eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif tavisha2_icon.gif

Scene Title Familiarity
Synopsis Gabriel agonizes over something found in the pages of a book given to him by a stranger. Tavisha and Eileen attempt to provide him with some guidance.
Date March 23, 2010

Old Dispensary: Ground Floor

It's early enough for it still to be dark, with the beginnings of morning shouldering in through high windows and the frosty cold of ridiculous-o-clock slowly thawing, if not by much. When Eileen pushes a hand to his side of the bed, it's empty if still warm. He probably hasn't gotten that far yet. And it's true. Downstairs, down down, the icy chamber of the dining room with a hearth bearing the eaten wood and pale ash of last night, and Gabriel could well be a corpse upon something between an examination table and an open casket.

Just the dining table, the full length of his body sprawled on the flat, hard surface, ankles crossed and one arm lax across his midsection, the other partially raised so that he can observe what's in his hand. Old jeans are recently pulled on, feet bare, and a grey sweater buttoned near the throat aren't quite warm enough, but comfortable enough. His eyes are almost half shut as he studies the photograph he rotates in his hand.

Bespectacled boy riding a bigwheel. Address in Baltimore. Bespectacled boy riding a bigwheel. Address in Baltimore.

These things printed on each side of the slip of cardboard pass across his vision by now without really seeing, because he's certainly studied both things enough. The birding book lays on the table beside his hip, and perched on the chairtop nearest his head, a downy woodpecker cocks its head and stares a beady eye down on them. The sussurus of telepathic communication spills out enough towards Eileen's senses, presses in like a conversation you have no choice but to eavesdrop on.

…too much to do here.

A sense of grudging agreement. A flicker of argument.

You don't know anything.


Believe me when I say that digging up the past isn't all it's cracked up to be. And you don't even know

Irritation, followed by a sense of dismissal.

Well excuse me for breathing.

It might take a few moments to realise that that familiar, gravel voice is not coming from the man laid out on the table, but the little bird just next to him, and those vague, impressionistic notions echo from the human-shaped of the pair.

She'd pulled on one of his shirts and her black silk robe, tied the sash at her waist and descended the attic stairs first, followed by the stone steps that lead from one floor to the next and feel like ice on Eileen's bare feet. Lately, her morning ritual has included the preparation of tea and coffee in the kitchen along with a meager offering of fresh fruit and cold rice pudding with heavy cream for breakfast, but finding Gabriel on the table drives a wedge between the Englishwoman and the cast iron stove that she'd been looking forward to warming herself in front of.

She's not sure what surprises her more: the fact that he's still here when she expected him to be gone, or the black-and-white bird with a scarlet crown hooking its diminutive claws around the back of the chair near his ear. Tavisha's one she hasn't met yet, and the smile that creases her mouth is shy and tentative as she approaches the table on feet as silent and stealthy as an owl's wings carving through the dark.

Her right hand, sutures and all, glides up Gabriel's chest and settles at his shoulder when she comes to a stop on the side of the table opposite the woodpecker and bends down to press a kiss to the top of his head, her breath ruffling warmth through his dark mane. It's how she says good morning, but to Tavisha she asks: Is he all right?

Gabriel stirs to life only when her hand finds his chest, that dim, trance-like glow to his eyes fading out enough for him to turn his head towards her. The photograph slips against his palm and pushed facedown against his stomach in some instinctive need to hide it — not even necessarily from her. An extension of private thoughts as much as Eileen has been privvy to one side of them. His eyes slip closed as if he were still half asleep, though his hand seeks and finds her's to cup over it.

The flutterflap of wings beating the air is a much louder and colourful reaction to her presence, fleeting shadow flashing quick over them both as Tavisha leap-flies from one chair to another, further away. Perhaps Raith's threats extend to Eileen, too, although there isn't a sense of wariness from the woodpecker.

Reservation only. Yeah. He could be worse.

"Morning." There's a little meaning weighting that word, amber eyes open again. Listen to me. Never mind him.

Eileen toys with a piece of his hair between forefinger and thumb before tucking it behind his ear and brushing her knuckles across the rough stubble of his cheek with her free hand. It drops, then. Traces the outline of his mouth with the edge of her nail as if making him smile was as easy as sculpting his lips into one. She watches the bird with tired green eyes that would be brighter if the hour were later but betray a classical kind of feline curiosity veiled by thick black lashes still wet and dewy from splashing her face with cold water before she braved the stairs.

It's the first time she's seen her ability used by someone else in this fashion. Whether or not this is a residual effect of the memory-wipe ordered by Sarisa Kershner, she can't remember Gabriel ever taking wing.

