2008-01-31: Following Protocol


Elle_icon.gif Gabriel_icon.gif Church_icon.gif Meryl_icon.gif

Summary: Gabriel and Elle make it out of Pinehearst in one piece, but Elle left a paper trail when she rented a car, there are standing orders to take her in if she loses control of her ability, and Gabriel is protective.

Date It Happened: January 31st, 2008 / February 1st, 2008 (late evening)

Following Protocol

Convenience Store - Outside New York City, NY

Having made it out of Pinehearst, the one thought on Gabriel Gray's mind was to get away from the research facility as fast as possible. Carefully placing Elle in into the passenger seat, he tore out of the parking lot, driving nowhere in particular. His main goal was to find somewhere with power so he could stop, pull over, collect himself, and try to wake up Elle.

A few hours later, Gabriel finally pulls over into a small service station, deliberately choosing a parking space away from the door. After gently shaking Elle a few times and calling her name loudly, he eventually gives up up waking the woman, falling back into his seat and closing his eyelids. He lets out a deep breath, pushing the sides of his fingers into his eyes to help with the stress of what he's just been through. The pressure does a little bit to relieve it, but it's not much. Slowly opening his eyes, he turns his head in his seat to look at Elle, watching her until she wakes up. If he has any idea of what it's going to be like when she wakes up, he's not showing it.


She doesn't wake right away, her only movement the rise and fall of her chest as she takes shallow, unconscious breaths. The way she lies in the seat is awkward and unnatural, slumped against the seatbelt. Despite the remarkable destruction she caused, Elle remains more or less unharmed; there are bruises from hitting the ground, and an ugly mark on her neck from Maury's grip, but she's alive.

Some time later, she makes a sound. It's barely audible - just a little huff as she is pulled back to consciousness. Her hand slips from her lap, heavy and awkward. She's waking up, but it's slow going. Still, that's a good sign, right?


At the first sign of Elle waking up, Gabriel reaches out and takes one of her hands in his, massaging it gently in his hands. He has no idea if it's going to do anything, but it can't hurt, can it? "Elle?" he says, his voice breaking the heavy silence inside the car, and he leans forward to see if he can make eye contact. Please be waking up.


Only vaguely aware of his presence at all, Elle instinctively tries to pull her hand away, but her muscles aren't cooperating quite as swiftly as she'd like. Her first attempt to speak is incoherent, a collection of sounds that don't say anything at all, as her head lolls back over the headrest to turn to face her companion.

Her eyes crack open one tiny bit, and she murmurs in protest at the light, holding her hand up before her eyes. "Where…" Elle's voice is ragged and quiet, her words slow; she pauses for a moment, swallowing hard. "…where are we?"


She's awake. Thank goodness. Gabriel scoots closer to her, not that he really manages to move more than a few inches in the car seat, the center console and armrest still seperating them. "We're outside of the city. Some gas station. It was the first place I found. What happened? I got seperated from you, I was in a warehouse, I found you, there was some man— who was he? Does he work for Pinehearst?"

The fact that she's awake is a relief to Gabriel, but considering he's been going over everything in his head for the past few hours, now that she's awake he has someone to talk to and figure out what happened. The sudden barrage of questions and information isn't going to help, however, so he stops himself, taking a deep breath. He starts over with one simple question that is the most important one: "Are you okay?"


For someone who has been unconscious for hours after a traumatic experience, making sense of and responding to half a dozen questions all at once is not a simple task. Elle hardly even registers that he's speaking, let alone understands what he's asking her. Pulling against the seatbelt, she presses her thumb down to unfasten it with a click that seems to be entirely too loud, eliciting a wince. "Owww," she whimpers, pressing the heel of her hand to her temple.

Grateful when he pauses to collect his thoughts, Elle rubs her hands down over her face, trying to clear her vision. She feels as if she's existing in a fog, her sight dark and blurred around the edges still. "I don't know," she replies, her scratchy voice bearing confusion. "I don't— what happened?"


