You Left


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title You Left
Synopsis Eileen relieves Gabriel of the wheel and is confronted by uncomfortable truths that are too difficult for her to accept.
Date December 1, 2009

Madagascar — River System

By now, someone should have come knocking to relieve him of his shift, in the event that Gabriel would fall asleep or pass out at the helm, or maybe needs to. Eat. Pee. Alternatively, vomit over the side of the boat, and all of those disgusting human things humans do that prevents him from hiding within the cabin from his own team.

Gabriel doesn't, truly, have a problem with this lack of consideration. Any excuse will do, as much as he wants to try and fix Sanderson, or open Claire's skulls, or simply talk to Eileen. He keeps the ferry going at a moderate pace with an ease of leftover instruction from when he went by a different name, on his feet and posture stiff like any good soldiers. Black wife beater, the same he's been wearing for a little while now, and sandy-green pants. His feet are bare, as are his arms save for various bug bites and shades of bruising less hazy than his singular tattoo.

It's fitting, then, that the person who should eventually let themselves into the cabin after a brisk-knuckled knock without waiting for an affirmative reply is the one who knows nothing about piloting watercraft. Eileen's shape appears in the doorway a moment later, her small frame immediately recognizable in spite of the absence of light except for that which bleeds through the nighttime clouds overhead and reflects off the river's rippling surface, illuminating the cabin in a pallid white glow.

She's dressed in the same clothes Gabriel found her in, though they've been washed in the shallows since, attaching to her body the earthy smell of wet dirt and rivergrass combined with sweat, iodine for her wounds and the faint aroma of the fresh gauze that covers them.

Maybe more importantly: she's alone. No one filters into the cabin behind her, and when she shuts the door it's with the care of someone trying not to wake others in the vicinity. With Danko gone and the other women suffering various of degrees of sickness — both related to their malaria and otherwise — Gabriel Gray is likely in for a long shift.

If there were hackles to raise, they would have done in response to the sound of approach. Everyone is differing levels of unbearable, although, everyone was more of a suitable term before they picked Eileen back up again. You're supposed to enjoy the company of those you love, even when they don't love right back.

Gabriel glances over his shoulder, and it raises up to itch his chin against the curve of joint before looking ahead again. He needs to shave, even more so than usual, bristle grown thick and dark down the wolfish slope of his jaw, crawling itchy shadows down his throat and up his cheeks. His hands don't leave the helm, but his attention to driving isn't dismissal.

Neither is his silence. He's just not entirely sure what to say. Not one for small talk, the, "Hey," falls fairly stilted, and the voice scratching out his throat is rougher than ever.

"I wanted to see how you were doing," Eileen says, filling the air between them with something other than the rumble of the engine and the croaking frogs serenading one another on the shore that runs parallel to the river as the boat carves its smooth path through Madagascar's densely-forested interior, guided by the current as much as Gabriel's hands gripping the wheel.

There's still something awkward about this. She can sense it, not just in his posture but in the way her own body is aching to be out of the cabin and back down on the bed rolls with the others on deck. Conflicting emotions rivet her feet, also bare, to the floor for several more moments as she studies the curve of his spine beneath his top and the individual vertebrae standing out against his skin where the cut of the garment makes it visible.

"Everyone else is asleep," she supplies at the end of this pause, her tone mild and difficult to decipher thanks to its softness. The leaves whispering in the trees outside are louder than Eileen is. "Do you need a break?"

"Probably." And yet, Gabriel makes no move back from the helm, bringing a hand up to rub his face, the back of his neck, scraping through hair he probably should have cut before coming out here. "But I like it in here. It's quiet. You can stay," sounds tacked on, a quick addition before any kind of misunderstanding can occur. They're common, where he's from - not necessarily where she's from. Scratching a bug bite at his wrist, hands laying back down on the wheel, he spares her a darting glance, up and down.

As unsettled as he'd been when he'd walked away from her that one time. It occurs to him now that they've on traded the barest minimum of words since her return. "I thought you'd jump with us. Doesn't make sense, does it? That the bird girl would be afraid of heights." A beat, then; "I told them you'd live."

Eileen's footsteps carry her across the cabin at a buoyant creep, feeling out the lay of the land with the tips of her toes, then rolling her sole over the floor until her heel connects and comes down flat. It's impossible to say whether or not this is the way she would have treated him when they discovered one another on Staten Island had he not been Tavisha at the time — her actions are influenced by his, and he has almost a year's worth of shared experience that she lacks. How they behave now is probably not how they would have behaved then, though it's perhaps a thought that bears entertaining in idleness.

"It had nothing to do with height," she tells him as she approaches the wheel, splint-bound arm folded across her midsection, the other loose at her side with slim fingertips curling inward. "Human bodies are dense and clumsy. You throw a pigeon out of a plane and it lives. You push a person and their only hope is a parachute that may or may not deploy. I thought— if I'm going to die, that's not the way I want to go."

