The Hero Dies In This One


f_gabriel_icon.gif f_teo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Hero Dies In This One
Synopsis When the future is at stake, history repeats. Teo makes sure of it.
Date May 13, 2019

The Gray House

Three hours since he'd practically chased his son out of the house in argument. Three evenings, almost, from an attempted murder and a successful one. Three minutes since Gabriel had placed the vinyl record down onto the gramophone and sent it whirring. Interesting things come in threes, but not clarity.

A lot of people underestimate the talent it takes to be a watchmaker. Even a simple task of cleaning a watch requires education or uncanny ability, and Gabriel has both. Take it apart and the smaller pieces go missing, things go loose, springs make a bid for freedom. Putting it back is an art in itself, and it should, by rights, take days until you can be certain the watch is running properly once more. That's assuming there was nothing wrong with it to begin with.

Gabriel is only aware that it's turned to nighttime when he finds his eyes burning to see through the dark, and he switches on a nearby lamp to flood the room with dim yellow light, and goes back to replacing the glass face onto the item in front of him. Carefully. This room has always been a good way to contain himself, a good kind of cage, in a sense. He'd always told them that it was because he needed to be alone. It's only half true. It's protection, for everyone involved, and right now— it's keeping the rest of the house out, as if it were some kind of liquid entity that could seep through the cracks, down him.

His thoughts aren't even making sense anymore and the tools in his hands fall with a clatter, hands coming up to hold his head. It's her fault for speaking the thing they'd avoided for a decade. I'm only thirty, and I have a lot of time left, but it isn't infinite. Words ring clear in his head, and he makes a sound that's kind of like laughter.

But it doesn't mean he misses something else, beneath the sound of clocks ticking in perfect tandem. His hand goes out to force the gramophone to halt, back going straight. Bai-Chan never storms out with the intent to come back so soon but he certainly isn't alone in the house anymore. Gabriel's throat, scratchy and somewhat unshaven, shifts as he swallows, and the chair creaks in protest when he's leaving it. The walls around him that seemed so important in keeping the world out diminish to merely wood and plaster as he leaves.

The tap of a psychic forefinger is so light on the edge of Gabriel's consciousness that it might be dismissed as an accidental twig-brush or a bird shrieking by at a dreamy gait on the crest of a breeze, or else, the temple-twitch of an impending headache.

Only, Gabriel knows it's none of those things, because he had heard something— with his ears, and while coincidences are wont to occur every day even in a world where physics oblige to suspend themselves on the whims of the genetically gifted, and intellectual creativity much more frequently than that, very little of Gabriel Gray's life has ever been anything except premeditated, choreographed, or ordered as is wont to be a former serial killer whose career pursuant to that one did so at the sufferance of Arthur Petrelli. Or the government of the United States government. No— no. Arthur Petrelli.

Or the stranger outside the clickety pane of his mind. There is a footfall, a heartbeat, the rasp of fabric torqued by the casual swing of legs. "Gabriel," Teodoro says. Like the drub of muscle caged in his chest, his voice sounds very ordinary, no rough to the register or haste to its pace. Failing, entirely, to pay the proper recognition to the last salutation they had exchanged.

Or the fact that he's fucking here, in the house that Eileen had once shared, stepping around the couch she'd picked out and eyeing the drowsing finches she had raised, walking about, breathing still, the mechanical continuity of a polygraph's line having finished condemning its subject and flattened out to boredom again.

"Are you ready?"

He's here. And Gabriel could well be imagining it, he thinks, except he knows all about hallucinations, and he knows how their hearts don't beat. Cut them and knives pass as if through butter, nonexistent flesh leaving no bloody trail. But Teo is here, and his heart is beating like it was when Gabriel followed it with an intent to kill. His gaze is as low as the Italian's chest.

The finches hop and dance in their cage and nag, inevitably, at Gabriel's mind. He's stopped at the bottom of the stairwell, wearing clothing of blue and grey fabric, with his hand braced against the wall. There's a frozen quality in his posture, brimming with tension, wound with it. It's a poor watchmaker that tells you you've overwound a clock, you know, there's really no such thing unless you mean to do it. It would be nice if it were possible to release tension without skittering into small pieces in every direction.

