eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Deserving
Synopsis While shopping for furniture to fill some of the Dispensary's empty space, Gabriel and Eileen come to verbal blows.
Date October 10, 2009

Pink Elephant Antique Mall

Natives of New York maintain that you can find anything in the city. What they don't tell you is that sometimes, assuming the item you're searching for even exists, the process of locating it is like trying to pick a needle out of a haystack. When it comes to finding the exactly the right pieces to furnish the Dispensary with, Eileen hasn't much luck, which may be why she's enlisted the help of a professional restorer in her hunt for appropriate furniture.

Or at least that's the excuse she used to convince Gabriel to accompany her to the mainland. The interior of the Pink Elephant Antique Mall is just as she expected it to be: dark and musty, stinking of sour varnish, mothballs and the peppermints the store's proprietor is so fond of. There's a whole dish of them on the front counter, little buttons of white striped in red and sealed in the crinkliest-sounding plastic imaginable.

As she peruses the shop's selection of imported carpets, each hanging from a pair of wooden hooks at the back of the building, she clicks one of the candies against her front her teeth and purses her lips in what is either quiet contemplation or a subtle display of annoyance when her one of her fingernails catches on a silk tassel and has to be yanked free.

"What do you think?" she asks around the peppermint.

Finding objects in New York City is about as easy as finding specific people. Every now and then, a dead man or an elusively missing man (occasionally a woman) goes roaming the streets of Manhattan. Craig Christman has his back to the carpets, paler eyes than Gabriel really has skimming over the shapes of brass and wood within the quiet store, vague interest in his attentiveness if not the set of his expression.

There's a lot of space to fill up in the attic. This had occurred to him instantly after deciding it was his. A negative in its favour, but the benefits outweigh the costs. The seclusion was and is desired still, even if it gets cold at night, even if furniture stands apart like relatives that don't speak anymore.

The wine rack across the way is forgotten as Eileen speaks; a half-twist at the waist to look over the carpets, before settling fully. "We have enough floor that I don't know if it matters what I think," he notes. "What rooms were you thinking?"

"Downstairs," isn't the most specific answer Eileen could provide, but she at least follows it up with, "by the fireplace. Peter liked the chair at the river house, so I want to find something similar if I can. High back. Clawed feet. Preferably without the duct tape holding it together…" Her fingertips trail along the hem of a handspun kilim carpet in shades of red, orange and deepest blue. Like everything in the antique mall, it's secondhand; over the years, the vegetable dyes have faded, though the colours woven into the rug are more vibrant than they probably have a right to be. A glace at the price tag, however, has Eileen making a low sound at the back of her throat.

"I don't know the first thing about furnishing a home," she says, stepping away from the hooks and gravitating toward a glass case filled with sterling silver jewelry instead. "Especially when that home isn't even a house." Anyone who says that abilities don't have small ways of affecting the people who wield them is either deluded or a liar; Eileen's penchant for things that sparkle and shine is irrefutable proof.

"What'll you do with your attic?"

Live there is probably not the answer she's looking for. Gabriel's eyes dance to the price tag too. Craig's face is an excellent one for stoicism and it's a physical trait he adopts upon taking this form. Still, there's a rueful twist all the same at his mouth when he sees the price, and takes a step that implies maybe they should keep moving. "I need to find a way to heat it for the winter. There's a mattress already up there, in good shape. I'll make something to get it off the ground. I need a place for possessions. Clothing. It could do with a carpet too."

He's approximately Craig's shape and build, if a little leaner, a little taller. The jeans are big but not entirely ill-fitting, and the woolen coat he wears fits itself to his shape, arms folding. "Anything else will be a luxury, and if there's time for them, then there's time to find them. You should probably just pick a few items from places like these. We can search out abandoned houses on Staten Island for everything else."

Which he remembers from when he couldn't remember. When he'd tried this very same thing - making a home. "There are places that sell looted crap, too. Warehouses. I can't promise they'll be nice, or whole. But we can fix things."

Eileen offers no counterargument to Gabriel's proposal. His logic, as usual, is sound, and if she finds any flaws in his plan then they're so small and insignificant that she ultimately chooses not to voice them. "When you and Ethan can get the electricity working, we can buy you a space heater for the bed," she suggests, pausing to inspect her reflection in the glass. Shadows distort the shape of her face, exaggerating the dark circles under her eyes and pronounced cheekbones.

Unlike Craig's clothes, Eileen's cardigan, peacoat and black leggings fit her slender frame well. Having put on some weight during her months with the Ferry, she's not the rail thin thing she was this time last year; New York City has done her some good, after all.

