The Cherub Contemplation


ghost_icon.gif gillian2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Cherub Contemplation
Synopsis Ghost brings Gillian good tidings from a future that will never happen.
Date July 11, 2009


The dream started out simple, based off of what's been preoccuping her mind the last couple of days. A game of chess. The opponent? Herself. The only person she has to practice with right now would be slightly incomplete clones of herself. Perfect in every way, except the ability that they get. Only one each, she's discovered, and somehow it seems to affect their general mood or personality, perhaps due to the emotions they associate the ability they do get? She hasn't figured that part out yet, though some are chipper and nice, while others are grouchy. Yet they all share a bond of some kind…

Dreams are rarely steady, though. The landscape changes, shifting at random. To start it'd been the park. Then suddenly they were in a bowling alley, with lockers nearby where people could set their shoes and belongings.

For the moment, her clothes change, shifting to the uniform she had to wear when she worked at the bowling alley, including a name badge. At first the name badge reads Gillian. Then it reads Leanne. Then it reads Stephanie.

The chess board travels with her, but the opponent changes. Gabriel, complete with glasses. The game plays on.

A pair of black shoes sit next to the lockers, and Gillian seems to have taken hers off, though she didn't move from the game. Everything shifts again. The opponent becomes Helena instead. The background changes to a rooftop with a cherub shot through the heart, and a view of the destruction remaining over the city. The shoeless feet remain constant. The game ends in a tie. Two kings remain on the board, but lack anything in the way of support. No one wins that way.

The opponent vanishes, the board remains, leaving only Gillian and the rooftop.

And one lone shoe. Walking over, she picks up the remaining shoe and puts it on, though it makes her off balance, and begins to push things around looking for where the other one went.

"This is a little morbid," Teo observes, or at least his dislocated voice, accentless, the recognizable depth of tenor from over and behind the awkward stoop of the woman putting on her shoe. "Or merely tragic."

He doesn't start out real. An impressionistic, piecemeal conglomeration of constituent parts: white teeth, long, work-nicked hands, a hitch and swing of black canvas, wind carding through hair that's seen enough neglect to betray the dark of its roots to the thready influence of ragged off-blond, the pointed weight of an elbow rested companionably across Gillian's shoulder, irreverent of her struggle with balance.

"That," he clarifies. Points, sighting along his other long arm: the statue of the cherub, standing, impaled.

The voice, the touch of an arm against her shoulder. All of it stops her looking around the rooftop for the missing shoe. First she looks at the man's face, his eyes, the voice. He'd not been there a moment ago, but she seems to have accepted the change in the dream. The dreams already changed so much so far… Not pulling away from his arm, Gillian asks a question first instead, "Have you seen my other shoe?"

The thick shoe bottoms make her look off-center when she stands up, a sock covered foot touching the floor of the roof, a inch or so below where her other foot is sitting. It makes her hair shift as she stands, shoulders slant. This is helped slightly by his elbow resting on her shoulder.

The pointing makes her eyes follow to the cherub. It doesn't change at all, but she says, "That was my fault." A quiet admission that seems to be truthful, if not entirely understanding why it's morbid or tragic.

"I had a chess board around here somewhere if you wanted to play, but that seems to have disappeared with my shoe."

Thanks but no thanks. Ghost has had enough of chess for awhile, in dreams most of all. There's a grimace, distaste wicking into the lines around his long nose and full mouth. "Fuck," he says. "No thanks. I always wondered why I managed to develop this aspect of my ability as it was. I'm really bad at dreaming.

"Might explain a lot of things," he adds, blankly. In the monochrome blur of Gillian's peripheral consciousness, there is a plat. One bead of viscous liquid free-falling down, down, down, to slap flat onto concrete, a few dozen feet below the stone cherub's wind-chapped plinth. "Are you scared? You seem scared. This seems like the kind of dreams that people have when they're not sure they can win."

He leans down, leans near. Reaches down, grasping the ridged rubber of her shoe, and begins to worry at its laces and its edges, prying fingertips and a sharp, canine tug. He's trying to get it off her foot.

