eileen_icon.gif magnes2_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Symptomatic
Synopsis Magnes confronts Eileen and Raith about Gabriel's actions in Madagascar, though conversation soon turns to his own successes and failures, inadvertently causing someone to experience an epiphany in the process.
Date January 13, 2010

USS George Washington

With the sun slowly coming up over the horizon, Magnes has woken up quite early in the morning, mostly to work out and do a bit of practice. He's standing on the back rails with his eyes closed, wearing his gray NAVY shirt, a pair of blue jeans and some white sneakers. He's meditating, and practicing his concentration, both arms stretched out with his index fingers extended, two baseball-sized spheres of water floating above the tips of each. He should likely have fallen by now, if not for his ability, but it's all a part of his current ship routine.

Backlit against the violet sky, two silhouettes — one tall and one small — emerge around the corner. Breakfast in the mess hall today consisted of fresh croissants, scrambled eggs smothered in ketchup and sausage links flavoured with fennel, though it's a mug of honey-sweetened tea that Eileen is nursing as she takes her morning walk alongside the familiar figure of Jensen Raith. The two are engaged in quiet conversation, but the wind whipping across the deck and blowing through her hair makes it impossible for Magnes to decipher what's being said.

They could be discussing the upcoming mission in Antarctica, or they might be talking about something as banal as the weather. Either way, they both appear relaxed and at ease in each other's company.

It's perhaps a mildly unnerving sight, or at the very least, a strange one. To the best of Magnes' recollection, they were always armed and embroiled in this or that act of vigilanteism. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's Raith who first spots the master of gravitation. "Hey, check it," he says, nodding his head in Magnes' direction before he calls out, "Yo! Magnum!" Already, the day is off to a wonderful start. And why not? The life they live is a very dangerous one. They have to enjoy each moment.

Magnes opens his eyes at the sound of Raith's voice, both balls of water floating around and combining to around the size of a small basketball. He pulls out his phone for a moment, pressing a few things, then slides it back into his pocket and starts heading for the two. "Hey! And Eileen, I haven't seen you in a while. I heard you lost your memories, or something?" he asks, treading lightly on the subject.
Teo has arrived.

Eileen arches one dark brow at Magnes' inquiry. Pale eyes the colour of the mist gathering on Marion Island's craggy shore move between Raith and the younger man, and although she says nothing at first, the momentary lapse of silence is just long enough to potentially confirm it. She raises her mug to her lips, mouth frowning against its porcelain rim, and takes a long drink from it. Steam fills the air in front of her face. When she lowers it again, there are residual droplets of moisture clinging to her upper lip like dew, which she wipes away using the pad of one delicately-pointed thumb. "Who have you been talking to?"

"He's Magnes Varlane," Raith says as if to fill in some blank, "He could have been talking to anybody. He could have been talking to nobody and just guessed. He guessed right about the robots. Why not, 'or something?'" Indeed. Why not? "Just take it easy with the info, officer. You're not on Glenn Beck this time."

"Sorry, just…" Magnes looks her over with clear sympathy, frowning slightly. "Gabriel said you couldn't remember him or something, and he's obviously in love with you, so I can relate to his situation. But I wanted to make sure he just wasn't trying to stop me from ripping his-" Clearing his throat, he quickly finishes, "Shirt apart."

Eileen's cheeks are already dappled pink from the cold. The tip of her nose and ears, too. If Magnes' assessment of Gabriel's feelings causes her to blush, it's covered by her rosy complexion and the knit scarf she wears tucked under her chin. "I'd appreciate it if you kept that quiet," she says as she steps up to the railing and curls gloved fingers around it, looking out across the water to the elephant seal colony in the distance. "I'm not supposed to know, and I'd like to keep what I do have. Not just for Gabriel."

"Varlane, do you remember what Kazimir said to you?" Raith asks pointedly, "About not thinking about what you're saying before you've already said it? This is exactly what he meant. Just, accept that she may not recall a few things about the past, and for the love of crap, be a gentleman and don't call attention to it. Especially not in front of anybody who's in charge of this cluster fuck. That's easy, yes? You can do that, right? You'd better be able to do it. A brain-dead rooster could do it. Can you?"

"I can do it. I'm pretty sure I know universe destroying secrets, so, I can keep this." Magnes shrugs, climbing up the rail to sit on the edge next to Eileen, allowing his legs to dangle. "I was honestly asking, because as much as I may not like him for what he tried to do to Claire, a part of me can't completely hate him if I can relate to him like this." Looking down for a moment, then over at her. "I know a cryokinetic and a speedster, you'd think either of them would be more help than me on a mission like this."

