Take Backs (None)


gabriel_icon.gif samson2_icon.gif

Scene Title Take Backs (None)
Synopsis Gabriel fulfills his father's request.
Date January 20, 2011

Queens Borough Public Library

He has some way of knowing, and not through some kind of cruel twist of fate where he took Natalie's mother's intuition from her when he killed her and left her body on a dusty road somewhere where the earth is flat and smells both musty and dry. More likely, he's stolen something else since his recovery that allows him to know that tonight is tonight, because the alternative is waiting on the steps of the Queensborough Public Library every night for more than a month.

His son shouldn't discount that. A predator must learn to be patient in order to survive, and the Gray men are all claw and fang. Samson doesn't look dangerous in his long, heavy winter coat, his posture crouched and stooping as he sits on the bottommost step like an oversized vulture, complete with beard, a lit cigarette dangling from fingers that don't need gloves.

In March, it will be a year since he made his first attempt to work his way back into his son's life. Whether or not he's been successful is a matter of perspective, and his is generally bleak. Maybe that's genetic too.

Being able to morph into a liquid-like shadow shape that silently squeezes through most entry ways, phase through walls, silence the world around him, give off psychic radar, render himself invisible and also stop time when no one is looking means that Gabriel recon is probably more thorough than Nick York and even Jensen Raith dare give him credit for. It's feverish, vaguely neurotic, and probably intelligent — but frustratingly fruitless by the time he is done in the flicker of a second that transpires for Samson.

He won't tell anyone how long he looked.

By the time Samson hears the gritty footfalls of Gabriel's boots coming down the stone stairs of the library front, just behind him, it is because Gabriel wants him to. He cuts across diagonal, a loose limbed trudge, a figure in black save for the grey that layers beneath black woolen coat. No scarf, no gloves, on account of not needing it. No danger alarms are ringing, not through Samson's capable observation of a predator's demeanor, nor through his own stolen ability.

But who knows. Maybe there's a way to deceive even that, in the same way Samson looks like the standard New York old man fare, with his little cigarette and grizzled face hair. He also gets to speak first.

Samson turns his head enough to regard Gabriel in his peripheral vision. He does not rise from his crouch on the steps in an attempt to assert dominance like some wild animals do around any adult young that wander back into their parents' territory. For one thing, this is neutral ground. For another, Samson's getting a little old for that anyway. The corner of his mouth crooks up around a rueful smile without much humour in it, and he blows smoke from his nostrils.

He's more willing to trust than his offspring, but he also probably hasn't been burned as many times as Gabriel — or if he has, then he's so jaded that it's apathy keeping his guard down and not love, or whatever it is he feels for the younger man who resembles both his parents but looks more like his late mother than his father.

"Boy," he greets in a gruff gravel, which is a step down from Gabriel but not spoken without affection, guarded though it is.

Last few steps are shuffled down, a vague hop, mildly facetious, and coming to a halt on the step just above where Samson perches. At this hour and at this end of town, shadows are vague things rather then cast in neon and streetlamps, but his still manages to fall long and broad, just out if easy peripheral viewing. "Been a while since that. I'm, like, thirty-something." Wiry streaks of greying through the once inky brunette of his hair would suggest otherwise, even older, but his face is clear of advanced aging, or even bruises or evidence of a lack of sleep.

His chin tucks in. Dark eyes scope out the street. It may have more to do with where they are as well as lingering certainty of traps than it does particular reproach for the man who is his father, but— probably not entirely— when he mutters, quieter and more seriously; "What do you want?"

"You have something that doesn't belong to you," says Samson, and he probably isn't talking about the painted wooden bird wrapped in cloth that Jensen delivered to him. That was a gift. "Funny thing, memory." He drags his teeth over his upper lip and, with a snort, flicks his cigarette down onto the concrete before smothering it under the heavy weight of his boot.

He smells like smoke and what might be embalming fluid, and although his beard is unkempt, the circles under his eyes dark and the tips of his fingers stained yellow, there's no dirt under his nails, and if Gabriel was standing closer he might be able detect the lighter scent of soap beneath the tobacco. He keeps his hands clean if nothing else. His tools.

"It comes and goes. Stays, though, when you really get to thinking."

You don't need special superpowers to know when you're being watched — especially with the sharpness of Gabriel's stare. An exhale funnels through nose and mouth both, casting steam into the chill, but no words immediately, going into a paranoid sort of stillness that predators and prey both do. Animals all over. He didn't bring it with him — the tiny engagement ring. It, and other tokens, are kept safe in the Old Dispensary, and like he'd told his mother—

He had no intention of Samson knowing.

Maybe he is jumping to conclusions. There is a certain scathing, needle-like deliberation to; "I don't know what you're talking about."

Samson's eyes flick to the fingers on Gabriel's hands, prepared to disprove him with a glance, but what he's looking for isn't there, and he mentally berates himself a moment later for even bothering to check. For letting his son know what exactly it is he's after before he was ready to part with that particular piece of knowledge.

