Hard to Find


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Hard to Find
Synopsis Eileen finally catches up with the last person she's been looking for.
Date February 25, 2011

Staten Island: Riverhouse

Rain makes a sound on the river house's roof that can't be compared to anything else because there's nothing else quite like it — fingers of water drumming against old, mossy tiles made of clay. Winter is almost over, though you wouldn't know it; it's almost as cold inside as it is outside, and the building's only saving grace, apart from its location, is that the leaks were filled at some point during the summer so the interior remains dry.

In weather like this, that's important. The wet will kill a man faster than temperature alone — you either have to be either very well-dressed or very foolish to travel on a night like the one that's bled the sky of light and fills the house with noise. Wind tugs at skinny, malformed trees stripped of their leaves back in autumn and rattles branches against glass like bony bark knuckles rapping to be let in.

Trespassers don't. Knock. If the person moving downstairs did, then it went unheard, but the woman now at the foot of the stairs doesn't feel as though she has to, or should. She has as much right to be here as anyone else who knows where to find it, and she's hoping one of them is already here.

Eileen has run out of other places to look.

The things that are missing are always, at least, in the last places you do.

Upstairs is the kitchen, and what he does now reminds him of when he'd been a little crazy once, and painted the explosion of New York City in the blood his mother had shed when he'd punctured her chest with scissors. An accident. Not an accident. One of those two things, one of the many murky things, and if it wasn't an accident, Gabriel might meditate on what drove him to do it. Not Hunger, the compulsion that had gripped him with Ethan like delerious at his feet, even if he'd never imagined to feel that way for someone he might consider a surrogate dad when Raith isn't doing a better job.

If he killed Virginia deliberately, it wasn't for the Hunger. It was because Gabriel Gray, Sylar aside, is a murderer.

These thoughts nearly distracting enough for Gabriel to miss the presence of another as blood winds across the abandoned kitchen table and paints patterns as directed from some psychic signal in his mind, seaping from a track carved deep into his arm. A woman in silhouette, her eyes made of negative space. Odessa or Eileen or Gillian or Natalie. He's not a good enough artist to make a girl distinguished from another.

It's not that he's melodramatic. He just didn't have any paint. "I'm up here," echoes down the staircase.

The response he receives is the groan and creak of feet on the stairs. Fingers whisper over the banister. Eileen might be moving faster if he'd said something else, or if he'd chosen to make an appearance instead of bidding her to come to him, and it's not resentment that makes her cautious — it's the fact there are two of him who sound like that, two of him with physical appearances that are identical if you don't know to look for the silver woven through his hair or the tree spread open across his back.

To have come all this way and pursued him for so long only to finish at the feet of the wrong one would be tragic if she lived long enough to really appreciate it. Anxious vibrations tremor down a line that may or may not connect to anything, or anyone, but regardless she emerges from the stairwell a moment later.

There's no light to step into. Everything is shadow, and it makes very little difference to her. What she can sense is more important than what she can see.

Her nervousness is her give away.

But Gabriel is a little self-absorbed tonight, but it's not a distraction that would keep even him for long. Maybe long enough for her to see the silver shot grey through dark brunette, and the curl of inked branch near his neck where the sweater he wears, old and stretched, has a warped neckline. Still, he doesn't get up and does send a glance over his shoulder, plucks a psychic finger against empathic thread of mute query, before he twists his hand. Blood rises from the table, ropes around — he cleans it until it shines healthier than the average bloodstream, free of grit and dust, a rich dark red that looks like ruby melted down.

He doesn't need it, but he'll put it back anyway, slowly and carefully and a little like aching punishment. It siphons into the wound, big nose wrinkling, his back to the door that Eileen appears in. She came to find him. She can speak first. Blood reeks in the air.

It occurred to Eileen that he might prefer to be alone. His silence is not confirmation, however — she knows as little about what he experienced over the course of the last month as he knows about what she did, which is nothing. The physical distance between them and the room's darkened interior expertly blends the bruising along her jaw into the natural curvature of her face with the kind of artist's skill that Gabriel does not possess. The brace she wears around her broken wrist is hidden under her coat.

She prefers it, this way, and her focus is on his injury rather than her own, self-inflicted though it appears to be. A year ago, she made a mistake, and although she makes a lot of them, it's one that she remembers and — sometimes — she learns.

Her hand falls away from the banister, and she moves across the room at the same pace she'd taken the stairs. The temptation to make a straight line for him is overwhelming enough that he may be able to feel the pressure building in her chest from where he's sitting, but she continues to maintain some space in case he still wants it, circling around the table instead until she's come to stand in front of him in the dark, the furniture between them. Her good hand grips its edge.

"I needed to be with you," comes out much hoarser than she'd intended. Raw.

'With him' has a degree of separation, however, and so formally requested. Gabriel's palm passes over the wound he made for himself, where it crusts over, seals up, which won't speed healing, just stop bleeding without him having to think about it. His eyes hooded a little to more evaluate the fall of her hazy shadow on the slick table top, listening more to her tone and the pressure of her empathic presence than trying to read her expression.

