Ivy and Thorn


eileen4_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Ivy and Thorn
Synopsis Upon arriving at the Garden, Eileen decides to take advantage of a chance encounter and proposition Gabriel in Raith's absence.
Date August 6, 2009

The Garden

Situated in a copse several miles away from the nearest stretch of asphalt, the Garden is accessible via an old dirt road that winds snakelike through the woods and dead-ends at the property's perimeter, which is surrounded by stone wall plastered with wicked coils of rusty barbed wire to keep would-be intruders from attempting to scale it. Those with a key can gain entry via the front gate.

The safehouse itself is a three-story brickwork cottage over a century old and covered in moss and ivy. It slants to one side, suggesting that the foundation has been steadily sinking into the wet earth; incidentally, this may be one of the reasons why its prior occupants never returned to the island to reclaim their property when government officials lifted evacuation orders and re-opened the Verrazano-Narrows shortly before its eventual destruction.

Dusk bruises a bloated sky broken apart by streams of sunlight that do not reach the forest's floor. They catch in the trees, tangled amongst the topmost branches of statuesque oaks and matchstick thin birches with bark like curling pieces of thick white parchment covered in moss and lichen. Some of it trickles down, illuminating the rhinestone droplets that cling to their leaves and outline their edges in a silvery glow rivaled only by oily sheen of the pavement belonging to nearest road, some miles north of the Garden.

It's raining. Has been for several hours now, and if you ask anyone — especially Mage — they'll tell you that this is a good thing. The forest has a thirst that can only be slaked by torrential downpours like this one. It will be several days before the earth is dry again and dead leaves and twigs are crackling underfoot. Sprouts will shoot up from beneath the mulch and open into wildflowers, spreading splashes of colour in the form of arrowheads, marsh marigolds, sweet clover and even anemones, their petals like fat slivers of sunbleached linen.

For now, the stormfront fills the air with the familiar smells of damp earth, sodden moss and an electric undercurrent that promises to spark lightning and accompany the distant rumbling of far-off thunder. Eileen should have brought a coat. As she approaches the Garden's gates, she pays little heed to anything except the path unwinding in front of her and any potential obstacles along the way. At this point, it would be impossible for her to get any wetter, but this doesn't stop her from running now that her destination is finally in sight.

In the low, early evening light, a window lights up, winks with a faint glow that doesn't quite spill vibrant like it might if the sun were any lower. The Garden, as ever, has a presence of people, currently shielded from the elements indoors, although as Eileen's loping foot falls bring her close to the squat, sprawling building, the front door opens to someone else on their way out instead.

Unlike Eileen, Gabriel has the opportunity to bring a coat. This is something he's pulling on with a roll of his shoulders, dully olive in colour with enough shine to it that it might send raindrops rolling off its surface rather than allowing them to sink in, though only incidentally as there's no hood to draw up. Beneath that, a vaguely grey V-neck sweater is pulled over a white T-shirt, legs jean-clad and boots zipped up along the inner of his ankles. He's not looking up as he pulls the door shut behind him, where it will comfortably click locked, before stepping down stone steps and onto the sopping pathway that winds through muddying grass and fallen tree-debris.

When his gaze falls on the woman headed his way, he pace slows, and comes to an uncertain halt, vague surprise writing itself on his features, with a rueful glance back at the cottage. If there is such thing as a friendship built on incidental meetings punctuated by the occasional deliberate running into, they've managed it.

Eileen's feet splash through puddles, squelch mud and spatter her jeans below the knee in a gritty mixture of dirt and other grime. She arrives at the gate, but rather than reach down the front of her top and retrieve the chain around her neck, she closes her hands around the wrought iron bars and gives them an experimental shake, a clamour of metal joining with the thunder. Locked.

Gabriel's timing could not be better unless there was a pack of wild dogs led by Feng Daiyu at the young woman's heels, and judging from her buoyant expression and the smile curving her mouth into a silent but somewhat sheepish greeting when she sees him, this isn't something that either of them have to worry about.

