What He Couldn't Finish


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif

Scene Title What He Couldn't Finish
Synopsis Gabriel and Eileen move to stop Sylar from acquiring the ability to shapeshift: the one power that stands between him and the presidency. As with most things, it does not go as planned.
Date October 4, 2011

Washington, D.C.

Gabriel wonders what having only one ability must be like. Like having one body, one history, one passion, one lover. Something so singular and intrinsic to your nature that it's a part of you. There's Eileen, whose propensity for birds seems so natural as to be related to her long-boned limbs and delicate fingers. Like the attenuated form of Wu-Long is visible in jet-black hair and inky eyes and the strange knowingness of his smile. Gillian, emoting outwards, everything reaching and testing the boundaries that were put their for a reason. One day, maybe they'll stop killing Evolved enough to make a study out of it. Maybe he'll get to the heart of whose fault he is, then, that he is so many things.

But then, shapeshifting is different. You can be as many people as you can stand.

From what little he knows of the mark once they've singled him out, Gabriel comes to know that old disdain of a squandered power, because this, this recon, this stalking, feels exactly like how he used to hunt, and he knows Sylar is out there, feeling it too. If he was a shapeshifter only, he thinks he would never just stay in one place, but records show that Stephen Borrowdale had come into his powers late in life. Put down his roots, rarely changes his face. Divorcee, visits the kids on holidays, townhouse in Georgetown all to himself except when he invites other men to it. God, maybe he likes who he is. Can you imagine?

They've discussed possibilities, even before they had Borrowdale's name. Of saving him early, for instance, of gaining his trust and cooperation, and then they summarily put that in the trash. Maybe something more halfway, like getting him where they want him, springing a more careful trap than just waiting, and hoping. They could also just kill him, have Gabriel assume his identity, and wait for the predator to come. They might have gotten somewhere with that notion, if it wasn't too late.

It's the morning. Autumn clouds cover the sky. Normally, this would be when Borrowdale jogs around the block, performing discipline. It's not impossible that he might skip this routine.

Do you see him?

Gabriel's voice, glimmering strangely through birdlife. He's in material form, his identity changed to someone new, a skinny older man with grey shaven close to his skull and a winter coat that is too big for him, huddled at a bus stop.

No, comes Eileen's response, or at least an approximation of it. Communicating by non-human means has its drawbacks; when she reaches out to Gabriel this way, she leads with emotion and intent. The words themselves are almost an afterthought, memories of the sounds her mouth makes when she speaks and not some new iteration.

Unlike Gabriel, she doesn't have the advantage of being able to change her shape. She will always be small and pale with a frame that fits neatly in the protective circle of his arms when they share a bed. Her gait will always be her gait, as recognizable at a distance as the angle that she likes to hold her chin, or her habit of rolling her lower lips between her teeth when she's lost in thought. Like she is now.

She sits on a bench on the opposite side of the street, bundled in a heavy woolen coat and olive-colored scarf that does little to guard against the autumn chill. Pigeons flocking on the sidewalk keep their distance at her suggestion so not to draw attention to her figure.

Her fingers, numb from the cold, shuffle the newspaper in her lap as she turns the page with a calm and decisive hand. She wasn't reading it anyway.

I have a bad feeling.

You know, The Exorcist was filmed in Georgetown.

That's probably it.

Gabriel gets to his feet, as if whoever he is pretending to be has given up on the bus in the early light, moving closer. Normally, he tends to move with a strange, rigid grace, and today, he adopts the character of a shuffler. Eyeing the windows of the building, ignoring the gathered sparrows on the power lines. After a moment: there's no one inside.

Frustration, confusion, like someone's played a magic trick on him. The last psychic sweep he made, there was one sleeping body. No one's emerged. No one's left.

A broader sweep, and his shape ripples. The bent older man is transformed into Stephen Borrowdale himself, filling out Gabriel's coat a little better. Still not tall enough. This should be indicative enough of his next intentions.

The hand that had been turning the page grazes fingertips across the upper righthand lapel of Eileen's coat. She can feel the weight of the syringe packaged between layers of fabric like a talisman of sorts and seeks reassurance by tracing its shape through the wool.

