Chasing Ghosts


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Scene Title Chasing Ghosts
Synopsis Eileen Ruskin stumbles upon Peter Petrelli in the ruins of Eagle Electric.
Date September 16, 2009

The Ruins of Eagle Electric

To someone with limited knowledge about Eileen's past and the events that transpired between October of 2008 and January of 2009, there is neither rhyme nor reason to her movements and the apparent pattern they follow. Like the rest of Remnant, she seems to come and go as she pleases, her course dictated by the direction the wind blows, but there are certain locations — both here in Long Island City and elsewhere — that she is inevitably drawn back to, including the ruins of Eagle Electric and the twisted wreckage that passes for what was once her second home.

It's past midnight, which means she should be finding a place to lay low until daylight begins to brighten the edges of the sooty sky. Should, however, does not always translate into will. With sleep as elusive as it's been for the past two weeks, she has no qualms about staying out later than is probably wise; of all the unnecessary risks she could take, combing the rubble on the other side of the property's dilapidated chain-link fence in search of closure is on the more acceptable end of the spectrum.

She moves with the slow, purposeful determination of someone picking through what remains of their house after the floodwaters recede or the hurricane has passed. In many ways, what happened here was a disaster, though there are some who might argue that the people most affected by its destruction deserved to be smote.

Eileen would not disagree.

Normally Eagle Electric is empty, the shattered remnants of its concrete walls and steel infrastructure like a gutter ribcage with fingerbones of steel twisting up at the sky. This late at night, the ruins look almost haunted by the flicker of shadows created by inconsistant lighting; street lamps across the street never quite staying on properly, a sign of the strain on the power grid out here.

It's in these shadows Eileen realizes that tonight isn't one of the nights the complex is alone. Inside what remains of the warehouse floor, under open skies and at the edge of the yawning opening in the floor to the basement levels, a single figure crouches in the dark. Black on black, giving sharp contrast against the pale blue of moonlight. Something scrapes between dark fingers, something dragged along the ground in the dust and debris.

At a distance, the man is indistinct in his form, but in view of the moonlight his features show the definition of a scar bisecting a thoughtfully expressed face, eyes half-lidded and downturned to a scattered arrangement of bones that he is carefully trying to piece back together into a partial skeleton.

A quarter of a broken jawbone, a third of a whole skull with one eye socket smashed apart, several rib bones, one piece of a spinal column, and a few assorted leg and arm bones that he's currently trying to assign a proper position. In a way, Peter Petrelli is remembering more of his study of human anatomy from becoming a nurse than the laboratories of Nevada or Berlin. In a way, he's remembering and learning all in one.

Peter is a difficult man to pin down. In the past, Eileen has gone to great lengths to avoid him, but that was before the Narrows came down, before Pinehearst, before he looked at her with someone else's eyes. She presses forward, pebbles and small pieces of debris tinkling against one another as her steady progression knocks them loose and further destabilizes under her feet. One of these days, whether it's Eileen, Peter, Gabriel or any one of the other people who visit this place on occasion, someone is going to fall into a hole and never climb out again. The terrain is treacherous. Neither of them should be here.

As she steps off the rubble and onto the more solid warehouse floor, Eileen's footsteps crack like a gunshot and sends the murder of crows that had been watching Peter's macabre reconstruction exploding into the air. Fortunately, these aren't sounds that are likely to attract Feng Daiyu or his ilk. The birds, too, are black against a sky so dark even the stars do not shine.


There's no recognition given, not until he's laid a radius and ulna together in proper arrangement to resemble the forearm of a human, blue eyes lazily lifting up to Eileen. "He deserves a proper burial," is his greeting, nodding his head down to the skeletal remains he's been assembling. "I think this is all of him that's left, but your people— they should do something with it. Something for it, he deserves at least that much."

Rising to stand, Peter's gloved hands tuck slowly into his pockets, eyes wandering away from Eileen up towards the sky and the fleeing shapes of birds wings against the dark, one silhouetted against the moon briefly. His eyes narrow, a hand comes up, and a single black feather wavers down to land in his palm, leather-clad fingers curling around it gently. The hand is brought to chest level, fingers opened, and his eyes inspect the pinion of ink coloration. "…what brings you out here?"

It's difficult for Eileen to visualize the man whose bones are interred here based on what Peter has been able to piece together. Zhang Wu-Long looks like something she'd find behind glass in the Natural History Museum's anthropology wing rather than what's left of a man who died less than a year ago. "I don't know what he would have wanted," she says, voice soft, suppressed its solemnity and the terrible sense of grief the bones wake in the cavity of her chest, "so I piled stones. He has a little boy. A funeral would be better."

Eileen's eyes move from the warehouse floor to the feather in Peter's hand, iridescent under the right lighting and obsidian without. She's not entirely sure how those last two thoughts of hers connect, only that they do. "I come out here a lot. Chasing ghosts, I guess."

