eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Hurt
Synopsis It's something you do to the ones you love.
Date April 30, 2009

Eagle 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.

A faint white cloud, as fine as smoke, billows up from the shifting of debris when Gabriel navigates his way down the small mountain of it that was once a part of Eagle Electric. His boots slip through a landslide of rubble, an arm splayed out for wild balance until in a few short steps, he finds even footing again. To a degree.

The broken landscape of the blasted warehouses is a grey graveyard. Small hills of crumbled brick and metal form haphazard monuments from where construction machines had tried to organise them. What hill belongs to who? That one there could represent Odessa, perhaps, except she's alive after all so never mind. That one over there, that could be Wu-Long's, the one next to it could belong to Elias. To Kazimir. It's like a giant had tried to start what Eileen had begun, in Staten Island's graveyards - assemble the stones to remember the fallen.

Perhaps two could be spared for Gabriel and Eileen, despite the fact they're still walking. Now there's a melancholy thought.

It has been not quite a day since Gabriel discovered you can in fact relocate your shoulder back into its socket by yourself, proving that avoiding the terrorist safehouses hadn't been entirely in vain. It hurt like hell but felt infinitely better not a moment afterwards. Right now, his shoulder is a dull ache beneath his coat, a hooded thing that he'd made use of in his journey to Manhattan, keeping to shadows and anonymity, but now it's thrown back under a dry, cooling dusky sky. Wind blowing cold off the broken landscape ruffles his hair as if affectionate, but does little to soothe him.

Arms bundled about him, Gabriel breathes in a lungful of the air that tastes and smells like burnt earth. Anxiety twists his heart into tight knots, his own heart beat irregular, which is something he's grown unaccustomed too ever since stealing the power of a blood manipulator. He's pale, bruises mark his face from the encounter in the Library, but otherwise, he's himself, in all visible ways.

It's an old hunting tactic used by man and predator alike, and in his lifetime Gabriel has been both. Wait long enough on the game trail and something will eventually happen by on its way back to where it sleeps, keeping to the well-traveled paths with which it possesses an intimate familiarity. In this case, that something just happens to be Eileen. Eagle Electric, or at least what's left of it, isn't an area in Long Island City where she's likely to run into anyone — which makes it an ideal place to lose unwanted shadows by cutting through territory too hostile to navigate unless one knows it well.

Unfortunately for Eileen, such avoidance strategies do not work when the person seeking her out is already there. Being smaller and more nimble-footed than Gabriel, she has an easier time picking through the rubble and squeezing through the tight spaces between tangles of debris with the swiftness and self-assurance of someone who's taken this route so many times that she appears oblivious to the inherent danger jutting out in the form of twisted scrap metal at every angle imaginable.

The sound of an old chain-link fence rattling beneath her weight on her way down a steep embankment alerts Gabriel to her presence. A few moments later, her figure comes into view as she rounds a corner and pauses in the cover provided by a collapsed wall — she hasn't noticed him yet, but it pays to stop and be vigilant at various points along her journey. If she didn't, she probably wouldn't have survived alone for as long as she has.

It's difficult to imagine that she isn't armed.

At the sound, as deafened as it may be to his ears, of someone approaching, Gabriel is paranoid enough to move back towards lengthening shadows, as if perhaps whoever is making chainlink fence creak and crunching gravel underfoot could be anyone. And for the first few moments, he has no way to tell.

But Eileen's small figure is a distinct silhouette in the battlefield junkyard. Gabriel is still and silent for several moments, as if guiltily waiting for her attention to suddenly swing around and zero in on him, but when that moment doesn't come, he's forced to make a decision. Leave now and seek out the Ferrymen safehouse Gillian had chosen, and hide some more, or deal with this. Whatever this is. The thing that renders them both deaf to the birds in the sky.

His left hand curls around the watch in his coat pocket, trusting that it's still ticking, before he walks in over, expression drawn into something unassuming, as if this were an expected meeting. It is difficult to assume she isn't armed, and for a fraction of a moment, he wishes he was.

Unlike the other spires that rise up from the rubble, Gabriel's shape isn't a permanent fixture here — Eileen's memory doesn't have to rival Catherine Chesterfield's perfect recollection to realize something in her surroundings is desperately out of place. It does, however, take her some time to recognize his profile's defining lines and then put a name to them.

