Small Increments


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Small Increments
Synopsis Gabriel returns to Pollepel Island after taking a few days to put things in order and allowing Eileen to do the same.
Date November 2, 2010

Pollepel Island

Unheard by the duo in the hallway, a window nudges open, slit vertical and framed in aged wood. The glass is wet on both sides, Gabriel's breath fleetingly rushing fog across the surface as he turns his head for the door. It would be easy to interrupt, and something in him wants to. A want that is bitter and vaguely metallic tasting in his mouth. It has been a slow two years of learning never to truly trust that feeling.

"I've someone who loves me here. And family better than some awful woman and that man who had the nerve to call himself our daddy one day and leave without…"

Cold air floods in and saps out what small warmth had collected in the room thus far. Persistent soreness twinges again, reminding Gabriel of why he's barely made it out of the room since earlier that month, but he's beginning to understand why the pain. Having a certain durability requires a certain stagnation. Demanding rest and slow healing. Staying put is just encouragement.

"…a fucking word the next! Did it ever occur to you that I might've been happy with the way things've turned out?"

That this realisation, this desire to leave the room, comes in tandem with those voices seeping through the door, is merely coincidental.

"No. You don't seem happy."

Gabriel sets his hands against the window sill, and tips his body forward out into space and three dimensional freedom and gravitational pull. A force that means less by the time he's converting into silky black energy that waterfalls and spiders down the side of the castle. The worst thing about this kind of secret exit is that he can't help the window hanging open like an idiot's jaw, but maybe leaving a sign isn't such a bad thing.

That was a few nights ago.

It's dark enough that Gabriel is feeling along the wall, as he tracks the same path Nick took in a previous evening. He's been off the island without actually disappearing, allowing bird osmosis to circulate, information fed through pigeons, a soaring hawk, a night owl on a tree outside the Old Dispensary. It's not as explicit as a note left on a mirror, but for a blind woman, it might be better than that. What would have been better was to tell her, granted, but Gabriel hasn't yet mastered basic fundamentals of communication, especially when it comes to expressing such inexplicable things as sensing they need to be apart while she gets some shit together, how he'd be the least awesome audience for that role, how the only way he can figure out how to care about what he heard might be to string Nick up by the ankles and bleed him out through his eyes.

That, and. He needed off the island. He needed to move. Self-imposed caging, slow healing. He went a little crazy, earlier in the month.

He is made of flesh, bone and shaped into his natural silhouette as opposed to anyone else's. No need to freak out the refugees that Sylar, the catalyst of their problems, is sharing their space, and so it's the dead of night that he is making his way back to allocated room. He picked up some stuff from home. A change of clothing, a medal. His Jaguar's keys. He moves slowly and cautiously, like pain is still lingering in him, fatigue, although that may just be from the day.

There is no opening of the door. He steps through it as casually as one might had it been ajar.

It’s considerate of him, given the late hour and the amount of stress that the room’s occupant has been under, both before the eighth and since. The sound of groaning hinges, creaking wood, might have caused her to lift her head from the folding desk she’s seated— slumped in front of, her dark hair a cascade of wet ink that covers but also conforms to the curve of her jaw and her neck, slim shoulders and a significant area of her back, the vertebrae of her spine visible beneath it and the less flimsy material of her nightgown, which is several shades paler than what skin her clothes and the blanket draped across her lap expose.

Eileen is sleeping. He can tell, if not by the rhythm of her shallow breathing then by brushing against the stillness of their empathic link. It’s there, but it exists like an unseen thread of spider’s silk in complete darkness, and although the creature monitoring the line with its own feelers is undoubtedly lying in wait, simple affirmation is not enough of a disturbance to compel it to stir.

Her ballpoint pen is still loose in her fingers and a glance at the paperwork on the desk, illuminated by a lamp burning the last of its fuel, reveals nothing about what Gabriel might have missed in his absence. Although she’s laid down in the middle of her work, the work does not appear to be Ferry-related unless her role has expanded to writing out lines of poetry on cheap notebook paper, most of it crossed out, or drawings of talons sheathed in sharp metal on separate sheets with notes jotted in the margins that include numbers in ounces and Eileen’s ruminations on the idea’s actual feasibility.

She succumbed to exhaustion before arriving at a definitive conclusion. The raven standing guard on the sill of the same window that Gabriel pitched himself out of twitches a sharp look in his direction, feathers rustling like leaves in the wind, but apart from clicking his beak once in greeting when he recognizes him, makes no noise of acknowledgment. Or protest. Bran has come to tolerate Gabriel’s presence in the months since he was rescued from the bushes of Central Park, where he would have been attacked and killed by opportunistic feral cats drawn to his hiding place by the reek of his fear and grief.

