Pain is Life


eileen_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif

Scene Title Pain is Life
Synopsis Good things come to those who wait, depending on one's definition of good.
Date January 4, 2009

Staten Island Greenbelt

The Greenbelt is 2800 acres of mixed urban parkland and natural preserves, winding around and between several major communities. The more natural areas are primarily a succession of ridges and boulder-littered moraines beneath the canopy of a hardwood forest - beech, hickory, maples, and oaks in the main, with a variety of less common trees mixed in. At the lower points of the parkland, this forest gives way to wetland, overgrown with ferns, skunk cabbage, lady slipper, and trout lilies. The park's boundaries include a golf course, a cemetery, a friary, a boy scout camp, and a carousel, as well as the more stereotypical nature center and a native plant demonstration garden.

The scraggily copse on the side of the road leading out of Staten's Island derelict suburbs and into the Greenbelt isn't an ideal place to hide; in the dead of winter, the limbs of the trees have been stripped bare, leaving very little cover except for the spindly branches themselves — long, bony fingers encrusted with silver, contorted and deformed by ice. Up in these skinny, frost-bitten boughs, a flock of crows keeps watch over the only shelter available for a quarter-mile: an old storm drain that runs beneath the road and provides asylum from the elements.

Apart from the breeze ruffling through their glossy black feathers, the birds are still as statues, and if it weren't for the moonlight reflecting off their plumage, it would be impossible to detect their presence here at all. More telling are the vibrant splotches of red standing out against the blanket of newly-fallen snow, interspersed around a staggering set of tracks that starts at the road, slides down the embankment beside it, and ends at the mouth of the drain.

No, it isn't a good place at all.

Over this silent scene, a hawk's screech tears the sky for a moment, but he doesn't descend, only circles, and eventually, he leaves. Perhaps he wouldn't have been big enough to ensnare one of the crows for himself, but in the weather, he certainly might have tried. And so the one that speaks to him with the similar voice of a predator wards him off, bids him to find food somewhere else. This is one of those occasions the hawk listens, flapping strong wings in search of that. Always hungry. It's a relatable notion.

In reality, it probably takes too long for Sylar to arrive, but he does. The snow still crunches crisply underfoot, and he looks towards the tree of crows, still and silent. He can more sense them than see them, and he might have asked for their assistance, if not for the trail of red, ruby wetness on the snow, leading him where he wants to go. He tilts his head, Listening. It's a shockingly cold night. He pulls his coat around him a little tighter, and moves towards the drain. He descends into a lithe crouch, a hand reaching to touch the edge of the tunnel downwards. He Listens a little more, and yes, that is a heart beat, not pumping of machinery or trapped pressure beneath the ground. Judging by the nature of this heart beat's guardians, he can guess a name to call.


Without a torch to illuminate the passageway, there's no way to see more than a few feet past the entrance, and even then the concrete walls are dripping in shadows. Meltwater carried down from one of the housing developments trickles along the bottom of the pipe and out the other side where pools around Sylar's feet — although the liquid has been coloured by silt and other microscopic debris, it also bears a pinkish tint. Whatever left the trail of blood is still oozing.

Accompanying the heartbeat, a shallow rattle echoes inside the drain; Sylar might recognize as the sound as someone breathing, however faintly. There is no immediate verbal response, no spoken acknowledgement, but somewhere in the darkness Eileen stirs when she hears a familiar voice speaking her name. Several moments pass as she presumably musters the energy she needs to reply.


His feet land in the shallow river of water at the bottom of the pipe with a slight splash, managing not to slip. Moonlight and the glow of nearby streetlamps create a haphazard, barely tangible stream of light down into the tunnel, illuminating the killer although it doesn't do much for seeing around him.

Sudden, poisonous warmth, only temporary, flickers out from an extended right hand, from the bones and out, enough that for a moment, Sylar can see where he's going. See Eileen, too, however briefly. Not about to risk exposure to one of his most dangerous abilities for too long, and it dwindles fast. There are a few stupid questions to ask. Are you hurt. What happened. Who did this. Are you okay. Sylar opts for none of them and only ventures deeper into the pipe, his carefully blank expression easily shrouded in shadow as he moves out from under the drain opening.