From his broad shoulders all the way down to his lean midsection and long wolfish legs, he's Sylar. No mistaking him for anyone else, not even in the absence of the intuitive link that once connected them and once upon a time would have allowed her to pick him out without visual aid.

Wordlessly, she draws herself up to her full height and fixes him with a pale stare grayer than it is green, her skin and clothes and hair all bled of their colour by the dearth of light.

The signature black of his clothes is less than pitch, largely thanks to his journey. Especially here. Grey and pale streaky marks of dustiness create new patterns on his coat, his jeans, his boots especially. His approach doesn't really have the swagger it might have once upon a time - he carries himself cautiously, from external elements and internal, right arm kept still at his side, and approaches her as if they were, perhaps, on the verge of engaging in a fight over territory.

Which they might be. These are pretty good brooding grounds, all things considered, memories dashed to pieces, as broken up and disordered as his have become. It was only a matter of time before Gabriel came back here, for some reason. And it was only a matter of time before they'd see each other again, despite the fact that so much of it, relatively speaking, has drawn out since their last meeting. Which went so well.

"I was starting to think that rumours of your return were just that," Gabriel offers, voice sounding thin and hollow in the vacuum of silence. It's a wasteland. "Rumours. I guess just the birds were lying?"

Eileen remains stock-still, protected from the brunt of the breeze by the wall she stands beside, the charcoal gray of her coat acting as natural camouflage and letting her blend in seamlessly with the lot's scorched backdrop. Her gaze lifts skywards. There are no birds — or if there are, they're invisible to the naked eye for the same reason both she and Gabriel would be at a distance.

Animals don't lie. Can't. Their body language is in fact designed to prevent deceit by broadcasting their emotions and intent with immaculate clarity for those who know how to read it. Under different circumstances, the suggestion might produce a low whisper of laughter or draw a smile from Eileen's lips. Tonight, it does neither. The expression on her face stays stoic, the curve of her mouth indecipherable.

"Doubtful," she finally says, and appears tempted to leave it at that. "More likely, you haven't been listening to what they've got to say."

With one hand still hidden in a pocket, he keeps fingers curled around the cold metal of the pocketwatch as Eileen speaks to him, all sharp pale edges and cat eyes. He's not sure if he's going to give it back to her, the gift he'd so awkwardly dropped into her hand what seems like a lifetime ago. But it wasn't even a year. Strange how relative time can seem, something he'd never pondered before in all his years as a time piece restorer.

His eyebrows go up and he tilts his head a little, gaze slanting away as they throw metaphors around like knives. He sticks to what's true. "Mm. I've been having trouble with that lately. But so have you." Nudging away a larger piece of broken brick from his path, Gabriel approaches, closer than he likely has a right to, enough so that maybe his height will make a difference.

"I started listening for you," he says, keeping harshness out of his voice. His gaze slants up towards a sky that's quickly becoming dark, then back to her paler eyes. "I thought maybe you skipped town. Not a bad move. But here you are, and I think we have a common problem."

She holds her ground until Gabriel crosses an unseen line and breaches what Eileen views as her personal space, but rather than make an attempt to defend it from his advances, she ducks her head and maneuvers around him, careful to keep a solid distance of at least ten feet between them. Her body language isn't very subtle, either — in vivid contrast to the half-truths and lies of omission that she's normally so fond of, there's something disturbingly candid about the purposeful way in which she moves, every delicate shift and dip leaking defensiveness.

She'd been happy to see him when he'd been playing the role of Ethan Holden. As Gabriel Gray, she regards him like she did Kazimir when the two were still sharing a body. Wary. Distrustful. "Common problems don't always have common solutions," she points out. "And even if this one does, what makes you think I want to help?"

He lets out a breath of air through his nose when she continues to back away, as if he were leading a dance, and comes to a sharp halt in his slow meander as if to emphasise his displeasure. A crystal clear memory is no longer at his fingertips, but it had only been a couple of evenings ago when she had launched herself towards him and clung as if he were the only thing in the world that might make things remotely right again.

Of course, he hadn't really been himself that night. Gabriel's mouth draws into a thin line, his free left hand twitching a little in an aborted shrug of annoyance. "Because you— " Teeth click shut again, chin tilting up, a frustrated glare cast her way. "Because I think, given the chance, you'd want to help me."

He steps forward again, left hand out a little as if he could somehow stop her from walking away from him. "You know what I took from you. You know what I saw, what I felt on your behalf. Don't pretend like I disgust you."