"I don't mind sharing my room if it's still too cold," she adds in afterthought, though there's a certain slyness about the quality of her voice when she says it that's almost feline. "You'd have to put up with me, though. I'm not sure how long you'd actually last."

"That would depend on how cold it gets." His voice is just as sly, though nothing else about him betrays it as he finds his attention wandering towards a blockish shape pushed towards the wall. Crossing Eileen's path, Gabriel moves towards it, unfolding his arms to trail fingertips along what appears to be an iron frame. Oak and leather make up the rest of the large trunk, and it looks particularly heavy.

A flick of the pricetag indicates that it, too, is expensive. All the same, he hooks rough fingers into the brass catch and lifts the flat lid up to see the panelled insides, just its space and construction. There's the scent of dust and old wood that wafts up from it. "I can probably help move things using Wu-Long's ability," he notes, as he lets the lid shut with a heavy thump.


The thump distracts Eileen from her reflection long enough for her focus to jump to the next closest thing and stick. It isn't the trunk, but another glass case; instead of jewelry glittering faint in the shop's diluted light, it houses memorabilia from the Second World War, including tattered medals in need of a good polish, letters and postcards encased in plastic to protect the brittle paper from greasy fingers and the moisture in the air, though it isn't any of these things that the young woman's gaze eventually settles on. Outside, rain patters against the windows and snakes down the pane in fat rivulets that warp the view of the curb from the front desk.

Stuck to a piece of corkboard backing is a small silver pin emblazoned with the silhouette of a naked woman, swastika clasped in the talons of an large predatory bird and a date that's almost illegible due to its deteriorated condition. A tag dangling from the board identifies it as a "May Day Pin Badge" and attaches a date: 1939.

"How good is Craig Christman when it comes to keeping secrets?"

The pricetag on the trunk is left swinging as he steps towards a wardrobe, another massive antique thing that dissembles in old fashioned slots and hooks. An inlay is half worn away above the rectangular mirror, showing Japanese designs of geishas and ponds, before Gabriel's interest is easily hooked away from it. Angled away from the age spotted mirror, he looks over his shoulder, and past Eileen towards the glass case which contents mean immediately nothing to Gabriel.

"Very good. He's dead." Badum-ching. He raises an eyebrow before turning towards her fully, an expectant tilt to his head. Out with it, Shoshanna Wolfe.

Eileen doesn't have the benefit of a mask she can hide behind. Her face will always be her own, and the longer Gabriel knows her, the easier it becomes to recognize its unique expressions and the emotions associated with them. Dark brows lower, the corners of her mouth knit with worry as she clasps small hands in front of her, bone white fingers interlaced and lacquered fingernails winking tea rose pink.

There's a sort of tension in the set of her narrow shoulders that was previously absent and extends through the curve of her back. "Will you promise me something, then?"

Hands in his pockets, now, they stand in the makeshift aisles made up of aged furniture and displays, attention drawn from scratched wood and mottled metal. Gabriel's eyes, as much as they don't resemble his, pick back and forth trying to read exactly the subtleties he's equipped to interpret and read of her expression, as if maybe the secret worth knowing could be inferred from them alone.

Instead, he's forced to respond, and considering the shift in dynamic, he can't even be facetious. "It depends what it is," is an honest answer if there ever was one, glancing down to the floor and scuffing his heel against it. "Try me."

Eileen's hands fall away from one another at Gabriel's response. She shows him her palms, imploring, hints of lattice vein visible beneath pale skin in hues of purple and blue. Her lips are cold, too, and not just because of the sodden weather outside or the temperature of the shop itself, which could stand to be several degrees higher in light of the weekend forecast. New York City has yet to see snow, but perspiration still gathers on the windows under the rain in the form of fog.

"It can't depend," she says. "Either I have your word that you won't breathe any of this to another human being, or I don't. I won't hold it against you if you say no."

His eyes roll towards the ceiling, exasperation directed heavenward before he paces back those couple of feet towards the trunk he'd left behind. Sitting down on the edge, the iron frame easily supports his weight - it could probably do so three times over, and Gabriel braces his hands against it. Turns them outward in gesture. "Fine. You have my word." His tone is free of implication of conditions, although Eileen could possibly imagine it's there. Impatience betrays him, but it's the only reason to react with distrust, as if this were a hurried, frivolous bargain. Still, his words are firm, and would have come earlier if they were untrue.