A hand goes back to feel fingers over the lock and make sure it's set— which it is— before Gabriel roams a glance over familiar room, and then the familiar woman currently sleeping in her work. Coat shrugged out of, he grips the fabric of his shirt at shoulder, but doesn't tug the garment off himself just yet. Going to bed, admittedly, would make life easier in the immediate, but. He drifts towards some other flat surface, which is where he takes things out of his pockets — war medal, keys, puts these down gently and soundlessly.

The snap shut of greeting from Bran gets mostly just a glance in turn, tremulous acknowledgment through shared empathy, but the bird, being a bird, should expect little else.

Gabriel moves, then, for Eileen. Floorboards creak a little in places, soles of his boots making dull thuds that are more felt through the floor than heard, were Eileen awake to do so. Hands go out and seek the loose pages and pieces on the desk, shifting them aside to angle a reading eye over some of the lines, but, her handwriting is kind of difficult. Educated in it, at least, from the scribbles in her journal, enough so that nothing looks like standard literature for the woman's pen.

He casts shadow, brings with him a vaguely unwashed human scent, slushy, foresty earth, vague traces of mineral. Otherwise doesn't touch her or evoke her attention through saying anything.

Closer, her can hear the flutter of her breathing, what little noise it makes, audible only to a sensitive ear. There’s familiarity in that, too, if only because it, warmth and the conforming shape of her sometimes share his bed and keep him company on nights when he is conscious and she is not. On nights when both of them are conscious but saying nothing, also, and for at least Eileen, who often prefers simply touching to talking, there’s something comfortable and reaffirming in this.

The lingering presence of another human body in the room rouses her. It’s a learned defense mechanism rather than one ingrained in her at birth, but one she began to develop when she was still small and discovering for the first time that home isn’t always the safest place to be and that the people who she was taught were obliged to protect her have in reality no obligations at all.

Opening her eyes is a reflex, and she only gets halfway there.

She wakes mainly to the sound of paper shuffling as Gabriel doesn't quite make order out of chaos, absent reading as he tugs pages out from under her hands, an elbow, sets them aside and looks down towards the dark crown of her head. There is a minor sense of waking that plucks through their connection, bleary and blurred though it is, and though she can't see him through the slivered view of the world she would have otherwise afforded herself, Bran can watch for her as he retracts his hands and steps back.

Maybe affording her opportunity to pretend to sleep or to— be the first to say something. He isn't pretending, a kind of hi you're awake sense of feeling pushed her away before he, in turn, pushes away physically.

What follows is the twin thud-thud of two boots yanked off his feet and dropped as he moves.

Eileen lifts her hand off the desk first, skimming fingers through her hair and pushing with the heel of her hand the bulk of it off her face, leaving a smudge of pen ink at her jaw that she either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care enough about to remedy by wiping it away. The fading lamplight is still warm against her cheek, but not as warm as she remembers it being when she put her head down hours ago.

The open pocket watch on the corner of her desk, its silver chain tangled in the fingers of her hand not holding the pen, would tell her — if she could look — that it’s a little after eleven. The last time she checked it was a few minutes before nine.

autumn is her season

it is when the earth sleeps and what lives in the soil dies

melancholy, cold and dry

When she sits up, it’s to place the pen down and trace the tips of her fingers over the last words she wrote on the page as if she might be able to raise them off the paper like Braille, but she does not need to read them to remember what they are, or to experience a painful twinge of self-consciousness in the soft muscle between her ribs that comes with the realization someone else has read them.

She might be more upset if they weren’t meant to be eventually read, though she’s beginning to question the wisdom of her arrangement with Sable even if she didn’t explicitly agree.

Likewise, she might ask him if he was staying if he wasn’t already taking off his boots. Instead she says, "How are you feeling?"

"Better." It's a simple and undramatic assertion, as Gabriel cautiously plants himself down on the edge of their shared bed, moving in a way that adds implication to his single-worded answer. Better, not necessarily complete. It's cold enough that he has no real motivation to undress just yet, even if it might mean getting under covers sooner. His arms fold up around his middle, and he scans past her out the window.

He probably can't fault her for trying poetry. He tried painting.

He scrapes fingernails over his scalp, eyes hooding a little lazily. "The dispensary is still in one piece," he tells her, after awkward silence settles. Giving meaning and definition to his absence.

Gauze wrapping around Eileen’s left arm is a recent addition to her accrued injuries. Visible through the material of her nightgown, the bandage taped to her side where a bullet grazed her on the eighth and the band at her thigh where she pulled a three-inch-long glass shard from the muscle there are evidence that the ones he was already aware of are still in the process of healing.

So is her hand, but it too is looking better to the point where its deformity is mostly superficial. He’d been right.

