Play Her Off


eileen3_icon.gif arthur2_icon.gif

Scene Title Play Her Off
Synopsis A clandestine conversation between two friends does not end in a way that either of them anticipated.
Date June 25, 2009

Staten Island Boat Graveyard

The ringing stops, just empties out to silence. There is no hello, there is no welcome, just the empty advances of silence and the hollow sound to indicate the line connected, but yet no one is there to speak.

Everything decays, given enough time. From the tallest mountain to the mightiest pyramids; nothing can ever truly escape the reach of entropy as it extends on into the future. Some things, however, just find that caress so much sooner than others. The rusting hulks of long-forgotten ships beached in shallows at the Staten Island Boat Graveyard are among the simplest and most easily identifiable edifices to entropy on the island. The slow, constant decay they undergo is a testament to the passage of time, and the damage it can do.

Soft and tinny, interspersed with static, Eileen Ruskin's tentative voice crackles mellifluously in the receiver. "Gabriel?"

Standing with hands tucked into the pockets, Gabriel's focus stares out blankly towards the lapping salt surf, black pinstripe suit pressed immaculately, hair swept back in a stiff but wet coif, everything one might imagine from someone with the monicker Midtown Man under their belt. Charm, poise and grace, a certain predatory air about it. He hasn't looked like this — if not ever — than at the least in a very long time.

It's a good enough question, isn't it? After a moment's time, as if in consideration, he finally replies with a hoarse voice, as if unused to speaking. "Yes. What do you want?" Because, after all, why would anyone else call a man like Gabriel Gray, unless something was wanted?

Watching the lights of Manhattan sparle and flicker across the water, the view from between the derelict husks of once great ships gives a perfectly framed view of the scarred heart of Midtown. There is something captivating about seeing that jagged and black skyline framed between the broken bows of two old freighters sunk half-deep into murk and mire of decades worth of neglect.

"I need to speak with you." Need, not want. There's a pause on Eileen's end of the line, broken by a halting, uncontrolled exhalation of breath. "Please."

Gabriel's focus on the cleft at Midtown's heart is unwavering, a solid and steel-straight focus that seems almost hypnotized by the resplendent display of decay put on such glorious display. Not too long ago, this view might well have horrified him, but now, here, given the circumstances it can only serve to tantalize and entice. Soon, this could all be his.

Again, that silent contemplation. Somewhere in the background, an elevator chimes and doors slide open, leading into the distant susurrus of muffled voices. "Fine," there's some fun in playing the bad-boy. "Where and when?" Though the tone of his voice isn't all together pleased sounding. Perhaps it's just that tough act, though to Eileen he has all the reason to be angry, even if he doesn't know it.

Only at the crunch of footfalls coming up the gravel does Gabriel finally turn, one stray lock of dark hair out of place, brushing down against thick brows that crease in scrutiny at the form coming up on the shoreline. One hand moves out of his pocket, head tilting to the side, a single, thick brow rising in silent expectance.

She can imagine the expression on his face, mouth flat, dark brows lowered into a furrowed scowl of quiet consternation. "Tonight," she says as her voice adopts a raw quality, syllables rolled out over a rough tongue, throat growing painfully tight. Of course he's angry. He's always angry. "The boat graveyard on Staten Island, south side."

"You came?" It's spoken more as a question than as a statement of fact, as if uncertain that he's presented with the same voice from the phone, one brow creeping up even further before a feigned smile of knowing crosses his lips.

"It's a date, then…" She should have known by the tone in his voice before he hung up, how all this was going to end.

In stark contrast with Gabriel's polished appearance, Eileen's windswept hair is unkempt, inky black tangles that blow haphazardly about her face and lash at her eyes in the breeze wafting off the ocean. A leather jacket conceals the shoulder holster she wears beneath it, a pistol nestled in that soft spot between her ribs and the underside of her arm, while a pair of faded denim jeans protect her legs from the razorlike stalks of sawgrass that grow out from gaps in the salt and barnacle encrusted earth.

