When Soft Voices Die


f_eileen_icon.gif f_gabriel_icon.gif f_teo_icon.gif

Scene Title When Soft Voices Die
Synopsis Gabriel and Eileen set their plans into motion, unaware that Teodoro has been given warning in advance.
Date May 11, 2019

Hotel on the Park

Dusk dismisses Manhattan's birds back to roost. The pigeon population at least. Cloudy, massed dozens of diurnal birds are winging their way through the sky, splitting the air with their talk and the burnished sunbeams with their pinions, grouping toward their secret sleeping places, both those grown and those forsaken derelicts, hidden within the moist density of Union Park's boughs and fronds. Diurnal. Keepers of regular hours and recognizable homes. Teodoro Laudani, to most accounts, is not. Some of the time, it's because he's an anecdote: the party patron who threw the cat into the punchbowl. Other times, because he's a ninja.

He tends to dress the same either way. Black coat, black slacks, black shoes. Makes it impossible to determine or to question what, specifically, has inspired the man to walk himself out of the hotel lobby on the cusp of evening tonight. The act is convincing because the exercise is simple, the slinky gait still boiled down to the basic components of left foot, right foot, a nod of polite salutation for the concierge. Despite that proximity to Midtown's ruins has become edifying inverse to the horror and stigma that that used to hold, this establishment is not so palatially fine a luxury that the staff make a point to know everyone's name. Teo gets a skeptical nod, and that's all.

Good enough for Sicily, naturally, but he's a nice guy. It's his curse. Squaring his shoulders underneath the web of his holsters, he pauses only to look at the calla lilies in the long-necked vase before continuing on. Carries his reflection away, across the polished serpentinite floor, and out under the moving firmament of birds. The wind kisses him good-bye and then leaves him alone.

There's a solitary heartbeat left in the room behind him. Twelfth floor, the sun shut out behind blinds. In the bed, overlaid by the juddering rasp and snatchy conversations of the television turned too low. Where Eileen and Gabriel were told it would be.

All the roles that the Grays have played during the course of their intertwined lives can be counted on the fingers they share between them, but there are still many. Terrorist. Serial killer. Legal assassin. Officer of the law. Nurse. And that's just off the top of Eileen's head. She and Gabriel have always eventually come to embrace what they've been given, including their turbulent marriage, and so there is little doubt in her mind that someday they'll both be able to look back on tonight and excuse one another of being murderers.

Especially if they never get around to forgiving themselves.

The door leading into Teodoro's hotel room is eyed with a cautious kind of scrutiny by the dark-haired woman standing on the other side. Eileen can only imagine what the heartbeat sounds like — listening for it is Gabriel's job, not hers, though she finds herself straining to anyway, regardless of her body's limitations and her husband's apparent lack.

She's dressed not in her hospital attire but a long black coat, double-breasted and buttoned all the way up the bottom of her delicately pointed chin. Leather gloves encase her small hands and for the first time in many years serve a dual purposes that includes keeping her prints off the pistol she wears beneath her coat.

At this point, asking him if he really wants to do this would be an insult as much as it would a courtesy — if they weren't certain about the actions they intend to take tonight, then they wouldn't be here. Instead, she turns her head to look up at him, both her brows arching into an inquisitive but affectionate expression, as familiar to Gabriel as the unspoken question that immediately precedes it:


It's a steady, solitary war drum. This is one of those powers Gabriel can't imagine living without, this power to hear every detail in the event he can't otherwise see them. Back in the day, he could attribute a pounding heart to some sort of hunter's instinct, vampiric in many regards, the ability to trail someone by the sound of blood pumping through their bodies. Even as a police officer, he's followed it plenty of times before. It's just been a long time since he had the intent to make it stop.

He's doing great at not thinking about it.

Shockingly enough, Gabriel is dressed in black. No gloves, although he doesn't touch the door when he reaches for it. The glance from his wife is met only with silent confirmation that she can both see in the calmness that's set into him, the sharpness of his attention span and the vague intuitive connection only two avian telepaths can have.