Also visible is her relief when he brings her news of their home back not Staten Island. She lets out a whispery breath that she hadn’t been aware she was holding. "Thank you."

A subtle lift of his shoulders communicates a shrug, passing back her appreciation in a gesture she probably knows well enough by now. When Gabriel does something for himself and perceived differently and thus worthy of gratitude when it's not, really. He moved his car. There are more constructive uses of his time.

And there are better things he could be saying. Conversation reduced to touches in the darkness; smalltalk over shared dinners and lunches and breakfasts, or wrapping gauze; empathic tremors and suggestion. He hadn't really gotten to address the fact he tried pretty hard to kill her, before she argued with her brother outside the door.

Build up of unspoken things is generally bad for one's health. He's still kind of coming down from his own foray through history.

"What've I missed?" Little desperate.

"We thought we might’ve had an Institute spy, but he turned out to be DoEA," which is worse, at least in Eileen’s eyes, but there’s careful neutrality in her tone when she speaks of Benji Foster. "I don’t think he’s a threat." Anymore, is the implication, and this isn’t what she wants to be speaking with Gabriel about.

"I’m getting ready to leave," she says then, "and I told Ethan we would as soon as you were well enough again to travel, which you are, so I’ll spend the next few days finishing up here and make sure the council can manage on its own for a little while. It’ll have been a month soon. More than enough time."

She speaks softly but with quiet conviction, very little — if any — guilt in her words. Whether or not it’s true, she at least believes what she claims. "Whatever it is you want to do next, we’ll do it. Danko, Lemay. Sylar."

There is a suspicious sort of stare that Eileen gets at that first part, like maybe she is doing a thing where she says something and hopes Gabriel will go and ~take care of it~, for all that it's not a common transaction between them inasmuch as Gabriel will wont to handle things his own way. Sometimes on behalf of other people. He takes her conversation switch as genuine, however, and does not immediately move to take out any potential DoEA spy.

Not tonight, anyway, he's tired. He tucks his chin in in a sort of cautious nod, mention of Ethan getting stoney silence for a few seconds. Gabriel knows Holden's around. He also knows he's holed himself in this room for some few weeks.

Feeling resentful would be unfair.

And Gabriel is always f— "What's in it for Ethan?"

"I don’t know," Eileen admits. "The satisfaction that comes with causing either small or vast amounts of destruction in retribution for the wrongs committed against those closest to him. We haven’t spoken, much, but I gave him a copy of the journal we picked up in Munich, and if what I’m hearing from the Ferry is true, then the Institute has Delphine."

She doesn’t like sitting on the other side of the room from Gabriel except when she’s angry with him, and while she might’ve had initial pangs of hurt upon discovering that he left an open window and an empty bed when she needed a shoulder to cry on most, it’s been a lonely few nights without him. She rises from the desk, hand braced at its edge for balance and support as she stands up and moves as if to join him, but stops first where he deposited his medal and keys to wash her hands and face in the metal basin of water she keeps there.

It gives her time to remind herself that if Gabriel didn’t want to be here with her, then he wouldn’t be. She bites back the temptation to ask if he’d rather she sleep in another room. "He may fuck off still. That seems to be his way."

An eyebrow raises at this last comment. It's true. That she states it so plainly is more interesting than the fact and historical precedent behind it. Static silence fills the room, as she cleans herself in stale water, Gabriel drawing his feet together and eyeing the window like he could will it shut. Not a couple of years ago, he could have. His brow crinkles, gaze falling to shadows and vague lines rather than the details that fill them, inward seeing and thoughtful.

"What did he say about the journal?" he finds himself prompting.

"Nothing yet," says Eileen, and maybe that explains her unusual choice of words and the underlying unhappiness beneath them, "but I’ve not been making myself available either. It was difficult for me, took months before I was ready to even accept it, so there’s a chance I’ll be waiting awhile assuming he believes it at all."

Because when Feng Daiyu first told her, she didn’t. "He still treats me like I’m sixteen. Uses that name I hate. If he’d not been gone, maybe he’d be able to see that I’m—" An adult is what she means to say, but she can’t quite articulate it with the appropriate words. She wipes off her face with a cloth, then her hands.

"Sorry. I’m being selfish. It’s late, and you probably want to sleep."

There's the sound of someone getting up from where he was sitting on the bed, but by the time Bran is opening his eyes again from his blink, there's a thick wrist moving past him to close the door. The old raven has the option of taking off before Gabriel can shut it fully, but considering the weather, serial killer assumes one would want to be inside. As does the heat of the room, or what there isn't of it.

Two steps, before Bran will blink away more time, Gabriel already settling as he releases Clara's power once more. In small increments he can eat away time, live a little bit outside of the same reality as everyone else. If this takes a toll on him, it doesn't show yet, even if his hair is prematurely silvered for other reasons.

