Swim, Does Baby Duck


gabriel_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Swim, Does Baby Duck
Synopsis Teo-hybrid comes hesitantly to look in on his blinded maker, which inevitably results in his maker checking in on him. Follows Swim, Said The Mama Duck.
Date September 21, 2009

Staten IslandThere's a house on a river that is moderately empty.

Sounds like a sad song, doesn't it?

There's a house on a river that is moderately empty. Pillars of concrete and wood sink right into the water to accommodate the over hang of building that leans over the creek itself, staring out into rural green grown wild. Flaky paint, chipped white, clean windows, and naturally, zero electricity. One day, someone will get a generator up here and figure that out, eventually. It might even be Gabriel.

For now, the last dregs of sunlight will suffice for those who need it. The house is mostly empty, but the front door will give, unlocked. If there's anyone they have to worry about finding them, it won't be anyone bested by a lock to which they have no key.

Pale blue ambient light filters in through the kitchen window, framed by rotted curtains of lacy white and stiff teal. Long since looted, only the belongings of those that have claimed this space as their own - there's a portable stove, a first aid kit, a box of matches, all of which are currently untouched but recent. The kitchen table is in place, a sturdy thing of solid wood, with burn and knife marks scouring the surface, dusty but undamaged. Someone sits upon it, their face turned attentively towards the window of fading light, with a black torch rolling between pale hands.

For all intents and purposes, it seems as though Helena Dean has taken watch in the Remnant's kitchen, hair unbound and face clean.

"Shapeshifting doesn't help, I take it?" It isn't the first thing that Gabriel would've heard of the new arrival, but it's the closest thing to a verbal salutation. There had been footfalls, the loose-hinged easing of the unsecured door, a deliberately incautious shuffle of a body through closed space, moisture sticking between the soles of his boots and peeling loose from the chalkily dirt-scabbed floor. No thief would part with such a tread in an unknown house.

So, 'Shapeshifting doesn't help, I take it?' Teo has his shoulder propped up on the doorframe, his empty hands in loose, not-quite-casual curls hung down at his thighs, his weight shifted onto one boot and the ball of his foot turned up like a horse at rest. It could be a bit of an assumption, to think that the only reason Gabriel would take the face of Phoenix's little towheaded leader would be… relatively practical and constructive and based on some ungainly weakness, but. The alternative would be to accuse Gabriel 'Sylar' Gray of rudeness.

Or else, incompetence and a heavy-handed accident. "I could ask Flint…"

Gabriel twitches his head— Helena's head— towards the direction of the voice, gaze heavy lidded and pointed downwards. A black T-shirt hangs off the much slighter frame he's acquired, dark jeans all but drowning legs, feet bare where they dangle above the gritty kitchen floor. "I don't think it would help." Helena's voice is hollow, warped around the way Gabriel speaks and so completely different, in some ways, even with that simple statement. "That's assuming he would help in the first place."

Now, he tries to see, or at least meet Teo's gaze in some way. Too far down, unused to Helena's height, and too much towards the left. "Shapeshifting doesn't help," he confirms, head tilted as if to say it was worth a try. Which, when it comes to sight, it would be worth a try.

Hand gripping the edge of the table firmly, Gabriel levers himself off to stand. His heels hit the ground heavily, but there's no stumble or stagger. "You're back."

One shifter's enough for the house. "Yeah," Teo confirms, closing into the space between himself and Gabriel on another brief, audible progression of footfalls, before either courage or alternate agenda fluctuate into his course. He turns right, toward the counter. Starts to clank about in the cupboard, his thumb tugging rasp of ceramic or jar glass or steel, whatever sturdy old vessels they happen to have lying around in lieu of proper houseware. He adds a verbal caption: "I'm going to make tea."

Of course, if he'd really meant courtesy and grace, he would've done well to bring beer instead. The gesture has the stink of spontaneity to it, a fact that Teo is all too aware of, watching his own indistinct reflection in the ruined gloss of the stovetop's backsplash. Not that the stove works, anyway. Hot plate: he assumes they have one around here somewhere, and he should only be a few more seconds rifling. Even Gabriel can tell he doesn't know how to meet his blinded eye. "Just checking in. I'm out of your hair after."

