Lay Flowers Down and Walk Away


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Lay Flowers Down and Walk Away
Synopsis Gabriel leaves Kazimir's journal for Eileen to find along with a message inside of it that turns out to be more important than the journal's contents.
Date August 30, 2010

Old Dispensary

A lamp set down on wooden planked ground spills brilliant gold in an almost perfect circle around it, sunlight dwindled enough from attic window for Gabriel to deem it necessary. Away from bed, desk, any other more conventional place of rest, he sits in the centre of the room, with one leg stretched and the other bent, sole of his bare foot against inner thigh to form a triangle, awkward and comfortable at the same time. Next to him, a palette of paint, smeared and smudged into a mess of streaky colour where the predominent tone seems to be grey, if only by virtue of things mixing that should not. He works without water, too.

As if to make it challenging as opposed to not being a very good painter. There is a suggestion of feminine shape on the canvas in front of him, black hair, green in the slope of her jaw and black filling in where her eyes should have been. His own eyes are normal, whites around the round black-amber irises and wide pupils in the dimness — instead of, say, milky white. There is no prophecy in this image, in the shapes he dictates, paint smearing up his hands, his knuckles, clothing.

In fact, it's probably the opposite.

At the sound of approach from below, through the opened staircase, Gabriel hesitates enough for yellow to drip where it shouldn't, bullied out of the image a moment latter with aggressive dabs of a loaded paintbrush. Rather than pause again, he continues, the immediate vicinity smell of paint chemicals, artshop scents.

The staircase supports Gabriel's weight. The woman who climbs it does not have to worry about the wood splitting or the old metal hinges buckling, but she moves with slow, purposeful deliberation nonetheless, one hand gripping the side, the other clutching a journal to her chest with slim, pale fingers that would show signs of trembling if they weren't curled around the book's spine.

He would not have left it hanging down if he wasn't amenable to the idea of company. Or confrontation, if his plan to leave Kazimir's writings on Eileen's pillow for her perusal when she returned to her body didn't work out as well has he might have hoped. Her presence enters his psychic periphery before the physical one, a gentle brush of her consciousness against his to inform him of her intentions in case he's asleep or for some reason the sound of her bare feet on the steps hasn't already given her away.

Her head appears a moment later, ringlets of dark hair plastered to her cheeks, followed by slender neck, narrow shoulders and the familiar shape formed by bust, waist and hips, which are clothed in a short, antiquated black frock with a tie-back sash, silk-covered buttons and ornate flower embroidery across the chest that cuts off mid-thigh and exposes her knees and calves, appropriate for the weather when paired with a lightweight gray cardigan now that the weather outside has begun to cool in the dark.

At the top of the steps, Eileen smears the heel of her hand across her cheek, pushing away a curl she can feel tickling and wet at the corner of her mouth. She doesn't have a bird with her.

He doesn't stop when she enters — even if Gabriel has less idea behind the movements of the brush strokes, increasingly blanked now that he's being watched. Only in symbol, though, he can feel enough that she's in total darkness. There's a last, whimsical swipe, an almost perfect mingling of buttercup yellow and murkier red, cutting across the face-like shapes he's suggested via paint, thickly coloured with little definition. "Hey," he greets, scratching the underside of his jaw with the wooden end of paintbrush.

By now uncaring of the mess he's made of himself, paint on his hands, a smudge on his face. The shirt he wears is probably old, worn grey cotton and weavy hems, faded denim, loose for comfort. His brown eyes flick down to the journal she holds, before he's looking down at the painting and wondering if the biasedly golden light of his lamp is throwing off his colours.

Who's he kidding.

She'd been prepared to wait, having smelled the paint. That Gabriel isn't too absorbed in his work to register her is a surprise, and her fingers instinctively tighten around the journal's binding. Eileen glances toward the sound of his voice, the canvas — if she has any critique, constructive or not, it will have to wait for a time when she can see what she's looking at rather than be confined to her imagination.

