Don't Defend It


eileen_icon.gif tavisha2_icon.gif

Scene Title Don't Defend It
Synopsis Eileen asks Tavisha an overdue question, and makes an offer he doesn't refuse.
Date December 13, 2010

Pollepel Island

She thinks that he makes a handsome bird.

But this, like most of her thoughts, she keeps to herself as she loops the leather band around his leg and pulls it tight. If she'd stayed in England, if she'd never left home and Kazimir Volken had never come for her, maybe there would have been a future for Eileen in falconry. "I hope it isn't too uncomfortable," she says to the red-tailed hawk attached to her arm in a quiet voice made soft by something like affection.

Tavisha isn't Gabriel any more than Sylar is, but they're both a part of him, and it's easier to have feelings — although not those kinds of feelings — for him when he isn't the one who tried to separate the top half of her skull from the bottom, and when he's shown her nothing but kindness in spite of what she did.

Some days, like today, it feels like more than only two years ago. The leather strap doesn't have the hooked blade attached to it that was in the drawing she showed him, but Eileen has left Pollepel Island only a handful of times since the beginning of November and returned to New York City twice. She hasn't had the time or the opportunity to realize her vision the way that she's managed to realize Bannerman's.

"I'm worried that it's going to be too heavy," she confides in him. "What do you think?"

Wind whips across the castle's crumbling battlements, and in the sheltered tower pulls flyaway strands of the Englishwoman's brown-black hair from the bun at her nape, which is held in place by two glittering black bobby-pins and a plain gray ribbon the same colour as the high-collared dress she wears under her heavy wool coat of dark navy with burnished brass buttons. The sky outside is pinkest on the horizon and deep indigo above, spotted with stars and what little can be seen of a pale yellow moon illuminating the frost in the trees and the ice that has begun to form on the river's edge.

A few more weeks and everything the light touches will be frozen.

That depends if you want to be powerful, or mean. This is okay.

The voice echoes through her head, probably clearer to her than for most people. Crisper, like winter air, and less echoed and varied — she could almost make note of the subconscious effort to put in some degree of texture, like the voice were truly coming from a throat. One that's spoken a lot, grown a lot, even smoked cigarettes at one point or another, judging from the smokey-rough gravel. I mean, to me. The bird's a little weirded out, he jests, head ducking to experimentally tug at the attachment with his steel-grey beak.

It's nice to help. Even if helping means playing dress up. Searching, restless beak picks at the length of ribbon that flaps into view on her shoulder, but releases it before an errant twitch of his head can tug it loose. Nothing smaller than something like me, though.

"I want to sacrifice as little speed and agility as possible," Eileen says, part in agreement. She runs the ends of the leather strap between her fingers, then reaches up to stroke knuckles along the hawk's neck. "A falcon would be better."

She does not have to speak out loud. Finds herself doing it more often now that she has one less sense to rely on, using the sound of her own voice to ground herself in reality, and while it should be easier to think than it is to form the words with her mouth and actively listen, this is not always true; the physicality of it provides her a superior filter.

One that she's fortunate for, as she lapses into silence and allows the wind whistling through the cracks in the stone to dominate their conversation. The stroking, however, does not stop, though it gentles some, slowing the longer she does it.

"It wasn't like this when you came to New York," isn't a question. "What happened?" is, and her voice is suddenly much softer than her touch.

The hawk might seem furious that she asks him such a question, but don't worry — that's just his face. She can probably feel something different, abstract guilt that might not have much to do with what happened, but his feelings towards it. One eye regards her intensely, head twitching upright from where he'd bowed it to soak up the strokes to his feathered throat. No, he agrees, on the topic of not coming to New York like this, feathers ruffling briefly.

He turns that stare out towards the view available to them. I don't know how long ago it was. Dates, numbers. These things matter less, fly by. As it were. He takes a step more towards her wrist, her arm thin for a human limb, but sturdier than some perches he takes for himself. It was Sylar. We fought, and he sent a concussive blast at me — and it hit me the wrong way, I guess. Those things are dangerous.

I bled, inside. I got as far as Staten Island's Greenbelt before it took me down. I jumped into a bird and— the rest is history. He begins to preen. Maybe he's been a bird for too long to notice the gaping holes of missing information flagging in his story. Maybe.

Eileen remembers broken glass and a door left hanging open. Dead birds with broken necks and wings contorted in the snow. Spots of blood standing out like poppy flowers against pristine white made even brighter by the moon's glow, reflected.

