The Syllabus


gabriel_icon.gif peter_icon.gif

Scene Title The Syllabus
Synopsis …involves a box of kittens.
Date July 31, 2009

Swinburne Island

Swinburne Island is nowhere one wants to stay for very long, but it's a place to go, guaranteed quiet, guaranteed safety. Gabriel is late, and Peter is left to wait within the sprawling, abandoned hospital, alone to go over the days passed by since Gabriel decided to help. The windows are grimy, struck with the bright sunlight of midday, stripped bare of curtains. Summer heat climbs the walls. Whatever rats and insects had once plagued this place have long since abandoned the building itself or died within the walls, nothing Peter can know save for a niggling sense of vitality.

He can trace the dust of the table left in the kitchen area, maybe spell out the words they'd shared. Gabriel had spoken about Kazimir, his power, all it could do for him and to him. Myths about healing, longevity, goodness buried somewhere in the black muck of evil that is this ability. It seems like an impossibility.

It seems hopeless.

Eventually, Peter will hear the sound of a boat docking nearby outside, and the eventual footsteps of some approaching from within. The last few times, Gabriel hadn't bothered with a boat. "Peter?" comes the echoing sound of Gabriel's voice from down the hallway, before he steps inside the door, black slacks seeming to meld in colour with the black T-shirt clinging to his torso. More obviously, however, is the cardboard box he carries by both hands, holes cut into the lid, the sound of scuffing, something alive, within it.

"The boat was late," the erstwhile serial killer states, voice pleasant, moving towards the table to set the box down. "You can sit down."

Blue eyes lift up from ther dust, rubbing particles of it off between two gloved fingers. "I'd rather stand," he looks down to the box, one dark brow rising higher than the other. Breathing in a deep breath, Peter slides his hands into the pockets of his slacks, eyes alighting from the cardboard to Gabriel. There's no explanation about where he was yesterday, that he never returned to the garden after that disagreement with Eileen over feline burials, that he had only come here today.

"You shouldn't have," he says with a lazy smile, motioning to the box with one hand. Then, as if to layer one sarcastic comment on top of the other, Peter adds, "I already had lunch." It's a macabre sense of humor, one that dovetails with the quieter, lower-key mannerisms that have been gradually becoming the norm for Peter since their walk back from Pinehearst.

Gabriel spares a glance at Peter, hesitating and suspicious in some ways, but mostly— wry. Vague amusement. It just seems out of place. He places a hand on top of the cardboard of the box, and simply studies Peter for a moment, form sky blue eyes looking out of place in the other man's features. Eyes that don't belong to him. It's the question on everyone's minds— why weren't Gabriel's amber-brown switched out for turquoise?

Likely, everyone's got a theory. Gabriel only has a half of one. He drums his fingertips on the lid, then nods towards Peter. "Your gloves," he says, then looking down, hands moving to remove the lid. "Take them off."

"No drink first?" Peter adds with a crooked smile, lifting up one hand and tugging at the fingers of the snugly fitting leather gloves. There's a dry laugh, shedding one protective garment after the other, tossing them with a slap down onto the table with a small cloud of dust billowing up from where they hit. "Have you ever done this before?" The question is a bit ambiguous, before he motions to the box, "Tried to teach anyone something?"

It's an incredulous way to ask a question, as if there's some lingering seed of doubt in his mind that Gabriel is capable of anything other than senseless murder. At least, that's the most pessimistic view of the question. "Because I'm beginning to have some concerns over the sanity of your methods." He's never been this loquacious.

There's a pause at Peter's words, the lid sliiiding open before hesitantly closing again as Gabriel angles a look back up at him. There's a tense pause, before he states, "I taught Gillian how to keep her power under control." The lid is flipped off entirely, and there's a soft mmeeww from within the temporary prison. "I taught Eileen how not to kill people when she touched them, when she had a power very much like yours."

His large hands dip into the box, to extract a small, squirming little animal - a kitten, to be exact, paws flailing before Gabriel's grasp becomes secure. It only takes a glance to note that there are five other little critters of the same type within the box, squirming together and meow-squeaking faintly. "Did you have anymore stupid questions, or maybe you had somewhere to be?" His voice is harsh, snappish, as he allows the kitten to hook its claws into the front of his shirt. "Have you ever tried to learn something?"

