f_eileen_icon.gif f_gabriel_icon.gif


Scene Title Discipline
Synopsis Eileen and Gabriel run afoul of their superior. Turns out there isn't such a thing as a free pass.
Date March 2, 2011

Somewhere in Argentina

Success is measured in varying degrees — during the past month and a half that Gabriel has spent in the shadow of the Andes, embroiled in guerilla warfare between NATO and Vanguard forces, he and the people he presently works alongside have made significant headway by reclaiming several square kilometers of jungle and clearing it of the quagmire of tripwires and landmines that made it so difficult to traverse before, and while they've lost several soldiers to the occasional ambush in the heavily forested foothills, they continue to sustain a military presence the United States government would be proud of.

Implementing one of the country's most infamous criminals as a localized weapon of mass destruction seems to be doing the trick or so says Gabriel's only superior at the encampment, Mr. Aviator Sunglasses — in those exact words.

The sun has long since dipped behind the mountains whose shadow in which their conflict exists, cooling the jungle and surrounding fields to milder, more comfortable temperatures. Hurricane lanterns and firelight are responsible for illuminating the camp and making travel between tents possible, even if almost everyone under Aviators' command would rather be warming themselves by the flames and indulging in some cheap wine from one of the nearby villages than hunkering down in their private quarters for the night. Their conversations are loud and raucous, but they'll be forgiven — there's a lot to celebrate, and unfortunately for Gabriel it appears as though he'll be doing it alone.

There's no immediate sign of Eileen or the government official running their operation, which — at least during daylight hours — could easily be explained by one or both of them having work-related errands to run. After dark, it's simply suspicious.

You learn their names out of necessity, superhuman memory aside. There's Hayes, Brunson, and Holland talking loudest and nearest, their conversation penetrating thick, warm evening air and tent fabric to Gabriel's sensitive ears, and even quieter the conversations of McGraw and Leslie, talk of what they'll do once they're out of this jungle, where the hunt of the Vanguard will take them next.

There's talk of Russia. Gabriel's never been there either. He turns over on his side, a small battery run lamp burning up energy to illuminate the rest of his mostly empty tent, the flap sealed against insects, and, in theory, noise. It's the usual kind of ritual. Night falls, he retreats into his respective den like a working dog done for the day, and his among the earliest to rise. He can't tell if the fact no one talks to him is out of respect, fear, or something far less flattering.

The light goes dead, which should motivate him to sleep. Instead, the sheer heat of the evening, as cool as it is in contrast to the day, has him restlessly climbing out of his cot. It's not especially late, after all, and he tells himself it's to find a replacement for his lamp as he makes his way out the tent, sticky-cool night air prickling at skin. Comfortable pants, flipflops, and a thin T-shirt that hangs limp from the body, the air dead of breeze, cool or warm. His arms cross as he lifts his gaze up from the encampment, towards the impossibly clear and starry sky—

— before he finds that gaze drawn as if by some magnetic, gravitational quality to Eileen's tent not so far away. It's empty. In fact, he can't detect her voice, feminine and therefore unique, anywhere within immediate hearing. He can't help but push it, seeking her out in the way that won't yet be detected through birds.

Eileen's tent may be empty, but the young woman who normally occupies it is never very far away. This is true even when she can't be located by any of the means available to normal men or women, and as luck has it — at least as far as his genetics are concerned — Gabriel is an impossibly far cry from ordinary. His ears will pick up familiar notes drifting in on the breeze from somewhere beyond the treeline, soft and lilting, though not without a definite hint of anger. Wherever she is, she isn't alone, and whatever conversation she's found herself entangled in, she doesn't like it.

To anyone else, the sound of voices would be a dull murmur indistinguishable from the crackling fires or the low, droning buzz of the jungle insects in the background. But to Gabriel and his sensitive ears, they are as clear as the water bubbling over rocks in the stream several hundred meters away or the lethargic rhythm of the birds dozing uneasily in the trees.

The more he concentrates, the easier it becomes to hear. "When I say 'jump'," a masculine voice grumbles low in his throat, "you say 'how high'. That's the problem with you, Ruskin. Discipline. Sometimes I think you forget who's in charge here."

