Simple Notions


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Scene Title Simple Notions
Synopsis Eileen receives a visitor in her dreams. Sometimes what is wanted, is not always what is needed.
Date July 31, 2009


Gray skies stretch out like a sheet of ash high overhead. Where the slate sky meets the horizon, dark and stickbare trees reach up towards the heavens, their gnarled finger-like branches clawing at the sooty sky. There the inky bark of the trees meets the brown grass, coils of gray mist slither and twist between the trunks, pooling in low portions of the ground and meandering between monuments of pitted gray stone.

Headstones the color of dirty snow bristle up from the uneven ground in rank and file like cement soldiers, names and lives etched on each stone; epitaphs of the past that decay into the future slower than the bodies they mark do. One particular monument shadows the tombs and crypts of the cemetery, a tall gray block upon which states a pitted angel of white marble, one hand reaching out as if in petition to the heavens, and her other hand extended down to the ground as if in offering.

Green-brown mold grows up one side of the cracked statue, the words Cor Aut Mors inscribed on the base of the statue. In the shadow of that monument, smoke mixes with fog, twirling in tendrils of a different texture and shade, smoke emanating from the end of a long, black pipe held between thin, pale fingers.

Seated atop a headstone, thin legs crossed and partially visible in the part at the side of her black robe, a figure of dreams sits in quiet thought. Long tresses of black hair spill down her shoulders, dark bangs caught in the wind, and a blindfold of inky cloth shrouding her eyes. But gray lips do not quirk up in a smile without reason, a smoky breath is not exhaled in greeting without someone to greet.

"We meet again…" exhales Hokuto Ichihara from her macabre perch, speaking to a silhouette in the fog.

Zhang Wu-Long once compared Eileen's hands to peonies, small and pale with skin the texture of wilting petals. The same can be said of her diminutive feet. Like the paws of a cat, they make no sound as the young woman emerges from the fog and begins weaving her way between the markers. She can be anything she wants in this place, but it's clear that she has not yet realized her ideal self — clothed in flimsy strips of white cotton that resemble a dress and plenty of gauze to hide the scarring on her long, willowy arms and legs, she looks more like a discarded antique doll left to rot in a trunk for half a century than she does a living, breathing human being.

Long curls of inky black hair frame a porcelain face defined by its sculpted nose, pale mouth and large green eyes the colour of melted glass. In her dreams, she has little reason to be afraid, and although she fails to recognize Hokuto as the woman from the bookstore of Roosevelt Island, she approaches her with the boldness of someone much younger than her twenty years.

She isn't ephemeral, not quite, but there's a certain sort of sylphish quality to Eileen that makes it difficult to differentiate her from the mist. "Cor Aut Mors," she reads in a breathy whisper. A smile. "Heart or Death. The priest taught me that one."

Dark brows appear above the ragged edge of that dark blindfold, and the dreamer's lips purse into a smile around the tip of her opium pipe. The wafting coils of smoke swirl around her in languid trails as she plucks the glossy end from between ashen gray lips, exhaling a matching color of smoke from her mouth in slowly wafting clouds. "It's an important phrase," she explains with a lilting voice, like worn velvet. "Important to you, especially, Munin."

Leaning to one side more so than the other atop the headstone, Hokuto's head turns to follow Eileen, the smile still fond on the dreamer's lips. "You seem so much more at peace, here, than you do in your own skin. In a way I admire that familiarity to myself." One pale leg slides down from the headstone, a black sandaled foot crunching dead grass, followed by her other foot as she comes to stand. "Do you know why you're here?" Those brows rise again, slowly, in expectance of an answer.

"I died." Eileen looks down at the damp earth under her feet and the bloated shape of a worm wriggling between her toes. As if noticing it for the first time, she crouches down and pulls it out, maneuvering it through her fingers with the care she might reserve for a tiny pink snake. Her other hand scoops out a palm's worth of dirt from the ground at her feet. "Ad perpetuam memoriam. Memento mori. Mors vincit omnia. I know those, too. He's very dreary, Amato is."

She drops the worm into the shallow depression in the earth and begins covering it with dirt the same way she'd cover a freshly planted seed, though neither flower nor fruit will bloom from the mound — not even in this place. Eileen lacks either the imagination or the desire for it. "Graveyard seems as good a place as any, really. I'd rather be put in the ground than burned."

