Shengdan Kuaile


sylar_icon.gif wu-long_icon.gif

Scene Title Shengdan Kuaile
Synopsis One place you can't be on Christmas is nowhere. Two sociopaths find each other after their own version of celebrating and proceed to have a conversation.
Date December 25, 2008

Eagle Electric: Rooftop

Most notable business collapse in Queens was that of Eagle Electric, a major manufacturer based out of Long Island City for decades, comprised of acres of warehouses and manufacturing plants designed to produce electronic components to suit all sorts of needs. The western warehouse of the Eagle Electric lot is an enormous and foreboding red-painted building made entirely from sheets of ridged steel. Amidst the grass growing up through the cracks in the pavement and the burned out cars in the parking lot, it seems just as uninhabited as the rest of the area. A large and ruined sign at the top of the office and manufacturing building prominently reads, "Eagle Electric—Perfection Is Not An Accident."

Last time this year, Sylar was sedated into unconsciousness with some workaholic scientists standing over him with clipboards. The year before that, he was covered in radiation wounds with likely the same workaholic scientists standing over him with clipboards. Relatively speaking, this is a vast improvement to those past Christmases.

Cheers to that.

It's stopped snowing and the sky above is actually clear enough for stars to show. Cold as hell, but not quite as cold as Antarctica. It's nothing a warm woolen black coat and a scarf can't solve. Standing on the rooftop of the cursed Eagle Electric warehouse, Sylar moves towards the ledge. Four empty glass bottles have been carefully placed along them, the snow swept away, and as he drains empty the one in his hand, he places this down carefully. His small motor functions are a little hazy, but he still manages to accomplish this without tipping anything over. Then, he walks towards the other side of the rooftop at a slow saunter, leans against the opposite railing… and extends pointed fingers from both hands in the shape of a gun.

A moment later, one shatters with a loud crash, breaking glass almost knocking over the others but not quite, the shards too fine to do much more than blast upwards and downwards in a cloud of sharp, glistening splinters. Pretty. That's more satisfying than he thought it'd be. There's still four more to go, but for now… Leaning heavily, Sylar reaches down, down to where the sixth bottle of Corona is waiting for him on the floor of the rooftop.

On the concrete horizon where bottles had erupted into glass glitter, there's a new distortion, the opposite and inverse of the razor-edged particles which had refracted moonlight moments before. No, this is black. Soft, or would be if it left one any tactile sensation at all. That would be Wu-Long, climbing up the side of the building with twice the distance and agility on him as a monkey, afforded to him by his own gift.

And that isn't a holiday reference. Gift. Tendrils fall across the roof, pull him across and into the edge. A thought eddies through him, impossible to see in the scant light of evening, and he recorporealizes with as little ceremony with which he had come.

"That one," he says, pointing a strangely solid hand across at Sylar. And Sylar's new beverage. His smile's crooked, breath fogging the part past twilight with its own percentage of alcohol. "We could play…" What's that phrase? The story? Legend? "William Tell." Black-on-black eyes go crescent-shaped with cool cheer. He reverses his pointing hand into a thumb-jerk at the roof of his own skull.

Wu-Long prefers happier recollections. Five years since his wife sat with him in front of television specials his damaged brainstem was barely intact enough to register. Seven since the last presents he wrapped for his children, placed underneath a tree he'd dragged through the door with the help of three hapless, smaller sets of hands.

Sylar's reaching fingertips, now completely free of the dark, inky touch of frostbite, brush against the top of the bottle, but he stops now that he realises he has company. His other hand clutches his own coat in a nervous gesture and defensive position. He didn't mean to drink five beers only to then be engaged in conversation - or what passes for conversation with Wu-Long. Not a reaction lately common to this man, surely, Sylar relaxes a fraction. The shadows, they had made him nervous, it seems. Which begs the question why he's here, of all places. Not that Sylar has been the bastion of smart decisions lately, but…

Now, though, he does manage to pick up his beer, leaning against the ledge as he twists the beverage open, takes a sip. He's gotten used to the taste, enough that he even likes it now, and at Wu-Long's suggestion, a stilted chuckle emerges.

"Maybe," he says. "Maybe when I'm— finished." The sentence hitches a little, purposelessly, and he gestures with the drink he's enjoying, swaying it a little between his fingers, and another long sip is tipped back. It's Christmas. The season of indulgence.