This is what happens when you tempt fate, apparently. Sylar isn't totally unaware of the irony of his last, harshly spoken words to the girl in comparison to this particular reunion.

Eileen makes no protest — if she has any objections to Sylar coming closer, she lacks the will to express them. Her eyes are closed, head tipped back, shoulders resting against the side of the pipe as her chest rises and falls, bringing air in and out of her lungs with an audible effort. One hand is spread across her stomach, fingers splayed, while the other is submerged under the flow of water, numb as her ears, lips and the very tip of her nose.

"It doesn't hurt," she assures him as he draws closer, and her tone suggests she's telling the truth. Her voice belongs to someone who is neither fully awake nor asleep — more wearied and worn than pained. "I just need someone to stay. Please."

"You're injured," Sylar says, a correcting statement, perhaps. It might not hurt, but that doesn't mean much, down here, in the cold. At his hands, death happens too quickly for him to judge whether or not a person might shut out the pain as it takes them down. But the scent of blood and old water down here is something he can't ignore. The fact that he followed a trail of crimson to find her doesn't help either. He crouches down, only one half of his face visible in this light and even then, it's a mask-like indication of his presence. Much the same as when he had approached her in the dark of the tenement. He offers both hands to her. An offer of help. Asking permission to help.

The hand on Eileen's stomach shifts beneath the heavy fabric of her coat and comes out slick with blood. The warmth of her body has kept her fingers pliable enough that the feeling has not yet begun to ebb away from them, but the same cannot be said of the other attached to the arm hanging uselessly at her side. She brushes her fingertips against his cheek, perhaps to ensure that the man crouched in front of her isn't a hallucination induced by the freezing temperatures outside, and then lets her arm drift back down, hand settling upon one of his wrists. "I'm sorry I thought you were coming to kill me," she whispers. "That was wrong." Why it was wrong isn't a question she's prepared to answer or explain. She isn't sure she knows the right words anymore. "I don't think I can get up."

He doesn't recoil, instead allowing the touch if impatiently as it smears warm blood from her fingertips, although such an emotion is kept hidden. She's dying. You don't get to be impatient with the dying. Sylar's hand turns to catch Eileen's cold hand in his own. And maybe her words allow him to guess why she was wrong, if Sylar allowed himself to poke and prod at the notion. But it's a bit like turning over a rock imbedded in wet soil - the curiousity is there but you don't really want to see what's under it, the insects and the general impression of blind half-life horrors. He'd rather not think that Kazimir has people behind their backs and so it's not the conclusion he lets himself arrive to. Not yet. Not when he has to ensure it doesn't happen, when really, he's one of Kazimir's killing tools, as Eileen herself had stated.

"If you don't get up, you'll die," Sylar says, simply. "And whoever did this will win. I don't want him to win." Whoever 'he' may be. Still, Sylar moves forward without waiting for her to protest, or try, and levers an arm around her back between sewer wall and girl, beneath her arms. The embrace is awkward, but secure, and when he straightens his legs out of the crouch to stand, she's inevitably drawn up with him.

It's impossible to say how long Eileen was laying in the sewer drain before Sylar came across her, but it must have been long enough for her to have become accustomed to the position he found her in. Getting up does hurt. Getting up aggravates the injury and sends pain lancing through her belly and sides. Getting up draws out a low groan from the very pit of her stomach. Getting up makes her want to sit right back down again.

She doesn't. And not only because she's physically incapable of twisting free from Sylar's hold. The way he phrases his last statement rouses something in her, lending her the strength to choke back her scream and bite her tongue to keep from making any unnecessary noise — King might still be around, and that isn't a risk she's willing to take.

"There's nowhere else to go," she hisses through her teeth, jaw clenched. "I tried—"

"Wu-Long's place," Sylar corrects. He'd love to say Eagle Electric, with Odessa's medical supplies and another, more altruistic if captive doctor who might even help the girl Sylar is currently holding to him in the dank dark sewer, but he recalls that ugly truth he doesn't want to unearth, and dismisses the idea entirely. Can't go into Kazimir's domain. And he considers, for a moment, taking away the pain that makes Eileen groan, that perhaps even makes her go pale in shock, that perhaps makes this journey unbearable. But he knows pain, more so than he ever did a few years ago, a few months ago. Pain is life.