The attic's open space gives her freedom to move without worry. If she's careful, there's little in the way for her to get caught on or bump into unless the man who sleeps here has rearranged things since the last time she did. Sleep. She's usually hesitant to even touch his things, much less shift them around, and especially not without explicit permission, a courtesy that she expects other people extend to her also. Her feet graze the floor as she crosses it.

"How much of this did you read?"

Without much thought, Gabriel moves the lantern from one side to the other, a more obscure angle that won't have her tipping it over, burning her feet or scorching the ground with spilling oil. The paintbrush is set down upon the palette, using a loose piece of newspaper he's laid down to protect the immediate floor to get the excess of paint off his fingers, the crinkling sound loud and blithe in contrast to her softer, prying, accented question.

"Enough to know who should have it," he responds, leaning back with the heels of his hands against the floor, heavy head tipping back to eye her, briefly, then away again. He wants to ask, did you get my note? but that would probably defeat some of the mystery.

"I checked it against the ledgers from the flat," Eileen says. Her course changes, and she moves around Gabriel, around the canvas, newspaper and lantern. "Fifty-thousand pounds for the delivery of a healthy baby, then ten more every year until manifestation. Two hundred if you add all the sums together — that's how much my life was worth. To both of them."

There's bitterness in her tone, the quiet kind, and it's difficult for him to determine what she's feeling more strongly: anger or rue. "I was an investment." Her free hand finds the edge of the bed, something to sit on, and she sinks down, shifting the journal from her chest to her legs. Knees together, posture defined by straight shoulders and the much gentler curve of her back, she neglects to consciously guard her body language from being read like she sometimes does. "Do you like having my ability? Is it— good?"

She's behind him, by then, and Gabriel allows that to be the status quo as he observes his own artwork, fingers brushing against the edges like he might pick it up, but— there's no where to put it, while the paint is still drying, so ultimately, he leaves it there like an oversized tile upon the newspaper. "Your ability is useful. Diverse. I like the diverse ones the best." He rocks his weight to the side to flow to his feet, ever lithe despite the scars that pull at his side beneath his shirt, from knife and guns. The burns are still there, visible if anyone was looking, but he's abandoned bandages in favour of creams and caution.

"You can spy, attack, leave yourself for a few hours. Make new friends. Never go alone. Never be blind. I like having your ability. I wish I could understand it like the other ones I take for myself, but most people find my usual methods objectionable."

He pauses, then notes, "I know at least two precognitives who went insane from their talents."

Eileen listens to the sound of Gabriel moving. The rustle of fabric — his clothes — and creaking wood — his feet on the attic's aged floorboards. "He wouldn't have let me live if it wasn't," she says very gently, the same caution in her tone as she imagines he must exhibit in front of a mirror when he rubs the salve into his burns. "Useful."

That it allows her to feel him, too, is the one thing he forgot to mention, and although this hasn't escaped her notice, she resists the temptation to pluck at the invisible string as a reminder and send vibrations trembling down the line. It isn't necessary. "Please don't tell anyone. Everything he's ever touched— All it's done is cause other people pain. I don't want them knowing I was something of his."

"I don't tell people's secrets. It's— " And Gabriel doesn't complete that sentence at first, considering it carefully like searching for a flaw in a glassy paperweight, the same sort of even heavyness. Ultimately dismisses it, sets it aside. "You're not," is opted for instead, made like an offering. "His. We're the product of our environment, we make our own families. Your mom shaped you into who you are, for better or for worse."

Static consideration, and Gabriel adds, "So did Ethan. And he loved you, too. What does it matter, how it happened? Kazimir told him to because of some theory that didn't even work. Other men rape women and they carry their child to bear anyway. Drunken one night stands, genuine lovemaking between two people who never see each other again in a couple of years. There are worse things to pollute the sanctity of your upbringing than money.

"Or even Kazimir Volken. Even if I told everyone, nothing would change."

What changes is the cadence of Eileen's breathing. Its speed, pitch. Slows first to the point stopping, suspended, and when it starts up again it's with a sharp hitch — a snag. This is as close as she comes to crying. The pink rims around her eyes and her damp cheeks are evidence that she's already allotted enough time to that downstairs. Her jaw clenches, ball-fist tight, and she forces the muscles in her throat to relax enough so she can swallow, a small noise like a groaning hinge.