"Take your time," Wu-Long exhales, stepping forward. Even while somewhat inebriated— and he is, he has grace enough to make stomping around in his trenchcoat a visually impressive thing. A sine-curve flows through the long leather hem, timed to the crisp contact of boots on concrete. "It's meant to be savored. Well," there's a half-beat's pause as he cocks his head, studies the specific brand sitting in Sylar's hand. "I guess depending on who you ask."

He pushes his hands into his pockets shallow enough the round bones of his knuckles show brown, callused, grain of skin distorted by scar tissue. He isn't protecting himself from the cold. Possibly, he isn't feeling much of it right now.

Or much of anything, really. The slight hitch that had haunted his steps throughout the past few days is gone now, the insult of cracked ribs salved by so much imbibement. He stops further than he would have if he figured Sylar was hungry for human companionship. "Shengdan kuaile."

Sylar angles the bottle in his hand to check the label, and gives a shrug that could even be self-conscious if the killer has such a quality. "Ethan buys this," he says, perhaps validating it, and he shifts enough so that he can, in fact, sit on the ledge, legs braced so that he won't tip backwards and fall. As similarly inebriated as the other man, survival instinct always comes first, so his feet rest steadily against concrete, still like the foundations of a gargoyle, even one with eyes half-hooded.

"Shengdan kuaile?" he slowly repeats, mimicking the accent, one arm folded across his torso and propping up the other so that the beer bottle hovers near his mouth. "I had a book. A Mandarin one. Memorised it." His eyes glaze over a little, perfect memory somewhat sluggishly offering up a translation. When it does, a bright if dazed smile is what Wu-Long earns for his troubles. "Happy holidays," he offers gruffly in return, smile vanishing as he studies the contents of his beer. Another sip. "How do the Chinese celebrate it?" He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "Tr— aditionally, I mean." Another sentence hitch. Hiccups? Maybe. Suppressed ones.

"Traditionally," Wu-Long says, his accent scraping the consonants sharp around the vowels, "Chinese people don't care about Jesus Christ. Or the… heathens." There have been debates. Blackwater International saw its fair share of warrior poets, who more often employed their former education then to bitching about stuff, like how Christians stole Christmas and the Muslims stole something worth shooting up the house for so let's go, bring the AKs, it's time for a raid. "But we have a few new year celebrations.

"There is food for that. Niangao, 'year cake.' Shaped in flowers, or vines, or goldfish. Tangyuan. Sweet dumplings in sweet clear soup. I prefer the variety flavored with sweet olive flowers." Rambling. Reviewing facts in answering a question about his home culture is the closest he ever gets to rambling. "Obviously our holiday traditions have a few things in common. Jia ting, ai ren." Sylar knows both words by now.

The offered Chinese words are murmured, repeated, getting his voice around the accent of it. He may know what they mean— loved ones, family— but it doesn't mean he can speak the language. This new information is taken in without a word, just a slight nod as he imagines these traditions and— indeed— sips his beer, teeth clicking against the glass when the movement is executed a little clumsily.

"Not for us," Sylar puts in, mildly, looking back at the man. A rumble of a chuckle, mouth again drawn unstoppably into a smile, lazy, serene. Completely unlike him, so usually stoic and brooding. Five and a half beers will do that to you, especially when— "I don't drink. It's meant to be sinful."

Then, he remembers something. He visibly remembers something, back straightening and then gesturing to Wu-Long with his bottle, which is fast becoming a prop of expression. "Ni hao," he says. Except it comes out sounding like 'ny ha-oh', and very belated, but there it is. The greeting is, for all intents and purposes, sincere.

Not that Sylar is the unsubtlest of creatures the rest of the time, but the blatancy of his sensibilities and transitions between them is quite novel. Wu-Long watches them out of one eye that he focuses with a slight squint, the other round, his features characteristically quiescent with mirth. He isn't the most blatant of creatures the rest of the time. "Not for us," he allows, by way of concession. "Although.

"I thought you had…" his brow furrows slightly, recalling a snatch of conversation from before. About Jenny, her sister, the other methods that Sylar possessed to manipulate the latter, thus reducing the necessity of preserving the life of the former. There are a lot of possible methods, though, most of which would be less potentially offensive if mentioned on an evening when Sylar was drunk, despite not drinking, and alone on Christmas night.