He'll learn it soon, perhaps. Not tonight. Or this year.

"Get out," Gabriel says, a weak and raw echo of what Peter had shouted at him something like a week ago. Ready? Ready for— there's nothing he can possibly be ready for save for the world to come to a blessed close in the blink of an eye. Like he'd told Eileen, it won't even hurt. She'd said a gun to the head wouldn't hurt either. His nails are going to dig crescents into the plaster soon. "Unless you've come to finish what you started. You're welcome to try."

Teo's subconscious is anorexic these days. Things don't go in, and it in turn produces nothing, no staticky whisper of regret, no second thoughts, or desperate grab at the lifeline of recent memory. He'd dropped in on a few people, accrued fond farewells and expectations that will probably feed into flattering disappointment. Where his mind should be screaming, it's silent. His voice seems to bounce off its vacuous contours. Being blond doesn't obviously have anything to do with it, this time. His hair's shaven down so short it isn't really, anyway.

"You have to be ready." Teo's voice couldn't be steadier if he had mapped it out on a level table with rulers and trigonometry. "I'd give you more time, but they won't. The time-travelers are going home and they need help. I didn't— miss my shot, Gabe." The shortened version of Gray's name is a bad joke, and he knows it, even without any jiggling to his conscience to make theatrically tenebrous heraldry for it. There's an intake of breath; a brake placed on an apology too rote to dignify.

He stops in the doorway of the dining room. The table standing in here is big enough to be a hint all by itself. Solid wood, quality manufacture, round edges, a hint obvious to anybody except a man who refuses to acknowledge the possibilities of fathering a brood.

"I can't talk to you like this."

The house is already becoming a monument, still and clean and silent. To a past and future, one of which will turn out to mean nothing and the other will cease to exist if the paintings are correct.

When the paintings are correct. Teo's words are impossibly ridiculous, from the subject at hand through to the nickname, and the implication that the reason they can't talk is due to distance and decorum rather than the fact they both put Eileen Gray into the ground, one after the other, different steps of the process. He'd stacked rocks. Seemed to be little point in doing anything that took more time than that.

Despite himself, Gabriel is stepping forward, moving with the quietness of a ghost through his own home, his focus sharply fixated on what he can see of Teo and coming closer. His voice is losing its edge a little, coming smoother, sounding more like himself, but not really looking at it. Pain isn't designed to be easy to hide. "What makes you think we have anything to talk about?"

His reflection catches briefly in the surface of the dining table, distorted from poor lighting of evening and parted curtains. A soft grey sweater and washed out jeans lend nothing to the image of a predator. A hawk's stare would be put to shame, however, and ten years of restraint is being put to the test.

For what reason? "There's only one thing I want to hear, anyway. But you haven't, yet. You're usually so good at it."

Little Teodoro Laudani ought to be dead already. The audience knows it. The disbelievers and critics, too. It fails to occur to him, however, less because of his eternal curse of character— of thinking too well, highly, optimistically of everybody and everything— than because this has been a foregone conclusion of crippling weight for eight years, now. He sees Gabriel in the slot of doorway, the size of his shoulders and height of him seeming to fill the wooden geometry with bulk and shadow.

Bogeyman, soldier, officer, widower. The sphinx would cave its armored head in, trying to scratch its way to the conclusion of this riddle. No; pain isn't designed to be easy to hide, and one grows misshapen in the effort to tailor its concealment. Teo knows. Teo could sympathize. After all, that was the idea.

"She's alive." He obliges the other man suddenly instead of slyly. He pulls his mouth flat and white against his teeth, hard enough that the gaps between them ease faint intervals of shadow into his skin. When Teo locates his voice again, it sounds like it came out of his stomach. It's harder now. Gabriel might congratulate himself; his talon found its mark. "Ten years ago, Eileen Ruskin is still alive. She could stay that way for a long while, if Helena Dean manages to take her little troupe of heroes— " and there's dissonance there, a reverent absence of kinship, "— back through time to change the course of history starting from 2009.

