Watching The Clock


f_gabriel_icon.gif f_gillian_icon.gif

Scene Title Watching The Clock
Synopsis Something left unsaid and unread gets shared eight years later than it should have.
Date May 11, 2019

Front Porch — Gray House

A fine sheet of rain pours down outside. Water pulled by gravity to coat pavement and dirt and rooftops alike. Drainage manages the water into small running rivers that drain off into the understructure of the city. Tires sing against the streets at a distance, cutting through the gathered moisture. Nothing is ever quiet in a rainstorm like this. Thunder rolls in the background, occasionally so close that pictures on the wall shiver as the ground catches the vibrations. A storm, whether natural or not, is unknown.

A soft pluck of feet sounds up the walkway to the house. Black hair sticks to her scalp, soaked through and hanging around her forehead and at her neck, clinging with moisture against her skin. The simple dark purple blouse and black slacks are also soaked through. No sign of the usual bodyguard/driver she might travel with, but she's cradling something wrapped in a plastic bag against her chest as she approaches the door.

Much like he'd been barely welcome in her home, it's a wonder that Gillian Petrelli could think for a second she'd be welcome in his… But here she is. The fist that wanted to fly at one of the two invaders lifts to knock on the door, breath shaking from more than the chill of walking in the rain, and heart showing more than a little sign of anxiety.

He hadn't been asleep. Studying the pale cut angles of Eileen's in the semi-light, curls of hair against her forehead. Soft, more worn, and if Gabriel shuts his eyes and conjures up a perfect image of memory of ten years ago— there isn't much difference, not when she's asleep. Eyes, are the thing. Maybe some healthiness, but in the glow of storm-glazed moonlight she's as pale as she ever was.

When he hears someone coming, the first thing Gabriel does is make sure he doesn't wake her up. Soundlessly, the mattress only shifts when his weight is taken off it, transforming into the ink cloud that their son's father might be remembered by. The swatch of darkness passes by the red glow of an electric clock, informing the interested that it's past 3 am. Disappears into shadows, slips expertly through the closet, only a little bit bigger in theory as it seeps out again, snakes across the ground in a presence darker than darkness, and disappears through the gap between the bedroom door and the carpet. Eileen will only notice he's gone if she puts her hand on the vacated spot on the mattress just next to her.

By the time he's moving down the stairs, Gabriel is tangible and mostly dressed, buttoning together a shirt and wearing an expression that holds all the tension of a wolf pack leader gearing up to defend his territory.

It's been a tense past few days. You never know who's going to act on what they know. The birds have found nothing so far but it's only a matter of time.

The bony knuckles of Gillian's hand are only permitted one sharp knock against wood before, to her, the handle and lock are twisted noisily, and Gabriel's larger, broad-shouldered frame is filling the entrance way, looking much like he's rolled out of bed but otherwise sharply awake. A dress shirt is hastily thrown on, sweat pants with hems long enough to pool at the ankles, feet bare. He doesn't seem ready to let her in, one shoulder rested against the door frame, the other against the edge of the door itself only parted far enough to fit that span.

There's an obvious question that goes here, but he doesn't ask it. Accusation in his eyes, Gabriel simply looks at her, not entirely impressed with her drowned-rat chic, and waits for the answer.

The fortunate thing about raindrops flowing down her face would be the fact they cover up certain emotional cues. Gillian's cold, shivering even, due to her lack of a good solid coat and the fact she's drenched in a New York early morning, late evening in the middle of Spring. It's not warm, though it could be much colder than it actually is. Any make up she might have been wearing has been washed off as well, leaving her face natural and much as he would have remembered it. A little fuller in some areas, thinner in others, wrinkles she'd not had ten years ago around her eyes and on her forehead, but she still looks good for her age.

Lips part to take in a shaky breath as her hand pulls away from the open doorway, holding against the plastic bag, which seems to be wrapped around some kind of shoe box, keeping the moisture out as well as it can. The bracelets she always wears in public around her left wrist have been abandoned, though her wedding ring and engagement ring rest on the proper finger, still. She looks a lot less like the socialite who has a couple overpriced tickets to Cats, that's for sure.

"Gabriel— I need to… I need to talk to you." Maybe the theme of nights past hasn't fully ended yet.