Gray eyes tinged sea foam green study the man's face and the unique curve of his mouth, the particular set of his jaw and chin, though it isn't immediately clear what she's looking for — if anything. "Of course I came," she murmurs, defensiveness and hurt bleeding thickly into her hoarse tone. "I wanted to apologize. Over the phone— it wasn't right. Why are you dressed like that?"

She's just full of good questions. "Is it wrong for a man to want to look nice for once?" Black dress shoes crunch gravel underfoot on the way over to Eileen, shoulders held at an awkward angle. "If you want to apologize, then apologize. Don't just think by saying you have the intention to, that I'm going to just accept it as that." Gabriel's dark eyes narrow, considering the reaction she has to what he just said. "At least you had the honesty not to feign it over the phone… I appreciate that," he says in a somewhat haughty manner. "So…" one hand motions to Eileen, "apologize to me."

He wants to enjoy this, just a little more.

As Gabriel advances, Eileen slows to a halt, her body illuminated by the dappled moonlight filtering down through the clouds. What little of it reaches the gravel under her feet paints it in shades of incandescent silver where traces of moisture still cling to the rocks. Pretty though it may be, it's also dangerous — water mixes with the oil and algae on the beach's uneven surface, making the ground treacherously slick and slippery. If she'd known he was going to wear clothes befitting of a designer label, then she would have asked him to meet her someplace else, somewhere dry.

She holds out her hands, stripped of gloves, and shows Gabriel her palms in what is probably a gesture of surrender. His predatory body language and condescending tone are as recognizable to Eileen as his face, but she's unaccustomed to this level of aggression and it shows. Wariness creeps into her posture, transforming it into something more closed and guarded. "I'm sorry," she says somewhat stiltedly, taken aback by his approach. Distance is something he's always tried to maintain. "I don't want you think I'm ungrateful."

With a tensing of his brow, Gabriel's posture changes somewhat, eyes locked on Eileen's for just a moment as the faintest moment of light-headedness sets in, like standing up too fast. In that moment, Gabriel's expression softens, one hand moving up to reach up hesitantly, fingers curling against his palm before reaching out again, as if to want to brush his palm against her cheek. But he pulls his hand away, rubbing his forefingers and thumb together. "Sorry, I…" He looks away, eyes downcast, an expression so familiar to her.

"I should be apologizing too." Words all too wanted to be heard, but they sound like they honestly come from the heart, begrudgingly so. "I— we both… if there's something life has taught me, it's that it can be so much shorter than you'd ever imagined." True no matter what your name is. "I… have too many regrets, we both do." Dark eyes lift from the slicked ground to Eileen's green-gray under cast of moonlight and cloud. "Maybe I…" he turns his shoulder to her, eyes falling shut, "I'm sorry, that's stupid of me to say…"

Eileen can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Gabriel has ever apologized to her. As his expression changes, so does hers, tension disappearing from the creases at the corners of her mouth and the lines that will one day be crow's feet around her eyes. Life is too short doesn't seem like something a man in the possession of Kazimir Volken's ability would say, but all too often the words that come out of Gabriel's mouth aren't the ones she expects — he looks vulnerable, sounds vulnerable, and if there's one thing she can't resist it's a loved one who's hurting.

"You can tell me anything, Gabriel." Carefully navigating the rocks in the space between them, she resumes her steady crawl and continues to move closer. He'd said the same words to her, once, albeit in a different time when they were both different people. She hasn't forgotten. "I won't judge you." When have I ever judged you?

"I do have…" Dark brows crease together, "I guess it's something of a confession to make." Gabriel turns to look up at Eileen, teeth bearing down on his lower lip, a hesitant smile threatening his lips so much like that almost lost puppy look Tavisha always was possessed of. He takes a step over, just enough to bring them close together, but keep himself away from physical contact. "I… I'm not the man you think I am," his eyes fall shut, head turning away slowly, "I know who you want me to be, but…" the smile he has is honest, though the words almost make it seem bittersweet.

