Express Yourself


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Express Yourself
Synopsis After Aida, Eileen comes clean with Gabriel about her sickness.
Date June 21, 2010

Battery Park City

It isn't an expensive hotel. Any place that charges triple digits for a room exceeds the Remnant's paltry budget, and while the Speakeasy is one of the cheapest establishments in Brooklyn, it's also where Eileen had her last encounter with Sylar and therefore no longer in the running. Instead, what she and Gabriel have to settle on is a small inn in Battery Park City that looks out over the North Cove Marina and the dark shape of Staten Island looming unlit in the distance across the water.

Eileen's shrewdness ensured that they got a little more than they're paying for. As she draws the curtains to soften the harsh nighttime glow of the streetlamps outside, she pauses to tease the fabric between her fingers. Like the sheets on the bed and the towels in the bathroom, it feels heavy and dense, not entirely unpleasant to the touch. Hardwood floors eliminate the need to scrutinize stains on the carpet because there isn't any except for a wool throw rug at the foot of the bed where she slipped out of her shoes and coat.

There isn't a television set, either, and maybe that's one of the things that drew her to the inn in the first place. It's quiet out here. After curfew, the sound of traffic has tapered off to nothing, leaving only the whisper of water lapping against the marina's concrete pier to interfere with any attempts at sleep they might make.

He's on the edge of the bed, trying to will away three hours of physical tension he may have otherwise denied had anyone asked. It's not as though Gabriel doesn't go out in public — sometimes he can even relax. Perhaps there's something about being one of the crowd that makes him nervous as opposed to being oh so important and wanted, one of the penguins in his nice suit and tie. The jacket half was shed almost as soon as they made it in, the tie quick to follow, whispered out of his collar and cast aside.

But he still hasn't dropped his face, hidden behind pale blue eyes and square jaw, the mousey curls of brunette hair, and an otherwise similar build if stockier with age. Gabriel— or Craig— has an ankle cast up on a knee as he works off his elegant shoes, shiny patent leather and formal laces.

His coat is hanging by the door, the lapel open enough to show off the mildly frayed medal he'd been given, otherwise hidden when actually worn. If it wasn't for that and other cues Gabriel wouldn't identify as fast as Eileen, it might be unclear as to who she's sharing a room with.

"Did you like it?" Eileen asks from the window without turning around to look at him. His view of her, if he cares to look, is from the back with fewer details to pick out. The bare slope of her neck and the clasp that fastens the string of pearls at her throat. Dark hair twisted into a knot at the back of her head, white gardenia tucked behind one pale ear, its lobe studded with an even paler orb that matches the glimmering droplets of her necklace.

Her dress, like her discarded shoes and coat, are black — and so is the zipper that follows the curve of her spine and ends a few inches above her tailbone. It's not, however, one that he's seen her in before, either because she didn't own it until recently or the steamer trunk she keeps at the foot of her bed back at the Dispensary is deeper than it actually looks.

There's no need to turn on the cast iron radiator under the window. The night outside is breezy, warm without the sticky kind of humidity that plasters clothes to flesh and makes palms sweat.

Formal black socks are peeled off his feet, nudged aside, and lastly, his waistcoat is shrugged off and set aside, hands up to unbutton the fastenings just beneath his chin before he's sliding a glance towards her. Gabriel is considering lying back and staring at the ceiling, to see if there are watermarks for all that everything else is clean, but instead is drawn to his feet with the deliberation of a puppet on strings. His changed image ghosts in the window, or what she can see of it with the curtains mostly drawn, starkly white in contrast to the deep charcoal of his dinner jacket.

The minnow tab of the zipper to her dress is toyed with, a tug as light and nagging as a breeze pulling loose her done up hair. "It was pretty," he suggests, and by now, his voice has transformed along with his body, familiarly graveled and deep. "I don't think it was all you had hoped it to be."

Down an inch, goes the zipper, Gabriel glancing over the top of her head to the opaque reflection of her face just visible. He, himself, is not as clean shaven as Craig had been.

Eileen is more ashen than she's been in a long time. It had been the same when he pulled her out of the bathwater, and when they'd laid on the cracked pavement in Midtown, bathed in firelight with debris raining down around their ears while buildings smoldered around them and a distant incarnation of Allen Rickham crackled and burned. She wasn't able to touch him then, but nothing happens when she reaches up and places her hand atop his, touch smooth and cool.

Her thumb traces the shape of his index finger along the edge before skipping affectionately across his knuckles. "I went to a doctor," aren't the words she'd intended to say when she opened her mouth, but there they are, and after she's said them she's surprised to discover that they aren't accompanied by a stab of regret. If anything suffers from this small admission, it's her prickling pride.

