Famous Monsters


sylar_icon.gif wu-long_icon.gif

Scene Title Famous Monsters
Synopsis After Abigail, Sylar's feeling strangely worse for wear. One of his more heartless comrades comes to see him, and he seizes the opportunity to telepathically absorb a little of that soulless apathy, only to find that even the most monstrously simplistic of men have migraine-inducing secrets to bear. And plenty of soulless apathy, too.
Date January 7, 2008

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

The largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine remains partially unfinished to this day, despite its construction having begun in 1892 - true to form for buildings of its type. Nonetheless, it is a grand and imposing sight; possessing the characteristic grand arches, pointed spires, and beautiful stained glass windows, including a large and striking Rose window. Where the walls aren't covered with old and meticulously preserved tapestries, they are often ornamented.

Guided tours are offered six days out of the week. Services are open to all. Since the bomb, the main nave is open at all but the latest hours, though the smaller subject-specific chapels close in the evening. The cathedral is also a site for major workshops, speakers, and musical events - most especially the free New Year's Eve concert, which has been held without fail each year since the bomb.

St. John's has long been a center for public outreach and civic service events, but since the bomb, those have become an even greater part of its daily affairs. Services include a men's shelter, a twice-weekly soup kitchen, walk-in counseling, and other programs besides. These are open to everyone - non-Evolved, unregistered Evolved, registered Evolved… the philosophy is that they're all children of God, and that's what matters.

And for the fifth time, Abby escapes. The difference being that Sylar didn't seek her out; she sought him out. The difference being he didn't try to take anything from her; he gave her another two weeks. As the sound of her scooter fades into the distance, Sylar shuts his eyes, her words ringing in his head. It's unfair, religious sentimentality, but they say that psychopaths are the worst culprits of such a thing. If not religious, than sentimentality in general. Nothing deeper than that, maybe, but that.

It begins to snow lightly outside of the Cathedral, and Sylar starts making his way out of the parking lot. It's a public place and the sounds of people all around are numerous if scattered enough for it to be impossible to Listen out anyone in particular, but he tries it anyway. Some in the Vanguard don't tend to be seen if they don't want to be seen, however, and Wu-Long is no exception.

Sylar is dressed in nothing that would reinvent the wheel for him, a familiar black woolen coat buttoned against the cold, neck bare of a scarf but hands in leather gloves and coat pockets. He is, for once, healthy - devoid of bruises of any kind, scratches, although he retains his scars. Boots crack ice and snow underfoot, and as he glances towards the Cathedral and snow catches in his hair and eyelashes - and sparkles - he considers heading inside for shelter, but only that - considers.

Wu-Long steps out of the Cathedral's shadow. It isn't quite a seamless transition; he's never been able to pass as natural night-time, not even spreading his form membraneously thin over any given surface, prone to a fundamental opacity that probably eats light rather than simply blocking it. Yellow skin and the white rings of his eyes emerge out of the caliginosity, before the texture of trenchcoat corporealizes enough to sustain the weight of snowflakes.

Sylar's sparkling with his eyes closed. The corners of Wu-Long's mouth turn upward, less mockery than sympathy. He's an unimaginatively costumed villain himself; he is familiar with their conceits, be they on loan from meteorology or weighty with ancient tradition, religion, culture that refers to archetypes of the human psyche that they otherwise so fiercely deny. "Wo meiyou ting nimen jiang hua."

Wu-Long's appearance isn't a surprise, really. Say what you will about him, the man has a hell of a work ethic. He turns to look at him, offering no greeting, just a response. "Na hao. Wo hui wuliao ni," Sylar says, with only some lingering awkwardness. Practice makes perfect, and no extra syllables, at least. No random Japanese words thrown in. Just the trip up of culture difference in intonation, pronunciation. But better than most who have only studied the language for a couple of months. "She speaks in prayers even when she's not faith-healing. You know she should have died that night you brought her to Eileen."

