Victims and Traitors


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Victims and Traitors
Synopsis Gabriel drops into the Garden to get out of the deteriorating weather and happens upon someone he hasn't seen for awhile. Together, they do one of the things they do best: argue.
Date June 16, 2009

The Garden

Situated in a copse several miles away from the nearest stretch of asphalt, the Garden is accessible via an old dirt road that winds snakelike through the woods and dead-ends at the property's perimeter, which is surrounded by stone wall plastered with wicked coils of rusty barbed wire to keep would-be intruders from attempting to scale it. Those with a key can gain entry via the front gate.

The safehouse itself is a three-story brickwork cottage over a century old and covered in moss and ivy. It slants to one side, suggesting that the foundation has been steadily sinking into the wet earth; incidentally, this may be one of the reasons why its prior occupants never returned to the island to reclaim their property when government officials lifted evacuation orders and re-opened the Verrazano-Narrows shortly before its eventual destruction.

Inside, the cottage is decorated in mismatched antique furniture including a couch in the living room and an armchair nestled in the corner closest to the fireplace that go well with the safehouse's hardwood floors and the wood-burning stoves in some of the spare bedrooms. A heavy wooden table designed to seat eight separates the dining area from the rest of the kitchen, which is defined by its aged oak cabinetry and the dried wildflowers hanging above them.

It's nearing dusk, the sky's delay into blackness stretching out the progression of colours, the pinks and the purples all lingering in its summer's length. The Garden hasn't seen too many guests, really, but it's about to see another—

If a shadow can count as a guest.

It hadn't always been a shadow. Gabriel had moved through the greenbelt with heavy, plodding steps, weaponless save for whatever it is left in his genes to protect himself with to defend against the usual cut throats, the wild stray dogs, or even the mysterious, legendary monster who apparently still exists out here, should you deviate off the path too much. None of these apparitions come out to bother him, however, and so it's a dull and tedious journey towards the Garden, a place he knows, a place— he thinks— he can stay for the evening before he's moving again, migrating. Crunching leaves and sticks underfoot, Gabriel considers the gate, his hand reaching out to touch the lock, there.

For a moment, he simply stands and considers. Reminds him something of Coney Island, as he lifts his gaze to peer through the bars for a moment. Strange, also, that for all his captivity in so many different ways, actual honest bars were never a feature. Against the chill of the coming evening, he wears an ordinary black coat over almost too casual clothes - a grey T-shirt, blue jeans, scuffed sneakers.

Rather than yell for permission, he simply implodes into moving, shifting shadow, and squeezes himself through the iron bars, pouring like syrup down onto the grass on the other side and slithering towards the building.

Egyptian cotton flutters in the latent breeze — clipped to a clothesline that spans the distance between two stout oaks in the property's front yard, a set of eggshell-coloured bed sheets eclipse the figure of a small, pale woman whose hair is pinned back with the same toothy variety of wooden pins she used when she hanged the laundry out to dry several hours ago. Eileen has only a few more hours of daylight left in which to take the linens down again now that the sun is making its descent, and while she could probably stand to wait until stars begin to appear in the sky alongside the moon's Cheshire smile, she worries about the possibility of rain.

Possibility being a very loose term.

Thunder booms in the distance, though the clouds overhead have yet to begun roiling or spit even a fizzle of lightning. What little perspiration there is comes down in the form of scattered drizzle. Errant droplets the size of pinheads plunk and spatter here and there, invisible to the naked eye but easily felt on the skin of Eileen’s face and neck as she works with ungloved hands and a shawl draped across her shoulders — a precaution against the island's chameleonic weather.

On a brighter day she might notice Gabriel oozing snakelike through the tall grass, but this evening the promise of thundershowers rolling in with the most recent stormfront to hit New York City casts so many shadows across the lawn that it's impossible for her to differentiate between those cast by the surrounding foliage and the one that does not belong. Instead, she continues to fold laundry unabated, huskily murmuring the lyrics of some song or another under her breath in a feeble attempt to keep her mind occupied by other things.

It might even be working.

Of course, the humming and murmuring of a tune only works for so long until inevitably, thoughts wander back, anxiety weighs itself down onto the heart, and the weight of the world threatens to crumble you once more. In comparison, it's kind of a wonder it even works at all. Gabriel just is, apparently, to ruin the moment. His gliding across the grass slows to a trickle, cutting through the air, through the individual blades of vegetation that he doesn't so much as stir them any more than a shadow might, despite being far blacker than a shadow ever could be.

Then, slowly, in the form snake-like tendrils, he creeps on over towards where he can "see" Eileen's feet set against the grass from where she's moved behind one of the obscuring bed linens to take it down.

How long has it been, since Rickham?

Gabriel knows no nervousness as, quite abruptly, the pool of darkness he currently is suddenly tornadoes up, the spread of blackness constricting as it pillars up, distributing its mass three feet, four feet, five, six, and there's no sound as feet are set against the ground, safe for the slight rustle of his coat settling against his legs once all is solid again. Such a sound that is mostly hidden when Eileen goes to take down the bedsheet, which incidentally—

— was the only thing keeping them separate, before the cover is yanked away off the clothesline, Gabriel not quite startled when he's abruptly face to face with the woman, in so far as he is a foot taller.

