With or Without Him


eileen_icon.gif gillian_icon.gif

Scene Title With or Without Him
Synopsis Eileen comes to check in on Gillian and St. Luke's during visiting hours.
Date January 20, 2009

St. Luke's Hospital

"I'm doing fine, thanks— but if you can put in a good word for me, I'd really like to fucking leave soon," a familiar voice complains from one of many hospital rooms. The US government may still be footing the recovery bill, but it doesn't mean Gillian won't complain the whole time she's stuck sitting in a bed. Having to carry an IV cart just to go to the bathroom? Yeah, she's not really liking this very much at all.

"I'm sure the doctors will let you go home in another day. They're just running some final tests to make sure there's no permenant damage," the nurse explains, as she finishes checking the chart and putting down a list of vitals and other things.

The young woman who got shot back in Antarctica has the bed tilted up so she's nearly sitting, but more leaning. Just enough so she can rest a notepad on the food tray and scribble words down. "What, are they checking to make sure my spleen didn't explode?" Even though the bullet was nowhere near her spleen. It just sounds funny.

The nurse smiles, before finishing the check list for this early check in. The curtains are open, letting some hazy sunlight in. Visiting hours have just started, and it's only her second day here. The nurses are probably getting sick of her complaints.

One of the nice things about St. Luke's compared to the hospital aboard the nuclear-powered supercarrier that transported the survivors of teams Alpha, Bravo and Charlie back to the United States is that its patients are provided with more privacy. Gillian has a room to herself instead of having to share it with the other men and women interred in the facility — apart from the nurse and the sound of squeaky wheels rolling through the hallway directly outside, her only company is the garden sparrows crowding her windowsill.

When someone does come to check in on her, the figure that appears in the doorframe boasts a headful of dark hair, stern eyes and a forgiving mouth, and while these are all features that her visitor shares Peter Petrelli, it quickly becomes apparent that the shape belongs to another person.

"Would you mind giving us a few minutes alone?" Eileen asks Gillian's nurse, tone polite and expression comparatively hard.

Peter Petrelli may be short for a man, but he's not nearly as short as Eileen. Gillian glances over at the other woman and doesn't smile much, grimacing a little in fact. "It's fine," she says to the nurse, who finishes one last thing on the chart before moving to step outside with a polite greeting and a nod.

There's a chair near her bed, that looks as if it's been used a few times. Some flowers and a get well card, a picture of her adopted family. It would seem her adopted parents and perhaps her brother were among the first of her visitors. The fact that her dead sister is in the picture as well might not be as much of a relief as it could be.

"Haven't seen much of you in a while. But I do remember you're one of the ones who helped me. Before." In the helicopter. In Antarctica. "And you're the one that told me about… what happened." There's a pause and she looks away, to the scribbles on the notepad. "Are you sure? I've thought that he… was gone so many times and he wasn't…"

Beneath the woolen coat she wears, Eileen's clothes are weather appropriate and include a black cardigan worn over a pale gray dress with dark stockings and a pair of soft leather boots that lace up the front and cut off just below the knee. Her footsteps reverberate in the stillness of the room as she moves aside for the nurse and takes a seat at Gillian's bedside, back straight and legs crossed. With her hair pulled into a prim bun, she looks more like a schoolmarm than someone accused of domestic terrorism, but outward appearances do not always reflect what's on the inside. Her green eyes are bright, clear, and show no signs of puffiness that might indicate she's been crying; if she grieves, it's in private.

"I wanted to see how you were doing," she says, her attention on the photograph rather than the woman in the bed. Although she's only seen Jenny a few times, a subtle shift in the curve of her mouth suggests that she recognizes Gillian's sister. So does the way she averts her gaze. "He didn't have a pulse and he wasn't breathing. They haven't found a body yet, but I think that's because there isn't much of one left. There was a lot of blood."

"The sinkhole probably doesn't help, either," Gillian says softly, grimacing again. No tears flow this time, as she's cried enough to last a few months. Or so she hopes. There's a tightness in her voice that she can't quite hide. "I wish I'd talked to him before we landed on Antarctica, now. There were things I should have told him that…" She trails off, opting instead to flip the notepad over and put it aside on the table next to the bed. She's already filled a few pages with things she couldn't get out before. But she can't write everything. Too many details of what happened aren't allowed to be disclosed. But it doesn't mean she can't write about how she feels.

"Anyway, I'm doing well enough, I guess. The doctors think I might have some pemenant damage, but… they want to run a test or something to confirm their suspisions, I guess…" From the way she sounds, she knows what they suspect. "I'm probably going to hold on going back to kids until I know I can handle getting hugged…" The kids at the Lighthouse. She'd gotten to know many of them well, but she'd rather be able to greet them with hugs and smiles, than have to keep them at arms length and grimace in pain.

