Operation Paraguay, Part II


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Operation Paraguay, Part II
Synopsis The latter half of Raith's plan is put into action.
Date June 2, 2010

Staten Island

Work never really ended for the Remnant. When the snows fell and blocked roads and ice choked the rivers, work slowed down, certainly, but it never stopped. Now that winter has finally ended, in summer, work returns to full swing even with snow still choking some pathways and roads. The temperature is right around freezing, and that means that the current 'tough guys' get to ride in the bed of the truck in winter gear as the group of four drives off to run their errand. Currently, the 'tough guys' are Eileen and Gabriel: With Teo recovering from flu, old man Raith decided for him that he would be riding in the cab, while old man Raith himself takes the wheel to their destination. A cache of weapons that was lost due to the snow (but that Raith had the sense to store high so it would stay dry) is lost no more, and it needs to be moved. And because everyone is so nice, all three have voluntold to help him move. And so, they ride with him out into the wilds of Staten Island in an old truck down a slippery and bumpy road.

There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Gabriel's long-limbed frame tends to take up more room than it strictly needs — not only physically, but in presence as well. The padded jacket he wears, all fake-fur lined with a complicated array of buttons and ties of which he is only using a little, bulks up his shoulders, feet clad in big winter boots that he has braced against the floor of the truck bed. Gloved hands tuck beneath his arms, and he lists his head back to observe the pattern of naked tree branches make snakenest silhouettes above them.

When a wheel hits a dip in the road, jostling them, Gabriel's nose wrinkles and he betters his posture, wince smoothing back out into a sort of nonspecific irritation. "How much do we get paid again?" he asks the other huddled figure in the back of the truck.

Teo is making a bitchy-face. He finished recovering from the 'flu weeks ago, it feels like, apart from the minor problem of 'hallucinations' or whatever other nonsense that he has deliberately avoided telling anybody about, anyway.

Being cooped up in shotgun is so uncool, daaad, if mostly because the other kids are in the back. Somehow, a greater affront to his great dignified sensibilities even than the idea of tromping around and moving heavy objects in the insistently zero-degrees-Celsius of the city under slow thaw. The last glimpse Eileen and Gabriel had had of him was approximately sullen, shoulders wadded up under his ears within the lumpy density of his own coat. Maybe three coats, from the size of him, his head half-mummified by the scarf bound around its lower half.

His look eases once the engine starts, of course. And Gabriel and Eileen are out of sight, being out there and freezing their asses off on the corrugated metal of truck bed. He meerkats his head up from the loop of scarf fabric, and squints at daaaad in the rearview. The unscarred corner of his mouth goes up. "There has to be at least one radio channel celebrating by playing that Nelly song on repeat," he says.

The bed of the truck isn't a bad place to be, necessarily. In the summer, it makes an excellent spot to stargaze from, a wool horse blanket laid out under their backs with a cooler of cold beer close at hand, and although the weather is still a little too chilly for camping on the Greenbelt under an India ink-black sky, the pale beams of sunlight that cut through the canopy overhead are a marked improvement from the perpetual darkness imposed by winter.

Eileen takes up very little space in comparison to Gabriel's broader figure, one arm resting across her midsection, the other draped over the edge of the truck; at only five feet, her folded legs, denim-clad, provide her companion with plenty of room to stretch his out as, idly, she traces her thumb's edge along the sole of his boot from her position opposite him on the other side of the bed. "We're not," she reminds him in a murmur from behind her scarf which, like Teo's, protects her chin and curving mouth from what frigidness continues to linger in the air. Getting paid.

"Radio is dead, Teo," Rath responds flatly, "I hear this Internet thing is where all the cool stuff is at now. It's a lot like a big truck, you know." Surely, the ex-spy is joking. After all, he has the Internet on his phone. He'd better be joking.

Even if riding shotgun wasn't so bad, Teo's demeanor might finally start to sour when it becomes apparent that the current time is, well, the time to begin moving things. Raith pulls the truck up to a piece of property that has been clearly abandoned for some time, bearing a dilapidated single family house unfit to be lived in anymore, and a one car garage that has fared only slightly better. Slightly better in the sense that the titanium combination lock holding the door shut, probably put there by Raith some time in the past, is still keeping it shut. Lucky them.

