eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Goldfish
Synopsis Because clothes make the man and the infiltration of France, 1901.
Date September 21, 2010

Old Dispensary

The year is 2010: more than a century after the point in history that Gabriel and Eileen are destined to return to, but sometimes the lifestyle that they've chosen makes it feel as though a much shorter period of time has passed. In the winter, a fire fueled by wood burns in the hearth, and in the summer lines of laundry ripple in the breeze that wafts off the Atlantic. A dead pheasant with a bottle green head, red wattle and rusty gold plumage hangs by its feet in the frame of an open window next to the cast iron stove, a stale kettle of tea still warming on its coils, while in the living area Eileen runs her fingers along a calf-length overcoat with wolf fur trim and lays it over the back of the armchair.

Nearby, a three-piece suit — jacket, waistcoat and trousers — has already passed inspection and been neatly folded. It's black. Primarily because Gabriel likes black, but also because he looks good in it, and while Eileen might be blind this doesn't mean she won't appreciate the way she hopes it's going to fit.

Perched on the fireplace's stone mantle, Bran parts his beak around a low, irritated-sounding croak and rumples his oily black feathers. Although his wing isn't yet healed, the old raven's plumage is glossier than it has been in a long time and his eyes brighter, sharper. He may fly again or he may not — it could be many more months before the Englishwoman will be able to say one way or the other.

"Hush, you," she mutters under her breath. "I've done the best that I can."

Gabriel's diguise is a little more made over than a simple suit, even a nice suit, although it only works for flinty-stare samurais as opposed to the analytical eye of fashion critics, or otherwise, people to pass by on the street. It will be nice, to walk around in public, as himself. His entrance tonight is herald of footsteps and empathic knowledge, interest plucking on that thread in a quasi-greeting. She won't have any idea, right now, that he doesn't look like himself — not until she twitches Bran's stare upwards to the figure slotting into the setting.

When he speaks, she'll know. There is something small and dark in his hands, with the same kind of gloss to it that the raven's wings hold. His fingers are skinnier, when he's in this shape — all of him is, including his gaunt, youthful face, brassy-brunette hair in finger-combed mess. Timothy Lantz visits often, and only when he must.

"One hundred years, and change," he notes, in his voice of tenor timbre. "Think we'll fit in?"

"Jensen worked for the CIA for more than a decade," Eileen says, "and you have a natural gift for playacting. I can hope." And Bran can scrutinize, shoulders hunched as he flexes his clawed toes and grumbles unhappily at the back of his throat. He can tap into the same empathic link that allows Eileen to identify Gabriel, but he has a difficult time reconciling what he can sense with what he can see. Timothy Lantz is not the Big Man.

And yet the Big Man is here in the room, standing in front of him. "Come and have a look," she invites, her back to Gabriel as she adjusts the coat's collar. She's dressed in clothes that she won't be able to bring with them: leather flats, a long wool skirt and cotton blouse with a high collar that, although conservative, isn't the right cut for fitting in. Whatever she's chosen to bring, it isn't out here with the men's clothes on display. "I've some things for you."

Bran, however, is much more interested in what Gabriel is holding in his hands, and darts a look down at the weave of Lantz's slender fingers.

He drifts closer, tall, string-bean limbed, though his slightness is covered by the bulk of jacket and sweater, the chill quicker to descend in the evenings, especially out here. Lighter than usual eyes dance to Bran in brief eye contact, and more details come up — rhinestone, glass, or a material that resembles it, of the thing in his hands, kind of shyly held like one might grip a single raw-stemmed wild flower for the giving.

It is an accessory. Old worldish, probably too evening for anything they intend to do in the past, but maybe not. Maybe just daring. Gabriel doesn't fucking know. Designed to slip into a woman's hair, glitter black glass and black rooster feathers — and even if it's not valid, he's pretty sure Eileen would like it anyway. She has a few similar items herself.

He lays it down on the table, as his gaze scopes out the suit, admiring black cut and buttons.

Eileen steps around the chair and reaches out to touch the ornament, exploring its shape and texture first with the edge of her thumb, then with the tips of her other fingers as she picks it up and gingerly turns it between them. The glass feels cool to the touch, smooth, but with a hint of residual warmth leftover from Gabriel's hands.

A small smile touches her mouth. "It's very pretty," she says in a voice like velvet. The ornament. Not the suit he's eyeing. There's a word for that, too — sharp, maybe. In a different time: fashionable or possibly even a little rakish, depending on who he chooses to ask. "Thank you."

She reaches up, brushes a stray strand of hair from her cheek with her knuckles and then uses the offering to pin the stubborn curl behind her ear. If Gabriel knows anything at all about Eileen, and he does, then he can probably infer her skin's suddenly rosy cast means she likes it. "What do you think?" she asks of the suit and coat trimmed with wolfskin. "Would you wear it?"

