyone else. "You want to at least familiarize yourself with your parachute. We don't have to leave the Dispensary."

Once she's done with his hand, Gabriel gives his fingers one last wriggle to test what other lingering damage there might be, before allowing numbness to sweep over him. A tingle from the top of his skull, down to his bared soles, until there's a distinct nothingness cottoning around him, within him. Just for now — staying that way is creepy, even for him. "Then I guess it's date," is not the most enthusiastic agreement, but there's no real reluctance in it either. Reserve over being taught anything is probably predictable, from the guy who knows everything. Or tries to.

He guides himself with his eyes, then, rather than the feeling he's stolen from himself, watching distance and perception as he rocks his weight forward enough for her to hear the creak of his mattress. and numbly, he presses his mouth to her's. She'll feel it, at least, soft contact and the bristled feeling of a lack of shaving.

The protesting springs give Eileen little warning. Not only did she assume he was getting up, but the abruptness of the gesture takes her by surprise and draws a thin, breathy noise from her mouth in the instant before he covers it. Her hands find his face, cradling his jaw in the seat of her palms. He won't feel her physical response — the crush of her lips, or the pleading way her nails press into his cheekbones — but he can't hide behind his ability when it comes to her emotions.

Fear might not be what he's expecting. It's the quiet kind: slow, creeping and apprehensive. She'd been confident handling the needle, largely because needles don't have any perceptions. Gabriel does, and although she's put in a painstaking amount of effort into maintaining her appearance and doggedly continued to invest her energy in her work, she's uncertain.

And not about him. Her body language makes that much clear.

Fear is the wrong kind of turn on, his body responding automatically with a warm kind of flutter of adrenaline that he can only abstractly feel, and the ability to fold his bed in half if he wanted to — or make a good effort, as she's not that scared. Just enough for him to notice, if not through currently very dim empathic link, then through what fear does for his strength. Inspires him to let feeling leak back in, enough to feel the indents her nails are making, only just wincing as the dull throb of his hand merrily registers back into focus.

"What?" is muttered against her mouth, his eyes heavily hooded, barely seeing through forests of eyelashes. There is a thing on his bedside table. It vaguely resembles a compass?

The answer is nebulous, impossible to articulate. Eileen makes an attempt regardless, reaching up to push his hair away from his brow and feel it between her fingers as she tucks the strays behind his ear. Putting distance between his face and hers would probably help her be more coherent, but in this case perfection isn't necessarily what she's aiming for — just comprehension.

"I'm not less," is her fierce insistence, whispered harshly and with teeth. Intermittent kisses interrupt the haggard words that follow immediately after. "I'm not changed. Please don't think I'm changed."

His arms close around her waist, pulling her inwards to the centre of the mattress, a hand catching beneath a thigh with a loop of an embrace bracketing her torso to his. "If I could fix your eyes, I would," Gabriel tells her, breath streaking warmly down her jaw, from this proximity. "For the same reasons you stitched my hand. Makes life less like work." He has the unfortunate and unromantic tendency to be fiercely pragmatic that way, describing the other side of the coin to I love you no matter what.

And this is why, maybe. "You're not changed. I don't think you're changed." Obedient but sincere repetition, mumbled now into the column of her throat. He could, maybe, miss the way her fingers will trace the pattern of his tree tattoos when she believes him asleep, and miss eye contact and the challenge condensed into twin pale discs of grey-green, now unfocused and misdirected. But she smells the same, too, feels it in the mapping of her body to his.

He's seen her stitch wounds, but he hasn't seen her miss a step and stumble. Not yet.

Eileen's pulse flutters against Gabriel's lips and she turns her head to bury her nose in his hair. On her next inhale, he'll hear the residual rattle in her lungs, much fainter and with smoother edges than the hoarse sounds he remembers coming from her in the hotel room after the opera. Although the poison has already run its course, the damage done, it will be a little while longer before the rest of her body makes a complete recovery – or as close to a full recovery as Eileen is capable of coming.

Her fingers tangle in the hair at his nape, holding him to her, and she makes a noise like she wants to speak, but what comes out instead is a trembling exhalation. Relief turns her body to clay in his hands, warming her all the way through and although there's no way for him to banish her anxiety completely, his reassurance buries it under the mud, too deep for him to access without resorting to Teodoro's ability. And even then—

The bed is constructed well. Meets the stress of Gabriel rolling Eileen over him, back down against the mattress, neither especially swift nor rough, but determined enough to make the structure judder when her back finds the soft resistance of bedsheets. Gabriel makes a heavier weight beside her, rolling her against him with an arm curled about her waist, and some half-kiss against her scalp, or at least some form of maleish possessiveness if not strictly affection. He can bracket her form with his own, does so, ungentle but warm and solid.