"What's stopping you?"

It's a serious question, sitting in place of what's wrong? as well as true inquiry. One might assume they were passed the point of needing each other's permission, needing to provide explanations for invasions of privacy.

Not a dome.

Eileen tightens her hold on the table's edge and feels the stitches straining between her knuckles. It would take quite an effort to get them to pop — there's some discomfort, physical rather than emotional, and she finds her eyes searching him in spite of herself. A sharp breath drawn in accompanies an ephemeral flare of anger, then frustration, that's swiftly snuffed out and replaced with a sad kind of amusement.

Break apart, come back together. It's a cycle even when the separation is caused by something entirely outside of their control. The realization that control is something she has again rekindles the hope that had been gnawing at the bodily region where her heart is stored when she first set foot inside. Feelings of vulnerability and fear of rejection colour what Gabriel picks up from her, but they don't hold her back.

The last obstacle is her pride. She sets that aside. Slippery hands work the buttons of her coat one at a time, her brace making the task monumentally difficult, and it catches on her sleeve when she pulls the coat off. Slams it down onto table as punctuation — a belated exclamation mark at the end of her last statement.

"As you like," sounds like a threat, or a warning primly delivered, and then her boots are thunder on the floorboards, moving toward instead of away.

Like a game of chicken, Gabriel is as still and resolute as a statue as she nears him, eating up short distance in a matter of moments, but when he does move, there is conviction in its emphasis. His arms rope strong around her legs and hips, drawing her in the last few moments like gravity does after one leaps from the precipice. The chair scrapes and squeaks a little on the floor, the scuff of his heels as feet move out of the way, though he doesn't get up.

To be held instead of hold, at least initially. "You're hurt," he observes, or rather, puts voice to observation.

Eileen's arms fold around Gabriel's neck and head, fingers tangling in his hair, clutching him without giving any thought to the nails that might bite into his scalp. She presses her face against the top of his skull to bury it, and a hand at his nape forces his into the damp fabric of her blouse — discarding her coat spares him a good soaking, but she's still heavier for all the rainwater saturating her clothes and her hair, which had been plastered to her cheeks and brow.

Now it's stuck to his, too. The next breath she pulls in is strained to the point of juddering, and she does not let it back out again until she knows she's in control of the sound it makes. That's a thin hiss.

He breathes in the fresher smells of clean rain, the mustiness of wool and her own mingled perfume eroded in the elements and replaced by cigarettes. Better than the stale scents of water damage and (now) blood. The Dome had been cold like this house is cold — a stale, contained sort of chill, no wind, just stagnant iciness, and he only notices it now by the time his ear is warming from her own bodyheat, and the way her hands are colder than the rest of her where they hook into his hair, grip his skull.

There is a deadish sort of presence to his lean into her, to the way the house's cold has settled on his skin and his clothing, but that's also because he's so tired. Stress and anxiety unraveling to reveal not much left after all. Parasites. Gabriel wonders if he could sleep here, held like this, a secret kind of embrace made safe, the empty house, the empty patch of land.

His hands grip her clothing tighter and despite himself, wedges an inch of distance between them, but only after time has passed.

"What happened?"

Whatever it was, he wasn't there.

"They didn't tell you." Eileen huffs out a creaky breath of hitching laughter into Gabriel's hair. Of course they didn't tell him — they couldn't find him. It's taken her days, and she knows where to look. "I went to Epstein's thinking there might be something. Paperwork. Transcripts. Anything.

"The apartment had somebody in it." She smooths the curls closest to the base of Gabriel's skull under her hand, then kisses his brow. The lids of both his eyes. "I was afraid, so I went to find him before he could find me. You said we were in this for the long haul. It couldn't wait."

Her brace has a smooth texture against the back of his neck. She places her other hand on the front of his chest and puts the stitches between her knuckles on display. Minor injuries as far as injuries go. Her mouth tastes bruised when she finally covers his with it, another kiss then more mumbling. "He took back the upper hand and knocked me around, but that's all. I'm fine."

The alternative is that this is a very cruel trick and he's presently being embraced by himself.

He doesn't think so. This would want to be the case. Gabriel is quiet, relatively passive— not to prove Sylar's point or anything— while she drops kisses on him, displays her injuries, rubs circles at his nape like taming something wilder than just he. It's when she's broken the kiss off for long enough to meet his eyes that she sees the dull fury, like the blunt edge of a well-used cleaver. There's no tension in his brow, and his body is too worn to match the way his eyes go hard.

Sharkish. That Sylar is back in town—

"For a reason," he points out, tracking his glance up from her hand, to her blurred eyes. His voice is a growl, reverberating from deep in his throat. "What was he doing?"

Eileen relinquishes her hold on Gabriel, but it's a gradual loosening and release as opposed to something jerky and abrupt, not that the lack of reciprocation doesn't hurt a little. It does.

