Follow the Bird


eileen_icon.gif jenny2_icon.gif tavisha2_icon.gif

Scene Title Follow the Bird
Synopsis Tavisha leads Jenny to the Old Dispensary in search of help.
Date April 16, 2010

Old Dispensary

All she knows is she's following the bird. Follow the bird.

Do what the bird says. When it said to hide in the hollow of the tree until the sound of the helicopters dimmed to a dull roar, do that. When it says that she has to get out, now, you have to move now, Gabriel, Jenny, you have to move, don't close your eyes, then she— will eventually do that too. Spill out like a newborn. Get up, the bird says, and she does that. Drink from the river even if it hurts a hell of a lot. Her socked feet sink into snow and she can really only feel her legs until a certain point.

Not thinking. No thinking. Just do what the bird says to do. Big black glossy raven that she didn't have the presence of mind to be afraid of. It's a shifting shadow among the branches, hopping back and forth, tugging her along on some intangible leash.

It's a searing kind of wintery midday, where impossibly deep snow glares brightly where the sun manages to touch it through the dense trees of Staten Island's inland. It dazzles her eyes. The leggy figure of Jenny Childs wanders at a drunken stumble through the snowy terrain, the grey of her sweat pants gone dark and damp, patchy with her matching sweatshirt where it's not stained stiff with blackish blood. She has her right hand clasped resolutely to her right cheek, even when she stumbles, face and palms both made tacky with damp and drying red.

A hidden root trips her, sending the girl sprawling and half burying herself in deep snow upon impact with a matter of fact crunch. She gives a low groan, and lies shivering, as if cold numbness was not a bad alternative. She closes her eyes, not seeing or simply not caring about the Dispensary near buried to its windows in snow, and only moves her hand to press it again to her face.

There are plenty of good reasons not to wander Staten Island alone. Rapists and murderers rank high on the list — they're why most people don't dare set foot in New York City's forgotten borough and why those who do stay away from the Rookery unless they're in trustworthy company or carry a weapon with which to defend themselves in case they cross paths with someone they'd rather not.

Lately, though, it's been the dogs. Even if Jenny isn't, the raven is undoubtedly aware of the two individuals that have been trailing her for the last quarter mile. Two large chow mixes, one with a gash across its face and a mane of golden fur so tangled that it has come to resemble dreadlocks, the other bigger, lighter, and would be difficult to separate from all the snow if it weren't for the layer of mud attached to its coat.

According to the rumours circulating the island, wayward children and teenage girls who walk alone at night and work out of the brothels that moved in to replace the Happy Dagger are usually the pack's victims of choice, but as the weather grows more desperate, so do they. As the pair closes in on her, they move at a casual trot instead of a rolling lope. The only thing that smells more pungent to their noses than her scent is the undertone of blood beneath it.

Wounded prey is easy prey.

Near soundlessly, the large black bird lands on the snow merely a foot from where Jenny has set her head down on the crunching snow, the spill of her hair gone dull and dark from damp making tangles on the white. A big black beak picks up a lank lock of her hair, the bird twitching his head to tug at it and discard it again. You're almost there, just stand up. Get up. He doesn't expect an answer — she hasn't spoken a word since he found her.

And she doesn't even move now, not quick enough for him, anyway. He leaves her there with a struggling flight into the air just as she's lifting her head, ice clinging to her skin, crystals in her eyelashes.

The raven pinwheels around the Dispensary, once more clear in the bruised sky, going wide enough to spy the dogs gaining ground before furiously pushes himself back to the building. Eileen! Eileen!

Telepathic voices don't carry like audible ones do. Strength is measured by will and intent rather than volume, and Eileen's connection to the avian body he resides in gives Tavisha an extra edge. It's dark inside the Dispensary, windows closed except for the one she promised she'd leave open just enough for him to squeeze inside, but even that one has black curtains hung over it to block out the light and make it less visible from the road on the other side of the trees at night. He feels her moving down the staircase instead of glimpsing her through the glass, and when the door thunders open and she appears in the gravel drive, it's probably no surprise that she's in the process of loading her rifle.

Unfortunately, her ability does not extend to four-legged members of the animal kingdom or anything without feathers. The reason for all the fuss doesn't become clear to her until the dogs are within a few yards of Jenny and circling her body like creatures more accustomed to gliding through deep water and observing the world with beady black eyes that do not blink.

