2008-02-02: A Hint of Warmth


Elle_icon.gif Gabriel_icon.gif

Summary: A few days after the events at Pinehearst, Elle finally begins to show signs of life.

Date It Happened: February 2nd, 2008

A Hint of Warmth

Peter Petrelli's Apartment, NYC

In the days following her father's death, Elle hasn't seen fit to do much of anything. She has moved as little as possible, spoken so rarely that her voice is scratchy and quiet, and barely bothered to change her clothes. Certain things which might otherwise be priorities are forgotten - eating, for instance. She's been maintaining her composure reasonably well, shedding no more tears since arriving back at the apartment.

Lying on the sofa with Gabriel, she is stretched out and resting her head upon his chest, though she is not asleep. The television is on, but she pays no particular attention to it. It's background noise. Her gaze is distant, her breathing slow and steady.

"Elle," Gabriel says, his voice soft, but still loud enough for Elle to hear him over the TV. He raises himself slightly, using his hand on the couch so he can look over Elle and see her face, his other arm still wrapped around her waist. "I'm worried about you. You've barely eaten, you hardly talk, you haven't changed…" He trails off, watching her, his hand leaving her waist to smooth her hair back behind her ear. He can see her better this way.

The fact that she hasn't been talking much, or even really changed aside, Gabriel's main concern is the fact she hasn't eaten. He has no idea what this all must mean for her, the fact that her father is dead, she's left the Company, and as far as he knows, has no place to go.. but despite all of that, he knows she should at least be eating something. "… if I cook us something, will you eat?"

"I don't feel like eating," is Elle's mumbled reply, partially muffled by the way her head lies. Her eyes are fixed on the screen, but they take in none of what she sees. She only shifts slighty while she speaks, and only to settle her head against him again as he moves. It isn't precisely a no, at least, but she certainly doesn't seem thrilled by the prospect of food. Even his observation about her sorry state doesn't elicit a reaction where otherwise it might have made her defensive.

At her words, Gabriel lies his head back down on the arm of the sofa, refocusing his eyes on the TV. He has no idea what movie is on or what it's even about— he's been looking at the back of Elle's head more than the actual TV itself for the past few hours. He moves his hand up to her arm, trailing his hand up and down her skin as he thinks to himself. Finally, he gives her a soft nudge in the shoulder. "Do you want to talk?"

Turning her head slightly, Elle buries her face in his shirt for a moment, tuning out the television as she draws in a breath. She's only vaguely aware of time passing, really; she isn't even certain she knows what day it is, or how long she's been lying here, or what he might have said to her two hours ago. She presses her cheek against his chest again, returning her gaze to the television. "About what?"

"I don't know. Something. Anything, really." In truth, Gabriel really has no idea what they could talk about. Certainly not what happened to her at Pinehearst, as he doesn't want her to have to go through that process if she doesn't want to. "Tell me about…" Gabriel searches his mind for something to ask her, and it doesn't take long for him to think of something. "The two that found us… in the parking lot. The older man— I've seen him before, he called you 'Angel'. Who was that?" There's nothing of jealousy in his voice regarding the other man; if anything, he seems genuinely curious as to who he was.

"Lawrence Church," Elle replies, and for the first time in a long while, her voice bears a hint of warmth and life. She's speaking slowly, her voice still quiet and hoarse, but she's speaking. That's good, right? "He works for the Company." A detail that surely hasn't escaped Gabriel's observation, but given her current state, Elle's distracted words will have to be forgiven. "I've known him since I was a kid." He's the closest thing to family she has left, but admitting that would be tantamount to reminding herself that her father is gone; it's a detail she leaves out.

"Yeah?" is the simple reply from Gabriel, thankful that she's responding, and even more thankful for that small hint of life in her voice. He continues to rub her arm, pulling her a bit tighter against him with the other, smiling at her. She may not be able to see it, but the smile is still there. "Was he.. I mean.. is he someone you were close to?" Probably dangerous waters to say something like that, but perhaps in some crazy roundabout way it will remind Elle that she still has people in the world.

The question is met with reluctance from Elle as she considers how best to respond - then wills herself to speak. "Yeah," she replies, curling her fingers against his shoulder and arm, where her hands lie. "He's the— " Closest thing to family. But she still can't say it, as she pauses to take a deep breath. "He's my family," she finally stammers out, without the qualifiers. "He looks out for me. Always has, since I was little."

At her admission, Gabriel feels a twinge of guilt at not allowing Church to get closer to her. He didn't realize that he was family to her, and maybe he really did just want to check on her, make sure she was okay. At the same time, though… he's Company, and considering what he did the last time, and what the Company does in general, he can't trust any of them to not take her back in. "That's good," he finally says, moving a hand up and placing it over hers. "It's always nice to have someone who looks out for you."

"He let me go," Elle says cryptically, shifting until she can press her palms against the cushions and force herself up from her position. Sitting upright, she leans back on the opposite end of the sofa, her back against the arm. "He's the one who came for me at the hotel. He could have taken me back, but he let me get away." It may not have seemed that way, walking into the hotel room after their altercation, but then theirs is a complicated relationship. "He wanted me to leave. He's…" Resting her arms atop her knees, she says, "Not everyone there is what you think."

