eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Enlightenment
Synopsis Two people pick separate fights at the most appropriate venue for it in New York City.
Date June 11, 2011

The Center Stage

The crowd is scattered, discouraging, shallow in the money it'll provide but Gabriel only does things for money occasionally. And besides — he's losing.

Someone who doesn't look like Gabriel— but invariably is— is knocked back against the wire fencing, blood dark on his mouth, staining deep as stark as the spread of tree-tattoo on his back, the curl of ink on his arm. There isn't a cheer or even cries of outrage from the men and fewer women who watch on, reduced to shadows and glittering eyes outside the borders of the fighting ring, the sandy bottom and the bright lights. The kid in the ring, facing off against an older man of indefinite ethnicity, signed off his name as Gabriel, his power simply described as Ice.

The other's described as Agility, and it seems to be tastier and tastier by the second.

Blue glow siphoning off his skin, Gabriel pushes himself back off the fence, hazel eyes watching as his opponant lands from where he'd hung from his hands off the cage ceiling. A stream of iciness makes dust glitter and fall as it streaks across the sand in trajectory towards the other, diving out of the way. In the audience, someone lights a cigarette and leans towards the bookie to mutter something low. Tables are clean off of moisture rings and empty beer bottles.

At least one of the spectators in the crowd tonight has more invested in Gabriel than money, though Eileen would be lying if she tried to claim that the fight's outcome won't determine how much money she leaves the Center Stage with. What isn't a lie is her reason for placing the bet, which has more to do with faith than it does making a profit. She's not the type of person who cheers; she sits instead at one of the tables with a clear view of the ring, and with attendence numbers the way that they are she has it all to herself, a cigarette of her own lit and burning between two slender fingers with the tips resting on the table's surface.

The Triad enforcers assigned to the club's doors are undoubtedly aware that there is a Wanted Terrorist among them, but just as the rules no longer apply in places like the Rookery, New York City's criminal element is usually predisposed to keep quiet with the expectation that people like Eileen will do the same. This aside, she's not actually supposed to be here — or at least the man with the tree tattoo doesn't know she is, and she'd like to keep things that way for as long as possible. Gray wool cardigan, dress and polished leather flats help her blend in with the club's drab slate interior, and with almost everyone else's focus on the ring she is less concerned about being recognized by someone who might do something about it than she is for Gabriel's well-being.

She doesn't like seeing him hurt. Isn't sure she likes the conversation that's happening between the gentleman and the bookie on the other side of the room either, but that's well out of earshot even if the air wasn't singing with the sound of rattling metal.

He's been in enough battles, enough brawls and enough sparring matches to know his way around hand to hand — this does not mean Gabriel is an expert, nor does it mean he can match anyone who is. There's a guttural bellow from his opponent when a hand wreathed in glowing blue finds a clasp on upper arm, leaving behind black marks when the grip is wrenched away. A hit to the face, a kick to the stomach, and other blows that Gabriel can block at best, get hit by at worst, and get pushed back and back either way, off-balance. Frustrated. Eileen can see that much in the way he's baring his teeth, his eyes bright with danger and competition.

A snapping kick drives him to his knees, and his own hand goes out.

His opponent goes rocketing back, feet swept off the ground and body twisting as it flies through the air to hit the fence and land with a thud, dust kicking up. If that wasn't enough to draw attention, the concussive boom that caused it probably did as people twist to look, the room silent. And then grumbled objection, growing like a storm, the bookies in the room looking uneasy because there will be more than a few people demanding money back, or collecting their winnings even if it wasn't done via Ice.

Gabriel spits blood in the dirt and glances towards where Triad enforcement is beginning to sink out of the shadows warily, and it's about then that he knows he won't be earning anything tonight. With a look towards the man he'd been fighting, lying facedown and unmoving, he gets to his feet in the slow, weary way of the beaten, tattoo and bruises and the glaze of blood shifting on his skin over muscles and bone. Without waiting to be prompted, he moves for the cage door, snagging up the crumpled button down he'd dropped on his way in and not yet relinquishing the shapeshifted form of Timothy Lantz while he's still surrounded by people.

