Violence and Variations


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

And as the voice on the phone:


Scene Title Violence and Variations
Synopsis Teo answers a call; Eileen withholds explanations. Gabriel—
Date April 30, 2009

Eagle Electric

Once this lot was the home to Eagle Electric, one of the most notable business collapse in Queens was that of Eagle Electric, a major manufacturer based out of Long Island City for decades, comprised of acres of warehouses and manufacturing plants designed to produce electronic components to suit all sorts of needs. In January of 2009, the entire Eagle Electric facility was destroyed in an explosion that decimated hundreds of feet of property. The charred and burned remains of the administrative building's crumbling brick and twisted steel is all that remains. Shrapnel from the destroyed warehouse was scattered across five blocks, though most of it now is relegated to a heap of twisted aluminum and crumbled stone all piled together within a dilapidated chain-link fence.

It isn't raining tonight — a small blessing, all things considered. The ruins of Eagle Electric are treacherous enough to explore during the daylight at hours; at night, blanketed in shadow, the lot transforms into a minefield of serrated steel, crumbling brick and countless other pitfalls, all of them potentially fatal should a trespasser misstep or lose his balance somewhere amidst the wreckage.

Time should be the first and foremost thing on Eileen's mind, but she's long ago lost track of it in spite of the pocketwatch she holds clasped between the delicate fingers of her left hand, the bony joints encased by the thin leather of her glove. Her other hand rests against the face belonging to the man cradled in her lap as he bleeds out into her winter coat and saturates the fabric with ugly black stains, still warm.

Gabriel Gray is dying.

The single focal point of a flashlight slices through the stricken darkness with its sharp, white needle. Teo picking his way through the minefield, as hapless as an Italian boy completely out of his depth is wont to be. Sharded concrete and rusted metal overturn underneath the kick and step of his shoes, heralding his arrival seconds after before the first dash of fluorescent bright.

He doesn't step on anything that explodes, but probably only really because the place had done all of its erupting months ago.

"Ruskin!" He saw it. That— the edge of her face limned in dull light reflected off the tarnished metal picked out by the device in his hand, rather than the beam itself. He's coming in faster, now. Not quite running. His jacket is skewed from climbing over rubble, a scythe's blade smear down the thigh of his pant leg, his face plastered by tension in layers that have increased, one by one, since he started making the crawl from Manhattan. Security checkpoints negotiated with false identification, wireless relays.

Someday, that's going to stop working. Until then, he can't. "Ruskin." Teo careens into view, swoops around fragmented wall and slides underneath the ragged fingers of tattered tarp. The flashlight cuts down. At Gabriel. "Fuck, what the Hell happened?"

A lot has happened, might be one way of answering that question. Just, it's happened to all happen again, at the same time. Gabriel is a paper kind of pale by the time Teo's flashlight sweeps over his body, eyes refusing to even twitch, kept serenely closed. Sleeping. Breathing. More accurately, red marks his face as frequent as the newly flourished bruises do, but between all that technicolour damage, he's pale.

And otherwise relaxed, too much so, bundled in his own coat with Eileen's over the top of him, cocooned in dark cloth that keeps in things like body heat and blood, disguising the worst of it. Long legs lie slack and still on broken gravel from where his torso is cradled by the woman, one leg the dark blue of denim and the other gone a darker rusty red.

His arm has come free of Eileen's long limbed protective embrace, flopped at a strange, numb angle from his shoulder, sprawled on the broken ground. Even his fingers have cuts and scrapes.

Eileen's gaze swings up, away from the pocketwatch's glass face, and settles on Teo's, her pale eyes illuminated by the even brighter light of his torch mirrored off Gabriel's sallow skin. Bare arms are covered in gooseflesh and streaks of blood that match the wet sheen smeared across her brow. The timepiece snaps shut with a staccato click, deposited in the rear pocket of her jeans, and her free hand finds a hold on the less mangled of the man’s two shoulders as if to steady him.