Gabriel turns towards the table, adjacent to where Teo is pawing his fingers through supplies. And then, there's no warning nor audible cue as to the transformation that follows. Long tendrils of gold-blonde muddy and darken into raven-wing black in the same time it takes to retract into his skull, crawling up his spine in an uncanny sensation he'd never really paid attention to before. Masculine hair sprouts along his forearms, which thicken. Chest smooths flat, shoulders go wider, his spine stretches to the familiar height of 6'1".

It should probably be painful, and it— isn't— not exactly. Just wrong, and over soon enough. The transition from Helena Dean to Gabriel Gray is neither smooth nor attractive, but then, these transformations rarely are. Eyes vacant, Gabriel obligingly shuffles out of what he perceives might be the way. The table shudders a little when he connects with it, but neither pain nor annoyance crosses his expression.

The flashlight remains in his hand, despite the thickening of fingers and widening of palm. His thumb finds the switch with a little feeling, flicks it off and on, before setting it aside. "You're not in my hair."

The transformation is watched in fractioned glances, sidelong, as Teodoro sets about assembling his tiny token of domesticity. Fractioned less because it would be rude — Gabe can't see him anyway — than because it's disconcerting to see. Maybe if Gabriel were a woman in his true form, shorter, blonder, a little less— hairy, that wouldn't have been quite as uneasy. As it is, Teo doesn't say anything but not because he didn't want to. That was, kind sir, a bit freakish.

"Great." From anybody else that might sound faintly sarcastic, perhaps. Not straight talk at the very least. From Teo, it's perfectly straight, no pun intended. It is great that he isn't in Gabriel's hair, never mind that the last physical reference to that was the sheen of tendriled blond sucking back into his scalp like so much straw retracted through the earth's pored flesh. "Were you sending Morse to somebody with that thing?" Clank-clink. Water clops throatily out of a plastic bottle, into the kettle before it's set up, then set to heat with a clip-clack of dials.

Brushing his fingernails along the surface of the table, catching here and there on scratches, imperfections, Gabriel navigates away from Teo at a shuffling kind of stroll. There is an awkwardness. A mix of unexpected company, the blindness, that takes away from his usual ability to rest comfortable within the environment. A hand goes out towards the chair he knows is tucked— close—

It scrapes clunky against the gritty ground. "No." There's hesitation, before Gabriel explains; "I can sense the difference between light and shadow. I don't know if that means this is temporary, or if it's because of another power I have." And. His teeth click together as he shuts his mouth, sits down, stiff tension in his back refusing to let his spine curl and shoulders rest.

"Helena asked if I'd be willing to play decoy in their war with Humanis First." This explanation is offered without prompt, sliding the last puzzle piece into why. Seeing if he could.

There's a membraneous ripple and squirm of surprise or mayhap even alarm, there. Teo hadn't seen that coming. Possibly because Helena hadn't told him, or because— because it was fucking Peter's idea, transparent in its cruel indifference toward the Remnant, and Peter's all wrong in this timeline, or because that explanation with Gabriel's current state of nigh helplesness isn't an explanation at all. Teo thinks that Gabriel can't be serious.

Right? Surely. He waits a few blank seconds, watching the water and the bubbles held underneath its transparent surface stand in limp silence. Gabriel doesn't add to it, or take back the 'their' from when he said 'their war.' Not 'your.' Not that Teo had really expected him to.

"I might be able to pull some files on the ability that took your sight, maybe. If the guy who held it was a Moab convict, there might be old paperwork floating around that could tell you whether it's temporary. 'M glad it's not all gone, though," he says, and that's true even if that isn't what's resting its blatant weight on the forefront of his mind and its pall over the situation. One soldier's blindness is a tragic thing, but the soldier's still in the foxhole and talking about the mission. Squatting in the same muddy trench, you don't whinge and fret like a wanker about the man's crippled eyesight. Particularly not if the man's Sylar.

"…Are you?" Willing? Heat wafts up over his hands. He's gripping the counter's edge, leaning into it, a casual, casual, innnnocuous thing.

Hands folded in front of him, it could almost be like nothing is wrong, eyes simply resting casual on interlocked fingers. Rude, maybe, or guilty, but not blind. Gabriel's eyelids rest heavy over brown eyes, weight leaned into chair and table as he listens. "She," he feels moved to say. "It was the woman." That's as much as an affirmation for the offer as there could be, from him. For paperwork, problem solving. It's good to talk about it like an obstacle.
"Why not?" Compulsively, he tilts his head back towards Teo, mouth twisting in a bitter smile. "Why would I go with you to Moab to rescue people who hated me? Why would I help Helena the way I helped you? Maybe it's because I'm a selfless and altruistic hero."