Rather than stopping some distance away, the Remnant's driver takes the time to approach the unpaved driveway, and then back the truck up into it, leaving enough space for them, or at least him to open the door prior to moving their new toys out. And the engine, with the turn of the ignition key, shuts off. Get to work.

Even Teo doesn't have the Internet on his phone, except if or when Hana feels like putting it there. He goes through too many Sim cards to afford that sort of service. He only steals music on the computer, and the availability of the unit at home is vastly reduced by the time-to-accomplishment ratio it takes his housemate to do anything.

Moreover, it's improbable he'd have an MP3 player on hand anyway, but he decides to start looking for some reason. The car trip has not been short. Rubbing it in with the volume dialled up to eleven would be a hilarious punchline on the weather, for one thing, and probably also a cheeky interruptus to whatever big rainbow cuddly-time the two in the back are hav—

—and now that Teo is supposed to get out, naturally, the idea seems kind of gross. He heaves out a theatrical sigh, and pops the door open with a yank on the handle. His shoes make squish noises on the slush. "'Ey, uomo," he cranes his head around the truck's side, pitches his voice at Gabriel even as he trots around to offer Eileen a gloved hand to fulcrum her jump with. "Do you still have telekinesis, any chance?"

The corner of his mouth hooks up in the effect of a smile at that response, before Gabriel's attention breaks from Eileen and towards the property they're rolling up towards. He doesn't move a fraction until it's necessary, patiently waiting out Raith's parking until the vehicle stops and the engine is killed. If there are better things Gabriel could be doing— he could list them. The fact that he's not doing them probably indicates his degree of interest in the first place. Whether in heavy lifting or hunting clones or helping girls with their superpowers.

Or at least texting them back or something. He sniffs, a loud sound as it has to travel a ways through his nasal passages, and goes to pull himself up. A hand braces against the side, monkeys his way over the edge with a pushing jump that makes the whole vehicle rock.

Soundless annoyance when his boots fairly sink into the muck of melting snow, dirt, general grossness that is the terrain after the seven month winter. "No," is simple, edged with warning. Out of all the powers he lost, once upon a time, that one is still a sore point. He starts trudging up to the building.

Eileen clasps her hand around Teo's. She could probably manage the short leap from the truck bed to the sodden ground below, but his gesture is the kind she rarely ignores, especially when it's coming from someone close to her. There are very few who are.

Once her feet are situated beneath her, she gives his hand a brisk but firm squeeze, then releases it, leveling her green gaze with Gabriel's back as he moves toward the house. She sends the Sicilian a knowing look, one dark brow faintly arched, and leaves it at that.

There's an unspoken question that goes unspoken. Something vaguely along the lines of: You think he'll like it?

"Don't throw eggs, Teo," Raith says as he clambers out of the cab and shuts his door. His own way of discouraging antagonization among his 'kids.' Disregarding his own sinking into the ground, however slight, he trudges up alongside Gabriel and sets upon the combination lock, spinning the row of five numbers until the correct sequence is in front of his eyes and the lock opens. "Did you know that with just five space and ten digits, this little hunk of metal has over one hundred thousand possible combinations?" Food for thought. Thanks, Raith.

The door slides up and reveals, with what little afternoon light that exists spilling into the opened garage, that there must have been some sort of mix up. One or more of them might be at a complete loss to explain exactly why they are looking at a thin beam of rusted steel, the dark grey paint faded by years in the sun and rain and snow, the pitted cover hiding a precision-machined power plant from prying eyes, or perhaps most perplexing, the stainless steel animal, tiny as it is, lunging at them as if on the attack, frozen in time. But there is absolutely one explanation all of them have: This is not a weapon. Not exactly.

Yes. No. Maybe? Teo is occasionally glad, when he actually has any reason whatsoever to think along these lines, that he isn't the one dating the former serial-killer and crown jewel of every bureau's Most Wanted list, as such related events and shoppings ought to be unimaginably difficult to provide for. Temporally-displaced elderly healers in misappropriated bodies with obsolete sensibilities are challenging enough, even when he's being completely facetious about it.

He grins, is his answer.

Turns also, ponderous and careful on the treacherous terrain of frost and grit-stippled meltwater. He hitches the scarf up higher, which makes a waste out of the grimace he directed in Raith's direction, but Raith wasn't looking anyway. None of them are. Despite its namesake, the Vanguard is characterized by forward-thinking, and in a moment, Teo's eyes are also pointed forward, homing in on the spectacle opening up behind those doors though his attention expands wider than that, background operations of practical paranoia criss-crossing with a peripheral analysis of Gabriel's posture.

