Piling Rocks


eileen3_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Piling Rocks
Synopsis Pending completion.
Date July 8, 2009


Created by moonlight trickling past the steel rafters beneath a shattered skylight, the shadows of Eagle Electric appear as vertical stripes on the floor that stretch from one side of the warehouse to the other. In Eileen's dream, the Vanguard's former base of operations is structurally intact but devoid of sound except for a faint rustling of feathers emanating from somewhere above and the distant murmur of rainwater as it patters against the building's roof and bubbles through the pipes under its foundation.

Dampness pervades the stale air, mingling with the familiar smells of wet concrete, sodden earth and rust, but there is also a distinct absence of cold that suggests this memory is a retreat rather than a prison — a place where Eileen can sequester herself away while sleeping, shielded from dreams of a reality so displaced from her own that it doesn't feel real.

And it isn't. Not really. None of this is. She sits with her back to the wall, eyes closed, knees drawn into her chest with slender arms encompassing legs that end in bare, dirty feet and no shoes. If she wasn't already asleep in the waking world, it would be easy to mistake her for being that way. There is no need to breathe, not here, and yet her chest rises and falls in time with an imaginary rhythm that not even Eileen can hear. No thin rasp of breath to accompany it. No heartbeat.

Her sanctuary is about to become less lonely. Whatever is intruding, it does not batter down the door, or bring the roof in over her head; it doesn't make the concrete ground crack and split to rise from beneath, or even knock politely on the door. Quite simply, it starts as the sound of rain, a soft patter of water against the glass of high windows, to fall like a fine mist through the skylight, to gather and trickle louder through all the leaks that were neglected and never fixed.

A quiet and unobtrusive presence falling over this landscape, even if it's unlikely her imagination is extending far enough to account for the atmosphere. Voyeuristic, there is simply rain.

And then a rustle of feathers, and one of the avian bodies up in the rafters abruptly breaks from its group. A haphazard, spiralling descent, as if one of its wings were broken, but not so, it seems. The large raven lands several feet from Eileen, glossy wings out stretched and dust kicking up beneath it in gentle curls. It tilts a head and studies her with golden eyes, beak parted as if about to unleash a cawing hiss.

Eileen's eyes lid open, exposing twin slivers of green eclipsed by long, dark lashes that vaguely resemble the bird's feathers. She reaches out with one small hand, palm angled toward the sky, and bends the very tips of her fingers in an implicit gesture of beckoning invitation. Above them, hanging like a single ornament in the night sky, a bloated moon shines with an intensity that rivals the raven's stare. Its eyes should not be anything but black, and on some fundamental level the young woman must know this just as she knows Eagle Electric exists as a heaping pile of scrap metal interspersed with chunks of rubble and melted glass — she simply doesn't make the connection that something is amiss. Dreamers, after all, rarely do.

It isn't Bran. It isn't Gwylum. It isn't Gundulf or Baldrick or Fleur or any of the other birds she affectionately named after the Tower ravens back home. It just is. "Did you fall?"

A tentative hop forward, wings splayed, as if trying to seem bigger than it is, before jumping up onto her thin wrist, talons gripping steadily, though not painfully. Only then, once finding and keeping its perch, does the raven fold up its large, black wings, razor feathers of obsidian glistening rather than matte. Its beak clicks shut, once, twice, the finer feathers at its throat puffed out, still, bristling like a cat even as it walks, sideways, up Eileen's arm.

A tilt to its head might be enough of an indication, proud and skeptical, by way of response. No. The raven did not fall.

In the immediate distance, across the distance of the warehouse, the shadows are starting to gather together. No shape, not yet, no real sound either other than what could be interpreted as the rustle of fabric. Just a vague focus in the distance that's darker than it should be, as wings above them flap with unease.

She turns her head to track the raven's progress with a quiet expression that manages to appear both reverent and amused at the same time, nothing mocking in the feline curl at the corners of her mouth or the way her lips part to expose a brief glimmer of pearly tooth. "Of course you didn't," she corrects herself in a tone mild with something like reproach, but not quite. "You're very fine."