The door lock goes click. Or it does, in theory. The ghost of Wu-Long comes in the form of being able to truly ninja into the room, because the Chinese do it better. There door hinges don't make a sound and neither do the footsteps of man and wife as they cross the threshold.

He's in the bedroom.

Unlike Eileen, Gabriel doesn't have a gun. Instead, fine lines of red light flicker to life from the tips of his fingers, as dangerous as laser pointers and as ominous as the bead of red that comes from a sniper rifle.

Thump-a-thump-a-thump-a. The heartbeat doesn't elevate, though there's a creak of metal muffled by cotton, the braced corkscrews of the bedsprings tipping and straining gently under the occupant's lackadaisical body mass. He sighs.

Being Jesse Alexander Knight isn't very difficult these days. The calendar weeks are filled with eating, sleeping, sex, occasional ventures about the tripwires of tourist traps, uncomfortable revelations about what Teo has been up to for the past eight years, and all associated biological processes. It's very good, barring the inconveniences of occasional aches and ruined bed lining. Or worst of all, of thinking ahead.

From the living room, it's impossible to tell what thickens the stew of Al-thoughts as he lolls his head on the pillow and clacks the remote. What would be the last notion that slips out of his ear on the end of the bullet Eileen puts through him, or that Gabriel frees out of his riven skull? Might be about— this endless concatenation of stupid decisions that keep driving the cast of House of Wax to increasingly stupider and stupider deaths, or about what Teodoro's off to do today, or how he's going to die. No doubt, such ruminations are common to the Columbia 14, tiptoeing around the world that outlived them so as not to frighten it. Alexander should probably know to be scared of them.

Probably would have been, if Teo had told him.

The semi-automatic is out, magazine loaded, gunmetal shining like pigmented scales on a fish's back as it scissors swiftly through the air. Eileen's arm goes up, the thumb of her right hand resting on the pistol's manual safety, index finger padding the trigger — once upon a time, Ethan taught her to use a handgun by telling her to imagine herself holding a live bird. Firmly enough that it can't fly away, but not tight enough to hurt it. It's an analogy she keeps in mind as she moves through the suite toward the bedroom on silent feet, progress cushioned by the cheap berber carpet that covers the floor.

If there's one thing she wishes Gabriel had learned how to do, it's read her mind with the same clarity and ease of a true telepath. Her desire to articulate and project her thoughts into his head the same way he directionally projects his into hers is palpable, plain, though she can take comfort in the fact that he'll at least be able to sense this earnest yearning in her thanks to the gift they share.

They've got one shot to get this right. Telekinesis is one of those abilities that Eileen is simultaneously terrified by and grateful for — grateful for it being a part of Gabriel's arsenal, terrified at the prospect that their target in the bedroom can just as quickly turn it back on them.

The gloved fingers of her free hand find the handle and curl around it. She waits until the count of one—



With a crack loud and abrupt enough to rival thunder, the bedroom door explodes inwards and swings into the wall, splintering wood, shattering plaster.

There are few things in life scarier than the Midtown Man storming into your room, or he formerly known as. Even after a decade, Gabriel is arrogant enough to think so, but this isn't about fun, or cat and mouse, or resolving the perpetual tension Jesse Alexander had cultivated on the day he told Helena Dean that he was going to kill Gabriel Gray.

He's thinking about his son, for one thing, and hoping it'll be as easy as sweeping five bright blue lasers across the room and letting them cut into the telekinetic caught unawares. Failing that, he hopes Eileen can put a bullet in Alexander's brain before he can blink. Should he have time to blink—

They'll make it up as they go.

Count of three, one that doesn't tick by for Alexander but seems to mean everything to two people who have their eyes locked on each other, Gabriel is a dark blur of impossible movement in the next moment. A framed picture swings on the wall, the television shudders, and he's quite suddenly just there, bringing his hand around in a swipe of alien-blue light extending from three fingers—

It cuts out into red, and Gabriel jerks back and away in a strange convulsion that could have to do with someone else's telekinetic defense mechanism. But doesn't.

