Sleeping Dragons


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

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s_eileen_icon.gif nightmare_icon.gif s_teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Sleeping Dragons
Synopsis The Nightmare Man moves against Gabriel the only way he is presently able: through one of his housemates.
Date November 10, 2009

Old Dispensary — Attic

On nights like tonight, unless you're a fan of numb toes and fingers, the attic is the least pleasurable place to curl up in the dispensary. Any of the bedrooms on the second floor would be preferable now that the cast iron radiators are working again and steadily clicking away, warming beds and heating the stale autumn air. It brings out the smells that characterize the building and give it its distinguished personality — like an old tree whose roots are not as strong as they once were, a damp wooden rot pervades the other aromas empowered by the steadily dropping temperatures and wet drizzle outside. Old varnish. Mothballs. Rust. You can even detect the paint peeling off in flakes with your nose if you concentrate hard enough.

It's curious, then, that the ladder-stairs leading up to the attic should creak and moan at a quarter past midnight. No one sneaks into Gabriel's personal space uninvited, or if they do it's during the day when there's light to see by and the bed is unoccupied. Were his housemates more facetious, they might hang a sign in view of the pull string. Here Be Dragons.

Even Eileen does not enter his domain without explicit consent, which makes the bare feet crossing the floorboards all the more remarkable. They are small and shaped something like a child's, though their size suggests a diminutive woman with delicate toes and lacquered nails in tea rose pink. If Ethan hadn't contorted her silk slippers, she might wear them instead.

The ceiling is rafters and shapes to the angles of the rooftop, and from out the window that stares towards the Staten Island coast, moonlight and the ambience of distant city spills minimal illumination across the old floor. Aforementioned dragon sleeps beyond the pale touch of light, the heavy mattress just out of reach. It rises up a foot and change off the ground, secured by planking and brick by someone who has made this place his home and has the time to see to it his specifications.

Which aren't many. The area is spacious and filled by very little, indefinite shapes in the gloom. Gabriel is asleep to both these and the sound and approach of someone within his domain. Clean, though, positively immaculate - no dust is disturbed in the air, no whirling the moonlight or getting in the nostrils of the intruder, even with the jerk of the staircase coming down and soft, creaking foot steps on a wooden floor that's gone nearly ice cold.

If Gabriel dreams, it's of nothing exciting, lying completely still in the middle of the thick mattress. His head is turned away and serious brow relaxed, and blankets swamp his form in dips and ripples of woolen fabric up to his throat, with a long bared arm exposed to the cold resting upon it, shoulder bared. Somewhere, a clock ticks steadily. As oppressive as the shadows are, one can at least guess it runs on time.

It's seventeen past when a hand rouses Gabriel from his sleep. Eileen's fingers are colder than the floor under her feet and feel more like polished alabaster than they do skin, but no matter how poor her circulation, her touch is still soft, beseeching. She hooks nails into the fabric of his blanket, peeling the material away to expose his chest to the attic's frigid chill and the attention of one roving palm that follows the shape of his torso all the way down to his pelvic bone where it closes around his hip, presumably to help steady her as she lowers herself down onto the bed and slips a knee between his legs through the covers.

It's a silent appeal, coupled with breath spreading warmth across his face and neck at the same time the air tries to steal it away from him. Her other hand is elsewhere, hidden by the folds of the men's dress shirt she wears half-buttoned on her slender frame, the gauze bandages at her shoulder plainly visible through the rumpled fabric. It could be Raith's, it could be Peter's, it could even be one of his — but it most likely belongs to Ethan, on loan until her steamer trunks are finally brought out of storage and her flimsy wardrobe unpacked.

This is usually the part where she's whispering his name. She does not.

Such nighttime excursions— could be more familiar than they currently are, but they aren't so alien that the tension that locks up his shoulders upon waking remains any longer than two beats of his heart. There's no time or light to note the flaring open of his eyes, head twitching to angle his face towards her's, the graze of his unshaven jaw against her cheek. The prickle of the attic's cold walks down his chest with less coaxing care than her hand. Passive and still for the moment, Gabriel drags himself from sleep as she settles her weight over him.

A hand, warmer than her skin, settles low on her neck, thumb seeking out that spot where a pulse flutters beneath, like the heart beat of a bird. Lazily, thoughtless, Gabriel responds in what he believes to be in kind, lifting his head off the pillow to kiss her, assertion in this motion as solidly felt as his hand coming to rest high on her thigh.

Eileen lets the kiss happen, though there's a distinct lack of apparent want or desire on her part. Like her hands, her lips too are cold, firm and unyielding against his mouth. There's an instant that lasts just the duration of one of those trembling pulses in which his Gabriel's brain has the opportunity to process the tactile information his body is giving him, and when it's over she dispels any lingering questions about her compliance by driving a pair of scissors into his left side.

