eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Cruel
Synopsis Gabriel goes topside for some fresh air following a briefing gone awry and finds company in Eileen.
Date December 5, 2009

Mandritsara, Madagascar

Finding privacy down here is difficult. It's why Gabriel is going up.

Residual fear of Huruma's assault is still beating a rabbit's pulse through his body, a constant thrum that says nothing of his own shock of paleness which is slowly fading back into something normal. It occurs to him, belatedly, that he can stave off the physical reaction of panic himself, and perhaps everything else will go along with it. His heart rate slows to a dull thud in his chest, blood eases normal through his veins and arteries, and it's much better. Mostly.

The sound of his footsteps beating up the cement stairwell makes a cavernous echo all around him, the bustle of his military gear not as noiseless as his usual choices of garment, but then, if he wanted to be quiet and sneaky, he could be. Those of the MLF that had not been in the conference room, that mill within the small honeycomb of concrete and iron under ground, give way to the agitated white man moving through and beyond.

The phrase Midtown Man has no meaning here in Mandritsara, and yet the shrinking way that many of the younger resistance fighters circumvent his presence is strangely reminiscent of the derisive and distrusting glances Gabriel received when he first set foot aboard the USS George Washington almost two weeks ago, cementing his pact with Sarisa Kershner and the government of the United States. If he'd known then what he knows now, maybe he'd have pivoted on his heel instead and marched right back onto the C-130 that brought him there.

It's a possibility that Eileen has been considering ever since their conversation in the ferryboat's cabin, and as she chases him up the stairwell it continues to weigh heavily on her mind, though perhaps not as heavily as the painting back in the conference room, still wet and bleeding vibrantly around the edges. "Sylar." Her voice is sharp, taciturn, a blatant contrast with the comparatively soft sound of her pursuing footsteps. He's supposed to be the commanding officer here, but make no mistake: her terseness turns his name into a demand.


One that, despite himself, despite everything, he winds up obeying. Above him, the hatch that leads out into rubble and decay is closed and sealed tight against the ruins, and offers no light to define shadows or reveal details. The electric glow from further down is enough, a hand bracing against the damp concrete to his left as he barely turns around. The pause is minimal enough that he might well continue on his way, and he hasn't the heart to correct her either. He'd told them all to call him Sylar, in any case.

Eventually, he steps down, heel finding the next step descending, fingertips barely brushing the wall. He's stopped, chin tucked in and watching more her shadow than her.

The distance between them narrows, closes. Darkness is twofold; shadows make strange shapes of Gabriel's figure and what little Eileen can see of his profile, but the same is true of her. There's the shimmer of her teeth, lip curled around the first syllable of his pseudonym, and the vague outline of her jaw, which — like the rest of her — appears small and delicate even when clenched, straining to contain her emotions and the corresponding muscles in her face.

Only once she's sure that he's stopped does she slow, taking the last few steps that separate them at a less clipped pace as she winds down and gives her body a chance to catch its breath. She would not have needed to run to catch him if she hadn't lingered in the yawning mouth of the conference room and debated with herself whether or not to tail him, though the outcome of that argument should by now be obvious.

"I'm coming with you if you're going topside."

He should probably protest, in that he was looking to be alone. Though Gabriel doesn't voice his consent, the hesitation and then the turn of his back could be and probably should be taken as such. If you can't be alone with the person you love, who can you be alone with? And other such ironies.

The creak of the hatch being unlocked and pushed open echoes down the hallway; probably sounds less dramatic on the other side. The smell of ash and the sweeter, sicklier undercurrent of rotting flesh beneath the earthier aromas is as instant as the rush of cold air around them. Dry air, too, a rare moment without rain, containing little of the humidity downstairs. Gabriel climbs out into the terrain of twisted metal, blasted debris, so like certain areas of New York it is downright uncanny.

Hugging his arms around himself, he paces a little away from the hatch, treading carefully and quietly. He's a taciturn kind of man. He isn't usually this silent.

You can argue that rot is rot and that it all smells the same, but Eileen will tell you differently; the mould below ground smothers, coats damp the interior of her nostrils and throat and the tissue of her lungs, making it difficult to breathe at night when she's lying awake and listening to the earth turn. Enough time has passed that the smell of burnt flesh and decomposition is tempered by the jungle's creeping reclamation of the ruins — something that has not yet begun to happen back in New York City. Vines wind like snakes through the gaping holes punched in abandoned buildings by mortar rounds, providing shelter for the thrushes and flycatchers that nest amidst the wreckage and have very little to fear except for larger birds, boas and the occasional fossa.

