gabriel_icon.gif teo2_icon.gif

Scene Title Gravity
Synopsis Gabriel tracks down Teo and a confrontation ensues. And then another confrontation ensues. Someone loses.
Date June 23, 2009

Long Island CityEagle Electric

Once this lot was the home to Eagle Electric, one of the most notable business collapse in Queens was that of Eagle Electric, a major manufacturer based out of Long Island City for decades, comprised of acres of warehouses and manufacturing plants designed to produce electronic components to suit all sorts of needs. In January of 2009, the entire Eagle Electric facility was destroyed in an explosion that decimated hundreds of feet of property. The charred and burned remains of the administrative building's crumbling brick and twisted steel is all that remains. Shrapnel from the destroyed warehouse was scattered across five blocks, though most of it now is relegated to a heap of twisted aluminum and crumbled stone all piled together within a dilapidated chain-link fence.

we need to talk

A distress signal of the new age, Eileen's phone bouncing that messages through the invisible telecommunications of the era of information, making Teo's phone buzz, nag his attention. Not so long afterwards, an address given, no question in the pixels on Teo's screen, no offer of input. The last instruction had been a simple allotment of time.


It's just past sunset, the sky becoming that flat kind of grey before true night can really set in, like an undercooked cake. Give it a few more minutes. There's no electricity out here, the street lamps far away, distant beacons than lamps, but there's plenty of light pollution to go around, to bounce off the twisted metal and rubble and illuminate the desolate wasteland that is the former resting spot of the Eagle Electric buildings. Chain link fences circle with gaping holes that vandals might pass through, warning tape against trespassers now becoming tattered streamers, dusty and forgotten.

Piles of rubble, from crumbled pebbles to larger chunks of charred concrete, make small hills and valleys throughout. In the distance, the silhouettes of construction and demolition machines make outlines.

Here's to hoping Teo will know where to go. It's possible he'll steer his way towards the last time he saw Eileen, where the rocks are no longer stained with blood from countless showers of rain and shifting of debris, perhaps not. Either way, there's no one there yet. Not anyone in the open.

This doesn't quite fit. Nor had Eileen particularly wanting to speak to him after that whole — debacle, honestly. Debacles, plural. It's been a hard month for Manhattan's happy post-apocalypse friends. This wasn't an altogether logical decision, but then again, logic orients itself to objectives and Teodoro Laudani is rarely wont to be far away when trouble finds his friends, even if trouble's really only technically looking for a vehicle, like a car or a catapault, to get to him.

He shows up, on time— which is to say, 'tonight.' Picks his way over fragmented concrete and underneath the a ragged ropey curtain of tarpaulin long since twined thinned and stretched out to useless. He doesn't look like himself, and he doesn't expect that Eileen— or whomever she's sent in her stead?— had much expected him to. The wind cards through his black hair, moves something glass through the background. It takes him a few minutes of staring at the dark, but he gets there in the end.

A blurry, monochrome figure emerging into Gabriel's periphery, either looking the wrong way, or not looking for him. "Buona sera."


Hey, hey over there— where Teo inevitably senses someone's presence anyway, comes the velvet-casual greeting from Gabriel Gray. Against a steep angle of rubble, upon which you can only be comfortable if you try hard enough, Gabriel is more watching the sky than the appearance of the man he'd opted to try and meet. So he'd gotten a plan and gotten impatient, but perhaps it's better this way, to set this up on his own. He's dressed in customary, uncreative black, a leather jacket over a shirt of the same pitch tone and dark jeans that may as well be under a darkening sky. His head rests back against concrete. There are bandages beneath his clothing and painkillers in his bloodstream.

And it's a nice night to be out, actually. He gets to his feet, favouring his right arm as his fingers dig through broken rock. Much like the last time Teo laid eyes on him, Gabriel has the air, yet again, of an injured predator. Some day, he won't be. He approaches, the rubble and dirt gritting and scraping together beneath his boots, into visibility.

Dark eyes of glimmering black sweep over Teo's form, without surprise and without doubt, simply taking it in. "Why do you think he chose this face?" he asks, conversational, and offering no explanation as to the absence of the owner of the cellphone tucked into a pocket. Perhaps he doesn't really need to.

Nnnot really. Though it would have been polite, Ghost discerningly excises this particular complaint from the catalogue of available bitchy faces to make. There is no one else around, but someone sicked Sylar on him.

This is made perhaps somewhat more excusable, or at least understandable, at the subtle twist of rhetoric that reveals that the identity of said perpetrator was one of his erstwhile victims. He holds his ground, watches Gabriel detach his shape from the stack of interchangeable rubble. The man's hands and face are luminous reliefs against the gruff texture of inanimate, sterile structures deconstructed behind him. Ghost narrows his eyes slightly, squinting under the miserly illumination of moonlight.

