Crazy Isn't An Excuse


astor_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Crazy Isn't An Excuse
Synopsis Astor experiences an unpleasant homecoming.
Date May 13, 2011

Old Dispensary

The kitchen smells of curry, which is perhaps, for some, a refreshing departure from pickled herring — pity that most of the men of the house are out tonight. Creamy yellow paste and thick slices of chicken glop and breathe gentle bubbles into the air, chunked potato, carrots, and the occasional buoyed pea making rounded reliefs between them. In the next saucepan over, there are lentils, flowing in a sluggish spiral with the currents of heat, and then there's rice, and the mint sitting on the cutting board seems to be waiting only for the attention of the knife Eileen is running in the sink.

He sees her before she sees him, of course, but that isn't classy on any level, not the one where she's blind and not the one where he can see more than a normal man, either. He's leaning against the window sill, heels of his hands on the dusty plaster, his nose not all that far from the glass. Bird on his shoulder, its round brown shoulders with one claw lipped over a curl of black hair on his shoulder.

Taller than she is by far, Astor's shadow covers her downturned face; that, she probably notices faster than the average person would. It'll either be that or the weight of his stare, studying the immaculate splay of eyelashes over her cheekbones, or maybe simply Gabriel when he steps in through the door and says—


This observation is made for no apparent reason — it's not as though Gabriel has a five-day work week to deal with, the value of weekends less substantial and more of an irritation, with more people than usual to avoid should he go anywhere but it's said as if it were ticked off upon a list. Wherever he was going with that will never be known, because he tips sideways in order to see past the reflection of the glass and at what is not Eileen's reflection coming in too shadowed and sharp through the window, more quizzical than alarmed. Then stonier by the time psychic sensing passes through future-spawn to confirm that he isn't illusionary. A tremor of annoyance that only Eileen can feel, buzzing through the bird as if it were a satellite for subtle emotional projection.

He's okay, these days. No visible injuries to speak of — his back is healing slowly from the last gunshot it took, patchy bandaging with adhesive edges beneath thin grey sweater material. There's grey in his hair and his beard, which is less of a beard and more of a texture, but for the kid standing over there, there's always been grey. "You didn't tell me we were having people over," sounds naggy, for all that his stare has gone hard and unbreaking. He isn't blind.

"I'm sorry?" Either clarification or apology — the upward lilt flagging up the tail of Eileen's voice definitely suggests the former, and she turns off the faucet in anticipation of Gabriel's response. Her small hands are wet from cleaning the knife, but so is her hair; upstairs, there is an old opaque slip that she once wore beneath dresses and uses now in lieu of proper swimwear, and it hangs sodden and dripping on the metal rod in the second floor bathroom alongside the shower curtain.

The cove outside the Dispensary has left her skin and hair smelling like salt and something a little like mineral-rich clay, a scent that isn't necessarily unpleasant but at least potent enough that it can be noticed even when it has to compete with lemongrass and cumin. Cayenne pepper, too. She takes her curries hot or no curry it all and hopes that the mint and the chilled yoghurt down in the basement will mollify anyone who complains about the food being inedible.

She turns to face Gabriel, then — if she hadn't made an enemy of Odessa Price, she'd be able to see with her own eyes what he does. Instead, the raven perched on the opposite counter follows the trajectory of the large man's stare and makes a throaty sound of warning without opening its beak. Bran is intelligent to realize that the noise is largely arbitrary and Eileen does not need to be alerted to the perceived danger Gabriel has already picked up on.

"Oh," she says because it seems the most appropriate thing to say. Still wet, she places a hand on Gabriel's arm, and for once it's to seek reassurance rather than offer it.

She never got properly fat when she had him, at least to Astor's rather vague memory. Her fingers always stayed this tiny, cross-sections as modest as cigarettes, scrubbing the cramped spaces behind his ears and plucking the locks of his hair up to cut with scissors, never too close, never too close, and he still isn't sure if that was deliberate vanity on his behalf or concern about her own prowess as a barber. He doesn't much get girls.

"Hello," he says, his voice too flat to register as either the sarcastic he-lloooooo of someone wai-ting to be let innnn, or the sort of salutation that normal people do. The window's only open four or five inches, filters yet more color out of his voice, his face, though neither of them needed the help, really. "It's Astor. There's enough for me, if you don't mind to share. If you do, I'll come back later, but I won't like those herrings very much and I didn't want to be rude."

