How Far Ambition Goes


bf_eileen_icon.gif bf_gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title How Far Ambition Goes
Synopsis Sometimes the only way out is through.
Date November 20, 2014

Calvary Graveyard, New York

It's an afternoon of heavy grey light, with thunder rumbling off in the distance. It's not raining, but somewhere nearby, it is, and the scent of storm carries on the wind and settles in the earth beneath where Gabriel sits on packed dirt and well fed grass. Unmoving, save for where he idly destroys blade of grass between his fingers, as otherwise still as the monuments that decorate the rolling field all around him, and dressed in similar colours — grey, black, white. Pensive, he studies the headstone without expression, and it would become clear even to those who don't know him well that he's only looking through it, lost in thought.

It's November. He won't be the only one presiding over a grave.

Normally he doesn't. He didn't lose anyone then, personally, and normally finds excuses to remain out of the public eye when that particular anniversary rolls around, no matter what the records popularly say.

It's been a day or two since he returned from his impromptu trip to Arizona, and Kaito Nakamura quietly opened the world up in front of them all like a book, and then instigated the destruction of Pinehearst Tower. A day or two since he shared the contents of the flash drive given to him by Ivanov, of the incriminating intelligence of experimentation and domination under Arthur Petrelli's command. A day or two since Kaito looked at Gabriel and declared him Elisabeth and Magnes' only hope of returning to their originary world.

Longer, since, from when an interloping version of Magnes appeared in an alleyway and spoke of neighbouring worlds, full of death.

Gabriel rubs his hands together, discarding crushed plant matter.

If Eileen was ever asked for advice on what makes a marriage work, her answer would be: space. That time spent apart is as important as time spent together when it comes to cultivating intimacy. Sometimes this means physical distance; on other occasions, like today, it simply means silence.

Her presence in Gabriel's periphery is only as intrusive as the rattle of the last autumn leaves in the trees, or the shallow sound of her breathing beneath it. She's dressed in a dark, somber floral print and tinted nylons that slim the shape of her legs, which end in sensible black flats. A favourite wool coat provides more than adequate protection from the November chill when paired with calfskin gloves and a scarf that covers the lower half of her wan face.

She'll speak when he's ready, even if that means waiting. Neither of them have anywhere else to be — yet.

It's the yet that sends anxiety rippling through the psychic connection they share, regardless of her efforts to shield him from it.

The energy that Gabriel detects coming tremulous through his connection with Eileen is distracting in an ill-defined way, like a subliminal noise only just hedging into hearing range. It takes him another minute or two to truly recognise what it is, identify it, follow its source, and to himself, he smiles grimly. Steam follows an exhale funneled through his nose, a short expression of quasi-mirth.

If Gabriel was ever asked for advice on what makes a marriage work, his answer would be: it's not like a clock. There isn't some fault that you can fix, tune into rhythm, put back together again. People aren't cogs, turning in sync. Usually, they're spinning in proximity, and that's enough.

"Do you think I can't help them?"

"No," Eileen answers, "I think you're the only one who can."

Her tone suggests this doesn't mean that he should. She narrows the space between them, both physical and otherwise, dew clinging to her ankles and the low swoop of her shoes as she crosses to where Gabriel sits.

A gloved hand seeks out gap between his shoulder blades and follows the natural curve of his spine all the way up to the nape his neck. Fingers drag through his hair.

"They're better off here than wherever else you might be able to send them."

Gabriel closes his eyes at the touch skimming up along his spine, and responds by reaching back to capture that hand, resting that tangle at his shoulder as he gazes ahead and through engraved granite.

"It's funny," he says, angling a glance backwards and up at her, "they seem to have opinions about where we should settle down too. Nakamura suggested that when the time comes, when I open that door, that we should go through it too. For our own safety."

Anger flashes in the pit of Eileen's stomach. It flushes her cheeks pink and makes her blood run hot. This happens, sometimes.

It happened in Argentina. It happened when Gabriel was arrested for a crime he didn't commit.

It's happening now. "For our own safety," she repeats, steadying her hand against Gabriel's shoulder where he already holds it. Her grip on his fingers tightens, although not quite white-knuckled.


"Is that what you want?"

I'm not running to greener grass.

His own words echo in his mind and fail to make it out of his mouth, leaving only a short silence in their place, as if projecting that concrete certainty had come a lot easier in the company of strangers. As if it had come easier before looking at the damning evidence provided by Ivanov. "I want us to be safe," Gabriel says, slowly. "It's what we worked for, here. We reconstructed reality to do it, deleted the histories that would stop us. It could have worked. It did work."

Now he tips enough to look up at her, the earnest swoop of his eyebrows tense at the centre, something imploring in his eyes that does not seem wholly directed at her alone. "But it's built on glass. On the promises of people like Petrelli. Sooner or later, we're not gonna be able to play by those rules anymore."

Eileen is silent again. Not for as long as she’d been when he’d been contemplating inside his own sphere, but long enough for Gabriel to maybe suspect she’s trying to find the combination of words that will inflict the most hurt.

In the end, she decides she needs only two.

“You’re afraid.”

She pulls back, fingers slipping smoothly from between his, her hand retracted from his shoulder and affection withheld. “You don’t think we deserve this, so you’re going to— what? Throw it all away? Start over again someplace else until you decide we’re not good enough for that world either?”

Imploring stare turns sharp, wintry, and he seems like he might reply quickly before his mouth seals into a defensive line, and his stare settles heavy on the headstone in front of him. Then, Gabriel rolls to his feet, climbing back to his greater height.

