Want for Tomorrow


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Want for Tomorrow
Synopsis Gabriel and Eileen choose the same apartment to hole up in for the night but do not engage one another in a territorial battle. Instead, they both make concessions. Small ones.
Date May 18, 2009

Condemned Tenement — Abandoned Apartment

This apartment looks to have been left untended for years. It's a modest sized studio apartment, opening up from the doorway to both sides, painted a faded canary-yellow color, most of the paint peeling away in large spots. An old, ratty couch rests just across from the door, patched up with pieces of denim over the worn and faded fabric. The cushions look to have seen much abuse, and though they're repaired to some extend by re-stiching, they are still unevenly stuffed. In front of the couch, between it and the far wall is a lopsided coffee table. It's frame is metal, likely was once glass-topped as well, but the entire top of the table has been replaced by a sheet of particle-board with a plastic tarp thrown over it and held in place by heavy-duty staples. The four windows that line the wall opposite of the doorway are all busted out, two of them are boarded up, and all but one is covered with clear plastic that is stapled to the window frame.

Not far from the entrance, a small kitchenette rests in disrepair. The stove doesn't look to have been used in a long time, and with a portion of the ceiling having collapsed down onto it, for good reason. While the debris is neatly stacked — pieces of plaster, wood and sheet-rock stacked a foot high — it clearly seems to be hastily done. The L-shaped counter adjacent to the stove features a mini-fridge that isn't plugged in, and water-stains on the faux-marble countertop.

Beyond the kitchenette is what was likely the apartment's bedroom. A pair of mattresses have been laid on the floor, with a folding screen placed between that area and the kitchenette. The screen looks newer and in better condition than the room, though portions of it are scuffed and torn. The bed is made with not only sheets, but also a heavy brick-red quilt that looks to have been hand-made. A small, uncomfortable looking pillow crowns off the arrangement. From the looks of it, no one lives here.

Gabriel couldn't recall what has changed about this place, what hasn't, since the last time he came here. Not even if he tried. No new coats of paint or anything so fancy, unless graffiti counts, broad strokes of it making flower-shaped words of abuse pattern the walls here and there. Pretty sure the bed's been replaced, too. Last he knew of it, it had been set on fire.

He had meant to go to the watchshop, one of the few corners of New York City wherein he actually feels some semblance of safety. Maybe to pick up where he left off in this journey of understanding of what to do next. This place is like that, anyway. It has history. It's significant, in some dusty, water-damaged way, and the sounds of foot steps of other people within this building sounds through the ceiling. Opting not to touch the bed, out of the desire to, perhaps, not contract fleas or something, Gabriel is perched on a kitchen counter, legs bent at the knees and arms resting on them. The gun he had purchased from Flint Deckard rests loosely in one of his hands, only one bullet spent to ward off the man he's bought it from. He's not sure what that means, exactly.

Other than maybe this is an appropriate place to stop and rest for the night. He's defiantly forgetting to notify Gillian and his eyes are shut, head tilted back. Black clothing blends easily with shadows, as does stillness. In a lonely, broken down apartment in a destroyed building that cultivates the homeless like a hive, the world can forget Gabriel Gray for an evening. If it hasn't already.

In the apartment next door, Ute Lemper belts out a rendition of Kurt Weill's Youkali in French courtesy of an old gramophone that's been spinning the same scratchy recording for the past— well. It's been a long time, and even though the diva's husky voice lacks the polish or refinement of a classically trained singer, it has a way of making minutes feel like hours, stretching out each verse into a song of its own.

Rain patters against the pavement outside, accompanied by buffeting winds that whistle through cracks, slam doors and bring the temperature in other part of the tenement plummeting down to uncomfortably low numbers. All in all, Gabriel made a wise decision when he chose this particular room to wait out the darkness inside; he might not be able to hear the building aging around him or the mice scrabbling around in its pipes like he once did, but he can at least make out the sound of the vocals straining to reach his ears through the adjacent wall as if attempting to lend him comfort in his time of need.

