Do Martians Dream Of Crimson Sheep?


gabriel_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Do Martians Dream Of Crimson Sheep?
Synopsis Leaping over orange boulders? Gabriel and Teo try to get a sense of direction, time and place.
Date April 8, 2009

Still Looks Like The Red Planet Only More So

Hours later, they stopped. Not before the risen sun started scissoring away the upper layers of their skin with the distinct sensation of burning, which left the flesh there feeling hotter even then the sweating stretch of palm reached back to check it. The sand flattened out of dunes, gave way to rock. A fuckload of rock. Like the sand, the rock is red.

A brighter red than Moab, Utah ever had been.

It sort of took the pressure off when Gabriel finally fell. Suddenly skewed off the foot he had leaned his next step into, eyelids sliding shut, torso swerving, fishtailing sort of, crashed into his leg. Up until then, the battle of machismo, for what it was, had been wholly nonverbal and an obnoxiously misappropriated effort at comraderie at the same time. Teo didn't ask if Gabriel was tired underneath the shaking pallor of metabolic implosion, and Gabriel didn't ask if he was hot underneath the black of flak material, armor, rifle, whatever else.

They fell into crimson dirt. Not a single fucking tree in sight.

On the dubious upside— no choppers, either.

Instead, they found a jumbled heap of boulders. Cramping fit for the shoulders, but large enough to block out the sun as long as one was willing to shuffle in geometric correspondence with the rotation of the malevolent orb.

Afternoon now. Dips the Western edge of the sky into a suede texture and Majorelle shade of blue, brings the promise of eventual cool and further travel, but daylight still holds pernicious sway. Gabriel is working on balancing out death by exhaustion against organizing his considerable array of abilities to survival prerogatives like water and getting the fuck out of here— which is an intellectualized version of saying he's trying to sleep and make hydration at regular enough intervals without burning more calories and faster than he can spare.

Teo is tinkering with the radio. Connectors, coil, antenna, and battery lie stripped, inert, a jumble of crooked geometry in the shade; to all evidence, dead as the terrain. They haven't looked at each other in awhile. Don't want to be the first one to say—

"I don't think we're in Utah."

Quite a few things they had been delaying saying. Like. I'm really hungry, and other more immediate threats to health and happiness. Or, we're fucked. But no, Gabriel can't help but focus on geography, seeing as there is just so much of it. Long legs bent in front of him, the toes of his shoes in the blistering sun, the leather hot to touch by now, but otherwise he remains huddled in the shade, his own coat spread out beneath himself like a picnic blanket— some picnic— and stares balefully at towards the stretch of red rock, out and out until it meets blue and starts again above them. Finally, the silence cracks, and Gabriel, perhaps surprisingly, is the one to break it, attention rising out of his self-absorbed silent reverie of wound licking and rest.

Because it's not Utah. And because it's not Utah, it could be anywhere, and then what? It may as well be the red planet. "We're somewhere no one even knows to look," he says, voice coming out a croak. He rubs his hands together, to rid them of sand— there is so much sand— and cup his palms together. There is only so much he can do, the precarious balance of depleted energy versus needing to keep himself and frankly the other man too alive and able.

Water gathers first in rivulets, pooling loosely in his palms but no one drop escaping. Dregs becomes a small, warm puddle, and he doesn't bother affording himself the luxury of cooling it down before he's taking a sip. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, frowning when the rub of sand seems to grate along with an unshaven jaw. "So I don't know how useful a radio will be. What are you doing?"

Crimson dirt is encrusted in the eyebrow that Gabriel's afforded when Teo turns his head to study him sidelong, out of a profile view. His expression is flattened out by fatigue, physical and otherwise, and his rancor is probably all used up on the situation or else he might have been a little peeved by the jinx. Alternatively, the reality check. Reality fucking sucks.

