Hell or High Water


eileen_icon.gif elias_icon.gif

Scene Title Hell or High Water
Synopsis Elias tracks Eileen to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and tries to convince her to see reason. When that fails, he gives her some belated stocking stuffers.
Date January 3, 2009

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

When it opened in 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows was the largest suspension bridge in the world. The same cannot be said today, but it is no less an impressive sight today than it was then, a monstrous leviathan crafted from iron and steel that spans all the way from Brooklyn to Staten Island: Eileen Ruskin's ultimate destination. Wu-Long told her to avoid places she'd taught herself to go — shelters for the homeless and battered women, old haunts belonging to the Vanguard, anywhere in the local vicinity of Long Island City and Eagle Electric — so here she is, knapsack slung over her shoulder, violin case tucked under her arm as she stares out across the water and wonders whether or not crossing the Narrows is worth the risk.

It's the cusp of dusk, the soonest she could safely come here, but there isn't much foot traffic on the bridge at this time of day. For the first time in days she's going to be out in the open, alone, with no real escape routes available to her. If something were to go wrong, if she were to walk right into an ambush, the only way to go would be over the side, into the icy waters of the New York Bay below.

It isn't a very pleasant prospect.

It's not pleasant at all, and hopefully, it won't come to that. But this is a worry and problem that Eileen must consider on her own for the time being. Further away and higher up, Elias de Luca watches the young woman through his telescopic monocle that, despite infrequently uses in the past, has rarely been far from his side in New York City, when the view from the top, looking down on the ignorant masses is usually the best. It's not the only thing he has with him, but that may or may not be a good thing.

The situation lately's been a real mess, with Eileen and Ethan gone missing and everyone else acting strange. Finding the Wolf is a wash; Elias has no choice but to wait for him to want to be found. But the young Eileen is another matter, and while she may not be the best source for information, he feels that she'll be the most trustworthy. Assuming that figure out there with the violin case is, in fact, Eileen. He's taking a risk and it might be someone else entirely, which would put him back at square one. He'll throw his chips in the pot, this time.

Stashing his monocle away in the pockets of his heavy coat, Elias hefts up a small box and a larger, heavier duffel bag. Here goes nothing, and with a blink of his eyes, he is no longer far away and higher up, but a short distance away and at the same elevation. It's late and cold, and therefore, impossible to avoid the sound of ice and frozen soil crunching under his boots. And out here, away from most of the city's noises, everything else stands out starkly. Regardless, he'd rather not get a faceful of hot steel pellets, and announces himself. "Eileen? I swear well I mean."

Eileen looks over her shoulder at Elias, the wind catching her hair and blowing it about her face. Another one of Kazimir Volken's assassins. Wonderful. Like Sylar and Wu-Long, there's no use in running from him; his ability trumps hers, and she wouldn't get more than a few steps before he caught up with her, closing the distance with the ease of a practiced tennis player completing a backswing. The expression on her face is irritated, though her ire is directed more at herself than it is Elias, even if the reasoning behind her frown isn't immediately clear. "I just can't get away from you people, can I?"

Elias offers little more than a shrug, difficult as it is to see in the dim light. "Sorry kiddo," he says, taking an unnecessary step forward before simply teleporting across much of the distance between them, crossing the last few feet by foot. "But it's me, and you know me. I only bite sandwiches. Besides, it's not every day that you just vanish away from the Vanguard, like a hummingbird that…" This was a terrible analogy. "Also vanishes away? From the Vanguard?"

That's a lie. Elias does more than bite sandwiches, and Eileen is ready to call him on it. "If you wanted to," she says, "you could have picked me off at fifty yards, or zapped me all the way down to the bottom of the bay." The rebuke isn't as harsh as it could have been, but Eileen isn't a very harsh person — her point made, she lets the anger out of her in the form of a thin, shaky sigh through her nostrils, rigid posture deflating into something more relaxed. "Ethan sent me away," she explains, though she neglects to elaborate much further other than, "he thinks Kazimir might try something. I do, too."

