The Giving Curse


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Giving Curse
Synopsis At least it's not the one that kills the cat. Teo watches over a comatose Eileen when they receive a gentleman caller.
Date March 19, 2009

Filatov Clinic - Spare Room

According to Dr. Constantine Filatov, there are six levels of awareness: conscious, confused, delirious, obtunded, stuporous and comatose. For the past week, Eileen has remained comfortably at the very bottom of the scale in a profound state of unconsciousness from which she has yet to rouse, and while the prognosis appears grim there's still time before her condition downgrades further to a persistent vegetative state.

The bruises on her arms and back have faded from mottled purple splotches to ugly swaths that vary in colour and intensity depending upon how far along the contusion is in the healing process. Thick black stitches adorn her upper lip and the corner of her mouth, which appears as deceptively relaxed and at peace as the rest of her body, its slim shape difficult to define beneath the woolen blankets covering her legs and torso. An outdated EKG, the only unit in the clinic, monitors Eileen's heart rate, keeping listeners abreast of its progress with a steady twitter in lieu of a visual display.

Errant droplets of water dripping down from the outside gutter ping against a miniature glass window that the previous owner welded shut several decades earlier, sharp and almost melodic in contrast to the heavier patter of rain and the roar of the wind buffeting the shutters of nearby buildings. The weather isn't exactly amenable to travel, which might be why Constantine trusts someone else to look after his patient while he battens down the hatches on a house call in another part of Staten Island.

It's not like he was doing anything, after that whole thing with Hana. Scars, secrets, Vanguard. There's a theme running through here somewhere. Teo is sitting on a rickety chair of bent tube metal and faux wood next to the bed, his cellphone still resting in the rough-skinned curl of his fingers, glinting, a fish in the taloned grip of an old buzzard.

There is little strength to his fingers.

It has been a very long day, and the hours seem to increase in length with each one that passes. Trouble at home seems peculiarly, unexpectedly near, here on Staten Island, despite the stretch of water and comfort of strangers.

Teodoro closes his eyes. Turns his head to look at the girl on the bed before opening them again. Wonders what she's dreaming about. He has been watching the green line of her cardiograph squirm through the same steadily reassuring pattern for hours and sleeper's serenity sit like a pall over the dull light cupped by her bruise-colored pores. He does not think that her dreams are sweet.

Tonight, Teo had been told. Give it a few more hours and tonight will be tomorrow, which would be unfashionably, unreasonably late. Not that there'd been any promises of a meeting, a chance encounter, a visit. But these things happen. The wicked rarely rests.

The patter of rain makes melodies on the glass, distorts the light, shifts. There's absolutely no sound from the front room, none at all, and yet maybe the ambient light changes just out of Teo's periphery, but the accompanying silence suggests a whole lot of nothing.

Eileen dreams. Eileen's dreams aren't sweet, nor are they particularly bad. Tonight, they're just insistent.

There's a flurried flapping of wings when the large raven suddenly bursts through into the backroom, making not a sound save for the flurry of feathers cutting through air. It circles in a tight spiral, lands clumsily upon the foot of Eileen's bed, claws catching in bed sheets. Wings extend, arch, drip rain water, and the feathers along its throat stand out as beady eyes regard Teo with a warning. Don't even try it.

The frame of the doorway is filled with shadow, as long a dark clothing and dark hair can be counted as such, and in this dim late night lighting, it almost could. Paler skin stands out, one hand curling around the doorframe as eyes of black glass chips direct a gaze upon the unconscious doll-like creature in the bed. He says nothing, head slightly tilted, soaked through from the relentless weather outside.

So now we have fear.

Nobody in the room has acuity enough to smell it, but a dog could. Instead, a percussive racket-a-racketing crawls up from the baseline of negligible sounds in Gabriel's hearing, Teo's pulse accelerating adrenalized inside the acoustic chamber provided by his own ribcage and abdominal cavity. Tavisha had heard it once, too. No doubt, it had elicted a different reaction then, but the rhythm is the same, well above resting, just short of panic, singing a song about a yet unrealized retreat. He had heard it in the park, too, with Eileen and the unknown speedster. The first time they met. Every time they meet.