These aren't weapons. This isn't weapons, and Gabriel's brow crinkles into something like confusion and some annoyance, at the prospect that they are at the wrong place somehow and this whole morning-noon is dragging a hideous amount in its slushy coldness and impending threat of manual labour. Did someone steal the weapons, and why is there a car here. He's silent because he's waiting for Raith to say something, which is usually a reasonable bet.

Usually. In the time it takes to do that, Gabriel's gaze is now crawling over the silhouette of the vehicle hulking in the garage, from silver feline figurine and the pale disks of round headlights towards the blank-eyed windows and the ratty paint job. "Over one hundred thousand, huh?" he inquires, super belatedly, crunching a step forward.

Looking, now, back at the group of three for an explanation.

There's no explanation from Eileen unless Gabriel is focusing on the slant of her mouth or the way the skin around the corners of her eyes crinkles when she lowers her lashes against the midday sun. Amusement isn't an expression she wears very often, and when she does it's usually subdued like it is now.

She dips her right hand into her coat pocket, fingers closing around something unseen and nestled in its silk lining, but does not come immediately back out again. For someone whose cache worth several hundred dollars has just been stolen and replaced with a rusted hulk of metal that wouldn't look out of place at the Island's old Boat Graveyard, she and the others are all taking this rather well.

"Apparently, that's not enough," Raith replies, although his voice is so heavy with mock horror that it's impossible take him seriously at this time, "All my guns are just-" He makes a few gestures with his hands to indicate that, yes, by magic, his guns are just- "Gone. Oh, woe, who could have done such a horrible thing, to take my guns and replace them with this?" Throwing his hands up in frustration… it's over. "Oh well," Raith says, dropping his hands back to his sides. "I guess now instead of guns, I will have to arm one of you with a Jag. But which one?" Thoughtfully, Raith strokes his whiskers. "Hm…."

Necessarily, it's the ESL student who finally chimes in, ruins the whole thing, blundering in as artlessly into the subject as he is blundering around on the slush:

"Happy egg day, Gray."

There is nothing subdued about Teo's amusement. He does not do 'subdued' very well under the best of circumstances. "I think they shot an old Russian lady for it," he adds, brightly. "Which isn't a euphemism for Felix Ivanov, though I guess if cars like pets grow to resemble their masters. Yet more reason to refurbish. What do you think? Can you fix it? I coldn't fix it in a thousand years. Well." He steps forward, his boots whapping out damp percussion as he trawls onto the concrete. "Maybe if I got paid."

It's probably Eileen's expression that tips it off anyway, no matter how subtle, even before Raith's facetiousness or Teo's blithe announcements, and where Gabriel has his focus after a quick flick around the three. The Sicilian gets the last of an incredulous look— it isn't usually freezing in June, and he's gone through a lot of jet-laggish temporal displacement itself for his birthday to seem like an entirely abstract notion. But it is June the second, isn't it? Somehow, it is that.

Abruptly, Gabriel is in motion, crowding on over towards the Jag, gloved hands moving to brush fingertips against the hood as he rounds around the vehicle. "I can fix it," he says over the low roof, with only the kind of blind, confident certainty that Gabriel Gray can have. And now a smile breaks across his features, almost startling on someone who doesn't, as a general rule. Not pleasantly, or at the expense of no one, anyway. He ducks to peer through windows, attention now absorbed.

It's been awhile since Eileen was in the right mind to take pleasure in someone else's happiness, but that's exactly what she's doing as she follows Gabriel's exploration, tracking the graze of his blunt nails across the hood and his reflection in the car's windows, which she took the time to wipe clean with an old cloth that now sits in the corner of the room at the bottom of a bucket next to a box of tools left out on a low wooden bench.

"You can keep it at the Dispensary," she tells him, speaking up for the first time since her sly reprimand in the back of the truck. "We've already cleared out the garage. Consider that yours, too."