He isn't carrying enough guns. He wouldn't be able to carry enough guns? Gabriel looks like he could use some guns, too, but wouldn't be physically comfortable hauling around that much weight, either. In short, the terrain, the limp and scrape of the man before him, does not indicate to Ghost imminence of otherwise expected pell-mell warfare. Good, because he's already died like that once.

Bad, because— surprises so often are. "'Cause it's easy and mean, I think," the old man guesses. "Maybe you can relate. What can I do for you, Gabriel?"

His eyebrows go up, two defined arcs above dark eyes in a casual, nonchalant expression as he doesn't quite come to a halt. More of a pause, several feet from Ghost, looking him over, up and down. As if trying to find the scrap of Teo left inside, because he sure as hell isn't on the outside. Gabriel can't judge if that would be more or less maddening.

More, maybe. It'd be a shame to forget who you are entirely. "You could start by telling me the truth," he suggests, and begins to walk again, cautious steps in a wide arc around the man; a slow, pacing circle. As if summoning up invisible walls around the man he's drawn out into the opening, binding him in ritual.

"Who are you besides Teodoro Laudani? No one's really told me. And please don't bother with cryptic bullshit either. The night's young but I'm not a patient man."

These demands are very clear, and to pretend otherwise would be some saucy disservice that Ghost would prefer not to pay to his old friend. He acknowledges this with a slight dip of his eyes down the vertical axis of Gabriel's slightly lopsided gait, his breath gathering clotty in the grille of briefly bared teeth. Sort of a rictus.

Not quite a smile. His eyes turn to follow before the rest of his head. "I'm a former Mossad liaison, from the future. I have an equally legitimate claim to the same name, passport number, parentage, and even— apparently— his body, if not all of the…" He swings his arm out, hand half-cupped, a vague and general sort of gesture. "…time-specific trappings, in this case. It's a long story you wouldn't want to hear: you died right at the end.

"And not well. What the fuck happened to your arm?" The vagueness and generality of his folded hand is exchanged for abrupt specificity. Ghost points it at the appendage that seems to be causing the man trouble. If his alter-ego is objecting to his description of Sonny as a time-specific trapping, or otherwise railing the way that Gabriel once had against the confines of Kazimir's mind-made prison, he doesn't show it.

It's strange, the way injuries can twinge to attention when focus is drawn to them. Barely repaired ligaments, still cracked bone, newly knitted muscle all shivers as one beneath leather and different kinds of cotton, but it doesn't show on his face. It rarely does. "Someone sent a message with a sniper," Gabriel says, plainly. And when he puts it like that, the injury should probably be worse. Technically, he shouldn't even have an arm.

"And on the contrary, the sounds like a very interesting story." No bid for him to continue, just analysis. Gabriel stops somewhere to Teo's left, still maintaining a distance, the crunch of slow footsteps giving way to silence. The look the other man gets is cold, and his lip curls as he says, voice harsh, "You don't belong here. The fact that you can only take Teo's body is a testament to that."

It's either a guess or a test, covered up in a mask of confident severity, the sort the man known as Sylar wears often.

Whereas Salvatore did artificially alter Teodoro Laudani's entire physical appearance, the look he gives the other man isn't a mask: that is just his face. Eyelids placed low over the washed out translucency of irises, the blue there furred with infinite needles, a winter's death kind of drowsing. "To the contrary, it was 2019 that I didn't fucking belong. Here?

"Body to hijack, corpses to make— or unmake, justice to serve. The scales are still changing, here, no quantities truly known. When that stops, I will.

"Until then— " he shears a silence off between even white teeth. Narrows his eyes, regarding Gabriel for another protracted segment of circling until he lifts his boot off asphalt too beaten in by weather to give any further than it already has, and he begins to trek along the rim of confrontational geometry in tandem to the erstwhile serial killer. "What are you going to do? Kill us?"

Gabriel's hands goes out— well one goes out, the other lifts a shorter fraction than it would have in a gentle kind of shrug. "I was told not to hurt you, unless I had to," he says, simply, which says everything and nothing at all, and certainly not the measure of necessity, or how often he does what he's told. It also doesn't specify who sent him, but that can be guessed, maybe, armed with the knowledge of the face change and Eileen's cellphone and no back up that anyone can see.

His hand drifts to clamp over his injured arm, just above the elbow, turning to look at Teo with a narrowed, calculating stare, before his body shifts into a state of tension. That hand goes out, fingers curving, in the aim to perhaps bind him in the invisible strings of a puppeteer's legacy before the man can move.

They start to move at roughly the same time, but Teo has to move further, and he does start later— an unfortunate symptom of reactionary movement. Quick as a hiccup, Ghost finds himself bound up where he's standing, hits joints jammed up inside the sleeves of his skin, feet rooted on asphalt through the thickness of his boot soles, legs scissored on the edge of tension, teeth caged up around his next words.

