This Feels Like It Hurts


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title This Feels Like It Hurts
Synopsis Gabriel practices a learned power that allows for more honesty than usual throughout the course of conversation.
Date May 2, 2010

Old Dispensary

Changing bandages is a two person job when one of those persons has the injury, but between her stint with Julian Kuhr's power and the punishment her body has been through since his sister relieved her of it, Eileen has learned to do it with her own set of hands, albeit with some difficulty. Fingertips with nails someone once compared to glass press against the skin at the edge of her stomach wound, checking for sensitivity around the stitches Francois used to close her up on the makeshift operating table in the Dispensary's infirmary.

The mirror in her bedroom on the second floor reflects a flat stomach that flinches involuntarily at the touch, and not because her hands are cold. A breath sucked in, gauze unwound from the roll on the surface of her vanity and hooked between bent fingers, and the Englishwoman begins to wrap, jaw clenched around a low sound of pain humming at the back of her throat.

It isn't healing as well as it should be, and Francois is not the one who deserves the blame. This is what Eileen gets for pushing herself too hard too fast and deliberately ignoring the earlier warnings given to her by her body; although her physical condition isn't life-threatening, it's a great deal more uncomfortable than it has to be, which might explain why she hasn't yet moved to bring Brennan up from the Garden's basement or attempted to see Kaylee again. She's short on patience. Painkillers, too.

The voice that speaks next, without fanfare, does not come from her doorway, does not even come from behind her, beside her, or from her own mouth. It's intimate enough that it almost might be the last, save that her mouth does not open, and the internal sound of something speaking within her is a masculine sound in its depth. You should ask for help more often. It's a textured voice, too, the edges of its consonants sound serrated and scaly, an uneasy sort of movement that squirms inside her own skull like a baby crocodile coming alive in its egg.

She's no longer alone. That much is clear. This feels like it hurts.

It's different than Tavisha's method of communication, and there's no bird perched on her windowsill, the curtains drawn and room darkened except for the light provided by the tealights scattered across her vanity and on her bookshelf, lending her surroundings a softer, warmer glow than the kerosene heater burning by her bed does. She lifts green eyes to her face's reflection in the mirror and then looks past it to the closed door and corners she wouldn't otherwise be able to see without turning her head and angling her chin over her shoulder.

She's no longer alone, but there isn't anyone in the room with her either. She pauses midway, one hand holding the dressings in place, the other hovering with the roll as she simply listens to the soft crackle of peeling candlewicks and her breath's slow rhythm.

Alone with the silence long enough, she could start to believe she'd imagined it. But as a part of her as her own heart beat and the subtle rushes of air through nasal passages, the voice begins again from somewhere nestled deep in her own brain, echoing out to the caverns of bone that enclose it. You have to talk. Or think louder, it patiently states, and slowly, it begins to sound a little more like Gabriel — perhaps in manners of phrasing, word choice, the subtle impatience beneath the other unearthly qualities. It's me.

Think louder. The fact that Gabriel can hear her thinking at all causes Eileen's hands to bunch around the gauze and her back to stiffen, lips thinning out into a mutable expression that— hardens around a sardonic sort of smile that she wouldn't believe her mouth was forming if the mirror didn't confront her with it.

What are you doing? she asks in a soft, whispery soprano, her voice gone translucent. In her head, it has a more musical quality to it, each thought composed of multiple notes that aren't always harmonious but fitting for a woman who communicates with birds. She doesn't know if he can see her and from the mirror's perspective appears not to care, resuming her work without stopping to cover herself or demand that he immediately extract himself from her head.

He has her attention.

He watches where her eyes go, feels the sensation of gauze and skin beneath her fingers and the twinges of sitches and damage, registering the chill of the room as one might observe numbers — no emotion, no bias, only understand in a visceral sense all the mathematics behind all that Eileen senses while completely removed. It's a good reason why he's able to comfortably rest within her body despite the fatigue and injury it's gone through.

I'm practicing, he states, syllables coiling in her head. The copy had about as much to say on the inside as it did outside. I thought I should check in.