And every time they meet, Teodoro has his features schooled to something pleasantly blank; the closest that he ever gets to inscrutability without an effort at overt deception. This looks bad though, doesn't it? Eileen's lying here, small under her bedsheets as a stillborn child. The bird's whiteless eyes look comparatively vivacious. The EKG says she's alive. That isn't good enough for Teodoro Laudani. It wouldn't be good enough for Gabriel Gray.

He'd been trying for transparency with Hana, a few hours ago. He'd left this part out. "Welcome back." He gets up with a squeak of screws. Mechanically, he captions: "She's been like this for nine days."

Gabriel's hand falls from where it rested against the doorframe, moving forward until he's clear in the room, keeping his eyes on Eileen as if waiting for her to contribute to the conversation too. Inevitably, she doesn't, and his eyes draw up towards the ancient piece of medical equipment and its eternally moving green worm jumping and jerking with the sound of her heart which he hears without its assistance.

He hadn't rehearsed anything he might have said to her. With his hodgepodge collections of memory from the past month and two thirds, ones that don't feel like his and yet can be recalled with perfect clarity as everything else, there is certainly much to discuss. No rehearsal, though, but not because he didn't think it wouldn't be necessary. This was a surprise.

Finally, he looks at Teo, blank incomprehension angling his eyebrows into a serious expression, jaw set. Nine days. He doesn't spit the words back at the man, though he looks tempted, eyes narrowing. "Why?" he asks.

The EKG continues to tweet in the background, punctuating the rhythmic drum of Eileen's heart. Its tempo isn't as harried or earnest as Teo's, but there's a significant — if minor — narrowing of the gaps that span between each signal and the last. The thin green line twitches upward, jumps, plummets back down in a vertical dive before normalizing again.

"Word on the island is it was payback when she tried to kill the people who'd kicked my ass a few weeks earlier. I don't know if it's true." It probably is. Might be. Should be. Accounts and evidence seemed consistent, between the stolen cane and the telltale marks, Logan's nervous sneer and his sullen retorts. Nevertheless, Teo's paranoia is such that he questions the individual elements of his reality as if they were hallucinations off an acid trip.

He doesn't like lying. People who do tend to seem like some other unimaginable species, whose diet, habitat, and prerogatives he can not begin to understand.

A protracted pause, and he jerks his head downward, glances at the screen of the EKG. Thinks he'd imagined that, there, the momentary and peripheral disruption in signal.

Teo is wrong, of course, but there are worse things to be wrong about. "Constantine said the best way to keep both himself and her safe was if whoever it was the asshole who tried to kill her thought that they had succeeded. I've let them. I was going to bring Abigail." Does Gabriel remember Abigail? There's a sidelong shift of his eyes, clinical curiosity mangled by genuine penitence.

The raven flaps its wings, but not to take flight, just to loosen rain water from its glossy black feathers, before settling. Ignoring the two men, one of Eileen's oldest friends hops up onto the edge of the bed, talons curled securely, feathers ruffled for warmth and possible sleep.

Gabriel remembers Abigail, an eyebrow raising a fraction as his temper, for the moment, is delayed by the fact that there was at least some plan and intention behind this. That he can appreciate. It doesn't mean he has to like it, but it does mean that his left hand that had raised up a fraction of an inch settles by his side again.

And yet— "Not good enough." Head tilting, forgetting for a moment the girl lying prone between them as brown eyes bore a hard gaze into Teo's blue. "Hiding someone capable of running is better than hiding someone who's been in a coma for nine days, Teo. Why didn't you tell me?" His voice is quiet, but sharp and accusatory. Better, though, than him flinging the other man into a wall a few times. Maybe Gabriel owes him that much.

Wall probably couldn't take it, really. Teo has buckled sheetrock before, and for lesser sins than this. He doesn't hang his head. Mostly because meeting the other man's gaze seems the more just and respectful thing right now. The phone claps shut in his hand, plasticky and frail, and he jams it into his pocket with a shove of forefinger, thumb. It is somewhat surreal, that he's still here, this place, instead of…

Several. He's started fights over less, himself. "'M sure it sounds a little idealistic," says the least idealistic person in the world, "but I was hoping she'd wake up and have something to say about it herself." His eyes blink quartz pallid at the dark regard opposite. He doesn't look at Bran or, for that matter, at Gabriel's left hand. "Constantine said we should give it a couple weeks, and then he'd let me m— " He stops.

