Something Beautiful


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Something Beautiful
Synopsis The Pollepel Island sale goes through and Eileen attempts to celebrate in spite of its new owner's sudden and highly publicized passing.
Date April 4, 2010

Old Dispensary

There's a special technique to drinking champagne that involves glittering crystal stemware, a bucket of ice and something the French call le soupir amoureux — the loving whisper, or the sound the bottle is supposed to make when the cork is gently eased out rather than popped. Unfortunately, Eileen could only justify the purchase of the alcohol itself with the Remnant's paltry budget and started out drinking it from one of the ceramic cups kept in the kitchen cupboards, a vessel that's better suited to piping hot liquids boiled over the stove like coffee and tea.

That was a little over forty-five minutes ago, back when she was still sober and felt she had something worth celebrating. She's since abandoned the cup and started drinking from the bottle itself, and as she sits in the armchair in front of the fire burning in the belly of the Dispensary's hearth, she rotates it by the neck and amuses herself with the sloshing fluid inside, one fourth consumed.

One bare leg hangs over the side of the chair, bent at the knee. The other she has folded beneath her. Her arms would be exposed, too, if it weren't for the robe she wears over her white cotton chemise. There's a pocket watch sitting on an opened briefcase on one of the adjacent tables that reads 12:32 AM. She should be asleep, not brooding downstairs with only a piece of paper in her hand and the static hiss of the shortwave radio playing in the background to keep her company.

Night is the worst, if only because of the cold, causing gunshot wounds, well though they are healing, to ache and stiffen up. But night is not a time when Raith is normally ambling about the dispensary in his flannels. On the contrary, he is only rarely ambling about in the night at all, only up and carefully walking down the stairs because something about the air, or the walls or even the floor doesn't sit quite right with him: Something is amiss. And when he reaches the bottom of the stairs and takes a moment to listen, it's obvious exactly what is amiss.

No surprise then that he steps inside to the dining area, where the home's burning hearth is located. No surprise, also, that he's not alone in here. "You had better not be sleep-walking," he says aloud, stepping further inside. A part of him, however, hopes that Eileen is sleep-walking, because that will likely make it that much easier to get her back where she belongs: In her bed.

A handful of seconds after Raith appears in the room, his thin shadow seems to pool with a sudden pitch darkness that doesn't really make sense with the flutter-light of the hearth. Leaking around his feet, it moves ahead of him, then, quicker, enough to perhaps see what it is that moved the older man from his room, before it— diverts. Shadow rolls over the ground like oil over water in clear view of both Remnant leader and intelligence gatherer, winding out of the main room and towards the kitchen. Without a word, even if it could make them.

Eileen draws clockwise circles in the air with pointed toes and does not look at either Raith or his shadow when they emerge into the light cast by the fire, its flames low and richly coloured, sure signs that it won't be much longer before it consumes the last of the cedar wood, runs out of fuel and is reduced to flickering embers. Then she won't have any choice but to brave the stairs; without the fire, it's too cold on the ground floor to sleep in the chair without a blanket, and Eileen left hers in her bedroom.

The closer Raith gets, the stronger the reek of champagne cut by her perfume and her body's damp, almost musky smell defined by cheap tobacco and the stale aroma of cigarette smoke that goes with it. It's not necessarily unpleasant, but it tells him what he needs to know.

She's drunk. "When torrential water tosses boulders, it's because of its momentum," she says. "When a hawk's strike breaks the body of its prey, it's because of timing. If you could only have one or the other, which would you pick?"

"Now is not the time for philosophy, Eileen," Raith replies, "It's time to-" He never finishes his thought. His shadow is moving of its own accord, and that means that his train of thought has to stop and make room on the rails for a different one. "Why can't you just use the damn door like normal people?" It's late, and Raith is tired and still slightly injured. He is allowed to be cranky. Also, he is old, and therefore expected to be cranky. "Is that really so much to ask?"

