The Itch


eileen4_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title The Itch
Synopsis Eileen communicates a message from Gillian to Gabriel and makes a confession regarding the morning of August second.
Date August 14, 2009

Roosevelt Island Station

Roosevelt Island is a station on the IND 63rd Street Line of the New York City Subway. Located on Roosevelt Island in the East River, between Manhattan and Queens, it is served by the F train at all times. The exterior of the station is poorly maintained, with two of the streetlights outside having been broken during the damage from the explosion years ago, and have yet to be repaired. Graffiti mars the concrete walls outside, and on the stairs descending to the station proper. Fare control is in a glass-enclosed building off of Main Street.

Underground, the station has two tracks and two side platforms. It is one of the deepest stations in the New York City Subway system, at about 100 feet below street level (approximately 10 stories deep). Due to its depth, the design of the station is also unusual. Similar to the stations of the Paris Metro and Washington Metro, Roosevelt Island station is built with a high, vaulted ceiling. Roosevelt Island Station also features a mezzanine visible directly above the tracks, common amongst stations on the Washington Metro, but not common in New York. The station contains elevators to street level.

The trench of the railway line is empty of anything, stretching back and forth into tunnels of darkness and flickering light. There's no rumble of approaching train, no shaking of the foundations to warn the only two people down here of its approach, and so Gabriel feels quite safe to stand upon the very edge of the platform, arms folded around his midsection, toes a fraction off the edge. A lonely piece of newspaper catches amongst the metal lines below, knocked about by the stale wind that somehow manages to come drifting through the tunnel, attempting to escape up the sides so as to avoid getting shredded beneath the grinding wheels scheduled to arrive iiin—

Gabriel checks his watch. Eight minutes. But who knows? Perhaps when America officially hangs up its democratic hat, it will eventually make the trains run on time. That, would be a joke.

A speculative gaze drifts back up towards the black insect eyes of ever present security cameras, pondering, wondering. He'll feel better when on Staten Island, and he hates that he'll feel better once on Staten Island. If there was anyone in the world who desired to punch Nathan Petrelli in the face for that favour, it's Gabriel Gray, although he would not be alone.

Stuffing his hands into his pockets, his heel scrapes against the grimy tiled floor of the station, before he's turning to saunter back over towards where Eileen is seated across the room. Everything looks a little like a horror film in here. The sun may beat brightly down upon the world above, but in here, down here, it's the timeless glow of artificial light. Colour draining, life sucking. Gabriel's eyes make shadows beneath the thick strokes of his brow, and the stubble at his neck and jaw stands peppered on pallid skin as he wanders over once more, obviously restless, subtly nervous.

Eileen hates it down here. Waiting for the train, whether the station is bustling with people or lonelier than a graveyard like it is now, is her least favourite part about visiting Roosevelt Island — and not because it reminds her of the London Underground. There was a time when she used to enjoy watching strangers come and go, march up and down the subway steps like workers in the colony of leafcutter ants she once saw on her mother's television, their briefcases and baggage slung over shoulders and tucked under arms. But this was before the Vanguard, before Ethan Holden taught her the importance of mapping out the nearest escape route in advance, and before she ever had a reason to.

Gabriel should be restless, nervous. If the wrong people were to find them here, it would be like getting caught on the topmost floor of a burning building whose architect never thought to fit it with an emergency exit: inevitably fatal. The bench upon which Eileen sits, her order from the Ichihara Bookstore boxed and at her feet, is defined by its clean lines and a dark blue lacquer finish that has chipped off and flaked over the years, exposing the wood below. It's the sort of thing she might get snagged on if she doesn't have the presence of mind to check her dress before she stands up, though it isn't likely that rips in her clothes are high on her list of concerns this morning.

She's been staring at the billboard above the tracks for the past fifteen minutes or so, saying nothing, the gifted journal clutched tightly to her chest with her fingers curling into talons around the edges. The advertisement, if either of them want to call it that, features a woman with a smiling mouthful of teeth like pearls and a halo of blonde hair that blows around her face as if at the mercy of the tunnel's winds. CHOOSE A BRIGHTER FUTURE, its text reads. REGISTER TODAY.

As Gabriel approaches the bench, Eileen's eyes do not move from the billboard even though there's nothing left on it for her to scrutinize, except perhaps the way it appears to be peeling at one of the corners. She does, however speak, her voice low and hoarse, not unlike the groan of the wheels that they're awaiting. "You can't take Peter back to Swinburne," she says.

