Running Interference


elisabeth_icon2.gif bf_gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Running Interference
Synopsis Gabriel comes looking for a Magnes that got stabbed. Liz tries to make sure she can still go home!
Date February 7, 2012

Outside Magnes and Elaine's Home

It's getting late, the cloud covered sky heavy with pending snow and veiling the track of the sun towards its resting place in the west. In the morning, frost will decorate the windows of this residential row of Brooklyn houses. Street lamps are just now coming to life as a man in a grey winter coat comes around the corner, an innocuous figure that, nevertheless, would have created a stir just for walking down the open street, at one time. In another time.

Gabriel Gray's patient pursuit of the man that his fiance put gardening shears into is slowly coming to a tighter circle, like a noose. He is neatly dressed, clean shaven, his hair cut short to regulation, hands tucked into his pockets, but beneath it all, his wander has the cautious gait of a hunter moving in on unknown territory. He ignores people, traffic, the prettier sights of the late-winter New York street, dark eyes tracking for other kinds of details.

Like what certain angles of the street look like through different birds eye views, for instance. A sparrow dives out from one of the streets growing up through a cage of wrought iron, dips and swerves near enough that its wing tip clips his ear, and he doesn't flinch.

The door to one of the homes opens and the blonde who steps out turns back to speak to the woman holding the interior door. Bathed in the light coming from inside, Elisabeth Harrison's features are thrown into relief as she smiles and wishes the woman holding the interior door good night. She's not an unknown face… but for someone who is expecting to see long blonde hair, it might be jarring. This woman's hair is short, barely brushing her jawline, and she pulls her wool knee-length coat a little tighter around her and adjusts the creamy scarf at her neck as she comes down the front stairs of the stoop.

There's nothing untoward happening in the street tonight, no strange sounds. Nothing to suggest that there might be danger lurking… and yet still she pauses at the base of the stairs and looks sharply around her, as if seeking a threat. Seeming satisfied with what she sees, Liz turns and starts walking. She seems as if she might have something on her mind… or she's afraid, because those blue eyes are always on the move, from one point to the next. Far more alert and wary than even what a cop would normally be, if one knows what they're seeing. Even the people who pass her on the sidewalk are getting a subtle kind of scrutiny as she moves. But she doesn't seem as if whatever she's looking for is something she's actually expecting to find, either. It's simply the watchfulness of … well, it's more than that of a woman alone at night. It's the watchfulness of someone who has lived hunted.

With the way that Gabriel is focused on the street, of narrowing down his location, of looking for a place more than he is a person, it might be easy for Elisabeth Harrison to escape his notice with her chopped hair, with her relatively safe position beyond his radar, both within this universe and otherwise. It might be, if not for the fact that familiar configurations of person and face immediately draw his attention with superhuman recollection. Cadets and fully fledged members of the NYPD do not mingle on the regular, but he knows who she is, what she represents.

He thinks he does, anyway, and stops walking. Maybe it's that movement alone that gets her attention — he's not a subtle presence, tall and dark and distinct.

And then there's a step back, as if readying up an angle to leave unnoticed.

When her eyes, watchful of the evening's movements, are caught by the sudden stop, Elisabeth makes mental note — height, weight, oh shit… Her eyes go wide, and it's visible even from where he stands two streetlights further down the road. Her heart skips a beat and then resumes a good bit faster than before. Pulling in a slow breath, she stops where she is in the pool of the street lamp.

"~Mr. Gray,~" she offers in greeting, allowing her ability to bring her words to his ears without the need to shout. "~Do you have some time to speak with me this evening?~"

The request is … probably the strangest conversation starter Elisabeth has ever really had to offer. She's not sure how well he knows her — well enough, obviously, to startle him into stillness.

That half-step aborts, hackles up as strange sound curls closer than it should, and the look he steers back to her is more direct — flatly suspicious — than it was a moment ago. Mr Gray is perfectly still, like a wild animal debating whether it ought to just run, and for a moment, Elisabeth can imagine him just doing that, and never being seen again. Vanishing on the spot, or flying into the sky, or any number of ways that a man infamous for his many abilities might just take his leave.

He doesn't do any of those. Running isn't all the way his style, rising paranoia or no.

Instead, he says, Officer Harrison — or rather, projects these words into her mind in a semblance of his real speaking voice. He darts a look off somewhere over her head, past her, towards the building fronts he'd been tracking. Not here.