It turns out, there's no need for a tactful segue of any sort. Because now Sylar's speaking Mandarin. Except it isn't Mandarin, if close enough, and as what normally ought to have been two syllables turns into three, Wu's cheek begins to twitch. His squinting eye widens to normal, his breath trips up on the whisky laced into it. His shoulders buckle, his torso hooks over as if in a vomit reflex.

It isn't. He's laughing. It sounds like a rusted engine coming to life— an accurate metaphor on more than one layer. Oh, Lord.

And Sylar watches with incomprehension as Wu-Long nearly doubles over, the rasping sound almost mistaken for something completely different but no, he's laughing. Awkwardly, Sylar waits to see if he's going to be let in on the joke, fingertips tapping against the side of his beer as he watches Wu-Long with an almost comic look of bemusement, eyebrows angled as sharp as usual and a frown tugging at his mouth. Three, two, one.

"Mm. I guess that's— not how you pronounce it," he deduces, and then a whisper of a chuckle escapes him, looking down. His near finished beer bottle is set aside, and he takes a breath, aiming with gun hands past Wu-Long. A few moments later, a second glass bottle explodes in a cloud of glass, and his hands fall to rest on his thighs again. "Gillian? Is that what you were going to say?"

"Tianda. Zaogao." He huffs those two epithets out one after another. 'God' and 'shit.' Drops into a squat with the edge of his hand on the side of his face, exhaling a plume of pale fog against the evening sky. It's good the rooftop had been swept, or he'd run the risk of ruining his coat. Instead, it flares out and flattens behind him. He runs a thumb along one eyelid, then checks it for wetness.

There's none, but his laughter had been nothing if sincere. "That's almost how you pronounce it," he sighs. He scrapes forefinger and thumb together and glances over their work-roughened tips at the younger man. "Yes."

Sylar's nose wrinkles for a moment in something like an uncomfortable sneer when he guesses correctly, looking away from Wu as the man peers at him, picking up his drink again. It's good to have something to fidget with, to interrupt yourself with. A thumbnail slips beneath the corner of the paper label adhered to glass, picking away until it curls up, and he focuses on this rather than the other killer crouched nearby. "Not any more," he says, simply. "Do you know many Western fables? The one about the frog and the scorpion."

Five worn fingers flex, straighten, splay, and Wu-Long peels them away from his face as if belatedly acknowledging the cold. Intellectually, he knows it's there. So much snow, none of it melting, tumbled out across Long Island City's snaggletoothed grin of a skyline like an incredibly poor bleach-job across the sundry dental — urban stains. He almost apologizes to the wrinkle of Sylar's face. That dosen't seem very festive, in whatever cultural context one chooses.

But the sentence stalls on his lips when he gets the other reply, and then it stalls out. After a moment, Wu-Long flexes both eyebrows in resignation. "No. I didn't know there was one about a frog and a scorpion. I'm sorry," he adds. Quiet, brief, difficult to mistake for a footnote.

The apology is shrugged away and Sylar keeps picking at the label. It's not coming away easily. As if realising what he's doing, he ceases, and tips back the rest of his beer. He doesn't even want to, at this point, but if you're going to drink a full six-case of beer, you better be prepared to see it through. The best he can hope for is not puking it all up again in Wu-Long's presence, and for a moment, he might seem about to, a wave of nausea known to him before Sylar simply takes a breath, sighs out a thick cloud of steam, and shrugs again. He's not an especially chatty individual - he wasn't even that before all of this, more content in the company of inanimate objects he could pry apart.

But he's here, as is Wu-Long, who could arguably be just another object to pry apart. His eyes close. "It's just a story I remembered. The frog carries the scorpion across a river and he gets stung anyway before they can reach the other side. The only excuse the scorpion has is that it's just what he does. It's in his nature. And then they both die." He opens his eyes, balancing the emptied glass bottle on his palm. "I think it's the frog's fault. Anyway. I tried to kill Gillian. It's just what I do." This isn't said with much conviction, said simply, useless words to toss against the wind before they're blown away again.

It's a symptom of sociopathy, seeing no great difference between a live thing and dead, or a human soul against the others. Wu-Long is smiling with his mouth while he waits, either for vomit or for words. The former, he will have to hope he has reflexes enough to evade in a gymnastic manner. The latter, he doesn't honestly expect, but it doesn't shock him when they come. The story. It's a good one. Grounded in a context of reality he can actually, to some extent, understand. No dragons, no unicorns.