"If they stay alive, usher in the new age. One where I don't kill her."

It's simple as the proposition and pitch of business venture or something else made of mechanically procedural parts. Brutally mathematical in its circular geometry, no less self-contained and other-serving than the constituent parts of a functioning watch. There's no blood in it.

But there was blood in it, and Gabriel can feel his own start to move through his heart at a quickening rate, poisonous in its pace and making his cheeks go red as if embarrassed or flushed but neither. She's alive, the careless words like an injection of adrenaline on its own, as false as he knows them to be. They taste like bile, and as Teo's words wheel around into place and shift things—

Gabriel should have stayed upstairs.

There's a crack of plaster and perhaps bone when Teo's body his hurled to the side, his ankle catching on furniture and shoulder meeting the wall until he's efficiently flipped to bruise his back against it. These are not motions Gabriel has executed in quite sometime, but his hand wields the invisible weapon of telekinesis like pliers hovering over cogs and wheels. It's hard to breathe when your spine is trying to force it's way through a wall.

Gabriel's eyes are bright as he keeps a hand out, pinning Teo in place with barely a finger twitch. "You killed her," he says, an obvious thing and he says it again anyway; "You killed her, and you spared me. For this." There's disgust in his voice, incredulity. "I couldn't help but wonder why you'd do such a stupid thing and this— " Some extra pressure of telekinesis has the back of Teo's skull hitting the wall sharp. "Is why?"

Silence, for a moment, and he loses it. Not entirely, just the part that made him Sylar, once upon a time, even if Teo remains pinned to the wall. "You killed her!" The lack of apology, remorse, regret, the lack of anything over the murder of a friend, has Gabriel throwing this statement again at the other man, futile as it is, voice shattering over the words like so many splinters.


It's as much a evacuating gust of air from Teodoro's lungs and gapped jaws as a sound of observation. Ah, comes the dull realization. Yes. Possibly, Gabriel should have stayed upstairs. Maybe Teo should have stayed home, too. Wherever that is. Not Darien: he had been there last night, with Alexander, but that had felt more like a tomb than a home, all of the napkins and linens and overturned translation dictionaries discarded precisely in their polygonal spaces between dust, where he had left them. Not the Dancing Boar, not Palermo in Sicily, nor the fragrant incline of his aunt's bosom and close embrace, or the battered bedroll adjacent to Hana's.

He hadn't meant to bring this plague into Gabriel's home, not consciously. Retrospect is painful. Teo could almost understand: he has a son, too. Soccer starts in July. "I used— " it's unbelievable even to himself that he's saying this, but he is, grinds the words out through a crack of molars and the spidering of light and pain through his fractured skull. "I used the knife — because I wan— ted her to have a face wh— when— you buried her."

It's a gift. He means it as a gift, in a lunatic knot of ribbons and lurid slime wrapping; a gift of some sort. Alexander hadn't had a face left, when Teo put him in the ground.

Sweat needles out of his skin, unbidden, strained out on the pressure of lungs. Fuck, that hurts. "Y-you can't let them know— " The sentence gutters out, unfinished in his lungs, an acheing wheeze. Pointlessly, his elbows steeple against the wall, reaction borne of instinct; trying to fight the crush of telekinesis despite that there's nothing for his bone and muscle to stand up to except the inevitability of its own bruised destruction.

Telekinesis acts as a weight in Teo's chest, an anchor digging iron hooks through his ribcage. Grief is similar. This realisation does nothing to relieve it, that the intent to kill had always been there, not some idiot scrabble of self-defense and it's pointless for Gabriel to fault him on that. Having come to kill his lover. But it's not fair. Alexander had had his chance, there's a tomb with his name on it, and Eileen—

He'd cleaned her up as best he could. It doesn't change the fact her skin had gone so pale it was grey, and that dirt now packed into every dip and angle, the hollows in her cheekbones and eyesockets. The gift goes unappreciated. Teo can tell; it hurts.