It's an awkward, stumbling dance to the opening of the pipe, but it happens, two pairs of feet slipping and sliding against water and ice and cement.

"I'm going to use… use my power to get you up there again," he says. Somehow carrying her while climbing the flimsy metal ladder up into the world seems too cumbersome, too painful. And he actually awaits her consent, strangely enough.

Eileen, out of words, offers Sylar a small nod by way of consent. Nothing explicit. She doesn't know what he's asking permission to do — only that he wants to use his ability to do it. Attempting to figure out what he might mean is the mental equivalent of slogging through a mire: exhausting, slow-going, and ultimately futile unless you have the proper equipment to cross. Eileen already lost hers, along with enough blood to soak through her clothes and into his. In case he doesn't pick up the slight bobbing movement of her head, she angles it to rest her chin momentarily upon his shoulder, breath hot in his ear as she murmurs something that sounds like it might be a yes.

It definitely isn't a no.

He remembers the underground of 2018 with white hot vividness, both in moments of contemplation, and right then. The continual scent of metal and machinery almost as potent as the water and blood of this place, but most similar is the darkness, the dirtiness, and the female whisper of something very close to consent, warm against his ear. Sylar's hands clenches on her water and blood drenched clothes for a moment, head tilting back to regard the circular slice of sky above them both. And then he lets her go.

But not to fall.

A blanket of temperatureless telekinesis wraps around her body, shoulders to knees, not wishing her to struggle in a way that might hurt her more. Very different to the way he would grip people by the throat and raise them aloft, Eileen gently levitates up, and up to rest on the snow outside. Sylar places his hands on his knees for a second, listening to the sound of gushing water around his feet, soaking through his boots icily, before he makes for the ladder. A moment later, he pulls himself up onto the surface of pavement and ice.

The crows have abandoned their perches in the trees in favour of the drainpipe's entrance and are waiting for Sylar when he reappears. Like scavengers at a carcass, they edge toward Eileen, hopping, leering, posturing, but do not tear at her hair and skin when they get close enough. Dozens of beady black eyes scrutinize and assess Sylar, long-beaked heads canted this way and that, some more reproachful than others. Either the last thing Eileen told them to do before passing out was to leave him alone, or they can instinctively sense he doesn't mean their friend any harm. Given how weak she was back in the pipe, the second option seems more likely than the first. Either way, she isn't doing much of anything now except breathing, and unless they get back to Wu-Long's within a few hours, she'll soon cease this as well.

For a moment, Sylar only kneels in the snow, about a foot and a half away from Eileen. He's not unlike a crow himself, dark eyes and a frame covered in his own black coat, splayed like wings, and he goes still under the scrutiny of the flock. He's not sure what to do about them, and then, he seems to decide to do nothing at all.

A disposable cellphone is taken out of his pocket, along with a thin wallet, and then said coat is taken off. He moves to wrap this around Eileen, lifting her up enough so that she might wear it like a cape. It smells almost too clean, with only traces of anything that might indicate Sylar was wearing it. Cologne, sweat, the usual scent of a male human presence, although the scent of drycleaning might just overpower it. It's spattered thinly with some of Eileen's blood from the grappling in the pipe, but far less detectable than her current state without it. Also, it's warm, and it's dry.

His black dress shirt does little to protect him against the cold, but at this point, it hardly matters, and he presses buttons on his phone, coming to crouch beside Eileen. A car. Whether it's an ordinary taxi or something the Vanguard uses is hard to say, but Sylar rattles off the address, a hand coming out to touch Eileen's arm in an almost possessive manner as he eyes the birds surrounding them.

The birds eye Sylar right back. They aren't going anywhere, but they aren't getting any closer either. At the touch, a few of the more timid crows on the circle's fringe skip back several feet and spread their wings, necks arched in an aggressive display that's just for show. They recognize a larger, more powerful animal when they see one — in this case, a predator — and readily cede to him. Within a few minutes, every single bird is sitting at attention, erect and alert just as they were in the trees when Sylar first arrived. As far as personal armies go, the small platoon of corvids isn't much. They will, however, remain this way until the car arrives, waiting to disperse until both man and woman have disappeared inside of it, dismissal punctuated by the sound of the door slamming shut followed by the engine rumbling back to life.

January 4th: Next Time
January 4th: Dreaming in Color
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