Peter's eyes settle on the kitten, nose rankling slightly in its presence. He edges close to the box, curiously, and the agitation from the scrambling critters within is an easy way to judge the distance at which an animal becomes frightened by his mere presence. Blue eyes lift up to Gabriel. "I did," he notes with brows raised, "you don't have a stick to beat me with, though." There's a return of the wry smile, then an anxious look back at the kittens.

"You're serious?" As if a box of kittens was ever something to joke about, let alone using them as some sort of live test subject. Peter is apprehensive, it shows in his posture and in the awkward look of uncertainty on his face. The apprehension isn't likely for the obvious reasons.

"A stick? I'll keep that in mind." And don't think it isn't tempting. Gabriel relaxes a little, now that his credentials as a teacher have stopped being called into question, and he even offers a smile. "Oh, I'm always serious." Picking the kittens claws off the front of his shirt, Gabriel holds the kitten up to look at - small enough to be comfortably grasped in one hand, the baby cat flicks its tail in agitation and unease thanks to the man standing opposite.

Ginger and fluffy, it doesn't seem so happy to be here. "What should we call this one?" Gabriel asks, soothingly skritching behind the kitten's ears. "I've never liked 'Fluffy', kind of a cliche. Maybe we could name them after friends and family. This one's name is Helena.

"Catch." And that's about all the warning there is before the animal is tossed gently towards Peter's chest.

Blue eyes go wide, lazy crescents of sapphire immediately become frightened blue rings as the kitten is lobbed in his direction. Peter practically yelps as he catches the small feline in both hands, and the immediate horrifying reaction is the sudden dessication of the entire animal. It's meowling and ywoling is only momentary as its hair withers and crisps under Peter's touch, the flesh blackens and crackle like parchment after blistering up, and then in his trembling hands begins to crumble and break apart.

"Gabriel!" Peter shouts, hands pulling away from the kitten as if it were a grenade and after a fashion it does explode, when its crumbling remains hit the tile floor underfoot and shatter like powdery wood. Flinders of bone, parchment thin flesh and crumby fur goes in every direction, showering Peter's legs with ash. "Are you out fo your mind!?" Dark brows lower, frightened blue rings turn back into half-moons as his lips pull back to reveal the white of a snarl.

"Is this how you trained Eileen!?" The thought comes and goes, about how and why she might ever have an ability like this. But then that profane red lightning is remembered, and that's problem enough. "Did you throw kittens at her too?"

Another ginger is extracted from the box, the cat held gently against his chest and stroked with broad hands, Gabriel impassive in the face of Peter's reactions, eyebrows up. "No. All I had to do was show her that it was possible and she took that on board and took control," Gabriel says, with a sneer. "The thing about my power, the one to understand things, is that it's all within human potential of understanding. I do it quicker, I don't achieve miracles."

The kitten is turned to face Peter, and the creature immediately hisses, displaying tiny needle teeth and bristling whiskers. "You have to want to. I'm not convinced you do. I figure, if a kitten doesn't cut it— maybe Helena herself might be up for volunteering." The threat lingers there for a moment, hung between them, and dismissed summarily with a shake of Gabriel's head. "I want to help you, Peter. I don't need another Kazimir wandering around. Now."

His arm goes out a little more, the cat squirming a little harder. "Pet the kitty."

There's no amusement in Peter's eyes, narrowing to blue slits as he watches the car bare its teeth to him. A lump is swallowed down in his throat, a sigh strained through his teeth. His eyes close as he responds to the comment about Helena. "That was the past," he tries to enunciate the difference, "I don't think you understand how through I am with that part of my life." When his eyes open, there's a swallow; awkward and uncertain as he takes a few steps forward, the box of kittens hissing and thrashing against his encroaching presence.

Peter's jaw clenches tight, one shaky hand reaching out towards the kitten. He hesitates, fingers just an inch away from it. He looks up to Gabriel, swallowing anxiously, then lowers his hand down atop the kitten again. He just has to want it. To want to change.

One touch to the kitten's head, and its eyes shrivel up in its sockets, its mewling becomes a horrified howl and hiss of pain, and the tiny animal begins to rot away from Peter's touch. "Goddamnit!" Peter shouts at the top of his lungs, throwing both of his hands up into the air, leaving a half dessicated and horribly alive — for the time being — kitten in Gabriel's hands.

