eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Pragmatism
Synopsis Gabriel checks in with Eileen at the Speakeasy in Brooklyn after some time away.
Date September 14, 2009

Speakeasy Hotel and Casino — Room 201

The sunset is approximately the same tone and vibrancy as the flare of orange on the little bird's chest. Too delicate, hoppy, and chirpy to be any kind of seabird, it seemed like an especially deliberate beacon just for him where it was perched on a pillar of wood, its feet delicate and its feathers fluffed and guarded against the chill breeze coming off the Narrows. Bound about its leg was a thin sliver of paper with familiar handwriting, and upon its removal, the oriole immediately dipped and bobbed his way away, launching off Gabriel's arm like something from a Disney movie.

He'd almost not gone, but the Speakeasy was at least closer to the Red Hook docks he was standing at than the watch shop. It likely had a bed, too. The written address kept crushed in his palm, Gabriel took direction. Never say that he cannot.

His face had shifted along the way. The pinched features and blonder locks of a dead teenager manages to convey his stormy mood just as well as the usual shapes of his face, which comes back into being once he roams down the correct hallway. Soft golden eyebrows become the severe, characteristic black strokes of usual, and coarse stubble peppers his throat and jaw, high up his cheeks. He fills out his clothing better - jeans, grey cotton beneath an industrial black jacket slightly too warm for the weather, and scuffed boots.

Quite vainly, he allows the transformation to finish before he tries the door handle, then knocks on the door.

Wooden floorboards creak on the other side of the door, a chain rattles and the sound of a deadbolt turning precedes squeaky hinges. Eileen's slim shape appears in its frame a moment later with a lit cigarette dangling between two fingers and a white cotton bathrobe hung from her shoulders, sleeves bunched up around her elbows. Gray eyes briefly scrutinize Gabriel's face, then move past it to the empty space in the hall behind him as she swings the door open the rest of the way and makes room for him to come inside.

Her hair is still damp from a recent shower, though not so wet that it drips water onto the carpet; the few droplets that do escape her dark curls carve paths down the curve of her neck and collarbone before being absorbed by the material of her bathrobe. Apart from the sweet reek of tobacco and more acrid cigarette smoke that permeates the air in the room, she smells as clean as the fog clinging to the bathroom mirror suggests.

She looks it, too. Barring the dark circles under her eyes, their pink rims, some bruising around the left and the unnatural paleness of her lips, Eileen appears healthier than she did before Pinehearst. "I was starting to think you wouldn't come," she says.

That gets a shrug. He'd walked here as soon as he'd gotten the note, with only a minor minute of thinking beforehand. Then again, perhaps it has little to do with speed. Gabriel steps inside, carrying the scent of the Red Hook docks in with him, as well as the overwarm smell of sweat, ripe from traveling. He's quick to take off his jacket, the grey shirt beneath V-necked with the sleeves rolled up towards his elbows, and a quick glance around the room preempts him moving to find a place to set his things down.

"It was a waste of time." The words are concrete-like, hard and cold and leaving no room for movement or argument. Wherever he had disappeared to, it doesn't matter. Glancing back over his shoulder, Gabriel casts a dark-eyed look up and down Eileen, as if expecting to find visible evidence of how she's been spending his time away.

The visible evidence is in the dumpster behind the Speakeasy — syringes double-bagged in plastic and thrown out this morning with the rest of the trash, including several empty bottles of cheap hotel shampoo and conditioner, dirty gauze and a half-eaten box of bad Chinese food — and on her arms in the form of track marks, though these are presently hidden by her robe's overlarge sleeves.

There's no room for argument; Eileen doesn't try to make any, either. It was a waste of time, he says, and while she might not know exactly what it is, she's content to lend him a sympathetic ear and a place to rest his feet until his disposition improves.

If it improves. In Eileen's experience, Gabriel's mood can be fickler than the changing weather and just as volatile, but it's not something she can forecast with any degree of accuracy.

"Are you hurt?"

He briskly shakes his head, moving to sit on the edge of the bed, and true to his response, there's no hitch nor hesitation in the way Gabriel moves. No pussyfooting around a cracked rib or favouring one leg over the other, or even the more prideful ways one can conceal injury. Which probably means it really was a waste of time. Hunting Feng is a little like hunting a ghost, until you actually find him.

Back curved, Gabriel is working off the heavy work boots his feet are clad in, peeling his socks away as he goes. "There was no one to hurt me. Where is everyone?" It's not a demand, but a request, almost, to be updated, as to the ever scattered remnants if Vanguard. And friends.

More pointed, he adds, "And why are you here?"