Her eyes move from the woodpecker to the photograph face-down on the man's stomach, address obscured by the weave of his large fingers. She's curious about that, too. "Do you want me to fix you something?"

"Coffee." It's too damn early for much else, and whatever he happens to have a hankering for after waking up, Gabriel will probably let her know. He's tall enough and broad of shoulder enough to justify a healthy appetite, and he lifts his head enough to find the birding book. Only shifts his free hand from her's to place on the cover of the item, curling his fingers under its spine almost protectively.

The idea was to sheath photo in book. He opts not to with Eileen just standing right there and—

Ask him about the photograph. Tavisha's voice, a little irritated, needling in Eileen's head, and Gabriel's jaw tenses. I know you want to. Us birds can feel you guys too. And if you want to know what's wrong with him, maybe

The wave of telepathic repulsion might strike Eileen too, but more an impression than the order Tavisha gets. Being a bird and all, somehow susceptible to the commands both Gabriel and Eileen can inflict on avian minds, he flits off the chair and flaps away, veering off and up in panicked spirals, though not so frantic to leave loose feathers in his wake. Gabriel sucks in a breath and, with a rock of momentum and tensing stomach muscles, he pulls himself up to sit.

"Don't be like that." Commands don't work on men as well as they work on birds. Eileen knows. Mild though her tone may be, she can't keep the reproach from her voice when she says it. Or, incidentally, the affection from her touch when her hand snaps out to give his cheek a sharp snap that's brisk enough to startle but much too light to sting even a little.

It's not far from the table to the kitchen, and if Gabriel so desires he can keep an eye on Eileen as she works from where he's seated without much difficulty, the milk pale shade of her forearms, neck and bare legs below the thigh contrasting with the inky material of her robe and the knit shirt she wears beneath it. Several cups worth of cold water poured from a jug kept in the refrigerator find their way into the copper pot she uses to make coffee.

"Did the man you were talking to yesterday give it to you?" she asks of the photograph, transferring the pot to the stove and leaving it to warm and boil while she takes down a bowl from one of the wooden cupboards that can be filled with the blackberries she would normally reserve for her own breakfast but are instead left out on the counter for Tavisha. Woodpeckers eat more than insects and grubs, and both are scarce in this weather.

Slowly, Gabriel drags his legs off the table to hang up over the edge of Peter's stolen dining table, placing the birding book in his lap even if he doesn't yet hide the photo within it, and silence strings about between he and the kitchen. Meanwhile, overhead, Tavisha is fighting the urge to find the nearest open window and breeze on out of it as he'd been commanded, the telepathic suggestion slowly wearing off, especially at the promise of food. Speedy as an arrow, the small bird dips down and wings through the kitchen door. He lands at a scrabbling skid on the counter top, wings out and red crest gleaming in contrast to his blacks and whites.

Rather than follow the path of what— was once his clone, Gabriel stays put, bare feet just touching the ground and content to watch her from all the way over there. "Yeah," he admits, turning the photograph over again. "I'm just— tired of being played. That's all.

"Have you ever met another bird telepath?"

"I was caught by someone masquerading as a cat once," Eileen says, closing the fridge and returning to the stove where small bubbles have already begun to appear on the bottom of the pot, which is her cue to measure several tablespoons of ground Colombian coffee into the water. Lacking proper utensils, it's a rough measurement — fortunately she's done this so many times that she doesn't need a special spoon to tell her when to stop. "I don't think that's the same thing."

Another bowl is brought down, this one filled with what little water is left in the jug and placed beside the one bearing the Englishwoman's tiny, tart and slightly underripe gifts. It would be nice, she imagines, to run her fingers down the glossy feathers of his back. He's a very fine bird, but she knows better than to disturb him while he's eating or to touch him while Gabriel is still present. "Why?"

Silently, Tavisha partakes in his breakfast. He can almost feel Gabriel's gaze settle on him in turn, distant though it may be, and so he remains quiet — no thoughts directed in either direction and keeping his tail pointed towards his origins, stick feet clutching the edge of the bowl and wings folded primly. This entire scenario might be weirder for them all, if they both didn't—

No, actually, it's weird for Gabriel. Offputting. If he's used the ability in this way, it was never for long enough to need to eat.

He drops his gaze down at the photograph. "That man in the park. I think he's like me."