"I like to think my help should be reserved for the people who need it," Eileen says, bristling. Her voice adopts a serrated edge, as rough and uneven as it is brittle. "Those who don't abuse what they're given." Gabriel's outstretched hand receives a look of disdain that suggests there isn't any pretending going on here — either she's become an excellent actress during their time apart, or her apparent disgust with him is genuine.

She doesn't walk away. Yet. "What you saw. Felt. Took. You think you can use it to manipulate me?" Rhetorical question: another one of Eileen's favourites. She doesn't just pose it, she spits it — gone from purring her displeasure to hissing, claws out, in the blink of an eye. "Wrong."

Brickwork crackles beneath her feet, rubble bumping against rubble, debris grinding against debris. She's favouring one leg over the other just like she was when Gabriel took on Ethan's persona, though she's noticeably less inclined to let it show for reasons that have everything to do with her pride. "I'm in love with you, not stupid."

He stops closer than her preferred ten feet of distance, and for Eileen, there's a trickle of something within her system. She'll know it well, has known it well for the past few weeks now, the inherent burn of her acquired ability, as if she were on the verge of using it. Perhaps it can be written off as a matter of control, just enough to rein in. As for Gabriel, there's no glow in his eyes, and if his shoulder throbs a little more insistently, it's too subtle for him to notice.

No, instead, a cold gaze indicates that he's more focused on the woman in front of him than such minor things. "Why else would I come here if I didn't need your help?" he says, irritation crackling over his voice, distorting it's tone into something more petulant. "I don't know about you, but I've long since lost track of who owes who anymore." A beat. "Pretty sure you win on the manipulation front. It's the only game you ever play."

His right hand comes out of its pocket, managing to keep discomfort of his face at the movement. The circle of metal is swapped to his left hand, and it's this one he holds up at a casual height, letting the pocketwatch fall and catch on a short length of chain. It swings like a pendulum, scratched, silvery surface shining in contrast to their bleak surroundings. With a jerk, it's collected back up into his palm, and its angled in offer. "We could trade. Catch?"

The watchmaker isn't going to throw it, however, if she's going to let it fall.

It isn't like Gabriel's Hunger, not quite, but Eileen can't help but feel a tug of desire in the pit of her belly when he closes in. She's growing increasingly aware of the proximity of his body to hers, and with it all the flaws that make him unique — flaws that almost anyone else would be blind to, scars that lace the tissue just beneath his skin, faults in bone and muscle, old injuries that never completely healed or still bear some internal mark.

What little self-control she has begins to deteriorate as her grasp on Julian Kuhr's ability loosens, threatening to slip through her fingers. Her feelings for the man in front of her manifest in his shoulder as a sharp twinge of pain, then spread through his flesh where scar tissue is freshest and compacted the tightest. The old knife wound in Gabriel's side reappears, sliver-thin, and begins to slowly release a hot dribble of dark liquid from the slit, staining his shirt in red.

"We could," she grinds out, "but I really shouldn't."

He can't keep it off his face when his shoulder twinges as it does, growing hot beneath restrictive woolen fabric, hand moving to clasp that arm, watch trapped between palm and bicep. His gaze lowers from her's in faint determination to hide such a weakness from the young woman, not quite realising that she's more aware than he'd ever fathom.

"What choice is there anymore? Who do you have, Eileen?" Gabriel grits out, shifting with discomfort at that sharp twinge to his side. "You've lost them all. You don't know where Amato is. Ethan's gone. You can't even talk to your precious birds— " No, something is more wrong than it should be, suddenly realising that a damp warmth has accompanied that twinge of pain beneath his ribcage, and his willingness to disguise it is quickly dwindling in favour of confusion.

He opens his coat, glances down to where dark grey cotton has grown a darker colour, a rose shape of dark murky red where the speedster had stabbed him with her hunting knife.

He's right, of course. Ethan and Amato are gone, Lucrezia disappeared, Elias and Wu-Long no more than scattered bones—

Eileen sucks in a sharp breath through her nostrils around the same time Gabriel opens his coat and looks inside. The woman responsible for the injury knew where to aim. In a similar vein, so too does he, and although his weapon of choice isn't one that can be wielded in his hand, it has the same power to penetrate her prickly exterior. His remark about her precious birds is an effective flourish, an elegantly-spoken flick of his wrist that twists things further, pushes deeper. The anguished expression on Eileen's face belongs to someone in real physical pain.