It's also understandable. "Hunting," she answers, and leaves it there. She draws further back, feels her feet on the ground. This is not the kind of anger that she is prepared to placate, or even try — it belongs to him, and it is not Eileen's place to take it away. Her hand in the brace grazes his jaw and then joins the other resting loose on the inside of her thighs. She feels his gaze on her and holds it where it is, a difficult task for a blind woman, but there's very little these days that isn't.

Difficult. "I stopped him from killing a terrakinetic and spent a week caught underground. He found me again this morning — he wanted to know how you can take without it."

There is semantic uncertainty there that has Gabriel's head shaking slightly — take what? Without what? Maybe she is missing words. Until it sinks in, for all that Gabriel would rather it did not. Understanding. Just as impossible to placate, interest shows in the lift of his chin, the wander of his stare. His big hands settle on her thighs, thumbs running along the fleshier insides through the fabric, no matter how skinny she can get.

If there was more to the simple hunt story than Eileen says, well, Gabriel trusts he will be informed and doesn't query her harder. "I should be jealous. He never seems bored, does he?"

It's sarcastic. He's being sarcastic. He promises. "They didn't tell me. I'm hard to find."

"I do not envy someone who looks in the mirror every morning and finds the face of another man staring back at him," Eileen says. "I do not envy someone who is praised for accomplishments that belong to the man in the mirror. I do not envy someone who has no familiar mouth to softly speak his name, someone with no true friends, because that someone is not loved by anyone, and people will only remember him with hatred if he is lucky enough to be remembered at all."

There is more to the story; Gabriel is right to trust. "The ground took him under with me when it opened. I'm here because I had Adynomine with me. There was a night and then part of a day we spent moving in the same direction, and the only thing I could say that made him angrier than taking what he had was that you're better.

"And you are." She shifts her much smaller hands to rest atop his. "How do you feel?"

Gabriel can't disagree with this assessment. It would take a hideous amount of self-pity to do otherwise. He settles into his seat, the comfortable weight of her balanced on his legs, birdish in her rest like her long bones might also be hollow, all self-correction like a pigeon on a tightrope. "I'm tired," he admits, gaze drifted away from her blind one, settling on where her hands rest on his knuckles. The ring curled around a finger. "But in the way you get when you know you can sleep safer. You should be careful. He might try to prove you wrong."

Not that Sylar already isn't. Apparently.

"What did you learn? What was he doing?" The promise of a hunt like a smell in the air, and Eileen can probably sense it in his voice, a clipped paused between his queries.

"I don't know." There's an I'm sorry beneath that, unspoken. "I thought he might be here because of the dome, but he didn't seem to care at all about that, or where you were — only finding his way out and playing games. Making me choose which of my things I wanted back the most after he took them."

The look she twists over her shoulder at her coat on the table is for his benefit, not hers. Whatever it is that she picked is small enough to fit in her coat's pocket, and she isn't wearing a leather holster, which suggests it wasn't her gun. "He was Epstein when I found him hunting — one of Marcus Donovan's interns on the registry's second tier. Then he was Dean this morning. An illusion, not a full shift. I could smell him under it."

It's not a flinch, that crosses Gabriel's face, but it's like one — the mention of Dean, and having his own memories of choosing her face and it shouldn't surprise him that Sylar might choose the same visage to troll Eileen. Problem creation strategies. Like they don't already have enough.

"He can't shapeshift, not unless he finds a new one. He only has a handful. Pieces of an armory. Illusion, concussive force powers. Superstrength. I tried to make him into a good soldier. I thought he'd listen to me. Follow instruction." The apology is coming, but the sentence is sliced off before completion. Gabriel breathes in through his nose — blood and dust and water and ammonia in the air. Eileen shifts like a build on an earthquake, sensitive to the tensing of his muscles, the shift of his weight.

A second glance after the first to the coat, and maybe the apology will come up again.

It doesn't.

"Let's go back."

That he's proposing they go back implies he deliberately left in the first place. In a way, these three simple words confirm what Eileen has suspected since she spoken with Ethan, though perhaps not as explicitly as she might like. If anyone is owed an apology at this point—

It's probably Gabriel. "We don't have to," she says, "not tonight, and not if you're tired. I am." With both him and her father accounted for, she can truly rest for the first time in almost a month and catch up on the sleep she's lost agonizing over whether her loved ones are alive or dead.

At least until there's something else for her to worry about. "It can wait for morning unless you need it — your attic."

One dead building is as bad as the next, Gabriel supposes, after a hesitation's worth of thought. The minor comforts the Dispensary has over the riverhouse probably aren't worth the trek, and concession is in the sleepy blink of his eyes, the tip of his chin, and then for the sake of Eileen: "I don't need it." It. Whatever might be in his attic.

Or the attic itself. Whatever it might represent— such as safety or security or physical comfort— is contained in the woman in his lap.

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