There's a slight hitch in his breathing — rather than instinct or unconscious display of emotion, it had enough vocalisation flagging with it to indicate it as, just barely, a willing response. Mm. Gabriel's attention drops to study the crown of her head as opposed to the shape of the white flower she wears in her hair. "The doctor didn't fix you," he notes, and there's a raspy little metallic sound as the zipper tab eases down another inch or two, more suggestion than demand, or—

Maybe not even that, as it eases back up along a couple of the metal teeth, hand dropping to settle on her hip. "How long have you been sick?"

"I don't know." When the fingers abandon the zipper at her back, Eileen's hand does not follow his to her hip. She folds it across her chest above her heart, rolling one of the pearls between her nails as if to distract herself, but there's no distracting her from his presence, the warmth of his body or the warm pressure of his palm bringing her comfort.

She leans against him, eyes straight ahead and focused on their reflection in the glass rather than the streetlamps or the waterfront behind it. "After the storm. I tried to tell you before, but Jensen—" Jensen and Teodoro, though the latter half of this particular combination goes unspoken. It wasn't that long ago. "Don't leave. Please."

His other hand settles to mirror the first as if in silent confirmation that he's not going anywhere, tangible through her clothing with warmth radiating from deep in his torso to warm her shoulderblades. In the opaque reflections in front of him, dark eyes regard her brighter ones, as much as the light behind them guarantees that all they can stare at each other soulfully with are deep shadows beneath strong brows, small stern mouths.

Lowering his head, Eileen will see Gabriel close his eyes. Takes a breath of whatever she uses to condition her hair, the gardenia, whatever underlying scent that she takes with her always, the tinge of stale smoke covered by perfume.

She'll feel his breath against her skull when he talks, gives his diagnosis; "It's not the flu. Or anything else that wants to go anywhere." His hands tighten a little on her slender hips — this is neither good nor bad news, not when it comes to her condition, but it's something.

The amount of relief it provides Eileen is fractional, and that's something, too. She still has a lot of things to worry about, but infecting Gabriel or the others with whatever it is that's crippling her isn't one of them. Her hand drops from her chest and follows the length of his arm, fingers closing around his wrist as an involuntary tremor passes through them. Instinctively, her grip tightens, though not enough to pinch his skin through the fabric of his shirt.

Her back connects with his chest and she lifts her chin to brush her nose along the lower half of his jaw. Lips have never been as cold as her hands or feet before. They are now.

"Can we fix it?"

He blinks — nervous, twitchy movements, though nervous only in imitation. Gabriel is thinking, despite distractions like her body shaping against his, the movement of air flagging her words and the cold tip of her nose bumping against the subtly bristled underside of his jaw. "I don't know," he answers her, honestly, although his flat tone of voice is designed to indicate that he doesn't think she's dying. Or maybe he's not looking that closely. No one really wants Gabriel Gray to look very closely.

"You haven't told the others," is not a question, not really, looking down at her through the lower tier of eyelashes, head still held high and more watching their makeshift mirror than her.

"No," Eileen says against Gabriel's neck. "I don't think I'll need to." Her own jaw is suddenly very firm, muscles tense all the way through her narrow shoulders and concave back. At such close proximity, the thin sound of her breathing tells him things that he can hear even without the aid of his ability, and none of them are any more optimistic than his initial assessment.

Lights sweep across the marina outside, lamp glancing off the inky water, a small yacht coming in to dock. Bran watches the street below so Eileen doesn't have to. It's not as safe here as it is back at the Dispensary, but security alone isn't everything, and there's no reason their enemies should be able to find them here as long as they're only staying for one night.

"I can't see you very well anymore." Her free hand lifts, lays a soft palm across his cheek. "Do you remember when I asked you— if anything were to happen to me—?"

There's a soft surge of a reaction, minor frustration in the way Eileen is turned in his arms, driven back against both stone cold radiator beneath the window and the curtain draped glass itself. It's not rough, no intent to cause injury or even scare her, not like he has in the past — but Gabriel brackets her there all the same, and it's possibly uncomfortable. "I remember," is muttered, a hand settled at the nape of her long neck. "Your Ferry."

It's been a source of tension before. A sneer at the grave of Sonny Bianco, careless shrugs in the past, a blithe dismissal of those too weak to fend for themselves. Little has changed. "And what about me?" At this angle, they should be looking at each other. Are. Gabriel's eyes, at least, are focused.

"If I die?" Their silhouettes present a very different picture to anyone looking up from the street, but being judged by strangers in the dark is not among Eileen's myriad concerns. Both his hands have found his face, and she sweeps dark curls away from his brow with her fingertips, smoothing them behind his ear. While she might not be able to see very well, she can feel just fine, and the contours of his cheekbones are as familiar to her as their pronounced appearance.