He's worn a lot of things. Plucked a whole outfit from the wardrobe of Rickham's schedule coordinator, has raided the belongings of at least two girlfriends for similar purposes, and is pretty sure he's dressed like dudes too, at least a few times, when it comes to elaborate masquerades. Pretending to be a police officer, or a secretary, or someone who isn't from 2010, in this unique case. "Yes," Gabriel says, and there's a tone to his voice that implies that that doesn't allude to his low standards of what he would do for a given mission, and it's not just because of his transformed vocal cords either.

Hand picking at a black sleeve, he glances towards the coat, and allows a smile to split his face. "How un-PC," he comments, of the fur that he's pretty sure must be real, that trims along the hems of the garment. "I guess we'll look the parts." Sneaks a glance, then, to see how she wears the hair piece, before studiously tracking his fingertips along the pitch fabric.

"That's not what I'm worried about." Eileen's hand drops from the hair piece and she places it at Gabriel's elbow in a quiet gesture of affection that also attempts to draw his attention away from the coat. "You don't speak French, and my accent isn't good enough to pass for a native speaker," she says, "so you and Jensen will need to be American. Brothers, I think. Coal was big during the Second Industrial Revolution. Steamships. A pair of foreign businessmen should be a decent enough cover provided we don't draw attention to ourselves or stay in any one place too long."

Her free hand reaches into the lightweight cardigan she wears over her blouse, and pulls out a small leather-bound book with a flexible cover and yellowed pages. "I haven't been able to find any currency," she admits, "but I've pictures here so you can familiarize yourself with what to expect if you decide that we need to play tricks."

Money, clothes, voices. Whole lives, maybe. There is that pause, smile gone as easy as it came, a glance that bounces between book and the face of the girl holding it, before Gabriel takes it in his teenage hands to thumb through, head at an angle as he looks. There is maybe the suspicion she is enjoying some of this, but he won't throw a rock in a glass house — she doesn't need the feather ornament she wears snagged in her dark curls, and that's even less pragmatic than coat and currency.

At least he has something to do while they wait. Practice. "How long are we meant to be back there?"

"As long as we need to," sounds apologetic. If Eileen is taking pleasure from this, her enjoyment is tempered by the knowledge that it isn't a choice, not really, and that the time they're devoting to this could be put to a more productive use. "When we come back, everything here will be exactly as we left it — I'd be surprised if anyone even notices that we're gone."

The hand that had produced the book, filled with pictures of outdated currency from Britain, France and Germany, too rare for her to have requisitioned, dips back into her cardigan once more. Hesitates this time, uncertain. "I don't want to give him any more of my life," she says, dark head bowed, seeming to watch Gabriel from beneath her lashes even though he knows such a thing is no longer possible, "not one day, not one hour, not one minute.

"And I don't want to give you the wrong impression, but you're going to need this." Gold winks between her fingers and she offers him a plain band large enough to fit around his ring finger. "It isn't a hint," she clarifies. "I only need to look respectable if I'm traveling with you, and I'd really rather not pose as your younger sister."

Air rushes hitchedly through nasal cavities, which is as close as he gets to laughter on an average day. "Or Raith's wife?" is teasing, taking the ring and slipping it over the knuckles of the appropriate finger, the piece of jewelry a little too big for the skinnier fingers of Timothy Lantz. In confident check, he shifts back, a process that's soundless to Eileen's ears. Hair blackens, becomes like the glossy bristles of a sturdy paintbrush, if much longer. Shadowy stubble shadows down a jaw that becomes more lantern and doggish. Brows thicken and define, shoulders broaden and his frame fills it out better. And of course, the ring fits him, like this.

"I get the concept," he says, voice deeper, richer, "of changing history, and its outward effects. I know you're doing this for now, not for him."

A second ring, smaller than the one she'd given Gabriel but otherwise identical in every other way, fits Eileen's finger snugly when she twists it on. Her mouth purses at Gabriel's teasing, mirth visible in her eyes, which continue to do the majority of her smiling for her even though she can no longer see. On the mantle, Bran makes a hoarse sound of grudging approval now that he looks the way he's meant to, and Gabriel may sense that Eileen appreciates the change, too.

His voice is more familiar than Lantz's. There's comfort in that. "The more I keep reminding myself, the less likely I am to forget. I thought about what would happen if we stayed — the knowledge we have, our combined talents and abilities. No government to hunt us, no clandestine organizations guarding our existence. With careful planning, we could be anyone, have almost anything."

"Start over." Brothers in the coal business and already married doesn't sound like a bad place to be, head tilting as if he were giving it some thought. "In theory, the moment he sends us back, I copy Hiro's power. For as long as it lasts. We could go anywhere we wanted to, as soon as I work out how to use it." Gabriel turns enough to lean a hip against the table, hand knuckling to admire the dull sheen of the ring.