"Practicing," Eileen repeats aloud, echo punctuated by the sharp snap of her knife cracking open in her hand, its textured handle like ice in the grip of her palm as she uses it to slice cleanly through the gauze after picking it up. Candlelight shimmers through the blade, which is unable to reflect images with the clarity of the mirror in front of her. Without setting it down again, she fastens the gauze with a large safety pin and runs the back of her hand across it to check for bumps and bulges where there should be none, knife's edge skimming along the material.

She snaps it shut against the heel of her opposite hand, places it back down on the vanity with the roll of gauze, careful to position them both a safe distance away from the tealights even though only one is in danger of catching. And your body? she wonders.

There's a thoughtful beat of time that passes, the edges of speech like something moving in the water, before he admits, Around. Gabriel's intonation is approximately the same as if he'd said irrelevant. I've spent a long time like this before. Kazimir and Teo weren't so different when it came to accommodations. One had more imagination than the other. You can decide which one I mean. Another pause, before he notes, clearer, It's comfortable.

For you. There's no undercurrent of resentment beneath her thoughts, however. Amusement, maybe. Dry in the dark, cool way that deserts are at night, a breeze infused with the scents of the earth. It washes over and fills him as she removes her robe from the back of her chair and navigates the sleeves, bent gingerly at the waist and blowing out candles. A sash tied loose closes its front; you don't live in a house with three men and leave your room without pulling something on first, not even if you sometimes share a bed with one of them.

When she steps out into the hall in her bare feet and the bedroom door closes behind her, she lingers on the threshold. Considers. There are hundreds of hiding places in the Dispensary. Only a handful where she suspects Gabriel might be. He says around. She doesn't interpret it as irrelevant; whether or not he meant it to be one, she interprets it as a challenge. Did you and Jensen find what you were looking for?

If he has access to her deeper thoughts, he's certainly making no comment on them, neither protest nor lending her advice about where he can be found. Instead, her words become his focus, circling around them as he considers how to spin his own. I don't know. Yes. In theory it should be easier to talk, when there's no barrier between brain and mouth to worry about. I spent a lot of time as a kid wishing that I was magically adopted, that I could be something different than I was.

Spent a lot of time trying to be the same, too. Either way, I got my wish. Bitterness tremors through the reptilian presence in her head, a tightness that could almost be headache inducing except they're nothing physical to it — a psychic pressure that wells, relents. I learned a lot of things. I'm still figuring out what to do with it.

And just like that it ceases to be a game — if it was ever a game in the first place, and with Eileen it's hard to tell. Fingertips trail along the wall as she moves down the hall with no light to guide her, blind but for her memory of the floor unfolding beneath her. She reaches out with mind in place of body, unable to touch him with her own ability but using what it's taught her to fold herself around him, drawing his presence into the utter stillness of her center.

Warmth. Quiet affection. A sense of sympathy that's noticeably absent of pity. These are the thoughts she directs at him, first without words or accompanying images. Then she shimmers. It doesn't matter where we came from. Where we are, where we're going—

No barrier doesn't make it easier for Eileen to talk. What it does do is give her the freedom to express feelings she has difficulty with. Let me come be with you. Gabriel.

You are, is a gentle kind of argument, hedging more towards a coy category than true rebuff. If still stubborn. Where I came from pertains to where I'm going — the man who gave me that photograph is my father. I have it on the best authority, sounds wry, some sort of unverbalised, non-physical eyerolling sensation in his tone of voice. The feds knew the keys to Gabriel's past faster than he did. Go figure. He's also the one doing the copycat murders around the city. In the words of Agent Hanson, 'like father like son'. Kind of pithy.

There's a minor hesitation, before he says, This doesn't have to concern us. It— And words dry up around then, uncertain silence filling Eileen's head.

I'm not asking it to. Eileen pauses, one foot flat on the floor, the other with its heel raised slightly off the ground. Her hand not touching the wall goes to her stomach, hooks fingers in the material of her robe and bunches it between them as she presses out a slow breath. Comprehension seeps through her at a trickle rather than hitting her all at once. The man with the binoculars in Central Park. Gabriel's photograph and the hastily scrawled address on the back of it.

Her heel lowers and she leans her shoulder into the wall, gaze lifted to the ceiling. There's a trapdoor somewhere. A handle that pops open a descending ladder. She does not grope for it in the dark.