The response Raith gets its the sound of a cabinet in the kitchen opening and shutting, and when Gabriel moves back into the main room, he is whole and solid. His feet are bare against the ground, the lagging hems of his jeans low enough to tuck under his heel, a little ragged. Belted at the waist, which can't be seen from the fall of his sweater, a bulky thing of navy that serves its purpose against the chill. "I'm not normal people," is a blithe response. In his hands, is an off-white ceramic coffee mug. Empty. Maybe not for long. "And you don't ask."

Gabriel moves for the hearth, in pace unassuming. "Partying hard, Ruskin?" Looping his fingers through the ceramic handle, Gabriel offers out the cup — it isn't for her, but it is for her to tend to, once he halts close enough.

"I dislike your American expressions," Eileen says, tipping the bottle to pour a generous amount of champagne into Gabriel's mug. It washes against the side as it rises, rises, rises — and being inebriated either has an effect on her depth perception, sense of timing or her reflexes, or perhaps it's a combination of all three because when she pulls the bottle away, there's liquid running down its neck, over her fingers and soaking through the material of her chemise where it comes into contact with the fabric. "I also dislike it, Mister Gray, when you use my surname."

Her lips find the bottle's rim, tongue seeking the moisture that clings to the inside of the bottle before she takes another short drink from it, wipes her mouth with the tips of her fingers and rests it in her lap between her legs. "Unless we're tangled up," she amends, which is probably the most decent euphemism she could come up with at this hour, "then you can call me whatever you like. Fuck off, Jensen."

Raith can think of a few things to say in a riposte. But there's something else he would rather say, or ask rather, and receive an answer to, and on account of she is very drunk, he decides the best approach is to keep it short and to the point. "Eileen, there is a briefcase full of money on the table. Why is there a briefcase full of money on the table?"

A slight twitch of eyebrows up is meant to communicate a thank you for sustenance poured, glimmer of amusement in inky brown eyes at what she dislikes and the certain conditions under which she doesn't, and Gabriel shuffles closer to the hearth so that blistering, flaming light fans out and darkens his silhouette as he comes to stand in front of it. The standard universal position of letting warmth of fire crawl up the backs of legs, butt, further up your back and evoking shivers from your spine.

He lifts ceramic to drink flattening champagne, pauses, asks, "And do we have to give it back?" before finishing that sip, words half-muffled into the bowl of the mug.

"There is a briefcase full of money on the table because I have a very generous benefactor," Eileen answers, swinging her leg around to knock the briefcase shut, trap the pocket watch inside and plant her foot on the lid. If she had pointier ears higher up on her head, they'd be flattened against the curve of her skull like a cat with its lips peeled back, but as feline as her green eyes are — lit gold by the firelight — she lacks the claws and teeth for such a threat to really be effective. Instead, she resorts to what amounts to a derisory look and just the right amount of bristling to convey her message: mine.

"Either that or unbeknownst to either of you I've been moonlighting as a jewel thief. Whichever explanation is more plausible."

For several long moments, Raith stares, glares not at the briefcase, but at Eileen. "I'm having a real problem with your attitude right now," he finally says, "You need to make some adjustments to it." The tone of his voice isn't overtly threatening, but it's not friendly either. A much more subtle warning than Eileen's melodramatic display with the briefcase.

"Christ, Raith, do you say things like that thinking it's going to have an impact, or do you really like the sound of your own voice?" The query from Gabriel sounds almost honest and curious, but certainly a measure of rough irritation on Eileen's behalf, though he's easily sliding back another mouthful of champagne. Nose wrinkles, and he turns a glance to closed briefcase, up the length of her bared leg, then towards cattish grey eyes. In all honesty— Gabriel is a little glarey too, despite his reprimand in Raith's direction. Swirls around the faintly golden fizzy alcohol. "It's not ours," he surmises.

"It isn't," Eileen agrees. "It's all going toward Ferry renovations on Pollepel Island." She gives the paper in her hand a brisk little shake, creating a soft rustling sound that compliments the shift of her chemise's fabric across her skin as she moves and, satisfied that neither Gabriel nor Raith poses a danger to the contents of the briefcase, takes her foot off it. "Which, by the way, is now property of Leonardo Maxwell, President of the Maxwell Development Corporation. Three hundred thousand for the land, two hundred to make it inhabitable again. That's five altogether, which — when you take away all the extra zeroes — is exactly the number of people who know about it, including the both of you."