The line of Teo's mouth goes as flat as the dash he broke off into. His gaze drifts with gravity again. Eileen's breathing barely raises an impression through linens. "My explanations are turning into excuses. I'm sorry."

A soft snort, Teo finally relieved of the judgemental stare Gabriel had fixed on him, looking down at Eileen's pale and bruised face with the harsh little black lines that communicate stitches. Satisfied that Teo said it before he did it. His dark haired is combed back with fingers from the rain, droplets still pebbling on his face. He drips with water from where he stands, a few drops darkening the fabric of Eileen's linens. For a man in a plane crash, it could and should be a lot worse.

"You just followed the doctor's orders," Gabriel says, voice coming out wry, unimpressed. "I think it's time you followed mine." A hand raises up, and short of throwing Teo through aged wood and glass, it only hovers above Eileen's sleeping form. More droplets of water from his sleeve dimple the bed sheets, and his palm is turned up towards the ceiling, fingers loosely extended in offer.

The look he gives the Italian now is flat, expectant. He doesn't bother to argue the logic of why Eileen hasn't been healed by Abby's pure, curing touch, or even his own less than pure, curing touch, one Teo knows well. Bran gives his low, throaty caw, filling the mostly quiet room with the long, drawn out bird sound.

It's in Teo's tone when he defends himself, not from the truth but for its unkind insinuations as to his character: "He was keeping her alive." He gestures with his eyes instead of his hands, a slight fluster of his lean shoulders. Beep beep, goes the EKG, and total parenteral nutrition hangs off the IV stand in clear plastic bags that promise straightforward and sterilized delivery of their contents.

By the time his gaze makes its way back to Gabriel, Gabriel is offering him a hand that he shouldn't take. And Teo looks at it.

He has pretty big hands himself, but the other man's would dwarf his. Transparent rivulets and beads hanging off the wrist, outstretched fingertips that so recently showed the world lazers and riven skulls. Teo is really standing at the wrong end of Sy— Gabriel's hand. Really. Seriously. Rainfall slashes the window, trails unsteady shadows over the crown of Eileen's hair and pillow. "Am I doing this 'cause I pissed you off or because I don't want to?" he asks, pleasantly. He lifts his hand. Dry. Doesn't shake. The question stands.

"The latter's a good call," Gabriel says, and there's even a hint of a smile— just the slightest lift at the corner of his mouth even as his eyes stay cold and weary beneath his prominent brow. Long fingers, rough from a month and a bit's manual labour that his hands hadn't quite experienced before, wrap around Teo's hand in a clasp that's almost comradely rather than earnest or businesslike. Vice-like, too.

His gaze drops down again to Eileen, moving just enough so that his fingertips touch her temple with feather-light pressure, thumb shifting as if to stroke skin but never actually making contact. "They all gave a little piece of themselves for you," he says, voice taking on a dreamier quality. "And I called you a giver. You called it a curse."

Caustic prickle like needles giving infection instead of medicine jabbing invisibly into Teo's hand beneath Gabriel's hold, a sharp and sickening feeling that drives itself right down to his bones and works its way up his arm. Gabriel's hold remains true, steady, firm, stronger as Teo's grasp is forced to weaken beneath the degeneration.

"Tonight, it might be."

It hurts immediately. Doesn't mount or get any worse, mostly because it hurts like a holy motherfucker to begin with, and they're scarcely a second in before that mask of inscrutability is frantically yanked out from inside Teo's head and strapped down on the front of it, staying the waver of his stare and the spasmodic lock of his jaw.

Squaring himself solidly into stay conscious mode, Teo proceeds to look kind of dumb, glassed over, silent, unresponsive, lost in thought, tepeed solidly upright, separate from his immediate surroundings though they loudly demand his attention. He feels it when his fingers slacken, going even weaker than the misery of empathetic betrayal had made them before, and somehow that's worse than the squalling recoil of nerves inside his skin, glutting his pores with a burst of queasy, clammy sweat.