Quiet footsteps steer Gabriel passed other tents, ignoring people he might pass and in turn, they ignore him. The scent of a camp fire mingles with the harsher tinge of cigarette smoke from a couple of men seated near the warmth, until the overwhelming presence of jungle cleanses these away. Despite all the power he wields, Gabriel never did get something resembling night vision. He lifts a hand, and let's a very vague, very haze flashlight type light beam emit from a concave disc between his fingers, swinging this way and that as he navigates across beaten earth and disruptive roots and rocks.

He doesn't stray too closely. He doesn't need to. Letting the makeshift flashlight die from his hand, Gabriel keeps to where it's dark and listens. The fact that it's none of his business doesn't once cross his mind, too much curiosity in what Eileen could have possibly done to warrant a lecture to care awfully much. There really are so many people here he can take an interest in, even if he should have learned by now how many people he should take an interest in.

He finds them by one of the Humvees, their figures limned in moonlight, and if it weren't for the drastic difference in size and build between them he might have a difficult time telling the two apart. What becomes immediately apparent is that they're in middle of an altercation — Gabriel will recognize Eileen's aggressive posturing, chin held high and shoulders drawn back, the curve of her spine arched like a snake reared back to strike. And strike she does. One hissed expletive later, the open palm of her hand cracks against the man's jaw with enough force to snap his head to the side. What may be more surprising is that he hits back. In an instant, he has the young woman's much smaller body pinned between his and the hood of the Humvee, one hand closed around her throat, the other tangled in her hair.

"You don't hit me. You don't fucking hit me—" Aviators lets out a thin, ragged breath through his nostrils, choosing to restrain his volume instead of his temper. His cheeks are flushed red with fury, limbs aquiver with exertion. As much as he might like to lash out further, the apparent fear of being overheard keeps him in check for the time being. "This is exactly what I'm talking about. You see? I don't want to hurt you, and yet… Every. Single. Time." A snort. "I'm not asking for a lot. Eileen. You should be grateful for what I'm doing for you and your friend, because ultimately it's my choice. It's in my hands. Hit me again and I will put you both at the bottom of the deepest, darkest pit I can find."

The slap of a palm against skin, and then repeated, is as loud to his ears as a gunshot, and he's surprised, almost, that no one comes running. Gabriel goes both cold and flushed with hotter anger, strangely detached, though, as if he weren't really here and he was watching this happen, along with his own reaction, from a million miles away. Now it occurs to him, it's none of his business. Melt back into the shadows, file this away as useful leverage on Aviators, or even Eileen. Make no waves, make no ripples, get his free pass and go. They've both been through worse than this than some guy's temper. Because he's right. They should be grateful. And they can't afford to ruin it - heroism, here, is a luxury.

Gabriel's head tips to the side a little as he watches the man's larger body crush her smaller frame against the hood of the car, hands invasive in her hair, at her throat, and he can hear both heartbeats hammering away high in their chests and pumping blood of fear, anger.

Then he realises his own is matching them. Apart from adrenaline of the hunt in the Andes, it's been a while since that. Smoldering nervousness and anxiety, occasional frustration, these things don't really compare as they float around on a sea of carefully tended apathy and resignation. It's almost refreshing. His hand goes up, fingers bent in a way that might suggest he were holding—

— puppet strings. Aviators' back goes ramrod straight, hands jerking away from Eileen as if he were burned, and then, forced back in a violent tumble, to land hard on damp ground. A moment later, Gabriel's moving closer, away from the suffocatingly dark shadows, hand still outstretched.

There's no way to know for sure who's more surprised by this abrupt turn of events: Eileen or their superior officer sprawled out on the earth. He cranes his neck to look up at Gabriel, fury and righteous indignation written all over his features, more apparent than ever now that his eyes aren't shielded by his trademark sunglasses. They're somewhere in the knee-high grass, lost in the fall, metal frames glinting faintly under the dim light of the moon.