As a result, Eileen finds herself level with Gabriel's barrel chest, something she does not immediately recognize in spite of the intimate familiarity she imagines she has with his figure. Beneath black lashes, panicked rabbit-wide, her eyes dart up to his face — a skipped heartbeat later, her entire body is lurching backwards, bed sheet clutched to her chest and clasped in rigid fingers that are as white with tension as the fabric bunched between them. One foot snags on the corner of the wicker laundry basket half a pace behind her, throwing her balance and bringing her down into the grass with an unceremonious whumpf! generated by the sound of the fall sucking the wind from her lungs. The basket itself tips, spilling folded linens into the grass along with a tangle of slender arms and legs as Eileen twists around into a wild supine loop reminiscent of an injured gymnast splayed across a set of plastic floormats.

Gradually, the shock wears off. So does the hurt. As far as spills go, she's taken much worse with no grass or bed sheets to soften her fall; by the time she can breathe again, the astonished look on her face has diminished to something more neutral, guarded and difficult to read without Gabriel's erstwhile emotional intuitiveness, still conspicuously absent.

She doesn't get up. Doesn't even try. This is usually the part where people start screaming, but she doesn't engage in that either. "You might've said something."

Gabriel tilts his head, and then leans into that particular axis so as to duck under the drooping clothes line, crossing that particular threshold. His hand comes up, hooking his fingers over the wire in an absent, casual clasp, brown eyes taking in the sight of spilled laundry and spilled Eileen amongst it with amusement only detectable if you know where to find it. Eileen might, even without the link they once had between shared telepathic attributes.

"But then that wouldn't have happened."

As far as health goes, Gabriel probably has more of it than he has a right to. There's colour in his skin, and he seems fed, cleaned, combed. The shadow of stubble along his jaw is only 5 o'clock rather than 5 o'clock a few days later, and his clothing is clean of blood and dirt save for some dampness around his ankles from his trudging walk through the forest, the scents of which cling to him as closely as cigarette smoke used to.

So that makes the scar at his head a little more stark, black from fine stitches. An inch and a half from temple edging towards his forehead, it's an unmistakable staple of his original ability; his infamy. Apparently, Sylar is no longer unique. "They didn't tell me you were here."

"I wasn't." And who is they, anyway? Dean? Chesterfield? Eileen studies Gabriel from her vantage point on the ground, quiet and unabashed, taking in the familiar lines of his face along with the new one cutting across his brow, outlined in a delicate see-saw of medical thread that matches some of the stuff holding her together beneath her borrowed clothes. He didn't have it the last time they occupied the same space, broken and bleeding on the pavement in the heart of Midtown, surrounded by scorching heat and white hot flame. Or if he did, she was too occupied with dying to notice.

She's been busy — evidently, so has he.

One arm goes stiff with the effort of easing the rest of her body into a more comfortable position that resembles sitting. Her gaze moves away from the injury in favour of his eyes, wordlessly searching for answers in lieu of voicing the question she aches to ask. "You look good," she says, and barring his most recent injury she isn't lying. A tentative smile touches her lips but fails to bring a curl to either corner of her mouth. "Any luck with Tyler Case?"

He's aware that the next move is to offer a hand up, but his hands are bare and so are her's, and they both know better than to do that, as mutually destructive as they can be. That would be a little too blatant. So he remains standing, looking down at her and gaze slanting away at her question, the corner of his mouth twitching down in the beginnings of a grimace.

"Not exactly."

Then, as he had done with Gillian, Gabriel lets his legs bend and fold up beneath him, smoothly gliding into a partial, meditative posture, although he favours one side more than the other, a hint of pain showing as tension around his eyes for a split second.

Everyone is hiding battle scars, lately. He places a hand on damp grass, fingertips brushing through the blade of verdant green, dirt collecting beneath his fingertips absently. Thin drops of rain continue to fall, needle-fine, and with wide space in between; tentative, sissy rainfall, like a shoulder tap reminder of the coming shower. "But I have my powers back. Some of them. It's a long story."

In retrospect, she should have known. No matter how furtive his footsteps normally are, there are very few ways he could have been able to sneak up on Eileen without somehow alerting her to his presence — the absence of rustling grass or the sound of soft earth yielding beneath his feet suddenly makes much more sense. "Most of your stories are."

The arm that isn't supporting her weight lifts, bringing her fingers to brush against Gabriel's jacket-clad elbow in a ghost of a touch that becomes corporeal in the next instant, left hand closed around his limb's sturdiest point. Her grasp is firm but it's also gentle, entirely lacking in insidious implications; she shouldn't hurt him as long as she doesn't squeeze too hard. "If you're here to rest," and she doesn't look like she's going to let him leave again until he has, "there's a spare bed upstairs. Food." Rather selfishly, she'd appreciate his company as well — not just because his condition has a direct bearing on hers, though it would be a lie if she tried to tell him that didn't have something to do with the offer.