Eileen is unsure whether his frustration is a result of the fight itself, or if it's the force responsible for making him enter it in the first place. She knows what some aches feel like and has her own methods of alleviating them, though she doesn't have the luxury of routinely being able to hit things and be hit back. That's for Gabriel and people who are built like him.

She rises from her seat at the table and stubs out her cigarette in the tray provided, leaving a dark smear of ash on metal as the only evidence she was ever there apart from the smell of her lingering perfume, and that will fade before she's left the room. Lantz's shape does not have the same power over her as his natural one, and she is grateful that he isn't distracting her with it, for as much as she dislikes seeing Gabriel hurt, there is something magnetic about it that attracts her to him when he's sweaty and sore.

It's also embarrassing, and although she's incapable of convincing herself these feelings don't exist, she can at least pretend that it's only her head and her heart compelling her to follow him and see where he goes.

A wide berth is given, Gabriel finding he does not need to shoulder his way through the crowd — the house is not packed, and if the man with the ice powers can also rocket someone back via mysterious forces, then it's only a matter of guessing when it comes to what else he can do. One such thing being changing his shape.

Through whatever set of eyes Eileen happens to be using, she can see it as he slips into shadow — his shoulders thicken, filling out the loose garment pulled over and buttoned up with lazy fingers, and scruffy off-blonde hair becomes slicker and darker. She can probably feel his restlessness, wolfish unease, and too self-absorbed, as of current, to mind the nagging sensation of empathic nearness as he moves up the stairs, away from the dark basement that smells of cheap beer and human sweat.

The gym up above does not smell much better, but it's brighter, and emptier, and Gabriel and his eyebrows are back to their normal selves once he's there. Blood is at a steady drip from his mouth with a swollenness coming in as a crescent around an eye, and he doesn't immediately head out into the dark outside, pacing by the lockers and scowling at the scattered few who give him a second glance.

Eileen pursues Gabriel up the stairs, the tips of her fingers skimming along the side rail. She is confident in her ability to navigate her surroundings with the help of a sparrow or two, small and swift enough that they're passed off as tricks of the light by people who chance to see them as they wing through the dark and signal to Eileen that she's reached the top of the steps. She reins in her desire to reach out and soothe with a calming psychic embrace made of positive emotion; the temptation is strong, but not as strong as the part of her opposing it.

If he wants to be angry, then let him be angry. Anger doesn't have to be unpalatable, and Gabriel is entitled to feel what Gabriel wants to feel. She holds back, concealing her presence from him by holding her own feelings close, and reaches into her cardigan for the utility knife she keeps for protection. This game does not have a name, but she's played it with him once before, and while it did not end well then—

She's obviously hoping for a better outcome now because she takes sparrow-assisted aim and hurls it at the wall a few feet from Gabriel's head where the metal lockers end and the plaster begins. The snap it makes when it imbeds itself there is satisfying, if nothing else.

It brings him to a sharp halt, a hawk-like stare fixing on knife vibrating almost imperceptibly. Give it a little more distance to the left, and it could have slid its blade neat enough into the base of his neck, and it's this thought that springs instantly to mind.

She can feel the flare of indulged anger, the same that had sparked with each blow of the super agility wielder before he'd been blown five feet backwards, but at least in this case, he knows who it is by the time the shape of the weapon finalises itself in his perception. Gabriel wears some of his nerves off by taking two clipped steps over and wrapping his hand around the hilt, tugging utility knife out from the plaster with a flex of muscle and dragging it down an inch enough to scar the wall.

Dust is wiped off with the palm of his hand.

"Do you know," says Eileen, "I think the people who feel the most strongly are the ones who show it the least, and you, Gabriel— you're stone." Encouraged by what their empathic link conveys, she wanders a little closer, flirting with the line that divides Gabriel's physical range from the rest of the hall, though she is not quite prepared to cross it yet; the last time they spoke, it was on poor terms and this is still a fight regardless of whether or not there is intention to kill or maim. To be cautious without being timid and brazen without being entirely reckless seems a good strategy, and she stops where she imagines the threshold is.