"Nothing," he grinds out, finally. Not true. His features crease underneath the grime, grimacing either at the redundancy of withholding the truth or the dispiriting pointlessness of explaining. Not because Gabriel wouldn't understand, but merely because the radio appears to be quite thoroughly fucked. "If we can get some kind of signal out— even a weak one, they could pick it up. They'd know we're alive. Could set up a signal. With… rock formations. A fire. Maybe one of your abilities, come nightfall.

"They could find us then. Satellite photography covers the globe over. I probably sound insane. Or fucking stupid," his eyes drift back down to his makeshift work area. Teo's spine and legs feel like they've been restrung with filaments of molten metal, he's been crouching here so long. Dully, then, as if with optimism that belongs to someone else: "But I know they're looking."

His back has been permanently set into a sort of stiff curve, or so it feels, and Gabriel isn't going to try and fix that just yet. Not with his ribs singing their own chorus of protest. His back teeth grit together as he shifts his legs around, bringing them to fold in a loose, meditative kind of posture. The black fabric of his clothing has gone a kind of rusty colour from the sheer amount of fine dirt, and he's pretty sure the same can be said for the rest of him, if Teo is to be of any indication.

"You sound hopeful," he says, in a tone that suggests that's just a different brand of 'fucking stupid', but slightly better. Gabriel is pretty sure they're not going to die out here. Fate cannot be that lame. And if the world is infected with anything, it's humanity, and even if he can't hear them right now, there has to be someone close by.

Eventually. And if not, there are birds. But he'd tried that, a little earlier in the day when the sun had been at its most hot and he'd lain beneath the boulders in a state of half-conscious delirium. He'd reached out for the birds, felt the distant prickle of a few minds here and there.

But she wasn't there, whether because she's dead or she's not looking or just too far away to do so, and he wasn't about to lose himself trying any more than necessary. Satellite photography. Gabriel's mind goes over his own inventory of power, coming up shorter than he would like, but a few ideas. Too few for him to want to talk about it out loud, admit that supposedly the most powerful man in the world can't save himself.

Pride, it'll kill ya. But he's feeling better, somehow. Or maybe he just thinks he is. He winces as he moves enough to maybe stretch his spine a little bit. "Where do you think they are?"

The back of Teo's hand tracks a duckfoot print of color across his cheek. He scrubs his nails through his hair, scuffing his scalp. It's grown out since the orderlies buzzed his skull for surgery in January. Not by much, but he regrets even the slight scraggly progress that it has made. Every eighth of an inch seems to have hoarded an extra degree of unwanted heat.

"Not sure," he answers, after a pause stretched thin like cellophane across too much sandwich. Why is Teo thinking about sandwiches? Don't answer that; stupid question. "Last… we were heading up, right?" The determined scratch of his voice slows down, his voice trying to slog through the uncertain terrain of memory, with its mud and pitfalls. His eyes glaze, refocused on some point past the wavering horizon.

"Eileen mentioned a chopper, Catherine was falling back. Petrelli was going the fuck off… again. You… shut Gilly down. I shot him. Probably didn't help—" he coughs, a staccato hiss of air through his teeth. That isn't the last frame of the chronology that he remembers. Not actually, but the only part that matters.

His hands close against each other. Nothing so definitive as a clap of conclusion. He still sounds hopeful. "People topside might've made it past the radius. Anne and Hiro would've evacced Eileen." Quaver-beat. "D'no about Gillian."

Guesswork. But all the same, Gabriel listens, matching up what Teo says to his own memories, crystal clear if a little blurry, no thanks to the speedster who'd dealt the first blow. Names are listed, and others aren't, too many unknown variables overall, really. He lets the top of his back rest against craggy rock again, gaze switching from Teo then out towards the horizon again. The name 'Gillian' gets no reaction, save for silence, mouth shut in a small, thin line and eyes unfocused as he thinks.

Then, "I was carrying her. We were heading topside. I was delirious," he adds, perhaps excusing the quality of his own photographic memory in all the confusion, "but the next time I blinked, she was gone." His eyes slide closed, perhaps a show of pain or regret by normal people standards, but really, he's taking those few moments and replaying them in his mind the way video can be analysed. "She disappeared and there was a moment where I was alone, down there. And then I was here."