"Do you think you could lend me a hand?" she asks in a loud voice that carries itself across the distance between them without being drowned by the sound of rain roaring in both their ears. "I've forgotten my key!" Which means it's sitting right where she left it: on the nightstand in her bedroom, glinting faintly in what light seeps in under the door and through the gaps in the curtains.

His head cants to the side as she rattles the cage keeping her within the entire world and outside of the perimeter, and, before she can make her request, Gabriel is already continuing his trek over, boots finding the dryer patches of ground, stepping around the dipping, glistening puddles that ripple violently with the downfall. His nose wrinkles as he glances up at the sky, a textural dome of greys and silvers clashing together, before he's coming to a stop near the gate. "I don't have a key either," he states, once within talking distance, voice quiet despite the crashing of weather around them, already soaking him to the bone before he can leave the property.

Let it be said that when you're in Wu-Long's demonic form of inky smoke, you don't catch a cold. He doesn't dissolve into it right away, resting a hand against the cold of the bars as he watches her, as if to see what she will do next. Dark hair is plastered to his forehead, the nape of his neck, a still contrast to Eileen's demeanor.

Eileen leans against the gate, using it to support her weight as she catches her breath, shoulders rising and falling in between gasps that heave and shudder with quiet, self-depreciative laughter. A moment later she's tipping up her chin and lifting her eyes to Gabriel's face, iridescent moisture clinging to the long, dark lashes that blink rainwater from her gaze and leave black tearstains on her cheeks. In weather like this, you don't have to be crying to see your make-up run greasy.

As she smudges at the shadows under her eyes, her hand comes away dark. This close, Gabriel undoubtedly can detect the smoke on her breath and the sweet tobacco in her hair clothes — rather than subdue the scents that cling to her, the rain acts as a distillation method and concentrates her presence into one or two distinct smells. The kind that no amount of water can wash away. "Then I guess I'm out of luck."

"I guess so." The simple reply is even delivered with the upturn of a smirk, enough to raise one corner of his mouth though, as ever, it seems isolated, compartmented humour while his eyes remain analytical. Right now, Gabriel is studying her face through the bars of the gate, and trying to remember if it's changed, dramatically, since late last year. Perhaps it's context rather than what's on it, what's engraved into it - her recently cropped hair instead of the longer tangles of before, the backdrop of wet forest instead of the warehouse, or the hallway of the Queens apartment, or the stretch of a bridge that only exists in memory. Just— it seems different.

Or, you know. It could be the smears of make up. "You were out?" Gabriel asks, in the tone of voice of someone who only asks the question around the same time he realises it. This is supported by the line suddenly forming between his brows, boyish in many ways. Well. Of course she was out. He means out out. "Where did you go?"

"Roosevelt Island." Eileen glances up at the top of the gate, measuring the distance between its summit and the ground beneath her booted feet. She's never been in a position where she's needed to consider climbing it before, and the uncertainty of success is as plain on her face as her slender nose or the expressively arching brows above her kohl-stained eyes. If it weren't for the chills wracking her body, she might notice that Gabriel's scrutinization of her face is more intense than usual — fortunately for the man on the other side of the bars, she's too focused on suppressing her shivers to make such an astute observation.

"Ran into an old acquaintance," she adds, almost an afterthought as she steps back from the gate and pushes some of the hair away from her face. "Got caught up waxing philosophical. If you haven't got a key, how do you expect to get anywhere?"

As she steps away, Gabriel casually wraps two hands around the chill bars running with rain water, the gate creaking a little in protest against his casual lean in. "I came by, looking for you," he says, with wandering accusation, as if she should have had the foresight to realise as much and appropriately stayed in to wait for him. In a mirror of her contemplating, he angles a look upwards towards the top of the iron gate, as if wondering if she could climb it too.

The flicker of a smirk is his only expression of doubt, before, promptly, slick olive green fabric, the grey beneath that, pallid peach skin and dark hair made sleekly black from the falling rain all dissolves into the same sentient oil-through-water, soundless and effortless. It lingers for a moment, a dissonance between the appearance of an injection of ink in water and the raining falling through it, around it, an ever moving cloud that curls it on itself and out again. At once, it surges forward just enough inches so that it can pass through the bars, tendrils separating, rejoining on the other side.

