eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Damaged
Synopsis Remnant regroups at the river safehouse and Gabriel attempts to come to terms with his crippling new disability.
Date September 20, 2009

A Remnant Safehouse

Save for the still lingering hole in his shoulder, Gabriel is fine. He had navigated the hallways of the abandoned home in the wraith-like legacy of Wu-Long, seeing in the same way other people feel, feeling in the way people hear, spreading along ruined carpet, through doorways, climbing up to become a stagnant puddle on the bed claimed as his own. There, he'd reverted back into solidness, fever pale and trembling with exhaustion from the caloric waste such transformations will bring. He'll be fine when he sleeps. Ethan is unconscious, Raith is shot.

It's a few hours later that Gabriel wakes up, and is still blind.

No need to switch on a light, if this place even had electricity of its own to tap. The door is half open, rather than the usual defiant seal of privacy that Gabriel tends to prefer. It's pitch black inside, at this hour, but the flicker-flick of unnatural light spills out into the water damaged hallway. Each time, ghost pale ambient light drawn into his palm in seizure inducing flashes and stop starts lights up his silhouette, bare back to door and face angled towards his hand. The light strikes his skin, dies, matte shadow replacing it.

Whatever it is he thinks he's doing, he's engrossed enough in the task to avoid hearing foot steps, whether outside his door, in the adjacent bathroom, through to the kitchen.

There are no lightning bugs in Britain, or at least nothing quite as impressive as the specimens that illuminate the East Coast during the summer months at night, so it's probably not a surprise that Eileen finds no end of fascination in bioluminescence of all forms — and that includes Gabriel's unique brand. She's been standing in doorway for several minutes now, bathing in the intermittent glow that emanates from his hand, long enough to realize that he isn't purposely ignoring her presence in the room and is instead oblivious to it.

Downstairs, the house still, silent but for the even sound of breathing produced by its other two occupants. Eileen is exhausted enough to succumb to sleep as well, but her priorities are presently elsewhere as she crosses the room in her bare feet, having changed out of her day clothes and into something more comfortable and easy to move around in. She still smells like the Greenbelt, dark hair and pale skin infused with the scent of sap and wet leaves, sodden earth and rainwater woven into her perfume.

He'll sense her before he feels her in the form of a small hand at his thigh. There are only so many people his visitor can be, and only one who touches him with such a degree of tenderness.

Fingers curl inwards and the light flickering dies when that warm hand settles on a still clothed thigh. Gabriel turns his head towards her, focuses on nothing, swings that false gaze away from her as if in an effort not to draw attention, or to disappoint himself for a lack of trying. In the hazy light coming filmy through the curtain window, distant lights from the hallway behind him, there is enough for Eileen to see by.

"It's still gone," he tells her, guessing correctly as to who owns a small enough hand that would touch him that familiarly. His own moves, locates her wrist and curls fingers around it. A secure hold rather than affectionate, guiding himself. "Sometimes I think I can see lights— but I could be imagining it."

Gabriel's report is brisk, words clipped at the edges, frustration curbing them away from any woeful emotion that might have otherwise surfaced. There's a depth of analysis there, too, as there always is when it comes to the abilities of others. "It doesn't feel like damage."

The hand that isn't resting on Gabriel's thigh closes around the one that curls fingers at her wrist, and clasps it in a smooth, cool palm. Eileen brings his knuckles to her face and breathes warmth across them, lips moving against his skin when she speaks. "We'll find them again," she says, and there is absolutely no doubt about her identity now. "You'll take it back." Whether or not this is a false reassurance, her voice contains a ring of truth — she at least believes the words that are filling the space between them, even if they might not be accurate.

That it doesn't feel like damage provides her with some small measure of comfort insofar as Gabriel must not be in any real physical pain. If he was, she doubts he'd make the claim that he does. "This won't be forever."

Gabriel is still and silent as she brings his hand up to her face, before fingers uncurl a fraction to brush against where her cheek curves in a way that would have been visually familiar. His face is still turned from her, eyes pointed in a way that suggests he is studying the thin air three feet from his face, but that touch shows attentiveness, at least. "I know," he agrees. There's a growl in his voice, but it's held in check - neither really twisting his words, nor allowed to disappear entirely.

