Shreds of Grief


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Scene Title Shreds of Grief
Synopsis Hurricane Eileen lands off the coast of Peter Petrelli's apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Date January 20, 2009

Peter's Apartment

Pigeons are remarkably stalwart birds, as resiliant to change as stone monuments and mountains. In New York City's often messy winters, these vigilant sentinels of the avian species remain firmly entrenched in their holdings, staying nestled wherever warmth and dryness can be found. Often times, that means rooftop greenhouses and beneath bridges. It's these safe-houses for birds that allow someone like Eileen Ruskin to find practically anyone in a densely populated city in the middle of winter.

Even if they don't particularly want to be found.

Behind the seventh door on the fourteenth floor of a tenement building in the city's upper east side, electricity has been turned on for the first time in over a year. It's been many months since anyone set foot in apartment 1407, but now the halls echo with the sound of clunking furniture, the floors glisten with the melted snow tracked in from fresh footsteps, and that old apartment door lays half open to the hall, where a stack of cardboard boxes are piled. Someone is either moving in, or moving out.

Whichever way the revolving door of life is turning doesn't matter to Eileen Ruskin, what matter is that the person doing the moving is in. At the moment, the target of her search is in that sparsely furnished apartment, standing in the middle of a living room devoid of furniture, arms crossed over his chest and chin up, looking at a canvas painting hanging on his wall. Dark eyes narrow to a squint, and Peter Petrelli takes a step forward, adjusting the painting a smidge to one side with a touch of his finger. Then, stepping back again, he reassesses it.

Seems like, from the scrutiny to detail, he's decorating.

Peter will hear Eileen's footsteps long before her profile comes into view in the wedge between door and frame. Booted feet click against the hardwood floors of the hallway outside, distant at first, but as they draw closer the sound of their echo grows sharper and more pronounced. It's a pattern he's heard many times before, most often during his childhood on the rare occasions his mother lost her temper and came storming across the house in her high heels, swathed in the rabbit-skin coat gifted to her by his father, wanting to know who was responsible for breaking the chrysanthemum-styled vase, spraying her Guerlain perfume on the family dog, putting a football through the dining room's French doors—

The list goes on and on, really, and while all the crimes that Peter was found guilty of in his youth pale in comparison to what happened in Midtown, Angela is about three years too late to berate him for that particular accident. In the shadows, it would be easy to mistake her for his mother. The woolen coat she's draped in conforms to her female shape but is worn open, exposing a black cashmere cardigan and dress in pale gray that contrasts with the dark stockings that cover her legs. The only splashes of colour on her body are the lipstick she wears on her small mouth and the scarf looped around her swan neck, bright carmine-red, a once upon a time gift from Amato.

She does not knock. Simply lets herself in.

It's a haunted look that Peter offers to the door, eyes too dark to be any recognizable shade of blue any longer. He stares at his unexpected guest with momentary silence, and yet for all his humanity he's regained over the last few days, there's still subtle tells in his expression that hint at a lingering influence of his half-year resident. "M— " Almost said the wrong name, "Eileen?" The questioning in his tone is likely from the dubious likelyhood that she ever knew where he lived before the Dispensary.

Stepping out of that dimly lit livingroom, Peter's steps across the floor are equally noisy; thumping footfalls of his shoes against hardwood. "You're… I didn't expect to see you." Ever, from the tone of his voice. "Is— " he leans to one side, peering beyond her out his door, then settles back squarely on both feet and angles a puzzled look at the young woman. "Is it alright for you to be visiting? I'd heard you were on some sort've probation…"

He doesn't get much further than that. Sharks need to smell blood in the water to work themselves into a frenzy. All Eileen has to do is hail a taxi and spend most of her most of her morning stuck in Manhattan traffic with a driver whose cab smells like a tin of sardines and feels like one too. She's had plenty of time to fuel her anger with blaring horns and the incessant squeak of windshield wipers scraping across dirty glass despite the fact that they were out of fluid. Add that to the gale of emotions that's been building up inside of her since Amundsen-Scott and you have a full-blown typhoon looming on the horizon.

The crack of her open palm against Peter's mouth is the lightning that heralds its arrival, and although Eileen's voice lacks the depth to boom like thunder, the words hissing past her lips still cause her entire body to tremble with the effort of holding back. "You dago bastard!"

Head jerked to the side in the way one would expect from such a steady blow, Peter opens his mouth, works his jaw open and closed, and then bring his fingers up to feel at the side of his lips. A year ago, he'd have probably punched her square in the mouth for that, somehow Kazimir's influence seems to have done something good for his patience, but even then the look in his dark eyes that levels on Eileen after the fact is barely held back from releasing the vitriol it looks like it contains.

