Something to Salvage


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Something to Salvage
Synopsis Eileen breaks the news to Gabriel about the 'thing' on the second floor.
Date April 19, 2010

Old Dispensary

A sound effect along the lines of BOOM lifts the birds from the trees and shakes icicles off the edges of the roofing.

Snow explodes in giant plumes of glittering white, blinding out the windows, the air, the sky. Only when it begins to settle, when shapes come back into being— the black silhouettes of surrounding trees, the pathway being cut to the door, the crawling of the insidious snow climbing feet up side of the Old Dispensary— that it happens again. From Gabriel's outstretched hand, the air ripples in an ever expanding cone, making the lingering traces of snow in the air vortex madly along with it, before the impact hits the accumulated snowfall and sets it spraying in all directions, billowing it out into powder, scattered from its damp, heavy, solid set out front.

It only happens once more after that. It's attention drawing and dangerous for the location, and Raith might bitch, but what's he going to do — chase Gabriel? There's nothing for it. The snow has to be driven out somewhere. And he no longer has telekinesis.

He really misses telekinesis.

Ice particles still dance in the air outside by the time Gabriel is pushing his way back inside at a limp that favours his left foot, dusted over with powdery snow enough to bring the settling cloud in with him. He goes to fling his coat off his shoulders and swipe his fingers through his hair, his movements quick enough to betray the chill of the outside world.

When Eileen works, she prefers to do it upstairs in the privacy of her own room rather than down by the hearth at the stately oak table Peter contributed to the Dispensary when he still belonged to the Remnant. It might not be as warm, but the chances of someone walking in on her while she's passed out with her face buried in the crook of her arm are considerably less. Sleep is a luxury she hasn't been able to afford much of lately; she has to steal it in short intervals instead, so when she's awakened by what sounds like a small explosion out front, she's wearing a disgruntled look on her face in addition to clothes she hasn't changed in more than twenty-four hours.

Bare feet make very little sound on the Dispensary's stone steps as she descends the staircase, half-expecting to find Raith out of bed and preoccupied with one of the trucks in the driveway, smoke billowing in thick black tendrils from a bent hood. As it turns out, no reproach is necessary. At the bottom of the stairs, she slows to a halt with one hand braced against the wall, the other dangling a pair of folded reading glasses between her fingers that until a few moments ago had been pushed up over her forehead and tangled in her flyaway hair.

It's Gabriel.

"Do you need someone to look at your foot?" she asks blearily in lieu of a hello. Trust Eileen to notice the limp before she makes observations about anything else.

There's snow in the collar of his shirt, caught in his eyebrows, melting on his jeans, and Gabriel's patience is already wearing thin with the stuff. Scrubbing his hands over his face, he stops fussing from there — it will melt where it may, and he can stretch out in front of a roaring fireplace and it won't matter. When Eileen appears, there's where he's already headed — still limping, taking care not to let his left heel bear his weight for any length of time. "I've already looked at it," he answers, a toss of a remark over his shoulder. "It's still attached."

Tossing his coat aside, sweat makes a damp tree-shaped pattern up his back, clinging cotton to his torso and along his spine, a sign of the ever arduous journey that is hiking up to the Dispensary. The curl of his hair at his nape is almost long enough to disappear into his collar, and it's probably been a couple of days since he picked up a razor.

A match book is picked up off the hearth, and he descends into a careful, stiff-kneed crouch.

The temptation to plant her foot square in the middle of Gabriel's back is strong. There's a remark, too, on the tip of her tongue about how long his is likely to remain attached and how all she needs is a hacksaw to separate him from it, but before her lips can move to form the words, she reminds herself that if she were in a better mood she'd probably be curving them around a playfully sardonic smile.

As he crouches by the hearth, she approaches from behind, and with no reflective surfaces to betray her position, Gabriel has to rely on whispering feet and the tickling sensation her presence creates in his peripherals without fully coming into view.