Caustic, words a watery kind of acid, more sneer than snarl. "Seemed like once, you believed that was the right fit for me. Then again, you're not really yourself anymore, are you?"

If Teo was himself still, he probably wouldn't snap, first before everything else: "Well, you could barely find a fucking chair, Gabriel."

It is unthinking, reflexive, defensive, and so adolescently transparent he flinches under its cornea-scalding inability to be held up for scrutiny and deny light. Ahhh. Gabriel's unseeing sneer is harder to face than the one that would've featured the scathing acuity of dark eyes, and he doesn't know exactly why it's harder. His hands bunch on the grimy-seamed mortar that holds the counter's surface together. Ahhh. Hhhh.

He straightens his fingers, two by two, and wipes his palms off on his shirt. "It just seems dangerous. Sorry. I know you can take care of yourself." He'd known that Elisabeth could take care of herself, too, but that seems somewhere between irrelevant and insufferable to say. He strains on the tightrope, evens keel, sniffs loud through his nose. "It's not a bad idea. Cardinal's been talking about getting a decoy situation together. Lure her old man out. It's not a bad plan."

Gabriel's eyes flash with concealed anger around the same time expression drains from his face, defaulting to something as blank and his eyesight. The sneer is gone, at least. It would be easy to convert back into the inky-wraith form that would allow him to do things like find chairs, or, say, leave without a word - pack up awkward attempts, brave words and sarcastic comments and go. The inner battle over what to do is as furious as it is brief.
In favour of that, defensive words rise to the surface; "I was the only one out of any of us that killed last night. I didn't need to see."
That sound about as hollow to his ears as they do in his head, and palms press flat against the table. "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if the spirit is willing. Helena can find someone else, or do it herself. I don't care."

It would be pretty rude to flip a table with a blind dude sitting at it, so Teo is going to wait. Over here. With the boiling kettle, staring fastidiously down at the quiescent, shiny gray of the hot plate that holds it up. The words spring from his lips like little green bits of green greenery forcing their way up and out from under rotted paving, unbidden, without foresight or logic at the possibility there may be no sunshine, rain, or future for them on the other side: "It matters if you're spirit's willing. It means you care."

A quaver-beat's silence stagnates, and then either the haste of embarrassment or the wry afterthought it's disguised as pokes in: "Maybe not about the right thing, but the common interpretion of that is the righteous thing, and I'm sure no one needs to hear that. I don't know when the thing's going down. Maybe you'll have a solution by then," he tries, heartened by the first trace of steam spuming out of the kettle's throat. Optimism. It's the other thing Teo tends to grow out of the pitted and blast-scarred gravel.

"Maybe." The word is tossed back at him, as if discarded, but without particular vehemence. Gabriel's been casually picking up and setting aside token pieces of optimism for the past 24 hours. He wants to pace, and doesn't, just continues to direct his eyeline down towards the table. "I don't care. Not about Humanis First or Phoenix. I care about what I can't do, instead of what I choose not to do."

His hands come up from the table, smooth his hair back, clasp against his face and rub his eyes. A chuckle is muffled against his palms before they fall away again. "Sometimes I forget. I was in your head for so long, I created you, and I forget. Do you forget too?"

The erstwhile serial-killer's statements stand out monolithic and stalwart on terrain made same by somewhat more psychologically normal people who care about the right things. The righteous things.

Teo is not unaware that that's kind of creepy, if not rude, that it is perhaps even a little wrong to dismiss the terrorists and the war and the principles out of hand with such a lack of ceremony, but he's also aware that he would only take issue with that, rouse the man out of his thinking if he needed or wanted Gabriel to do something for him. That's probably a little wrong, too.

You could make a joke about inheritance, maybe, only it predates what Gabriel's talking about just like the manners that steer him to pour water into the chapped yellow plastic of one cup, fills the jar halfway before realizing he hadn't asked Gabriel if he wants any.

He finishes filling the jar anyway, looks down, almost even downcast.

