Intelligent Discourse


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Intelligent Discourse
Synopsis Eileen and Gabriel have some, after Peter has delivered a table. They are in another room, so it doesn't get flipped.
Date October 20, 2009

Old Dispensary: Kitchen

When Eileen busies herself in the kitchen, it usually has nothing to do with the food itself and everything to do with keeping her hands and mind occupied. She said that Ethan would be soon and implied he might be hungry, and that much is at least true; neither the tomatoes she's halving at the chopping block beside the stove nor the pickled herrings in the glass jar above it will go to waste, because if there's one thing the young woman isn't — it's uneconomical. Every cigarette is smoked down to the butt, every sweater worn until the yarn begins to unravel, every meal consumed if her appetite permits and given away or cached if not.

Pink juice speckled with seeds runs in pulpy rivulets down her fingers, for once bare of silver rings, and gathers on the wooden block beneath the her butcher's knife. She keeps her back to the door as she works, her attention divided between the task at hand and the distorted image of the kitchen doorway reflected in the knife's blade. Barring the use of supernatural abilities, no one is going to sneak up on her while fixes a late supper for someone who isn't there.

She isn't alone with her cooking or preparation thereof for very long. There's the distant noise of both Peter and Raith taking their leave, the creak of staircases and floor boards within the expansive dispensary, but closer, feet in socks padding quietly up to the entrance of the kitchen. In the curving reflection of her knife, Gabriel makes a vague and wavy impression of himself, his clothes still clinging to him, hair plastered to his skull though shifting with roaming, fidgeting fingers to get it off his brow, to loosen clinging rainwater.

Moving around, permitting himself entry into the warm kitchen— warm enough in comparison to the more spacious spaces of the building, anyway— Gabriel is headed for the box of supplies that had been set down upon a counter, turning his rain streaked back to her and shifting his fingers through cans, packets of flour, oats, sugar.

It's tempting to ignore his presence. Or pretend to. The truth of the matter is that Eileen can't ignore Gabriel's presence any more than she ignore the kettle on the stove or the distant patter of rain sloughing dirt and dead leaves off the dispensary's roof. Distant thunder competes with the rumble of water in the pipes and the sound of wind whistling in the trees outside, and as a result is felt more than it is heard. She pauses then, dark-haired head turned just enough to regard Gabriel's figure in her peripheral vision as she directs her gaze out the kitchen and into the bleary darkness of the foyer.

She should be thinking about Ethan and whether or not he's all right, wherever he is, but there's something about the somewhat complacent expression on her face that suggests the opposite. Thinking about Ethan leads to worrying about Ethan, and worrying about Ethan leads to pulling on her peacoat and boots — neither of which she should be donning to go out in this weather.

"Is there something you need?" she asks of Gabriel in a voice that is deceptively polite given the way they've been behaving around one another as of late.

Crackers, the plastic cover and the rack inside it crinkling underneath his fingers as he turns it over in his hands, and, ultimately, Gabriel leaves it all be for someone else to put away. Curiousity sated, if mildly unimpressed. If Peter is so helpful, he can put it away. A hand up to rub over his face, fingertips scrubbing over bristled skin of his jaw, as Eileen's Englishly polite question is asked. "If there was something I needed, I'd ask. Or get it." He's not harsh, or even particularly frosty in the same way he'd been mildly icy towards Peter not so long ago.

Simply pointing out the falseness, glancing over his shoulder at her before looking back into the box. Restlessly pushing it further back on the kitchen counter before turning back to her. "Kind of a one-eighty, don't you think. Both Kazimir and Peter have done awful things to you. Now he's stealing furniture."

"Who am I to criticize someone for trying to make amends?" Thunk goes the blade of the knife. One by one, the tomato halves are chopped into quarters, then eighths. She'd intended to slice them when she first took them out, but on a purely emotional level hacking them to pieces is so much more satisfying. It acts as an outlet, too; as long as there's fruit to take her frustration out on, Gabriel is safe from finding himself on the receiving end of her aggression. "I can count on my fingers the number of one-eighties you've made in the year I've known you," she says. "Don't forget how eager you were to please Kazimir when he first told you about your supposed place in his new world order."

She uses a towel to wipe the juice from the blade, mindful not to slice into her fingers as she runs it along the edge. Running water at the dispensary is still a luxury. "There's nothing wrong with change. Or I should hope not, anyway."

Moving to the other side of the kitchen island, Gabriel rests his hands against the edge of wood, leaning, shoulders hiking up with his weight hanging casual between the stiff pillars of strong arms. "I remember," is stated, eyes going down to the hacked up vegetable, though if he gleans from it that it was the target of pent up frustration, it doesn't register on his face as he dismisses them with a gaze flicked back up to her face.