The lattermost is less because of Gabriel's specified psychic commands than as an instant of unhappy consternation. His arm appears to have gotten stuck halfway into position with which he might have shot Gabriel using the little black Para-Ordnance gripped in the hollow of his palm. He clicks a blink through his eyes.

"Would it help if I told you Teo doesn't mind too much, at this point?"

It would have been a bad day indeed, to get shot again. No relief shows; arrogant enough that maybe it was never a worry. Gabriel's hand moves, and Teo's back goes rigid straight, like a soldier's, arms stiff down his sides, handgun in his grip and all. "No," he tells him, tone as flat as the word is honest.

There's a heavy clatter, Gabriel's hand loosening and Teo's hand does the same, the handgun falling to the rough terrain just next to his foot. Hand curves, palm tilted towards the sky, fingers curl inwards and stiff-legged, unpracticed, Teo is forced forward a few steps, before coming to an unsteady halt back on his heels.

"Getting used to this doesn't justify a thing. What do you need to leave him alone? Another body? I can help you, or I can make you."

"Justification?" Ghost repeats this word as if it were a fanciful invention of slang vocabulary that no longer exists in 2019. His hand has no gun in it, which may account for some of the disconcertment in his tone, but there's little doubt from the tic of small muscles in his face that he thinks Gabriel's cognitive progression leaves something to be desired. "Fuck, what have I done that makes anyone think I'm interested in— ?"

He stops talking after that. Braggadocio goes nowhere. He isn't going anywhere, and maybe even he has to admit to himself, he has been a little bit self-righteous lately. It's a sense of entitlement that accompanies most people who feel enough conviction about anything to murder multiple victims over it. "I don't think it works that way. Even if I did think you weren't just looking for a sieve to separate the golden boy from— whatever the fuck you think I am.

"And then saw my head open." His eyes rotate downward in their sockets, examining the ungainly waddle that his feet had seesawed toward the older man.

Up again, studying the lopsided gingerness with which Gabriel holds his torso together, elbow crooked, muscles whinging subtle violin-stringed protest, as if he needs his hands to do it. There is something akin to patience in his eyes, neutral, expectant, clinically curious, painlessly but not harmlessly incisive, like sharing a handclasp with the molecular blade of a surgical knife. "I think I can sympathize," he says, after a moment. "The fall from might. Where I come from, I'm not weak as piss and even slower— you are the one who kills Arthur Petrelli."

"You think I'm like them?"

The gravel crunches underfoot as Gabriel moves closer, enough to be within conversational distance, hand still raised aloft to keep the other man in place. "Wanting to rescue the good guy from the villain? I don't know who you are or why you're here. I don't really care. I just know what you're doing to someone I owe something to."

No specification on what. In terms of owing. The lost limb of telekinesis is missed, some more, because it'd be tempting to just cut to the chase and squeeze this entity out of his ally in so many broken ribs. "I've felt it before. You're no better than Kazimir Volken. So let's say I have some pent up frustration about that and I'm projecting, and act like you can't convince me otherwise.

"I'm sure I can make Helena Dean tell me all about the future when this is all over." Something washes over Teo, and perhaps at least the present version would remember it, that familiar tingling of degenerative energy sliding over his skin, constricting breath, nausea unravelling low in his gut. The shadows thicken, and there's a tick of tension in Gabriel's jaw.

The first thing that hurts is Teo's head: the pile-up of skull trauma that his body will always remember, and then that strange leeching, wilting accompanied by blackening veins and the flaking scaliness of peeling epidermis. "Fuck," he says, unhelpfully, and he can barely hear the single syllable under the mountaing assault of injury, the cymbal clash of blood and spiny needling neon dashed through his vision.

"Come on, Gabe." Strange eyes blink hard. The ruin behind Gabriel remains indifferent to his roving search for inspiration. "Empathy is so passe."

Hey- there's an awakening bleat in his mind's ear, stirring in the back of Ghost's skull at what may or may not be regarded as an inopportune moment. Ah- Teo corkscrews in the cramped space and rapidly grows concerned at the thunderous growl of blood pressure through the doldrums of his limited perceptions. He throws words out into the ether. Futile, pointless words. Hey— Ghost? Could you maybe fucking stop pissing him of?

No, apparently not.

That is when the jolt comes, a straight shot telepathic into the eddying maelstrom of sentient darkness, teeth-rattling, not only for Gray himself but the crowded inhabitants of the two Teodoros shut up in the same head. There is confusion, a dull impression of objects overturning, blood jostling brain, psychic entities lurching against one another, and something— isn't— quite— right

Puppetry strings cut as soon as pulses of electrical telepathic energy sieze a hold of Gabriel's brain and rips consciousness from him. Which was a mistake, as it doesn't look back.