She stops. Dead.

There's an exhausted heaviness to Tavisha's landing on the edge of the Dispensary's roof, tiny heart beating rapid in his chest puffing and deflating in deep breaths, beak wide. It's— it's him. Her. The imitation, the Jenny copy. There is a thin edge of Tavisha's voice, as opposed to fading, but a certain hollowness compared to its richness that Eileen has heard before. There are worse things to worry about, though, like the open maws of the pacing dogs blasting hot steamy air through jackal grins.

Jenny is trying to make herself smaller, keeping her right hand placed against her face as if it were sewn there, and in her left hand is a silver and white knife smeared with blood. Though she has her knees beneath her, her back remains hunched as if reluctant to turn into a threat. She doesn't seem to see Eileen — barely seems to see the dogs despite finding her knife.

The alternative is the real Jenny, but even that would be preferable to what Eileen has found on her doorstep. It isn't the clone that's the problem. She had, in fact, been anticipating Sylar or Feng Daiyu when Tavisha called to her, but dogs—

Dogs. The chow mixes glance up at the sound of the rifle's slide, their tattered ears pinned back, and shift their attention from the downed woman to the upright one standing a few yards away in little more than a flimsy black dress, wool stockings and a paler gray cardigan pulled on overtop in haste while she was fetching her weapon. Like Jenny, she isn't wearing any shoes.

She should squeeze the trigger. Doesn't. And it's not because she's afraid of hitting the clone. For several moments, she watches the dogs through the sights of the rifle as though looking down the scope might make them seem a little less real than staring at them over the barrel.


Jenny looks up with a startle of recognition for her own name, green eyes wide and clean in the midst of the dirt, the grime, the blood on her face. Both her hands come down, sinking into the snow to the wrists and disappearing her sticky fingers and the knife in the other hand, and it's actually hard to see what the wound really is under all that, but there is certainly something wrong. Her body shuffles forward an inch, towards the woman with the rifle, as if maybe it's occurring to her that out of the three bodies in Eileen's sights, she could be gunned down as easily as the dogs.

Maybe it would be smarter. "Wh-what-t do I d-do?" Her wavery, teeth chattered voice travels to the very edges of Eileen's hearing, and the fearful squeak she makes when one of the dog's react with a low and guttural whuff towards her right.

The dogs recognize the gun for what it is, which is probably why they haven't closed teeth and jaws around Jenny's neck or her long, slender arms. They haven't backed down, either; uncertainty is bright in their eyes, one gold and one brown, and as the smaller of the two assesses Eileen from where it stands at Jenny's left, it flags up its tail and curls its upper lip around a yellowed snarl without sound.

Wind ruffles their fur and blows through Eileen's hair, obscuring her vision, though the dogs aren't intelligent enough to realize that this puts the Englishwoman at a momentary disadvantage. When the breeze settles again, flyaway curls of brown-black fall back into place around the pale moon that is her face, her lips drawn into a flat line. "Crawl toward me. Slow."

Jenny's agreement to comply is manifest only in a small exhale, more visible than audible in curling steam, and lank red hair sways in something that implies a nod. Slowly, she starts to drag herself forward, and she keeps her green eyes fixed on Eileen's gray all the while. Like maybe she could tip into them and go somewhere safe, without dogs or pain or the man in the door. Her dragging legs leave trenches in the deep snow, hands knifing into it with each movement forward. The knife flashes in the sunlight, unintentionally cleaned of blood each time it's drawn through the perfectly white snow.

Above Eileen's head, Tavisha's wings twitch restlessly, black eyes watching the dogs. Though Eileen won't be looking at him, she can probably feel a grim determination, a readiness, as if a raven could match two stray, hungry dogs.

It might be able to take an eye before they break its neck and twist its body in two between them. Unarmed, Jenny and Eileen don't stand much more of a chance. When the latter finally steps forward, it's to shield the former behind her legs, her rifle leveled with the dog that's salivating more, dripping thick, syrupy strings of drool from a muzzle bubbling with more of the stuff, an unfortunate characteristic of whatever breed it's mixed with rather than a symptom of rabies or any one of the other diseases that the island's wild animals carry.

