eileen4_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Swell
Synopsis Eileen explains to Gabriel what Ethan and Raith probably already know: Feng Daiyu is just the beginning.
Date August 2, 2009

The Garden

Situated in a copse several miles away from the nearest stretch of asphalt, the Garden is accessible via an old dirt road that winds snakelike through the woods and dead-ends at the property's perimeter, which is surrounded by stone wall plastered with wicked coils of rusty barbed wire to keep would-be intruders from attempting to scale it. Those with a key can gain entry via the front gate.

The safehouse itself is a three-story brickwork cottage over a century old and covered in moss and ivy. It slants to one side, suggesting that the foundation has been steadily sinking into the wet earth; incidentally, this may be one of the reasons why its prior occupants never returned to the island to reclaim their property when government officials lifted evacuation orders and re-opened the Verrazano-Narrows shortly before its eventual destruction.

Inside, the cottage is decorated in mismatched antique furniture including a couch in the living room and an armchair nestled in the corner closest to the fireplace that go well with the safehouse's hardwood floors and the wood-burning stoves in some of the spare bedrooms. A heavy wooden table designed to seat eight separates the dining area from the rest of the kitchen, which is defined by its aged oak cabinetry and the dried wildflowers hanging above them.

Whether it be certain death at the hands of a yelping Peter Petrelli, or destroyed through whatever means cat shelters have at the end of the day, most of the litter would come to face it. Those that were never used wound up left in a box on the steps of the shelter, three missing. Two of them are so much ash, converted into dirt, into dust, and eventually not even that, given enough time.

This one is battling a flower-weed, tail flicking and with such focus that you wouldn't guess that all his siblings had perished.

It's late in the day, the light dying into the embers of sunset upon a horizon blocked from immediate view in the Garden, surrounded as it is by thicker forest. Rather than heading inside, where it's slightly too hot and slightly too stifling and these days, more often than not, slightly too crowded, Gabriel remains outside upon his return, a slouching figure against a tree in the wide open space of the cottage's territory, the tabby kitten having wandered a few feet away to adventure through tall, overgrown grass to bat clumsy paws at bugs and bobbing flowers. It's cute. You know. If you like that kind of thing.

Boots, jeans and a black wifebeater make up towards apparel, jacket discarded next to him. Legs crossed at the ankle in front of him, seated on the grass with his back in the curve of a tree trunk, Feng's phone is still a subject of interest. The numbers within it long since copied down somewhere secure, Gabriel now contents himself in attempting to flip it end over end over the backs of his longer fingers, catching it with his other hand when it doesn't seem to work. Incredibly idle, his mind is far busier than his demeanor would suggest.

If it weren't for the clatter of the screen door slamming shut on its hinges, the figure emerging from the cottage's side door might otherwise go entirely unnoticed. Eileen's bare feet make no sound as she descends the stone steps and plunges headlong into the tall grass with only a pair of jeans to protect her legs from the brambles, stinging nettles and poison ivy that lurk hidden amongst the red fescue undulating like waves in the breeze that wafts off the coastal waters and blows relief through her hair. There are snakes, too, but none so dangerous as the oily serpent that is Feng Daiyu.

She can handle hot. She can even handle stifling as long as there's a window nearby to crack open. Crowded, on the other hand, makes her feel like the room is closing in on her from all sides — which is why she's moving away from the cottage as swiftly as her injured ankle will allow. Her path will eventually take her past Gabriel and his tree, though she has yet to notice that she isn't the only person shying away from the indoors. If she had, she'd probably have taken off in another direction at a much brisker clip.

Although it's impossible to pick out the finer details at a distance, her appearance seems to have markedly improved since Gabriel saw her last. She isn't staggering around like a drunk, for one thing. For another, her eyes are bright and her hair lacks the consistency and sheen of an oil slick. If she's feeling sober enough to take a walk around the property at dusk without someone to watch her back, then she's probably well on her way to a full recovery.

She might see the cat first, out of a visual prioritising of movement over stillness; the little blur of striped fur, mixes of greys, browns and patches of white. A rustle of grass as the kitten leaps in an attempt to kill whatever it was that moved, that made his tail swish to and fro and ears twitch forward. Then, big bright eyes turn to regard the incoming of another stranger, but quickly dismissed in favour of trying to pin down a waving stem of grass that had tickled his whiskers.

Much less playful, the way the phone is being handled on the cusp of thought by the man a few feet away isn't so unlike a feline toying with its prey. Stops, however, palming the cellphone at the crashing sound of the screen door, craning his neck a little to see if it's anyone he desires to avoid. Whether Eileen qualifies is up for debate, but she doesn't have Gabriel immediately disappearing into inky black fog and silently snaking away.

He doesn't get up, either. Arms folding across his torso, Gabriel rests his head back against the tree trunk, speaking up before she can lift her eyes to find him. "You look better," he notes. "Clean."