Eileen puts her back to the stove and turns to face Gabriel, one slim arm folded across her midsection, the other resting an elbow on the counter. The woodpecker's allure isn't powerful enough to keep her attention for more than a few moments, and soon she's studying the man at the table with a similar sort of admiration that's considerably less obvious and tempered by her desire to contain it. This is a kitchen, not a bedroom, and whatever notions she might've had about running her fingers down his back are immediately forgotten as soon as those last words leave his mouth.

I think he's like me, could mean so many things. Both instinct and Occam's razor are telling her to zero in on the most obvious explanation. It's also the least desirable. "What did he say to you, Gabriel?"


Isn't accurate but not dishonest, not exactly. They brushed on a few topics. Birds, kids, God. It's cold enough and the Dispensary is chilly enough that when Gabriel lets a chuckle scrape out of his throat, vapor shows between his teeth in a short flurry of intangible steam, a swaying shake of his head, as if to say— son of a bitch. What that makes him? God knows. He remains on his perch, still, content with the way their voices echo back and forth.

"He said that he had an intuitive aptitude for knowing things," he says, eventually, dragging a look back up towards Eileen. "That's what they call what I can do. That's what I call it." There's a furrow in his brow, eyes gone distant. "He looked familiar. Really familiar."

The coffee isn't going to burn on the stove if Eileen leaves it unattended for a few minutes. It tastes best when she brings it to a boil slowly, and the heat is still low enough that she doesn't have to worry about it frothing, bubbling over and sizzling away into nothing on the hot iron. "An Agent Hanson came to interview me about a murder while I was still living in Brooklyn," she says, pushing away from the stove and rolling the sleeves of her robe up to her elbows as she returns to the table. "She had some pictures she wanted me to look at, thought it might be your handiwork."

Bare feet brush against the floor, her robe too short to drag behind her and create and accompanying rustle. Chair legs scrape across it instead and she takes a seat where the woodpecker chose to alight. Her hand turns over, implores him with long white fingers. "Can I see?"

Paper brushing skin, a subtle, fluttery sound as Gabriel casually flicks at the photograph's edge with his fingers. Thickish digits, since roughened from the lifestyle he's led over the past three years, and you'd probably never be able to look at his palms and see a watchmaker. There's probably still something of him in the boy in the picture, though, glasses aside — he hands her the picture, needless to say, address and all although he distantly hopes she doesn't flip the thing over.

He won't be snatching it back if she does. "And I guess I'm familiar to him too."

She does, of course, but it's to check for a name and a date rather than the address scrawled along the side. The words 'Harbor Watch Shop' tell her nothing. Neither does 'Baltimore'.

Eileen turns the photograph back over, dawn light bleeding in through the Dispensary's window reflected its high gloss surface. Touching the picture would mar the print with oily smudges so she uses the back of her nails to trace the outline of the boy's chin and jaw before her eyes lift and do the same to the man in front of her. "This is you?"

Strange how a simple question can throw what was once the truth into spiralling, dry mouthed doubt. Gabriel's eyebrows twitch up as he looks at the photo in her hand as if maybe it changed between his clutch on it and her touch to its shiny surface. It lasts for but a few moments, and nods when it ends. "I think so. Look— " Looks back up at her, suddenly avid, drawing his consciousness out from the shell of inner thought and reflection. "Don't tell the feds about this. Let them think it's me for as long as they like, I don't care. But if there're answers, I want them first before they take it away."

"I won't say anything to anyone." She means it. He can tell because she's looking at him and not the little boy on the bike when the words leave her mouth. Eileen reaches out to take Gabriel's hand and rub her thumb along the inside of his palm, working to alleviate some of the tension there by discouraging the growth of anxious knots beneath his callused skin. Sometimes rough is better. These are hands with good stories to tell.

She feels like she should confide in him about Feng, about Kazimir and incisive accusations that have her restless and fidgeting some nights, bare foot carving its heel along his calf beneath the covers when she thinks he's asleep and ring finger tracing complex patterns into her pillow. You're not alone, she could say. Doesn't. That's as obvious as turning the picture over. There's a time and a place for everything; this is not it.

"Baltimore's not far, three or four hours by car. We bought another truck."

You're encouraging him.

If it was unclear as to whether Gabriel can hear those words too, a conclusion can be reached by the way he shifts his eyes from her's to glare over her shoulder, his hand having loosely curled around her's. There's a flutter of wings, and weightless if sharp-clawed, Tavisha abruptly alights on Eileen's slender shoulder, wings loud in her ear before they tucked against his body. What is there to find? It's a mystery given by a stranger when he wasn't even looking for one. It's not a lead, and it's probably a trap.

