Playing Fetch


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Also featuring:

aviators2_icon.gif sarisa_icon.gif

Scene Title Playing Fetch
Synopsis A game is followed all the way to Washington D.C., and two little birdies try to learn the rules.
Date August 6, 2011

Washington, D.C.

This is what it's like, living in a city that is not ruined at its core.

The streets are clean and populated, for instance, with a healthy flow of traffic and blue skies above them. Every second storefront is not for lease, on sale or simply abandoned. There aren't abandoned cars stripped of their parts and neglected on the sidewalk. There aren't half-demolished buildings cordoned off with yellow tape and never touched otherwise. The military does not drive through the streets and no one here is worried about curfew. The skyline does not show skeletal, bomb-blasted structures. Months of preternatural snow has not turned more organic ground into filth and barren sludge, or damaged the pavement, or caved in rooftops. It's been a quiet enough week that somewhat unimportant has made it to the local frontpage, folded up in stands, discarded in wrought iron and steel trash cans, crumpled in an otherwise clean gutter.

Washington D.C. makes a lot of important decisions, but it hasn't felt the repercussions of them half as much as New York City.

On delicate feet, a mockingbird lands on the trembling limb of an urban tree set into the sidewalk, wings a fanning mixture of browns and whites, chest speckled the same and eyes ringed with the colour of amber. It doesn't appear to be any more sentient than the other avian bodies in the city, a gaggle of pigeons currently below and collected on the pavement where somewhere spilled their sandwich, leaving it for the birds. Gabriel knows his vessel's temptation to try and score a crumb of something, but removed enough to simply ignore it as he levels a look for the broad-shouldered figure seated out from the bistro. Avi Epstein hasn't been in Washington D.C. very long, but probably changed his clothing at the airport, and the Americano in front of him there to ward against jetlag, grinding thumb and index finger into his eyesockets.

Tail flicking, Gabriel scans around for where he can only guess Eileen might be. They've flown, switched vessels as discreetly as possible, and he's only been in this one for the last half-minute.

House sparrows are as common a sight in North American parks as pigeons. Whether or not they have a better reputation depends on who you ask — there are plenty of restaurant owners from one coast to the other who would eradicate them if they could. Unlike pigeons, the sparrows are bold enough to land on outdoor tables and snatch crumbs from under chairs or otherwise empty plates, which is what several specimens are doing when they think the people seated around them aren't looking.

All but one of them are unaware that the danger Epstein poses is greater than his body language suggests. The sparrow that does is fractionally smaller than the others with paler, dustier feathers than some of the males darting between the patio furniture and quarreling with one another for pieces of somebody's discarded bagel. The female's markings are less pronounced, making it more difficult to spot, but it's the only bird sitting still at the edge of the bistro's awning with no apparent interest in table scraps.

He's not able to sense that you're here, is he? Eileen's voice asks as the sparrow tucks its head under its wing and casually tidies its feathers even if there is nothing casual about the gesture at all.

If he is, there isn't a lot he can do about it.

Beady eyes tilt up to the most likely suspect for his partner is spying, although the psychic clamour of nearby birds is pretty noisy. He doesn't have this talent. Seemingly cautious but interested in the spilled food on the sidewalk, Gabriel remains where he is, watching and studying this two-eyed version of Epstein. And probably not the type to hang out at the local coffee shop unless given reason — do you think he's waiting for something? It's a leading question. Not that Gabriel himself knows at all, but he obviously thinks there is purpose to this place beyond a mean cup of coffee.

He launches off the branch, diving through the air, an arrow of movement in Eileen's periphery.

The shadow of a larger bird sends some of the other sparrows winking for cover beneath chairs and tables, but Gabriel's mockingbird is no small hawk or magpie. The amount of time it takes them to realize he isn't coming for them is only fractionally more than the time it took for them to break apart, and like ripples moving in reverse they flock back into the open.