The world goes black for a moment, and all Teo can see and sense are tendrils of ashy smoke. Detail gets put back into place as his eyes clear. Gabriel's body frozen in delayed collapse as his muscles sieze, eyes blank, mouth open in a scream that does not come from his throat, but it's heard— a pain filled cry that is cut short as that sound carries with the black smoke siphoning out from him. From his mouth, his eyes, from his skin, from the hems of his clothing, through the weave of it. It seems to be the only thing holding him upright as it unwinds from him like thread off a spool.

It sounds like the dying scream of a choir.

Teo is free to run, but as Gabriel recalls, there's really no place to run as the shadowy mass ascends only to descend. You'd have better luck outrunning a breeze. It passes through him like the stinging bite of winter, only hot like infection and fever feels hot. There's no grip as darkness eddies itself through the skin, through open motuh, nostrils, eyes, there's no need to hold him still.

What goes on, physically, is horrifyingly painful. Teo is now the second person in the world, still alive, to know the full extent of Kazimir's wrath. What goes on inside, however, is painful in its chaos, a driving dagger of consciousness that suddenly shark-fins through his mind in the process of taking over.

Confounded by agony and darkness, it occurs to Ghost, rather tardily, that he had skipped reading this page of the driver's manual. Unwise, given he had short thereafter burned the book.

Fuckety fuck fuck fuck.

This falls somewhere between having his guts splattered out by long knives in Israel and burying Alexander, both alike and unalike those things, physical and emotional, sense of self subsumed by the misfire of pain's neurology and throttled further out of focus by the emergence of new consciousness, unalike. His hands are on fire. He is falling down. He can't tell if that is the asphalt racking up against his knee bones or a seizure dancing him herky-jerky as a retarded child. (The other Teo is screaming something and, rather unkindly, he thinks that, too, is like a retarded child.)

No, Ghost decides next. He refuses. Outright: not now, Edward's solution inchoate, not here on the cusp of vengeance, not before he's made his peace and finished his battle. He hurdles a mad rush of paces against the incoming wall of Gabriel's pernicious consciousness, invading. No

And it only sounds like a plea because suddenly it is Eileen's, and she is here, her china bones and piano-key fingers wrought with the same flawed delicacy with which Gabriel's mind has conjured her so many times before. Her hair is pulled back, severe in their paramilitary practicality, softened only by the downy feathers descending in fleecy droves, makes her eyes skeletally huge with bellicose fright as her gun croaks empty in her hand.

Black paint, mortal terror, a glass of champaigne, Bai-Chan orphaned at an incongruous age flinching when the ragged lady social-worker places a pen down on the table beside him, and then there is one scream, Gillian collapsing like a corpse, splitting bone, an epileptic strobe of imagery, misappropriated sensation that loops back, inevitably, to Eileen stepping over the ruptured bed. There is a lot that Ghost hasn't gotten around to telling Helena Dean about his future.

The last of the shadow tendrils take flight from Gabriel's flesh. It's a good sign that his eyes flicker shut before his legs give like collapsing structures, a scrape of gravel as he topples down, his broken shoulder jarring and stirring no reaction, sharp gravel cutting skin below his eye, his legs skewed and lapels, hair being the only thing in motion as the false wind that Kazimir's power's transference creates, dying slowly.

Unlike Gabriel, who breathes, heart beats steadily. He has Teo to thank.

Gabriel, the real one, what makes him him and not a partially mangled collection of bone and meat, has forgotten his body too. No, he has more things to focus on, like the sudden wave of memory that is probably easier to handle when it's not horrifyingly familiar.

What is…

The future. It's distracting when he should be focusing on leaking himself through Teo's limbs, at least for a start, but he's at war and trying to knife-cut through the inherent, greedy instinct of Kazimir's power and what he's meant to be doing. Sieving out the golden boy. He can sort of feel the man's body like his own, distantly numb, the broken ground beneath him as he flops like a fish, gropes at air.

The Fuhrer's throne crashes to the ground in splintered wood as Kazimir's broken body goes rolling across concrete; dying grass and plantlife underfoot that streches beyond him turns to salt grass with Odessa Knutson sitting upright; the close up of a black-faced man turning to grey in the African desert as Gabriel speeds up the process of baking, eyes shrivelling into dust while somewhere in the background, Teo's wielding a rifle. It's like if montages had fights, as Gabriel's only memories, somewhat related, fishtail after him.

There's so much in here. Two minds, Gabriel makes three. He tries to wrap razor wire around the one that seems most foriegn, the one that sees Wu-Long's little boy and Eileen with an emptied gun in her hand and wild eyes. He's not really sure what he's going to do after that. This is one of those plans that aren't really.

The substance in Gabriel's grasp, however brutally dexterous and surgical his touch, inverts. The razor wire closes around the wrong thing. Eileen. Strings her up by the throat, metal digging into the marzipan flesh underside her jaw, mutilating her words into a moist gurgle instead of a scream, an accusation, a plea. The coil tightens when Gabriel tightens it, unintended but inevitable. Barbs wrench her head loose like a fluff-tipped stem rended out of the density of a cauliflower.