"You've been missed."

Strange and kind of sad that lately, what contact he does earn may bring about crippling pain or something so undesirable. Punches thrown by Peter; Arthur's comradely clasp on his shoulder before wrenching his ability free of his body as if by hooks and spikes; and before even that, Eileen's own aura gesture that had crippled him. But somehow Gabriel doesn't recoil from the touch, understanding what it needs to activate and thick wool acting as a barrier not being part of the criteria.

The gesture isn't returned, it kind of can't be with, at least not with a degree of awkward difficulty. Hopefully a glance her way might be all that's needed to communicate appreciation? Or perhaps that's too subtle for even them. There is a preternatural undercurrent of silence that Eileen had noticed before he did, but he is now.

"No, I came here to socialise." The irony in his voice could be cut with a knife and sold in slices, made more bone dry by the fact Gabriel isn't moving to do those things like rest and eat and in fact remains. "If you haven't been here, where have you been?"

Eileen's response is purely physical. The grip on his arm tightens, then grows slack, hand falling away to settle at her side as she averts her eyes and focuses a steely gaze past Gabriel. Her attention lands somewhere over his shoulder. "It's not important," she says, "and anyway, Teo will tell you." Reluctance fills the space between them in addition to her voice; shoulders grow tense, posture stiffening, and slowly her spine begins to lose its visible curve above the small of her back. After a moment or two, she rocks her weight forward and rises to her feet without needing to lean against Gabriel for support.

"I think you're going to do something terrible to him," she adds as she stoops to gather the spilt laundry and rearrange it in the wicker basket. Another peal of thunder shudders through the atmosphere. Closer. "I've never been able to see much further'n my own nose, not like you or Eve with your paintings, but ever since Helena and the others came back from going forward I've been having dreams about him. About you. Figure you deserve to know, even if it's probably nothing."

Gabriel's hand drifts as if to help lever her up, but the movement is readily aborted. Back to picking at stalks of grass, tearing by the roots in languid, lazy motions. A fatter raindrop lands at the back of his hand, smaller drops still bouncing off his skin from the impact, but the rest of it remains. He levels his hand for a moment, balancing the drop, but it rolls away, between his fingers, on its own accord.

Any melancholy he might being to feel again about pieces of him stolen so brutally by Arthur Petrelli is dashed to pieces when Eileen speaks up, dark eyes turning towards when she's putting away the laundry, then up to her face, serious brow angled in confusion, perplexed.

And then terribly understanding. Perhaps he's superstitious enough to take it seriously, perhaps she is too - of course, there's more to that than either of them know.

"Do you know what happened to Teo?" he asks, in a tone that suggests, he does.

"He isn't himself." Which explains everything and nothing. Eileen removes her shawl, draping the cashmere garment across the top of the basket to prevent the linens from getting any damper than they already are, and pivots to start weaving along the path that winds back to the safehouse's front porch covered in thick curtains of green and yellow ivy. Like her hands, her feet are bare and make little to no sound whenever they connect with the stonework — only when she mounts the wooden steps do they give the ground beneath them a voice, inspiring a low series of creaking moans and the occasional rickety stutter. The Garden needs more than a new coat of paint.

"Why?" she asks as she reaches for the door handle with one arm and balances the wicker basket in a precarious position under the other. "Have you talked to him?"

Getting to his feet around the time she's filled the basket with bedsheets that will smell like soap and rain and sport a couple of grass stains, Gabriel draws his coat around himself a little as he follows her inside, his boots sinking heavier into the grass than her light steps, and leaving wet footprints on the stonework as he heads for the door.

"Once. He seemed like Teo to me. But I was told he was good at that."

Inside, it's a little warmer, the heat of the day still lingering within the walls of the safehouse, although the chill on encroaching nighttime still wraps around both figures like a scent. Gabriel doesn't take off his shoes, but he does make sure to drag the soles of his boots across the welcome mat, ridding them of dirt and excess damp. His coat is peeled off, hung up, as if this were truly a place he were welcome.

It sort of is, anyway. The sleeves of his grey cotton T-shirt are loose and stop mid-upper arm, enough to hide the bruising that makes his right arm hesitant to move so freely. Through all the battering his body has been through, the circling tattoo on his arm, above his wrist and below the elbow, remains unscarred and clean.

"It seems familiar, doesn't it?" he says, needlessly. "Maybe I will do terrible things to him. His— " His something. 'Boyfriend' sounds either awkward or condescending. 'Partner' seems excessively PC. 'Lover' was only ever spoken like a personal jab. "His friend. Wants me to track him down, help him. Says Phoenix treats him like a traitor, not a victim."

Eileen places the laundry basket and shawl on the floor next to the door — none of it is hers, and those who wish to lay claim to the linens when it comes time to turn in for the night can do so at their own leisure. Her responsibility ends at the stoop. Mildew, stale varnish and the brittle aroma of wildflowers hung to wilt, wither and dry above the kitchen cabinets are the primary scents that hang heavy in the entryway's air, but tonight they're joined by whatever it is that's simmering on the stove. Meat. Potatoes. Some colourful amalgamation of seasonal vegetables brought over from the mainland that includes long slivers of carrot and zucchini.