It is the closest thing to an equalization of power that she can perform with the knowledge that he could, if he really wanted, dispose of her with any number or combinations of the abilities available of him no matter where she decides to stand, but the act of stepping over into her space is as easy as stepping into his. "Are you sure you're finished?"

Invisibility ripples up over Gabriel's shape, until he's a disturbance in the air in the rough shape of a man — until even the blurry, skewed outline of himself smooths out into nothing under the watchful eye of avian companion. But the empathic link remains strong and though she can't exactly use it to pinpoint his specific location, she can at least sense that he hasn't left her here, within close proximity still.

"Why?" His voice echoes clear through the gym, bouncing off the plaster ceiling and the metal lockers. "Did you want to play?"

He is quite suddenly just there, within an arm's length of distance which he uses to some advantage by bringing the knife up in a swung arc as if he would slice it through her jaw — and who knows. Keeping Gabriel around is a bit like domesticating a tiger, a grizzly bear, a killer whale. The threat of turning when provoked always there, no matter how much one has fed, cleaned and trained them.

Eileen's reflexes are snake-quick, though not so fast that she's able to snap her head back and evade the bite of the blade. As the knife comes up, so does her dominant hand; heel drives hard into wrist to deflect its edge, leaving an angry red line across the Englishwoman's cheek — thin enough, shallow enough that she does not realize she's acquired it until the corner of her mouth is filling with blood.

Its sting is not far behind. The next breath Eileen sucks in has a sharp, reedy quality to it, a physical manifestation of the pain that lances through their link in response, and although Gabriel does not experience it as his own he'll feel the injury before the veil of her hair sweeps back far enough for him to see it.

If she didn't want to play, that might be where it ends. Instead, she kicks out at his right leg with her foot in a move designed to bring him to one knee even if anything can happen in the time it takes her to retaliate.

She gets the satisfaction of the sole of his shoe squeaking the clear floor as his weight rocks and twists into the momentum of off-balance, but it doesn't last. He blurs out of sight and into inky black, an amorphous whorling swatch of dark that solidifies again within a few seconds with both his feet on the ground and momentum contrived. Eileen finds herself giving like a bent stalk of grass in a wind when Gabriel's arm finds her shoulder in a gesture that sweeps her aside and should she follow the tug of gravity, into the metal lockers.

The knife is switched from hand to hand in a toss, a pacing, circling quality to the two steps around Eileen's blindside — except she doesn't have one, in the conventional sense of the idea.

The impact of Eileen's body booms through the gym with no one to hear it except for Gabriel. Downstairs, the next fight has already started and the roar of the crowd is a storming ocean in their ears — if they can't even make out what the announcer is shouting over the microphone, then the snarl Eileen coughs up may as well be a single drop of water on the surface of the sea.

She is physically outmatched with or without their abilities, and indoors there's only so much she can do with hers that doesn't involve blowing out the windows. This is the part where she should be showing him her throat like animals do to communicate her surrender — she leans her weight into the lockers at her back and concentrates on refilling her lungs with the air the blow slammed out of them.

Her chest rises, falls, rises, falls, and that's when the locker room lights go out, plunging Gabriel into the same dark that Eileen is forced to occupy. Tiny sparrow feet hooked around the switch on the other side of the room cling to the wall as Eileen is doing the opposite. She slaps both her hands against the lockers, shoving off them and staggers in the direction she remembers the side door being.

It isn't perfect darkness. Light creeps fingers from beneath the steel door that leads into the fighting ring den. Blithe greyness from the lit up city beyond presses in on the windows and highlights the wooden frames but offers little more than that save for formless, sporadic reflections off the painted metal. But it's enough to use, darkness cloaking the windows and the door in time for a hazy, off-yellow beam of hazy light to swing after Eileen's darting form, and come to touchlessly halo around her shoulders, drifting dust-like pixie lights.