Inevitably fatal if you were unable to create your own emergency exits. There are tighter corners Gabriel has been trapped in, not the least of which being Kazimir Volken's possession, or the bowels of the Company holding cells lit just like this, or the locked down basement of Pinehearst after a lost battle. It's that cockiness and assurance that allows him to dare wander this far, to make only a knot of anxiety form in his stomach and line his muscles with tension, as opposed to quake in worn boots.

It's not invincible, but he's standing. Which is why there is some cynicism in the lift of his eyebrow at Eileen's assertion, chin tucking in as he looks down at her. He's come to a halt at a distance of a few feet, his posture casual and relaxed even if he's anything but. Inevitably takes the bait with a, "Why not? It's nice out there."

Sarcasm, dry enough to flake invisibly off his own words. It could be nice, if nice meant private, deadened, spacious. A small spit of wasteland where he and Peter can do whatever they like and no one has to get hurt. Unless you're a feline.

Eileen's grip on the journal loosens a fraction, then tightens again, either working some of the tension from her fingers or relieving the pressure. She's been holding it for a very long time, and muscles eventually cramp up. "I dropped off some supplies at the Lighthouse last night," she explains, or tries to. "Gillian was there." What this has to do with Swinburne Island and Peter Petrelli isn't immediately apparent, but with a little less than eight minutes before their train is due to arrive, she can afford to be choosey with her words and proceed at a deliberate, measured pace. Although there's a lot she wants to say, she's unsure about the order in which she wants to say it.

"She told me she went to Swinburne," she continues, "looking for Peter. There was somebody already there. Wanted to know where you were. Feng, maybe. One of his associates. It isn't safe."

To be cruel, it could just take that first part of her last statement all on its own. Gillian went to Swinburne Island, looking for Peter. Alright, we'll find somewhere new to hang out, that's fine. It's not what Gabriel imagines Eileen was intending to say, but he reacts anyway, if only subtly, in the way he begins to pace and allow his gaze to trail along the ground as he goes. He only looks back at the woman at the familiar name—

A familiar possibility, anyway. "A lot of people are looking for me," he says, over the quiet sounds of his own slow foot falls. Three feet to the left, three feet to the right. His voice isn't quite dismissive - interest is captured, if lined with some doubt. "This trip wasn't safe either. What did Gillian say about him, to think this has anything to do with Feng?"

Eileen's eyes finally flick away from the billboard and resettle on Gabriel's face, quietly assessing the expression there in search of something the tone of his voice can't, won't divulge. "He shot her with a dart gun," she says, steady, "back, legs, arms. It doesn't matter if it was Feng. Whoever it was, he was armed and he was ready, waiting. You're being tracked by someone who knows what he's doing — isn't that enough?"

She lowers the journal at the same time as her gaze, resting it on her lap. Her fingertips brush against the tie on its cover, tempted. Now isn't the right time to be opening it again, she knows — all she needs is something to occupy her hands, and the tie is convenient. Easy. "We're running out of foxholes."

Is it enough? Gabriel's shoulders nudge up in the barest of shrugs, focused on the rhythmic scuff of his feet against the floor and perhaps it's his silence that indicates, yes, he's taking things seriously. Running over the possibilities in his mind but to be truthful, it's endless - the amount of people that this new threat could be. It's enough to get him off the island, probably.

"I'm running out of foxholes," he corrects, with a slant of a look in her direction. "I've been running out of them for the last few years, so this isn't new. I'll just find someplace else to knock the Kazimir out of Peter. Did she see him? Gillian, did she get a description?"

There's a slight pull at the corner of Eileen's mouth, neither sneer, smirk nor smile — a mere twitch of an expression, aborted in its early infancy. The notable differences between we and I are something that the young woman has become intimately familiar with over the past year; she must not take too much exception to his correction, because the first thing she does isn't argue with him. "No," she says with a shake of her head. "He was wearing aviator sunglasses, that's all. She said something that implied she doesn't think he looked Chinese, but I don't want to write Feng off yet. You're just as important to him as Ethan is, now that he knows who you are."

This is the part where she argues, even if her voice lacks the heat for it. "A foxhole's a foxhole, Gabriel. A fox is a fox. You're not the only one who uses them, and just because the hounds have your scent today doesn't mean they won't have mine tomorrow."

His pacing comes to a halt, and with all the attention of the hound Eileen references, Gabriel's attention swivels to the arc of tunnel that leads to Manhattan, although whatever might have drawn him isn't anything Eileen can tell. Likely a thought steering his gaze, and the sound of the newspaper rustling those several feet away joins the newer, mechanical grind of an elevator being drawn down to the depths of the station. A light blinks. They were never going to be alone down here forever, even on this ghost island.