As if noticing the drops of champagne on her chemise for the first time, Eileen purses her lips into a faintly annoyed expression, her nostrils flaring around an aggravated sigh. The Remnant doesn't have a washing machine or a dryer, and if she does it by hand and hangs it out on the line in the back then it's going to freeze. "Suppose I don't adjust my attitude. What are you going to do? Hit me again?"

Raith does not hit Eileen. Again. But what he does do is just as sudden and, very likely, much more unexpected than winding up and giving her five across the face. Without any warning, he snatches the bottle of champagne from the young woman's grasp and hurls it at the ground. Liquid spills across the floor, the sound of shattering glass the exclamation point at the end of his conversation with her. Without another word- not even a mocking farewell- Raith turns and, perhaps with less caution than he should, stalks to the door and out of sight. Apparently, her attitude has just been adjusted for her.

This news isn't a surprise.

Not exactly. It doesn't stop Gabriel from flicking a fish-blank stare at Raith, one of far more judgment than a serial killer such as himself truly has a right to, the hinge of his jaw a little loose if not open. By the time the glass is shattering, foamy alcohol spilling among the twinkling shards like sea froth over pebbles, Gabriel is finishing off his helping of champagne with a certain measure of calm, and setting the mug down next to where, once, Eileen had printed an omen above the hearth. He lets Raith walk away.

"See, you should invite us to all the parties." He's moving towards her, now, with a lazy kind of inevitability. He's going to pick her up and over his shoulder. He's going to take her to bed. He's going to make use of overheated skin and loose tongues and lowered inhibitions before she goes and says something to make him want to end conversations with so much broken glass.

Eileen's bones aren't hollow like the birds she commands, but her slender build makes for light lifting. She puts up a token amount of resistance, a foot braced against his leg, body twisting away as if she actually had somewhere else she could go—

By the time she's draped over his shoulder, legs dangling, the only protest she has left to offer is the heat of her breath in his ear and against his neck, low and huffing. The deed to the island remains in her hand and the money on the table. No one is going to take it; as fortified as the Dispensary is, it's as safe downstairs as it would be in the attic or in her bedroom on the second floor. "I wasn't finished."

Gillian had been heavier, and the last time he'd maybe ever flung a girl over his shoulder to take her to his bedroom. First time too. But he hasn't been anyone but Tavisha at the time, and she'd shrieked with laughter instead of the blast of indignant, sweetly champagne scented breath against his neck. Imperious objection. It's not better or worse. "I am," Gabriel rebuts, an arm curled firmly against the backside of her knees and another hand resting higher.

The hearth will be left to die by the time dawn is shedding curious tendrils of dusty light on the closed briefcase, and as far as Gabriel is concerned, Raith's mess is for him to clean up.

The scene moves, twists up the stairwell and its chapel-arc door. They go slowly, as if allowing Raith some time to get ahead of them, though Eileen has very little choice in the matter. "If you wanted five hundred thousand dollars," he says, voice quiet now and similar to gravel in tone, "all you had to do was ask." That may be a lie, but there is a certain steel of confidence in Gabriel's voice, as there always is when it comes to things he can get done.

Eileen is drunk. What she isn't is completely ignorant or oblivious. It takes her longer than it normally might to translate his words and their underlying message, and if she was sober she probably wouldn't respond by angling her face against his neck or placing her hand at his jaw, her lips moving against the spot where his chin meets his throat as she speaks. "It's not about the money," she says, and when she lifts her head to kiss the corner of his mouth she does not move it away again. "It's about matters of public record, names, secrets I couldn't keep."

A door shuts somewhere up ahead. It isn't Teodoro's. "Come out with me and let me show you what I'm doing. Just once. You'll understand why."

"I don't know about that." His voice is cautious, affectedly, the steady rhythm of his moving up and up through the Dispensary almost as rhythmic as the rock of a boat, almost as gentle too. With a flick of his hand, the hatch sealing away his attic from the rest of the building wouldn't be an issue, had he never met Arthur Petrelli. As it happens, Gabriel requires both hands, and despite the cat-affectionate feel of Eileen's mouth at his ear and his neck, he sets the woman down.