A single one of the brows Hokuto raised remains that way, a query to the sentiment of death, followed by a slow shake of her head. "Perhaps metaphorically, but only so much in the way a caterpillar dies to give birth to the butterfly." The dark sandals crunch against the browned grass, a languid stare to the younger girl shrouded behind the black linen of the blindfold, making her seem so much more impassive than she truly is.

"In a way, you're the chrysalis, here." That raised brow lowers, and one of Hokuto's parchment white hands comes to lay on Eileen's birdlike shoulder, cool to the touch. "You called to me, in a way. Your thoughts, your feelings, things buried deep behind walls of subconscious thought… a light to my moth." She gestures in the air with her opium pipe, tracing the shape of a moth's wings in the smoke, then turns her attention back to the girl.

"I'm, in a fashion, a granter of wishes in places like this." Those dark brows furrow behind the blindfold, "a maker of realities. Right now," she tilts her head towards Eileen, "a maker of your reality. In whatever shape or form you desire, in whatever dream you would wish realized."

Eileen's response is a low murmur of laughter. She does not rise to her feet — rather, she rests her elbows on her knees, clasps her hands and rests her chin atop them, a feline smile curling at the corners of her mouth and revealing a solitary sliver of pearly tooth. Dirt appears as fine black crescents beneath her nails, half moons of grit and grime smeared with slime shed by the worm during its time between her fingers.

"Whatever shape or form I desire," she echoes, rocking her weight from toe to heel and then slowly back again. A thoughtful expression settles over her features, smile fading into something a lot less blithe and a little more contemplative. Perhaps it's to call the other woman's bluff, or perhaps it's requested out of genuine sentiment. Either way, she pushes herself to her feet, inclines her chin and very clearly states, "Sylar. If you can be anyone, be Sylar."

"Interesting." Both her brows rise, and Hokuto steps around behind Eileen's hunched form, before emerging on the other side as a far taller, and far more severe looking man with thick brows, dark eyes and a long black coat. "This is what you wanted?" The eyes narrow, boots squelching in the damp soil underfoot as he moves close. "Sylar?"

A hand raises, two fingers of movement and Eileen is thrown from her crouch onto her back, slamming into the wet soil with a slap, mud incongruently not staining the white of her dress. A sudden force presses against her sternum, forcing her down as he walks closer. "Sylar and not Gabriel?" As if there is a clear distinction between the two identities. The motion of his hand raises, two fingers pointing at her brow. "Is it Sylar, or simply the notion of a strong man."

Features change, shift and contort in a moment it takes her lashes to flutter closed, briefly taking on the countenance of a young man with both his hands raised in the way a puppeteer would play with the strings of a marionette, Eileen's arms starting to move of their own accord. "Is tha' wha'ya want, Sis?" The dirty london accent rolls off his tongue lips creeping up into a self-assured smile.

"Or is it any strong man," her eyes flutter closed again, with a weathered old man standing above her, resting his weight onto a cane with both hands, colorless light filtering through the clouds reflecting on the steel head of a snarling wolf at the top of the cane, his sharp blue eyes peering down at her, silhouette crisp and black against the gray.

"Does any ol' man git you where you need t'be, princess?" Ethan's eyes narrow, arms folded across his chest, yet without any semblance of order or intention, the telekinetic hold is still pressing her down onto her back. The bald Brit's head tilts to the side, one creased palm smoothing over the top of his head. "This is wot you're lookin' for?" His brows lower, creasing together.

The distinction between Sylar and Gabriel is not quite so clear to Eileen. As the breath is pushed from her lungs, she chokes down more air to compensate, fingers clutching at the ground and leaving deep furrows where her nails rake feebly through the dirt. "No," she grits out through clenched teeth, fear flooding into her eyes for the first time. What little colour previously teased at her cheeks has since drained from them, leaving the skin of her face bone white, bloodless and bereft of its vitality.

It doesn't take more than a few seconds for a dream to make the transition to a nightmare. "They're the same person," she insists, straining against the invisible weight bearing down on her sternum and pinning her to the ground. "Sylar, Gabriel— Munin, Eileen— they're just names!"

The graveyard is gone, the shout takes it away just as fast as forcibly clutched eyes take away a view of the world. The pressure against her chest is gone, leaving the sudden pounding in her chest hammering as a reminder of something fleeting feeling, like waking up from a dream but not quite the same.