"I'm not sure," Gabriel replies in truth, frowning slightly at himself. He was hoping Elle might have more answers. "Whatever it was… it wasn't real. I'm not sure. One instant I was in meeting room, the second I was in a hallway full of doors. They all just led to other doors." He doesn't bother explaining anything past that. The next part of what happened still unsettles him too much.

"I thought… maybe I had been teleported, but Arthur never grabbed me. It.. whatever it was, it was like.. a dream almost." He falls silent after that, leaning back into his seat and watching Elle. He resists the urge to reach out and grab, and after watching her for a bit longer, he finally speaks again. "But that was just what happened to me. What happened to you?"


Settling back against her seat, Elle tips her head back and closes her eyes, letting out a breath. Little by little, she's beginning to recall their encounter at Pinehearst. Their arrival is first to return - flashes of Elle standing at the reception desk, clipping on the visitor badge. Then the room with her father, alone, hearing him forgive her.

And then having it taken away when she reached the top of the stairs.

"Oh my god." Arthur holding her father. Her father calling her name. Maury with his arm around her neck. Elle is watching helplessly as the images fall into place again, forcing her to see a second time what she could hardly bear the first. "Oh my god," she says again, her voice just as alien to her ears as it was before, as she opens her eyes once more and drops her head against the dash, her arms acting as a cushion. "They made me— I was in a room with him, he was talking, I hugged him. I hugged him. And then he was in a different room, and he was— " That's where her voice falters, and whatever she was going to say next is simply never said.


"Elle," Gabriel says when she leans forward against the dash, placing a hand on her back. She doesn't need to say whatever was coming next for him to know. Hw saw the lifeless statue of Bob, and considering it was her father, he can't even begin to imagine what that must mean for her. He's at a completely loss, having no idea what to say to Elle other than her name. He keeps his hand on her back, near her shoulder, and he can't do anything but watch her and wait for what she does next.


He doesn't have to wait long. Without warning, Elle lifts her head from the dash, her face wet from tears. Her hands fumble with the handle to the door, desperately trying to push the door open so that she might step out. When she pulls the handle, however, the door doesn't budge. Lacking the mental clarity to stop and consider that the door might be locked, she becomes frantic, throwing more of her weight against the door as another sob escapes her throat. "I need to get out," she cries, pulling her hands away long enough to mash down on the button to unlock the doors. A second later, she shoves the door open, with every intention of getting out.


"Elle, stop," Gabriel says as she tries to get out, reaching out to touch her shoulder. "Just wait a second!" She doesn't seem to have any intention of stopping however, and when she begins to panic more, so does Gabriel. He can't have her taking off. "Elle, don't," he says, reaching an arm out to try and wrap around her back, grabbing for her far arm with his other hand, trying to pull her closer. If it works, he'll pull her into a tight embrace, both for her comfort and also so she can't get away.


Her heart racing, Elle lets out a cry of protest when he takes hold of her arms, unwillingly falling back into the seat. She's been unconscious for hours, making this struggle considerably more one-sided than it might be otherwise. The fact of the matter is, however, that if Gabriel doesn't want her to take off, he has more than enough power to stop her.

When he pulls her into the embrace, a new surge of panic washes over her, an unintentional static charge winding up her arms and coursing through both Gabriel and herself. "Let me go," she begs, her voice trembling and marred by sobs. "Please, Gabriel."


For the last chunk of the hour, after the power outages are rampant and the damage is done in terms of what seems everything else, there has been an only marginally conspicuous presence of a black car in and out of roads. If someone happens to see it, it is never there for long; to someone smarter than the average bear, the people in the car are looking for something. Or someone.

Inside the Company car, Lawrence Church and Meryl Wolfe are literally on the prowl for one particular car, with at least one particular person. Each of them likely has a different reason for accepting the stalker's job, but in the end they are both out to find Elle Bishop. Down the road past the end of the service station, the black car rolls seemingly peacefully down the asphalt and pulling quietly off to the opposite side of the road; it parks itself in a space near some other idle vehicles. To someone watchful it would be noted that the passengers haven't gotten out, and the car itself looks potentially more safe than what might be normal- tinted windows, heavy-looking tires, the rumbling of a hot engine in the winter air. If Elle isn't quite as distracted as she appears, she will know that car just by sight.

