Good Company


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Scene Title Good Company
Synopsis Eileen and Gillian convene at Gabriel's bedside and discover they may have more in common than either of them thought.
Date June 21, 2009

The Garden

Situated in a copse several miles away from the nearest stretch of asphalt, the Garden is accessible via an old dirt road that winds snakelike through the woods and dead-ends at the property's perimeter, which is surrounded by stone wall plastered with wicked coils of rusty barbed wire to keep would-be intruders from attempting to scale it. Those with a key can gain entry via the front gate.

The safehouse itself is a three-story brickwork cottage over a century old and covered in moss and ivy. It slants to one side, suggesting that the foundation has been steadily sinking into the wet earth; incidentally, this may be one of the reasons why its prior occupants never returned to the island to reclaim their property when government officials lifted evacuation orders and re-opened the Verrazano-Narrows shortly before its eventual destruction.

Inside, the cottage is decorated in mismatched antique furniture including a couch in the living room and an armchair nestled in the corner closest to the fireplace that go well with the safehouse's hardwood floors and the wood-burning stoves in some of the spare bedrooms. A heavy wooden table designed to seat eight separates the dining area from the rest of the kitchen, which is defined by its aged oak cabinetry and the dried wildflowers hanging above them.

Not to long ago, someone knocked on the apartment Gillian'd been staying in at Cat's safehouse. The knock woke her up, but after they passed along their message, she quickly closed the door and pulled clothes on. Gabriel Gray. Gravely injured. Moved to the Garden for medical attention and safety. That's really all anyone needed to say for her to throw on clothes, running shoes, and get downstairs. Too late for a cab, too late for a ferry ride, and actually too late for almost anything… except running.

Mud gets thrown up in clumps as shoes move far too fast along the road through the woods to approach the house. Faster than any cars, it's just a person who only slows once she reaches the front of the three-story brickwork cottage. And with the drizzle (which is heavier when running) she's really wishing she had more than sunglasses to protect her eyes. Goggles might have helped… she'll keep that in mind. Skidding to a hault in a way that makes her get mud up to her knees on her clothes, she's barely breathing heavy, like her brother had said would happen. That doesn't stop her from having some side effects. As she approaches the door, she's pulling an energy bar out of her jacket and already downed one before she knocks. The person who opens the door might be surprised to see someone in the middle of the bloody night.

Any symbol or code word necessary to prove she's with the Ferry through Phoenix is quickly given, followed by a overhyped, "I'm Gillian Childs— someone told me Gabriel Gray was here— where is he?" Blame the power. It's like a sudden sugar rush.

It doesn't take long for her to get motioned to the room he's kept in, slowed steps and a couple more energy bars later, and she's knocking lightly and opening the door. Still with wet mud sticking to her legs, hair and clothes soaked with the drizzle,

Subdued shades of sea glass green decorate the room Gabriel occupies, pulling similar colours out of the peeling wallpaper and quilted comforter his dark-haired shape is bundled in. Of the two chairs at the bedside, one is already occupied; Eileen Ruskin sits with a copy of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner propped between her hands and a pair of too-large reading glasses perched on the bridge of her nose. The sound of rusted hinges heralds the other woman's arrival and causes her to lift her eyes from the text, gaze grazing the top of the book on its way across the room to where it settles on the slim silhouette contained by the room's wooden doorframe.

She might be surprised to see Gillian standing there if she hadn't been the one who requested her presence. Eileen imagines it's what Gabriel would have wanted. "He'll live," she says in lieu of a hello, removing the glasses with one hand as the other lifts to smooth the worried creases from her pale brow with the heel of the other. Gray eyes close, accompanied by the sound of air being blown out through her nostrils in the form of a rickety sigh. "Might lose his arm, too," she adds, voice low and gravelly, raw with the sort of tension that stems from both physical and emotional fatigue. "I couldn't tell you for sure."

Ignore the wrapers getting shoved into a soaked jacket. And a stomach that wishes there'd been more. It seems like the person doing them is, really, cause after a brief pass over the room, Gillian has few eyes for anything that isn't the dark shape bundled in a comforter. Lips parted, she breaths slowly. Only when the woman speaks does she look over again, focusing on her and taking in specific details. "Can't…" Call Abby had been the first thing she thought of, until her memory replays some words in her head. Abby doesn't have her ability anymore, unfortunate victim of red lightning switcharoo.

"I'm sure that someone can fix it," she says finally, but that doesn't stop a worried glance toward the buddle. A hesitant step deeper into the room might indicate a desire to touch him, but instead she stops a couple feet away and looks back at the other woman. Between the Catabase and it's pictures, and certain conversations… there's recognition in her eyes. A hand rubs over her face, damp with rain as she pushes back her bangs. "What the fuck happened to him exactly?" she finally asks, keeping her voice a raspy whisper, so as to not disturb him quite as much, "All I heard was he was seriously injured— They didn't mention he might lose his arm."