Kittens are not an uncommon sight at the Garden. The cottage is visited by so many ferals and strays that there is almost always a nursing queen hiding somewhere on the property or tending to her litter in the adjacent woods. A kitten alone without any sign of its mother or siblings, although not unheard of, is a rare enough find that it catches Eileen off-guard like a rusty nail. She comes to an abrupt halt, squares her narrow shoulders and scans the tabby's surroundings for another striped tail poking out of the grass. Instead, she finds—


If she had the power to dissipate into smoke and filter away through the gathering darkness, she just might. Unfortunately, she possesses no such ability and is instead forced to face the one person she hoped she might put off seeing for another day or two. How she looks is not necessarily an accurate indication of how she feels.

She says nothing in response to his assessment, at least not at first.

Tada. Gabriel even gestures towards himself upon his name being spat out with such surprise, although sarcasm and humour is fleeting, in favour of more serious assessment and study, as if maybe he could see beyond what is obvious. He can really only make a guess. "So I take it you weren't looking for me." His voice comes out wry, eyebrows rising at the way she looks down at him. His fingernails graze his arm, just above the tattoo below his elbow, in a restless scratch.

"Are you going to tell me what happened, or do I have to ask you?" It's a quietly stated question, as if genuinely feeling out exactly how this conversation is supposed to be going rather than a sneaky segue into doing exactly what he had been questioning doing. Meta interrogation. It might seem less accusing.

Confident. Secure. Self-assured. All things that Hokuto suggested she try to be. It's difficult, though, when the last memory Eileen has of the night before is Gabriel taking off her boots and covering her with a blanket. She steps around the kitten and eliminates some of the distance between herself and the man under the tree in a series of cautious, disproportionate strides… but only some.

She's had most of the day to arm herself in preparation for this conversation, and in spite of her earlier hesitation, she takes only a few moments to compose her thoughts before she engages him. "I'd like it if you asked," she says in a tone less acerbic than the one she's so often used on him in the past. And yet— "That way I can at least pretend you're more interested in my well-being than you are in Daiyu's phone."

Verbal jabs really shouldn't be surprising, and yet, Gabriel's brow furrows, and he glances down at the device he'd clasped in his hand upon her arrival. Swivels that look back up at her, cynical and unimpressed. "I stayed by your bed all night," he says, after a moment that permeated with the sounds of clicking insects and the ever present rustle of tree branches. "You didn't have much to say about what happened to me after Pinehearst, either.

"Here." Even with their distance, and the difference in levels— he, slouched the way he is, and she, standing where she is— Gabriel still manages a graceful throw, flicking the cellphone through the air directly towards her torso in a mild arc, intended for catching. "How are you?"

Eileen's hand-to-eye coordination still leaves something to be desired. She just happens to get lucky, catching the phone with the same dexterity and smoothness with which Gabriel tossed it. Her eyes leave his face for the time it takes her to verify that it's the same device — the one with crack down the middle of the LED screen — before she turns it over in her hands and rubs her thumb along its edge in thought.

"Would you have wanted me to?" she asks him as lifts her eyes from the phone and focuses her attention on Gabriel once more. The light seeping through the tree's leaves illuminates his figure in strange, dappled ways that give her an extra few seconds of pause. "After what you asked Teodoro to tell me, I don't think you'd have liked the things I had to say. You're too proud. Incidentally, so'm I."

He shifts enough to get out of his slouch against the tree, legs retracting, knees lifting so that he can curl his arms around his knees, fingers splaying in a gesture of a shrug before coming together. "Fine," Gabriel says, with a dismissive shake of his head, irritation making marks in his tone of voice. "Forget I asked. I'll assume you're just swell."

A hand moves to rub his fingertips up the bridge of his nose, eyes shutting and a sigh streaming out his nostrils. Paaatience. Perhaps teaching a student like Peter is assisting him in having some, though only barely. He looks tired, but healthy - when you're living simply to exist, you tend to. "What happened, that night? You should sit down." He doesn't say that it's because of the crick he's getting in his neck, hand lowering again, arm back around his knees.

Rather than sit down, Eileen sinks into crouch opposite Gabriel in the grass with her elbows resting on her knees and her hands clasped between her legs, the phone dangling. Compromise: she's working on it. "I've another phone," she explains as she senses his ire and adopts a quieter, gentler demeanor in an attempt to passively combat it. "The one Daiyu left us the last time we had a run-in. Thought it might be a good idea to give him a ring and arrange a meeting, see if there wasn't anything useful I could find out."

She reaches out with one arm, offering him the phone again. "I thought about asking you to come along," she adds, her voice growing softer still, "but I was worried he wouldn't show if he had some way of knowing he might walk into an ambush. Turned out to be the other way 'round."

It's a good attempt, to combat sparks of what he had warned not so longer ago— that he'd be mad later. Gabriel is still even as she offers back the phone, assessing, then finally leaning in closer, reaching to take the device back from her. "You should have told me," he says, voice firm, but somehow mimicking her own gentle tone of voice, however unconsciously. "Even if I wasn't invited along, someone should have known where you were. Or been able to watch your back."

His thumb brushes over the cracked LCD screen, glancing at it thoughtfully. "It wasn't a bad idea. But I'm not just a mindless murderer. You know that." Or does she? Eileen earns a flick of a glance upwards, back down at the phone again. "I could have helped. What did you find out?"