Close his eyes and he can remember ten years ago. Well he can keep his eyes open too but it helps. Sure enough, Gillian's pale face, clean of makeup from rain water or choice, draws up images of what it was like a decade ago. What she was like a decade ago. But we all change.

As she so eloquently pointed out a couple of nights ago.

The door clicks shut. Locks, which would be a concern if he ever needed a key. Gabriel presses his shoulder blades against the closed door, barring them both entrance into his home, where his wife and son rest asleep and may never even know this woman visited. If he has anything to say about it. His gaze dips down to the curious item clasped close to her, up towards the tremble of her shoulders, the ends of stringy, dripping hair, then her face.

Then over the top of her head, at the lack of a car, or hired suit, or even a waiting, purring taxicab. For that matter, Gabriel hadn't heard a car at all. "Did you walk all this way?" he asks, incredulity in his voice.

"Not the whole way, but most of it," Gillian says, looking back toward the street for a moment as if trying to figure out just how far she did walk. As she said, not the whole way, but she used to walk too often back ten years ago. The flat shoes are welcome on her feet right now, but she's mostly numb over her body, so it's difficult for her to tell if her feet even hurt or will blister.

They should have been cut up from the glass she walked over. Maybe they are. Or maybe that got taken care of already. Either way she looks back at him, leaning against the door locking her outside of his home.

They'd invited him in, but the same can't always be true. Especially not between them. Everything changes.

Pulling on the plastic, she tugs the bag open in a way that peels it back from the shoebox under it. A little moisture has gotten through to the box, but not much as she shoves it towards his chest. "I— you need to see this. I don't know what's going to happen in the next weeks, or if there's going to even be next weeks, but— I can't keep— just look at it."

His hands fumble up to hold onto the object she's forcing onto him, gaze dropping down to the largely featureless lid, the corners of the box pinched in his grip. If this is a game, it's one Gabriel doesn't know the rules for, strong brow furrowed into angles of confusion as he glances back up at her. The last time he'd seen her, she'd been running her child out of the room, away from the monsters, having been physically assaulted by one of them. Almost killed by the other over a decade ago. The hurt and rage of those several moments and several years lies like broken glass between them. For nothing, she had said.

But it's not like he's not going to look. He's too curious for that. He's always had to at least look.

His fingers curl and Gabriel strips back the lid, letting the box settle its bottom in it as his fingers pick through the contents. Envelopes, sealed, his name in pen over and over and over as he brushes a thumb along the edges, flicks them over. Gabriel Gray Gabriel Gray Gabriel Gray Gabriel Gray Gabriel Gray…

"What is…"

Obviously, words need to be exchanged. He should invite her inside. But some part of him doesn't want these worlds to cross paths and so with another glance, a mile warier than before, he moves to sit on the edge of the patio, despite the fact rain angles to his his shins, feet cold against grass. The box is balanced on his lap, explored, picks one at random. August 19th, 2010. Shuffles it back in, picks out another. Again, again.

With the plastic bag in hand still, Gillian wraps her arms around herself as he moves away to sit down. Eyes close as water drips down from her hair and clothing, first tilted upwards toward the overhang that keeps more rain from falling on her, then down to the porch her soaked feet stand on. No warmth just yet, but she doesn't turn around and leave as he shuffles through the letters. Dates after dates. September 3rd, 2010. December 25th, 2009. March 3rd, 2010. October 10th, 2010. Dates after dates after dates. All addressed to him. Some months only have a dozen. Some months have one almost every day. The newest few months start dropping toward a handful. Of all of them the newest two carry these dates: December 7th, 2010. December 21st, 2010. Numbers are easy to keep track of when there's a perfect memory to go along with them.

Each one looks suitably aged, even opened, as if they'd been read and reread a few times. A few have smears across the ink, smudges from fingers that may have been wet, marring his name.

"They're letters," she says, voice shaky as she moves a little closer to hover nearby. "I never sent them— cause I never even knew if you would get them, or who would read them, or— I figured if I kept them that one day I could give them to you and you would…" Her voice keeps cracking. No rains falling on her, but new moisture gathers on her face, even as she takes in a slow breath.