Oh lord…. that's going to make this perhaps slightly simpler. That's fine, she thinks, unsure whether he's actively listening or merely projecting. But with that permission, Elisabeth begins walking toward him, careful not to move in any ways that are threatening. She stops just outside arm's length, letting him get a good look at her. "Officer Harrison is at home with her son," she says quietly. "And the Magnes that Eileen stabbed is not a threat to her… I promise. Would you prefer to walk or find a place to sit?" She takes her hands slowly from her coat pockets, showing them to him as empty, and gestures. "There's a park a little way up the block."

Sunset comes quick, still, in the last throes of winter. The sky is dark, now, or at least, what lingering sunlight struggles through snow clouds doesn't grant either of them additional benefit that the streetlamps themselves don't take care of. The one nearest to them offers harsh light, turns warm, healthy tones into something more blue and ghastly, eliminates the nuances and intricacies of eye colour so that all Elisabeth has to read are black discs that betray only that he is staring at her, and little as to the thoughts behind it, the processes that must be taking place.

He swallows, a slightly more human, near nervous affect to his glance around, then back to her.

"Sure," he says, finally, his tone dry with characteristic subtle sarcasm. Like this is all normal and fine. "Let's walk to the park."

Elisabeth smile s faint, and although she appears calm he might notice the subtle hum that follows her. It almost sounds like the electricity hum that you can sometimes hear in the streetlights. As they begin to walk, she shoves her hands back into her pockets — it's still quite chilly out — and she's watching her steps carefully just in case slick spots jump out of nowhere.

Clearing her throat, she says mildly, "So…. where to start here. Magnes literally just told me about what happened with Eileen, so… I guess the first place to begin is 'I'm sorry.'" She seems entirely genuine. "He didn't mean to frighten her and I'm reasonably certain he was damn near incoherent when he tried to speak to her, and I don't blame her a bit for stabbing him in the guts. I would have too," she says with a shake of her head. "He's a bright kid but a total moron. And… I'm really sorry for what happened."

Of the things that Gabriel was hoping to uncover and handle when he set out, tonight, an apology was not one of them.

He is a silent presence at her side as he works, paying attention inasmuch as he is listening and remaining cognizant as to her presence and where they are going, but many wheels are turning within his skull, probably indicative in the way he is following rather than leading. Burned in his mind, beneath it all, is the sight of Eileen, washing her clothes of blood in the antiquated bath tub, and telling him: I fucked up.

"She said she was being followed," he says, his tone quiet. Subdued, if you're being generous. Meek, if you're being oblivious. "He said she was dead."

"Is she okay? I mean… I know physically she's all right, but I know he had to have terrified her. And I can't imagine that she's not kind of freaking out right now." It's honestly Elisabeth's first concern — that Eileen is all right. But Gabriel needs answers. "It's a long story…. In the world we just arrived from… she was killed. He's been heartbroken over it and more than a little messed up in the head," Elisabeth says quietly, blowing out a slow breath. "He knows that this world's version of him lives with you. He just wanted to see her. To make sure she was okay. And he's an idiot, so he thought he could follow her without it becoming a big deal." Her tone definitely says she's annoyed. The hum that brushes along his skin still exists just below the level of real hearing. Being near him brings up a lot of emotions and she's struggling with them, but that's her own issue to deal with.

"Stop that," Gabriel says, almost a snap, a show of teeth, as if a spanner had been thrown into the works of his mental processing, of this conversation. He frowns, shaking his head. "Sorry. The humming. Whatever that is."

Not usually one to betray weakness, he might kick himself about it later — but she might remember, from their more combative days, about the super, doglike hearing of the erstwhile serial killer. And its exploitability.

"She's okay," he supplies, more on topic. "And yes, Magnes— he stays with us." Living has a kind of permanence that Gabriel would rather not reflect on. Their apartment is stupid small, their lives only just beginning, not quite the picture of stability that either version of Magnes might like to imagine. "Anyone following us is a big deal. Alternative universe versions of our friend notwithstanding, we have enemies, we have— people who want to see us fail. Counting on it. And whoever Eileen is to him— "

It's hard not to betray an ordinary bristle of suspicion, here.

"— this Eileen isn't that person. Does he know that?"