"Remember what I told you- we're not going to be the ones to pull any weapons first." Lawrence slips his hands from the dark wheel of the Charger, peering out the side window past Meryl's face. "We're here to secure, not eliminate."


There's not a whole lot that makes Meryl mad, but having Elle pull out a weapon and shoot her for no good reason did kind of get on her nerves. Just a little. The flowers helped, because Meryl loves yellow, and the note was certainly awesome, but she kind of requested this assignment for one reason and one reason only.

There's a totally awesome sale at Shoes R' Us, and Elle is missing it.

"I'm aware," she says, voice low, eyes narrowed. Her hand trails along the Beretta she has at her hip. "Just so we're clear, though, if she shoots me again, you and I are going to have a little talk. Then you're doing my laundry for the next ten years, and. And, Lawrie, you're buying me ice cream. Now c'mon, before they realise that we're here."

Giving Church's shoulder a pat, Meryl offers a smile. No matter what they try, she gets the feeling that this isn't going to end well, though how bad it goes is really up to Elle and Sylar. When she opens the car door and steps out, she kind of blends in with the shadows. Dressed all in black, black hair pulled back in a ponytail - the only thing that stands out in the dim light are the blonde streaks she painstakingly bleached into her hair. Hey, they're awesome.


Struggling to get his arms tightly around Elle, the static charge is more than enough to make Gabriel let go of her, but he fights through the sudden pain from the shock. Her words, however, cause him to let go, and he pulls way from her, rubbing his arms to ease the pain for a moment. He watches her sadly, unsure of what to do, and he turns away from her, opening his own door to step out of the car.

He heads around the car to Elle's side, watching to see what she does when she exits the car. The car that pulls up is completely unnoticed— he has no idea it's there, or that anyone even stepped out of it. His entire focus is on Elle and what she's going to do next, and hopefully she won't do anything too drastic.


Compared to knocking out the power for an entire county, what Elle does next is hardly 'drastic.' In fact, in the grand scheme of All Things Elle Bishop, this is pretty tame, really. Barely able to breathe without interference from a racking sob, she paces a small section of the parking lot, shaking her hands out at her sides.

Another flash of memory - Arthur's words after killing her father, his dismissive attitude - elicits a new outburst from Elle, and she whimpers again as blue light winds up her arms again, stopping her dead in her tracks. She needs an outlet, and since Arthur Petrelli is nowhere to be found… this isn't bound to go well.

Suffice it to say that her former colleagues go entirely unnoticed.


"I buy you ice cream anyway. But I'll make sure just cause of the laundry. Last time I lost a bet- I- Let's just say I don't want to wash your clothes ever again. Ever." Lawrence says this before Meryl steps out of the car, following her lead and slipping out of his own door. His own clothing is mostly a match for the black, but the stark contrast of a white shirt and a thin black tie is something hard to miss. The gleam of metallic sunglasses comes from his front chest pocket as Church moves around the end of the car to join Meryl at her side. Both of the figures are familiar to Gabriel and Elle, but only in slightly different ways.

Church is quick to watch the scene across the street unfold- at least what elements that he can see and hear clearly. Elle's blue static is hard to miss. There are a few ways this could go- he and Meryl could do this the Super Secret Agent way, or just the Easy way. Lawrence seems to decide for himself right away, keeping his hands at his sides and moving away from Meryl and closer to the street; when he gets there, he gives the habitual quivering look both ways before simply crossing there. If they don't see him now, they're both as blind as bats.


The whole power thing is what brought them here in the first place. That much civilisation doesn't just go dead off the map without something behind behind it. Leaning on the car, she asks Church, "You remember that power outage tha' stretched across th' midwest a few years back in the summer?" A beat, then, "Do you think Elle caused it?"

There'll be time for musing later, Meryl suspects, as she rolls her eyes and pushes off the car to follow after Church. He said not to pull her weapon, but while she's sparking like that, she's keeping her hand close to it.