Ghost lands on desert. Red earth cracks underneath the black of his boots. He looks like Teo, here, but older— and meaner, and tattoos patterned higher on his neck. He is dressed like he borrowed Gabriel's sense of fashion, or lack thereof. Black on black; no rifle, his hands splay empty, and somewhere on the periphery of the other man's sensory perception, labored, twitching, a belated echo but unmistakable, so do the ones of bone and flesh.


There are no hands to wrench free of the wire choking her pale neck, just thoughts unstoppable to put brakes on. There's a shimmer of disgust and horror through the thin membranic nature of what divides them as flesh is sheared, wetly, bone breaks. They both have vivid imaginations.


Gabriel's shoulder doesn't hurt here, and he's dressed much the same. Crouched on the red ground, his fingers rake through the fine dust as if to check how real it is. It flows like water. Very nearly. Black-glass eyes study Teo's form. "I'm just trying to descend to your level." Sarcasm and caustic humour seems to make the heat waves bend a little more furious. His legs straighten.

"So that's what you look like. Do you remember this place? It's going to become very familiar to you, either way."

Areligious skepticism makes a Scroogishly spare and silent line out of the ordinarily sanguine stuff of Teo's mouth. This desert is not familiar to him, but desert is. Israel's had favored stones over sand, a wan shade of bleach-yellow rough and knotty as pus-caked tear glands, compared to the bloodily fleshy carving and pitted musculature of this horizon. After a moment, either at his urging or an inadvertent intimation of subconscious, the air smells stale and gritty, its Mobius contours furred and fanged with infinite grains of glass and sand.

It drones. Beats at their clothes, thickens the stuff below their feet; does nothing against the heat.

"You've always been beneath me. Kazimir's bag-bottomed finger-puppet, Gillian's discarded project, Eileen's pet drunk, Peter's adolescent nemesis. All of his pride stocked in his power until it's dwindled to jack shit, as mediocre at empathy as he is at honoring his hate, all the arrogance of a lopsided salamander who can't make up his mind if survival is for fun, a feckless exercise in vanity, fearful, or a simple function of being built to break apart and then hide crippled under the fucking toilet seat. The formula for all of your success is in your pedigree, you know. It's just your head that undoes you. It's always in your fucking head.

"That's probably why we're friends." Between them, terrain splits like an egg knocked on the rim of a bowl, caves inward, a chafing maw or monolithic uterus, a self-cannibalizing maelstrom of terrestrial geology. Ghost doesn't look down. Strangely, he doesn't look— very far away, either, despite the rubbing raw of weather finds cracks in his lips. "We are costly but unpaid bitches."

Sand and dust makes hazy smoke in the air as wind whips it ruthlessly between them, around them, turns black fabric to something trustier and makes it harder to see, though it never gets in their eyes locked across the creaking crevasse that's yawned between them. Sand slides in, hissing together, seems to blow back out in spitting drafts.

And Gabriel listens, his face a mask of anger he doesn't feel the need to hide, not on his face, not when the very environment around him displays his fury as easily as the raises hackles on a wolf. Words like knives and some of them are strange and confusing, misses the exact mark for the intended man, one ten years later who looks no older than this incarnation, but slices flesh all the same, at the very least nicks skin.

There are cracks snaking out from the chasm. This isn't steady ground.

"We're not friends," he says, in a hissing voice fit to rival the sound of sand. If there was air to breathe, it might be difficult. "You're a parasite who thinks he's better because he has an idea. It's predictable; you haven't changed, you just grew an ego. You still chase thrown sticks, just this time you're doing some of the throwing yourself."

There's a crack of thunder over head, where rain might threaten to turn sand to mud, to send them boith sliding into the fractured earth between them. Right now, the clouds only crash together in impotent loud noises and warning flashes of lightning. "Still trying to be a hero. I don't care why, but I'm not going to let you. You fucked up, wherever you came from, and you're not going to get to fix it. Teo is."

It's a lesson in no-take-backs, an argument he'd won in a desert just like this. The Teo in front of him wouldn't recall. Obviously.

That might explain why Ghost more often behaves like he had lost something that can and will be taken back, with passion proportionate to force. His capacity for douching around the year 2009 seems to imply that if anyone needs forgiveness or otherwise ought to make reparations, it isn't him. Oh, but it's getting fucking filthy in here, isn't it?

New-formed mud abruptly slashes the incline of his cheek, begins to beat against the furrowed line of his brow and tangles dark clots into the thread of eyelashes. Pointessly, he squints his eyes against this onslaught, breathes algid air and the taste of stale dirt.