It gains a flick of a glance from Gabriel, then back to Eileen. "I'll stay in Midtown for a while," he says, and it doesn't come out as a suggestion, nothing begging opinion. Just letting her know what he intends. "Throw off the scent. If you want to lend a few birds, I wouldn't say no, but you should stay at the Garden. If I get lucky then he'll do something stupid and I can get a few answers."

The smooth vacuum sound of the elevator doors splitting apart punctuates his statement. A nondescript older woman barely acknowledges their presence as she ambles out, heads immediately for the closest bench. Gabriel almost instinctively turns his back to her in a casual, bored swivel, hands in his pockets and watching Eileen more sidelong.

"Maybe it's better I don't know where you are." As always, whether or not Gabriel is begging Eileen's opinion, he gets it. "In case something were to happen." What she really means to say is: In case I get caught. Unfortunately, with another set of ears listening to the distant whistle of wind breezing through the tunnels, she can no longer be as frank or straightforward as she was when the two of them were still alone. That said, there's a benefit to the older woman's presence as well, and it gives Eileen the freedom to tell him things she might not otherwise without having to worry about Gabriel's response. He can't be straightforward with her, either… or so the theory goes.

She trails the pad of her thumb up and down the journal's aged leather spine as the stranger settles down on one of the station's numerous benches, all of them in various states of disrepair, many with individual museums of discarded chewing gum tucked under their seats. While they're still on the topic of Daiyu Feng: "It wasn't morphine."

He doesn't outright agree with her. Perhaps having a few birds to watch his back would not be amiss, but of course— of course— Gabriel is not about to say as such. His chin tucks a little in a small nod, gaze tracking up towards the clock high up above the tunnel displays the handful of minutes to go until a stressful ride out will come roaring into station. The clockface probably used to be white, at some stage - right now it gleams a jaundice yellow with insects trapped within its glow.

That particular study is dropped in favour of sending a confused look her way. Her quiet statement bounces off the high walls, spread apart and scattered into echoes from the sheer amount of space. Perhaps the lady keeping to herself won't hear anything but incoherency.

"What do you mean?"

There are no pigeons roosting up in the station's vaulted ceiling, but there are sparrows. Eileen can hear their fluttering wing beats as they dart between the steel beams, jumping from perch to perch without making much noise except for the occasional twitter accompanied by clawed feet scrabbling against metal. The sound of Gabriel's footsteps echoing across the platform when he'd been pacing had been louder. So is the faint hiss of breath that leaves her lungs when she exhales, a sigh pressed past pursed lips.

"You told Peter it was morphine," she says after a short pause, her voice growing lower but no less gravelly or rough. It's the kind of hoarseness that can usually be blamed on tears, but right now her pale eyes are dry and painfully bright. One small hand leaves the journal in her lap to rub over her arm, covered by her cardigan's black weave. "I said the same to Ethan, but it wasn't. That's a lie."

If this were a straight forward matter, no doubt it would be delivered just as straight forward. It's not, and so, it's not. Gabriel's dark eyes are narrowed, perplexed as to what this has to do with anything and why it isn't straight forward and eventually, he steps on over. He sits, the bench creaks next to her; his sleeve brushes her's and that's about it for physical contact. Incidental thanks to proximity.

"He used it on Knutson. I assumed…" And he allows that sentence to trail off, silence curling back in on itself to create a full stop. He assumed.

"It wasn't a bad assumption," Eileen says, returning her attention to the billboard on the opposite side of the station, mounted above the tracks with its winking teeth and its innocuously offensive message. "Just wrong." She drags her teeth over her bottom lip, catching on the scab Raith left her with the last time he tried to emphasize the importance of self-defense. It doesn't hurt. Neither does the point of injection beneath her sleeve, long healed over — there isn't even a bruise left.

She swallows in spite of her mouth tasting very dry. The brush of his arm is noted and summarily ignored like the accident it is. "I needed to tell someone, thought you might understand."

Understand is a strong word. Remember might be better. The puzzle pieces have already been clicked into place by the time she needs to say anything, and Gabriel's mouth is pulled into a frown. He knew. He knew and that's disturbing, or else, why go to the trouble? "No pun intended, but I guess he was trying to make a point," Gabriel states, a certain kind of wryness in his tone that isn't uncaring, just is. "About what weaknesses he thinks he knows. It's only one if you let it be."