"You should sit down," Eileen suggests. "We have him doped up on morphine to help with the pain, so he probably won't be able to hear you, but it wouldn't hurt if he knew you were here." The reading glasses find a new home on the nightstand. The Kite Runner joins them a beat later. She's torn between telling Gillian the truth and telling her what she feels would be best for her to hear — ultimately, her head compromises with her heart, and together they attempt to find a middle ground, each word dissected with great precision and care before her lips move to string them together into what she hopes is an acceptable explanation.

"High-caliber rifle round to the shoulder from several hundred yards away. Wrong place, wrong time. I don't think he even saw it coming." Eileen didn't, and in a way that makes her responsible. The past few hours have been spent replaying the event in her memory and pinpointing every mistake she made from the moment they set foot outside the Lighthouse up until Gabriel's shoulder erupted in a fountain of gore.

She never should have answered the phone.

The first words make hands drop away from Gillian's face as she looks toward the bundle again. There's hesitation for a moment, as if she's unsure, before she takes in slow breaths and settles down close to him. Her hands are kept to herself for the moment, even if she looks at him. "A gunshot— should've figured… not the first time he's been shot." Or likely to be the last, from the way he seems to get himself into danger. First time she got his shirt off she remembers— even without a perfect memory— how surprised she'd been at his gunshot wounds. Which had friends later— one in the form of something she did to him.

That might explain the grimance when she says that, before she looks over to examine the other woman again. "Never seems to get a break, does he? Every few weeks it seems like someone almost kills him," she speaks, voice still raspy and whispered in tone, though a little louder in volume. "If it isn't one fucking thing, it seems to be another." She could list off many examples of things, but she lets out a slow breath.

"I don't think we've really met," she adds, even if she's pretty sure she recognizes her from a database.

Sometimes Eileen forgets that Gillian doesn't know as much about her as she does about Gillian. "I'm sorry," she says, and there's something genuinely apologetic about her tone and the subtle upward curve of her wind-chapped mouth. "You're right — we haven't." What happened on the Verrazano-Narrows hardly counts. Neither does the week she spent spying on the other woman at Gabriel's request.

Gillian's assessment draws a low murmur of laughter from the former bird-whisperer and a slight shake of her head that rustles her raven black hair. She leans forward, resting her elbows on her knees, hands clasped between stocking-clad legs with her fingers loosely interlaced. "I'm Eileen," she offers. "You know some of my friends, I think. Gabriel. Teodoro. Brian. I've been working with the Ferry since January. Vanguard before that."

"I've heard of you," Gillian admits quietly, looking back at the man in the bed, a solid connection between the two dark haired women in the room. Solid, if currently unconscious. More slow breaths, before she looks back, "I know you defected from Vanguard— like a couple of others," she says, still keeping her voice quiet. "Know a little about you— but not too much, I guess. Talked to birds, helped Phoenix out— after a fashion. Fan of Ethan, who I still want to beat in the face."

That's not an anger that's going away anytime soon, it seems, but one of the few times she got Gabriel — in any form — to really talk about Eileen, it'd been while talking to Tavisha about Ethan.

"Gillian— but I guess you knew that already." There's a pause, a sliding of her eyes away to Gabriel again. "You told them to tell me he was hurt?"

"If someone I loved was almost killed, I'd want to be with them." Eileen's eyes do not stray back to the man on the bed, however tempting it might be; the more the looks at him, the guiltier she feels, and guilt is the last emotion she needs to be experiencing when meeting Gillian face-to-face for the first time. Jealousy is a close second. "Anyway," she says, "I think he'd have asked for you, if he could. He cares about you a lot. Tells us good things."

She doesn't correct anything Gillian has to say, probably because it's all true — at least or close enough to it that arguing any different would just be splitting hairs. "I'm not proud of the lot of things I did," she admits instead, "and I'm not proud of Ethan either, but he's family. You of all people should know how important that is."

Not too many days ago, Gillian said something that comes back to replay in her head. A complete contrast to what had just been said by a stranger— who might know parts of Gabriel even better than she ever did. There's a small laugh, raspy, almost like a cough, and humorless, hands coming back up to rub at her face. Rather than jealousy, there's something regretful in the way she's looking right now. It's the mention of family that drew her eyes back, a blink. Family. "Yeah… family's important," she admits quietly. Whether they're blood or not. Jenny's no less important to her now than she'd been before the realization, neither is her brother. It's just different. A small change from knowing something she'd never known before— Though that's probably not what she meant— Working with Vanguard might have meant some hand in what happened to her sister… Or at least known.

"Thanks— for telling them to tell me," is what she finally says, looking back up at her fully, straightening a bit even. The drizzle still soaking her might be making her shiver slightly, but her teeth aren't chattering.

Eileen rises from her seat in a smooth, catlike motion that's a lot more steady and fluid than her current thought process. She removes the coat from the back of her chair and drapes it over one arm, bloodstains becoming visible as the fabric catches the room's muted light at different angles. Whoever has the unfortunate task of helping with tomorrow's laundry is going to need a lot of hydrogen peroxide to make it wearable again. "You're welcome.