He's hurt. He also needs a haircut. Fingers briefly tease the curls at his nape, not just for the sake of touching but to get a feel for how receptive he is as well. Regardless of his reaction, there's a conversation she's been meaning to have with him and it starts with: "It's upstairs."

Gabriel's head dips forward a little, more in some form of supplication to the touch than recoiling — it exposes more than withdraws, even as his shoulders hike up with tension, relax again with the rhythm of a tide going out.

There's rustling and distraction as firestarters are put among partially burned out pieces of wood, and his arms dip into the mouth of the hearth as he strikes matches, nudging the long, fire-tipped stalks in among the waxy white and the black and brown bark that Gabriel would not be surprised to know was cut down from around here. His lack of immediate response can be attributed to his concentration — the ritual of building up a hearth is an intense practice, and he waits for fire to actually catch before relaxing back on his haunches.

A used match is flung into the fledging fire. "What is?" sounds neutral. He observes the smear of old ash on his fingertips, writing in the distinct coils of prints.

"Jenny." For lack of a better term. Eileen traces the individual ridges that make up Gabriel's spine beneath his hair with the edge of her thumb, hoping to invoke another physical response that involves his muscles tensing under her fingers, then lifts her hand away as she retreats several paces to place her reading glasses on the squat table beside the leather armchair with the high back and fist-beaten pillows stuffed with a lumpy mixture of cotton and goose down.

She does not, however, sit. That's a privilege Gabriel has earned.

What she does do is lean her hip into its side to take some of the weight off her feet, one arm folded across her midsection where horizontal strips of gauze are visible as raised outlines through the material of her top, a dark gray cashmere sweater draped over her shoulders for extra warmth. "If you have any objections, make them clear to me now."

One hand coming up to grip the frame of the hearth, Gabriel pulls himself up to stand completely, dusting off his hands against his thighs and twisting at the waist to glance back at her and the offered seat. A noise at the back of his throat — he isn't surprised, for whatever reason. Whether he knew in some way or expected it is unclear, because he doesn't bother explaining himself, eyes down as he moves for the chair at his slow and tilting limp. It squeaks under his weight as he all but falls into it, an exhale making steam still in the air.

"It's safer here than anywhere else," he admits, eyes going half-hooded, before flicking open again to angle a glance towards Eileen's pale face. The growing hearth light is only just starting to touch the golden accents of fireflame to the edges of shadows and illumination, but from here his eyes look like twin black discs. "I could put it down."

The crackling tinder, wind whispering through the Dispensary's upper corridors and general ambiance all provide a quiet backdrop for Eileen's even quieter breathing. The only thing that allows Gabriel to hear it is his physical proximity to her, and even then it blends in with the rustle of her clothes as she lifts a hand to rest it on the back of the chair somewhere behind his head, steadying herself.

She does not shy away from his eyes, no matter how dark or deep their appear under the fire's influence, but she doesn't allow herself to be drawn into them either. "If it doesn't recover, you'll have to."

There's a flash of annoyance in the dark pits of his eyes, brow furrowing even though, for all intents and purposes, Eileen said approximately the correct thing. All the same, something jars — likely nothing new. He wanted to kill this particular clone before, too. He draws in a breath, loud through his nose, and curves his spine a little to rid it of tension before settling comfier into his chair. "It was broken the first time it started calling itself Jenny," he says, roughly and quietly. "And it hasn't recovered since. This little fairytale you're helping Gillian cultivate is cute and all but— "

The words snip off, and he gives a brisk shake of his head before staring sullenly into the fire. "You give them names. Tavisha, Sylar, Jenny. But they're still copies of me, made wrong or not. What do you think happened to the Gabriel part of Jenny? That he hates himself enough to get erased? Or he's trapped somehow? Who cares, right?"