"Remind me to thank whoever gave you my address…" Peter offers with a daub of two fingers at his lip, mouth still open and jaw working from side to side. "You can show yourself out I figure." There's a pointed look over her shoulder towards the door. Anyone else would probably want to know why they were slapped across the mouth in their own home— Peter figures there's four sharp, wooden reasons Eileen's finally gotten around to hitting him across the face, so in a way it's not entirely unexpected.

"I honestly thought you'd forgotten…" he adds in a murmur, wiping his thumb across his lips and making a slow progress away from her and towards the kitchen; That one she gets for free.

"You think it was for that?" There are only so many things Peter can be referring to; in the time they've known each other, there have only been a small handful of offenses potentially worthy of what just happened, and although trying to murder her is right at the top, the manner in which she pursues him across the apartment suggests that it isn't the incident she's taken an issue with. "Turn around and look at me when I'm talking to you, you manky pillock!"

Are those even words?

As if to emphasize that she isn't just going to show herself out, she tugs off her leather gloves by their fingers, perhaps to strike him again — or maybe to discard them on the seat of a nearby chair. "Did you kiss her?"

Peter was about elbow deep in his freezer when Eileen started making zero sense. Withdrawing his hand with a package of god knows how old frozen edamame from inside, Peter turns to look over his shoulder and stare blankly at Eileen, then pointedly looks at the open door, then looks back to Eileen again. "I'm not manky," Peter offers with a touch of his tongue to the inside of his cheek, before he slaps the refrigerator closed and brings the frozen edamame up to the side of his mouth where she smacked him.

"If this isn't about the good reason you had to smack me," Peter questions as he walks past Eileen slowly, "then maybe you could stop shouting and try to tell me what you are upset about?" Getting to the front door, Peter leans out to look into the hall, angles a squint down at the cardboard boxes, then hesitantly closes the door all the way.

"Unless of course…" He turns, one brow raised, leaning his shoulder against the door, "you just want to keep hitting me and not making much sense. Did I kiss who?" He asks rather quickly, brows raised. "I haven't kissed anyone for half a year."

"I'm well aware." Eileen's surface ripples with angry tension. Now that she's gotten the initial furor out of her system, her footsteps sound softer against the wood as she moves deeper still into the apartment, green eyes hard and squinty, surveying Peter's living space with the scrutiny of a crime scene detective. Her gaze flicks across the painting that he'd been adjusting when she first came in but does not linger more than the time it takes for her to rein in her temper.

She turns back towards the door, slim arms folded across her chest. "Did you or did you not, at any time, put your mouth on Gillian Childs' mouth? It isn't a difficult question."

"Wh— " Peter's eyes go wide, staring at Eileen with a look of absolute confusion. "I— do not see how that is any of your business." Dark brown eyes narrow, and he starts to say something, but hesitates and keeps his mouth shut. "I think you should leave, Eileen. Whatever it is you've got wound up in your head right now's put you on some sort of nonsensical tear for God knows what reason." Moving around inside of the kitchen, Peter opens up a few cabinets, searching for something but not quite finding what he's looking for.

He crouches down, out of sight, behind the island and begins looking in the lower cupboards. "Whatever my relationship with her was it's none of your business. Largely, because there isn't a relationship between us, and there never will be." Suddenly, Peter pops up from behind the island, brows tense and both hands slapping down on the countertop— one of them holding the edemame package still.

"Did Gillian put you up to this?" The tone of Peter's voice, right there, gives it away. He'll be livid if she did.

"Gillian doesn't know I'm here," Eileen says, "and if you don't keep your fat mouth shut about it, I'll pop you again." She raises her hand, fingers stiff and rigid, and shows him its back in a gesture that would probably be a lot more threatening if she was several inches taller, half a stone heavier and a lot closer than where she's standing now. The sunlight streaming in through the living room windows catches in her hair and glances off the silver rings she wears on her fingers.

"I don't care what your reasons are," she continues, lowering her hand. "They may even be good ones, but you don't treat someone that roughly when they're in so much pain they can't even cry without feeling like they're about to pass out. Did you even bother to ask the doctors about her prognosis?"

Squinting at Eileen, Peter leaves the edemame on the counter and disappears behind the island again, continuing their conversation from out of sight. "I wish I had telepathy…" he murmurs to himself with a clunk of something heavy and unseen. "No," he answers a bit loudly, "No I haven't talked to her since she got out of surgery. To be honest there wasn't much I had to say to her. I wanted to try and give her as clean a break as possible, she's been through enough without me hanging around and adding more— ah, here it is."