It's Teo.

On the bed, that is, seated with his back propped up against a calvacade of pillows, an absurd orange bowl of doritos on the nightstand to his left and a conspicuous absence of crumbs on his gloved fingers. He's armored, shoulder to shoulder and kevlar paneled even down his legs underneath the standard sturdy fabric of trousers and metal-toed boots, only his face left bare, his eyes round with incredulity (a common trait to those experiencing the post-Catholicism phase) if not actual surprise. His hair is shaven short. There's a tattoo peaking out of the ribbed collar of his shirt. It's just Teo.

Means there's no telekinetic backlash, for one thing, no plaster suddenly gutted out of the walls or splitting ravine in the ceiling or furniture urged into the velocity of a wrecking ball into either Gray's tensed body. Instead there is, at best, a test of character. At worst, a trap.

The 'best' and 'worst' could do well to be reversed on those two items. It's hard to tell with the Sicilian, who is as often good as he is arrogant. "You were fucking serious," he observes, a split instant before he actually looks angry. No doubt, there will be a lot of that going around, in just a—

Eileen steps into the room after Gabriel, her pistol trained on the figure at the head of the bed. To say that she's surprised by this unanticipated turn of events would be something of a massive understatement — they'd been expecting Alexander and had prepared themselves accordingly. Finding one of their friends in his place stops her dead in her tracks, though she elects not to flick the safety back on or even lower her weapon in light of the discovery.

They have too much riding on this for that.

"Laudani," she says, because it's less intimate and therefore easier to call Teodoro by his last name instead of his first. "Where is he?" He being the dead man that this imposter has been putting up in his hotel room. Presumably. While the temptation to glance over at her husband and beg his opinion with her eyes is strong, she resists it in favour of gluing her gaze to Teo's.

Like a gun trained on Teo, the red lasers are quick to dart around and place themselves on Teo's chest. One, two, three points of light, and they're wavering too much for a trained killer-turned-cop. Everyone's dressed in black and no one is moving for a few seconds, and Gabriel can't keep the shock off his face, eyes wide and jaw set. It's hard to hold back when he was ready to tear everything apart, like trying to stop a bullet after the trigger is being pulled.

Apparently you can. Stop a bullet. The red light fades entirely, despite the fact Eileen has her weapon still honed in on the wrong man. Hi, Teo, been a while. It's impossible to relax.

"Not in the apartment," Gabriel observes, hand not quite lowering. There was only one heart beat, and he'd seen Teo leave— of course, that's an easy deception. He could do it himself. "You sent him away."

"What got into you people?" Teo's speech is no less plain than either Eileen's question or Gabriel's answer, even if it diverges somewhat from the immediacy of the situation at hand. He gets up, paying little deference to the firearm trained on him from the woman's hand, dragging his feet off the bed, stacking messy wrinkles in the crisp bedsheets under the callus kick of his boot heel, the indifference to maintenance of hygiene that comes from having lived in far too many hotels for far too long. "Is this about the fucking paintings and Eve's dreams?

"Abigail can't keep her fucking mouth shut, you know." That's unfair, he knows. Nothing's fair.

His brow is dark with a convincing facsimile of hate, but once upright, he merely stays there, some lunatic storm of temper engaging thunder into the contraction of his heart in Gabriel's ears, his shoulders ramrod stiff, gloved hands in leather knots at his sides, his breath cast out through his teeth in a draconian hiss. "Is it irony or stupidity that your first choice and last resort are chambered in the same fucking gun?"

"This wasn't our first choice." He's right, however, about it being their last resort — Eileen's pistol tracks Teo's movements, her aim weaving circles so small that either man would have to be watching for the tremors in her arm to pick them out. She doesn't want to point a gun at an old ally any more than she wants to put a bullet in him. Or Alexander, for that matter. When it comes down to it, everything from her edgeways duelist stance, one foot behind the other, all the way to her face's stony expression and her grip on the weapon is born of necessity rather than desire.