"Ethan and Raith aren't the only two team leaders that Kazimir designated. There are others, all over the globe. Ramirez, Rasoul, Grigori— though maybe not for much longer." The temptation to hold onto the phone just a little bit longer so she can prolong what almost passes for physical contact between them is strong. Stronger still is her resolve to fight it. Her outstretched hand drops back down, fingertips brushing through long stalks of grass as she occupies herself with twisting the head off an unlucky dandelion.

"The CIA's putting together a taskforce to systematically eliminate those of us who are left, starting with Holden. I tried bargaining with him to get him to talk more. Stupid." Instinctively, she reaches up and rubs the heel of her free hand over the injection site on her arm, flinching when she realizes the tenderness there has yet to fade. "He said some other things, too. Nothing important by your standards."

As she speaks, Gabriel picks up his jacket lying on the grass, though doesn't yet get up - simply shifts just enough to pull the garment on, as the chill of dusk is starting to settle and sap away the lingering summer day warmth. The cellphone is subsequently disappeared into a pocket as well, legs coming to fold against the grass and arms wrapping back around him. "The CIA? I guess that counts as flattering," he says, with a twitch of an eyebrow upwards.

And. He believes her, when she says nothing important by his standards. Although perhaps he shouldn't, taking into account recent events, but he has stuff to say too, so. "There were only two numbers on his phone. Someone called Director, and the other one is listed as Autumn. I don't know if they're both code names or only the former - if so, I have an idea about who Autumn might be. I won't be sure until I pick up the phone, I guess."

Which— evidently, though the tone of voice and the fact that he hasn't yet— is not an impulsive move he's going to do immediately, not until a reason presents itself, or if it doesn't seem more like giving them a headstart than anything rewarding.

Eileen presses a sigh past her lips. "Daiyu's one thing," she says. "One man. The more space you put between yourself and his employers, the safer we'll all be." Her argument ends there. Either she has nothing else to add or she knows better than to confront him about it. Hokuto was right; Gabriel will do what Gabriel will do, and there's no other way she'd prefer it. "Whatever you plan on doing, I won't stop you. And I'll try not to let the others, either. You were right about what to do with Teodoro." Which presumably means she believes he's right about this, too. Whatever it is.

She's also becoming increasingly aware of the temperature and its steady decline now that the sun is low in the sky and the weather is beginning to cool. Unlike Gabriel, she lacks a jacket and resorts to rubbing her hands up and down the lengths of her bare arms to stave off whatever discomfort the dip is causing her to experience. "What about you?" she asks. "Swell?"

"Have you seen Teodoro lately?" Gabriel asks, tone facetious, gaze tracking away from her to scan the immediate area - not for threat, but for wherever the kitten's run off to. No where in sight, although a small shudder of movement over there indicates the presence of the feline. "You don't know." Not that he's about to disagree with her or anything, but perhaps calling a bluff.

Nothing he pursues, either. Getting to his feet with less agility than he'd normally like, attributed to the amount of time he's been sitting, Gabriel glances up towards the sky, and then down at her. "Swell," he agrees, shortly. "I don't always go into situations with guarantees that I'll get out of them, but I'm always equipped to deal with it. If something goes wrong, it's my mistake. You should get your ability back."

It's stated simply, not really an order. "You can be capable without it even if you have it. Last night didn't need to happen the way it did."

"No," Eileen concedes. "It didn't." No mention of Teo or whether she's seen him lately; either she's content to let Gabriel wonder or she knows something he doesn't. Given her partialness for privacy, the former seems more likely than the latter. As he rises from his seat at the base of the tree, she remains crouched in the grass for a few moments longer before bracing her right hand against the stronger of her legs and pushing herself to join him on her feet.

She does not promise to see Delphine at the next opportunity. That much is implicit. "While we're telling each other what we should and shouldn't do, maybe you ought to bring the little monster inside before it gets too dark." It isn't a good bye so much as it is a potential out, should he be in want of one.

"If I can find it," Gabriel agrees, with a look back to her. A pause, then, "I tried to tell you— when I was in Teo's brain. I don't remember much— after a point, it's like trying to remember a dream. A long one. But I said it would be easier, if you had your power. If we both did. You can figure out what you should do on your own."

And with that, he's moving away— around her, specifically, hunting down the kitten who has wandered some ways away in the lengthening shadows, with no fear of getting lost or the threat of snakes in the grass.

If we both did. Eileen wants to ask Gabriel what makes him think she'll let him duplicate her ability twice after what they both had to go through the first time, but ends up biting down on the tip of her tongue at the last possible second and trapping it between her teeth. Of course he doesn't remember. Why should he remember anything of what went on Teo's head — or hers?

The corner of her mouth quirks up into a rueful expression that isn't quite a smile as he maneuvers around her in search of his latest and smallest ward. She does not chase. Does not pursue. Simply turns, showing his back her shoulder, and resumes her steady trek toward the treeline.

She should probably be getting back inside, too. And she will, once she's had some time alone to steep in the emotions that have been weighing on her ever since she woke up this morning in an empty room and a blanket bundled around her shoulders.

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