Another assumption, that she is, and why shouldn't it. For lack of anything else to look at, Gabriel's gaze lands on the Registration advertisement, selling the idea that signing your freedom to the government gives you revolutionary look-at-me lashes and glossy Bay Watch hair. Or something. Lies. "How are you handling it?"

His first assumption hadn't been bad; just wrong. Eileen cannot say the same about this one. She tenses beside him, fingers curling around her arm, nails biting into the fabric of her cardigan. Her rings flicker faintly in the station's dirty light. Whatever she'd been about to say, whatever else she'd been about to confess, she chokes back in silence, forcing it down her throat. The truth is that Feng gave her something she didn't want at the time, but has since become a tangle of need that she can't quite pick her way out of.

It's only a weakness if Eileen lets it be. She really wishes it was that simple. "I don't think it had anything to do with making a point," she whispers under her husky breath. No pun intended. Ha. "If Peter hadn't been there, he'd have put a bullet in me. He did it because he's a vindictive little shit. Because it makes him feel good."

She ignores the question, fearing her own answer which is: not well. "I've never wanted to hurt someone as much as I want to kill him. Not even Ivanov. I do now."

Gabriel's eyes roll upwards, an automatic response, at her correction. He manages barely to hold his tongue against picking at the point. They might have found the drug in her blood. Vindictiveness is still making a point but he knows better, perhaps, than to split hairs this time, right or wrong. It's a learning process for both of them. Even so— "You have," he states, finding something new to contradict. It ends there, however. "It's under your skin. Not just him. He gave you back the itch."

The kind that scratching makes worse. His shoulders come up a little, shoulder blades pressing up against his shirt, gaze dipping down. "I told Raith I wanted the powers of every Evolved that counted as my kill," he states, in a low tone of voice, barely about the sound of breath. "I said it would help me stay focused. He suggested I get a hobby."

There's a twitch of amusement, there, a Mona Lisa smirk that fades as soon as it appears. "Find a substitute. Don't let it drag you away."

Not whittling, Eileen wants to suggest when Gabriel shares his anecdote, but it's difficult for her to find humour in the situation, even when it's curling at the corner of his mouth. She looks down at the journal again and the tie that fastens its cover in place, beckoning. There's a substitute sitting in her lap. A focus. The only problem is that she fears she lacks the mental fortitude to pursue it — she isn't sure she can read the journal's contents, desire aside.

The hand on her arm releases its hold, and for a moment hovers uncertain in the space between them. It looks as though it might touch down on Gabriel's thigh but instead, after a lengthy hesitation, finds a place on Eileen's bare knee. "Aren't you worried what might happen?" she asks. Then, to clarify, because she could be referring to so many different things, "If you start killing again?"

"I don't see what difference it makes," Gabriel says, voice casual and wrapped around the knife edge of defense. Eileen's drifting hand is boyishly missed, gaze set downwards, forward, up, as if perhaps he had blinkers on. "They die on Raith's order, I take what I need. It'll be just like old times, only without the betrayal and pending apocalypse." Humour, a little wan, as if perhaps he does know better and is ignoring it in the same way he ignored her hand.

Whatever's easier. "If it makes you feel any better…" Moving right along. "It's going to hurt him, when he dies. He wouldn't appreciate mercy anyway."

"Quick is better," says Eileen. "Merciful is better." Down the tunnel, the sound of the approaching train reverberates through the tracks and blows a gust of stale air up onto the platform that tousles her dark hair and ruffles her dress. There is no voice to crackle over the station's loudspeakers, reminding them to remain several inches behind the yellow line — only a tarnished metal sign affixed to a nearby column, its message far better advice than what the billboard is touting.

Eileen rises from her seat on the bench, heels clicking against the floor as she slips the journal under her arm and bends over to pick up the box of books at her feet. "Let's not give him anything he would appreciate."

Gabriel gets to his feet, taking a few steps back and watching as she gathers up the box of books. He thinks to have his hand brush against her back as they start towards the train cruising itself into place, sliding like all kinds of euphemisms along the rails, eliminating the sound of the rustling newspaper and the newspaper itself altogether, and this time it's not an accident.

He waits for the giant vehicle to come to its shuddering halt before its doors slide back, admitting them entrance. He spares a glance to the clock on the wall, noting the eight minutes gone by, the train running on time. That can't be a good sign for the state of America. Brisk steps have them stepping inside, under the telling, flickery lights of the electric carriage and all those people who aren't even looking at them, aren't even thinking to, but he speaks to her, before the doors slide shut, the barest of mutters that's more breath than voice;

"Then I guess it depends on who gets him first."

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