"It's a reasonable thing to think," Elias replies as he comes up alongside her, as if her remarks about him possibly murdering her had never been said at all. "Hungry?" the teleporter continues, offering the young woman the box in his left hand, "I'm a hundred percent sure they're cold by now, but these are the best donuts in the world, scout's honor-" A meaningless reassurance, since he was never a scout- "Even if you don't want them, you should open it anyway. There's a surprise for you, and I promise it's not a snake or bees or something. No one knows I'm out here except you."

Eileen doesn't have much of an appetite. Paranoia will do that to you. She reaches out with her free hand and uses her nails to pry the box open before lifting the lid and peering, warily, at its contents. The donuts, if that's what they are, don't interest her — she hasn't had much of a sweet tooth since she came up to his hip — but the other thing (which had better not be some fucking bees) has piqued her curiosity.

On some level, Elias must know that being out here isn't easy for Eileen, and nestled within the remaining seven donuts (one with a bite taken out of it) is a single, fist-sized avocado and white plastic knife. How thoughtful.

"It's looking like I won't have many chances to talk to you after tonight," he says, "Given your apparent destination, I guess. Mind if I walk and talk with you for a bit? I've got some things on my mind, and it's not like we'll be bothering anyone except maybe a few mice."

"If you don't mind being seen with me." Eileen takes the avocado out of the box and cups it in the palm of her hand, rubbing her fingertips over the skin's leathery texture with a small — if tentative — smile. "It gets back to Kazimir and it could be bad for you."

"He'll have to catch me first," Elias replies, before suddenly whirling around to face the city once more to loudly shout, "You hear that, you fossilized fogey? Catch me if you can!" The fun is short-lived, and Elias turns about again to his original heading. "Kazimir can go sit on his thumb. Maybe it'll improve his demeanor.

"But seriously, are you planning on staying out here? I mean, there are other places, if you're worried about getting found. I know people. Chicago, Ram's Gate, Kiev, take your pick. I know people everywhere. People who have roofs and heat. Where I know you probably won't wind up dead in a ditch somewhere."

Eileen tucks the avocado into her coat pocket, along with the plastic knife, resolved to save both for later. Right now, her insides are feeling a little too weak for her to truly appreciate what she's been given. "I could," she concedes. "It would be safer, but maybe not smarter. If things take a turn for the south, Ethan and Sylar might need me, and I can't help them if I'm all the way on the other side of the world." She turns away from Elias and begins to walk, stepping off the snow and onto the gravel-peppered concrete of the bridge. Her shoulder left shoulder raises in a silent invitation to follow. "Besides, Kazimir has people everywhere, not just Europe and North America. No matter where I go, he'd catch up with me eventually."

Whether the rise of Eileen's shoulder is an invitation or not, Elias follows after her, determined not to miss what may well be his last opportunity to speak with the woman. He's markedly less determined to hold onto his donuts, tossing the box away like so much litter. Just some homeless guy's lunch; the world moves on. "Things will take a turn south," he says, "On their own or because we make them. Kazimir's out of control, if you ask me. Alpha wolf with rabies. That's not good for me. Not good for anyone. Something's gotta break, Eileen. Just a matter of what and when. That's part of two of this, I think. Making sure that you're some place where there won't be a lot of fallout from it."

"I'm almost twenty," Eileen reminds Elias gently. "I might not look it, but I'm a woman — not some little kid who needs other people to hold her hand all the time." There's resentment in her tone, mild as it is, much as she tries to hide it. "I don't need your protection, or anybody else's. What I do need is to start taking responsibility for myself. When this is over and Kazimir's gone, maybe then I'll leave New York City for greener pastures. I like it here."

There is a pointed silence as Elias considers this information. He walks silently alongside Eileen, as if he were sampling his thoughts and words for palatability before he spat them out. But finally, he does speak up. "You're set on this, aren't you?" It's a question that's as much an inquiry as it is a statement of disbelief. "Hell or high water, right?" Out here is crazy in Elias' mind. In the minds of most people, it's crazy.