When she can let it out, she says in a shaky, raspy voice, "I wrote to you because… I couldn't find a way to get you back."

There are a lot of ways Gabriel can sense someone is nearby. Hearing, obviously. The slight tug of life, for another, tempting him to take it as his own, the subconscious way he's stolen small fragments of it from everyone around him and sustained his immortality, his agelessness. Her circulatory system, also, a vague awareness that matches what he can hear of her heart. All hovering behind him by a couple of feet but he doesn't look up.

His own beats to a regular drum, always. Without a thought, he hikes his heart beat up a little higher, as if to match in some way.

Of course they're letters. Why they're written like they were addressed to him so many years ago is what's confusing, but Gabriel is slowly catching up to the idea that they are written to him so many years ago. The world spins a little different, quite suddenly. She'd written to him. She'd tried. He has three of them in his hand and he cautiously slips them back into order, takes out the first one dated late 2009. So soon after he'd been arrested. Probably unconscious for at least a fraction of these.

"I didn't know," Gabriel eventually says, the rain pattering down loudly outside of this strange little limbo, the dry patio that is neither exposed to the elements nor completely sheltered from them. "Other men— some of them got mail. I didn't— I assumed they wouldn't let me have anything. And I didn't think there'd be anything to give, not after a while. No raid, not even a failed one. I thought maybe— "

Why would they? He's not looking up at her, gaze set firmly down on the collection of envelopes. "Eileen only guessed what happened to me. Did you know?"

"Not at first," Gillian says softly, heartbeat and breath still anxious, shaky, over-wrought with emotion. They're things she'd kept in through all their venomous meetings of the past few years. Things she never could tell him. Even when she got married, even when she moved, she kept the box. The shoe box is older too, from the same years. Not the new designer shoes she tends to wear on the box, but something a little more like one would find in Walmart. It's held together quite well through the years, but the edges are worn.

"It wasn't the first time you'd disappeared without saying anything. I waited a while, but you didn't— the first few I didn't know for sure where you were at all— I left them on the counter— for when you came home." Arms remain held around her more than anything else, as she keeps her eyes mostly on the box, rather than the man holding it. "You didn't. You never came home."

Home. That had always been difficult for them to find in their year together. No one place ever remained stable. But it still could have been called home. The last home had been one of them.

"When you didn't— I started working for Pinehearst a lot— helping out with things they were doing… things they were trying to do. When I figured you'd been taken, I thought maybe if I— I couldn't find where you were, or how you were being held— I couldn't go after you by myself."

There's a small shake of her head, eyes closing finally, tears rolling down her cheeks, dimpled even when she's not smiling, "I thought if I helped change the world, like they said they were going to— that you would be able to come back to me."

There's a small pause before she says, "Read the ones from… March." She doesn't have a perfect memory, but she's read them enough to have an idea which letter is which.

March 2nd, 2010


I still don't know where to send these. If anyone knows they're not telling me. Like I might do something stupid and go off on my own. I can't even talk to my fucking brother anymore. I know he had something to do with you being gone and I can't stand it. I told him you'd changed. Why couldn't he just believe me. Why won't anyone just listen to me.

Fuck. I can't even look at my watch without thinking about you.

Arthur Petrelli says my help will make the world a better place, but what use is it if the people I want this world to be better for aren't even fucking here. I can't do anything by myself, but the only things I can do aren't helping bring you back.

It's 3:33. And you're still not here.


The opened letter falls flimsy from his pinched fingers once the words are consumed and written into the stone of his memory. Gabriel can't begin to imagine what reading these at the time would have felt like. Anger, maybe. Maybe he would have stopped reading after a while. But then maybe a lifeline. They would have become his world. Better than the apathy he had sunk into. First it had been his powers, that he'd missed. Then freedom. Selfish things. It took him a long time, really, to get to the point of missing people. Point being: he did, in the end.

The wind kicks up, directs rain inwards, and Gabriel folds the piece of paper against it. Slips it neatly back into its envelope. "By the time I got out, the world had kept going." He slips the envelope back into its chronological placement. "And going. It took me a long time to get a sense of anything, I had a lot of catching up to do. Repenting. You and Peter— you saved the world. Phoenix. Made it so I had no choice. Perish and rot or tag along."