"Figured it was like— ah, accidentally… jizzing into a Petri dish and creating a lifeform that can miraculously survive off terrestrial atmosphere and its own shit for an indefinite timespan. Figured you'd rather forget the way it happened, so." The jar knocks down on the table in front of Gabriel, before he switches it for the plastic cup. Peels teabags out of card wrappers, drops them in, consecutively, the blind man's before his own. He sounds like he's smiling, a little. "Gonna whittle me a bride out of my severed rib?"

He can hear the cup come down, and in the vaguest of senses, he can feel reflection of light off its plastic sides and even the steam in the air. Reaching out with that unknown sense, some mixture of everything he can do built into one tenuous lifeline into the outside world, the steam stops, for a moment, then tornadoes in the other direction before released to disperse as nature intended. It's not sight, and will never be sight, but it makes the corner of Gabriel's mouth quirk up in a rueful, bitter kind of twist.

Slowly, he eases his hands along the table until his fingers brush against the cup, come up to carefully curl around. Nothing, after that; just confirmation. "Thought that wasn't your thing," Gabriel says, so that's good timing for a smirk.

The hot plate is switched off with a push and pull of elaborate controls. The kettle's foggy serpent tongue slows its hiss, and Teo is scraping up a chair to put himself on, squaring his boots flat on the floor. He looks at the slow spin of herbal particulate staining out into the water inside the jar's glass belly.

After a moment, he gets out of his passive stupid duhhh gap-eyed cow mode and grabs the teabag by the tab, shuffles it around in the water, up and down, clouding it with green. His compunctions against staring at Gabriel's sightless efforts are fading, along with his compulsion to behave more like his excruciatingly polite and guilt-ridden unpowered superhero self than the dickish sociopath who constitutes at least as much. "Yeah. Well." Heh. "Good one.

"Topical. Classy. I like it. Honestly, it would've been nice if you'dve fucking put me together with any kind of thing at all." There's weight to the look he gives Gabriel, but no heat in it, a teenager's resentment parodied in a pull of a face that the blind man can probably almost hear. "I'm too young to not be able to get it up, thanks for checking. You? Gillian?

"Eileen?" He flippantly flips that names out of the unshuffled deck.

Eyebrows go up, an expression for the seeing, and a hand lifts from his tea too, open palmed. Don't look at me, in gesture. "My." And he leaves it at that. Gabriel's fingers feel out the drawstring of the tea bag, settles into a contemplative silence as he guessingly stirs, to thicken the water with flavour. Much like an eyebrow raise, the tattoo on his arm acts as a benefit for everyone not him. The ink doesn't make raises or scars against his skin, visual only in its looping black curls written stark into his forearm. It's more or less flattened against the table for now.

He shrugs mostly bared shoulders. "Sometimes I don't think she likes me. Not really. But it's good. That she doesn't have to like me to be in love. I think that was Gillian's problem. Some people just don't hate themselves enough."

The tea is brought up, a stream of cool air dispersing the roiling steam. A sampling sip, before it's set down again, before the drawstring is used to shake more of itself into the water when it comes away bland. "Maybe you just found out there were more important things." As if the topic of Eileen never did occur, the erstwhile serial killer makes this suggestion. "That used to be me too. I used to crave nothing. Distractions are overrated - it's not like you're a man without purpose."

Winding thread secure around forefinger, Teo assures he's not about to lose the packet to drowning when he takes a sip. Hot, too hot, but not hot enough to burn him or do more than bother his sensibilities for only the briefest of grimaces. Pretty strong tea, too! A different man might hesitate to get a cranky, blind, occasionally radioactive Evolved mass-murderer all hopped up on caffeine, but Teodoro's bold that way.

Or something, something, something. He doesn't reach over to help, of course. "A man with stuff to do isn't the same as a man with a purpose. Maybe it bothers me like a facetious, toy model, teeny tiny version of what's going with you and your eyes." Teo lifts his chin, indicates Gabriel's eyes with a gesture that Gabriel's eyes can't see. "I care because I can't. I wouldn't if I chose not to. My boy isn't like your girl.

"Might be news to you: dysfunctional conflict isn't how most relationships function, and I'm a little too average to pull off what you two have." This is either the corollary or the inverse of a conversation they'd had in the red desert, in one of his lives. Either way, it makes sense now they're clutching shitty kitchencrafts full of tea instead of bottled moonshine.