Wrong, wrong, they shriek in their infinitessimal bio-electrically powered voices. It's wrong. Wrongwrongwrong. Let go.

He makes the rather embarrassing mistake of trying to distract himself by speaking because he doesn't want to risk looking at the state of his hand. "Naw.

"Eileen isn't that bad." Too much air guttering in those words and, despite the effort at humor, none of it is laughter. He fixes his gaze to the Eileen's face, focuses on the brutal spatter of bruises, the extrapolation to splintered bone and broken brain tissue and articulates to himself, through the aural static and sharp as sa rebuke, that this can't be the hardest thing he's ever done. Giving somebody his health.

And the EKG goes wild.

The iambic chirps accelerate, growing faster and faster, keying up into one long note that stretches horizontal all the way across the screen in a flat line. Then it happens — the spike.

As Gabriel siphons the life from Teo and into Eileen, what happens on the surface of her body isn't nearly as dramatic or telling as what's happening on the screen: bruises blossom in reverse slow-motion, gradually withering away to reveal paler skin and the network of veins beneath it, dark chords of green and blue standing out against the insides of her arms, dominating the old track marks that appear on her limbs as translucent scars, vestiges of a life belonging to a time before the Vanguard.

The stitches holding her lip together tighten under the strain like piano wire stretched to the point of breaking, though not so taut as to cut off the circulation there. Blood flows freely back into her face, splashing colour across her mouth and cheeks, brightening her complexion and lending a certain type of vitality to her appearance that it hasn't seen in weeks—

Months. Maybe even longer than that.

Acting as conduit, Gabriel is silent and still, as if unaware or negligent of Teo's pain, and of the harsh process of healing Eileen's body is pushed through, forced through. He gives the beginnings of a chuckle at Teo's words, but says nothing, his hand clamped around the other that withers to touch. Skin tightens, wrinkles as if aged far beyond Teo's years, veins stand stiff and black against papery, flaking skin, and it just seems to travel up and up his arm.

Nausea bubbles like the bottom of a volcano in Teo's gut, roiling and hot, lungs constrict and draw in air that tastes sour. "Courage," Gabriel offers, eyes hooded and still watching Eileen. There is a determined certainty in the way he ignores the other man and continues to grip on to him. Taking what he needs.

Everything he needs.

Healing comes from the inside out, the legacy of Kazimir Volken burrowing deep for what's important to fix. Neurological damage mends in ways that can't be seen, and then the bleeding away of bruises, the tightening of stitches. Beneath a bandage, ruined skin from a previous scar heals anew, a tingling, prickling feeling not so caustic as the abuse Teo is put through.

Gabriel says nothing more. He's waiting for her eyes to open.

Courage? The practical part of Teo's mind rejects this interpretation. Stupidity. This is fucking stupid. Though, granted, there's worse things to die for, worse by far. He had figured that, either way, Abigail was going to be healing someone; didn't want it to be Eileen under Gabriel's scrutiny, not if he couldn't be trusted to reallocate a little ether between someone he loves and someone who must otherwise be worthless to him. There's logic, somewhere. Honor, maybe. A sense of debt. She'd helped him once. Avenged him afterward.

It would be ingratitude, indeed, if he threw up on her right now.

Such pain.

Honor and concern are getting proportionally harder to hold onto. Clamped so hard that the teeth between them seem on the verge of shattering, Teo's jaw creaks, audible to both his ears and Gabriel's. His gaze swivels up from the girl on the bed to the EKG read. Viciously obstinate in his refusal to recoil, the sway of nausea tumbles his center of balance forward. Clank when his hip hits the bed railing. His tongue tests the slick of his teeth, lip. He gasps out a brief laugh.

Thinks to himself, Cameron would fucking spit.

Not all the changes reflected by the oscillating EKG are visible to the naked eye, and although Gabriel has been gifted with extraordinary ears, not all of his senses are as attuned to the world around him or the transformations taking place in it. Fissures fuse together, cracked bones readopting their proper curvature, bringing Eileen's ribcage back into alignment. For the first time in nine days, she fills her lungs to their maximum capacity.