The blow is so swift, so sudden that at first the only indication that anything has changed is the hiss she expels through clenched teeth, her face distorted into an ugly expression of intense fury. Both hands are wound around the scissors handle, knuckles bulging, fingernails biting into the plastic with such force that her arms quake. Only when she pulls it out with a wet sound like tissue paper tearing does the pain lace jaggedly through him.

She doesn't wait for Gabriel to make any noise before plunging the blade down again, this time aimed for his neck.

Out of all the different ways one can get hurt, getting stabbed is particularly a bitch. It's bruising and slicing and all around damaging, and Gabriel's mouth parts not in a scream but rather, a silent breath of shock as the metal fingers plunge into flesh and muscle. His back arcs, hands spasm.

Eyes go wide, amber brown turned obsidian in the gloom and drifting on the white opal shock and momentarily sightless because he's— trying to— reckon—

With what is happening. He'd seen this, too, and in the momentary non-time between Eileen drawing bloodied scissors out of his side and raising them aloft, giving blood not the time to drip downwards but instead send specks upwards with momentum, he remembers. It had come in a vision, three-dimensional as light had painted the air in his half, trance-like sleep.

Acknowledgement, connection between two facts of then and now is all the synapse firing he can do as Eileen's scissors chase downwards to pierce his throat, and instead slice through the thin cotton of his pillow. Cheap things that they are, there's no spray of feather down, only the sound of fabric ripping and burying into the cottony filling as Gabriel suddenly drops through the mattress as if it were made of nothing.

There's the solid sound, a thud as Gabriel's 6'1" frame hits the ground immediately beneath without grace.

The darkness can't justify what's happening above his head. If Eileen was at all aware of her surroundings, she'd know that the man she'd been about to straddle is no longer pinned beneath her weight. She'd know that it's not flesh the scissors are perforating again and again and again. Each blow is punctuated with the sound of stuttering breath pushed forcibly from her lungs, some accompanied by a snarl, others a keening whimper more animal than human.

Gabriel's blood stains his pillow, his sheets, the mattress, mingling with the sweat slick on her fingers and the tears on her face when she eventually pauses to wipe at her cheeks with her hands, one still clutching the scissors, the other glinting silver around her knuckles where the moonlight streaming in through the attic window glances off the rings on her fingers. It would illuminate the scissors, too, if the blade wasn't covered in fluid so dark it appears almost black.

Her breaths come quick and fast, shallow and reedy, too thin, too sheer to replace what her lungs lost in the attack. If Gabriel's lucky, she'll succumb to asthma or black out before she realizes that her prey has escaped for the time being. If he isn't—

Feet slamming floorboards, and Teo's shoulder bruises the wood of two consecutive thresholds, doorway, hallway, before he hangs a vault up the stairs just sharp enough to avoid taking a stripe of epidermis off his shoulder on the planed edge of the doorframe.

He's an unexpected sight and sudden fright, the porcupine bristle of his hair lopsided from pillowing compression, day clothes worn even now, in the deadest part of the night, but dishevelled like a wolf kicked out of its burrowed snowdrift, a crazed light burst apart like an aneurysm behind the dilation of his pupils, partially unseeing but utterly awake. Which may or may not make him an exception, as far as the inhabitants of Gabriel's room go.

Depends on how Gabriel's doing.

"Hey." He runs across a wooden floor and toward a bare-boned cot, and also skids across a savannah of luxuriously dense carpet fibers toward a shiny morass of exorbitantly branded queen-sized bedding, braces a knee against a silk-sleeved arm and into sodden cheap cotton, both, but in both worlds, either view, his actions are the common element— and hers. He's seizing Eileen by the arm, yanking at the scissors in her hand. "Gabe—

"Gabriel?" He missed a frame out of the film-reel. Blood on the bed, bed's empty, scissor blades driving dangerously close, his grip growing white-knuckled, unsettled by a distinct conviction they aren't alone in the room. But oh, the cackling throng of versions permutations that conviction can take.

Bleeding beneath the bed and its makeshift slats, although he isn't just lying there. Not, at least, when he's heard the elephant slams of Teo's feet coming up the rickety staircase. His shoulder blades graze and bump the underbelly of his bed as he squirms and wriggles with the use of his knees and one clawing hand, with the other pressed firm to his side. "Down here," he loathes to admit, but admit he does when Teo's emphatic query cuts sharp over the sounds of the overhead scuffle.

Looking exactly like a man who just got stabbed while half-asleep, Gabriel gets to his feet, anger pulling his lips back from his teeth, baring them. "What the hell is wrong with her?" is harshly growled as if that should end in you, and it almost did. But there is something off about all of this. He also isn't leaping to help, currently leaking crimson making fast work of bloodying sleep pants and his bare torso. Remembering himself, it ceases to bleed entirely, as much as the shimmering red puncture doesn't close.