"I can make time to sleep," he notes. During the months he spent in Antarctica, which was only a handful of moments for the rest of the world, he had to have slept. "You'd probably hate it more. If he didn't use the name."

"It’s a child’s name," could be an argument if there was more heat behind it, or if Eileen didn’t allow what feels to her like an eternity to pass between Gabriel’s statement and this one. Bran tucks his head under his wing — people are so complicated — and shuts his eyes, leaving Eileen to fend for herself in the bedroom, and if she hadn’t spent so much time here herself, she’d have more difficulty navigating her surroundings when she puts down the cloth and turns back to face him.

"When I said thank you, it wasn’t just for looking in on the dispensary."

He might ask, what's wrong with being a kid again? Getting hugged by his mom would tell him nothing at all, and Gabriel swallows back argument about what Eileen should maybe feeling instead because he might have been told, once or twice, that this is not a productive exchange for couples to have. To his ears, his silence is loaded with defeat and resentment and contemplation — in practice, it's just a pause, a lapse in conversation.

She might be able to feel some of that tension, warring uncertainty, but he keeps that moderately tamed as well, too weary to start up the most useless argument in the world. Besides, it's as she says — Ethan could leave too.

"What was it for?"

Sometimes Eileen forgets how hard Gabriel makes her work for what it is that she wants, and when she does, she’s always reminded that the challenge is one of the things that attracts her to him, as difficult as it is for her to admit — and she won’t, at least not to him.

Exasperation and affection in equal measure are filling up the cavity in her chest and making it a little difficult for her to breathe. It’s a little like her asthma, and while it isn’t as scary, it also doesn’t pass as quickly, and she finds herself making a knot of her fingers, the material of her nightgown bunched in a small fist.

"I missed you."

"Weird thing to be thankful for." Now he's probably just teasing— probably— and this theory supported by a raise of an eyebrow and a hidden sort of smile that she'd be able to feel, at least, for all that she can't see these subtle nuances of expression. With no one to see, it makes moving around easier — that this is becoming an instinct should probably worry the guy who is shaving off minutes of his life at a time.

In a split second, she can feel on at least two different planes of awareness, the fact that Gabriel is physically closer to her. The fabric of her nightgown shifts a little when he touches without touching her, exactly, just over the sight of bandages making shapes of bland white.

He doesn't say sorry a lot, except in pathetic, hang-dog ways now and then. This may be as close as it gets. It's difficult to have conviction over something he hasn't really put into words yet.

Eileen’s hand seeks Gabriel’s, the tips of her fingers settling in the spaces between his knuckles. This one isn’t his fault, not directly, but she’s not about to guide him to the one that is — her gesture is one of forgiveness rather than an attempt to draw his attention to something she’d expect him to feel guilty for if he’d been himself at the time.

Her other touches the side of his face at his jaw and follows its shape with the edge of her thumb all the way through to the bottom of his chin, which she uses as a point of reference to access his mouth, not to kiss it but to place her fingers on it in belated response to his teasing, if that’s indeed what it is, either to silence him or confirm through touch what she thinks she can sense.

In hindsight, kissing him might have been easier. A mouth knows when another is smiling. "How much do you remember?"

If he was smiling, it might fade around then. But his are fleeting and so she's spared that idea, feeling only Gabriel nudge his jaw against her palm as if vying for attention he doesn't actually have to compete for. Bran, after all, is paying them no mind. "It's like a dream," he admits. "I." Um. Manages not to say this sentence-halting instinct syllable out loud. "I don't completely remember how it went. How it started.

"I remember waking up." That was all her, too. A pause, before he's lifting his head enough to retract from her hand, though she can feel, still, his lingering hand. "I fell into it. Something about having no responsibility for what I was doing kind of had its appeal."

He glances sharply focused amber-brown eyes over her less focused, paler green. "Hurting you wasn't part of the plan."

"It was," Eileen says, "but not yours. Carmichael’s, and he’s dead." In case Gabriel was entertaining any thoughts about taking revenge on the man directly responsible for putting ideas in his head. She lowers her hand and lets it rest on his chest close enough to his heart that she can feel it beating against her open palm. "I’ve been listening to the radio. They have an acronym for it.

"RBS. Rage Blackout Syndrome. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was me or someone you hated. I was in your way, and I put myself there — I knew what I was doing. This," and her hand covering the one at her side tightens for emphasis, "was my choice."

So is letting the top of her head touch his sternum. Her eyes close. She'll stand here for awhile, touching and being touched, listening to the sound of her breathing and his. What she doesn't choose is when to stop again and move; this, she leaves to him.

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