There's sympathy in the lines around Eileen's mouth and under her eyes. In a way, it's comforting to know that she isn't the only one with regrets about the way she handled Gabriel during his last few days of life. She carefully navigates around the subject, folding her small hands in her lap, slim fingers interlaced. "That's probably a wise idea," she agrees. "Don't think you can get out of sorting through a small mountain of get well cards, though. I'm sure you've been missed."

Her eyes move to Gillian's midsection under the covers, and for a moment or two she says nothing else. Then; "While we're on the subject of things we should have told people, I've been jealous of you for a long time."

"What?" Gillian asks with a chuckle that sounds forced. And a little pained. It's also nervous, and tired. She's got a lot on her mind, and the sudden mention of being jealous by her… "There's really not much for you to be jealous of… I mean it was obvious he cared about you, even before we broke up," she says, reaching to toy with her the IV connection, the tape holding it down against her arm. Fidgetting. "He went back for you on the bridge, and…"

Watching her hand, she frowns visibly. "I mean if you're jealous of the kids, you could have easily stayed on to work at the Lighthouse. Brian could always use your help…" Of course that's not at all what she's probably jealous of, but… "I just don't see why you would be jealous of me at all…"

Eileen is shaking her head. "You're pretty, you're educated, and you have a family who cares about you. I'm not saying that I don't — I wouldn't trade Ethan for the world — but back when he asked me to look out for you, I saw a lot of things I wanted for myself. Gabriel's affection," because the word love is too difficult to say right now, "is only a part of it. I'm missing a lot right now. I think Kershner had them play with my head when they brought me in back in November, but the memories I do have of you— they're sad."

She rubs the edge of her thumb across the back of her opposite hand, fingers anxiously knit together. "I thought I understood what was going on between you and Gabriel. I have memories of sitting next to him with you while he slept after he almost lost his arm. I remember him being angry at me after. The truth is I have no idea and never really did, but you're still the only one who understands what it feels like. Him being gone." She pauses, lifting one hand to graze her nails across her own cheek. "I'm sorry— I don't even know what I'm trying to say."

The family that loves her, she helped tear apart. Gillian glances over at the picture next to her notepad, looking at her sister's smiling face, before she looks back. "You're pretty. If you don't think you are, then you don't look in the mirror often enough at all," she says, focusing a bit on the girl. Memories gone, edited. She'd had a chance to lose some memories, but the choice had been taken from her when her power activated and messed up the process…

"Yeah— I guess I do understand what it feels like. Even if he was gone to me long before he was gone forever…" she says, looking back down at her hand again for a moment. "He stopped loving me," she says, thinking back to the last time they had spoken, and what happened. She's grateful for a non-perfect memory. But it still stung enough to stick. And make her avoid trying to talk to him on the carrier, even if she now regrets that. "It was as much my fault as his… But maybe he died loving you."

"I wrote him a letter before we docked at McMurdo," Eileen offers. "He never wrote me back or came to talk about what it said. I don't know if it's because he was too proud or too upset, and I won't ever. I'm going to live the rest of my life thinking about maybe." The hand at her face falls and rejoins the other in her lap.

This isn't what she came here to talk to Gillian about. Irritated with herself and the confessions spilling clumsily past her chapped lips, she steels herself, sinks her nails into her palms and leans back in her chair with an audible creak. "Has Peter come to visit you yet?"

That… Gillian understands all too well. There'd been so many times when she thought she'd be left wondering. When she didn't know how he felt, or what would happen. The unaswered questions and unresolved feelings always lingered and amplified causing those childish lapses that she's becoming ashamed of. She's about to say something, even starting to hope her mouth, part her lips, when that question is asked.

Her own chapped lips go together, and she glances away toward the window, to look at the birds that had perched there. Dark hair falls into her face, covering one of her eyes, before she finally can shake her head. It takes a few breaths before she looks back and responds outloud, "Not since we got back in New York. He visited once, was there when I woke up at Mc… Mc whatever." There's a pause. "Do you remember… that part? With how I… with Peter?"

The sparrows on the windowsill resemble balls of fluff more than they do birds, brown feathers made paler by the dusting of snow that coats them. Their small bodies press against one another for warmth, and if Gillian looks closely she might be able to see the wind tugging at their speckled plumage. It's a blustery but bright morning in New York City.

"No," Eileen says after a protracted pause of her own. "Maybe I will if you tell me."