"You live the rest of your life, however long or short it is, knowing my heart sought no other direction." She kisses his chin, his jaw, both corners of his mouth. "As long as there is breath in me, you are loved." Her forehead rests against his, and although he can smell the wine on her, sweet and earthy, he's seen her drunk on champagne before, knows this isn't that. She's sober.

"I've a loose floorboard in my room," she murmurs into him. "What's underneath is as much for you as it is for them. More. All you have to do is lift it."

Eileen drunk on champagne is a lack of caution in her words, and he can hear caution in these ones. Or care. "Bigger things have tried to kill you," Gabriel mutters, voice low and dry in his throat. "And failed. You shouldn't make plans." Larger hands come up to circle warmly around her wrists, easing her hands down so that when he does step back, it doesn't feel as abrupt as it might look. He backs up, but like he silently promised, he's not going anywhere.

His bare feet navigate him for the bed, a hand up to itch through the ink dark hair at the back of his skull. "If something happens to you, that's all you want me to do?"

"I want you to have what's there," Eileen corrects him without any reproach in her tone, and when he moves away from her she opts not to follow, lingering by the window with her back to the radiator. One hand goes to its coils, the other to the sill behind her. "To keep or to put in someone else's hands. Whatever decision you make, I'd never have held it against you."

The abrupt realization that she's referring to herself in the past tense causes Eileen to pause, dark brows knit together as she lowers glassy eyes to the floor. "It's only a precaution, Gabriel. Insurance."

Even if her eyesight wasn't hazy, the glance downwards will hide the way he sneers in response to her change of language. The sound of the bedsprings when he takes up his seat at the edge of the bed again, and he doesn't offer her assurance either way. She probably knows, anyway — the guy who likes to crack open skulls to take a peek will probably be curious enough to lever up a floorboard and see what's beneath. She probably won't even have to die.

"You could be angrier."

Fingertips skimming along the parallel wall to guide her, Eileen moves away from the radiator and gravitates toward the light leaking out of the suite's bathroom. She knows she's there when the texture of the floor under her bare feet changes from hardwood to tile and her nails come into abrupt contact with the wooden doorframe.

The sink isn't difficult to locate, either, and she comes to stand in front of it, imagining the ceramic bowl, old brass faucets and the cracked mirror positioned above. She knows because she can feel where the surface separates into two pieces when she reaches out to touch it.

"Maybe I am," she says, removing the gardenia from her hair, and for the first time since they started this conversation, her voice is starting to lean that way, though it isn't necessarily directed toward him. "Would it be better If I expressed myself?"

He watches that careful track around the room, hunched over against his knees with an expression that might imply seeing something for the first time. Gabriel remembers, too, when his own eyes had been stolen from him, a hopeless kind of situation that seemed almost as bad as that time when he'd only had augmenting (but not as bad as that, but that's relativity for you). Behind her, she will hear the way the mattress groans and shifts beneath his weight, but his voice sounds more or less the same in proximity.

Monotone and resentful dullness. It might not necessarily be directed toward her. "It could help. You finding a way out of this or me knowing what's going on."

Eileen wedges her nails under the crack in the mirror and pulls back with her fingers, efforts rewarded by the sound of slowly splintering glass like ice floating on the top of a frozen lake beginning to give way under too much weight. Her jaw clenches. With her hair let down, it's difficult for Gabriel to see the expression her face has adopted except for a sliver of flat mouth visible through brown-black ringlets contrasting starkly with the paleness of her exposed skin, her bare arm scissor-bent with rigid determination.

The edge is sharp. She might stop if she could see the blood starting to gather under her fingernails or she might not. That it hurts is usually the first sign to relent, but Eileen does not. "I told you I saw a doctor."

"Too late," he snaps, and it seems like only then he's registering the sound of cracking glass, something going on more than just her sharp-edged words and his own exasperation manifesting in a flare up of his own easily accessed temper.

Survival is important — sometimes it's all they have. It doesn't make sense, to just be sick— But these thoughts and more are left uncommunicated when she will hear him leave the bed, bare foot step towards the bathroom. He stops in the door's frame, gaze hawkish and reflection one of tangible tension.

Whatever adhesive holds the mirror's pane to its back is stronger than Eileen's nails are. They're the next thing to give, and it's this rather than the blood on her fingers that presses the first cathartic hiss is out her. The crack spreads through the mirror, forking out in different directions toward the base, but a hooked hand alone is not enough to separate glass from wood without help from a tool that won't sting and bleed when put to work. She's not a crowbar.