"I thought I told you to get out," Gabriel says, mouth slicing a sneer around his white teeth. "I don't even— " He huffs out a sigh, and steals back the photograph from her hand. "I don't know what I want to do yet. I need to think."

"If you do go, don't do it alone. Please." And Eileen isn't necessarily asking Gabriel to bring her along. There are others he could take, like the bird perched on her shoulder and smelling faintly of its hollow: sodden earth and dry kindling. Jensen. Teodoro. Whatever it is that Gillian has formed an attachment to during its short stay at the Lighthouse.

It's not that she means to encourage him, and she'd project these thoughts into Tavisha's head if she didn't suspect the man he sprang from would sense their reflection; Gabriel will do what Gabriel will do, and if he wants answers then he's going to pursue them. "I've not enough left to mourn you twice."

Those are all good options, with Tavisha's perspective, Raith's efficiency, Teo's sensitivity to soulsearching ventures like breaking into watchshops— or that was once true— and Eileen herself being all of those things, probably. No comment on the thing in the Lighthouse. "I'll think about it," Gabriel deflects, no promises, no confirmations, because he has no plans, and maybe it's good that he's considering getting some at all. The bird is silent on Eileen's shoulder.

Gabriel stands — pushes himself off the table, bare feet hit the ground. He looks, for a moment, like he might to kiss her, but there's— a fucking bird right there who is watching him keenly and with no small amount of envy. "I'm going back upstairs," he says, before he remembers— "You can bring the coffee up."

Which sounds like an order, instead of the consideration to her efforts he was going for, and his jaw works slightly to the side before he decides to just leave it there and start off for the stairwell.

When Gabriel has gone and Eileen is alone at the table with Tavisha, she turns her head to look back over her shoulder past the woodpecker to where the coffee continues to roil and simmer on the stove. She'll run it through the tea strainer to filter out the grounds before she pours it into a mug and brings it to him steaming and black. Another ten minutes. Fifteen if she takes out another pot and poaches some eggs and toast to go with the drink. Idly, she tries to remember if there are any tomatoes left and whether or not it's worth slicing them up.

Breakfast is a diversion, reprieve from the weightier decisions she'll have to make before the day is done. Some people watch television; Eileen cooks rice for porridge and listens to the radio while she cuts fruit.

"There's always an open window for you here," she says to the bird without whom she would be yet another case file in Audrey Hanson's collection. "I'll leave out some extra food and water in one of the spare rooms. Blankets."

Hesitancy tremors down the telepathic thread that connects bird to girl, though the offer of food now and future has him, at least, willing enough to perch on her shoulder. Thanks, Tavisha notes, before leaping off her shoulder to flit back through to the kitchen, near knocking over the water she set down for him with the force of his landing. Do you like me now, now that you still have him? That's the problem, when you're in this state, and Eileen knows it too — the brain to mouth filter kind of doesn't exist, seeing as the mouth never makes it into the equation.

Tail twitches as he hops to face her. Sorry. Stupid question. For now, I could use an open window out.

Eileen rises from the table, guilt in her eyes if not her expression, and crosses to the kitchen window beside the stove — one of the smallest in the Dispensary with opaque glass that lets in little light in comparison to the ones upstairs and in the attic. Dried wildflowers hang in bunches by their stems on brass hooks, but she is careful not to disturb them as she leans over the counter, hooks her fingers under the latch and frees it after a brief scuffle.

It's winter when it should be spring, you see. It sticks. Palm flat on the glass, she pushes open the window just enough for the bird to slip outside, sheltered by dead vines that grow on the build's brick exterior. "Whether or not I have him changes nothing. What I did to you was wrong."

There's a pause, and a hop, like maybe Tavisha is gonna leave her on those words. But he lands on the windowsill and pauses there, human hesitation in the little bird's body, looking back at her from the side of his head. Birds don't have telepathic abilities, and so when he said that he could sense her just as easily, that wasn't quite accurate, but perhaps he is trying. Finding the lie, the insincerity, whether through visual evidence or something more psychic.

It's not there. As far as he can tell. You've probably guessed the pattern, he says, after a moment. The one who tried to kill you is everything— we all used to be. Still are. Maybe not me anymore. The other one, I can't really reach anymore. I remember the voices, too. They're strong. Then there's me.

And nothing seems more important than the time I was me. I don't know how this happened. I just know that it is. I don't think he really cares. A flicker of a shudder, feathers fluffing. So— thank you. For thinking what you did was wrong. And as fast as a darting salmon in a stream, Tavisha takes wing out the window, in his element as he cuts through the air like he was born to fly. The bird was, at least, but the bird has no opinion on the matter, if it even has a say.


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