"How long have you been standing there?"

That comes across as sharp, and Eileen may have to take her reassurance from the fact he doesn't move away from her. It's amazing! How often Gabriel doesn't have to move to get things done, or at least move much, because he does raise an arm, and without any unnecessary fanfare, the window buckles beneath some kind of invisible smack of force — doesn't break, just jars outwards and breezes inches from hitting Astor's disney prince face. "Because that's pretty rude," he says, voice clearer without that barrier of glass. "And unless you're coming in through the window, the door's thataway. What were you?"

A grin, then, one designed to show teeth instead of mirth. "Raised by wolves?"

There was a time when Eileen might have berated Gabriel for being unnecessarily aggressive, either with gentle words or a reproachful look, but that time is passed. The sparrow at Astor's collar has her on edge almost as much as Astor himself does, and with good reason — when the window swings outward, Gabriel will be able to sense the entity seated inside the bird trembling with frustrated energy, just the wrong flick of an eyelid away from launching itself at Eileen's face. That it has what it wanted above anything else keeps it attached to the collar of Astor's coat lest it lose him again. In this case, at least, fear is a more powerful motivator than anger.

The opposite is true of the woman in the kitchen, who has half a mind to turn Astor back out into the spring cold after being told what transpired in the dark of the woods outside the Garden. She has not been able to stand alone in the same room as Ethan since, so difficult an emotion is humiliation for her to cope with — it's hard for her to admit that, at least in one way, her father was right and she was wrong. There is more to Astor Loukas and his motivations than he claimed.

Gabriel is smiling, however cruel his intent, so she doesn't have to. "Do you take tea or coffee?" is deliberately spoken a few moments after Gabriel's question, perhaps so Astor doesn't get the impression that she's attempting to deflect it.
Astor is rigid as the window belches a convex thrust of movement that doesn't wind up going anywhere. Blinking stiffly at Gabriel, he glances down at his wrist, then scowls suddenly like something about his own appendage is annoying him, despite that there's nothing there but a bare width of bone and wiry muscle, the curl of arm hair. (His dad's side.) "The Wolf couldn't," he says, then stops. "Coffee," he answers instead, and then perhaps unnecessarily, "Filtered. I don't know how long I've been here. I'm pretty sure that's the wrong way to look at it.

"We're coming in."

No effort to disguise his awareness that all three of the avian telepaths at hand are aware of each others' presences, a Bermuda triangle of muted psychic malice flowing around him. No man is an island, and Astor is anything but unaffected. Still, he picks himself up, shifts back, away from the hostility of glass and parents, takes a long step. His double-paned shadow drifts away with him, moving sleekly, not silently toward the door.

Gabriel moves to close the window back down to an inch or so, enough so that the glass won't fog from the heat coming up off the curry. Not that he can't circumvent that with a certain reliable, underestimated ability of his, but it allows him to sneak a look out into the darkness, after Astor's long shadow, before stepping back. Absently picks up the handle of a ladle tilted against the lid of a pot, stirring through simmering broth and making tiny fans of green herb leaf spin in absent domesticity when he asks Eileen;

"So. Will we let him leave again?"

"I think that depends entirely on what he has to say," Eileen answers, even as she's taking a plate down from the cupboards. When they kill people, they generally don't provide them with a last meal — Astor has this going for him, if nothing else. A traditional vindaloo would exclude the potatoes, carrots and peas, and substitute the chicken for pork, but Eileen finds that most definitions — at least when it comes to cooking — are flexible, and anyway the food doesn't have to be perfect as long as it recreates the basic taste of the London curry houses she remembers from her youth. What's important is the vinegar, of which there is a plentiful amount, and the inclusion of some sort of meat. In this case, it's the breasts and thighs stripped off a chicken she purchased from a butcher the last time she was on the mainland.

She shovels rice onto the plate, slops down lentils and then holds it up so Gabriel can spoon some of the curry on top.

Astor returns, heralded by footsteps and then a long shadow stealing across the floor outside the kitchen doorway. He crooks his head to stare through and at them, curly hair hanging long down his cheek, hands in his pockets. The bird's wings blink open and close again under the line of his jaw, but neither of them attempt their escape. Or not yet, anyway.