He's wondered, before, what the clocksmith would see if he pried himself apart. Finds it odd that there is so very little real evidence that Sylar has ever tried. Figure that was a symptom of youth, more than anything. "You tried to kill Gillian?" he inquires, presently. It's a strange choice of words. Does not imply success.

Sylar nods once, gaze back to Wu-Long, shifting sharply to the other man - not exactly remembering his company, as that would imply he had forgotten it and he very much hadn't, but perhaps realising the nature of the conversation, the nature of the person he's talking to. Indeed, their very setting, on the rooftop of one of the many facilities bought with Nazi gold. On Christmas evening. It's a rather strange circumstance, really, to bring up such topics — or maybe the most ideal.

"I tried," he repeats, confirms. "And then I stopped. She's gone now but she's still alive." Just to clarify. Not a lot of people live through such a scenario, unless by the grace of God, an invisible man turns up at the right moment to hurl a rock at the killer, like driving away a stray dog. He opens his mouth to say more, then seems to decide against it, mouth instead twisting in a cynical sort of smirk at himself, eyes lowering again.

Then, a hand lifts, fingers spread, palm facing down. The nighttime is lit up - very minimally in the form of five lasers, extending out from each tip of his finger. The ones from thumb and little finger flicker, faded light, but the other three burn brightly, shooting across the rooftop as only the speed of light can. Only one bottle is hit, however, glass cracking, melting, much less the explosion of glass shards. They continue to burn even when Sylar glances Wu-Long's way. "You don't like these, do you."

"I don't like what?" There's a certain lack of rancor in Wu-Long's voice that sort of answers his own question. He doesn't dislike anything enough here to make it worth mentioning, as far as he's concerned. Either that, or he's distracted by something else. The conundrum of Gillian, what Sylar had done to her.

Failed to. Probably, a different man would have been unpleasantly astonished that young Gabriel Gray could have brought himself to try something like that on a woman he'd shared a bed — perhaps even a home with. Wu-Long's consternation lies elsewhere. A train of thought without apparent destination. He glances downward, straightens the panel of his coat with a scar-notched thumb, and finally rises again. "I love a woman who I was fighting with.

"I think she is dead now. I think I had it easier: my wife was like me." Disjointed either from flagging fluency in the language or other difficulty, he lapses into a brief, breathing quiet, and watches the bottle burn.

Recognition clicks in, the next moment. Lasers. It took him a moment. He was like his wife, too; death in and of itself fails to impress, and occasionally its instruments fail to remind. His cheek twitches, a ghost of a smile or a sneer. "No one likes those, xiansen."

That's true. Sylar's mouth twists in something like a smile in acknowledgment and the lasers flicker out completely, drawing his hand back inwards to rub his fingertips together. Slightly warm, the same sort of feeling when he emits radiation, as if that's all the damage those powers can do when in reality, they are two of the most damaging. His curls his fingers inwards, pointing towards his own palm. They flicker to life again, but only light - no heat, transparent and less poisonous looking. He focuses on this prism of green-blue held in his hand, before looking at Wu-Long, the lasers once again dying.

"You were married," he says, not really a question, as Wu-Long has already answered it by speaking of the woman as such: his wife. His spouse. Sylar's head tilts to the side, bird-like, or rather Munin-like. "Why do you only think she's dead?" His gaze drifts back towards the lined up bottles - only a couple, now. Sitting vulnerable and breakable on the edge of the roof. The wind could easily finish them off but it doesn't pick up hard enough. Not yet. "Why don't you know?"

He was married. Wu-Long's eyelids stoop low over his eyes, not quite closing. Half-shuttered, he omits the starred sky from the panorama before him; sees nothing but the derelict city grid, the warehouses, apartments that used to belong to people who aren't alive anymore, the snarl of streets almost lost to silhouettes blanched of detail. He ignores the proximity with the lasers without immense difficulty, though their glow prickles the blur of his periphery.

"She has been sick and far away," he answers. "Someone was watching over her. Doctors and nurses. I've called them. They say she's all right, but I don't have time to see for myself. We're very busy." The latter is accompanied by a light powdering of wry humor, a crow's foot emerging at the corner of Wu-Long's eye as he finally glances back at the younger man. Yes. They are very busy. The Eagle Electric, the Vanguard: a veritable hive of activity.