Dreaming. Keyword that one. As well as his ability. It takes a few seconds, long enough for something about the cherub to draw her eyes back over to it. The bead of liquid, perhaps, whether it's fully known to her or not. It seems just out of visual range. "I'm dreaming," she states quietly, voice raspy, before she looks back at the man whose now knelt down and begun to fuss with her one remaining shoe. "Hey, what are you trying to do?" she asks, blinking in surprise as he's trying to get her shoe off. It slips off rather easily, actually, leaving both of her feet without any kind of protection.

And leaving her looking down at him. Eyebrows lower, lips move in the direction of a frown, and she finally steps back to get a better look at him. It's a dream. Aspect of his power. Dreaming. Teo.

"Depends on what you think I'm afraid of losing, I guess," she finally says, looking over at the cherub and the ruined city beyond it. "Everyone's afraid of losing something. If we weren't we wouldn't want to have it at all, would we? Isn't that why you're doing what you're doing? Cause you're afraid of losing again what you already lost once?" Seems the mention of dreaming helped her become more lucid this time than the last dream he walked in on.

Guesses as to his motivation annoy the ghost as much as they flatter him. He's smiling one instant, then there is a watery twist, brush-stroke smudge, and a faint scowl sharpens into view, reality warping, wrinkling, trying to card a recognizable pattern into the weave despite that Ghost is— if you pardon the pun— of too many minds about this.

"Not exactly. You can't lose what you've already lost. I was taught that the hard way, after Je— Alexander came to to 2019, but I didn't really learn it 'til I got here.

"It's not the same. I'm not the same. As many have pointed out to me multiple times, between eras, I had my time and it's done." The grim factuality of the ghost's tone probably does not undercut the vast vicissitudes of self-pity available to him. He scratches three swift steps backward, draws his arm back as sharp and taut as a bowstring, her shoe in his hand. He throws it. Overhand, and it goes far, a vanishing point that flickers down into the gulf of sidewalk between buildings.

Ghost recoils with athletic neatness, cranes his head over to grin. "Feet are for getting dirty."

"Maybe you're not doing it for you," Gillian offers quietly, as she squints at the place where her shoe disappeared. There's a shift of her sock covered feet. There's dirt all over the rooftop, but the socks are amazingly pristine. They should be getting dirty, but it seems they've forgotten to react to the enviroment as theys hould be.

"Yeah, sure, you don't belong here, la-la-la. People just say that cause they want the Teo they know back, and they don't agree with your methods, but fuck, people don't agree with anyone's methods usually. And I could kick you for possessing people— I'm not a fan of possession." But it's a dream, and kicking him would be meaningless right now. Especially since he just tossed her shoe over the egde of the roof.

With the socks that have forgotten how to get dirty, she walks across to the cherub that got shot through the heart and reaches up to touch it, running her hand over the broken surface. The gunshot could have shattered it, but it didn't quite cause that much damage. A pitted hole in the middle of the chest… that's bad enough.

"Is Gabriel okay?"

Upon a moment's reflection, the stone, it seems, is or has been bleeding. Her palm comes away powdered in dry red, a smear of indeterminable moisture, something flaking dry in the creases between the joints of her fingers. Blood is even easier in dreams than with corporeal flesh. Everybody knows what it's like; the human psyche lends itself all too readily to injury.

"Good as can be expected, all things considering. It's probably the considering that's the issue. I see that you plan on reminding them." Her socks, he means. He's looking at them, the thin stretch of elastic fabric she is padding across the flat of pavement. "Everyone does things for themselves, in the end. It's the nature of motivation. I pretend to a little bit less selflessness than most people do, though. You know— I hadn't really planned on being here. Originally.

"Thought I'd stay dead in May, but then I got greedy, I guess. I either owe a few dozen apologies or a few billion. Popular theory had it, that the time-travelers' departure from '19 imploded that timeline.

"In that sense, doing his damnedest to stop them, Arthur Petrelli was a fucking hero. In a lot of senses, Arthur Petrelli was the hero. That's my best excuse for being insane, but the truth is, that's a paramilitary lifestyle decision more than anything else." This doesn't apparently bother him much. He comes forward, brings his profile into austere silhouette against the chalky overcast of her dreamscape's sky.