Eileen's fingertips twitch on the back of the chair, and she's glad Gabriel isn't in a position to see it. It may be that she's fighting the instinct to give him a brisk slap — more likely, she's in silent opposition her desire to touch him again. Soothing with hands and mouths is easier than soothing with words, which she's becoming increasingly anxious about expressing. Between addresses she's made to the Ferry and the arguments she's had with Raith over the results, she doesn't feel as though she has very many left in her. And yet—

"I give them names because the rest of the world needs a way to differentiate." She watches the side of his face now turned away from her, studying his profile with a gentle sort of attentiveness, but still her hands remain where they are. "Do you hate yourself?"

Gabriel settles his chin on the curved knuckles of his hand furthest from Eileen, sinking down enough to let his elbow rest upon the furniture's arm. A slow blink makes exaggerated shadows in the low light, and a muscle high on his jaw twitches a little under her question. "No," he responds, with a gavel's certainty. "But I can imagine that if I were weaker, the things that I've done might crush me out. That it might be easier to give in and break under the pressure than it would to hold it up.

"And I don't think it is the way it is because the clone made a choice. I don't care about Jenny Childs — but her memory might. It's a part of an ability I have. Memories are opportunistic, parasitic." A glance, and he adds, "Just look at Kazimir Volken."

Kazimir's name creates a sudden tenseness in Eileen that wasn't there before. Along with Wu-Long, he and the other people she's loved and lost are a constant presence lurking beneath the misty surface of her consciousness, but unlike the ghosts sharing Gabriel's headspace, Eileen's shadows do not speak, have minds of their own or take physical shape anywhere except in the occasional dream. The only way to summon them to her immediate attention is to invoke their memory as Gabriel has now.

That is to say: she hasn't forgotten him. Won't ever. Can't. But it's impossible to miss the alarm angling her brows and shaping her mouth the next time she opens it. "There's a telepath who still owes me a few favours," she offers softly. "She helped us with Epstein before we knew he was one of yours. She could tell us whether there's a part of you trapped inside or if all that's left are just memories of the dead.

"With your consent."

The shrug Gabriel gives is jerky enough to betray exactly how disturbed he is by the thing upstairs, hand smoothing up his face, and he's going to object. Any moment now, he's going to object, and Eileen can see it in the building tension and the tension twitching inward in his eyebrows, balking already at the prospect of a telepath rooting through his head, attached to himself or not. Reluctance vibrates up their shared going-through-a-tunnel empathic connection, so it might be a surprise when he says—

"Fine." A leg kicks up to rest a calf against a knee, a relaxed cross of limbs with the injured foot allowed to hang limp from his ankle. "Maybe there's something to salvage. If there isn't, it gets buried."

When it comes down to it, Eileen prefers concessions over ultimatums, but she learned a long time ago to take what she can get with Gabriel. Any argument that she might be prepared to make is still in its infant stages, and she isn't about to bump it out of the proverbial nest when it's still blind, deaf and bereft of feathers. She has time to stall, time to consult and, most important of all, time to appeal unless Jenny's death warrant is signed posthumously in her own blood.

Satisfied with Gabriel's compromise, she eases her weight off the chair, removes her hand from its back and makes a quiet sound of assent.

When no argument comes, Gabriel betrays himself in a quick glance towards Eileen as if expecting to see the coming storm written in her expression. He doesn't, and though he doesn't believe this discussion is necessarily over, the matter is resolved for tonight. Without inclination to go and see the subject of debate for himself, he only sinks deeper into his chair and concentrates on the feeling of the fire's warmth licking up his body, loosening the lingering tension that the cold instills. The crackle of the hearth is given the floor as silence meets Eileen's assent.

There are a few moments where Eileen is content to stand there before standing becomes uncomfortable, not because of what's hanging unsaid between them, but because she hasn't fully recovered from the bullet she took to her stomach and is still physically adapting to the injury. There's no resentment in her tone when she bids him a low good night and opts not to press a kiss to the crown of his head. General despondency and moroseness instead, and none of it directed at him or the emotional distance his aloof demeanor places between them.

Nonetheless, she has the sense to touch a hand to his shoulder as she goes in an attempt to communicate these thoughts so he isn't left wondering if her displeasure is reserved for him or existence in general.

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