Peter turns around sharply, running his fingers through his hair as he storms away for a few paces then turns around, snapping one arm out towards Gabriel. "I can't do this!" His fingers curl into fists at his side, neck muscles tightening as frustration ebbs through him. "Gabriel, I— I can't control this power."

Oh, gross. Even Gabriel's face shows a flicker of disturbance as the dying creature squirms against nothing in his hands. He's quick to end it, both hands gripping, twisting, until wet ashy and bloody swatches of fur fall to the floor, Gabriel flicking his hands dry of the muck, stepping around the litter of bones and rotted flesh. "You can," Gabriel growls back, lips thin and pulling back in a snarl. "And you will, or we may as well cut these lessons short and I make sure that thing inside you doesn't get to walk the earth any longer than necessary."

He's started to pace as well, the table and its box of kittens dividing them, a restless wolfish walk that doesn't prevent him from keeping his gaze on Peter. "What does it feel like to you? What have I told you? It's a tide, it's a flow of life from one thing to another. You can take a hold of it, redirect it, cut it off completely.

"It's not the Hunger, not this time, it's just slippery."

"It feels like heat," Peter hisses out frustratedly, "it's like— I'm burning up from the inside, and it only cools when I come near something living, make them share the heat, make them burn." His fingers clench together, the tone of voice helpless but defensive behind a vaneer of pride. "It— it's not a flow I can't— I don't think like you do, I sure as hell don't feel like you do."

Rubbing his hands over his face, Peter tries to find some semblance of composure, breathing out a heavy sigh against his palms. "I don't know what this is, Gabriel. The day I— " he cuts himself off, revises, reconsiders his wording. "I was terrified, the day this happened to me the first time." He looks down at his hands, then back up to Gabriel. "Do you have any idea what it's like, knowing the kind of…" his lips press together, head shaking from side to side slowly. "I thought I was going to kill you."

Then, hoenstly, "Part of me loved the idea." There's another narrowing of his eyes as he gives Gabriel an askance look. "There's… there's a lot of anger in here, Gabriel. Not just mine. They're all angry," one eye squints for a moment. "Sometimes— Sometimes I can feel them," his hands smooth up along the sides of his head, "behind my eyes, I'll hear a sound that isn't there, a voice, a whisper. They're right there on the edge— it's like if I listen hard enough I could hear them, but no matter how hard I try I can't."

"I don't know how it was for you…" He swallows, awkwardly, "your eyes didn't change." That alone seems to worry him, "Why is it different with me?"

Somewhere during that tirade, a switch was flicked, Gabriel going from accusatory and angry to something slightly more frozen. Stock still, his gaze breaks away when Peter asks that question, flighty guilt and nervousness not quite becoming on the erstwhile serial killer, his entire demeanor changed over upon whatever revelation he had. He's silent for a moment, before stepping forward to gently place the lid over the box of mewling kittens.

"I think— " His voice comes out dry, somewhat uncertain, bringing his composure back together, though he doesn't return to the sardonic, cocky attitude of before. "I think it's different for you because you'd be dead without it."

Gabriel drags his gaze back up to Peter's eyes. "Kazimir— he became nothing more than his power. He fed off the body he was in, forced to feed off the people around him. It was different for me. It was— compartmentalised, I guess. I don't know if it's the same for you, as it was for him— but it sounds close. It sounds like you need it."

There's a wince, Peter's brows creasing together, teeth clenching and head tilting away in the manner someone averts their eyes from an unpleasant display. An unpleasant truth is far harder to look away from. For a long while he's silent, blue eyes staring errantly at the floor, before sweeping around the dusty, crumbling room and its dilapidated ceiling tiles, past a door half off its hinges, and then back up to Gabriel. "It." He swallows dryly, "There's no— no it." It's a denial, not an assertion, he's afraid of the notion that an ability has some will or force all its own.

"You, Cat, Helena…" His teeth clench together briefly, "you all talk about this ability like it's some— some kind of parasite." Looking down at his fingers, he rubs them together, then turns a worried stare back over to Gabriel, and then the closed box. "What's happening to me, Gabriel? Am— am I going to end up like— " he doesn't finish, just leaves the obvious ending up in the air. "Like that again?"

"I wouldn't have called it one," Gabriel says, avoiding that look Peter is casting in his direction, watching instead the flashes of fur of squirming felines that show amongst the wide air holes in the lid, a tip of a tail flicking out of one briefly before disappearing again. "Not until that night, when it leapt from me to you apparently on its own accord."