Then down to his nails, almost innocently, fingers splaying where his palms are set against the edge of the counter. "But I always had an agenda. You don't need to criticise, but there's nothing wrong in questioning."

"Of course not." Gabriel's hands receive a brief glance flashed from beneath her lashes. Not once do her eyes rise to his face, though there's a moment where it looks as though they might — only for her attention to be diverted back to the tomatoes, swept aside with the flat of the knife. "Everyone has an ulterior motive for the things they do. Take you coming in here, for example."

Up on the tips of her toes, bare feet lifted off the kitchen floor, she reaches up and pulls down the jar of pickled herring from the shelf above the chopping block and uses that same towel to secure her grip on the lid before twisting it off. "You say that there isn't anything you need," she observes coolly, "but here you are, conversing with me at the witching hour when you could be upstairs, enjoying the solitude of your attic. Why is that?"

There's some silence, perhaps just as cool, though it's hard to tell such subtleties when neither of them are really looking at the other. The kitchen fills readily with the sound of Eileen going about making supper for someone who isn't here yet to enjoy it, maybe won't be, considering the liberal schedules of the Remnant collectively. Then the sound of rain, and the sound of foot steps above them as the man they speak around moves over head for his own room.

Gabriel's back straightens, his weight taken off the table and his hands coming to rub palms together absently, before arms dangle limp from his shoulders. "Good point." And on that note, with barely a slice of glance at her, Gabriel starts to move for the door.

"That was an invitation to engage in intelligent discourse, by the way," says Eileen, setting the jar's lid aside. "Not a suggestion to leave. Of course, if you want us to continue carrying on like cats and dogs whenever we're in the same room together, then I'm more than happy to oblige." That last part is a lie, and one she doesn't even attempt to cover with a casual inflection. Her voice rises in volume and pitch at the end, growing uncomfortably tight in the same way that the muscles in her neck and shoulders are.

She fishes out one of the herrings with the aid of a fork and slaps it down onto the chopping block with the same swift efficiency she showed the tomatoes, cleaving off the creature's head in one clean cut. "It wouldn't be the first time one of us has walked out on the other."

Gabriel doesn't completely stop, but his steps turn into heel-drags of reluctance— to either stop or keep going, it's hard to say. Either way, he gets all the way to the door until momentum dwindles out completely, a hand coming to rest on the frame as he looks back at her, an eyebrow raised.

"An invitation. Then maybe you should be less of a bitch when you give it."

His words ring more frank than harsh, although his mouth clicks shut straight after as if perhaps silencing then would erase them completely. "I came to talk. You act like I shouldn't want to," is muttered, quieter.

Eileen blows out a snort through her nostrils that would produce a puff of fog from her nose if the temperature in the dispensary was any cooler. "I don't know what you want," she says as she runs the blade along the belly of the fish and exposes its innards to the frigid air. Unsurprisingly, this produces no smell; the herrings have been in the jar so long that the only scent their glittering bodies give off belongs to the sour liquid they were preserved in. "Never mind what you should or shouldn't." Something of an apology, her words have adopted a more subdued tone tempered by the frustration that still bubbles beneath her chilly exterior.

"I'm having a difficult time coming to terms with the idea that the man I've feelings for thinks so poorly of me and the people I choose to associate myself with, so you'll forgive me if I don't know how I'm supposed to behave around you." Another herring is removed from the jar and the process repeated. "You hurt me."

It's enough to pull Gabriel back into the kitchen proper. Gravity, force of conversation, and also it's what he came here for. He doesn't point out the unnecessary, which is that they always hurt each other, because perhaps that isn't the point at this stage. Rather then reentering completely, he leans his back against the wall beside the door, his hands tucked behind him, his head resting back against plaster and eyes slightly hooded.

And his brow furrows at her words as he goes over them, before the expression relaxes. "I wanted to make you angry, not hurt you. It was refreshing, to see you riled up about something. To see you passionate. Instead of dead, glassy eyes and whispers. That's all."

Although Gabriel can't see it, the gossamer thin hairs on the back of Eileen's necks and arms prickle at this new implication. Of all the possibilities she'd considered, that he'd do it just to rile her didn't even make the list. She shuffles the fish onto the same side of the chopping block as the tomatoes, sets the butcher knife down and turns to face him, her facial expression difficult to read beyond the familiar knit brow and pursed lips curling down at the corners into a frown.

"It's occured to me that you might be happier if I hadn't told you about Kazimir," she says after a lengthy pause, wiping her small hands off on the towel, "but I don't regret that decision. What I regret is choosing a public place to do it, and without thinking. All I've done these past two weeks is replay the conversation in my head over and over, trying to puzzle out what I said wrong, or what I could have said differently. Be honest with me, Gabriel. Is that really all?"