She lets out a trembling breath through pursed lips and moves to gently nudge Jenny's calf with her ankle, refusing to lower her weapon or take her eyes off the pair in front of them. "Inside," she commands, and her voice is steadier than she imagined it would be, though not by very much.

Phobia. Morbid fear. It has that name for a reason.

There's no gunshot until Eileen pulls the trigger, if she ever does. But her gentle command almost acts like one, as Jenny breaks an important rule when it comes to dogs and fear — never run. A pent up sob tears ragged from her throat after a reedy gasp of icy air in, and with clumsy limbs and a dizzy head, the redhead surges to her feet behind Eileen and spends the last of her energy— maybe dipping into the overdraft— with a sudden mad dash into the dark entrance of the Dispensary, all hissing breaths and blurred vision.

That she's even acknowledged and paid attention to Eileen's instruction is a wonder. Realising the tense and frozen fear in the other woman's bones and hammering heart would be something of a stretch for her. It isn't missed on Tavisha.

One foot behind the other. One foot behind the other. Eileen's silent mantra isn't meant for anyone except herself, but whether or not she intends to broadcast it, it's something that Tavisha will pick up as she backs toward the door, maintaining the distance between herself and the dogs even as the pair starts forward in an attempt to close it before she can reach the safety of the Dispensary's dimmed interior, their prey drives bolstered by Jenny's abrupt flight and the sight of her svelte legs kicked back into action. Like before, they don't run; they saunter, giving her ample opportunity to drop her rifle, weapon swinging around her neck on its leather strap, and hold the door open a few seconds longer for the last one of their number who remains outside. "Tavisha!"

And the bird really only flies because it's easier and less time consuming to do so than argue. With a darting leap and an impressive fan of black iron feathers, the corvid goes zipping through the yawned open door with determined agility, the same kind of burst of energy that Jenny showed in the last moment. The tips of his wings rustle Eileen's hair as he goes whistling past, kite-soars over a collapsed and shaking Jenny Childs, and goes for a sliding land on the dining table.

The sound of the door slamming shut echoes like a gunshot through the Dispensary, and the act itself narrowly misses clipping the last few inches of Tavisha's tail feathers. On the other side, the dogs don't throw themselves up against the obstacle when they suddenly find it in their faces or paw at its base like their domestic counterparts, either begging to be let in or testing the material with their claws to see if they can dig under it. One of them lets out a sharp bark, followed by a shrill whine that rises in pitch and intensity before both animals can be heard moving off, likely to search the Dispensary's perimeter for another point of entry.

Failing that, a garbage can they can knock over and rummage through for scraps.

Eileen turns around to face Jenny and the table, one hand clutching at her chest, the other curled around the barrel of her rifle as she leans back and lets her shoulders connect with the door, producing a much softer thump.

They might stay like this for a while, for as long as it takes for Eileen to soothe the dislocation that is rationality in the face of deeper panic, or for Jenny to remember her manners. She doesn't, it seems, having allowed her legs to fold up beneath her and now sitting matter of factly on the floor. Her right hand has yet again risen to fix stubbornly against her slashed face, and her left hand grips her knife with white-knuckled determination. Her green eyes are wide and glassy, at first fixed on Eileen before seeing very little instead, her reedy breathing filling the silence.

It's Tavisha that breaks it. At least, for one of them, his smooth Gabriel-voice echoing thinly in Eileen's head. Sorry to bring this to you. I found her a day or so after what happened at the Lighthouse. He blithely assumes she must have a clue. If I wanted to die, it wouldn't be out of neglect. Or the cold. I'd figured you'd know what you wanted to do with it.

Saying nothing at first, Eileen pushes away from the door and on her way across to the table, removes the rifle by its strap, stockinged feet leaving wet prints on the Dispensary's floor that will fade sooner than her lingering fears will. She places the weapon on the table's wooden surface and lets her hand simply rest there atop it, fingers splayed, as she takes a minute or two to study Jenny with the same cautious scrutiny she'd shown the dogs in the drive but is ultimately unable to determine which is more dangerous, gut instinct and immediate emotional response aside.

When she's sure her hand isn't going to shake uncontrollably, she removes it from the rifle, cocks her wrist and strokes knuckles along Tavisha's glossy back. "Gillian told me she was missing."