If either one of them possessed the ability to anatomically deduce all the things that were wrong with her a few moments ago, then it might be hard to be heartened by her apparent recovery, for while every wound is treatable, curable, not every flaw is correctable. There are those beyond breadth of complete understanding, infinitesimal metamorphoses brought about by the sudden impact of a cane connecting with her skull and the subsequent damage that resulted.

None of that matters right now, though. Eileen's eyes are open. Bleary, defined by a glass-like sheen and more than a little pink around the edges, but open.

Two things happen. Teo makes the bed shudder when his body convulses that one moment, making Gabriel's avid concentration fragment a moment. Then, the slits of iris, pupil, pink and white show in the slightest of slivers as her eyes crack open that fraction. It's enough.

The flow of life and death stops with expert ease, but Gabriel doesn't let go, not right away. He spares Teo the briefest of glances, and then a warm brand of numbness comes. Which might in some ways be alarming - a lack of pain after injury without any sign of true medication might mean, like, Teo's arm is about to fall off actually. This is it, the end, goodbye. This is in fact not accurate - he can still feel, the anesthesia-like ability not draining numbness into him, but rather, draining the pain out. And his hand stays attached to wrist, and such benefits, weathered and injured though it appears.

Gabriel releases him, finally, uncaring of any amount of support his stronger arm might have given the other man. The hand returns to the metal bed railing, gaze going back to Eileen even as he adds, "You should sit down."

The bird at the end of the bed remains in place, a hulking little black silhouette. His beak snaps once, twice, gives the start of the cawing growl. Gabriel casts Bran a glance, back to the girl, just watching for now, posture just as guarding and watchful as Bran's.

"N'shit." Doctor's orders. Teo sits down. Falls over, kind of, but the chair was right there so it all sorts out with the proper allocation of limbs and weight on the appropriate parts of furniture. He slams into the seat with far more force than he had jostled the bed, his heels skidding in a few drunken loops to facilitate his butt-first plummet.

He lands weightily, metal legs squeaking underneath him. Manages, somehow, not to drop his deadened limb on the girl patient on the way.

His other hand goes onto the afflicted shoulder verifying, indeed, that all parts remain attached in a state however far removed from their original health, and identifying that the sudden loss of pain was only that. Welcome, actually. Teo sucks a breath in, pushes it out. In, out again. Blinking clouds of bumblebee static out of his vision, he turns his head along an ungainly arc to refocus his attention on Eileen's bottle-glass green eyes.

Recognition lags several seconds behind waking. Gabriel's shape appears as a blurry figure limned in equal parts light and shadow, but Eileen doesn't need clarity of vision to identify him. She can feel his presence looming over her just as clearly as she can feel Bran at her bedside, and in spite of the drowsily perplexed expression she wears on her face, she senses something different — if not about him, then about the sensation close proximity invokes. If she wasn't so disoriented, she might even—

The sound of Teo's voice, followed by the muffled crash as his weight connects with the seat of the chair, causes her to turn her head just enough to glimpse the Sicilian in her distorted peripheral. He's a little more difficult to identify, which might be why she's opting to forgo words in favour of a querulous groan.

Perhaps Bran's presence serves more than to simply be Gabriel's temporary familiar as he performs what might have been described as witchcraft several decades ago. More than just the guide that brought him here, not out of animal intelligence but out of Gabriel's careful perusal of Staten Island avian presence, finding this familiar shadow and wondering as to its emptiness.

No, it's the bird's turn to be a conduit, Gabriel extending out an arm, a quiet prompt that goes obeyed. The bird hops once, twice across the bed, launches up to dig claws into the thick fabric of his damp coat, feathers ruffling, settling, smoothed under a hand as the man closes his eyes for a moment. No need for words, he's rather sure he can make himself clear to her, but searching for something more. Something a little more general. It exposes himself to her too, in turn, but perhaps that's alright. There's a shimmering notion of familiarity, of relief, of petty frustration. But more importantly, there's something there, unlike the blankness Eileen had met upon her attempts to reach out to the man calling himself Tavisha.