"Can't he be both?" she asks of Teodoro. "I was." She takes a seat at the kitchen table where a kettle of tea has been left to steep, a thin tendril of smoky steam siphoning from the spout. There's a package of cigarettes, too, though Eileen doesn't make a grab for it until she's sure that she and Gabriel are alone in the room. "Ethan shunted me out for collaborating with Phoenix," she says, peeling back the foil. "You were the only one who ever asked me why I did it. Maybe we owe Teo the same courtesy, eh?"

Dragging out a chair, Gabriel sits down opposite her, movements a little heavy thanks to the energy otherwise spent on hiking his way here, not to mention the in and out of transformation of Wu-Long's ability making his metabolism work overtime. Almost too tired to consider how normal this is, from all their meetings in burning buildings, the bottoms of ditches, and clandestine bridges.

A far cry from a warm kitchen. It has a table and chairs and everything. "It might be worth seeing what he wants, what he knows," Gabriel concedes, if without that much conviction. "Traitor, victim. The only thing that depends on is the opening line."

Because you always need a good one. "There are things I need to do before I try to find him. By now, if it's Phoenix common knowledge, he'll know I know, or even if he doesn't— a face-changer ensured he wouldn't be able to pass as Laudani, at least not easily. I don't picture him lying his way out of that one."

"That's because he isn't very good at it." Lying, she means. Eileen pulls a single cigarette from the package, filter pinched between forefinger and thumb, and produces a matchbook from her back pocket. So much has piled up in the part of her brain reserved for things they need to discuss — unfortunately, figuring out where to start isn't as easy as summoning fire by cracking phosphorus against a striking strip. "For the record," she says, "neither are you."

She disposes of the spent match in a makeshift ashtray that's cluttered with pebbles collected from the garden as well as the remains of crumpled cigarette butts. Some of the filters are blotted with rings of lipstick and tacky gloss. Others are not. Eileen isn't the only one who smokes at the dinner table, though Gabriel might never know it judging by how quiet the rest of the house is. "If you have your abilities back, then you hardly need me to help you track Teo down." Or Case, for that matter. "But you might be able to use this."

This being the slim cellular phone she produces from the same pocket the matchbook originated. She slides it across the table's polished wooden surface to him. "He watches my movements sometimes."

There's a pause, Gabriel's eyebrows twitching up when it comes to that simple solution, and a hand goes out to touch the tips of his fingers against the phone before gathering it up into his palm. "Thank you," he says, lacking the tone of voice needed for those two words. His coat is a hanging by the door, so for now he sets the phone back down in front of him— absently spins it against the smooth surface of the table with a boy's fidgeting gesture.

He allows the corner of his mouth to lift a hint as he says, "It's a good thing neither of us are above stalking, or I'd be offended." Well, she was, unless on the night that block of Midtown burned, she had happened to wander across the same patch of miserable city, deep in thought as well. "And I don't have all my powers. I don't even have most of my powers.

"I told you, it's a long story." And so therefore, never simple.

Stalking is such an ugly word. For all the good that euphemisms do, Eileen prefers to think of it as watching Gabriel's back — she has, after all, come to appreciate his eyes on hers. "I don't plan on going anywhere if it's one you want to tell." She'd resisted the urge to niggle and press when he first brought it up outside, but now finds she has a harder time resisting temptation with only a lit cigarette to keep her hands occupied and her focus elsewhere. As she purses her lips around the filter and takes a drag, one fingertip traces along the table's edge in tandem with the roving movements of her eyes; she's always enjoyed studying his face when he speaks, and it's no coincidence that her gaze eventually settles on his mouth.

"If it isn't," she tacks on, showing only a splinter of pearly tooth as she reclines in her seat and dangles one arm over the back of the chair, "you can always tell me to just fuck off. I won't tackle you into a ditch this time."

A horseish snort is followed by Gabriel lowering his gaze towards where his fingers are making a flesh and bone cage around the cellphone, avoiding her own roving eyeline if not because he notices where it's tracking, but due to the subject matter. His head tips to the side a little; hand drifts up to absently trail fingertips along his hairline, close to his brand new scar. Continues to watch the table. "The CEO of Pinehearst, the man behind the new world order of Dean's future. He's a power thief. We fought, after I got my abilities back, and he drained my arsenal."

He sits back in his chair, hand curling, glancing towards her beneath the thick shapes of his eyebrows. "It's amusing." This said in a tone that communicates 'it' really isn't. "If I had been quicker with the gun, I might have been able to stop him long enough to get away. I thought everything would go back to normal, once I had them back, my abilities. Rise back to the top of the food chain. Apparently not." A shimmer of a shrug is more a moment of tension in his shoulders than any real gesture.