No comment at first, just a soft exhale that's barely even a snort, watching the stretch of river ahead and wondering what it'll be like to drive in the dark. Gabriel shrugs bared shoulders, chin tucking in a little. "I've already been in one plane crash. I guess I was looking for a new thrill." He's had stupider ideas than flinging himself out burning airplanes, anyway. Right now, he's being cautious, teetering on the precipice of pure indecision. God, he'd been so angry with her, even before his memory had been restored.

"If I teach you how to do this, will you take over?" Gabriel asks, instead.

There's no hesitation, no instant of uncertainty that renders Eileen mute any longer than she has to be. It could be that this is what she came to the cabin for, or if it isn't then whatever anxiety she has about driving the boat alone in the dark outweighs the discomfort she's experiencing just by standing here alone in the dark with Gabriel. "Yes," she says, flexing the fingers on the hand attached to her broken wrist. Pain manifests as a twinge at the corner of her mouth and a sharp hitch in her breath, but that is all.

"Sanderson will be up in a few hours. I can handle it until then."

Gabriel beckons her over, stepping aside while keeping on hand light on the wheel. He's been told that he's made a terrible teacher, except for when he isn't trying, like right now - simple instructions are dealt out in order of logic, explained when required, with the sort of patience that comes from the very weary. He's ready to relinquish the wheel when dry coughing wracks his frame and he's forced to back up anyway, a hand bracing against the cabin wall.

Trying not to retch at the same time, because that may cause results - as opposed to the coughing, which yields no relief whatsoever. The hitch of laughter that comes with it isn't entirely good humoured. Back resting against the wall, before he slides down to sit. No intention of relinquishing his den, despite instruction passed over.

People may claim that Gabriel isn't a very good teacher, but Eileen is at least an attentive student. When he first steps aside, she adopts her position behind the wheel and places her hands on it where his had been, fingers brushing his either accidentally or on purpose. That she doesn't immediately flinch away when physical contact is initiated implies one scenario more strongly than the other, and yet there's no way to secure confirmation because he's already backing away before she can do something bolder that involves more than just a careless graze of skin.

"Allard and Sanderson are having a hard time staying hydrated," she says, watching his reflection in the cabin's window overlooking the river as it opens up ahead of them. "What about you? No other symptoms besides the cough? Nausea? Headache? Hallucinations?"

Romance is hard when you're flea bitten, sore and sour. If Gabriel even noticed the hand brush, accidentally or on purpose, it's anyone's guess. He leans his head back against the cabin wall, breathes enough to function, shallow intakes and expulsions of breath. "Nausea. Tired. Headache. No hallucinations." None more than the usual, and even those ones have been quiet for a while. "I'm sick, like the others are sick. Not you."

The temptation to lie down is strong, but Gabriel fights it. Just remains where he's huddled as he watches her. "No, not you. You have enough problems to worry about. Tell me about your symptoms."

"I have a broken wrist, bruised ribs and a gash on my face," is the curt summary Eileen provides, deadpanning and cautious. "None of my injuries are infected, and if I've contracted malaria then it's still incubating. I'm fitter than the lot of you put together." Which is something she could be proud of if it was true, and of course it isn't — you don't have to be an empath like Huruma to detect the tightness in her voice or the evasive shift of her eyes as she focuses her attention past Gabriel's reflection in the glass.

She isn't lying, not exactly. Just making notable omissions that are large enough even she recognizes their exclusion as being purposefully deceitful. "Do I look sick to you?"

"Only when I look closely. If you looked closer, you'd see it too. The cracks in the picture." Gabriel's hand goes up, a weaving gesture and a smug kind of slant in the look he deals her that— well. If you looked closer, there's more to it that bravado, flaws like indecision and loss. "Come on, Eileen," is a song, but he says it flatly, as if disappointed in her. "They couldn't have broken you so efficiently that you don't even notice. You should be better than that."

Gabriel should be standing up, looming over her, but he keeps his fetal post at the wall instead. No use pretending he isn't dying like the rest of them. He pours all the authority and arrogance he's not otherwise conveying into his voice instead, his gaze fish-flat as much as it's searching her, for recognition.

"I asked for your real symptoms. Do you dream? Do you hallucinate?" He did.

That he isn't looming greatly affects the dynamic between them. Eileen can continue piloting the boat with what looks like, at least from the back, the confidence of someone unswayed by the implications Gabriel has just presented her with. She keeps her eyes straight ahead and her hands on the wheel, but if he's being observant he may notice a slight tightening of her fingers around it. It's the recognition he's looking for, however faint.

"That's a neat trick," she says, her voice coming close to betraying her emotions but tapering off before it can quaver or break. A long, slow breath is drawn in through her nostrils, held in the cavity of her chest and then pressed out again past pursed lips in an inaudible hiss. "Getting inside my head without needing to touch me first. When did you pick that one up?"