Unintentional reassurance, maybe. Both above and below a true telepathy link, Gabriel attempts to intuit, to find if injury runs deeper than the physical. He's not sure he can fix it, if he does. After a moment, Bran shuffles towards Gabriel's wrist in an unimpressed hop, before taking flight again to perch and skulk atop a high shelf.

"You'll heal," he tells Teo. "Faster than she did. Keep watching her." Bran is a quiet little shadow in the corner of the room, minimal light glinting off glossy feathers and glass chip eyes. As if promising to watch too.

Out of the stoop of his shoulders, Teo's head protrudes out like a coat hook; the furthest he dares to stretch out, to look at the Englishwoman, at Gabriel's handiwork, without courting too great a risk of falling on his face and embarrassing himself completely. She can talk. Sort of. Not exactly. She recognized him. Sort of. Not really. There's something. There must be a support group for former victims of fatal head trauma.

Obscurely, he entertains the notion that he should have given Gray his right hand. Texture between his thumb and other fingers is odd, and there's a hilarious masturbation joke he could get out of this, somewhere. Teo's mouth is skewed into a haphazard, his voice rough with relief for both of them. "'S back," he tells her: an unintelligible rasp. He clears his throat, answers Gabriel's reassurance with a glance that accepts no promises and betrays no resentment.

He nods his head the taller man. "He's back."

It occurs to Eileen, entirely without any mental fanfare or flourishing, that the man addressing Teo isn't Tavisha. And the instant it does, she's overwhelmed by a negative flood of emotion coursing through to her very core: guilt, shame, abhorrence. No fear. She hasn't experienced that in his company, not for a long time. The feelings besieging her are much more recent, and Gabriel may be pleased to learn they're directed inward rather than outward. He's back, Teo said. He remembers.

What a stupid little fool she's been.

Those bottle-glass green eyes close again, and almost immediately Gabriel can feel Eileen withdrawing back into herself, retreating as far as she can from his mental reach. It isn't a very effective tactic — what they share is laid bare to both of them, and turning her back on that link is about as successful as pulling the blankets over your head to ward off the closet monsters. Reality doesn't work that way, but the message is clear.

Please don't.

He'd been intending to leave. To let bird and man watch over her as she makes a recovery, likely walking and able by morning. But this rejection makes Gabriel stay still, brow furrowing and a hand clasped around a bed railing clenches tense. Please don't… be near? Hurt her? Be angry?

Perhaps all three. Don't punish. As she withdraws from the connection already as clear as static and whitenoise, there's one last bristling sense of slow anger before it's gone again, flatlining. He removes his hand from the bed railing, one finger at a time almost, as if forcibly conquering the instinctive white-knuckle clench, moving across the room. A chair, heavy wood, some metal, is picked up its back, and makes the ground vibrate with a heavy thud as Gabriel sets it down a couple of feet away from Eileen's bed. There's been a change of plans as to who plays watchdog.

With less vehemence than the way Teo had sat down, but a certain amount of conviction all the same, Gabriel takes a seat, his expression like thunder. One leg lifts, braces a foot against the frame of the bed beneath the mattress, fingers lace together as his hands rest on that raised knee, a casual pose that works in contrast to the palpable tension of reined in darker moods.

His voice, however, is gentle, joining in on Teo's words with: "I'm not going anywhere," bedside reassurance. The Italian not quite privy to the silent communication going on, although more of it is obvious than Gabriel would care for.

And suddenly the one-armed Sicilian's the third wheel. Fourth, maybe. He exchanges a quick glance with Bran, who seems distinctly unimpressed.

When he looks back at Eileen again, or tries to, his eyes glide a few inches past their mark. Same with Gabriel when he switches again. His expression creases briefly with weary self-irritation, a fool boy who resents his limitations as much he's enamored with them. Gazing into the intermediate space between ex-Vanguardians, he has to bite down on it before it seizes him again, that bizarre and completely obnoxious envy, fleeting and harmless, but it does sting a bit. Their rapport is impossible to ignore, despite the worldly indifference of Gabriel's seated coffee-table posture; despite Eileen's retreat. Defenses that belie the ceasefire and the reluctance of the war that had preceded it.

And Teo would like his people back, too. Please, and thank you.