"There's someone you should meet, by the way. Someone who can help you, if you can find her. Dean is probably wringing her dry of her ability to fix her people, but if you want to get bumped up the list…"

For a long time, Eileen says nothing at all. Her eyes do not move from Gabriel's curling lips or the point where they meet, though her stare lacks the illicit urges associated with whatever desire she feels for the man sitting on the opposite side of the table — if she'd been thinking about what it might be like to kiss him, then she isn't anymore. There's someone who can help her. Someone in Dean's company.

That's less than a stone's throw away.

"She still owes me," she says, "for Kazimir. Moab." One of those proper nouns is harder to wring past her teeth than the other, and it shows. Blowing out a steady stream of smoke through her nostrils, she follows his gaze down to phone Gabriel holds in the hand not brushing against his brow. "Which ones did he take?"

The stinging scent of cigarettes is slowly starting to take over the warmer scents of slow-cooking meat and vegetable, the hints of herb and water and stone. To Gabriel, it's not entirely unpleasant, just distinctive. The combination is almost comforting, the thin, ineffectual poison leaking into the air mingled with the earthier, rustic environment they're surrounded by.

He's relaxed, in other words, but there's a tick of tension in his jaw at the question. Not because it's being asked, but the answer is more bitter than cigarette smoke could ever be. "Dean will get in contact with you eventually, or you could find her yourself," this he chooses to respond to first, eyes still downcast, and with the same neutral tone, he reels off the list.

"I don't have telekinesis. The lasers. He took my hearing. The forcefield. Hydrokinesis, cryokinesis. My memory. I don't know all of it, I haven't tested it." Perhaps a surprise, but it's only human nature, to compartmentalise, to ignore the thorn in his side. "I have Wu-Long's ability. The blood power I took in the fighting ring. My original power," and this he says with an almost rueful, dry sounding chuckle. "I don't have yours anymore. I don't know if I have Kazimir's."

Eileen removes the cigarette from her mouth, smoke wafting through the air, and drags her front teeth over her upper lip in deliberate but contemplative gesture. They say ignorance is bliss. She can't blame Gabriel for the approach he's chosen to take — like a little boy with the covers pulled up over his head, he doesn't have to face the monsters in his closet if he squeezes his eyes shut and pretends they don't exist. "If Dean's contact can't fix me," she says after a brief pause in which her gray eyes lid halfway, dark lashes eclipsing pale irises, "I want you to do what you did to Gillian's sister and take what I have now.

"Don't argue." Eileen taps the tip of the cigarette against the ashtray's porcelain lip, not quite hard enough to dislodge the accumulated sooty material. "I've explored all the other options there are, and unless I have someone negating me—" She rolls the filter between two yellow-stained fingers, making a vaguely dismissive motion with her hand. "If anyone should have it, it's someone who has the ability to control it."

Well now he's looking at her, direct across the table as if to try and find the hesitation, or the sordid punchline, an eyebrow raising a fraction at her insistence. Don't argue. The gentleness that relaxation can bring to Gabriel's features has drained away into something harder, hands still from fidgeting and only his gaze wanders just an inch or two, up from Eileen's eyes and towards her hairline before he speaks up with—

"You're insane." The chair scrapes a little against the floor, as if he were about to stand up. He doesn't, just backs up from the table in a restless motion. "What makes you think I'm any better than you are? What makes you think I'd stop at you?"

The sound of wood scuffing along the floorboards is like nails on a chalkboard to Eileen's ears. As Gabriel pulls away from the table, she straightens in her seat and fixes him with a level stare, genuine confusion bleeding through onto her face's austere features. "I wasn't aware you'd stopped at all." She snuffs out the cigarette in the belly of the ashtray, wedging it between two taupe-coloured stones speckled in black. "I'm sorry." About offending him, that is — not about asking. "Would it be better if I shot myself first?"

Anxiety manifests as a whorl of fluttering butterflies in the space vacated by her sinking stomach. Time changes people — Gabriel, Eileen, and all the interwoven threads that comprise the tapestries of their lives, but it never occurred to her until now that the man she's looking at might not be the one she remembers holding on the floor of Lucrezia Bennati's private suite back in January.

"You're right. That was stupid."

It's probably bad, that he can't immediately remember the last time he took an ability by force. The cage fight, it had to be the cage fight— ? He breaks his gaze with Eileen, searching back through a hopelessly foggy memory. The tactile telepathy girl— or Jenny— faces that blur together.

But at least it's been a while. "It was stupid," he needlessly agrees. "Because it would be easy."

And she should know. Let's talk about something else. His posture as rigid was a dog told to stay when he doesn't want to, Gabriel keeps his eyes down once more, at some vague point between where they sit, fingers curled. "If I can control it, then so could you. You just need to try harder."

Eileen lays her hands, palms facing up, on the kitchen table. Gabriel can see the spiderweb network of veins beneath the surface of her skin, more pronounced along with the discoloured circles beneath her eyes ever since she swapped her own power for Julian Kuhr's. There's dirt wedged under her fingernails, a testament to hours spent tending to the stand-alone greenhouse outside, and a long strip of gauze wrapped around her left hand where she nicked herself with a pair of scissors the last time she cleaned and re-dressed her wounds.