The wind hisses sand over sand, and Gabriel's eyes instinctively squeeze a little further shut until its over, and it dies away. "No fade to black. Nothing. That's only happened to me once before, when Peter teleported me to the future." Can smiles be angry? Not really. But it's not a happy smile that spreads across his face. "We could be anywhere, any time." He opens an eye, now, to look at Teo, before it shuts again. "Just so you know the situation."

That whole thing about questions that lead to more questions applies now. Figurative can of worms open, spewing annelids everywhere, great, fat grubs with bulbous pulsating ends and ravenous appetites that Teodoro has nothing to supply them with. His eyebrows have gone up, vanished almost entirely into his sodden brow.

"He what?"

Pallid eyes close and open once, an almost audible click of diminutive muscle, before a gesture crops up in his right hand where… Gabriel can't see it anyway, palm facing outward. Never mind. Don't want to know. Not to withdraw the question, but to narrow its focus and cling, most importantly, on the driftwood notion: "You got out of that one."

Optimism. It suits him. Co-chair of Phoenix, after all. Formerly? Yet to be? Impossible to tell until they find some vestige of society, assuming the augmented— yes, must have been augmented— swell of space-time manipulation hadn't flung them beyond all spectrum of human civilization. He swallows. Pushes the rubber pip of a dislocated button with his forefinger.

He wants to ask about the delirium. What emerges instead is, "Last thing I did was push Lucrezia down and cover Alexander." He looks somewhere else. "Better than nuclear radiation.

"Or just slower," he allows, after a very long moment.

Optimism is met with silence. The burden of knowledge. It's a mix of not wanting to tell Teo so much about his former adventures and mistakes, and not wanting to kill his optimism. It's not so bad to be around. It's even catching, as he says, "They're not out here. I'd have heard something by now. Which means we only have ourselves to worry about."

It's gotten cooler, since midday. Slowly easing towards dusk, it doesn't make too much of a difference save for the fact that the sun doesn't appear to be actively attacking them anymore, and it makes their swatch of shadow longer. It's not enough to coax Gabriel out from under their rock, but he does shuffle forward, a mix of restlessness and intent. Of course, he would only hear alive people out here. If Gillian did appear and he missed it, somehow, all things considered she could well be dead.

Or any of them, really. But don't kill the optimism, it's a delicate thing to handle. Gabriel folds his legs once he's shifted to the lip of the shadow, some sunlight slanting onto him but not enough to bother. "You know what they say about anything that can go wrong," he says, as he rests his hands on bent knees.

The falling temperature does not go unnoticed by the younger man, either. "We should get moving soon, I guess. Keep going, and maybe the change in fucking terrain's… a promising gradient."

A long sigh drives infinitessimal dust across the twisted parts and strands of Teo's electronics project. He's looking down at it again. Moving screws, buttons, corkscrewed wires. His mouth is getting dry again, and the increment since the last time he had tells him that he's dehydrated if not badly. He doesn't ask for another drink of cryo- and hydrokinetically manufactured water. Not yet.

Instead, he agrees, first, always one to be cooperative— unless you happen to work for Homeland Security: "I know what they say. I don't think 'they' conceived of this clusterfuck, though."

He quiets, briefly, into jaws closed, his tongue curling sluggishly across the inside of his teeth, feeling the strip of convex enamel paneling. Concentration knits his brow. The solo live battery turns under his brackishly rimmed fingernail, and conductive gold winks out from between one thumb and forefinger, cleaned off, from spilled acid. Naked wire snakes out in the grasp of his other. "I'd've died for them. I know you understood the risks and shit, but—

"I dragged your girls into it, too." And I'd hate me for that, is the line hazed and chickenscratched in between the ones that were spoken aloud. Teodoro would apologize, undoubtedly, if he weren't saving it for the next turn for worse.

It's still coming. You don't have to have intuitive aptitude to intuit that much.