Although she jumps visibly, Elisabeth grimaces and her tone is apologetic. "I'm sorry. It's an anxiety side effect." She stops walking and takes a deep breath, holding it in for a count of 5 and then letting it out slowly. He can see it's requiring a level of determination to try to do as he asks, but the hum does diminish significantly as she forces herself to calm. Or at least rein it in.

"He does know that, yes," Elisabeth tells him. "Just like the Magnes who is native here is not him, this Eileen is not either of the Eileens that he's met." Shaking her head, she sighs. "It seems no matter what world, there's always a Magnes being a fucking idiot. Christ." She looks up at him. "Neither of you have anything to fear from us. I know you have no reason to believe that right now and I have nothing to offer to prove it. But you don't."

Either of the Eileens. That gets a glance, sidelong, a break from defensive suspicion, that betrays some amount of disbelief — and curiousity. The idea of some mirrored universe is one thing — the idea of universes opening up like pages of a book is one that's harder to grasp. It helps if you're the kind of person who has practice at grasping things most people don't have to.

Gabriel allows his focus to relax, taking in the city street around them, his awareness of birds in the trees, feeding back bite sized pieces of visual information beneath his lightweight command. A car glides by, briefly splashing them with headlight glow, the ordinary sounds of late night traffic thrumming at a deeper, depthful resonance than Elisabeth's anxiety run off. He breathes in cold air, and decides to believe her.

Somewhat. "Maybe not on purpose," he says. "But I imagine you haven't gone to the authorities about your dimension-hopping status for a reason. Your existence here is a secret. Secrets are dangerous."

Trust him to be very well aware of that fact. "Agreed." Elisabeth looks toward the sky, though stars are not really visible with all the light pollution. "So very much in heaven and earth, Horatio…." she murmurs softly.

"There are a great many things afoot in the world, Gabriel." Her words are gentle. "There always are. But you're building a life. Keep building it. We'll do our level best not to involve either of you." She looks at him, a sadness that she can't quite hide visible for a moment. "I think he understands after the lesson with the garden shears that he needs to keep a much lower profile. We did have the conversation when we first landed here that making contact with people we knew from home needed to be kept to a minimum. But this is Magnes we're discussing." He always has to learn the hard way.

"We're working on a way home. I will do my best to keep him far from you both, though I can't promise much." Elisabeth pauses and says quietly, "You're going to be a good cop, Gabriel."

He can feel that curiousity, that natural instinct to learn, the temptation to understand the fibres and ligaments holding together the universe, unfurl within him like a frayed rope. It doesn't even take an ability geared towards the powerful compulsion to understand things to want to ask questions. Questions about whether they came from, what they're doing now, how they're gonna get home, how they got here in the first place. Maybe Gabriel might even ask how she knows he'll make a good cop.

But her statement has the opposite effect. Those drifting, questing thoughts are immediately bound up like a braid, tightened, restrained, just like any of his lesser compulsions, curtailed on a daily basis. The corner of his mouth hooks up into what could be a smile, for the first time since they started talking.

"Yeah," he agrees. "That's the plan."

The fists his hands had made in his coat pockets relax a little, as if remembering his own tension, or realising it, and letting it go. "We'll stay out of your way," he says, and he means that — of their going home, of their doing what they have to do to do so, "so long as you stay out of ours."

Elisabeth nods, though there's a subtle hesitation to it. God, I hope it will be that simple, the thought crosses her mind. But this man is fighting to have a life and he's suffered like hell for it. "Thank you for… being willing to talk to me. I don't think I can get home without him, so I appreciate that you're not going to make him disappear for being a dick. I, uhm… " She shrugs a little. "Well. I'm just glad Eileen is okay."

"Only if he deserves it," Gabriel says, an ironic kind of promise. It might be very easy for Magnes to deserve it.

The park they were headed towards only now just looms ahead of them, a dark mass of sparse trees, lawn, the looming shadows of playground equipment. He stops short of it, though, gaze wandering over it for a moment with a quiet kind of humour before he tips his attention sideways, back to Elisabeth. "Good luck," he says, directly, mildly. This, too, sounds like he means it. Bad luck would be unfortunate. "With everything."

And there he leaves her, peeling off in a direction down another uniform street, residential and urban. Another sparrow drops out from the trees, tiny feet landing on the fire hydrant to Elisabeth's left, tipping one beady eye at her.

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