He may not be surprised, then, to discover that he isn't the only person seeking shelter here tonight. Floorboards creak, rotted wood groaning in muffled protest as someone moves through the hall, pausing only briefly outside the neighboring apartment to listen to Lemper lament about vagabond boats wandering at the whim of waves near the end of the world before seizing the handle to Gabriel's door and wrenching it open.

Or trying to, anyway. It's stuck.

But not locked. Gabriel's eyes open and his body instantly goes concrete still with tension at the scratchy sound of rusted metal resisting itself. His feet slide a little where braced against the countertop, turning his head and remembering that coincidences happen. That no one is coming to look for him. The ground creaks underfoot when he touches down in one short, smooth movement, sidearm pointed down towards a floor of gritty concrete.

Through the wall, he couldn't tell exactly what language was being sung. In the same way he can't listen for the heart beat on the other side of the door. He switches his gun to the hand still sore from healing radiation burns, and grips onto the handle when it shakes under the protested force on whoever's on the other side, ready to defend his territory, this little corner he's claimed for himself.

The muscles from wrist to shoulder all bear down on the stuck handle, forcing it to give which it does with a loud creak, the door semi-waterlogged and stubborn when he wrenches it open.

Leaning into the door in an attempt to shoulder it loose must have seemed like a good idea to the person standing on the other side, because they clearly weren't anticipating someone to open it for them. If they had, they would have stepped back instead of forcing their weight forward. As the door swings open, inward, Eileen Ruskin's balance and orientation are swiftly snatched out from under her, sending the young woman half-staggering, half-careening into the apartment.

Or would, if Gabriel's tall, broad-shouldered shape wasn't filling the doorway. Instead, she catches herself with two hastily-thrust out arms and gloved hands that grasp at either side of the rickety wooden frame and stop her from bouncing off his chest.

Gray eyes dart up to his face, not expecting to recognize the prominent features that define it, but in the instant her gaze meets his, she jerks back as if struck. An abrupt retreat comes next, though Eileen doesn't go far — clothes soaked through by the rain, skin slick and hair sopping, she withdraws only a few steps, moving away into a shadowier section of hall.

He certainly didn't expect to recognise whoever he finds on the other side of the door, and when he does, Eileen isn't the only one jerking back. The heel of his boot scrapes against the ground in a half step back, hand gripping onto the door as his other one jerks upwards as if to point the gun at her. It doesn't, the barrel angled somewhere in between them, but that's where it stays rather than lowering completely.

Gabriel makes a careful check that he isn't spilling power in every direction, ability bound and tied in a distracting knot at the back of his skull. His adam's apple shifts as he swallows, making unshaven skin on his throat shift, blinking stupidly at Eileen. Considering the time they've known each other, he looks fine in comparison. Her own ability aside, she's well aware of his myriad of injuries he'd collected during his time as Vanguard - the paleness of blood loss, the bruises, the scrapes and the occasional limp all defining him, and right now, he's unharmed. Well fed, even.

But back then, he'd also seemed a little more alive, in some respects. Less drowsy, less guarded, defensiveness in the stiffness of his arm and the gun at the end of it. Not something he's ever waved around before, or had to. Or felt the need to.

Eventually, it drops back down to his side, and he loosens his white-knuckled grip on the door's edge. He doesn't ask the stupid question, only waits.

Gabriel doesn't have to wait long. He receives a cursory appraisal and a sidelong glance, perhaps to confirm his identity, though Eileen's gaze does not linger the way it sometimes used to — her focus is on the gun in his hand and the light glinting off the barrel. If she's armed as well, and she almost certainly is, she doesn't show any inclination of going for her weapon or so much as reaching defensively into the confines of her coat.

She raises her arm, shoulder braced against the wall opposite the door, and leans into it for support with one foot lifted slightly off the ground. The expression she wears is a cautious one, but it's also expectant — almost plaintive. Maybe she's hoping he'll invite her inside. More likely, she's wishing he'd just shoot her and be done with it.