The fingers of Eileen's opposite hand stroke knuckles along the raven's back, trailing lovingly from the crest of feathers on the top of its head all the way down to the lowermost point of its spine. Just once. If she meant to do it again or grow bolder, her intent becomes lost somewhere in the not-so-vast expanse between where she sits and the shadows culminating on the other side of the warehouse.


There's no response from the shadows, save for a growing hiss of movement, collecting into a man's shape, indefinite in many ways but certainly sturdy, certainly human, if humans could be woven out of darkness. The raven's unnatural, golden eyes roll a little, head snapping towards the shadows, alert for a few seconds before it launches off Eileen's arm. The tip of its wing clips the young woman in the cheek as it flaps in a flurry to keep above ground, a swooping trajectory into the amassing darkness until—

Until it seems to get swallowed up inside it with a burst of black feathers that join themselves with the threads of shadow before they can scatter. All at once, the mass contracts, solidifies, balances light and dark, ethereal presence against the texture of flesh, of hair, of woolen fabric. Boots find purchase against the concrete in a stagger forward, Gabriel reaching out a hand to steady himself.

It might be a good thing to learn to enter this place as one being. He's already divided. "No. Not yet."

Eileen's fingertips linger where the raven's wingtip buffeted her cheek, though not for long. Her hand falls away at the sound of Gabriel's voice and drops to the floor, palm braced against concrete as her arm stiffens, grows rigid and pushes the rest of her body away from the wall. Whether she'd spoken Volken's name out of fear or some other anticipatory emotion with a seat close to her heart, she accepts the answer Gabriel gives her without hesitation as she climbs to her feet and begins to close the distance, bare feet tinkling through impossibly fine shards of glass that would crunch under boots, too fine to cut her skin or embed themselves in the softness between her toes.

Up in the rafters, the ravens have gone still and statuesque. Occasionally, there is the wink of nictitating membrane being pulled horizontally across the surface of a singular eye, twinkling like a solitary star. The multitude continues watching the warehouse floor, transfixed.

"I've been looking for you."

Legs and back straightening, Gabriel casts a glance upwards towards the silent flock, calculation and wariness before that gaze tips back down towards Eileen, just as analytical. It's hard to tell when dreamers are lucid - so often he has to shake Teo out of something more incoherent would allow for conversation, on the breaking hours of Ghost's sleep - but there's no visual cue, here, to judge.

His steps are heavier as he approaches, although the sound of crunching glass is absent underneath his boots. As if he weren't really here, an edit from some other film superimposed over this landscape. He even flickers just a little, the edges as vague as the details are sharp. She can see the surface of stubble angling over his jaw and down his throat, individual eyelashes, the thinner, worn patches on his coat. How he desires to present himself, not quite a conscious choice.

His voice, too, sounds separate, as if speaking to her through a radio wave rather than simply several feet in front of her. "Which piece?" His approach is slow, and comes to a halt first.

A look of confusion settles over Eileen's features at the question. Maybe not so lucid, after all. As Gabriel stops, so does she, though her eyes continue to move and search his face for clues in the long moments that follow. The desire to reach out and touch, to test the texture and feel of his skin, the fabric of his clothes is so strong as to be almost tangible, increasing the density of the air around them.

"You're not really here." Coming from a higher state of consciousness, hazy and still so very far away, the statement is directed more at herself than Gabriel. It's a reminder, too — lucidity, it seems, is not a prerequisite for understanding, incomplete though Eileen's may be. "I'm sorry," she says, and the note of apology in her tone is at least genuine. The same cannot be said of anything else that exists in this place, a perfect recreation of an imperfect memory. "I don't think I understand what's going on.

"Can I touch you?"

Up and down, Eileen and her question are evaluated, calculated, and there's a shared impression, there, between two pieces of mind wrapped around each other. He's not sure. Can she? The sound of rain has given way to silence, now that he's here and whole, collected together to form an impression of himself, one whose footsteps don't really register the way they should as he comes closer, arms length, before halting once more.

"Neither of us are really here," Gabriel notes, eyebrow raising a fraction. He casts a wider glance around, over her head, up to the rafters. "I don't even think here is really here. But at least we all have something in common."

Then: "I think so."