To his credit, the China-man doesn't burst into gut-inverting laughter this time. The grammatical trainwreck and perfectly enunciated vocabulary choice merit his eyes going scimitar-shaped with amusement, which doesn't fade even as they talk business. Say what you will about his work ethic: he enjoys his job. It's marginally less unadulteratedly dull than everything else.

"I know," Wu-Long agrees, his fingers flexing in and out of fists at his sides. "She helps everyone. Our jobs would be easier if a lot of those everyone died." That goes irregardless even of whether he could make up his mind about whether or not he wants Sylar to have that gift. Should he settle on No, he probably ought to collect Abby's head himself.

Wu-Long looks back at the Cathedral. Without particular ceremony or excessive sleight of hand, he locates the flask in his coat and underhands it at Sylar's chest.

Sylar manages not to fumble, though the gesture is unexpected. A moment of bewilderement as he looks at Wu-Long, before it fades, and he simply uncaps the flask though doesn't drink deep from it right away. Shakes it a little to test how much liquid is inside, and glances at the other man again.

"Abby said to tell you that she— doesn't like you for killing her scooter."

These words almost come out as careful as his attempts at Mandarin. He has no idea as to what he's talking about, so he hopes Wu-Long does instead. "She doesn't like me too. She keeps saying that." Irritable, about as close to pettily sullen as Sylar gets before he takes a tentative sip.

Gin. Something citrusy and dry and quality that probably deserves some conventional form of justice in being mixed with something sweet, but Wu-Long didn't. It keeps his hands warm, when the weather's harsh enough to make even his considerably powerful circulatory system waver. "I didn't kill her scooter," he notes, not quite defensively. And, as if by way of explanation: "The man who fell out of the eleventh floor did."

The mercenary stops looking at the Cathedral when it fails to divulge any clear clue as to why Abigail isn't dead yet, in light of their recent agreement. No security. Few patrons out at this hour. Her only bodyguard— hadn't been listening. And thus, with an uncharacteristically casual choice of words, perhaps at odd with the consonant-heavy cut of his accent, he asks: "Why didn't you shut her up?"

Gin, fairly poison to Sylar's reluctant tastebuds when it comes to alcohol, and the sip is met with reluctance. He manages not to wince, and even allows himself another sip, bitter on his tongue and harsher going down. For the warmth, for the comfort. He caps it, pushes it back into Wu-Long's hands, and starts to walk. He talks, as well, expecting his fellow serial killer to follow as appropriate.

"Is there honour amongst murderers?" Sylar asks, voice low. Maybe even bitter. "I'm keeping your pledge." But there's more to that, it's not as those Sylar hasn't acted against the will of the Vanguard. "Because she asks God for her ability. She thinks it's His work. Because she tells me how it works and warns me against the side effects. Because she wants to die after seeing a sunset. It's not fun this way."

"It isn't fun because she is brave?" Wu-Long tramples a newspaper and overturns a compacted blot of snow with his right shoe. He might even be surprised. "For me, it is less fun if they aren't."

The flask dangles from his glove by its little braided collar, swinging with a squeak of hinges only his companion's ears are sensitive enough to pick up. It takes him a moment to follow, but follow he does. In their conversation before the one she held with Sylar, she had absolved him of the pledge in question. Not that the pledge had been the thing that bound him, precisely, but they say you're more likely to do a thing after you've said you would aloud.

Wu-Long had. Maybe even three times. He isn't sure if the probability increases on a curve, incrementally, or inverts with repetition, but it's as likely an excuse as— "Honor." the voice behind Sylar is mild. Speculative. Scratching the corner of his eye, Wu-Long doesn't bother drawing even with a man who could hear him if he whispered; the wind carries Sylar's words to him, express. "It comes and goes for most of us. It is hard to be consistent."

"I find it's better when they're weak," Sylar says, glancing over his shoulder and hoping the wind carries his answer back. He might hear all, but Wu-Long does not. So for convenience's sake, he switches to something a little easier. His voice projects without sound into Wu-Long's head. When they're broken. When all that's left for them to do is to die and let me finish what they started.

Abigail isn't like that.