Negation drugs are the best weapon she has against the prey that she and Gabriel are hunting. It's an unsettling feeling, but only because it makes her sympathize with their other enemies - the ones employed by the U.S. government.

She follows Gabriel's lead, rising from the bench in a smooth, fluid motion that begins with her unfolding her legs and ends with her slipping her hands into her coat pockets where they'll be marginally warmer.

Be careful. I'm right behind you.

Gabriel as Borrowdale climbs the stairs leading to the house, considering the door. He reaches out, touching the door handle, and when he turns it, it glides through phased locks, door swinging back, loose. Inside, it's dim. Spacious. No evidence of early morning routine has taken place, untouched coats by the door, kitchen tidy, keys in a bowl.

He's not entirely sure what he's looking for. Explanation, perhaps. A clue, a trail. Something strange has happened and something strange usually leads to something stranger.

And the shower is on.

He glances back at Eileen, but no amount of psychic sweeps brings up more information than her body behind. Maybe this guy slipped and fell, had a heart attack, opened his own wrists because everyone you think is happy is not. Enough possibilities that Gabriel climbs the rest of the way up the stairs, considers the bathroom — unlocked — and opens the door. Steam gushes out, which he disperses with barely a thought. Borrowman's lifeless body is a broken doll in the tub of the shower, staring sightlessly as hot water washes away the ooze of blood from where the top of his head has been removed.

Words don't carry through their bird-adjacent connection. More of a feeling, a lurch, and a blood thirst. More excited than afraid.

The steam pouring out of the bathrooms pools and swirls around Eileen's legs several paces behind Gabriel. She spends a lot of time here, she realizes; with the lives that they've led these past few years, she's more comfortable watching his back than she is standing at his side. There are too many people who might want to drive a knife into it.

For instance: "Sylar."

She reasons there's no harm in saying what they're probably both thinking. If Gabriel and Eileen know Sylar is there, then he must know they are as well. Outside, pigeons take flight, seeking a higher vantage point from which to search the streets for any sign of faces Eileen knows. Inside, she pops the protective plastic cap off the syringe and pulls it from her coat.

There's a gun holstered there, too, but it stays nestled where it is - for the moment. "Steady," she murmurs in a low, thick voice. It's neither an order nor a request. More like a gentle suggestion she hopes will ease the excitement she feels beginning to boil over inside of him.

Gabriel sheds the dead man's face, his own familiar visage pushing through, the thick swoop of eyebrows and blunt profile, wiry silver in black hair. By the time he's put his back to the bathroom, he is himself for the moment. He must know they are here, or he must have known they were coming, somehow, and found some way of getting past their watch.

"He chooses now to be subtle, really," is dry, sharp edged, impatiently then pushing past Eileen — a gentle hand to her shoulder, steering her aside — as if he expects to find Sylar hiding with a lampshade on his head. "Look for anyone in a hurry, keep a bird on anyone in the vicinity, it's early enough that there won't be many, and I'll go on ahead. I'll know if I can get close."

And then, so neatly as to be borderline comical, a hand comes through the wall just where Eileen is standing. It loops around her, shoved up against her neck, and drags her backwards. Brickwall connects, and then dissolved around her as she's dragged into the townhouse that shares that border. Birds on her can come too.

It's dark and disorienting. An upper living room area, the curtains closed against the morning outside. A chandelier, a book case. Gabriel— no, Sylar, throwing her to the ground. Wild hair, wild eyes, the smell of dirty clothing, blood, and some other strangely alcoholic, medical smell.

It's a miracle that the sparrow tucked inside Eileen's collar survives the fall. As small and light as she is, the hollow-boned animal is even smaller and would be crushed if was caught between her body and the floor. Instead, it explodes into the air on impact with a shrill, panicked scream that Eileen doesn't even hear on account of hitting her head on the ground.

Fortunately, like the sparrow, she doesn't break either. The resounding thud that results when skull meets hardwood sounds much worse than it actually is, and she's already half-recovered by the time she's rolling off her back and onto her stomach.

Through the sparrow's eyes, she can separate Sylar's silhouette from their surroundings and understand where she is in relation to everything else in the room… as soon as it stops spinning and the sparrow finds a safe place to settle.