He could use more time, too. He gets up anyway. Leans into that first step and eases onto the other foot, keenly aware of the anemic speckles seesawing in his peripheral vision, gauging them. The retreat of pain helps a great deal. No nausea. His blood pressure isn't what it was, but as long as he's hobbling around with all the studied frailty and sedate pace of an old man, well—

He would rather be anywhere else. The inferior watchdog by far and sorely out of place in this pack. "I'll write a note for Constantine," he croaks out of a wide, clumsy, frog-lipped smile, not the slightest bit disingenuous.

That words unspoken are being passed between Eileen and Gabriel isn't the only thing that's obvious, though Teo will undoubtedly be more familiar with these other subtle nuances and what they communicate, having experienced them firsthand himself. Gabriel has every right to be angry, and judging by her stony silence, she has no intention of denying him that. Imploring him to keep his distance is more on the mark — she possesses thoughts and feelings she'd rather keep to herself, thoughts and feelings that remain easily accessible to him, if he knew what to look for.

Fortunately, he doesn't. The breathy sigh that escapes her nostrils might be a sign the other man will pick up on. As is the way she seems to simultaneously relax while turning her head away from him. Mixed signals. Conflicting messages. Typical.

Eileen isn't about to let Teo go without asking the question that's been on her mind since she first opened her eyes and attempted to will the world into focus, though they remain shut when she finally gets around to it, voice like sandpaper. "Is she safe?"

She. There are a lot of shes, too many actually, and for reasons that have nothing to do with what Eileen is asking, even the person she's asking about, Gabriel knows a stab of— unsettlement. She. Is she safe.

He'd sent eyes and wings around the house both familiar to him and not. Only two weeks ago, someone who very much resembled him had been fixing the roof while the weather was still dry, and after that, covering interior walls to obscure the garish and ugly graffiti with white streaks of water-based paint. Domestic bliss, or the pretence of, attempting to build a home around Gillian, someone who promised to love him.

He'd asked Teo to make sure she'd vacated their little nest, and the birds had confirmed this was so. Which also means Gabriel doesn't know where she is. For a moment, this train of thought derails him, gaze slipping down to look at the snow blanket terrain of Eileen's bed, then up towards Teo.

Silently asking the same question with its different context in the tilt of his head and the expectant, sharper gaze, despite the younger man's obvious need to lie down and curl up 'til dawn.

Keeper of girls, secrets, and apparently also of secret girls. Teo allows those queries to slow him down, although he doesn't find a halt until his shoulder mooshes into the door and skews the axis of his shoulders, turns him around and gives him something else to rest his weight on for a moment, his face a pale slice against the dark clinic room beyond.

"She is." He looks at Eileen first, Gabriel second. They both are.

The morbid urge to strip his sleeve back and stare at his arm is maddeningly powerful; the lingering disorientation of the means from which he'd gained it actually helps him ignore that. He gives an enervated sort of wave: a flip of fingers on the good arm still hanging down from his shoulder. "My phone is always on." A quaver-beat. "Ciao." He inclines his head and removes himself from the doorway.

Satisfied, Eileen says nothing, does nothing except listen to the hardwood floors creak and groan under Teo's weight as he retreats, their aching protests a familiar symphony to her ears. Abby is back where she belongs, and though the Sicilian's answer strongly indicates that Logan finished exercising his wrath here with her, she can't use this as a justification for what happened — her broken ribs and swollen head held no bearing on the eventual outcome, bought time for no one. Her injuries were almost incidental.

Not without a little mirth, she lets out a thin, rasping chuckle, muffled by the downy material of her pillow and its cotton casing.

There's nothing funny about this. She's laughing anyway.

The door shuts, a ghost beckoning it closed as gently as it can go, clicking behind the retreating Teodoro but not locking. Such a telekinetic push barely takes a hand gesture, just a glance until Gabriel is looking back at the young woman, her rusted metal chuckle filling the room despite its thinness. It's a quiet room, and all.

Some of the casualness bleeds out of Gabriel's pose, both feet coming to plant firmly on the ground, hands disconnecting as elbows come to lean against knees, back mildly curved. Hand comes up to rub the back of his neck, massage out the tension beginning to knot there.