Blankets curl and pool around Eileen, wrap about her legs as she sits up quickly, sweat rolling down off of her forehead, dark hair matted to one cheek from how she laid on her side. There's no light in this expansive, antique furnished room, only cool air and sweat-stained sheets. Curtains may hide the view from the plate glass windows, but she doesn't need to see out them to remember the hotel in Paris, to remember the furnishings, the smells and sounds of a Parisian fall night.

"Bad dreams?" The voice comes from the desk in her room. There's no light on at it, just a faint glow of city illumination that comes partly through the curtains to give vague outlines to the man in the chair's form; the way curly hair forms in ringlets at his shoulders. "Talk to me about it…" he urges, sitting forward to creak the chair before rising to his feet, one hand steadying himself on the black cane that preceeds his footsteps.

Stepping into a sliver of light spilling out between curtain and window, Kazimir turns a sympathetic look to Eileen where she sits in the bed. It was like this many nights, he wouldn't have a room of his own, since he never slept. He would just lair wherever Eileen was staying, watch her sleep like some silent sentinel, and take away all her fears.

He comes to the foot of the bed, sitting down with a creak of the springs, the smile on his face one he could never show to anyone else. "Come on," he urges in that gruff, rumbling voice, "tell me about your nightmare."

Trembling like a sick leaf in the wind, Eileen reaches up and rubs the heel of her hand across her brow, pushing away errant strands of sweat-slick hair before she turns her eyes on Kazimir. If she was a more lucid dreamer, she might resist the gravitational pull she feels when she sees him hunched on the foot of the bed like some sort of silver-haired gargoyle, all pockmarks and leathery skin.

The smile on her lips is tight, almost forced, anxiety written deep in the creases on her face and in the shape of her curving mouth. "I'm sorry," she breathes, words traveling on a shaky exhalation of air. No sooner has she said it than she realizes she doesn't know what she's apologizing for. Neither does it occur to her that it's been years since she visited Paris and months since she last saw Kazimir alive.

The hand rubbing at her forehead drops down to the blankets in her lap as she attempts to force her smile to resemble something a little more genuine. The other reaches out to close some of the distance between them, resting knuckles-down on the mattress with fingertips curling slightly inward. "Was I making a lot of noise?"

"Nothing bothersome," He reassures her in a gentle tone of voice, "I was lost in thought anyway." His blue eyes settle down on the floor for a moment, one hand raising to lift glasses up from his eyes, one gloved hand wearily rubbing at his eyes before lowering the reading glasses again. "I was worried the desk light was disturbing you earlier, I was reading Ethan's report from the Work in Prague."

A small smile crosses Kazimir's lips, then fades slowly as he looks back up to Eileen. "You still haven't told me what was bothering you. The nightmare." He reaches out towards her hand, leather-gloved fingers lightly resting over her palm, even if she can feel the electric tingle and prickle of the proximity of his palm to hers. It stays only a moment, just enough to reassure her he's there before moving away cautiously.

"It's not really important," Eileen tells Kazimir. Waking up to find someone at her bedside has done wonders for the colour in her face, though it appears in splotchy blooms of pale pink just a shade or two darker than her skin rather than uniform rosiness. "I just keep thinking about someone," she adds in that same apologetic tone, voice weighed down by exhaustion and a sense of what sounds like it might be shame. "Wondering if I'm making the right decision and—"

As Kazimir moves away, her fingers curl the rest of the way to form a loose fist. She retracts the hand a moment later and lays it atop the other in her blanketed lap. "I didn't mean to distract you."

There's an amused look on Kazimir's face at the name mentioned. "Worry about if something is right or isn't right," his head shakes from side to side slowly, "will only put you in a constant fit of second guessing, Munin." A weary smile cuts across Kazimir's face as he folds his hands in his lap, cane resting angrily against the side of the bed, the snarling wolf's visage at the top glaring off in the direction of one of the windows.

"You're young," his head tilts down into a nod, "you're going to make mistakes, mis-steps, just like you did when we found you. That's fine, that's normal." Gray brows crease together, "making a mistake and learning from it," one gloved finger wags in Munin's direction, "those are the ways to understanding yourself."

"I'm too old to learn from my mistakes now," Kazimir adds with a weary laugh, "too old to turn things around and start again. Maybe in another time, another place, I'll get some sort of second chance. But you— your life is fresh, young. You have time to make mistakes and grow from them." His gloved hand reaches out, lightly patting one of her knees atop the blankets before pushing up from the bed, using one hand to steady himself with his cane.

