eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Opaque
Synopsis Sequel to If I Die Before I Wake. Someone else is sitting in the director's chair.
Date June 26, 2009


Every night it's the same.

Rivulets of water snake down the windowpane, appearing as infinitesimal cracks in a resplendent silver surface, and fill the house with the gentle sound of rainfall. Eileen has lost count of the number of times she's put her head down and closed her eyes only to open them again and find herself here, but this is a truth that always occurs to her upon waking; in her dreams, the past and future are rendered obsolete by a present that strips the young woman of her lucidity and leaves her wading through a mental fog.

There is no reflection in the window or in the mirror hung on the wall by the stairwell, flat and matte, utterly lusterless. The pictures, too, are almost indistinguishable from the frames they've been placed in — like looking down into pit with no bottom, focusing on any one detail for more than a few moments leaves her feeling weak and disoriented, overcome by an all-encompassing sense of vertigo.

Bare feet whisper across hardwood, gathering dust between their toes. It feels empty here even though the house itself gives the impression of something lived in and loved while at the same time worn — old in the dignified way that trees are.

It could be a house just like any other house. The rectangular familiarity of structure; stairs, doors, windows. There is nothing strange about this place. It's ordinary if not immediately recognisable as special - at least, not to the second presence that layers over the place with meaning much like the rain does, or the hazy light. It's a surprise, in some ways, but then, what did he expect?

What can he possibly expect? A collection of memories does not define someone's entire existence. It's just that— he expected something else.

He's in the dust that's settled on the window panes, in the corners of the furniture, that whirls in fine detail under streaks of sunlight. It's cowardly and voyeuristic but it's only somewhat under his control. Eventually, he steals from the shadows, drags them across the walls, the ceiling, the floor. Darkness moves out the corner of Eileen's eyes like cloth over a table, and there's, quite suddenly, a man.

Piercing blue eyes lance a hawk's glare across the room, until they're amber-brown again as the world spins back the way it should be. Gabriel seems as intangible as he does solid, huddled in the corner of the room, arms behind his back and his face inquisitive. His clothes are vague, ever-black, and offer no texture of reflective sheen, as deep as darkness.

"Is this place important?"

A man is no more out of place than the vase of apple blossoms on the counter, their petals glistening with dew, or the smell of varnish lingering in the cool evening air. Eileen's hand lifts away from the finch-shaped fridge magnet she'd been tracing with the tip of her ring finger, attention shifting from the darkened kitchen to where Gabriel's shape hunches in shadow. To her, his appearance is more owl than hawk, and like a mouse caught in its stare she stands transfixed, inexplicably unafraid.

She gets the sense that something has changed, but asking her to put her finger on what this something is would be as fruitful as telling her that none of it is real — the only thing this could possibly achieve is dredging up her consciousness from the murky bottom of her dream, and then she'd be somewhere else entirely. Awake.

"I live here." Then, after a quaver beat, "I think you do, too."

Awake is subjective. He's not even sure he is. Somewhere in between. Pale hands at the end of black-clad arms are brought back around to study, fingers stretching, flexing, tendons standing out on his hands and short nails catching the light. All the details are there, and they're his, as much as he seems like he could easily melt back where he came from. He doesn't want to, though, this is a nice change.

Gabriel moves forward, out from the corner of the room, and tendrils of shadow cling to his body like roots, veins. They detach, snap back into shadows or the dark of his clothing. "I don't live anywhere right now," he says. "I'm a little out of home and hearth."

Beneath the sound of rain, there's the twittering of birds in an adjacent room. "Who told you that?"

"No one," Eileen says, but as soon as the words have left her mouth its corners crinkle with indecision. No, that isn't entirely true. "I feel it in the walls," she explains, looking back to the magnet — or, perhaps more accurately, the grocery list attached to it. Careful not to damage the magnet's backing, she peels it off the fridge and removes the list which, upon closer inspection, turns out to be an ordinary scrap of paper curling at the edges with nothing written on it. "The insulation is rotting but the foundation is solid. A lot of things are like that.

"Us, for instance." She smoothes the paper under the heel of her hand as if attempting to iron out the creases. "If you don't live here, then where do you come from? The attic?"

At that, Gabriel glances upwards, as if he could see through the layer of ceiling and floor, then back down at her, and the movements of her hands as she smoothes out blank paper. Beneath her efforts, it tears as if it were wet, or made more of dust than the thicker fibers of paper. It smears dryly beneath her hand, flakes into nothing as if she'd been handling the ancient pages of something better preserved under glass and microscope.

"You're not thinking far enough. I don't know if we're supposed to be here, let alone live here. Maybe die here." Beneath her hands, the dust of the paper has seemed to spread, coating the bench in grimy, aging dirt, and the light is weaker, the shadows hazier. The scents of flowers and evening seems to decay, turn sour, and there's scorches on the walls from where a fire had been. The world bends a little towards the abandoned tenements. There's ice and death in the air.

A slow transition. There's still a finch magnet on the fridge. "Doesn't it occur to you that it's a lie? Not that he seems overly concerned with winning anyone over anymore, but you can't trust prophecies." Gabriel is studying her with eyes that have turned vaguely black. "He might not be trying to lie, but it's inevitable. Things change. We change."

"You're talking about Teo." Eileen studies her hand, from the lifeline running across her palm to the tips of her fingers, the ridges of her knuckles and the pronounced network of veins spiderwebbing beneath her skin. "He's killed someone, you know. You were very upset, but I put the body away. In case you decided to come back to me."

Logic and reason, common sense — these are weapons that are effectual in the waking world but apparently not in this one. She seems not to understand what Gabriel is trying to say, or if she does then she lacks the capability to articulate a rational response. "You always come back," she adds, a rueful note creeping into her voice as she wipes off her hand on the front of her shirt, "except when you don't. All of this has already happened."