One of the differences between humans and animals is that animals do not dwell on fear; within only a few moments, it as though it never happened at all. Someone seems more likely than something, says Eileen. The sparrow she resides in flutters down onto the table beside Epstein's without looking at him. There is a distinct disadvantage to using this power around people who are familiar with it regardless of whether or not they're capable of using the ability themselves. Kershner?

By the time Eileen might be able to track the shape of the mockingbird departing carefree, she will realise that Gabriel hasn't left her in such a vessel, his presence felt nearby. I hate pigeons, is a neutral kind of comment, half-explanation, a voice buried in the grey-backed, milling creatures that cluster on the ground like insects swarming over dead flesh. It might be Kershner. It would take more patience than he has to keep coming back here, and it was always her plan. The pursuit of greater things.

There is a malicious edge to this thought — not poisonously hissed across the telepathic channels afforded them, but something that is almost jealous, deep bitterness masquerading as disdain.

Psychic noise has a volume the same as any other, but it's more accurate to describe Eileen as still than it is to describe her as silent. Whatever she's thinking, her desire to guard it is strong enough that it doesn't translate to words, only a vague sense of uneasiness that Gabriel will be able to pick up if he's actively feeling for her, and this may have as much to do with the man at the table than what she's detecting from the man in the bird.

For every one thing that she and Gabriel have in common, there are two that they don't — she will never be able to understand why greatness means so much to him, but she understands the concept of importance and the emotional attachments human beings make with what they value the most.

There is nothing great about owning the accomplishments of another man, she eventually says. If they can be called accomplishments at all. Maybe it's the sex.

That was a joke.

There's only the minor frission of amusement from Gabriel, cracking through tense grudge, but nothing more by the time the flock of pigeons choose to scatter, Gabriel with them — although he, like a few of them, manage to linger where they'd left. This scattering is thanks to a nice pair of legs, and while Kazimir had wanted Eileen's powers to manifest differently from how they are being demonstrated now, it is likely more like logical deduction that Sarisa Kershner herself is the one headed for the bistro, her corn-blonde hair immaculately cut and eyes hidden in black shades resting on strong features. Her mouth curls into a smirk of greeting when she sees the shape of Avi Epstein seated where he is.

When Eileen and Gabriel both might seek better clarity through the eyes of the birds around them without departing their vessels, they see Epstein as if through digital disturbance, his illusion imperfect when it comes to the eyes of creatures — Sylar seems well enough, dressed in darker, plainer clothes, dark hair long enough to be a mane and cheeks grained with unshaven stubble of maybe half a week. He turns Avi's eyes for the approaching figure, and doesn't get up to greet her — just makes his illusion smile back.

"How was your trip?" Kershner asks, settling herself down and glancing doubtfully around them. Unfortunately for both sets of people, the nature of the environment will mean less clandestine conversation.

"Pointless. The man you wanted me to meet must be vanished into thin air. Unless you got your information wrong, agent. That, or the Brits aren't disclosing very up to date registry information."

Eileen's sparrow gives a little titter because tittering seems the appropriate thing to do. The other birds are. She decides she's stayed in one place long enough and scissors down onto the pavement a few inches from Sarisa's shoe to pluck at a crumb wedged between a crack in the pavement, only to be violently buffeted aside by a larger, more aggressive female that steals away into a crevice with her prize, leaving Eileen to mantle her wings in frustration.

A few deft hops carry her over Sarisa's shoe and under the table where she and Sylar are seated. Despite her proximity to the pair she and Gabriel are observing, she feels safer there, out of sight and (she hopes) out of mind. England, she says. That's quite a long way to be playing fetch.

Desperate, is one worded agreement from Gabriel, continueing to rat around appropriately within his pigeony vessel, grey feathers puffed as he comes indeterminable amongst the crowd save for the missing toe on his left foot.

Sarisa is immediately tense, but too professional to glance around again in indicative earnestness of their public position, but Sylar's flat expression is one that knows of her concern and is deeply apathetic about it. "The lists we have in the states should be more than sufficient. And failing that, I'll find what I need myself," he says, the sound of a sneer in his voice as opposed to visibly on his face.