Her face feels like it's caked with rust, the muscles in her cheeks and mouth sore from keeping them taut for so long. Gabriel's argument contains multiple components that she needed to hear, but initially all she has to offer in return is a slight nod, chin tucked against her collar, while she makes an attempt to regulate her breathing again.

Not trusting her voice, she finds that dancing fingers across that string has become a necessity after all. It's only a small tremor, but its size is not comparable to her sincerity or the amount of gratitude experienced the same way the quiet volume of her voice does not always reflect the power behind it.

This is how she says thank you.

In response, a grudging twinge of acknowledgment, as neutral as the black, depthless eye of a camera lens. It's not intended to be cold, save for the fact that Gabriel's compassion is always frost-edged; but in this case, mostly guarded. Eileen, for all that Ferryfolk may be surprised, is a better champion of sharing emotion, feeling, personal thought than Gabriel is. Relief is the second idea to string through their link, a little louder than his roaming footsteps that take him towards the bed, though his trajectory is indirect.

"You should probably stop," he suggests, voice low, as if sinking it into the audio ambiance of the place rather than over it. "Dig in the past too much, and all you're going to get is dusty. Kazimir's gone, the Vanguard's gone. Lay flowers down and walk away."

Although it is sometimes easier to look back than it is forward, especially when the future is as uncertain as it is now, Eileen does not disagree. Or if she does, then she's as protective of these specific feelings as Gabriel is, and hides them behind hands that smooth palms over the journal's cover to keep them from trembling and lips pressed into a fine line that refuses to waver. She breathes in, out, then in again before her lungs have the capacity again to empower her voice, though it does not attempt to rise above or even meet his.

If they were anywhere else, he might not be able to hear her. "What did you paint?" is a subtle change of subject that isn't actually a change of subject at all. She assumes that while she's been agonizing over the past, Gabriel has been wetting his brush and his hands in the future. It hasn't occurred to her that he might mix acrylics simply for the sake of it, or whatever other reasoning is responsible for the canvas being out and the attic reeking of chemicals.

What she might not expect is self-conscious silence, followed by his weight set down on the edge of the bed, leg into a rectable on the mattress. Facing her, still, allowing a couple of feet of distance. There's a rustle of fabric, something being used to clean his hands with caution to his injuries, to smudge at the smear on his face. "Nothing important," he settles on, but figures that might not be clearly coded enough. "Not the future. It's just paint." Greasy tracks of red, grey, yellow, green, suggesting shapes, and not even very creatively.

"After I was done, I was going to see how much I could fall off the rooftop without hurting anything. You can bring a bird and watch, if you want."

What Eileen will bring is the medical kit she keeps in the infirmary. There's a twitch at the corner of her tightened mouth that either indicates amusement or annoyance — their connection informs Gabriel that it's actually a combination of both. She'll take more pleasure from feeling him brood and tense under her hands if she has to stitch him up than she will watching him hurt himself, if he hurts himself at all. It's an inconvenience to both of them, but there are worse things she could be doing than helping him lick his wounds later.

"I wish you wouldn't," she says, and it's not a request that he abstain, or even an attempt to exert dominance in the form of a thinly-veiled command. Gabriel will do what Gabriel will do. She will, too, and in this case it's probably going to involve handling him a little rougher than he probably deserves and maybe, should he end up covered in foxtails and burrs after dragging himself from the bushes, make a game of plucking them from his hair, skin and clothes. "Try not to put yourself out of commission?"

There's a bounce in the way Gabriel gets back on his feet, making Eileen sway when the mattress undulates in response. Enthusiastic willingness towards jumping off buildings that comes from a sense of adventure and curiousity than destruction. Boys. "Only if you're watching," is a nonsensical kind of compromise to not pummeling himself into forest ground too hard. Besides, it's diverting from the feeble attempt at artistry, curiousity deftly deflected.

When he moves, it's not towards the staircase. The creak of the window indicates to Eileen his intended route. "I'll see you outside."

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