Gabriel can at least rest assured that he isn't jumping to conclusions. "She said she lost it, you know. I turned that place upside down just looking. Pipes torn out under the sink. Floorboards pulled up. Waited until spring to see if it turned up after the snow melted. But now I think I know better."

The little wooden bird was confirmation enough, really, but he could have imagined that it wasn't. That maybe his father was just sentimental. Gabriel's gaze flicks unfocused by the second she, proudly casting his attention back to the wider world as opposed to the hunch figured older man on the step. His posture is rigid without being soldier-like, and by the time Samsons thinks he knows better, a small and smug curve to the corner of Gabriel's mouth turns up, a little feline as well as a little forced.

"Do you think I stole it?" is wry and a little taunting. Showing what he knows better.

"I know you didn't." How Samson (supposedly) knows is a secret he keeps guarded more closely than the one his body language betrayed. He turns his head the rest of the way to look at Gabriel properly, searching his face for some sort of a sign other than what's happening at the corner of his mouth. Natalie was the one who was good at reading people, which is maybe why he seems to prefer the company of dead animals and sometimes live birds to that of other human beings.

He cannot guess at what Gabriel is thinking. Makes a mental note to find some other way to access the Registry that isn't Dr. Odessa Price so he can remedy that. "I want it back."

"And I want her back. I guess we don't always get what we want." Gabriel's feet navigate the last final steps. Anger is coming off him in waves, but not like heat — ice, as judged by the way a chill seems to frost the concrete underfoot with each step down, make lace patterns over the leather of his boots. Snow-cold radiates from him in this subtle leak of power, and it's impossible to tell whether or not this is a deliberate expression or a sign of lost control. He stands upon the sidewalk. "If that's all you wanted me for, then I won't waste any more of your time."

That he isn't immediately walking away— making a small pantomime about fixing where his coat is closed by two blackly plastic buttons— means he is either bluffing or allowing Samson a degree of courtesy to do better than that.

Samson huffs out a low chuckle that leaves his mouth as fog rather than smoke. He rubs the tips of his stained fingers together as if in contemplation, but the reality is that this is a pantomime as well; he's already made up his mind about what he's going to say long before he even pretends to consider.

Long before he left the bunting with Raith. The cold air prickles at the hair on the back of his neck and spreads gooseflesh down his arms beneath his coat, the ratty cardigan-style sweater and flannel shirt that he wears paired with it.

That's an interesting trick Gabriel has. "She left you something else."

Hands leave his coat to stretch fingers, minor flakes of ice coming off his fingers like dandruff, instantly melted when they touch fabric or the concrete below, with a faint blue glow outlining his digits. His smirk is long since wiped away, especially so by the time his hands curl into fists. This is dangerous territory, that Samson is trying to navigate, but even now, he has no sense that Gabriel is planning to hurt him. Resenting, maybe, that Samson is capable of intriguing him.

He sends a sidelong look his father's way, and ways with silent expectancy and entitlement.

"It's back up in Maine," Samson says, hands braced against his knees as he finally rises, and even though Gabriel is thirty-something, he's still a hair taller than his son. Not enough for it to make a difference. "You know where. Good thing you already know how to get there, eh?"

The cold weather and chill wafting off Gabriel results in a sort of stiffness when he moves. Arthritis, maybe, or just old age. Samson is sixty at least, maybe as old as seventy or seventy-five. If Natalie was still alive, the weather might give her some trouble too. "I went looking for that ring one last time after your woman took my picture from me. Found some shit wrapped in brown paper and twine under the floorboards instead. Gabriel, it says.

"I won't lie. I opened it."

The sheer cold coming off Gabriel is finally reined in, or switched off, judging by one's perception. Subtle glow fades, and the sharper chill in the air replaced by the default flatly cold winter air that still has them breathing out steam. An eyebrow ticks up at that last comment, but there are bigger things he can and does take offense to. Had he ever given in and murdered Eileen, had he managed to crack Gillian's skull all the way across as opposed to a few inches, part of him may understand better.

He's enjoying the fact he does not have to. "And what was it? I'm not chasing rainbows all the way to Maine."

"Letters." Samson reaches up and rubs the back of his neck with the heel of his hand. "I didn't count them, but if I had to guess, I'd say about— oh— maybe about five years worth?" His hand drops, slips back into his coat and comes back out with a single envelope which he then turns between his fingers, displaying for Gabriel. It's clean, fresh, white and pristine but also unaddressed and unsealed — just something Samson picked up to store a much older piece of paper in, presumably lifted from the parcel that he claims to exist.

He offers it to Gabriel. "In case you don't believe me."

The stare now settled on the envelope is not the look of a man who doesn't believe Samson — it's faintly guilty, but not in any human, moralistic kind of fashion. Dogs don't feel bad about digging holes in the garden or peeing on freshly cleaned carpets or stealing a pork chop off a plate when no one is looking, but they get that kind of withdrawn demeanor as well when they know they did something bad. Confirmation in paper and pen that he never does go back.