Though he's not exerting force, the lines in his arms have gone slightly rigid in pent up tension. The clear as day tattoo on one arm is a mark of asymmetry, curving lines of thick, senseless black in tribal curves and sharp ends. "Superstition," Gabriel says, with a breath of a chuckle. "I probably just pushed too hard while you were too gone. I've seen it happen before, in a memory." A breath, then he admits— "I don't know. But there's no reason why I can use it one way and you can't. I think it's just harder for you because it's a part of you, now. Like not being able to see the forest for all the trees. You're too involved."

His head tilts, and some of that solemn demeanor ebbs away when he flashes Peter a smirk. "I guess the other solution would be to find someone dying and have you do what I did to them instead. Move the problem to someone else. Someone we don't like very much, preferably."

"I could think of a few people like that," Peter admits with a crooked smile. "But— " his eyes narrow, "how does that even work?" There's confusion evident in his expression. "You told me that when Kazimir's body died, that he just slipped out into a new one. If I transfer this to someone else," his head turns towards one of the shattered windows, "will they become me? Will I be me? Or will there be some… gestalt of who was and who is?"

He lets that question linger, eyes closing. "There's so many possibilities. I don't— even with everything you said, I don't know enough about Kazimir. I don't know, you don't know," his hands rise up to rake through his hair slowly. "Someone has to know. An ability like this— it doesn't just exist in a vacuum for a hundred years. You figured out how to use it like a tool, Kazimir had to have known he— " he's grasping at straws, "I need to know what's wrong."

Gabriel's hand wanders up to scratch his own, somewhat unshaven jaw, eyes hooding a little at the questions flung his way, or at least, in general direction. It's a good thing Peter moves on without expectation, as Gabriel is ill-prepared to offer such theories. "Why don't you go back and ask Kazimir?" he responds, somewhat sarcastically, bordering on defensive now that he's been summarily dismissed as a suitable tutor. "Or maybe you don't have to go back at all. The answers might be inside you all along. Your eyes changed for a reason."

Can't we just go back to kitten throwing? Gabriel seems tempted, rapping his fingers against the sides of the lid once more. "Maybe turning it off was too fast," he mutters, more to himself than to Peter. "Maybe we should see if you can redirect it." He'll have to redo the syllabus, at this rate.

A faint smile creeps up on Peter's lips, even if it is a touch bitter. "I don't think that's a good idea," he turns away from Gabriel, arms folding across his chest. "It's like… everything you talked about here, there's this mix of contention between what you do and what I did." a nervous glance is given to the box as he meanders away from it, "Empathy versus Intuition." Distant eyes go unfocused as Peter stares out across the room, not really looking at anything except an unfocused point in space.

"I know I don't have the ability anymore, but— the ones we had, our birth abilities, they're like— it's ingrained in us. Even when I had your intuition ability, it felt like— " he shakes his head, not sure how to word it properly. "I don't know," a sigh of defeat slithers out of him, shoulders slouching while he makes headway to the table where his gloves lie. "You think, I feel, and we both do a terrible job of it." There's a laugh in response to his own statement, a little self-aggrandizing of him.

Reaching out to snag the gloves, he one by one tugs them one, working his fingers open and closed to make sure they're snugly pulled on. "Though I really don't feel much lately. I'm afraid, Gabriel, of what this ability is going to turn me into." He turns, finally looking back at the man who offered to become his teacher, a man he — deep down — still wants to kill. Just not now.

"More afraid than when I had your ability." And in that, he had become a monster. What's worse than becoming a calculating, cold thing? Peter hasn't the answer for it.

Gabriel says nothing for a while, simply watching Peter, thinking as he is supposedly born to do, as much as he might fail at it. Then, a snort. "If there's one thing I wouldn't want that power tied to, it's feeling," he states, before picking up the box of kittens from the table, gently, as if he hadn't just been pitching their two siblings towards certain doom just a few moments ago. "And if that is the case?" And he sounds a little cynical. "Then you shouldn't be cutting yourself off from the people who make you feel. Kazimir was isolated, alone. Incapable of love.

"Why would you think mimicking that would be a good idea?"

He starts to head for the door, comes to pause there, as he adds, "I'll find a way. There's a trick to everything. Even if I have to cut your head open and figure it out from there." World of reassurance, that is. "Come on, there's a boat waiting. Class dismissed."

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