And maybe she is.

"You're right," is her reply, half-strangled in her throat and thinning with every syllable she manages to bite off. "I haven't got— anyone."

His hand moves to press over the thin slice at his side and the damp fabric covering it, drawing his coat back over both it and his hand as he looks back up at her, a certain steeliness to his gaze, studying. The pocketwatch's chain is tangled amongst his fingers of his other hand, almost forgotten. "Anyone else," Gabriel argues, although without earnestness, without pleading. "I've lost things too. I've lost my power."

He seems loathe to say it, but he does, fairly spitting the words out. "And so did you. If you can tell me what happened— "

He's wrong, however. Wrong about them both. Gillian would describe it as a knot, and while he has possessed her ability before, it was not the continual on switch she had to grapple with. It was something that needed to be found. Now, however, that knot is loose and neglected and leaks power as his irregular heart beat starts to quicken. His eyes narrow on her. "What happened to you," he finally finishes, the question turned into something else.

How does Eileen even begin to answer that question when she doesn't know what's happening to her now? Her eyes become bright and wet, though tears have yet to gather in them — the noise she makes next is one Gabriel last heard from another version of her, ten years older and to a great extent wiser, a halting exhalation interrupted by varying hitches in her breath that rise and fall as her shoulders do. Before, it was exclamation of pleasure; tonight, it's an expression of pain, though the two sound very much alike and possess no discernible difference he might be able to detect with the ears he has now.

"You want me for my help," she shrills, "you don't want me." Overwhelmed not only by the raw power Gabriel is exuding, but also by what's welling up inside of her as well, Eileen senses something snap in the instant the accusation rips free. An angry torrent of energy follows it, flooding out from her center like water released from a dam — Gabriel directly in its path.

It's the nausea, at first, that hits him harder than any punch to the stomach. His foot slips in the rubble, hand going out to stop his fall and teeth showing in a pained snarl when sharp rocks cut into his palm as if skin were made of damp paper.

It's not like Kazimir. Gabriel is one of the few people in the world who have felt Volken's utter wrath and lived to tell the tale, the poisonous phantom's invasion just as bad as any life-draining touch. This doesn't feel like white hot needles prickling over his skin like infection attacking from the outside in. This goes deeper down and fights its way out to the surface in the form of growing bruises and breaking skin. Still, still, the connection between this and the once Nazi's ability is made, and so it's with fear when Gabriel's gaze finds Eileen next. And there's a flash of preternatural light in his eyes, flaring purple.

Ligaments in his shoulder snap like old elastic bands, loosening the joint as if the impact had hit him all over again, and it's this that gets a sharp cry from Gabriel, the pocketwatch falling amongst the rubble as he clutches his arm. Blood starts to flow, from various places, quicker than it has a right to, the front of his gray shirt quickly turning to red.

"What are— " Old gunshot wounds open like flowers in rapid video speed, making him see stars and taste blood. He wasn't, apparently, exaggerating when he said he has no power. No telekinesis slams Eileen like a wall, no lasers sear flesh in cauterising slashes and alien light.

There is some sick triumph for Eileen to glean from Gabriel's crumpled form, a feeling of smug satisfaction washing over her with all the hurt and anger, righteous fury and indignation. Her feet remain rooted in place in spite of the part of her begging the rest to stop this and go to him, help him — one leather-gloved hand lifts, and with slow, resolute deliberation, her fingers close into a creaking fist at the end of her arm, wracked with tremors.

He's hurt her, humiliated her, reached inside and robbed her of her most personal and intimate thoughts and feelings. Isn't it about time she repaid the favour?

"I haven't lost my power," she tells him as she steps forward, climbing over chunks of brick and steel, melted glass cracking beneath her weight. The flow of blood speeds up, surging from his veins and out onto the rocks below. "I traded it for something better."

He's had a lot of hurt in his lifetime. Or rather, in the last couple of years. It all rises up and crashes into him, some twisted karmic retribution of both his past deeds behind the wounds as well as the hurt roiling within the woman approaching him. He hears her words, hears them enough to get try and get his legs under him, hand gripping onto his useless arm as he tries to get up.

Tries to run away from her, something Gabriel would never have fathomed doing. He's barely on his feet, staggering one step, two steps, when—

Knee, next. Calf, last. The three gunshots scream like thunder below the hang of the null zone, but even that deafening disruption stops dead against its flickering black belly.