A magpie robin boasting dark, iridescent plumage more blue than black alights on a coil of barbed wire strung between two walls and twitters a warning at Gabriel before darting away again, racing against the setting sun as it continues its slow descent through the trees. Soon, it will be as dark above ground as it is below.

For now, Eileen gives him the space he seems to desire and does not move more than a few feet from the hatch, though she makes a point to close it behind them.

Plant-death is almost as unpleasant rotting corpses, and one day, that will take over too. Gabriel doesn't wander very far, and considering the careful way in which their guide had led them through the village to avoid a quick death upon stepping in the wrong place, that seems to be wise. He crouches, instead, rests an elbow against a knee, his head against that hand, and lets his fingertips rake thoughtfully among the rubble. For most men, the weight of a country's freedom might be what weighs on his shoulders.

But he's always had a thing for prophetic imagery, and a painting being brushed into being while he lets unfold his plans and authority is what nestles its weight there instead.

But enough about me. "Why do you think I say these things to you?" He doesn't have to raise his voice very loud for the words to catch on the wind and travel back that short distance towards the bird whisperer of Team Bravo. "Do you think I'm lying? Fucking with you? I guess that's the kind of thing Sylar would do, although I don't play with my food for this long."

"I don't know what to think." Other than that Gabriel isn't the one playing with her — "Aviators" made that agonizingly clear when she confronted him on the subject, and yet if all her doubts had been dispelled by their conversation then she wouldn't be watching the man across from her with the quiet caution and circumspection that she is now. "You tell me I left you, but I don't remember leaving. I don't remember a lot of things."

She folds her injured wrist across her middle as she has become so fond of doing, and idly curls fingers at the fabric of the cargo jacket she wears over her shirt. Her eyes stray from Gabriel's face and drift aimlessly across the dirt, following a line of ants as it marches over and under the meaty chunks of busted concrete that litter the space between them. "There are marks on my body I can't account for. Old scar tissue. I look at myself in the mirror and can't reconcile with what I see. Maybe there's another explanation."

The hand not pawing absently at the dirt and dust beneath him comes up to scrub irritatedly at his hair. "I said that because it's true. I didn't specify that it was your fault." Cryptic much, an explanation just as much of a riddle as the statement in question has turned out to be. But if Gabriel favours them, this impression is soundly shoved out the window as he continues to speak.

"After the bridge, you survived, and swam to Staten Island's shore. You hid out for a while, worked in a clinic. I got found by people who took away my memory of everything I knew, everything I was, so that I'd do their bidding. So as you can see, I can recognise the signs."

He remains in his crouch all the while, emphasis hissed out rather than any effort made to reach a new volume. His words are as sibilant and understated as the smooth flesh of a snake. "A lot happened. I got arrested, a telapath tried to invade my mind, and I got my memories back when I fought him off. Took the plane down, came back to New York. You were in a coma by pissing off the wrong people on Staten Island. I healed you. Later, someone took away your power, exchanged it for something else. I lost mine in favour of Gillian's. We broke up, but the way, Gillian and I - she decided she didn't know me anymore and I didn't have the energy to introduce myself as someone she'd like. Again. You also tried to kill me, because you were in love with me and I used you for it. We also saved Phoenix, before that went down.

"Bad move, long story. We got our powers back. You saved my life, I saved yours. We were aimless for a while. You got in with Ferrymen. Jensen Raith tried to, in his words, get the band back together, and we created the remnant of the Vanguard, picking up where Kazimir left off on account of going insane. Sometimes we sleep together. I told you I loved you, not so long before you got arrested. We live in a big house, with Ethan and Raith and Peter, for some reason. Teo too, sometimes. You're his friend."

He stands up, now, taking a step closer. Calmness is a facade, breathing harder than he was before, but struggling it down. "You got arrested by Homeland Security when you tried to save the Ferrymen from itself. They took away your memories for the past year. They took you away from me. You better be listening, because I'm not repeating any of this."