Gabriel turns his head to look back towards Teo, expression mask-like and— not any different to how he's been expressing himself in the past 12 hours, really. But there's tension, there, as they come to acknowledge exactly how deeply they both, they all failed, and Gabriel steers his attention forward once more.

"They understood the risks," he says, voice halting and words clipped, consonants harsh and vowels round in his usual way of talking, but tension making it more so.

He also doesn't sound happy in defending Teo, especially when the man is all but asking him not to. But they did understand the risks. Implying that they didn't would put Gabriel as much at fault as Teo, or so goes the serial killer's logic. It was what he had sought for when he'd cornered Gillian about this stupid mission. It was why he'd agreed.

"If there's anything worth moving towards, I can probably find it," he says, voice rough from thirst and tiredness, words scraping out of his throat reluctantly. "There are birds, out here. You should…" A glance to the mess of plastic and metal in Teo's hands. "…keep fixing the radio."

There's a pause, and there will be nothing Teo can see, no visual cue of Gabriel reaching out towards the birds, just his eyes going a little glassy, but his face is turned from the man anyway. A little slower, he adds, "We all failed each other, Teo. I can't blame you without getting some on me too." There's a hint of wryness in his voice, coupled with bitterness but any humour is good, maybe, in this situation.

At the mention of birds, the line of Teo's neck twitches, threatening to swing his gaze right back on the other man. However, he is kind of in the middle of a thing, so his face stays pointed downward, still set in that look of hardened, dust-rusted concentration. Whereas Gabriel's expressions are masks, his expressions are and remain looks. His acknowledgment of practical recourse stays nonverbal.

"Contrary to popular opinion, no— " a brief cough. "Nothing helps self-loathing.

"Not even spreading it around." Turned away, Gabriel can nevertheless hear the ghost of an answering smile. Marbled irony and recrimination do not make humor any more palatable, but humor makes the rest easier to swallow. He hasn't forgotten, though it is a blur. That he'd abandoned Eileen topside, stepped around Gillian's seizing, refried corpus to reach the disheveled redhead in the doorway.

'Course, Gabriel had merely left Fido there, himself. Strange how that works out. Teodoro merely bears a few extra ounces of guilt for having fostered affection for more of them. "What a— ?"


At first, Teo isn't sure he heard right. He taps the wire down against plate once again, without feeling. Click.

Even in the soupy stress of pushing his mind across miles of desert, Gabriel can hear it, ringing, the report of live circuitry despite the stripped-down simplification of parts and that the speaker is near the same ruin as the microphone. One invisible electromagnetic wavelengths eddy out into stale and scalding air. Teo's eyes go huge; threaten to go sideways, but he doesn't. He's mumbling something now. Nonsense. Italian. Unintelligible: indistinct, not quiet, mostly to himself, organizing deliriously fatigued neuronfire into some semblence of useful thought. Message. He hadn't thought of a good—

Click click. Click-click-click. Morse.

Bleating out tinny, nigh pathetic, before a sudden spark spits up out from underneath his knuckles; gold shimmers into an ooze, and a tiny puff of burnt rubber stench aborts the effort into stagnant silence.

The corner of Gabriel's mouth lifts in a sort of cynical half-smile that doesn't reach his eyes, and doesn't even go seen, but it's something. And then, they're focusing on their tasks, Gabriel's unseeing eyes sliding half-hooded, back straight as if he were meditating, which he is in a way. Finding serenity in ignoring his own body, the agony of his ribcage, the dehydration even he can't fix, the fatigue.

Flying. The stretch of eternal sky. Miles and miles of red desert.

His head twitches a little when Teo's efforts find some reward, eyes opening a fraction in his aborted glance, but he says nothing, just listens to the eager clicking, and then the death of the device in Teo's hands, the final guttering of electricity before silence takes over.

Meanwhile, a corner of his mind is circling around a carcass. His heart starts to hammer a little harder in his chest, back beneath the rock beside Teo, and tries to focus. He doesn't raise his hands in a witch's summoning, but he does send out instruction, a basic instinct. Keep flying. Find them.