Blood on her fingers gets a lot of her attention for a few moments, looking down at it, sticking her fingers together and then pulling them apart to see how it affects the viscous liquid. But the more the ghost from the future speaks, the more she stops paying attention to little visual details. Even her socks have begun to remember how to get a little dirty. Gabriel. Okay as he can be. Gillian looks back at him, frowning quietly as he continues. "If the timeline imploded, how are you still here? How was Niles Wight from the future still here until Cat suffocated him to death? Wouldn't you disappear too if everything just imploded?"

There's a shrug from her, finally. Time travel isn't something she understands much about, but she does believe in it quite a bit, she does put a lot of faith into how it can change things. There's reasons she fought to give the Niles of the present day a chance to live on and do something different with his life than he'd done before. Than he'd done in another future.

"But I won't accept that Arthur Petrelli was any kind of hero. Everything changed the minute people switched places and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it at that point. I don't care what he did in the future— now he's a fucking lunatic." But… She takes in a slow breath and then looks away a moment… there's still the statue still bleeds a little, but then she looks back and asks, "Actually I lied. I do care— just not about the whole bigger picture. Can't really do anything about the bigger picture anymore, that's already been fucked up beyond recognition… but… I know a bit about who I was in that future. Wight told me some… when Edward of the future sent him to kill me. Helena only told me when I mentioned what Wight did… I guess I had helped Pinehearst? I know Arthur— in this time, just weeks ago— he wanted me to work for him. Without everything that had changed… I probably would have accepted. Do you know what he wanted from me?"

"Your help. In killing Helena, I think. She almost killed you right back. Some things don't change," and there's that caustically awful humor, a name-brand favored by a cerain demographic of sociopath, irrelevant, irreverent.

'Oh, girls.' Ghost flickers, roils, solidifies again on top of the edge of the building's ledge, his long legs standing wide, shoulders squared, staring out across the interchangeable snaggleteeth of Midtown's skyline. The wind knocks the lapel of his coat into his legs, presses at his back, nuzzles him eagerly off into a lemming's death-by-height. He does not deign to cooperate.

Nor to speculate on the ins and outs of temporal physics. He doesn't know. He believed in Tamara because it made sense, partially, but also because it was convenient: an easy way of not taking responsibility for the possibility of mass genocide. "It's harder to take value and loss of life seriously when you know of its infinite incarnations through time."

Stone grates stone, a noise as terrestrial as it is peculiarly organic. At the corner of Gillian's vision, the statue is moving as if it had bones, joints, layers of brittle skin and muscle to torque. The broken cherub is moving. Plump cheeks turning down into the soft ambience of shadow, staring down at Gillian with something searching in the pupilless carvature of its eyes. Its lips part around some monosyllable that it doesn't— yet?— have the voice to speak.

The Sicilian doesn't even seem to notice. Talks on, not idle or even particularly distracted; merely indifferent. "You're right. Arthur wasn't like this where I come from. He hadn't taken Gabriel's ability, didn't— wouldn't attack his son until I told him about what he'd done."

"I helped him kill Helena?" Gillian asks, not really understanding this cryptic response, or the full conotations. It'd explain some of why she looked at her so strangely, really. She knows Helena had died in that future, and if she had some kind of hand in it… A slow inhale makes her move away from the cherub that's animated itself, eyes sticking to it as if to watch it. It shouldn't be moving at all. There's so much wrong with this picture— the rooftop actually had a kind of significance to her, and it's changing that…

"Helena said we'd been friends in that future. While I can't really see how… I guess it could've happened but— how could I have tried to kill her if we were friends?" It doesn't really make sense to her— and the more he says about Arthur, and then the mention of Arthur's own son…

The sky suddenly starts to change, rainclouds solidifying and growing, tossing lightning around in the clouds. The lightning never creates thunder, but that part of the dream is her own fauly, reflective of her growing mood.

"Until you told what?"

Struggling within the baked clay confines of its own body, the cherub repeats itself. Can't seem to say in speech, yet, but he's (he's) trying, and on the third try, the beginning of some understanding blossoms liquid inside Gillian's gut, secondhand knowledge injected through a needle too subtle to pinch.