"You're still around, aren't you?" Eileen asks with an imperious snort. "Of everybody, you have it the easiest — if you wanted to leave, all you'd have to do is click your ruby red heels together." There's a pause, and a series of wrinkles appears on her brow, face scrunched into a contemplative expression. "Actually," she says, "I take it back. You have it the hardest. If I could shirk my responsibilities like that, I'm not sure I could resist the temptation. Things are bad, Elias, and we helped make them that way. We have an obligation to help set it right again."

"And just think, I got into this gig for the money." Exactly what money, Elias does not specify. "Looks like getting out of it might mean saving the world or something just as crazy. But if that's the case—"

With a figurative 'click' of his heels, Elias appears directly in Eileen's path, facing her. Moving the duffel bag from his shoulder, he holds that out to her much as he did the box of donuts. "Almost nothing in it's wrapped, but… Merry Christmas."

It's a lot to carry. Knapsack. Violin case. Duffel bag. Eileen imagines she can fit some of those things inside the others, much like a matryoshka doll. Shifting the knapsack further up her shoulder to better accommodate the duffel, she takes it from him and — with a huff of exertion — maneuvers it into the crook of her arm. "Heavy," she grunts, and though her voice sounds a little pained, there's a smile curling at the corners of her mouth. "If you want a kiss on the cheek, you're gonna have to lean down, because there's no way in Hell I'm leaning up. What's in here?"

"Just some things you might need." Elias is short with words on this, although he makes very little effort to cover the smile that's spread across his face. It's almost like regular Christmas. It's the most normal one he's had in a while.

He does, however, think to remove something from inside his coat that he turns over to Eileen; a small, thin, rectangular parcel carefully wrapped in bright red and green paper, topped off with a bow.

Now Eileen has to set something down. There's no way she can balance everything she's already holding in addition to the parcel. Crouching down, she rests the violin case and the duffel on the pavement beside each other at her feet, but keeps the knapsack on her shoulder. "I didn't get you anything," she admits, a sheepish note entering her voice as she stands back up and dusts a few flecks of gravel off the knees of her jeans, "but I didn't get anyone else anything either, so I guess that makes it okay." Right?

"It's fine. Just put it in your mind that I turn a year older in September." Elias, at least, has given Eileen plenty of warning, far more than enough, so that she can figure out what she'll do for the next go around Clearly, he'd rather she use her limited resources on herself than on him.

But if she peels the paper off the parcel, she'll find a gift that is completely without any pomp or even an illusion of prestige. A simple, dark wood frame, just a hair too large to fit in the palm of her hand, with a photograph of Elias wearing one of his best suits set in the center of it.

The frame, Eileen might not keep. It's just one more thing to pack away at the end of the day, and if she's going to stay in New York then she needs to travel light. The wind takes the paper, pulling it out over the side of the bridge on the breeze where it will eventually drift down to the water's surface and get pulled under.

"Did Linderman make you take this?" It isn't the sort of question Eileen expects Elias to answer; and even if he might want to, she attempts to prevent him from doing so by reaching up and placing the palm of her hand on his cheek. "Thank you." She glances back down at the photograph, though her hand does not leave his cheek. "It makes me wish I had one of everyone. Maybe not together— we're never all together."

"After we get this mess sorted out, maybe we can all get together for a picture." Elias really, truly wishes he could believe that will be the case. The odds aren't stacked favorably for it, especially if something is about to happen. But whether or not something will happen, whether or not they can all get together for a photo, he allows Eileen's hand to linger on his cheek for a few moments before he pulls her into a hug. "We'll get lunch. I know this great barbecue pit in Texas. And after lunch, we'll get the most awesome picture ever taken." They won't. It's not going to work out that way. But for a little while, for Eileen, and even for himself, standing in the cold and ice at a bridge that may as well lead to nowhere—

For a little while, he can pretend….

January 3rd: Between the Stacks
January 3rd: Nothing Fancy
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