A glance cast over Eileen's shoulder locates the shopkeeper seated behind the front desk, a pair of reading glasses perched on the bridge of a long, thin nose with lenses that magnify watery brown eyes discoloured by cataracts. Too absorbed in reviewing his inventory on paper to notice the conversation happening at the other side of the store, he poses no inherent danger to what appears to be a young couple having a disagreement over a potential purchase.

Eileen joins Gabriel on the trunk without invading his personal space, her hands in her lap and several inches of room between their bodies. This is usually the part where she reaches out and touches him, but for whatever reason she refrains from physical contact and focuses on a point in the distance. A patch of water-stained wallpaper. Glimmering gold leaf. The rusted tip of a bayonet. Her gaze is not precise.

"I was on the bridge with Peter," she says, all of that former archness gone from her voice. "When I'm trying to piece things back together, I go up sometimes. I didn't expect anyone else would be there."

This, obviously, is not the secret, but it doesn't mean it doesn't warrant reaction. Air funnels out through his nose in an exhale, communicative. Irritation, exasperation. Of course Peter turned up where Eileen chose to spend her evening. It wouldn't be the first time. His gaze splits from her profile and towards the ground between his feet. It's the same silent defense with which he meets any talk of Peter Petrelli, but he spares her scowling and foot stomping, and listens.

"We got into an argument and it was like I flipped a switch. Something changed. I don't know how to describe it, but I wasn't talking to Peter anymore." Eileen drops her eyes to her hands and peels at the polish flaking around her split nail. The movements her fingers are anxious, exact, but they lack the flair of someone trying to draw attention away from the conversation. When she realizes what she's doing, she twists her mouth apologetic, gives a shake of her dark-haired head and lays her palms flat on her thighs to keep from fidgeting.

"Kazimir isn't dead. I spoke with him."

"Kazimir is dead." Gabriel's words are firm, and too quick. How many times has he said this, in argument? Too many times for a dead man, that's for certain. Even in this new face, his gaze is still hawk-like when he angles a look at her. "I felt it. I felt him ripped out of me. I killed him." That last part makes no sense, but he doesn't go on to explain - as if perhaps whatever had gone on in his own head was plain enough to be seen by everyone who had stood upon the bridge that day.

"I spoke with him," Eileen says again. "I spoke with him and he touched my hair, my face. He called me Munin, Gabriel, and Peter doesn't remember any of it." Now she does reach out, feeling for his hands in a firm attempt to keep him from rising off the trunk or moving away. Although her touch is cold, it warms quickly against Gabriel's skin as she encircles his wrists in her fingers and squeezes tight. "There's a telepath staying with the Ferry who owes me a favour. Kaylee. If you don't believe me, I can ask her to look, and if you don't trust her opinion, then Teo— Teo could check in on his dreams. Get into his head."

He felt him die, she spoke with him. They are at something of an impasse, and her instincts were correct to curl her fingers around his wrist. Gabriel almost moves, the tension starting at his wrist, it draws up his arm, his shoulders, down his back to curve and kick away. She has the right pressure point for making him stay, and he does, contorting Craig's clean features into a scowl.

But he's silent, thinking, the quiet of the antique shop wrapping around them as he studies her grey-green eyes. "I have Teo's ability," he says, eventually. "Maybe I should take a look myself."

As politely as possible, he untangles her grip from his arm, eases his palms down his thighs as if he could stave off the tension and energy of indignation. His head shakes, incomprehension making his brow tense and teeth show between words. "Why do you want to keep this secret? What do you think you owe him?"

"The world has bigger problems than Kazimir Volken and Peter Petrelli." Eileen doesn't pursue physical contact after Gabriel breaks it, and is instead the first to climb to her feet, increasing the distance between them once more. "If people thought he might still be alive, they'd overreact. No one in Phoenix ever met the man and still they demonize him, make outlandish claims about what he and the Vanguard set out to accomplish."

At the front of the store, the shopkeeper turns a page, filling the building's interior with the whisper of rustling paper. A bell jingles cheerlessly and Gabriel and Eileen are no longer the only customers in the dingy establishment. "I'm not saying that we didn't make the right decisions," she says lowly, turning her face away from Gabriel as she adjusts the sleeves and collar of her peacoat. "I'd do it all again if I had to, but whatever it is that's happening to Peter— whatever it is that's inside of him… it isn't the priority it was a year ago."

"No, it's not." That much he can agree with. Anything else would be a miracle. Getting to his feet, it's Gabriel's turn to initiate contact - a grip to the sleeve of her coat, a tug strong enough to turn her but not unnecessarily strong. Efficient, a little rude, but not violent. "What outlandish claims are you talking about? The outlandish claims about how he wanted to destroy the entire human race once he took over my body? Those ones? Because I saw it myself. They aren't outlandish. He was a demon."