With a tug, he pulls down the staircase, creaking wood and sliding metal. "But I can come out with you anyway. I'm guessing the Ferry know all about this, right?"

Toes first, followed by the pads of Eileen's feet rolled all the way back to the heel. There's probably a reason she was sitting in the armchair rather than floating around the room like the bubbles rising from the bottom of the bottle, and a hand at Gabriel's arm provides her with the support she needs to remain standing. If the sensation of cold stone prickling against bare skin registers, it isn't reflected in her face's tired expression; chances are she's blissfully numb below her mid-thigh where her chemise cuts off and her robe provides minimal protection against the chill.

Upstairs, away from the dying fire, her breath leaves her nose and mouth as fog carried out on a murmuring laugh. That would be a no. "Hawk's strike," she says. "I'm not big enough to toss boulders. The timing hasn't been right."

His arm loops around her waist, bracketing her smaller frame against his larger one. He feels hot through navy wool that's soaked in the smells of the Dispensary, from dust to new paint through to the outer scents of snow and forest. All natural tones stifled a little by soap and sweat, recently drunk champagne. No blood, no smell of rubbing alcohol.

"You have a lot of money," Gabriel notes as they navigate up the stairs, into his lair. Rumpled bed, curtained shadows. Some discarded cutlery on a tray and lazily set aside on the floor, where he'd presumably eaten. "Maybe they might want a say about how it's spent. What makes you so sure on your timing?"

"Epstein." Eileen's fingers toy with the fabric of Gabriel's sweater, rubbing it between them while being mindful not to catch her nails on the weave. "Gregor's research. Pinehearst. Everything Rasoul was keeping in Antananarivo. He's getting me a list so we can be ready for when they roll it all out on American soil."

Her nose brushes his sleeve, inhales the scents of home. Blood and rubbing alcohol have become constants in her life, too, but it's become difficult for her to separate them from the stench Sylar has attached to him. Were she to smell them on Gabriel now, she wouldn't be resting her forehead against his chest or breathing languidly into him.

"I fucked up with Danko," she says. "Didn't scare them enough."

It's not quite a waltz, the pattern the two make as he moves her for the bed. Graceless and wandering. It's dark up here, moonlight through the curtains being the only source of illumination, but Gabriel could probably move through the space blindly, and Eileen doesn't have to worry. She'll feel the edge of the bed nudge up to her legs like a curiously loyal hound, comprehension of motion and momentum a little questionable on her numb feet.

"It's been happening, for years. Look at the Company — there's precedent. As for Danko— no idea what you're talking about," is mumbled— against her mouth, actually, his hands up to gather in the mane of her hair, angling her face up to do so.

"There was a vote," Eileen mumbles right back, a contented noise drawn from the very pit of her at the feel of his fingers tangling in her hair. "If things had gone my way, he wouldn't have gotten picked up by Kershner, and you'd never have been shot, rent to pieces." She strokes her hands across his face, and for the first time that she can remember, sounds truly remorseful. No tears, no hitching breaths or stuttering sighs; intoxicated or not, she's already worked all of that from her system, leaving her with a hollow impression carved into her gut where guilt is supposed to go but is filled instead by his presence.

"Do you know what you can do that would mean more to me than five hundred thousand dollars?"

In the darkness, Gabriel blinks a little, gravels out a chuckle of amusement. "Somehow," he murmurs, against Eileen's hair now, "I think that the prospect of Emile Danko killing me was the last thing on their agenda of concern." Hell, it's practically rehabilitation for the man, though this is not something that Gabriel says out loud. More concerned with— "What can I do for you that's more to you than five hundred thousand dollars?" he asks, repeats, as if well-trained, as fingertips rub and stroke the locks of her hair, parting them into single strands that will tangle come morning.

Every time Eileen has ever asked Gabriel to use one of his abilities, it has been for a clear purpose. Destroy Kazimir. Teach her to master Julian Kuhr's. Help save Harlow's little girl. There's a moment of hesitation where practicality wonders, not aloud, if this is something she should really be requesting of him, but in the end lowered inhibitions win out over any reservations she might have about indulging his ego for the sake of her own selfishness when they're probably both arrogant enough already.