"Yours to repair in," Raith concludes, "Although I hope you can fix it fast. It's a long way to push it back home." The implication there being that, for as powerful as the vehicle might be, the Jag is going nowhere under its own power at this point in time. "But there're ways around that long push, like the chain in the truck and the four-wheel drive," the ex-spy adds, stepping into the garage after Gabriel, "So, happy birthday. Don't do anything I wouldn't." It has to be intentionally left over for interpretation and abuse, Raith's statement. But wether intentional or not, he raises his hand up all the same, two pieces of shiny metal attached by a ring dangling from his fingers. The keys to the future, a future with a Jag. Happy birthday indeed.

Teo actually puts out a hand to rest on one of the dust-streaked windows, but thinks the better of it, last-minute. His fingers curl into his palm and his arm drops back to his side, leaving him to rock his head sideways, peer through the windows, eyes crescent-shaped and bright with cheer. He is better at smiling than a lot of his friends. As Raith once pointed out, the vast majority of his have mood disorders. But even then. He stoops slightly and gives Gabriel two slightly obnoxious rows of pearly-whites.

"I didn't get you anything." He manages to make that sound faintly rueful, anyway. "But I'll take you out for beers some time."

"I didn't even remember," he notes, in response to Raith but almost to himself, still looking around the interior until Teo's face appears across the way. One heavy eyebrow goes up in a gesture of both cynicism and vague amusement, his own smile diminished in a more familiar kind of smirk before Gabriel is straightening his back. Rests a hand almost possessively on the edge of the roof, looking from Eileen to Raith to the keys dangling like bait from the older man's hand. He leeeans and snags these out of Raith's grip, nodding to himself some kind of confirmation, assessment.

This is good.

This is awesome. "Thank you," he tells the room, more directed at the man who passed over the keys themselves. Eileen knows — he's terrible at gift-giving, or at least the dialogue that goes with it. He pauses like he's trying to think of more to say, before Gabriel is simply unlocking the driver door to slide on in. Sure, he can phase, but it would not be the same.

He's going to touch the car's insides now. You're all invited to watch or look away at your own discretion.

Eileen moves past Raith and adopts a position outside the driver's side door, leaning her hip against the car's flaking exterior. It's a little like Christmas, or what she imagines American Christmases are supposed to be. Although there was nothing for Gabriel to unwrap, no ribbons to haphazardly cast aside in the passion of the moment, he is very much the little boy in the picture Samson slipped between the pages of his birding book, all luminous brown eyes, eager and glittering.

Granted, an antique car older than at least three of the four people in the garage isn't exactly the same thing as a tricycle, but

She frees her hand from her coat pocket, bends her arm at the elbow and holds it behind her back. Whatever she'd been keeping in it is now snug in the seat of her palm, waiting.

You might be able to pay Teo to fix the Jaguar. You couldn't pay Eileen to look away.

Although it's rare that Gabriel is vocal in quite this way about his thanks, Raith doesn't cloud the air with his own voice. Rather, he takes a step back and allows Eileen to take the stage. It's her turn to wow him, now.

Teo shuffles off to the side as well, not quite exiting stage left, but making room at stage-center for the diminutive Englishwoman. His gloved fists go back to roost in his pockets, shoulders coming up squared under his ears and the sloppy coil of his scarf.

With slightly more care than he took with hopping off the pickup outside, Gabriel's inevitable clambering out the car— check list complete, of absently touching gears that don't work right now, the old fashioned panel of levers, dials, buttons, the grip to the steering wheel— only has him focused and moving to look under the hood, levering back the rusted lid of metal to reveal the proper innards of the car. Keeps his hands to himself — he doesn't need hands to see what he's working with. He's not a mechanic, it should be said, just a clockmaker and a serial killer — he'd have a hard time naming all of the parts he sees in front of him.

Which says nothing of how much he understands, which is quite a bit after only a few moments of perusal. His quietness could be considered rude, but it's also sincere.

"Gabriel." Eileen's being sincere, too, when she interrupts him. There's no impatience in her voice or in her posture, which is more relaxed than any of the men have seen it for several weeks. The snow has begun to melt, all her extended family and friends are presently accounted for, with the exception of Ethan, and they haven't heard anything from the Institute since the Ferry's last communication with Broome's people.

It's not perfect, of course. Their situation. Sylar is still out there, somewhere, and presumably Gabriel's biological father as well. There are Ferry operatives who remain in the Institute's custody, Audrey Hanson would like nothing more than to throw Gabriel down a well, and certain factions within the American government wouldn't hesitate to line them all up in front of a firing squad if given the opportunity, but things are nonetheless better than they've been in what feels like a very, very long time.