"Spare me," Gabriel says, thickly. The niceness. This brand of mercy. "Nothing needed changing until you. Nothing— "

It was perfect. Which meant of course it couldn't last, but it was meant to fucking last a little longer. This, he can't quite fathom, even as Teo's clockwork logic is beginning to make the wheels turn. Gabriel doesn't want it to but he can't help it, he never could. The urge to start anew. Like a purging fire. Like a flood. He'd welcome either. Dismantle everything like the clocks upstairs and set them ticking once.

Again. Gabriel swallows hard, tries to get his voice working again. His tone comes out whimsical as a result. "You failed to save the world, you know. Guess it won't matter for either of us. Say you're sorry." That terrible pressure squeezes Teo's ribs, threatening to make him burst like rotten fruit, and lessens again if only to let him talk. Gabriel's voice comes with serrated edges as he repeats, "Say you're sorry." Who knew there'd be a time when one would have to ask Teo Laudani for apology?

Eileen has a tomb, too. Gabriel will get around to putting her name on there, eventually. He'll see. There's a way these things are done, protocol so simple even that those stupid with insensate grief can follow. There is nothing original about these feelings. The irrevocable sense of aloneness is one that marks all bereaved alike.

Teo's feet don't kick and fret and slide about like the skinny lamb limbs of the others. They dig in. Push back. Plaster cracks starburst from the points of his heels. He shows teeth, a rictus of pain or macabre humor, both. Either. Heh, 's the first accidentally syllable he speaks when he's suddenly permitted to. Heh.

Second, "Don't let them know about this." Rasp, spit, a cracking hiss, his voice comes hacked past the urge to swallow, rough from the gut, and dissipates in his teeth almost before the soundwaves can encode coherent syllables, impart these soupcons of information. The ceiling swoops in through his vision as his eyes roll large in his head. It's hard to look at Gabriel when Gabriel's like this. Too much blood. Undisguised, ruining the sterile simplicity of his reasoning. There's a gun digging into the small of Teo's back, between the crumpling plaster and his spine. "Or they w— won't help you, 'nd her in '09.

"Do what'ch 'ave to do." Kill him; burn him in radioactive fire; bury him in the yard under the catnip swarthe and feline dung; concrete shoes into the harbor. Gabriel has options. Teodoro has none. He will apologize. He will apologize, but you have to understand: he's running low in air, running short on time, has to do this first, get these fucking words out. Each one works out of his lungs like splinters to the surface. An ache rolls in his shoulders. "I did," he says, suddenly, and he'd be the first to admit that's pointless.

Spare you, he means.

It's playing exactly how you want it to, isn't it Laudani? is what Gabriel wants to say, but the words keep sticking in his throat and he'd never been good at impersonal last name choices. Either they matter or they don't.

They don't. Not in this world. He's been fixing clocks all day, that cold analytical train of thought, that pressing need for understanding, for learning. Ice, cotton, and red. It's a rusty switch to flick on after all these years, made so obsolete now that it's just an excuse, doesn't work really, because maybe it's human nature that Gabriel should want to kill the man who killed his wife. Just a thought. Ordinary men have been doing it for centuries, there are stories - plays written about it, movies shown, books written.

And no one will know this one. Gabriel nods his understanding, even as his mouth pulls in an ugly sneer at Teo's correction. He doesn't wait for the apology that's coming, that's trying to work its way out of Teo's throat, through panicked lungs and a catching larynx. Gabriel's other hand lifts, fingers point, a final accusation—

It's quick. Merciful. And Teo will have a face if Gabriel chooses to bury him, although ashes are easier to hide. It's a quick movement of his hand, the streak of murder-red cutting deep— horizontally— across Teo's forehead, a sawing and scream of splitting skull and a spatter of scarlet.

Ten years of escaping Sylar, all for nothing, compromised, and utterly meaningless; the paint said so anyway. Some god watching over both men artfully clips their strings, Teo's body collapsing around when Gabriel's knees give out under him.

Teo's last text message to Hana: I will not see you again.

Previously in this storyline…
When Soft Voices Die

Next in this storyline…
There's No Place Like Home, Part I

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