Which doesn't mean he can't express doubt. "There's a trick to the light power that might let me almost see. If I replicate yours, I can use birds. I can sense everything when I transform into shadow." Like creating a wall of defense against the mental attack of a disability, Gabriel lists his powers like laying bricks. It's not awfully convincing. He's not as invincible as he used to be.

The sense of helplessness that Eileen experiences is but a solitary drop in Gabriel's ocean. While there's nothing she can do for him except sit at his bedside, she at least can see — study the profile of his face, scrutinize a sliver of the expression he turns away from her. It's a luxury he doesn't have right now and might not ever have again in spite of their quiet assertions to the contrary.

She lays his hand back on the bed with a rustle of fabric, cotton sheets whispering against skin and the loose material of her clothes as she brushes fingers through his hair and presses a kiss to his temple. "I'm not even sure how we managed it the first time," she says of Gabriel replicating her ability, "but if I could give it to you again, I would."

Eyelids hood heavy over unseeing eyes at the kiss, instinctively turning towards it. His head bumps her's, blinking at an awkward flurry. His expression is angled into a constant look of mild consternation, as if still trying to reckon with this, understand it. "At least you can rest assured that I couldn't take it from you the usual way, even if I wanted to," Gabriel says, a hand going up, searching; it finds her throat and settles warm at the base of it, and a guessingly blank gaze tries to find her's, and misses. His voice is gravel, and it flutters out a dry sound chuckle in something that imitates amusement. "It requires seeing."

But maybe feeling. Maybe feeling would be enough. He'd never walked away from learning with his hands unbloodied. Asking how the others are is in the back of his throat, but Gabriel can't quite slice off that amount of self for selflessness to accommodate asking. Pretending like he really cares enough past his own plight.

Instead; "It was like this. The first time. Damper, colder. You stayed until I left."

Winter has not yet settled over New York City, blanketing it in snow and reducing breath to a fine mist that leaves noses and mouths like ether. That's still several months off yet, but Eileen has no trouble invoking the memory of what it was like then. The first time. There's a visceral emotion attached to it more powerful than the permeating chill of rain — she had been so angry.

She guides Gabriel's face with her hand, one finger crooked beneath his chin as she gently angles it upward and uses her eyes to find his. Her voice flutters against the palm at her throat. "I'll stay again."

Offer. Avowal. Simple statement. In the end, it makes little difference. "You couldn't take it if you wanted," she agrees, "and you wouldn't if you could. You're not the man you were a year ago."

They'll near full circle again. It had been fall when he'd joined the Vanguard, too. There's a peculiar expression that defines Gabriel's face, now, at her words. Hard to pinpoint it, with his eyes as blank as they are and the available like only brushing a haze of illumination against one half of it.

"No," he states, his voice as flat as his focus. "I'm not." She says it as affirmation; he states it like a curse. Tension lines his brow, angles his jaw, but he doesn't move away from her. A sense of distance and personal space is not sought for - touch is what they have, now. "The man I was a year ago wouldn't be blind. All three of them would have been dead. Ethan wouldn't be concussed and Raith wouldn't have been shot."

His words fall between them, voice quiet, but syllables weighted and edged. That hardness doesn't bleed into the hand at her throat, the touch lax, sensing with all the lightness as if it were eye sight.

"Wrong." In contrast to Gabriel's gentle touch, Eileen's applies more pressure, lacquered fingernails biting at his skin as she tightens her grip on his face and forcefully rests her forehead against his. "If you were still the man you were a year ago, things here would be well on their way to the future you saw when Petrelli sent you forward. You're just as responsible for what happened on the Narrows as Abigail Beauchamp, and had you not changed, you'd still be trapped in a body that isn't your own with only Kazimir for company."