"It's not just about control," she tries to explain, and does not take her eyes off his face. His reluctance is not something she presently shares. "Look at me. Gabriel. I can't even touch you. Kazimir was the same, and he'd had lifetimes to learn."

The tension doesn't go away, doesn't drain from his stiffened limbs, the set of his jaw where his back teeth are pressed tightly together. It's kind of a test, now, how long he can last while the urge is there, and Gabriel knows he should probably leave her to the room. That old, chilly disgust tastes like bile at the back of his throat, the idea of someone having something remarkable and not being able to use it; broken, repairable.

"Then you're going to have to suffer until you do." The snappish remark ends with a minute headshake, trying to dismiss this. "It won't matter. She can fix it. Helena's contact, Delphine Kuhr. She doesn't even have to touch you. It should take away what you have, give you back what you had."

Eileen's fingers curl in on themselves at the mention of Delphine's name — or more accurately, Delphine's last name. It isn't a common one. The young woman withdraws her hands from the table as if to retract whatever unspoken offer she'd placed in the space between them, saying nothing. She doesn't need to; her body language speaks in her tongue's stead, brow knit and eyes solemn, arms drawn into a guarded posture wrought with discomfort and unease.

You're insane didn't hurt her — or if it did, she performed admirably in her concealment of it — but something about what he just said has her directing her line of sight out the nearest window.

There is no counterargument, no tersely bitten off line mumbled under Eileen's breath in her own defense. She's suffering now, though not for the reasons specified.

No reply. Gabriel has a hand resting against the table, palm down; now it shifts on its wrist, curving outward in a gesture of impatience as Eileen glowers in a different direction. A sigh hisses past his teeth, and he finds himself combing back over his words in the cold silence that's followed. Gas fire beneath metal pot an arch reach and change away from them continues to flicker, the sound of simmering acting as patient punctuation.

"If you want my help," he finally says, words weighted with contained aggravation, attempted patience, "instead of a death sentence, then you could try asking for it."

Eileen's eyes flick back to Gabriel's long enough to express their quiet disdain. "You can't say anything without making it sound condescending, can you?" she asks instead. "Worry about Case, Teodoro. Do what you need to so you can get your abilities back from Pinehearst." It's a lot of words in which to say no, but there it is — there's his answer. She picks up the package of cigarettes, taps it against the side of her opposite hand once, twice. Three times.

"Upstairs," she says, rising from her seat at the table, "two doors down to the left. The room with the blue wallpaper and the ocean view. I put some clean sheets on the bed this morning and some towels in the closet. You can use the adjacent bathroom, but the water heater's busted. Runs cold." Eileen lifts her chin and rubs her thumb along the curve of her jaw, lips pursed mildly in contemplation, despondent. "Is there anything else?"

Her chair scrapes out to allow for her to move, and Gabriel's follows in the next few moments, midway her words. It would be nice to stay here. It's homely and almost foreign in a way that reminds him of nothing. The cellphone is picked back up off the table. "My tone of voice has never stopped you before, so it's something else," Gabriel states, voice dull, but some of the anger that is driving him in the opposite direction sparks up again in his next words, giving them an edged kind of heat that simmers as low as the cooking dinner. "When you figure out what that is or you can see past your pride for two seconds, you know how to contact me."

A gesture with the cellphone, both an indication and a salute. "Thanks for this." The chair is shoved back into place with a little more firmness than strictly necessary, before he takes a step, and it's certainly not for the room with the ocean view, but the front door where his coat is hanging.

He's leaving. Most of their conversations end like this, Eileen realizes, tension taking the place of the cigarette smoke and more aromatic flavours lingering in the warm kitchen air — she doesn't know why, just like she doesn't know what that something else is, only that they do. Maybe it has to do with their apparent conflict of personalities. Maybe it has to do with the strange and cyclical nature of the relationship between men and women. Maybe—

Maybe she's overthinking this. Eileen curls her fingers around the back of the chair she was sitting on not a minute ago and tightens her grip on it until her tendons stand out, bone white, the same as her bristling knuckles. "You're the last person to be lecturing me about pride," she barks at his retreating back in a voice that's a great deal less steady than it sounded when she went over the words in her head. "I've already bled for you. What more do you want me to do, Gabriel? Get on my knees?"

The front door is right there. Several more steps and he can grab his coat and yank the door and escape the cosy little ivy-choked house that didn't seem claustrophobic until a few minutes ago. And yet the ends of her statements are curling up in questions and maybe they've done this for too long for him to simply walk away again, for her to simply let him go.

The hesitation is covered by him picking up his coat once more, fabric cutting through the air in a flap as he brings it around, the hem fanning out as he brings it over his shoulders, eases his arms in through the sleeves. "No," Gabriel states, tightly. "But you could start with letting me do something good— " The word sounds laughable, coming from him, and he can't quite let it go without a snide sneer curving around it— "before suggesting I do exactly what I thought you'd never see me do again.