"I can help," the young man offers, neutrally, perhaps even politely, thus evincing no immediate defensive maneuvers vis-a-vis talk of his recapture. He steps in properly then, and he seems very tall like his father, rather thin like his mother, long bones in his face and fingers, something off about the luminous dilation of his eyes that is neither blindness or the compulsive analyses running and rerunning themselves in Gabriel's skull. Then, "Can we eat outside? It's nice. We'll pick a tree big enough that we can sit awhile before the shade moves."

"We can eat in here."

Rather decisively in his disinclination to follow his future-son around at the heels or out into the open or otherwise fuck around any longer, Gabriel sets down the plate he just curried onto the kitchen island and shoves it across the surface. It stops an inch or three from falling off the edge, steaming and predictably aromatic, a silver (coloured) spoon dug thick into rice and oily sauce. The chicken cooked well enough to spring into pieces at the touch of an edge. "And quit stalling. You came back. Why." Gabriel turns his back again, mostly to get his own dinner.

He's hungry, anyway, enough that he'll have dinner with someone he didn't quite mean to imply he was willing to slaughter, but now that you mention it, honey, it could be a worthy idea.

If the boy wants to eat outside, let him eat outside, is what the woman confined to the sparrow's body with its skinny black matchstick legs would be saying if she was still alive and occupying the position that her younger self is now. She of course says nothing — she's quiet even in her rare moments of lucidity, and she isn't experiencing one now. Hasn't, actually, since she surrendered the body on the other side of the room. What she's thinking, if she's thinking at all, remains for the time being a mystery.

Eileen, the one point in the triangle who is incapable of understanding the double-meaning of Gabriel's question, focuses on pouring Astor a cup of coffee. This would be easier, she thinks, if he'd asked for tea. Unlike the coffee, she doesn't have any of that already made and would have something to occupy her mind and her hands while Gabriel begins his interrogation.

Instead, she takes the time to fetch a bottle of milk from the small fridge they keep in the kitchen, as well as a bowl of sugar and appropriately-sized utensil.

"I'm your son from the future," Astor answers, affronted, obviously, his eyes reduced to fringy slits on his head. Despite the look on his face, he isn't flipping out flinging furniture around or people out of windows or anything like that. He presides very quietly over the bit of floor that he claimed with his shoes when he first trudged in, and doesn't much seem inclined to do anything without invitation now, which is either being polite and very poorly or sullen very well. "I wanted to see you again before we die and New York gets worse.

"To have an awkward meal that tastes good." His grim factuality is not something that most of his friends appreciate, but maybe his parents will. He glances over the table and the cutlery. "I also brought something to show you so that you can either decide to never try it with a child again or promise to. It's in my pocket. I can show you now or later. I don't care." That was a bad choice of words, probably, but Astor doesn't seem like the sort of young man to reconsider, or even overtly concerned with how his family might take them badly. His hands hang lank as autumn leaves down his sides, brittle at the wrists. "If you don't want the company, I'll leave. But," as if this could be a point of confusing technical detail, "only if you don't want the company."

Click. Gabriel puts down a plate for Eileen to feeling around for when she may, and he keeps his own held in hand, spading through it with his spoon and listening to Astor's words with all the calmness who has seen all the weird in the world. Or. Has done this himself. His own demeanor — the one that produces wolfy smiles and sharp casuality — is paring down into something harder and quieter as his spoon chases a chunk of chicken and pepper, vindaloo enough to combat the roof of his mouth when he takes a bite. Before we die inspires a look towards the bird rested on Astor's shoulder.

He already knows how that works, too. This time, he doesn't speak, because when he looks back at Astor, he begins the ritual of looking him over from where he stands, seeing the evidence of truth in thick eyelashes, haughty cheekbones, the shape of his mouth.

To say that Eileen does not take this as well as Gabriel is a little bit of an understatement — although she does not drop the mug she's holding or accidentally break off the handle in her grip, she sets it weightily down on the counter with a sound that fills the whole of the room. This done, she drops her hand to grip at its edge, immensely grateful for the fact that her back is already turned toward both men.