"What was that?" Gabriel asks, voice serene, as if he were talking from a million miles away.

Volumes of disappointment are compressed into the flat of Teo's tone: "It died." As first drafts go, that answer isn't a terrible one but he left some important shit out. It takes him a moment to realize this, and when he does, it's with a blinky scowl of irritation and drag of blunt nails across the increasing stubble on his jaw. This does little more than to jam some dirt further toward his cuticles and mix a little into his increasing beard. "It worked. Few seconds.

"I got a few words out. 'Sylar,'" a quaver-beat's pause of consternation, apology, or both; it's just shorter and more distinctive than Gabriel, "'Teo,' 'red desert.'" Except it ffucked up" another cough goes rattling through his airways, riding a kahuna of stray sand and its own dessication. "Fucked up on the last word. I…

"Are you getting anything?" He moves, finally. Falls forward onto his hands, one bare and the other still bizarrely gloved in spite of the weather, crawls his feet out in front of him, awkwardly, kicking through what are now truly useless parts and much to the whinging relief of his back.

He might be angrier if he was really attached to himself right now. Instead, Gabriel just lets out a soft snort and doesn't immediately answer Teo, jaw clenching. It's better than nothing, in the grand scheme of things. 'Red des' can't be too hard to understand, and once they do, it's a better description than simply 'desert'. After a while, Gabriel finally notes, "You should have left out my name." Either one. "Wouldn't have mattered."

Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and he can hear that Teo's heart rate is still climbing back down from the sudden shock and leap of hope. "Nothing familiar," he answers, head tilting up a little, eyes still unseeing. Many bird minds are alike, but there are distinct qualities. Predators, scavengers. Nesters, migrators. But this is stranger still.

Especially with what the bird itself is seeing and wanting. "Only seen antelope on the Discovery Channel," he clarifies. At least, that's what the mess of limb, bone and half-eaten flesh had vaguely resembled.

"Woul— will to Eileen and Gillian." Teo manages to say that with complete, factual conviction and yet, at the same time, harbor an audible wobble of rancor. The peace of mind of two women versus their survival— all right, he might have traded for that. Still, there's a balance to this, sort of: he thought he could afford to spare an extra word for sentimentality, given that there are birds in survival's corner. The birds.

Also, this just in: antelope. Hey.

What. Insipidly, Teo blinks. He's in the middle of stretching his back muscles now, blunt fingers and square knuckles pushed into his own spine and the stiff crook of his hip, trying to reconfigure his anatomy into human shape. "Annelope," he repeats, thickly. He feels like his whole brain hit a loop around that word. Antelope. Antelope. Bigger than a bird; maybe big enough to eat.

It is like squeezing your eyes real tight to wish for a pony, and getting a pink velociraptor outfitted with a saddle and bridle instead. Is this awesome or shitty? Fuzzily, he suggests: "Mmmmaybe we should head that way."

The vulture Gabriel is currently cruising might have an opinion on that one. The answer being: awesome, belly full of sun-warmed flesh and blood. Gabriel isn't so convinced, giving a small and silent shake of his head. "I'm telling it to keep flying," he says. The vulture, not the dead antelope. We haven't quite hit that side of heat stroke and starvation, yet.

"This obviously isn't America." A note of irritation in his voice. Thanks again, Pete, you're the best. Asshole. "If I had to guess, I— "

And that's about as far as he gets. Never mind what Gabriel sees or hears. What Teo sees and hears is nothing in particular, and perhaps there's the faintest blip of sound in the far, far distance, barely even perceptible as anything but a disruption of silence without definition.

It's a gunshot. A good hike away.

But that might get lost in the mix when Gabriel suddenly jumps like an audience member of a horror film during when the psycho with the knife punches through the door. One leg kicking out from beneath him and sending out a spray of red sand where his ankle drives a trench through it. A single convulsion, like an electrical shock, gone in the next moment, and he's lucky rather than sharp to not crack his skull against the boulder they're sheltered against.