It had been colder then than it is now. The air stung to breathe, almost as painful as it was to move — she still has the scars inflicted by the encounter that preceded it, but does not think about that much. What came after, and how close she came to dying — staying dead — is what keeps drawing her back to that empty car.

She would ask if she wasn't still afraid of the answer. "I could have helped you," she says finally. "You could have come to me."

Tavisha twists his neck enough to look at her down the length of his beak, for all that, if she desired, this gesture would work more like a mirror as opposed to receiving scrutiny. No, and this time, the single syllable is made as it was designed — to disagree. That wasn't the task at hand. I was supposed to protect you. His wings suddenly fan out, showing brown and white patterns unique to his species, his brilliant tail raising an inch as if he were about to launch off her arm, leather-strapped talons tensing.

You were kind of busy. And I was kind of proud. Besides— He resettles, again, wings shifting to press against his small avian body, twitching his hard stare away from her. You can't change the past through the power of could have.

"It was you in Midtown." The first few words are always the hardest. Eileen has to force them out without sounding forced, a faint tremor in a voice that's normally firm with conviction no matter how low the volume. There's a pause, but it's only to make room for a short intake of breath, which powers what comes immediately after. "Outside the Empire State Building.

"You made him stop the car. It's because of me that you don't have a body anymore, isn't it? Because of me that you died."

No. Sylar killed me. My body.

The words shift over one another, wrestling between thought and what is actually desired to be communicated, although which one is which is unclear when it comes to just semantics. Feelings— these are kept closed off, more adept at such a thing when this is Tavisha's only ability available to him. And I wasn't fast enough, or smart enough to stop him.

He stops there, like maybe he knows that there probably won't be much more he can say to convince her. Feathers ruffle in a brief shiver, shuffling and layering together like his own telepathic voice. He buried me. Gabriel. I asked him to.

Tavisha will feel the heat coming off the flare of the self-righteous fury Eileen experiences on his behalf, but it's only just that: a flare, ephemeral, and very, very brief. Not being fast enough or smart enough doesn't excuse it. Displacing the earth with a shovel and then patting it flat again after the work is finished doesn't make the sacrifice any more acceptable.

The emotion swiftly burns itself back to nothing in her breast, leaving Eileen feeling as cold inside as she does outside. If what he can sense had a texture, it would be like wet ash.

She's abruptly sad.

"Don't defend it."

We were probably meant to die anyway.

There's not exactly defense, at least. A nihilistic exculpation. He never said it explicitly, but, we know him pretty well. The hawk face does not allow for a sad, wry smile, but it can be heard in his tone, suggested beneath his words and tremored along their alien empathetic link. His beak comes down on her arm, but it's a friendly kind of nibble, even if that hook of bone-hardness can be felt, designed to tear flesh like a blunt scalpel.

"That he allowed you to be doesn't make it his decision." Unless you're Sylar, which Tavisha is not, and Eileen responds to the nip by raising her wrist and lowering her head to press a kiss to the top of his. Warmth rustles through his feathers; her breath smells like tea without sugar, cigarettes, and the faint hint of sweetness leftover from the sliced pear and honey she last ate, all things that Tavisha can't enjoy anymore. Not the way that he used to.

"We'll make it right again. You'll have hands. Feet. A mouth to talk, remember what words taste like." It's difficult to hug a bird, and a bird would not appreciate the gesture anyway, but Tavisha is a man, and so she does what she's learned Bran will tolerate when there's no one else and she feels the need to make physical contact with someone, tucking the hawk under her chin and cradling him briefly to her chest.

"Would you like mine? Just for a few hours?"

The wave of yes is embarrassingly difficult to hold back on, more eagerness than Tavisha would have liked to betray. It would probably be intimidating if she had less trust in him, and so he takes his time in actually forming words to respond to her with, doing as much as his hawk body allows by way of returning the embrace — it mostly amounts to denying avian instinct in struggling out of it.

Letting go again would be painful, he tells her, eventually. It's not a no, that much she'll readily be able to tell. Just a statement of fact. Not even a warning, that he wouldn't let her go. But just for a few hours…

He could do that. Enough for the novelty.

She does not need to tell him how this works. He's done as much jumping as she has, if not more, and gently she sets him down on the window where his claws can clutch at rock rather than the dense weave of her wool coat at the wrist.

They should lay down some rules, probably. Like Don't do anything to me that I wouldn't but there's a lot that Eileen already does to herself that she shouldn't, and there's a wry twist to her mouth as she pats the front of her coat to make sure she has her cigarettes on her. That they're accessible to him.