She can hear Teo calling her name, but it sounds like his voice is coming from the other end of a long tunnel, muffled by the dull roar of wind in her ears and her pulse's monotonous beat, jackhammering steadily away. Eileen could tell him it was an accident. That Gabriel did it to himself. The temptation to lay blame elsewhere is strong, and if she didn't think it might somehow further jeopardize his life — she might.

"Ivanov was telling the truth," is what she says instead in a low croak. "He needs your help. Please."

Here's the girl. Here she is. There's dust and inorganic decay all around, but her legs are attached, she's only sitting because of Gabriel and Gabriel is alive. Teo's relief is instant, and he's only just self-aware enough to realize that maybe it's ridiculous of him to be relieved given the reputation behind these two people, but Teodoro rarely balks at the prospect of appearing ridiculous.

His feet crash down three quarters of a foot away from Gabriel's hip, shoes trampling prints onto the toppled spread of Eileen's coat. Hopefully she won't mind.

Teo can't tell that he's stepping on something anyway. He isn't paying attention to that. Gabriel's prone head is subject to his stare long before Teo's legs snap-fold into kneeling, his fingers roving up the line of the other man's cheek, thumbing back his eyelids to check the reaction of pupil to light; to check for brain damage. The Sicilian looks uncharacteristically white in the darkness.

He doesn't answer.

Just as Teo doesn't answer, Eileen neglects to elaborate. She visibly tenses when he comes to crouch beside them, muscles taut and wiry beneath her clothes, and lapses once more into an uncomfortable if contemplative silence, studying him while he works. It's only when he peels away Gabriel's eyelid to assess what's below it that she opens her mouth again, and even then her speech falters, interspersed with awkward pauses and hitches in breath, tentative.

"It isn't his head." Cuts and scrapes and bruising all aside. The hand on Gabriel's face drifts upward, and for a moment Eileen occupies her fingers with pushing away a dark, blood-soaked curl from his brow. "I can— see. Where he's hurt. How. We have to get him to Abigail."

Eileen keeps talking, verifying what the artificial light and pupil dilation corroborate, adding words to elaborate on the truth and possibly even to be helpful. Teo's probably angry or something. There's that line to his forehead, just one right across the middle, as if someone had taken a drafting pen and raked it across. "I'll call her and Doctor Kinney. He'd be able to stabilize him, and he has a medical license so he can get around past curfew.

"We have to get him to the road one way or another. Can he be carried or are we going to need a stretcher and shit?" Can she tell that much? Teodoro has no idea, but he does look at the Englishwoman finally, a jerk of his head upright, studying her features for any hint of uncertainty or other things she won't or can't assign words to.

She's right, it's not his head, but it might be if enough blood leaks away. Pupils act accordingly when checked, but no reaction greets Teo's inspection, no words of input as the two make plans for him. Breathing comes slowly, Gabriel's collapsed chest making minimal movements beneath the protection of Eileen's jacket, air rattling out of his throat that likely has more blood in it than it has a right to. Better than nothing.

Guilt and remorse are the primary emotions filling Eileen's eyes and dictating the tilt of her thin-lipped mouth. She angles her gaze so she can steal a glance in Teo's direction without looking at him directly, hiding one half of her face behind the ratty veil that is her hair. Where Gabriel's health is concerned, however, there is no momentary beat this time, no subtle shift in her expression to suggest she's lying for either their sakes as she dips her chin, ducks her head and gives the Sicilian an affirmative nod.

"Between the two of us, we can move him," she says, "if we're careful. A stretcher would be better, but—" There isn't time. "How soon can we get him to Kinney's?"