He casts a glance over his shoulder to Bran, eyes tracking to the wing and its fine, hollow bones that had snapped. "But I figure if we really wanted to, if we really needed to, we could disappear now."

It's a short distance between the mantle and the table. Gravity does most of the work for the raven when he decides to hop off one and onto the other, and although his injured wing won't carry him in flight, two awkward flaps cushion his fall. His claws scratch against the table, leaving shallow gauges in its wooden surface as he scrabbles upright, smooths out his feathers and turns his head to the side, away from Gabriel and Eileen in an attempt to preserve his dignity.

He'll have forgotten in a few minutes. "Yes," Eileen concedes, "we could," and there's no argument in her tone when she says it. They'll have claimed the Dispensary for a year this October, the longest period of time the Englishwoman has stayed in one place since she was fifteen. Apollo was an accident. The Remnant knows how to cover its tracks.

"Were you ever happy? Repairing timepieces?"

There's a fabricy slither of clothes being dragged across the wooden surface, Gabriel ticking an eyebrow up in an expression that is just for him. "I was happy," he affirms, after sedate silence. "Kind of like how a goldfish in a bowl is pretty happy. Why would you want to discover what's out there, when everything just sort of seems distorted and distant and big? I'd probably still be there." He takes a step, dragging coat with him, disappearing for a second out of Bran's line of sight.

And a second is really all he needs. There's a delay, like a bad edit, before he continues. "If everything hadn't changed. Maybe it could have been okay, if I woke up in a different way. Tier 0, making a fortune in the restoration business." There's an acidy sort of chuckle, there, gurgling up regretfully. "Mom might have liked it.

"It fits." Because in that break of time, he'd paused it, changed, maybe even left the room to get the white button down. In Bran's tilted vision, Gabriel is smoothing down the lapels of the old fashioned jacket.

"Very handsome." On her way past, Eileen floats her knuckles across Bran's back to acknowledge him and is rewarded with a sharp nip. Dagger beak meets precious metal, pinches skin and has her withdrawing her hand again so it can join Gabriel's on his lapels. She adjusts the collar of his button down, brushes a speck of dust from a sleeve. There's no mirror down here, but she imagines that he already knows how it must look, and not because she just told him.

"My father— Gregory took me to a fair once," she says. "There was a game, one pound to play, with a pool of little black fish with tails like silk fans. You scooped them out with a paper net that tears when it gets wet, so you have to move quickly — your turn ends when it breaks. I took mine home in a knotted plastic bag and gave him a jar so he could live in my window. He was dead by the end of the week.

"I don't think goldfish are very happy."

Actually Gabriel doesn't think Eileen's childhood sounds very happy, never mind the slippy dark body of fishlife flushed down the toilet when it floats belly up, slipping like a blood clot through arterial piping. He stands still beneath the adjustments and tweaks of her hands, trusting her eye for all that her literal ones are out like dead bulbs, his chin dropping to follow the track of white hands and glassy nails. "Then I guess it's good you don't keep me in a jar," he notes, with a rough tone of wist to his voice, mouth fish hooking into a smirk.

There's a strand of glossy brunette that is unaligned from her parting, and with the fastidiousness of her own fingers, quick like a bird adjusting the nest, he pushes it back beneath the shell of her ear. "You have a good plan and the rest can be improvised."

Eileen's fingertips trace Gabriel's mouth to confirm with touch what she hears in his voice. "I've not gone over any of this with Jensen," she says, "but I will. I should be glad Ethan isn't coming with us." Her thumb moves to follow the line of his jaw all the way through to the bottom of his chin, which she angles downward so she can press a kiss to his mouth, and does not immediately pull away when she adds, "His temper would only cock everything up."

Gray eyes with a green tint lid halfway shut. She curls fingers at his throat. "I think we'll be the Ingrams, unless you want to choose a different name?" It's a gentle question, some playfulness in it, but ultimately sincere.

Kiss is answered, subtly, fingertips skimming over the cluster of brightly black feathers pinned in her hair, before that hand goes away again, returns in a touch to her waist. Likely, Eileen felt the suggestion of a smile at the mention of Ethan, and then from his neck: warmth, and the shift of Gabriel's head shaking. "Your plan, your mission. Just means that the next time I need something from us, we do everything my way," is facetious negotiation.

Until it isn't. But doesn't need to be worried about right now.

While they're being facetious: "Do you know what else I'd like to do your way?" she asks. A rhetorical question, largely, more invitation than inquiry in spite of the lilt at its tail. Bran understands what she means, at least, and with another thrust of his wings hops across to the armchair where he settles on the cushion, tucks in his head and blinks black eyes shut.

Eileen probably wishes he wouldn't, but she's become accustomed to complete darkness, and apart from the slow inhalation of breath that accompanies a faint ripple that spreads across her surface, she adjusts to being able to see through the eyes of her raven — who is not a goldfish, either — to not being able to see at all.

Her grip on Gabriel tightens. Slightly.

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