"What else are sticks and stones for?" In the physical word, Teodoro Laudani's fleshcrafted eyelids scrape down and ratchet up again, a blink of a demonstrative pointing, or maybe just a facetious taunt— either way, Gabriel Gray's body still lies in a broken swoon on the asphalt at his folded knees. He doesn't have enough of a grip on this body to manage a smile, though, so there's only one here, in the rain-crushed sandstorm. "Oh.

"Right." Bones. The old saying says something about bones. Butter wouldn't melt in Ghost's fucking mouth.

"No," he adds, jerking both hands into the recesses of his coat pockets, whiter than the sand used to be. "That would be another thing we have in common: we're still fucking useless in this chapter of chronology."

And words aren't meant to hurt you, is how the rest of the saying goes. But in a mind, in a battle between consciousness, there are no bones to break, and words are all you have. And images, but what's a picture if not thousands of the things? There's a filmic editorial break in the landscape, one they both share quite suddenly; the frame skips, a scene is inserted, a few seconds worth of Gabriel crashing to the floor of Arthur Petrelli's office.

A gun in his hand, swinging around in a flash of metal, and there is a second there where the trigger, by rights, should be pulled. The weapon goes hurtling away instead at a gesture of Arthur's hand and a sneer appropriate for the display.

Fucking useless is reasonably apt. No, you! Well, he did include himself. The desert is back, as rainy, storming, as dangerous as it is, whatever interdimensional rift restored with some handless blocking of that dam. "And I guess things haven't changed much for you in 2019," Gabriel snarls back. "At least I killed Arthur Petrelli. You're, what? Covering your tracks? What are you running from? There is nothing for you here."

This time, something membraneous ruptures on the Sicilian's side, only this intrusion is a briefer lull and a pitch that lacks impetus, weakness minimized not by a clever compensation of strength or cunning but a simple function of finite mental and emotional reach, now. It's been years since the ghost had a dream of his own and this place is more like that than commonplace torture or normal conversation.

Gabriel catches it, though, as brief a blur as it is through the clouds and the rain, not a prismed rainbow but an errant pinwheel torn out and drilled by the wind, each color the fleeting appearance of a face.

Gabriel knows most of them, if not the moments they're snapshot at. Fido; Salvatore Bianco; Helena; Lucrezia; Cat; Lizabet; Flint and Abby; Delilah and Walter; Felix; Christian; a dichotomy of Allistair children; Eileen with her throat stroked into two tender halves, Hana. Sometimes, he thinks he regrets the last, most of all— having left her, knowing she wouldn't do well alone, made infinitely worse rather than a little bit, gently, better, that she would have understood, always has and still does.

The next instant, the pinwheel mottles to black with the driving spokes of needling mud, disappears against the boil of dark skies. Their clothes are blacker than that. So are the ghost's spirits, as they're wont to turn when he is made to remember that everything that has happened to him can't be made to unhappen. Oh, well.

Oh well, oh well, oh well. "That's not exactly how it happened," Ghost admits, distantly, and quieter now. They are standing on opposite edges of a peaty press of waterfalls, two of them turned in opposition, breaking water against the backs of their legs and steeping down into a chasm that has deepened since the last time granulated earth hissed in and out of it. His hand emerges from his pocket— dirt-rimed and slick despite this precaution— and he smudges black from his eyelids. "There's always work."

He says 'always.' Means 'only.'

Peter's face is blotched with enraged grief, and black canvasses eat the color out of the prophet's palette in great, brutal bites, ribboning void down the walls of their half of the duplex. Eileen dies in front of him, now, her fingers tight on the fabric of Teo's pant leg; Teo looks down instead of up, but not out from under the dreadful weight of guilt, but at the sweating slice of Gabriel's head on the carpet floor, double-images, triple, fraying over the sight of Eileen's jaws, halved throat working at air, jaws splayed for words like the hocks of a bitch in heat, but it does nothing.

"We could both use a little pity, I think," the stranger remarks, glancing up, over the greasy roof of Eileen's trembling skull. The semi-auto clicks resonant in his fingers. "The real difference between us is that I give it to you."

Where are we now? Somewhere, a desert is falling apart in gushing water, mudslide, dirty atmosphere and rumbling broken ground. The precipice is widening and gravity works no matter where you are, including in dreaming. Flying is only a defiance of what's there— that pull downwards is inevitable, always.

But they are also in a room, in memories that never happened except for the records, fraying at the edges, in this skull they share. "Mercy is more useful," Gabriel's voice, hissing and sibiliant and clipped by Teo's ear, like the devil on his shoulder, an observor. "Pity is a sad currency. What would you do, Teo, with my pity?"

He's going to shoot her. Urgency shimmers through this mindscape. Why isn't Gabriel getting up? Twitching like a fish out of water instead while Teo stands over the near-corpse of Eileen. She looks older.

"You killed her. You're going to kill her." The words are unstoppable, edged with fear.