Nothing is a matter of want anymore. It's all about need.

"We tried talking to Petrelli," she says, and it's a struggle to keep disgust from bubbling up to the surface of her voice when she speaks, imploring. "Dean. You can't change the past without changing the present. Send them back and you damn us all."

"Alexander's dead," Gabriel says, quietly but not gently, moving around the room and, in some ways unwisely, away from Eileen. But she's the one who's armed, so rather than a protective stance, Gabriel can't help but follow instinct and make sure their once-ally has multiple angles to worry about. "Helena is dead. And I'm really…" Inappropriate moments of mirth are what he's good at, and a liquid smooth chuckle doesn't do much to defuse tension. It sounds pained, frustrated, tired. "Really tired of this argument."

There's a crash as Gabriel brings a hand around. The television did nothing wrong but with a few sparks and a tinkle of glass, spiderweb cracks form on its screen. The volume was low but not to his ears. It's both telekinesis and anger that hurled it a few feet to the left and into a wall.

"Those fucking paintings come true, Teo." The words come cutting from a snarl.

There is airy foulness in Teo's lungs as he tries to fit breathing into them. The anger in here makes it difficult, spins the room slightly on an axis that resides strictly within his own perception. Fuck. "Fuck." He stretches his mouth thin and anemically white along the bottom of his face, staring stiffly at the ugly muzzle of Eileen's gun as if he were a stodgy gentleman in a ruffled shirt trying to determine whether or not to dignify the peasant's misfired loogie with a scintillating retort. 'Fuck' didn't scintillate.

'We should be so lucky' wouldn't, either.

He moves on, instead, in a voice arid and crackling brushfire with anger, but different anger. "The past's already fucking changed. Edward Ray went back and douched it up.

"Pete already fucking told you, didn't he? With ellipses and dark eyes brimming with sincerity and a bloody heart carved in his wrist, I'm sure. If anyone's going to be willing to die on-schedule to set things right, it's Helena—" don't fucking call her 'Dean.' The distance implied by militaristic surnames is a farce, "and the others. Tamara Brooks is still getting precognitive feed post their departure. What murderous fucking rhetoric are you spinning to excuse that?" The sneer misshapes Teo's face, but they wouldn't have expected much different or anything less.

It's 2019. By now, all of them have learned better to mean or do anything merely by halves.

Gabriel's tired of the argument. Eileen is, too. Weariness frays at her nerves and weighs heavily on her shoulders, but does nothing to weaken her resolve. No matter how many times she hears this, she doesn't become any more convinced, doesn't pivot on her moral axis and start teetering in the other direction. "Tamara sees everything," she points out, "it's not the same. It's not—"

Never mind what it is, or what it isn't. Eileen blows out a shaky breath past pursed lips and lowers her pistol a fraction, removing one hand from its grip so she can show Teo her open palm and make a beseeching gesture with it. They have this down to an art, she and Gabriel, though her movements are more sinuous and serpentine than the wolfish purposefulness with which her partner flanks Sicilian and covers his other side.

Some things never change, no matter how much time is allowed to pass, no matter how complacent people let themselves become. A hunter's predatory nature, once ingrained, is one of them. "We can't let you do it," Eileen says. Chunks of broken glass that once comprised the television screen crunch under her boots. "I'm sorry."

As if to punctuate Eileen's apology, a more productive demonstration of telekinesis has the door slamming closed, without hope of opening until Gabriel says. It's a gunshot crack not quite as shocking as what had driven cracks through the wall plaster, but final, determined.

"Edward can't."

More argument he's tired of. It seems impossible to think that someone deliberately going back to change their present could somehow fail, especially a man like Edward Ray, and yet Gabriel is convinced. "He can try, and he'll only succeed if Helena and the rest go back and give our world no reason to continue. I should know." He'd been quick to excuse himself from both Elisabeth and Abby's prying questions, hell, even Helena's, as someone who has no knowledge of what he experienced. Desperate times, though. It's amazing how certain you can get.