She straightens her arms, pushing herself up. Falters. Squeaks back down again as her hands slip on blood. Borrowdale's, she's almost certain. Not hers.

Eileen suddenly remembers the syringe she'd been holding, but isn't anymore. That's a problem. She goes for the pistol instead, clumsily freeing it from its holster in what's otherwise a well-practiced maneuver.

"Don't." Not a suggestion, this time. She presses it against her own temple with one hand and props herself up with the other. "Or no birds. You."

It's maybe the only bargaining chip she has until her sparrow can locate the syringe, even if she's too disoriented to effectively articulate it.

The bird is a problem, and Sylar points at it. It darts out of the way — whether on purpose, by accident — and so kinetic energy manifests as a sudden shattering of wall plaster, the splintering of wooden frame, somewhere behind where it had been fluttering. And as for the syringe, it's nowhere to be seen. Maybe it slipped between wooden floorboards. Maybe it got lost on the other side of the wall.

He does take a step closer. Stops at that threat.

And Gabriel comes in after with her with all the grace of a gorilla, throwing a hand out in an action he still, years later, associates with telekinesis — and instead, Eileen will feel the breeze of the concussive blast overhead, an invisible wall slamming into Sylar, throwing him backwards into the bookcase. Nailed to the wall as it is, the only thing that comes down around him are books, ornaments, striking the ground with muffled thumps.

Even as he hits the ground, he's laughing. "If you can get close," he's repeating. Blood on his teeth. Maybe he's just always bleeding. Watching Gabriel loom, close in on him. "That's when I know. Why don't you just take a hint, dad, and leave me alone, do what you couldn't finish."

Gabriel will sense relief coursing through Eileen, along with a potent cocktail of adrenaline, dopamine, and other feel good hormones along for the ride in her bloodstream that won't fully take effect until the threat staring them down has passed.

"What do you mean?" she asks. She lacks either the time or the patience for subtlety and is now pointing the gun at Sylar's center of mass rather than her own head.

The sparrow's feet catch in the chandelier, filling the room with the tinkle of a hundred tiny pendants. It watches the two men below from behind the safety of a crystal veil.

"What is it you think he started?"

"Oh, you know," Sylar says, dragging himself up onto his feet. Prolonged sickness and injury and his strange transient state makes the bones in his face stand out harshly, dark eyes swimming in too pale skin. The blood of his latest kill is all over him, speckled across his face, coaing his hands. It drips heavily between his feet, and the heels of his boots leave behind damp crimson crescent moons. "Being the best me I can be. Realising my full potential. World domination."

Eileen's hand, against her own volition, suddenly squeezes. The pistol goes off. The bullet goes clean through Sylar, no entry wound, no exit wound, no film of blood in the air. He smiles, big, before launching himself forward.

What happens next is fast. Gabriel launches forwards, hands trailing icy air as the room immediately plummets by several degrees. Hands that sink into nothing, and as if from nowhere, Sylar is no longer where he was standing but launching in from behind, hitting Gabriel's back like a tiger on prey, big hands and feral snarl. One hand that has formed a fist, all the better to drive needle into the meat between neck and shoulder.

At least Eileen knows where the syringe ended up.

With the crack of the gunshot still bouncing around inside her skull, she tries to focus on her aim and not its tinny roar. She could shoot again and maybe hit him, but her chances of grazing Sylar with a bullet are the same as Gabriel — not worth the risk.

She needs something a little intimate than a pistol.

The knife she keeps sheathed inside her boot for emergencies exactly like this one slides out and into the knit of Eileen's white-knuckled fingers at the same time her pistol hits the floor. She propels herself at the two men in the instant the syringe penetrates Gabriel's skin in a move that's too late to stop the negation drugs from taking effect but one she hopes will shift Sylar's attention away from him and to the knifepoint she drives up and between his ribs. Her teeth find whatever they can: an ear.

He's had worse. It still hurts.

Outside, birds are gathering in greater numbers. Pigeon wings patter against the townhouse's windows, crowding against the glass, which begins to creak under the pressure.