"Wouldn't spend it on you," Ghost answers, strangely light despite the weather hammering down on their pores, into their eyes, funneling brackish rivulets down the insides and outsides and through the permeable weave of their clothes. "Be overkill, wouldn't it?"

It is getting quieter where they are. The roar of misdirected and clashing mineral matter gives way to the more mellifluous song of falling water. Eileen's breathing thins out, weaving gossamer-winged, buzzing in the air as the protracted echo of her gunfire fades with the sprayed feathers in the air. The men remain where they are, inhabiting two places at once, but the ghost's expression is the same, there and here, whether smudged with dirt or clean.

"She looked so sad." Teodoro's voice has somehow split into two, now, like a forked tongue, only now there is a third, a rumbling undercurrent. "I didn't know what else to do."

When he folds his finger against the trigger, there is no report. She continues to whimper, rasp, her slack, severed tongue struggling in her throat like a crucified leech. Fall, her head listing heavily against the side of Ghost's leg. Red blood falls out from under her chin. One drop, so fat that it rocks a feather atop the wood with the velocity of its liquid impact.

Her jaw is ashy and there is an intimation of black killing vapor in the ropey coil of her ponytail. Feng is telling someone: "Dong la. Wo buhui rang me sixiang. Zai jian."

The rain drags with greater and greater strength and Ghost— slips. Just once. Trips on something submerged below the deceptive opacity of the foaming surface. It dislodges, ejects, flips upright— slaps broadside his palm the next instant, inside the corkscrew curl of muddy fingers: the sword cane.

In the drowning desert, Gabriel flinches. Time is relative, relaxed as casual as concepts of space is, in this place, two places at once as Gabriel turns his cheek against the spitting rain and mud spray wind, like the red that sprays cone-like from the other side of Eileen's head, hard skull giving way to the soft stuff inside.

"What is wrong with you?"

A far cry from the desert, Gabriel's voice curves through the room with the dead woman, and Gabriel can't stop looking, can't stop looking, even when Teo slips, even when a fatal error occurred and he doesn't seee it because he can't stop— "So you gave up on empathy. That caring you're so famous for. You became more like me and you think you're better? I hope I killed you. I hope I nailed you to the wall." Unfortunate choice of words.

He's forgotten what he's meant to be doing. Gabriel's arms go out to steady himself as rock slips, and his feet go out. The sky above him pinwheels wildly through his vision as he falls back, scrabbles so as not to fall inwards, down and down, gripping onto the unsteady rock and mud that makes up the terrain, eventually righting himself.

"You don't belong here— you don't— you can't just take back ten years. Nothing will change. You can't change the past because it's done. She's dead. So are you."

It would seem that the earth is imploding on itself, sucking dense water down and down and down into its burning core, and Eileen is going away, somewhere else, already subtracted from her body and eyes round as nulls, turgid, inside open sockets, ghosted over and dusty, easy as erasing sums of a board.

Ghost isn't fighting the other killer now; not anymore. This ruthless falling, undertow of terror, this excess of wet darkness, isn't merely his.

Ghost slides, strains against the ground. Spits water and twists like a cat, swinging the sword-cane in his hands. It slams down through a fleshy cross-section of sediment and stone with the force of desperation, nails him down with all the white-boned clutch of hands. "You can't tell me nothing changes," he calls out. "You can't fucking tell me that, Gabriel Gray."

Shouting, this time, because it was neither the wind nor the monsoon weather, but the sheer drop: the closer you get to the edge, the louder it is, this grinding, retching lassitude that neither of them have yet summoned the wisdom to fight harder than they've fought each other. The shape of a man pinned up, crushed, stretched out spreadeagled against a white wall flashes briefly in Gabriel's mind like a star. He knows who the man is.

There is dirt in Ghost's teeth when he smiles. "Neither!" He's hoarser than the cascades. "None of that. All the best cowboys have daddy issues."

The cane is familiar, too. It's Teo's turn to see, through Gabriel's eyes, as he steps over Kazimir's remains and picks the cane up off the ground, turns the wolf head to study, and if he's smart, he'll realise it's a memory of a memory, Kazimir leaking into Gabriel's limbs and controlling his movement, controlling the hand that wraps around the steel handle.

An untimely memory indeed. Gabriel tries to grip for purchase, but he has no such tools, he has nothing, not a thing. His fingernails bite into the shifting sand, the mud, the dragging gravity. Teo splayed against a white, and red spatters from his slitted head like modern art. Gabriel tastes exactly the same bitterness that he imagines he might have done at the time, too, ten years forward. He yells something into the wind, the words snatched away. This is no way to talk. They can't do it like this.

It's suddenly still.