"Jensen." Eileen's tone is soft but full of reproach — the sort of voice a doting mother might use on a disobedient child if one ignores the fact that Raith is old enough to be her parent. A tern alights on the railing and clicks it carrot-orange beak at the young woman, expectant. She pauses to reach into her coat pocket, produces a half-eaten croissant bundled in a paper napkin and begins unfolding it at the edges. "You shouldn't judge him because of what happened in Madagascar," she says to Magnes. "It was the result of a moment of weakness. Fear. Gabriel's had plenty of opportunities to take her ability from her, before and since. That he hasn't is symptomatic of something. How much did Claire tell you?"

For the time being, Raith elects to stay out of this part of the discussion. Magnes will not listen to him, but he may listen to Eileen. Instead, he occupies himself with the newly arrived tern, meeting its gaze with his own, whether or not it looks straight at him. He will stare until one of them breaks; showdown.

Good ol' unpredictable Raith.

Magnes holds a hand down to Eileen, causing the sphere of wobbly water to float down in front of her. He's showing her the new aspect of his ability, he enjoys showing it, but continues the discussion. "Claire didn't tell me, I'm not gonna ask her about something like that. I've been trying to make her feel better. Huruma's the one who told me everything that happened to Claire in Madagascar. And moment of weakness, those are the words he used too when he tried to explain himself. But as I told him, if a hungry lion followed its natural instincts and tried to eat Claire, I'd still snap its neck."

"Gabriel isn't a lion," Eileen reminds Magnes, studying her reflection in the water's surface as she tears the croissant into smaller pieces. The tern sits patiently, feathers rumpled, and turns its head to regard Raith with a pair of oily black eyes that do not blink. It makes a sound in the back of its throat that sounds like angry burbling — or maybe that's the boat. "He's a human being," she says, "and as flawed as anyone. Does that one moment of weakness discount everything else he's done?" She offers him a palm's worth of shredded pastry to feed to the tern. "Moab Federal Penitentiary, Pinehearst — this. He's not proud of it, Magnes. He hates that he lost control, probably more than either you or Claire do."

"Wouldn't hurt to cut him a little slack," Raith adds, still staring at the bird. Just try it, beaky. "Besides, it's Claire. She'd heal from it. This sort of thing is really no big deal. It's not like he demolished an entire block in some Japanese city."

"Eileen, I don't know anything about those places, or what really went on. I'm out of the loop, remember? The most I know about Gabriel is that he helped in Madagascar, blew up Midtown, and we're supposedly cop partners in the future." Magnes lists a few of the things he knows, though it's odd that he says Gabriel blew up Midtown, since it's generally a known fact that he knows about Peter and couldn't shut up about it at one point. "I don't know, maybe he's still redeemable, but I'll never allow Claire's ability to be an excuse for allowing someone to hurt her. Like I told him, if he does it again, I'm stopping his heart. If that's not a reason to control himself, then I'm not sure what is."

Looking back at Raith with a slight scowl, he simply shakes his head. "That was a mistake. I couldn't control my ability as well, and I was trying to save someone."

"If you threaten him, ostracize him and treat him like a monster, then he's going to behave like one." Eileen scatters the croissant pieces over the side of the railing and watches the tern's attention snap from Raith to the waves licking against the side of the ship. Two powerful wing beats launch it into the air. Two more send it diving down to snag the Briton's leftover breakfast from the foam with a splash, even as the other seabirds in the vicinity catch wind of the offering and descend upon it with snatching beaks and buffeting wings.

"What Gabriel needs is support," she says. "Not further animosity. But you're right — that she can heal isn't an excuse. What he did was wrong. I won't defend it." She will, however, apparently defend him. "Your feelings for Claire are as strong as his desire for self-preservation. That pull you feel when you think about him hurting her is hard to resist, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess that's one way to look at it… But how do we fix him? It's almost like his ability is a powerful drug with a horrible side effect. And, I guess I can understand an addiction to using your own power, I use mine almost constantly." Magnes stares down as his slowly swinging feet, momentarily looking up at the rising sun reflecting off the water. "And, I guess I can understand being ostracized too. Bad enough that I deal with it for being Evolved, but pretty much everyone else treats me like a black sheep too. Cardinal thinks I'm some sort of lemming, despite what good I've done in the past few months. Hell, almost everyone else thinks I'm constantly screwing up. I've saved people."