Eileen's dreamscape is not so different from the real world it overlays. There are superficial differences — carpeted floors instead of wood, a queen-sized bed with an ornate brass headboard instead of Gabriel's modest creation of plank and brick — but where he had been sprawled out beneath the covers, John Logan's shape twitches in a tangle of silk sheets twisted around his limbs and neck like a tourniquet, pale eyes made of glass, his blood a stark contrast to his skin's wan complexion.

She surrenders the scissors to Teo with a wretched howl of complaint, and that is all. Fingers clutch at the front of his shirt and tear his chest as though she might somehow burrow into him and hide herself away there. When this doesn't work, she smothers her face against his shoulder instead, fabric cinched between her knuckles, and moans strangled epithets into his collar.

She doesn't hear Gabriel. Can't. Even Teo's voice is very far away and he's standing right next her. Whispers of encouragement fill her ears, a coarse mantra spoken over and over again, each time with increasing passion and intensity.

Kill him, kill him, kill him, kill him.

"She's— dreaming." Teo's capacity to learn languages, to remember vocabulary, encode grammar, pick up colloquialisms and syntactical patterns tends to put into harsh perspective, for him, the magnificent inadequacy of language to convey meaning, sometimes.

"Are you okay?" Like that.

Fortunately, he's spared the worst heat of Gabriel's reflexive sneer or sarcasm or whatever reaction that idiotic inquiry is going to get him: he's distracted, squinting the dark to try and discern Eileen's face through the drowning obfuscation of shadow and psychic misery, one arm around her, the other penduluming a brisk, underhand throw of the offending cutting implement across the room. They land with a woody knock, skitter off to meet the wall, tracking blood like a salamander with its tail trod off.

Something about this is familiar, independent of throwaway jokes about generically insane girlfriends. There's nothing generic about what's in her head, though, and that's what the pointless straining of Teo's eyes fails to penetrate to and his mind falls, scrabbling and hook-clawed, just short of finding purchase on. "Eileen." Ghost was better at this, the navigation of psychic landscapes, of nightmares in particular. Teo could probably think of some way to wake her besides a tenuous grasp on her chin, a shaking at her shoulders, looking for the way and means to comfort her any way he can. "Eil— Eileen. W-wake up. He's—

"He's dead," Teodoro hazards, finally.

It's not a far leap to assume that he refers to Gabriel, with his side aching. The freshest of spilled blood on his skin tracks back into the wound, drawing in reverse, smears condensing into thin rivulets that force their way back into veins and hold, a flicker of pain crossing Gabriel's features along with that flare of sleepy annoyance at Teo's question. Despite the fact that he is no longer actively bleeding, Gabriel keeps a hand pressed to the wound, standing ridiculously awkward beside the bed as Teo holds Eileen and tries to shake her awake.

Dreaming. He'd missed that the first go around. She's dreaming. Doubt sets heavy, turns Gabriel's expression vapid with it as his gaze makes a cynical rove over her silhouette huddled to the Sicilian's chest. "Hallucinating," he suggests, voice sandpaper rough.

With all the casual brutality of a backhanded blow, Teo's lie is followed by a psychic shove. Eileen's body will jerk in his hands, eyes unseeing when her consciousness is temporarily shoved out into the ether, only to snap back however many moments later. Gabriel's bloody hand drifts out to touch the wall in balance as he watches to see if, you know. That worked.

Eileen's legs fold uselessly beneath her the instant that Gabriel thrusts her consciousness from her body. It's only by the virtue of Teo's arms looped around her that she doesn't crumple to the floor. She does, however, collapse against him like a child's marionette, its strings abruptly cut. One arm goes slack, dangles loose at her side. The other remains trapped between her body and Teo's, fingers set rigid in their clutching position.

Even though her head is lolls against the Sicilian's shoulder as if her neck was broken, she is physically unhurt except for pre-existing injuries, including the bullet wound wrapped in gauze beneath Ethan's dress shirt and various bruises and scrapes that mottle her skin shades of purple and blue where the contusions are already in the process of healing. Any track marks on her arms are strictly scar tissue — unless they're selling Refrain as an inhalant or in pill form, no drug is responsible for what happened here.

Around the time her consciousness should be snapping back into her body, an owl outside Gabriel's window explodes into flight, silhouetted against the moon, and then disappears into a starless sky, its dark plumage absorbed by the shadows. Teo will at least sense that she isn't the only entity to have departed.