It spares her the effort — and the embarrassment, for that matter — of having to angle herself away from them. This would be so much less difficult if she hadn't attended the meeting on Pollepel Island, because she wouldn't believe it. Bran mimics Gabriel and hops forward onto the table with a sharp, staccato click of his claws, taking a keen interest in Astor's physical appearance on Eileen's behalf as she sinks down onto the floor of the kitchen, both legs bent and folded beneath her.

The wool of her sweater scrapes across the wooden finish of the lower cabinets, though all she can hear is the absence of noise. Gabriel isn't saying anything, and it does not occur to her yet that maybe she should.

If she had an appetite before, then she doesn't now.

Perhaps it speaks poorly of his gene pool's survival instinct, and perhaps more likely the Ruskin one, this one time, that Astor steps closer to Eileen. Mind you, there's obvious purpose to that; the carefully paced stretch of long, rickety fingers in under his jacket lapel, pulling out the crinkled sheet of paper and its vivid drawings. He places it on the table surprisingly gently, considering that there doesn't seem to be a great deal of sensitivity to the pinch of his fingers puckering the grain around the corner.

"See," he says, sliding it closer to Gabriel and Bran so they can see, but still within reach of Eileen's small hands, perhaps because the crayons that made up the treehouse's walls make smooth reliefs against the yellow page. Up close, he smells of earth and sweat, haphazardly applied soap, and something illogically akin to sweet hay. "You see," he adds, leaning over her, and then pitching away suddenly enough that his companion sparrow has to beat her wings for balance. "It's a treehouse. We were going to make it, but I never learned to build anything in the end. I don't think there's anything really wrong with me.

"It seemed to just go out of style where I come from. You know? It's already starting." His plate snared somewhere behind his mother's head, he hits the chair beside the woman with a weighty thunk, draws his too-long legs underneath him. Coffee, fork. He appropriates them with brusque efficiency, his eyes jerking saccadically across them like someone forgot they were holding the other end of half his puppet strings and started fidgeting, interrupting the continuous grace of regular muscular movement. Already, his voice is rasping from unfamiliar use. "I changed my mind about the colors. Paint fades and has to be renewed, and the regular color's better. Even if we left it, maybe owls would have moved into one of the rooms eventually, and I know they don't like painted bird houses.

"Why didn't you tell me to leave the wood unpainted? Was that something that your parents taught you, or something they didn't?" A potato goes into his mouth. Dangerously hot, but Astor doesn't seem to notice.

"I didn't— "

Gabriel's jaw closes against words, curry set aside to cool in temperature if not chemical. There's something about relating about his own family to his supposed family that rings as dissonant, perusing the lines on the page set down by three different sets of hands. His brain is wired weirdly, but even that can't quite guarantee it can tell who did what. It could be anyone. It's not really analysis of study that confirms to him it wasn't just anyone, anyway. "There was something wrong with you." It's a gently stated challenge. It sounds somewhat detached, like there's some of other part of him spinning around and confused, and it happens to not be attached to his mouth. "When you were small." A dream, vivid and real, causing him to lie awake at night.

Remembering misplaced anxiety, alien and irritating. Love, too, maybe. Love isn't hard to dream about, inherently. He doesn't know, obviously, that it's the seizures. On his end of the dream, he'd known only the ache of some injury beneath his clothes, his weariness, the scent of rain on his coat. Eileen is glanced to, sidelong, to see how she's taking this.

Eileen's fingers are tangled in her hair and a shoulder rolled against the cabinets, leaning into them from where she's settled on the floor. She twists still-damp curls between her knuckles, anxious and groping and because it's immediately accessible, though she does not pull at it, perhaps out of some obscure, misplaced fear that it's going to come out.

The emotional assault is coming from so many different directions that she's incapable of pointing a guilty finger at any one feeling, and even if she could it's unlikely she'd able to identify it or hold it accountable for anything. Her own confusion staves off the crushing despair that should accompany this revelation. She is, after all, dead where Astor comes from and presently seated fat and demure on the collar of his coat, and if the misshapen psychic presence that terrorized her sleep for weeks is the kind of afterlife she has to look forward to, then—

"Adynomine," she says finally, her voice hoarse and thin, soft enough that Gabriel and Astor will have to strain their ears in order to hear it, but it's there. She will consider the more depressing implications of the situation later. "Sick. He was sick."