"I'll call him now. He has a car— he can drive over, meet us." Teo shuffles a hand into his pocket, his knees skewing an awkward splay against the concrete. Filth accumulates in a crust on his leg, mortaring into the seams and picking into the weave of his trousers. He ignores it. The phone squeaks open on round plastic hinges, and he's locates the number without needing to look, though he does so anyway because—

Because he never knows what to do with the guilt of others. "We'll find somewhere safe. Sec." Pallid eyes flit upward to the woman's face again, don't quite shy away. The device is sandwiched between his shoulder and his ear, the dial tone leaks MIDI into the air. The conversation is brief; terse. He calls Gabriel by that name, uses the words we and need and please. If there's an argument, it's conducted from Teo's end with minimalistic aplomb, not quite ignored.

He adds, "Be discreet."

And the phone clacks shut, is shunted back into the pocket from whence it had come. He crawls closer, crabwise, fitting his wrist into the loop handle of flashlight, his arms and hands out to try a grip on the man's prone arms and lax torso. "Why does he have to be carried in halves?" he asks. "Princess won't do?"

Eileen doesn't need the assistance of a flashlight to see what her eyes strive to in the dark. As she did with Gabriel, she can sense the underlying faults in his lean shape, intrinsically understand which parts of him are weak and which are strong, those that are vulnerable to her ability and those that are not.

During his curt conversation with the doctor on the other end of the line — or, more accurately, what small snippets of it she can catch — she picks apart Teo's frame one piece at a time, examining base part after base part, careful to maintain control and minimize the power's more destructive characteristics. As upset as she is, she isn't angry anymore — keeping herself in a figurative chokehold is easier than it was when Gabriel had confronted her.

There's no danger. Not unless he tries to touch her.

The conclusion Eileen eventually arrives at is one she skirts around, answering Teo's inquiry with a mild, "If you think you're strong enough." He probably is.

For a little while. Teo couldn't have dragged the man all the way from the Kalahari to Gaborone, but the road isn't too far. So here he goes. Steeling himself, pushing his arms in underneath the scabbed and brutally bruise-stained wreckage of the older man's body like a forklift steered in by a driver of some precision. He gathers up Gabriel's knees, and his shoulders, steers the line of his neck up to find rest against his jacketed shoulder.

He is overlaid with a holographic anatomical star map of old injury and faded death himself, she can tell, but his arms are steady, and the creak of effort and physical stress fails to capitulate to any of these things.

Teo hasn't remarked on the belligerently stark fact that the erstwhile serial killer hasn't healed himself, sauntered off with a broken degenerator left in his wake. Either because he already knew or doesn't want to ask. Go figure. "And you?" There is what might be an embarrassing degree of grunt in his voice when he asks, peeling upright, maneuvering Gabriel's long body over the fulcrum of his center of balance. "Are you okay?"

In the short term, it's probably good, helpful that Gabriel doesn't choose then to wake up in a fit of pain and choking. In the long term, maybe not. Either way, he's oblivious to being scooped up off the wasteland floor, save for one expelled breath of some distant acknowledgement of pain, growling from the back of his throat and barely audible to even Teo. It likely has much to do with an arm hanging off a shoulder that doesn't work, hanging loose like a doll's limb.

Eyes don't bother to try and twitch open, and a loss of blood makes him no lighter. Blood leaks warm, and at this range, it's obvious that his torso has suffered much of the damage, coat falling open to reveal a shirt that may as well have always been crimson. Dark red streaks and stains Teo's clothes as if in some rite of initiation only Gabriel and Eileen had shared for the evening. Welcome to the club.

Her answer is succinct, tone clipped, strained. Which is funny, because she isn't the one attempting to lift one hundred and fifty plus pounds of dead weight. "No," she says, rising from her kneel in the rubble as Teo hefts Gabriel off her lap and into his arms.

The hand that had previously played with his hair goes to the back of his head, using her palm to support his skull until it's resting against the other man's shoulder. That done, she closes her fingers around the wrist at the end of dangling arm and folds it across his chest — not to hide the damage from Teo, but to ensure it won't flop around.

"We'll talk later," she adds, not quite a promise, more a pointed suggestion, subdued though it is. "His abilities are lost. Taken, I think. I should have said something before."