Eileen reaches out, first to brush her fingertips against the sleeve of Gabriel's coat as she traces the hem and encircles his wrist in a cage of slim fingers. Her grip is firm, steadfast, but it's gentle as well — she holds without hurting, guides his hand across the space separating their bodies and places his palm on her cheek. Recognition might have something to do with physical contact or it might not. It could simply be a happy coincidence that she tenses under the touch, lets out a sibilant hiss through her nostrils and thins out her lips.

"Pinehearst." Her voice is raw, coarse, abrasive in the gritty way that sandpaper is. "They have you at Pinehearst."

His fingers spread, splay, the flat of his palm only barely conforming to the angle and curve of her cheek bone, before tendons relax, fingertips curling inwards enough to touch as well. If he feels anything, in any kind of detail or some half-numb haze that comes with the disconnect of dreams, it does not show on his face, which remains both serene and studious. Tenses, a little, when she speaks, making eye contact as if to check if she's alive in there, if she knows what she's saying.

"You asked if there was anything I wouldn't want you to do to get me back. I said no." His other hand comes up, to cup along her other jaw. "I was lying. Don't get in over your head. Don't let Arthur take you. He's taken enough from me."

"Then it's a good thing I don't belong to you, isn't it?" Eileen isn't smiling when she says it, and while her eyes are alert and alive, they're also solemn. She breathes warmth across his hands, tightens her grip on the one she holds to her cheek as she interlaces her fingers with his and gives them a slow squeeze. "Ethan," she mumbles, her voice growing a little thick and unsteady, "Gillian, Phoenix. All of us in over our heads, all of us coming for you. It's just like the Narrows again, drowned and drowning. You remember."

Even if the words are clumsy and trip over one another on their way out, she knows what she's saying — that much is made clear by her opposite hand as it finds a place to rest on Gabriel's chest and coils fingers in the loose fabric of his shirt. "Soon. I promise."

There's no offense meant in her words, and there's none taken. Touche. "Like the Narrows," Gabriel agrees. "Vanguard on one side, Phoenix on the other." The scenery around them seems to flicker, back and forth between Eileen's chosen sanctuary and the bridge itself, until the latter stabilises, harking back to when it was winter cold and it still existed. Fog exists on either end, the night sky stretches and curves over as if to conceal them within a sphere of darkness, or to block out the rest of the world.

Simply, it just doesn't matter. "Everywhere we go," Gabriel notes, his hands pulling away from her, "gets laid to waste. And if it doesn't, we do. I guess— a pattern is better than no pattern." A hand goes out, to grip the railing, that should feel ice-cold beneath his palm, and does— in a very distant sort of way.

"How soon is soon? I feel like a part of me is fraying. I don't know what will happen when it breaks."

"You die." Eileen joins Gabriel at the railing, dangling her arms over the side with her hands clasped. Green eyes fixate on an unseen point somewhere in the inky black where skyscrapers should be, lit up like stackable strings of white Christmas lights. Wind whips off the water and blows through her hair. When she exhales, her breath leaves her nose and nostrils in the form of a fine, silvery vapour. "You die and we mourn. Pile rocks."

It's more difficult for Eileen's dream self to comprehend an idea like time than it is for her to comprehend an idea like space. There are no memories for her to associate with soon, no sensory aids to help her make the necessary connections. "If you see Wu-Long," she says instead, "tell him that his little boy is beautiful."

Gabriel comes to settle his back against the metal framing that lines the impossibly long bridge, hands clasping together, arms hanging. You die. A simple conclusion, and then maybe he, too, will be talked about like Wu-Long is talked about, like Elias is talked about, like Odessa was talked about. Or not talked about. He rarely mentions the dead. "He never met that one," Gabriel muses, though he couldn't summon up the memory of the boy's father, and his memories, even if he wanted to. All locked away in a body he doesn't have access to.

"Keep him safe." His arms come to fold, unconscious protection against the wind hitting his back, his gaze lazily taking in other opposite side of the bridge. "The child. I think you're meant to. For a time when you can sign papers and live in a house and get someone else to sew your wounds closed." If he's expecting her to understand, he doesn't offer any elaboration, explanation. Let the words drift away as easily as the mists their breaths make. "Don't let him go."

A shiver. Gabriel's not sure if he wants to die, actually, but he says, "I will. Tell him. We'll probably be in the same place even."


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