And he's watching, the moments of tension. It'll be easier to beat your head against a wall and achieve results if there are cracks in it, God only knows. Gabriel's palm slides across his brow, fingers digging wearily around eye sockets, before limb drops in favour of rolling a look back at her. "I didn't. But I've had my memory erased before, too." There. He stretches his legs out in front of him, neatly crosses ankles, toes still at the ends of large feet with soles gone dirty.

"Found unique ways to come back to me. It took telepathic rape and near death to bring it back. We can find something gentler for you. Or not, if that's what you're into."

Eileen is silent. Either stunned into it or a conscious choice — the point is, the sound of the engine in the bowels of the boat is building, or at least that's the impression it gives when she does not speak, does not even draw in another breath to refill her lungs and fuel them with oxygen. The humidity in the air, even at this time of night, is smothering; although her condition pales in comparison to that of the man sitting on the floor of the cabin, she's still hot, sticky, caked in sweat and wishing she hadn't surrendered the last of the fresh water in her canteen to Sanderson.

Even so, her mind is elsewhere, revisiting the places she's been during her time away from the rest of Team Bravo — and not in the physical sense. Erased is not the word she would have used.

The buzzing of mosquito near her ear brings her out of it before more than a minute can pass. "I had a concussion. Temperatures in the jungle can peak at over thirty-seven degrees Celsius. So what if I've seen things that weren't there?"

"Depends on the things." Gabriel hadn't stopped watching her throughout that extended silence, but now breaks his gaze to regard the ceiling of the cabin. His hands are clasped, back curved, legs unbent. He's been more uncomfortable in New York City, but what he wouldn't give to be back there for a while. It's a startling realisation, that despite the malaria, and Eileen's memories, and the crew, and the violence— Gabriel could be fine here.

And is not. He coughs into cupped hands, before the flop back down into his lap. "What do you see? If they're fever dreams, what do you care about telling me?" Preemptive strike.

Eileen doesn't know what to be annoyed at, Gabriel's intuitive aptitude or just— Gabriel. It would help if she knew which was the culprit responsible for peeling at her defenses like she's been trying to avoid peeling at the sunburned skin on the back of her neck, ears and arms. The cargo jacket she wears over her clothes helps her resist temptation in that respect, but is utterly useless when it comes to providing her protection against preemptive strikes.


"I look down at my fingers and I see tobacco stains," she says finally. "I haven't smoked for years. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and feel a weight on top of me, but there isn't anyone there, and I can smell— I don't even know what it is. It smells wet, like rot, and there's a knot in my belly. Fever dreams. It's nothing."

Somewhere in those last few words, there's the drag of limbs, of a body— Gabriel standing up, laboriously. Bare feet scuff floor, and he moves closer. She'll see it in reflections if not in glances, and then feel warmth from his body to her's though he doesn't actually touch her. "Flesh remembers." A tendril of hair around the nape of her neck, grown past since the first time she'd cut it, is picked at between fingertips, lifted, toyed with, dropped. "Blood remembers. I can help you, if you don't lie to yourself."

This is not the Gabriel she remembers, and Eileen can say with almost absolutely certainty that she's both flesh and blood. The intimacy puts her on edge when she isn't the one initiating it; the hand at her neck, playing with her hair, is regarded in her peripheral vision with the same watchful scrutiny she'd reserved for the mosquito, and even after the strand falls from his fingers she doesn't relax.

Sylar does not come this close. Sylar does not touch her hair. Sylar does not talk the way he's talking now unless—

"You're angry." A statement, not a question, but a guess too. "I hear it in your voice," she says, "and I know it. What did I do to you to make you hate me so much?"

A shift of gaze from his own hand to her profile, features pinched with sickness and tiredness make a suitable mask over frustration only Huruma could detect. Gabriel has a response to that question, but it's useless, like an offer to help is useless. Not that he won't, mind— it just goes without understanding. Instead, he says, "You left."

He pulls his hand away from her, wipes the back of it against his nose as if to relieve an itch, and steps back. "I'll let Sanderson know you're at the wheel," he says, voice skimming flat but casual. Pleasant, by Sylar standards. "I need to sleep."

From Eileen's perspective, it is the most confusing answer he could have given.

She left.

She left.

She left.

Only a few seconds have passed since he said it, and she's not even sure where the emphasis was, should be, or if he even included an emphasis in the first place. Her lips pucker around an argument that never finishes being formulated. There's nothing wrong with me, is what she means to say, and yet what comes out instead is: "I put out a bedroll and asked Sanderson to save you some water. We'll be in Mandritsara in a few more days. As soon as you start taking some medication, you'll be feeling like yourself again."

Static silence for all of a second. And then, laughter. Breathy, carding out of his throat like self-deprecation. Good one, Eileen. The smile is almost genuine, too, as much as it's tired, and mirth doesn't let up until Gabriel is out of the cabin, a hand holding his head as he pushes the door open, bats it shut again on humid air and feverish chuckling. At least, Eileen can attribute it to sickness.

Gabriel isn't entirely sure he can't.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License