He lets loose a rasping scream, this time, as Gabriel's leg buckles under him from the wounds dealt to him by Wu-Long who died— who knows? Perhaps upon this very spot. Perhaps several feet away, or no where even close, it's all the same desolate wasteland of hills of glistening broken rock and metal.

Gabriel falls, with no intention of getting up again, a dark ruby streaming seeping out between teeth, mysteriously split lip making its own trail. By the time he rolls over onto his back, as blood floods that pant leg and stains denim beyond repair, the exaggerated bruises are dark on his face, cuts and scrapes breaking open like a plague victim. A wheezing breath is dragged into his lungs, torso impacted from a hook all the way from Staten Island, blinking rapidly as a wild gaze seeks out Eileen, shock and horror on his face somehow making him look younger despite the aging effects damage can have on people.

Perhaps if he could string some words together, he'd be apologising. Then again, some people never do learn. Its hard to tell if the choking sounds coming from his mouth would have formed words, but his expression sums it up when a bloodied, gaping mouth can't: stop.

Seeing him suffer this way isn't quite as Eileen envisioned it in her head, and the thrill of having him helpless on the ground at her feet wears off almost as abruptly as it took hold. The expression on her face changes, shifts, mouth growing firm and stern where it had been starting to quirk into a rueful smile only a few moments ago. Her dark brows lower, eyes hooded.

This isn't what she wants.

Her arm drops back to her side, fist going slack, fingers uncurling until all are rigid and straight. Once she's started, it's difficult to stop, but not impossible. Focusing on the energy she can feel corkscrewed around Gabriel's body, exploiting its physical weaknesses in the cruelest, most excruciating methods she can imagine, she calls to it in the same manner she used to summon her birds. Ultimately, the ability is just a shapeless extension of her will — although not readily, it submits to the unspoken command to return and allows itself to be reabsorbed into its keeper where it will lie dormant until the next time Eileen loses herself.

The damage, however, is already done. There's no taking that back. "You should have let me fall."

The lift of the ability is a fraction of relief, like a weight being taken off his chest. It provides nothing much else, the pain of broken or otherwise fragile bones, split flesh, ruptured insides and torn muscles all screaming a chorus of pain that he hasn't quite experienced before.

He rests his head back against packed earth and gravel, the world spinning in his head. That same throb of power is still nagging at Eileen's, but it's far weaker, his own energy drained from the unwilling donation, not to mention his injuries. His vision blurs with tears that can't be suppressed, hot streams of salty water making tracks to his temples, and a growl from deep within a ruined chest responding perhaps to Eileen's words, perhaps to his own weakness. It's primal, guttural.

Unwilling, Gabriel shakes his head, lets it twist to the side and spit blood, teeth stained with the stuff, a stubborn refusal against unconsciousness or death or Eileen's insistence that he should have let her go. Somewhere deep, he finds his voice. It comes out slurred, breaking.

"Did I hurt you?"

Followed by a lazily manic grin, a break of a chuckle which cuts in half as he chokes on it, blood in his lungs, non-smile vanishing in the next moment, brow furrowing. He's pretty sure this is what dying feels like. "Don't— don't leave." Desperation fills his voice. "Don't leave me here."

Suddenly, Eileen is back on the floor of Lucrezia Bennati's suite at the Ritz-Carlton, her arms around Gabriel, fingers tangled in his hair and her mouth at his ear, breath on his neck. She'd promised him she wouldn't leave him then. She can't leave him now. Her gaze sweeps over his body, the more latent aspects of her ability assessing the severity of his injuries and silently gauging how long he has to live—

—which is not very. She takes to a knee in the rubble beside him, one hand providing a second point of support while she reaches out with the other as if to touch her fingertips to his face, though she can't quite bring herself to make contact even with the soft leather material of her gloves separating his skin from hers. Instead, she pulls her hand back, tips her gaze to the side, eyes pooling with guilt.

It's become a cliche to say that phantom limbs itch even after they've been sliced from the body, but it's a cliche for a reason. Even now, Gabriel can feel himself try, try to find that current of life and death that flows between them, try to draw some of her's into himself, to give himself time if not recovery, but there's nothing. It's like trying to hear colours, see sounds. Inaccessible, impossible.