Eileen shuts the door and goes through the familiar, practiced motions of fastening the locks. Her back is facing Gabriel when he voices his question — the only indication that it brushed against a sore spot is a slight stiffening around her neck and shoulders, the muscles in her upper back pulled taut beneath the robe. "I don't know where Ethan is," she admits as the final latch slides into place. "Raith's been staying at the river safehouse over'n Staten. He has Peter with him."

Her answer as to why she's here instead of there isn't quite so straightforward. "I needed to be alone for a little while." Eyes drift from the door all the way across the room to the nightstand beside Gabriel and the battered leather journal sitting upon it. "You know how they are."

Gabriel's brow draws into a tense knot at the news of Peter's whereabouts, but holds his tongue for the time being tucking boots beneath the bed and slipping his hands beneath his thighs. He raises an eyebrow at her words, studying her, now that he's settled, across the room. "I know how they are," he agrees. "And yet you brought me here. What's Peter doing with Raith?"

"I didn't ask." Eileen moves away from the door with a glance out the window at the pigeons nesting on its concrete lip, their silvery bodies obscuring her view of the street below and the yellow cabs that line the curb. Tiny pink feet curl around the ledge, feathers ruffle in disdain, and one of the flock turns its head to observe Eileen and Gabriel from beneath a violet-tipped wing.

Her silence implies she isn't going to. Ask, that is. Confirmation comes in the form of a thin hiss let out through her teeth in the form of a sigh as she trails fingertips along the journal's spine on her way toward the bed, followed by a very quiet, very subdued, "But you can. You should. He's been acting strangely."

The pigeons fall under Gabriel's attention as well, following Eileen's briefer glance and squaring it there as she speaks and moves around the room in soundless foot steps. At the sound of her voice abruptly closer, he glances over and up to look at her, and gives a mildly derisive snort in reply. "Peter, acting strangely. I don't even know how he's meant to act any other time. We don't know who we were, before everything."

He means each other, but, largely, it's truth no matter which way the phrase is flipped. As he speaks, his gaze wanders towards the journal left beside the bed, attention diverted.

"He knew my mother's name." Eileen takes a seat on the edge of the bed next to Gabriel, one leg tucked under her body, the other left hanging. She removes her hand from the journal, tentative, and places it in her lap, picking at the tips of her lacquered nails and the dark varnish flaking off them. "I called a meeting with some of the other Ferrymen," she says. "Peter came, said it was because he'd heard I'd be there. Things are happening, Gabriel. Changes."

Teeth rake across her lower lip. "You can't tell me you haven't noticed that he has his eyes. It hurts to even look at him."

"Kazimir is dead." Gabriel's gaze breaks from journal, to her, then down towards the faded carpeting of the hotel room. "On the bridge, you saw it and I felt it. Whatever's changing Peter— " He lets go of a breath that hisses between teeth, silent frustration that draws a line through the middle of his brow as the only knot of tension. Otherwise, the subjects seems more of a source of weariness than true irritation, eyes dull. Unsolved mysteries are only fun when they don't go on for weeks upon weeks. "I don't know. It was never like this when I had it."

Another glance is cast towards the journal. "There's a theory going around that the ability is older than Kazimir. That this isn't the first time it's moved from host to host. I don't know what that means for Peter, or what that meant for Kazimir. Richard Cardinal. He said the same thing was true for Abigail Beauchamp's power."

Eileen leans back on the bed until her shoulders are flush with the mattress, its springs groaning in rickety protest against the new distribution of weight, and lifts her cigarette to her mouth. Her lips purse around the filter as she inhales, pauses to experience the familiar sensation of smoke rolling over her tongue and then releases the breath she'd been holding, filling the air with a cloud of chalk gray mist. "She wants a copy of the Allègre book," she says on the exhale.

"Kazimir never told me anything about his ability. How it worked. Where it came from. If that journal can help someone else understand…" Eileen trails off, her thought's conclusion either implicit or uncertain. Her voice is suddenly very soft. "It was better when you had it."

As she speaks, Gabriel sets about peeling off the vague grey shirt, a white wife beater beneath that with a streak of dampness down the center of his back, where the fabric clings. By rights, he should have more visible scars than he does, but with a history of revival and renewal, many have been erased at various times. The tattoo remains, as does the bullet wound from the previous month, still healing and still a hinder.

"Part of me is glad not to have it," he mutters, tossing the shirt somewhere near the end of the bed. "But you're right. It was better. It was stupid of me to let it go."

