The Watchmaker's Argument


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Scene Title The Watchmaker's Argument
Synopsis Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature. — William Paley, who was wrong about some things.
Date November 16, 2008

Siann Hall: Gabriel and Gillian's Apartment

He'd left a note intended for Gillian to find in the morning, in case he never made it back in time. It's still there when he returns, the hour now pushing on and on towards four AM, although the nighttime sounds of the city still permeat through the building, into the small box of space of their shared apartment. Sylar doesn't bother to muffle the sound of the door unlocking, opening, closing and locking again behind him, and he doesn't even step lightly, the sounds of someone moving through the apartment easily heard through thin walls.

The lights, however, remain off, even as he reaches out to crumple up the note he'd left on the table, and sits down heavily in the chair, his jacket discarded by the door. The apartment is very dark save for ambient light filtered through a sliver of opened curtain, and this is what outlines his silhouette as he sits, hands in his lap and posture slouched. Any other details are obscured in shadow.

From her room, Gillian hears the door open. For a change, he's not being overly quiet about his comings and goings, which might be why she's jarred out of sleep all of a sudden. Dressed in a black night gown, with some lace on the ends, she crawls out of bed, blinks in the dark and finds her coat to pull on and wrap around her. The actual coat, not just a housecoat. Buttoning a few of the buttons, she looks around with sleep adjusted eyes, and steps to the door, considering the gun sitting on what acts as her nightstand— After a moment, she turns back and goes for it. Though if it were the Company— she'd not have had a chance to go back.

When she exits the room, she looks around, the gun tucked away into one of the wide pockets on the side, weighing heavily on that one side as she looks around. Sillouette is mostly what she can make out, but— the size and shape fit. "Gabriel? Is— are you okay?" She'd no idea he'd even snuck out— but he doesn't look too good, she can recognize that.

It's true that most people content to sit silently in the dark without doing anything are, as a general rule, not okay. Of course, Sylar isn't without his quirks. The silhouette shifts, Sylar turning his head to look at what he can see of Gillian, which is mostly inky shadow punctuated with pale skin, reduced to shapes. What's more relevant is the sound of her - who knew humans could be so loud just by existing - and the tug of her ability, like a soft current in an otherwise still river.

"Have you heard of the watchmaker argument?"

His voice is rough from, perhaps, a lack of sleep, as well as quiet, the lack of volume giving way to the natural gravel of a man's voice. But there's also a hint of rawness that's alien to the amicable, smoother way of speaking customary to Gabriel Wilkens.

It's his tone of voice that worries her. Gillian frowns, though he can not see it, carefully sculpted eyebrows lowering as tension fills her forehead. She reaches into the overweighted pocket and removes the sidearm, not to point it at anyone, but to set it at a nearby table. It takes the weight off her coat and makes the approach less awkward— and she doesn't need firearm when getting close to him. "No, I haven't heard the watchmaker argument." It's his tone of voice that keeps her from cracking a joke, as well as everything else about him. Her heartbeat, her breathing, all gives indicators that she's worried— concerned— but not self-centeredly. She doesn't seem afraid, or ready to flee.

"What is it?"

He doesn't ask her to sit down with him, or get up to hold the chair out or anything that he might have done if acting. Instead, Sylar stays seated, still, swallows once and goes back to looking through the little gap of window visible between curtains.

"If you find a rock on the ground," he starts, a little tonelessly, "you can say that maybe it had always been there, or there due to random chance, natural causes. If you find a watch, then it gets complicated. A watch implies a watchmaker. It's too complex and— perfect to just be thrown together by random chance." A pause, and again, he looks towards her. His eyes are starting to adjust, he can see her a little clearer, the peak of her nightgown from underneath her coat, the expression on her face. "It's a theological debate," he adds. "A watch implies a watchmaker. Life implies design."

There's silence— though really only silence for her— as she walks across the room. Each step carries padded footsteps, each movement a shift of light thing fabric under heavier thicker cloth. The chair that she pulls out and sits for herself also makes a lot of noise— to him. Gillian doesn't need one pulled out for her, though she might have always secretly enjoyed the act she never knew was an act, but she can tell that he's not quite himself, tonight. Something happened. And the topic of conversation just makes her nod slowly, the shifting of hair audible like the curtains swaying. "The same could be said for books— someone has to write them, edit them, bind them— and then some fool has to organize them and place them on a shelf somewhere in some kind or order. It'd be difficult for random chance to just throw one together…" Can't really argue with that kind of philosophy… but… "What happened?"