He turns to face Wu-Long, still walking but now pacing slower backwards, realising in hindsight that it's easier to spill such worries when it only feels like you're thinking them. Perhaps a mistake. Doubtful Wu-Long cares much. About most things. Peeling his gloves off and pushing them into his pockets, Sylar extends a hand for the flask again, in a way that suggests - no throwing, thank you.

Obligingly, Wu-Long cocks his head, checking that the younger man isn't about to go ass over elbow on a patch of ice or some shit, but there's little to fear there: even now, Morningside is well-maintained, thanks to the college population. Obligingly also, the flask comes out, raised by its rope like a little tin hanged man, its silver shoulders winking in the lamp light that passes by overhead.

His face is blank, as if cued by Sylar's thoughts. He hadn't expected the other killer to turn back around again. He'd let his face drain. Breaking broken things is, in terms of the work left to do, easier than breaking something whole. That might make Sylar soft, to some. Wu-Long, however, is well-aware that his preference for challenges is no less romantic an illusion, founded on nothing stronger or more practical than any other basis for honor. Nothing matters.

"She is crazy. That's almost like broken." It's been awhile since he led a platoon or sat at the head of a family. Wu-Long is out of practice at both encouraging and comforting, as it happens.

When people beg and scream and cry, that's fear, and panic, and maybe New York changed it. Maybe 2006 fucked the world to such a degree that when 150,000 people died in a flash and 150,000 more were maimed, maybe death stopped looking so scary. Because so few people scream anymore, it seems. The puppeteer had, Jenny had been scared, but Craig had only gotten in a last word and Abigail is basically planning her own damn funeral. Maybe that's a different kind of broken, in a way, but rationalising it isn't meant to be the course of action.

"In a sense," Sylar only quasi-agrees. And he reaches for the obligingly offered flask, but his hand skips it, it seems. Fingers, warm from the gloves he'd been wearing, wrap around Wu-Long's wrist for a moment just before the cuff of his coat starts, and if there's anything the other man will feel apart from that, it's the barest beginnings of a headache the back of his skull, a twinge that fades as soon as it begins. In a sense, it could almost be the beginnings of an attack, some hand-to-hand maneuver, but the lack of strength apart from the grip itself is obvious.

Impulsive? Most certainly. But this ability and the way it works has to be good for something. Not just a curse as the meth dealer had called it. It has to have a function, something selfish.

And nnnnow… Sylar is holding his hand. This elicits two twitches in the arm Wu-Long has stretched out before him, the first almost instantaneous, the latter a reaction to the pang in his head. The flask jumps and herky-jerky like a puppet on its strings. Tense, relax, tense, either an experimental test at the younger man's grip or an aborted martial maneuver. He doesn't scream or cry either, of course, though whatever Wu-Long's damage was, he suffered it long before New York City took it up the fudge pipe.

Fear, constant. Panic, never.

Despite the telltale prod in his lobes, Wu-Long merely turns his head to look across the street. There are drunk frat boys zagging toward Columbia University's stately silhouette. "The PLA had a don't ask, don't tell policy," he mentions, presently. "I had nothing to say. Zhen de." He had indeed learned such jokes in the army, too. They're supposed to be funny: they must be.

Nothing like a bit of handholding when moral support is required. However, that would be fair from the point and unfortunately for Wu-Long, his comment that is supposed to be funny goes ignored at the sudden influx of memory, thought, and what constitutes as feeling for the soldier. Sylar's hand twitches loose from Wu-Long's wrist, stepping back as if anticipating an attack, though none ever came - a delayed response to the first instinct that came to mind for the other man.

It's a sensory flood that goes deeper than true sense, but one very obvious thought could be summed up as: what the hell is this?

"Insight," Sylar says, shortly, and his eyes squeeze shut for a moment, as if experiencing a particularly bad headache. But he knows by now not to resist. To let the hard part get over with. "I'm sorry. Call it envy but I wanted it." Not the most literate of explanations, but his mind is being pulled apart, new things being added like wet sand upon foundation. His hands reach out beside him as if in the hopes to grap something— fingertips finger the icy surface of a streetlamp, and this will do. He rests his forearm against it and uses it as an anchor.