"Likewise…" Peter agrees quietly, eyes focusing down on Wu-Long's remains. "It doesn't matter what he would have wanted," the change of topic back to the bones comes with a furrow of his brows, "he's dead and gone. This is for the people who still remain." Peter's eyes alight to Eileen, and it's almost tragic the way he looks at her, that unusual softness in his eyes that Kazimir once held as well. "Funerals are about grieving, about putting the dead to rest and moving on." The latter emphasis may not have been entirely necessary. "It's never about what the dead want, it's about what puts the minds of everyone they left behind at ease."

With that said, Peter's attention moves down to the skull, then away to the shadows of broken concrete and twisted rebar. "What'd you come out here tonight for?" The question is asked with a distant, distracted tone of voice, his back partially offered to her when the distant horizon becomes easier to look at.

"There are some things that happened at Pinehearst I haven't quite come to terms with yet," Eileen says, circling the bones. Her focus keeps coming back to the skull. "I thought I might find some answers here." What she really means to say instead of answers is comfort, but there's only so much she's willing to divulge to someone who she viewed as an enemy until a few weeks ago. If she notices that Peter won't look directly at her, she does not care; more likely, she's so preoccupied with not looking at him that the reverse has not yet occurred to her.

She knits her brow, lips pressed into a thin line. "Maybe I was hoping I might find Gabriel. Feng. You. I don't think it really matters who."

Peter's quiet for a moment, head downturning, shoulders slacked again. "I don't think either of them are very fond of giving anything, let alone answers." There's a mildly teasing tone to his voice, accompanied by the rough snort of a laugh. "Gabriel means well, most of the time, but gets frustrated by his own inability to relate to things outside of the scope of mechanical understanding. He's an actor who can read and memorize the script, but is unable to empathize with the lines, to give them //emotion."

Turning slowly, Peter doesn't quite look at Eileen, but at least in her direction, angled down at her feet. "I used to be his opposite in that. Couldn't remember the lines to save my life, but improvisation and empathy got me where simple reiteration couldn't. It's probably why this is happening," this, "different script, new character; Once more with feeling." His smile is wry, shoulders rising in a subtle shrug.

Then, fully facing Eileen he starts to walk towards her, moving to close arm's reach with that slow and tired pace of his. one gloved hand reaches out, the way someone might to a timid animal, moving gloved fingers towards dark tresses of hair.

Timid animals snap or bite. Eileen does neither. His hands are gloved, his tone gentle, and although her first instinct is to flinch away she holds her ground, showing no outward weakness, and allows his fingers to brush the dark curls of hair at her temple. Her breath leaves her lungs in a thin exhale through her nostrils. "You knew my mother's name," she reminds him. "You knew what my brother did to me. I only ever told Kazimir and Amato that."

She's not sure if she'd feel less or more comfortable if Gabriel was here. Peter's assessment of his personality is accurate to the point that it draws a faint smile from the corners of her mouth, fleeting though it is — she could tell him everything and he might not understand more than just the words she chooses to extrapolate, but that's all right. Listening is enough. Being there is enough. What happened on the floor of Gray and Sons is enough.

"Are you still tired of being teased by the snake with the apple?"

"Not yet…" Peter admits quietly, pulling a strand of hair away, while his other hand curls pinkie and ring finger down to hold the feather, he reaches up and begins— making a slender braid in her hair. It's not obvious what he's doing at first, just a tug and pull on her hair, then three separate strands start to fold one over the other as his hands move with practiced motion one after another — it's not the first time he'd done this for her— but then it wasn't Peter, was it?

One hand pinches the end of the braid to keep it tight, two fingers still holding the feather, while the other reaches into the pockets of his slacks, eventually returning with a thin black rubber band. He spread it out with his fingers, pulling the braid thorugh, and begins winding the band over itself — loop, twist, loop — tighter and tighter, finally sliding the back of the feather up between the elastic before letting it close tight that last time. Brushing the braid with the back of his knuckle, a faint smile is offered. "I remember…. enough. Muscle memory sometimes, dreams others. Chasing ghosts, as you put it."

Eileen's eyes are glossy and wet by the time Peter finishes, though the rhythm of her breathing remains measured and even. If she blinks, she will cry. If she attempts to speak, she will cry. Trusting neither her voice nor her lashes, she reaches up with both hands and wipes the budding tears away before they can fully take shape. Her fingertips come away shining, slick with moisture, discoloured by the kohl she wears under her eyes themselves.

There's something supremely unfair about all this. "He hated me in the end," she says finally, her breathy tone wrought with tension that's mirrored in the muscles of her slender neck and narrow shoulders, vocal chords pulled as taut they'll go without splitting her voice down the middle. "Do you remember anything about that?"

The crease of his brows isn't a satisfactory answer, neither is the "Sometimes" he offers as an answer. "I try not to think about it too much." His gloved hands move back to his pockets, shoulders squared and a little tense, eyes focused down at his feet again, "sometimes dreams— nightmares. Nothing good came of that time, and…" he hesitates, for just a moment, "and the person you want forgiveness from for that, he's not the person you're talking to."