It can take a while to speak the same language, with regards to Gabriel, but once you're there— his head tilts. Fair, about the caring. And he sips his tea. "It's not news," he says, when the swallow of bitter warm liquid is gone. "And one day, our averageness will catch up with us. She'll understand that she could be happier. I'll hit a stride that doesn't involve her. Something."

He pitches his non-gaze to somewhere where Teo's voice is coming from. "She knows that. She's the one that put it to words." There's more to say, there, but hesitancy catches words in Gabriel's throat. Rubs his thumb against the edge of the cup, and then switches.

"I'm going back there. I'll be careful. I'll still want anything you can find on what happened to me, but I'll go crazy if I don't do anything."

Previously, Teo has exhibited no compunctions about asking somebody if they're serious: even if he's being held at gunpoint in spectacular circumstances. What stops him now couldn't bear the weight of words, so it's probably better not to assign any labels to the amorphous thing that ties his jaws shut and weighs his gaze down to the top of the table. "I'd tell you about the world Ghost came from, but I don't know how to make that— useful.

"So I won't. Conditional immortality tends to put the 'forever kind' of anything in awkward perspective." Another sniff, his mouth flattening briefly, around his next sip of tea. "I guess happy's your operative word." He smiles, breathes out of it in one toneless syllable, not laughter but merely postmarking the expression across the distance for the blind man's sake.

"You have a plan?" Teo asks, scooting upright in his chair, attentive, now. Worried, though he keeps the stink of that minimal, aware of Gabriel's heightened— senses, if not sensibilities.

He knows about Ghost's world, and his mouth twists in a way that could keel over into either smile or frown territory; hidden before either can be determined by the cup of tea in the next moment. Zero response. It's not that Gabriel doesn't have one, either, it just doesn't seem necessary to share. No need to burden the time traveler in the room. He keeps eyes trained forward, off-centre and indistinct. It corrects itself minutely at the sound of a chair shifting.
Senses really do heighten when one is stolen away, at least in the imagination. "Mostly. I can transform into something else that can more or less see. It can't do much else, but it can see. I'll see what the body left behind can tell me. They've probably left tracks, too."

Curiosity whets the angle of Teo's brow, grooves shadow into it. He lifts his knuckles up under his chin, scuffs back and forth in a squirmily curious kind of way, before he asks, finally: "What do you transform into?" It is kind of like intellectual interest, and kind of like Can I see your gun? or your battle scars, a little bit of muscleheaded trench braggadocio and a curiosity honed on years and dozens of exposures to a variety of Evolved abilities.

"Can I see?" Beat's pause. He adds, by way of agreement if not unnecessary approval, "I'd be surprised if they hadn't left any tracks at all, the size of that clusterfuck."

Showing is better than telling, at least when it comes to this power. Gabriel hesitates, and then, promptly lifts his tea and steadily drains the rest of the luke warn liquid. The caffeine helps. Even when blind, Gabriel has ways to spend restlessness. Shapeshifting into little girls or transforming into shadows. Setting down the cup, it doesn't take any build or any effort to change. Darkness sketches out across Gabriel's features, washes him in neutral matte black until his shape melts away altogether.

It's one of the few ways Gabriel knows guilt. Treating these powers like parlour tricks. They're worth more than that and still, he gives in sometimes - everyone is human. He doesn't remain hovering on his chair for long, form too liquid and too mobile for that. He waterfalls down off the side, shimmers across the ground in a spiraling mass of anti-gravity ink. Navigates the kitchen sinuously and expertly, in sharp contrast to his former tentative foot shuffles and feeling hands.

Hitting a wall, it climbs up it, too black to disguise itself amongst the shadows there, and slowly dragged back down to the ground. Part of him doesn't really want to change back. For now, it's a superior form to be in, and Gabriel was always into self-improvement.

Wu-Long is a name that Teo's known since the little girl bird 'path who is his friend mentioned it from her squat at the bottom of her makeshift prison cell, the rough description of what the old soldier could do and her quiet, not quite regretful suggestion that he ask Alexander, who'd know better. Zhang Wu-Long had been alive, then.

It is probably the wrong assumption that the Sicilian is making, the circumstances of Zhang Wu-Long's death and the presence of his ability in Gabriel's arsenal, but that whole chapter of their interlocked history is a little convoluted, responsibility dispersed among possessors, bridges that were burning and also unexpected built in metaphorical terms between ~the unlikeliest of allies~. Teo doesn't make a bitchy accusatory face, anyhow. He watches. Twists his head to follow, admiring, really, his brow knit pensively.