The wind grows louder. Ghost has no trouble making himself heard over it, when he looks over, surprise marking his forehead with lines that betray his true age. A sudden flush of wind pries back the collar of his coat, far enough that the twisted tattoo at the base of his neck winks into view. "In 2019, you were subliminally programmed to try. Not the first time Arthur put out an assassination on Helena's head.

"And the rest of Phoenix. Alexander. It was nothing personal. Few things with Arthur ever really were, far as I can tell." She can feel the curve of his grin inside her head, bitterly sharp and cold as a scimitar blade against as her neck. He splays his hand under the lance of gravitationally correct water, listens in the choppy, drunky giggle of wind.

Overhead, Gillian can finally hear it, blistered and hoarse and young: "Mommy?"

"Like what he's doing to Peter now, he did that to me…" Gillian says quietly, visibly frowning as she glances away from the painful smile— away and down toward her socks, that are showing signs of dirt and dampness, that even seem to be bleeding a little. There's no pain, but there's definitely discomfort of a sort. This is wrong.

It's wrong even before she hears the one word that makes her eyes fly back up toward the hoarse voice. A raspy choking sound can be heard from her, as she staggers back a few more steps away, blinking wildly as water soaks into her hair. The twisting in her gut pulls on her. For a moment she's not sure if it wants her to vomit on the rooftop, start crying, or grab herself to try and stop the pain. The tugging could also be drawing her in another way. What she does do, though, is move forward, once the moment has had a chance to settle in, the words.

Hands reach up to touch the tiny statue on the face. "Teo what— ? Are you doing this?"

Something reverberates in the stone underneath the woman's hands. The round inclines of the statue's cheeks trembling with the effort required for speech, whatever that is. The whole thing's a perverse farce, revelation served up on a frosted plate. "Sort of.

"It wasn't supposed to look like this, but things tend to go bad around me. You'd think after more than half a decade dream-weaving, I'd be better at it.

"Sorry." He honestly— truly is, but he doesn't manage to sound it, not really: the groan of stone, of twitching wing-nubs and the filling puncture in the stone child's breast cuts the depth of his voice out from under him, leaves something tinny, thin, inadequate. Rancid blood and sour grief mingle with clear water, drip of the tip of his nose, the pads of his blunt fingers. "His name is Nate. He doesn't play with the other kids— Abby's, Delilah's, Elisabeth's. It's too bad.

"Ivory tower is no place for a child to grow up." Nor, for that matter, is this.

Hands stay connected to the child, fingers moving as if wishing to wipe the blood off, to clean away the grime. The rain continues to fall, but somehow grows cooler instead of warm, a refreshing kind of cool rather than uncomfortable. The lightning stops. In a way she's trying to reshape part of the dream for this outside form, trying to help it come into being so she can see his face. "It's okay," Gillian even says to it, speaking both to the dreamer responsible, and to what may well be only a dream now.

A tiny dream that may be lost forever, or more accurately that will never be hers…

"Nate…" All three of the women listed off strike her as parents far more readily than she might herself believe. But then there's the Lighthouse, and what happened there— the children she protected. That might have been the beginning of seeing how this could be at all possible. "I— she— I had a son?" Phrased as a question, but one that's already got an answer and she knows it. Nate. Nathan Petrelli.

"Arthur manipulated things— how do I know that he didn't manipulate this too? Peter… the Peter today— something done to his mind made him forget about things that were important to him and… all of sudden he was saying things that… He said he loved me. But I knew it wasn't real."

'This' could be any one of a staggering army of things. This dream, the relationship she'd had with the boy Petrelli from the world Ghost had come with, the son she'd harbored, the regrets. Ghost's presence. Any of these could be an artificial contrivance summoned up by Arthur's abilities, for all Gillian knows.

Ghost might well know better. To his recollection, the man had always been more about power over finesse, and such matters had not been much improved by the inheritance of Gabriel's damage. "Maybe not yet. These things take time. Took Al and I three fucking years, all told. Sometimes I wish it hadn't.