Gabriel doesn't offer an apology of his own, disgust and anger and frustration forcing him to hold his tongue against platitudes. Instead, he says, with a sneer, "You can't hide them forever. Some day, you'll understand."

It is a stab in the gut that Gabriel hadn't even thought he had been delivering. You can't hide them forever. If Teo could've hidden them just a little better, a few years longer, this world would have been shorter fourteen martyrs and greater fourteen heroes, alive and well, privileged to privacy and the companionship of their own kind. Truer words couldn't raise the bile in the Sicilian's throat, his lips hauled back from his teeth from hate so honest he could spit. The TV's a ruin and the doorframe impaled by the door.

Belligerent, surrounded, outnumbered, and outgunned, he stares at Eileen first and then, on a violent herky-jerky yank of his neck, at Gabriel second. "Spare me," he says, despite the moritorium on platitudes. "I could use a little fucking sympathy, if you'd come here to kill my lover." Reproach rubs his voice raw; pride gives him grace enough to feel embarrassed about this, but he lacks the clarity to appreciate the sublime irony of his retort, his choice of words careless and unsophisticated in origin. There's a piece of sharded glass balanced on top of his right shoe. It doesn't move at all for this next bit—

Teo crushes Gabriel's mind out of his own skull first, and that's a thing easy enough to count as cheating, a blink of thought that sends a wave of packeted neurochemical agony shrieking over tender nerve-endings, Gabriel's hands suddenly divorced by seizures. Teo flips the bed up, second, stoops to lifts it by the edge on a burst shove of one muscled arm, makes a broad barricade of mattress and boxspring against Eileen. Wood cracks down, thwacks into balance, abruptly, completely blocks her view of the close-quarters she had so very wisely, prudently, tactically ceded to Teo and her beloved husband

Panic does things to people. It impairs their judgment, spurs action that might not otherwise be taken — of all the possible scenarios Eileen imagined herself being confronted with tonight, losing Gabriel somewhere along the way is the scariest. He isn't just her lover or her husband — he’s her best friend and anchor, the one person who’s looked inside of her, seen all that she is and spent the past ten years holding it close to his heart.

She’s never used the word soulmate before — in the past, it was always too romantic and wild a notion even for her — and yet, here she is, so profoundly shaken by the possibility of having him excised from her life that Eileen doesn’t even realize she's pulled the trigger until after the shots have penetrated the mattress and boxspring, blowing a series of neat little holes in the wall behind Teo and showering him with chunks of plaster and insulation, discoloured flakes of paint.

Demanding that he get the fuck away from her husband would only be superfluous and this point. So would threatening to kill him, for as sorry as she might be later, there is absolutely no remorse in her eyes when she empties the last bullet in the clip and moves forward to kick the mattress back down, prepared to finish the job with her hands if necessary.

Gabriel's feet slide in broken glass, hands loosen of tension as steel rods of such define an arch in his back when the telepathic attack hits him, fragments him. He sees colours, lights, and then the floor jumping up because he's not exactly aware that he's fallen until he's down. It's a metal pick through an ice block and sends pieces of him skittering in every direction.

Bullets fly. There's not much he can do to stop them until he can snap back into himself like a rubber band.

—blam, blam, blam. Feathers and plaster feather into Teo's hair like some misappropriated season's greetings. His head isn't wearing armor. He probably should have thought of that. Maybe he had. The degree to which this situation was premeditated remains unclear. They probably won't get a chance to have a serious talk about it later. The mattress is folding down, tipping over, peeled away from boxspring by the coy tug of gravity on its edges, and here she is, coming out of the sifting stuff of gutted bedding, Eileen's dark head and severe eyes emerging out, up, like a hunting cat lunging over the erupted remains of its previous prey. And onto the next.