Okay, he thinks, watching Gabriel roil up the kitchen's wall like a demon. Creepy. But that aside.

"Whatever she did seems to be pretty firmly rooted in physiology, then. Your blindness isn't telepathic. I don't know if that makes things easier or harder. Can you…" He splays his fingers near his head, wiggles them around the vague and amorphous shape of words he hasn't evaluated properly just yet. He takes another long pull of tea, drains it down his throat with a pull of his cheeks. "Do you have the same light-shadow spider-sense pinging off when you're that, too? Can you tell?"

The shadow Teo is talking to seems to consider this as slowly, slooowly, gravity drags it back down like silk shimmering back over a table surface. It gathers at the bottom though doesn't puddle spread out along the grimy kitchen floor. Instead, it builds upwards, deliberately and almost reluctantly, until the shadows retract and reveal Gabriel like a magic trick, tendrils curving around him, melting back into the fabric of his clothing, hair, tattoo.
Looks no worse for wear than beforehand, even. A hand drifts back to touch the wall. "No," Gabriel says. "I can't use any other power in that shape, so that doesn't tell me much. What are you thinking?"

He makes the trek back towards the table, knowing roughly where it is from his little journey through the kitchen. He touches the edge, follows it around back to his seat.

Better than staying blind the whole fucking way, isn't it? Teo looks at the man, doesn't— make a face or shudder or anything when he ropes back into tangible flesh. Merely watches in warm silence, without edges or a particular spark or fount of intelligence showing on his dopey aquiline boy-features as Gabriel makes his way back to his chair, not one hair/wrinkle/eyebrow out of place, the twisting amoeba-like absence of eyes exchanged for ones that are almost, if not quite useless.

"Oh— just. Nothing, would've been a weird way to tell the experiment either. I was just wondering whether it was partial sight or another ability helping you see, but— that could probably be easier tested if you— or someone just… covered your eyes."

Good-natured sheepishness Crayolas a brush of pink in over his cheeks, doesn't quite bridge his nose. He doesn't, decides not to mention aloud the wisdom of controlling for the possibility that it's merely Gabriel Gray's imagination, ego-fuelled, leading him to believe his blindness remains incomplete.

Easing himself back to sit down, always that cautious negotiation not to do something that would underline the disability, temporary or no, Gabriel would shoot Teo a look. Instead, he just gives a soft snort, and then silence for a moment, hand seeking out the tea cup— again, just for reference— and thoughtfully rotating it. Feeling the play of reflection off it as he'd felt the steam before that.

"You can sense strong shadow and light when your eyes are closed too," he notes, after some thought. "But I can sense it when it's subtle, if not as well. When it's strong, it's like I can almost see it."

Like he can almost see it. Teo, perhaps, didn't need to point it out after all. Theories sound much different when someone else puts a voice to them, out in the open where they don't become convoluted and tangled in his head. Gabriel's jaw tenses, as does his hand, as if contemplating sending the cup skittering across the table or into a wall.

Lets it go, instead. "Don't tell the rest of Phoenix what happened, if it comes up. Tell them I'm unavailable, out of town, whatever. I don't want them knowing." Monotone has set into his tone, words falling like necessity and nothing more.

"All—right." Teo agrees to do this thing, go between for Phoenix, and the serial killer that no one in Phoenix really thinks is at their beck and call, anyway. He contemplates the subtleties that the other man speaks of, reflexively turns his eyes across the table, at the pastelled gradient even within the shade cast there, puts some thought to seeing without eyes.

A little thought isn't going to grant him but a modicum of the true experience, of course, but it's better than being thoughtless. Or so goes the sweeter-tempered, more thoughtful part of him. The other merely adds another curious facet of Gabriel's considerable talents to the catalog of half-known quantities. "They know that you — well, that the Remnant has other concerns, anyway. Since the clusterfuck at the Garden. Feng's name on the grapevine. A thing at a time, I guess. I…

"I didn't know you'd agreed to do this for them. Thanks." It's blankly spoken, ceremony carefully restrained, barred back from parameters that might leak onto Gabriel's sensibilities. He doesn't care. Rrright.