A glass clink distorted by a modest volume of water sounds off from under the counter sounds off before Peter re-emerges with a bottle of vodka, setting it down on the counter top. "She and I are a hell of a lot better off without having to worry about each other right now." Brown eyes regard Eileen a bit stonily from where he stands, unscrewing the cap of the bottle and motioning for her to take a seat at one of the stools on the opposite side of the island.

"She was fresh out of surgery at McMurdo when I saw her. I decided to stay by her bedside so Rene could get some sleep, they'd had him on watch since she came in after they'd found out she burned herself out from her ability. I borrowed his power and substituted. Besides… she and I had some personal," added emphasis for nosy Eileen, "stuff to talk about.

Grabbing a pair of short and stout glasses from inside of an adjacent cabinet, Peter turns his back to Eileen, needing to use the front of his shirt to dust the glasses out. "Why?" He asks over his shoulder. "Did they need to bring her in for more surgery?"

There is an open bottle of vodka sitting on the counter top, the door is shut and Peter has just asked her a direct question. She would normally take off her coat at this point in the conversation, but for whatever reason she leaves it on as she accepts the implicit invitation and pulls out a stool at the island.

"Is that the way you think it works?" she asks with a scrape of stool legs on hardwood. There is a very distinct possibility that she might have even left a scratch. Whether or not she did it on purpose is a little more difficult for Peter to ascertain at this point. Her face lost most of its rosy flush during the course of his explanation — only the light dusting of rouge on her cheeks remains. Judging by her choice of clothes and the prim way she's fashioned her hair, she did not plan on ambushing Peter in his apartment when she got dressed today. It's much more likely that she set foot outside expecting to look for work.

"You can't just tell someone you don't love them and then magically expect them to stop worrying about you," she says. "I've known six-year-olds with more emotional maturity and common sense than you've displayed in the past forty-eight hours."

Pouring himself a glass of vodka, Peter stares down into it as it fills just a little bit, enough to take the edge of what is invariably going to be a long day. "Gillian and I never had anything…" Peter explains in a quiet tone of voice, no real emotion behind it now, just disappointment or perhaps confusion. "We had empty promises of a future that we had to destroy. But I don't know if either of us were even happy in it, and I'll be damned if I'm going to just go through with something simply because someone says it happened in the future." There's a hint of resentment in his words.

"When I had S— Gabriel's ability…" his eyes avert from Eileen, down to the empty glass, "The closest Gillian and I ever came to… having a relationship, was my distracting her with a kiss before I tried to beat her head open with a crowbar." His jaw clenched at the end of that sentence, eyes still focused on the empty glass. "That's not a foundation for a relationship, that's assault."

He begins pouring a second, very shallow, glass of vodka. "I understand she has feelings for me, but… they're unhealthy. Neither she nor I are in a place right now where we're ready to be the stewards of anyone else's emotional well being. I care about her, the way I care about Cat— as a friend. Nothing… nothing more." He slides one of the glasses across the island towards Eileen.

"That's why I had to do what I did." When Peter's eyes come back up to Eileen's far paler ones, there's a ghost of regret behind them. "The more I hang around, the more she's going to try and latch on to a future that… frankly, shouldn't happen."

The look that Eileen has fixed Peter with is more flatter than it is exasperated. She picks up the glass of vodka — not her favourite drink — and wrinkles her nose at it as the man standing across from her is knocking back his. "I don't know which is worse," she says, pausing to take a sip, but only a sip. "That you seem to be under the impression that having a relationship with someone requires you to be physically intimate or that you're insinuating friends aren't responsible for holding each other up when they're falling down. Stewards of emotional well-being. Honestly."

She sets the glass back down on the counter, pale fingers curled loosely around it. "Whatever happened to Helena Dean?"

"I'm not taking relationship advice from a nineteen year old." Peter notes tersely, one dark brow raised. "Helena… and I never would have worked out. She's young, idealistic, and I have a very professed habit of hurting people close to me. Maybe now, the way things are, since there's so much less an imperitive to keep fighting. But I just don't know, we're too many years apart, and it started to show in the way things were between us. I'm thirty now, and I'll be damned if I don't feel one-hundred and thirty after what's gone on recently."

Exhaling a sigh thorugh his nose, Peter sets the glass down on the counter and leans forward, folding his hands and looking up at Eileen. The spot on the side of his face where she hit him has turned red now. "I never told Gillian I'd be out of her life, just that I don't want what she wants. I know it's not easy to hear, and I figure once she's ready she'll come and talk to me herself. If she doesn't, then…" he exhales a sigh, looking down at his folded hands.