As explanations go, it both works and doesn't. Wu-Long has experienced enough about powers to know when one is being used on him, but there's a disjunct between the younger man's words that doesn't have much to do with words being missing, despite that there were a lot of those. Insight. Would make more sense of Wu-Long was aware that he was harboring any that he had not verbalized or continuously made obvious over the course of their acquaintance.

It's been a refreshing four years, being with the Vanguard. He hasn't had to lie much. That being said, he's still reasonably good at seeing through those of others, and Sylar doesn't appear to be disingenuous.

Glancing downward, Wu-Long finds himself generally intact. Following an instant's study and pondering, he then shrugs in a roughly diplomatic fashion, unscrews his flask, and takes a drag. He parks his feet in the snow and watches condensation slide down the cab window in front of a drowsing driver, icicles freeze back over; listens to the distant throb of squadcar sirens. It's quiet where he is.

Verbal insight only goes so deep. How many people have tried to influence Sylar in some way? Negotiations, opinions, criticisms, and sweeter promises. Some of them sink in and wrap like wire around his consciousness, restricting thought and impulse. Others barely brush the surface like so many snowflakes battering at a glass window. But in the end, he can't ever take it. Not like this.

Of course, Sylar has to get over the hurdles before he can get to what he wants. A little blindly, he shifts so that his back is against the street lamp, resting against it and barely feeling the cold metal through his coat as a tornado of thoughts occupy his attention. Allows it to occupy his attention. Allows it to sweep everything away, for the time being, in place of that bored apathy that is Wu-Long.

"Not insight," Sylar corrects himself, after a few minutes pass, time he's barely noticed. "It's different. But it doesn't matter. Did you find her?" With only partial willingness, Sylar snags onto one of the less fleeting thoughts that overlay his own - one that blossoms like a bruise beneath consciousness, which seems to only twinge when poked. A pause. "Oh. I'm sorry."

Poked, Wu-Long twinges. A new line appears in his brow, faint, barely identified by the bold yellow finger that stretches down from Sylar's street light through the ragged, strandy length of the Chinese man's hair. Memories? My mind? Whittling down to practical conclusions from the evidence served to him in stumped-off sentence fragments and queries Sylar answers for himself. The flask sits in the mercenary's hand and cools, gradually, uncapped.

His thoughts land and lock with almost geometric precision that, given enough time, Sylar might be able to extrapolate to. "My 'secrets,'" he guesses after a moment, with a wrinkle of feeling that lies a little above indifference and a little below consternation. A protracted moment, then a faint settling. No. He isn't going to worry about that, however practical or professional the issue initially seems. Sylar, too, lacks real loyalty to Volken.

Mu-Qian is missing, and Wu-Long isn't supposed to know. "You must be disappointed," a little drolly. He screws the flask shut again.

Sylar shrugs at the comment, a hand drifting up to rub at his temple, where there'd been a gash not so long ago, that Abby had healed on the steps to the building looming over them now. "For you," he says, with vague, uncertainty. He barely can grapple with things like sympathy in his own mind, let alone when it's being taken over by another's. Feelings, after all, are barely disruptions for people like them.

People like them.

There is relief to be had, that whatever— guilt? maybe guilt— he feels over Abigail's inevitable doom shall pass as quickly as it came, at least, in Wu-Long's opinion. Sylar readily digs into this opinion, letting it become his, at least for now, and tension of some sort of remaining nondenominational Christian upbringing that responded like old wounds to the girl's ways manages to relax.

Unfortunately, there's more to it than that. There always is.

"You don't have to stay," Sylar says, eyes still shut although he does manage to spare a glance Wu's way, as if trying to see through a migraine. He keeps his posture ramrod straight, however, even with his reliance on the streetlamp. "This wasn't professional of me." If he's adopting any of the man's mannerisms, it might not exactly be in wording, just yet, but perhaps the barest beginnings of accent, of tone, that rings familiar.