The decision that she makes next has been a long time coming, and as her mind opens into a memory, the brittle air of the Dispensary — silver with Eileen's breath — transforms into something damp and salty, and the sound of wind whispering in its corridors is replaced with waves washing up against rotting wood and flat cement, a buoy clamouring somewhere in the distance.

Gabriel doesn't know the pier on which Eileen is standing, but he'll recognize the familiar outline of the Red Hook waterfront behind it and the face of the man looming over her, dark brown eyes like a snake's, cold and unfeeling. "You were made," Feng Daiyu says. "Arranged like flowers, picked for the best colour, the best scent, whatever. Nothing so aesthetic was in mind for you, though, Munin. You were just an experiment.

"Carlisle Dreyfus was made to have a prophet for the Vanguard born, your mother and Holden were led to find each other for that specific reason because of Holden's heritage. Kazimir knew, all the time he watched you, waited to see what would spring from your head. You were never anything more than a tool for his organization like we all/ were. He made you, he broke you, and now you are pieces of a person trying to cling back together."

What happens next dissolves into nothing like rain running down a glass pane, winding thick, curving paths in which the Dispensary's hallway bleeds back into view until Eileen's surroundings are exactly as they'd been a few moments ago except that she's shifted to rest her back against the wall instead of just one shoulder. There's something different about her breathing, too, but it's difficult to pinpoint.

You're not your father, she tells him, any more than I am mine.

There's a tremor down something like a faulty psychic phonewire — surprise enough to make his physical heart skip a beat, as if his body were more susceptible to reaction now that he's not in it. That, and she's closer now, and that pseudo-telepathic think communicates this blip set apart from the thinking, churning presence of his projected self inside her head. Finally, almost too quiet for her to hear (except nothing could possibly be too quiet to hear inside your own head), he seems to mutter:

I'll figure that out when I see him. When I decide what to do with him.

On the topic of this shared memory, he doesn't seem to know what to say. Thought and emotion don't bleed over unwillingly, in this state, and so Munin gets a stagnant kind of silence.

Eileen inhales, exhales, inhales again and holds it— If willing the rhythm of her breathing was as easy as altering it, she wouldn't be scrubbing at her face with her hands, either. Her eyes aren't wet; no tears fill their corners or blur her vision, but there's a tightness in her chest that wasn't there before and a certain kind of vice-like pressure around her heart, which only compels it to beat harder and faster to compensate.

If she's hurt, it doesn't show any more than this. Gabriel might be able to feel her brush against him as she loosens her hold on the psychic manifestation of him in her head, spidersilk tendrils growing slack without letting him go entirely.

Another ghost of a memory: slim fingers brushing through his hair, teasing knuckles over his jaw, mouth, chin. Delicate touches. An unspoken reassurance in her small hand and in her eyes.

She leans away from the wall and takes a detour toward the staircase that leads downstairs. The aching desire Gabriel suddenly feels for a cigarette isn't his; it's hers.

I love you, Eileen says, and while her mannerisms suggest that her voice should probably sound frayed after what just transpired, it's stronger, firmer than it's been at any other point during their conversation. Please don't push me away.

Spongelike, the memory is accepted, enjoyed in a way that doesn't have much to do with flesh. Eileen could take his silence as hesitation or even withdrawal, whether before or after her request for him not to do it. Then, something like a mirror turns, and he reflects this memory back at her. It's different, of course, because it's from his perspective. His hand tends to gravitate for her throat, sometimes in a grip and sometimes in a feathery brush just as delicate as the pulse on the other side of her skin.

The memory doesn't last. It changes. The low lights of an empty bar, and long, straighter hair snagging its spun gold locks against the doorframe Odessa's head leans back against before sight disappears in favour of a kiss.

There is no sharing between Eileen and Gabriel in this delicate state that is accidental. Whether the same can be said in the memory he shines her way is up for debate. The film frame slices, and Eileen senses a separation, space between heated bodies, Odessa's eyes dark before honesty recedes in favour of the more present reality of an Old Dispensary hallway.