He knows who it is long before Gabriel comes into view. There are only two Evolved members in his platoon, one of which is leaning against the Humvee for support and nursing a split lip with the back of her hand as she looks on in abject horror. That leaves only Gray, and it's his name that Aviators spits out as he struggles to heave himself to his feet. Gone is the cocksure attitude of mere moments ago, that seething arrogance, replaced by something more strident and blustering. His tone comes very close to fear but isn't quite.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Apart from compromising everything? It's almost too easy to lift his hand, arm outstretched and pale in moonlight, the wicked curls of his tattoo standing out and sharply black on tense skin. Too easy to let long fingers curl around empty air and let the muscles and flesh in Aviators' throat to clamp in on itself, let his spine ache in sudden pressure as he's lifted up off his feet, high enough to let the ends of tall grass brush his ankles rather than his knees.

Old habits, they do die hard.

A small part of him is immensely satisfied in the fact incarceration hasn't beaten this out of him yet. But that only shows in the glint of his eyes, something maybe only a few people— such as Eileen— could really detect as self-satisfied smugness, surrounded as it is by otherwise a cold expression of anger. "Discipline," Gabriel hisses out between gritted teeth.

Eileen remains where she is, anchored to the Humvee not by weakness in her knees but by indecision. She's torn between letting Gabriel have his way and inserting herself back into the situation before it spirals any further out of control than it already has. Either way, she'd be gambling with all their lives. In the end, rationality and compassion win out over vindictiveness and she takes one step forward, her own hand held out in what is an identical gesture with an entirely different meaning.

Their superior undoubtedly has some very colourful things he'd like to say to Gabriel right now. It's too for him he lacks the wind in his lungs to lend his thoughts a voice — all he can do is fix the other man with a piercing look that brims with rage, murderous but in the end impotent.

"Sylar." Eileen's voice comes out in the form of a breathy whisper, calling Gabriel by the name his posture most reminds her of. "Stop."

The glare being cast down at him is met and matched, monitoring closely the sound of suffering, a frantically beating heart that belies bravado, always does, and the lack of airflow, the choking, gasping sounds of the man trying to work against a closed throat, to keep conscious. The corner of Gabriel's mouth turns up, own eyes going slightly glassier, until the fun is promptly ruined.

Or rather, shown to be what it is. His eyes blink once, twice in rapid succession as Eileen's whisper catches back his attention. That name, which people use to talk about him, not to him, manages to niggle a shard of ice through the warm familiarity of his actions. Smile disappears as if a switch were flicked, and he casts her a jerky, uncertain glance, especially when she asks him to stop, of all things.

There's still blood on her face. "He hurt you," is his argument, but there's no further delay. Any longer and they'll have an unconscious man on their hands. Or a dead man. His fingers loosen, first, and it's release enough to send Aviators falling back to earth. Gabriel withdraws his arm, takes a step back. "He hurts you."

Wheezing and gulping down air, the man on the ground squeezes his eyes shut as he attempts, somewhat in vain, to gather his bearings. Miraculously, the first thing he does isn't reach for his sidearm — it's push himself into a sitting position, the majority of his weight resting on his knees and one hand, the other clutching at his chest.

He's unscathed. More or less.

While her aggressor is still recovering, Eileen maneuvers around the front of the Humvee, her movements slow and cautious in spite of the fact that the threat has already been neutralized. She gives Aviators a wide berth. Who wouldn't?

"I'm fine," she assures Gabriel, using her hands to feel her way along the length of the vehicle in the dark. "We need this."

After that first glance her way, another down to his own hand, Gabriel keeps a hawk watch on Aviators, more out of a possible need for defense than anything else, although there's a restrained eagerness that communicates he'd love nothing more than to finish the job. There are worse things people have done, but it's been a while and Aviators is here and convenient, if only in the geographic sense.

In reality, he's the last person Gabriel can afford to be playing with. "The deal is we hunt out their terrorists," he says, voice low, kept at a quiet rasp, almost sullen. "And get our free pass. Nothing more and nothing less."

There few things Gabriel can say to salvage a situation approaching the unsalvageable, but his words appear to strike a chord with the official because he nods and bites out his agreement like he's taking the end off a cheap cigar. "Nothing more, nothing less."