The knife sinks in, catches on bone. The flesh pinched between her teeth tears. He howls. That must, at least, be satisfying.

At least until he brings his hand around to bat her away, hard hand connecting sharp to the side of her face, white pain flashing from eye socket to jaw, too casual a gesture with too great a force for a normal man.

Gabriel, driven to his knees, batting the needle out of his neck. His flesh ripples, a black shimmer in an attempt to hide in his usual cloud of mysterious inky non-substance, and he squeezes his eyes shut until he hears the sound of Eileen getting hit. Veers around, but with the sound of a gunshot, a wall of invisible force slams into him from Sylar's outstretched hand, and he slams into the ground with a gasp of air knocked from his lungs. Air, and then blood, painting the insides of his lips, spattering the ground beneath his face as he gasps, coughs.

Sylar drags the knife out of his side with a grunt, before moving back towards Gabriel, his own blood dripping from the blade. Their own blood.

Even without Eileen's ability, Sylar senses something change. The knocking at the window spikes in urgency, and a scream rises from somewhere inside the flock. The sparrow in the chandelier, too, goes wild, its wings thrashing against the chandelier's cage with such force that it knocks several of the crystal pendants loose. They tinkle down, glancing harmlessly off Sylar's neck and back.

Eileen arches her back as far as her spine allows, twisting around on the floor like a small, wounded animal left on the side of the road. She draws in a slow, shaky breath just to make sure she still can, then lets it out again.

Her focus narrows. She closes her eyes. Chooses an emotion to hold onto and amplifies it inside the flock. In this case, it's anger.

In her mind's eye, she visualizes Sylar advancing on Gabriel's prone form a few feet away, and without hesitation, sends her command rippling through the now-swarming birds: Kill.

Glass shatters. Cold air comes rushing in from the outside, and with it, a cyclone of flashing claws and wings.

Gabriel can't speak, can barely breathe. He thinks: this is how Tavisha died, in body. A blast of concussive energy, liquifying him from the inside, shattering bone. Did he get hit in the same way? Same range. Perhaps the effects of super durability were gone in that moment. Perhaps the remnants of fading ability took the worst of it. What he does know is that he isn't going to retreat into the birds, rolling onto his back to look up at Sylar standing over him, blade in hand, while the sounds of the flock outside grows wilder.

A glint of teeth, bloodied, is the best he can do as a snarl, before turning his head, looking to Eileen, even as Sylar's boot rests on his chest, and pushes down.

Glass shatters. Cold air.

For a second, Gabriel loses consciousness, just as the world fills with the chaos of flapping wings, tearing claws and beaks, loose feathers, and screams. Sylar curls his back against the onslaught, but they're everywhere, tearing at his face, and the hands that cover them. The knife drops, and his boot sinks through Gabriel as he retreats into his unbreathing, phased state.

And disappears, like a magic trick. Through the floor, landing with a thump in the foyer below.

It should stop.

The threat has passed, and there is no reason for Eileen to sustain the frenzied maelstrom whirling around them, and yet—

Years of pain and frustration continue draining out of the space in her chest that Eileen imagines her heart should be, and into the flock. It's so easy to just let go, to let. it. all. bleed. out.

Absently, she touches the side of her face and is unsurprised to find blood on the tips of her fingers. It's only when she explores the shape of the wound that she pauses, her thumb caught on the edge of a long but shallow gash that runs parallel to her jaw.

It isn't Sylar's handiwork.

A pigeon whips past her head and, for once, the Englishwoman recoils. Her eyes open. The psychic tether that connects her to the flock snaps. Birds dissipate as suddenly as they'd appeared, sucked back out the remains of the shattered window and into the clear blue sky.

Eileen is grateful for the misplaced syringe, if only for a moment. Without the empathic connection that binds her to Gabriel, it's easier for her to pretend that she didn't just lose control of her ability.

"Gabriel," she says hoarsely. Then again: "Gabriel."

Gabriel opens his eyes, and gasps in a breath, which is immediately sucked back down into a fit of painful coughing. Feathers litter the ground, stick to blood and sweat, float in the air. Dizzy, despite remaining unmoving in his back, unwanted tears gathered in the corners of his eyes. Nothing attached to feeling, only nerve endings on fire, the strange pressure of broken ribs squeezing his lungs. (The negation will wear off. He will knit his own bones together. He'll be fine. Everything is fine.)