He settles the lid over the box with great uncertainty, still seated at the edge of the patio. "I meant it. That the future I saw didn't matter. Not to everyone else. I had to fix myself. Eileen and I. We didn't get medals, Gillian, and we were all on the same bridge." It's coming out jumbled, disordered, but there's a lot that hasn't gone spoken over the years.

More to the point— his head twists around to glance up at her, and easier to see she's distraught. Why now, he wants to ask. "First time I got transferred out of prison— it was her. She was there." Simple explanation as any. He doesn't ask how long Peter was there. It feels archeological, this conversation. Digging up war relics and weaponry, it doesn't matter who won and why. Just that something happened, some conflict, and all we can do is analyze it behind glass.

Now is the only time for anything… Gillian stands before him, soaked to the core, watching as he reads a letter that she wrote years ago. A different her. A different time. A different life. So much of that life she lost, discarded, failed to cling to ever again. So much disappeared even before stepped foot out of that prison. Who she became on the other side would be something closer to who she is now, but even that required more and more years of marriage, childbirth, and working for Pinehearst.

"I know you did," she whispers softly, in a way that only he could have heard under the sound of rain crashing towards the ground. "I tried to tell people that you were just as much a part of what happened that night as anyone else… if not more. If you hadn't come to me and told me what happened to you, I couldn't have gone to them. They wouldn't have heard instructions from the future, and they couldn't have…" She trails off. The past is something she can't do much about, except of course if the time travelers went back armed with knowledge. That's the last thing that the man she's standing in front of likely wants.

"I know she was there for you when I wasn't— and I had people who were there for me, too." Peter. Helena. The members of Phoenix. "But I was only able to move on when I forced myself to stop looking… to stop watching the clock."

Force herself to. Shifting her hands, she grabs onto her sleeves and tugs at the, showing the empty wrists. "It's why I can't wear watches anymore. It took me years to stop trying to look at my wrist. Even after I saw you again finally… by the time I did, you were already… You'd stop watching the clock too." In a metaphoric way of speaking, at least.

He didn't invite her inside his home, so— makes sense that she might linger and stand as if to leave at any time. Gabriel finds himself moving for the sake of conversation, so as not to tilt back and look at her. His hand grips wooden railing and he levers himself up, leaning against it and still with his eyes cast down towards the container that's held so much importance for however long.

Or unimportance, it's hard to tell anymore, the past rendered obsolete through neglect, forgetfulness, abuse. Gabriel finds himself shaking his head, subtly, in silent wonderment. "By then was it just easier?" His voice sounds oddly flat. Not unimpressed, dismissive, but hollowed out. "Just to… not say anything."

Her wrists are glance at, then her eyes, his own containing a weary kind of uncertainty. "We hated each other. You hated me. Why now?" There we go. The inevitable question. "World's ending, you figure— we tie up loose ends? Happy ending?"

Easy is so relative. As he shifts to better face her, Gillian lets her sleeves drop. He's good at observation. The fact she never wore watches, ever, should have caught his eyes and perfect memory at least a few times. There's a long pause between what he says and what she manages to say after, a quiet, "I never hated you, Gabriel." The way her heart sounds for an instant when he said that might even give an idea she had been surprised. It flutters back into shape again, giving no more flutters to show she's lying. Nothing beyond the fact she's freezing. That might well be the only thing keeping her heart rate slowed.

"I'm not here because the world's ending. I'm here because… what you said— what your wife said. What you said. And everything that's been happening…" The possibility of the world ending would be part of it, things she never got to say. But she could also be killed for defying Arthur Petrelli, one of the most powerful people to ever exist. And there's little she can do to keep it from happening. Not without someone standing beside her. Someone strong. Someone with power.

"I needed you to know that I didn't just leave you there to rot. And that the future you saw… no matter what happened to it… it mattered to me too. And now I guess you need to know that I never hated you." As she continues, she starts to pull away, taking steps back and adding some additional distance, even turning away a bit as she starts to blink tears out of he eyes. Tears that can be heard in wavers of her voice as she continues. "I'd wanted to think that… no matter what happens… I mattered to you. That I had made you better. That…"

He wants to drill home the point. About the time that passed. About guilt and need and petty satisfaction that has nothing to do with love, him being an expert now and all, and maybe a few years ago he would have simply disappeared back into his house and left her alone with the rain and a slightly damp shoe box full of letters still unread.