It does make a lot of noise, more noise than it would if she wasn't the owner of the ability she is, but he doesn't wince, despite the fire of a headache he's currently enjoying. There has to be a practical reason it's dark, after all. Gillian's last question is largely ignored, at least for now, as Sylar tilts his head up enough to meet what he can see of her eyes when she sits down in front of him. "That's the problem," he says. "Life's not books and watches. Complex, designed, yes, but it doesn't… evolve. It doesn't change like life does."

His voice quietens even more, just barely audible. "That's why you haven't heard of the watchmaker's argument. It doesn't make sense anymore. Science, evolution…" A pause, and he just trails off, and in the darkness, his hand raises to rub the side of his face with the tips of his fingers. As eyes adjust to the dark, one can see a shadowy streak down the side of his face, almost like bruises - but in fact it's dirt, and he uses the back of his hand to clear away a smudge, though it doesn't help much. "It's a new ability I have. It didn't work the way it was supposed to."

"That's not entirely accurate… Books get translated, re-edited— later versions are sometimes released with new material, prefaces, new pictures or covers… And watches break and get repaired, better ones are made with better materials, more accurate and durable. Things still change, it's just that they change based on what we think they need to be." Gillian says quietly, understanding what he's meaning even if it might sound as if she's arguing. "But— you're right. Life doesn't really act the way people expect. People aren't as consistant or predictable, which makes even watches and books unpredictable and always changing." Being philosophical isn't really her favorite thing, but… "And honestly I kinda like life being that way. I certainly don't want some old foggy in the sky pointing me around like a little white pawn on a chess board." Cause that's what a fully designed reality would basically be… She'll leave the comment on ability until the end, because she's straining to try and see his face. A hand raises and touches his shoulder, resting there as she watches him rub at the dirt on his face. There'd been a jump of surprise in her breath when he mentioned 'new ability' since— that's the first time she's learned he gets new ones, and while she's very curious about asking, she bites it back, "If you can't figure out how to use it the way it works, you don't really need it. You were powerful enough before, weren't you?"

"No one wants to be that," Sylar agrees, gently. "Pawns on a chess board." He can feel her hand, and beneath the thinner fabric of his shirt, it's obvious he's quite warm. Not towards a fever level of warmth, but it wouldn't hard to imagine that he's either unwell, or just come home from a long walk. He doesn't flinch away from the touch, but nor does he seem to respond to it, turning to look at her again. "I can't just discard it," he says, in hushed tones. Can't, or won't, that's up for interpretation. He's never even contemplated as to whether he'd be able to reverse the changes he makes to himself - why would he want to, after all? Why would a heroin addict deny the next needle prick either? Memories that aren't his, burned into him thanks to an entirely different ability from a sweet southern girl more than two years ago. "It's never enough, Gillian. I can't ever be powerful enough."

The hand stays on his back, not making the full connection through the fabric, but definitely feeling his warmth, the texture of his shirt— Gillian's hand starts to shift, just her thumb at first, rubbing the fabric gently as if that would do anything. There's so much she doesn't know about what's going on, so much it's obvious she doesn't understand. She's still calm, probably helped along by the fact that she just recently woke up. Her pulse and breath remain slowed. "Why not? What do you need to be more powerful for? If it's just to stop Petrelli— that'll be over with once we do stop him…"

He can't answer those questions without utterly baring his soul, which isn't something he wants to do regardless of whether there's even anyone in the room to listen. So Sylar falls back on philosophy, but when he speaks again, his voice wavers just a fraction. "The flaws, though," he says. "It's the flaws that— that also make the watchmaker argument useless. A good designer— or watchmaker or librarian," he adds with a mirthless, breathy chuckle, "doesn't deliberately make their creations just not work like it should. They don't set them up to be broken. And there are so many broken things in life. Defects, insanities, urges. So either there's no God, or in the grand scheme of things, He has an awful sense of humour or maybe He just isn't interested in what's… good. I saw someone's thoughts, Gillian, but more than that, I saw so much more than that and I can't forget it. It won't let me."

"You'd mentioned having the memory of an elephant before— I'd wondered if it was one of your abilities, or just you," Gillian says softly, trying to figure all of this out on very little information. There's probably a lot more she could say if she knew everything. Then again, she may not be sitting her moving her hand down to his back and rubbing the fabric of his shirt (and him through it) if she knew everything that was going on. "Even those who believe in God creating man came up with excuses why we're imperfect— it's all our fault." Well, all one woman's fault, really. Sexist pigs that those Christians are. Seeing someone's thoughts and more… That's… honestly disturbing, he might even be able to hear that she's bothered, but at the same time she doesn't pull away and risk him accidentally using it. Doesn't help creepy 'shake your hand, know your name' guy already got her. "But… they weren't your thoughts. Even if you can't forget them— they aren't you. You're Gabriel."