"I'm just glad the message found its way to you so quickly and without any crossed wires. We've had some hang-ups in the system lately, so I wasn't sure if I'd have to go find you myself." She picks up the book on the nightstand, tucks the reading glasses into her sweater's oversized front pocket. "Did you want to spend some time alone with him? I have a kid in the other room who probably needs a hug before someone tucks him in."

"I'm glad too— I came as soon as I heard," Gillian admits, well aware she only paused to get into travel clothes, and a few minutes trying to get the knack of the ability— once she did she made up for lost time in ways the subway, a cab and a ferry ride couldn't have come close to. "I— yeah, you seem to know some parts of him better than I do," she admits with something that doesn't even touch jealousy, despite how it could sound in this situation. Regret, still.

A few days ago she wasn't sure he wanted to spend much time close to her anymore. For reasons she can't blame him for, either. "You're welcome to come back, though— or bring another book for me, at least— if he's unconscious I don't see him being good company," she says, mouth tugging into a small smile, that shows dimples. Dimples come easy to her. The smile doesn't even have to be wide.

Eileen looks from Gillian down to the rumpled book she holds in her hand, idly thumbing through the dog-eared pages, then back up again. She doesn't return the other woman's smile, but there's kindness in her eyes and a slight lift to her expression as she extends her arm and offers her the safehouse's resident copy of The Kite Runner. "I've read this one already," she explains. For the first time since Gillian set foot in the room, she just might be lying. "Just don't walk out the door with it or Mage'll box my ears."

As for the man whose slow, relaxed breaths serve as an almost musical accompaniment to their conversation— "Maybe I know parts of him better than you do," she concedes, "but I'd bet the opposite is also true. You've been with Gabriel in ways I probably never will, shared things I'm not capable of. He loves you."

The Kite Runner might be a lie, but Gillian reaches out to take it anyway, after quickly drying her hands as best she can on whatever looks drier than her. Librarians like to prevent water damage whenever possible. And they usually return books too, so there's just a nod of her head as she listens to the words, even as the dimples disappear as the smile fades out.

While part of it it might spark a tinge of emotion, something else she says comes off as a little odd. Capable. Share. Love. How odd that a tiny dark haired girl who spoke to birds has an easier time assuring him he loves her than he sometimes could. She understood why certain people reminded her of it, but a practical stranger she barely knows…

"I know," she says, even if there's something like a grimace when she says that— guilt. Doubt even. She might be lying that she knows. But there's another emotion that starts to burrow through, against her will, as she looks back at the small woman, "The way you…" Say things. Words in there did come off as odd, and she can replay them word for word— but what she says instead is, "He went back to save you on the bridge."

Eileen parts with the book, allowing her arm to fall back to her side. Gillian's delicate treatment of it does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Incidentally, neither does her reaction when she reminds her of what she thought was obvious but now appears like it might be a point of contention if the other woman's flinching mannerisms are any indication of her true feelings.

She thinks she might be a little responsible for that, too. "He went back because he felt responsible for me," Eileen tells Gillian, tone soft and tentative, wary for reasons unrelated to the topic at hand. "To be honest," she says in what is probably an effort to reassure her, "he acts like I embarrass him. He couldn't leave me behind, but if it had been between the two of us — I don't think he'd have taken me with. Does that make any sense?"

Some of the tinges of emotion fade, though that doesn't mean Gillian's eyes drop away to start reading. They stay on the tiny girl, all soft and tentative. Something about the way her eyebrows lower might even be over-thinking things spoken by her. "Maybe," is all she can manage to say after a while, finally glancing down to look at him instead. "He's difficult to understand," she adds, speaking as much for herself as she might be for the girl who thinks he's embarassed of her.

Comes from wearing so many faces, perhaps. Got to the point where she lost track of which parts had been the man she loved, and which part had been act. So much of what the act had been covering up didn't help in the end, either.

"Responsibility or not, he made the right fucking choice. If we'd made it off the bridge we'd probably have both been locked up in Moab, and who knows if anyone would've ever gotten out anyway." So the choice hadn't been a bad one. He went back for a girl trapped— and she waited for him. The bridge took them all down. But saved them from getting dragged off to Moab at the same time.

"Go take care of the kid you mentioned."

With a nod, Eileen retreats from the sea glass green bedroom on feet that make very little noise and ducks out into the hallway, pulling the door shut behind her. It closes with a gentle click and an air of finality.

A few moments later, she can be heard moving off, floorboards creaking beneath her weight as she maneuvers through shadow trails the tips of her fingers along the parallel wall — an aid to navigate the darkness. Another door opens, closes, punctuated by an old picture frame that rattles loosely on its iron hook. The sound of muffled voices joins Gabriel's breathing, and Gillian is alone.

Once the door's closed behind her, Gillian doesn't start reading, instead holding the book in one hand while she leans in closer to shift the blankets enough to see his face. In some ways she could be checking to make sure it really is him but at the same time… "Can't go a single god damn month without nearly dying, can you?"

There's no shifting to even look at the wound— if only she'd got healing she could try to do something about it, but instead she focuses her attention on, oddly enough, the forehead that he'd simply dodged away from her touching the last time she actually tried to touch him. Can't dodge while unconscious, can he?

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