"Ignorance isn't bliss. I thought we covered this sometime ago." He studies her without real accusation, as if trying to decipher a language he only half knows. She's caught him perusing books of Mandarin with the same narrowed eye'd interest, putting pieces together in his head, uncovering the mystery.

His arms move to fold. They are now two, defensive individuals of a couple, classic in setting if not actually in conflict. "Maybe it's just the way I am. Maybe if I don't believe in survival of the fittest, I'll go insane. And I just told you the truth to make you angry."

"I'm not interested in maybe." Eileen eases away from the chopping block, her bare feet making even less noise on the floorboards than Gabriel's socked ones, and begins closing some of the distance between them — but only some. She narrows it to the halfway point before coming to a stop, the back of her head reflected in the stainless steel pots and pans hanging above the stove. "If that's the truth, if that's the way you really feel, then I want to know. I deserve to know."

For the first time in many days, she's looking Gabriel in the eye when she addresses him, and though her gaze is unwavering it's painfully clear that maintaining it is also causing her some degree of physical discomfort he might recognize as embarrassment. This is not a conversation she wants to be having. These days, most aren't. "Why not kill me, Gabriel? Take my power back, take Peter's if survival of the fittest is what you believe in. I'm weaker than you are, after all. According to you, I don't deserve to be standing here."

"Do you think it's easy?"

Quiet gravel, now, underscoring true anger rising to the surface as Gabriel looks at her, long and hard, expression both hunted and predator as he stares across at her. "To know what you can do, to have done it before, and to just— step around it? When we share quarters? Beds? It's not easy. But you mean more to me than your ability." Quiet anger is not something Gabriel excels in - his voice usually kicks up, eventually, invites itself into shouting.

Maybe due to where they are, he keeps it on a leash. He takes his weight off the wall, although not to approach - stepping, instead, to the side, so that the door yawns open behind him. "And you're not weaker than me. Brute strength is only a part of it."

"Not so fun when someone does it to you, is it?" Eileen asks. "Riling you up?" Let there be no mistake about what she's trying to do: while her tone is anything but, her words are frivolous, designed to invoke a very specific response. "It builds inside, puts pressure on your heart and lungs, makes it difficult to breathe, think." She's moving again, but not toward the door or even Gabriel. Her pacing leads her around the kitchen like an animal stalking the length of its cage, slow and with brutal purpose.

"I know it isn't easy. I know I'm worth more to you than what I can do, but maybe," despite not being interested in maybes, "you can help me understand exactly what it is that stops you from cracking me open like a pomegranate when I'm sleeping next to you, or under you, because it isn't anger, and it is whispers and dead, glassy eyes. I don't like being depressed, and I don't like being a bitch. Give me some other option."

"You could be happy. Content. Whatever it is you want to be, Eileen," Gabriel responds, standing his ground as tempting as it is to pace circular, as if they had switched from tense couple to territorial alley cats. "And I don't kill you because you taught me that that is weakness. That giving into it is weakness. You showed me restraint, what I could be. Better. I love you."

Far be it from Sylar, Midtown accused, killer of dozens, to be afraid of the l-word. It doesn't make the addition any less stilted, but nor does stiltedness make it any less in general. Teeth flash in a sneer as if angered to have to say it, posture bridling tension, and finally taking a step, giving in to pacing, although it's only a few inches around until he stops.

Gestures. Hands up, hands down. "I don't make you happy."

To hear it gives Eileen pause. She slows, stops, closes hands around the edge of the stove with her back to Gabriel again, just as it had been when he first entered the room. "No," she agrees at the end of a prolonged silence punctuated by another far-off peal of thunder, "you don't, but I don't make you happy either so that's fair. We took that away from ourselves." Her fingers flex, knuckles bulging beneath the pale skin of her hands as she curls her toes against the floorboards and shifts her weight from foot to foot in an attempt to work off some of her excess energy.

"What you do for me is more important," she says, finally. "That small measure of peace you bring. Consistency. Comfort. You could leave for weeks and things would be exactly the same between us— I can't say that for anyone else, God help me."

Her back is frustrating to look at, telling him nothing save for how and how she isn't tense, in the curve of her spine and the slope of shoulders. Frustration, unseen by her, flickers in brown eyes, before that trace of tension is gone in the next moment. She works out energy through shifting her weight, and he holds onto what he has left, arms coming again to fold, hands gripping elbows.

Despite himself, whatever she said there, manages to steal away the prior anger, or accusation. "Do you think this is what it would be like for us? If Teo's future," and that's really the only way he identifies it, "came to be. Not happy. Consistent, comforting."

She angles a look over her shoulder at Gabriel, chin inclined and neck arched. The only dispensary resident not to brave the rain, her skin and hair are both dry, giving her a cleanlier appearance than the man standing behind her, but even at this distance she gives off the stench of stale cigarette smoke mingling with the rose and cedar notes of her perfume and her body's natural oils. It isn't unpleasant necessarily, just potent — distinctly Eileen.