Both of them know Elle. Leaning close, Meryl whispers, "You know as well as I that she's dangerous like that. Not only to other people, but to herself, so we need— " Her hand clamps around her temporary partner's shoulder. One of us, one of them - the usual. " — to put her down before she can do worse than she's done. I'm a good shot. Let me take it. I won't kill her, I don't want to kill her, but she needs to be stopped."


Following Elle across the parking lot, Gabriel keeps himself a few paces behind, not getting too close. The most he can do is watch and wait, but with the new outburst, he closes the distance between them, placing his hand on her shoulder. "Elle…" he begins, crouching over a bit so he's at eye level with her. "Someone's going to see you." His tone isn't chastising, mean, or anything of the sort— it's full of concern and worry for the girl. They just don't need anymore trouble.

Trouble has a way of finding them, however. Gabriel looks up, taking a glance around the parking lot to see if anyone from the gas station might be watching them, and his eyes pass over Church and Meryl. He thinks nothing of it at first, but he suddenly looks back, realization dawning on his face. He's seen both of them before. In different places, granted, but he knows they're both Company. That means they're here for Elle. He lets go of her, stepping forward and walking towards Church with absolutely no qualms at all. They obviously know they're here, so he might as well give them their welcome, even if it's in his own way.


It's for the best that Gabriel moves away when he does, else he'd have taken a considerable shock to the arm for his remark. Never mind that his words make perfect sense and that she ought to be more concerned about witnesses; to Elle, it comes across as callous. Slanting her head down, she tracks his movements just long enough to catch sight of the Company agents.

Her heartbeat is erratic as she flicks her eyes between Meryl and Church. It had to be them: the two people she's hurt just enough that she never wants to again. Shaking her hands out at her sides once more, Elle struggles to maintain control as she very calmly walks towards the car. She nearly makes it, too, before her composure cracks. This time, the electricity that courses through her drives her down to the ground, and she decides that this is where she will sit and wait for all of this to go away.

Beside the car, Elle draws her knees up and leans against the tire, covering her head with her hands. If she doesn't confront them, she can't hurt them. Gabriel can make them go away.


When Meryl touches his shoulder, Church slows, but doesn't look back at her. "First of all, mister Gray wouldn't like that." He does whisper back. "And I told you just ten seconds ago. That's a No, Meryl. Be ready, but not hostile." Hopefully she'll listen. Now is not the time for gunbattles. He sounds slightly chastising. When Gabriel spots them and starts making his way closer, Lawrence makes sure he's going to reach the other side before lifting his hands to chest level, palms out. We come in peace! (Well, I do.) Church can see Elle moving in the background, and it brings a frown to his lips- but an upward crease of worry to his brow.

"Mister Gray?" When the agent does speak, it is tentative and cautious.


As Sylar approaches, Meryl can't help feeling fear. She's familiar with the sensation, though - uses it. Holds onto it, and trains it to her advantage. She promised Church she wouldn't pull a weapon unless they did, but considering the fact that Sylar is a living weapon…

Her hand slips away from the Beretta. She leaves it.

"I'm just going to go see if she's okay," she states, also raising her hands, before slowly lowering one, deliberately, so that Gabriel can watch. She pulls it out, sets it on the ground, and stands again. There's another, carefully hidden, elsewhere on her person; she isn't stupid enough to co completely unarmed. "I'm human. I have no ability - if I walk over there, I'm at her mercy. Just let me go and see if she's okay. She's a friend."


"It doesn't matter," Gabriel replies to Church, waving it off with his hand. "You're going to leave, and you're going to leave right now. We're not dealing with this. Not today." As Meryl slowly lowers the gun, Gabriel snaps his head to her, watching her the entire time. Once the gun is on the ground, he raises his hand; immediately, the gun lifts off of the ground, flying through the air and straight into his hand.

"No," he says to Meryl, slipping the gun into his belt behind his back. Once it's secure, he takes another step forward, holding his hand out in front of him, much like Church did. Gabriel's meaning is much different than Church's, however: it's a threat. "You're going to turn around, get into the car, and pretend you were never here."