There are a small but distinct handful of reasons why Teo wouldn't want to elaborate on dreams over hallucinations. Looming large among them, the possibility that, you know, plowing a girl's mind using astral projection could be construed as ru—

She goes limp, then. Teodoro doesn't have to ask to know what just happened; he feels it, the passage of Gabriel's ability, his ability, scorching past like jetfuel runoff under the tailfeathers of a passing hawk, leaving him vaguely grateful that he wasn't included in the blast of psychic energy. "Christ," he says, catching the base of her head on blunt fingers, carefully seesawing the delicate question-mark curl of her neck and spine, the summary fragility of her tiny bones back down onto the bed. Away from the blood, though it streaks sticky onto the pale curve of her calf.

That's a lot of fucking blood.

His fingers are conspicuously, almost amusingly clean when they grope up through the oppressive dark in search of a light string. "You should lie down, slow the bleeding—" One socked foot staggered back onto the floor, Teo's back is turned at the woman then, which is optimism, naivete, or a better understanding of degrees than anybody has a right to at this hour of night. "Can I see?"

"I'm not bleeding."

This seems ridiculous enough, with enough sticky blood, black looking, drenched in bedsheets and Eileen's body, most of it still on his own despite his efforts. But it's true. In silent consent to have the wound inspected, Gabriel's hand moves, and the blood stays with barely a thought of concentration, but all the same—

He takes Teo's advice. As the other man finds a light to switch on, flood the room with butter-toned illumination and turning blood from black to its proper crimson, Gabriel is sitting on the end of his bed with a creak of springs. There's a sharp inhale as pain twinges, concentration breaking enough for a fine dribbling of red to come coursing out once more, warm against skin gone chilly.

Gabriel is turned enough that Eileen's form is well within his periphery, and regardless, he still focuses his attention on her as much as Teo is welcome to put attention on him. His profile in the overhead light is hawkish and fierce, the line of nose to brow matching the severity of his gaze as he studies her, waiting to see if she's joining the slumber party proper.

Eileen's chest rises and falls, dress shirt loose on her body and positioned in such a way that more of it is visible than she would probably prefer if she was conscious. With the scissors discarded on the other side of the attic and her limbs utterly limp, fingertips and toes curling in on themselves, the threat she poses to either of the two men is so small as to be microscopic. An amalgamation of sweat and tears streaked pink plasters curls of hair to her exposed cheek. Excess moisture glistens on her eyelids, clinging to each individual lash.

They're safe.

Incredulity marks Teo's forehead with a few extra lines, hooks his brow upward; it takes him only another two, three seconds for his eyes to adjust enough to confirm that Gabriel isn't just laying it on with the machismo, though. Not that Gabriel would. The Sicilian is silent for a few seconds, studying the injury, measuring as much as he can with his eyes.

Toward this end, it's helpful that the spurt was slowed, the welling receded back into the riven lips of surprised flesh. He has to blink a few more times than he'dve preferred for appearance's sake: Gabriel isn't the only one haggard from interrupted sleep. "It's not shallow, but stitches should be able to do it," he says. "She got me with the knife about th—ere." One and a half seconds' worth of retrospect is enough to elicit a flare of regret in Teo's gut; he glances up at Eileen, tightens his jaw around a tacit apology. This situation is so far apart from the gory circumstances under which he and Eileen met that they might as well be spinning in a different universe.

"I can get the First Aid shit if you know where it is." Pragmatic haste. He picks himself up off bent shins he doesn't even remember kneeling on, straightening his shirt with a hand. His palm comes away sticky, but Teo catches a glimpse of his silhouette laked in the window glass before he succumbs to the idle urge to rub thumb and forefinger together. Takes a step back at the door, the descending ladder, but his eyes are on Gabriel with a query paling in them.

Will you be all right in here alone?

His blood is on everything. There will be laundry to do, and scrubbing, and irritation isn't as sharp as the pain in his side. He has half a mind to dull it into nothing, before the notion is let go. Pretending the damage away helps no one, not at least until it's properly seen to. There's only steely jawed mute agreement that the wound is not shallow, and no acknowledgment as to Teo getting stabbed once. That was his own fault, anyway. "Bathroom, downstairs," is Gabriel's curt response as to where immediate medical supplies can be found, as much as he doesn't lift his stare off Eileen. No, not a danger, but he's not watching her like she is, though that's an easy mistake to make.

There's enough pause and hesitation in Teo's movements for Gabriel's ears to pick up on, and it has the serial killer swinging an impatient gaze back around. Aggression is tempered, though, whether he reads concern or because Teo's not done anything wrong, actually. He says shortly, but not briskly, "Go."

Teo's departure is not watched, Gabriel's attention returning predictably to his bed and the woman in it. Dreams or hallucinations, either one can't be read as he studies the scarlet smear on her leg all the way to the shine of tears on her face as if perhaps he could.

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