Nervous habits are something that everyone has. Everyone. The only difference between Eileen and people who might manage to remain stoic throughout Gabriel's explanation is that they've learned to control their body language and she hasn't — not entirely. Her hands are moving over her face as he speaks, pushing the hair from her eyes and fingers through it in a feeble attempt to still the trembling in them. It's like he's talking about someone else, and in a way he is; by rights, she should at least be experiencing a sense of deja vu, or at least some faint inclination that the words coming out of his mouth are ringing true. Instead, her gut is twisting itself into fist-sized clumps made of knots.

It's just as well that he refuses to repeat it, because Eileen isn't sure that she wants him to. Too much information too fast, every piece more disconcerting than the last. By the time he gets to the part about them sleeping together, she's making a low, strangled noise in her throat that builds in volume and intensity until it accumulates enough force to part lips and spill out of her mouth in the form of a haggard, "Stop."

Fingertips wipe at her eyes, though they come away clean, no tears glistening on the back of her unlacquered nails, black with dirt. "Please— just— " She makes a gesture with her uninjured hand, signaling for him to give her a moment in which to scrape herself back together. One moment lapses into two, two into three and three into four—

"What you're doing," she says finally, voice crackling with emotions too varied and complex to identify by name, "it's cruel."

He does stop, in that no more words tumble out at this moment in time. He's skipped a lot— no mention of Arthur and Pinehearst, no words on the future they discovered they'd lost, no tribute paid to Feng, and it's kind of sad that Gabriel doesn't have a lot of detail to offer when it comes to the private ins and outs of Eileen's existence throughout 2009. Enough to send her reeling now, but precious little otherwise.

"No," Gabriel denies, easily, lowering his gaze to the ground before dragging it back up again. "Not telling you. Deciding what you should and shouldn't be ignorant to is cruel. Letting you go without you knowing what you're rejecting isn't fair to either of us."

She taught him that, but he doesn't voice it now, despite this claim. "Better to just bleed it out now. Not knowing, mystery, fragmented memory - you'd choke on your own toxins like Sanderson."

"You could tell me anything." Eileen is breathing her words rather than speaking them, her voice thin and reedy, wavering in and out between something intelligible and something that's not. "How do I know that it's true?" To her credit, her eyes are still clear and her cheeks are still dry, though they might not remain this way much longer.

Formulating thoughts and translating them into a language they can both understand is emotionally taxing and requires a gargantuan amount of physical effort. As her composure drains away, so does the air in her lungs, and she doesn't have an inhaler on hand to reopen the passageways should she start to choke.

"We didn't," she insists, heaving, "I wouldn't—" Sleep with him, presumably. Though presumptions are often wrong. "I'm not that kind of person."

The protest dies before it can be fully formulated, about his lying. Pride and irritation burn hot before her words lay ice on it, sizzling and dying out before it can truly catch aflame. With the sun's snail crawl down towards the horizon, trailing its light and colours with it, there isn't enough illumination to light up the subtle nuances of his expression. Beneath a solid brow, eye sockets fill with inky shadow, masking the circles of clear brown and disguising them of anything but matte darkness. The slope of his nose casts a long shadow, at odds with the angle of a cheekbone with pale, soft skin above the rough bristle of black stubble.

He doesn't say anything, as he watches her heave and breathe and try to fight whatever curse his year-long summary had put on her. The cutting nature of her words are only almost familiar enough to be refreshing.

That he has nothing to say sends Eileen on another downward spiral, though she apparently has enough self-control reserved somewhere in her tiny frame to stop herself before she plummets into hysterics. She draws in a sharp breath, holds it, doesn't let go again until she's sure it's going to leave her without sounding like air escaping from a balloon. Her hand goes out and plants fingers against the nearest wall for support, and given the state of the city around them it's probably a miracle that it doesn't crumble to dust under her weight, however slight. Rocks shift, but that is all.

The question she asks next may not be the one he's expecting, if he's expecting anything at all. Then again, that's a presumption too. "Do you sleep with other people?"

It could just be asked to incite a reaction, and it does in the way a needle jab to the spine might - physically speaking, his shoulders square and his posture twinges, brow twitching inwards. The amount of time Gabriel could spend pondering why this question, of any question, could be better spent in answering it without letting suspicion breed in the yawning span of silence.