The sky has long since grown darker, and in contrast, he's grown paler, but the sudden panic that had hit him manages to die down when Eileen kneels with him, mouth shutting and eyes hooding a little. Okay. Maybe this won't be so bad. As long as it stops hurting

Pain is life. Maybe he should be clinging to it, or something.

"I'm sorry, I'm— " Late with the apology, is what he is. "I had to find you— They're gone." His gaze is a little wild, trying to focus on her's, but it shifts out of focus every second word. "In my head, they're all gone. W-Wu-Long, Jenny. You. Everything's gone and I wanted it back. Before there's— " His eyes squeeze shut from where he wasn't completely meeting her gaze. Pain is awful, forget life and such noble sentiments. He's not feeling very noble right now. "There's nothing left. Munin— "

Eileen, she wants desperately to correct him. My name is Eileen. This time she does touch him, a gentle hand on his shoulder, the contact so light she might not even be felt unless he's anticipating it. She can see, now, why he wanted her help, though she doesn't regret refusing him — not when everything else is so much closer to the top of the list detailing all that she wishes she hadn't done. "I'm not that person anymore," she corrects him, her voice hoarse but lacking in venom, heat. "She can't help you."

She removes her hand from his shoulder and places it on top of the fingers belonging to his left, saying, "And neither can I." A pause. "You need to stay away from me, do you understand? It isn't safe. I could kill you. I wanted to." Eileen might yet succeed if she doesn't do something about it soon, which is why her other hand slips inside the front of her jacket, brushes past the pistol she keeps there and comes to rest on the disposable phone Teodoro lent her. "Try not to move. Don't talk."

He's had trouble with that lately. Wrong, and right. It all sort of blurs together. Gabriel's hand had twitched beneath her's, but he seems to be having trouble moving at all save for small struggles against nothing, compulsive shudders. His right leg is fine, actually, if possessing it's fair share of soreness. Knee bends, boot heel scrapes along the debris covered ground, as if in some half-hearted attempt to curl up that never quite makes it.

He understands, without actually doing so, a grunt of affirmation that yes, she wanted to kill him. As her hand seeks out the phone in her pocket, Gabriel's left hand comes up, stubbornly, and grips onto her jacket. A silent continuation of his stammered plea. Dying alone, one of those universal fears even the villains of the world possess, somewhere deep down. Nothing she couldn't shake herself free of, his fingers curl around what fabric it finds, and clings limply.

And she had told him not to talk. "I was never safe," he growls out, head lifting a fraction. Because even in his dying throes it seems they are destined to bicker. "And you always— " Head slumps back again, eyes shutting. "Came back."

The next thing Gabriel knows, Eileen is taking off her coat and wrapping it around his shoulders and chest, using the heavy woolen fabric to keep him warm and staunch his hook wound with what limited materials they have available. Her arms are long, bare, streaked with fluid — none of it her own. She props up his head with her thigh when he lifts it, forcibly pulling his upper body into her lap. If she plans on going anywhere, she doesn't intend on leaving soon.

No, he was never safe. Yes, she always came back. Those are two things they can agree upon, the first in many months. "Don't talk," she repeats, sounding a little more shaken than she did when she knelt down beside him, "you can do that later." He can even be angry later, if he wants. Just as long as he's something other than dead.

Her thumb punches in a familiar number, the sequence long since committed to memory, each key pressing down with an audible chirp before finally coming to rest on the call button. She hits that one hardest of all.

Gabriel doesn't seem convinced. That he'll get to talk later. It's in the angle of his eyebrows, the slight curl to his lip. He has so many arguments to make before he dies, doesn't he, but then again, the words are starting to merry-go-round like a fever and in the next blink, Gabriel realises he's been half dragged into Eileen's lap, and the world is less cold than it was a moment ago. His arm shifts a little in belated protest, a breathy grunt, but ultimately—

There's no fight he could put up even if he wanted to make one. He even obeys her command, don't talk, although his mouth does open wordlessly for a moment before slackly going shut again. A cough makes his body jerk in her arms, like a puppet on twitchy strings before going slack again, eyes shutting in the same movement.

And they don't open again. Arguments run dry as fast as the blood in his veins and on the ground and now in her clothes, so he continues to say nothing, head heavy and loose on his neck.

The line rings once.


Three times.

There is prolonged lapse of silence, broken by a tinny voice on the other end—

"Teo?" Eileen asks, distraught. "Something's happened to Gabriel."

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