She knows he's coming because Gabriel's doesn't cheat, heavy steps pursuing her quicker, slighter steps with longer strides. A fist finds a grip on her coat and a painful errant lock of her hair, released a moment later only when a strong arm cinches hard around her waist as if to bruise. The ground vanishes from beneath her feet, and then comes up again seemingly at an awkward angle when she's let go again in the same way one might release a bird from their cupped palms.

A blow clips her shoulder on the way down, a miss that could have left bruises had it connected properly.

The floor is not quite so kind.

When Eileen goes down, she does not immediately get back up again; she arches her back off up the tile and rolls onto her side, one leg bent and in the process of getting a foot beneath her, but Gabriel's proximity keeps her where she is under threat of further assault. That she asked for this spares him any verbal abuse or hurtful looks of accusation shot at him in the dark — one hand goes out with splayed fingers to hold her upper body off the floor. The other reaches up to smear the blood from the injured side of her face, pale skin discoloured where it coats chin and jaw, thickest around the wound itself with a texture like grease or fluid tar.

Her cardigan hangs off the slope of one shoulder and gathers the fabric in pooling fistfuls around her elbow. The first few breaths she takes from her new vantage point are through an open mouth before she makes the decision to sacrifice ease for dignity by pinching it shut and pulling oxygen in around flared nostrils instead.

She's lost, but her eyes aren't any less bright or full of challenge.

In the swallowing dark, both day to day and to right now, she will count on her hearing. In this case, she can hear the creak of Gabriel's shoes as he moves counterclockwise, and his breathing, and the distant cheering responsive towards some other more high profile battle going on downstairs. Higher stakes and money moving, and spectators. Up here, the fighters can't even see themselves, and noise is dimmed down to the groan of leather and the wisp of air through flaring nostrils, their own heartbeats.

So it might be startling, the clang of metal knife when it drops and bounces dangerously in front of her, landing within reach of her hands set against the hard ground. Whether it's forfeit, or offering her her weapon for continuation is not immediately clear, except that his silence has an expectant, waiting kind of edge to it.

The knife scrapes across the tile in bloodied fingers. Eileen lifts it off the ground, hilt first and blade second, and brings it to her chest. It's not the same weapon she taunted him with before — Sylar still has that — and takes more effort to snap shut again than metal that's had years for her to break in. When she closes the knife, her thumb slips on the catch twice before it locks into place.

Her hand falls back down to rest on the inside of her thigh, knife pinning it there like a lead weight. "You don't," she says in between laboured breaths, voice raspy and haggard, "have even the littlest idea what you do to me."

Now it's a little less ambiguous, his location and what he's doing, as he hedges closer and comes to crouch just by her, the creak of joints and the ease of an exhale that she can register as warmth just near her face. Gabriel feels sore but it's taken note of rather than avoided, loosening the muscles in his neck with a head tilt and eyes beginning to adjust to the darkness. He isn't sure if birds have that problem.

"Then you wanna enlighten me?"

Eileen raises hand and knife, all handle in the closed position, and brings it up against where she imagines Gabriel's jaw is. She's a few inches off in her estimation, but not so far that she can't find his face when she discovers she has to go searching for it. The metal knocks against his cheek, grazes his jaw and follows its curve all the way to the bottom of his chin, which she might lift under one end, angling his face away if she didn't want it so close to her.

If the temptation exists, she resists it and dips the handle down to the hollow of his throat instead. "No," she says, "but I will anyway. That's what you do to me."

Not so bright enough that he can tell handle from blade in the initial touch of metal to his face, but Gabriel doesn't flinch and only relaxes when its bluntness skims down the natural slopes and planes of bone structure, softened with bruises and swelling.

When he goes to kiss her, he does it with caution — seeking out her face with the tips of his fingers and then his palm, the pad of his thumb locations her mouth's corner and presses hard enough that keratin and enamel graze lightly before he does. Kiss her. Pushy enough that her posture may need to reconfigure itself to compensate for lean back, and dull pressure against her grip on the closed knife at his throat. His hand settles around the base of her throat, not so different to the way John Logan had gripped her back in the basement of his brothel, except there is no push of thumb against windpipe, and his fingertips are work rough and broader, blunter.