A rare sort of confession, coming from him, but it did take weeks upon weeks of frustration to get there. Dismissing it in the next moment, Gabriel eyes the bathroom door, as if judging whether he'd prefer to sleep now or get clean first. "You should make her a copy. If Deckard has her ability now, they can both stand to learn."

The hand not holding the cigarette reaches up and places fingertips on the center of Gabriel's back, nails idly following the trail of sweat along his spine in a touch so light and fleeting it's almost imperceptible. "I will," Eileen resolves. "Soon. Tomorrow." She lifts her chin but does not raise her head off the mattress when she arches her neck to get a better look at the injury that still mars his shoulder, assessing the healing process in silence with a practiced eye.

It's one of the nice things about being someone's friend as well as their personal physician — there's never any need to force compassion or feign concern. Caring comes naturally, and so does the desire thoroughly inspect. "You're looking better," she observes at the end of another drag. "How does it feel?"

Gabriel twitches a glance over his shoulder when that feather-light touch brushes down his back, but gains little more than hesitation in reaction before he's neutrally swinging his attention back ahead of him. A hand wanders up to press blind, experimental fingers against the injury. "Clean. Healing."

The important things. "If Peter knew he what he was doing…" Gripping a hand onto bedsheets, Gabriel moves to half lie, half slouch against the head of the bed beside her, a hesitation before relaxing, hands coming to rest on his stomach. "…he'd be able to do something about it. But when I try to help him, it's like we're speaking different languages. Like we never had the same ability. I describe it as water, he describes it as fire."

Eileen rolls her cigarette between her fingers, now reduced to a stub, and studies the embers burning at its tip as they continue eat away the peeling paper. "The Chinese have five elements," she says, "and two cycles of balance. Shēng and , one for creation and one for the destruction." As she speaks, she arches her back, hips raised off the mattress, and stretches one arm above her head — not to work the tension from her muscles, but to reach for the ashtray beside the journal on the nightstand.

"Wood feeds fire," she explains, drawing the receptacle onto the bed and snuffing out the remains of her cigarette in its glass bottom. "Fire creates earth," or ash in this case, "earth bears metal, metal collects water and water nourishes wood.

"Alternatively, wood parts earth, earth absorbs water, water quenches fire, fire melts metal and metal chops wood." Eileen rubs the tips of her fingers together and brings them to her mouth as though this might absolve them of their yellow stains. "Whether you buy into all that or not," she murmurs around her thumb, "I don't think it really matters how you want to describe it. You and Peter are both part of something bigger'n yourselves."

"You're talking about interacting elements," Gabriel says, eyes hooding, having relaxed as he'd listened to her. "This is one element, changed between the two of us. You're right— " A glance her way, sharp in contrast to the lazy veil of eyelashes over brown, before settling once more, steering a look towards the stained ceiling. His voice is at a quiet mutter, graveled with weariness. "That it's bigger than either of us. But I conquered it, and I can't teach him to do the same. That's why it matters."

He eases in a breath, eases out a sigh, bending a leg to brace a foot against the bed covers. "I should get clean and sleep. Then find out what Raith thinks he's doing."

Eileen has no disagreement there, or if she does she chooses not to voice it. Plink goes the ashtray, replaced on the nightstand. "I left you some hot water," she says without looking at Gabriel or in the general direction of the bathroom, though the door itself is partway open and leaks pale light into the bedroom through the crack. "There's clean towels and soap under the sink. No razor."

The arm that had reached for the ashtray folds at the elbow and slips under her head in lieu of a pillow. "If you want, I can take your clothes down to the laundromat with mine tonight. I needed to do some washing, anyway."

No looking, no touching. Pragmatism had always defined them but at least tonight, it gets Gabriel's attention, if late in the game. It's nothing he rectifies, answering with a mild, "No," at her offer before casting her a curious look. He's moving in the next moment to slip off the bed, bare feet soundlessly hit the ground before he's moving for the bathroom.

The wife beater is finally removed as he goes, flicking on the light switch to douse himself in unhealthy looking yellow light before steering out of sight around the corner.

Eileen rolls over onto her side, closes fingers around the edge of the headboard and hauls her body into a sitting position. One foot touches the floor, followed by the other, and as Gabriel vanishes behind the bathroom door she shrugs the robe from her shoulders, trading it for a faded pair of denim jeans and fitted top that had been draped across the radiator and left to dry.

A few minutes later, the suite's door is creaking open again, this time accompanied by the metallic jangle of keys. When it closes, the lock turns and Eileen's retreating footsteps can be heard from the bathroom as she moves down the hall and into the stairwell leading to the Speakeasy's ground floor.

That's the problem with pragmatism. It can get very lonely.

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