"No." Easy answer, spoken with irritation; swerving easy around his own time as an amnesiac, more strides made in sexual exploration than self-identity. They have pretty whores, down that way. "Why does that matter?"

If Eileen asked just to get a reaction, she doesn't appear satisfied by it, let alone pleased. She removes her hand from the wall as abruptly as she placed it there, bits of stone tinkling down to the ground beneath her feet where they glance harmlessly off her boots and bounce over cement. Fingers close around her opposite wrist, encased in its splint, and pick at the frayed gauze that holds it in place. "Do I?"

If Huruma weren't half-crazed by anger and lying sedated in whatever room Dajan has seen fit to drag her, and if she'd been jjjust bored enough to listen in in her own special way, the rise of petty irritation in Gabriel could have been amusing. It isn't the first time they've disagreed on the value of a thing. Danko's death, Sonny's life. Sex. His gaze swivels up to regard the cloudy dusky sky, hands working into fists at his side before he's moving closer to her. "I don't know.

"You tell me." No isn't the easy answer, here. He remembers well enough, what Teo spoke aloud for her that one time. But irritation keels over in favour of pricking curiousity as he studies her moon-pale face.

If Arthur hadn't taken her gift from him, Eileen would be able to sense it too. Unfortunately, she's limited to deciphering the visual cues that his body gives her instead — the tightening in his hands, his movement angling toward her. Irritation. Curiosity. Whatever else exists in the transitional period between.

It would be simple if not easy to lie. If he calls her on it, she can always argue that she doesn't know what's real and what isn't, that whatever dreams have been plaguing her at night and blanketing her senses in the smell, taste, touch of someone who isn't him are just that: dreams. Imagined. "Would it matter to you if I did?"

"It matters to me that you remember something." Crrrunch, goes rubble underfoot, as he wanders just a little closer. He's not looking for mines, but logic dictates that they'd have cleared the immediate area by now. Still, Gabriel can almost forget the dregs of his malaria symptoms, the smell of rot and jungle, the roughness of his BDU collar against his neck and the bruises accumulated over the past few days. Madagascar sinks into peripheral, meaningless backdrop.

He's also lying, and it manifests in hedging, subtle doubt twisting around in his voice like a worm in a tequila bottle. It matters to him that she remembers him, and this line of something isn't particularly encouraging. Not that anything can come easy, and so he leaves it at that. silent prying.

"It isn't you," Eileen says, and she can't quite bring herself to look at him when she does. Her eyes don't shy away, not entirely, but her gaze wanders away from Gabriel's face and down the slope of his neck and chest, focusing on his body below the shoulder so she isn't tempted to try to gauge his reaction and lose her resolve in it. "There's blood in my mouth and his is hard. It hurts. He smells wrong, like cigarettes and wine and other women. Perfume. His fingers are too thin, nails too long. Smooth hands. Yours have never been like that, so it's hard for me to imagine—"

Her attention flicks back to his face, not to assess the expression there but to assess it. Its shape, specifically, from the angle of his brows to the length and contour of his nose, pointed cheekbones and iron jaw. "It isn't you," she says again, "because I'm desperate for him to be. The only way I can make it feel good, and I hate myself for it. I hate you, too. For not being there when I need you."

He blinks, slowly, takes in the information as if it were a mission debriefing, with his mouth in a serious line and his shoulders slack beneath his jacket. Doesn't approach, either, just stands where he is and lifts his gaze from her to the shattered backdrop behind her, and wonders if he wants to afford her some context. If he even understands enough to be able to do it. Instead, he states, flatly, "It's the same man who put you in the coma I brought you back from. I don't know why." The sudden rough edge that goes with that emphasis is more than enough to communicate that he isn't pondering about why Eileen was attacked, or why he healed her.

You know. The other thing. Slow blinks have turned into irritated twitches, as if there were rain in his eyes, or dust prickling them. Wolfish, he steps back from this invisible, stinging threat, searching the ground for nothing when his gaze tips towards it. "We were away from each other probably more than we were together. No one liked June. Do you really think I'm lying to you?" And then; "You don't remember…"

Words crumble to ash on his tongue, and he squints at her through a hazy, ruined sense of pride.

"No," Eileen corrects him, her voice suddenly very sharp again, taking on the same edge she'd used when she called out for him to stop in the stairwell on the other side of the hatch. "I don't remember anything after hitting the water except bits and pieces I've strung together out of order, but before that— Before that it's all still clear."