Eyes the other side of the room passively, as loose as the focus in her own eyes, and she might be able to sense the somewhat mental departure he undertakes then, allowing his mind to wander from this to some other nagging thing, but if he wants to talk about it— he probably would. Right now, silence and tangible contact seems enough.

Eileen takes the opportunity to stretch out her legs, which had been folded beneath her for the duration of her work on his hand, and curves one of her bare feet against the inside of his calf. One hand settles at her midsection, fingers feeling out the edge of her gauze bandages beneath her clothes. The other closes around the arm at her waist and rubs a thumb against the inside of his wrist.

She does sense it. The departure. And for almost a full minute her stillness makes it seem as though she won't pursue it, but then she's tilting her head back and grazing the hook of his jaw with her mouth. This is how she asks: What?

Outside, moisture beads on one of the attic's windows and a spider slides across the pane on a line of silk, beginning the nightly reconstruction of its web. There are crickets. The ocean. The drum of her heart is softest.

The touch, breaking stillness, is met with subtle movement — a twitch of his chin away, mostly to glance down at her, briefly, before settling. An elbow angles against mattress, so that he can lean his heavy head against raised palm, fingernails scratching his own scalp. "He followed her into the middle of a raid with Messiah," he says. Things Eileen knows. His voice is reflective. "Gunmen behind the door and her allies coming down the stairs, and he tried to kill her then and there. Does that sound like something I might do?"

Kind of. Yes. No. She can feel his shrug, awkwardly positioned though it might be. "The clones are kind of like fairground mirrors. Warped mockeries. I know exactly what it is to want her, but…" And he trails off, some unnamed conclusion crumbling before it gets any words.

"He's an animal," isn't necessarily an insult when it comes from an avian telepath, and Eileen doesn't make it sounds like one. She rests her head against his shoulder, closes her eyes even though it makes no difference. Old habits. "Even when he was Epstein, he was more aggressive than I can remember Epstein ever being."

And more aggressive than she remembers Gabriel being, but this addendum goes unspoken. Moreover: it isn't fair. Her memories of Gabriel go back just a little less than two years, and of the time she's known him, he's spent most of it going by this name and not the one his clone has chosen for himself. "He turned on us when we tried to help him, and the infection— you could smell it. What he did to me, that couldn't have been you. It's how I know."

Kazimir had once described Gabriel this way. Animal. Back when he was haunting and walking around Gabriel's body, given opportunity to see the intricacies that went on inside. Maybe it was just this one flaw. Amplified, now, and running around in Gabriel's foot steps. His arm gives so that he can lay is head down again, push the tip of his nose into her mane of hair. "Just be careful," he says, hating for how useless it sounds, but desiring to say it anyway. On the record. He doesn't mean to sound scared or anything, just—

It did something he didn't expect, which translates to it being able to do anything.

Eileen applies gentle pressure to Gabriel's wrist, her fingers clasping around a consolatory squeeze. She will be. The hand at her middle enfolds his and traces the ridge of his knuckles with a slim thumb bent backwards like the curve of a bow. His breath in her hair tickles, not enough to make her laugh because very little does — only relinquish the sigh she'd been holding. It bleeds out through her nose instead of her mouth, her lips pressed together in an expression that would be difficult for him to read if she was facing him and he had more than the dappled moonlight to see by.

"He could have done it the other night," she says, while they're on the subject and because he deserves to know if the clone's behaviour is what has him troubled. "We were alone on a subway platform. No one would have seen, or heard. Why do you think that is?"

In reply, there's a sound from deep in Gabriel's chest, the beginnings of a grunt, eased out on an exhale as if unintentional. "Some predators play with their food," is all he says on the matter, voice as level and flat as a calm, icy sea. His eyes hood shut, which could serve as a visual cue for a closed conversation, but in this case, he's just shutting out the world as if he could still his own thoughts as effortlessly as a blink.

It's along the same lines as the answer Eileen was expecting. She does not argue with his assessment because there is no reasonable argument to make. In the window frame, the spider continues weaving its web with the same slow deliberation she displayed when she was still working on his hand. It's a predator, too — the waiting kind. Patient. She flexes the muscles in the foot pressed against his calf, toes splayed, and follows the shape of his leg until she finds the most comfortable position to settle in.

If it was as easy as closing the eyes, the rhythm of her breathing would change and she would be asleep instead of turning that one over again in her head.

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