His eyes are open. Alert, now, blinking rapidly. "Think I— found something. People."

It does get lost in the mix. Teo's up on his feet in a second, his ginger efforts to get comfortable without poking any of his parts beyond the circumference of boulder's shadow. He reaches out to help, as per character. The flex and seizure of Gabriel's shoulder bounces hard off the heel of his hand, his fingers curling shut on nothing but empty, dry air.

There's distinct relief on his face when Gabriel turns to square the Sicilian back into his field of view. It's good that his eyes are open, now, alert and blinking rapidly. He knows just a little bit about creature telepaths. How that can, occasionally, go wrong for the human mind. Lucky that it isn't that. Luckier and luckier.

A gap cracks in between his lips, astonishment writ clear across his sunburned features. "People? Fucki— people?" he repeats, a question mark tone to offset the guttural dehydration that clots his voice. His heel knocks into the butt of his fallen rifle as he struggles to his feet. "Where?"

Slower does it, Gabriel climbs to stand as well, fingers seeking purchase in the rock and stealing his coat out from beneath it, with a hiss of sand falling out of the crevices between thread, but not all of it. Never fucking all of it. His entire body aches with abrupt movement after so many hours of curling up and not dying, and he's slow to rise. Hands on his knees with a corner of his coat caught between fingers, then finally, his back straightens, Gabriel blowing out a breath as he's finally upright.

He's overdressed for the desert, sleeves rolled up almost past his elbows. A broken watch around his wrist. A woolen jacket in his grasp. Sand paints itself on every inch of him, or so it feels, in his eyes, his mouth, his hair, beneath his clothing. But there are people and he has to pick a direction, meeting Teo's avid blue eyed gaze as he tries to put to words the sense of direction he'd gotten from the vulture.

He lifts an arm, points. "That way." It might seem that he could well just be guessing, with the abrupt decision and seeming randomness of his choice in destination. Gabriel glances down towards the gun lying abandoned between them, and nods. "Bring that."

Then, he's walking. It can't be this simple.

After hours of keeping his hands meticulously out of the blood of the African earth so that he had reasonably cleanly implements to work with, it's a little frustrating at how quick and easy it is for Teo's sweat-stained hands to go to a state of filth. Some delirious scrambling, scratching at the ground, snagging at the strap of the rifle, a palm out to catch his balance. Red crumbs cake in. Instantly, he looks like a tot who's been wallowing around in the dirt for hours.

It's a staggered couple of jogged strides catching up— he is after all a few inches shorter, and his legs and strides proportionally stumpier for it. The weight of weapon and outfit don't help, either, a sacrifice of comfort and pain made for a modicum of safety. His vest dangles from hand, khakis kicking through a vivid plume of dust, acquiring a cast of color closer to it as it goes.

Naked wire and shattered plastic stay embedded in the boulder's shadow behind them: the radio abandoned.

"Were— " Unbelievably, Teodoro hesitates to ask this as much because of manners as because dehydration is cutting his voice to ribbons. Sheepishly quizzical, he pitches a glance sidelong and up a little, at Gabriel's severe profile. "Were they — black?"

All things considered, it's better than the future. Or the past, for that matter. A matter of distance and geography is fathomable, compared to time travel, and it helps. Helps put one foot in front of the other, anyway, even as boots sink into soft, red dirt, even as the sun continues to prickle down and make skin raw. Gabriel glances at Teo and his question, and nods once.

In this desert, they might not be so far behind in terms of skin colour - this place bakes people. But at least the fall of late afternoon steals away some of the severity. "They had guns," he adds, simply. They're not in the stone age, at least.

On and on until the boulders are blips in the distant horizon, or perhaps more accurately, until the two men traveling from the boulders are faint, tiny as ants from where the rocks will remain for however long it takes for them to be ground into sand from the brutal beatings of wind over the years.

Already, the flaking painting on the other side of the rock formations is beginning to weather away, has been for a long time. Time and space may matter to the two men who had occupied its shadow, but out here, well. Time is relative, and so is the future.

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