One arm over his face, Teo had counted the rounds as she'd fired them, all the way to clackety-empty, unwise in a way he can, indeed, sympathize with. And here she comes.

Teo turns the knife over his forefinger and then throws it into her neck. There is something tidy about the motion, the red incision made in the subtle line that he had been taught to nock with his hands or makeshift garrottes. His arm recoils in a chop of motion, his feet shifting— scattering glass off his shoe, avoiding Gabriel's befuddled body— and he frees up his gun arm.

It all happens very fast. If the situation lacked any one thing — Eileen's momentum carrying her swiftly forward, the knife in Teo's hand, now her neck, or even the extra millisecond that fate gives him to respond — the end result might be different than what he intended when he decided to drive the point of his weapon upward and thrust it into the hollow of her throat.

It isn't.

There's no fountain of blood, no crimson spray to splash the front of his shirt, the mattress' tattered remains or the floor across which Gabriel's prone form is still sprawled. Eileen simply buckles as though Teo had cut her legs out from under her rather than aim for the carotid artery in her neck, crumpling to the ground with such speed and suddenness that her head glances off the corner of the bed frame on the way down and spares her the full comprehension of what's happening.

Her arm jerks out, too late, fingers making feeble grasping motions at whatever is immediately within reach. In this case: Teo's pant leg. Her mouth opens, closes, opens closes, maybe trying to form words — more likely attempting to make even just a sound. Whimper, scream, anything.

Of course, Teo looks at her. It's the least he can do, even if it feels like a bit much, looking down at her. The knife's handle sticks out from under her jaw like a handlebar for her head, but she knows better than to think touching it is going to facilitate any operations except a shutdown. She's losing out on blood pressure anyway, crimson sluicing out hiccupy with the fractioned shifts of blade held up by the buttermilk consistency of her throat. He had always thought she had a perfect neck. Not now, mind you. It's a relevant note, that's all. They've liked each other for a long time.

"Can you fucking imagine?" he asks her in some odd voice. Now it's his turn to falter and flag at making his reasons understood. Every explanation is inadequate to the act of murder. Even after all these years, this hypocrisy is not gone from Teodoro. "Dying twice? You're lucky you don't need to. I have.

"Gabriel will."

The hammer knocks back and the muzzle drags the chalky curve of her forehead unsteadily, tik-tik, catching, as if her skin is dry. He lets her proper herself on his leg for the convenience of them both. Teo spares her the affectation of Italian; the words would be ugly in any language he chose. "I'm very sorry." With the silencer screwed on, the bullet sounds off like a spit. Her head jettisons a red roostertail out of the other side, through the stupid symphony of falling white scurf still presiding the air. He has to move soon after.

Wrong wrong. Everything is. Gabriel is curled on his side with a hand pressed to his forehead as if trying to keep his own mind contained in his skull as the world spins back into place and his headache is reduced to something of a dull roar. There's a wet sound, somewhere distant, and something inexplicable makes his body give one last twitching convulsion. A thread of tension snapping, one he didn't even know was there until it was—

Gone. He dares to open his eyes, and the carpet glitters with shattered glass and something wetter. Teo's boots are making strides for a door no longer held shut and disappear around a corner. It takes a few seconds to consider going after him but by then he sees her.

Sees, not hears. The clumsiness in his movements can't be attributed to psychic tasering, it's all his own. Gabriel doesn't get up, exactly, as he makes a desperate crawl towards her, hands reaching demandingly for her coat and jerking away again in the next moment to see her skull caved in the way it is and throat ripped apart—

I'm very sorry. That's what Teo had said. Not enough, actually.

Gabriel eventually lays his hands back onto her and draws her inwards, all ragdoll limbs and death leaving her as the sum of broken parts and him not much better, muffling something between a gasp and a groan against her shoulder. Smart enough to not try and heal her, to draw life into her, but not enough to let her go until the sun has sunk all the way. Or even then.

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…
The Hero Dies In This One

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