Aviators rises to his feet, unsteady, his free hand grasping at the driver's side door handle not just for support but to open it as well. He removes his keys from his jacket pocket. "You and I are going to have a talk in the morning, Gray," he promises as he climbs inside the Humvee. "A long one." The threat, if that's indeed what it is, is punctuated the soft clink of metal on metal, followed by rumbling chugga-chug-chug of the vehicle's engine turning over.

He's decided not to stick around.

A sweep of headlights, a grind of metal as the humvee rattles over dirt road and makes a wide turning circle to disappear into darkness, the growl of the engine trailing in its wake. Gabriel watches it go, the picture of tension and utterly still until he turns his head, forces his shoulders to relax, lets out a sigh. The loudest thing in these jungles at this time of night is the insects, clicking and chirping pointlessly, filling in the settled silence.

"What was that?" Spoken just loud enough to be heard, not quite a whisper but not nearing conversational tone, almost at one with the general audible ambience of the place. The tall grass shifts and snags against his clothing as he turns to face her, the darkness stealing away much detail but his quiet tone communicates what his expression would have otherwise - confusion, indirect anger, and something like defeat.

The look Eileen pins him with is much the same. You know what that was, her baleful eyes appear to convey. Or perhaps more accurately: Please don't make me say it.

She reaches up, wipes the blood from her mouth with the edge of her sleeve and sucks in her lip, catching it between her teeth. That stings. Her pride, too. One shoulder rolls up into a half-shrug that's meant to be dismissive and probably would be if it weren't for the stiffness in her muscles contradicting the casual act she attempts to put on. "Nothing," she lies, and does not meet his eyes when she speaks. Doing so would make it more difficult to deceive him, and while their working relationship has its roots in half-truths and cryptic turns of phrase, there's only so much you can hide when you're as visibly shaken as Eileen is. "Do you often spy on me?"

His expression of stoic anger shifts to incredulousness, but really, Gabriel shouldn't be surprised when the quietly spoken accusation is thrown at him. Righteous indignation wells up like something vaguely unfamiliar in him, opening his mouth to retaliate before shutting it again. An impatient breath of air is expelled as a soft snort, tilting his gaze up towards the sky in rolling eyed gesture of exasperation.

"All the time," is his answer, laced with sarcasm and some spite. "Nothing to do with an after hours argument I could hear from my cot, or the way he way he touched you," a slight tip to the head, a beat of a pause, before continuing with, "like he'd done it before. No, I just can't help myself."

"Clearly." And in a way, he can't — the verbal barb doesn't just stick, it sinks in deep and lodges itself beneath her skin like the points of a burr, ugly and impossible to shake off. "He's drunk," she says after a protracted moment of stilted silence that stretches just a little longer than she intended it to. "And he hasn't. Done it before."

The scathing remark she directed at him when he walked in on her while she was bathing the day Gabriel was flown into camp suggests otherwise, but she at least sounds like she's telling the truth this time. If I didn't know better, she'd said. I'd think you were doing it on purpose.

Hindsight. It's 20/20.

More stilted silence, Gabriel standing still and evaluating her with dark eyes, as if trying to seek out the truth, truth that contradicts with impressions, memories, but the conviction is there. It usually is. And as ever, it's nearly impossible to tell. The familiar tired feeling of weary resignation is slowly starting to come back, looking away from her for a moment. "He said— " A moment of rasping laughter, as if he can't quite believe he's pursuing it, or caring. "He said he doesn't want to hurt you, but— 'every single time'."

In this lighting, his eyes may as well be black than the brighter, richer brown they are, and they fix on her again. Every single time— what? He doesn't really need to put that to words, gaze breaking again as he tilts his head back the way he came. "We should go."

They should, but maybe not in that direction. As Gabriel looks back toward the tents, Eileen pursues the tire tracks left in the Humvee's wake without actually moving. Eventually, her gaze gravitates to the forest beyond, dark and green and full of promise. It would be easy for one or both of them to disappear into the trees under the cover of night — they've done the urban equivalent so many times before, using the back alleys of New York City to elude capture, almost always with success.