Frowning with distaste, looking back at Raith again to see if he's listening, then Eileen. "You know, people actually talk to me as if it was wrong to use my ability to save people sometimes? Like in Chinatown, I'm told Chinatown was bad PR. People say I'm some sort of show off, some cops talk like I'm trying to make them look bad. I was even told higher ups were going to fire me, for PR, despite everything I've done!"

"How do you fix a manic-depressive, Magnes?" Raith asks. If he's listening, and it appears he is, it's only to the parts he's interested in while he looks off over the horizon. "How do you fix a diabetic? How do you fix an amputee? You don't. You don't fix them. You understand that they're bipolar. You understand that they're diabetic, that they're an amputee. You help them learn to live with whatever condition they have." Only then does he turn his gaze back to Magnes, his expression unexpressive, but stern. Class is in session, kiddies, and the professor is teaching you.

"You don't fix Gabriel. You understand that he can't help himself. You help him learn to live with his condition. But before you can do anything, you have to understand, and that's exactly what your problem is. You don't understand. You don't want to understand. You act on the first impulse that comes to you, regardless of the potential consequences of your actions, if you even think to consider them. You don't understand." And Raith grows momentarily silent, slouching forward just slightly, hands folded as if he were resting them on the handle of a cane, expression solemn and, if it can be believed, wisened.

"That, is why you fail."

The raucous voices belonging to the squabbling seabirds are as commonplace as the echoing barks of the elephant seals in their sheltered cove — like the distant foghorns, chiming buoys and the greasy putter of tugboat engines that pass in the night, it attracts no attention from the U.S.S. George Washington's crew. Uniformed sailors making their morning rounds pass the gathering in groups, too immersed in their own conversations to pay the one taking place by the railing much heed.

"It's easier to operate outside the law than within it," Eileen says. "If you disagree with the emphasis that the police place on their public image, then maybe a career in law enforcement isn't right for you." The corners of her mouth tug up around a small smile. "Maybe you should have a chat with Kershner or the man in the sunglasses," she suggests. "I hear the Central Intelligence Agency is looking for a new King of Swords."

Now she's just being contrite; Raith has encapsulated whatever Eileen might have said on the subject of fixing Gabriel, though it's likely she would have used gentler language. "You don't fail," she adds, a dark glance cast in Raith's direction. "You struggle, and for what it's worth — so do I. I love him and it's still hard for me to accept."

"I tried understanding him, I honestly did. I told him he could be helped, that I could help him. But when I heard what he tried to do to Claire… that all just went out the window to me, I couldn't help it, especially with everything else she went through. When we get back home, she might not even be my girlfriend anymore. Hell, who am I kidding? She's not my girlfriend anymore, if I want her, I have to somehow make lightning strike twice. And, knowing that, having someone to get revenge on, to fight, I went after him." Magnes allows the water sphere to drop, then falls backward, catching himself in the air so he can stare at the clouds with his hands behind his head. His legs are still dangling over the rail. "And what are you talking about? You two worked for the CIA? Is that who your tarot card group is? And I don't think anyone wants me to be the king of anything. I'm a pizza boy, a failed cop, failed Company agent, failed boyfriend, failed friend. I've been shot four times. You honestly think someone wants me to join their group anymore? I've done a lot of good, but, people don't see that, they'll just see where I failed."

Without a word, Raith departs from his position and approaches Magnes, stopping next to the twenty-something and looking down at him, despite their faces being pretty close together. "Let's talk about the good you've done," the ex-spy says, "And more importantly, how you did that good. You don't understand, Varlane. But you think that means you can't understand? You can learn. I've watched you learn. And the way I see it, you have two options. One-" Bringing his hand into Magnes' field of view, he raises his index finger up. One- "You can float there feeling sorry for yourself. Or two-" The middle finger joins in. Two- "You can look at what you did wrong, and more importantly, what you did right, and figure out how you can do better. Learn understanding. Learn reflection. Learn control. Or, learn nothing. So, think about this hard, because the decision you make will affect the rest of your life. What do you want to be, Magnum? Do you want to be a floppy-haired emo-boy?

"Or do you want to be a goddamn Jedi?"

"Claire needs time to come to terms with what's happened. Not being able to remember things — it makes you question who you are. Were. If what she's going through is anything like what I'm going through," and it's difficult for Eileen to explain in front of someone who's almost a stranger to her, never mind Raith, "then it's her own self-doubt holding her back rather than any reservations she might have about your relationship. The most you can do is be there for her and stand behind whatever decision she decides to make, whether or not it's to be with you."