A cloth satchel that had been hanging off her shoulder drops down to the crook of her elbow and dangles there, weighed down by its contents. Glass tinkles against glass. Something rattles. "I need to borrow the room," she hisses under her breath, and her voice sounds exactly like she looks: ragged and weary. "Please."

There's a sharp click of the safety being turned off, punctuating her sentence with a different meaning altogether. His expression is one of conflict, and even if he can't hear her heartbeat, he can hear his own, one that would indicate perhaps he's just run a race of some kind. Her words are processed, slowly, interpreted to mean that she's not here to finish what she started, which makes a logical kind of sense. If he thinks about it.

"Okay," Gabriel finally allows, the word coming out with an exhalation of breath he didn't realise he'd been holding onto. And now would be his cue to collect whatever he'd brought here with him and leave, but instead, he finds himself turning his back on her and wandering back into the apartment. The customary black coat has been through some things. Right now, a streak of dust and old paint peppers a sharp angle across his shoulder blades, from where he'd been sitting against the wall, and the trailing hem is similarly spattered with rain and dirt both old and new.

He hasn't taken off his shoes either, but these no longer leave tracks behind him as he moves back through the apartment, lifting a hand to rub the back of his hand over his brow, gun still clasped there.

Eileen slogs into the apartment, trailing mud and droplets of rainwater dripping off her saturated coat and onto the floor under her feet. Incidentally, it's also the first article of clothing to go. The sound the coat makes when she drapes it across the back of the apartment's tattered couch is something between a wet thump and a squelch — she's much more careful about handling the satchel as she lowers it onto the cushions and begins working loose the leather straps that hold it shut.

She keeps her back to Gabriel, the muscles in her shoulders knotting beneath her skin and the shirt plastered to her body's torso. Wet and heavy, the garment's cotton fabric clings to her svelte form in a way that renders it semi-transparent and puts an unnecessary amount of emphasis on her spine and the bony ridges that comprise it. There's blood, too, blossoming from her midsection in the form of an ugly red bloom, and if Gabriel looks carefully he may be able to pick out the individual strips of gauze that are wrapped tautly around her chest and stomach, made visible by her clothing's sodden state.

Words do not come easily, but they do come, slow, halting: "You're still here."

It's a simple observation rather than an implicit a request that he leave, but it would be easy to mistake one for the other. The door remains open, not yet ground back on rusty hinges to its default position — an accessible escape route, should either of them change their mind and decide they want to take it.

He's not leaving the room, either. The kitchen is more or less open to the rest of the space, and so Gabriel is intent on reclaiming his perch, letting the handgun slip back into the depths of his pockets. His hands brace against the edge and he pushes himself up and on, legs drawing up and feet finding the slightly dirty marks on the surface he'd previously made, before he folds a leg casually beneath the other, a slightly broken, world-weary position that communicates exactly how much he doesn't care he's sharing the room with his would-be murderer.

Gripping onto the edges of his coat, drawing it around himself further, Gabriel does wind up sparing glances not only to Eileen, but the satchel she's brought with her, dull curiousity barely seen in black eyes. "I was here first."

The strains of French singing continues to bleed scratchily through the thin walls, closer to where Eileen is situated, although it just reaches Gabriel's ears too. "I'm not using the bed."

"That's probably smart." Eileen may not have such reservations, however. Producing an unmarked bottle from the satchel, she uses the heel of her hand to press down and circumnavigate its child-proof cap. Two pale blue pills shake out, tumbling into the outstretched cup of her palm. As she speaks, her fingers close into a fist, which she brings all the way up to her mouth — there's a pause as she flattens her hand across her lips, forcing the medication down her throat and holding it there for a short moment in which she wrestles with her gag reflex.

When her hand falls away again, it's empty. And so is the bottle. "You were here first," she says, discarding it. There's more truth to this statement than she probably realizes. This was, after all, Sylar's territory before hers, and PARIAH's before he is. "I won't stay. Last thing you need's lost sleep, keeping one eye open, ey?"