Astor shakes his head, this time keeping his shoulders still enough that the bird is in no immediate danger of unbalancing again. His fork roots through grains of rice, shovels up a small mound of glistening lentils, "My ability made me sick," he answers then, without even any bidding, or not that they would be able to see or hear anyway, he supplies easily, "Precognition. The others used to wonder why you didn't take that from anyone, like if you had you could have saved the whole world by yourself.

"You wouldn't have had time for building treehouses then anyway." Factuality sounds less than impartial considering the subject matter, but Astor isn't scowling or anything. Maybe there's something wrong with that, too. He hunches over his plate and picks through it, eyes hooding. There's a clank when he hacks a chickpea apart under fork and knife, one cut, two. A third, leaving a tiny, jagged pip of yellow crumbing that had been at the heart of the pea exposed and free of sauce. He lifts it up with his fork, very carefully, rotating it slowly so as not to send it rolling off, and holds it up at the sparrow on his shoulder.

"We had to make the door tall enough so you could sit without banging your head," Astor adds, shifting back to the other subject with frictionless ease that doesn't seem altogether right in the head either, probably, according to the boringmost conventional standards. "You weren't supposed to know about the other things. That is a. 'Bummer,'" he adds, like he's quoting someone (Walter, circa 2030).

Gabriel doesn't say because precognition makes you insane, because that wouldn't be nice, and there is something dislocated about his future son from the future that motivates him not to put it into words. While Eileen is in the room, anyway. Or Astor. Not both together. He shovels more food into his mouth, although his tongue feels too dry to accommodate it, throat too closed and resistant. His hunger still growls at the bottom of his belly, but less urgently now. Steel scrapes porcelain.

"When I asked why you came back," he says, "I didn't mean to the Dispensary." He did, but. Now that he thinks about it. "I mean 2011. New York City. There are better years and places to be. Unless you meant it — about having an awkward meal that tastes good." He'd understand, in his own way, except Natalie was all goodness and light and tragic ending when he went back in time specifically for hugs, and Gabriel and Eileen are somewhat less idyllic no matter how much you don't know them.

Or know them.

The sparrow graciously accepts the offering from between Astor's fingers and snaps up the pea in its beak, which is hard and chipped with a texture like stone (actually a thick layer of a keratin) but appears as delicate as the points at the tip of each fish hook toe. Blink and it's gone — songbirds are much swifter than larger predators the size of the raven watching Astor from its perch on the table because they don't have the luxury of slowing down to enjoy a meal. The risk of it being taken from them is too high, and so is the risk of being made into one.

Eileen covers her face with her hands. Somewhere between Astor's explanation and Gabriel's unspoken response to it, they lost her. There's a journal in the keeping of a Frenchman who is almost as close to her heart as the book's contents are, and maybe Gabriel will understand why she's suddenly making a choked sound at the back of her throat and why, behind her fingers, her cheeks have gone wet.

She needs a few more minutes. That's all.

Astor doesn't much care about girls crying, on average, but maybe because it's because it's mum, or maybe because he's in bit of a mood, he suddenly makes a terrible harsh sound, very sudden, almost corvid, that's sympathy to what Eileen is smothering behind her thin hands except there's no real sympathy in it; not for anyone, least of all himself. In a rare diversion from hypocrisy, he permits Gabriel to change his mind.

"I don't remember," he answers, too quietly. Hunching suddenly over his plate, like a dirty urchin at the table of gentlefolk. Not that Eileen or Gabriel, frankly, look all that much better off than him here, the musty dispensary, but because he's embarrassed about that. About not remembering. His eyes drift down to the treehouse for reassurance. He doesn't look at the sparrow at all. "Guess I thought there was a point. It must've been somebody else's point. I just thought this would be hard. I knew it would be hard.

"I'm crazy, you know. But I don't think that's a reason to feel sorry for me. Or sorry about anything. Amato did his best; nothing I learned about hate, I learned from him. Nothing I See, I wouldn't have felt one day, anyway. Besides, the ones who come out right break first. You believe that. Right?" He's cut his chicken into so many pieces they're little more than thready tufts of muscle-string now. Astor stops. Stares down at them.