"Others—" there's a pause hitched in here, curiosity, a furrow in his brow, of almost neutral curiosity as Gillian fights to rescue the tapestry of this sleeping microcosm from the influence of his darkness. "Other times, I think I'm still just fucking pissed off at him for leaving me behind."

This isn't the right place. Gillian looks around at the ruined city, scarred by a man who she might have had a child with in one future or another, and then tries to forcebly change it to somewhere else entirely. The landscape shifts, even as she keeps her hands holding what could be her son, wanting to bring that with them. It's a stark change. From the stormy dark skyline of a broken land, to the soft call of the ocean, to the soft sand of a beach. Skyscrapers peek over the tops of palm trees, unbroken and undisturbed. So different from the city left behind.

Sunlight pierces down. It's a memory.

One that may not be as vivid as more recent memories, but she still knows what he'd wrote on the beach, if not exactly. In the sand, there's writing, like someone dragged fingers through it to leave a message. 'I'll be back.'

The hands continue to try and clean the boy off, wanting to see him, but not knowing what he looks like enough to fix it. In a way she's getting frustrated. The man should know how to fix it if he's been doing this a lot longer than she's been doing it. Maybe the only reason she has this much control is because it's her dream.

"I don't know if it would be better if I didn't know, about any of this. Or if… Brian wants me to help him out at the Lighthouse. I— do you think I was any good at being a mom?"

Slowly and then faster now, concrete comes loose in her hands like a patina of encrusted sand. It cracks away, as if someone had poured clay of the child and then baked him, somehow without undoing the subtle chemistries of his living being.

It's no accident that this occurs timed, as a waltz, to the change of scenery, the forcible lift of Gillian's mood, of mind over imagined substance. Ghost remains nonchalantly bemused, watching this.

Other proportionate changes. The wind soothing away; the Sicilian's shape turning translucent, thready, seeming to give up a fraction of texture and color for every inch of fair skin that her hands manage to free from Nate's skin. When the boy's wings collapse into a sloppy pile of unshaped sand, Ghost's shadow implodes and vanishes.

The harmless cruelty he has in lieu of a sense of humor remains. "I believe Victor thought you were better at being a mom than a sister, though the second thing caught up. After awhile. You get warmer. Happier, too. Maybe." There's a margin's silence, empty of wind or even the susurration of surf, then a hooding of pale eyes, acknowledgment.

"For all the good that does."

"I wasn't a very good sister, to either of them," Gillian admits as she finishes cleaning the boy off enough to pull him up into her arms. Still dirty and covered in some blood, needs some cleaning, but she just holds him close, unmindful of the smear of blood on her clothes and cheek, the blood on her hands.

"Never really felt like I belonged in my own family. I was the rebellous kid, the one who— maybe I always somehow knew." It makes her laugh a little, thinking back to the way that she'd always though Jenny had been the favorite, or how she thought Jenny got more from her parents. More support, more understanding… They did love her too, they loved all their children, but maybe her sister had actually gotten a little more…

"I wonder if the other me even knew— maybe she didn't. I found out I'm adopted. That the Childs weren't really my family." It seems to be an epidemic going around these days. "And I know it's true, now— though I have to corner Victor for a blood test sometime… Brian's my brother, though. I'm trying to do a better job of it. Not just for Brian, but also for Victor."

There's a long pause, still holding onto the small boy, moving to stand up to walk towards the waves, her socks gathering sand, "What happened to me and Gabriel then?"

It seems that Gillian's feet and socks, both, are beginning to get dirty. That's kind of funny, sort of cute. The puncture in her boy's chest has closed up, despite that the perforation remains through the fabric of his clothes; the child leans up against his mother, dark hair splashed raggedly across the pale curve of her shoulder. The child's eyes blink drowsy, like an owlet over the rim of its nest.

The man blinks back. Says nothing, for a long moment, his shoulders subtly relaxed inside the straight edges of militarily trained posture and jaw loose in its cinch. He takes a step back from the sea, abruptly, perhaps irritably uncomfortable. His shoes leave no tread in the granulated flat of sand and his arm seems to vanish where it crosses against the color of the sky, its cotton-skein clouds. "Jail, at first. Other people, mostly. I'm not sure.