There's a wet squelch as boots become solid again and land in the mud, Gabriel stepping out from the billowing mass of darkness, the tendrils curling back around his shoulders before disappearing, melding back into his form. "Mystery solved."

In the past, Eileen's boldness might have melted away as soon as Zhang Wu-Long's legacy eliminated the physical barrier between Gabriel's body and hers — but just as there's something different about her face, there are other changes she's undergone during their time apart that aren't so readily visible. Rather than shrink back or jerk away in surprise, she reaches up, takes the front of his jacket in her both small hands and then straightens it.

"You came by," she echoes lowly, and while her tone isn't without humour it's of the sardonic variety and may be the only dry thing left about her, "looking for me." The sheepish smile she wore when she first arrived at the gate twists into something more derisive and feline. This is usually the part where she says something mean—

"I'm all out of sprigs of ivy and thorn," Eileen tells Gabriel apologetically. "But if you can find me a ditch, there's something I'd like to show you. What did you need?"

An eyebrow edges up at the same time his gaze goes down, chin tipping so as to watch her pale hands smooth and right the dripping lapels of his coat. Water droplets refused from soaking in are clinging to the surface of the fabric, quivering before breaking apart into thin rivulets beneath the punishment of rain fall. As for Gabriel, he only smells like rain water, adapting to the earthy environment as if he were always a part of it.

There's a pause, studying her beneath a serious brow at her choice of words, a tug at a memory, abstract due to its source. It has Gabriel hesitating, slightly unshaven neck shifting with a swallow and coming to the realisation that he hasn't read the rulebook of whatever game this is, so winds up answering safely; "I had a riddle for you."

Yes, and? He doesn't say. It's curiousity that might compel a child to wrap their hands around a metal wire, even when the danger, high voltage sign is just several feet away, or a fish to bite onto the glistening bait dangling so conveniently off the fine, invisible thread, and much the same way, he asks, "What did you want to show me?"

Tangible one minute, ephemeral the next, there's nothing to stop Gabriel from melting into shadow again if Eileen doesn't handle him with care. The hands at his lapels push him back with just enough force to trap him between the iron bars of the gate and her much more diminutive shape.

Whatever the game, it's one that she's most comfortable playing when she knows that no one else is watching — or if they are, then all they'll be able to make out from the cottage's warmly lit interior is a pair of shadows, one markedly larger than the other, both entwined in some sort of surreptitious exchange, all blurred edges and strange, alien angles.

"That depends on the riddle," Eileen says as she places her hands on the bars again, one on either side of Gabriel's broad frame to prevent him from attempting to maneuver around her. "I hope it's a good one."

He could evade her, but then again, evasion implies threat. Perhaps if this were the broken remains of Eagle Electric and the quirk of her mouth was a fraction different, he'd take it as one, but as it happens, the rigidity of his spine when it connects against the gate has little to do with her being a threat. "It isn't," Gabriel states, frankly honest. "How do you teach Death not to kill?" Cold as the rain is, drawing a shiver from down his spine as rainwater tracks beneath his collar, Gabriel can still feel fine at the tips of his fingers when they find her waist. "I liked yours, though. About keys and gates."

He's cheating, all of a sudden. He worked out the rules, that it involves posture, and hands, possibly height difference. Nothing to do with Evolved power. All the same, they're suddenly inseparable, his form becoming her's and vice versa, and doing so without moving an inch as they both implode into inky darkness, sharing the same matrix of mass; a coiling tornado that moves back the way it came, through dripping iron, over muddy ground.

It's a simple move, almost as elegant as chess. Eileen has the gate behind her back, and Gabriel's hands come to settle against it on either side of her shoulders. This might be where someone says something mean. "What did you want to show me?" comes out instead.

It takes Eileen a moment or two for her brain to process what's just happened, and when she does her face adopts an irate expression that fades with the sense of disorientation and lingering vertigo. There's rainwater in her eyes, in her mouth, bleeding clear from her lips as she struggles not only with Gabriel's riddle, but the fact that he's declared checkmate in the time it took her to blink.