Who he can't feel. She's calling his name but god only knows how little that means with the kinds of tricks his own brain can play on him. His attention swims to where he saw her last, tries to roll over, reaching, feeling dull and slow and stupid and not entirely convinced that her moving and speaking and some more intellectual corner of his brain remembering the bite of the needle necessarily means that she is alive.

From below, nothing. No sound, no movement.

Eileen's fingers tangle in Gabriel's hair and draw him into her. Her body is warm, trembling, and very much alive; he can tell by the jackhammering of her heart, which jumps against him wherever their skin touches and pulses meet. It's not quite the same thing as meeting minds, but it's close enough for now.

"Here," is muttered against his neck, accompanied by a single kiss deposited in the hollow of his throat. She presses her cheek against his jaw so he can feel the softer skin of her face resist the stubble that peppers his.

One not being able to sense the other goes both ways. Her heartbeat doesn't begin to fall back into its regular rhythm unit she's assured that he's more than a ragdoll in her arms.


Gabriel's eyes, half-closed, snap open. He's loosely clutching Eileen, fingers tangled in her hair, and listening to her heartbeat just as something like a voice slithers at the back of his mind. Not quite articulate, just an impression, jagged with disgust. A thought that remembers lying broken at Eileen's feet as every old wound zipped open and bled his life out onto gravel. His own heart rate picks up, primal fear, and he feels that same jagged disgust, pushing deeper.

Then it's gone. Sort of. It leaves behind whatever similar sentiment Gabriel might be harbouring. The sense that maybe if he'd been more like Sylar, this would have gone differently. Like this house would not still be standing.

Blood from the gash in her face has smeared to dry down her cheek, her jaw. The back of his hand displaces where it's still damp, the gentle version of Sylar's backhand.

"Got lucky," he says, finally. His voice is odd. Flat. "Should be dead."

"Should be," Eileen agrees, and she doesn't sound very happy either. There's a tentativeness in the way she says it that betrays her injured pride, and she tries to distract herself from accompanying thoughts by wiping the blood from around Gabriel's mouth with her sleeve. "Might still," she adds. "Sirens soon. We should…"

Go, she means. In a few minutes, she'll have regained the ability to form proper sentences. Until then, she steadies herself against him, rests the top of her forehead on his, and listens to the sounds his body makes when he breathes, trying to assess the damage done to it.

It occurs to her that his pride has taken a hit, too. She doesn't ask him if he can stand. Tries gently to build him back up instead with a quiet, "Help me," as she squeezes his arm.

Later, there might be time to be gracious about the role Eileen is played in his survival. It doesn't come naturally, being notoriously ungracious about that specific thing, but it could happen, when they try to collectively regroup, heal prides, analyse everything that happened, the mistakes, the observations. But for now, it's Gabriel's own personal failures that seem to keep him simply lying there.

Refocuses, then, her voice, the touch to his arm. He nods, eyes hooding, and then goes to move. The pain that comes with it should probably flatten him to the floor once again, and maybe he can have this: that even without his powers, there is a certain maddened resilience that Gabriel Gray has to pain, and pushing past it, and ignoring injury. As if his own body were just another power, to be leaned against, to be used until something better can be done about it.

More coughs, more blood, and it seems to take forever, but he stands, making a sort of numbhanded attempt to help her as requested.

As predicted, the wolf song of emergency vehicles tickles at the edges of their hearing. He puts an arm around her, clutching his coat to himself. There will be no helping his face.

The birds outside provide the cover Eileen and Gabriel need to exit through the back of the townhouse via the safest route — one that doesn't have them crossing paths with anyone except other civilians, who cast concerned looks in their direction but do nothing to get in their way.

Later, when they're interviewed by police, they'll tell the authorities that they saw a woman helping a man who looked as though he'd just been hit by a car. Terrorists are New York City's problem, a worry that lives almost three hundred miles away in the bombed out ruins of what was once Midtown, festering like rats.

Rats scurry. Eileen and Gabriel do, too.

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