"Do you think so? That people are why we're broken? Makes sense. They were mine," Sylar adds, a correction as to who those memories belong to. "They were mine for maybe… could have been half an hour, felt like longer." And he tenses under her touch when she murmurs that name, who he is. That used to bring out so much anger in him but now it's like ice from the inside, and then a staler sense of bitterness. Names aren't supposed to mean this much. The chair squeaks a little against the floor as he turns to her, rather close, a hand reaching out to touch her arm. It's a firm grip, but not harsh, more gripping the fabric of her coat than the arm beneath it. "More," he says, voice quiet still but with some earnestness, and still with that rawer quality. "Tell me. Who am I."

Who is he really? Such a good question. Gillian knows almost nothing about who he'd been before they'd met, other than he had some connection to Peter Petrelli, the Company that's looking for her, and a few other things, like his lame Taxi driving Indian Roommate. Looking down at where his hand grips her arm, she sounds a little surprised, lips parting when she glances up at his face, seeing the smears of dirt really well for the first time. "You're the guy who knocked on my door looking for a cup of sugar. You fixed my watch." Such small things to know about a person. "You like strawberry icecream. You seem to have a soft spot for cats even if I don't think you'll admit to it. You liked the sushi I picked out. You're a hell of a lot neater and more organized than me, and I'm a librarian— or I used to be— we have to be organized."

But then she concentrates, shutting down the flow of additional power from her— just as she learned how to do during the ice-training in Central Park. Still a trinkle, but when she reaches to put her other hand on top of his, it doesn't start the flood that it should. "And you're the person who taught me how to control this. You're protecting me." She pauses a second and adds, with a squeeze of her hand against his. "And you're going to kick Assface Times Two right out of New York before he blows it up again. With my help."

He listens. It wasn't a rhetorical questions, after all, and when she answers, she has his undivided attention. Even he knows all of this, knows the constructed persona just as well as Gillian does… he listens. When her hand touches his, there isn't that surge he was fearful of experiencing, of going through what happened tonight for the second time. But nothing, and Sylar turns his hand to accept hers. That last part earns her the slightest of smiles, although if he had the opportunity to storm out tonight and kill either Peter, he probably wouldn't take it. And he asks the next important question, also not rhetorical: "Do you like me, Gillian?"

All right— she'd been surprised before in small ways by things he said, but this question actually makes her sit up a bit more. Even with her own ability kept reigned in, there's more than enough of his own power to hear the increase in heartrate, the sharpness of her breathing. Gillian glances down to where their hands meet, trying to keep it calm before it opens up the floodgates she put in place. "I— " She starts, cutting off after a single sound. He'll actually hear her teeth clench before she looks back up. "Yes," she answers plainly, a hint of determination in her voice and heart, as if she's refusing to become something. "With how often you disappear mysteriously— I'd've skipped out by now if I didn't." The hand lifts off of his, not to move away, but to move closer. She reaches out and touches the dirt smears on his face. Even with how little she can see in the dark— even with her eyes adjusted— "You look pretty good without your glasses."

How could she know if she likes him? She barely knows him. But Sylar convinced himself into thinking that all those people deserved to die - he can convince himself into thinking that Gillian likes him. Just the way he is. It doesn't even matter if he likes her right back but she can make him powerful. More powerful than anyone.

That's close enough, isn't it?

"I left a note," Sylar defends, lightly, as to his skipping out tonight, but it's not particularly an important battle to win. His hand comes up to push back that curtain of dark hair that often falls to frame and sometimes hide her face, pushing it back past her ear before it can spill back down the back of his hand as fingers lace up through that dark hair to touch the nape of her neck, and there's no surge of power or anything but certainly a surge of something when he leans in and draws her into a kiss.

Though she's not wearing makeup at the moment, the lack of light cast shadows in all the right places, emphasizing her sudden blink of surprise. Gillian doesn't make any move to stop him, or pull away. The hand on his cheek moves around into his hair as well, to pull him closer, deepening the kiss as she might have done with anyone she liked or dated. Was she truthful? As far as she knows, yes. But even then, she's hardly liked everyone she's done this with— sometimes she just wanted something from them, and used this to get it. For a few moments, everything is the kiss— and that's the problem. Those clamps she'd placed on her ability spring open under pressure, opening up a different kind of connection between them, one that can't be seen right now, but can surely be felt.