He tastes tobacco and smoke, the residual blood that's leaked into her mouth from the cut on her cheek. Beneath Gabriel's hand, Eileen's pulse jumps and he can feel her expand with her next breath — her mouth is occupied with his, but he isn't covering her nose and she still needs to breathe, not quite recovered from her collision with the lockers or the floor.

"Your hands are honest," she groans against his mouth, because he does physical things to her too, "your body's honest." She splays her hand across the back of his at her throat, making an ivory starfish of her fingers. An arm hooks around his neck and she grabs a fistful of dark hair at his nape with the other without relinquishing her knife. "All it does is tell the truth. I need you.

"I wear a wedding band and I'm not even married. Why do you think I could just leave?"

"Our son's a harbinger of the things to come. The things we can change and the things we can't."

Gabriel's hand curls beneath her's, fingernails at a tingling scrape across her neck. A subtle shift tests the grip of her hand in amongst his hair, but doesn't shake it. "We love him but we also die. You come back fragmented and mad. You challenged me— about how much I could help, and you're right. Maybe that's your fate and there isn't anything I could do to help you. Look at Tavisha. If that's the case…" It's a tsk kind of sound he makes, leaning back against her hand, away from the kiss. "What good are we really creating here, together?

"You aren't happy." It sounds like accusation, but it's not — it's impossible to escape when you live with someone, truth like that, even beyond their empathic capability.

The hand covering Gabriel's snaps quick across his cheek in a slap that's sharp and stings more than it actually hurts. "Stop it," hisses out through her teeth, and she grips his chin hard with her fingers. "If I'm going to die, then I want this. For as long as I can still have it." She closes her eyes out of habit and an obscure fear that Gabriel will see the fear behind them if she doesn't. Swallowing causes physical discomfort.

"When I thought you were gone it stripped me down to nothing. I put whatever I could find back on my bones so I could go on pretending I was a person for everybody else, but there wasn't anything inside. Cut flowers. Classes in music and political science. Plans made for other people down to the finest detail because the grief of losing you was so fucking precise I needed somewhere to channel it.

"You think this is unhappiness? The next time you see Sylar, you ask him."

He is still and tolerant beneath Eileen's hand, until she's done, then Gabriel doesn't waste time in shifting away enough to knock her holds loose as his hand retracts. Light floods harsh and sudden into the room in the time it'd take to blink, an editing cut in time-space wherein Gabriel is pacing away from the light he's switched back on to illuminate the near-empty gym space.

All the bruises are visible, now — the beating he took downstairs isn't flaring up under Eileen's puppy swat blow but they are taking on colour, as these things do, and she has a mess of blood smeared on her face from the paper thin slice drawn into her face.

She can also see— what passes for seeing— his tension and restless energy, although perhaps it should be sated. He might have won hand-to-hand with the bird girl, if not monkey boy. "I think we can do better," he says, eventually. "I think we have time to try. I'm going back downstairs, if you wanted to watch me win this time."

Watching him win will have to suffice — she doesn't have any money left to place any bets. "Yes," she says anyway, because the money isn't what's important. Eileen pockets her knife and stands, fingers tugging at coat and cardigan to cover up her shoulder. This is one of the last places in New York City where someone might ask her if there's anything they can do for her face, and blood does not make as much of a mess when it's dried. She can afford to wait until they're back at the Dispensary or somewhere in between to clean out the cut and bandage what needs bandaging.

"Wu-Long's," is her suggestion, not that he's asking her for it. "Call it Shadow Mimicry. They won't know the difference."

He opens the door, and by the time fresh, gentler light is spilling in, Eileen again will note the shift of his form — rougher, greying hair slithers into something truer and darker. His clothing shifts from dark cotton into black leather, this form one of vapid illusion as opposed to flesh-changing, and Zhang Wu-Long glances back at her to see if she's following or not. Gabriel doesn't manipulate this face into doing something so crass as to smile at her, or tip her a familiar wink. That's the game of another one of him.

Out of the room and down the stairs as graceful as the form he'll be claiming to mimic tonight, leaving her to make her own way down so that later, they'll make their own way back together.

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