Ah, the accent: Wu-Long went too many years with only his mother tongue, and she ever dogs his English speech. Difficulties with 'r's at the ends of words and a subtle tendency to long vowels, small but unmistakable flaws it still feels like too much effort to suppress. He notices. Perhaps not as soon as he should have, on the alert for dangers to his health rather than subtle distortions in Sylar's regular patterns.

Black eyebrows incline fractionally. He puts his flask away, into his coat, briefly divulging the weapon holstered by his arm. "Haoba," he say, always one to be agreeable. "I'm stealing back my security deposit and breaking the lease in two days. I will let you and Eileen know where the new address is." He raises his hand in a crisp, oddly militarily correct salute, perhaps unconcerned for Sylar's wellbeing, perhaps more concerned for Sylar's ego.

For reasons Sylar might well know, by now. People like them. If Sylar couldn't take care of himself, he would be in a different category.

Nevertheless, Wu-Long seems to be taking his time leaving. He has no way of knowing of that cognitive conflict that comes with embracing taking up someone else's mind and beliefs, only to confront that secondhand reflection— depiction of oneself, a jarring reminder that this isn't you. Wu-Long has never been anything more. He breaks snow under his breath and shreds fog through his teeth. "Do you want to keep the gin?"

"La Rivage," Sylar says, shortly. He gives the room number, the basic address, having forgotten to really tell anyone but Odessa this information - he can't really trust the ever collapsing structure of the Vanguard to make this information clear to those he trusts. Trusts as much as he can. Licks his lips once he's done, dry against the continual breeze that blows through this area before nodding once. "You can find me there or otherwise." You know, when he's not home. When he's stalking blonde women out the front of her church, or when he's tiptoeing through Midtown hunting strays, or consulting the birds when people prove useless. Sometimes, sometimes, he's at home.

The human brain is a complex thing. One single trigger can lead to a small library of thought, and Sylar flinches when the barest brush of keywords sends him down yet another path. It'll be over soon, and then he will basically be a version of the man he's talking to, and that will be good for a little while. For now, it's rough. It's a curse. He doesn't really want to be left alone with it, but nor is it practical to expect Wu-Long to stay. At least he'll have gin.

"Hao ba. Xiexie," Sylar says with some gratitude, reaching out a hand for the flask. "You know when you said you were fighting with Mu-Qian, I didn't realise it was out of love. I didn't know it could be that way."

There's nothing especially practical about Wu-Long leaving, either. He has no orders. None of them have orders. Volken has turned his pawns against each other, put a knife in the left hand with which it has been ordered to saw at the right. He nods at La Rivage. Home. He hasn't had one in a few years. He taught his children how to fly egg balloons there and smoked at a shooting range beside other mercenaries, rough, loud-talking fugitives from home countries who were as often ill-educated and unlettered as they merely pretended so. To fit in.

Sylar's methology puts their conformity to shame, apparently! Wu-Long is watching with some aspect of a wolf to his features, smelling the blood, wondering about sickness, unsettled though not distracted by the distant cry of kindred when he has Sylar right here before him. He extricates the flask and returns it to the younger man's grasp.

Again without throwing it. Once upon a time, Mu-Qian had been kindred, and home. "I disappointed her." Half an explanation. The words are slow, snagging slightly in the process of speech, not precisely self-conscious but unaccustomed to this: the sharing of coincidental secrets.

"It isn't like your story," he summarizes, after a moment. He'd almost say, It isn't that simple, but he doesn't think this is complicated. He and Mu-Qian are simplified creatures. "The frog might have been stupid to keep those hopes, but the scorpion stung himself. Or maybe there was a bird, and nothing worth seeing on the other side of the river." This is the life they choose. He doesn't keep trying to explain what can only be felt to the only man he's ever met who's been granted the opportunity to do exactly that.


Saliva, "Famous Monsters", and lyrics.

Dear Heavenly Father please forgive us,
For we know not what we do.

January 7th: Addendum
January 7th: The Silence of the Angels
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