Gabriel stands still, silent, listening. He's never been one to reassure people, even when he wanted to. Lies are for deception, not kindness. He does have the truth, however. More than a decade's worth of memory.

"You made me want to change."

His hand goes out, touches her arm, steers her closer. The box is left on the wooden railing (and likely getting more rain spattered than it already is) because he has both his hands free to touch her arms. Taller than Eileen, it's easier for Gabriel to rest his forehead against her's. "You mattered. When I didn't care about anything, you mattered."

It might have been the last thing she really expected, which could be why she'd already started to move away from him, ready to find some kind of exit to leave. Lies, truth, reassurances… it could all be the same in the end, but Gillian accepts his words as truth because part of her needs to. Just like she believed her husband when he told her that, despite cheating on her, he loved her more. Just like she believed him when he promised her til the end of time… and disappeared the next night.

With his forehead touching hers, she closes her eyes, takes in an unsteady breath, and tries desparetly to reign in her emotions. Shoulders shiver under his touch, her unsteady breath playing against his skin.

It doesn't change everything. But it helps. Simple words that give her some state of mind, some hope that no matter what happens, sending them back, dying trying… something she did in her life mattered. Even if only in a small way.

"I'm sorry… I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to be there." To help him. To be with him. She had waited, but waiting hadn't been good enough.

With their forehead's touching, though, there's one trap that she inevitably falls towards, whether he'd anticipated it or not. A shift of her forehead as if she might be pulling back, turns into an attempt to kiss him. Light, brief, simple as it may be. It's still a kiss.

If he didn't anticipate it, he doesn't recoil, eyes shutting in something that could almost be a wince but can't be, considering he shifts enough to allow it. It is brief, and it is simple, and in some ways just as damning and affirming as anything else. His hand smooths back her wet hair as he eases away again, lets his hands fall from her.

"We did well," Gabriel says, finally. Heavily, rasping. "To get where we are now. I know we didn't share much of the last decade but there's so much to lose, Gillian. So much work we did." His head turns, indicating the letters, starting to say something— deciding against it with a shallow intake of breath. "I should get you home."

"There's everything to lose, Gabriel," Gillian responds quietly as she pulls back, drawing a hand up to her mouth, tears blinking out of her eyes. A betrayal no more and no less than the one her husband committed on her on a rooftop. And something quite a bit less than everything else he'd done to punish himself. Her form of self-punishment had been very different. "One of the people I'm closest to now… your partner. I wouldn't have even met him if I hadn't been trying to make sure you were happy." Something that will be lost. And also a confession… of how she punished herself for what she did. That… and more.

"I'm not going home," she finally clarifies, though may not be able to give much more detail beyond that. "There's a hotel not too far from here, at the corner…" She gives the exact street corner. As familiar with his area as he might be, it definitely is not the kind of hotel that Gillian Petrelli, socialite, would have stayed in. Comfortable and clean, but not nice. Even a budget hotel. "If you want to get me that far, you can, but… I can take care of myself."

After a moment of decision, Gabriel steps forward and places his hand on her arm, just below her elbow. The cuff of his sleeve shifts just enough to indicate that he hadn't gotten rid of the tattoo from all those years ago, even if watching clocks had stopped being a pastime. Fixing them, however. Still a habit.

"I'm happy," he confirms, after a moment. And leaves it at that, because without warning, they don't have mouths to speak with, a pulse of augmentation from Gabriel deliberately jostling Gillian's own power, for just a moment, long enough to make the transition into the amorphous black inky cloud of Wu-Long's ability much easier than it would have been otherwise.

Two beings combined into one, intimately connected and yet utterly divided, Gabriel leads movement and Gillian has no choice but to ride alone, darting out off the porch, over wet grass, through a fence, leaping with anti-gravity over the road. Not faster than flying, but dryer.

The shoebox is left on the porch railing, and a knock of wind sends it tumbling to the exposed wooden slats. It cracks open like rotten fruit, the lid laying out and spilling its contents, white rectangles of neatly written history pooling out in chaos.

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