There is a pleasured shift to Tavisha's wings at the attention, bill snapping and clicking in approval, with no regard to the rhythm of words he projects back to Eileen. And now she isn't. One of the agents went missing too, and so they've been combing through Staten Island trying to find them. Up until yesterday — no more helicopters. They probably found what they were looking for, one way or another. Beak parted as if tasting the air, it snaps shut again as he tilts a look up at Eileen.

You shouldn't tell Gillian. Not yet. There's an awkward pause. I can let her know she's okay, is a reluctant addition.

An accusing look is directed toward the stairwell and the winding corkscrew of stone steps that separate the Dispensary's floors. It doesn't last. Eileen hooks her fingers under Tavisha's feet, offering him a perch on her shoulder and fabric that he can sink his toes into as opposed to the table's smoother wood. The only helicopter she knows of that blew over the island is the one Raith was piloting a few nights ago, but she also hasn't spent very much time around the Dispensary these last few days. Work has kept her elsewhere.

"Are you?" she asks, and regardless of his answer, she takes several steps toward Jenny on the floor, coming to sink down and crouch within arm's reach.

The sit of the raven on her shoulder looks like a tiny hunched back gargoyle as it hops to find purchase on Eileen's bony shoulder, gripping skin and fabric both but still deceptively light. All feathers and hollow bones. Never better, he answers airily, a twitch of feathers sounding loud as they rustle next to her ear.

Jenny's freckles stand out brightly on her skin drained to an unhealthy pale, likely from the cold as well as the open wound hidden by her hand. There is a greyish tinge to usually full lips, and despite the way her legs have crumbled like broken foundation beneath her, there is a tension in the way she grips her knife and holds her face. There is no real response when Eileen comes to crouch nearby, save for that green eyes flick to fix on the sitting corvid on the other woman's shoulder.

Eileen has been making a mental inventory of all the things Jenny is going to need, starting with a hot bath and clean clothes, followed by a room of her own, blankets and some food she can put in her stomach that won't just come back up again. Before any of that, she has to separate the young woman — or whatever it is that's masquerading as one — from the knife clutched between white-knuckled fingers, and when she moves to it's slowly, showing Jenny both her hands before attempting to close them around hers.

"No one's going to hurt you," she says in a lower, gentler, but altogether firmer voice than the one she's used with Tavisha. It's more reminiscent of the tone she took when they were outside and commanding Jenny to crawl toward her, but without any of the urgency. "Do you know who I am?"

Jenny Childs' experience of the Vanguard is limited to the efficient hands of Gabriel Gray and Zhang Wu-Long, and then the interior of a metal box that Eileen may have seen from the outside but did not catch a glimpse of what was lurking within. Which was a girl that looks a lot like this. Regardless, they never did see each other's faces in person, and so when Jenny finds Eileen's eyes with her own, a reluctant kind of progression, and she nods— maybe it's a sign of the masquerade collapsing.

Her fingers loosen under Eileen's hand, though they do so creakily. There is a bluish cast to the flesh beneath her opaque fingernails and bruises on her knuckles, and despite the steely grip, it probably would not be hard for Eileen to pry her grip off the knife if she needed to do so by force. Before she has to, Jenny relinquishes the knife, something that folds into an ivory handle and greasy with what blood was not smoothed away from the snow.

Her other hand falls away too, pressing a bloody hand print to the cement ground. The corner of her mouth has been torn, if not to the skeleton smile that Teo sports on the left side of his face. The cut continues higher, but shallower, all the way up to her ear, and curls of red hair stick into drying rustiness.

Eileen slips the knife into her cardigan pocket for later examination and moves her hands to Jenny's face, smoothing stray pieces of red hair away from her pallid brow. Picking at what's plastered to the wound is a more delicate process and requires additional concentration, though it isn't long before she's sliding a thumb under her chin and taking a look at her neck and her other cheek in search of injuries that a cursory glance might miss, both superficial and not.

This is going to be a difficult conversation to have with Gabriel. "Let's run you a bath and get that scratch looked at." Scratch is exactly the wrong word for it, but if Jenny has been on the run since she received the gash, Eileen doubts that she's had an opportunity to look at herself witness the damage done with her own eyes. She's hoping that she can get the redhead washed, dressed and sutured before encountering a reflective surface more revealing than the Dispensary's glass windows.

It's fortunate that the Remnant hasn't gotten around to replacing the mirrors in all of the bathrooms yet.

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