f_eileen_icon.gif f_gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Niceties
Synopsis Gabriel and Eileen get ready for a night out at the fundraiser gala. An olive branch is extended but not quite accepted.
Date April 9, 2019

The Gray House

Gabriel couldn't tell you, who decided it was a good idea to go out tonight. He suspects it was a mix of pushing each other. Little implications that they never do go out these days, what with their hours; that it was the kind of thing they should do, should want to do; that it would even be nice, and dare he say it, fun. That might be stretching it. Familiar faces, free booze, and a night off. A recipe for a nice night out, or a disaster, or if they're lucky, both.

The tickets are stapled to the fridge with a magnet in the shape of one of Eileen's finches, Gabriel glancing at them as he goes to open the door and retrieve a plastic wrapped bundle of roast beef and a small tub of chutney (which is next to the bruschetta, hummus and pesto, oh god when did they get to that point in life). He's already groomed for the evening in that he's shaved and showered, still dressed for comfort but somewhere upstairs, the tuxedo and tie he's meant to be changing into soon is lurking.

There will be a kind of guilty pleasure in wearing it. The old thrill of turning into someone else for a while, through clothing and performance rather than the blunt instrument of shapeshifting, the kind that takes effort.

Probably why he's delaying it, making himself something to eat. A sandwich. Then maybe he can hide upstairs for a while, attic-wards, surrounded by the sound of ticking clocks and whirring mechanical appliances. It's a good place to be, especially to contemplate on things like mortality, or a lack thereof, and such subjects brought up merely nights ago.

If you added together the number of years Gabriel and Eileen have been alive and compared the sum against the age of their house, the house would be older — when she descends the stairs in her bare feet, the yin to Officer Gray's yang is heralded by the familiar creak of wood, each step groaning its protest beneath her weight in turn until she reaches the very bottom and pauses to assess the state of what she finds there.

Her gaze is scrutinizing but far from critical as she studies his back in silence with one hand resting on the banister and the other at her side, manicured fingertips curled loosely into a shape that isn't quite a fist. A few hours from now, Gillian Petrelli will remark that he cleans up well. Incidentally, Eileen is thinking the same thing, even though there are several pieces of high-backed furniture and a partial wall obstructing her view of him.

She elects to say nothing, not yet, preferring instead to leave her husband to his thoughts. Whatever they are, they bear thinking. In the time that's elapsed since their nighttime rendezvous in Unity Park, Eileen has been giving Gabriel the silent treatment, and unlike some married couples this has nothing to do with one partner punishing the other — she simply hasn't had the opportunity to articulate her feelings regarding what transpired in the forest's leafy shadows, but now she's beginning to come close.

He can hear her. The first step on the top of the stairs, then the ensuing creaks that wouldn't have escaped him anyway, superhearing or not. Then her resting place at the bottom of the stairwell, and he doesn't have to feel her eyes on his back to know she's watching him. Her heartbeat hovers in his spectrum of hearing, doing nothing, no other sound accompanying it save for the draw and expulsion of breath.

Gabriel plays pretend and ignores her for now, layering a small handful of premixed salad onto roast beef and sealing it together with a slice of rye. A dark blue otherwise nondescript T-shirt hangs loose on his body, untucked over jeans, his own feet bare also against the wooden floor of the kitchen. It's when he's done, taking a bite of his creation and swallowing it, does he speak up.

"Have you eaten?"

Footsteps scuff against the floor, more subtle than the racket on the stairs yet just as discernable to Gabriel's ears. Although she hasn't said anything to announce herself, Eileen isn't making a secret of her presence either — she closes the distance between them at a slow, leisurely pace and approaches from behind him, avoiding his direct line of sight.

Under different circumstances, such a move would probably be a bad idea, but it's clear she isn't afraid of startling him because the hand that was at her side just a few moments ago snakes up his spine and comes to rest between his shoulder blades. "Mm," she affirms, monosyllabic, and leans in to rest her dark-haired head against his back.

Monochrome fabric rustles, silk the colour of burnt charcoal brushing against Gabriel's cotton weave. Eileen is apparently several steps ahead as far as their preparations for the evening are concerned.

Another bite is taken from the sandwich around the time he feels her hand at his back, swallowing down the slapdash concoction of bread, meat, and vegetable. So healthy, for someone who can't die by ordinary means. "Mm," he replies, and then the sound of rustling fabric indicates that she isn't wearing the clothes she'd come home early in. Raising an eyebrow, Gabriel turns at first to glance over his shoulder, then turns completely, leaving behind half-eaten food and the mess he made in preparing it.

"I'm suddenly underdressed." Half apology, half appreciation, hands he'd wiped clean coming to touch her arms. Something eases in him. It's not like they had foregone all exchange since a few nights ago, but the distance had been there. And now he's underdressed for it, but at least he's clean.