"And why not?" is low, quiet, edged. "If we could. If we had the power to open a door and go wherever we want, be whoever we want, isn't that exactly why we signed those pardons? Have you considered that maybe this," an arm flung out, as if to indicate the hazy New York skyline in the distance, "isn't good enough for us?"

His voice remains at that quiet level, practically whispered, as if not to invoke wrath from powers that be.

It’s not the argument Eileen was expecting. She’s visibly taken aback in spite of Gabriel’s hushed tone, and not in a way that suggests she’s intimidated by their abrupt difference in height. It isn’t his body language, either, or the raw power she knows is hidden beneath the clean-cut, professional exterior he’s put forward these past few years to help advance his career and solidify his image as a Changed Man.

It’s his words, because to Eileen they suggest that he isn’t. Changed.

“You sound like Volken,” she says in a voice only fractionally louder than his. If he can detect fear there — and there is — it’s of the ability caged inside her husband’s flesh rather than her husband himself.

She doesn’t want to invoke that, either.

That intent expression ripples, something like shock hollowing it out, rendering Gabriel's focus dull for a moment. Sharkish, impact absorbing. It's the kind of stupid expression she's seen before that within the context of marriage is probably more irritating than anything else, even if in other circumstances, it normally follows a violent reprisal. Or, it used to.

Not here, or now. Not of the physical kind, anyway.

"I know what Volken sounds like," he says, with the same restless, defensive energy of a wounded snake. "He lived in my head, kept me caged there, remember. You don't get to play authority about how far ambition gets to go before it turns into the kind you wanted, once."

“Once,” Eileen snaps back, whip-fast and equally cutting. “Once.

Her attempt to temper her voice fails just as abruptly. It rises in intensity and pitch, striking out at Gabriel so quick that she doesn’t hear it crack, or realize she’s on the verge of shouting until the tightness seizes her throat. “I killed people I loved! I locked cages, disappeared keys. Volken, Ramirez, Rasoul, Zhukovsky! What was it all for, if not this world— the one we helped build!

Something in Gabriel flags, the horizon of his shoulders sloping. Agreement, in a way, silent and solid, but it doesn't seem to bring him on side, it doesn't seem to convince or change anything. He looks away from her towards the New York skyline, glistening, clear, more beautiful than he remembers it being even before that one November.

A near laugh, quiet. "We did build it," he says, quietly. "We built their world and destroyed our own. They put the knife in your hand and made you cut free everything that bound you to that world until there was nothing left but this, and me, and an orphan. They made us want this and become afraid to want anything else. And at any moment, they could take all of that away too.

"Aren't you over living at the pleasure of tyrants? Of anyone."

The softer his voice gets, the louder and more astringent Eileen’s does.

“Tell me, then!” And now she really is shouting. “What sort of life do you envision for us, Gabriel?”

Beneath her rage, there is shame. A bottomless well of it she likes to keep the lid on. Because Gabriel is right; she’s afraid, as she had accused him of being. Afraid of wanting more. Afraid of losing what little she has. Afraid of ambition, and where it might lead— or where it doesn’t.

“Help me understand what it is that you need.”

For people like them — like Gabriel — it's not a wrong fear.

He steps forward and takes a hold of her, hands clasped up beneath her jaw in the kind of gentle-firm touch she's well accustomed to, as no more desirous of hurting her as he would be allowing the corrosive influence of Kazimir's ability to break past the barrier of his skin. "Just you," is what he says, and through the empathic thread that connects their hearts, she can determine that he means it. In this moment, he means it. "Whatever happens. And I don't know if we're going to be able to keep each other forever without burning this place down eventually.

"Look at me." That imploring, direct stare is back. "I'm not asking you to abandon this place, or what we have, the people we love. But I don't think we get to just hide in the dark anymore. We need to know what's out there."

She looks. Her gaze softens, growing more malleable under the warmth of Gabriel’s own eyes and the heat in the cradle of his hands.

“In the last world they came from, Varlane said he shot you in the head.”

Eileen says nothing about how he also held her skull in his palm. “And what of the world before that one?” she asks. “The world they’re trying to get back to.” Her questions are steering toward a place that’s less and less rhetorical. This conversation is no longer about trying to prove a point; it’s about learning more.

About knowing what’s out there.

“Did Harrison tell you anything about us? Are we even alive?”

"I didn't ask."

Admission. Gabriel gentles his hands further, thumbs sweeping an arc against skin, through hair, before they come to settle around her shoulders. Mention of his death in a single alternate universe does not stir much within him — he imagines numerous forking paths for every bullet he's dodged over the past several years. "But if I learn how to use this ability, then maybe it won't matter where they're going or where they come from. Only where we could go. What we could do.

"But whoever we were to them," he adds, "they considered us deserving of being happy."

Eileen tips her head against Gabriel’s chest.

A world where they had more time to spend with one another would not be a terrible one. Nor would a world where they were free to travel, or a world where the familiar sounds of their home settling doesn’t stir her from an already fitful slumber at night, or a world where she doesn’t have to worry about who might be standing on the other side of the door whenever she hears a knock at it.

The Englishwoman’s ambitions don’t lead her anywhere special, it turns out.

Just somewhere different.

“I want to be there,” she says, “when you look. I want to see.”

Gabriel agrees without words, an affirmation she can sense between them and sealed in the kiss pressed to the crown of her head, nose and mouth breathing warm as he lingers, holding her.

When they leave the way they came, it's hand in hand. Rain-damp grass and earth muffles the sound of their footfalls, and soon, the space they occupied is abandoned, save for when groundskeepers think to wander by and clean up the dying flowers left behind by Gabriel's hand, for the last time.

Natalie Margaret Gray

1955 - 1980

Lost and Loved

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