"No." Her answer is at first succinct. Terse. Her lips thin out, press into a flat line and green eyes close and her breath leaves her body in a slow but reedy hiss. Then, "Not just like this. How much do you know?"

"I was in his head for a month, to the day. How much do you think I know?" Which by rights, is an impossible question for those who don't know better. What's it like, to be in someone's head? To have someone in yours? Gabriel is a certifiable expert, and he's not telling. Bird brains, in comparison, hold so little, like water in a teaspoon in terms of history, let alone the future.

He lifts the corner of his mouth in an incomplete smile. "I always know we've been through the conversation before, so I'm going to assume things are back to normal." A pause, before less facetiously, he says, "I can't take it back. Not sure I would if I could. But I can try not to repeat it."

His eyebrows raise, as if to ask, good enough?

"You've seen what we can have," Eileen says, "what we can be. I've been to the house. It's beautiful, exactly something I'd choose, but it felt like a tomb. I don't want what he showed us to come to pass, not with the way it ends." She turns, bare feet whispering against the floorboards, and shows Gabriel the spread palms of her hands. "If we were happy there, it wasn't because of anything we did for each other. Maybe things we did for ourselves, for the boy."

There's a hitch in her breath, voice catching at the mention of Wu-Long's son. She swallows, hard, and tastes desert in her mouth. "I want you in my life, Gabriel, but you need to be there on your own terms. At my back, in my bed — it doesn't matter as long as you're doing it because you want it too. Happiness is something that comes from the inside. Something internal. You can't find it in other people."

"I know." Gabriel shakes his head, dismissive in some ways, backing up a step even as she comes forward with her hands open to him. "You were asking me for another option, of how to feel, something other than depressed, or angry. And now you're telling me it comes from within. I don't know what you want from me, because it changes every time we talk. If it's to leave you alone, or to stay with you— "

There's no table to flip, and he lacks the energy and ire to do it anyway; just raises a hand to rub his face, before gesturing to her. "I'm here because I want to be. I didn't give the Remnant this place. I gave it to you. Make of that what you want."

Eileen stops when Gabriel takes that step back, her hands falling back to her sides where her fingertips curl in on themselves, the crescent tips of her nails brushing the skin of her palms. Her soles squeak on the floorboards. If she'd intended to eliminate the remaining distance between them, then she doesn't anymore. Her mouth twists into a scowl, brow knitting with consternation for having budged from her position by the stove.

Colour flushes her cheeks an ugly shade of deep, mottled pink that contrasts with the natural paleness of her skin and creates a disparity between light and dark, hot and cold. Some women are pretty when they get upset, but Eileen is not quite so lucky. If anything, she looks worse than she did a few moments ago. "I'm sorry."

If he meant to upset her this time, it doesn't show. No sneers, no half-smiles. Likely, Gabriel didn't, if the dropped gaze that bounces from kitchen tile to a vague direction towards the wall is of any indication. "You don't need to be." Frustration lines his voice, shining in it with than shaping it. If Gabriel could only shake her—

His shoulders hike up beneath the still damp sweater. "I need to get dry. And we need to stop doing this. It doesn't have to be this complicated. It shouldn't make things worse."

Eileen's attention shifts back to the chopping block and the discarded knife, which she now takes up again and turns the handle between her fingers. It isn't her reflection in the blade that interests her so much as it is the way the light plays off it and glows with the brightness of the stove's rosy coils. She shows him her back again, taps the knife twice aginst the chopping block's wooden surface and resumes her earlier work, laying another herring to be beheaded and slivered into two silver pieces vaguely shaped like the tool she holds in her hand.

"Okay." There is nothing else to say.

For a time, there's only the sound of chopping reaching Eileen's ears - and then foot steps. They don't go away, however, as should come next, as is logical. They approach, until two hands rest on either side of her against the counter. Warmth is enough, even through rain-wet clothing, as to be felt even if he's not touching her. She could always drive the knife through him if she wanted to, it being sharp and her being efficient, but—

Maybe they're not quite there, yet. Gabriel's voice comes from somewhere too close to her ear to be his natural height, back curving enough as he states, plainly enough, "Come with me."

The flat of the blade connects with the chopping block, producing a scarcely audible tinkle of metal on wood. Under Gabriel's hand, Eileen's fingers release their grip on the knife and twist around the clutch nails at the sleeve of his sweater as her hand closes tight around his wrist. Tangles of loose hair with the texture of wool brush against his unshaven cheek. Briefly, her head rests at his neck and her nose follows the curve of his jaw in a glance tipped upward, though her eyes don't make it far enough to find his face.

Ethan's smart. If he doesn't already know how to finish what she started here, then he'll figure it out.

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