Clean is good. Underdressed is better, though not for any lecherous reason. Heavy winter coats and worn out military fatigues, periwinkle blue scrubs and standard issue body armour — these are the types of clothes Eileen associates with the both of them, so she is, admittedly, more than a little uncomfortable dressed in what is the most expensive outfit she owns in spite of the fact she's decided to forgo jewelry for the occasion. Uniquely tailored to her small frame and bird-boned build, the iridescent gray gown she's wearing fits her well without being too flashy and should allow Eileen to blend into the background… which is exactly where she prefers to be at functions like the upcoming charity ball.

"You look sharp," she assures him, reaching up to brush her knuckles along the curve of his jaw and admire his shave, "and you smell good. You'll do fine."

Her assessment gets a faint smile, not quite doubting her as to whether or not he'll do fine, but close enough. His arms circle around her in a loose embrace in the middle of their kitchen. The house is quiet, Bai-Chan ushered out to spend the night with whatever friend he'd like to spend the night with, the birds quiet in their cages, the clocks soldiering on monotonously. Soon it will be rid of them too.

"I feel like we're playing dress up," Gabriel says, fingers playing over the feeling of the expensive fabric hugging her back. He's forty years old now and yet he's not lying. It rings a little of what Eileen had said not so long ago, that this isn't really them. "Get satisfaction out of the fact everyone else will probably feel the same way. We'll do fine. You look nice."

Soldier. Nurse. Police officer. Debutante. Gentleman. When aren't they playing dress up? A rueful smile curves Eileen's lips and she nips the tip of her tongue, resisting the urge to comment. Now is the worst time to remind him about the last argument they had, a mere hour or two before they have to be out the door and hailing a taxi at the curb. "This isn't my night," she demurs gently, "but thank you."

She inclines her chin, peering up at Gabriel from beneath the veil of her lashes, gray-green irises standing out against a smudged application of kohl eyeliner as she searches his face with her eyes. What she's looking for isn't clear, only that she doesn't appear to immediately find it. "You know I'm proud of you, don't you?"

She holds her tongue for what she wants to say, filters in what she should say, but the subject, still, is a sore one. Gabriel's arms don't retract from around her, but the half-smile does dim, gaze sharpening some as he looks at her face with equal study, searching for something too. Translation. Double-meaning. The usual.

It's a difficult question. No is the correct answer, but Gabriel is also painfully aware of the time. Self-sacrificial lying, also, doesn't suit him - even less so than tuxedos. He doesn't smooth her hair back, aware that its current position is likely painstakingly placed. "I'm… proud of you too," he finally settles on. Look, he can be a Diplomat too. He raises a quizzical eyebrow.

Not what Eileen wanted to hear. It must not ring true for her either because her eyes drop from Gabriel's face to his chest and she adopts a more pensive expression, lips pressed flat and brow knitted. Her hand moves from his cheek to his arm, lingering there for just a split second longer than it ought before she draws away and delicately removes herself from his embrace.

The reciprocation bothers her. Whether he's proud of her or not isn't what's at the forefront of her mind, isn't what matters. I'm proud of you too is as good as a No, and the only thing stopping Eileen from pressing his answer is the same force that influenced it. Their schedule doesn't allow for disagreements, never mind a long, drawn-out debate. "You should finish getting ready," she suggests. "We need to leave soon. Traffic."

"We'll fly if we have to," he says, turning his back to her. It's a joke, delivered flatly. Gabriel doubts, severely, that she'd let that be their mode of transport, not in her dress. Not even in his suit. It's a good way, also, to let this hitch in conversation slip by. He takes a tear, finishing bite out of his sandwich as he puts things away, and knows acutely his answer was wrong.

She broke the spell of silent treatment and now they're probably back where they started. Not saying anything of meaning. Traffic. He dusts crumbs off his hands, cutting board slipped into the dishwasher. Let it go. Can't. "Being proud of me isn't what's important," he says, as he closes the appliance and sneaks a glance at her. "I don't— need to know." Or it might be better if he doesn't. That is if she isn't, in reality.

"Yes," Eileen counters easily, though there's no real heat behind her words, no anger simmering beneath her porcelain exterior. "You do." She doesn't elaborate why. That's another conversation for a time when they both have the luxury of being able to be candid with one another. Then, "We'll fly if you want."

She excuses herself from the room, slipping out into one of the halls that leads elsewhere rather than retreat back up the stairs. There is no stomping. No abrupt slamming of doors in a violent fury. Not even the slightest bump of her fist against a wall to indicate her frustration. That's all been done before, and probably will be again, but not tonight.

Somewhere, hinges whisper and a door clicks shut. The lock turns.

"Ei— " But she's long gone, soft footsteps and whispery fabric carrying her away, and Gabriel finds himself staring at the empty space where she was. It's the quiet lock click that he can hear that jerks him awake again. A long time ago, he'd probably storm after her, maybe storm away from her, something, anything. Find an outlet for frustration.

Complete the cycle, because it's better than this limbo, anger and regret frozen in him. But that was a long time ago. Christ. Considering his ability, he should recognise whether something is broken.

And he can't. For the life of him it could go either way. Eventually, he goes upstairs and gets dressed. Eventually, they leave the house for the ball. They speak of traffic. Compliments are traded. Talking will have to come later.

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