Hard to tell if that's an attempt at a joke. Eileen isn't laughing — she won't even look at him. "Fuck, I'm sorry. This was a bad idea."

Easy, in some ways, to simply end this in a gunshot. Who cares? Her comment, joking or not, is enough to make this occur to Gabriel, but hackles smooth out again almost as quickly as they rose. It would have been easy for her to leave him dying on the ruins of Eagle Electric, too. His head finds its resting place back against the wall again, back arching for a moment in an effort to release some tension.

"I wasn't sleeping either," he states, briskly, no longer watching her and rather watching the flinty moonlight glance off the counter's surface just in front of him. "I just wanted a place to stay."

Which apparently means, sitting quietly, getting no rest, getting nothing done, not even healing really. Nothing to heal save for his hand, which is making its own progress. This was a bad idea. Not, say, what had lead up to this to make it a bad idea? He raises a doubtful eyebrow at her comment. "I'm not afraid of you," is his claim, made short in clipped tones, before he asks, "What are you taking?"

I'm not afraid of you is the sort of statement that would have made Eileen erupt into laughter a few months ago. Because really, who is? When Gabriel makes it, the words illicit a different response, no sound made except for a thin sigh blown out through her nostrils as she seems to deflate, relaxing, more at ease than she was a few seconds ago.

"Diazepam," she answers, "a gift from our mutual friend, Jensen Raith." Except the way she says his name isn't very friendly at all. Resisting the urge to spit, Eileen wipes her nose with the back of her hand, gaze fixed straight ahead. "You look like you could use some, too. Still planning on going after Case?"

His eyes roll a little at the mention of that first name. No comment is made. Just a fleeting car crash of an event with an offer made that Gabriel couldn't accept if he wanted to. His hand comes up to rub his face, fingertips moving over the bristle of a jaw in desperate need of a shave. A wreck, Gillian had described him as, and it only figures that the next person to see him is yet another of 'his' girls, as Teo had talked about them.

A harsh breath of laughter follows her question, hands parting, splaying, in some kind of defeated gesture. "I was. I don't— " His words cut out as quickly as the laughter does. "I don't even know what I'm doing. Yes." The word comes as a contrast, sharp through the relative silence. Affirmation as opposed to wandering defeat. He settles on, "Yes. I'm still planning on going after Case."

Eileen sinks down into a crouch beside the couch, weight resting on the front of her feet, one arm slung across her knee and the other hanging limp at her side. Her legs ache. Standing is difficult. Wordlessly, she rolls her head to rest it against the couch's overstuffed arm and lets her eyes lid shut. Gabriel's voice isn't as muffled or muted as Ute Lemper's next door, and yet it still takes her several beats of uneasy silence to process his affirmation, then struggle to formulate what she hopes is an appropriate response.

"It's hard for you," she says, no sarcasm in her voice, hoarse though it is. The fingers of the arm at her side drag contemplatively through the fine layer of dust and debris on the floor, leaving an uneven line in their wake. Her thought process, likewise, is a little patchy and skewed — either the result of not enough sleep or something that isn't as simple to remedy. "Pushing others, feeding them while you go hungry. Abigail told me."

"Abigail has a big mouth." His voice comes out as a quiet growl through the dark room, head turning with his words and dark eyes catching the minimal light for a moment as he looks over at her, and her new resting place. There's a pause, as Gabriel draws the fabric of his coat tighter around him again, arms folding up. Lets out a sigh that disturbs the dust that inevitably hangs in the air.

Less musty than his watchshop, at least, but dirtier, less pleasant. "I have Gillian's power," he confirms, tone flat. "When I met you, I didn't know. It probably fed what you could do." He wants to suggest, It probably drove you to do it, but such words are too presumptuous even for him, despite the fact he had suggested as much to Teo, that maybe more than his original power carries certain agendas. The destructive ones that override simple human instinct, or egg the darker ones along.