"Then how did you know to ask if he visited me?" Gillian asks, tilting her head to the side in curiousity. "Unless I'm that obvious about it… Which I guess is pretty fucking likely," she mutters, glancing back over at the tiny bodies, puffed up in feather balls. They're almost as cute as the penguins that hung out with then on the boat. Reaching up, she tugs on a lock of hair in front of her eyes, pushing it back behind her ear when she looks back over, finally meeting the other woman's eyes.

"I don't know how much you remember of me and Gabriel, but… I was in love with him before I really knew him…" She hesitates a bit, reaching to touch the scar that remains on her forehead. It's small, but he'd started to slice her head open once. "I even tried to keep loving him after I found out what he — was capable of. And I wanted to… change him."

At that point she can't keep looking at the woman, eyebrows lowering as her forehead tenses. "I started hiding things from him, it became difficult to talk to him about anything… And I started spending time with Peter. But then he… became… you know." Kazimir. "And now he's not and— He doesn't think either of us are ready to be with anyone right now. And he doesn't think we'd be any good for each other anyway." She shrugs, though oddly enough she does it with just one shoulder.

"You were saying his name on the helicopter," Eileen explains, meeting Gillian's inquisitive gaze with a dipped head and chin tucked against the collar of her coat. She rubs the tips of her fingers together, skin and nails slightly stained yellow from where she's been handling her cigarettes. She smells like stale smoke and wet tobacco, too — chances are she's been making up for lost time. "You weren't obvious. You were hurt."

She listens to Gillian's version of what happened, which is considerably more detailed than Gabriel's while still remaining vague, and while the temptation is there she doesn't press. Instead, she uncrosses her legs, places both her feet flat on the hospital's linoleum floor and rocks forward, leaning her weight into her stocking-clad knees. "What did Peter say to you?"

Cigarette smell will always remind her of Tavisha, though Gillian won't ever admit it, nor will she say what she realized recently… She wasn't obvious, she was hurt. That makes her nod, at least, grateful that it wasn't completely obvious. Keeping eyes downcast, dark hair falls into her face, which may no longer be marred by a nasty brand, but has a scar of emotion even then. It's an even more lasting damage. Biting down on her lower lip, she looks back, no moisture in her eyes, but perhaps the threat of it happening soon.

"There was a future. One that will never happen… But people had travelled to it, and travelled from it, and I was told that… That Peter and I were married. I guess he found out too. Cause he said it wouldn't happen, no matter how much either of us wanted." A future that no longer exists. "And he was right. It won't happen. We were— we had a son in that future. And the doctors suspect that… I won't be able to have kids now." At that point, the tears do happen, and she reaches up to rub them away. For a moment, the young woman sitting at the bed might feel a surge of energy in her connection with the birds, or her range of connections. But it goes away as she gets control of it.

"Anyway, he thinks of me as a friend, and… that's it."

Eileen sucks in a sharp breath at that surge, green eyes widening just a fraction. It's over as suddenly as it started, however, and the tension that had manifesting in the tendons of her wrists and arms grows slack in response. When she lets the breath out again, it's low and shaky. She does not tell Gillian she's going to speak with him, but she does reach out to touch a hand to the other woman's shoulder. "You can still love a friend," she says, shifting the hand at Gillian's shoulder to brush the hair away from her face with the backs of her fingers, "and you can still raise a child if you ever decide that you want one. With or without him."

One of the problems with crying while suffering an abdomenal wound, it hurts. Gillian tries her best to stop it, but as the hand touches her hair, brushing it off her cheek, her breath hitches and she leans toward the hand, closing her eyes. Even if it hurts, she doesn't try to stop it. "I never even— wanted children. But then I saw him in a dream and… that's why I agreed to help Brian, that's why I started living at the Lighthouse…" She knows it's why, cause she wrote about it in her detailed journals, wanting to hold on to the memory she knew she would lose while she still had it and could perfectly recall it.

"I just feel like I… mess everything up. I wanted to be with him, and I wanted him to love me, but… I'd probably ruin it, just like I ruined what…" she doesn't finish speaking on it, but… She reaches up to rub at her eyes. "Sorry. You're mourning too…"

"There's very few of us who aren't," in some way or another. Eileen's thumb carves a gentle path across Gillian's cheek, smearing away a solitary tear. "We can mourn together." This isn't the USS George Washington and this isn't McMurdo Station; she has no authority to give Gillian anything that might be able to ease her physical pain, much as she might want to.

The most she can do for what she's experiencing emotionally is to stay with her, chair scraped close to the edge of the bed, one hand supporting her face and the other clenching a wad of bedspread in its fist. It's going to be a long morning for both of them.

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