Almost. That's the key word there, isn't it? Eileen has grown tired of running and to start again now would defeat the purpose of everything they've been working for. The desire to flee is fleeting, dies as uncertainty in the tension at the corners of her small mouth before it finds its way to her feet. "Yes," she mutters thickly. "We should. Would you walk me back to my tent?"

None of them have any fight left. Not even speaking of their personal battle with the government and terrorists, but each other. Gabriel nods mutely, and extends a hand. A different gesture to the aggressive way he'd held a hand to Aviators, gentle, and like before, a hazy disc of faded light flickers to light between outstretched fingers, fire coloured light motes drifting around it in a lazy orbit. Without a sound, a beam of light, like a weak flashlight, lances out to shed some illumination.

A glance in her direction doesn't communicate much more than checking to see if she's ready to go, before Gabriel is silently leading the way back, focused on the brief journey back to the camps while hyper aware of the young woman he's walking with. Lapsing into a quiet that's as contemplative as it is sullen.

Their thoughts might run along parallel tracks or they might not — without one imploring the other, there's no real way to be certain, though their destination is at least the same. Eileen elects not to speak during their journey back to the tent, careful to avoid any casual glances that are shot their way as they weave through the makeshift settlement, all iron rods, roaring fires and stiff sheets of canvas rippling in the breeze.

When they arrive, the first thing she does is take a match to the hurricane lantern she keeps on the crate beside her cot, casting the shelter's interior in a pale yellow glow that lengthens the shadows and exaggerates her face's reticent features made all the more severe by the disparate balance between light and dark. "He'll be making some phone calls," she says finally, flicking the spent match into the dirt at her feet. "We're replaceable. You know that."

"I've made more headway with this place in two months than he could have hoped to do in four," Gabriel counters, sounding more dismissive of the notion than he truly is. The uncertainty is there, is in his posture and demeanor, as if his body were unable to completely cash in the confidence his words project. He moves further inside the tent, taking up a place to sit down at the corner of her bed, not really making himself comfortable so much as less awkward in the cramped space.

"Besides." He raises an eyebrow at her, and adds, "You hit him."

"Fine," Eileen concedes. "Then I'll be the one marched off and shot come sunrise." Her tone is bitter, words spat out with contempt. She crushes the match head beneath the toe of her boot, grinds it into fragments with a sharp twist, ankle jerking from side to side, working out excess frustration. It's always good to keep a little in reserve — out here in the wilderness, one can never grow too complacent. "You're right."

Eileen doesn't always mean what she says. Now is one of those times.

Eyes roll, gaze slants away from her then down to study the floor between his feet, mostly bare in flipflops suitable for the summery weather but less for the jungle. An accumulation of small cuts and bruises, both old and recent, tell of carelessness and much walking.

Bristling, he gets to his feet. "You were right to hit him," Gabriel says, voice lazy despite quite suddenly looming, bitter only in reaction to her bitterness in kind, a sneer pulling at his mouth. "And I was right to do something about it when he hit you back. We're only as replaceable and worthless as you decide." He points, for dramatic effect, towards the closed tent flap, implying the rest of the camp. "They know we could run and they're trusting the idea that we don't want to. We're not their working dogs to be put down if we bite back. What did you want me to do? Let him hurt you?"

"Maybe he wouldn't have hurt me if I hadn't hit him. Consider that." Working dogs are exactly what she and Gabriel are, at least in their superior's eyes, but Eileen finds herself wondering if this will still be the case after tonight. They bit back, both of them, one harder than the other but not hard enough to break skin. Admittedly, the outlook could be a lot worse. "You should have let it alone," she says, reaching up to touch her fingertips to her lip, tentative, ginger. "But for the record, I'm glad you didn't."

What she really means to say is thank you, though she can't quite bring herself to do it so soon after the fact. The incident is still too fresh in her mind, the taste of blood in her mouth too strong. "My only regret—" Leaning over the crate, she fumbles around for the porcelain basin she washes with when there isn't a clean bucket available, and then spits into it — without a mirror, she has no way of gauging the severity of the cut, so examining her saliva in the flickering lamplight with have to do until she can arrange to see their medic. "Is he'll probably separate us."