"That still doesn't explain why you slapped me." Peter offers in a hushed tone of voice, looking back up to Eileen again. "Did you slap be because I hurt Gillian? Or did you slap me because you're upset…" He doesn't need to specify upset over what.

"Don't." The word comes so abruptly and with such intensity that Eileen might as well have spat it. "You won't take relationship advice from a nineteen year old, but you're more than happy to fuck one if she's got a pretty face and is willing to spread her legs for you." She'll be twenty-one next month; correcting him about her age, however, does nothing to support her argument. It doesn't detract from it either, but she has only so much breath with which to speak. "You think you're smarter than me because you're older? Because you have the benefit of my dziadzio's wisdom? Please. Even Kazimir would agree with me when I say you're either the world's biggest martyr or too selfish to deserve attention of any kind. I haven't decided which yet."

The remains of her shot glass are swiftly downed. "Wait for her to come talk to you and she won't. Take it from someone who already made the mistake you're making now and lost everything. It doesn't matter if I'm nineteen, twenty-one, thirty. Fuck, fine, one-hundred and thirty. You don't even know what she wants because I don't think you ever bothered to ask."

Peter's expression sours as he leans his chin on the heel of his palm, looking up at Eileen with a tired stare. "Why did you come here, Eileen?" Brown eyes narrow, and there's a look on his face that implies he has an answer of his own, but is searching for confirmation more so than enlightenment. "You and Gillian were never close, does sticking your fingers in someone else's problems make yours go away?" His brown eyes narrow slightly, fingers rubbing over his mouth. "You were never the self-righteous type."

Sinking his head down so that he can stroke his hand across his brow, Peter exhales a long, tired sigh. "Look, my life is my own business, and since Gillian didn't ask you to come down here and throw a fit on her behalf, you should probably put that behind you. If you want to stay, that's fine. If you just want the company, that's fine. But don't pretend this is about me and her, because it isn't."

"I was part of an organization dedicated to purging the world of a perceived evil and remaking it in somebody else's image, and I wasn't ever self-righteous?" There's an unspoken challenge in Eileen's question, her eyes growing dark, daring him to continue arguing with her. "Peter, whether you like it or not, your life became my business when you came into mine and when we chose you to live and Gabriel to die."

And there it is. Eileen's hands are trembling, and it takes all her concentration to keep the bottle of vodka steady as she pours herself another shot. "Kazimir could have saved him. He didn't. I put two bullets in you, same as Gabriel, and you get up again because of something Cardinal was carrying in his pocket. You want to push people away, stomp on the hopes of desperate women who'll never have children anyway? You should have done it before you took somebody else's chance."

Exhaling a sigh through his nose, Peter leans his head forward into his hands and rakes his fingers thorugh his hair. When his head comes back up, he's reaching for the bottle of vodka after Eileen's filled her own, doing much the same for himself. This shot, though, is nursed, held between a cage of fingers. "If you want to blame someone for Gabriel's death, blame Emile Danko; Don't blame Kazimir." Peter's brows furrow at the sentiment, and he quickly knocks back the next shot, keeping the glass curled between his fingers.

"Any one of us could have died, should have died in Antarctica, Eileen. Do you think this is what Gabriel would want you to be doing right now?" There's a faint crack of a smile, a breathy laugh and a shake of his head. "Alright, maybe he would be happy knowing you were pissing on my afternoon…" He tries to diminish the smile, take his thoughts back to something more serious. "Do you think he would want you to be blaming Kazimir for not healing him? Do you think he would want you blaming yourself for not letting him take Claire's ability in Madagascar?"

Oh yes he did.

"No." Opening his fingers, Peter stares down at the shot glass in his hand. "To be honest he'd probably be happier if you were actively looking for the man that killed him, instead of pointing a finger in every other direction trying to find an easy target." Straining out a sigh that seems a bit pressed for patience, Peter sets the shot glass down entirely, and starts moving around the island.

"Blaming someone isn't going to bring Gabriel back." Peter murmurs in a hushed tone of voice, swallowing awkwardly as he does. "It's not going to make you feel any better either, and you know it. Because it didn't make you feel any better about what had to happen a year ago…" Peter's brows crease together. "I'm not going to let you walk yourself to the edge of another bridge."