"Well of course I wanna be a jedi. But, I mean, I often look back, especially at the times I got shot, and I think 'How could I have done this better'? But I don't know, lately when I'm in a dangerous situation, I just think 'How can I keep everyone alive'. I don't know how to prove to anyone that either I have changed or I can be even better than what I've changed into." Magnes stays in his floating spot, staring up at Raith's fingers with a few blinks of his eyes. "I've already come to terms with the Claire situation, more or less. I still feel like crap about it, but, she's alive, and I can still be there for her, that's what matters. I honestly don't expect her to have feelings for me again. When we first met, she didn't know a thing about me, and now she has everyone around, all these people who don't like me at all. But, I'll still love her, I'll still be there and protect her, that's something I can control, and that's what I'll be grateful for."

"We are defined by our actions, Magnes," Raith says plainly, removing his fingers from the gravitokinetic's view. "Not by the clothes we wear. Not by the cars we drive or the contents of our wallets. And definitely not by what others think of you. You can't control what others think of you, but you can control your actions, and that's what matters here. But watch out for the other side of the coin. Your actions define who you are, but the first thing everyone notices are the results of those actions. The reaction. Your action may save a life, but if the reaction destroys a city block, what do you think people are going to remember?"

"You love Claire? Stay with her. Be there for her. But you'd better be damn sure that she wants revenge before you try to exact it. That action may define you, but all she'll remember is the reaction. And whatever the reaction is, you have to live with it from that moment forward, so make sure it's going to be the one you want."

That piece said, Raith steps away from Magnes to resume his walk. "We all have to live with the reaction, the consequences of our decisions, good or bad," he concludes, "So think. You can't control the reaction. But you can predict it…."

Magnes might not be able to see it from his angle, but Eileen's facial expression has taken on a rueful quality. She looks down to regard her mug of tea, now empty, and curves her thumb along its rim. If this was New York City, she might be wiping her lipstick off it with the remains of her napkin — that this will all be over in a week's time and she can go back to worrying about mundane things like the application of make-up provides her with a small measure of comfort.

Varlane's fears echo hers. He doubts Claire will rediscover her feelings; she worries that Gabriel's aren't strong enough to last the duration of the time away she insisted he take, and unlike the young man dangling over the railing, she has only herself to blame. What she originally felt was the noble thing to do — offering him a way out — now, more than ever, feels like a terrible disservice.

She listens to Raith in solemn silence, the wind a dull roar in her ears, gradually becoming more and more agitated. "Excuse me," she says, only when she's sure that he's finished and Magnes has absorbed all that he's said, "but there's something that I need to do. Will you two be all right?"

"Can I ask a question?" Magnes sits up in the air, crossing his legs as his body floats upright. Why the boat doesn't simply leave him is for he alone to know! "Why, when nearly all of human civilization is about to be wiped out, I can only think of my girlfriend? Is that just immaturity?"

Then, when Eileen seems to be parting, he nods to her. "I'll be fine. Was nice seeing you again. You're basically the first person who trusted me enough to bring me at least a little into the loop…"

"Immaturity?" Raith replies, apparently on his way off some place else himself, "It's sensibility. What else could it be but natural that, in the face of Armageddon, we think about the things and people that are the most dear to us?"

Eileen takes her leave of the deck at a brisk but relaxed pace, ducking under a low doorway that leads into one of the ship's dimly lit corridors. Where she goes from there or what it is she needs to do is anyone's guess.

"Well, if nothing else, at least I know she'll survive." Magnes steps down from his floating spot, sliding his hands into his pockets. "I had a contingency plan to save us all in case we failed, but the plan could have screwed up the mission, mostly because I'm not sure how much I can trust my speedster. But at least my friends back home will be safe."

"If your contingency plan isn't our contingency plan, you shouldn't enact it," Raith replies, "Action and reaction, Magnes. It won't matter if you save one life or one billion lives. The action will define you, but everyone will remember the reaction. And if the reaction makes you like like an impulsive, immature glory hound, that's exactly what everyone will think you are. Whatever you decide, you have to live with the consequences. The question is, 'can you?'" Shoving his hands into his own pockets, Raith picks a direction and starts walking. "Before you do what's best for someone, you'd better be sure that what you do is what they want. Claire included. Ask yourself if you can live with the consequences. Once you start doing that, maybe people will see you differently." Finally, the parting shot.

"Can you live with that?"

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