No roaring storm, no slick mudslide, nothing. A fire crackles on the wood, a bonfire in the desert so suddenly calm and flat, African smoothness. The only sound is splintered wood, and a lion roars in the background. Teo sees above the flickering flames, the slices of light dancing off Gabriel's face, unshaven and pale. His eyes are black, glitters like a snake's. He smiles. "I lied. You can change things. But the more you try, the more desperately futile it gets. Trust me, I know." He sits back on his hands, moves out a foot to nudge at the firewood with the toe of his boot. He's wearing a BDU shirt, stolen, bloodstained and sand worn. "It's all going to get lost from here on in. I'm sorry you thought otherwise."

Regret crosses Gabriel's face. This can't stay for long. The lion's roar turns to the sound of thunder. "I'll tell Teo you said 'hi'?"

The storm is back, and as Teo clings to the stuck sword at the edge of the precipice of water, sand and rock, he'll see Gabriel's hand reaching, flinging some fight into his survival but it's always his head that undoes him, just as prophecised. He slips away, swallowed up, silent.

It seems that the sum of Gabriel's being is greater than the bones of his psyche or the colors of his sentiment, or the slack bag of skin he'd been gutted from minutes ago. After he falls, the chasm, hidden but felt, seals. Slows, catches the final few tons of water and begins inexorably to fill: a gurgle, a slurrying sound, bubbles wreaking translucent circles.

It takes him far, far too long to realize that the tempest had stopped, that the ground is sated, his hands are his own, their grip, and his face, though raw and misshapen by forces easier explained by supernature than science, is once again his, and this fucking body — however slow, weak, unconditioned — chained to the black iron ball-weight of his soul. That noise— that must be— that's— only his breathing: heard from the inside out. Overturned concrete and ruptured wood lay quiescent around them.

From here, Gabriel Gray looks like he is dead. Again. He doesn't really fucking understand how this keeps happening— that Gabriel leaves, not particularly slow or in haste that he would think to lunge and grasp after, but always, somehow, just before he gets around to saying:


Voicemail from Teo to Sonny

Sala. It's me. I just spoke to Gabriel, who I figure came on your behest. And now his body's here on Long Island City in the middle of the fucking Eagle Electricty with a pulse and breath in it, but nothing far as I can tell in the way of a fucking soul.

He won't wake up.

I don't know what the Hell you thought you were going to accomplish. Did you want me to kill him? Did you figure he'd kill me? Or didn't you? Maybe next time you make a gamble, maybe you should bet your own fucking life. I remember you hate him, and I know you love Teo for all of his self-loathing so there's logically consistent cruelty in this, I know, but still cruelty.

Tell you something you were never going to find out. Always— for years, you wondered why I kept fucking pushing you to befriend him. Gabriel 'Sylar' Gray, who insulted you and threatened to trounce your conventional sense of decency with a telekinetic guillotine. Serial-killer. Sociopath. Socially inept. You wondered why; I'll tell you. You were the best man I knew. Depite, and with your vanity, feckless spending habits, and reticence, you were the best man I knew. I believed that if you could find it in yourself the strength and humanity to forgive a a redeemed man, I could someday forgive myself. Not because he and I were alike in our monstrosity but because I admired this in you. I wanted it. Believed in it.

It's interesting you asked Gabriel for help, but I don't think this is going to mean what I hoped.

The truth is, I don't really expect you to understand. Or feel remorse, or experience some crucial instant of self-awareness. It didn't happen, and I don't think it can or should. I do, however, hope that someday you will come to realize that I loved you anyway but that maybe that is why I could never love you better than this.


Return voicemail, Sal to Teo Ghost, a short time later.

Before the message starts, there's the sound of a deep breath being taken.

I told Gabriel because I didn't want you to use him, to manipulate him and to play on everything Teo has done for him. Like you've done to so many others. Like you did to me. It's the same reason I changed your face. I may not be a hero, I might not be a fighter, but I owe his friends to warn them about you. I don't know what you are or what kind of game you're playing with tossing around 'love' like you know me. You're doing it to throw me off balance, to make me feel sympathy for you. Well. I'm not going to fall for it. Not again. Not after the fool you made of me.

What he did after I told him was Gabriel's own doing. I didn't sic him on you. I warmed him that you might try to manipulate him. If you know the tension between us, then you know that Gabriel wouldn't do something because I asked. Even if I had asked him for anything. You want to blame me for what you did to him.

You can't guilt me, you can't cut me to the quick. You can't play at being Teo with me. Even if you are some version of him, you are not him. You have no right to destroy his life and murder people with his face. You think you have some kind of justification? You don't. You're just full of rage and you think you're being a hero. All you are is one of the monsters that good men like Teodoro Laudani fight against.

A murderer has no power to guilt a man with clean hands.

Oh. By the way. I came to find Gabriel and he's not here. Someone got to him first or he woke up and found his way home. I hope it was the second, or you left him to the wolves.



Oh, I see.

You might want to check under your fingernails, darling.

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