He doesn't suggest it. Instead, he offers, "Nice trick, by the way. It has a certain kind of justice to it."

"Yes," Eileen agrees, succinct, "it's a death sentence." Which is exactly what a jury would dole out, should she or any other Vanguardian find themselves standing trial for crimes against humanity. A certain kind of justice. Felix Ivanov might agree, if he knew. He doesn't.

Her tone lacks the bitterness one might expect when one considers the implications attached to what she just said, but it could be she's trying to emulate Teo and experience what it means to forgive in what little time she perceives she has left. Anger, too, feels so far away. "You were right," she adds as a feeble attempt at clarification, all apology. "About me playing, not having. Look."

She gestures to the satchel on the couch. "Etorphine hydrochloride. Tranquilizers, right? For horses. Case. I want to help."

At the urge to look, he obeys, from her towards the satchel that's pointed to, incomprehension on his face at her words, at first. Gabriel shifts, then, legs coming to hang over the side of the counter, at the knees, hands bracing against the edge of it. Help. She wants to help after all.

He might laugh again. Instead, his gaze travels on back to her, considering her through the shadows of the room, head angled, before he murmurs, "And I have a Smith and Wesson semi-automatic with ten rounds." Should be eleven. "I can't find him." But he's found plenty of dead ends, so via the process of elimination… Gabriel's hand raises to drag through his hair, scratching his nails across his scalp in some sort of punishing scrape of aggravation.

"In hindsight, I don't think either of us tried to make the right kind of friends." You know. The ones that might give such information readily.

Friends. Eileen lets out an airy snort followed by a shake of her dark-haired head. "Gabriel," she says. "Sylar. Who are you, really? With or without your powers." Using the couch for support, Eileen reaches up, digs her fingertips into its arm and claws her way back to her feet. "Hunter. Predator. Killer. That, you can't change. You'll find him—"

And when he does, he may need more than his Smith and Wesson, ten rounds and the contents of Eileen's satchel. "You'll find him," she reiterates, for lack of anything more meaningful to say. Her head turns, chin brushing the curve of her shoulder as she glances back at him and works to make her bleary eyes find his gaze, then hold it for as long as Gabriel allows. As always, she lacks the means to effectively communicate with words, so this will just have to do:

"What you took from me still holds true. You're the same man."

He wants to disagree, if his expression half lit from the light filtering in through a mostly boarded over window is to be of any indication. He's not even the man he used to be before his power - Gabriel Gray was at least a good time piece restorer, and had clean hands in all the metaphorical ways as well as the literal ones. But he doesn't argue, head bowing for a moment as if the dusty floor might offer an answer.

Heavy does it, his boots land on it with invisible swirls of dust and the slightest scrape of dirt. It's a graceless action, a bone-deep kind of tired, although there is restlessness in the way Gabriel paces across the room.

"What about you? Are you the same woman?" There's a lack of venom in his words. He's asking, equal parts gravel and question in his tone. "Munin. Losing the birds wasn't easy for me either. You told me— they don't make good friends, not in place of people, and it's true. But they're… okay. Kazimir designed you. You were never a weapon, and now you are. You don't have a choice in it, do you?" There's a tug at her ability, a small unfurling of power from Gabriel, not enough to make any limbs or eyeballs glow a certain spectrum of the rainbow - a prod. "I don't either."

The twinge draws a small gasp from Eileen, audible in the form of a slight hitch, breath catching momentarily in her throat. She doesn't like that. Her arms wrap around her upper body, gloved hands clutching at her slim biceps, fingertips dimpling the skin as though this might somehow contain what she can feel Gabriel tapping into. "Kazimir is dead," she hisses, and like air from a balloon the words are sucked right out of her. "Kazimir is dead, because we killed him. Because we had a choice."

Is she the same woman? She might know, if she knew how to approach that question — and she doesn't. Munin. Eileen. The two names aren't as synonymous in her mind as Gabriel and Sylar, but all the same, she feels shame flush hotly through her belly when he brings it up.