That is to say, as far as any of them know, the world isn't about to end. "Can I borrow you a moment?"

"Teo." It seems to be the perfect time to be saying the names of other people, and Raith clearly sees no reason why he should break the group habit. "Can I borrow you a moment?" But unlike Eileen, Raith is walking out of the garage and back towards the truck. They've got towing to do, after all, and the Jag won't chain itself up.

The Sicilian goes when called, heeling like a dog or at least a reasonably good friend. There's no hesitation or reluctance to his stride or carriage, this time. Probably, less because he's eager to go and cinch the Jag's rustic tires, and more because he has determined through the use of inscrutable social standards of judgment that it would be appropriate for Eileen and Gabriel to have some privacy. He cocks a backward glance over one shoulder, briefly, before he's squeezing his bristly chin back down into his scarf. Speeds up to catch up with the man ahead.

Dragging his attention from the system laid out before him, a sort of psychic wrenching that has him blinking when he turns brown eyes down towards Eileen's face, always upturned when it comes to their heights. The peripheral blur that is Teo and Raith moving off gets only a fleeting glance, before the logic behind their departure factors in — they have to get the car out of the garage somehow. The Jaguar judders a little as he goes to close up the hood, tucking his hands into his pockets as he turns to face Eileen.

Distractedly, a little bit, but he's managing to unhook the rest of his focus to deal it to Eileen instead of the grey-painted car just beside them both, now. What, yes, I'm here, hi, says the slight rise up of eyebrows.

Eileen doesn't intend to keep Gabriel from his new car for very long. His unique ability aside, she knows what it's like; her first and only violin underwent similar scrutiny, fingers rubbed along strings and the palms of very small hands smoothed lovingly over polished wood, and while that was many years ago, she remembers. Raith was right. This is perfect for him.

Fortunately, the Englishwoman is not the type of person who worries about comparing worth when it comes to gifts. If she was, she might have cause for concern because Raith's is a very difficult act to follow. The hand behind her back comes out into view as she raises both it and its partner to Gabriel's chest so she can pin what's cradled between her fingers to his jacket.

It's a medal, circular and silver, and bears the effigy of an English monarch on one side and the words FOR BRAVERY IN THE FIELD surrounded by a laurel wreath on the other. The attached ribbon is old, dye faded, but its texture is soft and smooth, well-kept in spite of its advanced age and a few stray threads that have begun to fray.

"For acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire," she explains in a voice that does not carry past the garage doors.

Gabriel might never receive a pardon for what he did during Apollo, but let it never be said that his courage went unrecognized.

Raith hazards a quick glance over his shoulder, back into the garage, but quickly returns his attention to what is in front of him: A hefty chain halfway out of the cab, along with a handful of thick towels and a roll of duct tape. "Hitch the end up to the truck," he says to Teo, just as much to give him direction as to give Eileen and Gabriel just a moment longer.

The last time he suggested getting a medal, Sarisa Kershner had laughed at him. Take that, American government. Gabriel doesn't recoil, stiffen, flinch, or any number of the minute reactions he might have had almost two years ago when someone is, without asking, reaching their hands out towards him — just drops his gaze down and his head with it to watch as nimble fingers attach the little accessory to the rough wool of his jacket. Its dangling shape coming into upside down being only as her hands pull away.

But mainly when she ritualises the moment with her explanation, which manages to induce wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, unused laugh-lines reluctantly deepening. They probably both know by now that he will as easily shrug the gesture off as certain as he will make sure not to lose the token either.

It might not be a car, but it makes him forget the car for a second, which is almost a measure of worth.

His hands come up to capture her's on their ways back down, thumb skimming on over the sharp angles of her knuckles. Some shimmer of shy gratitude more fitting of a bespectacled stranger Eileen had never met before he turned into a serial killer tremors down the ever-present connective line of empathy. For car and medal and—

— the fact he doesn't have to load armful of small arms up into the pickup.

Eileen lifts both her hands and his to her face, watching Gabriel from beneath her lashes, and lowers her mouth to brush her lips against his knuckles where his thumb had brushed hers. Too light and fleeting to be a kiss, but the sentiment the action conveys is the same.

A soft, "Come on," is uttered into the strong weave of his fingers. "Let's get you both home."

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