"Don't worry about making the right decisions, so much as making a decision. Everything that comes after that is progress." Turning away from the bed, Kazimir looks towards the windows and the very faint, pale blue light shining around the edges of the curtains. "Morning's coming…"

Eileen looks toward the window and the light illuminating the curtains, but her glance is only just that — a glance. Brief. Fleeting. Her gaze drifts back to Kazimir, studying his face and the outline of his shoulders and spine beneath the fabric of his clothes. His hands. The set of his jaw.

The line dividing the her dream world and the real one is beginning to smudge and fade, dissolving along with the darkness on the other side of the hotel's modest window and the curtains hanging from the ornate rod above it. She gets the impression that she does not have a lot of time left, so it's with some urgency that she asks, "What happens if I make a decision that's so bad I can't move on from it? What happens if I do something that ruins me for the rest of my life?"

Gray brows lower slowly, along with a noticeable tilt of Kazimir's head into a solemn dip of his brow. "You always were inquisitive," he murmurs, turning to look back at her with that so normally neutral expression hanging heavy across his face. "Nothing in life is too bad to move on from, provided you still have the time to move on." His shoes press hard against the hardwood floor, heavy, wood-creaking steps making him sound as old as he is. His cane intersperses each step with a clunk-thump.

"Munin," said with all of the stern affection of a father, "you've got your whole life ahead of you. Even if you did something that you felt ruined everything you had, you've still many years ahead of you to make up for it." The corners of his mouth threaten a smile, but it's a subtle one in its bittersweet quality. "You've nothing to worry about… not as long as I'm here to keep an eye on you."

Looking away, Kazimir rolls his thumb over the scar across the brow of the wolf's head, breathing in a deep breath before exhaling it as a sigh. "When Ethan returns from Prague," he says with a heavy heart, "I think you may want to spend some more time getting to know him." There's a subtle nod of his head, then blue eyes shift back to Eileen. "I think it would be good for you, and for him."

If only she hadn't misinterpreted that suggestion so badly.

She doesn't misinterpret it this time. Eileen's lashes veil her eyes as she continues to watch Kazimir and his shapeless reflection in the metal of the cane. When realization does come, it doesn't slam into her head on and jerk her abruptly out of the moment — it settles over her instead like the sheets pulled across the mattress upon which she sits, enveloping her in the disquieting knowledge that something the old man has just said isn't true.

She shifts slightly, one bare leg brushing against the other beneath the blanket as she slides back and rewards herself with the sound of creaking bedsprings. "You're not," she says, voice soft. Here to keep an eye on her. And perhaps it's just as well, because she already knows Ethan Holden. "You've gone."

"Gone," he admits in a quiet voice, "but here." There's some subtle truth in that as he turns to look at her over his shoulder. A faint smile on his lips. "Go to sleep, Munin." The look in his eyes is one that displays an unspoken sadness, the kind a father shows when giving away his daughter at a wedding, or sending a child off to college for the first time. A knowing that there is going to be a distance, but not a distance far enough to keep them apart forever.

"I'll be right here," he says in that rough voice, "keeping watch over you while you sleep. Just close your eyes…" he turns away, facing the very slowly growing light spilling out from behind the curtains. "…and dream peacefully."

Eileen rests her head on the pillow and turns her face away from Kazimir, burying her nose and mouth in the linens, breathing in stale cotton. As she exhales, she allows her body to deflate and relax. Tension seeps from her muscles. Lingering anxiety melts seamlessly away. She focuses on the rhythm of her fluttering heart, closes her eyes and ultimately succumbs to the power of suggestion.

Sleep. Dream.

Rising up from a crouch, Hokuto moves her hand away from the young girl curled with her head on her arms at the base of the angel monument. Her impassive stare focuses down on her doll-like form, a faint smile creeping up on her lips as she watches her slumbering peacefully on the damp earth in coiling tendrils of fog. Her shrouded vision shifts up towards the inscription on the base of the monument, one Eileen had so carefully translated; Cor Aut MorsHeart or Death.

She brings her pipe up to her lips, drawing in a lung full of ethereal smoke, exhaling it in coiling tendrils from her nostrils as she turns away, leaving Eileen slumbering at the base of the monument, her smile fading with each crunching footfall on dead brown grass.

Sometimes what is wanted, is not always what is needed.

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