"To you." The word is punctuated with a somewhat petulant straightening of his lapels. "You would sooner bleed for Sylar."

"But you are Sylar." Eileen's throat is growing tight, vocal chords constricted by a steady squeeze of intensifying emotion. When she speaks, it's in a hoarse tone, raw with the same sensations that are making it difficult to form the accompanying words. "Gabriel Wilkins. Gabriel Gray. What difference does it make? You're still the same man." The hand on the chair remains firmly affixed to the wooden backing. The other, balled into a loose fist at her side, reaches up and buries a tangle of fingers in her long black hair as she blinks back tears she didn't even know were gathering in her eyes.

"Fuck, I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Her breath hitches on its way out, catching every time she tries to regulate it, smooth out the jagged edges into something that might be able to pass for composure if she can keep her lip firm and vision clear for just a little longer. "You went away and you didn't come back until you wanted something. How am I supposed to feel? Besides convenient."

He's trying to remember why this is familiar. It takes him a few long seconds of watching her as if glass had come up between them, something not unlike what stands translucent between he and Gillian, but this time for observation. For what she shows so plainly. He remembers the forest, stealing from her then what he witnesses as an encore, or at least looks like one, of pain he'd felt on her behalf.

"Sylar would have already killed you," Gabriel feels inclined to correct. There's an edge beneath his words, razors wrapped in velvet. "Without understanding why you wanted it apart from the fact you were broken."

He takes a step, not towards the door. "Maybe you're right." He could have thrown her against the wall and pinned her there with only a hand flick. So it's with a lot of hesitation that he raises his hands and remembers a girl with a doll's face and glossy dark hair, and suddenly, Eileen's back goes rigid on its own accord, her hands stiffly lower, face tilted up enough to look at him with her jaw clenched too tight to speak— all with the crook of his fingers.

Good to know. "Maybe I'm the same man. Nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade." His foot falls are heavy against the ground, but he lingers in the doorway, keeping some distance. His eyes blink, once, twice, and his hand relaxes, though the strings don't cut yet. "You know I can be more than that. You were the first person who did. Don't use me, and I won't use you.

"Let me fix it."

And she's released, and his chin tilts up a little— admittedly readying himself for the onslaught of degenerative energy she could unleash on him, wariness in his stance.

He has every right to be wary. She almost murdered him for less, once. This time, however, there is no fury entrenched in the soft lines of her face; she's hurt, and she continues hurting even after the strings are severed and she reels back, clattering against the chair in the process. Her backside bumps against the stove, and in her panic she reaches out to grab the nearest thing available for steadying herself. Fortunately, it isn't the burner — it's the oven's warped plastic handle.

If he still had it at his disposal, telekinesis might have been preferable. Puppetry is the wrong ability to use on someone who has spent the past two weeks without any free will of their own, confined to a room with concrete walls and a business arrangement that the Devil himself would have been proud of. Eloni held her hands on Richard Cardinal and forced her to suck the life right out of his chest, and although this isn't quite the same it's close enough to splash a look of revulsion across her features.

Her cheeks are wet. Her breast is heaving. She channels her focus through the neural pathways that keep her ability caged up in that dark place between her ribs, reigning it in. "Get— out—"

And in turn, those are the wrong words to use on him, and maybe he has no right to look surprised but such an emotion crosses his face anyway. It echoes, bounces in his skull and turns into a different voice entirely when he plays it back. Different room, different circumstances, opposite point he was trying to make—

It would be easy to obey her. He wants to. Wanted to. Conflict is maddening and manifests itself in physical tension, a furious look fixed on her pale face, a hand half-raised from its gesture and frozen in uncertainty. It's a struggle before he finally says— "No."

And he enters the room all the further, the table providing something of an obstacle, a barrier between them, as much as it would provide no protection to either of them, as much as it does little to really put true distance within the room. There's almost an unspoken dare in the expectant look he's giving her— or perhaps simply waiting.

Eileen wishes she knew for what. She sinks down onto the floor in front of the stove, legs folding beneath her, bent at the middle. Nausea washes over her body in foaming waves that fill her mouth with an acrid taste along with plenty of excess saliva. Leaning forward, she drools some of it out. Spits. "I don't want to hurt you."

Her hand drops off the handle, joining the other to clutch at her sides just beneath the sloping bow of her ribcage. Gabriel may experience a familiar prickling sensation crawling up the back of his neck, causing the hairs there to bristle and stand on end, but that's as far as it gets. With Cardinal's screams fresh in her memory and traces of his blood still stuck beneath her nails, too deep for her scrub out, she's more intrinsically aware of what's happening inside of her than the last time she and Gabriel found themselves in similar positions.

She does have some modicum of control over it, after all.

From where she's crumpled to the ground, out the corner of gaze likely too focused to give it much notice, she'll see the sparse forest that is the legs of the chairs and the table, and thicker still, the denim-covered limbs of the man on the other side, ending in boots scuffed, stained from dirt and grass. Eventually, they move, around the wooden stalks of the furniture, into the main of the small kitchen.