It's far less emotional empathy for Eileen's storm of emotions and more logical deduction that has Gabriel slowly growing tense. As ever. He knows what was in the diary — could not, if pressed, pinpoint its exact location, but he knows something now: that Kazimir missed, and Astor isn't a liar. Crazy. But not a liar.


He isn't eating anymore because he's pushed his plate aside and is standing, moving across the kitchen in neat steps. Two hands come down, fast enough maybe for even a precog to flinch, and grip Astor by his shirt. The young man has a similar body type, height and weight to Gabriel, but it doesn't stop him from hefting Astor up onto his feet, irregardless of the plate of curry in his son's hands. He pushes him back, the edge of kitchen counter cutting a line into the small of Astor's spine, handsome head knocked back on the cupboards that line the wall. Gabriel's aggression is tightly contained to the fists bunching his shirt, and the flash of white of his teeth, lips pulled back.

"If you're our kid, you should know," he gravels out, "that crazy isn't an excuse. Not in this building."

The sparrow at Astor's shoulder mantles its wings and makes a sound that a bird should be incapable of making — high, shrill and rasping, a noise that's as much a scream as it is a cutting hiss. Down on the floor, Eileen's tear-slick hand finds the cabinet's handle and hooks fingers around it, but the swiftness of Gabriel's attack has her knuckles slipping. She moves like she's trying to get up onto her feet to stop him, knocking an elbow against the wooden doors with enough force to resonate through the kitchen and send pain lancing up her arm, but if pain were an effective deterrent, then Eileen wouldn't have sunk as deep into things as she already has.

She is no less adamant about defending Astor now as she was while he was still laying prone in his cot with a mangled arm — what's different are her motivations and the way she goes about it, which involves wrapping her arms around Gabriel's middle from behind and clutching the material of his sweater with her fingers. She is too small and a little too frail to pull him off Astor; her intention instead is to still him with the frantic crush of her body against his, begging him to— "Stop."

Slam. Funny sparks. Astor realizes what's happened before he realizes why, staring hazily through the explosion of brain chemistry and wrongly discharged light. "Uhh," he says helpfully, a fishy gasp of air that roils up smelling already of yellow curry and pungent herbs, into Gabriel's face. His long back slumps against the wall and he moves his feet uncertainly below him, aware of the bird, and his other mother, and perhaps most importantly of all, the question. "No," he answers, and it's unclear who he means until his eyes slide at Eileen.

"He's right. No — excuses." His arm lays heavy over the tops of Gabriel's arms, but there isn't enough resistance there to lessen the pressure distributed against his torso, though it might be some vague form of safeguard against more. Astor's breathing has quickened, but not nearly as much as the sparrow's frenetic wing-beats. "Hello. It'll be easier next time we see each other. I just wanted to say— hello."

Any stopping as encouraged by Eileen would be symbolic only. Her skinny arms looped around Gabriel won't do much against either his mundane strengths or the power beneath the surface, but all the same, he stops, as requested, even if shark-stare doesn't break from the lighter one a several inches from his own.

"Why?" That's for Eileen, just behind him. "I wouldn't get attached. We should probably throw this one back."

The pressure pinning Astor in place increases, then relents all at once as Gabriel releases him and steps back. Awkward, but he manages not to crush Eileen's toes beneath his heels. "It'll be easier next time if you can avoid bringing that," he says, indicating what he means with a glance to the frantic bird. He has little love for possessors. Ask Kazimir. Ask Teodoro.

It is impossible for Eileen to articulate why. There are a thousand reasons, and a thousand invisible grains of sand leaking out through the gaps between her fingers — she gropes at Gabriel's chest and clothes, trying to capture even just a fragment of a thought or an idea, but these turn out to be more like smoke than fine specks of coarse earth in the end and she eventually surrenders to muteness.

There is a why. She could not tell him what it is. Because he's our son, would be a lie because Astor isn't. Not yet. Neither Gabriel nor Eileen have needed to make the decisions responsible for the boy standing in front of them.

Experiencing them as dreams does not count. Those are memories they cannot rightly claim. When she's sure that the space between Gabriel and Astor is enough, she rests her forehead against Gabriel's back, pressing damp warmth through his sweater, then releases him much the same way he released Astor.