When Elle pushes herself up, Gabriel uses the opportunity to rise from the couch. He gives her a soft smile, heading into the kitchen to put some tea on the stove. Once he's got the water on the stove to heat up, he turns back towards the living area, leaning against the counter so he can look at her. "I didn't know… he wasn't bad," he explains, giving her a small shrug. "Pretty much everyone I've met from the Company is the same. If there's people that aren't like the others… I never had a chance to meet them."

Drawing her legs closer, Elle folds her arms over her knees, using them as a cushion to rest her chin upon. "What about me?" An unspeakably loaded question, and unfair for her to ask - but something about her tone suggests that she wasn't particularly expecting a response, regardless. "They're not bad people. They follow orders, do what they're told. So did I. It's the people who are giving the orders who can be bad people." Can be, not are. Making excuses for her father, perhaps.

It doesn't take long for the kettle to start whistling, announcing that the water is ready. Peter must have a good stove. He uses the sound as an excuse to turn away from Elle, especially at her question. The answer to that… could take a long time, considering everything they've been through, both recent and in the past. He prepares each of them a cup of tea, and it's only when he moves back into the living room and hands her one of the cups that he responds. "I suppose you're right," he says, sitting down on the couch and looking at her. "Maybe they're not all bad, if they're just following orders." Gabriel knows that Elle is a testament to that.

Taking the mug, Elle curls the fingers of both hands around it, allowing the warmth to seep into her hands. "It's complicated," she says finally, struggling to find the right words, knowing that nothing about the Company is as simple as following orders - or not following them. As a frown settles onto her face, she lifts the mug to her lips and takes a slow sip, slowly becoming aware of just how empty her stomach is. She's quiet for a short time after, her eyes fixed on an invisible point in the room, her mind far gone. Softly, she says, "You were right. We should have waited." Waited for what, she isn't certain.

Complicated is a good word to describe things. Gabriel takes a sip of his tea, looking down into the swirling liquid. At Elle's last words, however, he looks back up to her, shaking his head slightly with a frown. "Hey," he says, shifting his cup to his left hand, so he can reach out and touch her shin. "What happened… happened. There was nothing we could have ever done to prepare ourselves for that. Besides, I was the one who said we should go when we did."

It doesn't matter how many times she replays the events in her mind, nor does it matter how clear it is that there was nothing she could have done any differently to prevent his death; Elle hasn't gotten past the stage where she feels responsible, in part, for what happened. It's this sense of responsibility which prevents her from responding, opting to shake her head instead. When she's taken another sip of tea, she sets the mug down on the coffee table and leans her head against the back of the sofa, looking up to Gabriel directly for the first time in hours. "How did I get out?"

"Me," Gabriel responds simply. He takes another sip of his tea, eyes moving from it up to Elle. His hand is still on her leg, and he gives it a soft squeeze before pulling his away, resting his arm on the back of the couch. "Once the… dream, or whatever that was was over, I was in a warehouse. As I got closer, I heard you, and I finally found you. When I got there…" He pauses for a moment to otake a deep breath, letting it out slowly, but not before taking another sip of his tea. "You were on the floor unconcious. I picked you up, threw you over my shoulder, and ran. I wanted to get us both out of there as quickly as possible."

"Oh." It seems like such an inappropriate reaction to what she's just heard, to say 'Oh.' and nothing else, but Elle can't quite think of what to say. She had to know it was something along those lines. While much of the night is vivid in her memory, parts are snippets - and none of those snippets gave her any insight as to how she made it out. It speaks to his caring for her, that he would go back for her and carry her out. She'll think about that later. Too much right now. Very faintly, if he's paying attention, he might see the corner of her mouth turn up in a fleeting little half-smile. "… thanks."

"It was nothing," Gabriel says, although if the smile on his face as he looks down at his tea is any indication, her reaction is taken well. It's good to see a smile (even if it was fleeting!) on her face. He turns his head to look at her again, turning on the couch so that he's facing her, rather than having to keep his head turned. He doesn't say anything else for now, choosing to just gaze at her and sip his tea occasionally.

Stretching her legs out until her feet are just touching his leg, Elle drops her hands into her lap. She isn't all that much more animated than she has been, but it's a start. At least she seems present when she looks at him, instead of staring through him. "I think…" One hand presses against her empty stomach, feeling it rumble. Tea isn't a substitute for actual food. Who knew? "…I should eat something."

That's all it takes for Gabriel to spring into action. He squeezes her foot with his hand, placing his tea on the coffee table before standing up from the couch and heading towards the kitchen. He gets out everything that's necessary: pots, pans, cutting board, knife, even a ladel, but then he realizes that he doesn't know what he's cooking. He turns back to the living room, glancing at Elle. "What do you want?"

Taking the mug of tea back up into her hands, Elle watches him carefully as he rises from the sofa, sipping the tea slowly. As he amasses nearly every cooking implement he can find, she manages another flicker of a smile, gone almost as quickly as it appears. Resting her head against the back of the sofa once more, she meets his gaze with a slight shrug. "Surprise me."

"You got it." Gabriel moves back into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator and looking inside. He pauses for a moment to consider several things as he eyes the contents of the fridge. This isn't the first time he's cooked for Elle. Considering everything that's happened in between that time and now, it's a very surreal feeling.

If Elle's paying attention, she might notice what Gabriel's cooking. Fortunately, Peter has all of the ingredients necessary for ziti, and the ex-killer lays it all out on the counter to prep it. He falls silent for now, but it doesn't stop him from glancing into the living room occasionally to look at Elle, occasionally offering her a small smile when he does.

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