At her back, the gate rattles, metal clinks against metal and her shoulders roll to release some of the tension building in the muscles there. She'd been cold before. Not so much now.

Her hands grasp the bars below Gabriel's, fingers curling until her knuckles stand out like the individual ridges of her spine beneath her rain-drenched clothing. "If this is the sort of thing you're going to do every time I refuse," she murmurs thickly, "then maybe I'm not ready to part with it just yet."

Playing with fire would be safer. What Gabriel is doing to Eileen takes as much discretion and finesse as coaxing a snake to rise up out of a wicker basket while avoiding its fangs. "I haven't got an answer to your riddle."

Rain continues to patter down, now beating off his back slightly tilted towards it from his lean in over the woman against the gate. "I thought you might have appreciated the effort," Gabriel notes, gaze wandering from her's, tracking the greasy smear of mascara gathered above her cheekbone, back up. A study that lasts as long as the time it takes for a thin rivulet of rain water to course over his face, down his nose, which has him moving a hand from the gate to wipe his face with his sleeve, which doesn't so much as dry his face as redistribute the water making his skin shine.

"I guess that means you have nothing for me." It's a taunt, in some ways, leaning still on the remaining hand against the gate, the chain that holds it in place stretched taut beneath both his weight and that of Eileen's. Gabriel casts a look back to the cottage. At least, there's no shadow of a silhouette in the windows, spying on the two.

Well, he solved her riddle. "I wasn't aware you were refusing."

Eileen had been right when she told Gillian that the rain was cleansing. Wind and water erode her hesitation to nothing. Thunder bolsters her confidence. Her grip on the gate tightens as she breathes out through her mouth and presses a slow, steadying sigh past her lips. The last time she was in this position with someone, it had been Jensen Raith under considerably more sinister circumstances — and while her heart is pounding like a clenched fist beating against a war drum the same way it did then, the reason for her excitement tonight is entirely different.

She hasn't struck at Gabriel with her tongue yet or even begun to construct words designed to cut him down. Perhaps she's finally realized that cruelty, no matter how effective, isn't meant to be used as a first line of defense against her loved ones — only a final resort. They call it burning bridges for a reason.

"Gabriel," she whispers, her voice guttural and hoarse. Pleading. Nothing follows it unless he wants to count the haggard sound of her breathing.

The silence on his end that ensues isn't one of hesitation. Hesitation isn't something you do when you know what it is you want, and if it is, it's because you're a coward. It's judgment, and a sense of realisation, and then a certain kind of magnetism. His free hand returns to the gate once more, only this time sealing over her wrist rather than the unforgiving bite of iron. Eileen won't know it, but last time, it had been her to reel him in, and fair, as they say, is fair.

Eileen doesn't have to move, not unless she wants to, but Gabriel does. Whatever few inches that kept them at a distance is cracked with so much swiftness, and the kiss itself— it lingers, shallow, a warmer touch than the rain could ever achieve, a hand settling at the base of her throat.

There's no spread of ashen flesh this time, no twisting bite of infection, only the innocence of this trade, gently prying and questioning. The rain crashes down, still, with ceremony, without distinction, falling on the heads of the innocent and guilty and batters at them both, uncaring of what acknowledgement it might get for its efforts.

At first, the kiss is met with some resistance, but it is not long before Eileen's mouth yields and the rest of her body with it. Gabriel tastes the same way he smells — like precipitation, filling her nose and mouth with wet hair, soaking fabric and the subtle perfume of the sodden earth beneath their feet, all of it tempered by his heat and the subtle press of his body against hers. It's just as well that the falling rain has no feelings to wound. Not only does it go unacknowledged — it goes completely ignored, and for once the woman pinned between Gabriel and the gate cannot complain that the same can be said of her as well.

This is what she wanted.

Eileen responds to his touch with a languid slowness that has nothing to do with reluctance or the non-existent hesitation guiding their movements. Her lips brush against his in an attempt to speak, breathing words into his mouth. They aren't necessarily the ones he might be expecting, if he was expecting any at all.

"Left back pocket." She really does have something for him, after all.