Gabriel winds up studying her back as she turns to try and inspect her mouth, the curve of her spine managing to make patterns in the slightly oversized shirt she wears. Always skinny, no matter what diet or lifestyle she undergoes, it seems. "We'll see," he replies, voice even, and doesn't put to words both his grudging acknowledge of her regret.

Almost abruptly, his hand will feel warm high up her spine, just beneath the nape of her throat. A completely ambiguous touch, not guiding or imploring, just touching for a moment before his words give it purpose; "Let me look at it."

An airy sniff, entirely customary, is all the protest Eileen presents. "It isn't serious," she tells him, running her tongue along her lip to wet it and guarantee that assurance. "A few stitches, some bruising. That's all." The hand at her neck she doesn't mind. Her chin lifts, head angling to give Gabriel a better view of her mouth and the blood that has begun to crust on her upper lip.

It isn't serious, and just in case he disagrees with her assessment, she reminds him in a mildly reproving tone, "You've done worse yourself, don't forget."

"I've done worse to you," Gabriel agrees, no real trace of regret or apology in his voice, save for one candid glance to her eyes, but no smugness either. Just acceptance of their trainwreck past. He lifts a hand to let his fingertips curl and touch the edge of her jaw, looking at the split in her mouth. It's not bad, not even by her standards. Just showy in its placing and bleeding.

Pain, too, that much is likely, but slowly, it saps away - not numbing it, just taking away the physical responsive warnings to damage. She's felt it before, many times - probably several instances in the past month or so, even. He at least offers the confirmation, "You'll need to get it checked out."

"I will," Eileen promises, "in the morning." When the sun is up, their superior officer is sober and the medic won't clout them both for waking him. She places her fingers on the knuckles of the hand at her jaw, uncertain, and gives him a diminutive smile — something she'd immediately regret if it weren't for the localized removal of one very specific sensation. There are a lot of things Gabriel can do that she takes for granted. This? Doesn't fall under that category.

She closes her hand around his wrist, thumb pressed into the soft center of his palm, the skin of her long, slender fingers cool to the touch. "Stay."

Gabriel's hand angles out from her jaw, gaze flicking towards where her hand wraps around his wrist, as if this were an interesting thing to witness. Which it is, in a way, there is a lot about Eileen that is small, including her hands, though they don't strike him as delicate. Brittle, in the physical sense, but less the porcelain doll. More and more like the roughened woman he saw in a future that's no longer possible. Still small, though, in contrast to his larger hand, fingers curling inwards enough to touch her's.

The simple request is what makes him look back at her, unreadable for now. A hand comes up to join the second, curling at the other side of her jaw, thumb seeking out the smeared trace of blood gone neglected in that vicinity. "Alright."

As Eileen exhales, her breath catches in her throat and causes it to hitch — Gabriel doesn't need to be in the possession of heightened senses to detect the slight change. More subtle is the increased tempo of her beating heart, its rhythm quickening, pace equivalent to what it was a few minutes ago when she was trapped between the Humvee and another body. The only difference is that there's no fear souring the air, no ominous feeling of dread holding her limbs down like lead weights. The tension, though, is just as palpable.

She breaks it with a low croak that sounds like the start of his name but isn't. It's an almost animalistic sound in its abruptness and intensity, but she's quick to follow up with another noise that's considerably more human: words, hastily strung together and spilling out of her mouth for lack of anything else to say. "I feel like— like this is a cycle. With us. And it keeps turning back on itself."

He only nods, at first, focused on the way dried blood flakes from skin, becoming something more liquid again from shared heat and transfer, drawing his hand away to rub it into transparency between his fingers. "Break apart, come together, break apart again," Gabriel agrees, voice quiet, almost too much so and only does her proximity allow for her to hear it. A smile manages to play across his face, if a bewildered, wondering one that's quick to fade. Something he should do more often. "Fortunately for us, this isn't the hard part."