Looking up to Eileen finally, there's a bittersweet smile that briefly crosses Peter's face. "But he is sorry," are the next words out of his mouth, tension causing his neck muscles to contract in a visible swallow, "and he always will be. The negative emotions, they're stronger, easier to read. Bold lines in the script where everything else is gray italics on white paper, indistinct and hard to make out. But the bad times, they're sharp, deep, contrasting."

"If I had to do it again, I would. A hundred times. A thousand times. The only thing I'd change is how I said good bye." Eileen wipes off her hands on the front of her shirt beneath her jacket, shoulder holster and pistol briefly visible when the ambient lighting catches the gunmetal and reflects off it. "He was so far gone, so completely unlike the person I knew— and in his body. I don't know if Gabriel's ability had anything to do with it, or if it was happening before we even set foot here in New York."

She looks down at her hands and the dark smudges on her fingertips. "It's stupid to think everything would have been different if I'd done more in the beginning, but I do. You can't change a person just by loving them, but I wanted to. And maybe I didn't love him enough."

Peter's jaw tenses at Eileen's words, brows furrow and he looks away. "You— " he clears his throat, awkwardly, taking a few steps away from Eileen and doesn't pick back up that same thread of conversation again. "Nothing that happened in the past matters now," he notes in a quiet tone of voice, "'Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come, in yours and mine.', or so Shakespeare wrote." There's a hesitant smile no one sees, and Peter regards Eileen over his shoulder. "It's from The Tempest, a line Antonio says of Sebastian, speaking in theatrical metaphor, that they have important work to do here in the now," his head inclines, shoulders shift and posture changes as he turns towards her, "and that all of their past grievances and efforts only set the stage for the most important work yet to come."

When Peter gives pause to his words, there's a reluctance in his expression, distance afforded between he and Eileen that puts him at more comfortable footing. "It's where you and I stand right now, to be more precise. Where the whole of the Vanguard and the remnants left behind stand. What's past is prologue," he echoes the line, "and now what matters is what we do with the second chances we've been given. Most people— " a faint smile crosses his lips, "they aren't given a second chance."

Looking down to the floor, then over to the bones of Zhang Wu-Long displayed on dusty concrete, he seems to find some anchor to his words. "I don't know if I've deserved as many chances as I've been given, and what's inside of me," he looks up, brows creased, "feels the same."

"Yes, well, misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, doesn't it?" Eileen has read The Tempest, too. She crouches down beside the bones and touches the tips of her tear-streaked fingers to the skull, tracing the ruined shape of its eye socket. Is Kazimir sorry for this as well? "You should've died with all of Midtown," she agrees, and there's nothing cruel or accusatory about her tone when she says it, especially not in light of what she includes next. "I should've when the Narrows fell, or coming for Gabriel."

One hand braced against her knee, she pushes herself to her feet again, reaches up and brushes her knuckles over the braid and the edge of the feather woven into her hair. "The only reason I'm here is because of what's inside of you, and there's a part of me that wishes I wasn't. I'm sure someone like you knows how it feels."

A nod acknowledges the affirmation of twists of fate. "Nothing's inherently evil," Peter says quietly, walking to stand at Eileen's side by the bones, "not even this— whatever this is. It gives and it takes away in the same motion. I only now started to figure out exactly what that means, and how… how to motivate it to do anything other than take." Blue eyes lift up to Eileen, brows raised but furrowed in a somewhat helpless expression. "Gabriel kept trying to tell me it was like water, but— I think that's more what Abigail has." Has. He actually doesn't know. "This— it's more like fire. It burns, destroys, and rends to ash— but what destroys one tree, eventually creates fertile soil for another."

His eyes wander back to the bones, words gone for a time, leaving them trapped in the shadows of the warehouse and their memories. He exhales a sigh, then looks up to her with a hesitant smile. "I'll walk you home," he offers knowingly, "he can wait a little longer, for us to remember him one last time." Peter stares at the bones, for a long time quiet in their presence, then looks up to Eileen, offering a gloved hand out to her. "No need to be miserable alone."

Eileen takes Peter's hand, the leather of his glove smooth against her cool skin and its soft texture. She doesn't have to remind herself that his fingers do not belong to Kazimir; she accepts the gesture more for practicality's sake than she does sentimentality's. The only way out involves nagivating the rubble again, and she could use someone to help steady her as she looks to secure her footing. This does not, however, stop her from giving that hand a grateful squeeze through the fabric upon their departure.

"Are you familiar with the Chinese cycles of balance?" she asks, and her voice is suddenly very quiet, audible to Peter's ears and Peter's ears alone. "They're called the shēng and the …"

Dark brows furrow, blue eyes wander to Eileen's, and as he starts to take those first few steps across the rubble-strewn concrete floor and towards safer ground, he is given pause. "No…" it's hard to read is response, the single word spoken quietly, expression deceptively neutral, "tell me." One black-clad foot moves before another, stepping over a toppled piece of concrete, with jagged prongs of rebar curling out of it. Up, then, onto a higher piece of debris, hand clasped firm around Eileen's to help her up onto it with a gentle tug, getting her to the same height he stands at, a simple nod of his head indicating the direction he plans to go in, and for her to lead so he can keep her steady from there on out.

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