When she extracts her nails from the crack, she leaves a wet smear on the surface and drops her hand back to the sink. Beads of red form on the counter and around the drain as she feels around the ceramic lip and the unpolished faucets, fingers eventually closing around the dish the soap is kept in.

Business is slow at the inn. There are no neighbors on either side to investigate the jarring crash that booms through the suite's bathroom, or put in a call to management downstairs. The first blow makes a spider web of the pane. The second rains down tinkling shards of reflective glass. She's readying a third before they've even finished falling.

His palm claps against the back of her wrist, her thin arm jerked down, around, up to bundle tight and uncomfortable against her back even as his other arm finds a more loving tactic of snaking around her waist and holding her still. As opposed the ghostly opaque reflection shimmering in a window, the hanging fangs of mirror shards offer only slices and suggestions and otherwise, unpainted mirror backing that makes the room seem smaller. His breath is hot near her ear.

It's helpful in that there's really no more glass worth shattering, and she'd be breaking her hand against the flat wood. He can feel her heart beating through her back, against his chest.

"Sorry," seems lame, but it's muttered anyway. He's not good at this. He'll never be good at this. He's not sure what to do with a dying girlfriend and no immediate thing to point a concussive blast at. But it's not bad to see her angry too.

The dish, sans soap, clatters against the tiles at Gabriel's feet, wrested from her grip when he twisted her arm behind her back. Her lower stomach tenses against the arm at her waist, and as his breath is curling in her ear, she throws back her shoulders and arches her spine, heels raised off the floor. A larger woman would have him up against the towel rack this way, but Eileen weighs less than a hundred pounds. He isn't going anywhere.

Her face is wet, hot, skin clammy where tears have plastered her hair to her cheeks and brow. There's spittle on her upper lip.

The keening moan rising up from the pit of her sounds more animal than human, all bared teeth and fishhook claws. Gabriel's lucky that he has her in a position where she can't sink them into him. For all her anger, she's mourning too. Grief makes her body tremble and her breath snag in her throat. While screaming might help her this out of her system, she seems to be making a conscious effort not to.

There's a delay between the pressure of her throwing her weight back, and when Gabriel does drive backwards — it's of his own will rather than her's. Her arm is released but her body is not, both of his coming to hold her. Blood smears on his white shirt. There is little gentle about this embrace, but it's steady and firm. If Gabriel has any competence in generousity, he can at least lend a solid kind of strength, to attack or to lean against.

There is honesty, in a broken mirror and the smeary warm moisture on her paler skin, the compulsive shudders up and down her spine. You don't need intuitive aptitude to find something wrong with her, but you might need more than that to say what it is.

Gabriel's back is to the wall. Eileen's feet are suddenly braced against the bottom of cabinet doors under the sink. With both his arms around her and no hands holding hers behind her back, she's free to coil her blooded fingers around him, broken nails clawing at the material of his shirt. It's good that his grip isn't gentle; if he didn't have a stiff hold on her, she'd be on the ground instead of writhing in the protective circle of his arms and burying her face in the warmth of his shoulder.

That it ultimately doesn't make a difference — darkness is darkness — sends a furious twitch of frustration through her lower limbs and she lashes out at the doors with her feet. Shallow, rasping gasps fill Gabriel's ears. The only benefit to her condition, if it can be considered a benefit at all, is the limit it imposes. She's quickly running out of oxygen to fuel the explosion, strength sapped away by shortness of breath. It isn't very long at all until her thrashing slows and the duration of time between kicks grows shorter with each ebbing thrust.

Less than a minute later, she isn't moving at all.

He's already gathering her up by the time she's swooning, hitting the light switch to flick off before her slender legs are hooked up over an arm and her head is left to loll against his shoulder. Gabriel stands there, for a second, judging whether he should be calling an ambulance, leaving her on the door of the Suresh Centre, finding Abigail despite her lack of healing and spiriting away. It is funny how many of these plans end with that, with spiriting away.

Does none of these things, after some moments of study. His bare feet pick around the slivered shards of glass on the tile, as he makes for the bed in the opening living space. Though she can't feel it, his own heart beats a solid drum in the cavern of his head, hard enough to notice and loud enough to fill his head.

The wounds on her hands are superficial, no permanent damage done. Skin scabs over. Fingernails grow out. Unless whatever it is that's crippling her has an adverse effect on her body's ability to heal on its own, none of what she inflicted upon herself in the bathroom will last.

She's still conscious, alert. Fingers clutch at the collar of his shirt, and she tucks her chin against her collarbone, instinctively making herself small. Smaller. A hand compressed against his chest tries to let him know that she's going to be okay where words fail, and if she could summon the energy a brusque apology groaned out under her breath would probably follow.

A mute murmur instead.

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