"I heard." There it is, then. There's a roughness to the ending of that answer, as if Teo cut it off abruptly. He had: the leak of blood into his outfit is marked, distracting, disconcertingly familiar, a slow encroachment of fluid. He mumbles something else about ripping up his own clothes for bandages again, even as he turns, his shoulder recovering from the inch it had dropped to compensate for the head nudged up by Eileen's hand. He's being gentle, or something. It takes effort.

There's a quota, see. White knight though the symbol goes, being soft doesn't come naturally to him. The Englishwoman will have to forgive him, then, for the baldness of the conclusion he arrives at when he completes his deductions and remarks, carrying Gabriel away:

"Then you attacked him." Teo says this in a nice voice because he says almost everything in a nice voice, but you can say 'So you're an asshole' in a nice voice and it still isn't sweet. At best it's neutral, almost an intellectual question despite the absence of a question mark lifting the end, a pair of check boxes next to it. Yes, No. Teo steps over shattered balsawood and tinkles across glass.

Eileen has little to grasp at. Straws, mostly. She'd wanted to attack him, and then she had — there's something missing there, something as vital as the fluids seeping out onto Teo's clothes, drenching his shirt as they had hers. Damned if she knows what it is, though.

His question sounds more like an accusation without the upward lilt at its tail. Coming from almost anyone else, it would be simple to shrug off, brush away with an implicit wave of her hand, but Teo is her friend. One of a precious few she has left. And so she says nothing in her own defense, perhaps because she lacks the will to argue, or perhaps because there's more truth to his statement than she feels comfortable acknowledging so soon after the fact. What had she told Felix she was?

Her silence asserts Yes. So does her body language as she steps back, moving away with eyes averted, gaze downcast.

Teo feels bad after that. Frowns, tries to get a proper look at her from around Gabriel's head and his progress across the treacherous terrain of the Electric Eagle's wrecked grounds. She's looking away, which means eye-contact is out of the question. The torch swings haphazardly at his arm with every lurching, catching step, sending his and Gabriel's chimerical shadow swiveling around in crazy swoops and leaps across the way.

He thinks, but knows better than to say: I guess it's nice to have something to pray for. Instead, he gruffs out, "We'll figure this out.

"There are suppression drugs, if you'd risk being harmless— I think we can get our hands on enough to last you— a little awhile.

"We'll work something out for Gabriel after we get him patched— up. Getting him a disguise should work." If he can convince his lover that this would be a good idea somehow, rather than enlisting Homeland Security's slavering hoards to finally get that head shot in. If Gabriel doesn't mind, the way Flint always minds. It's an idea, that's all: he tends to seek retreat in practical solutions when other things, emotional, moral, ecumenical, grow uncertain and gray.

Teo pulls the other man a little closer, sidles past a ragged-edged hole in chain link. Wire snags at his sleeve, rips a tear into fabric. "So why—

"Why didn't you kill Ivanov?" It's almost— macabre though this hilarity is— as if he's trying to make small talk. Almost.

By the time Teo reaches the fence, he's alone again, or at least as alone as he can be with an unconscious man draped across him. Somewhere along the way, it isn't clear, Eileen tapered off, dropping from the back of the grim procession as soon as she realized the two of them might safely make it to the road.

The air is cold, the night empty, devoid of even the distant rumble of traffic drifting in on the breeze that blows through the Sicilian's hair, tousling it. She doesn't have the benefit of a torch like he does, so it would be fair to assume that she's still in the area, either retracing old steps, cutting through a familiar path in the rubble or simply waiting out the moon.

Whatever the case, there's no point in calling out should he be so inclined — even if she chose to remain within earshot, Eileen isn't going to respond. It could be she didn't kill Felix for the same reasons she decided to spare Gabriel, but that doesn't seem likely. She's never once looked down on the fed with the same forlorn expression she wore on her face when Teo stumbled upon them. The tenderness with which she touched him, too, is something reserved between close friends or lovers, very rarely enemies.

The question will just have to wait. Because this can't.

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