He lets her go, rocks a step back. "Or is a demon. One that you wanted me to kill, once upon a time. Or are we going to pretend none of last winter ever happened, because as tempting as that is, we can't."

"Vanguard's power base is gone. Humanis First's is still growing. What do you think we should focus on? The possibility that one demon might have survived, or the reality that dozens more like Emile Danko and Bill Dean are being created every day?" Eileen's words are harsh, astringent, but they lack the usual heat that accompanies them when she and Gabriel argue. She touches her fingertips to her sleeve where he seized it and turns the corners of her mouth down into a frown.

"If Peter becomes a problem," she says, finally, "then we'll deal with it the same as any other. He isn't yet. It's that simple."

"I'm only running errands in this war with Humanis First for you and for Teo," Gabriel states, back straightening. "They're a product of a legitimate fear against people like Kazimir. People like me. Like Peter. Like the people the Vanguard remnant are supposed to be focusing on. Who's to say we don't deserve everything they do to us?" It's not the argument at hand, but his hackles are already up, and the couple of steps back he takes from her are from restlessness over a need to get away. "It's not that simple. Not after everything he did to me. You want us to wait until it becomes a problem."

There is more to say on that, an objection, a counter-argument to this proposal. Instead, he pauses as a sneer writes itself across his features. His chin lifts in a nod to her. "What did he say to you on the bridge? When he touched your face, and called you 'Munin'?"

The expression on Eileen's face undergoes a grotesque transformation that takes only a few moments but leaves her cheeks flushed pink with fury and her lips stretched across flashing teeth. "Do you think Sonny Bianco deserved what Humanis First did to him?" she asks in a voice several decibels louder than is probably appropriate for their surroundings. The worsening weather outside makes up for her lack of discretion by splashing more rain against the storefront's windows, masking the sound of their argument with the patter of water on glass, though it can only do so much; the shopkeeper has looked up from his inventory, swept his gaze across the room and now watches the pair from behind his ridiculously thick prescription lenses.

"What about Margaret Simpson or Obie Sanchez? Not everyone is like us. Not everyone deserves to be lined up against a wall and shot for the things they've done." If he was any closer, she'd strike at him, scratch nails across his face and split skin with the glittering silver rings she wears on her fingers. What she has to do instead to get her point across is even baser and less civilized than that.

She spits. Not at his face, but his feet. "Dupek! Fuck you, Gray."

His expression is almost comedic in its perplexity, if it weren't for the fact it's entirely serious in the face her of snarling. When she spits, he starts to step back, but not in time for spittle to miss its mark at his shoes, a renewed sneer at his mouth.

"It's a war," he growls back, much lower, but now that attention is focused on them, it doesn't really matter how loud or quiet he speaks. "If they want to take a life for every person that got wiped away when Peter and I destroyed the city, then that's what they're going to do. If they want to take it to my door, then I'll fight back. But that's all it is - fighting back.

"Maybe Bianco and the rest of them should learn to defend themselves. They deserve it because they were weak. You think they don't deserve to die? Who says they deserve to live?"

The smile that follows is abrupt, and he's quick to add; "This is why they don't discuss politics at dinner parties."

Language is a layered, complex thing; even between two native speakers who grew up talking in the same tongue, it's easy for meaning to get lost or become distorted, especially when powerful emotions are involved. What we say is not always what we mean, what we mean is not always what we say, and as a result what's intended isn't always what's heard.

Eileen has adopted a look of supreme hurt by the time Gabriel's mouth is curving into a quick smile, and although there are no tears in her eyes, they've taken on a glassy sheen. She's making a strange sound when she breathes, too — like a broken reed, it flutters somewhere in the back of her throat and produces a thin noise with every inhalation and subsequent release of air.

Her shoulders rise, fall, then shudder, but they shudder only once. In the next instant, she's turning, peacoat drawn up and around her slender frame as she shows Gabriel her back, clicks the heels of her flats against the floorboards under her feet and powers away from him at a brisk, purposeful pace that leads her toward the front door.

The smile vanishes by the time she's not looking to see it do so. His back straightens, his hands push into pockets, and he watches her disappear with something like familiarity. The shopkeeper is staring at him like perhaps he could be willed away, and Gabriel shows him his back. He'll give her time to leave, to stomp some distance between them.

Then he'll follow her home.

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