"Haven't you heard the idea about shitting where you eat?" Sarisa tosses back. "Speaking of which, we should go somewhere— "

"I have a date in five minutes," Sylar declines, breezily, knitting his fingers together. "One Audrey Hanson."

Brief fury tightens Sarisa's jaw, and when she takes off her glasses, it's visible as gas-blue fire in her eyes. "We've come too far to start playing games. I'm coming with you." Chilly silence is beamed across at her, until she falters, hands clenched around her shades. "Let her go through me — you're my colleague, Avi. Do you know what she wants?"

"Nope," is dismissive, a jolt of a shrug following. "I'll tell you about it later. This little habit of telling me what to do is starting to get on my nerves."

"That's just the jetlag," Sarisa rebuts, with a small, near simpery smile that is almost returned despite sharp exchanges.

It's an encouraging sign. If Sarisa and Sylar were on the best of terms, Eileen would have more cause for concern than she already does; the tension she can hear in their voices and see in the shape Sarisa's mouth makes when she angles her sparrow head upward are small victories, but also the kind that neither she nor Gabriel have done anything to deserve.

It is too early to start celebrating. I might have told Hanson to seek Epstein out, she tells Gabriel. She doesn't know who he is, but I thought this one could use a reminder that he's not the only one who knows how to play tricks.

She stretches the sparrow's wings and gives a flick of its fanned tail. I think we'll want a better view, she adds. One that's higher. I don't trust Hanson not to step on us if it occurs to her.

"She was probably attracted by the Maryland incident," Sarisa is saying, her fingertip trailing along the edge of her mouth in itchy contemplation, eyes flicking away as she lounges back in her seat. Her voice is kept quiet, but the pigeon hobbling forward can catch her words. "It's why we have to keep going international. I'm securing a short list from Russia, left over favours from Apollo, that might illuminate— "

"They already know I'm alive and kicking," Sylar argues. "I just need to target more people so they can't detect any patterns."

Not if we tip her off before things start getting messy. I guess we'll have to play it by— The thought goes incomplete when Avi is inspired to kick the pigeon away — not making contact, instincts kicking in quick enough that Gabriel can flap out of the way, going quiet in beady eye study to see if this gesture has any meaning beyond irritation, but there is nothing to indicate that this is the case. I'll pick something that goes higher, then. And Eileen will feel more than see or hear Gabriel leapfrog through his options.

"I'm doing this for both of us." Sarisa, mouth twisting, as she goes to put her glasses back on with a toss of her hair. "We're stymied until we find a solution."

"I have a notion. Until you find the 'shifter, I'm going to pursue it. Don't worry — it won't be messy."

Eileen's sparrow body goes rigid when the foot hurls at Gabriel, and there's a moment where it looks like she might launch herself at the ankle attached, but she's looking for the same thing he is, and when Sylar doesn't lurch out of the chair to pursue him she presses herself flat against the ground and takes a few seconds to calm the frantic patter of the sparrow's heart.

She does not switch between available hosts the way that Gabriel does. Her approach is a different kind of deliberate and involves staying in one body for as long as possible — for Eileen, going higher means getting out from under the table and aiming for the sky. Sarisa might feel the breeze generated by the sparrow's wings when it slices past her head and steers toward the top of the nearest lamp post.

He has Zhukovsky's already, she says as the sparrow alights. What's another alternative to shapeshifting that he could be after?

The conversation is reduced out of their range of hearing, now — but it's winding to a close anyway, and by the time Gabriel's voice is echoing inside Eileen's head, it's from across the street. His mockingbird is collected move more, preening its wings, as he suggests, gently, One that works in front of cameras.

Sarisa moves out of the bistro — no handshake or cheekpeck, simply a professional, somewhat formal nod of departure before she's taking her leave. Not a woman used to being dismissed, she crosses the road for the sky-blue sports car she parked there, swinging her way into the drivers seat and soon coursing her way into the mild mid-city traffic. Avi is not long on her tail, if a little more measured — he checks his phone and finishes his coffee, first.

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