He's not moving toward her anymore, and she isn't moving toward him either, but she sounds earnest as she continues to scrutinize his face from where she's standing. "I remember bleeding out in the storm drain on Staten Island, thinking that the only person who'd come for me would be the one to finish what he'd started. I remember thinking that I was going to die down there alone, and that the last thing you'd said to me was murderers and rapists would make quicker work of me than you would. I remember you lifting me out of there instead, taking me back to Wu-Long's and making sure that Ethan knew what happened. I remember feeling something shift inside of me when I woke up again and you were gone.

"I love you. I do. I don't need a year's worth of hurt to remember that."

He could well defend that year's worth of hurt, but who would want to? Good moments, affirming moments, stand like occasional gems in all the convoluted murkiness and it had been for these that had turned his temper on Sarisa and halfway dealing. Intimate minutes along with changing events wherein he had proven something to her and to himself. Sylar isn't racing to delete this all in favour of her simple affirmation, but he does look at her.

And it does occur to him that he needs neither Eileen's permission, nor the telepaths and memory manipulators of the United States government to be happy, or at the very least, take what he wants. He's not sure he wants to bleed to death in her arms without kissing her at least once more beforehand. He doesn't actually recall the last time he did, so.

So they have that in common. Moving forward, Gabriel's hands are as slow as if he were handling a potentially skittish creature. One to her throat, to slide back towards the nape of her neck and tuck fingers beneath the mane of her hair, and another to touch her waist.

Eileen tenses under his touch. She usually does, even in those affirming moments and intimate minutes where everything between them is consensual, and maybe it's a good thing she doesn't remember the last time they did this because then she might be pulling away. A pair of scissors had been involved, and if it hadn't happened, she never would have left the Dispensary, probably would have sought more than just Teodoro's assistance in "saving the Ferry from itself" as Gabriel so delicately put it, and could have avoided this whole mess unscathed.

Intuition, no matter how powerful, lends her no insight into what he's thinking. She touches on it by the virtue of thinking about it too. It's hard not to — the paint is still drying. "You're going to be okay," she mutters thickly, clasping the material of his shirt between her fingers. "It won't happen. We've stopped that before."

He pulls her inwards, or at least drags himself forward. Contents himself with the feel of dark curls brushing beneath his chin, angling his head downwards as if to catch the scent trapped there, beneath jungle and damp. "We attack the weapons facility, together," Gabriel mutters, as if saying it out loud confirms he'd made the correct call, as much as his fate had been painted simultaneously. "I can't bleed like that unless I want to. Unless I don't have a choice."

Warm breath whispers through her hair along with his words, before his back straightens. The world sways exaggeratedly with it, and his muscles ache. "I should talk to Sanderson." Hands loosen, where they grip.

As Gabriel's hands loosen, so do Eileen's. She relaxes her grasp on his shirt, fingers falling away, and looks up at him from beneath her lashes and the wisps of curly hair disturbed by his breath. Her good hand finds his cheek, brushes knuckles along his jaw and scrapes cool skin across the stubble there. The heart hammering in her chest does so with enough force for her pulse to be felt through their clothes, however fluttery and faint.

Her head turns, directs attention back to the hatch and the muted sound of activity behind it. "You should rest," she says. "You're still sick."

"We're all sick." Muttered, but as close to agreement as male ego will allow. Gabriel takes a step back from her, finally, amber-brown eyes sliced to crescents beneath lowered eyelashes as he regards her aloofly, then allows his mouth to twist in a smirk. "Most of us. I should have stayed on the plane." And he doesn't promise to her, now, that he'll find a way to shake memories back into her, if they aren't crawling back on their own accord, out of order as she says.

He, instead, allows a hand to lower, capture her's for the time it takes for him to walk five paces back to the hatch, releasing it again to open the door to the way down. Ladies first is implicitly stated in his hesitation.

Eileen squeezes fingers around Gabriel's hand, pressing her thumb into the center of his palm and working some of the tension from the muscles there in firm, small circles like she sometimes does. Or did. Some things haven't changed, even in the absence of memory.

She goes first, slim figure swallowed whole by the shadows lurking just beyond the first step where the sun has sunken too low for its light to reach.

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