The other hand still curling fingers by her jaw tips her face up a little, angle it. A kiss is attempted, at the corner of her mouth least injured, keeping his eyes only barely open, as if waiting for retaliation that isn't as pleasant as a kiss.

She could hit him. It wouldn't be the first time, and unlike the man she raised her hand against earlier tonight, she knows Gabriel isn't likely to strike back. Eileen's gentle grip on his hand tightens, nails pinching his skin under the pressure of her grasp. He's wrong — for her, this is the hard part. Yielding to somebody else. Opening up. She'd given up on wanting this a long time ago, and now that it's being given to her she doesn't know what to do with it.

To have known how she's felt toward him for years and only act on it now, thousands upon thousands of miles away from home, away from the set of that trainwreck past is fitting, but it's also cruel in its own way. Eileen allows the kiss, however brief, and then tilts her head back, beginning to pull away. Doubt has hardened her features, gray-green eyes sharp with suspicion. There's an unspoken accusation on the tip of her tongue. She has to ask, "Why?"

Why now?

Why. She asks why. The close proximity is maintained, for a moment, intimacy sustained for a few delicate moments while he feels her fingernails digging into his wrist and the equally sharp look he's getting. Gabriel's back straightens, easily putting distance between them in that movement alone, before he's also backing up a step, pulling that hand away.

"Why," Gabriel repeats, a little stupidly. "Because I thought— " His teeth click together when he simply shuts his mouth, jaw clenching. A mutter, something mumbled along the lines of 'never mind', more growl of irritation than actual words. Then, "You asked me to stay."

"I did." There's no denying that, not when she meant it. Still means it. Eileen's expression undergoes a transformation from cagey to perplexed, the hard lines of her mouth and brows softening, rigidity melting slowly away. Just as she couldn't examine her mouth without a mirror, she's blind to what her face is doing unless she has a reflection to scrutinize.

It takes her a few seconds to understand that she's given him the wrong impression, and when she does her cheeks turn a mottled, splotchy pink, paler spots washed out. Embarrassment. Discomfort. Mortification. She's experiencing a lot of things all at once, and it doesn't help that her tongue feels so swollen and numb she can't quite wrap it around what she wants to say. "You've never."

"Been busy." It's a short reply, the words coming out clipped, harsh. Strange how old feelings can resurface - old ones, before he even knew Eileen, or was ever a killer, before he knew he was special, and he was just awkward, like right now. With Eileen's face going red, and he's unsure his isn't either, and his own inability to say anything that isn't an insult, sarcastic, defensive because—

He'd been so certain. Gabriel takes one step, two steps back, turns on his heel to head for the exit, the fabric of the tent ruffling with unseen wind as he pushes it open ahead of him, showing off a slice of nighttime and letting some of the warmth leak out just a fraction.

He's leaving. Again. And if it isn't him, it's her. Coming together and breaking apart, coming together and breaking apart.

Breaking apart.

Eileen isn't able to bring herself to watch Gabriel's retreating back. Her eyes are squeezed shut, blatant exasperation turned inward instead of out. In her mind, she reaches for him, catches the fabric of his sleeve and reiterates her previous request before he can steal away. Stay.

In reality, she lets him go, turning away from the tent's entrance and balling her leading hand into a fist so tight her arm begins to shake, trembling from her elbow all the way down to her wrist. "Dammit. Dammit."

He gets several feet out of the tent before it occurs to him perhaps he shouldn't have left. Gabriel hears no one following him, no lighter footsteps or an outcry of his name. The temperature has dropped dramatically since the earlier evening - no where near cold, but enough to warrant a shiver from the contrast, feeling colder than it is against flushed skin.

Head tips back a little, blinking twice, rapidly, when he hears her soft cursing, and he almost goes back. Instead, after a few more moments, Gabriel retreats to his own tent, knowing he's not going to sleep any better than when he had first woken up. Wondering what Aviators has to say to him tomorrow. Wondering if one of them will be flown away tomorrow and if they'd ever see each other again if that were the case.

At least they're completing the cycle. That's something.

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