Their conversation had been so tolerable when he was on the other side of the room. Now that he's drawing closer, she finds herself wanting to back under the nearest piece of furniture that will accommodate her, lest what happened at Eagle Electric return for a repeat performance. "Don't do this."

Don't do this. Playing, toying, a mouse between paws. It rings a little of Kinney and suture and his snarling at Gabriel about being a fucking predator— maybe she's right, at least in the sense of always needing to find some weakness to lord over. Strange how he can analyse such things objectively when he doesn't have the claws he used to.

Miraculously, he stops. That line of power is reeled back in, tied up, kept safe, and his gaze lowers. She doesn't want to kill him, and he doesn't want to die. So they hide in dark corners like cockroaches and keep living as if to spite the people who'd have it a different way. "You'll miss it." His arms folded around him, shoes scraping against the gritty floor as he resumes his pacing, maintaining some distance between them as if the too-willing nature of their abilities would collide again if he neared.

"When we find Case and make him fix this. Part of you will. It's nice to be powerful."

It's nice to be alive, too. Eileen tracks Gabriel's movements with her eyes, not quite a mouse, not quite a cockroach, but still feeling very small just the same. "The man whose gift I have is gone," she tells him, "there's no fixing this for me." That's not to say there isn't hope for him, however; with every breath she pulls in through her nose and then forces back out again through her mouth, lips pursed, she can feel her chest growing tighter, heart thundering louder.

Narrow shoulders rise, fall, shudder. "What I have isn't power. What you lost isn't power." Eileen gives Gabriel a somber look, gray eyes dark and solemn. She grabs a handful of rain-soaked coat, still draped over the back of the coach, but does not move to pull it on. "I'd have done it anyway," she says, "even if all I had was my birds. Hurting you, because of the way you make me feel— that's power. Look at me and tell me you don't have it."

He does look at her, but no verbal confirmation feels necessary or comfortable to give. No mental archive, Gabriel can't simply dance back to the final moments before she'd lashed out and study them in detail in the blink of an eye. Hazy half-sentences and flickering mental images of gray eyes brimming with anger and words he remembers more like impressions than a true configuration of letters. Frustrating.

But he remembers the heart of it, and why he had come close to pointing the gun at her chest upon opening the door, had come close to maybe even pulling the trigger. It doesn't have too much to do with her ability, really. Some strange kind of guilt reflex. Kind of like how killing more people could erase what he had done to Brian Davis.

That special sociopath kind of logic. "So are we even?" It's a laughable idea, that this seesaw battlefield between them could ever steady, but Gabriel asks anyway, coming to perch on the other arm of the couch, boot heel up to brace against the edge of the seat.

Now she does pull on her coat, occupied by an awkward series of swift jerking motions as she fits her arms into their respective sleeves and forces her hands through the openings at the wrists. She always assumed he was the one keeping track with his nigh-perfect memory, scoreboard buried somewhere beneath a wealth of borrowed knowledge: Gabriel vs. Eileen, fifteen-love, thirty-all, deuce.

If she could translate all the slights and wrongs they've committed against one another into numeric form by somehow quantifying sin, she doesn't imagine their relationship would see any improvement. It might even degenerate further.

"Ask Tavisha," is what she says upon cinching the coat's final button, collar pulled snug around her throat. She leaves the satchel on the couch, untouched, and crosses the floor, cutting past Gabriel on her way toward the yawning hallway beyond the apartment's open door.

Gabriel's eyes track the progress of her feet, leaving marks through a much marked floor and then landing that gaze on her back as she moves for the hallway still left open to them. Words catch in his throat, indecision rendering him mute for however long it takes for her to turn the corner. Ask Tavisha. If any trace of him ceases to exist, really

Which is a shame. Ignorance is bliss, and maybe forgiveness. Eventually, he closes the door, and eventually, he decides the couch is cleaner than whatever comfort the bedroom would provide, but sleep is something else that will also have to come in its own time, eventually.

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