"I can't ever be him." Gabriel's words come with a certain sense of gravity, though perhaps given such double-edged meaning. When he finally does look up again, that dark gaze has some of its steeliness back to it, and his bare hand reaches up once more, hesitating for Eileen's cheek. "Your ability…" he whispers, "…is as fascinating as it is terrifying." That, perhaps more than anything, is honesty.

Eileen reaches up and takes Gabriel's hand in her own, the poor circulation in her fingers rendering her touch cold as the chill in the salty sea air around them. There is no pain, no prickling sensation to creep up the length of his arm or sink surreptitious hooks into the underlying scar tissue beneath his skin's surface, ready to twist him apart and yank out his seams. It lies dormant — that ravenous presence caged somewhere inside her ribs.

"Look." She places his hand on her cheek and interlaces her slim fingers with his much larger ones, turning her head just enough to breathe warmth across his knuckles as she speaks. Gabriel told her to step back, and in a way she has — not just from her ability's pull, but from fear and doubt as well. "You did this," she tells him as she raises her eyes to his face, their pale irises eclipsed by their lashes. "Do you see?"

His eyes wander to her hand, brows creasing slightly before those dark eyes settle once more on Eileen's. This time, though, they're blue. "I do… see," Gabriel states in an awkward tone of voice, his hand moving up to press to Eileen's, holding it to his cheek as the bone and flesh beneath her palm undulates like the motions of a worm wriggling around in her palm. "I see."

Gabriel's face buckles and contorts, cheekbones sinking and jaw squaring, face wrinkling beneath her palm, hair turning gray and then a horrible and yet altogether new pain wracking her body, sending her legs to jelly beneath her own weight, Gabriel's hand pressed to hers, gripping hers, squeezing her as tight as he can, until finally this ethereal silhouette of Julian Kuhr is ripped forth from Eileen's body and superimposes itself over— not Gabriel Gray — Arthur Petrelli.

"I see everything, Eileen." His dark brows crease together, further wrinkling his forehead as his lips curl up into a pleased smile. "I… finally see everything, so very, very clearly." Raising his free hand, two fingers point towards Eileen's brow, Arthur's pale blue eyes gone glassy and distant looking, "but yet, I still feel the urge to look anyway."


Arthur's free hand is not the only one that's busy. Eileen's has found its way into her coat, closed its fingers around the grip of her pistol and fumbled through the process of freeing it from the leather holster. The sound of the safety clicking off under the pressure of her thumb is almost inaudible, even to Arthur's superhuman ears, drowned out by the haggard sound of her breathing and a jackhammering heart.

That's not Gabriel.

She goes through the motions without really thinking, wrenching the weapon from her jacket with a clumsy twist of her wrist and a feral snarl that's all spittle, curled lip and bristling teeth. The muzzle of the gun buries itself in the man's suited midsection, jammed between his belly and the lower half of Eileen's chest. She squeezes the trigger once—


Blood, pain, surprise, it all snaps Arthur out of that hypnotic trance, that undeniable single-minded focus on what truly existed within Eileen's mind. Lips pull back, revealing teeth, as one by one the bullets wind their way out of his torso, pushing themselves out to the ground with a plink, splash, blue eyes focused so intently on the dark-haired woman in front of him, even as a crackling field of telekinetic force ripples in a shimmer over him like plastic-wrap.

Suddenly the gun is missing, ripped up and out of fingers to splash down in the deeper, brackish water. "The only reason you're going to live through this, Miss Ruskin," Arthur raises one hand, eyes narrowed slightly, "is to repay the debt I owe you, for ensuring that your former master did not pre-emptively stop everything I have worked so hard to start from ever beginning." Two fingers flick to the side, and Eileen cartwheels end over end, slamming hard into the rusted bow of the nearby ship, the impact ringing hollow with the metal and flaking scraps of decaying steel.

"First, though…" Arthur's dark brows crease together, "let's see what dirty secrets you've been keeping inside of that head of yours." This time, the vertigo is far worse. And the feeling of a young woman's mind being forced open like shaking, unwilling legs is far too familiar.

"…let's see it all."

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