So many questions and things to say. He reluctantly asks the one most selfless. "What happened?"

Open-ended questions are the easiest to answer — they don't hold her to the truth, don't impart any real responsibility on the person being asked. What happened? Well, there was this bridge, see…

"I made some mistakes," she murmurs, voice taking on a reproving note, though it isn't clear whether she's more upset with Gabriel for pressing, or herself for making the admission so quickly. "Enemies with the wrong people. My own fault."

She'd elaborate, but the more she speaks the more difficult it is to find the appropriate words and then form them. Pea-soup fog seeps into her brain. Lots of it. "Sorry," she amends, somewhat abruptly. "Is that right? What you wanted?"

Only silence is given to interpret out a response. The interrogation ends there, and there's a faint scrape of wood against wood when Gabriel restlessly moves to stand, abandoning his seat in favour of becoming a pacing shadow that moves around the periphery of the clinic room. In the corner, fingers undo the buttons of his coat, tug it off and let it draped over something sturdy enough to hold up the wet, heavy fabric.

"What I wanted," he repeats, and it's his turn to give a rasping, empty chuckle, to spiral through the silence and spiral out again. He moves back inside her periphery, having rounded to the other side of the bed. One large hand rests against the side of it, dipping the mattress and leaning over as if to inspect her, head canted to the side. "You told me," he says, almost too quietly, but their proximity allows for voices barely above whispers, "you told me not to forget the people that cared about me."

Yes, we are having this conversation now, despite the fact that true sleep will likely steal her away at any moment, and Gabriel will let it. But the words burn, searing him until their release. His hand moves, feeling back the gauze, the bandages that had covered Kazimir's scarring mark on her face, revealing a smooth line of elegant jaw. "I rescued you," he says. Kind of. There was a bridge. She almost died. He did die, in a sense. But that doesn't mean his hand didn't close around hers before she could plummet into the river. "But you let me fall."

"No," Eileen hisses back through her teeth, jaw clenching as the bandage is shed from her skin. She's expecting it to hurt, and when it doesn't her eyes split open to slits, hooded by heavy lashes and drooping lids. It takes her a few seconds to mentally parse what the pain — or rather, the distinct lack of it — means. Solemn understanding dawns on her features, pulling her lips into a thin, serious line that puts an extraneous amount of strain on her stitches. A wince.

"Wrong," she reiterates after a pause. "Held you up. Put you back where you wanted to be. Who you wanted to be with." Her body might not be hurting as much as it could be, should be. The mind's a different story, and not just because she's straining to explain herself. Heart, too. "You deserved it."

The aggression is gone, since Teo's departure. Chalk that up to alpha male presences and ensuing reactions, maybe, and posturing. It's not unlike Sylar. Here, though, with the target of potential wrath so weak, having just tried to fix her… he's a little more reminiscent of the man he's been masquerading for a month and a half. A certain softness that makes this change of name appropriate. To reflect the change of heart so many people are counting on.

Still, though. Gabriel lets the bandaging fall away, lets his back straighten. "Get some rest," he instructs her, flatly. Not buying it. Not explaining why, either. Not tonight. He turns his back, moves to find a place to sit, to oversee.

That's fine by Eileen — she has no qualms about taking a reprieve and allowing her body to succumb to exhaustion, then sleep. She passes the disorganized thoughts off as fatigue, cautiously confident she'll be able to better articulate her logic come morning. Assuming it's logic at all. Gabriel's accusation, no matter how mild, has landed its mark and left her dithering, tediously reexamining whether her actions were grounded in reason or in something else.

She isn't able to arrive at a conclusion before the dreams claim her once more. No big surprise there.

He finds a place in the corner, where shadows drape on his shoulders like a blanket without comfort, and the wood creaks just a little whenever he moves. There is something familiar about this, playing guardian, back in the days of the Vanguard when the future lay sprawling before them like a treacherous road of coal and ice.

Now it's only a haze of uncertainty. Survival. Hope. Keeping the people who matter to you alive. Gabriel doesn't fall asleep, but by the time light is breaking on windows still streaked from the rain of the night before, he's left.

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