She wouldn't love him either, but this — like so much else between them — goes unsaid. "A man is not defined by what he does or does not have." Eileen punctuates every few words with a steep increase in ferocity. "You are a whole, holistic being, and you are worth more than the sum of your parts. Do you understand me?"

There's no jerking away from the hold, even as tension ripples down Gabriel's spine and sets it like steel, makes rigid his hold of her. Warm skin to skin, shared breaths and constricted space, negating the importance of the wider room. Gabriel shuts his eyes, sight or lack thereof temporarily irrelevant. A saw edged breath drags ragged from his throat at her words, and he clutches to her - throat and arm - a little tighter.

Giving in, agreeing, accepting, would be easy. Or, rather, that's a lie - giving in is meant to be easy, and yet they so often do not. Resisting, in a sense, is at least safer. Then—

"Then why do we only understand each other when I have pieces missing?"

Eileen's lips purse, part. Although Gabriel can't see it, he might be able to visualize the transformation the expression on her face is undergoing in response to his question. Dark brows lower as her eyes grow narrow, shadowed by her lashes and the natural darkness that nighttime affords. She feels his release of breath as much as she hears it, and not just in the way the exhalation caresses her face on the way out.

It resonates deeper than that.

Her hold does not lessen any, but her voice has become softer in the time between. "What do you mean?"

The action could be termed as 'shying away', but there's a bashful quality to such language that doesn't completely apply. Regardless, he turns his head from her's, though doesn't completely break contact. "When Kazimir still had me. In the hotel. Like now. And when I had taken your memories. Maybe that's just how it works. When there's something missing— "

His thumb travels down against the column of her throat, feeling the draw of breath beneath warm skin. "And you try to find it in someone else. But when we're whole…"

The thought isn't finished, a despairing silence. Peter had described it as Gabriel reading off a script, failing to understand the words beyond their mechanical function. It's worse when he runs out of them altogether. "I've been defined by what I have for a long time," he finishes, gravely. "And what I don't have.

"What time is it?" An abrupt break into the world of pragmatism, he asks a question— one of those luxuries of seeing the sun in the sky and the arms of a clock— that's both trivial and very important.

"It's not about being able to understand each other, Gabriel." Eileen's throat contracts under his thumb. "That doesn't change. It's about wants, needs." She places a hand on his chest, fingers splayed, and keeps the other at his jaw. Her breathing is slow and measured, not unlike that of Ethan and Raith downstairs. "You only care about this when you're hurting," she says. "None of it matters the rest of the time, and neither do I. If you're satisfied with just yourself, why should it?"

She's suddenly back in the second floor hallway of the Speakeasy again, keys jangling in her hand as she elbows past Raith and slips sideways into the gap between her door and its wooden frame. There are things she hadn't been willing to admit to herself then that she is now. This is one of them.

"Quarter past two. You can sleep some yet."

Late enough that he can fairly pretend it's both he and Eileen in the dark, and Gabriel is silent both after that observation, unsettling inasmuch as he has no argument, and her response as to the time of evening. It doesn't occur to him, even fractionally, that he should argue.

Instead, the hand at her throat smooths its palm along the slope of her neck, fingers finding her jaw line, settling there. The other moves up her arm and past shoulder, as if feeling out the silhouette he can't see, making it into touch-sense lines and mental navigation until both hands cup her jaw, cheeks.

He doesn't ask her to stay with words. The edge of his thumb, light and almost tentative, finds the edge of her mouth. "I will," he confirms, before he guides himself to kiss her. The pressure of his hands is light, easy to slip from.

Eileen had not been anticipating an argument, but she would be doing herself a great disservice if she tried to convince her conscience that she wasn't hoping for one. Although she allows the kiss, she's more hesitant than she's been in times past when it comes to returning it; the thumb at the corner of her mouth produces a low sound — a sigh — before she yields to him, tension in her lips and in the muscles of her neck, shoulders, upper back.

Physical intimacy eliminates the need for words. He asks with his hands as much as he asks with his mouth and the heat of his body warming her through their clothes, and she replies in this same language, the palm on his chest curling fingers inward.

Yes, she'll stay.

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