He doesn't want her walking herself to the edge of another bridge, but he thinks that Gabriel would want her to be looking for his murderer. Emile Danko. There's something inherently ridiculous about that and it makes Eileen want to laugh. The sound that burbles up from her throat instead is a strangled one, and she quells it by swallowing a searing mouthful of vodka, wrestling with the temptation to do to the glass what she wants to do to Danko and shatter it against the nearest wall.

Emotion wins out over reason. "Who's sticking their fingers in someone else's problems now?"

As he moves around the island, she rises from the stool and frantically smoothes her fingers over the collar of her coat, adjusting it in what probably amounts to a physical urge to occupy her hands. "Don't come near me," she warns. "Don't touch me. You're disgusting. You disgust me."

Grimacing sourly, Peter stops and crosses his arms over his chest, brows lowered. "You came here. Pitching a fit about something you had no right getting involved in, because you can't figure out how to grieve!" His eyes dart to where the shot glass shattered against the wall, and lets his dark eyes settle back on Eileen. "Have you even cried yet? Have you shown one shred of grief for Gabriel, or have you just kept pushing it down inside like you always do!" Wires cross there, it's not the alcohol but it's not helping matters.

Peter doesn't relent on his approach, backing Eileen up towards the corner of the kitchen where nothing but bare walls occupy the matte gray-green color. When he reaches out for her, and she raises a hand to try and strike him away, he's grasping for her wrist, and despite her hissing and fighting like a cat that doesn't want to be caged to go to the vet, he's still trying to drag her in and wrap his arms around her.

She needs to get this out of her system.

Pinned between the wall and Peter's chest, Eileen doesn't have anywhere to go. She's rigid in his arms, her body stiff and unyielding, the tension in her neck, shoulders and the bow of her back not only visible but easily felt in such close quarters. Her breasts heave with every choking intake of breath, wrist twisting around in his grasp, the fingers of her other hand hooking nails into the fabric of his shirt and pinching the skin beneath. The alcohol in her system numbs whatever physical pain she might experience as she's trying to wrench herself free of him, but it's exacerbating her already aggravated emotional state.

She lacks the coordination to kick him and ends up slamming the heel of her boot into a cabinet instead with a thump loud enough to be heard by the tenants in the neighboring apartment. "Ff—," she starts, teeth catching on her lower lip. "Fuck! Let go of me!"

"Shut— Shut up." Peter grumbles as he squeezes his arms just a little bit tighter around her, one moved across her shoulderblades and a hand at the back of her head. "Stop trying to be so goddamned tough," he has to wince during those words, red marks blossoming on paler skin beneath the fabric of his shirt from the pinch of her nails. "For once just shut up and let it out." What he wouldn't give to have borrowed Huruma's ability right now, because this is one of the very few situations where the Haitian's power is absolutely useless.

But that's not what he has any longer.

The struggle, emotional content of their argument, and perhaps alcohol coupled with the embrace cause a warm glow to shine from Peter's hands where he tries to hold Eileen's struggling form close. Gone, now, is the utilitarian memory manipulation of the Haitian, replaced now with a more abstract ability that affords him a modicum of empathy towards creatures outside of the human species. And yet he still can't seem to get through to Eileen.

Peter doesn't have to get through to Eileen. She senses the change in him immediately, and her initial reaction is to recoil as if struck. What she can feel in Peter in something that she's only ever felt before in Gabriel — that he has it and not the dead man whose broken remains lie interred in a frozen tomb at the southernmost tip of the earth causes a keening wail to rise up from inside of her.

Overcome by her grief, she succumbs to what's been fermenting in her heart for the past four days and lets out a series of ragged gasps as she struggles to catch her breath. Tears dampen and warm the front of Peter's shirt. She's moaning into his chest, sobs so loud and violent that her whole body shudders and breaks under their force. Small hands clutch and tear at the fabric of his clothes, not to pull them off him but in the primal urge to ruin something as thoroughly as losing a loved one has ruined her.

The emotional release doesn't merit a verbal response from Peter, just a momentary tensing of his back and then a relaxing of it, keeping one arm firmly around the matchstick thin young woman, and a reassuring hand held at the back of her head. His cheek rests atop her hair, noise turned towards her scalp in a way that feels reflexive, even if they're phantom memories of something long since gone. Peter's hand smooths over one of her shoulders, the hand at the back of her head brings fingers thorugh the dark locks of her hair.

There's a large difference that a year can make in relation to the way people are treated, a lot of difference a year can make in the way someone lives their life. One year ago, Peter would've never trudged through that ugly conversation to help her get to this point, but now he can see why patience is something he needed to re-learn.

This might not be the edge of a shattered bridge, but it's still a jumping off point.

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