As Elle leans against the car, her head bowed and face obscured by her hair, small sparks of blue appear from time to time. She is just barely keeping it together - which is to say, she isn't. Not really. If she were keeping it together, she wouldn't be shocking herself every few minutes, nor would she have just been responsible for killing the lights for hundreds of thousands of people.

Pieces of Meryl's request filter through, prompting Elle to tip her head just enough to allow one eye to peer through her bangs at her former friend. She may have dropped her gun, but the little blonde doesn't trust herself not to hurt someone by accident. Drawing in a ragged, shaky breath, she watches Meryl closely.


Church stops when Gabriel holds his own hand out, brown eyes flickering on it for a second or two before going to the man's face. "Then don't deal with this. We're just here because of protocol." At least, Church is. If they didn't have to investigate, he would probably not be. He does take a step backwards, hands at his sides and jaw clenching and unclenching for the span of a breath. "What happened?" This is Lawrence's passive way of saying 'not yet'. "That's why we came." Technically not, but if they can at least find out what happened, it won't be a total loss. Every few words or so, the agent is also glancing at the air past Gabriel, in Elle's direction. It is taking quite a resolve to not try and push his way over.


Meryl eyes Sylar, green eyes narrow. She's frowning, she's afraid. "Elle?" the Australian calls out. "Elle, I just want to talk to you."

She never takes her eyes off of Sylar, though. Not that it would really do all that much good, and, truthfully, she fully intends to drag Elle back into Company custody before she can cause more property damage or hurt more people. It's for her own good. When she next speaks, it's to the watchdog. "Do you value friendship?" she asks. "Do you even think about how worried we've been? She bloody shot me for no reason, and I still don't know why." Well, she does know why; Meryl just has no explanation for it. "Let me go over there, and see if she's okay. I'm unarmed, and she's like' to fry me anyway if I piss 'er off." She's also, you know. Lying about the being unarmed bit. Meryl's a pretty good liar, though.

Hands still up, she starts backing across the street toward where she saw Elle. Looking from Gabriel to Church, she gives a minute nod. Unfortunately, she's not telepathic, but if he can just keep Gabriel busy for a little while, then Meryl can at least say thanks for the flowers.


"Protocol?" Gabriel says, eyes narrowing at Church. "I know how your 'protocol' works. You're not getting near her." He takes another step forward, hand still held out in front of him, and he shakes his head. "It doesn't matter what happened. Read a newspaper. I'm sure someone has gotten wind of it by now. You wouldn't be here otherwise, would you?"

He snaps his head over to Meryl when she begins to talk, and he shakes his head. "Does she look okay to you? It's pretty obvious that she is not okay." Gabriel is becoming more frustrated and incensed by the moment. Why can't the Company just leave things be? It wasn't even their Company, why should they have to worry about it?

Meryl's movement does not go unnoticed. He moves his hand suddenly to the right, giving Meryl a sharp telekinetic push. It's not the strongest, but it's meaning is very clear. "I said no."


"Stay away from me." There is an edge of warning in Elle's voice when she speaks, her voice betraying the panic she is trying so desperately to hide. With her hands resting on either side of her head, holding her hair back from her face, she turns her gaze from Meryl to Church. Neither of them garners a glower from her, her eyes soft behind her tears.

"They killed him," she says to Church, without knowing whether she's speaking loud enough for him to hear at all, steeling herself against a fleeting little shock. "He's gone." They had to imagine that it must have been something of that magnitude; after all, Elle hasn't caused a blackout of this caliber for quite some time now. And that's all the distraction she dares allow, swinging her eyes back to Meryl.


Lawrence has listened to Gabriel up until he cuts to Meryl. After that, it's a muffled voice in the background. Church has gone from keeping an eye on him to watching Elle. While the situation isn't as heartbreaking as the last time the two were face-to-face, it's not as if it were a normal day either. As Elle speaks again, he strains to hear her- and the agent is able to catch most of it. Both hands jerk slightly at his sides, and the realization is not a hard one to come over.