"Where the fuck are we now?" The question is almost a blurt, like he doesn't know how or why or hadn't planned on asking it 'aloud.'

Jail and other people… Gillian keeps going to the water until she can kneel down and put the young boy into it. A hand brings the saltwater up to wash him off a little, as she pays more attention to him than the pain. Maybe that's what the tug in her stomach decided to become. The desire to clean him, to hold him… Eyes glance away when the question is near blurted out. "Hawaii," she says simply.

"I'm not sure where in Hawaii. It was— Peter took me here once. After we met up and talked. He didn't stay here with me, though, he just… he left me here. He thought I needed a break, a vacation, so he gave it to me." Even if part of her might have resented it to start, it left an impact on her. Enough that she chose it to go to. It's connected to the boy, even if it happened in this timeline and not his own. Who knows— maybe Peter of that timeline did something similar for her once.

The clothes she wears gets damp as she stands in the water, and she keeps her eyes on the man she can only partially see before she says, "It's weird— knowing what could be but not what's going to be. Or even what is. I know where we are, but I don't know where we are at the same time. Guess this sounds just as crazy as my last dream…"

Maybe crazier, given this one can't be blamed on the semi-constructive contributions of prescient abilities to tactical concerns like 'killing Arthur Petrelli.' Ghost is reminded of something by the sudsy blue-glass slither of water through Gillian's legs, the catching swirl, white tongues aiming up at the hems of Nate's shorts only to fizzle out, fall away, slough back into the sea before they manage to wet his hanging toes never mind his clothing.

In 2019, Teodoro Laudani is still pretty bad with kids. No small wonder he turned to counter-terror and espionage instead of returning to his illustrious career as a high school teacher. "I think you're going to be okay," says the least reassuring source on the planet, with half a smile, colorless.

"Says the body jumper from a future that may not exist anymore at all," Gillian says quietly, not smiling as she puts her eyes back on the small boy and looks over his face. As long as a certain ability is her own, she'll remember the face, but she knows someday it'll fade away like faces of people she thinks she knew in the past.

Sometimes the most important concerns are far more personal than if the world will survive—

"But you're right— I'll be okay." It's just hard to know how she'll be okay, or if she'll like herself once she gets there at all. "This what you came to show me?" She asks, smiling at the young boy she still touches, before she adds on, "Or did you just want to spy on my dreams and steal my other shoe?"

Beautiful boy. To this day, Ghost still doesn't know why his father had chosen to name him what he had. Never came up. Perhaps unsurpising: his friendship with Peter Petrelli was comprised, in large part, of mourning Helena Dean and the comrades they'd shared, and his relationship with Gillian had been comprised mostly of bitching, ruthlessly tested loyalties, and sex. The ivory tower isn't the only place kids don't belong.

It's ironic, maybe. Ghost comes here with the belief clenched between his teeth, that the world can burn as long as his people survive, that this once, he isn't going to make those fucking sacrifices— but it's still Phoenix on the chopping block, the world that he's fighting the slippery slope to try and save. "Nah.

"Nothing so selfless," Ghost says again, even if she hadn't really believed him the first time around. He glances away, and a palm frond shows through the strandy toss of his off-blond hair, the tumble of vegetation angled in his shoulder. He doesn't wave. Doesn't have to, for her to know: in only a few seconds, he'll be gone. "Wanted to see what you'd show me."

"Liar," Gillian accusses quietly, as she looks from the disappearing person to the boy still held in her hands. It's not really that she doesn't believe him entirely, but some of it had to be his own doing. She'd not known of the son. He'd never been mentioned by any of the time travelers. "Thanks, jackass," is said to the form she's no longer looking at, knowing she's only got seconds left to say anything to him, or to look at the beautiful child in front of her. She tries not to blink. Almost as if the child will disappear when the dreamwalker does. Maybe he will, maybe he won't— maybe the dream will once again become a dream…

Or maybe she'll wake up from a dream that may never be hers again.

For the moment, though, she seems content. Despite everything.

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