"I know."

Gabriel hasn't shaken it, the tremor of emotion that can mostly be summed up as 'aauugh' when he'd felt the (expected) prickle of degenerative life-force tugging at old injuries, making every hurt tingle in anticipation if nothing more than that. But he can ignore it. His knees bend, and he comes to crouch in front of her, keeping something like two feet away, one knee coming down to balance himself against the kitchen floor.

"It would be easier if it was just like finding a switch. But it's a part of you. It'd be like trying to turn off the ability to see, or think, or love." His hand finds the floor, a palm against it, inching a little closer almost contemplatively. "When they're your own. I don't know if I can turn mine off. I can ignore it, but there's no off-button, no magical solution, not yet. You can't see the forest due to all the trees in the way."

His gaze wanders up, to try and find her's. "You're right. If anyone should have it, it's someone who can control it." He reaches a hand out, as if he were going to touch her face— though of course, his palm, loosely curled fingers, never do make it. Flinches back, and the veins in his neck stand out for a moment, eyes unfocusing as if perhaps she had accidentally unleashed her ability on him, despite the struggle.

That's not exactly true.

Eileen presses back against the stove, shoulders flush with the viewing window, the top of her head dangerously close to banging against the handle she'd been grasping. She can distinguish his outline through the glassy sheen of tears that have collected in her eyes and knows where to look when he senses his gaze on her, holding his stare as best she can when all she can see are dimly lit smudges that vaguely resemble a familiar face. The throaty murmur of his voice is comforting; less so are the words attached.

No off-button. No magical solution. She wants to ask him how he intends to fix it if he can't even treat himself, but her lips are too clumsy, too swollen to form the question. Almost incidental is the blood pooling in her nose which she seems not to notice, preoccupied by the hand Gabriel has positioned in front of her face. It drips down, lightly spattering the front of her sweater in tiny, relatively harmless droplets of bright red.

Her concentration is beginning to lapse, fray, unravel at the seams like thread from a thumb-sized spool. Rather than direct the energy outward, she tries turning it in, eliciting a muffled whimper of pain that's cut abruptly short the instant she realizes she's in the process of making it.

It's a pervasive one, but not as poisonous as Kazimir's. It may kill, sicken, infect, but it doesn't age and drain all the way to ash. Gabriel knows, for a moment, the twist of nausea that Eileen's become so used to, brow tensing for a moment, sweat beginning to stand out on paler skin as he takes a shaky breath inwards. He's never felt it, before, the process of his genetics altering themselves out of some empathic intuition that is beyond his control—

Beyond his control. Slight flaw in this plan. It's blind, groping in the dark unlike the clear, cold clarity in which he can take on abilities when he can see how it works before it's even absorbed. But it's not impossible.

He really hopes it's not impossible.

"Stop," he rasps out, when she makes a cat-squeak against her turning the knives of this ability in on herself. Range, there's a range, he can sense it now, understanding slowly dawning but not enough to do anything useful— save for vanishing into black smoke, making a liquid zigzag across the tiled floor of darkness thicker than shadow, and tumbling back into solidity not the full ten feet away, but far enough. Maybe. His body rolls, hits his shoulder against the wall, a bruise blossoming instantly beneath grey cotton and black wool.

Okay. He can sympathise, now.

Stop, he says. This from the man who told her there was no off-button. Darkness crowds the corners of her vision, exhaustion weighing heavily on her shoulders, expended effort draining consciousness in exchange for restraint. Eileen watches Gabriel move between states, corporeal one moment, nebulous the next — it's a transformation she's witnessed dozens of times before and one that she should be familiar with by now thanks to the man who gifted it to him, but the sudden change catches her off-guard as if she was seeing it for the first time.

Her shoulders twitch with an involuntary motion, startled into movement, then slump forward and shudder in visible relief when he comes back into view. The last thought that flits across the forefront of her mind before complete collapse is fuzzier than what little she can see in her peripheral and has something to do with smugness.

She pitches forward, hits the floor with an audible grunt. He'd asked her to stop, and so she has — she just can't claim credit for doing it on purpose, not when she's passed out.

The effort not to kill him might bring others this amount of woe, too. Gabriel turns his head to watch her collapse from his safer distance away, an arm folded against the floor as he breathes in. Breathes out. Breathes in. Breathes out. He eases himself back on over towards her, reaching up as he thinks— because someone had to— to switch the stove off.

It's summer, there are no gloves on his hands, and so getting her off the floor is something he negotiates with difficulty because while her ability may be switched off from unconsciousness— he hasn't quite worked it out yet. He then takes up cheating and lets them both vanish into the thick shadow-cloud of Wu-Long's ability, numbing the world from Julian Kuhr's legacy as they both ink away from the kitchen, ghosting towards the room with the ocean view, Eileen deposited onto the bed with all the disturbance of a hitch in dreamless unconsciousness.

Drained of calories he didn't really have, Gabriel finds his own place on the floor, the space between the bed and the window. It's better than leaving. That's one thing he can attest to not doing.

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