It's hard to say, if this is the same as when he'd pull her chair out for her, hold the door open for her, speak to her in awkward stops and starts— maybe he just wants her to like him more. Maybe he even means the kiss. If Sylar was to be honest, he wouldn't even be certain. But he doesn't have much time to figure it out, shifting closer when she responds, and then…

He doesn't even notice it, the surge, nor does he knows how it affects him. It could be a number of things. Gillian could start to freeze under his hands. The whole building could go up in a mushroom cloud. Even something so trivial as humidity control could start to thicken the air with water.

What actually happens is his hair between her fingers starts to lengthen and curl, the hand in her hair seems to change, just subtly, into the shape of a different man's, and his skin made paler from the pseudo-sickness from his last usage of power becomes darker, a richer brown that speaks of an entirely different ethnicity. It's when his height changes that Sylar makes a small, rough, startled sound at the back of his throat, pulling away from Gillian. She won't recognise the face before her, but it's a face he had spent quite a lot of time in.

The change isn't noticed right away, mostly because Gillian's far too wrapped up in what's happening, in certain feelings she might have, that the whole thing with her abilities comes only as an afterthought, a tug in the back of her mind. Though when he pulls back, when the hair between her fingers changes to something a lot more… curly— she can't help but move away as well, startled. As her eyes open, they've changed colors slightly, the hazel turned to a darker color, moving in the direction of purple, the same color that glows off of her hands. A dark glow that doesn't grant much light to see by, but she doesn't need much to see that— this man isn't the one she started kissing.

There's a startled sound and she pulls her glowing hands away, shutting off the major flood, but not jumping back and knocking over the chair and potentially killing their new pet. "What— I— Gabriel? Fuck, tell me that's still you." She didn't activate some weird switcharoo power she never heard about and ended up kissing some… middle eastern guy? Maybe middle eastern?

The legs of Sylar's chair scrape against the ground when he pushes himself back as well, although he doesn't leap to his feet either, just stares down in shock at his hands. "Yes," he mutters through a clenched jaw, voice completely different as if to deny his claim but quiet anger very much his own, and he shuts his eyes tightly, concentrating to change back as fast as possible.

Karma, Indians call it, right?

It works quickly, the change reversing, skin becoming pale once more and body shape transforming back to his own height and weight, shoulders becoming broader, hair smoothing back to normal, all of these things occurring at the same time. Within a few moments, Sylar opens his eyes again. "Sorry, that wasn't… sorry," is all he can think to say.

Oh thank GOD. Not that she's never been drunk and woke up with someone she'd certainly not intended— and he'd at least still been pretty— but it would still be… weird. Gillian watches him change back in the shadows, oddly fascinated by the display of an ability she'd never seen before. The heartrate settles back down, as much as it can. If anything— she sounds disappointed when she shakes her head and waves a hand, "No, no— it's as much my fault. Guess I need more practice before we can do anything like that." Oh yes, she's sounding disappointed. It's all part of the liking thing maybe.

"I guess that. Yeah. Could be something to…" It's like a splash of cold water, almost. But then, in the heat of a moment, he'd forgotten certain memories of experiences far less positive than this, not even his memories, but darker roads he now has access to, that resurface again now that Gillian's affirmation has been derailed. Perhaps it's better this way.

He doesn't want to hurt her like that.

"I'm— gonna clean up, it's really late," Sylar finally says, not really looking at her as he swiftly gets to his feet, a hand reaching out to tug the curtains all the way closed.

There's that disgruntled sound in her voice as she stands up, making sure the buttons are in place before she fully gets to her feet. Gillian hesitates as he closes the curtains all the way, "I'm glad you left a note, Gabriel." She'd not had the chance to say it before— any response she might have been able to make was derailed. He came here with genuine worry that his newest power was broken, and she knows hers is. "Maybe you should take it easy tomorrow— read a couple books. You've been running around doing so much, you deserve a break." Even if she has no idea what he's going out doing. With that said, she walks over to the small table and retrieves her birthday present (read: Company issue gun) and goes back to her room, "Good night."

Sylar pauses at the bathroom door, having walked towards it as she had spoken, reaching in to flick on the light. The yellow tone of it sharply interrupts the dimmer, subtler shadows of the apartment, and outlines his shape in a harsh bath of light. He pauses, then smirks just a little. "You know, I might do that," he says. Vanguard can live without him for a few days. Especially now. "We both should, maybe. Good night, Gillian." And the gentle click of a door announces their separation once more within an apartment of cheap, thin walls.

November 15th: Friends?

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 16th: New Terrorist In Town
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