"Oh, Angel, no…" Lawrence sounds taken aback and concerned all at the same time, somehow. It is also now that he notices his partner has been pushed back, so he tries to redirect her attention. "Mer."


Stumbling, Meryl nearly topples, but catches herself with her hand before she slides across the ground. "No, she doesn't look okay, that's why I want to go over there and talk to her."

She's sure Sylar could do a lot more than he has. Why hasn't he ripped her head off yet? "I'm not the bad guy here, Sylar, and I don't think you are, either." Rolling her eyes, she lowers herself to the ground, drawing her knees up and crossing one of her arms across them. The other rests on the ground. "Or maybe I am, hell, I dunno. Maybe I'm a kangaroo. They say the criminally insane don't actually realise they're insane, so if you sit around asking yourself if you've gone crazy, you can't be crazy by default. Weird how that works, aye? So by that logic, all you have to do is ask yourself if you're crazy, and you aren't by default. Amazing. Elle."

Still seated on the ground, she looks over her shoulder at the woman, arm moving fractionally, eyes narrowing. Her hand is so close to the secondary firearm she carries, but she doesn't draw it. Can't. Getting to her feet, she closes her eyes, sighs. She can't do this now, maybe not ever. "On that note, you never hear the one that tears you apart, either. I think we should go, Lawrie."


Meryl's words, at best, are confusing to Gabriel. He doesn't have time to try and make sense of the nonsense he's hearing, and he shakes his head at the woman. "I can take care of her. Like I said, you need to leave. If Elle wants to see you, she'll contact you. I'm sure she knows how. It's.. been a rough day."

Gabriel looks back to Church, frowning slightly. There seems to be some connection between he and Elle that Gabriel doesn't know about. Any other time he might find out, but he'll have to ask Elle when this is all said and over. For now, he would just like to get out of here before anyone gets hurt. He steps backwards, putting distance in between himself, Church, and Meryl, but the hand is still kept out, intending on keeping them at bay. "If you really do care about her? For now, you'll leave her alone."


He can take care of her? Right now, even Elle is doubting Gabriel's conviction, every last nerve in her body screaming in pain each time she loses control. Even now, though no blue arc is visible, the memory of the pain - and the knowledge that she'll likely shock herself again - is enough for a dull ache to set in. But she doesn't much care for the alternative, either.

"Don't come near me," Elle says again, her tone verging on threatening now as Meryl sits on the ground not too far away. How is she going to convince this woman to stay away from her? If either of them gets too close— her heart skips another beat, and she can feel herself nearly lose control. She isn't even entirely certain that she understands what Meryl is saying, shaking her head.

Her palms sweating, Elle turns onto her knees, flattening her hands against the asphalt below. Slowly, she pushes herself up to her feet and starts to stumble around the car, circling around to the other side. She needs to put some distance between them, too. For now, she offers no explanation for her rapport with either of the agents; some stories will have to wait for a better time.


It speaks for his training when Church is able to decide to go. "Okay, okay. Fine." He lifts his hands in a submissive motion towards Gabriel. "Just- make sure she stays sane, Gray. Come on, Meryl. We're done."

As Lawrence steps backwards onto the empty road, away from the direction he wants to go, the colder winter air exhaling from his mouth and nose mixes with what looks more like the last trails of steam from a kettle. "Goodbye, Elle." Just those two words say even more; 'I'll see you soon' largely mixed with a big, fat, 'I love you'.


Meryl doesn't want to leave, and poor Church is likely to hear her pouting all the way back to HQ. Hell, maybe they can pout at each other, and it'll be awesome.

As she gets to the car, she looks back at Gabriel. Something changed with him, and while she's not willing to take any chances, this isn't the monster that she thought she knew - the one who terrifies her. She stands there for awhile, trying to see something that would give him away as that killer, even looking beyond him to where Elle's using the car as a shield. "Take care 'o yerself, Elly," she calls, then tips her non-existant hat to Sylar, and gets in the car. Fear, sure. But also respect, mostly because, you know, he's not killing them until they're dead. That earns a gold star in Meryl's book.