Probably. He flicks a glance back up at Samson's face, one that carries all the warning needed if this happens to be a trick, and he goes to take the envelope off him. And fail to open it right away, even as he edges a finger beneath paper fold. Then, he says, a little roughly, "I had one opportunity to see her, and I took it." Defense, even if none was asked for.

Samson doesn't argue. His hand drops again and curls loose at his side. He's not good at sharing, but he has the grace to at least recognize that Natalie was as much Gabriel's mother as she was his wife, and cannot fault his son for answering opportunity's call.

He would have, too, if he'd found himself in a similar position. There's maybe even a little jealousy flickering in his otherwise dull hazel eyes. "Well, you left quite the impression," he says, this time resisting the temptation to let his eyes drop to Gabriel's finger as it teases along the envelope's edge. He's not sure he wants him to open it here.

If Gabriel does, he won't be able to keep from watching his face when he does. "The story I told you was true, the one about the suitcase and the bible. That and a hundred others like it. I can tell you more, sometime."

Ultimately, the envelope gets folded over at its middle, creased with a pinch of fingers before Gabriel drops it into a pocket, to be read when he doesn't have the other man's scrutiny on him. He can't fathom what it might contain and isn't going to risk it, even if he'd like nothing better than to scope its words through right here and now. He rocks a step back, which is sort of a silent denial of wanting to hear any such thing, but—

If that were the case, he'd probably be a little more verbal about it. He'd invited stories, after all, when Samson's hair was both a little darker and a little thicker. "I told her who I was," doesn't need to be said, but it's the beginning of a story, an explanation. "So she had an idea about what I'd grow up to be. She gave me the ring, in case I never come back — it's mine." A grin splits across his face.

"I could have changed it. Everything. Any power you've ever taken doesn't compare. Do you think I should have?" His head cants leftwards.

The remorse etched deep into Samson's features suggests yes. The number of nights he's spent on the library steps waiting for Gabriel is miniscule in comparison to the number of nights he's spent in a cold sweat thinking about his dead wife and the boy who thinks he's the son of a watchmaker rather than the kind of monster that children his age gather around campfires to terrorize one another with.

If Gabriel had changed things, maybe he'd still have a family. Maybe he wouldn't be looking at him the way he's looking at him now, which makes it difficult to breathe and the muscles around his heart feel tight.

He answers Gabriel's question with one of his own. "Why didn't you?"

"No take backs." It's a sort of damning frame of mind. In an African desert, Gabriel had refused to heal a man Teo gunned down too. Some weird sense of order installed, and once, Magnes said he was the closest to god a human can get. It would be good if such a being has a nice and strict, somewhat unfair and hypocritical moral code to stand by.

Or something. He takes a breath, one that sits shallow and high in his chest. "What's done is done. Reconfiguring the timeline wouldn't have changed me. Just you. Just her."

If you say so, is what the dubious look Samson gives Gabriel translates to. He appears unconvinced by the argument, not because it's succinct, but does not protest the ruling with anything other than his eyes. "No take backs," he agrees, finally, and steps down onto the sidewalk with a scuff of his boots.

Hands find his pockets and his shoulders stoop, a vulture again. "I left the rest of them for you," he says of the letters. "No one's been out to the house for years, so they aren't going anywhere." What he means is: Take your time. The words taste like sand in his mouth, though, and he turns to go. On his feet rather than smoke floating snakelike on the wind.

Unstoppably, Gabriel drifts in Samson's wake, one step, two, halt. Conflict wars behind his face, expression reflecting it in minor degrees, the tiny, miniscule storm going on in brown irises, around the expressionless black pit in its centres. His hand seeks the folded envelope in his pocket, crumpling it a little more than he means to. Finally, he speaks before Samson can change his mind and dissolve into a shifting, ashy cloud as easily as he can turn into one of inky shadows.

Finally: "Where can I find you again?"

"North Brother Island," Samson answers, without even a beat of hesitation. "Riverside Hospital. They've got a big colony of night herons over there — maybe you want to bring your binoculars." It's an invitation without actually being an invitation, some slyness in his tone, but caution too. Too smug and he's worried Gabriel won't come.

He twists a look back over his shoulder at him. Arches his wiry gray eyebrows in a silent inquiry and wondering if that's everything Gabriel has to ask and conflicted over whether or not he should feel like he hopes it isn't. Either way, he seems prepared only to go if given his child's permission.

Gabriel blinks in place of a nod, giving his father as little as possible, but he can't resist the, "Maybe." Too closed off and he's worried Samson will disappear again. It seems both men have high stakes in some unknown potential between them that they are as afraid to lose as they might be to approach, an interstitial space between Samson's cautious reach out and Gabriel's reluctant acceptance. So he turns, then, and is the first to choose some other form.

Inky blackness, rolling off across the street, pulling itself towards the gutters to find the rainwater catching gap beneath the curve and navigate his way beneath the streets.

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