And he waits. She can perhaps get a sense of his continued presence in the way that static on a TV screen doesn't mean it's off.

Lucrezia Bennati's hotel suite. The Verrazano-Narrows. Rickham in Midtown. Pinehearst. Madagascar. Place it all on one side of a scale and the memory Eileen just experienced on the other, and it's no contest; a kiss is just a kiss. It doesn't diminish everything else, doesn't even take a chip out of it.

It still hurts. Gabriel knows this time because the breath Eileen sucks in next is sharp enough to catch and hitch in her throat, and the intensity of the emotions she's suddenly feeling almost knocks her off balance on her way down the stairs. A drone of voices that increases in volume fills the Englishwoman's head, some of which Gabriel recognizes, most that he won't. Talk of the weather, talk of a girl called Liette, talk of the Institute and Kaylee Thatcher and who's to blame. Something about a Dr. Brennan and liabilities.

She hides behind her own kind of static, blocks him out as she locates her jacket, a pair of boots and a set of car keys hung on a hook in case of emergencies. The front door thunders open and then shut again. This is no weather to be going outside in, especially not in what little Eileen is wearing, but that's exactly what she's doing.

It's around the time she's opening the truck's driver side door that the voices go abruptly silent and Gabriel is alone in her head with her again. I forgive you.

Up in the attic, Gabriel's lax, bare-chested body rolls over, some unconscious twitch of reaction jerking through the link that ties his soul to his flesh. Doesn't jerk back, though, even through the static and the sudden fall of silence, and physical things become clearer. The sharp cold of the outside, the sight of the interior of the truck, and he doubts that reminding her that Raith will ground her will have much impact. You're leaving, he notes, and his voice is deliberately mechanical in her head, his own disguise.

No. She says this even as she hauls herself into the truck and pulls the door shut behind her with enough force to knock snow from the branches of nearby trees, so choked with the stuff that they're well on their way to breaking. Eileen fumbles with the keys, picks through tinkling metal to locate the right one and fits it into the ignition without taking the vehicle out of park.

A series of quick, brisk turns of her wrist coax it to life. A fist bangs once against the roof, not to release pent up frustration but to smack at the stubborn overhead light until it finally flicks on, illuminating the truck's beaten-up interior.

As the engine is warming, she pops open the glove compartment and rummages around, setting aside map, flashlight, spare pistol, all things that she isn't looking for.

It's hard to tell if he's left, yet. In reality, Gabriel teeters in indecision — whether he needs to be back in his body now versus whether or not he should stay and watch, as silent and alert as one of her avian guardians. His decisions remains the latter, though his silence communicates either.

A pack of cigarettes as ratty as the seat she's sitting in belongs to her. The plastic lighter in the seat of her hand doesn't. That's Raith's, and Eileen doubts he'll be as mad at her for borrowing it without permission as he will the truck itself, which she is — in a sense. She selects a cigarette from the pack and pinches it between her fingers to tug it loose and shove the filter up against her teeth, lips curling around it as flame sparks from the lighter's top.

Retreating to a truck in temperatures close to negative fifty degrees Celsius just to smoke isn't a logical decision, but neither is Eileen a very logical person when her actions get mixed up with her emotions. She might be thinking the same, because her next move is to turn on the heater, then the radio.

Some indefinite time later, Eileen is truly alone. Maybe he waits long enough to feel the sting of smoke in her lungs, or before the paper filter can dampen at her lips, or throughout the duration of her thinking. Either way, inevitably, Gabriel opens his eyes in the semi-darkness of his room, his consciousness slowly leaking in through his body. Muscles are stretched in a slow pattern of movement, before he allows her the solitary confinement that she allowed him.

The Dispensary is very quiet. Falling snow doesn't make any sound when each flake touches down individually, and if Raith is even vaguely aware of what's going on, then he hasn't ventured out of his room to investigate, but if Gabriel listens carefully, he can probably detect the tinny sound of classical music coming from the truck in the drive downstairs, its headlights dimmed and windshield covered with ice.

An explanation might have been worthwhile. Context. Some sort of reassurance, half-formed or not.

It probably wasn't what she was hoping for or even expecting to get in return when she gave him three of the words that are hardest for her to say.

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