"Oh." When rewarded with this piece of information, certainly unexpected, that's all Sylar has to say at first. He's pretty sure that this is where sympathy would normally occur, but he doesn't feel it and so, doesn't bother expressing it. Maybe the emotion in itself is insincere anyway, because in place of it, he feels… disturbed. Disturbed that someone like Wu-Long would feel love for another and the world has deemed it a good idea to take it away. Disturbed, and angry, but it's a quiet anger, indirect, as easily graspable as smoke. "I'm sorry," he finally says. Again, not an expression of sympathy. An expression that what Wu-Long describes is something that should not be so.

As soon as the words leave his mouth, he quirks a half-smile, rueful. "Yes," Sylar agrees, heels kicking against the cement ledge he's still perched on. "We are. It was difficult. You know she wanted me to leave her notes for when I would go out for hours at a time without saying anything. I didn't even know what I was supposed to put down. Lies, I guess."

Contemplative silence, eyes rolling up to regard the sky, still clear, still showing off its stars. "I think I loved her," he says. "But only when I was lying to her." He looks again to his Chinese rooftop companion. Divert. "What was your wife's name?"

While protocol holds most of Wu-Long's professional experiences in confidence, his personal matters generally fail to make it to verbalization because he tends not take the time out to do it. There's nothing furtive or hesitant about the way he spoke about her, and there's no fear in sharing her name: "Mu-Qian." He doesn't, apparently, come from the genre of villains that recoil from mention of love or attachment because it's poison, incomprehensible, or a specific vulnerability. It was what it was.

A thing that existed beyond human sympathy or the kinship of monsters. "I think that might be the smart way to go about it. Not the lying," he says, as if belatedly realizing he had missed a connecting thought there. "Let the other love you first before you do.

"It's cautious. But better a little bit of…" He rifles his English. "Insurance. It's only very little insurance, anyway." See. Look. Look where it got them. "I think that is why you lied. To make her like you." As if those two things are interchangeable. Love, like. His eyes flatten, then sharpen again. He can smell the heat of radiation in the air, an uglier poison than whisky or Corona. "Gillian is smart. I wonder if she lied to herself too." It would be consistent with the story. The foolish frog that overlooks its companion's stinger.

Sylar listens. His gaze dips down towards the cement of the rooftop floor, where ice and snow still lines the edges but for the most part, it's swept clean. He shivers once, the cold finally penetrating both his coat and scarf, and the haze of six Coronas, hands tucking under his arms as he folds them across his chest, huddling. Wu-Long's judgment, for that is how Sylar sees it, earns a sharp, guarded look, but no real protest. He did, after all, want Gillian to like him - to keep her close to serve his purpose. But to love, as Sylar certainly sees a difference even if the other Vanguard member does not, maybe…

"She found out I was a murderer," he says, the word 'murderer' about as casual as any other word. Like 'florist'. Although one could arguably be more incriminating than the other - which one dependent on who you ask. "She still stayed with me. Maybe she started sharing my lies." His tone is one of thinking out loud. "It takes two, I guess."

Thin ice and frost cracks underfoot when Sylar finally hops off his perch, a stagger making the transition less graceful than it could be, a hand out to grope at the air for balance and though he finds none, he remains upright. "Zai jian," he says, and if that's wrong… Sylar will have to buy another book. The pronunciation, again, isn't perfect, but perhaps a closer mark than his botched greeting. He pauses, perhaps thinking there should be more to say than that, looking at Wu-Long critically. He searches inwards, thoughtful, trying to pull up something from this conversation, try to make that connection of sympathy. "You should… maybe see if your wife isn't dead. It's Christmas." There. That's Sylar's brilliant piece of advice. He buries his hands in his pockets, and takes a step towards the stairwell that leads to the street.

No game of William Tell, then, though the young murderer's words find their mark with accuracy as unerring as his other displays of power had been. See if your wife isn't dead. It's Christmas. It's either the logic of drunk men or that of drunk sociopaths. Wu-Long's head tilts to the right fractionally. Belatedly, he realizes he had forgotten to thank Sylar for being sorry, in a fashion not unlike that which Sylar had shrugged him away, earlier.

It isn't sympathy, it's agreement. Which means nothing and everything, to those who don't care to be seen as righteous.

"I will see if Elias is doing anything," he decides, by way of agreement. There's a slight turn of his lip at the salutation given to him in his mother tongue, a smile that doesn't look the sort to prologue incapacitating guffaws at Sylar's expense. He is his own sort of brilliant. "Xie xie. Wan an." He moves neither to follow nor to retreat, puts a callused hand up: good-bye.

December 25th: Experiments with Faith
December 25th: Protection
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