"My mum used to take us to the coast sometimes when I was little," she says on her next exhale. "The dunegrass cut my feet and she rubbed them for me, but the water was so cold I couldn't even feel it stinging. Fish paste sandwiches in an old wicker basket. Nick fed his to the crabs and I gave mine to the birds. On nights when I can't sleep, I close my eyes and go back to chasing waves. Show me something beautiful, Gabriel. I want to see yours."

The unraveling of an ability is effortless, depending on what it is. Many Evolved might have a hard time comprehending the notion of having many at your disposal, when the ease of accessing what makes them special is, in many ways, as easy as flicking a single switch. It's not so difficult. Gabriel just has more switches. He breathes in, and at the same time, the scent of water and forest overtakes the smell of the old Staten Island based attic. Not the harsher edge of salt water crushing itself on broken rock, not the aroma of a craggy English shoreline with dank seaweed, dying sealife, and impending rain.

Inland, instead, and the scent of water in the air has that staler note of a lake or a pond. He's meant to be digging into her memories, and though the senses that unfurl for Eileen are not all that alien— why, they're probably reminiscent of Staten Island's own rural terrain— they don't strike a tone of reminiscing.

They can see each other, abruptly, under a cold midday light, the attic gone in the time it takes to breathe in. The world they find themselves is strangely abstract, lacking definition. The shapes of trees are only that, shapes — the sky is a hard, pale grey and the winding branches are black against it. A line of confusion creases between Gabriel's eyebrows brought closer in a furrow, twitches a look towards the sound of a bird launching off one of those black branches, the sharper sound of wings beating air through leaves much sharper and real than the half-formed memory they stand in.

Grigori was very old. Eileen does not anticipate or expect the level of detail that the Russian artisan used to craft his illusions because if there's one thing Gabriel can't have without waiting for it to come to him, it's decades of experience. Nonetheless, what she's experiencing is exactly what the Englishwoman asked for, and maybe it's better this way if she's going to continue being a realist about everything else.

Breath floods into her lungs, evokes similar images in her mind's eye of dewy rocks covered in soft green moss and silver lichen with the texture of velvet, dwarf irises blooming deep purple and blackberry bushes inhabited by small, dark spiders that weave webs out of diamonds, though she has no desire to draw them in. Just the taste of the air is enough. "I would give everything I have to be able to do this."

Gabriel's eyes search the clearing with a focused intensity, as if this was more than just a memory, but territory unexplored, maybe with a monster lurking in its backdrop, silently. But the inky black and white setting does not gain definition nor show off its secrets, no matter how much he tries to penetrate through the vagueness of memory. Which doesn't mean the hairs on the back of his neck don't go back down, and he keeps an unconsciously tight hold around Eileen that she probably doesn't completely require, despite her inebriated state.

"Why is that?" he asks in that distracted tone of voice he takes when a majority of his mind and attention is off somewhere distant. "It's not real."

"No," she agrees. "It's a silent voice inside of you. There are people who spend their whole lives unable to communicate what they feel, and you hold it all in your hands." Still and serene in his arms, Eileen's body is lax. She's not worried, and if she detects the distantness in his tone, it doesn't bother her any more than the light in her eyes, which have grown hooded and heavy, lashes weighed down by fatigue and the depressive effect the alcohol has on her system. "You concentrated an idea for me. That's poetry."

Finally, he looks down from the surrounding forest of papercut black tree silhouettes and yonder white indifference, down to look at the crown of her head as she murmurs words against his chest. The temperature feels strange and static, here, neither cold nor warm save for what they share between them in bodyheat, but Gabriel shivers anyway as if the cold from the attic were trying to remind him of its presence. Shadows play across them both from the imagined shiver of the branches above, reptillian and groping.

For all the things Gabriel has been accused of, literature is not one of then, whether in printed word or conceptual illusions. "Any time," he invites, after some length of silence filled with paper-rustle leaves in the wind and another sound of a bird flitting through the branches. "I can do it any time."

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