There is an urge, something of an unfair advantage as well as a weakness, to want to shake sense into her. But he might lose her in so much break down of reality and he's not sure what would happen. Space doesn't seem to matter. Maybe time either. "If I don't, then you find me," Gabriel finishes. "I'm not really here. You should have worked that out by now." It's getting darker, a familiar haze that doesn't drag needles over her ice-white skin, at least, but looks like it should. The air is dark in the way a swarm of insects is dark, made dark by a presence of something collected together and ever-shifting, although smaller than insects, finer than dust.

There's a click of a cane against the ground, though no such thing in sight. It's getting harder to see him, actually, his shadow becoming an extension of himself, the haze of darkness even more so in an attempt to zero in, like the vortex of vision that came with the photographs on the wall. "What are you going to do when you find me?"

The staccato click of the cane is ultimately what does it. Fear manifests in Eileen's eyes, drained completely of their colour, and parches her mouth. Her breath catches in her throat in spite of there being no need to breathe — not in this place — and hisses past pursed lips in a halting whimper that sounds more animal than it does human. While the birds have stopped, the rain has begun to hit the window harder, thundering against the glass like hands on drumskin.

There's no right answer to that question. Not really.

"Put you in a ditch and cover you in sprigs of ivy, thorn. I could have touched you then. I wanted to." To the dreamer, the memory is as tangible as the floor under her feet or the bitter taste accumulating in her mouth. The apprehensive look on Eileen's face sharpens, developing the finer lines that characterize more overt displays of emotion. Her upper lip gives a tentative twitch. "I'd do it again," she confesses. "Tell you I need you this time."

"You don't need anyone." Gabriel's gaze has lowered as far as the floor, letting shadows fill his eye sockets, drawing the shadows back to him like some kind of spell. It takes the excessive dust, the graffiti, the water and fire damage with it, giving back the neglected duplex itself while the condemned tenement is sapped back into the growing ashy haze he's surrounded by, degenerative defense, god forbid he seem weak.

Even if it's not his own strength. The rain beats all the harder, and his eyes are blue when he matches her gaze again. It doesn't suit him. "But maybe I'd stay. Thorns aren't comfortable but I'm getting used to them. Again." A glance around, sweeping, curious and regretful. His voice comes out as fretful as his voice would permit. "I wish I could stay, it's— he doesn't dream, did you know? Even Kazimir had dreams."

"You don't need anyone." The correction is mild, almost tender, but there's an underlying hint of an accusation in Eileen's tone as well, threatening to bubble up and breach the surface of her agitated exterior. "I like being alone, but that's not what love is. Love is people." Gray eyes meet blue, fasten hook-like into his gaze and hold it fast. This is her dream, not his — there is no twisting away.

"He's right about you," she says. "The wanting to hear it." Eileen directs a look over her shoulder, back toward the window. There's a faint sensation of being pulled that originates somewhere deep in the cavity of Gabriel's chest and strengthens with each subsequent tug. Like a child yanking at a lost kite in a tree, something — someone — is attempting to dislodge him. "That's why we don't fit together, Sylar. I have no mouth and you walk around with your hands held over your eyes."

The tug gets his attention, arms coming to wrap around himself, back curving in rigidity, shoulders drawn in, as if resisting a strong wind. He only has an idea of what it is. There are rules and he has his eyes covered. "Fitting together is overrated," Gabriel says, his voice sounding like a flat echo rather than a true voice. "It makes it harder to come apart so that when you eventually you have to— it just breaks. And you're not the same shape that you used to be."

The haze of degenerative energy, pure metaphor in this scape, is slowly fading as with unnatural eye colour, and a wince crosses his features as that tug grows firmer, threatening to drag his feet over wooden floor. "But it's only words. They didn't matter before. And my name is Gabriel." So much for words not mattering.

"If you make me keep my promise about leaving— I'll be mad at you. I'm in pieces. Three places at once. Two, soon. I'd only like to not need anyone."

"I can't make you do anything." The world around them is starting to unravel, wooden floors and plaster walls dissolving into a fine thread that spins away into an empty space that wasn't there before. The tips of Gabriel's fingers are next, followed by his hand and wrist, the rapidly dwindling length of his left arm—

"Besides," and some of that anxiety is traded for a sardonic smile more befitted for his lips than hers, "when are you ever not mad at me? I'm weak. Emotional. I don't even have the courage to grasp basic ideas, remember?"

It's with some apathy that he notices the fact he doesn't have fingers on his left hand anymore, vanishing up to the wrist, his right hand coming to grip there as if to suppress it— but his hand passes through thin air. "You asked if we were a lie," Gabriel says, drawing his gaze back towards her, even as he disappears piece by piece. His arm is— "We are. But only when we're walking away.

"Eileen— " A hint of panic in that strangely distant voice does nothing for their surroundings. That same spindling, disappearing of matter wraps around his ankle and up his calf, where a bullet had passed through it followed by two more up the length of his leg and now he seems to collapse— but upon hitting the ground, he disperses into so much black, smokey ash, fine and opaque as it, too, dissolves.

Awareness comes just a moment too late.

In the instant that Eileen wakes, she and Gabriel are simultaneously alone — both concurrent and apart, separate and together all at the same time. She in her bedroom. He in the recesses of another's mind. Green eyes lid partway open, taking in the view of her ceiling from beneath a veil of dark lashes sticky from sleep. Her hands find her face, splay bony fingers across the sweat-drenched contours of her cheekbones and the narrow bridge of her nose.

As far as ideas go, guilt and remorse are some of the easiest for her to grasp. Incidentally, she doesn't need even an ounce of nerve to do it.

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