"Raith sold them the story that we'd do their dirty work. Or so Helena thinks." Disdain creeps back into that monotone, and Gabriel sets the cup aside, places his hands against the edge of the table like one would when about to stand, though he doesn't. "I don't know why, exactly. The Remnant is more than just scraps of Vanguard's soldiers. It's tattered remains of an ideal that was a lie all along. The only thing that ties me to them is a common hobby."
And more than that. Back to the subject of caring. Not that Eileen and Ethan need or necessarily want Gabriel's protection or allegiance, but it's there, for whatever it's worth and for now. "And nothing ties me to Phoenix. I didn't agree to anything, I just said I'd think about it. Like I said— if you have to talk about it, then don't tell them the truth.

"Or did I assume wrong?" He angles his head, misses the mark entirely for meeting Teo's eye, but after being in the man's head for as long as he was, Gabriel doesn't necessarily need to look into his eyes. "Maybe you're not really with them anymore. Like Peter."

That glance hits his mark even without the finer points of trajectory. It is, oddly enough, the first real physical admission Gabriel's made of being blind and resets Teo to some earlier stage of timidity, his own gaze flinching back in the pits of his head. He says nothing for a strained moment that ends as if it had snapped in half, rebounded on elastic halves. "We talk.

"I'm involved. Just not as much as I used to be. Ghost's protector complex and Teo's abandonment issues get in the way. Snarling and whinging don't sound a lot alike, but the combination keeps me at an arm's length. Maybe you can fucking empathize." That final statement is unwontedly sharp, the accompanying smile darkly unfriendly, pricking a slight thorn of audacity that Teo's been careful to hold away from the furling tapestry of the conversation lest— i-t— snag. And rip.

Which would be his current concern, automatic. They hadn't exactly parted on the best of terms, not after Ghost had indeed held the other man hostage weeks on end in their head, not after the trauma of rebirth.

Teo looks at his tea.

There's is surprise in the careful blinka-blink Gabriel replies with, at first, silent where he's seated across from the other man and dipping that non-gaze down as if he were capable of studying the table. Then, his chair scrapes some against the floor, but again, no move to stand up. Self-consciousness perhaps holding him back in some capacity. "That's interesting," Gabriel finally states, almost at a purr, of all things, voice low and gravel and delicately ticking harsh over consonants. "Do you hate scrutiny because you do it so well? Or am I just special?"

That word is an interesting word. It gets bandied around a lot, when Gabriel is in the room. His own fault. Right now, it's sneered out, hissed sibilant between a flash of white teeth. The harsh dilutes a fraction, when he asks a question he expects an answer for; "Or do you blame me for what you are?"

This is one of those conversations, and Teo could make a joke out of it: 'I'm not critical. You're critical.' There's nothing particularly funny about it, though, and the only thing worse than a critic who can't take what he dishes is one who can't stand to confess to it. His tea is half gone. Though the level's fallen, there's enough particulate left clinging to the wall that he can see the highest point that the meniscus had and will have risen to.

When he glances up, it's like a flinch. Nothing that Gabriel can see, thankfully. "I blame them for what I am. 'Ghost.' Teo," he says, finally, and there's a note of finality to it, as if he expects the older man to defend one or even both of the Teos that had come before the latest model. The troubled little man of honor whom the others say they've loved and continue to make strange and obscure threats to kill on behalf of, or the deranged creature that had come and set it all to burn. "I hate scrutiny because—

"Because," he moves his head, moves an exhalation like a sigh out of his lungs. "Your questions show up my seams. Your conclusions tend to resonate and have… finality. I couldn't tell you what I want to fucking hear if I tried." Your. That's confirmation, a wryly-phrased excuse to bandy that word around some more. Special. Well, there's 'special' in 'especially uncomfortable.'

He expected an answer and gets one, and so Gabriel is obligated to listen, which he does. Patiently, silently, and when it ends, he's silent for a little longer, as if to make sure that's all she wrote. Then, he offers; "I can stop asking questions." Now he stands, long legs unfolding beneath him, bringing him up to his full height, edging out of the way between table and chair. "I kind of hate who I used to be and who I became too. A weakling and a thoughtless monster. You want to empathise with my blindness but maybe it isn't flattering enough if I try to understand in turn. I don't know.