Gabriel backs up when she speaks, if backing up can be measured in fractions of fractions, maybe an inch at most, enough that a crossing eyed, blurred gaze can see him blink rapidly in damp moth flutter motions. Left back pocket what now? The notion that this was not what she wanted had pretty much dispersed into nothing, into so much humidity, upon feeling her physically yield to him, so his uncertainty has little to do with insecurity.

Not palpable enough of an uncertainty to back away, although he does ease his hold of her wrist, thumb stroking down the pale skin of its underside, along the path of a blue vein, before releasing altogether. Obedient, his hand moves for that left back pocket, eyes becoming crescent shapes beneath heavy, hooded eyelids.

It's a ziplock bag, airtight, it plastic exterior wrinkled from the time spent in Eileen's pocket. The reason for such precautions become immediately clear when he gets a good look at its contents: a single piece of paper molded into the stiff shape of what appears to be a playing card that depicts a man straddling white horse with his sword raised aloft as a plume of feathers sprouts crimson from the armored helmet he wears on his head. The words Knight of Swords are emblazoned across the bottom of the card in a shade of ink so deep that it rivals the darkness gathering around them.

Eileen's freed hand moves to Gabriel's jaw, not to cradle it in the seat of her palm but to run her fingers through his hair and fondly smooth it away from his face. "Jensen Raith wants you to come work with him." With, not for. It's an important distinction, one that she chooses to emphasize by planting another kiss on the bottom of his chin below his mouth. "You don't have to settle on an answer tonight."

Gathered close to her as he is, there leaves little distance that Eileen has to fight against with quiet words and kisses, even as he observes the retrieved card. Rain water makes tiny mirror dots on the plastic covering, the warped, miniscule reflections of the image below getting almost more observation than the card itself, if only because he's distracted.

"I'll— " He swallows, dragging his gaze back to her eyes. He'll what? He'll not be coaxed into joining the Vanguard remnant through warm touches of smooth palms and yielding mouths, is what. "I'll speak to Raith."

The plastic crinkles as his grip on it shifts, though Gabriel is careful not to fold the card itself as it and its plastic covering are slipped into the pocket of his coat. Upon extracting that hand again, the other removes itself from the cold iron gate, moves with the other to cradle her jaw and tilted her face up enough to kiss again. Because he could— possibly, plausibly, potentially— be coaxed into not going to Swinburne Island through those touches.

There's a break, a hesitation when something nags at him and he winds up asking— "Isn't he the King of Swords?" Boys, what boys will be.

"Keen, forceful intellect. Sharp and alert. Incisive. Knowledgeable. Logical." Eileen is no tarot expert, but she's spent enough time researching appropriate symbols that she speaks with the confidence of one. At the very least, she believes she chose well. "The Knight is the better card," she assures him, mouth curling into a smile beneath the force of his kiss. "It suits you."

His promise to speak with Raith mollifies whatever concerns she might've had — a moment later, she's playing with the front of his coat again, though this time she isn't nearly quite as quick or willing to release her hold on his lapels and risk turning him loose. "Stay," she implores him, and there's nothing suggestive about the request or what follows it. The only promises her eyes are making involve a warm meal, dry clothes and a comfortable bed to spend the night in. "Come inside. Be with me."

And considering the trek downhill to to a rotten foreshore, an uncomfortable swim in the incorporeal form of Wu-Long's legacy, with only a campfire and the hollow, dripping rooms of the abandoned hospital and potentially Peter Petrelli for company—

It sounds like a pretty good deal. The gate creaks in relief as Gabriel takes his weight from it and therefore, her's. His eyes scan over her head as if maybe there was a decision to make, scouting out the shadow blackened slippery trail that would have lay ahead of him, and soon enough, an arm curves around her back, angling his body towards the cottage so that they can continue the journey along the vague pathway that leads to its doorstep.

"Quick, it's raining," he states, wryly, watching his own foot falls into the muddy earth rather than her, as his other hand dips back into his pocket, palm clasping over the Tarot card, fingers curled. There's a strange sense of— something. Satisfaction would be arrogant, and God forbid he be arrogant.

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