Hey. She's easy to impress.


"I will," Gabriel responds to Church, turning away from them and jogging back to the car. Once he's close, he turns back to face both Meryl and Church to make sure they actually are intending on leaving. He tips his head in an odd way at Meryl tipping him a hat that isn't there, but he moves past it, turning back towards the car and Elle. "They're leaving," he says, although this much is evident. "Are you ready to get out of here?"


Evident though it may be, Elle appreciates having Gabriel call her attention to their retreat, as she pauses around the hood of the car and turns back. It's a perfectly reasonable request that Church has made of Gabriel, and if the blonde's current state is any indication, it's the kind of care and attention she needs.

Leaning forward, her arms against the hood of the car, she turns a sad, agonized look first to Meryl, then to Church. She doesn't trust herself to speak, to call out to them and say goodbye - again, because she seems to always be saying goodbye these days, in every way - but she raises a hand. It's both a kind of wave and a thank you, in a sense. They are leaving, after all, when they ought to be taking her in. She knows that.

To Gabriel, all she offers is a faint nod before she pulls open the door.


Church turns away, walking just behind Meryl and keeping his eyes over his shoulder towards the rental car. When Elle does lift her hand in that gesture, so does he- though it seems to be half-hearted in effect. He skirts around the Dodge to get back in again, now turning his attention to Meryl, suddenly aware that really, with all their skills- didn't actually try to catch them. At all. The look his partner gets is therefore a somewhat guilty one.

Peter Petrelli's Apartment - New York City, NY

The rest of the car ride is silent, with Elle awake but distant in the passenger seat, turned sideways to stare out the window. Though her cheeks are still wet from her tears, she has long since stopped crying once they reach their temporary housing. Her feet drag on the trek up to Peter's apartment, testament to both her physical and mental exhaustion. Inside, the only bit of outerwear she removes are her shoes, left on the mat beside the door. Her coat still on, if unfastened, her scarf hanging loose around her neck, Elle moves straight through the living room, forgoing the sofa. Tonight, she's taking the bed. Peter will have to deal with it. As she crawls atop the covers and lies down on her side, facing away from the door, she wonders if he'd even mind.

Gabriel follows closely behind Elle, but he still maintains enough of a distance that he won't bother her. Once inside the apartment, he moves to the kitchen, immediately starting a kettle of tea. He doesn't say anything to her until he gets the water on the stove, the burner set to high, and the tea bags, sugar, and cups set out so they're ready as soon as the kettle announces its done. After he's done setting all of that up, he leaves the kitchen, heading towards the bed and sitting down on the edge of it. "Elle?" he says, reaching out to touch her leg.

At the very least, leaving the gas station under their own power and not in Company custody has calmed Elle to the point where she is no longer harming herself erratically. Still, she is teetering on the brink of another breakdown, and she knows it. When he sits beside her on the bed, Elle reaches out to take his hand in hers and pull him down onto the bed. She doesn't need to speak to make it clear that she wants him to lie down beside her, curling his arm around her middle.

Allowing himself to be pulled down onto the bed, Gabriel lays down besides Elle, pulling her close to him when he slips his arm around her midsection. His other hand smooths her hair back, laying his head down beside hers. "I'm sorry," he says, and he means it— for multiple things. For not being able to help her save her father, protect her from what happened, or be able to fix any of this.

The repercussions of her father's death are beginning to settle in now that she is coming down from her adrenaline high, and all Elle can do is close her grip tighter over his hand. There is very little that she can even think to say, and once she does find the words, she can't find her voice. She is an orphan now, she realizes, with no real family left. "I miss him," she murmurs softly, the tremulous quality of her voice making it obvious that she's near tears once more.

When her grip tightens on his hand, Gabriel tightens his grip on her, pulling her closer to him and wrapping his other arm underneath her neck, so that he can pull her into a tight embrace. "I know," he murmurs in reply, as it's the only thing he can say. No 'it's going to be okay', 'he'll be fine', 'you'll see him again'. None of it's true. He falls silent after that, keeping his arms around her and holding her tightly.

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