Her footsteps crack hard against the Dispensary's floor and she's moving away in a hurry. Either she chooses not to look back at them or is unable to. The clumsiness with which she navigates her surroundings and stumbles on the stairwell's bottommost step as she ascends into the darkness suggests one much more strongly than the other.

"Yeah." When Astor blinks it's like wings flapping on the edges of his eyelids, they're so long, ludicrous token to both his parents. He clears his throat, sends a tremor through the apple of it like a tumor tugging underneath the skin. The color of his skin is not quite well, up close, though he rallies admirably once his father has released him. Or not his father, depending on whose perspective and terminology you're using. "It will. You're right.

"I won't. She's going to fold her clothes," he adds suddenly, eerily blankly, a little idiotically, stumbling the way that only a precog can. Here, have an irrelevant tidbit from the future. Somewhat inaccurate, as well. The damp slip isn't exactly clothes, and from his glimpse of it, it's just so she can have something to do with her hands until they can't do anything except— shake?— he can't see. Not really.

"But she's not like Volken," he adds suddenly, pulling himself upright. Behind his curly head, a can settles back onto its base. Corn in it. "Volken didn't listen to anybody. I know that doesn't change anything. But I wouldn't have brought her if she was going to try that again."

Gabriel's attention has drifted after Eileen, watching her go, listening to her go, and then feeling her go. Astor speaks, something about folding clothes, and it's registered but more or less ignored, standing impassive not a few inches from where he'd gotten all up in the precog's space.

At the mention of Volken, like maybe they've had this argument, or will, and Gabriel's attention snaps back to Astor with the kind of entitled disdain that curls his mouth into a sneer. It's an expression that informs Astor that Gabriel thinks he doesn't know what he's talking about — Volken is dead, and Astor's not a postcog. But he listens, casting a judgmental glance to the bird, distrustful, but he isn't, say, snapping its neck. In the same way he finds Eileen attractive, drawn to her white shoulders, cold, hard-knuckled hands, there is something repulsive about her future analogue, if only because it's wrong.

But it's also Astor's. "Fine," he says, voice low, clipped sounding, retracting all the more. Turning his back. Cleaning up the kitchen, slowly, loudly. "But maybe you'd be a little less receptive if I brought the result of your ugly future to the party. Then again, I guess you're used to it."

The sparrow crowds against the side of Astor's neck, and he will be able to feel the patter of its heart like rain glancing off a pane of glass. It creates vibrations. Although the woman inside the bird (if she can even be considered a woman anymore) can intrinsically sense Gabriel's emotions, she lacks the lucidity to recognize that his disgust is directed at her.

If she didn't, this would probably hurt. What she sends back down the line at him is a shiver of anxiety, its precise source unclear, but maybe it's the tone of his voice. There is sure to be a part of her, conscious or not, that recognizes what it entails.

Astor's Eileen does not apologize. Astor's Eileen does not realize that there is anything to apologize for.

"On the upside the future changes," Astor tells his father, stepping away from the shelves. He reaches to take the plate, which is presumptious, but perhaps in line with the implication-like-a-promise, that he'll be back.

But he certainly isn't staying.

"It's the past that doesn't change, and I'm not used to that yet." There's an inadvertent insult in there somewhere, but it is that: inadvertent, judging from the look of the young man. The food is hefted up easily in his hand. He doesn't look back or up to wonder where his mother went, more likely because he knows it won't matter than because it doesn't matter to him. Precogs, you know.


It's as close as Astor is getting to agreement. Dirty dishes are stacked rough, things taken off the stove, left overs scraped into a single dish, and Gabriel steps back when he's done enough to have cleared a few surfaces, separated what needs cleaning. He glances enough to see that Astor is moving on, taking his dinner with him, and there is a compulsion to do as he'd threatened — not let the younger man leave. Not even via death, but there are some lockable doors. It seems like a safe move. But this doesn't happen, Gabriel instead focusing on an empathic retraction that shies away from those little vibrations of anxiety from the bird. As a result, it dims out the real Eileen above their heads, too.

(Once the kitchen is clear, Gabriel steps back towards the sink and wings on the hot water, spraying water silver off filthy plates, used pans and utensils.)

But maybe she wanted to be alone.

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