"But I'll stop. Sometimes you sound like Ghost, who used the me he knows once, and sometimes you sound like Teo, who did the same thing but was polite enough not to kill anyone in the process. I would— and they all would— take one over the other. Which doesn't mean anything about you."
Gabriel pauses, then shrugs once. "I don't know what you want to hear either. I don't tend to try and find it."

"Mi disp—" Lurch. "iace." Teo roughs his hand over his face, huffs a lungful of warm air out between callused digits, stretches them wider, pizza-slice even across his jaw. A spasm shuts his hand into a fist, and he scoops a brief scratch into his eye, a moment, exhuming the rest of his self-aggrandizing tetch and aggravation with a sigh.

He isn't quite Benjamin Fletcher, who can inscribe Shakespearean epics with the expanse of his exhalations, but he can still express a lot just by shaping air through the levered gap of his jaws. There is a tightness in his throat and in his stomach, fear or grief or some hybrid chimera of both but fully explained by neither, about this one that the people in this life miss, and worse, prefer. "I could use a little understanding. Ah— I mean. In more ways than one. Sorry.

"I'm not sure it's the scrutiny, exactly, that grates: 'f all people, you'd think Teo would be better at accepting help but I think really he— I— am used to going the other way. Thanks. I'm being insufferable because… nothing here feels like mine, lately. I mean, the sex thing aside. This war— you called it their war, and it's that to me, too. Even Feng. Deckard and I, we're trying to help with Feng, but that's… Eileen's. Ethan's." Stop-start. You can tear bikes apart and put pieces back together, get something slickly customized and finished over with a chrome-resurfaced paint job that will carry smooth and fast, but the anatomy of the human soul is different.

Gabriel's hand grasps the back of the chair, politely pushes it back into place. "It is their war. Feng isn't your conflict either. Don't worry," and this is a poor man's version of reassurance, but Gabriel delivers it any way, his voice dry enough to crack and flake, eyes made distant, "you'll find one of your very own soon enough. Then you'll stop concentrating on the one in your head.

"Thanks for making tea." Darkness begins to map over his skin once more, then sharply retracts, as if in hesitation. He tries to steer dull eyes towards Teo's paler ones. "I'm also not sorry for what I did to you." Just so we're clear.

There's an eighth of a beat's pause, contemplative. Teo has to check to make sure he stillll doesn't take issue with that. It takes him a moment to remember it could be helpful if he explained why. "I don't regret being alive. Or— created," the word takes two tries to produce, his mouth folded momentarily, empty and angled around the first consonant. "'M not that far gone yet." The smile that follows could have been pulled and shoved into his face with pinching fingers, so brusque, sudden, wry.

tWood grumbling against peeling linoleum, the rock of vessels lifted in Teo's two hands: he gets up. He can tell that Gabriel wants to go. The brief black spasm of energy attenuation was kind of the Evolved multi-powered serial-killer version of coffee served at the end of a dinner party, a polite reminder, a socially interpretable signal. So Teo cleans up, dear little hobbit that he is, pauses abruptly with his face near Gabriel's face.

The kiss he squeezes out on Gabriel's cheek is a joke with three or four different punchlines, most of the humor black, a little of it gallows.

Then he is at the sink. Scrubbing with nails, the skinny bar of soap left, a judicious expenditure of poured water. "Ghost never got around to telling you, but he did always think you'd be a decent dad. For a certain kind of kid."

The gesture has Gabriel blinking, for— reasons. Predictable heterosexuality, for one, and something else that is familiar and startling. He's mute, too, at this sentiment of being a decent dad, angling a look towards where Teo is. It's unfortunate that the younger (?) man is looking down into the sink, because only Gabriel can appreciate the fact that he can see the other man in a way below true eye sight and above the strike of pale evening light making the vaguest of silhouettes to his sixth sense.

There's a pause, and then maybe something startling in the fact it is genuine; "Thank you."

Gabriel makes no sound when he converts into that higher, pitch black form of energy, and Teo will only see out his periphery, the last of its tendrils whipping quick around the corner, to sequester itself in some other room, leaving him alone with stale water and mismatched teacups as company.

"You're welcome," Teo answers, without looking or having to. The quiet threads fingers through his bristled-short hair, once, ruffling, and then the faucet squeaks, his shoes scratch, he hums— some thin, acapellic seven-note ditty that someone else's childhood pleated into his memory, and that, too, leaves him alone.

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