"Most people leave me well enough alone," she says. "You shouldn't have to speak with anyone. Gabriel's still sleeping, and I'd appreciate it if you brought me back before he wakes up."

How it works is less about the mechanics behind launching his consciousness from one form to the other, but ground rules. The Cinderella hour of when the excursion ends, Gabriel's waking hours over midnight, and the implication that he should probably avoid speaking to people beneath the idea that he does not have to. Tavisha fidgets his position on the window sill.

I understand, he tells her, gentle consent in contrast to his needle-sharp hawk glare, wings fanning briefly as he restlessly settles them again. He won't go until she tells him to, either.

Eileen leans her back into the wall beside the window, inhales a deep breath of chilled morning air and then lets it out again as a thin stream of fog blown like smoke past her lips. Her eyes close, and she does not grant him verbal permission; it comes instead in a more explicit form as she abandons her body for the hawk's and Tavisha realizes in the same instant that he is no longer alone in his head.

A consciousness doesn't have a physical shape to take up space, and to say that it feels crowded on the windowsill would be inaccurate, but there's nonetheless something very real about the psychic presence fit snug — or at least as snug as psychic presence can be fit — against Tavisha's, enfolding him like a misting rain.

She's smoky and cool.

His departure is birdlike. A subtle shift of psychic momentum when it acknowledges her presence in a suddenly crowded hawk skull, and then a swift launching, a swooping from one body to another. The faculties of the avian body are left to her own devices, vision blurring in the brief hand over of focus and attention. But she'll see, in a way, when her own body is inhabited.

It's been close enough to a year for this to be strange.

Slender legs abruptly collapse, if not daintily or gracefully. Knees kind of catch themselves in a crouch, eyes blind— the blindness is shocking, too, after the accurate vision of the predators he likes to take over— and fingers reaching for nothing. She tips the rest of the way down, landing hard on a hip but not enough to bruise. A hand slaps the ground when she catches her balance.

And then it's a matter of breathing in and out, as Tavisha plays his role in taking over this new shape. Eyes blink and tighten closed, and a guttural, near inhuman sound leaves Eileen's throat, heart thundering in her narrow torso.

It would be stranger for her if she hadn't spent the last few months becoming accustomed to watching herself through the eyes of others and learning to navigate her world from the outside looking in. The hawk flexes its claws and dips its head, beak picking through the feathers of its left wing to ensure they're sitting just right the same way a person might adjust the mirrors of a car or the distance the driver's seat sits from the steering wheel.

Hawks only have one facial expression. This one is no exception, but Tavisha may be vaguely aware of Eileen's concern as she studies him adjust to her body from under the bird's wing. It clicks its beak. If she'd had any notions of taking flight and skimming the river for a few hours, soaring over the frosted treetops, the sound Tavisha is making kills them then and there.

It took her a long time to adapt to not having eyes that work. Let me spot for you.

He remains for a few seconds in this broken doll pose, slowly getting his bearings over the impossibly heavy limbs of a human, all dense bone and thick skin. Land crawlers. I'm okay, he communicates to her, in a voice that is still his own despite the form it comes from, and glassy grey-green eyes try to seek her out. Latching onto the familiar, their shared ability, Tavisha navigates awareness through Eileen's presence, watching himself through her newly attained eyes.

Birds are proud creatures, typically, and the man that took hosts of them throughout the last year had some of that too. He adjusts, now, legs folding into a comfier position, hands braced on the ground and shutting his mouth rather than hanging jaw agape.

A hand comes up, brushes sensitive human fingertips over his newly claimed mouth, feeling soft lips and harder teeth, the tip of mobile tongue with a sense of taste extending beyond hot and cold. He doesn't try talking yet — maybe not at all, and certainly not in the presence of someone else, whether it's Eileen or a stranger. Still, it stands that he is, in the ways that matter, a human. He should grow accustomed. Probably even within a few hours.

I'm sorry about your eyes, he thinks to say, even as he sets about getting to his feet. The heavy coat flaps open and unheeded.

So am I. The hawk's gold eyes fixate on the hand at her body's mouth and it twitches, Eileen unsure how she should be feeling about that. Unsure, also, how this did not occur to her when she made Tavisha the offer to have her for awhile.

She reminds herself that he's part of Gabriel and that makes this slightly more acceptable, though chances are that her reassurance wouldn't have the same effect if it was one of the others. Be careful on the stairs, is the last piece of advice she has for him, at least for now, and the hawk launches itself into flight, out the window without a pane and into the pink morning.

She'll spot for him as she promised, but at a distance. She understands what it is to be proud.

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